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ToKyotchi Chapter 30

Lorenzo Needs a Friend

As Che and Tyson weaved their way through the crowd of students, he couldn’t help but notice the pang of envy growing inside of him. He tried to ignore it, but the idea of having to be around so many families for the next few days made him uneasy.

He kept his head down and followed Tyson, hoping that he would be able to escape the prying eyes of the other students. He took a deep breath just as he reached a spot where the crowd had thinned considerably. He was just about to relax his shoulders when harsh whispers caught his ears.

“I can’t believe you’re still acting like this.”

Che turned to see Lorenzo standing before a man and a woman, who both wore nearly identical looks of disapproval. The man’s expression, in particular, gave Che the impression that he was disgusted by Lorenzo’s presence.

Unlike most of the parents Che had seen so far, this man wore a sharp, charcoal business suit. His eyes were a light brown, their intensity magnified by the midday sun, while his short, jet-black hair was perfectly coifed. He reminded Che of the sleek, suave executives he’d see at high-profile charity events.

The woman wore a form-fitting, strapless blue dress that looked to be made of the highest-quality fabric Che had ever seen. Her eyes were dark, though much less threatening than the man’s, while her brown hair cascaded down her shoulders in perfect curls. It was clear they were Lorenzo’s parents.

“We send you to this school to make a man out of you, not whatever this is!” Lorenzo’s father waved his hands around his son. “Your brother would have never behaved this way! He always made us proud!”

“You have no friends, and what about your classes?” his mother asked, her voice a gentle but stern reminder of the expectations that had been placed on him. “You begged us not to send you here for military training, and this is the thanks we get?”

“I don’t mean to upset either of you,” Che couldn’t see Lorenzo’s face, but the mercurial teen’s posture was riddled with shame. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to embarrass you.”

“All the other parents here must wonder what we’re doing wrong!” his father’s voice was gruff. “Why do you still carry yourself this way, this preening and sashaying around?”

“This is just who I am,” Lorenzo’s voice was low, and he sounded defeated. This definitely wasn’t the first time he’d had this conversation with them.

Che cast a glance at Tyson and could see that he was struggling not to laugh. Che sighed, shaking his head. It wasn’t as if he didn’t expect Tyson to not have any sympathy for Lorenzo, but it still felt wrong to laugh at someone else’s humiliation. Che felt awkward and embarrassed for Lorenzo, but he couldn’t help but wonder if he should intervene.

“Oh, there they are! Come on, Rowan!”

Che felt himself being pulled away from the scene by Tyson as they made their way toward another couple. The woman had sandy blonde hair, was short and plump, and reminded Che of a kindly southern housewife. Her green eyes were mostly obscured by a pair of cat-eye-shaped sunglasses.

The man was tall and broad-shouldered, with close-cropped sandy hair that matched the woman’s. His blue eyes, like the rest of his face, seemed weathered and worn, as if he’d seen more than his fair share of life but was still content with being alive. They were both smiling, their arms filled with bags of school supplies.

“Oh look, Mart, here they are!” Tyson’s mom called out, her voice filled with relief. “We were worried we wouldn’t find you in this crowd!”

“Yeah, wasn’t expecting all that commotion with the king and queen over there,” Tyson’s dad gestured toward the royal family, who had started off toward one of the maglev cabs.

“Hey, Mom and Dad!” Tyson ran over to them, embracing them both with a hug. “Glad you guys are here!”

He took the bag of school supplies from them, slinging them over his shoulder, and Che couldn’t help but feel another twinge of envy at the obvious love between Tyson and his family. Tyson’s mom regarded Che for a moment before a smile spread across her face.

“Who is your friend here?” she asked.

“This is Rowan,” Tyson said, introducing them. “He’s my roommate! And we have a ton of classes together. He’s a Brawl type and really smart!”

Che shrugged, feeling a little put on the spot by Tyson’s praise. He extended his hand, shaking both of Tyson’s parent’s hands firmly. “It’s nice to meet you both.”

“Oh, Ty, you’ve already made a friend!” Tyson’s mom squealed, her eyes crinkling in amusement as she studied Che. “That’s wonderful!”

“Nice to meet you, Rowan,” Mart nodded his head. “I’m Mart, and this is my wife, Sharon. I hope Tyson’s not driving you crazy already.”

“Dad!” Tyson groaned, while his mother giggled.

Che chuckled but shook his head. “He’s been a big help since I got here. Couldn’t make it to class on time without him.”

“Oh that’s right!” Sharon cupped her mouth, concern spreading across her face. “Ty, did you tell him about…”

“He knows, Mom…” Tyson scratched the back of his head.

“About what?” Che’s eyes darted between everyone.

“Dude, you know…” Tyson whispered. “The not waking me up thing.”

Che blinked as he recalled their battle against Reagan and Vista. Given all the action he’d been a part of this week, it was hard to keep track at this point.

“Oh that?” Che shrugged it off. “Yeah, that’s not a big deal at all.”

Tyson sighed, seemingly relieved that Che wasn’t going to make things awkward. His mom and dad beamed, obviously pleased that Tyson hadn’t wreaked havoc with his admittedly convenient Mark.

