There had been many conversations about the dental health of the students in St. Catherine’s educational system. One idea was to fluoridate the water at the high school. It had always enjoyed excellent water quality as it had its own water tower that was fed by a local freshwater mountain spring. However, there was a lot of controversy surrounding this idea. Even though it had been done a few times in Japan since 1952 for lengthy periods in the Kyōto, Okinawa, and Mie prefectures, currently less than 1% of Japan participates in fluoridation.
There were arguments for fluoridation, including the evidence that such water helped to reduce dental caries (cavities). For once, cost was not considered a factor. Even though there would be an initial cost, the yearly cost to fluoridate would be relatively inexpensive. An accredited agency specified that it would cost 300 yen per student per year, but it could save between 700 and 4200 yen per year in dental costs.
There were many arguments against fluoridation, such as there was scientific evidence that suggests fluoride in large amounts is hazardous to health. Also, there was no way to monitor or control how much fluoride is actually consumed. As the entire water supply would be treated, it would also force those who are unwilling to consume the fluoride.
Ultimately, it was decided that St. Catherine’s would join the school-based fluoride mouth-rinsing programme (S-FMR) for its preschools, kindergartens, elementary schools, and junior high schools. As for the high school, students were encouraged to continue good oral hygiene, using fluoridated toothpastes and rinses that were provided for the students.
—Excerpt from St. Catherine’s Health Care System by Toshiki Handa (2024)*
Kato returned to the room in a much better mood. Seme first, he thought. Why is that so hard to do? Why does it seem like nobody else has a hard time doing it?
Handa was on his bunk reading, again. He didn’t even bother to look at Kato. Suddenly Kato missed Tachibana and wondered how he was doing. Kato decided to get his supplies back out and work more on the portrait. He thought again of Tachibana. A new thought came across his mind as he was penciling in some shadowing. Tachibana went to battle against the semes for all ukes, in a way. And this naturally included Kato. He really hoped Tachibana was okay.
After a half hour, Handa got up and left the room, then returned a few minutes later. He looked over Kato’s shoulder and gave a harrumph, then sat down on his bunk again.
“What?” Kato asked as he looked at Handa.
“Idiots,” Handa said.
Kato became instantly irritated. “Why do you say that?”
Handa looked over at Kato. “They’re stupid. They should have gotten semes like normal people.”
“They don’t want one, or need one,” Kato said.
“Don’t care what they want. But they need semes.”
“Who says that they need semes?”
Handa glared. “The semes.”
Kato glared back. “Why can’t you semes just leave them alone?”
“Hey, don’t blame me. I had nothing to do with that.”
Kato looked back to his drawing. Eye contact with Handa was uncomfortable.
“That’s why they need semes,” Handa emphasized. “There’s a saying, ‘either get a seme or get wrecked.’ Easy as that.”
“Yeah, well I doubt anyone will change their minds. They love each other.”
“That’s why they’re idiots,” Handa said. Kato was irritated hearing that again but said nothing. “This isn’t some romantic vacation spot where boys come and find each other, fall in love, and get married. This is a fucked-up school full of predators and prey; the strong and the weak. The only way you can get through it as an uke is to find a strong seme to protect you. Who the fuck cares about love?”
Kato shook his head. “They do.”
“Again, that’s why they’re idiots.”
Kato didn’t know what to say to now, but he wanted to drop this conversation, so he continued drawing. Handa picked up his book and started reading again.
After 15 minutes had gone by, Kato’s sweet tooth started acting up. He was never comfortable eating in front of people, and he actually didn’t like eating alone. He thought about how to eat snacks with Handa present. When Handa moved in, Kato had noticed that he had a few expensive-looking clothes and a nice watch, but not much else. Kato wondered if Handa had family send him nice things, or sent him money and Handa bought that stuff, but why didn’t he have food? Then again, Kato wouldn’t have food either, or other things, without Takahashi’s help.
After mulling it over, he felt that there was no way he could possibly eat in front of Handa and not share. He put down his pencil and got up. He went to his goodie bag and pulled out a package of strawberry mochi. He sat back down and opened the package, taking four mochi for himself and placing them on the desk.
Kato internally steeled himself and held out the package with the other half of the mochi to Handa and said, “Want some?”
Handa looked over from his book to the package, then to Kato. “Sure,” he said as he took the package. Kato went back to penciling and eating the mochi. He loved strawberries.
As time passed, Kato got to considering the two boys in the portrait he was drawing. He wondered at how they decided to be uke/uke. From his own experience, he assumed that a boy was chosen as an uke by a seme and that’s that. But he really started to question this rationale as he thought that it couldn’t be the only way things like this were decided.
“Handa-san,” Kato said as he looked over at him.
“How many ukes have you had?” Kato didn’t know why he had to ask this, but he suddenly became curious, and he was pretty sure he was physically unable to restrain himself from asking questions.
“None,” came a reply.
Kato wasn’t surprised. He felt that Handa certainly went about things the wrong way. Then another stupid question popped into his head. “Semes?” he asked meekly.
Handa looked from his book to Kato with a slight expression of annoyance then looked back at his book.
Stupid question number three was at the ready and Kato fired away. “But isn’t Xan-san your new uke?”
Handa said nothing for a few moments then finally, with irritation, said, “Not that it’s any of your fucking business, but no. So, shut up.” Then he turned to his side, facing the wall, and continued to read his book.
“Sorry,” Kato said. Now he was truly surprised. It seemed the most natural thing to him that Handa and Xan were together. He wondered if they had just broken up, but then considered that maybe they weren’t actually together since Handa said he had never had an uke. Kato was actually too tired to consider any more seme/uke puzzles for one day. He simply concentrated on finishing up the portrait before bed.
[半田 敏生, Handa Toshiki, (hahn-dah toh-shee-kee)]