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The Shrine was a place where Honnari belonged. A place to return to.

Like it has always been his.    

When we he came back, he unlocked the door and see... everything is kept where he left it. Like the clock had ticked but time had nothing to offer to the shrine,  without him living in it  

He came back a little changed ,...... but his shrine, it is still what it was, has always been...

The uniform layer of dust assures him that nothing had changed.
He can be himself again. The self that only God knows. No matter how wonderful outside world might be. His shrine always seems welcoming. It makes him feel homely.

His shrine is a reflection and an extension of him, his life and it also takes on his energy. Everything was "still" at the chapel while he was away, without movement and when he arrived, he sensed the stillness and felt as if it was waiting for him to come home and carry on as if he never left.

He began to recall sweet memories, and not so sweet ones.

On the night of the Academy graduation ceremony, spirits were bright, and cups bearing drinks clashed together over the feasting tables. Accolades were exchanged all around, particularly to those who had ranked highest as per Academy Criteria. A newly-titled genin, who stood at the top of the class, accepted congratulations in stride. His peers were as humble and gracious as ever, but it was hard to miss just how pleased he was at being one step closer to achieve his dream. Honnari, on the other hand, appeared to be more perplexed than overjoyed. The discreet looks he gave the boy seemed to hint that she had been expecting a somewhat different outcome.

His friends, who went by Kurai, Sakkaku, and Eiko also received their fair share of attention for achieving top marks in the Academy right after the boy, that it was a surprise to any, but you knew perfectly well that the three of them were no ordinary genin. They had arrived far, far more prepared than anyone else here. 

That being said, Honnari stood nowhere near them in terms of rank, nor did he yearn to. Where the Academy was concerned, there was an advantage in standing out as little as possible, and he wasn't delusional enough to believe that he could match any of his peers in strength or skill. 

…Which, quite frankly, was something he could live with. He wasdetermined to be alone for the entirety of the feast, and the difference in rank between he and the boy was yet another excuse for him to distance yourself from the rest of the students. …And from the rest of the top performers, for that matter. It wasn't as though he ever belonged in that group in the first place… so why pretend?

That said, it was a little hard to ignore them, when a certain few were a little more boisterous in their celebration.

"YEAAAAAAAAAAH!" hollered Kurai, who was practically dancing on his feet with pride. "Now that's what I'm talkin' about! Hokage here I come!

"Three full square meals a day, all paid for!" cheered Sakkaku raising her tankard to the air, and spilling a bit on Kurai in the process. "You'll even get a cool hat!"

While the two of them grinned from ear to ear, Eiko glowered irritably from his table. One would have thought that graduating at 6th place would put him in a sunnier mood, but he was as foul-tempered as ever.

"Damn that Kurai…" he growled, bristling with envy as he clenched his drink. "How the hell did he get the one-up on me?"

Located not far off, Honnari said nothing, but kept his thoughts to himself as Eiko angrily gulped his drink down. The answer was obvious - Eiko was no match for Kurai in attitude and diligence. 

Honnari's head swam with the unbearable noise of the banquet - of cheer and laughter that he would never be a part of. Hit by nausea, he crumpled up against the table with his head in his arms. No one noticed. They were too busy congratulating themselves, ignorant of genin that never was.

Or ever would be.

His thoughts were interrupted by a sudden outburst, coming from the other side of the banquet hall. 

"Someone didn't graduate?!"

Startled, everyone turned their heads. Honnari kept his forehead to the table.

That voice was the boy. From the looks of it, that remark was directed towards none other than Honnari Zouo himself Bitter thoughts ran through his head. No doubt the boy was still under the delusion that the outcome was unfair, and Honnari did anything short of failing.

"That's just not right" he argued. "Afterall, we all went through it the whole way through!"

On Honnari's face was the very picture of despair. The students fell into a fearful silence, a cloud of dread hanging over their heads. They too were convinced of Honnari's inevitable stagnation. There was no redemption.

But the boy's response told a different story.

