Chapter 3:

Prologue II

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


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Without further ado, please dive right in!


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It would have been a great decision to go by bike to school since I wouldn’t have to wait for the bus or worry about being late.


Except that I can't; it's in the next town over, and the roads to get to it weren't really designed for bicycles.


The town’s main street though, which goes through the entirety of it from beside the ocean, stretching from the one side of the town to the other, is a truly rejuvenating place to pass by, be it by car, bus, bike or on foot.


The stop of the bus I’m taking is on this street, and judging by the time —8:09 AM as of now-, the bus should be here any minute.


Japan’s ideology does not have room for delays after all. In the rare case of a public means of transportation facing delay, in trains, for instance, train conductors make an announcement apologizing to every single one of the passengers, later giving a ‘delay certificate’ to everyone, which is aimed at students and employees to show to their employer or school —or wherever they are heading to— to excuse and forgive their tardiness, which would otherwise be considered a misuse of preparatory time.


A moving vehicle enters my field of vision, presumably the bus.


As it gets in front of the stop, the doors open to allow me —the only person that was waiting at the stop— to get on it.


After showing my student ID to the bus driver to skip paying the fare and exchanging greetings —as this is the natural thing to do—, I choose my seat in the back, just in front of the galley.


The bus is actually almost devoid of life. It’s just me, the driver and no one else.


Honestly, it’s pretty awkward being alone in a public means of transportation. I mean, it’s public, for Pete’s sake!


Well, it is what it is. Some things are to be accepted as they are.


Like that I’m the only passenger on a bus…


I honestly hope that I’m wrong!


‘’No way! You’re going to North High too!?’’


This strange, excited and boisterous female voice startles me as a person pops up from behind me, interrupting my thoughts of solitude and loneliness.


Turning around, my eyes stumble upon a beautiful adolescent girl wearing North High’s girls’ uniform.


Apart from the unforgettable intro of hers, what is also unforgettable about her is the ahoge on her head, standing up like an antenna.


On top of that, what is truly emphasized by the azure colored uniform —kind of, at least— is her sapphire eyes. Not just any shade of blue, but sapphire; a darker, much more eye-catching shade of blue contradicting the serenity of her azure uniform.


It would be no exaggeration to call her by any means a natural beauty.


Where did she come from though? Was she taking up some extra seats to rest? Was she hiding from me? Or were my eyes playing games with me?


Guess I have to rule out that last one, it’s probably already been more than half an hour since I woke up, which is how much time it takes on average for my vision to become completely steady.


‘Phew, that was close! Imagine if he were to see me sleeping on the seats!’


Just what the hell am I witnessing- no, what am I being forced to listen to right now…?


‘’Hey, Earth to you! What’s wrong? I asked if you’re also going to North High.’’


‘’Y-Yeah, I am.’’ is the reply that comes out more naturally than not. ‘’You too?’’


‘’Yep!’’ she flashes a wide smile at me.


Let me elaborate a bit on the females’ uniform of North High: The upper half is almost identical to the boys’ one, except that the crimson and azure parts are inverted. Aside from the freedom of choosing whether to wear a jumper or not, girls can also choose between a crimson colored ribbon and a tie; she, in particular, chose a ribbon.


As for the bottom half, the skirt is of thigh length and azure color, completed with black knee-high socks.


‘’Say, have we…met before?’’ the mysteriously cheerful girl asks.


‘’I-I don’t think we have, sorry…’’


‘’Well, who cares, we just met now!’’


Well excuse me, but I do care!


At least to some degree, I guess….


‘’I’m Karasuma Yumeha, a freshman! Nice to meet you…um…‘’


Why is she in such deep thought?!


‘Man, why isn’t he telling me his name already?! Don’t stand there like Eru-nee would! I need to keep the conversation and my debut going!’


So it’s all just to create a good impression…?


How bizarre can this first day get…


‘’My name, right? I’m Yanagisawa Taichi, also a freshman. It’s my pleasure, Karasuma-san.’’


‘’No no no, that won’t do, Yana-whatever-you’re-called-kun!’’


‘’YanaGI-SA-WA!’’ I scold her.


‘’Who are you, my mum?’’ she makes a comically appalled face.


