I woke up the way I usually did: with back soreness. I tried putting a pillow down there once, but that ended up killing my neck. I cursed my failure to earn enough to buy a real bed. After the usual 12 minutes of self-loathing, I noticed I was running late. So I did one of my “morning express” specials designed to use just below optimum time and materials to get “almost ready” for the day. Shower for two minutes, five strokes of the brush, natural air dry, fruit and toast for breakfast while I’m putting on my clothes and running to the campus. Luckily, my apartment is just two blocks away.
After nodding my way through the staff meeting I went through the motions of home room and teaching my biology classes.
My father is considered to be a genius in many circles. He was the reason I got into biology in the first place. Of course I put in the work and made a lot of sacrifices to make it through school, but I don’t think I’d be where I am now if it wasn’t for his name. Actually, the fact that I’ve been stuck teaching at this school for the past three years is probably proof of that. When he died, I stopped moving forward. No cutting-edge research, no working on the human genome project, hell, not even a cruise to study dolphins! Just me sitting on my butt reading the same material to a bunch of Japanese kids. Not that I dislike the kids… but what a waste.
I let out a massive sigh, drawing my class’s attention towards me. It’s been a bad habit of mine recently. The children are all fairly bright. Once my lecture is over they generally get the lab portion of the class done without needing much assistance. If only their test grades reflected it.
Akiyama: Oh! Um… does anyone have any questions?
A lazy “no” sounded off in the room.
Akiyama: *sigh* Just checking…
I really should have gone out more when I was in school. I made friends, sure. Joined study groups, too. But I never joined them when they went out clubbing. If no one was around, I’d shut myself in my room and study. And after all that sacrifice I walked out merely Salutatorian. What a waste.
Sasai: There you go again.
Sasai was my sempai when I was a university student. She was a fast learner, but was never really interested in anything. She eventually got a degree in archaeology. I was very curious about her back then. She had this obvious natural talent but… Well, I won’t say it was wasted, just that she had higher priorities. After getting that degree she spent a few years overseas assisting researchers but mostly worked on her tan. It was pure coincidence that we ended up teaching at the same school. We met up, reminisced, shared our stories, had a few drinks, and she showed me a mummified penis she picked up as a souvenir. “Why a mummy penis?” I asked. “It’s kind of cute and a great conversation starter,” she said. She wasn’t supposed to have it, either. Somehow she swiped it while in the Canary Islands. Oh, but I’m going off-topic.
Akiyama: Hm? Oh, sempai! Sorry, I was just…
Sasai: You really need to get yourself laid or something.
Akiyama: Aw, no one out there is interested in me. I’ve checked.
Sasai: You just haven’t been meeting the right guys. Or girls.
Akiyama: S-sempai, really!
Sasai: Ha ha, just kidding! But are you really trying? I mean, you’ve even got that sexy young teacher thing going for you.
Akiyama: I think so. But you know, sometimes I’ll meet someone new and it’ll go really well, but then somehow I manage to chase them away. The young guys are all no good. The ones that like older women are only into ones that look “more mature.” The ones that don’t have that fetish usually ARE scared off by my age. And the ones that are left are into that weird cosplay shit.
Sasai: What about the older guys?
Akiyama: Either already taken or think I’m gold-digging jailbait.
Sasai: You should be flattered.
Akiyama: After the first dozen times it just gets tiring. *sigh*
Sasai: Well, at least you’ve got work to keep your mind off those things.
Akiyama: Do I?
Sasai-sempai dropped a packet on my desk.
Akiyama: What’s this?
Sasai: A couple of transfers. They’ll officially be enrolled next week, but we want a teacher and student to familiarize them with the campus, some of the clubs… y’know, basically a mid-semester orientation.
Akiyama: Why me?
Sasai: The two are sisters, and the older sister will be in your home room. And, well… y’know, that girl is in there too.
Akiyama: Oh… Yeah, I’ll get on it.
I put it off until the next day, anyway.
The girl sempai was referring to was Saki Satoumura of course. She was class representative and one of the most popular girls in the school. An excellent student as well. She’s also the daughter of a regional politician. She’s probably spoiled as hell, too. I’ll bet everything’s going perfectly for her. A little impromptu annoyance is in order, I think.
