Chapter 16:

Volume 2 Bonus Chapter – Field Trip Reunion (Part 1)

Sleeping Princess

“Bye Onee-san!”Bookmark here

From the back seat, I cried out to Madoka-san. She waved back, reminding me that she was a reliable person. With that ease in my chest, I leaned back onto my big bags and relaxed before the car started moving.Bookmark here

“How was your shopping trip with your Onee-san, Hana?”Bookmark here

My second mom teased as she reached her long arms back and poked my nose.Bookmark here

“S-stop!”Bookmark here

I cried as I fell back into my backpack.Bookmark here

“Mom, are you and Onee-san doing good?”Bookmark here

Mom yawned and scratched her cheek.Bookmark here

“Guess so. Probably not as close as the two of you though, Hana.”Bookmark here

Mom winked as she turned the corner.Bookmark here

“Why are you both teasing me?!”Bookmark here

I lean to the window and the cityscape falls behind me. This was going to be the first time that I spent nearly a week away from my real mom. So, to be honest, I’m a little nervous but I can’t let that show. I have to make sure they don’t treat me like a kid and tease me. But it’s strange…I’m a little sad that I won’t be able to see Onee-san for a while.Bookmark here

These thoughts made me close my eyes and reminisce about that time…Bookmark here

I thought back to that time where mom first showed me this mysterious girl named Madoka. I heard her talk of her before in passing but now there was a face to her name.Bookmark here

We walked into the medical center. Mom just came from work and picked me up from school. Mom’s steps were deliberate and heavy. I never saw her like this before, so I was quiet while we made our way up the elevator. When we reached the 3rd floor, we reached a small room with a homely smell in it. Mom walked slowly as she reached for the crème curtains and revealed a young girl. She couldn’t have been more than five or so years older than me.Bookmark here

“Hana, I want to introduce you to Nakagawa Madoka-san.”Bookmark here

There we sat in the white room. Mom took her hand and nodded gently. The hand of this lifeless doll that sat like a rock. No emotions could be pulled from her because she didn’t seem real to me.Bookmark here

“Madoka-san…is the daughter of my coworker…”Bookmark here

It was strange, seeing her act so familiar with this puppet in the bed.Bookmark here

“I see…what happened to her?”Bookmark here

Bandages were covering the back of her head. Bushes of brown hair sparked out crudely from her back. When I gazed my eyes towards the bandages, the skin was inflamed causing me to get a little nauseous. It was mean of me to say but I didn’t want to find out what was underneath them. That would ruin her isolated beauty.Bookmark here

“…She had an accident and hit her head.”Bookmark here

Mom stated as she continued to hold her hand. With tender eyes, she gazed back down to her. For some reason, it felt like these two, the doll and my mom were sucked into their isolated world. One that I wasn’t truly a part of yet.Bookmark here

“Madoka-san…had a lot of dreams and aspirations. But now she…won’t wake up.”Bookmark here

“I…see…”Bookmark here

For a while, mom didn’t say anything else. She just sat there holding her hand. This twisted feeling in my stomach rattled my bones. Like there were pieces of my mom that I couldn’t uncover…but this doll may have.Bookmark here

So, I sat on the seat next to her and took out my game system. I wasn’t sure what else to say and didn’t want to interrupt her. Like it would be a sin if I did break the world they made together.Bookmark here

After what felt like a half an hour or so, mom spoke.Bookmark here

“Hana.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, mom?”Bookmark here

“If you ever fell in love…would you tell me?”Bookmark here

My heart pounded hard as my cheeks felt like they were on fire. For a moment, my mind went blank as I turned to her. She wasn’t staring at me but that strange girl in the bed.Bookmark here

“…Yeah, of course, I would mom.”Bookmark here

Mom looked at me now.Bookmark here

“You see Hana, Madoka had someone she loved but wasn’t able to tell her mom.”Bookmark here

