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The Mecha Monogatari, Book Two, Chapter III

Posted by Doug on January 3, 2009

“I can’t believe that Takahashi refused to pay up.” The tray full of food in front of me did not look the least bit appetizing; the simulation had ended almost an hour ago, but I still felt nauseated. The mere thought of eating anything right now just turned my stomach.

“So, what was the bet?” Ōhashi-san asked, in between mouthfuls. She had taken almost twice as much food as any of the rest of us, and had already devoured half of it. Ōhashi-san wasn’t skinny, like Tsuchiya-san, but she wasn’t fat, either. She must have a very fast metabolism.

“Takahashi, Sakurai, Chōda, Hatsutori, and I all bet two thousand yen we would get the highest score on the simulation,” Seki answered. He, too, was eating, albeit slowly, disinterestedly. He had taken his medicine, but so far had refused to say anything about it. “Sakurai and Chōda paid up, but Takahashi said that since Team Two got the highest score, he hadn’t lost.”

“That’s stupid,” Tsuchiya-san said. She was eating lightly, having made the comment about being on a diet to lose weight. I didn’t understand that at all. Tsuchiya-san couldn’t weigh more than forty kilos. “My brother says that it’s bad luck not to pay your gambling debts.”

Ōhashi-san rolled her eyes. “Oh, here we go about your brother again-“

I saw the glint of anger in Tsuchiya-san’s eye. Oh, no. No no no no no. There was no way I could endure another disciplinary action like ‘Prisoners on the Beach’ today. “P-please, you t-two, we’re g-going to get in t-trouble again!”

“Oh, right,” Ōhashi-san said, nervously looking around to make sure the instructors weren’t around. Then she gave Tsuchiya-san a sheepish grin. “Gomen, gomen.”

Tsuchiya-san was visibly annoyed, but she wisely chose not to escalate the situation. “It doesn’t matter that the team with the highest score wasn’t represented in the bet. Takahashi-kun should pay up. You two should talk to Benkei-sensei and Hijū-sensei about this.”

“No,” Seki said.

“Why not?” I asked. “It’s not like we’re going to get in trouble for gambling-they were betting on whether or not we’d make it to class on time earlier!”

“I just don’t think it would be a good idea to bug them about every little thing,” Seki said. “If he’s not going to pay up, then we just won’t gamble with him any more. It’s as simple as that.”

“You’re just upset at Hijū-sensei,” Ōhashi-san said. “So what’s between you and her?” When Seki did not respond, Ōhashi-san poked him in the arm with the blunt end of her chopsticks playfully. “Come on, we all saw you two flirting after P.E. this morning.”

Huh? Seki and Hijū-sensei flirting? I guess I was too busy struggling through the exercises and wheezing to notice at the time. I looked over at Seki; his jaw was clenched. He did not look up at Ōhashi-san as he answered, “We were not flirting.”

“Ōhashi-san, quit being rude,” Tsuchiya-san said. “Implying one of our instructors would have such a relationship with a student is completely disrespectful.”

“You people are no fun,” Ōhashi-san said.

We ate in silence. Well, they ate in silence. I tried to eat some of my noodles, but my stomach rebelled. Nope. Not going to work.

“So,” Ōhashi said, “What are we going to do after this?”

The rest of us just looked at Ōhashi-san blankly. Yesterday, we had been tied up until late with all the entrance ceremonies; with all the hustling about, I hadn’t had occasion to socialize with my teammates. I wouldn’t have minded hanging out with them and doing whatever, but…ugh. I just wanted to crawl into bed and forget all about today. “I’m going to go back to my quarters and crash.”

“Weakling,” Ōhashi-san said.

“We still have homework to do,” Tsuchiya-san said.

“What time is lights-out?” Ōhashi-san asked.

Seki shook his head. “There is no designated ‘lights-out’ time. As long as we make it to physical training by 07:00, they don’t care how late we stay up.”

“Really?” Tsuchiya-san said.

“That’s what Hijū and I were talking about this morning,” Seki said.

“Sure you were,” Ōhashi-san said.

“You need to get up earlier, anyway,” Tsuchiya-san said. “We were almost late this morning.”

“You could have gone ahead,” Ōhashi-san said.

“Yeah, but if one member of the team messes up, we will all get disciplined,” I said.

“Exactly,” Tsuchiya-san said. “So I think we should all be up and ready by 06:30 at the latest.”

