As I awoke, I could make out the faint noise of a kettle whirring, but surprisingly, I didn’t feel exhausted at all. Pinching my eyes together, I stretched both of my arms over the sofa and lazed there – with my head tossed over as well – for a short while.
Man, that was some of the best sleep I’ve had in a while.
‘Hey! You’re awake, aren’t ya?!’
Oh yeah, that’s right; Kisasa’s here. We were playing that racing game last night before she dozed off…
Oh. I fell asleep next to this girl that I just met. Dang.
‘Holy shit. First of all – sorry that I didn’t leave last night. I was just so –’
I looked up and caught a glimpse of her, staring right at me from the kitchen. As was the case yesterday, she looked as if she was about to burst out laughing.
‘Come on, what’s so funny?’
‘No, nothing, nothing!’
She immediately started laughing after that, much to my dismay. After a short while, she composed herself and continued.
‘It’s just that, you – leader of x54 – are apologizing to me for staying the night during a blizzard! What am I supposed to do, kick you out? I was the one who stopped you from going out there if you remember right!’
She had a point there.
‘For someone who’s supposed to be as ruthless as they come, you can be pretty timid at times. I like that about you.’
‘I am NOT timid.’
‘Whatever you say, Tsukkun.’
‘Anyway, you’ve gotta be more careful – just dozing off like that! You just met me! Come on now, I’d be worried for your sake if you told me that had happened to you with someone else!’
She laughed again.
‘Yeah, you’re probably right. Still, like, I think I can trust ya, y’know?’
‘How exactly would you know that?’
‘Well, first off, you defended the shop – and myself – pretty well back there. Everything you talked about really made it seem like you’ve got some morality hidden behind those violent tendencies of yours.’
She paused again before continuing.
‘Plus, I haven’t heard anything bad about x54 anyway; I’d assume that stems from you?’
‘Yeah, you could say so. Keep fighting between rival gang members only – don’t drag families, friends, and civilians into that world. I’ve caught a couple of rats in the crew who’d go against that code for their own stupid, petty reasons – needless to say that by the time I was through with them, they wouldn’t be working for anyone, anytime soon.’
‘So you took that kind of stuff seriously?’
‘Yeah, of course I did. I’ve heard the older stories from our captains – their underling’s siblings getting assaulted and tortured for turf-related reasons; shit was absolutely disgusting. Because of that, everyone who’d joined took a blood oath condemning that sort of behavior – you know how those work, right?’
‘Yeah. Swear on your blood that you’d follow whatever was laid out, or something like that?’
‘Yeah. Basically, if they went against it, they’d be given the special courtesy of a head-to-head, no restraint matchup with myself, followed by twenty punches from Valentin, directed at any part of their body. Essentially, a fate as bad as death, but something that acted as a pretty good deterrent.’
I pushed myself upright again and looked at the digital clock which read 11:31 a.m.
‘Wait, wait, wait – I know I skip pretty frequently, but don’t you have a class to get to? Why are you still here?
‘You saw the blizzard last night, didn’t you? It’s only beginning to subside out there – the snow’s still coming down, although it’s less than last night. Class today was canceled anyway.’
She walked over to the window and opened the blinds, allowing sunlight to fill the room and cascade onto my face.
‘Oh man, that’s bright. I did not know I slept for that long y’know?’
‘Yeah, you were sound asleep back there. I woke up like an hour earlier and you were absolutely knocked out – looked like you hadn’t slept in days.’
Truthfully, I hadn’t slept in days. A couple of cases that Tosh had brought to my attention had been racking my brains, but he and Asahi made significant progress on it late into Wednesday night and into Thursday morning.
‘Thanks for not waking me up though – honestly, I’d have been madder if you woke me up to let me know you were going, or that you were gonna sleep next to me, or that I had to move to accommodate for you.’
‘Yeah, no worries – I guess? I’m still perplexed that you’d let me just doze off there, but I’m not gonna complain too much.’
‘Well, the other reason I had a decent amount of trust in you was cause you’re a fellow academy student. Sure, you may skip class, and sure you run your mouth at the professors, but you’ve got to have some level of prestige to be able to pass those entrance exams. Hell, the fact that you’ve made it through multiple semesters while having the attendance record that you do speaks to your level of brilliance.’
