I stand in the nigh abandoned lobby of the building, shuffling my feet awkwardly amidst the bags of my belongings, as I wait for the go ahead. I look around the room and take in the scenery, or lack thereof. Plain light coloured walls - are they off white or beige? I can't tell, it's as if they had found some sort of in between colour which somehow is infinitely more plain than either one by themselves. The carpet is a light tan, still quite plain but much more appealing to look at than the impossibly plain walls. In one corner of the room stands a simple potted plant.
A generic landscape painting hangs on the wall behind me. I've always liked looking at landscapes, they always appeared more impressive than portraits or that 'abstract' nonsense. Any fool can paint random shapes and colours and say it has meaning. It takes a painter with real skill to capture something as natural and with as much detail as the world around them. That said though, this painting is somewhat unimpressive. It's no real fault of the artist's skill, it's just that the landscape being portrayed has no... feeling. That seems like the right word. There's no sense of grandeur, or desolation, or beauty. Just a plain environment, that compliments the other plain elements of the lobby's decor.
My Father stands nearby, alternating between stroking his goatee and brushing one stray lock of hair out of his eyes, a task he is seemingly failing at on account of his glasses obstructing the access of his finger. Even though he has not been to the office at all today, or scheduled any meetings, or even conducted any phone calls to other business people, he is still garbed in his expensive navy suit. Beneath that is a standard white business shirt and one of his selection of work ties, this one a simple red number. I nearly chuckle as his attire reminds me somewhat of Ace Attorney.
My Mother is engaged at the reception counter, signing away on some document. She has always been the one wearing the pants. A business executive through and through, always reading the fine print and checking for clauses. Whenever I want to do anything, especially something involving a document or money in any way, Mother is the one I have to run it past. She'd make a fine lawyer. Mother and Father make up a relatively high profile business duo, always flying to meetings with big corporations, making multi-billion yen deals. If you want your business to succeed, you hired them.
Unusually for a duo such as themselves, Mother was the power broker, the speaker, the deal maker. Father - not to underplay his abilities or his education - was often relegated to Mother's support act per se. In saying that though, both of them work very hard for their job. Long hours, lots of time away from home... it was not uncommon for me to spend a week or more at a time fending for myself. Sometimes I enjoyed the freedom, the independence. Other times -
I affix my gaze to the source of the sound. Mother is asking for my attention. I step around my bags and approach the counter. The small, smiling bespectacled woman on the other side addresses me.
"All the paperwork has been sorted out. Your room is number one-three-zero, here is your key. Come back here by 8:30 tomorrow morning, your home group teacher will be here to meet you and you will receive your time table. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask! Have a good evening, and welcome to Yamaku Academy!"
She hands me my key, and resumes whatever work she was doing before we arrived. 'Welcome to Yamaku Academy'... at least the hospitality is nice. I can't say I was particularly excited about the prospect of being enrolled in a school for the disabled. My first thought was of a classroom filled with dribbling fools while a kindergarten teacher espoused the basic operations of math. I know, I know, incredibly harsh and incredibly offensive, but that's what the word disabled is generally used to mean these days. With explanation, I realised that Yamaku dealt not with mental disabilities, but rather physical or social ones.
They said that it had a twenty four hour nursing service and was a very short drive from a major hospital. That lead me to believe that the place I was to be attending after I was discharged was little more than a hospital that allowed its patients to finish their highschool education. Though, there was something that the doctor said... what was it? 'Yamaku was founded as a place where students can be best equipped to lead healthy lives free from disability'... or something like that. It sounded kinda bogus.
That being said, given my... medical status, it would be extremely difficult for me to attend a regular school, what with my parents being at work all the time and stuff. Maybe this will be for the best? I'm a bit scared of going solo into this... there's no familiarity, no friends to show me the ropes. But it's also a fresh start, a clean slate. I can make a new name for myself now. I can be a new person. Ah, who am I kidding. It was the same at every other school I went to, why should this one be any different?
