Description: After an extended, mysterious absence, Ryuko has gotten in touch with Daisuke. A reunion with varying levels of teenaged brooding and akwardness ensues.
It's a strange sort of feeling, drifting through time. Everyone gets a little taste of it at the end of each day when they lay down and close their eyes to drift off into restful slumber. Most people probably don't spare the time to really consider just how strange it is that they can just suspend their consciousness for a few hours and then pick right up again in the morning. Dreams serve to fill the emptiness with a sort of pseudo existence, half remembered fantasies to occupy the empty void of thought as the mind refreshes itself in ways not fully understood.
For Ryuko, such ponderances carry a little more weight than they do for others. More than once in her life she's found herself rousing from what feels like little more than a particularly restful repose only to learn that literal months have vanished since last she remembered. It was no less harrowing of a revelation this time either. Perhaps she ought to be used to the idea by now, what with this being the third such coma to claim her without warning. But there's only so much her casual glibness can brush off and the thought that she might spend half her life drifting in a dreamless prison while the world and everyone in it passes her by is an unsettling thought, to say the least.
Which is why she has been so keen on reaching out to those who were cut adrift from her life when she vanished without warning. A rather short list, though perhaps that's for the best. Fewer people to disappoint or leave to worry in the inevitable event of another relapse.
The teenager leans on the cold iron railing of her penthouse balcony, gazing silently off into the distance. Tokyo's vast expanse stretches out below like an elaborate diorama, a painting of steel and glass and people in constant busy motion beneath the warmth of the rising sun.
With a soft puff she inhales on the half-burned cigarette resting loosely in her lips releasing a wispy cloud of grey that is quickly dispersed by the warm morning breeze. Under normal circumstances her mother wouldn't tolerate smoking anywhere near the house. With Ryuko only freshly out of the hospital, however, her parents have been in a more concilitory mood for the past few days and she's taking full of advantage of every moment of it.
A soft beep from her phone draws the girl out of her pensive mood. With a thought she shifts her mental focus towards the vast and complex security system which permeates the entirity of the building. With enough hidden cameras and motion sensors scattered about to make a military outpost jealous, nothing manages to enter the building without someone being notified. With the aid of her cybernetically augmented mind, Ryuko flips through the various camera feeds for the dozenth time in the past hour. After a moment she sighs and leans on the railing again, a look of impatience starting to crack her usual mask of nonchalance.
Just another resident.
"Taking your sweet time, jerk..."
At least one person did probably have at least a little idea of why Ryuko has been missing. How much exactly her parents would have told a certain someone who kept calling them might be up in the air, but...
At least Daisuke had gathered enough of an idea that there wasn't much he could do about it.
Time passed. The redhaired boy is a bit of a worrywart, though, so even after he accepted there was nothing he could do about the disappearance of the girl, he never forgot about it, not even after he had to struggle through countless other trials. Kept just enough of the memory in his mind that once the boy's eyes glazed over a certain message delivered to do his phone, everything else in his life took a temporary backseat.
And that leads him to here, now. Stepping off the bus close to the enormous building reaching for the sky he was given an address to, walking the rest of the way. On his approach, Daisuke's gaze drifts up, up, upwards. Actually trying to get a sense of where the highest floors and balconies of the building are. Not like he actually could spot the apartment of the Tenjins' from here, though.
A little tinge of nervousness does hit the redhead right then, and his fingers clutch tighter at the small bag hung from his hand. He suddenly feels awfully self-conscious about the presence of that and it's contents, too. She's probably going to make fun of him for it.
...He'd probably welcome that too at this point, truth be told.
A high-end place like this probably has a buzzer system by the first floor that a visitor has to ring before even getting the privilege of coming inside off the street. So Ryuko herself will probably get a peek of Daisuke's face off the downstairs camere meant to identify the person buzzing an apartment upstairs -- though the boy's face might seem just a little rougher than she remembers. There are relatively fresh signs of him having gotten into some kind of scrabble recently, in the form of a bandaid slapped to his left temple, and a few still-healing scrapes along his cheek, but... There's some telltale signs of older scars, too, that definitely weren't there before.
Presumably he would be buzzed in at that point, letting him suffer the long, long elevator ride up to the penthouse floor. More time for him to stew in his own nervousness, and think about what exactly he's going to say. A bunch of considerations that don't go anywhere, out of his own indecisiveness.
And then, finally, the top floor. And a hand with bruised knuckles reaching, after just a few more seconds of hesitation, to ringing the doorbell.
The Tenjin's building does indeed prove to be a rather fancy affair, the kind with interior water fountains and an excessive amount of marble and gold inlay. Valets stand outside ready to see to the transporation needs of its residents, their neatly pressed bright red suits standing out amidst the sea of gray and black preferred by the average Business District pedestrian. The lobby practically gleams with the kind of pristine shine that can only be achieved by an excessive amount of wax and varnish. The kind of wealth it must require to live in this palatial environment is staggering to think about.
