Seeing Red 15

Technically, cell phones weren’t allowed out at Imperial Panda II for those that were on the clock. But aside from the fact that the manager currently on duty was more than a little attached to her Blackberry and inclined to be lenient, the maintenance guy pretty much went his own way all day and didn’t have a lot of critical eyes looking over his shoulder. And there was no way in hell Sano was going to be away from his phone in case that woman called him back.

She didn’t. As Sano unloaded the delivery truck and kept the ghost away from people, shelved the load and kept the ghost away from people, organized the dry stock area for the second time in the last ten days and kept the ghost away from people, fixed the oven again and kept the ghost away from people, then took his lunch break to eat an uninspiring free meal, keep the ghost away from people, and look forward to the second half of his day, he grew increasingly impatient and concerned. And this was largely in response to the apparent increasing impatience and concern of the ghost.

Yesterday’s approach of Kaoru Himura, Sano thought, had made Kenshin more restless. It was difficult to tell for certain when the ghost seemed so aimless in general, but Sano did feel that dragging his unwanted guest out of people’s paths required more effort and led to a quicker and more intense buildup of anger today than previously. Kenshin never made any move to leave Sano, to go anywhere or do anything other than what he’d been doing all along, but it was pretty clear that he wanted to do something; and Sano was sure it had something to do with his widow.

What had Hajime said they would do if she never called back? ‘Start behaving like cads,’ hadn’t it been? At least Sano had that fairly hilarious memory to cheer him up a bit, even if the referenced caddishness, seeming more and more likely with each passing hour, was little to his taste. He didn’t want to think about the effect it might have on the unfortunate woman if they started more or less stalking her. What a miserable idea.

Of course the alternative was to think about his own situation. How long could he keep working so hard to prevent Kenshin’s angry aura from harming and enraging people around him before he decided he just didn’t give a shit and let the ghost do whatever it wanted to anyone that came near him? Or, worse, got so angry himself that he actually started deliberately conjuring Kenshin in the direction of others?

The last couple of weeks had been difficult and frustrating, especially at school where there were a number of innocent bystanders in a small space for hours at a time; and studying and homework had been practically impossible… and that had all been before their visit to Kaoru’s apartment had kicked things to a higher level. If they didn’t manage to get this solved before Spring Break ended… if Kenshin was going to keep acting like this… Sano might as well just drop all his classes, quit his job, and move out onto a secluded island right now.

When Imp Panda finally turned him loose that afternoon, he managed to make it all the way home before his frustration got the better of him and directed his fingers to dial Hajime’s number. This waiting had been the exorcist’s idea, after all; the least he could do was suffer alongside Sano.

“I actually expected to hear from you much earlier,” was Hajime’s greeting.

“I was working,” Sano replied angrily. “I kept my phone on through my whole shift — nine hours! — and she never called.”

“We already acknowledged that possibility,” Hajime reminded him. “She may never call.”

Remembering what would happen in that case, Sano demanded, “Isn’t there some way we can do this without bugging her? I mean, you’re a communicator; why can’t you just read her mind?”

“Getting past someone’s shields and reading their mind when they don’t want you to is difficult and takes a lot of practice.”

“Practice you haven’t had,” Sano finished bitterly, “because you’ve been playing with shades instead.”

Hajime said nothing, as if he just wasn’t going to bother with an answer to that.

The noise Sano made, half whine and half growl, sounded so much like a dog that even he was taken aback… and maybe a little amused, which helped. “I don’t want to,” he said next, “but… do you think I should call her again? Or maybe we should go back to her place and see if she’ll talk to us there this time?”

“No and no. If we’re too persistent, she’ll call the police. There’s only so much Chou can smooth over for me.”

“What good are you, then?” A second silence came from the other end, and the vacuum of that silence eventually dragged out of Sano a grumbled, “I mean… what the hell am I supposed to…” And again he made an angry sound, even more frustrated now because he was too annoyed to offer the apology of some sort he felt he probably should have for his unfair implication. Without Hajime, after all, his chances of finding out the identity of the ghost and locating the widow would have been practically nonexistent.

