What's Past is Prologue


The whimsy of the cord of fate reconnects two old friends.

Date: 2017-09-29
Pose Count: 23
Youichi Mariyama 2017-09-29 23:56:41 83966
It's been -- how many days now, since he remembered? Four? Five? He knows he missed one day of school, and it's Friday now. So five, maybe six, if you count Sunday night. Everything's been a blur since then, and only now has he started to get his head above the water.

Good. There are only so many days he can blame on a nasty cold for making him listless and unfocused. And now, more than ever, Youichi can't have people suspecting that anything's wrong.

Lying isn't something he's done a lot of, but he is good at it. Mom's acting talent coming out, he assumes. When the school bell rang, he apologized to his class co-representative: he's been feeling ill all week, the doctor recommended he get plenty of rest, so he can't stay during club time today, but here's the binder of materials for today's meeting. Then, with a (hopefully) convincing look of fatigue, he took the most circuitous route possible away from Infinity and towards good old Penguin Park, to make sure no one could see him playing hooky. Paranoid -- possibly. But worth it, most definitely.

There are other, better libraries in Tokyo. To be honest, Infinity's own library would be better suited for this task, of digging up enough information about feudal Japan to supplement his own memories. Penguin Public Library is kiddish in a way that makes him feel more immature than nostalgic. But they have the books. Most of them, anyway, and anything that's not here, he can probably find online.

School project, he'd say to anyone who asks him, and sure enough, there doesn't seem to be anyone here today who could call his bluff.

The red thread of fate works in mysterious ways. Sometimes, two people fated to reunite will meet again in rapturous joy or harrowing sorrow. Sometimes, all it will take is a chance encounter, a glance in the right direction, to change two lives.

Sometimes, the best way to bring people together is to rob them of their dignity.

Youichi's never been particularly clumsy, but his head's still in the clouds today, and his eyes keep darting around the library for any people he'll want to avoid. When his foot catches on a nearby chair leg, he's too sluggish to react in time; he lurches forward, throws out his two hands (two hands -- he has never appreciated having them more than he does now), and lets his books on swordsmanship, history, and lucid dreaming go flying from his grasp.

Impressive, he thinks to himself, bitterly, as his face starts to go red. Now everyone in this place is looking at you.
Seishi Tamashige 2017-09-30 00:24:58 83971
Seishi has a depressingly certain feeling that she's being cowardly.

There are conversations she knows she needs to have... with her other self, with O-Yasu. Probably with the others, too. But every time she makes her mind up to talk to any of them about what she remembered the night they fought the Nightmare Prince, something in her balks. Doubts. Even though she knows better, there's a part of her that wonders if maybe it wasn't just a nightmare created by the Prince of Nightmares to shake her confidence.

Even her past self, normally an aggravatingly persistent presence in her dreams from night to knight, has been silent.

Maybe it is cowardice, but before she can broach the subject of old betrayals with anyone else, she has to figure out how she feels about it first. Right now, Seishi doesn't know. And in any case, there's school to worry about, and if she doesn't keep her grades up she'll lose her scholarship. That is something she's not about to let happen.

She's on her way back from the shelves with a couple of classic literature reference volumes tucked under her arm, too focused on the essay she's writing to think about any of the other problems looming on the horizon... or, to be honest, much of anything else that's going on around her. At least not until books go toppling around her feet and poor off-balance Youichi staggers right into her, a soft whump of collision solid enough to send her staggering a couple of paces to the side.

"I'm so sorry!" The apology is reflex; she's bowing as soon as she's steady on her feet again. "I wasn't paying attention--"

Pause. She blinks up at him.
Youichi Mariyama 2017-09-30 01:40:09 83987
Marvelous. In addition to the unholy racket, his glasses falling off, and his books flying out for the world to see, Youichi managed to fall into a *person* as well. Figures that he couldn't just stumble in the back of the stacks, where no one bothered to look. If he can't even do this, how is he even going to attempt saving the world --

Youichi stops, breathes through his nose and out through his mouth, enough to slow his racing thoughts a bit. First priority is gathering his books back up; to do that, he has to see. And if he wants to look less like a freak to whoever's bumped into him, he has to start talking, as naturally as he can.

