~Chapter 5~ Part 1
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“… I still can’t believe they had lobster on the menu… Just what kind of school is this?!”

Of course my question was purely rhetorical, partially because I already knew that the place was completely artificial and thus unbound by common sense, but mostly because there was no one else around to answer. After he stuffed his face full of lobster meat (which he declared tasted like chicken, go figure), Josh left ahead of me while I finished up my own meal, a small serving of lasagna. He told me he wanted to check on Angie and the new girl, and since I didn’t have any good reason to hold him back (not to mention, my mouth was too full to answer properly), I let him go without further ado.

There was still a good fifteen minutes left of the one-hour lunch break, which at first sounded excessive, but after seeing the scope of the cafeteria and its dishes I could completely understand the need. Of course, a longer lunch break meant that afternoon classes ended later as well, so the school day would end just after 3 PM, but it was only to be expected.  Anyways, I finished up my plate and left the cafeteria just a few minutes earlier and decided on a small detour prior to returning to the classroom.

I rounded another corner and breathed deep in relief as I found myself at the door of the nurse’s office. For a second or two I was afraid I got lost again, but by then I had at least grasped the layout of the school. As for why I was here… The class rep told me that the nurse was looking for me, so I decided to get ahead of any possible complications and see him as soon as possible, meaning right then and there.

I lightly knocked on the door and it opened to a crack. Apparently it wasn’t closed properly, so I opened it further as I looked inside.

“Mr…” What was his name again? Something about legumes… Ah, right. “Mr. Peabody?”

“O-ho-ho! Come in, come in!”

It was impossible to mistake the combination of that jovial voice and annoying laughter. I stepped inside and found the old man… well, to be fair, he was probably only middle-aged, but either way, he was sitting by his desk and welcomed me with a smile half-hidden under his mustache.

“You were looking for me.”

“O-ho-ho. Indeed I was.” I sat down onto the bed by his side without any prompting. He didn’t seem to mind. “It is about your question from yesterday.”

It took me a moment to realize what he was talking about, but then saying that my interest got piqued would have been an understatement.

“You mean about the amnesia.”

“O-ho-ho. Indeed.”

“Stop that.”

“O-ho-ho. What could you mean?”

“Your laughing. It’s… wait, didn’t we already have this conversation?”

“O-ho-ho. So you can remember that much. Good, very good.”

By this point my first rush of curiosity subsided and I started to feel quite uncomfortable, which turned into outright worry the moment I noticed the large rubber mallet on his desk.

“What’s that for?”

“O-ho-ho. I sadly couldn’t give you an answer yesterday, so I consulted my medical journals and picked the most effective treatment option.”

“A hammer.”

“Indeed! Apparently all you need is a single good whack on the…”

I stood up and casually left the room before he got even halfway through his spiel, and for a moment I thought he would continue talking without even noticing, but then he called out to me just as I was about to close the door behind myself.

“Wait, where are you going?”

“Classes.”

“But we haven’t applied your treatment yet!”

I paused and tried to imitate one of Josh’s deadpan glares. I presumably did an inadequate job, as the nurse kept doing practice swings with his hammer.

“Sorry doc, but I already tried that.”

His last swing wilted mid-motion and he gave me a disappointed ‘Oh.’ I decided not to stick around, lest he would try to hit me just to be sure, so I gave him a wave and scurried off post haste. Once I was out of sight I leaned against a wall and sighed. Hard. What a colossal waste of time…

Well, it wasn’t that I had high expectations on the first place, but the guy was supposed to be a trained medical professional. I was expecting some questions, or maybe a boring info-dumping session about amnesia littered with Latin terms I would have had to look up later, but I certainly wasn’t expecting a friggin’ hammer! What is this, Looney Tunes?

I was just about to be on my way back to the classroom when I was caught off guard by a sharp ‘Ha!’ coming from behind me. I glanced over my shoulder and found the new girl standing straddle-legged in the middle of the hallway, one hand curled into a fist and placed on her hip while the other extended towards me and ending in an accusatory finger. Needless to say, she was also glaring at me. People around me did that a lot lately. I wonder if that’s normal?

Anyways, I suppressed my urge to say something along the lines of ‘Ha what?’ and instead I just shook my head and walked up to her.

“Hello.”

She blinked at me, her fierceness slowly faltering, but then she forcefully set her mouth in a thin line and pointed at me again.

“Did you think you could hide from me?!”

I looked left, right, then behind myself and turned back at her with a wry smile.

“Oh no, I have been found out! I was certain no one would find me at my trusty hiding place, a well-populated and open corridor!” I exaggeratedly hit my forehead with the heel of my hand. “Oh, wait. No, that’s the exact opposite of a hiding place. What was I thinking? Oh the humanity.”

I actually managed to say all that with one breath and without breaking my poker face. I’m not going to lie, I was actually a little proud of that. My accuser out of the blue on the other hand seemed more and more flustered by the second.

“Don’t try to make a fool out of me!”

‘Why would I? You are making an admirable job yourself!’… Well, that was what I wanted to say, but after my pointless meeting with the nurse I really wasn’t in the mood anymore.

“I don’t. By the way, could you step to the side? You are holding up everyone.”

She glanced around and it apparently just dawned on her that she was standing in the middle of a crowded corridor. Her face abruptly flushed red and she even let out an admittedly cute yelp as she scampered to the side to let the traffic flow again. I shook my head with a grimace and followed after her.

“So, what is this whole thing about?”

“Don’t act innocent!” She hissed at me. While she regained some of her composure, she still seemed pretty flustered to me.

