SS Ayanokōji: A Mysterious Classmate

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Midnight. Or more precisely, two hours past midnight. After not having slept for four consecutive days, I'd fallen into the warm embrace of sleep very early, just a short while after Kushida had left the room having heard my explanations. As a result, I found myself waking up at this unreasonable hour.

I grabbed the room's key card and, taking care not to wake Sora or Shiro, I lifted by heavy body from the bed to rouse myself.

Since students were required by the school's rules to sleep in their jerseys, they were also allowed to leave their rooms while wearing them. As such, there would be no problems with me leaving now.

Exiting the room quietly, I closed the door slowly behind me and began wandering down the dark corridor of the ship.

Once I reached the deck, I stopped for a moment and gazed out at the dark blanket that stretched across the skies, dotted full of twinkling stars that burned an unfathomable distance away.

The scenery, accompanied by the night's ocean, instilled a sense of boundless scale within me. The feeling that, no matter how much time I had, I would never even scratch the surface of what lay beyond my shallow perception of the world.

Is this what they call freedom? What an unfamiliar feeling.

I decided to do some light exercise. If I spent my time at this school neglecting my body, my physical ability would definitely deteriorate. Consequently, I concluded that such exercise was necessary to maintain my physique.

I did an indeterminate number of push-ups, sit-ups and squats, not bothering to count the number.

I merely repeated the motions atop the lonely ship deck, accompanied by nothing except the dark and the occasional sound of waves lapping below the ship as it sailed through the water.

Once I had began to work up a sweat, I sensed a presence behind me and paused my workout.

I turned around and was met by a silhouette standing against the shining stars behind him, only discernible by his defining hair that spiked out from the rest of his slim shadow.

"Ryuzaki," I called out to him.

He stepped forward and approached me, entering into the faint glow of the moonlight just enough for me to be able to see him properly.

Ryuzaki had dark bags under his eyes, as usual, and appeared tired. I guessed that he hadn't yet slept.

"Ayanokōji. It's a coincidence to see you out here, all alone."

"Yeah. What are you doing, Ryuzaki?"

"I just decided to go for a stroll because I couldn't sleep. I see you were exercising? Your form is rather impressive."

"Well, some exercise is required if I want to maintain my physique," I responded.

"Well, that makes sense."

Ryuzaki walked past me, to the edge of the ship, and leaned on the railing as his pitch-black eyes gazed out towards the black ocean. I followed suit, and stood next to him, looking out in silence.

"What do you think of this school, Ryuzaki?" I asked eventually.

Out of everyone in my class, Ryuzaki was by far the most enigmatic. Most of all, I was curious to know about his thoughts.

I'd seen him laugh and smile a few times before, but, I couldn't recall ever seeing him looking like he's genuinely enjoying himself. Rather, he always wore some variation of an apathetic expression, as if everything he does at this school is no more than business work.

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