THE GHOST OF HAMLET

Chapter 1

The First Day Blues


'You might want to stop pacing before you wear a hole into my carpet,' Kouji said flatly, before smirking. 'Nervous?'

Kouichi shot him a glare before giving up and plopping onto the bed beside his brother. 'Why do you have to get up so early?' he complained instead, despite showing no traces of having being awoken from a deep and comfortable sleep. 'Now I have to wait for another two hours for school to start.'

'It'll pass before you know it,' the younger twin said knowledgably. 'You wouldn't want to be rushing. Besides, the first day's not all that bad.'

'Says the guy who's been to eight schools in the past eleven years,' the elder quipped.

'Preschool does not count,' the other shot back immediately, before frowning. 'Hang on, you didn't count pre-school.'

Kouichi counted mentally again. 'We've just started eleventh grade, so including only elementary school and past we're in our twelfth year of school. So yeah, eleven years.'

'I went to eight different schools?' When it was put that way, it certainly sounded like a lit. He and his father had moved around too much when he was back in elementary school. It just so happened though that Kousei had been promoted prior to his twelfth birthday, and one of the perks was a permanent, non-moving desk job. Of course, then Kouji had completed his last year of elementary school that year and entered into junior high following, and then into senior high. 'Yeah, eight school. Sure sounds like a lot, but you've only half that. And it's only just over a week in. At least you won't have to synchronise a semester's worth of study.'

'That's true, but it's still a week and a half behind everyone else.'

Kouji leaned back a bit. 'You shouldn't have a problem catching up.'

'I'm more concerned at being in the centre of attention. How many new kids do you get in the eleventh grade?'

The younger twin thought for a moment. There had only been two or three new faces he had noticed in the assembly on the first day of term, and he said as much.

Kouichi said nothing in reply.

'At least you don't have to worry about making friends,' his brother pointed out. 'You've got me, Takuya, Izumi and Junpei.'

The elder twin smiled, before flopping completely. 'That's true,' he admitted. 'And you have been through this more times than I have, but none of that helps the fact that I'm still nervous.

'Well, in another eight hours, it'll be all over,' Kouji encouraged. 'And then I get to exert my sibling privileges and tease you relentlessly.'

'You will not,' Kouichi exclaimed, shooting back up. 'That's not fair.'

'Life isn't fair dear brother,' the other smirked, sliding off his bed. 'I can't help but tease you when you look so cute.'

'We're sixteen and you call me cute?'

'I can't help it if that's the truth Ni-san – oof.' The breath was suddenly knocked out of him by a well-aimed pillow.

Kouichi rolled off the bed, picking his new school uniform out from where he had hung it in Kouji's closet, then the other stuff which he had piled on top of his back (the overnight bag, not his backpack) so he didn't have to rush frantically in search for them when plagued with the new boy jitters. 'Might as well hop into the shower.'

'But I was going into the shower.'

'You'll have to catch me then,' the other challenged, racing for the bathroom with his things.

With a faux growl, Kouji pushed himself off the floor and raced after his brother, eventually catching him against the translucent shower screen.

'I blame the closed door,' Kouichi said breathlessly, one hand stopping his pile from sliding to the ground and the other pinned behind him.

'Caught you anyway,' the other muck-growled. 'Surrender?'

'Nope.' The elder twin struggled uselessly, but the martial-artist had a strong grip. 'Can I put my stuff down first?'

'Oh, all right.' Kouji relented, releasing the other's arm as he set his pile down carefully...then dashed into the shower and closed the door before the former could react again. 'Hey!'

'Hey yourself,' his brother's slightly muffled voice shot back, along with the white pyjama top dangling, half draped over the screen. The navy blue pants jointed them after another few seconds. 'I'm enjoying the hot water. The tap went on halfway through his sentence, drowning out the last words.

'Why?' Kouji asked dryly. 'Anticipating that I'll come over this afternoon and use up all yours?'

'Can't,' came the drenched reply, sounding too amused. 'Don't have any yet.'

