Chapter 10:

Tempest of Devotion

Couple That Can't Touch

Araki-kun and I stared at each other, confused.

Why is she worried? I wondered.

"Su-chan? Hello?" Hisa called through the phone.

"What do I say?" Araki-kun asked me, holding the phone away from his face.

"Say hi and ask why she's calling," I replied. It had been a while since I heard her this worried.

Araki-kun nodded and spoke into the phone with a high-pitched voice, "Hi, Hisa! Why are you calling?"

"I don't talk like that!" I yelled.

"Oh, Araki Koji's with you?" Hisa questioned.

I covered my mouth with my hands.

"Y-Yes," Araki-kun stuttered.

"Oh, sorry for interrupting," she chuckled. "Are you outside?" her worry returned.

"We're at a park," Araki-kun replied.

"Oh, no."

"Oh, no?" Araki-kun and I let out at the same time. A loud thunder crashed and Araki-kun instantly straightened up.

"Su-chan, there's a big storm coming," Hisa said. "It's already in the city and the roads are getting blocked cause of the rain and wind."

"Really?" Araki-kun spoke.

Something cold fell on my head and dripped onto my face. I looked up at the sky, dark and covered with gray clouds illuminated by flashes of lightning. The few kids that remained in the park were being called by their parents.

"You should run somewhere for cover as soon as you can," Hisa added, just as a sudden downpour started to fall on us.

"Araki-kun!" I shouted.

"Hisa, we need to run, the storm's here! I'll call you later!" Araki-kun spoke into the phone and hung up. He shoved the phone into my backpack and we rushed to grab our stuff, but we were soaking wet already.

Araki-kun said something as we ran through the park, but I couldn't hear him because of the rain.

"What?!" I shouted.

"I said, where should we go?!" he shouted back.

"I don't know! We could run to—"

A strong wind pushed me as we ran down a slippery ramp and made me fall back. Araki-kun managed to grab my arm but he fell with me.

"Are you okay?" he asked as he stood up over me.

"Y-Yes. I'm still not used to running while being this big," I responded.

"Are you calling me fat?" he teasingly asked and gave me a hand so I could stand up.

"You know what I mean!" I replied. "Let's run to the store, it's only a couple of streets from here!"

He nodded and we got going.

The storm soon became strong enough to mute our voices almost entirely. We jumped over puddles to cross the streets as water began to run down them in floods.

We stopped on the sidewalk to wait for a truck to pass by, but an enormous puddle was in its way. Araki-kun suddenly stepped in front of me but, luckily, the driver was kind enough to stop and let us cross the street. I couldn't help but chuckle.

We walked into the store, drenched and pouring water all over the floor. The cashier girl approached us.

"We're very sorry!" I apologized.

"No, it's fine! I'll go get some towels for you!" she said and rushed to the back of the store. It was very nice of her.

Araki-kun and I stood still at the entrance, trying not to get more stuff wet.

"You've got to be kidding me," Araki-kun grumbled behind me.


"My back is covered in mud from when you fell."

"Oh, sorry about that," I apologized.

"It's not your fault," he said. "Your socks are covered in mud as well."

I looked down at my legs. My white socks had practically disappeared under the brown of the mud.

They are destroyed, I thought, but I nervously giggled and replied, "It's fine…"

Then the recent memory of Araki-kun stepping in front of me to protect me from the splash of the puddle came to my mind.

"Tell me, Araki-kun."


I jumped in front of him and grinned, "Were you trying to protect me from getting soaked by the truck just now?"

His eyes widened up and his face flushed, but no words came out when he opened his mouth. He turned away.

"I-I wasn't," he denied and crossed his arms. "I just didn't want my uniform to get dirtier."

Though his explanation made sense, his reaction told the opposite. I guess I really am easy to read, I thought. I wish I could see that reaction on his face.

"Here are the towels!" the cashier said as she sprinted towards us.

"Thank you," said Araki-kun.

