“Hey Natsu, can I bother you for a second?” Rose had stayed after class to talk to Natsu. It wasn’t rare for the two of them to talk during lunch or during class but this was the first time Rose went out of her way to seek her out.

“Sure, what’s up?” She was in the middle of packing her bag, but it was clear she wasn’t in any rush.

“Do you think you could help me out with what we went over in class?”

“You need some help? But didn’t you do really good on the last quiz?”

“It takes me a lot of practice, but I really don’t understand today’s lecture.”

“Doesn’t Hitomi help you out?”

“She’s at track, I wouldn’t want to cut into her time.”

“Ok, you don’t have to pull my leg.” Natsu spoke to make sure her voice was heard throughout the room. “I know a place where we can talk in peace.” She picked up her bag and left the room with Rose right behind her. “Sorry about raising my voice there, I was just making sure the other student in the student council heard me.” As soon as they were a sizable distance from the room Natsu apologized. “Here, this room is being fought over for club space so no one is allowed in it.”

“Wow it’s so empty!” Rose took a look inside to see almost nothing of note. Three desks were against the wall with chairs placed on top. Even the windows lacked blinds, making to room look even more barren. “Oh I’ll set up the desks.” Without waiting for an answer Rose got to work setting up two of the desks next to each other. Luckily the chairs weren’t  heavy so she could handle it without a problem. “Thanks for agreeing!”

“Believe me, I’d rather be here than at the student council any day of the week.” Natsu sent down her backpack against the desk and took out her books. “You never mentioned what you needed help with.”

“Oh, right. In math we went over simplifying fractions. But I don’t get how the teacher gets the numbers outside the parentheses.”

“This is the first year we have gone over algebra so I’m no expert but I’ll do my best.” Natsu took a green notebook from the pile and flipped it up to the most recent page. “Let’s do the second example from class today.  10a * 5ab * 6b.”

“Alright. So the first thing you do it separate the terms right?” Rose took some time to get as far as she could then showed it to Natsu. “10a, 5 a, 5b, and 6b right?”

“That’s right. From here it’s pretty easy.”

“Yeah, it’s 15a * 11b, right?”

“Yep. But that’s not what you have trouble it. It’s when the terms are all mashed up right?”

“I guess so. Like the fourth example.”

“Alright, I’ll make one up and see how you do. Let’s see.” Natsu wrote down some numbers randomly. She then took them and changed them a bit to make a problem that seemed like the one they did in class. Before she gave it to Rose she made sure she could solve it herself. “25a + 15b + 20c” Rose repeated it to herself as she wrote it. She worked in silence before giving up.

“I don’t get it. What am I supposed to do?”

“How I see it is that I look at all the numbers that the variables have and find a common factor. For these you see that all of them can be divided by 5.”

“And that’s the number you put outside of the parentheses?” Rose took her advice and showed her what she did.

“You have to divide the numbers inside by the number you put outside.”

“Oh! That’s why I didn’t get where the numbers came from. I thought I missed a huge step. That’s not too hard then.” Rose completed the problem and nodded her head as she read over the steps she took out loud.

“Why do you do that?”

“My memory works better if I say things out loud. Well, I can just do it a ton of times too but this works the fastest.”

“You sure are strange.” Rose smile sheepishly, rubbing her pencil against her cheek. “I’ve been meaning to ask, but you seem like you are younger than most of us.”

“I am. I’m eleven.”

“You skipped a grade? That’s impressive.”

“Hehehe. I worked really hard to make sure Hitomi and I were in the same grade.”

“You two are really close. It’s rare to see your two apart.”

“Well I have to keep her safe.” Natsu gave her a weird look.

“You sure about that? I’ve seen you in PE. You aren’t exactly ready to protect anyone.”

“Looks deceive.”

“The expression is ‘Looks can be deceiving.’ Want to study some Japanese while we are here?”

“Haha, that’d be nice. We have some homework we can work on if you are willing to stay.” Rose took out a two-sided worksheet from her bag.

“It didn’t take a lot of time to get through teaching you so sure. I’m not expected to be home til later.”

“Student council work right?”

“If you can even call it that. I’ve accomplished more here than I would in the hour and a half meeting they hold every week. Plus compared to how insanely boring everyone is there this is a nice change of pace.”

“You don’t sound very happy about being there.”

“You can say that again. I’m sure none of them are happy to be there either. It’s so much work. I wish I could just yell at all of them to get a life.” Natsu was clearly mad at her situation but Rose had no idea how to help. Based on what she was told before, this wasn’t the life Natsu wanted. “Sorry, you look like a deer in headlights.”

“I don’t understand what that means.”

“You look like you were caught in a situation you weren’t expecting and are staying still in fear.” Natsu explained it as best she could.

“Oh! Yeah I guess you could say that. Hahaha.”

