Reunion 8: The Emperor and The Chariot

In this chapter… flashback time! Kanji likes tomboys, he still gets jittery talking to a girl, and he freaks out over dolls… and ankles.

NOTE: From now on, I will be writing from the perspective of Kanji, with indication when a scene will flip to Naoto or Teddie's perspective. I say this because looking back, the writing was all over the place. And holy crap I actually updated this.

July, 2012

Streets of Inaba, 12:11PM

"Man, I could sure go for some Chinese," muttered Kanji, half-heartedly. He paced down the small path, the heels of his shoes clicking against the stone, hands in his pockets. Although his posture was rather imbalanced and sloppy, his muscular arms, tall frame and menacing expression meant nobody was going to mess with him, so he just went on his way to his favorite restaurant, the meat bowl paradise that was the Aiya. There was nothing else to do, and he was hungry.

Maybe he'd try that challenge they were holding, he'd get a free meal… even if his Ma would kill him for gorging on Aiya again.

He entered Aiya, and felt a warm, soothing feeling inside of himself, smelling the fresh aroma of meat and stews cooking in the restaurant. He walked over to the stool, ready to sit down and order a bowl, when he noticed a familiar brown bobcut popping out of a wobbling bowl, while the owner of that bobcut rammed its face into the bowl, munching and trying to eat everything it could.

Suddenly, as if it could feel his presence, the carnivore stopped, and paused. Kanji blinked, and sat down on the stool when hungry brown eyes, the same shade as the cropped hair, pulled themselves away from the bowl and bored right into him with a ferocious glare… which then eased up into a friendly crinkle. The girl then cracked a wide smile, and chewed the meat in her mouth before swallowing and waving over to him.


"Yo, Chie-senpai," he answered back, landing flatly on the stool. He quickly made his order, and parted his chopsticks, actually quite excited to eat. He clicked his chopsticks, and shoved them into the bowl, quickly scooping up meat. He began to eat, well, shove it into his mouth, in a way slightly less animalistic than Chie's, which wasn't saying much.

Chie kept ramming her face into the bowl, still gorging herself, while Kanji continued to shovel it down. Their munches and crunches spoke through the restaurant, and soon, they finished their meals, Chie patting her stomach and Kanji wiping the left over sauce from his mouth with the back of his hand.

There was something that he needed to do tomorrow, but he couldn't remember what exactly. Didn't he have to… damn it, he couldn't remember for the life of him.

All of a sudden, Chie stretched her arms out, her fingers locked together as she stretched, "M'waaaaaah~ man, it's good to get some meat down! It's protein, after all! That's what Master Akihiko said, anyways!"

Kanji turned a little red when he thought of Akihiko Sanada, that boxer who felt the need to go everywhere shirtless, and rant on about manliness… and asking guys to take their clothes off.

Trying to push thoughts of sexy shirtless men out of his mind, he looked over at Chie, and noticed her eyebrows lowered, her eyes downcast, "Too bad I've got nothing to do tomorrow. Man, I hate having days off! So boring! If only someone would help me train!"

Then, as he listened to Chie complain, Kanji remembered. His mother had wanted him to clean out the back room, as they had been stocking up on textiles, and with the raise in demand, this meant more materials. Unfortunately, more materials meant more boxes, and both mother and son knew that he couldn't do it alone. He glanced over at Chie, who was licking the sauce off her bowl.

No wonder the P-1 Grand Prix called her the 'Carnivore Who Discarded Womanhood'.

He hesitated for a bit, trying to think of what to say, then spoke up, "Yo, Chie-senpai… I gotta ask you a favor."

She stopped licking the bowl for a few seconds, staring up at him with wide eyes, "Huh?" she mumbled into the bowl, "What'cha want?"

His eyes drew down to the bench, as he considered how to ask her. Chie wasn't nearly as short-tempered as rumors said she was, in fact, she was actually pretty friendly if you didn't try to push her buttons every single time you talked to her. He thought of Yosuke, and he frowned. Screw that guy.

"We gotta bunch of boxes that need packin'. They're kinda heavy, so what I'm sayin' is, I need some help if we wanna get them out in time. If yer free tomorrow, maybe you could…" she tilted her head, and Kanji gulped, he usually didn't ask girls for favors, especially not the likes of Chie. They all knew about his sewing habits, but only Rise seemed to think they were weird. And that was because he didn't hear Chie or Yukiko's opinion.

