~The Ryoko Arc begins~
Chapter 1: The Boy Who Could "See"
"Futaba-sama, your friend is awaiting your arrival outside."
"Really? I-I'll be right there!" the boy named Futaba, who preferred being called Futa, hurriedly slipped his arms into his red school uniform blazer, and scrambled out into the entrance hallway. He passed the living room and began to slip on his brown leather loafers.
"Futaba-sama, will you not be having breakfast today?" A voice asked from the living room. The voice belonged to a beautiful woman, whose ice cold expression could freeze magma itself. The front half of her cool mint green colored hair curtained the sides of her face, and the rest of her hair was clipped to stay up on the back of her head. She wore a white kimono, and had strange, reddish markings around her neck, resembling rope burns. She sat in front of a Japanese styled breakfast, miso soup, rice, a whole fish and pickled vegetables.
"I can't make him wait any longer! Sorry Kikuo-san! I'm off!" Futa shouted to her and slammed the door shut.
The woman named Kikuo turned to look in the direction of the door that Futa had just left through with critical eyes. "Hmph. Men are such foolish creatures." She then turned her attention to the food, so that it would not go to waste.
Futa rushed across the courtyard and down the stairs, repenting mentally in his head and trying to comb his milk coffee colored hair with his fingers at the same time. "Sorry Kikuo-san. I'm sure that he'd be delighted if I invited him over for breakfast, but that's something I can't do. Not with you there. Because..."
Through the branches blocking his sight, Futa saw the clean, white, gold embroidered uniform of his friend, and his milk and butter colored hair too. He called out to him. "Yousuke!"
Yousuke took notice, and turned to greet him. "Futa, you're late again."
Futa scratched his head. "Sorry, sorry!"
"...And as always, you're as short as ever." Yousuke grinned.
"Shut up! Why do you always have to go there? I'm just shorter than average! You're the freakin' giant, Yousuke!" Futa cried out in defense. He was right. Yousuke towered more than a head over Futa, being 6'4" compared to Futa's measly 5'3" height.
"Eh? I'm normal dude. I get it, you're just jealous aren't you?" Yousuke grinned slyly and taunted him even more. "Poor, poor chibi~~ so short he doesn't know what's normal~~"
"Stupid guy doesn't even understand how giant he is, pisses me off!" Futa grumbled through grinding teeth as they began to walk to school together. Height had always been one of Futa's complexes, and Yousuke loved to use that to his entertainment. They were childhood friends after all. His ONLY childhood friend in fact. They had always gone to school together, even when they were separated during the course to high school. Futa was accepted into Minami high, a lower than average school, and Yousuke, douche bag and all, got accepted into the prestigious Kaimei academy, with a college acceptance rate of 90% and up. In actuality, they had planned on going together. However, in that actuality, Futa had conspired against it. You may be wondering why.
"And then Watanuki slipped on a banana peel, it was hilarious. Hey, are you listening?"
"I'm listening, I'm listening." Futa answered. He wasn't sure what he had just listened to though in all honesty. Not that he really cared, Yousuke always talked about his adventures with his friends at Kaimei. And then, the bombardments started.
"Hey, did you do all of your homework yesterday?"
"Yea, I did."
"Did you do all of your laundry too? You live alone right?"
"Yea, I did."
"Did you drink all of the milk I bought you? It's good for you."
"Yea, I did."
"Did you ********-"
"LIKE HELL I DID! What kind of story do you think this is?"
"So you WERE listening! Just testing you, ha ha!" Yousuke put on a happy grin.
This was Futa's reason. Being with Yousuke even since childhood, he knew of Yousuke's nosiness first hand. One time, he got a paper cut, and came home looking like a mummy. Another time, he was sick with the common flu. When someone came in to check on him, he was under piles of blankets and freezing his head off with a giant bag of ice. And yet another time, when Futa only brushed up against a girl's hand who he liked, Yousuke had somehow arranged a whole wedding process for them, telling Futa that he had really wanted to be the best man but had to fill in for the priest! Of course, the girl ran away and kept at a distance for the rest of their preschool days. Sad thing was, he did it during the beginning of the year.
