Tome was in the middle of her usual after school make-out session with Ichi when she noticed Mob walk past, with a man that she didn’t recognize. At least, not by sight. She broke apart from Ichi, staring at the man in confusion. Something about him was familiar.
“Everything alright?” Ichi asked, pulling a tube of lip-gloss out of her bra. She reapplied it, leaning against the tree they’d designated as their make-out spot.
“I’m not sure,” Tome replied, narrowing her eyes. The man wore a gray suit with a pink tie and was making was making unnecessarily excessive hand gestures, especially in contrast to Mob.
She couldn’t hear what he was saying, exactly, but she knew she recognized his voice.
She remembered a phone call, and telepathy club on the verge of being disbanded, their only hope resting with the ordinary boy, walking in front of her, and his amount of free time.
With that she was able to place the man.
She balled her hands into fists, and stalked towards the two.
She noticed that, Ichi, probably sensing that some drama was about to go down followed, eager for the confrontation to unfold.
“Hey you! Mob’s boss!” Tome called out, catching his attention.
He stopped walking, giving her a confused look. Mob also stopped, wearing his usual bored expression, but Tome could pick up on the fact that he seemed a little bit apprehensive.
“Uh, yeah”? The man asked. “What are you, one of Mob’s friends?”
“I’m Kurata Tome, president of the Telepathy Club that you tried to have disbanded,” she said, accusingly.
“It technically did get disbanded,” Mob pointed out, only to fall silent from the look she gave him.
His boss scoffed. “Huh. I’m not sorry your little club got disbanded. My student has more important things to do than be an extra member just so you can waste time after school.”
“You mean that?” Tome asked. She mustered up the most intense expression she could, and it seemed to work. The man shuffled, a little bit uncomfortable, but straightened his back.
“Yeah, of course,” he said, waving a hand. “I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t.”
“Fine, then.” She replied.
He visibly relaxed, smirking. “Well, if that’s all–”
“If you really stand by your words, then meet me in the parking lot of MobDonald’s at 2am,” she challenged, staring him down the entire time.
“Wha – why?” He asked, flustered. He quickly tried to cover it up. “I mean you can’t possibly want to fight, right? You’re a middle schooler, and I’m grown adult, that doesn’t really seem fair to you does it?”
“Maybe not for you,” Tome countered.
“Oh, shit!” Ichi whispered, taking a picture.
“I’ll see you at 2am or we find out who’s been right about telepathy club this whole time,” she said, smirking back.
“Tch. Fine, in the meantime, I actually actual work to do with my student,” he said. Though the words exuded confidence, Tome noticed he was sweating a lot more than he had at the beginning of the conversation.
“See you then,” she said, sweetly. She waved them off as they went through the gate.
“You want me to be there for support?” Ichi asked.
“You know it,” Tome said, slipping her hand into Ichi’s. It was going to be an interesting night.
Reigen looked up from his laptop, pausing the video. The puppy cuddling with its puppy brethren would have to wait, Mob looked unusually pensive. He was also about to head home, so something must have really been bothering him.
“Yeah?” He asked.
“It’s just – you aren’t actually going to fight Tome are you?” Mob replied, fidgeting a little bit.
Reigen snorted. “Tome? Is that your classmate?”
Mob nodded, expression remaining extremely serious.
“No, Mob, of course I’m not going to fight her. You remember that time we talked about fighting women, right?” Reigen asked.
Mob brightened immediately, nodding in relief.
“And it would be especially unfair for me to fight her because I’m an adult, right?” He went on. “Adults should not be fighting children.”
“I know, I was just making sure,” Mob said, giving him a small smile. “I’ll see you tomorrow, shishou!”
“See you tomorrow Mob!” Reigen replied, giving a small wave as the boy left his office.
Then he ruefully minimized the video of the puppies cuddling and checked to see if anyone had answered his question of whether or not it was ethical to fight a middle school girl.
It hadn’t gotten any responses, not that there were much that could change his mind. It wasn’t like he was actually planning on fighting this Tome girl, so he hadn’t completely lied to Mob. He hoped he could just show up to the MobDonald’s and smooth things over without anyone throwing any punches.
Otherwise the entirety of Salt Middle School would judge him.
Why was the opinion of a bunch of middle schoolers so important to him? He didn’t know. He didn’t know how his life had gotten to the point it was at. In his high school yearbook he’d written that in ten years, he wanted to have his on show about the paranormal.
In all fairness, he’d set the bar pretty high there.
He glanced at the clock and figured he may as well try to get some sleep in before the showdown. His apartment was farther away from the MobDonald’s than his office, so he stood up, changed the sign to “closed” and shrugged out of his jacket, draping it over a chair so it wouldn’t get too wrinkled.
The couches in his office were far from being the most comfortable, but he’d crashed on them enough to get past it. He set an alarm on his phone and closed his eyes, trying to think of the puppies and not his impending fight.
Okay, so he wasn’t actually going to fight her. The thought didn’t do much to alleviate the guilt he felt as he walked to the MobDonald’s, but it kind of helped. A little bit.
His steps faltered as the parking lot got closer and closer.
If she didn’t let him talk his way out of it, maybe he could just stay on defense until she got tired or something.
It wouldn’t come to that. He walked past the entrance of the MobDonald’s and to the front of the parking lot.
He could talk his way out of anything.
With this confidence, he surveyed his surroundings. Tome was standing under a flickering lamplight, with her back to him. There were only a few cars in the parking lot, and two girls in the Salt Middle School uniforms were leaning against one of them. He recognized the light-haired one from when Tome had confronted him earlier, and he was pretty certain that the one with the long, dark hair was Mob’s crush, Tsubomi.
Before he could wonder what they were doing there, he noticed Tome tilt her head slightly. It seemed like she knew he was there.
