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[X] When did this whole thing start? Sumi said something about basic training but didn't seem to know the specific.
[X] Why me? I mean yeah, I think I'm kind of cute but...
[X] Why didn't you say anything? Well, I might have been a bit confused at first, but I don't know. Maybe it would have worked out?
[X] You're not angry at Yamame, right?
[X] Yuzuki knows something's wrong with how you were acting. Should we tell her the truth or keep this between us?
There's actually a multitude of questions I feel like I want to ask right now. However some of those aren't necessarily the nicest, or at least I don't have good ways to phrase them. This is a situation that needs to be handled somewhat delicately while taking everyone's feelings into account. So exactly the kind of situation that I'm sure I'm going to be awful at. Ugh. Maybe I should just be cautious and only ask a few things. Ringo's mood makes it seem like questioning her too hard might end up overwhelming her. Best to keep it basic for now.
Okay, I know what I want to start off with at least. "Why me?" That might be the biggest question on my mind. "I mean yeah, I know I'm cute at least, but that's about it. There ought to have been someone better at some point."
"No," Ringo is still somewhat slouched in her chair and looks uncomfortable, but her response is still clear enough for me to tell she's not lying. "There's definitely more to it than you being cute. That helps, but..." She tries to think of what to say next, but has to pause for a while. "Ugh. It might be easier if I just tell you the fully story. Fair warning that it's kinda long, and I haven't talked about this stuff before, so it might not be that coherent either."
I'm still working on suppressing the squirm that comes to me when when people call me cute, but I still nod along with Ringo's suggestion. Really, it's weird to suddenly have people treating me like this and giving me compliments and stuff. Back home, nobody ever did that. Although I can understand that there were reasons for that. speaking of back home though. "R-right. You never said anything about it back home so the story might help... When did this whole um... Liking me thing start?" Oh hey, more embarrassment. I knew I wasn't done for the night. "Sumi said something about it being back in basic, but almost seemed to be guessing. She didn't know the specifics."
"Well no, basic isn't completely correct," Ringo reaches up to scratch the back of her neck slightly. I think I can see just a little bit of blush on her face. Wow, that's a new one. "I was definitely aware of you back then, but it wasn't like an immediate thing. You and I just kind of left each other alone and did our own things."
"Right, yeah," Gosh, that's a weird time to think about. It was so long ago that Ringo and I weren't friends, and barely knew each other's names. "Back when I tried to focus on learning and following along with whatever I was told, and you... I don't know, I didn't keep up with you and your friends. I felt like you guys were up to no good most of the time."
"That's actually a bit of an understatement. With me and my social group at the time... Well, if there was a rule in place, chances are good that we were breaking it for some reason or another. Sneaking crap under Command's nose was a business that a lot of people wanted a stake in. Bringing contraband in, swiping confiscated stuff back, even sneaking people out of base after hours. We took care of things like that," Wait, what? Ringo notices me giving her an incredulous look. "And we didn't get caught either. We'd just spread enough rumors over comms or plant enough fake evidence to get people we didn't like in trouble. Naoko was ridiculously good at making sure that the heat never fell back on us. I just followed her around so I'd never get caught."
I remember Naoko somewhat. About as tall as Ringo, but had really long ears. Kind of scrawny, didn't stand out much. Short red hair, I think it was called a pixie cut? It's kind of surprising that Ringo was following her instead of the other way around. From what I remember, Naoko was generally pretty quiet, even if she had a habit of looking inappropriately smug at times. "What does she have to do with it though?"
"I kinda gotta work my way to that," Well, at the very least it seems like Ringo is getting a bit more talkative. She still doesn't look happy though. "So back when we were in basic at the same time, I only paid attention to you in the same way I paid attention to anyone else. When Naoko told me to, I checked into you to see if there was any dirt. Didn't find any, and didn't have any reason to bother too hard. We just ignored you and focused on our own business. That was until the uh," Ringo pauses again. I notice that she's been avoiding looking at me for too long this whole time. In fact even right now she seems to be somewhat preoccupied moving one of the empty food containers around with her foot. "The shooting incident," She finally mumbles out.
Oh. That. Ringo almost never mentions that, although it's always pretty fresh in my mind. I even dreamed about it this morning. Although the dream wasn't exactly one-hundred percent accurate. "Hm," I prompt her to keep going. Even if I don't like remembering that, if it helps with the story, then she should just keep going.