Ooh, whoever said his brother was quiet and angelic...

'You planned this,' the younger twin accused, crossing his arms.

'Nope. Spur on the moment.'

There was a bit of silence after that, except for the fountain of water bouncing off tile and body and floor.

'Don't use up all the hot water.'

'Would I do that?' Kouichi shot back rhetorically, amidst the stream of water behind the screen that suddenly ceased mid-sentence as the taps were turned off.

'You done already?' Kouji asked. Normally his brother took a little longer, though he was still faster than the younger twin.

'It's not like I washed my hair,' the elder twin replied, poking his head around the door. The sound of plastic scrunching accompanied him. 'It would never dry.' A pause, then: 'Do you mind leaving?'

'Umm...why?' The younger twin blinked as Kouichi quickly ducked his head in, before it clicked and he smirked. 'C'mon Ni-san. There isn't anything there I haven't already seen.'

No answer, but he got the distinct impression that the other was blushing like crazy. Fortunately for Kouichi though, their father poked his head through the bathroom door at that point.

'Kouji, make your bed and let your brother dress in peace,' he said before leaving as abruptly as he came.

'But-' the addressed began, before getting a towel thrown in his face.

Getting the towel off his face turned out to be just a tad harder than getting it on, for the simple reason that it was wet. So by the time he was able to fit it off, Kouichi had swiped the shirt and slacks of his uniform and everything that went underneath and slipped into them. He let go of the second last button to catch the towel on its return trip before squeezing it next to his brother's on the rack.

'How do you do it?' Kouji grumbled.

'Because you let me,' the elder twin smiled, doing up the last two buttons before fixing the cuffs. When he looked at the tie though, the nervousness that had temporarily vanished returned full force. 'How are we getting to school?' he asked, fumbling with the tie, undoing it when it became a mess and succeeding on the second try.

'Takuya's driving us,' the younger twin replied as the other took his blazer, the last thing, off the hanger. Said hanger clattered to the tiled floor as the reply processed.

'No, absolutely not,' Kouichi responded, once he regained the voice that had taken a temporary leave of absence.

A little startled by the other's vehemence (Kouichi rarely came out that strongly about anything), it took a full minute before he recalled the factor behind it. 'Oh, right. You don't like cars.' He paused for a moment. 'You dealt with it from Kyoto.'

'Kinda had to,' he responded, slipping his arms through the sleeves of the blazer and smoothing out the shoulder pads. New blazers always did that. 'You said the school's close enough to walk.'

'It is,' the other admitted. 'And we do normally walk, but Shinya needs to drag some gigantic poster board to his school and practically begged Takuya to drive him. Knowing him though, he'll wind up being late, but knowing we're waiting speeds him up a little.'

The elder twin was inwardly relieved at that...before the last part registered. For some reason, cars had always unnerved him. They didn't run as smoothly as the trains and buses he frequented when he couldn't quite make the travel on foot, and there was something about the box on wheels that made it seem more claustrophobic than being squished in a mob of people. Maybe it was because he was far more used to the latter than the former.

'Guess I forgot.' Kouji tangled his fingers into his braid a little uncomfortably. 'Actually, I never told him you're starting today.' He glanced at the other as he frowned critically at his reflection. 'What is it?'

'Why does the new uniform have to be black?' He grimaced at the cliché, before shrugging as he deemed himself presentable and tackled his hair with a comb instead. Normally he skipped the mirror check, but it was the first time he'd worn the entire new school uniform and he was slightly anxious to see how it looked. It was a shame they'd picked the day before to paint his room, otherwise Tomoko would have gotten her first glimpse as well. As it was, she was busy with something or other that had to do with moving into a newly built apartment that still had to get some of its services connected.

Kouji chuckled at his brother's chagrin at the colour black before returning to the previous topic. 'As far as the others are concerned, you're starting on Monday.'

Kouichi's reflection blinked at him. 'Why is that?' he asked. The entire gang had appeared on his new doorstep before even he had.

