February 12th, Reiwa 9 — Tokyo, Japan
Welcome back. We’re skipping ahead to a Friday, this ought to be a bit more interesting. Imari’s school doesn’t have a half day on Saturdays like some other schools. Plus, he’s a senior, what would even be the point? Thus, we know it’s a Friday like the Friday’s we’re accustomed to: the last day of the week. Last time was a bit… mundane. Trust me, this guy can be pretty interesting at times. Let’s just call that one a down beat.
The morning begins… I mean starts. The morning starts with an alarm. Imari wakes up enough to reach for his phone and hit the snooze button once again. Ten minutes later, he wakes up to another alarm, this time managing to hit the stop button instead. Yes, now he is truly awake, able to get out of bed without needing to stop and stare at the ceiling this time. The rest of the morning also continues on similar lines to last time: getting dressed, eating a small breakfast, and walking to the train station.
Imari is in the rather enviable position of being able to take a train to school, something that’s not really all that common throughout the world. Sure, there’s busses in just about any urban area, but trains with dedicated routes and consistent timetables are something of a luxury. This is really what the Tokyo of this era is known for, in my opinion. It’s absolutely saturated with train routes, as if brute forcing its way through the last mile problem. Even then, this trek is also a bit of a sour reminder of Imari’s more ambitious days of youth. Just three years ago, he was a much more proactive and ambitious student, managing to pass the entrance exams for a decent technical high. The nearest high school, which was his backup school at the time, is actually along the way to the station. It’s unclear how deeply he really feels about this, but he can never help but notice that school when it pops up in the corner of his vision.
More importantly, the train station is where he’s likely to run into one of his closer friends: Kano Shiori. She lives in the same apartment building as him, but they’re not childhood friends or anything like that. The two of them only met last year, when she was accepted at his school and thus has just about the same commute. They definitely don’t have that sort of closeness that would lead either of them to wait for the other before heading to the station. Really, they have such contrasting morning routines that Imari would have to spend most mornings waiting outside Shiori’s door if that was something he wanted; but since that isn’t the case, he often ends up on entirely different trains from her.
Given the late start of Tuesday, it would be reasonable to assume that day would have been one of the occasions where the two of them managed to get onto the same train. This only didn’t come to fruition because Shiori caught a cold over the weekend and didn’t show up to school until Thursday. Seeing as she’s a bit more serious about school than Imari, missing a few days is something she ought to make up for with gusto. That is to say that she is waiting on the platform when Imari arrives.
“Good morning, Imari-senpai.”
“Ah, morning, Kano.”
The two stand next to each other in awkward silence for a bit, just staring out toward the track while waiting for the train. Shiori glances Imari’s way occasionally, sometimes opening her mouth a little as if she’s about to say something yet continues to hold her tongue. This situation really only goes on for five minutes or so before the train finally arrives to end it. Watching a couple teenagers stand in silence isn’t a particularly exhilarating time, they more or less fade into the background as the waves of passengers pass each other at the car doors.
Neither of them feels the need to sit on a busy train like this one. They’re young and only have a few stops before their destination, no reason to take up spaces that might be needed by someone else just for whatever brief rest it might provide. That’s the sort of explanation one would expect for why they resume their awkward side-by-side near the door after boarding, though we could conjecture that really Imari just doesn’t want to take up space and Shiori is simply opting to follow him.
It isn’t until they reach their stop that Shiori finally manages to voice whatever was on her mind this whole time: “you been feeling okay, senpai?”
“Huh, what? Were you worried you got me sick?” “Oh, come on, we’ve barely even seen each other at school this week! I mean, you’ve been even more quiet than usual!”
“Ah, that… wait, have I?”
“Yeah, you have. You haven’t spoken to anyone since I got back to school.”
Silence reigns again as they continue to walk towards school. Shiori puffs up her cheeks a little bit as she watches Imari cycle through a number of contemplative facial expressions. Guilty as charged, this guy has zero ability to hide his emotions. Having this pointed out to him, he has two options: either open up about the thing that’s been bothering him or use what he’s learned here to better cover up his mental state.
“I suppose you’re right. I’ve just been thinking about what I’m going to do after graduation.”
Wait, which path did he choose here?
“Is that all? Don’t worry me like that, senpai,” she replies in exasperation, looking a bit relieved all the while.
“Yeah, it’s no biggie. Just a little pre-graduation anxiety.” He laughs it off, it seems he’s chosen the latter route with this. What a shame.
“We are friends, Imari-kun, you can always talk to me if something is worrying you.”
Into the lull once more. Neither of them manage to break this new silence before it comes time to split up at the school entrance. They’re in different grades, let alone different classes, so their shoe lockers are nowhere near each other. Each gives a little nod of a bow to the other as they break off to go swap into their indoor shoes.
Here at the lockers, we get to meet another one of Imari’s friends, Matsuda Jintarou. These two go way back… to the beginning of high school. Jin, as his friends call him, stands a couple centimeters taller than Imari, not enough that either really needs to tilt their head to speak to the other but it is noticeable. They have similar hobbies, on might be a bit more willing to call Jin an otaku than they would Imari, but they’re still into the same things.
“Yo, Imari, did you check out that game I told you about.”
“Good morning to you too, Jintarou.”
“C’mon man, it’s really good. Well, it is a bit of a grind, but it’s totally worth it. The character skins they just released are amazing, you have to see them.”
“I dunno, I’m not really into big RPGs these days.”
They drop their indoor shoes to the floor while placing their outdoor ones in the lockers at the same time. Jin is turned towards Imari the whole time, while Imari seems to be dedicating himself to only acknowledging the objects in his hands.
“Sure, sure, but there’s lots of cute girls you can play in the game, I know how much you always preferred to play like that.”
“Oh! Speaking of girls, it’s Valentine’s Day this weekend! You gonna take anyone out then?”
Not that Jin is anyone to talk here, but Imari has, in fact, never dated anyone. No real shame in it, they’re still just in high school. Of course, he’s thought about it profusely, it’s probably one of the top five contributors to his current mood even. Still, it’s suspicious that Jin would bring it up at all.
“No, why even bring it up?”
“Well, see, I… maybe… might… be going out with Shiori.”
Now having changed their shoes, the two of them continue into the school toward the third year classrooms. Jin returns to talking about the latest game he’s gotten into and how he really wants Imari to get into it too. Imari nods along, feigning interest in every little detail presented to him, trying desperately to keep talking while obviously struggling to even just mumble.
By the time they reach their class and take their seats, Imari is just continuously nodding his head along with whatever Jin says. At some point, he stopped even hearing the world around him. The words of his friend, the bustle of his other classmates, the door sliding open as their teacher enters the classroom, it all fades into white noise.
Yamada Imari has a crush on Shiori Kano.