“My second prince" tells the tale of Arrietty, a princess who longed for eternal life. Her father, the king, had three daughters and Arrietty was the youngest. He gave his first daughter the crown to rule over the kingdom. He gave his second daughter all of his best riches, from jewels to beautiful, exquisite tapestries. For his final daughter Arrietty, he gave her a husband. She scowled at the man and begged her father for a more precious gift.
“Father, I seek only your best interests. Therefore, please reward me with a gift that will never wither nor perish.”
The king declared that he had given her exactly what she wanted. Though Arrietty was greatly angered, she did not give up. She surrendered all of her treasured dresses, jewels, and paintings to the king, begging him every day for a better gift. Yet, the king remained stern in his decision. Growing tired of Arrietty’s constant wails, he set both Arrietty and her husband, Oslo, off to a beautiful house in the woods, hoping for the pair to build an irreplaceable bond. Arrietty grew very sick, with no one but Oslo to look after her. Though she was rash and rude towards him, young Oslo never looked away from her, staying by her side day and night. On the thirteenth day of their stay, Arrietty grabbed a knife and killed Oslo while he slept. She murmured to Oslo’s ear, her pale white lips shivering in the coldness:
“If I murder the one I have come to love, this painful memory will live eternally inside of me. The blood on my hands will never wash away, thus leaving me with stained hands for eternity, a feeling unfathomable to the common man.”
With this, Arrietty stayed next to Oslo’s cold body for three days and three nights, before wilting away, like an old flower. Her sickness had consumed her body, with no one to look after her like Oslo had. Arrietty’s emotions as she killed Oslo were personal, therefore no one knew of her agony. Instead, the kingdom’s people remembered her as a princess whose love for Oslo was eternal; hence why she died at his side.
Haruko carefully squeezed herself past the busy crowds of the subway station and made her way up the concrete stairs. She tapped her brown shoes on the hot cement and followed the sunny street. Weeping willows ornated both sides of the road, the long strands of leaves blowing softly in the wind. The rain seemed to have just passed. She arrived at Miyazaki after a short walk from the station, yet her feet were already sore. She clearly had never done any type of strenuous exercise. Students filed into the building in pairs and groups. The girls all wore the white sailor uniform, a white top with a white skirt, complete with a red ribbon. The boys wore a white t-shirt, carefully tucked into their black pants. Haruko shivered slightly; she couldn't wait for the winter uniform vests. Although it was sunny, she felt cold… the thought that she had actually become a hikikomori caught up to her quickly and she felt a sense of foreboding.
Finding her classroom was no easy feat since Miyazaki High was around twice as big as her previous school. As she walked through the busy halls, she quickly noticed that most friend groups were already formed. Of course, she shouldn’t be surprised. This was her final year of high school, not her first. Students had gotten to know each other for a few years already. Haruko groaned silently and thought to herself that she must’ve been an idiot to take on Yulan’s request. Still, a promise is a promise, and her loyalty to Yulan was eternal.
She walked into the classroom. A bright room, with six rows composed of six desks each. On the far side of the room, windows lined the whole wall, which gave a clear view of the baseball field. They were on the second floor after all. Students were standing around, catching up with their friends. A girl at the front revealed some lipstick she had snuck in, and the group around her started shrieking like mad. Before Haruko knew it, they were slapping lipstick on their faces like it was made of liquid gold. She looked towards the back of the room, where a group of guys tackled each other into the cleaning supplies locker. Then, in the row next to the windows, a girl with long, silky black hair tied back into a long braid sat silently, sticking cute stickers all over a…. Potato chips bag?
Suddenly, a man slapping a brown clipboard entered the classroom while yelling.
“I am once again reminding you all that you are now seniors! You know the drill already, everyone to their places unless you want to taste my ruler!”
Haruko hurriedly walked over to the potato chip girl and sat down behind her. The teacher placed his clipboard on the front desk and brushed over the room quickly.
“There are some new faces here. Everyone, let's do a brief introduction. Masamoto-kun, we’ll start with you.”
A fat, short boy stood up, his big belly pushing his desk over, creating a funny screeching noise. The class laughed loudly as the teacher slapped his ruler against the desk to regain order. The boys at the back of the class sneered loudly. As Masamoto started his introduction, Haruko heard a boy still snickering beside her.
“Annoying,” she thought, “still laughing when the joke’s over.”
