Chapter 4:

Prologue III

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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North High: The school I’m attending starting today, and the school I’ll be attending for the next 3 years, until my graduation.


Today is not the first time I’ve been to North High, obviously. I came here to take the exam and hopefully get accepted to this school some months ago.


And I assure you, it was anything but a piece of cake to pass that…


It is widely known that this school has always had strict acceptance criteria. Despite that, the percentage of applicants taking the exam is increasing every year, even if the school only accepts up to 200 students annually.


‘But Taichi, why are more students applying for it if it has strict criteria?’ I hear you say. The answer is simple: It’s because of the kind and welcoming environment it provides.


There was this rumor going around when I had come here for the first time. It was about a female transfer student that was welcomed with a short party in her class before homeroom the previous year. Supposedly, she was so happy that she couldn’t do anything but tear up from the feeling of awe and delight that engulfed her at the time.


Even if a school is prestigious, well-known, notorious or not, what ultimately matters to the students is the experiences and memories they have made there. School is considered a second family to every single one of them. No matter what the school offers as an educational facility, these tiny bits of laughter, sadness, happiness, sorrow, excitement, let-downs, support, friendship… If you haven’t experienced these, you are unfortunately not part of that family, and the school wasn’t the right one for you.


This is the reason I wanted to be a part of it. It’s not that I’m only thinking about myself and that I’ll take advantage of everyone’s kindness and support; no, the exact opposite: I want to be supportive and help everyone no matter what. This is what being in a family means; helping each other in times of need, giving everything you’ve got.


And the first step to that is this girl, Karasuma Yumeha. 


She’s kind, warm-hearted, funny, likeable, fun to talk to and a great person overall; the perfect way to start a high-school life was meeting someone like her. We’ve only known each other for 30 minutes or so, but we do understand a little bit about the other —although I have the upper hand on that because of my ability.


I’m entirely sure she didn’t apply to this school just because of her older sister, Karasuma Eru —who is a senior here—, but because she heard from her how amazing this place is, and she wanted to live the experience for herself.


And I am going to help her and make sure that her time here will be the best of her life. Not just her time with me, but with everyone else in this school as well.


Back to the present we go then!


Me and Karasuma have just gotten off the bus at the stop near the school, which is a small 5 minute walk to get from there, and it’s visible from there too.


Shocked by her words that she was glad from the bottom of her heart that she met me, this 5 minute walk consisted of silence and just silence.


Now outside the school, we’re both taking our first step into our high-school lives.


I suddenly feel my heart beating faster and faster with every passing second. It’s undoubtedly obvious that I can’t contain my excitement over this for some reason.


So many thoughts are residing in my mind this instant: ‘When is the ceremony starting? What class will I end up in? What kind of students will I meet there? Where will I be sitting? Will I be with Karasuma? What will my homeroom teacher be like?’


These thoughts and so many others over a matter that will become history in less than 1 hour.


On the outside, it may seem like your average and relatively small school. Unlike fancy city schools that have a looooooooooooooooot of buildings for different purposes, this one is a huge 4 storey building with a gym next to it, so, a compressed version of them, you could call it?


But, as I mentioned before, it’s anything but average and small to my eyes.


‘’Taichi-san, let’s go get a seat. Hope it isn’t full already.’’ she starts walking towards the gym, and I follow her.


‘’I doubt it is. For such a ceremony, they must make sure that at least every member of the school gets a seat. There must be a specific number of seats for students and staff alike, not to mention that they should be properly divided. Maybe that’s why your sister came earlier to school; for those last-minute checks.’’


While waiting patiently for a reply from Karasuma, I notice that I’m walking on my own and that she has stopped walking after looking back, having only an awed expression and owl-wide open eyes.


‘’What’s the matter, Karasuma?’’


‘’I-It’s nothing! Really! I was just surprised by what you said!’’


It took a bit for her to respond, but when she did, it seemed more like a clichéd get-away response to avoid the topic.


With a smile on her face, Karasuma tells me: ‘’Look, we’re here!’’


And indeed, we have reached the gym in practically no time. Talk about a small school indeed.


