Chapter 9:

Setsuko's Embrace (The Water Park: Part 1)

Paradise on Earth


“Lil’ Jun, I want to eat you, destroy you. Like a shonen battle manga except only I get to fight. I want to eradicate your innocence like it’s the demon lord, though my simple magic attack hits at 9999 damage, thank goodness. We talked about being vulnerable before, well I want to see that, Lil’ Jun. I want to see your everything and then scratch away at it until you’re bone. I want to consume your essence piece by piece until all that’s left behind is your memory. Our friends will run to me crying, pleading, asking me if I can tell them in any way as to where you went. And because I love you so much I will answer them with…”

The image of Hayami morphs itself into a demonic shadow with piercing scribbles in place of eyes. The dream slowly falling apart before I jump out of bed, drenched in sweat and breathing heavily as I recall events earlier in the night. It wasn’t as abstract as the last nightmare I had, but it definitely left me panting as I try to catch my breath and tell myself that none of it was real.

Though, it’s a lie.

I know I’m lying to myself when I say it’s not real. Who could forget the taste of honey on her lips, or the way she looked at me longingly, or even the way she touched my…pants.

My body remembers that horrible experience in the way the body of a teenage boy loved to do so, giving me this depressing feeling of self-disgust at the realization.

Grabbing my phone, I stare at the group text shared by our little circle of friends and begin typing that I’m not going to the water park. But each time I try to hit send, my fingers move to the delete key and decide against it.

After three hours, I still try to muster the courage to tell everyone I wasn’t coming—but each time I imagined Nori, and I just couldn’t help but feel like I owed it to her to follow my word and continue learning more about “the wall” and how this mysterious phenomenon works. I also imagine seeing Hayami again, and my stomach turns as I roll over to my side, wondering how I’m really supposed to put on a brave face and have fun at a water park after last night.

Well, at least Daitan will be wearing a swimsuit.

Yeah, flat is definitely justice.

***

As I got on the train, drawstring bag in tow, I thought about the plan. The water park was a decent way from the area that we all lived in, so it would take about twenty minutes on the train, and then another ten minutes or so to walk to our destination. We all agreed that we would meet each other there, so I was on my own. As any normal otaku might do, I pull out my phone to start reading Queendom, a manga that I only started reading recently—despite hearing many pleas to remedy that from Daitan ever since she found out.

Once I found the chapter I left off, I hear an announcement of the next stop over the intercom. As it just so happens, the train slows down for that very stop. Having not been on the train for even two full minutes, I feel a nervous energy building in my stomach when I get off. I leave the train baffled towards the mysterious forces that clearly contradict any and all logic I could think of.

This can’t be real.

Having just experienced a train that moves ten times faster than what is logistically possible, at least what should be, the thought of trying to have fun with the girls is truly the furthest thing from my mind. Even so, my body continues to move in the direction of my destination. Halfway there, I feel a body push up against my back and arms come around my torso. It doesn’t take me long to discern that this combination of height, long arms, and lack of real weight could only be a certain tan tomboy.

“Kaiyo, what are you doing?”

“Just making sure this depressingly average looking guy knows that he doesn’t have to walk to a waterpark without a pretty girl on his arm.”

What. Since when does Jin Kaiyo greet me with back hugs and banter?

“Well now I know. I can see you’re by yourself, except if maybe Daitan’s hiding in the bag.” I respond, pointing at her duffle bag and flashing a smirk. I find my mood improving until a flash of Hayami’s figure shoots through my head and a bit of blood shoots through my body, racing to its destination.

Nope! I’m not letting her ruin my fun water park adventure with a bunch of beautiful girls!

Pulling my phone back out, I text Nori as Kaiyo and I approach the entrance to the indoor water park. I tell her about my experience on the train, and she didn’t take long to respond and tell me that her experience was almost identical. About two minutes passed, and suddenly she arrived at a stop that still should have not been for at least another fifteen minutes. The two of us agree to talk about it later and to for now just observe, more importantly, have fun.

I’m going to have fun, and nothing is going to stop me from having fun.

As Kaiyo and I enter the water park, we somehow found ourselves in an argument about what the greatest baseball anime of all time was.

“Obviously Two Outs is the best, it is one of the most underrated Happyhouse series ever.” I say while throwing an invisible baseball at Kaiyo, only for her to catch the non-existent projectile and shake her head.

“You’re telling me something ridiculous like Two Outs can compare to the beautiful simplicity of Minor. Two Outs is alright, but I actually appreciate a story that respects the sanctity of baseball, while simultaneously having a compelling cast of characters and conflicts for anyone who doesn’t enjoy baseball. Meanwhile, you pick something that barely even feels like a baseball anime.”