“That won’t be a problem for me,” Seki said. “I was planning on getting up around 05:30 so I could practice my kendō before physical training.”

“You can’t be serious,” Ōhashi-san said. “Five thirty in the morning just to play swords?”

“I’ve always gotten up that early,” Seki said. “And it’s not ‘playing swords.'”

“Why waste your time with kendō?” Ōhashi-san asked. “You don’t think your titan is going to be armed with a gigantic katana like in some stupid anime, do you?”

“That would be cool, though,” I said.

Ōhashi-san just rolled her eyes at me.

“Martial arts is about self-discipline, not practicality,” Seki said. “Besides, real pilots sometimes do use swords. Like Ichigiri.”

“Who?” I asked.

“Baka,” Tsuchiya-san said. “Don’t you ever pay attention to the news? Ichigiri was the pilot who took the sword off of a Matador and destroyed six other Eschatos with it. That’s how he earned his shikona. My brother was trying to get him transferred into his unit after Ichigiri’s unit was destroyed fighting Lucifer last month, but he went to Hyūga instead.”

“Isn’t Hyūga where Kishin is stationed?” I asked.

“Correct,” Tsuchiya-san said. “My brother says that whenever there is only one survivor of a unit, Kishin has them transferred to Hyūga. There are a lot of pilots with shikona at Hyūga-Kishin, Ichigiri, Torako, Inferuno-“

“Torako?” Ōhashi-san echoed. “What kind of shikona is that?”

I had to agree with Ōhashi-san. Torako is an ordinary girls’ name, and not a particularly uncommon one, either. Every shikona I had ever heard was more impressive than that. The shikona of the Seven Gray Knights were perfect examples: there was Akatachi, the Red Sword; Sogekihei, the Sniper; Satsubatsu, the Savage; Senjōhime, the Princess of the Battlefield; Tatsumaki, the Tornado; and finally Kishin, the Fierce God. Hijū meant Soaring Eagle, Benkei meant Strong Man.

Torako meant…Tiger Girl. Not quite the same.

“I don’t know,” Tsuchiya-san said. “She’s supposed to be one of the best pilots there is.”

“That isn’t her real name, is it?” I asked.

Tsuchiya-san shook her head. “No. Her real name is Enokido Harumi, I think.”

“Still, I think it’s better to learn jūdō,” Ōhashi-san said. “That’s what Kishin used to fight Seraph at Aomori.”

“No, he didn’t,” Seki said.

“Yes, he did!” Ōhashi-san said.

“I’ve never heard it mentioned that Kishin knew jūdō,” I said.

“Me neither,” Tsuchiya-san said. “Where did you hear that?”

“My jūdō instructor,” Ōhashi-san said. “His ex-girlfriend was good friends with a woman who was stationed with Kishin back before he transferred to Hyūga.”

Was she serious? Her jūdō instructor knew somebody who knew somebody who knew Kishin, and that somehow granted him knowledge of Kishin’s talents? I looked at Tsuchiya-san and Seki, but it was obvious that neither of them placed much confidence in the veracity of Ōhashi-san’s jūdō instructor.

“What?” Ōhashi-san asked, looking from one of us to the next.

Smirking, Seki stood, picking up his tray. “Let’s go back and get our homework out of the way.”

* * * * *

“Show me your medicine,” Tsuchiya-san said to Seki.

The four of us were in Tsuchiya-san and Ōhashi-san’s room, working on the English homework we had been assigned earlier today. Seki, Tsuchiya-san and me sat around the table, our textbooks arrayed in front of us, while Ōhashi-san sat on her bunk, her books in her lap. We had already completed our other assignments, and were almost done with the English.

Seki’s jaw clenched at Tsuchiya-san’s brusque demand, and for a moment, I feared that the situation would blow up into another argument. At least we weren’t still in the cafeteria-surely we wouldn’t be reprimanded for arguing in our quarters? I tried to think of some way to diffuse the situation, but surprisingly, Seki said nothing. He just stood, went over into the room he and I shared, and returned, setting two orange bottles with white caps in the center of the table before sitting down again.

Tsuchiya-san sighed in relief-she had been expecting a confrontation, too-and picked up the bottles. Holding up the larger one, she haltingly read the label. “‘Calandatine.’ What is this for?”

“Don’t be so nosy, Tsuchiya-san,” Ōhashi-san said.