Akiyama: Oh, Satoumura! A moment, please.
Satoumura: What do you need, Akiyama-sensei?
Akiyama: Are you doing anything this afternoon? I need a favor.
Satoumura: No, I’m free. What is it?
Akiyama: The school is having two transfer students in next week. One of them is in this homeroom.
Satoumura: And you want me to give them a greeting and orientation?
Akiyama: I knew I could count on you! You’ll be doing this with me of course, but…
Satoumura: What is it?
Akiyama: Ah… Well, I was thinking maybe you’d prefer it if Misaki was with you instead.
Satoumura: W-what? Akiyama-sensei…
I’m not oblivious, of course. I’ve heard all the gossip. Saki has been seen around Ryogo Misaki a lot lately. Misaki being the heir to a yakuza clan, it would be a major scandal if it were true. They deny it, sure, but I’ve seen the way Saki looked at him in my bio class. It’s student dramas like these that give me a reason to look forward to my job, and I shamelessly enjoy moving the story along.
Akiyama: Come on, I know about you two…
Satoumura: You too, sensei? You listen to those rumors?
Honestly, it just sounds so obviously fake. Someone like her probably hasn’t been in a real relationship before. She’s clearly pretending to hate him in public, but that just makes it even more obvious that she’s into him.
Akiyama: Do you have any objections?
Satoumura: Well… if you say I have to, I guess I have no choice.
I knew it.
Akiyama: You should be more honest. Here are the materials you’ll need. The names and address are on the front.
Satoumura: Okay, let’s see… Ah!
Akiyama: Hm? (What’s with that reaction?)
Satoumura: Er… No, it’s nothing. They’re Japanese, but… they’re transferring from America?
Akiyama: Yeah. From what I heard, they used to live in the area, moved overseas, and now they’re moving back here. Let me check those profiles a moment.
Sure was a strange situation. I wonder if they’re bilingual.
Akiyama: Okay, their names are Yui and Sayu Mizuno. Yui is the older one and will be in the class, so you should probably try to get along with her. Shouldn’t be too hard for you, I’m sure.
Satoumura: Yeah… sure…
Akiyama: Soooo… *grin* should I inform Misaki about it? I’m sure you’ll find some way to get some planning in.
Satoumura: Er… No…
Satoumura: I… think you should come like you ought to.
Satoumura: I’m still just learning English, and I don’t know if they’re bilingual. Just in case, I think it would be better to have a native speaker like you with me.
Akiyama: . . . *sigh* What makes you think I’m a native speaker?
Satoumura: Your name?
Akiyama: Actually, Marie-Antoinette is French, not English.
Satoumura: Oh… So you’re French?
Akiyama: Half-Japanese, half-Russian, actually.
Satoumura: So you don’t know English?
Akiyama: I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. *sigh* This so didn’t turn out the way I hoped. Oh, well.
The visit went by relatively well. All business and fake smiles, at least on my end. They spoke perfectly fine Japanese, so no worries there. The older sister, Yui, had an interest in swimming. I had her signed up for the swim club, of course. The younger sister, Sayu, didn’t really have any outside interests. Since she’s just a freshman, I expected she might get interested in something once she gets to know her classmates. Something about her reminded me of Sasai-sempai. Yeah, pretty much all business until we left.
Akiyama: So, what did you think?
Satoumura: I’m sure they’ll fit in.
Akiyama: Now, is it just me or did you act more stiff than you usually do?
Satoumura: What do you mean stiff?
Akiyama: Oh, I dunno… just that you could’ve been friendlier, I think.
Satoumura: I suppose. But there’s time for that later, don’t you think?
Akiyama: Well, maybe for you.
Akiyama: Ah, don’t sweat it. You’re probably right.
Satoumura: Okay… Well, I’ll be heading home, sensei.
Akiyama: Oh… Yeah, I guess so.
Satoumura: Hey, sensei?
Satoumura: Your head’s been in the clouds a lot recently.
Akiyama: *sigh* You think so too, huh?
Satoumura: Maybe instead of focusing on students’ love lives, you should work on your own?
