Act 9: A Drink Takes the Man

My body feels tired, and the joints all around it are slowly gaining feeling once again. I find myself waking up from an almost face-flat position on a some kind of seat. And I also feel kinda sweaty too. Damn.

Anyway, I can see morning light surrounding me, but I can't tell if I'm in an unfamiliar place, or I'm simply in an unfamiliar position. Shit like that happens, sometimes. But in a situation like this, then shit must've happened last night, too. I try to raise myself upright, but all that greets me is the light somehow becoming blindingly bright, and my head starting to ache horribly. As I try to figure out what the hell's wrong, it takes me a few moments to recognize this agonizing sensation. I'm hung over.

An untimely experience with myself, Morita, and a couple other guys (and a girl or two) already taught me some of the rather... annoying symptoms you experience in a hangover. In a way that's tragically humorous, but humorously tragic, as you tend not to remember things that happened last night when you're hung over. For that matter, Morita was really pissed off that he became drunk that night and woke up, not knowing if he had managed to get any... action that night, especially since there was at least one girl who did get drunk with us. At least I had the comfort of knowing that my friends laughed at me trying to stumble back to my dorm room while they got drunk off their asses, and who knows what weird shit went on in Morita's dorm room... I don't know where those guys got it, or how the hell they even managed to have someone manage sneak bottles of alcohol into the school campus without alerting any staff members or security... Heh... those were certainly the days. But given the current circumstances, nostalgia is just a feeling that I can equate to pain, knowing that those old friends aren't here anymore.

Still, that experience taught me the unpleasant side-effects of alcohol, and I distinctly remember vowing to myself the next morning that I wouldn't try that sort of shit again. Of course, something happened that caught me in this very situation. Again. Hmm... If I look back on the events last night, all I can recall is that after managing to kick some ass and getting some food and other supplies, me and the other two guys were sorta heralded as heroes of the bus. There was some rejoicing going on, stories being told... then my memory goes blank after that.

Alright. So, let's take a review of my current situation. As I look around, I'm able to recognize that I'm still here on the same old bus. I'm the only one on this bus seat. And I'm still wearing my pants. And shirt, too. I quickly realize that I'm not wearing my jacket and it's off lying around... somewhere, but I guess that isn't too much of a problem.

Well, things are looking good so far.

I glance out the window. Glare from the light that came in sorta prevented me from seeing the outside, but all I saw was my own reflection. Good, I guess I need a sort of mirror then. To see if someone drew on my face or something. Morita said that during that one night when people got drunk and passed out, he went to town with a marker on some dude's face and drew all sorts of funny things on him.

Luckily, my face is clear of any mustaches or embarrassing phrases. Good. This bolsters my confidence a bit more. Maybe I can hope that nothing embarrassing happened last night... because I sure as hell know that I couldn't have been the only one drinking stuff last night. At least my body is clear of any signs that last night could have happ-

Hold on a moment. What the hell is this on my neck?

I squint my still-tired eyes a bit, just to see if I'm still seeing things correctly. Maybe it's a shadow or something. Maybe it's a bit of dirt? Let's see here... I place a couple fingers there and try to smudge off whatever the hell it is... uh, nope. Shit. Not only is this mark on my skin, but my neck feels weird, perhaps a bit uncomfortable if I touch it or apply pressure. How... odd.

This sensation I recognize makes me come to the conclusion my neck's somehow bruised. That's weird. I don't recall getting into a fight last night... but no shit, I don't recall anything from last night. Still, if I threw around fists with someone, it would leave a bigger and more... serious-looking bruise, wouldn't it? So what does this mean?

I take a few moments to try and organize my thoughts. How do you get a small bruise like that on your...

Oh.

An answer pops in my head. It's one that probably makes more sense than any other possibility, though my mind is currently fighting itself in a stage of denial. I lightly trace my fingers around the mark to make sure.

"A... hickey...?"

I dumbfoundedly whisper the word to myself. It's a strange one that's not employed in my vocabulary very often.

How did this happen? How could it have happened? It doesn't make sense. Then again, I suppose this is my denial speaking. It likely makes perfect sense. I was drunk last night, or I can assume as much since I can't remember shit. And when alcohol pretty much lowers your inhibitions and makes you more inclined to do stupid things... everything fits like a puzzle.

Okay, so I made out with someone last night. Or at least they made out with me, and then got perhaps just a bit frisky and ended up sucking on my neck at some point. But my pants, shirt, and all that is still on, so it couldn't have gone beyond that.

So... who's the lucky girl that did this to me? Oh good grief, in the name of all that's good and holy, it better have been a girl, because TV has shown how pretty fucking bad drunkards can get, and the stupid shit they end up doing because they can't think straight. Okay, scratch this thought. It was a girl. It had to be. Even if I get drunk, I'm pretty sure I'm not that bad... Yeah, it was probably Fumiko. That makes the most sense... in that case, my biggest regret is the fact that I wouldn't be able to remember something awesome like that happening to me last night.

Anyway, now that my self-evaluation is complete, and I've decided to give myself a D, I look around the bus to see what's going on and what everyone else is up to. Surprisingly, I find myself being the first person awake. Everyone looks to be still passed out on their seats since I don't see anyone up and about or talking. I decide to get up and sate my curiosity by investigating around, seeing if other people might've been a bit worse for wear than me. Maybe I can find out who gave me this mark on my neck...

"Oh, Ozaki-kun. It's refreshing to see someone finally awake... Honestly, it was a tad boring having to watch over everyone with no one to talk to."

I hear a familiar voice, one whose presence I wasn't even considering. It takes me off guard at first, though it's offset by the voice's sincerity and seemingly pleasant demeanor. I yawn a bit before rubbing my head, continuing my attempts at nursing its aches.

"Shido-sensei... Uh, good morning."

I turn around and see the teacher, his hands clasped and keeping up a bit of a personable smile. That said however, he looked quite tired, looking like he could fall asleep and take a nap at any minute.

"Ah, of course... good morning to you to, Ozaki-kun. How's your head feeling?"

Nearly freezing, I embarrassingly look away from Shido, scratching the back of my head nervously.

"You... know of what happened last night? To be honest, I hardly remember myself."

