Chapter 35:

We’re on a real date.

Light of my darkest eve

My concussion was bad enough that they didn’t let me wander around without supervision for a week, out of fear that I’d hurt myself again. Finally, that week was over.

“Ready for our date, Hanji?”
“I’ve been ready.”

Hanji and I had decided to take the opportunity to go on a real ‘romantic’ date as soon as I was out and about, which meant we’d be going to the one nice restaurant in the village together.

Since this is the first ‘date’ since this… whatever it is between us came about, we actually decided to dress up in appropriate attire for once.

I had thrown on my best clothes which… unfortunately was just a semi-decent polo shirt and an expensive pair of jeans. Yeah, I didn’t bring a lot of clothes to Yamaimura with me. I didn’t really expect to be going on dates so soon.

Hanji, however, looked nothing short of incredible. She was wearing a black and red dress that resembled a long Chinese qipao, and on someone with her figure it was a sight that was almost hard not to stare at.

I try my absolute best not to view people in a perverted light… but dear god… I had no idea someone could look so hot in traditional clothing. Why on Earth she decided to go with such a formal outfit is beyond me, but I certainly will not complain about it.

“Ey. Taro. Eyes are up here, man.”
“Gah- sorry, I just… you look really damn good in that.”
“I had hoped you’d say that.”

The smug look on her face tells me that this is the exact reaction she was hoping for. She really does know how to pull me in, hook, line and sinker.

“Well then, shall we be off?” Hanji asked, as cool and composed as ever
“Indeed we shall.” I said, pretending with all my might that my heart isn’t beating like a drum in a metal concert.

It’s a twenty-ish minute walk from the accommodation building to the restaurant, which gives us a bit of time to just walk and talk before we arrive.

“How’s your head been feeling?”
“Better, not perfect. You’ve got one hell of a kick on you.”
“Hehe, sorry about that.”
“Your attitude tells me you’re more proud of your kick than concerned about my health.”
“Wh- nah, you got it all wrong. I’m just tryna look on the bright side of things, y’know?”
“You’d probably find that side a lot less bright if it was your head throbbing for a week.”

“Alright, alright, I get it. Sorry for kicking you so hard it nearly put you in a coma.”
“That apology isn’t sincere at all is?”

“Not one bit, no.”

We both chuckle at the banter that’s become pretty usual for us over the past week. Like clockwork, Hanji has shown up to the medical facilities every day since I got hurt and demanded I entertain her. I felt like we had already gotten to know each other well before that, but our attitudes in just speaking casually with one another had gotten far more comfortable.

We’d accepted one another for who we really are, and it meant I didn’t have to dance around uncomfortable topics anymore. I’d accepted her as the brash, selfish and slightly vindictive sociopath who only cared about things based on their value to her, and she had accepted me as the traumatised schizophrenic with paranoia that could give a weaker man a heart attack. They’re not nice labels, and they don’t have nice connotations, but they don’t matter to us any more. We’re not normal people, but we don’t have to be normal. We can be comfortable in our abnormalities.

As to what this… thing is between us, it’s hard to say. To call it a romantic relationship may not be entirely apt, as Hanji’s feelings for me aren’t necessarily “romantic,” and we’re far from an orthodox ‘couple,’ but what is certain is that we’re special to each other.

I had tried to talk to Hanji about it, but she was characteristically dismissive.

‘Why bother tryna label shit? We don’t gotta be defined by what society considers a real relationship or whatever. We can just be what we want to be.’

So for now at least, our relationship is undefined, but that’s okay. For all intents and purposes, this is the type of relationship I want with Hanji. One where we can go on dates and flirt and act affectionate without me having to worry about ulterior motives.

Hanji will never be a person who can ‘love’ in the same way I can. I’ll never be an equal in her eyes. But, at the moment, that’s simply not something worth worrying about. In her own selfish way, she loves me, and she cares about me. I could ask for no more than that.

“This is the place. Looks all swanky and shit, right?”
“I can’t say I expected such a small village to have a restaurant of this size. I’m honestly shocked I’d never seen it before.”
“Well it is a little out of the way, but it’s a real nice place. C’mon, we don’t gotta stand here talking all day, we got food to eat and shit.”
“Alright, alright, you don’t have to be so impatient.”
“And you don’t gotta be so slow, so come on already!”

It’s rare to see her so excited about something. She must really like this place a lot. Or maybe… she’s just really excited for our date.

Ten minutes of watching her utterly demolish the biggest cut of steak I’ve seen in my entire life tells me it’s the former. But I can’t exactly blame her. The food here is incredible.

“Told you it’s a good place, didn’t I?”
“I never doubted you. And I was right not to, this is probably the best steak I’ve ever had.”
“You totally owe me one for introducing you to this place, y’know.”
“Oh? And here I thought you picked it as a date spot out of the goodness in your heart?”
“What goodness in my heart do you speak of?”
“You raise a good point.”
“Oi, you’re not supposed to agree with me, prick.”

She leans forward and flicks my forehead, cutting off my quiet chuckle. After a few seconds of staring each other down, we both burst out laughing.

“I’m glad we decided to come here today. I’m really enjoying savouring your company without people from college everywhere to snoop on us.”
“As you should be, I happen to be very good company to keep.”

Her smug grin only lasts a few seconds before she starts speaking again.

“But yeah, I hear you on that. Hanging out at school is fun and all, but there’s always prying eyes. ‘What are schizo boy and psycho girl doing today.’ We’ve become a bit of an attraction.”

Between Hanji’s prior popularity and my… outburst… the closeness between the two of us had become a talking point around the campus. A lot of people voicing their support, a lot trying to give me warnings, and many expressing their displeasure. Some that Hanji had caught the ire of, others that were rabid members of her cult of personality. It had become a little stifling.

“Still, only a few months before exams. After that we’ll be free of this place and preparing for uni.”
“Ugh, don’t remind me. Every uni in Japan has found some reason to reject me at this point. Bet they're all just excuses to keep the psycho girl out of psychology though.”
“That bad, huh?”

I had joined Yamaimura Sixth Form late into the second year, so the end of my short time here was already on the horizon. I had already received offers from a few different universities both here in Japan and abroad, but Hanji had had far less luck.

“Could always apply at my first choice.”
“In the States? You’re nutty. I’d never manage to get in there.”
“Never know unless you try.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. But it ain’t all that easy.”
“Yosuke and Akane would be happy too.”
“Tryna use my friends as bait, are we?”
“Is it working?”
“Yes. I’ll apply to the stupid American uni.”

“Thaaaaaat’s the spirit.”

As all three of us are taking an undergraduate in computer science, Yosuke, Akane and I had all applied to the same few STEM-specialist universities in the US and UK. Of course, I also wanted Hanji to come with if possible. I’m unsure how fragile this new relationship between us is, so I don’t want distance to break us apart.

“Depressing talk of rejection aside, wanna hit the cafe on the way back, grab a slice of cake?” I ask, content with the outcome of the conversation.
“If I ever say no to that question, shoot me”

We call the waiter over and split the bill, before preparing to leave the restaurant. It’s been a really nice evening, so rounding it out with some cake would be the perfect ending.

It’s been so pleasant and peaceful. There’s little that could put a dampener on such a happy day.

“Oh, by the way, I’d meant to ask you a question before, but totally forgot.” Hanji turns to me as we leave the restaurant.
“Hmm? What is it?”
“You said the thing with Akihiko was the second time you lost control that bad. What was the first?” 

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