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HerculeHastings

PG-13 Splash Free!

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“My name’s Nakahara Aiko. It’s nice to meet you.â€

 

He bowed, and everyone else in the class stared blankly back at him. It was a hot summer’s day, and there was hardly a breeze coming in through the windows. Even the teacher, dressed in a long-sleeved blouse and knee-length skirt, looked a little dazed, perspiration trickling down the side of her face. The fans in the classroom had been powered to full capacity, but this was an example of technology losing to nature. No amount of artificially generated wind was going to combat this heat wave that had taken over the town in the past few days.

 

“Let’s give a warm welcome to Mr Nakahara,†she smiled a second later as everyone gave tired claps. Aiko picked up a duster and wiped his name off the board, before heading over to his assigned seat beside a pale boy with large round glasses on his otherwise small features.

 

“Hello,†said the boy, glancing at him with mild curiosity as he took his seat. “My name’s Ueda. Ueda Michi. I must say, you don’t look like an Aiko.â€

 

Aiko blushed at the direct comment. He had to admit, his name did sound pretty feminine, but he was taken aback that someone could be so brusque about it. He was about to mutter that he had an aunt named Michi, but decided against it. The teacher had gone on with the lesson again, and he flipped his book open frantically, fumbling to find the right page.

 

Ueda seemed to have no qualms about talking in class, even when the other party was obviously not keen on listening.

 

“Say, do you have any interest in astronomy?â€

 

Aiko paused. Did he? He thought hard of what constituted astronomy. There were stars shining against the dark backdrop of the night sky, the colourful planets floating weightless in space. It sounded like something he might have taken an interest in in his youth. And yet there was something missing. He didn’t feel the spark.

 

“I’m sorry, but I’m not really good at it,†he said apologetically. He saw the teacher glancing at them and quickly looked down at his book.

 

“Such a pity,†said Ueda with a shrug. “You do look the able-bodied type. I guess you’ll end up in sports.†There was a derogatory note in his voice at the last word.

 

Ueda’s hatred for sports came through shortly after, when the bell rang for the end of school and almost half the class ran excitedly down to the pool. The temperature had shot up to thirty-six degrees Celsius halfway through the lesson. Aiko followed suit, faintly conscious of his damp shirt sticking to his body. He belonged to the kind of people who perspired buckets. As he turned to look behind him, he saw Ueda walking resolutely in the other direction, up the stairs to the library. A guilty sense of relief washed over him.

 

The water was refreshingly cool. Aiko dipped himself slowly into the pool, letting his body acclimatise. He stretched out his hands and legs, letting the faint currents ripple against his face. He kicked gently. He raised an arm and propelled himself forward, and soon, he was swimming. He swam past the crowds of beginners wading at the sides, past the more competitive ones practising in the middle, and past the beginners again on the other end. He spun back in the direction he had come, switching from freestyle to the butterfly stroke this time, not noticing the other swimmers leaving the pool, or staring at him with wide eyes and open mouth. The water seemed to wash off all his exhaustion, and it was only at the end of his fourth lap that he decided he should stop. He grabbed onto the edge of the pool, his hand sweeping his brown hair back from his face, and looked up, face to face with an unfamiliar boy. The rest of the pool was empty.

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"Ahaha, that's so true..." 

 

The young brown-haired boy adjusted his reading glasses with a chuckle as he swerved around another student, very nearly bumping into her. She turned to give him an exasperated look but Teiko didn't see - his nose was lodged firmly in his new book, absorbing most, if not all, of his attention. He'd just received it in the mail - there didn't appear to be a Japanese translation of this western astrology tome, so he'd had to order it, but it had been worth it, even if he often had to look up some of the English words. Currently he was flipping through a chapter about Geminis, giggling to himself as he moseyed toward the school's exit. 

 

The day had been a long one, and he was ready to swim. It was unbearably hot; even if summer was the season he got to swim the most, he much preferred spring. His shirt was sticking to his back with sweat - even indoors - and when he made it outside, it suddenly seemed too hot even to enjoy his book. He shut it with a weary look at the blistering sky, dragging his feet the rest of the way to the pool. 

