Chapter 5: Awkwardness…
Perhaps it was his bloodied state, the limp state of his arm as it lost its function and hung along the side of his equally bruised ribs. Maybe it was her disbelief at the situation that he had managed to cause even when he was this damaged. Both of them sat there in the same positions, speechless. It was not a matter of anger or sadness, despite their pain and mutual anguish. It was quite difficult to distinguish who was truly the victim in this instance, for on both their faces sat an expression of mutual surprise.
The red sclera and Kaneki’s wounds all pointed toward a ghoul attack, with the perpetrator literally a few steel bars away. As a result of this an awkward silence ensued, only truly broken by the laboured breaths of the human male and his extensive injuries.
“Rize-san,” he laboured between wheezes and coughs, probably pointing toward his ribcage being pushed in onto his lungs.
“I know. You may not see me- as anything… besides a meal,” he attempted to continue. The female ghoul in question perked up and seemed to prepare to lunge and finish Kaneki off with her appendages, almost out of spite. Yet she never made the move. It was almost unbelievable. Somewhere along the way his words and actions had swayed her judgement, unbelievably so. Her hunger was also a moot point, seemingly pounded out of existence by the danger she so narrowly escaped.
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“But I won’t give you up to the CCG,” he finally finished and slumped backwards, the feeling of weight being lifted from his very being. He felt sorry for himself and her; this situation was wrong. That’s why here he was trying to rectify it. She merely scoffed at his peace offering, seeing it as a half measure of sorts. One that doesn’t seem to imply or bring about anything positive; a lie, similar to the many others she is familiar with in her life.
Her tone ice-cold, “Kaneki-san, what makes you think I won’t kill you right now?”
His reply came with a goofy smirk, one that would have been quite relevant, if not for his lack of flesh on the shoulder. “I don’t, but I don’t mind either way, Rize-san… I already resigned myself previously. I merely wish to give us a chance to talk some more. I really did enjoy our date!” he coughed.
Once again her disbelief was an odd combination of misguided doubt and worry, a simple lack of understanding for this human’s intentions and lastly, her own self-doubt over the possibility of finding a ‘different’ human. One that she could see as something beyond a meal.
Thus began the inner conflict over the decision of his fate, one that ironically he may not survive due to his injuries. On one hand, the CCG was a major concern if they were to find out who she was. Her identity, if compromised, would lead to a difficult life full of starvation and annoyances. The enjoyment she would get from tormenting her pray would be naught, as all her hunts would have to be quick and efficient. Not an option.
The overpowering curiosity was also at the forefront of her thoughts. Why would a human she had taunted, one who had come to terms with his faith, have saved her?
“I’ll help you call the ambulance, anything beyond that is none of my concern,” she stated matter-of-factly.
The cold tone she had adopted had almost demoralised the young teen, making him even more acutely aware of her previous façade. This realisation was not mind shattering, especially amongst the pain he was tolerating; however it was unpleasant and certainly uninvited.
“I know this may sound stupid, but Rize-san, would you stay in touch?” he said, trying his best to sound light-hearted and carefree. His attempt did not go on to succeed; instead he sounded desperate and lost.
“Goodbye Kaneki-san,” was all the answer that he had gotten.
After all she didn’t expect him to reach out, nor did she want to respond back, though a shred of doubt did worm its way into her heart. Perhaps she should have said something…
One month later…
It had been difficult no doubt, getting around with a cast and a corset. The aches and the pain are tolerable but irritating, throbbing non-stop; an under addressed issue, one which I attempted to put behind me without much thought or consideration. The cause of this issue is a different matter – she still frequents Anteiku, she stills sits in the same spot. She still reads, so those are the traits about her which she doesn’t fake. One peculiar thing is that she no longer brings her dates to Anteiku, if she has any at all. I’d like to feel flattered because of it.
Hide is also a constant within my life after my ‘accident’, more so than usual. The night I arrived in the hospital, somehow he had managed to deduce my non-replies to his texts and calls were a sign I was injured. Soon after my arrival at the hospital in the 20th ward, he too had found his way to my room. Afterwards I was treated to an extensive series of questions that I had been too weak to answer at that moment in time. The doctor had said I lost about 2 litres of blood and that I could have died from exsanguination, as customary of such injuries that were caused by ghouls.
Another surprise visitor was quite unexpected – a member of the CCG. Well, two of them, actually. Apparently it was customary for all the ghoul attack survivors to receive a detailed questioning session from the CCG about their endeavour. The more astute looking tall man, Amon Kotarou, was the one who did all of the talking. His partner in the mean time only listened and asked questions where clarification was necessary. I did keep my promise to Rize-san, of course, what kind of person would I be if I didn’t? This was an issue of her livelihood; while all I had to do was lie to people I had never seen before. An easy choice, even if I’m not the most natural liar.
The CCG always stressed the identity of the ghoul attacking. “What was this ghoul’s gender?” Amon asked.
“A male?” he reiterated to confirm.
“What age did they seem?” he continued.
“What were the appendages they assaulted you with like?”
