I couldn’t believe it. Through all the craziness of my high school career from beginning to finish, I somehow made it to graduation. The cherry blossoms this time of year were quickly ushering in my new college life. Through it all, it was amazing how in all that time, so much had changed. But somehow, nothing had changed at all.
“What?!” Hiyori finally answered. She momentarily held her breath, wincing at the sharpness of her own voice. Her responses to Yato’s nonsense could be a little gentler but…
“Stop bothering her, tracksuit!” Yukine barked back.
The little family was gathered at Kofuku’s house to celebrate Hiyori’s successful graduation from high school. Daikoku had gone all-out to prepare food for the party and Kofuku was all too ready for a reason to celebrate. Yato had already started drinking with Kofuku, so the rowdiness around the table was off to an early start. Yukine tried his best, but was able to do little to curb Yato’s behavior.
Hiyori sighed and let her initial annoyance slip away as she watched the scene play out like it had already done so many times before. Her tail flicked back and forth as she smiled.
“Hiyori? Another helping?” Daikoku offered.
“Oh! Um… yes!”
She reached for another serving from the dwindling amount of food on the table. Daikoku seemed pleased that even the finicky pair of Yato and Yukine were eating well too. Kofuku just seemed ecstatic about the party atmosphere.
“Hiyorin! You’re so quiet!” Kofuku drunkenly called out to her. “I know. With your train commute you won’t get to see Yato-chan and Yukki as much.”
Hiyori’s back straightened at the pointed comment, but she tried to explain, at least a little.
“Well… I won’t actually need to take a train that often.”
The ruckus in the room quickly died down and all eyes focused on her.
“I’m moving into an apartment that’s really close to campus,” she continued. Hiyori’s hands tightened into fists that rested on her lap. She looked down, hoping there wasn’t any more talk of it.
“Hiyori-chan, you’re so grown up now!” Daikoku commented, trying to not get sentimental. His eyes were a little misty.
Kofuku screamed with delight.
“Hiyori, your parents let you do that?” Yukine wondered out loud.
Grasping for a chance of normal conversation, Hiyori tried to explain. Just a little.
“Well, my parents were against it when I first brought it up. I mean, my mom is still really worried about me being on my own. But I think having the extra time will be useful. Instead of having to take the train every day, I mean.”
Everyone nodded in agreement. Of the group, Yato was surprisingly the quietest, absorbing all of the new information.
“So… you won’t live at your parent’s house anymore?” he tried to clarify. He narrowed his eyes, although Hiyori wasn’t sure if it was from him thinking too hard about the apartment or because he had already had several drinks already.
“I’ll go back for holidays and stuff like that, but most of the time I will be living away from home.”
“Are you sure it’s safe?” Yato leaned a little too close, so close that Hiyori could smell some of the alcohol on his breath. She held out her arm and pushed him away.
“Yes, its fine,” she quickly reassured. “My brother went with me to look at apartments and he thought this one would be a good choice. He also helped me convince my parents it was a good idea. Everything will be fine.”
A couple days later, Hiyori was still rushing to get everything packed. She kept picking up items and pieces of clothing from around her room, examining each to figure out what to bring with her and what to leave behind. It was exhausting, but she was determined to make this arrangement work. Her thought process was broken by the sound of a knock at her door, followed by the doorknob turning—it was her mother.
“Hiyori? Dear? Oh! You’re still packing.”
“I think I’ll be done soon. I’m just trying to decide which of these—”
“You can always come back in case you forget something,” her mother interjected. She nervously looked around Hiyori’s room at the few boxes of items scattered about. “These boxes might get too heavy for you anyways.”
“Onii-chan said he could help me if I need it.”
Hiyori knew her mother meant well, but this conversation had started to become routine. It made her even more determined to be independent. Her mother left after a few more words and Hiyori resolved to finish packing that afternoon.
She sighed thinking about the party the night before. It was wonderful to be with everyone—together and happy—but she couldn’t bring herself to share one of the biggest decisions she had made about her new university lifestyle.
