It was early on Monday morning – earlier than I’d normally ever awaken. I checked my alarm clock, which was buzzing annoyingly.
Man, I hated going to class. Besides the fact that the class itself was useless and the professors weren’t particularly intelligent, waking up at this kind of ridiculous hour was always an annoyance. Like, why’d class have to start at 8:30 a.m.? Would it really hurt anyone if it got pushed back to 9:30 a.m.? Come on now.
After hopping out of bed and – possibly – breaking my alarm clock, the rest of my morning was pretty routine – grab something quick to eat from the pantry or from my fruit shelf, brush my teeth and throw in some mouthwash, shower, throw on whatever fit suited the day, and then head out the door. Surprisingly, all of that only takes – on average – thirty minutes, with today being only twenty-seven of those thirty.
I lived in a penthouse suite in a thirty-floor apartment complex that overshadowed most of downtown Tokyo, whilst still being out-of-the-way enough that my location hadn’t ever been compromised to rival delinquents or gang members. The apartment itself was pretty large – three bedrooms and bathrooms, open-area living space, in-house theatre, kitchen + bar, balcony, and even a hot tub and sauna in one of the bathrooms. The balcony’s view was exceptional from the skyrise, however, having to wait for one of only two elevators in order to reach the ground floor was painful. Still, I’d made it downstairs by 8:11 a.m., which was enough time to catch the express line directly to the academy.
It'd been a while since I’d taken public transit, as I’d only ever rode this specific route – two stops, straight from the station outside of my apartment to the academy’s station. The line connected with the main lines three stops after the academy at Midtown, but this stretch – from Hyoko Shopping Center Station to the aforementioned Midtown was rather quiet, even during rush hours. X54 had control of that entire stretch with small exceptions to our overall jurisdiction, including most corner stores and other locally owned vendors and restaurants. Tosh believed establishing new ownership or imposing joint collaborations with these local businesses under our crew’s name would fracture relationships with frequent customers – once again, the return for investment on these places simply wasn’t worth it.
The train itself was nothing spectacular, but the ride was quite nice – it overlooked the eastern parts of town, and the harbor was easily visible from the right-hand side of the carriage. The weather had cleared significantly too, with no snowfall forecast for the next week and a half – a welcome sight considering the horrid conditions we’d been dealing with last week.
The Academy’s Station, or Tayashiro Roundhouse Station, was directly connected to Tayashiro Academy, which was the academy that I was enrolled in, despite my less-than-ideal attendance record. Considering the academy’s prestige, our dress code was naturally a button-up uniform with an optional tie and blazer – I normally wore the blazer, but the tie wasn’t something I’d ever wear: way too constricting especially with the shirt’s slim fit tailoring. The other students – my fellow classmates – were all recruited specifically by the academy itself; each of us was hand-selected because the academy’s director believed in our potential. As much as I probably don’t come off as the intelligent type compared to everyone else, I consistently outperform the vast majority of them on exams, papers, presentations, and defenses. I’m still nowhere close to the pinnacle of the academy – something that Asahi’s actually gunning for, in part to prove to his girlfriend, Haruna, that he’s on an equal pedestal with her – but I don’t like to discredit my own achievement either. There’s a reason myself, Asahi and Haruna were able to make it out of that hicktown after all.
Oh, wandered into the hall’s already – but I’d recognize that voice anytime. He’s the only person that’d call me Yoshi, after all.
‘How’ve you doin, Sévère?’
‘Oh, nothing much at all. Had to attend a charity event last night with Yuki, so a bit tired.’
Yuki Nanami – Sévère’s girlfriend – appeared from behind him.
‘Oh… it’s you. I thought you were Mitsu… never mind.’
Mitsuaki Nobaru, the academy’s treasurer, and fourth-in-command on the council, was really close friends with Sévère, Yuki and the secretary, Umi Minako. To some extent, me and him look similar – height, hairstyle, what-have-you, but I was used to being dismissed by Nanami by now.
‘Hey, hey Yuke’s come on… you shouldn’t act like that. Yoshi’s finally come to class after what seems like an eternity – we wouldn’t want to scare him off now, would we?
I chuckled to myself and smiled at the pair.
‘Nah, I’m good. We don’t need him bringing that despicable lifestyle into this academy. It’s a wonder that you and your father keep him around considering his theatrics!’
