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004-Till Our Lives Burn Out -Ch2-Pt2b-Ch3-Pt1-Pt 2a

by Eric Gasparich
copyright 11-29-2007


Age Rating: 13 +
004-Till Our Lives Burn Out -Ch2-Pt2b-Ch3-Pt1-Pt 2a
Picture Credits: Screengrab


Till Our Lives Burn Out

Chapter 2- Part 2b




“Hotaru,” said Setsuna as they were driving home, “you should not have done that.”

“But it looked so pathetic.”

“That man is no fool. He was very suspicious. He may be psychic as well.”

“What did she do?” asked Michiru.

Setsuna explained about the fish, as Haruka and Michiru sipped on their lemonade. “Hotaru, I spoke to your teacher about discretion where our personal matters are concerned. He seems trustworthy, and I intend to make sure of that, but in the meantime, it ill not help matters if you display unusual talents in front of him.”

“She’s right, Hotaru,” said Haruka. “You shouldn’t have done that.”

“What makes you think he’s psychic?” asked Michiru.

“He was very … knowledgeable.”

“Hmm,” said Haruka. “A knowledgeable tutor. This could be a real disaster.”

“He was knowledgeable about things he should not know. Not from mere glances and a few minutes’ conversation.”

“I heard you talking,” said Hotaru. “He wasn’t sure, you know? He’s just a really good guesser. I think he does that to impress people.”

“Well, at least Hotaru seems happy with the whole idea.”

“I like him,” she beamed in affirmation. “He seems nice. And I like his face.”

“Indeed? What do you like about it?” asked Setsuna.

“He has an actual nose,” she said, not meaning to be funny, but Michiru and Haruka both chuckled. “And his eyes are so … shiny.”

“Yes, I too noticed that,” said Setsuna.

“You should have come in,” Hotaru said. “There was a lot of neat stuff in there. Besides, I think he really wanted to get to know …,” she paused to giggle, “…‘you two kittens’.”

“Kittens?” asked Haruka. “That guy actually said that?”

“Yes,” Hotaru and Setsuna replied together.

Haruka scowled.

“Well, it’s official,” said Michiru, her hand to her lips in amusement. “Haruka hates him. Therefore, he must be all right.”

Quiet settled over them. Setsuna watched the passing scenery. In spite of Kuryakin-san’s generosity about the fee, Setsuna was disconcerted on a number of levels. The whole point of doing this was to make sure Hotaru was taken care of with a maximum of discretion about those “hidden matters.” Hiring a tall Sherlock Holmes didn’t seem like the ideal way to assure that. She probably shouldn’t have brought it up. He was obviously professional, and bringing it up only clued him in. Furthermore, how was such a young man so accomplished in so many fields? Even a genius would need decades to master that many different disciplines. If he was some kind of hyper-prodigy, why wasn’t such a person better known? Something wasn’t right here. In fact, it now occurred to her there were a lot more questions she should have asked, but for some reason didn’t. Perhaps she would call him later and do so. Still, he seemed like a decent person. Very nice, personable, demonstrably brave –should the need ever arise, trustworthy, and Hotaru seemed to like him.

As Setsuna continued watching the scenery, Hotaru surreptitiously watched her. She seemed to be in very deep thought and even a little unsettled about something. A sly, tiny grin slowly appeared on Hotaru’s face.

‘Hmmm.’

Chapter 003-First Things
(Part 1)



Epigraphs:

“That’s what we all are. Amateurs. We don’t live long enough to be anything else.”
–Charlie Chaplin.



You're nobody till somebody loves you
You're nobody till somebody cares
You might be king, you might possess,
the world and its gold
But gold won't bring you happiness,
when you're growing old
The world still is the same
You'll never change it
As sure as the stars shine above
You're nobody till somebody loves you
So find yourself somebody to love

Various crooners, notably Sinatra




Setsuna put the list of references to use over the following week and there was no shortage of people willing to praise the abilities and trustworthiness of Hotaru’s tutor. Among them were a few prominent people she knew or knew of, including one of the vice presidents of her own university. At the other end of the class spectrum was a widow whose modestly intelligent son joined a gang after the death of his father. One of his first students, Kuryakin had managed to detach him from that situation. After helping him to finish his education, the young man had opened up a modestly successful small business and was putting his sister through college, things on which this poor family could pin hopes for a little bit better lot in life. It was here she found out that, indeed, Kuryakin had taught at least one person for free. One other person on the list especially caught her interest: someone named Dr. Saeko Mizuno. If that was who she thought it was, Ami Mizuno’s workaholic M.D. mother, it might be difficult to get in touch with her, but she would make a point to try. Or she might talk to Ami herself, since her mother’s presence on the list must mean Ami Mizuno was once a student of his.

