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006-Till Our Lives Burn Out - Ch3-Pt3b

by Eric Gasparich
copyright 02-06-2008


Age Rating: 13 +
006-Till Our Lives Burn Out - Ch3-Pt3b


Till Our Lives Burn Out

A Sailor Moon Fan Story

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Chapter 003-First Things
(Part 3-continued)

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… “And hungry, it would seem,” he said, as he stared into her eyes. “I have to admit, this happened earlier than I expected. You have surprised me, and that’s not an easy thing to do. I may have underestimated you- a little- a mistake I promise not to make again.”

He got up, put the chair away, and pulled out a period map for the Roman Empire.

“We’ll spend a few minutes on this. This is what the current scholarship says on the subject: any attempt to explain why Rome fell, has to cover why the western half did and the eastern half didn’t. It is the fundamental problem for the specialists in that area.”

“Yes,” she nodded excitedly. “That’s exactly what I don’t understand. How can anyone think there was only a single cause for it, when the Western half collapsed, and the Eastern half didn’t?”

He gaped at her for a full minute. This was the first time the thought ‘God, I love this clever little kid’ came explicitly into Kuryakin’s mind.

“You’ve thought about this, have you? Okay then, here we go:

Why did Rome fall? The broad general single cause explanations you can all but dismiss out of hand. Decadence? I doubt it. They were as decadent in building their empire as they were in losing it. Undermining effects of Christian “turn the other cheek” doctrine? Nah. Neither in the 5th century nor at any other time have European Christians had any real problem with fighting for their country, whether against each other, or against outside invaders like the Saracens. And the Eastern half of the Empire was even more Christian, and far more mystically so, than the Western Half, and it held together, in the form of the Byzantine Empire, for another thousand years. Set-in-stone theoretical explanations don’t fare well either. Any attempt to impose modern prejudices on ancient conditions is usually nonsense. There’s the Eugenicist explanation of racial miscegenation. Nonsense. The eastern half was filled with the ‘weaker Asiatic races’ and lasted a thousand years longer … you’re really getting all this fancy terminology I’m throwing out here?”

“Mostly, Kuryakin-sensei,” she said, and then continued rather imperiously, “you might dumb the fancy words down just a bit, and I’ll catch up after I’ve had time to review.”

He chuckled. He had just been given an order, and it was a pretty good one.

“Miscegenation means mixing of the races. And either it’s nonsense, or it suggests that Asiatics were not the weaker ones. Take your pick of those two poisons, and I mean ‘poison’ literally. Then there are the specific isolated cause explanations. Catastrophic events, for example: radical climate shifts, depopulation or demographic implosion, as it’s called now - which, by the way, is something Japan is going to learn about first hand over the next few decades: lead poisoning, because the Romans used lead pipes: ecological depletion-the Romans wore out the environment. And none of those work either, because of the problem you pointed out: why did the eastern half of the Empire survive? Did the climate only shift in the west? The eastern Romans used lead pipes too, and I doubt they were more environmentally aware than the western Romans. I will say the demographic implosion might work, if you can prove it, and if you can explain why it occurred, in conjunction with other theories.”

Hotaru was making notes frantically now, and with a very determined look on her face. World history was clearly her passion. She knew Asian history best of all. Now she was getting good stuff to think about in European history, and, partly because it was less familiar to her, it was even more fun.

“You really are fascinated by this, aren’t you?”

“Yes, Kuryakin-sensei. I am fascinated by details on what causes the fall of a kingdom. Can I hear more about those other theories, please?”

“Other theories,” he continued. “Rampant corruption in the government? Hard to prove it was any less rampant earlier on. Corruption was rampant in the late empire, but, people are people, and I suspect it was just as bad in the Republic and the Early Empire. The later Empire had a lot more officials to corrupt, but there were also more Romans. It‘s possible there was some kind of critical mass, but that doesn’t mean the percentage of corrupt officials went up. Certainly, corruption in government officials is never a good sign.

The well-attested barbarian invasions? Again, why was the Eastern Empire able to hold them off? More on that in a bit.