He cleared his throat, and stepped forward a little bit. Time to be the adult.
“Okay, listen here. I can’t actually fight you. It wouldn’t be fair–”
He was on the ground before he could actually register what had actually happened. Tome had turned to face him, and he’d thought she was actually listening. Then she ran towards a car, used it as a springboard, and launched herself at him.
And then she’d. Kicked his face?
He groaned and rubbed his jaw, pulling himself up so he was sitting. Tome had her back to him, walking towards the two girls waiting for her. Clearly, she considered the fight to be over, with her as the victor.
She kissed the light haired girl, and then the dark haired one, not bothering to spare him a glance. She slung her arms around their shoulders, pulling them both in for a hug.
This was. Not what he expected, but at least he hadn’t had to actually fight a middle schooler? And the pain in his jaw was pretty bad but seeing what that girl could do, probably not the worst thing that could have happened.
He swallowed his embarrassment and decided to head back to his apartment, telling himself that part of being an adult was handling defeat with grace and dignity and maybe some of that left over instant ramen.
The three girls were hugging each other and laughing, which would have been a sweet image if it hadn’t come at the expense of his jaw.
He stood up and straightened out his tie, ignored that it was wet from the dirty puddle near where he’d fallen, and headed home.
He could accept this defeat.
do you ever just have something sitting in a word document and then one day you're just like. It's time.
“Eh? Yes, Mob?”
“Is everything alright?”
Reigen looked away from the article he was reading about haunted frogs. “Why wouldn’t it be?”
Mob looked at him, and then away. “It’s just, you look like you might have gotten hurt.”
“Ah.” Reigen rubbed his jaw, which had been several colors when he looked at it in the mirror that morning. He’d tried to use concealer, but apparently he hadn’t applied enough. “Yes. That was. Um. A haunted frog.”
“A haunted frog?” Mob repeated, eyes wide with curiosity, and what looked to be guilt.
“Yes.” Reigen confirmed, looking back to the article so he wouldn’t have to look at Mob. “It was a ghost frog. Very powerful. And strong. It got my face with full force the other day but I, of course, being the brilliant psychic I am, was able to exorcise it.”
Mob gave a curt nod, still looking concerned, and Reigen bit back his guilt. He wracked his brain for the short list of things to do to make up for it when he felt bad about lying to Mob, and came up with a classic.
“You know what, why don’t we grab something to eat? It’s always slow this time of day anyways,” he suggested.
“Okay,” Mob agreed, apparently deciding not to point out that it was always slow and anyway, there wasn’t usually a rush hour because there wasn’t usually a time when people just felt especially haunted.
Reigen stretched his arms behind his head. There were times when he was particularly grateful for Mob’s disposition. “You feeling any place in particular?”
Usually when given the option of where to eat, Mob would just shrug and say that he didn’t have a preference. Which is why he was surprised when the kid perked up and said “MobDonald’s!”
“Seriously?” He blurted out. Mob looked taken aback by his tone, so he quickly covered it up. “Yeah, no I haven’t been to MobDonald’s in a while so that sounds good. I was just surprised. Because I haven’t been there in a while. That’s all.”
Mob nodded. “They’re giving first generation Pokémon toys with each kid’s meal and Ritsu used to love collecting them. I think he feels like he’s too old for kid’s meals now, but I can buy one for him so he won’t feel embarrassed.”
It was an unusually long string of words from the kid. And of course it because he was thinking of his brother. Damn.
“Yeah, now that I think of it, I could really go for a burger,” Reigen agreed. It wasn’t like he was going to run into that girl again. And even if he did it was like she would try to start anything without a reason.
They traced the path he had taken less than a day before to the MobDonald’s. Reigen avoided looking at the parking lot as they went in through the main entrance.
It was fairly busy, but the line wasn’t too long. It would give Mob some time to figure out what he wanted. Reigen would probably just go for a burger. Maybe a salad. His confrontation with Mob’s classmate made him painful aware of how out of shape he was.
While he was pondering his meal options he noticed someone approaching Mob. She was a girl around his age, her short hair curled away from her face. He vaguely recognized her, but stayed on guard anyway. He nudged Mob and nodded in her direction. Mob followed his gaze, and smiled when he spotted the girl.
“Oh. Hello Rei!” He said, waving.
“Hi, Shigeo,” the girl – Rei – responded, “Hello Mr. Reigen.” She added, a little bit more respectfully.
“Oh – uh – hello,” Reigen replied, desperately trying to place her.
“My mother wanted me to say thanks to you for rescuing us from Claw,” she said, to his relief.
“Hah, of course! Taking down an organization of psychics is an easy feat for the greatest psychic of the 21st century.” He replied, waving a hand around to emphasize his point.
“Isn’t this MobDonald’s a little bit far from the Awakening Lab?” Mob asked.
“It is.” Rei confirmed. She leaned in, smiling conspiratorially. “I’m here on a date.”
“Oh, really?” Mob said, smiling slightly at her enthusiasm.
“Yes!” She exclaimed. “They’re over there.”
She gestured to a table where a couple of middle school girls were sitting. Tsubomi was there, along with the camera girl and oh hell.
Tome was staring him down over her milkshake. Reigen felt like she was attempting to summon the concept of death itself with the intensity of her glare. He was perspiring. The rest of the MobDonald’s seemed to fade away, leaving just Tome, looking ready to spring from her seat to tear out his throat with her teeth.
It could very well be the last day of his life.
“Oh, yeah?” Reigen said, tearing himself away from the thought of his impending doom.
“Did you want anything?” Mob prompted.
The teenager behind the counter stared at him with deadened eyes.
“Yeah, I’ll just have the classic burger,” Reigen told the teenager, pulling out his wallet. If today was going to be the last day of his life, he was going to enjoy it.
