The Longing Of Shiina Ryo:Volume1 Chapter 3: Kouma

From Baka-Tsuki
Jump to: navigation, search

Part 1[edit]

The first thing I noticed when I woke up in the morning was that I was full of energy. As I opened the windows, I listened to skylarks chirping and swallows twittering. The sound seemed to come from a beautiful cherry tree near my house, and was only interrupted by the sound of the departing geese flying above my house, probably in a V formation. It sure is spring.

I was in a good mood and had absolutely nothing to do at home, so decided to leave earlier than usual and take a nice walk to school.

Filled with spring orchids and cherry trees I failed to notice yesterday, the path seemed to be trying really hard to make sure I didn't forgot the season was spring. I don't mind; I love the spring. In fact, I love it so much I would spend the whole spring somewhere and when the summer decided to come, I would travel the world just to meet spring somewhere else again.

Now that I think about it, I have done such a thing. It wasn't that interesting or romantic, especially because I was being chased by mobsters. And aliens. And even a spy squirrel. No, really, a spy squirrel. This is so ridiculous I can't believe how someone would take me for a liar. I mean, if I were to lie about being hunted by something, it would certainly not be something like a squirrel. Even a serial liar would have some dignity.

It's interesting to see how different people react to the same thing. In this same situation (walking alone to school through this beautiful path, not being chased by a squirrel with license to kill), I guess Ryo would be looking at them happily like a kid seeing the circus for the first time. Wait, I must stop doing this; this is not the first time I compare her to a small kid in my thoughts. What if I ended up saying something like that out loud? She probably wouldn't be happy about this.

I kept walking through the streets that seemed to be a maze inside an endless urban garden.

What about Kouma? What would she think while surrounded by flowers? Well, she doesn't look like someone who likes spring very much. I can totally relate her to winter in my mind. However, it seems to me that while she tries to keep a facade of coldness and apathy towards anyone but Ryo she hides her sweet side deep inside herself. Her occasional bursts of feelings and the way she is concerned about Ryo made me think that there is a nice but tormented girl inside that apparently empty but incredibly well-dressed shell.

Maybe she is a little bit like Reikoku-sensei. Oh, I'm missing the point, here; I think that in the midst of this perfect, textbook example of spring Kouma would probably spend more time thinking about the biological classification of the flowers than about the beauty of the scene, but deep down she would eventually think "cute!”. I might be wrong, but that's what I believe.

I prefer not to ponder about sensei's reaction to this situation. Despite being a nice person (even if only to me), her taste for anything other than jazz is the kind of thing you don't want to imagine this early in the morning. Especially if you had breakfast. She really is into horror and it seems like she fits right into the "gore film aficionado" category.

Actually, I kind of like horror movies and I don't have anything against the old ones, but a certain scene from one of those movies is making me feel slightly uncomfortable about this walk. It shocked me, big time. Since then, I can't help but feel awkward when alone and surrounded by trees. I might still have the daylight, but the trees have their vines.

With that in mind, I decided to walk a little bit faster.

Part 2[edit]

No, I wasn't running. I was just, eh, walking a little bit faster. But you assumed I was running, didn't you? I knew it! You did assume I was running like a coward! Can't you read? And I was only moving myself slightly faster because I wanted to, not because I was afraid of trees and flowers or anything. Why would I?

Better safe than sorry, anyway.

I arrive at school without any events, and from what I could see I wouldn't have any events for a while; the school seemed even emptier than the streets. It was like a theater stage after the play is over. Like I was the only person on Earth.

Which would not be that bad, as long as there weren't any suspicious trees around me.

I enter the building where my class is located. The hall was silent and empty as the rest of the world seemed to be, but since there were absolutely no perennial woody plants in sight I started to relax. There were, indeed, a lot of wooden objects inside the school. Pencils, desks, chairs, even the floor. However, the thing that calmed me down was that they were all already dead. I just hope that no one at Greenpeace heard that one.

It didn't occur to me back then that in the same movie a girl was turned into a zombie with a pencil. Right, a pencil made of a dead tree. It doesn't make much sense, anyway. The movie is quite good, though. If you like that kind of movie and don't really care about details, it's worth a night of fun and weird dreams. Not really scary, just weird.

So, basically, I calmly walked through the hallway unaware of the fact that if my theory was indeed right and trees actually attacked people in what I can only describe as "an unorthodox way" I was trapped in the worst case scenario. Worse than a naked man rolling quickly into a dragon's den.

Everything seems to be worse when you're naked.

In much better spirits than before, I entered the classroom, which was (big surprise!) empty. I guess it's safe to say that I'm the first to step here today. That made me feel good about myself. Being the first one to enter an empty classroom is a great responsibility; it's such an honour, despite being such a small step...

I kept moving towards the last row, walking so slowly it was almost dramatic. Step by step, like a lion trying not to be detected by its prey. Every step felt special, every single of them was an omen. I just wasn't sure of what they were trying to tell me.

And then, when I reached my desk, I saw it.

A card.

A plain white card with absolutely nothing written on it was on my desk. The kind of card you would give to your contacts as a businessman. If you were one. If you had a decent job, I mean. If you had a job at all.

So yeah, a card.

I looked around and noticed that the other desks were completely empty. No one else had received a white card; no, I shouldn't suppose that someone sent it to me. No reason for that. There was no apparent reason for it to be there too, but it could have been an accident or something and...

...wait. Why am I making such a big deal about this? It's just a piece of paper. A common, standard, plain, ordinary piece of paper in blank. I can't be afraid of that. I really can't, and simply because I have seen too much and dealt with many weird things. It wouldn't make any sense. I need to stop being so paranoid; I won't be able to have a normal life if I don't quit sabotaging myself.

I just need to pick it up. Yes, I'll pick it up and nothing will happen to me. It will end up being a micro-love letter delivered in the wrong place, and after a lot of misunderstandings, fan service and confessions everyone will laugh. Everything will be just fine, right? Right?

Yeah, like that would happen.

Reality shifted clearly in front of my eyes. Crimsonness danced madly and spread through the once nearly monochromatic room like a paintbrush in the hand of an epileptic painter. In a second, the vivid red took over the room and distorted it. Around me, the classroom had literally changed from its natural state to a nightmarish, grotesque living hell.

Run.

Appalled, I look around out of the corners of my eyes, seeking for a hope I can't seem to find anywhere. Unable to move my body due to fear I ended up sinking slowly but not gently.

Run.

No visible means of leaving.

Run.

Being completely swallowed alive by a sea of red.

Run.

It took me a while to realize that the crimsonness enveloping the world was indeed alive, and every bloody strand emerging from its core was most likely a tentacle. Despair quickly invaded me as the enormous mass of red started closing in. I felt suffocated, almost claustrophobic; I was truly helpless in front of a power I could not understand and my worst fear had become truth.

It's here.

