Chapter 1: First Impressions
by Rin Sparrow
A vision of red brick and ivy filled the sky as Kashi walked up to the wide doors marking the entrance to Ohji Academy. It was the most disagreeable building he’d ever laid eyes on: tall, imposing, and reeking of the kind of power and influence his father exuded. He considered it for a moment in the rays of the failing sun, then drew in a breath and steeled himself to face his new school. No, he mentally corrected himself, his new home.
“So, I see that you’ve attended some well-known schools before reaching Ohji, as well as having quite a few private tutors,” the Dean said, smiling at Kashi from behind his large and rather ornate wooden desk.
“Yes,” Kashi replied, shifting uneasily in his chair. The Dean did not look particularly stern—nowhere near as imposing as the new student had assumed a man in his position would. Broad-shouldered and middle-aged with a touch of grey at the temples, Dean Yashida had the look of a man who must have been very striking in his youth. Even so, Kashi did not feel comfortable under his gaze.
“As you probably know, my father was a military officer, so we moved around quite a bit.”
Yashida waited for the boy before him to elaborate, but he said nothing more. Kashi looked to be a somewhat quiet young man, but nervous. Probably the consequence of his overbearing father, thought the Dean, who was unfortunate enough to have met the man. The shrewd Dean recognized that Kashi—a shy, thin boy—must have been a disappointment to his robust, athletic father.
“I hope you will find that Ohji will live up to your experienced tastes, then.” At first, Kashi was unsure how to take this statement: was the Dean mocking him? But looking up, he saw the man’s face brighten into a warm, teasing smile. And he couldn’t help but grin back.
It was good to know that the Dean was a reasonable, even affable, man. It went far toward relieving Kashi’s misgivings about the school, but it could not alleviate them altogether. His greatest fear lay ahead: meeting the other students.
Most people would never have guessed that making friends would be difficult for the young man, for although he could be aloof and sometimes withdrawn, Kashi also possessed a stirring, natural beauty that could not be suppressed. His lithe body and pale ivory skin was complimented by a shock of deep auburn hair that always seemed to drift down across his crystalline blue eyes. Years of being taunted had left him self-conscious about the bright fiery shade of his hair, but he didn’t realize that many people found it attractive. He had a trying time connecting with others his own age, especially boys, which his father saw as a sign of weakness. In his father’s opinion, sending his only son to a boarding school would help make Kashi a “man’s man”. Now, more than ever, Kashi wished his friend Enji was with him. But Enji had left his life over a year ago and made it quite clear that he had no plans to ever see him again in the future.He pushed the thought from his mind.
“Well, I don’t think there’s much more we need to go over. I’m sure you’d like to settle in and see the school for yourself,” said the Dean, tucking away Kashi’s folder and standing. The boy shook the man’s proffered hand and smiled to hide his nerves.
As the Dean walked him out of the office, Kashi saw another student patiently sitting in one of the carved wooden chairs in the waiting room.He looked slightly younger than Kashi, with soft blond hair that hung attractively over his light blue eyes.
Yashida gestured to him and the boy stood up with an energetic hop.
“This is Fumiki, your roommate. He’ll show you around and answer any questions you have.”
The lively young man held out his hand with a bubbly, “Hi, good to meet you!” Kashi tried to return the sentiment with as much enthusiasm, taking Fumiki’s hand with a smile.
“Hello, I’m Kashi. A pleasure to meet you.” He knew the words sounded formal and stilted, but he couldn’t think of anything else to say.
“We usually have the President of the Student Council show new transfers around on their first day, but,” the Dean paused and Kashi thought he looked disgruntled, “I believe he’s busy at the moment. In any case, I’m sure Fumiki will make a great guide and your things should be in your room by the time you arrive.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Not at all, welcome aboard.” With that, the Dean went back to his office and left the boys to themselves.
As soon as the door was shut, Fumiki was tugging on Kashi’s arm. “Come on!” he insisted. “Let’s get the tour done so we can be back in time for dinner!”
Feeling highly uneasy with Fumiki’s quick familiarity, Kashi tried to disentangle himself, without success. “I thought the cafeteria didn’t open until tomorrow when classes began,” he said, already being helplessly pulled along.
