The Bells of Life
Act 1:Rising Son
Scene 1: Caught in a bind
As I sit obscured in the back of the classroom, wedged between the back wall and the window like some sort of apprehensive gerbil. I hide myself behind my musty, old textbook casually sifting through my latest book, well, manga— Maschera; Rise of Shikoku. I guess you could kind of call it a piece of literature, but I don’t think my teachers would share the same sentiment.
I’m not overly fond of the whole class thing…or the whole paying attention thing either to be fair. I prefer to take things at my own pace you know? I find that teachers forget what it’s like to be our age,and tend to treat us more like little experiments. I for one will have no part of anything to do with science!
I desperately try to hide away from the classroom and its mad scientist inhabitants, doing my best to live within my own little world; obscured behind my makeshift shelter and the shadows that creep from class corners. The newest volume of a light novel I’m reading came out yesterday and like any true fan I waited in line at the local bookshop to attain my preordered copy. Fending off against the biting cold and the occasional creep midnight finally hit and I could grab the book and slither my way back into the shadows.
I’m still fairly new to this series, but I actually enjoy it quite a bit, I found it late one night while browsing the internet, and well, I suppose you could say I got hooked. Here we are a few months later and I’m essentially playing mental-hookey in class with this book. A young girl’s mind can be the strongest of tools to use in the never ending quest of avoiding class!
Waiting in line until midnight probably~ wasn't the smartest choice I've ever made, as made apparent by my groggy demeanor and grey, fatigued eyes. Even the looks of all the somewhat scary geeks and freaks made me question why I was even waiting for it in the first place. I’m sure I would have been quite content ordering my copy off of the internet, but I suppose it was an adventure. Also, can you really call yourself an otaku if you don’t participate in manga and anime themed events?
Despite any previous doubts I held, I have to say, it was all worth it. After coming back and passing out from exhaustion in my dorm room I could finally relish in my hard-won victory. By the time I woke up I was almost too excited to begin to read it. I was pumped to delve in and see what the author had in store but, I had to go to school. Seeing as I’m dangerously close to using up all my available days of absence it wouldn’t be wise to throw them away just yet.
For a mandatory institution, you’d think that after a certain amount of cumulative hatred that has built up for it over the years, it would have at least been forced to pleasantly change, or at least be scrapped altogether—preferably the latter. I had a plan for this though unable to control myself, I tossed the light novel in my bag and waited for the moment when I could crack it open. That moment arrived in the form of Miss. Okazaki’s history class, one of the only classes where looking like I’m delving into a textbook can actually be excused.
She stands at the front of the class her brown hair tied firmly in a bun, dressed in a very business-like grey suit and matching dress pants, making her look almost as bland as the subject she teaches. To top it off, she completes the ensemble with black high heeled shoes that click harmoniously as she walks along the linoleum; only serving to add to her mature and strict appearance. Almost like a character from one of those seedy doushinji that you can buy from booth tenders at anime fan gatherings. She is the very example of a teacher; formally dressed and strict in behavior. It's almost stereotypical honestly. They say some people are born to be a certain profession, and I guess this is further proof to their belief.
In sharp contrast to the topic she teaches, she is in fact quite young. Her skin is clear, pale and flawless, free of any blemishes imposed either upon her by her childhood, adolescent or even the wonderful world of scars. Her face is almost free of any human facial faults, aside from a pair of dainty dimples when she occasionally smiles; she appears eerily similar to a porcelain doll. Even her graceful glasses are perched elegantly atop her tiny nose, occasionally reflecting a small beam of light into the classroom. Their elegant steel frame, shining against the dull air, bouncing off those weird things that fly in the air when it gets stagnant. What are those things anyway? Dust particles or something? At first, they kinda look like small bugs, but they don’t look overly alive.
Well, when you're not trying to figure out what's in the air, and whether or not it will kill you, you can feel her staring at you. The way someone really stares at you, when you get the hair on the back of your neck standing up, or when you have a weird sensation in the back of your head. The way she peers at you, it's…hard to describe, like a hawk almost? No, more like an all seeing being, really, almost omnipotent, even when she isn't looking at you you can still feel the shadow of her gaze lying over you. Maybe she's an esper, capable of powers greater than any normal person could ever hope to achieve?
I feel myself shiver at my course of imagination. Despite this somewhat boring appearance and, even more, colorless topic, she really is nice. An odd thing to say, especially after visualizing her in such a way, but, it’s almost an opposite feeling once you get to know her.
I don’t think I quite described her in the best of light considering she’s family. Well, she's basically part of my family, not by blood however. She's always been around, even since I was a kid; somewhere between an aunt and a third parent I guess? To be honest, she's one of the reasons my Dad sent me here. My father and her met in university, well to be more accurate, her and my mom ambushed him when he was at a coffee shop. I remember him telling me that one minute he was laying back in his booth, his eyes closed and smelling the cup of black coffee he ordered, then when he opened his eyes he found two girls sitting in front of him nonchalantly. Soon enough he began to date my mom, and Okazaki…well…she just kinda became one of his friends that way I suppose.
