The next day I decided that Takumi’s hair needed to be cut. Of course, I asked him first if that was okay. He agreed with me. I called over Sayuri during our lunch break and asked her the favour. She was really good at it.
“Well, I had a lot of practice thanks to you Ayumi.”
She smiled and took out the scissors from her bag. We were outside. I had brought a chair on which Takumi could sit on. He had been with me since I woke up this morning. Even in my classes. We had to be quick to not be late to our afternoon training.
“Don’t worry, Takumi. Sayuri is a really good friend of mine.”
I tried to calm him down and brushed his hair. Sayuri and the others had introduced themselves, but he still hadn’t come out of his shell yet.
“How short would you like your hair to be?”
Sayuri asked him and bent forward a little to make eye contact with him.
“I don’t know.”
“That’s fine. How about we go this short?”
She held a strand of his hair between her fingers and showed him how much she was going to cut away. He looked at me and I nodded my head. We were ready to go. Sayuri started cutting his hair and I watched. Something was rustling in the tree next to us. I looked up and expected to see a bird or a cat but something else was laying on a branch.
“What the hell are you doing up there?”
I walked closer and lifted my eyebrows.
“Taking a break.”
“Taking a break?”
“Yeah. And watching you while taking a break.”
She chugged down her can of beer and threw it over to me. I caught it and gave her an evil look.
“You know what. Never mind.”
I said and walked back to Takumi. He was looking concerned that I moved away from him.
“Oh, also I’m watching them.”
Toshiko pointed over the fence of shrubs that was next to us. I went on my toes and looked over. My eyes caught a glimpse of something terrifying. I opted out to ignore it.
“Oi Nina, look who’s doing the same thing as you.”
Toshiko yelled out loud and caught her attention. She looked over and smiled at us. Haruto was sitting on a chair, and she was holding a pair of scissors in her hand. The only detail that was different was that Haruto was wearing a neck brace. Did she finally manage to break his neck? Was he even still alive? His eyes were closed as usual.
“Nina, you know how to cut hair too?”
Sayuri was excited to see them. Nina gave her a proud nod of her head.
“She’s been cutting my hair since we got together.”
Haruto had opened his eyes and looked over to us as well. My mouth dropped open after hearing what he said.
“Since you got together? You’re a couple?”
I asked perplexed.
“Yeah. Wasn’t it obvious?”
He asked me nonchalantly.
“Yes and no.”
I shook my head in disbelieve.
“It makes sense now. That explains why Nina is always hitting Haruto.”
Sayuri was nodding her head in agreement.
“Wait. Does it?”
I questioned her.
“Also, it’s been bothering me. Why the neck brace? Did you hurt yourself, Haruto?”
I questioned him next.
“Oh, that’s because he tends to fall asleep and move his head. With the neck brace, I won’t have to worry about accidently snipping his ear off.”
Nina answered for him. It made me nervous. They both continued with the haircut of their designated costumer. Toshiko jumped down from the tree and was hanging around me. She was making Takumi nervous. And me too.
“Do you need anything from me?”
“Finally, you ask. And yes. I need you to come with me. You won’t be having the afternoon training with the rest of the group. There is no point in it if you can’t bring Xykoss out.”
She was finally acting like a teacher again. I agreed with her and asked Sayuri if she could take care of Takumi until the haircut was done. Toshiko told her to bring him over to us when she’s done with him. According to her, we were going to the Department of Miscellaneous Research and Development. She wanted to introduce me to someone. I threw the empty beer can into a bin and followed her.
“Ayumi, how are you feeling?”
“You sure? You don’t seem fine at all.”
She stopped walking and turned around to get in my face. I averted my gaze.
“Yes, I’m fine.”
I tried to push her away, but she was resilient. She, in return slapped my forehead.
“Ah, why are you so stubborn? Look, I’m not going to lecture you. I agree that what you did was a bit out of hand and that you seriously need to get rid of the intention or idea of killing people from inside of your head.”
Her index finger was vigorously poking my forehead. It started to hurt.
“I wasn’t there so I don’t really know what happened. Yu told me the details, but you were a good portion on your own in that fight. But whatever happened, however you’re feeling, don’t let it defeat you. But don’t ignore it either. Turn it into your strength and learn from it.”
