Chapter Seven - School With the Shinigami

He really did it...

A few days after Zephyrus's declaration, I find myself sitting at my desk, staring slack-jawed with disbelief at the blue-eyed, black-haired so-called-Reaper standing in front of the blackboard. How the heck—?! What, the administration is letting aliens from outer space enrol at the school now?

He catches my eye and smirks. I can almost read the words, 'I told you so' on his lips.

That smarmy son-of-a—

I return the grin with a death glare as Fujihara-sensei clears her throat and addresses the class, "Everyone, I'd like to introduce a new friend to you. This is Shinigami Zephyrus."

He bows and greets the class politely.

What a faker…

"Now, Shinigami-san is a bit, uh… special. This is his first time attending school, so please make sure you treat him kindly and provide him with guidance, okay?"

Sure, I'll guide him!

—Up to the rooftop so I can throw him off it, that is.

"Okay, well now that the introductions are done, you can take your seat, Shinigami-san. There's one up the back near the window for you."

I freeze. Wait… I'm up the back and near the window. Does that mean…?

Zephyrus sits down at the empty desk behind me and gives me a poke.

I ignore him.

He pokes me again. "Hey, don't ignore me, Ev—"

The boy sitting next to him—Makoto something-or-other—cuts him off. "Don't bother with Howaito-san. She's a bit of a freak."

Hey, I'm sitting right here! I shoot Makoto sidelong glare, but he doesn't seem to notice.

He holds out a hand to Zephyrus. "Makoto Daichi, nice to meet you."

Zephyrus flashes me an odd look, but it lasts only a second before he turns back to Makoto with a smile and shakes his hand. "Yeah, nice to meet you too."

At the front of the room Fujihara-sensei claps her hands for attention. "Alright, that's enough talk. Let's start the lesson, shall we?"

~x~

I grit my teeth. I could feel Zephyrus's eyes boring into the back of my head all morning and the sensation was—is driving me insane!

Just when I think I can't stand it anymore, the bell for lunch rings. I turn around, intent on seizing the bastard by the neck and throttling him, but before I can do it, the entire class stampedes over to bombard him with questions.

"So, where are you from, Shinigami-kun?"

"You've got a weird name."

"Is that your natural eye colour? It's such a pretty blue!"

I eye Zephyrus nervously.

There are several things I've learned about him since he popped in out of nowhere five days ago and told me that he wasn't going back to where he came from until I agreed to stop saving people:

One: he can disappear into thin air and reappear whenever and wherever he wants to.

Two: he's very good at putting on a smile and faking pleasantry when he wants something—like chocolate pudding for example.

Three: he really likes chocolate pudding.

Four: he's really stubborn when he doesn't get what he wants, to the point where he'll teleport to a supermarket and steal the pudding when I don't buy it.

Five: he's as innocent (or should I say stupid?) as a newly hatched chick and has no common sense, especially when it comes to telling white lies to people about who he is and how he got here.

Conclusion: he's going to say something stupid when he opens his mouth to answer their questions.

True to expectation, he smiles politely at them and says, "I come from the Spirit Plane, and my name is perfectly normal there—though Shinigami is a title, not a name. And yes, I think this is my real eye colour—but it's difficult to say because I can change my appearance at will."

They stare at him, dumbfounded. The only sound in the room is the smack of my palm hitting my face in despair.

That idiot! At this rate we'll be outcasts of Class 2-4 together.

How wonderful!

—Not.

Someone coughs, and then bursts into laughter. It spreads like a contagion until everyone's giggling and whooping with glee. Makoto-san, who's the closest, chuckles and claps him on the back. "Oh man, that was good! You really had us going there."

A small surge of… something stirs in the pit of my stomach. I scowl at Makoto. So he's a joker and I'm a freak, huh?

There's a knock on the door, just audible over the excited hubbub. I look over and see Ai waving timidly at me. Or at least I think she's waving at me. It's a bit hard to tell with the wriggling mass of people standing in the general vicinity of my desk. I gesture to myself to make sure, and she nods.

I get up and push my way over to the door. I haven't seen her since the uh—incident with Andrew. She looks paler than before. Skinnier too. There are dark circles under her eyes, as if she hasn't slept during the last few days. Even her red hair seems a little duller in tone than usual.

In English I ask her, "How are you doing, Ai?"

She bites her lower lip and looks around anxiously, as if she's worried that other people might overhear us despite the change of language.

"Do you want to talk somewhere else?" I ask.

She nods and leads me down to the landing where I overheard her talking with Andrew on phone. It's not exactly the most secure location, considering that I eavesdropped on her earlier, but it's probably best not to mention that to her now.

She takes a deep breath and says quietly, "I-I'm okay, I think. I was… a bit shocked… but I'm fine now. My mother's in a bad way though. I've been busy… helping her organise the funeral for my dad, I mean. Um, I just wanted to uh, thank you and Akatsuki-san for coming to save me that day. I-is he okay? Akatsuki-san, that is."

She's looking down at her feet, but I think I can see a little pink tinge spreading across her cheeks. Congratulations, Ryo. Looks like your crush on Ai won't be crushed after all.

"He's fine," I say. "He's still in hospital but so far there haven't been any complications. He should be home by the end of the week." I pause, an idea forming in my mind. Considering that I owe the guy my life, convincing his crush to go nurse him in hospital is the least I can do. Unable to suppress a small smile I add, "Maybe you should pay him a visit…?"

"V-visit? B-b-but I barely know him! W-wouldn't that be weird? I mean, we've never even spoken to each other before!" If she wasn't blushing before, then she's definitely blushing now. Her cheeks are about the same colour as her hair.

I shrug. "Just make him a bento and it'll be fine. Besides, he's really the one who saved you, not me. Honestly, I just got in the way."