But no matter how annoying or nosy Yousuke was, Futa would never leave him. That was because...
"You look tired. When did you go to sleep yesterday?"
"At nine, just like you told me to. Jeez, what are you, my mom? Stop pestering me already..." Futa sighed heavily. Yousuke decided it was a good place to stop for the day. Well, one last question wouldn't hurt.
"How are things going at school? You never talk about your friends much."
"Urk" indeed. It wasn't that Futa wouldn't want to talk about school and the likes. If he could, he'd tell Yousuke all about it. If he had friends other than Yousuke, that is. Futa has always been a lone wolf, Yousuke being the only exception. There was something about him that put people off, something about him that made him avoid contact with others. Something that made him "special."
Futa bluffed it off. "Y-You don't have to worry about me, Yousuke! I just have stupid friends who do stupid things! The things they do aren't interesting enough to put into story format!"
Yousuke smiled. "Well that's good! You were always a loner in primary and secondary school! I guess you were successful in your high school debut too!"
"Aha ha ha, yeah..." Futa laughed weakly. He disliked lying to Yousuke.
Well, actually, it wasn't an entire lie. He did manage to make an acquaintance, but... There's just one problem.
The rest of the walk to school was cut short when Yousuke saw some of his friends across the street and tried to introduce them to him. Futa declined, making an excuse saying that there was a test and he wanted to study before home room started. Yousuke looked like a dejected puppy, but let him go. When Futa arrived at school, he did not go to class right away. Instead, he went to where his sanctuary was, a place off limits to students: the roof.
The door to the roof opened slowly, hinges screaming in protest. Futa reminded himself to oil them later, so that teachers would not catch him on the roof. When he poked his head out, he was surprised.
"Huh? Is she not here anymore? That means-" Futa was about to do his happy dance for having this place solely to himself, until he heard a chilly voice that he knew well.
"Did you call?"
Standing in front of him was a once pretty girl, about the same age as him. Her long, black hair was disheveled, her visible navy blue eye opened wide, a crooked smile plastered on her face. She wore a sailor styled uniform, one that didn't belong to the district and that was blue and white, and the right side of her body was caved in and stained with blood.
Many would be surprised at this sight. Actually, many would not be able to see this girl at all. But Futa was different. He could see ghosts. And he had been seeing this ghost ever since the start of high school. Futa just simply stared back.
"Eh? Eh?" The ghost girl cocked her head side to side in confusion. "Why didn't it work? Before, it was more like…"
The ghost girl remembered to their first couple of meetings. Once she realized that he could see her, she began to pester him whenever he came up to the roof top, appearing in places, gore galore. The best one yet was when he had fainted at the sight of her. He was so easy back then, what happened?
"It gets predictable if you do it every time I come up here." Futa explained.
"Tch, how boring." The ghost girl quickly reverted to her normal appearance.
"On another note," Futa continued while jabbing an accusing finger at her, "why are you still here Ryoko-san! I've told you countless times, you are dead! Pass on already!"
But Ryoko would not be fazed. "Huuuuuuuuhh?" She glared down on him from her three inch higher pedestal like some sort of gangster. She knew that Futa hated it when she did that, so she used it to her advantage. "Pass on? Are you kidding me? Aren't you the one who comes up here every day to see me?"
"Not at all."
Futa's immediate response served to crush her aggressive spirit. But still, Ryoko was determined not to back down! "EVEN IF THAT IS THE CASE! I can tell. You're like me, Futa. No one to call your name, no one who stands by your side, no friends. You're lonely, aren't you?" Ryoko shot him a gentle, beaming smile. "I can be that friend."
"No thanks, I don't need something like that."
"You're so cruel." Ryoko sobbed, her spirits utterly crushed. "What's with you all of a sudden? Telling me to pass on and stuff. Do you hate me or something now?"
Futa sighed. "You're so melodramatic. And it isn't sudden at all; it's the first thing I told you when I spoke to you." Futa then focused his gaze away from Ryoko instead to a floor tile. "B-besides, don't all the books and manga say it? If a ghost stays too long in this world, they get defiled and turn evil and stuff…."
Ryoko grinned. "What, you were just worried?"
