The problem with living in massive city like Shizuoka was that one often was just felt like another face in crowd. The city was a major port city, as well as tourist destination due to his historical importance. But even if tourist weren't coming to see Sunpu Castle, the population was the second largest in Japan. Both the common man and the rich found work at such a place, so Shizuoka was a diverse place. It was easy to get carried away in such a city, to just to go through the motions and be ignored entirely.
This certainly was the case for Shinji Kojima. His family lived a modest life style. Since he could remember they had all lived in an apartment that really was big enough for two people. But along with his parents and two older sisters, the place was crowed. He had to share a room with his sisters, which wasn't that much of a problem until they reached the age of puberty. Now a curtain separated the small room in half.
His parents both worked jobs to keep the family of five housed and fed. His mom, Takami, worked as a manager at a local book store, while his father, Nakahiko, was part of a fisherman's crew. As such, he could be gone for weeks on the boat, and they have to wait long periods for his pay check.
As for the kids, Shinji was a second year High School student, Reiko was in her final year of High School, and the oldest Takako was just out of High School and was working in the same book shop their mother managed. Her grades weren't high enough to get into a university via a scholarship, and they just didn't have enough money to send her to one. So she had to work. The only future for the girls was to get married, while Shinji was looking forward to a life on his father's boss's boat.
While this existence was less than ideal, the family was close. Sometimes Reiko and Takako would get into fights, but they'd usually settle it within a few hours. The parents were hardly home, so it was always the three of them. But when everyone was home, they were as close as could be.
As the school year started, Shinji and Reiko had become a duo. It always used to be a trio, but now that Takako also worked she had the same hours as their mother. As a result those two became a pair, while the two youngest were now one. The two of them, out of necessity, did everything together. They went to school together, they went to the public bath together, they went to the laundry mat together, and even over saw the household duties together.
The second week of school is when things started to change. That Monday started off as any other Monday. Reiko woke Shinji up, and the two of them prepared breakfast for their Mother and Takako. Their father was coming home from another fishing trip later in the day, so he didn't need one. Then they prepared their school lunches, ate their own breakfast, and left for school.
As they walked Reiko kept yawning, as usual. She wasn't a morning person, and normally was silent. On this day it was no different. Still, Shinji kept an eye on her so she wouldn't stumble into the street. They lived on the west side of town, and like the inhabitants, it wasn't that well off. The two of them went to a poor public school, filled with similar families. So in this environment it odd seeing an expensive looking BMW parked in front of the school entrance. The other students had noticed it too, and there was a small crowd around it.
"What's going on?" Reiko spoke in a sleepy voice.
"Who cares." Shinji shrugged, though in reality he just was as curious as everyone else.
Still, the two of them bypassed the crowd and went into the building. When they got into the shoe locker room, Reiko separated from Shinji. Typically he wouldn't see her until after school. He watched her leave, scratched the back of his messy hair, changed into his school shoes, then when to his class.
He had some trouble getting to his desk, as he was on the window row and all the students were glued to them looking at the car. Shinji, while curious before, found it annoying now. It was like they never seen a BMW before. Well, they probably hadn't, but that was no excuse to act like a fool. Though he thought those things, it didn't stop him from peering over to glance at the care every now and then.
Class started and things returned to normal; aside the fact that the BMW that was still parked in front of the school. As school life continued into the third period, things seemed to be just as boring as it always had been until in the middle of the lesson the school intercom sounded.
"Pardon the interruption. Would Reiko and Shinji Kojima report to the Principal's office as soon as possible. Thank you."
Everyone in the class turned to Shinji. He wasn't what anyone would call popular. People knew him because he was semi-good looking, decent at soccer, and was brother of last year's beauty Takako… but that was it. He normally just was one of the crowd like the majority of people. But now he and his sister were being called to the principal's office. Either something tragic happened in the family, or the two of them were in trouble. He couldn't think of what though.
Standing up, he turned to the teacher. "Is it alright for me to-"
"Go." The teacher spoke gruffly. He was a teacher for so long that he was the type that didn't care anymore. He barely cared about taking attendance or his lessons.
So Shinji packed his school bag and left, not knowing how long he'd be gone. Everyone watched him go, and it was an eery feeling. He traveled downstairs to the teacher's offices, then waited outside the principals door sitting on a nearby bench. Shortly after he arrived Reiko joined him, looking just as confused as he did.
"Do you think Pops got hurt?" Reiko asked in a soft whisper.
The thought had occurred to him. It was odd for both of them to get called from classes. "I don't know… I hope not."
Reiko held her own school bag looking worried. "They told you to wait here?"
Shinji nodded. Apparently there was someone else inside at the moment. Why they called them to the office when there was a meeting going on, he didn't know.
"This is so frustrating." Reiko complained.
She wasn't as beautiful as Takako, but was pretty in her own way, even if she was stressed out at the moment. If she had a thinner nose that would go along away to improving her looks. Shinji knew she had to work extra hard on her short hair, as the both of them naturally had wild hair. As a boy, it worked for Shinji as it looked slightly stylish, but for Reiko it was an annoyance.
"If Pops was hurt… then Mama or Taka-chan would be here, right?" Shinji tried to reassure Reiko.
"How do we know that it's not them in the office?" Reiko gave a pout.
"Because they wouldn't tell us to wait otherwise."