'A preconception I deemed unfit to correct,' the other responded. 'Why don't you walk with Izumi? She doesn't trust Takuya's driving either.'

'It's not the driving.' But it was a good all-rounded solution.

'You know, you're being unusually picky today,' Kouji commented after the silence stretched while the other combed the tangles out of his hair and got it to lie relatively flat. At least it wasn't sticking in all directions anymore which was a marked improvement.

Kouichi took a deep breath. 'Sorry,' he apologised. 'I guess I become a bit impossible when I'm just nervous.'

'No,' the other countered, folding his arms. 'You become a bit more normal when you're nervous.'

Kouichi decided to ignore that statement. 'You want your shower?' he asked instead. 'You spend all that time complaining I got in before you and you're still not ready?'

'Yeah, well…' Kouji scratched his head.

It didn't take long to click. 'And you say I did it on purpose?' the other asked rhetorically, and returning to his brother's bedroom to hang the hanger back in the closet.

'Don't deny you needed it,' the younger twin shot back, fixing the covers on his bed in record time. Well, it was his bed, so he would be faster.

'You know, you could have let me do that.'

'And get 'tou-san to tell me off? No thanks.' A pause, then: 'There. Done.'

Stepping back from the bed, he went about collecting his various items. The uniform especially had spread itself about the room, as had his books.

'Don't bother,' he said quickly, seeing his brother about to help. 'I know where everything is.'

'True enough,' Kouichi replied, relenting. He didn't understand how the other managed to survive in such a messy room. Except when he cleaned it of course…not that it lasted too long, unless he was moping inside it. Tended to stay clean during mopes for some reason.

True to his word, it didn't take too long for Kouji to track down everything.

'Just go eat breakfast,' he sighed, exasperated once he emerged with the last book and found his brother still staring. At least he hadn't started his pacing again. 'You take more than twice as long as I do.'

'Oh, right.' That was true, although bluntly put. But Kouji had a habit of doing that.


Once Kouji made it down to breakfast, Satomi and Kousei were both off the table, but true to his assumption, Kouichi was still eating. Actually, he was semi-picking, a sure sign of butterflies, though he had managed to clear up most of his plate, probably thanks to Satomi.

'Your food's getting cold,' she called as the other twin came down the stairs.

'In a minute Satomi,' he replied. 'I just need to make a phone call.

'Oh, all right. Just hurry up.'

He did. Thankfully Izumi didn't chatter on the phone half as much as most girls (whom he normally hung up on), so it wasn't long before he was digging into his plate and bowl, just as the other finished up (finally, it was longer than he usually took and that was saying something) and took his dishes up to their stepmother.

'Thank you Kouichi.' She smiled. 'Got everything.'

Kouichi nodded. 'I think so.'

'Books? Pencils? Your lunch? Oh, that's right.' She pointed at two identical bento boxes. 'Lunch. And not a word,' she added sternly, before smiling at Kouji as he handed his dishes over. 'You're up extra early.'

Kouichi stared at him.

'What?' the younger twin asked. 'Aren't I allowed to wake up early?'

'Sure,' the elder replied, feeling nerves creeping back in…again. 'But what are we going to do for the next hour?'

'Try the next twenty minutes Ni-san,' the other said calmly. 'You need to get there early so you don't wind up missing first period.'

'But they said on the letter to be there by homeroom.'

'That's so you miss part of first period,' said the one more experienced at changing schools. 'They always do that.'

'If you say so Kouji. Hey, you guys could give me a tour.'

'You mean Izumi can give you a tour,' the other corrected as the doorbell rang. 'Huh? That was fast.' The twins headed for the door to let her in. 'Anyway, knowing Takuya we'll cut it pretty fine, even if we do take the car.'

'That's because you squeeze in a few games at the arcade,' the blonde herself pointed out, as Kouji unlocked the door and let her in. She did a double-take though at Kouichi in his new uniform. 'You're starting school today?'

Kouichi nodded.