So he smiles, and slaps on his student council smile, falling back on the role he's so used to playing now.

"No, no, don't apologize," he says, fumbling around for his glasses so that the blur in front of him will solidify a bit. "I'm the one who fell into you, it's me who should be saying sorry, once I find my -- ah, there we go."

His hands clench around the wire frames, and he has to stop himself from jamming them back on his face in a desperate grab for his books. Lucid dreaming's the one that sticks out; the others he can explain, but that one's so New Age-y, anyone who sees it will know *something's* up, and he has his political reputation to think about too.

"It's always when you're carrying stuff that you fall, right?" he babbles, darting out his hand to grab the nearest book over: a history of Feudal Japan, crap. "It's a bit ridic --"

Youichi looks up to flash the girl a conciliatory smile, then freezes just as she's blinking. The smile falls away into stunned silence, and he's not playing a role anymore.

There's no way. Is there? Can there be?

It's been three years now.

"...Sei-chan?" he says, letting slip the old nickname, as though he's not quite certain that this isn't a dream too.
Seishi Tamashige 2017-09-30 01:58:13 83994
"...You-kun." This, too, is almost reflexive, even with how long it's been. She blinks again and looks at him again, down and up again, as though just now herself bringing him into proper focus. "It really is you. Geez, when did you get so tall?"

Just that quickly, awkwardness descends, and Seishi falters into an uncertain silence. It's occuring to her just now that she can't actually remember the last time she and Youichi spoke. That first year of middle school has smeared into a blur in her memory, trickling into the helpless feeling that even if she were to reach out, what would she say after having withdrawn for so long?

"...I guess it's been a long time," she manages to say, lamely.
Youichi Mariyama 2017-09-30 02:30:15 84005
Tall? Since when *has* he been taller than Seishi? She always seemed to grow faster than he did, which didn't help the bullying at all, little You hiding behind his precious onee-chan -- but that's changed now, hasn't it? He's not small anymore, and their friendship feels like a lifetime ago.

In a way, it really was.

He draws himself to his full height, books still scattered on the ground, and now he's even taller than her; it takes a second for that to even register, that he's here with Seishi again, and they're both high schoolers now, not children. He's taller than her, and she looks older, but she still wears her hair the same way. That isn't Seiyou's uniform, though, is it?

Shouldn't he be saying something?

"I..."

She's still mad at him, he can feel it. And why wouldn't she be, when he was the one who abandoned her? It's surreal, seeing her here, of all places, and he *is* happy -- somewhere in whatever's going on in his mind. He should only be happy, to find her again. But there's so much else, from the past both recent and distant, and he still feels like he hasn't woken up from his dreams, not really. What can he think of to say to her? Will she stay here, if he tries to talk to her?

He wants her to stay, even if it's only for a little bit.

"I can't believe it's really you," he says, truthfully, looking away so he doesn't freak her out with the wide-eyed staring. "How -- how are you? It really has been a long time. Way too long." And whose fault is *that*, again? The fresh guilt makes it hard for him to think of anything to say that isn't remotely mindless.

"I...well. I shouldn't make you feel bad. I understand. Really." Even if he doesn't, he should say so anyway.
Seishi Tamashige 2017-09-30 02:42:51 84009
"--Huh?" This is Seishi, paused in the act of bending to retrieve the copy of Go Rin No Sho that's come to rest against her foot, looking quizzically up at Youichi with an expression that says she has no idea what he means.

She can't stay like that, of course. She picks up the book without looking at it, her own texts still tucked under her arm, and straightens back up as she casts about for what to say.

"I do feel bad," she admits at last with all honesty, wincing a little. "I mean... I was the one who shut you out, after all." Her turn to look away, faintly shamefaced. "And then you transferred and it was too late to make it up to you..."
Youichi Mariyama 2017-09-30 03:16:45 84014
No, this really isn't any easier than he imagined, is it.

