Chapter 4: ‘The date’
Anteiku was far from empty at this point in the morning. Yet, despite the relatively crowded atmosphere, it still retained the feeling of comfort and homeliness that it was so renowned for, with all of its patrons, human or ghoul, silently enjoying the coffee. As it was Yoshimura’s shift, this was an unspoken truth of the mornings. Due to his coffee being so highly demanded, it seemed that he single-handedly funded all of Anteiku’s costs.
“Kaneki-sann!” Rize called out as she saw him approach her table. Attempting to force the blush that adorned his face down, he approached, and mustering his courage, uttered, “Hello Rize-san, you do look quite attractive today”. If anything the surprise on her face was evident, followed by a slight red hue mirroring his own. Sitting down, Kaneki noticed his orange-haired companion attempting to inconspicuously show a most exaggerated thumbs up.
“Your friend is quite nice, Kaneki-san,” Rize said jokingly, her fun loving nature seeping past her human façade. Too busy assuring Hide he had gotten his hint, he didn’t notice Rize’s remarks. Mentally huffing at him for being ignored, she tried once more. “So, shall we get going, Kaneki-san?”
“Ah yes!” he exclaimed. “But wouldn’t you want a cup of coffee? It is the manager making it right now.”
While Rize did mentally berate herself for making a foul of herself in front of her ‘date’, her unflappable composure remained steadfast. “Touka-chan,” Kaneki waved toward the purple haired beauty.
Her expression was one of annoyance, one that she immediately terminated as she slipped into her waitress’ persona. “What can I get you two?” she said, mentally scoffing at Rize’s peaceful expression. Though Touka realised that she was being hypocritical, at least she doesn’t lure unsuspecting men for food. A certain amount of pride for her abilities to fight as a ghoul welled within the waitress.
After taking the orders from the young man she immediately set out to find the manager, slightly angry at her warning for Kaneki not reaching its mark.
Rize however, was surprised by something else entirely. He had managed to remember what she drank each time at the café, granted she had never changed her drink. It was surprising, and most definitely unexpected; a sort of pleasant snippet of information a real date could probably put to use. Yet, she merely attempted to smile pleasantly, thanking him for the latte.
Rize’s first person perspective.
‘There is no harm in enjoying myself for now”. That particular thought kept floating at the front of my inner musings, while my mental debate on how much I enjoy Kaneki’s company was still raging quite fiercely within my head.
“Kaneki-san, what hobbies besides reading do you have?” I attempted to inquire casually, with a curiously soft tongue. This question wouldn’t work if he felt trapped. While I can guess that he is unlikely to have anything as a hobby due to his lack of balance and simplicity of his personality, I still feel that if he reveals anything that I may have missed before, feigning ignorance would not lose any traction.
“I uhm, enjoy, well… It does depend on the situation.” He nervously responded, almost as if tilted by the question. Another failure of mine, I seem to be losing my touch.
Deciding to go for a more playful route, I ask, “Am I your first date?” The tone was almost patronising. Yet, it held warmth and understanding, the loneliness being a shared property of ours.
Perhaps he was tired of being on the defensive, or the heat of the room was getting to him, as he stammered
That was perhaps a final blow, too much for his patient logical mind to endure. It was adorable and also quite appetising. Deciding not to push the issue, I merely waved and giggled, “Its ok Kaneki-san, you are just too cute when you are like this,” While it may not have been the most eloquent response, it seemed the most appropriate based on how flustered he was.
Instead I decided to ask about the reason for his love for Takatsuki Sen. As a ghoul, it is the creeping accuracy of the description of our hunger, the ever-lasting danger and lack of security that draws the few of us that do read toward this author. Yet as humans, besides the horror, what would they find lurking in those dark tales?
“The idea of corruption, of growth through negativity is a nice breath of fresh air among various authors,” was his response. Yet despite it, I never understood his reasoning, for the madness that was a part of those novels bred nothing but disdain for the weak characters unable to withstand its corrupting recesses. Perhaps his viewpoint is this somber due to his family background, I mused to no one in particular.
“Kaneki-san, you never seemed to talk about your family, why is that?” I asked with a particular effervescent tone of voice, almost trying to permeate the question with a carefree attitude. The sudden change of his demeanour, though surprising, was all kind of expected. “Well, my mother had died when I was quite young,” he whispered. “So did my father, though I did get some time together with mother when she was alive,” he followed. I felt no sympathy, truly, for I was an orphan myself, and it really didn’t matter. For appearances sake, I merely nodded sympathetically and took a grasp of his hand from across the table.
His solemn expression was replaced by a blush as he was unsure of how to react to my simplistic gesture of sympathy. “Rize-chan, thank you,” was all the he uttered. The awkwardness that settled was irritating, as despite his cute unabashed innocence (I openly shudder at how excited I am for my meal), there is a lack of direction for our conversations. Deciding to take a risk, one that may open up an entertaining direction to our little date, I gambled. “Kaneki-san, I know this may be a random question, but what do you think of ghouls?”
