“This uniform sucks,” Emi Seto grumbled as she made her way along the Sakura tree lined road leading from Seitosha Sakurai School for Girls’ dorms to the main building atop the forested hills north of Kyoto. “What the hell is it made of? Asbestos? Fiberglass? Human hair?” Suddenly she paused as a tremor of disgust ran through her thin frame. Oh my god! She thought. Am I wearing human hair? She lifted the collar of her dark red blazer and sniffed at it experimentally. Please don’t let it smell like shampoo and scalp, she pleaded to whatever god or goddess happened to be closest. It smelled vaguely of baa chan’s detergent, despair, and desperation she mused.
“Emiii!” A voice called from the direction of the school. A girl only slightly taller than her, though looking vaguely like an ant from this distance was waving at her excitedly, her entire frame waving back and forth like a reed amid a hurricane. Plainly, Emi surmised, this was her new roommate, Asami. She figured it had to be given the girl’s wildly waving pig tails and the fact she was the only one who knew her. Emi briefly considered hurrying past, but quickly discarded the notion as requiring far too much energy to bother with. So, waving briefly back in response, Emi continued her ponderous, meandering walk.
“We’re almost going to be late, silly!” Asami giggled as Emi finally drew up to the gates of the school.
“Isn’t that the exact same thing as being on time?” Emi asked, hiking her pack into place on her shoulder. Asami stared at her a moment from behind her glasses, the wheels in her mind grinding slowly on as she tried to figure out what Emi had just said.
“It kind of is, huh?” Asami finally replied with a hesitant grin, her dimples puckering her cheeks joyously.
“A bit a bunch,” Emi’s eyes shifted to the tall white gates and the school grounds beyond it to finally rest on the tall, multi-story western-style school sitting like a fat red and white monument to a different time and place.
“Want to go to the candy store in town this afternoon with me?” Asami asked brightly, plucking a fallen cherry blossom out of Emi’s ponytail, obviously either not knowing or not caring about bachelorette parties enough to bother asking.
“Who do you think you’re talking to? Do I look like a child?” Emi demanded hotly, ignoring Asami’s non-committal shrug which Emi decided she would have to take umbrage with later. “Of course, I do.”
“Oh, good!” Asami clapped her hands together enthusiastically. “I’m so glad you moved in! I never had anyone that would go to the candy store with me before!”
“Then they are fools and cretins,” Emi sniffed derisively, glaring at the press of girls in similarly maroon blazers and skirts with black stockings shuffling through the gates toward the school. Unlike in Tottori where the crush of students inevitably included laughter and shouts, the girls were almost silent with muted conversation passing between them. It was like lining up for a body viewing at a funeral, Emi mused.
“What’s a cretin?” Asami blinked at her blankly.
“Seasoned baked bread bits you put on a salad,” Emi replied easily. “You can also put it in soups and stuff, too. Some people call it croutons for some reason.”
“Really?” Asami looked skeptical.
“No,” Emi shook her head. “Not really.”
“Oh,” Asami seemed confused but followed Emi as she strode through the gates anyway.
“Say, Asami-chan,” Emi asked as they walked down the road lined in flowers and Sakura trees toward the front entrance of the school, “what are these uniforms made of, do you think?”
“Wool?” Asami answered after a moment’s thought. “I don’t know.” Emi scratched her back irritably as she walked which set off a chain reaction of frenzied scratching wherever her uniform touched skin as they drew closer to the wide triple doors.
“Well, they’re itchy and heavy and I don’t like them,” Emi groaned.
“They are kinda, huh?” Asami nodded with a grin. “You didn’t have school uniforms at your last school, Emi san?”
“Just Emi is fine,” Emi shook her head. “And, no, they didn’t.”
“But you call me Asami chan, though,” Asami protested weakly.
“I am a witch of honorifics and I’m allowed,” Emi lectured her sagely. “But we’re the same age, just call me Emi, Asami chan.”
“Oh, ok,” Asami replied with no small amount of confusion. “Then let’s get along from now on Emi s- Emi.” Asami giggled behind her hand as the strangeness overwhelmed her momentarily.
“Yep,” Emi nodded, taking a breath as the two girls reached the long shadows thrown off by the tall white building looming before them.
“Gokigenyou,” sounded all around Emi and Asami as they made their way up the stairs, the other scarlet-clad girls around them bowing politely to one another as they hurried without hurrying toward the wide-open doors of the school. Up the sweeping expanse of the snowy stairs in carefully controlled chaos. A ballet of scarlet and black with each girl never seeming to hurry or dawdle. The few giggles were muted and carefully hidden behind demurely placed hands over their mouths.
“Quite the noble assemblage,” Emi muttered under her breath. “These people need to loosen up.” She paused, tapping her chin thoughtfully with her index finger before smiling. I can do that, she decided. I am, after all, a witch of fun. With a goal, finally, in mind Emi lifted her head and, grabbing Asami’s hand, wove through the crowd with renewed purpose.