"Of course that got everyone talking about you," Oh boy did it ever... "Given the circumstances, Naoko decided it would be easiest for me to get info and stuff on you again, just in case we needed to use it later. You were the cause of something that was..." Ringo catches herself before continuing. Was what? Dangerous? Deadly? Horrible? I know all of that already, although I guess it would probably hurt to have Ringo say it out loud. "Well, everybody knew about it, and a lot of people were worried about it. The idea was that it'd be easy to pin extreme stuff on you if we needed a distraction. The masses would believe it if we said the right things on comms. That was Naoko's plan anyway," Wait, what? This is all new to me. Does that mean that all the bad rumors that started popping up around me were- "You remember that time I visited you in the hospital?"
Ringo kind of interrupted my train of thought there. "Err... No," At least, I don't think I do. I was in the hospital for a long time, but I don't remember having any visitors at all actually.
Ringo sighs, frowning as she accidentally kicks the container she's been messing around with a little too hard. Right, super strength. It slides all the way under the bed, leaving Ringo without anything to keep her occupied. "That's what I figured. You were pretty messed up at the time. I probably just came too early, when they were still just throwing stuff at you to see if any of it would stick," Urgh. I remember that time, or at least some of it. A lot of it I wasn't exactly that lucid for. Lunarian medicine is kind of terrifying when you have something they don't know exactly how to deal with. "You were... well, it had a big effect on me. Obviously I didn't get any useful info from you, and I didn't want to. The idea of forcing you through more shit after you got out made me sick to my stomach. My stomach," She emphasizes with a wry smirk that doesn't stay on her face for very long. "I couldn't follow the orders from Naoko and the rest of the group, so I quit."
That seems just a little bit sudden. "What, just like that?"
"Nope. You don't get out of that kind of situation as a clean break," Okay, that's more of what I figured. "Luckily, as Naoko so kindly pointed out, I was supposed to be their dumb muscle. Insult or not, it at least meant they couldn't fight me physically," Yeah, given Naoko's size... Well maybe she'd have a chance if Ringo hadn't eaten anything in like a day. "So all they could do was throw all kinds of social threats at me. I knew they were going to make good on them, but whatever. I was done with them. Figured I'd just have to deal with whatever happened afterward."
"And all of that was just because of me?" Ringo cut herself off from her friends and dealt with some kind of unspecified revenge just because they were planning on taking advantage of my problems. That's... Well I appreciate it I guess, but I would have told her not to if I had heard about it. Even back then when I didn't know Ringo personally.
"Not exactly. I had already been getting pretty tired of all the crap that stupid clique was doing. You just happened to be the breaking point for me," Okay, that's a little better. I still feel kind of guilty about it. "Originally it was supposed to be a fun way to rebel against some of Command's dumb rules. We were basically the only source of booze anyone knew of, and good luck sneaking out to see somebody late at night without our connections," I wouldn't have wanted to be involved with that stuff at the time anyway, but I knew plenty of people who did. "Then it gradually started to become something more and more shady. Like some kind of racket where you had to pay in the right favors and know the right people, and even then you might get randomly screwed over if you're not careful..." Ringo gazes off into the distance, not that there's much distance to cover in this small dorm room. She's just remembering things.
"I didn't know about any of this," I admit quietly. It's really weird to think that so much was happening behind the scenes while I was just busy trying to get through the basic training, or trying to get better in the hospital.
"You actually missed a lot of it," Ringo refocuses and stops thinking about whatever memories she was going through. "Most of the fallout was over by the time you got out of the hospital. By that time I was forcefully isolated from pretty much everyone that the clique still had influence over, and most everyone else knew that helping me out would have messy consequences. I was well out of the open conflict phase and into the cold war between me and way too many shady rabbits. It was... It was a pretty rough time," With how Ringo's talking, it really sounds like this is a subject I would normally want to avoid bringing up. Like I wouldn't make her talk about it if she wasn't offering up the information herself.
"But couldn't you have gone to Command?"
"Mutually assured destruction," Ringo answers with a shrug. I'm not really following, and she quickly notices as much. "None of us wanted to get discharged or whatever else Command might have done if everything we were up to got found out. I had just as much dirt on all of them as they had on me. Things evened out enough that bringing Command in would have screwed everyone over, so nobody did."
"I see..." On the one hand, I can't believe that Command wouldn't notice so many infractions in the rules, on the other hand, they might not have cared nearly as much as they pretended to. As long as nobody said anything, would they bother to worry about rabbits bickering? A long time ago I would have said yes, but now I'm not that sure. If they really cared enough to watch over what all of us rabbits were doing all that closely, they surely would have caught Ringo's friends at some point, right?
