This story is told from Gene's POV and shows a glimpse of the twins' home and school life. It's especially significant for giving us a deeper understanding of both of their personalities. Turns out Gene was a surprisingly normal kid!
Thanks this time goes to: my mom, for proofreading and helping me figure out some blurry kanji. witchuntress, for giving me the scans in the first place! To thisurlplease/sera131, for looking over the scene in the Religious Studies class (and listening to me gripe about it)! And finally to kagedreams, who first translated and introduced the fandom to this story years ago.
"Gene, are you awake?"
Hearing her voice, he shot upright in bed. He had turned off his alarm clock and been dozing.
After he said that, the door opened and Luella appeared.
"So you were asleep."
"I’m getting up now. What about Noll?"
"Unlike someone, Noll doesn't sleep in."
He hurriedly jumped out of bed and got dressed. There was no need to take off his pajamas. He had been up late the night before, and only took off his clothes before getting into bed.
He pulled over his bag and stuffed textbooks inside. Usually he kept most of his books in his locker at school, but sometimes he needed some. Searching for things from the mess on his desk took time. Rummaging through it carelessly only created more chaos.
Pushing things lying on the floor aside with his foot, he ran out to the hall and downstairs. For Gene, mornings were always quick.
“How do you want your eggs?”
When he came down to the dining room, everyone was already there. Hearing Luella’s question, he rushed into the kitchen. He looked over the prepared food and decided on his order.
“Fried. Over easy.”
While he was at it, he gave her a light good morning kiss.
“Good morning, sleepyhead. Do you feel like cleaning your room a little?”
“I’ll do it on Saturday.”
“Don’t make Noll help you.”
He gave a quick salute, and on the way to his seat, gave Martin and Noll their greetings too. Noll hated it, so this was just him being a bit mean.
Martin was reading a newspaper. He was still in his gown, so his class must be late today.
Seeing this, Gene knocked. His target was Noll’s consciousness. The door— or so Gene called it— opened.
‘What are you going to do today?’
He called, and received a reply. In reality, it was more like scooping up a thought that had surfaced from a more chaotic stream of thoughts, and that becoming his own thought.
‘I’m going to Professor Hinnells’s.’
‘Second period. I need you to take my place.’
‘OK. Did you run out already?’
‘I skipped three weeks in a row, so it’s getting risky.’
Noll was a habitual skipper. He would skip class to sneak into university classes and specialists’ offices. His attendance was always just barely enough. Barely enough with Gene taking his place, so in reality, it was much less.
As he replied, a plate was held out to him.
They called these telepathic conversations ‘chatting.’ When they were little, they were able to hold a conversation even with the Atlantic Ocean between them, but recently, that distance had shrunk a bit, and it was now difficult unless they were within the same country. They were no longer able to forcefully wrench open the door and invade the other’s consciousness either. Their abilities had entered the waning period, but well, that was probably a good thing.
It seemed that only Luella could tell when they were chatting. Apparently, even she didn’t know why. But then, there weren’t many people who even knew about their chatting.
This was because it was something they could only do with each other, so they hadn’t particularly done much experimenting or research on it. As long as the target was the other brother, they could hold any conversation, no matter how complex, but if it was someone other than their brother, they couldn’t guess even one ESP card. It probably had to do with their powerful Twin Channel. That was why Luella told them not to speak of it much. Luella didn’t like the brothers being used as guinea pigs for experiments.
“When the two of you chat, it’s because you’re up to no good.”
As Noll looked away, a plate was placed in front of him too.
“And when Noll looks away, it’s because things aren’t going his way.”
Martin folded his newspaper.
“No skipping. —Especially you, Noll.”
“What do you mean?”
“I got a call from school, saying that Oliver seems to have a weak constitution, and has he seen a doctor yet?”
Gene ducked his head. Noll looked away.
“The teacher’s exaggerating.”
“Oh?” Martin widened his eyes.
“Apparently, there has been an unusual guest in Timothy’s classes lately.”
Timothy Gray was, like Martin, a teacher at Queen’s College, and held classes on physics, and quantum mechanics at that.
“You should be more aware of how much you stand out.”
Noll stubbornly looked away.