She also used her prodigious investigative skills to do a records and internet search. “Kuryakin, Peter” and any associated parameters yielded nothing she didn’t already know. For all she was able to find, she had to conclude that he simply appeared out of thin air in Tokyo seven years ago. Considering his age, that didn’t seem too strange, but it still bothered her for reasons she could not put into words. Later during the week, Setsuna called him and asked a few more of the questions she had not thought to ask. Hotaru took note that she called him twice, with plausible enough reasons, on the Saturday before her lessons were to begin. But, twice nonetheless.

The next Monday, Haruka dropped off Hotaru on time and ready to go. Initially, Hotaru was very excited by the prospect of these private lessons, but that Sunday her innate shyness kicked in. Once she truly realized she was going to be the perpetual center of attention during these lessons, she wasn’t sure how she felt about that. However, her tutor still had a couple of older students who were preparing to enter college. They were finishing up scholarship essays and preparing for entrance exams, so it would be a few weeks before she was his only student. By then, she thought, she should be used to it.

“How do you feel today, Hotaru-chan?” he asked, as he led her to the blue room.

“Good, Kuryakin-sensei,” she said, but then added, “a little nervous, though.”

“Well, Hotaru-chan, there’s nothing to be nervous about. Having said that, the first thing you’re going to do is take some tests,” he smiled at her.

She smiled shyly and nervously back.

“These are just a guide to find out how much you know. I assure you there are questions on these tests that you will not be able to answer, unless you are just insanely smart, which you might be for everything Miss Meioh said about you. It’s not for a grade, so don’t stress out about that. We should be able to get through them in these first two days, but I will not put any time limit on you. Do your best, and when you reach a question you can’t answer, just move on to the next. Sound simple enough?”

She nodded.

“And here we are.”

She entered the blue room, and it had been transformed a bit. He sat her at a nice three side desk with a roll top area on the left and a computer on the right. In fact, it was a bit like a command console in some Jules Verne space ship, both antiquated and futuristic. It was elevated, putting her desktop at a level slightly above the desktop in front of the marker board. As she set down, she realized the whole room had indeed been set up to make her feel like the center of attention.

“Okay,” he said smiling, “this is your room for the next four months. I’m even going to let you decorate it a bit later on if you like. We are going work hard, yes, but we’re going to have fun too, and whenever possible, both at the same time. We’ll spend an hour and fifteen minutes on this first assessment test, and then we’ll have lunch. Later on, I want to show you a few other things in the studio: the music lab, the science lab, the green house, and so forth. Oh, and by the way, and I’m going to put you in charge of feeding the fish on the days you’re here. Think you can handle that?”

She nodded shyly but firmly.

“Now before you begin, I want to tell you that I’m really happy to be here with you today. I work hard tailoring lessons to my students’ needs and abilities. In another week or so, you’ll be my only student, so I’ll be spending a lot of time thinking about you, and I really look forward to these times when we’ll be together. You are the reason I am here. Your guardians have gone to a good deal of trouble for you, and the way to honor that is to always do your best.”

“Yes, Kuryakin-sensei.”

“Get out a pencil, and, oh, there’s one more thing I have to warn you about.”

“What’s that, Kuryakin-sensei?” she said as she took a pencil from her bag.

“This is the only multiple choice test I will ever give you. Your midterms and finals will have multiple choice sections, but when I test you, there will be essays, short answers, and fill in the blanks only. I think you will respond best to teaching by induction, and across disciplines. We might go from doing science to music to history to philosophy, all within the same lesson.”

She nodded, though she wondered if this was a good way to teach.

“Okay,” he said sitting down next to her. “Please begin. I’m going to sit here and watch you for a bit.”