The first time they met, Youichi ran away before he managed to say anything. Too young and scared by everything to understand someone wanting to be his friend. He likes to think he's grown beyond that by now, but even as he stands here, part of him wants to bolt. Especially when Seishi looks back up at him with that confused expression -- he's said something dumb, he never should have gone into what happened, she probably didn't want to talk about it at all --

He clenches his fist. Calm. If she doesn't want to talk to him, she'll wrap it up and leave soon, and then he can go back to checking out his books and going home. If she does...

She keeps talking. He doesn't know exactly what that means, but it's leaning towards a good sign. Even if he's just as confused by what she's saying as she was by him. Seishi thinks *she's* to blame?

Why does she look like she's in so much pain?

"Sei-chan," Youichi says, hoping to make her look up at him again. "No one can blame you for anything that happened in seventh grade, okay? I never did. I was just...twelve, and really, really stupid. I didn't know what was going on, I didn't know anything about being a real friend to anybody -- you're not the one who should be apologizing. Promise."

The words come flowing out of him, probably far too personal for a library, but he can't help it. He's been picturing for years, what he'd say to her if he finally got the chance, and now it's happening and he's a mess. He tries to laugh to blow it off, but even he knows it doesn't sound quite natural.

This isn't something to laugh about.
Seishi Tamashige 2017-09-30 03:35:01 84019
It's not something to laugh about - but at the same time, it really kind of is. All this time, had they really both been thinking it was their own fault for losing their friendship?

Apparently they had. The stilted laugh from Youichi draws a hitch of breath from Seishi, something that's half a laugh and half a sigh. "If I'm not allowed to apologize," she says with a rueful twist of a smile, "then neither are you. I..." A moment's hesitation, before she resolves herself to continue. "I was twelve, and I really wasn't dealing very well for a while. I lost a lot of friends, back then."

She shakes her head a little, and then remembering the book she picked up, she somewhat sheepishly offers it to him. In the process she gets a look at the title and nearly has to choke back a yelp of laughter. It would be samurai, she thinks; if her subconscious past life memories pick now of all times to act up--

But mercifully, Akashimaru remains quiescent, and with her face coloring slightly Seishi scrambles for something to say. "You're still going to Infinity, huh?" is what she comes up with, and she could almost kick herself for stating the obvious. He's wearing the Infinity uniform, Seishi, duh.
Youichi Mariyama 2017-09-30 04:02:13 84023
Heh. Of course she'd forbid him from apologizing. He always did it too much, when they were younger, and she never liked it; goes to show just how little somethings change, doesn't it?

Youichi smiles more deeply now, losing a bit of that nervous edge he'd had since he first recognized his friend. Her forbidding him from it doesn't mean he won't do it -- in his heart and his head, for all the time they lost and all the grief he caused her. But he won't do it aloud. They can both move on, and he'll be the one that carries the memories of what happened, so that if she ever shut him out again, he'd know she wouldn't want to be left all on her own.

"All of us really were dumb back then, weren't we?"

If...whatever's happening here means they're friends again. That part's still not completely sure.

Youichi looks down at the book she offers him, and there's just the slightest tick as he remembers that ah, it's time to act again, just for a little bit longer, for her own good.

"Ah! Thanks, I really nailed the landing on this one, huh," he says, discreetly scanning the nearby floor for the book on dreams. It looks like it's sitting in shadow under the nearest table -- Seishi doesn't look like she's seen it yet. If he doesn't go for it, he won't draw attention to it. As things stand, that might be his best move.

"It's research for -- Infinity, yeah. Still wearing these godawful colors." That sounds harsher than he meant. He's glad to go to Infinity, he really is, but green and maroon? Together? "It's a new adventure everyday over there. You can smell the new money halfway across town." And speaking of money...

Youichi finally takes a long look at Seishi's unfamiliar uniform, squinting as he tries to process it. "And you're...that's Verone's uniform, right?" he asks. "You transferred too?" 'And to *that place*?' he mentally adds, but he's conscious enough of her feelings not to say anything. She must have her reasons.
Seishi Tamashige 2017-10-01 21:16:36 84166
A lopsided little smile tugs at Seishi's lips; she looks down again for a moment, nodding. "I guess maybe being dumb is part of being twelve? But still, I..."