“I’m going to go back with my girlfriends,” Rei said, startling Reigen. He had almost forgotten about her. “See you Shigeo, thanks again Mr. Reigen!”
“Oh, of course,” Reigen replied, as Mob waved goodbye.
Tome still seemed pissed. Maybe Rei would put in a good word for him?
He and Mob got their meals and took a table by the window. Reigen could feel the weight of Tome’s murderous gaze on his back the entire time.
Mob made a small, disappointed noise, and Reigen put his burger down. He held a small Bulbasaur held in his hands, turning the toy over in regret. He met Reigen’s surprised look with a worried one.
“I think Ritsu already has this one,” Mob explained. “I was hoping I could get him a new one.”
“Well,” Reigen stated, swiping at the crumbs around his mouth. “Maybe if you asked them and explained the situation, they’d give you a different one?”
“Maybe.” Mob agreed, looking down. “I don’t want to bother anyone though.”
“I’m sure they won’t mind, Mob,” Reigen stated. “And I mean there’s no more line, they probably don’t have anything better to do.”
Mob looked over at the cashiers, one of who was drumming his fingers against the counter, and his coworker, who was almost definitely texting.
“Okay,” Mob said, nodding with resolve. He stood up, squaring himself for the confrontation, and walked up to the counter. Reigen watched him with a fond smile, and then returned to stuffing his face in an attempt to forget about the vengeful teenager, who’s gaze he could still physically feel on his back.
He was torn away from his enjoyment of the burger when Mob returned and slammed both of his hands down on the table in an uncharacteristically aggressive manner. Reigen looked up to see that he was extremely mistaken about the person at the table and oh no ohhhhh no fucking fucker of fuck –
“Were you talking shit about me to Rei?” Tome snarled, managing to keep her voice low.
“Wha – no!” Reigen protested, dropping his burger. “What – did she tell you I was?”
“So you were!” Tome said, accusation dripping off each of the short words.
“No!” He denied, frantically. “Nonono, Rei and I are actually pretty solid there was a whole thing–”
“What did you tell her?” Tome demanded.
“We barely even talked!” He protested.
“What did you say when you talked?” Tome continued, leaning forward aggressively.
“I didn’t – we just–”
“Ugh,” Tome groaned, disgusted. She sat herself down in Mob’s chair, eyeing Reigen with the same kind of uncomfortable intensity. “Look, I really like Rei, okay? And if you pulled something that messes up my chances with her…”
Reigen let a breath. He felt like he had just narrowly jumped out of the way of a bus.
“I didn’t,” he explained. “I just know her through Mob, that’s all.”
She seemed to accept that, so he, like an idiot, decided to test his limits.
“Besides, even if she does end up leaving for whatever reason, it’s not like you don’t have enough girlfriends already.”
He may have avoided the bus, but he now felt he was in the path of an eighteen-wheeler.
“What, do you just think my girlfriends are interchangeable?” Tome accused, standing back up.
“Nonono, that’s not what I meant–”
Tome looked over her shoulder. “I’ll be waiting. You know where.”
“Wait, you can’t seriously be–”
“They gave me a Charizard!” Mob interjected, walking up to the table. “Ritsu doesn’t have this one yet, I think he’ll – oh, hello Tome.”
“Mob,” she replied, composed. “I have to get back to my girlfriends, but I’ll see you at school.”
“Yeah, I’ll see you,” he responded, a little confused. He took his seat, placing the Charizard next to his milkshake.
“So, a Charizard, huh?” Reigen prompted, trying to keep one eye on Tome’s table.
“Yes! They were actually really nice and understanding about it,” Mob replied, giving a small smile.
“Oh, that’s fantastic! I’m sure Ritsu will love it,” Reigen said, though he was unsure if Mob’s younger brother actually loved anything. The kid seemed to be in a perpetual state of anger.
He picked up his burger again, and noticed that Tome and her group of girlfriends seemed to be leaving.
Mob was finishing off his milkshake, smiling slightly at the small charizard figure, and Reigen sighed in relief.
He could see the parking lot from where he was sitting. Tome was on the sidewalk, and it seemed like she was saying goodbye to her girlfriends. His heart sank as he watched her make her way into the parking lot, and stand in front of the window he was looking out of. She was just staring at him.
Okay, so he had to think fast.
He had three goals –
1. Confront Mob’s belligerent classmate in the parking lot.
2. Not actually fight Mob’s belligerent classmate, but somehow still win the fight.
3. Not let Mob know about any of it.
“Say, Mob,” Reigen began, hoping that Tome would just get bored and leave eventually, “Did I ever tell you about the case I took where this woman thought her cat was possessed, but it was just a jerk?”
“Um, no, I don’t think so,” Mob replied, looking up from where he’d finished his meal.
“Well,” Reigen said, “Let me tell you, at first I think this lady might be on to something, you know? Because this was one messed up cat…”
Time passed. When he got into a story, he went full out, and then smoothly transitioned into something else. He could entertain a client for hours if it was necessary, a skill that was becoming increasingly important. Every time he looked up to check, Tome was still in place, glaring at him. He didn’t know if she even blinked.
He just kept going.
“So then,” Reigen continued, halfway through his root canal story, “The dentist asks me how my day’s been, even though he’s got his hands in my mouth, so I don’t know how he expected me to answer.”
“Shishou, it’s been four and a half hours,” Mob interrupted. “The sun is setting. My brother wants to know where I am. He’s concerned, Shishou.”
Reigen glanced at the window. Tome stood there. Had she even moved? Even just a little bit?
The fact that Mob actually interrupted him was very telling of how much the kid wanted to go home. Not that he was passive in general, but well. Okay yeah, so Mob was kind passive in general.
Time for more quick thinking.