I wasn’t sure why mom was bringing this up. To be honest, there were plenty of times that I didn’t understand my mom. Not that she was that much of an enigma, but mom knew how to shield her true motives at times. All because of the way she grew up in grandpa’s home. So, I decided to humor her.Bookmark here

“What do you mean?”Bookmark here

“Well…Madoka was a hard worker and wouldn’t stop at anything to make sure her mom was happy…”Bookmark here

She sighed.Bookmark here

“But then she found herself in a position in which she thought her mom wouldn’t approve of…and that was the person she loved.”Bookmark here

“I see…”Bookmark here

Mom nodded.Bookmark here

“What I’m trying to say is Hana…”Bookmark here

Mom turned to me and held me close.Bookmark here

“Is that time isn’t guaranteed to us. So, if there’s something you ever want to talk about, mom will listen to you. She’ll never judge you, Hana.”Bookmark here

“Mom?”Bookmark here

“I love you so much, Hana. I’m so sorry I haven’t been too active in your life. But I hope you know I do everything in my power to make you happy.”Bookmark here

“I know mom. I love you too!”Bookmark here

That day as I sat next to a girl that I didn’t know…mom held me. We connected in a way we haven’t in a long time. You see, mom does everything she can for others. That’s how she’s always been. When mom was young, she grew up in a strict traditional family. It was her, uncle, grandpa, and grandma. When she got pregnant with me…grandpa kicked her out.Bookmark here

Thinking back to this I held my chest.Bookmark here

But then, like a knight in shining armor, my dad didn’t let her go. He took her in and gave her a life full of happiness. He was wealthy and owned his family's business. But then he went out to get us a treat for dinner and…Bookmark here

That night…mom held me like this. I don’t remember much but I recall her holding me like this and telling me that she’d do anything to make me happy. That’s when mom went back to school and graduated. She worked hard to make sure I was happy.Bookmark here

As I opened my eyes, the world came back into view. There I was sitting in the back seat of that car. Suddenly, I opened my mouth.Bookmark here

“I love you, mom.”Bookmark here

“Hm?”Bookmark here

Mom tilted her head back to me.Bookmark here

“What was that Hana?”Bookmark here

“I said, I love you, mom.”Bookmark here

Mom’s face turned visibly red.Bookmark here

“W-where's that coming from all of a sudden?”Bookmark here

My second mom just giggled.Bookmark here

“Aw, are you getting all emotional now that you have to leave, Hana?”Bookmark here

“S-Shut up!”Bookmark here

We soon pulled up to the school. Only then did I become anxious. The crowd of students from my year all surrounded the buses with their respective parents. With hands gripping my large bags, I stepped out onto the cement.Bookmark here

“Hana-chan!”Bookmark here

Suddenly, a fiery-haired girl assaulted me from behind. To my surprise, I let out a squeal. She then shimmed to the side and pulled me in.Bookmark here

“Oh, it’s Sora-chan!”Bookmark here

The aggressive girl swung around and turned to my second mom and bowed deeply.Bookmark here

“Oh! Hello, Ms. Nakagawa! How are you?”Bookmark here

“I’m fine. Are you all ready to go on your trip, Sora-chan?”Bookmark here

Sora fist pumped. Someone has far more energy than they should in the morning.Bookmark here

“Oh yeah! Hana and I have been talking about this all month. Hehe.”Bookmark here

I turned to see mom reaching in the back seat. Seems I left a few bags as she pulled them out with a huff.Bookmark here

“Geez, Hana. What do you have in here, a ton of bricks?”Bookmark here

“Mom! I have the bare essentials.”Bookmark here

“Is that right? I should have gone over what those were with Madoka-san. She…might have allowed you to bring too many things.”Bookmark here

Mom scratched her head. Only then did I realize that the bag she was holding had a certain special thing that was a secret between Onee-san and me.Bookmark here

“D-don’t worry! I’ll take it, mom!”Bookmark here

I rushed over and ripped the bag out of her hand.Bookmark here

“Huh…Oh okay…”Bookmark here

Mom leered at me then smiled sinisterly. I…take it that she’s already figured out what I had stored in there.Bookmark here

