Chapter 4:

Chapter 3 - Together Under the Rainy Night

Youth


1
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   The pair descended the stairs, arriving at the ground floor of the School Building. They traverse yet another corridor as they made their way to the entrance. After a minute or so of walking down that dimly lit hallway, accompanied by the noisy sound of rain hitting the ground, they reach the entrance. The sight reminded them of the first time they have met one another just a few hours before.Bookmark here

   "This reminds me of our first meeting earlier this afternoon. You were acting really strange at the time... now that I think about it... you were staring at me like a creep." Alice said giving him a sneer, hugged her shoulders, and gave a disgusted look.Bookmark here

   "N-No, t-that wasn't... I-I'm sorry... but please don't bring that moment up again. I'm begging you..." Yuugo said while wearing a pained look on his face.Bookmark here

   Alice simply sighed, then went to the large bulletin board where the rankings are posted. "I remember seeing your name somewhere here but... I just can't put my finger where, and it's been bugging me for a while now..." She said as she took a close look at the rankings. She leaned her body forward to get a better look. She searched starting with the lowest rank up, she stood there searching for a good minute.Bookmark here

   "I'm at 3rd."Bookmark here

   "This isn't the time for jokes..."Bookmark here

   "No, I'm serious..."Bookmark here

   She glanced at him with a look of disbelief before looking back at the paper, she looked for 3rd and sure enough, Katsuragi Yuugo was written beside it.Bookmark here

    She twisted her head to look back at him with a perplexed expression on her face, Yuugo reacted with shock.Bookmark here

   "Why does it seem like you're in utter disbelief with the results?!" He yelled.Bookmark here

   "I mean you don't exactly look like the smart type of guy." She bluntly blurted out.Bookmark here

   "And why is that exactly?!"
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   "Don't tell me you cheated..."Bookmark here

   "I didn't!!"Bookmark here

   "Maybe the teachers switched up your grades..."Bookmark here

   "Probably not!"Bookmark here

   "Perhaps you're the teacher's pet..." She continued her retorts.Bookmark here

   "Could you stop with the baseless accusations already?!" Yuugo grumbled, visibly frustrated from her accusations as he grinded his teeth and clenched his fists.Bookmark here

   "Heh." She gave a slight smile as she reclined her back to its original straightened position.Bookmark here

   What the hell was that smile all about?! What did she mean by it? Don't tell me... don't tell me she's getting off to this? Is she a sadist?! Yuugo thought in his mind as his fantasies ran wild.Bookmark here

   "Anyway..." She walked towards the entrance. "I have to go now." She added as she puts her backpack down then promptly took her pink folding umbrella out from her bag and opened it. She puts her bag back over her shoulders and proceeded to walk out before suddenly halting.Bookmark here

   "You're not leaving yet?" She asked as she glanced at him.Bookmark here

   At her question, Yuugo began to making sudden and random movements with his body. "Well uh, you see" He looked for the right words to describe his predicament. But to put it bluntly—Bookmark here

   "I... forgot my umbrella." He said while putting a hand to the back of his head and gave a strained laugh. However, this was all a lie, after all, he has an umbrella of his own inside his bag. It was simply a lie conjured up to forge a moment where he and Alice can share an umbrella together, this was his mischievous plan, a payback for everything that she did to him before. He appropriately named it: Operation Sharing An Umbrella With Alice.Bookmark here

   "Hmm, is that so? Then we'll share mine then." She casually said. Yuugo was completely caught off guard. Wait what? Is she serious?! Or is she just messing with me again? He pondered trying to look for an answer, but isn't this what he wanted? So why is he so shocked about it? Why is she suddenly so nice to me? She didn't mean anything by that, right? Right?!Bookmark here

   "Why are you silent again? Jeez, do you always do this? It's quite rude."Bookmark here

   "Huh? Er—" He didn't know what to say. He was ashamed of himself, he hated himself for actually willing to lie to such a kind-hearted girl.  I'm just a liar. We really are completely different... He thought to himself, unknowing that the two of them are more similar than he thinks. They were two sides of the same coin.Bookmark here

   "If you're not going to say anything then I'll just go on ahead." She turned her back to him and proceeded to leave.Bookmark here

   "Huh?! W-Wait! Wait a minute!" He desperately called out to her. He placed his hand on her shoulder to stop her, Alice turned back to look at him. "So now you decide to talk?"Bookmark here