Hiyori had no intention of telling Yato or Yukine or any of the others about her new address.
She fumbled around putting one of the last shirts in her suitcase thinking about it. She was sure she would miss them, but on the other hand, she wanted to experience university life to the fullest. Flashbacks of her high school debut only cemented the decision in her mind.
I can visit them whenever I want, anyways.
She stretched a piece of tape over the top of a box she had finished filling and patted down the tape onto the cardboard. Her decision was final!
The weather was perfect. The sun was shining brightly and a feeling of excitement was in the air. Hiyori had just received the key for her apartment unit and was now following the landlady to her apartment unit. Masaomi accompanied Hiyori that morning, but he stood back to let her do the talking once they arrived. As the small group walked, he pulled her wheeled suitcase behind them.
The complex she would be living in was only two floors tall, but there were several units per floor. With each step up the stairs, Hiyori could feel her excitement and nervousness growing. It was as if this was someone else’s life, but it was hers. She clutched the key in both hands, her precious treasure.
The landlady stopped and motioned towards a door. Hiyori held her breath as she turned the key and pushed the door open. Once inside, she cautiously slid off her shoes. The unit itself was very dim from the curtains drawn, but the landlady was quick to flip on a light switch near the door. Masaomi peeked through the open door from outside, rolling luggage still in tow.
“I think you should have everything you need now, Iki-san.”
Hiyori politely agreed. With that, the landlady left, leaving Hiyori and Masaomi. With the landlady now gone, Masaomi entered and looked around the narrow kitchen, the rolling luggage accidentally bumping the wall. Hiyori opened a door directly adjacent to the kitchen to find the restroom. Directly across from that was a single burner stovetop and a sink. Beneath was a small refrigerator.
At the end of the kitchen was an open door leading into a dim room. Hiyori flung open the curtains, revealing a sliding door with a modest balcony outside. She tugged open the door, letting in a spring breeze that ruffled the curtains on either side. The light from outside made it clear that the room was furnished with a twin-sized bed, a bookshelf, and a table that looked like a TV stand.
“So what do you think?” Masaomi asked.
Hiyori couldn’t help but smile.
In the hours that followed, there was a whirlwind of activity as Hiyori’s parents arrived, as well as her few boxes sent through transport. There was unpacking, nervousness, and a whole lot of chatter. Everything finally started to sink in as the sun set and her family left. Hiyori looked up to the ceiling and took a deep breath. For the first time in a very long time, she was surrounded by quiet.
Hiyori’s first days on campus were busier than she expected. Besides getting her books and materials gathered, she was also hopeful to make some new friends. As a part of new student orientation, there was a fair about the different clubs on campus, so she made sure to go.
There were booths for every activity and hobby imaginable, all packed together in an outdoor plaza. The area was filled with students milling around to see what the university clubs had to offer. Hiyori clutched her bag, nervous but excited to find like-minded people.
She walked the rows of brightly decorated tables, subtly looking for anything wrestling-related. Certainly someone else on this campus had to be a fan of wrestling. She lost herself in a fantasy where she met other wrestling aficionados, causing her to bump into someone moments later. The person Hiyori had bumped into wasn’t paying attention either and dropped a bundle of notebooks and papers. She immediately knelt down to help pick them up.
“I’m sorry!” she apologized, hoping her university life didn’t just start off with a bad impression.
“Don’t worry about it!”
Hiyori’s head looked up to see the person was a female student with short hair and bright eyes. She also knelt down to pick up the dropped materials. As they both picked up everything, Hiyori noticed a paper that said something about pre-med.
“I should be more careful!” the stranger explained away, standing up. “By the way, I’m Yasuko Fujiwara!”
“Oh! I’m Hiyori Iki!” Hiyori greeted, still trying to crane her neck to see what the rest of the paper said, but it was hidden behind other papers.