“Mob, you’re getting older, you know that?” He said, digging through his pockets until he found the key to his office. “I think you’re ready to close up by yourself.”
“Okay,” Mob replied, giving Reigen a confused look even as he accepted the keys.
“Go on now,” Reigen continued. “Lock the door to the office and make sure the sign says ‘closed’. You can do this Mob.”
“Thank you?” Mob said, pocketing the key. “I’ll do my best.”
“I know you will. Also if I don’t show up to work tomorrow call the police.”
That startled him. “Shishou, is everything okay?”
“Yeah, everything’s fine, go and make sure there aren’t any last minute customers trying to sneak in or anything and don’t forget your Charizard, you’ll do fine,” Reigen said, ushering Mob out of his seat. “You got this, Mob!”
Mob gave him one more bewildered look before leaving the MobDonald’s, and Reigen breathed a sigh of relief. Even better, when he glanced at the window, Tome was nowhere to be seen.
Realistically, he doubted the girl was gone for good, but if he moved quickly maybe he could get to safety before she showed up again.
He swiftly exited the MobDonald’s, trying to look as casual as possible. He glanced around the parking lot again, relieved that there was no sign of Tome. Satisfied, he turned in the direction of his apartment.
Aaand she was standing right there. Of course.
They stood facing each other for a moment, the sunset casting their long shadows across the parking lot.
He scrambled to think of something to say, but once again she was too fast.
She moved forward with a speed and intensity that was frankly unnecessary and excessive. Her fist landed solidly on his stomach before he could even make a move to defend himself. Coincidentally, a car blaring the One Punch Man theme song drove into the parking lot at that exact moment, swerving past the two brawlers.
He doubled over, coughing. His eyes were watering. He was wheezing.
“W-why?” He coughed, sinking to his knees.
She knelt down so that they were at eye level. “Never. Question. The amount of girlfriends I have. Ever.”
“K,” he gasped.
She stood up, turning on her heel and walking away.
He groaned. He really needed to get into shape.
After a few minutes he drew in a deep breath and rolled his shoulders. Okay. He could accept two defeats. Besides, it wasn’t like he was going to make a habit of fighting Tome in the parking lot of the MobDonalds.
He stood up, straightened out his suit, and headed back to his apartment.
At least he would be able to show up the office tomorrow.
When I wrote the first draft of this I used "elephant" instead of "perspiring" because I was blanking on the word "perspiring" and I read writing advice that if you can't think of a word just put "elephant" there as a place holder, and then fix it later. When I came back to edit it I came to the sentence "He was elephant" and just fucking lost it for like two minutes. I wasn't sure if I should just keep "elephant" there anyway but I figured I may as well make the story have some coherence.
Also, in fantasy McDonald's they give away first gen Pokémon toys.
Reigen struggled to open the door to his office one-handedly, not realizing that it was possible to put his coffee down on the floor for a second just so he could actually use both of his hands to get in. Some of the hot liquid escaped the confines of the Styrofoam cup and onto his sleeve.
He cursed and took the coffee in his right hand so he could shake out his left, before returning to trying to get the door open. He turned the key in the lock, putting some weight on the door. It gave away, sending him stumbling into the office.
Fortunately, nobody else was in to see his clumsiness. He wasn’t sure how any clients would have gotten in, giving that he’d locked the door, but that Suzuki kid had a habit of breaking and entering. He placed the coffee on a small stack of papers that didn’t look too important and shrugged out of his blazer so that he could roll back the coffee stained sleeve.
He glanced at his computer. There may not have been anyone else around but he owed it himself to play it cool and not be completely desperate for validation.
Who was he kidding of course he didn’t.
He smashed some of the keys to get the computer out of sleep mode and quickly logged on, only sitting down as an afterthought. He hadn’t even minimized the webpage he had open before he’d left for the coffee, something he’d done mostly so he wouldn’t be sitting at his computer, refreshing the webpage all morning.
He refreshed the webpage.
The video – “Real Exorcism – Not fake!1!!1” had gotten one comment since he’d left, a whole one more than the zero it had previously had. And it had only been up for eight hours!
Alienfucker420 had written, “Ummmmmm, this is super fake and hetero :/ and fake.”
Regien read the comment. Then he read it again. Then he looked up the five stages of grief.
He minimized the webpage and lay down on the couch for a little bit, staring up at the ceiling and contemplating his life choices.
Then, he got angry.
What did this so called “Alienfucker420” know about ghosts and exorcisms? He’d been in this business for several years!
He did the rational, adult thing and made another account to respond the rude comment.
“I am a professional ghost expert and this video is definitely, absolutely real.” He typed out. “I have many years of experiences of observing and exorcizing ghosts myself and because of my experience I can confirm how real this video is.”
He leaned back in his chair and smirked, confident he’d bested the troll. He took of a sip of the lukewarm coffee, and waited to see if they would respond.
After refreshing the page a few times, he began to think that he’d shut down the conversation.
Just before he closed the page, triumphant in his victory, he refreshed it one more time.
Alienfucker420 had responded.
“lmao still fake and hetero”
Regien read the comment. Then he read it again. Then he looked up the five stages of grief.
Then he closed the window that told him how to find acceptance and returned to the comment. He knew it was a bad idea as he typed it out, but if they were responding so immaturely than damn it, so could he.
“Well, maybe you’re fake and hetero.”
There! Proper grammar and everything.
Unlike the last time, Alienfucker420 responded almost immediately. “2am. MobDonald’s parking lot. You know which one.”
Reigen broke out into a cold sweat.
“The thing is I really like Minori and Emi,” Tome said. She kicked her feet up on the table, careful not to disturb the various snacks laying open and ready for consumption. Inugawa made an impatient noise at the back of his throat. Apparently he hadn’t been expecting the sudden movement, and had nearly gotten nail polish on the side of her thumb. It was glow-in-the-dark, and she had asked him to put little alien decals on them when he was done.
