A New Home - Original Characters, Original Story


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Joined: Sun Jun 27, 2021 3:57 am

Re: A New Home - Original Characters, Original Route

Post by ArtemisCain »

Take Two

One would have thought that the bed would have been large enough for us not to have even noticed each other had we not wanted to.

That hadn’t been what I’d been thinking when we had gone to bed, but it soon was.

Rei turned out to be a very difficult person to have to sleep anywhere near. I would never admit such a thing, but I was amazed that someone like her was able to flail around as much as she did.

It wasn’t as if she was having bad dreams. Or any dreams as far as I could tell.

At one point I decided that it was best to sneak out of the bed and dig through the various cupboards to find some extra blankets to construct a sort of wall between the two of us. This did mean that I had to give up the covers because she would have rolled straight under my defences had I not been on top of them.

To say that she was confused by what she discovered when we woke up in the morning was an understatement.

“What have you been doing?” She asks, looking at my makeshift shelter. “And why wasn’t I involved in any of it?”

“Because I didn’t need to see what you were capable of when you’re half awake,” I reply. “How do you put so much energy into claiming the entire bed when you’re fast asleep?”

“Ah,” she says. “I’m sorry about whatever that was. I’ve gotten used of having this massive thing to myself. Somehow, my body just knows when the edge is getting too close. Guess I haven’t had time to re-adjust to the company.”

“I managed to survive,” I reply. “It was close at one point, but I managed to finish construction just in time.”

“So it would seem,” Rei says as she topples my little line of defence. “We should start getting ready. Don’t want to waste any time waiting around.”

“I thought you enjoyed a late and lazy breakfast?” I say, thinking back to yesterday.

“Not when there are things to do,” Rei replies, looking at me as if I’m insane. “I had nothing to do but wait then. Today, we’ve got places to me.”

It makes sense coming from Rei, but I’m sure most people would be puzzled by the way she understands things.

“You’re right,” I say. “Guide me through the schedule you must have ready in your head.”

“It’s nothing like that,” she replies. “We’ve got somewhere to be, so we need to get there. What happens after that comes later. We can figure that out once we’re there.”

I can’t really expect her to have any idea about what we might do once we get to my place, so I don’t continue with that conversation. The two of us get busy with getting dressed so that we can join the others who are probably already up if the occasional sound that reaches us is anything to go by.

We change quickly. Rei into her next colourful and eye-catching outfit and me back into yesterday’s clothes. She offers to lend me something, but I refuse. Her stuff doesn’t quite fit me, which was fine for the night, but I’d rather not spend the day in something that would attract attention and is rather ill-fitting.

We then head out into the hall and see that Giichi and his parents are already eating. All of them seen to be wearing the same things as yesterday, though I put that down to their style choices rather than a lack of wardrobe options.

“Morning,” Kenichi says and Tomoko signs something that no-one bothers to translate. The situation doesn’t require it.

“I already ordered something for you,” he says to me. “Your diet means we don’t really have anything on hand for you. It’s nothing exotic or fancy because I didn’t want to wake you just to see what you wanted.”

“Thank you,” I say as we both head over to join them.

Sure enough, what’s on offer is very similar to what dad has been making for me. I didn’t expect them to do anything for me, so it’s a pleasant surprise.

“I’m guessing you’ll want to get back home,” he says to me. “Daisuke can take you, but you’ll have to wait until he gets back. I’m afraid that us getting to work on time will have to come first.”

“Of course,” I say. “You’ve already done plenty for me. I wouldn’t expect you to inconvenience yourself like that for me.”

“I could get you a taxi,” he says, half to himself. “Whatever would work best for you.”

“I’ll wait,” I say firmly. “We’ve got things to do anyway.”

“Yeah,” Rei interrupts. “I’m going to head over to her place for the day. Tonight, as well.”

“Oh,” he replies. “And will you be rejoining us tomorrow?”

He’s not at all thrown by her statement and is already trying to plan ahead. Giichi is now signing for his mother, and she seems equally level-headed.

“I think so,” Rei replies. “I wasn’t going to take all my stuff anyway, so I’d have to come back anyway.”

“It would be unpleasant hauling all of that around,” Kenichi agrees. “You can also head back to Yamaku with Giichi. You can join in as well with a little detour.”

This last part is addressed to me, and I now feel a bit of pressure with all their eyes on me.

“That would be a great idea,” Rei says. “Get us all back together for a road trip across the country.”

“I’d have to see about that,” I reply. “I’ve already made enough sudden decisions this holiday that I think my parents should hear about any others before I make them.”

“That’s probably a good idea,” Kenichi replies. “Don’t feel as if I’m pushing you into something. I just suggest these things as they come to mind. The final decision is up to you.”

He really seems to be a nice man. Where does his fearsome reputation come from?

“I hope the two of you have fun with whatever plans you’ve concocted,” Giichi says. “Will anyone else be getting involved in your adventures?”

“Yes,” I reply. “Rei can meet some of my friends while she’s around at my place.”

I don’t want to go into too much detail and involve his parents in a conversation they don’t need to be part of, so I’m keeping it as vague as possible.

“That’s great to hear,” he says. “Won’t that be fun, Rei. I’m sure you’ll have a great time getting to know them.”

Rei has clearly put it together that Giichi knows a lot more than he should about what’s been going on between the two of us, but she’s also resolved not to share more than necessary.

“Of course,” she replies. “If only you could be there to see it. I’m sure it would be wonderful to involve you.”

“Don’t you want to go with them?” Kenichi asks. “Or is it not really possible?”

“I doubt they really need to have me tag along,” he replies. “I’m sure they want to do whatever it is they do when I’m not around.”

“I’m sure,” his father responds. “You don’t always want to have a boss hanging around all the time, even if you are on good terms.”

A very interesting way to put that. Apparently, the work environment is never far from his mind if that’s the conclusion he reaches. I would have expected him to turn to the idea of a boy having to put up with being overwhelmed by a bunch of girls.

Then again, he could be just as serious about life as Giichi is. Personal feelings may not be his highest priority.

“The two of us should get out of your hair,” he continues. “I don’t want to hold you back just so that I can pick your brains. You should get ready, and Daisuke will be back in no time.”

The two of them keep to their word and leave soon after.

“You won’t have too much time to get your things together,” Giichi says. “He’ll be back for you in about half an hour.”

“Give us a moment,” Rei says. “We’ll have everything we need long before that.”

“Are you sure?” Giichi says sarcastically. “Won't you just end up taking far more that you need to. I saw how heavy those suitcases were when you arrived.”

“I’ll only need the essentials,” Rei replies. “And a few extra outfits in case anything happens while I’m gone.”

I should approve of her preparedness for any accidents, but I’m more worried about the idea that several changes of clothes may be needed.

“We’re not doing anything crazy,” I interrupt. “So, you don’t need to be too well prepared.”

“I’ll take your advice into consideration,” Rei responds, and I have to accept that I’m not going to get anything more from her.

When Daisuke does return, it’s Giichi that lets us know. He’s really mastered the art of communicating with the driver without me seeing how he does it.

“I’ll let you two out,” he says. “I sort of have to.”

He leads us to the elevator and waits for us to board with Rei’s small, but bulging, bag. Once we’re in, he swipes his card, presses the button and steps back out of the elevator before it has time to close.

I’m about to say something before he cuts in.

“See you both again.”

The door then slides shut and we set off on our downwards journey.

“He got us there,” Rei says. “Should have seen it coming though.”

“And I’d almost forgotten how abrupt he can be,” I reply. “He’d been almost normal the entire time we were there.”

“Maybe he just had to remind you to stay on your toes?” she suggests. “Don’t get comfortable and all that?”

It’s possible, but I think Giichi just wanted to get a prank in on us as we left. I wonder what happens if the elevator has to make a stop on its journey?

Luckily, we don’t have to find out as we reach the carpark without picking up anyone else. The doors slide open, and I can see Daisuke waiting in the exact same place as he'd been yesterday.

The doors are already open as he steps forward.

“Let me take those for you,” he says as he reaches for our things.

“Thank you,” Rei says as she hands over her bag and heads for the closest seat.

“Dibs on this one,” she calls back. “Around you go.”

I do as she suggests and we’re soon buckling ourselves in place as Daisuke takes his place behind the wheel.

“It should be another pleasant journey,” he says to us. “Not much traffic heading in this direction.”

He knows so much about his destinations and the routes he’s going to take. There must be something up there that clues him in on all of it.

“Doesn’t mean we should waste any time,” Rei calls back. “Floor it.”

“I’ll do no such thing,” he replies. “I may be your driver, but I work for Mr Nakamura.”

“That’s no fun,” Rei says to me with a mock pout. “I thought he might have been the kind of guy who’d bend the rules.”

I have no idea where she got that idea from but, if you try it with everyone, maybe you’ll get lucky eventually.

Now that does seem to be a plausible explanation for Rei’s attempt.

We make our way out of the underground parking and along the road at a much more sensible speed than Rei might have wished for. Even so, the journey goes by swiftly and I start to recognize things as we get closer and closer to home.

Soon enough, we pull to a stop at home, and I clamber out before turning to see if Rei needs any help.

It looks like she doesn’t, as she’s already pulled herself along the back seat and is swinging her legs out of the car. With her hand on the car body, she pulls herself upright and out of the car.

While I watch this, Daisuke has already gone around the car and pulled Rei’s bag out and is now standing next to us.

“Would you like any more help with this?” He asks.

“I don’t think so,” Rei says, reaching out towards the bag. “You can just hand it over.”

He does just that, and I can’t help but feel that Rei should have accepted his help. The bag is clearly heavy enough that holding it in one hand is difficult. I suppose that I can’t expect Rei to give up all her less helpful quirks just because I’ve convinced her to let me choose who I associate with.

The two of us watch as Daisuke gets back in his car and heads off out of sight before we turn to each other.

“Here we are,” I say. “Not quite what Giichi has to offer, but it’s home.”

“Don’t even try to compare something like that,” Rei replies. “Nobody can match that kind of living. We’re back in the realm of normality now.”

At least Rei is admitting that. She just seemed to find it rather amusing when we were there.

“I cleared it all with my parents,” I say. “But they won’t be here to meet you, so you’ll have to wait till evening for that.”

“The tragedy of work,” Rei replies, more to herself than to me. “How long until that’s us as well?”

“Don’t start on that,” I say. “Now let’s get inside.”

Once I’ve got Rei up to my Room, I offer her some space in my cupboard in case she wants to stop anything she has in that bag from creasing.

She quickly takes me up on my offer and I’m soon faced with a two sets of clothes that anyone would be able to see did not belong to the same person.

“I think I might have to find somewhere else to sleep though,” I say, looking at my bed.

It’s much smaller than the one we shared last night.

“You worry to much,” Rei says. “I’ll be fine in a new bed. That one was just out of the ordinary.”

I’m sceptical about that, but I’ll have to wait and see. Whatever happens, I’ll still have some extra bedding on hand in case I need to make a run for it.

“I suppose I’ll give you the grand tour,” I say. “Though it’s not going to be as good as yours.”

“Lead the way,” Rei says. “I still need to know where everything is.”

I take Rei around and show her where my parent’s room, bathroom, and spare room are. Downstairs, I show her the kitchen, dining room, family room, and toilet.

“That’s it,” I say. “Now you know where everything is.”

“Great,” she replies. “Now I won’t wander where I’m not supposed to.”

I’m not entirely sure how she plans to wander in here anyway.

“Can we get things moving though,” she continues. “I know that you’ve got plans in mind and goals that you want to achieve, so let’s get to it. I’ve got someone to make up with.”

“I’m glad you’re so willing to get to that,” I say smiling, though it’s less at her willingness to do this and more at the idea that she wants to get through it as soon as possible. “I’ll just have to check in with her first. Don’t want to surprise her by just showing up unannounced. She might throw something at you.”

“I thought the two of you worked through this?” She says hesitantly. “That seems like a rather extreme line to take.”

“I’m sure she’ll be just as unimpressed by my idea as you are,” I say. “And don’t try to argue with me on it. I can tell that you’re only doing this for my sake.”

“Yeah,” she says slowly. “I suppose I can’t really hide that after everything we went over yesterday. But you wouldn’t be doing this if you didn’t think there was at least a chance of it working out.”

“Exactly,” I reply heading towards the phone. “The two of you are going to play nice and by the end of it, I’m sure you’ll at least be able to stand each other.”

“Sounds wonderful,” Rei mutters as I start to dial Ritsuko.

I laid everything out for Ritsuko over the phone and she was finally forced to hesitantly accept what was going to happen. It seems like she had hoped to avoid actually having to go through with this, but my determination was something that could not be stopped.

With that, we’re off to her house as I’m determined not to waste a moment.

Once we’re standing at Ritsuko’s front door waiting for her to answer, I turn to Rei.

“She’s just like anyone else at Yamaku,” I say. “You don’t judge them by their disabilities, so it doesn’t even matter that she doesn’t have one.”

Rei doesn’t have time to answer as Ritsuko opens the door.

“Morning Hatsumi,” she says. “Morning Rei.”

Definitely less excitement in the later greeting.

“Morning Ritsuko,” Rei replies.

“See,” I say. “We’re off to a good start already. Now let’s get going. I’m not going to keep the two of you couped up in anyone’s house. We’re going to get moving.”

“Where to?” They both ask in unison.

“I’m not sure yet,” I reply. “We’ll see where things take us and what the mood calls for.”

I want things to evolve as they go. Having anything set in stone won’t help me adapt to whatever might happen as the day goes on.

“Then I guess we’ll have to follow you,” Ritsuko says. “Can’t take the lead if even you don’t know what you want to happen.”

I set off away from the house and the two of them fall in either side of me. It really is true that I haven’t thought about where we might go. We’ll have to stop somewhere for lunch, but that’s still a while away. Until then I’ll be happy with leading them to the occasional shop or small park until something catches my eye.

“I might as well get started as I’m sure the two of you don’t know where to begin,” I say. “Both of you have equally reasonable, but unfair, problems with each other. I’ve also had the same talk with both of you to get past those issues. Now that I’ve had you both alone, it’s time for you to make up.”

There’s a moment of silence.

“I’ll choose one of you to start,” I say. “So, get moving.”

Ritsuko decides to be the one to speak up first.

“Rei,” she begins. “I don’t know your full story, but I may have overstepped with my beliefs about who you are. I wasn’t thinking as well as I should have, and I held things against you that I shouldn’t have.”

“And now you,” I say.

“I based my views of you on someone else,” Rei says. “It was unfair for me to treat you as if you were them, so I’ll try not to fall back into that trap.”

“See,” I say. “Both of you misunderstood each other. Which is stupid, because I think that you’re actually quite similar.”

I can feel them both looking at me.

“You’re also very different,” I admit. “But you wouldn’t both be here if I didn’t see at least some of the same qualities in both of you.”

“Thanks,” Rei says. “But I think you should stop being the therapist. I don’t need one of my friends knowing more about my feelings than I do.”

“Same,” Ritsuko says. “Can we stop with the digging into peoples minds and just act like what we are? Kids on holiday.”

“If you think my analyses aren’t needed any more,” I reply.

“I think they aren’t,” Rei says, and Ritsuko nods.

“Great,” I reply. “Then let’s do just that.”

The two of them definitely seem to be in agreement over this point. It’s wonderful to see them united on something for the first time.

“Are you really interested in law?” Rei asks as she decides to be the one to move the conversation along. “Or has Giichi turned you away from that path?”

“No, he hasn’t,” Ritsuko replies. “Though he has left me with some interesting moral questions to ponder. Do you have any idea what firm his father is involved in? I’d really like to know what experience he was talking from.”

Rei doesn’t speak up to answer this and I assume that she’s just as clueless about it as I am.

“I don’t think either of us knows that,” I reply. “Though, I know his name if that helps? Kenichi Nakamura?”

“What?” Ritsuko asks, stunned.

“You know him then?” I ask. “Guess you might have come across him at some point if you were looking into law, but I didn’t expect that response. Is he famous?”

“I suppose lawyers aren’t really famous. Outside of the legal world anyway. But yes, I’ve heard of him. His firm is probably one of the biggest in Japan,” she says.

I guess that shouldn’t really be a surprise given what I’ve seen and heard of him.

“I mean, he’s in the running for being the richest lawyer in the world,” Ritsuko continues. “He’s something of a legend.”

I find it funny that she knows about that part of the legal world. She must be even more interested than I thought.

“Really?” Rei asks. “He seems pretty normal to me. What makes him so special?”

“He’s very good at his job,” Ritsuko replies. “Most people who get that wealthy off of law do it with massive class action lawsuits. One of those can set you up for life. He’s a defense attorney though, which makes him an abnormality. The investments he must make, along with his fees and retainers, are monumental.”

“But what can you tell us about him?” I ask. “I get that there’s plenty of money involved, but what do you actually know about him?”

“He isn’t a very public figure,” she admits. “But his name comes up very quickly when you start looking around a bit. He’s a role model for anyone who wants to follow in his footsteps.”

“What is strange is that he has a nickname that I’ve never really understood,” Ritsuko continues.”

“Oh,” Rei says. “Maybe we can enlighten you since we’ve met the man.”

“It’s got something to do with how he won’t let go of any thread he can find that might tear a prosecutor’s case apart. He’s called the Terrier, but I don’t think it’s a very good name.”

“I think it’s excellent!” Rei says with a laugh. “Don’t you?”

She’s looking at me and I can definitely see what she loves about it.

“What’s so funny?” Ritsuko asks.

“Kenichi must have an excellent PR team if, in all your research, you’ve never seen how short he is,” Rei answers. “The man is tiny.”

“What?” she replies. “I’ve never seen that. He looks perfectly normal in any picture I’ve seen.”

“Well, my point stands then,” Rei says. “Right Hatsumi?”

“He is short,” I admit. “Although I don’t know how that can be snuck past anyone.”

“That’s so cruel,” Ritsuko says. “So, they’re just making fun of him with that name?”

“I’m sure some people are,” Rei replies. “But he must be fine with it, otherwise I’m sure it would have stopped long ago. You say he’s quite special. There are ways to squash things like that.”

“Yes,” Ritsuko replies. “But I don’t think it’s usually that successful.”

“Then he’s just being practical,” I say. “He also seems like someone who might enjoy the joke.”

“It really is unfair that you’re the one who gets to know him,” Ritsuko laments. “You really don’t seem interested in going anywhere near the profession.”

“I’m sure things will work out for you,” I say. “I doubt he’d just take a friend of his son’s friend on as an apprentice anyway. There must be a process for things like that.”

“I’d say so,” Rei agrees. “I’m sure you’ll find someone to help you on your way.”

Ritsuko does look hopeful and it’s good to see that Kenichi is a topic that seems to have brought them together a little.

“How about we make a stop over there?” I suggest.

The two of them look over and see the park I’m pointing at. It’s nothing like the ones I’ve been to these past few days, more like your traditional neighbourhood park with swings and a climbing frame.

I’ve suggested it because it seems to be less busy that the few we’ve passed so far. Maybe there aren’t many kids around here?

“I’ll be taking one of the swings,” Rei says. “And don’t call it childish. There’s no reason anyone should stop enjoying a good set of swings. Even when they’re old.

“Why not,” Ritsuko says, shrugging. “You willing to give both of us a push?”

“I better get a turn if you’re both going to do it,” I say.

“You will,” Ritsuko replies. “You’ll just have to wait because you were to slow on the uptake.”

That’s fair. With only two swings it should be first come, first serve.

We all head over into the park and soon the two of them are swinging with the occasional push from me. I’m pretty sure that Rei was looking to get into a competition over how high they could go, but Ritsuko doesn’t rise to the bait, so she calms down.

“I should petition the Student Council to get a few of these back at Yamaku,” Rei says. “It would be a great addition.”

Somehow, I can actually see those two agreeing to something like that. Even if it might not be the most logical idea. It’s the kind of fun they seem to like.

Now that I think about it, I wonder how they get on with Rei?

She seems to have just as much energy as Misha while being equally sharp and mischievous as Shizune. It’s honestly strange that they don’t spend more time together. Maybe Giichi and Shizune’s ‘feud’ gets in the way of things?

“I think I’ll let you have a turn,” Ritsuko says. “It’s fun to re-live the past, but it’s not quite what it used to be. Have a go and see what you think.”

Once we’ve swapped places, I agree that it’s not exciting to be swinging backwards and forwards. That doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying it. They motion is quite peaceful. It almost feels like its time to reflect on things as I sway there.

“It has its appeal,” I say. “Just different to how it used to be.”

“Good enough for me,” Rei replies.

Shall we head somewhere to get something to eat?” Ritsuko asks. “We might have to do a bit of walking though. We’re a bit out of the way. I think?”

We do indeed spend some time walking before we arrive at the closest mall. I know that there will be several restaurants in there even if I’m not exactly sure what they are.

As we head past the various stores and the occasional restaurant, I spot one that might work. It will be a nice treat to try some Yakiniku.

“Maybe we can try that place,” I say. “I’m sure it’s been a while since any of us went somewhere like it.”

“You’re right about that,” Ritsuko says. “But it might be a bit pricey. I don’t know if I brought that much money.”

“Let’s at least check out the menu before we skip it,” Rei says. “I’d like to have some as well.”

Going over to the window and looking in at what’s on offer, I can see that it is a bit pricey. It’s not overly expensive, but the price is to be expected when so much meat is on the table.

“I think we can manage that,” Rei says. “I think I’ll be eating the most anyway, so I’ll be responsible for most of the bill.”

I’m not sure whether that’s true or if she’s simply displaying her typical lack of care about the cost of things. Whichever it is, it seems to encourage Ritsuko to agree on heading inside.

The place is very much what you’d expect when it comes to Yakiniku. Plenty of tables, each with their own little grill in the middle. The place stretches back much further than I expected so there’s far more space than I would have guessed from the outside.

A waiter comes over to us and leads us towards a table about halfway through the room, before handing us our menus and retreating to give us time to look through them.

“I think we can avoid all the extras and sides,” Rei says. “I come to places like this for one reason.”

She flips her menu away from the various salads and seafoods so that she can focus on the page that is covered in various slices of meat. They come in all kinds of cuts and qualities. Some of them I recognise, others are cuts that I’d have no hope of explaining where they came from.

“Obviously we have to get some of this wagyu,” she says. “I mean look at it. Some of this as well. I’d like to see if we can all tell the difference.”

“I think I’ll stick to choosing one thing,” Ritsuko says, clearly not wanting to blow everything she has on one meal.

“Very well,” Rei replies. “The two of you can decide which one you want to order. The whole point is to share though, so get something different to me.”

We do all settle on what we want to order before the waiter returns. We give him our drinks order as well as the meats we want. It’s upped to five dishes as Rei adds another to it.

“I couldn’t resist,” she says as the waiter walks away.

“It’s a bit much though?” Ritsuko says. “Don’t you think?”

“Frankly, I could have chosen some more,” she replies. “But then I’d be wasting food.”

Ritsuko gives her a funny look and I’m suddenly worried about where this might go.

“Why do you say it like that?” She asks. “You don’t need to burn through money just because it’s there. Why don’t you save it until you need it?”

“I know it might come across as spoiled,” Rei replies. “But that will never happen. My parents have got too much money to throw at me, and, when the time comes, I’ll be taking over from them. I’ll make full use of the freedom while I have it.”

I find Rei’s views on everything so fascinating. Most people would be relieved to know that there was a safety net waiting for them. With Ritsuko looking for a helping hand for the future, it’s a complete turn-about to hear someone who almost seems to dislike the idea that there’s a career waiting for her.

Rei can clearly see what Ritsuko is about to say, because she cuts her off.

“Don’t be too quick to judge me,” she says. “Getting a say in what you’ll do for the rest of your life is an amazing thing. I appreciate what my parents have done for me, but I can’t help but wonder where I could end up if I wasn’t destined to follow in their footsteps.”

“Can’t you make your own choices though?” I ask. “You seem very good at it.

“The business stays in the family,” she replies. “That’s the most important thing. Even I can understand that. With no-one else around, I’m the only one who can carry that torch.”

It’s one of the most responsible things I’ve ever heard her say, and I have to respect the loyalty to her family.

Ritsuko seems to feel the same way.

“That doesn’t mean I’m not going to have as much fun as I can along the way,” Rei concludes. “Which is why I’ll spend as much as I like when we get together for Yakiniku.”

I don’t think either of us can really argue with that sentiment, so we don’t try to. We instead sink into a moment of silence as we each contemplate the positions, we’re in and where we might end up.

I seem to have the most thinking to do. Both of my friends have a path that they intend to follow. Unlike me.

When the food arrives, I can see that we’re definitely going to be full once we’re done with it. Rei is going to need a lot of help with finishing what she ordered. The portions here are very generous.

“It’s meant to be shared,” is all she says as we begin to grill slices of meat from the plates that now surround out grill.

She’s true to her word on that and I’m somewhat certain that Rei ends up having the least of any of us. It does take some time for Ritsuko to get comfortable with what Rei has done, but she’s eventually taking whatever she wants from the plates sitting between us.

Once we finish our food and have had enough of sitting around in the restaurant, we head to the front to pay. Rei forces us to stick to our original plan of paying for what we ordered before we head out and begin to make our way back home.

The pace is somewhat slower than it was earlier thanks to us having eaten more than we should have. The conversation suffers thanks to the same issue. All of us feel the need to take some time to recover from what we put ourselves through.

This is another reason why you don’t try something like this too often. I’m not sure I’d be able to handle such a rich, and meat heavy meal as anything more than the occasional treat.

When we’re almost home, it’s time to say goodbye to Ritsuko as we’re about to pass her house.

“I’d suggest you come over for dinner,” I say. “But we’ll be the ones doing that tomorrow.”

“It’ll be good to have all of you over,” Ritsuko replies. “My parents have been talking about how they should have stayed in contact with yours.”

“I’m sure they’ll have a great time catching up,” I say. “We might have to find something to entertain us though.”

“I don’t know when we’ll be seeing each other again,” Rei adds on to our farewell. “But I’m glad we didn’t leave it at our Tuesday meeting. You’re not as bad as I first thought you were.”

“I’ll try to take that as a compliment,” Ritsuko says, smiling. “But I'd say the same. It will probably take more time than the two of us have together to get used to everything about you. You’re very good at throwing me off when it comes to almost anything you’re involved in.”

“I’d say that’s part of my charm,” Rei replies. “Even if it’s not immediately apparent.”

It’s good to see that the two of them are getting on as well as could be expected. I wonder if what Rei says is a hint at how she deals with everyone. Do they need to be willing to put up with the oddities for her to put any effort into building a relationship? I’m sure it helps weed out plenty of people who might not be that serious about it, but how much complication does it cause?

Friendships are hard enough to make without you purposefully planting obstacles along the way. That’s not for me to judge though. It seems to work for Rei and whatever issues she does have seem to be manageable for the most part.

I’m pulled away from my musings as I realize that both of them are looking at me.

I should really be paying attention to what they’ve been saying.

“I’m fine,” I say. “Just thinking about how well today went.”

“Give it up already,” Ritsuko replies. “You managed to pull off your plan. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

With that she heads into her house, and I’m left standing with Rei in the street.

“You haven’t got time to reminisce yet,” she adds. “We’ve still got some things to do. We’ve got to see if I can make as good an impression on your parents as I’ve managed to do with Ritsuko.”

“You’ll be fine with them,” I reply. “And stop acting as if you’re the one who pulled everything together with Ritsuko. If I hadn’t spent half my holiday working on getting the two of you together, it never would have happened.”

“Don’t pretend that it was work,” she replied. “I’m sure you had just as much fun as everyone else around the occasional serious conversation.”

“Maybe,” I say. “But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to hold it over you for as long as I can.”

“Hatsumi,” she says. “You clearly don’t know me if you think you’ll be able to do anything of the sort.”

When we get back to my house, we’ve got some time to kill before my parents get home.

When they finally do, they’re happy to see that I’m back.

“I thought you might still be off having fun,” Dad says. “Glad that you’re back though.”

“And I’m guessing that this must be Rei?” Mom adds. “I’m glad to finally meet you. We’ve heard so much about you.”

“I’m guessing that not all of it has been good,” Rei says cheekily.

That throws the two of them for a moment, but Dad recovers soon enough.

“I guess things must have worked out then,” he says. “Is my daughter any good at conflict resolution?”

“I think so,” Rei replies. “Though it does come with some tense moments.”

“At least the two of you pulled through it alright,” he says.

“We did see Ritsuko today,” I add. “Everything went just fine between all of us.”

“That’s wonderful,” Mom says. “Looks like all the effort paid off. How was your stay at Giichi’s?”

“Very fun,” I answer. “Though I think that it might take a while to get used to living like that.”

“I could imagine so,” Dad says. “It’s quite the area.”

“You need to find time to meet them,” Rei says, jumping into the conversation. They’re nothing like you’re imagining. Far more down-to-earth than most people in that position.”

“I’m sure it’s true,” Mom replies. “I can’t see Hatsumi befriending some spoiled, rich kid.”

“Mom. I’m right here,” I say.

“And I need to make sure that your friends are deserving of approval,” she answers. “From what I've seen, you’ve developed a rather interesting circle, though I don’t think I can really find any fault with them.

“I can assure you that we mean nothing but the best for her,” Rei replies. “She’s in good hands.”

“I really think that I’ve been left out of the conversation for long enough now,” I say. “Maybe we can move on from trying to judge how my life is going?”

“Of course,” Dad replies. “But don’t be surprised if it comes up again. We’ve got plenty of time to talk before the two of you go off to your room, so I’m sure we’ll swing round to it eventually.”

“I think the two of us will do that right now, while you start getting that dinner ready,” I say. “That way, I won’t have to deal with that for too long.”

“Come on,” Rei says. “I’m sure it will be fun.”

“No,” I say, heading towards the stairs. “You’re coming with me.”

“That’ll just give us more time to think about what we want to ask,” Dad calls after me.

I kind of wish that they hadn’t taken to Rei so quickly, and that she didn’t seem so ready to help them in dig into my life at Yamaku.

They might want to know about everything that’s going on in my life, but can’t they see that I must be doing well enough. Though, I suppose they can’t help it. They are my parents after all.

“They’re nice,” Rei says once we’re up in my room. “I think I could get on well with them.”

“Isn’t it convenient that your hesitancy to make friends with people doesn’t extend to my parents,” I say.

“They’re in a totally different category,” Rei replies. “If I can’t win their approval than being friends with you could become difficult.”

“And why does that only apply to them?” I ask.

“Because they’ll always be there,” she replies. “Friends come and go. Family never changes. It’s best to stay on the good side of your own, and of anyone you intend to be around.”

“So do you actually think you’d get on with them, or is it just that you’ll have to act like you do?” I ask her.

“Maybe I’ll let you in on that one day,” she replies. “Either way, you won’t be able to tell the difference. I treat anyone’s parents as well as they’ll let me.”

“I’ll have to put that to the test,” I say. “We’ll see if you can keep that up if I can get you in a room with a certain foreign couple.”

“The problem with then is definitely on their side,” Rei says.

She clearly knows who I’m referring to.

“I think you might be surprised about that,” I say. “They were okay when I last met them. You just need to give them a chance.”

“Okay, okay. I get the message,” she says. “Don’t form opinions on people that you hardly know. Why do you have to be so noble about these things. Rivalries and grudges are just as big a part of school as friendships and romances.”

“You might say that, but the former isn’t nearly as good for you,” I say. “Things would go much smoother if we didn’t have them.”

“You can try that then,” Rei replies. “I think I’ll stick to the way I’ve been doing things until now. For the most part.”

Oh well. We’ll have to see how things go from here. Maybe I’ll spot some changes in her once we’re back at Yamaku.”

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Last edited by ArtemisCain on Wed Jun 12, 2024 7:41 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: A New Home - Original Characters, Original Route

Post by ArtemisCain »

Table for Six

Rei was right about not being as disruptive this time and she manages not to cause any problems throughout the night. I’m also able to get up in the early morning without waking her.

She seems to need the sleep more than me. Maybe she doesn’t usually have to get up that early, or maybe yesterday was more tiring that she let on. It was easy on me, but I should actually see if there’s any possibility of that.

She likes to walk, but could too much of it take its toll on her? I don’t like to pass any judgements based on a person’s condition, but it seems likely to me that such things might take it out of her.

I quietly grab a few things and head out of my bedroom to change somewhere else. She’ll get a little extra sleep and if she complains about it at all, I’ll tell her that a morning of late sleeping doesn’t really matter at the moment. She won’t be missing anything.

Once I’ve pulled everything on in the spare room, I head downstairs to see if anything is happening yet.

The dark rooms and all the closed blinds mean I’m the first person up. Apparently, everyone is tired from the week’s activities, not just Rei.

I wander around looking for anything that might need doing. The place looks clean, but you can usually find a few extra things that managed to stay hidden the night before.

Frustratingly, it seems that four of us were more than a match for any dirty dishes or cutlery as the place seems to be completely spotless. I’ll have to settle for something else to pass the time.

My schoolbooks on the side table catch my eye, and I decide that I might as well get the last of that out of the way. No point leaving it until the last moment or sacrificing time when I could be doing other things.

I sort through the pile to make sure I’m done with the rest. Once I’ve confirmed that, I head over to the table with my maths book and flip on a light. I’ve left one of my better subjects for last.

Time passes as I steadily work through the sums we’ve been given. It’s challenging, but I’ve done it all before. There isn’t anything that I draw a blank on.

Eventually I hear movement upstairs and it’s not long before I see Dad coming down towards me.

“You’re up early,” he says. “And working as well. That’s a shocking turn of events.”

“I just want to get it out of the way,” I reply. “I don’t need Maths hanging over my shoulder as I try to enjoy the last of my vacation.”

“That’s as good enough a reason as any to be responsible,” he says. “You won’t really be able to do it this evening or tomorrow. The weekend has gotten quite busy all of a sudden.”

“You won’t have to prepare much though,” I say. “We’re the guests tonight, so all we need to do is make sure we’re not late.”

“True,” he replies. “I should get something for them anyway. They’re hosting us and we need to apologize for losing contact recently. It’s honesty a surprise that you going off to a different school affected so many other things as well.”

It seems that I have been a bit of a disruption in everyone’s lives. At least thats to be coming to an end now. The adjustment period is over, and everyone will hopefully settle back into their old ways. Minus my presence of course.

“What will you be doing today?” Dad asks. “If you do plan to go back to Yamaku with Rei and Giichi, you won’t have much time to do anything around here. Are you going to try and fit anything else into your day?”

“I’ll have to see Rei off first,” I reply. “That might take some time. After that… I’m not sure. I think I’ve done a lot this past week. Maybe I should take things easier for now.”

“I suppose that could be nice,” Dad says. “We could have a bit of time as a family, since we haven’t really had the chance to see much of you.”