"N-no I wasn't!"
"That definitely won't happen, ever." She waved it away.
"How do you know that?" Futa grumbled embarrassedly.
Ryoko smiled softly at Futa. "Well, Futa, you've been able to see ghost ever since you were a small child right? Has it ever happened?"
"Well… no. Ooph!" Ryoko threw her arms around Futa happily. "L-let go!"
"See? You don't have to worry! Onee-chan will be here forever and ever and ever!" At that very moment the school bell chimed.
"Oh crap, it's the warning bell. Well, I was already running late in the morning, so it's understandable." He roughly shoved Ryoko away and started speed walking towards the door. He turned around to add some last words before he left. "I'll be coming back during lunch to see if you've passed on or not yet! I expect you to be gone!"
"Ok, I'll be waiting here." Ryoko smiled as she held her arms behind her back.
"Don't be!" Futa yelled back before he slammed the door shut to head to class.
Ryoko was left on the roof by herself, only the blue sky to keep her company. She let out a sigh of relief. "Phew, he's gone now. Evil spirit, huh?" She brought her hand to her face and stared at it. Black colored fumes trailed from them like smoke. "That was close. I wonder how much longer I can hide it from him. I'm already wasting away." She laughed bitterly to herself. She turned her gaze to the blue ocean of sky. "I don't know how much longer I can wait here, Tooru-kun."
Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a taxi cab arriving at the already empty school gate. A man who wore a white suit with wheat colored hair got out of the car. When she saw him, she could not tear her eyes away…
Futa sped walked down the stairs and the hallway, all the while thinking of Ryoko. It wasn't that he truly wanted Ryoko to disappear and leave him alone at school. Futa had always been an only child. His mother and father were always away, busy with work. They left him alone, only with Kikuo, who was also a ghost, to tend to him. That was the reason Futa did not let people, even Yousuke visit him. Yousuke had always been his friend, but when he met Ryoko, she became the older sister that he never had. She listened to his problems, she made him smile when he was feeling down, and she was his only real outlet. He couldn't tell these things to Kikuo because she was just a house servant. He didn't want to bother her when she already did so much for him. As for Yousuke, he was such a worry wart, Futa didn't even consider telling him his problems. Only to Ryoko could he open himself up to. That was why he didn't want her to disappear. But because he cared about her so much, that was exactly why she needed to disappear. He remembered to what had happened to him a few weeks ago.
It was a strange occasion for him to wake up before his alarm went off. Usually, he would have crawled under the covers for a bit longer, but today, he could not fall back asleep. Instead, he began to get ready for school. He rummaged through his closet for a fresh uniform because the one he wore before was dirty from wear and tear. He threw it onto the bed when he found it, and went into the wash room. He washed his face, but didn't really bother with his hair. No matter what, it would stick up, so instead, he went to brushing his teeth. He applied the toothpaste onto the bristles and began with his front teeth, moving to the back of his mouth.
Then, like lightning, an ominous feeling struck him. His skin tingled, and his lungs felt like burning tar had just been poured down his throat. It felt like the presence of a ghost. No, it was worse. He couldn't put his finger on it, but he knew that it was bad. The feeling quickly disappeared. He turned his head in the direction he felt it. It was the woods that everybody avoided. Only for a moment, he saw a spark black and red energy that out of gut instinct knew that he was the only one who could have seen it, because he had the "sight." He was thankful that he had been awake then, because if he had been asleep, he probably would not have been able to see it.
He shook his head, getting the imagery out of his head. Sometimes he questioned if it ever happened, because he never felt it again. But that only made him more cautious. It was such a powerful feeling, how could he not have felt it again? Unless whatever it had been was laying low, plotting something. Futa groaned in frustration as he mussed up his hair even more. Worrying like this wouldn't help him; it would only make him more restless! He took in a few deep, calming breaths before he opened the door to his classroom and took a seat in his chair, walking past the gossipers in his class. He put his chin in his hands and tried to think. He wanted her to be safe, but he didn't want her to disappear either, so all he had to do was find what ever it was that was at the woods and get rid of it first. But where would he start?
"I heard the Nightwalkers have appeared again."