Chie stared at him for a bit, then she nodded. Kanji's expression must have changed because she then let her face split into a wide smile.

"Sure! I consider it training!" her eyes glowed with an encouraging brightness, and her slightly muscular, if still feminine frame seemed to tighten up, "Give me a time, and I'm ready to go!"

Kanji nodded, and finished the rest of his meal, smiling slightly at the girl's readiness, "Cool, remember to come around 10: we'll pack the boxes in, then shove 'em into the back, clean the alley, and call it a day, k?"

She was the first one to nod her head, grinning all the while.

The next day, Tatsumi Textiles, 10:30AM

"Good morning~!" cried the familiar, spunky voice of one Chie Satonaka, alerting Kanji and Mrs. Tatsumi, both whom were working hard on textiles. Mrs. Tatsumi was working the front shop, while Kanji was sat in the back, working on another work of his. Chie's loud shout had caused Kanji to almost prick his finger with his sewing needle, causing him to slam the needle down on the floor in a fit of anger.


He bolted off his chair, and stomped over to the front, his angry expression falling into a wide eyed look of bewilderment when he spotted Chie, smiling and enthusiastic as ever. He scratched the back of his head, "Oh, yeah, Chie-senpai. Er, hi."

Mrs. Tatsumi turned her head over to her son, that small smile still on her face. "Kanji-chan, didn't you tell me that you invited Satonaka-chan over to help move the boxes?"

Chie nodded firmly, and Kanji continued to scratch his bleached hair, "Um, yeah…" he then pointed over to the back, and prompted Chie to follow him, "they're in the back. We gotta take them outside, then put them in the garbage, to make space, ya know."

"Sure thing! My master Akihiko told me that I must find even the smallest household chores to turn into a workout!" an enthusiastic Chie skipped behind Kanji with energetic bounds, not reducing her speed for an instance. Kanji wondered how she even found the energy to do the stuff she did, he sure couldn't see it in nobody else.

Once they got to the back, Chie immediately got to work, kicking boxes out into the back, then picking them up and dropping them in. She flexed those muscular legs of hers as she did so, and he watched those sculpted calves flex and turn with each kick, and he couldn't help but admire the tone, the shape and the strength inside that body of hers.

'Wait, what, snap outta it!' Kanji told himself. He followed as well, pushing the boxes along with her. All the while, he couldn't help but admire her legs, but he snapped his attention away, not one to really care about the female anatomy unless it was for his textiles.

Soon, they had cleared up the boxes, and even got to work on the alleyway. They tested their strength and hoisted boxes out, not stopping until they carried out all the boxes. The result was that now, Kanji had a lot more space to put supplies in… although then it'd be filled up with MORE supplies come winter.

He glanced over at the last box inside the room, which contained leftover dolls. He had planned to scrap them, but seeing what he had made, he decided to keep it. It was a reminder of his talents, something to keep him going when his insecurities flared up.

Kanji moved to put the box away, when from the corner of his peripheral vision, he saw a shadow. He blanched in fear, especially since that shadow wasn't his mother. It was slightly curvy and leggy, the shape of a young female. Kanji bit his lip, what would that girl say? Would she laugh at him, mock him, tease him for being 'weird'?

While he was strong now, and wouldn't let other people's thoughts deter his path through life, being mocked for his dolls, especially by the opposite gender, still hurt really bad….

Gathering all the courage he had, he looked back to see… Chie, looking at his plush dolls with an interested expression printed across her face. Kanji froze on the spot, and as much as he wanted to just push her away so she didn't see his dolls, he couldn't help but watch, his heart in his mouth, as she bent down and picked up one of the dolls.

It was a stitched plush of a Jack Frost, and to Frost's right was Black Frost. The dolls themselves were of professional quality, a showcase to Kanji's talent as a craftsman.

Chie picked up both dolls, and gazed at them with her brown eyes, a deductive expression on her face. Kanji's eyes grew wider, just waiting for her to call him weird, or to give him a strange look. Instead, she just stared blankly, rotating the dolls in her hand, examining the detail.

"Kanji-kun… did you make these dolls?" she asked.

He wasn't going to lie. He gulped, and nodded his head, "Y-Yeah, I… made those dolls," his tone began to get more aggressive, "what, do ya think they're weird or sumthin'?"

She turned her gaze to him, and then, her face broke into a wide, happy grin, "No, not at all! They're really cute! I really like them!" the tomboy said.

