Chapter 2:

Prologue I

I Can Hear Your Thoughts, but it's not like I'm Telling You or Anything!


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Living as the odd one out without anyone knowing there’s an odd one out? Completely and utterly absurd, right?

Usually, the odd one out is someone who stands out for a reason that is considered ’taboo’; heated past arguments, gossips, rumors, and so on.

Am I the odd one out?

Ask my mother; ‘he’s not.’

Ask my little sister; ’he’s not.’

Ask my friends; ‘he’s not.’



‘He is a perfectly normal person.’



That’s how everyone would answer. To top it off, there is nothing —literally nothing— about me that’s making me stand out.

Then why do I consider myself the odd one out?

It may sound a bit weird, but I’m saying it anyway:



I can hear people’s thoughts without them having the slightest clue about it.



What do I mean by that? As people process their thoughts, I get to have them transmitted into my own brain in their own ’voices of reason’ at completely random times. This weird phenomenon involves people within a radius of 3 meters from me.

That, in turn, comes with a major drawback in its logic: I can’t get to hear anything other than that. Instinctual actions like moving a hand to start writing or eating, actions that come about as results of a certain bodily and/or mental need that don’t require thinking are not included in what I get to hear.

Of course, if that phenomenon were to happen every single second, my brain would have been overloaded with useless and trivial information a lot of time ago; and pray tell what would happen to me after that. This is why these transmissions happened, on average, about a couple of times per minute; that means 1 transmission every 30 seconds or so under normal circumstances.

Exceptions always exist, as sometimes I went on for 2 minutes without hearing another person’s thoughts.

As for the length of their thoughts: It’s exactly like a person speaking until they’re out of breath. You may be able to say a few words in one breath or even Hamlet in its entirety, who knows!

Okay, I was obviously exaggerating about Hamlet, but you get the point.

Why did I say ‘under normal circumstances’ then? When my mental condition isn’t stable —being angry or nervous, for instance—, where thoughts prevail over instinct, I get to hear less and less thoughts from other people. (Actually, that’s a bit incorrect; I get to hear them, but my own thoughts overshadow everything else.)

In a reverse manner, when someone else’s mental condition is unstable, I get to hear about double to triple the thoughts transmitted from them. My ability moderates this increase in information by cutting the time information is transmitted by that same amount.

Do you get it now? Do you get the reason why I consider myself the odd one out in this society?

That’s right; it’s because I’m sure I’m the only one in this world with this strange ability.

I haven’t spoken to anyone about it, not even my own family. At the very least, the closest people have been to discovering it was this particular sentence: ’You are really good at reading people.’

Up until the age of 9, I hadn’t realized my ability wasn’t a normal, common function of the average human body. I was using it out of pure instinct. It was at this moment that I understood that no one would believe me if I told them that I can read their thoughts.

Although it stroke me as odd a lot of times that other people didn’t behave the same way I was —since I thought they also had this function—, I never really gave it much thought. Has anyone thought why they are able to walk? Or even speak? Maybe why they move their hands? Perhaps why they sneeze? I doubt it.

If you break down for whatever reason despite your will to not do so, for instance, are you at fault? No, it’s just the body trying to regulate its vital functions.

While you yourself know you need and want to hold back, your body won’t let you, because if it didn’t, your mental condition would have destabilized your physical one, causing one hell of a mess in your body in a ton of ways.

But what happens if you start thinking ‘Why can I actually do that? Is there any way I can prevent or delay this from happening?’ or something like this?

That’s literally how I used to live with this ability up until 6 years ago, constantly trying to figure out how it works.

And alas, my efforts haven’t been in vain!

Now, at age 15, I, Yanagisawa Taichi, a freshman at North High, have come to partly control the number of times I get to hear other people’s thoughts. That doesn’t mean I still don’t hear them at random times like before, it’s just that it happens less frequently, about a thought every 90 seconds to 2 minutes or so, but sometimes it may go up to 5 to 7 minutes.

While I still consider it wrong to barge into other people’s personal issues, it’s not something I can help; it’s not up to me whether this ability will take effect. My will to prevent this from happening has managed to slow it down, and I’m sure it will disappear for good if I try hard enough.

And with this, I’m taking my first step into the 3 years of being a high school student. And my goal to achieve in these 3 years: Get rid of this ability until my graduation.

***

Date: April 10th, 2017

Current time: 7:45 AM

It’s the first day of high school, the entrance ceremony, and no one wants to be late on this particular day.