Symbols hovered in the midst of chaos like black ink butterflies, clearly unaffected by the closing storm of red. I felt like I had already seen those symbols somewhere else but for some reason, I couldn't make any sense of them. Actually, the reason might have been the fact that I was being crushed by something I have never seen before. I was right; it's always scarier when you don't know anything.

I cannot hide.

There is absolutely no escape from this.

In a moment of momentary madness, I wished for zombies or monstrous trees I could understand and eventually defeat. My wish was not granted, and as I was restrained by the grotesque ruby coloured creature I faced the truth I couldn't deny even if I wanted to with all of my soul.

Mystery had found me once again.

Part 3[edit]

And then I ran.

I admit it: I really, really ran that time.

As soon as the apparently interminable nightmare was over, I used all of the strength I had left to run away from the classroom. Not sure of how many minutes I have stood there, I rushed as if to compensate for the time I was completely catatonic and immersed into that wicked reality. I needed no more than a few seconds to move my body so fast anyone would have only seen a blur (if there was someone around to see me running down the hallway, that is).

The school seemed to be much larger now that I was trying to escape it. It didn't look like the place I had been yesterday, and I felt trapped. The crimsonness wasn't present, but the despair wouldn't let me go so easily.

So I ran and ran, but I still could not find a way out.

Like a scared rat in a maze, I kept running around without as much as a clue. Every room seemed dangerous and after that event, I felt like I was inside the enemy, but not in a good way. Not like Odysseus entering the city inside the Trojan horse but like a sinking boat. There were no visible exits to me; my brain had shut down and the single thing that stopped me from, well, stopping was sheer primal fear. When restrained, all I could think about was running away from that. Now I could only run, not thinking at all.

Every step meant nothing.

I jumped down the stairs, and without any grace gravity made me meet the ground with the same intensity I had inside of me.

Every sweat drop meant nothing.

I ached. Every single bit of me hurt, because I had accidentally bashed my knees and arms into objects while searching for a way out. The pain was now steady, controlled chaos striking.

Every breath meant absolutely nothing.

There was nothing particularly poetic or symbolic about it. Just despair.

Despair was everything, everywhere.

So I ran, falling several times and scraping my body here and there but not paying much attention to it. I was too scared to think about pain at that moment.

Too scared.

...

Eventually, I found an exit.

I ran towards it and found myself out of the school building, and a few seconds later I had passed the school entrance gates. Leaving a dumbfounded Shiina Ryo who tried to greet me behind. Without looking back even once.

I ran.

Part 4[edit]

Astonishingly realistic butterflies dance in the air, encircling me majestically as if to properly execute a ceremony to crown me King of Infinite Space. Playing the role of a true born star, my presence naturally provides illumination and warmness to the minuscule living bodies that gravitate around me. There is order in the expanding Universe, finally.

That's what they probably think. I guess.

To me, however, they are just like mere flies attracted to a cheap light they truly believe to be heaven. Also, I am most likely an ordinary man bound in a nut shell, without anything but his extraordinary inborn ability to attract the obscure almost instantly along with a high dosage of mostly justified paranoia.

Yes, my rationality is back, thank you for asking. Unfortunately, so is my chronic negativism.

I ended up at the same park I visited on Sunday, and only because I was too tired to keep running at random. Despite being used to running away from things and places, I am not very good at de facto running. Quite interesting, huh? My legs sorely hurt and I felt my whole body was bruised and/or scraped, so when I ran out of energy I simply allowed Mrs. Gravity to put me down as delicately as she could, laying me on the grassy ground. She's not really gentle, Mrs. Gravity. I'll keep that in mind.

Feeling slightly better, I tried to stand up just to find out that I couldn't; since I had no balance nor strength left I fell again, feeling like my legs were an imploding building. Sitting on my legs, I decided to quit trying to stand up. Maybe it's better for me to stay like this for a while.

Then I had the faux poetic butterfly moment and now I'm here.

Alone.

Surrounded by trees and not caring much about that. I do know that wasting time thinking about it means I do care, even if only a little. However, I just wanted to state that I am not, at least not in this very moment, afraid of, say, trees. Just for the record.

And since I'm being honest, it wasn't the distorted world I saw that scared me.

How can I say it without sounding like an idiot? I want to avoid clichés and tropes, but it is really hard to me. I am not that good at expressing myself, and that's probably the main reason why people often think badly of me. The truth is usually simple, but making a poor choice of words can ruin a lawyer's good case and convict an innocent man. Hence, I'll try to be as direct as I can and hope I don't ruin everything as I usually do.

Here we go: while I cannot deny the fact that I was afraid of something, I can only say that it wasn't the red dimension that scared me. That's because I had seen worse things many times before. Really. What really worried me was...

My cell phone rings, suddenly interrupting my train of thought and making my royal butterfly court fly away gracefully. Which is quite awkward, since not all butterflies have auditory systems. What a fortunate coincidence it is, to have only specimens of one of those specific subspecies hovering around me just in time to mark a change with a fairly popular graphical effect! I thought this kind of thing happened only in novels!

Self-parody aside, it doesn't take a genius to find out who was calling me. Actually, it does; given the circumstances, I could be receiving a call from a video tape girl from the underworld or from a masked killer. No, wait, not only important people with lines that are actually relevant to the plot make telephone calls; it might just be someone trying to call to a pizza delivery service or something.

Yeah, like that would happen.

Honestly, I only answered the call because the name on the screen was Ryo's. My cell phone rang several times while I was running, but I wasn't thinking about it enough to pick up the calls. Now that I think about it, the one calling me as I hurried away was probably her. After leaving like a madman without saying anything to her I guess I owe her an explanation.

"You're... pretty fast, aren't you?" Breathless, Ryo sounds like she is going to pass out any minute now. It's even worse than yesterday, which is quite concerning. "I tried to follow you, but... as I said before... I don't have much stamina."

She tries to laugh to make this moment a little lighter but ends up coughing and only greatly increasing the size my worries. And there is only someone I can blame for this situation; the one whose behavior made a friend worry so much she immoderately ran after him despite her body limitations.

"I'm sorry. I really am. This is all my fa-"

"Cut it out." She suddenly stops me. We stay silent for almost a whole minute. I mean, I stay silent; she actually tried to, but I could hear her breathing through the phone. By the time she starts talking again, her breathing is once again under control, but still weaker than the usual resulting in a soft, whispery voice. "I went after you on my own, so if it is anyone's fault, it's mine. You really need to stop blaming yourself for the mistakes of other people." Despite kind of deserving it, I didn't see that coming. "Now, tell me what happened at school."

So I told her everything. I know that based on Kouma's assumption, this was a reckless thing to do; if Ryo really had big problems, I shouldn't worry her more with issues of my own. However, I couldn't help myself. I needed to talk to someone; I only noticed when I started telling the story to her, but despite trying to keep a cool state of mind I was still very, very nervous. When it comes to nerves, body and mind are not always found in the same tune, tempo or harmonic series for that matter. The result is the same as completely improvised polyrhythmic solos in live music: sometimes it might sound jazzy, intriguing and creative but mostly the results are utterly disastrous, true born mood ruiners.

