“Shuuya? What are you reading there?”
Hastily shutting the book and shoving it into his backpack, Kano turned to smile at his older sister. “Nothing interesting. What’s up, Sis?”
Ayano wasn’t fooled though. “Were you, by any chance, brushing up on sign language?”
Kano’s carefree smile did not falter. “I was bored, that’s all.”
“Hm… If you say so~”
Kano’s phone pinged and he rapidly reached for it. He huffed a small laugh, then typed a quick reply; he’d just hit ‘send’, when Ayano had grabbed the phone out of his hands and was grinning widely.
On the screen was displayed a picture from Shintaro of a stray cat, lazily staring at the camera. Attached was the text this cat looks like you.
“It’s just texting, OK?” exclaimed Kano, too flustered to hide the growing redness of his face. Ayano’s smug smile only grew. He was fooling no-one, except perhaps Shintaro himself. But she could take care of that. She was on good terms with Momo-chan, after all.
“Sis, please don’t,” pleaded Kano, vaguely guessing her intentions.
“Oh? I’m not doing anything,” smiled Ayano, handing him his phone back before wordlessly slipping out of the room. Kano’s shouts followed her, but she ignored him.
She was so going to get her little brother and her best friend together.
(Momo proved to be a useless ally, mostly because the foremost thing on her mind was wooing Kido- which was going pretty well, if you counted incessant blushing and one-sided flirting ‘well’.
So Ayano was left alone in her matchmaking contest, not even considering asking Takane for her help. She was more likely to intentionally doom the entire mission just to spite Shintaro. However, Ayano let none of these setbacks get her down; she’d have formulated her whole plan soon enough…)
‘Are those flowers ?’ incredulously asked Kano. His smile was bordering on condescending.
‘Paper flowers. But yeah,’ Shintaro glanced down at the paper alstroemeria he was holding. ‘Haruka’s been getting into arts and crafts lately, and he made too many. These were leftovers.’
‘Haruka gave you flowers ?’ Kano’s smile was twitching and Shintaro’s face grew red.
‘I… You know what, I’m not even going to answer that,’ replied Shintaro, carefully placing the flowers in his jersey’s inner pocket. ‘Where do you want to go today?’
‘I found this 100%, for sure, absolutely haunted house,’ grinned Kano, wiggling his fingers in an eerie manner.
Shintaro was unimpressed. ‘Alright then. Which way?’
‘Subway,’ declared Kano before starting off in that direction.
After a short journey, the two were already heading again up towards the streets. It was already twilight outside, and Kano’s eyes glinted like molten pools of gold.
Not that Shintaro noticed.
All of a sudden, he felt a sharp corner hit him in the spine and then he was falling forwards, into Kano. He unceremoniously slammed into the other, sending both of them crashing to the ground.
When Shintaro lifted his head to mouth an apology, he found Kano laying perfectly still. His eyes were wide, staring up at the sky.
And he was gulping down shallow, erratic breaths.
Helpless, Shintaro crouched by Kano’s side, hesitating whether to tap the other’s shoulder. His decision was made for him, for a few moments later Kano’s eyes cleared and he sat up.
He wasn’t smiling.
‘I’m sor-’ started Shintaro, but Kano gripped his hands and stopped him. He widened his eyes when he noticed what he’d done, and took a step back and bowed his head in apology.
‘Not your fault,’ he told Shintaro. His eyes glazed over once more, but he quickly shook his head and forced a smile. ‘Now let’s go see a haunted house, eh?’
It was 3 A.M. when Ayano’s plan took off, but Shintaro had no way of knowing that when he texted her, causing its start.
What’s up with Kano and touching? he asked, hesitating for a few moments before sending the text.
A few moments later came the reply. If I wasn’t so sure that he’d never tell you, I’d totally refuse answering that right now.
Another one, a couple seconds later. But he’s Shuuya, so yea. His mom, as in his biological mom, used to beat him up. He doesn’t hate her though. I’m pretty sure he blames himself for it.
Shintaro stared at the message for a moment, then started typing. What happened to her?
She got stabbed. In front of Shuuya.
Oh, replied Shintaro.
Yeah. I probably shouldn’t tell you anything else though. I don’t want Shuuya to be mad at me.
Of course. ttyl.
Shintaro slumped back into the pillows and stared up at the ceiling. He was about to close the lights and go to sleep, when he felt the phone vibrate against his leg.
It was Kano.
Scrolling down to their latest message, Shintaro found a picture of a crushed piece of manure blinking up at him from the screen. Shintaro, are you OK? You look kinda flat, read the message.
Ha-ha, replied Shintaro, his lips twitching upwards in spite of his sarcastic remark.
As soon as he sent the message, Kano started furiously typing. Moments later, Shintaro received a picture of what seemed to be a box of firecrackers.
I’ll be down in five, texted Shintaro before grabbing his jersey and rushing downstairs.
Kano was waiting for him in the street, his hair a halo around his head. He was grinning devilishly, the box in his hand proof of his true nature.
‘This is a bad idea,’ greeted Shintaro.
Kano’s smile widened. ‘Good evening to you too.’
‘I think this counts as morning though,’ countered Shintaro, reaching for the package.
Eyes sparkling fiendishly, Kano skipped a step back. The package was pulled out of Shintaro’s reach. ‘Yeah, yeah, whatever. Let’s go.’
Shintaro’s confusion must’ve been obvious, because Kano continued. ‘Or do you want to set off the firecrackers here, in a residential area ?’
The answer was obvious— Shintaro followed Kano to a less populated area and the two of them were able to set off a couple of firecrackers before being chased off by an elderly man. With a broom.
‘This is fun!’ declared Kano once the two of them had eschewed their chaser’s grasp. Shintaro gave him a strange glance but said nothing. They sat down on a bench in the park, underneath a towering oak.
Kano wordlessly handed him a sparkler and Shintaro set it off. He glanced at his companion, smiling when he saw the other delightedly swishing his sparkler, drawing shapes in the air.
Noticing a leaf in Kano’s hair, Shintaro lifted a hand to remove it before abruptly freezing when he remembered his friend’s general opinion towards human contact. Kano was now staring at him and, noticing his hesitation, slightly tilted his head toward him.
A gesture of consent.
Trying to keep the sudden joy off his face, Shintaro carefully removed the leaf from Kano’s hair and hastily turned his attention back to his sparkler, which was almost finished off.
However, darkness did not fall. Instead, the early rays of sunlight filtered between the leaves of the trees surrounding them.
Putting in his pocket the finished sparkler, Shintaro noticed next to him a shrivelled poppy flower. However, he paid it no mind.
In front of them, the sun was rising.