There is a height chart of the main characters on my deviantART account. Same name as on here.
The 1-1 are line breaks, because FictionPress is being an ass and not fixing the document manager.
It seemed like just yesterday he was being awoken by Yomi – Being fully formed and shaped into a seemingly-human body, and being raised in a world of never-ending darkness and floating plasma with only the overseer's company keeping him from being completely alone.
Yes sir, time truly did fly when you were dead.
Dead… That word could barely describe the ghost Takumi, seeing as he had never been alive. What he was, was a genborei – A manner of ectoplasm who never had the pleasure of tasting the sweet air of the mortal realm. In other words, a ghost who was never human. A ghost who just happened to manifest out of thin air one day in the next world.
Takumi was a rare case of an aging afterlife resident. When he was "born", he was indeed in the shape of a human, but in the shape of a human infant. From there, his form expanded day after day, continuing to grow as a person would. The process had been faster when he was younger, but even at almost a decade and a half, his growth continued. Yomi always called him a queer being for this.
Yomi was the guardian of space and time, whose title was actually Yomi no Mihariban; "Hell's Guard", in other terms. Yomi was a simple nickname Takumi had given him. Or her. He could never really tell what Yomi's gender was, but Takumi had always assumed that the spirit was male. He had asked Yomi once, and was told that it wasn't an important matter; but he didn't complain when the genborei had pictured him as he did.
Yomi had many hourglasses and mirrors to watch over the human world, as it was his job, but Takumi's favorite had to be the dials in the middle of the guardian's central gardens.
Yomi had two different gardens. One contained a sundial, the other, a moondial. The sundial allowed him to peer in on the human world at daytime hours, and the moondial allowed him to do the same for nighttime hours. Though it was against the rules for anybody but the Mihariban to view, it was one of Takumi's favorite pastimes to enter the gardens and use the dials to see both sides of the Earth at once. He could see Canada during their afternoon hours, and then see China late at night in a span of barely two minutes.
Such as he was doing right now.
Takumi was perched on top of the Gothic-like Midnight Gateway, staring into the moondial below through his long, stark white bangs. It was around eight PM in a place called Peru, and none of them seemed the slightest bit tired. No matter how many times Takumi moved the dial's coordinates in that country, a good percentage of the people always seemed to be either eating, sleeping, or playing something called soccer. Nevertheless, they looked like they were having a lot of fun.
Takumi always wondered exactly what was so fun about being a human. Not that there was very much to enjoy about being a ghost either, but he had already seen that side of the coin. It was a marvel how those living could enjoy themselves so much when they knew their lifespans were short.
"Curious beings, are they not?"
If not for his form's incredibly low temperature, Takumi would have felt a chill. Slowly, the ghost boy turned his head over his shoulders, and came into eye contact with Yomi… Or, what would be eye contact, had Yomi not been wearing a blindfold over his empty eye sockets. Takumi jumped from his perched stance, and floated over to the guardian slowly.
"Master Yomi…" he noted meekly. "I-I'm sorry for intruding in your-"
"No, you're not," Yomi interrupted stoically. "You said that last time."
"I meant it then t-"
"The phrase implies that you won't do whatever you're sorry for again in the future. And yet here we are, time after time, in the same position, for the same circumstance. Now… Are you truly sorry?" It didn't matter than Yomi didn't have eyes. Takumi somehow felt his mentor boring into his ethereal form.
"I… am," he answered carefully. "I won't use the moondial to watch the living world again." This did not appease Yomi. His eyebrows lowered even more.
"Do not try to fool me with words," he snapped icily. "You specifically said the moondial, and nothing about the sundial in the opposing garden. You tried to create a loophole for yourself so you could get out of trouble in the future." Takumi flinched. So trying to fool an all-knowing supernatural being with words wasn't one of his better ideas. I should just stick to sneaking around. "And no, you will not be sneaking around in the future." Huh. Takumi had forgotten that little ability.
"I'm sorry, Master," he repeated mechanically. "I will not use either dials to observe humans again." Yomi's brows lifted slowly. He sensed the boy would try to do the same thing in the future, but he couldn't do anything about it right now. That bridge would be crossed when it arrived. Yomi floated past Takumi, gliding down to the center of the moondial. The people in the reflection were preparing for some sort of huge dinner, presumably for a party or festival.
"… Tell me. Why are you so curious about the inhabitants of Earth, Takumi?" In response to his mentor's question, Takumi merely shrugged.
"Maybe I was one before," he said flatly. "You never know." Yomi grunted dubiously.
