Chapter 28

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The clink of chopsticks scraping against ceramic bowls filled the light silence as everyone ate their dinner.

Rin poked her fish with a chopstick experimentally; she never really liked eating small fish. She never knew how to take out the bones and almost always ended up stabbing her tongue or the roof of her mouth with a stray fish bone that managed to remain hidden from the girl's keen eyesight.

She even choked on a fish bone recently. If it weren't for Souji's sharp hit on her back, that bone would have been lodged in her throat forever.

That would have been the end of Asai Rin, the girl who died choking on a fish bone.

She never understood how Shinpachi always ate his fish whole, bones and all. Reminding herself to give Heisuke the fish later on, she started with her rice.

"Pile it on!" Heisuke said after making eye contact with Ryonosuke, who was serving the Roshigumi dinner.

"You got it," Ryonosuke said to a smiling Heisuke, taking his bowl from him.

"This residence..." Saito's soft voice sounded, grabbing everyone's attention. "...pickles their vegetables to perfection."

Rin laughed softly. Of course the vegetables were pickled to perfection. She prepared them, after all.

"When eating them together with freshly cooked white rice, their true value becomes evident." Saito picked up his Miso soup. Though his face held no evident emotion, he was clearly enjoying his meal. "Nothing is more complex than the simple things in life."

"Right..." Heisuke and Ryonosuke said together, their blank expressions indicating how lost they were.

While thinking about Saito's words, Heisuke didn't notice a grinning Shinpachi sneak up behind him to swiftly steal half of his fish, causing Heisuke to yell out with surprise and defeat.

"Hey! Shinpatchi, what do you think you're doing?!" the boy yelled as the older man savored the fish.

"See, in our world the strong eat the weak," Shinpachi said with much 'wisdom'.

"In that case, I'll-" Heisuke started as he reached out for Shinpachi's fish with his chopsticks, only to have his hand knocked to the side as Shinpachi defended his fish with his own chopsticks.

"Why you! You...! You...!" Heisuke said, attempting to steal the fish with every word, only to have his chopsticks stopped by Shinpachi's.

A chopstick spar broke out.

Ryonosuke watched the lively fight as Heisuke warned him, "Ryonosuke! Don't let your guard down! You better be careful!"

"Take someone's food before they take yours!" Shinpachi suggested with humor.

"Really?" the blue haired boy asked.

Rin smirked as she drank her soup quietly, predicting Ryonosuke's next move as he glanced at Saito, who was sipping on his soup with content.

"Then I won't hold back," Ryonosuke said as he reached out for the pickled vegetables on Saito's platter.

The atmosphere momentarily darkened as Ryonosuke fell back with a gasp of terror; fear was morphed on his face as Saito's chopsticks were threateningly pointed at the boy. Saito's cool, predetory rage had completely paralyzed Ryonosuke.

"If you need me for something, wait until I'm done eating," Saito stated. "In the world of beasts, you have no right to complain if you get killed for disrupting a stronger animal's meal."

"Eh?" Ryonosuke weakly whimpered.

"That's Hajime-kun's way of saying he'll beat you up black and blue if you touch his food~" Rin said cheerfully at the shaking bluenette.

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