Just Another Word for 'You'

Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side First Love

Himuro Reiichi x Heroine

By Gabihime at gmail dot com

Part One: Sometimes It's Not So Easy


There was nothing for Yumeno Midori but the leaping, intense turn of the music that rippled out from her hands, that she felt resonating through her body from the tactile contact points of her jaw and shoulder, the music that was born from the practiced, subtle application of fingers on strings, drawn out by the rhythmic threading of a brazilwood bow. The autumn sun had warmed the top of her head, and a crisp breeze rustled her hair lightly around her face, but she had no thoughts beyond the sound and its making. Her regular practice room was the rooftop of Habataki Gakuen, and her regular practice time was the latter part of her lunch period. It wasn't her only regular practice time, of course. She inevitably practiced for hours each day: at home, on the rooftop, and in the music room, preforming a balancing act between her violin, the piano, and the flute that sometimes felt impossible to maintain. When she took a break from practicing her serious instruments, she played the recorder for her own enjoyment, but this she allowed only sparingly, after her real work was done. For Midori, music was naturally created through the compound of sound and enjoyment. Music was her life, her joy, and her way of pouring out her feelings to the world. But because music was beloved did not mean it came easily. Although she was correctly labeled a musical genius and a prodigy, Midori had long understood that her music only came through hard work and constant practice and application. How she would have responded to a question of whether it was worth all the time, all the hard work, all the frustration and difficulty - the feeling of raw joy that overwhelmed her each time she succeeded in playing a piece wrought with her own sense and emotion - this was worth overcoming difficulties and sorrows a thousand times more harrowing. Music was not a simple pleasure for her. It was as necessary for her continued existence as oxygen. Without music, her soul would have suffocated.

Midori had a hard time communicating her feelings honestly to the other members of the brass band, who often assumed she had to do nothing to achieve her brilliant sound, simply because 'she was a genius.' She was sure that they thought her sound was the cause of accident as opposed to practice and careful refinement, and this upset her. She was gifted, and her gifts had been nurtured from an early age because she was fortunate enough to have adults around her who recognized those gifts and valued them. She was grateful for her fortune in having the support of her family, but the music would not have come to her if she had not fought hard for it every day. It is hard to be told that everything is given to you when you are working as hard as you can to better yourself. Music was her life, and had been since she was a very small girl. She devoted hours and hours to it, and as such, she had absolutely no time to do the sorts of things that the other students did with themselves after school and thought of as regular expressions of their high school life. She did not have time to work a part time job, or to go shopping at the mall. It was probably best that she had no time to go shopping, because having no time for a part time job meant she was perpetually broke, as she had no positive monetary inflow other than her allowance. She allowed herself to indulge in two hobbies besides the recorder, which were watching late night dramas on television occasionally, and reading long series of manga about comedic high school romance. As she had not had any sort of normal Japanese education before high school, she treated these comedies as if they were accurate, factual representations of high school life, no matter how ridiculous they were. Thus had come her positive obsession with 'building precious memories' with her 'cherished schoolmates.' So Midori worked like a bee and regulated her time as carefully as possible, so that she would have time to build her memories even between balancing the piano, the flute, and the violin - oh, and of course, the other precious, treasured thing in her life.

But this troubling attitude from the other students in the band was one of the primary reasons she usually practiced on the roof during school hours, and only went to practice in the music room after school had finished and it was empty, or empty save for Himuro Reiichi, who often also stayed late to use the room himself. They had had to work out a time share of the room at the beginning, when he was not yet ready to let her experience his music. Although she was not privy to this information, as Himuro had come to know her, to know her heart and her music, their meetings in the room became both habitual and soothing for him. They became accustomed to using the space together, two alone and content, except when brass band practice necessitated that they share their space with the other members of the ensemble.

