"Aiko?" Matthew cautiously peeked his head into the room.
"Hey, it's Mr. Average himself. What's up?" Aiko said, her voice gravelly and underused.
"Just wanted to see how you're doing," Matthew mumbled with a shrug. It's my fault you're in here anyways, he thought, guiltily. He stepped into the room and took a seat in the chair next to her bed. "How are you feeling?"
Aiko smirked, and said, "Shitty, mostly. My side aches like somebody shot me. Oh wait... Fucking Allison." Matthew chuckled at this. "Well, on top of that, I've got a bit of a hangover as well, so you can imagine that. But I'd have to say that the worst part is that they won't let me have any alcohol. And I can't really get up and get it, so I'm kinda stuck."
"Yeah," Matthew gave her a pained smile. "It's probably for the best though." Aiko rolled her eyes and pouted, looking away briefly. When they escaped that facility, it was Zack who bailed them out of there. Well, with a little help from Aiko. Allison ended up killing their "boss" in cold blood to keep him from sending anyone else after them and save Aiko's life, and incidentally collected a little bounty that was on his head. It turned out to be just what they needed, since they were beginning to run out of money. As you may have guessed, Allison was alright after about half an hour of sleep, but for a moment, she was on the brink of death. And Aiko ended up getting shot as well. And it's all my fault..."I'm... so sorry. For all of this."
"This?" Aiko gestured to the hospital room around her. "This isn't your fault. I got sloppy. Careless. Got too close to one of my clients, I guess. I got shot because I deserved to get shot. I'll be honest with you though. Being shot sucks..."
"That's not what I mean. I mean..." Matthew's voice broke, and he cleared his throat. "I mean I'm sorry for being so stuck up, for trying to get in your guys' way. I've been nothing but a pain in the ass to you guys ever since Allison dived in and saved my life. It's... it's not that I'm not grateful, I just..." His eyes started to tear up, and he couldn't bring himself to look at Aiko anymore. "I'm so sorry. Why did you have to help me? Why didn't you just leave me? Why... Why do you guys even care about what happens to me?"
"Listen Matthew," Aiko said sternly. "I don't know what Allison saw in you, or why she keeps you alive. But those two idiots? To me, that's my family. And you're a part of that family now too. I don't care how deep the shit is that you've gotten yourself into, I'll dig you out no matter what. Even if you won't be around that much longer... you're one of us now, aren't you?"
Matthew wiped his eyes, and nodded. "Aiko... thanks. You may have a bit of a drinking problem, and you're not exactly the best role model, but... You're one of the best friends I've ever had."
"Well hey," the girl grinned, cocking her head to the side. "I would take a bullet for ya." She outstretched her arms, and Matthew reluctantly welcomed her embrace.
"Am I interrupting something?" a voice at the door asked, and Matthew turned to see Allison standing there, a bouquet of flowers in her arms.
Matthew didn't answer her, but instead stood, and said, "Hey Allison." He walked a little closer to greet her, and said, "Flowers? I took you as more of a 'my bad' kinda person."
"Well, I did shoot her in the side..." Allison said, blushing a bit. "It's the least I could do." She walked to the side of Aiko's bed, and muttered, "Th-These are for you."
"Aww, I knew you cared!" Aiko said, ignoring the flowers and hugging Allison around her neck.
"You're making me regret it," Allison grumbled, refusing to hug her back.
"Jeez, way to be a killjoy. Thanks anyways," she happily accepted the flowers, smelling them. "Ah, I knew there was a catch. They're fake..."
"Fake ones don't die," Allison reasoned, folding her arms.
"Where's Zack?" Aiko asked curiously. "Didn't he come with you?"
"He didn't want to come. Didn't tell me why," Allison looked away, almost guiltily.
Aiko looked a little disappointed at this, and bit her lip. "I see."
"Allison," Matthew called for the girl's attention. She turned, listening expectantly. "Can I talk to you a minute? Outside?" She nodded, and they both stepped out into the hall.
"What is it, Akker?"
"I just... I can't do this anymore. I need you to teach me," Matthew whispered, looking down at the floor.
Allison raised an eyebrow. "Is this because of what happened to Aiko?"
"It's because of what's been happening!" Matthew rose his voice a bit. "I can't sit around idly while you fight my battles for me! Just look what's happened! Aiko's been shot, you were almost killed! Not to mention all the shit you've had to put up with since I've gotten here! I want to help. I don't want to be useless to you anymore."
