Volume 2 Episode 2 - No Sushi

Rune Lake, New Berengaria, Rune Lake High School

It was nearing the end of the second class of the day and Mr. McFadden was attempting to finish up his lesson. He was having trouble doing so, however, due to some new problem students in the class.

Mr. McFadden: Adell! Mitani! I'm only going to say this one more time. Keep your hands off each other while we're having class!

Both Adell and Mitani suddenly sat up straight at their desks.

Adell: Sorry!

Mitani didn't say anything and instead cast a glance and a devilish smile at Adell.

Before the teacher could get started again, the bell rang, and instantaneously thereafter, the classroom was filled with the sound of books closing and tablets being returned to their bags.

The teacher had to yell over the din.

Mr. McFadden: Your homework for tonight is to complete the short essay exercise on page 86! Don't forget to forward it to my account here at the school!

Students went about their business while the teacher was speaking. It was anyone's guess, to the casual observer, if anyone was hearing him at all.

Mr. McFadden: Adell, Mitani, up here now!

None of the other students noticed, but Adell and Mitani suddenly stopped what they were doing and looked up at the teacher. They both looked at each other and then walked to the front of the room.

Mr. McFadden: So nice that you two are getting along now, but if you two can't keep your hands off of each other, I'll have to separate you. Got it?

Mitani: But...

Mr. McFadden: End of discussion.

The teacher grabbed his briefcase without another word and left. Adell and Mitani stared at each other.

Adell: I guess we'll have to control ourselves.

Mitani: Looks that way.

Toma: Weird place. You two are the only ones around here who act normal.

Adell jumped a little while Mitani raised an eyebrow. They turned to see Toma standing behind them, his arms folded across his chest, the usual scowl etched across his face. He was standing a few feet away from him, almost seeming to be conspicuously keeping his distance.

Adell: It's Toma, right?

Mitani: Did you just call us normal?

Toma: You humans seem to have an exaggerated sense of personal space. I gave that girl over there a traditional tokki greeting because she asked for it, but I think I scared her.

Mitani: Well, you can stand closer than that. I'm Mitani, by the way.

Adell: I'm Adell. What's a traditional tokki greeting?

Toma hesitantly stepped forward a little until he was at a more comfortable distance, by human standards, at least. However, before he could begin answering Adell's question, Kaoru walked up to the group.

Kaoru: You're Toma, right? I'm Kaoru.

Kaoru put his hand out expecting a handshake. He suddenly realized that Toma probably didn't know what a handshake was and closed his fist, swinging his arm stupidly. Toma stared at him and though his scowly exterior remained wholly unchanged, he found Kaoru's actions amusing.

Kaoru: Heh, I guess you don't do handshakes, do you? Tell you what, why don't you just give me your traditional tokki greeting?

Adell and Mitani grinned with unbridled glee. They knew that Kaoru just walked into something, even if they didn't know what it was yet.

Toma sighed and rolled his eyes. His scowl deepened as he lowered his head and glared at Kaoru.

Toma: Fine. But you have to promise not to run away.

Kaoru's eyes widened. He wasn't sure what he just stepped in, but he now desperately hoped it wasn't too deep.

Kaoru: Uh... Okay?

Toma approached Kaoru, getting closer and closer. With each step, Kaoru was getting more and more sure that he had just stepped in something deep indeed.

Toma pressed his body up against Kaoru's and embraced him. Kaoru froze stiff as Toma pinched his ear and gave him a quick kiss on the lips. Toma stepped back, leaving a completely frozen and wide-eyed Kaoru behind. Adell and Mitani stared open-mouthed at the two of them. And it wasn't just them either. Nearly everyone in the room had also suddenly stopped whatever they were doing and were staring at Toma and Kaoru too.

Mitani: I want a traditional tokki greeting!

Adell: Me too!

Toma didn't say anything. He just turned and scowled even more deeply at the two of them.

Adell: Or not...

Just then, the classroom door opened and Jaze walked in wiping his hands dry on a handkerchief. It was clear that he'd just got back from washing his hands and saw nothing of what had transpired. Jaze approached the group, walking up to them from behind Kaoru, Toma shielded from him, mostly, by Kaoru's body. Jaze clearly didn't notice that Toma was standing there.