 

When he arrived, the usual casual swimmers were getting their time in before the swim team had their practice - but many of them were rather still and staring, but for one. Teiko stopped and watched as a boy a little bigger than him tore through the water, looking lithe as an eel as he easily changed strokes. The way he moved was utterly natural, like the water was his home. 

 

Teiko watched for several minutes, his new book slack in his hands, almost mesmerized by the sight. He wished his teammate were there to see this guy, too! He was always late, though, especially now that their situation with the team was so unsure... The boy was shaken from his reverie as the swimmer emerged at the edge of the pool, wiping wet hair from his face. It seemed the rest of the students had cleared out while he was watching. Teiko hurried to grab a towel from one of the benches and set his book down, bringing it back to the boy and offering a friendly hand to help him out of the pool. 

 

"Hey, you're really good, you know! What's your name? Ohhh, you're the new guy, aren't you! I'd have known if there was another swimmer this good at Iwatobi before now. Mhm..." He nodded to himself, looking the boy over thoughtfully. He didn't realize, as usual, that he wasn't giving the boy much opportunity to respond, caught up in his thoughts like he was, so he went on cheerfully. "It's Nakahara, right? Nakahara-san, have you joined a club yet?" His bright eyes beamed with hope and friendliness, eagerly waiting for an answer. 

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"AHHHHHHH!" a girl's voice screamed as she hurtled toward the pool. She meant to stop before Teiko, but as she did, her ample bust jutted out just enough to bounce against him, pushing him off balance, and into the pool along with the boy he'd been trying to help climb out. A big splash and glare later, Yamauchi Yutaka was bowing and apologizing profusely "Sorry sorry! I was just so excited, it's been a long time since I've seen that level of swimmer, and we desperately need another guy in the swim club!"

 

Yutaka held out her clipboard, which had sheets with photos and bios of various guys, some of them crossed out, some with the photos seemingly torn out. "I've been going through all viable options but none of them want to join! Some won't even take off their shirts for me - how am I supposed to check if they've the requisite swimmer's body? Honestly, guys can be so difficult." she pouted. "Anyway, come along then you two, let's go to the club room and get..." she flipped through her clipboard and found the face of their new recruit-to-be, "... Aiko signed up!"

 

She didn't pay much heed to Teiko's grumbling about being pushed in and having his uniform soaked. The clubroom was adjacent to the pool, and the entrance featured a tiled floor and drain conducive to dripping swimmers coming in. There were several filing cabinets larger than Yutaka herself at the back of the room, and she stood on her tiptoes to reach the uppermost drawer, struggling to grab at the registration forms. Fortunately, by the time the guys had dried off sufficiently to enter the main area of the clubroom and take a seat, she had managed to get one of the forms. She straightened out her uniform, pushed up her red-framed glasses, and brushed her short black hair our of her face.

 

"Now! Just fill in all your details and you'll officially be the fourth member of our swim team!" she slammed the form down on the table and looked at Aiko with a falsely sweet smile - her teeth were actually grinding, her hand was clawing in the table, and her green eyes seemed to glow with evil intent: she would flip out if Aiko refused her as well. "You are joining, right? Right?"

 

Yutaka was the club manager, but the club needed to have four active swimmers as well to remain open. With the end of the year approaching, one of the club members had dropped out. Ever since then, Yutaka had been frantically panicking about the ever-closing deadline and their lack of a complete team. Now that she'd found not just someone who seemed to like swimming, but who seemed extremely good at it, she couldn't let him slip away no matter what.

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“Oh, thanks.†Aiko reached out his hand to take the boy’s as he prepared to push himself out of the pool. “Yes, I’m new here. And no, I haven’t joined a club yet- be careful!â€

But his advice came too late. An over-excited girl had come running up to them, and with an accidental brush, she knocked the boy into the pool as well. Aiko swallowed a large amount of water as the boy crashed forward onto him, sending him back into the water. He quickly disentangled his hand from the boy’s and swam back to the edge of the pool, his hand running through his wet hair to keep it out of his face.

 

“Wait, you know my name? And is that my photo?†Aiko felt mildly creeped-out that everyone in this school seemed to know him by face, but hadn’t bothered to introduce themselves to him. This girl seemed the weirdest of the lot though, if she had somehow secretly snapped a photograph of him… A cold wind blew by and he shivered. There was a lot to learn about Iwatobi High…

 

"You are joining, right? Right?"

