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violet poppies

Chapter Text

Kano was having a bad day.

     Really, it was that simple. It had started with him waking up because of a damned mosquito , which had managed to get itself into his room at some point during the night before proceeding to incessantly buzz at his ear only when his palms were too far away from the fiend for him to utterly destroy that fucker. And, of course, when he went downstairs there were no mosquito repellers left. And, of course, that when he went to the coffee shop at six A.M. they were out of cocoa, therefore unable to satisfy his hot chocolate cravings. And, of course, that on his way back home, a random dude wearing noise-cancelling headphones would block his way. Of course.

     So yeah. Kano was having a bad day.

     “Excuse me?” he tried for the third time, still keeping his polite smile on. He was way too tired for conflict.

     The teen before him remained silent, staring at his phone’s screen as he took multiple pictures of some poppies on the side of the road- he was probably even unaware of Kano’s presence.

     Sighing, Kano contemplated inching past the boy. But no, if he tried passing through he’d most likely end up in the other’s personal bubble, squeezed against the other- which he definitely did not want to accomplish. Which meant there were only two options left for him:

  1. Turn around and take another route home. The exercise would do him good anyway.
  2. Get the other to notice him via (shudder) human contact.

      While option one was very tempting and probably the more advantageous option of the two, it also meant admitting defeat. Although Kano didn’t know the boy before him, a part of him bristled in indignation at the thought of giving in to the other’s despotism. No. Kano would not give in— he would bypass his usual mentality regarding his aversion to human contact and he’d (shudder) pat the other’s shoulder to get his attention.

     A sigh.

     “Excuse me?” he asked once more, this time lightly tapping the teen’s shoulder while ensuring that the rest of his body was a healthy distance from him— wary of giving the other the wrong impression, whatever that would be.

    It was just a light tap, even by Kano’s standards, yet the boy violently flinched away. Confused, Kano took a careful step back, his hands lifted in a nonthreatening manner; the other took a deep breath, his frame relaxing when the distance between them lengthened. Kano waited for him to take off his headphones, yet they remained on. Instead, the stranger just pocketed his phone, then, with his fist, made a circular motion on his chest.

    Once, then twice.

    It was during the third circle that Kano realized what was happening. His bad mood suddenly disappeared, replaced by burning regret, and he agitatedly shook his head.

     ‘No, I’m sorry,’ he signed to the other.

     The black-haired teen lightly smiled and stepped aside, clearing the way for Kano. Signing a small ‘Thank you,’ the blonde passed him and continued his walk back home, shoulders slightly hunched as he attempted to fight off the lingering embarrassment.


Shintaro regretted many things, starting with him getting in the accident that led to his deafness and ending with him letting Ayano convince him to come visit her home.

     A terrible decision, really. He came off as dark and brooding at best and misanthropic at worst; there were few exceptions to this general rule, like Momo or Ayano.

     Ayano, who was currently grinning at him as if he’d just told her he was getting married. Not a very good comparison, but still. Weren’t her siblings sixteen ? Didn’t teens that age hate absolutely everybody and everything? Or was that thirteen? Shintaro could no longer remember, but his belief did not waver. Ayano’s siblings would for sure hate him; that meant that Ayano would soon hate him too.

     Taking a calming breath, Shintaro hit the breaks in his spiraling. Everything would be fine. He’d live for a couple of months in his room until people forgot his face— he could ‘borrow’ from Momo’s dried squid reserves.

     At his side, Ayano was still smiling, slightly facing him at all times to make sure that he could read her lips. They’d abandoned ASL after some disastrous accidents rooted in Ayano’s attempts to learn it, and although lip-reading wasn’t that accurate, there were very few people who knew sign language well enough to communicate with him. Stifling his swelling apprehension in face of the imminent awkwardness, Shintaro fidgeted on the spot.

     “I’m home!” called Ayano as she toed off her shoes. A couple moments later, her siblings showed up, all of them hosting wary expressions bar one. The familiar blond’s eyes were wide in recognition.

     ‘Hey,’ signed the blond. Beyond his cheerfulness there was defensiveness Shintaro was pretty familiar with, piled upon what was probably fierce protectiveness of his sister.

