Anecdotes from the Story of the Century

Pocky

In all of her time in the country, she's had yet to try the Japanese snack delicacy known as pocky. Therefore, when she sees a street vendor selling it, she just has to give it a shot. No use studying in a foreign culture if you don't immerse yourself in it as fully as possible, or at least, as fully as she can, in the current living arrangements she's in.

"What do you mean, you've never had pocky?" squeals Misa, like this is some sort of social injustice that Kira has not yet tackled. "We'd better fix that!" She slaps a few bills' worth of yen in front of the bewildered vendor. "Two orders of kiwifruit mango pocky, please."

"Wh-whoa, hang on, Misa," she stammers, a tad flustered that Misa-Misa, a celebrity, would want to buy something for her on a whim. "I don't want to get a real convoluted flavor when I don't know yet if I'm even gonna like it."

Misa pouts, "No one can not like pocky, Elin. It's physically impossible. Even Light likes it, and he's a picky eater. Besides, kiwifruit mango is the flavor of the season. But, if you really want to pick a different flavor, go ahead. Misa will get kiwifruit mango."

So Misa gets that, while she chooses something basic. Chocolate. The proverbial toe-dipping to check the water. Misa and company exchange bows of gratitude with the vendor before continuing on their way, with Misa waving her pocky under Light's nose as she attempts to share. With little comment beyond the obligatory "thanks, Misa," Light accepts a stick.

She, on the other hand, has barely gotten her nails into the package containing the frosting-encased biscuit sticks, when a third hand—pale, spidery, not terribly trustworthy—pokes in from out of nowhere to steal it away.

"H-hey! Ryuzaki!"

"I wouldn't place too much trust in food obtained from a street vendor," he says. "I should take a sample, to make sure that it's safe."

She can't catch on fast enough when she watches him hand-pluck and nibble a chocolate-coated stick down to the stub, then turn one stub into two stubs, two to three…

"Okay, I think they're good. Can I have them back, now, please?" she asks as politely as she can while reaching out to grab feebly at the pocky that Ryuzaki keeps out of her reach.

"One more sample…"

His gluttony knows no boundaries, it seems. Ryuzaki has once claimed that the secret to keeping his weight—or lack thereof—maintained is that he uses his brain, frequently, to burn the calories. Coming up with ways to freeload food off his company must be one of his ways to work up an appetite.

He's pretty much the one who gave her the revelation about the meaning behind those warnings from park rangers about feeding wild animals.

Light snatches the package of chocolate pocky from Ryuzaki's hands—who oddly enough puts up little resistance with a stick still dangling from his lips—and hands it back it her, like the gentleman he is. "That's enough, Ryuzaki. If you can eat five sticks in a row from the same package, I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that the rest are edible, too."

"Yeah, you pig!" she snaps, too angry to savor the moment she is about to taste her first stick of pocky as she draws one from the package. Why must Ryuzaki ruin everything? "If you're so concerned with safety, why don't you try some of Misa's? We got these from the same guy, in case you weren't paying attention."

"He doesn't need to, they're fine," insists Light, quickly and wisely enough. "I already checked." Misa naturally concurs with him by clutching her pocky possessively to her chest. Should Ryuzaki ever get his paws on it, she'd never get it back.

But Ryuzaki does not cave under pressure or reproach. He and shame are estranged cousins fifty times removed. "Indeed. Anyway, I was more concerned about you. I'd hate it if you came down with food poisoning when I was there to prevent it."

She has no idea where that just came from. Ryuzaki has never expressed concern for the welfare of another human being before, at least, not within her earshot. Either way, it chokes her up.

No, really. No sooner than she's heard this, she finds herself with a chunk of chocolate biscuit lodged in the wrong pipe. Her vision begins to swim as her hands cast away the pocky to wrap instinctively around her throat. She fights to alert her friends of the situation, and panics all the more when no words will come out. Just an ominous string of staccato gagging that she isn't even sure is coming from her.

Death by pocky: even Kira couldn't be this cruel to issue something like this on someone. Or could he?

Misa shouts in horror. Light curses to himself as he rushes over to do the Heimlich maneuver, but a certain glutton beats him to the punch, since he's closer. For a precious moment, Erin couldn't care less who owns the hands that wrap around her abdomen and deliver a series of swift thrusts into the bottom of her ribcage to force the sweet menace out onto the concrete. When one is tangoing with death, they have no time to care for such things.

When it registers in her mind that oxygen is flowing freely to it now, she keeps her hands around her throat, this time to nurse the scratchy sensation lingering within it.

A familiar monotone chides her, "I warned you about that pocky being unsafe. Are you all right?"

"Y-yeah. Yeah, I—I think so. Nothing broken except my dignity," she mumbles, wishing for the overwhelming gaze of a dozen rubbernecks to turn away already, real or imagined.

She expects the pair of arms to withdraw after that. They don't. They stay loosely wrapped around her, as though Ryuzaki had never learned what to do beyond the moment when the guy stops choking.

That's when she starts to care about whose hands these belong to.

"Uh…Ryuzaki? Your…your hands?"

"Hm? Yes. I suppose they're not needed there, anymore." As though she hadn't been choking just seconds ago, he slides his hands into his pockets. Even he knows well enough not to eat food off the ground, an awful waste as it is.

Clearing her throat for good measure, she manages, "Thanks. For…you know, knowing how to do the Heimlich maneuver and all. You—you saved my life."

Without batting a single lash, Ryuzaki replies, "Given the company I keep, I find it mandatory to know how to perform the procedure when necessary. You've just proven it."

Repeat: why must Ryuzaki ruin everything?

As a thought that she hadn't actually meant to vocalize, she grumbles, "I can't decide if you would make a wonderful boyfriend or the lousiest one on the planet. Maybe mediocre, at best."

By the time she realizes what she's just said, it's too late. The universe—and Misa—has already soaked it up. She can practically hear the mental squeal emanating from Misa's mind to hers, this time in sheer joy with a little amusement on the side.

Being the type who prefers to have the last word, Ryuzaki quips back, "Well, Elin, if it requires one to be exceptionally nagging and ungrateful to be called as such, then I'd say that you'd make an excellent potential…girlfriend."

That last word sounds unbearably funny coming from him, despite the clear articulation. Like he himself has never used that word before and is trying it out, to see if it fits his vocabulary.

Tilting the brim of her hat over her eyes, she scurries over to Misa to ask if she could try some of that kiwi-whatever pocky, after all. Anything to keep as separated from that boy as possible.


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