Akiyama: I don’t think I asked for your advice.
Satoumura: Well, let’s call it even now then.
Akiyama: . . . I suppose.
If there’s one thing Saki Satoumura excelled at, it’s at turning the tables on a bad situation. I guess I deserved that.
Before heading back home, I walked to a nearby shrine for business like I do every week.
Shiro: Oh, there she is!
Akiyama: Hey, Shiro! The usual, please!
Shiro: Ha ha! That’s why I love you, girl. I swear, you’re putting my kid through college one day!
Akiyama: Oh? Maybe that’s why your love charms don’t work. Trying to trap me?
Shiro: Hey now, I didn’t say that. Though, if these love charms worked 100% of the time, we’d have a real problem on our hands, don’t you think?
Akiyama: Well, that makes sense I guess. But still! Can’t you give me something stronger?
Shiro: Hm… Well, you’re in luck. This here’s a special charm. Guaranteed to find your true love! Or possibly ward off evil spirits… One of the two, I’m sure…
Akiyama: Ah, whatever. I’m good either way.
Shiro: Ha ha, good, good! And since you’re such a good customer, how about having a drink with me, eh?
Akiyama: Now, now… If you don’t take it easy you’ll end up with liver failure.
Shiro: Naw, I’m good for another seven years, give or take…
Akiyama: Well, take care.
Shiro: Oi! If things don’t work out, you can marry my kid!
Akiyama: I’m not quite desperate enough for that, sir.
I know I’m supposed to be a scientist, but until luck and destiny manipulation is harnessed, I’ll take what I can get.
* * *
Akiyama: *yaaaaaaawn* This sucks!
I spent years honing my teaching methods, but without fail I end up with classes filled with students who barely know what they’re talking about, except for the occasional know-it-all who probably thinks he can teach better than I can. Is it really so difficult to read the book? Maybe it’s just the generation. So many distractions out there now, and it’ll only get worse with developing technology, I’m sure.
Technology… Hm, that was something my father liked to talk about. That’s why he died, I’ll bet. He kept himself cooped up in his labs (he hopped from facility to facility) , experimenting on god-knows-what, talking about ways to merge biological systems with machines. One can’t help but think of the typical mad scientist. I have no idea what it is he wanted since he never shared with me. I used to think that maybe getting me into the academy he used to work at was his way of easing me into his world. Now I’ll never know for sure. I’ll never get that Nobel Prize. I can’t even imagine what he had in mind. Maybe some kind of advanced prosthetic that attached directly to the nerves and regenerated naturally? Artificial regeneration was out of the question, but a truly interactive mechanical limb wasn’t too far-fetched. I don’t know. He specifically wrote into his will that his work be sealed away, so I never got to see it. I guess he never really took into consideration that I might want to continue in his footsteps instead of my mother the physicist. Died in a car accident on her way to a conference. What a waste. Damn it, why’d he have to go and die on me too? The only thing he left me in his will was a cast iron key, and absolutely no clues about where it goes. Never knew he was into mystery novels. But I wasn’t, so I just put it away in a safe deposit box.
Speaking of technology, I was using it to do only one thing right now: listen to international news while poring through a stack of quizzes. Part of why I have so little to furnish my place is because I subscribe to a satellite service specifically to get international channels. Something about Japanese newscasters just bother me. Also, I’ve been here a while but I’m a natural English speaker, so it’s easier for me to absorb information from BBC. From time to time I’ll listen to Vremya for a good laugh. I was taught some Russian when I was younger, but at this point I’m more fluent in Japanese. I can listen and understand it well enough but I can barely speak it. I’m never moving back there. I have it tough here, but I’m always reminded it could be worse.