"Yes, I'm aware. Alcohol was brought in during your scavenging last night, and everyone chose to indulge in it... Most of you are not used to the drinks, or so I would assume, so it didn't take too long for the substance to gain a hold on you." He takes a pause in his speech to let out a yawn. "Ahhh... Most... unfortunate. Amusing I'll admit, but nonetheless a bit unfortunate."

I initially feel an inclination to be pissed at Mr. Shido for because he did say our predicament was amusing, but I already know that back when Morita and others got drunk, I found it amusing too, to say the least. Well, at least Shido already knows and it can save me and likely others from explaining that we have a hangover. Hell, he probably was watching us while we drank, though I'm a bit surprised that Shido would actually allow such an activity to go on under his watch. And obviously his rather composed demeanor as well as calling out on us for drinking means he went through the night sober. Lucky him. However, Shido's eyes are a bit more squinted and seemingly more strained than usual, and he still looks pretty tired at the moment. Since alcohol is out of the question then maybe he's simply not a morning person.

After a moment, Mr. Shido widens his eyes slightly to give me a rather quizzical look. He analyzes me carefully before it looks like he's holding back a laugh, but a rather smug smirk on his face was still there.

"Ohh, I recall you were quite a ladies man last night, Ozaki-kun. But it's not in gentleman's etiquette to steal the kisses and hearts of girls while under the influence, you know."

My eyes widen a bit, and I quickly place a hand over the hickey on my neck. He had to be looking at that... why else would he make such weird remarks? I don't know Shido very well, but I feel like I'm already able to tell that him making rather casual jokes and teasing seems a bit off... of course, he was never my teacher, so what the hell do I have to worry about anyway...

"Right, don't tell whoever it was that gave me this... let's not speak of it, alright? And do you even know who it is that gave me this?"

Shido's smirk became less obvious as he scanned around the bus. Most of the other students were still sleeping.

"Well, I think I just need to make an announcement regarding this... recent occurrence, so it'll be brought out in the open nonetheless. Last night was unexpected, and I feel some things would be good to address for future reference. It's nothing bad or anything, and if it makes you feel better, I won't call out anyone by name. What do you say to that?"

I can already picture Mr. Shido chewing everyone out and giving us a lecture in responsibility. Frankly, maybe we need it, though it's not something I'm looking forward to. Keeping myself silent, I simply nod my head. Shido seems pleased as he walks over back to his usual position at the front of the bus.

"Good. Oh, and as for who you so embraced last night... I'll leave that to your imagination. It's no fun if I just tell you right now, is it?"

He's toying with me. That bastard's toying with me. He probably saw what happened, too. But he won't say anything, just to mess with my head... Well thanks for telling me nothing, asshole. I'll have to figure this out for myself.

"Thanks a lot, Shido-sensei."

The teacher must have missed my icy sarcasm as he seems to have a rather cheerful look on his face. Obviously he's enjoying this.

"Well, back to work, I suppose. Ozaki-kun, can you help me wake everyone up around here? It might require our combined efforts to get everyone alert and awake. My announcement isn't too urgent, though perhaps when everyone's awake I can get it out of the way early."

I nod my head and go down the aisle of seats. I bitterly swallow the contempt I have for Shido at that very moment, but I suppose it'll simmer down and fade anyway. This whole fiasco last night will be cleared up soon, I suppose. And Mr. Shido's a teacher. Teachers joke around with the students sometimes, and I don't think he's that much of a bastard to be serious about leaving me clueless. I'll get over it. Eventually.

After passing by the first couple rows of empty seats, I see someone's form lying down rather comfortably. I'm about to shake her up to get her awake, but I notice something that stops my very movements.

Fumiko's lies sleeping on the bus seat, with a rather gentle look on her face. In all the time I've known her, I've never really seen Fumiko asleep. She seems so carefree, so relaxed, probably still stuck in dreamland right now, and it feels like a sin if I just take her out of that state. But her being cute the way she sleeps is merely just one of the things that catches my eye. She's got my school jacket draped over her like a blanket, the very one I found missing this morning.

My jacket? On her?

Obviously, I know I was very likely drunk last night since I can't remember, and even Mr. Shido confirmed that I had a bit too much to drink... but there comes a really good feeling of satisfaction that even as a drunk, I carry some bit of class and gentlemanly care by giving the lady my jacket.

But the recollection of me being drunk last night makes my mind wander. It makes me feel the spot on my neck, trying to come up with a story for it. I know that I drank last night. And someone gave me this hickey. From the looks of things, I gave Fumiko my jacket right before she fell asleep, I'd guess. Or after, who knows. But I did interact with her in some way... Then could that mean she's the one who was all on my neck? Is she the one who was with me while I was drunk? Was she drunk too? Did we do other things last night? Well, I know that my pants and clothes were still on this morning, and Fumiko's still wearing her school uniform too, so that can't be it. But we still could've made out, that makes sense...

Fuck! Something amazing could've happened last night, and I don't remember shit!

I flail my arms in frustration at this revelation. After taking a moment to calm down, I place a hand on head and berate my own stupidity.

You acting like an idiot is your fault. Get yourself together, Toshio... breathe... breathe... just wake her up and move on with your day as usual.

After managing to calm down, I walk over to Fumiko to wake her up. Not before I hear some faint, muffled laughing in the background. I look over my shoulder and see Shido placing a hand over his mouth. He looks up and sees that I've noticed him, so he composes himself and waves me off.

"Oh please, don't mind me. Go ahead and continue... sorting your thoughts, Ozaki-kun."

He seemed quite amused. Clearly, he must've seen my freak-out moment upon seeing Fumiko. Lovely, I just made a fool of myself even further. Damn it, let's get this over with before more things start to ignite themselves in my mind.

Letting out a sigh, I tap Fumiko a couple times on the shoulder. When she doesn't respond, I shake her by the arm a bit, and she let's out a stir. Lazily opening an eye, she looks around and feels around the seat for her glasses. She's making a halfhearted effort though since she seems to fall back asleep.

"Come on, wake up sleepyhead. It doesn't seem like you to stay lying down stubbornly, you know?"

She pauses for a moment, trying to place the sound of my voice in her head. She then resumes trying to look for her glasses.

"Hiiiiiii, Shio-kun~..."