I turn and notice Mother is on the other side of the room, speaking animatedly into her earpiece. If one didn't realise the earpiece was there, they might have thought she was talking to herself. Stifling a tiny laugh I avert my gaze and instead examine the pile of bags before me. Some are bags of clothes, one obtained only shortly beforehand and containing my new uniform. Another contains all my tech gear; laptop, Nintendo DS, Playstation 3... I hope my room has a TV. I'd rather not hook it up to the one in the common room.
A few other bags have miscellaneous belongings in them. Books, photos, other sentimental things. Then there's the big case, three quarters my size and housing an electric guitar. I haven't played it in several months now, but I figure now is as good a time as any to take it back up. In any case though... it's a lot of stuff. I think maybe I can take half of it in one go, tops. I'm by no means muscular, but if I double load my back with clothing bags, and carry the guitar case and tech bag in each hand...
"Here, let me help you get all that to your room. We helped bring it in, it wouldn't be fair of us to leave you to carry it all by yourself now," Father says.
He might say 'we' but what he really means is 'I helped and your Mother was on the phone'. I can't find any logical reason to refute him though, so I accept his offer and begin to load myself up with bags. Surprisingly it isn't as heavy as I thought once the two of us have adorned ourselves in my stuff. I realise Father has taken all the bigger, heavier bags, and the guitar case. I let out an exasperated sigh. Still doesn't think I can look after myself.
We carry my belongings out of the lobby and head across the courtyard to the dorms. In a short time we manage to find room 130, a room at the end of a hallway on the far side of the floor. It's a bit awkward maneuvering ourselves through the corridors whilst carrying all my bags, but we manage. Setting a bag down and ignoring the sound of someone nearby playing loud music, I fish the key out of my pocket and open my room. Taking a glance inside, I'm a little disappointed. Guess I'm going to have to set my Playstation up in the common room when I want to use it.
Father and I move inside the room. It's surprisingly spacious, almost as big as my room back at our penthouse. Then that cynical part of my brain reminds me that this is a school for disabled people, it has to allow for wheelchairs and other such things. I silence that thought and focus on what is before me. A single bed draped in simple covers lies against the left wall backing onto the far one. Beside it is a simple bedside unit with a cheap digital alarm clock set upon it. Further across is a somewhat nice wooden desk and desk lamp, presumably for completing homework on.
Along the right wall spans a fairly large window, the sill of which juts out just enough that it could be used as a seat, and is just wide enough for two. A two door wardrobe is built into the wall adjacent to me, generously large. It will hold all my stuff with no trouble at all. Next to it is a door, which I can only assume leads into the bathroom; which, if my old elementary school is anything to go by, will be shared with the guy next door. The floor is the same light tan as in the lobby, and the walls the same impossibly plain not-white-but-not-beige colour, with the exception of the far wall, which is painted in a light blue. Nice of them to mix it up a little.
Having finished my seconds-long internal tour, I dump my bags across the large amount of floor space and together Father and I unpack my belongings and reassemble them into the various storage recesses in the wardrobe. My guitar case doesn't quite fit into the wardrobe without being in the way of something else so I stow it under my bed. With the exception of my laptop, I leave my tech stuff packed for now. By the time we're done, we notice Mother outside the room, finishing her call. She hangs up and the air hangs awkwardly silent between us for a second too long.
Father breaks the silence.
"Well... I guess we had better be off. We have a business meeting at 10 so we need to get a move on."
Of course. No wonder he was suited up. Trust my parents to book a meeting on the day their son moves into his new school. If it wasn't so common an occurrence I'd be a little hurt. I look at Mother, anticipating her words. In that short time span she has already removed her PDA from her breast pocket and is tapping away at the buttons. At least Father goes casual on weekends and holidays; Mother never goes anywhere in anything but her work clothes. I sigh dejectedly and this appears to attract her attention.
"Good bye," She says, without even looking up from her device. Father throws me an apologetic glance.
"See you later, Katsuro. Look after yourself, don't get into trouble, and have fun!"
Yes, lots of fun to be had at a school, Father. I shake my head slightly at his words and clasp the hand he has outstretched to me. I can't bring myself to bid them farewell so instead I sort of half smile at them. It goes unnoticed by Mother, who has already begun walking towards the exit. Father smiles back and hurries to catch up to his wife, leaving me standing alone outside my room. I almost resign myself to sleep, even though I'm not tired, when the door of the room next to mine opens.