Since I was born, she just kind of, stuck around; like an honorary part of the family. She was like a second mother to me, though to be fair, I never had a first mother. It was kind of like one of those plotlines to a shitty show, where everything starts to go well and just to throw a wrench in the plan and stir up some drama, the director springs something up. Well that something, was my mother’s death and my barely out of high school dad, forced to look after a tiny person in a foreign country.
The terrible circumstances and plot twist aside, she stuck around, sticking with my rather odd father and a genetically weak baby. When I was younger she would often come by the house for some tea and a chat with my dad. She would often bring me things like books and toys to play with and read. She'd take me to places like the zoo and out to eat when Dad was at work or busy, it was almost as if we were playing house. It was like a child’s fantasy, a warm fuzzy place, with the cold bitter winds of reality licking away at the outside.
Even though she remains one of the people I'm closest to, I can't say we're inseparable; especially at school. I feel like she takes on an entirely different personality when she steps into that role. It’s like when an actress takes on a role and walks on set, then when she comes off she just seems like an entirely different person, no longer playing a role that she has no reason to. She doesn't favour me over any of the other students, In fact I think she even acts colder and harsher to me; like she's pushing me harder than the others. Cue my social anxiety and fear of being called upon to answer a question, and you have another aspect of a terrible 80s sitcom.
She's been good to me, but despite our relationship; I'm still fairly shy, even around her. As timid as a deer, one might say.
Shaking my personal history aside, I decide to return to the issue at hand, a fight between the Queen of Nightmares and the Protagonist—the eponymous Shikoku. I flip the next page of my book, feeling my thumb run over the uncreased paper and my eyes return to the next segment of the story. The fight scene lasts for several pages, with the protagonist winning--obviously. Despite this, the Queen had him on the ropes and running for his life; I can imagine the anime already animated as it plays in my head. From the effects, the music, even to the character's voices; you might as well hire me to plan the anime out! Might be a pleasant change from the usual swill they've been playing on cable lately. I know late night comedians often joke about how television becomes worse as the year goes by, but I think what they say has a kernel of truth. It’s like the producers only care about money…and conveniently timed commercials.
As my eyes dart from word to word, picture to picture, I find myself lost, transfixed, as the author manages to convey their masterpiece onto paper. Turning a normal fight into one of the epic proportions. The best comparison I can draw are battles like Serizawa vs. Godzilla or David vs. Goliath. It's a fantastic read, one of the better light novels I've read in the past month. Better than that romantic comedy crap that everyone is so into nowadays, like seriously who wants to read about high-school love? I'm living in highschool and I don't even like it.
The world of manga and anime is filled with excitement and awesome things that your mind can barely imagine, it makes me happy. Gives me a chance to escape my boring and dull life. Allows me to experience stories of epic proportions, to see fights between three-headed dogs and demons, to travel across 20th century Europe and solve mysteries, or even go into space! Allows me to fight in giant mechs or play a role in a haunted house. You just don't get the same excitement in regular life. It's as if it were a play written by some old guy with a white beard and a bad taste in drama. Life certainly doesn't have the same kind of thrill, especially, when you're a shy, socially awkward teenage girl, such as myself. If I only had the courage that these characters have, the smarts, the charisma; maybe then, my life wouldn't be so boring. Maybe then I could have at least one friend.
As I find myself getting sucked deeper and deeper into this action-oriented world, filled with Gothic designs, monsters, and a more than handsome protagonist; I lose clairvoyance of the real world. Engrossed within the light novel I don't even notice the events unfolding before me like some cheap comedy act. This world becomes my world, the real fades from my mind as I become a citizen of the world of fiction.
A loud smack erupts from my desk, silencing the room as It echoes off the stone walls. I emit a small squeal in abject terror, not aware of what had just transpired. I let myself flinch, closing my eyes for a second, trying to ward myself of whatever created the loud bang. I slowly open my eyes once again only to look up and see Miss. Okazaki frowning down at me, a look of displeasure, annoyance, and most-likely irritation, evident on her face. She looks quite fearsome as if she is about to let loose on me, the fact that now the entire class has their full and undivided attention on me, makes me quiver in my seat. I can feel their judgement bore into me like hot knives, I do my best to sink further down in my seat, doing my best to escape the unwanted attention. I feel my cheeks burn with embarrassment as a blush spreads on my face, my heart beating so quickly, I'm scared I might pass out.
“Can you tell me who wrote The Book of Five Rings?” She asks menacingly, her voice so sharp that it could cut steel.
I look up at my inquisitor, too afraid to reply. By now my eyes have grown to what feels like saucers and my heart is beating inside my chest with the ferocity of a caged animal. I let out a weak and nervous shake of my head as I try to divert the unwanted attention from me, further trying to hide behind my textbook. The class only lets out a slight chuckle as I squirm and wiggle my way inside my chair. I let out an audible swallow, trying to moisten my mouth, which feels like a desert right now.