‘Yeah, well, you’re not wrong there. Asahi and I do like to think we’re pretty special after all.’
‘Like that confidence from ya.’
‘Gotta be confident to get anywhere in my world, after all.’
She smiled again, before beckoning at me.
‘You want food?’
I stood up, stretched and walked over to the kitchen – to my surprise, she had prepared a plate of omurice with a smiling face painted in ketchup.
‘Yeah, I made one for myself as well – I was waiting for you to wake up to finally start.’
‘Aw, you should’ve just eaten. Yours is probably cold at this point.’
‘Nah, I made them just a bit before you woke up? Wasn’t too long ago.’
I can’t lie, it smelt delicious. She’d even gotten some apple juice out – what a perfect pairing. We both grabbed our chopsticks and dove straight in, and I was right – it was exceptionally well cooked. To be fair, I was accustomed to elegant meals and fine dining, but I hadn’t had a good homecooked meal in years – all of my own concoctions ended up underdone or burnt, and I hadn’t been home to my parents’ cooking in years.
‘It’s… actually really good.’
She looked up at me, with her mouth absolutely filled with egg, and gave me a thumbs up, to which I burst out laughing.
‘What’s so funny!?’
‘Look at your face! You were wolfing that shit down!’
‘Okay… and? It’s good! What, am I supposed to eat like I’m in some elitist restaurant, where I’m taking one nibble at a time? Even in that case, if the food tasted good, I’d absolutely wolf it down too!’
‘See, but I’ve eaten in those places, and their portions are tiny. You’ve gotta savor whatever you’ve got on your plate.’
She stuck her right chopstick out at me.
‘Now why would you ever do that? Paying hundreds for what, to get a measly piece of steak that’s barely the size of your palm? That’s a joke! That’s not food at all!’
‘Yeah, but you’re paying for the –’
She dropped the chopstick, started laughing and then imitated me.
‘For the “experience”! That’s so pathetic! All of those fine dining restaurants are the same – sure they’re nice to go to once in a while as a treat for yourself, but every night? That’s a bit audacious, isn’t it? I mean, you’ve got the money to throw, but still! When’s the last time you’ve had a cheap diner meal, or something homecooked?’
‘I’d rather not tell you…’
‘Oh come on!’
‘Come on now, spill it!’
‘Well, it’s been at least four years since I’ve had proper home cooking from my parents. Haven’t gone back to visit them in a while – in terms of diner quality food; well, I haven’t gotten anything for like a year or so?’
‘Such a lavish lifestyle.’
‘It really isn’t all that! If I’m busy for breakfast, I’ll throw some cereal and milk into a bowl and eat that, and if dinner’s getting pushed late, I’ll just get takeout from somewhere or the other. But yeah, no real home cooking – that’s why I’m honestly happy you made this. It’s really good.’
She smiled again, and we continued eating, until she looked up at me again.
‘That reminds me, I wanted to ask – where’re you from? You said you haven’t gone back to visit your parents recently, right?’
‘Yeah. I’m originally from up north, just like Asahi and his girlfriend. We’ve known each other since we were younger, and we all moved here after getting selected for either this academy – in mine and Asahi’s case – or the elite prep school down the road from our academy in her case.’
‘Oh wow, he’s dating someone that special?’
‘Yeah, she’s smarter than both of us. Probably the smartest at her school, and probably the closest thing to Sévére I’ve seen. It’s kinda remarkable that all three of us came from one hicktown up north, just past Aomori.’
‘Oh wow, you’re from way up there, are ya?’
‘Yeah. It was kinda nice up there, but it got boring quickly. Hustle and bustle in the city’s been a change, but I know I’d never be the man that I currently am without it, that’s for sure.’
I paused, then looked at her again.
‘Speaking of, where are you from?’
‘Oh, nothing special – grew up down south in Nagoya – bet you can’t even call that south, really, especially with how far north you are.’
‘Eh, that’s still south enough for me.’
‘Yeah, I grew up with my cousins down there. They’d always be the rowdy types, picking fights with the neighbor’s kids, annoying my aunt and uncle, bringing trouble back to the house.’
‘Sounds a lot like me nowadays.’
She shrugged and chuckled.