Then there are the complex, non-general explanations. The divided empire thesis for example: Rome was a very divided society, rich and poor, Christian and pagan, Roman and barbarian, etc. losing cohesion and unable to defend its borders. Again, there were all those things in the eastern half, and yet it stood for another thousand years. Then there’s the ‘systems analysis explanation’ that revives the barbarian invasions thesis: the invasions created internal pressure that then exacerbated the divisions and created what is called a positive feedback loop. There’s an invasion, increased division makes it impossible to fend off the invasion, which encourages more invasions. The barbarians devastate an area, the government has to raise more taxes to fund the army to stop the invasions, the society becomes increasingly oppressive, and on and on until collapse.

The problem with that is best demonstrated by the Transformationist school, which says that Roman Empire never fell; it just changed, like a caterpillar into a butterfly. They point out the continuity between certain features of the late Roman Period, and the Early Medieval Period. There is a certain resemblance of Late Rome to a kind of proto-feudalism. The great cities had shrunk, to near nothing in some cases. It was very rural, with large villas, and what amounted to indentured servants. The late period royalty looked far more like the absolute monarchies of Medieval Kingdoms than of the Republic. And the greatest continuity was the Christian religion itself, with proto-monasteries popping up everywhere.

But I find it hard to believe. For one thing, we have the writings of the Christians that blame the calamities on the pagans, and vice versa. Whoever was right or wrong, it was clearly the consensus that calamity was occurring. And then Justinian, the Eastern Emperor, tried to invade Africa and the Western Empire to retake it, so clearly something that was there was now gone. The thing people missed the most about it was order. It was a very chaotic and lawless time, and that was due to the fact that Rome really wasn’t there to impose order anymore.

It’s worth noting the continuities, but the people of the time clearly recognized that Rome had fallen. Have I given you enough to chew on, Hotaru-chan?”

Apparently not. She raised her hand. “What do you think happened?”

“Okay, this is what I think,” he said very deliberately. “It is a mistake to take any one thing and amplify it as the cause. I hold to a broad systems analysis approach. Complex events require complex understandings. Everything affects everything else. Of course, the invasions had an effect. But we must always explain why the Eastern Empire survived. In the case of the invasions, the West had to defend all of the Rhine and most of the Danube. The East only had to defend 300 miles of the Danube.”

“What about the Persians, Kuryakin-sensei?”

“In a minute,” he smiled. “Take a look at this map. Constantinople was a nearly impregnable to invasion from the north or the west, by the fifth century. Any invasion coming southward would run up against it, and then get shunted toward the West where the pickings were easier. This only increased the pressure on the west, and mere geography played a huge part in that. The only way to take Constantinople was from behind, and to do that you would have to go down the Balkan Peninsula, build a navy, invade Asia Minor and come in from the east. Also, Constantinople was much less dependent on Germanic troops and leaders, and this suggests that yes, there was significant demographic implosion in the West. That implosion is also suggested by the decline in technological prowess exemplified by certain pottery examples which show that pottery from the later period was very inferior to earlier times. Some technologies had definitely been lost.

As for the Persians, they were a civilized nation. One could sign treaties and expect them to be upheld. After 363 C.E. there were no major wars between the Persians and the Eastern half of the empire, at the very time the West was so heavily under assault. The next major Persian wars don’t come along until the 6th century. So then, the Eastern Empire survived until 1453 when the Turks finally took it, and brought the History of the Eastern Roman Empire, and the Roman Empire as a whole to an end. Even up to the last, the Byzantines called themselves Romaoi, that is, Romans. And they did succeed in preserving a great deal from the ancient world, so that when the Turks took the city, immigrants from the area would bring with them the treasures of antiquity that helped fuel the Renaissance. The West meanwhile devolved into a bunch of little Barbarian kingdoms that form the roots of the modern European nations. Did you get all that?”

She was still scribbling furiously, but then she looked up, smiled and nodded. This may have been the best lesson ever. But Hotaru was not done. She had one last bombshell question to ask.

