Chapter 21:

with you

Our School is Perfectly Ordinary

Sometimes, Shun feels like background noise.

His entire friend group shares one thing in common, and it’s the fact that they have an utter disregard for his peace of mind when they perform their supernatural activities at school.

It’s bad enough that he finds Hiro zooming around in the mornings on his broom in plain sight (“Hey! Morning, Shun! Wanna hitch a ride?”), or Saori using him to trap demons she’s trying to exorcise (“Shun. Stand over there. Trust me.”), but now he has another problem to add to his list of growing problems—

Heyyyyyyy, Takeuchi! Duck!”

An oversized scythe flying straight for him is something he will never, ever get used to, which nearly causes him heart failure before he gets sliced cleanly in half. But just as his life flashes before his eyes, the sharp blade goes through his chest harmlessly like a ghostly apparition and then crashes loudly into the wall to prove that it’s actually solid.

All this happens in the span of two seconds, so he can’t even duck if he wants to.

Whipping his head around, Shun searches through the crowded hallway for the culprit. She’s waving at him innocently, weaving through the sea of people to make her way over to him. There isn’t a shred of remorse in those wide, turquoise eyes.

“Miwa!” he hisses, feeling as though he just died ten times over. It’s the second time this week. “We are literally at school!”

It’s a futile argument, he knows. The halls are full of students but no one pays attention, as usual. No one can see Fumiko except for the spirits of the dead lingering in the corners of the school—which is what the scythe is actually aiming for.

Shun is just pocket lint. Target practice.

“Hey, it’s okay now,” Miwa is saying, ignoring him as she steps past him to retrieve her weapon. “I told you it would be painless. I didn’t break my promise.”

He watches as she kneels, stretching a hand out toward the wall.

“Yes, yes, Fumiko will send you safely across the river,” she says solemnly, addressing the spirit that he can’t see. “Eh? There’s no time for—I see, I see. Don’t you worry about that. You may not believe me, but I will keep you in my heart forever. It is my duty. So it’s time to go! No regrets.”

As Shun waits patiently, he watches Miwa close her eyes and place her palm over her heart. The phantom sensation of the spirit departing the world might just be his imagination, but the air suddenly feels a few degrees warmer.

“May you rest in peace,” Miwa murmurs. Then she opens her eyes, dusts off her skirt, and reaches for the handle of her scythe. “Fumiko, make sure she gets home safely, okay?”

“Your scythe is sentient?” Shun asks, his voice feeling raspy in his throat. Miwa just looks at him like he’s stupid, which doesn’t answer his question at all.


When Shun notices Hiro writing with his new night sky-coloured pen in the middle of class, he does a double take. After checking that no one is listening in, he elbows his deskmate.

“I thought this was your wand now?” he asks under his breath. “Are you sure you should be writing with it?”

Hiro glances up. “Huh? It’s a wand, sure, but it’s also a pen.”

“It’ll run out of ink though.”

A look of horror twists Hiro’s face as he slowly puts his pen down. It clatters to the desk, rolls to the edge, and tips right over.

And then it stops abruptly, floating in midair.

Out of habit, Shun sneaks a furtive glance across the classroom. But they’re sitting at the back and everyone is paying close attention to the physics lecture. No one notices, as usual, and he breathes a pointless sigh of relief.

Hiro grabs his pen out of the air and stuffs it into his pocket.

“Ya got a pencil I could borrow?” he asks Shun, who is already reaching into his bookbag. The only sharpened pencil he can find is the one he let Miwa decorate with glittery skull stickers at cram school the week before.

He hands it over, and Hiro raises an eyebrow but does not ask any questions.

At lunch, Hiro excuses himself for witching duties, and Shun is left to make some normal-sounding excuses for him. Miwa leaves too, presumably to send some more souls to the afterlife. Shun asks Saori very carefully if she has demons to fight today as well, but she just shakes her head.

“I came to school early this morning. I…wanted to eat lunch with everyone.”

Now Shun is feeling bad and he didn’t even do anything wrong!

“Maybe tomorrow,” he says hurriedly. “Everyone’s busy with…uh, all sorts of things. It’s just not our day, huh?”

“It’s no matter,” Saori says after a moment’s deliberation. “I’ve been wanting to talk to you alone as well, so this will suffice.”

That could mean a lot of things, like he’s been careless trying to keep both Hiro and Miwa’s secrets from her and she found out, or that she wants to borrow him as bait for demons again, or she’s finally decided to try his favourite lemon candy and hates it.

“You told me you hoped I would always have a place to belong,” Saori says, her golden gaze piercing straight into his soul. “I hope the same for you.”

With Miwa’s dramatic speech about her intention to disappear from their lives from last month still fresh in his mind, Shun is instantly guarded.

“You’re not leaving, are you?” he asks. “Don’t tell me you’re—”

“I’m not failing!” Saori blurts out, sounding so scandalized that Shun can’t help but laugh. “Why are you laughing at me? Stop laughing!”

“I’m not…not at you,” he wheezes, trying to get his voice under control but failing miserably as another hysterical laugh bubbles from his throat. “I’m just relieved. I thought you…I don’t know, this is going to sound so stupid. But you sounded like you were going to say goodbye forever.”

Saori frowns. “What an odd thought.”

Now he’s feeling very stupid, so he turns away and pretends to bury his face into a textbook.

“Shun,” Saori says softly, and her hand touches his shoulder. “What I wanted to tell you today is that…although the circumstances were different in the past, right now, I trust you. I’d trust you with my life.”

He stops breathing.

“The Order will not tolerate an outsider, a mere mortal, knowing about me,” she continues. “But I know you. What I’m trying to say is, just as you’ve been keeping my secret, I’ll continue to keep your existence a secret from the higher-ups for as long as I can.”

Shun’s lungs are starting to burn, so he exhales shakily and sucks in a deep breath. Her words don’t really register at first. Saori has talked about the Order, briefly, when they first met. But she’s never explained anything about exorcists or told him about the hierarchy in that world. She’s never really told him anything at all, really.

He never wanted to know, so he never asked.

“Maybe I’m being selfish,” Saori admits with a faint sigh. “But I want to graduate with all of you. I want to experience all of the things a high schooler does—and I want you to be able to experience everything with us too. Is that okay?”

It means she won’t be erasing all of his memories at the end of the year. It means that she’ll let him graduate—graduate!—with his mind intact. Shun can’t believe it. He doesn’t have to study so hard anymore. Maybe.

“That’s more than okay,” he croaks, as the only real goal he’s ever had in his life crumbles to dust just like that. It’s always been a means to an end anyway, so he won’t miss it too terribly. “I’ll uh, do my best. Not to let you down.”

Saori laughs. “There’s one more thing. It was Miwa’s idea, actually, but what do you think of starting up a…”

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