Now Hajime spoke, and, instead of calling Sano on his rudeness or even continuing on the topic they were more or less discussing, he said, “You grew up around here, didn’t you?” And while Sano in surprise was working to change gears Hajime added, “For a given value of ‘grew up.'”

“Sortof,” Sano replied, wondering why Hajime wanted to know and bristling at the casual insult. “We moved here when I was just about to turn fourteen.”


“Paso Robles, down south.”

“And were you born there?”

“Nah, we moved there when I was two or three; I was born in Carson City.”

“Did you like Paso Robles?”

Sano thought he saw now what was going on: this was distraction, pure and simple. Well, fine; he could handle that. “It was OK. Not a big Japanese population, so I got most of my heritagey culture from anime.” At Hajime’s derisive laugh, Sano continued determinedly in a tone that sounded incongruously angry. “The best part was right when we moved out, actually; this earthquake hit pretty much the same day we were loading up the moving van.”

“And that was a good thing?”

“Well, not for the people that died, obviously, but it was pretty damn cool anyway. It was a 6.5, and it made this fucking enormous sinkhole open up in the library parking lot. I just checked online, like, a week ago, and they still haven’t fixed that thing, seven years later.”

“You’re so attached to the town that you’re still checking on it?” Maybe because of the level of investment Sano had displayed in the subject, Hajime too actually sounded interested.

“Not the town, just the sinkhole. Sinkholes are awesome.”

“Are they?”

“Yeah. And earthquakes. I mean, they’re bad for people, but they’re still… cool. This one hot spring under the town used to be totally dead, but the quake brought it back to life. You know what kind of seismic activity that takes?”

“A 6.5, presumably.”

“Well, yeah, but, I mean, there’s a specific combination of circumstances to get a hot spring going again to the surface and have it stay that way; it’s not something that happens every day.”

Now a third silence emanated from Hajime’s end of the phone, though Sano thought he caught the distant sound of one of the cats — Misao, probably — asking a question. And this silence didn’t seem designed to abash Sano or make him rethink his words; rather, it sounded pensive. Finally Hajime asked, “And why aren’t you studying geology?”

“Oh. Well. Not as much money there as where my dad wants me.”

“Do you have reliable statistics on that?”

“Not off the top of my head!”

“Maybe you should look it up.”

“Yeah, sure, maybe I should… if this goddamn ghost will let me do anything without wanting to put my fist through the monitor.”

Hajime laughed, which was annoying. “It’s at least something to think about while you wait for Mrs. Himura to call.”

“I am so fucking tired of waiting for phone calls.”

“Better not get into big business, then.”

With another annoyed noise — Sano had always been good at those, but lately he’d been taking the art to new levels — he said in frustration, “I’ll call you again later,” and abruptly hung up.

He found, however, that his mood was more mixed than before: just as angry, certainly, but now with an added restlessness born of interested thoughts. As he’d talked to Hajime he’d been pacing the linoleum of his tiny kitchen with a heavy step; when at some point in the process the ghost had joined him, he’d taken — as he not infrequently did at home — to turning gradual circles as he moved back and forth so as to keep his back to the thing at all times. The anger seemed to grow more slowly when he wasn’t looking at it. Now, however, he’d stopped moving and turned to face the computer on his cinder-block-and-particle-board desk across the room.

The truth was, he hadn’t given geology any conscious thought, but in the back of his head he’d always just sort of figured it was one of those science things that taught you a lot of interesting stuff but didn’t provide a lot of career opportunities unless you happened to live in Antarctica. But it would be kinda cool. OK, more than kinda; he was excited and cheered just thinking about it.

Well, if he was careful and got up and away from the computer the moment he felt the rage building too far, it was worth checking, wasn’t it? He’d been assuming all along geology wasn’t a viable option, so it wasn’t as if he could find out anything worse than what he’d already thought. And what else did he have to do right now? Get pissed… play video games and eventually throw the controller in the toilet… maybe call Hajime back and try to abuse him… Except that Hajime had made this pleasant suggestion, so that didn’t quite seem fair. Of course it had simply been in an effort to keep Sano distracted and occupied until either the woman called back or the exorcist decided they’d waited long enough… but Sano couldn’t help feeling grateful, which was an intriguing contrast to his still-present anger.