There is another reason, though. I don't feel like hiding things from her. I simply don't. She is the one who had been there for me for a while, and probably the only one who really believes in me. Not in my uncommon stories who tend to become even weirder every minute, but in me as a person.

So, unless I must, I won't hide anything from my best friend. Obviously, I classify telling her "Kouma is a manipulative psychopath who thinks her good intentions make up for any bad deeds she performs" as something I must hide. For now, at least.

I'll suppress the dialogue that followed, since you already know what happened and Ryo is a very good listener, interrupting me only when I forgot to mention some detail that might have seemed quite obvious to me, but not to everyone else who doesn't happen to be inside my mind. After listening to my weird fiction-like tale, she only tells me to go home and calm down. Which would end up being just comforting common sense if she hadn't added that unusual, rather preoccupying sentence.

"Don't worry about anything, I will find a way."

I wonder if I managed to run into the mafia once again.

Part 5[edit]

The boxes.

The boxes are staring at me.

Probably staring back, because I have been looking at them since I came home. I don't blame them, poor boxes. I came home after Ryo hung up, and the oppressive silence in this house is driving me crazy. I bet this is being hard to everyone, even for the unanimated objects.

To run away from the weird, I came to this small town only to meet a split personality teacher, a possessive psychopathic fashionista with severely broken friendship ideals, a supernatural mind-blowing entity and now I get the hint that Ryo, the apparently fragile yet common girl who was my only link to the normal world, is in fact some kind of mobster. So, yeah.

My third day here barely started and I already feel tempted to move again.

The memories of what happened in class this morning are still too vivid, too real. Burned into my retina, the image of a bizarre world that seemed to be only waiting for me. The proof that I can't outrun Mystery. It found me again, and I can't help but despair. There is no hope, anywhere.

Once again, I feel forced to state it's not about the supposedly terrifying and truthfully obnoxious supernatural vision. After all I have seen in the past years, they don't even scare me that much anymore (truly unfortunate hazards of the profession); it's the lack of peace that bothers me. I'm always forced to run and leave everything behind all of a sudden, and I do realize that this have become a habit to me. However, I don't see any other alternative. I am, indeed, a walking lightning rod for disaster and staying here would only make things worse for everyone.

Keep saying that to yourself, kid. It makes you sound less of a wussy, and we certainly need it to sell the novel.

Oh, you're here.

And you won't be here for long, right?

Yeah, I'm seriously thinking about packing up and leaving. Feel free to stay, if you want to.

I wish. You really embarrass me with your completely unneeded drama.

So you think I actually enjoy having to do this? Don't you think I'd rather stay here with Ryo and have a normal life like everyone else? I have been dealing with this stupid thing for too long, and I'm just what you called me: a kid! A kid dealing with problems an adult wouldn't be able to! And I'm so sick of your comments! You are nothing more than a stupid voice at the back of my head that is good for nothing but bring me down! So don't you dare make me feel worse about this when my own parents were relieved to get rid of me! You know absolutely nothing about me!

...

Everything went silent and I never had the chance to ask if this was really a novel.

It stayed like that for exactly seven minutes and forty-three seconds until the doorbell rang. I tried to ignore it, but the person (assuming that it wasn't a tentacle-like tree vine) pressing the button persisted, like winners and travelling salesmen usually do. So it kept ringing and ringing.

Right now I'm not sure if I was touched by the beauty in the other party's perseverance or just got annoyed by that constant high-pitched noise, but it is true that I went down and opened the door. Probably the latter, taking in consideration my hand had turned into a blazing fist.

As soon as I opened that door, I found myself glad to have a fist of my own ready because my foe surely did.

My attacker's moves were lightning fast and I could feel the killing intent present in every single blow she dealt. She pushed me back inside my house with strong punches that could have broken my bones if I had used my arms to directly defend myself instead of striking her arms before she could hit me in order to make her waste her energy. Imagine that her attacks were just like river waters; basically, I chose to fight back by redirecting her strength like a floodgate and not simply block the flow and take the damage like a simple dam.

It seemed to be the most reasonable thing to do at the moment, especially because I was fighting for my life against someone who was obviously pretty good at modern wushu. Not a master, as someone used to reading novels would expect; just a dedicated student with incredibly powerful fists of doom.

Once again, hazards of the profession. When you get into trouble all the time you end up developing insane reflexes, an unusual way of thinking and even learning a thing or two about self-defense, martial arts and stuff. It's not like I'm good enough to become a kung fu movie stuntman, but it was surely enough to keep me alive after Kouma Yon's otherwise deathly attack.

Right, Kouma is the one trying to kill me.

Without enough time to dialogue, I can only keep striking back. Her fighting style is furious and harsh like an untamed stallion, which is completely unexpected from a girl like Kouma. She is certainly not an adversary to be messed with. Her small fists are powerful and merciless and that's why I cannot afford to hold back just because she is a girl. Especially because that would go against my feminist ideals. There, I said it.

There are many different schools in chinese martial arts, but only two real kinds of style; there is hard and there is soft. While Kouma's mighty attacks come from her training on the external part of fighting such as hitting other people and breaking stuff with bare hands, mine focuses on the internal side with breathing techniques, controlling the energy's flow and meditation.

Guess which style is more useful when you're in the middle of the battle of your life.

Kouma is certainly stronger than me. It is quite obvious to me now that she is not one of the soft school Chinese martial arts students; her style is based on body's strength instead of mind's balance. Which might be the only reason why I am still alive and fighting back.

Too bad, you guessed wrong; when two different fighting styles clash, it's all about not being hit before your opponent is. And since the soft school trains keeping yourself calm and not wasting energy, it's clear to me that if I keep avoiding her strikes and preventing her from hitting me, I have bigger chances to be the victorious one. Piece of cake, right?

Wrong again. I haven't trained in a while and I don't think Kouma could say the same. My techniques are rusty and my body is not used to fighting; I'm actually more skilled at running away. Not for long distances, I'm afraid. Still, I am in worse shape than I was a few years ago and I don't believe I am in conditions to fight Kouma to exhaustion.

Which means I am, in this very moment, fighting a great amount of fire with a half empty bucket of water. Right now, I only wish I had practiced more; Kouma is clearly far more skilled than I am in fighting, and this difference is going to show soon. It's only a matter of time before she overpowers me, unless I manage to do something about it.

No, wait; am I really inside a novel? I know it’s not the time to have an epiphany or an existential crisis, but that certainly explains a few things. Not exactly, but it is certainly a fine lie. Easier to swallow than the awful truth, anyway. It works as a decent excuse for the uncommon things that happened to me and to my obvious excess of thinking. No one thinks that much in the real world. Wait, I wouldn’t know that; considering I might a novel character, I could never been a real world common human. Perhaps.

