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Part 13: An unexpected invitation
Tora yawned. He was tired and he could feel how sore the muscles across his shoulders were, and how stirred his nape and his lower back had become. Having so much to work with in the past few days, staying up late and falling asleep on his desk obviously didn’t agree with his physical well-being.
It was late into a weekday afternoon. Tora was in the same café he and Miyavi had gone to together not a week ago; the café near their campus, but today he went there alone. After his classes came to an end, the raven-haired student had stationed himself at the far corner at the back of the café, sitting on one of the comfortable, spacey armchairs, typing with his eyes hardly leaving the screen of his laptop, which he placed on top of the low wooden table in front of him. He had been typing with an opened book balancing on his laps and a cup of cooling coffee placed next to his laptop for close to two hours. He still had one fortnight to go before he had to turn in his assignment and he must focus on finishing the last few paragraphs, and then he would have to do the final checking...
The third year student stopped keying in words after the last paragraph was finally settled. Looking up from the laptop’s screen, Tora allowed himself to sink back to his seat and close his tired eyes. It had taken him so much work, and now he was glad that the ending of his hard work was finally in sight. He would have a small break before he had to start doing the checking.
“Mind if I take a seat?”
Out of the blue, Tora heard a voice asking him a question. Instantly, the raven-haired man snapped his eyes open, only to find a familiar face looking down at him, smiling. Slowly, Tora straightened himself to sit more properly than before, replying, “Sure…”
The other man’s smile widened as he took his own seat across the low coffee table, at the direct opposite of Tora. The other student was holding a cup of coffee in one of his hands, which he chose to place at his side of the table after he sat down.
“Shou-san...what a surprise.”
“Drop the honorific, if you don’t mind,” replied the blonde quickly with a smile.
Tora merely shrugged, for he didn't expect to run into the other student near the campus. In fact, he didn’t expect to see Shou so soon after that...strange encounter in the corridor just the other night.
The raven head still didn’t how to make of what he had witnessed in the other night. However, there was no reason for him to be aloof or unfriendly towards a fellow classmate when he was merely requesting to take a seat around the same table.
For a while, they just sat there, with Shou sipping his freshly poured coffee, whilst Tora staring at his cooled one without touching it. Sometimes, he could feel Shou’s eyes on him. He had to retreat himself from looking up. At the back of Tora’s mind, he was almost certain Shou was looking at the first aid tape tagged to the side of his face, near his neck. His minor injury had drawn a bit of unexpected attention amongst his peers, and he had to tell his concerned classmates that he had an accident shaving whenever one of them came up with the question.
The third year student almost expected Shou to bring the topic up just like everyone else, but when Shou made his move to open a conversation, he said nothing about his injury.
“You look quite worn, Tora-san.”
Tora shrugged, “Schoolwork, you know how it’s. And just Tora is fine.”
To that, Shou gave a nod in acknowledge.
The raven head noticed that Shou didn’t carry any book or folder with him, and so far, the other student hadn’t mentioned anything about how he
was doing with his own assignment. Therefore, Tora guessed that the blond student might very well be done with his schoolwork, whilst the rest of the students were still struggling to finish before the deadline approached.
Tora didn’t know Shou so well, but he figured his conjunction would suit the latter just fine. The other student always carried himself with so much confidence, as he always had everything under his control. Like he was so used to things going his way, and people listening to what he had to say.
Throughout the school years, Tora had observed that Shou could be arrogant at times, but goodness; he must at least admit his classmate had reasons to be prideful. Shou was good-looking, smart, popular amongst his peers, always managed to get good grades; finally yet importantly, it was rumoured amongst students that he also came from a well-to-do family. So yes, Shou could be full of himself at times, but for most parts, he had managed to avoid making himself look like an offensive prick.
“I must admit I’m a bit...shocked,
” Shou chuckled lowly, “For I’d never expected to see our fearless Amano Shinji being weighted down by an assignment!”