Okazaki's face turns from an angry grimace to a slight frown, relieving some of the tension in the room. She sighs” Well, Miss. Kage, If you were to pay attention to my class instead of reading....unrelated material." she says, lifting my book up into the air and far away from my prying hands. "You...just...might...know”. She stresses each word as if she were giving a soldier a command. I feel my blush break into what one would assume was a wildfire, as the class chortles around me.
She fixes her glasses and proceeds to target another inattentive soul.
“Yuuto, do you know?” she asks, directing her question to her next victim. A young boy sitting in his seat, leaning against the white, stone wall behind him. His brown hair covering his eyes, and a relaxed, uncaring emotion shown on his face as he fiddles with a small pink eraser in his hand.
“Miyamoto Musashi.” The boy responds blankly, clearly anticipating the question before she even asked it. He manages to usher in a brief silence before Miss. Okazaki responds somewhat pleased. "Correct.” She smiles as she continues “Please, at least, try, to act like you want to be here Yuuto. As for you Miss. Kage, you can get this back at the end of class.”. She dictates as she points to the book for emphasis, causing me to squirm in my chair even more as I feel the class returning its attention towards me again.
Okazaki turns around and returns to the front of the class, her heels clicking against the linoleum floors with every step; filling the practically silent room with her rhythmic steps. She sets my book down on her desk before clearing her throat and continuing her lecture, as if she were never interrupted.
I let out a small sigh of defeat, and move my textbook to lie flat on my desk. I pick up my pink mechanical pencil and begin to write down the notes scrawled onto the board, in an effort to both listen and pass the time until dismissal. It doesn't take long for my mind to begin to wander, trailing away from my original task.
Who cares about history anyway? I mean, it already happened, do people really need to remember all this? I can summarize the entire history of humanity in just a few words 'Stuff happened', done, and it didn’t even take a few thousand years or one boring ass class.
I give up, I concede to just staring around the classroom, waiting for the bell to ring and dismiss us.
The classroom itself is fairly bland and sparsely decorated, with only one decoration of note—an imperial Japanese flag. It hangs above the blackboard, tacked into place, hanging there limply. It looks very old, bits of the corners were chewed away, from moths would be my guess. The white has long since turned to a shade of yellow and the red has begun to fade away. I wonder how it must feel, bored I would assume. I mean, it has been hanging there probably since the dinosaurs came to class. Dinosaurs went to class right? Yeah, they must have, they ruled the earth for a few million years. Did they have to learn history? If I paid attention to this class, this question would be answered by now! Imagining a classroom filled with dinosaurs, velociraptors, and stegosauruses, sitting in chairs while complaining about writing notes brings me a slight bit of comfort. While being fairly amusing, but like anything history related it fails to hold my attention for more than ten minutes.
I wonder if Toriyama-sama had to deal with class like this? He probably felt the exact same way I do right now. I wonder if anyone in this prison would even recognise his work from a glance. Probably not, kids nowadays don't know the important things.One of the single greatest manga artists of all time and his name isn't revered; a very sad fact. I let out a large sigh and lay my head down on the desk with a slight thump defeated.
Turning my gaze away from the flag, and my mind off of literate, but irritate dinosaurs, I decide to do everyone's favorite hobby; people-watching.
Class 3-4 is a very mixed class, to say the least, It's like the disabled melting pot of the school. Class 3-1 is generally filled with students who can't hear and haven't had the good fortune to develop echolocation. Class 3-2 is for students who need a new set of eyes, Class 3-3 is mainly students who look fine, but who haven't been put together so well; Anaemia, Scoliosis, Carpal tunnel, etc. I guess if Class 3-4 had to be designated as something, it would be the room for those with more physical injuries, namely missing appendages, you know the one’s society calls "cripples". Although there are a few of us who remain relatively intact but are landed here because the other classes are full and haven't had the good luck to be miraculously healed by a genie in a bottle.
The few major players in our class are the legless track star Emi Ibarazaki.
The armless artist Rin Tezuka.
Our student council representative Nori Akiyama; with a voice that can probably match that of an American valley girl.
Saki Enomoto; the school's resident bitch, she is pretty, but her personality is as vile as a demoness'.
Finally, we have the newest edition to our band of educational fools, and misfits—Yuuto Musashi. Or as I like to call him, the prince without a princedom.
That's probably how he knew the answer to that question, they're both Musashis! Yuuto and Miyamoto, I'm going to assume that they're related. Wait...isn't Miyamoto his family name? I'm sure it doesn't matter too much.
