(Ha whoops this one was a little bit late due to my own foolish negligence. I promise the next parts will stick to the schedule!)
Kamen Rider Calliope
Myth 1, Part 2
“Are you alright? Your fall seemed quite serious in nature.”
“Ah, nah, it was mostly theatrical,” Kaname replied, only caring about the dust on her jacket in particular. “Gotta roll with the crash, y’know. Real sorry about that, hope you didn’t get hurt or nothin’…” Kaname looked up into a pair of eyes that reminded her of a snowy day in her childhood. She nearly felt the cold again as her gaze was caught and held by the girl before her. She had long, beautifully-kept hair that flowed about her shoulders in expertly-tied braids. Everything she was wearing felt expensive, even if Kaname wasn’t touching it directly. The quality was evident without being gaudy. The girl had taken hold of one of Kaname’s sleeves, and Kaname’s first emotional reaction was to feel bad that the girl was getting her hand dirty on this jacket she never washed and had just rolled on the ground in.
“It was most impressive! I’m relieved you weren’t injured. I’m terribly sorry for causing that incident, I wasn’t properly aware of my surroundings.” Rather than being generally disgusted at being in contact with Kaname, as she had come to expect from this type from high-school, this girl seemed all the more eager to beg her pardon.
“S’fine, s’fine, It was my fault anyway. I was in a rush cuz– oh right, cuz I’m still very late to alegbra. That’s on this floor right? A304?”
The girl shook her head, giving Kaname a smile that could have rewarmed cold tea. “I’m afraid not. That room is two floors below us, and on the opposite end of the corridor from where we’re situated now.”
“Fantastic. Cheers, I’ve gotta run. But, ah, really though, thanks a lot.” Kaname waved her gratitude at the girl as she took off down the hallway again, heading for the stairwell this time. Being in such close proximity to that kind of person, let alone holding a conversation with them, never failed to put Kaname on edge. It was far more disconcerting, as Kaname had just found out, when one of those people didn’t act like an entitled arsewipe. Chalk up another new experience for the books.
Algebra class, or the remainder of it, proved to be about as inscrutable as it had been in high school for Kaname. On an instinctual level, she couldn’t be called bad in any particular academic subject; her motivation levels had always been the primary factor of her grades in class. She wasn’t sure if she had managed to lose what little she knew during the semester she wasn’t in school, or if in that time they had done a big shake up of how fundamental theories were taught. Her mind just kept spelling out English words with the groups of variables on the board. “b-a-d”. Yep, no denying that.
Literature was Kaname’s next class, and by the time she got there her brain had just gotten into math-mode, and thus had to stop trying to simplify and redistribute the sentences she was reading. There was apparently a metaphor that Kaname was supposed to be picking out the prose, but her mind was having none of it. She left the classroom in a daze and managed to get thoroughly lost on her way to the cafeteria; by the time she finally found it, she only had time to grab a drink and a pre-packaged bread from the school’s convenience store. Although she knew it would have been better to try and be social, she was in no mood to force herself into awkward first conversations with strangers. So it was out the quad for her, sheltering in a corner darkened by thick trees and shrubs while watching other students mill about.
Even though Kaname probably didn’t look too out of place fashion-wise (it was both amusing and a bit terrifying to see what other people thought of as trendy on a college campus), she felt a gap between her and everyone else that came from beneath clothes or makeup. Everyone else felt like and acted like they belonged here, in this kind of world, whereas she was a visitor, an interloper who had stumbled into the wrong party and felt compelled to leave before anyone looked too closely.
Kaname knew she still had a couple classes to go before she could bug out, so she scrunched up her trash and looked around for a bin; strangely enough, for such a clean campus there were few trash receptacles to be found. On her way through the woodsy part of the quad, she stopped to snatch up a few other pieces of garbage that had gotten caught (or surreptitiously placed) in the shrubs, figuring it was all going to the same place anyway (after being painstakingly sorted into their proper disposal categories).
