Chapter 4:

The Infirmary

The Hero Who Returned Remains Traumatized in the Modern World

“Greetings.”Bookmark here

Without hesitation, my back straightened and I dropped my hands beside me. The professional atmosphere of the infirmary room was heavily influencing, despite my impaired state.Bookmark here

“Uhm… I’m not feeling so well. So I’d like to stay here for a while, if that’s okay.”Bookmark here

“Hm. Not just trying to skip class, are you?”Bookmark here

“Of- of course not. I just-”Bookmark here

What was I supposed to say? This was a health counselor; a medical professional working for a school. The man likely had more experience hearing excuses than he did actually dealing with injured students.Bookmark here

“It’s… this feeling in my chest. Like it’s going to lock up and stop me from breathing.”Bookmark here

I clutched the spot that felt tight, to give him a better visualization.Bookmark here

“Have you experienced any symptoms such as acid reflux, burning stomach aches, heartburn, fatigue, shortness of breath, or any kind of swelling?”Bookmark here

I lost track of the quick-listed symptoms as they made their way in one ear and out the other. But it felt more disrespectful to ask him to repeat himself, so I answered as if I had heard properly.Bookmark here

“Ah, no. I don’t think so. Maybe shortness of breath?”Bookmark here

“So it’s anxiety then?”Bookmark here

“...Anxiety? I-- guess that could be it.”Bookmark here

Anxiety? Was that really all it was? Surely, a little bit of stress couldn’t be causing me such physical impairment. Bookmark here

“That is it. Unless you’re experiencing any other physical irregularities.”Bookmark here

He was oddly confident. Though, it was surely something a medical professional had seen many times before, so it would have been foolish of me to doubt him.Bookmark here

“Then… Is it alright if I rest for a bit until I calm down?”Bookmark here

The counselor stroked his hairless chin with two fingers, deep in thought for a moment as his eyes aimed downward. After a long moment of silence, he gave his verdict.Bookmark here

“That's fine. What’s your full name?”Bookmark here

I sighed in relief. For now, I could take refuge in this room.Bookmark here

The man swiveled back around in his chair and picked up a pen, pulling a document out from the cabinet beside him to log into.Bookmark here

“Salvus Erit. Andrew Salvus Erit.”Bookmark here

He stopped for a moment, pen still in hand. He was pondering again. Then, he spun back around to face me with the same poker faced expression as before, as if he hadn’t thought about it at all.Bookmark here

“Was there a student here with a name like that?”Bookmark here

No. Of course there wasn’t.Bookmark here

“Ah! Sorry. I meant to say Jiro Todoya. It’s just, well…”Bookmark here

“Well?”Bookmark here

For his calm, collected demeanor, he surprisingly came off like a busybody. The man never rushed his words, and yet he didn’t much take to waiting for a response, either. There was a strong confidence in his manner and speech. As if he wasn’t one to let outside influence dictate what seemed right to him.Bookmark here

So then, what if--Bookmark here

What if I told him? About how I had come back from another world? About how I was living in a body that was foreign to me?Bookmark here

Would he believe me?Bookmark here

Of course not.Bookmark here

But maybe he could help me somehow. He was a doctor, after all. A reasonable, level headed one at that. Maybe he would be able to give my issue some serious thought.Bookmark here

“I--”Bookmark here

Just maybe.Bookmark here

“It’s not important, really. Jiro Todoya is my name. Class 1-C.”Bookmark here

“Alright, then. Please take a bed and lie down, and I’ll contact your homeroom teacher to let them know you’re here.”Bookmark here

“Thank you, Mr.-”Bookmark here

Sensei. Furukawa Sensei.”Bookmark here

“Ah, Furukawa Sensei then.”Bookmark here

Sensei. A word I hadn’t used in awhile.Bookmark here

I sighed in relief. I was at my wit’s end, to the point where I honestly considered actually revealing the truth to somebody. And not just any “somebody”, but a teacher who would more or less have an obligation to communicate something like that back to my family. And what then? How was I supposed to explain something like that to the people who were in charge of my life? They would surely think I had gone insane, and then I would be put on an even tighter leash.Bookmark here

No, I had to keep it under wraps. I couldn’t let a single soul know the truth about my situation. I was going to set that rule for myself, here and now.Bookmark here

That’s right. This was my burden, and mine alone.Bookmark here

I layed in bed surrounded by curtains for the next half hour, attempting to clear any unpleasant thoughts from my mind. Accompanied by the dark silhouette of a man and the comforting sounds of his work; the scribbling of pen, paper sliding against paper, the occasional sip of water; I was able to relax with ease. The bell which signalled the start of classes rang at one point, but neither of the two of us paid any mind. In fact, despite the ache in my ankle, it might have been the most peaceful I had felt in a long time.Bookmark here