“Well, I need to get back to my booth—”
“Um, excuse me, but… uh… are you also pre-med?” Hiyori asked candidly.
“Oh! Yeah, I am! A second year!”
Hiyori smiled, feeling strangely relieved. “I’m also studying pre-med.”
“No way!” Yasuko replied in disbelief. “We have a group of people that study together for pre-med classes, but it would be great to have some first years too!”
Yasuko scribbled some information on a scrap of paper and handed it to Hiyori. She explained that there would be a dinner later that week where she could meet other pre-med students. Hiyori took the paper, happy to have met someone so easily.
They both said their goodbyes and Yasuko rushed back into the crowd towards her booth. Hiyori then set out to check out more of the fair. The mood was short-lived though when she caught a faint but familiar scent on the breeze. Hiyori quickly retreated to the edge of the fair, away from the crowds.
Yato ran over as Yukine was trailed behind, obviously not on board with whatever it was Yato was doing. Hiyori was dreading hearing the question she knew would come next, but she didn’t try to leave.
“Why did you move without telling meeee?” Yato whined, waving his arms around. “You left without telling me your address!”
Hiyori gritted her teeth. She knew he didn’t like her decision, which is why she had kept stalling on going to see him and Yukine right away.
“Yato,” she interrupted. “I just need some space for now, okay?”
Yato continued to whimper. Yukine rubbed his temple, looking exhausted. He then looked to the side casually.
“Hiyori… We just… don’t want you to forget about us.”
Hiyori waved her hands around trying to clear up the misunderstanding.
“Nooo! No, no, no! I won’t! That’s not it!”
Both Yato and Yukine were startled. Hiyori breathed in deeply to regain her composure.
“I just… need to do some things on my own. Please, Yato, just let me have this chance!”
Yato was surprised at the request, and stopped all protest. A silence hung in the air between all three of them, but it was difficult to miss the disappointment still written all over Yato’s face. Hiyori excused herself and headed back towards the fair.
She glanced over her shoulder as she walked to make sure they weren’t following her, but they appeared to be talking with each other where they stood. Hiyori continued to browse the fair, but her mood had changed. She couldn’t help but feel a little bit guilty at how she handled the situation.
Maybe I should have worded it differently… maybe I should have apologized.
Hiyori couldn’t shake her frustration with herself, with Yato, with everything, and decided to sleep on it. She returned home that evening and finally settled down to rest. As she clicked off the light in her room, the muffled sounds of the city could be heard—people moving around outside, the occasional car, people going in and out of their apartment. Her restless mind eventually went to sleep, determined to think of something to fix the problem the next day.
The next morning, Hiyori rushed to her first class. She was thankful she had chosen an apartment so close to campus, although the campus itself was rather large. She briskly walked across a spacious plaza and towards the building where her first lecture was to be held. Once seated, class started shortly after. Hiyori started in taking notes but her mind started to drift with each passing minute.
I wonder if Yato would answer his phone if I called or…
She was surprised at the thought. Of course he would answer.
Maybe I could just send an email.
The possibilities bounced around in her head for most of the class period, but they all seemed too forward. She came to attention when the professor standing at the front of the class announced that lecture was over.
Hiyori looked over her shoulder at the clock, surprised at how long she had been there. She stood up and was about to pack up her things when she noticed a classmate rush towards her. At the same time, a classmate behind her let out a small scream. Hiyori quickly spun around, trying to figure out what was the matter. When she finally noticed, she also felt like screaming—she had fallen out of her body in her first class.
“Hey… Are you… Hey!”
The female student who had been sitting next to her during the lecture was gently shaking Hiyori’s shoulders, all the while Hiyori’s spirit form watched, mortified. The classmate who had rushed over was now involved as well. Some other students silently watched, none the wiser that Hiyori was walking past them all on the tops of the desks, trying to get back to her body to force her soul back in.
“Akemi, what happened?”
“I don’t know! She just… passed out or something.”