Kanji's reaction was instantaneous. "WHAT DA HELL!? They're just dolls! Stop praisin' 'em!" his face flared red, his throat hitched, and he almost fell to the floor, his heart feeling as if it took a huge hit. The monumental shock erupted through his entire body, and he simply glared holes into Chie, his face burning red.

"Why shouldn't I?" asked a quizzical Chie, "I really do think they're cute! It's not like it's creepy or anything!"

Kanji was stunned, not sure what to think of Chie's genuine enthusiasm for his dolls. This wasn't helped when Chie put the Jack Frost in front of his face, stll grinning.

"Can I buy one?" asked Chie, who proceeded to put her hand into her pant pocket, "I can do it right now if you want! How much is it for a doll?"

Kanji put his finger to his lip, his eyes looking down at his red nose, "Er… I'm gonna say… hmm, 500 yen good?"

"500?! Kanji-kun, can't you cut it down just a little?" Chie said, and even jut her lower lip out, giving a sympathetic look. Kanji had to squeeze his eyes shut to not adore the puppy dog look she was currently giving him, and put his arms over his head, blinding himself.

"Damnit! How about… 450?" yelled Kanji, why was it that those girls around him were so cute? Seriously, Yosuke had joked Yu had some serious swag to get the likes of Yukiko and Rise into the team, and for once, Kanji was willing to agree with him.

Usually he would just say no to the girl, but Chie at least knew his weaknesses, and that was sheer cuteness to the max.

To his astonishment however, even he managed to pull his head away from the absolutely adorable sight that was doe-eyed Chie, time to put his foot on the ground, "Sorry, Chie-senpai. Gotta make some money and keep it all afloat, ya know."

Chie sighed, but then, her eyes flickered, "Hey, I know something we can do as well…."

Kanji didn't like the sound of that. He frowned at the girl, making sure to ignore her cute pout, "Uh huh. And what's that?"

He should have known what he was getting into when he saw Chie's entire face split into a wide grin. "We're gonna train at the Samegawa! How 'bout that?"

Samegawa River, 2:00PM

"So, you ready?"

Kanji nodded, and looked over at Chie, who was stretching her body out to the left, flexing her hips. He tried to look away, but couldn't help a peek at her stretching her athletic frame, as she rolled her hips to the right. He looked away, trying to keep himself from being too enthralled, and gaining Chie's attention while like that… she was quick to bounce on you if she got the idea you were a pervert.

He shook his head, and decided to try and focus on the opponent in front of him, "Yup." Kanji raised his open palm, and then slammed his fist into it, "Let's fight like real men, Chie-senpai!"

"Alright, ya ready? Watch your feet!" Chie unleashed a kick the second her battle cry left her lips. Kanji raised a muscular arm to block it, and felt the impact against his forearm. She obviously didn't put even half her full force into that blow. He swatted the leg away, and reached forward towards Chie, but she gracefully bounced away, her feet juggling across the ground.

When she got a few feet away, she got back into a battle stance, and rubbed her nose, "Your reflexes are slow, Kanji-kun!"

He scowled slightly, that said scowl then lifted into a smirk, "Ya better not lose focus, Chie-senpai!"

She grinned back, then fired out another kick. Kanji ducked down, dodging the kick, then charged at Chie, but she slid away and bounced back again. She laughed as she threw another kick forward, and when Kanji blocked it, he roared and jumped into the air, sailing forward towards Chie.

But she sidestepped away, and kept smiling at Kanji. "Kanji-kun, you gotta work on your speed! You can't just throw your weight around!"

It was by that point that Kanji realized Chie was leading him onto a wild goose chase, and he growled. This was starting to annoy him… so when the next kick from the spunky dragon came, Kanji quickly grabbed hold of it, grinning as he locked his arm around it. "Alright! Time for some payback!"

Chie yelped and hopped around on one foot, but unfortunately the momentum meant she was unable to keep her balance. She fell backwards, and Kanji was pulled in, tumbling down onto his side, but landing awkwardly on Chie's foot. Chie yelped in pain, and Kanji jumped up in surprise, before he stumbled forward and fell onto the girl's… chest.

It took a few moments for Kanji's head to catch up, when he felt something soft against his pectorals. It was covered by the material of the green tanktop, and they weren't exactly big, but they were round, and squishy. Very squishy. Kanji gulped, and the craftsman in him had to admire the texture… then it dawned on him.