     Shintaro decided not to get into either of them. ‘How come you know ASL?’ he asked instead.

     ‘Was bored,’ replied the other, grinning dismissively. Then, his eyes suddenly flicked away from him and towards a green-haired girl; someone had asked something and Shintaro had missed it, as always. Torn between reading the girl’s lips and the blond’s, Shintaro hesitated for a moment before settling for the boy. “...met him yesterday, on my way home. Want me to introduce you guys?” the blond said.

     Shintaro felt Ayano tense up at his side. He knew her well enough to know that she was feeling jealous for not being the one to introduce Shintaro and hating herself for it. Probably a lot too. 

     Pulling in his usual reservation, Shintaro comfortingly took her hand in his. She tensed up, then relaxed and smiled at him. Reassured, he turned back to her brother. 

     He was staring at them strangely, but went on and signed anyway. ‘I’m K-A-N-O.’ He pointed to the green-haired girl. ‘K-I-D-O.’ Then to the tall boy. ‘S-E-T-O.’ And the small, white-haired girl hiding behind Seto. ‘M-A-R-Y.’

     ‘Nice to meet you,’ replied Shintaro, trying his best to smile politely. Damn his awkwardness and social conventions. The latter most of all.

     Why was he here again? How should he handle this? Did normal people even ask themselves these things? What was ‘normal’ though—

     Ayano elbowed him and his spiral screeched to a stop.

     “Anyone want to play Mario Kart?” she asked, her eyes sparkling in fierce competitiveness. “I’m really good at it now.” As a rare show of caring , his competitiveness reared its head at the statement.

     ‘I want to be Princess Peach,’ he declared, slightly smiling. Really, he’d smiled a lot today. Weird.


Competitiveness brings out the worst in people. This is known well enough by countless people everywhere: professional or amateur, young or old. Kano supposed that their game of Mario Kart was proof of that fact. Kido, as Luigi, had been kicked off-route so many times that she’d finally huffed in exasperation and blamed her lack of proficiency on her remote. She dumped it in Seto’s lap, then got up to make lunch. Seto was relaxed, Ayano was fierce yet three laps behind. And Kano and Shintaro… Kano and Shintaro were the living proof of the aforementioned universal truth.

      Once more, a shell knocked into Kano. Once more, the air around Shintaro started stinking with smugness.

      Kano was gonna destroy this bastard.

      Easier said than done. For the third time in a row, Shintaro won first place, Kano second, Ayano third, and Seto a very much left behind fourth. He didn’t seem bothered by it. Only smiled at Mary and handed her the remote, asking her if she wanted to try playing.

     Just as Kano opened his mouth to demand a rematch, from the corner of his eye he glimpsed Shintaro turning to Ayano and signing ‘Should we help your sister?’. 

     Ayano seemed surprised by his offer. “No, she usually does it herself— she really likes it. Once, she kicked me out of the kitchen, saying that I was too clumsy to help her cook,” she replied, laughing at the last part. Shintaro’s shoulders slumped in relief.

     So Kano’s initial opinion of Shintaro had been true. The guy really was a selfish bastard most of the time. 

     He’d have to keep a close eye on him.

To protect his sister, of course.

Chapter Text

“Arghhh,” groaned Takane, her forehead pressed against her notebook.

     Haruka worriedly glanced at her, hastily looking away when she lifted her eyes to blankly stare at the wall.

     “Shintaro,” she started. The boy glanced at her, pausing his studying. “Is the answer ‘ribosome’?”

     Shintaro looked utterly horrified. He pulled her notebook closer to him.

     ‘This is maths. The answer is 23.4,’ he wrote.

     Takane sobbed and slammed her forehead against her desk, angrily banging her knees against the table. “This is useless,” she whined. “I’m too stupid.”

     Ayano huffed, affronted. “So you’re saying stupid people can’t get passing grades?”

     Shintaro lifted his hands. ‘You’re not-’ Ayano stopped him. She winked at him, then once more adopted her indignant expression.