"I know everything," he insisted. "And take my word for it, Takumi. You have white hair. Your eyes are red. Your skin is translucent. The only tangible parts of you are where you have clothing. You are an anomaly, that is true – Even for the world of the dead – But you were never human; even if you happen to take the shape of one." Takumi rolled his eyes, and shook his head slowly. Jokes never went over too well with Yomi. The guardian always had to take everything so literally.
"I'm sorry for speaking out of term, Master." Yomi nodded at the apology.
"Very good. Now, if you have the time to intrude on what is my private work, you have time to study. Go read up on the history of the late Roman Empire." Takumi waved a transparent hand nonchalantly.
"Yes, Master Yomi… I'll be off, then." Takumi then disappeared in a black mist, the same color as his shirt and camo cargo pants. Yomi watched his disciple phase away before returning to watching the images in the moondial float by. The human race… Curious indeed.
Where living, breathing humans were concerned, Yomi was probably at the same level of perplexity as Takumi was. However, in terms of being able to understand… The master was vastly outclassed by his pupil.
The genborei boy may have been too curious for his own good, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. He was a smart kind of curious, and because of his young age, he would be able to comprehend a human's thinking pattern with time. This would, in turn, make him a great time guardian when he was older. There was, however, one thing keeping him from being a truly great addition to the Observatory Night… And that was his lack of emotions.
True, not one genborei had ever felt more than maybe one or two emotions… But Takumi was different. He showed himself to be able to have at least five, which was very much a first. He had the capability to feel more than the average ghost did, and definitely more than any genborei before him.
In the long run, though, this ability would forever be severely handicapped.
Takumi always counted down to the day of his death. It was the ghost equivalent of a birthday, only without the big party and celebration. To put it simply, it was the day he became ectoplasm in the world of the dead.
It wasn't a very big deal at all; Takumi simply liked to know how long he had been with his master. Time moved fairly quickly to him, so unless he counted days with Yomi's calendar, he wouldn't know how old he was. It was a strange thing to keep track of, he knew; but it was sort of fun.
Two days from now, he would be turning fifteen. A decade and a half. Five thousand, four hundred and seventy-seven days and nights.
Time really did fly by when you're dead.
A day later…
Book after book, scroll after scroll, papyrus after papyrus; whatever kind of format it was, if it had records written on it, Yomi owned it. The Observatory Night lookout loved all forms of history, whether it be recorded in his mirrors or written down by human hand. It was his job to correct any of the mistakes and make sure they weren't made again.
Needless to say, some mistakes were too great to fix. There was nothing he could do about wars, genocide, natural disasters, and other heavy events in the like. Messing up time and history too much wouldn't be a good thing.
Peering down at the rice paper scroll in his hand, Yomi noted the murder of two small children and their relatives from the 1400's. Such was not a very big loss, but then he realized that the same murderer went on to gather a group and maraud several villages before he was killed. Yomi debated whether or not he should attempt to mend this part of history. True, the man was a small-named villain, and had no other effect on the timeline. He was insignificant at best; but fifteen people was Yomi's limit for change, and this man had killed nearly four times that much. If it was worth the risk or not, he would have to think on it and consult an alternate timeline to check.
"Well now, the great Guardian of Time at work. As per usual, I suppose."
Yomi gripped the scroll in his hands, a shiver overcoming him as another, familiar voice entered his library. With caution, he turned around, feeling the presence of one of the spirits that was undoubtedly unwelcome in this territory.
"Kenga. What a surprise." Yomi let go of the scroll, allowing it to float freely in the air. "To what do I owe this… pleasure?" Kenga leaped down from the high window in the room, gracefully gliding down to Yomi's level. His heavy boots made a thud against the wooden floor.
"Can't an old friend come to say hello? And where is that boy? I'm sure he's been growing up splendidly." The creases on Yomi's face contorted in annoyance.
"You are no friend of mine," he snapped. "And the boy is none of your concern. Now, tell me. What is your reason for coming here?"
"Oh, I'm sure you can guess why I continue to visit you after all this time," Kenga replied smoothly. "After all, you are the master of space and time." Yomi's teeth clenched.
"You're not getting what you came for. That's that."
Kenga was, like Takumi, a genborei. Only, unlike Takumi, Kenga was manifested in his current adult form; and, also unlike the boy, Kenga only looked to further what power was granted to him. Stereotypical motive, Yomi noted mentally. Extremely stereotypical motive. If it wasn't for what he was after and what he could do, Yomi wouldn't be so frighteningly irritated at Kenga's numerous appearances.
All ghosts have an innate special ability. It varies from entity to entity, depending on the person's "live" personality, how they died, among numerous other variables. Genborei types, on the other hand, were able to have several different abilities, depending on what type they were. The two most common types were Foreign types and Morning types.
