Our School is Perfectly Ordinary
“You’re really quitting aikido?”
Jinpachi’s eyes are teary, and his hand grips Shun’s shoulder with so much strength that it feels like he’s going to snap in two.
“I’m sorry, Captain,” he says nervously. “You know how I’ve always jumped from club to club over the years. You’ve been nothing short of wonderful to me, but I’m not really cut out for martial arts.”
He tries to bow, but the grip on his shoulder is too tight. Jinpachi’s expression looks thunderous as he stares into his eyes, and Shun starts to fear for his life. That’s a normal reaction, right? He’s had too many close shaves with the supernatural that he’s half-expecting the aikido captain to—
And then, Jinpachi speaks, his bellowing voice echoing loudly through the hallway and deafening in his ears. “Shun, my boy! As long as you carry the dojo’s teachings with you on the path you walk, we will be with you in spirit for life! It was an honour!”
This situation is utterly ridiculous, but Shun feels like tearing up too. “The honour is all mine, sir!”
“Farewell, Shun! May we meet again!”
“Don’t call me sir, call me Jinpachi one last time!”
“Shun, my boy—that was such a hilarious comedy skit,” Miwa pokes fun at him later. “You’re not even leaving aikido until the end of the semester.”
The warmth in Shun’s cheeks flush all the way to the tips of his toes, and he wants to curl up and disappear. Apparently the whole school heard their tearful exchange, and he doesn’t even have the convenient powers to make everyone forget.
“I know,” he groans, covering his face with his hands. “How will I face them next week? I’m going to die of shame.”
“Shame can’t actually kill you,” she points out primly, ever the diligent reaper of death. “But think on the bright side! Your voice control was very impressive, tee-hee.”
“Shut it,” he grumbles. He doesn’t want to hear about this. Not right now, when he’s going to be the first person ever to die of shame. At least Miwa can conveniently reap his soul if he does, and then he will finally be at peace.
“Your acting skills haven’t gotten rusty over the years,” she continues relentlessly. “The club will be in good hands.”
“Hold up, I haven’t agreed yet.”
“But you will.”
“I haven’t. Not yet.” Shun shakes his head stubbornly. “I still need time to think. I don’t know if I’m still even interested in –”
“Shun, my boy,” Miwa says loudly, in a terribly imitation of the aikido captain’s booming voice. “This isn’t about you. Do it for me! Do it for my dreams! Is that something he would say? Make sacrifices for your beloved friends, that’s what it means to be a man!”
Shun thinks he’s made enough sacrifices for his friends.
“I’ll think about it,” he says.
“That’s what you said last week!” she wails, as she tries to kick him in the shins. “What did you quit aikido for, huh? Kyudo? Don’t you dare, don’t you dare! Make up your mind before I run you through with Fumiko again!”
(As if she doesn’t do that on a weekly basis already…)
“I’ll think about it,” he repeats.
Shun says he hasn’t made up his mind, but here he is, sitting with Miwa in front of the open stage set into the gymnasium wall. The raised platform, the curtains, the stage lights overhead—it reminds him so much of some of his best memories from middle school.
He’s tied up all the loose ends, so what’s stopping him from putting his name down on that form?
What do you think of starting up a theatre club?
Shun would join one in a heartbeat, but he’s never thought about starting one. He has his hands full with school and babysitting his ridiculous group of supernatural friends. So when he learns that Miwa already submitted the necessary paperwork, found a faculty sponsor (her aunt), and wrote down his name as the club captain…
“I don’t know about this,” is what he told them. “Theatre is just…what I did for the longest time, that’s all. I’m not exactly passionate or anything. I don’t think I have what it takes to run a club myself.”
He won’t be running it himself, his friends remind him. They’ll form and run the club together so he can live out the childhood dreams that they stole from him. It sounds nice, until he learns of their real intentions.
“Actually, it’s ‘cause ma is nagging me to join a club next semester,” Hiro confides in him later. “You’ll help me out, won’t ya?”
