Ren X: Last Arrival In Another World (Redux)
I ended up waiting in the library for a time in hopes of running into the transfer student, Shion. It ultimately amounted to a wasted venture, however, because Shion never showed up.
It was just me and the librarian’s assistant reading in silence for a majority of the hour. I think my presence caused her a bit of discomfort.
It’s not every day you spend an hour in total silence with the school delinquent.
“I know sensei told me to connect with Shion using her interests as a pretext, but…”
People who enjoy books that seriously usually tend to read as a solo leisure activity, not something to be openly discussed with others. Shion also didn’t give me the impression that she wanted friends, based on what Takashi-Sensei said.
The best I could reasonably hope for is that our paths cross in a more natural way than me hanging around the library like some kind of stalker. I was beginning to question whether it actually would be less work to just accept a suspension… It wouldn’t exactly be a first-time occurrence for me.
“What a pain in the ass.” I tousled my hair in frustration.
I stood in front of the vending machine a couple blocks from my house, delaying the return home as long as I possibly could. It was something of a habit of mine to stand in its faint glow for an indeterminate amount of time. Oftentimes I wouldn’t even purchase anything.
So why stand here, staring at the selection of beverages? Habits can be formed for any number of reasons, but I found this place suitable enough to gather my thoughts. And besides…
I prefer to get home well after my father has gone to sleep if I can help it.
I heard someone approaching, but had ignored their presence with the assumption that they’d pass by without a word. To my surprise, a small voice echoed over my shoulder.
“Hmm?” I glanced back.
“You’re standing in front of the machine. I’m thirsty.”
You’ve got to be shitting me…
“What about me?” A girl around my age stood in front of me, her blue eyes piercing right through me. Her foot tapped impatiently, and she adjusted the glasses on the bridge of her nose.
I would have simply stepped aside at her request, if it weren’t for the identity of this particular girl leaving me at a loss for words.
Shirakawa Shion. Coincidences like this don’t really happen, do they? Not outside of manga, that is.
I realized I was still blocking the way, and finally moved aside.
“You’re… Shion, right?” I asked, sounding much more awkward than I had intended.
She sighed deeply in response, and quickly made her selection as if to make up for the lost time. Out of the machine came a can of black coffee. Despite not knowing much about her, it seemed like just the kind of thing she might choose. I preferred the green tea, personally.
“It’s Shirakawa-san to you, but indeed I am. And you’re…” After taking much more time than necessary to think about it, she glanced up at me. “Delinquent-kun?”
“Eh?” I blinked twice.
Before I had a chance to protest, Shion had turned around and began to walk away without a care in the world.
I don’t have any right to stop her, but… Isn’t this my chance?
If I were to leave things as they were, Shion would walk away right now and I might not ever get the opportunity to meet with her like this again. At least, not in a one-on-one setting.
“Oye, hold up a minute!” I called out. I had to find a way to make use of the strange circumstances that brought us together. I knew I had to, but…
“What?” Shion said, momentarily coming to a stop.
“What… brings you out this way? I’ve never seen you around the neighborhood before.” It wasn’t much of a conversation starter, but it was all I had on short notice.
If you asked me, intelligence was split into three well-defined categories: Textbook knowledge, street smarts, and social literacy.
You could ask me to solve any math problem under the sun, and I wouldn’t find much difficulty in the task.
Surviving a street fight? All too easy.
But social encounters like these, choosing the right things to say… It was truly a challenge for me when I wasn’t given ample time to prepare.
“I just moved out this way,” she replied. “Is that all you needed? Surely not, or else you wouldn’t have waited in the library for me this afternoon. Isn’t that right?”
“Heh.” She had me pegged from the start. “So you knew, huh?”
It didn’t take a genius to see that my facade had crumbled before the curtain even rose on my friendship plan. I was almost relieved though... That angle was far too clichéd for my liking.
This girl is incredibly bright, so being dishonest is going to get me virtually nowhere with her.
“It’s odd, you look rather relieved.”
“Well, I am. The truth is… Takashi-Sensei was worried about you, and asked me to talk to you.” More like blackmailed, but I’ll leave that part out. “Apparently you’re all alone, scared everybody off with your attitude. No different than me, I guess.”
“I cannot deny all of what you’re saying. However,” Shion crushed the half-empty can in her hand. “Don’t just go assuming we’re anything alike, Delinquent-kun.”
Her soft voice gained a spiteful edge to it. The shift in tone caught me off-guard, admittedly.
“I was observing you in class earlier, as I’m sure you noticed. There’s a number of conclusions I came to, but one major one in particular.” Shion continued. “The way you act, the way you carry yourself, it’s detestable.”
“You think we’re alike? Just like me, you scored a perfect score on the entrance exam. That’s correct, and yet,” Shion’s eyes met mine. “Your grades are below average, students and teachers avoid associating with you. People like you are a tremendous waste of potential.”