She found it a little bit nerve racking at first, but after marking several answers she was certain were correct, and seeing him nod approvingly, a feeling of calm came over her. About twenty minutes later, he got up and told her that he needed to check on his other students, and that he’d be back in ten minutes.

“Do you need a drink of water or anything, when I come back?” he asked.

She shook her head.




Setsuna’s Astrophysics class had let out a little early, and so, before reporting to Juuban elementary to put in a few hours at her part time job as a school nurse, there was time to spend in the library. The term had just begun, and she wasn’t sure what she would do there. Actually, she was sure. The only thing she wasn’t sure of was why she couldn’t let this rest. However, none of the library’s resources could shed any light on the mysterious –to her mind- Mister Kuryakin. After twenty minutes, she left.

On the way out, she stopped by the campus post office to check her mail box. There were a few items in it, including an invitation of some sort. This did not appear to be from anyone specific. She opened it. It was an invitation to a fancy party to be held at the Edwards mansion on the outskirts of Tokyo. The mansion was famous for its spectacular view of the city, its superb flower gardens, and its owner, Mister Edwards, who gave lavish parties for exchange students. Once, during the Infinity Academy crisis, Haruka and Michiru had been the guests of honor at one of them. They’d had a fine time, playing for the guests, and dancing the evening away. She had just finished a new black party dress and this looked like a good opportunity to wear it. Yes, she thought, it might be nice to go there and have an evening out, especially if anyone she knew was going to be there. She would ask around. She was putting the invitation back in its envelope when she noticed something else in there. She pulled it out, read it and frowned.




“Hotaru-chan?”

The little student sat perfectly still, her eyes as blank as the sky on a starless night.

“Hotaru-chan?”

Nothing.

It ended up being twenty five minutes before Kuryakin returned to the Blue Room. When he did, he saw something he did and did not want to see. He went over to a cabinet and got out a small bottle. Then he came back to her, knelt down, and took note of where, during the test, she had frozen. She had finished the chemistry section, as best she could, and was now halfway through a section on astronomy. The last question she answered was about solar wind. The preceding question was about the laws of planetary motion. The one before that was a question that asked her to explain the nature of the center of gravity in the Pluto / Charon system. She had gotten all three answers right. At least, he was pretty sure she gotten the last two right, because he could see where she tried to check the correct boxes. But when he looked at the correct answer for the Pluto / Charon question - “F. Two bodies of differing mass, orbiting a common barycenter, concentric to the orbits of both” – he could tell that was when Hotaru had cleanly snapped off her pencil lead putting an x in the box.

‘Hmmm.’

“Hotaru-chan?” said Kuryakin, as he stared into her eyes. It was the coldest look he’d ever seen. Liquid methane cold. There was something going on in there, too. He continued to stare into her eyes for a couple of minutes. Eventually, he placed a hand on her shoulder.

“Hotaru-chan, listen to me,” he said with a voice that was quiet, measured, and soothing. “You are seeing something. I do not want to know what it is. I know it is something terrible. Be brave. Remember what you are seeing. Do not run from it. Confront it. No situation is completely hopeless. There is always something you can do. Even if it is nothing more than a whispered prayer. Think about it. Do something about it. You are brave. You are strong. You are smart. You will find a way to keep this terrible thing from happening.”

He opened the bottle and waved it under her nose a few times. With a sudden gasp, she awoke.

“Did … did I …?”

“Yes,” he said quickly. “Do you remember anything?”

“No,” she said.

“Well, I don’t think you were out for very long. Do you feel anxious or anything?”

“Yes, Kuryakin-sensei, but …”

“Yes?”

“I’m not as afraid as before.”

“Really? Good. That sounds like progress then,” he smiled, and then tapped the test in front of her, “Okay, my other students are finished for the day, so it’s just you and me, now. I’ll stay right here with you. Now do you think you can finish this section?”

She nodded.

“Go sharpen your pencil. No more blacking out, today or ever. We’ll have lunch when you’re done.”




Haruka and Michiru were meeting for lunch in the cafeteria of their private school. A bit of a come down for them, but they were both in a listless mood.

“I feel strange today, Haruka,” Michiru said thoughtfully.