“Don’t worry about that,” I reply. “You were at work for most of it, so the only things you missed was my sleepover. The rest of the time we couldn’t have done anything together anyway.”

“You’re right,” he sighs. “It just doesn’t feel right to have left you alone the whole time. You’ve been gone for what felt like forever and, now that you’re here, we hardly got to see you.”

“Okay Dad,” I reply, with mock frustration. “We can do something as a family today. Just to make you feel better. I’m not taking responsibility for it though. If you want to be parents, then you can do all the organizing as well.”

“I’m sure your mom will be thrilled,” he replies. “I wonder when she’s going to get up?”

“Leave her be,” I say. “Maybe she’s like Rei. More tired than the rest of us. We can use the time to get breakfast ready.”

“I was thinking omelettes,” Dad says. “Those don’t really keep too well.”

“Then we can at least get everything ready for you to cook,” I reply. “Maybe that will get their attention as well?”

“I thought we weren’t trying to wake them up?” Dad asks.

“We aren’t,” I reply. “But I’m sure even the slightest hint of food will get at least one of them moving.”

“Let’s go with that then,” he says. “Though I’ll tell them it was your idea if they press me.

“You’re the one who’s going along with it,” I reply. “Don’t think you can weasel your way out of any repercussions. As the adult, it’s entirely your fault if anything happens. How am I supposed to know better if you aren’t going to stop me?”

“You really have become a whole lot cheekier since you left for Yamaku,” he says. “You’re almost an entirely different person.”

I pause for a moment to think about that. Have I really changed that much? I haven’t really been away for that long. Only a couple of months.

“What do you think of that?” I ask.

It’s his turn to pause and actually think about what he’s been saying.

“It’s a good change,” he finally says. “You’re more assertive and willing to push the envelope. It will help you get your way when everyone’s trying to shortchange you.”

It sounds like I’ve picked up a very specific person’s approach to things.

“It worried me what might have happened to you after your diagnosis,” he continues. “I thought you might become more reserved. That you wouldn’t want to put yourself out there for fear of what might happen. You had every right to be in a fragile state after all of that, but you pulled through magnificently.”

I’m happy to hear him say that. I knew that they would have been worrying about me, and I’m happy that they feel that it worked out.

“Does Mom think the same thing?” I ask. “She probably wouldn’t have this kind of talk with me.”

“She wouldn’t,” he admits. “But she’s relieved that everything’s worked out. At least that it seems to me going alright. Hopefully we’ll be getting good news soon.”

“Do they really need this much time to look at my results?” I ask. “I get that they don’t want to make a mistake, but they could surely phone you by now.”

“My guess is that they’re waiting until you’re back at Yamaku,” he says. “That’s where you’ll be getting most of your treatment anyway. I think them not saying anything is a good thing. If they were worried by anything they saw, they would have called already. Hopefully everything's manageable if they’re willing to wait a few extra days.”

It would be nice if he's right. Then I can get off those dreadful pills and onto something that helps me without ruining my evenings.

“I think you were right,” Dad says, cutting into my thoughts. “Someone’s on the move.”

We both go quiet, and I can also hear something upstairs. It must be Mom as the noise seems too far away to be from my room.

“Are we going to let her in on the conversation?” I ask.

“If you want to,” he says with a shrug. “I don’t think you need to though. She was worried about you, but that’s all changed since we’ve seen how much you’ve grown.”

I’ll take his word for it and not try to drag mom into a conversation about my health and wellbeing. That they’re proud of me for what I’ve done is a very nice feeling. I suppose I can also admit to myself that I’ve done a lot to get where I am now.

We’ve made plenty of progress by the time Mom joins us. It’s not long before Rei comes down as well. I guess she was finally woken by everyone else already being up.

“Morning,” she says as she joins as in the kitchen. “I hope you’re not leaving me out.”

“There’s plenty to go around,” Dad replies. “You look ready to go even though you’re the last one up.”

I don’t think there are many people who’ve seen her when she isn’t fully dressed. Since she doesn't seem to own anything casual besides sleepwear. I shouldn’t really expect anything else. Especially in front of my parents.

“I can’t intrude on you forever,” she replies.

“So, you’ve already made your own plans?” Mom asks. “I hope you won’t have to rush breakfast.”

“I’ve got about an hour,” Rei replies. “Then Daisuke will be back to pick me up. Hatsumi, what do you think about heading back to Yamaku with us?”

I look to my parents first to make sure that they’re really alright with it.

“A trip with all of you together?” Dad says. “I think it would be great for you.”

“So, you’re sure want me to go,” I ask.

I sort feel guilty about the lack of time I’ve been spending with them.

“Of course you should,” he replies. “I doubt you’ll get to do something like this again with the end of the year coming up. The three of you should definitely do it. We’ll have you this evening and tomorrow morning instead?”

This last part is more of a question based on me finally deciding what I might do with the rest of my time at home.

“Yes,” I say. “I’ll spend some time with you two before I head back to Yamaku with Rei and Giichi.”

“Great,” Rei says. “I’ll let Giichi know and he’ll get in touch, so don’t worry about anything on your end.”

That will make things a bit easier for me, but I don’t really want to heap it all on Giichi.

“Will you help them with organizing things at least a little,” I say to her. “You’ve taken enough advantage of your hosts as it is.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Rei replies. “But I’ll be sure to lend a hand when I get there.”

She shakes her prosthetic arm as she says this which leaves me with the impression that she has little intention of getting involved. The way she hints at this means that it flies straight over my parents’ heads.

“It’s good to know that you’re so helpful,” Mom says. “I’m glad that you’re there to help out when Hatsumi might need it.

I scowl at her because of how she’s managed to win Mom over even more when she’s telling lies that are so obvious to me.

“Dad,” I say. “Rei never has much of an appetite so you can make her a smaller omelette than the rest of us.”

I give her a look that dares her to say anything, and Rei seems to decide that pushing the matter might cause me to disillusion my parents about her behaviour.

Once we’ve finished our breakfast, it isn’t long before it’s time for Rei to go. The two of us head back upstairs and Rei packs the collection of unused clothes back into her bag.

“We need to work on what you bring with you,” I say. “I get having something spare to change into, but this is too much.”

“And I’ll need to work on improving your fashion sense,” she replies. “Look at all of this. I’m guessing everything you left at school is pretty much the same.”

“And it looks good,” I say defensively. “Natural and practical. As clothes should be.”

Rei shakes her head and gives me a mournful look.

“And I had so much hope for you,” she says. “Seeing you in that jacket on Tuesday made me so happy. I thought you were finally coming round to my point of view.”

“That stuff has its place,” I reply. “I just think that that place is reserved for festivals or parties.”

“You better not be calling me a clown,” Rei says. “I’ll have you know that everything I choose is the height of fashion.”

“That may be,” I concede. “But it’s fashion that I don’t think works for me.”

“I’ll win you over somehow,” she replies. “If only you were more willing to wear what I gave you. Then you’d see the complements you’d get.”

“And is that why you do it?” I ask.

“Of course not,” she answers. “I just happen to really like the clothes. Though it’s a confidence booster when people notice how good you look. You really should take my word on it.”

I have to wonder if she’s not just trying to get us to match. I’m not looking for attention so what she said is off-putting if anything.

“You can keep trying then,” I say. “Your argument hasn’t won me over yet.”

“You’re the only one who will suffer for it,” she says with a shrug as she finally jams her bag closed. “Now let’s get back down there and see if he’s arrived.”

I grab the bag before Rei can do anything and stride out of the room.

“Hey,” she calls after me. “Give that back.”

“You’re the guest,” I reply over my shoulder, “So it’s the least I can do for you.”

Rei chases me down the stairs and I make a break for the door. Dad and Mom watch what’s unfolding before them with amusement.

As I get outside, I see that Daisuke is indeed waiting there. As punctual as he was on every other occasion.

“Here you go,” I say as I reach him, and he takes the bag. “You must be getting tired of this trip.”

“Not at all,” he replies. “It’s good to do something different from my normal routes. I’ll have to do this a lot more before this journey becomes one I’m used to.”

The way he’s phrased that reply leaves me unsure of what he means so I decide to take it at face value.

“Don’t let her push you around,” I say, remembering our last trip together.

“That would never happen,” he replies, as he turns to put Rei’s bag into the boot of the car.

“Thanks for running off without me,” Rei says now that she’s caught up. “I could have managed just fine on my own. You know?”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I say. “You can deliver the files next time Giichi needs something done.”

Again, Rei decides that it’s best not to carry on with this conversation. I really am getting the hang of messing with her just as much as she tries to mess with me.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” I say as Daisuke opens the door for her and motions her to get in.

“See you then,” Rei says, succumbing to the pressure of everyone trying to get her moving.

With the door closed on her and Daisuke quickly getting behind the wheel, we hardly even have time to wave to each other before Rei is whisked away down the street and out of sight.

I turn to head back inside and see my parents waiting for me by the door. It seems that they wanted to watch Rei’s departure as well.

“What’s so interesting,” I call as I walk towards them.

“Nothing much,” Mom replies. “Just nice to watch you having fun again. You really were in a state before you went to Yamaku.”

I remember that week after my diagnosis like it happened yesterday. It wasn’t really that long ago when you think about it.

I had been rather morose back then. As if the whole world was about to crumble around me.

“It all worked out,” I say as I reach them. “Yamaku was the right choice.”

I can see that what I’ve said means a lot to her. Dad didn’t think I needed to bring it up, but Mom seems grateful to hear those words.

“I know that it’s not the end of everything now,” I continue. “You can work through almost anything if you want to.”

She doesn’t have anything to say to that and we all head back inside to spend some time together.

Nothing serious comes up for the rest of the morning. Dad and Mom quiz me more about the things going on in my life. Nothing important comes up since everything that we really needed to talk about has already been covered.

They just want to hear about whatever it is that I spent my time doing day-to-day. It’s much like when I used to come home and talk about what happened at school. I suppose that they’ve missed this with me gone, so I don’t mind trying to recall details that don’t really matter to me.

We also watch some TV together. All piled onto the sofa with me squished between them. We hadn’t done that in a long time. Mom preferred to sit in her chair off to the side when I had grown a bit too big for all of us to sit together comfortably.

“This is nice,” Dad says as the movie’s credits begin to roll. “Sometimes the little things are the most important.”

“We should make sure to do things like this every so often,” Mom says. “You’ll be gone more and more from now on. Once school is over, you’ll be off to university, and you probably won’t be staying at home for that.”

She is right of course. While there are a few places to go around here, I’ve never really considered them during my brief thoughts on where I’d want to study. Everyone wants to get into one of the top universities in whatever field they’ve decided to pursue and the places around here aren’t really known for anything.

“That’s probably true,” I say. “But I won’t be forgetting about you two anytime soon. These past months have taught me that I’d miss home even if I’m enjoying my time away.”

“Good,” Dad says. “But don’t think we expect you to come back whenever you have the chance to. You have your own life to live and that’s just as important as coming to see us.”

“Just don’t leave it too long,” Mom adds. “Or we’ll have to come find you, and I’m sure you wouldn’t want that embarrassment.”

I wouldn’t mind them coming to visit, as long as they don’t burst into any classes or come looking for me without letting me know. If that happened it could get awkward. I know of several embarrassing scenes caused by parents that want to have too much of a presence in their children’s lives.

“I’m sure we’ll work all of it out as we go,” I say. “There’s no point in planning for things that haven’t happened yet.”

I decide to head out at around lunch time. With my busy week and everything that still has to happen, I haven’t really had any time to myself.

My parents are hesitant about me going off on my own, but I promise them that I won’t leave the neighbourhood. I’m not that worried as I’m certain that I won’t be having any seizures at the moment.

Walking around gives me time to look at the various houses and streets that make up my childhood. We’ve been in the same place since I was born so I haven’t known any other home. Besides my grandparents’ place, of course.

It’s probably not the most exciting neighbourhood, as there isn’t really anything that would grab a stranger’s attention. That doesn't mean that there isn’t plenty for kids to waste their time doing.

The warren of streets and alleyways mean that you can very easily lose each other, so games of tag and hide-and-seek are a very common thing for any young kids.

At one point, I see a few of them run by and I’m hit with a wave of nostalgia. Rei is right about these things. It would probably be fun to revive the games of the past.

I eventually find a bench in a quiet and shady alley to sit on. Hopefully I won’t be disturbed here. It’s way out of the way of any bus routes or shops.

I start to think about how everything fits together. Where I am now and how the past and the future tie it all together.

I’ve definitely changed, but I also feel pretty much the same. Where it all might lead me is another matter entirely. I really do need to find out more about that guidance councillor.

I’m more open than I used to be. More willing to throw myself into things, whether that’s thanks to my condition or my new friends is up for debate.

It’s probably a bit of both. I can’t give them too much credit, but I shouldn’t take it all away either.

I’m staring at the wall across from me, thinking about how I could have done a better job of finding somewhere to contemplate life when a somewhat timid voice calls out to me from the opening of the alleyway.

“Hatsumi?” It asks slowly. “Is that you?”

I look over in confusion. Who would be calling out to me here?

I shouldn’t really be that surprised. There are plenty of people in the neighbourhood that I know, and I was going to run into one of them eventually.

Despite that, I still taken aback by the pair standing a few metres away from me.

“Hana? Aimi?!” I call out in surprise. “What are you doing here? I thought you were away?”

“It is you,” Hana says as she takes a step forward at the same time as Aimi. “We just got back. How did you know we were away?”

“Ritsuko told me,” I reply. “Come have a seat. We haven’t talked in such a long time.”

“Are you alright?” Hana says looking me up and down. “You look fine.”

“I am,” I say as I take in their concerned looks. “It’s all manageable if I stick to everything that I’m supposed to.”

I don’t really want to go into the details again. I also don’t want to scare them too much. They looked worried enough as it is.

“See. Everything’s fine,” I say as I stand up and take a few steps towards them. “Once they got it under control things were nearly what they used to be.”

“So, did you really need to leave then?” Hana asks. “It was a bit of a shock to have you disappear all of a sudden. Everyone in the class was worried that they might be next.”

That wasn’t really the statement that I was expecting to hear from them. Everyone being more worried about themselves rather than the person who was actually in trouble stung a bit.

“How are things since I left?” I ask. “Ritsuko filled me in on a bit, but it would be nice to hear from you two as well.”

“It’s been pretty much the same,” Hana says. “Things were a bit strange without you in the beginning, but we got used to it. Ritsuko took it a bit harder than we did.”

That’s not new. Ritsuko already said as much, but it’s good to hear that other people noticed what was going on.

“So, the three of you have been getting on well together?” I ask.

I don’t mean to pry into their lives, but I do want to know all about it from another perspective. Ritsuko seemed honest with what she’d said, but it wouldn’t hurt to get someone else’s perspective on it all.

I gesture towards the bench again and the two of them shuffle towards it. They manage to stay facing me the entire time, which makes the whole thing a bit awkward. That they’re acting like they don’t trust me is the worst part of it

“What are you so worried about,” I ask them, somewhat heatedly. “I’m the same person as before. Nothing’s changed since you last saw me. I’m just on some medication. I’m sure half the class is taking some pill for some condition.”

“Don’t get upset,” Hana says, as Aimi, who still hasn’t said anything, flinches. “We’re just shocked to see you so suddenly. The last we heard of you, you were being hauled halfway across the country because you could collapse at any moment, and now you’re sitting here as if nothing’s wrong. We just need a moment to take it all in.”

“Didn’t Ritsuko fill you in on things?” I ask. “I was letting her know how things were going in the beginning.”

“No,” Hana replies. “Ritsuko didn’t really bring you up once you left and anyone that did couldn’t really get any answers out of her. Eventually we all just sort of dropped it. We though it meant that things had gotten worse.”

That sort of explained their reaction, particularly Aimi’s possible fear. She’d always been the most superstitious of us all. Maybe she thought she was seeing a ghost?

“Well, you can see that I’m alright,” I say as I take a step forward and rest a hand on each of their shoulders.

Aimi jumps a little, but I have to make them understand that I’m right here and that I’m perfectly fine.

“I’m going to have to talk to Ritsuko though,” I continue. “Maybe that was how she wanted to deal with things, but it wasn’t fair on either of you. Or the rest of the class for that matter.”

“Don’t get upset with her,” Aimi says. “I don’t think I’d want to talk about Hana moving away if it happened.”

That is a good point. I know that they’re close and I sort of cut my past out of my life for a while. I can’t blame her for doing the same.

“So can we at least talk normally for a while?” I ask them. “It would be nice to catch up with the two of you.”

“Okay,” Aimi says, seeming to calm down slightly.

“Great,” I reply. “How are you doing then.”

“It’s been good,” she answers. “We just got back from vacation and were just on our way to the store together.”

“Everything’s normal?” I ask. “You’ve been getting on with school and your clubs? How’s the tennis team doing?”

“School is the same as always,” Hana replies. “If there was anything to talk about, it’d be strange. The band had a big performance just before the holidays. You should have seen the hall we played in.”

“The tennis team has been winning a lot of their matches as well,” Aimi adds. “But there isn’t really any reason to talk to them when you’re not around.”

I was the sportiest one in the group, so it makes sense that they drifted away from that side of things.

“Sport sort of took a back seat for me as well,” I say. “I didn’t really see the fun in any of the things they had to offer. The band is good though. You might get along with a few of the members.”

“What are they like?” Aimi asks.

That get her attention.

“Most are pretty normal, I guess,” I say. “Though it definitely amazed me to see someone playing an instrument when they’re missing an arm or can’t see what they’re playing.”

I know I’ve caused a bit more tension by bringing up disabilities. I don’t know what they were expecting with that line of questioning.

“We don’t usually mind people talking about us,” I say. “As long as it’s well meaning. In fact, I’m sure they’d be happy to know how impressed you are with what they’ve achieved when you see them play.”

“You really don’t feel bad about it?” Hana asks.

“No,” I answer. “I’m sure some people do, but it’s the pity that we dislike. Not the interest. You’ll find that you take these things better than you can imagine when you have to deal with it.”

I can tell that the two of them are getting a bit lost in my speech.

“That’s enough of that though,” I say. “I shouldn’t keep you from your errands. It was fun to see the two of you again. Maybe we can talk some more in the future. Or maybe Ritsuko will give up a bit more information than she has been.”

I step out of the way and the two of them rise to their feet.

“It's been good to see you,” Hana says. “Things might be in a better spot than they were before. Hearing about what’s been going is a bit of a relief, even if we didn’t know we needed it.”

“It was lucky we ran into you,” Aimi says as she nods in agreement. “Do you mind if we let some of the others know?”

Rei would love to hear her asking that question.

“It sounds like you should,” I say. “Let them know that I’m alright.”

“We will,” Hana says, as the two of them begin to leave. “Good luck with whatever come next.”

“You too,” I call back.

I decide that I should probably start heading home now. It wouldn’t be the nicest thing to get home just as we’re about to leave. Being late would be even worse.

That Hana and Aimi have gone in a different direction saves me from the awkward situation of having to follow them as I make my way home, which is something of a relief.

“I’m back,” I call out as I walk through the door.

As I do this, I see that my parents are just enjoying the afternoon quiet rather than trying to get ready well before they need to.

“I saw Hana and Aimi while I was out,” I tell them once they answer. “They just got back, and I bumped into them in the street.”

“That’s a nice surprise,” Dad says. “Were they happy to see you?”

“It was quite funny,” I reply. “I don’t think they really believed I was there at first. Apparently, news hasn’t really been getting through to anyone, so they were kind of surprised to see me looking perfectly fine.”

“Ritsuko didn’t let them know anything?” Mom asks, immediately zoning in on why such a thing could have happened.

“Don’t blame her,” Dad says, coming to her defence. “It wasn’t up to her to be the reporter on Hatsumi’s condition. I think it’s perfectly fine that she didn’t share much.”

“I suppose so,” Mom agrees. “But I’d like to be kept in the loop about what was happing to a friend of mine.”

“Then you would have reached out to them yourself,” Dad replies. “Which they didn’t, so the worry must have been a little exaggerated.”

Dad makes a good point. That they didn’t try to call me or find out what was going on from anyone else would point to things not being exactly as they suggested. Maybe they were just trying to make me feel better about what had happened? That me disappearing wasn’t really something that came to mind for them?

“I’ll have to ask Ritsuko to tell me a bit more,” I say. “She should be able to fill in the blanks for me.”

“Don’t push too hard,” Dad says. “You’ve already tackled one issue with her this week. Maybe leave this one for another time. If there is one, that is. You’ve only got one evening left before you leave. Try not to make it too serious.”

That’s probably good advice. I don’t want to ruin all the progress we’ve already made for something that doesn’t really matter. It would still be nice to have the truth about what’s been going on. Was I missed or did everyone just move on? Does knowing really matter? How will it change things if it isn’t what I thought it was?

“Shouldn’t we start getting ready?” I ask.

“In a hurry, are we?” Mom asks, as she looks up at the clock. “I suppose we can start preparing to go. Are you expecting us to dress up a bit?”

“No,” I reply. “I just don’t like leaving things to the last minute. I’m going to go clean up. It was rather hot out there.”

“You do that,” Dad says. “But don’t go too light on the clothes. The weather report said it’s going to get chilly as the evening goes on. Maybe grab a jacket on top of everything else?”

“Thanks Dad,” I say as I head up the stairs towards the bathroom.

The three of us head out the door with a few minutes to spare. It’s all we need to get over there on time. Mom has a box with an assortment of cakes she bought earlier as a gift for having us over.

We arrive at their door and ring the bell almost exactly on time. It’s nothing to make a big deal out of, but I’ve always enjoyed arriving somewhere exactly as my watch ticks over.

Ritsuko answers the door which means that her parents are probably busy getting everything in order for dinner.

“Good evening Mr and Mrs Nakano,” she says. “It’s good to see you.”

“I know it’s been a while, but there’s no need to be so formal,” Dad says. “I hope we’re not causing too much trouble.”

“Not at all,” A voice calls out, just before Ritsuko’s mom comes round the corner. “It’s been far too long since we last saw each other. “Come in. I’m sure we’ve got plenty to catch up on.”

We all make our way into the house and, as we’re about to turn into the living room, Ritsuko pulls me aside.

“Let’s give them some time,” she says. “It’s just going to be the same pleasantries everyone goes through when they meet again for a while. “We can give them some space and do our own thing while they talk.”

I watch everyone else walk off before following Ritsuko up the stairs.

We head into her room before I decide to let her know what happened today.

“I saw Hana and Aimi earlier,” I say. “They just got back, and we got to catch up a bit.”

“Oh really,” she replies, not really thinking much about what I said. “And how did that go?”

“They were surprised to see me,” I say. “They had no idea I was be back. They didn’t even know how I was.”

“Ah,” Ritsuko says. “I didn’t really pass much along to anyone. It didn’t really seem right.”

“It kind of surprised me,” I said. “It also upset me a bit that they didn’t try to find anything out.”

“You could have called then just as easily,” Ritsuko points out. “You can’t blame them when you’re guilty of the same thing.”

I suppose that is true. Maybe I’m overstating how important it all is to me. I didn’t think about how I could have been the one to reach out.

Ritsuko obviously notices that I’m thinking about this fact because she carries on with what she was saying.

“Things went pretty quiet once you were gone,” she says. “People didn’t make much of a fuss. I don’t really know why you were expecting them to. We weren’t that involved with the whole school. Just us and a few friends really noticed any change. And they moved on pretty quickly once they saw that you had too.”

I’m not hurt by Ritsuko’s bluntness about the whole thing. It’s something of a relief to find out that things weren’t as bad as I’d imagined them to be. If anything, I was being stupid to think that anything else had happened. I’m sure Ritsuko would have said something if things had gotten really serious.

Would she have known though? My own inaction in keeping in touch really is to blame for most of situations in which people are unaware of what’s going on.

“Thanks for pointing that out,” I say. “Why is it always easier to see issues everywhere else but not with yourself?”

“Don’t dig too deep into it,” she replies. “It’s all working out and you’ve already promised to try harder to keep in touch. Maybe you should phone those two when you get back to Yamaku. It might help smooth things over a bit better.

That’s probably a good idea. Maybe I’ll try reaching out to a few other friends that I’ve been ignoring.

I think we’ve gone far enough with that topic, so I decide to drop it right there. I’d rather not force another interrogation onto Ritsuko.
“Maybe we should head back down and see if they want us around yet?” I ask.

“Sounds like a good idea,” she agrees.

She’s just as happy to move on as I am.

We head downstairs and I see that our parents are all standing around with glasses of wine. That means that they’ve finished with whatever they were busy doing, or that it doesn’t require much attention from here on out.

“It’s good to finally see you,” Ritsuko’s father calls out when he sees me. “Did the two of you finish doing whatever it was you needed to run off and do?”

“It’s good to see you too,” I reply. “And we were just chatting. Nothing serious to do.”

“Then I think we can start sitting down,” he says. “Ritsuko, could you help me bring everything through while our guests sit down.”

“Yes Dad,” she replies as we start to move towards the table.

It’s already set, and we all take our seats. This has been a common enough experience that we all know everyone’s usual seats, so there’s no need for us to stand around trying to figure out where to sit.

We’re all quickly in our places and watch as the food makes its way out one serving dish at a time.

We can’t tell exactly what it is because the various roasted vegetabless come out first, leaving an opening in the tables centre.

Finally, the main dish comes out. It’s a roast chicken, cooked to a golden perfection. I doubt that we’ll all be able to have large portions, but there’s definitely enough to go around.

“It looks amazing,” I say. “What made you go for something so nice?”

“It’s an occasion, isn’t it?” He replies. “You won’t be coming around for a while. We also get to celebrate your health. I don’t know everything but, from what Ritsuko said and what I’ve seen of you tonight, it seems like you’ve pulled through everything that happened well enough.”

It’s nice to hear that they’re thinking about me, even if they don’t know the full picture.

“Thanks for that,” I say. Not really sure what more to say.

“We won’t all be getting together, but you have to come over sometime soon,” Dad says. “I can’t let you show me up like this.”

It’s meant in a joking manner and Ritsuko’s parents agree to do so, even if they do leave the planning for another day.

Once we’ve finished the meal and the evening has gone on a bit, we decide that it might finally be time to get going. There’s still some stuff to do in the morning and it wouldn’t be a good idea to stay up too late.

While our parents say they’re goodbyes, I do the same with Ritsuko.

“This is it then,” I say. “I’m off for at least a few more months. I promise that I’ll keep in touch this time.”

“You better,” she replies. “I don’t want to have to come up there and make sure you’re alright.”

The idea of Ritsuko coming all that way just because I’m not keeping in touch with her is such a funny one that I’m almost tempted to make it happen. It probably wouldn’t be a good thing for our friendship though, so I’ll try to stop that from happening.

As we finish our goodbyes and are ushered out the door, I look back one last time before the door closes behind us and we’re left standing in the quiet night air. There’s nobody around, but that’s to be expected in a residential area like this.

“That was nice,” Dad says. “I’m glad you got us all back together.”

“It wasn’t me,” I reply, but he immediately continues. “I hope you don’t have too much to do. Have you decided when you’ll be leaving tomorrow?”

“Not too early,” I say. “The journey isn’t that long and there’s no reason for us to get back any earlier than we need to.”

“Then I guess we can leave all that packing for tomorrow,” Mom says. “No need to ruin a good evening with all those chores.”

I can definitely agree with that idea, as it really would put a dampener on things.

The three of us slowly make our way back down the streets and arrive home without saying anything.

We’ve probably said everything we need to for now and are just happy to spend the time we have left tonight in silence.

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Last edited by ArtemisCain on Wed Jun 12, 2024 9:43 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: A New Home - Original Characters, Original Route

Post by ArtemisCain »

Back to School Again

I’m up early, trying to deal with the nightmare that is packing my suitcase. I wish I hadn’t unpacked as much as I did, and I wish even more that I hadn’t packed most of it in the first place.

I knew that it was going to be too much when I was first packing it all, and I ended up only using about half the stuff I brought. Now trying to fit it all back into the bag was proving exceptionally difficult.

I could always ask Mom to help, but I’d rather try to struggle through it myself. I was still caught up in the idea of how much I’d supposedly grown in the past months to want to admit that a suitcase could defeat me.

With some difficulty, as well as sitting on it as I zipped it up, I'm able to fit everything inside.

Is it bulging around the middle? A bit. Are things likely to come out creased and crumpled? Probably. But it's done, and I can take a moment to calm down after the frustrating exercise.

I go over the room one final time to see if I’ve missed anything, and I’m relieved to find that I haven’t. I even checking under the bed for any stray socks.

With all that out of the way, I begin to haul the bag out of my room. It’s not a big bag, but things would definitely be easier if it had wheels. I can walk short distances, but any more than that and my arms are going to start hurting.

Dad and Mom are awake by now, so I don’t have to worry about keeping quiet anymore. I still try to avoid banging anything as I go. I may not need to stay silent, but I’d rather not break anything by going too quickly.

Once I get my bag down the stairs and to the front door, I head back towards my parents in the kitchen.

“Morning,” I say as I enter the room and see them getting things ready. “What are the two of you up to?”

“I hope you’re hungry,” Dad says. “Because I’ve made a bit more than usual. Can’t let you leave without a bit of a feast.

Last night was something of a feast itself, but this won’t go unappreciated. There probably won’t be much to get on the road so breakfast will have to tide me over.

“I’m sure I’ll be able to handle it,” I say. “So don’t worry about overloading the table.”

“Don’t have too much,” Mom warns me. “There’s something extra that you’ll want to leave space for at the end.”

I get the feeling that they’re not going to tell me what it is, but I have to try anyway.

“What might that be?” I ask. “How am I supposed to know how much to eat if I don’t know what’s still lined up?”

“You’ll have space,” Dad says. “So, eat whatever you want. I’m sure you’ll be able to fit a bit more food in you when we bring the final course out.”

I guess I’m not going to be able to get any hints out of either of them.

We gather around the food at the table and are soon making our way through it. I would normally be more restrained, but I really don’t want to spend the afternoon hungry.

“Have you decided how things are going to work out today?” Dad asks. “How will you and the others be meeting up?”

“Giichi left a message earlier,” I reply. “He said they’d come past our place. No reason to have me go all the way there only to come back this way. It’s only a slight detour for them to come and pick me up.”

“Then we don’t need to rush,” Mom says. “That takes some travel time off the journey for you, though I did see that you’ve finished packing.”

“Not quite,” I reply. “There are still a few odd and ends that I’ll need to gather up, but those will fit in my backpack.”

I’ll still need my toiletries and it would be nice to have easy access to things like a water bottle or tissues. I don’t want to have to go anywhere near my suitcase once I’m on the road since that could just lead to disaster.

“Will we have time to meet your Disciplinary Chairman?” Dad asks. “Knowing only one of your new friends is a bit sad. You think you’ll be able to convince them to stay for a short while?”

“Probably,” I reply. “But they’re not coming for an interrogation. They’re just here to pick me up. Please keep it short and don’t dig around more than you need to.”

“We wouldn’t dream of it,” Mom replies. “We were just fine with Rei, weren’t we?”

“Yes,” I reply. “But she was happy to lean into it. If you try to pry to much with Giichi, you might find that you’re the ones being interrogated soon enough.”

“You make him sound so scary,” Dad says. “Are you sure you’re not all just being forced into doing what he wants?”

“No,” I reply. “He’s just extremely confident in who he is, and not very interested in explaining it to others. More so than most I’ve met. If you try and pry into it and he’s going to do the same. There’s no better way to take control of a situation than putting everyone else on the back foot.”

“I wouldn’t normally want you to have anything to do with someone like that,” Mom says. “Seems too controlling for me. Who knows what it might lead to?”

I want to interrupt, but she continues speaking.

“But I know you’ll defend his character. He does seem too principled to try anything weird if what you’ve said is anything to go by. We’d just like the chance to see it with our own eyes.”

I can’t argue with that. They might not warm to him the same way they did with Rei, but I’m sure they’ll see that he’s exactly who I’ve said he is.

“You two do whatever you want when they arrive,” I say. “Just keep what I told you in mind. Anyway, now that we’ve finished with all of this, what was the surprise the two of you had for me?”

“Okay,” Dad says. “Glad to see you’re still so eager. I’ll be back in a moment.”

He gets up and head into the kitchen. I hear some clattering as he gathers what sounds like bowls and a handful of cutlery.

“You’re heading into the final leg of your school journey,” Mom says suddenly.

Looks like she’s going to use the time she’s been given to give me one last talk.

“I know you’ve got plenty of things that need your attention now,” she continues. “But all of that must come second to your own studies. Don’t try to take on any responsibilities that take away from that. You might want to spend more time with your friends or get involved with as many school activities as you can, but your education and your future are more important than all of that.”

She’s being very firm with her advice.

“I know how important it is,” I reply. “I’m not going to let myself get distracted. Besides the experiences I’m getting involved in at Yamaku will definitely come in handy. How many people can say that they were on a committee the way I can now. Who knows what else might come up?”

“I suppose,” Mom admits. “But that only adds to your resume. If your marks aren’t good enough to meet the requirements for what you want to study, then it doesn’t matter what else you have on the list. You won’t get in.”

She makes a good point. I also notice the subtle hint of not knowing what I’ll be doing once I finish school. People seem to be dropping them all the time. Is it going to continue once I’m back at school?

I might need to come up with something quickly just to stop the probing questions.

“I’ll try to do what’s best,” I say. “My marks are doing just fine and I’m sure I’ll even get them a bit higher if I carry on the way things have been going. Only a disaster will stop things from going as well as they have been.”

“Don’t even think about that,” Mom says. “Only positive thoughts. I’ll be praying for your good fortune whenever I get the chance.”

Mom doesn’t talk about that kind of thing much, so it’s a surprise that shows just how important all of this is to her.

I’m pretty sure Mom’s done with what she has to say as Dad comes back into the room. He’s performing quite the balancing act with all the bowls and accompanying cutlery in one hand and a few tubs in the form of a small tower in his other hand.

“You got us some ice cream!” I call out excitedly. “And not the normal stuff.”

“Yes,” Dad replies. “You didn’t end up having any that day, so I thought we needed to make it up to you.”

I remember that we got ice cream the day I got my diagnosis. I also remember that it ended up melting in the car. We did usually have some in the fridge, but that hadn’t been the case for the past week. My parents obviously don’t eat it when I’m not around.

“We got a whole bunch of flavours,” he continues. “So, don’t expect to have too much of anything. If you manage to leave some, we could share it with Rei and Giichi when they get here.”

Rei will be very happy with that and I’m sure Giichi wouldn’t mind. Can anyone really turn down free ice cream?

I enjoy the unexpected dessert as I spend the last little while with my parents. Before long, the doorbell is ringing which means that the others have probably arrived.

“You two wait here,” I say as I head to the door and pull it open.

Rei is obviously the one who rang as Giichi stands a few paces behind her. He nods as she begins to speak.

