Music is probably the single greatest invention after language for communicating our thoughts, emotions, feelings, and desires in nuances that even rival language’s ability to do so. A lilting waltz, a somber aria, a cheerful carol, a morose ballad, all can elicit a whole range of human emotion within us. So, my dear students, never underestimate the power of words, and even more so, the power of words set to music to shape the minds and hearts of an audience, for with such tactics, great and terrible leaders of this world have either led their subjects to victory or destruction by what some would say, a few musical notes.
—Musings of His Eminence Cardinal Baldwin Tucker, Archbishop Emeritus of St. Paulisburgh.
Kato grabbed his lunch tray and headed to the seating area. He started thinking that he very much felt like a rabbit, a lunch, that two hungry wolves were fighting over. He was more afraid of the immediate danger of Handa at this point than Takahashi. He chose to sit in the same seat that he was at breakfast, next to Takahashi’s table. He was certain this would keep the one source of trouble at bay and allow him to keep an eye on the other. At least, this is what he told himself and, somehow, he felt a little safer.
“Can I sit here?” asked a small voice.
Kato looked up and saw it was Murata. The bruise around his eye was dark. “Please,” Kato said as he motioned for Murata to sit. He gave a faint smile, putting his tray down, and sat.
“So, we’re in the same class…” Kato was attempting to start a conversation. He didn’t know why, but he felt that he wanted to befriend poor Murata, maybe even cheer him up a bit. Kato knew how lonely and frightening this place could be so thought maybe he could help in some way.
Murata looked up at Kato, nodded, then returned his eyes back to his food.
“I was distracted during your introduction, I’m sorry. Do you play any sports?” Kato inquired. He wasn’t sure Murata had even been asked that question, like he was, but it seemed to be a safe and neutral question.
“I like ping pong too.”
“Oh, nice. Maybe we can play together sometime. I haven’t been able to play in a year, so go easy on me, Murata-san.” Kato knew that people like being dignified by the use of their name.
Murata smiled at this. “I’ve played a lot, but I’m sure you’re better.”
“We’ll see,” Kato said as he returned the smile. Murata didn’t look up to notice Kato’s smile, but the smile softened Kato’s voice and put a mischievous tone in it that, surely, he did notice.
“What do you like to read?” Kato went on.
Murata looked up at Kato. A grin formed on his face as he chuckled. “Not math.”
Kato blushed slightly, “Hey! I was on the spot there!” he jokingly complained. “I just spoke the first thing I could think of. I don’t actually read math books for leisure.”
Both boys laughed together and talked more about their similar tastes in books. Two more boys asked if they could be seated and Kato politely agreed. It made Kato feel good to have a proper conversation with someone else. He liked his roommate, Tachibana, but he always felt like he was talking to a senpai. Murata was more on Kato’s level.
Kato looked over to the serving line and saw Takahashi’s three friends in line, but no Takahashi. Well, he’s always last anyway, Kato thought.
“Amen,” all the boys said in unison and started eating.
Kato looked to Takahashi’s seat, then the line, then back to the table again. Where is Takahashi? he contemplated.
“Is everything okay?” asked Murata.
“Yeah, it’s fine. I was just wondering where Takahashi-san is.”
Murata had a puzzled look. “You don’t know?”
“What?” Kato didn’t like the sound of this.
“Seems he was in a fight with Handa-san in the bathroom during break and one of the students in there snitched on him.”
“Yeah, rumor has it that they started fighting over you and so you ratted them out,” was Murata’s reply.
Murata looked down while speaking, “I don’t know whether what you did was right or not, but at least you had the voice to speak out about it. Not like me.”
Kato put aside the thought of denying his involvement for a minute to ask a more important question, “It was Handa-san that hit you, wasn’t it?”
Murata softly sighed.
Kato reached out and softly clasped Murata’s arm. “You okay now?”
“I’m okay. Handa-san wanted to make me his uke and have sex with me and I said no way. Then he hit me and said that he’ll be back.”
Kato felt Murata’s shoulders drop a bit. Kato’s tiny little mind, at such an odd time, also realized that they haven’t eaten yet and their food was probably going to get cold.
“I need to find a seme before that happens,” Murata said.
“Maybe I can help. I know someone who said he knew some available semes. Maybe there’s one among them.”
Murata looked up at Kato with hope in his eyes. Kato now hoped that he wasn’t giving Murata false hope.
“Anyway, I did not rat on Takahashi-san and Handa-san. Let’s clear that up right now.” Kato went on to explain, “I believe Takahashi-san was trying to protect me from Handa-san. He said that as my seme, that’s his job. But I wasn’t alone in the bathroom, so someone else snitched on them.”
Murata nodded in understanding. “Takahashi-san and Handa-san are being forced to sit in class, missing lunch, and Sister Mary is watching them.”
Kato felt a bit of guilt coming on. “Let’s eat,” he said to quickly change the subject.
Today’s menu was bacon cheeseburgers. Each student got two, with a large helping of fries, a generous slice of chocolate cake, soda, and an apple. Kato carefully wrapped up one of his hamburgers in a paper napkin and set it aside with the apple to take back with him. The rest of his tray he devoured.
After lunch, Kato returned to his room and noted that there was a little less than an hour before his afternoon class started. He decided he could no longer wait, so put the burger and apple on the shelf and he ate the croissant sandwich from breakfast even though he just had lunch. He was a growing boy, after all.
Tachibana came in shortly after and immediately asked, “Are you okay?”
Kato replied, “Yes, I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.”
“Well, word has gotten all around that you snitched out Takahashi-san.”
It did not go unnoticed by Kato that Tachibana only said Takahashi’s name while omitting Handa’s. “I did not snitch on him. I wasn’t the only one in the bathroom. It wasn’t me.”
“Okay, okay, cool.”
Kato looked at Tachibana with a puzzled look.
“Well, seme/uke means you are supposed to have your seme’s back. I would have been really disappointed, and maybe a little bit… irritated… if I thought you actually snitched on Takahashi-san.”
Kato wondered very briefly at how that would have changed things between him and Tachibana if he had snitched and was suddenly very glad that he never even had the thought of doing so.
“Still, the rumor has spread like wildfire. You should probably talk to your seme.”
“I’ll make it up to him,” Kato replied. At that, the conversation ended, and Kato took off his shoes and his jacket and hopped up on his bunk for a short nap before class.