Fumiki shook his head and smiled up at him, oblivious to his discomfort, “Yes, but that means Tadashi will be making his fondue tonight!”
Kashi look a bit bewildered. “We’re allowed to cook in the dorms?” It sounded like a very liberal policy, one he knew his father would disapprove of.
“Sure, there’s a kitchenette on the top floor with the seniors,” he beamed as he pulled Kashi along. “Dorm D has everything!”
Then Fumiki stopped, causing Kashi to nearly run into him. “Don’t you know anything about the dorm?” Fumiki asked, eying him closely.
Chagrined and somewhat defensive, Kashi replied stiffly, “I know the history and architecture of the main buildings and, if I’m not mistaken, Dorm D is the newest addition, mostly known for housing many of the art and music students, since it’s nearest to the fine art buildings.”
Fumiki looked unimpressed. “That’s not all it’s known for,” he said cryptically, cocking one eyebrow.
Kashi made no reply; he had no idea what to say to such an enigmatic statement. So he let himself be dragged along through the empty halls and classrooms of the school, the petite Fumiki chatting constantly.
“If you like history, you really should have Jun take you around. He knows all kinds of interesting stories about the school,” Fumiki informed him.
“Jun?” Kashi asked absentmindedly. He was trying to keep his mind off the boy’s endless speech and on the layout of the halls so he would be able to find his way around the next day. The campus was larger than he had expected, the structures far grander and more imposing in person.
“Oh! Jun is the President of the Student Council, he’s the one who should have been showing you around in the first place.”
“But Dean Yashida said he was too busy.”
Fumiki gave a little huff as they turned a corner, “Yeah, right! What he meant was we couldn’t find him!”
This caught Kashi’s curiosity. “What do you mean?”
Fumiki shrugged, “He wandered off somewhere. He does that.”
“He doesn’t sound like a very responsible representative for the student body.” Even as he said it, Kashi cringed at how stuffy he sounded.
“Oh, Jun knows how to handle the ‘student body’ alright!” Fumiki said with a laugh, though Kashi didn’t quite get the joke. “He gets along with almost everyone, but he can be irresponsible sometimes about his duties.”
A sudden rattling noise caught their attention and Fumiki glanced about the wide hallway.
“I wasn’t the only one who heard that, right?”
Kashi nodded his agreement. The day had grown dim already and the large, vaulted ceilings, with their dark, polished wooden beams, began to take on an eerie, disquieting quality.
The noise came again, a muffled rattle followed by whispering voices.
Suddenly, Fumiki turned to an unmarked door on his left and swung it open.
“There you are!” he exclaimed.
Looking over his shoulder, Kashi sucked in his breath with shock and surprise. If there had been a headless ghost marauding the halls, he would have been less horrified.
There, in what appeared to be an oversized supply closet, were two bodies, half undressed and intimately entwined.
And both were male.
Fumiki stood there for a moment, hands on his hips, until the taller of the two young men glanced up and saw him.
To Kashi’s amazement, he didn’t look in the least disturbed. In fact, he looked supremely confident, his dark eyes glimmering devilishly in the low light.
“Fu, be a dear and close the door, would you?” he said nonchalantly, “There’s a draft.”
“You really are incorrigible! Didn’t you know Yashida was looking for you?”
The young man’s tie was askew and his shirt gaped, revealing a smooth, pale expanse of chest. He shrugged as if this news was of no concern—as if he hadn’t just been caught in an act Kashi’s father would have considered unspeakable. The smaller boy in his arms, however, didn’t look quite as comfortable and struggled to cover himself as he desperately tried to slip away.
Sighing in exasperation, Fumiki shook his head at the young man with the disturbingly dark gaze and matching raven hair. “You never learn, do you, Jun?”
Kashi’s mind suddenly went blank. Jun? This unscrupulous young man was the school President?
“I- I really should be going,” the small boy with mousy brown hair said suddenly, wriggling out from Jun’s arms.
“Ritsuki, wait!” Jun called out, but he wasn’t fast enough; the impressionable first-year student had already bolted out the door.
Jun, resigned to the fact that his plans were now spoiled, straightened his clothing and shut the closet door behind him.
“Fumiki,” he said, wagging a finger at him, “I hope you know you just ruined my evening. You owe me.”
