From what Yu had seen, Inaba is a quiet town with a small populace. It's something he appreciated and cherished. Partly because there was less of a chance for him to have to interact with people. When someone is different in one way or another, other more able-bodied people react negative because they can't understand. It's an inconvenience, and quite frankly Yu is sick of the attitudes he would receive in the city.
The main reason is the absolute sensory overload he would experience in busier places. A small town in the countryside is bond to have more relaxed individuals. There is no rush or hurry, no people pushing and shoving as they ran to catch the train. The people here are kind, and there aren't many loud noises besides the train. It is heaven on Earth to Yu.
He had also made some friends in his time here. It’s something he thought he'd never do, considering his disability. But they are kind and understanding, taking the time to get to know him. They even started learning sign language to communicate better with him. The amount of kindness they have shown is outstanding, shaking Yu to the core. And that kindness never once faltered. If there is a way for him to fully convey what exactly that meant to him, he would do it in a heartbeat.
He walks from school with Yosuke, chatting about the things that happened during that day. Not a lot happens at Yasogami, but the regular antics his friends got up to kept it from being too boring. It didn't really take much to entertain him anyway. Their company is just as good.
“So yeah, Chie’s basically left me out to dry with that weirdo on the way to school. She's just as responsible for spilling his coffee as me! And yet again, I had to deal with damage control.” Yosuke rants.
Yu flashes him a amused smile at that. He enjoys Yosuke’s company the most out of his circle of friends. It is easy for them to connect and the casual banter is always nice to listen to. He grabs the small whiteboard around his neck and wrote a message with the magnetic marker.
‘You should bring that up next time she asks you for something.’
A sly smirk weaves its way onto Yosuke's lips. “I plan to. It's about damn time she pays up for all the times I helped her out.”
They come to a stop at Junes when Yosuke says he has to pick up a few things. Yu waits near the front entrance since Yosuke says it won't take long. He decides to pass the time by checking his messages. He receives messages from Chie and Yukiko about how their days at school went, a message from Naoto reminding him of exam week, and of course a flirtatious message from Rise (he never reciprocated the feelings but he let her dream).
He couldn't help but smile reading the messages. He never had this much concern from others before, not even his parents. He treasures moments like these. Eventually, he would have to return back to the city. Being put back into that environment made Yu shutter. Just the volume alone is overwhelming to him. Can he really deal with that again? When will be able to return to Inaba? Will he be able to stay in contact with the others?
Yu shakes his head, pushing those thoughts away. It's too early to be worrying about that. He has until next spring, after all. He needs to focus on spending time with his friends. For once in his life, he has people that genuinely care about him. The type of relationship he has with them is rare, and hard to come by. Not everyone wants to be friends with a mute person, Yu knows that for a fact. He couldn't be more grateful for the people he has in his life now.
He’s snapped out of his thoughts when he hears Teddie’s voice in the background. Yu looks to his left to see him fretting over someone hidden by one of the tables in the food court. He figures that maybe he could help out in some way, so he walks over. A boy with midnight blue hair is crouched underneath the table, picking up a few papers and pencils. Teddie is frantically apologizing to the boy, helping with any pencils that rolled off to the side.
Teddie looks up at Yu, worry filling his eyes. “Senpaaaai! I knocked over this guys stuff by accident and I've been apologizing, but he's not listening!”
Yu thinks for a moment before an idea crossed his mind. He crouches next to the boy, tapping his shoulder. He jumps, nearly dropping the utensils in his hands. Yu grabs the marker on his whiteboard.
‘Are you okay? Do you need help?’
The boy pauses for a moment. He sets the utensils on the table, making sure they don't roll away again. ‘I'm fine. Thank you for asking.’
Yu picks up that the boy is using sign language, and feels excitement rising in his chest. He has not meet someone else who knew sign before. This would make communication easier for him. He notices that the boy is waiting for a response, and hastily signs, ‘It's no problem.’
The boy's eyebrows raise a little. He motions for Souji to sit next to him. He does so reluctantly, looking over at Teddie who still looks conflicted.
‘My friend is trying to apologize to you.’ He signs.
The blue haired boy looks up at Teddie, who stares at him with comically wide eyes filled with nervously anticipation. He takes Yu’s whiteboard and writes out, ‘Thank you for helping me. And I forgive you.’
