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the Caged Birds of Kirayama

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Takeda gives them a proper tour of the school after they’ve laid down the rules.

It’s been made clear that although the captains have power to go where they want, they aren’t to abuse that power. Takeda seems particularly stern about the abandoned gym—says that it’s locked up for a reason. Hinata isn’t one to doubt his teacher, so the constant reminders aren’t necessary. It makes him curious as to why, if anything. He’d mentioned rotting floorboards, but that doesn’t seem much of a reason. His insistence is what draws out Hinata’s curiosity most. But it’s not like he’s about to purposefully break any of the rules, so it remains just that: curiosity.

The layout of the school isn’t terribly different from their high school back in Miyagi, though it feels a lot grander. The ceilings are arched and the windows are tall, allowing a clear, brilliant, light to shine in, dancing off the gleaming floors and sparkling interiors. Hinata likes the feeling it emits—one of lofty importance. It feels like he’s some kind of VIP.

They don’t enter any of the many emptied classrooms that they pass by, though Hinata is itching to explore. Takeda doesn’t say they’re not allowed in, so Hinata assumes that they are allowed in. Though there’s no time for it now, his heart beats with excitement at the thought of wandering through the old classrooms and perhaps peeking through the desks. It’d be like stepping back in time. A glance through the classroom window confirms that the desks they’d used so many decades ago are still there, seeming in good shape, from what he can tell.

They make their way toward the gyms. They’ll be training soon and they’re not allowed to wander, so he’s eager to finish up with the tour. Takeda is sure taking his time leading them around, he thinks, glancing through the windows to the courtyard.

Hinata takes a minute to pause, allowing a sense of ease to wash over him, excitement dulling into something softer as he peers out into the yard.

He has these quiet moments, sometimes—in the early mornings, he’d often set out on a jog before the sun even rose. He’d watch the horizon gradually grow hot, murky grays and blacks turning to fiery oranges and purples. He’d found peace in the dawn of the morning, even in solitude. Silence and stillness was always something that had discomforted him, but without fail, the sun would be there to greet him. The sight of it rising into the sky was reassuring, more than anything. Though he’d be alone, he’d never felt lonely.

The courtyard enraptures him now. The school has been abandoned for many years, and the outside environment clearly shows that. The courtyard is clean, however, and exultingly simple when compared with the structure of the garden, which had seemed a maze in its bushes and tall, hanging trellis. Just as the floors inside seemed to have been waxed, the courtyard seems to have been weeded. What captures his eye isn’t necessarily the difference in cleanliness, but rather the cherry blossom tree in the middle of the yard.

It must be an older tree, he thinks. It stands tall, seeming proud and refined, even more so than anything else: the garden had given its beauty away to time—the metal of the trellis rusted, and the rose bushes had given way to weeds and wildflowers, thistles and thorns. In comparison to that, this part of the land seems least touched.

Kenma catches his attention, a few of his teammates and friends turned to call out to him, noticing his absence from their side. Hinata shakes his mind free from lingering thoughts of sunrises and thistles and runs to catch up.

“What were you looking at...?” Kenma asks, genuinely curious.

“The courtyard! I thought it was pretty.”

“I see…” Kenma seems to doubt him, but he blinks and turns away, taking that answer. Hinata grins at his back and matches his steady pace.

Ahead, Takeda is taking them into the secondary gym. They open it, finding a familiar sight. It looks just the same as their gym in Miyagi, though a little bigger, the wood flooring a different tinge of orange. Hinata bounces from foot to foot and stills only when Kenma gives him a sidelong glance. He doesn’t need to say anything in order to chastise him. His disapproving look is enough to quell Hinata’s urge to run around with wild abandon.

“… so you’ll just have to get changed. The rest of us will take care of dinner—other than that, everything’s been arranged. The net and the balls are in the storage closets, so just get your captain to unlock it. Ah, hm…” Hinata wishes he would stop talking so they could just play. “I really hope you all enjoy your week here. Well— hmm. How should I say this…” and now he seems tongue tied, after everything he’s said. Ukai speaks up.

“It’s time to train! Go get changed. We’ll be followin’ a schedule, same way we always do during a training camp. We’ll distribute the papers after dinner!”

And the children are allowed to run free. Hinata separates from Kenma’s side to head up to Karasuno’s dorm, the rest of his team following along with him. After they change, Hinata finds Kageyama as they head back downstairs, storming into his personal space with a cheerful yell.

“Kageyama!”