To her dismay, Kaname was just about to her next class and now had a bigger handful of trash than she had started with, and still no bin in sight. She was just about to give up and stuff it into her bag when someone caught her attention from behind.
“Excuse me, would you like me to take care of those?”
Kaname jumped a bit and turned to face a middle-aged woman in a grey jumpsuit, the typical uniform for a groundskeeper or cleaning staff. “Oh. Uh, actually that would be real helpful. Sorry about this, I just couldn’t find a trash bin…”
“Not at all,” the woman replied, taking charge of the garbage. “I’ve been trying to get the administration to install more around campus. Perhaps if there were actual bins within their line of sight, some students would stop leaving their garbage wherever they stood last… Then again, perhaps that’s wishful thinking.”
“Hah. Yeah, sorry…” Kaname felt even worse now about handing over her own trash to this woman who already had enough to deal with.
“Oh, pardon me, I shouldn’t be complaining about my job. Such habits don’t do the spirit good. Take care now.”
Kaname returned the woman’s bow and made tracks for her third class.
Time seemed to crawl more and more slowly as the afternoon dragged on. Worst of all was her final class, a music theory lecture with a professor that managed to be both gratingly dramatic and vapidly boring at the same time. He was (or so he repeatedly claimed to be) a virtuoso of a composer, with whom many of the current generation’s top musical talents had the honor of practicing with. Judging by the amount of awards that were proudly displayed in his classroom, along with the books he had published and framed photos of him and obviously-famous people, his bragging was not unwarranted (and yet if he was as big a deal as he said, you would think he could get other people to sing his praises for him). He was also not the “gentle-hand” sort of teacher; Kaname had dared to ask a question about some complex sheet music he had slapped down in front of them, and he had spent the next ten minutes standing far too close for comfort while not tempering his resonant voice as his finger stabbed out an explanation on the page.
But it was finally over, and Kaname was almost too tired to be happy about it. She made the mistake of sitting down for a moment on a bench outside the classroom and nearly fell asleep right there.
“Hey, sorry to bother…”
“Wha? Huh? Sorry, what’d I do?” Kaname was jolted back to her senses when a kid who had been sitting the next row over from her suddenly appeared. He was only slightly taller than Kaname, with a gentle-featured face and slick, floofy haircut that gave him the demeanor of an easily-startled lamb.
“Ah! Sorry, sorry, I didn’t meant to disturb you! I’m so sorry!”
“What? No, chill out man, don’t even worry about it. What’s up?”
The boy managed to contain his bobble-headed bowing motions after a few seconds and opened up his meticulously-organized notebook that he had been clutching to his chest.
“I really appreciated the question you asked in class, I had been wondering the same thing. But honestly I wasn’t able to understand some of Sueharu-sensei’s explanation from where I was sitting…”
“Ha, yeah, me neither and I was only inches away. Sorry, I might not be of much help.”
“You have your notes with you, right?”
“Ah. Notes…” It was really only at this current point that Kaname realized she had mostly sat through class staring at the teacher or the blackboard while other students had been furiously writing stuff down.
“Craaaaap. God damn it. Sorry, I don’t really have anything…”
“It’s alright! Do you want to take a look at mine? It might help jog your memory.”
Kaname very much doubted that, but the kid seemed quite pleased at the prospect of helping her, so she accepted his offer.
Twenty minutes later, she understood a lot more of what she had supposedly learned in that class, thanks mostly to her new acquaintance’s thorough but well-paced summarizations
“Jeez. I guess I get it now. Sorry I didn’t end up being of any use, dude.”
“It’s okay, really! Glad I could help. I’m Yasuda Hikaru by the way.”
“Oh. Uh, Shizu Kaname.”
“Well then, here’s hoping we won’t have much trouble with the homework!” Hikaru got up off the bench next to Kaname and stretched.