“Make sure you play a lot with Sora-chan…”Bookmark here

Mom said as she locked her arm around me with that smile of hers. Mom isn’t dumb…no, on the contrary, she’s extremely smart. To the point that she might boarder a genius. I’m not being modest either. Back in her school days mom was at the top of her class. And even after she…dropped out she would always read books on all kinds of crazy theories. When she went to college, she measured in the top five percent of her class. Sometimes I feel inferior to her as if I’ll never measure up to her brilliance.Bookmark here

“Hey…”Bookmark here

Mom whispered in my ear.Bookmark here

“Is this the one that likes the fluffy?”Bookmark here

“Mom!”Bookmark here

Sora’s eyes sparked up.Bookmark here

“Oh?! You brought the fluffy sleeping bag too?! I tell you, it’s the best bag to go camping with.”Bookmark here

My heart was pounding. I didn’t want Sora to find out that I bought it…because she had the same one. But of course, ….leave it to my mom to put two and two together. But instead of going forward she just chuckled.Bookmark here

“Have fun you two. And enjoy those games.”Bookmark here

Sora tilted her head.Bookmark here

“Games? You mean the games on the field trip, Ms. Koda?”Bookmark here

“Yep, those games.”Bookmark here

My mom’s lying through her teeth! She knows I brought my handheld game system and she’s making sure I know she knows! But I don’t understand how she came to that conclusion…It was supposed to be a secret between Onee-san and I. Mom is scary!Bookmark here

Then suddenly, Sora took my hand.Bookmark here

“I’ll take good care of her Ms. Koda-san, Ms. Nakagawa-san!”Bookmark here

“Oh, Sora-chan!”Bookmark here

My second mom called out.Bookmark here

“Yeah?”Bookmark here

“Make sure Hana eats her breakfast, lunch, and dinner! Don’t let her stay up too long and…”Bookmark here

“Mom! You don’t need to tell Sora-chan that!”Bookmark here

With a salute, Sora beamed.Bookmark here

“Don’t you worry Ms. Nakagawa-san! I have ways to make this twig eat.”Bookmark here

I pushed Sora now annoyed.Bookmark here

“I’m not a twig!”Bookmark here

Mom just laughed. She was mocking me, and she knew it.Bookmark here

“You two have fun. Hana, I’ll take good care of your Onee-san while you’re gone.”Bookmark here

“Oh…”Bookmark here

That reminded me, so I set my bags down and tugged at my mom’s arms.Bookmark here

“Hm, what is it, Hana?”Bookmark here

“…I’m glad you and Onee-san are getting along now. Thanks, mom.”Bookmark here

Mom’s eyes widen. But then she bit the bottom of her lip. Something told me she was thinking of something as her face tinted a slight red.Bookmark here

“Yeah…I promise I’ll treat her like my own daughter. So, don’t worry, I’ll make her happy while you’re gone, Hana.”Bookmark here

I couldn’t help myself, so I rushed in and held my mom’s stomach. Suddenly, her jacket felt wet. Oh, that’s because I was crying.Bookmark here

“Aw, are you sad because you have to leave, Hana?”Bookmark here

Mom teased causing me to hit her chest.Bookmark here

“Eh, what have I told you about hitting me?!”Bookmark here

“Stop teasing me! I…I’m going to miss you, mom.”Bookmark here

“The truth is out! Hana is still my baby…”Bookmark here

Mom then held me closer and rubbed her cheek on my head. This always calmed me down. On the nights where I would…feel lonely because I didn’t have a dad, mom would do this. It took me back to the days where it was just the two of us. Those times…that I felt were harder than now. How I’m so happy that mom found Ayumi…and Madoka. I can’t help but say thank you to her for it.Bookmark here

Before long, Sora and I got into the bus. With a wave, we set off onto the open road. As we sat there with the rumble of the engine below us, I turned to Sora.Bookmark here