"Yo, what's all the chatter?"
The voice belongs to a stocky boy, with longish, wild, dark hair, and blue eyes. He's wearing Yamaku's uniform, though rather casually; his collar is popped and his tie is rather loose. He's twirling a drumstick in his hand as he leans out the doorway. If I had to guess, I would say he was in a rock band. I guess bringing my guitar was a good idea after all.
"Oh, er, hi. You must be the new guy, right? What's up man, the name's Seto."
I stare at him for a second, mouth ajar, before I realise I'm supposed to introduce myself. I clear my throat and extend my hand, which Seto grasps firmly, drumstick in hand. There's something odd about his grip but before I can figure out what it is, he let's go.
"I'm Katsuro. Katsuro Akarada. You got it, I'm the new guy. Guess we're neighbours, huh? Was that you with the music going?"
"Yeah man, just busting out some wicked drum solos on my PS-triple. Wanna join me?"
"You're playing video games? Wait, so you have a TV in your room?"
"Sure do man, as if I'm gonna use the one in the common room. I brought it myself, admin didn't mind, as long as I keep the noise down from 10 til 7. So, you gonna come in or what?"
I see no reason to object to Seto's offer. It's much better than my plan of going to bed early. Reaching out to close my door, I follow Seto into his room. True to his word, a set of plastic drums is set up in front of his desk chair, where he promptly sits and resumes banging away. While he finishes his song I take the opportunity to look around his room. It's fairly similar to mine, but has a distinct 'lived in' look about it. It has personality. Seto has hung posters of his favourite bands and video games on the walls, and has retrofitted his desk to carry a TV and several video game consoles. It looks like he doesn't do much homework, or if he does he does it elsewhere.
Another difference is that Seto has a little bar fridge and microwave set up in a corner of his room. Judging by the number of empty plastic containers piled on top of them, I figure Seto reheats his food a lot. Either that means the cafeteria is lacking in flavoursome food, or Seto just buys a lot of take-out. I'll have to suss that out in the morning. In due time the banging of the plastic drums ceases and Seto turns towards me.
"Hey man, thought I should mention, you're in my class. That's how I knew you were 'the new guy'. We're in room 3-4, it's the fourth room on the third floor, easy enough to find. If you want though I could probably show you now, we still have some time left before curfew."
"Oh, thanks. But, uh, the receptionist told me I had to meet with our home group teacher in the morning and I'd get shown around then. Sorry."
"Nah it's cool, man, it's cool. So, tell me about yourself. You from around here?"
"Uh... not really. I've sorta moved a lot, so I'm not really 'from' anywhere in particular. Most recently though I lived in Tokyo."
"Ah, a city boy like myself, alright man. What's with the hair? Foreigner, or you just dye it for the ladies?"
I let out a laugh. That's not the first time I've been asked that, oddly enough. I guess blond hair stands out in Japan. As for the styling... well, if it's common to have longish hair that curls outward slightly at the ends, so that it looks like I'd been wearing a hat for a long time, then I mustn't have been looking hard enough.
"Hahaha no, it's not dyed, and it's not for the ladies. It's natural, and that's just how it goes. Am I a foreigner? Eh, in a manner of speaking. My parents are both half-Japanese, so I'm a bit of everything. I was born here though."
"Fair enough man. I'm Japanese through and through, and my style IS for the ladies. Well, it's meant to be anyway, I haven't had much luck yet."
We both laugh at this, and we move onto other topic; about our choices in music, our old school - schools as a plural, in my case - where to get some great take-out... just general friend chatter. It's been a long time since I last had a conversation like that. Before long we realise we've been talking for a good hour or thereabouts, so I head back to my room and prepare to go to sleep. I'll have to get up early in the morning if I want to meet with my home group teacher in time, so I set my alarm clock and stretch myself out on the bed. It's comfortable enough. As I await sleep I muse over my chat with Seto. Haven't even had my first day of school yet and I think I already have a friend. That's definitely a new record. Before long though, my thoughts die down and I succumb to rest.
On to the next part: Day One