Monday is crawling.
Lilly and I have different lunchtimes, so we don’t get to see each other during the day. It’s just as well - given how badly my hormones are running amok, the result might not be appropriate for school. It feels like I’ve devolved into a teenager - with all of the emotions that implies.
Keeping Lilly out of my mind during class was nigh-impossible. I’m pretty sure Kaede knew what I was thinking about, she spent half the class shaking her head at the mistakes I made. Everything after homeroom went better, but I still wasn’t at the top of my game by a longshot.
Lunch couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Food will help. Maybe. Hopefully.
The teacher’s lounge is largely empty - no, scratch that, it’s entirely empty. I sigh and relax back into a chair that can be called moderately comfortable at best, intent on enjoying last night’s reheated Chinese food leftovers.
I barely get a few bites into my lukewarm beef with broccoli when I hear something that makes me lose my appetite.
“I understand your bravery, comrade, but you really need to rethink these deep undercover missions. That woman has taken many of our best. Losing you would be a grave blow.”
I know that voice. It takes me a moment to figure out why he’s in the teacher’s lounge, but the giant trash barrel on wheels tells me all I need to know: shockingly, Kenji is here to do his job as janitor of Yamaku.
He actually seems to take it seriously, too, not waiting for me to respond as he empties the contents of one of the trash bins in the room into his giant barrel.
Kenji is a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a vast feminist conspiracy. I’ve never figured out how to reply to him, so why should this be any different?
“Deep undercover is my specialty,” I reply, for lack of anything better. I don’t often humor him, so why not?
He shudders. “You’re a brave man, Hisao,” he says. “Braver than I am. I’m glad I found you. I should tell you that I’m...moving on.”
Silence ensues. I’m too genuinely shocked to speak. Can I possibly be this fortunate? And if I can, why am I mildly sad about this news?
He jabs me in the side and whispers to me. “This is the part where you ask where I’m going.”
“Where are you going, Kenji?” I’m nothing if not good at following instructions.
...of course. What else did I expect him to say, really?
“It’s for the best that I don’t tell you. My life is in danger already, I don’t want to endanger my closest comrade as well. I have been found out. I may never be able to return here.”
What this means, I have no idea. Was he fired? Did he quit out of a paranoid delusion that the vast feminist conspiracy was onto him? Like everything else about Kenji, it is a mystery, and would likely forever remain one.
That thought bothers me more than I wanted to admit. Kenji just...leaving is unsatisfying, but that's how things work, sometimes.
“Well,” I manage, “best of luck to you, wherever ‘far away’ is.” As exhausting as Kenji can be, part of me thinks I’ll miss these conversations. I won’t miss his access to information, though, or his attempts to get me to sit through puppet shows.
He takes a step closer to me, and before I know it, he’s giving me something resembling an embrace, patting my back three times strongly before backing off.
“You’re a good man, Hisao. When I get to safety, I’ll let the resistance know about all the good work you’re doing. Hopefully you won’t be captured by the time they come for you.”
Kenji surveys the teacher’s lounge one more time. He spots one small unemptied bin of trash in the corner.. He walks over, grabs it, and triumphantly empties it into his larger barrel.
“Mission complete,” he says. “Stay safe, Hisao. Do the best you can to protect Yamaku from the blonde broad’s machinations.”
And with that? He’s gone, out of the teacher’s lounge, and presumably soon out of Yamaku Academy and my life as well. I frown - I would ask how he knows about my relationship with Lilly, but it seems to be fairly obvious. Shinichiro and Kaede know - and even if they didn’t, the fact that walk home with her every day would be grist for rumor mills anywhere, let alone when you consider that we were once classmates.
With a sigh, I look down at my leftovers, and package them back up. I’m not particularly hungry anymore, and they should keep for another day. Tucking them back in the refrigerator, I gather my bag and step back out into the halls of Yamaku.
* * * * *
It’s a few minutes after the final bell, and I’ve made my way back to homeroom. Afternoon classes went better than morning classes, so my spirits are elevated as I sit down at my desk. The room isn’t as empty as usual - there are, in fact, two of my students sitting there, working away at something or other. Yuka, the kendo-ka, is in my old seat, alternating between glancing out the window and frantically scribbling away at a worksheet.
Megumi, she who is “very single” (or was - her social life is active enough that it’s hard for a teacher to keep up with), is also present, which is extremely rare. Between clubs and other activities, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her in the room after class.
She looks up for a moment, and I see my chance.
[Everything okay,] I ask, fingers moving carefully as I figure out how to phrase this. [It’s not often I see you here after school.]
Megumi’s head cocks to one side, but her fingers move almost immediately. [Exams are coming up, Nakai-sensei,] she says. [As a teacher, you should know that. I keep busy, but I don’t neglect my studies. Unlike some members of the Student Council.]
Ouch. A moment later, she signs an apology.
[Please forget I said that last part. I spoke too freely.]
