Mob came home to an empty house. All of the lights were off, so he turned a few on. Purely out of habit, he headed up to his room. He didn’t know what he wanted to do. This was too much free time for one lonely boy to have. What time is it, anyway? He grabbed his phone off of his desk to check. He flipped it open and was surprised to see that he had a text, from Teru.
“Hey your little brother told me what happened!! >:O This is UNBELIEVABLE….. Kageyama-kun, idk if you can read this as you are right now, but if you can then please text me!! I am concerned for you”
“Hanazawa-kun! I’m sorry for the late response. It hadn’t occurred to me to check my phone until now. Thanks for your concern! I’m OK, kind of… I mean I feel pretty much the same as usual. I just can’t eat or sleep or talk.”
“Eh, I can do without those things for a while.”
“So uh, what have you been doing all this time?”
“Last night after we got back from the hospital, we all decided to go to bed. I tried to sleep, but I couldn’t, and Ritsu caught on pretty quickly and kept me company. We watched a movie in the living room and he fell asleep on the couch…. I wanted him to go sleep in his room but I couldn’t bring myself to wake him up….”
“That is. Adorable. What happened next?”
“I ended up just playing the DS all night. I finally got past that part I was stuck on in Pokemon.”
“Did you have to look up a tutorial?”
“…Yes. Also I hatched Mako’s egg. He’s a beautiful baby Popplio and I named him Taro.”
“Please show me the lovely boy the next time I see you”
“Wait nvm because I guess the next time I’ll see you is tonight at the hospital. We’ll have better things to worry about. I sure hope things will work out….”
“Me too. I don’t want my body to lose all that muscle I’ve been building up.”
“Haha, of course that’s what you’re worried about. Anyway, I guess I should get back to classwork now”
“Ah, I didn’t mean to keep you from your studies!”
“Don’t worry about it. You’re infinitely more interesting than history. Anyway, I’ll see you tonight!!”
And with that, Mob was alone once again. He considered what he could do to pass time and decided to give Ritsu a whirl.
“Good afternoon, Ritsu! I’m back at home now, but I can still meet up with you to walk to the hospital together. Do you need me to bring anything from home?”
“Nii-san, you can text? I guess that makes sense. I would love to walk with you after school. Also I would appreciate it if you brought headache medicine.”
“OK, sounds good.”
“By the way, why are you home? Did you give up on attending school? I knew it was a bad idea…”
“Well I was there for a while, but the school called an exorcist on me....”
“Woah, really?! What happened?”
“It just turned out to be Master Reigen. He told me to leave so I did.”
“I’ve really lost faith in our school administration if they called a shady person like him into our school.”
“Master did his job perfectly.”
“Yeah, yeah. Anyway, I’m looking forward to our walk. See you soon.”
After that, Mob didn’t really know what to do, so he ended up straightening up the house. He did his chores and all of Ritsu’s as well. He wanted to pay him back for all the times he had done his chores for him. The busywork doubled as a way to dampen Mob’s creeping feelings of anxiety. He tried not to think about it, but the idea that all of his body improvement progress could go to waste constantly haunted him in his idle time. When the appointed time finally drew near, Mob stopped dusting the shelves and left to meet up with his brother.
Mob had tried his best to travel without letting people see his floating bottle of medicine, but he had a mishap in which a pair of small children had chased him down the street out of rabid curiosity. Thankfully their father came running after them and gave Mob an opening to slip away.
He arrived right when class had let out and the first of his classmates were filing out of the building. He waited by the front gate, to the side so that people wouldn’t walk through him. He didn’t have to wait long because Ritsu was one of the first students out. He walked up to Mob and gave him his usual smile. Mob handed him the bottle of aspirin, which he immediately popped open. He took two tablets dry.
“Thanks,” he said lightly as he stashed the bottle in a side pocket of his backpack. They traveled together in amicable silence for a minute or so before Ritsu started telling Mob about his day at school. Usually when they walked home together, Ritsu would keep the details of his day short in favor of asking Mob to elaborate on his own day. Today, Ritsu decided that that would be too hard, so he talked a little extra. They ended up falling back into a comfortable silence for the rest of the walk.