Foreign types are those who are born from space. They develop a maximum of two abilities, usually pertaining to control over human bodies and ghostly entities. They are excellent shapeshifters and are empathic, the latter being a rare ability for a ghost. Psychokinesis is also common. These are the poltergeists that plague the human world from time to time.
Morning types are those born from time. The maximum number of abilities is usually four at most, and they will always have the power to steal, manipulate, and give souls to the living. They can create clones of themselves, control shadows, and can usually summon energy to use as a weapon. They can also become tangible when in the human world, if they ever went there. Kenga happens to fall under this dangerous category.
Then there was the rarest type of genborei ghost, one which there has only been two in existence: the Circadian type. The Circadian type has the rarest inherent ability – The ability to age according to the Gregorian calendar. They will not usually have the same abilities as Foreign and Morning types, and the number of different talents they can acquire over time is unknown. It's assumed that they are probably the closest thing to a living being.
The first Circadian type burnt out his energy thousands of years ago by entering the human realm too often. The second one was Takumi.
Yomi raised his hand, and summoned his bow and arrow to his wrist, pointing it straight at the genborei in front of him. "I warn you again, Kenga," he snarled. "Keep away from the boy. As I said before, he is none of your concern." Kenga stepped forward, a snakelike grin on his face.
"Oh, pish posh," he said. "Of course he's my concern."
"In what way?"
"Glad you asked." Kenga's head rotated left and right, staring at the many books lining the shelves across the wall. Though it seemed he wasn't all them interested in looking at them. "He's the only other genborei in existence right now, and an extremely rare one at that. Wouldn't it be best to have a mentor who you could relate to? I had planned on training him from early on, but…" Kenga scoffed. "You got a hold of him first."
"If you were after him for your sick motives, then that was for the best," Yomi said calmly.
"Au contraire, my dear observer." Kenga shook his head. "Calling my reasons 'sick' is a rather large insult. Training with another like yourself is a very good thing, though you wouldn't know since you're the only one of your type. You've, however, molded that boy into a student image of yourself rather than what he should be. One entity to watch over the time stream is enough, don't you think?" The ghost paused to sigh dramatically, shaking his head back and forth. His purple bangs moved along with the motion. "It's a real pity the boy will never reach his full potential." Yomi was just barely holding back his fire.
"And pray tell, Kenga… What do you think he should be?"
"Mine." The answer was short, simple, and said with a wide, toothy grin that made the entity look like a vampire. "He and his unique abilities should be mine, should he ever gain full control of them. Training from me could help with that, you see."
"Never." With that, Yomi set loose the arrow which was lined up with his bow. It became a streak of green lightning as it gained closer proximity to Kenga. Unfortunately, by now, Kenga was used to such an attack, and simply became intangible before it could hit him. The lightning passed harmlessly through his ethereal body, and collided with the wall behind them. Kenga yawned, loudly and rudely.
"I do believe that trick is outdated, Yomi dear… As are you," he said calmly. "And I've no time for old tricks. But…" Kenga jumped off the floor, and floated into the air. "Mark my words, observer. That boy is special. You've kept me from him for years now, but he's finally reaching his second age of maturation. His abilities will be ripe for the picking in the next twenty-four hours, and because you have and always will lack the ability to train him properly, you know what will happen if I get my hands on him. Not that you'll be able to do anything about it." Flashing a final, gleaming white smile, Kenga saluted to Yomi, and flew out the same window he had entered through. "Adieu!"
Yomi grunted, his bow vanishing in a stream of blue mist. That ghost is an excruciatingly persistent pain in my side… He didn't need to constantly be interrupted by that elder genborei, if he was just going to incessantly spew the same garbage over and over again. If there was ever the need for an exorcist, it would be for Kenga.
Yomi reclaimed the scroll that had been floating behind him, lips pressed tightly together. Still… As much as it pained the overseer to admit, one thing Kenga had said was true.
It's a real pity the boy will never reach his full potential.
"Takumi, at my front and center. Immediately!"
Yomi's voice boomed throughout the vicinity at an ear-shattering volume. Takumi dropped the books he had been carrying, an wooden-like echoing coming from the floorboards of the library. The boy hissed at the noise, as if he were afraid to get caught for doing something bad. He blew his pale bangs up exasperatedly. Yomi needs a different way to contact me…
Switching to his intangible mode, Takumi flew upwards and phased through the roof. He went through two levels of the building before he ended up in Yomi's workplace. The observer was standing in front of his largest hourglass, watching the endless amount of sand drip down. Takumi allowed himself to become solid again, and dropped down to the floor lightly.
"You called for me, Master Yomi?"