At the very least, as the man had said, this was something to think about.

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9 thoughts on “Seeing Red 15

  1. “Practice you haven’t had,” Sano finished bitterly, “because you’ve been playing with shades instead.”

    Hajime said nothing, as if he just wasn’t going to bother with an answer to that

    Did you know that sentence just cuts off there…it seems like that ought to be the end of a sentence, but who knows! Aside from not actually having Sano FINISH after bitterly saying “practice you haven’t had,” I like that he slips that barb in there. I’ll admit, it’s kind of annoying for me, too, feeling like Hajime has all the cards and only throws Sano a bone when he absolutely has to–after, of course, the anger-relief he provides. Still, this chapter seems to put into relief how it could be construed that Hijime is toying with the poor kid.

    Also: just how long IS Sano’s spring break?

    he’d stopped moving and turned to face the computer on his cinder-block-and-particle-board desk across the room

    He’s one up on me, my stuff’s still in boxes…maybe I ought to get some particle board, though, and make a low table!

    throw the controller in the toilet

    where does he play video games that makes it conducive to throwing the controller into the toilet when things go bad?

    1. Heh… thanks for pointing out that missing period. If only all periods could so easily be absent.

      Yeah, throwing a video game controller in the toilet does seem like a rather calculated gesture, doesn’t it? XD Unless he’s got some kind of magnificent aim from the other room.

      Oh, and Sano’s Spring Break is the same length as anyone’s… this is Wednesday.

      So I got this fabulous card in the mail the other day, and it was so awesome. Did you make it yourself? Because it’s awesome. Thank you very much!

      1. Well now I’m all curious about the layout of his humble abode, it’s been a while since I’ve seen the inside of a broke-ass college student’s studio apartment, but I can say that every house/home I’ve been in would require double-star level experience to finagle anything into the toilet from anywhere that wasn’t already in the bathroom.

        And as for the spring break, man, it’s ALSO been a while since I’ve been in an educational institution, but you can imagine my surprise to know that in SOME parts, at least, Thanksgiving is now a FIVE day affair and kids get that wednesday off, too. Not to mention the shift away from super long winter breaks (again, in the area of Podunk in which I now reside) and giving kids what seems like a “mid-term break” that amounts to a long weekend (summer vacation has, thus far, apparently survived unscathed). Is spring break really only a week in uni? I forget what America does for that…or I should say, what the majority of America probably tends to do for that.

        And the card, yes, I made it. It was fun, mostly because I got to work with rubber cement and ain’t nothin so fine as doing a little see-ment work, I tell you whut. smells so nice! Sticks really good-like.

        But back to the story…or more generally, Sano and Hajime…I see potential for Sano. As a person, as a romantic interest. I don’t see *as much* potential for Hajime. I get the feeling he is one tough nut to crack. I want to like him, but there’s not a lot of evidence at present to support the notion that he is capable of being compassionate. So I’m curious to see what we DO get to see of him, beyond the over-educated, more-often-than-not condescending side (which is not, typically, horribly over whelming but it does leave me with the sense that, hotness aside, Sano wouldn’t be too broken up over seeing the back of him go, once and for all nor Hajime him).

        1. Seriously, the card is awesome. It’s currently on my spare pillow (which is a sort of hub where everything spends some time at some point), which puts it just at eye level when I’m lying on my side in bed… and its silhouette in the darkness looks like a group of dead spiders. Which is bizarre, but awesome.

          And as for Sano and Hajime… I hope that by the time they actually hook up you’ll be sold on it! We’ll see, we’ll see :D

          1. Hey, if the lead up takes so much time and effort and dubiousness about it actually happening, when it DOES, it just *has* to be sweet/satisfying/smug.

  2. I’m picturing Sano’s heart doing a flutter-flutter thing at the end of this chapter. ehehehe… And ah…ever logical Saito! As always, he’s a good influence on Sano and it certainly carried over here with that career advice. Yay!

    1. Like I said before, I think Sano’s definitely the type to waffle over college options… while Saitou’s the type to cut right through the uncertainty. It’s exactly what Sano needs right now!!

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