Chapter 1:

Chocolate or matcha?

52 Hertz


As per Yulan’s request, Haruko accepted to be transferred to another high school in Tokyo. In fact, only a month before the entrance exam, Yulan had pulled Haruko into a well-lit, comfortable cafe in one of Tokyo’s many market streets. He looked at Haruko with shining eyes, handed her an envelope, and proceeded to sip his oolong tea.Bookmark here

“Miyazaki High is accepting new students. Why don’t you give it a try?”Bookmark here

Poking at her chocolate cake, Haruko had asked why he had picked such a sudden interest in Miyazaki High. Yulan simply replied that this school had a very good reputation. Most businessmen sent their young sons to that school, only feeding in its quality of education. The world of rich, capitalistic conglomerates remained untouchable by the middle-class citizens, of course. To be able to send your child to such a prestigious school only meant good fortune. Seeing Haruko’s bored reaction, Yulan knelt quickly and faked a sad face.Bookmark here

“My precious Ko-chan, could you at least consider it, please? This old man simply wants his little Ko to fulfill his wish...attending a prestigious school...that way I can brag to all my coworkers.” Bookmark here

Haruko laughed happily.Bookmark here

“You're not that old yet, Lan-San. And stop this,” she said, laughing, “people are staring.”Bookmark here

Yulan smiled and sat back down. He crossed his long legs and watched Haruko placing down her fork.Bookmark here

“I don’t have any particular objections. You rarely ask anything of me, after all.” Haruko said, carefully placing the envelope inside of her oversized coat pocket. Bookmark here

That day, Yulan beamed with happiness and cheered for Haruko’s success in her studies. He even ordered an extra cake for her. As a high-ranking criminal investigator, Yulan was certainly more of a mysterious character. Unpredictable, maybe. 12 years ago, he had come before Haruko when she was just 5 years old and had asked her:Bookmark here

“Do you like chocolate cake or matcha cake?”Bookmark here

Haruko wore a pink and white dress, with frills around her neck and fat hands. A tall, pointy hat adorned with a shiny red ribbon sat on the top of her neat head of hair. She looked at the crimped paper covering the most beautiful brown and green cakes she had ever seen. Still... she couldn't.Bookmark here

“...Ko-ko doesn’t take cake from strangers.” Bookmark here

Then, pointing her short, stubby finger at Yulan’s clean face she said, “you must be a villain.”Bookmark here

Yulan laughed audibly, making the many passersby in the cold white hospital corridor turn their heads. A group of nurses looked over warily yet, upon seeing Yulan, resumed their conversations. At the time, Yulan was not the same “Lan-san” as today. That day, May 26th, was Yulan’s birthday. Why did he look so miserable in front of her?Bookmark here

“Little princess, you were raised well.”Bookmark here

His eyes glinted, but his smile was peaceful. Haruko’s eyes widened. What a strange, yet soothing expression. The nameless man seemed like he had just hopped out of her  The nameless man seemed like he had just hopped out of her favorite story-book, “My second Prince”. Though, he was not a prince. He took out the fork from the cake box and stabbed the chocolate cake, making the deep, creamy ganache spill out. Taking a big bite, he smiled wryly and looked down at the now terrified little girl.Bookmark here

“It looks like this villain has been found out. I will have no choice but to capture you now.”Bookmark here

Bookmark here

Your total is 170 Yen. Please insert card or credit into th-”Bookmark here

Haruko slammed the coins into the machine.Bookmark here

Thank you. Would you like to receive your re-”Bookmark here

This time the machine was interrupted by Haruko’s fast hand, spamming the accept button. Yulan looked over her shoulder and raised his eyebrows as if he was asking “who made you so mad?”Bookmark here

“No need to be so brutal now,” he said.Bookmark here

This is Shinjuku station. It takes about 16 minutes to reach Miyazaki High; Haruko would soon grow familiar with this route. She had taken the subway multiple times before, yet it had been so long since she had gone out on her own. Her eyes felt heavy as she and Yulan walked swiftly past the crowds and down the stairs. Men in business suits, women with modest skirts and cream colored heels, young girls and boys all wearing uniforms streamed past the pair. Occasionally, a person or two would bump into Haruko’s tiny body and continue on their way. Haruko struggled to keep up with Yulan’s quick pace.Bookmark here

