The dense sea of people rushing past drowned the small nine-year-old, but her size came to her aide in terms of moving among them. Shiori had rarely been outside of her small home with Kaede, and the refreshing taste of freedom enticed her out of the room the Academy gave her. As ridiculous as it might sound to others, this was the first time life allowed Shiori outside on her own, let alone traveling unaccompanied in such a bustling district. And the young child was going to absolutely take advantage of this newfound freedom even if it meant going against the Kaede-inspired thoughts in her head.
The barefooted tranced child wandered the streets, never turning back to keep track of where she was before. The smells of the many clubs and restaurants filled her nostrils, and like Pavlov’s dogs, practically drooled at the mere smell of cuisine. Then her eyes landed on something that reminded her of home: a few stands outside a shop adorned with towers fruit and other goods. The intimacy of her home replaying in her head, she approached a nearby cart and removed a juicy fruit from it, moving to take a bite out before something grabbed her wrist.
“Hey kid, you gotta pay for that.”
A hoarse voice whispered a snarl at her, and Shiori met the eyes of a middle-aged woman, the ‘that’s my shit’ aura radiating off of them. She never learned that she had to pay for things; she tended to space out when her older sibling spoke of finances. The child stammered dumbfounded before the woman forced the fruit out of her hands and back onto the stand. “The next time you want something, bring your parent’s cash, eh?”
Shiori’s face flushed, avoiding eye contact and retracting her arms into the comforts of her clothing. Being publicly reprimanded was new, and the uncomfortable kind of new. Was this a normal thing? Shiori clearly didn‘t know, and stepped backward, blending back into the crowd. “Sorry, miss. I will…”
She turned back around towards the way she came… well, was it the way she came? Her blue irises darted about, her brain slowly realizing that she did not understand where she was and where to go. Shiori gritted her teeth, feeling a slight panic festering in her mind. Although Kaede never directly said it during their parting words, she knew her sibling was right; She was an absolute mess without them. Her form slunk towards a stone wall, leaving a space between the sea of people and the child. The world around overwhelmed her, but not in the way she was before. Shiori’s back pressed itself up against the wall, finding solace in its solidity when everything else was unsure, and froze there for god knows how long, with many not paying any mind to the blank-faced nine-year-old.