Gracefully she jumps and misses by a hair an imperfectly calculated flying kick, making me retreat a step instinctively while she was still floating in mid air. It seems I’m not the only one who is not in good terms with Lady Gravity; Kouma is outrageously defying it/her. I really need to come up with a decent strategy to either defeat her instantly or restrain her until I can calm her down; if it keeps like this, I will certainly...

And then I got struck right in the face by her other foot and was sent flying through the living room.

I was way too naïve. How could I have ignored it? The perfect circle she had traced in air with her right leg was but the omen of something much, much bigger. The way she twisted her body, keeping her almost perfectly horizontally aligned; I should have seen that it was only a trick to distract me, taking my attention away from the other leg. Not a common flying kick as I thought it was, but a butterfly kick.

Trying to ignore the pain and heat present in the left side of my face, I realize that she wasn't trying to kill me. While beautiful aesthetically, the butterfly kick is surely not the most effective attack. To use such a low damage rate attack after finding a breach in the opponent's defense, she is probably...

Now it's not the time to analyze her attacks or intentions. I need to stand up.

When I manage to, she is already waiting for me. However, there is a big difference this time; we are now on my living room. How is it different, you ask? You can't be possibly expecting me to be happy about fighting in here when I spent a great deal of my time yesterday trying to fix everything up. There is no way I'm going to let Kouma walk in and destroy everything; I won't allow her to ruin my beautiful living room, even if I die in order to defend it!

Switching our roles was the obvious thing to do.

Kouma first tried to punch me, so I avoided it and grabbed her left wrist. Surprised by the sudden change in my fighting style she attacked with another punch, resulting once again in a wrist restraint. She raised her left leg furiously to kick me (and I'm not even going to say where, since I intend to keep this clean and free of parental guidance warnings), but this time my chromosome-influenced slightly superior physical strength (sorry girls, it just happens) finally overwhelmed her and I used the impulse to throw her forcefully against the wall while holding both of her wrists, our bodies sweating and synchronizing in the same pulse at that very moment.

Picture that scene. Go on, I know you want to.

Her eyes were now full of expression (overflowing with burning rage to be more specific); not only uncontrollable mad anger but a gracious tear glow, like a diamond exposing the Sun’s full color spectrum by letting the rays of light pass through itself.

No, not only fury.

Tears.

The girl I couldn’t even imagine feeling anything yesterday was now crying in front of me, like I had took something very, very important from her.

“Release me, you jerk!” She screams, raising the chances someone passing by the streets come here and turn this sudden fight development into a police case. This is getting dangerous; I’m way too pretty for jail. “I’m going to make you pay for that!”

And maybe I did. The problem is, I don’t really know if I did it. I don’t even happen to know what I don’t know I did. And even if I did know what she believes I did, it wouldn’t mean I have done it. So, I need an explanation about what I possibly have done and evidence of me actually doing it. A semantics book would be fine, too.

“Hey, Kouma…” I say, negligently releasing her hands. “Could you be more specific? What exactly do you think I have don-”

I had released her hands alright. Problem is, by the time I took my hands away from her wrists they weren’t just hands anymore. They were, once again, blazing fists of death.

Lucky me.

Indeed. If it wasn’t for my sudden burst of luck, this story would be lacking a narrator. A living narrator, anyway; stories with posthumous narrators are becoming rather popular these days. Since there are a lot of supernatural elements in this particular one, I might keep my job after being buried. No, I think you need to be leastwise slightly alive to be the protagonist of a slice-of-life story. If anything you need to have, at any rate, a slice of your life.

About that luck thing.

Kouma wasn’t completely free to move when she decided to attack me. Afraid of rather disturbing retaliations, I kept my hold on her leg strong as I could. This fear was proven useful when she tried punching me, just as cavemen’s primal fear of well, deathly things. You got the idea, I hope.

I was lucky to be in a fictional world with a certain working level of coherent Physics.

When Kouma moved her arms to punch me with all of her strength, the driving force used on that physical action worked as an impulse that sent us spinning earthward, and those unbelievably fast revolutions didn’t stop when we hit the floor. As opposing sides of the Yin Yang, the enemies revolved on their common axis until they struck the room’s center table, resulting in falling moving boxes and great pain for both sides.

At least for mine, that I guarantee you.

Once bitten, twice shy; as soon as we stopped rolling like hay balls on a particularly powerful storm, I took advantage on the fact I was on top of her and once again held her by the wrists to avoid future attacks. Since I cannot trust Kouma to talk to me rationally right now (not while she can hit me), overpowering her completely might be for the best.

“Hah! You’re mine now!” I screamed with hints of madness, and then became truly aware of the situation.

Crazy looking guy? Check. Crying girl on the floor, being held by said guy in a rather uncomfortable pose? Check. Front door open to the streets, more than susceptible to attract the attention of curious passersby? Check. Negative luck on the guy’s side, making him a living sitting-duck in a world where every single person seems to have a gun? Double-check, triple-check, checkmate. Check it as much as you wish.

It would certainly look like I was taking advantage of something else (in this specific case, someone) other than the fact I was on top of her. Not that the first thing is completely unrelated, anyway.

I was just going to say this is not getting any better, but I guess it’s most likely a question of points of view.

Let’s check the facts, shall we? Lady Gravity did throw me to the ground, but she also sent a pretty girl along to make my fall, say, lighter. Also, said pretty girl rolled with me on that ground, and I ended up on top, resulting in a fan service scene a little bit more risqué than the latter. Which is indeed a great thing for this humble character and quite a teaser for the average reader but it won’t help much selling the book since, well, we’re already in the middle of it. Bad marketing planning on the author’s part.

Just like this fight. I mean, no matter how much our society pretends to be open-minded, most of the audience won’t like the fact I fought Kouma, a girl, even if to defend my life. And those who see it as a good thing, because it was a fair fight between someone of the male persuasion and an equally (if not more) skilled female fighter, will complain about me winning the battle (yet would have clapped their hands if she had won). The only ones who are truly neutral about this are the people who liked this scene because of the blatant fan service.

There is no way I can please everyone right now. There is no turning point. So, in order to displease equally Greeks, Trojans and perverts, I will make the plot quickly advance by ending this action scene with the only thing whose mere trace can instantly kill the fun of any form of fiction: logic.

“Kouma, listen to me: while killing someone for no particular reason might be a recurring plot in anime and movies, it has some rather unfortunate implications in real life.” I said that hoping that I am the only one who noticed that we are in a novel. Well, noticed might not be the right term since it is only a theory induced by paranoia, but still... “You’re not being reasonable right now, and despite knowing you for no more than a short amount of time, I don’t think you are the kind of person who does this kind of thing.” Actually, I do. I seriously believe I’m lucky you didn’t come here with a sub machinegun. “Can’t we sit down and talk about this issue?”