“Oh?” she said, taking a sip of coffee. “Is something up?”

“Well, there is a … stirring in the seas, yes.”

“I haven’t noticed anything in particular.”

“It’s not an unhappy stirring. In fact, it’s quite happy.”

“Happy is what we want, of course,” Haruka said. “But it’s strange that you would find it noticeable.”

“Perhaps our powers are increasing,” she said quietly, in this very public place.

“Maybe,” Haruka replied, and then took another sip of coffee. “And that’s to be expected, I think, but I wonder if it isn’t something else.”

“Really? What?” asked Michiru, after taking a bite of her salad.

Perhaps uncharacteristically, it was Haruka who had given the most thought to what the return of Chaos to everyone’s minds might actually mean. She put the question to Michiru, who had not given the idea any thought at all. So Haruka spent the next ten minutes quietly laying out her thoughts on the subject, and Michiru found her appreciation for her lover being refreshed in a surprising way. Haruka was no dummy, of course, quite the opposite. But ‘deep thinker’ was on her resume only as a ‘hobby.’ She was action first, play Hamlet later, if at all. She was temperamentally that way, but when the seriousness of what Sailor Moon had accomplished in defeating Chaos / Galaxia had finally hit home –the feigned betrayal of Saturn and Pluto that involved their very real deaths had more than a little to do with that- she stepped up to the plate, and did some serious thinking about it. As she talked, Michiru stared at her with increasing wistfulness. Sometimes- not very often, but sometimes – Haruka could really and pleasantly surprise her.




“Now don’t worry,” Kuryakin said, as he set a plate in front of her. “We’ll have Japanese food next time. I had no time to do it right today, and had to go with something quick. Oh, and today we have ice cream sandwiches for dessert.”

On Hotaru’s plate were modest portions of baked fish, mashed potatoes, buttered broccoli and cauliflower, and a black bread roll that turned out to be surprisingly sweet, with a pat of real butter sitting next to it. She began eating, but, apparently, lunch and other break times did not mean that the education would stop.

“Now,” said The Teacher after downing a bite of fish, “while we’re eating, we’re going to learn a Latin aphorism. Repeat after me: tu ne cede malis,…”

“Tu … ne …cede malis …”

“…sed contra audentior ito.”

“… sed … contra …”

“… au-den-tior it-o,” he prompted, drawing out each syllable.

“…audentior ito.”

He repeated it with her several times, and then said, “It’s my second favorite one. It means ‘do not give in to evil (or calamity), rather go more boldly against it.’”

She smiled, approvingly, it seemed.

“Kuryakin-sensei, what is your favorite one?”

“Fiat justitia ruat caelum,” he said, as he took a black marker out and wrote it out in Romanji on a napkin. “Sometime I want you to look that one up and tell me what it means,” he said, handing the napkin to her, She meticulously folded it up and placed in her pocket.

“When, Kuryakin-sensei?”

“Surprise me.”

She ate lunch slowly and he ate quickly, and then got up, went to the corner of the room, got out a cello, and began tuning it up.

“Do you like music, Hotaru-chan?”

“Yes, Kuryakin-sensei. I play the violin. Michiru-momma teaches me.”

“Ah, yes. Miss Kaioh, I have just discovered, is a fine violinist. I should have heard of her before now, as music is the second best thing I do. Very well, Hotaru-chan, I want you to bring your violin from now on. If Miss Kaioh doesn’t mind, we’ll learn a few duets.”

“Yes, Kuryakin-sensei.”

“Hotaru-chan?”

“Yes, Kuryakin-sensei?”

“You don’t have to say ‘Kuryakin-sensei’ all the time.”

“Yes, Kuryakin-sensei,” she said and then smiled.

He chuckled, and she lowered her eyes, coquettishly. ‘Little charmer.’

“I like the sound of it,” she said shyly. “Your name, I mean.”

“Really? It’s a very silly name. Your name, however, is wonderful and fitting. Oh, before I play a little song for you, let me get you some dessert.”

“This is a wonderful lunch, Kuryakin-sensei, only I don’t like ice cream.”

He looked her with affected shock.

“How can anyone not like ice cream?”

“I don’t like milk products much.”

