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Masks of the Past

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Life is hard when you move.

 

Everything changes- and everyone expects you to get used to it.

Which is frankly unfair if you were to ask Giyuu Tomioka, who’s currently standing in front of a sea of strangers in a room he’s never been- in a completely new school.

 

He stares right at the ground as the teacher introduces him to his new classmates, and currently, all he wants to do is crawl under one of the desks and just crumble away.

You can’t blame him really, Giyuu had been living in the same area for so long- actually ever since he was born. The town had been small, everyone knew each other. It was just, well, optimal for a kid like him.

 

Giyuu Tomioka really wasn’t one to understand social cues, his parents would look at him in exasperation at times like these- but his sister would shower with encouragement.

‘It’s endearing!’

 

Oh Tsutako, how he wished she was here. Instead, she’s at home with her new husband unpacking everything from their recent move.

Why couldn’t he have stayed home to help too—-

 

“Tomioka-san.”

There’s a hand on his shoulder and Giyuu jumped to attention, head snapping up from his thoughts to look at his class. There are whispers, curiously looking at the new student while some just did not look like they wanted to be here at all.

The teacher’s hand pulls away from his shoulder and the woman addresses her new pupil.

 

“Any words to your new class?”

Ahhhh crap. His head is mush.

Fingers fidget with each other as he slowly speaks out, voice barely reaching half the classroom.

“My name is...Tomioka Giyuu. I...I’ll be in your care.”

He bows his head, cursing himself silently at the lame introduction. There’s a long silence before the teacher simply motions the boy to take a seat- he doesn’t have to be asked twice as he goes straight for it.

 

Giyuu sat, glancing to the side to see who’s next to him, just to find a white-haired boy with bandaids scattered on his face and arms. The boy seems to notice as sharp eyes glance over at him- and the glare on his face quickly made Giyuu look right down at his desk.

Okay, bad decision. Avoid that one. Got it.

 

The lesson begins, and Giyuu buries his head into his studies to hide from his shame. Just focus on your work Giyuu, then you can just go home to your sister and it’ll be wonderful- yes. Wonder what she’ll cook tonight…

 

He almost knees his desk at the sudden pressure on his back. It’s not big, nothing more than a pen tip…? It taps on his back, and Giyuu’s tempted to look back..but. Ah- he needs to pay attention.

He looks at the board, jotting down some notes— when there’s that tapping again.

Who is that? He’s trying to remember- yet he can’t seem to recall.

Not that it matters, because all thoughts go out of the window as what he assumes is a pen, starts tracing lines on his back.

 

….

He focuses on the motions, and it takes him a few moments to really process what the stranger behind him was trying to do.

 

‘Nice to meet you.’

 

Giyuu blinked at the message in his mind, double-checking if that was actually what it was.

He made a motion to look behind him, only catching a hint of peach before the teacher spoke up again- making his head whip forwards again. 

Right. Yes. Lesson.

He forgets to respond, going right back to jotting notes.

 

An eyebrow cocks up at that, the student behind the midnight haired boy sitting there in its half leaned in form, pen in hand.

D...did he just get ignored?

 

Sabito sits back, blowing some of his hair back as purple hues stared at the back of the new boy sitting in front of him.

His head props onto his palm as he continues to stare, an odd feeling in his stomach as his brain was filled with thoughts that just didn’t make any sense, everything seemed a little fuzzy. Almost like he was being washed with a nostalgia that didn’t really belong to him.

A Deja Vu.

How odd.

 

Sabito decides right then and there, that he’s rather intrigued.

He’ll try again later.

 


 

It’s been a week now, and Giyuu by now has somewhat gotten the names of some of his classmates.

 

Like the white-haired boy who sits beside him, his name is Shinazugawa Sanemi- he seems...Ah. Hm. Let’s move on actually.

 

He does see Shinazugawa hang around with another boy who always wears a cold mask- if he can recall...his name is Iguro Obanai. He’s much quieter than Shinazugawa- yet his words seem much more biting. Yikes. The only time he seems to soften up is when he’s looking at his phone.

