…You know, I feel like we need some music to celebrate. Something heartfelt, meaningful, and emotional.
There we go. Anyway, on with the show! Push the button, Frank.
The Manila Tales –A Summer-ish Series
“To the legion of the lost ones, to the cohort of the damned,Table of Contents
The Shepherd's Tale (this post) Part II
The Founder's Tale Part II Part III
The Traveler's Tale Part II Part III
The Explorer's Tale
The Biker's Tale Part II
The Teacher's Tale
The Fashionista’s Tale Part II
The Friend's Tale
The Second Daughter's Tale (1000th Post) Part II
The Bastard's Tale
The Children's Tale Part II Part III (Noodles!)
The Oldest Daughter’s Tale
The Hiker's Tale Part II
The Firstborn’s Tale
The Father’s Tale
The Gamer's Tale
The Detective's Tale
The Orphan's Tale
To my brethren in their sorrow overseas,
Sings a gentleman of England cleanly bred, machinely crammed,
And a trooper of the Empress, if you please.” –Rudyard Kipling’s “Gentlemen-Rankers”
Chapter One: The Shepherd’s Tale
I gave the contents of the suitcase on my bed one last overview to make sure I had everything I’d need. I did the same with my carry-on bag and my backpack before closing everything and taking one last look around my room, just in case.
Yamaku’s dorms were pretty small; definitely smaller than my old room at the psych ward, at least. I didn’t mind, though. In some ways, I preferred a small room to a large one; spending so much time indoors had made me a bit of an agoraphobe.
Once I was sure I had everything, I checked the time on my wristwatch. Since it was about time for me to go, I grabbed my bags and headed for the door. I was just about to pull the lever when someone outside knocked. Since I had been expecting it I managed to not jump from the noise, though it helped that I recognized the knock.
My suspicions of who the knocker was were confirmed when I opened the door to reveal a girl whose long dark brown hair and bright green eyes were almost as much a contrast to my short-cropped black hair and dark brown eyes as our clothes were. Whereas I was wearing blue jeans and a long sleeved blue T-shirt, she was wearing a tan summer dress that was several shades lighter than my skin tone. She also seemed a bit tired, which since it was early afternoon was probably more due to her narcolepsy then the time of day.
“Hello,” she said once I had opened the door, “Have you accepted Cthulhu as your lord and savior?”
I smirked and replied, “Hey, Maiko. You heading out?”
Maiko Nagita shook her head, “Not for a while yet. I swung by to see if you were still here.”
“I was on my way out,” I said, “My ride should be here soon.”
“Mind if I see you off?” Maiko asked.
“I don’t mind,” I replied.
Maiko grinned and stepped back so I could leave my dorm and close and lock it. That done, I started walking down the hallway to the stairs, keeping my pace slowed so that Maiko, despite being several centimeters taller than me –like almost everyone else in the school who wasn’t in a wheelchair- could keep up.
Maiko was in the same year and class as I was, and was my closest friend at Yamaku. Though there were large chunks of my life I refused to talk about, she didn’t mind. One of the perks of Yamaku was that every student had something in their past they were trying to cope with, whether it be a missing limb, a severe neurological disorder, or… other stuff.
Maiko sighed and smiled, “I am so glad its break. I am not looking forward to finals next year.”
“It’s too early to think about that,” I grumbled.
Maiko sighed, “Tell that to my mother. Anyway, I need this break –I was having nightmares about getting attacked by fractions and English adverbs.”
“Could be worse,” I remarked, “But you’re right, we definitely need a break.”
“Get away from the campus for a while, back to the outside world with all the Normies,” Maiko mused, “No offense.”
“None taken,” I replied, “Although I’ll be going a little farther out than I’m used to.”
“Oh yeah, you mentioned you were going to Manila, right?”
I nodded, “We leave tomorrow for a week. Me, and some, um, family friends.”
“Cool,” Maiko said, ignoring my hesitation as always, “I’m just going back home to Tokyo. Beats being stuck around here, though.”
“I guess it would get pretty boring with most of the students gone,” I mused as we reached the stairs; my room was on the second floor.
Maiko nodded, “I mean if you got a laptop you at least have that, but even then I think I’d lose it,” Maiko looked me over and added, “You’d probably just spend all day in the pool.”
“Can’t,” I stated, “Need time for training.”
Maiko smirked, “Right, Vice Captain. You ever worry you’ll wear yourself out?”
“That’s kinda the point,” I remarked.
Maiko said nothing.
We finished descending the stairs and it wasn’t much longer that we were by the front door of the girl’s dormitory. The two wide glass doors showed the grounds in all their summer glory, bursting with greenery and flower beds full of the warmth and strength of summer. After mentally making sure I had my allergy medication, I turned to Maiko, who nodded and turned on her heel.
