Chapter 1: one
"Just like a landmine going off inside my mind
I remember the moment that changed everything I know
- Lifelines, I Prevail"
The train ride home is quiet. There aren’t nearly as many people riding the train as there was earlier. There’s plenty of room between the seats, and there’s even more space in the compartment itself. There’s a few office workers holding bags and clutching the railing above to keep steady, but other than that, the train is practically empty.
Reigen mentions something about getting MobDonald’s, but Shigeo doesn’t comment on it. He doesn’t comment on anything really, even when Reigen teases him about being lost in thought about Tsubomi.
Shigeo doesn’t see it, but Reigen and Dimple share a look with one another, and they have a silent conversation.
Ambient noise fills the train car as Shigeo sits beside Reigen, Dimple floating next to his head. He stares down at his lap, more specifically his hands. He had...done more harm than good with these hands, he thinks. During those six months, no, those thirty minutes , Shigeo reminds himself.
He was only there for thirty minutes.
Those six months only existed in his head, they had no effect on the outside world, so Shigeo should act accordingly. Right?
He clenches his hands into fists and the shock of feeling the skin of his palms beneath his fingertips shocks him so badly that he lets out a quiet startled gasp. Dimple looks at him with concern, but Reigen makes no movement. It seems like he hadn’t heard a thing.
That’s okay, preferable in fact. Shigeo doesn’t want to cause a scene or make something that didn’t even happen a big deal. Besides, shishou had been through a lot during the fight with Mogami. He hit his head, and the last thing Shigeo wants to do is add to his very likely headache.
“--Mob? Hellooo, anyone home?”
Shigeo blinks, looking up from his hands to Reigen. Reigen must see how dazed he is, for he gives Shigeo a small, tired, smile. “I asked what you wanted from MobDonald’s.” He explains, and Shigeo hums in acknowledgment. “I am starving.”
Does he feel hungry?
Now that he thinks about it, he isn’t very hungry...but it’d be rude to refuse the offer. With that in mind, he thinks of something small he can stomach, and tells Reigen.
The remainder of the train ride is silent.
Shigeo doesn’t like the silence.
The silence continues, even after they get off the train.
They make a pitstop at MobDonald’s, and Shigeo waits patiently as Reigen orders the food. Shigeo waits outside, not wanting to deal with a crowd of people. He isn’t sure if he can handle a crowd right now. Dimple continues to shoot him concerned glances, but Shigeo misses quite a few of them so he doesn’t know how many times Dimple really looks at him. He doesn’t think much about it, choosing to instead stare down at his hand.
He can’t stop thinking about his hand, closed around someone else’s throat. But it didn’t really happen, so maybe he should stop thinking about it.
Reigen walks out with two bags in his hands, and Shigeo falls into step with him as they walk to Spirits & Such. He begins talking about some television show that he saw recently, and finally, the silence breaks. Shigeo finds himself listening to Reigen and Dimple go back and forth about the credibility of the show. The conversation slowly puts him at ease.
When they make it back to the office, Reigen passes Shigeo the bags so he can unlock the door. Shigeo holds them, the warmth from the hot food bringing him an odd comfort.
Once the door is unlocked, Reigen walks in and Shigeo follows him, bags in hand still. Dimple floats in beside him as Reigen shuts the door and casually takes the bags from Shigeo. The two of them get settled in at their respective desks, and as Shigeo begins to munch on his fries, he slowly finds himself beginning to feel numb.
He can’t help but wonder if this is a dream or not. He hopes it isn’t, but there’s a chance it could still be a dream. There’s still a chance that he could wake up alone in that house at any moment. He isn’t sure if he could handle it being a dream, because this is one of the best dreams he’s had in the past six months and--
It wasn’t six months, he reminds himself.
It was thirty minutes.
“Mob, you alright?” Reigen questions, and Shigeo looks up from his fries. He's looking at Shigeo with a quirked brow, burger in one hand, drink in the other.
“Ah, yes.” He replies, nodding.
Reigen nods, albeit a bit slowly, but goes back to eating his burger rather loudly. Shigeo looks back down to his desk and misses the concerned glance Reigen throws his way.
“Mob is acting weird.” Arataka states after his student leaves. Dimple looks at him, tearing his eyes away from the window he had been looking through to watch Mob’s retreating form.
“Weird is an understatement.” Dimple scoffs, turning his attention to Reigen. With a mischievous smile he steals one of Reigen’s fries, swiping it right from his hand.
“What the-- hey!” Arataka cries in irritation, nearly choking on the burger he had been eating as he looks at Dimple with disapproval. He then points a finger at Dimple, “That was mine!”
Dimple shrugs his shoulders as he munches on the stolen fry, “What’s the saying? All is fair in the underworld?” He comments.
Arataka narrows his eyes, “That’s not even close.” He replies. He then sighs, wiping the crumbs and the patches of ketchup from his face with a napkin. He puts his half eaten burger down, frowning. “I’m trying to be serious here, Dimple. Something is seriously off with Mob.”
There’s an emotion that flickers in Dimple’s eyes but before Arataka can recognize it, it’s gone. Gone is the mischievous fry stealing Dimple, replaced by a more...somber version of the spirit. Arataka doesn’t like the feeling he gets from that look.
“Dimple...what did you see when you went in there?” He questions, fearing the answer.
Dimple looks hesitant, eyes drifting side to side as he thinks about his decision. He feels hesitant, and oh, that’s new. For as long as Dimple has been an evil spirit, he’s never hesitated, not once. Okay well...maybe once or twice, but still. The point is, he’s never hesitated when making a choice. But here he is, hesitating to answer Reigen’s question because he doesn’t want to breach Shigeo’s privacy. When has he ever cared about that before?
He didn’t. At least, he didn’t care before he met Shigeo.
He lets out a quiet sigh, and for a second, he lets himself reflect on how he’s gone soft for some brat. And once that second is up, he immediately gets rid of the thought.
He then looks at Reigen, and decides that what he’s about to do is best for Shigeo. “I didn’t see a lot, but I saw enough to get the idea.” He begins to explain, “When I got there, the kid was surrounded by a bunch of middle schoolers and he looked like he had been put through the ringer. Mogami was spewing some shit about gaining a sympathizer, and from the way he made it sound...Shigeo was in that world for a lot longer than thirty minutes, and it seems like the bastard put him through hell.”
Arataka feels like the wind got knocked out of him. The napkin he’s holding crinkles into a ball as he squeezes his hand into a tight fist. He hopes he misheard Dimple, but he’s not that old yet, and his hearing is just fine. “You--You’re joking, right?” He can’t help but stammer, nervously chuckling. He wills it to be false, wishes for it to be a joke, because if it isn’t, then Arataka has to go to bed tonight with the knowledge that he was the one who sent Mob into that situation.
He’s the adult, so he has to take responsibility.
He’s never hated himself more than in this moment. As usual, he had been so intent on getting that reward that he didn’t listen to Dimple when he said they should run. He didn’t stop Mob, in fact he encouraged him. He shouldn’t have done that. He sent Mob out into the frontlines while he sat back and waited for the war to end.
He hadn’t done a damn thing to help his student. He had been so focused on using Mob for his powers that he let him get hurt.
Some mentor he is.
And the look Dimple gives him makes his self loathing crash over him in waves. Arataka opens his mouth to ask for more details, but he reconsiders and shuts it. He drops his gaze to his desk, speechless. He forces himself to say the words, “What else did--”
“If you wanna know more, you’re gonna have to ask Shigeo yourself.” Dimple huffs quietly, interrupting him. “I’m not saying any more.”
Arataka nods, figuring that’s probably for the best. He’s worried about Mob, but he won’t disrespect the kid’s privacy. He can only hope that Mob will talk to him about this at some point. Hopefully.
But for now, it’s getting late, and he should probably close up for the night. “Dimple,” He says, looking at the spirit, “Watch over him tonight?”
Dimple grins at him, but there’s no real joy behind it. It’s a lazy grin, one that screams how tired the spirit is. “Did ya really have to ask?” Comes the response before he waves Arataka goodbye and heads to the Kageyama house.
Once Dimple leaves, Arataka takes one look at his desk, and his shoulders sag. He feels a faint headache, and the ache in his back is more prominent. He sighs in exhaustion as his eyes land on his half eaten burger.
He’s lost his appetite.
Shigeo heads home, relishing the cold air that whips at his face. It isn’t overly late yet, but it is getting chilly. The sun is beginning to set, painting the sky a mix of soft oranges, pinks, and purples. Shigeo can’t tear his eyes away from the sight. Walking home is a lot more calming than he expects it to be. The sunset calms him, allowing him a short reprise from the thoughts swirling in his mind.
He walks home, glancing around at the street before him. The streets are a bit more lively than they were earlier. More and more people are heading home from work, and the realization makes Shigeo wonder the exact time. He pulls out his phone, and blinks at the number staring back at him. Should he even bother with dinner? He doesn’t want to make anything but--
He doesn’t live alone. He has parents, and a little brother.
It’s not his job to worry about what to make for dinner yet.
A small frown lingers on his face as he approaches his house. He pauses for just a second, overcome with worry. What if he opens the door and finds that he really is living alone? What if he goes inside to a cold and empty house, and all of this was just a dream?
That...that wouldn’t happen, right?
Gulping quietly, Shigeo approaches the door and with a shaking hand, he goes for the doorknob. Before he can grab it though, the door swings open, and lo and behold, there are his parents. “Shigeo! Where have you been ?!” His mother exclaims, nearly sagging in relief.
“We were so worried!” His father chimes in as his mother ushers him into the house. “You know we trust you, Shigeo, but you have to be more aware of when we call you!” His parents step aside so that he can slip his shoes off, asking him questions and telling him about dinner. Shigeo’s really only half listening, as much as he hates to admit it. As he slips his shoes off, his eyes land on a familiar pair of sneakers, and something in him cracks.
The tears come to his eyes before he can stop them. Images flash in his mind of him sitting in that cold house, alone. So many meals spent by himself, so many days of curling up on the floor and crying. “Shige? What’s wrong?” His mother asks.
It finally sets in.
The tears spill over, and he cries.
“Shigeo?!” His father questions, and he can hear the mix of concern and panic in his voice. He doesn’t even notice his hair begin to float as he leans forward and tugs his parents into a hug. Amidst all of their confusion, they hug him back, and Shigeo sobs .
“Mom...dad…” He’s home, he’s really home.
“What’s going on?” Shigeo hears his little brother ask, and a fresh set of tears fall. Ritsu stands in the hallway, looking incredibly confused, if but a bit concerned.
“Ritsu!” Shigeo says, all but pulling his brother into the hug. He hears Ritsu’s yelp of surprise, and he can feel his parents' concerned stares. Never has he ever so freely expressed himself like this. It’s a bit scary, and Shigeo knows his powers are responding to how he’s feeling, but he can’t bring himself to care.
He’s really home, and that’s all that matters to him.
hello!! so, i'm going to be honest, i'm posting this out of pure impulse and i have no idea where i'm heading with this story :') all i know is, i've wanted to do a real story covering the aftermath of mogami land for a while, and then this appeared. i did not edit this at all, so if there's stuff missing pls excuse,,,,i'm posting this at 3 am and i should really be sleeping rn.
anyways, please let me know what you thought!!! i hope you all enjoyed this chapter,,,and i'll see you guys whenever the next one is posted <3
Chapter 2: two
"When I open my eyes and see the lines that live on the life I left behind
I feel disconnected from the place that I call home
- Lifelines, I Prevail"
small warning for the beginning of the chapter!! mentioned animal death and small descriptions of violence!!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
He wakes up in a white space. The space that encompasses him is never ending, he can’t see the end of it. He is alone.
