UPDATE: I've added two short scenes, one from the Nurse's perspective and one from Emi's, to the "pilot." I wanted to finish the entire chapter tonight but I didn't have the time, so I'm putting these in for now because I'm not a hundred percent on whether my portrayal of the Nurse works. I fail at medical professionals of all sizes and colors, really. Emi is just collateral damage. She's there so briefly that I'm not sure it even counts as a portrayal. =/
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Chapter I: "Whatever, Man" (Work-in-progress - Updated 11/15)
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It was the first of April, and it was the epitome of spring. Sunlight! Fresh air! Comfortably cool breezes that made standing outside feel like sexual foreplay! Ah, it was glorious. It seemed like everyone in the world was out enjoying this stupidly-perfect weather, even if they were only enjoying it while forcing their feet (or prosthetic limbs, or in some cases wheelchairs) along the short path between high school dorm and high school drudgery.
For it was also the first day of school at Yamaku Academy, and the young man who stood at the gate really didn’t give a fuck.
His uncle had gone ahead to prep his room, so Ryota Nakamura was on his own as far as finding his way to class. That was all well and good in his book, since even before the giant fucking metal coffin had dropped out of the sky and robbed him of one eye and three limbs, Ryota hadn’t really cared much for his uncle. The man was gruff, brutally honest, painfully conservative, religious to a fault, and for the love of God was the man a raging prude. Ryota still remembered vividly the ringing in his ears that had persisted for several hours after his Uncle Makoto had walked in on him while he was enjoying some good, nutritious tentacle hentai on his laptop computer. He also remembered that his uncle had thrown the laptop at his television, breaking both, proclaiming it to be a just punishment. He also remembered resisting the urge to kick his uncle in the family jewels that day purely for the sake of sparing the world anymore Makoto-spawn.
That had taken self-restraint that saints could only dream of, or at least it had felt that way to Ryota at the time. Meh. He usually got angry when he remembered that, but right now he just sort of tilted his head and shrugged. Then he walked through Yamaku’s gate.
On some dim level he registered how nice out it was; after spending so much time trying to teach himself to walk on these funky stilts he wore in place of shins, ankles, and feet, and spending much of that time learning how to use the lesser of the hands he was born with to eat, write, type, wank off, and accomplish all other tasks vital to maintain one’s sanity in a society built for two-eyed, four-limbed people…
Standing outside such a pristine complex on both legs (artificial or otherwise), beneath such clear skies, feeling the gentle caress of such heavenly breezes… it should have felt nice, but it didn’t. It didn’t feel especially bad, either. It just sort of was, and he supposed he was fortunate he wasn’t standing out in the middle of a typhoon or something instead. Or in the middle of a burning building full of suffocating smoke and collapsing ceiling planks. That would have been rather uncomfortable, he mused idly, although now that he thought on it, neither possibility much bothered him.
Ryota didn’t stop to examine or ponder the significance of the school’s grand and un-school-like design or the way the two buildings sort of connected like some sort of L-shaped… one building, or something, or that this place smelled marginally less offensive than his home back in Tokyo. He didn’t stop to admire the evenly-cut, sloping lawns or the lively greenness of the trees. He just walked up to the front door of the main building and opened it with his only remaining arm: his left. The right ended at a stump just below his shoulder. Just barely enough stump for a stump to poke out. He idly wished there were more of a stump: if there were, he would at least be able to use what remained of his arm as a bludgeon in self-defense.
Ryota saw just one person standing stationary in the midst of the small trickle of incoming students: a woman who looked to be a teacher. She had laugh lines, and therefore was an adult in a school full of teenagers, and therefore looked to be a teacher. Although — he stopped to consider his assumption — in this place she could just as easily be the nurse or one of the therapists.
One of the therapists that Ryota was being pressured by dear Uncle Makoto into seeing. Meh. He opened his mouth and blandly asked to confirm the most optimistic of his guesses:
“Are you my homeroom teacher?” And after that: “…I’m Ryota Nakamura.”
“Ah, yes — Nakamura… Ryota.” The teacher smiled pleasantly at him. He gave her a deadpan sort of credit: her eyes flicked to his legs, arm-stump, and the black hair that fell in a curtain over his gouged-out eye, but she returned them both to his actual eye in a millisecond.
Nice save there, Miss Tactful.
