A Thousand Miles
My alarm beeps earlier than I'm used to, and I reluctantly climb out of bed. Flicking the lights on in my room, I do my daily routine of chugging down all the meds I need to not die for the next few weeks. Dark thoughts, dark words, but I need to accept the fact that if I forget to take these pills, I'm a goner. I may be well-rested, but my legs are sore from yesterday's jog. On the bright side, it's 5:30 AM, two hours later than when I woke up yesterday, though the sky is still pretty much dim. This time, I don't bother to take a bath. I'm going to sweat it up at the track, anyway, so why attempt to clean myself up prematurely? I wear my PE uniform, which ironically enough is something I never wear since I'm exempt from attending PE. I wonder if Lilly from 3-2 is exempted from PE, too. She probably is, since blindness is definitely a problem when you're dealing with sports and the like. What if PE for her is just playing chess for the entire period? I shake my head at the thought. If that were the case, I'd be playing chess once a week and be graded for not being bad at it. I'm not decent at it, though. I'm a bit glad I don't have to play chess for my grades.
Once I left my room and locked the door, a loud thump echoes from inside Kenji's room. I stop in my tracks and eye his door. I could be wrong, but I'm actively guessing that he's been up all night doing... something. My imagination fails to grasp what he could be possibly be doing at the moment, and I'm grateful for that. The world doesn't need another Kenji to plague it. I almost knock on his door, but I decide against it, mostly because he might eat up my time with one of his lectures on the catastrophic effects of letting feminism run rampant or something along those lines.
I think of jogging to the track to maybe knock a few seconds off this morning's session, but I'm practically limping from the pain in my thighs. They feel tight, and the slightest movement makes me grit my teeth. It isn't unbearable, but it's damn well annoying. I'll have to settle with walking for now.
To my surprise, I don't find any sign of Emi at the track. Instead, I'm looking at Miki bending down in front of the bleachers in her PE uniform and bloomers, bottoms up, her legs straight, and her face practically touching her knees. People can do that? Wow. The human body body doesn't cease to astound me, and neither does Miki's. Erghm. Let's not get ourselves carried away here.
"Morning," I say to make my presence known.
Miki stops stretching for a bit and looks up at me. "Yo, top of the mornin' to ya," comes her reply, and she goes right back to pushing her nose against her knees.
"You seen Emi? I was expecting here to be here by now."
"You jus' miss'd 'er," she says, her breath a bit tight. I guess bending like that squeezes the air out of your lungs. She stands straight up and regards me seriously. "She's usually really early. Like, really early. That way no one gets to hog the track from her."
"Ah, I see." I guess it explains how she found me when I woke up a couple of hours after midnight. "I was expecting her to be the one to supervise my jogging."
"She passed the torch to moi," Miki smirks, putting her hand against her chest.
"I'll be in good hands then," I reply. She stares at me with an incredulous look. A few gears grind in my brain and I realize that what I just said was possibly the dumbest thing to say to someone like her. "Crap, I'm sorry! I slipped my mind."
"Pah, it's nothing," she says blandly, waving her stump across her face to dismiss the issue. I could tell she's trying to do it lightheartedly, but she's really glum about it. Touchy subject, I guess. Touch. With hands. Damnit, Hisao, you did it again. At least she can't read thoughts. She looks at me eye-to-eye, and I remember that one time she knew I was hungry during the festival, and that other time she knew I was lonely. Crap. What if she can
If she really is telepathic, she doesn't let me know. She only shifts her gaze down to my pants and puts her good hand on her waist. "Your legs still hurting?"
I nod. "It feels like my thighs are doing knots on themselves."
She looks back up at me. "That's 'cause you didn't stretch properly-," I raise a finger to explain to her that I stretched with an expert yesterday, "-or you didn't stretch before jogging."
"Oh." So that's what I missed. My finger slinks back down.
"I guessed as much." She raises her left arm and bends it behind her head, while her good hand grabs onto her elbow and pulls it towards her head as much as she can. "Copy me," she muttered, and I mirror her, right to left. She counts silently, but I could read her lips as she does sixteen counts for every pose. After every one, we do the same for the opposite side, but she has difficulty when she needs to grab things with her left not-hand.
Once we reach to stretching the legs, she pulls her right knee up to her chin, hugging it towards her body, and I try to do the same with my left. My sense of balance isn't the best and I wobble to and fro, hopping so I won't fall on my face. My clumsiness brings a small smile to Miki's face, but it's gone the second it appeared. She's probably more miffed than I thought. I want to apologize to her, but I should probably do that later. I don't want to break her focus and piss her off even more.
