Crowds are annoying.
They really are, aren’t they? Just imagine. The heat of all the people combined embracing you tightly,
the noise of chatter that threatens to crack your skull open and add the unpleasant smell that doesn’t seem
to represent anything and there you have it. A typical crowd in a mall on a Saturday could be described as
that. I could not help but shudder at the very thought of being in the middle of such a crowd, so then I
wonder. Why am I here? Here in the mall, with so many people who enjoyed going about their own
business. I myself have no business here…so why…?
“Daijoubu, Ren? Do you want to rest for a while?”
Shiki’s voice rang clear despite the obvious noise around us. Well, maybe it was because it was the only
thing I was focused on listening to. Whatever the other people were talking about among themselves was
nothing. There was really no need to listen to them.
I blinked in surprise, realizing I was zoning. As expected, he was looking at me, worriedly. He would
have to be as this was his idea in the first place. Though not entirely, as I agreed to come along. In any
case, there was no need to worry Shiki any longer as I nodded my head. He grabbed onto my hand
tightly, nodding his head as well.
“Wouldn’t want to lose you in this crowd, Ren. Hold on.”
There was really no time to think as Shiki began to push on against the crowd. The wall of people resisted
any movement he made as he tried to pave a way for the both of us. I could feel people bumping against
me and every time they did, I felt like I was about to lose my balance but Shiki just tightened his grip in
my hand, not wanting to let go. I wanted to let him know that it would have been easier if I was in my
Neko form, that way, he could have just carried me in his arms but there really wasn’t the opportunity as
he kept on pushing against the crowd.
“Yosh, here we are…”
Shiki smiled once more as he led me to a bench, which thankfully was empty. It was a surprise though,
having this so much people in the mall and the benches being as they were. No matter, more space for us
and Shiki seemed to share the same idea as he stretched on the length of the bench. He sighed, adjusting
his glasses and turned to me, smiling.
“Gomen ne, Ren. I had to drag you into coming with me. On a weekend too. “
Shiki chuckled, still retaining the smile on his face as he turned to watch the crowd walking in front of us.
I just looked at him though, thinking of the reason why I came along. It was not because I had nothing to
do, which was true. Maybe it was because he asked but to tell the truth, I don’t know why he wanted to go
to the mall. Shiki mentioned something about looking for a certain item but I didn’t really catch what it
was and from the looks of things, searching for it wouldn’t be easy like this. It had already been two hours
and we barely were able to go anywhere with this crowd.
“Ren, would you like a fruit shake?”
I blinked as he caught me again. That’s twice today. Then again, he didn’t seem to notice he did. I was the
only one being too fussy about it. Nodding my head was all I could do and that seemed to be enough for
Shiki as he stood up, still retaining that smile on his face. He disappeared into the crowd, leaving me to
my thoughts. Thinking about it, today was quite strange. For one thing, when we left the mansion, nobody
was around, only that one maid. The usually silent one that attended to Shiki was the only one I saw. It
was not like I was looking for the others but it was a weekend so I expected his sister to be there, along
with the other maid. I didn’t see them at all and that’s how Shiki asked me to accompany him even if he
could have taken the maid along. Still…
“Hai, Ren. Here’s your strawberry fruit shake mixed with strawberry bits as you like it.”
Shiki smiled at me once more as he extended his hand to offer me the fruit shake he had bought. Slowly, I
reached for it, taking it in with both hands. It was cold, expected for a drink wherein you put crushed ice
in. Thinking about it, how did Shiki knew that I would like this flavor? True, I enjoyed strawberry
shortcakes but a fruit shake would be different. How…?
“You better drink it soon, Ren. It wouldn’t be as good if it melted…”
I nodded my head as I took a sip from the fruit shake, letting the chilly liquid flow into my mouth as it
was accompanied by the bits of strawberry. It was more delicious than I had expected, the fruit shake
itself sweetened by the sugar and the bits of strawberry a bit sour leaving a pleasant taste in my mouth. I
could not help but take another sip, taking in more than the first and enjoying the taste of the said drink.
Thinking about it, if my Neko ears were on my head, they would sure be twitching in delight but now
they aren’t there, at least I think so.
“Uh, Ren. Slow down…You don’t want to…”
Shiki’s warning was lost as a sudden pain throbbed on my head. It was not that painful but it was enough
for you to cringe and put your hand in your forehead in an attempt to lessen the pain, if it could. I wasn’t
expecting that at all and as I was, all I could do was to squint, one hand on the side of my head as I waited
for the pain to subside, which it did. Slowly opening my eyes, I turned to Shiki who was once more
giving me that worried look.
“I should have warned you about that. You can’t really drink a fruit shake that fast or…well, that will
happen. Daijoubu, Ren?”
