Chapter 9:

writing on the wall

Our School is Perfectly Ordinary

They’re friends now, somehow.

Shun thinks the worst part is that everyone knows before he does, as if their memories were rewritten to fit that narrative overnight. But he’s starting to learn to take it all in stride. Strange things are happening? It’s perfectly normal. Maybe if tries hard enough he can eventually trick Saori’s powers into working on him again so he can go back to his ordinary life.

And every day without fail, Saori pulls up a chair beside his desk to eat lunch with him and Hiro. Naturally, Hiro is cool with it. It gives Shun no choice but to entertain her, and to try and shape the tempo of his school life around this new situation.

The friendship doesn’t seem strained, but it’s awkward if he thinks about it too hard, so he doesn’t think at all.

He looks forward to aikido on Mondays, at least. And he looks forward to the first round of exams, inexplicably, because he gets some semblance of control over passing or failing, which says a lot about the rest of his life.

Saori doesn’t join him and Hiro for their cramming sessions in the library, presumably fulfilling her after-school exorcist duties alone. It’s funny that Shun doesn’t actually enjoy studying all that much. But he’s starting to, because it feels normal.

He likes normal, a lot.

“What did ya get for question six?” Hiro asks him across from the table, prying him away from his thoughts. “I got a negative number, ya think that’s accurate?”

Shun flips through his textbook, frowning. “For classical literature? Uh, how did you end up with a number for an essay question?”

Studying with his perpetually late desk partner brings a few problems, as expected. Hiro is surprisingly diligent behind his books, but hard work can only do so much when he’s not very bright. He struggles with most of the material that involves writing or numbers which is…most of the material.

He’s good at sports and fine arts, at least. But that’s not enough to bring his grades up. And Shun feels like it’s his duty as a friend to help him out somehow, but he has no idea where to start.


“My ma signed me up for cram school,” Hiro tells him proudly one day in the middle of their study session. “Are ya in?”

“In?” Shun says, momentarily confused. “In what?”

“She says I should bring a friend so I don’t feel lonely,” he says. “So don’t ya worry about the tuition fees and that sort. Your goal’s to be one of the top scorers in the class, yeah?”

Okay, he doesn’t think he can get quite that far, but Hiro is grinning at him like he’s already agreed to it. Why the hell not, Shun decides. If he’s losing all his memories by the end of the year anyway, he might as well try out as many new things as he can.

(Such as the one thing most of the high schoolers across the country are already doing, but that’s beside the point.)


Hiro’s mother drives them to cram school in her van.

There’s a strict, no-nonsense air about her, in stark contrast to her son. She has dark hair pulled back into a tight bun and crisp office clothes similar to what Shun’s sister wears to her internship. But the moment he bows to her politely in greeting, Hiro’s mother’s face breaks into a wide smile.

“Thank you for being friends with my son,” she says earnestly, which is so embarrassing that Shun has to shut his brain off for a moment. “As his mother, I worry for him sometimes. He doesn’t bring home any friends, he doesn’t do well at school—”

“That’s enough, ma,” Hiro interrupts, tugging the rear door of the car open and tossing his backpack inside. “Ya scaring them all away is why I’ve got no friends. We’ve been through this before.”

“—So I was so elated when he told me he was finally willing to start attending the cram school I picked out for him, and with a friend no less!”

Hiro’s clambering into the back seat, and a loud slam follows shortly. His mother heaves a sigh. “Truly, thank you for being in my son’s life, Shinichi.”



“Yeah, so I kinda told her about ya and used five different names so it looked like I had a whole group of friends,” Hiro says defensively when Shun asks about that later. “She’s always on my case about it. Let’s go find a seat.”

The cram school classroom is not much different than their usual one, except the students filling out the rows of desks are unfamiliar. While Shun was never close with anyone throughout primary school and junior high, it was always the same people in the background, always the same symphony.

So it feels odd to step into a place where he knows no one at all. It puts it into perspective just how disconnected he was from everyone for so long.

“Hey! Heyyyy, over here! Takeuchi! Kunihiro!”

It’s Miwa Akagi from their class. She’s wearing a light, flowery cardigan over their school’s uniform, and she waves vigorously at them from the back of the classroom.

“I just enrolled yesterday,” she says breathlessly as the two approach. “I didn’t think I’d see people from the same school! The cram school I used to attend shut down last week, and this place is the only one that still had space.”

Hiro slides into the empty seat behind her desk, and Shun puts his bag on the floor and sits down next to her.

“It’s our first time here,” he says with a nod toward Hiro. “Midterms are coming up soon.”

“Geh, don’t remind me,” Miwa says despairingly. She covers her face with her hands. “High school is soooo much harder than middle school, I’m telling you. I already failed like, five practice exams. I’m so dead!”

“Yo, same here,” says Hiro from behind them, but he sounds more excited than upset. “I failed the assignment we just got back yesterday.”

They give each other a high-five over Shun’s shoulder.

Attendance is then taken, and Shun gives the cram school lecturer his undivided attention. There are no white-haired exorcists by the window seat to distract him from the lesson, so he’s more focused than he’s ever been for a long time. His pen glides effortlessly across his notebook until his hand starts cramping.

He flips a page, and then stretches out his fingers.

Relearning the concepts taught in class earlier that day makes the information easier to digest. He understands why cram school is better than trying to brute force the knowledge into his brain on his own. During the break, he turns to his friends to comment on how good the cram school teacher is, but the looks on their faces are…not what he expects.

“Did ya even get a single word of that?” Hiro asks.

“Nope!” Miwa says cheerfully. “How ‘bout you, Takeuchi?”

Shun looks over at them, a little stupefied. Next to Miwa’s open textbook, there’s an assortment of coloured highlighters and cute pens, but not a sheet of ruled paper or a notebook in sight. Hiro is no better. The paper in front of him is blank except for his name written at the very top. His bulging pencil case sits unopened by his elbow.

“I get why you two are struggling now,” he says with a sigh, and Miwa has the nerve to look offended at that.

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