I listened quietly to her words. Her voice was soft.
“You wanted to be useful and save people, right? If you still have that goal in your heart, then don’t get lost. Now is the time to show the world how brave you are. Take all of your disadvantages and worries and turn them into power. And of course, use it wisely and efficiently.”
My hand twitched. It was always astonishing to me how Toshiko knew what I wanted to hear the most and what the right words were in these types of situations.
I bit my lower lip. I felt embarrassed for being dejected. She forcefully slapped me on my back and gave me a big smile. Her whole existence reminded me of the dazzling sun. She was warm and welcoming.
“Oh, and go and see Yu as well. He’s probably really worried about you. But his pride won’t let him come and ask how you are doing. He might be blaming himself as well. Go and cheer him up after we’re done here.”
We had entered a different building. The walls and doors were made out of steel. Toshiko placed her hand on a sensor and the door opened. Everything looked high-tech. The ceiling was high. Big LED lights were lighting up the room. They made the room feel even colder. A woman with a choppy bob and bangs was standing next to one of the many work benches. Her hair bled from a lavender to a lime green. She was wearing a long, white lab coat and underneath our uniform. But instead of a pair of trousers, she had a pencil skirt on and some heels. What caught my attention was her sleek bionic arm.
“Riri, I’m here and I brought her with me.”
Toshiko joyfully said out loud and walked over to her. She was busy with something else and ignored her. Someone else was behind the work bench.
“Ah, Akihiko. Aren’t you done yet?”
The woman was upset about something. Her eyebrows were frowning. The one who was behind the work bench was Shiraishi. His head popped up and he nodded his head. The woman glided her hands over what seems liked a keyboard and a translucent screen popped up. A game of shogi was in play.
“Shiraishi, what are you doing here?”
I walked over to him.
“Oh, Akihiko is the nephew of Yukimura Riri. That’s her.”
Toshiko answered for him and pointed at that woman who was biting on her painted fingernails. Shiraishi stroked my head and then left without saying a word.
“Kei, are you good at shogi?”
The woman’s voice was firm. Toshiko shook her head and waved her hands in disagreement.
“Anyway, I brought Mochizuki Ayumi with me.”
“I never told you to bring her to me. I refused to help. Each one of you has been coming to me one after the other. It’s a bother. I don’t want to do it. Even he came to me and asked for the same favour.”
She started clicking her tongue. The screen showed that she had lost the game. I could see a vein pop out near her throat.
“Oh, come one. It’s not even a big deal for you.”
“Ask someone else. There are plenty of people in this department. The last person I was willing to do it for was Takumi. And I’m glad that he’s finally back.”
Toshiko blinked several times.
“How do you know he’s back? We haven’t told anyone yet.”
“What are you talking about? He’s standing right next to that girl.”
Toshiko and I turned our heads at the same time. I had to blink several times too. She was right. Takumi was standing right next to me. But since when?
“Takumi! What are you doing here? I thought that Sayuri was cutting your hair?”
And by the looks of it, she had failed. Half of his hair was short, and the other half was still long. And having another glance at him, I could see someone holding onto him. It was Sayuri who was breathless. She was hiding behind Takumi’s body.
“Takumi. I told you not to run away from me.”
She pouted and crossed her arms. Nina and Haruto had come after them. Before they could explain what had happened, something else interrupted us. The sound of an explosion and people screaming that there was a fire. The woman sighed out loud.
“What the hell are those idiots doing?”
We ran out and saw from the windows that the explosion happened outside. I opened the window and had a look. It smelled of burned chemicals. Someone who was passing by us told the woman that an experiment had gone wrong.
I called out to her but was surprised to see her grinning.
“Don’t worry. He’s got it.”
Takumi jumped out of the window. We were on the third floor. He was surrounded by beads of water floating in the air. The sound of his kalimba could be heard and a faint murmur. A giant whale made out of water appeared in the sky. The sun’s light was scattered into million pieces. That was definitely his Paroxys. He made different motions with his hand and the whale dropped to the earth. It was like a tsunami and with its landing, the smoke and flame disappeared. He was standing in a puddle, his clothes drenched. Water was dripping from his hair strands. He looked up and smiled at me. All I could think of was one word and someone else said it out loud for me.
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