   "What really is your deal? Do you want to or not?" She continued.Bookmark here

   "It's just that... why are you completely willing... to share an umbrella with a person you just met..?" He wondered as gave her that question.Bookmark here

   "Isn't that just common sense? Or am I not the normal one here."Bookmark here

   "I'm pretty sure it's uncommon sense to share an umbrella with someone who's essentially a complete stranger."Bookmark here

   "But you're not a stranger Katsuragi-san."Bookmark here

   "I thought you were weird, but this is something else! Is your standard for friendship that low?"Bookmark here

   "Don't get too ahead of yourself, you're not a friend but you're not a stranger either... maybe somewhere in between..?"Bookmark here

   "Then that makes it even more weird don't you think?!" He continued to argue. But what happened with his mischievous plan exactly? Wasn't this his ideal outcome? So why did he keep arguing? Yuugo seemed to have lost track of his initial objective and started barraging Alice with questions about her overly nice attitude.Bookmark here

   "Jeez! If you're bothered by it so much then don't! It's as simple as that! Enjoy walking home under this rain!" She snapped at him.Bookmark here

   C-Crap, I think I made her mad. Alice wore a tense and rigid face as she clicked her tongue and turned her face away from him then promptly continued to walk away.Bookmark here

   "N-No, wait! I'm not bothered! Wait!" He called out to her and joined her under that single umbrella. Amidst all the confusion, Yuugo had forgotten that he had an umbrella in his bag and ended up sharing Alice's.Bookmark here

   "After everything you just said... you're really unpredictable."Bookmark here

   "I-I'm... I'm sorry... and thanks, for sharing the umbrella with me and all..."Bookmark here

   "Hmph!" She puffed her cheeks and pouted.Bookmark here

   "I'm really sorry... if you want, I'll hold it for you." Yuugo apologized and gave that suggestion.Bookmark here

   Alice remained silent and considered it. Then motioned for Yuugo to take the handle, Yuugo grabbed it and took possession of the umbrella.Bookmark here

   Outside the school building, in that vast yet lonely space only accompanied two people, a single pair, walking side by side. Together, under that rainy sky, as the dark night started to take over. The repetitive sound of the heavy rain hitting the solid ground oppressively blocking out any other.Bookmark here

   Inside the school building, another pair was witnessing that sight, seeing the figures of Yuugo and Alice continue to walk off together in the distance until they started to slowly disappear from view, eventually fading away in the rain. The duo who were watching the pair was Kyousuke and Himiko.Bookmark here

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   "So everything went according to plan in the end, huh?" Himiko said. She placed a hand to her chest and gave a relieving sigh.Bookmark here

   "Thankfully..." Kyousuke responded.Bookmark here

   "Though I got insanely worried for a sec when she started screaming all of a sudden... We... I may have put her in an uncomfortable position back there..."Bookmark here

   "But it worked out in the end right?" Kyousuke carelessly said.Bookmark here

   "It's not that simple Kyou!" She yelled at his insensitive reply. "S-Sorry..." She covered her mouth with her hand.Bookmark here

   "N-No, it's my fault... I'm really sorry Himiko."Bookmark here

   "It's just that... I worried that at that moment, she may have been reminded of that incident..."Bookmark here

   "I...s-sorry..." Kyousuke once again apologized as he shifted his gaze away from her.Bookmark here

   "N-No it's fine, I just lost control there, I should be the one apologizing..."Bookmark here

   "I should really learn to keep my emotions in check huh? Or else it would be embarrassing to you and my friends... Hahahahaha." She reprimanded herself before rubbing the back of her head with her hand, giving a forced laugh.Bookmark here

   "Himiko..." Kyousuke muttered her name in concern as he puts his hand around her shoulder.Bookmark here

   "Haha...ha... K-Kyou? W-What's the matter?"Bookmark here

   "Let's go home too. If we stay any longer you'll be home later than usual."Bookmark here

   "Ah, so that's it... of course that's right... haha... At this rate, I'll get back at 9..."Bookmark here

   "I'll walk you to the station."Bookmark here

   "Thanks..."Bookmark here

   "Ah Himiko... Do you mind if we share mine for today?" Kyousuke suggested.Bookmark here

    "No I don't, but why?"Bookmark here

   "No special reason, since Yuugo and Takahashi-san shared an umbrella together I just thought that we could do the same..."Bookmark here

