Chapter 15:

cherished days

Our School is Perfectly Ordinary

Then Saori stops.

Shun peers out the door in confusion, and his heart leaps into his throat when he sees Atsuko standing on the doorstep with plastic shopping bags clutched in her hands. Her eyes are full of malicious delight, and he decides that losing all his memories right about now would be great.

“My bro,” she drawls, even though doesn’t even call him that ever. “My dearest, littlest and only brother. What the hell is this? You brought a girl home? And you made me leave during your freaking date?!”

This is precisely why he made her leave.

“I’ll see you at school tomorrow,” Shun says loudly, hoping and praying that Saori would get the message. “And my dearest and oldest and only sister, let me help you put your groceries away. Does anything need to go in the fridge?”

While he’s wrestling the shopping bags out of his sister’s gorilla-strength grip, Saori has thankfully slipped away to avoid any questioning. By the time Atsuko notices, she’s furious, but there’s nothing she can do. She shoves her grocery bags in Shun’s face, rudely taking him up on the offer to help put them away.

“Who was she, anyways?” she asks snidely from the kitchen table, cracking open a can of pop and taking a swig. “She’s so pretty. Pretty out of your league.”

Shun stuffs a head of cabbage into the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.

“It’s nothing like that,” he says. “We were studying.”

“That’s what they all say,” Atsuko mutters. “And before you know it they’re sneaking shy glances at each other in class and holding hands and dating and getting married—”

“You’re being ridiculous. When are you getting married, anyways?”

“Watch your mouth. When you’re my age, you’ll understand.”

Shun closes the fridge door. “Understand what?”

“That you’re lucky a girl even wants to look your way, brother of mine.” Atsuko gets up from her chair and pushes it back with a screech. “I’m just giving you some advice as someone with more life experience.”

“Yeah, yeah,” he says, purposefully sticking his fingers in his ears to annoy her. “Coming from the one who got dumped three times in high school—”

He’s running up the stairs before she can throw the empty can at the back of his head.


Midterm week begins.

In the middle of writing his exams, Shun finds himself worrying more about his friends than himself. He’s helped them the best he could—passing or failing now is on them alone, but he still frets like an overprotective parent. At this point, he’s so invested in their academic success that it can’t be helped.

The easiest and simultaneously the most stressful midterm period of his entire life comes and goes, and Shun waits anxiously for the results.

And school goes on as normal, not stopping to wait for him. Hiro is still constantly late, and Shun sometimes catches a glimpse of him flying laps around the school on his broom. Saori disappears from class early, unnoticed, to exorcise the demons plaguing the hallways, leaving a trail of talismans plastered all over the school’s walls in her wake.

When no one is looking, each of them occasionally finds the chance to drag him into the empty corners of the school to act as bait—a distraction—while they perform their respective duties. He gets used to it, eventually. That is to say, he never quite will get used to it.

He eats lunch with those same two-faced friends, and they talk about mindless, surface-level things. After his conversation with Saori, Shun realizes that no one really talks about themselves. But it’s fine the way it is, when it’s easier for them.

When they get their grades back, Shun is thrilled to discover that all of them passed.

“This is the highest mark I’ve ever gotten in my life!” Miwa squeals, waving her test papers in his face excitedly. “Look! Look!”

“Congrats—” Shun’s eyes zero in on the numbers scrawled in red on one of the papers. “Whoa, you got full marks for history?”

“It’s all thanks to Ieyasu Tokugawa and friends,” she says smugly. “How about you, Ichikawa? Did you pass math?”

“Did I?” Saori echoes, squinting at her test grades like she’s trying to calculate them in her head. “Ah…”

“Doesn’t look like it,” Shun teases, bracing himself for her to shoot him a vicious glare. He’s pleasantly surprised when she doesn’t.

Instead, she just laughs, a little awkwardly.

“I understood…some things,” she says in a slow, halting voice. “More than before.”

“Ey, that’s good enough,” says Hiro. “Ya aren’t gonna be a genius overnight. I mean, I don’t really get what’s the deal with Akagi but—”

“It’s my innate genius!” Miwa says haughtily. “All the other subjects can go fall off a cliff and die.”

“Uh, I’m pretty sure it’s called having strengths and weaknesses…”

Miwa’s eyes suddenly light up. “Guys, we should celebrate doing well on our midterms!”

“Doing well is a bit of an overstatement,” Shun says, and Saori’s gaze drops to the floor.

“Yeah, we should wait until finals before we celebrate,” Hiro points out. “Most of us barely made it by the skin of our teeth.”

“Hmmph, with that mindset you might as well wait till we graduate,” Miwa says sarcastically. “It’s always school, school, school, we never get to hang out! We should grab a bite to eat, go shopping for cute stationery, then go for a hike in the evening and climb to the very top of the mountain to watch the sunset!”

She already thought this through, didn’t she?

“Um…” Shun says. There’s no way Saori or Hiro have time to play around like that. He’s trying to run through various different excuses when Saori speaks.

“That sounds…nice.”

“Right?” Miwa says eagerly. “Are you in, Ichikawa? It’s okay if it’s just the two of us.”

She’s nodding, and Shun is in disbelief. The last person he expects to go along with this is Saori—isn’t she usually busy with exorcist duties after school?

“Tuesday,” she says. “Let’s go on Tuesday, after class.”

“Cool, I’m free,” Hiro chimes in. “Count me in.”

Shun is looking at Saori in disbelief. “You’ll skip kyudo?”

Her gaze meets his evenly, and with an uncharacteristic twinkle in her eye, she raises a finger to her lips. Shun opens his mouth, and then closes it.

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