It is 8:45 AM as I walk through the front gate of Yamaku. At least this time I don't hesitate. For better or worse, most of my nervousness is minimal today. Perhaps I should be thankful I came here yesterday. Now, it's part of my routine, and the routine is less likely to be terrifying than the new.
When I step through the front door, I'm greeted by a sign thoughtfully attached to the bannister of the stairwell. It bears my name, and a room number. The number isn't immediately familiar, but the “2” up front seems to indicate that it's on the second floor. I start climbing the stairs, one by one. I have fifteen minutes – if I can't find a room in Yamaku in fifteen minutes, I'm in even more trouble than I'm worried I'm in. Besides, I know the second floor pretty well. The library's there, after all.
I head towards the library at first, coming up at the far end of one of the school's wings. I keep my eyes peeled as I walk, but come up empty. I notice that Yamaku has bothered, finally, to number every room. I wish that had been the case when I worked for the Student Council. Being sent to “the room at the end of the hallway” was always an adventure, with inconsistent results.
As I reach the library, I console myself with the knowledge that I only have one more wing to explore. I glance at the clock above the library's entrance – 8:50. Ten more minutes, but I won't need even half of that.
I'm getting closer, it seems, if the numbers are any indication. Finding the proper one only takes a moment more, and I open the door and slip inside. There's a small table inside, and two chairs. Apparently, I've beaten my mentor here. Well. That gives me time to get situated.
In no time at all, the contents of my bag all find their way onto the table. I have my trusty folder of information open on the table, along with a pad of paper and something to write with. I don't know if I'm going to be taking notes or not.
I don't actually know what's about to happen, at all. Whether it's today's meeting or teaching, I feel in the dark. It's not a pleasant feeling, but I know that all I can do is be patient.
As I come to that conclusion, I hear the door opening, and the sound of my mentor stepping into the room.
“Good morning, Hisao,” she says. That strikes me as odd immediately – it's a little...familiar for someone I've never met to be calling me that. It could be worse, I guess. She could have called me Hicch--
My internal monologue comes to a crumbling, stuttering halt as I look up (and up) at a woman who is still one of the tallest girls I've ever seen. With me seated, she virtually towers over me. She has wavy blonde hair and cloudy blue eyes. In one hand, she holds a small, thin cane, and in the other, a bag that looks very similar to mine.
“Lilly,” I ask, unable to keep the surprise out of my voice. “Are you...?”
“As much as I enjoy this room, I would not be here two days before school begins if I wasn't your mentor.” There's something amused in her voice. She can clearly tell that I'm surprised. The fact that she's not means she's known about this course of events for longer than I have. Somehow, that makes me feel ever so slightly uncomfortable, and the small room fills with an awkward silence for a few moments.
“I was pleasantly surprised when I was told you'd be replacing Mutou,” Lilly says, in an apparent effort to break that silence. “It has been quite some time, hasn't it?”
“So was I,” is the best thing I can manage to come up with on short notice. It has the benefit of being true, too. I feel hopelessly behind in this conversation already. I expected that would be the case because I'd be dealing with an experienced teacher. Now, though, the fact that Lilly is a teacher is secondary to the fact that Lilly is Lilly.
She's right, too. I haven't seen her for years. Three years, to be exact. Calling her a friend doesn't feel...quite right, but nor does calling her an acquaintance. She's somewhere in between.
“So, uh,” I manage, cursing myself at how unnecessarily awkward this feels, “how long have you been teaching at Yamaku?”
The question makes her brighten a bit, seemingly.
“A year and a half,” she says. Even as she answers, though, she's guiding us onwards. “Shall we get started, Hisao? We have an entire year to get caught up on one another's lives. You only have two days until school begins.”
A considerate thing of her to say. I have no objections.
* * *
An hour later, it feels like half that time has passed. The conversation is somehow both intensive and casual at the same time. To my great relief, nothing at Yamaku seems that much more complicated than it was at any of the schools I worked at in the past. There's just a lot of paperwork, which I both understand due to the nature of Yamaku, and am familiar with from my time on the Student Council. It'll take more than paperwork to intimidate me.
Which is good, because the more I think about everything, the more intimidating it all is.
The person sitting across from me might be the most intimidating of all, sadly enough.
As we talk about the school's regulations and gradebooks and any number of other things, I can't help but try and read her particularly unreadable facial expression. She looks ever so slightly awkward. I can't blame her, because I'm being equally awkward.
There is a gigantic elephant sitting in the corner of this little room. Something that I don't want to talk about. Something that she doesn't want to ask about. She will, though. She has to. I know this because if I was her, I would have to ask, too. Apologetically, for certain, but I would still ask.
I smile, wryly, as she brings one particular explanation to a close. What are the odds that Lilly Satou would be my mentor? Ten-thousand to one? A million to one? Worse? Those are the same odds that I would have to talk about something I'd barely spoken about in three years. Something I'd only ever really talked to my mother and father about. Something that I am trying, and probably failing, to move past.