It only took him a second to reply, meaning he either had already considered his stance on the issue or he does not see it as complex enough to require much more thought…
“Ghouls and humans, we all struggle, yet do we have a way to change what we are?” I beckoned him to continue, as I often asked this question to my meals, gauging their reply and mentally basing their torture and my meal on how shallow they are. He continued, “yet if I were to guess, a ghoul has no choice in the matter. If I were to suddenly become a ghoul, I think I would be disgusted at the beginning.” Although annoyance hit me at the use of the word ‘disgusted’, I agreed that if I became a human I would probably feel a same sort of disgust and disdain.
“I never seemed to think of it that way, as ghouls and humans are born into their own groups an-” I spoke.
“They never realise the struggles and issues of their counterpart,” he finished, after which a sheepish grin and apologies for interrupting me started pouring out from his mouth.
Once again my control over my irritation was flawless, although I do wish that I could have a similar level of control over my hunger.
Rize-chan and I talked for quite some time about a large variety of topics ranging from books to friendship and ghouls. My excitability surprised her and myself included. Despite my repeated attempts at containing myself and controlling my frantic pace of discussion, I failed miserably. Still, Rize-chan took it in stride, mirroring all of my actions with replies that made her seem masterful at the art of interaction.
One measly little detail was quite odd, however – her question about ghouls. It was not unlikely, with the Binge Eater and his attacks on the 20th ward, but sudden indeed. I shrugged it off as we continued to explore and discuss the various aspects of our lives that were interesting and note worthy. She did, however, seem to space out on multiple occasions, before replying quickly and on point, almost as if planning her responses.
But then again, this is a date. What good would it be if both of us made fools of ourselves, not just me?
It was getting quite late by the time we had decided to get back, so I decided to offer to walk her home. To my surprise, she pecked me on the cheek and beat me to the chase. “Thank you so much for the date, Kaneki-san,” followed by “would it be alright if you walked me home? It is getting quite late after all.”
While her proximity to me was not surprising, as she had been physically close to me all day, increasingly so, the nature of her closeness seemed a bit strange. It was almost as if she was breathless, frantic and uncontrolled.
“Rize-chan! Rize-chan! Are you alright?” before the words managed to leave my mouth, I flew.
I uttered a scream, one of pain and shock, as I hit something incredibly hard. Frantically, I looked for the source of the impact, my ears ringing from the shattering of stone against my side. What I did manage to catch was:
“Tag, you’re it!” If I were any less damaged, I would have been shocked by the glee it was spoken with. I attempted to struggle and run; I was attacked by a ghoul! As I tilted my head upward, I realised the source of the attack.
The struggle from me was over. I merely looked at her with eyes that held sympathy. My understanding for her question finally culminated in this moment where both our masks were shed.
“You don’t mind if I stir up your insides, do you?” she said with the same sadistic glee. Yet it held less of the madness compared to her initial outburst. Her breathing was laboured; the smirk she wore was still a constant on her ordinarily lovely face. Of course I know I should be angry, or at least upset for being tricked…
Yet I just couldn’t bring myself to a state of anger or disappointment for that matter. Instead I resigned myself. Not before the realisation that she was just toying with me, the question on ghouls used to gauge my reaction and play into her sadism, but the fact that my life was never something worth treasuring; I have only one friend, no ‘family’ besides my mother, and a relative in the form of my aunt.
Despite my belief that ghouls tend to finish their meals quickly, Rize-san merely continued throwing my unresponsive body like a doll into the various crèches of the construction site. Only because of my resignation did I notice the steel beams hanging above us, and faintly I caught a shadow working at them with the same appendages that Rize-san possesses. The pain was nigh unbearable, yet adrenaline had started to dull the initial shock, gifting me a throbbing presence instead of a stabbing pain…
Unbelievable, simply unbelievable! An entire day’s work, wasted! I understand that he may resign to his death, yet the peaceful serenity with which he had done so is simply daunting. The urge to prove him wrong, to show him that pain cannot always be endured was burning on the forefront of my mind. My rinkaku kagune kept tearing into his thighs and shoulders, trying to cause just enough pain to make him cry out and prove him wrong, yet enough to keep him alive.
Frantically, I kept taunting him with all manners of insults. “Kaneki-san, this pain, why is it you who is bearing it?” The same blank stare was his reply. Soon enough I merely tore into his shoulder, his flesh being as appetising as any other, yet between bites I kept hearing him say goodbye. Not that it mattered; he had already spoiled this meal for me. No amount of delectable flesh would change that.
In my hunger I failed to notice his other muttering of “look-out, Rize-san”, it was barely above a whisper. What was even more surprising was his attempt at pushing me, one that was so frantic and forced that a smirk adorned my face at the thought of my taunts and intimidation working.
Yet as I landed on the dirt, steel beams adorned the ground where I had previously been feasting…