“Kuryakin-sensei?”

“Yes?”

After a well timed rhetorical pause, she asked, “What is the truth?”

“You mean about the Roman Empire, or … in general?”

“The latter.”

Kuryakin let out a low whistle that resonated throughout the room, and then said, “Hmmm, a little college level lecture and you’re ready to try a jump off the existential high dive into the epistemological deep end, are you?” The high-tone words did nothing to dampen her expectant expression, and, in this moment, she looked so adorable, he flirted with saying something.

“You promised not to underestimate me, Kuryakin-sensei.” And so he had.

“You think I know the answer to that, do you?”

“I am interested in what you think, Kuryakin-sensei,” she said, and suddenly, as though something else had come into the room, there it was, unmistakable. The Cold Look had come into her eyes. Icy, life draining cold. The very room temperature seemed to drop. His eyes narrowed.

“Okay, then,” he said, fascinated by what he was seeing in her eyes. He got very close to her, and looked directly and fearlessly into her eyes. “Y’know, that ‘this is what I think’ thing?”

She nodded.

“It goes, times ten, now. This is what I, and I alone think …”

He coughed into his hand, and cleared his throat.

“Absolute, objective and comprehensive truth does exist, but as a whole it is known and knowable only by the Maker of All Things. If there is one,” he added as a caveat, though he himself clearly believed there was such a being. “Follow me so far?”

She nodded, and he was 98 percent convinced she really had.

“For those who are ‘made,’ created, contingent on the unmade, truth is partial, and existential –something you must seek out and experience with your whole being- and it is a lived dialogue, that is, a back and forth with Reality itself. And the only way you will ever know it, is to be absolutely honest about what you do and don’t know, and by making yourself vulnerable to others through love. And there will be a test on this, Hotaru-chan, not by me, but by Reality itself, and you will be tested every minute of your life. Remember, that is what I, and I alone, think. You are in no way, under any obligation to think the same thing.”

Then as he walked back to the map, he looked over his shoulder and winked at her as he said, “Unless I’m right.”

By the time he’d gotten to words ‘through love,’ the Cold Look had melted away, and a grateful look had taken its place. This marked the first time he had ever engaged her, not as teacher to pupil but as one independent mind to another. It was so shocking how pleasant this was, in later times, she considered it a kind of awakening. Never very long on self esteem, she was even more intimidated by her teacher, this tall, sometimes strange, very together looking person with eyes that looked like they could see through a mountain. That, too, was the day, he consciously accepted his responsibility to see her, not as the ward of her guardians, but as a singular person; and to respect her, to draw her out, and to find out what she really thought about things. Anything could happen now.

“Who am I, really?” she had wondered a lot lately. So many things had changed since the last crisis. Yes, she was Sailor Saturn, the Soldier of Ruin, but even there she had never had to live a human life with the knowledge of who she was as a Senshi, and especially, in light of the purpose she served in the scheme of things. What she did know about who she was made it even more important to ponder what she didn’t know about who she was. So the question ‘Who am I?’ was, in her case, even more of the moment. For the first time, she thought she might have a decent chance of finding out. She knew about her Cold Look, though she did not realize that it was also manifesting itself during her seizures. She knew it was off-putting, to put it mildly. Lately she had made a certain peace with it. It was her way of testing people, and even things, like the dolphins. This teacher had looked her in the eye, taken her Cold Look without fear, and swallowed it up out of an appreciation for her as unique. He had told her, and trusted her to hear, the best and deepest things he knew. Whether he was right, wrong, or somewhere in between didn’t matter; he had just become her friend.

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That night’s ‘lesson recital’ was an extremely interesting and animated event. For Hotaru felt she had an advantage even her teacher could not have: someone who might actually know why the Roman Empire fell, first hand, as it were. Hotaru was in for a bit of a disappointment. After she reviewed the day’s lesson in historical causation for her guardians, a discussion followed where Hotaru came to understand the limits of Setsuna’s abilities to see Time. Setsuna tried to explain that she was just as limited by her individuality as much as anyone else.

