1001: Persona 3: Trade Me – Chapter 20Posted: March 24, 2015
Ert: So we’re swapping out patrols?
Seiko: We managed to rule out a lot of areas where he was hiding, but after a solid weak of searching, well, that tired us out a bit so swapping out for the others keeps fresh soldiers on the front.
Cornelia: Besides, this way John Freeman is going to be part of the party that puts Manus down, and frankly we’re gonna need that kind of firepower.
Shepard: So…what do I do here exactly?
Ert: Just made a wise ass comment whenever something stupid comes up in the story.
Shepard: I think I can do that.
(Song Counter: 19)
Cornelia: Feels like a formality at this point.
Mitsuru was a little more than surprised to see Aila arrive early to do her report. What shocked her the most, however, was the status of her hair. She’d sloppily chopped it shorter and had dyed it pink. Not just any pink, either, but a vibrant bubblegum shade. Aila caught Mitsuru staring at her new look.
Ert: I’m sorry to break it to you Aila, but according to my recent experience with the Overwatch controversy, pink hair is associated with punk culture and Tumblr and you’re trying way too hard to be tough. Ah, don’t you just love the pearls of wisdom the internet bestows on us?
“I thought I’d try something different,” she explained briefly.
“I see.” Mitsuru allowed her to enter.
Cornelia: Before this, she wasn’t going to let her in. Then again considering Alia that was probably a smart move.
They both approached Mitsuru’s desk and sat in their respective seats. Aila still seemed to be a bit weakened from the previous battle, but she did her best to tough it out. “Thank you for coming to do your report, Sonnel.”
Shepard: I don’t think they used the word “respective” correctly. Kind of like…kind of like…kind of like…
Ert: You ok?
Shepard: Yeah I’m just *coughs up blood* give me a minute….*Takes a deep breath* kind of how like I didn’t use the word quip right.
“It’s no problem.” Aila sat very calmly and quietly, waiting for Mitsuru to tell her where to begin. Instead, the red-haired woman pulled out a pad with eloquently written notes.
“I spoke with Amada,” she stated. “He told me everything, including the part where you saved his life.” Aila went quiet, not knowing what to say. She didn’t look as though she had intended on telling Mitsuru that same story.
Cornelia: And also he said you knocked him out and left him in the bathroom…Chris Hanson would like to have a word with you.
“So, what do you need from me?”
“I actually wanted to apologize for my behavior. I know I’ve been a little less than friendly as of late, and I wanted to ask you to forgive me.”
Ert: She’ll earn your forgiveness when she apologizes for all the bullshit that SHE pulled.
“Yes. When you saved Ken’s life, you proved to me and the rest of the team that you can be trusted with our lives.
Seiko: She knocked him out and abandoned him in the bathroom! That is the exact opposite of what you said she did!
That means a lot to us. And, in honor of your selflessness,
Cornelia: Oh fuck you.
I’d like to-” Aila held up a hand, closing her eyes.
“As much as I’d love to hear your praise, I have to stop you there.” Aila’s eyes opened. “The thing that I don’t think Ken told you is that, the night I saved him…I almost…didn’t.”
Shepard: Whacked him over the head and ditched him in the middle of a war zone?
Mitsuru rose one brow. “What do you mean?”
“Look, I’ll be completely honest with you…I don’t think I should be on the team anymore.” Mitsuru’s other brow went up. Aila went on. “As Ken was dying in my arms, Minako’s memories took me over. I was totally overwhelmed by her sadness and suffering that I…. Well, let’s just say I was lucky enough to fight back and regain my senses.”
Ert:…That’s it? Minako’s memories almost overwhelmed you? Tell me, what’s so bad about that again? Worse case scenario, Minako’s personality overwrites yours and frankly she sounds a thousand times more interesting than you. Also, overwhelming her? Is that what’s happening now?
Mitsuru took a minute to let that sink in. She leaned back in her seat as she carefully considered the weight of each word. Aila waited patiently for the woman to speak.
“Thank you for being honest about this, Sonnel. It is something that I’ll have to think about for a while.”
Cornelia: Five credits says she doesn’t really!
Seiko: I accept.
“Of course.” Aila nodded, her pink strands bobbing around her jaw. “You’re the leader, so I’ll let you make the call. I just wanted to ensure you knew so that I don’t have to endanger the others anymore.” Mitsuru nodded thoughtfully.