Except, he isn’t. There’s someone else here.
And he...he looks so humane. He looks so normal, that it throws him off. He feels like there’s something he’s forgetting. There is more to the man in front of him, but he doesn’t know what else there could be. This man...is human.
But then-- there’s a hand around his throat, except not really? He can’t tell. He can’t breathe. The hand is squeezing, crushing his windpipe. The longer it squeezes the more out of focus his vision becomes, the edges of his vision blurring together.
And then the hand is gone. His power bursts out from his own hands and the only other person in this white empty space is lying on the ground, large pools of blood surrounding his body.
He is horrified by the sight. He just...he just used his powers to hurt someone.
Except he didn’t. He didn’t, because this person is an evil spirit. But how can he be sure? This person seems so humanlike. He tries to remind himself that it’s an evil spirit, but the image doesn’t leave his mind, he can’t take his eyes away, even as the person coughs and spits up blood. He feels numb as he stands there.
He tries to move, but suddenly he can’t. His body has turned to stone, and he can’t break free. He tries to thrash, to squirm, to do something. He tries to get himself to move but he can’t . He can’t move and now he can’t breathe but he isn’t sure if it’s because of the phantom feeling he feels on his throat or because of the stone. There’s an intense pressure building in his head, almost as if someone is crushing his skull.
He feels himself slowly breaking down, the stone crumbling to pieces. Pieces of him fall to the ground, and he is no longer whole. He is pieces of stone and rubble, and there is nothing he can do about it.
And then, “You just have to change the way you look at the world a little.”
He wakes up. Except he doesn’t. The house he wakes up in is foreign to him, it belongs to a stranger. He is in a stranger’s body as he goes through his morning routine. He drifts.
He goes to school.
Milk spills over his head.
The teacher hits him.
He finds a stray cat.
They kill it.
She stabs him.
He’s had enough.
“Shigeo! Wake up!”
Being a spirit is a funny little thing. It comes with a multitude of benefits but it also has plenty of downsides. Sure, people can’t see you, but you can scare them shitless.
Dimple’s always enjoyed that particular part. He always found enjoyment from seeing humans scream and jump at the slightest movement. A fork moves an inch to the left? They immediately grow uncomfortable. A drawer opens? They whimper in fear. A door slams? They scream in pure terror.
Really, one of the biggest benefits of being a spirit is not needing to sleep. Dimple hasn’t slept through the night for as long as he can remember, and this fact hasn’t changed, even after becoming Shigeo’s advisor. Normally, he’d float about the Kageyama house in an attempt to learn more about Shigeo, to figure out how to get Shigeo to trust him.
But tonight, Dimple does not do that. Tonight, Dimple observes Shigeo himself. Not for the first time, he finds himself thinking about how soft he’s gone. He’s an evil spirit for crying out loud, he doesn’t feel soft for some kid who could exorcise him with no hesitation. Before, Dimple would have tried to convince himself that he was only trying to use Shigeo. However, there was something that jumped in him when he entered Mogami’s world and saw such a...raw side of Shigeo.
He stopped trying to convince himself that he purely wanted to use Shigeo for his power after that.
Dimple is no idiot, he knows when to stop being stubborn and accept the truth. Even if the truth is...challenging to accept.
So Dimple stays in Shigeo’s room tonight, watching over him carefully. When he sees the things in Shigeo’s room begin to float, he panics a bit. He expected this to happen, but he hoped it wouldn’t. He isn’t surprised though, as the trauma Shigeo went through today is still fresh, and he hasn’t even begun to process it yet.
It doesn’t make him any more prepared though.
He flies over to the boy, just barely avoiding the floating chair. He hovers above him, watching him with growing concern. Something in Shigeo’s face twitches, and a few tears leak from his eyes. “Shigeo!” He calls, wondering if patting the boy’s cheek will have any effect. He tries this, except he can’t get close to Shigeo, probably because his powers are going out of control.
“Shigeo!” Dimple calls a second time, hoping that his voice reaches the kid. “Wake up!” He feels the notebook passing through him before he sees it, but he can’t bring himself to care.
He isn’t reaching Shigeo, and he has to figure out a way how to reach him before Shigeo destroys the whole house.
Pushing all concern for himself aside, Dimple flies toward Shigeo, dodging the wisps of psychic energy. When he’s close enough, he begins to pat the boy on the cheek, “Shigeo! Wake up!”
Shigeo’s eyes snap open and Dimple nearly avoids being knocked into as Shigeo shoots upright. He sees the boy’s shoulders shake as he wraps his arms around himself. Trembles wrack his body as Dimple hears quiet sobs. Frowning in concern, Dimple moves to float in front of the kid. He doesn’t say anything, not yet at least. He puts a small green hand on Shigeo’s head, gently patting the black locks.
He waits there, waits for Shigeo to be ready to talk, and even if he doesn’t want to talk, Dimple will still be there.
Slowly, the hurricane of items in Shigeo’s room stops. It becomes a gentle storm, the few items he has drifting through the air. Dimple takes this as a good sign, takes this as a sign that Shigeo is slowly calming down.
And then, “Dimple..?” A quiet, hoarse voice asks. Dimple watches as Shigeo lifts his head, looking at him with his typical blank stare. However, it’s not entirely blank, as Dimple can see the fear in his eyes. In fact, his whole body screams fear.
“What’s up, Little Shige?” Dimple returns, humming as he slowly draws his hand away. He can’t help his smile as he sees Shigeo frown a bit at the nickname.
“Please don’t call me that.” Shigeo mumbles, still hugging his knees to his chest.
“Right, right, my mistake.” Dimple hums again as he looks at Shigeo. There’s something heavy in the atmosphere, but Dimple doesn’t want to poke it for fear that it’ll explode. So he leaves it.
“I’m sorry for disturbing you. I’m going back to sleep now.” Shigeo murmurs, uncurling and readjusting his blanket as he lays back down. He still seems shaken by his nightmare, and the spirit doubts Shigeo will talk. Dimple doesn’t comment, or try to pry for more information, but he does offer silent comfort. He simply rests by Shigeo’s pillow, sighing quietly.
He passes a cat on the way to school.
The sight of it makes Shigeo stop for a moment. The cat doesn’t even come close in resemblance to the fake one. This cat’s fur is brown, and it’s eyes are a bright green. But it still makes Shigeo pause. The cat meows and mewls as it approaches Shigeo, exiting the alleyway it had been sitting in. It rubs against one of his legs, and he takes a step back. It takes a step forward, he takes another step back.
He forces himself to tear his eyes away from the cat and continue on his way to school.
It wasn’t real.
It wasn’t real.
He drifts through the day, feeling numb.
He struggles to stay awake during class. The only thing that keeps him up is the sheer terror of his teachers reprimanding him. He’s terrified of being laughed at again. The outside world is scary, and he isn’t sure if he can truly survive in it.
To Shigeo’s horror, he falls asleep.
In mathematics of all classes.
When the bell rings, he hits his knee on his desk from how quickly he sits upright. His body is tense, and he looks around the classroom out of fear. Not many people are there still. A few girls are in the back of the class, talking to each other. In another corner of the room is a couple of his classmates, chit chatting about a recent game.
Shigeo’s name never falls from their lips.
Not even once.
A new burst of terror explodes in him as he sees his teacher approach his desk. Shigeo’s already freaking out, thinking about the punishment for falling asleep. Will he have to stand in the front of the classroom again, even though class is over?
He’s too scared to look his teacher in the eye, so he focuses on his desk.
“Are you alright? You seem very off today and I’m worried.”
Shigeo’s eyes widen at the comment, and without thinking, he raises his head. His teacher is not looking at him with anger nor cruelty. He’s looking at Shigeo with pure concern.
“I-I’m fine.” Shigeo stammers, albeit quietly.
He’s fine, because it wasn’t real.
It wasn’t real.
Shigeo feels very off throughout the rest of the day. When the final bell rings, he does not share his classmates' excitement at the end of the school day. With slow movements, he packs up his bag and stands. He traverses the hallways, passing by the Body Improvement Club room. He faintly remembers Captain Musashi telling him that there was no club today.
He then frowns, thinking about heading to Spirits & Such. But, Reigen- shishou told him to take the day off. He can’t go home though. Ritsu won’t be there because of a student council meeting, and Shigeo doesn’t want to be home alone.
He needs something to ground him in reality, because he feels untethered, and if something doesn’t pull him back down he fears he may float away.
Mindlessly, he walks through a sea of black.
He wonders if he needs a break in the routine.
That’s when he spots it. Amidst the sea of black, there is purple. It’s a familiar purple, one he hasn’t seen in a while. The owner of the purple spots him, waving him over. He allows his feet to carry him over to the purple jutting out in the black waves around them. “Hanazawa-kun…” Shigeo murmurs, feeling confused.
Why is Hanazawa here?
“Hey, Kageyama-kun!” Hanazawa greets with a smile. “Are you ready for the movie?” He questions as he begins to walk.
Shigeo falls into step beside him, tilting his head as he asks, “Movie…?”
“Yeah, I was gonna show you Flying Dead Pig at my place, remember?” Hanazawa replies, glancing at Shigeo. “We made plans over the weekend and today was the only day that worked for both of us.”
Oh, right. He and Hanzawa had made plans. Shigeo had completely forgotten. “Ah.” Shigeo murmurs, making sure to acknowledge what Hanazawa said.
“Is..everything okay, Kageyama-kun? You look a little dazed.” Hanazawa asks in concern. He’s looking at him with worry, and Shigeo hates making people worry. He doesn’t like the heavy feeling that accompanies seeing their worry, and he definitely doesn’t like burdening his friends and family with his issues.
But...after seeing what happened with Ritsu, Shigeo tries to be a bit more open. He doesn’t want to repeat past mistakes and end up tangled in a web of regret and lies. He doesn’t want to be stuck in an endless cycle of pain.
Except maybe he already is in the endless cycle.
He doesn’t want to be though.
Remembering that he’s been asked a question, Shigeo opens his mouth to reply, but he closes it. He’s worried that the time frame to reply to Hanazawa’s question has passed. Did he wait too long to answer? Should he still reply? Would it be weird to reply now? Is Hanazawa still expecting an answer?
“Kageyama-kun? Are you alright?” Hanazawa repeats his question, and Shigeo feels relieved.
“I’m fine,” He says, even though he doesn’t really mean it. At Hanazawa’s frown, he tacks on, “Just tired.”
“Ah, I see.” Hanazawa replies, but Shigeo wonders if he does. It doesn’t seem like it, because there’s still this crease in his eyebrows, and he’s frowning the slightest bit. Before Shigeo has the chance to say or ask anything, Hanazawa changes the topic, “There’s this new restaurant that opened up recently that I’ve been dying to try. Wanna order from there tonight?”
“Sure,” And just like that, the conversation moves onwards.
Shigeo walks beside his friend, not realizing that this was the break in the routine he had been subconsciously looking for.
i will not lie, it's chapter two and i still don't have a set plan for this :'). i'll hopefully have a plan for this soon though. anyways, thank you for all of the comments on the previous chapter!!!! it made me really happy and as a result i broke out the laptop and wrote this chapter.
please let me know your thoughts, and i'll see you all next chapter!! <33
Chapter 3: three
"I live with all the goodbyes, doesn't matter how hard I try
They end in long nights spent up looking back on my life
- Lifelines, I Prevail"
The walk to Hanazawa’s apartment isn’t exactly long, but to Shigeo it feels longer than usual. He isn’t exactly sure why it feels longer than it typically does. Maybe it’s because he keeps drifting in and out of focus. Or maybe it’s because time just seems to be moving slower today. Shigeo isn’t sure.