He raised his head up, and saw he was right above Chie. Kanji's jaw dropped, and his face immediately turned to a tomato red. "C-C-Chie-senpai-!"

The warmth of their bodies pressing against each other caused pink to flow across each other's faces. Kanji in particular was going insane mentally: was this how a girl's body felt like? Even though it was sweaty and had a bit of tone, it was still soft and malleable, and those two orbs, squeezing against his manly chest….

Were these what they called, breasts? Oh god. He could actually feel breasts. Chie's breasts. Kanji pulled himself off Chie, and tried to say something, anything to make it better, but the words got stuck in his throat.

"A-ahhh! Chie-senpai, it ain't what ya think! It ain't like I…" Kanji's thoughts were whirling around at a million miles per hour, and he knew he wasn't the sharpest knife in the draw. His face completely red at the fresh sensation of Chie's body against his, he stammered, unable to say anything.

Chie stood up, her face bright pink, "Y-Y-You…" she gasped, cheeks blazing red, "r-r-really are… a…."

Kanji's eyes widened at her raising her leg up, she was aiming a kick right at his face! But before he could even try to dodge, she shot her foot forward into his face.


The shoeprint from Chie's sneaker stayed on his face for the reminder of that day.

Kanji sat there, still dazed and incoherent, snapped out of his kick-imposed meditations when he heard Chie shriek out rather horribly. Although it took him some effort, with a stinging face and a body locked by embarrassment from the warmth of feeling the fairer sex, the young man got up, and looked around for her, only to spot brown bobbed hair at the bottom corner of his eye.

He looked down, going wide-eyed at what he was seeing.

Chie was down on the ground, flat on her bottom and clutching her ankle, a pained expression that seemed foreign to her face. Kanji bent down onto his knees, letting down a gulp as he looked at her injured ankle. She definitely wasn't faking this, and it showed, "Chie-senpai, you right?"

She whimpered slightly, and looked up at Kanji, eyebrows lifted in hurt before she narrowed them, "Does it look like I'm alright?" she muttered, before she closed her eyes and gasped out. Her fingers tightened around her ankle, which was rapidly swelling, starting to redden up.

While he refused to admit it, and even though his Persona was no healer, Kanji had actually read some first aid in case he had messed up during sewing, or should any physical wounds need patching up. He grunted, and looked at Chie's foot, "How bad's the pain?" Kanji said, looking back directly at Chie's eyes.

She turned her head away, trying not to look at him, perhaps too proud to admit her injury, "It's only a little strain! I can walk! Don't you worry!" she tried to smile, at least her mouth did, but her eyes spoke a cry of pain. She was hurt, Kanji knew it, but he needed to get her sneaker off before he could see the extent of the damage.

But Kanji stood over her, trying to use his figure to intimidate her… though that was useless, given how brave and spunky the girl was, "Chie-senpai, I think this ain't just a lil' sprain!"

Chie put her good foot down on the ground, and tried to get up again. "Kanji-kun, I'm not hurt, just-" but once she put weight on her bad foot, she collapsed in pain, falling right onto the floor. She then looked at her injured foot with a grave expression, "Damn! Not now… I can't be hurt like this! Not with Master coming to Inaba again!"

At first, Kanji stared at the injured Chie, but he wasn't a man of thoughts, he was a man of action. So he knelt down, and with narrowed eyes, stared at the injured foot. He then grabbed hold of the sneaker, and Chie winced, "I'm gonna hafta take the shoe off, to take pressure off your foot."

The girl raised an eyebrow, unable to hide her frustration, "So what? I have to walk barefoot or something?"

"And there's no way yer walkin'! So…." And then, his face turned bright red at the idea of carrying Chie's soft body back into the town, "I gotta… er… carry you."

"WHAT?!" Chie's loud voice boomed through the riverbank, "Carry me?!" and to his annoyance, the brunette leapt to her feet, and tried to put all her weight on her good foot, hobbling over towards the staircase. She winced in pain throughout the whole thing, and Kanji scowled at her stubbornness and followed her. That made it easier to catch her when she inevitably shouted out in pain and collapsed forward.

Now it was much easier to stem the blush, although the fact that he was outright touching a girl's body, albeit to help her, made him stutter… girls were just so different!

"D-Damnit, Chie-senpai! Just… sit down or somethin', I really gotta have a look at your foot!"

