Changes: Too much of a good thing
Chihiro sighed. She tried as hard as she could to hide her boredom. It was a lovely Saturday morning and she was spending it in the wonderful vicinity of her 3-A classroom. Woe was her. She attempted to keep her eyes focused as the teacher went over the problem, yet again, for the supposed benefit of a confused pupil. She wanted to jump up and ask the girl why she was in Class A if she couldn't follow a simply polar mathematics problem, but nope. Onigo Chihiro, top female student in the 10th grade, couldn't condone such an outburst of emotion.
It wasn't that she was insecure about status, easily annoyed at delays or a perfectionist, no, not at all. She had a normal span of emotions, and then some. She just preferred to keep as much as she could locked away from the general public – a move that had brought her the appearance of being the perfect student genetics could produce.
Just look forward and smile slightly, she kept repeating to herself. How long has class been going on already? Oh, only a half hour. This is going to be one long Saturday morning. Chihiro tried to keep the hopelessness of the situation under wraps, but even as she meant to sit still, she felt her body slump over ever so slightly, bringing her desk into her line of vision. Eyes blinking repeatedly in surprise at her own lack of control, she appraised the situation. Alright, look around slowly. Slowly now, don't want anyone who didn't notice anything to see me looking suspicious. Just glance over. Her chocolate eyes darted to the right, and then, to the left. Neither of the students next to her had noticed anything. She was in the clear.
Thankful, she turned slightly back to her left, refocusing her attention on the board and out of the corner of her eye, she saw him. He was staring at her from his position, conveniently located diagonally reverse of her own. Nigihayami Kohaku, the top student, male or female, of the 10th grade class. Chihiro would have faced a thousand deaths rather than admit it, but the boy fascinated her. No, she wasn't obsessed over his study build or his prowess on the athletic field or his aptitude in the classroom setting. She was furious about his ability to oust her from the top spot.
Through grade school, she was at the peak of the social pyramid. The teachers adored her, her fellow students simpered over her helpful ways and other parents constantly verbalized their wish that their own child could be like her. And Chihiro had basked in it all. Wallowed in the praise, delighted in the attention and had come close to a song and dance number in the sheer joyousness of the whole situation.
But this childhood dream was not to last. On the very first day of high school, she sat expectantly at the all school assembly. Without doubt, she would be named as the most intelligent member of the class. As the principle's winded speech drew near the coveted name, she finally decided that when called upon, she would offer her thanks at the recognition and promise her class to work her hardest in their interest. But she'd never had the chance. Her spotlight had cruelly been stolen. It was not "Onigo Chihiro" that was cast into the tense air, but "Nigihayami Kohaku."
Stunned, she had watched his seemingly heartfelt acceptance of the duties that came with the top rank. He was barely two seats from her and yet, there were no eyes focused on her. They were all watching him. Heck, even she was watching him, mouth almost hanging off its hinges in shock. She was left in the darkness of an understudy, doomed never to see the light of the stage.
But that part didn't fit into Chihiro's plans. So what? A pretentious brat stole the top spot in the class. It's not the end of the world. I wasn't always at the top of my class. Her reasoning was perfectly justified. Before she had moved to the small town of Yokto, she had never had any real ambition to be the best. "I guess the move here really spurred our little Chihiro to new lengths," she had heard more than once from her parents, proud of their daughter's accomplishments. Chihiro herself couldn't place her newfound desire to prove that although she was human, she could reach a state where even the gods couldn't complain. All her lovely mind had to work with was the glimmer of glassy emerald and a soaring sensation.
Emerald. Like Nigihayami's eyes. Chihiro froze, realizing what traitorous thought had found its way into her mind. No matter how hard she tried, there was no avoiding the matter, or rather, no avoiding the boy. Within a week, she had reached a clear-minded decision. She would simply oust Nigihayami from his spot as number one, take it for herself and finally be rid of the annoying little voice in the back of her head. However, this was most assuredly easier said – or thought – than done.
And so, Chihiro found herself sitting in a rather rigid desk, trying her hardest not to look back at a green eyed boy behind her. Of course, trying so hard not to look at him has probably already tipped him off that I'm avoiding him. Dang. I can either look away and look guilty, or look at him and remove all doubt. She mutely noted the change of subjects, from Trigonometry to English. Wait, why do I have to be the guilty one? Augh! She willed her sweat glands to shrivel up lest a few glistening beads evidence her mind's toil. There's no proof that he saw me nearly fall over. And besides, who does he think he's intimidating with that 'I'm going to stare at you with a blank face' look? There's no reason for me to back down, I will succeed in defeating him and retrieving my lost position!
"Yes, sir!" Chihiro stood up abruptly as she replied.
"Can you tell Kyaki-san why this piece is characteristic of Shakespeare?"
"Yes, teacher! The rhyming scheme of iambic pentameter and the overflow of emotional motives are both characteristic of William Shakespeare."
