One day, Ootake Yuusuke just looks at him and says "Y'know, you should go to college."
He doesn't need to. Namiki certainly doesn't have to worry about money, and if he goes to college he won't be able to stay as close to Kanade and Arou. If Yuusuke's worried about Namiki getting bored, he shouldn't be.
Namiki didn't need to go to high school, either. He shrugs. "Guess I should."
He picks the college because it's close, of course. It offers art and music and theatre, mostly, no place for someone who wants a good business degree.
Good thing he doesn't want one, then.
He doesn’t draw, doesn’t paint, can’t even read music. Junya persuaded him to join the drama club in elementary school, which was the day he learned he had no skill at all for dramatics. But Kanade paints, Arou gardens, Junya plays basketball, and Namiki Masahiro . . . cheats at the stock market with his magic powers. So he signs up for classes that don’t look like they require any talent, and waits.
The first class, from an outsider's perspective, goes something like this: Imagine the sound of someone sweeping their hand across a piano’s keys in the space of one second, from lowest to highest. Then a loud chord, G-C-E-G, triumphantly resounding around the room before slowly dying away.
Sheet music: in piles, in books, on pianos, on the floor. Thousands of photocopies, hundreds of books, dozens of scribbled handwritten pages.
A chalkboard with sets of five lines painted on, meant for music, and the sharp tak tak of chalk on it.
A light, sharp voice, giving instructions and explaining points. This is a treble clef; that is a bass clef. Middle C is here. Keep your nails trimmed short or I'll make sure you're gone from this class before you can say "ouch."
And last, for a short period of time: the sound of twenty students trying to play the piano, each of whom have little idea how.
The other classes are similar: only replace the notes with the sound of wet clay or the ch of pencil on paper, the sheet music with sketching paper or small glazed pots. Namiki likes them all.
Junya calls, a few weeks into the semester. "How are your classes?" he asks.
Namiki, who has learned from Kanade the fine art of hearing what people mean rather than what they say, hears I haven't seen you I miss you will you ever come home? "I don't think so," he says out loud, and then "They're interesting. You should come see."
He can almost read the music, now. He knows what a chord is and can even play several of them. He's starting to learn what other instruments sound like, from snatches overheard in the halls. He's learning how muscles move under a layer of fat and skin, how the movement of a light can change everything. How to make little bowls in bright colours, fingerprints all smoothed out and covered over with melted glaze.
He almost gets arrested once, because apparently you're not supposed to sneak back into your old high school every day to mooch lunch off your kohai. Who knew? He gets out of it with some fast talking and faster running and eventually just sort of hiding behind Kanade and Arou while they assure the nice policewoman that no, he's not a creepy stalker or some kind of devious education-ruiner and is here purely for Arou's cooking.
“Hey, Kaichou,” he says, and feels very awkward. He doesn’t even know her name, and his tiny dog is already trying to eat her scarf. “I didn’t know you went to this school.”
She seems pretty awkward too, though. “Ah . . . I go to Ohtori, actually” -- naming a college on the other side of town -- “but my brother and a couple friends live in these dorms, so I’m around often.” She rescues her scarf, belatedly. “I wouldn’t have expected to see you here.”
Here in this place that’s all art and inspiration and -- and feelings pressed on so hard they become reality, she means, when Namiki has never been that kind of person. He relaxes, smiling. “Yeah, I wouldn’t have either.”
He has mud up to his elbows from dirt on the leaves, little scratches from plants that hadn't looked spiny at the time, and red marks on his fingers from pulling on stems instead of digging out the roots, because they only had two trowels. Arou and Kanade are even worse, but they're smiling. They like weeding. Who actually likes weeding, anyway? It's boring and painful and as soon as you finish there are already more.
He gives up and flops back bonelessly onto the ground. "I'm done," he says, and Kanade laughs at him. "I never thought Namiki-san was a quitter," she says.
She's not going to get him that way. "I have class in an hour and a half, you know."
"We know," Arou says, tossing a dirt clod at him. "You've only told us three times."
Namiki laughs. "Okay." He heaves himself up onto his knees again and makes a noble effort at removing a tiny sapling from the ground. "What are you two going to do when you graduate, anyway?"
Kanade shrugs, and he watches the play of sunlight across her shoulders and (rather crumpled) dress, which turns from light brown to a rich gold in the late afternoon sun. "You say so many nice things about your college, it must be a wonderful school. But I don't know yet."
"Not even for my grad-student teachers?" he teases. He's talked about them even more than his classmates. "I think Kaoru-sensei can see, actually. Like Arou."
Well, it's not like there's much to say about that anyway. They lapse into a comfortable silence until the weeding is finished.
"I don't know either," Arou says quietly as they're all washing up. "I like what I'm doing now, really."
For some reason, Namiki suddenly and vividly remembers all the stories about people who could see the future. How they saved the world or destroyed everything or made so much money they'd never work again. His mother's false smile. Arou's old classmate's insistence that they were chosen by the gods, by destiny.
The kind, open faces he sees every day: in class, at high school, belonging to all the people he surrounds himself with.
He closes his eyes and slicks his wet hair back out of his face. "Me too."
If he starts walking now, he'll be right on time for class.