Well, he is from one of those uptight rich, aristocratic families; it wouldn't be too far of a stretch to assume he is. I let out a sneer in his direction, squinting my eyes and sticking my tongue out from across the class. Thankfully my sneer goes unnoticed, which gives me a hint of satisfaction at not being caught and given weird looks by my classmates. I can't help but feel a natural hatred for people who have everything given to them on a silver platter; like their entitled almost.
Yuuto joined our class in the new year and has fascinated the student body ever since. He came here due to a big motor-accident. I remember reading about it last year on the web. “Musashi International Banking Firm CEO's family involved in ‘state tragedy’”. It was horrific, enough to stun the nation. Guaranteed, if it was anybody else, the press wouldn't care nearly as much. According to the article; Yuuto, his mother, and his sister were struck by a speeding train when they were crossing the tracks in their car. His mother was killed in the crash. Yuuto lost both his legs and sustained severe injuries, while his sister escaped with a few bruises and gashes, thanks to her brother's “selfless protection” ...allegedly. He was described as the grandson of Takeo Musashi—the incredibly powerful and wealthy CEO of Musashi International Banking Firm, and also a relic from the days when the Meiji Constitution was still in effect. so naturally, the media swarmed them like ants to a snow cone.
Despite the loss of his legs and having to repeat the last year of high school, he seems about as normal as any other teenage high-school student, despite being overly cocky and incredibly good at almost everything he does. Upon arrival, he joined the track team, and soared through the rankings of our school, becoming the number one ranked boy on the team, and second on the team itself. The only one faster is the legless legend—Emi Ibarazaki, and I heard in the common room a few days ago, that he might even be able to beat her! Despite the rumoured rivalry, they're both very similar-- both legless, both a year older, and both relatively popular. Despite Emi however, Yuuto isn't keen on making friends, a few have tried, but he always turns people down. Other than his past and athletic capabilities, he is smart, fairly attractive, all that to boot and he's rich!
Sounds to me like he's the main 'hero' in a Shoujo manga, he's kind of my secret rival. I mean, he is practically my opposite. Smart and athletic, versus my lazy and dumb self. He even managed to beat me in my best subject, which is one of the only academic things I excel in. He beat me by 3% on the last English test, knocking me from the top of the class to second!
My jealousy and spite aside, he does fascinate and intrigue me, while also irritating me all at the same time. He rarely ever talks with anyone, has a very secretive past, refuses to speak of anything before his time at Yamaku—not that anyone has asked, of course, it's like an unwritten rule of thumb here. All of what I know came from that article online. One of his most mysterious qualities, however, is his hand. Always hidden within the confines of his pocket. His left hand, he has it hidden in his pocket all throughout the class and during his free time, even when he is running it's obscured by bandages. Before track practice, or a run he wraps his arms in thick bandages, all the way from his fingertips to his elbow. Which in my opinion, is a fairly suspicious thing to do. I have spent more than a good hour or two (much to my embarrassment) thinking about why it's hidden. I've ruled out the possibility of any burns, his wrist hangs out of his pocket in class, and the skin is not scarred or anything. It's not broken or malformed because it looks relatively normal when he runs, but then again he moves so quickly, it's hard to get a good look. Due to my 'investigation', and my superb detective skills I have deduced that one of two things is wrong with his hand.
The first being that It's tattooed with the marks of a demon, due to a contract he forged after the accident. In exchange for his soul, the demon gave him the ability to be good at anything he wants to be. He can have the power to be charismatic, smart, and athletic. The demon tattooed his hand in the old way—a blood tattoo, in order to track him down when the time comes for his payment. Because of this, he has to hide it within his pocket, because if anyone catches sight of the demonic tattoo he will be hunted to the ends of the Earth by humanity.
The second is, that he is holding an Omamori, that proves he is the chosen one. Chosen to protect humanity in its time of need, only then will it be revealed. An apocalyptic battle will ensue and just when humanity is about to fail, Yuuto will show himself. His cocky bravado and legless nature will turn the tides of war and we will be victorious! The chosen one will save humanity from utter destruction, and be remembered forever, as the man who saved the world.
Maybe~, I'm reading too much manga and watching too much anime, maybe...
Whatever the reason for his secretive nature, it's an interesting dilemma, an unfathomable mystery to be sure. A mystery I would like solved, sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, I don't have the gall to go up and ask him. So I'll just sit here curiously, stewing in my shyness and socially awkward nature…
The rest of the class goes by at a turtle's pace, I gaze out of the window, daydreaming about omamori's, demons, and dinosaurs. Okazaki finishes her lecture and assigns some work about the First World War and sets the test date for later this week. I should probably study for that—probably. I'm sure it's easy, I mean the First World War came before the second, so there's a start. I quickly scribble the test date down on a piece of paper and shove it into my notebook before returning to gaze back out the window.
Eventually, the sweet sound of the bell chiming away draws the class to an end, the class erupts into movement and excitement, as people swarm the exit. Eager to leave the boring history room and enjoy the few remaining days before the festival that has everyone in a panic.