"I did." The elder ghost turned around, his blindfold's tails swishing about. "Takumi, I have something of a gift for you." Takumi's crimson eyes widened.
"A… A gift?" he repeated. If he ever needed an example of his mentor acting out of character, this would surely be the number one on the list. Yomi and giving gifts seemed like such an… odd combination. Yomi and anything sentimental seemed like an odd combination.
"Well, I don't know if I would call it a 'gift'," Yomi said. "Would you rather me call it a mission? Or an assignment?"
"That… would depend," Takumi replied cautiously. "What have you summoned me for, Master Yomi?"
"Starting tomorrow, you will be spending six months in the realm of the living. It will be a good studying experience for you, and will make you a better schola-"
"Earth ! ?" Takumi screeched, interrupting Yomi midway. "Y-You're sending me to… Earth ! ?"
"You are not deaf, boy," Yomi growled, massaging his head with his fingers. "Though I might one day be, if you continue to break the sound barrier like that."
"S-Sorry…" Takumi apologized. "B-But… Why am I being sent to be among the living? And for such an extended period of time?" He scratched behind his neck, frowning in confusion. "Besides, won't I burn out if I go there? I would rather not cease to exist, if I can help it."
"You will be wrapped in what is essentially a human skin," Yomi explained. "It can survive in sunlight and air for as long as you're needed to."
"… … And… Where will I be living, exactly? I don't believe being out on the streets will suit me very well… People would notice me, and they would start to wonder…"
"I'm setting you up at the house of a family that goes by the surname of Ishimura. They live in an area that would be good for your research." Yomi folded his arms, and hovered around his pupil in a three hundred and sixty degree motion. "Of course, whether you choose to do this is entirely up to you. As a human, you will experience things you have never seen before, things that you have not come across while watching from the gardens." Takumi visibly flinched at that last one. "You will have new thoughts, senses, and above all, new emotions. I'm not talking about what you experience now. Those are not true emotions." Takumi stared at his mentor, perplexed by the words.
"Th… They're not…?" Yomi paused.
"… Takumi. Humans are containers for essence. They experience joy… anger… fear… sadness… jealousy… hatred… love. You have never felt many of these things before, and what you have, never to the same degree as a living person. It would be overwhelming for you." Yomi finished his circling, and floated back over to his hourglass, his reflection bouncing off of it. "So, answer me, my apprentice… Do you want to do take part in this experiment?"
"… You're seriously allowing me to do this?" Takumi checked nervously. "Because, last time I checked, you weren't too keen on letting me even watch humans. Now you're letting me live with them?"
"Consider it a birthday present of sorts."
"Don't you mean death-day present?" Takumi smirked jokingly. Yomi was silent. "… Right. Jokes don't go over well with you." The genborei flipped his bangs back, and put his hands on his hips. "I guess I'm in, then. So when do I start?" Yomi grinned.
"You start tomorrow, early in the morning."
… This has got to be some kind of joke.
Takumi stared at the papers in his hand, making an extremely disdainful face at it. At the top was his name, now given kanji, and his makeshift last name… with the exact same kanji. Both 'Takumi' and 'Hakuba' were written with the kanji for 'soul' and 'bewitch'; just with different readings. The disguised genborei snorted. Either this is Yomi's idea of a joke, or he just didn't have any better ideas.
Currently, Takumi was standing underneath a tree in the park closest to where he would be staying. Yomi had dropped him there not too long ago, and when the boy touched down to Earth, he was already in his human skin – Complete with pitch-black hair, bright green eyes, and a non-transparent body. He was the exact opposite of how he was as a ghost, even with his clothes. While he was normally dressed in black, the entirety of his outfit was now white. The only article of clothing left on him that was black was his skin-tight bodysuit; but then again, he wasn't allowed to remove that.
Flipping through his transfer papers, Takumi found the name of the people whom he was supposed to be staying with. Like Yomi had said, their last name was Ishimura. Their address was listed towards the middle of the paper, and nothing looked more confusing. It's a good thing a picture of the house was included; otherwise he would've gotten lost trying to figure out what the numbers meant.
Takumi shoved the papers back into his backpack, and threw it over his shoulder, keeping the picture in his hand. He would need it; a lot of the houses looked the same. Takumi picked up his suitcase – Where Yomi had gotten that was beyond him – And headed out of the park.
The Ishimura residence was fairly easy to find when you knew what it looked like, even if most of the houses in the area were identical. The photo of it helped Takumi a lot. Once he found it, however, he was presented with another problem.
How to get in.
The house was a modest, cream-colored building surrounded by a similarly-colored wall. Blocking the path to the front door was a solid black iron gate that would be impossible for him to jump over. Such a problem would be solved by him simply phasing though the gate, but that was impossible with a human skin. Yelling in such a quiet place would also be quite rude.
