Chapter 14:

carpe diem

Our School is Perfectly Ordinary

As midterms rapidly approach, incidents like that happen a few more times—split evenly and separately between Saori and Hiro. He’s convenient to use as bait, Shun gets it. But he doesn’t have to like it. Every clay monster that smacks him soggily in the face or demon that gets nearly close enough to scratch him takes another year off his lifespan.

He thinks both of his friends often forget that he literally cannot see anything.

But still, he helps them out begrudgingly and also because he has no choice. On top of that, he’s promised to help them study—along with Miwa too, who is a breath of fresh air…until she isn’t.


“Gah! I don’t wanna study! I refuse! You can’t make me!”

“Who was it that asked me to tutor her again?” Shun asks in exasperation.

Miwa squeezes her eyes shut and shakes her head frantically. “I don’t know her!”

At this point it’s not even studying now, it’s last minute cramming because midterms are starting next week. For all of Miwa’s enthusiasm, she’s missed out on most of their studying sessions already and doesn’t seem like she intends to put in the effort.

Shun has reviewed and recited his notes out loud so many times that he’s pretty sure he’ll get full marks with one hand tied behind his back. Saori and Hiro have been revising diligently for the past two weeks when they have time, trying to catch up. And Miwa has gotten them kicked out of the library four times as a group and herself permanently banned for the rest of the semester.

That’s why they’re currently at Shun’s place.

He’s already bribed his sister to stay out of the house for a few hours and spent all of yesterday tidying up the living room so it’s presentable. He sprayed too much of his mother’s air freshener by accident earlier, and the scent is cloying in his nostrils.

It’s also what Miwa points out when she gets here first, wrinkling her nose delicately. Everything only goes downhill from there.

Shun scrambles to open all the windows to air out the smell, but it’s already clinging to the carpet and his clothes. When Hiro arrives, he offers his (magical) assistance. As Shun distracts Miwa, he subtly casts a wind spell that knocks over a flowerpot which smashes to pieces. While they try to get that cleaned up, Saori knocks on the door.

All in all, a disaster.

It takes longer than intended for them to start studying, and after less than an hour, Miwa has lost interest and starts throwing a tantrum instead.

“Then how are you going to pass your exams?” Shun asks her, at the limit of his patience.

She blinks sullenly at him. “I’m not. I’ll just wing it.”

“Then get out of my house.”

“Gah, so mean!”

“What if ya figure out the subject you’re good at,” Hiro suggests, ever the voice of reason, “and make sure ya do well on those so it balances out?”

“Hmm,” she murmurs, as she glances briefly at the books on the table. “What I’m good at, huh?”

“That’s a good start, actually,” Shun says. “Anything you don’t hate?”

Miwa looks like she’s thinking it over, her eyebrows furrowing in concentration.

“Iemitsu Tokugawa,” she says at last. “August 12, 1604 to June 7, 1651.”


She looks miffed. “How do you not know that? Takeuchi, are you sure you’re as smart as they say?”

“I never said I was smart,” he says. “But okay, we can work with this.”

For Miwa, he decides, they should focus on history first. As for Hiro, his strongest core subject is physics for some reason, even if only by a small margin. Saori is doing equally as well—which is to say slightly below average—in every subject, but she still struggles with mathematics.

Forget being an exorcist or a witch, Shun’s job is the hardest of them all.


He manages to chase his friends out of the house before dinner. As everyone is leaving, Saori lingers by the door. The intention is clear in her narrowed gaze—she wants to talk with him alone.

“Maybe back inside?” Shun suggests under his breath, hoping the others don’t notice as he shuts the door quietly behind her. “So uh, what’s up?”

Saori has been uncharacteristically quiet and studious for the past few weeks, only speaking up to ask him the occasional question about the material or to drag him into an exorcism as a human shield—

Nevertheless, the two of them don’t speak much outside of that and fake pleasantries. Shun is under the impression that she is still somewhat resentful of him for discovering her secret.

“Thanks,” she says, and every response that Shun has prepared is thrown promptly out the window.

“That’s…unexpected. For what?”

“Not for anything in particular.” Saori is eyeing the wood doorframe in uncanny interest. If Shun didn’t know her better, he’d think she’s acting embarrassed. Is she actually embarrassed?

“Then no problem, I guess?” he says, phrasing it almost like a question.

“You’re not a bad person.”

Shun mouth opens slightly. “I—did you think I was?”

“I don’t get close to people,” she says abruptly. “I can’t. Even when I did, it never ended well.”

He only nods in response, letting her speak without interruption.

“It’s easier to be alone in this line of work,” she continues. “But at the same time, it can be overwhelming. What’s the difference between you and I? Why was I born to work as an exorcist, and you can live your life so freely?”

Shun doesn’t have an answer to that either. It’s not something he really thinks about, because he’s never considered how life would be if it’s the other way around.

“Look, I’m not here to make you feel guilty for being normal,” Saori says in a soft voice. “On the contrary, I wanted to thank you…for giving me a place to belong at school.”

“I didn’t do anything that drastic,” Shun mumbles. “Everything just sort of happened. If it’s anyone, I think it’s Miwa that brought everyone together.”

“Around you, I am most comfortable.” She seems to regret saying that as soon as the words fall from her lips. “Ah. I don’t mean it in a strange way, simply that I have nothing to hide in front of you. But even this—” She gestures in the direction of the living room, “—with the others, it’s a breath of fresh air.”

It’s ironic that something like studying, so impersonal and monotonous, is what brings them together. But keeping each other at a distance is what makes this work. They don’t need to—can’t—have anything more than that.

“I’m glad,” Shun says. “I hope that no matter what, you’ll always have a place to belong.”

A conflicted look crosses Saori’s expression. “These days can’t last.”

“I know.” He’s already come to terms with it too. “And I’ll make sure to keep your secret safe for…as long as I can. Until you don’t need me anymore.”

“You’re a good person, Shun.”

He’s not sure if he’s imagining the last part, because she turns the doorknob and pushes it open as she speaks, stepping outside into the evening air.

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