Giyuu hasn’t built the courage up to ask yet.

 

There’s also a rather boisterous blonde by the name Rengoku Kyoujoro- he’s the one Giyuu managed to hold the most conversation with. He seemed to be liked by everyone actually- a very headstrong boy, always with a smile...and honesty that kinda punches you in the gut.

He...he can get a bit tiring actually, but it’s nice to talk to him on a rainy day. Mostly.

 

And of course, he finally had the chance to meet the boy sitting behind him in class. He had introduced himself as Sabito- and accepted nothing else.

So well, Sabito it was.

 

There’s something that sets Sabito apart from the others, he’s not really sure what it is. Maybe it’s the fact that he almost looks like a delinquent with how he presents himself and yet he really isn’t, rather the class tends to rely on him a lot. 

 

Maybe it’s because Sabito has been trying to talk to him at any chance he gets.

 

He doesn’t mean to ignore him and run away- but he really just doesn’t know how to handle him! With such a straightforward attitude, Giyuu worried he would just be swept away into God knows what- and that thought for some reason filled him with dread.

 

He decides to keep his distance. Which is hard when Sabito catches him after classes end and decides to call out to him.

 

“Hey.”

 

There is a jump, and Giyuu looks up meekly to see Sabito with his bag slung over his shoulder, looking down at his classmate.

“Hm?”

Sabito readjusts his bag before he pointed at Giyuu.

“You aren’t in a club yet, are you?”

“Uh.”

 

It’s at this point in which Giyuu realizes that maybe, just maybe, he just got caught into something he couldn’t get out of.

Despite the neutral look on Sabito’s face, there’s a glint in his eyes that seem to burn with intention as he spoke.

“Let’s go then. I want you to come with me.”

 

Eh?

 

The meeker one of the two stood up slowly as he got ready, his attention on Sabito.

“Where exactly?”

“I’ll tell you once we’re out.”

“Out?”

 

They were going outside of school? Honestly, Giyuu had thought Sabito was going to trap him in an elaborate scheme to get him to join a club or something...but this is outside of school?

His stomach twisted nervously, and his movements began to slow down. He wondered if there was a way to get out of this-

 

“Come on.”

The peach haired boy had dropped the last of Giyuu’s items in his bag— deciding to grab it and slinging it over his shoulder with his own, sealing Giyuu’s fate as he babbled quietly in half-assed protest, trying to grab at it.

A hand suddenly rested on his back, and Giyuu straightened up in shock, looking over at Sabito as he looks at him intensely.

 

He really does look intimidating with that half-hidden scar on his cheek, partly covered by a bandaid...

There’s a moment, before the scarred boy gives a slight smile, patting his back and pushing a shocked Giyuu towards the door and on their way outside of school.

 

“Loosen up a bit, I have a feeling you’ll like it.”

 

Giyuu hopes that Sabito is telling the truth.

 


 

 

“Um…”

“We’re almost there.”

“Ah. Right…”

 

Giyuu had followed Sabito through the city, the streets become narrower and narrower as they walk- and Giyuu couldn’t help but look around them. There’s more and more greenery peeking through the buildings, almost reminding him of his old town- ah, there’s a cat too…

 

“I found this place recently, you know. But I haven’t had an excuse to go inside yet.”

“Huh?”

Giyuu looked away from the cat to look back at Sabito, he continued to walk with purpose.

“...You know- you haven’t really...um… told me where we’re going yet.”

“Oh yeah.”

 

Sabito paused for a moment, before starting to walk again, pointing towards the different shops around these parts.

“It gives off a vibe of those family-based shops… independent- you get what I mean, right?”

Giyuu gives a nod, and Sabito carries on.

“The kendo club is on pause currently while the room gets renovated, so I’ve been exploring the city after school. An upperclassman told me of cafe that doubles up as a flower shop that his friend works at- ah, it’s right there.”

 

A finger points to a quaint shop in the near distance, delicate and well kept flowers overflowing the outside of the building.

It really was quite wonderful, Giyuu couldn’t help but let his gaze linger.

“Is that what you wanted to show me?”

“Well- no, but I mean...”