“If I’m going to be held responsible, I have a right to know,” Tsuchiya-san said.

“It’s a synchronicity inhibitor,” Seki said.

A synchronicity inhibitor? Those were illegal, big time illegal. Every other week, it seemed, there was some story in the news about some kid’s parents getting arrested for trying to buy such drugs, so that they could pump their kid full of them before their yearly synchronicity testing and thus let their kid’s ability go unnoticed.

Ōhashi-san hopped off of her bunk. “But aren’t those illegal?”

Seki shook his head. “Not with a prescription from a Jieitai doctor.”

“I don’t understand,” Tsuchiya-san said. “Why did they prescribe these for you?”

“You saw,” Seki said.

“You mean how you were having trouble syncing out?” I asked.

Seki nodded.

“How are you supposed to sync in at all if you’re taking these inhibitors?” Ōhashi-san asked.

“The dose isn’t high enough to prevent it,” Seki said. “It just drops my effective synchronicity score by six or seven points.”

“Six or seven points?” I echoed. “What is your synchronicity score, anyways?”

“I bet it’s high,” Ōhashi-san said. “Let me guess-sixteen?”

“I have a sixteen,” I said.

“Oh, nobody cares about you,” Ōhashi-san said. “Come on, Seki, am I right?”

Seki shook his head.

“Seventeen?” Ōhashi-san ventured.

Seki pointed upwards. His score was higher than seventeen? This was a blow to my ego: I had always felt special with my ‘so-high-it’s-unheard-of’ synchronicity of sixteen.

“Eighteen?” Ōhashi-san said.

Seki continued pointing upwards.

“Higher than eighteen?” Ōhashi-san said. “Come on, just tell us.”

“Twenty-five,” Seki said.

Not possible.

“You’re joking,” Ōhashi-san said. “Nobody has a score that high.”

Tsuchiya-san nodded. “She’s right. My brother’s been a pilot for six years now, and he only has a score of twenty.”

Seki shrugged. “Don’t believe me if you want.”

“Seki, do you really have a synchronicity score of twenty-five?” Ōhashi-san asked.

“Yes,” Seki said. He sighed, and then explained a little further. “I synchronize too deeply with the system, and it’s hard for me to sync out. I had this problem during basic, but I thought I had gotten it under control.”

He seemed to be telling the truth, but that was just too incredible. In basic training, everyone always said that a sixteen was very high and anything higher than that was extremely rare. The only people I ever heard of with synchronicity scores over twenty were veteran pilots with shikona. Then again, he had been able to stay synchronized for four hours straight, without even the briefest of breaks. “So, what’s the other one?” I asked.

“Albetinol,” Tsuchiya-san said.

“It’s for my blood pressure,” Seki said. “When I’m synced up, it goes up.”

“The nosebleed,” Ōhashi-san said.

Seki nodded.

Tsuchiya-san opened the bottle of calandatine, and then looked up at Seki sharply. “You still haven’t taken any!” She held the bottle out for us to see-it was still packed with cotton. “Seki-kun, I am not going to get into trouble on account of you.”

Ōhashi-san said, “Oh, it’s okay for him to get into trouble on account of you, though.”

“That was your fault!” Tsuchiya-san said.

“You were the one yelling,” Ōhashi-san said.

Here we go again. “O-Ōhashi-san, Tsu-Tsuchiya-s-san, s-stop it!”

“Oh, sh-shut u-up, H-Hatsut-tori,” Ōhashi-san said.

I knew I stuttered occasionally, but it always ticked me off when people made fun of me about it. “D-don’t mock m-me!”

“Urusei!” Seki shouted, slapping the table so hard our books bounced up off of it. Without any warning, he snatched the bottle of calandatine from Tsuchiya-san. The rest of us fell silent as he stood, and took one of the pills from the bottle. Popping it into his mouth, he grimaced as he swallowed it without drinking anything. “Look, I’m sorry this became such a problem.” He bowed apologetically. “I will start taking my pills when I’m supposed to.”

Seki’s had gained our attention with his little outburst. “But we all heard what Hijū and Benkei-sensei said during the debriefing. We absolutely have to stop bickering among ourselves if we want to graduate.”

That was true, but… “Ōhashi-san is the one starting everything!”

“No, I’m not!” Ōhashi-san shot back.

