Himiko glared at Ban through narrowed eyes, his fist clenching and unclenching beneath the counter of the Honky Tonk. “What do you mean I’m immature?” he asked bitterly. “I think I am doing damn well, all things considered.”
Ban shrugged, looking down at the agitated lad. “I call them as I see them. You’re bossy and you have a short temper. You always did.”
Himiko slid off the stool, looking up at Ban with anger and wounded pride. “Is that all you have to say?”
Ban looked down at him, seemingly giving this question serious thought. “And you’re short, too.”
“Master, we’re starving!”
It was a familiar cry to Paul, who was unmoved by the pitiful pleading. However, his part-time help wasn’t as unmoved. Natsumi stopped doing the dishes, looking at the Get Backers with pity in his eyes.
“I’ll pay for a pizza for them,” he told Paul, looking at his boss to see if this was acceptable.
Paul sighed and lowered his newspaper. It really was unbelievable how naive to the workings of the world that boy was. “All right. But just this once. But you know, Natsumi-kun, there’s a reason why they say nice guys finish last...”
Hevn seated himself primly on one of the stools, tossing back his long golden-blonde hair. Ban was staring at him oddly, but he ignored it, brushing an invisible piece of lint off of his designer shirt. “This job is dangerous, but the client is willing to pay a lot of money for it,” he explained, moving his gaze to his perfectly manicured nails.
Sitting on the other side of him, Ginji just nodded dumbly as he gazed at Hevn shamelessly. Sighing, Hevn looked over at Paul “Master, what’s got into them?”
Paul shrugged. “You’re just a man’s man, I guess.”
Sakura had never seemed to resent that his younger brother was chosen to be the heir of his family. After all his age better coincided with the Fuuchoin heir’s, and the two boys got along better. Sakura was happy in his place on the sideline, watching his younger brother, offering advice and guidance that only three added years of experience could provide.
He thought about this as he watched MakubeX typing away at the keyboard. Suddenly, MakubeX looked back at Sakura. “Thanks for sticking with me, Sakura-kun,” he said earnestly.
Sakura smiled back. “That’s what big brothers are for.”
Madoka’s fingers seemed to dance over the strings of the priceless instrument, the bow flying with a life of its own. The melodies that he managed to pull from what amounted to so much wood amazed the most cynical of music critics, but right now he only cared about the opinion of one.
He could hear the changes in Shido’s breathing when he played certain melodies, the increase and decrease of his heartbeat. Those were the things that mattered to the shy boy, after all. The opinions of a million critics the world over would never mean nearly as much.
“Look at the brush strokes here. Can’t you feel the passion that the artist put into this piece?” Clayman asked, pointing at the picture in the book he had laid out on a table in the Honky Tonk. Hevn, Natsumi, and Rena all nodded in agreement, although none of them looked like they got what he was talking about.
At the counter, Ban sighed, watching them. “It’s just not fair,” he said bitterly, causing Ginji to look up from the flier he was working on.
“What isn’t?” Ginji asked his partner.
“That girls always fall for the sensitive, sophisticated guys.”