“You ready for the trip?” She asks. “Won’t be long before we’re back in our little kingdom.”

Not quite the right analogy to go with, I feel. We’re the police at best, but it is Rei saying it.

“You two able to come in for a moment?” I ask. “Parents would like to see you for a moment.”

“I expected as much,” Giichi says, before turning to signal to Daisuke. “How about you bring your bag out while we’re busy.”

I can see that Daisuke is already on the move, so I’m somewhat forced into doing what Giichi suggests.

The two of them step inside as I heave the bag out and nod my thanks to our chauffer.

“This way,” I say as I step back in.

The two of them follow me towards the sitting room and I take a moment to picture them in my mind. They look much like they always do. Rei is just as my parents will remember her from her last visit and Giichi is exactly as he always is.

I wonder how they will handle his stiff manner and serious demeanour. Will they think it’s that he’s awkward or will they pick up the real reason for his behaviour?

I suddenly worry about what they might ask about Giichi and whether it might wander places it shouldn’t. It didn’t come up with Rei, but it may have been a good idea to go over the etiquette for situations like this.

I can only hope they’re sensible enough not to go anywhere off-limits with the questions I’m sure they’re going to want to ask him.

We round the corner and quickly go through reintroductions before moving on.

“Mom, Dad,” I say. “This is Giichi. Our Disciplinary Chairman.”

“Good morning, sir. Ma’am,” he says. “It’s good to meet the two of you.”

He gives them his customary bow, before waiting for them to take the lead.

“Morning, Giichi,” Dad says. “I’m glad we were able to meet you before you all went back to school. Putting faces to names is always a wonderful thing.”

“Yes. It is,” Giichi agrees. “I’m also glad we get to meet. I must thank you for bringing Hatsumi to Yamaku. She’s been a wonderful addition to the Committee.”

I’m thrown off by his praise for me.

I never expected him to be so open from the beginning.

“How come I never got this kind of treatment,” Rei says, commandeering the conversation.

I look at my parents and shrug at their confusion.

“Not now Rei,” Giichi says calmly, before returning to my parents. “What would you like to know in particular?”

He’s pressing forward without giving my parents a chance to guide the conversation. I didn’t expect him to be that direct, but his behaviour at school has suddenly all come rushing back. Even my parents aren’t safe from his business-like attitude.

“Well,” Mom says, trying to regain some control. “I was just talking to Hatsumi earlier and I want to be sure you don’t try to put too much work on her shoulders. The end of the year is coming up and I don’t want her grades to suffer because of it.”

“That won’t happen,” Giichi assures her. “I’m in a similar position and I would never do that to a fellow third year. Even if something were to happen to me, the younger members are the ones who will pick up the slack.”

“Hey!” Rei tries to interrupt again, but Giichi sticks to his conversation with my parents. Rei and I have become nothing, but bystanders.

“That’s good to know,” Dad says. “You seem the kind of person to have a plan for everything. Do you know of a way to help Hatsumi with her plans for the future?”

I want to interrupt now, but I know it will be pointless. In the few minutes that they’ve been together, Giichi seems to have risen to the level of a teacher in their eyes.”

“I trust her to find her own way,” Giichi says. “But we do have some help available at Yamaku. There’s a councillor to guide you through the various options and there is even more help if the issue seems to be any deeper than simple indecision.”

“I was planning to talk to them anyway,” is what I decide to interrupt with. “Now that I know that it actually is a thing they offer.”

“That’s a good idea,” Giichi says to me. “I’ll give you the details to make an appointment when we get back to school.”

“It’s great that you’re so proactive. And professional,” Dad says. “I really wasn’t sure what to think of you based on what I’d heard.”

“I’m sure you can see that everything is fine,” Giichi replies. “Hatsumi couldn’t have landed up in a more responsible position than she did.”

He doesn’t leave any room for argument and my parents seem to know it as my dad turns to Rei. Apparently, it’s easier for him to make an offer to her than Giichi.

“We have some ice-cream to send you off with a little bit of a celebration,” he says. “If you’d like any?”

“Of course!” Rei replies. “Who wouldn’t want an offer ice cream? Though I’m guessing you already had yours?”

This last bit is addressed to me and she’s exactly right. I won’t be having another serving just so that we can have it together.”

“As long as it isn’t any of those crazy flavours Rei would like to bombard us with, I’d like to have some. Please,” Giichi says.

Even Giichi can’t turn down such an offer.

Once we’re done, we head out towards the car. Dad and Mom say their goodbyes at the door and the three of us walk towards the car where Daisuke is waiting to open the door.

“There isn’t anything that you’re forgetting?” He asks me as Rei gets into the car.

“This is it,” I say as I hold up the bag I brought with me.

“I can keep that in the front, if you like?” He replies. “Unless you don’t all want to sit together?”

With Rei already in the back and Giichi staying quiet, it’s up to me. I decide to hand the bag over to him as I’d rather not be the one sitting up front.

“Very well,” he says, as we all head around the car.

I hope you don’t mind sitting in the middle,” Giichi says to me as Daisuke opens the door. “You’re the only one who’s really in the best shape to be doing that.”

I suppose it’s only fair. I will have the least trouble trying to manoeuvre myself in and out of the middle seat. Once I’m in, Giichi drops himself into place in similar manner to Rei, only with a bit more care.

With everyone settled in, I decide that it’s not that bad. We haven’t got any extra baggage in the back with us, so the trip won’t get too uncomfortable. We might still need to make the odd stop, but there’s enough space to stretch if any of us do get a bit stiff.

“It shouldn’t be more than a few hours,” Daisuke says from behind the wheel.

I already know that, but it seems to be a part of his routine to tell his passengers a bit about the length of the journey, so I don’t comment on it.

“How does this work?” I ask, knowing that he’ll hear the question as well. “I’d guess we shouldn’t cause as much trouble as we might with our parents driving.”

I also wonder if that’s just something Rei might be familiar with. I can’t imagine Giichi getting up too much on a road trip.

“You do whatever it is you’d normally do,” Daisuke replies. “Unless it might hurt someone. Then I’ll have to stop your troublemaking. And I don’t talk about what I hear. That’s one of the most important parts of being a driver. If the passengers can’t be comfortable in the car, then you don’t last very long in this line of work.”

He says that, but I don’t know how easy it is to believe such a thing. Surely, he’d talk to Kenichi if he heard something troubling from Giichi?

“It’s an idea that my dad is rather fond of,” Giichi says, reading the question in my mind. “Having someone to listen to you who isn’t going to talk about what they’ve heard can be nice. Even if they’re not a therapist or councillor, a driver can do a lot more than just drive.”

That’s an element I never would have considered. Someone who is always there and can hear and see almost everything that goes on probably would have some advice. They also might not say anything about what they see, but I feel certain that they do guide other conversations in the direction they need to go.

“That must be an interesting addition to your job,” I say. “If only I had something like that.”

“You’ll just have to rely on your friends and family,” Daisuke replies. “It’s only a bonus, not a necessity.”

“How does that work with Tomoko?” Rei asks.

“Unfortunately, she can’t really benefit in the same way,” Daisuke answers. “She can talk in her own way, but I can’t answer her. I do understand enough to do what she wants, though my eyes and hands are occupied with driving.”

I feel a little sorry for her. It’s something the rest of the family can do that she can’t. Maybe it’s not so bad when you’re used to not being able to communicate with everyone.”

“Thanks for the explanation, Daisuke,” Rei says, interrupting my thoughts. “But now it’s time for us to do some talking, so you better be telling the truth about not snitching. I can’t promise that something juicy won’t come up.”

She does make things dramatic.

The drive is uneventful for some time. There isn’t much to see around us and the discussions are rather mundane. Rei hasn’t yet been able to unearth anything ‘juicy’.

We do eventually decide to stop for a little break to see if we can get anything to drink or snack on. I don’t really need it, but we might find something nice at this shopping centre. It one of the last places we’re likely to find much at. The roads will be getting much less crowded by buildings from here on out.

We head inside and ignore the few restaurants that are dotted around the place. That isn’t the kind of food that we’re looking for. A moderately sized convenience store looks to offer the best hopes of having what we want.

I look around while the others do the same. Food isn’t really something that’s on my mind. Most of what they have here wouldn’t work for me anyway, but I do grab a bottle of water as well as some fruit juice to keep me going.

I join the others at the till and see that they’ve both got a coffee. Rei also has some chocolate while Giichi has a pair of onigiri. They probably didn’t have the type of breakfast I did.

“You sure that’ll be good enough for you?” I ask Rei. “Nothing a bit more filling? Or healthy?”

“I’ll be fine,” Rei replies. “That ice cream put me in the mood for even more sugar.”

We head back through the way we came and out towards the car. Giichi stays silent the whole way.

“You alright?” I ask him. “I know you’re not the chatty type, but this is extreme. Even for you.”

“Sorry,” he says with a start.

He seemed to be deep in thought.

“I thought I felt a tweak while I was walking around, but it seems to be fine now,” he continues.

“Are you sure?” I ask, suddenly concerned for how he’s doing. “Do you need anything?”

“As I said, I’m feeling fine now,” he replies. “I think I’ll go see the nurse once we get back. Maybe you shouldn’t be the only one getting checked up before we start school again.”

It’s either a lot more serious that I thought, or Giichi is remembering whatever he went through in the past for him to compare his situation to what I’m in the middle of. I hope it’s the later, because I don’t really want to believe that his situation is so much worse than he makes it seem.

“When was the last time you felt anything like that?” Rei asks him. “Was it recent?”

She must have a bit more knowledge about his case to be asking questions like that. I remember him telling me what to do if anything happened to him, but we never talked about his condition again.

“It’s been a long time,” he replies. “That’s why I’ll be fine for now. If things go wrong, they tend to build up to it.”

Their conversation does little to reassure me as each piece only seems to make things worse in my imagination.

“I’m fine,” he reassures me. “I’m fragile and things tend to creak every so often. The pain is annoying, but it doesn’t lead to anything. It’s just something I have to live with.”

I’ll have to take his word for it.

We’re back in the car and on our way again when Daisuke speaks up.

“What’s wrong?” He asks.

He would notice the change in atmosphere.

I’m the one mostly responsible for that as the other two still seem rather unconcerned over what may or may not be a problem.

“I think I had a tweak in the shop,” Giichi replies. “I’ll get it checked out when we get there.”

“And you’re sure it’s nothing serious?” He asks, looking back at Giichi through the rearview mirror.

“Everything should be fine,” Giichi replies. “I haven’t had any trouble in a while.”

That seems to settle Daisuke and I must admit that I might be overthinking things. The others seem to believe everything is fine and they know more about it than I do. I’m not really sure what to say though. It would be great if someone else could get the conversation started again.

When it seems like that isn’t going to happen, I decide to ask Giichi some questions that have been coming to mind over the past few days.

“How is the rest of the year going to go?” I ask. “I have a rough idea of how things were at my old school, but is Yamaku any different?”

“We’ve only got a few more weeks until out final exams start,” he replies. "Lessons should be coming to an end soon as the teachers get us ready for them. Then we’ve got a few weeks of exams, before we end up at the last week of school. That’s mostly for saying goodbye. Many people may never meet each other again.”

It’s much like it would have been for me if I hadn’t switched schools then. Giichi’s wording hints at the possibility of other reasons for not meeting friends ever again. I suppose that is a feature of Yamaku that probably isn’t thought about anywhere else.

“I suppose not everyone can make it through what happened to them,” I say. “Do you know anyone like that?”

This is territory I haven’t explored yet. I’ve known that there are plenty of students who are lucky to be alive, but I haven’t thought about how quickly things can change. My own scare back at High Tea should have been a warning.

Maybe I should talk to Cho and Nanami about that. They might have been thinking the worst when my seizure happened.

“Not personally,” Giichi says. “And news doesn’t usually come back to you from people who leave. Unless you knew them personally. There was someone who didn’t want to wait for their disability to take them. That was a shock for everyone.”

I can’t believe what Giichi just said.

“Are you saying someone killed themselves?” I ask.

“Yes,” he replies sombrely. “Everyone heard about it, and they spent a lot of time talking to us about it. Plenty of people ended up in counselling as well. I think they were worried that the idea might spread.”

That’s a terrible way to look at things, but I can understand the thinking. I hadn’t gone anywhere near such thoughts, but I’m sure it’s easy for someone who thinks they’ve lost everything to end up there.

“Someone in my class passed away,” Rei says. “You wouldn’t have seen it coming . One day they just didn’t come to class and the teacher let us know what had happened. No details. Just that we wouldn’t be seeing him again.”

I can’t really imagine what that must be like. For someone to disappear without any warning.


“But it doesn’t happen that often, does it?” I ask. “It hasn’t happened since I arrived.”

“No,” Rei admits. “Most people could tell you when something like that happened, but they’ll probably all be telling one of a couple of stories. Life threatening disabilities are definitely in the minority at Yamaku, so most of us make it through without any trouble.”

That’s one positive view to take on the situation. I should hopefully find myself on that side of things once I get my results tomorrow.

“I’d wouldn’t recommend sticking to that topic anymore,” Daisuke calls back to us. “That’s an aspect of life that it’s better not to think about unless you really have to. As far as I can tell, none of you are there yet.”

I appreciate him trying to steer the conversation somewhere else, but it’s hard to do so when you’ve just been talking about the deaths of your fellow students. Maybe some time in silence to let things mellow down will do us some good.

Rei and Giichi both seem to have faced the issue and come out of it relatively unscathed. I suppose they have had time to think about it for themselves. It didn’t sound like the things they’d experienced had been recent.

I try to put myself in the same position. It might help me to see things better.

I’m not sure that it does.

The best comparison I can make is with my own arrival at Yamaku and the lack of contact with anyone from before then.

What the two of them just said might also have given me a better understanding of Hana and Aimi’s reactions to seeing me. I could very well have been one of those to die. Never to be heard of again. It’s a disturbing thought, and it’s one that I really feel the need to apologize for.

I may be overthinking it, but I’d rather try to make sure that I haven’t left any bad memories behind than ignore the possibility.

I’ve been staring past Rei or Giichi to take in the scenery as we continue our drive. First, we left the city and the larger town. Then we're on to the highway for much of the journey. There isn’t much to see except the stream of cars around us and the trees on either side.

Finally, we break off from the highway and start to make our way through the series of small towns and mountain road that leads to Yamaku. The occasional house and roadside stand pops up as we go.

We transition from these to a moderately sized town and back to empty roads as we get closer and closer to Yamaku.

Finally, we arrive at a point that I recognise. It won’t be long before we’re climbing the hill towards the school itself.

We arrive at about mid-afternoon, and I find that it’s less busy than I thought it would be. It looks like a lot of people arrived earlier in the day as the paths and lawns have far more students on them than are in the parking lot.

It’s an unusual sight to see so many of the students out of their school uniforms. There are usually a number of them in their own clothes over the weekend, but you’ll usually see a lot that have chosen to stay in uniform. There are none of those at the moment. They’re all trying to enjoy the last few hours of their vacation even if they’re already back at school.

We pull into a bay as close to the school as possible. There are only a couple of cars between us and the gate leading to the pathway.

Daisuke jumps out of the car to help Rei out before heading around to open the door for Giichi.

I’ve already climbed out after Rei by the time he’s out of the car.

We move around to the boot of the car to retrieve our luggage. As it opens, I see that there are only two bags in there.

“I didn’t need to take anything home with me,” Giichi says. “Everything I needed was already there.”

That makes sense. No need to carry something heavy across the school, when he’s in a position to keep things here and at home.

“Would you like any help with that,” Daisuke asks. “They are rather heavy.”

I’m about to refuse his request since there will be a number of complications in getting to my room. I also don’t want to take any more advantage of him than we have already.

I don’t get the chance to because Rei accepts his offer.

“That would be a massive help,” she says. “I’ll lead the way for you.”

I can see how she might need the help, though I don’t know if that’s entirely true. If she made it out of Yamaku with all that stuff then she should be able to make to back to her room without help.

Maybe she wasn’t able to?

“I’ll be going through to Nurse,” Giichi says. “They probably won’t do it today, but I’ll set an appointment to get me checked out.”

"Why can’t they do it straight away?” I ask. “That’s what happens to me.”

“My tests will require some scans,” he replies. “They do have the equipment, but you can’t just use it whenever you want. They’ll schedule me in for some time in the next few days.”

I hadn’t had any tests besides physical examinations or handheld devices, so I’ll have to take his word on how these things work.

“We’ll meet you in the office once we’re done,” Rei says. “You’ll probably make it there first.”

“Yes,” Giichi agrees. “I’ll only be busy for a few minutes at most.”

With everything settled, we all set out to our various destinations. Giichi peels off towards the auxiliary building while the rest of us head towards the dorms.

We make our way into the building and head for the elevator. There’s no need to make this journey more difficult than it needs to be.

As we reach Rei’s floor and she steps out, I speak up.

“I’ll head up to my room straight away,” I say. “You don’t need my help as well.”

“Sure,” Rei replies. “Daisuke can manage on his own, right?”

“Yes,” he replies. “I’ve done so up until now. I think I can make it a few more steps.”

I’m glad to hear him replying to Rei in a tone that her joking behaviour deserves. He clearly does get on well with whoever he’s set to assist.

“See you just now,” I say as the door stats to slide closed between us. “And thank you for all the help, Daisuke.

“It’s been a pleasure,” he replies with a smile.

It’s only a moment before the doors slides open again, and I begin to make my way towards my own room. The warren of corridors is familiar enough, but still makes me try to understand what the thinking behind the building was. The branching nature of the whole place, as well as the clusters of rooms are an interesting design that I haven’t seen anywhere else.

It helps to build little communities throughout the building, but I’m sure that it’s not the most cost, or space, effective way to have designed the dorms.

I don’t meet anyone on my journey. The common room was just as empty.

Everyone seems to be enjoying their time outdoors.

There’s a pause as I sanitize my hands, but don’t try to do anything to my bags which will just make a mess of them. I then take a moment to scratch around in my backpack to find my keys.

I look around and make the guess that Chiharu is probably already in her room. Whether she left at all would probably be a good question to ask.

Cho and Nanami might be back already, but things are quiet enough that I’m sure they aren’t in their rooms.

After unlocking my door, I head inside to dump my bags on my bed before heading over to my window to throw it open. I’d like to give my room some time to air out after a week of being closed up. I’ll also leave the unpacking of my stuff until later.

I’d rather head over to meet up with the others than keep them waiting while I’m putting clothes away.

After a brief pause to look around once more, I'm out of my room and down the corridor. I’ll also leave checking in on Chiharu for another time. I could head over to Rei’s room, but she’s either already left or still busy unpacking so I’ll just head straight to the Committee office.

Once I’m outside there’s a bit of weaving to do as I make my way through the mass of students. Most of them are in their own little world or having conversations with their friends, but I do have a short chat with a couple of them as I go.

I head into the auxiliary building and pass Nurse’s office on the way to the stairs.

I’ll meet with him tomorrow after class.

When I get up to the office, I see that no-one else has arrived yet. Rei must still be busy with stuff in her room. Whether Toru has gotten back yet is also something I’ll have to find out later.

“Did you sort everything out?” I ask Giichi, who’s looking through a few papers that he must have retrieved from the mailbox on the door.

We may have been away for the week, but some people stayed behind and they were still getting into trouble while we weren't here.

"They’ll check me out on Wednesday morning,” he replies, turning towards me. “Have a look at these. It’ll be good to get a head start on things.”

He comes over to me with the papers held out, and I’m about to take them when something strange happens.

Giichi suddenly drops the pages, which scatter all around him, and he begins to lean forward. I’m about to ask what happened when the panicked look on his face and sudden plea make me freeze.

“Help,” he says as the lean clearly turns into him falling towards me.

I’m frozen, so I don’t react or respond.

This causes him to grab on to me as he attempts to control his fall. The dead weight and my inaction don’t mix well and we're now both tumbling towards the floor.

This shock knocks some sense into me, and I do the only thing that I really can at this stage. I grab him and let us fall.

I hit the ground first and lose my breath, first from the collision with the floor and then from Giichi landing on me.

It hurts a bit and I’m probably going to have a few bruises tomorrow.

None of that concerns me at the moment. All I’m thinking about is how I hope that what I’ve done has helped Giichi in some way. That I’ve managed to cushion his fall at least a little.

“Giichi?! Giichi!” I call out, much louder than is necessary. “What happened?”

I try to move a bit before his response stops me dead.

“Please don’t,” he says in a pained voice. “I’ve broken something. Something major, and it hurts like hell. Remember what I told you?”

Don’t try to move him if he falls. Get help instead.

That would be great advice in he wasn’t currently on top of me.

“And how exactly would I do that!?” I ask. “My pager is sitting in my room.”

I'd forgotten about it thanks to the last week.

“Rei will be on her way over,” he replies. “Once she gets here, she can get help. It will only be a few minutes.”

I suppose it’s not the worst idea. I just hope she doesn’t get sidetracked on the way over. If she isn’t here soon. I’ll have to try something myself. Even if it hurts Giichi some more.

“How bad is it?” I ask.

I would expect more from him if he really has broken something, but maybe the shock of it is helping to mask the pain.

“It’s bad,” he says through gritted teeth. “I’d have to guess that it’s my hip that broke, but it could be more. Everything just gave way all of a sudden.”

I’ve seen that he has a lot of support around his waist so that wasn’t what I expected him to say. It also can’t be easy to break your hip. I thought that was only something that could happen once you got really old.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to try and get you off me?” I ask again. “Then I can get help straight away.”

“No,” Giichi replies firmly. “I’ve gotten hurt more by someone moving me when they didn’t know what they were doing before. We’re not really in any danger at the moment so, if you aren’t in trouble yourself, then please just wait for Rei to get here.”

I suppose that I don't really need any help. It takes a bit more effort, but I can still breath just fine with his weight on me.

Some time goes by, and I finally hear the door swing open.

“I’m here,” Rei calls out.

There’s a moment of silence.

“What are you two doing?” She asks. “Should I go?”

After lying here in this heap, I’m not in the mood for Rei’s usual jokes.

“Can you just go get help,” I snap. “Giichi’s fallen and we’re too scared to move.”

“Oh,” is all Rei says in response.

I can’t see her face, but I’m certain that all the colour has just been drained from it.

“I’ll be right back,” she says, and the door swings shut as she rushes off to get someone.

I hope she doesn’t trip in her hurry. We don’t need any more injuries on top of Giichi’s.

They come back quickly.

I can’t tell who it is at first, but I soon see that Rei has brought Nurse and two others with her.

“How bad is it?” Nurse says. “Do you think you be able to move on your own?”

“I’m not even going to try,” he replies. “But I’d be grateful if you could get me off Hatsumi. I’m sure she’d appreciate not having me on top of her.”

“Yes,” Nurse agrees. “You two. Lay the stretcher out and get ready to move him.”

I hear some activity off to the side.

“What do you think happened?” Nurse asks. “How should we try to do this?”

“It’s my hip,” Giichi says.

He seems very certain now.

Nurse nods before pulling something from his bag.

“Then we’ll wrap that first,” he says to his companions. “I’d like to reduce any possibility of movement.”

The two of them come forward and gently lift Giichi a bit while nurse gets to work. There are several grunts of pain as they do their job.

Once they’re happy with what they’ve done, they carefully lift him off of me and onto the stretcher before carrying him out.

“I’d like to stay and talk to you, but his situation is more important to me right now,” Nurse says. “Take the rest of the day to calm down, and come through to my office tomorrow morning if you want to. I’ll excuse you from class.”

With that offer on the table, Nurse turns away and head out the door after Giichi

I'm left me sitting on the floor with Rei looking down at me.

Neither of us are really sure what to do next.

< Previous Chapter - Next Chapter >

Last edited by ArtemisCain on Wed Jun 12, 2024 11:00 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: A New Home - Original Characters, Original Route

Post by Mirage_GSM »

“You’re off to the other two,” Ritsuko says, as I begin to eat. “Giichi’s place, right?”

It feels as if something is missing here... The other "two"? and then they are suddenly talking about jobs? "Doing articles"?

This is all defiantly out of my league.

I think you were going for "definitely".

“Obviously you have to take a trip up Tokyo Tower,” he says. “The views from here are nice, but you’ll never hear the end of it if you go past it without going to the top.”

Actually that is exactly what i did... I was there, but the line was so long, and it was so expensive that I passed on going up :-)

Only the Skytree in the distance sticks out above us...

Fun fact: In 2008 they would have just stated building the Skytree...

I have no idea where she got that idea from but, if you try it with everyone...

I've seen this a couple of times now, so I thought I'd mention it:
If you connect two sentences with "but", the comma goes before the "but".

I really liked the past few chapters. The reasons for the conflict between Rei and Ritsuko were both believable and not immediately obvious.
Also nice characterization for a lot of new characters!

Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

My collected KS-Fan Fictions: Mirage's Myths
griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.
Sore wa himitsu desu.
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Re: A New Home - Original Characters, Original Route

Post by ArtemisCain »

Thanks you coming back to the story and for pointing out the errors you've found. I do fix some of them as they're pointed out, but anything I think might need serious attention is being left for when I go back to edit the whole thing. Hopefully around mid-June.

I'm glad you've enjoyed it so far, and I hope that keeps up until the end.

Last edited by ArtemisCain on Mon May 06, 2024 2:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A New Home - Original Characters, Original Route

Post by ArtemisCain »


I can’t say I did much yesterday, since the shock of what happened really took it out of me. Nurse’s offer to help me skip class is something I’m going to have to take him up on.

Everything is pretty much how I left it last night, just on the floor instead of on my bed. I spent much of the evening thinking about what happened and where it might lead.

Rei tried to comfort me saying that it wasn’t as bad as it seemed, but it’s pretty hard to believe that since I had Giichi lying on top of me.

She eventually decided to give me some time alone to process everything at my own pace. She might have said something to Cho and Nanami because they don’t try to check in on me now that we’re all back at school.

I had eventually fallen asleep.

The meds definitely helped me with that, and I woke up exactly on time to check in. Seems like my internal clock hasn’t been affected by it all.

I wait in my room for as long as possible before going down to breakfast. I’d only just finish in time for our first lesson, so I don’t see anyone I know there. The third years all seem to be the responsible sort.

While I’d like to sit outside on the lawn, that would risk the attention of one of the teachers, so I’d rather not take the chance. My room doesn’t offer much for me to do besides moving my clothes from one place to another.

Once I’ve finished eating, I decide to head for the Disciplinary office. If I’m quiet and I lock the door, no-one would even know I was there.

When I arrive and am busy unlocking the door, I hear the bell ring. I quickly slip inside before locking it again.

I turn to look into the room, and I see the pages that Giichi had been about to hand me still lying where they had fallen.

I must be the first one to come back here, so I should probably pick them up.

Getting back into Committee work might help distract me, so I begin to pick them up and sort them out by year. There was enough trouble to do with what happened while we were gone. Seems like most of the troublemakers stayed behind then. The workload is almost the same as a regular school week.

I can’t add them to any of the existing files as I don’t have the key to those cupboards, but I can begin to fill out blank forms with all the correct details in the right place. No-one outside of the Committee seems to be able to get that right.

Once all of that is done, I head over to the one of the windows to look out of it. It’s almost as good as being out on the lawns.

As time goes by, I begin to think about what comes next. I hope Giichi isn’t hurt too badly. We were just talking about how little time is left in the year. Now he might be missing it. You don’t recover from broken bones that quickly.

Eventually, I decide that I’ve had enough of waiting around in the office. I should head down to nurse to get that visit out of the way. I want to get a note from him before class is already over as well.

I head down and knock on his office door. Will he even be here during class time? No-one should really be coming to visit him now.

I only wait a few seconds before Nurse opens the door for me.

“I was honestly expecting you to come by a bit earlier,” he says. “Have you been procrastinating so you didn’t have to come by?”

“I wanted to tidy up the mess we made yesterday,” I reply as I walk into his office.

“That’s good of you,” he says. “What order do you want to do things in? Your condition or what happened yesterday first?”

“Which do you think is more important right now?” I ask.

“For your current condition?” He says. “I’ll start with Giichi.”

I wait for him to start.

“He let you in on what happened?” He asks, and I nod. “He said as much. He also said I could fill you in on a few things.”

“Where is he?” I ask.

“They took him to hospital,” Nurse replies. “It was a break in his hips. What he felt on the way back, was them cracking. The weight of walking around once he was back here finished the job.”

“And how long will he be there?” I ask.

“I think he’ll be back in about a week,” Nurse says. “There isn’t really much they can do about this kind of break. It’s a bit like your ribs. There isn’t really any decent way to immobilize the break. He’ll have to be in a wheelchair until it’s healed properly.”

“That’s good though? Isn’t it?” I ask. “He's going to heal?”

“Yes,” Nurse replies. “If broken bones don’t puncture anything, which his break didn’t, then, with safe behaviour and the occasional checkup, they heal up just fine.”

“Why did it happen though?” I ask.

I’ve got nothing but questions for Nurse.

“That is something I can’t go into,” Nurse answers. “It’s outside of the scope of things I’d be comfortable sharing. Even if I do have Giichi’s permission to fill you in.”

It must be related to his underlying condition then. That is kind of obvious. No-one seems overly surprised by what happened.

I’ll have plenty to ask Giichi when I see him next and, given what’s happened, I’m probably not going to accept half-hearted answers.

“Now that I’ve filled you in on all of that,” Nurse continues. “I’d like to turn to your case. The results came back, and I’ve got a better idea of what to do now.”

I wait for him to continue without saying anything.

“Things have changed,” he says. “That much was obvious with the change in seizures. For the most part, I’d say the development isn’t something to be too worried about.”

“Does that mean you know how to deal with it now?” I ask.

“Yes,” Nurse says with a smile. “Your non-motor epilepsy doesn’t have the same number of treatments so, now that it’s gotten ‘worse’, it’ll be easier to treat.”

That sounds counterintuitive, but he is the doctor.

“I won’t bore you with all the tiny details and technicalities,” he continues. “That’s for your parents, but what you do need to know is that you’ll be switching to a series of far less severe but just as well proven medications. There’s still some level of trial-and-error as we find the one that works best for you and perfect the dosage, but you won’t be experiencing the serious side-effects you’ve had up until now.”

“That’s great,” I say. “I hate being on that stuff. It’s gotten in the way so many times.”

“I can definitely understand your relief,” Nurse replies. “There are a few warnings and precautions we still have to go through.”
I wouldn’t expect otherwise.

“The chance of having a seizure will go up as we change your medication,” he says. “The ideal medication will control them rather than prevent them from happening.”

“How is that ideal?” I ask. “Don’t we want to get rid of them?”

“Actually, no,” he replies. “There are several reasons not to. If we prevent them entirely, then you’re taking too much of whatever we settle on. Some medication is more dangerous than others, but they all pose some level of risk. We also want to know if you ever start to get better.”

“That’s possible?” I ask.

“I thought you’d know a bit more about this by now,” Nurse says with a grin. “You have been a busy student though.”

“Yes,” I reply with narrowed eyes. “So don’t pretend that I’m some delinquent.”

“Yes, yes,” he says. “Epilepsy can get worse, as yours did, but it can also get better. It’s unlikely that it will disappear entirely, but it can become near non-existent. The only way to pick that up is if your dosage just barely allows your seizures to happen.”

“Sounds like I’m on a long and winding road with all of this,” I say.

“That’s very close to the truth,” Nurse agrees. “Any seizures you do have will be just noticeable, so we’ll need you to begin journaling them again. I don’t expect you to collapse or go into convulsions for any of them.

“But I could,” I say, reading into what he just said.

“Yes, you could,” he replies. “But it shouldn’t happen. We’ve got a much clearer picture of what’s going on in that head of yours now.”

“I think I’ll stick around others for now,” I say. “I believe you, but I’m not going to put complete faith in what you just said.”

“Smart move,” he agrees. “Don’t take anything for granted and be prepared for the worst. Don’t hope for it though. That will cause a whole heap of other issues.”

He doesn’t want me thinking about all the bad things that could happen. I might start to spiral if I get too caught up in that.

“I hope you have my new pills ready then,” I say. “So, I can get off of these ones immediately.”

“I do have them ready for you,” he replies. “You’ll need to bring the others in first. I don’t want those things lying around when they aren’t needed.”

“I’ll do that,” I say. “Can I have that note as well?”

“Yes,” Nurse says. “Though I’m sure you don’t really need it. Can’t you come up with some reason not to be in class as a member of the Disciplinary Committee?”

“Of course not,” I reply. “What would the point of our position be if we took advantage of it like that?”

“You'd be just like any anyone else in your position?” Nurse suggests. “But fine, I’ll write a note up for you. Something about needed to adjust to your new treatment, which you will need to do anyway. You can’t just make a change like this and expect your body not to notice the difference.”

“How bad will it be?” I ask him.

“The same as what you’ve been going through,” he answers. “Just in different ways.”

“Thanks. I guess?” I say.

“I was thinking there’s someone else you might like to check in with,” Nurse tells me. “You might not like the idea, but at least one visit to our in-house therapist might be a good idea.”

“It doesn’t sound like one,” I say.

“Most people have a similar reaction when I suggest it,” Nurse admits. “You will benefit from it. Everyone should visit her at least once. There’s always something to talk about. Yesterday would’ve been traumatic for you, whether or not you realize it yet. It probably also brought a lot of other thoughts into your head.”

“Is she like this as well?” I ask.

“I’ve hit a few sore spots?” Nurse says. “Then I really must suggest that you take my advice. It’s not normally that easy to reach problems like that. I can find any physical issues with ease. Unless the problem sticks out, I shouldn’t be able to find the psychological ones.”

“I’ll think about it,” I say.

It’s more to get him off my case than actual agreement with the idea. I’ll have to think about that first. He just seems very keen on getting me to do it and I don’t like being under that kind of pressure when I need to make a decision.

“You do that,” he says. “Are you going to class now or will you stick around here? No-one would stop you from wandering around. Someone skipping class wouldn’t be stupid enough to come to the auxiliary building.”

I decide to listen to Nurse’s final hint and explore the building that I’ve seen surprisingly little of. It'll be interesting to see if he’s right about going undisturbed. I have the note even if he isn’t.

The medical section of the building isn’t really that interesting. It seems like anything that might be happening here is going on behind closed doors. All you can see is a warren of corridors, even worse than in the dorms.

I wander around this until I decide that it really isn’t the place to be. It’s not quite a hospital, but it does have the feeling of one. I’d rather not stick around to experience any more of it.

I could head through to the pool, but there isn’t much else there to see. Unless I was planning to swim, then my time there has already shown me everything I need to see.

The next floor gives me a bit more to think about. We spend our time here in the Disciplinary Committee office and yet the Student Council are back in the main building. It seems a bit strange for them to be in such different places.

With all the offices and administrative rooms gathered together, they’re the odd ones out.