Daisuke receives no small amount of concerned glances and contemptful frowns as he makes his way to the elevators. The woman behind the desk all but scoffs at the idea of even bothering to announce his presence and seems ready to send him packing curtesy of a few large security guards. The phone beside her rings and she answers it promptly, seeming to consider that a far more pressing issue than dealing with the scuffed-up miscreant that has invaded her domain. The expression on her face slowly changes from dismissive to skeptical as she listens. Upon hanging up, she fixes the youth with a displeased stare before gesturing to a nearby set of elevator doors.
"You are... expected," she says, her disapproval clear.
No further obstacles bar his ascent save the elevator itself. The ride proves smooth, his ascent uninterrupted by the need to collect other passengers. Either he got lucky enough to catch a quiet ride or Ryuko's family has their own personal lift. Whatever the case, he's left to stew in his nervousness uninterrupted until a soft chime annouces his arrival at the top floor.
Figuring out which door to approach proves a simple task as there is but the one. Before he can gather the courage to reach out and announce his presence, however, a slender but powerful arm encircles his neck from behind. Powerful pressure is applied to his throat as the mysterious assailant pulls him into a sudden chokehold, seemingly having appeared out of nowhere. There was no sound to announce their approach nor anywhere for someone to have been lurking in the narrow and all but empty hallway leading from the elevator to the front door. It's as if they simply appeared from thin air, evading all of his senses as effortlessly as a ghost.
After a few seconds of playfully strangling her guest, Ryuko finally loosens her grip and plants a firm noogie into the mess of his fiery mop.
"Still rocking the awareness of a blind bat, I see!"
With a laugh, she pushes the boy away and finally allows him to turn around and face her. Unlike him, Ryuko looks largely the same as she ever did. No new battle scars to marr her pretty features or any other outwards visual indicators to give away the fact that the last several months of her life were spent abed. There is perhaps a slight lack of vitality to her tone of her skin, a bit of gauntness in her cheeks that might be the result of improper nutrition, but otherwise she is the spitting image of when he saw her last.
"It would explain all those bruises, at least," she says, hands resting on her hips. "Pretty sure you're supposed to avoid the punches, not run face-first into them, dork. We really need to get you some quality time with my mom."
Daisuke is so horribly outside of his element that it is almost comical. He was half expecting that he would really get thrown out, on account of likely being considered a peasant in the eyes of the people he ends up walking through on the first floor.
He really was kind of prepared to have to scale the building and jump onto a top floor balcony if it came to that. Thankfully someone does seem to have his back.
And yet, he still needs to find some courage to build up once he's past the hurdle. Just need to get through that door, but-- why's that so difficult now?
Just when he was about to actually take hold of the doorhandle, he's yanked back by an arm around his throat. The surprise of the ambush causes the bag in his hand to fall onto the floor while his hands go to grasp at the arm in a mild fit of a panic.
*Thankfully* his assailant does actually let go before he ends up doing anything drastic to get out of immediate danger.
"Guh... H-how--?" He coughs out afterwards, eyes squinted momentarily after the noogie
He could have *sworn* he'd only picked up a presence on the other side of the door literally an instant before he was caught. A presence that is very much *not* there now, but instead... well. here. The confusion over that thought fades away when he turns and actually gets a look at his long-lost friend, though.
No protest comes, no attempt at a comeback to her teasing. He just... takes her in, quietly. He might as well have seen a ghost, just then, with the wide-eyed look he gives her.
Several seconds pass, after she's said her piece, before he suddenly lunges forward...
...And throws his arm around her to pull her into a tight, close hug.
"Phrasing," he does manage to let out quietly once he's caught hold of her like that, with his breath hitching amidst his voice to give it that subtle effect that comes with someone just barely managing to keep it from breaking altogether. "You jerk..." And no, he doesn't seem entirely intent on letting go of her in any timely manner, either. As if she might suddenly disappear for another lengthy period all over again if he did.
Daisuke's wide-eyed stare is momentarily confused for shock at the way in which she managed to get the drop on him. It never fails to amuse her to pull that trick on someone the first time. His stuttered question is answered with a coy smirk, Ryuko's lone eye narrowing conspiratorily as she lowers her voice to a grave tone.
"Trade secrets, my son."
Resting her hands on her hips, the teen allows her estranged friend to have his moment of gawking without complaint. There isn't anything there he hasn't seen before. As seems to be her preference, Ryuko is dressed in a mix between school uniform and business casual, a black blazer and matching skirt with an expensive white blouse and checkered tie beneath. Her short hair is parted neatly to one side so that the thick bangs cover half her face, concealing the patch over her missing eye. And, of course, her trademark antennae remain, evidence of the cybernetic augmentations used to save her life.