“Geez, you are too nice. Most people aren’t as honest.”

“I don’t know, I think most people are really honest, even if they don’t mean to be. It’s like these kanji. They may look like some other kanji but they all mean one thing. I think. I’m still getting the hang of kanji.”

“I think I get what you mean. Never looked at it that way. Still, it would make things way easier if people just said what they wanted. Last week, three people argued for half the meeting. I’m pretty sure they all wanted the same thing but wouldn’t let someone else take credit.”

“Everyone wants to seem like they are the one with the idea right?”

“You got it. I know the reason too. People can use their accomplishments to get into a good high school or college. If my parents saw how passive I was in the council they would probably yell at me for not trying hard enough.”

“Your parents can’t be that bad.” Natsu sighed, her eyes looking down.

“I suppose you are right. It’s not like they hit me or anything but they expect me to be the president when I’m in my third year and carry over to high school. Sorry, I shouldn’t be complaining about all of this to you.”

“It’s better to let your frustrations out than keep them in right? When I’m mad at something I practice with the sword. Maybe you should try slashing a sword at things.”

“Swords are illegal you know. Maybe I’ll take up kendo or something. Some stress release would be nice.” Natsu couldn’t think of anything that she had time for but the idea was tempting to just ignore other responsibility for her own sake. “Speaking of which, I’ve heard about people seeing you walking through town with a sword.”

“Yeah, I need to take it with me when I’m working. What’s the kanji for this word?”

“I just did that one, here.” Natsu passed over her notebook so that Rose could see the assignment. “Is it heavy? The sword that is not the kanji.”

“Swords are actually really light. My sword is probably a little less than a kilogram. It’s a short arming sword, so I just call it a short sword.”

“What’s an arming sword?”  Natsu repeated the english phrase, but had no idea what it meant outside of the word sword.

“Right, not many people know the terminology. Sorry I should have explained it earlier. An arming sword are the swords that use to be used in the middle ages when fighting with a shield. Most people think longswords are arming swords.”

“I should really work on my english. So is a longsword like a katana?”

“The katana is a type of longsword. It’s really complicated and even the textbooks I read didn’t agree.”

“I guess you would need to know that stuff if you train with swords. Working in middle school, now that’s unfair.”

“There are… reasons. It’s complicated. Oh!” Rose slammed her hands down on her desk, causing Natsu to jump in her seat and let out a yelp in fear. “My bad, but are you coming to the festival this weekend?!”

“Oh I wasn’t planning on it. Where is it?” Natsu sighed as she recovered from her shock.

“At the Edith Shrine. It’s within walking distance of this school.”

“But don’t you take a scooter to school every day?”

“How do you know about that?! Nooo….”

“It sticks out, but it’s not a bad thing! You don’t need to seem so sad.”

“I’m not sad. I’m getting a bike soon so it won’t be a problem.”    

“No you are clearly sad. Wait I shouldn’t be drawing attention to that.” Natsu whispered to herself before trying to switch topics to avoid any more awkwardness. “What time does the festival start?”

“Six at night. The ceremony ends at ten. Everything is local so you’ll probably recognize the people running the stalls. Most people only stay for the food and games but I’m going to perform at the end so I’d like if you stayed for that.” Rose continued to work as she spoke, and Natsu could tell she was confused by the worksheet as her Japanese was getting more and more shaky.

“I’ll have to check with my parents. I don’t think we’ve ever celebrated anything this time of year so it might be hard.”

“Why not just come anyway?”

“Huh?” The suggestion came out of nowhere. It wasn’t random but totally out of character for the picture that Natsu had of Rose.

“Sometimes you have to take chances in life. You should try to get your parents to go but maybe it’s not a terrible idea to sneak out.”

“No no no, I can’t just sneak out of my house. Are you actually a troublemaker?”

“Just a bit. Maybe if I really was a troublemaker I wouldn’t have to do this homework.” Rose laughed as she struggled to complete the problem she was on. “I can’t figure this problem out. Did we learn the word for this?”

“What problem?”

“Seventeen.”

“Yeah, we learned it last week. I think I still have the notes on how to write it in my notebook.” Natsu flipped through on of her notebooks, flipping back and forth until she got to the right page. “This one right?” Rose took a look at the page, nodding her head once she confirmed it was right.

“I don’t remember doing this in class, but that’s what homework is for. Thanks for the help. It would have taken me forever to figure this stuff out on my own.”

“Glad I can help. It’s better to do your homework without focusing too hard on it. Usually I feel like I’m going to fall asleep any second.”

“I once had to redo an assignment because I fell asleep on it and ruined it in my sleep. Do you do your homework at night too?”

“Yeah. Student council, piano lessons, dinner, then homework. Every day, every night. If you ever need help with something please ask me.”