Allison frowned, and pondered Matthew's request for a moment. "Very well. If that is what you wish to do, then I will teach you."
Matthew glared at the wooden boards in front of him like they were his arch-nemeses. Just imagine your hand going through the boards... He stayed silent with his eyes closed for a few seconds.
I've got it!
With a shout, threw his fist towards the boards and let it collide, with a very loud, resounding crack. "Oooooowww!" he shouted, squeezing his injured hand tightly. The boards seemed to be solid as ever. "Damn iiiiiit! What the hell is wrong with me? Why am I so useless?!" He let out a long, frustrated sigh.
"Relax, I didn't expect you to do it on the first try," Allison waved him away.
"So you didn't make me do that just to laugh at how crappy I am?" Matthew groaned.
"Of course, I dislike your ineptitude as much as you do," Allison told him, with a hint of a smirk.
Matthew sighed in relief, saying, "As much as I want to get angry at that smartass comment of yours... thanks for not being a prick."
"Well, that was just a quick way to see if you could actually throw a punch or not." Allison walked a bit closer, saying, "For your next exercise, I want you to come at me."
"... Come at you?" Matthew repeated, frowning.
"Attack me with all the strength you can muster," Allison said, as blank-faced as ever. I think she's serious... Matthew thought.
"W-What if I hurt you?" This actually broke Allison's poker face, and made her laugh.
"It would take a lot more than you've got to hurt me," Allison taunted him, smiling.
"Oh yeah? We'll just see about that!" Matthew took a swing at her, and then looked around frantically, realizing she wasn't there. "Wha...? Where'd she...? Ah?!"
Allison pushed him on the back of his head with her finger, and he stumbled several times before falling. "You know, I easily could've disposed of you at least three times by now. You're much too slow. This is going to be more work than I realized..." Matthew laughed nervously.
"Listen: first of all, your stance is all wrong. Your feet need to be wider spread, so you can't be knocked over as easily." She spread his legs a little more, pushing him a little to see if he was stable.
"Okay, got it," Matthew said, standing stiffly in that position.
"Well you shouldn't be a statue either—you know you're going to have to move eventually, right?!"
"R-right! It's just... This position is so unnatural to me..." he murmured, twiddling his thumbs.
"You'll get used to it, with time and practice," Allison reassured him with a nod. "Now that you've got your stance, let me teach you how to punch."
"Nice!" Matthew grinned.
"First of all, you punch straight; no swinging. Not yet, anyways. Go ahead and try it."
They practiced like this for hours, Matthew trying his best to get stronger, and Allison trying her best not to give up on the boy. And by the end of it, Matthew stood in front of the boards once again. "Now," Allison said, "punch it."
Matthew grit his teeth, and closed his eyes. Stance... Footwork... Rotation... Thrust... And strike with the middle, ring, and pinky fingers. I've got it for sure this time. He took his stance. And he followed the exact movements that Allison instructed, successfully... missing the target.
"Get going already," Allison griped.
"Alright, alright! Just wait a sec." Matthew took a deep breath, and performed the movement with all the strength and speed he could muster. And right before his eyes, the boards gave, and his hand reached the other side of them. They broke right in half, and Matthew blinked a few times in surprise. "I did it..." He let out a long sigh, flopping to the ground. "I'm exhausted..."
Zack smirked at the boy. "Well, someone's worked up an appetite. You're actually eating like a teenager for once."
"Yeah, Kana and I practiced some martial arts techniques and stuff earlier. I'm starving," Matthew replied, before starting on another helping of food.
"He's coming along nicely. He's a pretty quick learner when he's focused," Allison reported, as she too stuffed her face.
"Mmhm! Now I'm not going to be such a nuisance to you guys!"
"Hold on there padawan, don't get ahead of yourself," Zack warned. "I doubt that Kana has taught you enough that you can go and actually use it in the field. Probably just some of the basics, and there's really not much you can do against the guys with the guns if you haven't even mastered those. You've still got a ways to go."
"I know, but I'll get there. I could at least hold my own in a regular fist-fight, right?" Wait a minute... Matthew thought. Zack has seen Star Wars!
Allison bit her lip. "Doubtful."
"Doubtful?!" Matthew shouted, annoyed. "What do you mean doubtful?!"
"You don't yet have the reaction time, which reminds me: I have to come up with some drills for that. Zack and I didn't have to train our reaction time, because it was innately even faster than it's supposed to be ."
"Really? How fast is that?"