After a few long awkward seconds of silently being stared at, Ryuko's casual smirk falters slightly. An eyebrow quirks upwards at the young man, indicating her confusion a few moments before she opens her mouth to ask more directly what the heck is his malfunction. She barely gets the first couple of words out, however, before Daisuke lunges at her without warning and... hugs her.
Now it's Ryuko's turn to stand around staring wide-eyed for a few moments. There had been the expectation of some friendly banter, maybe a few playful punches exchanged over good-natured ribbing. That was the usual manner in which they interacted. Not... this.
Fortunately, the big lug's timely joke manages to keep things from getting too awkward, though the obvious emotion behind his voice does not go unnoticed. Ryuko relaxes and lets out a soft laugh, wrapping her arms around him in return.
If being clutched protectively as if she might vanish into thin air again bothers the girl she doesn't show it. She hadn't known Daisuke all that long before her latest fainting episode. Many people would consider such an overt show of affection to be out of place for what essentially boils down to a couple of new friends. But Ryuko has always been a particularly friendly sort and never much cared for the conventions of proper behavior. Besides, it's nice to know that he cares enough to get all misty eyed over her. She had half expected to have been completely forgotten once her parents told her how long she had been gone from the world.
"Yeah, yeah," she says, patting her friend on the back. "Don't go falling to pieces on me, nerd. You look like someone Humpty Dumpty'd you already. And I'm fresh outta king's horses."
"Shut up, who are you calling a nerd?" Comes Daisuke's mumbled protest, though it's followed with a shaky little laugh. "I've seen where you hang out, remember? I'm betting your room is full of anime figurines." Nevermind that the cafe the two had met in that one time was more vampire-themed.
After that attempt at counter-ribbing, the redhead does give one final squeeze of his arms around the girl, pulling away after with a single backward step to regrow the distance between them. He may have just then realized how akward all that could have been, even as he wipes his hand over one eye to ward off some moisture that is *definitely* just caused by him being exhausted and absolutely no other reason. No other reason at all. Yep.
"...Besides, is a guy not allowed to be happy to see a friend he missed?" He asks then, just a tinge more serious, even if he is smiling with a hint of embarrassment on his own part. "...Because I did, okay? Sue me. And I'm glad you're okay."
Oh. If only he knew.
Sadly, Daisuke is unlikely to get the chance to behold the majesty that is her bedroom any time soon. Even if all she wanted to do is show off her collection, which might well qualify for its own museum status considering how large and elaborate it is, the very idea of allowing a male near her sleeping quarters might well cause her mother to erupt like Mt. Fuji will no doubt one day do. The destructive blast might well be on the same order of magnitude too.
"Touche," she concedes with a grin, releasing her grip on the boy as he moves away. Ryuko very tactfully makes no comment about the moisture gathering in his eyes. There's enough teenage awkwardness going on already without poking fun at him for having a moment.
To his confession of being sad at her abscence, the girl just smirks even wider, flashing her pearly white teeth in a charismatic manner.
"Well, /obviously/ you missed me. Have you seen how awesome I am? I mean, just look at me!"
She throws her arms wide in a 'drink it all in' sort of pose for a few seconds. A quick playful punch is suddenly delivered to his shoulder as Ryuko pivots on her heel, heading off towards the elevator. She motions for him to follow over her shoulder.
"Comon, let's go for a walk. I've been cooped up in my house for long enough."
Eyes narrow and arms go crossing over Daisuke's chest over Ryuko's deliberate, attention-soaking display of herself made in response to his own mildly-embarrassing confessions.
"Yeah, yeah, eat it up..." He huffs out, quite pointedly looking off to the side towards the end of her triumphant posing. Not that Ryuko is hard on the eyes or anything, but he's done enough staring already. "Here I am pouring my heart out..."
His sideward look almost makes him outright miss Ryuko turning to the elevator, and he finds himself blinking unexpectedly at her retreatin gback before he properly reacts to get himself into motion. "Ah-- alright, alright." Though he does take a couple steps back again to snatch the bag he dropped onto the floor when she assaulted him a moment earlier, before slipping into the elevator with her.
"...You know, I kinda figured your folks had good money before," he admits then, foot scuffing against the flooring of the elevator car a bit sheepishly. "...Didn't expect anything like this. I felt like the people downstairs were just about ready to hunt me for sport just because my clothes don't have a high enough price tag." Not that Daisuke would probably have decent enough fashion sense even if he did have the money to buy expensive clothing, judging from his typical choice of a black-and-white jersey jacket over the most bog-standard white tee and blue jeans he's dressed himself up with today.
"... And, uh..." He hesitates, suddenly, unable to quite look directly at Ryuko for a couple seconds leading up to him suddenly thrusting the small plastic bag in his hand to be held in front of the girl. "...Brought this for you," he mutters there as a way of explanation, turning his head to look completely away from her. As if he's trying to act like it's just a mandatory gesture he's doing just out of obligation. Truth told, he was planning to hand that over in her apartment, where she could store it for later, but... what are you going to do?
