30 Nights and Tomorrow On

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We’re just fumbling through the gray, trying to find a heart that’s not walking away (Mat Kearney – Ships In The Night)

Gilbert might be too harsh on Tae Hee, but he was the harshest to himself during last night. What kind of mad lad avoided the person he hated to see leaving and spending their last night together apart knowing so? Yeah, he did that. Now he felt stupid and wanted to slam his head to the nearest brick wall.

Gilbert planned to sleep at the local bar in his neighborhood after he made such an embarrassing action toward his junior. Before he could even drink himself to death, however, he found a partner.

Just when he thought it couldn’t get any worse. The same sly smile was worth-puking and Gilbert’s sure he could take down this guy with his bare hands, drunk or sober.

“Pleased to meet you.” Roderich lifted his glass. “Didn’t expect you at all.”‌

“What are you doing in my neighborhood?!‌” Gilbert returned the clink anyway, slurping the rest of his glass down his throat. It burnt, and he never felt so good to ruin his own body.

“I‌ have my own overtime. It wasn’t that bad, as long as the souls I’m reaping are not problematic, I‌ guess I‌ can take several despite how far they are.”

“Perks of being low ranking reapers. Welcome to our world.”

The words had arrived at Gilbert, that Roderich quit his major position at the headquarter to work on the street. Sometimes Gilbert wished there were heavier punishment available for him, then again Gilbert would neither let Roderich retire early as it meant he’d get to taste freedom fifty years earlier than Gilbert. It’s just…. the thought of having to bump into him more often these days robbed Gilbert from peace.

He’d drink another sip for that misfortune.

“What about you?”‌ Roderich cut his thoughts. “What are you doing this late?”‌

“Do you remember that kid I‌ took along for the exorcism? The intern baby.” Roderich nodded, didn’t even look surprised when Gilbert dumped the news. “He got transferred.”

“And? You get upset over that common occurrence?”

“I—” he burped “—he didn’t tell me earlier. It was too sudden and I‌ seriously, god damn it, I‌ hate it that I somehow feel sad about that.”‌

“Well, no wonder he’s hiding the news, knowing you’ll react like this.” Roderich shook his glass, watching the ice cubes being adrift on the glimmering liquid. His glasses were fogged up, making the eyes behind unreadable. “I’m more surprised you actually got emotional for such a shortcoming. That’s so not like you.”‌

“Yeah, I thought so,” Gilbert said, his focus gradually worsened as he poured another glass. “Attachment is that bad, huh? I guess I’ll never do that again.”‌

“Detachment is also no good, as you waste your time away by spending it for nothing. You’ll fail to see the good in other people and grow to hate the world.”

Gilbert looked up. Roderich was definitely reminiscing himself, but another person came to Gilbert’s mind.

Roderich sighed, stopping‌ Gilbert from pouring more. “Don’t regret it. Just go home and get over the whole thing.‌ You’re embarrassing yourself by running away.”‌

***

Gilbert didn’t exactly remember how he got home or what happened next. Roderich probably helped him so (and embarrassed himself in front of Tae Hee in the process)‌, he woke up on his bed as the natural light from the window stung his face. Light ache throbbing from his head, not enough to make him run to puke, Gilbert threw himself back to the soft material of his pillows and pulled the blanket over him. Morning can wait, he murmured.

No, wait.

Whose bed—no, the smell and material were definitely his. It was familiar, yet a little distant since he’s barely using it lately. Why didn’t he use it lately? Because some random boy came and used the bed instead? That’s why he moved to sleep on the couch for the time being!

Then why didn’t he wake up on the couch?!

Gilbert was about to burst if he didn’t catch on the burning smell coming from his stove. So Tae Hee had not left yet, and he was cooking shits at the kitchen now.