"Well," Allison mused, "the fastest a normal human being can get is 100 milliseconds between the stimulus and the reaction. Mine is about 26 milliseconds, and Zack seems to be able to react instantaneously."
Zack stared blankly at her for a few seconds. "What? Really? Oh, that's not true! How would you measure that anyways? It's not like you can really gauge what we're reacting to; the image we see beforehand or the actual event."
"Untrue. If I do something that's not dangerous like throw a ball your direction, or call your name, your foresight won't trigger, right?"
"Oh, so that's why you were chucking balls at me all the time the other day...
"Yes, and I used a high-speed camera to gauge your reaction time. As I said, it seemed to be instantaneous. If 3000 frames is one second, then it took Zack 0-1 frames to react."
"Hm. That's interesting. I never even knew!" Zack said.
"Wait a minute, where the heck did you get a high-speed camera?" Matthew asked, raising an eyebrow.
Allison looked away sheepishly, and said, "Well, I tried out a lot of different hobbies before finally settling for piano. Truth is, I've always wanted a chance to use that camera for something..."
"Well, I saw you with the camera today, so that means you measured mine too! How fast is mine?" Matthew asked.
"About 351 milliseconds."
"Is that good?"
"That's a bit worse than average, actually."
"Figures..." Matthew put a finger to his chin. "Oh yeah, I totally forgot about parent-teacher conferences."
"W-what now?!" Allison stammered, slamming her hands down on the table. "Parent-teacher what?!"
"Oh, parent-teacher conferences," Matthew replied nonchalantly. "You bring in your guardian or guardians so they can talk about your grades and behavior and stuff. Don't worry, you shouldn't be in a lot of trouble."
"Except for the fact that neither of us have an available guardian!" Allison grumbled.
Matthew paused, frowning. "...Oh crap, that's right! My aunt has no idea where I even am right now! ... Not that she cares or anything, but..."
"Well, you can't tell her. It would put you both at risk," Allison told him, folding her arms. "Furthermore, I have no guardian either. I never set up a separate identity, because I never thought I'd need it..."
Zack gave the two a mischievous grin. "Don't worry, I've got it completely taken care of!"
"Really?!" Matthew said, stunned. "Nice job, man! Glad at least one of us was thinking ahead."
"I would praise your efforts," Allison began, "if not for the suspicious smile you wear. What ridiculous scheme have you concocted this time?"
"So Allison, where are you parents, or legal guardians?" their homeroom teacher asked. He secretly hoped she had a divorced mother.
"Oh, he'll be here any minute." The teacher seemed to grimace at the word "he".
"I see. In the meantime, I'd like to tell you you're doing a great job," her teacher told her, smiling as brightly as he could. "While your English and History grades could be better, you're doing wonderfully in all other subjects. Besides that, your English and History are expected to be lackluster, since you come from Japan, so you don't have to worry about that at all."
"Arigato!" Allison said, giving a fake grin. She couldn't wait for this to be over.
"Allison?" an odd voice came from the door, a voice oozing with a thick French accent. Oh God... Allison thought, slowly turning to look to the source of the voice. She looked on with disgust, before turning back to her teacher and smiling sweetly. I think my brain just threw up.
Leaning against the doorway was Zack, wearing a beaten up top hat, a fake blonde mustache and beard(his black hair clearly stuck out from under the hat), a monocle, and a worn pinstriped suit jacket with a raggedy yellow t-shirt and matching pants. His "disguise" was atrocious.
"Good, you're here. Please sit, Mr...?"
"Ah, just call me Uncle Pistachio," Zack said, adjusting his eyewear as he stepped closer to the two of them. "I'm little Allie's guardian, since her parents are away on business."
"Y-yes. He's... my uncle," Allison said, trying not to start beating the tar out of him. It was all Matthew could do to just keep from laughing.
"Right..." the teacher said, slowly. "Well, Mr. Pistachio... You should be very proud of your niece. She is doing excellent work, and is a pleasure to have in class. All she needs is to work on is her English and her History, since her grades in those subjects are falling a bit behind her others. It's to be expected, since-"
"Allison," Zack looked at her with a fire in his eyes. "What's this about you flunking English and History?"
"I'm... I'm not flunking, I'm just-"
"Excuses, excuses! I want to see an A on that paper by the end of this week!" Zack growled.
Allison did her best to contain her anger, saying through gritted teeth, "That's literally impossible, uncle."
"What is this that I'm hearing, back talk? Just for that, young lady, you're grounded!" Zack said, folding his arms.
