It's been nearly a full day since I woke up in the nurse's office yesterday afternoon. The first thing he told me was that Emi had gone home. When I asked when she'd be back, he shrugged and said he wasn't sure, but that since the ban on her running would be lifted Monday morning – now tomorrow morning – he doubted it would be any later than that. I agreed, as there was no way Emi would miss out on a day's running if it was at all possible.
The second thing he told me was that Hanako had come to visit around lunch time to make sure I was all right. I haven't seen her since my misguided effort to talk to her on Friday, and I'm not surprised she didn't want to stick around. Still, I don't have a lot of time to give her an answer of some kind.
thing he told me was that I needed to take it as easy as possible over the next couple of days. If I did that, and didn't have any more incidents in the meantime, I could start my own running routine back up tomorrow as well. That made me even more certain that's when Emi would be back.
So, I spent the rest of yesterday doing as little as possible. I spent last night reading a book that I'd forgotten I left in my bag, and I'm almost looking forward to sparring with Emi about her not returning it to the library. Just the idea of bantering with her like that is enough to bring a smile to my face. Over the course of the evening, I try to call her a couple times, but it goes straight to voice mail.
Then again, if she wanted to talk to me, she could have just stayed here.
That amount of inactivity was, of course, followed up by a total lack of sleep last night. So, when my alarm goes off to herald the time I'd usually get up to go to the track, I'm still wide awake. Rather than toss and turn for another couple of hours, I decide to make my way down to the track. Part of me hopes to see Emi while I'm here, but no such luck. I stretch out and slowly walk a couple of circuits before heading back to the dorm.
After taking a shower and taking my medications, I set out to carry out my plan for the day. Since just thinking hasn't helped me figure out how to deal with what's been going on, I have decided that what I need is a full day's worth of distraction. To that end, I make my way to the Student Council room.
Shizune was supposed to be returning last night from her own trip home, and if there's one person I don't expect either Emi or Hanako to seek out, it's the Student Council president. Besides that, outside of the day I spent there with Lilly last week, I feel like I've been neglecting both Shizune and Misha, who I still consider my friends.
When I arrive at the room, I can hear Misha's unmistakable voice ringing out. It would seem that Shizune is, as is often the case, haranguing someone through her interpreter. I feel a bit of sympathy for whomever her target might be, because no doubt she's built up a head of steam during the past week.
I walk in, and Misha casts a quick grin at me without breaking her translation. "...so hopefully you will NOT~ fall into the same lazy habits as the previous 3-2 class rep, Kamisaka!"
I glance at Shizune, who apparently hasn't seen me. She stands next to Misha, as usual, her arms folded, glaring at the person to whom this diatribe has apparently been addressed. I recognize the boy I'd met the other day in the library, Yoshiro Kamisaka. He stands there, seemingly nonplussed, his head cocked as if listening for whatever else the Student Council duo might have to say.
When there isn't anything else, he says, "Listen, Hakamichi, I get that you don't like how Satou handled things. As for me, I don't much like the fact that this got dumped on me without any kind of notice, so let's just both make the best of this bad situation, put our heads down and get things done. I'll do what I need to do, and if it takes a little more time, then that's just the way it is until I get up to speed. Got it?"
Shizune signs crisply, but not angrily. "Very well, Kamisaka! But I expect~! that you will make every effort to get up to speed quickly!"
"Every effort. Right. Are we done, then?"
Shizune signs curtly. "Yes~!"
As Yoshiro makes his way to the door, I stand aside to let him pass. As he does, I notice that his cane doesn't make the tapping sound to which I'd grown so accustomed with Lilly's. Looking at it, I notice that the end of it is ball-shaped, and he's rolling it across the floor. This distracts me to the point that I nearly jump when Misha taps me on the shoulder.
"Hi, hi~! Good to see you again, Hicchan~!"
"Thanks, Misha. It's good to see you and Shizune, too. How was your trip?"
Shizune, who had just turned to me with a small smile, shifts to a neutral expression as she signs her response. "As well as can be expected~," Misha relays over-enthusiastically. "How was your week, Hicchan?"
I think for a moment about how to respond to that. In the end, I settle for saying, "Surprisingly eventful."
"That sounds VERY interesting~! What kind of events do you mean?"
This is really not the conversation I came down here wanting to have, so I try to turn things around. "To be honest, Misha, I think I have about as much desire to talk about my week as Shizune seems to have about hers."