Of course, it was impossible for the other students not to recognize that she had become his pet, and she knew that it was commonly thought she got special treatment because of her status as a genius. She could not help but overhear the girls when they talked about it. She had tried to explain their misunderstanding at first, but had given up when she realized that they were unwilling to listen to her, as they had already decided she was spoiled and stuck-up. The boys generally treated her with gingerly awe, but none were particularly close to her, despite her overtures. Perhaps they feared the wrath of the girls who were dead-set against her. Aside from a few friendly sempai, she was not particularly popular in the band. That a wedge had been driven between her and the other members of the brass ensemble made her sad, but it was not something she knew how to change. She was generally well-liked among the regular students, and so she dwelt on this as opposed to wallowing in the knowledge that except for Himuro Reiichi, she was somewhat unwelcome in the band. Truthfully, she was not sure she could come to be friends with some of the girls in the band anyway, even if they understood she was not hostile and did not want to fight. Midori suspected several of them had joined the band for no other reason than that Himuro was the director. She based her suspicions primarily on her observations about the time they spent practicing (contrasted with the time they spent mooning over the director), their dedication to music (as opposed to their dedication to the sovereign nation of Himuro), and also on the chocolates that they had attempted to force upon him unsuccessfully in February. These girls were a cabal of which she was not a part, and to which she was very much uninvited. They had formed a sacred bond based on their fanatical affection for her sensei, and their common experiences of being rejected, because they thought his constant rejections were an integral part of his charm. They tolerated one another because they found themselves to be all roughly equal in Himuro's estimation, and she was therefore their arch-nemesis. Midori wasn't exactly resentful of them, because she could afford not to be. The only chocolates Himuro had accepted on Valentine's Day had been the ones she had carefully prepared with her own hands, and although he had sworn her to secrecy, she thought they suspected. She was something different than they were, and they knew it, and she knew it. She might have faced some sort of bullying if not for her younger sister's preeminent reputation as an ojou-sama. As it was, Midori did her best to avoid them when friendly sempai or her beloved sensei were not around to check their actions.

After all, she knew that when it came to music, Himuro was harder on her than on any of the other members of the band. This was because he had high expectations of her, and a faith in her abilities to become even stronger by being put through seemingly impossible trials. She accepted this as a sign of his care, although it made her time with the flute much more trying than it might have been otherwise. She had been trained as a violinist from the time she was five years old, and had begun to learn the piano at seven. The flute was a much more recent adoption. She had been playing it for only three years, and had chosen to learn it for a specific reason: so she could have the experience of being a regular member of the school band and build lots of precious memories. It might have remained a hobby instrument for her, much as the recorder was now, if not for the overwhelming force of Himuro's personality and his exacting demands for excellence. He demanded perfection, and therefore she strove for it with all her will, and so between the violin and the flute, and occasionally the piano, she had no time in her life for anything but music (and fortunately, Himuro Reiichi, by association). Although this was 'special treatment,' it was not really the sort of thing she thought the other students in band imagined (or would have wished upon themselves).

Because Midori had to find time to practice both the violin and the flute each day, as well as do the mountains of extra homework he was always giving her, she always gave up most of her lunch to the dedicated practice of the violin. It was the only way she could make time for everything. Thus the lunch hour found her devoted to a Mendhelssohn concerto she was struggling to reproduce in her own voice. She had been lost in the contemplation and practice of her music for some uncountable amount of time when the mobile phone in her pocket began to vibrate - her warning that the lunch period was closing and that she had best pack her violin if she wanted to avoid being tardy for class. She rested herself for one still moment of peace after the sound of music, and then she opened her eyes and lowered her violin.

It was then that she noticed him standing there, leaning against the outer wall of the stairwell, his arms crossed over his chest. How long he had been standing there, listening to her practice she really could not say, as she had been wholly focused on the music. She smiled and waved at him, to which he had no visible reaction, and then she knelt to pack away her violin carefully in the hard white case she kept it in. After shouldering it, she moved to meet him at the door to the stairwell, where he still waited.

"It's beginning to sound better," Himuro said to her, without bothering with a greeting. "Although it still sounds too harsh in many places. Don't let the brightness of your tone overwhelm the subtle beauty of the music. It already has a vibrant pace, so you must be thoughtful in your application of vibrato, and discover how to create the perfect sound yourself." For him, that was the music of Yumeno Midori: brilliant, moving, technically proficient, but still wild and in need of polish.