“No! Do not start this again!” Seki shouted. “Do you want to get stuck with stuff like that Prisoners on the Beach again?”

“Absolutely not,” Tsuchiya-san said.

“It’s not my fault you are all so thin-skinned,” Ōhashi-san said.

“Ōhashi-san, I don’t think you realize how rude you sound sometimes,” Seki said. “I mean, we barely know each other. How would you like it if some stranger came up to you and started smarting off to you?”

Ōhashi-san was silent; she knew Seki had a point.

Tsuchiya-san nodded. “Seki-kun’s is right. We need to get to know each other better. My brother always says that teamwork grows out of friendship and respect. So, what do you suggest we do to get to know each other better?”

Seki sat back down, rubbing the back of his neck. “I don’t know.”

Well, that was unexpected. He seemed like he had it all figured out for a second there.

Ōhashi-san laughed. “Oh, brilliant.”

“Well, I have an idea,” I said.

“Let’s hear it,” Tsuchiya-san said.

I’ll admit it wasn’t the greatest idea, but… “Well, you know how in anime, whenever there is an exchange student-“

“In anime?” Ōhashi-san said, barely containing laughter. “You got your idea from anime?”

“Ōhashi-san, you’re doing it again,” Seki said.

“Doing what?” Ōhashi-san said.

“Being rude,” Seki said. “Unless you have something positive to contribute, shut up.”

For a moment, it looked as if Ōhashi-san was going to protest, but she just flopped back onto her bunk. “Whatever.”

Seki turned to me. “Hatsutori, you were saying?”

They were going to laugh at me for sure. “No, never mind.”

“Just say it,” Seki demanded.

“P-promise not to laugh,” I said.

“I’m not going to laugh,” Seki said.

“You, too,” I said to Tsuchiya-san.

“I promise,” Tsuchiya-san said. “Now tell us what your idea was!”

I looked over at Ōhashi-san, but she was feigning disinterest. Well, I opened my mouth. I might as well say what I was going to say. I cleared my throat. “You know, in school, whenever someone transfers into the class mid-term, they always have the transfer student introduce themselves to the class, and then everyone in the class asks them questions? I mean, it never happened like that at my school, but I’ve seen it happen like that a bunch of times in anime. Maybe that would…” My voice trailed off. Nobody was laughing, but hearing myself say that, it sounded very corny.

“We never did that at any of my schools, either,” Tsuchiya-san said. “I always just showed new students around for a day or so-I was the iinchō. Transfer students are rare, anyways.”

“I can totally see you as the iinchō,” Seki said.

“What do you mean by that?” Tsuchiya-san asked.

“Nothing,” Seki said. “Well, I don’t have any better ideas. What about you two?”

Ōhashi-san shrugged. “Whatever you all want to do.”

“I’m okay with that, but no asking embarrassing questions,” Tsuchiya-san said, and she was looking straight at me when she said it.

“Wh-what do you mean by that?” I asked.

“You’re…an otaku,” Tsuchiya-san said. “You’re probably going to ask my measurements.”

“Nobody will ask stuff like that,” Seki said.

“Who goes first?” Tsuchiya-san said.

“It’s Hatsutori’s idea, make him go first,” Ōhashi-san said.

“I think Ōhashi-san should go first,” Tsuchiya-san said.

“We play janken to see who goes first,” Seki said.

“No, I think we should vote,” Tsuchiya-san said.

“I agree with Seki-Janken would be fairer,” Ōhashi-san said.

I always lost when I played janken, and I did not want to go first. “I say we vote.”

We all fell silent. I was surprised that there was neither any objection to my suggestion nor any ridicule, but now we were deadlocked on who would go first. It was all just so…silly. As much as I dreaded it, I figured I might as well take responsibility. “Well, I g-guess I should go first. Like Ōhashi-san said, it was m-my idea.”

“Then go ahead, introduce yourself,” Tsuchiya-san said.

I took a deep breath to steady my nerves. Why did I have to open my mouth? “W-well, my n-name is Hatsutori Masao, fifteen years old. I’m from Y-Yoshinog-gawa, Tokushima prefecture. Ah, I-I really don’t know what else t-to say…”

“Then it’s question time!” Ōhashi-san said. “So, you’re an otaku-do you prefer 2-D girls or 3-D girls?”

Yes, this was a terrible idea. As I felt my face begin to burn, I wondered, What had happened to not asking embarrassing questions?

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