"Of course, I didn't know if that would hold forever, so I decided I needed to stay in Command's good graces too. It couldn't hurt, and plus," Ringo grimaces slightly. "The lack of any kind social life meant I didn't have much else to do."
That actually does connect some dots in my mind. Before the shooting incident, I know that Ringo wasn't really anything special in terms of performance in lessons or drills or pretty much anything. That obviously had to have changed at some point, and I didn't really know why before now. "You got promoted before I had even gotten out of the hospital," I recall.
"That was definitely the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. Command isn't well known for handing out chances to advance or even praise very easily," Yeah, I can definitely relate to that. I know the reason though. Lunarians don't really seem to care about effort put in, only success gotten out. "Having the powers I do helped a lot. They're definitely the only way I managed to make things work," Ringo heaves a heavy sigh and holds her face in her hands, rubbing slightly at her temples. "It's shitty, isn't it? I basically cheated through anything physical just to keep myself safe. I crapped all over the hard work that other people were doing just because I happened to get lucky with random magic or whatever."
"That's not really your fault," I argue weakly.
"I didn't have to eat dango, but I still chose to," Ringo answers back quickly. Well, that might be true, but is it really so terrible to use what you're given? I would if my powers weren't dangerous and if I knew how to control them properly. "It already made me feel bad when I finished up and ended up getting promoted, but I felt even worse when you finally got out of the hospital," Ringo finally looks at me, although it's somewhat tentative. She doesn't keep eye contact for very long. "You're fresh off of medical leave. Nobody you know is still in basic with you. None of them are gonna talk to you. Most of the people around you are spreading rumors about random crap that isn't your fault. What do you do? You go back to training and finish everything up. By yourself. Honestly."
"Well," I didn't think it was that big of a deal. What else was I going to do at the time? I mean, I guess I could have quit, but there aren't a lot of career paths for rabbits who don't make it through some amount of military training. "I was just trying to do what I could."
"And I admired you for it," Ringo answers. I'm squirming again, I can feel it. Sheesh... "At some point after I had gotten you assigned to my unit, I guess that changed to some other kinds of feelings. I don't know, it was a very gradual thing. I didn't really even notice it until I got Sumi assigned to us and she ended up calling me out on liking you."
Hold on, now that she mentions it, the coincidence does seem a little strange. "W-wait, I thought that I was assigned to you randomly?"
"No, I burned good will and favors pretty hard to have a say over who I got command of," Ringo explains before grimacing again. "It's probably the only good thing I learned how to do from Naoko. I figured if I was already a fraud of a leader to begin with, I might as well use the position to help out people who were stuck in bad or worse circumstances than I had cheated myself out of. All four of you fit the bill perfectly. You were all isolated from the rest of the rabbits for one reason or another. I wanted all of us to be able to help each other. That part at least worked out."
"Hm," I kinda have to think things over a little bit here. So it turns out that Ringo was watching me for a while before we had even really met, or at least properly talked to each other. That's a bit more than I was expecting. I don't think it's bad or anything it's just... So many things were going on while I wasn't even remotely aware of them. When they're all suddenly thrown in my face at once, I'm having trouble figuring out how to react. Maybe if it had been more gradual instead, I might have been better equipped to deal with it. "But why didn't you say anything about how you felt? I might have been a bit confused at first, sure, but I don't know. Maybe it would have worked out?"
"You just said it right there. Maybe," Ringo points out, sounding a little bit discouraged. "You obviously weren't into the whole dating thing, and I wasn't going to force the issue with all the other baggage we'd have to get through," She holds up her hand, listing off points on her fingers. "You might not like me. There's the threat of giving Naoko another point of blackmail if she hears about it. Relationships are still against Command's rules, so the endgame of all relationships for rabbits becomes 'get caught or keep it a secret forever'. The group dynamic of our unit..." She pauses for a moment, then drops her hands. "Well okay, that one probably isn't a big deal," She admits. "I did intend to eventually say something, but not until I was sure all the issues were cleared up."
"Sumi was pretty sure you were going to say something tonight," It might have been wishful thinking on her part though. She seemed to support the whole idea.