“Hm…hey Sora, where were your parents?”Bookmark here

“They couldn’t make it. Had business in the mornings.”Bookmark here

Sora leaned back and sighed. The students around us were a mixture of different classes. Half of our class and half of another. But that didn’t matter to me, Sora-chan was the only one I wanted to hang out with. She didn’t tease me for having two moms or whatever kids like to be stupid about lately.Bookmark here

“Hey, look!”Bookmark here

Sora called out to me causing me to turn to her. Abruptly, a fruit jumped into my mouth….no, Sora pushed it in.Bookmark here

“Hehe, I told you I have ways to feed you!”Bookmark here

“Oh! Stop that Sora!”Bookmark here

“But wasn’t it sweet? It’s a mandarin orange from my uncle's farm. He sent us a bunch of these in cans and mom put them in my bag.”Bookmark here

“I see…oooph!”Bookmark here

“Here, have more!”Bookmark here

Normally one would say that…before stuffing it in another’s mouth. But then this isn’t normal at all, to begin with.Bookmark here

“Gosh, will you two stop flirting?”Bookmark here

Two girls from behind evaded our moment together. Sora sat up on the seat and peeked her head back.Bookmark here

“Shut it, punk.”Bookmark here

“Sora! Don’t bother with them.”Bookmark here

“If you don’t like me having fun with my friend then you can take a fist to the face.”Bookmark here

The two turned away in fear. Sora wasn’t playing around either. She’s the kind of girl that works out regularly and she’s in kendo. So, she’s not afraid of a little confrontation. But I don’t like seeing her always having to defend me…But as my thoughts passed by Sora plopped back down and turned back to me.Bookmark here

“Don’t listen to them, Hana.”Bookmark here

She said this but…Sora stopped feeding me mandarins. I just figured she must have gotten bored of it…right? So, I checked my phone only to find a message from Onee-san.Bookmark here

It read: [Have lots of fun. I miss you!]Bookmark here

Onee-san sure knows how to express herself in messages. She’d never say something like this aloud. That made me chuckle.Bookmark here

“Oh, who are you texting? Your boyfriend?”Bookmark here

I turned to see Sora skimming my text.Bookmark here

“Hey, this stuff is private!”Bookmark here

“Oh please, we have no secrets between each other. I have to make sure you don’t get catfished or something!”Bookmark here

“It’s my Onee-san, stupid!”Bookmark here

Sora’s eyes lit up.Bookmark here

“Is she as beautiful as your mom? Ah, Nakagawa-san that is…”Bookmark here

I nod my head energetically. I thought it might pop off at that rate.Bookmark here

“Yes! She’s super beautiful. I don’t know how she does it…even with glasses.”Bookmark here

“Oh, she has glasses too?”Bookmark here

“Yeah! She’s blind as a bat without them.”Bookmark here

“Does she wear contacts?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, she does. But…they hurt her eyes, so she doesn’t wear them too often. She’s sensitive to things like that.”Bookmark here

I close my eyes, imagining her with and without her glasses.Bookmark here

“I don’t think she realizes that she is as beautiful as her mom though.”Bookmark here

“Oh, why do you say that Hana?”Bookmark here

“Something just gives off that impression that…she doesn’t think too highly of herself. But she’s super cool and I want to be just like her!”Bookmark here

Sora laughed as she put a mandarin in her mouth.Bookmark here

“Sounds like someone has a crush on their Onee-san!”Bookmark here

“Eh?! No, it’s not like that!”Bookmark here

I tilted my head down.Bookmark here

“No…my mom just thinks so highly of her. And…I want to understand the same feelings she has for Onee-san.”Bookmark here

“Hm, Nagakawa-san?”Bookmark here

“No…my real mom. It’s…a little unnatural how she acted when Onee-san was in a coma.”Bookmark here

I found myself expressing things I had no intention to speak of. Sora looked at me a tad dumbfounded for good reason.Bookmark here

“Hehe, maybe your mom has a crush on Onee-san then!”Bookmark here

She jeered, hitting her thigh. I wanted to smack her in the face for that but instead, I opt to a few hits on her shoulder.Bookmark here