The gym is pretty much what you would expect it to be; a huge indoors facility with two basketball courts —which obviously can also be used for volleyball, badminton, and so on—, and a stage. It’s probably used not just for sports activities, but also doubles as a lecture hall, a performance venue for concerts or plays, you name it!


Karasuma suddenly decides to interrupt my thoughts: ‘’ Taichi-san… We have a problem…’’


‘’Problem?’’


‘’I don’t see any seats for us…’’


‘’We will find seats. I told you, there are plenty of them for every member of the school and YOU are one of them. And let me ask you, don’t you see that huge sign saying ‘First Years’?’’


‘’I-I totally did.’’ she chuckles as she turns her head away to not make it obvious.


‘’Don’t laugh it off!’’


As expected, no matter where you look, you see people; it’s almost a full-house. If this were a concert or a performance of some sort, we would not even be able to stay on our feet given the huge crowd.


Thankfully, as I mentioned to Karasuma before, there were reserved seats just for students and staff alike, with additional seats in the back for the lucky parents and other people who managed to come early enough to get one.


We find some empty seats in a row for the freshmen, so we decide to sit there.


‘’Do you see your sister anywhere?’’


‘’No… She might not be here at all.’’


There’s that same look again.


When Karasuma talks about her sister, her expression and tone get kind of devoid of hope.


I don’t know why I get this kind of feeling. It feels like there’s something eerie about that look, a deep reason behind it.


In order to cheer her up, I come up with a pretty reasonable excuse: ‘’M-Maybe she’s working backstage! That would make sense, right?’’


‘’Of course, it could be that!’’


Despite her bright smile, her words still don’t seem convincing.


I could be mistaken, but I’m probably not. Surely, it may not even be an hour since we met, but anyone would be able to understand that with some discreet observation.


But man, I left in a hurry and didn’t bring anything to drink… Now I’m thirsty as hell…


‘’I’m going outside for a minute, I’ll be right back.’’


‘’Wha—?! You’re leaving me alone?!''


Her reactions are as overexaggerated as they get, much like Saki’s.


‘’D-Don’t worry, I’ll be back in time.’’


‘’How dare you leave a pure maiden in her rebelling years in absolute solitude, Taichi-san!’’ she then starts pretending to be crying.


There are so many things I want to point out about what she said, but my time is limited, unfortunately!


‘’It’s not like you don’t know anyone else here. Your sister’s friends, for instance, aren’t they at least your friends to some degree?’’


‘’That’s right! I forgot about them!’’


‘’Such a great friend you are…’’


‘’Thank you!’’ she declares joyfully.


‘’That wasn’t a compliment!’’


Karasuma’s response to this was a mere pout, which was almost immediately changed to a bright smile like before —but this time, it seemed more genuine: ‘’Well then, I’m going to meet them, Taichi-san! See you when you come back!’’ were her words before running to the stage.


Her words were that, but not her thoughts. These were: ‘Oh man, I wanted to tell him to go around the school until the ceremony starts, but there’s no time for that… I’ve been here a lot of times, so I could show him the place for a bit…’


Honestly, this girl is just unpredictable. She does seem to not take almost anything seriously, but there’s a meaning behind her actions. In this case, she just didn’t want to be alone, so she instead laughed it off.


She’s just like Saki. If someone else lived my life with no knowledge of my relationship with these 2 people, just from this morning’s events, they could easily realize that Saki and Karasuma are indeed similar.


As I head out, I notice that there are almost no people around or outside the gym. Like when we first came in, the grounds are as quiet as a walk in the forest; the only thing you hear is your own self and nature being...well…itself.


I walk away a bit from the gym to see if I can find the school cafeteria or a vending machine. It is moments later that I realize that my small walk was anything but small, and too late because it got me to a place I had never seen before.


‘’Where am I anyway… I don’t even remember where the school cafeteria is…’’ I mutter hopelessly to myself.


PLEASE TELL ME THAT I’M NOT LOST!


I would go back to the gym, but I can’t even remember which way I came from, so I decide to stick to the shade of a huge building beside me, hoping that a vending machine is hiding near it —since they are almost always at cool and shady places to preserve the drinks.


Having walked around that school building, I find myself beside a tennis pitch. No matter where I look there are pitches and courts in my entire field of vision.


Well, since these are training grounds, there must be some taps around here somewhere, right? Some water should do the job for now, after all.