I nod. [Forgetting works for me. Anyway, I’m happy you’re taking my glass seriously. Your grades reflect it.]
I glance up and see Yuka still working. In some ways, I’m more curious about her. Megumi may not stay after to study much, but she asks questions about the things she gets wrong on quizzes and participates in class. Yuka’s grades are fairly average, and she’s pretty quiet.
[Mind if I go check up on Yuka quickly?] I ask Megumi, and she nods her head. [If you need anything, I’ll be here.]
[I will. Thank you, sensei!]
That frees me to go check up on the kendo-ka. She’s one of the non-hearing impaired members of the class - and given Megumi is deaf, I can have a conversation without worrying about prying ears.
“Good afternoon,” I say, standing against the wall. Yuka seems surprised to see me, and frantically covers up whatever she was working on. Her cheeks seem red, and I realize instantly that it’s highly unlikely she was doing schoolwork. “Sorry to bother you, I just wanted to ask you some questions about the class, if that’s okay?”
She looks almost like a scared, cornered rabbit, but she nods her head after looking around the classroom. I wonder WHY she’s so concerned - her grades aren’t great, but they’re not terrible either.
“How do you think I’m doing as a teacher so far?”
Yuka relaxes - her previously stiff-as-a-board posture now looks far more comfortable. I can only imagine she thought I was going to talk to her about grades; with that off the table, we might actually now have a conversation.
“Pretty good,” she says, after another moment of thought. “Science is hard for me, so I don’t know if I’m a really good judge, but you explain things really well and your grading is fair.”
I’ve asked a lot of the class similar questions - and I get similar answers. On one hand, I’m flattered. On the other hand, I’m worried that I’m not quite doing enough.
I am hopelessly biased in that regard, because it was Mutou-sensei’s class that inspired me to a path towards science, even if that path ended up being as a science teacher. Without my time in room 3-3 learning about science? I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I have a lot of bright students. Some of them are even eager to learn. Much to my dismay, though? Not a single one seems to particularly enjoy the subject I teach.
“Why do you find science hard,” I ask. “I’m not judging - it’s something that I like a lot and am pretty good at, so I need to understand other perspectives.”
“It’s like math and history combined,” she replies, almost immediately. “It involves math, and I don’t like math very much. Numbers scare me. It’s like history because you have to memorize things. Like laws, and all of that. Too complicated for me. I like hitting people with bamboo swords.”
She grins - it amazes me that such a tiny girl is so into kendo, and yet I can see all of the advantages (and disadvantages, to be fair) that her size likely grants her.
“I’m afraid I can’t do anything about those problems,” I say, apologetically. “There is a lot of math, and a lot of memorizing. I guess for me is that the formulas and everything make math mean something, if that makes any sense.”
Yuka nods her head. “It does! That’s why I hate math! Why does it matter if x equals three-hundred and seven? Two plus two equals four - four what? Four potatoes? Four classrooms?”
She bangs the stump of her left arm on the desk for emphasis. Apparently, I’ve gotten her all riled up without knowing it. I ponder briefly how well one can wield a shinai with only one hand, before remembering that there are any number of possible solutions. Yamaku Academy probably has the most ingenious group of people in the country, when I think of things that way.
“...at least in science, there’s a point to the stupid numbers!”
I have apparently zoned out long enough to miss most of Yuka’s rant, though I certainly catch the crescendo. Megumi is blissfully reading what looks like a history textbook, unbothered by Yuka’s rising voice and bang of the desk.
“It’s not everyone’s tea,” I agree, though it pains me a bit to do so. “All that I ask is that everyone gives their best effort. Even if you don’t like science, or think it’s hard, life unfortunately requires us to do things that we don’t like or that are hard a lot.”
Yuka nods her head, slowly and sheepishly.
“Yeaaaaaaah, Nakai-sensei,” she agrees. “I know. It’s no fun, but we have to keep soldiering on, right?”
“Right. I’m glad you understand, so keep on trying your best. I can help with any questions you have, okay?”
I take that as my signal to go away, and so I return to my desk. No sooner have I sat down to start grading papers than Yuka pulls back out whatever she was working on and returns to it with renewed vigor. It’s not science, but hopefully, whatever it is that she’s this passionate about will provide her a path to follow in the years to come.
I say that as someone who followed his path perfectly in some respects, and utterly horribly in others.
* * *
Thirty minutes have elapsed, and I find myself alone in my classroom. Any minute now, Lilly should be ready for me to escort her back home.
Well, not exactly. Today I’ll be escorting her to my home. That thought is enough to quicken my heart and dry my throat. It has been a very, very long time since I’ve felt anything close to this. If I let myself think back on that, it’s been since my one year here as a student, dating a force of nature that went by the name of Shizune Hakamichi.
