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They had nothing in common, or so it seemed.

Koki Kariya, better known by his last name than his first, was never one to rush. The tangerine-haired Reaper woke up slowly, ate slowly, floated from place to place slowly. If someone (like Uzuki) nagged at him to hurry up, he made sure to take even more time. He didn't like to do anything in haste because ambling along let him savor each moment more, and gave him time to plan ahead.

Daisukenojo Bito, better known as Beat, never slowed down. He was all mouth, all action, all the time. He couldn't stand being idle unless he was sleeping, and even then he tossed and turned and snored as if wrestling with the condition. The former Player didn't plan the next ten steps, much less a goal or destination.

Yet they often ran into each other post-Game. They shared a craving for good food and the opinion that the Ramen Don was the best place to get it. The two of them often sat near each other because they preferred the same seating area. And because they both liked to talk, they talked.

"So where's Pinky at?" asked Beat, his mouth nearly overflowing with curry.

"Out clothes-shopping," answered Kariya, slurping up a couple of noodles from his Shio ramen. "Not really my thing."

"Yeah, me neither," agreed the muscular teen, holding up his bowl like he couldn't believe it was empty already. "I like the clothes I got, yo. Don't need no twenty pairs of shoes."

"Same," replied Kariya lazily, breathing in the steam of his meal before continuing to eat it. "By the way, why do still call Uzuki 'Pinky'?"

" 'Cause she's got pink hair."

"But certainly you know her real name by now," said the Reaper. "She gets awfully mad whenever you call her by that moniker."

"That wha?"

"Moniker," repeated Kariya. "Nickname."

"Oh. Why didn't ya just say nickname instead of that weird word, yo?" Beat asked, giving more money to Ken Doi for a third meal. " 'Sides, you still call Neku 'Phones', even though you know his name already."

"True," admitted Kariya, pausing to feast some more on his ramen. "Why do you think that is?"

"Why is what is?"

"Why do we prefer nicknames over real names?" asked Kariya, stirring his noodles with his chopsticks. Despite his sluggish eating the bowl was almost empty.

" 'Cause they're easier to remember?" Beat guessed.

"Or maybe because it makes it easier to deal with people," Kariya ventured, smirking.

"Well, yeah. It's easier to deal with people if you don't hafta remember their real names, yo!"

"That's…not what I meant."

"Wha? Whatchu mean then?"

Kariya paused, as if unsure himself, or maybe he was just taking his time as usual.

"There's a certain psychology behind naming something or someone, whether it's a nickname or a whole new name," he explained, poking at the cooling noodles. "If you accept a name, you're letting go of the past, letting a new identity form. If you give a new name to someone and they accept it, then you gain some power over that person and the potential identity."

"…Wha? But I ain't tryin' to change or gain power or nothing," protested Beat.

"Not consciously perhaps. Unconsciously might be another story."

"I've been naming people in my sleep, yo?" Beat shouted incredulously. "Since when? And how you know 'bout it?"

"…Not that kind of unconscious."

"But either you're awake or you ain't!"

Kariya sighed, deciding to drop that branch of the subject.

"How do I explain it?" he mused, languidly tapping the rim of his bowl with the chopsticks. "Well, why did you start calling yourself Beat?"

" 'Cause nobody could remember my name, man! That or they'd start laughin' and makin' fun of it," the former Player replied, slamming one fist onto the counter and making Kariya's dish jump. "So then I jus' gave myself a new name that people could actually, y'know, pronounce and remember and stuff."

"Hmm…so in other words, you didn't want to be forgotten or made fun of, so you gave yourself a new name, a new start," Kariya concluded, smirking again. "Interesting."

"Whoa, wait a minute! was jus' fine! It was my name that was the problem yo, not me."

"But your name is you," said Kariya.

"…Wha?" Beat replied, looking dumbfounded.

"Alright, when I say the name Uzuki, what do you think of?" asked the Reaper.


"You see? When I say Uzuki, you don't think of the way it's written, or how it has three syllables, or how many other people have that name. You think of my partner, Uzuki. The name and the person are automatically linked, which makes the name important. Follow?"

"Uh, names are important," Beat parroted.

"Now you've nicknamed your sister Rhyme. Was that around the same time you changed your own name?"

"Uh…yeah, it was!"

"So why did you rename her?" asked Kariya. "Did she not like her name either?"

"Nah, she liked Raimu okay, it's just…" Beat trailed off, trying to think. "Well, Rhyme kinda sounds like Raimu and goes with Beat, Beat and Rhyme y'know, so I stated callin' her Rhyme and she didn't mind so it stuck, I guess."

"That still doesn't explain why you did it."

"…I wasn't really thinking. I just started calling her that."

"You wanted her to join your in your newly renamed life perhaps? An endearment," Kariya offered. "Then again, you don't use nicknames as terms of endearment, do you? It's a tool of dissociation, to distance yourself from others. A kid named 'Phones' is much less memorable than someone with a real name, like Neku Sakuraba. A young girl named 'Rhyme' isn't as personal as a little sister called 'Raimu Bito'. You wanted to prove that you, the brand-new Beat, didn't need a little sister worrying over him like Dai-"

"Shut your face!" Beat yelled, slamming both hands on the counter as he jumped onto his feet. Kariya's bowl fell off the table and broke. "Whatchu know about me and Rhyme and names? Names are jus' names, and nothing' else to it!"

Beat stormed out of Ramen Don, leaving a startled but not necessarily shocked Kariya behind. Ken Doi resurfaced with a fresh bowl of curry only to find his customer vanished and a bowl shattered on the floor. He sighed and set down the curry on the counter.

"You want it?" he asked Kariya.

"Not really," replied Kariya.

Ken Doi grumbled about temperamental youths and went back to get a broom.

Kariya studied the curry boredly, though he had no intention of eating it. He had struck a nerve tonight. He knew, because he didn't use nicknames as an endearment either. When it came to erasing Players, it was more entertaining to hunt down someone named 'Skulls' or 'Skulls Jr.' than someone christened with a true name. It was all business in the end, the business of surviving.

Still, the Reaper hadn't expected such a strong reaction to mere philosophy. The roots of Beat's nicknaming habit seemed to be more personal than his own. Kariya couldn't help but wonder about what he might have stumbled upon.

This wasn't the first time he'd struck a nerve. He might not see the former Player for a few days. It might be a few days more before he talked to him again. But Beat couldn't keep quiet for long, and he couldn't either, so things would be back to normal soon enough.

The two of them had too much in common.