Ert: How did she endanger Ken’s life again? Oh I know how she ACTUALLY endangered his life, I want to know how this story THINKS
“How are you feeling now?”
“I’m…so-so. I’ll live.”
“Have you seen anymore of Arisato’s memories?”
“No, not since last night.” Another nod from the Kirijo head.
Cornelia: GAH! Why is Mitsuru’s head floating around like that!?
“Very well. For now, please relax here in the company suites. You’ve been through quite a bit.”
“Thank you.” Aila rose from her seat, heading to the door.
Shepard: You’ve strained yourself with that…thingie you did. Go rest in my rich person suite.
“Sonnel,” Mitsuru called, standing up from her chair. The girl glanced back at her.
“Is this about me spending time with Akihiko and the others?” Aila looked sad at that moment, but understanding. “If you think it will further endanger them, I’ll be sure to steer clear until I have control over these memories.”
Ert: WHAT ARE THE MEMORIES DOING! Was Mother Dearest supposed to be a memory? That can’t be it, she had nothing to do with Minako! So what is so gorram dangerous about them?
“Actually, I was going to say quite the opposite.” Mitsuru rounded her desk and leaned back against its edge. Her arms folded elegantly before her chest. “I trust that you’ll be fine being so near to them. What you did for Ken shows me that you have quite a bit of character. And that fact that you were so forth-coming about your loss of control in battle also shows me that you can be trusted. I’m certain that you’ll do everything in your power to keep my-or should I say, our team-safe, and that you’ll do what you must when the need arises.” Mitsuru gave her a soft smile. “You may hear it often, but you are more like our old leader than you think.”
Aila gave an empty chuckle. “That’s what I’m afraid of.”
Shepard: *Flips through papers* I thought Minako was supposed to be the kind caring and supportive type. How is Alia anything like her?
Cornelia: Oh you are gonna fit in just fine here. And she isn’t, this is what we called an Informed Attribute.
…. …. ….
Akihiko hadn’t noticed the light shining through the window until far into the afternoon. He rose and stretched out his sore, uncomfortable muscles. He still wasn’t used to sleeping in something so soft, even after all of these months. Scratching the back of his head, he slowly began to recall where he was.
Ert: Sleeping into the afternoon doesn’t seem very much like Akihiko
The room he was in was the one Mitsuru had assigned to Aila. Akihiko vaguely remembered tucking the girl into her queen-sized covers, but wasn’t sure when he’d fallen asleep himself. He glanced to the spot beside him; it was empty. Slowly, the man stood from the mattress and headed for the hallway.
Seiko: Do they always fall asleep next to each other? I mean, this is getting silly.
A light hum was coming from the kitchenette. It was sweet and melodic, something he didn’t recall ever hearing before. The tune was also unfamiliar. He cautiously glanced towards the stove to see who it was coming from.
“Aila?” He muttered. But it couldn’t have been her…this girl had pink hair.
Cornelia: Same body type, general shape, voice and everything else, but the HAIR IS DIFFERENT! Seriously hope that stupid hair things isn’t what sets her apart from Minako forever and ever.
“Oh, hey, Akihiko!” Aila whirled around and gave the boy a big smile. He was shocked to see that this cotton-candy head indeed belonged to his friend.
Ert: *Snort* the fucking fuck?
He could only stare at her for a few minutes-or more specifically, he could only stare at the strange new color. Aila touched the locks with a blush.
“I thought I’d try something different,” she stated. “Do you like it?”
Shepard: Didn’t she say that exact same thing three seconds ago?
Ert: Give or take.
“Um, I don’t really know.” Akihiko approached her to get a better look. Taking one of the strands between his fingers, he tried to take in her whole appearance. The tips were wildly uneven-like Aila had taken a hacksaw to her head-but they still found a way to frame her face in a soft, heavenly glow. Her cheeks started turning the same color as the strands he held, and he finally took notice of how close he was to her lips. Embarrassed, he backed up and finally concluded, “It looks…interesting.”
Cornelia: Change your pants Akihiko. Also after that tongue bath disguised as a narrative.
(Mary Sue Counter: 38)
“Thanks.” Aila turned back to the stove, pretending not to have lost her breath. “Aigis helped me pick it out.” Akihiko realized that there was another presence in the room and turned around. Aigis was calmly sitting on a black leather couch, watching her friends’ exchange.
