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TheCharredDragon

Yomu Yomu Fruit User
Content approved by bobandbill
My thanks for approving this.
Rated R (or M if this was AO3 or M in ESRB rating) for mature themes, violence, strong language (usually shit, crap and damn, but up to fuck) blood, physical abuse, sexual themes, suicide (both attempted and past), partial nudity, alcohol references, drugs references and gun usage). Otherwise known as typical Persona 5 stuff.
Additional and approptiate warnings/reminders will also be added in appropriate chapters.
Summary: "You didn't have to fight for me, you know." "And you didn't have to curl your hair so we'll look even more alike." Ren stared before he softly chuckled, Akira joining him not long after. With one simple decision as a child, Ren Amamiya goes to Tokyo alongside his little sister, Akira. (P5R Sibling AU) (Ren/Ann, Akechi/Fem!Akira) (Updates bi-weekly)
FF.net version here.
Prologue: For Want of A Breath
Chapter 1: The Other Wild Card
Chapter 2: A Journey of a Thousand Miles...

Prologue: For Want of A Breath

{R}​

Screaming, shouting, and insults... Those were the only thoughts in Ren's head as he tried to make himself as small as possible in the corner of his room and covered his ears to block the noise. But it was no use. He could still hear Mom being mean to Dad. He whimpered and sniffed. It was probably over something stupid again, like Dad not buying the right drink or not putting his clothes away. Or, worse, it was something he did and Dad was taking it for him again. Why did Mom have to be so mean? Dad loved her but Mom just kept shouting and hitting him. And she was never nice to Dad or him. Wasn't Mom supposed to love Dad and him?

There was a crash and Ren flinched.

He didn't really think. There was only one new thought:

Run.

And he did. He went out of his room, past his parents in the kitchen, shouting for him as he burst through the front door. He felt the heat of the sun on his skin. He could hear the talking of people passing by. And he could smell the scent of wet concrete. But he didn't see any of it, shutting his eyes to try and stop the tears threatening to come out. He didn't care where he went, he just wanted to run. But it wasn't long before his body slowed, telling him to stop, and he was forced to listen to it. He ended up sitting on a sidewalk, his back up against a random building as he hugged his knees to his chest.

Ren didn't know how long he sat there. All he knew was that the ones around him only glanced at him before going on their way, and that the sun was starting to set. He knew he should head back, but he also knew there was still a good chance of Dad and Mom still fighting if he did, maybe even because of him. And he didn't want to go back to that. It didn't matter though as when he thought that...

"Ren!"

Dad shouted and he glanced up to see him run up to him. When Dad was beside him, he kneeled and looked him over.

"Are you all right?" he said.

Ren looked back at the ground.

Dad just sighed. "Come on, let's get going."

He gripped his arm and started to move him.

But Ren snapped his head side to side. "No..."

Another sigh. "Ren, please. Your mother is mad enough as it is."

He was going to speak again but his ears picked up the sound of coughing and panic. Ren turned to his left to see a woman in very dirty clothes shouting for help, asking for someone to call an ambulance. In her arms was a little girl, her clothes just as dirty and torn, who was shaking from her wheezing. It looked almost like the little girl was choking. Ren felt Dad pull him again, about to lift him up and carry him. But he thrashed in his grip. That surprised Dad into letting him go and he said, pointing at the girls,

"Dad! They need help!"

His dad followed his hand and saw them.

"What?" he said.

Why did Dad have to be slow? Ren just went for his dad's pockets to see if he had his phone.

"R-Ren!" he said, his big hands stopping him with little effort. "What are you doing?"

"They need help Dad! That girl can't breathe!"

He struggled to get his hands out of his dad's. Why didn't Dad get it? Why did he keep doing things that didn't make sense? Why did Mom do the same? He was tired of it. He wanted to help. He just wanted to help. Just let him help!

His thoughts were interrupted when the hold was suddenly gone and he saw Dad grab his phone, call the ambulance, and said,

"This is Souichirou Amamiya. There's this girl having a hard time breathing and..."

He went on to tell what the person on the phone needed to know as he went closer to the two, Ren following him. When the woman noticed them however, she looked like a scared puppy as she hugged the little girl closer. Not liking that, Ren said,

"We wanna help!"

The woman was shocked and she looked back and forth between him and his dad but eventually stopped to look at only Dad, who nodded at her.

"I have some questions I need to ask you for the caller. Can you do that for me?"

Despite everything, and also looking like she was going to cry, the woman smiled, nodded and said,

"Thank you."

(A)​

Darkness in her eyes.

Softness under her back.

And...air up her nose?

Akira gasped and opened her eyes to find that, no, she wasn't in Hell or Limbo or Heaven. Even if she didn't know what kind of place was so big and white and clean nor why she had a mask over her face, she knew this wasn't any of the places dead people would go. Not that she was sure which one of the three would she have ended up in. Good people went to Heaven after all and Mom said she was a good girl but people kept saying she was a demon, a curse. And she couldn't help but wonder if they're right...if all she caused her mom was pain and she couldn't even breath or see properly.

"Oh. You're awake," a voice said.

For a second, Akira thought that she was actually in Heaven after all and that was an angel's voice. But then there was rustling to her right and she saw the silhouette of a boy who had black hair and almost looked like he had black eyes, but it was hard to tell with the distance between them, too far for her broken eyes.

"You okay?"

"Ah. Yeah..." she said.

"Good," he said, Akira imagining him smiling from his tone. "I'll go get your mom."

He ran off, presumably towards the door as, after some grunting, she heard the slide of wheels on metal and the black of his hair disappeared while he leaned out to say something. Akira just blinked as another silhouette in grey clothes and Mom rushed inside. Mom was the first by her side with tears in her eyes.

"Akira... Oh Akira..."

Mom hugged her tightly and Akira did the same, feeling like she would cry too, glad she was back with her. They stayed like that for a while but then Mom leaned back, turned to the stranger and, for the first time she had seen towards anyone besides her, smiled.

"Thank you again," she said. "I...I don't think I could ever repay you."

"No need," the stranger said, a man from his voice. Akira could also easily hear the relief and slight smile in his tone. "I'm just glad your daughter is fine."

"But..."

"I'll say it again and again, it's fine."

The black puff then joined in and said, "We just wanted to help."

Her mom jumped a little before looking down to him with surprise, but it was for a moment, her happy expression soon back.

"Thank you very much for that," Mom said. "Can I know your name? Mine is Shiori Kurusu." She briefly glanced at her. "The one you saved is Akira."

The black puff once again disappeared but she assumed he was bowing since he came back up again as he said,

"I'm Ren Amamiya. Nice to meet you, Kurusu-san."

"Nice to meet you too, Amamiya-kun."

The peaceful moment, however, was broken when someone at the top of their lungs said,

"SOUICHIROU!"

Everyone jumped and looked to the door as there were sounds of a commotion outside. Then, just as sudden as the shout, Akira heard the door to the room slammed open and she scrunched her nose. In the doorway was the person who had shouted earlier. Whoever it was, all she could tell was that it was a woman with brown hair, she stunk of alcohol and had sounded ready to tear something into pieces. The man, Souichirou, seemed to know her but...

"Tomoko..." Souichirou said, apprehension dripping from just that one word.

But then the woman, who she assumed to be Tomoko, said, "What are you doing here in the hospital? Where's Ren?"

"Ah, well, about that..."

She seemed to have spotted the boy she was looking for as she said, "There you are, you little brat..." The brown dot went to the black puff, Ren. She seemed to have done something as he shouted in pain. "Where did you think you were going?"

"Tomoko, please..." Souichirou said.

"And you! You still haven't answered me! What are you doing here in the hospital?" she said, now with Ren struggling against her.

Akira frowned, and so did Mom too. Akira wanted to tell the woman to let him go, but then Ren said,

"We were helping Akira!"

"You! Shut up!" Tomoko said, sounding crazier by the second. "I've had enough of you! I am talking with your father."

"No you're not! You're shouting at him! And then you're gonna hurt him! Stop being mean to Dad!"

"Why you!"

Akira felt her breath freeze but not from her breathing problem. Even with her imperfect vision, she could make out that Tomoko raised her free hand and swung it towards Ren. But there wasn't the sound of flesh slapping flesh. Instead Tomoko gasped as Mom had jumped from the bed and grabbed the offending arm.

"Don't hurt him!" Mom said, sounding like an angry cat. "It's my fault they're here! So if you're going to hit anyone, hit me!"

"Stay out of this!"

