Chapter 1:

降雨 Rainfall

Head Games with Hyouka

A frog in the well knows nothing of the sea. Bookmark here

Surrounded by cool grey skies and dark clouds, a small red car drove through a suburban residential area in Aichi Prefecture’s capital. Amidst carry-on bags, a girl quietly reclined in the vehicle’s backseat, listening to falling rain and the sloshing of tires on wet asphalt, eyes shut and mind wandering. Bookmark here

To spend an extended amount of time away from home was a rarity- she had been born and raised in Kyoto, only departing from the city for holidays and the occasional family event. In fact, her longest visit with her grandmother had lasted a mere month two summers ago. Bookmark here

However, it seemed she’d now be able to make up for lost time. Bookmark here

Turning down a street, the crimson vehicle gradually slowed to a stop. Her heavy eyelids fluttered open. Bookmark here

The house looked as Hyouka remembered it to be- large, with traditional Japanese architecture, surrounded by lush greenery. It stood two stories tall, with rustic, dark wood paneling, shoji doors along the front porch, and a grey shingled roof. A small koi pond decorated the yard, complete with a simple wooden bridge arching over it. The home was a serene sight, despite the rain. In a storm of cold water, it was a beacon of warmth. Bookmark here

“Hyouka!” She heard her father call her name, opening the car door. Bookmark here

“Hm?” The girl snapped out of it, turning away from the window. Bookmark here

“Make sure you grab what you can now, since we're gonna have to bring the rest in later!” Bookmark here

Her mother reached into the backseat to retrieve her purse, before stepping out into the rain and following her husband, who rang the doorbell. A chime echoed amidst the wind. Bookmark here

Undoing her seatbelt, Hyouka grabbed the bags next to her in the cabin, scooting out of the car as cool air brushed against her face. Lowering her head to shield it from the icy droplets, she hurried to join her parents at the house’s entrance. Bookmark here

The front door then swung open, allowing heated air to waft out. Bookmark here

“Oh, you’re finally here! I was just starting dinner! Welcome, do come in!” Bookmark here

Hyouka’s grandmother moved to the side of the doorway, beckoning them in with a welcoming smile. The girl was all too happy to oblige as she entered the genkan, setting down her heavy luggage before removing her wet shoes. She had only just straightened up, when the elder woman captured her in an embrace. Bookmark here

“It’s so nice to see you again, darling Hyouka!” She pulled back, beaming down at her. Dressed in a burgundy yukata, she too was petite, with small round spectacles perched upon the bridge of her nose. Her long white hair was pinned back into a sleek bun, and she bore the same soft ruby eyes as her granddaughter. Bookmark here

“Hello, Grandmother.” Hyouka greeted softly, a rare smile playing on her lips. Bookmark here

“Why, have you grown any taller since I last saw you?" She lifted a hand to compare their heights. Bookmark here

“Not a single millimeter.” Bookmark here

“Mother!” Hyouka’s father interrupted as he kicked off his shoes, suddenly crushing the woman in a bear hug. Bookmark here

“Keisuke! Be more gentle or you’ll break her!” His wife scolded, arching a brow. Bookmark here

“Now, now, I’m not a fragile old lady.” Grandmother chuckled, patting her son’s arms as he soon released her. ”Let’s get you all situated for the time being. Where are the rest of your belongings?” Bookmark here

“In the car. We’ll bring them in when the rain lightens up.” Bookmark here

“Ah, I see.” She mused. “Well, feel free to get settled into your bedroom then, dear Hyouka. If you need anything at all, don’t hesitate to ask!”” Bookmark here

“I will, thank you.” The girl bowed and reached down to pick up her luggage once more, leaving her family members to converse amongst themselves as she began to make the slow climb upstairs. Weighed down by her bags, she just barely managed to steady herself as she ascended to the second story. Bookmark here

Moving down the hallway, Hyouka opened a door, revealing the bedroom she always stayed in while visiting her grandmother. Bookmark here

It was rather simple, pale pink and white curtains adorning the windows, with a matching duvet that covered the queen-sized bed. A floral rug decorated the wooden floor, and the white furniture was freshly dusted. Excluding the addition of a small desk, complete with a lamp, it looked just how she remembered. Bookmark here