“What?” he sighs, glaring down at him. Hinata doesn’t mind it, finding it familiar. Kageyama seems to be in better spirits than this morning, at any rate.

“What do you think about the school?” Left unsaid is: do you feel better about it now?

“It’s alright,” he grunts, turning away.

“See!” Hinata gives his arm a pat, putting on a winning smile. “It’s so cool, isn’t it? The mountain is awesome!”

“It’s not that bad,” a voice chimes in, Tsukishima sweeping past the two with a smug look. “But I think Kageyama is still scared after all.”

“I was never scared,” he snaps, glowering.

“Oh? But it’d seemed like you’d rather stay at home than come.” Beside him, Yamaguchi stifles a laugh.

“Tsukishima, you’re so rude! Kageyama was sick,” Hinata comes to his defense, not wanting his mood to be spoiled by any teasing. He wants to train, not deal with a grumbling Kageyama. “Give him a break!”

“You’re being oddly accepting of it,” he remarks, eyebrows raised. Unlike before, he doesn’t ignore Hinata and instead focuses on him. “Here I was, thinking you would have scolded him the most. Don’t tell me you actually believe what he was saying?”

“Eh?” Hinata tilts his head, inquisitive.

“About the mountain. You know, about how scared he is—“

“I just told you that I’m not scared,” Kageyama hisses, brows furrowing.

“Oh, that,” Hinata doesn’t seem particularly interested. “Ennoshita said those are called intrusive thoughts. I remembered!” He sticks his chin up, seeming proud. Tsukishima, however, isn’t dissuaded.

“Was that really it?” his gaze travels from Hinata to Kageyama, who he scrutinizes with a scowl. “After getting so worked up it turned out to be nothing, huh?”

“Just shut up—”

“That’s enough you two,” Daichi’s booming voice stops them short. The younger three stop and turn to their captain, who strides past them with a threatening glare, reminding them that now is not the time to argue. “Tsukishima, stop trying to rile Kageyama up.”

“I wasn’t, really…” he mumbles, but he gives up on his teasing, turning away with a childish little twist to his lips. It’s not defiant enough for Daichi to scold him for it, so he doesn’t; Sugawara shakes his head as they pass by and cups a hand around his mouth.

“Hurry up to the gym. We’ll be starting practice soon.”

It’s a murmur, whispered behind Daichi’s back. Sugawara gives them all a wink and hurries alongside their captain, who doesn’t bother to turn back. Tsukishima is obedient this time and doesn’t say anything else to Kageyama—but he doesn’t need to. He’s done enough to rile him up.

“You look constipated,” Hinata tells him in a loud voice, getting an indignant slap upside the head. He’d expected that much. But it allows Kageyama a distraction from the thorn that Tsukishima had pierced into his side. Rubbing his head and pouting, eyes tearing up, Hinata reluctantly presses on. “You aren’t still worried about that stuff, are you? I know Tsukishima was just being mean, but…” Maybe talking about it will make him feel better. So Hinata asks him that, hoping to cheer him up again.

“I don’t think there’s any reason to worry,” is all Kageyama says, like that’s not an evasive answer. Hinata shrugs and accepts it, mercifully. They’re rounding the corner and stepping past the windows lining the courtyard, so Hinata uses that as a distraction, pointing at the tree.

“Look, see—isn’t that tree pretty?”

“Are you stupid?” Kageyama asks, but he’s looking at it. “What’s so pretty about it? It’s not even in bloom yet.”

“Yeah, but it will be,” Hinata says, a skip in his step. “When I see it, I can’t help but feel happy. I really want to see that tree when it’s blooming. I’m sure it’s beautiful!”

“I guess it’s okay,” Kageyama mumbles, unable to trample Hinata’s enthusiasm. “It’s not really that special, though.”

“You just can’t see it! I’m sure when it blooms, it’ll surprise even you! And you’ll eat your words!” Hinata sticks his tongue out at Kageyama, dodging a swipe at his head. He runs away with a laugh, heading into the gym. Kageyama gives chase.

They fall into a routine of practice, the penalties for losing just as harsh as they’d been at previous training camps, though a little different due to their lack of space. It’s harder to balance teams out when they only have three—an uneven, awkward number. They make it work.

When they take a break in practicing to just breathe, Hinata steps out into the courtyard, as they’d been told they were allowed. The tree’s branches sway in the wind, barren and yet promising.

It makes him smile.