Akira gasped. The crazy woman finally let go of Ren and was about to hit Mom, but once again...

"Tomoko! That's enough!"

...her hand was caught, this time by Souichirou.

"Souichirou... Let. Go..." the crazy Tomoko said, her voice now low and dangerous.

"No. I won't. I won't listen to you this time, Tomoko. I thought you would get better if I stayed and tried to help you. I thought it would be best for Ren to have his mother. But if a stranger has to protect him from his own mother, then I've had enough. We're done."

"What...?"

"You heard me. We're done. I'll ask our families for a divorce. Now get out."

Tomoko gritted her teeth. "Why you...!"

"Ma'am?"

Everyone focused on the doorway to find a nurse standing there.

"If you will continue to disturb the patients, we will call security to escort you out."

Akira knew it was only a second. It wasn't actually long. But it felt like it to her as the woman stared the down the nurse, scared she might just decide to turn into a wolf or something because she certainly acted like a monster and maybe she was secretly a werewolf. But that second passed, the woman muttered something Akira couldn't catch, and then she said,

"Fine. I'll go."

Mom and Ren's dad stoped holding on to her and she stalked out the door. But not before she said,

"You'll regret this, Souichirou."

"No, I won't," he said. "I only regret that you won't let me help you."

Tomoko once again said something Akira couldn't hear and then she was gone. The nurse stayed a bit to make sure she wouldn't come back all of a sudden before leaving with a good-bye. It wasn't until the nurse was gone did Souichirou and Mom relax. When they did, she and Ren said,

"Are you okay?"

She turned and stared at Ren, who she imagined looked just as surprised as her that they had said that at the same time. Their attention returned to their respective parents when they chuckled. Akira couldn't help but pout behind her transparent mask.

"What's so funny?"

"Aha, sorry sorry Akira. I'm just glad you and Amamiya-kun are okay," Mom said.

"Me too," Souichirou, Ren's dad, said. Then he turned a little towards Mom, his voice having lost its edge and now much softer. "And...thank you."

"Eh?" Mom said. "For what?"

"For protecting Ren."

"Ah, well, um...it's the least I could do... You've done so much for us already."

It was then Ren decided to tackle Mom's leg in a hug, surprising her.

"Amamiya-kun...?"

"Thank you, Shiori-san. You were cool."

Akira smiled. "Yeah! You were cool, Mom! You grabbed her arm like on the TV!" she said.

"Eh? Cool...?"

Akira was going to say more but those words turned into a yawn in the middle of opening her mouth.

"Akira?" Mom said with slight panic.

But Ren's dad said, "It's fine. Just tired, right?"

"No I'm not..." Akira said, but it wasn't very loud and her eyes started to droop.

Souichirou chuckled. "Come on. How about we leave and let Akira rest? We can call a nurse to check on her to be sure."

"But..."

"You need sleep too!" Ren said to Mom. "You look bad! Dad says a good sleep always makes you feel better."

This time his dad kept back his chuckle, only letting out a short snicker. Mom stared for a bit, looking back and forth between Ren and his dad. Eventually, she calmed down and said,

"Okay okay, Amamiya-kun. I'll rest too."

"Then let's go," Ren's dad said.

The three went to the door but Akira whimpered and said, soft from her body's want to sleep, "Wait..."

Only Ren heard as he turned but Mom and his dad went out, soon followed by their voices sounding like whispers as they talked to some of the staff. Ren, meanwhile, went back to her bed and, with the help of a chair, leaned against the bed to be near her.

"What's wrong?"

"I don't...wanna sleep..."

The boy just tilted his head. "Why not? Sleep makes you feel better."

"But..."

She didn't want to see the bad people in her dreams hurting her or Mom... She tried to say that, she really did, but her throat choked up as the nightmares came to the forefront again and she wanted to cry from them.

But, thankfully, Ren then said, "Is it bad dreams?"

Akira just nodded.

A moment passed before he nodded and sat like a shogun with a thud, his legs crossed.

"I'll stay until you sleep so that I can steal any bad dreams you have."

Akira pouted. "How can you steal bad dreams?"

"Because I'm a phantom thief."

"Huh? Phantom thief...? What's a phantom thief?"

"Phantom thieves are special thieves that can steal anything."

"Really...?"

"Really."

"But aren't thieves bad?"

"Yeah. But phantom thieves can be good. Because they can steal anything. So they can steal from bad guys and bad things like bad dreams."

Well, if he put it that way, it sounded very nice. And he and his dad did save her. If he thinks he could steal her bad dreams...

Akira nodded and leaned against the pillows, the surprising softness making her close her eyes as she said,

"Okay..."

No bad dreams came.

Author's Notes: Hello and welcome to Persona 5: Refraction.

This is more or less P5R but with a twist: we have both Ren and Akira.

The reason why stems from several things. One was my want for a FeMC for P5 which spawned from the speculation on Kasumi before she was properly revealed. Another was my love for the Akechi/Fem!Akira ship, which is because of the fic Wings of Rebellion by aiyumi (which you'll notice will have a lot of influence on this if you've read it). Yet another was wanting to make a novelization of P5. And because of those it led to me thinking of unique way of combining it from one simple AU that is common (as far as I know): Minato and Minako as twins.

And thus this was born. So there will be some self-indulgence in this but hopefully it won't be too much and/or you'll still enjoy reading this as much as I had writing this.

I was actually tempted to not make this prologue at all but changed my mind because there were several things I wanted to establish. One, what Ren's family situation is and how I imagine it to be for canon P5/P5R. Two, what changes to that situation because of deciding to save Akira. And three, a reason why Ren and Akira have the intense urge to help others, even a certain detective.

Yes, there will be pairings in this fic. The main one is Akechi/Akira as that is, well, kind of the one third of the point of this fic. Ann/Ren will also be in here too, with hints of others if I can sneak it in... But note, as I've said, the pairings aren't the main/only focus and are, if anything, a subplot (at least from the research I did on subplots...). Hence why this fic is in this section and not the Shipping Fics section despite there being ships in this.

Akira's asthma was slightly inspired by the time-loop-travel-fix-it-fic called Escape My Night by KhadeanVhaden on AO3. I liked the idea, especially since I'm someone who actually has asthma, and once I thought of Akira with asthma, it worked well with tying her into P5's story, or at least how I tied her into the story. I would recommend reading that fic. It starts out really dark (and I do mean dark) but ends very sweet.

The title of the fic, Refraction, is in part because it starts with R like Royal, but more in reference to the fact that it means that the path of light goes in a different direction when it deflects on something and colors are the light we see reflected from a surface, thus a reference to Colors Flying High, the opening song of P5R, which is all about "choosing your own color" aka "being yourself". So basically the title is reference to the canon divergence in this fic and the colors theme in the song of P5R.

Meanwhile, the title of the prologue is based on the trope For Want of a Nail and changing the end to breath in reference to Akira.

For anyone who might have noticed, the reason why Souichiro said "I'll ask our families for a divorce" is because of what research I could do on Japanese divorce and child custody. Short version: for the sake of my sanity on their backstory while keeping it realistic to what I researched, Souichirou kept custody of Ren thanks to both his parents and Tomoko's agreeing that Tomoko wasn't fit to be a mother anymore when they were divorced by them and the law.
 
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TheCharredDragon

Yomu Yomu Fruit User
Chapter 1: The Other Wild Card

(A)​

Akira observed the scenery.

She had always wanted to ride a train. There was nothing quite like seeing the surroundings go by so fast and yet feel like floating past it. It was made even better with all the landmarks on the way, thanks to the line they were on having quite a few of them on the way to Tokyo. But she couldn't really bring herself to enjoy it as she reminisced on how they got here.

"Please, Big Bro," she said that day. "Can you please come with me?"

"Hmm? Come with you?" her older brother by one year said. "Why?"

"Well, there's this book I want to get but it's..."

"It's...?"

"It's on the far end of town so it'll be close to dark when I'm heading back and..."

Her brother just sighed before shaking his head with a small smile. "Is it about swords, by any chance?"

"Hey! It's not just swords! It's an encyclopedia of weapons! I've been looking everywhere for it! And the only reason I know it's there is because—!"

"All right, all right, I get it. Let's go so we can get back soon," he said, shouldering his briefcase with an amused smile.

As grateful as she was, she still couldn't help but pout at that. But that was soon gone when they reached the bookstore and Akira finally got the encyclopedia she wanted.

"Thank you, Mrs. Akatsu," she said to the woman manning the old bookshop.