“Well actually, I’m just like everyone else, struggling to keep his head above water,” Tora shrugged at Shou’s remark, his eyebrow twitching at the use of his full name. Moreover, he was by no mean ‘fearless’ whatsoever, “That’s life.”
At the back of his mind, the raven-haired youth was a bit surprised to see Shou being talkative and...friendly towards him today. They were never particularly close; they nodded at each other when they ran into one another on the hallways. They would also talk when they were having their classes or doing group projects, but the interaction between them more or less just ended here. Tora was certain today it was the first time he and Shou had ever sat down together and engaged in an actual conversation, outside of class and schoolwork.
“But you never strike me as just an ‘everyone else’
“What do you mean?” This time, Tora slipped his book off his laps and straightened himself. He could sense something was coming up…
“You’re not like the others, are you?” Shou replied calmly, “In fact, you always strike me as someone who can grip complicated concepts, and has a deeper understanding of how things actually work.”
Was he being praised by Shou, of all people? Tora frowned; he wasn’t sure what Shou was getting at.
“If by ‘complicated concepts’, you meant our schoolwork—”
“We both know how good you’re at schoolwork,” Shou interrupted him in a flat tone, “But I meant more than that. I meant the concepts they have taught us in classes, and beyond
“Huh?” Tora did not enjoy making himself look dull in front of the other student. Still, he was painfully aware of how idiotic his responses must have sounded so far. He couldn’t help it. Because so far, he still had not a damn idea about what Shou was trying to get at.
“‘Having a strong interest in the subject does result in better understanding on the subjects’
At first, Tora didn’t realise it; but seconds later, it dawned on him that Shou was quoting lines from his
previous presentation during class. The blonde was definitely saying it on purpose.
“You know, I’m very impressed about what you have said about fear in our class, Tora san.” Shou said with a smile.
The blonde flashed him another smile. Was it only him, or was it Shou smiling way too often than necessary? Although the other student didn’t seem to notice the slightly sceptical expression on Tora’s face.
“I think it will be great if we can meet up outside of classes and share what we’ve learnt so far. I really think…”
Then, Shou paused and licked his lip. He looked almost nervous as he continued, “I actually believe it will be...beneficial for both of us.”
Tora moved his hand to close his laptop all together. On a subconscious level, he sensed that Shou was going to reveal his intention—regardless what it really was. Therefore, he would better pay full attention to the rest of the conversation.
“What I am trying to say is, what our lecturers are teaching us in classes, those materials they give us for studying. They just look not...challenging enough.”
Tora kept quiet. He had always known Shou could be arrogant at times. Still, it was a bit startling to hear the blond man indirectly state that he thought schoolwork was...beneath him. Although if Tora were to be absolutely honest, he would have to admit sometimes he did feel the same way.
“Strange to find so many people actually think psychology is all about mysteries and excitement, when in reality, what they are teaching is, all so ordinary
Tora understood what Shou was referring to. Whenever he told people he was a psychology major student, people tended to react in bewilderment. In the mind of the general public, psychology seemed to be the mixture of magic, mind reading and fortune telling. Therefore, it was easy to believe those who studied this subject were some kind of mind reader or witch doctor. As though psychology students all went to college to learn how to read minds, or do other magical tricks.
However in reality, students of psychology faculty normally would be guided to study the basic principles that formed what we knew as psychology, its history, different theories of the masters, etc. Basically, the students were expected to learn to know how a human’s mind would likely to work under different situations and emotion.
In addition, some of the students would soon find out how a human’s mind would work seemed to be in fact a lot more predictable and…boring
than any of them would have expected. When a student managed to come up with this realisation, it was usually when the teaching of his study became...uninteresting. If they were to move up to learn about complicated ideas in the field of psychology, they would have to reach outside of the limitation of their schoolwork, reaching out for the larger territory outside of lectures.
“What they are teaching us in classes, they are kind of dull when you think about it, right?”
