Shuffling up the broad stairs of True Cross Academy, he noted that nothing had changed over summer holidays. Trees looked the same, the grand hallway looked the same – hell, even the new students looked like slightly smaller copies of the ones that had graduated last semester. The prohibition against smoking was also, to his dismay, the same.
"Fujimoto Shiro! How many times do I have to repeat this?" The senior prefect, whose name he always made sure to forget, stormed at him as if the faint glow of the cigarette had been a lighthouse beacon. "No smoking on academy premises. First day on this semester and you already have a warning."
"And at three warnings you take me down to the basement and punish me for being a naughty boy?" He just loved seeing her flustered. Shiro had secretly been trying to find out where she lived, to go visit her during summer break and hopefully, hopefully get the date she always refused to go on during semester.
"No, I will take you to the principal's office and get you suspended."
As if that was even a threat. There was never enough evidence to pin him down - besides, who would mind a few days extra vacation? He gave her a winning grin, wet his fingers and snuffed the cigarette, but left it dangling from his lip.
"See you around, senpai-chan", he winked. No response. Not that it mattered. Maybe there was some cutie among the new arrivals…
"Yasuda-san! Don't you get uglier every time I see you…"
The teens met up, mock-fought and threw empty insults. Yasuda had outgrown Shiro by seven centimeters over summer and had the makings of a scrawny moustache that he was immensely proud of. Shiro didn't have any facial hair, which was all good and well: he'd have to dye that too if he wanted it to go with his bleached hair. He still wore his round nerd-glasses, which he explained was because it was "like having a pair of perfectly shaped boobs right in front of your eyes all the time".
"Isn't Fuji-san here? I thought you'd gotten married by now."
Yasuda replied with an elbow to the ribs as they walked up the last flight of stairs.
"He'll be here. The ones living closest to school always arrive last. Fuji's law."
"Fuji's law", Shiro chuckled and juggled his shoulder bag out of the way to allow a swarm of freshmen to pass by. "Speaking of laws, I already got a warning from that sexy senpai for smoking. I think she likes me."
"I think that's your glasses distorting reality for you. So how are we welcoming the freshmen this year? Clogging all the toilets in the dorm?"
"And dunking their heads in them?"
"Do you want to get kicked out? I thought I heard you say you'd cool it a bit."
"That's what I say in front of the teachers." Shiro flicked out a lighter and re-lit his cigarette. "And if they don't catch me they'll never know."
"So you will wear a mask while you dunk the freshmen, or what?"
"I will tell the freshmen that if they rat on me they'll be dunked in the wall next time."
Yasuda shook his head with a smile.
"Oh man, why do you even go to school? The yakuza don't ask for any merits beyond what you've already got."
For the record, Shiro had only dunked a kid's head in a toilet once. The kid in question had been making fun of his glasses, until Shiro had threatened to, well, wash his hair in the toilet. That was back in his first year at True Cross, when people had not yet understood that Shiro was a guy who stood by his word. And when the little blabbermouth didn't quit yapping about his glasses, he did exactly as he had said. In retrospect it might have been a bit over the top, but there and then it had felt like the only sensible thing to do.
"School is where the cute girls in school uniforms are, you jackass!" Shiro braided his fingers together behind his head, glancing up at the ceiling with a wolfish grin. "I might even fall behind and stick around another year or two. What do you think of chòu dòufu in the air vents?"
"For the freshmen? I think it would rock. If you could sneak up there without anyone catching you."
"Yasuda-san~ In these three years, have I ever been caught?" Shiro grinned confidently.
"Yes, for beating up the guy who told you to stop hitting on his girlfriend."
"That doesn't count, it was in public. I never get caught for this kind of thing. Up the waterspout, onto the roof and down again. Child's play."
"For you." Yasuda looked down self-consciously at his far-from-athletic frame.
"Hey, your extra large uniform saved our asses that time we poured laxative in the water supply and had to hide the bottle." He patted him on the back. "There's strength in difference, y'know."
Fuji's law held true, as the unkempt, long-haired boy weaselled in on History, last class before lunch break.
"Hirawara Fuji. In all these years I have never seen you attend class on time even once."
Shiro gave the thumbs-up from his tilting chair at the back of the classroom. More than anything, he admired Fuji's clueless deadpan every time a teacher was about to tell him off. Every time. As if it had never happened before, as if he had no idea why he was being yelled at. It was a piece of art, dammit. Right up there with Mona Lisa.