     “Ughhh,” groaned Takane, pulling the textbook closer once more. “OK, Ayano. But I’m only doing this for you.”

     Ayano grinned, cheery once more, her goal having been achieved. “Sure you are. And I thank you for that.”

     Shaking his head, Shintaro pushed back his chair. ‘I’m going to buy some drinks,’ he told the others. ‘Anyone want anything?’

     “Ice tea,” muttered Takane, her eyes focused on the textbook. “Or iced coffee. This is killing me, argh-

     Tuning out her spiraling, Shintaro turned to Haruka, who only shook his head. Ayano jumped from her seat and approached him. “I’ll come with you. Actually, I’ll go for me and Takane’s drinks. Soda and ice tea are in separate vending machines, right? You can go for yours.”

     Nodding his thanks, Shintaro started going to his vending machine only to, all of a sudden, accidentally bump into someone. Jumping back, he started signing an apology before pausing when he realized who the other person was.

    ‘...Kido?’ he inquired. A glance behind her and he continued with ‘... and Kano? I didn’t notice you, Kido. Sorry.’

    ‘She has a weak presence,’ replied Kano, dodging an attack from Kido. How the girl had seen what Kano had signed with her back turned, Shintaro didn’t know. Maybe he was just that predictable.

    ‘We’re here to pick up Sis,’ continued the blond before suddenly widening his eyes and opening his mouth- before he could say anything, a body violently slammed into Shintaro. It seemed that today was a day for bumping into people. Painfully.

    Blearily blinking up at his attacker, the boy groaned. Momo just blinked innocently from above him in response.

    “Bro, how come you have friends I don’t know about?” she slowly asked him, making sure he could read her lips. Her eyes betrayed her words though- she was unabashedly staring at Kido.

     Smothering the impulse to sign Momo, your gay is showing , Shintaro just pushed her off him and stood up. A quick glance showed him that Kano was barely restraining his laughter. Shintaro just glowered at him before signing a quick introduction.

     ‘This is Momo, my (annoying) little sister. Momo, these are Kido and Kano. They’re Ayano’s siblings.’

     However, Momo had stopped paying attention to him as soon as she’d heard Kido’s name. Widely grinning, she forcefully grabbed the other girl’s hand. “Kido-san, want me to show you around the school?” she cheerily asked.

    Kido nodded dumbly which was response enough to Momo. They walked away, Momo excitedly pulling the other after her.

     ‘You’re here to see Ayano, right?’ Shintaro asked the other, decidedly ignoring what had just taken place.

     A slight twitch in Kano’s smile showed him that something was untrue with what he’d said, but he didn’t dwell on it. Instead, he just resumed walking to the vending machine; Kano followed him, a skip in his step.

     So energetic.

     Having reached the machine, Shintaro pulled out his money and selected his soda. Kano remained by his side, fidgeting and staring at something in the distance. Noticing the other’s trancelike state, Shintaro pushed down any reservation and snapped his fingers in front of Kano’s face to draw his attention.

    Ah, so awkward.

    ‘I’ll bring you to Ayano, OK?’ Shintaro told the other, already starting to head in her direction. Kano followed him, taking out his phone to scroll through some messages; noticing his glance, the blond pushed his phone in Shintaro’s hands. 

    ‘Phone number?’ he concisely inquired before resolutely looking away. He seemed to be struggling to maintain his cool exterior.

     Hiding his smile, Shintaro typed in his number, putting himself in as “Shintaro Kisaragi”.

     So awkward. He was way too awkward for this.

     He handed Kano his phone back just when a sudden motion drew his attention. There seemed to be some kind of commotion just next to the vending machine. A knot formed in Shintaro’s gut, and he and Kano quickened their pace.

     Ayano was surrounded by three large guys, who were standing way too close to her, threatening and smirking. When they noticed Kano and Shintaro, their grins widened.

      I might be lanky, but I’m smart enough to know all the painful spots for me to hit.

     Next to him, Kano’s grin widened. “He knows where to hit for you to hurt.” He cracked his knuckles and Shintaro smiled. “And I’ve been in plenty of fights myself.”