“Drop it! You’re burning the omelette to death!”‌

“B-But the chicken is already dead, sir!”‌

“That’s not the point!” Gilbert flung himself and pushed ‌ Tae Hee from the stove, he himself was confused on what he was supposed to do with the darkening yellow shimmering on the pan. He never encountered such untalentedness before and surprised that something this bad could happen even on their last day together. And if that wasn’t bad enough, there were egg cracks everywhere on the counter, the leftover whites spilling down the cabinets.

Gilbert turned off the fire and quickly evacuated the omelette to a serving plate, tossing the pan to the sink as he side-glanced the fidgeting boy behind him.

“I-I’ve never cooked before…” was what he confessed after all those things. “I thought the internet could help me. Well, to certain extent only.”‌

“Did the internet tell you how to clean the mess as well? In case you fucked up?”

Ye—no, sir.”‌

They fell silent, staring at the result for a good minute. Tae Hee did a good job playing with his heart, he cleaned the entire room with all his might yesterday to destroy it the next morning. The worst part was that Gilbert seemed to know the motive behind. Tae Hee would probably be ashamed to tell his reason with pride on his face; he would have said he’s hungry and didn’t want to wake Gilbert up, so he started the disaster.

“Is this like a farewell gift or something?” Gilbert nudged him. “This omelette?”

Tae Hee nodded slowly. “Supposedly. I guess it doesn’t matter now.”‌ He sounded like he’s about to cry. How annoying, Gilbert felt like being a bad guy for guilt-tripping a teenager. “I’ll go clean up in a second. Sir, you can go back sleepi—”

To everyone’s surprise, including Gilbert himself, he pulled out a fork from the drawer and sliced the omelette, aggressively shoving the big piece to his mouth with his daunting eyes flaring like he’s about to challenge the devil. Gilbert was the type to take ‘dare’ rather than ‘truth’ (because he’s a tough guy, duh!)‌ but by far this was the worst challenge ever given to him. He would rather jump into a pool and froze than force a burnt food down his digestive system.

The dried crust burnt his tongue and ceiling; smokey and bitter. His hungover symptom got worse every bite and so as the breakfast filled up his nausea meter.

“Sir, what are you do—”‌

Mouthful, skins going pale, Gilbert hummed a response and continued eating. It might be far from what Elizabeth usually made for him, but he would never turn down something that was specifically made for him. Even when it turned out gibberish.

The plate was near empty when Gilbert dropped the fork and ran to the bathroom, losing it out.

***‌

In the end Tae Hee did most of the cleaning by the time Gilbert finished his shower, sober and all. No egg cracks in sight or questionable plates and dirty pans. All that left was the smell, which needed different treatment than the rest.

Gilbert opened his apartment’s window for the first time since he moved in three years ago, morning breeze blew spitefully at him while dust flew into the invitation. He didn’t particularly like having an open hole at his home, especially when it was like less than 5 meters away from the next building. The smell had to go, nonetheless.

When he turned his back, Tae Hee was already watching him. Apologetic stares peering on him, making Gilbert uncomfortable as the words never came out for the next seconds.

“Did you pack already?”

Tae Hee seemed to be caught off guard when ‌ Gilbert easily pressed on the topic.

“Y-Yes. Except for toiletries.”

“Hmm, good.” Tae Hee never really placed his things all over Gilbert’s room, it was definitely easier to move on when he got nothing to be reminded of. But when Gilbert thought about that again, he believed he’s just looking for assurance. Tae Hee himself was the thing. He was all over his room, the ghost of him would always be here reminding Gilbert. “Do you have someone to pick you up later?”

“Someone from the headquarter.”‌

“When will they arrive?”

“Before lunch.”‌

Not even sparing a lunch. What a cruel organization Gilbert worked for. They only got three hours at most left and it’s not like Gilbert could stick around chit-chatting with Tae Hee as he needed to prepare for work too. It’s not like he had any idea what to do for the time left. Everyone knew Gilbert was bad at small talks.