She turned her head slightly to avoid making eye contact. She took a glance at his nametag: Shun Nishida. He had black hair, which stuck out at the nape of his neck. His hair covered his entire forehead, resting just above his eyes. Haruko self-consciously fidgeted with her hair, which she now realized looked like a boy’s...why didn't she put in any effort to make herself look more feminine on a day like this?!?
The potato chip girl in front of her suddenly stood up.
“Itsuki Ayane. Y’all know me. Let’s have another fulfilling year.”
She bowed slightly and sat back down. Seeing as it was now her turn, Haruko quickly stood up and looked over at the class with her fierce eyes. She still had her dark circles…
“Haruko Kitamura. I’ve transferred here… from Noburo High. I look forward to getting to know you all.”
Haruko bowed slightly, but as she sat back down, she felt the boy next to her staring at her with a blank face. Sweat trickled down her neck. How uncomfortable.
The boy stood, his hands in his pockets and his back hunched. Haruko knew instantly he was a troublemaker, a complete annoyance to be around. Those types of guys who lurk around girls and whistle, type of thing. She pressed her lips together and looked out the window.
“I shouldn't make assumptions though…”
The boy cleared his throat loudly and smirked lightly.
“Shun Nishida’s the name. Kiyoshi-Sensei, don’t we all know each other already? Let's cut the useless crap, the new ones can just adjust by themselves. Or, should we tell our horoscopes and favorite food as well?”
The class boomed with laughter as the teacher furiously slapped his ruler on the desk.
“Nishida-kun thank you for your input. Sit down now. Everyone! QUIET!!! QUIET EVERYONE!!!”
Shun raised both his arms and waved his hands while looking around the classroom as if to say “come on! Keep the cheering going!”
He sat down with a thud after a short moment. The boy in front of him stood up. He had glasses on and his hair parted to the sides of his face. He wore his uniform quite neatly. This was the first person Haruko noticed who wore his uniform correctly…
“Kaito Omori. I am looking forward to your support during the elections this year as well.”
He bowed longer than everyone else, as the students cheered and clapped loudly. Haruko clapped along and thought that he looked very reliable.
“He looks exactly like the typical nerd you find in manga. The elections huh..he must be running for class president.”
The rest of the introductions went off without a hitch although the few interruptions by Shun sent the class into howls of laughter every time. The rest of the morning went on smoothly and Haruko quickly adjusted to school life. She had strangely missed it since the summer had felt so long for some reason. When lunch came around, students filed out of the classroom to go eat on the rooftop or outside in the field. Boys from another classroom stormed in and threw themselves onto Shun’s desk, creating a huge ruckus. They were so numerous, Haruko’s desk was pushed against the wall, her books falling to the floor. She didn’t have much of a reaction, albeit her eyes which looked grayer than usual.
“Shun! Let’s go play baseball down at the field! Hooooooh I've been waiting, let's go! Eat later!”
Shun smirked and stood quickly, his hands still in his pocket.
“Oi you been waiting eh? Come on, call Nagito over as well.”
The pack rushed out of the classroom. Haruko stared at the books that had fallen to the floor and let out a heavy sigh. She bent down to pick them up. As she stood back up, she was faced with a pair of sparkling, sharp brown eyes.
“Ah! Y-you scared me.”
Haruko placed the books on the side of her desk. The girl snickered and turned her chair around so that she would face Haruko completely. She sat directly in front of Haruko. It was potato chip girl. Wait, what was her name again?
“Ayane. Itsuki Ayane.”
Haruko’s eyes widened. Mind reading?!? The girl let out a big, healthy-sounding laugh.
“I just thought I’d remind you before you start looking for my tag. No one ever remembers other’s names on their first day.”
She placed a bag of potato chips, along with shrimp crackers down on the table. Haruko tried not to stare at the pink bear stickers, but Itsuki Ayane seemed to be quite sharp.
“Like em’? My dad owns a stationery store down on Nakamise street. These are leftovers from printing.”
Haruko smiled brightly and turned the bag over to see the other sparkly animals. Itsuki was eating the shrimp crackers and looking over Haruko curiously.
“Take some if you want. I’ve got loads.”
Haruko looked at Itsuki strangely.
“The chips, I'm saying, eat some of the chips.”
“Ah..it's fine. Thank-”
Itsuki shook her head and pushed the bag closer to Haruko, her movements implying “shut up, just eat.”
Haruko reluctantly ate the chips as the glasses boy approached the pair. Itsuki scorned and placed her arm on Haruko’s desk. Haruko swallowed another chip and felt the sweat on the back of her neck trickle down once again. She lifted her eyes slowly and stared at the boy whose glasses reflected her nervous face.