She drawls out my nickname in what I can only describe as a somewhat slurred, half-asleep sing-song voice. It's kind of cute, knowing she's never talked like that in front of me. Fumiko manages to find her glasses, in one of the pockets of my jacket no less, and places them on her face.

"Good morning, Fumiko. How are you?"

It's all I can really say at the moment without sputtering out something or letting my mind wander towards more awkward subjects.

"Ohhh... I think my head aches a bit... and why do I feel so... groggy right now? Uhh... what happened last night?"

"That's my line. But I guess you don't know either... Shido-sensei said he'd explain everything though, so just sit tight."

I try to give her a reassuring smile. Fumiko sighs as she takes my jacket off of her and sits upright. For that matter, I don't think it's even occurred to her yet that she was using my jacket as a blanket. She yawns, outstretching her arms as she tries to shake the tiredness from her body. Fumiko then does her best to try and rub her temples and break free from whatever headache she has. I feel as though me just waiting around might be a hindrance to Shido. Not that I care or anything, I'd just hate to attract a little more attention to myself after I told the guy I'd wake everyone up. I take my jacket from off the seat, and Fumiko's none the wiser of its absence.

After putting it back on, I move down a couple rows in the bus and see Momo sleeping. Unlike Fumiko, who was sleeping in a really cute way, Momo's sleeping rather lazily, face-flat on the seat, sprawled in an odd and uncomfortable looking position. She pays it no heed though, as she continues to softly breath and look like she hasn't a care in the world. In fact, seeing her spread out like that, flat on her face is sorta reminiscent of that one nightmare I had a while ago. Just thinking about it sends shivers down my spine. Trying to fight back unpleasant memories, I try to wake up Momo, shamelessly being a bit more assertive and forceful than I had with Fumiko.

After grabbing her by the shoulders and shaking her a bit, I see her eyes slam wide open without warning. Of course she'd probably be a little shocked and surprised. That is to be expected after all.

Momo flails her arms and legs a bit. Then I feel a dull force impacting my chest as I stumble back a few steps. I almost hit my head on one of the other seats. That wasn't to be expected. I clutch my chest reeling back a bit. I know that nothing's broken, and this is hardly what I would call pain. But just the sheer fact this happened was enough to fill me with quite a bit of shock.

I look back up and see Momo, getting up in a more casual position. An annoyingly amused smirk comes up on her face, which sorta just pissed me off.

"That's what you get for freaking the hell out and hitting me back when I woke you up last time. It's only proper to pay in kind for this, right?"

She's making fun of that damn nightmare. To be honest, knowing Momo and the way she usually messes with me sometimes, I guess this isn't too unexpected. I could've seen it coming. In hindsight with that overreaction, maybe I deserve this just a little. But it doesn't supress my urge to smack a bitch. I'll relent for now.

"Alright wise guy, now explain to me why I have a headache... and a body-ache for that matter... Got anything to say, Ozaki?"

"I'll tell you what I told Fumiko, Shido will explain everything to you. And calm the hell down, Ishihara. It's one thing to have a rude awakening, it's another to make it rude for the guy waking you up..."

"Excuse me? An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, Ozaki."

Momo immaturely sticks a tongue in my direction before relaxing in her seat a bit. At least I'm polite with the way I wake people up. Speaking of Shido and my constant referral to him, I glance over and see our "great leader" going to wake up the rest of the guys in the back. However...

"Come on guys, hurry it up. It's a bit imprudent if you lazily stay asleep when your leader has something to say. Get up!"

...he lacks a bit of the courtesy I had, and just chooses to loudly yell to get everyone awake. With some tosses and turns, everyone struggles to shake free from whatever drowsiness is lingering in them. With the few of us already awake, the shouting already grabs our attentions. After some clambering as people try to gain their senses (and undoubtedly ponder the question of "What the fuck happened last night?")

Satisfied, Shido walks towards the front of the bus, as if he were to speak in front of his own little four-wheeled auditorium. He clasps his hands and keeps up that smile of his, as if trying to feign the patience for his class to give him their undivided attention.

"Well then... as I'm quite sure many of you are thinking about, I believe that we should address the events that have transpired last night."

"Alright, alright, but just what in the hell happened last night?"

I hear Tsunoda bitching and whining in the back. He's obviously not all there yet, and he groans a bit while holding his head. Mr. Shido keeps up his pleasant demeanor in spite of this spectacle.

"Just what the hell indeed, Maruyama-kun. I think I'll let this piece of evidence explain itself."

Our teacher walks back towards the front and reaches into a backpack lying around. I recognize it as one of the bags that Tsunoda scavenged while we were out finding supplies and stuff. Shido pulls something out with each of his hands and presents them to the class.

"This is but a fraction of what was consumed by you all last night."

Two large, empty bottles of alcohol... Given what I've already learned, that's the final, conclusive sign that, yes, we really did get fucked up last night. I already accepted this notion before, but to everyone else on the bus, this comes as quite a shocker.

"S-Shido-sensei, what... what is the meaning of this?"

Fumiko looks visibly shocked and distressed when she sees the bottles of alcohol, frantically yelping out. Fumiko has always seen herself as a girl incapable of wrongdoing, and maintaining her innocence means quite a bit to her... in fact, even to me, her drinking seems far-fetched, but given the fact she has the same headache as the rest of us, she's not as above the influence as she thought... it's sort of depressing to think about, in a way, but I don't really find myself to complaining about it.

"Yup... I don't know if Ozaki-kun or Kurokami-kun knew of this, but it appears that Maruyama-kun salvaged quite a bit of alcohol. Upon the celebrations of everyone's return to this bus, he at some point in the night passed around several bottles of these to everyone, and you all indulged quite a bit in it..."

There was more commotion coming about among the students, many of them directing their surprise or even anger at Tsunoda. Including Kurokami, who seems like he knew nothing of Tsunoda's plot.

I mean... I know that Tsunoda and Kurokami recovered some alcohol, though the latter did say he wanted to use it for medicinal purposes... Then again, I also recall Kurokami say that it could be used to get fucked up if we were at deaths door, or something along those lines. Regardless, I sure as hell didn't know anyone smuggled enough alcohol to pass around for everyone here, which means they took in a lot more than what I was aware of.