Ert: AH! A more interesting character! SAVE US AIGIS! Save us from this boredom!
“Greetings, Akihiko-san,” Aigis said, bowing her head. She gave a bright smile.
“Hey, Aigis.” The boy waved, then returned to Aila. “You left?” Without me? he wanted to finish.
Seiko. Stop trying to turn this into a shota story!
“Just for a bit. I was tired of looking at my half-blonde, half-brown hair in the mirror. Since you were catching up on your sleep, I had Aigis escort me to the town to make some creative changes.” Creative wasn’t the word Akihiko would’ve used, but the more he looked at her….
Cornelia: Did she really need an escort into town to buy some freaking hair gel?
“It actually looks really nice on you.” Aila beamed at his compliment, making Akihiko flush again. He tried to change the subject. “So, what are you making?” Something round and sweetly scented was wafting from the griddle Aila had on the stove.
“Pancakes. They’re one of your favorite treats, right?”
Shepard: *Flips through more pages* uh, I can’t find anything about that. Wait, hold on, yeah turns out he does. It’s from his social link though, and I’m not sure how Minako would know that. Something about the memories?
“Yeah.” Akihiko watched her flip two of them over; each one was perfectly browned. “How did you know?”
Aila’s hands paused. “Oh, I’m pretty sure you told me months ago.” They both knew that the conversation had never come up. Akihiko turned away uncomfortably, searching for another subject.
Shepard: That’s a yes.
Ert: Still stupid.
“He is still resting in his room. He should be awake soon.” Aigis stated, standing to approach Aila’s side. “Is there anything I could do to help, Aila-san?”
“Sure! If you could set up the table for four people, that’d be great! I’ll be sure to save some of these for Shinjiro when he’s up and around.” Aila started speaking excitedly, like she was about to throw the party of the year. Akihiko, somehow, didn’t like that she was cooking for another man. This thought couldn’t be pushed aside and she poured more batter onto the sizzling metal.
Cornelia: Oh for fuck’s sake Akihiko, stop being so god damn insecure!
“Do you intend to feed me as well?” Aigis started gathering plates from one of the cupboards nearby; she seemed to know where everything was placed.
“Yes. Oh.” Aila whirled around to the robot, pieces of her hair trying to intrude on her vision. Akihiko noticed then that, while she’d cut much of the longer strands off, she hadn’t remembered to trim her bangs. They now reached passed her eyebrows. That wasn’t how Minako had kept her hair…
Seiko: Is there anyway for this story to establish Aila’s character by either saying “That’s what Minako did” or “That isn’t what Minako did”? It’s ironic considering how she wants
He could’ve smacked himself for that one; he shouldn’t have been thinking of Her at that moment. He pushed the thought back into his mind.
“Aigis, are you…able to eat?”
“If you make me something, Aila-san, I will find a way to consume it.” She smiled sweetly and the pink-haired girl returned the gesture.
Ert:…I’m a little afraid to delve into what the Hell that might mean.
Cornelia: Let’s just move on and pretend this never happened.
The door opened just as Aigis had finished setting up the table. Shinjiro came in, looking hung-over from the amount of sleep he’d gotten. When he saw Aila, however, the surprise woke him up.
Shepard: I’m pretty sure the word you’re looking for is groggy.
“What happened to you?” He asked.
“Just wanted to try something new,” Aila replied, putting a stack of pancakes on each plate. The answer sounded mechanical, now, which made Akihiko suspicious of her true motives. However, she didn’t give anyone time to call her out on it. “Do you want to join us for breakfast?”
Seiko: They just said that it was two in the afternoon!
Shinjiro put a hand to the back of his head, trying to rub out any leftover exhaustion.
Ert:……….Good luck with that.
He checked a dented silver pocket watch in his trench coat. “Isn’t it a little late for breakfast?” However, he headed for a seat at the square-shaped table. Aigis had taken one of chairs next to Aila, so Akihiko had to swiftly claim the other one. Shinjiro didn’t seem to pay any mind. He took his place across from the girl.
Cornelia: Glad someone said it. But, uh, Shinji, pocket watches with bullet holes in them tend to not work that well. Also yeah, in game that watch took a magnum bullet.