She looked at me with a clear grievance, before looking back at Sévère.
‘I’ll see you in first period then.’
With that, she turned around and headed off. If this was the first time this had happened, I’d have been shocked and probably a bit slighted, but she’d made it known much earlier in my tenure at the academy that she vehemently disliked delinquent culture and there’d be close to nothing I could do to alter that perception. According to Sévère, her brother was a former member of the operative Shining Cross – a group that had been disbanded more than half a year ago after its leaders were publicly humiliated by Valentin in a three-on-one fistfight. The issue is, delinquents never go away easily – a slight bit of poison isn’t enough to keep the rats out of the sewers, after all. Many of the lesser members who’d committed to that lifestyle – and had nothing to show for themselves outside of it – became operatives for other crews, and took hits on anyone to pledge their newfound loyalty. Yuki’s brother – who was a decently high-ranking official in Shining Cross – decided to return to college after the crew’s retirement and officially put his past in the past, however, with how well-known he was, it only took a couple of weeks for him to become a target of some former members. The details weren’t really given to me by Sévère himself, but he’d been beaten pretty senselessly by five or six guys who’d essentially left him for dead. It was luck itself that Mitsuaki – our same treasurer – had found him in the dead of night and was able to transport him to a nearby hospital, where he was able to make a partial recovery – the nerve connections in his left eye were irreparable, as was the fractured collarbone, which required a metal insertion. What probably irked Yuki more than anything though was one thing – the five or six guys were never brought to justice. What affected me even more, and why I’m more than willing to accept the brunt of her scorn:
I never found out the identity of those bastards were either.
I knew they weren’t x54 members – I’d never brought in any ex-Shining Cross members until recently, about three months ago, which wouldn’t fit the timeline. We’d dismantled a bunch of different gangs since Shining Cross, but Tosh’s cross-referencing never led him to any clues. It was – to say the least – quite frustrating.
‘My apologies for her attitude towards you, Yoshi.’
‘Don’t worry man. I get it. She has every right to act that way. I get it.’
‘I know. But you do a lot of good for the community too, and there’s a reason why I’ve committed to keeping you at the academy. I don’t like the way you act when you – rarely – come to class, but there’s a reason I’m so lenient with you. If you didn’t have such a strong moral compass, I’d have dropped the hammer on you a long time ago, and I think you know that too. Just unfortunate that, despite how brilliant she is – moreso than me in a lot of cases – she can’t see past your “delinquency”.’
‘All good man. I appreciate you having my back for sure. Not a lot of people would put up with my self-righteous ass, that’s for sure.’
We both chuckled at that, before hearing the five-minute warning announcement that tolled throughout the academy.
‘I’ll probably get going… as should you, to be fair.’
‘Yeah, yeah, I will. I don’t really have an excuse not to be on time now, do I?’
He did a closed two-finger wave to me, before turning around and heading in the same direction that Yuki had gone in previously. Pushing my hair backwards, I turned in the opposite direction, before stopping almost immediately.
‘Tsu? What? You… came to class? Voluntarily?’
‘Shut it Asahi.’
‘No, no, I’m shocked! You’re here? Why?’
‘To shove you into a locker, potentially?’
‘Why, what’s there to be mad – oh.’
His face almost immediately caught on, and he put his hands together and bowed his head.
‘Please forgive me for that horrible miscalculation on my part. I couldn’t have foreshadowed such a terrible storm to have passed. I’m deeply apologetic for my actions.’
‘You didn’t mean a single word you just said, did you?’
He cocked his head up and started laughing.
‘Eh, meant half of it? Maybe more? I don’t know. But did you get the smokes?’
‘You annoying ass, you couldn’t even ask me if I got home safe that night?’
‘You’re the leader of the strongest gang in Tokyo! What do I need to ask you if you got home safe – what are you, a toddler?’
‘Ah yes, cause being a delinquent boss means so much against the howling gales and furious wrath bestowed by mother nature – what a man you are, Asahi! Truly incredible intelligence!
He punched my side and laughed.
‘Come on, let’s get to class. It’s a rare occasion that you’re here, after all. Don’t wanna be late now do we?’