There was eventually a knock at the door, which snapped me out of a waning consciousness. The health counselor got up to go answer it, as I eavesdropped in. Not that I had the intention of doing so, but it was hard not to, given my position.Bookmark here

"Yo, Sensei. I came to return these to Jiro. He-- he forgot them in the courtyard, and the teacher said that I could find him here."Bookmark here

"I see. He's resting now, but I'll let him know."Bookmark here

"Kay, thanks then."Bookmark here

The door closed again, with a soft tap. And just like that, my peace subsided. I could feel the man's gaze, despite our being separated by a curtain. He was looking in my direction for sure.Bookmark here

"Crutches, huh? So your leg was injured after all.”Bookmark here

"Ah, uhm, yeah. It's just a light sprain, though."Bookmark here

He pulled the curtain back to reveal the same stale face he wore prior. But it seemed a little different somehow, despite looking the same.Bookmark here

"And you walked all the way here on your own like that?"Bookmark here

He lost any leisure he had in his voice before. It wasn't an intimidating tone, but somehow I felt there was no room for fumbles or non-seriousness.Bookmark here

"I did. Sorry."Bookmark here

"Well, don't apologize to me. Apologize to your leg, instead. Depending on how much you've been using it, you could have damaged it even worse. Let me take a look."Bookmark here

"It's okay, I-"Bookmark here

"I know about it now, so it's my obligation as a health counselor to take care of it. Show it to me."Bookmark here

"I- okay."Bookmark here

There was no point arguing with a nurse in this situation. Sure, I knew that I could handle it, but that didn't mean it was necessarily good for me. So instead of making more of a fuss, I obediently took off my right sock and shoe, and rolled up my pant leg.Bookmark here

"See? Look here, it's heavily swollen. And you really should be wearing a splint on it as well. Didn't they give you one in the hospital to use?"Bookmark here

"They told me it was unnecessary, since the ligament wasn't torn."Bookmark here

He gave a small sigh, which was likely the first sign of outward emotion I had seen him give since I came here. I might have even smiled, if only slightly.Bookmark here

"I'll grab one for you. Keep it on, and return it to me when your leg heals."Bookmark here

He walked toward the opposite end of the room, where long rows of cabinets and drawers lined the walls. Without hesitation, he opened one, grabbed the aforementioned splint, and then closed it. Then he shuffled a bit to his left and grabbed a small pill bottle hidden inside another, before returning to me.Bookmark here

"Here. Take this painkiller with some water, and I'll show you how to put on the splint while you do."Bookmark here

He grabbed an empty cup and filled it with a dispenser that was near my bedside, before handing it to me. I attempted to uncap the bottle, but it wouldn't budge.Bookmark here

"It's a twist, not a pull."Bookmark here

Ah, of course.Bookmark here

Or so I thought, but twisting it did nothing either. The top felt loose, like it was on some kind of joint. I felt pathetic, trying and failing to open it in front of the counselor.Bookmark here

"Is it… broken?"Bookmark here

"It's child-safe. Give it here."Bookmark here

He grabbed it, popped it open in an instant, then dropped a single round, white object into my hand. At first I felt a little babied, but it occured to me that my first instinct would have been to dump the entire bottle's contents into my mouth, as if it was some kind of recovery elixir. But to do that with standard Japanese medicine would have almost certainly meant death.Bookmark here

So this was Japanese medicine, huh? Was it really that potent? Or just placebo? There were plenty of doctors back in Alterra; especially Fortain; that prescribed completely BS medicines. Serpent oils, all-cure elixirs, magical tonics, etc. There was much less regulation on licensing when it came to medical treatment there than in this world though, so it wasn't quite comparable.Bookmark here

I suppose I could trust it.Bookmark here

The splint was simple. It was a plasticy type of cast that strapped right onto my ankle. While it wasn't the prettiest thing, it seemed to do its job. Having it on all day for several weeks seemed excessive, but I suppose I wasn't the medical professional.Bookmark here

There wasn't any other conversation exchanged between us until I was patched up and ready to head back to class, which made things easy and simple for me, since I didn't have to be wary of my communication. But as I was at the door, he said something again without turning around in his chair.Bookmark here

“If you start getting bad fits of anxiety again, feel free to come by and see me. Anytime. Though, don’t tell your teacher I said that; they won’t like it.”Bookmark here

“Alright, I will. Thank you.”Bookmark here

“Oh, and-- make up with your friend. He seems like a nice kid.”Bookmark here

“Well, he’s not actually--”Bookmark here

No, I shouldn’t argue.Bookmark here

“Alright, I will.”Bookmark here

Afterwards, I shuffled back to class with my crutches once again under my shoulders. I would have liked to stay longer, but I was clearly in fine condition to return, so it would have been hard to try and find an excuse to do so. I did my best to avoid eye contact with everybody except the instructor upon my reentrance. According to those three kids, they were in 1-C as well, and I figured it was better if I didn't find out where. I managed to pull through the day like that somehow, before hastily grabbing my crutches and heading outside.Bookmark here