“Well, eat up!” Aila said with a grin. “Aigis and I also picked up syrup, strawberries, blueberries, and whipped cream. If you finish off your plate, I’ve got plenty more pancakes on the counter.”
“Thank you, Aila,” Akihiko said. “I’ll be sure to finish them all off for you.”
“Tch.” Shinjiro leaned forward for the syrup. “I’d better get my fill before this idiot eats it all.”
Seiko: He really cannot stop for three seconds can he? Aila is defined by her relationship to Minako, Akihiko by how much he likes protein and fighting and Shinji by how much of an asshole he is. Also.
(Idiot Counter: 4)
“What did you say?” The boys shared a heated glare. Aila wasn’t sure whether to laugh or separate them; for being adults, they sure acted a lot like children.
Ert: Look in the mirror lately?
After only a few moments, they both started rapidly shoveling forkfuls of food into their mouths. It was a race, now, to see who could finish off their meal faster and get to the leftovers. Aigis didn’t take much notice, instead focusing on the hostess.
“Thank you for the meal, Aila-san,” she said.
“You’re welcome Aigis.” She held out a small bowl to the robot. “Would you like some strawberries?”
The meal was far from what others would call “ordinary”, but Aila was relieved to be with her friends and forget about her troubles-even if it was only for a little while.
Cornelia: I get the feeling that this was supposed to be character devlopment of some kind or bonding, yet the problem is that, well, these people have as much chemistry as two soggy pieces of paper lying on top of each other.
…. …. …. ….
Shinjiro and Akihiko sat on opposite ends of the couch, their skin a slight green color; their contest ended in a draw with a consolation prize of two upset stomachs.
Seiko: Persona loves to delve into stupid humor, but this is TOO stupid.
“I’d made enough for leftovers for the next week,” Aila told Aigis softly at the door, “but I suppose that they really wanted to finish them off tonight. I guess that boys will be boys, eh?”
Ert: We’re immune to being stupid, right Aigis?
Seiko: I recall you fleeing the premises for several months for poor reasons.
Ert: BE QUIET!
“Yes.” Aigis looked around the hallway, her face falling. “I do wish that I didn’t have to leave so early….”
Cornelia: But I have to go do…thing.
“It’s alright!” Aila assured. “I understand that duty calls. Thank you for hanging out with me today. It was a lot of fun!”
“And thank you for inviting me!” Aigis gave a polite bow, her smile returning. “I enjoyed spending time with you, Aila-san.”
Shepard: All she did was give Aigis food that she couldn’t properly enjoy.
“Be safe out there. I’ll catch you later.” Aigis left and Aila quietly shut the door behind her. Then she went to go clean up the mess on the stove. Aigis had been kind enough to help with the dishes, but Aila had told her not to worry about the rest. She’d needed to report to Mitsuru on some Shadow investigation matters…something about a sister? Aila wasn’t completely sure.
Ert: Sounds a thousand times more interesting than anything going on here.
As the girl started to sing softly to herself and wipe up the dried batter, she heard two voices grunt behind her.
“Need some help?” Shinjiro offered, trying to stand.
“You’re too sick to help her,” Akihiko muttered. “I’ll do it.” He attempted to get up faster than his friend, but ended up flopping back into his cushion.
Cornelia: Do they need to get into a dick waving contest over EVERYTHING!?
“Don’t worry about it guys,” Aila insisted. She didn’t need a war to start between the two. This one would only end one way: with her cleaning up their bile from the floor. “I’ve got this.” She turned the TV on to keep their attention before returning to her cleaning items.
Ert: Must. Buy. Everything.
As some infomercial about a new medicine came on, she found her usual hums turn into a low serenade. The song she’d chosen was one that she remembered learning as a child, but she couldn’t place its name. It got her through the scrubbing and the polishing, and even kept her earlier conversation with Mitsuru far from her thoughts. Singing had once been her solace…she wondered why she ever gave it up.
Seiko: Here! Character trait! I gave her a character trait! Now she has a personality! Rite?
As she finished, Aila took a glance into the fridge and freezer. It had quite a bit of food inside. Mitsuru had someone that probably kept it well-stocked. However, as the girl started glancing through the items, she realized that what she really wanted wasn’t inside.