"And I keep tellin' you that I can walk it off!" she stubbornly told him. However, Kanji moved over to the bench, holding Chie, and although she struggled a little, she didn't try to force him off. She probably realized the façade wasn't worth it.

Kanji sat down on the bench, making sure to put Chie down so she could place her feet on his lap. He couldn't help but admire those toned legs, imagining the strength inside them to kill Shadows with one kick… it was enough for a man like him to be envious. Kanji knew he was more of a fisticuffs guy himself, but even then, nothing beat a good old steel chair or table.

Chie reluctantly put her foot up, squealing a little when Kanji grabbed it gently. He laced off the sneaker's shoelaces, and gently popped it off, his careful craftsman hands making sure he didn't move around her injured foot. Then, he took the sock off… and his eyes widened.

Chie's bare foot was swelling quite badly, the ankle glowing a deep red, and looking just a tad shiny, as if the skin was being pulled too tightly over the ligament. "Shit man! And you tried to walk on this thing?!"

Kanji wished he hadn't been looking at Chie's eyes at that point, as the most adorable puppy dog expression washed over her eyes, not helping the deep frown on her face, "It's bad, isn't it?" she asked him, "I was trying to be tough… so I can protect others. If I can't protect myself, then…."

The blonde boy couldn't help but admire Chie's spunkiness and desire to be strong, to protect. Hell, she even inspired him in some ways… that was why he still fought with Take-Mikazuchi, or as he was known after Golden Week, Rokuten Maoh.

"Can you move yer toes?" asked Kanji. Chie wiggled the toes on her swelling foot, curling them and spreading them out. Good, then it wasn't the foot itself. Kanji then placed his hands on the heel, then felt around her ankle… which lead to a loud shout from Chie.

"Argh! Kanji-kun!" she yelled, "That's where it hurts…."

Kanji eased his grip and scowled harder than usual, which of course, didn't come off very well even on his own rough face. Seriously, this day went from good, to bad, "A twisted ankle, damn Chie-senpai. We hafta go get this healed up quick."

"Well… maybe Yukiko could help! She's a healer, isn't she? She could cast a Dia on me, and I'll be better!" Chie grinned, obviously trying to keep spirits up. Just like usual. "But then we'd have to get outta here…."

Of course, the only way he could get Chie out quick enough, was to carry her on his back, and walk to the Amagi Inn. And he knew Chie would never let that down… but neither would he, too. Then again, he couldn't have her treading her bad bare foot on the ground: there could very well be glass, and a cut foot was the last thing she needed. And imagining Chie's soft body against his back… the softness of a woman….

Kanji's entire face flushed with red, and he bit his lower lip. He got off his bottom and looked down at Chie, holding an arm for her to support herself, "D-Damnit C-Chie-senpai. Just… do what ya want! Hmm!"

She grabbed hold of his arm, and tried to put herself onto her good foot. Kanji hooked two fingers on the discarded sneaker and sock, and he helped lift her over, letting her hop on her good foot. It looked… awkward, and really, he knew it was easier for him to carry her.

But carrying a girl was the last thing he'd thought he'd do.

"Ah… hopping to the Amagi Inn, kinda funny, huh? Haha…" Chie sheepishly laughed, her confidence fading from the fourth word on. As Kanji walked to the staircase, Chie looked up to the top of the hill, and frowned.

"I can do this!" she yelled, and she tried to hop up the staircase. But, before her foot even landed on the third step, she tripped over and fell over Kanji, forcing him to cushion her fall. He gently let her down on the floor, making sure only her good foot was on the ground.

"We gotta find another path," said a serious-faced Kanji. Chie looked at him bashfully, stepped to the side….

If Kanji were any less manlier, he would have squealed when he felt a soft sensation on his back. Chie swung her legs forward, and he grabbed them as they swung in the corner of his sights, hooking them… and feeling the toned calves beneath his touch. Very attractive if you asked him… but no, he had more important things to do now.

Didn't help that his face was blazing red now.

But as he began to step forward, to climb the staircase with Chie on his back, someone called out.

"Chie? Is that you?" cried a familiar voice. Chie gasped, and immediately tried to struggle off Kanji.

"Hey, wait!"

"Master!" the girl squealed, ecstatic, yet panicking.