She stared at his back. He was tall… Whenever she looked at his back, she would get a strange sense of inferiority. Perhaps it was his pitch-black suit that made him seem so unapproachable?Bookmark here

“Why am I comparing myself to a grown man?” she thought suddenly, “I must have finally gone mad.”Bookmark here

Suddenly, Yulan quickly turned around and started moving his head this way and that, looking for something. He lowered his eyes and saw Haruko squeezing past two men in tracksuits. Yulan quickly grabbed her hand.Bookmark here

“Haha. You’d think you saw a porcelain doll taking the subway.”Bookmark here

Haruko avoided his gaze and glared at the tiles on the floor.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry,” he said, tightening his hand around hers, “I won’t let go. Let’s hurry.”Bookmark here

As the two continued on their way down, Haruko felt her heart beating like crazy. The sound of the crowds faded away until she didn’t hear a thing anymore, except the pounding of her heart. Her face felt hot. Her hand felt cold and sweaty against Yulan's.Bookmark here

“What the hell is wrong with me?”Bookmark here

Her eyes widened.Bookmark here

“I'm normal. This isn’t what I think it is. I’m like everyone else.”Bookmark here

She felt her hand fall abruptly from Yulan as the sound of the intercom blasted through her ears. They had reached the waiting platform.Bookmark here

Shinjuku...this is...Shinjuku station. Shinjuku..this is..Bookmark here

Haruko gripped her bag tightly and darted past Yulan. Unfortunately, he quickly caught the sleeve of her white sailor uniform.Bookmark here

“Hey- where are you running off to. Aren’t you going to say goodbye to me?”Bookmark here

He suddenly clutched his chest, pretending to be in deep pain, and knelt next to the signboard.Bookmark here

“GOD...this old man can b-barely stand...what will he do, without his little Ko-chan next to him? She is finally leaving the nest… I am so proud...”Bookmark here

Haruko stared at him. As always, he was wearing his black suit and tie, with a white collared shirt. Come to think of it, had she ever seen him wear anything else? Even at home, Yulan wore his suit or wore his collared shirt without his jacket. Although when she was at home, in that tiny one-room apartment, Yulan rarely ever came back in the first place. On the rare times he did come to see her, it was always to give her something. Letters from his coworkers praising her splendid work in catching a criminal that had gone rampant for years. Or, fresh fruits that he found randomly walking by a market. Sometimes, he would even bring her marshmallows, though she knew that when he did, he was probably going to ask her for a favor. Though, she didn’t mind anything he asked of her and requested he bring marshmallows all the time. Haruko never asked for anything else, not even chocolate cake.Bookmark here

“Oh, not again. These days, even the old gramps and grandmas...they have enough energy to stand at the subway line, and you’re out here collapsing like a...deflated balloon. Besides, this isn’t the first time I go to school… it’s my final year, remember?”Bookmark here

Yulan had a look of terrible pity all over his face.Bookmark here

“What are you saying! Everyone goes through different hardships these days. I have..what do you call it...iron deficiency.”Bookmark here

He smiled strangely and stood back up.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry Ko-chan. Even if I don’t seem like it, I would never forget what grade you are in. Especially this year.”Bookmark here

Haruko felt her heart calm down. Letting out a relieved sigh, she thought to herself that everything would stay the same. Yulan would never change, it seemed only she would. As long as she kept her head clear… she would be able to keep preserving Yulan as he was right now, in her memories.Bookmark here

“You have more mental issues than physical… but…”Bookmark here

The small girl bowed slightly, while stuttering on her words.Bookmark here

“T-thank you for taking care of me when you are so busy a-all the time.”Bookmark here

Yulan’s eyes briefly widened as if he was going through shock. Then, he closed his long, thin eyes as if he was remembering a very pleasant memory. Placing his hand on Haruko’s head, he smiled.Bookmark here

“Of course.”Bookmark here

The intercom blared once again.Bookmark here

The train is now approaching. Please stand behind the yellow line.Bookmark here

The crowds moved slowly towards the sliding doors, undulating like big waves in the ocean. Haruko’s dark-rimmed eyes searched blankly over the masses, looking for a way through. Slightly anxious, she looked back and nodded in Yulan’s direction.Bookmark here

The tall, suited man returned the nod and smiled slightly. A mysterious expression… just like the villain in “My second prince.” Bookmark here

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Real Aire
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Marshall Eastman
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