I can only guess that it’s got something to do with the way they want the council to be perceived. We’re off in the corner of the school with all the other seats of power. The Student Council stands with everyone else. Maybe it’s meant to make them more approachable. You won’t have time to talk yourself out of it when you go to see them.

I don’t think it’s been very successful. Shizune and Misha are great, and I’ve enjoyed the times we’ve spent with them, but they seem to have the same issues as we do.

If anything, it’s worse. Just the two of them there, with no-one to take over when they graduate. How it can get like that is beyond me. We only have one student from each year below us, but that’s enough to keep things going.

Maybe I should try to help them with that? Or maybe I should let them do their own thing.

The teachers’ break room comes into view as I round a corner and I decide to hurry past it. It’s never empty so I don’t need them checking in on me.

I’ve been in there a few times to collect things from some of the teachers. It’s a much nicer place than the one at my old school. Wooden floors covered in rugs, armchairs dotted around the place, and the actual work area through another door at the back of the room. It’s a comfortable place to take a break from the difficulties of running this school.

I now get into the area of the building that I haven’t had any reason to visit. It’s where you’ll find all the other vital, but unseen parts of running a school. Textbooks and workbooks have their own rooms, and the accounting department is around here somewhere. A janitor’s room for when things get really out of hand.

The principal’s office is also around here somewhere. Toru mentioned that it didn’t stand out as it was unmarked like many of the room that students weren’t supposed to visit. The principal was someone you didn’t get to see very often. The school was designed to sort out your problems before you had to rise to that level of authority.

It’s something of a fun game to try and guess what each of the rooms I pass might contain. I’d assume that the offices would be grouped together, closer to the entrance and that the storerooms would be kept out of the way.

I could try the doors, but that would lead to some awkward encounters depending on what I found within.

I arrive at the far end of the floor, and I reach what I can only assume to be the book rooms. They have an aura that suggests they don’t open very often, and it feels as if they’ve been abandoned since the start of the year.

I don’t know why I think that, but that’s just what comes over me as I look at the plain brown door ahead of me. Maybe it’s the fact that light doesn’t shine under this door like any of the others. As if it’s not wanted or needed in there.

I decide to leave quickly. What I imagine behind the door is not something that appeals to me. Books have a nice smell, but that changes when they’re left alone in the dark for long periods of time.

There are a group of students that deal with the distribution and collection of schoolbooks, and I don’t want to be one of them. Their job may be important, but I don’t think I could stand to do what they do.

I’ve probably walked past these perfectly ordinary students several times by now, and yet I still imagine them to be some ghoulish figures with bags under their eyes.

My exploration may have taken an unsettling turn, so I’m now trying to figure out where to go from here. This floor has proved just as bare as the medical wing.

I’d like to get away from it and find something more stimulating, and less depressing if possible.

If only I wasn’t the only one wandering around the school during class.

That might not actually be true. I’ve restrained myself to a building that no-one is likely to visit. If I were to head back to the main building, I might actually find someone. There are a few students who are known to skip class, and I might be able to find a few of them.

I set off towards the stairs to do just this and I’m about to head down them when a voice calls out to me.

“I’ve been caught,” I think sarcastically.

“Excuse me?” The voice says again. “Could I have a moment?”

Not what I’d expect from a teacher trying to reprimand me.

I turn around and see a woman that I only recognize from seeing her at a distance. We’ve never interacted before.

She’s dressed smartly.

A black suit and skirt. Very professional, if only slightly dated. She’s small and looks a lot younger than she must be.

Miss Tsunemori is the school’s resident councillor and I believe that she’s a well-respected psychologist. Her and Nurse are the heads of their respective fields, and both somehow manage to appear younger than they are.

“I should ask you what you’re doing out of class, but I’m sure you have a reason,” she says. “Would you like to share it with me?”

I can sense that she’s confident and quick-witted. Moving straight past the pointless conversation that most people would try to begin this interaction with.

“Note from Nurse,” I reply quickly. “Need some time to deal with stuff.”

“If that’s the case, then maybe we could talk?” She suggests. “I haven’t had a session with you before, so maybe you could use one?”

I hadn’t expected to be running into her so soon and I can’t say that I want to go down that road yet.

“Do you know me?” I ask, prompted by her knowing that I haven’t been to see her.

“No,” she admits. “Though I do remember all of my patients and I know that you don’t happen to be one of them.”

I can’t say that I like her using that term when speaking about me coming to see her and she must see it on her face.

“Sorry. That’s just what I’m used to calling them,” she apologizes. “You can’t officially be called that if you haven’t made an appointment to see me.”

A technicality then. I do love when people rely on those to prove themselves right about something.”

“We’d go to your office then?” I ask.

I’ve been won over by the manner in which she’s handled this so far.

“We wouldn’t discuss it out in the open, would we?” She replies. “You’re certainly not the only one wandering these halls.”

That is what I’d been thinking before she found me.

“Lead the way?” I say after making up my mind. “I can’t say that I know exactly where your office is.”

“It is a shame that a lot of people are in the same situation,” she says. “I’d like to make my services more well known, but even Yamaku isn’t so fond of looking at the mental side of things.”

That must be the feelings of the people on the school board. From what I’ve seen, the teachers, medical staff, and even the students all worry about everyone’s mental health.

It’s also sad if what she says is true. I know a lot of people don’t accept or believe in mental disorders, but Yamaku doesn’t deal in those. Checking in on how someone’s coping with all of this shouldn’t fall into that category.

I follow her along as she guides me towards her office. She doesn’t say anything as I think all of this through.

She arrives at the door to her office and pushes it open, and I’m immediately appalled by what I see.

The idea behind it is wonderful.

The execution is terrible.

I can appreciate the green feel of nature that they might have been going for, but everything is too luminous and artificial. The tree-like sculptures on the windowsill also contribute to the monstrosity before us.

“That’s the reaction of someone who actually enjoys nature,” Tsunemori says. “I agree that it’s all a bit much, but I didn’t get to have any say in the decorations.”

“You could have,” I say. “They wouldn’t fire you for putting your foot down on what’s required for students to get something out of a trip to the psychologist.”

“You’re a rather forceful one,” she comments. “Immediately looking for a way to get what you want. I can appreciate how that might help you get ahead in life.”

That feels like a compliment, but also… Not. I choose not to say anything until I’ve figured that out.

“It could cause trouble though,” she continues. “You can’t control everything, so when you’re powerless to do something, it might really hit you hard.”

She’s already trying to analyze me before we’re properly through the door.

“Maybe we start this properly?” I suggest. “You still don’t know who I am.”

She gives me a look that says I’ve handed her even more information with that statement.

“That’s true,” she says. “But knowing who you are can be just as damaging as not knowing. If I’ve got nothing to go off of, I can’t make judgments based off the conclusions I might draw from the information.”

It all sounds a bit crazy to me. Wilfully ignoring information to draw better conclusions is a good way to fail any test.

“But I’m not trying to diagnose you with anything, so we can skip all of that,” she continues. “And knowing a bit about you will help things along in this case. I think it will tell me why I found you wandering around in the auxiliary building of all places.”

That means she must have a good idea of who I am. That I have a connection to this place does reduce the number of people I’m likely to be. That she is likely to have met many of the others before means that she may know exactly who I am.

“You want to take a guess?” I ask her.

“You are good at this,” she says, narrowing her eyes and smirking slightly. “You know what I know, or at least have a good idea of it.”

I say nothing.

“Very well,” she says. “I’d guess that you’re the transfer student that joined the Disciplinary Committee. You can’t be the other one. Even if he does come though our building all the time.”

“Yes, I am,” I reply. “Hatsumi Nakano.”

“Sorry that I don’t remember your name,” Tsunemori says. “As I said, you aren’t one of mine. Yet.”

Is she really trying to get a hold of me already? We’ve only just met, and she already decided I need help. Maybe there are more problems at this school than I realized.

“That’s all I really need to know to address your first issue,” she continues. “What happened yesterday must have been a shock and I doubt you’ve had the time to process it properly yet.”

“You know about that already?” I ask. “And are we really allowed to talk about it?”

“Why wouldn’t we?” she replies. “Something happened to you, and it would have affected you in some way.”

“We shouldn’t be discussing medical issues of other people,” I say. “Even if we know something, we shouldn’t be telling anyone about it.”

“That’s another admirable trait,” she says. “You’re looking out for the privacy of others, but we wouldn’t be talking about him. Your troubles are the ones you should be focusing on at the moment.”

“Nothing happened to me,” I say. “I was just there. Unable to move. Unable to help”

“Do you always want to do that?” She asks. “Help the people around you.”

“If I can,” I say slowly. “Doesn’t everyone?”

“No. Not really,” she replies. “Most people would look out for themselves. The trauma caused by seeing a friend get hurt would be at the front of their mind. You don’t seem to even think you’ve been affected by it.”

“Well, I haven’t,’’ I say. “I’m still at school and he’s in hospital.”

“You’re not though,” she replies. “You’d be in class if everything was fine, and I’m not going to believe any excuses as to why that is.”
I stop what I was about to say.

“I very much doubt you were working, and I’d be surprised if you’ve been made to do something to deal with whatever brought you to Yamaku. If it was serious enough to pull you out of class, you wouldn’t be wandering the halls alone.”

I can’t really argue with her on any of that. She can shut down anything I say with a logical and practical answer. The only thing that leaves is something irrational and I can’t give her something like that.

“Then why don’t you tell me what the reason for it is?” I ask. “I don’t seem to know what it is.”

“You know that’s not how I work,” she says with a smile. “A therapist isn’t going to give you the answer. You wouldn’t appreciate it then.”

“Is that how you keep people coming back?” I ask. “Can you force them if you think it’s necessary?”

“There would have to be serious dangers for that to happen,” she says. “Only a guardian could force you outside of that.”

I’m glad about that. Nurse’s appointments are enough for me.

“Please don’t rush off,” Tsunemori asks.

Her sincerity surprises me.

“I really do think the two of us could do a lot together,” she continues. “You’ll have to trust my intuition on that.”

We’re still standing in the middle of the room, as if she’s waiting for me to make up my mind about what I’m going to do.

“I’ll stay,’’ I say. “We’ll see how well this goes.”

“Glad you’ve come around,” she replies. “How about you take a seat?”

She motions to a large beige sofa across from a chair that she moves towards. I suppose it’s so that you can get comfortable for your discussions.
I decide to sit to the right of the sofa. It would feel weird to be in the middle, even if it would put us opposite each other.

“You going to get a notebook?” I ask.

“I assure you this isn’t a session,” she reminds me.

“Then where do we start?” I ask.

“How about with the need to help others?” she suggests. “Do you have it?’

“I don’t think it’s a need,” I reply. “I just don’t like to stand by when I see that I can help.”

“And have you always been like that?” Tsunemori asks.

“No,” I have to admit. ‘It’s something that started at Yamaku.”

“Interesting,” she replies. “And how successful have you been?”

“I don’t know,” I respond. “I think I’ve made a difference, but things have only gotten better. I haven’t fixed them.”

“That’s a lot like what I do,” she tells me. “Others might claim differently, but I don’t believe I’ve ever ‘fixed’ anyone’s problems. I can only guide them on their journey.”

“Then maybe I’ve been doing more ‘guiding’ than solving everything I come across,” I say.

“And from what you said just now, you couldn’t do anything?” She asks. “Why was that?”

“I was stuck,” I say.

“Okay,” she says slowly. “I won’t go near that. I don’t think it’s necessary anyway.”

I’m glad about that.

“Have you failed before?” She continues. “Failed to help anyone up until that moment?”

I have to take time to think about my answer. I run through all the things that have happened with everyone I’ve met before I reach the answer.”

“No,” I say. “That’s the first time.”

“Then it’s a good lesson,” she says with a smile. “You can’t do everything. You can’t be what everyone needs. Sometimes you fail and that’s just how it is.”

“Tell that to Giichi,” I mutter.

“Do you think he blames you?” She asks.

“No,” I reply.

“And he shouldn’t,” she continues. “Some people need to be treated softly, but you’re not one of them. The reality is you can’t come out on top every time. You’ve been very lucky so far.”

“Is that really the attitude you should be taking,” I say. “They wouldn’t be happy to hear you taking that position.”

“More people should,” she replies firmly. “Even my success stories will have to continue struggling with their problems long after they leave me. Life is about up and downs. You were down yesterday, but you’ll need to get out of that slump soon if you want to keep going.”

“It’s easy to say that,” I say. “But it’s not so easy to get through it.”

“True,” she agrees. “I think you can manage it though. You’re strong enough to make it through it on your own. Just reach out if you ever need to talk about it.”

“But they won’t be recorded sessions? Will they?” I ask.

“No, you don’t need anything like that,” she replies. I’m just interested in where things might go with you.”

“Okay,” I say hesitantly. “I’ll keep you in mind for that. Can I get out of this green nightmare now?”

“Yes, you can,” she says. “I’ll be coming with, since I was on my way out when I saw you.”

I suppose I can handle a bit more time with her. She’s more approachable than I would have expected. Maybe that’s part of the plan of having someone who looks so young?

We walk out of the room together, but don’t go back to discussing my feelings. I think we’re done with that for now.

“When are you free?” I ask.

I don’t want to make any appointments or accidently interrupt someone if they’re in the middle of one.

“I’m usually in my office before lessons start,” she replies. “Not at lunch though. And if my day is full, I have a bit of time at the end of each hour after school. You can pop in then. Otherwise, I’ll be in the staff room.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I say as we head out into the school grounds.

“See you then,” she replies as she heads off in a different direction.

Despite me never actually confirming that I would be back, she seems to have decided that it’s going to happen anyway.

I decide to head back to my room and begin unpacking my discarded bags. It wouldn’t do to leave it any longer than I have.

Tsunemori is confident that I’ll be fine, and I’ll take her judgment to heart. It will definitely help to know that someone thinks that.

I’m not as careful with my clothes as I could be. The ones that need hangers get them, but the rest are dumped into rough piles based on what they are. The colour coordination that Mom tried to implement when I arrived is long gone.

I’ve mostly finished with this job when I hear a knock on the door. It’s not lunch yet, so I don’t really know who it could be. Hardly anyone would know were I am, so maybe someone’s been sent to look for me.

I head over and open the door to be greeted by the image of Chiharu standing with her back to her own door. Is she the one checking in on me?

“Hey Chiharu,” I say. “Did I make a mess somewhere?”

“No,” she replies quickly. “You’re just doing something weird, and I wanted to see why.”

That’s surprisingly touching. She usually wants nothing to do with anyone else. I must have really done something to her before going on vacation.

Or maybe she's just worried that I'll make a mess.

“I’m fine,” I say. “Nurse just gave me the day off. I’ll be back in class tomorrow.”

“I haven’t seen him in a while,” she says. “Since I arrived, in fact. Is he still as active as he was back then?”

I suppose he is energetic. That would probably have been unsettling for Chiharu. Sudden movement does seem to set her off.

“He sounds the same,” I say. “He’s just looking out for all of us while putting on a positive demeanour.”

“If you say so,” she replies. “That doesn’t matter though. You can’t be alright if he did that for you.”

“It’s all just been a bit much recently,” I say. “I think he just wants me to calm down a bit.”

“That’s not always so easy,” she replies. “Look at me. I don’t think I’ve ever calmed down.”

I suppose that I was a bit insensitive wording it like that. She can’t go anywhere near the rest of the school, and I just need a little break from it.

“We’ve got different problems,” I say as an explanation. “Mine shouldn’t affect me like this. They don’t in fact. It’s something else, that I’ll hopefully get through soon enough.”

She nods and moves on from that.

“Is your condition doing any better then?” She asks. “Or is it still the same?”

“I’ll tell you in a few days,” I reply. “I should be seeing the answer to that any day now.”

“I cleaned your room while you were away,” she offers.

It’s probably the only thing she’s really comfortable in doing for others. It might not actually be that comfortable knowing how much dirt sets her off.

“Thanks,” I say. “Sorry I didn’t leave you a way in.”

“I didn’t need it,” she says. “I’m used to having to unlock things that I’m not supposed to be able to.”

It’s funny to hear her admitting to a crime so casually. Maybe it doesn’t matter here. They aren’t going to do anything to stop her.”

“You’ll need to be careful with that once you’re out of school,” I say. “Not everyone is so open to breaking and entering as we are.”

“I’ll have to make major changes to everything once I’m out of here,” she says. “I really do hope online work keeps on going the way it has. I won’t have to worry so much then.”

That’s a thought. We’ve all had access to the internet for a while. Not so much in school, but something like that would be great for Chiharu. I’m still stuck thinking about going in to work every day.

“I think you’ll make it work just fine,” I say.

“It hope so,” she says with a small smile. “I’ll leave you to whatever it is that you’re doing. I hope it works out for you too.”

“Thanks,” I say, before watching her retreat into her room.

It’s starting to get late, and I can’t stay hidden away forever. It’s time to head down to the cafeteria to find something to eat.

I make it there without any distractions to get in my way and wade though the crowd of students to reach the kitchens and put my order in. I’m going to have to wait a little while for my food to be ready.

“Hatsumi!” I hear behind me, and I turn to see Cho and Nanami.

“I’m not explaining today,” I say pre-emptively. “If you want to know that, then you can talk to one of the people that I’ve already had to explain it to.”

They don’t look very happy about that, but they seem to accept it.

“Then can you at least tell us about Giichi?” Cho asks. “We heard he’s in hospital.”

“Yes,” I say. “That is true but, once again, I’m not going tell you much. Only what he’d say.”

“You’re no fun,” Nanami says, pouting.

“She’s taking her new role seriously,” Cho says with a nod.

“What do you mean by that?” I ask.

“You should know the rules of your committee,” Nanami says accusingly.

“Yes,” Cho agrees. “You have to be a third year to run it. Since Giichi is gone for now, you’re in charge of that lot.”

I didn’t want to hear that from her.

“I’m the least qualified person on the committee,” I protest. “They can’t put me in charge.”

“You’ll have to adapt quickly,” Nanami says. “You could even make some changes while you’re at it. Stage a sort of coup.”

“Really Nanami?” Cho says. “I never would of thought I’d hear you suggesting something like that. Harming Giichi? You love him.”

I’d like to think that Cho is messing with her, but from her reaction and everything I’ve heard from them before, I think there’s a lot of truth to what Cho just said.

“Shut up!” Nanami says indignantly. “It’s not true!”

It definitely is.

The signs had always been there, but Cho had never been so blunt about it before.

I have to feel sorry for the poor girl. She definitely doesn’t have the confidence to approach him, and I don’t know if she’d be able to handle the flat rejection she’d receive. Giichi is definitely not the kind of person to have any interest in those things, even if he does have the wellbeing of his fellow students at heart.

“He should be fine,” I decide to say. Just to give Nanami some comfort. “He didn’t seem too upset by what happened. More like he was frustrated.”

“That makes sense,” Cho says as Nanami breathes a sigh of relief. “He would be frustrated by anything that gets in his way. He’s an efficient, work obsessed machine.”

That he is.

One of the staff calls out for Cho and Nanami. Their food is ready, so they step forward to collect it.

“Save me a seat,” I say to them as they return. “I’ll be with you as soon as I can.”

Cho nods and the two of them head off into that mass. There must be a few free seats somewhere.

It really is weird to think about Nanami liking Giichi. The signs were there, but I guess it was just never something that I’d have been able to figure out on my own.

Some people might say that it was my duty to try and help her out with this one, but I think they’d be wrong in that.

I could investigate to see if I’m the one who’s got it wrong, but I’m confident that I’ll reach the same conclusion I’ve already drawn. The two of them just wouldn’t work out.

I arrive at the spot the two of them have found with my own tray of food. They thankfully seem to have moved on from that topic, with Nanami back to her bouncy self.

“How busy was class today?” I ask. “I hope they haven’t chosen to do everything on the one day I decided to skip.”

“You’ll be fine,” Nanami says. “Things always start slowly.”

“Your other duties might interfere with things,” Cho says, circling back to that point. “You’ve got to take his place until he’s ready to come back.”

“I really don’t think that’s a good idea for anyone,” I say. “I haven’t had to deal with anything serious up until now. What do I do if someone gets in serious trouble.”

“Ask the others,” Nanami says. “They’re there to advise you.”

“Or phone a friend,” Cho suggests. “Or ask him in person. I hope it’s not so bad that he isn’t back soon.”

That seems like genuine worry for Giichi, not just because of Nanami’s feelings. I’m glad to know that he isn’t entirely alienated from the rest of the class. I couldn’t really be sure as the topic never came up.

“He’ll be back, and I’ll be able to get rid of these hidden responsibilities,” I say. “I’m sure Rei and Toru will have a great deal of fun with messing me around.”

I’m certain they’ll be able to keep things running even when things have taken a strange turn.

“Has Giichi been out of class before?” I ask.

“Not that I know of,” Nanami says, looking to Cho.

She takes her time to think back over the years.

“There was one time in our first year,” she says. “He was out of school for a month. Came back much like you see him now. All stiff. Even more cautious around others.”

That would be when he got all those braces. Or at least enough of them to make a noticeable difference. I wonder how what happened yesterday compares to that and if he’ll be gone that long again.

Everyone’s attitudes say it isn’t that bad, so I’ll choose to believe that he’s been through worse.

“I might be spending a lot of time with him from now on,” I say, and I get puzzled looks from both Cho and Nanami. “It’s seems like he’s going to need some help in the near future, and I’m the only one in our class on speaking terms with him.”

I may be about to have an interesting few weeks at school, regardless of how soon he's back.

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Last edited by ArtemisCain on Thu Jun 13, 2024 3:13 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: A New Home - Original Characters, Original Route

Post by ArtemisCain »

Stepping Up

Very little came up about Giichi as the week went by. He’ll be coming back to school today, so he’ll have only missed the one week of school.

Kubo had taken over the register in classes each morning after choosing not to hand that role off to any of us. This meant that things took slightly longer to get going each morning.

That fact reflected in our own work when it came to disciplinary matters as well. We were still able to fulfil our duties as the system he’d set up throughout the year was able to work without him there. It just took longer to get through it as none of us had the memory for all the rules and regulations that Giichi did.

We could have phoned him if we really needed to, but that ended up not being necessary. That I felt we should push through the challenges rather than disturbing him may have been a part of it. Company in hospital can be nice, but people bringing their problems to you when you’re clearly dealing with your own can be frustrating.

The week had been an uneventful one and had mostly gone by like any other. People didn’t make a fuss of the differences and the few that did mention anything just wanted to be sure that everything was under control. Both for us and for Giichi.

I wonder how he’d take the interest in his health?

I’m not exactly sure what time he’ll be back. Probably sometime after midday with all the hoops you have to jump through to get discharged from hospital. The journey back will then also take some time.

The three of us haven’t decided whether we’d all like to be there when he gets back. We might not even stay for too long as there’s no guarantee that Giichi would like the company at the moment, but we want to offer it just in case.

Toru probably wants to be there the most. Rei and I at least got to see Giichi before he left. That sort of meant we got a better understanding of how he was. Toru could only picture it through our explanations, so probably imagined it worse that it was.

It feels weird to put it like that. Things are definitely bad when you have to be rushed off to hospital. But the brief talks with Giichi over the phone meant that I could understand just how little it seemed to affect him.

It is a rather depressing way to look at things, but he just sees it as a natural side effect of his condition. Just as I'm likely to have more seizures and Toru will have asthma attacks, he will have to go through things like this.

Nurse had been right about the seizures returning. They had happened a few times throughout the week. Only one had happened in class and I don’t think anyone noticed it. Absence seizures were great in that way. You had to know the signs to see them.

My little notebook has seen some use after having lain abandoned in my room after all these weeks. I still haven’t fully decided how I feel about having it be in use again.

With all of that running through my head, I haven’t actually decided how today is going to go. We have the vague plans for the afternoon, but nothing else has really been decided. I’m free to do whatever until then.

School hasn’t been as frantic as it could have been. The teachers all seem to have a handle on the work that needs to be covered. They’re happier to take it slowly and ensure we understand everything than try to rush through the last sections we have left before exam prep begins.

All of that means that I haven’t needed to be couped up this weekend with piles of homework. I was able to quickly finish it yesterday morning and then spend the afternoon reading.

I don’t want to do the same thing again, so I’ve decided to head out into the school grounds just to see if anything catches my attention.

It will be nice if I can catch up with anyone I didn’t get to talk to during the week.

While the halls were quiet, the common room isn’t. In fact, it’s a bit too busy for me to do anything more than poke my head in there. I do see a few people I know, but there are no seats available and they’re all already deep in their own conversations.

As I expected, I head outside where there’s no chance of space being an issue. Finding people is going to be the challenge here as they don’t normally just hang around on the pathway between the dorms and class.

The athletics track is probably the place to go. Even if there isn’t any practice going on, you’ll usually find plenty of people hanging around there. The stands usually attract a number of people as well.

The field comes into view, and I’m greeted with the sight I expect. A few of the hardcore track team members are doing laps. Emi isn’t one of them though. I know she prefers morning runs.

I do see two familiar faces that I haven’t talked to in a while. That they aren’t on the field is unsurprising. For members of the track team, I don’t actually see either of them doing much running.

They also notice me looking at them because Miki immediately waves for me to come over.

“Been long enough since I last saw you,” she says. “I try to make it a habit of not running into the Disciplinary Committee.”

“I’d have to say the same,” Hiraku says. “It’s a shame that you joined them. We got on well before you joined the dark side.”

It’s all light-hearted teasing, so I decide to play along with them.

“I’m glad the two of you are so well-behaved,” I say. “Anyone who’s file doesn’t come across my desk is probably going to go places. It’s unfortunate that I can’t see any of your marks. Then I could be certain.”

“Why do you have to get there?” Miki asks, wincing at my comment.

“Yeah,” Hiraku adds. “I’m doing well enough.”

That confirms that laid back attitude probably extends to their schoolwork as well.

“Just looking out for the students in my care,” I say. “You may be scared of us, but we do have your best interests at heart.”

“How about we get away from all that ‘responsibility’ talk.” Miki says, trying to steer the conversation somewhere else as quickly as possible. “Are you getting out as often as you should?”

She’s trying to put me on the defensive now. Smart girl.

“I could be doing more,” I admit. “Things have been keeping me away from exercise.”

If I admit my faults, it will be harder for them to use them against me.

“I guess you would be,” Hiraku says. “I know plenty of people whose names probably cross your desk. Being shorthanded can’t help.”

“Good one,” Miki says.

It’s been a while since someone’s managed to sneak a pun like that into conversation and I’ve grown to appreciate them much more than when I first arrived.

I smile at the joke before moving on.

“Yes, we are,” I say. “But everything will be back to normal soon enough.”

“That’s good to hear,” Miki says.

How are things with the two of you?” I ask. “The track team treating you well?”

“Well enough,” Hiraku says. “We have fun, and our track meet went well.”

“Did you win anything?” I ask.

I hadn’t gone to see any of the races.

The school hadn’t been very good at advertising it to its own students, so I’d already made plans by the time I’d heard about it.

Neither of them seems to mind that I missed it though.”

“Hiraku won his race,” Miki says. “I didn’t. Emi cleaned up everything she participated in which made up for the rest of us.”

“I suppose that’s good enough then,” I say. “Congrats on your win Hiraku.”

“Thanks,” he replies. “It was some tough competition this year.”

“You better keep it up once we’re gone,” Miki says. “Someone has to take over Emi’s win streak next year.”

“Don’t put all that responsibility on me,” he replies. “I’m not that much of a star.”

“You’ll be fine,” I say reassuringly. “You said you were good back when we met and you’re winning races now. I’m sure you’ll keep it up.”

“See, I’m not the only one who believes in you,” Miki says. “You can do it.”

“If you say so,” he replies with a dramatic sigh.

“You free this afternoon?” Miki asks me. “I’m sure I can find someone to get us our food. I’ll also think up some more things to ask you. Got to make use of my connection to the least scary member of the Disciplinary Committee.”

“If people keep looking at me like that, I’m going to have to develop some tyrannical behaviour. I’m not just the Committee’s soft underbelly,” I say. “And no, that Committee that you fear so much has me tied up this afternoon.”

“They really got their claws into you,” Hiraku says. “It really was a shock to see that’s who you ended up with at the festival concert.”

It really had been that long since I’d last seen him. It makes sense when you think about it. He’s kept off of our radar and is in a lower grade. Since he also wouldn’t be coming to the girl’s dorm, there isn’t any reason for our paths to cross.

“Sorry about that,” I say. “I kind of got wrapped up in their whole thing, and I haven’t had time to look back. I hope you were able to put something together without me.”

“It’s not on you,” he replies casually. “You were finding your place and it turned out to be them. Evening karaoke probably wouldn’t have measured up to what you’ve been up to since then.”

“I wouldn’t look at it like that,” I say. “I’m sure whatever you and your friends have gotten up to would have been just as fun.”

“But it never happened,” Miki cuts in. “God, it’s so weird watching you two apologize for things that never happened. Just go with whatever comes up and don’t think about the rest. I don’t need to hang around with anyone who’s so paralyzed by the past.”

Nice and blunt. Just as I remember her being back then.

“You really wouldn’t have fitted in with anything that happened on vacation,” I say.

“What?” Miki says looking at me with a confused expression.

“Too straight forward,” I reply. “I’m used to having to dig for hidden meanings and intentions. It’s like trying to solve a puzzle.”

“There isn’t enough time in life for all of that,” Miki replies.

“That may be,” I say. “But there’s plenty of it to deal with, though it looks like it won’t be coming from you. I should probably get going though. If you’ve got plans to swindle someone out of a free meal, I should get out of here now.”

“Suit yourself,” she says. “You’ll just be missing out on it.”

“It’s going to be me, isn’t it?” Hiraku says grumpily. “I always take the hit when someone else manages to get away.”

“Chin up,” Miki says cheerily. “I’m sure we can still find someone to foot the bill. There’s still plenty of time before lunch.”

It’s good to know that I’ve narrowly escaped that fate. I’ve had my fair share of free lunches, but the person paying always knew what they’d signed up for.

“I’ll leave the two of you to figure out where the money for lunch is coming from,” I say. “The cafeteria is always an option, you know?”

“Not on Sunday, it isn’t,” Miki replies. “You’ve got to get out of here at least once a week.”

“You do that,” I say as I stand back up. “I don’t think I’ll be going anywhere today. The school grounds are more than enough for now.”

“You should drop by more often,” Hiraku says. “I’m sure you can use a change of company every so often. It’s not good to settle into too much of a rut.”

“I’ll see what I can do about that,” I reply. “No promises though.”

“See you!” Miki calls as I make my way off the stands.

I wave back as just as they’re about to disappear from view.

Miki might not want to make use of the cafeteria, but I’m not going to turn down what they have to offer. I’m certain I’ll find someone else there as well.

When I arrive, I see that my guess is correct. Toru is off to the side sitting in his favourite spot.

I hadn’t realized it for a while, but it did eventually click that he was somehow always sitting in the same place. It’s both a blessing and a curse for him to achieve this. I always have to fight to find a place when I’m alone or with someone else.

Once I’ve gone through the process of getting my lunch, I head over to him.

“Hey, Toru,” I say. “You got any word yet?”

“Afternoon,” he replies. “Nothing, but I’m sure he’ll wait until the last minute to say anything. He wouldn’t want us crowding around him as he comes through the gate.”

“He’ll be needing your help just like usual,” I say. “Though, I don’t think he’ll be able to go to the store at all now.”

“I can manage that,” he replies. “Carrying things isn’t a problem for me. Are you sure you’ll be alright?”

“Of course,” I reply. “I don’t have that much to do. Getting around the school isn’t that long a walk and a wheelchair isn’t that much of a burden. I’ll manage just fine. That’s if he lets me. I’m still not sure how that side of things will work.”

“He won’t turn you down,” Toru assures me. “I might bring him to class, but he knows he can’t get around without help and that getting someone to fetch me would just be a stupid idea.”

A lot of work would need to go into getting him to be in the right place whenever Giichi needed help. We’d all agreed that I was in the best position for the job.

He would still need to approve it though.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t around,” Toru says after a moment of silence.

We’ve been through this before.

“Stop,” I say with a sigh. “You need to let it go.”

“I just keep thinking what it would have been like for you,” he says. “I’m the trunk that he’s supposed to grab onto. “Not some poor startled girl.”

“And do you really think you being there would have helped?” I ask. “Would him clinging on to you really have done anything to improve the situation?”

I’ve tried to be nicer with my explanation before, but it seems like I’ll have to go with a practical and blunt answer to get the point across.

“Have you delt with something like this before?” I ask.

“No,” he admits.

“Then you’d have frozen just like I did,” I continue. “And then it might have been even worse. He’d probably have hit the floor anyway because you wouldn’t have budged as he fell on you. At least I collapsed with him.”

“Fine,” Toru says with a huff. “You’re probably right. I still think I could have helped.”

I probably can’t convince him otherwise on that point. Anyone in his position would probably be thinking the same thing.

I’d like to change the topic for both his and my sake, so I decide to turn to what he got up to during the vacation. We haven’t had time to talk about much besides what was right in front of us for the past week, so it will be nice to know how well his holiday went compared to ours.

“How was your time in America?” I ask him. “We haven’t had much time to talk about you even though you probably had the most interesting vacation.”

“It wasn’t as interesting as you’re making it out to be,” he says with a smile. “We may have been overseas, but that doesn’t mean we were doing anything that different than we normally do.”

He might see it that way, but I think doing anything in a foreign country is something to remember.

“It wasn’t that different to what you’re used to?” I ask.

“No,” he says, agreeing with my question. “The place was small enough that it was pretty much what I’m used to. Of course the accents were different, but besides that I might not have realized I wasn’t back in South Africa.”

“Did the trip do what it needed to do though?” I ask.

That’s really what is most important about it all. They hadn’t been going over there for the sights. That was the whole point of choosing somewhere quieter.

“Baby steps,” Toru says with a laugh. “I can see you have a vested interest in my family, but it’s going to be a slow process.”

“I know,” I say dismissively. “But it was almost as if the three of you couldn’t be in a room together without something going wrong before. Things must have gotten better than that?”

“That’s true,” he admits. “You might not even know there were any problems before if you had looked at us while we were there.”

“That’s a good first step,” I say. “And have you been able to talk more openly.”

“You really are starting to seem more like a councillor every day,” Toru says, switching the topic. “Have you really only talked to her once?”

I’d told both him and Rei about my encounter with Tsunemori. They both found it funny that it’d taken so long for us to meet. That I would be taking over from her if she ever got sick had become something of a joke to the two of them after all their experiences.

“Will the two of you ever drop it?” I ask, more exasperated by the joke than with the comparison. “I’m sorry that I’m interested in what’s going on in my friends’ lives.”

“I get it,” Toru says. “It’s just weird to have someone be so concerned about my wellbeing. Normally friends are just there to hang out. Maybe have a bit of fun. They don’t ask personal questions like this all the time.”

