"…" Shinta had to take a moment to fully absorb what she’d said to him.
"Then… I’ll do my best! Thanks for believing in me… Rin!"
No wonder she was the leading Cheer Girl. Sure, a little criticism could be hard to receive… but she framed it all off to be encouraging in the end. Even in their day-to-day interactions, they could provide this kind of support… maybe Shirosaki Rin was the person to shadow, instead of Saionji Hayato.
"Hmhm, now that’s the spirit~!" Rin said, giving Shinta a firm pat on the back. "Now, I’ll be off to practice with the girls for a while, and I hope you’ll go do the same. If you need any help, you know who to call!" And she headed towards the boat, turning back to wave at him before disappearing over the hill.
He sure has grown since they first met… they all have.
"Do you think so…? I mean… not me… looking young…" Shinta shook his head, since his answer would have made sense with the latter statement, "Like… you think I fit in fine with… with the squad?"
Everyone around him was so full of fervor… next to all of them, Shinta felt like a young child in the middle of a bustling crossing, surrounded by people rushing about, buildings reaching up to the heavens…
"Of course!" she said, arms crossed and a grin on her face. "You see, there’s no denying you’re still a rookie. Getting better of course, but still nowhere near Saionji’s level." It was a level of bluntness that even she thought might have been much, but she continued.
"And that’s just the thing, you know? The point of having a cheer squad is to bring people to their full potential, and that’s not possible without having some self-improvement along the way." Rin patted his head, messing the top of it up a little. "If there’s anyone I know who shows that determination to get better, it’s you."
His reaction was immediate.
"That can’t be good for anyone’s eyes!"
Even if it wasn’t physical sparkles that would burn and make someone tear up and need to flush their eyes out… flickering and possibly blinding light could also be a problem.
…At least, Shinta felt this would be a legitimate problem.
"Awww, but it would have been so cool, too~" she said, laughing at his reaction. She was beginning to take the whole thing less seriously then before… Not that she was being too serious in the first place.
"Although… I’ve always thought you looked just fine the way you are. That’s just me, though." Rin gently patted his cheek. "But I doubt you’ll keep those youthful looks forever, so how about you wait it out and see where age takes you?"
Awkward laughter. “I suppose it’s worth saying to get rid of the idea…”
No doubt a lot of work went into maintaining hair as magnificent as that. And Shinta knew just about nothing about it. Except how to use a comb.
"I don’t think I could do eyebrows like that anyway…"
"Yeeeah, I think it’s best not to try," she said, quickly scrubbing the mental image from her brain.
"Something else, then? If not your face, then maybe some sort of accessory like danchou has…" She framed his face, attempting to capture an idea of what he needed. "Maybe somehow use your energy to create an aura of sparkles!"
"Shades…? I don’t want to look like an Elite Beat Agent…" Their tier of ‘cool’ was displaced far off to the left compared to conventional Japanese standards of cool. They were pretty cool, but in a distinctly different flavor.
"Do you think… if I grow out my hair…?"
That was an actual idea that he had.
"Good point…" She put a hand to her chin, trying to actually imagine it. With the more dignified air their squad had, an accessory like that would only look out of place.
Imagining Shinta’s suggestion, she immediately shook her head. “Nope. No good. I get that you wanna try being more like Hayato, but it just won’t work like that.”
"R-right… Shiro—…. Rin-san. A-ah…"
'Cool act', she said. Made it even worse. Just trying to act like a prospective squad leader should. Just an act. And now he was blubbering about and couldn't get his words straight. He'd gone in the complete opposite direction.
"Like I said, Shinta-kun. You’ll figure it out one day. Probably not today, but one day." She did feel pretty sorry for him, and while he lacked the natural aura Saionji had when he was serious, she couldn’t deny that he had potential and drive.
"Maybe change up your look for a bit. Buy some shades or something to give you that mysterious edge!"