If she does take the chance during the elevator ride down to actually take the bag and see what's inside, she'll find fairly unremarkable-looking unmarked box, that in turn holds... a collection of chocolate bite-sized chocolate pieces.
They do not look store-bought.
As she makes to head for the elevator, the antennae on Ryuko's head swivel forward slightly, emitting their telltale soft whirr of electronic machinery and blinking neon purple light. Well before she might be in range to hit the button, the doors to the lift slide open unprompted as if recognizing her intent - or activated remotely with some neat brain-powered cybernetics.
Upon entering the elevator car, Ryuko promptly moves to the back wall and leans against it, her hands slinking nonchalantly into the pockets of her skirt while she waits for her tag-a-long to catch up. Moments after Daisuke takes his place at her side the elevator once again reacts seemingly unprompted, a pleasant female voice announcing their destination as the ground floor as the doors slide swiftly shut behind him.
The girl's lone eye shifts his way curiously as Daisuke comments on the nature of her family's wealth. That earns him another grin, this one accompanied by a dismissive shrug.
"Eh, I don't like to brag about it or anything. Don't want people being interested in me because my parents are loaded."
She doesn't exactly do much not to broadcast her wealthy origins though. Her clothes are more expensive than most people's entire wardrobe. The PDA she carts around has enough high-tech power behind it to put the average gamer's desktop to shame. And then there's the cybernetics, of course. That story about being randomly selected for some cutting edge medical trial? Yeah, that's bullshit. Her parents dumped a few truckloads of cash onto some medical firm to save her life. The privileges of wealth are many but she's tried her best not to rely on money to make her way forward.
"Hah, don't be ridiculous. Peasant hunting season isn't until November."
She flashes him a wide grin full of teeth that would probably be pretty creepy if she wasn't so obviously joking.
"Besides, no self-respecting socialite would put your scruffy mug on their wall."
Daisuke's sudden bashfulness is mistaken as a response to her teasing. That is, until he suddenly thrusts the small bag he'd been toting around in her direction. Ryuko blinks a couple of times, caught off-guard again. She recovers more quickly this time and pushes herself off the wall to properly accept the gift with a faint smile. A quick investigation reveals the contents to be candy and homemade ones at that.
Ryuko's eyebrows attempt to climb all the way to the top of her forehead in surprise at the unexpected gift. Despite her love for anime, she herself is not the protagonist of a slice-of-life harem show (at least, as far as she's aware) and thus not completely ignorant of the implications of such an offering. This isn't really the sort of thing you give a friend, especially not a female one.
Then again, maybe she's reading too much into it. No reason to make things awkward by misinterpreting the situation. Ryuko closes the box and puts it back in the bag, slinging it over one shoulder. She resumes her laid back slouch against the wall, doing her best to look casual again.
"Hey, these look nice. You take up baking or something while I was gone?"
"I can understand that at least..." Daisuke offers with a slow nod over the notion that Ryuko wouldn't want people's perceptions of her to be changed by the presence of wealth. Though mind you, Daisuke had plenty reason to suspect there was wealth in the Tenjin family even before, but this is really the first time he's brought it up.
But, as much as Ryuko might be just joking, and as much as he himself might recognize that she is very much joking, the notion of 'peasant-hunting', coupled with the shark-like grin she delivers it all with makes him shiver with instinctive concern regardless.
Sure, he knows that can't be an actual thing for sure. But this place still feels enough of a completely different world from his own that... maybe it's not *that* unbelievable...?
"G-good to know I'm safe just out of virtue of not being classy enough to be held as a trophy, I guess..." He does look just a *little* indignant about being called scruffy, though, but it disappears quickly enough in favor of a playful smile on his own part, delivered with a light bump of his knuckles against the side of Ryuko's shoulder. "If they change their mind down there, though? I'll just hide behind you and distract them with the scandal of your highness deigning to associate yourself with a guy of such low status."
Once she has accepted the gift, he does peek sidelong to her, just to try and quickly gauge how she might be reacting to it. But he's quick to assume a lean against an adjacent wall of the elevator once she resumes her own slouch, hands sticking lazily into the pockets of his jeans. Like he's trying to out-casual her.
"Pfft, no. I've done that and cooking since before I met you," he quickly replies with a slightly deflecting tone. "...Go on, go on. Go ahead and make fun of me for doing something as unmanly as enjoying being in the kitchen or whatever. I don't have any shame about my hobbies."
As cool as he might be trying to play off *that* aspect of everything, he does end up slipping his green gaze away again when he goes on to mutter, "Just consider it a getting-well gift to celebrate you being back in the world of the living, or whatever."