He zoned out completely then, eyes roving around the room, half of his brain registering that she had said her name (which he didn’t care to commit to memory) and mentioned what class she taught on top of homeroom (which he would find out eventually anyway, so why bother mentioning it? Waste of bloody oxygen, that). It was wide and spacious and pretty much all ramp, the kind of room that made him wonder why he'd bothered forcing himself to walk again. And... huh. What was the deal with that one randomly checker-board wall? Weird.
“…but there’s not much time left, so it may be easier to leave it for after class.”
“Sorry?” Ryota said, not feeling such at all but thrown for a loop by whatever unexpected information she had been trying to impart.
Pleasant smile fading a bit at his inattention, the teacher-lady reiterated: “You’re due for a check-up with the head nurse in the auxiliary building, but there’s not much time left, so it may be easier to leave it until after class.”
“Oh,” Ryota said. “The auxiliary’s the other building attached to this building, yeah?”
Seeming pleased that he’d caught on so quick, the teacher’s smile re-grew. “Yes, it is.”
“I’ll find my class when I get back, then.”
Turning on his prosthetic heel, he set off for the door he'd just walked through, but not too quickly not to notice the smile drop from his teacher’s face like a cinderblock. A cinderblock made of lipstick. It occurred to him as he walked out the door that he’d zoned out just in time to miss what class number he had to find his way back to when he was done with the nurse.
Meh. He’d just peek through each door in turn and enter the one with that teacher in it.
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Two hard, short knocks at the head nurse’s door prompted him to look up from Ryota Nakamura’s file. He cut a sip of his morning coffee short and set the cup on his desk. “Come on in!” he called, standing up and closing the file in case this wasn’t who he thought it would be.
He knew it wasn’t Emi, although he was still expecting her this morning. Emi rarely knocked, and were she to do so he couldn’t imagine it sounding so slow and drab. Emi did almost everything in as happy and chipper a way as she could, especially when it came to getting someone’s attention.
When the door opened, he smiled widely, surveying his visitor through naturally-narrow eyes: it was, speak of the devil, the transfer student among the seniors whose file the Nurse had just been perusing. “Good morning. Nakamura, right?” he greeted the boy, giving him a cursory once-over. The boy was already clad in his Yamaku uniform — good, that would keep him from drawing unneeded attention if he were the sort who didn’t like attention.
His right arm ended shortly below the shoulder, the sleeve having been cleanly snipped off to end about half an inch after the stump did. It was already slightly frayed. The other arm hung loosely at Ryota’s side as he walked into the room, and the Nurse noted that his prosthetics were the more natural-looking walking kind… although without prior knowledge, one could only notice that he wore prosthetics if they either stared at his ankles or bumped into him in the hallway.
The Nurse’s examination of Ryota was casual and momentary; it was a practiced act born of both the desire not to make patients uncomfortable with his scrutiny and the simple desensitization that came with being in the business for so long. The boy’s face, beneath a curtain of straight, shoulder-length hair that covered his missing eye, answered this act with a quirked eyebrow. His one remaining eye was dull brown and bored-looking.
“Well, you’re better at the not-looking-disturbed thing than Sensei is,” the boy noted blandly. “I was kind of hoping for a hot lady nurse, though. Meh. Well, let’s get this over with so we can both get back to whatever, yeah?”
The Nurse quirked his own eyebrow in response, one of his narrow eyes widening to better peek out and read the boy’s mannerisms. But there wasn’t much mannerism to read. The boy spoke so unflinchingly and straight-faced that he was either entirely serious or just had a really deadpan sense of humor.
Nevertheless, the Nurse smiled. “Right you are. As it happens —” He flipped open Nakamura’s file again. “— I was just going over your file before you got here. Let me see…”
“Plane crash. Lost both legs beneath the knees and an arm above the elbow. Prosthetics for the legs. They haven’t invented decent robotic arms yet so no prosthetic for that. Also lost an eye. Sharp chunk of metal, hurt like a bitch, but the other one’s fine, almost twenty-twenty. That about covers it.”
The Nurse glanced up, hiding his surprise. In all his time at Yamaku, he’d never heard a new student speak of their disabilities with such blatant nonchalance, and certainly not of any horribly traumatic past incidents attached to them. He’d known plenty who got to that point or close enough for comfortable living, but only after a healthy amount of time had passed. But according to this file —
“You just got the all-clear on your rehabilitation this week, I see,” the Nurse said professionally. “Just in time to enroll at the start of the year, if a bit suddenly. So, any bumps in the road since then, or has it been smooth sailing?”
“Nothing so far. I’ll come to you if I feel off at all, and don’t bother giving me the ‘I’m serious here’ talk like the other doctors, I’m not a two-year-old. Is there anything else?”