“What’re you looking for?” Shinjiro had somehow made his way over to Aila’s side. He was leaning heavily against the counter and didn’t appear to want anymore food, but he still searched curiously for whatever she sought.
“I’m just craving some ice cream….” Even as she said it, she sensed Shinjiro’s face growing more and more green. “It looks like we’re missing some other things, too. I’ll have to go out shopping tonight.”
Cornelia: I swear this lady does more shopping than anything else to develop her character. Also, how come they had to keep what she was craving a secret?
“Mitsuru’s got a guy for that.” Akihiko had made his way over, too, his body sinking deeply into one of the kitchen chairs.
“I know. But I like to go myself. She’s already given me a place to sleep and a monthly allowance. I can take care of a few groceries.” That gave a small smile to both boys.
“I’ll go with you,” Akihiko offered. Aila glanced over at him.
“Are you sure? You don’t look too well.”
“I’ll be fine.” Akihiko made a big show to stand up straight and flex his muscles.
“I feel great!”
Shepard: Is there any point to this? Honestly staring at the ceiling is more interesting than this.
Ert: No, it’s pretty much filler.
“Well, alright. If you say so.” Aila shut the refrigerator door and turned to Shinjiro. “Would you like to join us?”
“Thanks, but I’ve got some other stuff to do.” He didn’t meet Aila’s eyes, which she’d learned was a sign that he was lying.
Seiko: Because we say it is.
“You kids have fun.” Aila wasn’t sure why he was declining the offer so quickly, but she’d come to know that Shinjiro always had his reasons for the things he did.
Seiko: Because we say he does.
“Okay. Maybe we’ll see you later tonight then? For dinner, maybe?”
His hand involuntarily went to his stomach. “Maybe.”
“Alright. Well, I’ll hurry and get ready. You should too, Akihiko.”
The boy snapped out of his sickness just long enough to give her a sidelong glance. “Why?”
“I am not going into town with a shirtless man. You obviously don’t remember all of the looks I got last time.”
Cornelia: Is this entire story going to be reminiscing on far more interesting things that have happened in the past but we never got to see?
“You could use a shower too,” Shinjiro stated. “You smell like an ape from the zoo.” The boys shared another glare. Aila rolled her eyes.
Shepard: Can we skip this? It’s getting repetitive.
“I agree with Shinjiro: you need to clean up a bit.” Before Akihiko could protest, the girl swiftly added, “I’ll hurry up and get ready, then I’ll let you use the bathroom, ‘k?” She didn’t even wait for an answer; she just rushed off. When alone, Shinjiro turned to his best friend.
“Now’s your chance,” he said. The silverette gave him a raise of his brow.
“For what?” He asked. Shinjiro shook his head.
“Moron. To tell her how you feel.”
Ert: Glad someone pointed out the diseased ridden elephant in the room. Seriously, the poor thing is about to hack up a lung, but everyone kept pretending it wasn’t real. Shinji ruins it though by being a dick. Again.
(Moron Counter: 5)
Shepard: I thought it was the Idiot Counter.
Ert: It’s whatever the last insult to come out of his mouth was.
Akihiko stiffened; in truth, he’d forgotten all about his love troubles. He was just relieved to have the old Aila back in his life.
Cornelia: Yeah, fuck you story, he was going all neanderthal at the thought of her cooking for another man. He didn’t forget at all.
“Look, man.” Shinjiro slowly lifted himself off of the counter. “If you don’t tell her, then someone else is gonna swoop in and take her out from under ya.”
Akihiko considered that for a moment; it made him rather upset. “Does someone else like her?”
“In case you haven’t looked at her, idiot, she’s not exactly hideous. You’d have to be a moron not to fall for someone like her.”
Seiko: Love should be based purely on looks. Thanks for the advice Shinji. Prick.
Ert: And less we forget.
(Idiot Counter: 6)
Akihiko felt panic stir in his heart; it made him want to train.
Ert: SHUT! UP!
He didn’t want to think about some other guy try to hold her hand or stroke her hair or sleep in the same bed as her. Or sleep with her for that matter.
Cornelia: Especially not someone with a bigger penis!
“I don’t know if I can do it, though,” he muttered. It’d been a long time since he’d felt this way about anyone and he didn’t remember the right thing to say to a girl like her.