"Well done, Onigo-san. I do hope the rest of you noted her answer down. You might just find yourself in need of that information come exam day. You may take your seat, Onigo-san."
In the scratching of various writing utensils, Chihiro decided to undertake the risky venture of glancing back at Nigihayami. There were no better circumstances to see the look on his face. She'd just have to smile at him and surely he'd think that whatever drowsiness he'd seen before was all in his imagination…if he had one. Under the pretense of reaching down to tuck her Trigonometry book back into her satchel, she peered through wisps of coffee colored hair to see that her archrival was…gazing out the window?!
Chihiro's eye gave an involuntary twitch of annoyance. All the careful last minute planning, the effort of turning around and the risk of being caught and he was looking out into the schoolyard? What could possibly be that interesting out there? Trees, grass, animals, dirt, and the gym class. Oh. That might be it. Though why he would want to watch less-talented players than himself eludes me. Chihiro made a mental note to give herself a mental slap later. I am not complimenting him. I'm simply…stating facts. It's well known knowledge that he's a good athlete! She amended her mental note to two mental slaps. Now I'm defending myself against myself. This boy is so frustrating.
Through her continued attempts to keep her guard up against the frightening influence of Nigihayami, she noted dully that there were only ten minutes left until noon and that sometime during her battle with her mind, English had been replaced with World History. Thanking the first god that came to her mind (a radish-god) that she hadn't been unexpectedly called upon, she refocused on the lesson. Ah, the media and its relationship with the government in America. This is simple. Pick me! Pick me! Let me finish Nigihayami off!
"Nigihayami-san." No! I wanted to be the one to finish him.
"Yes, sir." Ahh, just look at him. He doesn't even seem worried about the question. What a show off, at least I have a teeny bit more of a cover. Ok, so I'm probably just as bad, but that doesn't mean he's allowed to excel. He's supposed to stagnate while I pass him victoriously!
"Can you tell us why modern American media feels no obligation to cover for the government, indeed, why it may take steps to unravel the government's cover-ups?" Aw, and I know the answer perfectly. Just my luck. Mr. Perfect is going to get this easily.
"Yes, professor. In the past, most notably during President Kennedy, the media was happy to portray the government in a favorable light to the people. But during the Vietnam War, President Johnson's lies outraged the public and betrayed the media. They felt used and offended and ever since, have become the watchdogs of the political scene. In modern society, no one politician is immune from a scathing denunciation in a media format, just as no one man or woman is guaranteed support nationwide. The media no longer caters to the government, but to the American people." I knew it.
"Very well done, Nigihayami-san!" Yes, yes, shall we get on with it? "You are obviously well versed in today's lesson." Small cough. As are other people. "It's no wonder that you're top of the class." Ouch, that was a low blow. Totally below the belt! "I hope the rest of you will take a leaf out of Nigihayami-san's book and study the next lesson." Shall we start distributing little fliers to vote Nigihayami for deputy God or something? Perhaps we should give him a field or a tree or a river or something to rule over in light of his obvious perfection. Hmm, maybe the river, he's always cool, like water. Oops. That's three mental slaps.
Her mental reproach was interrupted by the loud yell of the school bell. Class was out for the rest of the day. Blessed be the spirit that came up with half days on Wednesday and Saturday!
"Class is dismissed."
"Thank you, sir," was the return chorus of dismembered voices. The older man bowed stiffly and walked out of the room, in which the level of noise grew progressively louder with his every step.
"Ahh, the weekend! What're you planning on doing, Sayagi-san?"
"Oi, Miya-chan, you're coming to our football game this evening, right?"
"Ok, who's the wise guy who stole my lunch?"
Grinning slightly in spite of herself, Chihiro calmly packed her bag. A month into the year, her class had finally realized that Nigihayami was not the only resident with half a brain. Since then, Chihiro usually had at least one request for tutoring every day after class, but on Saturdays, no one wanted to spend the day in their stuffy room. She would be able to go home and perhaps, if she was lucky, her mother would make her some Umeboshi! Oh, how she loved the rice balls with the small bit of plum on the back.
Her happy picture of strolling through vast field of Umeboshi (all screaming "Eat me, Chihiro-sama!") was interrupted when a hand placed itself lightly on the edge of her desk. Still in a good mood, Chihiro followed the hand to the arm and then up to the head, where her high spirits promptly vanished.
She forced a smile onto her face, "Nigihayami-san. That was a very nice answer about the American media." Chihiro was proud of the fact that she managed to state this without sarcasm. "Not that anyone could expect anything less from you." 4 mental slaps. She was no longer proud of the lack of sarcasm in her voice.
"Onigo-san." Nigihayami's deep emerald eyes seemed to be full of concern. "You really should be more careful. Not having enough proper rest can be very bad for your health."
"Er, yes, I suppose…" but Chihiro didn't even have time to get her answer out. Nigihayami had already turned around and walked over to where a few of his fellow football players were waiting. One was already hitting the black and white ball on his knee in anticipation.