When Kanji turned around towards the bushes, his eyes widened at the figure standing before them. Then his line of sight went to the man's sculpted abdominals, his built arms, and his toned hips visible from his low-cut long pants. His face sparked with confidence and determination, his lips pulled into a tight smirk. While he lacked the Evoker and machete from Golden Week, he still had his cape on….

And he still didn't have a shirt on.

There he was, the pervert with a Greek god's body, one of the Shadow Operatives, Akihiko Sanada.

"You've been injured?" Akihiko asked, then he smirked, "Well, looks like someone hasn't had their adequate protein intake."

"I'm so sorry, Master! I'm still trying to move through the pain!" In a burst of foolishness, Chie tried to press herself off Kanji's back and stand up on her feet, but barely held back an agonized yell as weight went onto her bad foot.

Kanji scooped her onto his back in no time at all, this time able to conceal embarrassment. Akihiko stared stoically at first, then his eyes widened and he gave a flustered stare.

"I have to say, your determination to fight through the pain is incredibly manly…" then he sighed to himself, as if he were remembering better days, "but sometimes, you just have to stay down and rest. Take it from me, Chie. It's not worth aggravating your injury now to keep the fight up… rest for tomorrow."

Kanji felt Chie slump onto his back, her head resting on his broad shoulder. He couldn't even conceal his red face even a little bit. He then heard her whisper gently, although it was directed to Akihiko.

"I get it… I just didn't want to disappoint you…."

The smile that fell on Akihiko's face could have brightened anyone's day. And it certainly brightened up Kanji's, goddamn, he was so hot, from those confident, alluring eyes to those lips, to that delicious, ripped body… and the blonde teen felt his cheeks heat up.

"Heh! Who said you disappointed me? That you're willing to fight through the pain speaks a lot to me, it tells me that I'm proud to be your master! … well, even though I'm still not completely comfortable with it."

Kanji's entire back lit up with warmth, and he looked over to see Chie's face completely red, yet she looked like her entire world was brightened up. The sheer happiness was incredible.

"T-Thank you… Master…."

The next day, Satonaka household, 10:30AM

After Kanji and Akihiko had taken Chie back to town, Yukiko had cast a Diaraham on Chie's ankle using Amaterasu. Chie had reluctantly gone to bed to rest off her injury, although Akihiko was telling her to keep her spirit strong and to be a true man, despite Chie having her womanhood.

So the next day, Kanji had gone up to the Satonaka's residence, with a Jack Frost doll in hand to give to her (for free). He had begun the walk on his own, but as he got closer to the house, he saw the familiar half-naked shape of one 'Master' Akihiko leaning against the wall. When he spotted Kanji, he moved to approach him, the older man's gray eyes stared down at Kanji like a fighter would match his foe… but Akihiko had a smile on his face.

"Huh, you really are a man, Kanji. Staying behind to help a friend is what makes true men. Really impressed me to see you help out Chie like that."

The tall boy couldn't help but exchange the same smile on the young man. "Thanks man." It felt good to be praised by a man like Akihiko, and looking into his gray eyes, Kanji could see that manly fire brim inside them, the same fire he saw back in Golden Week. Real men sharing a real stare.

And Akihiko was still hot.

However, those same alluring gray eyes soon found themselves drifting over to Kanji's hand. Kanji felt something catch in his throat when he realized what Akihiko was looking at… damn it, was he going to laugh at him for his dolls? He wouldn't care in the long run, but it would hurt if a man he respected like Akihiko would mock him for his sewing habits.

"Heh, you made that? That's very good!" chortled Akihiko. Kanji veered his head up, and his eyes practically burst out of their sockets in pure shock.

"WHAT DA HELL?! You too?!" yelled Kanji at the top of his lungs, glad there was no one around. It didn't take two looks that Akihiko had a happy grin on his face.

"You're a man of many talents, Kanji Tatsumi. I saw your family's textile shop too… they're all very well made. I'm not one for dolls and cutesy stuff, but I know a few people who'd like your stuff."

And although he'd try to keep his stern face on, Kanji couldn't help but let a wide grin fall on his face. When Chie had praised his dolls yesterday, it was different, because a girl had thought they were cute instead. But, it made him happy, because it only helped make him feel more proud of his creations, although the initial shock deterred it.

And now Akihiko was praising them? He was definitely doing the right thing then.

Kanji snapped out of his meditation when Akihiko turned his finely toned back to him, and began to walk into the Satonaka residence, "Come on, let's go see Chie."