Rustling papers and the sound of rushing feet fill the room. I lazily glance up to examine the ensuing stampede. Emi practically bolts out of the room on her prosthetic legs, almost in a puff of smoke; leaving Rin trailing behind her lazily. Rin travels at a slow, stumbling pace, quite the opposite of her legless companion making her seem as if she was in a dream a few moments just before the bell. Yuuto stands up from his desk, stretching out his back and releasing an exasperated yawn before putting his books into his bag and throwing it over his shoulder. Slowly walking out of the room, his metal prosthetic legs clicking and clacking as he walks along the classroom rows. His hand still remaining hidden away in his pocket, giving him a look of calm, and cool behaviour.
It isn't long until the classroom empties, leaving behind only a few people as they mull about. Nori and Okazaki are talking away at the front of the class, seemingly unaware that the bell had just rung.
I slowly pack up my things, which translates to just throwing stuff into it and cramming it all to make it fit. I button my bag up before clutching it in my hands and shuffling forward quietly, my brownish-red twin tails falling forward as I stare at the floor, doing my best to avoid making eye-contact with anyone. I occasionally look up to see where I'm going, only to let my eyes drift upwards for a few moment before I force them back down. Nori is still talking with Miss.Okazaki, about festival business no doubt and our class' participation.
While Nori speaks to our teacher about business, I patiently wait at the front of her desk. Fidgeting nervously and holding my bag in front of me, awkwardly shuffling my feet around hoping that this will end quickly and I can escape back to my dorm. After a few moments of silently standing, my eyes begin to wander.
As they continue talking, I notice my book sitting on her desk, tantalizingly perched there, practically begging for me to pick it up. I'm sure it wouldn't hurt to take a little look.
I look back up to the two figures talking, they appear not to have noticed me yet, a sneaky plan begins to form in my head. If I move quickly and silently enough, I can probably grab the book and leave; leaving nobody the wiser. I could go along with my day, finish the book and face the possible lecture about responsibility tomorrow. I weigh the pros and cons in my head, debating the possible consequences. Eventually, I make my decision to enact my plan. I slowly, but stealthily, reach my hand out towards the book, letting my fingers slide over the smooth cover and wrap themselves around its spine like a serpent constricting around a mouse. I pick up the book, and in one fluid motion I slide the book into my bag, making an effort to not let out even a decibel of sound. I look back up to see if I've been discovered, thankfully nobody's the wiser. Nori runs his hand through his buzzed black hair and laughs at one of Miss.Okazaki's jokes causing me to jump a little.
I relax and let out a silent sigh and choose to enact part B of my plan. Slowly, I start to edge my way towards the class exit; trying to imitate a spy from a movie. Doing my best to avoid making noise or catching anyone's attention, I sneak towards the exit like a tiny ninja. Every step causes my heart to beat faster and faster, it begins to sound like tribal war drums beating in my ears. I come within a few steps from the door, feeling my lips curl into a smile; salvation is at hand. I extend a leg to make the last stretch when the sound of someone clearing their throat and tapping on a desk freezes me in place. My blood turns to ice, and I let out a small squeal in fright, my spine shivers and I slowly turn around to face Miss. Okazaki standing there, arms crossed and a stern look on her face. Nori stands next to her, hand over his mouth, eyes shut and quietly chuckling behind his hand.
Laugh it up, it's real funny isn't it.
“Going somewhere?” Miss. Okazaki asks, raising one eyebrow.
Caught. Damn. I shuffle back to the duo, in a state of feeble defeat
“Well sensei, I guess we'll finish this another time!~” Nori giggles flamboyantly in his canary voice. “I love the ribbons you've put in your hair!” He smiles, reaching out and holding one of the white ribbons that hold my twin tails together, causing me to shudder in the process. A small blush forms on my face in response to his action.
"Well I have to go, Hakamichi needs my help with some student council business, see you tomorrow Kirino-Chan!~” he smiles and gives a coy wink, before retracting his hand and skipping out into the hall, leaving the lion to its prey.
I brace myself for the worst, clutching my bag tightly and shrinking where I stand. As I try to shrink myself down to the smallest form possible, Okazaki lets out a large laugh, causing me to open my closed eyes. She stands there chuckling at me, for no reason. Is there something on my face, was it because I was chewing my pens again and got ink smeared on my cheek? She flops down in her office chair exhausted and gives me a coy smile along with a wink. Out of all the scenarios I thought would unfold, I never expected this to happen. This...this caught me off guard.
“You look like a lamb to the slaughter. I just want to talk to you about your grades and how you're doing with your dad being overseas. Me catching you slacking off was a good way of convincing you to stay after class. Or so I thought!” She giggles adjusting her glasses and looking up to speak to me.
I shuffle my feet, and stare at her, giving a shy nod in response trying to up my voice into more than a typical whisper “Y-You wanted to talk?”