Ritsu had set a fast pace, so they made it to the hospital a little earlier than the meeting time. Reigen and Serizawa were already there. They looked up from their conversation when the door opened; traces of a smile still crinkling the corners of their eyes.
“Oh, Mob!” Reigen waved lightly. “And Ritsu,” he said just as warmly.
Ritsu nodded curtly in response and set his school bag down by the door. Mob headed over to his boss. Serizawa stared at him with wide eyes.
“He-hello, Senpai.” Serizawa did a little bow and Mob bowed back. “Uhhh, so… How are you?” he asked with his signature mix of awkwardness and good intentions.
Oh gosh, am I going to have to hold an entire conversation? I don’t know… how exactly I should… After a hearty pause, Mob ended up just giving him a thumbs-up.
At that moment, the door swung open and in walked Mob’s savior, Teru, who was talking to Mob’s parents.
“-and honestly I just found it online.” He scanned the room and when he saw Mob, he made a big smile. “Kageyama-kun!” He put his school bag next to Ritsu’s and walked up to Mob. Then he planted a hand on his hip as he looked Mob up and down with an appraising gaze. “Huh. I wonder if I can do that too.”
All that left was for Shou to arrive. Five minutes after the appointed time, he sauntered in and was immediately greeted by a light punch on the shoulder from Ritsu. “You’re late.”
It looked like Dimple was going to be fashionably late too, but nobody cared, so they started him. Shou was the first to volunteer to have a go at the barrier. “I’m confident in my ability to undo any psychic technique!” he claimed confidently. Despite an impressive two minutes of screaming and psychic blasting, Shou failed to make any progress.
Teru was next and his bombastic performance put Shou’s to shame. He pulled out all the stops that come naturally to him when he exerts himself- the pigeon-toed stance, the veins popping out of his neck, the banshee screech… Reigen didn’t have as much patience with Teru as he did with Shou, so after 30 seconds he put a hand on his shoulder and told him that he’d done enough. Everyone was extremely grateful.
“Why don’t you go next, Reigen-san?” asked Ritsu. “I’m dying to see what the 21st century’s greatest psychic has to offer.”
Reigen choked back a little “urk” and stiffened up for a split second before relaxing again and raising his arm up lazily. “Now, now. I wouldn’t want to outshine the other espers and make them lose confidence. Why don’t we go straight to blasting the barrier with our combined strength?”
The general consensus was “Sure, why not?” All of the espers (plus Reigen) circled around Mob’s body.
“Okay, we’re going to blast it with everything we’ve got. But if we feel like it’s about to break, we gotta let back a bit, yeah? We don’t want to hit Mob when it breaks.” Everyone nodded. “Okay then, here we go. Three, two, one,” and a humongous burst of light and noise sprung forth. All of the auras mixing and clashing against each other produced a sensory overload for everyone unfortunate enough to be in the room. It also shook the room dangerously. The blast lasted for about two seconds before Reigen shouted, “Okay, okay!” while frantically waving his arms. Once their eyes readjusted, everyone leaned over the bed expectantly. The barrier remained unscathed. Everyone sighed in frustration and Shou screamed.
They tried various things for another ten minutes before giving up. Then they circled up and discussed their options. All of their initial excitement was long gone, along with their hopes for a quick solution.
“I’ve got lots of connections,” said Shou, with his hand on his chin. “I can call in a few of my Dad’s buddies who owe us some favors. Maybe I can find someone who’s an expert at barrier breaking?”
“Hmm, that’s probably our best option,” said Reigen, whose hand was also on his chin. “I’m pretty good at searching around, so I can see if I can come up with someone. Let’s see who we can dig up tomorrow.”
“We’ll search too,” said Mrs. Kageyama while holding her husband’s arm.
“Me too!” Ritsu and Teru both said at once.
“Oh no you won’t,” said Mrs. Kageyama, looking at Ritsu. “You’ve got school tomorrow. Let us handle it.” She shifted her gaze and her eyes softened to be concerned but not stern. “And I know I’m not your mother, Hanazawa-kun, but I think it’s best if you go to school too.”
“No ‘but’'s, Ritsu! We have this covered. I don’t want both of my sons to have to miss out on school over this.”
Ritsu knew that there was no changing her mind. He didn’t even know how he’d go about looking for help in the first place. He dropped the issue but kept a scowl firmly fixed on his face.
