Per Diem

Chapter 9

Hiroshi blew up at Handa and he knew he was wrong for that. The calligrapher was probably just having an off day. If he was going to accept living with his feelings never being reciprocated, Hiroshi would have to learn how to control himself a little better.

Staying away from Handa wasn't an option either. Despite it probably being for the best to try and slowly drift apart from him, Hiroshi knew he'd feel miserable not seeing him. He wanted them to be friends, even after they both grew older, maybe eventually got married to other people. He hoped by then he would find someone else to ease the heartbreak of never being with Handa. Yes, as long as they could still remain as friends, maybe Hiroshi could do it.

Hiroshi knew he was going to have to apologize to Handa in order to take that first step. None of it was Handa's fault, and Hiroshi yelling at him was not fixing his own personal problems.

So without sparing another thought, Hiroshi went to Handa's house as usual the next day with the food his mother had prepared. He'd already tried the silent treatment before and it never worked out well. Besides, Hiroshi felt like this time it was his own fault.

"Sensei," Hiroshi called out a little cautiously as he slid the door to the house open.

As he walked through the threshold of the door and took off his shoes, he noticed Handa sitting in his usual spot, looking slightly surprised and a little uneasy at Hiroshi's presence.

"O-Oh... Hello, Hiro," he said in a fake, cheery voice.

"I brought your food," Hiroshi held up the bowl in his hands.

"Ah, thanks as usual," Handa nodded.

Hiroshi let out a short huff, "I'll go grab some bowls."

"Er, alright..." Hiroshi heard Handa say, a little confused, as he walked to the kitchen.

A few moments later, Hiroshi returned and sat a bowl and chopsticks in front of Handa and set the food and his own bowl down as well.

"I'm sorry for yellin' at you yesterday, Sensei," Hiroshi said. "I was jus' a lil' upset so I didn' mean anythin' by it."

"No! It's fine..." Handa shook his head, "I was in the wrong too..."

"How so? It's your house - if you wan' us t'leave tha's somethin' we should respect," Hiroshi interjected.

"Well..." Handa paused for a moment. "I still feel bad for having you make me food and then asking you to leave afterward. Also, its not like I mind you staying over. The others do it of their own accord and just cause trouble. At least you're either helpful or diligently studying."

"I'm glad you don' mind me here, I guess," Hiroshi said a little shyly, turning his head away from Handa.

"Of course - you're always welcome here!" Handa seemed to be in a better mood. "Ah, but sometimes I really do need to concentrate on my work without anyone around. Sometimes calligraphy is an almost a private matter."

"Makes sense," Hiroshi agreed.

Hiroshi watched as Handa got some champon out of the bowl and put it in his own. Hiroshi did the same and got his own portion after Handa was finished. It was something that his mother seemed to make a lot of because she got it in her head that it was 'Sensei's favorite'. Either way, Handa didn't seem to mind and ate all of it every time.

Hiroshi's eyes drifted off to the piles of calligraphy Handa had apparently been working on that day. It was still amazing to see that Handa worked on so many pieces in a single day - even if he would say they were all just practice sketches.

He mindlessly shifted through the papers, honestly impressed and almost mesmerized over the simplicity yet beauty about them. He felt like they alone could be worthy of being bought and sold by many people. He was sure that there were plenty people who would like to own these.

Looking through all of them, one caught his eye. Not because it was any more special than the others, but he recognized a character from his name in it. Its not like it was actually his name, but the fact that Handa had written it... It felt a little special.

"Do'ya ever give these away?" Hiroshi asked.

"Hm? Not really, I keep a lot in that room," Handa shrugged towards the room near them. The one Hiroshi had discovered the first day he came to deliver food to Handa. "But some of the ones I don't like I just throw away.

"So... would it be alrigh' if I took one o' these?" Hiroshi asked, not trying to sound too hopeful.

"Sure, those are really just ideas I was getting out of my head," Handa replied. "Ah, I'm kind of flattered that you'd want one," he chuckled.

"Er... Just thought my mom'd want one... maybe..." Hiroshi mumbled and neatly slipped the one that caught his eye into his backpack.

"Ah..." Handa seemed a little disappointed at that.

"Um, anyway, why were you so persistent 'bout me walkin' Miwa home yesterday? Just curious since I've never really done it before," Hiroshi looked up at Handa.

Handa froze a bit and his eyes darted from Hiroshi back to to his bowl.