"Yes, captain!" Midori answered his advice smartly, and saluted. Himuro was always striving to offer her accurate and helpful criticism, even when he listened to her play the same notes over and over again, in seemingly endless repetition. Although Midori did not know precisely how long he had been standing there and listening to her play, she knew her sensei, and she knew that he knew her. Since he was well aware of her habits, she imagined that he had been standing there unnoticed for most of the lunch period. That he was willing to give up time he would have otherwise spent on himself, indulging in the passionate pastimes of grading papers and devising test questions, warmed her heart and reminded her of just how carefully he looked after her. Like the joy of her music when it was born with the right feeling, the silent care of Himuro Reiichi was something that made all the toil and difficulty worth it.

Himuro made a small sound in his throat that she recognized as a laugh in response to her smart salute, and then moved to hold open the heavy stairwell door for her.

Midori stopped to wait for him at the top of the stairwell, because this was a part of their routine. He would come up behind her as the door to the roof swung closed slowly on its hydraulic hinges, and they would speak for a moment about subjects other than music. Then they would descend the stairs together and head toward their respective classes. She was not disappointed, because he briefly touched her shoulder - an indication he wanted to talk.

"Yumeno," Himuro began formally, his tone a little strained, "The forecast for Saturday night is clear, so if you are free I would like to take you to see the October Draconids. We will make this a practical astronomy lesson."

"Oh, yes," Midori responded immediately, her surprised delight causing her speak before she had prepared anything of substance. She had still not become accustomed to Himuro asking her to spend time with him on weekends, despite the fact that he had begun to habitually indulge in this practice recently. Her sensei had occasionally asked her on various outings in the times before, but beginning in the early autumn term he had become quite dependable in asking for her company most every weekend, always carefully couching his requests in the language of education, no matter what it was he wanted to do. That this was not the first time he had asked her did not make her any more capable of taking his asking for granted. "Of course, sensei. I don't have any plans." She never had any plans, because she had learned to keep her schedule open for him. "I would love to go see the meteor shower with you. Will we go back to the place we went star-watching before?" Midori asked, "I could pack some sandwiches for us, if you like."

"I think that would be acceptable," he began, moving his hand in a short, practical motion to indicate that he was ready to descend the stairs, since she had answered his request favorably. "Yes, we'll be going back to the promontory. It is an ideal location."

Midori moved ahead of him as he indicated and let her foot come to rest on the first stair. Her mind was filled with questions about what sort of sandwiches he might like to try when she felt her stomach drop as her foot skidded underneath her on the rubber lip of the second stair. Falling under the spell of vertigo, she lost her balance as the entire lip came loose from the step and sent her spilling forward, headlong, down the dizzying flight of stairs.

Midori's eyes widened in terror as she realized she had absolutely no way of catching herself or slowing herself. The railing was already too far out of reach because her hand hadn't been on it when the step had given way. She was helpless before gravity, and not athletic enough to control her fall and limit her injuries. It was inevitable that she was going to hit the stairs multiple times before she came to a stop against the wall below, and she knew with a sick fear that such a fall could hurt her badly enough to destroy her ability to play music, even if it did not successfully kill her. All of this flashed into her mind the moment she slipped away, and her fall became inescapable and unstoppable. She heard someone call her name and then swear, but it sounded like it came from a long way away. She was already lost.

But then something happened that she did not understand, and she felt herself seized and twisted in the air, her body wrenched unapologetically close, and her face pressed hard against warm fabric that was filled with a strangely familiar scent. There was a long-fingered hand protectively cupping the back of her skull.

And then they hit the ground.

The impact knocked the wind from her and left her dazed for several seconds, although as she came to herself her brain indicated to her that she was not as damaged as she ought to be, given the circumstances. She struggled to sit up, but there was something heavy on top of her, and it was at this moment that her dazed mind managed to understand that the heavy things she was tangled in were Himuro Reiichi's arms. He had lunged after her as she had fallen and fallen himself, instinctively wrapping her body close to his that he would take the brunt of the impact.

And taken the brunt of the impact he had. He was as still as death.