“Rather this than student council. I’ll come to you if I need help and Hitomi is busy. Track is starting to get more serious so she has less time after school.” Rose got up and walked over to the window. The sun was still at full strength but that didn’t stop all the clubs from working hard. “We are quite a distance away from the track field huh? I thought maybe I’d get a good view.”

“I’m sure you can make her out from here. Are you sure you aren’t avoiding doing the rest of the worksheet?”

“Working for too long in a row is bad for you. I’ll just be a second. What other homework did we have for tomorrow?”

“I think only Japanese. We have an essay for English due on Friday and a math worksheet due sometime this week.” Natsu listed off the things that she remembered off the top of her head. “I doubt you need any help with English.”

“It is my first language, but the questions they ask are so hard! Like ‘which of these words is best used here’ and all of the words can go there! I wish all of the tests were verbal ones.”

“I’d gladly take the written tests. How do I say it? My english is not good.” Natsu did her best to speak english, but she immediately turned red at how bad it sounded even to her. “Please forget that you heard that.”

“It reminds me of when I was first learning Japanese. You can still hear my accent after so many years practicing and I still stumble on words sometimes. It’s tough, so don’t beat yourself up over it!” Rose did her best to cheer Natsu up, but it seems she didn’t need it as she shook it off quickly.

“Can’t do anything about it but practice more. Ah, I know. Speak english around me, that’ll help right?”

“I can try. What is the answer to this question?”

“Ok that’s too fast. Also you are by the window so I don’t know what question you could have or what to do with it.”

“I’m use to only using English around Hitomi and my family, so I forgot that it’s a little faster than how they do it in class. How is this?”

“Ummm that is good thank you.” Natsu answered back in English. The difference between the two was massive. “I’ve already finished the worksheet for Japanese. How far are you?”

“I just got to the back.” Rose flipped over the sheet. She raised her pencil and began working on it right away. “If you want to work on something else or leave, that’s ok. I’m going to finish this either way.”

“I’m not just going to leave you here. I’ll start working on my english so you can help, and I’ll help you when you need help with the rest of the worksheet. Seems like a solid plan.”

“I’ll do my best to help you.” Rose responded in English as cheerfully as she could. The next thirty minutes was a back and forth between the two as they asked questions about words in the language they both knew. Rose finished her worksheet before Natsu could finish her essay, but she didn’t seem keen on finishing it today.

“That’s good enough for now. I still have a day to finish it.” Natsu placed all of her books into her backpack and threw it across her back. “I have to get going anyway. If I’m late to piano practice my parents are going to kill me.”

“Well I shouldn’t keep you here. Track practice should be over soon so I’ll go surprise Hitomi. I wonder if I can beat her in a race now that she had practice.”

“Given what I’ve seen in PE, I doubt it.”

“Ahaha, I guess so huh? One day I’ll have a bike and I can beat her! Alright, I’m worked up! Come on, let’s go!”

“Wait where-?” Before she could get her sentence out, Rose ran out of the room. Rose was so caught up in her own thoughts that she had forgotten that Natsu had plans on her own. But despite that Natsu found herself following Rose as if caught up in her energy. “Please don’t ask why I’m here.” Rose had stopped in front of the school, where Hitomi was waiting for her. Natsu didn’t want to explain the situation to Hitomi and said so right away.

“Got caught up in her energy, right?” After reading her thoughts, Hitomi teased her. “Don’t worry, that happens to me more often than I’d like to admit. I was surprised to see Rose at school so late so I decided to see if she’d try to catch me going home.”

“You saw me through the window?!”

“You have blond hair. There are three people in this entire town like that and your family has all of them.”

“Oh right. But I did try to catch you so it all worked out! And I brought Natsu.”

“You didn’t- oh it doesn’t matter. I really need to get going.”

“Well we are leaving. Join us on the way back.” As Rose expected, Hitomi was handling things as if she knew everything before hand.

“I suppose that’s fine.”

“Let me go get my scooter. I’ll be as fast as I can.” Rose ran off but was unable to live up to the speed she promised.

“You’d think she’d stop using the word run.”

“It’s a way to help motivate her. She knows she’s not fast, but she tries her best. There are reasons she is like this.” Before Natsu could question what those reasons were Rose returned on her scooter. “We’ll take it slowly today to not bother our guest.”

“Awww, I was hoping to race you after practice.”

“It would be a better race than normal. Maybe another day. For now let’s get Natsu home, she looks like she needs to get going.”

“Yes please.”

“Alright! Time to get Natsu home!” With renewed energy for the task they’ve decided on Rose pushed forward with the other two following along with her. It wasn’t difficult for either of them to keep up. Despite her worries Natsu managed to get back in time. Rose and Hitomi waved her off and went off once more to get home themselves.