‘Kinda, kinda. I always thought I’d get along better with them, but the eldest – he was two years older than me, always treated the rest of us without a care in the world; even his brother, one year younger than me, always got the short end of the stick around him.’
‘How many were there?’
‘Four of us total, including me. The two brothers, their younger sister, who was two years younger than me, and then myself. I never talked to the sister, and she always kept to herself too, so I left her alone. I wonder how she’s doing.’
‘From the sounds of things, it didn’t seem all that fun.’
‘Well, yeah. Not knowing your parents – it kinda sucks, right? But that’s why, when I moved out to attend the academy’s junior high at twelve, I promised myself I wouldn’t look back anymore, only forwards. That’s why I always try to make the best of everything, y’know? Twelve years of never living my best life – that was my whole childhood, gone!’
‘Yeah. You’ve had it super rough – I can’t even begin to fathom what it’d be like.’
‘I’ve made some pretty good friends here though, that’s for sure. That’s why I’ve changed so much – I’ve started looking at and appreciating the little things in life. I don’t want to miss any moments that I might cherish, right?’
She looked at me again and saw that I was done eating, so she grabbed my plate.
‘What’re you doing?’
‘Washing up – what do you think?’
‘I can do my own.’
‘Oh come on, I cooked, I’ll wash.’
‘I insist, come on now. It’s the least I can do.’
‘Well, it isn’t everyday that I’ll get a delinquent to wash the dishes for me, so I’m not going to refuse your offer twice! Have at it.’
I washed the plates off, and then looked out the window, to see that the snowfall had finally stopped coming down, and the sun was beaming brightly. I stopped to look at her again.
‘We should probably get going, right?’
‘Yeah. Shop’s closed for the day anyway, my manager texted that to our work’s group chat, but I’d like to catch the train home while the weather’s still good at least.’
‘You think you can get to the station?’
‘Of course, I can. The snow’s not too deep, especially with the way that the plows came out in full force last night and the sunshine oughta help with the melting too. Wait… was that you trying to walk me home?’
She smirked and I immediately caught myself, not letting her catch a blush.
‘Well, of course not. Just wanted to make sure you were safe, that’s all.’
She laughed and flicked my nose, then smiled at me again.
‘Look at you, all serious now. Don’t worry, next time I’ll let you walk me to the station. This time, it’s probably not even in the right direction for ya? It’s in the complete opposite direction of the academy.’
‘Yeah. Not wrong on that part at least.’
‘Speaking of the academy – make sure you show up on Monday! I’ll bring at least half the smokes for ya, alright?
‘Aw, do I really have to come to class?’
I clicked my teeth together in anguish.
‘Of course, ya dope. Maybe you should try coming more often, now that you’ve got someone else you know pretty well in the class too.’
She smiled and winked at me, and I scoffed.
‘Sure, sure, I’ll see. I’ll come by on Monday though, you’ve convinced me enough.’
‘Great! Now send me your Line info, that way we can keep in touch with each other.’
‘Woah, little bold, are we?’
She stopped what she was doing and looked at me with disgust.
‘See, it doesn’t work when you do it. You’re too unnatural with your teasing – it’s weird. Leave it to me, please.’
I shook my head and chuckled.
‘Sure, sure, whatever you say, Kisasa.’
I took out my phone and handed it to her, and she added my number to her contacts, before sending me a message to confirm that we’d added one another as friends. I took my phone back, and we headed down the elevator and out the backdoor, before turning, and waving to one another. By the time we were a couple of meters away from one another in either direction, she turned around:
‘Make sure you’re not late! I’ll be sending you a wakeup call and don’t you dare silence your phone! I know you’re going to!’
“Yeah, yeah, sounds good, sounds good! Send me some of those mobile games tonight if you’re not scared of losing too – I’ve smoked everyone that I know in those basketball and cup pong ones!’
‘Okay, but don’t be surprised if your perfect run comes to an end with me!’
We both smiled and laughed as we turned again, heading in our separate directions. I looked down at my phone, and saw the message that she’d sent my phone – it was a cat sticker, which fit pretty well with her cat-themed profile picture. I hovered over the contact information, which just read out her phone number, clicked on it, and pressed ‘change name’.
‘Sasaki, or better known as “Kisasa”.’
What a cute name.