"Oh, it's my pleasure, Amamiya-chan," she said, her smile making her wrinkles prominent. "It's always good to see books off to new homes."

"Bye! See you later!" she said and they left the familiar bookstore.

As soon as they were out, Ren said, "You're sure that book is in top condition?"

Akira rolled her eyes and smiled. "Yes, I checked. Or rather, I had Mrs. Akatsu check. The pages don't smell."

Her brother was still hesitant, but sighed and said, "All right, if you say so."

"You can check it yourself when we get back if you want, you know."

"I think my little sister has had enough of my nagging, so no," he said, smirking.

She slapped his arm in retaliation but all that did was make her brother laugh and she, too, fell victim to it. When the laughter faded, they walked in companiablr silence, the little lighting not deterring them as they walked the familar path back home. However, about halfway home, they heard a woman shouting in distress. The two stopped, looked at each other for a moment, then rushed off towards the sound. As they thought, there was a woman and it seemed she was being harassed by a man.

Just as fast as they came, they intervened, telling the man to stop, her brother also pushing him away from the woman. Apparently, that was enough to make the man topple over. But considering Akira could smell the alcohol off of him so strong it almost made her wretch, she hadn't been so surprised.

What had caught her off guard was the man blowing his top off, threatening to sue her brother. And, as if on cue, the sound of police sirens were coming closer and the man told the woman to tell them her brother had assaulted him.

"What?!" Akira said, took a step towards him, ready to say more with a punch, but was stopped by her brother grabbing her wrist.

Then the police came and fearfully recognized the drunkard man, who then turned to the woman and said,

"Well?"

And the woman did it. She actually did it. She told them that her older brother, Ren, had attacked the man.

Next thing she knew, Akira was the one to blow her top, shouting as loud as her defective lungs would let her. How dare he falsely accuse him?! He had been drunk and fell on his a
ss! She tried to get closer, to see his face so she could find out who the hell he was she was going to punch, but someone was holding her back. And that woman! Why did she do that?! They had been trying to help her! Why—

"Aki?" Ren said, her memory interrupted. "You all right?"

Akira glanced around, realizing she wasn't at the street anymore. She shook her head and gave her brother a smile, weak as it was.

"Yeah, I'm fine," she said. "Just...thinking."

"About last month?"

She glanced away at that and only heard her brother sigh.

"You didn't have to fight for me, you know."

That made her look back with a smirk. "And you didn't have to curl your hair so we'll look even more alike."

Ren stared before he softly chuckled, Akira joining him not long after. When he was done, he said,

"Then I guess that makes us even."

It was then that the train announced the next stop, signalling that they needed to switch lines if they wished to reach their destination.

"Ah, looks like our first stop's coming up." Ren adjusted his fake glasses and bag then said, "Ready?"

"Yup," Akira said and pulled up her mask. "Just lead the way, Big Bro."

The train stopped like it hadn't been going several miles per hour and its doors opened wide. Akira had to hold onto Ren, otherwise she would've been pushed outside and away from him by the mass of people swarming out of the locomotive. Once they were out, and not being squashed, Akira let go and looked around the station.

One thing was for sure, it was noisy. Akira was half tempted to cover her ears from the constant thrumming of steps echoing off the pavement. Thankfully, the sound wasn't as deafening once they went up and into the streets, but it was still just as crowded, everyone rushing around like ants. Despite the relatively lower volume, she was still tempted to get some form of earmuffs later.

Ren was quick to find the next line to their destination and Akira started following him. But when they reached a crossway, she heard her phone ring in her bag and took it out, a reminder for her to drink her medicine on the screen. But she couldn't take it here, not wanting to risk losing it, so she snoozed the alarm. With that handled, she looked up to her brother and was about to ask him how long it would take to get to their destination when she noticed him staring at his phone with a blank expression.

Akira frowned behind her mask and said, "Big Bro? You all right?"

Ren blinked and turned his stare to her, as if not realizing what he had been doing, before he shook his head.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Just some weird app," he said. Then he moved his finger, recognizing the motion as him deleting it. "Our next train's in five minutes. We better hurry."

Akira decided not to question it since she needed to take her medicine soon. So they went to their next train, this trip sailing by just as fast, and then they arrived at Yongen-Jaya Station. Thankfully, this one had less people milling about, making it as peaceful as a city as big as Tokyo could be.

Yongen-Jaya itself was much the same with few people going about the residential area. But Akira couldn't help but stay close to Ren as he double checked the address. Everywhere she looked were buildings, buildings and more buildings, the only things breaking it up were the streets, the signs and the people. Not a single tree in sight. The best she saw were potted plants.

Soon they found themselves in front of an unassuming house, with the nameplate "Sakura" by its gate. Ren ringed the bell and they could hear the distinct sound of a modern and artificial bell but no one answered.

"You're sure this is the right place?" she said, unable to help it.

"Pretty sure," he said, his face showing he was just as confused and worried as she was.

It was then that a passing delivery man said, "Are you two looking for Sakura-san?"

They were hesitant, but seeing as they had no other leads, they nodded.

"He's usually at his café at this time. Just back down to the street and make a left at the second turn," he said.

Ren said, "Thank you."

As the man had said, they did indeed find a café with his directions, a place called "Café LeBlanc", from what Akira could read of the overhead sign. And she was glad that their caretaker was here as the inside was a welcome change. The brown colors and soft lighting made it feel like a lived in home. Though that impression was somewhat dampened by the news talking about a car crash earlier that day and an elderly couple mentioning they've been becoming frequent.

"I thought they were exaggerating it..." she said in a low voice.

It was then that a middle-aged man with a small beard and glasses noticed them. In a somewhat deep and definitely grumpy tone, he said,

"Ah, they did say it was today..."

Then he groaned and put away the newspaper whose sudoku he was trying to solve.

Coincidentally, the old couple stood up and the old man said, "Well, we'll be going now. The payment's on the table."

"Thank you for doing business with us," the bearded man said.

"Oh, it's our pleasure. After all, this café is in the back alleys so we don't have worry about cars crashing in here."

"A what now?" the small-bearded man said, eyebrow raised.

"Oh, didn't you hear the news? There have been more of those accidents lately. People apparently going mad or something and not remembering a thing," the old man said.

Akira shuddered. That sounded terrifying.

"That's none of my concern," the middle-aged man said.

"Ah, I see. Well, we'll see you next time."

Akira and Ren moved to allow the elderly couple to leave before turning back to face the man that remained, who groaned and muttered,

"Four hours for a single cup of joe..."

From the fact he was the only one left in the café and how he was acting, Akira could guess that this bearded bespectacled man was Sojiro Sakura. Especially as he turned his stern gaze to them and said,

"So, you two kids the ones?"

With a brief glance at her brother who met her eyes, she knew that Ren thought the same as well. She nodded, telling him in silence that she wanted him to answer. He returned it in agreement before turning to the presumed Sojiro Sakura.

"Yes sir. I'm Ren Amamiya. This is my little sister, Akira." He bowed then said, "Please take care of us."

That politeness, however, made the café owner look at them with suspicion as he said, "Uh huh."

Akira frowned, wondering if he was acting cold because of their record.

She didn't get much chance to dwell on it though as he said, confirming her first suspicion,

"Well, I'm Sojiro Sakura. You'll be in my custody for the year." And he cemeted her second one as crossed his arms and harrumphed. "I was wondering what kind of unruly kids would show up. But you're the ones, huh?"

"What? You didn't know what we looked like?" she said, giving him a flat stare.

"Akira..." her brother said with a frown.

Sakura-san looked unimpressed as he huffed again. "Of course not. It was a customer of mine who knew your parents and suggested to—" he said. But then he shook his head and sighed. "Well, not that that matters..."

The bearded man then turned and went to the end of the café, where there were stairs to the right.

"Follow me," he said as he went up it.

Akira pouted. The temptation to give him a hard time in payback was very high. But with a comforting hand from her brother in a reminder, she sighed in agreement. Since this was where they were staying, she would have to put up with it. So, tailing behind her brother, they went up the steps their guardian took in the back...

Akira's eye twitched.

...to find themselves in an attic that clearly wasn't used a lot. There were cabinets in various parts of the room, plenty of boxes stored in them. There were canvases covering many of said boxes. In the far left was a desk and the right a makeshift bed made from crates, with windows above them. Not too far from the bed, beside a cabinet, she noticed a potted plant that was beginning to wilt along with various other things, like a freaking ladder and bucket. And, worst of all, a layer of dust covered everything everywhere. The only thing that wasn't under the light grey veil was the box that had all of their essentials in it sent from home.

