A whirlwind of events flew by Ayumi. It wasn’t until she sat back down that the fatigue reminded her of the situation. Lingering images of what occurred hung in her mind. She tried to shake them off. The senior clouded her focus on the mission. Ayumi squeezed her hand, taking her mind to something else. ‘Not the time…’
He held out the options of water or tea. “Just haven’t seen you distracted before. You’re always so military and serious.” Once she picked the water, he handed it over.
Downing some of the water immediately, she closed her eyes in thought. “I’m human like anyone else.”
“I know. It’s sort of refreshing to be reminded.” He smiled to her, then leaned against the wall. “That Fumiko though, I guess it’s only been a month since school started, but how did I not see her before?”
Yuki looked down at Ayumi as she seemed lost in thought again. “Piqued your interest?”
“Want to see her again?”
“I have a mission.”
“Not hearing a no.”
He smiled again and shrugged while drinking the tea. The questioning glance came up to him. “Just happy to see other sides of you. I like learning about my friends.” Silence followed as they drank to pass the time.
Chapter 34 – Far Enough
A slow trickle of students steadily meandered through the polished wood and plaster halls. Clubs already gathered and sports activities dominated the outdoors. The comforting quiet of the well worn school interior stood as the clear pick. Peace and tranquility made for a happy environment. It just needed a dutiful guard to provide succor in times of distress.
Fumiko hurried with hushed footfalls through the hall. The unplanned side quest, while very critical, did make her tardy. She eased her gate to a more customary pace upon breaching the second floor club wing. Part way into her trek through the hall, she saw most of the doors began to close. She traversed by other students not bound by an urgent agenda. Fumiko exchanged welcoming smiles and nods.
Her destination came up near the middle of the hallway. A simple wood plate sign hung from above, Fantasy Literary Club. Further down, the Classical and Science Fiction could be seen as well. She couldn’t visit them today, at least at the start. Routine had to be forewent today.
When she opened the door, two of the students immediately turned to look. A polite greeting from her picked up the attention of everyone else. “Sorry, I’m late!”
“Rescuing underclassmen again, President?”
“Guilty!” She dropped her school bag on the table. Opening it up, Fumiko spilled out the contents. Half a dozen paperbacks cascaded followed by two notebooks. A pencil case along with some loose papers fell out last.
“Any issues to report?”
“She’s safe. I just need to let the Student Council know.” Her thoughts faded off to far too near raven tinted emotions. It was a cycle and she loathed seeing it. There would be peace for a bit, but then it’d resume all over again. Even if it was a never ending conflict, she was one she intended to wage.
“They aren’t going to do anything. It’s the student body.”
“Doing nothing is worse.” Fumiko walked over to the desk and pulled out a stack of papers. She passed them around the table to the five other students.
“Fighting everyone all alone?”
She took a seat at the end of the table, pulling her things out of the way. “There’s plenty of ways to fight. You just need focus.” Distant thoughts spun around her head making Fumiko drift away. Haunting whispers echoed in her mind. Each crawled deeper attempting to breach her. The moment it looked like progress had been made, she snapped out of it, forcing reality. “Focus is what’s important.”
“Focus, right.” A small bounce in her chair pulled her forward to the club. “Did everyone get to read up to chapter five last night?” Slow nods came from everyone as the club began its usual activities.
Late afternoon finally arrived, though the sun remained beaming in the window, it wouldn’t last. The club room emptied a few minutes ago. Fumiko cleaned up the last few details before closing up as well. She stared wistfully at the window.
Alone the voices returned stronger than ever before. Stabbing and poking, they chewed on her defense. Her hand clenched onto the handle of her bag. Blood pressure rose as did her breathing. Strength sapped from her knees as she braced herself against the table. Echoes twisted around her ears. She slammed her eyes shut. “No! N-no-no! Get a hold of yourself!”
She pulled up her bag and hurried out the room. Quickly, she made it down to the ground before pausing. Fumiko dug through her bag to pull out a book from her personal stash. Her finger easily found its page and focused down for the walk home.
Once the breeze hit her face, her mind already disappeared into the world of magic and heroes. Images of dark mountains and dragons excited her far more than the plain concrete beneath her. Where she left off in the story, a sinister assassination plot became exposed to the party. They sought to track down the villains, but remained a step behind. While a common enough plot, she enjoyed the character interactions and world. Each word bounced off the page filling her with images.
Lost in her book, Fumiko turned at the school gate and nearly missed the little girl standing around. Immediately, the book came down and Fumiko focused on the child. No more than maybe ten, they stood looking around. She didn’t recognize them. ‘Someone’s sibling?’