After getting the translation, Shizune smiles and nods as if to say "Well played." She looks thoughtful for a moment before signing to Misha. "Shicchan would like you to know that, even though she disapproved of your taste in girlfriends~, she was sorry to hear that you and Lilly had gone your separate ways. Really, Shicchan?"
At first I suspect Shizune of simply shifting tactics to get me to talk about this week. It would be just like her to turn something like this into a game. However, after what happened during that last day of classes, I can't help but think that there's at least some amount of sincerity to what she says. I reply accordingly. "Thanks. I know the two of you don't really get along, so that means a lot coming from you."
Shizune smiles, adjusting her glasses as she signs. "Wahahaha~! In that case, Hicchan, you should definitely help out the Student Council out of gratitude~!"
Even though that's exactly the reason I came down here, I hesitate. It was one thing when I was ready to volunteer, but now that they're the ones asking, I sense danger. I decide to proceed, but with caution. "Actually, I had a feeling you might ask that."
Shizune looks at me impatiently as she signs. "If that's the case, then I presume you know how you're going to answer!"
"Yes, I'll help. I've been looking for something to do to take my mind off things, and I thought I might as well do something useful."
Shizune eyes me warily before signing. "Oh, so we're your last resort? Is that true, Hicchan?" Misha says, looking sad. I have a feeling she added that last bit.
"No!" I say, probably a little too vehemently. "Well, even if that's true, it's only because you weren't here all week!"
Shizune signs something lengthy, then crosses her arms. "That's fine, Hicchan~!" Misha says in her incongruously happy voice. "Shicchan was hoping that, after everything you've been through, you might be more inclined to be more co-gn-i-zant? of your duty to the school! However~! The Student Council will accept your help!"
Although I'm not sure I like that phrasing, I'm relieved to have something to do. I sigh, exasperated. "Fine, show me what you need."
Once I've been shown what needs to be done, I quickly get down to work. However, after a couple of hours, my head starts to spin a bit, and I start to feel fatigued. I tilt my head back and close my eyes, trying to let the feeling pass. It seems I'm still feeling the effects of yesterday's incident after all.
After a few moments, Misha asks in her slightly-quieter voice, "Are you okay, Hicchan? You look tired."
"Yeah, I'll be fine," I say without opening my eyes. "I...just didn't sleep very well last night."
"Well, Shicchan was just saying that it's time for lunch anyway. We haven't been to the Shanghai together in a while, Hicchan~! You should definitely~ come with us!"
I sigh heavily again. "I'd like to, Misha, really. I just...can't take the chance."
"Eh, what do you mean, Hicchan? Take what chance?"
I hesitate before answering. It may be a little easier to talk about my condition than it was when I first came here, but it still makes me uncomfortable. Still, Misha and Shizune are my friends, and I've discovered the hard way that keeping things from friends takes its toll. "I have...a heart condition. Arrhythmia. Yesterday I...overexerted myself, and collapsed. The long walk back and forth to town might cause problems." I chuckle slightly. "Besides, I promised someone not to do anything stupid, and she'd probably think this was."
"Did you say "she," Hicchan? Could you be seeing someone else so soon after breaking up with Lilly, hmmm? How very scan~ da~ lous!"
I shake my head, and immediately regret it as I start to see spots. If I thought talking about my heart was difficult, just the idea of trying to explain what's happened between me and Emi feels like I'm about to climb Mount Fuji. "I'm not seeing anybody, Misha. I've started running with Emi Ibarazaki to get myself in better shape physically, and hopefully someday not have to worry every time I take a walk to the Shanghai."
Shizune's face tightens as she signs brusquely. "You should be careful around Miss Ibarazaki, Hicchan~! She's a menace to the school...a menace, Shicchan? That's a little harsh, isn't it?" Shizune closes her eyes disdainfully and signs again. "Shicchan says she's only worried about your well-being, as Miss Ibarazaki is not known for being careful."
"Actually, I already know that...first-hand," I say, rubbing my chest at the memory of our first meeting. "This isn't something you need to be concerned about."
Shizune fixes her glare on me as her arms slice the air. "I'm concerned about all the students in my charge," Misha translates. "You didn't listen to me about the former class rep, and you can see how that turned out~!" I attempt to protest, but Shizune continues to sign forcefully. "If something should happen, don't say I didn't warn you~!"
Shizune turns on her heel and walks out of the room, with Misha hurrying to follow. "Sorry, Hicchan," she says over her shoulder, a sad look on her face. "I think Shicchan's still in a bad mood from her trip home. Maybe you can come next time~!"
