"Tanuma," his father called from his study, "Welcome home! There's a odd package for you in the kitchen, no return address."
"Thank you," Tanuma called back as he slipped off his shoes.
He dropped his bag by the front door and wandered into the kitchen, curious to see what the package was. He never got anything in the mail. He saw his dad had left it right on the counter for him. It was very lightweight and fit easily in his hands, rectangular in shape. Strange. He had no clue what might fit inside and be so light.
He took the package back to his room to open it. Once there, he sat by his desk and carefully unwrapped the box. In it, he found a hard velvet case and a sealed envelope bearing his name. He flipped open the case first: it held a pair of glasses. He didn't need glasses. Did someone send these to him by mistake? Baffled, Tanuma tore open the envelope and unfolded the note inside.
Dear Tanuma Kaname,
I know you are a good friend of Natsume's, and I'm sure he would be most upset if he learned that I looked you up, but I felt I had no choice. Hopefully you will agree.
Firstly, I would like to apologize for any rude comments I may have made the other week. It was an unexpected meeting and my mind was preoccupied with the job at hand, and I fear I may have been a bit tactless. I do hope you can understand.
You will find enclosed in this package a pair of seeing glasses. There is nothing particularly special about them; they're simply plain glass. However, and I suspect you might not know this, it is far easier to see youkai through glass and mirrors. I figured you might find these helpful as your powers to see are rather weak. I imagine it must be frustrating being close with someone like Natsume, who can see so clearly.
Also enclosed is a ticket to my latest movie, The Choice of Love. I remember promising one to you, but I don't think I ever had the chance to actually give it to you given the circumstances.
Please accept these as a token of my deepest apology, Tanuma-san. I hope that maybe we can be friends one day, too.
His powers to see were weak... Tanuma put down the letter and picked up the case with the glasses again. They were simple looking frames, something he might have picked for himself had he needed them, but Tanuma wasn't sure if he should accept this gift or not. Natori had come off a bit pompous when they'd first met, but he was a friend of Natsume's, and he had helped them. Being a public figure, Tanuma supposed it must be hard to keep up appearances. He was fairly sure Natori was actually a nice person inside somewhere.
Tanuma took the glasses out of the case, turned them over, and decided to try them on. No one had to know he had them, and if they could help him see youkai, they would be worth holding onto. Natsume might not like it, but Tanuma was too close to him and the world of youkai to pretend nothing might happen where these might be helpful. There would be times when he's need to take care of himself, or even Natsume.
He put them on.
The frames felt cool against his face, their weight unfamiliar. Nothing looked any different with them on. The note did say they were plain glass, but Tanuma had had a small hope that things might look ... clearer? Brighter? He wasn't really sure what he had been hoping, but everything simply looked the same. He wondered what he looked like wearing them. He'd never really felt self-conscious about his appearance before, but there was something foreign about them that made him feel awkward and a bit insecure. Maybe it wasn't that he looked different with them on, but that they supposedly enhanced his abilities? The few times he'd been able to really see the world of youkai had been terrifying.
He pushed those thoughts away.
Deciding to go check for himself in the bathroom mirror, Tanuma stood and turned to leave the room. He walked quietly down the hall, hoping his father wouldn't see him to ask any questions. He hadn't come up with a reasonable explanation for suddenly needing glasses yet. He passed the empty sitting room on his left, the old shogi board still set for a new game like he'd last left it, then stopped abruptly. He'd seen a flash of light from outside the open sliding door.
He rushed into the room and straight to the door, surprised by what he saw. Outside, nestled in the garden bordered by rocks, was a koi pond. He could see the pond! After a moment, he realized it didn't look quite normal. It was sort of transparent and hazy looking, like those mirages people saw in deserts or something. He hadn't quite noticed at first because water wasn't solid anyway; it was when a large speckled fish swam lazily near the surface that he realized things weren't quite as substantive as they should be. Still, this was exciting! He'd never been able to see any of this at all before, only reflections of the light off the water on the ceiling.
He was sure now that he would keep these glasses. While he was right there, he grabbed his school bag from by the front entrance and returned to his room, removing the glasses and placing them gently back in their case. He wanted to send Natori his thanks, but without a return address, he wasn't quite sure how he would manage.
He'd heard loads of people talk about Natori at school before. Maybe someone would know how to get in touch? Tanuma didn't feel right asking Natsume about this. Natsume had said the two of them were okay, but Tanuma didn't mistake the wall Natsume had already started building. Natsume wanted to keep him safe, and now Tanuma had a much better appreciation as to why. Tanuma could be more careful, especially if he could see better the threats. As helpful as these glasses might be, though, he didn't want to lose Natsume or push him any further away. Nothing was ever simple, it seemed.
Sighing, Tanuma decided to stop worrying about it for tonight. He'd find a way to thank Natori tomorrow, and he'd find a way to prove to Natsume that there wasn't any need to worry anymore. He pulled out his homework and put the glasses case in his school bag to carry with him.