"Yes... As you can imagine, I saw a few surprising ordeals playing out last night while you all took part in this little drinking party you had. Things done that I would probably never have expected students of mine to do..."

Shido continued, and by this point Fumiko and Momo were feeling a bit humiliated by this happening, though the rest of the class didn't really seem to give a shit over the fact they were drunk. From Yuuki and Tsunoda, that doesn't surprise me much. Kurokami and Yamada though, those two social introverts in the back don't seem to be expressing much emotion at the moment, so I can't really gauge what the hell they feel over this. Yamada at the very least looks... troubled by this, but in what way I can't really tell yet.

"You! Bastard! This is your fault this all happened!"

I hear a female's voice yell out. Our attention is directed towards a redhead, standing up and pointing her finger at Tsunoda. The bleach-blonde student looked back at Momo somewhat incredulously.

"Oh, and is it also my fault you got drunk off your ass too? You're the one who chose to pick up a bottle or two and get drunk, bitch."

"Damn it, why I oughta...!"

"Both of you, please, enough of this!"

Fumiko attempts to grab Momo by the collar in an attempt to make sure her friend doesn't run off to kick Tsunoda's ass. It's kind of funny at this point to see that with the exception of Yuuki who's pretty much our resident slut, Tsunoda has every girl he meets wanting to kick his ass. Except this time, Momo's not much of a physical fighter, not to my knowledge. And I don't think Tsunoda would mind at all hitting her. Thankfully Fumiko is there trying to prevent that...

"Enough!"

Mr. Shido's voice almost echoes within the bus, instantly shutting everyone up and getting their attention. Visibly intimidated, Momo and Tsunoda sit back down in their seats, almost to a point of hiding behind the chairs. Tsunoda almost looks like he craps his pants as he sits down and shuts up.

"Now now, if there was any time to pick a low point for this group, I think right now would be appropriate... and to be honest, I had no qualms about anything anyone did last night."

No shit, of course Shido has no qualms with us getting getting dru-

"Wait, what?"

"Eh?"

"Huh?"

"Ah! What do you mean, Sensei?"

All of us manage to sputter out something to our teacher, who had just so proclaimed something we weren't expecting.

"That's right... I have not had any problems with you all drinking last night. In fact I would actually encourage this sort of independent behavior from the bunch of you."

Shido's serious face from before took in our looks of amazement, wonder, and outright confusion. Such expressions from us were things that this teacher truly did enjoy, as he once again clasped his hands getting ready to speak for us all.

"Sensei... but... it's wrong to drink... isn't it? And you said we did... bad things while we were under the influence?"

"Now, now, Kawamura-san... who here on this bus actually proclaimed that it was 'bad,' hmm? Who said that it was 'wrong' to drink?"

Fumiko gets taken aback by such a question posed by her teacher. It's surprising for me, because knowing how much faith she puts in her teacher, this may very well be the first time she doesn't understand the views and mindset of her teacher, or at least as much as she thought.

"Well... we just know it's wrong... right? It's like... what society says."

"Hmm, I see. Well now, you can quite plainly see the state of society right now, can you? The rules of the old world don't necessarily apply to us, Kawamura-san."

Mr. Shido's eyes shifted towards the rest of his students, looking at each and every one of us, scanning any sort of reaction or emotion that may crop up in our facial expression. Approval, confusion, shock, or just that blank 'what' look people often have. Our teacher's quite analytical.

"You see children, we are now the managers of our own society. The society you once knew is currently in shambles. Obviously, we're writing our own rules here, due to the fact that we, and only we, possessed the wisdom and fortitude to have made it this far, properly supplemented by food and supplies that we ourselves scavenged no less! Indeed... I've come to the conclusion that those who have tried to follow the ways of our old society will surely perish... Just look at Komuro-kun and Miyamoto-san... And the poor fools who followed in their stead. Surely such absurd behavior is proof enough as is."

Shido brings up a damn good point, but that doesn't make his words any less surprising to hear. We're basically making a plan not to operate like normal Japanese citizens, but... something else, apparently. I can't tell what that quite entails just yet, but it apparently happens to include the right to drink. Something else he brought up: everyone who left the bus. Komuro and Miyamoto should be dead by now, no question about that. But with Busujima-senpai, Hirano, Takagi, and Marikawa-sensei off doing their own business somewhere in the undead wastelands, I think they have a decent shot at lasting a while. They're a rather balanced team, especially since Busujima is the Kendo Queen of Fujimi Academy, and Hirano does have that nail gun of his... But in any case, I don't think it matters just how damn badass you are... sometimes, going out and being a badass isn't practical... Which is why I feel that staying here on this bus is a wholeheartedly smarter decision, a notion which I can agree upon with Mr. Shido on. We'll all just have to see where this "new society" thing goes for us in the future.

But what if those guys are still alive right now? They've got a nurse, who's there to treat non-zombie injuries, a ranger, a melee fighter... it's like a damn video game. It's kinda cool, but... bah, look at me, letting my damn mind wander around.

As the thought of the blank slate we had as a new society started cropping up within the minds of the students here on this bus, it was eventually met with some generally positive reception, though skepticism was abound, even from people who I wouldn't expect to think too hard on it.

"Shido-sensei. You mind if I ask a question about this whole deal?"

"Certainly, Miku-san. It's always worthwhile to hear an opinion."

Yuuki stood up from her seat in a student-like fashion, as if asking about a question on a test or something.

"What exactly is... acceptable in our whole 'new society' thing? Like, whatever we want?"

"Well, that's a good question. As a leader, and your teacher no less, you might expect me to lay down all the rules and make you follow them to a strict letter. However, I feel as though we're all mature, responsible individuals here, and we can handle ourselves fairly well. I will allow you to do whatever you wish... So believe me, Miku-san, I wouldn't want you to feel held back or restrained by our little society here. And I'm quite well-aware of how brazen you can be, but among this family, I feel as though shame should never be felt within our ranks."

"Ohhh... you embarass me, Sensei. But thanks for being so considerate of my simple... instincts."

With the kind of shit you hear about Yuuki Miku, embarrassment is not something you'd attribute to her. Damn girl knows no shame whatsoever, and with Shido saying shame shouldn't exist here, she'd fit in a hell of a lot better. And yet, Mr. Shido is the only person I've seen able to make Yuuki genuinely... blush. It almost makes her look sort of innocent.

