It was a pain to simply walk down the hall. Sure, it was a nice day out, but inside Kaname's mind were dark storms. The thought of work, managing the classroom, and especially keeping Mr. Sargent in line drained the life out of her. The bags under her eyes grew each day, and she feared they'd be permanent.
Kyoko turned to her friend as they ambled down the hall. She watched Kaname sigh as she dragged her legs along the floor. She noticed Kaname's frizzed blue hair. It looked a hot mess compared to other days.
"Kaname," she said softly. "You look miserable."
"I am miserable," Kaname quickly retorted. "And exhausted."
"Did something happen yesterday?"
"Eh." Kaname limply shrugged. "It was just a really rough night. I had to study until three this morning because sergeant dumb ass said he saw a suspicious dark figure in my house, which was me by the way. So he barged in, scaring me half to death before boarding up my house and laying out booby traps. Of course, I told him to take everything down. I wasted so much time just trying to get him out of the house that I only got two hours of sleep." She let out a deep sigh. "I didn't even get to eat breakfast."
"That does sound rough. At least he was worried about you."
"I guess. Still, I just don't want anything to go wrong today. I'm too tired to handle any of his military fiascos."
But life had a sense of humor. Just as the two turned a corner, a mass of students stood in the hall. More dashed out of the classroom, coughing as mist trailed them. They stopped in their tracks, Kaname already falling into a state of knowing and repression.
"What's going on?" Kyoko asked to no one in particular.
Kaname lowered her head and pinched the skin between her eyes. "Don't tell me . . ."
"Kaname!" Ono D rushed up to the girls like a child ready to out his little brother. "Sousuke let off another tear gas!"
"You said 'another?'" Kyoko repeated.
Ono D nodded. "We're evacuating everyone."
Kaname release another heavy sigh. Without a word, she walked passed to two, walked through the crowd of people and into the classroom after the mist faded a little, but not before putting on a spare mask she carried, which she made a habit of doing do to these types of situations. She called out, "Sousuke," as soon as she stepped into the room.
"Yes, Ms. Chidori?"
Kaname jumped, bumping her hip against a desk she failed to see. There was a hazy figure standing beside her wearing a bigger mask, his scraggly hair draped over one of his eyes. She stood up tall after catching her breath, waiting for her heart to slow. Then she let out another sigh.
"Come here, Sousuke," she said. Sousuke noted her mild tone, and it rocked him a bit, rousing caution. He stepped a little closer to her just as she let out another sigh. "Why did you release the gas?"
It was strange indeed to see Ms. Chidori unfazed, if he could call it that. He thought she would at least yell at him, but she showed no signs of doing so. "Someone tampered with it," he finally said. "So I had to make sure it was in check."
"So, you released two?"
"You can never be too careful."
Kaname sighed again.
"Are you mad, Ms. Chidori?"
She shook her head. "No, but . . ." As she always did, Kaname took out the large fan from her schoolbag and whacked him on the head. And as always, Sousuke seemed unfazed by it.
"Ms. Chidori, that hurt," he said reflexively, even though her impact was overwhelmingly soft compared to other times.
"Shut up and go wait outside the classroom for the room to clear."
While everyone waited outside for the class to clear, Sousuke turned to Kaname and stared at her for a second. He noticed her posture was unnaturally slouched, her eyes dark.
"Ms. Chidori, are you feeling alright?"
Kaname perked up, a little surprised. She turned to Sousuke, slightly flattered. "I'm fine," she breathed.
"Are you still mad?"
"No, I just had a rough night." The flattering feeling vanished. He was the one who gave her a rough night after all.
"Last night? Did you feel unsafe? Do you want me to barricade your apartment for you again? If I do, I'll have to stay in your house a little-"
"No!" Sousuke slightly jumped at the raise in her voice. So did Kyoko, who was standing on the other side of her taking pictures. Kaname caught herself. Simply yelling hurt her head. She sighed, lowering her voice. "No, you don't have to do any of that, Sousuke. To be honest, I had a rough night because of you."
She nodded. "So please, today, just . . . try not to get yourself in troubled. OK?"
"But when have I-"
He tensed up, shoulders raised. "I'll do my best."
About ten minutes passed until the students could finally go back into the classroom and proceed with school just as the bell sounded. Kaname sat with her head up and back hunched. Her eyes drooped, and her mouth hung slightly as she zombily took notes, occasionally spacing out and missing an important topic. Sousuke sat behind her and watched, occasionally hearing long sighs or groans.