She utters a protest and I give her a rueful smile in return.

"I'm going to visit him tomorrow with his little sister. You can come if you like."

"We're going where tomorrow?" asks a voice from the stairs above us.

I look up and scowl at Zephyrus. When did he get there? "You're not going anywhere." I pause. "Wait a—you speak English?"

He blinks at me as if I'm stupid. "I always speak English when I'm talking to you," he says, as he hops over the rail and joins the conversation.

He does?

It takes me a moment, but then I realise that he's right. He even introduced himself as a Reaper, not a Shinigami when we first met.

Ai bites her lower lip and eyes Zephyrus nervously. "Um, who's he?"

Zephyrus reverts to charm mode instantly. He practically glows as he bows and introduces himself, "I'm Zephyrus Shinigami. It's very nice to meet you, Ai Miyakawa."

Ai gapes at him and takes an involuntary step back. "H-h-how did you know my name?"

I turn to stare at him as well. How does he know her name? Come to think of it, I never told him my name either. He just knew it. Must be another one of his alien abilities...

He tilts his head. "Why wouldn't I? Up until Evelyn saved you, you were on my Reaping Sched—"

Whoa, now! I slap my palm over his mouth. At this rate she's going to figure out that we're both freaks, and I'd really like for that not to happen! Hastily, I blurt out the first thing that pops into my head, "What he means to say is that he's psychic."

"Psychic?" repeats Ai, her eyes growing wide.

"Yeah…" I mutter unconvincingly, searching for some way to dig myself out of the situation. Then a tiny light bulb lights up in my brain. Grinning, I move my hand from Zephyrus's mouth to his shoulder and give him a little slap on the back. "Actually, he's the reason Ryo and I knew to come and save you. You see, Shinigami-kun has this ability to see premonitions of other people's death before it happens. He saw your death and decided to send us to prevent it."

Ai looks positively awestruck. "Really!?"

"No," says Zephyrus flatly, before doubling over with a groan as I slam my elbow into his stomach.

I clear my throat and smile at Ai. "What he means is that he has to deny it because it's a big family secret."

"Then how come you and Akatsuki-kun know?"

"He saved us too, right, Shinigami-kun?"

He lets out an incoherent mutter that I suspect translates to something along the lines of 'stupid, bloody human,' but Ai seems to take it as a murmur of agreement. She bows and stammers a word of thanks just as the warning bell for the start of next period rings.

"Um, I guess I'll talk to you later. Bye, Evelyn. It was nice meeting you, Zeph—I mean, Shinigami-san."

With that, she turns on her heels and heads back upstairs.

Zephyrus straightens up and fixes me with a perplexed frown.

"What?" I ask.

"Why did you lie and tell her I'm a psychic?"

I scowl back at him. "Because it's more believable than telling her that you're a Reaper, idiot. And why'd you have to go and tell everyone that you're from the Spirit Plane? Are you stupid or something?"

"But it's the truth."

I sigh. He really doesn't understand, does he? "Look, I don't know if you're really a Reaper and from the Spirit Plane, or whatever. You can't go around telling people that. Same thing goes for showing off your little blue light, teleporting thing."

"I am a Reaper from the Spirit Plane, and it's not teleporting it's—"

I hold up my hand. "It doesn't matter what it is, okay, because it's not normal. People are going to think you're crazy. You'll get picked on, or locked up in a mental institution, or—"

"Impaled by spears and swords and thrown into a pit of fire because they think I'm a demon?" supplies Zephyrus drily.

"Exactly!" I tell him triumphantly. Finally, he understands! And then the actual meaning of his words process. I blink at him rapidly. "Wait, what?"

He looks away. "Happened last time I came to the Real Plane."

"And you survived?"

He gives me that 'are you stupid?' look. "I'm a Reaper," he says flatly, "I can't die."

Oh right, he's said that before, hasn't he?

Hastily, I shake my head to put myself back on track. "Anyway, point is, you can't just go around telling people things like that. You're lucky that the guys in class took it as a joke, otherwise they'd think that you're… you're…"

"A freak," finishes Zephyrus as I gape like a goldfish, unable to bring myself to say the word.

He regards me carefully. "So what did you say to make them call you that?"

Ugh, I should've known that he'd ask…

"None of your beeswax," I retort and flee back up the stairs.

Heading down the corridor, I spot Makoto Daichi standing in the doorway to our classroom, leaning stiffly against the frame. Well this is rare, his usual contemptuous expression has been wiped off his face—in fact, I'd almost say that he looks kind of nervous.

"You're sweating," I say as I approach.

He blinks at me. "What?"

"…Nothing. Can I enter the classroom or do I need to pay a toll?"

He opens his mouth, and then closes it again, but otherwise he doesn't move. Normally I'd chalk this up as an attempt to bully me—it's not the first time people have tried to keep me from entering a classroom—but he actually seems kind of troubled.

I let out an impatient sigh. "I haven't got all day, Makoto-san. Either say something or get out of my way."

He runs his hands through his hair. "Uh, yeah… look, I um… I need to talk to you about something."

"If this is about Zeph—err, Shinigami-kun, living in my house, he's lying."

"What? No! It has nothing to do with him. It's about…"

He swallows hard and looks around to check that no one is looking.

Covering his mouth with his hand, he whispers, "It's about the death prophecy you gave me. I-I think it's coming true."


Glossary

shinigami: reaper

~ (tilde): used as an extension of the preceeding syllable to produce the same effect as "whyyyyyy" with "why〜". Used at the end of a word or sentence it often denotes something said in a sing-song or playful voice, or similar to the use in instant messengers and email, depending on context. In some contexts, the tilde represents a lustful or exhausted sigh like, "Hello there~"