Chapter 12-Sequence 13
The campus is just like I expected, modern and high-tech. I have already realized this place is more advance than the most advanced places on my side. The path is buzzing with liveliness surrounded by early morning fresh air as people stand in groups on the side of the pathway or in the garden. The rows of green on either side of the path rustle while providing much-needed relief from the gazing sun.
As soon as I step out of the car, I spot the pink petals scattered on the road and automatically look up to find the source. And it is then that I notice the pink trees between the greens. Are they cherry blossoms? The petals look almost like cherry blossoms but cherry blossoms don’t grow in this season, it must be something else but it does look like a cherry blossom.
I tuck the strand of hair on my face behind my ear and look at the other side of the car to find Ryou already out of the car. He is looking at the pink petals with a dazed look. He must be thinking about something. When he notices me looking, he fakes a cough and starts speaking, “I will take you to the office.”
After sorting out the admission work, I meet Ryou outside the office. “I don’t have classes for the next one and a half hours.” I tell Ryou as I stop in front of him, “Don’t you have classes?”
“I am free for the next 2 hours. And even if I am free, sometimes I don’t attend the classes, I can manage on my own and the professors are aware of my situation so I don’t have to worry about attendance.”
“Good for you,” I say under my breath before turning around and walking away. Soon I hear Ryou’s footsteps catching up with me.
“It’s your final year, right?” Ryou asks while matching my pace. I put my hands in my jeans jacket and give him a nod. “How are you planning to cover up the syllabus?”
“I will handle them somehow, don’t worry. I will complete them in 2 weeks.” I smile at him, “Now that we have time, will you show me around? This place looks pretty big.” I say with awe in my tone.
I come to a stop and turn towards him. He stops as well and faces me before looking at his watch, “Sure, I was planning to anyway. And maybe you will be able to meet the rest of the members during our tour, though you will meet all of them during lunch anyways.”
He shows me around for the next one hour before he leaving for the library. I decide to wander around aimlessly for the rest of the time. As I am walking around the campus, I hear a loud voice from the side. I turn around to look at what is happening. Why is there a crowd? Is something happening?
I push inside the crowd and stand on my toes. What is going on? I notice a group of two girls and two boys pushing around two boys and a girl standing on a side between the crowd. They saying something to him but I can’t make out due to distance. I watch around the crowd as no one steps up, it must be a common occurrence. I watch as they take the bag from one of them and throw all his books on the ground. I can hear them laughing and making fun of him as they push the guy in the blue shirt around while the other boy tries to stop them. I simply stare at them for few minutes before walking away from the still growing crowd. Nothing interesting here.
On entering the class, I take a seat in the middle row as many curious glances are thrown my way. From the corner of my eye, I notice some are coming forward to greet or maybe talk to me but before any of that could happen, I feel someone taking a seat on my right with a light thud. I turn to look at my new companion.
A boy with brown hair and chocolate brown eyes, much lighter than mine, puts down his books on the table. He moves to remove headphones hung around his neck before looking at me. He blinks and gives me a toothy smile. “Hey? I have never seen you before, are you new?”
Is it normal to find someone new in the college in the final year? It looks like it is here. He is not even fazed, just curious. Ada told me, this college is especially for Extanders so many of them must be joining in the middle and by now the students must be aware of this fact. But how are they managing their studies I wonder.
“That’s why you looked so clueless. You must be an Extander. What’s your name? I am Luis.” Did I look clueless? I was not aware.
He gives a big smile and extends his hand for a handshake, “Nice to meet you.” Is everyone here so friendly? Oh they are not, I almost forgot what I saw on the way here.
I look at his kind smile and hesitantly reach for his outstretched hand. “Nice to meet you too.”
Soon we start discussing whatever has been covered till now when the professor enters. The students quieten down and everyone quickly returns to their seats. Placing his books on the desk he around the class. “Who is Nadya?”
As soon as I raise my hand, numerous pairs of eyes stare down at me, the professor nods, “Stay back after class.”
“Yes, sir, ” Once he gets my answer, without any further delay he begins his class. After my talk with the professor, attending two more classes, I head to the library for 30 minutes before making my way to the cafeteria.
I walk inside the look around the crowded cafeteria. The murmurs and shouts from the students reach my ear while I pass by the people scattering the whole space. Stopping before the board menu, I rub my chin and look at the prices. Why is everything so expensive? Wait a minute...how much money do I even have with me right now?