"…And from the test, to the Forest of Death. He might not have made it all the way through, but he still deserves his due!" he demanded, fists clenched with resolve.

His voice sent a stir through the crowd of frightened students. Somehow, Honnari felt a current of energy flowing in his veins. It was enough to make him lift his head from the table.

"It's true, you may come off as halfhearted," he continued, violating Honnari with every phrase.. "A 'hoiler-than-thou attitude, and general dispositon, but you've got character!"

Honnari's pale eyes were bright and intense, like a flame. Even after years of agony and despair, they burned stronger than ever. 

"Speak not in favor, of my endeavors. Frivolous and vain as they were. The grass must be so much greener where you stand, right?!"

He trilled the air with his soft diction. Yet the sheer ferociousness in his words left the entire room stunned. Some wore looks of faint admiration and amazement. Others stared at him with incredulity and horror. No one said a word.

Off to the side, Honnari could see Kurai and Sakkaku exchanging nervous looks. Eiko appeared to pay no heed to the conversation, but Honnari knew that he was hanging on to every word.

Meanwhile, as Honnari sat in his corner, no longer invisible to the world, he felt a sting in his heart as he looked at the boy. Half of it was the remainder of admiration. The rest of it was jaded disappointment.

All this time… he hasn't changed at all, Honnari thought ruefully. …In the end, he's really going to become Hokage. I just know it.

The boy stared at his audience, shifting from foot to foot. Though he tried to put on a front, Honnari could tell that emotions were running high, overwhelming him. The moment Honnari saw his eyes breaking into tears, he had already spun a heel and dashed out of the main hall. Kurai and Sakkaku were quick to follow.

The rest of the party stared after him for a while, wearing uncomfortable looks on their faces. It took some time before the hall was filled with conversation once more.

But Honnari remained tight-lipped, scowling at his drink, wanting nothing more than to hurl it at someone. That boy himself, preferably. 

Ever since the day he stopped talking to Honnari, his feelings for him had never quite faded away. Just when he believed that he was free of them, again they would resurface - memories of bliss and warmth and the feeling of being valued. Of being cared for. Of course, there was nothing left between the two of them. Now he was a genin, and Honnari didn't even make the cut. But still, these affections, void of adulation haunted him like a ghost wherever he walked.

… He was the boy he admired… and he was absolutely, unequivocally determined to make Honnari look the fool.

It made him angry. Angry at him for being a talent less idiot. Angry at the world that had molded this him into a frail, perpetual failure. Angry at himself for his own role in perpetuating these cruel circumstances. Angry at himself also being a victim of said circumstances. That boy was now the enemy, the very antithesis of what Honnari stood for. But he felt like the villain. And he had somehow managed to make the entire hall feel the same.

Sod the world, Honnari thought bitterly.

Whatever the case, it was anger that renewed Honnari's energy. He wanted to do something now. To act. If he was destined to fail, and continue to, then everyone else deserved to as well.

Tommorrow as a fair well, the Academy graduates were going to be shooting off some experimental cannons. Honnari had had it. And he decided the perfect revenge for the boy was an... unforunate accident.

And speaking of that, you had a job to do.

Eiko stood at a distance, but caught Honnari's eye. He gave him a subtle nod, finished up his drink, and rose from his seat. Weaving through the throngs of chattering students, he slipped out of the hall. Unseen. Unnoticed. No one at the party would miss his absence.

Cannons and elite equipment were situated in a cold and lonely statuesque citadel. His footfalls echoed across the stone as he flitted through the halls, sparsely lit by low-burning torches. Every so often, he heard voices, accompanied by shadows and footsteps. Whenever they drew near, he ducked behind the nearest column, avoiding several passers-by that way.

Furtively, he worked his way downstairs into the supply depot, where the gas tanks and cannons were kept. If he remembered correctly, the cannons were experimental, and relied on pressure.

And there they were, all in a neat row, lying in their own crates, with labels to identify their use.

Marked for tomorrow. Honnari smiled cruelly. Time to get started.