And indeed, there are a lot of taps gathered at the shade of that building.


It’s been some time since I last heard a thought, and that means that there’s no one nearby, which honestly gives me the creeps for some reason…


Wait a moment…


If these are training grounds —which they are—, doesn’t it mean that there must be a storage for gym equipment somewhere nearby?


I avert my look from the training fields, only to conclude that there’s another building that’s about half as tall and considerably less spacious than the school building.


And it’s obviously the gym I’m talking about.


‘’GAAAAAAAAAAAAH, DID I GO IN A CIRCLE?!’’


Seems like I couldn’t contain my frustration…


I mean, who could? The answer to my problem was literally next to me the entire time…


‘’There’s someone else here other than me!?’’


And for the second time today, I hear a boisterous and joyful female voice that startles me.


No matter how much I look around, there are no signs of another person being here.


C-Could it be…a ghost?!


No no, there’s no way, ghosts aren’t even real, what am I even thinking…


It must have been my imagination… I’m probably just tired from all the walking and my thirst just got the best of me.


I need to take a few breaths to get my senses back, so I head to the shade of a tall tree nearby.


As I lean my back against it, a branch falls off of it just a few inches next to me, making me scream like a little girl.


‘’My my, lucky as hell!’’ says that same voice from before.


This time, I can clearly locate where it came from; it’s from one of the branches of that tree.


Looking at all the branches to carefully find the one who deemed me ‘lucky’, I see a girl climbing them; not just any girl, but one wearing the North High girls’ uniform.


For a single moment, her skirt was slightly raised as she was about to climb to another branch.


Needless to say that I looked away immediately.


‘‘Hey, you, North High student.’’


Is she talking to me?


Well, there’s no else around from what I can see, so I can only guess she is…


‘’Why are you just standing there? Say something at least. It’s boring up here.’’


Yep, she was talking to the loner that’s me all along…


‘’What do you want me to say? Why I’m here? It obviously isn’t because I felt like resting.’’


‘’Wait, that’s not it?!’’


‘’Of course not! Anyways, you need to get down from the tree this instant!’’


‘’Ah, I see, so you’re here to save the princess! Sorry, she’s in another castle!’’


Not this again…


She didn’t even look like she was joking about it, actually…


‘’A-Am I supposed to laugh now…?’’


‘’Of course you are! I just want to lighten up the mood!’’


Why is she ordering me around?!


‘’This isn’t the time for laughs! You’re risking your life here!’’


‘’Hey buddy!’’ she giggles, unlike what I had just pointed out. ‘’Look! I’m alright up here! A tree is nothing compared to a mountain after all!’’


‘’And how exactly do I interpret that?’’


‘’However you wish!’’


I don’t get her at all…not even in the tiniest bit.


‘’You’ll be in serious trouble if you don’t get down! You came here for the ceremony, not to get suspended from the very first day, am I right?’’


‘’You are.’’


YOU DON’T SEEM LIKE YOU CARE IF I’M RIGHT OR NOT, DO YOU?


‘’Honestly, what are you even doing up there?’’ I sigh deeply.


As if she was waiting for me to say that, she pridefully replies: ‘’You see, there is this kitty that made it all the way up here and got stuck, so I’m trying to get it down!’’


‘’…’’


I don’t even know anymore…


This girl is totally nuts, there’s no denying it. She climbed up a tree just for a kitten and I applaud her for that, sure, but no matter what I say, it won’t get through to her; she just HAS to do it at this very time.


Going on with this wouldn’t result in anything I am hoping when someone like her is on the other side of the table.


‘’There! Got it!’’ she exclaims.


‘’Good. Need any help getting down? I can catch you if you want.’’


‘’What are you talking about, lad! I’ll be down faster my way!’’


Ah, so she was jumping to her death either way, I see I see.


Consequently, I decide to hold my mouth shut and wait for her to get herself and the kitten down.


‘’See, I told you I was gonna be alright! This little fella is alright too!’’ are her first words after reaching the ground.


‘’Don’t scare people off like that. Putting yourself in danger even before the entrance ceremony—‘’


‘’But nothing bad happened, right? It’s a thing of the past then, no point in talking about outcomes at this moment.’’