Eventually, Tora allowed himself to give a small nod, “What word you suggest as the alternative?”
“Let’s say...I suggest we do an...in-depth group study outside of classes? Looks like we can learn a lot from one another.”
Tora couldn’t help raising an eyebrow. As unexpected as Shou’s suggestion was, the idea of studying together with the blond star student still had its own appeal. If only Tora could figure out what Shou was really after...
"You have said group study...then, how many more students are you going to invite? What subject do you have in mind?”
“What I want to investigate is fear
, Tora,” Shou replied slowly, his voice barely above a whisper, as though he didn’t want anyone else to hear what he was saying, “And there won’t be any more student in this project.”
“Only the two of us?”
“Only you and me,” the blond one answered without a pause.
“Why?” The raven head couldn’t help asking.
“We’re going to act as researchers, and we will invite other people—other students to take part in this project, as the test subjects
. We will interview them and learn from them.”
“Just like we would learn from each other, right?” Tora shifted on his seat subconsciously, the way his fellow classmate referring other students as ‘test subjects’ made him feel a bit strange.
“Correct,” Shou answered without hesitation, and he almost looked pleased due to the fact that Tora was catching up so fast.
“You said that you are going to use fear as your subject—”
“That’s why I need your help,” Shou cut in smoothly, “We all know how knowledgeable you are on this particular subject, especially after hearing your presentation.”
The raven-haired student must admit these words were ego-stroking enough to hear. Here was Shou, a straight As student of his own right, sitting in front of him, praising (though subtly) him
for his knowledge, asking for his
assistance. However, the only problem was that at the back of his mind, Tora couldn’t believe Shou was coming up with his suggestion for the reasons he had previously mentioned. Something was telling him there was more to Shou’s offer than the latter had let on. He must be up to something...but what? If Shou wanted something from him, why wouldn’t he just ask instead of coming up with such kind of unusual proposal?
Running a nervous hand through his hair, Tora said, “It’s great to hear you are also interested in what I’m studying and you want us to cooperate in order to further our study, Shou…”
“There’s nothing surprising about it. Fear is an intriguing subject in our field of study,” Shou shook his head slowly, “...and great minds think alike, do you agree?”
“...I suppose so?” Moistening his lips, Tora replied, not used to Shou’s manner of speech.
“So, what do you think about my suggestion, Tora?”
The raven-haired student then replied, “First...thanks for your invitation, and if you were interested in doing a project together, I’m in.”
Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to play along for the time being, and try to find out what Shou was really up to later. A smile spread across Shou’s handsome face when he heard Tora’s reply. Next, he reached out a hand and offered it to the other student for shaking, which Tora accepted, only after a brief moment of hesitation.
“So…” After they finished the hand shaking, Shou’s smile only seemed brighter as he spoke, “When do you think we should start?”
Before Tora could reply, his mobile phone started to ring without warning. Apologising under his breath, Tora stood up and moved away from the table to answer the call.
“Amano-kun!” The unknown caller shouted through the phone in a panic voice.
It took a second for Tora to recognise the caller’s voice, “Dr. Camui!?”
He was utterly shocked by the psychiatrist’s call. He knew Dr. Camui had his phone number, but the doctor had never used it to contact him before. Usually, it was Tora who made the contact, back when he was doing research under Dr. Camui’s wing.
“Can you come to meet me, now?”
The third year student was also shocked to hear the doctor speaking in such a rushed, panic-struck tone; as if he was in shock and could barely think straight. Something must be very wrong...
“I am not sure…” Tora then glanced back at Shou, who was staring at him from where he sat, the casualness and the smile had gone out from his face, “I’m with someone else at the moment—”
“Okay, forget about what I have said, I shouldn’t have called—” Suddenly, Dr. Camui’s tone changed, his voice peaked in frustration and the disappointment was clear in his voice.
Turning his back towards Shou, Tora asked under his breath, “What’s wrong, doc?”