“That’s not funny, Sora!”Bookmark here

For a moment we rode along in silence. Once we felt the elevation begin to raise, I turned to see the sea of trees below. Me being nearest to the window, Sora flipped her body over mine and opened the frame.Bookmark here

She looked like a dog with her tongue out, flapping in the wind.Bookmark here

“Waaaah! The air’s so fresh up here. Hana-san, take a whiff!”Bookmark here

“Hino-san! Sit down while the bus is moving!”Bookmark here

“Eh?! Sorry, Mitsuki-sensei…”Bookmark here

With that, she plopped back in her seat at our sensei’s command. I’m not sure how she could still have so much energy. It’s mindboggling. So, to settle her down a little I took out my iPod and clicked on some of my favorite music. I don’t listen to the cheery idol stuff Madoka-san does. No, I like the relaxing somber beats that resonate with me.Bookmark here

“Here, Sora.”Bookmark here

I pushed out an earbud her way.Bookmark here

“Hm? What’ll we listening to, Korean boy bands?”Bookmark here

“Nope, it’s an instrumental.”Bookmark here

Gradually, Sora settled down as she closed her eyes. The beat of the music reminded me of fresh-cut grass or a hint of dew after the morning rain. Slow beats that rhyme with the sun. Simpler things…Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

I felt Sora’s cheek slam into my shoulder. Oh, I guess she tired herself out. She’s like a kid in that regard. Maybe I’m like her mother who’s forced to keep her at bay. Mom calls me mature so that might be true…Bookmark here

This trip was supposed to take a few more hours so I let her rest there as the wheels on the bus aimed at our destination. The now opened window caused my hair to mix with hers.Bookmark here

As I relaxed, my mind journeyed back to the last day of elementary. There I stood with Sora looking at our old school. All the memories didn’t turn sour after my breakup with my old crew. Things started to get sweeter when…Sora stood up for me. I closed my eyes, reminiscing about those times again...Bookmark here

“Hey, we’re going to the same middle school, right Hana?”Bookmark here

“Mhm, that’s right.”Bookmark here

Sora then took my hand.Bookmark here

“Wanna bet we stay in the same class together? Like this year?”Bookmark here

I put my hand on my hip. From what I heard from the older kids, junior high was bigger and there were smaller chances that we’d end up with our old friends.Bookmark here

“Hm, I doubt it, Sora-chan…”Bookmark here

“You don’t believe me?”Bookmark here

“You can’t control that…”Bookmark here

Sora just snickered.Bookmark here

“I’m going to wish harder than ever. I don’t want to be separated from my best friend!”Bookmark here

My chin lifted, trying to catch how big my eyes went. I never had a “best friend” before. I’ve moved around so much while mom was going to school and work because of various reasons. I wasn’t accustomed to having a friend longer than a few months. It was…strange.Bookmark here

I searched her eyes, but she didn’t waver.Bookmark here

In the group of girls, I was with Sora and I rarely talked. She had all the energy and I was more toned and docile than her.Bookmark here

It’s not that we weren’t friends…but if we were in a room alone together, we certainly wouldn’t talk to each other. I don’t think we didn’t like one another…but we just couldn’t resonate with one another. But there she was, calling me her best friend. How strange life is.Bookmark here

“Hana-chan?”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

“Are you okay?”Bookmark here

The blood in my body rose to my cheeks. I couldn’t hide the fact that I was embarrassed.Bookmark here

“Yeah…I don’t want to be separated from my best friend too.”Bookmark here

Sora laughed and wrapped her arm around my neck. She then started jumping up and down making me a bit dizzy.Bookmark here

“S-Stop.”Bookmark here

“Hana-chan! Hana-chan!”Bookmark here

“Stop, Sora-chan!”Bookmark here

My eyes shot open. Her cheery face met mine with that smirk on it.Bookmark here

“Hey, sorry for waking you but we’re here.”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

“We’re at the campsite. You were sleeping so soundly so I didn’t want to wake you until now.”Bookmark here