In other words: an asthmatic's nightmare.

"This is your room," Sakura-san said. "I'll at least give you sheets for your bed."

Akira groaned. You've got to be kidding me...

"Hmm? You wanna say something?"

Oh she did. And she was about to, but then Ren said, polite to the point of near emotionless,

"It's cluttered."

And that calmed Akira somewhat, glad that Ren was also, at the very least, annoyed at the man.

"If you have a problem with that, then it's on you to clean up the rest," Sakura said.

"My little sister has asthma."

Alarm flashed briefly on his face, but it soon returned to his previous stern expression.

"All the more reason for you to behave then," he said. "I'll be leaving you two alone at night after I lock up each day. I'll throw you both out if you cause any trouble."

Akira was glad for her mask because there was no way she could hide her frown otherwise as she gritted her teeth and held her bag tighter. Ren was, arguably, taking it better than her as his face became even more blank.

"I see," he said.

The man huffed and crossed his arms. "Look, I got the gist of your situation," he said.

Akira nearly scoffed but held it, if only because she knew her brother would scold her slightly. But she bet that the man only got the official repo—

"The kid protected some woman from a man forcing himself on her, he protected her and the man got injured then sued you, right? Then when you were getting arrested, you—" He looked to her. "—protested. So you got arrested and resisted, right?"

—what? He knew? But then why was he being so—

"That's what you get for sticking your nose in a matter bettween two adults. You did injure him, yeah? And now that you two got a criminal record, you were expelled from your high school. So the courts ordered you to transfer and move out here, which your parents also approved."

—oh. Now it made sense. She had hoped their intentions were enough to ease up his stance, but no, they were just being "troublesome brats" in his eyes. Even if it was to help someone. Just like everyone else. Just as expected of everyone else.

But then he said, with a freaking smug face,

"In other words, they got rid of you for being a pain in the ass."

Red.

Fist.

"You son of a—!"

"Akira!"

It was only when she felt a hand on her shoulder did she realize she had raised her own, ready to slug him. And, of course, Sakura-san was not impressed. Akira grunted and relaxed her stance, staring at the floor as Ren let go of her. Even if Sakura-san didn't think of them as criminals, that certainly solidified his impression of them being troublemakers. But at least it was even, seeing as she didn't have a good one of him either.

"You're lucky your brother stopped you or I really would've kicked you two out already," he said. "It's best you quit that attitude of yours and not talk about anything unecessary. I am in the restaurant business you know."

Not wanting to lose their current residence just as soon as they arrived because of her, Akira just nodded and glanced at Ren so he'd know she wanted him to talk for both of them. He nodded to her then at their "caretaker" and said,

"Understood."

"Right. I'll say this again: behave yourselves for the year. If nothing happens, your probation will be lifted. Cause any problems and you'll be sent straight to juvie."

She nodded.

"Yes sir," he said, tone back to extreme politeness.

"Well then. We'll be going to Shujin tomorrow."

"Shujin?"

The man sighed. "Shujin Academy. The school you'll be attending. We'll introduce you two to the staff there. There's rarely a place that'll accept someone like you, you know."

"Oh. I see. Thank you, sir," Ren said.

The man just scoffed before he groaned. He mumbled, "What a waste of my Sunday..."

Akira felt her eye twitch but then the man turned to the cardboard box sent from home in the middle of the room.

"Your luggage arrived earlier. I left them over there."

"Thank you," Ren said.

And with that, and another scoff, the ageing man with glasses went back down. It was only a few seconds after he left did she say,

"Saying stuff about us is one thing...but saying stuff about Mom and Dad..."

All Ren did was sigh and say, "Well, it's not like most parents would be happy about their children having a criminal record. It'd probably be hard for most people to believe our parents didn't do that with our situation."

Akira grumbled. "I know, I know, but still...this sucks..."

Her brother put a hand on her shoulder in comfort, giving her a sad smile. "I know. But we can't do anything if he that's how he will treat us," he said. "How about after you take your medicine you go look around while I clean up?"

Akira knew he was right, with both Sakura-san and needing to leave the room for now. But still, she groaned and said, "I wish I could help..."

Ren just gave an apologetic smile, as usual, before he said, "Well then how about you get dinner while you're out? And maybe see if there are any spots we can hang out after school."

That didn't sound too bad, even though she knew it was suggested so that she wouldn't breath the dust he would undoubtedly kick up while cleaning.

"All right then. I'll see you later, Big Bro!"

"See you, Aki."

Before she actually left, she took her medicine out of her bag and her water canteen to drink it. With that done, she then went down the stairs to exit the café. As soon as she reached the door however, the building's owner said,

"Where are you going?"

She paused her steps, took a deep breath, and then turned to him.

"I'm gonna look around and get dinner while my big brother cleans up our room," she said.

Sakura-san narrowed his eyes slightly but Akira kept her gaze locked with his, not backing down. Thankfully, he soon stopped and sighed. Then he said,

"Remember to come back before dark."

Akira allowed herself an eye roll as she finally exited the café. She couldn't tell if that was his attempt to make up for earlier or he just didn't want to deal with the trouble of a teen coming back late.

Which she hoped wouldn't be the case as there wasn't really anywhere else to get food besides his café in the area nearby. It wasn't "empty", as there was plenty of places to go, like a small market, a laundromat, and even a theater and a batting cage in the area. And, handily, she found there was a clinic that seemed to double as a pharmacy just a short walk away from Leblanc, which she made a mental note to check out if she could get her medicine from later. Which was good since it seemed there were plenty of stray cats in the neighborhood, as well as some neighbors with pets, wistfully reminding her she couldn't have one.

But besides Leblanc, there wasn't anywhere in the backstreets to eat and cooking a proper meal using the café's kitchen was out of the question. She was tempted to see the rest of Yongen-jaya considering what she's heard of the neighborhood, but she didn't want to stray too far from the area around Café Leblanc or the route they took between their new home and the station. That would add even more time, even with a map on her phone.

So with that, she decided to try her luck in nearby Shibuya, managing to take a train. Hopefully there would be some place to buy food not far from the station. Though once she stepped out of the packed elongated bullet and into the rushing tide of the Shibuya streets, she almost wished that she hadn't. She wasn't quite squished, but it was hard to keep an eye on her phone that had a map of the area and on her surroundings without getting jostled by people hurrying to their destinations. Seeing that was a disaster waiting to happen, she looked for a spot where she wouldn't be pushed by the flow, so that she could get her bearings and decide on a destination of her own.

As she did, all of a sudden her nose was assaulted with the nauseating stench of perfume, strong and decidedly minty. Her stomach churned, bile already threatening to leave her throat, and air struggled to get into her lungs as her airways clogged. In a quick and smooth motion, she pulled down her mask and reached for her pocket, taking out her rescue inhaler. But just as she did, she was pushed, the pungent perfume even stronger now, and her inhaler flew out of her hand.

No!

She moved, ignoring the gaudy and pungent lady, with only one thought in her mind as her air lessened with each step to find her savior.

I have to find it. I have to find it. I have to find it. I have to find it!

[G]​

Akechi sighed as he checked his schedule on his phone after copying the message that arrived to an encypted file and then deleted the original message. He had just recieved another mission to cause a psychotic breakdown, this time on the engineer for a train. He would have to leave it for tomorrow since not only did he have to go deal with "closing" the case involving the last breakdown he did this afternoon, he also had been asked by Sae-san for help on something. Which was annoying since the new mission was a simple one but it couldn't be helped. And Sae-san did ask for his assistance. It would be fun to see what it was. She was one of the few adults he knew that actually had a brain.

Akechi was pulled from his thoughts when something bumped into his foot. He looked down to see a bright blue inhaler. He furrowed his brow as he picked it up and returned his phone. From the label and L shape, it was a metered dose rescue inhaler for asthmatics. And if it was out, that meant someone was going to use it but dropped it...and most likely desperately needed it. That wouldn't do. If the owner died and someone found out he held the inhaler, he could be blamed for letting a bystander die, damaging his reputation as the perfect Detective Prince, thus ruining both his fame and his plan by consequence. He thought of quickly disposing it, after all it wasn't his business, but he heard the sound of wheezing over the din of steps and murmurs and he looked to find it was a teenaged girl likely close to his age, clearly having a hard time breathing and searching with what little strength she had.