People like me, huh? Alright, Shion. I’ll bite.
“Spouting off all that bullshit,” I retorted. “You’ve been at the school for a day, transfer student. What do you think you know about me, huh!?”
“The son of Dr. Itsuka Yoshiro, and Dr. Elizabeth Banks. A true prodigy.” Shion smirked. “The young man that will lead Japan into the future, Itsuka Ren. Right?”
My eyes widened in surprise.
How does she… know those names?
The realization began to set in that this wasn’t simply a chance meeting between two classmates, but that the girl in front of me knew much more than she let on.
I don’t like this feeling.
I thought she hated me by how she spoke, but in her eyes there was a look of expectation, of sadness. If I had to liken it to anything, it would be to a disappointed mother expressing grief over her child’s life choices.
“You know, I've been looking for you for some time, Ren-kun.” She turned away, calling me by my actual name for the first time. “So you’ll never understand how I feel… how disappointed I am to have finally met you. Sayonara.”
Her blunt words hit me like a runaway train. I hid the extent of my past from a great many people, besides Ike and Takashi-Sensei. “The Genius, Itsuka Ren” had been dead for quite some time now, or so I thought. So how…
“Hey, wait, you’re disappointed? What do you mean by—!?”As Shion turned to leave again, I placed a hand firmly on her shoulder.
It happened in an instant. The next thing I knew, I was staring up at the sky from my back.
What… just happened?
“Let me get this straight. She called you a disappointment… and then judo-flipped you over her shoulder?”
“Actually it was “detestable”, but yeah, that’s the gist of it.”
Still, that girl is a lot stronger than her dainty frame would suggest. Those are moves you learn with fighting experience, not those of a total beginner.
The following morning after my argument with Shion, I decided to pay a visit to Takashi-Sensei’s office to give her a report on the events of the night before. The look on her face told me everything I needed to know.
“So how long’s my suspension gonna be?” I asked in the midst of Takashi-Sensei rubbing her temples. “I hope it won’t eat into the class trip…”
“About that,” she collected herself. “I figure… You’ve suffered enough given the circumstances. We can call it a wash.”
“As long as you can pr-o-mise to be on your best behavior from now on.” she reiterated.
I was grateful to hear those—rather unexpected—words come out of Takashi-Sensei’s mouth. Although promising not to fight anymore was a tall ask, considering the amount of people that sought me out for that specific purpose.
“To think that she already hated your guts though. Huhuhu.” Takashi-Sensei was mildly amused given her tone. “You must have made quite the first impression.”
“That would be easier to stomach, but I don’t think it was just that.” I crossed my arms.
If Shion simply hated me for any of the reasons the majority of the other students did, it wouldn’t pose much of an issue for me. I was used to it. However…
It seems like she knew of me, maybe back from before I moved to this city.
I lived in a lot of different places when I was younger, including the United States. She could have heard about me from anywhere, and I still didn’t have a clue where she was from.
“In any case, we can drop the issue as it is… I’ll figure something out on my own before the class trip.” she smiled bitterly.
“Sorry I couldn’t do more, sensei.” I rubbed the back of my neck.
“Don’t be, Ren. It was wrong of me to put a student up to the task with strong-armed methods in the first place.” she said. “You can be dismissed, but first…”
“How have things been, you know… at home?”
Takashi-Sensei stole a glance at my neck line where there was a fresh bruise that I had tried all-too-hard to cover up. I sighed, defeated.
“My father is… still my father.” I answered honestly, given no other choice.
If I was speaking to another teacher I could have passed it off as the remnants of my last fight, or perhaps my altercation with Shion. But...
She was far too observant for her own good, my sensei.
“If you ever need a place to stay for a while, don’t be a stranger, Ren. That’s what next-door neighbors are for. Right?” She looked at me with sincerity as her prying nature got the better of her. “If there was only something to be done about that man…”
I put up my hand to interrupt.
“You ain’t gotta worry about that, sensei. It’s my problem to deal with.” I insisted.
If there was a simple solution to the issue of my father and I’s relationship, I would have done something by now to fix it. In the end, there’s no repairing what’s permanently broken.
“‘sides, if you keep worrying about all your problem children, you’ll get wrinkles.” I teased. “You old biddy.”
“Who the hell’re you calling “biddy”, huh!?” Takashi-Sensei shook her fist as I left the office with a mischievous cackle.
That’s fine, I don’t want to get anyone else involved.
It’s a problem that I can’t keep avoiding, sure, but it’s my own at the end of the day. I only hoped that things couldn’t get any worse than they already were.
In speaking of problems to be solved, there was also the issue with approaching Shion.