She looked at me for a while, probably stunned by seeing me not talking like a complete idiot when around her.

“…fine.” Her voice was softer and breathy, almost to the extent of mellow. “I will explain my point and listen to your defense, like in a proper trial. After that, I will mercilessly deliver punishment. Is that alright?”

Just as reasonable as some governments.

Reasonable enough, anyway.

“Well, while I don’t entirely agree with you, I guess we can move on. Until the punishment part, I mean.” Sighing seems to be the only proper thing to do right now. Maybe there is such a thing as sigh timing. Like comic timing. Maybe my sigh timing is good especially because my comic timing sucks. Maybe. “First things first: why specifically do you want do deliver punishment to me?”

She gave me an upgraded version of that blasé look of hers.

“Isn’t it obvious?” No, not really. “I’m going to make you pay for making Ryo cry!”


Part 6[edit]

Apparently, the last time Kouma Yon saw Ryo cry was when the latter’s father passed away.

They were in elementary school’s first grade at the time, so Ryo must have suffered a lot. I don’t know if I could cope with that kind of feelings if something like that happened to me today and I don’t want to think about how I would have turned out without one or both of my parents. Being slightly absent is one thing, being separated by six feet of earth and spiritual/material world issues is a completely different one.

I really shouldn’t joke about this.

Anyway, it seems Ryo was truly worried about me. Worried to the point of crying after years of keeping a façade, worried to the point of making Kouma worry about her. Thankfully, they are not the most popular girls in school; otherwise we’d have a mass domino effect situation fueled by a little bit of ghostly influence but mostly by teen drama.

I shouldn’t joke about this either.

However, humor is my only current weapon to deal with the guilt. It would be hard not to notice; besides me and Kouma, no one in class seemed to be particularly fond of Ryo. The fact she is a walking nerd stereotype surely doesn’t get her any popularity points, except for the middle-aged otaku guys at the maid café. Let’s face it: just as me, she probably doesn’t have many real friends. Based on the unreasonable amount of time she spends connected to the Internet dealing mostly with sheer data for her projects, it’s not something that would surprise anyone.

A few things in life work proportionally. For a common person with several friends, seeing one of them having a hard time and moving to God knows where is certainly stressing and might be the source of many, many tears. Think about how it feels like, having fifty-percent of your friends moving to your town and, when everything seems to be starting to get better, wanting to go away from the town (and incidentally, from you) after telling a rather fantastical story. When you already are, according to the other half of your friends, a complete, massive sentimental wreck.

Please ponder about it for a while.

Kouma might as well punish me, for I am guilty. I was too careless, too selfish. After Kouma’s warning/menace I shouldn’t have told that occurrence to Ryo (or, at least, thought twice about doing so), but I really felt like telling it to someone. I thought I would explode if I didn’t, yet I almost made my best and only friend explode herself by doing so.

I am officially an idiot.

“You really are an idiot.” Kouma said, bringing me back to the real world. “I don’t remember saying that out loud. How on Earth could you reply to that? Do you have some kind of mind powers?”

She looked quite disturbed.

“Reply to what?”

First a wave of shock. Then everything feels normal and you get used to that once odd feeling. Pretty much like listening to mathcore for the very first time.

“…I see.” I said, a little less devastated. “You’re just being the usual Kouma Yon.”

Her eyes rolled so quickly that for one second I thought they were going to pop out of her face.

“Seriously; you are very, very weird.” She made what I can only think of as a calculated pause. “So, tell me what happened to you that made Ryo worry so much."

“Haven’t she told you already?"

“I am assuming you never heard Ryo’s voice while she is crying.” Kouma sighed like an old man remembering the tough days of war. “Good for you. I could barely understand your name in the middle of that mess.”

“Ah.”

“Go on. Talking to a friend might not have helped much, but talking about it to a semi-stranger won’t do any worse.”

I was not sure of how I should feel about her statement. First, she made it very clear: we are not friends. Then, she offered her attention to a problem of mine with the cool attitude of a manga-like big brother. Maybe she does have a personality disorder.


Still, she is the sanest person I have seen all day and, even better than that, she is here. With that in mind, I proceed to tell Kouma the dreadful story that happened to me, both before coming to this town and today.

“Is that all?” Kouma said when I finished my minimalist summary. After three hours. Despite her expressionless face being the same from the beginning to the very end, I’m betting no one would enjoy listening to the Director’s Cut. “...yeah.” Breathless and feeling my throat becoming sour, I can only think about never having to talk again. A dream that won’t come true, unless the author finds a way to make a dialogue-based story with a mute main character work. If only this was a console RPG, my hopes and dreams could become true. “Pretty much.”

She stood up and started clapping her hands, and I noticed it was the second time I received a standing ovation since I came to this city. It must be one of those cultural things.

“You sir, are either insane or the best liar I have ever met. Either way, you are completely mental.” No, you’re mental! Even the same sentence! How dare you invade my mind without my permission? No, wait, that was a conceptual mistake of mine: it can only be considered an ‘invasion’ if the affected party does not agree, so please go on. Wait a minute, there’s something wrong here! “You couldn’t possibly expect me to believe all that nonsense. This was not wasted time, however.”

“Really?” I firmly protested. “You claim you don’t believe a single word of what I told you and yet you say we were not wasting our time. How so?”

“I just found out why Ryo is interested in you.”

“May I ask why?”

“Sure. It’s all about Sigmund Freud.”

What?


“What?”

That’s what I thought.

“Sigmund Freud.” Kouma answered, breaking the noir novel depressing ping-pong monologue mood at once. “Jewish-Austrian neurologist? Father of Psychoanalysis? Born in May 6th of 1856?”

“I know who Freud was! I’m just trying to see the relation between him and Ryo’s interest in me!”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Actually, every time you say that it just means your line of thought is not obvious at all. “Electra Complex.”

“…Electra Complex?”

“What are you, a parrot?” Deep. Sigh. “Let me make it easy to you: her father was a storyteller too, except he made money out of it. He was a fairly decent novelist, specialized in urban fantasy stories. You are, without a trace of doubt, a great storyteller; you told me the most unbelievable story I have ever heard, yet you pronounced every word like it was an absolute truth you based your life on. Sort of.” While her cold attitude remained the same (no sudden dramatic changes like before, thank Heavens), Kouma seemed to be rather discomposed now that she unwillingly complimented me. “Her affection towards you is but a child’s; she is just looking for a replacement for her dad’s figure.”

“Ah.”


There was indeed a little bit of sense in what Kouma was saying, except she almost completely lost the track: giving it some thought, I noticed that it’s very unlikely that Shiina Ryo became friends with me just to fill a gap in her heart; I mean, we have around ten years between that incident and now. Some people do take longer times than others to get over something, but ten years is more than enough time for anyone to decide if they are either going to sink or swim. Ryo’s decision of becoming a novelist was most likely the only influence in her attitude directly left by her father’s death. Plus, only Jung would have said Electra Complex; Freud himself rejected the term, as it emphasized the analogy between the attitude of the two sexes.