Hiyori suddenly felt the unmistakable sensation of cold water on her face and jolted up in her seat. She took several gasps for air before looking down on her hands, flipping them over and back again, not sure yet if she was back in her body. Hiyori was then squeezed from the side with a strong hug, almost knocking her out of her chair.
“She’s okay!” the classmate, evidently named Akemi, declared as she continued to hug Hiyori.
Hiyori breathed a small sigh of relief. That episode was over, but now she was the center of attention again, just like in high school. She tried to push the memories of that experience from her mind to no avail. The male classmate laughed with relief.
“What happened? Did you fall asleep?” he chuckled.
“Shut up, Shigeru,” Akemi snapped. She then turned to Hiyori and was very gentle in her voice. “I can take notes for you if you want to go home and rest.”
Hiyori was surprised at the offer and kept trying to downplay what her classmates had just seen.
I suppose it can’t hurt to tell them…
“Actually… I’ve had fainting spells like that since middle school… I can’t control them, they just sort of… happen.”
Akemi nodded as if she had understand the true story behind the mysterious condition. Hiyori held her breath waiting for a response.
“My name’s Akemi,” the girl greeted. She reached down to grab Hiyori’s hand and pull her up out of her seat.
“I’m Hiyori Iki…”
Akemi pointed at the male classmate who had also been there through Hiyori’s fainting spell.
“That’s Shigeru. We went to high school together,” Akemi explained matter-of-factly.
“Nice to meet you!” Hiyori greeted, even though she was dumbfounded. They didn’t seem to care about her strange condition.
Hiyori decided her best option was making a visit to Yato and Yukine. She bounded across rooftops as the sun started to set. The cool night air ruffled her clothing as she happily twirled. For all the inconveniences this form had, it certainly had its perks.
When she arrived at the familiar home of the god of poverty, she peeked in through the open door. Daikoku was inside wiping off the table but he looked up, noticing her.
“Hiyori-chan! Long time no see!”
“Sorry about that!” she lamented. “I was wondering though if Yato and Yukine-kun were here?”
Daikoku pointed up to the ceiling.
Hiyori leapt up to the window of the attic. It was open, letting the light from inside shine out into the darkness. She grabbed the window frame with both hands and pulled herself up to look through.
Yukine was reading a book, but he jumped up with a smile when he heard Hiyori’s voice. He bookmarked his place with one finger.
“Hiyori! You’re here!”
Yato walked into the room just in time to see Hiyori climb through the window. He was wearing a set of capyper pajamas, as if he had just returned from a bath.
He trotted over to her happily. Had he really forgotten the exchange from the fair? Because Hiyori hadn’t.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t come over sooner!”
“Hiyori, you should— oww!” Yato yelped at Yukine smacking his arm. He rubbed it as he looked to the side. “I hope your classes are going well…”
Hiyori blushed, remembering the most recent episode of “Hiyori’s Super Sleep Trick.”
“Yeah! They are uh… going just fine.”
“Hiyori! While you’re here, I just remembered something!”
Yukine ran back to a small collection of books in the corner, setting down the one in his hand and picking up another one that looked more flimsy, like a workbook. He flipped through the pages before returning.
“I was looking at this set of problems yesterday and I wanted your help on a few of them. I mean… if you aren’t too busy.”
Hiyori shook her head, smiling.
“Of course I can help!”
The pair settled down at Yukine’s makeshift desk, which then became a trio as Yato also leaned on one elbow and looked at the problems.
“The answer to that one is—”
“Yato! I want to know how to solve it, not just the answer!”
Hiyori placed a finger to the page and motioned to a different part of the text.
“Okay! For this one, you can’t forget to carry this number over here, where then you…”
Yukine’s pencil started moving across the page, so Hiyori stopped and waited to see what he could do.
Why did I ever want to leave all of this?
“Hiyoriiiiiiiii…” Yato whined as he leaned on Hiyori and slid down to the floor. “When can we see your apartment?”