Sabito wrung his hands around, waving them as he was trying to explain- there’s a nervous excitement in which Giyuu can sense building up.

“That place is cool, we can go to it after— but it’s the shop across it.”

 

The confused look of his classmate makes Sabito grab his arm, his eyes were bright.

“I’ll show you.”

Giyuu can’t get a word in as he gets dragged towards the opposite end of where the flower shop is- and suddenly his body is yanked down to crouch as they arrive to the display window.

“Here.”

“--” The darker haired boy had been about to ask Sabito what exactly they were doing, but looking at his classmate revealed an intense look inside the shop they were crouched down at.

“...”

His head turned, peeking into the window to see what had caught Sabito’s attention.

 

Giyuu is met with masks, many masks- of all sorts of shapes and sizes and styles. Characters depicted by masks hung on the walls amongst shelves of books. Giyuu stared in awe at the visage, trying to get a better look at some of the masks- but it’s difficult doing so from their current position.

His shoulder gets tapped, and he looks over at Sabito, who is pointing towards a certain direction in the shop.

“Look- it’s him.”

“Him?”

Eyes followed the direction of Sabito’s fingers, blue eyes landing on--- is that a tengu mask? He blinked, shuffling a little closer to his companion, squinting to get a better look at it-- just to realize a man was wearing it, hunched over in deep concentration.

 

“Who is he?”

“He’s the owner of the shop, he’s made most of these masks apparently.” 

There’s a soft sound of awe, and little to their knowledge, both of their eyes twinkled as the elder in the shop continued to work in what they could only imagine is a mask.

They can’t get a good look inside at this angle.

 

“You know, if you’d like to take a look inside, you should.”

“--!”

The two snapped their heads behind them to find a girl crouching behind them, a content smile on her face at their reaction.

“He won’t bite.”

The girl giggles at their blank faces, pushing herself once more up and brushing herself up.

“When you’re ready,” A hand is held up in a light greeting. “See you inside…~”

 

Sabito and Giyuu watched as the girl proceeded to walk inside in shock, looking right back to the window to see her greeting the man in the tengu mask.

They seem to exchange a few words before the man glanced over to their direction---

 

Ah. Wait.

 

Both the boys shrunk as the girl waved them over, before looking at each other. Sabito spoke first.

“What should we do?”

Giyuu could tell Sabito was itching to go inside, with all that fidgeting- how could you not? His previous worries had been forgotten now in favour of curiosity as he leaned in a bit.

“I’ll come in with you if you want to.”

Sabito pressed his lips together in thought, eyebrows furrowing as he was trying to keep his cool, it was a slightly embarrassing situation after all- being outed like this.

 

Come on Sabito, be a man.

“You’ll miss out by being a coward.” He tells himself, puffing out his chest to hype himself up- before looking over at Giyuu with newfound determination.

“Alright…!” 

With one swoop, he was standing again, holding his hand out to help Giyuu up- who took it with a small thanks.

There’s one more look shared between them, and a light squeeze of their hands in reassurance before Sabito led the two of them inside.


 

 

It’s even more awestrucking inside.

 

Now that the reflections of the window were out of the way, the details of the shop were apparent. The warm light of the lamps hanging on the walls soaking the shop with a cosy feeling. The masks holding even more brilliance to them seeing them clearly. 

There’s a unized sound of awe from the two boys- and the girl who had outed them laughed lightly.

“I guess you guys like masks?”

 

Sabito is the one that speaks first, “I’ve never really thought about them much until I saw the shop a few days ago..these are beautiful.”

The girl stared at the peach haired boy...before smiling gently.

“Aren’t they?”

 

Meanwhile, Giyuu had taken notice of the old man hunched over- finally taking notice of what he was working on.

A blade works at carving out details on a wooden face, sculpting the facial structure of an oni-like mask. Hands rested on the counter, the boy leaning in to get a better look.

“Woah…”

 

Rough hands don’t stop working at the mask, but there’s a gruff voice that reaches Giyuu’s ears.

“Do you know what mask this is?”

Giyuu blinked, looking at it again in thought.