“Oh…when did I fall asleep?”Bookmark here

My mind was still hazy but what filtered back in my mind was the dream I had with Sora in it. It felt like I was actually back in that day. How strange one's mind can be to give you such a thought even though it’s not real.Bookmark here

“Alright students, stay in a group, and bring your belongings to the cabins.”Bookmark here

As directed by Mitsuki-sensei, our class went to our respective cabins. Sora and I are “buddies” so that means we share a cabin with two other pairs. Once we set up our stuff, we met the entire class around an empty plain. Around our class was a group of five other adults, likely the mountain chaperones.Bookmark here

Suddenly, another group of students I didn’t know walked in too. They must have been from a neighboring school doing the same trip as us. I couldn’t help by glance their way. Our class had on a dark grey sweater, but they had light green.Bookmark here

“Alright students, gather around.”Bookmark here

A burly man with a fat stomach called us out. Our classes mixed creating a strange sea of blue and green.Bookmark here

“My name is Sadao Kuse and I’m the camp’s founder. During this trip, we’re going to teach you girls about environmental awareness, survival techniques when in the wilderness, cleanliness by cleaning up trash and other discarded content, and more.”Bookmark here

He took a deep breath, likely winded from his long explanation.Bookmark here

“But first, we want to show you the beauty of the mountain you’ll be staying in. So, we have a trail right along there.”Bookmark here

He pointed off to a guided trail.Bookmark here

“As you climb up, you’ll see landmarks that we want you to read and understand. When you reach the end of your climb our expert in horticulture will give you a short quiz.”Bookmark here

The class groaned. I almost joined in but held my ground. Sadly, Sora-chan’s was the loudest.Bookmark here

“That’s enough class!”Bookmark here

Mitsuki-sensei cried as she clapped her hands. Her fluffy short hair bobbed as a fire lit in her eyes. The students around her must have felt the heat as all their shoulders slumped. Sensei seemed ready for this because she was already stretching as she said this.Bookmark here

“Alright student, off!”Bookmark here

The big man cried. So, we all walked to the beginning of the trail. I wasn’t good at physical activity, so this did feel a bit intimidating…Bookmark here

“Sora-san, Hana-san?”Bookmark here

We turned and to our surprise, as two girls we once knew…so well…approached us.Bookmark here

It was Tamanoko Suzu and Fujima Yui. They weren’t with Mori Sakura who use to be the “leader” of our group. A black-haired spiteful spirit that would cut off the heads of those she deemed, different.Bookmark here

“Oh, what’s up guys?”Bookmark here

Sora beamed as she held them. I wasn’t expecting this. It’s like Sora already forgotten that we last ended with that fight.Bookmark here

“I didn’t know you guys were here too!”Bookmark here

Yui exclaimed as her short pinkish hair tittered over her eyes. She shook her head, causing her two tied up pigtails to sway. Her deep ocean eyes caught mine as she held her slender hands and smiled that ever shining beam. A rare sight to anyone outside our broken circle. Bookmark here

“Hey, do you still run, Sora-san?”Bookmark here

A tad excited, Suzu sea-green eyes met with Sora. Her feet were already readied for a run. Her burgundy, brown hair already tied in a bun as if this race were predetermined. She rounded her shoulders, causing her pink bracelet to click.Bookmark here

“Oh, you bet! You wanna see who can make it to the top first?!”Bookmark here

Sora began sidestepping, then suddenly, they both blasted off without a confirmation. Those two had always been competitive so that was no surprise. There I sat with gloomy Yui now.Bookmark here

“Ah…Hana-san…”Bookmark here

“Hm? What is it Yui-san?”Bookmark here

“Yui-san…not Yuipi?”Bookmark here

That hit a core in my stomach like I’m supposed to feel guilty or something. She hesitated for a bit then spoke again.Bookmark here

