Rainbow of the Horizon
Unrealistically, the season of summer is coming by fast, and its end is nigh as the month of May nearly says goodbye. The sweltering heat however was not an excuse to take a nice breath of fresh air for the faculty of the school.
Blue Ink High School is indeed in the middle of accommodating new and old students to their enrollment. Even with the school's system and technological adaptation, it is not considered to be a big; or advanced; or an elite school. In reality, the population of the last school year was about the borderline of 350 students, which was a record of the least number of students in the history of Blue Ink.
It is not conflicting to consider that the students of last year chose to be the minority. The school's system, which negated the norms of rankings and certain hierarchy, was not received well by the majority. As such, one example of the population decline was the Class 4A of Gin Sakato's batch wherein out of the 34 students in total, two were deceased—Ken Ichikawa included although still alive—three were expelled, and one stopped studying after graduating—which is currently the principal's secretary. In the end, the class only graduated 29 students where five of those are actually pseudo-students. The decline became evident as the students from that batch that remained in Blue Ink are Gin, Rin, Nagi, Shiro, and Jean.
The issue of a student murder blended in with the wind, and took the attention of other schools, which thus decreased the student population more. But it was not able to stop Taketo Juushiro's ideal vision of a school, and succeeded with a revolutionary system.
The "Project RE" (Normal in Parenthesis, chapter 18) became the initial, rough layout of the system which its objective is to maintain the humanity, ethics and conduct of the students alongside the academic factors. The way of guidance changed, as though making the students realize the unjust reality; and so it resulted with lower violation rates in its first year of run.
Blue Ink High is undeniably small, but there is an unusually crowded line of enrollment on the 27th, which is today.
There is no problem seen if a student is to enroll right after a school year ends, but a regular schedule of enrollment is also to be taken into account. And it was scheduled on the 24th of May as the beginning. But then, the sudden flash flood occurred on that very day. As Blue Ink is also located in White Street, it was also affected by the risk of being a low-lying area, although the flood is considerably minimal. But even though that is kept in mind, cleaning up the aftermath in the next day was still longer than the already slow subsidence of water. And the enrollment had to be postponed and moved two days after.
Thus, the applications for the day piled up more than they expected.
Meanwhile, the principal and his son are doing their idle discussions inside the office while monitoring the enrollment zone and accepting endless amount of paper works.
"My word… Kiiro-sen and Sir Kennedy are horses…"
"Try wording it properly next time, son."
It has been four hours ever since the school opened, and the two mentioned teachers had already handled around sixty enrollments of students by themselves, along with the distribution of textbooks.
"Around this amount, we should be calling it a day today… but we still have a long way to go with that line."
"It can't be helped since we're cleaning until yesterday, Dad. But it really is a pain now that it turns out like this. Should we put an enrollment limit tomorrow?"
"I don't think that's necessary. In a rough estimate, we might accomplish around 110 applications today out of the expected 350. That's around a quarter or a third of a hundred percent in just a day. And the listings will happen even after the 17th."
"Oh. Then tomorrow will probably have less, huh."
Akira then took notice of something between the paper works and spoke out of disappointment.
"So Gin and Ringo have already enrolled beforehand? I didn't know that at all."
"Hahh… Those two really are some good slackers. Instead of coming with their parents, Gin brought the forms back to their home."
"That's not allowed, right…?"
"I let it slide since he came back after five to seven seconds, and the forms are already signed."
"Eh. That's Gin for you.
Wait, you said five to seven seconds, Dad?!"
"Yeah… last time I checked, he got here in school in 14 seconds in the midst of Akaji's case. Not to mention, but the time of signing was included in that duration. I can't believe he had gotten way faster than that."
"That guy… he's probably at mach speed by now."
"Also, Akira. I'll give you a day-off tomorrow."
"Huh?! Am I really hearing that from you, Dad?!"
"You're my secretary but you're still my son, you know.
I'll have you scout a potential place near to a site of a client work I permitted," Tenth handed out another sheet to Akira, which he immediately read.
"Oh my. What a fine place. But just right after the school orientation is the official schedule? Why did you accept this for them?"
"I've heard that the mountains have a good reception to the internet, so cloud connection is the most convenient way for them to study."
"Though… I never thought that there is an inn like this in Cotona."
"It's a two-hour travel since the navigation does not meet with the traffic much. Also, you're supposed to be joined by Martin tomorrow but he isn't available, so you can bring someone from the base to drive you and experience the inn too."
"Keh. Mato-sen's probably going on a date with Nana-sen tomorrow."