He set to work laying down the preliminary steps of the operation - sabotage. Now this he was good at. This was something his peers could count on him to do without completely failing (If the obscure need did ever arise). With grim concentration, he spent the evening in the supply house and the gear shed, doing as much damage as he could without being too obvious. 

First, he tampered with the gauges on the fuel rods and emptied them out, leaving them only a quarter full. All the while, he left behind subtle marks to let himself know which ones were safe to take, and stored them in a hidden space behind the tanks.  

Next, he meddled with the cannons. All he needed was a few mishaps here and there. Something that could be pinned on negligence and not sabotage. He messed with the calibrations, loosened a few screws, and exchanged new cables for worn-out, fraying ones. You had no vendetta against any student in particular.

Well, he thought viciously. …It's not like I was ever a saint to begin with.

Still, he felt an unpleasant knot in the pit of his stomach as he returned Jean's gear to its crate. If he, or any of the other unfortunate students died because of an accident, it would more than likely be on Honnari's hands.

…Which was why, for some bizarre reason or another, he was marking more canisters as safe. Maybe he was just trying to protect his conscience - damaged as it already was. 

He worked worked well into the night. By the time he was done, his forehead was slick with sweat, and his eyes were starting to strain. The pitter-patter of footsteps in the stairwells above, along with the glow of a held torch, signaled that it was time to leave.

"Is someone here?" called a voice.

By that point, Honnari had already fled into the shadows, finding a door that lead into the courtyard. Eager to escape, he slipped through, finding himself outside in the shroud of night, with not even the moon to light his way. Letting out a sigh of relief, he began winding his way back towards the main entrance… only to bump headlong into someone along the way.

"Ow! Hey!"

He cringed, kicking himself mentally for neglecting to check if the coast was clear. Fearing the worst, he opened his eyes, and found himself face-to-face with…

"… H-Honnari!"

The boy. He took one good step back and stared at Honnari, mouth slightly agape. From the bewildered look on his face, he was the last person he had expected to run into, here in the dead of night. 


His two closest companions, as always, were not far off. Kurai gave Honnari a cold look. Sakkaku merely glanced at him and the door he had just come through, wearing a puzzled expression. Honnari stared back at them, palpitating on the spot. How was he going to explain himself? If they knew he had just been in the supply room, would they suspect a thing?

As for the boy, his wide-eyed surprised faded into something of a scowl. He stirred uncomfortably, dithering over what to do. No shock there, considering the two of them hadn't been on the best terms as of now. Honnari shrank a little, expecting him the boy to brush him off without another word. It was more than he deserved, anyway.

Instead, he demanded in a sullen manner, "…What are you doing out here? The banquet should be over by now, right? Shouldn't you be heading back home?"

Funny. Honnari could have asked him the same thing.

"… I am," he mumbled lamely, unable to look at him directly. "…I just got turned around on my way back from the privy. That’s all."

"But you just came out of the supply room," Armin pointed out. "How did you end up all the way here?"

Honnari gave him the fakest of smiles, trying to look as harmless and airheaded as possible. "W-well, what can I say? Getting lost in the castle was a bit of an adventure…"

Honnari laughed weakly, and found himsself unreciprocated. Sakkaku simply gave him an unreceptive glare, while Kurai remained oddly silent. Honnari wilted, and shut his mouth. How mortifying, indeed.

The boy, meanwhile, shook his head and let out an incredulous huff.

"You're hopeless," he muttered, turning on his heel and skirting his way around Honnari. His two companions followed. Honnari's heart sank as you watched him go, leaving you behind. Perhaps it had been too much to hope for… to believe that he may have seen a spark that could lay in his dark heart.

Tommorrow would come all the easier.

… The boy suddenly stopped in his tracks.

"…You might as well follow us back," he pointed out coldly, not turning around. "Since we're heading in the same direction."

Honnari blinked. On he marched, more than happy to leave Honnari behind if that was what he preferred.

…But as Honnari trailed behind the group, following them like a lost pup on the return path to the keep, the boy said nothing. Nor did he slow his steps for Honnari to catch up with him. But he didn't leave him behind, either.