At lunch, Kaname's mood picked up just a bit; a short wave of happiness blew over her at the thought of the day nearly being over. Everyone moved their desks and collided into their groups, bringing out their bento boxes or rushing to get bread. But as they ate, Kaname looked around for Sousuke, but he was nowhere to be found.
"Where's Sousuke?" Kyoko asked, reading Kaname's mind.
"He said he was going out to buy some bread from the stands," Shinji said.
She didn't know why, but Kaname felt a little more relaxed knowing where he was. She decided to make most of the moment and loosen up as she ate with her friends. She didn't really do much chatting, and the little they did was mostly about the boring classes or how they were dozing off.
"It's bad," Kaname said. "I keep spacing out. I just can't wait for the day to be-"
Everyone in the class stopped and grabbed onto their desks and chairs, feeling the floor rumble. Kaname dropped her chopsticks. Her brow twitched; there was only one person in the entire world who would have an explosion go off during school. She shot to her feet and ran out the classroom without a word, a few curious students running behind. They all rushed down the stairs and through the halls until they turned the corner to see the shoe lockers were nothing but burned, smoldering scraps of metal.
Something in Kaname sparked. "Again?!" she shouted.
Everyone analyzed the devastation, but Kaname froze her gaze when she spotted Sousuke behind a protective wall across the shoe platform. A vein surfaced when she heard him say, "Alright."
He raised his head, peering off the wall. "Ms. Chidori."
The casualness in his voiced threw another spark in her. "What the hell! We've been through this!"
"Now, I know what this looks like," he said as he stood to his feet from a crouched position. "But there is a reasonable explanation for this. You see-"
Kaname turned to Kyoko. "What's wrong?" Are you hurt?"
"No, but my locker was in there!" she said.
Others followed with:
"Aw, my lunch was in there."
Kaname watched the crowd go into an uproar while watching those whose lockers were unscathed sigh with relief, yet still afraid to approach them to make sure nothing was damaged.
"Ugh!" Kaname jeered. "Sousuke! Get your ass over here!"
Sousuke pursed his lips. "I'm sorry, but I cannot do that right now."
"Sousuke, if I have to tell you again . . ."
"Ms. Chidori, I can't."
"Do NOT make me come over there."
"I would advise you not to. Just stay where you are. This is for your own safety."
"For my own safety?! You just blew up a part of the school! Someone could have been seriously hurt!"
"Not to worry, Ms. Chidori. I put up caution signs and did a thorough check to make sure the area was evacuated."
Kaname growled. He just wasn't getting the point! She stomped her foot, and before she knew it, she was stomping forward past the downward steps, through the debris, and towards the fort.
Sousuke raised a cautious hand. "Ms. Chidori, wait! That's not safe. There may still be debris-"
The lockers to Kaname's right teetered, swaying until they tumbled forward. Quick on her feet, she threw herself off the platform just in time. Her heart raced as the mingled lockers clattered to the floor, kicking up dust and giving off an echoed thud. Sousuke ran over to her as quick as he could, climbing over the lockers.
"Ms. Chidori!" he called.
Kyoko dropped to her knees, placing her hands on Kaname's shoulders. "Kaname! Are you alright?!"
She helped her to her feet just as Sousuke finished climbing over the debris. He took a step forward, reaching out while calling, "Ms. Chidori." But then he froze. A stream of sweat wormed down the side of his face when he noticed her eyes to the floor, her bangs casting an ominous shadow over her face. He knew right then she was (for a lack of a better term) pissed.
"Sousuke," she said. "Get. Your ass. Over here."
He froze. Her voice was demonic. It was so low, so deep, and so slowly said, chills shot up his spine. At first, he thought he had seen this expression many times before, but this wasn't the same as all the other times. This was very, very different. Kyoko and the others noticed as well. Some people even took a step back.
"Kaname?" Kyoko said softly, removing her hands from her friend's shoulders.
Sousuke gulped. "M-Ms. Chidori? Are . . . Are you . . . upset with me?"
Sousuke physically shuddered, jumping at the raise in Kaname's voice. He stood at attention, tensing his shoulders.
"Yes, ma'am!" he said.