Martin smiled wryly. He knew that since they basically never called their parents “Father” or “Mother,” they only spoke that way to passively assert their displeasure.
As Gene chuckled, he came under fire too.
“Gene, you too. Don’t help him.”
“Good grief,” Martin smiled wryly. Ultimately, he was soft on them.
“There’s no need to be in such a hurry. Once you get your GCE (certificate of end of secondary education), you’ll be able to enter university with your head held high, won’t you? I’m sure you’ll be granted permission to enroll, since you have a track record.”
The GCE exam was this winter. Though he probably would have wanted to take it earlier if he could, it seemed that even for Noll, passing A levels in the GCE without upper secondary education was difficult. Moreover, Cambridge required passing A levels in two subjects. As expected, Noll seemed to be studying very hard, and lately he had a text book open wherever he went.
Gene had no intention of hurrying that much. He planned to attend middle school as normal up to the usual year, and he would think of what came after when he got there. Noll was the one who rushed toward his goals, and Gene was the one who lived haphazardly from moment to moment; they really were on opposite ends of the spectrum.
“That doesn’t mean you should overdo it.”
Luella lightly patted Noll’s cheek.
“You were up late last night too, weren’t you?”
“I woke up at 3 and saw your light was on. You have to sleep at least 8 hours, or your body won’t hold out.”
“I’ll be careful.”
Noll didn’t like physical intimacy. It was funny how much it seemed to bother him. If it was someone he could ignore, he would reject them with unparalleled coldness, but when it came to someone he couldn’t ignore, he couldn’t even do that, and would be left bewildered. That’s why they touched him so much. Gene and Madoka liked to play with him like this. Maybe secretly, even his parents did the same.
Apparently, Noll evaluated people by dividing them into “pumpkins” or “not pumpkins.” Depending on whether someone was or wasn’t a pumpkin, there was a blatant difference in personal relations. If someone was a pumpkin, their existence would be completely ignored. In reality, there were even times that he forgot they existed. As soon as he determined them to be a pumpkin, even their face and name would be erased from his memory. Even if they spoke to him, they would receive only the barest minimum of a reply.
For people who weren’t pumpkins, there were two further patterns. Pumpkin people and others. For this too, depending on what someone was, his reactions were markedly different.
‘Pumpkin people’ referred to people who were like pumpkins, but due to some circumstances, could not be ignored like other pumpkins. These people’s faces and names were remembered, and if they spoke to him, would receive a reply (biting sarcasm included), but they were nothing more than that, and when they were no longer in sight, their existence would be forgotten.
‘Others’ referred to teachers or the weak.
‘Teachers’ were people he deemed to be superior to him in certain abilities. People like patrons who provided him with some kind of benefit also fit into this. Particularly, for people who were actually teaching him things, he was a very good student. However, as soon as he deemed there to be no more benefit, they could be demoted to pumpkins, so caution was needed.
‘The weak’ were literally people who were weak, through no fault of their own. Despite appearances, Noll was quite a champion of justice. He was an English gentleman, after all.
Those in the ‘others’ category got a polite response for the time being, and could expect some level of consideration and respect, but would still be forgotten once they were out of his sight.
—However, there was a small fraction of people who couldn’t completely fit into this pattern.
It’s not that he liked them exactly. Noll probably didn’t like anyone. But nevertheless, they were people whose existence he could not ignore, who he could not forget. For these people, most anything could be tolerated. Even if they said something somewhat stupid, he wouldn’t abandon them, and even if they pestered him, he would endure it. Even if he said ‘no’ to something, he could be swayed once pressured, and they could expect his consideration and respect.
The criteria for this was unknown. Even he probably didn’t know why he couldn’t ignore them. That’s why, though it could not be decided what kind of person could enter this category, the way to determine it was easy. If they said something completely stupid, and he didn’t ignore them, they were in. Embracing him was another method. If they embraced him, and weren’t rejected, they were in.
Noll didn’t get attached to people. Gene never saw him be attached to anyone, and never heard him say that he liked anyone either. He didn’t care about anyone either. He didn’t try to actively communicate.