"Sensei? Sensei?" she sought some sort of response from him frantically, using all her strength to roll him off of her and onto his back. He neither moved nor spoke, and he looked terrifyingly still lying there with his broken glasses and half-shut, unresponsive eyes. She could feel the hysteria building in her heart and stomach and she could not help but pitifully wail, "I've killed Himuro-sensei!" She was not sure that he was breathing, and having no practical experience at all with first aid she was not sure what to do first, other than check for his pulse, which she fumbled for, murmuring, "Reiichi, Reiichi, Reiichi," incoherently over and over again, trying her hardest not to break down into panic-stricken tears, "Reiichi, please be all right. Reiichi, Reiichi - "

"Reiichi-san," Himuro corrected her weakly, raising one hand to rest it heavily on her head. He blinked slowly, then his eyes focused on her. "Are you hurt?" he asked and she shook her head furiously in response. "Good," he said, and seemed satisfied.

"Are you hurt?" she asked idiotically in return, because she could not think of anything else to say.

"Yes," he answered her very slowly. "I think I probably am."

She looked at him then, sprawled against the wall on the landing where they had both been dashed by the impact. He had spent himself cradling her body as best as he could manage against his own, had not bothered about protecting his own head from the crash. His broken glasses were still hanging askew on his face, as he did not seem capable of removing them on his own. She carefully took them off of him and folded them away in her pocket, as if his broken glasses might still have some use. Truthfully, it was as simple as this: she could not bear to leave them to be thrown away. Midori looked over her shoulder for a moment at the impossible height they'd fallen from. When she turned back to him she realized that in addition to her body, he'd also protected her precious violin, which could have easily been broken in the fall, despite the hard case it was in, had either of them landed on it. But there it was in his other arm, a trophy he had paid for with his own blood. He had caught her in one arm, and grabbed after her violin with the other, somehow keeping them both from being injured, at an obvious cost to himself.

She moved the violin off of his arm and found his wrist was bent in what she felt was a worryingly awkward position. "Sensei, what made you do such a stupid, reckless thing? I can't believe it. You threw yourself down the stairs!" she exclaimed, completely helpless to understand his motivations. That he had wanted to protect her she could understand in an immediate and overwhelmingly emotional way. That he had chosen to do it the way he had was something she could not yet grasp.

Midori wisely chose not to disturb the hand and wrist that were bent awkwardly and helped him to sit up by putting her shoulder under his other arm.

Himuro was slow to answer her again, and at last he said only, "It was the best thing I could think of in the situation."

Midori sighed, because she did not have the heart to scold him, not when he had paid such a price. The price was paid already, and there was no use admonishing him about it. It could not be gotten back, and she was honestly grateful. She had to concentrate on what to do from here on out. Midori knew that he needed help, and she was torn between leaving him to go and fetch it, and staying with him in his needfulness. The desire to stay with him won out, because she could not imagine deserting him while he was in such a state, even if she left him only to fetch help. She did not rightly know if this was the correct decision, but it was the only decision she felt she could make.

"We need to get you to the nurse's office," she told him gently, and because she was not sure that he was capable of maintaining his balance on his own, she continued with cheerfulness contrived to conceal her unease, "Do you think you can stand up if I help you, sensei? I'll be right here beside you. I want you to lean on me."

"I think I can stand up," he confirmed after a moment of apparently thinking about the question, and then he began to struggle to get to his feet. She did her best to support him, although she found the weight of his tall frame difficult to bear. Somehow she stood up under the weight of a grown man like a stubborn little donkey, and helped him distribute his weight on his feet. She was just about to suggest they begin the slow walk to the nurse's office when Himuro suddenly pitched forward violently. She was terrified he would fall and strike his head, so she wrapped her arms hard around his middle as he doubled over and leaned back with all her body weight. Fortunately, Himuro caught himself, bracing one hand against his knees as he vomited uncontrollably on the tile.

She held onto him as tightly as she dared until he had finished throwing up, her fear about his condition threatening to break the emotional control she was fighting to maintain. She had no idea why a fall would cause him to vomit like that, and just the sight of him - the feeling of him - doubled over, unable to keep himself from throwing his lunch up all over the floor was terrifying, because this was a Himuro Reiichi who was not in control of anything, a Himuro Reiichi she had never seen before. She took a deep breath and held it in to keep herself from breaking down and then helped him stand again.