Kaname turned in a snap. The crowd parted for her without hesitation. Sousuke gulped, being sure to follow her without a word and being sure to keep up so she wouldn't yell at him again. No one in the crowd dared bother to follow. They parted, talking about the explosions, how they would have to replace their shoes, how much the school would have to pay for it, and so on. Some headed back to the classroom, but Kaname and Sousuke took a different route. They went upstairs to the fifth floor.
At first, Sousuke thought he was going to the principal or to the teacher, or the student vice president's office. Those were the places he normally went to, depending on the "event" that occurred. But when Kaname turned down none of those hallways, he grew wary.
"Ms. Chidori . . . Where are you taking me?" he said.
She didn't answer.
"Are, are you alright?"
Kaname stopped mid-stride. The nerve of that Sergent to ask that question. She turned to him. Sousuke was unaware of the fire her sparks just created. But Kaname simply stared, saying nothing, letting the fire in her eyes talk. That silence put Sousuke even more on edge. She turned back and continued down the hall. It didn't take long before she stopped again. But this time she turned to a classroom door and slid it open. The two stepped in. It was an empty art room at the very top floor of the school. Sculptures and unfinished paintings and sketches were staked in small cubbies or drying on racks.
Kaname turned, slamming the door shut, though she didn't mean to. She locked it promptly. The clicking sound made Sousuke stand at attention. For a moment, their eyes lingered. Sousuke swallowed.
"Now, I know you're upset, Ms. Chidori," he said after a moment of silence, "but things like this tend to happen, and there is a very reasonable explanation for my actions."
"Oh? And what would that be?"
He nodded, relieved she allowed him to explain. "As I was walking outside to get some bread for lunch, I realized someone tampering with my locker before fleeing the scene."
This again? Kaname thought. Didn't she make herself clear last time he did this when he got a love letter?
"So, it was only precautionary that I-"
"Blow it up?" Kaname crossed her arms. "Like you did three months ago after finding a strand of hair."
He nodded again. "You can never be too careful."
Kaname walked over slowly, trailing the tray along the blackboard. She slid her finger across a yard stick before gripping it tightly in her hand. "'Can never be too careful,' huh?" She paused, analyzing the ruler. "Do you want to know what I think about your 'precaution,' Sousuke?"
Another drop of sweat fell, but he didn't move. "Well, I for one see it as a very effective way to eliminate any suspicious items, but"-He looked down-"normally you disagree with my methods and hit me."
"Oh, and believe me," she jeered. "I will be hitting you. But it's not going to be a normal smack to the head this time." Kaname smacked the ruler in her hand. Sousuke looked at it before turning back to Kaname.
"I don't follow," he said. "What method?" He paused for a moment, pondering if he even wanted to know what she was going to do to him. He pursed his lips. "C-Could you elaborate?"
Kaname tipped her head, displaying a small, malevolent grin that contained no amusement whatsoever. "Well, Sergeant Sousuke Sagara, it would be my divine pleasure."
She stood beside one of the studio tables and waved her hand, beckoning Sousuke over. He hesitated, but eventually took quiet steps forward.
"Stand right here," Kaname said.
Sousuke joined Kaname and stood beside the table.
"Now face the table."
He knitted a brow at this command but did as he was told and turned. Before he knew it, he felt a hand nudge on his upper back, pushing him forward. He peered over his shoulder, a bit confused, but Kaname continued to push until his body bent and folded, chest to table.
"Put your hands in front of you," she said.
Sousuke pursed his lips. "Ms. Chidori, this is a very vulnerable position for me to be-"
"Sousuke . . ."
Her words were slow again, and it made the hairs stand on the back of Sousuke's neck. He let out a worried sigh through his nose. Slowly, he extended his arms along the table. As soon as he did, he heard Kaname shuffle to the left side of him. He didn't know what was to come, but judging by Ms. Chidori's demeanor, he knew it would not be pleasant. Was this another one of her judo moves? Or possibly another lecture on destroying school property? He hoped for the latter.
"Don't move," he suddenly heard her say. His muscles tensed, unsure of what to come. Sweat streaked from his pores.
A whooshing sound cracked through the room. His head arched. A slight gasp sounded through his unopened lips. He was stunned, unsure of what just happened. Unsure of what he just felt. Then another came blaring down. His hand twitched a little. At first, Sousuke merely felt heat rising off the rear of his pants, but after the fifth smack, something stung.
Sousuke quickly formed fists before loosening his fingers. He went up on his elbows at another Crack only to go back to his chest with another. His eyes darted around the room, his head occasionally following along, unsure of what to do.