“I mean, I don’t like baseball so…”

“Typical men.”

“What? Isn’t it more typical for guys to be the sporty types? Shouldn’t a girl like you be fawning over something girly like Sailor Andromeda or Cardseeker Tsubaki?

“You can’t even think of an example from this century, Grandpa!” Feeling as if she has won, Kaiyo smirks with a level of smugness I didn’t know was possible for the sports-obsessed girl.

“Hey, Sailor Andromeda Emerald was this century!” I say, fully knowing just how terrible of a counterargument this was. but honestly, I was more than happy to just give Kaiyo the win here and move on to secretly staring at swimsuits.

“You’re both wrong, Feel is obviously the best baseball anime of all time, and you’re both ridiculous to be arguing over this.” Nori chimed in from our left, before laughing it off. “It’s good to see you two, but let’s stop talking about this and have some fun!”

Having prepared for this like the innovator I am, I wore my swim trunks here, so I simply took off my shirt and was good to go. Seeing Kaiyo look into her bag, I decide to ask for convenience since I know she’s about to change anyway “Hey, could you leave my bag with your stuff?”

Kaiyo looks at me for a second perplexed, followed by a pleasantly surprised “mhm” as she takes my bag looking all flattered, or whatever she was feeling I’m not sure.

I additionally remind Kaiyo that “Also, when we leave remember to come back with me, okay?”

Kaiyo gives me a thumbs up while running off to the girl’s changing area, leaving Nori and me to mingle. Taking a deep breath, I turn around to see Nori, already donning her very classic-looking white two-piece swimsuit showing off her body without being anything particularly risque.

“So, what’s going on that’s got you in such a bad mood?” Nori says as she starts to stretch and prepares to either swim or something.

“I’m not in a bad mood, I was just having a silly little anime argument, nothing that really matters.”

“Sato, I can see it in your eyes. You know you can trust me, right?”

I hesitate, wondering if I should tell the truth about what happened with Hayami. On one hand, Nori does seem like a reasonable girl when it comes to this type of stuff, but on the other hand, I really don’t want to be the reason that the other girls start to hate Hayami—even if she said some genuinely disturbing stuff. From what I could tell she was trying to apologize as I rode off on Kaiyo’s bike, probably.

“Well, I just didn’t get much of any sleep.”

Technically not a lie.

Nori gave me a questioning look that didn’t hide the serious doubt of what I said being the full story. In response, I just gave her a nervous little smile, probably only making her worry worse. Thankfully, we both noticed a certain class prez in the background and waved to greet her.

“Hey! Yasashiku, over here!” I yell, noticing her orange two-piece suit that complimented her thighs in ways I didn’t mind looking at.

“Where have you been?” Yasashiku entered the conversation with a simple question, but nothing was ever so simple with her.

“In the large indoor water park, same as you. Besides, we just got here, and still haven’t even seen Sachio or Daitan yet anyways.”

“Well, Sato, you’re coming with me. The really big slide near the roof is exhilarating, and there’s no way I’m not taking you with me for ride number two.”

Yasashiku then pointed towards the behemoth of a slide poised in the middle of the park as she finished. Despite the water park being indoors it was actually a large complex with giant windows on the ceiling to let light in. I guess one of the benefits of saving so much money on electricity is the ability to splurge on a gargantuan slide with a massive initial drop that twists in a stomach-turning fashion, wide enough for two people to slide together so they can stare at each other in terror.

“Oh really? Honestly, I’m just looking to relax, I don’t really want to go on the biggest slide in the whole park.” I say, not really feeling up to any particularly extreme activities. Honestly, I just wanted to talk to the girls, play in the water, and appreciate the fact that I’m around people who aren’t trying to do really weird things to me.

“Come on, don’t be silly. It’s like jumping off of a ladder, it’s only scary because you’ve never done it before.” She says as she starts to drag me off towards the giant waterslide in the center of the park. Nori giggled and waved, more than willing to let Yasashiku kidnap me without even calling the police.

As I turn back to focus on Yasashiku, I question the strange thing she just said. “Yasashiku, have you jumped off a ladder before?”

“No, but wrestlers do it in ladder matches all the time, and they rarely get hurt doing that.”

“Rarely?”

I’m going to die.

Yasashiku and I get in line, and much to my surprise, only four people were in front of us. Either we picked a good day to go to the water park, or I’m actually about to die. “Hey, are you sure about this prez?” I say, feeling more than a little unsure about riding this tall, steep, and very swirly slide.

“Trust me, it will be so much fun. You don’t have to be a little baby about it.” Knowing Yasashiku, she probably wants to see me chicken out, but I’m not going to give her that satisfaction. Despite the sweat starting to form under my arms, I continued to wait in line with the class president until the boy in front of us went down the slide.