"Sensei," she started again kindly, "We really need to go to the nurse's office. I know it may be difficult, but just try to bear with it for me."

"I'm sorry, Midori," Himuro answered with an apology that she couldn't understand. As they began to walk, slowly, together, step by step, he continued. "This wouldn't have happened if I wasn't so weak."

She was immediately troubled by his uncharacteristic breach of etiquette - calling her by her first name was something he did not do because it broke one of his rules. She nervously attempted a joke that spoke perhaps a bit more of her fears than she intended, "This better not be some sort of deathbed confession to me, Himurochi."

"Well," he said as she leaned hard into the door that connected the stairwell to the second floor hallway, "I hope it's not."

Fortunately, the second floor hallway was not completely deserted as a few students still lingered, enjoying the final spare moments of their lunch break. Even in the thinly populated hallway, she and Himuro quickly attracted a crowd of astonished onlookers who seemed to be unable to do anything but gawk at the two of them, despite their obvious injuries. Midori was about to beg for assistance when a short and terribly serious girl shouldered her way through the crowd and stood like a strange mirror before her. She took one look at the situation and then wheeled on her heel, throwing her arm out imperiously.

"All of you disperse immediately. This situation will be handled appropriately. Right now this hallway congestion is not acceptable and may cause a delay in Himuro-sensei receiving treatment."

As if she had cast a spell, the crowd began to dissipate, looking back curiously over their shoulders as they went. The sophomore queen had spoken, and she was rarely disobeyed because it was not often that she demanded anything. Once she was assured that they were actually leaving, Satomi turned her attention immediately back to her sister. Hazuki Kei had come up beside Satomi as the crowd dispersed, and he immediately moved to shoulder Midori's burden, because as a tall, athletic young man, he was more suited to bearing it.

Midori moved to Himuro's other side and laid her hand gingerly on his upper arm, not knowing exactly where it was injured. He didn't draw away from her, nor did he give any indication that her touch caused him pain, so she looked sidelong at Kei and gave him a quiet warning. "Be slow and careful, Kei-kun. He may need to stop again unexpectedly to be sick." Then she turned her attention back to Himuro, "Sensei, we're taking you to the nurse's office now. Kei-kun is going to help you, so don't be afraid to lean on him."

"Don't leave, Midori," Himuro said urgently, his confused imperative indicating what it was that he clearly wanted. Then he seemed a little troubled as he corrected himself, "Yumeno. Yumeno-san."

"Of course I won't leave you, sensei," she laughed nervously, another attempt to cover her fear. She was touched by his simple desire to have her close to him in his weakness. "Don't be silly. I won't ever."

"Good," he answered distractedly after a moment, and at Midori's nod, she and Kei began to walk Himuro toward the nurse's office.

Satomi was immediately at her side, keeping pace with her.

"Explain," she demanded unceremoniously.

Midori began, as best she could, to relate what had occurred, her emotional resolve breaking as she began to describe what had happened in the moments after the fall.

"Midori, don't cry," Satomi scolded briefly, solemn, but not unkind, well aware that her sister was already overwrought, "Himuro-sensei wouldn't want you to be upset."

"I can't help it," Midori struggled to control her tears, remembering how Himuro had looked, struck like a dead bird against the wall, or when he had been doubled over, one hand braced against his knees. "How would you feel if Kei-kun were the one like this?"

Satomi said nothing immediately, then at last murmured, "I hope that Kei-chan wouldn't do such a thing." She said it low tone, and perhaps meant it only for herself, but Midori heard it and understood the feelings hidden in Satomi's quiet heart. If Kei heard it, he made no sign. It was possible that he didn't, being on the other side of Himuro and primarily occupied with his transportation. Himuro gave no indication that he was even cognizant of their conversation, although he was clearly conscious and capable of walking with support.

As they reached the stairwell down to the main hallway, where the nurse's office was located, Satomi skipped a few steps ahead of them and then said very clearly, "I will go take care of everything. Midori, remember to be a strong girl and not cry like you always do. Kei-chan, you take my sister and Himuro-sensei to the infirmary. I am trusting them to your care," she said deliberately, "I will see you there later."