By the end of practice they’re rightfully exhausted, more so from the journey to the mountain than by the exercise in itself. Hinata still wants to go, to do more and more until he simply can’t anymore—but he’s dragged rather bodily by his shirt collar by Tanaka, who scolds him for harassing the setters around him for tosses.

The third years are told to go for showers first, so Hinata finds himself pacing the span of windows that open up to the courtyard. He isn’t quite hungry yet, and he’s been kicked out by Tanaka, so he has nothing better to do right now than wander—his pace is agitated and fierce. He’s still so restless.

Eventually, he finds himself thinking of the conversation he’d had on the bus with Kageyama.

While they’d spoken, something had crept up his back—it rests now on his shoulders, a feeling of discomfort that is rather like an ache than anything else. Replaying his words over and over again in his head, he searches for the oddity. What was it that had struck him as strange? He’d felt more indignant than anything, and yet…

Had Kageyama said that he felt there was something wrong with the mountain itself? Or was it about the training camp? There’d been something like that. Kageyama had repeatedly insisted it was just a feeling and nothing more, but there was another phrase he’d used that Hinata can’t recall.

He pauses in front of the windows and sighs, crossing his arms and screwing his eyes closed with a pout. There’s no use thinking about it, even though it’d left a bad taste in his mouth. They’re here now, and there’s nothing wrong with the mountain or the camp and nobody is sick, not even Kageyama—any trace of his weakness from this morning has faded with time. He’d looked so pale. It’d made Hinata feel guilty for not believing him, and teasing him to such an extent. What’s done is done, however.

“Shouyou?”

Hinata’s eyes fly open to Kenma, who stands in front of him with a worried uplift to his brows. He wonders how long he’d been pacing for. Dismissing his restlessness with a smile, he greets his friend.

“Hi, Kenma!”

A blank look. Kenma seems distressed.

“What’s wrong?”

“Mmh,” he mumbles in response, fiddling with the device in his hands. It’s his phone. Is he still disappointed about the lack of internet connectivity? “Nothing, really…”

“Is it your phone? You can still play offline games, like I said before.”

“That’s not it… what about you? You seemed to be thinking about something.”

As they talk, they begin to head toward the main lobby. Perhaps they’d head upstairs in lieu of wait for their time to shower. “Hmm, not really! I was just thinking that I’d like to see that cherry tree bloom, is all.”

“The tree in the yard?” Kenma considers that, and then says, “I thought it looked lonely.”

It’s true. The tree was barren, and the courtyard was empty of people for so long. It’d come of no surprise, should it inspire loneliness rather than hope. But all the same, Hinata grins, spreading his arms out wide.

“It’s not, not at all! Just think. Soon, it’ll bloom, and it’ll be super pretty.”

“Sure…” Kenma mumbles, brushing his hair back. “I’d like to see it then, too.”

Hinata grins, and they round the corner. He intends to head up the staircase that leads to Nekoma and Fukurodani’s dorm, but Kenma has stopped in place, eyes fixed forward. Hinata follows his gaze and sees Ukai, standing with Takeda in front of the office. They seem to be immersed in deep conversation.

“Kenma? Are you coming?”

“… just wait,” he says, and then leaves Hinata’s side, headed toward the adults. Hinata tilts his head and then follows after him, completely perplexed.

“Hey, you two,” Ukai says, noticing them as they approach, cutting off from his conversation with Takeda to address them. “Where’re you headed?”

“Nowhere, really,” Hinata smiles and answers for them, not giving Kenma a chance to voice whatever concerns he had approached them in mind with. “Upstairs, I guess.”

“Right,” Ukai nods, gesturing. “Go on, then. ‘N don’t forget to get dinner. It’s ready, if you want to eat now.”

“I had a question,” Kenma says, before Hinata can rush off as told. “About the radio system…does it actually work?”

It strikes Hinata as an odd question. He tilts his head at the other boy, who seems unaware of the sudden strangeness of it. Takeda gives him an equally curious look, but smiles after a beat.

“It does,” he pushes up his glasses and gestures behind him, to the office. “Both the PA and radio system work just fine.”

“… I don’t have any cell service,” Kenma mutters after a moment, almost sadly. Takeda gives a laugh.

“No, you wouldn’t. None of us do.”

“Are you worried?” Ukai asks, blinking down at him. “D’you need to contact someone?”

“No… it’s just… if we don’t have service, then…”

“There’s a landline,” Ukai interrupts him to say, jerking a thumb at the office. “Main system’s real simple, but it works. In house phones, too.”