The entire warm-up lasts for fifteen minutes, and I can almost feel my muscles feeling a lot more limber than when I just woke up. My legs still hurt, but the pain is a degree more bearable than if I didn't stretch. It doesn't mean that they don't feel like they're about to fall off at any second. "We're going to stick with the six laps Emi made you start with," she orders. "Same rules apply; go at your own pace, just keep moving, and make sure you finish."
I nod and get behind a starting line, almost forgetting that Miki hasn't started her own run either. She lines up beside me, jogging and flicking her wrist in place. "I'd race you, but we both know you'd be eating my dust." All my guilt washes away as I glare at her, and she smirks back at me playfully. I open my mouth to formulate a clever counter, and trust me when I say I really was going to think of one, but she's already bolted down the track. I groan audibly before I follow at my tortoise-like pace. At least she's back to being her old snarky self.
Just like yesterday, I lose my breath some time in the middle of my second lap. I don't dare to rest for fear of getting told off by Miki, but I'm sure I don't want to collapse either, so I slow down while keeping my jogging pace. A step an inch, a step an inch, a step an inch. I breathe deeply through my nose, which somehow feels much more rejuvenating than breathing through my mouth like I usually do when I'm out of breath. To be honest I'm not sure if I've got my breathing right. Maybe I'll ask Miki how to after this run. She's already done seven laps after I finish my second one, and five of those were spent sprinting. I can't help but admire her dedication to her craft.
One repetition before I'm finished, she's already done her twenty laps. I imagine that I'd be a goner if I try running that distance in my condition. I jog past her while she's wiping her neck off with a face towel. I'm close to finishing and my breath isn't ragged, but I reckon I could go faster than my current speed.
So I turn it up a notch.
I don't exactly make a bee-line for the finish line, but I think I performed the low-stamina-kid's equivalent of one. I found my pathetic little ten meter dash strangely satisfying, if not extremely tiring, and I'm reduced to wheezing through my mouth. I'm bending down and holding my hand to my chest, my heart fluttering fast. Miki rushes to my side and puts her hand on my back.
"Are you okay?" she asks, her voice strained with concern.
I look up at her, one palm propped against my knee, and give her a thumbs up. My eyes are swimming in tears and I sputter, but I'm fine. I'm coughing out of strain, and what might have been a heart flutter. I couldn't tell. My head is still spinning a bit.
Gritting her teeth, Miki kneels down for a split second and punches my shin.
"Ow!" I howl, my attention leaving my chest and finding itself on my left shin. I kneel down and massage it with both my hands. "Wussat for?" I whimper, still clearly out of breath.
"You dickweed." She almost punches me again and I flinch, but she thinks better of it, but her hand is still balled in a fist. "I said to go at your own pace, not push yourself to the limit. I'm not dumb. You obviously have some sort of heart or lung problem if Emi is so concerned about having you jog every morning even though you have the stamina of a fat house cat."
I look up at her, deeply fascinated by how she guessed all that just from observation. I've lived long enough to know that common sense is, in fact, not that common. It's actually a freaking super power.
My chest rises and falls steadily, and my thoughts focus on my every breath. Both of us stay quiet for some time, me kneeling on the track and her looming over me like a tree. A bird chirps somewhere in the distance.
"I'm sorry," I finally break the silence. "I should've known better."
"You damn well should've known better." I feel like I'm being reprimanded by a marginally more intimidating Emi. She sighs and closes her eyes. "Look, we better get moving before classes start and I'm sure both of us need some time to freshen up. We'll cool down with some stretching and today's running session is done. And please-." Her hand hovers in front of her face, as if she's trying to grasp onto some concept in the air. "Don't do that again."
I nod and get up, raising my right arm and tugging my elbow with my left hand, initiating the stretching exercises first.
I climb up to the third floor with reasonably better-feeling legs, though my shin is still in pain. A handful of students are already in the classroom, and a few eyes find their way on me as I enter the room. Miki isn't here yet, and I breathe a sigh of relief. I didn't want a stiff confrontation where I have to pass in front of her before I reach my desk.
As the morning grows, the room slowly fills up. I eventually find Miki coming in alongside Suzu. I catch her gaze and expect an awkward stare, but she smiles at me and takes her seat. Huh. That's weird. My thoughts analyze the strange exchange for the better part of the morning before first period starts.