I guess I'm not the only one who had a rough week. I'd never thought about what Shizune's family might be like, but Hideaki didn't seem that bad. Then again, if they're all as stubborn as she is, I can see where things could be quite tense. I have a brief flash of a week full of moments like her showdown with Lilly in our classroom, and I shudder.
That would certainly put me in a bad mood.
I lock up the Student Council room and make my way down to the cafeteria. Since I've been spending so much time in my room lately, I've gone through my supply of microwave meals, and I haven't been able to get to the convenience store to restock. I didn't even have breakfast this morning, so even cafeteria food seems almost appetizing.
When I get there, I notice Yoshiro sitting at a table by himself, reading with one hand while holding a juice box in the other. I don't see anyone else I recognize, so after buying my lunch I make my way over to him. "Hey, Kamisaka, you want some company?"
"Who's that? Is that Nakai?"
"Yeah, it is, and you can call me Hisao. I hope I'm not interrupting. You look kind of busy."
"Nah," he says, pushing aside the papers with his free hand. "Just some stuff Hakamichi gave me to look over. And call me Yoshi."
"Yoshi it is. I saw you coming out of the Student Council room earlier. I was up there doing some work for them before coming down."
"So that was you lurking in the doorway, huh? You are a brave man, Hisao. Not many would freely give up their time to work with Hakamichi, especially someone so close to Satou." He suddenly goes quiet, listening intently. "Neither of them is actually here, right?"
I can't help chuckling. "No, Shizune didn't follow me here, and as far as I know Lilly is still in Scotland."
"Heh...can't be too careful. And look at you, not just associating with them, but calling them by their first names." Yoshi shakes his head. "Well, whatever, man. Anyway, sit down already. You're making me nervous standing there like that."
"You're beginning to sound a little like one of your other classmates," I say as I perch on a stool across the table from him. "Too paranoid for your own good."
"Oh, so you know Setou, too, huh?" Yoshi takes another drink from his juice box. "Start comparing me to him, and you lose any points you gained from not mentioning Tezuka."
I laugh again. "Yeah, Kenji lives across the hall from me. Actually, he's not that bad a guy once you get to know him, if you can learn to ignore when he goes off on one of his tirades."
"Yeah, well, I'm not sure I'm ready to spend enough time with him to find out."
"I hear you. Speaking of...your fellow art club member, I was wondering something. What are
you doing in the art club, anyway?"
Yoshi mutters something I can't quite make out before answering. "Because I have to be."
"What do you mean?"
He finishes off his juice box and sets it down. "My ancestor was the brother of Sekka Kamisaka, and established a foundation that granted scholarships to the first son of each subsequent generation who was willing to study Rinpa. It was the only way for me to get into Yamaku."
"Rinpa, huh? Kind of ironic, considering."
He laughs. "You could say that. Anyway, I talked to Satou a few times about it. Kamisaka studied in Scotland, so she thought I might have some insight into the culture over there, but I probably learned more from her than the other way around."
"So you're not really an artist yourself?"
Yoshi shifts uneasily on his stool. "Well, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit interested in it. The thing with the painting, though, the one that's got Tezuka all worked up? I just do that because of the grant. She'd know that if she ever decided to ask."
I think about what he's saying for a moment, and I think I understand why he'd resent hearing about his art all the time. Still, I also realize that if Rin knew that, she'd probably take it pretty badly. "It's probably a good thing she hasn't, then. I mean, when she told me about you, she said you were doing something impossible, just because you could. She takes that kind of thing to heart."
Yoshi's face darkens a bit as I say this. "Nakai," he snaps, "I thought I made it pretty clear I didn't want to talk about that. Hey, I have an idea. Why don't you tell me something you
don't want to talk about, and that'll be our next topic?"
I put up my hands in surrender before realizing the futility of the gesture. "Yeah, okay, I get your point. I just...well, difficult as it is to talk to her, I consider Rin a friend of mine. I don't like seeing my friends get hurt, and I think if you told her about how you really feel about your painting, it would probably hurt her."
Yoshi closes his eyes for a moment. "Gah...fine. Not like I was planning to say anything. But...like I said, the whole idea gets under my skin." He smiles weakly, then shakes his head. "You really spread yourself around, hey, Hisao? Hakamichi, Satou, Tezuka, Setou...Ikezawa, too, if I've heard right. Are you sure you've only been here a couple months? I've been here since the beginning of high school, and I still can't say I really know anyone but Takashi. What's your secret?"
