Dinner was always a noisy affair. It was the one time of the day that all four of us would see each other and catch up.
“And she was like, so we take the same math course, can I get your notes and…”
“I can’t use this freaking text because it’s too ‘common’, what the hell does that mean?”
“There’s going to be a PTA conference on Friday, so I’m going to be a little late…”
By ‘catch up’ I meant everyone having their own conversation, and you just tried to catch whatever was tossed out.
“Subaru, how was school today?”
Except with me. My brothers didn’t have to attend Shinogan but they knew what was going on and they didn’t like it that as the youngest, I was the one with the job that had the most danger involved. They also realized that somewhere along the way, I stopped telling them everything. That was about the time that Hajime started making a point to ask me questions. It made it so much harder to lie by omission.
“Fine.” I mumbled into my rice.
I thought about the briefly ugly confrontation I had with Gosenbo-san outside and the sticky, syrupy guilt that was still swimming in my stomach. Something must have flickered in my face as Hajime fixed me with his authoritative-parent ‘spill-your-guts’ stare. The only way of evasion was to not look directly in his eyes and throw out a distraction.
“Uh, there’s a new student today.” I said, grabbing blindly at the first thought bubble that came to mind.
“In your class?” He said, “Isn’t that unusual?”
“Yeah, but he’s got an Inugami.”
“Inugami…that’s the dog guardian spirit, isn’t it?” When I nodded, he asked. “Aren’t they hard to acquire?”
“Impossible. That’s why it’s so weird.” And I was off. “This guy’s a total mystery too. His name’s Wu and the kanji – it means ‘nothing’. And he doesn’t have a last name. He looks Asian, but it’s sorta different, I’m thinking Chinese mixed with something…and why are you staring at me like that?”
“This is the longest I’ve ever heard you talk about that school.” Akira said, taking a sip of soup. “Usually you just say ‘fine’ and start stuffing your mouth so you can’t talk.”
“Do not.” I snatched some pickles and started chewing.
“So what’s this kid like?” Shou asked.
“Quiet.” I mumbled, “Doesn’t talk much. I’m supposed to show him around class and stuff.”
“You’re showing him around – did you hear that? Subaru’s got a new friend.” Shou gushed.
“And he’s human. Probably. How many times do you make a friend that isn’t a youkai?”
“Tatsuro wasn’t a youkai.”
“Yeah, he was dead.” Shou snorted.
“And he trailed wet gunk on our floors.” Akira made a face. “What happened to him?”
“I sent him on his way.” I said vaguely. “’Sides, all I’m doing is showing him around. What if the guy wants to take over Kyoto?”
“You think everyone wants to take over Kyoto. We’re not that interesting.” Shou spat out a few fish bones.
“Napkin. You could make an effort.” Hajime added.
“I don’t think Wu wants to make friends.” Or human contact.
“Wu. His name’s Wu. Subaru’s new friend.” Shou’s voice actually went up an octave. “Quick, get the camera. We gotta record this.”
“Aw, he’s shy! Isn’t that cute…ow! You little shit!”
“No swearing at the table, Shou.” Hajime said absently.
“He kicked me!”
“Boys,” Hajime interrupted, “one more word and it’ll be boiled spinach for a week.”