Mayuka To Ryu (繭価 と 龍)
As soon as the semester began on the main campus, all internships, final-year research programmes, and practical teaching also started. Mayuka gazed at her reflection and could not resist looking at her new hair.
A few days ago, she asked her grandfather to cut them off. Short, she emphasized. Harada was astonished and repetitively asked his granddaughter, hoping that Mayuka would change her mind. Regrettably, she was phlegmatic, insisting that long hair itched her neck. Not arguing further, Harada summoned his expertise in hairdressing and chopped his granddaughter’s hair rigorously.
I like it, Mayuka smiled at herself and nodded confidently. She applied some light makeup and brought her briefcase of vital documents and stationery out of the room. She had her breakfast early and bade farewell to her grandparents before leaving.
Although the walk was ten minutes, she had quite a rough journey where she needed to cross an open railway. When she thought she was alone, a group of female students arrived in their school uniform, giggling after exchanging jests with each other. When their eyes met, the girls turned silent and began whispering. Their glances exhibited how they were curious of this teacher-like figure.
Perhaps, a new teacher? They were riddling, looking at each other. And they all crossed the railway together.
Meisho High School was not as huge as Kaimei Academy, which has its own public library. The school was, in fact, humble and modestly built, Mayuka ruminated.
A male teacher with a cane in his hand was waiting at the gate. “Good morning, Sensei.” Mayuka bowed. The male teacher’s brows corrugated as he bent down his body, replying to the politeness that she gave him. Mayuka was slightly shaking, “My name is Tsukushi Mayuka. I’m-”
“Ah!” The teacher interrupted and chuckled. The tension abated. “Haseda practical teacher, right?” His crescent-moon eyes looked kind when he smiled. Mayuka nodded, uttering a faint ‘yes’. “Please walk straight, and you will see the staircases with many flower pots. Then, use those stairs, and you’ll find the office. Gambarre, Tsukashi-san!”
Although the teacher mispronounced her name, Mayuka disregarded it and thanked him as she strode confidently towards the staircases with flower pots. The instruction was clear that she immediately spotted the flowery stairs. She climbed it and reached the office. The teaching assistant welcomed her warmly and brought her into the principal office.
. . . . .
Mayuka followed her mentor, Sana Yuuko, also a young language teacher in Meisho High School. Sana was three years older than Mayuka and has been a teacher for three years too. As Sana walked past the students, they would cheerfully greet her. Some girls bombarded her with updates of the latest celebrity news while the boys complimented her shiny black hair. When they made inappropriate remarks, Sana would smirk and roll her eyes.
“They don’t mean any harm, Tsukushi-san,” she quickly explained to Mayuka, who seemed disturbed with the jests from the boys. “Boys are going to be boys, right?” Sana smiled widely that her eyes turned into a pair of crescent moons.
Mayuka hung her head low. “Yes,” she forcefully agreed with Sana's effortless forgiveness towards the male students.
Sana noticed that Mayuka’s expression had changed. She looks pissed, Sana muttered under her breath. “All right,” she sprightly opened the classroom door, “this is your class.”
1-2, Mayuka took a glimpse at the sign above the door.
As soon as she stepped in, her eyes met the group of female students that she saw when she was trying to cross the railway. They were as surprised as her that they began chattering once again. Mayuka could feel that her knees were shaking. She was pretty experienced dealing with middle-schoolers; they were more obedient. Unlike high school students who mostly towered over her, she could not help herself feeling a bit intimidated by them. Especially their thoughts.
“Oi, boys at the back!” Sana hollered at a few boys who were playing soccer with a paper ball. Their eyes widened and quickly returned to their seats. “Throw that ball away,” she ordered them. The boys looked at each other, and the pressure fell on the boy whose seat was the closest to that paper ball. He grumbled for he was not involved, yet he got up and threw it into the dustbin. He managed to mumble ‘annoying’ before settling down at his place.
Mayuka silently gulped. Her eyes studied all of the bright and eager faces. Their eyes had fixed on her because she was the new teacher.
Or, a new target. She brushed away the thought, and eyes fell on a female student with short hair, full bangs. The student’s hairstyle reminded her of Yukimura Hana.
“This is your new English teacher,” said Sana. As anticipated, the boys whistled mischievously while the girls smiled, talking to each other. “I’ll leave you with them, okay?” The mentor whispered in Mayuka's ear and pulled away, giving her another encouraging smile. However, before she stepped out, she gave the final deadly glare to the students.
“One complaint from Tsukushi Sensei about any of you,” Sana narrowed her eyes, “say ‘Hi’ to your parents in the principal office.” And she left, sliding the door closed.
Calm down, calm down. Mayuka breathed in the air slowly.
“Sensei,” one of the boys already raised his hand, “Won’t you let us ask you questions?”
Calm down, Mayuka. They are your students, Mayuka was still trying to recollect her strength. The jokes of the boys from other classes just now had bothered her too much.
Another girl put her hand in the air eagerly to inquire about Mayuka. “Sensei, is it true that you are from Haseda University?”
Then, a chubby male student joined the bandwagon, “Sensei, do you have a boyfriend?”