I feel myself gag, just a bit, upon thinking that.

"And for that matter, this detail applies to everyone. After all, I'm sure that all of you can't remember the specific details of what went on last night, but I can assure you, some racy activities were abound, and no one acted like a stranger in participating in them..."

I see Fumiko immediately blushing herself, and covering her face with her hands, trying to dispel any sort of image of her doing something lewd. I want to say that I don't blame her, but given the fact she's most likely the one who gave me the hickey on my neck, it's only a bit pitiable right now. She really likes being a good girl. Meanwhile, I look back and see Momo looking somewhat amused by Fumiko's reactions, and Tsunoda was trying to talk to Yuuki as to what kind of "racy activities" they must have done last night. I'm guessing nobody had sex, since we're all woke up still clothed... But I think we all must have done everything else instead or something.

Shido claps his hands, trying to once again grab our attention as he speaks once again. We turned our heads, and the look on his face was considerably less pleasant than before, immediately signifying he had something quite serious to say. His eyes panned around rather sternly. Shido's serious face was rather intimidating, especially since we're so used to seeing him putting up a rather jovial personality most of the time.

"Now then, if there are to be any rules which we'd need to follow here in this group, it would be this: I will not tolerate, under any circumstance, anything that would undermine the prosperity of this group. Disagreements will likely surface here and there on our journey, but I advise that they be resolved quickly, and I'll do my best to mediate these conflicts. But should you prove to be too much of a disturbance within our society, or do anything that so much endangers anyone, I'm afraid you will have to be forcibly ejected from this bus. Do I make myself clear?"

We all nod our heads. While this bit of his speech was a little scary, and it did visibly frighten a few of us, to me it's really encouraging to see that he's still our leader, and he's taking responsibility to make sure we don't act out of place here. Shido's generally laid back, but he's stern and strict when he needs to be... I guess we made the right choice in making him our leader.

And in a flash, our teacher is back to his smiling self. It's almost creepy how he was able to switch his 'intimidate' switch on and off like that.

"Good. I trust you'll all play nice then, hmm? As for me, I'm afraid I'll need to rest, momentarily. I took the liberty of actually staying up all night, just to make sure none of you, in your drunkenness, did anything particularly... rash."

Mr. Shido yawned, stretching his arms before going up towards the front of the bus... If he really stayed sleepless all night, then that can definitely explain why he was so drowsy when I saw him the moment I woke up.

I see him suddenly stopping though, right by my bus seat.

"Oh, and Ozaki-kun? A word few more words I could have with you?"

The teacher gestures up towards front of the bus, meaning he wants to talk a relative distance away from everyone else. What's with all the secrecy now? Eh, like I really care. I nod my head and follow Shido up towards the driver's seat. He sits down, getting himself comfortable so that he can take a long, well-deserved nap. I nervously look around, waiting for the guy to reply. Good lord, it's just like when you're in class, and the teacher calls you up to the front of the room... I'm feeling that exact same feeling right now.

"I know of your little... infatuation with one of my star pupils, Fumiko Kawamura."

I nearly choke on my own spit upon hearing those plain and simple words.

"You're awfully blunt, aren't you Sensei?"

He shrugs his shoulders nonchalantly.

"Yes, well I know my students quite well, Ozaki-kun. And Kawamura-san is no exception. You however, I do not have to pleasure of knowing quite well. So, I must admit, the question of your trustworthiness in this group has come up within my mind a few times."

I feel a pang of uncertainty upon hearing those words. I bead of sweat drops alongside my face. Does he not trust me? What the hell does this mean?

"What, you still don't trust me, after everything I've done? I busted my ass trying to find your classroom after hearing you had survivors, and I even helped get all those supplies from last night. I'd think that serves as proof of my trustworthiness."

"Do not get me wrong, Ozaki-kun. I've grown to see that you have quite a strong moral character right now. Kawamura-san supplements this information with the splendid words she's used in describing you during class. She holds you in quite high regards, you know."

I look at the teacher a bit quizzically. Scratching my head, I feel as though I need to finally sate my curiosity.

"What things has she been saying about me? Some people here from your class act as though they already know me, because they've 'heard about me.' Does she really talk about me that often?"

Mr. Shido laughs a bit, leaning his chair a bit back, while resting his feet atop the bus's steering wheel. Good thing the vehicle wasn't moving or anything right now.

"She mentions you sometimes, though most of what's known comes from her chats with her friend, Momo Ishihara. I trust you are acquainted with her, already? Those two girls don't seem to have a habit of keeping their voices down when discussing gossip. So when they occasionally talk about a certain named Toshio Ozaki, it hardly stays for their ears alone."

Momo and Fumiko talk about me sometimes, huh? I get the feeling Momo badmouths me behind my back. She and I don't necessarily like each other, admittedly. In fact, ever since Fumiko and I reunited when we turned high-schoolers, Momo's kinda been the main reason Fumiko's drifted from me. Do I needlessly cast blame on Momo? Maybe. I don't have any proof. But sometimes I get the impression she's trying to separate me from Fumiko. Some moments in the past being more... explicit than others in that particular regard.

Maybe now I'll finally be less in the dark.

"What have they said?"

"Oh, all sorts of things. Things from you being noble, caring, kind, to other things like you being clingy, jealous, and having the tenacities of a rather aggressive delinquent."

It was pretty obvious to me as to who was saying what. At least I hoped it was as obvious as I was interpreting this. The thought of Fumiko badmouthing me simply... didn't seem feasible, in my mind.

"Well... that's... good to know, I guess..."

I mutter that sentence out a bit halfheartedly. I'll admit, my spirits are slightly down right now.

"Oh no, don't take it the wrong way. In fact, regardless of what anyone might say, Kawamura-san does care about you... which is why I wish to help you out a bit."

"What?"

Mr. Shido smirked a bit. His tired eyes did little to hide his amusement. He really likes messing with me, doesn't he? I can't tell if he's a really good, lighthearted person or just a manipulative bastard. Am I even being manipulated right now? Is that what he wants me to think?