Giving a little ‘hmph,’ Fumiki replied, “I’m the one who gave the transfer kid a school tour while you decided to play nurse with some freshman!”
As he spoke, he remembered Kashi was still standing next to him. Fumiki flushed red and sputtered, “Not that I minded! It’s just that I don’t want to miss the fondue and-”
“I’m sure he understands, don’t you—?”
“Kashi,” the redhead answered quickly, not liking the way the darkly handsome President was currently eying him. The young man exuded an unsettling charisma that made Kashi feel as if Jun could see right through his clothing.
“Jun, nice to meet you,” he replied. Kashi pretended not to see his outstretched hand, earning a sly grin from Jun. “Fu, why don’t you run along and meet Tadashi and the others, I can finish up with Kashi.”
But before he could reply, Kashi interrupted. “Actually, I think we had just finished the tour anyway, hadn’t we?” Blue eyes entreating, Kashi hoped with all his being that Fumiki would take the hint. He did not wish to be left alone with this lecherous young man in the most desolate parts of the school.
“Y-yes, that’s right!” Fumiki replied, nodding.
Kashi smiled at him gratefully, and turned to Jun. “Well, nice to meet you, but we’ll be going.”
“I’ll walk with you,” he said, much to Kashi’s irritation. “After all,” Jun continued, stepping close to Kashi as the three young men made their way back down the hall, “I live in Dorm D as well. I’m the student director.”
Deep brown eyes gleamed wickedly as Kashi attempted to conceal the way this new information intimidated him. Leaning in to speak next to his ear, Jun told him, “I’m sorry that I missed the chance to give you the official tour, but I will make a point of getting to know you personally, Kashi. I would be remiss in my duties if I failed to do so.”
Cheeks turning almost as red as his hair in response to Jun’s nearness and the thinly veiled seduction lacing his words, Kashi remained silent for the rest of the walk, hanging behind the others as they went ahead. His mind was spinning in confusion.
Obviously this institution had changed greatly since his father’s time, or the old man would never even have considered sending him here. The school did have a good reputation though, and Kashi wondered if perhaps he hadn’t just run into some of the more eccentric students by happenstance.
As they stepped outside and made their way across the campus to the dormitories, Kashi watched Jun’s figure ahead of him in the moonlight, the way the silver moonbeams glanced off his jet-black hair, and the way he walked with an almost arrogant gait. Kashi had to admire how confident he seemed and how, even when caught in such a compromising situation, he had remained unaffected.
Thinking back to his own past and his times with Enji, Kashi knew he would never have been able to stay calm if someone had discovered them. Then again, if his father had ever found out, Kashi probably would have been eviscerated on the spot. All his life he had known such feelings were wrong, but with Enji he hadn’t been able to stop himself. Kashi had been heartbroken when Enji left and vowed to never allow himself to be entangled in such a mess again.
Kashi was quiet and lost in his thoughts as they entered Dorm D. Though it was smaller than the other student houses, at the moment it was humming with activity and filled with young men intent on enjoying the last night of freedom before the term started the following morning. Once they were inside, the three young men were swarmed by other students.
Most of the boys gravitated towards Jun, whose unique charm and striking looks always drew people to him. For his part, Kashi was glad to have someone steering the attention away from him, though he still had several people come up to him and ask if he was the “new kid”. When Kashi only nodded politely and kept walking, most of the others let him be.
“Where is our room?” Kashi asked, his voice tense as Fumiki and Jun caroused with the other students. He didn’t enjoy crowds and felt boxed in by the small, stuffy common room.
“Oh, sorry, Kashi. We’re on the third floor, room 314, but don’t you want me to introduce you around?” Fumiki asked.
“No, thank you. I’d just like to settle in.”
Though Fumiki looked disappointed, he let him go, pointing Kashi to the large central staircase.
“Once you’ve unpacked, you have to come to the top floor for fondue!” he called as Kashi disappeared in the crowd.
Kashi had almost made it to the stairs when Jun managed to cut off his escape.
“Excuse me, please,” Kashi said as politely as he could manage, but Jun sidestepped to remain in his path.
“Where are you off to, Kashi?”
“I’m going to unpack, if you don’t mind.”
Jun grinned down at him. “Maybe I do mind. I was going to introduce you to everyone.”