Ryuko tilts her head back and barks out a short laugh at her friend's bashfulness. She had no intention of making fun of him over his cooking hobby though she can see why he'd be defensive about it. Most teenagers lack the nice big sister energy that permeates her benevolent soul.
"I can see how that might have earned you some mockery amongst our peers. But, last time I checked, the average teenager was kind of an idiot so I wouldn't worry too much about earning their approval."
The smile she offers him is a genuine one. She knows more than most about being singled out for not fitting the mold. Of course, some of that is her intentionally going out of her way to be weird and annoying so people will pick fights with her. What better way to improve one's fighting skills than being public bully target number one? That sounds thoroughly insane when you say it out loud though so she keeps that little tidbit to herself.
"Besides," she chips in, cheerfully. "I'd have to throw a stone through about seven glass houses or so before being able to say anything about other people having strange hobbies. And anyway, aren't most of the big famous chefs around the world men?"
She shakes the bag at him noisily.
"Maybe one day I'll get to brag about getting to taste the famous Daisuke candies before they became popular."
The conversation is cut short as the elevator finally slows its plummeting descent leaving both of them to contend with the sudden bring bout of nausea that accompanies such a shift in acceleration. It's like being on a roller coaster for a couple of seconds only without the nice view. Ryuko seems mostly unbothered by the shift; it's something she contends with on a daily basis after all. When the doors spring open, the girl peels herself off the wall and neatly transitions into a quick trot towards the exit. The woman behind the lobby counter inclines her head in the teenager's direction with a deferential nod as she passes by.
"Take care, Ryuko-sama."
Ryuko returns the nod with a quick wave of her free hand, eager to escape the confines of the stuffy upscale apartment.
"I will. And stop glaring at the ragamuffin, Michiko, or your face will get stuck like that!"
The clerk quirks an eyebrow with obvious skepticism on her face but when she turns to watch Daisuke follow in Ryuko's wake her glare has been toned down to a disapproving glower instead. Looks like that's the best he's going to get.
Stepping out into the open street, Ryuko pauses to shield her face against the sudden glare of sunlight and an accompanying increase in temperature. The inside of the apartments had been carefully controlled to have a pleasantly cool atmosphere, a stark contrast to the relentless heat of mid-summer noon. The top couple of buttons on her blouse are flicked open with a quick motion and the dark checkered tie loosened from around her neck.
"Whew, it's a bit toastier out here than I figured. Let's find somewhere to go that has some shade. Got any suggestions?"
Of all things, it's Ryuko's potentially-not-that-serious, indirect suggestion that Daisuke could become a successful chef someday that makes the redhead completely lose his attempts at maintaining a cool exterior.
"Ahehehe... I mean, come one..." He mumbles out with an akward laughter, eyes turning this way and that while one hand slips away from his pocket to rub neurotically at the back of his head, all while red color flushes visibly over his cheeks. "S-surely not, I couldn't be that good..."
At least he manages to break away from that manifestation of imposter syndrome by the time the elevator doors open up, so he can follow alongside Ryuko without any worry.
Though he *does* narrow her eye at her while she's addrssing the clerk. "Glaring at the *what*...?" He mutters in complaint in a low volume, before quickly snapping his expression to a wide smile as he gives Michiko a cheerful wave. He might be just a little smug, this time around.
Once outside, the brightness of the sun is enough for Daisuke to have to momentarily provide temporary shade over his eyes with his hand, too, but he seems relatively used to the heat, at least. Not like it isn't somewhat uncomfortable, but at least his clothing isn't about to cook him alive.
"Hmm..." He sounds out thoughtfulyl at her question as he peeks over to her (while very much making a point to *not* let his gaze drift down to follow her hand). "Most areas of the city are probably going to feel the same save for cafes with air-conditioning..." He reasons out loud. "If you wanna just walk and talk, we could go to the park? Should be plenty enough shade between the trees, and, well... At least the reflection of heat from the buildings wont be as bad, right?"
"Park sounds good to me."
Honestly, she's not in the mood to be too picky about where she goes. Just being out of the house and out in the world is good enough. Even the sweltering summer heat and blinding afternoon sun are appreciated in a strange sort of way. It's weird the things you start to notice when the possibility of never feeling them again is on the table. Everyone faces that eventuality, she supposes, but the reality of closing her eyes and never opening them again looms a little more ominously over the shoulders of a coma patient.
Fishing a hand into the pocket of her blazer, Ryuko pulls out a half-empty pack of her favorite brand of cigarettes and her lighter. It might seem strange to fire up a smoke in this heat but every little creature comfort feels extra pleasurable in her current mood, weather be damned. A deep inhale turns into a long drawn out breath that builds up a small smog cloud in front of her face which she banishes with a dismissive wave as the teen turns towards to start making her way towards the large downtown park.