"I just thought maybe you should start? I mean, its just manners as a man..."

"Then why don' you walk her home?" Hiroshi narrowed his eyes.

"Huh? But shouldn't it be you who..." Handa poked at his champon, not completing his sentence.

"Shouldn' I what?" Hiroshi asked in confusion.

"SENSEI!" Loud voices suddenly sounded from beside them, giving Handa a fright.

It looked like Miwa, Tama, Naru, and even Hina had all shown up.

"Ohh, food!" Miwa said as she approached them.

"It ain' for you its for Sensei!" Hiroshi scolded as he swatted Miwa's hand away.

"Hiro-nii... You n' Sensei were havin' dinner... alone?" Tama asked, her voice slightly shaking.

"Huh? Yeah, I've been doin' that a lot lately," Hiroshi shrugged.

"Oh, 'scuse me, then..." Tama said quietly as she turned around and walked out of the house.

"Uh..." Hiroshi looked on in confusion.

"Eh, I'm sure she'll be back in soon," Miwa waved it off, "She prob'ly needed t'have a moment."

"Moment...?" Hiroshi raised an eyebrow.

"Anyway, Sensei, how're you feelin' today?" Miwa went on without answering Hiroshi's question.

"I'm feeling better, thanks," Handa replied.

"Hiro-nii! I said you ain' allowed t' be alone with Sensei!" Naru growled and bared her teeth, Hina stood behind her already looking a little teary-eyed.

"Aww jeeze, Naru! You still hung up abou' that?" Hiroshi rolled his eyes.

"Oh, the whole thing about Naru thinkin' her bride is gonna be taken away?" Miwa said with a laugh.

"Yeah! She won' leave me alone 'bout it," Hiroshi grimaced. He hated that at first he thought it was ridiculous, but now he really did feel like he would actually consider battling Naru for Handa's affection.

"It's okay, Naru, Hiro-nii's got his eye on someone else," Miwa said.

"Miwa!" Hiroshi shouted, his face turning red instantly. His sudden outburst frightened Hina who started to cry.

"Ah!" Miwa covered her mouth in sudden realization. "Oh no, I'm sorry, Hiro-nii! I didn' mean to!"

"Eh, really?" Naru looked over at Hiroshi. "Aww yeah! I win! Sensei is my bride!" She pumped her fist in the air.

"Ah, jeeze..." Hiroshi buried his face in his hands.

Naru began to tend to a wailing Hina after her moment of celebration.

"Jus' forget what I said!" Miwa tried to salvage it, but it was already too late.

"Oh... congratulations, then!" Hiroshi heard Handa say.

Hiroshi lifted his head to look in Handa's direction. Handa's face was slightly flushed and his eyes were staring off to the side.

"I hope it works out for you..." He said a little halfheartedly.

"I..." Hiroshi didn't know what he wanted to say. He wanted to tell Handa something, anything, but he couldn't think of a single word.

Hiroshi wished he could just dissolve into the floor right then and there.

"Ahh, I'm back," and to break the awkward atmosphere, Tama had returned from whatever she was up to.

"Oh, Tama!" Miwa seemed equally relieved to see her. "Did ya bring that magazine that I asked ya t'get from town?"

"Ah, I nearly forgot," Tama took off her backpack and searched around.

Hina seemed to have calmed down by now, and the awkwardness had dissipated a bit, but that didn't change anything about what Hiroshi was feeling.

"Um..." Hiroshi rubbed his neck and looked down at his empty bowl. "I kinda jus' realized I have a big project that's due in a couple days, an' all the materials for it are at home, so," he stood up with the bowl in his hand. "I'm gonna head home for t'day. Don' worry 'bout the dish, I'll jus' pick it up tomorrow."

"Alright..." Handa smiled faintly.

Hiroshi couldn't wait to get out of the house and be alone. He quickly rushed to gather his stuff and get his shoes on. He waved goodbye to everyone and noticed Miwa mouthing 'sorry' to him. He knew it wasn't Miwa's fault - she didn't do it on purpose, but now Handa knew. Sort of. Handa knew Hiroshi was interested in someone and judging by his reaction he was pretty taken aback about it. Hiroshi figured it probably had to do with the fact that Hiroshi had previously stated he wasn't looking for a relationship at the moment. The only thing he could hope for was that Handa didn't get too curious and start asking questions.