“You… don’t seem to happy to see us, Hana-san...”Bookmark here

“…I’m not.”Bookmark here

I didn’t mean to sound so cold but…I wasn’t happy to see them in the slightest. Call it petty but they didn’t stand up to Sakura as Sora did. No, they sat on the side and let her say those horrible things about my mom’s. But that’s not what made me upset, it’s that they just left with her like everything she said was okay. They never came up to me and apologized either. What did she expect?Bookmark here

“Ah...”Bookmark here

Yui didn’t say another word as if her tongue was in knots. Instead, she raced up the path before me. Now that I came to my senses, I was the last one to journey up. Not only was I not built for this, but I was alone too. Sora-chan and Suzu-san were already gone, and I could faintly see Yui-san’s green coat off in the distance now.Bookmark here

“…This sucks.”Bookmark here

I wined as I made my way to the first landmark. My legs were already aching because the journey up was a harsh incline the entire way. But there it lied, the first landmark.Bookmark here

It was a beautiful trench encircled with flowers. The message talked about how this flower was native to Hiroshima Japan. How we had to keep this flower blooming for our generations to come and other crap like that. I wasn’t in the sentimental mood, so I took the meat of the message and kept on stepping.Bookmark here

“Ahh…ahh……”Bookmark here

The incline was rough on my legs. Every now and then I’d stop and take out my phone to take pictures. But that wasn’t the real reason. No, my body hurt. Mom asked if I was okay to go on this trip and I told her yes…but she’s smart. She’d know I have difficulties ahead. Geez, mom, I want to be as attentive as you.Bookmark here

After a few more landmarks I saw Yui’s sweaty neck again.Bookmark here

She wasn’t that far from me now. I guess even she was having a hard time making her way up this. Well, Yui did carry an extra bit of pounds on her chest area than everyone else in or group…Bookmark here

I shook my head. Despite how mad she makes me…I couldn’t be that mean-spirited to disgrace her figure behind her back.Bookmark here

“Yui….”Bookmark here

I whispered her name under my breath. Of course, she didn’t hear me. Yui used to be the one I thought would be my best friend in the group. She was into the same bloody, violent, manga as I was and would occasionally mention shows that girls our age shouldn’t be watching. Not the naughty ones! No, the stupid kid ones that were for the younger boys and girls. Yui and I would laugh together about them to the point that the others would joke about us.Bookmark here

I thought back to that time…as I slowly ventured up this hill….Bookmark here

“Hana! I bought this!”Bookmark here

“Hm, what is this Yui?”Bookmark here

Yui chuckled. Despite getting the nickname as gloomy, she would only show us this happy side to her.Bookmark here

“It’s a romance manga.”Bookmark here

“Hm…I’m not into those.”Bookmark here

“No! You have to read this! It’s called, ‘A Lonely Howl in the Dark Night.’ It just started it’s serialization and is at the 2nd Volume now. The 3rd is coming out in a few weeks.”Bookmark here

“Oh, tell me more.”Bookmark here

It was that day that she let me borrow…one volume a week. Like I do with Onee-san.Bookmark here

The memory vanished as I continued stepping up the long hill. My body warmed up, but that didn’t help the pain in my stomach from lack of exercise.Bookmark here

“Tsk….”Bookmark here

A dry breath escaped.Bookmark here

But then…Yui out of everyone there didn’t defend me. She just let Sakura say what she would then run off with her. She wasn’t…a true friend like Sora. So why should I treat them like I missed them when I didn’t? I’m not being deceitful, I’m being honest. I rather have never met them again…Bookmark here

Finally, I reached the top. There I saw Sora, Suzu…and Yui all chatting away. I clenched my fist. How dare they talk with Sora…like they’re her best friends?!Bookmark here

“Hana! I have a short quiz for you~”Bookmark here

“Eh?”Bookmark here

I rolled around to see Mitsuki-sensei beside a handsome younger man. More fit than the fat-ass down the huge climb who sent us up here…Bookmark here

With a hit on my forehead, I rebuked my horrible words as I focused back on the test. It was a block of 3 questions per landmark and I answered flawlessly. Retention is one of my expertise.Bookmark here