Mentally cursing, Kashi wondered if all new students had to endure these ‘introductions’ immediately after arriving, and tried to gauge how rude it would be for him to refuse a second time.
“I’m very tired. Do you suppose we can put off my meeting the other students until later?”
Although Jun didn’t look convinced, he finally moved aside. “Alright, but stop by the study room later tonight—it’s at the end of the hall on the third floor. I have a few things I need to go over with you before classes begin.”
“Very well, thank you.”
When he was up the stairs and out of sight, Kashi frowned. What was this meeting in the study about? He had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, but decided to ignore it until later. One thing at a time, he told himself.
Thankfully, the upper floors were nearly empty, as everyone was gathered in the common room below or the senior’s lounge above.
The rooms were tight but pleasantly furnished. Rough dark blue carpet covered the floors between two beds. The back wall had a large window looking down to the lawn below, with two desks facing the view. Kashi’s two small suitcases lay on one of the narrow beds. All he felt like doing was curling beneath the blankets and shutting himself away until the morning, but he knew that was useless. He couldn’t hide away forever.
Opening his luggage, he diligently stowed his few things away in one of the closets and inside his small dresser drawer beside his desk. It didn’t take him very long; he had not been allowed to take much with him, only the essentials.
Sitting on the bed, he briefly considered trying to find Fumiki on the upper floor. Surely he must have made his way there by now, after all his talk about the fondue. Kashi shook his head.
With the general idea of exploring his floor, Kashi wandered down the hall, peeking into the open doors. The washroom was more spacious than he expected, but disconcertingly, the showers were all in one open area without dividers.
Wondering how late it was, Kashi decided to find the dorm’s study and wait for Jun. If Jun arrived early, maybe Kashi could still get into bed at a decent time and be rested for his first day of class. That was assuming that the negligent President didn’t forget about him.
Not that it mattered to him. What did he care if Jun remembered? Kashi felt an odd juxtaposition of emotions. The rational part of him was wary of the young man with the broad shoulders and disconcerting eyes, but another part of him, the part of his mind he knew had led him into trouble before, was flattered by the enigmatic and popular Jun’s interest.
Still nervous and conflicted, Kashi found his way to the study and glanced around. It was a warm room with a fire burning steadily on the wide hearth. He could just catch the dusty scent of old books in the air, as he walked by several high shelves that offered a selection of volumes on the Academy’s long and prestigious history. Ever since he was a child, he had loved that smell. It reminded him of the many days he would hide away from his parents in their old drawing room, spending hours poring over the books while his father fumed that his only son was skipping yet another fencing lesson, or archery lesson, or any of the numerous activities the man had scheduled in the vain hope that his quiet son would eventually show a talent for something athletic.
“Are you the new transfer student?”
Kashi spun on his heels, startled by the unexpected voice in the hushed room. He hadn’t realized anyone else was there. A slender young man with deep brunette hair sat at one of the tables, leafing through the thick text before him.
“I-I’m sorry, I didn’t know anyone was here.”
Continuing his browsing without even looking up, the young man pressed, “You didn’t answer me. Are you the new student?”
“Yes, I am,” Kashi replied, feeling awkward. “My name is-“
“I suggest you go back to your room.”
Kashi was a bit taken aback by the other’s curt words, as well as confused by them. He stepped over to where the young man was sitting, hoping to get him to look him in the eye.
“What do you mean? Why?” Kashi demanded.
Finally, he looked up. He had a thin, pleasant face that did not look unfriendly, although his tone was not very amiable.
“Jun asked you here, right?”
Kashi nodded, surprised that he knew.
“Then you should return to your room so I can finish my reading without having to deal with his childish games,” he told him, straightening his wire-rimmed glasses.
Kashi was becoming increasingly frustrated. “Would you mind telling me just what on earth you’re talking about!”
The young man nodded towards the door, “That.”
Looking up at the doorway, Kashi saw Jun, and behind him were what appeared to be several other tall, imposing students. He spotted Fumiki peeking out from behind the group, looking sheepish.
Jun’s eyes locked with his and suddenly Kashi felt like a cornered rabbit staring into the eyes of a predator. In his hand Jun held a long wooden paddle and Kashi’s face went ghostly pale.
The student at the table looked at him and shrugged. “I tried to warn you.”