Our School is Perfectly Ordinary
Shun goes straight home, takes a shower, and then immediately goes to bed.
“It’s six-thirty!” his sister yells up the stairs at him, but he just covers his head with his pillow to muffle the noise. “Why are you sleeping? You haven’t even had dinner yet!”
The encounter that afternoon has given him enough excitement to last him his whole lifetime, and dinner is the last thing on his mind. Shun knows he won’t be able to fall asleep, but he can’t focus on anything else either. Part of him is half-expecting that he’ll wake up to find that everything was a dream, and tomorrow morning can’t come sooner.
But Atsuko, unfortunately, has other plans.
There’s the sound of thundering footsteps, and she throws his bedroom door open like she’s trying to tear them off its hinges. It’s after she barges right in that she knocks, her knuckles tapping obnoxiously loud against the wood.
“Mum made dinner so you are going to get your butt downstairs, shut up, and eat it,” she threatens. “Pull yourself together!”
Shun groans. Her voice grating on his ears is too real to be a dream, and Atsuko even has the nerve to wrestle his pillow out from under his head and toss it out the door. Reluctantly, he rolls out of bed, rolling right over the edge and crashing into the floor.
There’s a bowl of rice and two plates of side dishes waiting for him, all of them wrapped carefully in cellophane. It looks like his family already ate without him. They also left the dirty dishes in the sink for him to wash—it’s his older sister’s way of telling him off, he supposes.
Shun rummages through the drawer for a pair of chopsticks while the food is being heated in the microwave. Then, he gets started rinsing a few of the plates in the sink while he waits. The microwave beeps. He shuts off the tap and dries his hands.
With the first bite of food, he realizes he’s actually starving—he hasn’t eaten since lunch, and now that seems like such a long time ago. Shun scarfs down the meal so quickly that he nearly chokes on a grain of rice that sticks to his throat. When he washes it down with water, he chokes on that too.
(Saori Ichikawa, his brain reminds him unhelpfully in the space between his thoughts, is an exorcist.)
Shun slams his head against the table, wondering if the force is enough to make him forget all the things she told him. Going from threatening to knock him unconscious to spilling what it is exactly that she does in the shadows, Saori seems to have decided that he is no longer a threat now.
Maybe she’s secretly relieved to have someone she can share her secret with. Maybe she’s just trying to screw him over. Whichever it is, with a deadline for Shun’s memories, they’ve set a ticking time bomb that makes her feel safe enough to tell him things he probably isn’t supposed to know.
She told him that she’s an exorcist. Her job is to get rid of the demons that spawn in the cracks between this world and the next, whatever that’s supposed to mean. She’s been working, undetected, for years. And if an unsuspecting bystander catches her in the middle of an exorcism, she has talismans that can modify their memories and send them on their way.
Which, for some reason, don’t seem to work on Shun anymore.
“You’re not special, just unlucky,” was Saori’s blunt explanation then. She speculates that her powers are losing their efficacy from being used on him a little too often.
Because it turns out that last year, he accidentally walked in on her in the middle of an exorcism, so she erased the memory of that encounter. The power from her talismans retained for long enough to block him from thinking of going back, consequently making him miss his grading and the rest of practice that semester.
No one at the aikido club questions it. The magic works in a wide range, a subtle and undetectable suggestion that allows exorcists like Saori to hide in plain sight.
“Most people that get a brief glimpse of anything strange or out of the ordinary tend to look the other way,” she explained to him. “And the ones that don’t, we deal with accordingly. I’m…sorry about your aikido club.”
She’s not entirely heartless, Shun decides. She could’ve just ignored his absurd pleas about how much he cared about school and wiped his memories regardless. She didn’t have to explain herself.
But she let him go, for now.
Shun finishes up the last of his dinner in contemplative silence. He’s not sure how to face Saori tomorrow at school, and how he’s going to walk through those halls knowing there might be invisible demons around the corner…
Maybe he should’ve just let her erase all his memories.
School is perfectly ordinary, as usual. But Shun is not.
Nothing has changed at all, but it feels like there are eyes staring intently at him from the shadows in the back of the classroom. When he thinks back to the invisible monsters Saori fought yesterday, he can’t focus.
He’s good at putting up a facade though, almost as good as Saori who acts like she’s never talked to him before in her life. And there’s no need for them to interact in class, so Shun tries not to catch her eye either. But if he’s being honest, it’s hard not to sneak a glance in her direction every so often.
She’s someone that he never really paid attention to before, and he wonders idly if her talisman’s effects played a role in that. Because even in the school’s standard uniform, Saori stands out. Backlit in the sunlight streaming from the window, she looks focused and almost ethereal. She’s carefully leafing through her textbook, and jotting down notes in pencil.
Shun is curious if her grades are any good, if she has to balance schoolwork with fighting demons. Does she even get paid for her exorcist job, or is it volunteer work? Does it count toward her community service credit at least?
And why is he worrying about this when he should be revising his own notes? At least it helps take his mind off the looming thoughts of creatures that may or may not be lurking around the classroom. If Saori isn’t reacting, then there probably aren’t any, right?
“Oi,” comes Hiro’s voice from his right, startling Shun out of his reverie. “Teach just called for ya.”
He didn’t even notice. The math teacher stares at him disapprovingly, and he has no doubts that the rest of the class is doing the same. Face burning, Shun asks the teacher to repeat her question.
She does. He answers, and he doesn’t get it right.