Oh for fuck's sake, look at me, I'm turning into a paranoid freak. Sooner or later I'll end up like Kurokami or something.

"That's right. I want to help you. It'll be subtle, don't worry. I won't embarrass you or anything. But... I'll occasionally throw in some influence to... gradually get you two to regain your spark. From what I understand the two of you were quite inseparable when you were younger."

I look at him dumbfoundedly.

"What's the catch? Why are you doing this? What makes you give a damn about me? You already said earlier that you didn't trust me..."

"Did I say that? No, I certainly do trust you, Ozaki-kun. I'm simply uncertain of how much I could trust you. I know everyone here on this bus well enough. But not you... I know your main motivation for staying here is the girl. I can tell. But... I don't know whether some outside influence would come in to sweep you out from this little family we've got here. Tell me, have you ever fancied the thought of leaving this group, Ozaki-kun?"

His question drills through me like sword. For some reason I expect that he's being extremely analytical of me right now, and my answer might carry a hell of a lot more weight than I realize. He's not considering to throw me out, is he?

"No sir, I don't have a deathwish."

I realize that the answer to that question was said almost immediately after the question. So much for avoiding suspicion... The answer was half-true, anyway. To be honest, I remember the gang that left us earlier. Busujima-senpai. Hirano. Shizuka-sensei. And bitch-Takagi, whom I'm now wondering is even getting along with her friends (if they're still alive, of course). But knowing those first two, I wondered what kind of adventures they might've gotten themselves into. It doesn't help that Saeko is a bokken-wielding hottie and the thought of her kicking ass in this apocalypse was certainly enticing. Nothing I'd want to die over just to see though. I legitimately felt that staying on this bus was more practical for survival. Plus, what kind of guy would I be if I left Fumiko?

Mr. Shido looks at me with a gaze that seems to be going in my head and stealing my thoughts. It's come to my attention now that lying to Shido in the future would not be a good idea.

"Hmm. Very well... I knew that you were much more sensible than those who had already left our company. But... say that you were willing to leave for some reason. I simply want extra assurance that you don't leave us. You're a good friend, Ozaki-kun. You're gaining the acceptance and trust of others here in my class. And your skills in survival are a bit more refined than others, as far as I can tell... Don't think you're not important to this family, Ozaki-kun."

I finally get to see where Shido is going with all of this information.

"So if you and Kawamura-san... maybe had your friendship strengthened... it could motivate you a bit more than usual to stay with us. Perhaps this friendship becomes more? Who knows. I'll leave that to you two's discretion. How about it, Ozaki-kun? What have you got to lose?"

I honestly don't believe the words I'm hearing right now... is this a spring of good luck, or what? Honestly, it feels weird and intruding that Shido's involving himself in my personal affairs like this, but... I won't shoo him away. And if this really does work out, maybe I'll ironically find myself more trusting of Shido himself. It's weird. Mostly, if you ever read a manga or story of some kind, teachers intervening in student relationships usually lead to embarrassing ends.

What have you got to lose?

His words echo in my mind a bit.

"Okay, Shido-sensei. I won't turn down the offer, but really, I think you worry too much. I have no intention of leaving this group, and I doubt I will."

Shido smiles a bit before closing his eyes and getting a bit more comfortable in his chair.

"That's what I like to hear. Now if you don't mind, I've stayed up quite longer than I intended... your leader needs rest if he's able to function, as you understand... so run along now."

He shoos me away with a hand, as he tries to lay back in his stubbornly upright chair and sleep.

Well... that's that.

Again, I still want to kick my own ass over this though. I will never admit Kurokami has the right idea about the way this apocalypse should work, but... in a country full of undeath, chaos, and societies falling apart, the biggest issue that stays on my mind is the uncertainty of winning over a girl. Maybe I shouldn't be too hard on myself though. With the exception of being outside for a crazy night, this bus is... strangely detached from the happenings of the world around it. Everyone's... relatively normal. On the outside, anyway. I can't help but feel it's what's keeping us largely sane around here. We'd be much worse without this kind of environment, at least I think so. Just another thing to thank our "glorious leader" for, anyway. Fumiko seems normal enough, and whatever impact this disaster had on her personality and psyche seems rather... minimal.

And speak-of-the-angel, there is she is. I catch her talking to Momo and making gestures towards the back of the bus, where about half of this bus's population resides. Ironically a place where some people might want to be isolated. Their expressions were hardly of those a gossiper would wear, and they seemed genuinely concerned about something. Given the fact that I don't see that too often, their topic might be important.

Before I do anything, I take care to button up my jacket all the way and make the collar cover up some of the bruise on my neck; you can still see it just a tad, but it's a hell of a lot less conspicuous, something that the girls probably won't question. I walk over, pretending that I'm not walking towards them intentionally, but rather going towards a seat that happens to be around their general direction. I can't tell whether my half-assed move worked or not, but I grab both the girls' attentions as they gesture for me to come over. Both of them. That was a tad strange... Momo hardly ever welcomed my presence.

I sat down on a bus seat right behind theirs. The two girls looked over their shoulders as they greeted me with a wave and smiles.

"What were you talking to Sensei about, Ozaki?"

Momo immediately askes her question. Fumiko looked like she was beaten in terms of asking the question first, as she also seemed curious over my earlier conversation. I suppress the urge to nervously laugh as I try to come up with a bullshit response that sounds believable.

"He wanted to know of my trustworthiness and whether or not I could be depended on in case we need to resupply. More work for me next time, I guess. Last night was a complete hell... what much I can remember, anyway."

Which was pretty much everything up until I walked in the bus after getting the supplies. I bet I wouldn't mind forgetting about the shit I had to go through to get all that stuff though.

"Yeah, I heard you really busted ass out there, Ozaki. Thanks... I say thanks to you, because you're less of a weirdo than those two other guys."

Momo's somewhat kind words were definitely odd, but they were a bit nice to hear, admittedly. It makes me wonder whether Fumiko had an influence in convincing her to say that to me. Is it bad that I always expect the worst out of this girl...?

"Thanks, Ishihara... that means more than you think, coming from you of all people."

"Yeah, yeah..."

She handwaves her comment. Aw, she really does care. I'll be sure to mess with her using this as ammo the next time I get the chance. If I remember this moment, anyway.