"So," she says, settling her hands back into her pockets, content to let the cigarette hang loosely from her lips as she takes slow leisurely strides along the sidewalk. "Other than using your face for a waffle iron, what have you been up to while I was napping? You ever make any progress on that control issue of yours?"
"Park it is, then."
It's easy enough of a choice to make. Daisuke doesn't really seem like he's particularly bothered about where exactly they go either -- the suggestion itself might have been made without any real thought behind it.
He doesn't make any comment about his friend lighting up a cigarette, either, at least for the time being. Though he does wrinkle his nose subtly when he gets a bit of a whiff of the ambient traces of nicotine-laced smoke that wafts his way.
"Well..." He sighs out, sticking his own hands in his own pockets to complete the image of two layabout teenagers wandering about town. "I didn't let my face end up like this because I *wanted to*, first of all," he scoffs out first.
"But, well... I guess... a lot's kinda happened..."
His gaze goes far-off, while his words drift off like that. The pace of his steps isn't hampered by whatever wandering thought he's caught in, at least, but just one look would be enough to guess: Whatever memories that are running through the boy's head in that instant aren't pleasant ones.
The red-haired boy shakes his head to break himself out of that brooding stupor, however, only to shrug his shoulders at her latter question. "A... little? I mean... I can kinda control it better lately? Enough to at least do some stuff without hurting myself. And, well.."
A second's worth of hesitation.
"I met someone. Who understands it a bit better than me. They offered to help me learn, and... I guess I did kind of accept, too. I don't really know if I can trust them in the long run, but... It's something, I guess."
The boy's head tips back, enough to guide his emerald eyes up towards the blue of the sky above, beyond the borders of the buildings surrounding them. Just for a few seconds, before bringing his focus up ahead, to the walled entrance to a much greener area -- an escape from the urban grey of cement and asphalt that is one of the larger parks placed throughout the city.
"You know," he says then, with a quiet hint of laughter that sounds almost self-deprecating in tone. "This feels like the first time in a while I've gotten a chance to just... breathe. If that makes sense." ...And of course, just then, a bit more cigarette smoke drifts his way, enough this time to encourage him to wave a hand in front of his face. "...Relatively speaking, anyway."
A lot's happened.
Such a simple statement, yet one with more weight than he probably realizes. She vanished from the world without any warning and yet life moved on. Events took place in which she might have had a vested interest, might have been able to help. But she wasn't there.
It's not like there's anything she could have done to prevent what happened though. She didn't chose to remove herself from everything. Her coma wasn't the result of foolish risk taking or a stubborn refusal to show the proper care for herself. It's just something that happens now, an ever present risk she faces every day since the accident. So it's rather silly that she should blame herself for not being around to help her friend with the trials that have come his way in her absence. A silly thought but an intrusive one, hard to dismiss now that it's planted its roots in her mind.
Ryuko's expression remains nonchalant as they meander their way towards the park, keeping her strange thoughts to herself. The flaps of her antennae wiggle and whirr in tandem as they make constant minute adjustments, twisting and turning back and forth to ensure the girl is fully aware of her surroundings at all times in the busy thoroughfare of the street. Her eyebrow quirks up slightly at the mention of meeting someone who might help, particular the manner in which said person is described.
"You didn't go and make any Faustian bargains while I wasn't there to smack some sense into you, did you? I draw the line at anything that involves souls and black magic."
Soon enough the park's verdant exterior walls replace the cold concrete and shining glass of downtown's buildings. Ryuko guides their path towards the first entryway they come across, turning off the sidewalk to wander down one of the various cobbled paths that lead deeper into the miniature forest. The shade provided by the dense canopy makes an immediate difference and Ryuko lets out a sigh of appreciation.
"Sounds like you need to take it easy more often, then," she says, exhaling a long smokey trail out of the side of her mouth - the side he happens to be walking on - as she meanders over towards a large wooden bench situated beneath the boughs of some of the larger trees. Spinning around on her heel, the girl flops unceremoniously down onto the seat and splays her arms out over the back.
"You might also look into being less of a wimp." She shrugs casually. "Just a suggestion though."
Patting the bench with one hand, she gestures for him to join her - assuming he can withstand the terrible trials of secondhand smoke.
"So, tell me about this mysterious 'someone'."
"Nothing like that!" Daisuke insists after a few seconds of staring at Ryuko over her suggestion, maybe just a little surprised that *that* is where her mind went first. He even waves his hand dismissively besides his face as he does. "You don't really think I'm stupid enough to sell my soul or anything over a thing like that, do you?"
The notion that he needs to take it easy more often is something he can't really argue, apparently. It leaves him glancing off asides with a vaguely shameful tone in his eyes. "...Yeah, probably. Just... Need to try to remember how, I guess."
And that somber acceptance of the failure in his own nature quickly falls away into a vague pout with her followup.