That was all-encompassing and all-consuming - but in a different way than this. Shizune demanded attention. Revelled in it, really. We went about Student Council business, but took whatever spare time existed to be with one another. When I followed her to university, she kept up a breakneck schedule, but no curfew and fewer formal responsibilities meant that we had more time for each other, and for what I was fervently hoping was going to happen when Lilly and I returned home.
This was a kinder, gentler form of all-consuming. Being away from Lilly hurt, but it was a sweet ache, a longing ache, and not pain that felt like it would tear apart my already wounded heart. I’d grown to love everything about her; the walks that we’d take, to and from school had rapidly become the highlight of my day before the idea of dating her ever jumped into my head.
Now that we were together, now that we’d kissed, even the sight of her in the hallways threatened to reduce me to a teenage boy again. In time, I’d gotten used to it with Shizune; I imagined I’d get used to it with Lilly, too, but I wondered sometimes.
It was miraculous enough that I’d spent years of my life with Shizune. For someone like Lilly Satou to decide that Hisao Nakai was worth dating, well, that was the sort of thing that made me feel fortunate in spite of everything that life conspired to snatch away from me.
Before I can think too much more on my past, there’s a knock at my door. It’s actually five knocks, one, then another two, quickly, then two more, with a significant pause between them. It’s our signal - that would be Lilly, at my door.
I almost jump up from the desk, clonking my knee on the frame. Wincing and rubbing it ruefully, I sling my bag over my shoulder and cross the room to open it and let her in.
“Good afternoon, Nakai-san,” she says, with a formal nod of her head. We’re still in school grounds, so we have to pretend that we’re just two teachers. Mentor and pupil. “I’ve gotten a taxicab for us, so we should be off.”
“A taxi,” I ask. “Why so?”
“It is raining out,” Lilly replies. “Or so I’m told - I haven’t left Yamaku at all today.”
“Neither have I,” I sigh. Sometimes I’ll take my lunch break outside - today was not one of those days. “Thank you for your thoughtfulness. I’ll split the cab with you.” I don't know how I didn't notice it when I was chatting with Yuka, but I was focused on that conversation and not what lay outside the window.
“No need,” she says, waving her hand as she takes hold of my collar with the other. “You’re providing lodging for the night. That is more than enough.”
Her cheeks are tinged ever so slightly pink as we walk out of the room. Is she thinking about the same sorts of things that I am? It’s possible - she seemed nearly as upset as I was at the prospect of not taking things further over the weekend.
That makes me feel better, at least. We make it out of Yamaku without incident, and to the front gate minutes later. As promised, there’s a cab waiting there for us. I silently thank Lilly for being on top of things; the rain is pouring down from the sky at an astonishing clip. I give the driver my address, and we’re off down the winding road to down, Lilly relaxed, half against her seat and half against me.
She feels warm. Nice. Soft. Entirely too comfortable.
We talk about nothing for five minutes or so - how our respective days went, minor annoyances, and general small talk. I tell her that Kenji seems to be leaving, and she seems surprised. To her way of thinking, Kenji really loved the place.
I can’t tell for sure if I agree with her, but there has to be at least some truth to it. I can’t imagine he only stayed here because of his ridiculous devotion to a ridiculous theory about a vast feminist conspiracy at Yamaku.
I can’t imagine it, and yet, when I think of Kenji…
No, Hisao. This is TOO much thinking of Kenji. Kenji is gone now. Focus on important things, like your pretty girlfriend.
It doesn’t take long to arrive outside the apartment. Having motorized transit helps with that. Lilly pays the driver, and before long, the situation hits me.
As we step out of the taxi, I feel nervous. More nervous than I probably should. The apartment is clean - it would have been anyway if I was bringing a woman home, but given Lilly’s blindness, it’s all the more important to make sure there’s nothing she could trip on. The place is cleaner than I’ve seen it since I moved in - which took the better part of Sunday after returning from the Shanghai to make happen.
“Is something the matter,” Lilly asks. Perceptive as usual.
“I’m just a little nervous, is all.” Better to be honest. Honesty is how we got to this state of our lives, after all. Sharing the stories that nearly broke us was, in no small part, proof that we trusted and cared about one another enough to do this.
“I don’t bite, Hisao,” an amused Lilly replies. I look over and see her grinning.
“I might not mind if you did,” comes out of my mouth before I can stop it. “But that’s not why I’m nervous. I just hope the place is okay. I worked pretty hard to clean it.”
“If you’re worried about my lack of sight, Hisao,” she explains, her tone even, “I will be fine. I do ask that you escort me around the apartment, and let me get my bearings. I imagine that I will be spending a good deal of time here in the future.”
That thought makes me smile even as rain pounds down on us. Lilly’s fingers find my collar, and we walk forward together, up stairs to the apartment building’s entrance.
Last edited by Puncyclopedia
on Thu Mar 23, 2017 12:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Characters: Shizune > Lilly > Rin > Emi > Hanako
Routes: Lilly > Rin > Shizune > Hanako > Emi
Replaying now, so subject to flux. Except Shizune. Shizune is best.