Takumi set his suitcase on the street, and folded his arms. He tilted his head up and around to get a good view of the home, green eyes littered with confusion. Once again, he came to eye level with the center bars of the gate, and scratched his head. So how am I supposed to get them to notice me?
"Hey kid, what are you doing in front of my house?"
Takumi's head whipped to the left in surprise. A girl with dark hair, who happened to be taller than he was, was standing a few feet away from him, and wearing an angry stare. Takumi looked around the street, but there was nobody there but them. He looked back to the girl, and pointed to himself with his index finger.
"Are you… talking to me?" he asked. "You can see me?" The girl rolled her green eyes sky high, and put her hands on her hips.
"Why wouldn't I be able to see you, you twit?" she retorted. … Good point, Takumi mentally answered. There shouldn't be any reason why the living wouldn't be able to see him while he's wearing his layer of skin. The questions were rather stupid, he supposed. He fixed his pale-colored jacket, pulling it downward to try and make it look longer.
"I, um… My name is Takumi, ma'am," he replied shakily. He shuffled through his pants' pockets, and pulled out his crumpled papers. "I… thought this was the Ishimura residence? Am I mistaken?"
"The nameplate says Ishimura," the girl said, pointing to the stone wall. Takumi briefly looked to where she directed him to. She was right again. How hadn't he seen that before? "And anyway, why are you looking for my house?" This is her home? Yomi hadn't said anything about the Ishimuras having a child… Let alone a daughter. She tugged the pieces of paper out of his hand, and stared at the crooked one right in front. As she read through, her eyes grew wider and wider. Finally, she dropped her arm, pushed open the gate to her house, and barged through the front door.
"Moooom! What is this ! ?" she yelled. Takumi, having nothing else to do, followed her inside the gates. He stopped walking when he reached the doorstep, right before entering the home. The girl in question was currently yelling at who was probably her mother, given the age difference. "… Seriously, mom! What the hell ! ? A homestay ! ? Why wasn't I informed about this ! ?"
"Maiko-chan, calm down!" the mother exclaimed. "We thought this would be a good experience! Housing a student from a different country is a wonderful opportunity! My family did the same thing when I was your age!"
"Why. Wasn't I. Informed. Of this?" The girl, whose name was presumably Maiko, repeated her earlier question, teeth gritting together.
"We were going to tell you," her mother insisted. "But we only signed up for it yesterday… We didn't think he'd be coming so soon…" The older woman looked past her daughter, straight at Takumi, and smiled gently. "You don't have to stand there, you know. You can come in." Takumi shuffled his feet.
"It doesn't seem like I'm very welcome here…" he murmured.
"Nonsense! My daughter is just being a brat at the moment. She does that when she's on her period."
"Mom-!" Maiko blushed heavily. "That is something private, damn it!" Takumi wanted to nod, but felt it would be better not to. He had read enough to know exactly what they were talking about. The thought of it made him feel a little green.
"I'm Nanami, by the way," the mother continued. "Nanami Ishimura, at your service."
"Nanami… san," Takumi started. He was still very clumsy with words. "I thank you for your… hospital?"
"It's 'hospitality', dear," Nanami corrected him. She walked over to the doorway, and stopped in front of the boy. "By the way, dear… What is your name?"
"Ta-Takumi, miss… Takumi Hakuba." Nanami frowned.
"That's a Japanese name, is it not?" she checked. Maiko flashed the transfer papers in front of her mother's face.
"Yes, mom," she said. "Yes it is. Now, what was that about housing someone from another country…?" Nanami looked at the papers curiously.
"Well, I'll be… Takumi Hakuba… What a strange name you have."
"I'm well aware," Takumi replied, somewhat bitterly. Thanks a ton, Yomi.
"I assumed we'd be getting someone from Great Britain, or America, or… somewhere west," Nanami said. "I didn't think we'd be getting a resident Japanese citizen."
"I, uh…" Takumi scratched his head. "I'm Japanese, but… I'm not a citizen… I live in… Spain." Nanami seemed to brighten up.
"Ooooh, Spain! What a lovely country! Can you say something for me in Spanish, please!"
"Mom! Aren't you forgetting some things!" Maiko interrupted. "Where the hell is he going to stay? The guest room is currently full of your photo albums. All thirty-seven boxes of them." Nanami frowned again, although this time she seemed a little more panicked.
"O-Oh, my! You're right! I'm so sorry, Hakuba-kun!" she apologized frantically. "I didn't expect your arrival to be so… sudden!" Takumi already knew he liked this woman. She had made a good first impression on him, unlike her daughter. She was a little ditzy, but he found it endearing.
