Title: Lounge Act
Based on: Azumanga Daioh
Challenge: 31_days 2006 Theme Exchange #31 "there's nothing like the freedom of a place where no one listens"
Type: Humor; about 1500 words
Warnings: Mild slapstick violence and very mild adult humor.
Notes: This probably takes place after the similar scene in episode 3 of the anime.
Azumanga Daioh © Kiyohiko Azuma / Mediaworks / Azumanga Daioh Committee / ADV Films.
Chiyo knocked at the doorway of the teachers' lounge, and peeked in. "Miss Kurosawa? Did you want to see me?"
Nyamo was seated at her desk. "Ah," she said as she looked up. "Yes. Please come in, Chiyo-chan."
"Did I do something wrong?" Chiyo asked nervously, as she walked up to Nyamo's desk.
"Of course not," Nyamo said with a friendly smile. "I'm sorry if I worried you, Chiyo-chan. I just wanted to talk to you now, after classes let out and it was a bit more quiet around here—"
Yukari barged into the room. She danced up to Nyamo and Chiyo, swaying from side to side, as if she were already under the influence. "Hey, Nyamo!!" she shouted. "I hope you brought some money with you today, 'cause we are so goin' drinkin' tonight!!"
Nyamo face-palmed. "Do you mind!? I'm trying to—"
Yukari suddenly assumed a dramatic pose, thrusting an accusatory finger in Nyamo's face. "What you're doing, Miss Kurosawa, is depriving this poor child of her— well, her childhood!!"
"Huh?" said Nyamo and Chiyo in perfect unison.
"It's bad enough that the education system failed this fragile waif," Yukari declared, "by skipping her ahead by five years, and forcing her to sit through classes that would bore me to tears!!"
"Are you referring to the same classes that you teach yourself?" Nyamo asked dryly.
Yukari ignored her. "But now, you're needlessly keeping her after school, depriving her of even more of her precious youth!! Keep this up, and poor little Chiyo-chan will end up like— like—"
Nyamo rolled her eyes. "Like what, Yukari? Like what!?"
Yukari raised her hand slightly to point past Nyamo. "Like— that!!"
Nyamo turned in her chair, and was startled to find Osaka standing behind her. "AAUGH!!" said Nyamo. "...do you need something, Osaka?... Osaka?..."
Osaka was standing perfectly still, facing a window behind Nyamo's desk. Slowly, smoothly and silently, she turned to face Nyamo with an open-mouthed glassy-eyed stare.
Nyamo wasn't a science-fiction fan, but as she returned Osaka's blank stare, she suddenly felt as if she were an astronaut in deep space, cut free from her tether and plummeting into the event horizon of a singularity. As near-absolute cold froze her very soul, she could only stare into a place where natural laws did not apply, a place where reality was torn asunder, a place from which even light itself could not escape. She stared into the face of madness.
After a long silent awkward moment, Nyamo somehow found the strength to look away from Osaka's Dread Gaze. "Um, Osaka?," she said weakly. "Never mind, dear."
Slowly, smoothly and silently, Osaka swiveled back to gaze through the window behind Nyamo again.
Nyamo tried to take a moment to compose herself— but failed. "See? See?" Yukari said. "Do you understand the peril that Chiyo-chan faces?"
"No, I don't," Nyamo said with a shudder. "Actually, I doubt any sane person could. But what do you want me to do about it?"
Yukari rudely pointed at Nyamo's face again. "Duh!! P.E. teacher!! You must foster a healthy mind in a healthy body!! I suggest you start Chiyo-chan out with a dozen laps around the race track!!"
"But... I can't even finish one lap..." Chiyo whimpered.
"Don't worry, Chiyo-chan," Nyamo said. "Yukari has a point... well, I think she has a point. But there are more healthy and less obsessive ways to exercise—"
Kagura charged into the lounge, dragging a reluctant Sakaki along by one arm. "Miss Kurosawa!!" said Kagura. "Will you referee some one-on-one basketball? Sakaki has accepted my challenge!!"
Sakaki didn't agree with Kagura's assessment of her own response to said challenge. "Um..."
Kagura grinned her infectious tomboy grin, and slapped Sakaki's back hard enough to take her breath away. "I know you can hardly wait!! But just hang on, okay!? I'll kick yer butt soon enough!!"
The gentle Sakaki grimaced. She wasn't exactly near tears, but she wasn't too far from them either. "But I don't... want to...." she said quietly.
Before Nyamo could answer, the self-appointed expert Yukari cut in again. "Are you sure you want to challenge Sakaki to one-on-one basketball, Kagura? She has a significant height advantage."