“Yeah, your grades appear to be slipping. No doubt thanks to your....extracurricular activities.” she says, pointing to my bag; where she assumes my book has made its way to emphasizing the last two words ."Did you honestly think I didn't see your hand sneak onto my desk?" she chuckles. "Honestly girl,” she sighs and gives her a head a little shake “well, you are your father's daughter. With him it was sticks of gum, with you, it's books"
I tilt my head quizzically and open my mouth trying to form a response. What do I say? I don't think I even have anything to say. I guess some things are inherited, whether they’re good or bad.
“You don't have to act all afraid and nervous around me. I’ve known you since before you were born, hell, I've even changed your diapers!" she jabs at me, causing me to give a slight blush. "You were never this shy when I came to visit you when you lived with your dad, maybe it's the professional clothes.” she gives a half-faced frown and looks down at her apparel. "Maybe a sugarless sucker will make you smile like you used to. Eh, you're probably too old for a sucker anyway.” She laughs, tilting her head at me.
I let out a small smile and a giggle in response, more so out of response than any actually feeling of humour. I don't try to be shy or socially anxious, I just am. The fact that she is dressed for her job isn't helping me either, but at least, she is trying to be friendly. I know what I want to say, most of the time that is. I just have trouble forcing the words out of my mouth.
“Listen Kiri." she says, reverting to my childhood nickname in a gesture of peace." I know it must be hard with your father overseas and all, but you need to be independent and more open to the world. When I went off to university I was practically almost too excited to be away from my parents, living on my own; living every kid's dream. Your father is a good man, better than my own." she laughs at herself.
" He loves you more than anything in this world. I'm sure you're upset that he left you to work on the other side of an ocean, but the fact is no matter how far away he is, he is only a phone call away. Hell, he'd probably swim across the entire Pacific if you were in trouble. If you ever need anything and don’t want to bother him let me know. You already have my number, all you need to do is call.” She smiles, not as a teacher, but as a woman who raised me like her own daughter. It helps me relax a little, better than most others. It's true, that I am shy, and I don't have any friends, but it's hard. Three years and I haven't befriended anyone, choosing to stay in my room like a hermit. Not that I don't want to have friends, I do, it's just, hard for me. Before I get a chance to think some more, I'm interrupted.
“Enough of this sappy business, let's talk about the issue at hand. Your grades. At this rate, you won't pass the next test. From the look of it, you were more interested in staring out the window and checking out Musashi more than anything.” she says, emphasizing her last point with a wink and a grin.
A blush blossoms across my face, and I stutter for words.” Wah, no... I.. It's not what you think. I was....I was...”
“Say no more, I was a teenager once you know. Sometimes you have to check out the merchandise before you buy it.” she laughs.
The blush on my face worsens, and I'm too shocked and embarrassed to form a response. I'm not having this conversation. Am I having this conversation? Why am I having this conversation! Please don't continue. Stop! No more!
She lets out another laugh at my response and moves around in her chair before returning to her original point. "Crushes aside, we need to bump your mark up. I would suggest doing some work, paying attention to class and maybe getting a tutor. If you need I can ask either Akiyama or Musashi to tutor you. They're the top two students in the class.” She suggests, giving me a sly wink when she mentions Yuuto's name.
Oh god. How did I get into this mess! I hope whoever is watching is getting a good laugh at this. I shake an imaginative fist in the sky, where the no doubt flippant observer is howling in laughter.
“No, no thank you.” I say quickly and sharply, doing my best to get my point across. Working with Yuuto irritates me at the near thought, and I really wouldn't want to bother Nori. He has more important issues—namely the upcoming school festival. It would be unfair to burden him any more than he already is.
“I understand your reluctance. Well, my offer still stands should you change your mind. You're free to leave whenever you want. If you want to talk over some tea, give me a call on my off hours. Lord knows I'd like to get away from this damn marking.” She smiles before turning to face a massive pile of history essays, which causes her to grimace. (Mine is somewhere in the middle and is probably a failure.)
I give her a small bow, before leaving the classroom and any further embarrassment behind me. I heave a delicate sigh as I enter the hall and only now realize how thirsty I am. I debate on whether to get a drink here at the school, or wait until I get to my dorm. After a few moments of careful deliberation, I take the option to get a drink here. After all, the vending machines here ought to have more variety than my mini-fridge in my room.
As I make my way towards the lobby which houses our resident vending machines, I notice how barren the halls are. Even after school, it's not usually this soulless, you usually have a few students doing club activities or just hanging out. Though nobody seems to be here. I wonder why? Maybe because the festival is coming up and people want to enjoy the calm before the storm I guess?
My footsteps are the only sounds that can be heard in the near silent hallways, I would have expected to hear the occasional chirp from birds on the other side of the windows, but they too seem to be missing. Fresh spring air, flows from the open windows that line the halls, it smells nice—]if a little cold. The sunlight pours through the glass windows, illuminating the path in front of me. It reminds me a bit of western styled cathedrals, with the large windows and the sunlight pouring in over the carpets.