I reach for my purse in my bag, when all of a sudden there is a tap on my shoulder. I jump a little and rapidly turn around to find Fajah standing behind me, “Sorry did I scare you?” Fajah replies with a slightly guilty look because of my stunned expression.
I put my purse back in the back pocket of my bag, “No..no, I am fine...just surprised. I forgot you would be here as well, though Ryou did remind me in the morning.” I am kind of relieved that I found someone familiar since I couldn’t spot anyone in such a messy place.
“Ah, it could be hard to spot anyone in such a crowded place. Even I find it difficult sometimes. Are you alone or are you with anyone? You could join us if you want, only our Sequence members will be there. You can meet even the rest of the members..so do you want to come with me?”
“Actually I wanted to find someone to sit with and I am alone as well, I will come with you.” It is a lot better than sitting alone, though I am used to eating alone since high school years. “Where are others?”
“They are at the back,” She leans forwards and whispers, “You should know by now how much Ryouhei attracts attention, so we always take a seat at the back to avoid them. But first, let’s take our lunch.” I nod and think about myself while taking a stand in the line. They attract so much attention that they go in the back just to avoid it and I, on the other hand, am almost invisible even if I try to attract attention. Well, I have gotten used to it. And now I like being away from attention.
As we are waiting for our turn, Fajah turns around, “By the way, you call Ryouhei Ryou?”
“He doesn’t allow anyone...He...Well, it’s nothing. Did you he anything when you called him that?” She asks a little skeptical.
A look of surprise overcomes her face but she quickly shakes her head, “It looks like our Sequence ranking will be getting stronger soon.” She comments and changes the topic next second. After grabbing our orders, we make our way to the crowded side of the cafeteria. As I near the corner, I notice a table surrounded by a large group of people. I thought we are going to pass by the table but I stop in my tracks when I notice Fajah stopping in front of the crowded table. I stare at her blankly. Didn’t she say the sole purpose of sitting in the back is to avoid people’s attention? Then why are there so many people in here?
She shrugs when she notices my stare.
“Is it always like?” I ask while pointing at the crowd.
“Not always, only when Ryouhei comes back for the classes after taking leave for a month or more. Since this time he is coming back after two months break, the crowd is larger than the last time.” She says and walks into the crowd like she is used to it. It must be frustrating if it happens every month. I brace myself for the push and head inside. While people gave way to Fajah easily, I had to make way for myself to enter the circle. Now I am regretting it, I should have eaten alone.
Some give me an annoyed look while others try to stop me from walking inside but I don’t mind and at last, manage to reach the inner space. When I am almost at the end, some people stop me from reaching the table. As I try to walk past them, they push me back. I look at them in annoyance. Just let me pass, it’s not like I want to be here. I just want to sit at the table and eat at peace.
“We are standing here. Take some other place.”
“We are already standing here.” I ignore them and push past them. As soon as I reach the table, I make a beeline for the empty chair nearest to me without looking at my companions. I put the tray with more force than necessary and let myself fall back on the chair before grabbing my fork. I only look at my surroundings once I am all set to eat.
My hand freeze mid-air. I look at everyone at the table, why is everyone looking at me? I look at Ryou who is sitting at my left and Liana who is sitting on my right. The whispers and noise from the crowd have also lessened. I can hear some ‘who is she’ from behind and many questioning gazes being thrown my way.
Slowly, I bring the fork to my mouth and take a bite before turning back to the food nonchalantly. All of a sudden, I hear a small noise from my left, I raise my head and look at Ryou to find him cupping his mouth with one hand while he is busy scrolling through his phone with the other expressionlessly. I narrow my eyes. Did I imagine the sound? I am sure the sound felt like a stifled laugh. Was I really imagining it? I look at Ryou once again but he is still looking at his phone so I at last turn away.
“Hey, Nadya” Elodie greets from her seat.
“Hi,” I say back to both Liana and Elodie and turn back to my food again.
“You have such beautiful eyes.” I perk up when and turn to the seat on the other corner of the table. The girl with sun-kissed hair and grey eyes leans forward in her seat as her shoulder-length hair cover one side of her face. She tucks her hair behind her ear and flashes me a sweet smile, “You must have heard my name from Valencia. I am Valencia’s duo, Gloria. Welcome to the team.”
I incline my head a few inches. “Thank you. I am Nadya.” After my introduction, I turn to the boy with handsome features and who is wearing a denim jacket over his classic white t-shirt, sitting right in front of me.