“Oh!” Hinata shouts as he comes to an understanding. “I saw them. Those phones, everywhere. There’s one in every room, isn’t there?”

“Your schedule’ll list numbers so you can contact other rooms without travelin’ from place to place. Makes things easier.” Ukai explains.

“It was built with convenience in mind,” Takeda nods agreeably, smile wide. “Very smart. It’s convenient to be able to—say, call to your dorms, if there’s a change in schedule. You can call us, too, in our rooms.”

“Ooh, that’s cool!” Hinata bounces eagerly and beams.

“Oh…” Kenma seems disappointed, a contrast to Hinata’s blinding cheer. “I see.”

After a moment of awkward silence in which Hinata looks between the three curiously, Takeda heaves a reluctant sigh. “Ah, sorry... it’d be easier if we just had service, after all. But that’s just not an option up here. You can trust even in older systems. They were reliable then, and they’re reliable now, even if you’re not used to them.”

“Yeah,” Kenma nods, giving a polite bow. “Let’s go, Shouyou.”

He turns on his heel and leaves, just like that. Hinata finds it bizarre, and turns to follow him after bowing— and thanking them, in Kenma’s absence—but he stops short, turning back to Takeda with an exclamation that makes the two adults jump.

“Ah! Teacher, did you find any maps?”

“Huh?” Takeda is befuddled, but he quickly remembers his and Tsukishima’s conversation earlier. He gives a shake of his head. “No, unfortunately. I didn’t—”

“Thanks!” Hinata interrupts, running off to catch up with Kenma.

They lapse into silence as they head up the stairs. Eventually, as they make their way toward Nekoma and Fukurodani’s dorm, Hinata thinks to question the conversation they’d just had.

“Are you that worried about the phones?”

“… it’s not that I’m worried about the phones. It’s just better if we have a way to contact the outside.”

“Oh,” Hinata murmurs, the words striking a chord in his heart. Something clambers up his back. “That’s true…”

“I don’t expect we’ll need to, but it’s better if we have options.”

“… so you don’t have anyone you need to phone?” he asks instead, shaking that feeling off. “Hmm… like a girlfriend.”

“No,” Kenma blurts, turning to him with a shocked expression. “Shouyou…” the tips of his ears seem to be turning red. Hinata grins ear to ear, delighted by the sight. Kenma wasn’t a person he found any inclination to tease, so he doesn’t intend on pushing him—but he still laughs a little, because it disperses them of the awkward atmosphere. “Are you serious?”

“I was just checking!” He turns away from Kenma with a skip in his step, giving him time to allow his embarrassment to fade. They lapse into a half silence, Hinata humming as they approach the dorm, Kenma hiding his face in his hair.

They separate when Kuroo finds them in the dorm room, yelling for Kenma to hurry up and shower, as it was the second-years turn. Hinata gets going, having no reason to linger. He runs into Kageyama on his way down to the gyms. It isn’t long before it’s their turn to bathe, so they head there together. Kageyama finishes washing up before him, and Hinata finds himself alone in the showers. He’d taken his sweet time, but he feels rather unnerved, all alone. He scrambles out upon realizing as much.

After showering he finds himself unexpectedly weary. The excitement from practice and their arrival has faded, so that lingering exhaustion has finally crept up on him. He finds himself slowly marching to the cafeteria, the halls seeming barren and empty in the darkness of the evening. What light had filled the spaciousness of the school has fled, leaving it looking gloomy. It’s a bit creepy. He hurries to the cafeteria, unable to find anyone else on his way there.

The cafeteria’s doors are open—clean, white light cuts into the harsh shadows of the hallways, a reassuring sight that he rushes toward. Within the cafeteria he finds the rest of his team—and the other two teams as well. Tanaka chastises him for being late and across the room, Bokuto hollers something he can’t make out. Akaashi hushes him.

Dinner is a hazy affair, Hinata finding himself yawning in between stuffing his face. Nishinoya laughs at him for it, but gives his own yawn not a moment later, something Tanaka laughs and mocks him for in turn. There is chatter, light and sparse, and then they clean up and before he knows it they’re given their schedules and told to head up for bed.

Takeda accompanies them up, surprisingly enough. He’d mentioned wanting to help them with the futons, but Hinata had overheard Tanaka laughingly whispering about how he simply wanted to avoid drinking with the other adults. It hadn’t seemed like him, so Hinata doubts it to be true. Ukai’s complaints are noisily heard from even across the cafeteria. Perhaps he’d been stuck with the duty of drinking in Takeda’s place.

