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Perhaps it's to be expected, but I can't help but marvel at how this place hasn't changed a bit.
Stepping of the bus, I take a survey of my surroundings. Not that there's much new to take in. It seems that even with the passing of close to a decade, this sleepy little town refuses to let the outside world in. Same small, modest homes and stores. Same handful of old couples out for morning walks. The park to only betrays its growing age with its slightly larger trees. Of course, if I look behind me, I can also see the old hill. That hasn't change either. Although...
“I don't remember it looking quite so... steep. Why didn't I just drive here again?”
Checking my watch a second time to make sure I do still have enough time not to rush, I begin my casual ascent. Once upon a time, my condition would have required me to take a few breaks to surmount such a challenge. No such limitations exists now, though. Either due to the increasingly more effective medications, or perhaps my own exercise routine, I've found my heart to be in top form these days. The last time I had an episode was three months ago, and only then after I had tried to run from my house to the hospital a good mile away.
Yeah, I really don't need a rest. Yet even so, I can't help but stop anyway, taking in the breeze. It's a cold morning breeze: almost enough to make one shiver, if not for my own suit coat. Still, it's somehow refreshing. Not really nostalgia but... it's hard to put my finger on. It feels like this place never left me. Even during my busy university days in Osaka, I couldn't help but feel this is where I belonged.
I lay my eyes on the main gates, a combination of brick and plaster and steel that had once brought forth a desire in me to turn around and flee this place. Whether the inspiration of an adult, or simple hindsight, I'm very glad that I didn't.
When I first saw these gates, what did I see for myself, for my future? Nothing, except death. I wasn't even sure if I would live the next day, let alone another eight years. The memories of the hospital, of lying on a sterile bed surrounded by four white walls day after day was still too fresh in my mind back then. How could I have seen anything other than my own mortality? It's no wonder that I had been filled with such dread at being sent here. In retrospect, it felt like I was being swept under the rug; out of sight until I finally croaked.
Of course, these same gates are still causing anxiety to rise up inside me, but for entirely different reasons. This isn't about my heart condition: this is about my new job.
I received the call only a week ago. Mutou is retiring, and he recommended they interview me for the position. In all honesty, it's little sudden. Why is Mutou retiring? He can't be that old, surely? Beyond that, I'm hardly an experience teacher: I've only had about three years of experience working at a simple public high school. To get a job offer from a private academy like this, even if I'm an alumni, is overwhelming.
I talked to several benefactors and board members, and had a few interviews with some of the staff. It was a remarkably quick process, something that I can't help but be grateful for. I only got the call last night that the job was mine, and that I had to be at Yamaku first thing in the morning for orientation and to meet the staff.
As I enter the main courtyard, I make a mental note to tell Kenji they have yet to erect a giant statue in his honor. Not that I even remotely thought they would, but when I told him I'd gotten the job in my last email, he demanded I make sure he was getting the respect he deserved for his efforts against the feminist infiltration. As always, Kenji marches to such an alien beat one might not even consider it music. Though he seems to have mellowed out somewhat, and even claims to have gotten a girlfriend, he still keep signing me up for the strangest newsletters. Keeping me in the loop, he calls it. Honestly though, I wonder how many hours of my life I've wasted having to call and unsubscribe.
I push open the door to the main building, I see a familiar sight. Mutou stands in the reception lobby, leaning awkwardly against the wall. He seems fairly unchanged, even wearing the same drab office attire and overcoat. If anything, his hair is the only indicator of his age: a few streaks of grey lining his head. Alerted by the sound of my entrance, his features contort into a beaming smile, coming forward to shake my hand enthusiastically.
“Nakai, it's good to see you again. Very glad you got the job, congratulations.” He says eagerly. I put on a smile, returning the handshake.
“I wouldn't turn down an offer like this, thanks a lot for recommending me. Isn't a bit... early for you to be retiring, though?” I ask sheepishly, to which I receive a noncommittal shrug.
“Nobody's really gotten my lectures since you graduated. It sounds sad, but I think I'm ready to return to the field. Some of the new theories coming out are incredible. I was just reading...”
I follow along down the hallways with Mutou, listening to one of his familiar ravings. It feels strange: though I've always been good at science, I was nowhere near proficient enough to understand most of what Mutou would rant about back in high school. Now having a physics degree under my belt, it's interesting to be conversing on almost equal ground with him. As I realize this, my spirits pick up slightly: maybe I am cut out for this after all.
Two flights of stairs later, Mutou guides me to one of the classrooms, stopping outside, and for once, also stopping his lecture halfway. Giving a wiry grin, he turns to me.
“This will be your homeroom, so we're holding the orientation here. You're a little early, but the others will show up soon. I have to go get a few things, so I'll see you then, Nakai.” He retreats, giving a wave. “And good luck, I know you'll do great!” He calls. I return the wave, and turn to enter the classroom to prepare myself
Suddenly my vision goes black, as a pair of hands swoop in from behind me, covering my eyes.
“Guess who, Hiichan~~!”
My breath catches in my throat, and I find myself unable to speak for a moment. Not because I don't know the answer: of course I know it, but because I'm taken aback. Of all the people, I hadn't expected this.
“Misha? What are you doing here?” I blurt out, perhaps a bit more blunt than I would have liked to be. The girl in question gives a tick of annoyance, removing her hands from my face.
“Aww, I was hoping I'd finally fool you.” She pouts in an all too familiar fashion.