The school is none so majestic, nor beautiful, but it's prettier than it usually is. It is nice, calming almost; as if the world has stopped to just enjoy this one day. I walk down from the third floor, sliding my hand along the vibrant yellow railing, still amazed by the lack of any activity. I should probably be worried as to why there is nobody anywhere, but instead, I feel a hint of satisfaction. If there are no people, then I won't run into anyone and they won't try to talk to me…or look at me. I think it's a win-win scenario. I almost let a smile lick my lips and burst into a little skip at the thought, but save myself the humiliation that would arise should someone come by, seeing a girl skip around and smiling in a hall all by herself.
My thoughts soon turns from the hallways to my studies, rather, my lack of studies. It would be a wise idea, to instead of watching the anime I have recorded, to instead study. I guess I will just study between episodes instead of fast-forwarding through the commercials like I usually do. I giggle at the foolish idea, realizing I don't have the willpower nor the attention span to do that. I do need to bump up my mark, though, Just how? I could get a tutor, but I don't want to bother Nori, and even if Yuuto accepted, his cocky behaviour and our secret rivalry would irritate me. I'll just look over the homework questions and do a few after I get my daily fix of anime, and most likely finish Maschera. I'm probably just lying to myself in an effort to put off any guilt and panic I have. So far, it's working. All work and no play make a dull horse after all.
And all play and no work, make a dead horse.
Well, that turned fairly morbid. I should leave the analogies to the pros, stick with what you're good at Kirino.
I turn the corner, passing by a trophy cabinet of some kind. I enter into the brightly lit lobby which causes me to wince a little and forced to blink a few times. When I open my eyes to look around the room, watching as sunspots dance around my vision like water spiders in a pond. After quickly looking around the room to examine if anyone was there. After being sure there is no one here, I step into the lobby and head for the vending machines. I think my social paranoia has hit an all new high, I wonder if it's over nine-thousand?
I step towards the two humming metal giants and examine their contents. I gaze through the glass of the smaller sister machine, marvelling at the many drink choices. It contains a lot of beverages, as well as a fair amount of variety (excluding overloaded sugary pop, for obvious reasons), not that I could drink it anyway. After a few moments of careful deliberation, I decide on a particularly colourful, sugarless bottle of orange juice. I insert the code and look up at the price.
Two-hundred yen is displayed on the digital display.
I open up my school bag, and dig around for my wallet, eventually finding it stuck between the pages of my English book. I pull out the anime girl themed wallet and dig around inside for two one-hundred-yen coins. I gently insert them into the machine and hear the vending machine dispense my drink with a loud metallic bang. I throw my wallet back into my bag and pick the drink up from within the machine. The cold bottle chills my hands as I pick it up and hold it against my neck. The cold drink feels nice against my skin, causing a rush of goosebumps to pop up along my body. I twist the cap off of the bottle and then begin to drink it. I cringe a little at the first taste of the bitter liquid inside.
“Blah!~ bitter.” I say softly, shaking my head and sticking out my tongue in the process like a small child.
I take another sip, refreshing me and quenching my thirst. I giggle a little and open my eyes. I instantly freeze in place, almost turning into a statue at the sight ahead of me. Leaning against a pillar on the far side of the lobby, staring out the window towards the school grounds stands a rather familiar shape. His hand is in his pocket and a can of coffee in the other. He looks deep in thought, maybe he didn’t see me yet?
He was the last person I was expecting to see here. That would explain the incredible bitterness within my drink, well probably not, but still. Since he’s not paying attention, maybe I can sneak away without being drawn into a conversation. Another brilliant idea by me! I quickly tighten the cap on my bottle and slowly start to tip-toe away silently.
“Pretending you didn't see me?” His voice makes my blood freeze as I let out a girlish squeal. Slowly turning my body to face him, his green eyes are fixed on me, and I can almost see them shimmer with the thrill of catching some prey. A small shiver runs up my spine as I stutter for words, attempting to work up the courage to reply.
“Kirino Kage right?” He asks, his baritone voice reverberating around the room. He pushes himself off the pillar and starts heading towards me, strutting like a peacock.
As he approaches me I start to fidget nervously with my blouse, shuffling my feet subconsciously. My eyes start to dart around the room looking for a quick escape. My eyes focus on the door at the far end of the lobby. Maybe If I sprint I can escape through the door. Unlikely, he might pursue, and if he did he could easily catch me. I let my thoughts wander for too long and before I know it he's looming over me, hiding me within his large shadow. He is so close I can smell his cologne, it's almost engulfing me. Like a form of chemical warfare. Much to my surprise it actually smells quite good, like a mixture of lavender and sports deodorant. Why am I smelling him? Let alone complimenting his smell? He is the embodiment of everything you're not, your secret rival, an enemy of the state of Kirino Kage! No fraternization with the enemy Kirino! This is a hostile diplomatic engagement, lose no ground!