'Heh, should have known. You're not the type to sit around and let yourself get more behind.' She grinned at him, before turning to his brother. 'So you're waiting for Takuya?'

Kouji nodded. 'At least we make it on time.'

'True,' she agreed. 'He bumps into Teppei alone and they'd go through second period before they realise they're late.' She paused as no-one moved. 'It's rude to leave a lady standing in the hallway, you know.'

Both twins moved aside and let her in, and she slipped her black uniform shoes off on the mat, before smoothing out her black tartan skirt and matching fuku tup. Underneath the skirt she had black tights. 'I can't wait for June,' she muttered, looking down at herself. 'Then there's a little more white in the uniform.' She was, of course, referring to the winter version in comparison to the lighter skirt and white blouse and tie for the girls, and lighter slacks and lack of blazer for the boys. 'Would it kill them to put some colour in it though?'

'My old uniform was maroon,' Kouichi laughed. 'Clashed horribly with my eyes.'

'Never saw it,' the blonde shrugged. 'But I doubt it would look bad on me.' She looked at her wristwatch. 'Should we go now? I better show you where the buildings are otherwise you'll never make it to your classes.'

'Relax,' Kouji said immediately, patting his brother on the back a little too firmly. 'It'll be fine.'

'No worries,' Izumi continued, catching on. 'You've got friends, so that's the main problem out of the way. Three chances out of four you've got someone you know in your class anyway. Kouji and Takuya are in the same class, then there's me and Teruo, and Chiaki's in another. So the odds are all for you.' She paused for breath. 'Oh come on.' She promptly grabbed Kouichi's wrist and dragged him out the door.

'Bye,' she called loudly, and the other mirrored her in his own, quieter and more sombre way.


'Okay,' Izumi said breathlessly. 'I think that's it.'

'Somehow it didn't look this big three days ago,' Kouichi muttered, looking at the school-grounds which was rather bigger than his old school and looking bigger still.

'It'll shrink once you get to know it,' the female placated, waving at a few girls who waved back. 'Come on, I'll introduce you to my girl-friends and drop you off at the office.'

'Ooh, who's this?' a brunette asked.

'Kimura Kouichi,' Izumi replied immediately. 'New student.'

They suddenly burst into questions, until the blonde stopped them.

'Hold it,' she yelled, a little loudly. 'Let the guy get his timetable before you try stalking him.'

'Stalking?' Kouichi repeated, once the girls went off in their own direction and the pair in another.

'You know,' the other replied, sounding amused. 'Fan girl situation.' She grinned almost devilishly. 'Let's see you handle it better than Kouji. Good luck.' The bell rang at that point, just as they arrived at the office. 'Oh man.'

She hung around for a bit anyway.

'I think I'm capable of knocking on a door on my own,' Kouichi supplied, once it stretched a little too long. 'But thanks.'

'No problem.' She grinned again before leaving. 'I'll keep my fingers crossed. Both hands.'

'Isn't both hands bad luck?' the boy wondered aloud, but she was out of earshot by then. So he did the only thing he could. Knock on the door.

'Come in,' a female voice said.

He did so, opening the door and resisting the nerve to bite his lip as a nervous reflex.

'Ah.' A woman straightened out from behind the desk. 'You must be Kimura Kouichi. I've got your schedule ready. I'll explain a few school rules to you and get you to fill these out...'

She handed him the papers and a pen, then quickly and briskly went through the rules, which he was grateful for. He'd probably get more nervous if she dragged it on; he'd rather get the introductions over with as soon as possible and get into the studies. It was also minutely relaxing that she jumped straight into the necessary information; it kept his concentration.

He quickly read through the forms and scribbled his signature at the bottom along with the date and handed them back. The receptionist flicked through them, nodded, then handed the last sheets over. The schedule, along with a map of the campus…which would come in handy despite the tour.