I see that as a part of friendship. Toru might see it differently, but I’m not going to change just because of that. If anything, I think it would be a change for the worse.

“You going to cough it up then?” I prompt, not letting Toru’s tangent get the better of me.

“We’re talking just fine,” he replies. “Sometimes we reach a block, and a change of topic is the only way to keep going, but it’s much better than it used to be. I should bring them back here just for you to make sure I’m not lying.”

“You don’t need you to do that,” I assure him. “I believe you. If anything, I’d believe you more than I’d believe either of them. They seem okay, but I’m sure they’re still capable of showing off exactly what they want you to see.”

“Sounds like you’ve taken my place in mistrusting them,” Toru says. “That’s probably understandable.”

“But you’re happy to be back, right?” I ask. “Yamaku is something that just calls you back.”

“Yes,” he agrees. “I’m happy to be back. The organisation and all the schedules suit me very well. Even Rei’s nonsense has its place.”

Rei hadn’t taken long to get back to her usual self after last Sunday’s incident. She was definitely the quickest of the three of use to bounce back. At first it seemed strange to me, because she’d obviously known Giichi the longest.

Some time made me realize that I’d interpreted it wrong. She was definitely upset, but her behaviour was how she coped with things.

I liked to fix things, while Toru seems to like familiar patterns. Rei’s eccentricities are her coping mechanism. That they work for her own situation means they probably also work for anything that comes up outside of that.

I’ll admit that it is comforting for me as well to see someone carrying on as normal. I just have to think about that, and I can find the motivation to do the same. How she actually feels about it all is still a mystery and I think it will remain that way.

I’m not going to try and dissect everything she does to try and ‘help’. She seems to manage it just fine and I’m not going to interfere with that.

“How are you going to handle her once she’s in charge?” I ask.

“That is definitely going to be an interesting experience,” he says with a worried look on his face. “Things will never be dull with her calling the shots.”

That is one thing you could fault Giichi’s leadership for. There may be interesting moments in the things we handle, but those are brought about by the cases themselves. We handle it all by the book and any deviation from that leads to the same scolding that I witnessed him give Misha all that time ago.

“She would fit in with the Student Council,” I say. “They seem to have quite the set of personalities.”

I haven’t seen much of how they handle their work, but the brief interactions we have had remind me of the less serious way that Rei tends to view her own work.

“They were an interesting pair at the beginning of the year,” Toru says. “But they’ve mellowed down and settled into their role well enough. I’m just worried about who will take over from them next year. They failed spectacularly at recruiting new members and I think it might fall on us to pick up the slack.”

“You have any idea how that happened?” I ask. “Could they really not find anyone to take their places?”

“Most of it was before I got here, so my picture isn’t really complete,” he says. “The two of them didn’t get on with their classmates when it came to school responsibilities which alienated them from the group. With only the two of them on the Council, it became very hard to recruit new members. They can be rather jarring to deal with.”

“Misha is a character,” I agree.

“It’s not that,” Toru argues. “Dealing with her can be demanding, but I’m more scared of Shizune. She can be intense.”

It’s weird for me to think of Toru being scared of anyone, but I can see what he means. She can be rather passionate about whatever she’s got her hands on. The way she stares into your soul doesn’t help either.

“Do you think she can read you as well as Giichi can?” I ask.

Toru smiles at the question.

“So, you did notice that talent,” he says. “She’s good, but no one is that good. Even my father commented that he has talent, and they’ve hardly talked to each other.”

“It always startles me when he answers a question I never asked,” I say. “Do you have that?”

“I started asking all of the questions I had when I was around him just to get away from the feeling,” Toru admits. “That he can get in your head is something I can do without.”

“It didn’t scare you away?” I ask. “Like the Student Council scares people away?”

“I was just glad that someone was happy to have me around,” he says. “I was having trouble with everyone avoiding me in my first week and the two of them hunted me down. I don’t know how, but they decided that I was someone they needed on the Committee.”

“Is it that difficult for you here?” I ask. “I know you said that you like it at Yamaku, but I don’t see you with anyone outside of the Committee. Doesn’t it get a bit lonely.”

“I’m fine on my own,” he replies. “And I can still do group work when I need to in class, so I’m not completely isolated.”

“Still,” I say. “Won’t these problems follow you once you leave Yamaku? It’s not something that’s likely to change wherever you go in Japan.”

“I don’t mind the way people behave,” Toru says. “I get looks wherever I go. Here it’s for not being Japanese. Anywhere else, it’s because I’m a barn door of a person. I got used to it long ago.”

That is true. I wouldn’t even try to argue that he wouldn’t stand out wherever he went.

“And it can be useful,” he says, smiling. “I always make a lasting impression. Nobody’s going to forget the first time they see me. Or the second.”

I still remember the first time I saw him, so he’s spot on with that statement.

“I also have a much easier time getting people to do what I say,” he adds. “If I became a salesman, I’m sure I’d hit every target.”

Someone making the best of the talents their given is always a positive. That they can find the fun in it is even better.

“We should probably get moving,” I say looking around at the full cafeteria. “You may get the pleasure of having a table always available, but I think we should let someone else use it.”

I have seen a few people eying us and our nearly empty plates. This spot is usually empty, but seeing Toru leave will definitely prompt a few people to make a run for our spot.

“I suppose we should let them have it,” Toru agrees, quickly emptying his plate. “Let’s get out of here. I’m sure there are at least a few things that we can do before Giichi gets back.”

We quickly get out of the cafeteria and head back towards the office. It’s best to make sure everything is in order before he gets the chance to reprimand us.

“Don’t want to leave even a single document in the wrong place,” Toru says as we make out way up the stairs.

“Glad you could make it,” Rei says as we come through the door. “Hatsumi, unlock these files so we can go over everything one last time.”

Seems like Rei is thinking the same thing we are. She doesn’t want to disappoint Giichi either.

Everything else looks like it’s in order, so she must have been here for a little while. I’d say she did a little cleaning as well, but there’s no way for me to be sure.

The teachers had ended up giving me another copy of the keys to all of the records. Giichi had apparently been a bit protective of his own copy.

I head over to her and unlock the cabinet so that she can get at the files inside.

“They should be right, but I just want to make sure,” she says.

“I’m sure we’ve done everything we need to,” I say to encourage her. “There hasn’t been anything that even I couldn’t deal with.”

“I still need to show that I’m ready for this responsibility,” Rei replies. “Giichi needs to know that it isn’t all going to go to hell once he graduates.”

It seems he’s more worried about impressing him than she is about impressing her parents. She had an extremely laid-back approach in how she handled their expectations. So laid back that I couldn’t really give any details on what she’d be doing if pressed for them.

“You’ll manage just fine,” Toru says. “And don’t try to measure yourself by his standards. You can run this place like a regular Disciplinary Committee. Not some mob boss that’s sitting on a pile of blackmail.”

“That ‘blackmail’ did this school a whole lot of good,” Rei says. “I’m going to have to work my ass off to try and keep this place honest.”

“You guys really need to fill me in on that,” I say. “It’s been mentioned before, but I don’t know any of the details. What happened and how does Giichi get away with what he does?”

“That’s… for him to talk about,” Rei says. “Even I don’t know much about what happened and I was on the Committee at the time. All I know is that the school wanted to cover something up and Giichi wasn’t going to let that happen.”

He doesn’t like to talk about it?

I would have thought that something like that would be front and centre where it deserves to be. It could be that he doesn’t like to brag, but that would only apply to strangers. If even Rei doesn’t know about it, then there must be more to it.

Maybe that darker side of the law that Giichi has brought up was a part of it? Did he have to strongarm the school into doing the right thing?

While I’m thinking about this, we hear a beep that signals a message coming from Rei’s phone.

She pulls it out to check it before filling us in on the details.

“He’ll be here in about half-an-hour,” she says. “They be coming in through the staff parking lot.”

That is a bit more isolated than the one us students use. Although there’s little reason for anyone to be there, the staff parking will be even emptier. Most of them don’t come in on Sunday and those that do will be busy until the evening.

“Should we be there to meet him?” I ask.

“Someone should,” Rei replies. “Though I don’t think we all need to be there.”

“You really don’t want to welcome him back?” I ask. “You’ve known him the longest.”

“And I’ll just get in the way of things,” she counters. “I won’t be any help, and I’m not the one who was traumatized or thinks they should have done more. The two of you need this far more than I do. Giichi will understand.”

Toru doesn’t look like he’s going to fight her on this decision, so I won’t try to either. I’m sure she’ll find the time to talk to him at some point.

“We’ll leave you here then,” I say. “We might not be coming back. If we can convince him that we don’t need him to check our work.”

“That suits me,” Rei says. “See you two tomorrow.”

I lock the cabinets once more before heading out the door after Toru and leave Rei standing there, shuffling through a pile of empty forms.
“That was weird,” I say.

Toru shrugs in response.

“She just needs time to think,” he replies. “I’m sure it’s all just welling up at once. She’ll have it sorted out soon enough.”

I hope so.

We make our way down to the staff parking lot without hurrying. We’ll get there early no matter what.

“You can push the chair,” I say. “I think anything else might be a bit weird.”

“I think you should give it a go,” he says,” I know you think you can handle it, but we don’t need you realizing halfway through a trip that you aren’t as capable as you thought you were.”

“It’s a wheelchair,” I respond. “It’s not meant to be difficult to use.”

“You’d be surprised how quickly you can get tired,” Toru hits back. “It may be on wheels, but you’re still pushing a person along. It’s not as easy as you think.”

“Fine,” I say. “I’ll do the pushing, but don’t be surprised if he says anything about it. I’m sure he’s well enough behaved to wonder why the girl is the one doing all the work.”

“I think he’s smart enough to know why you’re the one doing it,” Toru replies.

We arrive in the carpark, and I see that there are only a few cars dotted around the place. Even today they’re all in their assigned bays so they’re spread out all over the place.

“Shall we take a seat?” I ask pointing to a bench next to one of the low walls. “Theres still some time to kill.”

Toru heads over to it in place of answering my question.

I join him and we sit in silence, both looking out through the gate at the corner that we know the car will come round. It seems to take priority over talking for both of us.

Sound really doesn’t carry well as the van only becomes audible once it’s rounded the corner and is heading towards us.

I stand up, while Toru waits until it’s through the gates to do the same.

It pulls up just along from us and a man gets out.

Neither of us goes over to them yet as we don’t want to get in the way of whatever has to happen.

He slides the door open and presses a button that causes a miniature ramp to slide out towards the pavement. Giichi is sitting in a wheelchair facing away from us as he is then pulled down and out of the van.

When he is turned towards us, I struggle to make out how he must feel about all of this. There are no emotions running across his face.,and he doesn’t look happy to be back or upset with the situation he’s in.

He looks up and sees the two of us standing there. This earns a familiar tight smile which makes me think he’s mostly fine with his current condition. He may not show many emotions but, when he does, he doesn’t fake them.

“Sorry to have kept you waiting,” he says as he is pushed towards us. “I think we can make it form here.”

The man I assume to be a nurse nods before returning to his van to get everything back in order, while I step forward to take his place.
“Let’s get going then,” I say. “I’m sure there’s plenty you want to see.”

“A trip around the school grounds would be a good idea,” he replies. “I’m sure you’ve handled all the work you were left with well. I’d like to see how the school is doing though.”

“We’ve kept at it just the way you would have wanted,” Toru speaks up. “The office is in order, all the rule breaking has been dealt with, and patrols have gone off perfectly.”

“Good job,” Giichi replies. “It'll be interesting doing this part of the job, I don’t usually get to see too much of the school. I only go where I need to.”

I can understand that, I guess. I’ve gotten used of him watching from his window. With the three of us as we are, Giichi must want to get out there. Maybe he isn’t too keen to go back indoors after spending the last week in the hospital.

“Where to first then?” I ask.

“Let’s head across to track field,” he says. “I always struggle to tell what’s going on over there. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of people hanging around there.”

Whether he just wants to see what they’re up to or catch them breaking the rules is still to be seen.

When we arrive, I notice that Miki and Hiraku must have decided where they were going. I wonder who'll be covering her lunch?

I don’t spot anyone else I’m close to, but the scene is pretty much the same as when I was here earlier.

“There are more runners than I thought there’d be,” Giichi comments. “There aren’t any competitions for the rest of the year.”

“Maybe they’re just like you,” Toru replies. “Dedicated to what they’re doing.”

“I suppose so,” Giichi replies. “Let’s take a tour of the place. Don’t take me all the way round the field though.”

I push Giichi along the base of the stands, and I can feel that plenty of people are looking at us. I’m almost certain that it’s got nothing to do with the condition Giichi is in. Seeing us all out like this must be unusual for them. Giichi is supposed to be the hidden observer.

The people out on the field keep up their careless behaviour, but there is definitely a lull in the chatting of people that see us.

“It a funny phenomenon,” Giichi says, looking off into the distance. “It’s not just the misbehaving that stops when authority is around. Any fun seems to disappear. It’s as if they’re scared that having fun might be against the rules. If anything, enjoying your free time is encouraged.”

“But people aren’t thinking about the rules as much when they’re being carefree,” Toru replies. “I’m sure they think they might slip up in front of us if they aren’t careful.”

“I wonder what that says about people?” Giichi says. “Do we all really believe that we’re naturally going to break the rules when we’re not thinking about them? Should those rules even be enforced if breaking them is natural behaviour?”

I’m not ready to have that kind of philosophical discussion and it seems like Toru isn’t either. I am interested in the idea of Giichi questioning the school regulations. That isn’t something I would expect to hear from him or anyone in his position. He is the one who said the rules have to be enforced without taking your own personal beliefs into account.

“Let’s get out of here then,” Giichi says, having made up his own mind on the topic. “Leave them to enjoy the afternoon. I’m sure we’ll be less of a disturbance once we’re in the school building.”

That’s likely to be true. Hardly anyone will be there at the moment. They would have gotten all school duties or meetings out of the way by now.

We head back the way we came and head over to the main building. This will be the first time using the ramp off to the side of the entrance.

The foyer is indeed empty, and we make our way across it to head down the hall. I’m not entirely sure how Giichi wants to handle this, but I decide to follow the path I’ve taken many times before while patrolling the building.

Once we’ve been to both ends of the floor, we head to the elevator and make our way up. The same pattern is repeated until we reach the library.
“Let’s head inside,” Giichi says. “I’m sure Yuuko will be panicking if anything is going on in there.”

I’ve never noticed anyone behaving badly in the library, but we head in anyway. Yuuko is nowhere to be seen, but that’s normal by now. Her work schedule makes no sense, so I can’t be sure if she’s even on duty.

We quietly make our way around the edge of the library, peering into alcoves and down isles. There are a few worried glances from students as we do this, but it goes by uneventfully.

It’s a bit disappointing for me that I don’t get to see another of Suzu’s creations along the way. She must be off falling asleep somewhere else.

“Do you even use this place?” I ask Giichi. “I’ve never seen you with a book that isn’t from your own collection, and I have no idea where you normally study.”

“I’ll come looking for a book if a teacher recommends it,” he replies. “Otherwise, my collection is more than enough to keep me entertained. And I study in my own room. There’s no chance of getting disturbed there. I don’t have neighbours that are as eccentric as yours.”

He might not have any that will try to break into his room, but having the Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee sitting just next door to them probably goes a long way to keeping things quiet. The occasional noise is part of dorm life as far as I’m concerned.

“There’s one more place to check,” Giichi says, as we finish our tour of the library. “The roof.”

“You can’t get there though,” I say. “The elevator doesn’t go up there.”

He looks at me and sighs.

“I wouldn’t suggest it if I couldn’t get up there, would I?” He says. “To the elevator.”

I won’t argue with him on it any further and decide that it’s best to just do as he says.

Once we’ve made it to the elevator and I’ve pushed him up to the panel, he reaches out and presses the top unmarked button.

“Press and hold to the count of ten,” he says as the doors begin to close. “And the elevator will take us where we need to go. Can’t have maintenance wasting time using the stairs.”

The doors slide open, and I’m left to wonder why I’d never picked up on the fact that this door was here. I’d obviously pressed that button, as had everyone else in the school, but no-one would have thought to do what Giichi just did.

I take us out onto the landing while Toru heads out first to hold the door open.

“Looks like we’ve got it all to ourselves,” Giichi says looking around. “Good to see that no-one’s decided to break the rules today.”

“How often do you actually bust someone for being up here?” I ask. “Half the school likes to come up here once in a while.”

“And we warn them not to do it every time,” Toru says. “Though it’s hard to know when they’re repeat offenders.”

That’s a good enough excuse for me not to do anything when I hear about anyone heading up here or do anything when I’m invited to rooftop lunch.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I say.

“Good,” Giichi says with a nod. “Now you can probably hand me over to Toru. I want to get back to my room, and I think I’m going to need his help with some stuff once I’m there.”

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Last edited by ArtemisCain on Thu Jun 13, 2024 4:05 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: A New Home - Original Characters, Original Route

Post by ArtemisCain »


My days have gone much as I expected them to. They start as they usually do. With me getting ready for the day and heading to class. I don’t have to do anything new for most of the day as it’s Toru who brings Giichi to class. Giichi being used to staying there for lunch means that he doesn’t need any help then either.

I did ask him if he wanted to change things up and join me for lunch, but he’s set in his ways. He intends to keep to his usual activities as much as possible despite his current situation.

That shouldn’t be too hard for me as I’ve now confirmed that he doesn’t lead the most active life.

I obviously knew that he didn’t do anything physical, but there really isn’t much that he does do. I wouldn’t always go through to our office as there wasn’t the need to be there that often.

Unless there was something to report or forms to fill in, the only reason to be there was for our weekly meeting or to meet up with one of the other members.

It’s not like that for Giichi though. He seems to have made the place into a second home. All of his homework, his studying, and Council work is done from there.

I spend a lot of time with him as I don’t want to leave him without any help around. Toru and Rei feel the same and are usually there as well, so we sort of take turns at helping him when he needs it. We really do it so that he doesn’t feel that he’s taking advantage of any of us.

I had tried on several occasions to imagine what it must be like to be in his position, and I still struggled to fully grasp it. The only thing I could really compare it to was the time one of the students in my old class had broken their leg. It was clear that things were difficult for them and that they had to make changes to their behaviour, but that was made easy thanks to the cast on their leg.

You can’t do anything to slow down the healing process when it’s sealed up tightly like that.

Walking along, sitting down, lying in bed. No matter what I do, I can see how it would put pressure on my hips. Even twisting my body causes movement there.

Giichi explained that it wouldn’t be too long before he’d be able to handle himself again. Bones start to mend quickly, and he has plenty of experience with living the way he did. He may be confined to the chair for some time, but he hoped to be able to move himself around a room and grab things off a shelf very soon.

It didn’t escape my attention that he never talks about getting around the school without help. Putting that kind of strain on his body may be a long way off in the future if his silence means what I think it does.

I’ve also discovered that he isn’t the most interesting day-to-day companion. Sure, he may be reserved whenever we do anything, but that seems to be taken to an extreme degree during class.

The past week has given me no greater insight into him than the past months have. Giichi seems to play his cards very close to his chest and is only ever going to let any information slip exactly when he means to.

Such a moment may be happening later today as, over the weekend, he asked me if I would like to go to tea at the Shanghai after school. I suggest that High Tea might be a nicer option since he hasn’t been there before. The layout there is also more friendly to his situation compared to the booths of the Shanghai.

Something that does worry was how we would get there and back safely, but Giichi seemed certain that we would be fine.

“Just because we somehow manage to miss the bus all the time, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t come by regularly,” he had said. “It would be a problem if the students didn’t have a safe and regular way of getting to and from town.”

He is right of course. The bus does come by regularly. We just never seem be at the gate on the hour.

Since we’ll have a bit of time before it arrives to take us on our journey, I’ll be able to get a few things out of the way before heading to the bus stop with Giichi. He agreed that he’d be fine waiting in the office while I get everything out of the way.

Lessons and lunch fly by without much time to think about anything but school. We may be winding down with schoolwork for the year, but the teachers are focusing far more on preparing us for these exams than they were for the last ones. While they are all important, I suppose it is the final mark that everyone will look at once you’re out of school.

The results of these exams probably weigh more on how all of the teachers’ performances will be evaluated.

All of that means that there’s no time for group work, any reading, or drifting off in thought. Even Mutou is somehow able to tell when you aren’t fully focused on the work in front of you. I’m not entirely sure how to deal with him now that he seems more aware than I’ve ever seen before.

When the bell rings to signal the end of the day, I pack up and head over to Giichi. I’ll need to go in for my regular check-up with Nurse, so dropping him off before hand won’t be that much of an issue.

“You sure you’ll be alright on your own?” I ask him as we make our way out of the building.

“I can entertain myself for a few minutes,” he replies, without any real hostility. “You don’t have to do that much for me even when you are there.”

That is true. All of us are happy to help him when he needs it, but, once he has the things he needs, he’s usually set for the rest of the afternoon. Planning is his strong suit after all.

“I shouldn’t be too long,” I say as we enter the auxiliary building. “We haven’t got anything that serious to discuss. Just a routine check-up.”

“We have time,” Giichi replies. “And don’t try to just hurry through it. You’re making changes to your treatment and it’s important for Nurse to know every last detail if you want things to work out.”

I don’t know how well I can take that advice from Giichi at the moment. He definitely wasn’t taking his own health seriously when he collapsed on me. The warning that he’d had earlier in the day was more serious than he’d let on.

“I’ll make sure to be thorough,” is all I say in response.

We exit the elevator and I quickly unlock the door to the office before wheeling Giichi through.

“What would you like while I’m gone?” I ask as a push him to his desk.

“Just leave my bag on the table,” he replies. “I’ll get through some of our homework while I wait.”

“Okay,” I say as I pull the bag off the back of his chair on lay it on the desk. “I’ll be back soon.”

“Good,” he says as he begins to set out some of his stationery.

I head out the door and take the stairs down to lower floor. Once I’ve reached Nurse’s office I knock on the door and step back. Hopefully he isn’t busy with anyone at the moment.

I’m relieved to see that my hopes are correct as the door swings open to reveal the familiar sight of his office.

“Punctual as usual,” he says, looking me up and down. “And you look well.”

“I feel well,” I reply as I follow him into the room before he closes the door behind us. “It’s great being off that old stuff.”

“I’m sure it is,” he says. “And you seem to have taken to your new dosage very well. I’m hopeful that we won’t be making to many adjustments in the near future.”

I look forward to that possibility as well.

“First things first, can I have a look at your journal,” he says. “I want to make sure you’re keeping up with monitoring your own condition.”

“Here you go,” I say as I hand the little book over. “Is it really still that useful?”

I’m sure that I miss out on a lot of what is happening to me. It’s only from the reactions of others, or when I know I’ve missed something, that I know any of my seizures have happened. Otherwise, it just passes by without me knowing.

“Yes, it is,” he replies as he scans the latest page. “It’s just as much for tracking your progress as it is for reminding you to be wary of your own health. There are plenty of people who have to put up with more severe seizures than yours.”

“And they just live with it?” I ask. “I still don’t really understand how that works.”

“You’d be surprised how well people are able to adapt,” he replies. “You do have to give up some of things. Like driving. No-ones letting you get behind the wheel of a car if you’ve got a history of epilepsy.”

“I can imagine,” I say, thinking about the havoc one could cause in that situation.

“It’s also easier if you’re not that active in your daily life,” he continues. “An office job presents very little obstacles when compared to something like construction work. You don’t intend to do anything like that, do you?”

That’s definitely a joke as I’m sure there is no world in which Nurse can actually see me building a house or anything like that.

“I’ll try not to do anything like that,” I reply.

“Then that won’t pose any difficulties,” he says dismissively. “And since you say you feel fine at the moment, I don’t think we need to go into any tests to see how you’re handling things. We’re in a transitioning period and I don’t want to go looking for issues that aren’t there. Make sure you come in if anything changes.”

That’s the advice I always get when doing these things. It’s probably not even a phrase he thinks about anymore. Just a part of the list of things that need to be rattled off.

“There really isn’t anything we need to discuss then,” Nurse says as he hands back my journal. It is good to hear that you bumped into Miss Tsunemori.”

“I thought she wasn’t supposed to talk about who she was seeing?” I ask, accusingly.

“She didn’t,” Nurse replies with a sly smile. “But it’s good to hear that the two of you talked. I thought it might take a while for that to happen. She just mentioned that I shouldn’t be handing out sick notes when they aren’t really necessary. There are only so many people that she could have been talking about.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t be prying into these things then,” I say sulkily. “You shouldn’t trick people into telling you things you don’t need to know.”

“Fair point,” he acknowledges. “I’m just happy to know that you’re looking after yourself. It’s great that you’re in the group that’s willing to help yourself. It makes our jobs a whole lot easier when we don’t have to worry about whether our patient is actually going to listen to anything we’ve said.”

Can people really behave like that? Ignore their own health and well-being? I suppose it is possible. I just didn’t think that kind of behaviour would survive a confrontation with your own mortality.

Being on the brink of dying seems like the best motivator for taking care of yourself. The way everyone I know also seems to have come through things made me think that everyone was the same.

“Then I should get out of your hair,” I say. “I’ve got somewhere to be and I’m sure your next patient will be here any moment.”

“I’m sure they will,” he replies, smiling. “There’s never a dull moment at this school and you never get a moment to catch your breath.”

He’s right about that. There’s always something that will demand your attention. I may be off to tea, but I’m sure that it’ll be more than an afternoon off with Giichi involved.

I rejoin Giichi in the office just in time to see him packing up. I should definitely ask him how he’s even able to sense things happening out of sight.

“Looks like you’re ready to go,” I say. “Maybe you should leave your stuff here? It’ll just get in the way.”

“Exactly my thinking,” he replies as he closes the bag. “I’ll be in your hands for this adventure. Try not to get us lost.”

He has to take the opportunity to get a jab in at me and the look on his face would leave anyone else thinking that he was serious.

I’ve gotten used to his dry approach to humour.

And to everything else.

I quickly grab a hold of his chair and head out the door. We should get to the bus stop with more than enough time to spare, but I’d feel really stupid if we missed this one. The rest of the afternoon would just have to be cancelled.

“It’s not that serious,” Giichi says as we head out off the building. "There are plenty of spots in this school to find some tea if we really need to.”

“How is that?” I ask as we head for the gate. “You’d be surprised how large a collection of tea enthusiasts we have in this school. Our class isn’t the only one. Many of them keep a collection in one of the rooms in the main building.”

“So, you do pay attention to the rest of the class,” I say, thinking about the two that he must be referring to. “I wouldn’t have thought that kind of stuff interested you.”

“Of course, the wellbeing off my classmates matters to me,” he says simply. “I wouldn’t be in the position I am if that wasn’t true.”

“You just don’t involve yourself in any of it?” I ask, not really looking for an in-depth answer.

The one I get is more than I was looking for, but still less than helpful.

“It’s not my place to try and fit in with all of that. I know what I can do and what I can’t. I also know what I shouldn’t waste my time trying to do,” he says.

That’s the most unhelpful and confusing statement he could have given me, but I’m not going to try and untangle it or push for more.

He won’t give it up unless he already planned to, so that topic will just have to wait until that time comes.

I take us over to the bus stop and manoeuvre Giichi next to the bench before sitting down as well. The bus is always on time, so we have a few minutes to wait.

It doesn’t look like we’ll be joined by any other students. They must have chosen to walk into town instead of waiting like us.

“What do you think of the rest of the class?” I ask. “You probably get a good view of everything from your corner if you really are paying attention to what’s going on.”

“What are you trying to get at?” He asks back. “They’re a class. Just like any other, they work, they have fun, and then they do it all over. I’d say it’s exactly what you’d imagine any class to be.”

“There’s got to be more to it than that,” I say. “Is there really nothing that sticks out to you?”

Giichi pauses for a moment, clearly looking for an answer to my strange question.

“It’s exactly what I’m used to after seeing it all for nearly three years,” he replies. “I suppose it is pretty unusual just how often we work in groups. I was used to everything being done individually before coming here.”

I have to agree that it’s a different approach to things. One that I do enjoy. Having a friend explain something is much less intimidating than having to raise your hand and ask the teacher.

“Is that why you stuck to doing things your own way?” I ask.

I know I’m straying back towards what he said earlier, but I really can’t help it. I don’t like leaving loose threads unpicked.

The way he looks at me shows that he knows exactly what I’m trying to do and that he isn’t going to play along.

“That’s its own matter entirely,” he says. “I think I can see the bus coming up the hill now.”

I follow his gaze and I see that he’s right about that. We’ll have to break of the conversation for now to deal with getting into town. It shouldn’t be too difficult, as I’ve seen the little ramp that the driver can lower to provide wheelchair access.

The bus pulls to a stop and we’re able to get off with as little fuss as it took to get on.

We hadn’t been able to talk much as, once Giichi was happy with his spot on the bus, I had to go sit down. We could have carried on with the conversation, but it would have been too loud to be polite.

“It shouldn’t be far from here,” I say to him. “This looks like the closest stop to High Tea.”

“I’ll trust you on that,” he replies. “I don’t think I’ve ever stopped in this particular part of town.”

It is probably the quietest area. A bit further than the regular school hangouts, but not far enough to be part of the rest of town. It’s its own little suburb. Sort of.

“It’s just down this alley,” I say. “And a few more turns… and we’re here!”

I’m somewhat relieved that I’ve managed to get us here without any help. It is the first time that I’ve been responsible for doing so.

We head through the gates, and I see that it is about as busy as I’ve ever seen it. There are still several empty tables, so we won’t have any trouble finding a nice spot.

“Afternoon Eiko,” I call out as she comes out towards us. “How you doing? It’s been a while.”

“Hatsumi,” she replies. “Your first time without those two? And this is?”

“Giichi,” I reply. “Our Disciplinary Committee chairman.”

“I must have missed you,” she replies to that introduction. “Can’t say I paid much attention to the committee.”

“It’s good to meet an alumna,” Giichi says. “Looks like you’ve found quite the nice place since graduating.”

He may not involve himself with the rest of the class, but Giichi always manages to be polite to any strangers we meet. He’s also a quick enough to piece together any information thrown his way in such meetings.

“I enjoy it,” Eiko says. “I hope the two of you will have a pleasant time as well. Anything particular in mind?”

“I don’t think so,” I reply. “He’s more of a coffee fan, so you don’t need to waste the good stuff on him.”

“Hey,” Giichi says, trying to look up at me. “Don’t try and dump horrible tea on me. Just because our tastes are different doesn’t mean you need to treat me badly.”

Eiko laughs at this exchange.

“I would never dream of serving anything substandard,” she says. “I’m sure I can find something to suit your tastes. How do you normally take your coffee?”

“Black,” Giichi says.

I shudder.

“I’ll be able to put something together for you,” she says with a nod.

“How about the two of you take that table over there?” She says, pointing to one in the near corner. “You’ll be out of the way and be able to talk without interruption from the other guests as they come and go.”

“Thanks,” I say as I turn to take us over. “And don’t do anything too crazy. I’m not the kind of fan that Cho and Nanami are.”

“Just leave it all to me,” she replies as she heads back inside.

“Interesting lady,” Giichi says as we head for the table. “Would definitely fit in with our class.”

“She does have friends there,” I point out.

“So it would seem,” he replies. “It does fascinate me how much our school manages to pull people together. I’d never imagine such a thing happening anywhere else. Schools usually fail to bring people together for anything other than the big milestones, while Yamaku students just seem to gravitate towards each other.”

I’d thought about this before due to this very place. It’s funny to see Giichi going through the same process.

“Maybe we learn to rely on this place,” I suggest. “And that gives us a stronger connection to it than other schools.”

“It’s not the school,” Giichi replies. “It’s the people in it that make the difference. They’re more aware of the community they’re a part of.”

That might be true. It wasn’t until recently that I’d actually considered what the people in my life actually meant to me.

With us at our table, I push one of the chairs aside to make space for Giichi before sitting down myself. I decide that it’s best to sit opposite him even if talking would be easier if we were closer. It just feels right for the situation we’re in.

“I suppose you have some plan for today,” I say. “You wouldn’t be doing any of this if you didn’t.”

“That’s true,” he replies. “But what makes you think it’s anything more than another bonding scheme of mine?”

I’m glad he’s so ready to admit that he’s always looking to get something out of everything he does.

“I don’t think we’d be alone then,” I reply. “You don’t need to build a relationship with me. It’s the rest of the committee that you need to trust to take over from you.”

“You’re wrong about that,” he says, cutting off any further explanation. “You’re my replacement until this year finishes. I’m sure that was made clear enough in the past weeks.”

“Rei was more than capable of filling the role,” I say. “She is the vice-chair after all.”

“That may be true, but she’ll still turn to you when she’s in need of guidance,” he replies. “You’d be surprised how much having someone older around effects one. Even if you’d joined a day ago, they’d still look to you for assurance.”

What he was saying did kind of make sense. Older kids did generally look after younger ones. Realizing that you’re the oldest one around can also be a sobering thought. People did naturally turn to me first even when I’m the most inexperienced one on the committee.

I’d still attribute that to me being the least intimidating of the group more than anything to do with my age.

“And you are right,” he continues. “It’s not about that. I just wanted you to think about the situation you’ve found yourself in. Today’s really about offering you an apology as well as an explanation.”

“For what?” I rely.

“For putting you through that traumatic experience,” he says. “I don’t care how close we are, or how you view me. You shouldn’t have to have had that done to you. I put my own safety first and used you as a tool for that purpose.”

“What are you talking about?” I ask. “How did you use me?”

“To stop myself getting any more injuries, of course,” he replies looking at as if I’ve missed the whole point. “I could have handled it better than just throwing myself on you.”

“You can’t beat yourself up over that,” I say, finally understanding what he’s getting at. “It didn’t hurt me, and it stopped you coming off even worse.”

“And you see no problem in what happened?” He asks. “It can’t have been pleasant having me collapse on you.”

“That’s one way to describe it,” I say, giving him a smile. “It was much worse than ‘unpleasant’ in the moment, but for completely different reasons than you seem to think. Of course I’m going to start freaking out if you suddenly threw yourself on me. You’d never have done that if something wasn’t seriously wrong.”

“I’m glad you think so highly of me,” Giichi replies. “Rei’s joke on finding the two of us there was just weighing on my mind a bit. I know that different people can see things differently.”

“Are your really trying to tell me that you took her seriously?” I ask. “She’ll always manage to find the least appropriate way to handle a situation. No-one else would ever consider that you were trying to make a move on me.”

“Maybe,” he agrees. “But I’ve still got to make sure that you came out of it alright. What you were thinking in the moment, and how you handled it afterwards are all important. I don’t want you to have to drag any more baggage around than you need to.”

That’s kind of him. It’s not really necessary though as I’ve mostly moved on from it. More so than he seems to have.

“I suppose there is something you could tell me,” I say.

