Volume 10, Chapter 6-1: A Fresh Start

“Yuki, wake up! We’re going to be late,” someone called out.

I opened my eyes and saw Zhuyu. What the f***? The last thing I recalled was Mirei and her accomplices knocking everyone out, including me.

“Yuki, let’s go. We don’t have all day,” he urged.

“Zhuyu, what’s going on?” I inquired.

“Did I do something wrong? Yuki, I’m sorry about what happened yesterday. To address me like we’re strangers, I must have made you really angry,” Zhuyu remarked, an apologetic expression on his face.

Such a look on his face was very…. strange. It clashed too much with his usual flat demeanor. And when did Zhuyu care about me so much?

“Anyways, I’ll leave and let you change. Hurry up or we’ll really be late,” Zhuyu informed me before shutting the door.

Did Mirei pummel me to the point I lost my grip on reality? I picked up a phone from my desk. Hm, my room was different. This definitely wasn’t my reality. I opened my closet, finding a school uniform, and changed into it. Checking the pockets, I located an ID and school handbook. Of all the possibilities, I was thrust back into high school?

“Yuki, hurry up! You’re making Long wait!” Mom shouted.

“I’m coming down!” I replied, grabbing my school bag.

I rushed downstairs, going with the flow for now. Zhuyu stared at his watch, waiting for me. This was very awkward.

“I had a headache last night. Kinda forgot if we had any homework,” I made up an excuse.

“Are you feeling better?” Zhuyu asked, looking at me with worry.

Gah, so weird. Normally, his voice contained…. well, no actual emotion, unless he spoke with friends. The tone was softer too. I actually might prefer this version of him.

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“Yeah, pretty much back to normal. So, did we have homework or not?” I asked again, digging through my bag.

“There’s nothing due today. We were assigned reading but that’s easy to do,” Zhuyu replied.

We finally arrived at a transit station and Zhuyu passed his ID badge over the scanner. I did the same, boarding a packed train.

“You sure you’re fine, Yuki?” Zhuyu glanced at my face.

“Of course I am,” I replied.

“Okay, I won’t keep prying then,” Zhuyu said.

I took out my phone, hoping it might reveal useful information. Let’s see… bunch of useless pictures. Social media was a dead end too. I looked up, seeing Zhuyu speak with Kyoi.

“Feng-senpai, why?” Zhuyu sighed.

“It’s fun to tease you. Why else? Yuki-chan seems a little quiet. Something happen?” Kyoi answered, shrugging her shoulders.

“I’m fine. Just recovering from a headache,” I revealed.

“Long’s too dense, so he might not care, you know. Perhaps it was just lack of sleep?” Kyoi hypothesized.

“Maybe,” I said, hoping to end the conversation there.

“I hope little Yuki feels better,” Kyoi said, walking away.

“Damn, I forgot to ask her about something,” Zhuyu muttered.

I inspected my phone again, checking call logs and text messages. No sign of Chihiro or Yuka anywhere. However, a familiar name appeared, Kaisi Konoe. Tess’ name and the other heroes were saved as well.

“Yuki, here. Your mom forgot to pack it in your bag,” Zhuyu disclosed, handing me a lunchbox.

“Thanks,” I responded, checking the contents.

It appeared normal enough with sliced octopus, bite-size sandwiches, and green salad.

“Still seems like I’m forgetting something. Maybe I’ll remember later,” Zhuyu murmured.

I stared out the window and saw our high school in the distance. What was up with that extravagant building? Students walked through a large ornate gate, some with downcast faces and others with huge smiles. Cherry trees lined the walkway, petals scattered across the ground.

“Yuki, should I take you to the nurse’s office?” Zhuyu offered.

“No, I’m fine, really. If you don’t mind, just take me to my classroom,” I requested.

“Yeah, of course,” Zhuyu agreed.

I counted at least five floors and saw more buildings to the side and in the rear. Did I attend a ridiculous private school?

“With Yuki again? Man, just ask her to be your girlfriend already,” Kisai greeted Zhuyu.

“What about you, Jin? When are you going to stop being so popular?” Zhuyu retorted, giving him a small smile.

“I’m not that popular, man. You know who is? Freakin’ Darryl. All the girls love him,” Kisai responded, his personality mirroring that of his counterpart.

“Yeah, you’re right. Jin, did you finish the chemistry homework?” Zhuyu asked, checking his watch.

“I’ll finish it during class. Magill-sensei won’t mind at all,” Kisai answered, flashing a brilliant smile.

“I’m pretty sure he cares, but doesn’t say anything since you always get everything right,” Zhuyu said, shaking his head.

A lot of things stayed the same, even in this alternate reality. The banter remained the same as usual. Same with Kisai’s amazing procrastination skills.

“Yuki!” someone shouted.

Felicity barreled towards me and I sidestepped her. She almost fell, but regained her balance immediately. The woman wore a track suit with biker shorts.

“So mean, Yuk! I just wanted to give you a hug. I finished my cross-country morning practice and saw you talking with them,” Felicity pouted.

“Give her a break, Konoe. She had a headache yesterday,” Zhuyu informed her.

“Is everything alright? Did Long take care of you? Tell me and I’ll make him take responsibility,” Felicity threatened.

“Everything’s fine. Zhu-, I mean, Long was pretty concerned about me,” I assured the woman.

“Really? You’re my best friend so no secrets,” Felicity questioned, glaring at Zhuyu.

“Damn, no trust. Are we late for the test prep yet?” Kisai questioned, staring at his watch.