“I do try to understand those things as best I can,” said Setsuna. “The Time Gate is of great help, of course. It allows me to see general things, and maybe a bit of the causes, and the notable people involved. But the picture is never whole, and certainly never as whole as I would like it to be.”

“Hotaru,” said Haruka, attempting to amplify the point about Setsuna’s individuality, “What she is saying is that the devil is in the details. To actually understand that, she would actually have to go there, acculturate, and observe. It could take centuries of that to figure it out.”

“So in other words, history is at best a guess, unless one has really lived it?”

“It can be a very educated guess,” said Setsuna, “but yes, that’s not an entirely unfair way to put it. Of course, I am usually right far more than I am wrong, and I’ll put my record of accuracy up against any academic historian’s.”

Hotaru wasn’t too disappointed. When she had thought this conversation through, she realized Setsuna in her own way, believed the truth was found in the same way her tutor did, by living a life. As least, it seemed that way.

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On the Tuesday of the fourth week, one of the things Hotaru had been secretly hoping for finally happened. Michiru had called to tell them that Haruka’s car had broken down, and with profuse apologies, she wondered if Kuryakin-san could take Hotaru home. He agreed, and even sounded pleased to do so. He also offered to come and get them if they needed a ride home. Michiru thanked him, but said that would not be necessary. Hotaru was hoping for this because it might be a time where he would not have to act so professional, and she might be able to ask him questions about himself. During the trip to the Dolphinarium, she had been too excited about it and a little too shy to probe, and on the way back, she had slept. But, there were things she had noticed and now that she was more familiar with her teacher, she thought that it wouldn’t offend discretion too much to ask.

“Which way would you like to go home, Hotaru-chan? The shortest way, or the scenic route?”

“Uhm, which would be less trouble for you?”

“Don’t even worry about that.”

“We usually cross the bay to bring me here. But isn’t the toll very expensive?”

“I have a free pass.”

“Oh, Haruka-poppa has one of those, too.”

“Really? Always interesting, her and Miss Kaioh. I have got to find a way to get to know those two. Myself, I’d like to take the scenic route. We’ll do the Aqua Line together another day, all right? I promise.”

“Okay.”

She was very glad of this, since it would give her time to put her questions carefully. They headed out from the studio early and began the long trek around Tokyo bay, heading for the Chiba prefecture on the Boso Peninsula.

“May I ask some questions, Kuryakin sensei?”

“Relating to lessons, or of some other nature?”

“The second kind. “

“You may always ask, Hotaru-chan. I may not always answer,” he said looking slyly at her, “but you may always ask.”

She waited a few moments, unsure.

“Ask away, Hotaru-chan.”

“The last few lessons you seem kind of tired.”

“Oh, well, yeah, I haven’t been getting good sleep lately.”

“Why not?”

He smiled. “I like how curious you are. Never stop, and thanks for noticing. I have a few things on my mind.”

“Like what?”

Now he chuckled.

“Next question, Hotaru-chan.”

“Do you have a lot of friends here?”

“A few. Mostly though, I have professional acquaintances, and former students like Miss Mizuno. Some of them are even abroad, working or going to college. Every now and then, I’ll run into someone, or a few of them will remember me, and drop me line. Not so much lately, though. I wish they would. I hope everything is going well for them.”

“I was wondering about that. I remember what you said when we first met about how few of them ever call you.”

“Well, it’s not that unexpected. People are like tree branches. They grow farther and father apart from each other and sometimes nothing short of a good wind can knock them together again.”

A few more miles passed.

“Are you single?” she quietly but suddenly blurted out.

He laughed at that one.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “it’s just that, well …”

“Yes?”

“Your life strikes me as pretty lonely.”

“Really? What makes you think so?”

“Foreign teacher in a strange land, …”

“Every land is strange to me …” he quipped.