“About what?”

“Your actions!”

“Which one in particular? I do a lot of those.”

She glared at me even more fiercely and I think I even saw her clenched fists trembling.

“Why did you go out of your way to refuse my invitation? What is your agenda?”

“Agenda?”

“Your motive, your plan, your scheme, your…”

“I know what the word means; I just don’t know what the hell you are talking about!”

She stomped her feet and leaned in to glower at me from even closer, though since she was almost a head shorter than me, it only worked if I looked down on her. Maybe that annoyed her too?

“You went out of your way to escape my invitation with him! Did you really think I wouldn’t find it suspicious?!”

“Him?” I parroted uncomprehendingly before I realized what she was talking about. “Oh, you mean Josh?”

“Yes!” She yelled so loud even some of the placeholders turned our way. Maybe they were more susceptible of her because she was a transfer-student and was supposed to be interesting? Food for thought. Anyways, she looked around and asked, “Where is he anyway?”

“Oh, he actually wanted to check on you so he left a few minutes ago.”

All of a sudden all the anger in her face fell away to reveal a dopey expression.

“… What?”

“Josh. He said he wanted to see how you and Angie were doing, so he left the cafeteria ahead of me. Didn’t you meet him on the way?” She shook her head. “Oh well, I guess you missed each other.”

She suddenly began stomping her feet with a growl reminiscent of a revving chainsaw and gave me her most fiery glare yet.

“Why didn’t you stop him?!”

For a moment all I could do is to stop myself from burying my face in my hands.

“First you are angry because I went away with him, now you are angry because he is not around anymore? Would you please make up your mind, princess?”

To my sincerest bafflement, she seemed to panic for a moment and jumped back a step. I cocked my head to the side and she nearly poked out my eye as her hand lashed out to point her accusatory finger at me again.

“I knew I heard it right the first time around!”

“You heard the what the when?”

If I sounded completely confused and worn down by the erratic pace of the conversation, it was only because I kept my cool. I was actually screaming in frustration on the inside.

“Why did you call me that? How did you know? Who sent you? Are you here to interfere and blow my cover or…”

She kept on asking questions, but I didn’t really listen as I was still trying to figure out the answer to the first one. What did I call her again? I replayed our conversation in my head and finally realized.

“Princess?”

She once again let out a weird sound (something along the lines of ‘Yafuu!’) and jumped back, looking left and right like a frightened wild animal caught in a corner by a pack of wolves.

“Stop saying that!”

“Why?”

“Because I said so!”

“… And that should matter to me because…?”

“Arggh!” She began shaking and her head slowly started to go from beet red to a shade of purple.

That couldn’t have been healthy, so I gently patted her on the shoulder and told her, “Hey, calm down, calm down. Everybody’s looking.”

In the span of three seconds her face went from purple to red to normal to deathly pale as she glanced around and noticed the placeholders staring at us. She then looked at my hand on her shoulder and squeaked again; jumping back so far she was once more standing in the middle of the corridor.

“Y-Y-Youuuuuu!!!”

“Me?”

“I hate you!” She declared while stomping her feet. She did that a lot. “I hated you from the first time I saw you! You keep getting in my way, you are annoying and you smell bad!”

“Well, excuuuuse me, princess!” I answered with a frown of my own as I folded my arms.

She let out another yelp and before I knew it she was already sprinting down the corridor, pushing the placeholders aside like an angry bull on the streets of Pamplona. She rounded a corner… then a few seconds later she poked her torso around the same corner, pointed at me angrily and yelled, “This is not over yet! I will get you for this!”

I rolled my eyes, raised my hands to my mouth to form a funnel and answered, “Whatever you say, princess!”

She nearly fell out of the corner with another squeal but caught herself at the last moment, glared at me one last time and began running again. Once I was sure she wasn’t coming back for another bout I dropped my shoulders in exasperation and groaned loudly. Yep, definitely a tsundere.

Afterwards my return to the classroom suffered no further setbacks and I arrived a good five minutes before the next lesson started. Josh and Angie were already (or still?) talking by my desk while the princess was nowhere to be found. That was odd, but I didn’t really mind at the moment.

I waved to the guys, who were arguing about whether a lobster or some kind of rare beef tasted better, and plopped down onto my chair, ready to record my previous discoveries in my notebook. Then I remembered something and turned to Josh instead.

“Hey guys, got a sec?”

“Hm?” He and Angie both looked at me curiously. “Yes?”

“Guys, give it to me straight. Do I smell?”

The two of them gave me sardonic looks that were mirror images of each other. If synchronized deadpan was an actual sport, these two would have had a head start towards the Olympic gold. At last Angie leaned closer and took a whiff.

“Hmmm… No, not particularly.” She took another whiff and suddenly she perked up. “Oh, wait… is that citrus? I actually kinda like that.”

“Probably my shampoo,” I answered absent-mindedly.

“Why do you ask?”

“Nah, just checking…”

It was about this time that the princess entered the classroom with a huff and a puff. She sent me a glare when our eyes met, but then she averted her gaze, strutted over to her desk and sat down without even acknowledging my existence.

I didn’t really mind, but I couldn’t help but wonder where she had been. She left before me but arrived later, and judging by her heaving, she must have been running for a while… Oh well, maybe she just got lost. She was as new to the place as I was, so it wouldn’t have been unusual if she took a wrong turn somewhere and couldn’t find her way back. I mean, it’s not like everything had to have some deeper narrative meaning. Sometimes simple explanations can work too… Right?

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