As he turned to head to class, I followed him and sarcastically remarked:
‘Ah yeah, cause I’m definitely gonna regret missing Lincoln’s first period class. Oh, the horror!’
‘It’s the first day of the week, don’t be so negative man!’
‘Yeah, yeah, whatever you say!’
Asahi pushed open the classroom door as the bell rang loudly – surprisingly, I’d made it on time for class. A collective gasp could be heard from my classmates as they saw me walk through those doors – honestly, wasn’t too surprised considering the way that Thursday had gone. I’d legitimately thought that that would’ve been my last attendance before winter exams, especially with more pressing matters at hand, but, considering that I’m here now, I guess not.
From the corner of my eyes, I caught a glimpse of Kisasa – she looked different in her uniform compared to the casual outfit I’d seen her in while at work. She sat near the front of the room, next to another girl who she seemed to be talking to – it was then that I realized that she, and this other girl, were the two students who’d consistently participate in class discussions and actually contribute to Lincoln’s annoying tangents. That probably meant that she was actually pretty smart and quick to comprehend whatever nonsense he was talking about – nice.
‘Oi, Tsukkun. Tsu…’
She tugged on my blazer as I walked past her, and I looked at her.
‘You came to class after all?! I’m so proud!’
‘What are you, my mother?’
‘I don’t need to be!’
I looked at her, confused.
‘The hell does that even mean?’
Before she could even respond, a familiar voice resonated through my eardrums.
‘Mr. Tsuyoshi Yokoyama. Please, take your seat – class is about to start.’
She giggled to her friend as I shook my head and headed to my seat, three rows from the back, smack in the third of five columns of desks. Asahi sat in the seat to my left, and I couldn’t tell you who was to my right – the only person who I’d known before meeting Kisasa was Asahi.
‘Okay, class, good morning. As we’d planned on Thursday for Friday, you’re gonna form groups and go at it – I’d originally planned for you guys to have the weekend to continue discussions after you got your topics, but the weather had other plans. To make up for that, tomorrow’s class will be exclusively dedicated to the project – but the deadline won’t be changed. To compensate for that, we’ll go from duos to groups of four and just have less topics to present. Makes sense?’
I leaned over to my left, and nudged Asahi.
‘What’s he going on about?’
‘Oh yeah, you got kicked out and I forgot to explain this to ya. Whoops. I just assumed we’d be a duo and I’d get you to do most of the work anyway.’
‘You’re such a pain man.’
‘Okay, I assume there’s no questions then, why don’t we form those groups then. I assume you guys all have partners or have had some idea of who you’d be with – just find another duo to partner up with and you’ll have four.’
Wow, thanks Grandpa, almost like two groups of two people makes four people. Think an ostrich could’ve told me that. Hell, what about the people who were groups of three, but then had to shrink to two, but now have room for three and an extra? What do they do? Why not just extend the deadline? And in any case, what are we even doing?
Man, I hated this class. I hated this professor.
‘Asahi. Can you at least explain what the hell’s going on?’
‘Well, I think it’s something along the lines of reading a historical translated English novella or anthology, and then design an extended synopsis on it. Something like that, I think.’
Man, what? This is a history class, mind you.
‘Why in hell are we doing literature in a history class?’
‘Beats me. Go ask him if you want.’
He beckoned towards Lincoln, to which I put my hands in my eye sockets and pinched them together again. I stretched backward, and leaned over the back of my chair, shaking my head. Apart from the other pressing matters at hand, this was the prime reason I hated attending class – it was so beyond useless. Like, not an ounce of this assignment made sense, and even if it did, I could just do it on my own time. What a waste of –
I opened my eyes and looked upward and saw Kisasa peering down at me.
I stretched back into my seat and turned my chair around to look at her. As I did so, I glanced at Asahi, who looked bewildered. He pointed at her in a confused manner and then pointed at me, before starting to chuckle. I didn’t even hesitate to punch him in the gut, to which he winced, but kept the annoying smirk tattooed across his face.
‘Aw, you shouldn’t do that!’
That wasn’t a voice I knew. I looked to Kisasa’s side and saw that same girl who was sitting with her at the front of the class – she was a bit taller, but from first glance, they seemed to have carbon-copied personalities. Before I could even respond, Kisasa looked at me and exclaimed:
‘You wanna work together on this?’