“Very good, Hana.”Bookmark here

With that loophole over I made my way to my best friend.Bookmark here

“Oh, Hana! I won! I won!”Bookmark here

Sora shouted as I grabbed her hand and pulled her to me.Bookmark here

“Oh!”Bookmark here

The fiery-haired girl cried as I tugged her along, away from those two.Bookmark here

“What’s the matter? Are you mad because I raced up here? That was seriously on impulse!”Bookmark here

I turned to her who seemed oblivious to my feelings. This irritated me more.Bookmark here

“Yui and Suzu aren’t your friends, Sora-chan!”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

I cried without thinking. But then the look on Sora’s face…scared me a little. It reminded me of how she looked when she faced up to Sakura.Bookmark here

“Now hold on. Yui and Suzu are super nice. They called me all through the vacation break and…”Bookmark here

They call you…Sora?Bookmark here

My hand let go of hers. I understood why they acted as if nothing had ever happened now. It was easy to comprehend. They must have called and apologized to Sora…but never to me.Bookmark here

“They didn’t get a hold to you, Hana?”Bookmark here

I didn’t feel angry about that…No, I felt embarrassed. Of course, it wasn’t Sora’s battle, to begin with. It was mine. Even though the view of the mountain was remarkable up here, it all felt meaningless and dull now.Bookmark here

“Hana…”Bookmark here

I slapped Sora’s hand away. I didn’t mean to. It wasn’t her fault that Suzu and Yui wanted to act as if nothing happened. Like everything was alright. It wasn’t her fault that they all got over it and I couldn’t…move passed that stupid fight that made Sora my best friend.Bookmark here

“Alright, class! We’re heading back down for dinner.”Bookmark here

Before I knew it, I raced down first. I had to be the first in the group this time. I even surprised myself, albeit I was going downhill. I needed time to gather my thoughts alone. When I reached the bottom, of course, I had to wait for the rest of my class. So, I took out my phone while panting from the run downhill.Bookmark here

Surprised I could still get a signal, I looked around my phone. There was nothing I wanted to do in particular. I just wanted to brush off my feelings. Have a bit of joy in this…stressful afternoon so far. But there wasn’t anything to do. So instead, I put my phone back into my pocket and kicked a rock or two. My gut ached…I knew I did…something bad.Bookmark here

“Stupid Sora…”Bookmark here

I groaned. Now that Suzu and Yui were here…I doubt I’ll enjoy this trip as much as I wanted to.Bookmark here

“Hana…”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

I turned to see Sora with her arms crossed. She approached me and lifted her hand. With a smack to my head, I fell to the ground.Bookmark here

“Ouch! What the heck, Sora?!”Bookmark here

She then leaned down and met eyes with me.Bookmark here

“You didn’t give me a proper chance to apologize…”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

“I’m sorry I didn’t take your feelings into account. But you need to not jump to conclusions and make your assessments.”Bookmark here

Annoyed now, I stood up and squared up to her. Nobody else was around and that made me realize that Sora must have hightailed it down here too.Bookmark here

“What does that supposed to mean?”Bookmark here

“I get why you’re upset with them…but that’s in the past and you need to move forward.”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

“You’re my best friend first, over Suzu and Yui. So, I’ll stick by you until the end. But I want you to make up with them.”Bookmark here

I crossed my arms.Bookmark here

“They…just make me so angry.”Bookmark here

“Why don’t you hear how they feel? I’m sure they want to make up with you just as much as I’m sure you do with them.”Bookmark here

The pit in my stomach swelled up. I…was quite stubborn and I knew it. Mom and mom always pointed that out to me. As I gazed up and met eyes with Sora, her bright green eyes sucked out any will. So, I crossed my arms, kicked my feet, and puffed my cheeks.Bookmark here

“…Fine. I’ll do it for you, Sora-chan.”Bookmark here

My cheeks felt warm…my chest inflamed.Bookmark here

That was something only Sora could do to me…Bookmark here

But that’s because she’s my best friend…right?Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.