Hyouka let out a soft sigh as she set down her luggage, massaging her now-aching forearms while surveying her surroundings once more. Traditional style paintings hung on the wall, matching the small bonsai tree atop her dresser. Bookmark here

Something folded next to the plant caught the girl’s eye, prompting her to get a closer look. It was a school uniform, consisting of a white-collared blouse, pleated black skirt, red ribbon tie, and a dark grey cardigan- a slight contrast to the blazer and plaid skirt she wore at her former institution. Bookmark here

Hyouka glanced up at her reflection in the mirror, where striking red eyes stared back at her. One could describe her as doll-like; a beautiful, yet alien-looking albino doll. Bookmark here

She was shockingly pale, with rosy lips and cheeks that brought a semblance of color to her small face. Unlike her dark-haired parents, hers was startlingly white, falling to her waist, and her stature was noticeably smaller than theirs. When her grandfather was still alive, he remarked that she was the spitting image of her grandmother back in the day. Even now, they had the same crimson eyes. Bookmark here

She glanced back at her luggage, contemplating if she should get a head start on unpacking it- after all, she would begin school in just two days, which would deprive her of free time. Bookmark here

Reaching into her pocket to check the time, she found her phone missing. Even after checking over the room, it was nowhere to be found. Bookmark here

Sighing softly, she decided to see if she had maybe dropped it in the genkan- if not, then it was most likely in the car. Bookmark here

Hyouka left the bedroom, quietly walking downstairs to have a look around. However, her parents’ voices rung out from the kitchen, seemingly mid-conversation. Bookmark here

“-bound to be difficult.” Her mother spoke, seated at the kitchen table. "I really do pray that she won’t get involved in any trouble at her new school.” Bookmark here

The girl paused, sitting down on the wooden steps to eavesdrop. If they were to become aware of her presence, she was sure that their current discussion would unceremoniously end. Bookmark here

“I doubt we’ll have to worry about that.” Her father countered. “Everything’s been pretty much fine since she graduated from junior high- she's in twelfth grade now!” Bookmark here

“Keisuke, we’re in Nagoya- a completely new city, and a major one at that! Not only is she transferring a month into the semester, but it’s obvious that she doesn’t fit in with her peers.” Bookmark here

“Maybe so, but Hyouka-chan is cute, polite, and very clever- I'm sure the others will appreciate that. Don’t you think you might be exaggerating a little?” Bookmark here

“Do you not remember the incident?” Her mother’s tone darkened, a coldness lacing her words that plunged the house into tense silence. Bookmark here

Hyouka held her breath, her shoulders rigid. Bookmark here

“Please, let’s not imagine the worst-case scenario repeating itself, Mizuki.” Grandmother’s calm voice shattered the strained atmosphere. “Your daughter is strong. Have faith that her next few months will be just fine.” Bookmark here

The woman let out a sigh, but didn’t argue further. Bookmark here

“Very well.” Bookmark here

With that, Grandmother resumed cooking dinner. There was the sound of chairs being pulled out, followed by soft footsteps that gradually grew louder. Bookmark here

“It looks like the rain has let up some.” Her father mused, stepping down into the genkan. “Why don’t we bring in the rest of our things?” Bookmark here

“We might as well. Hyouka-chan would probably like to start unpacking.” Her mother replied, pulling her jacket on. Bookmark here

Not wanting to be spotted, Hyouka silently crept back upstairs, shutting the door with a soft click. Bookmark here

Hopefully, her stay in Nagoya would remain uneventful. Bookmark here

------ Bookmark here

Hyouka’s first day at Inukami High School started out deceptively well. Bookmark here

She had roused from bed on time, eating a breakfast and packing a bento lovingly prepared by Grandmother, and her parents had wished her luck when she left the house that Monday morning. Bookmark here

Under her uniform, the sheer tights she wore did little to shield her legs from the chilly May weather, but she found it somewhat refreshing. At least it provided a distraction from the nervous thoughts that threatened to resurface. Bookmark here

But there was no reason to be anxious- this was merely a temporary arrangement. Bookmark here

Taking a deep breath and inhaling the crisp air, she entered the large white building, searching for the faculty room. Bookmark here

As if her atypical appearance didn’t attract enough attention, being escorted to her classroom by a teacher certainly did. As the door slid open and she walked in, all heads turned towards her. Bookmark here