Actually, it’s the only day no one wants to be late to school. A late introduction is probably bound to give you the role of a loner in these 3 years.

The ceremony starts at 9 AM sharp. Given that it takes 10 minutes to get to the bus stop from my home, 30 more for the bus to get to the nearest stop to the school, another 5 minutes to get there... All these equal 45 minutes just to get to school.

Needless to say that it’s considered rude to arrive just in time —being late is not even a crossing thought in this case—, I have to get there at least 5-10 minutes prior.

So, how much time does this leave me to get myself ready? 20 minutes.

20 FREAKING MINUTES! WHY IS LIFE SO HARSH?!

I just woke up after missing 3 consecutive alarms with a 5 minute difference from each other, so this makes 15 more minutes lost thanks to me lazing my ass off last night. Good job, me!

What I have to do now is to make a run for it and eat as much breakfast as possible in 10 minutes’ time. Then, I have to wear my uniform, fix my unachievable-by-all-laws-of-physics bedhair to be like a normal person’s and take everything I need in another 10 minutes.

This is like asking how to sleep for 8 hours in 4 hours, but I have to give it a shot!

‘’Tai-nii, you up yet?’’ asks my sister, Saki, probably from the kitchen downstairs.

Using the little strength I have from waking up, with a voice that seems to take up as much energy as yelling at the peak of my day, I reply ‘’I am I am… Coming down in a minute…’’

Observation #1: My life just hates me for letting me sleep an extra 15 minutes on such an important day.

I head out of my room and cling to the handrail while getting downstairs, as my vision is still a tad blurry and my mind doesn’t work properly from getting off of bed so suddenly.

My house isn’t anything special, by the way. It’s a relatively small two storey building in a small seaside town in the Shizuoka prefecture called Kawazu, not far away from the capital —which is, of course, Shizuoka.

On the ground floor, there’s a vast room with the kitchen being combined with the living room. A few steps ahead in the hallway, there’s also a guest bathroom to the left and a small storeroom at the end of it, which serves as the attic we unfortunately don’t have. Below the staircase that leads to the only floor and opposite of the bathroom, there is a door to our garage, which is beside the house, on the east side of it.

On the floor, as soon as one gets up the stairs, they will notice 3 doors side by side; these are the 3 bedrooms —from left to right, mine, my sister’s and my parents’—, and to their right, hidden from their view, there is a bathroom, and beside it, a spacious Japanese style showering room. On the opposite side, there is a small veranda facing the vast blue ocean and the beach, which is a few minutes' walk from here.

My room isn’t anything special either; basically, what you’d expect from a teenage boy; posters of favorite personas, a laptop of my own, a couple of gaming consoles and a Full HD TV that I use my consoles on.

Unlike common belief though, not every boy keeps their room untidy and messy; in fact, I’m the hugest clean freak out there! I can’t stand dirty and disorderly places, so my cleaning instincts kick in until everything seems perfectly clean to my eyes.

Wait, what do you mean that’s not normal for a teenage boy?!

We also have a small garden in the front that my parents take care of. I never understood what they did there since gardening is the last thing a clean freak like me wants to dirty his hands with, but it sure helps keep it beautiful!

Back to the present we go then!

Reaching the kitchen, the first thing in my field of vision is a buffet of rich breakfast choices on the kitchen table; eggs with bacon, bowls of cereal, toasts, milk and orange juice —truly a cliché yet fascinating sight!

I wonder who made all this stuff.

‘’Good morning, Tai-nii!’’ my sister greets me with a wide smile.

‘’Yeah… Morning…’’ I say as I sit on the side of the table facing the TV.

Saki gasps comically to my response: ‘’W-Why are you talking like a zombie?!’’

Seems to me that my energy hasn’t been restored just yet.

I should also mention that Saki is a great actress, so her unbelievable and unusual lines become totally believable in a matter of seconds with her tone.

‘’I just woke up, how else could I be?’’

‘’In that case, may I recommend Saki’s brand of homemade coffee? A reaaaaaaaaally strong one, fufufu!’’

‘’As usual, please do. Oh, make it half a cup this time, time’s running out.’’

‘’Wake up earlier then.’’

‘’Well, I’m already awake, you smart kiddo! Gimme a time machine to restore my lost time!’’

‘’Never~~’’ she throws her smug face at me.

‘’You could have waken me up, you know!’’