The second period bell rang, and Tanuma had still not found a way to ask anyone about Natori. This was mostly because he had no clue how to approach someone to ask, and he hadn't seen Taki yet; he hadn't thought asking Kitamoto was prudent either, as Nishimura was sure to find out, which meant everyone would soon know, and Tanuma didn't want people to get the wrong idea - nor did he want Natsume to ask questions. Even though he was set in his determination to take care of himself, he'd caused Natsume a lot of worry recently, and he didn't want to trouble Natsume again.
He walked idly down the hall to his next class. He wished there was a way he could make things up to Natsume, to maybe prove he didn't need to be concerned for Tanuma so much. He stopped at his favorite window and looked out at the school grounds. The weather was beautiful today, bright and warm, with a gentle breeze he'd enjoyed through an open window in his previous class. It would be a really nice walk home later. Maybe he could ask Natsume to join him, so they could talk? Now there was an idea.
Tanuma turned to leave for class when he saw a tree branch fall out of the corner of his eye. That was weird. Wait, was it a youkai? He whipped around and stared hard out the window for a moment before remembering the glasses in his bag. He immediately dug them out, put them on, and stared out at the grounds once more, ready for what he might see ... which was nothing. There was nothing there? That didn't make much sense. Branches shouldn't just fall like that for no reason.
"You're Tanuma Kaname, right?"
He looked from the window and saw there was now a small group of girls standing around him. Girls never talked to him.
"You're new to town, right?" This girl was short and thin, and was twirling her hair around her finger. "We've seen you in the halls before, but we've never had a chance to say hi. I'm Sen from class 1-C."
One of her friends nudged her with her shoulder sharply, making a sound almost like a cough. "And this is my friend Mitsuki," Sen said, nodding her head toward her friend.
"I'm Megumi," the third girl said brightly, wiggling her fingers in a little wave.
"Hi," the girls chorused, giggling and watching him far too closely. His insides felt squirmy, and it was uncomfortable standing there with them looking at him like that. Though now that they were here...
"Do you girls like Natori Shuuichi?" he asked.
"Natori Shuuichi!" Sen cried "Of course!"
Mitsuki asked, "Tanuma-kun, are you a fan of his too? That's so cool!"
"No, it's not like that-"
"Have you seen his new movie? It's supposed to be so good!" Megumi added.
"Do you mean The Choice of Love?" he asked.
The girls chatter sped up to an excited pace he couldn't hope to follow, and he nervously fiddled with the collar of his shirt while trying to figure out if it was worth asking about the fanclub or not.
"So, Tanuma-kun, what are you doing after school today?"
"Uh, I'm not sure," he said quietly, fidgeting and looking away from them. Their faces had taken on a hungry look, and he felt like they might eat him with their eyes if he looked at them straight on.
"We were wondering if you might come into town with us, maybe get some ice cream or something?"
"Sen!" Megumi teased. "Don't be so bold!"
Meanwhile, Tanuma's face felt like it was on fire. This was weird, totally weird, and he needed to get away, fast.
"I've got to get to class," he blurted, stepping quickly out from their group and rushing down the hall.
Why was he such an awkward loser? All he had to do was ask them if they knew a way for fans to contact Natori, but he'd gotten so nervous he'd gone and bolted and now-
He'd just plowed straight into someone, nearly knocking them over.
"I'm so sorry!" he said, grabbing onto them.
"It's okay." The other person said. "Tanuma?"
All of a sudden he felt overly aware of his body: how awkward his hands felt, how his hair hung over his face, covering part of his glasses. His glasses. Of course he would run into the one person he didn't want to run into just now.
Natsume tilted his head slightly and examined Tanuma. He reached up toward Tanuma's face, and Tanuma raised his hands to remove the offending glasses, stammering out his apologies. "I'm sorry, Natsume. I just got them yesterday. I was going to tell you about them..."
Natsume adjusted the frames so that they were straight again and said, "They look nice."
Wait, what? "You're ... okay with this?"
"They sort of suit you." Natsume smiled shyly, then blushed furiously and looked at the floor.
Tanuma blushed too. "Um, thanks."
They both stood quietly for a moment, not looking at each other. A few moments later, the bell rang for the next class. They both jumped at the sound, and Natsume started walking away.
"See you later, Tanuma."
He couldn't let Natsume just walk away, they had so much to say to each other still. Even if right now wasn't the best time ...
His friend turned around and looked at him, looking curious and not angry. This was good.
"Maybe we can walk home together today?" Tanuma asked, trying not to sound like he was begging, but feeling like he was failing at it.
Natsume beamed. "That would be great."
The bell sounded again, and now they were both definitely late for class. They both called their goodbyes as they sprinted in separate directions, but it was fine, better than fine. Tanuma smiled wide as he raced down the empty hall. It seemed Natsume wasn't shutting him out after all.