     Pushing aside the unbidden wave of affection, Shintaro watched the three thugs, unimpressed by them, step closer.

     Oh well. Seems like this fight was inevitable.

     Without warning, Shintaro punched the largest in the windpipe at the same time Kano lunged for the one closest to the Ayano. It took Shintaro only a couple of moments to knock out his adversary; he glanced at Kano to see how the other was faring.

     And that was why he didn’t see the third of the thugs coming up from behind.


Heart hammering, Kano crouched down next to Shintaro, lightly tapped his shoulder.

     Still, he did not stir.

     First checking that his fear wasn’t showing, Kano glanced around himself. The three thugs were still on the ground, unconscious; the third had a bloodied nose— courtesy of Takane, who’d showed up at the last moment, demanding to know where her drink was. Now she was next to Ayano, close enough to comfort the other, yet far enough for it to be almost unnoticeable.

     Tsundere, Kano mentally laughed before he could stop himself. He hastily turned his attention back to Shintaro.

    “Should we call an ambulance?” asked Ayano, face scrunched up in concern. She wasn’t as good as Kano at hiding his emotions.

     “Oh,” exclaimed Kano. Shintaro had just opened his eyes. “No need.”

     Holding their breath, the group waited for Shintaro to start whining. Instead, he shakily sat up, then blearily looked around.

     He patted the ground surrounding him, then his pockets, until he brought out his phone; it was unscathed and Shintaro sighed in relief. Kano swallowed a laugh. 

      Instead, slightly smiling, he leaned closer to the other before he could stop himself. ‘You OK?’ he slowly signed.

      Shintaro nodded, then stood up, slightly swaying. Without considering it, Kano stepped close enough for his companion to lean on him if he needed to. He didn’t, and Kano sighed in relief, then instantly felt bad about it. He should be able to be there for his friends when they needed his support, right?

     Ignoring the confusing bundle of contradicting emotions inside himself, Kano turned his attention back to Shintaro, who was looking at Ayano with an amused glint in his eyes yet a decidedly unsmiling mouth. . Laughing, she circled her arm through his. She slowly mouthed “Thank you,” before pulling him back to the library for him to sit down. Shintaro only protested a little before allowing her to drag him after her.

Kano followed them.

Chapter Text

The party raged on around Shintaro and he deeply regretted agreeing to come here with Takane. Supposedly, they were here to improve their popularity for when they headed off to college with most of the guys here, yet Takane was nowhere to be seen. She’d probably snuck off with Haruka, damn her. Shintaro fidgeted with his phone’s case.

       I regret ever coming here. Send help, he typed in the text bar and hit ‘send’.

      The phone vibrated and Shintaro stared down at it. However, his vision was too blurry for him to read the text. He was feeling queasy. Maybe he should just go. Would anyone notice? There was no-one close, maybe he could—

      Someone bumped into him and spilled their drink all over Shintaro.

      “Hey, Shintaro! Ya enjoying yourself?” the other roared. Great. It was the host. 

      Usually, Shintaro gave no damn about social norms and would now glower at the other before walking off. But, no, he’d had to promise Ayano that he’d be more polite to others. And he couldn’t even lie to her after, she always read him like a book.

      Damn Ayano and her conviviality. He didn’t need any parties.

      He forced a tipsy smile. He’d drank more than a few glasses, however, he was still completely sober; he was so anxious that all of the adrenaline roaring through his bloodstream had cancelled out all potential effects of the alcohol. 

      Yet, that didn’t stop dizziness from assaulting his senses. Maybe he should just go home after all.

      The boy before him was still waiting for his response, slightly swaying and wearing a dopey smile. Most probably he didn’t know ASL, so Shintaro just gave him a weak thumbs-up; the other seemed satisfied and walked off, stumbling into one of his friends and laughing uproariously.

       Once more, Shintaro’s phone vibrated.

       The boy took it out and stared down at it, then widened his eyes.

       He blinked. Once, then twice.

       On the screen, the sender’s profile icon glared at him.


       He’d messaged the wrong person.

        Deafening curses filling his mind, Shintaro just lifted his eyes from the screen and glanced around himself. He turned his attention back to his phone.