“So why don’t you ask them out?” Kijibayashi asked, not looking up from his video game.
“Because!” Tome exclaimed, “I already have–” she paused for a second, doing a mental tally. “3 girlfriends? That’s actually not that many.”
“Don’t you have a group chat for these things?” Saruta asked, leaning forward for some chips.
“I know, but I don’t know if they’ll all want to date each other,” Tome pointed out. “And I think most of them know Emi, but I met Minori outside of school, so they probably don’t even know her at all.”
“I mean, if you like her, I’m sure your other girlfriends will too,” Inugawa said. He was still intently focused on her nails.
A sad beeping noise signaled that Kijibayashi had lost whichever game he’d been playing. He placed the console on the table with a sigh.
“How did you even meet Minori?” He asked.
Tome placed the back of her not-being-painted hand on her forehead, feigning as much of a swoon as she could without interrupting Inugawa’s work.
“I was in a bakery, getting some coffee before going out to search for UFOs, and I wanted to get a pastry, but I didn’t have enough change, that’s when Minori–” Tome blushed faintly. “She bought it for me.”
“An old lady did that for me once,” Saruta said. “I didn’t ask her out.”
“Well did you walk around the nice parts of Seasoning City and look at the stars and try to find UFOs afterwards?” Tome shot back.
“No,” Saruta admitted, after a small pause. “That is pretty romantic.”
“You know it is,” Tome replied, satisfied.
There was a loud crash outside the room, and everyone stopped, hoping something exciting was happening.
It was followed by another metallic crash, one that seemed closer. The sound was not unlike that a tennis racket being haphazardly smashed against a locker, as though the person carrying the racket were running and not fully paying attention to what they were doing with it.
The door was flung open, Tsubomi standing in the entrance.
“You!” She exclaimed, pointing the tennis racket straight at Tome.
“What’s wrong, babe?” Tome asked, her heart beat increasing for several reasons. Tsubomi looked really cute in her tennis outfit.
“You’re doubting yourself, that’s what’s wrong!” Tsubomi claimed. “I caught Takenaka listening in on stuff during practice and got the answers out of him.”
“Yeah, but did he tell you what I was doubting myself on–”
“You know perfectly well I would love and accept you and all of our girlfriends no matter how many we date,” Tsubomi said.
“Babe,” Tome said, tearing up. She used her free hand to swipe at her tears. “That’s so gay.”
“Just like us,” Tsubomi said, smiling softly. She lowered the tennis racket.
“Just like us,” Tome confirmed. “But – what if no one else agrees? I can’t risk what we have right now.”
“That’s what the group chat is for,” Tsubomi reminded her. “It won’t hurt to ask first.”
“Of course! That’s so smart – give me my hand back, Inugawa, I’m going to put a message in the group chat.” Tome said, reaching into her bag for her phone. Saruta sighed and reached for another bag of chips.
“You feeling better?” Tsubomi asked.
“From getting to see you or from figuring things out?” Tome asked, raising an eyebrow.
It seemed that she’d actually managed to make Tsubomi flustered. “I have to go back to tennis practice, I’ll see you later,” She mumbled, blushing. She turned on her heel and left the room, gracefully, but with undeniable speed.
Tome smiled to herself and leant back in her chair, typing out a few drafts before triumphantly hitting send.
“You’ll have to finish these later, Inugawa,” she said wiggling her fingers. “I have a man to beat up while I wait for some responses.”
A few seconds after her triumphant exit, she popped back in.
“That’s not until like 2am though, you can all come over to my place if you want to hang out. I was just going to watch ET again,” she explained.
The three boys looked at each other, and seemed to come to an agreement.
“I’m going to finish painting your nails,” Inugawa declared. The matter was settled. ET it was.
There was a chill in the air. Reigen looked around the parking lot, then at his watch.
Tome was nowhere to be seen. He was a few minutes early, but still. There were few things that really made him wish he still had a pack of cigarettes on him, but apparently awaiting a fight with a middle schooler was one of them.
He paced the parking lot, keeping an eye out for the girl who could emerge from the darkness at any moment. That one streetlamp was still flickering. It gave a few more sad attempts at functioning before going out.
“Someone should really fix that,” he muttered to himself. He didn’t really know whose job it would be though. Was it something the city was supposed to take of, or was the lamppost technically owned by the MobDonald’s?
He checked his watch. Tome was two minutes late.
The sense of dread he’d been feeling only increased.
Although, maybe he could be optimistic about it. Maybe something had come up. Maybe it turned out she had a test the next day and really had to study or something.
If that were the case, she could have left another hateful comment on his extremely real video. Just to let him know.
“Rude,” he muttered again.
He regarded the lamp again, making his way over to it as well as he could in the darkness. If MobDonald’s did own the lamp, did they have someone employed to take care of that kind of thing? Most of the people working there seemed to be teenagers or young adults, and he didn’t like the idea of one of them trying to change the light by themselves. It was a safety hazard and a lawsuit waiting to happen.
As he was musing, the light bulb apparently decided that it wasn’t done just yet. He threw his arm in front of his face, unprepared for the sudden flood of light as the lamp revived itself.
He blinked hard a few times before lowering his arm. There was a second where he thought he heard something, like clothes rustling, but he looked around the parking lot and didn’t see anyone.
And then he looked up.
Reflecting on the event later, he would go to great lengths to try to find another explanation for what had happened, because – and he’d seen more implausible things, sure, but just – he couldn’t figure out how or more importantly, why.
Tome was standing on top of the lamppost, balanced and stable. She was looking down at him and poised to jump.