"Anyway Toshio, Momo and I were talking about that boy over there, Yamada-kun..."

Oh, Yamada. I look towards the back of the bus, and see that the poor guy's sorta just sitting by himself, isolated from the rest of the people near the back. I would normally find that to be pretty pathetic, if not for the fact that I don't blame him too much; while he's over there, he has to pick from either Yuuki, Tsunoda, or Kurokami to talk to. Not a pleasant trio. Still, he hasn't opted to move up towards the front half of the bus where me, Fumiko, and Momo frequent.

"What about him?"

"He's... always been a bit of a loner ever since we got on this bus. He's not vocal, and he doesn't seem to like to talk to people. Poor guy. Frankly, we're a bit worried about him. He's... sort of that outlier in this bus, you know? He doesn't do much."

Once again, Momo seems to interject and speak faster than Fumiko, explaining everything the latter wanted to say. In fact, Fumiko did about a pouting face towards her friend that looked really cute. Not that I'd let anyone know I thought that, anyway.

"Right... Anyway, as Momo and I were discussing, we wanted to help Yamada-kun get out of his shell a bit and become a bigger part of this group. He agreed to stay with us with Mr. Shido as the leader, but he doesn't seem to enthusiastic about anything. So could you be a nice guy, Toshio, and maybe talk to him?"

Fumiko says the rest of the story, though her eyes weren't looking at me; instead, they were directed towards Momo, silently scolding the redhead. I've never seen Fumiko like this. It was kinda funny seeing these looks on her face. And Momo of all people was provoking them. It must be a girl thing. Girls are certainly weird.

"Is that all...? Well, I guess I could that... Do you know anything about Yamada, though? I mean, he is your classmate after all."

Fumiko inquisitively place a hand on her chin. I could hear what sounded like her foot tapping while she pondered her thoughts.

"Well, Yamada-kun's always been a bit of a loner. Every day, he doesn't seem to much like talking to many people. Poor boy's always been labeled off as a bit shy, in my book."

Huh. Well that always makes things easier. I know I've talked to Yamada a couple times, but I wasn't looking out to actually make friends with the guy. And I maybe feel bad because I recall lashing out at him slightly, so I might've intimidated him. Still, I hate admitting he's the guy I'm probably the least acquainted with on the bus; that really says something, considering the fact that I'm probably better "friends" with Tsunoda and Kurokami, whom I kinda had plenty of time to acquaint myself with during our little escapade last night.

"I see... Well, I guess I'll go talk to the guy."

"Great! Tell us if you got through to that guy when you get back!"

Momo once again probably said something Fumiko wanted to say. I got up from my seat and started to head towards the back, but not before I hear Fumiko heave an aggravated sigh.

"Will you stop that?"

"What? You're the only one who can talk to Ozaki?"

"No, it's not that! It's... it's quite rude to interrupt people when they speak, isn't it?"

"Interrupt? I don't hear nothing from you. You're just a little slow speaking your mind, Dearie."

It's a damn shame those two eventually come out of earshot as I continue walking away from them; that was the healthiest dose of comedy I've heard since the outbreak happened. I can picture them having a possible catfight or a silly name-calling contest at each other. Girls are weird like that, right?

Eventually I come across Yamada, in the corner, at the furthest seat back. As if making it a nonchalant gesture, I casually take a spot on the seat right in front of him, not noting his presence or anything just yet.

Smooth.

Anyway, I turn around and look over my shoulder to finally talk to the guy.

"Y'know, you're not doing yourself any favors if you're off just making yourself scarce. Keep this up, Shido might do something stupid like kicking you out of the bus or something."

"W-what?"

I honestly wasn't expecting that reaction from Yamada. His eyes were wide, almost deathly afraid... He took me seriously, did he? Holy shit... I suppress the urge to laugh, but a bit of a smile manages to poke through.

"Hey, I'm kidding, I'm kidding! Just relax, I'm sure Shido wouldn't do something that drastic to you."

Yamada looked at me, still visibly shocked, but more relieved this time, as he breathed a bit easier than he did a few seconds ago.

"Don't scare me like that, man... but... why are you talking to me? Did you just come by to mess with me like the other guys?"

Other guys? I'm guessing he means the other people sitting in the back. Kurokami I don't see actively seeking to mess with people, but knowing them, Tsunoda and Yuuki seem to fit the description a bit better.

"Are they giving you shit about something?"

Yamada shrugged. His eyes trailed around a couple places, presumably towards some of the others on the bus, before turning his eyes away from me and towards the window.

"It's nothing they've never given me before this whole outbreak thing happened. I never really was the popular kid in class. I can handle them."

I didn't know how to quite react to that. Admittedly, I felt it was wrong to just leave the situation be. But I didn't know if I was up to do something about it, not now anyway. I mean, it added a bit of salt to that wound to think that Yamada expected as much from me. And still... I didn't want to tangle with Tsunoda and Yuuki, pissing them off was hardly viable. I wanted to minimize any confrontation with them. In any case, I had to try and make Yamada feel better about himself or something. The girls asked me to, and I felt their hearts were in the right place. Plus him not being a real member of this "family" Mr. Shido made might cause problems later in the future.

"If you say so, Yamada... but... don't think you're alone in all this. I mean, you see those two girls up there? They were concerned about you. Hell, now I've gotten concerned about you. Being a loner's not healthy, man."

Yamada looked at me somewhat surprised. His eyes nervously darted towards the ground, before he closed them trying to contemplate his thoughts. A few awkward moments of silence later, he opens his eyes and lets out a sigh.

"I... appreciate that. Thank you. For me, it's usually not that hard for me to make friends, but given the current situation... with us being on this bus, Shido saying we're a family now... and the weird people we're all stuck with... it's a bit much to take in, you know?"

"Yeah, perfectly sensible. I hear you... On the bright side, if it makes you rest easier, I can tell you that not all the students on this bus are a bunch of freaks. Like me, and the girls up there, I guess."

The brown-haired kid nodded his head, noting my concern, but at the same time I felt like he wasn't going to be in a mood to chat with any of us any time soon.

After a few moments, I become pissed to realize me and him are silent and aren't talking about anything. I need something to keep the conversation flowing. I realize right now, that getting a shy kid to talk to people more isn't really going to be easy. I try to think of something maybe the two of us can relate on.