“It’ll be easier to manage than kyudo,” Saori tells him privately. “Finals season will be busy, and I’ll need to miss a lot more meetings for work. You’ll cover for me, right?”
“It’ll be fun!” Miwa says cheerfully. “I’ll let you play the lead role in every single play, Takeuchi! Please, please, please?”
They act like they’re giving him a choice. And he acts like he won’t begrudgingly walk through hellfire for his friends if they ask—but that’s not something he’ll say aloud. Still, Shun can’t bring himself to make a decision and he’s having trouble quantifying what he’s feeling right now. Regret? Relief? Resignation?
Well, club or no club, he’d better start getting used to spending the rest of his school life helping his friends keep their respective supernatural secrets from each other. And if he has to pick, well then he’d rather start that club.
In his mind’s eye, he sees the sixth grade Miwa with her low ponytail and a tattered script clutched in her hands, running up the stage excitedly to tell him she can finally recite every line without looking. Her eyes sparkle like the glow of sunlight on water, and Shun wonders how he ever forgot about that moment.
He sees Saori in their second year of middle school with her silver hair tied in neat pigtails on either side of her face. Her eyes are tightly shut and she raises the delicate flute to her lips. The quavering note that hangs in the air is melancholy, teetering on the precarious balance between a high E and a stream of empty air.
He sees Hiro sitting beside him in their classroom from the beginning of the semester, offering to trade notes. When he asks, Hiro affirms that they’re friends, because of course they are.
They’ve always been.
“How about an ‘everything’ club?” Shun blurts out one day at lunch, and his friends turn to gape at him. “So not just theatre but like uh…other hobbies too. I hate to say it, but the four of us won’t be enough to put on a production, and besides—” he gestures to Hiro and Saori, “—you two don’t even do acting.”
“I can act,” Saori says, her voice very flat.
Shun believes her.
“But do you like it?” he presses. “Isn’t it exhausting to pretend to be something you’re not?”
Eventually, Hiro and Saori seem to recognize what he’s hinting at. Miwa looks disappointed as the other two reconsider their stance on this club, and Shun wonders how on earth she managed to convince them in the first place.
“So that’s why I’m proposing the um…everything club. I need to find a better name. We’ll do all sorts of stuff—drama, music, martial arts, um…volunteer work. We can even go hiking again. It’ll be fun. It’ll be educational. Low commitment, and that sort of thing.”
“I’m in,” Hiro says with an easy smile. “I haven’t played tenor sax in ages.”
“I don’t do music,” Miwa pipes up resentfully, as if that’s the only thing Shun said.
“This isn’t about you,” he tells her, faking a note of sternness in his voice. “Besides, the whole point is that we try all sorts of different things. If you don’t like music, you can sit in the corner and knit or something.”
“So uh, what do the rest of you guys say?”
Saori is the first to answer. “That’s a very you idea. It’s not bad.”
“Yeah, count me in,” said Hiro. “It sounds chill. I’m not really big on drama stuff—sorry, no offence, Akagi.”
“Okay, fineeee,” Miwa says pensively, folding her arms over her chest. “I’ll rewrite the proposal and talk to Auntie again. You win this time, Takeuchi, but you’re going on that stage to perform a one-man comedy show someday whether you like it or not!”
“Uh, what? Where did that come from?”
For ordinary people at their school, life goes on as usual.
A new club springs up out of nowhere, unadvertised, unlisted, fading to a memory in the back of the mind. Sometimes odd things happen, like the leg of a desk inexplicably snapping in the middle of class, or a student excusing herself quickly and jumping out the window from the second floor, or the brooms from class 2-B’s storage closet going missing one by one.
But the world spins on its axis and the seasons fade into one another, and soon, the cherry blossoms are in full bloom once again.
And Shun is standing at the front gate, staring at Hiro flying in zigzags high above the roof and Saori’s on the baseball field chasing something invisible with her sword and Miwa just broke the window on the second floor with Fumiko and there are glass shards everywhere and she’s hollering at him to come help her out—
This year too, he thinks wearily, their school is still as perfectly ordinary as always.