"Nightwalkers? What is that? Sounds scary!"
"They're this group of two people that go around town and beat people up for no reason! They appeared a few weeks ago if I recall. One's an elementary school girl and the other one is said to have hair that was dyed red by the blood of his victims! Apparently, they've only been seen during the night time, but there are some people that say they saw them during the day too."
"Uwa, that's so scary!"
"That's not even the worst part, some people disappear without a trace, but the people who come back who were attacked all came out with like, different personalities. And they all say that they were never attacked."
"Ah ha ha, maybe they were hit so hard on the head they became stupid?"
"That's the thing! Although they were covered with injuries, only their heads were not touched."
Futa decided that the Nightwalkers would be a good place to start in his investigation. They meet all of his criteria; unexplainable occurrences happening multiple times which highly eliminated the chances of it being mere coincidence, and it started up a few weeks ago, matching up with the time he felt the ominous aura. He would check it out later on in the evening.
"Ahhh! No more of scary stuff ok? I want to be able to sleep tonight!"
"You're such a weakling." The gossiper laughed.
"Jeez, stop making fun of me! Let's talk about something more interesting. I heard there was a new teacher coming here! And he's from a really prestigious college."
"Nyeh heh heh, I'm way ahead of you. I already know all about of him!"
"No way, really?"
The gossiper held her head high proudly. "Don't underestimate my information network. I know everything about him, from his social life to his private."
"Oh really? Please tell." The man behind them said, startling them. He was a nice looking man with long legs, but wasn't as tall as Yousuke. He had wheat colored hair, caramel colored eyes behind his glasses, and wore a white, pristine suit.
"W-who are you?"
"That's the new teacher, stupid!" The gossiper harshly whispered to their partner in crime. "We're sorry for talking about you, sensei."
"Actually, I'm perfectly fine with it, as long as you're not badmouthing me." The man smiled sweetly at them. "Ok?"
He patted them on the head and walked towards Futa, not stopping as he slyly and briefly whispered a comment. "Eavesdropping is ok and all, but why don't you try joining in the conversation once in a while, Suzuki-kun?" The teacher continued to walk past, until he was in the front of the room and sat down in the corner. Futa could feel his eyes on him, and could not help but fell unsettled. How did the new teacher know his name?
Finally, the homeroom teacher arrived, and introduced the new student teacher, the man in the white suit. "Class, this is Aiba-sensei. He's come here from X University and will be eventually taking over the class for the rest of the year. Treat him with respect, and be nice to him."
"Aiba-kun, would you like to say a couple words before we get class started?" The teacher asked the man.
"Ah, yes." Aiba took to the podium in the front of the room. "Hello, it's nice to meet you. I'm very glad to be here. I always wanted to be a high school teacher. I have recently got out of high school myself, so I know how hard and how boring school can be." The class laughed. "But I will try to make class fun. If you have any problems, I will do my best to help you. I may be a newbie, but I want you all to put your trust in me so that I can do my best to help you." He smiled at the class as they applauded. "Do you have any questions that you want to get out of the way first? Perhaps about myself?"
Students gushed out their questions, and he churned out questions. "Sensei, how old are you?"
"I'm 25. Still young, aren't I?"
"Sensei, do you have a cell phone? I want your number!"
He laughed. "Then I'll tell you especially later, ok?"
The girls squealed, and Futa could not help but feel disgusted. Girls. He rolled his eyes. After a couple more questions, someone finally got the courage to ask the one the girls wanted to know most. "Sensei, do you have a girlfriend?"
For a moment, Aiba's paused, and looked down. The class quieted down, concerned about their new teacher. "I… don't have one…any more."
"Sorry sensei, for asking something insensitive!" The student who had asked apologized.
"No, it's ok." Aiba reassured them. "I'm over it already, although I don't plan on looking for another one yet." He chuckled softly. "Now, I'm planning to dedicate my time to teaching, and make friends with everyone so treat me kindly, ok?"
Although it may have been his imagination, Futa felt as though Aiba-sensei's words had been directed towards him especially. No, he was sure of it. But why?
-End of Chapter 1: The Boy Who Could "See"-