Smile

From birth, it sometimes felt, Makubex had dealt with power.

The old pharmacist taught him computers, and from there the entire world opened under his fingertips. By nine, there was not a single machine that he could not coax its secrets from.

In the Mugenjou, age is relative: anyone is old enough to fight and to die, so to be one of Raitei Amano Ginji’s Four Kings at eleven didn’t seem peculiar to him at all.

Sakura, however, and Kadsuki-kun both–they protested his joining the VOLTS entirely. Even Shido, more attuned to animals than humans, frowned when Ginji-san brought him to be introduced. Their eyes, trained by the outside world, only saw his skinny body and thin features; their ears, likewise, only heard the wavering high pitch of his voice.

Ginji-san kept his hand on his shoulder the entire time, and faced down their protests without wavering. Each time he flinched, that hand would squeeze once, reassuring. He let the waves of their arguments wash over and around him, and then fade away before he said, very quietly, that none of them know how to use computers, or even own such things; those are disadvantages they cannot afford to have.

In the end, Raitei’s words won. Even Sakura and Kadsuki-kun didn’t look surprised as they filtered out. Emishi even smiled at him, briefly, before dashing off in Shido’s wake.

“Ginji-san,” he asked, when they were all gone, “why?”

And Ginji-san, Raitei, master and savior of Lower Town, just smiled at him. There was sadness in that expression, older and more worn and closer to the raw person underneath than Makubex had ever seen.

“I was thirteen,” was all he said. He glanced at the door that Teshimine Takeru took, and added, “That’s not such a big gap, in here.”

Makubex watched him walk away after that, and said nothing. Even among the younger inhabitants of Lower Town, there were few that didn’t know the story of Raitei’s awakening. The streets that buckled and tore under the force of his rage remained completely deserted, even years later.

Two years wasn’t such a gap, he thought, trying out the weight of it. And it made perfect sense to him, which he thought it might. Sakura and Kadsuki-kun, anyone else from the outside, might argue that two years meant the difference between an adult and a child.

But we’re children, all of us, the moment we step outside, he thought. Even Sakura, even Kadsuki-kun. Even Ginji-san. And that last thought was what felt alien to him, disjointed and out of place. No one who smiled like that should be considered a child.

And a year later, when Midou Ban walked into the Mugenjou alone and walked out again with Amano Ginji at his heels, he still remembered that smile.

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