“Yuki, here’s your classroom. If anything happens, ask Tess. Jin, Konoe, I are heading to test prep,” Zhuyu instructed.

A sign, “2-C” written on it, hung above the classroom entrance. Inside, there weren’t too many students and Tess stood in the front. She glanced at the blackboard, a piece of white chalk in her right hand, writing questions on the board. I approached Tess and sighed. This was embarrassing.

“Tess, where do I sit again? I kinda forgot,” I inquired.

“You’re in the third row, third seat from the left,” Tess replied.

“Thanks, Tess, I appreciate it,” I responded.

“Can you pass these handouts when class starts?” Tess requested, handing me a stack of papers.

“Sure,” I agreed.

I reached into my desk and pulled out several books. History, literature, math, science, and one with no title. I flipped it open and saw empty pages. I glanced around, not recognizing anyone, and placed my head down on the table.

“Yuki, you feeling okay?” someone sat down in the seat next to mine.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I replied.

“Oh, that’s good to hear. Long-niisan told me you weren’t feeling well,” the girl responded, smiling at me.

“Class is starting in one minute. If you didn’t turn in your homework yesterday, do it now. Anyone writing once the bell rings will be penalized with a ten point deduction,” Tess announced, completing her questions on the board.

I passed out the handouts, making sure everyone received one. The desks were all occupied except for one in the back. I stared at the handout., noticing something about individual conferences with Tess. When first period ended, I heaved a sigh of relief. Tess’ lecture mirrored a one she actually gave me before. She left the room while everyone else remained seated. Guess it was teachers who moved around and not us.

“Yuki, can you give this to Long-niisan later? Feng-nee forgot this morning,” the girl from before requested, handing me a stack of papers.

Oh, it finally clicked together. She was Kyoi’s relative, much prettier than her. When I finished lunch, Tess walked in and headed towards me.

“Yuki, your presence is required in the faculty office,” Tess informed me.

“For what?” I asked, packing up my empty lunchbox.

“One of the teachers would like a word with you. I do not know the specifics,” Tess answered before leaving.

I exited the classroom and realized something. Where was the faculty office? Damn, should have asked Tess earlier. Might as well walk around and search. I should eventually find it.

“Hey, Yuki, you look lost,” Ichaival called out.

“Oh perfect. Do you know where the faculty office is?” I asked.

“Did they set you up for this? Those bastards!” Ichaival muttered.

“I’m not sure what you’re talking about, but can you tell me what floor it’s on?” I ignored his comment.

“On the first floor. You can’t miss it. It’s just past the first year classrooms,” Ichaival replied.

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“Thanks,” I said.

I passed a stairway on the first floor and found it. A few teachers sat inside either eating lunch or typing on their computers.

“Tomo, over here,” someone directed and I saw a familiar face.

A man in his early forties with a rumpled suit and crooked tie beckoned me over. This guy…. was the substitute teacher during my latest mind dive at Shane and Emily’s lab. How was this possible? Thinking about it only hurt my head.

“Did I do something wrong?” I asked.

“No, why would you think that? Did Zha tell you that?” he questioned.

“She didn’t say anything. That’s why it’s scary,” I replied.

“I need you to fill in for the class representative during a meeting after school,” he revealed.

“Wait, why me? There has to be a vice class representative or something like that, right?” I questioned.

“They went home sick for the day and you were chosen by the great system of democracy. Isn’t it amazing?” he explained.

“Where do I have to go for this meeting?” I asked.

“It’s in the student council room. Now, excuse me as I grade papers, and give some zeros,” he answered, clicking a red pen.

“Actually, I don’t know where the student council room is,” I revealed.

“Not a surprise, most people never go there. On the fourth floor with all the other administrative crap. Sorry to foist all of this on you, Tomo. Isn’t it great to be liked?” he chuckled.

“Yeah, it’s amazing. Anything else?” I inquired.

“Nope. Did you want more work? You could grade papers for me,” he offered, waving his red pen around in the air.

“I’ll let you handle that,” I declined and headed back to the classroom.

Classes finally finished for the day. I sighed and ascended up to the fourth floor, searching for five minutes, before locating the correct room. Seriously, why was it that hard to find? I yanked open the door and saw a few people already seated inside.

“Did you have business with the student council president?” a man with glasses asked.

“I’m here to fill in for someone. The class representative for 2-C can’t make it,” I replied.

“You’re a little early. Take a seat. We just need you to listen in and sign something once the meeting ends,” the man said, pointing at a seat.

I sat down and he handed me a folder containing documents with spreadsheets full of numbers. A budget of some sort? Yeah, I wasn’t going to try and read that.

“Tomo, was it?” a man with gelled-hair asked.

I assumed he was the student council president. He placed his tablet down, giving me a smile.

“I’m surprised you even know who I am,” I confirmed.

“Your teacher sent word about your arrival, so I at least know your name,” he revealed.

“I don’t have to do anything hard, right? Because I have no idea what you guys do,” I asked.

“We usually just have papers for you to take back. We do vote but that’s not occurring today,” the man assured me.

“Great. I’ll just sit here and take everything in,” I decided.

Ten minutes later, all the seats were filled and the meeting started. I didn’t pay attention, and by the end, almost fell asleep. The student council president dismissed us at last, reminding everyone to check in with our homeroom teacher.

“Tomo, can you sign off here? It’s just for formality,” the president requested, handing over a sign-in sheet.

I scribbled my name and returned to the faculty office, dropping off the handouts at Old Stone’s desk. Exiting the main gate, I noticed Ichaival with a girl. They turned a corner and I couldn’t get a closer look.

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