The girls are not the only ones who read around here, you know.

“So, what are you going to do now?” Said Kouma Yon, not giving me any chances to point out obvious flaws in her logic. “Run away like you presumably always did?”

“…I’m not sure.” I finally said.

Disappointment was the only thing showing in Kouma’s eyes.

“You’d better decide soon. I cannot pretend Ryo is going to be alright without you here right now, especially if you leave under these circumstances, but I won’t stop you if that’s what you want. It’s your life, after all. If you choose to go, I hope you are wise enough to never talk to her again. Cleaning up the mess you made will already be a tough job, but I guess I can take it. However, if you stay I will certainly make you take responsibility for your actions; it will not be just your life, but hers as well.”

I think it’s the first time I have seen Kouma being truly mature instead of acting cool. I mean, it’s easy to see why she turned out like that now. She probably wasn’t creepy like that when she was younger; she most likely forced herself to become like that in order to help her only friend. Sounds weird, but I’ve seen that kind of thing happen before. People often change as they get closer to other. This evolution is their form to adapt and achieve equilibrium together.

I, too, have lost my balance.

Ryo might not be the only one seeking for a replacement or a savior here. Who am I fooling, really? I have been living like a damsel in distress, hopelessly running around crying and expecting to find something that worked as a magical hero that would bring me my happy ending when I should be the one seeking for that. I ran for my whole life and it never changed my situation. If anything, it changed only the shape of the enemy and the background; the battle remained the same.

I, too, need to grow up, and there is only one way of doing so, the right way for me; I need to fight back against Mystery and solve it, once and for all.

Standing up, focusing on my target.

Breathe.

Walking to the kitchen, every step a small revolution.

Breathe.

Grabbing a matchbox, not looking back once.

Just breathe.

“I am not running away. Not anymore.”

The sudden friction generated a blue spark of pure burning energy, a flame so weak and surreal when compared to the light inside my soul. Like our Sun in comparison to the Pistol Star; no, V382 Carinae. Maybe not VY Canis Majoris, but certainly V382 Carinae.

I set fire on the paperboard moving boxes to make sure I would not look back or feel any temptations. This is it; I'm standing my ground and I'm going to earn the peace I longed for so long with my very own hands.

Like a man.

A manly man.

...gosh, this is getting old so quickly.

"Burning inanimate objects as a symbolic gesture for revolution is really, really lame. Even for you.” Spoke the fashionista. “Worst than that, the boxes you burned down could be easily replaced after a single stop at a convenience store, so there is nothing epic about it. And you might end up buying the same kind of objects, since burning something that holds you down is but a standard graphical representation and you need the dreadful objects anyway." She only nodded and shook her head. "Boy, are we feeling feminist today."

Now, I'm not sure if I became angry because she ruined my turning point moment or simply because she sort of mocked the feminist ideals I believe so strongly in. Wait, what?

"Why is everyone always trying to judge my actions? Stop acting like a psychoanalyst and just go home, Kouma!" I only realized what I had done when I had already screamed at her without a good reason.

“People often do that, so get used to it. Also, stop screaming to the ones who are going to help you on your personal coming-of-age issues. We’re going to solve that case and go back to our mediocre, boring teenager lives.” Once again, she seemed flustered. “And don’t get any weird ideas, I’m doing this for Ryo-chan’s sake.”

"I'm sorry.” I reflexively bow, not because of respect but mostly to avoid Kouma’s gaze; if she found out I was almost laughing, I’d be done for. “Just leave me alone for now, please. We’ll discuss that at school tomorrow." I added in a murmur, faux-shamefully.

Kouma Yon just looked at me, contemplating the situation. After a while she sighed and opened her petite mouth.

"No."

"...excuse-me, what?"

"No, I'm not going home. I’m sorry, but that is not going to happen.” She pondered about it for a while. “Well, actually, no; I am going home eventually. ‘Youngsters living together’ is not the kind of development we’re going to have in this story, at least not now. That would be too uncalled for and would most likely turn this into a harem situation.” Wait, then she knows about this being a novel! “What I mean is: right now, I'm staying here with you."

Fine, I admit it; that was kind of cute.

Don’t tell her.

"...I could just throw you out, you know." I say, pretending to be upset. Truth is I don’t really want to be alone right now, but I don’t want to be a burden to anyone. Specially Kouma. If half of what I think I know about her is true, she already has enough of that with Ryo.

She gave one of those evil grins, and I couldn't help but notice the contrast between her way of smiling and Ryo's. To be honest, I would think about anything to keep her smile out of my mind. It's really, really scary.

"I guess you could try." Oh my, she even winked at me while smiling in that awful way of hers. Surely. Not. Cute. "For now, don't you think it's better to stop the fire before it burns your house down?"

Part 7[edit]

In the end, after I assured her I was fine, Kouma went home and I had a peaceful moment to reflect on my actions and think about the future on my own.

"Shin-tsu, are you sure that you need all that chicken?"

Yeah, like that would happen.

I did manage to make Kouma stay away from my home, anyway. But, in order to do so, I had to go out with her.

No, not a date.

Seriously, no.

I'm not that popular, and I don't think she would like me. I have more than two dimensions, you see.

We just came to the market together because, apparently, all that fighting and talking made her hungry and my house smelled like an old oven. Obviously, we could just have eaten those instant ramen cups Reikoku-sensei brought me last night, but I actually felt like going out and Kouma wanted taiyaki.

What a big surprise.

She might get fat if things keep like this. I don't think her fabulous clothes would fit anymore. Which would be a disaster. So, it’s safe to say it would be quite a waste if all that fish-shaped cakes got her a large waist. Ha-ha.

Oh boy, that was amusing.

Anyway, I decided to make her eat something truly healthy for a change.

“Shin-tsu, did you get lost in thought again?”

Broccoli chicken salad sounded like a great idea to me because it takes only around 15 minutes to be ready. I’m guessing she eats meat, since I don’t know any other manipulative yet extremely violent vegetarian. Biased, me? No, not really; I just happened to see the way she looked at the raw meat in the refrigerated section of the market, but didn’t wanted to use it as an excuse or even remember it (as a feminist, I have a certain disdain for that kind of look; it’s built-in).

That girl is most certainly a predator, anyway. Her actions and bizarre logic qualify her as either that or an alien.

“Oi, I’m still here!” She said while pinching me with such effort I felt her fingernails harshly dig and drill into my skin, despite the thick jeans jacket I wore that was supposed to suppress some of the damage caused by, say, natural forces and crazy fashion victims. Suing the company for not making armor-like, Kouma-proof clothing seems the only reasonable thing to do.

It is very hard for me not to compare her and Ryo, especially because of their contrasting actions and the way they respond differently to the same kind of impulse. Thinking how those two ended up being friends for a decade is even harder. And I don’t even want to know how hard it might be to think about having a place and a future in this town.