“Okay, last chance for you to chicken out. Though understand there will be consequences if you do.”

Ah, so she was being a sneaky little demon. Well, two can play at that game. “No, I’m perfectly fine, unless of course, you didn’t actually ride this slide and you are the one who is trying to chicken out of this.” Yasashiku hadn’t expected me to turn the tables on her—and the blush on her cheeks gave me all the info I needed to tell me that she was, in fact, lying this whole time about having gone on the slide, and was, in fact, just as terrified of this monstrosity of Japanese engineering as I was.

“N-No...I’m fine…stupid.” Her words were spoken in a quieter, more embarrassed tone. As she was unwilling to admit her plan backfired.

“I guess it’s time to go down then.” I say, praying she would just back out at the last second.

“Hmph, fine!” Yasashiku’s tsundere nature strikes, and the two of us sit down on the edge of the slide right next to each other, before looking over at Yasashiku who was trying to act tough.

“Seems like someone needs a push!” We hear from assumably Kaiyo as we’re forcibly pushed forward. We both almost immediately screaming for our lives as we grab hold of each other and fly down at a speed much too fast for any two humans, let alone any other organism.

The two of us hold on until the very end, flying through the air together until we land in the water with a splash, neither of us even letting go as we float up to the surface. I’m slowly regulating my breathing as I try to come down from the high of riding that ungodly contraption, and Yasashiku seems in much the same state as I am. That is, until I see something orange floating around in the water next to me, and then I notice that there’s no top separating our chests as Yasashiku continues to hold me tight.

“Um...prez...your top…” I say, awkwardly trying to tell her that it somehow fell off at the end of the ride.

“It’s okay...I....you can...you know...if you want.”

Blushing, I can feel my heart beating faster as I am holding the class president close, feeling her bare chest against my own, our heartbeats becoming one. While I haven’t mentioned it before because it wasn’t relevant, Yasashiku is actually well endowed in comparison to the rest of our class outside of Sachio. So the fact I can hear her heartbeat is significant. It’s also giving me mixed signals; does she want me to… touch her? She could mean her top, but she said it in a way so freaking adorable that it’s confusing. I’ve never intentionally done something like that before, especially in a pool all open. But if it’s with Yasashiku, and there is consent

Biting my lip for a moment, I can feel my hand moving to touch her somewhere I’ve never purposely touched before, and in this moment, I just want to do it, even if we’re in public, even if it’s not the time or place.

“Lil’ Juuuuuuuuuunnnnnnnnnn~!”

“Ahhhhh!” I yell as I immediately push away from Yasashiku, gasping for breath as I look around for Hayami. I saw no one of the sort, just the other people in the area staring at me. Which I guess makes sense given that I just screamed really loudly out of nowhere. Turning to the prez, I see her covering her chest and working to put her top back on. Blushing. I turn away only to see Kaiyo flying through the air doing a backflip right towards my face. “WHAT THE FU-”

Kaiyo crashes into me, making another big splash as her trip down the slide was met with two people who hadn’t moved out of the way. And I get to be the unlucky one getting a face full of Jin Kaiyo to add to the ridiculousness of this stupid water park.

“Jeez, what were you two doing down here? Making out?” Kaiyo looked at us with a clearly amused face, not troubled in the slightest by the fact that I feel like I have a broken nose from her crazy backflip off the slide.

“We were just talking.” Yasashiku said, seemingly composed now after our little incident.

“Really, because it seemed like a little more than just talking?”

“Oh, shut it Kaiyo, that’s none of your business!”

Whoa, where did that come from? I know things got a little...intimate, but still. “Hey, calm down, everything’s fine. Let’s just relax and get out of the way before the next psycho flies into my nose.”

As we all made our way out of the pool at the bottom of the mega slide, it really isn’t hard to tell that Yasashiku did not like how that went down, but at least she didn’t say my iconic pet name like another president I know. Speaking of Hayami, I can’t get her out of my head, and I really don’t know if I can face her.

“Sato, I think I’m going to go get something to eat.” Yasashiku was already heading towards the locker room area to presumably get some money to buy something.

“Jeez Sato, what did you do to her?”

“I...don’t really know.”

In truth, Yasashiku was angstier than a girl avenging her father with a pair of scissors.

“Kaiyo! Sato!” An all-too-familiar voice calls out to us. Turning to look at the girl who was exclaiming our names, a truly holy sight was walking right towards the two of us. Her name is Honoka Daitan.

Blue.

That’s the color of her swimsuit in case you were curious.

It goes well with her chin-length hair that goes past her ears like a straight line.

Very sexy.