Shoutou Academy High School was a private school located in the northeast of Shizuoka Prefecture. From the back of the school building, Mt. Fuji covered in perpetual snow could be seen, along with high-quality hot springs dotted about here and there. It also wasn’t far from Suruga Bay, home to a large fishing harbor. For the inspiring young students at the school, it was the perfect environment for them to face their challenges head-on.
On the day of the last class of the year, the room assignments were put up on the bulletin board just outside of the dormitories after dinner.
Kobori Fumiya could do nothing but gape as he looked up at the piece of paper which listed the names of those living in each room.
It was the norm for first and second-year students to stay in rooms of four, while the third years in rooms of two.
However, the room that Fumiya had been assigned to was a two-person room. Judging from the number, the room was on the third floor, occupied mainly by the third years. The person he’d be sharing it with was a Bunotsu* third year, Akamatsu Souichirou.
Similarly to section 1, Bunotsu is a set of students taking certain subjects (bun = bunkei (social studies / humanities) & otsu = dokugo sentaku (German elective)).
Perhaps there was a problem with numbers that the dorm had no choice but to pair him up with an upperclassman? But if that had been the case, they would take into account those coming from the same hometown or those who were often together for extracurricular activities.
And yet, Fumiya had no connection to this upperclassman.
Though he did have an inkling about why he was chosen.
That person isn’t a pure-blood Japanese, and I’m the illegitimate child of a geisha, so… that must be why.
Humans different from the norm should be grouped together.
Its high-level classes and expensive tuition fees were what Shoutou Academy was known for. It wasn’t odd to find the majority of the students to be those from esteemed or wealthy families. Even if being surrounded by the same rank of people in their day-to-day lives made those students forget their lineage, the faculty wouldn’t completely ignore it.
As Fumiya was adopted by the family of a doctor, the school shouldn’t have known about his birth mother, but it was a bad habit of the boy’s to constantly look down on himself—it acted as a form of self-defense to help lighten the shock he might receive by being in a horrible situation.
And so, he gloomily prepared himself.
If I’m not with Sakamoto-kun, then it doesn’t matter whether I’m with four people or two. I just don’t want to be with an upperclassman.
Sakamoto Mitsuo was one of Fumiya’s current roommates. It was mainly thanks to him that Fumiya ever really hung out with the other two in his room.
Sakamoto was a friendly boy and the youngest son of a merchant family. He was also extraordinarily good at connecting people. He always worried about Fumiya, whose head was always lowered, and in one way or another, always found ways to back him up.
Considering they would be in different rooms the next year, surely that would no longer happen?
The third year Fumiya would be sharing with was someone he… sort of knew, yet sort of didn’t… Since his appearance made him stand out, it wasn’t like he didn’t know who he was; he had just never spoken with him before.
Sakamoto, who was a member of the Kendo Club along with Fumiya and Souichirou, often spoke of his admiration of him. But between Fumiya and the son of an earl, who was demonically strong when it came to kendo, and who had a large build and a foreign appearance, there were no common subjects between them.
All Fumiya could look forward to was uncomfortable days with nothing more than greetings exchanged between them.
Even so, Fumiya would happily take awkward silences over Souichirou becoming romantically interested in him. Thankfully, he hadn’t heard of Akamatsu Souichirou’s family being known for homosexual relationships.
“Kobori-kun, what room are you going to be in?”
Fumiya, still standing rigid in shock, was snapped out of his daze by Sakamoto.
“I-It seems like…I’m going to be staying on the third floor.”
“Whoa, you’re going to be staying with an upperclassman? What rubbish luck… Oh, hey, you’re sharing a room with Akamatsu-senpai! I’m so jealous.”
“Do you want to swap?”
“Well… I don’t know, really. I do look up to Akamatsu-senpai, but I’d be a bit worried about being together with him day and night.”
“…You would be worried, huh?”
Noticing Fumiya’s anxious expression, Sakamoto quickly tried to comfort him.
“But, it’ll be fine. Akamatsu-senpai isn’t the kind of person to say ridiculous things. He has a sense of justice, and he’s fair to everyone, no matter who they are. What’s better is that you can even ask him for help with German! If you happen to manage to get his help, please tell me. And then, let me join you…”
Noticing said upperclassman right beside him, Sakamoto quickly swallowed his words.
Sakamoto, with his small build, went up on his tiptoes slightly before speaking to the tall Souichirou.
“As you can see, my friend Kobori-kun will be sharing a room with you next year. Kobori is always very quiet, so I doubt he will cause you any trouble, but I would appreciate it if you could provide him with guidance.”