       A single text blinked up at Shintaro: I’m coming now.

       Internal screaming suddenly faded into white noise. For a few moments, he only stared dumbly at the screen; then the din resumed and he agitatedly started typing in a refusal.

       Kano’s only response was a smiley face. The next two messages received the same response- the three after were left on seen. After that, Kano didn’t even bother reading them. Sighing, Shintaro pushed himself off the couch, carefully avoiding looking at the two girls making out on the couch. Or the other couple’s very shocking PDA.

      Ah, adolescence. Gotta love it.

      Squeezing past an overturned potted tree, Shintaro grabbed his jersey from where he’d dropped at some point during this hellish evening and headed for the door. It was warm outside, yet the air was cooler than inside the house; and much cleaner too. Taking a deep breath of the refreshing air, Shintaro took out his phone and opened his chat with Takane.

       I’m going home. See ya. He hit ‘send’ and pocketed his phone. 

      He didn’t have to wait for long before he spotted a blond teen headed for him.

       ‘You didn’t have to come,’ was the first thing Shintaro told the other.

       Amused, Kano gave him a feline grin. ‘You’re welcome.’ He matched his pace with Shintaro’s. ‘You’re lucky you accidentally messaged me instead of Ayano- she broke her phone this morning.’ His grin widened. ‘There would’ve been no knight in shining armour to save you, dear damsel.’

        He bowed exaggeratedly, smirking up at Shintaro as he did so. The older boy fiercely scowled, fighting to keep his smile from showing and probably failing, judging by the satisfied twinkle in the blond’s eyes.

        ‘Why were you even there, anyway?’ asked Kano, meaningfully glancing at Shintaro’s tattered red jersey and his unkempt hair. It was clear that the older teen didn’t belong at parties. Or in social situations in general, bitterly mused Shintaro.

        Self-consciously tugging at the overgrown strands, Shintaro looked away for a moment before dismissively signing ‘Improving my popularity.’

        A lightbulb above them flickered and Shintaro suddenly recognized their environment or, more exactly, he didn’t. Which was why he stopped and turned to fully face Kano. ‘Where’re we going?’

       Kano’s blond hair shimmered under the lamppost’s light. It looked like a halo, yet his grin was positively devilish. ‘It’s a surprise,’ was all he said before leaping on the stone wall beside them. He stretched out a hand, pulling Shintaro towards him.

       The wall’s bricks were damp with the night air and slightly moldy; Shintaro’s ratty sneakers proved to be a deplorable foe for the moss, the smooth soles immediately slipping and making the boy stumble forward, onto Kano. A small, surprised puff of air left Shintaro as his palms painfully slammed into the rough top of the wall.

        Under him, Kano was frozen. His grin was gone and his eyes were wide- he looked like a deer caught in the headlights. He seemed to be torn between gently pushing Shintaro aside or punching him in the gut as hard as he could.

       Making the decision for him, Shintaro slowly rolled off Kano and sat down next to him. Kano was quick to recover, pulling his smile back on and brightly staring at Shintaro- the lamp next to them set his irises on fire.

       ‘Have you been drinking?’ The blond coyly smiled at his companion.

       Shintaro made a noncommittal gesture before peering down at the ground on the other side of the wall. He could just barely see a patch of grass, the rest was hidden in the darkness. ‘What’re we doing here?’ he asked.

        Kano jumped off the wall and motioned for Shintaro to follow him, this time moving a larger distance from where Shintaro would land. Without letting himself hesitate, Shintaro jumped from the wall, wincing when the impact with the ground rattled his knees.

       ‘You get used to it,’ Kano told him when he glanced at the blond. Taking something from his parka’s pocket, Kano turned to face the wall.

       It was graffiti.

       They were going to graffiti the wall.

       Before Shintaro could protest, Kano threw a can at him, then turned to face his masterpiece- which was a large, black cat.

       The dimensions were off, the eyes were weird, and it was overall creepy.

Shintaro absolutely loved it.

He proceeded to vandalize the wall by Kano’s side.


Chapter Text

“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.