"...Sheesh, Tenjin-sensei," he runts out with a roll of his eyes before turning to accept the nonverbal invitation and lower himself down to sitting besides her on the bench, hands withdrawn from his pockets in favor of folding his arms along his midsection. "You really know just the right things to say every time, don't you?"
His expression is quick to take on a solemnly hesitant tone the moment she asks further about his unnamed benefactor. Silent for a few seconds, before shaking his head. "I don't think I can say any more than I already have."
Saying it like that probably makes the idea of a faustian deal on Daisuke's part seem just a bit more likely.
"...Nevermind me for now though," he prompts then, turning to look over to the other teenager as he does. Partly in an effort to try to slip away from that particular topic of discussion, but also, as it ends up turning out, out of some lingering concern over Ryuko herself.
"...How do *you* feel?" He asks, with a faint frown tugging at his russet brows. "I mean, with... what happened."
"What can I say? I'm a font of charm and charisma."
The girl flashes her teeth at her nonplussed companion again amicably as he takes a seat beside her. Despite her curiosity about this mysterious benefactor, Ryuko gives him the time to mull over his words, puffing quietly on her smoke while he figures how much he wants to tell her. The result of that contemplation leaves her unsatisfied and she expresses that dissatisfaction with a wordless grunt and a sideways glance.
Considering how quickly he changes the subject, it's obvious that Daisuke doesn't want to talk about this right now. Fine, if he wants to play his cards close to the chest, that's his choice. He's fooling himself if he thinks she's going to let the subject forever though. Sticking her nose into her everyone's business is a habit that she's yet to break despite the incredible amount of trouble that it seems to land her in on a regular basis. But to Ryuko, the trouble is just an added bonus that keeps life interesting.
Annoyingly, the conversation turns away from her hapless friend's problems and towards her own. It'd be a bit of mean-spirited turnabout to brush his own concerns off in a similar fashion. She's not sure talking about her feelings is something she really wants to do right now considering how dark they've been since she woke up. But, channeling all of her benevolent big sister energy, she decides to open up a bit. Maybe it'll inspire him to return the favor.
Ryuko plucks the mostly burned down cigarette from her mouth and slowly exhales a final smoke-laden breath. Her gaze fixates onto nothing in particular as she stares off into the park for a few moments before tilting her head to regard the other teen with an unusually dour expression.
"Somewhere between terrified and pissed off. Can't really decide which one I'm closer to."
A sharp flick of her wrist sends the expended butt pinwheeling into a nearby trash can with pinpoint accuracy despite the agitation in the gesture, her antennae swiveling to guide her shot without requiring her to even glance in the receptacle's direction.
"I mean, I knew this sort of thing was possible. Hell, it's happened before. Just... not nearly as suddenly nor as long. My previous episodes only lasted a few months and there were signs - unexplained headaches, nausea, that sort of thing. This time I just... woke up and everyone was older."
She lets out a long sigh and rests her elbows on her lap, chin settling into the cup of her hands.
"It fuckin' sucks, Daisuke. And the worst part is it's probably going to happen again. Some day, some time, I'm going to blink and the world's going to change again."
It'd not be entirely true to say that Daisuke is happy to leave the topic of whatever is going on with him behind. But he's relieved at least.
But the moment Ryuko has said that very first word in response to his own prompting question, his attention is firmly on her. He doesn't say anything in the pause in between, doesn't try to urge her along. He just waits, patiently, while watching her.
And just her first clarification, the sentence that so well condenses her feelings on the matter, makes his expression fall a little. A sympathetic look, one that would be there even if he didn't have his mostly-uncontrolled empathic sense. Feeling the dourness reflect right back into his soul does help, though.
By the time she's leaned with her elbows to her own lap, his lips are pursed slightly. With a concern mixed with faint tinges of uncertainty. He lifts his hand, slowly; hesitating a bit, before reaching the rest of the way to settle it gently upon the girl's shoulder.
"I understand," he offers, quietly.
"Well... no, I guess that's not... entirely true..." He does amend almost right after, with an akward glance off to the side. "I could probably never truly imagine what that feels like without going through it myself. But I can tell how scary it is, at least..."
He lets out a heavy sigh, with that, and instinctively finds his hand giving her shoulder a small squeeze. "Yeah. It sucks. ...Sorry, I guess I'm not as good at this kinda stuff as I'd like. But I can at least listen. Can at least be vented at if that helps at all."
His gaze falls just a bit, with his thoughts wandering. He can't help it. He knows he probably can't do anything to help, but he keeps almost subconsciously trying to find something, anything at all, that could make things better.
And as a result, he lets something slip.
"...Wish your folks would have let me come see you in the hospital. Then I could have at least tried to--ah."
Green eyes widen for a split second before blinking rapidly, out of the realization of what he just said, and how all the more ridicilous it must now have sounded with him having cut himself off. It's that moment when he suddenly has the mind to draw his hand away from his friend's shoulder, and practically snap his head to turn off to facing very firmly away from her.
