Takashi hadn’t thought far enough ahead of himself.
He should have known that Saya would insist on his riding to school with her, but he hadn’t considered it. Monday saw her car sitting in the drive to his house, however, with a text appearing on his phone;
HURRY UP BAKA OR WE’LL BE LATE
Smiling to himself he grabbed his bag and was out the door, locking it behind him. He got in beside Saya and as soon as he closed the door she kissed him.
“Morning, Baka,” she grinned.
“Morning Honey Badger,” he grinned back. “I didn’t expect you to come pick me up, Saya,” he told her as the car moved into traffic.
“You’re my boyfriend,” she said simply, as if that explained everything. “Speaking of which, we need to decide what we will do at school today.”
“We’ll do whatever you’re comfortable with,” he told her at once. She looked at him, surprised.
“I know how private you are, Saya,” he shrugged. “Everyone expects us to be seen talking anyway because we’ve been friends for so long. No one will take much notice of that. If you want to do or say more, I’m fine with it. It will be for you to decide. I’m not going to say or do anything that would embarrass you or make you uncomfortable.”
“Keeping a low key is almost impossible for me,” Saya noted.
“I know,” he agreed. “If we go out this weekend, and others see us, then we’ll be the talk of the school next week in all likelihood. We can say nothing until then if you’d like. They’ll know soon enough. And it’s no one’s business but ours, when it comes right down to it.”
“True,” she mused. “But. . .but I’m really happy, Takashi,” she smiled shyly. It was a side to her he hadn’t seen much of until recently. “And I don’t really care who knows it, either.”
“Me too,” he agreed with her. “But I don’t want you uncomfortable, either, Saya. The same people who couldn’t wait to start running their mouths about what happened with Miyamoto and Igou will do the same thing the moment they see us holding hands, or kissing, or anything else. For me, I could care less,” he shrugged. “For you, I couldn’t care more.”
Saya looked away from him for a moment to lessen the impact of her blushing as she realized again how much Takashi really cared for her. She bit at her lip for a minute, thinking.
“Are you sure you don’t mind everyone not knowing right away?” she finally asked.
“I’m positive,” he nodded firmly. “I know, and that’s all that matters.”
“Morita will give you hell for this, Takashi,” she grinned. “The others too, probably.”
“Don’t care,” he shrugged. “And they won’t say anything rude. I won’t tolerate it,” he told her.
“Very well,” she nodded then, decision made. “We’ll say nothing until someone notices. You should take lunch like you normally do, today at least. We’ll ease into it, the way you suggested.”
“Sounds like a plan,” he smiled.
“Saw you getting out of Takagi’s car, Takashi,” Morita said as they stood at their lockers preparing for their first class.
“She gave me a ride today,” Takashi nodded calmly. “I admit I’m still a bit sore. If my mom drove me, I’d have to be here way too early, or else she’d be late for work.”
“Must be nice,” Morita chuckled. “You know, I think Takagi really likes you, man.”
Takashi made sure Morita couldn’t see his face until it was under control.
“You know, we have been friends since. . .well, forever,” he said as the two started for class.
“Yeah, but. . .it just seems different, lately,” Morita was serious, at least for him. “I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. There isn’t a boy in this school that wouldn’t kill a teacher to get her to look their way, you know.”
“I know,” Takashi nodded, thinking about that. “Look, don’t be-”
“No, man,” Morita held up a hand. “I told you I wouldn’t and I won’t. Promise,” he crossed his heart. “I was just saying.”
Hisashi wasn’t back yet and Takashi wondered if or when he would return. He still didn’t know just exactly what had set Hisashi on him, other than Rei’s little comment right before he’d passed out on the plaza. Since Takashi hadn’t been talking about them, he had no idea what it was that had been said that had angered Hisashi.
As far as Takashi was concerned, the matter was settled. He almost smiled as he realized how much he had changed over the last few weeks. Not long ago he would have been waiting for his former friend to appear so he could attempt to get even. Now, it simply wasn’t important.
