Chapter 7:

“Aristocrat's Symphony”

VISUAL SHOCK - sometimes you have to promise not to fall in love~

Over the coming week, we spend most evenings sniffing out second hand stores and picking up all things visual kei. It’s a nice little routine. We finish class, get some revision done in the library, grab an early dinner, and go shopping.

Although Kaoru seems to be having fun, he’s still very stern a lot of the time. I can’t help but feel like I’m imposing on him, but he’s not said anything.

Induction is almost over, but for me, it’s already another day, another haul of books being taken out from the library by Kaoru… that I inevitably end up helping carry over to the dorms.

I guess this is just how I balance my debt to him.

“So, how’d you get into all this?”

Motioning at our outfits with my elbows.

“You’re, like, super smart, and studious. I wouldn’t have thought something so indulgent would appeal. Unless you’re just hiding all the books from the library in your room, making it harder for others to study. Good way to keep the class average down and look better by comparison, I suppose.”

He spit-takes some water back into his bottle. I thump him on the back to help him stop choking. I get a side long evil eye for my efforts.

“I’m not some evil mastermind. Even if I might be dressed like one.”

Kaoru chuckles at his own joke, then composes himself.

He’s nearly the double of Kamisho today, except for the hair, so he really does look the part at least. An elegant gothic aristocrat if ever there was one.

“It’s true that I study a lot. I used to have private tutors for every subject after school. When I displayed an aptitude for languages, my parents simply adjusted my studies to focus on them. It’s just a matter of many years of practice. That’s why I’m doing International Communications. It’s boring, really, but it’s all I can do.”

He reels it off like a disappointed prospectus.

“Hey, that’s still really impressive, Kaoru. I’m just doing Project Management and Logistics. I’ll probably end up in IT, or as a middle manager, or something. You could travel, basically anywhere, or be a major part in creating world peace!”

He eyes me again like I’m some loon he’s uncertain about making sudden movements around, but cracks a smile and carries on walking. Not trying to escape.

He’s definitely warming up to me.

“Anyway, Mr. Ambassador-san! How’d you get into VK? I showed you mine the other day, so you gotta show me yours!”

Mid-step, he turns to stone.

I can feel the warmth being sucked out of the hallway. Like he’s become an industrial heat sink, right by my side. Frozen solid.

Wonder if this will thaw him out?

I wave my phone in front of his glazed eyes. It’s a picture of my room back home, filled to the brim with my brother’s collection.

Visible steam rises from Kaoru’s head.

Zooming in on the bookshelf, stuffed full of magazines and mooks from the late 90’s and early 00’s - all Japanese music and fashion - finally does the trick.

There’s an audible crack as the glacier encasing him melts enough for him to break free.

“Th… th… that’s actually impressive.”

Shivering a little as he warms up again.

“I wasn’t expecting the box of anime and game merchandise, but I appreciate that is the gateway for most people.”

“Thanks! Yeah, that’s all my brother’s stuff. When his collection got too much for his room, it kinda spilled out into mine. He used to share it all with me when I was a kid anyway, even though I didn’t care about the games and shows much, I was just happy spending time with him. I always preferred the clothes and bands, that’s why he gave me all that sort of stuff. There used to be a lot more of the other things, but it’s only that one last box now.”

Kaoru nods knowingly.

“I understand. It was similar for me. My older sister was into the fashion and music scene, and all I wanted as a child was to be like her. Once I was old enough to wear the same clothes, she gave me what was left of her wardrobe. This, for instance.”

He lifts up his arm, indicating the coat.

“An original Atelier DOS Long Roylands Coat… priceless now.”

He stares at it with a strange mix of nostalgia and appreciation - like it’s a holy relic - and a slight tinge of pain.

“How so?”

My question brings him out of his reverie.

“Another casualty of covid.”

“Oh, damn...”

Under his breath I can just make out…

“I guess we have a lot more in common than I thought…”

He sighs as if coming to a decision.

“We are neighbours, and you’ve already shown me your place. I might as well let you come see my room.”

My pace quickens instinctively, and Kaoru begins to struggle to keep up.

“Hey, don’t be so enthusiastic!”


We’ve been stood outside his door for… 5 minutes now? My arms are getting tired from the textbooks.

“Any chance we can go in soon? I really need to put these down.”

“Err… Yes. Of course.”

He splutters to life after a prolonged pause, like antique clockwork missing some springs. It takes another minute before we enter his room, all the lights are off, and the curtains are closed.

Kaoru fumbles about in the dark.


He trips on something with a stifled curse, which seems to remind him he can use the torch on his phone.

Why doesn’t he just put the light on?

If he’s embarrassed about the state of things, my room was the same, so it's not like I care. I help him out by nudging the light switch with my elbow, arms still full of books.


Did he just hiss at me?!.

“Why’d you do that? I was doing fine!”

He scrabbles about, throwing the last of some clothes into a laundry basket. A mild scent of something floral catches my attention. He must have a candle or incense somewhere.

Now that everything is illuminated, I can see his room is extremely organised. Almost regimented, like a picture-perfect showroom.

There are already books on all the shelves, spaces marked out ready for the new ones from the library. Other study materials neatly arranged on his desk, and every surface is covered in sticky notes.

“They’re vocabulary.”

His brief explanation causes my brain to switch gears. From speaking in English with him for so long, I’d stopped paying attention to Japanese as much. Every note is the hiragana and kanji for this or that object, with the Korean equivalent written below.

“I did the same too. It’s super effective, right?”

He nods. Relief settling into his face.


Kaoru quickly, but gracefully, busies himself with playing host. I only get an affirmative grunt out before he places a jug of barley tea on the desk, along with a matching pair of beakers.

I go to serve myself, but he adroitly takes the decanter away, pouring for me, then himself. He really has a thing for formalities.

“Thanks, but you don’t have to go so far for me.”

“We’re friends, are we not? This is the least I should do.”

He takes a drink from his glass and sits on the bed.


I stop short of taking a sip to see Kaoru flop back onto the covers. We sit in silence for a moment before he turns his head toward me, hair splayed across his face, down his neck…

“…like I said, I’m like you.”

His voice has taken on a deep rumble, like a purr.

My heart thuds resoundingly, rocking my ribcage, causing an ache in my arteries.

Where did this come from?

“I like all this…”

Kaoru rolls on his side, looking right through me.

I’m almost deaf from the pulse in my ears.

“Because of my sister…”

thump, thump, thump, thump, thump…

“…and now, I have to show you.”

My gulp of hesitancy and anticipation reverberates throughout the room.

Sat here with a cup halfway to my lips and a dumbfounded look on my face.

Why has the mood ended up like this?!.

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