Mitsuo chattered like a chipmunk, peppering me with questions about the Inugami, what I’d seen, what I’d heard, not even really giving me any space to answer. Ahead of us, I saw a woman come out of the principal’s office. She had a guy with her, he looked to be our age but I didn’t recognize his face. It could be a new student.
Shinogan had a practice of scouting around for potential students, people who needed training and understanding, a sanctuary the school could provide.
More and more of the Gifted were coming from normal families, parents who weren’t equipped to understand the way we were, who wouldn’t know the first thing to do with us. Shinogan tried to get to them before they were sent into the system or worse, mental hospitals. They weren’t always successful, and a few of my schoolmates still had that hunted look that came from having authority figures continuously questioned your sanity. Like they were expecting everything they knew to be part of an elaborate dream they would wake up from.
When we passed by, the new guy looked up and for a second, we were caught staring at each other. He was scrawny and his hair was plastered to his scalp with gel or sweat. He was dressed neatly but in the worst clothes possible, almost child-like with red suspenders and shiny shoes. The smile he sent me – it was like having a long, moist tongue curl around your head, and try to choke you to death. But the creepiest part of him was watching me – like the eyes of a dead fish, the body was still functioning, but the inside was gone.
“Jun, come!” The woman he was with, probably his mother, yanked on his ear, twisting it cruelly and the look was gone under a sharp snap of pain. I kept staring at them as they went down the hallway. That, there…there was something wrong. It wasn’t just the instincts I had been trained with talking; it was like some deep primal urge inside me was telling me to retreat, retreat. I licked dry lips. Had anyone seen it? Had anyone noticed yet? They had just been in to see the principal, surely he noticed. And if he didn’t, if this kid was a new student, Kaede would see it. She was able to see through people like that. They had to see it, right?
“Subaru?” Mitsuo shouted from ahead. “We’re going to be late!”
“Coming,” I spared one last glance at their quickly disappearing figures then turned to leave, silently talking myself out of making a big stink over nothing. It was such an obvious thing, surely someone would notice.