I nodded my head before turning to the fruit shake in my hand. It was good but as Shiki said, drink it
slowly and I learned the consequence of not doing so first hand. With that, I was able to enjoy the fruit
shake Shiki had bought for me with that pain not happening again to his and my relief. Pretty soon, the
cup of the fruit shake was empty and I turned to Shiki, who just took it with him and threw it in a nearby
“I don’t think this crowd is going to let up anytime soon…”
Shiki sighed as he sat back on the bench, frowning as he watched the crowd. I could not help but agree
with him as the crowd just seemed to have increased in number instead, making whatever possibility we
had of finding what he was looking for gone. He seemed to have realized that too as he stood up,
stretching before turning to me, that usual smile on his face.
“Maa, it’s getting late anyway. Should we go home, Ren?”
Nodding was all I could do as Shiki extended his hand to me His lips once more curling into that warm
smile. I took his hand on mine as I stood up, watching the crowd in front us not let up in their motions.
Shiki just adjusted his glasses before tightening his grip on my hand. There was no other way, unless we
planned to wait until the whole mall closes which we didn’t want to.
“Saa, hold on Ren.”
With that, Shiki once more began to push against the crowd, trying to pave a way for the two us towards
the exit. It was then I realized I had forgotten to turn into a Neko again; it would have been much easier.
Still, Shiki didn’t seem to mind as he continued to push against the crowd, not letting go of my hand and
that same hand not showing any signs of letting go at any moment. Maybe I didn’t mind it too as much as
I liked to think.
“Haah, finally we made it.”
Shiki gasped, wiping some sweat from his forehead with the sleeve of his blazer as he turned to me. I just
stared at him back as I began to straighten out any creases on my outfit. One last adjustment to my black
ribbon and I was ready to go and he knew. He smiled and led me on, in direction of the Tohno Mansion.
The streets were a bit more peaceful compared to the mall so walking wasn’t really that much of a
problem. There was no longer any need to push against any crowd, no need to be ruffled by people you
don’t know and best all, no need to endure the chaos that came with them. As always, we both kept to
ourselves as we walked. Shiki knew I was never one for conversations for obvious reasons so he made it a
point to talk only when necessary.
“Hm..? It’s empty.”
Shiki spoke up suddenly, breaking the silence. I turned my head to what he was talking about to see a
playground, one we had passed by when we were on our way to the mall. I didn’t paid attention to it
before but from what I could recall, it was livelier than it was now. Young children along with their
parents were playing on the sandbox not far off. Older children were running around, some where playing
on the slides, some on the swing while the rest were just going about their playing around. Their giggles
and the smiles on their faces were enough to tell one they were having fun.
“Everybody’s gone it seems.
I watched Shiki as he made that comment offhandedly and at the same time, make his way on one of the
swings of the playground. There was no wind so it didn’t move until he sat on it then beckoned me to sit
on the next one. Normally, I would have refused content at where I was but I felt compelled to sit next to
him, on that swing he beckoned me to. I gently settled my weight on it and swung a few times but kept
my gaze at Shiki, who seemed to be looking at something not far off.
“This is where I first met Arcuied…well, meet may not be a proper term but you get the idea…”
He went silent after that, swinging himself a few more times before chuckling to himself. I for one was
confused with his behavior for he never was one to be like this. The Shiki I am used to was cheerful,
always optimistic and…well, not like this.
“Maa, you could say everything started from there but I can’t say I regret things now…”
Shiki gave a soft chuckle before jumping off his swing, stretching his arms up in the air as he did so. He
sighed, turning to me, smiling in his usual way.
“What am I talking about? Anyway, I did say it was getting late. We should really get back.”
Without a sound except for the tinkling of the bells I had on my neck, I jumped off the swing and
straightened myself as I did. Shiki had no regrets but as for myself…I don’t really know, now that I think
about it. Then again, was there really anything to regret?
“Saa, let’s go home, Ren.”
No. There really wasn’t.
The Tohno Mansion still looked empty even if it was this late. Not that strange if you haven’t live in the
said mansion for a period of time but if you did, you will surely notice any subtle differences. Shiki didn’t
seem to notice but as for myself, well, I cannot say I am not bothered by it but it was not like I could do
something about it. The only reaction I saw from him about the whole mansion being not its usual self
was when he opened the gate himself. The usually stoic maid was, for the first time, absent.
“Hisui must be busy tonight. We did come home late right, Ren?”
With that, he opened the doors of the mansion and to my surprise, the whole mansion was dark. I turned
to Shiki who just smiled.
A collection of cheerful energetic voices came from inside the mansion, followed by the rest of the
household, well one of them at least. I could not help but step back as the more cheerful maid greeted me
with a warm glomp, followed by Arcuied herself. Both shared the same genki-ness one should expect
from both of them.
“Ne ne, what do you think of it, Ren-san?”
“Sou sou…Shiki has been asking around a lot when your birthday was and he found out we didn’t know,
he just went on and planned all of this ne, Shiki?”
“E-Eh? W-well, everyone helped and…”
“Ah sou…Shiki-san, well it was still your idea. Anyway, I think we should all go inside, ne? Everyone is
“Hai~ Iku yo, Ren.”
I nodded my head and followed them inside, where another crowd was waiting for us. True, I still don’t
like crowds but this was one crowd I don’t think I will ever hate.