   "That's it? That's not a problem then!."Bookmark here

   "Y-Yeah, thanks."Bookmark here

   Kyousuke takes out his folding umbrella from his bag. Pressed the button, opening the umbrella, then took his bag and carried it on his back. He momentarily beckoned to Himiko to let him carry hers. "Your bag... Let me." He quietly said,  Himiko gave a short "Oh, thanks." Accepting Kyousuke's thoughtful gesture as she puts down her bag, Kyousuke took it and wore it over his chest. The two then step outside in the rain, their shoes stomped on the small puddles scattered about, soaking their socks. They began to walk towards the front gates, together, hand-in-hand.Bookmark here

   That's not the only reason, in fact, that reason is petty and incomparable to my true wishes. It hurts to lie to her but... I feel like if I keep things the way they are... I will regret it. With each day that passes, it's like we are growing more distant, slowly growing farther and farther apart. To her, this is all just a lie, but that's not the case for me... For me, this is the indisputable truth. The moments we spent together, the memories we shared, and the feelings I have, they are not lies. I know this is selfish and arrogant of me but... I definitely won't let her have her way." Bookmark here

   Kyousuke tensed his face as he made that passionate declaration to himself, making up his mind, he was determined to not let whatever Himiko is planning to do come to pass.
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   Alice and Yuugo were walking down Shibuya's busy evening streets. Despite the heavy rain, the Shibuya Crossing was crowded with people, which for the pair was a blessing in disguise as it helped them remain inconspicuous, to avoid any problematic misunderstandings. If a stranger were to see them together they wouldn't think much of it, however, if students from Samija High School were to spot them together, who knows what kind of rumors may arise.Bookmark here

   Yet, despite that possibility, Alice was calm, was it blissful ignorance? Or did she simply not care? On the other end of the spectrum, however, Yuugo was frantically panicking, unable to properly keep his composure, his whole body was visibly shaking, swaying side to side, in a hunchback posture, it's like he was drunk. He would occasionally trip from time to time but surprisingly maintained his balance.Bookmark here

   When was the last time I walked home with a girl again? Oh, that's right never.Bookmark here

   This is like a massive development in just one day! I've leveled up tenfold. Good job me. Good job.Bookmark here

   Yuugo praised himself for achieving so much in such a short amount of time, truly in his perspective, today was like a dream come true. But the fact of the matter is, what happened today was not by his own efforts, he didn't decide for himself that he wanted to meet Alice nor was anything he actually "achieved" today was because he himself chose to do so, it's like using an EXP Share in Poke**n. The developments were the result of Kyousuke's plan and various other coincidences that went to the pair's favor, or disfavor depending on how you view it. One might say it was the work of fate that brought these two together.Bookmark here

   "Ah I can't take this... calm down Yuugo... calm down..." He said while clutching at his chest.Bookmark here

   Alice was silent throughout their whole walk but she was closely monitoring Yuugo's behavior, and a lot of thoughts arose in her mind.Bookmark here

   This is really uncomfortable, I think I just involved myself with a very troublesome person. She thought as she kept glancing at Yuugo. Yuugo's clumsy movements cause her umbrella that he was holding, to move all over the place, sometimes moving away from her, causing her to get hit by the rain, other times Yuugo would bump into her, needless to say, she found it quite annoying.Bookmark here

   She took out her phone from her pocket and checked the time. 6:47 PM was displayed on the home screen. She gave a long sigh. "It's really late... I don't want to worry them..." She said to herself as she closed her phone and returned it to her pocket.Bookmark here

   "If anyone saw us they would think we're a couple huh..?" Yuugo from out of nowhere blurted out. Alice's eyes widened in shock as she heard those words and focused her gaze on the man to her left, Katsuragi Yuugo. His clumsy movements persisted, as he was talking to himself. Is he actually drunk or what?Bookmark here

   Alice's gaze shifted away from Yuugo to the ground as she lay her head low, her face starting to turn red from embarrassment, apparently, she never thought of that possibility. What did he just say? Couple? She began to break. Come to think of it... I... She began to lose her composure. I haven't walked with a boy alone before... Her brain fried and she stopped moving like she just ran out of battery. She stopped, yet Yuugo kept going, and eventually, she was left behind, under the rain. She was not able to properly process all of this as her mind lay elsewhere, but by the time she rebooted and snapped back. Yuugo was already far ahead of her.Bookmark here