I wake up to realize that homeroom period has ended. This morning's workout must have taken a toll on me. I don't remember ever falling asleep, but at least I didn't snooze in the middle of class. I rummage through my bag and I'm left with a homework list, namely English, where I'm supposed to submit a chapter report on Silas Marner, a horrible book that I'll never understand, Physics, which is just a problem set that I could do in a couple of minutes, and Geometry, which I could also do in a few minutes. I am just about ready to leave when I feel hands wrap around my face and the world goes dark.
"Guess who, Hicchan~?" a singsong voice pipes up.
"This better be important, Misha." I peel the Vice President's fingers off my nose.
"But it is~. The fate of the school is in your hands, Hicchan~." She bends upside-down in front of me and we eye each other. "Join me and Shicchan? Pwetty pwease~?" She tries to pout, but it's only half-effective because her curls are obscuring my face, and all I can see beyond that is her eyes and nose.
I should've guessed that Shizune would've had a part in this. I turn around and find her sitting on the desk, both arms and legs crossed. Her smile looks like a half-smirk. She waves at me before turning to Misha and she starts signing.
"You have responsibilities to Yamaku and to your Student Council~," Misha says. "We can make the whole school better, but we're going to need your help~. Don't you want to serve a noble cause, Hicchan~?" I know I'm talking to Shizune but it feels like I'm talking to the pinkette instead and I can't take her seriously.
"I'm flattered and all that you chose me to help you guys but..." I desperately look around for a vine to hold onto to save me from this quicksand situation. Unfortunately, the three of us are the only people in the room. I am about to give up just as Miki enters the room, a knight in shining armor.
Fine, she wasn't actually shiny or in armor, but the thought still stands. She was my ticket out of here.
"Miki!" I stand up and immediately meet her at the door with arms wide open. I clap her squarely on both shoulders. "How are you this fine day?"
"Yo," she says, clearly confused. "I'm good. Are you... uh, feeling okay, Hisao?" I can imagine that Misha and Shizune behind me are as dumbfounded as she is.
"I'm great!" I say loudly before moving in closer to whisper to her. "Are you in any clubs that I could possibly join?"
"What? No! We both know the track team isn't going to let you join." She scrunches up her eyebrows. "Why do you need to join a club for anyway?"
I take a step to one side to give her a clear view of who's inside the room.
"Oh," she muses. "Hi you two." I think at least one of the girls behind me are waving because she's waving herself. She turns back to me. "You need an excuse to not join the SC?"
"I think that's a given," I whisper back. Miki's face suddenly contorts itself. I think she's trying to point at something with her lips...
"If this is a delaying tactic, Hisao, we're not buying it~." Misha's voice is right behind me, and I blurt out in surprise as I turn around. Shizune, of course, is the one closer to me, and she's staring daggers into my soul.
"I-it's not, I swear!" I reason out. "It's just that, well..."
Miki is tapping her foot on the floor. "Is this gonna take a while? 'Cause I was expecting that me you and Suzu were gonna get the rest of the afternoon together and-."
"Exactly!" I exclaim, glad that the gears in my brain were still grinding away in perfect condition. "We're all going to hang out together today. Because I'm joining the Literature Club."
"You are~?" Misha asks, while Shizune looks surprised.
"You are?" Miki asks, equally stunned.
"Didn't we talk about this this morning?" I pull the dark-skinned girl with me to the hall as we make our escape. "We all know that a student that has a club can't join the Student Council, right? Now if you excuse me, ladies, me and Miki have places to go." I can imagine the incredulous look on Shizune's face as we walk away, while Misha's probably just disappointed right now.
"Smooth move, Hisao," Miki says as soon as we're out of earshot, grinning like a madwoman. "I never knew you were a nerd for books."
"Gimme a break, Miki," I huff. "It's called 'thinking on your feet', and I really am joining the Lit Club. I like reading, and I get to have an excuse to not to be bothered by Misha and Shizune. Two birds, one stone."
"Color me impressed," she says. Her grin slowly falters, though. I can tell something's bothering her.
"Sorry about this morning," I guess.
"What, you mean with the whole 'don't break your limits' thing?" She scoffs. "Forget about that jazz. I'm just glad you made it through in one piece." Her charming grin comes back, and I can't help but smile along. "Besides, a good knock to your knees is probably a better reminder for you instead of just using boring words."