"Thanks!" I said.

We grabbed the towels and started drying ourselves up.

The rain hit the windows harder and harder as time passed. I didn't recall seeing a storm in today's weather forecast.

"Oh, are you Kasen students?" the cashier asked as she looked at the emblem on my uniform.

"We are," I replied.

"Amazing! I tried to get in a few years ago, but it was very hard and there was too much competition," she added, scratching her cheek. Only then did I notice that she looked quite young and pretty.

"It's known for being a prestigious high school for a reason!" she laughed nervously. "Tell me, how is it? Is it really that magnificent?"

Although she acted a bit weird, her interest felt genuine.

"Well, it's like a common high school to me," I answered. "Maybe the water canals between the buildings give it a unique touch."

"I see!" she replied, amazed. "And I guess you're very popular with all the girls."

Her comment caught my attention. Really? I wondered. I guess I haven't seen Araki-kun in that way…

"Ah, sorry! I forgot your girlfriend was here," she apologized.

"He—She's not my girlfriend! I'm not interested in that stuff," I said, scratching the back of my head.

I felt Araki-kun's eyes staring at me, but he was busy drying himself when I turned around to look at him.

"Oh, the blindness of youth," the cashier sighed. She closed her eyes and a smile appeared on her face. "I remember I used to say the same things."

"Really? What made you stop saying it?" I wondered.

"I met my girlfriend at the university where we study now. She's from Sweden, but she probably fell from heaven," she replied, getting lost in her thoughts.

"I see…"

"Anyway," she coughed. "Looks like the storm won't go anywhere for a while."

We all looked outside the storefront. The streets were already full of cascading waters and the trees bent as if they were about to snap at any moment.

"You should call your parents to tell them you're alright. That reminds me I should call mine," she laughed nervously. "Excuse me."

She walked away and we continued drying ourselves for a couple of minutes.

I took my phone out of my backpack and selected Dad's contact. Then I handed the phone to Araki-kun.

"Didn't you forget to pay for more calling minutes?" he asked.

"Oh, right. I forgot again," I laughed, deadpan.

"It's fine. I'll call again."

He took his phone out of his backpack and breathed deeply before calling.

"Hi, Dad," he spoke into the phone. "Yes, we're fine. We're taking cover in a store until it's safe enough to go out. My friend will have someone come for us."

He agreed a couple of times more before saying bye and ending the call. I stared at him, surprised.

"What? Did I say something bad?" he asked.

"The opposite. You're acting like me oddly fast."

"Maybe," he said. He then pointed at my pocket. "It's your turn."

I sighed and took the phone out to hand it to him.

"The password is zero-seven-five-zero-five-fourteen."

"Oh, okay," I said. What a specific password.

I unlocked the phone and quickly opened the contacts app, trying not to see anything unnecessary, but the emptiness of the contacts list—in which I only recognized one name—caught my attention.

His parents, his chauffeur, Fujisaki-san, Moriyama-san, and Sakakibara-san, I read. Are they friends?

"Kozue?" Araki-kun asked.

"Ah, your chauffeur's name is Yoshimura-san, right?"

He nodded, so I tapped the contact and started the call; he instantly answered.

"H-Hello," I greeted.

"Araki-sama, are you alright? Where are you?" he asked, worried.

"Yes, my friend and I are in a store in the nearby town."

"Understood," he sighed, probably from relief. "Please share your location and I'll pick you up as soon as possible."

"Oh, sure. We'll wait here."

I hung up the call and smiled at Araki-kun, "Well, how was it?"

"There's room for improvement," he responded. "But you got it right that I don't say much."

"Yes!" I grinned, feeling oddly proud about it. "He said to share your location," I told Araki-kun as I handed him the phone.

The cashier returned and asked, "You called your parents already? How about some drinks? Choose whatever you want, it's on me."

My eyes sparkled and my mouth opened with a smile.

"Oh, I can buy them," Araki-kun said.

