Chapter 2

Sensei went swiftly through the procedure each pair was to follow for the first half of the English period. First they would read the assigned English text, then together they would answer the questions. If any time was left of the half-hour, they were free to talk about anything, as long as they spoke English.

"From the time I hit this bell until I hit it again at the 30-minute mark, you are to speak only in English," Sensei said. He then hit the bell. "Go," he said in English.

"Are you well?" Arata asked. Stephen realized that he was glaring; he turned his eyes down to the textbook.

"Let's read the text," he said flatly, in Japanese.

"In English, Saitou-san!" Sensei called from his desk.

Even though the text was simple, Stephen took almost as long as Arata to read it. He found it hard to concentrate, as anger kept welling up inside him as she remembered what he'd overheard in the schoolyard.

"Shall we answer the questions?" Arata said after he'd finished.

"Sure," Stephen said. He cracked his knuckles. This was going to be fun.

Arata looked confused, Stephen noted smugly.

"What happened?" Arata asked in Japanese.

Stephen shushed him; they'd been told not to speak when they'd been banished to the hallway. He almost expected Sensei to give them buckets of water to hold as they waited; but he supposed that was something that only happened in manga these days.

Stephen wondered how long they would be waiting; they had been one of the first pairs who had their answers checked, so it might be some time.

Once it became clear to Arata that Stephen wasn't going to talk to him, he stared off into space; his confused gaze occasionally returning to Stephen; he never met it.

Finally Sensei emerged from the classroom, he was holding the sheet of loose-leaf they'd written their answers on. He glared at both of them; Stephen stared at the floor in shame.

"Perhaps you'd like to tell me what this is about," Sensei said in Japanese.

"They're the answers to the questions in the textbook," Arata said, confused.

"What was buried out in the desert? You wrote: a tumor," Sensei said.

"Saitou-kun said that was American slang for a large amount of money," Arata said.

"Is that true?" Sensei said.

"That it's a slang term?" Stephen said; Sensei nodded. "Do you know if it isn't?"

Sensei gave him a hard look; after a moment he went back to reading their answers. "Who had buried it there? You wrote: The Ku Klux Klan. I'm afraid I'm not familiar with that, but I doubt this is a serious answer."

"The Ku Klux Klan is an organization in America. It's full of bigots," Stephen said, emphasizing the last word and looking at Arata as he said so.

Sensei folded the paper in half and let out a sigh. "All right, what's going on?"

"I have no idea!" Arata said, exasperated.

"I heard what you said during the lunch break;" Stephen said, the words seething. "When you called my sister and I mongrels."

Arata went pale, but didn't say anything.

"Did you say that, Hiyama-san?" Sensei said.

"I… I didn't say it to his face! He must have been spying on us!" Arata said.

"I heard it in passing!" Stephen said. Which was mostly true, he supposed.

Sensei let out a sigh and rubbed his face. "So we're back to this, are we Hiyama-san? Your family has had 150 years to get over the Meiji restoration; you are starting to look truly pathetic."

Arata said nothing, but glowered at his teacher.

"Apologize to Saitou-san," Sensei said.

"I told you, I didn't say it to his face; he wasn't even supposed to hear—" Arata started.

"I said apologize!" Sensei said through his teeth.

"I am very sorry," Arata said with a bow. "Please forgive me."

Sensei looked at Stephen expectantly.

"I forgive you," Stephen said; he didn't mean it, but then again neither did Arata.

"Go back inside, I need to speak to Saitou-san," Sensei said to Arata.

Arata's only response was a nod, he skittered back into the classroom.

"You could have handled that better," Sensei said.

"So it's my fault he's a racist?" Stephen said.

"He's more of a nationalist; he doesn't really hate other races, he just doesn't want them in Japan," Sensei said. "Like I said, it's more a problem with his family than with him."

"Yeah, what was that about? I'm afraid what you said to him didn't make much sense to me," Stephen said.

"The Hiyama's were Samurai, back during the Edo Period. In the mid nineteenth century the Shogunate was abolished, all of the Samurai were stripped of their titles and lands, and power was consolidated back in the hands of the Emperor," Sensei said. "It's called the Meiji restoration, after the emperor of the time."

"And they still haven't gotten over it, after all this time?" Stephen said.

"Surely there must be people in your own country who hold grudges that far back. The Meiji restoration wasn't long after your own civil war," Sensei said.

So I'm in class with a redneck, Stephen thought. Did his parent's car have a bumper-sticker on the back that said "The Shogunate Will Rise Again"?

"You both get zeroes for the assignment," Sensei said.

Stephen felt his face flush with shame. "Uh, this really wasn't Hiyama's fault. He was trusting me and my knowledge of English."

"And he didn't realize how stupid your answers were," Sensei said. "Trust me, Saitou-san, he earned that zero."

He turned to walk back into the classroom, but turned at the last moment.

"By the way, the two of you are still partners. You had better get used to working together," Sensei said.

"That wasn't as bad as it could have been," Emily said as they walked out of the school's front door.

"I suppose not," Stephen said with a shrug.

"I think I made a friend," Emily said with a smile and a chortle.

"I think I made an enemy," Stephen said.

"Oh no, not already?" Emily said, and then sighed. "I'm meeting Megumi at the train station after I go home and change; we're going to Shibuya. Why don't you come with us?"

"I think I've had enough culture for today, I just want to go home and lay down," Stephen said.

He felt that unpleasant feeling in his right thigh that was-he suspected-somewhere between a muscle spasm and an artery bursting; he had a text message. He dug his phone out of his pocket and flipped it open.

From: [blocked]

To: Torai Saitou (03 1138 2048)

You will not know when, and you will not know how, but I will pay you back for what happened today. –H

Stephen echoed his sister's sigh. He had, indeed, made an enemy today.

…to be continued