I put on a jacket and went out. I needed the cold air to clear my mind. I had on an unflattering and slightly torn teal bomber jacket over an orange blouse. Sometimes I think I sabotage myself on purpose. I walked down two blocks, cut across a park, and stopped around a corner to get myself a hot tea from the vending machine when I noticed something interesting. It was Saki Satoumura walking out of an apartment that clearly wasn’t hers (I made a home visit to her place once… it made me feel depressed about my own situation). She had a sort of devilish looking smile plastered on her face. I couldn’t help myself; I was curious and slightly excited. The school idol seemed to have a side to her that no one knew about. I turned towards the vending machine and pretended not to notice her. She didn’t seem to recognize me as she walked by. Once the coast was clear, I took a closer look at the door she walked out of. The lights were still on inside. I guess she was visiting someone. The lights turned off just a moment later and the door opened. It was Ryogo Misaki that walked out. So the both of them… together with that smile of hers… Oooooooooh!
Ryogo: What are you doing here? You were making a loud squealing sound.
Akiyama: ….was I?
Ryogo: It’s alright, but… you didn’t answer my question.
Akiyama: Oh. Umm… Ah! I just came out here to get myself a hot tea. This is the closest place I know where I can get some canned black tea that isn’t ruined by adding milk.
Ryogo: Couldn’t you just buy the leaves at a market and make it yourself?
Akiyama: Tea is for drinking, not for making.
Ryogo: So you don’t know.
Akiyama: *sigh* So, what are you doing here? This isn’t anywhere close to the address on your contact information.
Ryogo: Erk… Um… well… I was just staying over at a friend’s place.
Akiyama: And you just happened to have a key?
Ryogo: He… gave it to me?
Akiyama: Oh? Pretty close friend you’ve got, huh?
Akiyama: Hmmm… So how about introducing me?
Ryogo: Uh… n-no, that’s no good. He’s about to go to bed now… and he prefers his privacy.
Akiyama: It’s not that late. And he must not value his privacy if he lets you keep a key. So let’s go!
Ryogo: But why? Sensei!
I quickly snatched his key away and ran towards the staircase. Three big leaps up, turned the corner, and made a mad dash to the door. Ryogo didn’t stand a chance of keeping up with my pace. I don’t suppose you can call this breaking and entering if you have the right key… right? Well, whether or not that was true was unimportant right now. Curiosity overrides all logic. I turned the key and opened the door to…
…a completely unfurnished room.
Akiyama: What is this?
Ryogo: . . .
Akiyama: I can’t turn a blind eye to this, now. What’s the term for this again? “Squatting,” right?
Ryogo: N-no… I…
Akiyama: . . .
Ryogo: I… I’m renting the place.
Ryogo: I haven’t moved my stuff in yet, and I was just checking the place out.
Akiyama: A likely story.
Ryogo: If you want, you can call my dad right now. I haven’t officially moved in yet, so I don’t think I have any reason to inform the school yet.
Akiyama: Is that so? Well, I guess I expect to see that change sometime soon.
Akiyama: So… I guess you haven’t had anyone else over yet?
Ryogo: Uh… N-no, of course not. There’s no point in that!
Akiyama: I see. *grins*
Ryogo: *gulp* What’s that for?
Akiyama: What? *points to face* This? Nothing to be concerned of. Nothing at all. You take care of yourself and head back home as soon as possible.
Akiyama: Oh, and here. Warm yourself up while you’re out there.
I handed him my can of tea.
Akiyama: Go ahead, have a taste.
Ryogo: Okay… *sip* . . . .it’s… pretty bitter.
Akiyama: Get used to it. I know I have. Personally, I can’t live without the stuff.
Ryogo: I like sweets better though.
Akiyama: You can’t always have sweets. It’ll rot you. Besides, you haven’t really lived until you’ve tried the bitter stuff too. Of course, if you’re the reverse, you’ll want to try a little slice of sweetness too.
Akiyama: Well, just finish that can up on your way. Consider it an extra assignment.
Ryogo: Riiiight… Thanks, I guess.
Akiyama: Don’t mention it.
I went out the hall and headed towards the stairs while digging through my pockets. Crap, that was the last of my pocket change.
Ryogo: Are you sure you don’t want it back?
Akiyama: No, you’ve pretty much claimed it now. I think you should save that indirect kiss for someone else.
Akiyama: *grin* Besides, I’m just not in the mood for the stuff right now.
I went back to my room and finished working on those quizzes, then drew a hot bath. I honestly don’t care what others might think; sometimes a little escapism is all you need to get going.