What he is sure of, though, is that Hanazawa’s presence beside him is a comforting one. With Hanazawa walking beside him, rambling about his day, Shigeo finds it relaxing and it eases the coil of unease he’s been feeling all day.
Now that he thinks about it, he never saw Hanazawa in that world, and it’s probably for that exact reason that Shigeo isn’t thinking much about that world, or dwelling on memories that confuse him.
Hanazawa leads him up the stairs to his apartment, and Shigeo follows. He can make it up three extra steps today without getting winded immediately. Hanazawa notices this and praises him. Shigeo smiles the tiniest bit. The warmth he feels at the sound of Hanazawa’s praise is nice.
He takes off his shoes when they enter Hanazawa’s apartment, and Shigeo puts his bag down by the small table that’s pushed into the corner of the room. He then sits down in the chair nearby the table as Hanazawa walks over to his closet and pulls out a change of clothes. “I’ll be right back. Feel free to make yourself comfortable.” Hanazawa tells him before slipping into the bathroom.
Silence is Shigeo’s companion now, and he doesn’t really like it. He looks around Hanazawa’s apartment, taking it all in. Now that he thinks about it, he hasn’t really been to Hanazawa’s apartment since they teamed up to save Ritsu. Sure, they’ve seen each other in between now and then, but he hasn’t been invited over. He takes the time to look at everything. Behind him is a bookshelf, books all arranged in neat rows. The bookshelf is taller than him, maybe even a bit taller than Captain Musashi. Beside the table is a small television resting on a cabinet. Next to the television is a full body mirror that looks like it’s propped up against the wall. Hanazawa’s closet is right next to that, the door slightly ajar. Thanks to that, Shigeo can see some of Hanazawa’s clothes which mostly consist of bright colors.
He likes them.
Shigeo glances over at the bed on the other wall, seeing a green blanket on top of the bed. The bed is nicely made, all neat and proper. Above the bed is a small shelf, one filled with trinkets and very expensive looking souvenirs. They’re arranged neatly, and they look like they haven’t been disturbed. He wonders if there’s a layer of dust on them. In fact, now that Shigeo is really looking around, he realizes just how neat and tidy Hanazawa’s apartment is. It almost seems like no one is actually living here, as if Hanazawa tries not to be home all that often.
He wonders if Hanazawa is lonely.
His thoughts trail back to that empty, cold house, and he suppresses a shiver.
Before his thoughts can get too far ahead of him, Shigeo’s eyes drift over to his school bag, and he wonders if he should start on his homework. That’d be a good distraction, right?
With this in mind, he reaches for his bag and unzips it, stiffly grabbing the notebook and papers he needs. He lays it out on the table, eyeing it over. He makes sure to also grab a pencil. Once this is done, he begins to work. His homework does prove to be a good distraction like he had hoped it’d be.
Or at least, it does up until he gets to his math assignment. He had gotten it right before he fell asleep in class, but it didn't do him much help. If anything, it only reminds him of that confrontation he had with his teacher, and it makes Shigeo frown.
Thankfully, he can’t dwell on it long, for Hanazawa comes back into the room. “Ah, I see you’ve already started on your homework.” He says with a smile, “I was going to suggest we do that before the movie so that we won’t have to worry about it later. One step ahead as always, Kageyama-kun.” Hanazawa sounds like he’s giving Shigeo a compliment, but Shigeo can’t help but feel bad.
Shigeo wants to tell him that no, he wasn’t thinking ahead like that, that he just wanted a distraction. But it’d be weird if he said that, so he doesn’t. Instead, he replies with, “I haven’t gotten a lot done. I’ve been um...having trouble.”
“I see...well, I can help you if you want! What are you having trouble with?” Hanazawa asks him while rummaging through his own school bag.
“Math…” Comes Shigeo’s quiet answer.
Hanazawa hums in response, walking back over to the table. He sits down in the other chair, setting his things down as he looks at Shigeo. “You’re in luck, Kageyama-kun. Math is one of my best subjects.” He says with a smile. “I can absolutely help you!”
Shigeo likes the sound of having help, but then a thought comes to him. “But...what about your own homework?” He questions. He doesn’t want to stop Hanazawa from getting his own work done, he’d feel bad from wasting Hanazawa’s time.
Hanazawa waves off his concerns, “I’m sure we’re learning the same thing, so it’s no big deal!” It makes Shigeo relax slightly. “Now,” He says, leaning over to him, “What are you working on?”
Shigeo slides his notebook over to him, and Hanazawa takes it. He looks it over, nods a bit to himself, and begins to help Shigeo through the problem. Shigeo realizes very quickly that hearing Hanazawa explain math makes more sense than hearing his teacher do so. Hanazawa is patient with him, going over things as many times as he needs. He doesn’t show an ounce of irritation when Shigeo timidly asks him to repeat small steps in solving the problem.
Though...if Hanazawa does seem irritated with it, he hides it well. Shigeo hopes this isn’t the case.
Just as they finish up their homework, Shigeo lets his mind drift off. His eyes focus on Hanazawa’s apartment again, and his thoughts from earlier resurface. The more he sits with the thought, the more it makes sense to him. How can one person have such a clean house? Shigeo knows it doesn’t take much to create a mess and clean it up, but there’s something about all of this that disturbs him.
An image flashes in his mind. One of him curled up against the wall, futon and blanket in front of him, unmade and messy. Small piles of clothes are laying on the ground, surrounded by empty bags and bottles. The desk is a mess, balls of paper of old homework accompanying a blank notebook. There’s a few stacks of books, and a bag haphazardly thrown by them, it’s contents spilling out.
He shakes his head slightly, trying to get rid of the thought. He doesn’t want to think about that right now.
Hanazawa sees this, and Shigeo can feel the other’s eyes on him. They make him fidget slightly in unease. Hanazawa lifts a brow, “Something the matter, Kageyama-kun?” Shigeo is somewhat surprised as he actually picks up on the concern lacing his voice. Maybe it’s because Hanazawa makes his concern obvious to him.
Shigeo opens his mouth to reply, but a question leaves it instead, “Hanazawa-kun...does it ever bother you that you live by yourself?”
“What?” Hanazawa questions, and Shigeo instantly regrets asking. He shouldn’t be prying into Hanazawa’s private life like that. He doesn’t feel like it’s his business to ask a personal question like that unprompted, even if they are friends.
Anxiety begins to build up within Shigeo. He looks at Hanazawa, but he doesn’t see any anger on the boy’s face. He sees a different emotion, but he isn’t sure what it is. He’s not the best at reading people after all. But Hanazawa doesn’t speak yet, and Shigeo realizes it’s because he’s waiting for Shigeo to speak. So he hurries to fill the void of silence, speaking as he stares down at his lap, “U-Um it’s just...doesn’t it get lonely here, living by yourself..?”
He hears Hanazawa hum quietly as his clothing rustles and he assumes Hanazawa is moving in his seat. “I guess you could say that.” Hanazawa admits, “But it’s not so bad. I think living on your own can be kind of fun, don’t you?”
“No.” Shigeo’s reply is instant as his head snaps up to look at his friend(?), and his voice is a bit louder than he wants it to be. He sounds so definitive in his response, and it startles him slightly. “No…” Shigeo repeats, a bit quieter this time. “We shouldn’t--” He hurries to correct himself because he’s not there anymore, “You shouldn’t have to live by yourself.” By the end of his sentence, Shigeo has shrunken in on himself, feeling uneasy. He’s worried that he might have overstepped and made Hanazawa upset.
But when he looks at Hanazawa, he doesn’t see anger. There’s this...somberness radiating off of him, and it makes Shigeo regret saying a thing. Hanazawa smiles at him, but it doesn’t quite reach his eyes like it usually does. “Thank you for your concern, Kageyama-kun, but I promise I’m okay with living by myself.” He says, and Shigeo nods. Even if Shigeo wanted to argue, he doesn’t have the heart to do so. So he nods, and doesn’t say anymore.
Even if the smile on Hanazawa’s face bothers him.
Even if these intrusive thoughts continue to sneak up on him.
Shigeo doesn’t say anymore.
In an effort to lift the mood, Hanazawa claps his hands together, “Well, since our homework is finished, why don’t I show you Dead Flying Pigs?” He offers, brightening up his smile.
“Ah, okay.” Shigeo says, accepting his offer.
Keeping on the smile, Hanazawa gets up from his chair and goes over to his television. Shigeo stands as well, and leaves his homework out on the table to walk over to Hanazawa. They get everything set up, and Hanazawa puts the movie on. He moves the mattress from his bed in front of the television, and they sit down.
The movie begins.
Shigeo barely pays attention to it.
After the movie is over, Shigeo stays for a little bit longer before he figures it’s time to head home. He checks the time and is relieved to know that Ritsu should be home by now. After thanking Hanazawa for having him over and packing up his things, Shigeo heads home.
He drifts in and out less compared to when he was walking with Hanazawa, but that’s probably because he’s walking home by himself.
Overall, the walk home is nice. Shigeo walks at his own pace, and not once does he get an impromptu call from Reigen. Though that’s most likely because he was given the day off, he knows his shishou , and he knows that Reigen would still call him to the office on his day off if the job was important enough.
He makes it home quickly enough, and he forces himself to relax as he opens the front door and steps inside. As he takes his shoes off, he quietly calls out, “I’m back.” He can’t help but hold his breath for a few seconds, worried that he won’t get a response.
However, his worry is short lived as Ritsu greets him, “Welcome back, nii-san.”
Shigeo’s shoulders practically sag in relief. He heads up to his room and changes out of his uniform. It’s then that Dimple floats into his room, “Hey there, Shigeo.” The spirit greets.
“Oh, there you are, Dimple.” Shigeo says, realizing the spirit hadn’t been around all day. “How was your day?” He asks.
Dimple grimaces, “Absolutely horrible! Reigen is a terrible boss, I have no idea how you put up with him, Shigeo!” The spirit rants.
“He’s a good person despite his flaws.” Shigeo says, looking at Dimple with a bit of a stern look.
The spirit sighs, shaking his head as he shrugs, “Of course you’d think that.”
Shigeo doesn’t reply, instead leaving his room with a manga in hand. He heads downstairs, planning on sitting on the couch. Normally he’d have stayed in his room but it just doesn’t feel the same anymore.
Once he’s downstairs, he sees Ritsu sitting on the couch, watching something on t.v. Just as he’s about to sit down, he changes his mind and puts the book down instead. He then heads into the kitchen, intent on getting something to drink. He grabs a cup from the cabinet and opens the fridge.
The first thing his eyes land on is the milk carton sitting on the shelf on the kitchen door. He stares at it, unable to tear his eyes away. There’s a sudden feeling of unease building within him, and he doesn’t like it.
He had been able to ignore it with Hanazawa but now...now he can’t.
But he wants to.
‘It wasn’t real,’ He tells himself.
“Make a thirty second speech!”
‘It wasn’t real.’ He tells himself.
“U-Um...what I like is...milk….”
‘It wasn’t real .’
Something spills over his head.
‘It wasn’t real!’
“What’s wrong? I thought you liked milk.”
Shigeo jumps as he hears the sound of a glass breaking. He looks over at the counter where he sees the glass he had just taken out. He stares at the counter, breathing slightly labored. He forces himself to relax and control his breathing. Seconds later, he hears Ritsu’s concerned cry of, “Nii-san!” Shigeo looks over at his brother as he enters the kitchen, concern written all over his face. “What happened?! Are you alright?!”
