Figures of students in the hallways walked by in close groups.
"I guess, I mean... I don't even think he can talk..."
The students strolled off, without even seeming to care.
They were too absorbed in their own lives to care.
It was just another day.
Ryō gave a light sigh as he watched the students trail down the crowded halls.
He slowly looked back down, down, away from everyone else, was where he belonged.
His sketch was there. His work. His comfort.
His long, pale, well-adapted hands moved the charcoal pencil lightly over the somewhat rough paper.
He was alone at a table, alone in his world. His world that only he could escape to.
It was the world that only he knew of, yet he would imagine the day... he would wonder about it...
The day he could finally share his world with someone else.
"Aki! Aki! Score a goal!"
Akiko Nanairo's heart was pounding through every vein in her body.
It was the long-awaited autumn soccer game of the Fennec Foxes of Airisu High, against the Wombats of the opponent school.
Almost every Fennec fan in the stands were cheering and yelling Akiko's name as she swiftly and stealthily made her way closer to the goal.
She had great control of the ball, and keeping it away from other teammates was a breeze for her.
'Almost there... keep going... NOW!' her thoughts flashed inside her.
With a deep, quick breath, Akiko visualized the dynamic kick seconds before she did it. The ball shot up from the field, and punctured the net of the goal, before the goalie could even register which side it was going in.
"GOAAAAL!" The cheers reached the loudest volume of the entire day.
"And that concludes our game between the Fennec Foxes and the Wombats. Once again, Akiko scores the winning goal for the Fennecs!"
Everyone would think Akiko felt amazing, and she did--soccer was her life after all. But scoring the winning goal... though she hated to admit it, felt so horribly normal to her by now.
She often even wondered what it could be like... just to accomplish something different for once.
After the teams swapping hands and saying "good game", and when the sweat began to evaporate, the excitement died down to manageable levels.
Ikumi, Akiko's teammate, friend, and novice soccer player walked up and asked her if they could have a quick bite before going home for the night.
"Sure." Akiko said with a friendly smile, they were probably going to Dizzy Donut--the best place that was a short distance enough to just walk.
On the way walking past the soccer field, the two girls passed by a somewhat misplaced-looking sight. It was the school's outcast, Ryou Hoshimi; the last person anyone would imagine attending a school soccer game, or even being outside after school.
He sat far back into the audience chairs, the tiny sliver of sunlight left in the sky was just enough light for him to draw in his sketchbook. He probably was going to leave soon.
Akiko and Ikumi both noticed Ryō, both had thoughts on him, but neither of them spoke about it.
Neither of them felt like it was a big enough matter to interrupt the smooth, quiet pace for.
When they got to the somewhat small, but always welcoming Dizzy Donut, it wasn't strange that many kids from the school were in there.
Akiko was standing by the order line of the small, cozy establishment, gazing up at the colorful menu of delicious donut options...
Donuts... they all looked like they could hit the spot... But she was looking for the donut... the one her tastebuds were craving the most... just which one was it?
"Hmm... I'm still wondering if I should get the fudge supreme, or the glazed rainbow donut..."
Akiko rubbed her chin sternly, looking as serious as one could possibly look about a couple of donuts.
Ikumi giggled a bit.
"This is what makes you so interesting, Aki-chan! You score winning goals, but you also could spend an hour trying to decide on a donut!"
Eventually, a piece of gossip from the back of the restaurant somehow reached the ears of Akiko and Ikumi.
"Hoshimi Ryō? You mean the um... mute guy who just won another art award last week?"
The students chattered.
"Yeah, him... I don't know why, but he seems kind of scary to me..."
"Huh?" Akiko and Ikumi both had to mumble at the same time.
"I wonder why they're talking about him?." Akiko had to wonder.
"Well... he sure wins a ton of art awards!" Ikumi mentioned.
"Yeah..." Akiko said. She curiously said her thoughts aloud.
"I wonder what it feels like, being so good at things like that..." she sounded quiet and thoughtful.
"Well, that's a bit of an odd thing to come out of your mouth!" Ikumi smiled.
She was always smiling or smirking, not exactly on purpose; she just couldn't help it. In fact, it wasn't always a good thing ALL the time.
"Well, I don't think we should even consider comparing ourselves to someone like Ryō..." Ikumi stumbled.
"It's because... he's like, on a totally different level than any of us. Like a true Renaissance man..." Ikumi continued.
"A... Renaissance man... what?" Akiko looked clueless.
"Renaissance man," Ikumi started to explain,
"Well, first of all, the 'Renaissance' was a commonly heard-of historical period in Europe, where arts, science and even inventions like, totally blossomed.
So a Renaissance Man- or Woman, is like, someone straight out of the Renaissance, basically. Like one who has all the skills, smarts, arts, music, and being like really good at all of them."
"Oh, I just remembered he can also play piano." Akiko thought.
"It must be good for him... I mean... to cope with not having a voice..."
Sometimes the fact that Ryō was mute slipped people's minds. Sometimes people simply didn't know how to talk about him without being rude.
He couldn't control the problem with his vocal chords that he had since 3rd grade, but some people would just look at him and see him as the guy with nothing to say. Akiko had no idea what is was like, but she was sure it felt terrible.
But he surely must have many things to say, just like any other person.
Perhaps the reason Ryō is such a great artist was because he wanted to speak to people... to make his thoughts come to life in his pictures...
"Does he long for people to understand him?"
"Akiko... you seem really deep in deciding what donut you want."
Ikumi tapped on her shoukder, noticing Akiko had drifted away for a few seconds, (which was sometimg fairly uncommon for her).
"Uh... yes!" Akiko rubbed her hand on her face.
"I don't know if I'm in the mood for fudge supreme, or the rainbow glaze... and even vanilla cherry and caramel chew are starting to look really appetizing... hmm..."
"Akiko." Akiko's dad called from downstairs. His voice only sounded a bit more stern than usual.
"Yes?" Akiko called back down.
"Akiko Nanairo, your report card just arrived in the mail."
Akiko's heart skipped a beat as soon as she heard her full name, followed by the words "report card".
Report card?! Ultra-carefree Akiko always had a habit of basically just forgetting what a report card even was! So much for parents who raised her to be responsible and concerned about her grades.
A long talk with her family came afterwards.
The question she got asked the most was about if she even cared about her grades, but no matter how many times she said "yes", her family took it as a no.
"We buy you books and you never read them, you don't care about keeping your room clean. You're FIFTEEN years old! Don't you think you should be more mature?
Do you even care about ANYTHING?"
"I don't know, okay? I-I just don't..."
Akiko had been nagged to tears that night, and after she finished her "punishment papers" (A.K.A. a family-made test that covered everything she failed), Akiko felt deeply thankful to be back in her room.
Somehow, the idea of sleep seemed extremely inviting that night; sweet and peaceful.
The night hours... magical night hours where things just don't matter and where nobody bothered you.
No matter if you failed a class, or if your best friend was mad at you, under the covers, inside your dreams, everything was clean, still and perfect.
And just the way you wanted things to be.
Sleeping was a sweet escape from bad feelings...
Drifting off all alone... escaping into a quiet dream...
All alone in a world of your dreams.