Fumiko knelt down next to the girl. “Are you looking for someone?” The kid quickly took a couple steps back clearly startled. Rather than keep pressing, Fumiko sat down to reduce her presence further. Her height wasn’t always in her favor. “It’s okay. See I have the same uniform? Are you looking for someone that goes here?”
A quiet pause fell over the two. The little girl still tried to decide, a trait that Fumiko could admire. It was better to be cautious of strangers than trusting. So she just waited for an answer.
“It’s pretty late. Do you think you could have missed them?” A vigorous shake refused Fumiko. That made her think for a bit. “This isn’t the only way out of school.” Another emphatic head shake denied that option as well.
“Well if you’re certain. It’s pretty empty by now, so if you want… I can help you look.” That gave the child pause once more, an understandable reaction. Fumiko searched around in her mind for ideas. “Oh, I should have thought of this first. Do you have a phone or a number we can try?”
“Odd…but I guess everyone’s different.” This required a little more thought. The school had extensive grounds. She needed a way to narrow things down. “Do you know if they’re in a club?”
The girl looked down, likely trying to remember. It didn’t take long for an answer at least. Time was burning. “Maybe? I’m not sure…”
“Hm, no luck… Perhaps someone from the Student Council’s still around. What’s their name?”
Immediately, the name sounded familiar. Fumiko tried to think why she knew the name. She pensively searched the day’s event until it came to her. “Oh her! But I know nothing about her… Student Council, it is then.”
Standing up, she offered a hand down to the little girl. The girl still had some hesitation, but finally accepted Fumiko. Fumiko smiled warmly to the girl. “If she’s still in the school, we’ll find her!”
The school became even more dead by the time she returned. Only a few students still lingered in the halls, a positive sign. Reality questioned that hope, but Fumiko counted on optimism instead. She kept her eye out for signs of Ayumi, but naturally there was none to be found.
At the Student Council door, she looked back at the girl. Cautiousness and fear filled her eyes. An unfamiliar space filled with strangers no doubt frightened them. Fumiko gave her a comforting pat and squeezed her hand. “They aren’t scary.”
Fumiko knocked on the door. “Is anyone still here?” No sound immediately came out of the room. It seemed like a reasonable chance someone remained behind still. But she might have to send the girl home, after all Ayumi probably was there.
The sound of a chair scraping over the floor changed her mind. It straightened out her stance in preparation for someone opening the door. Slow footfalls approached. The door opened slowly to be greeted by Yori of all people. “Oh, President Mizuno! I didn’t know you were still here.”
“Fumiko Terauchi…” He noticed the second person next to her quickly. “What were you needing?”
“I was trying to find someone for this girl. They were waiting for a first year, Ayumi Nishimura. Do you know if she’s in a club? I thought we might check there.”
“Nishimura? The name doesn’t sound familiar, but I can check. Have you already tried calling her?”
“Oh, I guess I didn’t check. I just assumed they were family.” Fumiko looked down at the little girl for an answer. “Ayumi Nishimura is…?”
“My big sister!”
“Right…” Yori went back into the room. In the corner, a computer sat with a spreadsheet currently up. “Does she have any identification?” He sat down starting to type away on the keyboard.
“I applaud your willingness to help, but you need to confirm the story.”
“Yes, you’re right…” While Yori ran the search for her, she knelt down. As always, he remained level headed and logical. They were traits that she could admire. The oversight of basic checks shouldn’t have happened. “Do you have an ID on you or your school bag?”
The girl pulled away a bit, but then looked back towards Yori. Her reservations relaxed and nodded back to Fumiko. She turned around and showed the red school bag she wore on her back. A bear charm hung off the corner of the otherwise simple bag. Opening the flap, Fumiko looked at the name on the ID.
“Chiasa…Nishimura…” Everything for emergency contact was printed on the card. A school to reach along with parents and home address, anything the police or someone helping her would need. “Nothing out of the ordinary.”
Yori approached the threshold, his search complete. “That’s good. Always best to be careful. I couldn’t find a club for her. So she’s probably not still around.”
A dejected down turned head said everything they needed about Chiasa. Fumiko leaned around to look back at her. “Was she expecting you today?”
“No…I wanted to surprise her… I wanted to spend time with her…”
Fumiko checked Yori quickly, who shook his head in silence. “She’s probably on her way home then. But you can come another day. I’m sure she’d be happy to see you.”
“Um, yeah…” Her mind went through all the steps from today. The usual methods were off the table. “How about this, Chiasa… After school finishes I’ll bring her out to you. That way you don’t miss each other this time! How does that sound?”
“I like that!” Chiasa nodded, taking both of her hands to hold onto Fumiko.
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