When he arrived home, Hiroshi headed straight to his bedroom. He dropped his backpack on the floor and noticed a slight crunching sound. Furrowing his brow, he knelt down to open his backpack.

"Ah..." Hiroshi reached in and pulled out the calligraphy Handa had made. "Danggit, it got bent..." He grumbled as he tried to straighten it out.

He sighed and walked to his bed, the sheet in his hand. Lying down on his back, he held it up over his head. He wasn't sure how long he stared at it - stared at the one character on the page that was in his name. He knew it was silly, but his eyes remained on that one single character amongst all the others. Before he realized it, his arms were becoming sore from holding them up for so long.

Lowering his arms, he set the piece of paper on top of his chest, still holding on to it. Maybe this would be the closest he'd ever be to Handa. This piece of parchment. Especially after today, he didn't know what Handa would be thinking.

The piece of paper felt surprisingly heavy... or maybe it was the feeling of his heart clenching in his chest. Hiroshi closed his eyes and took in a deep breath.

Maybe instead of trying to wait for it to go away, he should just end it once and for all. The pain wasn't worth it - he had to tell Handa. Handa was a good guy, maybe he would understand. Hiroshi didn't expect him to accept his confession, but he hoped that Handa would still be okay with being on good terms. And Miwa was right - Hiroshi would have to learn to let Handa go, and maybe getting denied from the man himself would be the thing to help him move on.

Heartbreak was a common thing, right? Not everyone ended up with their first loves. Hell, wasn't it expected for first loves to not work out? Hiroshi would just have to take this as a lesson learned. Maybe he was even lucky to probably remain on good terms with his first love.

Hiroshi took in another deep breath and let it in a long exhale. He could feel a warm drop of liquid fall from his eye and covered his face with his forearm. Heartbreak might be common, but it was still painful. Hiroshi hadn't even confessed and he was already in this state. He couldn't imagine what it was going to be like when it actually happened. He hoped he wouldn't break down in front of Handa.

Hiroshi wiped at his eyes as he felt another tear roll down his cheek.

He hadn't cried since the first day at Handa's house.

It was good that it was a weekend, because Hiroshi didn't get up until noon the next day. But the way he was woken up was less than ideal.

"Hiro! Get up! You ain' gonna be sleepin' the whole day away!" His mother banged on his door.

Hiroshi grumbled with the grogginess of being woken up in such a way. As he wiped the sleep from his eyes, he suddenly realized that he had actually fallen asleep in his previous day's clothes with the sheet of calligraphy resting on top of him.

"Aww, keep it down, will ya?" Hiroshi groaned as he stretched and set the sheet of paper on the desk next to him.

His mother instantly burst through the door, an angry and terrifying expression on her face. Before Hiroshi knew it, his hair was being gripped at the root and yanked up.

"Ow, ow!" Hiroshi protested, trying to pry his mother's hands off of the fistful of his hair.

"Don' talk back to me, boy!" She growled.

"Okay! I got it!" Hiroshi shouted back. To his relief, his mother let go of her death grip. "You nearly gave me a bald spot."

"Good, then you wouldn' have that ridiculous hair anymore!" His mother retorted. "Anyway, I need ya t' get this food over t'Sensei! Its his lunch time!"

"Is that the only reason you woke me up?" Hiroshi asked while rubbing at his scalp.

"Of course!" Mrs. Kido said matter-of-factly. "Also, why're you still in your clothes you wore yesterday?"

Hiroshi simply grumbled and stood up from his bed. "Was jus' tired I guess," he mumbled.

He really didn't want to face Handa again so soon, especially after what he had decided the previous night. But maybe it would be for the best to get it over with as soon as possible.

"Oh! Is this Sensei's?" Hiroshi looked over to see his mother picking up the calligraphy he was given yesterday.

"Yeah... he said I could have it," Hiroshi shrugged.

"Ah, its so lovely," Mrs. Kido swooned over the piece.

"... Do you want it?" Hiroshi asked hesitantly.

"Ah," his mother gave an excited expression, then her face relaxed into a smile. "Sensei gave it t'you, right? It must be special then." She set the piece of paper back down on his desk. "Now hurry up an' go deliver the food t'Sensei!"