“This coming from a guy that fights monster for a living….” Shinjiro mumbled. Akihiko shot him a glare. “He can’t even ask a girl out.”
Ert: Wouldn’t talk if I were you Mr. “I cut myself off from every last person I ever cared about because I killed a five year old’s mom.”
“I can too!” The challenge was accepted before Shinjiro had even finished his sentence.’
Seiko: Now the character development is being reduced to Akihiko trying to one up Shinji. Are we in pre-school?
“Akihiko! I’m almost ready! You can come use the bathroom now!” Aila called in. The tall brunette glanced over at his friend.
“Then quit stalling, before it’s too late.”
Shepard: Can every character in this story get punched in the face please?
Ert: We would do it ourselves if we could.
…. …. …..
Aila noticed an unusual tenseness in Akihiko’s form as they wandered the town, and it wasn’t from the sickness he’d had earlier.
Cornelia: You mean like that tenseness he gets every dicking time he’s around you? You’re slow on the uptake aren’t you.
Whenever she asked what was wrong, he’d flush and look away with a short, “Nothing.” Aila tried to let it go, but couldn’t seem to clear it out of her mind. It made for a very awkward trip. At least the spring weather was pleasant, giving the two friends a warm and sunny smile as a light breeze followed close behind them.
While they carried their groceries back towards the Kirijo building, Aila noticed Akihiko stop by a store window. She thought that it was strange, because he was staring at a small bin with some hair accessories.
Seiko: And on top of everything, the breeze is stalking them.
“You okay?” She asked, wondering if he was just lost in thought. He glanced up at her.
“Yeah. It’s just….” He pointed to a small set of silver bobby pins. One of them had a bright green rose attached. “Those would look nice in your hair.”
“Oh…” She counted the number of pins; six. However, they all added up to 22 in her mind. Aila glanced at Akihiko; he apparently didn’t see what she did.
Shepard: Is that supposed to mean something? Did an alien language get run through a poor translator? I mean, what?
Ert: Ugh, I don’t know man, I just don’t know.
“They’re cute, but I really don’t need anything like that.”
“I’d like to still get you something.” He gave her a bashful gaze. She put a hand to her chin.
“Well, we did miss out on giving each other Christmas presents…” She mused. As she thought about it more, she wanted to get something for Akihiko, too.
Cornelia: Oh yeah, Christmas came and went apparently. We didn’t notice because this story likes to jump ahead entire months and if it wasn’t for the little dates at the start of chapters, we’d hardly notice.
“Exactly!” Akihiko was now just grasping for a reason to give her a gift; if it were the anniversary of her first salon-done hairdo, he probably would’ve leapt at that, too. He took her hand and excitedly led her inside. “Which one would you like?”
Ert: Uh, I gave my friend her Christmas present three months late. I also gave her her birthday present two months early to make up for it. People do stuff like this.
“Um….” Aila had always had a hard time deciding on things for herself, especially when under pressure like that. Akihiko followed her every step as she browsed the accessory isles. His fingers never released hers, which only distracted her further.
At last, she came to a large cardboard bin with a mixture of unwanted items inside. Something in the container caught her eye. Since she still had groceries in her other fist, she had to release Akihiko to dig out the object.
“What is it?” Akihiko asked, leaning over her shoulder to see what she’d chosen. Her face warmed as his scruffy chin brushed her cheek.
“It’s a ribbon.”
Cornelia: One second *Types*
Cornelia: Not a bad find. It should protect against status effects.
The little flimsy fabric danced in her fingers, even though there was no wind to rouse it. On one side, the ribbon was a wintery blue with hundreds of sparkles lining the edges. When you flipped it the other way, the fabric was a deep violet with dozens of roses embedded down the length of the accessory. At its tips sat two light but dazzling gemstones.
“Its nice,” Akihiko said, “but are you sure that’s what you want?”
Seiko: Well, it HAS gotten more description than anything else in this chapter. She could leave it, but then we would’ve wasted our time with all of that. Then again, knowing this story, it could go either way with that.
Aila smiled at the ribbon. Price and brand didn’t matter to her. “Yes. It’s perfect.” She turned around to stare up at him. “And since it’d be from you, I’d always treasure it.” Akihiko blushed, gently taking the ribbon from her hands to purchase it.
Ert: I get the feeling this is going to be involved in a forced emotional moment down the line.