“I can guess what that is,” he replies.

“What’s behind all of it?” I ask. “I can’t really figure out what’s happened to you. I haven’t looked into any of it, just so you know.”

“You do deserve an explanation,” Giichi agrees.

That explanation will have to wait as Eiko arrives with a tray and two small pots of tea.

“You didn’t have to go so far,” I say to her, worried about what she might have brewed up this time.

“It’s nothing,” she replies. “You have to make these in a pot anyway.”

“Would you like to explain the thought process behind them?” I ask her.

I know better than to try and stop her from doing so.

“For you, we have an Assam Black Tea,” she says, placing the one pot in front of Giichi. “It’s full bodied, dark, strong, and full of caffeine. I’m sure it will suit your taste.”

“Thank you,” Giichi says hesitantly.

“And for you we have a Shu Puer Tea,” she says. “It’s a dark, earthy tea that will never present even a hint of bitterness regardless of how long you brew it. It might take a moment to get used to, but I’m sure you’ll fall in love with it soon enough.”

To me it’s seems that she’s gone with options that are just as exotic as every other time I’ve been here. Oh well. I guess it can’t be helped.

“I decided to leave out the snacks this time as well,” she continues. “I could pair them both with a few things, but I think they’d just ruin the experience I’m trying to convey.”

“I’m sure it will be wonderful,” I reply. “Thanks for all the effort.”

“No problem,” she says before wandering off.

“Rather eccentric,” Giichi says. “But I can’t fault her on her passion.”

“You’re right about that,” I agree.

We have to take a moment to try the tea before continuing our conversation. I wouldn’t want to disappoint Eiko.

She’s right about what she’s given me yet again, but I’m not surprised by that. She’s definitely the connoisseur she claims to be.

Everything she mentioned comes through in the tea, and it feels as if I’m sitting in a room filled with hay. I can see why that might take some getting used to, but approaching it with an open mind easily gets me past the initial peculiarity.

“She knows what she’s doing,” Giichi says. “I could learn to like tea more if I had more like this.”

I take another sip of the tea to enjoy the flavours so it’s Giichi who brings us back to our conversation.

“It’s time for me to tell you a bit about what happened to me,” he says. “It might even give you something to consider yourself.”

“How so?” I ask.

“My story involves many strong medications and the attempt to balance them out,” he replies. “You should be familiar with that kind of thing. Though it looks like they’ve got you on something better now.”

“You could tell that from what you saw of me?” I ask. “I always thought I hid the worst of it.”

“You did pretty well,” he agrees. “Though I do happen to be very familiar with what it’s like to rely on medication.”

He takes a moment to compose himself before launching into his explanation.

“I had something called Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis,” he begins. “As the name suggests, we have no idea what causes it. We don’t really know how to treat it either. Medication can help manage it, but it will often just go away of its own accord.”

There are plenty of parallels between that and my own epilepsy.

“Anyway, I happened to have what is probably the worst form of it. Systemic JIA. It affects everything. Every joint in my body was prone to the symptoms that come with the disease. It can fluctuate wildly from being pain free to any number of the points swelling up. You’ve probably heard what happens when you have arthritis. Stiff points that are swollen and warm to the touch?”

“And you had to deal with that?” I ask. “I didn’t know you could get arthritis when you’re young.”

“That’s why it’s such a problem,” he says. “Not to be cruel, but it’s much easier for the elderly to deal with that kind of thing than a young boy.”

I feel bad about agreeing with him, but I think I do feel worse about Giichi having to deal with it than I would if one of my grandparents did. At least they’ve had a chance to live a normal life.

“To understand what’s wrong with me now, I should probably give you a bit of context,” he continues. “It won’t make much sense otherwise.”
I wait for him to continue.

“It comes and goes, sometimes multiple times a day. Think of someone who’s terribly sick. They’re pale and covered in rashes,” he says. “The arthritis gets worse as that happens. It’s excruciating. If you move it’s painful. If you don’t, it’s worse. I got to experience that on a daily basis.”

“That sounds horrifying,” I say.

“Luckily, it can be treated with medication,” he adds. “You reduce the pain and swelling while preventing the rashes. It becomes bearable.”

I’d like to say that it’s similar to my current condition, but I can’t. There’s no pain with the symptoms that still make it past my own meds.

“Here’s the kicker though,” he says. “The longer it went on, the more medication I needed. The pain simply wasn’t something anyone could live with. We kept upping the doses until, after a few years, I grew out of it.”

He pauses to watch the confusion on my face. A bit dramatic for my liking.

“But you’re not better,” I say.

“What you’re looking at is drug-induced osteoporosis,” he replies. “This is the often the next step for arthritis, just not for JIA. This was brought on by the years of medication I was living on.”

My first thought is one of horror at the idea that Giichi’s condition was self-inflicted.

Or maybe the doctors were at fault?

My second is that I can see the warning that Giichi is giving me with his story. He could see what I had been on and didn’t want me to go down the same path.

“I’m off of that stuff,” I say, feeling that I should address that part of things first.

“That’s good,” he replies. “But I’m not telling you to get a way from medication. I just don’t think you’re fully aware of what you’re doing.”
“What do you mean?” I ask.

“Can you really say that you’ve dug into your own condition?” he replies. “That you know all about it and what treatments you’re following? Or are you just doing what you’re told to and leaving all the decisions to the professionals?”

It’s probably a bit more of the later.

“I knew what I was going through and I knew the risks and the benefits,” he says. “I was perfectly aware that I could end up like this and I made peace with that before I got here. Don’t be someone who realizes too late what they’ve signed up for.”

I can’t say anything about it, but Rei’s confession all that time ago come flooding back to me and I’m confronted by two similar paths.

Giichi seems to have been a willing part of what happened to him. As far as I can tell, what he expected to happed is exactly what he’s going through. How much of that is genuine and how much is simply a way of dealing with what happened to him is another matter.

Rei wasn’t able to get that warning. They didn’t find what was happening to her until it was too late. I’m fairly certain that she would have liked to know what was happening to her, even if she was eventually going to end up in the same place she is now.

I do hope that I’m able to handle my own condition in a less drastic manner than either of them, but I can definitely see something important in both of their stories.

“I probably should take a greater interest in what’s happening to me,” I admit. “Maybe relying on the doctors isn’t the best idea. Not having at least a bit of control seems like a terrible idea.”

“I’m glad that you see it that way,” Giichi says. “I know plenty of people who’d like to hide away from their problems. I don’t think that’s conducive to making the most of your time though.”

“You do have goals, don’t you?” I ask. “Would you tell me a bit about them. I might need some motivation to get myself moving on finding my own.”

He looks at me with what I feel is the saddest expression I’ve ever seen from him.

“I’ll have to work faster than I ever thought I would to achieve my dreams,” he says. “You don’t generally get into a position to push for policy changes on a nation scale until you’re much older than I’ll ever be.”

The lofty goals are one thing, but deadline makes the statement far scarier.

“What do you mean?” I ask. “Why will it take so long? Is the opposition for what you want that strong? I can’t really imagine you pushing for anything that wouldn’t make a positive change. And even if that's true, why don't you have the time?”

“I’m glad you see me that way,” he replies. “But as you can see, I’m sort of falling apart. This isn’t going to get any better. We can slow it down with more pills that cause more side-effects, but my recent break makes it look like things are worse than I would have hoped. I’ve got a long way to go, but getting old is definitely out of the picture for me.”

“It can’t be that bad,” I say.

I want to reach out and hug him. A statement like that deserves some comfort, but I don’t feel that it would be the right thing for Giichi at the moment.

He’s still in his cold, logical mode.

“Osteoporosis gets bad,” he replies. “You don’t usually see the worst of it because of how old the victims are. I’ll get the full experience as it slowly chips away at my ability to support my own body. Getting back out of this chair is only a hope at the moment.”

“But you’ve been so positive about things!?” I say loudly before looking around to see if I’ve disturbed anyone. “How can you say that you might be stuck in that chair forever?”

“It’s not a certainty,” he replies calmly. “But I’m not going to get any healthier. Once I reach the point where I can’t support my own weight, that’s not going to change. You don’t have to look so upset about it. I’ll be able to get around well enough on my own once this break heals up.”

I can’t say I agree with Giichi’s laid-back view of what he’s going through, but I’d like to try and understand him.

“But why tell me how bad it is?” I ask. “Don’t the others have more of a right to know what’s happening to you?”

“Haven’t you learnt by now?” he replies. “No-one around here expects to be told anything about anyone else. It’s entirely up to the individual what they want to share. I don’t think I’m quite ready to put all of that on them. I still want to have someone to talk to about all of it and I think you’ll handle it the best out of everyone.”

“Why?” I ask.

“Because you’re the most like me,” he says. “You may want to help people all the time, but you’re not going to get as emotional as the others. I don’t really want to cause trouble so close to the end of the year. It’ll throw them off. You’ll handle it.”

It’s a compliment that I’m not entirely sure how to receive. I don’t know how many people would even see it as one. Being more logical than emotional is something that most would not be happy to hear.

“So how do you want to handle all of this?” I ask. “They’re eventually going to start asking questions.”

“See, right on to what happens next,” he says. “That’s why I like you.”

I don’t respond to his compliment.

“Things will develop as they do,” he continues. “I can’t control everything. Even if some people think I can. I’m just glad that I don’t have to have it weigh on me without anyone else who I can talk to. Loneliness can take it out of you.”

Today has just been one confusing revelation after another. I don’t know how much more the way I see Giichi can change.

“Maybe you shouldn’t isolate yourself so much then,” I suggest. “I’m sure you could have found someone else to talk to much sooner than when I arrived.”

“There are a few people,” he agrees. “But I think they’re in the same boat as me. I’d rather not build a pity party of students who won’t get to have a full life. That would just be too sad for me to deal with.”

Giichi sure has some strict criteria for who he wants to open up to. It’s a one in a million chance that I happened to come along when I did. He might have just stayed quiet otherwise.

“So, what happens now that you’ve found your confidant?” I ask. “Are we going to dig into all sorts of deep secrets?”

“I don’t think so,” he replies, with an unamused look. “I’d rather give you a bit of time to think things over. I’ve dumped a lot on you, and I think it’s only fair that I give you time to process it all.”

That’s probably the most logical step from here so I don’t disagree with him.

“You will probably have to put up with some of my other friends if you have any intention of getting closer to me,” I say. “Being someone you can talk to doesn’t mean that you get to hog all of my time.”

“I’m insulted that you think I’m going to be relying on you so heavily that it might monopolize your time,” he replies. “I am still capable of functioning on my own.”

“Lighten up,” I say playfully. “I just think it will be good for you to expand your horizons just a little bit. Not everyone you’re friends with needs to be intimately familiar with the story of your life.”

“I suppose so,” he admits. “But don’t try anything too drastic. It might cause some people to freak out at least a little.”

He’s probably right on that account. Cho and Nanami are the ones I’m closest to, but they’d probably have some difficulty in having him tagging along on anything. Even if it is for different reasons.

Everyone else in the class that I’m somewhat close to may be difficult choices as well. Emi is far too happy to drag into this. She may be able to deal with Rin’s strange behaviour but that’s an entirely different ballpark. She’s a good contrast to our bouncy runner, while Giichi seems capable of simply draining that energy away.

“We’ll have to work on that,” I say.

“On what?” He replies.

“Your face,” I say seriously, and he looks and me in complete confusion.

His response makes my statement completely worth it.

“You look fine enough,” I continue. “But that aura you put off is capable of sucking all the life out of a room. I don’t think you realize how much of an affect you can have on people. You’re still in school, stop looking like you’re planning someone’s funeral.”

“I’m sorry my face offends you so,” he replies without a hint of embarrassment or attempt to change the look he’s giving me. “I’m not going to try and do something impossible. I’m certain that any smile I could make will only scare people away sooner. Dead eyes do not contribute to a welcoming smile.”

“You could at least make an effort to put on a sincere smile,’ I grumble. “Whatever. Let’s just enjoy this tea. Maybe you can try and find a coffee that I’ll like next time.”

“I’ll do that,” he says, and I immediately agree that a full smile is something that doesn’t belong on his face.

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Last edited by ArtemisCain on Thu Jun 13, 2024 5:41 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: A New Home - Original Characters, Original Route

Post by ArtemisCain »

A Difficult Job

It turns out that I had worried too much about how things would work out with our new routine.

Giichi really isn’t involved in anything outside of the Disciplinary Committee, so I’m able to carry on with my days as usual.

I do visit our office more often, but I can leave straight away if I want to. He stays there all afternoon and it’s Toru who takes him back to his room.

One change that he has made is that he’s relying on Rei a lot more to make decisions and find whatever forms or papers he might need. I would guess that it’s to start preparing her to take over from him.

That his own thoughts are only made clear after Rei has made her own choice is a completely different way of running the Committee.

He’s gone from a dictator to a mentor almost overnight, which is a blessing for Rei as she definitely seemed worried about being put in charge.

They might have talked about all of this when I wasn’t around, but I get the feeling that Giichi just knows what he needs to do to give her the best chance of taking over the Committee.

The week has been uneventful, but that had changed last night. Apparently, there was an altercation down in the village yesterday evening. That meant that we were going to be spending most of our Sunday morning dealing with the fallout.

To me, it seemed we were dealing with someone who has trouble dealing with a number of the girls in his social circles.

I shouldn’t approach it like that, as he was the one who got ‘attacked’.

Despite being the victim, I have to believe that Maeda has some serious issues with keeping his mouth shut. He was slapped by Ritsu in my first week and now he’d been slapped by Saki.

That it was her who did it had surprised me as I didn’t really see her as the kind of person to act so emotionally. I’d be very interested in hearing everyone’s side of this story before we make any decisions about what happened.

Giichi is furious about how all of this has been handled. It seems that the staff decided not to involve us in the case thanks to how late in the evening it happened.

That Maeda now has hearing implants, makes this encounter even worse than the last. The school may have a zero-tolerance approach to violence, but, when that violence wasn’t likely to cause any serious harm, it’s easier to handle without escalating the situation.

Saki may be looking at serious consequences for what she did.

Giichi is a flurry of activity as he tries to regain control of the situation. We’re supposed to be involved even if the case is this serious. That he doesn’t seem to place any trust in the school to handle it correctly is another mystery that I hope will become clearer as we deal with all of this.

There are plenty of people involved in what happened, but it’s Mutou that Giichi decides to track down first. Maybe he thinks he’s the most likely to be strong armed into telling us everything that happened.

I do feel sorry for the man. He seems genuinely concerned for everyone involved, but Giichi isn’t taking this lightly.

“When did you get involved?” Giichi asks him as we stand outside of the staff room.

“Can we go somewhere a bit more private?” Mutou replies.

He looks like he’s been through a lot. More than usual anyway.

“Fine,” Giichi agrees. “We can go back to the office. I hope you’ve got a good memory though. I don’t want you leaving anything out.”

I take us back to our office and Mutou trails behind. It’s a strange image. A teacher following us along as if he’s the one about to be punished.

Once we’ve arrived, I push Giichi to his place while Toru pulls up a chair for Mutou. He’s going to be in the same spot that troublesome students have to sit.

“When did you get involved in this mess?” Giichi asks.

Mutou takes a moment to gather himself.

I can understand that it must be difficult for him to be in this situation.

“I saw Miss Enomoto slap Master Maeda,” he begins. “I didn’t know what was going on before that as I only arrived just in time to see it happen.”

“So, you didn’t have any context?” Giichi asks. “No idea how things got to that point?”

“No,” Mutou admits. “But that doesn’t matter. Maeda has some very expensive, fragile hearing aids now. Hitting him in the head could cause serious harm.”

“And did she ‘hit’ him in the head,” Giichi asks. “Because I haven’t been told anything and there’s a huge range of what ‘hitting’ could be referring to.”

“She slapped him,” Mutou clarifies. “They were having an argument and she got overwhelmed by something he said.”

“Interesting,” Giichi says. “Someone with a record of bad behaviour is once again facing the consequences of his actions.”

“You can’t say that,” Mutou replies with some emotion. “She could have seriously injured him.”

“That’s true,” Giichi replies sarcastically. “But I get the idea that some things are getting swept under the rug. This wouldn’t be the first time that happened, would it?”

Mutou is silent at that accusation.

“I don’t deny that Enomoto should face some form of punishment,” he continues. “But that decision should be made with all the available information, not just based on speculation.”

I’m glad Giichi is taking this approach. I agree that what happened can’t be ignored, but I like Saki, and I wouldn’t want to see her expelled.

“Would you like to tell me who else was involved?” Giichi says. “I’m not going to leave any stone unturned while I put together my report.”

“Besides the two that this is about, there’s Miss Souma, Master Nakai, and Mrs Sakamoto,” he says. “Nurse and the Dean have both gotten involved since then.”

“And I assume they’ve already interviewed everyone?” Gicchi asks. “Why did I even bother with thinking that any of them cared about the truth.”

“They do,” Mutou blurts out, but I can see the twisted smile on Giichi’s face gets to him.

“Of course they do,” Giichi replies. “Because, to me, this school’s policy isn’t to hide any bad publicity away from the world, not enforce justice for the things that happen here.”

“I’m going to let you get to work,” Mutou says in reply to this. “You can find out for yourself that yesterday was nothing like that.”

With that, he gets up and storms out the door leaving me staring after him wondering what he was going on about.

“He is right,” Rei says. “I doubt it’s anything like last year. They were out in public when this happened.”

“And I’ll find out what the truth is,” Giichi snaps back.

“Can someone fill me in on what’s going on,” I say. “I’m kind of lost with what you’re going on about.”

“Fine,” Giichi says, turning to me. “Imagine a scenario where some idiot decides that they want to move to the next step with their girlfriend. That they convince her to let them into her room, and when he doesn’t get what he wants, they fight, and she end up hitting him in the head.”

I get the distinct impression that this isn’t about a hypothetical situation.

“Do you think the school would look to prosecute him for what he did, or do you think they’d try to act as if everything was normal and there was no chance of anyone getting hurt at Yamaku?” he asks.

“But someone would have got hurt whatever the outcome was.” I say. “Hiding that kind of thing wouldn’t mean that it’s safe here. If anything, it would make it more dangerous.”

“But if you focus on throwing up various excuses instead of punishing the boy in the “situation’, it becomes harder to prove anything. Any kind of assault becomes hard to prove if you wait long enough.”

“Why wouldn’t anyone speak up though?” I ask, horrified by the way such an event was handled. “Surely she could have made a case?”

“It’s easy to look like the victim, when you’re the one who got knocked out by the ‘psycho girlfriend’,” Rei says in answer to my confusion.

“I don’t think this is anything like that,” I say. “They were having an argument in the middle of the street. It’s not even Maeda that she’s with.”

“That’s true,” Giichi admits. “She does seem rather taken by Nakai, but she has plenty of history with Maeda. I’m sure there’s something there for them to fight over.”

“I don’t mean to sound presumptuous,” I say. “But you seem just as set on a specific scenario as the school board is. Are you sure you won’t favour Saki’s a bit too much in all of this?”

“Being objective is my whole thing,” Giichi replies looking insulted. “I just know that things aren’t as simple as the school board tries to make them.”

“Where are we going to start?” Rei asks. “There are enough witnesses for us to talk to, even if none of them have the full story.”

“Let’s get Sakamoto’s perspective,” Giichi says. “As the music teacher, she’s sure to know something about the girls. Once we’ve got her statement on all of this, we’ll have to track the others down. Then we can put a report together for the Dean and see if he’s at all willing to work with us on this.”

It’s a solid plan. The only difficulty I can see is tracking everyone down. It’s unlikely that we’ll just find them all sitting together waiting for us.

“Let’s get going to the music hall,” Giichi says. “I didn’t see her in the staff room, so she’s probably off doing something with all the band equipment.”

“She could have gone home,” I say. “She’s told them what she knows and there won’t any reason to stick around today. The band won’t be practicing, and they don’t have anything coming up.”

“She’ll be there,” Giichi replies. “She’s there more than anywhere else on the campus.”

I won’t argue with him about that, so I begin the journey to the auditorium. I haven’t had any reason to go there in a while, so it’ll be interesting to see if anything has changed since my last visit.

When we get to the auditorium doors, I see that they’re open which means Giichi might actually be right about her whereabouts.

We head inside and I see Mrs Sakamoto paging through a file of something off in the corner of the room.

She sees us straight away, but I can’t make out whatever she is muttering about our arrival.

“Mrs Sakamoto,” Giichi calls out. “I hear you were involved in last night’s incident. I’d like to ask you a few questions.”

“Do we really have to do this now?” She asks. “I’ve already gone through all of this with the Dean.”

“And I’m sure you’d like Miss Enomoto to stay at Yamaku if at all possible,” he continues. If someone doesn’t try to uncover everything, I’m sure she’ll find herself out of the school at any moment.”

She seems surprised by that statement.

“But it wasn’t anything too serious,” she replies. “Everyone involved was at least partly at fault.”

“But only one person hit a fellow student,” Giichi counters. “Whatever else happened doesn’t seem to be much of a concern for our school board.”

“I suppose that is true,” she says. “Will telling you what went on really change anything?”

“I can’t guarantee that,” he replies. “But I can try to get a fair outcome for her actions.”

“What can I tell you about it though,” she says. “I wasn’t there for the slap, but I did arrive soon after.”

“I’d like to know what the reason for Miss Enomoto’s actions are,” he asks. “I don’t believe her to be the kind of person to get worked up that badly. Maybe you can start with what they were doing out so late.”

“There’s nothing stopping them from enjoying their weekend,” Sakamoto says. “They were out recording something for an album, and they were trying to decide what to do next. The karaoke place stays open quite late, and they wanted to give it a try.”

“But you must have left them on their own for a while,” Giichi says. “Or you would have seen it all.”

“Yes,” she replies. “Saki and Chisato went outside to talk, and I decided to go get a drink as well. I didn’t think there’d be trouble in the few minutes I was gone.”

“So, what do you know?” Giichi asks her. “You apparently weren’t there for any of it. Why did the Dean want your perspective on things?”

“I know the girls,” she replies. “I’ve been their mentor since they got here. And I was the one who decided to take them to record their music.”

“Then you can elaborate on what might have led to all of this,” he replies.

“I don’t know about that,” she replies. “It’s not my place to discuss what anyone is going through unless they want to talk about.”

It’s the brick wall that usually comes up at some point. No-one is going to discuss things with strangers when they involve personal information. Even when those strangers are the Disciplinary Committee.

“That’s good to know,” Giichi says with a nod. “We’ll have to track Saki down at some point then. I’m sure she’d be willing to share if it meant keeping her place at this school.”

That sounds a lot like blackmail, even if the outcome would be positive for her.

“I suppose there is something I can tell you,” Sakamoto says. “There was an argument about Kayako Sugimure.”

I have no idea who that is, but the others seem to.

“Oh,” Rei says. “This could get even more messy.”

“There are a lot of sore feelings when it comes to talking about her,” Sakamoto agrees. “I’d say that things finally boiled over.”

“Thank you for your assistance,” Giichi says, also done with the conversation. “I’m sure it’s been quite the trial for you.”

“I’ll manage,” she replies. “I really do hope you find a way to put an end to all of this.

“So do I Mrs Sakamoto,” Giichi agrees.

The four of us leave the auditorium and I immediately ask about this Sugimura.

“You asked about students that didn’t make it when we were on our way back from vacation.” Rei says. “One of the rare cases of suicide.”

“Oh my god!” I say. “Why would she do that?”

“Some people can’t handle their problems,” Giichi replies. “That’s one of the ways to get out of an existence that seems to offer no hope of improving.”

“She was a year ahead of me,” Rei says. “So, I don’t know much. Giichi, did you ever notice her.”

“Not until her death,” he says. “A quiet student who never got into any trouble. That might be a warning in its own way.”

I wonder what he means by that.

“It’s not good to bottle up all those feelings when things are that bad,” he says, answering my silent question. “You’ve got friends, teachers, doctors, and therapists. When you feel that you’re all alone is the time to remember that you aren’t.”

That’s surprisingly touching coming from Giichi.

“Who shall we track down now?” Toru asks. “They could be anywhere at the moment.”

“I think it’s quite likely that most of them will be in their rooms,” Giichi says. “I doubt they’re in the mood to be doing anything after last night’s events.”

“Where to then?” I ask.

“The boy’s dorms,” Giichi replies. “I’d rather leave talking to Saki until we know a bit more.”

We begin to head back towards the dorms, and I get to look around at the school as we do. Most of the school has no idea what we’re involved in. To them it’s just a Sunday like any other.

Our work isn’t seen by many, and it’s usually not appreciated by those that do know about it. It’s a nice feeling to know that we’re trying to reduce a punishment for once rather than administer it.

We arrive at the dorms and head for the elevator. It’s as if I’m still in the girl’s dorm with how similar the buildings are.

When we’re all in the elevator, Giichi is the one to choose the floor. He must have looked up the rooms of those involved at some point. That he just knows where everyone stays is something that’s equally possible, but far more terrifying.

We make our way through the labyrinth of corridors to a section of the building that seems decidedly empty. I don’t know how, but I can just tell that there aren’t many people staying in this wing.

We arrive at Nakai’s and Toru is the one to step forward and knock. If he is there, he’s going to have one hell of a shock when he opens the door.

There’s a moment of silence before I hear movement inside. The door unlocks and swings open to reveal the rooms occupant.

He tries to hide his shock at what he sees, and he does better than most people. He still takes a slight step back at being confronted by the largest person he’s probably ever met.

“Good morning, Master Nakai,” Giichi says, not giving him any time to speak. “I’m sure you can guess why we’re here.”

He’s about to say something but Giichi carries on talking.

“Before you tell us you don’t want to talk about it, I suggest you think about how you may be able to help Saki’s case. These things rarely have only one point of view, and I’d guess that you might want to share your perspective of things.”

He seems to be struggling to decide how he feels about our presence.

“Fine,” he says, stepping back into the room. “I’ll answer your questions.”

“Good,” Giichi says as we all crowd into the room.

It’s a bit cramped with the five of us in the dorm room and Nakai steps over to the window. I suppose he doesn’t really want to sit on his bed for this. That would seem a bit strange given the situation.

“We’ve talked to a few people,” Giichi begins. “But none of them were there for the build up to Miss Enomoto slapping Master Maeda. I was hoping that you might be the one who could tell us about that.”

“I was there,” he admits. “But I didn’t really understand much of what they were talking about. It was only afterwards that I learned exactly what happened.”

“That’s better than nothing,” Giichi says. “Please tell us everything you can remember.”

“Saki went outside to talk to Chisato, and I thought something was wrong so I went to check on her,” he begins. “That’s when I heard arguing.”
“They were arguing with Maeda?” Giichi clarifies.

“Yes,” Nakai responds. “They were arguing about the recording they were doing, and Saki was crying. I decided to step in and pull Maeda away from them. Then I saw that he looked just as upset as Saki did and I didn’t really know what to do.”

“Where did it go from there?” Giichi asks. “I believe it had something to do with Kayako Sugimure?”

“That’s right,” Nakai replies. “Though I didn’t really know anything about her at the time. It was only after all of this that someone explained to me what happened.”

“And what were they arguing about with respect to her?” Giichi asks.

“Maeda didn’t think they should have been recording the music that she wrote before she died,” he explains. “He thought it was disrespectful of them to use her like that.”

“Why would that be?” Giichi asks. “I would have thought that it would be a wonderful way to honour her.”

“He didn’t see it that way,” Nakai replies. “He said that Saki didn’t have the right to use her work.”

I can see why emotions were running high in that argument now. That’s quite the statement for Maeda to make.

“Enomoto didn’t take that very well,” Giichi says. “Is that when she slapped him?”

“Not quite,” Nakai says. “They argued a bit more. About the weeks leading up to Sugimure’s death. After that Maeda blamed it all on Saki. He said it was all her fault that she killed herself. That’s when she slapped him.”

I can’t say that I don’t understand what she did. It’s very cruel to blame someone’s death on anyone. Especially if they had been friends.

“Would you be able to go into a bit more detail?” Giichi asks. “There’s clearly a lot more to that story. I don’t think she would have acted that way if she didn’t blame herself at least a little.”

“I don’t want to talk about that,” Nakai says. “If you want to know that, then you can go talk to Saki herself.”

“Fine,” Giichi says. “Thank you for your assistance. It’s definitely shed some light on what happened. I’m sure we’ll be able to use your testimony.”

“So, you think Saki won’t be punished for what she did?” Nakai asks.

“I doubt that,” Giichi replies and Nakai looks somewhat deflated. “But there looks to be some extenuating circumstances that can explain her actions. All we can do is recommend a course of action and supply enough information to back up our position. I think what you’ve told us will help with that.”

“Okay,” he replies, his dejected look improving slightly.

“You wouldn’t happen to know where Miss Enomoto is?” Giichi asks. “I would assume she’ll be in her room, but you know her better than I do.”

“I think so,” Nakai replies. “Though she might have gone somewhere else to take her mind off of things.”

“We’ll try and find her,” Giichi says before motioning for us to leave.

As we head back down the corridor, I think about how much leg work is involved in our duties. I’m used to heading around the school looking for trouble, but it’s nothing like this rushing backwards and forwards.

“Don’t you want to try and visit Maeda before we head over to the girls’ dorms?” I ask. “We could cut out a bit of walking that way.”

“I’d like to leave him for last,” Giichi responds. “His feelings on the whole matter will play a big part in how this is handled, so I’d like to know everything before we talk to him. Setting a bad impression could ruin any chance of a positive outcome.”

I suppose I can see the logic behind that. If Maeda decides that what happened isn’t that big a deal, then maybe the school might be more willing to settle for something like suspension rather than expulsion.

“So, which of the other two should we talk to first? Her or her friend?” Rei asks. “They’re both likely to have a similar story to tell.”

“Enomoto would be my choice,” Toru says. “We need to know what she was thinking when she hit him. Anything else would just be speculation from the witnesses.”

“Exactly,” Giichi says. “We might not even have to track anyone else down if she’s willing to open up.”

“Hopefully she’ll be willing to talk to us,’’ I say. “We are in her class, and I think I get on well enough with her.”

“She better want to talk,” Giichi says. “What she has to say may prove to be the most important piece of the puzzle.”

We make our way along a similar path to the one we just came from, until we arrive at our destination.

Rei takes the lead this time and I can understand why. It would probably be a bit much to have Toru towering over someone in the girls’ dorms when they open the door.

We wait for a moment before the door opens and we’re greeted by a very different version of Saki to the one I’m used to.

She doesn’t look nearly as well put together as she normally does.

“I can guess why the four of you are here,” she says. “Did you all have to come though. Things will get rather crowded.”

“I like getting multiple points of view,” Giichi responds. “And since you already understand why we’re here, I hope you don’t mind if we skip over a lot of the stuff we already know.”

“Okay,” she replies.

We follow her into her room, and she pulls out her chair to sit in. She looks like she needs it. I doubt she got much sleep last night.

“We’ve talked to enough people to get a rough understanding of what happened,” Giichi says. “What I’d like to know from you is exactly why the two of you were arguing and what Kayako Sugimure has to do with all of it?”

“You really do work fast,” she replies. “Until last night, we’d never talked about that, and you lot already know about it within a day.”

“I’m sure you can appreciate that we take our job very seriously,” Giichi says.

“Seems so,” Saki replies. “Since you already seem to know most of it, I might as well tell you. Maeda blamed me for her death, and I snapped. I hit him before I even realised what had happened.”

“But why?” Giichi asks. “Do you blame yourself in some way? I don’t think you would have reacted like that if you didn’t think what he said could be true.”

“Do we really have to talk about that?’’ She asks.

“I’m afraid so,” Giichi replies. “I find the motive for one’s actions is a vital part in understanding said actions.”

Saki takes a moment to compose herself before continuing with her explanation.

“I’ve talked to quite a few people about suicide,” she explains. “It’s something I’ve considered for when my condition gets worse. Kayako was one of them.”

“And she listened to you,” Giichi says. “Is that what you think?”

“I was never sure,” she says. “But Maeda said that she came to talk about it with him. She told him everything and then she went and killed herself. He kept that to himself until last night.”

She starting to cry, and it doesn’t look like it’s the first time she’s done that today.

“That must have been hard to hear,” Giichi says. “That she didn’t come to you with her problems and that he didn’t tell you about what she said to him.”

“It hurt,” Saki said. “Knowing that she’d really been considering what I’d said and that he never said anything about it. Then he accused me of killing her and I couldn’t take it anymore. I just wanted him to shut up.”

The whole thing seems like a sad conclusion to something that could have ended very differently. If anything, it was a moment of heightened emotions between friends, or at least acquaintances, than any real hostility.

“It’s safe to say that you regret what you did,” Giichi says. “He might have deserved it in the moment, but you can see things differently now that you’ve calmed down?”

The way he phrases that leaves me unsure as to whether that’s actually what he believes, or if his simply concocting some plan that he needs support to help with to pass any scrutiny.”

To her credit, Saki does seem somewhat remorseful about her actions, though that could be just as much of an act. People will do anything when their neck is on the chopping block.

“I shouldn’t have hit him,” she agrees. “It wasn’t the mature way to handle it. He was hurting just as much as I was, and I lashed out. He didn’t deserve it.”

“Excellent,” Giichi says with a smile. “That helps clear up so many hurdles. Someone will be back later today to get you to sign off on that statement. I’m sure you’ll find that it reflects exactly what happened.”

“Will it include everything?” She asks.

“Is there anything you haven’t already shared with the Dean?” Giichi asks.

“No,” she replies.

“Then there won’t be anything that should stay hidden, will there?” He concludes.

Giichi seems to be done discussing the matter with Saki and, although I’d like to offer her some comforting words, we still have plenty of work to do.

Toru head for the door, followed by Rei.

“Make sure you don’t disappear,” Giichi says just as he’s turned away from Saki.

She doesn’t respond to that order.

Once we’re well away from Saki’s dorm I make a guess at what we’ll be doing next.

“Shall we head for Maeda’s room?” I ask. “What number’s he in?”

“Don’t be silly,” Giichi says, apparently frustrated that I can’t read his mind.

“I’m sorry that I don’t have that power.” I think.

“We need to write it all up first,” he explains. “It’ll be much easier to convince him to play along if it’s all on paper.”

“Isn’t that a bit manipulative?” I ask.

“Of course it is,” Rei replies with a huge smile. “And there’s no way he won’t fall in line. Whatever the situation is now, they were once close, and he would regret seeing her kicked out of school.”

That might be true, but this is far shadier than anything I’ve been a part of before.

“I wish I could change the system,” Giichi confesses. “But I haven’t been able to do that so far, and I don’t have the time to do it right now.
Hopefully this slight manipulation will be enough to settle things this time. I’d like to avoid tearing any more bridges down before I leave.”