Stop it, Mayuka looked emptily at the back of the class. The students’ laughter was daunting, and it impeded her rationality. Was she always like this? When did she get easily distracted? Why were their voices too deafening?
“Shut up!” A hoarse voice concealed all noises in the class. “What the fuck is wrong with you guys?” He was irritated.
However, the class was quiet for less than a minute before the boys began thrashing him playfully, giving him soft punches on his shoulder and arms. Then, they all laughed, including that male student himself. He wore a blue bandana around his right arm. “Trying to be the hero, huh, Ryu?”
Mayuka blinked. “Ryu?” she questioned.
Now, everyone turned to her. The teacher finally talked, they thought. The girl who sat at the very front seat nodded. “Yes, Sensei. That’s Harue Ryuuji. He’s our class representative.”
Ah, Ryuuji. Mayuka gazed at Harue Ryuuji, and he was nothing like the Tanaka Ryu that she knew. She smiled; the rhythm had returned. Her teacher spirit had entered her torso.
“Well,” Mayuka started, “I’m from Haseda University,” she answered the second question while eying the lovely petite girl who posed the query to her. “And I just broke up with my boyfriend.”
The whole class gasped. “Why?!” They questioned in unison. “Did he cheat on you?” A female student made an assumption. “Or is he not attractive, Sensei?” Another student interrupted, “perhaps it’s the distance! Tokyo and Minabe are pretty far away.”
And the questions multiplied. Mayuka answered with a heartfelt smile, shaking her head to the students.
. . . . .
Sana Yuuko placed a bottle of chilled orange juice on Mayuka’s desk. The mentee, who had been immersed in her reports, lifted up her head, and their eyes met. “Must be difficult, right? The school report,” Sana sighed, “And the university report. Why can't they just let us write one kind of report? Haseda Education Department never changes, huh?”
Mayuka was taken aback. “Are you an alumnus, Sana-san?” She inquired and immediately received a lacklustre nod from the mentor.
Pushing herself closer, their wheeled office chairs collided. Sana reduced the space between them, and her face was only a few centimetres from the junior. She studied the younger’s face and realised that Mayuka was very adorable yet unfriendly. “Don’t you think you’re too cute?” Sana pouted, “Too cute to be with someone like him.”
Sana-san is too close, shifting uncomfortably, Mayuka dodged the senior’s stare. Him? Her corrugating brows amused Sana.
“Hmm,” she retracted her chair, returned to her table next to Mayuka. “Jun. Hatsu Jun. You're his ex-girlfriend, right?”
The non-rhetoric question made her eyes widened, mouth agape in incredulity. Hatsu Jun, a young man who once shared a certain kind of intimacy with her. She dated Jun during her first year, and the love affair was inconspicuous as Mayuka detested unwanted attention. Moreover, when it was between a freshman and a third-year senior. Therefore, she believed if they were acknowledged as lovers, she would be well-known among her peers, as well as Jun's.
“Sana-san,” Mayuka saved the document on her laptop, slowly turning her head to Sana Yuuko. Her glacial stare bored into Sana’s brown eyes along with a few moments of silence that unsettled the older woman.
Jun’s peculiar laughter echoed in Mayuka’s head. Once, she snapped at Hatsu Jun to quit chortling the way he did and the man gave him the cold shoulder for a week. However, he returned to her doorstep with a box of cream puffs and murmured ‘sorry’ while hanging his head low. “May I know why we are talking about personal matters?”
During the summer break, when the school administration announced about a practical teacher from Haseda University, Sana Yuuko was thrilled and impulsively volunteered herself to be a mentor. The administrators teased her for being a loyal Haseda alumnus and endorsed her request. However, as soon as she saw the junior’s name, it gave her indescribable emotions. A tinge of consternation, anger. Yet above them was plainly…
Yes, why do I bring this thing up? Sana questioned her professionalism, grabbed her phone, and started scrolling down the gallery. “I stumbled across him last week and we had some drinks together.” Sana flashed a selfie picture of them in a bar towards Mayuka, searching hard to find lines of envy. Unfortunately, she found nothing. “I told him that I’d be mentoring his lover, you, but he quickly got mad! I guess you two broke up.”
“I see. Yes, it happened years ago, Sana-san,” she breathed in, “I have to go now. Please excuse me.” Mayuka bowed and left the staff room with inaudible footsteps despite wearing a pair of mid-heel office shoes. She began to ponder.
Is it possible to change a mentor? Mayuka had quite an unpleasant impression of Sana Yuuko.
. . . . .
The sunset splashed myriad colours in the sky, and it marked the end of Mayuka’s first day at Meisho High School. She felt too enervated to reply to Keyo's email that just came in, asking her well-being and ‘how was your first day'. She put it aside and met some of her students at the pedestrian waiting area, the train was coming.
“Sensei!” The girls chorused, bowing cheerfully to Mayuka.
Mayuka responded with an earnest wide smile, portraying how worth it the exhaustion was because she got to meet wonderful students like them. “Done with your club activities?” They nodded in unison and started to tell Mayuka about several hilarious matters that happened during their club meeting just now.
Just like that, the weariness dissipated like the momentary evening breeze.