Shigeo eyes the glass again before looking at his brother, “I’m fine.” He murmurs. Ritsu looks like he doesn’t believe him, but he doesn’t push. “Ah, I should pick up the glass…” He says, walking over to the counter. Just as he begins to collect the shards, Ritsu stops him.
“You really shouldn’t pick up glass with your bare hands, nii-san. Hold on, I’ll get a napkin.” Ritsu tells him before going and grabbing one for him to use.
Shigeo nods in response, eyes falling to the floor.
Ah, he forgot to close the fridge, he realizes.
Without looking up, he shuts the door.
Once the glass shards are picked up, Shigeo follows Ritsu back into the living room.
He doesn’t get a drink.
so i can finally say i have an idea of where i'm taking this fic. somewhat. i've got the next couple of chapters planned out, so that's good lol. i've also come to terms with the fact that every time i update this fic, it's going to be at 2 in the morning, and there's nothing i can do to control that. i've also also come to terms with the fact that shigeo just goes through every chapter and i am so sorry for that.
anyways!!!! as always, please let me know what you thought, and i hope you enjoyed!!! i'll see you next chapter!! <3
Chapter 4: four
"They hit me from the blind side,
caught me in the blink of an eye
- Lifelines, I Prevail"
There are good days and bad days, Shigeo eventually learns.
There are days where he’s grounded in reality, and those six months (thirty minutes) don’t come up much. Then, there are days where Shigeo can barely focus, can barely bring himself to go to school and interact with people. Those days are the hardest. Those are the days where Shigeo doesn’t want to leave the warmth of his futon.
More often than not, he has bad days. There are a few times where Ritsu or one of his parents had to come get him because he’d be late for school.
But it seems like today will be a good day. He wakes up as his mother calls for him, blinking up at the ceiling. He feels a cold spot on his head, and if he looks up enough he can see green. “Dimple…” Shigeo says, “What are you doing on my head?”
The spirit scoffs, “What does it look like I’m doing?”
Shigeo merely blinks, not quite understanding his response. He wonders if the answer is obvious, if he's just missing the point. Dimple has been doing this a lot lately. This isn’t the first time he’s woken up to the spirit sitting on his head. It seems like whenever he wakes up, Dimple is always nearby.
It’s comforting to see a familiar face in the morning.
He’s learned that Dimple sits on his head or his chest after a particularly rough night, so it doesn’t take Shigeo long to figure out he had a bad night. He can’t exactly remember all of the details, but he remembers waking up in a panic and being calmed down by someone. ‘Oh...it was Dimple.’
As Dimple floats into the air, Shigeo sits up and begins to get ready for school. He goes over to his closet and opens it. He quickly changes into his uniform as Dimple talks with him. He isn’t exactly sure what the spirit is talking about, but he likes the noise that fills the void of silence.
Shigeo finds himself feeling much more comfortable with constant noise in the background. It’s harder for him to get lost in thought.
Once Shigeo is ready for school, he heads downstairs and has breakfast. His mother bustles around the kitchen while his father reads the newspaper. Ritsu joins them a few minutes later, and they all eat together.
Shigeo savors the moment.
After they finish breakfast, Shigeo and Ritsu head out, Dimple trailing along with them. Ritsu doesn’t have a student council meeting, so he’s able to walk with Shigeo today. It’s nice. The two of them talk about their classes, and Shigeo listens as Ritsu talks about student council. Dimple adds in his comments, earning a displeased look from Ritsu and a blank face from Shigeo.
“How’s the Body Improvement Club going, nii-san?” Ritsu inquires, shifting the focus of the conversation.
Shigeo hums, “It’s good. I did an extra push up yesterday.” Ritsu smiles and Shigeo meets it with a small smile of his own. He’s pleased with the progress he’s made throughout the year, and the support from his club members and friends alike have been really helpful.
“Nii-san, can I ask you something?” Ritsu suddenly questions.
“What is it?” Shigeo replies, glancing at his brother. He sees what looks to be the beginnings of a frown on Ritsu’s face.
“Is everything okay?” Comes the question, and Shigeo isn’t expecting it. From the corner of his eyes, he sees Dimple glance at him.
Shigeo takes a moment to think about the question. Is everything okay? Over all...he thinks he feels okay. Today seems like it’s going to be a good day, so he should be okay today, right? It’s not like he’s particularly happy or cheerful, but it feels like it’ll be easy to carry the weight of those six months today. It feels like it’ll be easier than previous days, so Shigeo thinks he’s okay. That sounds about right to him.
“Ah, yes, everything’s okay Ritsu.” Shigeo remembers to reply. Ritsu frowns, and Shigeo wonders if he said something bad. Did he say the wrong thing? He thought what he was saying was right, but maybe it wasn’t. Ritsu doesn’t seem to think so though. “Ritsu?” He asks, but he realizes he has no follow up question to ask.
“Yes, nii-san?” Ritsu replies, frown suddenly gone. It’s replaced with a smile, but it seems strained. It reminds Shigeo of when he was talking to Hanazawa, who’s smile had seemed more sad than happy to him.
Before Shigeo can say anything, the familiar building of Salt Middle appears. Other students appear around them, all heading to the same school. It’s then that Shigeo realizes the moment has passed, and continuing the conversation might be bad. “It’s nothing.” Shigeo says to Ritsu.
And maybe it is nothing.
During school, Shigeo finds himself paying attention in class. He nearly falls asleep in math, but he’s able to keep himself awake. He still doesn’t quite understand math, but not falling asleep is an improvement.
Today is one of those rare days where Shigeo can fully distinguish the difference between his false memories and his real ones. He doesn’t feel the mental game of tug and war in his mind throughout the day for once. That game was getting tiring, Shigeo thinks.
His day is full of noise, and not once does he feel untethered.
Ritsu knows that there’s something going on with his brother. He’s had a feeling since the night his brother came home late and hugged him and their parents, sobbing, thanking them and telling them how grateful he was.
He’s known something was up since he felt a disturbance one night with his brother’s powers. It’s hard not to notice when the whole house has soaked in his brother’s powers like a sponge. He had woken up in the middle of the night, and something felt wrong.
When focusing on it, he realized it was Shigeo’s powers. His aura had practically screamed fear and panic and sadness, and pain . His aura felt heavy and suffocating, and Ritsu woke up, choking on the air because of it. And it made him worried.
Ritsu was even more worried when Shigeo took one look at the milk carton and panicked, shattering a glass.
He hasn’t seen Shigeo have a cup of milk in a while, and he knows how much his brother loves the beverage.
And then...there’s their conversation from this morning.
Ritsu knows very well that he isn’t going to get answers from his brother, not now at least. They may have a much better relationship now, but if the situation is as bad as it seems, then Ritsu knows for a fact that Shigeo isn’t going to open up out of fear of burdening him.
So he decides to go to the person that he knows will have answers for him.
Ritsu is thankful for the fact that his student council meeting doesn’t run as long as it usually does. President Kamuro wraps up the meeting in a timely fashion, as it was mainly just a check in to see what’s been going on in the school.
There wasn’t much to report, which Ritsu considers to be a good thing. Once the meeting is over, Ritsu avoids getting pulled into a conversation with Kamuro and Tokugawa. He can’t get sidetracked, not when he has to talk to him about his brother.
Ritsu marches right up to the front door of Spirits & Such, slamming it open. He doesn’t even bother with knocking. He walks right into the office, glaring at the man sitting behind the desk. He completely ignores the woman sitting in the chair and addresses the man, “Reigen-san.”
Reigen, to his credit, does look a bit nervous. “Ah...Ritsu! What a...pleasant surprise!” He says, chuckling shakily. “While I’d love to speak with you, I’ve got a client here with a real nasty haunting. So if you could just—”
Ritsu doesn’t wait for him to finish speaking. He slams his hands down on Reigen’s desk, glowering at the man. “Something’s going on with my brother, and I know you’ve got something to do with it. You’re going to tell me what happened.” He all but demands, voice leaving no room for excuses.
He sees Reigen sweat, and the man’s eyes glance over to the woman behind Ritsu.
“Reigen-san? What’s going on?” The woman asks, clearly confused. Reigen looks back to Ritsu, and Ritsu remains unmoved, narrowing his eyes. He makes sure to make it clear to Reigen that he isn’t leaving until he gets answers, even if it means interrupting the man’s client.
Reigen seems to get his message, for he sighs quietly. “I’m terribly sorry to do this, but it appears a very important case just appeared, miss.” He tells the woman, frowning. He shrugs as he shakes his head and comments, “Spirits...such fickle things.” He then brightens, reaching into his pocket, “But I’ve got just the thing for you!” He pulls out a bag of salt, “Just add in a pinch of this next time you cook any meat, and the cooking spirits will leave it alone!”
Ritsu eyes Reigen, as if to ask ‘Really?’
He then backs away as the woman shoots up and happily accepts the bag. “Ah, thank you so much, Reigen-san!” She cries, looking incredibly relieved.
Reigen flashes a smile, “It’s no problem at all! I’ll contact you in regards to my payment.” He says before (nicely) ushering her out the door. Reigen waves her goodbye before practically slamming the door shut. He then leans against the door, arms crossed as if trying to appear casual. Though, the profuse sweating gives him away. “Soooooo,” Reigen drawls.
Ritsu quirks an eyebrow, unimpressed, “Really? The cooking spirits?” He can’t help but ask.
“Hey I was pressed for time, okay!” Reigen cries out defensively. “I couldn’t just tell her that her cooking might have been the problem outright! I run a spiritual agency for crying out loud!”
“Whatever,” Ritsu grumbles, “That doesn’t matter. What happened to nii-san?” He questions, getting back to the topic at hand. Reigen doesn’t answer him immediately. In fact, he doesn’t even look at Ritsu properly. He drops his gaze, avoiding Ritsu’s eyes entirely. “Reigen-san. What. Happened.” He repeats, narrowing his eyes.
“Take a seat, Ritsu.” Reigen eventually says, directing him to sit in the chair the woman had previously been occupying. Still eyeing the conman, Ritsu sits down.
Reigen then walks over to his desk and sits down. They sit in silence for a few minutes, and Ritsu waits. He feels impatient, like when you’re so close to getting a new toy or a new game but your parents have to run an errand before they buy it for you. Here Ritsu is, so close to figuring out what’s going on, but Reigen’s making him wait.
Speaking of Reigen, he looks like he’s hesitating to answer Ritsu’s question. They’ve been sitting in silence for quite a bit, but he hasn’t said a single word yet. That’s fine. As impatient as Ritsu feels, he can wait.
Reigen then sighs quietly, “I’m sorry that you came all the way here, but it’s not my place to say anything,” And just as Ritsu’s about to argue, he holds up his hand and silences him, “It’s because one, I don’t know the full story, and two, as much as you think I don’t, I do respect Mob’s privacy. It’s not my place to tell you about something he isn’t comfortable talking about.” Reigen explains.
“Trust in Mob to come to you and tell you when he feels comfortable enough.” He adds, and that’s when Ritsu sees something he’s never seen on Reigen’s face. After four years of using his brother and lying to him, Ritsu finally sees guilt on the man’s face. It startles him, so much so that he blinks and looks again.
The guilt is still there.
Whatever happened must have been bad enough to make Reigen feel guilty.