It’s just better not to ponder about certain things.

“Yeah, we do.” I finally reply, mostly intending to stop her from tearing my arm apart completely. “I am not intending to use all of it in today’s dish, though; considering the unusual occurrences that happened to me today and the fact that both you and Ryo have promised to help me, I’m guessing I will be cooking meals for more than one person for a while.”
“We could just come to the market when hungry.”

“That would be a nuisance, and it could be in the way of our train of thought. I mean, what if we get hungry just a few steps away from solving the mystery? That would be too distracting, and there is a great chance we won’t be on the same track after the sudden break.”

“Good point. What do you intend to cook?” She said as we moved towards the produce section to get vegetables.

“Let me see… Tonight we’ll have broccoli chicken salad, if that’s okay with you. For tomorrow, I was thinking about something a little bit more traditional, like Yakisoba.”

“I have no complaints about tonight’s dish, but you really should keep in mind that Ryo is not much of a fan of red-”

“-red pickled ginger.” It was a little embarrassing for both of us to say it at the same time, but I guess it shows we have something we care about in common. Someone. “I was thinking about that earlier and I have just the right recipe, so don’t worry.” Then I stop myself just before having another cooking show moment; that is a dangerous territory for a male’s reputation. “Is there anything you don’t like, when it comes to eating? Wait, that came out wrong…”

“No offense taken, be at ease. And no, I have no problems with eating anything.” Is it just me or Kouma is actually getting slightly less creepy and evil every minute? It’s most likely just me. “That was really considerate of you, anyway.”

“Well, thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” She quickly looked away, probably a side-effect of having shared a polite dialog with me without any cynicism or sarcasm. “Oh, and Kouma?”

“Yes?”

“You’re still pinching me.”

She gazed down to see her own fingernails thrusting into my arm, and then quickly got her focus back to my face.

“It seems, yeah.” Kouma Yon said, without letting go or even showing the tiniest bit of embarrassment, and once again sighing was all I could do.

We left the market carrying way more plastic grocery bags than I intended to (which means they didn’t have the dude-don’t-ruin-the-environment paper bags I wanted, so taking a single world-killing plastic bag would already be classified as ‘way more’) and attracting the stares of pretty much everyone. The reason, you ask.

I know you didn’t ask anything, I’m just following the script.

Anyway.

People were looking curiously at us because (and I only realized it when we walked next to a mirrored glass where I got to see a reflection of us) Kouma and I look like a weird couple. About looking weird, uncommon, wicked, bizarre, and maybe even grotesque to some; that doesn’t bother me at all. I’ve got used to that. It would be awkward if I hadn’t, wouldn’t it?

It’s the couple part that bothers me. Sort of. I mean, she sure is pretty and quite smart when not following a completely different track other than, well, reality. She is quite fashionable too, I can’t deny all that. However, she certainly is not the kind of person I want to be associated with.

Which is why I must stop this right now.

“Kouma, correct me if I’m wrong, but even in Japan locking arms is a little bit too intimate for people who just met, being a gesture reserved for lovers or close friends.” She immediately stopped walking, and remained silent for what seemed to be several minutes to me. “Hey, what’s wrong?”

She sighed, apparently disappointed.

“I don’t need to correct you, since your affirmation is correct.”

Only then I realized I have probably been pointing a gun at my very own head the whole time. There seemed to be only a single way to deal with Kouma, and I think I have finally found it. Took me long enough, that’s right.

I just needed to make one last test to confirm my hypothesis.

“Could you at least stop pinching me? I will get bruises if things keep like this.”

“Yes, I could.” She made a pause, and for once I truly believed I had knocked some sense into her. “And yes, you will.”

That’s it.

I could easily see the trigger I needed to pull.

“Kouma Yon, stop pinching me. Please.” I said, firm and calmly. It seemed pretty obvious to me that girl was like a computer in some points and would only respond to commands and only with proper, detailed syntax. “You may as well release my arm, if that’s what you want.”

In a dream world everything magically went just as planned, Kouma would have quickly released my arm.

However.

Not quite as planned, she not only kept holding my arm but also held tighter, as if I was a teddy bear in the darkest night, as if she was afraid I would vanish forever and she would end up finding herself lost and alone.

I’m not sure of how I should feel about it.

“Let’s go.” I finally said.

Then we went straight back to my flat, two jointed figures walking slowly with only the absence of noise as background.

Part 8[edit]

"So, you and Kouma-san, huh?"

Her presence kind of fascinates me, and I am not quite sure why. Probably because her attitude is so different in class that I feel like I’m having dinner with an evil twin or something. If I were to describe her in the form of a school-like multiple choice test, my options would probably be:

a)A doppelgänger;
b)A dissociative identity disorder victim;
c)A true born sadist;
d)All of the above.

I am not talking about Kouma Yon, but now that I think about it I realize I could be. The cases are absurdly similar. Both of them are wicked creatures who occasionally show small hints of kindness, despite living in an inner prison, a masquerade of their own. It surely sounds a little bit like a writer’s lack of inspiration to me, having two characters with practically the same basis on a story.

However, instead of spending a considerable amount of time pondering on such unfortunate and rather uninteresting things I’d better quickly answer my visitor’s question before she starts thinking too much. It seems like I am not the only one here who is often more interested in the context.

Obviously, I’m also not talking to Kouma. How weird would that be, taking into account the sentence the other character used? Now that I think about it, not that much. It would be Kouma we’d be talking about so it would actually make some sort of sense, I suppose.

I hope so.

“So, you have seen her leaving, huh?” I reply, taking a mental note to never ever let Kouma use the back door again. Or even the front door, for that matter. No, wait, she might want to invade my place by breaking the windows, breaking my ceiling or even digging her way in. I’d better still have that in mind when I decide to turn this house into a fortress. Which will most likely happen soon, if things keep like this.

She nods.

“Mimicking someone else’s sentence structure is an awfully sharp double-edged sword, Koukishin-kun. It can ridicule the other party when used against a poorly devised argument, yet make you sound like a royal-level fool if not properly manipulated. Pretty much like any weapon, if you ask me.” Her lips contorted a little bit, as if she was holding back a grin. “Just try and guess which case your lovely example fits the most.”

“I’m sorry.” I raise my hand in defeat. Now that I think about it, it’s the same gesture Kouma made yesterday when I convinced her to come help me by suggesting that it was the only way she could avoid things that she would (for unknown reasons at the time) find extremely unpleasing. That’s karma for you. “Yes, Kouma did spend the afternoon here. No, I am not in a relationship with her. Unless the red string of fate that connects us is a bloodstained chain of rivalry, I mean.”

Reikoku-sensei seemed genuinely interested.

“Rivals are often closer than friends, like their lives truly depend on each other. They usually do.” She miserably failed to suppress a giggle. “And it surely counts as a relationship, whether you like it or not.”