‘’W-Well, you have a point there, but…’’


‘’No buts! Even if you scold me, I won’t bother changing my habits. I’m just being myself, y’know!’’ she flashes a wide smile at me.


Being yourself, huh…


‘’You said…I scared you off, right? That means you were worried about me, even if you didn’t know who I was at all. Thanks. I really mean it.’’


Taken aback by her sudden confession, I can’t get any words out of my mouth.


Her tone has suddenly changed from ridiculously cheerful and reckless to shockingly appreciative and soft.


‘’Not everyone can step up like that. Many wouldn’t even have bothered to see if I’m okay. But not you. This really tells a lot about you.’’


God, why am I so flustered?! It’s just a single compliment!


‘’T-Thank you, I guess…’’


I do get some compliments from time to time, but now I can’t even control my embarrassment, even after this many!


‘’Your scream does too.’’


‘’PLEASE FORGET EVERYTHING ABOUT IT!’’


‘’You’re really fun, you know that!?’’ she laughs. ‘’Come to think of it, we haven’t introduced ourselves yet, have we? I’m Fukuda Eva, a freshman! Nice meeting ya!’’


BLESS YOU FOR CHANGING THE TOPIC!


‘’Yanagisawa Taichi, also a freshman. Likewise, Fukuda-san.’’


‘’Hope this will be a fun year, Yanagisawa-kun!’’


After that, she proceeds to discreetly move her left hand to the side of her face as if she was trying to fix her hair, holding the kitten on just her right hand.


Something is definitely off about this move she just made, it just feels like that.


First of all, her hand was moving a bit slower than when you try to fix your hair or scratch your head. Second, her eyes seemed to take a glimpse at her palm for a few moments. Finally, what does the kitten have to do with all this? It must be involved in some way…


I’m sure I’m not overthinking things here, this is just a beginner’s mystery ready to be solved.


‘’Fukuda-san.’’


‘’What is it?’’


‘’Your left hand, let me see it.’’


Confused as she may be, she instead chooses to reply with: ‘’Ohoho, fortune-telling! What might my fate be!? Or could it be…the princess greeting!?’’


‘’I’m afraid I don’t have such a greeting in mind at the moment… But! If it’s just fortune telling you want, I won’t even need to look at your hand.’’


‘’You can see the future!?’’


‘’N-No…’’


I can hear people’s thoughts though, but there’s no way I can tell you that…


‘’Let’s see—‘’


Playing along is one option to help her then. If that’s all it takes, then I’m willing to solve this small case.


‘’—I predict that your left palm is injured.’’


With no objections whatsoever, she raises her left hand and shows me her palm: ‘’It is. Nothing to brag about though, right?’’


‘’Not yet. In reality, I will accurately state how you got those bruises.’’


‘’You can do it, my dear Watson!’’


‘’I’m not Watson! And Holmes is the one solving the mysteries, for your information!’’ I say and cough forcibly to get her attention: ‘’Before that branch fell off, you were standing on it and held onto the next branch with your left hand, and were ready to grasp it with your right hand too. When it did fall, the lack of standing support shook your body, and having nothing to hold onto to prevent falling down but just your left hand, you put all your power into it. That shaking made it rub against the wood momentarily, and you, in turn, grasped it firmly to secure your safety in the end. And thus, these actions gave you the bruises we see. As to why you left the kitten in just your right hand, it’s because the wounds were irritated by the kitten’s fur. And finally, when you touched your hair, your eyes were looking at your palm; therefore, that hair touching was just a cover up. Spot on?’’


‘’Pretty impressive. You are really observant, aren’t you, Yanagisawa-kun?’’


It’s nothing serious from what I can see, but if we were to leave them as they are though…


‘’We’re going to the infirmary. These need to be disinfected immediately, or else it could mean serious business.’’


‘’No need to, I always carry a small first aid kit in my jacket just in case.’’ she gets a small bottle of Bedatine out of her jacket’s pocket and starts putting a small dose over each bruise on her hand carefully with some cotton. ‘’Going there would be a waste of time. You wouldn’t want to lose the ceremony just for this, would you?’’


‘’The same goes for you, you know! Is the ceremony all you care about?! Why don’t you look after yourself more?!’’