And with this abrupt farewell, Satomi disappeared down the stairs first, going quickly, but holding onto the railing, as if she had taken warning from Midori's unfortunate story.

Midori sighed, her heart feeling a warming balm as she watched her sister go, "I always feel better when Satomi is with me. She's always so take-charge whenever there's a crisis. All I ever want to do is cry when something bad happens. I'm a bad onee-chan to depend on her all the time. I ought to be more level-headed because I'm the older sister. She's always, always been this way, even when we were both very little."

"She has," said Kei, and his voice was as calm as it always was, and this made it very difficult for Midori to determine if he had meant what he said as a question or a statement. It sounded like a statement, but -

"Himuro-sensei," Kei was speaking quietly, "We're going to go down some stairs now. We'll go slowly. We're close to the infirmary now."

As they began to slowly descend the stairs, Himuro gave her another imperative, sudden and a little sharp, "Yumeno. Don't fall."

"I won't, sensei," she tried to be encouraging, "I promise."

They were met at the bottom of the stairs by the school nurse, who helped Kei escort Himuro into the infirmary. Midori knew that this had been one of the things Satomi had left their company to prepare. That she was not waiting for them in the infirmary meant that she had apparently thought of more things that needed doing than Midori had.

In the infirmary, the nurse seated Midori down on a stool and then began to examine Himuro thoroughly. Kei had helped him to sit down on a bed, and he was tolerably obedient as lights were shined in his eyes and his reflexes were checked. The nurse asked several simple questions of him, which he answered correctly, if a bit slowly. As she worked, she asked for an explanation of the events that had led to his current state.

Midori told the story again as best she could, trying not to omit any detail, no matter how awful it was to remember, lest it be very important to diagnosing Himuro's condition. She became upset again as she spoke and might have started to cry if she had not remembered her sister's words of courage and felt Kei's hand on the top of her head, patting it as if she were a small child. The nurse wondered aloud at the story and turned a critical eye on Himuro.

"Himuro-sensei, I understand that you wanted to protect your student from being injured," she said, "But what you did was absolutely crazy. Any fall can be fatal, or cause serious trauma. They should be avoided at all costs. If you had landed badly, you could have both been killed."

"I suppose that's true," Himuro answered, but he did not seem particularly concerned with this admission.

The nurse sighed, seeing that her chiding would do no good in his current state, and gave up on that favorite pastime of the medical establishment: patient harassment.

Midori watched as the nurse, with Kei's assistance, helped Himuro out of his suit jacket, taking care not to jostle his wrist, which was already swelling in an alarming way. She then loosened his tie and began to carefully check him over again. After a moment, she moved to roll up both of his sleeves and became busy in the application of her treatments, the first of which was to apply a cold pack to Himuro's swelled wrist, the second of which was to prime a needle and prepare an injection for his uninjured arm. With this done, she helped Himuro recline against the pillows in the bed, and gave Kei the ambiguous command of "Talk to him."

Then she moved to close the blinds so that the afternoon sun was off Himuro's face, for which he thanked her.

All this accomplished, she turned her attentions to Midori, who was still sitting on her stool and sniffling.

Assuming that Midori's tears were the product of some concealed hurt, she leaned forward and spoke to her gently, as if she were an elementary school student, "Tell me where it hurts, little one."

This made Midori sniffle more as she sobbed out her confession, "It doesn't hurt anywhere at all, because sensei got hurt in my place, and now I'm afraid I've nearly killed him."

To this despairing confession the nurse could offer immediate comfort, "I understand that you're worried about him, but he's not as badly off as you think. In my opinion he has a sprained wrist and a mild concussion, and with bed rest he should recover in a couple of days. He'll probably have some bruises and be a little sore as well, which is good, because perhaps he'll think twice about throwing himself down the stairs in the future. Now be a good and brave girl and let me check you over, because even if you don't think there's anything wrong with you, you did take a terrible spill as well, and it's better to be safe than sorry."