"So, how were you this morning? My head was kinda aching a bit, but the hangover's subsided by now. I'm betting last night was the first time you tasted alcohol, huh?"

"Shido-sensei was lying..."

Well... that was unexpected. Open up with one topic, and then he changes the subject entirely.

"What?"

"Shido-sensei... he was lying about what went on last night."

I get the feeling that even though Shido is on the complete opposite side of the bus, and is sleeping no less, he might offhandedly hear Yamada saying ill of him. Even if he doesn't saying such a thing out loud to the others might not be the best thing.

"What the hell are you talking about?"

I ask him in a hushed voice, hoping he'd get the picture to not raise his damn voice.

"Well... Shido wasn't completely lying, but... he was embellishing a bit. When he said people got drunk last night, he was making everything they did last night out to sound worse than what actually happened. I mean, he made people think they were screwing last night, most people actually just passed out after they got drunk."

"How the hell do you know this? Weren't you drunk too?"

"I... uh, no... I didn't want to. And last night... Shido was the one who actually offered everyone drinks. It wasn't Tsunoda, like he said. Shido goaded everyone until they drank some of the stuff you guys brought last night... I guess he thought everyone accepted his offers. I didn't."

"Why the hell would he do that?"

"I don't know... it's... weird, but since everyone was okay with Shido-sensei during his little speech earlier about doing what we want, I didn't want to break the mood and say something. Someone might've gotten angry with me. I guess last night truly didn't happen, huh?"

Well... damn. Evidently, Shido got the class drunk. Why? I have no fucking clue. Make himself look good or something? I don't know. That seemed... off. But if Yamada's to be believed, Shido essentially cast blame on Tsunoda for this weird night we all had. This odd turn of events certainly makes Shido seem like a... much more strange figure than I had pictured him before. I'll be more wary, but that in no way means I'm ready to leave the bus or anything.

I guess I'll need to focus on lighter manners...

Hey... since Yamada was sober last night, does that mean he saw what happened with most of us?

"Yamada, you said you were sober and saw everything that happened last night, right?"

"Most of it. I had to wait for some people to quiet down before I could fall asleep."

"Right then... so, how'd my jacket end up on Fumiko? Did I become some kinda drunken gentleman when she fell asleep?"

"Um... No... Mr. Shido actually did that. He took your jacket off of you while you were sleeping and he put it over her. He cares about his star-students, I guess?"

Well now, a little bit of my hopes are crushed at this moment. I guess I'm not a noble drunk after all. I'm just a normal drunk. Not like that means much or anything. Again though, it makes me recall Shido's earlier talk of helping me out with Fumiko. Was that his attempt so that when she woke up, I would look good? It makes some sense. Wow, Shido trying to make me look good... that's certainly something. Too bad when she woke up, Fumiko didn't know what the hell was going on and I took my jacket back before she could appreciate the "kind gesture", so to speak.

That brings me to my second question: Who the hell gave me this hickey? I'd be kinda stupidly happy if it was Fumiko after all. Anyone else, I'd be dreading it.

"Oh, and... do you know who gave me this, Yamada?"

I undid the first few buttons of my jacket and moved the collar away from my neck so he could see the hickey. Yamada looked at it for a few moments trying to figure out what it was, before he let out an "Oh!" and nodded. He looked a bit astonished, really. And I couldn't tell if that was good or bad astonishment.

"Yeah... uh, that was... really something last night. Who'd have thought you used to date Yuuki Miku?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Yuuki gave that to you last night... both of you were still pretty drunk, and both of you were pretty much the last people awake before you passed out. She kept saying stuff about the "good old days" between you and her or something. You shooed her away a bunch of times, but eventually you just gave up and made out with her."

I gag on my own spit. I gag to the point where it hurts. Then it almost looks like I'm deathly choking on something, so Yamada starts to have a minor freak-out before I gesture to him that I'm fine. Even though I'm not.

The fact I touched Yuuki in any affectionate way again disgusted me... Dating her was an impulsive, emotional thing. And since the day we left each other, I've set my standards way higher than to just whores.

"You're right. Last night never truly did happen."

Yamada looks at me curiously, before actually letting out a laugh... Hey, I made him laugh. That's a good sign, right?

"Well, I guess so..."

Over by the front of the bus, I can see Fumiko and Momo beckoning me back over, as if to hear of my progress in getting through to Yamada. There's a few more questions I'd want to ask, but at least I got the biggest ones in my mind answered already. For now though, there was one more thing I wanted to address before I left.

"Hey, Yamada... so... you kind of know what... really goes on here, right? Like when Shido... wasn't completely honest?"

"Yeah?"

"Could you... maybe tell me whenever he does something like that? Some people might not like that bit of info you might tell them, but I think it's good if I know..."

The brown-haired kid looked at me a bit uncertainly. He placed a hand on his face, thinking, before nodding his head.

"Alright... it'll be good to talk to someone then. We can talk about other stuff, right?"

"Sure. Whatever the hell you want."

"Does... does that mean we're friends now?"

Ever since this bus, the word "friend" has taken a skewed meaning. I'm friends with Fumiko, yes. But I think I'm technically also friends with people like Tsunoda and Kurokami. So it was weird thinking about how broad that word can be passed around.

"Yeah, sure. Anyway, so long, Yamada."

I smile and nod, as I get up from my chair and move along. Admitting friendships like in the manner I did was... awfully awkward, but I'm honestly a bit more accepting and comfortable about a friendship with Yamada than the other two boys. Maybe I'll have to defer to Yamada whenever something's up around here...

In the end, this morning... pretty damn weird. And to be honest, that god damn headache of mine from this moment still lingers in my mind just a bit to piss me off. I almost stumble for a moment on my way back to the girls, causing an embarassment to myself and the rest of the peers who happen to catch notice of this.

I dearly, dearly hope that we don't have another drinking endeavor again. Shido better not cause another ruckus. Back when I got drunk the first time back in Tokonosu Academy, one of my teachers caught on that I had gotten drunk last night, but he was a cool enough guy to let me off the hook. The one thing I remember him saying to me though, is:

"First the man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes the man."

True story, right there.