Hyouka stood at the front of the classroom with the composure of an empress, her head held high and face inexpressive. Unfamiliar, curious eyes bore into her, studying the girl's perplexing appearance as they turned to converse with one another. Whispers and murmurs filled the air, blending with a few discernable remarks. Bookmark here

“Is her hair dyed? No way that’s her natural color.” Bookmark here

“Maybe she’s wearing a wig.” Bookmark here

“And contacts too- they look red.” Bookmark here

“That’s kinda creepy...” Bookmark here

“Oh damn, she’s glaring at you dude!” Bookmark here

Hyouka coldly looked towards the offending male classmate, with an iciness practically sharp enough to penetrate his soul. She swore she saw him shudder as he instantly averted his gaze.Bookmark here

The homeroom teacher, Nikaido, didn’t seem to be aware of the hushed gossip, too preoccupied with organizing his papers to formally introduce the newcomer just yet. However, the comments concerning her appearance weren’t entirely negative. Bookmark here

“Wow, she’s so tiny. It’s kinda cute!” Bookmark here

“Doesn’t she remind you of a porcelain doll?” Bookmark here

“Yeah, she’s actually pretty cute when you look at her again.” Bookmark here

Nikaido finally managed to get the papers in order, leaving the stack on his desk and joining her at the board. He smoothed out his shirt, offering her a polite smile before clearing his throat. Bookmark here

“Everyone!” Bookmark here

The room quieted down considerably. Bookmark here

“As of today, we have a new student joining Class 3-3!” He gestured to the small white-haired girl, who stood there calmly, turning to write her name on the board. Bookmark here

森川 氷華 Bookmark here

“I’m Hyouka Morikawa. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I hope that we can get along.” Bookmark here

A black-haired boy, who had presumably been sleeping at his desk, jerked straight up in his seat. His pupils erratically darted around, before locking onto her form. Bookmark here

He instantly froze, his jaw dropping. Bookmark here

Hyouka’s stoic expression faltered momentarily, lips parting in shock, but she was quick to regain her icy composure, face hardening once more. Bookmark here

The boy, however, did nothing to hide his gaping. For a moment, his mouth hung open stupidly, before snapping shut again, teeth clenched together in a grimace. Bookmark here

The two continued to stare at each other across the classroom with unwavering intensity. His angular eyes were dreadfully familiar- too familiar. Though they were large, there was a sharpness to them. A piercing light brown, his shrunken irises appeared almost gold, like those of a fox. Bookmark here

“Tanihara-kun, would you not be so rude and gawk at Morikawa-san?” Nikaido called out. Bookmark here

“Sorry...” He muttered, resting his chin on his hand and turning towards the window. Bookmark here

“Apologies, Morikawa-san.” The teacher offered a contrite smile. ”Ah, your desk...” Bookmark here

He paused momentarily to scan the room, before pointing to what seemed to be the only vacant seat. It stood two rows from the window aisle, one ahead of Tanihara's. Bookmark here

”You can sit there." Bookmark here

Her heart sank to her stomach, a wave of deja vu washing over her. Bookmark here

“...Thank you, sir.” Hyouka said quietly, bowing before walking away, ignoring the curious glances and whispers of her classmates. Bookmark here

“What do you think that was all about?” Bookmark here

“Do they know each other or something?” Bookmark here

As she approached her new desk, the boy with sanpaku eyes continued to stare pointedly out the window, as if stubbornly refusing to look her direction again. Bookmark here

That was fine with her. Bookmark here

She sat down in her chair, poised and refined, crimson eyes facing forward. However, as she began to unpack her pencil case and notebook, her heart pounded in her chest almost painfully, loudly reverberating in her eardrums and drowning out the sounds of everything else around her. Bookmark here

Hyouka was in disbelief, stunned. This had to have been an elaborate daydream- or rather, an elaborate nightmare. Once junior high ended, she had been certain that he was forever removed from her life, his likeness only alive in her memories, but behind the girl, his presence mocked her. Bookmark here

She and Yuji Tanihara were united once more- an unlikely coincidence- just as they had been all those years ago. Bookmark here

After all, what were the odds that she’d end up in the same class as her former tormentor?Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.