That sounds menacing enough and must have something to do with the past case that he mentioned. I should really ask for more details on that. Though, if it’s as dark and sordid as he’s making it out to be, he might not be willing to share.

“Let’s head back to the office and get started then,” Toru says. “This is going to be an interesting one.”

We make our way back across the school and I’m left to think about how ready the three of them are to jump to Saki’s rescue. It’s difficult for me to decide how I feel about all of this.

Can I relate to what she did?

A little.

Should she be punished for it somehow?


I just don’t know how far it should go. My experience tells me that a school will never normally want to expel one of their students. That would leave a terrible mark on their record. There was a student who transferred into my old school who had been selling the answers to school exams. It had been transfer or get expelled and they chose the former.

I suppose it would amount to the same thing though. You’d still have to leave the school you’d spent the past few years at.

I just get the feeling that Giichi would sweep it all under the rug if he had his way. Just differently to the way the school would. It’s in stark contrast with the image I have on him. It just seems like one rule bent too far.

“What exactly are you aiming for?” I ask.

I need to know what the plan going forward is.

“Obviously I want to avoid expulsion,” he replies. “But there’ll need to be some form of punishment. I think a period of suspension would be best. We’ve finished most of the work for the year and she can still study when she’s not in class.”

That does sound reasonable for the situation.

“Though I will be pushing for something even lighter,” he continues. “The school board will feel better if they think they’ve won something over on us.”

That sounds incredibly childish of them.

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“It’s a simple negotiating tactic,” he explains. “They’ve already revealed their hand. It will make things easier for them to think that they’re not the only ones compromising on their position.”

“But they don’t really have to listen to us at all,” I say. “Why do you think they’d compromise at all.”

“Because for all their faults, they do listen to reason,” Giichi says. “If we present a strong enough case, they’ll take it into consideration. I just need to leave some wiggle room for them to feel as if they’re the ones who made the final decision. You can understand why they wouldn’t want to use a student’s plan as is, even if it was a good one.”

I suppose that is a constant wherever you go, people will always want to feel that they’ve done a bit more than they really have.

I’m now just impressed by the how far ahead of everything Giichi is. This isn’t about putting together a report for him. This is about predicting and controlling the outcome of the entire situation.

It’s far too complicated for me and I doubt anyone besides those of us who just heard him explain it will ever realise what he’s doing for Saki.
I doubt he’ll explain it to anyone else either.

“You’ll have to handle most of it then,” I say. “I don’t think I have the mind for the game you’re playing.”

“You have your part to play,” Giichi replies. “I may be able to put it all together on paper, but I not going to win anyone over by talking to them. It’ll be up to the rest of you to actually get anyone to listen to my proposal.”

That is the one disadvantage about being as anti-social as he is. Schemes like this are probably the only way he can do things that others could just talk their way through.

We get back to the office and the first thing we need is the files of everyone involved. Establishing their histories is the first step in building a solid case. Seeing how much information is in each person’s file is always an interesting as well.

Saki’s is light, but not empty. She’s missed classes a number of times without giving any reasons for the absence. That would be worse at any other school, but we tend to forgive such things unless they become too extreme.

Maeda’s file is slightly larger than hers, although he seems to be on the receiving end of most of the number of incidents.

It looks like a lot of people have trouble dealing with him. He might have an easier time of things if he didn’t grind as many gears as he seems to.

“This shouldn’t be too difficult,” Giichi says. “I’m not saying he deserved it, but it’s going to be easy to suggest he had it coming. That they have a history with each other and with Sugimure should also go a long way to explaining the emotional state that everyone was in last night.”

He begins to fill out the necessary forms as well as write a motivational letter to explain the logic behind his thinking.

“We’ll also have to emphasise that, while damage could have been caused, no such thing happened and there wasn’t any real intent to do so anyway,” he continues.

There’s very little contribution from the rest of us as he speeds through the task in front of him. He did say that we would be the ones who’d have to take over once this was done.

“That looks good,” he says, setting down his pen. “Have a look at it, Rei.”

She takes the pages and reads through them carefully.

“I wouldn’t even know it was you behind all of this,” she says with a laugh. “I don’t understand how someone can write like this when they can’t even talk to someone in the corridor.”

“Keep the insults to yourself,” he replies. “Just because I don’t hold mundane conversations doesn’t mean I don’t know how to be persuasive.”
“Sure,” Rei says. “I just don’t think you make any sense.”

“If you’re done with it, we still need to go find Maeda,” Giichi says, changing the topic. “It’ll all be pointless if he decides that he doesn’t want to forgive Saki for what she did.”

It’s a lot of hopes to be putting on the shoulders of someone who probably isn’t in the best of moods at the moment.

As it turned out, it wasn’t that difficult to find Maeda. He’d just been coming out of the common room as we were about to head past it.

What followed was almost a case of abduction.

He didn’t really have much choice except to do what we told him once we’d cornered him against the wall. That he still seemed a bit vigilant about another attack seemed to be a part of it.

It could be that he’s feeling a bit guilty if he believes such a thing might happen.

“You probably want to have this conversation somewhere private,” Giichi said.

“Yeah,” Maeda replied, looking sullen.

“Then follow us,” Giichi orders.

There’s none of the politeness that any of the others received, but it does the trick as Maeda begins to trail along behind us.

We take him all the way back to the office before anyone says anything.

“How are you feeling about last night’s events?” Giichi asked, probing the topic.

“She hit me!” Maeda snaps back. “How do you think I feel?”

“That you were behaving like a right ass and got what you deserved?” Rei suggests.

“Of course not!” Maeda replies.

“That you went somewhere you shouldn’t have and didn’t think about the consequences?” Toru suggests.

“That’s not it either,” Maeda says.

The three of the are really putting some pressure on him and he seems to be struggling with the verbal attack.

I feel somewhat obligated to give him an opportunity to get out of the constant need to defend himself.

“Was she just as upset as you and, when it all got too much, you were the one she lashed out at?”

“Maybe…” He mumbles.

“If that’s really the case, then I suggest you stop playing things up for the Dean and everyone else. You’re going to be the reason Miss Enomoto gets expelled,” says Giichi.

“What do you mean?” Maeda asks in confusion. “How am I doing that?”

“Because you’re not doing anything to improve the situation,” Toru explains. “Unless the two of you can be seen to find common ground and are able to work through this, she’s going to take all the blame for something you’re at least partly responsible for.”

“I’m not though,” Maeda replies defiantly.

“Sure you aren’t,” Rei replies. “You just blamed her for killing her friend. That had nothing to do with any of it.”

That shakes him somewhat. He clearly didn’t expect us to have so much information on what happened.

“And that gives her the right to slap me?” he asks.

“No,” I say. “But can you really blame her for doing it?

Everyone falls silent as we give him time to think things over.

“What do you want from me then?” He finally asks.

“I want you to read this,” Giichi says, holding out the file that holds everything he’s put together. “Then I want you to sign that you agree with our findings and recommendations. And if they call you in for any questioning, then this is the version of events you’ll stick to. Okay?”

“Give it here,” he says. Grabbing the file. “Don’t expect me to do that if what you’ve written is a load of nonsense.”

Maeda takes his time looking through what Giichi has written up and I can see the emotions running across his face. He clearly wasn’t expecting to see such a well put together document about what happened between him and Saki.

“It’s good,” he admits finally. “Though I don’t really like how much of an ass you make me out to be.”

“You are one,” Rei says bluntly. “From what I’ve seen, it’s a wonder any of your friends put up with you.”

All of this seems to have beaten him into submission.

“Give me the pen,” he says. “You’ve got your story.”

“Excellent,” Giichi says as Toru hands it over.

“Can I go now?” Maeda asks.

“Yes,” Giichi says. “And maybe you can finish the year without getting involved in anything else?”

Maeda doesn’t say anything in response before he almost bolts out the door.

“That was quite the fun experience,” Rei says. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen you brute force anything that well.”

“I do try my best,” Giichi says smiling back at Rei.

He looks genuinely happy with the result as well as with Rei’s apparent joy.

“Now you can handle the rest,” he continues.

“What?” Rei asks, faltering.

“I’ve done a bit more today than I really should have,” he replies. “You’re the one who should be practicing for next year and I’ve steamrolled through all of it. I think it would be best if you handle getting Enomoto’s approval as well as delivering the final product to the Dean. I’m sure it will be received better coming from you anyway.”

“Are you sure about that?” Rei asks. “Don’t you want to see it through to the end?”

“Not this time,” Giichi replies. “I need to start letting go and today showed that I’m not as ready to do that as I should be. You can handle it from here.”

“Okay,” Rei says, slowly reaching for the file. “Shall I go then...?”

“Yes,” Giichi says shooing her alone with his hands.

This spurs Rei into action, and I watch her scurry out of the room in a much more startled manner than usual.

“You don’t have to be so mean to her,” Toru says playfully. “She’s just worried about not living up to your insane standard.”

“Soon it will only be her own standard that she’ll have to meet,” he replies. “Until then I’ll mess with her as much as she messes with everyone else.”

A fair point to make when it comes to dealing with Rei.

“So, you think all of this is going to end the way you want it to?” I ask.

“I don’t really know,” Giichi replies. “It will probably be a few more days until we learn her fate.”

I'm not sure I know how I’m supposed to bear that kind of suspense.

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Last edited by ArtemisCain on Mon Jun 03, 2024 2:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A New Home - Original Characters, Original Route

Post by ArtemisCain »

Mind Made Up

All things considered, our investigation into Saki’s case went well. She didn’t get off without any punishment, but that was to be expected. Being suspended to her dorm for a few days of school is a much less severe punishment than expulsion.

It may even do her some good the with exams approaching rapidly.

That they would really have considered expelling her for what she did still amazes me. I’d gone through the whole thing thinking that wasn’t really a possibility. Those around me didn’t seem to agree with my idea.

That we got a visit from her father was the final nail in the coffin for my beliefs. He was extremely thankful for what Giichi had done. The school had apparently let him know everything that had gone on since that evening, including our investigation.

The man did seem a bit controlling, but he was also genuinely happy with the result. That it may only have been about avoiding the humiliation of having his daughter kicked out of her school was something for me to suspect, but for none of us to know.

With that crazy chapter of my time on the Committee closed, things became much more mundane again. Students running late or misbehaving in class did not offer the same level of drama.

I’m perfectly alright with that as it gives me time to prepare for what’s steadily approaching all of us. Exams need preparing for and I’d like to have some free time around my studying to do things other than deal with trouble.

I don’t really have any plans for today as everyone seems to be in the position where they don’t want to be seen to be slacking off. I’m sure that will change given a bit of time. One can only spend so much time working before you need to do anything else.

I’ll be going to visit nurse after class, but I don’t think anything important will come up. It hasn’t for some time now and that shouldn’t change any time soon.

I also plan to go see Tsunemori after that. No appointment, but I’d like to check in with her again. She’s got a good head on her shoulders, and I’d like to pick her brain on something I’m sure she’ll be able to guide me through.

It would be nice to avoid any official appointments, but, if she really is too busy, I may just have to make one.

I wish I wasn’t so hung up on that idea, but I just don’t like having to make an appointment with a therapist. I’ll have to get over that block if what I have to ask her is to lead anywhere.

Then I should be free for the rest of the day, so I’ll probably end up looking for company. Our in-class time is enough studying for me with the exams still a few weeks away. Maybe I’ll find someone who thinks the same way.

Miki could be good for something like that.

That’s a problem for later though as I’ve still got to get through today’s lessons.

I get my things together and head off for a quick breakfast. Nothing fancy and I don’t talk to anyone while I’m there. I’m still used to doing things a lot earlier than most people, so I miss the breakfast rush.

The people who’ve got there as early as I do aren’t usually the type that are looking to socialize either.

Once I’ve made it to class, I’m greeted by the usual scene. Giichi’s in his place and he gives me a nod of greeting. I’ve gotten used to that, so I nod back. Waving or calling out still seems more sensible to me though. How are such small motions considered an adequate form of communication?

I head for my seat and get my things ready while I wait for the inevitable arrival of my partners. We’ll probably be working together a fair bit today as the teachers are still very fond of group work. They probably do end up having to answer fewer questions that way.

“Morning,” Cho calls out as the two of them arrive.

“You always manage to sneak away before us,” Nanami continues. “Why don’t you ever want to walk to class with us?”

“It’s not that,” I say, trying to placate the small ball of mock fury. “The two of you could join me for breakfast. It’s nice seeing how quiet everything is before the rush.”

“I prefer my sleep,” Cho replies. “No need to be running around while it’s still dark. Nothing is going to go anywhere.”

“It could be fun though,” Nanami says. “We’ve stayed up late plenty of times. Early morning could be just as fun.

“For you maybe,” Cho says. “Count me out of any of it.”

Nanami looks a bit crestfallen by Cho’s finality on the subject and I’m, once more, amazed by the pair. There really seems to be no situation in which the two of them would consider doing anything alone.

There isn’t usually a time when they might disagree on anything, but it seems that they won’t go it alone even if they do. Will they be able to keep that up forever? I wouldn’t have thought so.

“Staying up late?” I ask, having caught on to something they said.

It could be fun to pull on that thread.

“What do the two of you get up to when the rest of us asleep?” I continue. “Nothing against school rules, I hope.”

Cho is the one to look back towards Giichi at that suggestion, but Nanami is the one to answer.

“Of course not,” she says. “We don’t go anywhere we’re not supposed to. The curfew isn’t the same on the weekends either. That’s that the only time we go wandering.”

She is right on that point. You’re not going to get in trouble if you’re caught out of bed on the weekend. There might still be some questions if you were found wandering the halls at 3 A.M. in your pyjamas.

I would still be very interested to see what the two of them do get up to. It doesn’t sound like anything you’d say if there wasn’t at least something peculiar going on.

Cho seems to understand that Nanami’s unusual way of explaining things has probably raised more questions than it’s answered so she attempts to untangle the mess that her companion is making.

“We just like to watch the stars sometimes,” she explains. “You can’t do that to well from the dorms, so we go somewhere quiet to take them in. We don’t do anything untoward.”

“You should take me along sometime if that’s the case,” I say. “I wouldn’t mind seeing what the two of you see.”

It’s not the scenery I normally go for, but I can still appreciate the beauty of the night sky.

“We’ll see what we can do,” Nanami says, having recovered from the hole she was digging unnecessarily. “There isn’t that much time left though, so we might not get the chance to do it again.”

I hadn’t thought about things that way. We probably are coming up to the last opportunities to do certain things here at Yamaku. The weeks leading up to exams, the odd moment off between them, and the week before graduation. That’s not much time to fit things in before we’re all off to the next chapter of our lives. I really should think more carefully about the things I want to do in that time.

We’re unable to continue with the conversation as Kubo bursts into the room ready to start the day. He really has grown on me throughout the months. Sometimes loud teachers can be off-putting, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard his voice raised in anger. That goes a long way to getting rid of the worry that you’re going to be the one that all that volume is focused on.

He begins the day by going over things that he thinks we need to focus on. The lessons that he’s been putting together recently seem to have been tailored to our weaknesses. That means that the problems we’re faced with are on the tougher end of whatever we’ve had to face in any of our Maths classes.

The time does eventually come when we’re given the opportunity to split off into groups. My trio forms up as usual and I’m certain that I’ll be taking centre stage in trying to solve the work we’ve been given. Neither Cho nor Nanami are quite as good with these more abstract problems that we’ve been dealing with recently.

“I wish these had stopped getting more complicated a few years ago,” Cho complains. “We only need so many letters in a single sum.”

I understand the point behind all of this, but I can’t help but agree. Finding the correct answer is its own type of fun, but I’d rather not have to ponder through these long strings of what could be mistaken for mad scribblings.

“We’re all good enough at this stuff to get a decent grade,” I say. “It just takes time to get to the right answer.”

That’s all there really is to it. Slow and steady work and the problems will all soon be solved.

“But are we ever going to see stuff like this again?” Nanami complains with the classic argument that I think every student has relied on at some point.

“Even if we don’t,” I reply. “You still want a high enough mark to get into university.”

“I suppose that is what we’re all trying to do,” Cho adds.

I usually find that my argument works on anyone in their final year. It’s only the lower years that aren’t yet faced with choosing where they go next, that need some greater reason to push on with their schoolwork.

“Though I suppose we don’t have to do it all in one go,” I suggest. “We don’t need to have it done at the end of class.”

“Having it for homework would be even worse,” Nanami argues. “I’d rather not waste time now and not be able to do something else later.”

I do agree with her on that point, but I just wanted to offer them some options of what we could do. I know that some people can’t stay focused on advanced Maths problems for too long without getting a headache.

Thanks to that decision, we spend the rest of the lesson, and the lessons that follow, submerged in whatever the teachers throw at us. When we reach lunch, we’re in a position of not having anything left to finish later today. Hopefully we can keep that up with the rest of our classes.

We head to lunch and, again, I can put together a meal that I’m not certain I’ve had before. This place really is amazing in making that seem like the case.

Once we’ve all got our food, we join the fight to find a place to sit.

It’s unfortunate that Toru chooses to be like Giichi when it comes to lunch time meals. I’m unable to simply sit at an almost empty table because of it.

Maybe I should give getting my own lunch ready before school a go and experience what it’s like not to be involved in this chaos again. I did enjoy those few meals I had up on the roof.

It also seems that the day has taken it out off my two companions as they’re not as chatty as they were before. I wonder if last night happened to be one of those late nights they were talking about?

Once we’re done, we clear our spot and head back to class. It’s time to face more of the same for the rest of the day.

When our lessons finally come to an end, I’m more than happy to get out of there. Giichi has gotten to a point where he could probably take care of himself, but it’s better not to risk it.

It’ll also be much faster for me to help him through to the Office.

I leave Cho and Nanami to head off on their own. They’ve gotten used to me not sticking around and they don’t hold it against me for, as Cho puts it, ‘keeping the boss happy’.

“You ready to go?” I ask, looking at him as he finishes packing the last of his stationary.

“I believe so,” he says. “Let’s get going. I’d rather not keep you from whatever appointments you’ve got set up.”

I’m not going to try and correct him on that as he’s close enough to the truth.

We head out of the class and the wall of students part before us. One of the benefits of having Giichi as he is. I’m sure he appreciates it just as much as I do.

Once we’re out of the building, things calm down and I’m able to speed up even more. I’m sure someone would love to give me advice on wheelchair safety, but I’m not planning on adding any evasive manoeuvres to the journey so it should be quite stable.

Once I drop Giichi off to do whatever it is he plans to occupy his own afternoon with, I head back down the stairs to Nurse’s office.

I’m tempted to just walk in as everyone probably has their regular times this late in the year, but I stop myself as, although Monday after school is my usual time, you never know when some emergency might have popped up.

I knock on the door and wait my turn.

There obviously isn’t any such emergency as the door swings open and I’m greeted by Nurse’s familiar routine.

He ushers me inside and begins to work his way through to all the normal questions to which my answers never seem to change.

With those out of the way he decides to move onto more exciting news.

“I’m sure you love these little visits of ours,” he says with a smile. “But I’m not sure you really need to make them anymore.”

“Really?” I say with a mixture of surprise and happiness.

“Don’t be like that,” he says, pretending to be upset. “I hate when we reach this point. When my patients don’t need me anymore, it’s hard to let them go.”

“I’m still your patient as long as I’m here,” I reply. “Don’t act like me finally being stable enough not to need constant check-ups changes that.”

“You are right about that,” he admits. “I just like to frame it that way. It usually gets a better reaction than this. I wish you weren’t so sensible all the time.”

“How about you make up your mind?” I suggest. “Do you want a sensible patient, or one that’s all too easy to manipulate?”

“A bit of both?” he suggests, playfully.

“Unfortunately, that’s not possible,” I respond. “Do you really think I’m healthy enough to skip the check-ups?”

“I’d say so,” Nurse replies. “I won’t be finding anything new before you leave and, after that, you’ll be in someone else’s hands. I only really need to see you if you think there’s any trouble.”

It’s a bit of a shock for him to say that now. I’ve made this a part of my routine. You could even say that I enjoy coming to check in with him.

Nurse has a manner around him that you just can’t help but enjoy.

“You’ve been here more often that most people as it stands,” Nurse continues. “We may be a useful service, but it’s not one that most people need too often. You should be happy that you’re on the road away from constant doctor’s visits.”

He seems to understand that it’s a large part of my recent life that he’s suddenly ripping away. It really is a strange situation to want to do these visits.

“If this might be it,” I say. “Then I suppose I should ask you a couple of questions.”

“Oh,” he says, interested in where this might lead. “And what would you like to know?”

“How dangerous is all the stuff I’m on?” I ask. “I’ve ignored a lot of that side of things, but I think I shouldn’t be leaving all of it to my parents and doctors.”

“I can’t find any fault in wanting to know more about your own situation,” Nurse replies. “But what changed? You weren’t all to worried about that kind of thing before.”

“I’ve had my eyes opened about all of it recently,” I say. “That medicine can do some horrible things to you if you end up relying on it too much.”

I watch as the gears turn in Nurse’s head and the realisation on his face convinces me that he’s figured out who I’ve been talking to.

“That can happen sometimes,” he says. “But you must understand that you’ve bumped into one of the worst cases you could have when side-effects are concerned.”

“It still happened,” I reply.

“Yes. And it’s almost impossible for something like that to happen to most people,” Nurse continues. “When things get that bad, you’ll have to be told about the possibilities. Us doctors may not be the best at explaining things, but we won’t hide serious things like that from you.”

“I don’t have any ‘serious’ risks then?” I ask.

Nurse considers the question.

“Not as things stand,” he finally says. “You might feel drowsy occasionally or have the occasional headache. The worst that can happen at the moment is that you develop a resistance to your current medication.”

That is something of a relief. I do believe what he’s said as well. He really does seem to be telling me the truth rather than just falling back on typical doctor’s phrases.

“I guess I shouldn’t worry about those things then,” I say, standing up. “Thank you for everything you’ve done for me these past few months. I know I’ll probably see you again before the end of year, but I feel like I should say something now. You’ve seen me through the worst of it.”

“Don’t go getting all sentimental on me,” he says as he joins me by the door. “You’ll do just fine without an annoying nurse hounding you all the time.”

I nod at that statement and step out the door. Nurse doesn’t seem to think we need to take things any further than that as he’s closed it again before I have time to turn back.

It’s an abrupt ending, but one that I think suits the situation.

Now that I’m done with that, I head off to see whether Ms Tsunemori is free at the moment.

I wonder whether she or Nurse deals with more students on a daily basis?

Soon I arrive at her office, and I see that the door is just barely open. I suppose that’s a signal that she’s not busy with anything. Maybe other students know not to interrupt if she’s in the middle of something.

I knock on the door, and it swings slightly further ajar.

“Come in!” I hear her call out.

I push the door all the way open and head into the office that I still feel should be remodelled immediately.

“Hatsumi!” she says, looking up from her desk with a smile. “I’m glad to see you. Somewhat surprised that you decided to come by, but it’s good that you did.”

“You weren’t sure I’d be back?” I ask.

“Not really,” she admits. “It was quite possible that you got everything you needed out of me the last time we met.”

It makes me happy to know that she seems to think I’m not in need of her services.

“That means that you’re here to pick my brain,” she continues. “I’ll be glad to answer any questions you might have.”

That alters my approach to this rather drastically. I thought it might take some time to be able to work my way around to that.

“You’re really good at all of this,” I say. “Knowing what people are thinking.”

“You learn to make good guesses,” she replies. “People aren’t as different as they like to think. At least on the surface.”

“Are you busy this afternoon?” I ask. “I don’t want to interrupt anything else with my questions.”

“No,” Tsunemori replies. “Monday tends to be quiet. All the past week’s work is out of the way, and nobody wants to visit the therapist on a Monday. Start of the week and all. Would you like to get out of here?”

I look around the room once more before answering.

“Yes,” I say with relief.

“You’d definitely need a different style wherever you ended up working,” she says. “I think you’re almost ready to destroy this place.”

Tsunemori gathers some things before getting up to join me by the door. She’s just as well dressed as the last time I saw her.

No sign of the creases or stains that seem to gather on the Nurse or any of his staff.

“Let’s get going,” she says, as she guides me out the door.

“Where to?” I ask.

“Somewhere a bit more pleasant, I think,” she says. “I’m sure you know about the Shanghai?”

Off school grounds? I wasn’t expecting that, but I don’t mind the idea. It’s sure to be more pleasant than sticking around in that ghastly office of hers.

“It just doesn’t work,” I say, looking around once more. “You’ve got to do something about the scenery in there.”

Tsunemori laughs at my outburst.

“I’ll admit that it’s not great, but I’ve never seen anyone have such a visceral reaction to it,” she says. “You’ve almost made up for all the years it’s been like that.”

“I’m sure I can bring you plenty of people who’ll have just as much of a problem with it,” I reply. “Maybe everyone else is just better at hiding their reactions.”

“That could be it,” she admits. “Though I think you’re just passionate about nature and can’t bear that failed imitation.”

“So, you’re not as interested in what your office looks like?” I ask. “I would have thought that having a workspace you enjoyed would be an important part in setting the right tone for the things you do.”

“I’d rather be at the beach than in the forest,” she replies. “I can appreciate it just as much as most others do, but an office is just an office in the end. I can work in whatever environment I end up in.”

“I’ll have to try and be as adaptable as you are,” I reply.

The two of us both seen happy to walk into town as neither gives any sign of wanting to wait at the bus stop. It would probably be a close call which option would get us to our destination first, but the walk is part of the experience when it comes to going to the Shanghai.

“How often do you do this?” I ask.

“Go to the Shanghai or have tea with a student?” She replies.

“Both,” I say. “Though one is stranger than the other.”

She nods at that answer.

“I try to get out every so often,” she says. “It’s nice to get away from the school without having to go too far. It’s also not that strange to go somewhere with a student. At least at Yamaku, that is.”

It’s another oddity of this place. I’d never seen students going anywhere with their teachers before coming here, but now it seems almost the norm. Music teachers take their students to record albums, while Art teachers take theirs to art studios.

“And we fit into this how?” I ask. “I don’t think either of us are interested in a future that involves cafés.”

Tsunemori understands what I’m saying almost immediately and gives a light chuckle.

“That’s true,” she responds. “But we don’t need any specific environment to discuss things. Just one that we’re both comfortable with.”

The Shanghai it is then. Even if it’s not at the top of my list of places to spend the afternoon.

Our destination slowly comes into view and we both pick up the pace to get there.

“Lead the way,” she says as we arrive at the door. “I’m sure you have more experience with this place than I do.”

I decide not to argue that point. If she’s been here that little, then this can’t be one of her usual destinations.

As we head inside, I see that she does at least know not to bother looking for a menu. She follows me straight to one of the booths along the side of the room.

It will be interesting to see if Yuuko is on duty today. How she’d handle a fellow staff member is sure to provide a bit of entertainment.

The thought has hardly had time to enter my mind before Yuuko does indeed pop up before us.

“Good afternoon,” she says quickly. “It looks like you’ve already found your seats. I’m sorry for being so slow!”

“Afternoon Yuuko,” Tsunemori replies. “It’s good to see you. You’re so busy that I hardly ever get the chance.”

Yuuko freezes before examining Tsunemori intently. It’s as if she’s not sure who the woman standing before her is.

The unusual setting probably contributes to the issue as she seems to get over her initial confusion soon enough.

“There’s plenty to do,” she replies. “Can’t waste any time sitting around.”

“That might be true,” Tsunemori agrees. “Though I’m sure that you’ve got too much on your shoulders. Isn’t there some way for you to get help in the library?”

“It’s my job to do it all,” Yuuko replies, worry from the thought of her losing her job entering her voice. “So I need to manage as it is.”

“I’m sure that you could get some help from the students without any risk to your job,” Tsunemori suggests. “It might even do them some good.”

I know that she means well, but I don’t think Yuuko would handle that very well. If the occasional interaction is almost to much for her, then I don’t think she’ll be able to handle having people working under her.

“What would you like to order,” she says, changing the topic.

“I’d like some tea,” I say, deciding that it’s probably best to move on. “Nothing to eat though.”

“I’ll have some tea as well. And a slice of cake,” Tsunemori says and Yuuko quickly scuttles away.

“You can’t be so cruel to her,” I say as we sit down. “I don’t know that she can handle the pressure.”

“I wasn’t,” Tsunemori says.

“You really do need to see her more then,” I say. “She’d jump at much less than her own shadow.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” she replies. “But besides all of that. We need to get on to the topic of today’s meeting. You’d like to know what it’s like to be me and whether it’d suit you to do the same thing.”

My suspicion that she knew why I wanted to talk to her has been proved correct.

“Exactly,” I say. “Do you think it would suit me?”

“I know that you’re smart enough to know that it’s not as simple as that,” Tsunemori replies. “No career ‘suits’ a person any more than any other career they’re interested in.”

It the kind of non-comital answer you always expect to hear in these kind of situations.

“But you can usually tell if it wouldn’t work out at all,” I say. “Do you think I’d have a chance if I were to try?”

“Yes, I think you would do well,” she replies. “If you worked hard and were committed to putting the hours in, I think you could go a long way as a psychologist.”

I’m glad to hear her say it out loud and that must show on my face.

“It’s good to see that you really are interested,” Tsunemori says. “But I should probably give you all the details. It wouldn’t be right of me to hide anything that you should probably know.”

“Like what?” I ask. “I’m sure there are challenges. What are the ones that you think might stand out?”

“It’s going to be your passion and desire to make a difference that keep you going,” she says. “Because the workload and the salary aren’t going to motivate you. You’ll be doing a lot, and you won’t be paid much for it.”

“It can’t be that bad,” I say. “I mean… Clearly you can live on it.”

“That’s true,” she agrees. “But some people want more than that. Whether you’re one of them will be a big factor in how long you can stick to the job.”

“I think I could do it,” I reply. “You say you have to enjoy the work?”

“Yes,” she replies.

“And what is that work? If you had to simplify it?” I ask.

“Helping people find their own answers,” Tsunemori replies after considering the question.

“Then I think I could do it,” I say. “That’s more important than any fancy apartment or expensive paintings.”

Tsunemori nods at my answer.

“That’s definitely a good start,” she says. “But you do know that you’ll be dealing with far more problems than you have up until know. Helping your school friends out isn’t anything like the cases that will be coming in and out of your door every week.”

“It almost sounds like you’re trying to dissuade me,” I say.

“I’m not trying to do that. Believe me,” she replies. “I just want you to understand that negativity is going to be a big part of your life as a psychologist. There’ll be positives, especially when you make a breakthrough with a patient, but there’ll also be plenty of problems before and after those moments.”

I think I already understood that, but it’s good to have someone say it out loud. Knowing what’s waiting for me is better than suspecting what it might be.

“Are there any particular skills you think I should focus on?” I ask. “I know I’ll have to do a lot of work before I get anywhere, but a head start wouldn’t hurt.”

“Well, I think you’ve got most of the good things handled for now,” She replies. “They aren’t really things you could learn anyway. Empathy and patience are things you develop naturally. Problem solving and analysis are things you can work on, but I think you’ve got those handled as well.”

I was hoping for a bit more guidance than that.

“Something that I touched on before is equally important,” she continues. “And that might be what you need to work on most. It’s not all up to you to solve everything. You’d be there to point people in the right direction, not tell them where to go. If you can understand what I’m trying to say?”

“I think so,” I reply.

It’s one of the things that puts me off the whole idea of therapy on the face of things. I know it doesn’t make sense for them to just give you all the answers the first time you meet them, but it would cut out a lot of time and pain if that were possible.

“There’s a path that needs to be followed and it’s different for everyone that needs to walk it,” I say. “I can’t be the one to force them along one that I’ve chosen for them.”

“Exactly,” Tsunemori says with a smile. “It seems to me that you’ve got things well in hand.”

Yuuko reappears suddenly at the perfect time for a break in our conversation. Looking at her, I have to believe that it’s entirely coincidental.

“There you go,” she says, places identical cups in front of us as well as Tsunemori’s slice of cake. “Is there anything else you need?”

Tsunemori and I look at each other and I see that she’s apparently decided to let me take the lead on this one.

“It all looks wonderful, Yuuko,” I say. “And we’ll be fine for now. I’ll call you if anything changes.”

Yuuko bobs her head before speeding of towards another customer that has just entered the café.

“That went better than when I talked to her,” Tsunemori comments.

“I try not to bring up anything that isn’t to do with the here and now,” I say. “Having to think about everything else that needs doing can be too much. I think?”

“That’s as good a guess as any,” she agrees. “It would probably take time to unravel all of that.”

She’s still looking in Yuuko’s direction and I’m left to wonder if that’s a side affect of having your life revolve around therapy. That you’re always trying to piece together what’s going on in everyone’s lives.

“The cake looks nice,” I say, pulling her away from her thoughts. “It’s nothing fancy, but you can always count on it being good.”

It looks to be a plain vanilla cake, but some hidden flavour could always surprise one.

“It is rather comforting,” Tsunemori says. “The tea is hot, and the cake is familiar. It’s just what you’d be looking for after a stressful day.”

Looks like a bit of her worries are starting to shine through.

“What does make up most of your day?” I ask. “I know you’re the school’s therapist, but it’s obvious you don’t spend all your time talking to students. In fact, you probably can’t see them for most of the weekdays.”

“You’re right about that,” she replies. “But my weekends are busy instead. Usually, I get my time off during the week, though you’re always on call in the medical profession. Even if it’s not physical health that you’re dealing with.”

I can somewhat understand the position she’s in. The Disciplinary Committee often has to deal with things over the weekend. We don’t get to take the week off though.

It might be nice to be a bit more relaxed about that kind of thing. I often see the Student Council heading off somewhere when I look out of the classroom window.

“There’s also plenty of paperwork and research to do,” she continues. “You’ll get a taste for it in university. You’re researching other cases and using them to help you’re own. You’d be surprised how many times I’m looking at a totally different scenario when I think of something I want to bring up with a student.”

“That sounds a bit like what lawyers do,” I say.

“That’s quite a good comparison actually,” she says. “We don’t get as many details because of patient confidentiality, but plenty of psychologists do their best to share the things that work for them. It might be closer to the academic world. Sharing your findings with each other, but your law comparison is close enough.”

It could be interesting to share that thought with Giichi. I wonder whether he’d find it funny that I’ve found some parallel between what he’ll be doing and what I want to do.

He probably won’t have much of a reaction at all.

I still need to get under his skin somehow and I’m running out of time to do it.

“It is a lot of studying though,” Tsunemori says, bringing me back to the conversation. “You can’t just settle for an Undergraduate, or even Honours. It’s all the way up to a Doctorate if you really want to get anywhere as a psychologist. You can start therapy much earlier, but you’re never going to work somewhere like this without being a doctor first.”

At least I know it’s going to be a long journey. I would rather be at the top of the field where I can look for the job I want rather than settle for the first position that I can find. If that means I’ll be spending years getting there, then that’s what I’ll have to prepare for.