"Ms. Chidori . . . what-"
Another gasp left him, this time through open lips. His back arched. His hips pressed tighter against the table, trying to escape the blows. He knew Ms. Chidori was strong, but he didn't know her swings were that brutal! All the times she hit him with her fan out of anger was nothing compared to this. If she was angry then, then what was this? Was she holding back her hits in the past, even when she was mad?
"Eh. Ms. Chidori . . . That . . . hurts . . ."
Kaname threw down one, two, three, four, five, six more rapid swats. Sousuke's face twisted with each one, his frown deepening. Without a word, on the last swat, he popped up off the desk and thew his hands back, backing away until he bumped against another table. Kaname leered at him.
"What do you think you're doing?" she hissed. "I thought I told you not to mov-"
"M-Ms. Chidori, this method . . . really hurts . . ."
"That's the point of a punishment," she said, surprisingly controlled. "Besides, you haven't felt anything yet. Now, get back over here."
Sousuke opened his mouth to say something, but closed it just as fast, and he kept doing it until words stuttered from his lips. "B-But . . . I-I don't understand. Why, Why-"
"If you are not over here in three second, I will drag you by that stolid face of yours, pin you down and spank you so hard you'll be crawling on the floor when I'm done. And that's not a threat, Sousuke. It's a promise."
He hesitated, pondering on her words only to jump when he heard, "One." Immediately, he took a giant step forward and stood in front of the table. He turned his head to Kaname, who tilted hers, throwing a fist on her hip. Slowly, Sousuke turned back, hesitantly bending back over the table. As soon as his chest hit the surface, so did another loud SMACK!
Kaname swung rapidly again. With each swat, Sousuke felt as though the blows grew heavier, the smacks louder. His breath quickened but only escaped through his nose. He held his fist tightly clenched and kept his eyes to the table. He tried to do as Ms. Chidori said and remain still, but he squirmed. He tried using his training to block out the pain, but Kaname's yelling only brought him back to reality.
"What the hell did you think you were doing?!" Her voice was crisp. Not quite yelling, but it didn't have the calm in it either.
"Ms. Chidori . . ."
"You could have hurt someone? How many times do I have to tell you-"
"Ms. Chidori, it was a precaution!"
Sousuke's hand twitched, desperate to block the strikes, but instead, he brought his fists to his sides. Another loud swot crashed on his rear. A sound escaped his lips along with a pant. And another, so hard it pressed his torso down, churning his stomach. The blows moved down until the ruler met the underside. Kaname knew this sport must have been sensitive because Sousuke's leg bucked two, three times with each smack. Eventually, he jerked up straight, quickly backing away again. He was panting, his hands to his sides. Kaname threw a stricken glare. It sent a stream of sweat down his face.
"Ms. Chidori, I . . . I . . ." He paused to catch his breath. "W-What is this method?! I-I've never heard or even felt something like this! Is this . . . a form of torture? Similar to flogging maybe?"
Kaname rolled her eyes. "No, Sousuke," she said. "It's about to be."
She took a large step forward and grabbed his hand before spinning him around and pinning it to his back. She threw a reckless swat. A diagonal print in his pants went from his upper hamstring to his lower back. Sousuke jumped and let out a sharp hiss. She swung him slower to the table and hit him again until he was down on the surface. Then she hit and hit, refusing to let up. Sousuke was panting now, heavily. His fists tighter.
"Now, is this torture of you?"
He gasped profusely. His eyes began to sting, so he shut them tight.
"How many times do I have to tell you not to go around blowing up everything?!"
"Eh! Ms. Chidori, I-"
"How many times?!
"I don't know!"
"One, Sousuke. The answer is one. But I've had to tell a million times! I'm sick of this! I tell you to stay out of trouble, and you blow up half the school!"
"But, Ms. Chidori, someone was tampering with my locker agai-Ah!" She smacked him harder. His free hand flew on their own accord, throwing itself to cover his rear. Kaname quickly grabbed it, pinning the other to his back as well. She threw down another swat. "Ah! Ms. Chidori, please!"
"Ah! Please! I understand the damage and severity! But I-"
"I don't want to hear any excuses! You always do this." She threw down a smack, and he jerked, letting out a whine, accompanied by a small whimper. "You are going to stay right her until I know I get to that thick skull of yours."