She trails off, not finishing the thought, and then he's quipping about Infinity and Seishi laughs quietly. "Yeah," she confirms, tugging a little at her very pink pleasted skirt. At least they're still in summer uniforms for now, which means forgoing the equally pink blazer. It could be worse, but still, that's a lot of pink. "I don't have the grades to qualify for a scholarship to Infinity, but Verone's program isn't as strict. Noblesse oblige or whatever."

Another little laugh, as she looks up again. "It's full of old money - even worse than new money, when they think it makes them some kind of fake royalty. But if I don't snap and punch someone before graduation, I can come out with some good connections."
Youichi Mariyama 2017-10-01 22:06:38 84168
'But still, I...'

She doesn't finish, but she doesn't have to.

"Yeah. I know."

These past few years would have been way better if they hadn't been dumb, and neither of them will get middle school back. But how do you say that out loud, without bringing the whole conversation down? He's not in the mood for sadness, and he'd never want Seishi to feel worse than she already is; if she is actually feeling bad, and he's not just massively projecting.

There's silence for a few seconds as she trails off -- not good. Silence is fine, between two good friends, he's never minded it. But he hasn't talked to Sei in years, and who knows if she wanted to bring all that up in the first place. He needs to say something. Now.

But Youichi's never been the brightest conversationalist, and what comes out is the first thing that pops into his head, the thing he's been thinking this whole time, even as he realizes it's a total disaster.

"I really missed --"

-- you. I really missed you. True, but too much. Probably creepy. And very little way out, once said -- alarm bells are shooting off in his head before he's even done speaking. Fantastic as always, You.

Thankfully, the universe takes pity on him today: she's started talking again before he finished, possibly before she even heard what he said, and he slams his mouth shut the second she gives him the opportunity. Safe. Somehow.

"Well, Sei-chan, as long as I've known you, you only punched people who deserve it," he counters, smiling. "So just tell the administration you're an ally of justice, and they'll have to let you off the hook." Ally of justice -- SEIGI NO MIKATA. Only said once every three pages in that series they loved so much. Maybe, if she laughs at his little reference, she hasn't come to think it's dumb? Maybe she still reads them, like he does -- but that might be too much to hope for.

"My dad went to Verone, don't know if you knew. I hope it's not all trust fund babies and CEO spawn. If it's anything like Infinity, at least a quarter of the class buys their seat instead of earning it."
Seishi Tamashige 2017-10-01 22:14:55 84169
Seishi doesn't protest the reference, nor the old nickname. She just laughs again, shaking her head a little. "I don't think the Verone faculty will cut any slack for would-be superheroing," she replies lightly. "Especially not if it means there's one of those CEO spawn in the office crying to their parents on the phone around a bloody nose. I think I'll have to pick my battles, for now."

But oh man if his words haven't taken her back... to elementary school, and being able to immerse herself in those superhero stories and really feel like the world could be that simple. How long has it been since she felt that way?

Probably not since that day four years ago when the world fell out from under her feet.

"...I'm really glad we ran into each other like this, You-kun," she says, looking up at him with honest dark eyes. "It's good to talk with you again."
Youichi Mariyama 2017-10-01 22:39:52 84175
"Yeah, I guess that's their first response to anything," Youichi agrees with a sigh. Thankfully, he's only had to deal with the rest of the 1% in the last few years, but that's all it's taken. Being born to the right person might as well be its own superpower, and he knows for experience that people rarely use it for good. "Don't let them wear you down too much. They're just jealous because you actually deserve to go to a good school."

He's ready to keep the conversation going like this, grumping about the stuck-up student bodies at their respective schools, lamenting homework and lost sleep, the things normal high school students talk about -- it might be weird, hoping they'll keep talking while their both standing in the middle of the library, with his own books scattered around him and several heavy tomes tucked in her arms, but he so very rarely wants to talk to anybody. He doesn't want to let it go yet, especially when the odds are so against things going back to how they were before.

