Volume 2 Episode 3 - Touch My Ears
Rune Lake, New Berengaria, Rune Lake High School
A few days passed and Jaze was starting to become used to Toma's presence in the classroom a little. At the very least, he was now paying more attention to the teacher now than eyeballing Toma, expecting him to peel his face off at any given moment and reveal blood-soaked fangs and evil, red eyes.
Adell, Mitani, Kaoru, and Jaze were gathered together in the corner of the room by the windows. A warm, sleepy light poured in, making everyone feel a bit lethargic. Kaoru turned an opened one of them, letting in a blissfully cool breeze and returned to the conversation. It was just at the beginning of lunchtime and they were engaged in the usual banter about where to go eat, which usually ended with the answer "sushi."
Kaoru: Why don't we go to the plaza next door for a change? There are food vendors there.
Mitani: Meh. Rabbit food. It's all fruit and vegetable stalls.
Kaoru: Not all of them. I know there's at least one person there selling hot dogs.
Jaze: Nobody's asking me what I want.
Mitani: We don't have to. You want the same damn thing every day!
Adell: If we go to the park, we can ask Toma if he wants to come. Seems awfully lonely for him to be one of the only ones here by himself every day having the nasty school lunch.
Jaze: We are NOT inviting him! Besides, I'm sure he's fine. Even the cafeteria here can't screw up raw fruit and vegetables.
A few moments went by of stony silence. Jaze suddenly noticed that everyone was staring at him expectantly, as though they expected him to start growing tentacles from his face. He looked back and forth at the three of them and they did not avert their gaze, leaving him very confused.
Jaze: What? I got a booger on my face or something?
Suddenly, Jaze felt a set of the most wonderous, sensual fingernails digging into his scalp directly behind his ears. He didn't know who they belonged to, but he almost instantly lost all perception of where he was and what he was doing.
Jaze: Oh, that's good. Oh yeah... Harder...
The unknown fingernails obliged immediately, digging even more deliciously into his scalp. He bowed his head and lazily closed his eyes. There was nothing in the world now but him and the fingernails dancing on top of his head.
Adell, Mitani, and Kaoru started whispering to each other.
Adell: Should we tell him?
Kaoru: No way. He'll have a heart attack.
Mitani: He's going to find out eventually. I've got ten ren that says he jumps out the window.
Adell: Ten ren says he runs out the door.
Kaoru glanced up at the ceiling. It was obviously a drop ceiling, made of very flimsy material and the proper ceiling, so to speak, was above that, with the ventilation systems and light fixtures in between.
Kaoru: My ten says he jumps through the ceiling and then out the window.
Both Adell and Mitani gave Kaoru a very strange look. Kaoru, for once, was able to return their stares with one of confidence.
Kaoru: Heh. You don't know Jaze like I do. Just watch.
The three turned their attention back to Jaze who was still, for the moment, blissfully enjoying himself. They watched in amusement as his ears began to twitch, fluttering about in little spasms of activity.
Jaze: Oh yeah... A little to the right...
Again, the fingernails immediately obliged. He could feel both hands on his head digging in exquisitely behind both of his ears. Suddenly, he felt something else brushing up against his ear. It was cold and definitely metal. It was enough to break him from his trance-like state.
Jaze: What's that?
Jaze turned and froze. Almost nose to nose in front of him was Toma, his large, silver bunny earring swinging from the end of his ear.
Toma: Like it?
Adell and Mitani were suddenly not sure if Kaoru simply knew Jaze well or could predict the future, for the following events unfolded precisely as he said they would. The moment Jaze screamed, he launched upwards like an out-of-control bottle rocket and plunged into the ceiling tiles, raining large pieces of debris and dust on all of them. The moment he landed back on the floor, he catapulted himself out the window and into the school grounds.
Kaoru looked at Adell and Mitani with smug satisfaction on his face.
Kaoru: I don't know why the nekomi would evolve that whole jumping thing as a defensive mechanism. Seems kinda useless, but it does make for great comedy. Pay up, losers!
Adell and Mitani each reluctantly reached into their pockets, pulled out ten ren each, and handed them to Kaoru.
Adell turned and rummaged through his desk for a moment. When he emerged, he was holding a bright, red apple. Giving Toma an apple was quickly becoming a staple of their day. First, it was the only time they got to see the real Toma break through his gothy exterior, if only for a little bit. More interestingly though was that it was loads of fun watching him demolish the apple within seconds of receiving it.
Adell: Have an apple, Toma.
Adell gave the apple a little toss. Toma caught it and once again, to their amusement, he happily devoured it within a few seconds.
Kaoru: Hey, Toma. We're going over to the plaza to have lunch. Wanna join us?
Adell and Mitani both looked at Kaoru. They hadn't reached an agreement on that, but given the chance that they now had to get to know Toma more, they didn't object.