Oh god. Homework. That’s right, school never just stayed at school where it belonged. Her heart made the return trip back to the bottom of her stomach, marinating in her exhaustion and despair. “Ha. Yeah. That’s… that’s gonna be a time.”
“Are you going to the study club? It’s just about to start.”
Kaname just managed to keep her “hell no” from popping out of her mouth. “Yeah, probably not, I got stuff to do at home (like not be here anymore).”
“I see! Well, I suppose I’ll see you around then. Next time in class, at least.” Hikaru pulled out a small notebook and a mechanical pencil. “Just in case, let me give you my email address in case you had any more questions about the theories we went over…”
“Yasuda buddy, it’s not middle school anymore, I’ve got a phone on me, we can just swap LINE codes or summat.”
“Ah, sorry, I actually don’t have a phone at the moment. I can’t really afford one…” Hikaru blushed a bit, trying to scratch his email address into the paper.
“Oh.” Kaname felt stupid once again, but it bothered her more than usual; she was used to being in Hikaru’s position most of the time, when someone wealthier than her would assume she had or did something that her family had to forgo due to a tight budget. But, just as everyone had assumed things of her, she found herself assuming everyone else on the campus had more than she did. “Sorry, paper’s fine then.”
“Ah, dang it all. Lead ran out…” Hikaru was managing to get himself more and more flustered, and Kaname wanted to spare him any more personal embarrassment; he didn’t seem like the kind of kid who was sitting on an excess of self-esteem.
“Here, use, uh, use this.” Kaname reached into her pocket as a matter of course, and luckily enough, found a pen there. She pulled it out and offered it to Hikaru.
“Thanks!” He scrawled his address and handed it over to Kaname. “Huh, fancy-looking pen.”
He was right; it was thicker than your average ball-point pen, and had some intricate design that wound itself around the body. It looked like a writing instrument that some old explorer or philosopher would use to write vividly-described passages into their leather-bound journals.
“Wow. Well, that’s not mine, I have no idea how I even got it. Probably just accidentally picked up someone else’s without thinking. Go ahead and use it, you’ll need it soon anyway.”
“Really? You sure?”
“Definitely, that’s, uh, not really my style.”
“Great! Thanks so much! I gotta get going, see you!” Hikaru popped the pen into his bag and bounced off to his study group.
Alone once again, it took Kaname a couple minutes of zoning out before she realized she had no obligations left to keep her at the school. And yet she was torn between returning home and just curling up on the bench where she sat and sleeping for a few hours. All she had been doing all day was sitting and listening (with some frenzied rushing in between classes), how in the world was she so tired? She expected she would crash out as soon as she got into her bedroom, and then her alarm would sound, and she’d have to get up and do it all over again. The thought of it made her genuinely want to start crying.
No, there was no way she was going to stay here when she didn’t absolutely have to. Kaname forced herself up and marched her wobbly legs to the parking lot, where her faithful clunky chariot awaited. Riding her motorcycle brought a bit of life back into her, as it always seemed to do. Garage work definitely wasn’t her passion – she wasn’t sure she felt strongly enough about anything to be considered “passionate” – but it was something she knew well enough, and she didn’t hate it most of the time. It wasn’t lectures and homework and feeling constantly out-of-place. That was her place. That was where people would expect her to be. At least until she figured out something else to do.
Kaname rolled sodaigomi into the garage, gingerly parking it between the maze of tools her mother had left lying around. She immediately noticed that being back home wasn’t giving her the cathartic release she had been expecting; her chest was still tight and she felt tense all over. She didn’t want to be here either. But she didn’t know why yet.
“So, how was it?” The question accosted her at the doorway before Kaname could even step inside.
“That’s a pretty vague question, mom…”
“Don’t sass me now. How did you like it? How were your classes? Found some friends?”
“Uhhh… Yeah. It was good. All good.” Kaname couldn’t believe the words that jumped out of her mouth. What in the world was she saying?