For some reason, that realization makes Ritsu pause. Even though he had been so determined to get answers from Reigen, he doesn’t get any at all. Although, maybe he did get an answer, if he really thinks about it. He knows for sure that something happened to his brother, and Reigen feels guilty about whatever happened.
For some reason that realization makes him regret coming to Reigen for answers. He doesn’t ask for anything else. Mumbling a “thanks for your time”, Ritsu stands up from the chair he had been sitting in and heads for the door.
“Ritsu,” Reigen calls, making him pause. Ritsu turns to look at the conman, quirking a brow. “Mob will come to you eventually. Be there for him when he does.” He says, and Ritsu hears a plea in there.
“Of course I’ll be there. He’s my brother.” Ritsu tells Reigen, as if it was obvious. Reigen's shoulders sag, and he gives Ritsu a small smile. Ritsu then shuts the door behind him, leaving. He walks home, feeling heavy for some reason. He didn’t get any direct answers like he had originally intended to do, but maybe that’s for the best.
whOA LOOK, AN UPDATE THAT ISN'T AT 2 AM!!!
i'm a little unhappy with how this chapter came out but i don't want to stare at it any longer lol. i'll probably go back and edit this at a later point in time. i hope you guys enjoyed this chapter, and i'll see you guys in the next chapter!!!
Chapter 5: five
"This life can cut like a knife,
it leaves lines and divides
- Lifelines, I Prevail"
warning!!!! there's a somewhat detailed experience of a panic attack at the start of the chapter, please be careful!!!!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Shigeo passes a crow on his way to school one morning. The sight of it is enough to make him stop and stare.
His grip tightens on his bag, and he stares up at the bird. He stops walking and just watches the bird above. Realistically, he knows it’s just a bird. The crow isn’t...isn't him. He knows this.
But even so, he can’t tear his eyes away. He can’t direct his attention somewhere else. There’s a small part of him that is asking ‘what if it is him?’ and it makes him afraid to look away. It’s enough to make him paranoid.
He feels eyes watching him, and he tenses. He feels uneasy and he doesn’t like the feeling. He wants it to go away.
Shigeo forces himself to look away from the crow, and he looks around. There’s a few other students making their daily commute to school, a few even wearing the uniform of Salt Middle. But Shigeo discovers that there is no one watching him. He blends in just as he usually does.
So why is his heart still racing in his chest? Why does his palms feel sweaty and his knees feel weak and wobbly? He feels nausea all of the sudden, like everything is spinning. Why is he gasping loudly for air, and why does his throat feel like it’s being constricted? Is this just because of the crow? Why? It’s just an animal.
“Breathe, Shigeo!” Someone exclaims, but Shigeo can’t focus on their voice. He has to focus on breathing because he can’t right now and he has to remember how to breathe. How does he do it again?
He struggles for air, putting a hand on his chest and clutching the fabric of his uniform. He thinks he feels someone grab one of his arms, and then his vision is clouded by green. Oh, it’s Dimple.
“Shigeo, you’re alright, it’s okay!” The spirit exclaims, looking at him with concern. “Take a deep breath kid,” Dimple tells him, breathing in air through his nose, exaggerating the movement so Shigeo can clearly see it.
Shakily nodding, Shigeo follows Dimple’s lead and sucks in air. With Dimple’s instruction, he holds his breath until the spirit counts to ten, and he exhales.
They repeat this a few times until Shigeo’s breathing isn’t erratic and instead more fluid. He still feels shaky, he can feel his hands tremble. Dimple’s eyes are locked on him, and he hears a question, “Are you alright?”
Shigeo goes to nod, but stops. He still feels shaky, and even a bit nauseous. He bites his lip and curls his hands into fists to stop them from shaking. But then his skin starts to itch so he unfurls them after a few seconds. “No..” He eventually mumbles. “That was...really scary.” Shigeo quietly confesses. “That crow…” He trails off, unable to finish the thought.
Dimple frowns, and slowly pats his head, “It’s going to be okay, kid.”
Shigeo frowns too. He doesn’t feel good. He eyes Dimple for a few seconds, before he decides to voice his thoughts, “I don’t feel very ‘okay’.”
“Well no one would be ‘okay’ after having a panic attack like that.” Dimple replies, still patting his head. Shigeo looks down, biting his lip. So that’s what that was. He’s had a few of them before, but they were never like that . They never felt so...intense, so paralyzing.
“Hey, Kageyama!” A voice interrupts his thoughts, and Shigeo jumps. Dimple floats a few inches away as Shigeo looks around, fearing the worst. But as his eyes land on Musashi, he finds himself calming down slightly.
“C-Captain Musashi…” He stammers, still feeling unsteady.
The other jogs up to him until he’s standing next to Shigeo, jogging in place. “What are you doing standing around for? You’re gonna be late if you keep staring off!” Musashi exclaims with a smile. He then looks at Shigeo, as if he’s just noticed something, “Kageyama, are you feeling alright? You look pale. It’s not your anemia again, is it?”
Shigeo shakes his head, the conversation slowly taking his mind off of the crow. However, he regrets shaking his head a moment later as another wave of nausea hits him.
Musashi stops jogging, now looking at Shigeo with concern. Shigeo watches as the captain goes into his bag and pulls out a bottle of water. He hands it to Shigeo with a smile, “Here, this should help.”
Had Shigeo not been feeling so drained all of the sudden, he probably would’ve worried about Musashi giving him his bottle. However, Musashi doesn’t seem like he minds much and Shigeo accepts it, twisting off the lid and taking a few sips.
Little by little, he relaxes. His shoulders sag and he feels the ball of tension sitting in his stomach unravel.
Musashi claps him on the back good-naturedly. “I’ll walk the rest of the way with you, just to make sure you don’t pass out on the way to school.” The captain offers, and Shigeo is very grateful for his friend.
“Thank you...but won’t that make you late?” He questions, worried.
Musashi waves him off, “It’s fine! As the captain of the Body Improvement Club, I’ve got to make sure my clubmates are staying healthy!” He exclaims, “And as your friend Kageyama, it’s my job to ensure that you’re alright!”
Shigeo feels that burst of gratefulness in his chest again, and he gives the captain a small smile. “Thank you,” He repeats.
Musashi grins, and with no further arguments, they head to school.
If Dimple happens to find the crow that had scared Shigeo and shooed it away, well, that’s no one’s business but his own.
The day is challenging and Shigeo drifts through it. He falls asleep in mathematics again, his weariness far outweighing the building anxiety of being caught. A few people approach him, like Mezato and Inukawa, and ask him if he’s alright. He tells them he’s fine, even if he doesn’t really think he’s okay.
Then finally, lunch comes.
Shigeo sits in his classroom, staring down at his desk. He has his lunch with him, his mom made it. But he isn’t hungry. He just keeps staring at his desk, mind feeling fuzzy and muddled. There’s a few other students in the classroom, but they’re all too preoccupied to give Shigeo a sparing glance.
That’s good, Shigeo doesn’t want to draw attention to himself, especially not now.
He isn’t sure he could handle talking to anyone, he could barely handle speaking with Mezato and Inukawa. He just feels so heavy and bogged down. He’s been feeling off all day and he isn’t sure if it’s because of that crow or if he just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Should he even consider the crow a reason for the uneasiness? After all, it’s just an animal, so why should it bother him so much?
Why should seeing an animal make him feel so heavy?
Maybe it’s more complicated than that. Or maybe he’s thinking about this all wrong and it isn’t the crow at all. If Shigeo really thinks about it, ever since the Asagiri job he’s been feeling heavy.
He doesn’t want to feel heavy anymore.
He wants to feel light again, light enough to fly away.
His head suddenly slumps forward and it lands on the desk. Shigeo blinks in confusion as he realizes he’s floating above his body. How did that happen? Did he--
An out of body experience.
He probably subconsciously shoved himself out of his body. He hadn’t even realized he could do that. Looking down at his body, he figures he should take control of it again, especially since he’s at school.
Except...the idea of going back into his body and feeling heavy all over again doesn’t sound appealing to him. As a spirit Shigeo feels much lighter, freer, even. He feels like a weight has been lifted from his shoulders and he’s content with floating around. Shigeo can move around as he pleases without having to worry about being untethered. He’s already let go of the string and he’s floating in the air as if he were a balloon.
It feels like it’s been ages since he’s felt like this, so weightless .
It’s a nice feeling, and Shigeo revels in it.
He isn’t sure how long he floats around the classroom, he loses track of time. The bell rings suddenly and Shigeo realizes that he has to force himself to go back into his body. He doesn’t want to but...he has class, and he should at least try to focus.
Even if he knows he won’t.
After school ends, Shigeo makes his way to Reigen’s office. Musashi was still worried about what happened earlier in the day, so he told Shigeo he could head home early. Shigeo didn’t exactly feel like heading home and waiting for his parents and Ritsu so he decided to drop by Spirits & Such.
Dimple floats beside him as he walks, and the spirit makes conversation. It ranges from talking about people they pass on the street to plans of him becoming a god.
Shigeo doesn’t really pay attention to what’s being said, but he gets this feeling that Dimple isn’t really paying attention either. The idea itself doesn’t make sense to him, after all, how can one talk but not pay attention? But that’s the feeling he gets from the spirit, and Shigeo is tired, he doesn’t want to think about it too much right now.
As he turns a familiar corner and sees the sign of Spirits & Such, he’s hit with a wave of weariness. His shoulders drop a bit, and he feels sluggish. He really hopes that Reigen doesn’t have any off site exorcisms today. All he really wants to do is sit at his desk and well...do nothing. Or maybe homework. Because if he does nothing then his thoughts will get all dark and twisty, and he doesn’t want that.
So he’ll do homework.
Yeah, that sounds good.
With this in mind, Shigeo heads up to Reigen’s office.
Arataka sits at his desk, finger rapidly tapping on the mouse and he practically flings the mouse all over his desk. He had gotten a client earlier asking for him to exorcise a ghost from a photo, and Arataka takes those requests very seriously. Of course, he takes every request very seriously, but photo exorcisms especially.
His foot taps on the ground as he ‘exorcises’ the photo and he hums quietly. He’s on a nice streak, he hasn’t erased the client’s eyebrow once!
“Good afternoon, Shishou .”
He jumps, and the mouse goes into the air. He yelps loudly, and he immediately grabs the sides of his screen, feeling dread in the pit of his stomach. His eyes widen in horror. “NOOO!” He cries, grabbing his head as he hangs it in shame, “I erased part of the client’s eyebrow!” Dammit, all of that hard work!
Arataka immediately sits up, coughing into his fist. He is the perfect image of calm and collected. “Hey, Mob, didn’t see you there.” He says cooly. Mob stands in front of his desk, looking unimpressed, while Dimple hovers next to him, face palming. Mob clearly doesn’t believe in the cool facade Arataka is trying to uphold, but it doesn’t matter, Arataka tells himself. Or well…it’s more accurate to say he tries to convince himself. Arataka then glances at the time, surprised to see the boy standing there. “Doesn’t your club end a little later?”
“Captain Musashi said I could leave early.” Is all Mob offers for a response and he places his bag by the side of his desk and sits down.
“I see.” Arataka hums. As Mob goes to sit, he speaks up, “Ah, don’t get too comfortable! We’ve got an exorcism request from a client. As soon as I’m done exorcising this photo we’re heading out.” He tells the boy, and he doesn’t need to read the emotion on Mob’s face to know he’s bothered by what was just said.
“....Alright.” Comes the quiet reply.
Arataka has a feeling that there’s something he’s missing, but he isn’t sure what it is. Well, no need to worry himself silly over it. Mob seems fine, maybe a little tired, but Arataka’s sure that once the boy sits and relaxes for a few minutes, he’ll be fine.
