“…seven, eight!” Arakawa finishes counting, and they start the footwork routine over again, with the next person down the line counting.
After the sixth person, Satoru calls out “Stop!” and they all start the hand drills. The usual repetition, with more than the usual ache in his knees – too much of the sitting techniques the other day.
Practice is, as usual, sweaty and hot and wonderful, and the newly-promoted sophomores are coming along well, which Satoru is proud of. It takes a team to train new members.
The heat and steam feel good, melting away the aches left over from last night and this morning. So does just breathing, sitting here together – not together-together, clearly lovers; they can’t go to that kind of place and don’t want to anyway- but close enough to hear each others’ breathing, and take comfort in it. Or at least Shinsuke is.
He’s been starving for Yoshida, lately. They don’t go to love hotels – most don’t allow male couples anyway, and he doesn’t want to be remembered at the ones that do – so they’re limited to the odd occasion when one of their houses is empty. Often in public they don’t even touch, not even knees under the table.
The gate to the house is open, as Seikichi has always remembered it. In any other family he would read it as friendliness; from the Maeda it is because they have been poor for long enough that the door has broken and they have no money to fix it.
The better for them to hear him, anyway, and for their youngest son to make his way out to the street, to meet Seikichi again. It has been many months since they have spoken, and Seikichi misses the sound of his voice.
The seats are almost all full at this point, and Shinsuke shifts his bag on his shoulders, shutting the door behind himself so he won’t interfere with the professor’s lecture, before starting to walk down the rows of seats to look for a place.
There are two seats open on this side of the classroom. One is on the far side of a guy who is clearly asleep, head down on the desk cushioned by his crossed arms, so Shinsuke can’t sit there. The other is a middle seat, between a girl, sitting on the far side of the table, who’s writing an email on her cell phone; and a guy, sitting on Shinsuke’s side of the table, who’s got one of the buds of his earphones in and is tapping his pencil on a mostly-empty sheet of looseleaf instead of listening to the professor’s lecture.
The grass scratches against the back of Shinsuke’s neck. He should stop lazing about in the grassy spot next to Kamiya’s house and go home to study, but he doesn’t much want to – it’s warm, and the sun feels good on his skin.
There’s music coming from somewhere. He opens his eyes, leans up. There’s a boy, maybe a little older than himself but not much, sitting on the other side of the street on one of the benches outside Chiyo’s shop, plucking listlessly at a shamisen. It sounds like he doesn’t really know what he’s doing, but his head is tilted towards the handles as he twists them. Tuning it, then. Shinsuke lets his head drop, then has a thought and sits up all the way.
“Isn’t that a woman’s kind of instrument?” he shouts over.
by MYŌGADANI Mōra (茗荷谷 望裸)
Jonathan is on the floor where he collapsed after they reached the safe house, trying to breathe. His gun is still in his hand, and he supposes, through a haze of oxygen debt, that he ought to let go of it, so he does. It clunks onto the flooring, ceramic-and-plastic against the cheap smokeglass.
Aaron, sitting on the floor near him, is breathing almost normally again, but isn’t moving yet.