‘’That’s the point! I. Didn't. Want. To.’’

My little sister can’t be this edgy! Not edgier than me! I refuse to accept this!

‘It’s so fun teasing him, hehe!’

Even my ability hates me right now…!

As I mentioned, this is my little sister, Yanagisawa Saki. She’s 11 years old, 148 centimeters tall, a fifth grader with a slim figure, but still flat as a board.

Her appearance is quite eye-catching; her long and straight brown hair is carefully combed and always held with a hair clip on the right side —a different color every day. Combine that with her slim figure and, in about a couple of years that will help her get a bit taller and endowed, a lot of guys will have eyes for her.

It’s definitely obvious she puts a lot of effort into her appearance, and she seems a bit more mature than kids her age just from it. It actually says a lot about her character and personality, despite her edgy attitude.

If she were able to hear my thoughts like I am able to though, she would have me dead right now for calling her flat...

‘’Aaaaaa~CHOOOO!’’

‘’Don’t sneeze on my coffee!’’

Is this a woman’s intuition or something? How did she know I was talking about her?!

‘’Sorry, I was just acting like I’m supposed to when I’m cold.’’

So much sass from a shortie…!

Talk about a delayed reaction though. Usually, when someone talks about you, you show a ‘symptom’ of some sort right away.

Looks like her woman’s intuition isn’t even a woman’s yet. (Am I sassier than her now?)

‘’Can I please have my coffee without my little sister’s germs?’’

‘’Gah! Siscon spotted!’’

‘’I said ‘without’! I’m 100% sure you did that on purpose!’’

‘’N-Never mind that, how is the food? Yummy?’’ she decides to go off on a tangent with a hopeless and obviously fake chuckle after a couple of seconds of silence.

Who the hell says ‘yummy’ in this day and age?!

‘’Yes yes, yummy and delicious, I’m so proud of my lil’ sister, yay.’’

‘’You don’t mean it, do you…? I mean, you have your poker face on…’’

‘’Me, joke about my sister? No way no way.’’

''By the way...'' she changes the subject, ''I forgot to tell you, Tai-nii, but your phone's alarm was set an hour later, actually.

''WHAT?!'' I bolt upwards on the chair, shocked by her statement.

What do I do what do I do what do I do?!

There goes my high school life...time to start leaving as a loner...

Wait a moment...

Something feels off... Could I really have set all my 3 alarms an hour later?

''Tai-nii,'' Saki calls out amidst my despair: ‘’That was payback for your own lying!’’ Saki winks at me.

‘’You’re not being cute with that!’’

So that’s how you want to play though.

Alright then, let’s help you get a taste of my game.

‘’I’ll get you back!’’ I start tickling her waist.

Saki starts laughing uncontrollably in response: ‘’Tai-nii, s-stop, it tickles!’’

‘’Where’s my coffee, Saki-san? For your information, I’m not letting you go until you spill the beans!’’

‘’N-Next to the coffee machine! I’m dying! My sides!’’

‘’Aye sir!’’

That’s enough tickling for today I guess. Time to go get my coffee

‘’You’ve gotten a bit energetic though, and it’s all thanks to your little adorable sister, right!?’’ her eyes start sparkling like twinkling stars.

‘’I need to last the whole day, not five minutes.’’

‘’Harsh much?’’ is her monotonous reply, contradicting her sparkling attitude a few seconds ago.

‘’I won’t deny that you’re my adorable little sister though,’’ I say as I take a sip off my coffee.

There’s no way she could know I had my fingers crossed the entire time!

‘’Lemme ask you something… Why is your left hand behind your back?’’

Ah, now I’ve spit my precious energy and daily caffeine provider.

I call dibs on her jinxing my day!

‘’N-No reason, it was getting itchy back there you know, like REAL itchy, haha…hahaha…’’

‘’Is that so? And there I thought that you had your fingers crossed when you told me that I’m adorable.’’

IS THIS EVEN A WOMAN’S INTUITION ANYMORE?!

Either she’s a psychic or really good at guesses; time will show which.

Observation #2: Little sisters are weird and unpredictable creatures. You can never know what tricks they're hiding up their sleeve,

‘’Come to think of it, where's Mum and Dad?’’

‘’At the store, they left early today to clean up.’’

I haven’t mentioned anything about my parents yet, have I?

My parents run a small convenience store next to the beach, and the long and short of it is that work keeps calling out to them.

But if they left early, how could breakfast be fresh and still warm?