With this in mind, he turns back to his computer screen and hits the back button. He has to do a lot to get the client’s eyebrow back, something he was actively trying to avoid. While he’s doing this, Mob is taking out his homework and getting started on it.
The office is silent as the two handle their respective tasks. Dimple floats back and forth, making an occasional comment to Arataka about how bad his ‘exorcism’ skills are.
Something still feels off.
And then, Arataka gets it.
Mob hasn’t asked him once for help with his homework. Now, Arataka isn’t expecting Mob to ask him. It’s not like he really wants to look back at middle school work and cringe, but he does so because Mob asks him to and he cares about Mob. However, Mob’s been stuck on the same homework assignment for what feels like ages , and every time Arataka’s glanced over at him, his eyebrows are knitted together and his mouth is pulled into a small frown.
By now, Mob would’ve asked him for help, but he hasn’t.
Arataka can’t help but be a little curious as to why that is. Despite this curiosity, he doesn’t question it. He focuses on finishing this ‘exorcism’ as quickly as possible because there’s a bigger case and Arataka really needs to pay rent next month. Not to mention his food budget can really use a one up right about now…
“ Shishou ?” Mob’s voice startles him from his thoughts.
“Need help with your homework?” Arataka asks, feeling strangely relieved.
“Ah, no…” Mob answers, putting his pencil down. “But I...have a question.”
Arataka blinks, not expecting that response. “What is it?” He questions, and just like many times before, his mind is already running ahead of him, trying to fill in the holes of his anxieties. His mind goes from Mob being unhappy with his pay to Mob finding out the truth about Arataka to Mob finally calling him out for what happened during the Asagiri job.
“Were you ever bullied in middle school?”
The question startles Arataka. He never expected Mob of all people to ask such a thing, especially since Mob never seemed like the type to ask that sort of thing anyways. Sure, when he was younger he was always a curious kid, but he was always curious about Arataka’s powers, not his childhood.
He spares a glance at Dimple, but the evil spirit just shakes his head. He then begins to figure out the best way to handle this. Why is Mob even asking about that anyways? Is there someone picking on him at school? Is that why he’s been acting weird?
Who is he kidding, as much as Arataka would love to delude himself, he knows the cause for Mob’s weird behavior is whatever Mogami did to him. Mob was completely fine before that job and Arataka knows that.
But maybe this was a hint of sorts, something to clue Arataka in on what his student experienced. He should approach this carefully. So he leans back in his chair, humming. “Well, I had my fair share of bullies back then. They were just punks that liked causing trouble for the teachers and once in a while they’d pick on me.” He says, and it isn’t really a lie. Sure, he’s leaving some parts out, like the few times they stole his lunch or wrote all over his desk, but that isn’t important. Mob is important right now.
With this in mind, he looks at Mob in concern, “Is...someone bothering you at school?”
Mob bites his lip, as if he’s hesitating to answer. Oh no, Mob isn’t being intimidated into being silent, is he? Handling this will be more challenging then, what should he do? Just as Arataka is about to go down the rabbit hole of planning, Mob speaks up, “Not….not um...not anymore.”
For some reason it doesn’t calm Arataka.
“They...they were, but they ah stopped. I think.”
“You think?” Arataka asks, trying to sound as gentle as possible. Mob speaking up about something that’s bothering him is rare, especially after that job. He doesn’t want to make the kid feel uncomfortable.
Mob nods, “I...haven’t seen them in a while, so….I think they stopped.” He looks uncertain about what he’s saying, face pinched up and brows furrowed as if he’s thinking hard about something. For the first time, Arataka sees just how tired the kid looks.
Arataka hums, putting a hand on his chin. He finds his eyes drifting over to the clock hanging on the wall. They should probably get going soon, they don’t want to keep the client waiting too long. “Well, I hope they had a change of heart.” He eventually says. Part of him wants to ask about the sudden question, but he holds himself back.
Mob nods again, staring down at his homework. He still looks hesitant and uncertain, and it makes Arataka frown. “ Shishou I...had a bad day at school today.” Mob eventually murmurs quietly.
And then it all makes sense. Mob’s quietness, his sluggish movements, the slumped shoulders, the beginnings of bags under his eyes. Not for the first time, Arataka feels guilty. He has to do better for Mob. He glances at the clock again, and makes a split second decision.
“Ah, hold on one moment Mob.” He says as he gets up from his chair, “The client is calling.” As he passes the boy, he sees his expression darken for a moment before tiredness sets in. Arataka hurriedly makes his way outside, sends the client a text about cancelling the exorcism, and proceeds to play around on his phone for a few minutes to really sell the act.
Once he deems enough time has passed, he slips back into the office. “Good news, Mob! The client called and said he had to cancel!” He exclaims. He sees Dimple rolling his eyes, obviously not buying his act.
Mob looks at him in confusion, “How is that good news Shishou ?”
Arataka smiles, “It means we can close up shop early tonight!” As if on cue, he hears Mob’s stomach grumble. “See? You wanna get some ramen?” He sees something in Mob’s face lighten and the kid nods. He packs up his bag and Arataka pats him on the back as they leave the office. He doesn't bother shutting off the computer.
As they walk to the ramen shop, Arataka makes sure to slip in a piece of advice for his student. “Mob,” He says, “As your Shishou , it’s my job to help you control your powers, but! It’s also my job to make sure you’re feeling alright. If you ever need someone to talk to, my office is always open for you kiddo.”
For the first time in a few days, Arataka sees a familiar little sparkle in Mob’s eyes. “Thank you.”
Arataka smiles, stuffing a hand in his pocket as his phone goes off. He stifles the noise.
“Anytime, Mob. Oh! Remember, if you’re gonna add on chashu pork , limit it to two.” He says, purely for the sake of familiarity.
I feel like another title for this fic could be "let's see how many times mochi can throw in the word 'kiddo'"....anyways!!!! sorry this has been such a long wait!! i finally finished this chapter up and i'm really happy with it??? also!!! thank you guys for all the comments so far! i haven't responded to much because i'm extremely awkward, but i do read all of them!!!
i hope you guys enjoyed this chapter, and i'll see you guys in the next one!!
Chapter 6: six
"I can't stop the bleeding
Looking for a meaning
- Lifelines, I Prevail"
Shigeo didn’t mean to make it a habit, really, he didn’t. But escaping the burden of carrying those six months always seemed so tempting.
And before he knew it, Shigeo was escaping his body and floating around quite often. He limited himself though, only did it when he was at home. And alone. He slipped up every once in a while at school during lunch, or when he felt too stressed out. His soul would just...pop up, as if his body were evicting him. He’d immediately go back into his body though, no matter how badly he wanted to stay out.
Anyways, he’s been doing a good job of hiding it, he thinks. No one knew what he was doing, but maybe Dimple had his suspicions. Shigeo thinks it’s because of the weird glances Dimple keeps giving him that the spirit knows he’s up to...something.
Regardless, as far as Shigeo knows, no one is aware of what he’s been doing. He wants to keep it that way for some reason, so he tries his best to hide it.
But it doesn’t stay that way for very long.
Ritsu doesn’t bother muffling his sigh of annoyance as Dimple hovers next to him, talking his ear off. For some reason the spirit decided to walk home with him today, and as much as Ritsu wants to question this, he’s tired and he just wants to collapse in bed and sleep for a while.
But he can’t. Because he has homework.
Somehow, he manages to tune out Dimple’s chatter about his rankings of tasty evil spirits on the way home. He doesn’t even know what brought on that topic, nor does he want to know.
And when he sees his house growing closer he almost cheers out loud. He doesn’t, instead letting his shoulders sag in relief. Ritsu opens the door and takes a bit of satisfaction in closing the door right on Dimple.
“Seriously?!” The spirit exclaims as he phases through the door. Ritsu can’t help his little smile. It’s the tiny things, like bothering Dimple.
“I’m home, nii-san!” Ritsu calls out as he slips off his shoes. He doesn’t get a response, but he doesn’t think much of it. His brother has seemed tired lately, so he wouldn’t be surprised if Shigeo is asleep. He makes a note to check on him in a bit.
He heads up to his room and changes out of his uniform. Dimple, for some reason, continues to follow him. He gives the spirit an odd look.
“What?” Dimple questions, raising a brow.
“You’ve been following me since this afternoon, it’s weird.” Ritsu comments.
Dimple huffs, “Is it so difficult to entertain the idea that I wanted to just ‘hang out’?” He even does the air quotes with his little ghost hands, and Ritsu never wants to see him do that again.
“Yes, it is.” He says, crossing his arms, “You’ve been following my brother like you’re his shadow and I know there’s a reason for that. It’s weird that you suddenly stopped and are now hanging around me.” Ritsu shoots back, narrowing his eyes.
Dimple stares at him for a few seconds, before sighing, “Alright, you caught me.” He grumbles, frowning. “Let’s just say I have a...theory I’m testing out, and it requires me to be somewhere that isn’t near Shigeo.”
Ritsu blinks, tilting his head curiously. What does that mean, he wonders. Before he has the chance to ask any follow up questions, he hears a thump in the next room over. He and Dimple share a glance before they speed out of his room.
“Nii-san, is everything ok...ay…?”
Ritsu stares at the blue blob in front of him, blinking in confusion. Dimple hovers beside him, a concerned frown on his face. He doesn’t look surprised or confused, which only bewilders Ritsu even more.
He stares at the blob as it stares back at him. Is it a spirit? How’d it get in the house? Is it dangerous? Ritsu looks past the spirit, seeing his brother laying sprawled out on the floor. A few books are open on his desk, and his pencil is laying on the floor alongside him. It looks like Shigeo had fallen off his chair.
“Nii-san!” Ritsu exclaims in concern, immediately going to his brother’s side and kneeling down beside him. He gently shakes his shoulder, trying to wake him. Shigeo doesn’t budge. He looks up at the blob, mind jumping to different possibilities and scenarios. This blob...spirit, it must’ve done something to his brother. It’s the one responsible for this. Should he exorcise it? That’s the safest route to go here, right?
With the solution in mind, Ritsu raises a hand and prepares himself to exorcise the spirit. The spirit simply tilts its head, staring at him. Psychic power begins to collect in his palm, and he’s about to use that energy to get rid of the spirit when he’s stopped.
“Ritsu, wait, stop!” Dimple cries out, jumping in front of the blob. “Don’t exorcise him, it’s Shigeo!”
Ritsu freezes and stops, “What?!” He exclaims as he lowers his hand. “ That’s my brother?!”
Dimple hurriedly nods his head as the blob— his brother floats over to Ritsu and sits on his head. “Nii-san..?” He questions. His brother doesn’t respond, just peeks over his head and looks down at him. He looks at Dimple, “Explain.”
“That theory I mentioned before? Yeah, this is it.” The spirit says. “What your brother is doing right now is an out of body experience. I’ve had my suspicions that he’s been doing them for a while now but I needed to test it.”
“Out of body experience? I didn’t know he could do that.” Ritsu replies, humming as he puts a hand on his chin. Has Shige always been able to do that? Or is it something new?
A weird expression crosses Dimple’s face but before Ritsu can comment on it, the expression is gone, replaced with a blank look. “He uh...learned it while we were out on a job.” He explains.
Ritsu opens his mouth to ask questions, but Dimple holds up a hand, “I know you wanna ask, but let’s get Shigeo back into his body first.”