“Kid, let’s get a brunch before you go.”‌

“Are you going to cook?” Tae Hee asked, eyes shining in admiration. He was still cleaning the counter with a wet cloth, repeatedly rubbing on ceramics that already looked sleek.

“Nope. I’m just as bad as you.” He smirked, grabbing a pile of papers that consisted of schedules. “Well, maybe a little better. I can make omelette at least. Let’s say I‌ have a private delivery call. You’re going to like it.”‌

“I will be disappointed if you’re actually calling Miss Elizabeth your private delivery.”‌

“No—but why?” said Gilbert, already on his phone. He explained the situation briefly to Elizabeth on the other line, raising his voice a bit because apparently the traffic noise behind was louder than anything he bargained for. The call ended and Gilbert grinned even wider. “Deal with it. She’ll be here to see you.”‌

“You seem to be more excited because you’re going to see her. I thought you’re sad because I’m leaving?”

“Say what?” Gilbert looked up from the documents, shutting down Tae Hee completely with those fake intimidating glares. “Can’t wait to have my bed back!”‌

“You’re going to.” Tae Hee chuckled, tossing the cloth to the sink as he squeezed it under the faucet. “You know, sir, I was about to tell you the first time I‌ got the official letter of my transfer. It’s just… things were hectic. Miss Elizabeth was in danger and in need of your help. No way I have the heart to distract you with another matter. So I, well, of course you gotta prioritize her more. I’m not getting in the way of you two.”‌

“Hey, come on. That doesn’t mean you’re putting down yourself. I’m your mentor, I’m supposed to know what the hell happened to your internship program. Geez, I can hear Yuriko laughing at me miles away.”

“But I‌ had a great time yesterday.‌ Helping you two.” The rush of water stopped abruptly. The next thing Gilbert knew, a weight had added to the other side of the couch he’s currently sitting. His presence was enough to distract him from reviewing the papers. “I got to be useful. The whole thing was about me repaying debts to both you and Miss Elizabeth for always taking care of me.”‌

“Hah! I‌ bet the whole thing was about catching us doing weird shits as you fanboyed your ass down there. Good catch.”‌

Tae Hee’s face bloomed red all of a sudden. He had to be seeing things yesterday. “N-NO, I‌‌ DIDN’T‌ SEE‌ ANYTHING! I-I‌ WAS‌‌ BUYING‌‌ FOOD WHEN‌‌ YOU‌‌‌‌‌ TWO‌‌‌ GOT INTO THE WHEEL!”‌

You were down there, covering your mouth the whole time, liar. Gilbert let out a laugh. So many things happened yesterday, he didn’t even know how to sort it out.

“But I‌ know you’re enjoying that! You guys were abnormally quiet after it so I figured out something bigger must have happened afterward!‌ I demand the sequel of the story!”‌

“What the hell are you talking about?” Gilbert smacked the younger boy’s head gently with a pack of papers. “After that? I‌ found out you were gone and I‌ walked Liz home and then back again to this very room where you admitted that you’re getting transferred? That’s the sequel!”‌

“I‌’m not going to buy it, sir. I got good eyes.”

Well then see for yourself. I ain’t playing with your games.”‌

“But you do like her, don’t you?‌”‌

“Huh?”

Tae Hee looked oddly serious as the banter came to an end. “It’s sort of obvious and normal, I mean. You guys know each other for long enough to just casually invite each other to everything without looking at the context. More importantly, Miss Elizabeth is pretty! How could you turn your head away from such reality—”

“Hey, hey. You’re going off track!”‌

“What I’m trying to say is you can deny it a thousand times but people are going to see it that way. I don’t know what are you guys going at now, but I can say I’m happy for both of you, no matter the direction you take, as long as you’re happy with that.”‌

Gilbert swallowed a big lump on his throat. He couldn’t believe himself that he’s getting lectured from an 18 years old teenager about relationships.