   "H-Huh?! Wait!" She yelled, however, it was busy and it was raining, not to mention Yuugo was living in his own fantasy world so it was natural he couldn't hear it. She ran and caught up to him before violently taking her umbrella away from his grasps. Yuugo returned to his senses and noticed her soaked uniform.Bookmark here

   "T-Takahashi-san? What happened to you?" Yuugo asked. To his question, Alice only gave a sarcastic smile.Bookmark here

   "What happened? Do you want to experience it for yourself?" She responded to his question with her own question.Bookmark here

   "What?" Yuugo could only tilt his head in confusion, he did not expect what happened next.Bookmark here

   "IDIOT!" Alice shouted. She pushed him out of the umbrella and onto the rain.Bookmark here

   "Wait a minute! Wait!" Yuugo desperately tried to return to the comforts of the umbrella to shelter himself, but every time he would, Alice would move the umbrella away.Bookmark here

   Kneeling on the ground was Yuugo's defeated figure. "I'm sorry so please..." He mumbled. His body began to grow cold as the heavy rain hits his body repeatedly, then that sensation slowly faded. He looked up and saw Alice's face, who was crouched. Their faces were so close that they could feel each other's breaths. Yuugo instinctively turned his blushing face away.Bookmark here

   "Now we're even." Alice firmly said, her tone was slightly angry yet it had a certain warmth to it. She stood up and sheltered Yuugo's body with her umbrella, then helped Yuugo stand up.Bookmark here

   "Reflect on what you did and apologize." Alice demanded.Bookmark here

   "Yes... I'm sorry... really sorry..." Yuugo slightly bowed as he was apologizing. Alice pouted and after a 'Hmph' she said, "That's better."Bookmark here

   "Hurry it up, it's almost seven... ha... ha... achoo!" Alice said and covered her mouth with both of her hands and sneezed. it was a cute and adorable sneeze akin to a squeaking mouse.Bookmark here

   "Takahashi-san?! You're gonna get a cold." Yuugo in a panic began to unbutton his uniform, Alice replied with a gesture motioning him to stop.Bookmark here

   "You're uniform's wet too you know?" She said.Bookmark here

   "This is nothing, let's just get to the station quickly..." She added as she pointed up ahead to the Shibuya Station. She rubbed her nose and sneezed again. Yuugo could only manage an "Alright" as a response. The Shibuya Station was really close, only a few meters away so they both ran towards it, eventually arriving they were both panting heavily trying to catch their breath.Bookmark here

   "This is where we part ways now." Alice said.Bookmark here

   "You can wait for the rain to stop or buy an umbrella, but this is as far as I can take you." She added.Bookmark here

   "N-No, this is enough, thank you again... But what about you? Won't you catch a cold with that?" Yuugo replied with concern for her.Bookmark here

   "I uh..." Alice looked for the correct words to say. Yuugo gave an "Ah wait" before searching his bag and took out a paper bag.Bookmark here

   "Here. It's my spare uniform inside. Take it."Bookmark here

   "Huh? B-But..."Bookmark here

   "It's fine just take it, the night's going to be really cold and I don't want anything bad to happen to you... Just think of it as an apology for before." Yuugo insisted.Bookmark here

   "Fine, alright. But how about you?" She asked.Bookmark here

   "I'll be fine, I promise. My body is far tougher than it seems." Yuugo reassured her.Bookmark here

   "If you say so..." She accepted as she took the paper bag.Bookmark here

   "Thank you." She added.Bookmark here

   With that, the pair began to go their separate ways. This day was full of surprises for both of them, and surely neither one of them regretted things went the way they did today. Yuugo called out to her one last time before parting.Bookmark here

   "Takahashi-san! Today was... really f-fun and I had a really good time... So uh... See you... tomorrow!" Yuugo said, slightly embarrassed.Bookmark here

   "Katsuragi-san... tomorrow is a Saturday."Bookmark here

   "It is?! I forgot! B-But you know what I mean right??"Bookmark here

   "Yes. Yes. See you at school next week, Katsuragi-san." She replied and waved her hand at him. Yuugo muttered a "Yeah..." and waved back to her.Bookmark here

   "Well then, goodnight. Takahashi-san"Bookmark here

   "Goodnight to you too, and take care."Bookmark here

   The two began to walk in the opposite direction of each other, their distance from one other growing with each step. Today may have ended but this is simply the beginning, they will surely experience more things together in the future, and in doing so learn more about one another.Bookmark here

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