His grandmother once told him that when he was going to die, he would be able to feel it in his bones. He still wasn’t completely sure what she meant. His grandmother was also still alive, and he’d found out later she’d been both taking and dealing ketamine when she told him that, but in that instant, he almost thought he could feel death knocking on his bones.
Tome shifted her weight forward.
He was just forming the “o” part of “don’t” when she hit him. The rest of the word dissipated into a sound between a groan and a sob.
The pain hit a second later, as she was standing up and dusting herself off. He just lay there for a second, letting it radiate through him and trying to figure out how many pain killers he could take before starting down the same path as his grandmother.
His entire body and being were bruised. The parts of his life during which he had not been bruised were retroactively bruised. He was pretty sure his soul was bruised.
He attempted to sit up. Technically, he succeeded, but he wasn’t sure at what cost. Something had to have broken. Maybe one of his ribs. Maybe his spirit.
Tome suddenly grabbed one of his arms and hauled him to his feet, but he managed to only cry a little bit.
“Look at this!” She said, beaming. “Look!”
She shoved her phone at his face and he squinted in confusion. It seemed like some social media app was open and people where responding affirmatively to something. He also noted that her phone’s screen was still whole. He’d not only cracked his screen but also broken his entire phone once when he’d dropped it while getting a paper that had fallen under his desk. This was unfair.
“I can’t believe this! I get to add Emi and Minori to the group chat!” She exclaimed.
“Great?” He said, surprised that nothing that would prevent him from speaking had been harmed by the collision. “I think I’m going to head back home and quietly pass away.”
“Yeah, yeah,” she said, waving him away with one hand, her gaze still fixed on her phone. She had glow-in-the-dark nails, which was a completely unfair advantage probably somehow.
He started on his way home, grateful for the cool air. He ready to take a bath in snow.
“See you next time,” Tome muttered, only barely registering his departure.
Reigen wasn’t sure if she meant that as a threat or not.
He continued on his way back to his apartment where he could tastefully and quietly cry it out.
part of my outline:
Inugawa – painting Tome’s nails
Tome – I love minori and emi??? is TOO gay possible???????
Tsubomi – lol nah
Also - you all know that tumblr post right? This one: http://jakehawkfield.tumblr.com/post/156947535368
Tome was having a day. As she was walking home from school, she clocked Reigen trying to cross the MobDonald’s parking lot in peace.
“I don’t fucking think so,” She said to herself.
She punched him in the throat.
yo what up i'm an adult lady and i never learned how to time management
Reigen stood in front of the mirror in his apartment, noting the injuries he’d incurred solely from igniting the wrath of a gay middle schooler multiple times.
A bruise on the left side of his jaw was just fading enough that he didn’t feel that it was necessary for him to use concealer on it anymore. The one on his stomach was smaller but must have gone deeper. It hurt more and was a much darker color, but it was much easier to cover up.
He surprisingly hadn’t sustained any serious injuries from when Tome had -tackled him from an unnecessarily extreme height. He wasn’t sure why not, but he decided not to question it. Finally, the newest bruise, right at the base of his throat. That one might warrant concealer, but his shirt would probably cover it.
Mob was starting to notice things. Reigen would have to be careful not to worry him. He buttoned up his shirt and sighed.
The fighting would have to stop. In part because he was getting injured, and in part because it could really start worrying Mob. Also he was way too broke for things like visits to the hospital or first aid kits or basic self-care.
He adjusted his tie and stared himself down in the mirror.
“I’ll talk to her after school,” he resolved.
Tome stood in front of the mirror in her room, noting the injuries she’d incurred from defending the honor of her fallen club, defending the honor of her ever increasing number of girlfriends, defending her own honor, and that one time she’d punched out that guy because she just kind of felt like it.
She flexed her left hand, noting the faint bruising on her knuckles.
That was the extent of the damage she’d sustained, so she just resolved to use her right hand if she had to punch anyone in the near future.
If the need to defend anything came up in the future, she had to be ready.
She was in the middle of her usual after school make-out session with Ichi when she saw Mob’s boss hanging out by the gates of the school. Like a total creep.
“Everything alright?” Ichi asked, breathlessly.
“I’m not sure,” Tome murmured. “I might need you to document me beating the hell out of that guy again.”
Ichi followed her gaze and narrowed her eyes once she saw Reigen hanging out by the gates.
“Maybe he’s just picking up Mob again?” She suggested, leaning against their make-out tree.
“He has body improvement club today,” Tome stated. “I feel like he should know that? If he’s coming all the way down to the school.”
“But it’s not like he’s here for – you,” Ichi said, trailing off as the man noticed them and gave a little wave.
She slipped her hand into Tome’s and they headed over to the gates. If there was one thing that gave her satisfaction, it was that he seemed to grow more and more uncomfortable as they approached.
“Well?” Tome asked, squeezing Ichi’s hand.
“I thought we could negotiate a truce,” he stated, visibly sweating. “No more fighting, in the MobDonald’s parking lot or otherwise.”
Tome considered his words, and frowned. “What if you make some bitch ass comment again? Am I supposed to just let you off?”
Ichi nodded next to her, proudly.
“I won’t!” He said, holding his hands out. “No more bitch ass comments, I promise.”
Tome turned to Ichi, who shook her head.
“I’m going to need more than that,” she stated, thinking.
Part of her couldn’t deny that she liked the fighting. There was just something fundamentally satisfying about exacting revenge on those who had wronged her. On the other hand, if she agreed to stop fighting him, she would have more time for gay sleepovers and maybe Mob would stop coming to school looking worried. He had walked by as she was showing off her knuckle bruises to an impressed Tsubomi and asked if she was okay. And if his boss wasn’t doing a good job hiding his injuries, and from what Tome saw, he wasn’t, that could be another cause for concern.
The guy gave her an uncertain look.