"That's most likely the case since he was fawning when he talked about it. I'm just thankful that those two don't bring their relationship in school."
"He's acting like an adult, at least."
"And I sure don't want to miss asking my own son if he's already seeing someone."
I'm friends with the other girls in the base, so who knows. I guess I would prefer mutuality than going farther away from what's here."
"Hmm. Parent and child experiences although are not always mutual, huh. Maybe not; I can't say for certain."
"What do you mean, Dad?"
"Meg is a 'human' while I'm a resurfaced, right?"
And yes, the name of Akira's mother is Meg.
"If I pick this place without any second thought, can I join them for a week?"
Tenth wondered about it momentarily.
"Sure. You haven't been hanging out with your friends a lot, so it will be a good change of pace after all the stress.
And I'll probably drink with Amano and Shuu if I can."
"To think that you actually made Gin have a glass."
"An accident, Akira. I don't get his reason, though. He keeps saying that he won't drink because he was a secondhand smoker in the past."
"Eh? How are those related?"
Ginji's respiratory infection originated to Gin's same condition of being secondhand smokers. The only difference is that while Amano quit smoking because of Gin, Ginji's father hasn't.
▪ ▪ ▪
Akira had to sleep early and wake up early to lessen the time on the road.
While the Exile's underground base is outside Ginga, and is in the outskirts of Cotona, it is the same to the aforementioned mountains. Ginga is geographically the southern part of Cotona wherein after passing a town, one will be in the Capital; the greenhouse is located on the east outskirts, while the mountains are on the very north of the province.
Before reaching their destination, they took a stopover as an opening of a scenic view opened. Contrary to the heat of the summer, a cold breeze was found caressing him while eyeing out the scenery.
And after more than two hours of being on the road in total, he reached the front of their destination.
"Alright… no arguments needed for this one. I'll surely pick this."
▪ ▪ ▪
"Great job on managing to take me out of my cold lair, Mori."
"Sorry, I didn't know you're sensitive to the heat."
"No, it's more like it is my greatest enemy and weakness."
One way or the other, Mori managed to invite Nagi out in the middle of a summer day. Although usually, he would straight up decline the invite because the heat of the summer is involved, he still accepted as the two are finally coming to terms more after the rather… "sparkly" incident. Subsequent to that, Mori agreed and accepted everyone's help from the club while the school year was still ongoing.
On this vacation however, there was little to no time of contact with the other club members as they have their own businesses to attend to. With that in mind, Mori enrolled to an art school to learn more about the outside of his comfort zone—which generally is the color. After many years, it was his first time to experience the life of winter, spring, and summer.
They entered the first floor of the building, which is the reception area and took a rest on a bench. For Nagi, it was another utopia as the air conditioning is blasting all over the hall.
Mori however was unable to hide his uneasiness and didn't help but speak up his mind.
"I actually didn't expect that you would be coming with Shiro…"
"I always have nothing to do when it's vacation," she replied.
"Didn't know you guys are close since you don't show it on school."
"Eh. So you didn't hear from Mato-sen?" asked Nagi as he pulled his head down a little to look at Mori.
"Didn't hear what?"
He leaned back, "If you're not as dense as Yuuga, you will immediately realize it after a few minutes."
"Y-Yeah…? I'll keep that in mind.
Anyway, you know the agenda, right?"
"I was supposed to be by myself, but… Shiro and I will be representing TAC as Nanagi and Howaito for a demonstration.
Just so we're clear, what is the age range in your class?"
"Around juniors up to fresh graduates, I think."
"Ahh… there are college students too, huh."
"Probably there won't be any problems with that. Someone from the class actually recognized me because of ManCon, then they started asking me a bunch of stuff.
Even there's someone I actually met back then and signed a print."
"TAC's making a name isn't it."
"I guess," Then Shiro invited, "Maybe we should go and see the room."
~ ~ ~
The classroom that Mori attends in was located on the third floor of the building, and is on the second room to the left if facing the elevator door from the inside. The door was however not a sliding one, compared to what they are used to. Nonetheless, Nagi considered it as unnecessary nitpicking.
But as they were about to enter, they met up with Ai in front of the room.
"Ai-chan? So you're also studying here?" asked Shiro, surprised. "But look at that braids! That's so cute!"
"Didn't expect to see you here, Ai-san," Nagi followed up rather plainly.
Mori however asked out of nowhere, "So you actually know her, Nagi?"
Nagi then turned with a disappointed and shocked face.