In a matter of minutes, Hiroshi's mother got him to change into some new clothes and shooed him out of the house, food in hand. He could already feel his stomach turning, but it was now or never. The only thing keeping Hiroshi levelheaded was the fact that Handa was very forgiving, maybe too much for his own good. He had a good chance of putting Hiroshi down gently and choose to pretend the whole ordeal never happened and they could continue being friends. If Hiroshi heard the denial from Handa himself, it might be a bigger shock to reality. Then he just might be able to get over his feelings for him.

Hiroshi rapped on the door a few times, hearing a voice of confirmation, and slid it open.

"Brought your lunch," Hiroshi announced as he walked in.

"Thanks, Hiro," Handa said as usual, not paying much attention as he continued with his work. He'd really gotten used to interruptions.

"How is your project coming along?" Hiroshi heard Handa's voice from the kitchen as he went to set the bowl down on the counter.

"Oh... Its going great," Hiroshi nearly forgot the fib he made up to leave Handa's house the previous night. He walked back out of the kitchen to see Handa's paintbrush set down and his full attention on him

"Glad to hear it," Handa replied. "Also, about last night..."

"I actually wanted to talk 'bout that," Hiroshi's heart started to pound. He didn't think the subject would be brought up so soon. He wasn't sure if he was ready for it.

"Oh, its not a big deal, and I promise I won't tell anyone. I already knew about it anyway," Handa said with a bit of a coy expression, scratching the back of his head.

Hiroshi's eyes widened and it felt as if his heart had just jumped off a cliff. Handa... knew? Knew what? That Hiroshi liked someone? That Hiroshi... liked him?

"Uh..." Hiroshi cleared his throat, trying to keep his words steady. "What exactly... d'you know?"

"Ah, that you like someone... and who you like..." Handa's face reddened a bit. "At first I was kind of shocked, but..."

"Sensei!" Hiroshi interrupted, getting down on his knees and closer to Handa. "You know?" His heart was back to beating violently in his chest.

"Mhm," Handa nodded his head. "For some reason it bothered me a bit... I'm not sure why."

Hiroshi chest tightened, "I wouldn' blame you... its weird, right?" He laughed nervously.

"Its not!" Handa spoke up, "I mean, for you two who have probably known each other so long its only natural, isn't it?

"...Huh?" Hiroshi's emotions came to a screeching halt, "Who're you talkin' 'bout?"

"Eh? Aren't you and Miwa dating?" Handa looked equally confused.

"Huh!? We ain' datin'!" Hiroshi nearly shouted.

"What? But I saw you two by the tree and..." Handa scratched his head in continued bafflement.

"By the tree? I don' even know what'n the hell you're talkin' 'bout," Hiroshi was feeling frustrated more than anything. Handa making him think that he knew of Hiroshi's feelings the whole time gave him a shock.

"I-I was so sure that you and Miwa..." Handa was a bit surprised over being wrong, but almost seemed a little relieved.

"Well it ain'," Hiroshi huffed.

"Then... is it Tama? Some cute girl from your class? Maybe some girl you met in town...? Ah, maybe its a -"

"Dammit, it ain' none of them! Its you, alrigh'!? You're the one I like!" Hiroshi yelled, immediately followed by complete silence in the room.

Even though letting it off his chest felt strangely refreshing, Hiroshi was now feeling a whole different sort of pressure. He could feel his ears burning and the silence that followed his outburst was excruciating. He didn't want to look over at Handa, but it wasn't like the two of them could sit there forever after he made such a major announcement. So Hiroshi took it upon himself to slowly look over at the man next to him.

He wasn't sure if it was a face of pure shock, befuddlement, terror, or all of the above. But Hiroshi could definitely confirm that Handa's face was redder than he had ever seen. Once Handa realized Hiroshi had looked over at him, his eyes quickly diverted away and he began to nervously fiddle his hands in his lap.

"U-Um..." Handa mumbled. "W-What are you talking about, Hiro? I don't think I understand..."

"Wha's there not t'understand? I like you," the cat was out of the bag now. All Hiroshi had to do was get an answer out of Handa so he could lay this whole situation to rest.

"You mean... you like me as a friend?" Handa asked, looking down at his hands.

"Yes an' no," Hiroshi replied, feeling oddly calm now that everything was out in the open. "I like you as a friend but I wan' us to be more. I wanna be with you, date you n' stuff. I wanna kiss you an'-"

"O-Okay, I get it..." Handa interrupted.

Hiroshi sighed, "Well now you know the truth."

"How long have you...? You know..." Handa still hadn't looked up at Hiroshi.