But she turns her eyes up to him again, and even though what she's saying is kind, it's what people say when they want to wind down and be on their way. Oh. Yeah, of course. He can't expect her to hang around forever, can he? And for his part, he has so much work to do...

Despite the disappointment he tries to conceal with a smile, he can't help the pleased blush that lights his face just a touch, from the hope that she actually means what she said.

"It is," he says. "Do you --" stuttering, crap, "-- well, if you still have my old number, I haven't changed it or anything. If you want...we can try and hang out some time? If you have time, I mean." He's taking pains to give her every possible out; the last thing he wants is to force her into something out of obligation to past-him. "I don't know what your schedule's like, these days."
Seishi Tamashige 2017-10-01 22:52:10 84178
There's a faintly perplexed sort of look that flickers through Seishi's eyes, very briefly, at his reaction - in truth, she hadn't thought about how it might sound, she'd simply spoken what was on her mind. Like she used to do. But then, most twelve-year-olds aren't adept at reading nuance.

It's gone as quickly as it appeared, because he's asking about contact information and she actually has to stop and think for a second. "I think I do still have it - hang on," she says, and puts the books she was holding down on the nearby table so that she can pull out her phone and check. "Yeah, here it is," and it's her turn to blush just a little in embarrassment either from having kept his number in her contact list through how many new phones, or simply from the fact that she had to check. "Mine's still the same, too... do you need it again?"

Phone in her hand, she looks back up at him, expression brightened with enthusiasm. "It'd be great to hang out. I mean, my schedule's a little..." she makes a face, "but I can make time. We've got a lot to catch up on, right?"
Youichi Mariyama 2017-10-01 23:16:20 84182
If she's embarrassed over that, he has just as much reason to be. Because he doesn't even need to check -- he knows he still has her number in his phone, he's never exactly had a rolodex of friends besides her. But it is crucial, for appearances' sake, that he take out his phone anyway. Not creeping her out is priority number one here.

He's so caught up in that priority that he doesn't quite parse that she kept his number all these years, she really didn't hate him after all.

(The collection of books she sees on the table when he puts them down to look for his phone might be of interest to her, if she has the mind to look. The book on lucid dreaming still rests in shadow underneath it, but the others aren't interests she's known him to have: the history books could be for a project, sure, but did he ever have an interest in kendo before?)

"Nope, still got it," he finally declares, looking up brightly from his phone screen. "You can laugh at me for being a big softie now." 'Still have the light novels too, or what's left of them,' he nearly adds, but again, he's trying his best not to show how important she'd been to him, even after twelve-year-old dumbness split them up.

"I don't want to stress you out or anything, if you've been busy," he backpedals just a bit, when he sees that face she makes. As many outs as possible, for whatever reason she has. "But -- yeah. I'd like to hang out again. I've really missed it."

There. Almost exactly what he wanted to say before, and after he already admitted to being a sentimental nerd, so not a humongous faux pas. He hopes.
Seishi Tamashige 2017-10-01 23:31:09 84186
She does look, idly, at the stack of books he's put down, mostly because watching him while he checks his phone for her number seems - a little uncomfortable. Like she's expecting something. The kendo texts catch her interest, and by the time he looks up from his phone she's picked the top book up off his stack to study the cover.

At his self-deprecation, though, she smiles. "Come on, why would I laugh?" The smile becomes a grin, lightly teasing: "I already knew you were a big softie." Besides, she still had his number, too.

The teasing fades away quickly, but the smile stays, turning maybe just a little wistful. "Yeah," she says. "We used to have a lot of fun. Whatever else is going on, it'd be too sad if we fell out of touch again after meeting like this."

And then she holds up the book that she'd picked up, looking amused for some reason. "I'm in the kendo club now, you know."
Youichi Mariyama 2017-10-01 23:58:44 84192
That little bit of teasing makes him happy. Maybe unreasonably so -- how long has it been since someone's known him well enough and trusted him enough to rib him like that? Most people are nicer to him now than they were; side effect of being a 'popular' member of student government, he supposes. But it can feel so artificial at times.