Over the phone, the third year student could hear the doctor suck in a deep breath before speaking again.
“Can I trust you, Amano-kun?”
Tora closed his eyes briefly before reopening them and said, “You can trust me.”
“Say you are not going to tell anyone else what I’ve said to you up to this point. Tell me you won’t!”
“I won’t tell anyone about the conversation between us. I’m not going to tell on you.”
Since Tora did want Dr. Camui to keep talking, so he also knew it would be best to reassure the older man as much as he could.
“They’re after me—”
“Wait, who’s after you?”
“The police! They...What you said is true, the police...they showed up and started poking around—” All at once, Dr. Camui started speaking in a rather incoherent manner.
“What? Why would they do that?”
“They think I know something about the disappearance of Sakamoto-kun, but I swear I don’t know anything!”
“Are you sure?”
“I don’t know what have become of him after I last saw him! And for goodness’ sake, he disappeared only after
he stopped showing up for appointment weeks ago! I swear I don’t know anything that will help to find him! I don’t know anything useful to the police!”
“Wait, Dr. Camui, please calm down!” Tora could hardly believe he would be the one to tell the older man to stay calm. Whatever the police had done or said, it must have frightened the good doctor.
“Perhaps the police…” The raven head dropped his voice when he uttered the word ‘police’, “...was only doing some routine questioning—”
“No! You don’t understand! They meant
In their previous meeting, Tora had wondered aloud in front of Dr. Camui that the police might pay the good doctor a visit in hope to uncover some clue about the disappearance of Sakamoto Takashi. By now, he knew that his prediction had, unfortunately for Dr. Camui, come true.
Though a newfound sense of doubt began to sink in as soon as he spoke those words. At the back of his mind, Tora wondered was Dr. Camui truly an innocent bystander, who only happened to unluckily attract attention from the police? Why would the psychiatrist react so strongly if he really had nothing to hide?
His mind lingered back to his last meeting with Dr. Camui in his office. Could he really believe the psychiatrist hadn’t held something back during their conversation? Tora knew he would only be kidding himself if he believed the doctor had been entirely honest with him.
Perhaps the police thought just the same when they chatted with Dr. Camui, perhaps this was the reason why they kept asking questions even after the doctor insisted that he knew nothing of his patient’s whereabouts. Perhaps Dr. Camui did know something about Sakamoto and the reason why he had winded up vanishing, but he was keeping that information secret.
Tora was shocked by his own thoughts. He would not want to believe Dr. Camui, his mentor, an older man whom he thought he could call a friend, was a shadowy character, with some muddy involvement with a missing person case. Hadn’t Dr. Camui always been kind and attentive to his patients and co-workers? Hadn’t the doctor always been fiery about his profession, and had always been willing to share his knowledge?
Running his fingers roughly through his hair, Tora tried to think of something soothing to say to the older man over the phone, “Doc, please calm down. If you have no valuable information to offer to the police, just tell them so. They will come around in the end when they can’t find anything—”
“Of course they won’t find anything! I’ve already gotten rid of those notes—”
Alarm bell rang through Tora’s mind, “Gotten rid of what?”
Then, there was an awful stretch of silence expanding through both sides of the line. Finally, Dr. Camui spoke again, “I shouldn’t have called.”
“Sorry for bothering you, Amano-kun. I overreacted.”
“I’m sorry; please forget everything I’ve just said. Please
Before Tora could response, the line went dead. Dr. Camui had already hanged up the phone. The line was cut off so rapidly to a point that the conversation he had with his former mentor felt very surreal, but after lowering his mobile phone from his ear, Tora reminded himself he didn’t hear wrongly, he did hear what the doctor had said in a rush, out of impulse.
Dr. Camui had mentioned some notes, and police was questioning the doctor over the disappearance of Sakamoto Takashi. In the end, the doctor had let it slip that he had ‘gotten rid of’ those notes.
to be continued.