Fox & Wolf

Chapter 6

The Vice-Principal

The door to the teachers’ office was propped open. Yuki knocked and bowed. The teachers eating lunch at their desks sneaked long glances at her, curious to see in the flesh what they’d heard about second-hand.

Vice-principal Hasegawa looked up and motioned from her desk. Yuki bowed again and made her way past the rows of cluttered, crowded desks. The desks were arranged like Roman columns, the vice-principal’s desk at the head of the room forming the capstone.

Yuki sat in the chair placed there for that purpose. Hasegawa Sensei took note of her bento box. “Go ahead.” She was eating from one herself.

As Yuki got situated, Hasegawa Sensei opened a folder and flipped through the pages. Yuki didn’t have to guess what it was. Her “permanent file.” There wasn’t anything she could do about it so she dug into her bento box. In situations like this, it was always a good idea to fill her stomach when she had the opportunity.

Hasegawa Sensei said, “So, Yuki, are you settling in okay?”

Yuki nodded, her mouth full.

“Hmm,” Hasegawa Sensei said. “Three schools in the last three years. You have a penchant for getting into fights.”

Yuki swallowed and said, not defensively only stating the facts, “I never started a single one. Only ended them. Because nobody else would step up.”

That last part came across as a tad defensive. She’d never been reluctant to “step up” when a jerk had to be put in his (or her) place.

Hasegawa Sensei smiled but her voice took on a more uncompromising tone. “Regardless of who starts what, here you will learn to resolve conflicts in amicable ways. The board required some convincing to let you transfer in mid-term. We wouldn’t want to see those efforts go for naught.”

Yuki had expected this lecture. Every principal, vice-principal, and teacher made a point of explaining why Yuki should take more seriously the moral obligations to her family and community, those ancient social imperatives that remained forever green in modern Japan.

“Of course,” she agreed.

Hasegawa Sensei returned her attention to the file. “Let’s see, your uncle mentioned that you have a part-time job.”

Yuki perked up. “The Osaka Dog Doctor. I’m one of the walkers.”

“Ah,” the vice-principle said with an amused arch of her brows. “A spark of genuine enthusiasm. Have you considered a career in veterinary medicine?”

Yuki responded with a chagrined shrug, “Science isn’t exactly my best subject.” She added more hopefully, “I could be a trainer, like for search and rescue dogs.”

“I think that would be a good goal.” Hasegawa Sensei paused to recollect. “I believe Ami Tokudaiji has expressed an interest in becoming a vet. She’s in your homeroom class, isn’t she?”

“Tokudaiji—oh, yeah. Well, it figures she’d have a head for something like that.”

Because she was a fox, not because Yuki had gotten to know her that well in the past four hours. She’d happily match her street smarts against any canine. But Japanese foxes were wilier than wolves.

“Well,” Hasegawa Sensei concluded, “I’ve been assured the Osaka Dog Doctor is a reputable establishment. I can’t imagine any objections so long as the job doesn’t interfere with your schoolwork.”

“I absolutely promise it won’t,” Yuki replied with an enthusiastic bob of her head. Life really was better when she didn’t have to fib about the way she wanted to live it.

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