“His older brothers are to blame,” his mother shook her head. “Ty’s always been a sleepwalker ever since he was little. His brothers would always play pranks on him, so he learned to fight in his sleep. Then, one weekend, he stayed up all night reading Alistar comics until he fell asleep. His oldest brother, Todd, pretended he was the bad guy, Rein, and tried to scare him. But Ty shot a beam of light right out of his mouth! Completely wiped out Todd’s bedroom!”

“From then on, they were all too scared to wake him up,” Tyson’s father added, shaking his head in amusement. “Serves them all right, I say, but Ty never sleeps in anyway. He’s always been an early riser.”

Che couldn’t help but laugh at the story, even though it sounded like Tyson had a lot to contend with dealing with six older brothers.

“Do you really have to tell him that story?” Tyson slumped his shoulders as a slight flush spread across his cheeks.

Che grinned at Tyson. “It’s okay, Tyson. I had to know how you got so good at getting up in the morning!”

Tyson’s parents laughed, and they all began walking back toward the dormitories. Che glanced over at Lorenzo, and he noticed he was alone now, his parents nowhere to be seen. The crowd was beginning to disperse, but Lorenzo still stood there, his expression unreadable.

Che stopped while Tyson and his parents continued. He couldn’t help but feel a deep sympathy for Lorenzo. What was his parents problem? Sure, he was a bit odd sometimes, but Che knew the situation was more complicated than it seemed.

His mind barely registered that he’d started walking in Lorenzo’s direction. The brooding teen noticed him and started to walk away, his steps measured and determined.

Che jogged after him, calling out to him. “Hey! Wait!”

Lorenzo stopped but didn’t turn around. He stood there for a few seconds before finally turning his head to look at Che. His gaze then shifted, moving past Che and towards the crowd behind him.

“Rowan, you coming?” Che turned to see Tyson and his parents watching him expectantly.

He glanced back at Lorenzo, feeling torn, before finally making his decision. “I’ll catch up with you all later!”

Tyson’s face drooped with disappointment. “Alright man! Come find us in a bit! We’re all meeting at the tower! I think the headmaster’s going to give a speech!”

Che waved to them as they continued walking before returning his attention to Lorenzo. He didn’t quite know what he wanted to say, but he didn’t think it was right to leave him alone at the moment. He felt his heart sink as he saw the sadness in Lorenzo’s eyes. He took a few steps forward and stopped, his eyes searching Lorenzo’s.

“Um…” Che began, not sure what else to say.

“You really don’t have to stick around,” Lorenzo replied softly.

Che shook his head, taking a few more steps forward. “Maybe not.”

He paused for a moment, before finally speaking again. “And you don’t have to be alone either, I think.”

“You think?” Lorenzo smirked sadly.

Che smiled gently, nodding his head in response. “Yeah, I think.”

Lorenzo chuckled softly before turning to face the gates. “You heard all of that earlier, didn’t you?”

Che nodded. “Yeah, I did.”

The two of them stood in silence for a few moments before Che finally spoke up again. “Hey, um…you know you don’t have to be like them, right?”

Lorenzo huffed but didn’t say anything, while Che grabbed his arm, fidgeting as the awkwardness set in.

“You’re right,” Lorenzo finally replied. “I couldn’t be like them even if I wanted to. That’s just the way things are, I guess.”

“Hey, don’t…” Che sighed, looking away. He took a deep breath and turned back to Lorenzo, his voice resolute. “You can be anything you want to be. Forget about what your parents want and live for yourself.”

Lorenzo looked at him for a few moments before heaving a deep sigh. “You don’t have to get all guidance counselor on me. I know that. Unfortunately, I always seem to end up being the bad guy no matter what.”

Che couldn’t deny he thought Lorenzo was pretty strange when they first met. Between his Mark and his flamboyant personality, Lorenzo had a way of standing out. Still, just like everyone else, he wasn’t just a caricature. He was an individual with dreams and insecurities, all of which he was trying to deal with.

Che smiled slightly, shaking his head. “You’re not a bad guy.”

Lorenzo chuckled, this time louder than before. “Oh, Rowan, just wait.”

Che rolled his eyes. “Okay, I see you’re going to continue being moody and mysterious, but I have an idea.”

Lorenzo looked up, his brow furrowed in confusion.

“My parents aren’t coming either,” Che shrugged, “so I’m thinking of rounding up others just like us. What do you think?”

Lorenzo regarded Che for a moment before nodding. “Seems like you’ve already made up your mind.”

Che nodded. “Yup, so let’s go! We gotta stop by the girls’ dormitory first.”

“Fine,” Lorenzo sighed, finally cracking a smile. “Let’s do this, Rowan.”

Satisfied with Lorenzo’s participation, Che turned and started walking towards the girls’ dormitory. Lorenzo followed suit, though he remained quiet and introspective as they walked. Che wanted to reassure him some more, but he thought it was best to allow Lorenzo to have the space to figure out what to do next on his own.

Besides, maybe if Lorenzo was around other people who accepted him for who he was, it would help him feel better about himself. With that in mind, Che sped up his pace, ready to start his mission of bringing together a ragtag team of students from Legaros Academy.

Not everyone had a family they could be with today, but he was determined to make sure Lorenzo and the others didn’t spend the entire weekend alone. One way or another, they were all going to feel like they belonged here, even if he wasn’t sure why he wanted that so badly.