That was about it for the meeting. Everybody talked for a little longer about nothing important and then dispersed. After they left, Mob’s family discovered that they were all very hungry and so they grabbed some take-out on the way home. Mob was really craving miso soup and wanted to order some and save it for later, but he decided against it because he wasn’t sure when he’d be back in his body. Would it be days from then? Would it be ever? He shut down that depressing train of thought before it could develop any further.
They ate the takeout at the kitchen table. Mob settled down in his usual seat to try to retain some sense of normalcy, but it ended up making him feel more awkward as he watched on in silence as his family ate. The meal ended quickly and before Mob could float off to do whatever, Ritsu called to him. “Nii-san, do you want to do something tonight? I just have a bit of homework to do first and then we can get started.”
Mob nodded. Another night with Ritsu didn’t sound so bad.
“Just don’t stay up so late again,” said Mrs. Kageyama as she took the dishes to the sink.
Ritsu hummed absently in response.
Ritsu was jolted from his thoughts by a gentle- and very cold- touch on his cheek. “AH- Oh, sorry Nii-san!” He had swiped his arm out from under his blanket to swat right through the smoky arm of his brother.
Mob stared back at him with his blank stare and shook his head in a dismissive manner. Then he looked back to the TV.
“Oh! Right,” Ritsu wrapped the blanket around himself and went back to selecting his fighter in Super Smash Bros. He settled on Ike. Mob selected Captain Falcon.
They were pretty evenly matched, but neither of them was really serious. After 3 matches, they both started to check out of the fight as their thoughts drifted elsewhere. Mob’s Captain Falcon started to favor his Falcon Punch a little too much and became easy to counter. After Ritsu dealt the deciding blow, he couldn’t help but glance at his brother. He worried his lower lip with his teeth and knit his brows. When Mob looked back at him, he quickly returned to a neutral expression and looked back at the screen.
This had happened a lot the night before, as well. It felt like Ritsu was waiting for him to explode or evaporate or something. Mob didn’t like that at all. For the next round, Ritsu had selected Pikachu. Mob had no character selected and his cursor remained still. Now it was Ritsu’s turn to try to get his brother’s attention. He poked his finger through Mob’s cheek and Mob quickly turned his head. Ritsu smiled and said, “Nii-san, do you want to be done?”
Mob kept his unblinking gaze on Ritsu. Why are you smiling when there’s something that’s bothering you so much?
“…Nii-san?” Ritsu urged a little nervously when he got no visible response to his question.
Mob put down his controller and got up. He went to the kitchen and returned with his phone. Ritsu understood what he was getting at and pulled out his own phone. Soon enough, he got a message.
Ritsu’s eyes didn’t leave his screen. “What do you mean?” he asked in a composed tone.
“You seem very distracted.”
He looked up. “Really? That’s strange-“ His phone buzzed again.
“Ritsu.” Mob gave him a look that clearly said, Don’t start with that bullshit.
Ritsu let out a heavy breath and leaned back on one of his hands. “OK. Aren’t you… Kind of worried? About returning to your body?”
Mob thought for a moment before responding, “No… Well, yeah… I’ve been trying not to think about it a lot. But I guess my thoughts keep drifting back to what I could be doing if I had my body.”
“I’ve also been trying not to think about it, but it hasn’t been working. I just- I’m trying to think of any kind of solution. But, like…” He sighed and stared at the floor.
“Please don’t worry about it too much. I think that the chances are good that our parents or Master will be able to find someone to help us.”
“But what if that doesn’t work out? Then what?”
“….I don’t know.” Mob wished he could think of something encouraging to say, but he too was scared by the possibility of failure. Then he had an idea. He typed, “…But I think that we should have faith in our friends. They’ll find something. And if that doesn’t work, then they’ll find something else. They won’t stop until there is a solution... You feel that way too, don’t you?”
“Yeah,” Ritsu said quietly.
“Then it’ll work out in the end, even if it takes a while. For now, let’s just enjoy ourselves. Want to watch a movie?”
Ritsu smiled weakly at the floor and nodded. “Yeah… I’d like that.”
Hours later, after Ritsu had fallen asleep on the couch (again), Mob was disturbed from his restful state by the sound of a soft knock on the front door.