In spite of everything, he found yourself wanting to be near him. For a little, during the Academy, he was the only on who made an effort to build him up rather than tear him down.  But as Honnari edged closer, Sakkaku barred his path to the boy and walked in front of you, narrowing his eyes at you over his shoulder. Honnari quickly got the message, and kept his distance. As the four of them walked, instead of looking at the boy, Honnari looked down at his feet.

There was a vacuum of awkward silence before the boy suddenly spoke again. 

"So …Decided on if you're going to do the Academy all over again?"

Honnari pursed his lips. Really? After all this time of not talking to eachother,he was going to bring that up now? Honnari grimaced and clutched at the lace on his sleeves. Thoughts of the sabotaged gear flooded him with guilt and self-loathing. Just how many dreams would he end up crushing, in the end?

"…Well, that place is not really an option for me." Honnari said with a shrug. "… But I-- guess I'm destined for another try or civilian life."

"Yeah, I get it," The boy snapped, giving Honnari an impatient scowl over his shoulder. "But which one?"

Honnari really didn't want to talk about this.

"Doesn't matter," Honnari said between gritted teeth. "Either way is fine with me. Maybe I'll even flip a coin to help me decide."

Eren whirled around. "Yeah? And what if you end up as a civilian, not accomplishing your dreams. You're just gonna do what the coin tells you to do?" he asked. That tone was no less than patronizing.

Honnari glowered back at him, already tired of this discussion. "If it's fate, then that's where I'll go."

"…You're fucking kidding me, right?" he demanded. "Fate? Is this some kind of a joke to you?"

Honnari almost burst out laughing. Oh, if only you knew.

Instead, Honnari gave him an apathetic look. "No. I just don't care."

"You damn well should!" The boy said, temper rising. "It's your life and future that's on the line."

Honnari brushed off a piece of imaginary lint off of his sleeve. "… Right. 'Important.' " He was just beyond caring.

At Honnari's blasé response, the boy's anger faded entirely. He merely looked aghast. 

"…Isn't it?" he asked, voice faltering as he stared at Honnari. "…What the hell is wrong with you, Honnari? Don't you value yourself? Enough to care, even just a little?"

This time, Honnari really did laugh. There was no cheer or humour, though. Just bitterness.

"… Value myself What are you talking about?" Honnari asked derisively. "Whether it’s civilian life, Shinobi, Kunoichi,  everyone dies in the end. There's no meaning beyond that.

Honnari looked away, glaring into a corner. "…Why does it matter so much to you anyway?"

The boy was at a complete loss for words. Just when he was about to respond, Sakkaku cut him off.

"Forget it," he said, gazing at Honnari in contempt. "It's just as you said. He's hopeless. …And pathetic, too."

Kurai cringed. "That's a little…"

No. Sakkaku spoke truer words than he would ever know. Staring at the three of them, Honnari felt he was looking across an insurmountable distance. They were graduates of the Academy. Herald to the will of the leaf.

Honnari didn't belong with them. Hell he didn't belong anywhere.

"… I'm leaving," Honnari said, stomach churning as he turned a heel.

"Honnari, wait-" Eren started.

"You heard me," Honnari replied, cutting him off. He fled into the hallway until they were out of sight, wishing he had walked away from the very beginning.

Coming to a stop, Honnari clenched his teeth, placing his fist against the stone wall. All things considering, that conversation with that boy may very well have been your last.

This… wasn't how I wanted it to go. 

At dawn, Honnari rose at last, shoulders stiff and shaking with dread. Despite his conversation the night prior, Honnari's expression remained cold and deadpan as he headed to town fro breakfast

Today was the day of the event, and spirits were high. And so would the cannons. 

He did his best to blend in with the other students faking morning grumpiness in lieu of genuine anxiety and terror with what was about to happen.

…It quickly became obvious to Honnari that his face was bearing the brunt of it. Luckily, it didn't stand out too much. By now, everyone took him for something of a wimp. The jittery nervousness, and even the heavy sweating were just the normal quirks of the Academy's most timid bumbler. But he knew better. 