Chihiro was stunned. Sure it was wonderful that he hadn't noticed that her up close encounter with her desk was due to her lack of interest in the lesson, but was that concern that she had heard in his voice? Hmm. Either he was sincere or I need to add a fifth mental slap to my list. She weighed the two options. Mental slap. Chihiro shook her head in a vein attempt to clear out the annoying little voice in the back that kept inserting very un-Chihiro-like comments into her consciousness.
Smiling, she let herself be entered into one of the conversations the remaining females had going. Football again. Yamato Miya, the girl whose name had been yelled out across the room, was trying to recruit the others to come to the football game with her. She was obviously flustered by the sudden invitation and what better way was there to regain lost footing than by inviting friends of her own to go along with her?
"Come on, you guys. It'll be fun! Our team always wins, true, but think of all the nice bodies you'll see running in front of you! Mizuno-kun, Tenoh-kun, Hayasaki-kun, Nigihayami-kun…"
Miya had hit the jackpot. Chihiro noted that she wasn't the only one who had realized that Nigihayami had not only had a working brain, but a well sculpted body. Six slaps. The girls had begun to compare stories about how wonderfully nice Nigihayami-kun had been towards them. Chihiro was only too happy to stay out of the conversation, recalling Nigihayami's words to her just moments ago.
"Ohhh, but I think Chihiro-chan's holding out on us!"
"Ehh? I have no idea what you're talking about, Sora-chan."
"Oh come one, Chihiro-chan. It's no fun if you keep things to yourself!"
"Satsu-chan's right. Or maybe," The girls leaned in as Miya paused dramatically, "you're hiding something because it's personal? Or embarrassing? Or evidence that you and Nigihayami-kun are having a secret love affair!"
Chihiro was glad she hadn't had anything solid in her mouth, for she surely would have choked to her death. As it was, she choked on the air itself, suddenly deciding that death wasn't the worst option if the discussion continued in its present direction.
"Ah, Miya-chan, it seems like you've struck the nail right on the head! It's almost poetic. Boy loves girl, girl loves boy, girl keeps love from girlfriends." The girls, minus the girl in question, let out a short burst of laughter.
"I have no idea what you all are going on about." Chihiro declared with a feigned air of disinterest that everyone saw through. Addendum to memo: practice feigning air of disinterest.
"Chihiro-chan, we all saw Nigihayami-kun stop by at your desk on his way out."
"Yeah, maybe he was whispering sweet nothings in your ear-"
"-Or maybe he was simply commenting on my Shakespeare answer?" Chihiro put in hopefully. The girls appraised it.
"Oh, come on now. There's nothing between us, honestly."
"Is that so?" Miya's eyes developed a peculiarly sharp glint. Chihiro didn't think the future was looking very bright. "Then you wouldn't mind proving that to us?" Now Chihiro was sure that her patron Radish God had deserted her to this pack of she-wolves. Maybe he had been eaten. Chihiro made a mental note to choose a less edible God to pray to next time.
"And how exactly, pray tell, would I accomplish that?" She knew it was a mistake before it left her mouth, but in the back of her head, the little voice had asked if they hadn't had a valid point. Am I up to six or seven? Seven, I think.
"Simple." Miya's mouth formed itself into a delectably evil grin. "By accompanying me – and the rest of the girls – to tonight's football game. If there really isn't anything between you two, Nigihayami-kun won't single you out to talk to. If there is some secret business between you two..." She left off, suggestively.
"-we won't take your and Nigihayami-kun's absence too harshly." Sora filled in with a laugh.
Chihiro felt a newfound connection between herself and a simple hare, deceived by a sly fox. Class A. Class A. Miya's in Class A! Of course she would use a devious scheme to get us to accompany her to the football game! Argh, when did I become so gullible?!
Realizing that the group- and a few other girls who had drifted over at the mention of Nigihayami – was waiting for her answer she plastered the most helpless look she could muster on her face and said, "I don't really have much of a choice, now do I, Miya-chan?"
Miya grinned. Nope. There's no chance I'm coming out of this one unscathed. If only he hadn't felt the need to waltz over and talk to me after class! Now I have to go spend my evening watching him and the rest of the team run around in circles. A memory of Nigihayami's skill on the field popped into her mind. Wind blowing his hair, sweat glistening on his godlike brow, and me there to watch him as he falls! She inwardly smirked. No eighth slap for me!
Author's Addendum: Yeah, Chihiro came off as a bit harsh in the beginning, but that doesn't necessarily mean that she's lacking some good qualities. I shan't say anymore lest I give too much away. I have no idea when another chapter will be out. To be honest, I have no idea where I've steered myself (I think my patron Duckie God got squashed or something.) I guess it'll all depend on the reactions to this slightly different way of portraying Chihiro and Haku (Yes, he is Nigihayami.) I bid you farewell, loyal readers, until we meet in the next episode of the saga of Changes.