 

“Joining? You mean the swim club? Is this the swim club? Wait, do you know her?†he turned to face his companion. He seemed to act as if he knew her, following them here. The girl was only paying attention to him, so it seemed logical to assume that she was already acquainted with him. Plus, Aiko spied that he did have a pretty acceptable body.

 

“Well…†that did sound like a good choice. In fact, if he didn’t join the swim club, he didn’t know what else he’d be joining. However, the girl was still just a little too exuberant, and that made him suspicious. “I guess I can join, yes. Just… fill in this form, right?†Aiko had a weakness for direct pressure, and this girl was not holding back. He held the pen and carefully filled in the requisite information, all the while aware that the girl’s unblinking green eyes had not left him once.

 

“So as members of the swim club, we get to swim a lot, right?†he said finally, returning the form to her. “Is there a fixed time when we get to swim? Is there a reason why the pool was suddenly empty just now? Is it because the swim club gets to have the pool to themselves during certain times? Do we get to take part in competitions?†He hadn’t noticed that his chest was heaving in excitement as he asked these questions. He was going to be able to swim regularly! He could imagine it now, a whole team of swimmers, maybe twenty or more, all taking turns to jump into the water, teaching each other their best techniques.

 

He suddenly gave a grimace. The image of a crowd of students sharing their expertise and swimming together was evoking fuzzy memories in him. Had he been in a swim club before? That was logical, considering his passion for the water. He closed his eyes and held his hands to his head, eager to re-capture the memory that had suddenly come back to him. It was all so unclear. He remembered splashing water at people, and laughing, and kicking off to do the freestyle. He could see a glittering pool, but was that just part of his imagination, filling in the gaps? He shook his head desperately, feeling doubt cloud over the imagery. Maybe he was just imagining the entire thing.

 

“I’m sorry,†he murmured, looking up to see that he was still in the room, and had probably just embarrassed himself or startled the others. “Do let me meet the rest of the club, so that I may give my formal introduction. Are they all in the clubroom? Or is this the clubroom? Oh dear, I’m asking so many questions again. Do pardon me, I’m just very unsure of what goes on in this school.†He was afraid that they would tell him that this school functioned much like any other high school, to which he would be forced to reply that he had no idea how other high schools functioned either.

 

Because he didn’t remember a thing.

 

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"Geeeez, Yu-chan," Teiko whined. He tried to wring some of the water out of his shirt as they entered the club room. "You've gotta take it easy. I know your Gemini nature makes you very excitable, but really... What if I'd had my phone in my pocket? I have a lot of important stuff on my phone!" 

 

But it didn't seem like Yutaka was listening. Teiko sighed and wandered off toward his extra locker in the back of the building while Yutaka worked on finding a form for Aiko, peeling off his shirt as he went. He supposed he would just have to set his clothes outside and let them dry during practice. He took out his swimsuit and glanced over his shoulder at the other two. They seemed preoccupied, but for the sake of not freaking poor Aiko out any more by stripping after just meeting him, he stepped out of sight behind the side of a locker to get changed. Ironically, he wasn't quite as concerned about Yutaka's presence, as she had accidentally (or perhaps "accidentally") seen the swim team in the process of changing a dozen times. 

 

When he stepped out he was wearing his usual black and lime green spandex swim shorts, very snug for hydrodynamic purposes, with his wet clothes hanging over his arm. Aiko was rattling off questions about the swim club, seeming rather excited. He had to laugh as he walked back over to them. 

 

"Of course we go to competitions!" he answered cheerfully. "There's one near the end of term that we plan on going to, so you'd better get training. Of course, the way you swam today, I'm sure you'll..." Teiko blinked and trailed off as the boy seemed to wince with pain, holding his hands to his head. "Nakahara-san? You all right?" He stood nearby a little worriedly, his hands hovering as he wondered what he should do. "Do you... need to see the n-" 

 

"I'm sorry," the boy said eventually. He still had a strange look on his face, but he didn't seem to be in much pain like Teiko had thought. He dropped his hands and gave a little shrug. That was weird... 