Souichirou nodded in understanding, before flicking his eyes to Fumiya.
“Do you have any complaints about sharing with me?”
Fumiya awkwardly looked away.
“I-It’s… It’s a p-pleasure to meet you.”
When Souichirou walked past him the other day, Fumiya had noticed three moles lined up on the back of his hand. He also recalled seeing long nails.
It’s the person who told me his opinion on my tanka. I think he said something like… he thought that there was some kind of bond between cherry blossoms and the snow…
At that time, he’d been so embarrassed he couldn’t even raise his head. He hadn’t realized until it was time to submit it that he wasn’t allowed to use a pen name.
Fumiya already had the embarrassment of composing tanka or drawing pictures despite being in the science class. Although many people praised him for his achievement, he couldn’t help but think they were calling him strange behind his back.
“…T-The buds of the cherry blossoms at the… school gate have gotten bigger…” he muttered quietly.
“T-The snow… this year…”
Souichirou glanced down at him.
“Considering how warm it is, I highly doubt it’s going to snow anymore.”
“…But when the petals scatter, they look like s-snow.”
Fumiya looked up at Souichirou’s short reply, but he was already walking away—it seemed as if something had displeased him.
It’s odd how the c-cherry blossom petals aren’t c-cold…
He could only swallow those words left unspoken in his mouth.
Almost as if consoling him, Sakamoto gently rubbed Fumiya’s back.
“It seems like he’s in a bit of a bad mood tonight, but Akamatsu-senpai is a really wonderful person. He knows a lot about music and literature and…he’s great to talk to when it comes to people like Goethe* and their works. Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll be fine. Although, if you find that it’s getting too uncomfortable, just come over to my room.”
*German poet, novelist and dramatist who lived in Weimar (1749-1832).
“Who are you sharing with?”
“Andou, Ichihara and Matsushita. You know who Andou is, right? He’s in Riotsu, too.”
“Yeah. He’s in the b-boat club…”
Fumiya’s lips turned up into a small, fleeting smile at his friend’s kindness.
The following morning, a trailer arrived between the east and west dorms and left before coming back again several times. There were many people who moved into their new dorms and unpacked in the morning, then returned home in the afternoon.
In regard to Fumiya and Sakamoto, they first started with unpacking Sakamoto’s things before moving on to Fumiya’s.
Bedsheets were valuable when it came to moving around within the same building: if you laid it out and wrapped what you needed to transport in it, it became far easier to transport it all at once. Using many towels joined together to make a long rope made it easier to carry large things like futons over their shoulders.
Fumiya didn’t have much to unpack. Inside a small wicker trunk, he had some of his clothes and his shamisen. He also had some books, like his textbooks and dictionaries, but they were all still easily transported in one trip using the bedsheets.
His roommate wasn’t in his room. Relieved, Sakamoto looked around the two-person room with curious eyes.
The four-person rooms assigned to the first and second years were around the size of a ten-mat Japanese room with six tatami mats spread out near the entrance. When night fell, the students would line up their futons on the tatami and sleep.
However, in the two-person bedroom, which was the size of a six-mat Japanese room, there were no tatami mats. Instead, there were two beds with wooden frames.
“…It’s a western-style room.”
For those who were raised in a Japanese-style house, a western room was a completely new sight, and they couldn’t help but stare in amazement.
“Kobori-kun, are you going to be okay?”
“I’ll be fine… I think.”
At the vague response, Sakamoto made his best attempt at cheering his friend up.
“You generally only wear western clothes anyway, so it should be easy to get used to this, right, Kobori-kun? And besides, you won’t have to worry about airing out the futons anymore.”
As Sakamoto stated, Fumiya only wore western clothes except for his sleepwear. …But that was because all he really wore was his school uniform.
He always had the hooks at his neck attached, and it made him look incredibly formal. Above this, geta with supports made out of magnolia wood were considered uncouth, but as he didn’t like geta, he was always wearing high-laced shoes tied up perfectly. Inside the dorm, he only wore zouri*.
Though geta and zori are worn in the same way, zori have flat bottoms with no teeth.
Even when Fumiya had finished placing his things where he wanted them to go and making his bed, his roommate was still nowhere to be seen.
Sakamoto had wanted to talk to the third year, but he’d already decided to take the afternoon train back to Yamanashi to see his parents.
After seeing Sakamoto off at the station in the early afternoon, Fumiya returned back to the dorm.