“I better get back to my room and finish packing,” she said. Waving a hand as she headed to the elevator, she added, “Have fun in Manila, and make sure to text me sometime –I wanna know how much fun you’re having so I know how jealous I should be.”
I smirked and waved after her, even though she couldn’t see, “Will do. And thanks.”
Maiko gave me another wave, and once she was out of sight, I opened the main door and stepped out into Yamaku’s grounds.
Since the school grounds were surrounded by buildings and trees, they didn’t give me the unsettling open feeling I got when I headed down into the valley. I actually liked the well kept lawn and flowers. They reminded me a lot of the grounds of the psych ward, which had been the closest thing to a home I had had since Before.
With most of the students about to leave for summer break or already gone, groundskeepers were taking advantage of the lack of activity to get in some maintenance. Moving border rocks to and fro, adding mulch there, trimming shrubs, rearranging the smaller trees and trimming the larger ones. Stuff like that.
My cell phone started vibrating in my pocket and I pulled it out with my free hand. Smirking at the text from Miya Setou, I continued along the path, past the bulky iron gates and beyond the school, into the outside world.
The text said Kenji, Miya, and Hisato were on their way up the hill, so I stood by the road a bit away from the bus stop to wait, glancing quickly at the valley below; even if looking made me uncomfortable, it was still a nice view.
A few students were waiting by the bus stop, their uniforms replaced with more casual clothes and piles of luggage scattered around them. Probably heading to the train station. A few of them noticed me and gave a friendly wave that I returned. After a few moments I heard the car approaching, so I turned to the road to wait. A little while later, a dark blue sedan came into view, slowing down and stopping near where I was standing.
I stepped back as the engine was shut off and Miya popped out of the driver’s seat on the other side of the car.
“Hey, Hee-chan!” She chirped, bounding over the hood of the car and grabbing me in a hug before I could respond, her brown eyes blazing and her long brown ponytail swaying behind her as she moved.
“Hello, Miya,” I greeted, returning the hug with my free hand, “Thanks for the lift.”
“No problem!” Miya declared, “Did you get a late growth spurt? You feel taller.”
“…Maybe a half centimeter,” I admitted.
“I thought so,” Miya said, pulling away. Now that we were apart the new height difference was more noticeable; where before I had been noticeably shorter than her, now I was only slightly shorter. Glancing at my clothes and nodding to herself, she added, “I’m gonna have to take you shopping in Manila for clothes. Nothing fits on your shoulders right.”
“It’s alright,” I said, “The clothes I have are fine.”
“Don’t fight it, Kid,” I heard from behind Miya, “she said you’re going shopping, you’re gonna shopping –she’s like that with all the kids.”
Tilting my head to the right, I saw Kenji standing in front of the car, Hisato next to him and clinging carefully to his father’s hand.
I smiled at Kenji, “Hey.”
“Been a while, hasn’t it?” Kenji remarked, his thick glasses reflecting the summer sunlight while his short black hair seemed to absorb it. Looking down at his son, he asked, “You remember Kim Soon-hee, right?”
Hisato, who had his father’s messy black hair and mother’s eyes –though they lacked the darkened passion she tended to exude when excited- nodded and turned to me, “Hey, Miss Kim! Nice to see you again!”
I took a step to the right and gave a light bow, “Nice to see you again, too, Hisato.”
Hisato beamed and dashed over to hug my leg.
“We’re going to Manila!” he nearly shouted, “We’re gonna have so much fun!”
“Here’s hoping,” I said.
“I popped the trunk,” Kenji stated, “So you can toss your stuff in there and we can head back to our place.”
“Thanks for letting me spend the night,” I said, waiting for Hisato to let go before I put my stuff in the trunk, “We’re meeting the Nakai’s at the airport tomorrow, right?”
“Right,” Miya replied while she herded Hisato back into the car.
When I closed the trunk Kenji stepped over to me and pat my head, which made me smirk as he ruffled my short hair.
Flattening my hair a bit and lowering his hand, he grinned and asked, “You miss me?”
I returned the grin and nodded, “Sorry for all the emails I sent. I think I spent a bit too much time in the computer lab.”
Kenji waved a hand, “No problem. Come on, you can tell us all about your first trimester on the way home.”
“I don’t wanna bore you with a rehash of my emails,” I said before getting in, joining a bouncing Hisato in the back seat.
“You’re not boring,” Kenji stated. Buckling up, he grinned and tossed me a box of Pocky sticks, which I immediately opened and started gnawing through. Hisato looked up at me and pouted, so I smirked and gave him one.