“I‌ know it’s not that easy.”‌ Tae Hee took a deep breath, making Gilbert uneasy. “Especially, uh, with what you said yesterday. That Miss Elizabeth is going to leave.”‌

“I…”‌ This time for real, he swallowed that big lump alive. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier. I just thought it’s something Liz herself has to tell you—only if she wants to. It’s complex, you know. She didn’t want any more complexity added to our relationship. That’s why we’re trying to keep it low as possible.”‌

“I do understand.” He sighed. “I’m just afraid whether she’s suppressing her feelings too much for the sake of people. Who knows. She acted well in front of me, but there must be fear and pressure beneath the mask.

“I mean, it’s what humans usually feel, right, after getting stamped?”

Yeah, she does. Gilbert landed his attention on the papers again which now that he thought about it, was ten times less scary than thinking about Elizabeth.

***

Elizabeth came exactly before lunch, just after Gilbert finished reviewing his schedules. By that time,‌‌ Tae Hee was already dressed in a suit and had his luggage parked on the doorway. No matter how hard he’s trying to convince himself, Gilbert still found it hard to believe that kid was moving out.

“Guess what I‌ brought?” She lifted the two plastic bags with both of her hands, jiggling them as if they didn’t contain soup or sauce. “It’s everyone’s favorite. Curry time!”‌

“What?” Gilbert yelled in disappointment. “Who said it’s my favorite?”

“Shut up, old man.” Elizabeth moved quickly by unwrapping the food and arranged them neat on the table next to Gilbert’s maps. “I don’t care unless it’s Tae Hee who says that.”‌

“I do like curry!” replied Tae Hee, already drooling from the sight of melting curry on top of his rice, let alone the ticklish sharp smells blending within the room.

Gilbert joined them in the end, couldn’t play pretend any longer. The whole meal was about Gilbert and Elizabeth bantering back and forth across the table, like how loud Gilbert chewed his food or how slow Elizabeth ate. Anybody who saw them the first time, despite all the arguments and rude mockeries, had to be thinking how close these two were.

Tae Hee couldn’t help but to smile. He’s going to miss this.

A snap on finger in front of his happy idiot face, Tae Hee blinked in reflex. “Kid, eat your curry. It’s not like you got forever here.”‌

“You don’t have to scold him.”‌ Elizabeth crossed her arms. “Poor Tae Hee. He must be waiting to get out of here soon. Look at that suffering face.”

“That’s his normal face!”‌

Tae Hee laughed and almost choked on a block of potato. Everyone rallied on the laughs until they echoed in unison throughout the room. That’s good too, at least that way they wouldn’t hear the sound of Tae Hee’s heart breaking.

He really didn’t want to leave.

Even Gilbert didn’t let him wash the dishes, something he’d be scolded off in normal situations. He was told to stand near the doorway, waiting for his pick up even though he still got half an hour left. What did he do now? Drowning himself in sadness? Watching Gilbert’s back as he washed the dishes? Slumped to the floor and fixed his shoelaces?

He got startled by the sound of bathroom door rattling, followed by a tender voice half-echoing as Elizabeth walked out of the bathroom. “Are they close? Your pick up, I mean.”‌

“Yeah, um, sure. They texted so a while ago.”‌

“They better drive a limousine or I’m suing the headquarter.”‌ Elizabeth chuckled, leaning on the doorway the same way as Tae Hee did that. A gesture of solidarity. “It was so short!‌ I’m going to miss you tight.”‌

“I’m going to miss you too,”‌ Tae Hee said. “We might never meet each other later after this.”‌

“Technically,‌ I‌ can still see you. You just can’t see me.”‌

“Are you scared,‌ Miss?” He shifted his position to be able to fully face Elizabeth, face as determined as a kid asking for the certainty of his candy reward. “You’re going to lose something after all.”‌

Gilbert would probably dodge that question, but Elizabeth wasn’t the type to shove off the kid’s curiosity. That’s what she always did. Answer and answer. Smile and laugh, make it look convincing. Whether it’s the truth, a straight up lie, or a white lie, she just had to make it up. So she bent down a little and hugged Tae Hee, wrapping her arms around the tiny figure. She could feel him shivering underneath.