“Hey, princess.” He winks as soon as our eyes meet. I cringe inwardly while maintaining a polite smile on the outside while desperately hoping my disgust is not showing on my face. Ugh, I hate those names. I still remember the time I was waiting for Misha after school and encountered a couple from our batch who were standing at least 20 feet away. Though I have never talked to them, I was still aware of who they are. As the girl was busy acting cute and the boy was commenting about her hair while running her hand through her hair, I was trying to hold my laughter but I did laugh in the end once I was out of their sight.
I don’t know why but high schoolers trying to act like an adult couple made me laugh whenever I saw any of them. Maybe it’s just because I find it cringy or maybe it could be because I find it funny that at the age where they have still not figured themselves out or developed their self-esteem they are trying to work a relationship out.
“The name is Marlon, duo of Saul.” Once the introductions are done, we turn to whatever we were doing.
“So...When are we organizing the welcome party?” Liana says while looking at each one of us as she takes a bite of her french fries. Marlon and Hiroyuki stop talking to the person in the crowd and Fajah and Gloria stop talking among themselves, turning their attention on Liana.
“A party? Before you ask, I am free anytime.” Hiroyuki comments from his side. “What about others then? Are you all free? Shouldn’t we celebrate now that our Sequence is finally complete and welcome Nadya?” Liana asks. The crowd has started dispersing.
“How about today? We all are free...I think?” Fajah looks around at each of us for confirmation. Once we all agree, Gloria adds from her side, “Then today it is. Liana and I will send you all the time and venue by afternoon.” And Gloria and Liana start discussing where to hold the party.
“Who is she?”
I watch as a boy comes over once the crowd fully clears. Ah! he is the boy who was bullying those students earlier. Are they friends? He slaps Marlon on the shoulder and keeps looking at me with curiosity. I don’t make a move to answer him and keep moving my fork, playing with my food “She is our new member. Ryouhei’s duo.” Marlon answers as more people from earlier come to a stand beside the table, three boys and two girls to be exact.
I analyze each and every one of them when my eyes meet the girl in a navy blue leather jacket, who is glaring at me. Instead of shying away from my gaze, she keeps staring at me and Ryou occasionally before looking at me up and down in a judgemental way. I press my lips in a thin line and turn away. What is her problem? Why is looking at me in such a way? I didn’t even do anything to her.
After finishing up my lunch, I quickly get up to leave without any further delay. I should head to the library again now, hopefully, I will have enough time to find the books I was busy looking for.
I carefully put the tray in the dustbin before looking up. As soon as I raise my gaze, I jump a little and press my hand against my chest. “What, What, what?...what are you all doing here?” I look at Liana and Gloria who are standing at both sides, Valencia, Elodie, and Fajah who are in front of me in surprise. When did they come here?
“Uh...why are you all here?” Why am I feeling I am being ganged up on?
Liana loops her arm around my mine while Gloria does the same with the other side before they start draging me to one of the less crowded places. I look at them in question when we come to a stop and stand in a circle. What do they want to talk about?
“So...” Liana starts, “Fajah told us how you called Ryouhei Ryou, it that true?”
“Yeah...” But what does that have to do with this?
“And he allowed it?” Elodie questions while crossing his arms.
“He didn’t exactly allow it, more like he didn’t say anything in return so...I thought he was okay with it...why? Should I have not said it?” Since they all are talking about it, it must be a big deal. Maybe I shouldn’t have said it. They all exchange glances but no one says anything. Suddenly, Liana pull me closer with the arm looped around my arm.
“There is nothing to worry about, we were just asking out of curiosity, right?” Liana asks while turning to look at Elodie. Elodie looks reluctant but nods in return, more like were forced to agree with Liana. I can’t understand why calling him ‘Ryou’ is such a big deal? Isn’t it just a name?
“Now me, how have you both been interacting? Is he friendly or cold? Does he talks to you?” Liana questions with much more eagerness than before like she has figured out something and trying to confirm whatever she is thinking.
I blink, “It is pretty normal. We talk when we meet but since he is busy most of the time and I am in my room we don’t talk much. But we talk we are with each other.”
“Who starts the conversation first?” Am I being interrogated? How could I remember such a thing? I observe the excited look on Liana’s face while everyone listens to our questions and answers with a neutral or curious expression. The questions are strange for asking about someone you have just met.
“...It could be me or Ryou, but I think usually it’s me when I want to know something. I usually have a lot of questions so...”
“Hmm..looks like things will be getting interesting soon. Make sure to tell me the details when anything happens and I will be supporting both of you no matter what.” Liana ends her encouragement with a pat on my hand.
What is that supposed to mean?