At a brisk pace, he went up to her, put down his attaché case and placed the inhaler in her hands as he moved it near her face, knowing every second counted. The girl, despite wheezing, moved with quick and practiced movments, uncapping it, putting it to her mouth, and pressing the button in less than a second before inhaling, long and deep. After a few moments of holding her breath, she exhaled and let go of the inhaler. It was only then as Akechi waited while she took a few more tentative breaths, making sure her symptoms wouldn't rise again, did he realize what he had done. But before he could berate himself for something unecessary and impulsive, the girl sighed in relief and gave him a smile as she said,

"Thank you very much for that."

Akechi returned it with one of the charming smiles he was taught to give.

"Oh it's no trouble, I'm just happy to be of service," he said.

That warmed her expression, the corners of her pale blue eyes crinkling as she straightened her posture. Akechi followed her example and was a bit surprised to find she was more or less the same height as him.

"Still, thanks. I don't think words can really tell you how grateful I am for the help," she said.

Then her cheerfulness disappeared as her eyes narrowed and she pouted.

Akechi almost took a step back, wondering why she was making such a face. Did she recognize him perhaps? That wouldn't be too surprising but if that was the case then all the more reason he should leave soon. But it would be rude to just leave all of a sudden and that would be a slight to his persona of Detective Prince. So he said,

"Are you all right?"

And when she answered, he would make his exit. As he hoped, she did answer, but not in the way he expected.

"Do you like sweets?"

He blinked. "What?" he said, unable to stop himself.

And she just said it again. "Do you like sweets?"

Unsure where this was going, but not seeing the harm at the moment, he said, forgetting his persona, "Well not particularly. But I don't mind them."

"Oh," she said, slumping her shoulders in disappointment. Then she put her hand in her pocket. "Well, it's not much but..." The girl pulled out a bar of wrapped chocolate. "...here. You're on your way to work, right? I'm sure this'll be a good pick me up. Well, unless you're allergic to dairy or chocolate..."

Akechi raised an eyebrow. She actually recognized him after all?

"What makes you think I'm on my way to a job?"

The girl gestured to his attaché case on the ground with her chin.

"That doesn't look like your regular bag for school. So I thought you're off to some part time job," she said. "Hopefully I'm not making you be late."

So she hasn't heard of him and she noticed despite the asthma attack... Unconsciously, Akechi's smile got smaller but more genuine as he chuckled. He wasn't sure whether to be annoyed or glad she didn't seem to know him yet was observant.

"I see. Very well then, I'll accept it. Thank you," he said, taking it.

The girl's eyes lit up behind her glasses when he did. She pulled up her mask, but not before he saw her amused grin as she said, "Hey, I'm the one thanking you, remember? And it's not much anyway."

"Well I appreciate the thanks nonetheless," Akechi said, a little surprised himself that he meant it. He picked up his attaché case. "I'll be taking my leave now."

"Sure, go ahead. Don't wanna make you late because you helped. Good luck with it, whatever it is."

Unbidden, he said, "And good luck to you as well."

The girl with glasses nodded before taking steps to leave. But, once again to his surprise, she waved as she left, looking over as she said,

"Bye! Hope we can meet again!"

With that, she got swallowed by the crowd, not even her distinctive curly hair making it easy to spot her in the mass. And Akechi stared at the spot he last saw her for a few moments before staring at the chocolate in his hands. He didn't need it considering he already had a few snacks in his case for emergencies, and there was a good chance it was melted considering he didn't know how long it had been in her pocket, but somehow...he didn't mind that it was the best the girl could do in the circumstances. And though there was very little chance of it happening or it being sincere...

She was the first to want to see him again.

{R}​

Ren let out a deep breath before he scanned his progress.

The room was pretty clear now. Since they weren't his and there wasn't exactly a storage space, he piled everything—boxes, ladder and all—that wasn't theirs to the back of the room, behind the railing around the stairs, which, thankfully, still left plenty of space. The exception being the withering, but not dead, plant that he guessed was a palm tree of some kind. He had swept as much as he could reach that wasn't blocked by furniture too large to move by himself and then he cleaned the dusty areas he couldn't use a broom on with a wet cloth. Of course, he would have to change the sheets on the bed in the corner, but otherwise his makeshift cleanup would suffice for now, the darkening sky outside reminding him to stop. He would have to see if there was anything else that could cause an allergy or an asthma attack another time.

Sounds of footsteps made him turn to the stairs and, to his disappointment, found Sakura-san...and he was staring in surprise.

"Huh. I was wondering what was with all the noise, but I didn't think you'd actually clean up," he said. His expression made way for a smug one. "Pretty impressive."

Ren sighed quietly. He wasn't sure whether to feel complimented or insulted.

"Do you need something, Sakura-san?" he said, keeping his tone polite, as he walked up to him.

"No," Sakura-san said. "Just checking on you. I'll be closing shop soon, so don't stay up too late. I won't take care of you if you get sick." The middle-aged man glared. "And don't mess with anything in my shop. If I see anything out of place or gone, I will throw you to the cops."

Ren nodded, not caring too much of his words because of his tone...until he realized what he said.

"You're closing now?"

The slightly bearded man sighed. "Didn't you hear me?"

"Well, yes, but my sister..."

"I won't wait up for her. But you can let her in if she doesn't come back before I—"

"I'm home!"

Ren sighed in relief. Speak of the devil. He went past Sakura-san, down the stairs and said,

"Welcome home."

"Hey Big Bro!" Aki chuckled sheepishly as she said, "I hope you don't mind me getting cup noodles. I didn't want to stay in Shibuya too long."

Ren gave an inquiring look and went up to her. "You went to Shibuya?"

"I couldn't find anywhere else to get food," she said with a pout.

Ren smiled. "Just wondering. I don't want you hurt."

"Yeah yeah... I know..." Aki said as if exasperated but her smile showing she wasn't.

Sakura-san then cut in and said, "Well, since you're here, I'll be going now."

Ren wasn't sure if he was imagining his deep tone being softer than before.

"Good-bye, Sakura-san. And good night," he said.

Aki's face soured but Ren sent a silent threat with his eyes. She met his gaze then sighed.

"Good night, Sakura-san," she said, low on energy.

The man raised his eyebrow, pausing his steps. But then he said, before he stepped out, "Make sure not to get in trouble, all right?"

With those words, he left.

And Aki said, "Geez... I don't get him... Does he wanna be nice to us or not?"

"You know we won't get an answer to that, Aki. And even if we did, I'm sure you won't like it."

"But still..."

"Come on, while dinner's getting ready, let's call Dad and Mama," he said as he made his way to the stairs.

"Oh yeah!" she said, following him.

Once in the attic, Aki sat on the couch and pulled out her phone while he pulled out the electric kettle from the cardboard box filled with their belongings. When he started to boil the water, the familiar voice of Mama said,

"Akira! You're okay! You are okay, right?"

His little sister laughed and said, "I'm fine Mom! See?" Then she made a haunting breath that made their mother laugh.

"Okay, okay," she said. "Where's Ren?"

"Here," he said, sitting beside Aki. "How are you doing Mama?"

"I should be asking that to you two! Are you settled? Is the room fine?"

Aki turned unsure. "Uh..."

"It's fine," Ren said. "A little dusty but I cleaned it up."

"Yeah! And it's pretty cozy."

Mama, however, then said, in a tone usually accompanied by a stern stare, "Akira... Ren..."

"Really, Mom, it's fine."

"It could be worse. We could've been stuck in a closet."

"Very well, if you say so..."

"Is Dad there?" Aki said.

"Oh! Give me a second."

There was the faint sound of wind rushing around it with the phone being moved and her voice being faint.

Then Dad said, "Akira, Ren, how are you?"

"We're fine, Dad! We already said that!" Aki said, smiling.

"Ha ha. Is your mother bothering you again?"

"I'm not bothering her! I'm just worried."

Another laugh. "Sure sure. If you insist."

He and Aki couldn't stop themselves from laughing as well, not doubting that Mama was pouting at them ganging up on her. Unsurprisingly, she was the one who decided to change the subject, and said,

"So, how was your day?"

And so dinner was spent talking with their parents as if they were right there with them, telling them of the train ride, of the bustle of Shibuya and how their room was like. But soon enough, they were done and they wished them good night, with the promise of calling often. Ren moved the extra futon and put it on the floor beside the makeshift bed, making sure there was a gap between them. After a short discussion, they agreed that he would take the floor while Aki took the bed so she wasn't as close to the floor and dust. Before they turned in, Ren set the alarm on his phone...

...and found a red and black eyed stared at him.