“I’m fine, I’m fine! That’s bound to happen anyway!‌ Don’t mind it!” She nudged him before running her hands all over his head. “I don’t want a junior worrying about me. That put me to shame, honestly.”‌

“It’s not shameful at all,” he replied. When Elizabeth let him go, his face looked like a ripped cherry waiting to be popped. “I understand you wouldn’t like to share your worry with me. But you have Mr. Gilbert on your side. Please talk with him.”‌

Elizabeth was stoned. Something in her eyes shifted before they were swallowed by her wide grin. “Of course I will! Thank you for caring.” She combed his previously messy hair with her fingers, making it at least look bearable. “For everything. For the days we spend together. You really make a difference here.”

Tae Hee was so close to hugging her back if only his phone didn’t ring and the caller showed the name of people from the headquarter. It seemed like they had arrived earlier and were now waiting in front of the apartment.

“What? They arrived already?”‌ Gilbert barged in, hands still wet from the washing. “What an asshole. At least give me a heads up.”‌

“You’re the one telling Tae Hee to stand by in case they come earlier.” Elizabeth squinted, dragging Gilbert to the doorway. “Let’s help him down.”‌

“No, I’m fine here!” Tae Hee immediately pulled his suitcase to his side, not letting Gilbert place a grip on it. “You both stay here.‌ I can go down by myself.”

Gilbert sure looked offended by that. “Like hell I let you! What’s wrong with me accompanying you to the lobby? Are you embarrassed to be seen with me, your own mentor?”‌

“It’s not like that!‌ I just don’t want to trouble you any longer. Because that’s all I did the past few days, let me do this one right for the last time. Please.”‌ He pushed the door open, dragging the luggage outside. “Thank you everyone. I promised to be good. You guys be good as well.”‌

It was a drop of awkward silence that made Tae Hee turn away and walk out. He thought it’s going to be easy, but now even Gilbert’s anger from last night was understandable for him. Holding back a weight on his eyes, he focused his gaze on those upcoming stairs until someone yelled across the corridor.

“TAE HEE!”

It sounded weird, pretty sure this was the first time that name came out from his mouth.

So he looked back and found Gilbert panting behind him. The next time he knew, he was pulled into another hug and received several rough pats on his back.

That didn’t last as long as Elizabeth’s, but definitely shared the same warmth. Gilbert pulled away, a smirk was crowned into his feature. “See you.”

A droplet escaped his left eye. “M’ yeah. See you too, sir.”‌

***

“I ‌ can’t believe I ‌ have to push you out for you to say farewell with him!”‌ scolded Elizabeth as soon as Gilbert’s back to his room. She tossed a dark box from her bag to the dinner table, a loud thump echoed shortly at the other line. Another thing Elizabeth had bought for him this morning—the new model of iPhone for the one Gilbert left at the wheel.

Gilbert eyed it once before faking a cough and walked past her, grabbing his invisible jacket and work bag.

Elizabeth rolled her eyes. What a brat. “And also can’t believe this is the attitude you give me after all the fuss and dramatic confession you made yesterday!”

“I didn’t confess! I just asked you out!”

“Oh, you talk now!” Elizabeth was ready to throw a fit if the person before her wasn’t her childhood friend who she knew like the back of her hand. “Asking me out? So it really didn’t mean anything else then?”

“Liz, I’m late for work!” Gilbert tossed a pair of random shoes to the ground and stepped on them like slippers. “I can’t think of what to say to you for that matter.‌ Didn’t we agree to wait and figure it out for a time being?!‌”

“Okay, okay.”‌ Of course he dodged that. “I’m not bringing that up again. I was just asking if you didn’t care about Tae Hee that much that you didn’t bother to say a word other than cursing on his pickup service.”