Kagura blinked. But then, she saw Chiyo. "That's okay! I'll just add some extra height!" She grabbed Chiyo, effortlessly picked her up, and set Chiyo on her shoulders. "How's this? We should be taller than even Sakaki now, Chiyo-chan!"
Chiyo swayed to and fro, waving her arms in the air, even though Kagura firmly and safely held her in place by her legs. "I believe," Chiyo announced, "that I shall be violently and copiously sick."
Nyamo rubbed her temples. "Kagura, please put down the child genius before you break it. Honestly, I think you've been spending too much time around a bad influence."
Kagura paused, and blinked. "A bad influence? What do you mean?"
Tomo leaned into the lounge. "Hay guys!! What's goin' on in here!?"
She suddenly shrieked. "KAGURA!! What do you think you're doin'!?"
And then, she ran up to Kagura, and tried to pull Chiyo down. "If anyone's gonna give Chiyo-chan piggy-back rides, it's gonna be her bestest friend Tomo-chan!!"
"For the sweet love of all that's good and pure," Chiyo wailed, "please let go of me."
Yomi walked into the lounge, holding a half-eaten sweet-bun. "Fer cryin' out loud," she said around a mouthful of food, "what's all the— AIEEE!! *hack gasp choke cough cough*"
With Chiyo suddenly forgotten, Tomo nearly flew at Yomi. "You brought food into the teachers' lounge— and you didn't bring any for me!? Gimme a bite!! Gimme gimme gimme!!"
"AAUGH!!" said Yomi, as she fought Tomo off, while trying not to drop her snack at the same time.
"AAUGH!!" said Chiyo, Kagura and Nyamo, as a suddenly freed Kagura fought to regain her balance, while trying not to drop Chiyo at the same time.
Sakaki silently lunged forward, plucked Chiyo from Kagura's shoulders, and held her tightly.
"Thank you, Miss Sakaki," a trembling Chiyo gasped. "You saved me again."
Sakaki shushed her, and gently stroked her hair. "It's alright," she said modestly.
And then, Kaorin walked in. She took one look at Sakaki and Chiyo, and crumpled. So that's how it is, she thought sadly. I couldn't compete with Chiyo's brains... but maybe, if I grew my hair out and wore it in pigtails?...
She half-heartedly reached up, held two handfuls of her own hair, and weakly tugged at them. I'm Chiyo-chan, she thought. I'm a child genius. And I'm so cute... and Miss Sakaki loves cute things... "WHAAH!!"
Meanwhile, the kind-hearted Kagura was also upset by the sight of Sakaki holding Chiyo. "Oh," she said, as tears rapidly formed. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to cause trouble. I was only... WHAAH!!"
Yukari, as usual, was on the case. "Uh, Kagura?... um... er... uh..."
Nyamo turned back to Yomi and Tomo, who were valiantly fighting over the last bite of Yomi's bun. "HEY!!" Nyamo shouted. "Stop that rough-housing, you two!! If you're going to bring food in here, be careful!!"
"Oh, fine," Tomo huffed insolently. She backed away from Yomi (who quickly popped the last bite of her bun in her mouth)— and backed into Chihiro and Rachel, who had just walked into the lounge, and who were also holding their own snacks.
"EEK!!" said Chihiro. "Be careful, Tomo-chan! Are you alright, Rachel?"
"I think so..." Rachel said. "Oh, no! I got some mustard on my blouse."
Mrs. Kimura followed Chihiro and Rachel into the lounge. "Excuse me," she said cheerfully to no one in particular. "Is my husband here?"
Nyamo didn't answer, since the lounge was far too noisy for Mrs. Kimura to hear her from across the room. Given how many girls are in the lounge now, she thought to herself, I am surprised that Mr. Kimura isn't here too.
And then, Nyamo felt a tug at her sleeve. She looked down, and saw that Chiyo had made her way back to Nyamo's desk. "MISS KUROSAWA!?" asked Chiyo. "WHAT DID YOU WANT TO TELL ME!?"
Nyamo leaned down, rested her hands on Chiyo's shoulders, and spoke into her ear. "Never mind that now, Chiyo-chan. Listen to me carefully. It's too late for me, but you can still escape my fate. You can still save yourself. Run, Chiyo-chan. Run far, and run fast. Make a fresh start for yourself, far away from here, and never speak of this sad time in your life again. But... please think of me... and honor my memory, from time to time."
Chiyo nervously looked from side to side. Then she reached up and gave Nyamo a quick hug. And then, she began to back away through the noisy crowd.
"Goodbye, Miss Kurosawa," said Chiyo, as sentimental tears trickled down her cheeks. "I'll never forget you..."