 

"Y..Yeah, this is the club room," he confirmed. "There are lots of extra lockers over there if you want to use one for your swimming equipment. As far as the other members, I think Souta-kun is absent today, and Masumi-kun is always late, the lazy bum. But - are you sure you're all right? You got a little pale just then. Maybe you should sit back and just watch today, see how we do thi-" 

 

"The one day I'm on time and you guys haven't even started yet," a voice interrupted from just outside. A tall, broad-shouldered boy stepped into the club room, already in the process of removing his shirt. "Are you sure you guys aren't just as lazy as I am?" He finished pulling his uniform white shirt over his head, revealing a hard, lean build and a mysterious little bruise or two on his chest. His hazel eyes wandered to Aiko curiously, finally noticing him. "Who's this?" 

 

"Masumi-kun, check the clock," Teiko pointed out dryly. "You're not on time at all. And nobody's as lazy as you. Anyway," he went on, moving behind Aiko and clapping his shoulders proudly, "this is Nakahara-san - our newest member! You should have seen him swimming earlier, Masumi-kun. He'll make a great addition to the team. You might have some competition as the strongest swimmer after all." 

 

"Oh, yeah?" Masumi seemed to have taken the statement as a challenge, a tell-tale glint in his eye as he looked Aiko over. Masumi, while chronically casual and lazy most of the time, had a bit of a competitive streak. It was the one way to get him to hop to his feet instantly, Teiko had learned. "Well. Welcome to the team, Nakahara. I'm Masumi. I guess our club crisis is over now, eh, Yuyu-chan?" He slapped his shirt over his shoulder as he sauntered over to his locker, giving Yutaka a grin and a poke on the shoulder as he passed. "So stop freaking everyone out now, okay? I had to convince five of the guys you harassed not to tell our sponsor on you. Now get outta here so I can change, you've seen me naked enough times." 

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The concerning imagery evoked by his memories had all but faded once Masumi joined them and began his friendly banter with Yutaka and Teiko. Aiko let out a laugh. He liked this casual atmosphere, with a bunch of friends hanging around and joking. He was ready to dismiss everything that happened just now as a bunch of strange daydreams, which he was quite prone to when the weather got too warm for class.

 

“I’m fine, no need to sit back!†he grinned, stretching out his legs in his orange swimming trunks. “I sure haven’t swum enough just now, and I want to get back into the water. I hope Souta-san’s alright, and hasn’t caught the summer cold or anything.â€

 

Unbeknownst to them, Souta-san was currently being assailed by more than just the cold, but also by the wonders of the constellations.

 

“If you hang around with us tonight, I’m quite sure you’ll get to see the Summer Triangle. It’s clear skies out, no sign of clouds or rain for a long time.â€

 

Souta turned, and met the determined eyes of Ueda Michi, who pressed a finger onto the rim of his glasses and nudged it up his small nose for emphasis. The 2 of them stared eye-to-eye for a couple of seconds.

 

“The Summer Triangle,†Michi continued, since Souta didn’t seem to have anything to say, “is made up of 3 very bright stars.†He broke into a smile, transfixed by his own mental imagery. “If you look at them from a telescope, you’ll be able to see the smaller stars at the side too, such as the constellations of Lyra and Cygnus! Why-“

 

“I’m sorry,†declared Souta apologetically, his already reddened nose wrinkling even further. “I’m far too unwell today to be joining you. Now can I get back to bed?â€

 

They were in Souta's bedroom. Souta had drawn his blanket down on the floor with him, and was peering at the energetic Michi and the pile of lesson notes that he had gotten for him.

 

“It’s alright, your health’s more important,†nodded Michi as he patted Souta on the shoulder. “The Summer Triangle should be evident in the sky for the next 3 months. Just join us tomorrow, you know you want to!â€

 

“About that… the next swimming competition’s fast approaching, and I think I’ll need to practise for that…â€

 

“I thought someone already left the swimming club earlier, so you’re down to only 3 swimmers, right? Aren’t you guys gunning for the 4-person relay?â€

 

“Well that’s true…†stammered Souta, “but I’m sure now that it’s the new semester, a new member shouldn’t be hard to find…â€

 

“A new member who somehow happens to be ready for competitions immediately? Come on, Souta, I know how you’re feeling. You’re not very good at swimming, are you? You only joined the relay because there wasn’t anybody else-â€