‘’So that means…you made all of this!?’’

‘’Affirmative!’’

‘’All by yourself? That’s amazing!’’

‘’No no, what are you talking about!’’ she starts fidgeting happily for a while.

She can’t even handle a single praise without bragging about it…

‘’But what are you going to do with the rest? It would be a shame to let it go to waste.’’

‘’Isn’t it obvious? I’m taking it to school to share it with my class!''

‘’Eating like tomorrow’s the end of the world first thing in the year? Why am I not surprised that this is your idea…’’

‘’Oho~, you have something better to suggest? Let me hear it then!’’ her innocent yet terrifying look penetrates my very soul, scaring it to the core.

‘’Sorry, ma’am, I don’t!’’

‘’Figured as much.’’

Figured what now?! Your look didn’t even allow me to voice my opinion!

Saki suddenly turns her head to look at the clock hanging above the TV.

‘’Oh, shouldn’t you be getting ready? It’s already 7:56.’’

GAH!

‘’Okay, what do I have left to do?!’’

‘’First, brushing teeth! Second, your hair! Third, your uniform! Understood, soldier?!’’

‘’Loud and clear, sir!’’

Following this little ‘sketch’, I proceed to get myself ready.

First thing to do, brush my teeth; everyone wants to have a bright, shining smile when talking to strangers after all, let alone when they want to make a good impression —or at least not a bad, appalling one.

Second thing to do, comb and fix my messy bedhair so that it doesn’t look like Goku’s; sure, having an anime hairstyle isn’t a bad thing, but I don’t want to stand out when everyone has normal hair, not to mention that most people would think of me as a weirdo.

Final thing to do, get my fresh and out-of-the-drycleaners school uniform; a pretty and fancy design for a uniform, consisting of a crimson colored jacket with an azure trim, worn over a white shirt with a red tie. We are also allowed to wear a light colored jumper over the shirt if we feel like it.

As for the bottom half, we are only required to wear a pair of dim gray pants.

Going once again downstairs since my uniform and bag were in my room, I’m checking all of my things once again.

‘’Did you get everything? ID, wallet, bag, phone, spare wallet in case you get robbed, dignity—‘’

‘’Okay okay, hold your horses. I have everything that’s necessary, no need to make me nervous that I’ve forgotten something and be late to school. Also, dignity isn’t something I can just leave behind.’’

Saki clicks her tongue in response.

‘’What was that for, Saki-chan?!”

You know, even after being her brother for 11 years straight, there are still times I just can't get her...

‘Jeez, I wish he would pat my head already. I came all the way to the door with him. I even made him breakfast and coffee and he still hasn’t thanked me in any way.’

So that was it? Was she teasing me just to get her head patted as a reward for before?

I really don’t get her sometimes, do I…

Unable to hold myself back, my laughter escapes my once tightly sealed lips, resounding all around the house.

‘’W-What’s so funny?’’

‘’It’s nothing. I just remembered a great joke. And I’m not telling it to you~’’

‘’No, tell me!’’

‘’N-E-V-E-R.’’

‘’Jeez, you always have it your way!’’ she pouts.

‘’That’s not true,’’ I carefully place my palm on top of her head and startle her for a second, softly caressing it and repeating the process a couple of times. ‘’Now you’re having it your way, right?’’

Saki’s expression quickly changes from pouting to cheerful, wearing an authentic and satisfied smile on her face as she closes her eyes to make it even brighter.

The moment I decide to distance my hand from her head, Saki traps it with her own hands with slow and gentle movements, all while leaning her head towards my palm that’s touching her soft —almost cotton level of soft— hair, as if she was napping on my and her hands, saying: ‘’To know what I was waiting for this whole time…you’re definitely my brother!’’

She finally lets go of my hand, her expression momentarily being distressed to be released from this probably assuring and warm feeling.

‘’I’m going then, I don’t wanna be late. Make sure to not be late yourself!’’

‘’I won’t! I’m not losing to you!’’

‘’See you then. Oh, about that joke: Wanna know how to keep an idiot in suspense?’’

‘’How?’’

‘’I’ll tell you later,’’ I close the door behind me.

In the meantime, Saki got the joke after a dozen of seconds, and her screaming ‘’Tai-nii, this isn’t over yet! I’ll get my revenge!’’ is audible all the way to our garden’s corners.

And with that, I’m heading towards my new high school life.

Current time: 8:00 AM

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