And now all he can do is quietly pray she doesn't latch on to that.
Boy, he really really doesn't. The sentiment behind his words are understood and appreciated though. And, honestly, she's glad he knows nothing of what she's had to deal with. The trauma of that initial accident, waking up with barely any idea of who she was or what happened or who all those people were crowding around her hospital bed, much less how she got there in the first place. It'd taken a great deal of effort to trust that the people who claimed to be her parents were in fact telling the truth because she didn't remember a single damn thing about them. It's almost like before that moment when she'd opened her eyes she hadn't existed at all.
Fortunately, any memory loss she might have suffered from her latest coma is minimal at best. If she's forgotten something it doesn't seem to be immediately apparent what it might be. If anything the worrisome part of waking up this time wasn't what was missing from her memories but what was there that wasn't before.
Vague recollections haunt her waking mind now, flashes of times and places that feel old and familiar yet somehow detached from herself. It's as if she's seeing the memories of another person through their own eyes like some sort of passenger in their consciousness. Alien thoughts and feelings race through her mind, somehow both strikingly vivid yet maddeningly cryptic. It's like trying to watch someone's crappy home videos which were recorded with a grease smeared lens.
Distractions, that's all they are right now. Ryuko is pulled out of her momentary daze by the touch on her shoulder, a gentle reassuring squeeze from the hand of someone who definitely is real and here in the present. She offers a wry smile up in response to Daisuke's meager attempts at consolation.
"It's alright, I know what you meant. Thanks."
Ryuko starts to turn her face away, most likely to do some more pensive teenage brooding at the middle distance - that is until Daisuke goes and says something rather unexpected. Both of her cybernetic fins point straight up in unison like a pair of tiny exclamation points, lacking only the iconic alarm noise from Metal Gear Solid to sell the reaction. Wide-eyed, she turns to stare at him again as his head all but twists itself off in his hurry to look away.
"You came to the hospital? My parents actually told you...?"
Oh no no no no no no.
Daisuke might not have seen the way Ryuko turned to look at him over that little slipup, but he can definitely feel her gaze burning into him. He's soon left writhing nervously there on his side of the bench. The only thing missing is a cartoonish amount of sweatdrops flowing down his features in his nervous fit.
"U-u-uhm... W-well... n-not really...? I mean, your mom told me you had some kind of health issue, but that's about it... And I did remember what you told me way back, so, like, um..."
Daisuke's hands find their way over to his lap, tapping the tips of each hand's fingers together with his growing nervousness. "So I did kinda... go look into where you were... It seems like I might be able to read peoples' thoughts if I really focus so I thought maybe I could-- I dunno, do something? If I found you? So I might have kinda maybe gone and found a way to figure out what hospital you were and stuff but they wouldn't let me in your actual room and, and, uh..."
He's babbling. The redhead himself realizes as much now, and his face steadily turns red, redder, soon close enough in hue to match the absurd color of his hair.
He's up on his feet in such a sudden snap of motion that any onlooker might be fooled to think that the boy somehow managed to stop time for a split second (though rest be assured, there's only one person present here who is actually capable of that and it's not the fiercely-blushing boy). "I s-s-should p-probably go..." He declares, and pivots on his foot to turn...
He's trying to escape!
Well, it makes sense that her mother would be willing to give at least a few details to Daisuke since he'd already been introduced to her. Though it's not surprising that the emphasis would be on 'few'. Her parents have always been strangely overprotective - a trait that runs thoroughly counter to her mother's philosophy of 'suffering leads to growth'. Hell, the entire reason she'd enrolled in Gedo, despite being more than qualified to go to the fancy all-girls Seijyun, was she figured it'd be easier to pick fights with a bunch of delinquents.
The fact that Daisuke had gone through the effort to do some detective work to find out which hospital she was staying at is a bit surprising though. As is his completely random revelation that he can freakin read minds. That seems like something deserving a more thorough explanation than a passing off-hand comment. She finds herself somewhat curious how her own thoughts mind translate to a psychic considering they're partly digital. He might end up tuning in only to get old modem noises.
Daisuke's sudden embarrassed departure leaves little room to explore that line of questioning, however. Ryuko blinks at the boy's retreating back, pondering if she should get up and go after him. After a few seconds, however, she relaxes back into the bench and offers a quick wave in parting.
"Alright. Nice talking to you again, nerd! Catch you around."
Pulling the small bag she's been toting around into her lap, Ryuko fishes out the small box of candies. Plain and without any decoration, it hardly seems a fitting gift for someone of her status and wealth. Yet the girl shows no hesitation in picking up one of the small confections inside and popping it into her mouth whole.
"Wow... he's actually pretty good at this."
Log created on 19:55:09 07/27/2023 by Daisuke, and last modified on 22:12:32 07/29/2023.