Right after becoming adoptive parents, Luella and Martin nearly threw in the towel, wondering if Noll hated them. So Gene told them. Kiss him, and as long as he didn’t slap them, he didn’t hate them. He was the type of person that, if he didn’t like something, he would firmly state it. He might not be happy, but he didn’t hate it to the point of rejecting them, so while dissatisfied, he would be at their mercy.
Though he never let strangers into his inner circle, once someone did get in, he was weak against them. That was why Gene personally described them as ‘inner.’ There weren’t many who were ‘inner.’ Gene and Luella, Martin, psychologist and psychiatrist Dr. Hinnells, magician and ventriloquist Jean Vianney, laboratory chief Madoka. As for where their colleague Lin fit into, he didn’t tend to say stupid things or seek physical intimacy, so Gene didn’t know.
He could probably find out if he scanned Noll’s consciousness, but unlike when they were little, once they reached a certain age, Noll wouldn’t let him in deep anymore. No matter how much Gene begged, Noll wouldn’t release his consciousness to him, and if he were to do it by force, Noll would probably angrily allow it, but ability-wise, he couldn’t force his way in anymore.
The way Gene categorized people was, in a sense, simple. He either liked or hated them. Basically, as long as he didn’t hate someone, he liked them. He liked people in general. But that didn’t mean he would agree to unreasonable demands like Noll would. There were things he just did not like. So actually, Gene might be the one who was more complicated.
Noll got up from his seat, so he hurriedly drank the rest of his tea.
“Be careful. Don’t skip, Noll.”
Noll frowned slightly.
“If you have time to skip, at least take a nap.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
Noll wore a bit of a wry smile. In the end, his parents really were soft on him.
“—So, what are you going to do?”
When he asked on the way to school, a frank reply came back to him.
“Of course, I’m going to skip.”
Most likely, if Martin had firmly ordered him to stop, he would sigh and stop doing it. But the fact that he wasn’t the type of person to say that could be the reason why he was one of the ‘inner.’
Their school was about a 15 minute walk from home. Maybe it was a school policy, but within the past five years, Gene had never once been in the same class as Noll. Due to various reasons, they deliberately took different classes, so he basically never met Noll during lessons. Gene attended first period like he was supposed to, then rushed into the locker room before second period. There, they would swap clothes. Though at most, they only needed to swap their shirts or jackets. People’s memories were usually vague, so that was enough.
“Then I’ll leave it to you.”
As Noll snuck out of the locker room window and left, Gene waved after him, then took a deep breath. He got the Religious Studies textbook out of Noll’s locker and left the locker room.
On the last page of the textbook, the names of its successive owners were listed. The textbooks were lent out by the school, so they had to return them once finished. At the end of the list was Noll’s name. If he managed to get more than two A’s in the GCE, he would be the most gifted student since the school was founded (there were students who got one). No doubt new students who wanted to follow his example would end up fighting over this textbook.
“The Church is a temple of God where the Holy Spirit dwells. It is also a community bound by the Holy Spirit. Especially important is the understanding of the ‘body of Christ.’ What does this mean? —Anyone?”
Gene knew the answer, but he didn’t raise his hand. The teacher, Hope, looked around the classroom and then shrugged his shoulders.
Not changing his expression was key.
“It means Christ is the head of the Church, and the Church is His body.”
“In other words?”
Gene furrowed his eyebrows a little, pretending to think, but inwardly he was knocking frantically. At their school, classes were strictly divided based on grades. As Noll was among the top students, his classes were likewise difficult.
‘The body of Christ.’
‘To be guided by Christ, and exist connected inseparably to the character of Christ.’
“It means the Church is guided by Christ, and exists connected inseparably to the character of Christ.”
“And where does the Church go?”
“In order to reach the heights of Christ’s virtue, it grows constantly in all respects.”
“Epistle to the Ephesians, 4:11-16.”
“The grapevine is a common parable. Its source?”
“The Gospel According to John, 15:1-11.”
“Christ is the grapevine, and only by abiding in its branches can Christians bear much fruit.”
“And what does it mean to bear much fruit?”
“That by living by Christ’s words, and keeping His commandments of love, they are sheltered in Christ’s love.”
Hope smiled widely.
“I recall you’re taking Religious Studies in the GCE. Perfect, as expected.”