Yukine unleashed a quick kick that connected with Yato’s leg. Hiyori jumped back at first but then relaxed as the antics unfolded between the two.
Some things never change I guess.
The next day, as light became evening, Hiyori was running down the street in a hurry. She had taken a little too long deciding what to wear, and now she was running late. The dinner that Yasuko invited her to was that night, so she wanted to look her best to meet people. And of course, make a good impression.
The restaurant wasn’t a long distance away, but it seemed even farther because she was running behind. When Hiyori turned the corner, she saw the shop front and slowed her pace. She ran her hands through her hair, smoothing it down in case it got messed up in her rush.
Maybe I should bring my bicycle from home...
Once inside the restaurant, the atmosphere was warm and inviting. Her eyes darted around and she was quickly able to find Yasuko at a table with several others. Akemi and Shigeru were among them.
“Oh! It’s Iki!”
Yasuko took notice of Hiyori’s presence and jumped up to greet her. All of the faces in the group turned to her and a flurry of greetings shortly followed. She had already met Akemi, Shigeru, and Yasuko, but there were several others there she didn’t know. They introduced themselves so quickly that she had trouble remembering their names. Akemi leaned over and nudged Hiyori.
“Shigeru is just here for the food and fun,” she laughed.
“So you’re pre-med too then?” Hiyori guessed.
Another female classmate sat nearby, but she was more reserved than the rest of the group. She seemed pleasant enough so Hiyori attempted to bring her into the conversation as well.
“Are you… I’m sorry, I must have missed your name—!”
“Onishi,” she replied. “Takako Onishi.”
“Ahh! Um… Takako-san, are you also in pre-med?”
“Of course,” Takako replied coolly.
Hiyori accepted the response quietly, not sure if she had said something to upset her. To her surprise, Takako leaned forward on crossed arms. Hiyori also leaned forward, unsure of what to expect.
“By the way, those guys over there are pre-med too,” Takako motioned over at some of the other students. “The only imposter here is Shigeru.”
Hiyori nodded uneasily. She was glad to know the information, but also confused why Shigeru was at the event.
“Oh! Is that… a Kitty Kitty phone case?” Takako gasped, her demeanor totally changed from a few moments ago.
Hiyori looked by her arm and noticed her phone was face down on the table. She picked it up and noticed several notifications about messages from Yato. She rushed to swipe them away before holding up her phone for Takako to see.
“Yeah! It’s the new blue version.”
Takako, livelier than before, leaned back and rummaged around in her purse. She finally pulled out her own phone with a case in the same design, but in orange.
“I have the orange version!”
Hiyori was relieved to have finally connected with Takako, even if it was over something as silly as a phone case. She spent the rest of the evening eating light snacks and getting to know both Takako and Akemi. As the gathering came to a close, Yasuko clapped her hands to get everyone’s attention through the chatter.
“I’m so glad we had a chance to get together tonight! Please make sure you’ve exchanged phone numbers before you leave. There will be plenty to study soon!”
Everyone acknowledged the announcement before heading for the exit. Hiyori said goodbye to her two new friends and departed on her own after they made their own plans to study in the library the next day. She took a few steps with a skip, delighted to have her college life start off to her own design.
I can’t believe college could be this fun! If only…
She stopped in her tracks.
I shouldn’t leave them out of it though.
Hiyori’s fist tightened as she resumed, walking this time. The concern over how she had been handling Yato and Yukine was coming back. Even during her visit, Yato kept whining about not knowing her apartment address. She then decided—she would sent them a message.
She typed out her message as she walked, but then glanced over her shoulder, making sure she wasn’t blocking up the sidewalk. Instead of seeing a person, she saw her own mortal form fast asleep on the sidewalk several steps back. Hiyori let out a panicked scream that no one but her could hear.
“What happened!? What am I gonna do?!”