The Nurse frowned. Ryota didn’t seem impatient, nor did he sound especially scathing or otherwise ill-mannered, but for all the lack of heat in his words, he was being rather rude. Maybe he just had an abrasive personality. The Nurse flipped through his file again and noted that Ryota was scheduled for weekly therapist visits, although there was no mention of any specific issues or disorders, not even post-traumatic stress related to the plane crash. Hm.
“Well, I won’t keep you, since you’re no doubt eager to get to class,” the Nurse said… despite the fact that Ryota didn’t seem eager about anything at all. “But I want you to know that someone from my staff will be readily available at all times, so if there's ever a problem, call us. Also, about your councilor, Miss Sonomura —”
“Thursday evenings at seven, yeah, I know. Where’s her office?” Ryota said, cutting the nurse off.
“…The second floor,” the Nurse answered. Truth told, he was a bit wrong-footed by the boy’s all-business approach to this. “Go down the hall from here, in the direction of the entryway on this hall, and take the stairs up. She’s the third door on the left from there, has a nameplate and everything. You can’t miss it.”
“Thanks. Anything else?”
The Nurse smiled, and extended his left hand to shake Ryota’s remaining limb. “Only that you should come see me any time something feels ‘off’ with your prosthetics, and remember to check in once a week or so, or after any rigorous physical —”
The door swung open, and a head with light-brown twintails and saucer-like green eyes poked in. Oh, speak of the devil, indeed.
“Good morning, Emi,” the Nurse said with a smile. “Just wait outside for a moment, we’re almost done here.”
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Emi Ibarazaki stood in the half-open door and blinked at the black-haired, one-armed boy in slight surprise. She was still a bit winded from her morning run and from the run from the field the nurse's office that had immediately followed that one, but she had to run because was late this morning, because… gah… because Rin had overdosed on her cold medicine overnight and when Emi’d swung by to check up on her that morning, the armless artist had been high out of her mind. Emi had phoned the nurse’s office in a panic, fearing some dire side effect, but the drama had concluded with Rin’s cold medicine being confiscated for safety and her being given a pass on attending class today. Apparently all she needed to do was sleep it off.
So Emi’s morning run had been a bit delayed today. Hence the run from the field to the nurse’s office: she didn’t want to be late for class, too!
She didn’t expect to find anyone here at the moment because she knew full well that the bell for classes had already rung. At this point either one absolutely had to see the nurse right away, or they were running late like her.
“Heh, um… oops,” Emi said, sending the Nurse and then the black-haired boy an apologetic look before backing out of the door, but —
“That’s fine, there’s nothing else. I’ve been told everything I need to know about my legs, I’ll check in when I have to. I need to get to class now. If there’s anything else I really have to know, you can tell me next time.”
Emi blinked again as the black-haired boy turned on his heel and walked toward the door. At the word “legs” her eyes drifted down to his ankles and she saw that he had prosthetics under his pants. She backed out quickly and opened the door wider to let him by. She saw him give her a mildly appreciative once-over from head to waist as he passed by, and it was a bit unnerving because although she was used to lecherous looks from the "typical" guys and the more endearingly bashful looks from boys who weren’t as shameless about it, this wasn’t quite either of the two. This guy didn't seem any less bored when he looked at her than he'd looked when she first came in, and she wasn’t sure what it was beyond a built-in response to the sight of a teenage girl in track-wear. She wasn't even sure he'd noticed her own lack of legs.
Then she saw the Nurse’s extended hand drift back to his side, the apparent handshake offer ignored. Emi frowned after the black-haired boy, then huffed and re-entered the office. She closed the door behind her, put her hands on her hips in irate fashion, and said, “Hmph. Rude.”
The Nurse seemed reluctant to voice agreement with the observation, so he gave her his customary smile and from there it was business as usual for the two.
And afterward, Emi ran like the wind yet again, this time from the nurse’s office all the way to her homeroom class. She was late for that now, too. She decided she would have words with Rin, once she was sure that her friend was back in her right mind and in good health again. Of course she knew she’d probably cool off and change her mind about that in ten minutes or so, but eh, she was in a hurry. Run now, think later.
Oh, damn. She’d forgotten to ask the Nurse to give her a note for the teacher. Aaaaaaaaaaagggggggh…
Author's Note: I've made some cuts as per Catgirl's recommendation. Not that this affects the final product at all since it was going to have completely different author's notes anyway. =P