A surprised look envelops her face, stopping everything she’s doing to look at me straight in the eyes.


At that moment, a light breeze passes by, making her long, purple hair sway harmonically in the air.


Complete silence follows.


No matter what I do, I can’t take my eyes off her for some reason. Her expression has completely stolen my attention: slightly open lips, with her eyes staring directly into mine; truly what you’d easily call a seductive, yet not, look.


Her swaying hair, combined with that look, can set the stage for a love story to begin from this very point.


‘This is bad. Really bad.’ she thinks to herself.


Indeed, it is.


If I keep staring at her face like that, I might fall for her with no hesitation whatsoever.


I don’t want anything like that.


‘’Oh…um…sorry, Fukuda-san…I got carried away…’’


‘’I-It’s perfectly fine, I get it all the time!’’ she ties a piece of gauze around her left palm. ‘’By the way, Yanagisawa-kun… I know this may seem a bit rude, but…you’re way too kind to just avert your gaze from someone in need, no?’’


How can she tell…?


‘’Stepping up is one thing, but scolding me for that isn’t typical politeness. It was quite obvious after that, y’know.’’


Is it really this obvious that I can’t stand seeing people get hurt?


‘’I don’t mean to bring you down with that or anything, don’t get me wrong. I really like people like you. It’s just that... It honestly surprises me how you can think like that.'' 


What does she mean?


Isn’t it a good thing to care about everyone’s well being?


‘If you ignore just one person, you’ll definitely feel guilty for whatever miserable happens to them in life’; that’s how people like me think, and it’s an ideal that can never change once you realize how wonderful it can be.


The kitten’s sudden purr interrupts my thoughts, giving rise to something that actually concerns us: ‘’So, what are you going to do with the kitten?’’


‘’I’m keeping it.’’


WHA—!


‘’There’s no reason to let it get itself in the same situation again. Not to mention I love kittens! Here, hold it. So fluffy and soft!’’


‘’I-I can’t, I’m germophobic…’’


‘’Geh, I see you’re one of them as well.’’ she says with a disgusted look on her face.


Who is this ‘them’?! And why that face?!


Not everyone is as careless as you, though! Cleanness is absolute!


‘’Hope you’re not just talk and no action. The ceremony is about to start. Where are you keeping it for now? We can’t just stand outside.’’


With a huge smile on her face, Fukuda-san says: ‘’I got the perfect place, no worries!’’ and starts petting the kitten slowly.


‘’Is that so… Leaving it to you then. Come on, the ceremony will start any moment now.’’


With a single ‘’Wait!’’, she comes by my side as I head towards the gym.


‘’Imagine if the branch had hit you though. I mean, you would have missed your important first day.’’


‘’I suppose that’s true…’’


Her innocent look suddenly becomes more innocent to the point that it terrifies me, and her words do me some justice: ‘’And I would also have to go wherever they’d take you to because you got hurt and I would have to take responsibility and stay by your side, YOU. GET. ME?’’


WHAT A FLAWED LOGIC!


Isn’t she basically saying that I would be at fault if I were hurt by that branch…?


‘’How did you get up there in the first place?’’


‘’Hehehe, I got it in me!’’


I’m not even going to question how she even managed to do it, let alone how she manages to do these 180s in her mood.


She did say in her thoughts something about a tree being nothing in front of a mountain, didn't she? Maybe she has hiking experience or something similar?


‘’Um…where is the gym again?’’


IS THIS WOMAN SERIOUS?!


I can only sigh and wish that this is just her being careless as I point to the gym, which is basically IN FRONT OF US.


‘’Ah, so this is the gym!’’


It’s like she hasn’t seen a gym once in her life…! She’s so hopeless after all...!


Karasuma is waving at me, and we approach her.


‘’Just in time, Taichi-san! Come on, the ceremony is about to begi— AAAAAAHHHHHH!’’


That ‘AAAAAAHHHHHH!’ was actually a thought of hers, but I couldn’t tell it apart from her speaking because she pulled me to her side faster than I could perceive.


‘’Taichi-san, who is this girl?!’’ she whispers to me so that Fukuda-san doesn’t hear her.


‘’Fukuda Eva-san, I found her doing some…risky stuff out there.’’