She waved her finger in denial, "No, no, I want to buy them for you. You've already gone through all this trouble and it's my way to show you my respect for getting into Kasen."

What a weird way to show respect. And for getting into a school, I thought.

"S-Sure, thank you," Araki-kun stuttered.

I chose a grape-flavored juice and Araki-kun boringly chose bottled water. The cashier rang them up and paid the amount due.

A ringtone suddenly sounded and the cashier quickly checked her phone.

"Ah, it's the manager," she said. "I'll come back in a minute. There are two tables at the end of the aisles, please make yourselves comfortable."

She left to go to the back of the store once again and we headed to one of the tables. We sat down and took a sip at the same time under an awkward silence.

Araki-kun, popular among girls. Well, it's not like he isn't good looking, now that I think about it, I told myself. That's good, right? Then why do I feel annoyed?


"Y-Yes?!" I stuttered, getting out of my head.

"I asked how your family is."

"Oh, they're great!" I giggled nervously. "You just talked with my dad, he's always at home doing chores and taking care of Yu-tan while my mom works."


"My little sister. She's always waiting for me when I get home. She's so cute!"

"That must be pretty nice."

"It is! And my big sister already lives in her own apartment, but she comes to our house every now and then and gives us stuff. Oh, and she just told us two days ago that she's getting married! To be honest, I don't like her boyfriend, he's too nice and I feel like he's planning something."

I finished the sentence and realized I was talking a lot. Araki-kun stared down at his bottled water.

"Sorry, I got carried away!" I apologized.

"It's fine. It's nice hearing that your family's happy," he smiled softly, still looking down. He wasn't fine.

Am I always this expressive? I wondered.

Everything suddenly became dark and only some light came in from the storefront; a blackout.

"K-Kozue, are you there?" Araki-kun asked.

"Yes, I'm here," I responded, puzzled. I could barely see his silhouette.

A flash of lightning brightened the whole store and allowed me to see his closed eyes and shrugged shoulders in front of me.

"Araki-kun," I called.


"Are you afraid of darkness?"

He didn't make any sound for a couple of seconds when another flash lit the store. His eyes closed tighter and his shoulders tensed more.

"Yes, I'm afraid of darkness!" he shouted.


"Laugh if you want…"

"What? Why would I?" I said and stood up to approach him.

"W-What are you doing? Are you going somewhere?" he asked, scared.

I put my hand on his shoulder to guide me through the darkness and he let out a short scream. I pulled back the chair next to him and sat down.

"Sorry for that," I apologized. "You know, being afraid of darkness is very common."

"I know…"

"Even Yu-tan is afraid of it."

"Isn't she your little sister?!"

"W-Well, she is, but that's not my point! I'm trying to say that you shouldn't be ashamed of it."

"S-Sure," he stuttered. "But—"

Another flash interrupted him and made him scream. I could see his whole body tensing up and trembling. I felt bad for him.

"Also thunder?" I asked.

"Not the thunder so much as it is the lightning," he replied.

"I see."

We stayed silent for a moment and I could only hear the powerful rain and wind. The only thing I could think of to comfort him was what I would with Yu-tan when there was a storm; hold her hand.

I started reaching for his arm when the cashier came back and pointed a flashlight at us. "Hey, are you okay? I heard a scream."

Araki-kun and I stared at each other. His cheeks became pink—probably mine too—and I turned away from him.

He was looking at me the whole time?! I shouted in my head.

"Oh, sorry! Did I interrupt something?" the cashier giggled and turned off the flashlight.

"N-No! Don't turn it off!" Araki-kun screamed.

"Ah, sorry, again!" she apologized and switched it back on.

Araki-kun breathed heavily for a few seconds.

"We're okay, she's just a bit afraid of darkness," I said.

"I see. I'm very sorry, then!" she bowed, making the light go away once again. "Sorry, sorry, sorry! You should go to the storefront to have more light. You can take the chairs there."

"Thanks," I said.

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