Itsuki Ayane is quite the character. Since day one, she’s been loud, somewhat of an airhead and a very...outspoken student. She is the type to say whatever is on her mind, without grudges or twisted meanings. Whatever she says is sincere, even if it sometimes sounds out of line. Well, she doesn’t just say things. She also does things. Having a knack for tricks and teasing, Itsuki sometimes felt like a walking bomb. You never knew if she was leading you into one of her hundreds of traps and surprises. It seemed that the other students were all already used to her antics, they all laughed and shook their heads as if to say “again?” and went on with their day. On the first day of school, Itsuki’s introduction was very casual.
“Itsuki Ayane. Y’all know me. Let’s have another fulfilling year.”
She was well known among the students, since the majority had been together for a few years already. Not only that, her family’s stationary store was popular with many girls and even some of the boys would come down to Nakamise to browse the Ayane stationary store on their way. Well, Haruko could see the reason why it was so popular now. The building stood out from the others yet at the same time didn’t. It had the old fashion design of all the other shops, with bright red columns and a white roof. On the sign read: “Ayane Stationary” but someone had scribbled, in red marker, “and confectionary!” under the big letters.
“OI! I”M HOME!”
Itsuki yelled, shoving through the crowds and pulling poor Haruko along. A short and plump young woman with permed hair looked up from behind a busy counter.
“Oh Itsuki! Welcome home. Is that a friend? Welcome, welcome.”
Haruko’s eyes widened as she bowed quickly.
“Ah, pardon the intrusion. Um, it’s not much but here…”
She pulled a bag of sweet oranges from her school bag and handed it to the woman.
“My! You didn’t have to. Please, come in and make yourself at home. Alright! NEXT IN LINE PLEASE! I CAN HELP YOU OVER HERE!”
Haruko looked around. There were people everywhere. Itsuki was tapping on Haruko’s shoulder.
“How the heck do you hide oranges in your school bag all day? Huh? How are they not squashed to death?”
Haruko laughed nervously.
“Come on. Let’s go upstairs. We live upstairs, and mind the store down here.”
Itsuki opened the back door, which had a “staff only!” sign hanging sloppily. The noise of the busy street instantly faded. Itsuki led Haruko to her room while she went to grab some iced tea.
“It’s down the hall, second door to the right. I’ll be right back.”
Haruko stood awkwardly for a moment. When was the last time she visited someone’s house? She needed to be confident! Walking quickly down the hallway, Haruko opened the door Itsuki mentioned with a proud look on her face. There, in the middle of the room, was a short girl with glasses and a bowl cut. She held a big scorpion in her hand and faced the TV. Hearing the door open, she turned around swiftly and dropped the big scorpion on the tatami mats. Haruko yelled.
“WHAT HAPPENED? WHAT’S HAPPENING? EH-”
Itsuki yelled, rushing into the room with the iced tea pitcher.
“??? WHAT IS THIS????”
She grabbed the scorpion violently. Haruko suddenly felt like laughing but kept her mouth shut so as to not look insane.
“WHAT IS THIS? YAMI! GET OUT! GET OUT AND BRING THIS WITH YOU!”
The little girl gasped as the scorpion wriggled in Itsuki’s hand.
“Ah! Ah! Onee, you’re hurting him!”
“GET OUT. NOW. OR ELSE YOU’LL BE THE ONE I’LL BE HURTING NEXT.”
The girl stared at Haruko and pushed up her glasses. Why were her facial expressions so mature even though she looked literally five?
“You have a guest over.”
She bowed slightly.
“Okay Yami you can meet her later. We have some IMPORTANT! Business to discuss here so off you go.”
Itsuki said, pushing the girl out of the door and barricading it with a chair.
“Eh HM. HE HM HM.”
Itsuki cleared her throat awkwardly.
“Don’t mind that kid, it's just my baby sister Yami. She has a serious bug collecting addiction.”
Haruko said in an understanding tone.
Itsuki suddenly looked serious. She poured some tea for the two of them and placed her hands near her mouth, resting her chin.
“Tell me now. Who’s this Yulan guy?”
“Th- that’s what you wanted to know?”
“Of course! Why else would I bring you all the way here? I wasn’t going to go shopping with you without even knowing the guy!”
“...Ah… yes that makes sense…”
Haruko sweated a little and avoided eye contact.
“Ohoho Haruko-channn. Don’t look away now. Well if you insist I won’t ask further but…”
“Yulan-san is my father.”
There was a loud silence in the room.
Itsuki said, jumping up.
“I- I mean, I guess he’s not like my actual father but he’s my mentor.”
“Mentor? mentor? Like… um..”
Itsuki looked troubled.
“Ah, please speak comfortably. There really isn’t much to it. My parents passed when I was five. They say it was a car accident but I don’t know too much about it. Yulan was a friend of my mother and father’s, so he looked after me.”
Itsuki looked dumbfounded.
“S-sorry, I shouldn’t have pried...”
Haruko was exactly afraid of this kind of reaction. There was no need to feel awkward or apologetic, yet people always had the same reaction when hearing about this.
Haruko said loudly, making Itsuki jump.
“I- I mean! Don’t worry about it really! I don’t even think about it, it doesn't bother me at all. Besides, I had a happy life with Yulan-san… even though he’s kind of non-existent.”
“He is very busy. I haven’t seen him since the beginning of the school year. Still, he should be back for his birthday.”
Itsuki stared at Haruko.
“How old is this dude?”
“Um… I don’t know.”
“You don’t know his age???? Even though he’s lived with y-”
“Itsuki? What’s wrong?”
“Wait. He’s lived with you right? A HIGHSCHOOL GIRL… YOU LIVE WITH THIS GUY AND YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW HIS AGE! YOU!”
Itsuki got up once again and put her hand to her mouth, looking like she just learned the world was going to end. Haruko blushed and made a panicked face.
“EH?? NO! NO IT’S NOT LIKE THAT!”
“THEN WHAT IS IT LIKE??? HUH???? WHY ARE YOU BLUSH-”
“I’M NOT BLUSHING I’M JUST PANICKING!”
“WHY ARE YOU PANICKING? BECAUSE YOU KNOW I’M RIGHT?”
“NO! AH- IT’S NOT-”
The bedroom door banged open, making the chair that was barricading it fly towards the girls. They screeched loudly. Standing in the doorway was no one other than president Kaito, along with the new members Taichi and...Shun.