‘’Risky?!’’


Isn’t tree climbing risky? Why is she so surprised?


‘’She just climbed on that tree at the back and my…um…instincts…kicked in…’’


‘’Taichi-san, I thought you were a better person than that…’’


‘’I was talking about me being overprotective! We’ve only known each other for 50 minutes roughly, how can you jump to that conclusion so fast?!’’


‘’Woman’s intuition!’’ she winks at me.


‘’I don’t believe in this stuff.’’


‘’Um-‘’ Fukuda-san interrupts our ‘conversation’, with both me and Karasuma turning to face her: ‘’Yanagisawa-kun already introduced himself to me, so…nice to meet you too, I’m Fukuda Eva, a freshman as well! Hope we’ll get to have a fun time together this year!’’


Despite Fukuda-san’s polite manners, Karasuma decided to prioritize her concerns over the introduction, telling me discreetly: ‘’Are you a womanizer or something?’’


‘’JUST REPLY TO HER ALREADY!’’


To avoid my gagging, she turns around to greet her.


‘’Fukuda Eva-san, right? I’m Karasuma Yumeha, also a freshman! Nice to meet you too!’’ she replies with a smile, which you could say was forced, but didn’t seem like one at all. ‘’Do we have a spare seat?’’


You’re asking us that?!


‘’You’re lucky! There’s one right next to mine!’’


And in the end, you answered your own question yourself…


What were you planning to do if there wasn’t one for her though?! And how didn’t you even see it?!


Fukuda-san thanks Karasuma for offering her the seat and sits, and I follow suit: ‘’Sorry to make you go through the trouble of keeping the seat, Karasuma. I owe you one.’’


‘’No no, don’t thank me, it’s the least I could do.’’


‘’My my, what do we have here!’’ Fukuda-san’s huge smile turns into a huge smug: ‘’Are you Yanagisawa-kun’s girlfriend?’’


Despite the sudden surprise as to how she came to that conclusion, I reply monotonously (This is how this came out for some reason): ‘’Not in a million years.’’ and apparently, Karasuma said the exact same thing in the exact same tone and at the exact same time as me.


‘’Tsundere much?’’ she goes again with the same smug look.


‘’I’m not tsundere!’’ we say once again simultaneously.


Huh… Now I see where that came from, actually… We do seem like a couple… Couples finish each other’s sentences and say the same things at the same time. That’s how it goes, right?


‘’Eeeh, how lame!’’


‘’And why do you sound disappointed?’’


‘’For a second, I thought I’d finally get to see some tsunderes in real life!''


What is this, an anime?!


I don’t want to admit it, but I’m stuck with weirdos, aren't I...


‘’Taichi-san Taichi-san!’’ Karasuma suddenly pulls my sleeve, probably because she wants to tell me something in private, so I approach her.


Not that I don’t already know what she’s about to tell me…


‘’So, are you a womanizer?’’


‘’No way I am! Do you cut me out for one?!’’


‘Probably.’


‘’No, I don’t.’’


If only you knew I can hear your thoughts!


‘’Good, let’s keep it at that then.’’


Now that I think about it, which one is she going to keep?!


To be honest, I think I’m enjoying this somehow.


No, I don’t think that... It is enjoyment.


I don’t even know why I enjoy talking to Karasuma so much, though. Is it because she’s really like Saki? Always cheerful and playful? Is it because I get the feeling that she’s asking for help and I can’t just ignore her?


‘’Haven’t you ever thought that because your sister is being protective for your sake, she acts like that to other people too?’


No matter the case, there’s this…something that’s drawing me to her.


And whatever it is—


‘’…Y-You older siblings are weird!’’


—it’s truly a bliss.


That aside, it’s kinda strange though. She didn’t tell Fukuda-san to call her just Karasuma like I do or even by her name, Yumeha…


Then again, I may be overthinking things… Maybe it’s just a girls’ thing, I can’t know for sure.


Observation #3: Honestly, being with weirdos isn’t necessarily a bad thing, is it?


‘’Not at all.’’ I murmur to myself with faint, almost invisible joy all around my face.


The lights are turned off at that instant, and the wait for the ceremony is finally over.


Current time: 9 AM sharp.