Toma paused for a moment before he spoke.
Toma: Eh, why not?
Mitani brushed some pieces of ceiling from his hair and shoulders.
Mitani: Well, we better get going before a teacher sees that big hole in the ceiling and blames us for it.
The four of them left the school and walked to the plaza next door. Others were also taking advantage of the bright, sunny day and were enjoying lunch in the plaza as well. They spilt up and went to the food stall of their choice. Toma, went over to a fruit vendor and picked out several colorful selections, including apples, blueberries, and raisins. Kaoru and Adell both got a salad, while Mitani bought a hotdog with some chips.
To the disappointment of the group, the few tables and chairs in the plaza were already taken. They eventually decided to sit under one of the many trees a tree while they ate their lunch and talked. Surprisingly, for a change, it was Toma who initiated conversation this time.
Toma: I like Jaze. He seems interesting.
Kaoru: Just so you know, he's usually the more normal one compared to the rest of us.
Toma: "Normal" like you two?
Toma indicated Adell and Mitani.
Adell: Ah, actually "normal" by usual Carpathian standards.
Kaoru: You hardly know him though. By the way, the reason he acts the way he does is because of something in the nekomi mythology...
Toma: About tokki being crazy monsters. Yeah, they warned us about that. Dad said it's one of the reasons why diplomatic relations were a secret for so long.
Adell: Why do you find him interesting?
Toma: He's honest with his feelings. I like that.
Kaoru: What about you, Toma? You got a girlfriend or boyfriend on Tokkastria?
Toma: Oh sure. Lots.
Everyone went silent and looked over at Toma in amazement. They weren't sure if they misheard him or if they ought to be thinking, "Lucky bunny!" right about now.
Mitani: Um, did you say "lots?"
Toma wasn't sure why they were looking at him so strangely. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary to him.
Toma: Girlfriend, right? A friend who's a girl? Is that it?
Adell scratched the back of his head, trying to come up with a way to explain the situation.
Adell: Um... that's not... exactly right...
Toma: Hang on.
Toma reached into his pocket and pulled out a device that appeared to be similar to the little video game he usually had with him.
Kaoru: What's that?
Toma: It's a English/Tokkastrian dictionary. My universal translator is supposed to make me hear all the words you say in Tokkastrian, but it still has some flaws.
Toma punched buttons on the device as he spoke, looking for the correct word. Before he could finish, Mitani interjected.
Mitani: We usually use those words to describe romantic feelings. It's for the person you might get married to someday.
Toma suddenly stopped hitting buttons on his dictionary and looked up.
Toma: Ma... ma... marr...ied?
He stammered out the word with great difficulty. Suddenly and inexplicably, he sounded like a beginner ESL student. Toma once again went back to his dictionary.
Adell:We use that word for two people who decide to stay together for the rest of their lives. Well, that's the way it's supposed to go, but it often doesn't work that way.
Toma: For the rest of their lives?
Toma: Weird. We have no such thing on Tokkastria.
Adell: So, if you don't mind my asking... I mean... you seem to like Jaze a lot. Are you gay?
Adell paused. It seemed that they ran into another word that Toma didn't know.
Adell: Gay is for guys who like guys, like me and Neige. Girls who like girls are lesbians. Kaoru is straight, meaning he likes girls. There's also bisexual, who like both.
Toma: In that case, I'll say most tokki are bisexual.
Mitani: Wow. That definitely increases dating possibilities.
Toma held up one of the apple slices from his plate and scanned it carefully, like a scientist examining a recently discovered substance.
Toma: I want to know more about apples. Is there anything else like them on this world?
Kaoru: What is it you like? Flavor? Texture?
Toma: Everything, I guess.
Everyone turned and looked at Mitani like he just farted in an elevator.
Adell: That's stupid.
Mitani: That's what I'd eat.
Adell: We're not talking about you.
Toma: Tokki can't eat any meat at all. We also can't have caffiene or alcohol. We react very badly to mind-altering drugs.
Mitani: Wow. I'd shoot myself.
Kaoru: There's a farmer's market not far from here. I'll take you there after school and you can pick some things out to try.
Adell: I'll go too.
Mitani: You three have fun then. I'll just go home.
Toma smiled. He'd been to markets, but he wasn't sure what he was looking at before and he was eager to have help.
They continued to chat and eat. As time wore on, Toma's gothy exterior showed signs of melting now and again. He still rarely smiled, but he talked more and seemed to start taking interest in other things.
After the last two classes, Toma, Adell, and Kaoru went to the farmer's market as promised. Toma loaded up a large bag full of apples, pears, persimmons, strawberries, and many other fruits. It wasn't just like being in a candy store. For Toma, it was a candy store. Afterwards, he arrived at the monorail station to take him home by himself. For the first time since he arrived on New Berengaria, he was sorry to be heading home at the end of the day.
All city images from SimCity 4.