She's changed more than Mutou, but still it doesn't seem like much. Her hair's grown out again, and still retaining it's vibrant pink tint. Her trademark drills are gone, though along with her small growth spurt, it makes her look more mature somehow.
“Maybe not fooled, but at least surprised. What are you doing here? Visiting an old teacher?” I question. Of course I'm happy to see her, but honestly I have no idea why she'd be here. Flashing that trademark smile of hers, Misha puts her hands to her hips, leaning in closer to me.
“Wahaha, guess again Hiichan!” I honestly have no idea. I say as such. The triumphant look on her face annoys me a little: it seems I've lost to her somehow.
“Silly Hiichan, I work here~!” She yells, turning the heads of a few teacher shuffling into the classroom. Teacher or not, it seems she still doesn't know what an indoor voice is.
Wait, works here? Does that mean-?
“You're teaching sign language?” I ask. The smile I receive is all the answer I need.
“Why didn't you say anything? We thought you were still oversees!” I begin the interrogation. She has some explaining to do: we could have seen her all this time! She gives a small laugh, rubbing the back of her head awkwardly.
“Well the truth is, I thought you were still in Osaka, and with everything that's been going on lately, I didn't want to bother yo-”
I cut her off, pulling her into a hug. Stupid, she's still stupid. Bother me? How could seeing Misha ever be a bother? I release her after a few moments, reading her confused face.
“We really should catch up after this, agreed?” I ask. “The Shanghai. And it'll be your treat: pay back for all the time we could have been spending together.” She pauses for a minute, then returns my smile.
“Sure, we- ah, the orientation!” She gives a cry, ducking her head into the room to see it mostly full. I also turn to my side, noticing Mutou coming back down the hall. Looks like our time is up. Time to face the music.
Two hours later, the grilling is over, and Misha and I are heading towards the gates.
“That wasn't so bad, was it Hiichan?” She asks innocently. I scoff despite myself.
“Are you kidding me? They wanted my head.”
“Wahaha! No they didn't, they just wanted to test you, Hiichan~! They did the same thing when I got my job here.” She claims boldly, and I'm momentarily impressed Misha was able to endure that small slice of hell. I'm about to remark on that in fact, when I notice a finger tapping on Misha's shoulder. As Misha turns around, I give a small smile.
<You're early, Shizune. Traffic wasn't too bad?>
She puffs out her cheeks, obviously miffed with my greeting. Of course, I knew she would be: carrying a child in your arms makes it a little hard to sign back in response. I give a small smile, leaning in to kiss her gently. Misha is standing to the side of us, standing frozen, staring at Shizune. I give a small chuckle, turning back to Shizune.
<Sorry, couldn't resist. You want to say hello, right? Here, give her to me.>
Shizune gives me a grateful smile before placing our daughter softly into my arms, her presence enough to draw my gaze down to her. We had bet on whether our first would be a boy or a girl. Shizune had bet a girl, I a boy. Of course, I secretly wanted a girl too, which is why I'd bet against her. If these few years of marriage have taught me anything, it's that betting against my wife is the most surefire way to lose, period. It was worth it to lose this one, though. She's beautiful, and that blue hair erupting from her head makes me hope she'll take after her mother in more ways than one.
As I look back up, I see Misha and Shizune embracing tightly, and I'm reminded of a scene eight years ago: the three of us standing right in front of this very gate, hands thrust upward to the heavens. We had promised we'd be together again, and so here we are.
Only this time, maybe this arrangement will be a little more permanent.
As the girls finally break apart, Shizune turns to me. Her hands already slicing through the air.
<How did it go, Hisao?> She asks. I look down briefly at our daughter. Shizune moves to take her from me, but I give a small shake of the head, instead turning to Misha.
“Looks like you'll have to translate for me, just like the old days,” I say. A strange look comes up on Misha's face... what is she feeling at this moment? I'm not sure: maybe for the first time I find myself unable to read her. “Think you're still up to the task?” I give her a small smile. Misha stands dumbstruck for a minute, before she brings a hand to her face: wiping a tear from her eye.
“I'd love to Hiichan.” She says warmly.
As we walk down the hill towards the Shanghai, I can't help but feel that no time has passed at all. Though things have changed: in the end we are all still the same people. Shizune is still the love of my life, and Misha is still our dear friend. Today we'll go down to the Shanghai. We'll drink tea and eat our cakes, catching up to the present. This time though, we'll be able to do so the next day, and then the day after next as well. Though we had to part for a time, now that we're back together we won't have to again. I look at Shizune and Misha happily signing away, and I look down at my daughter again, sleeping peacefully in my arms. I can't help the feeling of joy that bubbles up from within me. We're all different people, and we all have different goals. Our daughter too: sleeping peacefully, unaware of the challenges that she faces in her life. What will she want out of life, where will she want to go? These questions will have to go unanswered for now, but that's not a bad thing. Because right now, we're all together again.
We'll all walk towards the future: together.
Love it. Very well done.
"Cid is badass. He's old and still crackin'. He can fight underwater with a lit cigarette in his mouth. He drinks the goddamn tea." -Gaming_Mastery
The style seems fitting of KS.
This is officially the real epilogue for Shizune in my book.
Are you "Write*** the XVII"? (cigarette) I was just about to post that on this message board :D
Great writing if it is indeed yours -gets rid of that sour taste from the default ending.
"Your" = Possession | "You're" = You Are | "Their" = Possession | "They're" = They Are | "There" = Position
Now explain why her little "brother" is Ciel from Tsukihime.