No matter his intentions, the team is appreciative for his help. They go about setting down the futons in neat rows, Takeda reminding them not to be sloppy. He takes to folding and preparing the newly washed sheets and linens while the children fold pillows into cases and settle the futons into place.

Tsukishima speaks up eventually, starting with something innocuous. It seems idle talk, just to fill the silence. Most of the team is yawning, too tired to think. So Hinata doesn’t really pay attention to what the conversation is about, letting it go in one ear and out the other.

"... Takeda, how long ago did your grandfather pass this land over to you?"

It seems to take their teacher by surprise. He pauses in folding sheets, sitting back on his feet as he thinks it over. "Hmm... several years ago. About three, maybe?"

"Only that long ago?" Tsukishima remarks, raising his eyebrows dubiously. Hinata listens in with only a vague interest, but he comes up with his own question when he hears that and decides it best to just blurt it out while he can.

"How'd he get it?" A pause. Takeda turns to look at Hinata, instead. "Your grandfather. How’d he get it in the first place?"

"Ah... the land?" he asks, blinking idly. "It was so long ago... I remember him telling me quite a tale about it. It took time and effort."

Tsukishima shoots Hinata a look. If the other boy knew how to read between the lines, he'd see it as a warning. Cautiously, he turns back to address their teacher. "That, too. I was curious how he managed to get land like this. It's a mountain, after all. It couldn't have been easy."

"Maybe his grandpa was just that lucky," Hinata says, smiling.

Takeda, however, has focused again on Tsukishima, expression lending to one a bit more serious. Thoughtfully, slowly, and as though weighing every word: "... you're right. The property wasn't easy for him to get a hold on, as you say. I didn't bother saying much, since a history lesson wasn't necessary, but... around the time the population of students here was starting to decline, there was a landslide."

That gets a few head turns. Now not just Tsukishima and Hinata are paying attention, but Sugawara, Daichi and Kageyama, too. Asahi doesn't seem to want to look round, but he does look a little queasy, now. Beside Tsukishima, Yamaguchi pales.

“A landslide?” he asks, voice obviously trembling.

"I-it wasn't on this side of the mountain!" Takeda catches onto the uneasy atmosphere, waving his hands around frantically and babbling out explanations in order to reign in their quick assumptions. "It was on the opposite side to the school. There was an earthquake, but they were smart about where they built the school—it had no effects on the structure, but it was enough to dissuade the few lingering students from staying."

“So... even though it was on the other side of the mountain, everyone picked up their bags and left?” Tsukishima doesn’t make any effort to disguise the uncertainty in his voice. It’s rude to express his doubt so clearly, but he hasn’t seemed to have noticed just how blunt he’s being. From across the room, Ennoshita glares at him.

“Tsukki,” Yamaguchi whispers, shooting him a pointed glance. He seems more nervous than he has any right to be, fraught with tension.

“... no,” Takeda gives a short sigh, patting his thighs and then standing. “The headmistress decided it wasn’t safe. This isn’t official in any sense, but… I always thought that it was a cover up for the lack of funds, here. The earthquake was a convenient excuse to close the school and sell the land. You…” his confidence seems to falter under the scrutinizing gaze of Tsukishima, but it’s a brief thing, a flicker of anxiety that he sweeps off to the side quickly. Hinata doesn’t notice it, for Takeda’s voice firms up quickly after that, sounding every bit the teacher he is. “No one here today has any reason to worry for the land’s integrity. I’ve had it inspected and it’s perfectly safe to be here.”

Behind Takeda’s back, Ennoshita mimes a throat cut, signalling for Tsukishima to knock it off. The blonde boy stares quietly, expression urging, completely ignoring his upper classmate. Even Yamaguchi, who repeatedly throws him worried looks, is ignored. Their teacher has an abundance of patience, but it seems to be growing thin. Even Hinata notices the tightness to his smile.

“My point was that because of the landslide, it was seen as a scandal! So the land fell into my grandfather’s lap. He was looking for a place to purchase and it seemed too good to be true. The price was lowered because of the circumstances at the time… and so on and so forth. Does that answer your question?”

“What did he use the land for?” Tsukishima asks, ignoring Ennoshita’s gestures to knock it off.