He stopped in the doorway, hand froze on the doorknob. There was a slight tremble before he twisted the knob and opened the door wide, a gesture to ask Elizabeth to leave too (that, unless she wanted to get locked up). “I spent like three hours prior to your arrival with him, talking about moving out and stuff. The whole session is basically my farewell. I don’t know what else to tell him when he knows shits better than I do.”‌

Elizabeth stepped out from the room, letting Gilbert lock the door from outside. “Really? That’s your excuse?”

“Of course that sounds like an excuse to you.”‌ He pulled the key out, casually tossed it to his bag, and went to check on his mailbox. “I’m sorry I don’t watch any morning drama to know how to say a proper and dramatic goodbye to someone—oh, hello.”‌

He brought out a letter. The shape and stamp were different from the one they used to get from the headquarter. After flipping the letter back and forth, trying to guess the content, Gilbert decided to just rip it out.

He didn’t need to read the rest of the formal letter. The original address gave everything away.

“You got that too.” Elizabeth didn’t look surprised when Gilbert showed her the address. “Yuriko specifically fetched me the letter yesterday night. She said she couldn’t come and asked me to be present on her behalf.”

It was from the church the three of them spent half of their lives studying on how to be a good server of God. The same church Gilbert used to play skipping stones alone at the river behind the building because no one wanted to play with him. That very church where he would cry himself to sleep upon fighting homesickness, the place where he met Yuriko and later Elizabeth, with all their memories stored up in such a small building and community—including the most unpleasant one.

Gilbert shook his head, knocking out the burden off his mind.

“Apparently, our former homeroom teacher, Mrs. Anderson had fallen sick over the past couple years and recently been stamped. She died yesterday and the church tried to invite most of their graduates to attend the funeral tomorrow. Talk about an unexpected reunion,” Elizabeth said, shrugging off midway.

Mrs. Anderson was a well known sister and nun in the church. She was considered kind and caring, until she was found siding with the headmaster when Elizabeth’s scandal broke out. Everyone expected her to defend Elizabeth as one of her notable students. She didn’t go that way in the end.

“You don’t have to go,”‌ Gilbert blurted out, reaching Elizabeth’s arm even though she wasn’t going anywhere right now. That resurfacing memory was enough to make him feel sick, moreover Elizabeth. “Screw your promise with Yuriko.”

Elizabeth frowned, tilting her head to the way Gilbert seemed to rumple the letter. “Why are you suddenly telling me things?”

“You hate them, don’t you? Don’t force yourself to go see them. It’s not that worth it, you know, even for a funeral.”‌

“Because it’s a funeral, I want to come and pay respect.” She huffed, subtly pulled out her arm from his hold. “If I‌ can let go of the whole Roderich’s matters, why can’t I‌ let go this one too?”

“That’s different—”

“I’m there to pay respect, nothing else. I‌ just gotta keep reminding myself of that.” It was as light as her voice at first, but now he could clearly see her face hardening. She was burning out of emotion, no matter how determined she was at keeping her head cool. “Besides, I’ll be fine if I’m with you. So you’ll come with me, right?”

“That was a n—yeah, I guess.”‌

No way he could say no to those eyes.

“Good!” Elizabeth clapped her hands together, jumping excitedly like a kid who was told to pack for a field trip. “Don’t forget to test your phone after I go home! I need to text you when and where we should meet for tomorrow.”

***

“Your AP‌ test shows a convincing result that will determine your future. Apparently, yours leaned more to a reaper than a stamper.”‌

Gilbert tilted his head. He was in his early eighteen that time, one month away from graduation. It was his turn to meet the headsister. There was a long queue behind him.

Unlike some of the students who either were cheering for getting the position they wanted or mourning their failure, Gilbert didn’t get to feel the emotion. Not like he had any desire before to be actualized, of course he had no regrets.