This is what it should have felt like with Rei Miyamoto, he realized suddenly, and did smile then.
“What are you smiling at, Baka?” Saya’s voice broke into his thoughts. He turned to see her looking at him, eyebrow raised.
“Just thinking about how much I’ve changed,” he shrugged.
“Disappointed?” she challenged.
“Very happy, actually,” he told her truthfully and was rewarded with a pretty blush on Saya’s cheeks.
“Get to class!” she scolded, tossing her hair as she walked away. He watched her walk away, shaking his head in wry amusement.
Life wasn’t so bad.
It was Wednesday. Life had gone on as normal for two and a half days of school. Lunch came around and Takashi settled on the ground with Morita and Khota, his lunch in his hands.
“Sucks they still got the roof shut off,” Morita said around a mouth full of food.
“I’m sorry, guys,” Takashi sighed.
“Not your fault, man,” Khota shrugged, taking a bite of his own lunch. “This is on Igou, Takashi. He was the one who chose to instigate a fight, and then attack you from behind when you wouldn’t give him one. He could have walked away. He should have walked away,” he added.
“Damn straight,” Morita nodded. “Bad enough that he. . . .” he stopped himself, looking abashed.
“Dude, it’s all right,” Takashi told him. “I know what he did. It’s not like I wasn’t there. It doesn’t matter. Seriously.”
“You sure?” both asked at once.
“I am completely positive,” he assured both of them. “I wish I could have skipped the ass beating, mind you,” he grinned. “But I am not scarred for life by two people who weren’t worthy of my attention or my trust. I’m better off now, and that’s just a fact. Well, ass whipping aside,” he laughed and the other two broke into laughter.
“Well, he is like a black belt, right?” Morita asked.
“I think so,” Takashi nodded. “Yeah, pretty sure he’d made it already.”
“Wonder what will happen to him?” Khota mused.
“Nothing, I hope,” Takashi said without thinking and the two goggled at him. “At least that’s what I asked for.”
“Look,” Takashi set his lunch down. “I wish it hadn’t happened, all right? I wish he had walked away like Khota said. But. . .I don’t want anything bad to happen to him. He’s already missed how much school? His grades are going to suffer as it is, even if he’s back tomorrow. There’s no reason for his life to be ruined or trashed because he got mad about someone running their mouth. I wish whoever had said whatever it was that got said was the one in trouble. Ultimately it was their fault.”
“Man,” Khota shook his head in wonder. “Takashi, you are a lot better man than I am. I’d be hoping he went to jail, probably.”
“That won’t make me any less beat up,” Takashi snorted. “It’s better to forget it, and move on. It’s not like I’m the first teenager to get his ass kicked at school. Right?”
“Too true,” Khota sighed, thinking about his own problems.
“Anyway, enough about all that,” Morita said expansively. “I’ve been working on the list!”
Both his friends groaned, but Morita was not dismayed as he began to recite his newest edition of the ‘hottest girls in school’ list.
He had made it to number six, a junior named Saeko Busujima, when he was interrupted by a female voice.
“Tak-Komuro-san,” Rei Miyamoto said from a few feet away. All three boys stopped talking and looked at her. The older girl flushed under the scrutiny.
“I would like to speak to you, Komuro-san,” she said flatly.
“You shouldn’t be speaking to me at all, Miyamoto-san,” Takashi replied calmly. “There’s nothing to be said between us. It’s better that we avoid each other if at all possible.” His tone was not unkind, but neither was it friendly. It was neutral, giving away nothing.
“There are some things that need to be discussed,” she shot back, just short of being surly.
“No, there aren’t,” Takashi shook his head, getting to his feet. “Please, Miyamoto-san. I’ve asked everyone that this issue be laid to rest. I don’t want to talk about it, to anyone. That includes you. So far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing to say. If you will all excuse me, please?” With that he turned and started back inside.
“Don’t walk away from me Takashi!” Rei called after him, forgetting the ‘Komuro-san’.
“What is your problem, Miyamoto?” he heard Morita say behind him. “Can’t you just leave the man alone?”