Sei's never been artifical anything.

His eyes may actually light up a bit as he slides his phone back into his pocket. "Guilty as charged, I'm afraid. Guess I'll have to pay you off, so you don't tell the world my deep dark secret." The least of the deep dark secrets he has, he thinks with some internal regret. But he's familiar enough with wealthy circles to know that there are some voters out there who *would* despise him for being sentimental or soft, so there may be more seriousness there than he intended.

That's a tangent, though. Best not to wander too far off into his own mind. Besides, Seishi's still got stuff to say. Stuff he's certainly not expecting to hear -- three years really have gone by, haven't they?

"Oh really?" he says, eyes widening just a bit. "I guess you saw what I'm checking out, huh?" Youichi picks up 'Go Rin No Sho,' the most respected kendo text he could find from recommendations online. The words of an old master would no doubt only help, especially when that master lived only a short while after he died. (After Shouhamaru died? The whole past life thing is still screwing him up a bit.)

"I just signed up for Infinity's team myself. Thought it might help me blow off steam when the council gets too aggravating." It's a lie, but such a minor one that he can't feel too bad. The truth is too complicated and dangerous, he'd rather spare her than be honest. "But...you were always really good at archery, weren't you? It must be tough trying to find time for two clubs."
Seishi Tamashige 2017-10-02 00:08:23 84195
Seishi's head ducks, face tucking downwards as she carefully returns the book to his stack. "...I quit archery when I transferred." It takes more effort than she'd have thought to admit it. "You're right, I wouldn't have time for two clubs plus everything else."

Unthinkingly she reaches up to push a nonexistent stray wisp of hair behind her ear. "To be honest, I miss it. But police officers train in judo or kendo. If I start learning now, then I'll be a leg up when I join the police academy... that was what I thought, anyway." Why kendo instead of judo - at the time, Seishi couldn't have said why she chose one over the other. In retrospect, maybe Akashimaru had something to do with it, a resonance she wasn't yet aware of. Who knows?

With a physical effort, she shakes off her awkwardness and looks up again, brows lifting a little. "It's a little surprising for both of us, isn't it? But that's pretty cool of you! Maybe we could train together sometime."
Youichi Mariyama 2017-10-02 00:37:13 84201
Way to go, Youichi. Suave and sensitive as ever. Of *course* she wouldn't have time to juggle both of them, not at the level of commitment Verone probably requires -- wait, did she mention something about the police?

He stops his frantic backpedaling and blinks once, lowering the book back down to the table.

"The police academy?" he repeats. "Jeez, and I thought joining the student council was noble. I had no idea that's what you wanted to do." It's the slightest bit worrying, as well as impressive; he knows full well that life isn't anything like police procedurals, but police could still get harmed in the line of duty...

He consciously smiles wider. There's no use worrying about it now: they're both still in high school, and what would it say about his faith in her if he just assumed she'd get hurt if she joined the force? He was okay with the two of them becoming superheroes, back when they were kids. He can't get mad that she actually stuck with that dream.

"I'm afraid you'll have to be patient with me if we train together," Youichi confesses when she brings up the idea of sparring to practice their kendo. "I've only barely touched the shinai my dad keeps in the closet. That's why I'm reading up before my first time at the dojo, I don't want to look like a totally lost cause, if I can help it. But as long as you know what you're getting into -- I'm sure there's a lot I could learn from you, Sei-chan."

(Somewhere, in the parts of his mind he doesn't fully know, Shouhamaru rolls his eyes.)
Seishi Tamashige 2017-10-02 00:45:59 84202
Seishi's expression turns self-conscious, though she smiles. "It's something I decided... well, you'd already transferred by then." He can probably connect the dots well enough: it's something she decided because of her mother. "I want to be a detective, in the police force. That's why Verone, even though I don't really fit in there - any connections I can make will help open doors."