He’d become a grim reaper for the rest of his life. Cool, he thought, grim reaper does have a nice ring on it. Now what?

Elizabeth, on the other hand, seemed really excited with the position she got. She and Yuriko couldn’t stop hugging each other for getting the same position: stampers. Not to mention both of them scored the highest among the whole batch in the AP‌ tests.

“Cut it out.” Gilbert had to drag her away at one point after the headsister dismissed him. He’s glad she’s happy and all, but something didn’t sit well with him, especially when he knew Elizabeth lied about being totally happy. “You may be just a stamper, but Yuriko isn’t. She’s a government official, barely a just, the position that only the highest score deserves. That supposedly includes Yuriko and you. Not Yuriko and fucking Roderich.”

“What are you talking about?” Elizabeth, half giggling, slapped Gilbert soft in the shoulder. “So what about that? I can’t be happy? For my best friend Yuriko?”

“I‌ don’t say that! What I‌ mean is for you to drop the act and admit that you’re disappointed!”‌

“I’m not disappointed,‌ Gilbert.” She inhaled, face getting red from the rushing. “Why would I? I certainly violated the rules, which the action itself had blacklisted me from any chance of scholarship and position no matter how high I scored the tests. I saw it coming a long time ago and you expect me to be still bitter about it?”

Gilbert sneered, frustrated with the whole argument. He had no reasons to be pushing Elizabeth either, so what even he’s doing now? “Come on, Liz. We all know you’re still bitter. Who doesn’t, I‌ mean?”

“So what if I’m still bitter?!” Elizabeth started to get irritated. If not for the empty corner of the hall, they would have got caught by some passing sisters. “What can I do about it?‌ Sulking? Arguing? Creating mess? Yeah, right. Because apparently—according to Mr. Gilbert—accepting and moving on are not an option!”‌

The next time Gilbert knew, he was at the headquarter in spring. Everyone from his batch gathered there, lining up to the podium upstage where each one of them would be inaugurated as a proud reaper or stamper. They usually invited the legendary Angel of Death to be a guest. But for some dire reasons, he couldn’t attend the graduation that year. That let down Gilbert, since he thought it’d be his first opportunity to see the figure of his future boss.

“Gilbert Bernhagen,”‌ called the one behind the podium, supposedly someone from the government. He watched Gilbert running up the stairs to the stage with eerie gazes, remotely handing Gilbert a nicely folded leather jacket as the symbolization. “With this, you’re officially working with us as a grim reaper,”‌ he said as Gilbert took the jacket from him and wore it in front of the other attendees.

He couldn’t stop staring at the sleeves of it for the rest of the ceremony. It did look cool on him, clearly a tailored jacket meant to wrap his ego. Maybe this wasn’t as bad after all. He found himself smiling.

A few knocks to check the microphone, the guy continued, “I ‌ would also like to introduce you our honorable mentions for tonight, those who are invited to work with the headquarter. Bring them a round of applause, Miyauchi Yuriko and Roderich Meier!”

Whistles, cheers, shouts of congratulation filled the air. The second both of them stood up, the room was a hell of chaos. Of course it did, the two were the happiest persons in the room. It’s like a wedding or something, except they had just graduated ten minutes ago.

Between the lines that separated them, Gilbert glanced at a few rows across him, where Elizabeth had made herself comfortable sitting on her seat. He’s sitting behind a couple of seats and people, so he’s not quite sure what to make out of her current expression. But judging from the uneven wave of breaths her shoulders showed, Gilbert concluded she wasn’t quite pleased there.

He’s right. Not even reaching a minute after that horrible ‘honorable mention’, Elizabeth excused herself and ran outside the hall, probably to the bathroom. Gilbert didn’t bother to chase her. Perhaps she needed to borrow more times for her ‘accepting and moving on’ part.

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