“Hello. My name is Taichi Nagao. Just call me Taichi. No need to be so formal. I hope we can all get along.”
He looked like one of those idols on TV, with golden blond hair that stuck to the nape of his neck. His hair looked so fluffy, like a marshmallow. Haruko’s favourite marshmallows. His eyes were deep brown, yet they also looked golden. He had clear skin and a birthmark right under his left eye.
“Huh? Taichi-kun? Who are you trying to fool here. Aren’t you in the astronomy club???”
Itsuki said, surprised.
“Well yes, though there were no rules about not being able to participate in two clubs at once. The library is always closed after certain hours and I really need the books in here… I’m studying a new comet! Apparently, it sped towards the sun at a speed of around-”
“Alright. I should've known you’d join for the wrong reasons but I’m not complaining. And you?”
Itsuki looked over at Shun who was reading a book silently.
Taichi whined loudly and grabbed Itsuki’s sailor uniform’s sleeve.
“Ahhh don’t be like this Itsuki… I really joined because I wanted to read. Isn’t that the whole point?”
“Oi oi, let go. HEY!”
The two started to hit each other.
Haruko and president Kaito were still standing in the doorway. Kaito leaned down and whispered in Haruko’s ear.
“Those two were always like that. Taichi Nagao-kun has always been somewhat of a scaredy-cat, and it was Itsuki who played with him the most in daycare. Haha, though when Taichi got into astrology he started getting attached to Itsuki and always annoyed her… huh?”
Kaito’s eyes widened at the sight of Haruko’s dark eyes. Well, he’d never seen her from so close either. If you looked closely she had white marks on her neck. They seemed almost like…
“STOP! You there- what’s your name?”
Itsuki said, pointing to Shun. Shun raised his eyebrows and placed his book down on the table.
“Shun Nishida. I was in the baseball club but had to switch to the literature club because my grades were dropping so much. Kiyoshi-sensei said that if I can get my grades up by the end of the semester, I could go back to baseball.”
Itsuki stared at the two newcomers.
“None of you joined to read.”
“I joined to read! I did!”
Itsuki made a disgusted face but kept her mouth shut. Perhaps she knew that deep down she did not join the literature club to “read” either. There was nothing more to say. Kaito moved towards the group and adjusted his glasses.
“Alright alright. Whether they came here with the right intentions or not, it doesn’t change the fact that they are now part of the club. I am the literature club’s president, Omori Kaito. It seems everyone here knows each other pretty well. This young lady here is our vice president, Ayane Itsuki. And…”
Kaito turned slowly towards Haruko who was still standing in the doorway but now had a strangely calm expression on her face. He felt his hand twitch as he motioned towards her.
“...Ah.. and this here is Kitamura Haruko. Treasurer...”
Taichi ran towards Haruko and shook her small hands furiously.
“Nice to meet you! I hope we get along! Please take good care of me!”
He bowed quickly as Shun stood up, blocking the last rays of sunlight from the window. His shadow crept all the way to Haruko’s feet.
“Kitamura? I remember now. Your name’s changed.”
Haruko felt her heart stop.
“Yes, back during class introductions I was shocked to hear that you’d changed your name. Kitamura… you took that man’s name didn’t you? Interesting.”
The room suddenly got dark. The sun was setting quickly. It was so quiet you could practically hear the dust floating in the air.
Itsuki said, sweating a little bit. What was this uncomfortable atmosphere? And what was this Shun Nishida boy talking about?
“U-um I think we better get going, ahaha.. Haha… Haruko-chan~ come here. Bye guys! We’re going now!”
Itsuki hurriedly grabbed Haruko by the door and nodded towards Kaito. The pair left and the three boys were left staring at each other in the library.
Outside, Itsuki was already dragging Haruko through the front gate before stopping dead in her tracks. She placed her arms on her hips and suddenly started yelling as loud as she could. Haruko’s head snapped up, surprised. Itsuki kept yelling until her voice broke. She knelt down near the sidewalk and caught her breath.
Haruko said carefully.
“GOSH I hate people like him! Why did he have to make the whole thing awkward? Can’t he read the room?”
She put her hand to her head.
“What the hell… I knew he was a douche the second he spoke during introductions. This is ridiculous. There’s no way he’s in the literature club just to raise his grades. I’m not buyin’ it.”
She looked up at Haruko, who was smiling slightly.
“Let’s go to Nakamise. We’re not gonna let that guy ruin our fun. I told Kaito-kun we were going on ahead so he’ll catch up later.”
“Is Omori-kun going to be fine? All alone…”
“Yeah yeah he’ll be fine. Besides, Taichi’s there and he’s a good guy. Don’t worry about it.”
The pair walked over to the station in silence. Haruko tried to keep her face void of any expression, so as to not make Itsuki uncomfortable. Now that Shun had joined the literature club, she would have to work twice as hard to fix things. When Shun cornered her back in the storage shed, she thought it would be possible to just ignore him for the year. Now, that wouldn’t be an option. What was she afraid of? In the end, she did not mind working things out with Shun regarding their past incident. No, it was something else that was blocking her. What was it?
It takes approximately 36 minutes to get from Miyazaki High to Nakamise Shopping Street. This wasn’t too bad, considering some students took over an hour to commute to school. Although, Haruko only took 16 minutes…
The whole way there, Itsuki kept talking about a strange legend she overheard the merchants of Nakamise discuss. It was said that a white rabbit could be spotted at the shrine between the hours of sunset until sundown. All you had to do was recite the words from the rabbit’s favourite book. The catch was that no one knew what the rabbit’s favourite book was, so kids would pick anything up and read it to the shrine, hoping to get a glimpse of the rabbit.
“Did you read to the shrine as well?”
Haruko asked innocently.
“AHAHA of course I did! But I don't think the rabbit liked it.”
“Why? What did you read?”
“Sei Harukano’s song lyrics.”
“You know master Sei? Gosh he’s so hot I can’t even describe him. He’s the one who wrote “a thousand year’s heartbreak” and “falling in the wild.” You don’t know him? REALLY? YOU HAVE TO KNOW HIM. HE’S SO BEAUTIFUL… GOSH..”
Haruko laughed nervously.
“Of course I know him. Isn’t he that singer in all the magazines the girls bring into class? The magazines that got confiscated I mean.”
“YEAH! That’s him. Hehe, those girls must’ve begged the teacher to get them back. Those were limited, you know.”
The train came to a stop as the woman on the intercom announced the stop. Itsuki quickly stood and grabbed Haruko’s arm.
“We’re here, we're here.”
The sun was quite low in the sky now, and Nakamise looked amazing with all it’s night lights. Itsuki looked like she fit right in. Her long braid flowed lightly in the wind and she had stuck her beloved stickers all over her arm. Why did she do that…
“Alright. Let’s go to my house first. My dad’s been dying to meet you.
Haruko was shocked.
“Yeah! When I told him that you ate the chips I brought in on the first day he was ecstatic. Nobody likes those chips, even though it’s his own recipe. I guess a stationary store owner can’t make chips but he insisted on making them anyway.”
Haruko placed her hand on her forehead. It was going to be a long night.