“...It’s… an oni mask- right?”

“Shikami.”

“Shikami?”

The old man nods, continuing to work slowly.

“Oni masks have the two thin horns protruding from here.” Two fingers tap the forehead of the mask- and it’s true, they were missing. Giyuu let out a noise of understanding, Sabito inched closer now, his side bumping gently into Giyuu’s as he leaned over to look at the mask too now.

 

The old man just slightly glances up to look at the two boys, before looking down and talking again.

“Can you spot other differences?”

Sabito and Giyuu shared a look, before looking closer at the mask- Sabito being the first one to speak.

“Its teeth are shorter than an oni mask.”

“Correct.”

Sabito unknowingly let out a breath of satisfaction, while Giyuu squinted, trying to think of something.

“...It’s…. It’s angrier?”

“Also correct.”

Giyuu internally patted himself, a small smile appearing on his lips as the man spoke.

“Shikami is a Noh mask- it represents a bad demon. Oni masks can be interchangeable from good and bad. It’s recognizable by its awful scowling face.” He tapped the unfinished features of the mask, before going back to work at it. “A theatre company asked me to produce a custom one.”

The two boys let out a soft ‘Ooh’, causing the slightly older girl to clap her hands together lightly in glee.

“Urokodaki-sensei is really wonderful~!”

 

A nod of agreement is the response, and the man now known as Urokodaki simply let out a soft huff.

 


 

“You know, we hold workshops here- if you two are interested.”

 

Sabito and Giyuu stopped their leave as the girl’s voice calling out to them, they had ended up staying for a whole hour without realizing- during that time they have found out that the girl was called Makomo and that she was one of Urokodaki’s students.

 

“Really?” Sabito let out, clearly interested as Makomo reached from behind the counter to grab two fliers holding them out for the two boys who took them- Giyuu more hesitantly than Sabito.

“The weekends are our main days- but if you end up liking it, feel free to come during the week. Right, Urakodaki-sensei?” 

 

There’s a small nod, and Makomo responded with a content smile. 

 

They exchanged farewells, the two boys finally coming out of the shop to hints of sunset starting to appear. 

“That was exciting, don’t you think?”

Giyuu looked over at Sabito, raising his hand to his mouth as he couldn’t help but let out a snort, “You look like you had the time of your life in there with that look on your face, Sabito-san.”

“Huh?”

Sabito raised his hand up to his cheek, cheeks flushing slightly at the realization of what his face must have looked at that moment-- he looks away. “I did- have fun. Did you?”

 

Oh.

Giyuu fell silent for a moment, thinking about it- before a small grin grew on his face.

“Yeah, yeah I did too.”

 

Sabito seemed to be taken aback for a second before a grin crept on his face- and a laugh followed. His arm swung over Giyuu’s shoulder, pulling him towards the main roads.

“Told you, didn’t I?”

There’s laughter amongst the two as they make their way home.

 


 

“Say, Sabito-san.”

“Hm?”

“Thanks for inviting me.”

“Heh?? I should be thanking you for coming with me.”

“You didn’t really give me a choice in that matter actually.”

“Ahaha! I guess I didn’t- aren’t you glad though now?”

“...Hmhm- yeah. Thanks again Sabito-san.”

“Just Sabito is fine.”

“Oh. Sabito, then.” 

“There we go.”

 

They stopped at a crossroad as Giyuu pointed at one end.

“My house is that way.”

Sabito pointed the other way, grinning.

“I guess we’ll be splitting up here.”

 

There’s a moment, a lingering moment. Where the two just stand there looking at each other.

The moment is broken when Sabito turns with a wave.

“I’ll see you tomorrow then- Giyuu!”

“Ah--”

 

The sudden informal call of his name had shocked him enough to watch the other go dumbly, only managing to let out a small. 

“...Bye.”

 

He stood there, his bag in his arms as he watched Sabito’s back disappear behind the corner. His fingers grip at his bag, turning around slowly as he decided to make his way home now.

 

...

How odd.

For a moment there, he had wanted to reach out and keep Sabito there.

He wondered why.