"I dunno. A while, I guess?" Hiroshi shrugged. "I jus' never told you since I didn' want'ta mess everythin' up, y'know? I didn' want Sensei to hate me..."

Handa remained silent for a moment before speaking up, "I don't hate you..." He responded quietly.

Hiroshi could tell Handa was uncomfortable, but he didn't seem like he was lying. His eyes settled on Handa's still red face.

"So how d'you feel 'bout me?" Hiroshi asked softly, leaning in a little closer.

"Uh, well..." Handa flustered a bit and turned his head away.

Maybe Hiroshi shouldn't have been so direct, but if he didn't get an answer soon there was no way getting over Handa would be easy.

"Sensei," Hiroshi said as if to encourage Handa to answer.

Handa's blushing face was so cute, Hiroshi thought. The way that Handa couldn't bring himself to look at Hiroshi in the eye was even cuter. What if there was a slim chance that Handa accepted Hiroshi's confession? It didn't hurt to hope, right? Hiroshi had been thinking about all of this negatively, but now with the truth out and their faces so close, he couldn't help but think up various things.

Maybe Handa would shyly whisper 'I like you too...' and Hiroshi could run his hands through his hair again, whisper in his ear 'I'm glad,' and they could share a slow, sensual kiss. Maybe Handa would be the first to kiss him. Maybe Handa would claim to have been lusting for Hiroshi this whole time, craving his touch every day, but too afraid to admit it. Maybe he'd beg for Hiroshi to take him right then and there, then they could...

"I..." Handa's voice croaked, piercing through Hiroshi's fantasies.

Handa's next words seemed to be caught in his throat and Hiroshi waited with baited breath.


The sound of the door sliding open and a shrill voice filled the air.

"Naru..." Handa looked up and in the direction of the commotion.

Naru paused in place for a moment, then glared at Hiroshi. "Hiro-nii, you makin' Sensei cry?" She asked in a surprisingly intimidating voice.

"Naru, we're in the middle of somethin'!" Hiroshi was not in the mood to be battling Naru over Handa's affection at such a critical time. He turned his attention back to Handa, "So?"

"Err..." Handa shrunk back, looking uncomfortable about the question once again.

"Stop bullyin' Sensei!" Naru cried, running up to Hiroshi as she began to pound her fists on his back.

"Get lost!" Hiroshi turned around and shouted.

"Hiro!" Handa shouted as well. "Don't yell at Naru."

Hirosh turned back to face Handa. "But she's..." he gave an annoyed grunt and clicked his tongue. "She's... interrupting us..."

"Grr..." Naru growled as she started pushing against Hiroshi's back.

"Naru," Handa stood up and grabbed her by the wrist. "You should leave Hiro alone as well."

"But he's pickin' on you, ain' he?" She retorted.

"No... We were just having grown-up talk," Handa replied.

Naru grumbled and crossed her arms.

"I think we should talk about this later..." Handa scratched the back of his neck as he directed his gaze towards the ground.

"But, I need an answer!" Hiroshi got up, desperation in his voice. "Sensei... I gotta know how you feel... I..."

Handa finally lifted his head and made eye contact with Hiroshi. "I just really need some time to think about it. Okay? Sorry, Hiro..."

Hiroshi inhaled a deep breath and let out a long sigh. "Alrigh'..."

Hiroshi slowly made his way to the door, slipping on his shoes and sliding the door open.

"Hiro..." He heard Handa's voice speak up again and turned around.

"I'm not mad at you... okay? And I definitely don't hate you," Handa said in a quiet but serious voice.

Hiroshi forced a bit of a smile and nodded, walking out the door.

He didn't feel like going home quite yet so he went to the small creek that was near Handa's house and found a place to sit. This is where the kids liked to catch crayfish, small fish, and such. Luckily, there was no one else there, so he could have some time to himself.

It didn't go exactly as he thought it would, but he supposed it could've gone worse. He wondered what Handa would've said if Naru hadn't interrupted. Maybe he was pushing Handa too hard to answer the question... No one likes someone that persistent. Did he screw it up? And Handa's reaction to the whole thing was so unreadable.

Hiroshi let out a sigh for what seemed like the millionth time that week.

"At least he doesn' hate me..." He mumbled under his breath.

He supposed now all he could do was wait. But for how long? He knew his mother probably expected him to bring Handa dinner that night. Maybe he could use the excuse of having to write his paper to get out of doing it.

