Chapter 0:

The Reason

Why I Write

In medias res.

A Latin term for a story which begins in the midst of the action—and also the literary technique Kiku was trying to teach me.

“Listen closely, Kohei-kun!”

Her high-pitched squeal was punctuated by an emphatic slam of a desk, and it sent sheets of paper flying around my bedroom.

“When beginning a story, regardless of genre, you must begin with an action scene. This way, you’ll hook your readers in by the gums—figuratively, of course—and beat the tone of your work into their tiny, dense skulls. Figuratively, of course.”

“I-I see…”

Her long, obsidian hair swayed from side to side as she gestured excitedly.

“Understand, Kohei-kun. Observe. Learn! This isn’t your mom’s romance novel. This shit is real. This shit is intense!”

She picked up a seemingly random piece of paper on the floor, and just like those superheroes in Western comics who shoot lasers, her eyes flared up like incandescent light bulbs.

“This is one of my greatest works. Behold, the opening lines of my newest romantic comedy!”

I gulped nervously.

Writing advice often comes in the form of a mantra—don't use adverbs. But there was really no other way to describe my swallowing motion.

“‘Guns were blazing! Fire was spewing across the ground everywhere! BOOM! BLAM! Shards of glass flew everywhere! POW POW POW! Nobody even knew what they were shooting at! BLA-POW! I have to wrap this up before Mom gets home... wait sorry, that was an annotation. KA-BLAM! POW! RATATATATATAT! WEE-WOO! WEE-WOO!"

"Are the sounds—"

“So many are dead. I was just an ordinary high schooler before it all went down…”

By the way, this girl was known as the Ice Queen of Kitazawa High School.

“See, Kohei-kun? It’s an excellent way to whip your reader’s expectations into shape with a spiked whip—figuratively, of course. No need to thank me.”

As she said that, she tossed the manuscript behind her—sending more sheets of paper scattering in the moonlight.

Shimmering as they swayed to the floor, like dancing sakura petals.

An evanescent image.

Just as a fleeting memory should be.


I don’t remember how I responded—but I’m certain I got slapped, then fainted right after from the pain. When I woke up the next morning, Kiku had vanished from my room.

The situation was peculiar for so many reasons. Why would someone so fiery be called the 'Ice Queen'? Why was she trying to teach me writing at 12am on a school night?

At this juncture, a good narrator would begin to unpack the situation and offer a promise to the reader—worldbuilding, as Kiku would put it. Explain our relationship, hint at a possible romance, maybe recall the chain of events that led to her coming over to my room… except I wouldn’t do a very good job.

In the first place, I don’t remember what led up to that point.

In medias res.

I only remember Kiku’s energetic rant about that phrase and the pain that shot through my face right after she finished. And the more I try to piece together the mystery that is Kitazawa’s Ice Queen, I realise that there are gaps in my memory of the two years we spent together. Some significant, some minor—combined, it was enough to cause a great amount of dissonance. And thus, in an effort to remember, I find myself writing this journal.

To recall, to reflect, and to mourn.

I just thought it would be good to make a brief outline of the facts, because maybe that would jog my memory.

Fact one. That rant took place in my 2nd year of high school, with Kiku being in her 3rd. I’d known her for a year at that point.

Kitazawa High School was an elite public school that ranked classes by academic performance from A to F. Unfortunately, there was no anime-esque catch like shoukanjuu or battle royales on deserted islands for class points. It was a typical government school with typical rules. But in a bid to improve the performances of students across the board, senior students from the top ranked classes were tasked with tutoring weaker students from the year below.

It was a very ordinary system.

And maybe it was because of that ordinariness that fate decided to compensate—by pairing a freshman in Class 1-F with a genius sophomore from Class 2-A.

If I'm remembering correctly, it started a little like this...