Jaze: Hi guys! You wanna get some sushi for lunch after next class? I'm already starv...

As Kaoru turned around, he revealed Toma standing behind him. Jaze froze in his tracks.

Jaze: EEP!

Before anyone could say anything to try and reassure Jaze, he turned and ran, going so far as to run on all-fours as he rounded through the door and out into the hallway, his tail standing straight up into the air. From the hallway, they could hear their next teacher walking down the hallway towards their room.

Teacher: Jaze! No... running?

Kaoru, Adell, and Mitani watched Jaze with puzzlement. Nothing about Toma seemed even remotely threatening. Odd, yes, but not threatening. Toma's scowl, once again, turned up slightly into what could charitably be called a smile.

Toma: I like him.

At the Diner

Adell, Mitani, Kaoru and Jaze sat outside in the warm air during their lunch break. It was nice, but a bit of a struggle as the occasional warm gust of wind would come perilously close to blowing all their napkins off of the table. Everyone seemed eager to relax a bit and talk about Toma. Everyone except Jaze, of course.

Jaze: I don't see why we couldn't go to the sushi place.

Mitani: Dammit, Jaze, we already told you! We've had sushi every damn day for the last three weeks! We're getting something different for a change.

Jaze: Alright, alright. Jeez...

Adell: Kaoru, you're being awfully quiet.

Kaoru: That was... my first kiss...

Adell and Mitani laughed.

Mitani: You're worried about that? You heard him. It was just a greeting.

Adell: Yeah, it's not like that counts for a first kiss.

Mitani: Unless he put his tongue down your throat.

Adell: True. Did he?

Kaoru: No he didn't!

Adell and Mitani laughed again. Jaze hardly broke from his scowl until finally, unable to contain himself any longer, he shouted at them.

Jaze: You should just stay away from that rabbit!

Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at Jaze. It seemed that now was perhaps the only time to ask him what they were all thinking.

Adell: What is it with you and rabbits anyway?

Kaoru: Yeah, I just got kissed, but I suppose it wasn't that bad.

Mitani: Ha, you liked it!

Kaoru: Oh, shut up.

While teasing Kaoru once again, they had forgotten about Jaze and the rabbit situation almost altogether. They didn't notice that he was already preparing to answer Adell's question. While their attention was turned to Kaoru, Jaze rummaged through his bag and pulled out a large, thin picture book and threw it on the table.

Jaze: Look at that if you don't believe me!

Adell picked up the book. It looked brand new. As he opened the front cover, it crackled as the binding bent backwards. Adell struggled a bit to peel apart the pages as they were stuck together. It was clear that it hadn't been opened very many times, if at all.

Adell: Wow, seems new. "Nekomi Myths and Legends."

Adell flipped open the back cover and looked at the date stamp on it.

Adell: And you're the only one who's ever checked it out of the library, Jaze. What's this for anyway?

Jaze sat with his arms folded across his chest, slouching in his chair. He was looking away from the book, as though it were unworthy of his attention.

Jaze: Flip to the middle.

Adell struggled to get to the middle. Some pages were fine, but he still had to peel apart other pages. Finally, he found what he guessed Jaze was talking about.

Adell:"Chapter seven: Rabbits." Wow, that's one freaky picture.

Adell turned the book around and showed them the picture. Indeed it was a drawing of a rabbit, but it didn't look at all like Toma in character. The rabbit in the drawing was a savage looking beast, tall and red-eyed. His sharp fangs dripped with the blood and entrails of his prey, also lovingly rendered in the picture, which he was ferociously ripping into with his razor-like claws.

Both Mitani and Kaoru studied the picture and then looked at Jaze incredulously. Adell read an excerpt from the book.

Adell: "Rabbits are savage killers seeking only that which satisfies their own primitive desires. They most commonly prefer children for the more tender meat that they offer..." Ew, it goes on but I don't want to read anymore.

Jaze: There! See what I'm talking about?