“I’m thinking!” Tome snapped. It wasn’t like she could trust him not to make bitch ass comments anymore. They were what had gotten her club disbanded in the first place. But on the other hand, she was really gay. Never had she thought the two would conflict with each other. Her eye started twitching.
“Babe?” Ichi asked, “If I may?”
Tome turned to her, “Of course.”
“One more fight,” Ichi proposed. “When Tome wins, she earns the right to respond to your bitch ass comments any way she sees fit.”
“What if I win?” He asked.
Ichi made a noise that sounded like she had begun to laugh, but cut herself off in an attempt at politeness, instead choking back the noise. Tome just fucking burst into laughter.
“Okay, on the small, and I mean the incredibly miniscule–” Ichi began
“Microscopic,” Tome supplied.
“Exactly! On the microscopic chance that you actually win, then no more fighting no matter what bitch ass comments you make,” Ichi declared.
Mob’s boss had completely sweated through his shirt, but inhaled and nodded.
“Tonight?” He asked. Tome wondered if he’d even tried to keep the dread out of his voice.
“Same place, same time,” she confirmed.
“Well,” he said, adjusting his tie. It sounded like he was making a heroic effort to keep his voice steady. “I’ll be there.”
“Ichi?” Tome asked, turning to her girlfriend as the sad sweat man walked away.
“Oh definitely,” she responded. “I’ll bring my camera.”
“It’s a date then,” Tome said, giving her a kiss.
“And I’m not being jumpy, in any way, at all!” Reigen concluded, emphatically.
Mob and the client started back at him.
“Nobody said anything–” the client began.
“It must just be the spirit’s way of affecting the energy in this room,” he continued, waving a hand in front of him as though testing the heat coming off of a fire. He licked his hand, and then nodded, severely. “Definitely the energy. Mob?”
His student looked back at him, visibly concerned. “Okay.”
“You see!” Reigen said with a flourish. “The spirit causing you so much stress at work is so powerful that it can affect any area you inhabit! The only course of action is an immediate exorcism.”
The client nodded, clearly convinced. “How would that work? Is it expensive?”
“Not at all! My student will explain how pricing works, and I’ll prepare for the exorcism,” Reigen declared.
The client had his checkbook out seconds later, and Reigen went to set up the massage table. At least performing an “exorcism” would give him an excuse for appearing so worked up and sweaty. He was usually better about these things.
The massage went smoothly as usual and he was able to regain some confidence, as well as gaining a decent amount of cash. The client left happily, and Mob seemed none the wiser.
“Shishou?” Mob asked, tentatively. “Is everything okay?”
“Of course!” Reigen said, in a way that was very reassuring and not at all hasty. Shit. How could the kid have noticed something was off? Was it his numerous injuries? His admittedly strange behavior? That time yesterday where he’d accidentally hit one of his injuries while he was making some extreme gestures and then just curled up into a ball and cried for eight minutes before getting up and pretending everything was fine?
Whatever the case, Mob did not look convinced by his response.
“Really, Mob everything is fine,” he added, trying to be as convincing as he could. And everything would be fine, after the last fight.
“Okay,” Mob said, relenting. He squared up a little bit, and then continued “But Shishou, if you ever need help, you can tell me.”
“Mob, you don’t need to worry about that,” Reigen said. He was pretty sure Mob could’ve taken on all of Claw, let alone Tome and her legion of girlfriends, but he wasn’t going to put him in that situation. “But if anything like that ever does come up, I’ll let you know, okay?”
“Okay,” Mob agreed, seemingly satisfied with Reigen’s response.
Feeling that his student had been adequately reassured, Reigen opened a new tab to see if anyone had responded to his question on the ethics of fighting pre-teens. Still none. Rude. He noticed his video on real life exorcisms had gotten some more hits, but no new comments.
About half an hour to closing, no other clients had shown up and Reigen was getting antsy.
He cracked his knuckles, typed out a few drafts of his will, and read an article about a mom fox adopting a littler of kittens.
The half hour went quickly, and he let Mob officially close up. A sense of dread had descended upon him, settling on his shoulders, and he felt that it wouldn’t leave until things, one way or another, ended at 2am.
There was a cool breeze whistling through the bare tree branches as Reigen approached the parking lot of the MobDonald’s. It caught some scraps of litter, scattering them across the cement. He looked down briefly, and saw that a crumpled up hamburger wrapper had been blocked by his foot. He lifted the foot, setting it free, and when he looked back up, Tome was there.
She stood under the flickering lamplight, facing him. Her face was grim and set with determination. Towards the entrance of the MobDonald’s was an entourage. He was never great with numbers, but there were at least a dozen human girls and a few aliens who had come out to watch. Reigen knew, in his heart, that Tome was probably dating every member of their audience.
He met her gaze again, and an understanding was reached. She lowered her head, and breathed in. He could see her lips moving, and silently counted down with her.
She ran at him, but she’d clearly been expecting him to go on defense, like he’d done in their previous battles. He’d learned. Oh, how he’d learned.
He ducked out of the way, hitting the ground. Before she could readjust, he was back on his feet, making a dash for the garbage cans left out towards the back of the establishment. He took the lid off of one and spun to face his opponent, protecting his chest just in time to deflect Tome’s flying kick.
Caught off balance, she twisted mid-air, did a backflip and landed on the ground in a crouch. She only remained still for a moment, lunging towards the wall of the MobDonald’s, probably so she could kick off it and use the momentum against him. Interesting move, considering he already knew the trick.
He knelt, using the garbage can cover as a shield, only to realize she hadn’t been targeting him at all, but his only means of defense.
The kick was strong enough to propel the cover from his hands and end crashing to the concrete, skidding a few times before coming to a stop. He only spared it the quickest glance. She was back on the move. He tossed his head back to avoid an elbow strike to the neck.
