Chapter Fifty-Three: School Days

(Five years later)

"All right class, it's time for show and tell," Maruyama- Sensei said to her first-grade class. The teacher smiled as she saw the student's faces light up and they eagerly reached into their desks to pull out their own special treasures. It was always the highlight of their Friday afternoons.

"Who wants to go first?" She asked, but she wasn't surprised in the least when a familiar voice piped up rather loudly.

"I wanna go! I wanna go!" Onodera Masako said, squirming in her desk excitedly.

"No fair!" Another student piped up. "You always go first."

"Because I always have the best stuff," She snorted.

"Onodera-chan! It's not nice to boast." Maruyama scolded. "And if you keep up that attitude you're going to be joining your sister in the principal's office."

Masako reluctantly slunk down in her chair, knowing the threat was not idle. Show and tell began and Masako watched silently, if impatiently, until it was her turn to go. And when the sensei called her name, she practically bounded up to the front, holding a picture frame.

"My Papa gave this to me to take today," Masako said proudly. "It a picture he got from Takai Yui-sensei! She wrote my favorite manga series Pink Magical Girl!"

"Whoa!" A student exclaimed. "Can I see?!"

Soon hands were up all around the room wanting to see Masako's treasure, and it took Maruyama sensei several moments to calm them down.

"Everyone will be able to see it after class. But right now we have one more person who needs to present. Araki-chan, are you ready to go?"

Maruyama sensei couldn't help but smiled as she looked over at Atsushi, who was shying away from going up in front of the class. But after a few seconds, he took Masako's place besides the teacher's desk and reluctantly gave her several photographs. Maruyama was surprised, considering the majority of Atsushi's show and tell presentations were drawings that he had done. But as she glanced at the pictures, she smiled.

"Well class," she said. "It looks like Araki-chan has a new puppy. Can you tell us about it?"

Atsushi looked down at his shoes and quietly spoke.

"Her name is Kounotori, but we call her Kou-chan. She's a golden retriever. My godmom Ren-chan got her for me since our old dog Steve went to go live on a farm in the country."

Familiar with the euphemism "going to live on a farm in the country," Maruyama sensei kept a straight face and allowed the pictures to be distributed for the class to see. Needless to say the other students were quite jealous of the curly, golden puppy, especially Masako.

"I wish we had a puppy," she piped up to Atsushi. "But we have a kitty instead. Papa says Daddy is afraid of dogs but he told us not to say anything."

Atsushi stared blankly at her before taking his photographs back from the teacher and going back to his desk. Just then the bell rang and the children began pack up to go home. Maruyama-sensei went to stand by the door and wait for her student's parents, and when she saw one coming down the hall, she knew exactly who it was.

"Maruyama-sensei," Araki Hisashi said as he approached. Maruyama resisted the urge to shake her head in amazement. Atsushi looked so much like his father it was unmistakable. Few people had curls like that.

"Araki-san, hello," she bowed back, before turning inside the room. "Atsushi-chan, your father is here."

Atsushi nodded mutely and grabbed his backpack, racing over till he was next to his dad and clinging to the end of Hisashi's sweater. Hisashi looked down and gently ran his fingers through his son's golden blond curls.

"Did you have a good day Shi-chan?"

Atsushi nodded again, hugging his dad's leg. Hisashi's brow furrowed in thought.

"Did anything happen today I should know about?" He said with concern.

"Oh there was an incident between one of our students and one from another class," Maruyama answered quietly. Hisashi instantly paled.

"It wasn't over—"

"Oh no! No. Not that." She replied, waving her hand. "They just got in a bit of a spat over the swings is all. No, everyone in Atsushi-chan's class has been just wonderful."

"That's a relief to hear. Well Atsushi, you ready to go see Papa and Ren-chan at work?"

The little blond replied quietly and reached his arms out so his dad could pick him up, however Hisashi breathed a sigh of exertion as he did so.