“I’m so glad!” Masaki popped her head out of the bathroom, where she had been scrubbing some of the tougher oil stains off of her arms. “See Kaname, sometimes you just gotta try something out and your whole world will change!”
“Yeah… It’s pretty amazing all right.”
Kaname didn’t know who was answering her mother’s questions right now, but all she knew was she didn’t want to be around her. She dropped her bags and headed right back out the door.
“Where are you off to? You just got home, aren’t you tired?”
“Uhh… Yeah, but I need to go do something.” Nice, always a solid answer that didn’t invite any follow-up questions. Good job.
“Well, that sounds kinda sketchy.” Masaki frowned at her, coming out of the bathroom. “Oh, are you going to go meet up with your new buds?”
“Ah, yeah, that’s it. Sorry, I don’t really like I can call them friends yet, but still…”
Masaki beamed at her, and Kaname had to avoid her gaze. “I gotcha! Well, in that case be free, norakkoneko. I’ll see you when I see you.”
“Yeah, don’t worry, I won’t be late. See ya!” Kaname yanked herself out the door and kicked out of the garage again in record time. She zipped down the streets of her neighborhood at a speed she knew wasn’t quite safe, but she didn’t really care. She couldn’t stand herself right now and felt like if she went fast enough she could leave that person behind that had smiled and lied to her mother. She barely ever acted like that anymore; the last time was during some of the roughest times in her teenage years, when her father’s death was still raw in her skin and her mother was the only one around to hurt. She had been so glad to put those years behind her, and she was sure her mother was too, because even though Masaki wasn’t always the most conscientious mom, she had deserved better as a person.
As these dark thoughts curled around her brain, her body took a couple turns Kaname wasn’t used to, and when she returned her attention to her location she found herself a long way from her familiar neighborhood. She coasted her bike up a gentle slope and found a small park tucked away on a hill that overlooked the wide Yuon riverbed. She bought a milk tea from a vending machine and perched herself on a bench, idly watching the kids playing on the nearby play structure and folks walking to and fro on the pathways along the river.
She didn’t think much. It was a relief, and she slowly started to feel the grossness inside her subside to a more acceptable level. The lamps in the park blinked on by themselves and the last few youngsters headed for home. Not Kaname though, she was still hanging out with her “friends”. She wasn’t sure how she was going to handle that situation once she got back to the house, but then again she wasn’t done not thinking about it.
Just how bad would it be to drop out of school really soon? Kaname had given it a chance. It wasn’t her, and she didn’t want it to be. Would her dad really want her to keep going even though she wasn’t getting anything out of it? Maybe they could still get some of the money back if she quit early enough in the semester. Maybe then she could go traveling, and stumble upon something she actually wanted to do. To be free in the wind, no responsibilities keeping her back from something better. Maybe her mom would object, but Kaname knew enough stories about Masaki’s delinquent past that she surely couldn’t deny the “like mother, like daughter” situation.
Regardless of how plausible the scenario was, it was probably time to go back and have a less pleasant follow-up conversation with her mother. No avoiding it now, because she had wasted so much time this evening that she wouldn’t never get all that homework done. Definitely another valid reason to call college quits altogether.
A feminine scream yanked Kaname’s mind off the proverbial road to freedom she was riding away on. It had come from close by; scanning the area, Kaname saw a figure running away from someone else on the far side of the park. She dashed towards the figure, ready to give the pursuer a good ass-kicking. Some scummy pervert going after a high-school girl in a quiet park… Oh wait, it was a college girl… Wait, it was that particular college girl.
~~ Next Time, in Part 3 ~~
Kaname and the mysterious girl from the university re-unite under strange and dangerous circumstances! Kaname’s a good fighter, but her schoolyard scraps haven’t prepared her for the showdown that’s about to go down on this playground. Does this beauty behind our beast have something to make the hero a little more super!? Tune in next Sunday, January 29th, 9:00a.m. EST!