Chapter 12:

deeds, not words

Our School is Perfectly Ordinary

One day, Hiro is late to class as expected, but this time he doesn’t even arrive in time for lunch. Miwa isn’t there either, and Shun is alone with Saori for the first time since the battle against the demon that possessed Kaito.

He takes this chance to ask her if she remembers being in the band club in their second year of middle school. The way she nods, equal parts perplexed and detached—it’s clear that she didn’t quite remember until he brought it up.

Her reaction is unmistakable, identical to the distant, glazed look of anyone that comes into contact with the supernatural. Even her, a literal exorcist, can be affected by someone else’s memory altering abilities?!

Shun is a little jealous.

“I had a rental flute,” Saori says in a faraway voice. “Wasn’t really planning on sticking around for long. Why are you asking?”

Shun can’t possibly tell her the truth, so he just shrugs and makes something up about nostalgia. It’s not entirely a lie. In his mind’s eye, he sees the younger Saori with pigtails and a sweet smile and he wonders where she went.

Nevertheless, this practically confirms that she has no idea about witches, and Hiro has no idea about exorcists. Well, it’s not Shun’s place to ask or meddle. If he can neither see nor help, the least he can do is stay out of the way.

Saori changes the subject, abruptly.

“Did you…” she says, sounding uncharacteristically hesitant as she tugs at the stitching of the glove on her right hand. “Did you mean it? When you said you’d help tutor us.”

“Yeah, I guess,” he says, fighting to keep the surprise out of his voice. “I kind of already do that for Hiro because he’s a bit of an idiot. I didn’t…think you would be bad at school too. Um, sorry.”

Wrong move. She flashes him a vicious, scalding glare.

“It’s just, you look like you have your whole life put together,” Shun backtracks in panic. “Like you’re a good student and a good…exor—I mean…uh, your job. I always thought you were good at everything.”

“Hmm,” she says. Her eyes flit across the classroom briefly. “You can’t be more wrong about that. School has always been a cover so all that matters is passing but…” She hesitates, and her next words drop to a barely audible whisper. “High school is…hard.”

All of a sudden, Shun wonders how long she’s been fighting alone as an exorcist. There’s an aching loneliness in her voice that tugs painfully at his heart. Now that they’ve been eating lunch together for a while, he realizes that she might actually have no other friends.

“It is hard,” he agrees. So much of Shun’s time is dedicated to studying just to keep up, and she and Hiro don’t have that luxury. “And I promised I would help. I’m not actually that much of a good student like Hiro says, but uh…if all three of you are failing, I think I can probably do something about that.”

Saori cracks a small smile, one that’s definitely more real than any expression she’s ever shown him this year. Then her smile falters. “Where are Hiro and Miwa?”

Of course neither of them mentioned they’d be absent today, but Shun did see Hiro zipping around on a broom outside earlier.

“Late,” Shun says vaguely, making a mental note to ask Hiro to give him some better excuses for his tardiness next time.

Hiro does show up to class eventually, but Miwa is absent for the entire day. Shun has never paid enough attention to her before to know if this is normal for her or not. There’s only so much one person can notice in a classroom with this many students. This is why no one at school ever pays attention to anything out of the ordinary…

When class ends, the three of them gather at one of the empty library tables. Shun reads through Hiro and Saori’s assignments like a disappointed parent, wondering if he’s taking on a task that’s too big for him.

“Let’s review trigonometry first,” Shun decides, rifling through his bag for his math textbook. “It’s the most straightforward topic, I think.”

“Ah,” Saori says, raising her hand. When he tilts his head at her, she clears her throat and asks, “What is trigonometry?”

That’s the last question he’s expecting from Saori of all people, and he’s starting to regret agreeing to tutor them.


At cram school on Sunday, Miwa is there sporting a pair of new glasses. It turns out she had an appointment with the optometrist when she was absent yesterday, and now she has to wear reading glasses at school.

The round frames make her look studious, but she is anything but. The other two at least, have valid excuses as to why they’re falling behind. Miwa vandalizes her textbook with doodles of anatomically correct hearts and skulls while the instructor is talking, and Shun has to stop her at least five times.

“Pay attention in class!” he hisses across the desk at her.

“He’s boring me to death!” she whispers back at him with a pout.

“You don’t need any extra tutoring if you only just paid attention in cram school!”

That’s when the lecturer catches them whispering furiously back and forth, and makes them stay behind a few extra minutes to help clean up. Sulkily, Miwa helps reorganize books at the back of the classroom while Shun sprays down the windows, and he swears he sees Hiro zooming by on a broomstick.

Shun makes a face at him, but he’s already gone.

Hiro’s mother’s van is waiting for them in the parking lot, and Shun hurries over to apologize for making her wait. Miwa trails behind him, peeking shyly over his shoulder to ask Hiro’s mother for a ride.

“Shameless,” he mouths at her, but she just sticks her tongue out and turns her head away pointedly.

The drive back is boisterous and full of laughter. As expected, Hiro’s mother is thrilled to meet another one of her son’s friends, and the son slouches in the backseat while she tells them his embarrassing childhood stories. Miwa and Hiro’s mother get along swimmingly, and Shun can’t help but grin a little at Hiro’s woes.

As they draw near the school, Miwa points excitedly out the window.

“Ooh, ooh, just drop me off here,” she says. “I left something in my shoe locker. Thanks for the ride, Mrs. Kunihiro!”

“Are you sure you don’t want me to wait for you?” Hiro’s mother asks as Miwa slides out of the car. “I can drop you off at home.”

“It’s okay! I also have something to ask our club advisor. See you at school tomorrow, Takeuchi! Kunihiro!”

Hiro grumbles something under his breath that sounds like a goodbye. As the van pulls out of the school’s parking lot, Shun remembers dimly that today is Sunday, and the school should be closed.

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