Ren was confused. He was sure he got rid of the strange app from his phone. How was it back? He didn't give much thought on that though, his mind too tired, and just deleted it again. With his alarm set and the lights off, Ren pulled the blanket over him, turned to his side and said,

"Good night, Aki."

"Night Big Bro."


"A couple years ago, there was an incident where a cabinet member did very questionable behavior and caused a scandal that he didn't even remember doing. When it first happened, it was written off as a mere accident. The same treatment was given when a similar incident happened a month later, this time that led to a CEO's car to crash, leaving him heavily injured. It wasn't until it happened several times, most ending in major accidents and scandals but some in deaths, did people notice and it became a relatively common place event on the news.

Author's Note: Disclaimer, I'm not an expert in Japanese culture and the most I know is from some research and second-hand knowledge from someone who has done more thorough research on it, but there is something I do need to mention, and that is the treatment of Joker in the game by most people who know of his past.

Short version, because of Japanese culture, reputation is very important, and thus even if it was for a false charge, if you did something considered bad in that society, it brings shame on both the person and their family, hence why Sojiro's treatment, and everyone else's, is so harsh, besides the fact that, in the case of Sojiro, he has personal reasons for being that way.

That's also why, even if both Ren and Akira don't like it, they're not surprised by the treatment. So, as far as I know, if anything, the fact that I had their parents still be nice to them is probably an outlier with what I know. And if that is the case, then it's just more proof that their parents, having found one another, don't care about the usual rules anymore.
 

TheCharredDragon

Yomu Yomu Fruit User
Chapter 2: A Journey of a Thousand Miles...

{R}​

Trickster.

Welcome to my Velvet Room.

My name is Igor, the master of this place.

The state of this room reflects the state of your heart.

It involves your life as well.

Ruin awaits you.

You must be rehabilitated.

Know your place Inmate!

Caroline.

Justine.

They serve as wardens.

Do you have the resolve to challenge the distortion of the world?

Blue.

Chains.

Prison.

You truly are a "prisoner" of fate.


Ren froze, expecting to see deep blues and even darker blacks. But instead he is greeted with the dulled out colors of early morning and his futon on the floor beside his sister's bed. He groaned and pressed a hand against his eyes. It had been just a dream. A rather realistic one where he was somewhat lucid, but still a dream.

"You okay, Big Bro...?"

He looked to see Aki put on her glasses after trying to rub the sleep from her eyes.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Just a weird dream," he said.

Aki smirked, though the effect was slightly diminished with her eyes' droopy state.

"What? The kind you shouldn't be telling your little sister?"

Ren rolled his eyes but still smiled. He ran right into that one. But still...

"What time is it?" he said.

"Too early."

Ren huffed in amusement as he reached for his phone to see it was about ten minutes before six in the morning. He groaned once again. There was nothing worse than waking up mere minutes before planned and not sleeping to the maximum amount possible.

"Yeah, you're right. But might as well get up."

Aki grumbled but agreed nonetheless as she followed his example and they both got up. They did their routine as best as they could, Aki taking her medicine as they took turns using the restroom downstairs to change into their uniforms and do their business. When it was Aki's turn to use it after he finished, he decided to wait for her in one of the booths, getting their breakfast ready, once again cup noodles as Aki bought enough yesterday for such. Thus he saw, to his surprise, Sakura-san come in the café, dressed in a white suit and fedora.

"Oh, you're awake," he said when he came in.

"Good morning, Sakura-san," he said, putting on his stoic but polite mask.

The man raised an eyebrow but still said, no doubt only out of politeness as well, "Good morning." Then he saw what was in front of Ren. "Is that your breakfast?"

Though he felt that was obvious, Ren nonetheless said, "Yes."

The white suited man stared at it for a while. Ren could only imagine what he was thinking before he sighed, his posture suddenly lax. Then he said,

"Well then. I'll be waiting outside. When you two are done, I'll drive you to Shujin."

"Drive...? You're going to take us to school?" he said.

Though when he spoke, he wished he hadn't as Sakura-san's cold façade, stern gaze and displeased frown returned.

"Just for today. Don't take too long. I'm a busy man."

And just like yesterday, he left the café with little fanfare. Ren sighed and pushed up his fake glasses. He would admit it only to himself, but Aki was right, the man was confusing. He was acting cold and yet took them in. He didn't dwell on it long as his little sister came out of the restroom. Ren told her about what Sakura-san said so that they finished breakfast quickly and soon they were in his car. When he saw it, he couldn't help but be surprised of it, its condition pristine despite clearly being an older Porsche, the yellow paint and cloth on the seats not showing any age, giving no discernible scent. Which was good considering the last thing he wanted was having to argue over the smell of the car and Aki refusing to go in because she didn't like it.

Ren sat in the back while Aki rode shotgun, to Sakura-san's curiosity if his expression was any indication. But he didn't ask, and Aki certainly didn't feel like talking so the trip to Shujin in Aoyoma-Itchome was silent and made it feel even longer than the several minutes it took to get there. After parking, they were at the gate and Ren found that the building wasn't too noteworthy, despite its name in kanji.

The whole thing reminded him of office buildings, all practicality and no aesthetics, except not as tall or as small. The building was merely grey and square, like the windows marking each floor. A wall surrounded the place, just high enough that it would take a tall student to reach its top but not so tall it obstructed the view of the main building. At the metal gate entrance was a plaque on the right side simply saying "Shujin Academy".

Before they passed the gate, Sakura-san stopped and turned to them.

"Do me a favor and behave yourselves, all right?" he said, though it was clear it was more directed at his sister with his gaze.

Aki frowned in confusion and Ren had a feeling she wad about to speak. But Sakura-san seemed to have guessed what she would say as he then said,

"Don't get the wrong idea. I just don't want you causing me any trouble."

Once he turned his back to them, his sister rolled her eyes, and he couldn't help but be amused at her mood. That made her glare at him but that left as they went inside, which wasn't much better than the outside. It wasn't ugly by any means, the doors to the various rooms were of equally varying colors, the floor were smooth wooden planks, and the walls were pristine, but it almost felt like he was walking around in a hospital or, again, an office building.

Though, perhaps, it was for budget reasons as the principal's office was almost like a rustic but professional oasis in the sea of rigid conformity. Which made the principal himself stand out all the more and Ren had to do everything in his power to not show his discomfort at seeing the bald and obviously chubby, if not outright obesse, man. He didn't even have a neck. It was like he was wearing a collar of flesh. And paired with the checkered suit, the man reminded him of ventriloquists and contrasted with the surroundings. He nearly didn't notice the woman in a light orange shirt and the man in a black suit with a yellow scarf to the principal's left.

Pleasantries were said between the principal and their caretaker before they were signing papers for the school, the last one being done by Sakura-san. When that was done, the overweight man said to him and Aki,

"To reiterate, just so we're clear, you will immediately be expelled if you cause any problems."

Aki just nodded while he said,

"Yes, sir."

Then the principal said, "Honestly, I hesitated on accepting someone like you but there were some...circumstances...on our side..."

Only loud enough for him to hear, Aki said right beside him,

"Probably a sponsorship from a food company..."

Ren nearly snorted at her comment and sent her a glance in warning. It might be blocked from his view, but he knew Aki was smirking at him under her mask.

"You might have done a variety of things in hiding in your hometown but you will behave yourself here," the principal said, making Ren return his attention to him. "If you are thrown out from our school, there will be no place for you to go. Keep that in mind."

He was sure Aki had another comment in mind from the quiet strangled scoff he heard from her.

"Yes, sir," Ren said.

Aki nodded again.

The bald and wide man stared at them for a moment before gesturing to the two people beside him.

"This is the teacher in charge of Class 2-D, the one Ren Amamiya shall be in," he said towards the woman before moving on to the man. "And this is the teacher in charge of class Akira Amamiya shall be in, 1-A."

"I'm Sadayo Kawakami," the woman said.

"And I'm Kiritsugu Shimizu," the man said.

Ms. Kawakami held up two IDs as she said, "Here are your student IDs."

She put them down on the desk for them to get. Ren was about to reach for them, but he stopped and frowned. What was that pink paper under the IDs? Whatever it was, Ms. Kawakami noticed as well and was quick to grab it. He glanced at Aki, confirming that he did see it. But as curious as he was, he would have to let it slide for now. So he took both of the IDs and handed Aki's to her.

The floofy, wavy haired woman continued, pretending as if nothing happened.