He wanted to make a polite remark, like ‘Thank you,’ but held himself back. Gene was smart too, but he didn’t like studying as much as Noll did. Noll didn’t particularly like studying either, he probably just wanted to hurry and finish his assigned education so he could do the research he liked, but in Gene’s case, there were a lot of things he wanted to do instead of studying. Like going out to eat lunch with girls, or going to movies or concerts.
He was especially weak in Religious Studies. Associating with ghosts as much as he did, he couldn’t help but think, ‘Who cares about Christ?’ At the very least, he knew for a fact that there was no Heaven or Hell. That’s why he just couldn’t get interested, and if he wasn’t interested, he couldn’t learn. He wasn’t good at cramming knowledge for its own sake like Noll did. Their family wasn’t religious either. Generally, British people only went to church for weddings or funerals.
When the lesson ended and he left the classroom, a student called out to him, but he wasn’t allowed to answer. Students were generally pumpkins.
After second period, there was a slightly long recess. He went to the cafeteria, and as he waited there, a classmate called to him. He deliberately ignored this too. After waiting a short while, Noll appeared. Gene felt a bit relieved. Sometimes he wasn’t able to come back on time, and then Gene would have to continue taking his place until he returned. ‘Pretending to be Noll’ for long periods of time was stressful.
Noll nodded. Grateful that he’d returned, Gene served him tea from the counter.
“Mr. Hope said you were perfect.”
‘Well, just as you’d expect,’ Gene thought, but limited himself to just a wry smile.
“How was Dr. Hinnells?”
“It wasn’t a class, was it? His class is during third period on Fridays.”
As he responded, a voice called out.
He turned around, and was startled to see Mr. Hope himself. They hadn’t changed clothes yet, so he couldn’t allow any expression to show.
“May I have a moment?”
This was aimed at Gene— who Hope thought was Noll— so he merely nodded with a blank expression on his face.
“How are your exam studies?”
“You seem to be studying well. From what I saw, you’ll surely pass Religious Studies.”
He replied bluntly. Then Hope looked to Noll— who Hope thought was Gene.
“I take it Religious Studies isn’t your forte, Gene?”
Noll smiled cheerfully. He could do it if he wanted to.
“You don’t seem to like it?”
“It’s just not my strong point. Reading the Bible makes me sleepy.”
Seeing that smile made Gene want to hold his head, though he didn’t show it. Did he always wear such a stupid-looking smile? He’d have to check later.
“Gene, you’re not taking the GCE?”
“Oh, no way.”
“Then, second semester?”
“I’ll be right here.”
“It seems a waste, since you’re twins.”
“I just can’t get into studying like Noll.”
“But it’s not without its worth? You’re welcome to join my class next year.”
Now this really threw him. He’d have to watch how he laughed from now on.
“Well then, Noll. Do your best.”
He watched the teacher leave in silence, then Gene looked at the person before him, still dumbfounded.
“Do I really laugh like that?”
“You do. Especially recently.”
The person before him looked dejected too.
“I don’t think you have a reason to look sulky, Noll?”
“Imitating you makes me feel like I’ve gone stupid too. I feel pathetic.”
“......I’m not taking your place anymore.”
Noll smiled. It was his usual cynical smile, and Gene couldn’t help but think that this smile looked way better on their face.
“How about I tell Luella that you’ve been going out at night?”
‘......So he found out after all,’ Gene thought to himself. Recently he had been sneaking out at night with friends to practice driving a car. If Luella and Martin were to find out, he would be scolded for sure. He had promised them that he wouldn’t try driving until he had finished his compulsory education.
Noll tossed over his jacket, so Gene tossed his jacket back too.
“What about next class?”
“I have enough absences left for next class, so I’m going to skip and get some sleep.”
“So you’re going to do what Martin told you.”
“It’s getting tough.”
‘He just can’t admit it,’ Gene thought, while pulling on his jacket.
“In that case, here’s a good luck charm. —Goodnight.”
He quickly kissed him on the cheek. ‘Serves you right, you froze.’
“Well then, I’ve got class.”
He couldn’t just let Noll have one up on him. And of course, the one who had a weakness was always going to be weaker.
Noll sighed, looking indignant. But as long as he couldn’t yell, the match was already decided.