Kaoru had suddenly quite forgotten about the "greeting" situation and was now feeling a bit of sympathy for Toma and the rest of the tokki having to endure a stigma like that.

Kaoru: Jaze, just how old is that story?

Jaze: I don't know. It's one of those old stories that every nekomi is taught when we're growing up. Sort of like Hansel and Gretel for humans.

Mitani: Are you nuts? Look at the title of that book! "Myths and Legends!" None of that crap is real! I can't believe that you actually believe that stuff!

Adell pulled Mitani aside and spoke softly so that the others couldn't hear him.

Adell: Neige, think about it. What would you think if an exchange student from a race of demons came to our school? And that "demon" was as harmless as a mouse? How would you feel?

Mitani: That's different.

Adell: Is it?

Mitani thought for several moments, trying to come up with a reason why it was different, convinced as he was of that. However, he came up empty.

Adell: Think about it. A big, red, bloody demon with fangs and horns. What would you think?

Mitani: Okay, I guess that would be pretty freaky.

Adell flipped to the beginning of the book, once again, peeling the crisp, new pages from each other. He thought, perhaps, he could get Jaze's mind off of rabbits by talking about something else.

Adell: Chapter one is "Wishmaster."

Adell looked at Jaze, silently prompting him to enlighten everyone about what a Wishmaster was.

Jaze: Wishmaster is basically nekomi devil.

Kaoru leaned in towards the book to get a closer look at the picture. He expected something scary. In a way, it was. The character had saber-tooth fangs, three tails, two of which were skeletal, and horns on his head. Aside from that, he seemed rather suave, wearing a regal, traditional nekomi vest and carrying a black staff with a jewel mounted on the top.

Kaoru: Oh, what does he do?

Jaze: The story goes that he will grant you any wish you want, but there's always a catch. Like, you could wish for a million ren, but then your mother would drop dead and leave you a giant life insurance policy. That sort of thing.

Adell ruffled his brow, pondering what Jaze just said.

Adell: In that case, why would anyone even make a wish?

Jaze: It is possible... very difficult, but possible... to word your wish so that there is no catch.

Adell sensed an opening to make a point about Toma.

Adell: So, do you believe that Wishmaster exists, Jaze?

Jaze's ears suddenly stood straight up on his head.

Jaze: What? No, of course not! It's just...

Adell smiled knowingly. Jaze's ears folded down on the sides of his head as he suddenly realized what he was about to say.

Jaze: ...just a silly old story. Yeah, yeah, I see what you did. Point taken. Just give me some time to get used to him, okay?

They were all interrupted as the waiter approached their table.

Waiter: Hey guys! You're from the high school right? Well, our special today is a roast beef sandwich...

Jaze: Got any fish?

Almost instantaneously thereafter, Mitani slapped Jaze hard on the back of the head.

Jaze: Hey!

Mitani: We all know you want fish. Now be quiet so we can hear the specials.

Jaze: Okay, okay. Sorry.

Jaze ultimately settled for tuna salad while everyone else ordered burgers. They ate and talked about many things and didn't bring up Toma or tokki again.

When they returned, they were surprised to find that Toma wasn't there, nor did he show up for any of his afternoon classes. Jaze seemed a bit more relaxed but the others were worried.

Toma, in fact, had left the school after eating his lunch and wandered north towards the shopping area in the middle of the gay district. People still stared at him wherever he went, but at least he didn't have to endure the reactions he got from his greetings anymore. He spent most of his time in clothing shops, taking special care to keep his distance from as many people as possible.

Being a school day, he was pleased to find the beach lightly populated. He cast off all of his clothes and he enjoyed a nice swim in the cool waters. There, the constant weight of gravity melted away as he paddled endlessly along back and forth along the shore. He was able to relish the solitude for only a couple of hours until the the school day and work day was over and the beach and water filled with more and more people. Once it became too difficult to avoid people, he got out of the water and dressed himself before heading home.

On the way home, all he could think about was that all the Carpathian swimmers were wearing shorts in the water and wondered if they considered him strange for not wearing anything at all.

Commissioned art in this episode from:
Atomic Clover

All city images from SimCity 4.

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