Hiroshi heard a knocking on his door later that night. He ended up getting out of taking the dinner to Handa's house, so he started working on his paper after all. Although, he got hardly any of it done since he could barely concentrate.

"Yeah?" He answered.

He heard the sound of the doorknob turning and the door swinging open.

"How y'doin, Hiro?" It was his dad.

"Fine, I guess," Hiroshi shrugged.

"Well, I jus' came to say I won' be home in the afternoon tomorrow. I'm takin' Sensei to the airport."

Hiroshi immediately turned around in his chair. "Huh? Why?"

"He's gotta go to Tokyo for a few days. He said it was urgent business," his dad explained.

"Oh..." Hiroshi replied weakly.

"Yeah, he's suddenly leavin' again! I guess Tokyo guys march to the beat of a different drum, eh? His dad was a lot like that too," Mr. Kido chuckled.

"His dad? You knew his dad?" Hiroshi asked curiously.

"Oh, yeah! Me n' Handa Seimei are old friends - he came to the island when he was 'bout Sensei's age as well," his dad nodded, looking nostalgic.

"I didn' know that..." Hiroshi was shocked - he never knew any of this.

"Seimei even got ta hold you when you were a baby! He used t'be real bad with kids, y'know. I'm surprised he managed to raise a kid o' his own," his dad chuckled again.

"So I... met Sensei's dad before!?" Hiroshi asked in bewilderment.

"Well, technically, yeah. Although you were only a few days old at the time."

"Huh..." Hiroshi was a bit overwhelmed by all the information.

"Anyway son, its nice to see ya gettin' along with Sensei so well. It really reminds me of when Seimei and I hung out."

"Does it?" Hiroshi asked curiously.

"Yep! Well, maybe because Sensei is so much like his dad at that age... except maybe a little more excitable? But you ain' nothin' like me! Ah... Maybe it ain' the same at all..." Mr. Kido scratched his head.

"Pfft..." Hiroshi let out a small laugh. He knew it definitely wasn't the same - its not like his dad fell in love with Handa's dad... At least he didn't think so.

"Well, I'm sure he'll be back soon, so don' worry," his father continued.

"I-I ain' worried..." Hiroshi mumbled.

"Hm, well Sensei told me to make sure to tell you he was leavin', so I assumed he said that since he thought y'might be worried."

"He... did?" Hiroshi asked.

"Mhm," his father nodded. "Maybe he thought y'got all mopey the last time he jus' up n' left."

"I did not!" Hiroshi retorted.

"You did seem pretty down the last time he went t' Tokyo..." his fathered continued to tease.

"I wasn'! I gotta get back to my paper," Hiroshi could feel his ears burning and turned back around in his chair.

His father laughed. "Alrigh', study hard!"

Hiroshi heard the sound of his door shutting and let out a low growl. "Damn old man..."

But Handa was leaving for Tokyo, huh? His father said a few days - but what if he ended up staying longer? What if he didn't come back at all?

Handa did make sure Hiroshi knew, though. Maybe... just maybe that meant something? At this point, Hiroshi was welcome to any glimmer of hope over Handa's feelings about him.

He set his head down on his desk that felt cool to the touch on his warm face. Hiroshi wondered how much he'd miss seeing Handa while he was gone. He hadn't even gotten on the plane yet and Hiroshi could feel himself already wanting him to come back.

"I'm a mess, aren' I?" Hiroshi said to himself with a sigh.

He looked at the calligraphy he had gotten that was sitting off to the side of his desk. Lifting his head, he slid it over and he settled his gaze on it. Gently, he followed the strokes of the characters with his finger. He wondered how Handa drew each stroke, what he felt while he was doing it, what he was thinking.

Hiroshi stood up from his chair and dug through his book bag. He really didn't have the correct paper, but it would have to do for now. Luckily, he had ink and brushes in his room that he'd bought from the store when they were on sale. Handa was always immensely grateful when getting supplies, so that was sort of a secret weapon Hiroshi had begun to use.

Lying the piece of paper out in front of him, a fresh brush and bottle of ink to the side of it. Hiroshi stared down in thought for a long time. He hadn't done this outside of art class assignments. And every time he'd get an average grade at most. He wasn't even sure exactly what he was doing or why, but he finally lifted the brush, freshly dipped with ink, and placed it on the blank piece of paper.

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