Agreeing with Dimple’s plan, he bites down his questions and he glances down at his brother’s ( soulless ) body. He still can’t believe that his brother had learned how to do an out of body experience. Briefly, Ritsu wonders if Shigeo would teach him how to do it if he asked. He puts that train of thought on the back burner for now and focuses on getting his brother’s er, spirit form back into his body.
It’s then that he realizes he has no idea how to accomplish that.
He looks to Dimple, but the spirit looks as clueless as he feels. They stare at one another, neither saying anything or moving. Clearly, they both have absolutely no idea what to do.
Ritsu hums, maybe if he just…“Hey uh, nii-san, can you go back into your body…? Erm...please?” He hears Dimple snort before the spirit covers up his mouth in an attempt to smother his laughter. Ritsu bites back an insult, preventing himself from daring the spirit to do something better.
To the surprise of both of them, Shigeo leaves the top of his head and they watch in fascination as the small blob disappears into Shigeo’s unconscious body. They wait for a few beats, glancing back and forth at each other, waiting.
And then, Shigeo’s eyes open and he sits up.
“Nii-san!” Ritsu exclaims, leaning forward slightly, “Are you alright? What happened?”
“Um….I’m not entirely sure.” His brother mumbles in reply, staring down at his lap. “I was doing homework and then...I started to feel really stressed out.” He tries to explain, “I think...I got so stressed that my body um...pushed my soul out.”
Ritsu stares at him, surprised. “Has this...been happening for a while?” He can’t help but ask, because he feels like there’s something more going on here. He feels like there’s something Shigeo is leaving out, something big.
Dimple stares at Shigeo as his older brother nervously fidgets with his fingers. “No...it hasn’t.” Comes the eventual reply. Ritsu feels something begin to weigh heavily in the pit of his stomach. He glances at Dimple and judging by the frown on the spirit’s face, he’s thinking the same thing that Ritsu is.
But Ritsu can’t call him out, not when it could risk Shigeo pulling away. He doesn’t want to put on the mask of the ‘well behaved younger brother’ again. They were moving past that. They were getting better.
He can’t jeopardize that.
So he stands up and ignores the sweat rolling down the side of Shigeo’s face. He desperately pushes down the heavy feeling in his stomach and looks at his brother, “You wanna take a break from homework? Play a game or two with me?” He offers.
Shigeo falls quiet and Ritsu patiently waits for his response. He doesn’t move, giving his brother enough time to think and respond.
“Thanks, Ritsu.” Shigeo eventually mumbles, looking up at him, “But I think I’m going to try my homework again.”
Ritsu nods and wishes his brother good luck before he leaves the room, shutting the door behind him. Dimple stays with Shigeo, and Ritsu heads back to his room.
He forces himself to stop thinking about the blank, emotionless face of his brother.
He hates the feeling it brings.
Shigeo ends up getting scolded by the teacher for not turning in his assignments. They think he’s slacking off. He hasn’t been, not at all. It’s just that when he tries to do his homework, his mind wanders off and he has no motivation to pick up his pencil and write.
He hasn’t been feeling very motivated to do anything, lately.
He tries to do the things he normally does, but he just can’t bring himself to do them. When school is over, the first thing on his mind is heading home and sleeping. He’s been doing that a lot lately, he’s even skipped a few club meetings. He feels bad and apologizes to Captain Musashi every time he skips, but Musashi tells him to take it easy and relax.
He can’t help but wonder why everyone is so nice to him.
Shigeo somehow manages to make it through the day. He nearly slips out of his body a few times, but he’s able to stop himself. Dimple helps him too, seeing as the spirit stayed by him all day. It’s probably because he and Ritsu caught Shigeo the day before.
The memory of the prior day makes his shoulders feel heavy with guilt as he remembers lying to Ritsu. He didn’t mean to, he just didn’t want to explain what’s been going on to his little brother, especially when he himself can barely understand what’s going on.
He still can’t make sense of it. Those six months weren’t real, he’s back in the real world, so why is he still getting things confused? Why is he feeling like this still?
As much as he hates to think about it, lying to Ritsu (and by extension Dimple) was the best option. If he can barely understand what’s going on with him, how can he expect himself to clearly explain it to other people?
How can he—
Shigeo stops walking and looks up at the person blocking his path. He feels a familiar spike of anxiety.
“You got any money on you?” The person blocking his path is a high school student, and he can’t help but wonder if he’s seen the guy from somewhere. He seems familiar somehow. Shigeo spots a second student standing behind the first.
“N-No...I don’t...” Shigeo mumbles in response, looking down at the ground.
“You sure about that?” One of the student’s ask, leaning forward to sneer at him. “You seem awfully nervous for someone who doesn’t have any money.”
Shigeo gulps, keeping his eyes glued to the ground. He hates how familiar this all is.
“Hey, kid, don’t you know it’s rude to ignore someone when they’re speaking to you?” Someone pushes his shoulder making him stumble back. He still keeps his eyes on the ground. Maybe if he stays silent, they’ll get bored and leave.
“Hey, you punk! Don’t ignore me!”
Another shove to his shoulder forces him to stumble back a second time, except this time, he trips. He winces as he falls on the ground, and the two high schoolers laugh at him.
“Now that I’ve got your attention kid, lemme ask you again. You got any money?”
Shigeo feels this unfamiliar anger beginning to edge its way to the surface. He tries to push it down, but he’s tired and overwhelmed from school and this is just icing on the cake.
“Please leave me alone.” He mutters, still fighting to keep his emotions at bay.
One the students, the second one, leans down and puts a hand against his ear, “What was that?”
“Leave me alone.” Shigeo forces out, clenching his fists.
The student laughs, “Sure, sure. Once you give us what we asked for we’ll be on our way.”
“Just cough up the money, small fry, then we’ll leave.”
With a burst of psychic energy, Shigeo stands up, leaving his bag on the ground. His hair raises into the air as he glares at the two students in front of him. “I told you to leave me alone.” He says, voice low and full of anger.
The two high schoolers’ jaws drop as they stare at Shigeo, one of them taking a step back and bumping into the other. He takes a step forward in response to this and he raises a hand, “You should’ve listened the first time I asked you, but you didn’t .”
“ Whoa , Kageyama-kun, hey !” Hanazawa suddenly appears in front of him, stopping him from whatever he’s about to do next. His hand falls to his side as Shigeo stops and blinks, staring at the blonde in front of him. Hanazawa gently grabs hold of his shoulders and stares at him, “Those guys aren’t worth it. You’re going to be the one hurt in the end, Kageyama-kun.”
Shigeo simply stares at him for a few seconds, still feeling that anger within him. It’s loud and angry, howling in it’s anguish. He clenches his fists tightly, actively trying to fight the feeling. Hanazawa’s presence helps with this, as it calms him down slightly, and the anger becomes more manageable.
Shigeo begins to feel less on edge. Slowly, his hair falls down, once again framing his face. His clothes stop rustling as the invisible wind disperses and his eyes are glued to the ground. He misses the two high schoolers turning around and running away, but he doesn’t miss a few wisps of psychic energy tying their shoelaces together, causing them to trip.
It’s only when Hanazawa addresses him and asks, “Want to walk with me?” does Shigeo look up from the ground.
Wordlessly, he nods and picks up his bag that had been thrown and falls into step with Hanazawa. Neither of them speak as they walk side by side, Hanazawa leading the way. Shigeo’s grateful for this, as he doesn’t want to talk. As it is, he can’t stop thinking about it. He runs through what just happened multiple times in his mind and shivers at how familiar it all was.
He realizes that he should probably thank Hanazawa for stepping in and stopping him from doing something he’d regret later. “Ah...Hanazawa-kun...thank you.” He murmurs, genuinely grateful to have a friend like Hanazawa. Or at least...he thinks they’re friends.
Hanazawa glances at him with a smile, “It’s no problem, Kageyama-kun. I’m just glad I was able to get there in time. I happened to be passing by on my way home from school and well...I had to step in and help.”
Shigeo hums quietly, feeling a second wave of gratitude wash over him. He really is grateful that he and Hanazawa know each other. He’s grateful that he had someone to help him here, unlike before.
Back then there was no one to help him.
There was no one to stop the ‘big bad bullies’ from beating him up.
He only had himself to rely on then, and his powers. The same powers he had used to choke someone. The same powers, and the same hands he used to wrap his fingers around someone’s neck and squeeze . Feeling numb, his palms begin to itch. Moving his bag up to rest on his shoulder, he begins to scratch at his palms.
If Hanazawa notices, he doesn’t say a thing. He just stares ahead, letting Shigeo think.
His hands are still so itchy, he can’t stop scratching at his palms. No matter how much he scratches at his hands, he still feels the itch. His palms feel too warm, too sweaty. He doesn’t like it.
And this is when he realizes.
This is when he realizes that there’s something wrong. It finally dawns on him, and he nearly slips out of his body from the stress of the realization. He isn’t okay, he doesn’t feel okay. Something is wrong but he doesn’t know how to fix it . He doesn’t even know the root of the problem. The root is overgrown, too interconnected and complex for him to clearly spot the beginning and the end.
And to think...it was just this small debacle with some high schoolers that made him realize it all.
“Kageyama-kun? Are you alright?” Hanazawa asks him, and suddenly they’ve stopped walking. Shigeo blinks and sees that they’ve ended up in front of Hanazawa’s apartment.
“I--” He stops himself. Is he alright, what a question to have asked. He feels like he’s been deluding himself into thinking that he’s been okay lately, using it as an excuse to ignore the problem in front of him. The truth is no , no he isn’t okay, but how does he convey all of that to Hanazawa? How does he convey that his head is a mess, that he doesn’t know how to explain all of this?
He suddenly feels very antsy in the spot he’s standing in and he pivots on his feet, mumbling out a strained, “I-I’m sorry, I should b-be heading home.”
He’s gone before he can even hear Hanazawa’s response.
OH BOY. THERE'S BEEN A DEVELOPMENT.
I think I might end the story after the next chapter? I haven't quite figured it out yet, but I do have little one shots planned out that take place in this...universe(?) can I even call it that?? I don't think so but oKAY. I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter, I'm updating this at 3 am so if things don't make sense,,,,whoops.
anyways, I'll see you guys next chapter, thank you all for the support!!! <333
also!!! for that last scene, i ended up going with 100% anger instead of rage cause like...one of those is quite an extreme feeling and i didn't think it really fit with what i was trying to convey :p
Chapter 7: seven
“ Throw me a line and bring me back home
Won't you say something, say something
I can't do this alone
- Lifelines, I Prevail”
Shigeo comes home in a funk.
He’s spiraling over the realization he had while walking with Hanazawa, and he finds himself going over each event that’s happened to him since the Asagiri job.
He comes home and ignores his parents as they ask him what’s wrong. He feels guilty for ignoring them, but he doesn’t think he can handle talking to anyone right now. He heads right up to his room and shuts the door behind him. Dimple appears with a, “Whoa, Shigeo, are you alright?”
Shigeo doesn’t answer him, just puts his things down by his desk and collapses by the wall. He hugs his knees close to his chest and stares off, trying to hold himself together. Dimple hovers in front of him, concern written all over his face. “Shige?” He questions, but Shigeo doesn’t answer. He just tucks his head into his knees and holds it there.
He doesn’t hear anything for a few minutes. He and Dimple just sit in silence.
“You uh...you want me to leave you be, kid?” Dimple eventually asks because he just doesn’t know what to do. Sure, he’s an old evil spirit (can he even call himself evil anymore?), but he’s never had to deal with a teenager with a lot of complex emotions before. How does Reigen handle it?
