[A/N]: I can't guarantee how often this will be updated, considering this isn't my main occupation with writing.
Inspired off of one of the short stories in the Chinese film 爱情麻辣烫 / Spicy Love Soup. (The film is better than the name, I should think.)
-Rating will likely change as story progresses-
The squeaking of a marker on the whiteboard.
The tap, tap of an absent-minded student's pencil.
The faint chirping of birds outside the classroom.
Ears acute, he absorbed each individual noise in its whole. Berwald was a listener—a collector of sounds. Sitting attentively behind his desk, he appeared the model student, diligently writing down the contents of the lecture with his pen.
But despite his appearance, his attention was focused far from the lectures. Much farther away, beyond the ajar window. Beyond the verdant college campus, the brick dorms and the quaint coffee shops, the absent-minded chattering of the hoi polloi…
"Berwald, Berwald!" A voice cried, cracking under heavy wheezes.
Berwald turned, facing the exhausted girl that ran down the road. Noticing his halt, she slowed, but still stumbled as her body sped faster than her legs. A small package was clutched tightly to her chest. Still gasping, she came to a stop, pushing up her glasses with her index finger.
"I forgot," she huffed, "to give, …you, this." She thrust the package into his hands, smiling despite her lassitude.
"What…?" Berwald murmured. He turned the package over and around in his hands, inspecting its shape. It was wrapped in newspaper, with twine tied around its middle. A white envelope had been tacked on with a piece of tape.
"Everyone wanted to give it to you as a goodbye present."
He remained silent, staring down at the poorly-wrapped parcel forlornly. He tried not to meditate on it. Leaving everyone, that was. On the fateful day of the letter's arrival, there had been much rejoicing. A party had been held in the town hall in his honor. Not being much of one for festivities, Berwald had covertly slunk to a corner in the kitchen, where he stood watching the sous chef for part of the night. He eventually had to leave, after his large frame proved to be too difficult to maneuver in such a small room. There was a good reason why not much Varmrökt lax was served. But those bowls were already unstable in the first place, sitting on the counter like that, so it wasn't his fault they fell over, wasn't it?
"…will be presenting on the finches of the Galapagos Islands." A trio of his classmates walked up to the whiteboard, and Berwald became once more attentive, focusing on the students. The tallest of the group, a young man with blonde hair that seemed to have a life of its own, plopped a laptop down on the desk, attaching it to the projector.
What was his name? Køhler, Me.. Mu..Ma-Mathias! Mathias Køhler. Yes, that was it, Berwald thought. He had scored the winning goal in that last soccer game. Didn't seem too bright though.
The other two waited in the back, shuffling their papers. A girl whose name also started with 'm' tucked her black hair behind her ears nervously, shifting occasionally from foot to foot. What was she called? It was foreign, he was sure of that…Ma…Mei! All these names were so hard to remember, Berwald thought. But who was the other one? The Swede was sure he hadn't seen him before. Was he new?
The boy had short, platinum hair, parted neatly to one side. He smiled fretfully, violet eyes flitting from face to face, never resting on one for more than a moment before he looked to the next. He was taller than the girl next to him, but not by much. The blonde was wearing one of those slightly kitschy knitted sweaters, the type the old women of Berwald's town would sit around and knit for who knows whose relative. It was made of dark blue wool, and had purple cuffs, close to the colour of the blonde's eyes.
The blonde's shifting glance reached Berwald for a mere moment. Clear cerulean eyes locked with those purple orbs, fervently searching their depths. The violet eyes widened, and the owner quickly looked away, a light blush dusting his cheeks by his discomfort.
Berwald mentally smacked himself, panicking rising from the bottom of his stomach. He shouldn't have stared at him like that! Berwald knew quite well that others found his gaze unsettling—He didn't want to make a bad impression on the students here! For the first month, things had been going quite well. A reasonable roommate, new friends on the soccer team—He didn't want to mess this streak of luck up now.
Satisfied with the preparations, Mathias flipped to the first side of the presentation. "So. The Galapagos. They're little islands in the ocean with, um, all these weird animals on them…"
A scholarship in engineering. That was what had pulled him away from his home. He was destined to work in a career he loved, but at what cost? Always to be known as the foreign one, arriving from a town where wireless connection was a valued commodity, and exciting news was that a new public garden was to be built in a town ten miles away.
"That's amazing!" Emiline exclaimed, snatching the paper to hold it in the light. Behind her thick glasses, she read the letter's contents. "And what a great school, too. You're so lucky, Berwald." Her bright smile faded, back turned to Berwald as she faced the window, revealing for a mere moment her bitterness.
She should have gotten in.
But they don't give scholarships for math. Or at least, not to country bumpkins like herself.
Resentment vaporized once more as she turned around, a prideful giggle erupted from her lips as she pressed Berwald into a hug. "That's just so...wonderful, Berwald. So wonderful."
"…I'm Tino, and I'll be discussing the diversity of finches on the Galapagos." A voice rang out. It was clear, like that of a mid-toned bell. It dipped slightly at 'diversity' and 'Galapagos,' Berwald noted.
That was who the blonde boy was. Berwald knew he wouldn't have to attempt to remember that name. It was already deeply engrained in his mind, etched into his memories for the day.
He had to hear that voice again.
It was like no other.
Emiline – fem!Estonia