"Nanami-san, it's perfectly fine," he assured her. "I will take up residence elsewhere if I have to." Nanami suddenly grabbed him by his shoulders and pulled him inside the house. Takumi dropped his bag on the floor from the shock.
"No, no, no, my dear! We signed up for this, so you are staying here!" she insisted hotly. "You can stay with Maiko until I get the guest room cleaned out!"
"Mother!" Maiko huffed indignantly. "Are you insane ! ? I am not sharing my room with a boy! Aren't you worried he'll do something to me in my sleep?"
"Maiko-chan, you're a third-year in high school with a second degree black belt in karate," Nanami stated flatly. "You'll be fine." Takumi's green eyes widened. Third-year in high school? That didn't sound right. Yomi had told him that he was a third-year as well, but a third-year in middle school. Weren't homestays supposed to be assigned to families with children the same age? It wasn't like his master to make that sort of mistake… Heck, it wasn't like Yomi to make mistakes at all.
Outside of his thought pattern, the arguing continued between mother and daughter.
"I don't want him in my room!"
"Why are you so adamant about this?"
"Because I don't want to be sleeping near some weirdo I don't even know! That's why!"
"I'd be comfortable with the couch…"
"See ! ? He likes the couch!"
"No." Nanami crossed her arms. "He's staying with you. Your room has a lot of empty space, and I will not have our guest without a proper place to spend the night. That. Is. Final. Now, help me get the air mattress out of the closet. I can't reach it." Nanami walked past the two of them, and to her destination. Maiko groaned loudly.
"Just great. Now I'm stuck babysitting some freaky kid." She looked at Takumi with something just short of a glare. "Well? Grab your bag and get in here. This is your home for a while, after all."
Takumi wisely did as he was told.
Not even an hour later, Takumi was introduced to the man of the household, Kuhama Ishimura. He was a robust, genial man in his early forties, and he towered over everyone – Especially Takumi, who was somewhat disconcerted with the fact that he was the shortest person there. Even Maiko was taller than him by a few inches.
Maiko. That girl seemed not to like him too much. This wouldn't have bothered him, had he actually known why she was so displeased with him being here. He knew that it wasn't because she disliked boys; he had overheard her and Nanami discussing the prospect of her going out with a couple of friends by the names of Aimi, Ichiro and Hiroaki. Two of those names were obviously male.
Maybe she just needed time to get used to him. After all, he was a stranger.
Dinner came shortly after his meeting of the entire family. It was his first time eating, as a human or a ghost, and he'd be damned if he didn't want to do it again sometime soon. The concept of 'taste' was something he wasn't too familiar with, but one mouthful of Nanami Ishimura's cooking made him want seconds and thirds. Kuhama had been amused by Takumi's appetite, and the ghost boy wondered if he had done something wrong. Nanami assured him that her husband was laughing because he enjoyed the company of another man in the house. Maiko had sharply corrected her mother, saying that Takumi was a boy, not a man.
Takumi didn't know if he should have felt insulted by this, or if she should have thanked her for being accurate.
While he was disappointed that the next meal wouldn't be until morning, Takumi complied with this rule easily. He remembered that it was important to be extremely polite with these people. He had asked if he could do the dishes, since it was one of the few things he knew he could do, but Nanami had declined. She said that she and Maiko would do them, much to her daughter's displeasure. Kuhama had then gone upstairs to set up the air mattress in Maiko's room.
A kind mother, an amiable father, and a bratty older sister… All in all, Takumi's first experience with a family wasn't too shabby at all.
"You, stay here." Maiko pointed to the air mattress beside her own bed. "You are not to move from this spot unless it's to go to the bathroom. Furthermore, tomorrow, you are going to wake up early and you're not going to complain. Got it?" Takumi nodded slowly, clutching his backpack to his chest. Maiko was busy explaining his temporary arrangements in her room.
"R-Right… I'm not to move from the bed. Got it. Thank you, Maiko-san." Maiko gave him a look.
"'Thank you'?" she repeated. "What for?"
"I… don't really know. I just felt like saying it."
"… You are weird."
"Is that a bad thing?"
"I don't know. I haven't decided. I just met you."
"Fair indeed. Now, get out so I can change into my pajamas."
Yomi watched the moondial's images float by with boredom. An odd concept, indeed. He had never really been bored watching over humans; but since his only student was currently experiencing living for the first time, maybe he was more anxious than he was bored. He wanted to quickly get his usual job done before checking on Takumi.
True, maybe he was being a little overprotective; but nobody could blame him.