The blonde breathes a sigh of relief before standing up straight. Yu hears the familiar voice of Yosuke and looks up. He runs over to the scene, glaring daggers at Teddie. “Jeez, I can't leave you for a second without harassing somebody! What did you put this poor guy through, anyway?”
Teddie jumps up defensive, waving his hands frantically. “I wasn't harassing him! Well, not on purpose- but I apologized and I'll have you know he was beary nice to me!”
Yosuke just pinches the bridge of his nose. He steps in front of Teddie, addressing the boy. “I'm so sorry about my friend here. Sometimes he gets a little… excited.”
The boy squints at Yosuke, brows furrowing in concentration. He takes a moment to think, eyes searching for something no one could figure out. Based on his use of Yu’s whiteboard and his knowledge of sign, Yu comes to the conclusion that the boy is deaf. Supposedly from figuring out what Yosuke had said to him, the boy's eyes light up in understanding. Once again, he takes Yu’s board. ‘It's fine. It really isn't that big of a deal.’
Yosuke stares blankly at the boy. His eyes shifts to Yu, looking for an explanation. The blue haired boy beats him to the punch, erasing his last message and writing, ‘I'm deaf’ on the board.
“Ooooh.” Yosuke and Teddie say naively. Yu couldn't help but silently chuckle at their ignorance.
“Well, I got what I was looking for, so we can head out if you want.” Yosuke said, resting his hands behind his head.
Yu is about to agree, but looked back at the blue haired boy. He’s watching the three, looking a bit lost. Yu feels a pang of guilt at the prospect of leaving the boy alone. He should at least learn his name first. It isn't everyday where you'd find someone who knew sign. As loved as he is by his friends, he sometimes felt a little alienated despite their best efforts. The idea of knowing someone who is disabled in a similar way he is made him giddy.
‘I think I'll stay here.’ He writes. He notices the blue haired boy’s look of surprise.
Yosuke frowns for a second, before replacing it with a small smile. “Got it. See you tomorrow then, partner.”
Yu waves goodbye to Yosuke and Teddie as they walk away. Once they're out of eyesight, he turns to the boy. ‘I don't think I caught your name. Do you mind telling me?’
The boy looks down at his arms, not in concentration but in consideration. ‘Minato Arisato.’
‘That's a nice name.’ Yu signs, smiling. ‘Mine is Yu Narukami. Nice to meet you.’
The next hour is spent getting to know Minato, and Yu feels the relief of being able to fully use sign to communicate. It can be time consuming writing out most of what he made to say, and sometimes it would hard to get people’s attention in a conversation. He is much more comfortable signing. Yu learns that Minato draws from time to time, and the art he showed really is of high quality. He makes sure he knows that, too. Minato shrugs it off saying that he isn’t that good. Yu looks at the drawing again and wonders how someone could be so modest. They share their experiences in this respective towns, and how they differ from one another. Iwatodai seems a lot better than Tokyo for the way Minato had described it. If he were to move there, it might be more tolerable. He holds onto that hope. With his parents spontaneous moves he might end up living there for a while.
But the sun is starting to set, and if Dojima is home he'd surely get his ear talked off about staying out past dark. Not only that, but he needs to make Nanako dinner too. He'd completely forgotten about that in his excitement. And he thinks he might have some homework to do? He really lost track of time, didn't he?
‘I have to go.’ Yu signs, standing up. ‘It was nice talking to you.’
Yu is about to leave the food court when Minato tugged his sleeve. He turns around, meeting the boy's cool grey eyes. He's holding his phone. ‘We should exchange numbers in case we don't see each other again.’
Yu lights up at that idea. Minato seems to notice, the corners of his mouth twitching upward. Yu feels his face heat up, and desperately fishes for his phone in his pocket. They give each other their numbers without much hassle, and Yu slings his bag over his shoulder. Minato stands up, sliding his hands in his pockets. They wave goodbye and go their separate ways.
By the time Yu tucks Nanako into bed, his phone vibrates with a new message.
Minato: hey, today was nice. i didnt get to thank you for sitting with me, so here you go
Minato: and youre not very good at hiding your blush