"What do you mean? You've been here for a few weeks and you didn't even know that this is the girl that Jean is wooing?"
"Really?! Oh, sorry that I didn't know about that."
"It's fine, Inari-senpai."
The three expected that Mori will react differently from how he was addressed, as he is not inclined to the North's culture.
And so, the three-hour class demonstration began.
"So for the next thing we'll do, I will wrap my eyes with blindfold and pick… Say, how many colors do you want me to pick? Anyone?"
One raised his hand, "Is six okay?"
"Then we'll use six!" he then wrapped his eyes with the blindfold and sat in front of a table with many containers of gouache paint; empty or not. It was however only used as a reference to what he will randomly pick as the students are free to use what materials they wish to use.
As he had expected, the colors that came out were drawn as a short end of the stick. Some of them did not have a good combination of contrast.
"Well? They are all picked by mere chance. You have an hour to make a piece and the timer starts now!"
The other people of the class wore a somewhat distressed face, that even Ai was affected of it. But they still faced the challenge and somehow steeled themselves to whatever the results will be.
On the other hand, Mori was caught chuckling on his seat for reasons the others did not know. Nagi and Shiro looked confused for a moment, but then they gave him a smile and a V hand gesture from Shiro.
It appears that Mori had caught on to the two's intent.
~ ~ ~
The hour then passed with the high school and college students, all in one room, on the edge of their seats.
"Alright, everyone. Please raise your works for at least thirty seconds."
And so they did.
"You can put them down, now that we have seen your pieces."
Shiro then followed up, "Now, you can evaluate your own works."
One thing that the Art Club learned, although untold to themselves is that assessing one's own art is either being honest or lying to one's self. But the concept of optimism and pessimism can still adhere to one's abilities, and in which lying to one's self will fall not on the results, but on their effort.
"Are we all done? If so, how did you assess your pieces in your mind? I guess I could assume that it is being true to yourself, or frankly just lying to yourself. Were you satisfied with what you made, or did you accept that your work is not something you expected it to be? Or even… are you denying the fact that you didn't put all of your heart in this demonstration and sugarcoat the mediocrity?"
He took a good, long look after his sudden speech. The room had gotten quiet while others are intently listening, while some has their heads slowly bending down. He however continued.
"Looking and judging your works were never the purpose of this exercise to begin with. What we want to see is how you guys really value art, and to what extent. This is the best opportunity to realize what art really is and what it means to you and your life. That… we will let you have it to yourself.
On a side note, the way I picked the colors of course had a meaning to it. This is the best way I can think of to replicate what a very few number of people in the world experience…"
Nagi was interrupted, as someone raised his hand and asked.
"Like color blindness?"
"Uhhh… Something like that…? You could say that having a random combination of colors, good or bad, can be applied to that disorder. Although I really wish that we had individual PCs for everyone so that we can replicate how it really feels.
It is extremely difficult, but what I was aiming for is to replicate complete color blindness—where one can't see a literal color."
They shuddered and were left with a dreadful expression.
"I may not have the disorder, but I have experienced already what it feels like to be one with my very own eyes. There was a feeling where your spirit is endlessly breaking, and that there is nothing you can do anymore with these eyes.
But I was inspired to do that from a person who had true monochromacy. That person was very resilient to the point that he can still do art even without the ability to see colors.
That is also the time I realized that having that vision makes you very delicate and sensitive. Even by being touched in my first days of experiencing it made me terrified. I also learned that monochromacy does not only happen inborn. There are instances where your mind is driven to a point of unimaginable distress that it makes some of the eyes' function to cease, which leads to seeing no color.
But you know what? I guess all it takes is to look for a rainbow, although just figuratively," said Nagi as he chuckled and scratched his cheek.
Briefly, Shiro looked at her watch.
"I guess this is time. We're thankful that we are able to have an interaction with this class, and we hope that you learned something from it.
~ ~ ~
The two had expected what could be the possible reactions from that art class. There was likelihood that some may be moved, while there is a high chance that the majority will be similar to the controversial Class 4A of Blue Ink.
There might be a case that there is no learning, or what was said by Nagi and Shiro may just have entered and passed through their ears. It could be said that the former Class 4A was the superlative degree of the current generation, thus, the lack of respect is still very apparent to the youth.
In any case, they left the room bidding each other good work.
Minutes after, they still stayed on the first floor of the building with smoothies on their hands.
"Ai-chan? So you're already dismissed?"
"That's right, Shiro-senpai. I'll be going ahead. Thank you for the lecture," she bowed and immediately walked away while they waved at her.