I know what you’re probably thinking. “Why bother with her if suspension is no longer on the table?” Right, but even though Takashi-Sensei had given me the freedom to abandon the cause, I continued to feel a certain curiosity surrounding our newest student. The girl who knew of not only my past, but also the names of my parents.
I can’t just leave something alone when I become so invested in a task. Perhaps Takashi-Sensei knew this about me when she asked. Now what to do…
The direct approach hadn’t worked when she aired me out in front of the vending machine, but that wasn’t the only card I had left to play. I wasn’t giving up on the friendship plan just yet. Taking the initiative, I took out my cell phone to make a call to someone I knew. If I was on the money, I might have had a favor or two left to cash in on…
Across campus—at roughly the same time as Itsuka Ren and Takashi-Sensei’s meeting—a particular girl was getting ready to leave the library after checking out some study materials for some unknown purpose.
“You’re new so we’re still having your library card printed,” the girl at the counter explained. “But we still keep physical records from time to time. Just bring them back whenever you’re finished with them, Senpai.”
“You are very kind, thank you.” I, Shirakawa Shion, addressed the younger librarian’s assistant.
I took to cramming what books I couldn’t carry into my bag, and carefully stacked the rest in my hands so as to not have them topple over on the way to the lockers down the hall.
Halfway to my destination, I paused in the hallway to glance out the window. High school, huh? I never suspected I would have the chance to live out even a year like a regular high school girl, at least not here of all places. It was strange to say the least.
I mean, when you consider that the only reason I even came to Japan was to retrieve…
I felt an inexplicable feeling welling up inside my gut. It was one that I could only describe as guilt, but I could not ascertain the source. Or at least I would have liked to pretend I was unaware, but a particular boy remained on my mind.
“Was I… too hard on Ren-kun, after all?” I sighed to myself in exasperation. It was the kind of sigh that I could only produce when I found myself to be in the wrong, which almost never happened.
I had tried going for the tough love approach—as my master suggested—to see if I could inspire Ren to be more like his old, intelligent self. Unfortunately, with my own lack of social skills it probably seemed like I was trying to start an argument. Which… was not far from the truth.
I simply could not mask my disappointment in that situation, and who could possibly blame me?
It was one thing to be useful in a fight, that much even I could respect, but to make delinquency your whole state of being… Every news article I read about him, every testimonial from his early childhood…
I guess I never expected him to be so… roguish.
I was having second thoughts about a great many things. I reflected on the hours of lost sleep due to those creeping anxieties, my mission, and the fact that it was now in danger of failure. Even so… It wasn’t like it was only his fault. I realized that at some point.
Expectations are often created in the absence of understanding. It appeared as though I had not tried to understand the genius, Itsuka Ren, as much as I claimed to. It was also no exaggeration to say that my lack of empathy could begin to undo an operation nearly ten years in the making. That was, if I wasn’t careful from here on out.
Surely I can’t go back to my master empty-handed, but will I even get another chance to talk to him, to Ren-kun? I would like to believe so, but I—
“So he asked me for my number, and then I said “as if!”, and then—!”
Breaking my train of thought, I was suddenly shoulder-checked by another girl walking down the hall with a few others in tow. The force sent the pile of books I was holding onto the dusty floor.
“Excuse me!?” The girl who bumped me glared in my direction. “Why don’t you watch where you’re going, glasses?”
I initially fought the urge to snap back at her, ignoring her tasteless remark. However, as I went to pick up my books…
“Hey, Miya is talking to you!” The tallest of the bunch, perhaps even the leader of their pack, grabbed me by my necktie. “Normally when you bump into somebody, you’re supposed to apologize.”
The quartet of gyaru—all of whom continued to give me dirty looks—wore gaudy-looking fake nails, and caked-on makeup as if to draw attention away from their messy appearances. How they could leave the house looking as they did was impressive in its own way.
“Apologize? Whatever for?” I asked with a blank look on my face.
“The way I see it, your friend—Miya was it?—was walking with complete disregard for her surroundings, and bumped into me. Now of course, understanding the mistakes of youth, I’m willing to forgive this transgression and go our separate ways.”
A neutral suggestion, let’s see how they take it.
“Don’t fuck with us!”
“Yeah, don’t act like you’re so much more mature, transfer student! Wanna go?”
They clearly took issue with my explanation of the situation, and continued to push me for an apology that—quite frankly—wasn’t going to come. I had hoped they would be a bit more understanding, but if it was going to come to this…
“I’d prefer not to resort to violence. However,” I began to reach for the forearm of the girl grasping onto my necktie, but just before I could retaliate…
“Oye! What the hell is going on here!?”
A boy emerged at the end of the hall.
“Tch.” One of the girls clicked their tongue.
“Heh, seriously…?” I muttered under my breath.
I see now.
Things had just gotten rather interesting.