A wild, hyena-like laugh echoed throughout the garden. "Kekeke! Someone's all alone today, I see!" Yomi held back a groan. It was Kenga again. Only this time, he had changed personalities.
Aside from being a genborei, Kenga himself was a peculiar being. From time to time, his personality and countenance changed – Against his will, mind you. He was fine with his default character and qualities. He didn't need them to swap every couple of days. His will did little to stop the process, however, and he found himself with different mindsets when he least expected it. He had grown used to such a thing by now, but it was still very irritating.
Today, he was one of his more annoying selves. One that seemed more like a rambunctious and feral child than an adult.
"Yomi-chan, good day to you!" Kenga greeted loudly. "Has it been two days already? It's seemed like so much longer! Kekeke!"
"If you don't stop that incessant laughter, I will backhand you into last century."
"Oooh, Yomi-chan has an attitude!" Kenga shook his head. "Tsk, tsk. That's no way to speak to friends!"
"You are not my friend, now go away."
"There is nothing here for you," Yomi insisted. "Nothing at all."
"The boy is not 'nothing', cruel Yomi-chan…"
"No, he is not… But he is also not here." Yomi found Kenga's confused reaction to be amusing. The genborei leapt over to Yomi's side, in front of the moondial.
"What do you mean, 'he isn't here'?" he asked. "He has nowhere else to go. Unless…" Kenga grinned again. "Unless you gift-wrapped him and sent him to me! Kekeke!"
"You know, I meant what I said about backhanding you into the last century," Yomi flatly stated. "So leave already, and don't give me a reason to seal you in a mirror."
"A double-threat? Oh, I just love that about you, Yomi-chan! So dangerous!" Kenga cackled. "But let's get down to business. We both know why I'm here, so let's cut a deal! I will leave, and you will let me take from the boy that which is mine! Or better yet, give me the whole package!"
"Mmm, I don't think so, Kenga," Yomi answered quickly. "I told you, he isn't here."
"Oh, my!" Kenga seemed unimpressed with the Mihariban's words. "Then where, my dear friend, is he? Or are you going to leave me in the dark like the cruel person you are?" His lip protruded in a pout as he said those words. Yomi chuckled. It was a deep, smooth sound, and Kenga had never heard it before.
"I have no trouble telling you where he is, Kenga," he said. "Because I know that you won't be able to get to him." Kenga's brows furrowed, his Prussian blue eyes baffled by the guardian's riddle-like sentence.
"Come now, Yomi-chan," he said. "There is not one place in the afterlife that is out of my reach."
"Exactly." Yomi gestured to the moondial, and Kenga followed his gaze. The images in the dial moves counter-clockwise, until they reached a scene from Okinawa, Japan. It was nighttime, and inside of a bathroom, a young boy was getting ready for bed. Currently, he was brushing his teeth. Kenga glared up at Yomi.
"What does this human have to do with anything?"
"Just watch, Kenga…"
The boy rinsed his mouth out, and spat into the porcelain sink. He used the sleeve of his pajamas to wipe his mouth from any stray droplets of water or toothpaste. He lifted his hand up to remove the headband from his hair, but found himself entertained by his reflection in the mirror.
"Ehhh? I really do look different, don't I?" he said to himself. His voice echoed from the moondial, and Kenga's eyes widened when the boy's face came into view. No… No, he didn't…
The boy grabbed the light pink headband and pulled it away, letting his thick bangs hang in front of his bright green eyes. "Aw man, I think my hair's actually longer as a human!" He squinted into the mirror, trying to see through his tresses of black hair. "Maybe I should wear this headband… I can't see otherwise… But I don't think I need to wear it when I sleep…" As the scene progressed, Kenga's facial expression grew more and more contorted with fury.
The boy pulled the matching pink tie from the back of his head, letting the rest of his hair fall to his shoulders. Again, he became bemused by his reflection. "I knew it! My hair is longer when I'm a human! … No, maybe it's just because it's black now instead of white…"
The furious screech of rage that Kenga let out was enough to make the guardian smile.
Takumi groaned, rolling over on his right side. He couldn't sleep. It was pitch dark outside, but he couldn't bring himself to close his eyes and rest. Was it going to be like this every night for him? Six months was going to be hell unless he learned how to do this simple task.
He was a scholar-in-training, for crying out loud. Yet he couldn't even figure out how to put himself into sleep mode? The thought both amused him and annoyed him.
"… Hey. You're awake, aren't you?" Takumi nearly jumped up from the mattress when Maiko's voice came out of nowhere. He flipped over onto his back again, and turned his head upward. Maiko appeared to not have moved at all.
"Um… Maiko-san?" he called softly. "That was you, was it not?"
"Of course it was. Nobody else is in here."
