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Burden Bearers

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Nanaki Kazuaki had never been Yuuya's teacher, but had been a familiar face in the hallways of St. Pigeonation's since he'd arrived. He'd always had that far-off look in his eye, and might at any time be found dozing over tests, at school assemblies, or even in the public washrooms. He'd always regarded Doctor Iwamine with a measure of suspicion, his far-off gaze focusing enough to tell Yuuya that his guard was up. Enough to tell Yuuya that this quail could be an ally, or he could get himself in trouble.

The Nanaki that Yuuya saw in the false star was a very different person. Tired, confused, and forgetful. He had eaten his own eyes, he said. Hitori, they called him. He had buried himself into something so deep he had been nearly impossible to find. And he'd wrapped his feathers around Yuuya's neck, ready to kill him on the spot. He'd been spared, luckily enough, but Yuuya had more questions then. No one at this school were all that they appeared to be.

After a long night after a journey back from the afterlife, Nageki disappeared back to wherever he had come from. Doctor Iwamine skulked off with a distant look in his eye, saying goodbye to no one and disappearing into the deeply shadowed streets of town. Sakuya called for a limo from his cell phone and everybirdie waited for it to arrive before saying goodbye to him and going their separate ways. Ryouta gave Yuuya a glance before walking off with Hiyoko, and Nanaki and Yuuya watched after them for their safety.

"And then there were two," Yuuya said cheerfully. "Do you live far from here, sensei? I would be pleased if you would allow me the honor of escorting you home, as long as the gesture doesn't insult you. I'd be worried you might fall asleep in the streets."

Nanaki hummed thoughtfully and began walking with his eyes closed, not raising a protest as Yuuya followed him along. "Napping while walking is one of my best talents," he replied, but Yuuya spied him glancing around, eyes bleary, from time to time.

The two birds couldn't help but gaze skyward as the sun slowly rose around them and snuffed out the last stubborn starlights. Sunrise was grey and slow and quiet, and the chill of the winter was still in the air.

"I was told to call you Hitori, in the star," Yuuya said, speaking out his curiousity through the quiet in spite of himself.

"It's been a very long time since I've heard that name," Nanaki sighed, tired. After a long night behind them he wasn't surprised to find him more tired than usual.

"An old friend?" He asked, keeping a bright smile in his voice. "Pseudonym?"

"A ghost," the teacher replied. "Long buried, with blood on his hands."

"Still a tragedy, if they were someone important to you," said Yuuya, and with the hard look Nanaki gave the ground before him, he said no more.

The sun rose around them, slow and sluggish, until the world began to look real again and less like a ghost town. The sky turned blue with daylight and early birds began to appear in the streets. Several blocks from St. Pigeonation's, Nanaki gestured to an apartment building to indicate his stop. They walked quietly up the step together to the front door before the teacher turned back to Yuuya.

"There are many of us with blood on our hands, Sensei," Yuuya said, folding his wings at his sides like a gentleman as Nanaki eyed him curiously. "One may not be innocent and still be good."

"Thank you Sakazaki," Nanaki said, his eyes lingering closed long enough for Yuuya to believe he may have fallen asleep. "But you have no idea what you're talking about."

Yuuya laughed, harder than he meant to, and ran his feathers briefly over his eyes as if to wipe the tiredness away and out of them. "You may be right."

"Thank you for escorting me home," Nanaki said, taking a slow step backwards. "I'll be fine from here."

"It was my pleasure," Yuuya replied, and lowered himself into a deep bow and staying there until he heard Nanaki's light feet stepping away from him. "Nanaki sensei," he called, straightening himself in time to see the teacher turn back toward him, curious. "Very soon I'll be enrolling to University and no longer a student at St. Pigeonation's. As long as it doesn't go against your personal ethic, at that time, it would be my pleasure to take you out for dinner. I know a place that serves a wonderful sesame curry that I would love to share with you."

Nanaki hesitated a moment, regarding Yuuya in silence as though it might have been the first time he really looked at the fan-tail, in the same way that Yuuya felt like he had seen the quail for the first time in that dark room on the false star. They both had a lot of precious things locked up in their hearts that they may never get out of each other. Dark, festering things.

It might be a little easier if they had someone to share them with.

"Yeah," said Nanaki. "Alright. Have a wonderful day, Sakazaki-san."

"And you, sensei."