“Ah, I wondered why you didn’t use that butter on your roll.”

‘Wow, he really doesn’t miss a thing, does he?’ she thought. “Bean curd ice cream is okay.”

“This country has great foods, but I’m sorry, bean curd ice cream is not one of them,” he said, as he opened the refrigerator. “Well, I have some chocolate cake here. How about that?”

She nodded enthusiastically.

“Y’know, Hotaru-chan, Miss Meioh mentioned that you’re a bit fragile, physically.”

Hotaru looked down, a bit embarrassed.

“Nothing to be ashamed of, Hotaru, but I’m thinking it might have a little to do with some mild nutritional deficiencies, maybe even food allergies. Are you allergic to milk, or do you just not like it?”

“I’m not sure if I was allergic. Michiru-momma was in charge of my diet.”

“Okay, I’ll talk to Miss Kaioh about that. Milk products are still a pretty good thing for someone your age. There are things we can do to supply the nutrition you might miss because of your dislike of them. Would you mind if we had a little nutritional assessment done on you?”

Hotaru said nothing, but looked ambivalent.

“We could just assume you’re in need of certain things, and see what happens if we supply them. Kind of … experiment on you?”

‘That would be better,’ she nodded.

“Okay, then. A little chat with Miss Kaioh, and I’ll work on that tonight. Now for something nice …”

He set the cake in front of her and then sat down with his cello. After tuning it up, and playing a few arpeggio patterns on it, he cleared his throat and amused her by playing a bit of Rossini’s William Tell overture ‘upside down’ as he called it. Then he got serious.

“Oh, I like this one,” she said, as he began playing “The Swan” from “Carnival of the Animals.”

“Why?”

“It reminds me of someone,” she said.

“Really?” he asked as the cello resonated throughout the room. “Who?”

“Setsuna-momma.”

“Does it?”




After another hour of assessment testing, he showed her the rest of the building. Hotaru didn’t seem to care much for the greenhouse, and he made a mental note to ask her why later. She perked up considerably when they got to the science lab, and his music studio where he amazed her by demonstrating at least passable skill on every one of the considerable number of instruments there.

“Well,” he explained, “Music is very important to me. In fact, if it hadn’t been for music, I wouldn’t have been able to learn how to teach others so well.”

“Why not?”

“Because the first thing a teacher has to do is learn, and then learn how he learned.”

She followed him in to the room where the fish tank was. He showed her how to feed the fish, what foods to use, and how much. He had her dust the surface of the water with some flake food, and she smiled within when she saw the Blue Tang she’d surreptitiously healed darting around nabbing them as they began sinking to the bottom.

“Every day you’re here, right after lunch you come in and feed them, understood?”

“Yes, Kuryakin-sensei,” she said smartly.

He seemed especially proud of his combination art studio and machine shop which he had been able to build after getting permission from his landlady to knock out a couple of walls between rooms.

“That was easy enough,” he said. “My landlady would give me permission to burn the place to ground if I liked. She could not believe her good fortune that anyone wanted to rent this old place. She’s gotten seven years of rent out of a building that was unsalable, and that was fine by her. I’ve kept the outside merely passable, but I think the inside is downright nice. The reason I am showing you this room is because I’d like you to consider an art project for the term. Take a week to think about it, and come up with something special to you.”

Hotaru needed only the remainder of the day to come up with something. Halfway through the assessment test in social sciences, she stopped and raised her hand.

“Yes, Hotaru-chan?” said Kuryakin as he sat behind his desk in the Blue Room marking up the rough draft of a scholarship essay one of his other students had written. Curiously, he was not looking at her, but knew she wanted his attention anyway.

‘How does he do that?’

“That art project, Kuryakin-sensei? I just remembered Setsuna-momma’s birthday is at the end of October. Can I make her something?”

“That is a wonderful idea. End of October, hmmm? Not much time. Do you have something specific in mind?” Kuryakin asked. His eyes had lit up at this suggestion and a thought Hotaru had in the back of her mind on the day they’d first met inched a tiny bit forward.

“No, Kuryakin-sensei, but I’ll think about it.”