Reiko groaned. Like her sister, she wasn't that bright. That was why Shinji knew her only hope was to find a good husband. He wasn't that intelligent either, but he had something that the rest of his family didn't: common sense. While he wasn't book-smart, he was street-smart. This often led others to believe he was smarter than he was, especially among his own family.
"I'm scared." Reiko said again. "Why can't they just hurry up and tell us if Pops is okay?"
The longer they sat there, the longer Shinji started to believe that the two of them weren't there because of an injury in the family. By now they would have said something to them. They wouldn't have made them wait. But at the same time he couldn't rule it out. The best he could do was hold Reiko's hand so she'd calm down a bit. She squeezed it back, probably thinking he needed comforting as well.
The door to the principal's office opened and the man himself was standing there. Sitting in a seat in front of the desk was a woman in a smart looking business suit. The Principal waved them in, so the two of them stood up and went inside. There was only one other seat available, so Shinji let Reiko take it. She sat down next to the business woman and gave Shinji a curious look.
The business woman, however, wasn't looking at Reiko. She had turned and was staring a hole in Shinji. Shinji felt awkward at this, so he watched as the Principal returned to his desk, looking over a number of documents spread out on it. When the woman returned her gaze back to the principal did Shinji breath in. Just what was going on?
"It seems the two of you have been transferred." The principal said. "From now on, you're both students at Shizuoka Gakuen School."
"What?" Reiko exclaimed. "But that's a private school!"
"Yes. Yes it is." The Principal said and indicated to the woman sitting in the room next to them. "This is Mayami Kenichi. Her relatives own the school. Since this morning… it's been hours… she has arranged the transfer for both of you to attend the school."
"But…but… but…" Reiko stammered. "We can't a-afford to go there…"
Shinji was feeling just as baffled as his sister. Not only was the school prestigious and expensive, but neither of them had the grades to attend such a place, not to mention the commute would be unreasonable. "This has to be some mistake. How can this woman transfer us without the permission of our parents?"
A logical question. Probably one that the Principal didn't expect so soon. "Look, I have the signatures of your Father right here…"
Reiko leaned over and looked at it. "But… is he crazy? How are we supposed to afford this?"
"Your tuition is already paid." Miss Kenichi told Reiko, as she had brought up payment twice now. "An organization called the Goshichi Scholarship Fund has paid for the two of you to attend my school, and for private tutors to help the both of you catch up."
"But why?" Shinji asked. "What's so special about us?"
"I personally don't have that information." Miss Kenichi told them. "I just know that the scholarship was quite generous, which gave me the incentive to come down here personally to work the transfer details."
"How did they get Pop's signature?" Reiko was asking Shinji instead of Miss Kenichi. "I mean, his boat isn't due to arrive until the afternoon…"
"This is all very fishy." Shinji had to agree. "We don't have the best grades, we live too far away, and we have no money. Why would some private organization even care about us?"
"I suggest you take that up with your family." Miss Kenichi gave a small shrug herself. Clearly she was in the dark about all this as well, but wasn't about to pass up the amount of money being offered to her. "All the files are in order, so sometime this week you should officially make the change over." She handed Reiko a card. "Ring up the school and inform us a day a head of time once everything is in order."
Reiko took the card and looked at it. Shinji still was confused about all of this. Even if everything was paid for, even if they had tutors, how would they commute to Gakuen everyday? It wasn't impossible to do it, but it would be very long trip both ways They'd have to leave before the sun came out in the morning, and return at night. It'd be very inconvenient.
As Miss Kenichi was making her way out the door, the two of them didn't know what to do. Officially they weren't students anymore, and could go home. The principal just seemed to be waiting for them to leave. So they did. They separated and collected what little belongings they had left in the school and met at the front gate. The BMW was gone. It must have been Miss Kenichi's car.
"Now what?" Reiko looked worried. "What do we tell Mama?"
"Let's stop home, drop off our stuff, then head over to the book store and tell her what happened." Shinji suggested.
She agreed to that plan, and the two of them started walking back home. Reiko was lost in thought, and for once Shinji couldn't blame her for being spacey. Just what in the world was going on? Did their father come into some extra money somehow? No, Miss Kenichi was clear that a scholarship organization was paying their way. But then again, how did they get their father's signature to approve the transfer?
"Shinji…" Reiko finally spoke. "Is this really happening?"
No one in their house used honorifics because they were so close. Takako was the exception because even as a child she was beautiful. Everyone always thought that out of their small group, she was the star.
"It looks like it…"
"If it's true… if we really can go to Gakuen… then that means we have a chance to go to the school's University." Reiko said in a whisper, as if saying so loudly would crush the small hope of a better life.
"Don't get your hopes up, this can be one big misunderstanding." Shinji quickly reminded her.
"Still… Wouldn't it be nice?"
It would be nice. He never thought about higher education himself, but he had always thought his sisters deserved better than what they got. Takako was so pretty, she should be more than just a book store clerk. And Reiko, she had so much heart she deserved a whole planet to herself. In a way he felt guilty that it was he and Reiko with this chance, not Reiko and Takako. He could always work on the fishing boat with his father, but Reiko and Takako deserved more than hoping to get married.
"Shinji…" Reiko interrupted his thoughts again. "Let's do it. Let's really do it. We'll use those tutors, work really hard to get into university, and get good jobs to help the family out."
"Don't you think it's a bit too much for us?"
"Maybe, but we have to try!"