The breath sighs out of her after she says that, and her mouth twists a little-- "My father's not happy about it," she says, and this too Youichi can probably guess at the reasons for. "But as long as I keep my grades up enough to keep my scholarship, he won't say anything."

Deliberately she smooths out her expression, smiles again. "Anyway, I'm still a beginner myself, since I only started this year. Most of the club is ahead of me. You and I can catch up together, it won't be a problem."
Youichi Mariyama 2017-10-02 01:11:17 84207
...because of what happened to her mother. Yes, of course. No wonder he didn't know anything about it. It's still unnerving to him, even years later, to think of Seishi's mother as gone; dead, most likely, though he'd be the last person to say that much aloud. He can still remember the time they tried to make her a birthday cake, and he slipped on her kitchen floor as he was carrying the open bag of flour.

It's not right to think of her as gone. But whatever her loss means to him, it's a hundredfold worse for Seishi. Like he said earlier: he can't blame her for anything she's done to ease that pain, or any vow she took to avenge it.

"If Verone doesn't think you fit in," he says, "they're even shallower than I thought they were. Besides, it's usually best to keep those circles at a distance, if you can. You joke about them thinking they're royalty, but..." Youichi shakes his head. "You probably already know, you have to deal with them every day."

'Together.' That's a nice word -- he'd like to learn kendo with Seishi, it'd probably make the process a lot less painful. He's always been dreadfully unathletic; she must still remember PE with him, and how much of a hell on Earth that was. Shouhamaru might give him a slight edge. Best not to count on it, though, or he could get killed the first time he goes hunting.

Hunting. Youichi silently tries to bite down the pangs of fear in his heart at the idea of it. Now isn't the time to worry about that. Besides, what would Seishi think of him if she knew he was afraid of saving the world?

"You might be a little optimistic about me," he says before the quiet has a chance to get awkward, "but that does sound really nice. Let me check my schedule when I get home? Student council gets unfairly demanding sometimes, but I know I can find some time for us somewhere."
Seishi Tamashige 2017-10-02 01:21:02 84211
"Sure." This, Seishi doesn't need to think about; she agrees without reservation. "Send me a text or something later, and we'll sort out when works best between all of our classes and club obligations and stuff."

'Stuff' is such a nice catch-all word. It sounds so normal, doesn't it?

Speaking of obligations, though, draws her attention most immediately to the books and materials she's left laid out on the study table, awaiting her return. "...I guess for now I should really get back to my homework," she says with visible reluctance. "It's a shame, but this essay isn't going to write itself." She gathers up the books she'd set down again before turning her face up toward Youichi and smiling brightly. "I'm really looking forward to hanging out with you again, though. It's been way too long."
Youichi Mariyama 2017-10-02 01:43:53 84217
This library visit went unimaginably well, didn't it?

Seishi's still around. Seishi doesn't hate him for what happened. Even better -- and perhaps more unbelievably -- she wants to hang out again, and text, and learn kendo together, and she laughed at his stupid jokes. It's like they picked up right where they left off -- no, it's not just like that. They did. After three years of nothing, he can bump into her in a library, and they're back to where they were, as though not even a day has passed.

He knows that's not true. Everything's different now, from when they were kids. Seishi's mom is gone, they both go to different schools. Seishi quit the archery club, Seishi wants to be a cop -- and he just regained the memories of a lifetime of misery, one that still seems to whisper in the shadows whenever he turns his head. Nothing can be exactly the same. Not now, most likely never again.

But they can keep what they have, whatever little scrap of normal they can both cling to in their new and crazy lives. And maybe, in a way, that's exactly what they were doing before.

Youichi has to get going, too. But it's with a much less heavy heart than he came in with. This time, it's only goodbye for now. He gathers up the books sitting on the table, and decides to just leave the other one be. Making a big deal of picking it up would draw attention to it, and screw some obtuse manual, anyway. If he could lucid dream in his last life, he can remember how to do it again.

"Do your best, Sei-chan. I'll text you once you've beaten that essay into submission," he says, shooting her one last, encouraging smile. "It has been too long -- but we can make up for lost time."