In the latter part of this first lesson day, Hotaru felt a lot more comfortable and was able to hunker down enough to complete two more assessment tests, leaving just one for tomorrow. Kuryakin had already checked her previous two and was working away at the third. The curriculum for Hotaru Tomoe had already taken pretty firm shape in his mind. He said goodbye to Hotaru when Haruka and Michiru came to get her at about 4:40 that afternoon. On this first day, an unexpected bit of fondness crept in to the parting, and should have seemed out of place, but didn’t. He spent a few minutes talking with Michiru about Hotaru’s dietary likes and dislikes. Then he gave her some hand written notes about what he thought he ought to teach Hotaru, and asked if she, Haruka and Setsuna could take a look at them that evening. There were a few questions he wanted them to answer and asked what would be a good time to call. Michiru told him to call about 8:00 p.m.

Hotaru talked animatedly about her first day, and Michiru turned around to listen to her as Haruka wended their way through traffic. She mentioned how good he was in music and that he wanted her to bring her violin from now on. Michiru mentioned that was in the notes he had given her, along with a request that Hotaru bring any recital pieces she had with her. They arrived home. Setsuna was already there, fixing dinner. They discussed her teacher’s questions and suggestions over grilled tuna and miso.

At the appointed time, the phone rang and Setsuna, who had made a point to tell Haruka and Michiru that she would take the call when it came, answered. She and Kuryakin exchanged pleasantries, and then began talking about Hotaru, as the subject of their conversation surreptitiously listened in while she worked her way through a crafts catalog to get ideas about her art project. There was nothing in there that really stood out. Finished with that, Hotaru went upstairs to get ready for bed. After she brushed her teeth, she took a quick peek downstairs. The conversation continued, even though all of Kuryakin’s questions and concerns had been addressed. She went to say good night to Michiru, and took several minutes to explain about her tutor’s art studio and ask for advice about Setsuna’s birthday present. By the time she went to her room, the phone conversation was … still not over. Hotaru got into bed, and waited for Setsuna to come tuck her in. Twenty five minutes later, she did.

“Setsuna-momma?” she asked, as Setsuna fluffed Hotaru’s pillow for her, “what was so interesting about my first day?”

“What do you mean, Hotaru?”

“You were on the phone for a long time.”

“I was curious about a few things. Your teacher’s methodology seems interesting. I also wished to make certain …”

“He didn’t break me on the rack or anything trying to pry into our personal affairs,” she joked.

Setsuna smiled, and, hand to her lips in amusement, said, slyly, “Yet.”

Hotaru giggled.

“Did somebody in here make a joke?” a passing Haruka asked, poking her head into the room.

“No,” said Setsuna and Hotaru together.

“Uh huh,” she said. “Well, good night, My Princess.”

“Oh, thank you,” said Setsuna, flatly, “and good night to you, my dear Haruka.”

Hotaru laughed again. Haruka looked momentarily surprised, then smirked, archly blew Setsuna a kiss, winked at them both and left. It was, of course, all in good fun. Haruka Tenoh never flirted with anyone older than herself, but this somewhat uncharacteristic levity on Setsuna’s part reminded Hotaru of something she’d been curious about in the past, but never felt any burning desire to bring up, until tonight.

“Setsuna-momma?”

“Yes, Hotaru?” said Setsuna, as Hotaru appeared to be at once dying to ask something yet very reticent.

“You …” Hotaru’s forehead furrowed deeply. This was something personal, possibly too personal.

“Proceed,” said Setsuna.

“You … like men, don’t you?”

Setsuna’s eyes widened more than a little.

“I mean … you’re not like … Haruka-poppa and Michiru-momma, are you?”

Setsuna closed her eyes deliberately, coughed into her hand, then opened them and said, “No, I am not. However, that does not mean I much concern myself about men either.”

“How come? Don’t you feel … alone, from time to time?”

Setsuna sighed indulgently. “Do not worry yourself about whether I feel lonely that way. I am the one who ought to guard the gate of time,” she said as though reciting some personal catechism. “You should sleep now, beautiful Hotaru, my dear child.”

In the bathroom down the hall, Haruka had finished brushing her teeth. On the way back to her room, she and Setsuna passed each other in the hallway.

“Night again.”

“Good night, Haruka.”