She ran back and knelt next to her body, as if she was checking someone else’s condition. At first, she tried to let her soul fall back into her body, but it didn’t seem to be working this time. She finally sat back on her feet and combed her hair through her hands, trying to think of what to do. If someone saw a body lying on a sidewalk, they would certainly call the police.
Before she could think of anything else, she reached into her purse and grabbed out her phone, staring at the number she had been dreading to call all week. She squeezed her eyes shut and pressed “Call.” The dial tone sounded once, twice, three times. The line was quiet at first.
“Hiyori? What’s—” Yato answered.
“I need your help!” she squeaked into the phone.
In only a few seconds, there was a flash of light in front of Hiyori. Yato appeared with Yukine holding onto his jacket sleeve. Hiyori slowly relaxed enough to open one eye and look at the two she had summoned.
“I have a problem!” she whispered, before immediately blushing with embarrassment to say such a thing.
“Your body is just asleep you know…”
Hiyori stood up and flailed around, desperately trying to get her point across.
“I don’t want my body laying here!”
“There’s some people walking this way, you know,” Yukine advised.
Yato sighed. He quickly scooped up Hiyori’s body and put her purse over his shoulder. Yukine and Hiyori’s soul followed behind as he walked, only turning to notice the group of people Yukine had warned of. For several minutes, none of them said a word.
Hiyori then instinctively took a turn on a small side street while Yato and Yukine continued forward. They all stopped and looked at each other. Hiyori’s face started to flush, realizing she was about to reveal her secret.
“Where are you going?” Yukine finally asked.
“Just…” Hiyori waved her hand to beckon the pair over. “Follow me.”
Hiyori navigated the group along a side street that opened up into a residential area. Yato and Yukine both looked around, unfamiliar with where Hiyori was taking them. At least until Yukine took notice of a nearby sign.
“Hey… we’re near the station for… hey this is by the university!”
“Yes,” Hiyori agreed flatly. It was the only word she could muster. After expending so much energy on hiding where she was living, she could hardly believe she was leading both of them straight to her apartment.
Her steps slowed but steady as she plodded up the steps of her apartment complex. In front of her door with Yato and Yukine right behind her, Hiyori turned her key in the door and pushed it open with a sigh. Yato and Yukine both followed her inside.
The trio silently entered the main room, where both Yato and Yukine stood in the middle looking around at her new place. Hiyori didn’t have her room arranged exactly as she wanted yet, but at least everything was out of the moving boxes and suitcases.
“Yato… um… you can put me down now,” Hiyori suggested. She fidgeted with her shirt sleeve.
Yato obediently set down Hiyori’s body to lie on the bed, still sound asleep. He stuck his hands in his pockets and started to look around again, quiet and with shoulders tensed. Yukine was crawling around on the floor near a small TV stand that contained a few books and magazines in a cubby beneath. He eyed them before Hiyori finally said something.
“So… This is my apartment,” she nervously laughed. Somehow this wasn’t playing out she had expected at all.
“I think it’s nice!”
Yukine turned to sit on the floor facing Hiyori. Relieved he wasn’t about to start rummaging through her stash of Touno magazines, she smoothed her skirt and sat on the floor too.
“I suppose since you know now—”
Yato’s hands were still in his pockets but his face looked confused and concerned. He opened his mouth like he was about to say something else, but the words never came. Hiyori looked to see where his eyes were so intensely focused.
“Oh, I decided to bring it with me, if that’s okay,” Hiyori said warmly.
She was referring to Yato’s mini shrine, which had a place on a small low table tucked to the side of the room. The area around it was tidy, even though there was a stack of belongings on the floor directly nearby.
“You didn’t think I would leave it behind at my parents’ house, did you?” she gently asked.
“Nuh uh!” he protested with hands on his hips, suddenly acting like his normal spunky self again.
Yato dropped down to the floor and crawled over to join Hiyori and Yukine. He pointed at Hiyori.
“Anyways! You need to be more careful leaving your body just lying around!”
Hiyori was about to rebut, but stopped herself short. It was like everything was back to normal again, at least for now.