“How so?”

“Being aware that you have lived abroad for a long time, I cannot do anything but ask: are you familiar with the concept of tsundere?”

Nervous coughs suddenly erupted from my throat, making it sore as it never had been.

After that fan-service scene when I restrained Kouma earlier today, I’m guessing this kind of comment will most likely make me flinch. Every single time. It’s very hard not to think of her as a girl now that I’ve seen there’s really more in Kouma Yon than just sharp words, expressionless eyes and a killing intent. Keep in mind that I didn’t say that those things aren’t a major part of her, just that there is more (just a little more) than it.

That girl is most likely too rational, which is far worse than completely insane; either way, one cannot deny the fact she is truly mental.

However, she looks really cute (while not trying to smile) and is a walking fashion show, so it’s quite tempting to picture her becoming a love-struck beauty after several seasons of quarrels and awkward misunderstandings. Reacting with fake anger to every demonstration of care. Blushing madly while calling me a stupid dog. Saying it’s not like she loved me or anything.

Creepy.

“…I’d rather talk about something else. Pretty please.”

The karma wheel started moving again when the teacher raised her hand.

“So be it, then. It’s your badly written school drama story, your full-of-teen-angst love life. Your business, anyway.” Reikoku-sensei sounded honestly disappointed, yet somehow relaxed. “And just for the record, I do believe she is a good catch and you guys would make a fairly good pair.”

This makes perfect sense. They are so similar Reikoku-sensei actually roots for Kouma’s happiness. Which probably means Reikoku-sensei thinks I’m a good catch too, and worthy of dating a younger version of her. This train of thought leads to some complex, rather disturbing paths, which either could send me to a psychoanalyst or should send my homeroom teacher to a slightly different type of psychologist (or to jail, depending on her actions from now on).

That doesn’t make much sense.

Hopefully.

After a few seconds of silence, I finally noticed there was something else that didn’t make sense.

“Wait, what on earth are you doing here?”

She curiously looked down at her chicken salad bowl and then straight at me.

“I’m having dinner. Isn’t it obvious?”

Sometimes it feels like I’m surrounded by aspiring comedians, and these girls don’t seem to be very good at anything but playing Japanese comedy-like games with me. Don’t get me wrong, I do have a sense of humor; what bothers me is the fact that despite probably being the sanest person around, I only get the tsukkomi role in my own mind.

Life can be so unfair.

“Don’t play stupid, sensei.”

“Fine, enough with that. I’m here to check on you.” She raised an eyebrow. “Someone I happen to know decided to skip classes this morning, and as a fairly good teacher I supposed I should pass by and see if there was a problem I could help with. Unfortunately my plans of visiting that particular student were delayed, the reason being simple: this responsible teacher had a school committee meeting to attend to discuss a few issues involving the cultural festival the school will be hosting next month. After finishing her duties the awesome teacher gallantly and nearly literally flew towards her student’s home worried that something could have happened to him, only to see that not only he was doing well but also having a pretty girl of his age inside his house for company. Not a trace of a responsible adult around. Their actions only became more suspicious to me when the girl left quickly as soon as the doorbell rang. ”

“Is that the truth?” I said, my attention completely drawn to a certain detail (which helped me ignore the rest of the story). “About you being worried about me?”

Reikoku-sensei sighed in a cool manner, like a cat.

“Obviously. I am a teacher, after all. Your teacher. If I don’t worry about my students when they are not present in class, who will?” She really sounded reliable at that moment, and I could see that she really meant what she said last night. “Besides, you could not be expecting me to be coming here just for the delicious, wonderful free homemade food you cook.”

I could have taken it as a joke, but it really bothered me; I never said anything like that, and she didn’t sound as sarcastic as she usually did when playing with me. There was something different, and I wanted to know exactly what it was.

“I can, now.” I replied calmly with the intention to test her.

Her surprised silence only confirmed my suspicions. Touché, sensei.


Part 9[edit]

After a rather dull philosophical discussion on whether fish do or don’t have a proper word for ‘water’, a black and white vampire movie and several cups of tea, it was finally time for Reikoku-sensei to go home. It was indeed a relief; I was afraid she had decided to spend the night, which would be (in my humble opinion) a little bit more inadequate than me spending the day alone with Kouma. Besides, I’m still not sure of whether or not she would attack me during the night.

I was just kidding. Stop taking everything so seriously.

“So I guess that means you’re coming tomorrow and the day after and so forth.”

“…pretty much.” She seemed slightly embarrassed, but not to the point of stopping her from coming to my house and eating my food every day.

“Fine.” I said after sighing enough to make her believe I was not so fond of the idea when in fact I was. “I’ll cook an extra portion from tomorrow on.”

“Aren’t you supposed to say something like ‘but it’s not like I want you to come here’, or anything like that?”

“I am not a tsundere character, sensei.” She seemed delighted to see that I was indeed familiar with the concept. “And even if I was, and I’m definitely not saying I am, you probably wouldn’t be my love interest.”

She approached me most likely intentionally using the natural charm of a full grown, older woman. Reikoku-sensei’s movements weren’t as much as steps, but more like Gravity had completely forgot her existence and without realizing handed her a license to dance tango alone in mid-air. Interesting: it seems that Gravity stops having such a strong effect on you when you grow up, but that’s probably because there are several other things bringing you down already.

“Oh, really? I wouldn’t be so sure about that.”

“W-why?” There was only a single sentence in my mind, and it was ‘don’t stand so close to me’.

She then released a smile clearly tainted with malice and whispered between it, lascivious waving words flowing from her lips to my ears.

“Because I did correct your first day’s classwork last night.” She then backed off like a little boy who runs away after pressing doorbells. The teasing moment was over. “You sir, are awfully bad at statistics. Ciao.”

Then she walked away, once again vanishing in the night.

Unfortunately for me, I started to realize I was getting used to this kind of relationship. By doing so, I probably am walking baby-steps towards complete insanity.

I won’t complain about that.

Also, I cannot complain about the fact people seem to be always coming to my place since I moved to this town. Thanks to that, I don’t have the time to actually feel lonely or to wonder why my parents haven’t called me yet. In fact, I might even have to thank that monster for keeping that kind of thought out my mind. If Kouma were here, I’m pretty sure she would complement that by saying something in the lines of ‘we are going to thank it alright, personally’.

Hah, how interesting; I’ve got to know a sweeter and actually decent side of her today, but the freaky first impressions won’t go away. Not easily, anyway.

Hah, how uncommon; I haven’t talked to Ryo since that call at the park. I guess I should text her or something to tell her I’m fine, although I’m pretty sure Kouma handed her a written report on my situation or something like that.

Hah…

After such an unusually tiring day, I only noticed how exhausted I was when I suddenly fell asleep sitting on the couch.


Back to Chapter 2: Reikoku Return to Main Page Forward to Chapter 4: Ayaka