"You're getting too big for this," he smiled, rubbing his son's back as he walked down the hall and out of the school. Maruyama sighed peacefully as she watched them go. Atsushi's fathers were such nice men—not to mention good looking, and she was happy to have their son in her class. In fact she was happy to be at Hanakata Elementary period. Since the flu epidemic had first taken hold five years ago, it was hard to say how the children of such couples would be received by society. It was a mixed bowl of responses, but luckily there were a few shinning havens for them. Hanakata Elementary was a good school, but Maruyama thought its true beauty was the acceptance of the flu children and their parents' orientation. Very few schools were as kind, and Maruyama worried about what would happen to those poor children as they continued to grow, and whether they would keep finding that acceptance. But mostly, it was out of her hands, so she resigned to do her part of treating all the children equally and instilling in them kindness and empathy for others.

"But Kamijou-chan started it!"

Even if some of her students were bent on sticking to their stubborn ways.

Maruyama looked down the opposite direction of the hallway and saw Onodera Ritsuka heading towards the classroom with her father, who didn't look pleased.

"I don't care who started it, Ritsuka," Onodera chided. "Fighting is never acceptable no matter the circumstance. We're going to talk about this when we get home tonight.

"Hello sensei," Ritsu said as they came to the classroom door. He gave her a short bow. "Please forgive Ritsuka for disturbing your class today. I hope it wasn't too much trouble for you."

"Ah, children will be children sometimes, Onodera-san, whether we want them to or not," Maruyama replied humbly as Masako came bounding to the door.

"Daddy! Daddy!" She chirped. "I had the best thing for show and tell today out of everyone! Well, except for Araki-chan's puppy—but lots of them liked my picture too!"

"That's nice Ko-chan," Ritsu said as Masako bounced about. But the peace was short lived when Ritsuka demanded that she get to hold the picture now since Masako got to present it, thus leading to a sister squabble. Ritsu interceded quickly and took the picture from them both.

"No one gets to hold the picture if you two are going to fight about it," he said sternly. At this prospect, the girls quieted down a bit, but shot each other pouty glares when they thought their father wasn't looking.

"Thank you again Sensei," Ritsu said, bowing to Maruyama. "We will see you on Monday. Come on girls."

Ritsuka and Masako each took one of their father's hands and followed him out of the school and over to Takano's car. And the girls were happily surprised to see their other father in the driver's seat.

"Papa!" They squealed as he got out of the car. Both of them rushed forward and nearly knocked Takano off his feet as they grabbed him.

"Did you bring us more books Papa?! Did you?!" Masako chimed. Takano smiled down at his twins and nodded.

"Yep, we can read them tonight at bedtime. Now into the car girls, Papa and Daddy have to get back to the grindstone."

The two girls exchanged quizzical glance over the word 'grindstone' before climbing into the back of the car and into their seats. Ritsu got in the passenger's side and when the car started moving, he turned to look back at Ritsuka.

"Tsu-chan, is there something you want to tell your father about what happened today?"


"Tell me what?" Takano asked.

"Ritsuka got into a fight again," Ritsu informed him. "With the same student."

"Really…who won?"

"I did," Ritsuka chimed. "Even though she's bigger than me."

"Masamune!" Ritsu exclaimed. "How can you even ask such a question?! Fighting is not something we want to encourage."

"Oh come on Mommy, we fight at our jobs on a daily basis. How can you say a little competition isn't healthy?"

"Competition and fighting are completely different things!" Ritsu retorted. "And what have I told you about calling me 'Mommy?'"

"You didn't seem to mind it last night….just like I didn't mind being called 'Sempai.'"

"MASAMUNE!" Ritsu yelled, blushing furiously. "Not in front of the children!"

But Takano only smiled as he kept driving, enjoying the star-studded daily chaos of his family as he drove them back to Marukawa.

Here's a treat for all you wonderful reviewers :) a freaking fast update! I swear this chapter wrote itself...

Ricchan14, hiyokocchi, nekocandy4life, Just a Fan, loopyhutton, Annalisse Rubisher, Vincent Claudius, SaySaeri, sora yagami 4869, TheRavenousRaven, gothpandaotaku, puppyfacetwo, meggels, Master Null, sunset siren curse, starrynight1987, Shidou, Pyqa fangirl, Kiyame Hikari-chan, and my wonderful muse Cerberus - THANK YOU for all your wonderful reviews! You guys are so awesome ^_^ and a special thank you to those who subscribed to my FictionPress account as well (see previous chapter for details).

We will continue our trip to Marukawa and see how much our parents have changed (or not changed) next. Stay tuned!