“… you live alone in a building in a depressing part of the city …”

“… rent is cheaper, and it’s quiet there …”

“… you always seem so glad to see me …”

“… I can’t imagine anybody who wouldn’t be happy to spend a few hours of the day with you,” he smiled. “Hotaru-chan, you don’t know what I do in my off hours. When I’m not working on your lesson plans, that is. I keep busy, doing things I really enjoy. Don’t fret yourself.”

After another mile passed in silence, he ventured tentatively, “What about you, Hotaru-chan? Do you have any friends?”

She seemed to get a little distant for a moment. Then, she said, “not really. There are the other violin students Michiru-momma teaches, but I don’t really get to meet them in an informal way. Once I was invited to a sleep over by one of them, but I wasn’t able to go. I do have one very good friend, though. I just don’t get to see her much.”

“Are you able to keep in touch with her, at least?”

“Now and then. Someday I hope I can be in the same … place as her.”

The very careful choosing of words on her part was obvious to him.

“She is your … anam cara.”

“What’s that, Kuryakin-sensei?”

“Your soul friend. The one person you can say anything to, hear anything from, do anything with. The one person who will always listen. She – I assume it’s a she- doesn’t judge, but she’s not afraid to confront you either. She’s the one person who, more than anyone else, can help you find out who you really are.”

“Yes, that is her,” Hotaru affirmed. “I can go anywhere with her, do anything, and be very happy. Just being with her is all that matters.”

“Exactly. I really regret now that I don’t have any other students. You might have been able to make a friend or two that way.”

“Do you have a soul friend?”

“I’ve never had one,” he said, indifferently.

“So … you don’t know who you are?” she asked, slyly smiling.

He smiled back.

“How does a soul friend help you … find out who you are?”

“Oh, they draw you out of yourself, make you realize what is and isn’t really important to you. I get the feeling Miss Tenoh and Miss Kaioh are that way.”

“Why don’t you have one?” she asked, very interested.

“Well, a soul friend has to have at least some shared experience in order to empathize. The harder the shared experience, the deeper the empathy. My … situation has always been … sort of unique, singular.”

Now he was choosing his words carefully, and she realized it.

“Have you ever had a … I’m sorry. Never mind.”

“A … girl friend?” he whispered conspiratorially.

She smiled and even blushed a little.

“Not here, if that’s what you mean.”

“Oh.”

A few more miles passed, then she asked worriedly and suddenly, “Do you not like the girls in this country?”

Another mile passed before he was done laughing at that.

“Oh, no, I like them very much. They’re very nice and very … friendly, for the most part. Sometimes a bit too friendly. This one student I had last year asked if she could call me Taiki-sensei, after some character in a TV show. Or it may have been some guy in a singing group; I didn’t get that part exactly.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m so tall, I think it was. My other girl students thought it was really funny though, and I don’t think I want to know the reason for that. Y’know, nearly all my cram school groups were made up of girls. The first two, completely so. Everyone paid close attention to me. It was cute, especially once they found out about the ‘apple for the teacher’ thing - which no one in America really does anymore, but somehow they found out about it. So, I was swimming in apples for a while. I turned them all into apple butter, and apple jelly, and sent it back home with them, along with some good black bread. Customer relations and all that. I found out why I had so many girls later. I met a few gaijin who came here to teach English for the school system. Almost without fail, if it’s a guy, he’ll have mostly girls assigned to his class, and if it’s a girl, she’ll get all boys. One might get the idea their employers do that on purpose. Whatever the gender, it must be a selling point to the opposite sex. So my classes naturally attracted more girls than guys. Anyway, let me put it this way: Japanese or otherwise, no, I do not and have not had a girl friend since coming here.”

Then, as though he felt the need to offer some hope for whatever reason she was asking this, he added slyly, “Yet. Why do you want to know?”

“You’ve been here for seven years, right? It seems like a long time to go without having someone to be close to.”

“Maybe,” he said seriously, “but for some people, Hotaru-chan, seven years is nothing.”

‘True enough,’ thought Hotaru, thinking of Setsuna-momma’s alter ego. Now he became distant looking, and bit morose. She had found out what she wanted to know. It seemed like a good time to drop the subject.