"Be sure to read the school rules. Any violations will send you straight to the guidance office. And, if by chance you cause any problems, I won't be able to protect you at all."

Ren's face twitched as he stopped his expression from changing, now even more curious of the woman with her choice of words. He noticed Aki stared at her because of that, so he guessed she thought the same as well.

Ms. Kawakami looked to the seated bald man as she said, "That is your promise, yes, Principal Kobayakawa?"

The man nodded. "He is responsible for all of his actions."

This time Aki did react noticeably, but thankfully it was just a snort so it was ignored.

The orange shirt woman frowned and said, "But really though, why me...? There should've been a better candidate."

"It was a sudden transfer, and your class was the only one that had an opening."

Before Ms. Kawakami could say more, Sakura-san said, "If you're done explaining things, mind if we get going?"

Finally, the man, Mr. Shimizu, spoke, looking almost disappointed when he did.

"Do you not wish for a tour of the school?" he said. "It would be helpful for Ren-kun and Akira-chan to become familiar with the layout."

"I got a store to get back to."

Now Ren was sure the younger man was disappointed, as well as apologetic, as his shoulders slumped slightly and gave a small smile that reflected his mood.

"Ah, my apologies then."

The white suited man turned to leave but then Mr. Kobayakawa said,

"Sakura-san, please keep an eye on them. Don't let them cause any trouble outside..."

"Well, I'll be sure to have a serious talk about the situation they're in."

Aki stare turned flat, likely resisting the intense urge to roll her eyes. Ren gave her a smirk.

Ms. Kawakami then said, "Come to the faculty office when you arrive at school tomorrow. I'll show you to your classroom."

Followed by Mr. Shimizu. "The same goes for you as well, Akira-chan." Then he said, his tone surprisingly gentle, "And tell me if there's anything I need to know about the what medications you need to take so I can do my best to acommodate you."

Ren stared at him in surprise, much like his little sister.

"Oh uh...thank you, Mr. Shimizu. I'll keep that in mind," she said.

Though the principal didn't like that as he sent a stern glare at the man while Ms. Kawakami looked surprised at his words. Not that Ren was surprised at their reactions, seeing as Mr. Shimizu was being nice to outcasts who had shamed their family. Ren could only hope he would be able to keep it up, but seeing as the the man with the yellow scarf gave an apologetic look for his behavior, he kept his expectations low, if not outright non-existant.

"All right then, let's go," Sakura-san, already walking out.

Not wanting to get left behind, they followed their caretaker. It was silent on the way down. Though he briefly reminded them that he would kick them out should they misbehave before they were back in the car. For the most part, it was a repeat of this morning. The main difference was how long it took to get home, the traffic being as bad as the a clogged drain, to the disgruntlement of their driver.

"Gah, traffic's not moving at all..." Sakura-san said, fingers tapping on the steering wheel. "That's it. You're taking the train starting tomorrow."

Ren already knew that, considering Sakura-san had more or less said that this morning. But he wasn't going to mention that.

Then, to his surprise, though it was somewhat awkward, Sakura-san then said,

"So...how was it? The school I mean. Think you can manage?"

"Yeah," Aki said. "Probably."

The fedora wearing man gave her an inquiring, if somewhat suspecting, gaze.

"Probably?"

"Hopefully," she said, the tone of her voice giving the impression of a cheeky grin.

Sakura-san's frustration returned as he frowned. "Do you even understand the situation you're in?"

All mischief left Aki as she said, tone heated like a furnace, "What? That no one wants us around?"

Ren nearly missed it, but the man's face twitched and his hand on the steering wheel tightened for a brief moment.

"You were expelled once before. No one would think you would enroll in a different one. It's not like anyone will be sympathetic with you," he said.

He could've been imagining things again, but his tone sounded weary, almost as of speaking from experience.

Then Sakura-san sighed and mumbled, almost as if he forgot the car was rather cramped compared to more modern ones.

"If that's what it's like at the school people, might say stuff about me in the future too," he said then sighed. "What troublesome kids I've taken in..."

And before Ren could stop her, Aki said, ticked off, "Then why'd you agree to take us in?"

Sakura-san didn't answer right away. He looked elsewhere, back at the traffic which had moved just a bit. He inched the Porsche forward and then stopped. Ren thought he wouldn't answer at all. But then the man said,

"I was asked to do it, and I just...happened to agree to it." And like an afterthought, he added, "I've already been paid for it after all."

Once again, Ren readied to calm his sister, but as if to break the tension as well as answer the man's earlier frustration with the road, the radio announced that another train accident has occurred, the most recent of a string of them.

Aki shuddered. "Train accident...?"

Meanwhile, Sakura-san said, "So that's why it's so crowded." His posture relaxed with that but then he said, his tone somber by the end, "There's been a lot of those lately. In fact, there was a real sad one just last month." He took a deep breath. "If I remember right, the girl that passed away was only fifteen."

The silence became much more heavier with that, the words reminding Ren of how he met, and saved, Aki all those years ago.

As if to avoid it, Aki sighed and took out a familiar and well-worn book from her bag, Phantom of the Opera, and read it. Ren looked out the window to see that the compression of cars wasn't going to filter away any time soon. He leaned against the chair and closed his eyes. School hadn't even started and already they were having difficulties.

This was going to be a long school year.

(A)​

Yesterday had not helped her impression of Sakura-san, nor allayed her hesitance in going to school. Sakura-san had been as confusing as before, mostly dismissive of them and doing his job, like giving them a journal so they would record their activities and their "talk" in the car. Yet there were brief instances of warmth that looked like accidents, like the fact he drove them in the first place and that he, apparently, trusted them enough to ask them to flip the sign and close up the café at night. The school was much the same during their first visir, the few people there dismissive, with only Mr. Shimizu having any hint of human decency. But even he seemed cowed by the principal. Put all of that together and Akira didn't feel like going at all.

But she didn't want to bother her brother more than she already has with her attitude towards Sakura-san, so when Ren's alarm sounded, she did her medicine without a fuss, coming down with him to wait on the ground floor while he used the restroom first. However, as soon as they stepped down, they both stared.

Sakura-san was there...right in front of a pot over a lit stove.

He noticed them then and said, "Good, you are going to school."

"Sakura-san...?" Ren said, voicing both of their confusion.

"Aren't you getting ready? Go on. I'll feed you two when you're done. Just make sure to finish it before the customers come in," he said then returned to his cooking.

He and Akira stared for a few more moments before his little sister said, "You first or me?"

That snapped him out of it and he said, "You go first."

Akira nodded then went inside the restroom. While inside changing and washing up her face, she heard Ren and Sakura-san talk.

"Curry?" Ren said.

"Have a problem with it?" Sakura-san said, tone grumpy as usual.

Though she couldn't see, she knew her big brother was smiling in amusement as he said, "Not me. My sister. She's a bit of a picky eater."

So she said,

"I heard that!"

Knowing full well he would smirk. What she didn't expect, as she did the final touches on her uniform, she heard Ren said,

"I think she'll like this though."

Followed by Sakura-san in a less grumpy but still rough tone.

"Well good, because that's all I'll be cooking for you two for your breakfast."

"Thank you, Sakura-san."

If their caretaker said anything more, she didn't hear as she went out and told her big brother she was done. She waited before she ate he changed into his uniform and fixed everything else up. When he was done, they ate their curry breakfast, which she liked as Ren guessed, and then put the dishes in the sink.

"Thank you for the food," Ren said again.

Not wanting to disappoint him, and actually liking the food, she too said, "Thanks for the food."

All Sakura-san said to that was, "Hmph. So you really do have manners."

I could say the same to you, you grumpy chef, she would've said and she opened her mouth to do so. But then he continued.

"Now get going. You'll be late if you stay any longer."

Quickly followed by Ren. "Did you double-check everything, Aki?"

Momentum lost, she did as told and made sure she had her medicine, water and extra masks.

"Yup," she said, pulling up the mask she had put on earlier.

"All right, let's go."

At the door though, before they left, Sakura-san said, "Flip the sign to 'OPEN' on the way out."

Ren looked to him, confused. "You're open this early?"

Which Akira shared, considering most restautants, cafés and the like only started opening at ten in the morning.

However, Sakura-san acted as if that was a stupid question.

"Hmph. Early? If anything, I'm running late. Now go, flip the sign, and don't get lost. This isn't like the countryside."

"No kidding, Sherlock..." Akira said, her mask muffling it.

The city and the countryside were like night and day to her.

Her brother patted her back, telling her he heard and said, "Okay, Sakura-san, we will. Good-bye."

