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水道橋物語 | a suidobashi story

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There’s a little café that sits in a small corner of Suidobashi, an ant of a building among towering tourist hostels and a skyscraper or three. If Ren hadn’t pointed it out as they stopped, Ryuji was sure he’d have walked right past it, just as they’d done past the crowds of foreigners and izakayas and oversized malls.

“This was the place you were talkin’ about, man?” the blond pointed at the window, “A café?”

He couldn’t quite fathom why a little place like this, of all the places in Tokyo, had charmed Ren so much…especially considering that the boy lived in a café. It was…unique, that was for sure—its outside door was painted black, and if the giant front window and foreign lettering written on it hadn’t given the place away as a café, he would have thought the narrow little building off-limits. The words on the window and on the little chalkboard menu…looked French enough. Ryuji was pretty damn sure English didn’t have any of those little accents on the letters, anyway.

Ren nodded without a word, the little gleam in his eye growing brighter by the second. Ryuji wasn’t sure if he loved the idea of going out at 8AM on a holiday. Did they really ride the Mita Line all the way up here…just for the same kind of coffee they could have gotten at Leblanc?

“You asked me to take you to my top hangout spot in Tokyo,” Ren adjusted his glasses.

“…Fuck, I did, didn’t I,” Ryuji replies, half to himself, eyeing the exterior of the café again. It certainly made sense; he secretly prided himself on knowing Ren better than the rest of the Phantom Thieves, and he’d admit, Ren’s tastes were…kind of feminine. Was that a bad thing? Not really. But still. He should have seen something like this coming.

“You asked, I delivered,” Ren winked in the most exaggerated way possible. He beckoned Ryuji in and the two are the first customers of the day. All of the cakes are still perfectly aligned in their little cabinets, and not a seat was taken. The inside was slightly dimmer than Ryuji would have liked, but its walls and floors were bright enough to give it that ‘chic, vintage’ look Japanese cafés should have. (He’d like to clarify, the only reason he knows this is because he vaguely recalls Ann mentioning this to Makoto once in passing during an afterschool raid in Mementos.)

Ren insisted that he order for Ryuji…which was totally fine with him. The latter gazes out at the far wall—a window to an enclosed garden—and pays more attention to the single tree standing out there than the colorful cakes that filled the cabinet.

They sat down at a tiny table in the corner of the store. It was the only one that “had the comfy cushions”, according to Ren. A young woman at the counter placed two wooden trays in front of them, both with iced matcha lattes on one side and roll cake on the other.

“When do you even get the time to come here?” Ryuji can’t help but ask, staring at the massive slice of roll cake, “I feel like you’re always runnin’ around doing something.”

“I make time.” Ren replies, motioning towards Ryuji’s tray, “You should try the cake.”

…And he would have picked up the whole slice and taken a giant bite of it, had Ren not warned him about the plastic covering the sides of the cake.

“It’s so the cream doesn’t get all messed up,” Ren adds, “Did you really not notice that thing?”

“Uh, unlike some people at this table, I neither live in nor frequent cutesy coffee joints,” Ryuji groans, twirling the plastic wrap off, “Give me a break…”

Ren attempts not to snort, but utters some semblance of one anyway. If it hadn’t been for all those times Ren treated him to ramen…and this slice of cake, Ryuji would have busted out of oshare hell without a second thought. But it’s the stupid shit like this—the small moments that revealed Ren’s random eccentricities, the ones that they could tell dumb stories about and reminisce about ten years from now—that made him stay. He’s grown to love that about his ragtag group of friends…Ren especially.

Ryuji takes a bite of the cake, and the moment he starts chewing, Ren gazes at him expectantly. Despite its size and how dense the giant, round slice looked, it felt like he was eating a cloud…or a creamy, cake-flavored marshmallow. It wasn’t overpoweringly sweet like those American snacks Ann would sometimes give them at lunch. And…he can’t say he hated it.

“Well?” the boy in the glasses asked, “What did I tell you?”

“…Okay, so you know I’m not a cake guy, right?”

“Right.”

The blond sipped at the latte to wash the cake down.

“And matcha’s not really my thing,” he threw in.

“I figured.”

“…But this is pretty damn good.”

“See, dude?” Ren beamed, “I told you it was worth it.”

Nothing is worth draggin’ my zombie ass out of bed at 7AM for, Ren,” Ryuji took another sip of the latte, disgruntled, “…But thanks for invitin’ me.”

“I need a change of pace to think about stuff, and get out of my head, and…go somewhere else,” Ren’s gaze moves away from Ryuji’s, “This is…usually where I end up going.”

Ryuji feels like he’s heard something sacred in that moment of weakness, in the way his best friend spoke. But he doesn’t pry, or make fun of him for it. He gets it. He gets Ren. Somehow.

“Don’t tell Ann or anybody, though.” Ren suddenly blurted out, “This is my secret spot.”

“…Then why’d you bring me here?” Ryuji raised an eyebrow.

“Sometimes you have secrets you just wanna tell one person…just to get it off your chest, y’know?” Ren shrugged, “I feel like you’re that person.”

Ryuji looked down and took another huge bite of his cake, if only to distract himself from the fact that his cheeks were burning red.