Akihiko proved to be easy to shop for. He wanted many different things, such as protein powder, barbells, and other training tools. Aila, however, found the perfect watch for him. It was meant for men who worked out often; it not only tracked your calorie ratio throughout the day, but it also monitored your heartbeat, the number of reps completed with each exercise, and the amount of steps you took per day. The best part: it was on sale for a bargain. Akihiko seemed to genuinely adore it, which made it worthwhile for Aila.
Shepard: Seriously, every time Akihiko comes up we can just put up a picture of a stereotypically ripped body builder and we would be losing very little.
Ert: Well, I got this.
Shepard: Good enough.
Before they left the store with it, Aila noted that there was a stand with a brilliant bronze pocket watch. There were no engravings, but the sign beside it said that there was an option to have a special message chiseled into it.
Cornelia: Pardon me, trying to remind myself of something GOOD!
Aila recalled Shinjiro’s current time keeper-the one that looked nearly ready to crumble.
Shepard: Oh come on! First Shinji is “hung over” from sleep, and now they’re calling watches time keepers!?
While Akihiko was browsing some sterling silver watch bands, she placed an order with the clerk and gave him the first of many monthly payments.
Ert: No idea how much watches cost in this situation, so I’m gonna keep my mouth shut. I will say that this seems a bit much for an impulse purchase though.
As they started to return to the Kirijo building, Aila asked if they could stop at one last area. Akihiko relented, but advised that they get home quickly before dark. They paced towards their old apartment complex, which was temporarily sealed off for repairs. Mitsuru had used some strange excuse to cover up the reasons for the extensive damages. No citizen nearby seemed to question it. Aila stared up at the dents in the structure, remembering her mother’s dark Shadow.
Seiko: So that was her mother’s personal Shadow?
Cornelia: Good god, the explanation for what that thing was changes every two seconds.
“You alright?” Akihiko asked. Aila snapped out of her thoughts.
“Yeah, I’m….” She glanced at the rooftop again. “Actually, no, I’m not.” She had to be honest with him…and herself.
Akihiko came closer to her. “What’s wrong?”
“I haven’t seen my mother since I left about a year and a half ago. But, seeing her like that….”
Shepard: For all of this story’s efforts to make Aila’s relationship with her mother important, we still know nothing about her, minus her being a conspiracy theorist.
“It wasn’t really her,” Akihiko assured. “It was just a Shadow trying to mess with your head.”
Ert: A Shadow that defies the rules and logic of everything.
“That’s what I thought at first, too, but then Aigis and I took a look at some records from a few months ago and found out that she passed away.”
Shepard: All that about her Mom and she’s been dead this whole time!? Aila is the worst relative either. Doesn’t keep track of her cousin, and when she runs off to do something about that, her mother dies behind her back. She’s a terrible person.
“Oh…. I’m sorry.”
“Thank you. But, the thing is…I’m not really that sad.” Aila’s head hung low. “I know I should be…she’s my mother, after all, even if she was wretched.”
Cornelia: Was that Shadow an accurate representation of your mother or not!? Pick an answer and stick with it for more than five eye blinks.
Aila touched her cheek. “I still remember the first day she slapped me for refusing to steal her a set of chocolate bars. She never left any marks or bruises, but that didn’t make it sting any less. Maybe that’s why I feel so cold about all of this….”
Seiko: And now child abuse. Because drama.
Shepard: Our constructed image of her mother gets torn down and replaced with something new each chapter. By the end of the story she’ll turn out to be from the moon!
Akihiko watched the girl silently. With her free hand, she started twisting her hair between her fingers.
“Still. Despite her mistakes in raising me, she was my mother. I should feel bad, right? I should…go to her grave and deliver flowers or something….shouldn’t I?”
Ert: Don’t as me, I’m afraid if I say something she’ll turn out to have secretly been a pedo.
“I don’t know.” Akihiko followed her gaze to the roof. “I didn’t have any parents, to hit me or otherwise.”
“I’d say that you were lucky for it
Cornelia: Yeah, orphans are lucky. You fucker.
…but I can’t say that with my whole heart. My dad was pretty great.”
This was a conversation that Aila didn’t want to delve into. “It’s a long story.” She looked over at her friend and smiled. “But he was a kind, caring guy. That’s the important thing.”