Soon enough, Akihiko came out the door, and looked over his broad shoulder to Kanji, but not even that could hide the faint pink stemming on Akihiko's cheeks. "She's all yours," he told Kanji.

Kanji nodded, and gripped the Jack Frost doll, before he took a deep breath. While accidents happened, he wasn't exactly happy when Chie got hurt, all because she wanted to train. Hopefully she wasn't bitter about it.

He arrived, and Chie looked up, and grinned. "Kanji-kun!"

"Hey, Chie-senpai. You doing good?" asked the tall boy. However, the look on Chie's face was different. She looked rather bashful, giddy even, and when she aimed her eyes at him, Kanji saw a cheerful gleam in those chestnut eyes… she definitely had something planned.

"Um, Kanji-kun… when I got hurt, and you…" she gulped, probably a little ashamed, "helped me out with my hurt foot, I was really grateful! Really! So, I was just thinking…" she puffed her cheeks, she looked up at the ceiling as if she were thinking of what to say, "Er…."

Kanji swore he saw a tinge of pink on her cheeks as she popped the question, that combined with her puffed out cheeks made it adorable. He had to contain his desire to hug her tightly, but luckily that desire would be long gone after she told him what she wanted to do. She looked right back at him and smiled, her face streaked with pink.

"Kanji-kun, let's go camping with Master Akihiko!"

His jaw dropped right there, and his hand almost crushed the Jack Frost doll in his hand.

That night

While Kanji was washing the dishes, Mrs. Tatsumi looked up from the orders she was reading, and smiled at her son, though with his back turned to her, he couldn't see it. Kanji's hand gripped onto one of the plates, as he scrubbed it with a sponge to rid it of all the grim and make it sparkling white, using it as a distraction to keep his mind off Chie's proposal.

His face went red every time his mind went back to her question, just what did she think she was doing, asking someone like him to go out camping with her? A boy who couldn't talk to a girl without making a total stammering idiot out of himself? And seriously, what the hell was that about, inviting that perverted psycho Sanada?

Mrs. Tatsumi was no mind reader, but from his body language, she could tell something was troubling her son. She smiled warmly at him, and spoke up.

"Kanji-chan, is there something bothering you? Be honest with me, please."

Kanji bit his lip, hard.

"C-Chie-senpai invited me out… to the woods ta go campin'."

Silence echoed through the gently lit room, the sound of crickets chirping and the squeaking of cleaning dishes the only things to break through. Then, Mrs. Tatsumi spoke again.

"Kanji-chan… I think, you should go camping with Satonaka-chan and Sanada-kun."

Kanji spat out his drink, luckily he was doing the dishes, so he just spat it out into the sink. He then turned over with a flustered, angry expression on his face, "W-WHAT?!"

Mrs. Tatsumi nodded with an honest smile on her face, "Of course. It'll be as she said: fresh air, plenty of exercise, and I'm sure you'll both able to take care of each other. You did such a wonderful thing yesterday, helping poor Satonaka-chan when she hurt her foot."

His nostrils flared from remembering her soft body against his back, and his eyebrows rose, leaving his eyes wide open, "Wha-wha," he spluttered, trying to form words from his mouth, failing as his face went red, "we, we ain't like that, ya old hag! Shut up!"

"And what have I said about that language, young man!?"

"Me an' Chie-senpai ain't datin'! Just like that!" he proclaimed, then stopped. Speaking of dates, there was Naoto, who still hadn't returned any of his calls. Kanji never really told this to anyone (like hell he was going to get mocked by Hanamura for the next year again), but he was hoping, what with that P-1 Grand Prix they had just been involved in, that she would contact him again and at least talk to him.

However, she had been in business with that Kirijo woman, and his little country brain knew not to mess with someone like Kirijo… or that damn robot too.

Mrs. Tatsumi simply smiled, and walked away, "I see. Well, I hope you get a good night's sleep, you'd want to rise early for your trip with Satonaka-chan and Sanada-kun!"

After his mother left, he sighed to himself. Kanji resumed scrubbing the dishes, and also began to dry them, to keep his mind off things. As he put the plates back into the cupboard, Kanji looked outside the window, looking as the sun set over the town of Inaba. He sighed.

"I'm fucked."

How bad does Kanji have it? Does Chie now like manly men and not utter losers? Will Kanji's love for Naoto be any force in the plot? Tune in next time on Reunion Week!

Also reviews and crits are greatly appreciated, yadda yadda.