Once again, avoiding any kind of eye contact.Bookmark here

If I could avoid interaction, I could avoid having an outbreak. And that was all I needed to worry about for now. As I was now, I would simply be a burden on anybody I talked to. More specifically, people that had known me in the past.Bookmark here

I left through the back gate of the school, only passing by clubs that were prepping for their after-school practice. I took my time familiarizing myself with the school’s extracurricular areas on the way out, making sure to not loiter too much so as to not draw any attention. To my knowledge, I hadn’t been part of any clubs myself. Considering who I seemed to be before, I hadn’t put much consideration into my academics at all, really. Was there anything that I had been passionate about in this world? Was there anything that I held dear?Bookmark here

I made my way onto the nearest recognizable street, then took out my map.Bookmark here

Home wasn’t exactly a sweet thought in my mind, so figured that I would explore a bit more instead. It would be a good idea to better accustom myself with the area surrounding the school anyway, just in case I needed to direct myself or somebody else somewhere nearby in the future.Bookmark here

It wasn't long until I found myself wandering the main street, lined with restaurants and stores on both ends. I took it all in full, relishing in the lively environment from which I was now so estranged. The crowd passed me by, with each person on their own mission; living their own lives. I stood still in the middle of the sidewalk, entranced.Bookmark here

I was stuck in my own time; my own world.Bookmark here

I didn’t belong here.Bookmark here

A shorter looking kid bumped into me, calling my senses back to the present. I had become aware of my surroundings once again, which were beginning to fade. Though, it wasn’t his disruptive behavior that turned my attention toward him. No, it was something much more significant than that. His short stature; his confident stride; the blonde curls that tangled around his face, which he always complained about; I couldn’t have been mistaken. Even for a split second as he passed me, I could catch just a glimpse of the calculated confidence in his eyes.Bookmark here

“Flynn!”Bookmark here

I grabbed his shoulder instinctively, causing him to turn and face me with a vexed expression.Bookmark here

It wasn’t Flynn. It didn’t even look like him.Bookmark here

“Ah, I’m sorry for bumping into you.”Bookmark here

He wouldn’t apologize for something that miniscule. What would he even be doing in this world, anyway? It wasn’t possible for me to come across them here to begin with. I had become irrational, once again.Bookmark here

“No, uhm... that’s okay.”Bookmark here

I let go. He bowed and returned to his stride, which had lost its familiarity. Suddenly, I was no longer in the mood for enjoying scenery. The sun began to hang low in the sky, and it was time for me to return home. It was something I was going to have to do eventually, despite the alerts in my body which signalled danger. But as long as I could ignore everybody, things would be okay.Bookmark here

Ignore everybody.Bookmark here

Just ignore them, and you’ll be okay.Bookmark here

I arrived home with a much better understanding of the city’s transportation system than I had the same morning. The living room was dim; dimmer than it had been outside.Bookmark here

Where were the candles-- no, the lights? I felt around for something on the wall, while leaning against it for support. Eventually a small tab that was sticking out of the wall made its way into my hand, and my natural instinct was to press it down. It clicked in tune with the brightening of the room, which blared a bit in my vision. I hadn’t realized how unnaturally white the tones of light were the night before.Bookmark here

In my line of sight, the dulled shine of the hardwood floor caught my eye.Bookmark here

I had tracked dirt in.Bookmark here

After taking my shoes off properly, I checked around for a towel, and wiped it up to the best of my ability, before tossing it into the garbage. Hopefully I had done it all the right way.Bookmark here

On the dining table, which seemed much less intimidating in the muted kitchen area, sat two plates of covered food. One was labeled with the name “Jiro”, while the other read “Ichiro”.Bookmark here

Was my brother ever one to stay out late? My instincts told me no, but it wasn’t as if I had any way of really knowing.Bookmark here

What kind of person was Ichiro Todoya,to begin with? Every member of this family, save for the infant Ana, caused an uneasiness within me. But interacting with Ichiro was different from the other two. No, there was something about him that caused a special brew of unpleasantry within me. Was it jealousy? Distrust? Envy? Perhaps all of the above? The way he went about his life, with such an uncaring look on his face. It was as if he didn’t know the meaning of the word, “try”, and yet he seemed like some kind of being of perfection. I remembered clearly how unkindly I felt about such things in the past.Bookmark here

Jiro Todoya. What a petty child he was. It pained me to think that his weaknesses were beginning to slither back into me and hold me hostage after my return to Japan, despite how much I thought I had grown. What was happening to me? Could I even still call myself Andrew Salvus Erit? Or had I already lost the right to that name from the moment I came back?Bookmark here

Would I really be able to return?Bookmark here

Would I be able to see my real family again?Bookmark here

I would have to think about it more.Bookmark here

Well, after I had a proper meal, anyway. I hadn’t eaten in over a day.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.