 

“-Ueda-san, that’s really direct!â€

 

“-Sorry. But think about it. You’ve already lost interest in swimming, and you look stressed and haggard everyday trying to keep up with competition standards. You honestly want to go stargazing with me, don’t you? Well, why’s it your duty to keep up a dying club? You’re better off joining the Astronomy Club, which is increasing its intake slowly but surely. Do something you enjoy outside of school! The Astronomy Club has no competitions and no demands placed on you. Plus you’ll get to do so much! Visit science museums, read astronomy magazines, photograph eclipses…â€

 

Souta looked uneasily down at the floor. Michi, finally sensing that perhaps he was distressing the fellow further, got up.

 

“Well do take a good rest. I should be going. As always, feel free to phone me if you need help with homework. Oka-chan, I’m going off now~! Thank you for the tea!â€

 

He hummed a merry tune as he left Souta in deep thought.

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Yutaka stepped out to let Masumi change in peace.

 

Itazura na KIMI no tame ni. Nareru kara kitto atashi wa. KYANDI- POPU SUITO HA-TO~

 

Yutaka's phone sounded off with her bubblegum pop message tone, and she checked it. It seemed Souta had sent her a message, and she assumed it would be an update on his illness and an assurance that he'd attend the next meeting for sure. But it was not that.

 

Soz, quitting swim club. Not really into it anymore. Been letting you guys down in training anyway so just replace me.

 

A second after she'd finished reading, and the wheels in her mind were already churning away devising tortures for this defiance, another message came in.
 

Also its against school rules to coerce people into clubs, so plz don't try to change my mind.

 

"What does he think I am, some crazy person!?" Yuta yelled, shaking her phone. Several people walking past looked at her like she was, in fact, some crazy person.

 

She turned around and burst back into the clubroom, forgetting Masumi hadn't finished changing yet. "Grr we have a problem, that dweeb Souta has abandoned us! We need another new member now, argh! I've spent days trying to find one, and fate drops this prodigy in our hands," she said, gesturing at Aiko, "and now we've lost another so we still may be shut down!"

 

After her outburst, she flopped down at the table in the middle of the room, resting her head and outstretched arms on it in resignation. "We're doomed."

 

 

--

 

"You're doomed."

 

"Relax, I can fix this."

 

Akane Inoue picked up the body of the unconscious teacher with a grunt of effort, and carried him over to a nearby tree.  There, he set him down in the grass then arranged his body so that he was stretched out on his back, with his hands resting behind his head.

 

"There, it just looks like he's taking a midday nap now." he said, dusting off his hands and brushing his fiery orange hair out of his face, pushing it backward where it belonged.

 

"But won't he remember that you knocked him out?" Itsuki worried still, glancing around nervously.

 

Akane smirked, "I think I hit him hard enough he won't remember what day it is let alone what hit him."

 

"But what if someone saw?" Itsuki insisted.

 

"The only one who saw was you." Akane said, turning to stare at Itsuki significantly. His golden eyes glared, their hardness seeming to pierce deep into Itsuki. "You won't tell anyone, will you?"

 

Itsuki's eyes grew wide, "Of course not, never!" he yelped.

 

"Good, now you run along and let me go finish having my smoke. It must've been your fault Jirou found us like that. You don't get to come along anymore."

 

Itsuki would've protested, but he knew better. Instead, he just headed off dejectedly.

 

Akane returned to his spot in a narrow alley behind one of the main school buildings. Only repairmen ever came back here, to get access to the generator room, so it was the perfect spot for a delinquent to hang out and have a sneaky cigarette. He lit one up and leaned against the wall. His tie hung limply from his neck, barely knotted, while his shirt was untucked and had only a couple of its buttons actually done up. His knuckles were cracked and scarred from some recent fighting - not the teacher he'd just knocked out, of course, but actual fighting.

 

After a moment, he dropped his cigarette and stubbed it out with his foot, but as he rounded the corner, he found himself faced with several teachers. They were led by Shinobu-sensei, who was an absolute bear of a man who taught English - no doubt he was there as a safety measure because they had found out Akane had assaulted a teacher.

 

"Fuck."

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