Haruka looked back over her shoulder, watching Setsuna thoughtfully until she went into her room. When Haruka got to her bedroom, she said to Michiru, “Hour and ten minutes. And she was making jokes afterward. Funny that.”

“Hmm,” said Michiru. Neither of them could recall Setsuna ever spending more than ten minutes on the phone with anyone, under any circumstances.


Chapter 003-First Things
(Part 2)


The lone occupant of Juku-PK looked through the skylight in his upper floor bedroom. It was the only room on the second floor, just an attic really, and though wide, it barely accommodated someone of his height. Once he had realized he would be staying there for a while, he had cut a modest vaulted ceiling into the roof, and installed the skylight just to have a little space to stretch out in the mornings. He could switch out the window depending on the seasons. For the current summer heat, the mirrored window was in place. It allowed him to see out, but did not let much sunlight in. Often in the mornings, he would see squirrels running across it.

First light was about an hour away though, and he was gazing at the stars that happened to be directly overhead. Despite the city lights, his keen eyes could just make out the two ‘lines’ of stars that formed the constellation Andromeda, attached to The Great Square, four stars that defined the corners of a fairly equilateral quadrangle, and formed the wing of the constellation Pegasus. He sighed. He had not had a very restful night. Three things were bothering him. The first was news from home with matters of concern he had received that evening. However, those who had sent the news knew what to do about them and were mainly just keeping him informed. Still, some of the news was troubling. For one thing, it might mean he would have to go home for a while.

The other two things might be related. He had just awakened from a dream he had not had in quite some time.

He saw himself from above, and at a time that seemed an eternity ago. He was in a field resting from some work he’d just finished. It was a beautiful, cool day. He turned around and looked up. He thought he heard his name being called. He had. In the distance, he saw two of his brothers coming toward him. He waved and greeted them happily. They waved back, but as they got closer, he saw their faces were grave. He saw them walk up to his dream self, and speak a few words. He looked confused for a moment. They said something else. Disbelief. His brothers hung their heads, and spoke one last time. His face fell into shock, and then he ran toward the house.

The dream was old news, and always the same. It did mark the beginning of the long climb out of the deep hole that had opened up beneath him that day.

The final thing disturbing his sleep was his conversation the previous evening with Hotaru-chan’s ‘Setsuna-momma.’ She had agreed with him on every point of how he wished to proceed with Hotaru, and then asked for further explanations of his methodologies, and kept on asking for explanations as though she just wanted to talk to him. He was all but ontologically certain he’d been imagining that, yet there was some quality in that wonderful, husky, alto voice of hers that wouldn’t allow him to shake off the feeling, entirely. He was surprised to see how long he’d been talking once the conversation was over, too. Now that he thought about it, where the last two troubling items were concerned, he was sure the latter had triggered the former.

‘Ah well,’ he thought, as he sighed and climbed out of bed. ‘At least one out of three things was pleasant to think on. Par for the course.’




“Miyuki-chan?” Setsuna called to her friend from the door of a classroom at K.O. university.

“Setsuna-chan! Good to see you,” said Miyuki who had just finished teaching some undergrads. “I’ll be done here in just a moment.”

After the rest of the students filed out, she put away her lecture notes and she and Setsuna walked together toward the entrance.

“We took your advice concerning Hotaru.”

“Really? I was going to call you about that. Good to hear. I think you’ll be very glad you did.”

“I did wish to ask you something though.”

“Yes?”

“What first prompted you to trust Mister Kuryakin with teaching your brother?”

“Ah, being thorough as usual? As I said, desperation to begin with. We really were at wit’s end. We were willing to try anything. We didn’t learn a whole lot about him. He was licensed, and had superb references.”

“And neither you nor your parents were all that concerned to look into his past any further?” asked Setsuna, who was looking down the hallway more than at Miyuki.

“Not especially, no. It would have been rude for one thing, don’t you think? We met him on the recommendation of the principal of my brother’s junior high school. Not to make things sound too melodramatic, but saving my brother’s life, or -in the beginning- the prospect thereof, counted for astonishing coin in the trustworthiness department. Have you found out anything?”

“For all I was able to discover, he simply appeared out of thin air seven years ago, and … ah,” she said ...


(Word Limit Reached)




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