And finally, after doing what Sakura-san asked of them, they left for school. The streets were just as bustling and the trains just as packed as the last two days, making the trip feel cramped when they rode the subway and she was grateful when they were out of it. However, just when they left the underground station...

It rained.

"Oh come on!"

They ran to the nearest roof, which was the front of a clothes store. Akira took deep breaths, bracing herself on her knees, and hoping she didn't have to pull out her inhaler. Thankfully she didn't and she was back upright again, glaring at the rain.

"You don't have the umbrella with you, do you?" Ren said.

"Nope," she said. "You?"

"No, unfortuantely."

She groaned. "So we double checked everything...except the umbrella."

"Mmhmm."

"Of course it's the umbrella... What's the fun in it raining if you don't get wet, right?" she said, sarcastic.

"Not fun at all," Ren said, smug amusement in his voice. "After all, what other time would it be perfect for a water fight?"

She glared at him.

As she thought he would, he just gave a cheeky grin.

She groaned again and ignored that. They had more important things to worry about.

"Damn it..." she said. "How we gonna get to school now? It doesn't look like it'll let up soon..."

"Hmm... Maybe..." And then Ren said, "Huh?"

And Akira saw her brother looking at his phone...and a red-and-black app with an eye on it was on the screen.

"I thought I got rid of this," he said.

"What? It keeps coming back?"

Ren hummed. "This is the fourth time it's popped up already."

"Geez... I hope it's not malware..."

"The virus scanner didn't detect anything, and I hadn't opened any spam, so I doubt it is."

"Still creepy. And still need to get rid of it."

Before further discussion was done, the sound of footsteps made their gazes follow someone who ran under the nearby roof just like they did. Once under, the person pulled down the white hoodie they were wearing, revealing that it was a girl, about their age more or less. She was about her height, if not a couple inches shorter. And her hair was platinum blonde. She leaned out a bit and looked around, likely also checking if the rain will let up soon, at least until she noticed them. To Akira's surprise, when she did...

...she gave them a smile.

The blonde girl didn't do more than that though and returned to looking at the streets. Seeing she wasn't going to make small talk, Akira turned to her brother to talk about that app, or maybe even back to trying to decide how to get to school...only to find he was still staring at the girl.

"Oh you've got to be..." Akira took a deep breath and then she said in a sing-song manner, "Big Bro..."

"Yes, Aki?" he said, not moving.

"You're staring."

"Huh?" That snapped him out of it. "Oh uh..."

"Please don't tell me it's love at first sight or I'm calling bullshit."

Her brother's expression turned flat.

"Really?"

"You were the one staring, not me."

Before it could turn into one of their sibling banters, there was a giggle behind her and Akira couldn't help but turn to see that the girl was, indeed, finding their antics funny.

"Oh great, now she thinks we're crazy," Ren said.

Akira gave him a sideways glance. "And whose fault is that?"

Another giggle and the girl's smile got brighter. However, a car that Akira thought would pass actually stopped before them and the window rolled down to reveal a man with poofy hair, a square chin, and wearing what looked like a gym school uniform. As soon as the blonde girl saw that, Akira could've sworn her smile turned more strained.

"Hey, you're gonna be late in this rain. You want me to give you a ride?" the man said.

"Oh, uh, sure," the girl said and went in.

But as soon as she did, Akira saw her deflate, like she wanted to be anywhere but there. She was tempted to ask if they could get a ride too. After all...

"Oh, you can come along too."

...the man was offering. But when she pulled her mask down and took a deep breath, she nearly retched. Ren's hand was on her back, rubbing it in circles. She groaned. The one time she wished she didn't hate new car smell. If she felt like throwing up from this distance, then there was no way she would be able to stand staying in that car. Akira tried to speak, even with her breakfast threatening to come out, but thankfully her brother did it for her.

"No thank you," he said. "My sister is sort of allergic to the smell of new cars."

Both the poofy haired man and the platinum blonde girl looked confused, but the former seemed to realize what Ren meant as recognition was on his face.

"Ah, I see," he said. "Well, don't be late then."

With that, the window rolled up and they watched as they went off down the road, Akira wondering if the girl would be all right.

"God damn it!"

Akira jumped and then a boy with bright blond hair arrived, stopping only a foot to their left.

"Screw that pervy teacher," the boy said.

"Pervy...teacher...?" Ren said.

It was then the boy realized he wasn't alone and turned to them. Akira thought he kind of looked a bit like a delinquent with that blond hair, his blazer open and his undershirt being yellow with the word "ZOMG!" on it. That was definitely a shirt she wouldn't mind wearing.

But then he frowned and narrowed his eyes.

"What?" he said and stalked up to them.

Ren stepped forward and Akira stepped behind him.

"Are you guys plannin' on rattin' me out to Kamoshida?"

What the hell, man? Akira thought. She was tempted to say it but the last thing she wanted was getting in trouble on their first day.

"I don't know what you mean," Ren said, his voice level.

And then all of sudden, the punk's hostility evaporated, replaced with confusion.

"Huh? In that car just now. It was Kamoshida." He looked away, grtting his teeth, and said, "He does whatever the hell he wants. What does he think he is? Some king of a castle? Am I right?"

"I didn't see a crown," Ren said, flat.

Akira snickered.

"Huh? No, that's not... Wait, you don't...know Kamoshida? Are you for real?" he said. "You're from Shujin, right?"

"What makes you think that?"

"What? Come on, no other school's got a uniform like this."

"Well we're new here, so I didn't know," Ren said.

"Oh? You're a transfer student then?"

Her brother nodded and relaxed. But he still stood in front of her, just in case, she figured.

"No wonder you don't know him..." the stranger said, likely just thinking out loud from his tone.

But still...

Thank you, Captain Obvious, Akira thought but still kept shut.

It was very tempting though.

Then the punk did a once over on Ren and her.

"A second-year and first-year huh? You two siblings?"

She and her brother nodded.

"Huh, you guys are lucky to be in the same school." Akira really felt like laughing at the irony of that but thankfully she didn't when he said, "Well, how about followin' me? I know a shortcut to school. We'll be late at this rate."

"But the rain..." Akira said.

The loud punk looked at her. "Hey, it ain't too bad."

"Still don't wanna get wet."

Ren added, "And it wouldn't be good for her asthma if she got wet."

"Asthma?" he said, surprised.

Akira felt her brother tense and she herself was getting ready to talk back but then he said,

"Well then, here."

And he took off his blazer and offered it to her.

"It's not much, but it's better than nothin', right?"

Akira didn't move. She actually felt her jaw dropped, not that anyone could see it with her mask.

"But what about you?" her brother said. "I don't mind giving my sister my blazer."

The blond boy grinned. "Heh, I'll be fine. 'Sides, you need to keep yours more than me, right?"

Her brother was silent for a few moments. Then he said with a smile,

"Thank you."

"Heh. No problem. Come on, let's go."

That was when Akira finally shut her mouth as Ren put the stranger's blazer over her like a blanket. Though as soon as he did, Akira felt another wave of nausea, but with the added thump of a headache. She groaned. She was starting to wonder if fate was making fun of them or something.

"Ugh... My head hurts..." the boy said. "Damn it... I wanna go home..."

Despite the mundaneness of it, the fact he had one too felt odd. But Akira didn't say anything, it was likely a coincidence after all, as they followed the kind punk down the streets. They weaved between the buildings, going through a couple of pretty narrow alleys. It reminded her of home actually, how they would usually go a seemingly roundabout way between houses to get to plenty of places. But with each step, a strange feeling kept nagging at her. It wasn't quite nausea, or even an itchy nose. The closest she could think was the feeling of being watched, like being self-conscious of every movement.

Ren stopped and Akira nearly bumped into him.

She was about to complain but the look on his face silenced her. He was looking behind them as if checking if they were being followed.

"You feel it too?" she said.

He didn't answer right away. Instead their attention was caught by the punk as he said,

"What the!?"

Akira had to agree when they caught up to him. That was a succint way to put it.

Author's Notes: I'll admit I was tempted to use an existing teacher as Akira's homeroom teacher but I had difficulty finding out if Japanese high school teachers taught in other grades besides their own, as that is how high school works for my country. So, to be on the safe side, I just made someone up.

Also I made Akira's class 1-A for one reason only: a reverse A1, as in A1, as in A1 Studios, the one who did most of the Persona 3 movies.

Also also, for my own sake more than anyone else's, Sojiro's car is a modified, yellow Porsche 356.
 
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