Even in this situation, the education did not stop. A few minutes later, as they came to a stoplight, he noticed a semi-truck driver inching slowly to the stop light hoping it would change to green so he would not have to stop completely. He quickly brought this to Hotaru’s attention and asked her to explain why the truck driver was doing this. By this time, she was used to his way of teaching and knew that he brought it up because somehow it was a practical application of something they had studied. She needed only a few seconds to realize that the truck driver was hoping to avoid a complete stop because “a body at rest tends to remain at rest, and a body in motion tends to remain in motion.” And in fact, the driver was quite expert. He had successfully timed his deceleration to prevent a full stop. “Now sometime in your next lesson,” he said, “we’re going to see if we can figure out how much gas the driver saved by avoiding a complete stop. It may not be much, but if he’s able to do that most of the time, I’ll bet it adds up. So tonight, I want you to spend a little time thinking about what we need to know to figure that out. You can even ask your guardians for help if you want.”


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They were now well down into the Chiba prefecture. The city of Kisarazu was on their right as they headed up a little ways into the mountainous spine of the Boso peninsula. The road leading to Hotaru’s house was easy to follow since it was also a bus route, the very one Setsuna Meioh’s bus would follow to bring her home, so he figured. He wondered if she was already there yet.

“Oh, this is nice,” as they rounded a corner very close to where Hotaru lived. Kuryakin had noticed the signs that said Scenic View Ahead. Now he saw what they referred to. At this point one had a pretty good view of both the Pacific Ocean to the east, and the view of Tokyo bay, the City of Kisarazu, and the Aqua-line bridge tunnel that connected it with Kawasaki on the other side. But it was the view to the southwest that had really caught his attention. He would have to make a point to stop here and take a better look on his way home. Even better though was the secluded little area at the end of a single narrow street, where a beautiful house came into view as one passed a slight curve. Hotaru and her guardians lived in medium-sized, three story, Victorian style mansion, with blue brick siding, and a covered porch that lined the whole house. On the south side, it expanded into a larger, covered patio. Even from the outside, Kuryakin could see hints of a two -it might even be three- story central rotunda, capped by a third floor covered in blue-gray flecked shingles, with a very stylish fourth floor observatory to boot, and three tall, dark red, brick chimneys that suggested this would be one very cozy place to be in the deep of winter. It was nestled in amongst pine trees, with beds of wild roses in front. As he pulled into the circle driveway in front of the house, Kuryakin could see a covered walkway leading to a garage that, so Hotaru told him, housed Tomboy Kitten's small fleet of cars.

“What a nice place!" Kurykin said, aghast. "I knew there were some nice houses in this area, but Hotaru-chan, you are one lucky kid. I’m not charging you people enough.”

They pulled into the driveway. She got out, unlocked the front door and went inside the house, but Setsuna had not gotten there yet.

“Okay then, Hotaru-chan, I’ll stick around till Miss Meioh gets here.”

“It’s all right, Kuryakin-sensei, I can be alone for …”

“Hotaru-chan?” he interrupted. “I’ll stick around.”

She smiled.

“In the meantime, come here and take a look at this,” he said. He had pulled tree branch down, pulled a little plastic Fresnel lens from his pocket, and had her take a look at the structure of a leaf. After explaining several leaf shapes, edge types and vein structures, his voice trailed off. Hotaru looked up at him. He was staring at something. Far away, walking through the pools of alternating sunlight and shadow made by the trees that lined the road to their house, was Setsuna. She was in a maroon top with a lavender skirt and still had her lab coat on. Hotaru called to her, took a quick glance at her tutor and smiled again, then ran to greet her. He followed afterward, covered the ground between them quickly without appearing to, and as they met, he offered to take Setsuna’s book bag. To Hotaru’s mild surprise, she allowed this.