So I’m the straight man in this and she is the funny one… Great…


‘’Ya-na-gi-sa-wa, right?’’


‘’Yeah, kinda like that…’’


‘’Yep, I still can’t say it!’’


OH FOR GOD’S SAKE!


‘’Taichi-san—‘’


2 minutes into this and we already got into a first name basis?!


‘’—I’d prefer you called me Yumeha.’’


WHAT KIND OF A RELATIONSHIP DO YOU THINK WE HAVE?!


Honestly, I never imagined that a girl asking you to call her by name would be this flustering… My heart has started beating a lot faster and I can’t get it to stop…


‘’Not that I mind how we call each other, but why?’’


‘’My sister is a senior this year, so it would be better to call her Karasuma since she’s a senpai. We could end up in the same class, so there’s no need for such formality!’’


‘’Well, you do have a point there…’’


Come to think of it, she did mention in one of her thoughts that she had an older sister, and now I’ve confirmed she’s a senior in North High too.


Being a senior and all, it must mean she is going to be in the ceremony too.


But where is she? Shouldn’t she be here with her own sister?


‘’You did say she’s in North High, but why isn’t she with you?’’


‘’Oh, she went to school an hour earlier to help with the preparations for the ceremony and stuff.’’


Such meticulousness for a mere 30 minute event… I’m honestly a bit awestruck that they would go this far as to make it perfect by working up until the final moments.


What’s more interesting than their meticulousness is her somewhat distressed look.


As if something was snatched away from her and she could have prevented it; that kind of distress.


Whilst looking at her worried face, my eyes suddenly avert to the back of her head, where her straight, brown hair is carefully tied into a great-looking back ponytail with a red ribbon; another aspect of her appearance that defines her natural beauty.


‘’I have to point this out though, ponytails sure suit you a lot.’’


Her almost hopeless expression instantly disappears and is replaced by a bright smile, like the one she showed me a few moments ago. ‘’Is that so? Thank you, Taichi-san! Actually, my sister is really good at tying ponytails, so I’m leaving it up to her, hehe!’’


Did I say that out loud?!


THIS IS BAD! REALLY BAD!


‘’U-Um, s-sorry, I didn’t mean to make it seem like I was hitting on you or anything!’’


‘’No no no, don’t worry, I only have eyes for girls.’’


‘’WHA—‘’


A dozen of seconds of silence later, I am unable to utter a single word until my brain is able to sort out the words she spoke.


To top it off, her straight face is the perfect catalyst to make me think that she is serious about it.


‘’I was joking, stop being so shocked!’’ she laughs uncontrollably while patting my back.


Easier for her to say, getting over such a confession this easily was never a thing, even if it’s a fake!


Her laughter immediately stops, and a straight face takes its place: ‘’You’re still not my type though.’’


‘’…’’


Ah, is this what getting rejected before you even ask feels like?


Her variety of facial expressions doesn’t stop there, as her straight face slowly changes to a comically serious one: ‘’Don’t get so pale! Don’t you die on me!’’ she starts shaking me violently like a milkshake.


‘’Haha… What a jokester you are… Faint.’’


‘’Don’t faint in the middle of a conversation!’’


Remember, this all started because of a single compliment I never intended to say!


‘’Jokes aside—’’ she helps me get my upper body up: ‘’—you surely would get along with my sister. She is a great jokester like you too, no doubt you’ll get along.’’


Her eyes start sparkling as she says in one breath: ‘’You have a sister!? What’s her name!? Age!? Vital sizes!? Hair color!? Favorite food!?’’ and she gets closer and closer to me with every single question, making my heart skip a beat.


‘’A-Are you sure you want to know all that…?’’


‘’YES!’’


Wow, guess a dictionary is necessary for her, because she sure needs to look up what ‘privacy’ is.


What’s the point of complaining though? She seems to be a great and warm-hearted person, and she even approached me just because we’re going to the same school, not knowing who I am, what year I am in and the like.


Would it do any harm to play along then?


‘’No helping it then…’’ I sigh while smiling. ‘’Yes I do, she’s called Saki, 11, still flat, brown, homemade pies.’’