Ert: I’d complain that her dad is barely being described, but truth be told if we go down that path her dad would get caught in the same quantum flux as her mom, so moving on.
There was a long silence that passed between them. Aila shivered as a breeze brushed by; the sun was setting and the cold night air was starting to bite. Akihiko had worn a thick leather jacket that day and now set the groceries down so that he could shrug it off. He wrapped it around Aila’s shoulders. She glanced up at him.
Shepard: Why doesn’t she have her own jacket! She should’ve known if it was cold!
“You looked cold,” he said softly. She noted that he’d put some sort of cologne on before leaving the suite. It was masculine, but also sweet. She thoroughly enjoyed it.
“Thank you.” Aila went red in the face. “Sorry that I dropped all of that heavy stuff on you.” Akihiko touched her shoulder.
Seiko: She has dropped things ten times heavier than that on her, let’s not pretend that there was any real stress here.
“No, it’s fine. I’m glad that you could finally talk to me.” He gave her an earnest smile.
“Well, of course. You are one of my best friends.” For some reason, that made Akihiko blush.
Ert: JUST FUCK ALREADY!
“Excuse me, miss!” A man came running down the street, almost completely out of breath by the time he reached the couple. He was handsome; he was just a little bit older than Akihiko with black, curly locks and a clean boyish face. He held something small and square in his hands.
“Can we help you, sir?” Aila asked kindly. He looked rather stressed. After the man caught his breath, he rose to his full height-almost a head taller than the pink-haired girl before him.
“I think that this is your wallet.” He handed the brown object to Aila. She gasped.
“Oh my gosh! I didn’t even realized I’d dropped it!” Aila took it from the man. “Thank you so much!”
Seiko: Ok, so where are we going with this?
“You’re welcome.” He gave a charming smile and had a curious gleam in his dark eyes. “I love your hair by the way.” Aila touched her head. Her cheeks warmed.
“Thank you. I thought at first that maybe it was too much….”
“I think it looks very…unique.” Aila and the man both laughed. He held out his hand. When Aila took it, Akihiko’s heart lurched uncomfortably. “I’m Shouta, by the way.”
“Aila.” She didn’t even lie about her name! That’s what she said she’d normally do, right? Rather than being proud of her progress at letting old habits die, Akihiko’s temper flared.
Cornelia: She’s supposed to lie? Uh, news to me. Or is this another randomly established character trait.
“Aila. What a lovely name for a lovely lady. This may be a little forward, but could I take you out for some coffee?”
“Actually, she’s with me.” Akihiko took Aila’s hand in his. “We need to get home before it gets too late.” Shouta looked surprised, as if this was the first time he noticed the silverette.
Ert: GUH! First of all, this is gonna turn into a fucking love hexagon before too long. Second, Akihiko, you can’t hog her to yourself forever. If you don’t have the stones to ask her out, then don’t throw a fit when someone else actually does! She’s her own person you know! She can make decisions for herself. Well, she could if she wasn’t an idiot.
“My apologies. I didn’t realize that you had a boyfriend.”
“Well….” Aila glanced at Akihiko, unsure of what to say. Instead, she turned back around and said, “Thank you for getting my wallet back. It was a pleasure to meet you.”
“You too.” Shouta politely bowed out and left. Akihiko’s fingers finally relaxed around Aila’s.
“That was strange, eh?” Aila asked, trying to laugh off the awkwardness.
Seiko: Pointless too!
Had Akihiko been…jealous? No, she knew him better than that. “W-well, we’d better head back.” She thought started to leave, but was stopped again.
“Um….” Akihiko’s head and neck were beet red. “Th-there’s…something I want to tell you before we go back.”
“What?” Aila looked carefully at him. What was up with him today?
For some reason, he got really angry. “A-and, it’s really important.” He almost yelled the statement. “Will you listen?”
Shepard: How long does it take for him to spit it out?
Ert: 600 words. Basically Aila doesn’t want a boyfriend because of she’s been freaking out over the last few months because of the memories (No honey, it’s because you were an idiot) how they don’t want to be with anyone else and don’t want to see someone else with them and blah blah blah blah. In short, they’ll become an item once things settle down. Which, honestly, is surprisingly mature. Only good thing I can say about this. Well with that this chapter is over and I need to pass out. See you next week folks! *Thump*