“I've yet to introduce myself.” He starts off, draining the last bit of his can of coffee and throwing it over his shoulder into a garbage can behind him.
Impressive, but it would have been funny if he missed.
“Yuuto, Yuuto Musashi.” he continues smirking cockily and extending a hand out in greeting. I nervously look down at his hand and debate on whether or not to shake it, but even if I wanted to, I don't think I could. I'm too terrified for a proper greeting, His giant stature is not helping me relax, even in the slightest.
After a few moments of him holding out his hand and my look of pure shock, he drops his hand, realizing I won't shake it—whether out of fear or spite. Maybe a little of both, but more so that of fear. He probably thinks I'm about as timid as a door mouse, which isn't far from the truth. In all honesty, I'm terrified of meeting people, let alone people who are on a whole different level than I am.
“Not much for introductions I see....fair enough. Meeting new people is always hard, especially when that person is a funny looking guy like me.” He laughs awkwardly, lifting up his pant leg to show me his metal prosthetic; doing a little joking jig in the process. They're very shiny, I guess they're made of steel? They look very well put together too, but they don't look much like Emi’s. Maybe his are a new, more expensive model? Which would make sense, considering who his grandfather is, but then again, I’m no expert in prosthetic limbs…
The jig he puts on in an effort to break the ice, somewhat works. Causing me to giggle a little and loosen the tension built up within my muscles.
He grins and continues his conversation, determined to speak- one-sided or not.” So... You're into that manga stuff, eh? My little sister is into that sort of thing, I for one can't get into it. She tried to get me into some, but I just watch to amuse her. I can't get over the fact that their eyes are almost the size of their entire face, it's unsettling in my opinion. Different strokes for different folks though.”
First of all buddy, you don't watch Manga; you read it. Second of all, What~~? Your sister likes manga and anime?
My fear soon subsides and is replaced by friendly curiosity. I knew he had a sister, but I never knew what she was like. I would never have even guessed that she would have liked the same things I do. Setting my fear and social anxiety aside, I decide to talk.
I manage to force out a whispered question.” What's...she...like, your sister that is?”
My almost silent reply causes him to grin as wide as the Cheshire cat. The fact that I gave him a response at all seems to make him joyful. Proud of his achievement, he quickly answers.” With all due respect, she's a lot like you... and a lot different. She's an Otaku in every sense of the word; much to my grandfather's dismay. Sadly, she's a bit of a shut in, and likes to hide who she is behind a veil of an anime or manga character." he begins to bite his lip as he asks himself "Who was she dressing up as the last time I saw her?” His last point was clearly meant for his own thoughts, but it gets me thinking.
He scratches his chin, and rubs his hand through his hair, as he racks his brain. He sucks in a bit of air before hesitantly saying “Errr. Black hair, trench coat, uses a katana and.....and red eyes. No, wait, her eyes and hair, change from.... black to red?” he says more to his own benefit than to mine. Not expecting me to know what he's talking about, let alone reply.
Various animes and characters pop into my head, before finally settling on one particular one:
“Shana? From Shakugan no Shana?” I say, more confident than I was at the beginning of this forced conversation.
He makes an odd clicking sound with his mouth before snapping his fingers to point at me. With a sly grin, he replies “That’s the one! Sounds like you know your stuff. I'm glad at least one of us does.” He chuckles and goes to open his mouth for another response but is interrupted by an odd sound. A mail notification maybe?
He puts his hand into his pocket and takes out a phone and flips it open to look for something. He proceeds to click around on his phone, leaving me to stand there awkwardly, clutching my drink and bag whilst looking at the ground.
“Ughh. Damn. She's gonna kill me.” He sighs before putting his phone away. I look up at his face and he looks nervous now, slightly awkward. His eyes are wide, and his mouth is formed into an awkward, but hesitant smirk. He gives a nervous laugh before saying” Well, Kirino it's been nice, but I got to go. On penalty of death, apparently. Catch you later! Thanks for talking with me!”
Before I get a chance to respond he bolts out of the lobby, almost like a bolt of lightning. Leaving me standing there all alone, mouth open and catching flies. My mouth soon closes and forms into a frown. Well, that was odd, odder yet that he left in such a hurry. Just randomly bringing up his sister to a complete stranger. For what I expected he is not exactly what I thought. Cocky, yes, but very unguarded, or just plain overly sociable. Either way, it changed my opinion, for better or for worse.... I don't quite know yet. Who is 'she' anyway? His girlfriend, while that's not surprising, but this soon? We're just a month into school. Well, he must work fast then. I just wonder who it is. Somebody on the track team most likely, but you never know for sure. Well, either way, I've had my fill of socialization for the week, now to head home. I have a date with a bean bag, sleep pants, and a heap of recorded anime. Guess, I don't have time to study, oh well. I'm sure the test coming up will be easy.