From the way he says it, I can't tell if he's joking or not. "Heh, I don't really feel like I know a lot of people. Still, since I've come to Yamaku, I feel like...well, like people have been more willing to reach out to me, and I felt like I should do the same in return. It hasn't been easy, and it's something I've forgotten...well, more than once."
I'm not sure exactly how much more I want to say, but Yoshi is grinning at me. "Hmmm...sounds like something you don't want to talk about. Guess we have our next topic of conversation."
I smile to myself, realizing that I walked into that one. Still, Yoshi's been willing to tell me some things about himself already, and having someone I can talk to that isn't Hanako or Emi is probably a good idea. I guess I should heed my own advice.
"When I first came to Yamaku, I had a lot of trouble opening up to people about myself. I'd been in the hospital for a while, and I felt like I'd been abandoned by my friends when they stopped visiting. Later, I realized that I'd been the one who'd withdrawn from them, and they'd probably given up on me because they thought I'd already given up on them."
Yoshi makes a "go on" motion with his hand to let me know he's listening. "The one who helped me the most with that was Lilly. The thing was, in the process, I had kept things from her, and she'd kept things from me, one of which was that she was leaving for Scotland. That's...pretty much why we broke up."
Yoshi looks surprised. "Wow, so even you didn't know she was leaving? I thought it was bad enough she didn't tell us until a few days before."
"That part is...well, that's between Lilly and me. Anyway, a few days ago, she called me from Scotland to let me know she'd gotten there safely. When she did, and she wanted to talk to me about our relationship, I shut her down. All I could think about was that I didn't want to talk about it, which was the same kind of thing that caused our problems in the first place. The next day, I found out from a mutual friend that she officially considered our relationship over."
Yoshi waits a second before responding. "Okay, so, let me see if I've got this. You're not bothered about the actual break-up, but about how it happened?"
I swallow my mouthful of bread, then say, "Yes and no. Even though we broke up, Lilly's special to me. She was the first friend I made here. For a while, it felt like I had family here. I just...feel like I was starting to shut her out, like I had my other friends."
"If you don't want to shut her out, then don't shut her out. Seems pretty simple to me."
Simple...like anything in my life has been simple lately.
Still, I have to admit that it's a good point. If I'm going to move on properly, I can't have this hanging over my head. Hanako is leaving on Tuesday, and Emi's going to be back tomorrow.
Maybe if I'd done this the other night, I could have saved myself the trouble of nearly dying on the track.
"Heh...yeah, maybe it is just that simple," I finally say out loud.
"Hey, listen, I'd stay and chat, but I told someone I'd meet her at the Shanghai after lunch, so I'd better get moving."
I chuckle, saying, "You sure you want to do that? I think that's where Shizune and Misha went."
Yoshi shrugs. "I'm not really
trying to avoid them, man. That was just a joke. Anyway, catch you later, and...good luck with that...thing with Satou."
"Yeah, sure. If you s...er, run into Yuuko, tell her I'm sorry about that one book I didn't return."
Yoshi grins at that for some reason. "Yeah, I'll make sure of it." As he walks away, I'm again distracted by the...wrongness of the sound of his cane on the floor. I shake my head to try and chase the feeling off as I finish my lunch. I briefly consider returning to the Student Council room, but I'm still feeling a bit worn out, so I head to the dorm instead.
Once I get back, I doze on and off for a few hours until I'm fairly sure Lilly is awake. I grab my phone off my nightstand and find her number. Even though I haven't called it in weeks, and recently I'd come to think I might never call it again, I never deleted it. It takes a few rings for someone to pick up on the other end.
I take a deep breath, wondering if I'm really ready for this again. Given my current situation, though, it can't be helped.
Well, there it is. I was actually getting nervous about writing this chapter, because I felt like it was getting hyped way out of proportion, so hopefully nobody's too disappointed that Shizune's (and Misha's) first appearance in the story proper is relatively short. Rest assured they will be appearing again.
I also hope nobody misses the ellipses that represented Shizune's signing. My first thought for representing that was to combine it with some portrayal of her facial expression within brackets (e.g., [... | excited]), because of how important that combination is to understanding Shizune. When I tried it, though, I realized that it felt like it broke the flow too much, so I did my best to integrate it directly into the text. That's one of the reasons why it look a little longer to get this chapter out. Again, I hope it worked.
As always, thanks for reading, and feedback is definitely welcome!