"Maybe," I'm kind of feeling like that's more of a 'no' in disguise though. "Being so disconnected from the Moon does make a lot of problems go away, so... Maybe," Ringo sighs again and looks past me, toward the wall to Sumi's Room. "Doesn't really matter now, does it? Sumi already said something for me."
"I guess so..."
The room falls into silence at my vague answer. It's long enough that I feel a little bit uncomfortable, but I'm not that sure what to say now. Ringo mostly covered the big questions that I had, and I don't want to push too hard after she just had to spill so much about herself and the past to me.
"So, what do you think?" Ringo finally asks after another few moments of awkward silence.
"About..." Ringo waves one hand weakly in a circle between the two of us. "You know, us?"
"Oh," R-right. Right. Rather than just asking questions, I have to respond to Ringo's feelings, right? How do I do that when I don't know what to say or how I feel? "I think that I'm not really sure," Is what finally comes out of my mouth. It's really not satisfying to admit, so I keep going. "This is really sudden for me. I have no idea what I'm doing! Up until recently, like you said, I didn't even know that I wanted to try doing romance stuff."
"But that changed for the spider girl," Ringo mutters. Err, that's not a nice facial expression there. She kind of grimaced for a moment before getting her face back to normal. Is that what it looks like when other people catch my expressions being too obvious.
"Y-yeah," I answer, feeling slightly nervous for another reason now. I don't really want to, because I don't think I'll like the answer, but I feel like I need to ask about that reaction. "Um, you're not angry at Yamame, are you?"
"No," Ringo answers, a little to quickly to feel genuine. She seems to notice me not buying it. "Okay, I feel a little weird about it. She has nothing to do with us, and we don't know anything about her other than being an underground youkai. I'm not saying that she's dangerous, but that doesn't mean that things will work out well even if she isn't."
"I know, but she's... I don't know, she was friendly and fun. I liked spending time with her tonight and..." Oh, Ringo's face is getting sour again. She's even biting slightly at her thumb! Maybe not the best subject to bring up. "N-never mind."
Ringo's face turns back to normal quickly. "Sorry..."
Urgh, this is too hard! "Can I think about things a little more?" I finally decide to ask. "I'm not turning you down or anything, I really do want to give you a chance, but I'm still mixed up. It's been a really long day and so much has happened and-"
Ringo interrupts me with a surprisingly gentle voice considering she was just recently so visibly upset. "It'd be pretty hypocritical of me to force you to immediately make a decision when I had years of prep time, wouldn't it? If you want to take some time, that's fine with me," She answers. Phew. That's a bit of a relief. "Just watch out or Sumi will get on your case," She jokes, actually smiling at me a little.
"Right," I give as normal of a smile back as I can, despite still feeling conflicted about the whole thing. "Speaking of the others though; Yuzuki knows that something is up with you and me because of how we both acted tonight. Should we tell her the truth or keep this between us?"
"Yyeaaaah. I kinda should have thought about that one earlier," Ringo admits. "Well, I can act like usual if you can. We don't have to say anything to anyone else if you don't want to. It'd probably make it easier for you to make up your mind that way."
"Okay," At least Ringo's still being her normal easy going self now. She might be faking it a little, but um... Actually, wait a second. "Sumi might have been listening through the wall though."
"That's fine. If she is, I'm forcing her to carry the portal all the way back tomorrow. If she isn't, well I'll force her to anyway," Ringo smiles smugly at the wall to Sumi's room, waits for a few seconds, then looks back to me. "Hm, no outrage, guess she's not listening."
Yeah, Sumi probably wouldn't have kept quiet at that. A pretty nice test, though it looks like it came back negative. "Are you really making her carry things tomorrow?"
"Maybe," Ringo shrugs casually, standing up from her chair and stretching a little bit. "I'll figure that out tomorrow though. For now, we should get some sleep. What are you thinking about rooming arrangements?"
Right. That is a problem. Chiyo's already asleep in one room, and Yuzuki is probably going to join her. That means we have four more beds and three rabbits to fill them. That would be easy if it weren't for me and my issues.
[ ] Sleep next to Ringo, just like this morning. It was nice, but a little dangerous.
[ ] Sleep in the same room as Ringo, but a different bed. Just for safety.
[ ] Ask Ringo to sleep in a room with Sumi. Better safe than sorry.
[ ] Take a pill
[ ] Don't take a pill
- [ ] Bullets
- [ ] Suppress
- [ ] Void
- [ ] What???
[ ] Say something else to Ringo (Write-in just in case you're not satisfied with Seiran leaving things as they are for tonight)