“Hisao...” Her voice trails off. Here it is. As much as I'm dreading it, at least this'll get it out of the way. “I apologize if this question is too personal, and you don't have to answer it, but...”
It's better, I think, to take charge of this situation, if only to spare her some of the awkwardness that we're both feeling.
“You want to know what happened with your cousin and me, right?”
Her shoulders slump in an oddly defeated sort of way. I think she considers herself above gossip, and would in this case, too – if the two people involved weren't Shizune and myself. Her cousin and one of her longtime...friends? Acquaintances? Something?
I curse myself for being thankful that Lilly is blind. It means she can't see the pensive, slightly sad look on my face. It's a perfectly legitimate question for her to ask. Shizune and Lilly are cousins, after all. Lilly was well aware the two of us were dating. If what Shizune had told me was true, Lilly was also somewhat surprised about that fact.
I'd seen Lilly every year when Shizune's family and hers got together. Well, for four or so years, anyway. We never spoke all that much, but we spoke enough to get to know one another better. She told me about her family and life in Scotland. I told her about my condition and plans for the future. That much alone made her more than an acquaintance – I loathe talking about my condition unless necessary. Perhaps she is a friend. Perhaps she sees me as one, too.
That would explain her tone – concerned and not accusatory. She wants to know. She's worried, about Shizune, or me, or both. I am trapped. It would be rude of me to say nothing, and yet the idea of saying everything....
“I really don't want to talk about it, Lilly,” I finally manage, and she opens her mouth before I can finish.
“It's alright, Hisao, you don't--”
“No, Lilly,” I say, firmly, “I do. Not everything, but I do need to say something about it, so we can focus on our work. You're my mentor, right? I need a lot of help.”
“I very much doubt that,” she replies. “You are very intelligent, Hisao. All you need from me is a little guidance as to how things work here.”
She's being far too kind to me. I would tell her so, but this is a serious moment.
“I appreciate it. We can talk about that later, though. For now...let me just say this, before I lose my nerve. It's all I'm going to say about it, though. Is that okay?”
She nods, and leans closer. Worry is written all over her face. I may not know her incredibly well, but I do know that if I don't come out with it, she'll retract her request. As much as part of me might want that, it would be completely unacceptable right now.
Here goes nothing.
“Shizune broke up with me three years ago,” I say, the words sounding foreign and hollow in my ears. Somehow, the one thing left that I'm willing to say is almost harder to spit out than the first.
“I haven't spoken to her since.”
Her gasp is audible. It's like something out of a movie. Hearing it in real life, from a person I know, is jarring.
“I'm...sorry, Hisao,” she manages, stammering out an apology. “I had no idea. Why would she...?”
“That's all I'm going to say on the matter,” I say, firmly. “I'm...not ready to talk about the rest. I probably shouldn't even talk about it to anyone else when I am, either. It's Shizune's business.”
It comes out more harshly than I want it to. She looks back at me, and nods her head, but she still clearly looks uneasy. It takes her a few moments to speak again, but when she does, there's a touch of steel in her words.
“I respect you not wanting to talk about it, Hisao,” Lilly says, “but it is certainly your business as well. If you ever want to talk about it, I will be here for you.”
I've only seen her angry a handful of times. I think back to siding with Shizune over her – well, really trying to defend myself – years ago, and that was as close as I got. This isn't anger quite as much as it is disapproval, and this time, it doesn't feel like it's directed at me. She and Shizune never got along particularly well. Is this...an extension of that? Does she feel bad for me?
“When you put it like that, it makes me feel a little bad,” I admit. “It just...”
She shakes her head back and forth, firmly.
“You don't have to apologize to me. I should be apologizing to you.” Before I can tell her that she has already, she straightens up in her chair.
“After classes on Saturday, would you be willing to come to the Shanghai with me, for a drink? My treat,” she says, and it's all I can do to look at her in surprise.
“As an apology for asking such a difficult question within an hour of meeting you for the first time in three years.” She smiles at me. I'm trapped – and she knows it, too. There's no way I could refuse such a kind offer, and it seems calculated to make sure that I can't to begin with.
“It'd be silly of me to decline such a kind offer. I accept. Assuming I make it through this week of classes, of course, without keeling over.” I can't lie – it's a worry in the back of my head. No matter how good my heart is, stress is always concerning. Even without thinking in that horribly pessimistic manner, I'm nervous. Anyone would be.
“I have faith in you, Hisao,” she says. “Everything will be fine.”
“With your capable mentoring, perhaps,” I retort. It's an easy dialogue between the two of us. Far more so than it's ever been. Maybe it's that we have something in common. Maybe it's that she's a familiar face here in a familiar place.
Maybe, right now, I need all the friends and help I can get.
Last edited by Puncyclopedia
on Fri May 29, 2015 2:37 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.