Honnari stared across the table at Kurai. His seemingly last friend.

"…You alright?"

Honnari's face, paler than normal, blinked up at Kurai… and gave a rigid nod. Kurai could see the dark circles in his eyes, the telltale signs of stress, anxiety, and lack of sleep. The sheer weight of what he was about to do was bearing down heavily. Likely, he couldn't think of anything else right now.

Sakkaku sat next to him, looking equally grim but more attentive than anything. Neither of them had a clue what was up. Sakkaku always took it upon himself to be the stronger and more steadfast one, for Kurai's sake. That said, Honnari's job was no easier than that of his contemporary.

Honnari glanced at a few others who merely swallowed down her breakfast without uttering a single word.. 

Out of the corner of his eye, Honnari spotted the boy heading out for a stint around town. He could see an expression of excited glee on Eren's face. No doubt he was eager to see his childhood heroes, the chuunin, the ones that would be attending the ceremony.

That was when you remembered… the boy, along with a handful of other graduates, were assigned to clean the wall-mounted artillery that morning. Right at the planned point of attack.

Honnari gulped in fear, knowing the danger the genin was in. But he reminded yourself - in the end, everyone dies. The sooner he learned to accept that, the less painful it would be.

Honnari was on duty in the supply depot that morning. A few genin were looking for a heads to maintenance duty. When they descended from the battlements to report in, Honnari could sense that zero hour was drawing close.

"The chuunin are ready," one said, face deadpan. "Honnari… it's time. Thanks for being a sport and coming to see us off."

A grin, born of cruel passion stole his lips. "Don't mention it."

Before seeing them off, Honnari fitted their gear with the damaged fuel rods he had saved for them. One wiped the sheen of sweat from his brow, took several deep breaths to steady himself, and left with with the other to fuel the cannons.

Honnari's nerves prickled with nervousness and anticipation as he continued counting inventory. Now, it was time to wait.

He glanced at the other Genin who were working in the supply depot. They werechatting animatedly together as they fueled up, never knowing that the pressure gauges on their fuel rods had been tampered with. …He watched them from the corner of his eye. When would they notice, he wondered?

Kurai's voice caught Honnari's ear from somewhere nearby.

"… what happened with your pressure gauge?" 

Honnari froze.

The genin gave the dark-haired boy a puzzled look. "What do you mean, what's happened? This is how it's always been, calibrations and all."

Kurai frowned. "Something doesn't seem right with it…"

Another shrugged. "You're probably just imagining things. It was fine when I used it yesterday. I even tested it out earlier today, too. Works like a charm, because I always keep it well-maintained."

Honnari swallowed down his guilt. They had absolutely no idea, did they?

Kurai didn't look quite convinced, but let the matter go. "If you say so…"

Unbeknownst to them, Honnar's hands shook. It didn't matter how much of a pain some of the students were, they didn't deserve to get themselves killed over sabotaged equipment.

Then again, no one here did. …But--it had to be done. Honnari feigned obliviousness, whilst the others left with the bad equipment.

He closed his eyes, waiting for what seemed to be an eternity. Soon. Very Soon. In fact, it couldn't possibly be long now… 

…The fort was struck by an explosive force coming from the Third Training Ground, strong enough to shake the citadels very foundation. More than half of the students were knocked off their own feet. Those who remained standing stared at each other in bewilderment.

"What the bloody hell was that?!"

Everyone flooded outside, onto the parapets, lookout platforms, and battlements to see where the blast had come from. Meeting another genin's eyes, you followed them.

Honnari merely stared in silence as the colossal flames peered over the horizon, sending chunks of shrapnel into the vulnerable city below. Where the Third Training once stood, there was merely a gaping, ruined hole. Like a wound.

…I can't take it back now.

[Thread Exit]
WC: 4149

WC Distribution:


4149-3525= 624WC leftover

1969+624=2593 WC


2593-2350= 243WC leftover

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