“Oh—he had lofty goals, but it just ended up becoming his hunting spot. A place for leisure—”

“Hunting spot?!” Hinata speaks up again, shattering the tense atmosphere like glass. “That’s so cool! What did he hunt?”

“Birds,” Takeda smiles, taken aback. Sheepishly, he pushes up his glasses. “Wild boar, when there were some. There aren’t anymore.”

“That’s so cool,” he repeats, grinning, fluffing up pillows with an over-enthusiastic cheer.

“How was that even legal,” Kageyama grunts, apparently unaware of the quiet that the room was still in. His voice comes out loudly, and he goes red in seconds of having realized it. “Uh—”

Takeda just laughs. “Oh, it was, back then. It was his land and his guns. Not just anyone can access a permit, but he managed it. He was tricky, but a good man.”

Whatever unease had lingered is dispersed easily. A few tense shoulders slump in apparent relief. With that, Takeda finishes folding the sheets, laying them out neatly. “Did you have any other questions…?”

“Erm, no,” Tsukishima manages to stutter out, now apparently all too aware of the foot he’d trodden on. Takeda had sounded scary earlier. Scarily upset with the invasive, doubting questions. “Thank you.”

“Well, I think I’ve kept away from my other duties long enough,” he says, turning to leave. He heaves the great oak door open, the bronze charm dangling and swaying, thunking against the door. “Goodnight. Sleep well, all of you!”

Takeda leaves, the only trace of his presence the hollow sound of the charm bumping against the oak on the other side of the door.

Although most of them had had concerns raised and then flattened, Asahi seems more trepidatious than before.

“So he carried guns…?”

“For birds,” Tsukishima repeats, Hinata unable to make his expression out behind the glint of his glasses. “And for boars.”

“Asahi, it’s like you’ve got a gun to your head,” Nishinoya laughs, smacking his back. “What are you so tense for?! Does the idea of guns scare you so much? Rifles, rifles~ shotguns and pistols~”

“Ah, stop it, stop! I don’t want to think about weapons like that,” Asahi says, patting down his pillow nervously.

“It’s not like there are any on the property anymore,” Daichi says, glaring at Asahi. “... you… you’re really a coward, you know?”

“Ooh, be careful, his grandpa might be lurking in the halls!”

“Noya, you’re immature,” Ennoshita scolds, crossing his arms. “Asahi...” he shakes his head wearily. “I have nothing to say about that. But you,” he adds, suddenly looking furious as he turns to Tsukishima. “You’ve really got to stop being so rude! You could have phrased your questions a bit better, at least.”

“I thought I should be blunt,” Tsukishima mumbles to himself, avoiding meeting anyone’s eyes. Even in attempts to evade guilt, it’s clear he doesn’t regret asking those questions. “... well, we know now, at least. It was bugging me.”

“You have no tact,” Kageyama says, nostrils flaring. The blank delivery sends Hinata into a fit, rolling over and around in laughter, the apparent irony in saying that flying right over Kageyama’s head. Tanaka and Nishinoya burst into laughter alongside him.

“I don’t think somebody like you should be saying things like that,” Tsukishima bites, anger a flame held just barely at bay. “Your superstitions could have been kept to yourself, earlier, you know.”

“They weren’t superstitions,” Kageyama balks, standing with a shout. “You—”

“Enough!” Daichi barks, commanding voice drowning out their bickering. All chatter ceases instantly, ears finely tuned to obey any orders from their captain. “It’s bed time. Stop bickering. Save it for the morning.”

Like that, everyone returns to preparing their futons, heads turned downward. Sugawara stands up from his futon, sheets neatly folded over a thoroughly fluffed pillow. He places a hand on Daichi’s shoulder and gives a quick squeeze, a brief, firm touch, meant to reassure.

“You already seem exhausted,” Sugawara gives him a sidelong glance and then laughs under his breath. “For a second there, I thought your head was going to explode.”

“This trip is already a disaster,” Daichi answers, rubbing his eyes. “Let’s just hope they don’t kill each other.”

“I think I’m more worried about you,” Sugawara teases lightly. “Are you sure you aren’t going to strangle one of them?”

“No, I’m not,” Daichi heaves a sigh and rubs his eyes as the team lays out their blankets and, one by one, begin to crawl underneath. “That’s what worries me most.”

Sugawara outright laughs at that, striding over to switch off the light. What illuminates the room now and allows him to pick his path out from between rows of futons is the moonlight, clean light that is shadowed as a cloud passes by overhead.

Outside, the wind picks up, storm clouds gathering far to the north.