I nod. I try to get over the whole thing but I'm still embarrassed about the whole 'you got hit by a girl' part.
I'm about to ask where we're going, but our chosen path seems familiar. I choose to hold any further comment until we get there. Soon enough, we arrive at our destination: two large mahogany doors.
"The library? You and Suzu hang out at the library?"
"She's a nerd like you," Miki jibes. "'Course she'd feel at home in the library."
"Why don't you two hang out in a more normal place, like the cafeteria, or the roof?"
"You try making friends with a girl who sleeps 24/7 and see if she likes stairs." She sticks her tongue out playfully. "I've been in Yamaku longer than you, you know. I'd like to think I'd be the expert at prime hangout spots. Besides, there's the beanbag section, so she can stay KO'd as long as she likes."
Ah, so Suzu's sleeping patterns aren't normal. I guess it explains why she's never awake in class though she's barely ever called out.
I push the library's double doors open and enter the huge room. It's mostly empty right now, aside from all the volumes of course. "Ladies first," Miki quips.
"Pipe down," I grumble. "It's common decency to keep quiet at a library."
"Relax," Miki chimed. "We're not gonna get in trouble. We've got the whole place to ourselves. AIN'T THAT RIGHT, LIBRARIAN!?"
I hear a startled cry from behind the desk, then the loud clang of wood on tiles, then a groan. "It's okay! I'm okay..."
I look over to the librarian's desk to see a poor woman in glasses rubbing her lower back. "Yo, Yuuko." Miki greets her as if nothing happened.
"Hi, Miki..." the librarian replies. "You could've at least kept the volume down. You scared me to death back there."
"You did say you're okay, right?" Miki smiles.
Yuuko frowns loudly. "I guess I did." She looks like she's about to cry.
"Thanks for taking care of Suzu for me. I'll make it up to you next week." Yuuko nods. I really think she broke something back there. I sure hope not. "We'll be back here if you need anything, m'kay?"
"Okay..." the librarian whimpers.
"You really think you should push Yuuko around like that?" I ask her as we walk along the various shelves.
"Yeah, she's fine. Me and her are acquainted, so it's no big deal. Besides, no one comes to the library on Wednesdays so there's no one
I'm really skeptical about this, but she did
say that she was the hangout expert. I merely nod and follow her to the beanbag section.
We find Suzu burying her nose into a book. From the looks of the title, I think it's a collection of Shakespeare's works. It's probably in English. I can already imagine how hard a time I'd have if I read that.
While I was preoccupied with my thoughts, Miki waves to the girl on a beanbag. "Yo, Suzu."
Suzu's eyes travel from the book to us. "Hey Miki. Glad to see you came through with the whole plan." She smiles at her, then at me.
"You know Hisao from our classroom, right? I guess this is the first time you and him are properly introduced."
"Obviously," Suzu replies.
"Hisao Nakai," I bow. "It's a pleasure to meet you."
Suzu nods once. "Suzu Suzuki. The pleasure's mine."
"Now that you two have been acquainted, did I tell you that Hisao was the one who carried you in here last Monday?"
The girl with sea-green hair grabs a book from a stack next to her feet and chucks it straight at Miki. The taller girl dodges it and laughs heartily. Suzu buries her face in Shakespeare again, and I can see her ears are a bit red. Did I miss something?
"One of these days, Miki, bam! Straight to the moon." Suzu's words are muffled by the book's pages.
Miki cups her hand toward me and whispers. "I love it when she squirms like that." I guess it is
kinda cute the way she does it.
"Anyway, Hisao says he wants to join the Literature Club." Miki plops onto one of the many beanbags, and I follow suit, choosing one in front of the both of them.
"You do!?" Suzu's head immediately pops out of the book. "That's great! More members means more book reviews with Yuuko." She's absolutely brimming with energy, a strange juxtaposition of her compared to her constant sleepiness.
"Yeah. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision, though."
"Oh that's alright. As long as you're really set on joining, it'll be fine."
"I know you'd like that, Suzu." Miki flashes her Cheshire Cat smile again.
"Shut. Up," says Suzu.
I can't help but grin at the two girls' exchange.
The rest of the afternoon is spent with small-talk, jokes, and Miki poking fun at Suzu. It's the most fun that I had since I got to this school. I'm quiet for the most part while the two girls banter, and my thoughts keep on coming back to how I really appreciate that Miki came into my life the way she did.