‘’…’’


This look: ‘-‘ or :| —you choose how you interpret it— is her expression right now.


‘’W-What is that look even supposed to mean…?’’


‘’SHE’S TOO YOUNG!’’


WHAT WERE YOU PLANNING TO DO WITH HER?!


‘’Well, 5 years sure is a huge difference compared to you and your sister...’’


‘’You know, I always wanted to know what it feels like. It must be great having a younger sibling.’’


‘’Aren’t you praising yourself by saying that…?’’


Dumbfounded, she looks at me like her face is stuck to that expression: ‘’I-I doubt it…’’


No, you’re definitely not doubting it!


If this were an anime, she would have let out those million drops of sweat characters let out when they are nervous and in a pinch, I’m 100% sure about it.


Reverting back to her original expression: ‘’A-Anyway, I know I’m the younger of the two, but I’ve always wanted to know what it feels like.’’


‘’It’s okay I guess. Sure, you have the responsibility to watch over a person 24/7, but you don’t feel like it’s a burden. In fact, you feel like you’re the only one that can do it right. If anything, you enjoy being given that chance. You can create so many memories with them that you will regret not creating even more when you had the chance. So let me correct myself just now: It’s a great and unique experience.’’


‘’I-Is that so…’’


With these 3 words followed by a light unexpected blushing, she proceeds to hide her face behind her palms.


‘Is this how Eru-nee feels?! AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH, IT’S SO EMBARRASSING! I should know this myself, then why don’t I?! WHAT DO I DOOOOOOOOOOO!’


‘’I-I’m sure Eru-senpai knows that you want to thank her about it…’’


She slowly turns her gaze to me, staring at me with a confused look: ‘’How do you know her name?’’


Is that it?


Have I been busted?


‘’Eh…well…you know…you muttered it before, so—’’


‘’I didn’t. My memory is flawless, so if I say I didn’t, I really didn’t. Don’t tell me—!‘’


Way to ruin your first impression of you, Taichi.


And not to mention, a GIRL’s impression of you.


‘’—You’re a psychic!?’’ she delights, unlike the imminent reaction I imagined was coming.


‘’I’m not, as far as I’m concerned…’’


A sack of lies!


‘’Ehhhh, what a letdown.’’ she sighs. ‘’Anyways, she is quite popular, so I won’t ask how you found out her name.’’


What is this chill running down my spine right now…


An ominous feeling penetrated me, despite the simplicity of her words.


‘’So rest assured!’’


Oh.


So that’s what it was abou— WAIT, NO!


‘’Don’t make it sound like I’m a stalker!’’


‘’I’m a jokester, remember?’’


‘’Prison is no joke!’’


Both of us had puffed our cheeks to not laugh following the awkward silence after my last quote, but —as you may have guessed— we failed miserably and burst out laughing.


After we manage to hold ourselves back, she proceeds to ask me: ‘’And why are you calling her by name? Asking out of curiosity.’’


‘’I dunno, it just doesn’t feel right to call you by name…’’


‘’Hmm—‘’ she nods: ‘’—I understand that feeling. I actually prefer my first name over my last, I’m sure you got it by now. Karasuma sounds kinda manly, Karasuma-san sounds really formal and Karasuma-chan sounds like addressing a little girl. On the other hand, Yumeha is more girlish and has this vibe of informality and close bonding, so I’m keener on that. You catch my drift?’’


‘’W-Well, I am, but I don’t know how to reply to that…’’


‘’Not to mention that I’m calling you by name too, Taichi-san. Yanagisawa is a tongue twister, so it would be rude to mispronounce it.’’


Is this girl for real…?


‘’But you pronounced it correctly just now.’’


‘’What did I pronounce correctly?’’ she asks ignorantly.


‘’Yanagisawa. My last name.’’


‘’Yanisagagawa?’’


‘’5 syllables too many.’’


‘’Pardon me, I stuttered.’’


‘’No, you did it on purpose.’’


‘’I spluttered!’’


‘’STOP RIGHT THERE!’’


I’m not stopping her because I would mind having my name mispronounced, but I gotta be careful with copyright infringement. If my life ever ends up on paper or online, getting sued for pointless Monogatari references will be the last thing I’d like to happen.