He stepped back, bringing himself closer back to the cover, but not quickly enough to dodge her roundhouse kick. It struck his face, and he staggered backwards, clutching his jaw.
She took quick advantage of the opening, dropping to the group to sweep her leg under his, sending him sprawling to the ground.
The cover was in reach. He grabbed it, and struck at her knee before she could kick his side. The hit landed. She rolled to the floor with a gasp, and he stayed down just long enough to see wrath burning in her eyes.
He ran for one of the cars that were there, grabbing the lid as he went. He hid; desperately trying to think of some kind of plan – any kind of plan – he heard a thump on the roof of the car. He looked up to see Tome, holding the trashcan above her head. He rolled out of the way as she brought it down, crushing the side of the car with one of the most grating noise he’d ever heard, where his head had been seconds ago.
He staggered back, shaking his head a few times as though he could dispel the memory of the noise, only bringing up the lid as the last moment as he noticing something flying towards him from the corner of his eyes.
A chunk of cement – it impacted the lid, leaving it dented. He saw that Tome had already torn two more pieces from the parking lot, bits of dirt still falling off of them.
He deflected the first clump of cement and dirt with the garbage can lid and back flipped to avoid the second. Still holding the makeshift shield in one hand, he tore a piece from the ground and tossed it in her direction. It missed, instead hitting the car she was still standing by.
She chuckled at his attempt.
“Still holding back, are you?” She said, half taunt, half snarl.
“I don’t actually want to hurt–” he began, his breath catching in his throat as she disappeared beneath the car.
She quickly reappeared, lifting the car above her head with a grunt, and a light went off, to his side. He looked – it must have been camera girl – the car was sailing towards him when he looked back. He somersaulted out of the way just in time. Chunks of gravel came loose as the car impacted the cement, and he quickly caught one, throwing it towards Tome.
It sailed through the air and rolled to a stop, Tome nowhere to be seen.
He lifted the garbage can lid and stepped back, examining his surroundings to his best ability, considering the darkness. His own pulse raced, pounding in his ears. He readjusted his grip on the lid, his grip sweaty. To his side, the wrecked car caught fire, and he quickly turned towards it.
In the same instant, he heard the faintest movement behind him. He turned, and was able to prevent a surprisingly forceful blow from hitting him. The momentum caught him off guard, and he stumbled back before tripping and hitting the ground. His shield was more or less rendered useless, the blow nearly splitting it in half.
Tome stood above him, hands tightened around some kind of metal pipe. She must have salvaged it from the car.
Reigen crawled back, leaving the trash lid. His hand met something papery, crumpled up – the hamburger wrapper – and he grabbed it, surging forward to push it in Tome’s face.
She let out a muffled shriek and clawed at it as he ran for his life. She’d torn it off her face before he could make it halfway across the parking lot, and she was gaining on him, too quickly, the car part held aloft.
He was forced to back into the wall of the MobDonald’s and ducked down just as the pipe hit the concrete where his head had been. He kicked at Tome’s ankle – hard enough that she had to readjust her position, but not enough to make her lose her balance. She grunted in frustration and threw the car part across the lot.
Before he could react, she grabbed the front of his suit jacket, lifted him off the ground, and tossed him into the lamppost.
The impact was hard. He was winded, his whole back was going to be bruised again, and the sound he thought was his own pained groan was actually the low creak of the lamppost as it slowly fell towards the battle ground.
The fighting ceased for a moment as they watched the slow descent of the lamppost, how it seemed strangely weightless moving through the air, lighting the broken cars and missing chunks of cement, the crumpled metal of the trash cans, and for a brief moment, the stunned faces of the crowd, until it impacted hard into the ground. A cloud of dust and debris rose from where it had fallen, illuminated intermittently by the flickering light until they were all left with was the light of the full moon.
Reigen still didn’t know if it was ethical to fight middle schoolers. He didn’t know what he was trying to prove, or who he was trying to prove it to. Looking back, he couldn’t be sure if what happened next was triggered by some life or death response instinct or by the thought of all the time he’d have to spend ironing out the wrinkles on his suit jacket and yeah that was partially on him for wearing it to a fight, knowing full well that it was going to get rumpled but she hadn’t bunched it up with her fists before so it was also kind of on her.
He picked up the fallen lamppost and swung it towards Tome. She jumped, and he hit the MobDonald’s building, embedding the lamppost in its very structure. Tome landed in a crouch on top of the post and began running towards him, arms flung out behind her.
Reigen was suddenly able to both experience and name the Worst Feeling in the World and it was called “disappointing Mob”.
He slowly turned to face his student and the situation.
A car was still on fire, the embers burning down and the smell of smoke and burnt metal hung in the air. None of the cars had escaped damage and the parking lot had been completely destroyed. The MobDonald’s had taken heavy damage.
His body knew the immediate danger had passed; the adrenaline fled from him and his legs threatened to give out. His jaw was radiating pain from where Tome had kicked it earlier, and his head was pounding.
“What are you doing?” Mob asked, his voice a horrified whisper.
“I–” Tome began. Reigen turned to look at her and noted that she looked similarly remorseful. “We – we just.”
“You were fighting,” Mob stated.
Reigen couldn’t save this, but he could try to think of a way to spin it, make it sound less serious.
“Yes,” he said, instead. Tome crossed her arms, looked away, and nodded.
Mob looked away, hurt. Without saying another word, he walked off and neither Reigen nor Tome made an attempt to stop him.
The fight was over.
Sorry about ending on a bit of a down note this chapter; hoping to finish this up by Monday? in the spirit of nanowrimo. It'll be not as much of a bummer.
Not to get sappy but thank you everyone who's commented on this fun little piece throughout the... normal amount of time it's been up and unfinished. You guys are the only reason i've been continuing with this.