Shigeo doesn’t answer right away. At first he goes to nod, but stops. Dimple’s presence is comforting, and it reminds him that he isn’t alone. He thinks he needs that right now. So he shakes his head.
“Oh...alright then.” Dimple replies. “You...wanna talk about it?”
Shigeo isn’t sure he can. He feels like his mouth isn’t working properly.
Dimple hums, thinking. It’s then that he sees a notebook and pen lifting from Shigeo’s desk and floating over to them. He watches with interest as the pen lifts up and it begins to write on the paper.
“I think I want to talk, but I’m not sure if I could make myself talk.” The pen writes.
Ah, he understands, this is something he can work with. “Alright then! You write to your heart’s content on that paper and I’ll just speak out loud.” Dimple tells him, watching as Shigeo’s shoulders sag slightly. Good, they seemed incredibly tense before.
The pen begins to move again, and Dimple reads along with each new word added.
“I feel like there’s something wrong.”
“Ever since I helped Asagiri-san I haven’t felt okay.”
“What Mogami did...I don’t like thinking about it.”
“Is this....is this normal, Dimple? Because it doesn’t feel normal…”
Dimple frowns, and Mogami is lucky he’s sealed away in that creepy Claw guy’s bottle or else Dimple would give him a nice punch to the face, full of his spiritual power. But never mind that, he can think about punting Mogami into the depths of hell later.
He tries to figure out how to approach this. Not for the first time, he feels out of his comfort zone with this one. How does one comfort a teenager that’s been through so much trauma in such a condensed period of time? And if he’s interpreting Shigeo correctly...it sounds like the kid has only just begun to process all of this.
Realizing too much time has gone by since Dimple read what Shigeo wrote, he jumps into action. He moves a bit closer to Shigeo, but not too close, just in case Shigeo doesn’t want to be touched. “This is all incredibly normal, Shigeo.” He tells the kid, “After all, you went through a traumatic experience! Nobody would be okay after going through what you did!”
Shigeo looks up at him, eyes shining with unshed tears.
Had Dimple still been a living person with a living heart, he’s sure that it’d be breaking right now. And huh, that’s something he never thought he’d think. Or feel, for that matter. But ever since meeting Shigeo he’s been full of unexpected thoughts and feelings, so he can’t say he’s surprised.
What does through him for a loop though is the sudden wave of protectiveness that washes over him. ‘Great, this kid’s making me all mushy just like Reigen. Gross.’
He pushes the thought aside, “Listen Shigeo, I think it might help if you open up to someone.” He says, “Ya know what they say, talking heals all wounds or some shit like that.”
He sees Shigeo scrunch his nose up in confusion, “That doesn’t sound like the right phrase, Dimple.”
Dimple scoffs, “Of course it is! I’m the all knowing Dimple!”
He sees the ghost of a small smile on Shigeo’s face and he feels an odd sense of pride.
The following day, Shigeo heads to Spirits & Such, anxiety buzzing beneath his skin. Dimple hovers beside him, a silent comfort. He grips the edge of his sweater and nervously twists and turns it.
He does this until they reach the office. Dimple keeps sneaking glances his way as Shigeo approaches the front door. He reaches the door and just as he goes to grab the doorknob, he stops.
“What’s wrong?” Dimple questions, turning to look at him.
“I...what if he gets angry with me?” Shigeo mumbles, worried. “I-I mean...what if Shishou gets mad that I didn’t tell him?” His fears feel irrational to him, but he feels them. He feels a bit silly for thinking that Reigen would be angry with him.
“C’mon Shigeo, this is Reigen we’re talking about. He could never seriously get mad at you, let alone for something like this.” Dimple replies. He gives Shigeo a thumbs up, “Don’t worry so much!”
Gulping, Shigeo shakily nods. He looks down at the doorknob and he furrows his brows in shaky determination. He twists it and opens the door.
He steps in and Reigen smiles, “Hello! How can I help yo— Mob? What are you doing here?” He questions, the smile falling from his face. “It’s a Saturday...and I told you you could take off today.”
Shigeo shuffles nervously further into the office, twisting his hands in anxiety. “I-I know…” He mumbles, “But um...there’s something I need to talk to you about…” He admits, keeping his eyes trained on the floor.
Reigen stands up from his desk, probably picking up on how nervous he feels. “Alright, we can talk about whatever you want.” He says. Shigeo watches as he walks over to the blinds on his door and shuts them. He then leads Shigeo over to the green chairs and they sit.
Dimple floats next to Shigeo, casting nervous glances his way. Shigeo focuses his attention on the edges of his sleeves, still tugging on them nervously.
“Take your time, Mob.” Reigen tells him gently.
Shigeo nods. “Um...something happened to me...during the job with Asagiri-san…” He quietly admits, shaking. He keeps his eyes trained on the ground, refusing to meet Reigen’s eyes.
The office is silent, and Reigen is giving him the time to gather his thoughts.
“When I um...when I went into her mind to force Mogami out…he trapped me in this..” Shigeo stops, trying to figure out how to describe it. “Parallel world, I guess..? He um...he trapped me there for six—thirty minutes,” He hurries to correct himself.
“Mob…” Reigen’s voice is soft and it almost makes Shigeo look up at him. “It wasn’t really thirty minutes, was it?” He asks. Shigeo doesn’t answer, shoulders shrinking. “How long were you really there for?”
He hears Reigen mutter a quiet curse, and then “Is there more? That you’re comfortable sharing, of course.”
Shigeo hesitates. He wants to tell Reigen everything that happened. He wants to tell Reigen because he doesn’t know what to do and he knows his Shinsou will know what to do.
But also...he’s afraid of the possible backlash.
“It’s also my job to make sure you’re feeling alright. If you ever need someone to talk to, my office is always open for you kiddo.”
Oh, that’s right. Reigen told him that it was okay to talk to him. So...so it’d be okay.
With this in mind, Shigeo opens up, little by little. He tells Reigen about the house, living alone. He tells him about not having any family, being ostracized by his classmates, his teachers. He trembles the whole time, but he keeps going. He tells Reigen about the bullies, the spilled milk, the cat, that poor, poor cat , the box cutter, nearly losing control . He explains how he’s been feeling since he got back, how he’s had trouble figuring out what’s real and what’s not.
He says that it’s easy some days, and others it is not.
By the end of it, Shigeo is close to tears.
And no one makes a sound. Dimple moves to rest on Shigeo’s head while Shigeo continues to twist and turn his sleeves. He risks a glance at his shishou and sees his face all pinched up. His brows are furrowed and he’s clenching his fists.
Their eyes meet for a split second before Shigeo looks away, unable to handle the eye contact.
Arataka can barely comprehend what he just heard. Six months worth of trauma just came spilling from his student and he doesn’t even know where to begin .
Once again, he feels the guilt from before enclosing around him, making his chest constrict. He’s at a loss for words, he doesn’t even know what to say. His mind feels overloaded with words. He has too many of them. It’s almost funny in a way. He doesn’t know what to say, but he also feels as if he has too much to say.
‘Keep it simple, Arataka. Simple.’
“I’m...I’m so sorry.” Arataka apologizes, voice shaking. He tries to control his anger, but there’s only so much he can do. He tightens his fists to the point he feels his nails digging into his palms. “That shouldn’t have happened to you, I shouldn’t have let you go in there, I should’ve pulled you out sooner.”
He looks at Mob and geez , the kid looks so small. He’s just a kid for crying out loud, why didn’t Arataka do more? Why didn’t he stop Mob and tell him they’d find another way? Why wasn’t he more of a responsible adult?
The guilt only grows.
“ Shishou I...I don’t feel okay.” Mob mumbles, and Arataka’s heart shatters .
“That’s okay, Mob. You don’t have to feel okay all of the time. It’s okay to cry.” He says, and that seems to shatter the dam.
Tears spill from Mob’s eyes and he’s suddenly out of his seat and knocking into Arataka. Dimple lets out a cry of surprise as he’s knocked off of Mob’s head, but Arataka doesn’t pay him much mind. He’s surprised by the sudden hug, and hurries to catch Mob before the boy can trip. He meets Mob halfway and the two of them sink to the floor, the kid sobbing into his shoulder.
His cries are not loud and ear piercing. They’re quiet, gasps of air. They’re sniffles and small whines of anguish. And knowing that hurts Arataka more than any external wound could.
He doubts it’ll be the last time this happens, but Arataka feels his heart break again. “There there.” He mumbles into Mob’s hair. He wraps the kid in a secure hug, “It’s going to be okay, Mob. You’ll be okay.” He says quietly as the kid continues to cry. He sees green from the corner of his eyes and sees Dimple patting Mob’s head.
Arataka wants to apologize for failing his kid, but he knows that isn’t going to help right now. Right now he needs to reassure Mob that he isn’t alone, that he’s going to be okay.
They sit there for a while, for as long as Mob needs. Arataka’s back is starting to ache but he doesn’t care.
And then, quietly, he hears Mob ask, “ Shishou ...are you angry at me..?”
Arataka’s eyes widen and he jumps to reply, “At you? Of course not! I’m angry yes, but not with you Mob.” He says.
“B-But what happened…”
“Wasn’t your fault.” Arataka says, pulling back to look at his kid. “What happened to you was a result of Mogami being an asshol...er...super evil jerk , who’s incredibly lucky he isn’t here right now.”
Mob seems to relax at that, and he nods. Arataka takes a good look at him, and he really sees just how much this has all affected him. The bags under his eyes are horrible. He’s incredibly pale, and it only makes Arataka worry more.
“Alright Mob, here’s the game plan. You’re going to take a nap on the couch because you look like you can use it. After, we’re going to sit down and figure out the best way for you to talk to your parents and little brother. And then , we’re all going to look into finding someone you can talk to, who can really help you process everything you went through.” Arataka tells him. He can already see how the conversation with Mob’s parents will go. He’s definitely going to die at the hands of a thirteen year old.
If he doesn’t die at the hands of Mob’s parents first.
Mob looks hesitant, “Are you...sure it’s okay for me to sleep here?” He asks.
“Of course I am! I don’t have any clients coming in anyways. I’m closed for business today. I’ll just busy myself with updating the website while you sleep. Don’t worry about a thing, Mob.”
Mob still looks hesitant, but Dimple jumps in, “Come on, Shigeo! You definitely need the rest!”
Arataka nods, “You’ll be okay, Mob.” He says softly.
Mob seems to cave at that and not even five minutes later the kid is passed out on the couch.
Arataka’s smile is one of melancholy, as he gets up from the ground and stretches. He then sits back down at his desk. Instead of pulling up the page for Spirits & Such, he opens up a new tab and begins researching therapists.
He may have failed Mob once, but he refuses to fail his kid a second time.
and that’s a wrap :))
so I’ll admit, somewhere along the lines writing this kinda become a vent fic?? :’)))
anyways! I hope that the ending was satisfying, I wanted to end it as realistically as possible because as much as I think we’d all like to think telling someone about our problems doesn’t magically make us “okay” again, and I hope that carried through this chapter.
that being said I want to take the time to say this: if you’ve gone through something traumatic, I’m sorry you had to go through it. You don’t deserve what happened to you, and it’s okay to not feel okay as a result. It’s okay to have your good and bad days. It’s okay to cry and get upset. You will make it through. You will be okay, whether it be a few months from now or even a few years from now. It might seem hard, but you can get through it. You will be okay <3
thank you all for reading this fic, writing a lot of this was really??? therapeutic for me, and seeing this story get all the support it did makes me really happy. I might add a few one shots to this series as there’s still a few things I want to write, but couldn’t fit them in the main story. once again, thank you for all of the support! <33333