“Stay out of this!” he heard Rei snap back.
“He’s already asked that Igou be allowed to return to school,” Takashi heard Khota say as he neared the door.
“What?” the last thing he heard was Rei’s shocked voice behind him. The door closed and he took a deep breath.
“What does she want?” Saya’s voice was trembling. He looked to see her standing a few feet away.
“I have no idea,” he shook his head. “And I don’t care,” he added with a smile. “Hence, me walking away. All grown up and mature,” his smile widened a bit.
“My baka,” Saya said softly. “I found something in the library that might help us with the paper,” she said louder. “It’s not enough to write the paper by itself, but it’s a start. It should help us figure out what questions to ask.”
“Lead on, Lady Saya,” Takashi bowed slightly.
“Shut up!” Saya slapped his arm as the two of them headed for the library.
“You want to go and see the that new action movie tomorrow night?” Takashi asked. He and Saya were sitting in the Takagi library, reading over material for their paper. It was Thursday evening, early.
“The one with the comic book heroes?” Saya looked up. “That one?” Takashi nodded.
“I think I’d like that,” she nodded. “We’ll have to go early,” she thought about it. “It’s supposed to be a long movie.”
“I thought we could make the six o’clock show,” he agreed. “We can go for ice cream after, if you want. We can see the movie at the mall and then walk around there until we get ready to come home.”
“Sounds like a date,” Saya beamed, leaning forward to kiss him lightly. She jumped away from him as if electrified when her father cleared his throat from the door.
“I believe you wanted to talk to me, daughter?” he said as he walked into the room, ignoring his daughter’s furious blush.
“Y-y-yes, Poppa,” Saya stammered. “Takashi and I have to do a history paper together and he thought we could look at how the ancient Samurai crafted their swords. Not look at their use so much as how they were made.”
“Is that so?” Don Takagi’s voice showed interest.
“Yes, Takagi-dono,” Takashi nodded. “There are many swords still in use today that were actually crafted centuries ago. I’m sure I’m not telling you anything new,” he added, red faced at remembering who he was speaking to.
“Indeed,” the older man nodded kindly. “It interests me that you would know that, Takashi.”
“I just think it speaks highly of the craftsmanship that blades forged without our modern ways are still in use, and if what I have read is accurate, are really superior to what is being manufactured today.”
“That is true,” Don Takagi nodded. “I am sure that modern manufacturing could make a reliable blade, and in fact many such manufacturers do. But the simple truth is that no mechanized crafting can compare to a master craftsman plying his trade in the old ways. Some things can only be done the right way.”
“I wanted us to concentrate on what makes the older swords so strong, and so durable,” Takashi nodded.
“Well then,” Takagi mused for a moment. “I can help you some, of course, but what you really need is to speak to someone who literally lives by the blade. I know such a man, learned from him myself in fact, long ago. I will see if he can make time for you to ask him about the ancient techniques. He is not himself a swordsmith, but there is no one in Japan better qualified to judge the quality of a blade. And he will know someone I am sure, who still plies the old trades.”
“That would be of great benefit to us, Takagi-dono,” Takashi bowed slightly.
“I will see what I can do, then,” he nodded. “We will be eating supper soon, by the way,” he smiled. “I assume you will dine with us tonight, Takashi?”
“Of course, sir.”
“Excellent,” the older man nodded. “Twenty minutes, then.” He walked out, leaving the two alone again.
“Arh,” Saya almost growled and Takashi laughed.
“It’s not funny, baka!” she threw a pillow at him. “That scared me half to death!”
“Did you think you were doing something wrong?” he teased.
“No! But that doesn’t mean I want my father watching me kiss my boyfriend!” she retorted.
“Makes sense,” Takashi nodded. “And let’s face it; I’m the one who would have the most to fear if your father saw us kissing and took offense.” Saya’s face brightened at that.
“Yeah, that’s true,” she mused. “And it is your duty to protect me,” she batted her eyes theatrically.
“And I always will,” he promised.