"Where should we grab lunch, Shiro?"
"Hmm. There is a sizzling plate restaurant nearby. Do you fancy that?"
"Oh, the one with the unlimited rice and soup?"
"Yeah. I had already eaten there once."
"Then I'm expecting that it is air conditioned inside."
"It sure is."
"Then it's cheat day today."
Just before leaving the building through the automatic door, they immediately saw Ai who is still nearby.
"Nagi, I didn't know Ai-chan had an older brother."
"Even I don't."
▪ ▪ ▪
Meanwhile, inside the Ando household.
"Did anyone see bro?"
"Oh, son? Going somewhere?" the mother replied with another question.
"Yeah. I'm going to pick up Ai from her art school."
"Didn't Alex tell you that he will do it on your behalf?"
Jean then stepped out of the living room while putting on his shoes, and left the house, sprinting.
▪ ▪ ▪
And so, the truth about Nagi and Shiro's misconception:
Ai at first did not recognize the man standing outside by the entrance of the building and went passed him by a few meters. But she stopped and vigorously turned her head.
There may never be a time where Ai will give up the use of Northern honorifics.
"W-W-Why are you h-here…?"
"I came to pick you up without telling Jean."
"Uhh… I guess that timid behavior is expected. We just briefly met back at our house, after all."
"But… I never saw you as a criminal…" in reality, she was just trying to make a joke with her shyness in place.
Nonetheless, Alex laughed a lot.
"Anyway, is it okay if we are to have lunch together? It will be my treat."
"Hmm… It's fine. I at least want to tell Jin about it."
"Ahahaha. He'll surely scold me a lot later.
Shall we eat at Giotto's then?"
"I'll be in your care."
~ ~ ~
"Good afternoon, Ai-san," a waiter from the restaurant that knows her greeted.
"Good afternoon also."
Alex tilted his head in confusion, but jolted a little and let out an "Ahhh…"
"I forgot that Jean mentioned that you worked part time back in Japan in a branch."
"That is why I know a lot of people in this branch's crew."
"Ah, that table is open."
To Alex's surprise contrary to the observed timid behavior of Ai towards him, she actually wasn't very quiet.
"Alex-nii? Are you going to continue studying?"
"Yeah. It sucks that the incident happened when I was about to graduate three years ago, but I will be continuing my course as a fourth year this June. I wonder how it feels to be a senior high school student…
Since you are also studying in Blue Ink, which department did you take?"
"I will be studying Visual Arts since I recently got inclined to interior designing."
"Ohhh. With the way of things in Blue Ink, I think it will have a good rate of graduates with how applied the courses are. I daresay that this may be the first time that senior high school may really be effective to be job-ready."
"I see… I haven't really thought of it that much…"
"That's just fine. You still have much time of your youth. Though, it makes me a little overwhelmed since I am still going to study and I have to support my family as soon as possible.
Ai-san, you should be proud that the man that you are about to choose has gotten ahead of me," and placed his hand on Ai's head.
"Sorry to burst your bubble, but it really has been a while, Alex," Gin suddenly appeared by their table.
"Woah…! Didn't see you there, Gin."
"Good afternoon, Senpai."
Shucks. Too bad I wasn't the one to do your servings. I'm on my break now."
"Haha. Don't be too selfish, sous chef."
"Though… I bet Jean is mad at you right now."
"Ahahahaha…! You got that right!"
"So Senpai and Alex-nii know each other?" Ai asked.
"Before he was detained, we were already friends."
"But really… you've changed a lot, Gin. You weren't this approachable before."
"Yeah. But not only a woman can change a man, alright?"
"Got it. Enjoy your break, then."
"I did not expect that, Alex-nii."
"I was surprised too.
But anyway, I'm really thankful about being with Jean. It puts me at ease that he's not the very serious guy anymore."
"I believe you should thank his friends more."
"I'll do that later, but I do think that there are sides of Jean that only you have seen. That in itself is a proof that he had changed for the better because of you."
"I-Is that so… I'm quite flattered."
The door of the restaurant however suddenly opened loudly with the sound of stomping coming to them. It was indeed Jean.
He had an extremely irritated face looking at his brother, but took a seat anyway and called out.
"Two servings of Cheese Risotto, please!"
In the end, he got hungry after running around and looking for his brother and Ai. The two orders he said was just for him to relieve himself from stress, and the tab was also placed on Alex.
You've finished 051!
Well shoot I'm not yet done proofreading.
New cover features Ryota and Yuuga!
Thanks for reading!
052: Towards our final year in high school.