Kaname threw down the ruler like a club. Sousuke's back arched, and he whimpered again. His eyes still tightly shut. She heard the subtle whimpers of his cry. But she didn't stop. His breath hitched, and she would hear the whimper became gradual. She swung, and she swung, but he did his best not to make a sound. But the more he tried to hold his noise, the more it would slip. She didn't let up. A minute passed. Sousuke squirmed relentlessly, muttering "Wait" and "Please," but she didn't. Not until the five-minute bell finally chimed.
Kaname stepped back, pulling the ruler from his rear as she turned to the clock. She had spanked him for well over five minutes. She was huffing, but Sousuke was still, his shoulders trembling. His elbows slowly melted to his sides, his hands pressed flat on the table.
"If you do something like this again," she said when she caught her breath, "I'll make sure you won't be able to sit down for a week. Understand?!"
Sousuke nodded. The room fell silent and still. She hadn't noticed the new small sobs and trembles escaping him. Without her wanting, she felt herself begin to loosen at his . . . vulnerability-he was like a scared child, and she was the boogie man-but she didn't dare allow guilt to arise. She walked over to the side of the table to look at his face. His eyes were still closed.
"Ms. Chidori," he suddenly said. His voice shaking. "Permission to stand?"
He slowly stood to his feet. His eyes gradually opened, and it made Kaname step back a bit. His eyes were a pale pink, glossy and on the verge of tears. If she had kept going, she might have actually seen them.
She sighed, looking away for a split second. "If you do something like that again," she said. "It's going to be more than just your ass smoldering." She said it softly, softer than she intended, but that look on his face just put her on edge. "Do you understand?"
No, is what he wanted to say. He didn't understand. What else besides his ass would be smoldering? But even with that thought, he could figure out what she meant would be anything but pleasant, and he knew it would probably be best to agree. So, he took in a deep breath and said, "Affirmative . . ."
Kaname placed the ruler back and patted herself down before leaving the room, Sousuke following quietly behind. They ventured downstairs to the classroom. As soon as Kaname opened the door, a little too harshly, a few heads turned. She scowled at the room as though peering into the eyes of one person before snapping her head and making her way to the seat.
Kyoko walked up to her. "Kaname, are you alright?"
"I'm fine, Kyoko."
Kyoko looked around. "Where's Sousuke? You were pretty mad when you stormed off with him."
As if on cue, Sousuke slid the door open and made his way to the seat behind Kaname. He paused when she threw a glance his way, but then she turned back to the front with a scoff. Kyoko was about to say something to him, but the teacher shortly walked in after. Kyoko gave Sousuke one quick glance before going back to her seat. Sousuke sat down in his. A sting shot up his back as soon as his rear touched, and he shot back up.
"OK, everyone," the teacher said. "Take your seats."
A bead of sweat dripped down Sousuke's face. This is bad, he thought.
"OK, so today's lesson will be over . . . Take your seat, Mr. Sagara."
The class turned and eyed the standing soldier. Sousuke pursed his lips and stood straight, slapping his hands to his sides. "I'm sorry, sir," he said. "But I . . . I can't do that at the moment. I'd rather stand."
"Sagara, take your seat."
"It's more comfortable if I stand, sir."
"Sagara, if you are going to fool around in my class, you can take it outside."
"That's not my objective, sir."
"Then sit down."
He paused for a moment, looking over his options. He didn't want to look at Kaname because he didn't want to see the irritation on her face; though, he did picture it. So, he slowly slid behind his desk, holding in a hiss. And he sat, squirming as the teacher turned to the chalkboard to begin the lesson. Sousuke kept his hands on his desk, but his hips moved to a fro trying to find a comfortable position. Holding it in one spot of too long grew painful, so he'd slid, sending another sting up his back. With each move, his chair clicked. Some students turned to him with the noise, be he didn't notice. Pain was on his mind. After squirming for a while, Sousuke brushed against the edge with a slight scratch that shot him back to his feet. Students' heads turned, including the teacher's.
"I'm sorry, sir, but this hurts way too much!"
"Take it outside, Sagara!"
Sousuke froze. He looked down, his eyes meeting one of Kaname's. But her expression wasn't irritation, it was weariness. He gulped and slowly turned to the door. As he did, he could hear someone say, "What's his deal?" It was silent all the way until he shut the door behind him. From outside, he could hear the teacher's muffled voice. Sousuke stood, his back barely against the wall. With a sigh, he rubbed the side of his thigh, hoping Chidori wouldn't be mad for him being kicked out of class.