Chapter 6: School With the Shinigami
Next morning and I once again wake up to the sight of Zephyrus peering down at me. "Morning, Evelyn. Have you changed your mind y—" Thwump. The smile vanishes and is replaced with his usual scowl as the pillow bounces off his face and hits the floor. "Why do you keep doing that, you stupid human?" he demands.
"Why do you keep watching me sleep, you stupid pervert?" I retort. I know for a fact that I locked the door and the windows last night—not that doors, windows, or even walls for that matter, seem to make a difference.
"I'm not a pervert, I'm a Re—" Thwump. A second pillow bounces to the floor.
This is giving me déjà vu. Without another word, I get out of bed, grab my uniform and head for the bathroom. He follows close like an eagle after its prey... or a duckling after its mother. Actually, both though images are pretty disturbing. I think I'll forego the similes.
"Zephyrus, if you follow me into the bathroom again, I'll kill you."
He snorts. "You can't kill a Reaper."
I shoot him a glare. "Maybe not, but I can try and it'll be very painful."
He seems to pale for a moment. I'm guessing he's not used to pain. "I'll uh... just wait outside."
And for once, I manage to get my morning routine done without interruption. But sure enough, when I'm out of the shower and dressed in my uniform, he's waiting outside with his arms crossed over his chest. This is going to get old fast.
Ignoring him, I head downstairs, but halfway down there's another flash of blue light, and suddenly he's standing on the stair below me. "Where are you going?" he asks.
"School, obviously. See the uniform?"
He cocks his head to the side. "School?" There's a note of suspicion in his voice.
Playing dumb again? "School. You know, institutions for education where you go to learn skills that are supposed to benefit you later in life. Don't they have them in the Spirit Plane, or whatever planet it is you're from?"
"No. We just have a Death Angel assigned to mentor us until we get the hang of things."
First Reapers, now Death Angels… and here I didn't even know there was a difference between the two.
"Right… Well, uh, Zephyrus, do you mind moving? I need to make breakfast."
He hesitates, and then reluctantly steps aside. "What are you making?" he asks as I continue on my way down.
"Heated up bread," I reply, walking straight past the kitchen and towards the front door.
"Sounds bland," he mutters. Then he pauses. "Wait, weren't you going to the kitchen?"
I run outside, slam the door shut behind me and lock it. There's a dull thud and a muffled "ouch" from the other side. Serves him right.
Then a flash of blue light flickers on the edge of my vision. I turn to see Zephyrus rubbing his nose and scowling at me. There's really no way to get rid of him, is there?
"You can't come with me," I tell him, just as he opens his mouth and says, "I'm coming too."
We scowl and glare at each other.
"I'm not letting you out of my sight," he insists, blue eyes blazing.
"Because that doesn't sound stalker-ishat all."
"I'm coming," he growls. "Who knows what meddlesome things you'll do to interrupt the Natural Order if I'm not watching."
"No, you can't because you're not a student. Strangers aren't permitted on the grounds. The teachers will stop you at the gates if you try."
He contemplates it for a second. "Well then I'll just have to become one then."
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? What about the transcripts and family permission and all that?
He catches my eye and smirks. I can almost read '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.
And school was the one place I thought I was safe. Now I'll literally have to deal with him 24/7.
"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 groan. Please just leave me alone.
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."
You know, 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?"
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 any more, 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!"
Oh this isn't going to go well. There are several things I've learned about Zephyrus 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. Like, weirdly obsessed.
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. Although, Shinigami is a title, not a name. Yes, I think this is my real eye colour, but it's difficult to say because I can change my appearance at will. I don't remember if it's always been this colour or if I changed it when I first became a shinigami."
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!
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 point at myself to make sure, and she nods.
Pushing my way through the crowd, I make my way 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 nervously, as if she's worried that other people might overhear us despite the change of language. Given how the students in this school gossip like no tomorrow, I guess I can't exactly blame her.
"Do you want to talk somewhere else?"
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 murmurs, "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. 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 find Zephyrus leaning over the railing. When did he get there? He's like one of those annoying flies that sticks to your face and comes back every time you try to wave it away. "You'renot 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 tells me, as he hops over the rail and joins the conversation.
Oh. He does. 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 switches 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?"
That's actually a good question. How does he know her name? I frown at him. Come to think of it, I never told him mine either. He just knew it.
Zephyrus 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! I blurt out the first thing that pops into my head.
"What he means to say is that he's psychic."
...What the hell am I saying?
"Psychic?" repeats Ai, her eyes growing wide.
"Yeah…" And I sound unconvincing to myself, let alone her. Come on, come on. Gotta dig myself out of this hole—Oh. Idea. Light bulb activate.
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?" she exclaims.
Zephyrus groans as I slam my elbow into his stomach. As he doubles over in pain, 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.
I frown back at him. "What?"
"You lied. Why did you tell her I'm psychic?"
Dense. He's so... dense! "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 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 I don't teleport, I—"
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, his voice dry.
"Exactly!" 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. I can't die."
Sadly, I'm actually beginning to believe that's true—the not dying thing, anyway. But let's not go off on tangents, eh?
I shake my head admonishingly. "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?"
How did I know he was going to ask me that?
"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?"
Huh, he really is preoccupied. "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."