"R-Right, I was just making sure I wasn't hearing things…" Takumi blinked. Even though he hadn't known the girl for a day, this seemed unusual for her. He thought she didn't like him; yet, they conversed. "Why are you asking me if I am awake?"
"I heard you moving around. The air mattress makes a lot of noise."
"Really?" He hadn't noticed. Maybe that was because he was the one on it, though. "I-I'm sorry for waking you up, Maiko-san…"
"I was already awake," she answered. "I didn't go to my practice today. I can't get a good night's sleep unless I do at least an hour of karate a day."
"Ah… I see…" So she was an active girl rather than one who sits around all day. That was good to know. He also noted not to ever give her a reason to be mad at him. Heaven forbid. He wouldn't be able to defend himself. Hadn't her mother said that Maiko was a second-degree black belt?
"I'm sorry about before."
"… Huh?" Takumi turned his head to the left, and peered up at Maiko's bed. The girl was staring up at her ceiling, her hands and arms stretched out behind her head.
"I guess I reacted kind of badly when you showed up," she continued. "I'm told I don't handle surprises well. I didn't mean to shake you up earlier. And I'm sorry about calling you a kid, and about that babysitting comment I made. Seemed pretty insulting, now that I look back on it." Takumi stared up at her, though she wasn't aware of his gaze.
"O-Oh, I see…" he murmured. For the first time since he was on Earth, Takumi smiled. This girl was nicer than she appeared. He didn't think someone with such pretty green eyes like his own could be mean in the first place. "Thank you, Maiko-san… Ah!" He suddenly remembered the predicament he would have to face when attending school. "Um… There is one thing I feel I should mention, now that you bring up your earlier behavior…" Maiko snorted at this. She was sure that he wasn't trying to sound insulting on purpose.
"What is it?" she asked.
"You're a high school student, right? And you're in your final year… That means your seventeen, correct?"
"Yeah, why? Is there a problem?"
"N-Not really, it's just… I'm only fourteen."
"Eh? Ehhhhh ! ?" Maiko instantly turned over in her bed in order to look at the boy sleeping on the floor below her. "Fourteen ! ?" Takumi shrank back under his covers.
"Y-Yes, four- Oh, wait… Never mind. As of today, I'm fifteen years old."
"You just turned fifteen?" Maiko groaned loudly, and flopped onto her back again. "Geez…! We're not even housing someone who's going to be in the same building as I am!"
"I'm sorry, Maiko-san," Takumi apologized. "I wasn't aware of the set-up, so…" He heard Maiko sigh heavily.
"It's not your fault," she reassured him. "It's the damn system's fault. I'll have to take you to see the principal tomorrow, to get this all sorted out… If you're going to be in the middle school building instead of the high school one, I don't know who's going to be your guide…"
"The… middle school building?" Takumi repeated.
"What, didn't they tell you anything before you transferred over here?" Maiko grunted. "Stupid school systems… Listen. Hatsukoi Academy is composed of two buildings – The middle school one, and the high school one. I attend high school; evidently, you don't. You'll need to check in with the principal about the misunderstanding so he can put you in the right building."
"Ah- Uh. Um… Okay, then…" Takumi frowned. "How do I find the principal, though?"
"I'll take you to him tomorrow. Now, we'd better get some sleep. I don't know how schools in Spain work, but I'm waking your ass up at six."
"Yes, Maiko-san." Takumi turned over on his side, bringing the covers up to his chin. As he attempted to fall asleep again, the prospect of brushing up on his mainland Spanish dialect came to mind.
I really wanted to make this an extremely long oneshot… But this was just getting too long. So instead, I'm making it a short story. Maybe somewhere between three and five chapters.
1) Genborei literally means "a ghost who is dead from the start".
2) Yomi's nickname is actually written as夜見, with the characters for "night" and "view". Takumi created that pun from Yomi's "Observatory Night" title.
3) Takumi's human name, Takumi Hakuba, is written as 魄魅魄魅. It's only using two kanji, but with different readings for his first and last name. Both also contain the radical for "demon", but that doesn't have to do with anything. I just felt like mentioning it.
4) Don't ask me why I chose Spain as Takumi's "home country". My reasoning behind that has nothing to do with the story, and makes no sense.
5) Kekeke!: A form of really annoying evil laughter. Think of a hyena. Or Kururu from Keroro Gunso.
6) The name of the academy is yet another word pun from me (Those who read my story Mabaka! Magic is for Idiots! will find I'm fond of them). Hatsu-koi is a term that refers to budding or first love (I.e., 'school of first love'). With the kanji I use for the name, however, the name is actually 'school of lively carp'. Hooray for my bilingual puns.