“Were they wearing a mask?”
For every detail my imagination seemed to get wilder and wilder so. Almost as if my near death experience removing being a factor in removing my inhibitions, I pulled out all the knowledge I had on ghouls. “Ukaku, is that the kagune which resembles a pair of wings?” I feigned ignorance.
“Oh so you do have some knowledge pertaining to ghouls, Kaneki-kun,” interrupted the older man. His informality and patronising tone serving to disarm and calm the one being questioned, a way of tricking out information; a practiced technique, no doubt.
“I merely enjoyed reading the book on ghouls. Though I can’t remember the title of it for some reason, it helped sate my curiosity, especially with the growing prominence of the binge eater.” While a lot of the information I had given to them about Rize-san was erroneous, this was the truth. I had spent sometime learning information about ghouls even if some of the details are quite vague in my memory.
Eventually we had reached a profile of the ghoul who supposedly attacked me, a male who wore a semi orbed mask with a kagune resembling wings. As far from Rize-san as I could possibly take it…
Whilst recollecting I never seemed to notice Rize-san’s sudden proximity to me, with her waving her hand in my face and trying to draw a reaction.
“So you are alive, surprising considering how much blood you lost.” I smirked, my own ‘concern’ being a motivation for me to visit him.
“It’s surprising you moved to talk to me, Rize-san,” he attempted to be indifferent, diplomatic. Yet I saw his surprise. The tiniest flicker of the eye, the shift in arm stance. “Don’t worry Kaneki-san, it would be odd if we ignored each other after our ‘date’.”
Despite the pleasantries, this was a struggle for conversational direction, for there is no doubt about the plenitude of questions we have for each other. It is not often that two members of opposing species gather to have civil conversation. I decided to address the elephant in the room: “Why did you save me?” This question had been bothering me for the entire month of our separation, with the CCG apparently sending extra doves to the 20th ward. Among the posters my description was nowhere to be seen. Instead an ukaku ghoul with some interesting physical attributes was among the wanted for said ward.
“Rize-san, have you ever considered the concept of livelihood? I cannot blame you for killing as it is part of your nature,” he paused. My guess on his motivation was probably something higher serving, yet he asks me a question I never truly care for or considered. “Kaneki-san, you eat meat, don’t you?” I queried, hoping he would catch on and understand my rather crude point about ghoul and human relations.
“Hello there, Kaneki-kun.”
“Rize-chan.” I silently cursed at the sudden intrusion, the only irritation within my daily life that I couldn’t completely ignore – the old manager, Yoshimura. I’m guessing his personal involvement will involve asking Kaneki about his recovery as well as any clues about what he actually knows.
Unfortunately I was wrong.
“Kaneki-kun, you do know who attacked you?” the man queried out of the blue. The random nature of the remark was then elaborated on. “I merely heard you were attacked in the close vicinity. As a constant visitor of the café, we are invested in the well-being of our frequent customers.” His smile was genuine, at least for a human’s eyes. I could see careful calculation in the remark, almost like a form of dramatic irony. His eye in the sky superiority granted him information that he used to manipulate the perception of the situation. His intensity would have been suspicious, if not for the manager’s absolute certainty over Kaneki-san’s information about my identity.
This was possibly the worst-case scenario.
“What do you mean, manager?” Kaneki tried to deflect the question.
He could possibly be killed. Even I felt a bit upset at that prospect. Not that he, or anyone else would ever find out.
“I’m merely asking if your assailant was Rize-chan.”
That was unexpected. Before, I managed to somehow defend myself and prevent Yoshimura from evicting me from Anteiku.
“No, but Rize-san had saved my life. I was attacked by another ghoul, whom she repelled,” he deliberately said quietly, understanding the need for secrecy.
Once again my features may have been outwardly calm, however I was far from it. I was surprised by this human once more, though his selfless dedication to others would have probably disgusted me in any other situation. Yet here he was, lying to whom I presume he already deduced as a ghoul, for my sake.
I silently however scoffed at my own weakness, despite his attempts to help me. Maybe life isn’t important to him; maybe something else is. Perhaps if I find his true ‘love’ or goal I can demonstrate that his rescue and care for me was merely a spur of the moment.
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“Yoshimura-san, what Kaneki-san has said is true. He was attacked by an odd looking ghoul whom I repelled. As all of the local tenants had seen us together, it would draw the CCG here if he died while he was on a date with me,” I lied artfully.
“This in turn means that Kaneki-kun falls under our protection at Anteiku, since he is one of the few representatives of the human race that would, for any reason, protect or save a ghoul.” What was peculiar about this scene was how the manager had used such powerful rhetoric, yet his movements and gestures looked like he was querying us on the quality of the coffee and whether or not we had enjoyed it. His ability to seem human and blend in with humans seems to come from years of experience. Despite our lack of significant interaction, I have always wondered where the manager had learned his skill of communicating his desire to individuals whose original aims and purpose couldn’t go farther from his own.
After the manager’s declaration of intent, no doubt to the confusion of my human companion, I mentally berate myself. Since when did he become ‘my’ human?