"Grounded?! I didn't-!"
"I don't want to hear it. In fact, we're done talking about it, and if you argue with me any more, you're riding home in the trunk," Zack threatened. Allison sighed in frustration, looking down at the floor and biting her lip to keep herself from yelling a string of curses at him.
"Um... If I may..." the teacher interjected, causing Zack to quickly turn his head. "Allison is actually doing quite well, considering she's never taken these subjects anywhere near this level before. I'm rather impressed with her."
"Oui, we're all proud of little Allie!" Zack said, smiling at him. All the teacher could do was blink upon hearing this. "So, I'm in charge of him too. How's he doing?"
"Well, Matthew's doing alright. He got a C average in each of his classes, and sometimes, even a B. His grades are always consistent, I'll give him that."
"So, he's average. About what I expected," Zack said with a nod.
Matthew responded with a "Hey!" and lightly tapped Zack on the arm.
"Don't strike your betters, boy," Zack muttered, at which Matthew laughed.
"My betters? You're not my better!"
"Then you must be my worse," Zack shrugged.
"Alright, I've had enough of your sass, old man!" Matthew shouted, standing up.
"I'll admit, your voice has been grating on my eardrums since I met you!" Zack replied, standing up to face him. "So I think that's about all of that lip I'm gonna have!"
"You know what, I'm glad my voice hurts your ears, otherwise I'd have to slap you every couple of minutes!"
"You wanna take this outside, boy?!"
"Nah, right here's fine!" With that, he tackled Zack to the ground knocking down several chairs along the way. They wrestled each other there on the floor, and the teacher was speechless.
Allison simply shook her head slowly, saying, "I knew this was a bad idea."
Allison walked angrily out of the school, dragging the two boys by their ears. "Ow, quit it!"
"Stop, I'm sorry! That hurts!"
"Are you two trying to blow our cover or something?!" Allison asked them, letting go of their ears when they got to the parking lot. "You're lucky that teacher was stupid enough to fall for your stupid charade, Zack!"
"Sorry..." Zack mumbled, staring at his feet and twiddling his thumbs.
"And Matthew! Why the hell would you knock his hat off like that?! You almost completely ruined the whole thing! Zack was just acting, there was no reason for you to do that!" Matthew frowned, and looked away with a sniffle. "If I hadn't made up that ridiculous story about him, we would've been screwed for sure!"
"I... I didn't think about that..." Matthew said sheepishly, scratching the nape of his neck.
"Well, let's get out of here already," Allison grumbled, a little too pissed off at them to talk any more. Zack started to get into the driver's seat of the car, before Allison threw him out, saying, "I'm driving!"
They were all perfectly silent on the way home. Zack snuck glances at her from the passenger seat, and Matthew shifted around anxiously in the back. Zack opened his mouth to say something, but Allison immediately put her hand in his face to stop him. "No. Just shut your face. I'm this close to driving this car into a river and bailing on you guys, and your mouth is going to do more harm than good."
Zack looked down at the floor, a sullen expression making his face droop. Matthew said quietly, "I think you're gonna make him cry."
"I heard that, normie!" Zack shouted, looking back at him.
"Shh!" Allison said, and they were both quiet.
"Aren't... aren't we going a little over the speed limit?" Zack asked, watching as the speedometer reached and exceeded 70 miles per hour.
"I don't care," Allison growled, making Zack shrink back down into his seat. "I'm not going 30, because I couldn't stand 20 minutes in a car with you two."
"We said we're sorry," Matthew said.
"Just shut up!" Allison shouted. "Dōshite? Naze watashi wa anata no tawagoto ni taeru hitsuyō ga arimasu ka? Anata wa Jigoku ni iku koto ga dekimasu!" Zack bit his lip, and Matthew simply stared at Zack, waiting for a translation. Then Allison added, "Soshite, anata ga soko ni iru ma, akuma no pitchifōku o seikō sa seru!" Zack grimaced, looking back at Matthew and shaking his head. And the car was quiet for the rest of the ride.
Arigato! - Thank you!
Dōshite? Naze watashi wa anata no tawagoto ni taeru hitsuyō ga arimasu ka? Anata wa Jigoku ni iku koto ga dekimasu! - Why? Why should I have to put up with your shit? You can go to Hell!
Soshite, anata ga soko ni iru ma, akuma no pitchifōku o seikō sa seru! - And while you're there, go fuck the devil's pitchfork!