“I’m guessing it takes experience to get any good jobs once you’ve got your qualification?” I ask. “You don’t just walk in anywhere with a degree.”

“That’s true,” Tsunemori replies. “But getting involved in any programmes at your university, or volunteering somewhere can go along way to building up that experience. It doesn’t have to be full years of work to count as experience.”

That’s a good tip to keep in mind. You can find plenty of skills that you can add to the list by looking at things that fall outside of simply work experience. Some might see it as getting creative with your resume, but I think it only makes sense to list everything that you have to offer.

“You’ve given me plenty to think about,” I say. “I’m not sure I can come up with any more questions to ask you right away. I didn’t really come into this very well prepared.”

“That’s completely fine,” she replies. “You shouldn’t have all the answers yet. I don’t know if you ever will, but at least you have a rough idea of where you want to go now.”

“I’ll have to start doing a bit more research,” I say. “I haven’t got long before I really need to start making my decisions.”

“It is rather late in the year,” Tsunemori replies. “I think do I have some stuff lying around at home that might point you in the right direction. Don’t need you following any dead ends in your search for the right university.”

“You’re sure,” I say excitedly. “I thought I was going to be running around like a headless chicken for a while. It can be difficult to find out which place specializes in what.”

“There might have been a few changes since I graduated, but I doubt it’s that extreme,” she says. “I haven’t gotten that old that I’m completely out of touch with the modern landscape.”

The things she said have left me wondering how old she is. She looks young and I would have guessed that she could only have just earned her Doctorate if it didn’t seem like she had plenty of experience since doing so.

“Quit thinking whatever it is that’s going through your head,” Tsunemori scolds. “I don’t need you thinking I’m some old woman who’s got nothing in her life but a future full of cats.”

That hadn’t been where my mind was going, but now I do wonder just how misleading her appearance might be.

“I think we can get the bill,” Tsunemori says as she starts to look around for Yuuko.

She’s decided that it’s better to run than dig a hole that could get any deeper.

Yuuko picks up that she’s wanted and comes scurrying over with the bill. It’s apparently obvious that we won’t be getting anything more.

“I’ll cover this one,” Tsunemori says. “You can’t be expected to pay for something you didn’t know was happening.”

It’s a kindness that I’m happy to accept. Miki may be onto something with doing things like this.

“Thanks,” I say. “I did have my wallet on me though.”

I don’t want to seem like I expected her to pay the entire time.

“Treat someone else next time,” she replies. “I think that’s a fair way to handle a free lunch.”

That’s a nice way of handling these things. To pay the kindness forward.

We head out of the Shanghai and steadily make out way back up the hill towards Yamaku.

“I always forget about this part of the journey,” Tsunemori says. “Heading into town is nice and easy, but you’ve got this climb waiting for you when it’s time to head back.”

“I’m sure it’s good for both of us,” I reply. “How often do you get any good exercise in?”

“Not as often as is recommended,” she says. “But I’ve got plenty of other things to keep me busy. The joy of working knows no end.”

I guess that fact applies to even those who enjoy their job. You lose most of your time to work.

Whether you’re here as a therapist or in an office like my parents, there doesn’t seem to be time for these things that make up so much of my days.

We arrive back at the school gates and both head towards the auxiliary building.

“Council duties, I presume?” Tsunemori asks.

“Councillor duties?” I hit back.

“Quick,” she says. “It’ll definitely make you a handful in lectures and tutorial groups. Just don’t expect to approach patients like that. I generally find that they don’t enjoy the feeling that you’re sharper than they are.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I say. “The company I’ve been keeping recently has definitely helped foster that side of me.”

“Don’t keep them waiting then,” she replies as we reach the top of the stairs. “I’ll see you again tomorrow with the stuff I’ve got at home.”

“Thanks,” I say. “See you then.”

With that, Tsunemori heads off towards her office while I turn towards ours. I don’t know if anyone will be there at this time, but it’s worth checking things out.

It’s unsurprising that I find the door locked when I try it. Looks like everyone’s finished with what they wanted to do for the day.

I head back the way I came as I think about the time left in the year. What Tsunemori suggested and what she’ll be bringing me will require a decent amount of attention. Between that and our upcoming exams, I’m really not going to have much time for anything else.

It’s going to take some planning to fit everything in and leave time for the people I’ve met since getting here. I’m sure I’ll see some of them again once we graduate, but I’m just as certain that I won’t meet many of them for at least a long time.

I definitely want to get the chance to see them off properly, even if it’s nothing formal or serious.

Lunch with Emi or Miki, checking in with Chiharu and Saki, and obviously doing something with Cho and Nanami or the rest of the Committee. There’re so many things that I want to fit into the rest of this short experience at Yamaku and there really isn’t the time to do it all.

It almost crazy that I’m on my way back to my dorm room trying to figure out how I’m going to pull all of this off before we reach graduation, rather than thinking about my exams, my health, or my future.

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Last edited by ArtemisCain on Mon Jun 10, 2024 2:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A New Home - Original Characters, Original Route

Post by ArtemisCain »

Paired Up

Another week has gone by and I’m not sure whether or not I’m relieved to have reached the weekend. On one hand, it means that I’ve gotten through another week of school. On the other, it means that we’re about to start our final exams.

Things haven’t been as frantic for the lower years, as they still have more chances to do well in the next year. We’re all worried about whether or not our marks will be enough to get us into the universities we’re aiming for.

Tsunemori did get back to me with a whole bunch of useful information which has been really helpful with making my decisions.

I was glad to see that she wasn’t just trying to push me into following in her own footsteps and was able to lay out several different programmes at a number of universities.

That information would be helpful in improving the chances of actually getting a spot to study psychology.

I didn’t want to pin all my hopes on one place and not know what to do if I got rejected since I felt that pursuing the career I wanted was more important than where I happened to study for it.

Both Rei and Toru seemed to understand that Giichi and I were not really in the position to take off much time from our preparations which meant that the two of us had suddenly become a lot less involved in our committee duties.

Giichi still cast an eye over everything the two of them did, but he was no longer involved in the way he had been even a few weeks ago.

The way we were studying was probably more interesting than it had ever been before. I had never had so much help before coming to Yamaku.

There really was a great deal of encouragement to help each other out. All of the teachers and most of the students seemed to agree that teaching was one of the best ways of ensuring that you understood the work you were having to explain to others.

This meant that my days of classes were filled by working thorough papers with Cho and Nanami, while my afternoons saw me practicing English with Toru or figuring out Science questions with Chiharu.

It had been Giichi’s idea that I shouldn’t try to do this the day before our exams actually started. Some might have thought he was mad at suggesting such a thing, but his brief explanation was seemed sensible to me.

The mind needed a moment to calm itself before the weeks of pressure ahead of us actually arrived. Going into it all fatigued was only going to hurt your chances of performing at your best.

I agreed with him, even if it was just an excuse to get away from all the work I’d been doing.

That feeling might actually be proof that what he said was correct. Going into the exams tired and worn out seemed like an excellent recipe for disaster.

Others may not have had such logical reasons for doing the same thing, but I found that there were plenty of people who were opting to spend their Sunday the same way.

Saki wanted to meet with me to discuss something.

I could guess what it will be about, and I tried to explain that it wasn’t necessary.

That had come to nothing as she seemed to be determined to do something where she’d have the opportunity to talk with me.

I had suggested that I wasn’t really the one she should be doing this with, but that had only earned Giichi a suspicious look from across the class.

She didn’t seem very interested in attempting to have any such conversation with him.

That interaction, once again, made me think about how peculiar it is that he has as much involvement in the school as he does. Other students are just as unwilling to approach him as he is to approach others.

I finally relented to her desire to do something with me, which is how I ended up into being talked into going to tea with her. She was also going to be bringing someone along with her.

I don’t really need to guess who that would be.

My Sunday then got a lot busier when Cho and Nanami decided that we needed to go out together one last time before exams started. There wouldn’t be much time to do something like that once we got busy and we had no idea what we’d be doing once they were finished.

This could very well be our last chance to do something like this.

The insistence from my various classmates that we needed to head into town to do something today meant that I was going to have a rather busy day despite the lack of studying.

I’d at least managed to arrange things so that I’d be able to get the bus to my various get-togethers.

It might all be fun activities, But I didn’t feel like spending a decent part of my day walking from one to the other. I also have my own plans that I want to try and work into all of it which would drastically increase the amount of travelling I’ll need to do to pull it off.

The bus will definitely be my friend today if I’m to get everything in before I run out of time.

The morning starts off peacefully at least as I don’t have to get going too early. Chiharu seems to follow the same routine every week. Moving clockwise around our rooms, starting with her own.

It will be a while before I have to get out of her way. Not that I plan to stay in my room for that long. I just want to take my time getting everything ready for the day ahead.

Once I’m dressed, I head for the cafeteria. While it is fine to occasionally break the rules of my diet, I don’t think I’ll be doing that today.

Since I don’t know that I’ll have much opportunity to find options that lack carbs on my day out, I’d rather have a large breakfast to keep me going throughout the day.

Most of the other students have decided not to do what I’m doing as the cafeteria is mostly empty when I arrive.

Everyone must have already cleared out to get on with their day or are waiting for later to get something to eat.

Thanks to this, I’m able to find a seat without any difficulty. It does mean that I’ll be eating alone as there isn’t anyone here that I’m close enough with to join.

I take my time with the large breakfast as I’d rather not ruin my day by trying to shovel it all down as fast as possible. I have the time as it’s still a while before I join Saki to head into town.

I look around as I eat and think about how nice it is to have something like this available. I also have to wonder how much effort goes into running it all.

The kitchen staff are only there in force during the main mealtimes, but there are always a few people on hand. That things can be spread out so much must be part of how they manage to have such a variety of dishes on hand.

The less time people had to eat, the harder it would be to serve them all these different dishes.

Once I’ve finished my breakfast, I head back to the counter to hand in my tray. I recognise all the people there, but I hardly know any of their names. It is unfortunate that we only ever get to interact with the people working at the serving counter as there are plenty more people involved in keeping us fed.

With that taken care of I head back outside to spend the time in the school grounds until I have to meet with Saki. She’ll be by the bus stop just before ten, which gives me some time to enjoy the morning sun.

It’s nice to spend time just finding a spot on the lawns to sit and take everything in. I haven’t done this in a while, but it’s nice to be one of the students that I usually see lounging on the grass as I rush between my various destinations.

I’d been hesitant about all of this when I’d first arrived, but it had slowly grown on me. Now I’m at the point where I think there should always be places like this to take a moment out of your day.

All your responsibilities may still be in sight, but taking a step off the pathways and pausing for a moment seems to put up a barrier between you and all of it. It really would be quite easy to get lost in the moment and end up missing everything you were meant to do.

I’d rather that not happen to me, so I manage to pull myself out of my thoughts and begin to make my way towards the bus stop.

When I get there, I see that I’m not the first to arrive. Saki is there and she’s accompanied by Hisao.

Exactly who I expected to be with her.

“Morning Hatsumi,” Saki says. “I’m sure you know Hisao even if the two of you have never been formally introduced.”

“Morning Saki,” I reply. “Yes. Though I’m glad that we’re meeting under less stressful circumstances this time.”

“Morning,” Hisao says in response to this.

I examine the boy standing before me more closely than I probably should. It might be one of the reasons he seems somewhat awkward. The sweater vest that he’s wearing seems somehow out of place and adds to my impression that he doesn’t look comfortable in the situation he’s ended up in.

I haven’t had much reason to interact with him, but he did arrive at Yamaku at the same time, and probably for similar reasons, as I did. It also looks like he’s found his own group of friends as well. Has his time here been as interesting as mine though?

“I think you can stop sizing him up now,” Saki says, bringing me out of detective mode. “We’ll have plenty of time to talk today. You don’t need to try and figure it all out on your own.”

“Sorry about that,” I say to Hisao. “I’m just used to dealing with people who don’t always want to let me in in what they know.”

“It’s fine,” he replies. “I’m used to dealing with it by now.”

I try to figure our exactly what that means and come to the conclusion that he must have to deal with Shizune quite a bit. They are in the same class, and she definitely seemed like the kind of person who wants to know everything you might be thinking.

“I wonder how things could have gone if you had ended up joining the student council,” I say, half to myself.

The comment earns a little jump from Hisao.

“How…?” He trails off and Saki bursts out into a huge smile.

“I’m no sure how I feel about how quickly you’ve managed to get inside his head,” she says. “Usually, I’m the only one that can do that so easily.”

He seems even more embarrassed as she pokes him in the side, which makes me the one who gets to smile now. It’s nice to see that the two of them appear to be so close. What happened the other week really must have had them worried.

“I think we should stop with the teasing now,” I suggest to Saki and Hisao looks somewhat relieved by my interruption. “It might be fun for you, but I’m sure he can only take so much of it.”

“Have it your way,” Saki replies. “I’m sure we’ll have a great day even if I can’t mess with him all the time.”

It would be interesting to see where things went from here, but the bus come s into sight, and we drop the conversation as we get ready to head down into town.

The bus is nearly full when we board it which means we don’t really have the chance to talk. All the passengers must be going into town as none of them get off at the Yamaku stop.

That is one of the problems of the bus not heading back on the same route it arrived. One can end up struggling to fit all the students that want to head into town onboard. It’s probably another of the reasons that walking down is so popular.

I wouldn’t have even considered that option today since I’m with Saki. She puts on a strong facade, but I can tell that, even with her cane, she would struggle with the journey. Rei and Giichi have both given me plenty of experience in knowing when someone is pushing themselves further than they should.

We arrive near our destination soon enough and leave the bus with two other passengers. It’s been some time since I’d been to the Beijing, so I can’t quite remember what to expect.

Once we’re inside I’m not really surprised to see that none of the staff are students. I wouldn’t really expect them to be working the day before exams began.

“Have you been before?” Saki says, noticing me looking around.

“Only once,” I reply. “Rei and Giichi are rather fond of the coffee. I have my own place hidden away.”

“Love the mystery,” Saki replies. “Hisao does prefer this place to the Shanghai. Same reason as your two I suppose.”

“They do make good coffee,” he admits. “And I like knowing what’s on the menu.”

“There is some comfort in that,” Saki agrees.

“Table for three?” One of the waiters asks.

I nod and he guides us over to a table near one of the windows.

Once he’s handed us each a menu, he retreats to give us some time to think about what we’d like to order.

“I can guess what we’ll all be having to drink,” Saki says. “But I’ll let both of you decide exactly what it is you’d like.”

“I’ll be having some green tea,” I say. “Don’t worry about food. I not really hungry yet.”

“I wouldn’t mind a sandwich,” Hisao adds.

Saki nods and gives the menu a once over before signalling for the waiter.

“Can we get a green tea, a coffee, and one of these fruit juices,” she says pointing to the menu. “We’d also like a plate of sandwiches.”

The waiter nods before heading back through to the kitchen.

“Now that that’s out of the way,” Saki says. “We can get down to business. I really wanted to thank you for what you did.”

“And I’ve already told you that I shouldn’t be the one you’re thanking,” I reply.

“That might be the case,” she says. “But you’re currently the face of the Disciplinary Committee. It’s your job to accept my thanks on their behalf.”

Although I don’t agree with her on that point, I can understand her. It really is frustrating that everyone else on the committee seems to be so unapproachable. It can’t do them any favours when they’re trying to get anything done.

“Then I guess I’ll pass it on,” I say hesitantly. “Though I’m sure I can get you in the same room as them. Minus Giichi?”

“He’s not the one that scares me,” Hisao says.

I try and fail to hold back a laugh as I imagine the position that he had been in. It had been scary for me when Toru had first opened that door for me, but I hadn’t been involved in any trouble at the time.

It was perfectly reasonable that Hisao might have believed that Toru had been there to do something to him.

“He’s only a first year,” I reply. “Don’t be such a pushover.”

“I’ll try my best,” he responds sceptically.

“They do make up for their difficulties with their peculiarities,” Saki says. “Seems like they can outsmart, overpower, or trick their way through any problem.”

“That’s one way to summarize things,” I say. “Your case was a good example of it.”

“I know,” Saki says. “I could feel that the school board was out for blood. They were pretending to be nice, but I can tell when someone is faking their feelings. I thought that everything was over.”

“We are here for a reason,” I reply. “Even if I don’t fully understand how we were able to pull it all off.”

“I don’t need to know how you did it,” Hisao interrupts. “I want to thank you as well. And apologize for mistrusting you at the beginning. I thought it was all going wrong, and I didn’t think you’d actually do anything to change it. Your committee does have a reputation for enforcing the rules very effectively.”

I’m glad that he’s being open about how he felt. That’s one step closer to overcoming the difficulty in dealing with a group I’m sure he’s not that fond off.

Maybe that’s just a challenge that comes up for anyone who has to enforce the law? That they’re just not that popular with the people they enforce it on?

“We do give each case a closer look than you might think,” I reply with a reassuring smile. “Punishing wrongdoers is just as much about finding the right sentence as it is about handing out the punishment.”

He nods, clearly taking the time to consider what I’ve just said.

The waiter arrives with our order and there’s a break in the conversation as we turn to our brunch.

I’ve just got my tea to focus on while my company share the plate of sandwiches between them. I might even have begun to feel like a bit of a third wheel had the moment not passed by so quickly.

“I’m not entirely sure where to go from there,” Saki says. “We wanted to thank you for what you did, but I hadn’t thought any further than that.”

“It’s fine,” I say. “Things have been a bit frantic recently. Probably even worse for you. It may only have been suspension, but it still must have been horrible being cooped up like that.”

“Yes,” she replies. “But I had plenty of time to think about things and come to terms with what happened.”

This is probably one positive about the time she had to herself. A lot of horrible things came up that night and I’m sure it wouldn’t have been nice to have to think about her involvement in it all.

“You don’t have to worry about me,” she says.

It’s clear that she understands that I’ve also thought about what came up during our investigation. All that talk about death and suicide is something I’ve had to mull over. Even if it’s not something I can understand.

“That won’t be me any time soon,” she says. “Things may be hard, and they’ll only get harder, but I’ve got a life that I want to live for as long as it makes sense to do so.”

That explanation doesn’t take anything off the table, but it is good to know that she has something to live for at the moment.

Such thoughts force me to turn to Hisao. I look at the boy sitting next to Saki and consider the position he’s in. He’s probably had more time to think about these things than I have, and he must have accepted it if he’s still with Saki.

Or maybe he thinks he can change her mind?

I don’t know whether it’s beautiful, sad, or pathetic.

That he’s willing to stay with her despite all of it, or that he thinks he can play some part in changing it all.

Whatever it is, only he can truly know his true feelings.

“Good on you for sticking up for her,” I say. “Even if you didn’t know what was really going on. Everyone needs somebody in their corner when things get tough.”

I’m really on a role with throwing him off with everything I say as he isn’t able to respond straight away.

It must be strange having someone you’ve hardly met taking such an interest in your actions and the wellbeing of your girlfriend.

“I try,” he finally says. “It’s not always easy, but I try to be the person she needs.”

With the baring of feelings like that, conversation becomes a bit harder to maintain. We finish what’s still on the table before calling for the bill.

Saki pays for it all and I don’t feel too bad about it. It’s only a cup of tea and she still seems to want to repay me in some way.

Once that’s out of the way, we head out of the shop and back to the main road.

“We’re going to spend a bit more time in town,” Saki says. “Would you like to join us or…?”

“I’ve got some stuff to do,” I reply. “So, I’ll leave the two of you to enjoy the rest of the day. You’re not going to have much time in the next few weeks.”

That’s only a part of it though. I get the feeling that there are a lot of things that the two of them need to go through together and I don’t want to get in the way of that.

“See you tomorrow then,” Saki says.

“Goodbye,” Hisao adds.

The two of them head off to whatever they plan to do next, while I return to the bus stop. I may have agreed to meet Cho and Nanami at High Tea for lunch, but I’ve got a plan that I need to set in motion first.

I don’t know how it’s going to go, but I think I know everyone involved well enough that I’ll be able to get away with this little scheme.

I arrive back at school, but I don’t immediately set off towards our Office. I’ll have to wait for the bus to come around again anyway, so there’s no point in hurrying things.

Once I’ve killed enough time, I make my way over to the auxiliary building and up to the office. As I expected, the others are all there.

“Hey,” I say. “I hope the two of you don’t mind, but I’ve come to borrow Giichi.”

“Sure,” Rei replies while Toru nods.

They’re both busy with some work of their own.

“I wish you’d tell me what this was about,” Giichi says with a sigh. “Then I’d know what to prepare for.”

“You don’t need to prepare for everything,” I reply. “Sometimes it’s good to just get out and enjoy the afternoon. It also looks like I have to be the one to drag you away. What happened to taking a day off before exams?”

“Get him out of here,” Rei says. “I’ll be glad to know that he’s doing something besides sitting there looking gloomy.”

“That’s a bit of an ask,” I reply. “I don’t think I can stop that no matter what I do.”

“Just get on with it,” Giichi says. “If it’ll stop the two of you conspiring, then I’ll happily do whatever it is you want me to.”

“Great,” I reply, beaming. “Then you won’t mind that I’m taking you to tea. I’m sure today is going to be very interesting.”

I can see that he knows that something fishy is going on, but, since he can’t figure it out, he decides to stay quite on the matter.

“See you two later,” he says as I wheel him out of the room.

“We don’t want to miss the bus,” I say as we make our way out of the school.

“This doesn’t suit you,” he replies. “You’re not a schemer, so whatever it is you’ve got planned is probably going to go horribly.”

“Have a bit of faith in me,” I say. “I’ve had plenty of time to learn from you, so I’m sure that I’ll be able to pull it off well enough.”

The journey back into town is much like the previous one. The only difference is that we’re unable to talk due to our seating rather than the crowded nature of the bus.

We’re almost back at the same spot I’d just came from when we get off the bus.

“Same place again?” Giichi asks. “I thought we’d be trying someplace else when we next went out?”

“We can still do that if you’re able to find the time,” I reply. “But I’m not the one choosing the spot this time.”

“I had a feeling it would be something like this,” Giichi says. “Whose idea was all of this? I’d blame those two, but we’ve left them behind.”

“It’s all me,” I reply. “And our companions are just as in the dark as you are about what’s about to happen.”

I wish I could see the annoyed expression on his face, but I can only imagine it while pushing the wheelchair towards our destination.

When we do arrive, I head through the gate and see that Cho and Nanami are already at one of the tables.

I’m glad to see that they’re facing away from us, as I’m sure it’ll give me an even better reaction.

“I don’t like this,” Giichi warns. “Stop trying to get me involved in the class. It’s too late anyway.”

I ignore him and call out to the two of them.

“We made it,” I say and the two of them turn to look at us.

The reactions are worth the effort.

Cho is obviously surprised by what she sees but manages to keep her cool. The widening of her eyes is the only thing that gives her feelings away.

Nanami does not manage to stay as composed.

She was about to call back, but the words get lost on the way and all the comes out is strangled mush of sounds.

It really is crazy reaction. Hopefully we’ll be able to get past that today.

“It’s good to see you,” Cho says, quickly to distract from Nanami attempt at speech as we head over to them. “The company is a surprise though.”

She looks over at Giichi, but the greeting is more addressed to me than him. She may be keeping her composure, but she’s not sure how to handle him.

Awkward encounters are the theme of today’s outings.

“It was a bit of a last-minute decision,” I reply. “He’s been once before, but I thought it would be a good idea to get out once more before exams start. Right Giichi?”

“Yes,” he says. “This place definitely is nice. It’s wonderful that you decided to share it with Hatsumi.”

I’m relieved that he has decided to play nice. I thought he would when it came down to it, but I wasn’t entirely sure.

Maybe things won’t fall apart straight away.

That is still a possibility if we take Nanami into account. My experience with the two of them tells me that she should be the one to continue the conversation, but I’m not entirely sure that she’ll be able to.

It seems like I don’t have to worry as she manages to get through her surprise and continue the conversation.

“Yeah, it really is great here,” she says. “Cho was able to find a wonderful place for the two of us.”

Suddenly Reiko appears next to us. Her involvement halts any progress with the greetings.

“Glad to see that I seem to have another loyal customer,” she says. “Though it’s a shame you took so long to find us. Have a seat and I’ll bring you all something that I think might suit the occasion.”

“Don’t do anything fancy,” I warn her half-heartedly. “Save that stuff for someone who actually understands everything behind it.”

“You won’t find anything plain here,” she replies as she turns to leave. “That’s something I pride myself on.”

I guess there isn’t really anything I can do to stop her sharing her passion with the world.

Turning back to the table, I’m faced with the decision of where we should sit. Cho and Nanami aren’t sitting opposite each other, which I think will be a relief for Nanami.

She’ll be sitting opposite Giichi which will probably be better for her than them being next to each other.

I give Cho a meaningful look as I pull the chair next to her away from the table and I’m confident that she understands why I’m making this choice. Hopefully she’ll be able to pull Nanami along through all of this.

It might be mean, but I think she’d agree that it would be good to get the two of them at the same table before the year is over.

“It was good to see that Saki didn’t get punished too badly,” Cho says, turning to the most obvious point to start a conversation with Giichi.

“Knowing that someone’s looking into these things properly is a relief for all of us.”

I know Giichi doesn’t care about what anyone thinks about the things he does, but there isn’t much else for strangers to talk about.

That’s what they are, despite being in the same class all this time.

“It must be difficult,” Nanami adds, much more quietly than normal. “Having to dig into all these things. You can’t enjoy having to deal with such horrible stuff.”

That must be referring to the things that happened before I got here.

Giichi seems to take it more as a statement of the facts rather than an attempt to praise his work, or even commiserate with him over what deal with.

“It isn’t always fun,” he replies. “But someone has to be the one to do it and I don’t think it should be forced on anyone who doesn’t believe that they can handle it.”

“That does seem to summarise you,” Cho says. “Though I can’t say that with any sort of expertise.”

“I’m sorry if it’s been troublesome having a class representative who’s so difficult to deal with,” Giichi replies. “Administrative work isn’t everything and I know that I haven’t been very good at the other aspects of my job.”

Having Giichi admit and apologize for some of his faults is a good thing, but I don’t know that this is really the time for it.

It is keeping a conversation going for now, though it can only last so long and I don’t know that there are many places to go after sticking to a topic like that.

“You’re good at those things,” I say to Nanami. “Having someone so friendly around is always good for everyone involved, though I suppose you can’t compete with Emi for sheer energy and enthusiasm.”

“She is something,” Nanami says. “And I’m not that good at dealing with lots of people. Band is the only place I’m alright with being the centre of attention.”

She is right about that if I think back to everything I’ve seen in class. Nanami is more than happy to talk to anyone she bumps into. It even drags Cho into a lot of conversations she probably wouldn’t mind skipping, but I don’t see her volunteering for anything that the class might need doing.

“I think it’s fine the way it is,” Cho says. “We’ve got the two opposite extremes of the spectrum in our class and they each cover the roles the other isn’t cut out for. I can’t really see Emi ever settling down for long enough to fill anything out or deal with formatting reports. She does make a good delivery girl though.”

That is true.

“I haven’t actually seen the two of you deal with each other much,” I say to Giichi. “Wouldn’t you need to with how much the teachers rely on the two of you?”

“Emi has a habit of not looking where she’s going,” Giichi replies. “She’s run into one too many people for me to go anywhere near her when she’s on her feet.”

I’ve seen that happen a few times so I can understand his hesitation. Being so blunt about it isn’t as expected.

“You look like you’re doing a bit better,” Nanami says. “I noticed that you’re starting to move around on you own. A bit, at least.”

She is right about that, but I don’t think many people would have noticed it. Giichi is in much better condition than he used to be.

It’s only long journeys that he really needs help with now which is more to do with getting tired than anything else.

I guess Nanami would be one of the few to pick it up.

“Yes,” Giichi replies. “I’m happy that things have progressed so well. Maybe I’ll even walk across the stage at the end of the year.”

I’m sure that he’s perceptive enough to have picked up on what Nanami was able to notice, but he decides not to make any comment about how attentive she seems to have been.

He also decides to turn the conversation in a direction that I’m sure he’s more comfortable with, even if it is a bit serious.

“I’ve seen how everyone has been busy preparing this past week,” he says. “I hope you’ve decided what you’ll be doing next. It’s getting a bit late to decide what you want to pursue at university.”

I feel as if that’s directed at me, even though it’s probably just a general statement. I also notice that he doesn’t leave any opening for other options.

“I’ve always found it strange that we’re expected to be able to decide the direction our future will go when we haven’t even left school yet,” Cho says, happy to discuss career choices. “So I decided to go for a Commerce degree. Nothing focused or specific yet but it’ll give me a good idea of where I might end up in the business world.”

“It’s a smart idea,” Giichi comments. “Things can change a lot when you actually experience the job you thought was right for you. Leaving your options open while still having a degree that opens plenty of doors is a good move.”

Giichi’s approval of her decision seems to please Cho. They may not know each other, but he is a respected member of the class and his thoughts do carry some weight.

He then turns to look at Nanami for her answer.

I’m interested in this as well as I can’t really pin down where her interests lie. She does well at most subjects, but I can’t say that she seems overly exited by any of them.

“I decided to study architecture,” she says. “I enjoy band more, but that’s not something I think I can make a career out of.”

That’s somewhat surprising. I hadn’t really expected her to go down that path, though I suppose a can sort of figure it out.

She’s definitely creative, so she’s got that part covered.

She’s also good with a pen.

I don’t know how much that means, but, if she thinks that architecture is something she could be good at, there must be some talent for design that she hasn’t displayed around me before.

Giichi nods at her answer.

“Architects are always in need,” he says. “But do try not to become one of those experimental designers who create nightmares for the engineers who have to build their designs.”

It’s a warning that wasn’t present for Cho’s answer and I look over at Nanami to see her reaction.

She doesn’t seem to mind the answer at all and even looks happy to have been given the advice.

I suppose a warning can be just as useful as approval when it comes to seeking advice. In some cases, it may even be better. You tend not to see the problems in your own ideas until it’s too late.

“I don’t expect you to go into anything else besides law,” Cho says to Giichi. “I don’t know any specifics though. Is there a direction you want to go in?”

“I had been considering going into constitutional law,” he says. “But it would be years before I would be able to do anything there. For now, I’ll be looking to work my way up through prosecution. Maybe one day become a judge.”

“That’s amazing,” Nanami says. “It’s just like what you’re doing now, but on a much larger scale.”

“Yes, I suppose so,” Giichi says. “Though it will be a few years until I do any of that. You have to do a bit of everything when you start a law degree.”

“It’s good to see that at least one of us has a concrete idea about where they’re going to end up,” Cho says. “What about you, Hatsumi? You haven’t talked about what you want to do. Have you got any plans?”

They all look at me and I’m reminded that I haven’t shared any of the recent developments with them.

“I do have some idea of what I want to do,” I begin. “I’ve been talking to Tsunemori about her work, and I’ve decided that I want to study psychology. It really seems to suit me and I’m sure that I’ll be able to find work once I’m done.”

“That’s great!” Nanami says. “We were worried that you wouldn’t be able to get in anywhere if you left things too late.”

“I’ve applied to a several places and I hope that I’ll get some good news from a few of them,” I say.

“It does suit you,” Giichi agrees. “I’m sure you’ll go places. Your tendency to help those around you will definitely be useful.”

He probably would be aware of everything that I’ve been involved in. He seemed to know what was going on with Rei and Ritsuko, and he probably picked up on the changes with Toru in the last few months.

“You could come back to Yamaku if Tsunemori ever decides to leave,” Cho says. “It will probably be a while before that happens, but then you’d get the chance to see more of the school.”

That isn’t something I’d considered before, but it would be an option. Students here are known to hang around once they’ve graduated and I could become one of those.

It’s weird to think that someone with such a brief time here might end up coming back.

“Let’s leave that in the pile of unlikely possibilities,” I say. “There may be plenty of job openings for psychologists, but there’s only one position at Yamaku. I don’t think I’d be the one to get it if it opened up.”

“Don’t be so negative,” Giichi says. “The school does listen to recommendations when it comes to replacing staff, and it’s always nice to have someone familiar with the place fill the positions. Play your cards right and I can definitely see you back here whenever that spot opens up.

There must be a possibility of it happening if Giichi seems to think I could end up back at Yamaku. I’ll have to think about it though. I really don’t know how likely it is or if I’d even want to come back if I had the opportunity.

It’s an option that I should keep in mind though. Just in case.

“Everyone has things well in hand then,” Nanami says.

“I would really like to understand how you ended up here having tea with us?” Cho asks as we move on from Yamaku related work opportunities.

This is directed at Giichi, and he takes a moment to answer.

“I was kidnapped,” he finally says. “Dragged across town with no clue of my destination or what awaited me once we got there.”

Cho’s eyes go wide and Nanami coughs at the colourful explanation.

“He knew exactly where he was going,” I say. “He’s been here before as well. You saw that Reiko recognized him.”

“Why do you do that?” Namami asks. “You’re not afraid of talking to others. I could guess that much, but the crazy things you say could never come from someone who’s awkward in front of others.”

She clearly wants to understand the weirder aspects of Giichi’s personality.

“Life is too short for all these normalities,” he replies. “I’ve put plenty of thought into what I do and I’m perfectly happy with the way things have gone so far.”

“Having friends is just as important,” Cho interrupts. “And acquaintances for that matter. You’ll miss out on a lot of fun without them. You can experience new things, make memories, and develop those relationships in ways you’d never have though possible while sitting on the sideline.”

Cho’s really decided to go on the attack now. It’s as if she’s really trying to put Giichi on the spot regarding his behaviour, and I’m not sure what the goal of it is.

“Of course I’ve considered all of that,” Giichi replies. “And I do make sure that I have those experiences. The Disciplinary Council is filled with unique people, all of which provide a different point of view. We also take plenty of opportunities to go out and experience the world together.”

That is a decent response, but I don’t know if it would work so well on people who knew him better than they do. All of what he said was true, but he does tend to hang back whenever work isn’t involved.

He’s also got somewhat of a mentor role with the other two, which I’m sure affects their friendship in some way. The two of us have only just met in the grand scheme of his school career and we’ll be heading in different directions before too long.

Who is there that really fills the role that Cho seems to be trying to look into?

“And I’m sure you don’t get to see much, or any of it,” he continues. “But I doubt there’s anyone who can really keep up with us when Shizune and I get into one of our stupid competitions.”

That might answer my question. I hadn’t thought about how the two of them got on in a while. The two of them have probably known each other longer than almost anyone else, and they do make quite the incomprehensible spectacle when they’re in the same room for more than a few moments.

Giichi seems to decide that he’s got a bit too into defending himself from Cho’s questioning and falls silent.

The rest of us do the same just as Reiko arrives with her teas to begin her presentation of what she’s put together for the four of us.

The lull gives us all a moment to think about what just happened.

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