The nurse drew the curtain between she and her sensei, and Midori patiently let herself be examined. The nurse was thorough but gentle, and filled with encouraging reassurances about Himuro's condition. Behind them, Hazuki Kei haltingly spoke with Himuro about topics she could not begin to imagine, as they were both pitching their voices low, and the nurse was very distracting. As Midori's examination progressed, Satomi arrived in the infirmary and peeked around the corner of the curtain, Midori's violin slung over her shoulder. A low, mellow voice indicated Amanohashi Ikkaku was in attendance on her as well, although he did not peek around the corner of the curtain in imitation of her sister. At last the nurse gave Midori a certified clean bill of health and the curtains were drawn back, revealing the six of them, gathered in the infirmary by curious circumstance.

"Himuro-sensei has a concussion?" Satomi asked promptly, before the nurse could go and properly greet the headmaster.

"Yes," the nurse admitted, "I believe he does."

"Then he will need to go to the hospital and be seen by a doctor," Satomi stated simply.

"Yes," agreed the nurse, a little baffled, "That would probably be for the best, considering he has a head injury, even if I believe it is a very minor one."

Satomi waved her hand simply and gracefully, indicating a dismissal of the nurse, and then turned her attention to the school's headmaster.

"Ikkaku-rijichou, will you be so kind as to escort Himuro-sensei and my sister to the hospital?"

Midori suddenly understood why Satomi had dragged the headmaster out of his office and down to the infirmary and gave her sister a grateful smile. Satomi, who was busy captivating the headmaster, allowed herself a small and secret smile in return.

"Of course, Yumeno-kun. It would be my pleasure to provide assistance in this situation," Amanohashi said graciously, and then turned to the somewhat befuddled nurse. "Is Himuro-sensei all right to travel to the hospital in a regular car, or should we call an ambulance?"

"He should be all right to travel in a regular car," she answered haltingly, unsure what to make of this strange gathering of silent high school power. "I gave him some anti-nausea medication earlier, so he shouldn't suffer from any further vomiting spells. I just need to tape up his wrist and he should avoid jostling it on the ride. Although, in the case of Yumeno-san, it is probably safe enough for her to stay here at school. I couldn't find anything wrong with her. I can just keep her under observation for the afternoon."

"It would be best for Midori-onee-chan to go to the hospital," stated Satomi categorically, and with such authority that the nurse did not feel capable of contradicting her.

"Very well then," said Amanohashi, quite ready to accept the privilege of responsibility bestowed upon him by Yumeno Satomi, "Himuro-sensei, are you feeling well enough to travel?"

"Yes," affirmed Himuro, "I'll be all right. I appreciate your concern, Rijichou." This time his response was quicker and he sounded more coherent than he had the last time he had spoken, so Midori's heart was calmed a little.

"Then, Hazuki-kun, will you please assist me in getting Himuro-sensei to my car? I'll go pull it around to the front circle."

Amanohashi left to retrieve his car, and Kei obediently assisted Himuro in getting to his feet after the nurse had taped up his wrist. The four of them moved in the direction of the school's entrance, leaving the overruled nurse alone in her infirmary. Midori followed at Himuro's side, carrying his jacket folded up in her arms, and Satomi brought up the rear, with Midori's violin still slung over her shoulder.

At the entrance of the school, while they waited for Amanohashi to pull in and park, Satomi moved in front of Himuro and bowed gravely.

"You don't have to worry about your afternoon classes, sensei. I have already put them on self-study."

"Ah," said Himuro in response, because Satomi's thoroughness apparently startled even him. Then, he recovered himself. "Thank you for troubling yourself, Yumeno-san."

"No," said Satomi, shaking her head once solemnly as Amanohashi got out of his car and moved to open the doors for his two passengers. Kei helped Himuro into the front seat of the car while Midori crawled obediently into the back. As Himuro secured his seatbelt, Satomi leaned in close to him and spoke very quietly.

"Thank you for protecting my sister."

Then she withdrew, and Kei closed both of the passenger side car doors.

As Amanohashi's car turned in the circle and drove off in the direction of the hospital, Satomi wordlessly reached for Kei's hand, and he gave it to her without comment.