As they walked along, Hotaru remembered something about how Setsuna had acted during their first meeting, and now, she realized, she had a chance to confirm the observation. Both of them were talking amiably. He explained why he had to bring Hotaru home. She said she knew about it, since Michiru had left her a message. Then they talked about how Hotaru was doing, and he complimented her yet again on the fine job she and the others had done raising her. At times, they almost seemed to forget Hotaru was right there with them. She did not mind this in the least, for a wonderful and wholly unexpected feeling stole over her. ‘This is … nice.’ Him and her together, she between them, walking down a wooded driveway with the shafts of sunlight knifing though the trees: she almost felt like she was a part of a biological family. He was so tall and Setsuna was … Setsuna, her lovely mother figure, so beautiful as the light and shadow danced around her, and played off her face, her hair, her white coat. Enchanting as this was, she was careful to watch them both, and by the time they’d gotten to the door, Hotaru had confirmed that earlier observation. Now she stood by his van and watched them both very intently, as he walked Setsuna up to the porch, and set her book bag down. After a few more minutes of talking, they parted company. Setsuna did not go into the house right away, but watched him all the way to his van.

“Oh, Kuryakin-sensei?” Hotaru called, as he opened the door to his van.

“Yes, Hotaru-chan?”

“You said music was the second best thing you do. What’s the first?”

He smiled indulgently at her, but then said, “Oh that’s … *ahem* something I can’t talk about. See you Thursday. 10:00 a.m. sharp.”

Then he looked at Setsuna still standing on the porch.

“Good day, Miss Meioh,” he called to her.

And with a bow from him, and a nod from her, he got back in his van, and left.

-------------------------------------------------------

Kuryakin was pensive as he drove home. He’d had almost forgotten that scenic view they’d seen coming home, but caught himself in time, and pulled off to take in the view again. It was amazing. He couldn’t believe just how much it looked like … that place. He watched for several minutes, thinking.

He really should have counted himself fortunate that Miss Meioh had not been there, simply dropped Hotaru off, and left, but the chance to see that un-be-lievable woman again proved quite irresistible, in spite of the inevitable letdown that would follow upon parting. It did, of course. With her caryatid-like posture, her elegant, purposeful gait, and always stylish dress, she was as stunning as he expected and he truly doubted there was ever a moment of any day, night or season when she wasn’t. She was very cordial with him, and he was ethically obligated to be the same with her, but lately, the mere thought of her was making his head spin.

He had not felt like this in a far longer time than he could ever tell anyone. It was the kind of feeling that forced one to ‘do something’ about it, as it had in his past. The thought crossed his mind that, as in his past, maybe she was far too good for him. It was quickly countered by the determination that it hadn’t stopped him then, and it wasn’t going to stop him now. He began thinking about the time ahead. Hotaru’s problem was, he thought, being solved and there would be no need for him to tutor her another term. He would gladly do so, in spite of any future plans and this time with no pretense of requiring payment, but it didn’t look like that would be necessary. So then, to ‘do something’ about the sweet moment in her presence he’d just enjoyed, he got out his cell phone. There was reservation he ought to make, just in case.

Back at their home, Setsuna was thinking furiously about something, even as she listened intently to Hotaru’s daily lesson ‘recital.’ She was very busy with coursework now, but running into Kuryakin-san today, while not unpleasant –it was very pleasant actually- had also caused her to wonder anew at why the man seemed so strange to her. She had let her ongoing puzzlement rest a bit, as her coursework put greater demands on her time, but meeting him today, as she suspected she would once Michiru had called her, suddenly reinvigorated the desire to puzzle this person out. Hotaru mentioned she thought he had been waiting around to see her. She thought it was out of professional obligation, safely and certainly seeing Hotaru back to her, but he also clearly enjoyed the encounter.

‘What is so strange about him? Why can I not let this rest? I am going to have to get a hold of Dr. Mizuno this weekend, even if it means going to her hospital to do it.’

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“I think I know what I want to make Kuryakin-sensei,” said Hotaru, as she settled in to her desk the following Thursday.

“What’s that?” asked her teacher, as he was going over her review sheets.

“A tea cup. A really nice one. Traditional Japanese ...”


(WORD LIMIT REACHED)




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