'Homeroom starts at 8:45,' she continued to explain. 'And all students are expected to be punctual. Exceptions are made with an appropriate pass from here or if the student is new, so you'll be expected from tomorrow.' She looked down at the timetable she had printed. 'Your homeroom teacher will be Hayashi Kaede, room T10. The letter refers to the building name.' She spread out the map and pointed each building out. 'First period starts at nine. Periods last for fifty minutes. Lunch is after fifth period and lasts for half an hour, and after seventh period is your afternoon homeroom. School is dismissed at four except on Saturdays where homeroom is immediately following fifth period.'

Kouichi nodded. Most of the information was just to refresh his memory in any case, but he took care to listen in case he forgot something.

She paused, looking at him, and he carefully looked over his timetable. It was Thursday, so he started off with mathematics…oh good, he got into the advanced level, and then a double period of Ancient Japanese literature and a double of world history. A nicely spaced morning, all in all. Quickly, he skimmed over the rest of the schedule, checking to see which classes he had gotten into, either from previous reports and his application (seeing as the second and third years of senior high were quite individualised) or testing. There was English, also the advanced level, Modern Japanese, creative writing, ethics, art, home economics and PE, the last unfortunately compulsory. As students rotated through their schedules on alternating weeks, the classes nicely fit around each other…mostly. He'd rather not have PE for three periods on Monday mornings, but he supposed it could be worse.

'I'll show you to your locker and homeroom Kimura-kun,' the receptionist finished once she received a confirmation with the schedule.

That last part brought the butterflies into his stomach again.


A/N: In reference to the schooling, I did some research and filled in the rest of the gaps. It's true Japanese students do around 10 subjects at a time and have rotating timetables, but exactly how they rotate wasn't mentioned. So I just alternate the weeks, like we used to in primary school. PE is specified to be compulsory and for 3 periods, and a lot of the other subjects were in the humanities stream but I fiddled with them just the tiniest bit, ie. writing into creative writing, all the English subjects into English and I left out the government one, assuming it's an elective. I know students don't normally move, but I find that when the classes become individualised, that becomes basically impossible, so I don't think that applies for the final two years when you have more freedom with your subjects, or for electives, so there will be some moving. Homeroom will still be personalised though.

As for the uniform, on a day in October everyone changes from summer to winter uniform, and in June from winter to summer. Schools start in April, so they're currently in winter uniform. Unfortunately, I had written it in winter and had to go back and change it, so if I missed something, I apologize. Summer uniform is white shirt and black slacks for the boys and white blouse, black tartan skirt and black tie for the girls. Winter is heavier, so blazer and heavier pants for the boys, and heavier skirt and top black) for the girls. I'm skipping the shoe part because it's very confusing. Something about having different outside and inside shoes, then different PE shoes. In anime, they wear whatever anyway. Summer sport uniform has a white shirt and contrasting shorts (bloomers for girls, normal shorts for boys) which we'll make black seeing as the uniform is black, and warm-up suits in winter, again with names sown on. They also have a hakimati, a headband which has one side red and the other white, so they're worn one colour or the other to split up teams, ie. half wear the red side outside, and the other half wear the white. And the boys and girls are split, so they don't take PE together. Probably a good thing seeing the girls' sport uniform.

Students also rotate as teams through maintain the classroom in a nice neat manner. Washing blackboards, mop the floor, fix the desks, pick up the trash etc.

You know, this is a lot more information than I had when writing Yami no Tenshi, Hikari no Akuma. But the method I used in that fic was international, so it's still legit.

I was supposed to get to the end of the day in this chapter, but it's way too long and missing half the characters. I guess I'll have to wait till next chapter. Then Junpei and Takuya get some screen time (hopefully). Tomoki's will be limited as he can't attend the same school seeing as he's in ninth grade. As for the title and the summary...it's the first time I've written a chapter that seems totally unrelated, huh. But Hamlet is sort of the point that point of the ripple effect, not the main event. Sort of like the eartquakes in After the Quake by Haruki Murakami (yeah, he's Japanese). Studied it last year and I'm sure I've mentioned it before.

So yeah, sorry for the long explanation but I thought the school stuff might benefit people. I didn't know half the stuff before...and hope you enjoy. :)