WHAT AM I THINKING?! Like hell would that ever happen! Who in their right mind would be interested in reading a book about my mundane life?!


Back to reality we go then!


We were talking about if I would mind having my name mispronounced or stuttered by mistake, right?


‘’But in the end, it’s what you feel most comfortable with calling me. The same goes for me, right?’’


‘’I guess so…’’ I reply.


‘’With your consent then, I’m getting Yanagisawa out of my mind, Taichi-san!’’


IS THIS GIRL FOR REAL?!


‘’So you CAN not stutter it on purpose!’’


‘’Teehee!’’


I deeply sigh ‘’Suit yourself…’’ wearing a faint smile on my face.


‘’So this means I’m Karasuma to you and you’re Taichi-san to me, right!?’’


‘’It’s a deal then.’’


‘’Yay!’’ she rejoices like a little child.


What will I do with her if we end up in the same class…


It’s not that I dislike Karasuma or anything. The exact opposite in fact, she is one of those people who you never get tired of talking to, and your time together is enjoyable and relaxing.


‘Be friends with someone from the same grade, check!’ Karasuma thinks in a confident voice.


I TAKE EVERYTHING BACK!


‘Taichi-san must truly be a great person. I’m really glad I got to meet him here.’


ACTUALLY I DON’T!


I’ll be straightforward; I know when a person means what they are saying. It’s a skill I managed to acquire after years of having to deal with my mind-reading ability, and one of the few things I’m willing to exploit thanks to it to know when someone is honest or not.


And Karasuma is being honest.


Let me explain: When you speak or are with someone you enjoy being around, you don't think at all —more accurately, you never think about wanting that time to end. I got to hear 2 of her thoughts involving me during our conversation, and these were at the very beginning when we introduced ourselves; nothing more, nothing less.


This is how I choose to exploit it, the reading thoughts part is still a no-no.


If she didn’t like me and acted like that out of sheer kindness, she would be thinking things like ‘Uuh, when are we getting there?’ and the like. But she didn’t think anything like that. She genuinely wants to be on good terms with me, and so do I from the bottom of my heart.


‘Next stop: North High Private School’ is written on the bus’ electronic board.


‘’We’re almost here, aren’t we?’’


‘’Indeed!’’ she stands up from the seat and presses the ‘STOP’ button to let the driver know we’re getting off there.


The bus stop is visible from the window right now and it’s just a few meters ahead, but Karasuma hasn’t moved an inch to allow me to stand up too.


‘’K-Karasuma, please don’t just stand there, I need to get-‘’


‘’You’re a really fun person, Taichi-san.’’


Even if I do know that she is truthful to her words, I can’t find the right words to reply to this; do I thank her or do I play modest?


With a radiant smile on her face, she mutters: ‘’Thank you.’’


Woah woah, she’s thanking me for that?


This caught me off guard. It wasn’t a thought of hers, so it must have come out naturally.


‘’You’re just being—‘’


‘’I’m not being anything, Taichi-san.’’


The bus has now stopped and the doors have opened.


‘’No, that was a wrong way to put it. I am being something; I’m being serious.’’


Karasuma, who has left me gaping, gets off the bus, and following suit, I get off too.


Within my field of vision is the place we’re headed for and our only destination; North High.


Karasuma heads to the school grounds slowly, leaving a small gap between the two of us.


‘AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH, THE EMBARRASSMENT IS KILLING ME!’


After hearing her reaction to her own actions, holding back my laughter isn’t something I can choose anymore.


Hearing that, Karasuma changes her direction and quickly settles herself in front of me, face-to-face: ‘’W-What is it? Why are you laughing?’’ she says with a slightly annoyed look on her pouty face.


Of course, telling her that I knew what her reaction was about in one way or another would be kind of rude AND would increase the chances of her becoming suspicious of me.


‘’Nothing.’’ I place my palm on her head for a split moment as I walk towards the school. ‘’Let’s go.’’


Oddly enough, I pressed her ahoge down doing that, but it returned to its original state like a metal spring bouncing upwards; BLESS THE PHYSICS OF HAIR!


We have just passed the school gate, and both our high-school lives had begun that very instant.


Current time: 8:55 AM