Chapter 18:

Stuttering with you

Having Trouble Coming up With a Decent Story

“Anyway, you’ve improved a lot Hayamichi!” it was night, and Etsuko Shimizu was talking on the phone with her friend, Hayami Takayama.Bookmark here

“I don’t know why you keep dragging me to this.” Hayami replied coldly.Bookmark here

“It’s fun! Don’t you think so as well?!” Etsuko was laying on her bed while asking.Bookmark here

“It’s definitely fun for you.” a sigh was heard. “Anyway, good night.”Bookmark here

“Good night, Hayamichi! See you tomorrow!” Etsuko shouted.Bookmark here

“Act…” Hayami's voice suddenly stopped.Bookmark here

“Huh?” Etsuko looked at her phone. “My internet is down…? That's odd, but well...” she turned it off and got ready to sleep, “If she has something to tell me, she can do it tomorrow.”Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

The next morning, Etsuko was waiting in front of the school gate. She had already waited in their usual spot (in front of the nearest train station) for several minutes.Bookmark here

“Hmm.” Etsuko pouted and frowned. “Where is she?” the girl observed the street, where various Obaka high students and some Akabo High students could be seen walking to their respective schools. Bookmark here

“Hey! There’s Shimizu-chan!” a female voice uttered, “So Takayama-chan is probably somewhere around here as well!” Bookmark here

“What?!” a male voice followed, “Takami-sama is here??!” the bot then bolted in Etsuko’s direction to ask: “Shimizu-chan! Where is Takayama-san??!”Bookmark here

“Aaah!” Etsuko jumped back and started to shudder slightly, “I-I d-don’t know!” she forced a smile.Bookmark here

“How don’t you know?! You’re always with her!” the boy insisted.Bookmark here

“I-I’m s-sorry! E-Excuse me!” Etsuko darted out of there without looking back. She kept doing things hurriedly until she arrived at class 1-C, which didn’t have many students at that time, where she finally picked his phone and verified the latest message:Bookmark here

Hayamichi: I won’t be going to school today, maybe it’d be better if you didn’t as well.Bookmark here

“Hehe.” Etsuko’s eyebrows were twitching, “Maybe it would be… hehe.”Bookmark here

“Good morning!” Hirata entered the room, followed directly by Yasutake.Bookmark here

“Aaaaah!” Etsuko screamed at them.Bookmark here

“Huh?” Hirata tilted his head, “Are you alright, Shimizu-chan?”Bookmark here

“YES! I’m totally fine! Better now!” she answered quickly.Bookmark here

“Nice!” Hirata headed to his desk, where he put his bag and started rummaging through it, “Hey…Bookmark here

“HI?!”Bookmark here

“...can I give your brother’s drawing now? I’ve already finished it.”Bookmark here

“Ohoho! Of c-course!” Etsuko stuttered.Bookmark here

“Okay then…”Bookmark here

“G-Good m-morning.” a voice murmured.Bookmark here

“Huh?” Etsuko finally noticed Yasutake behind HirataBookmark here

“G-Good m-morning Shimuzu-chan…” Yasutake repeated. In the past few days, she was finally starting to properly talk to Etsuko.Bookmark here

“GOOD MORNING!” Etsuko’s eyes widened as she looked at the girl, “Yasutake-chan!!” the girl bolted to Yasutake’s side and clung onto her shoulders.Bookmark here

“Huh?” Yasutake blinked with puzzlement, she was the one usually doing the clinging, “A-ah! S-Shimizu-chan, you’re squeezing too h…” Bookmark here

“Please…” Etsuko whispered in her ears, “Please help me today…”Bookmark here

“S-Shimizu-chan…?” Yasutake murmured, she then looked to Etsuko’s hands and noticed that they were trembling. “O-Okay.” she whispered back.Bookmark here

“Yay!” Etsuko shouted, right hand pointing to the ceiling and left, grasping Yasutake, “Yasutake-chan is going to stay in Hayamichi’s seat for today!”Bookmark here

“I-I am…?” Yasutake tilted her head.Bookmark here

“Huh?” Hirata’s eyes searched the room, “Takayama is not here today?”Bookmark here

“That’s right, Hirata-kun! But everything will be fine!”Bookmark here

“I’m not so sure about that…” Hirata murmured to himself.Bookmark here

“What did you say, Kazuhiko?” Yasutake asked him.Bookmark here

“Oh!” Hirata scratched his head, “What do you think of coming to our side, Shimizu-chan?”Bookmark here

“Huh?” Etsuko looked at the boy, “What?”Bookmark here

“You could sit in Koike-san’s seat!”Bookmark here

“Koike-kun’s seat…” she looked at his desk, it was empty which meant he hadn’t arrived.Bookmark here

“N-Now that you mention it, I think K-Koike-kun would let Shimizu-chan stay in his place…” Yasutake commented.Bookmark here

“Really?” Etsuko gazed at Yasutake, “She’s probably just wanting to stay with Hirata-kun… hmm...”Bookmark here

“So… Shimizu-chan?” Hirata called the girl who was spacing out, “Do you want to sit in his place?”Bookmark here

“Oh!” Etsuko gave Yasutake a quick look, “I’d appreciate it! But I don’t think he’ll let me use it…”Bookmark here

“It’s fine! I’m sure he’ll let you.”Bookmark here

“Really? It’s just that he stays most of the time quiet at the club, and…”Bookmark here

“D-Don’t worry, Shimizu-chan.” Yasutake assured, “I-I m-might not know him well, but I’ve never thought of him as a bad person…” she then remembered something, “...besides the time when I thought he was a masochist…"Bookmark here

"Well, some people are like that..."Bookmark here

"...and the time I heard he has a thing for bears…" Bookmark here

"Wait, did you say 'bears'?"Bookmark here

"...or the time I thought he was sleeping with Suto-Sensei…”Bookmark here

“Sleeping with Suto-Sensei?”Bookmark here

“...but he told us he sees her as a sister…”Bookmark here

“Doesn’t that make things worse??!”Bookmark here

“...and told us she wasn’t sleeping with him, but in him, whatever this may mean.”Bookmark here

“Oh my god, maybe Hayamichi is right in hating this one…” Etsuko stared at the ground, her eyes spinning.Bookmark here

“Oh! Good morning Koike-san!” Hirata shouted to a boy behind Etsuko.Bookmark here

“Good morning Hirata-san...” the boy stared at Etsuko, who was hiding behind Yasutake, “...Yasutake-san, and... Shimizu-san...?”Bookmark here

“Yes!” Hirata confirmed, “It’s alright for you if Shimizu-chan stays in your place for today?”Bookmark here

“You mean my desk?”Bookmark here

“Yes.”Bookmark here

“Hmm… fine by me.” Koike turned around and headed to the other side of the classroom.Bookmark here

“See, Shimizu-chan? Koike-san is actually a nice person.”Bookmark here

“Hmm.” Etsuko observed the boy going to her seat. "What about the things Yasutake-chan just told me?"Bookmark here

"Oh, that? I'm sure most of it is fake!"Bookmark here

"Didn't you mean 'all of it'?"Bookmark here

"No... I still have my doubts..."Bookmark here

"Oh, my..."Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

“It’s a centipede!” Etsuko uttered. She was smiling awkwardly while they were walking through the corridors. The girl was forming a line in which Hirata was the first, Yasutake, the second (clinging onto Hirata), and Etsuko, the third and last (holding onto Yasutake). Bookmark here

Everyone was staring at them, but it wasn’t because they were forming a weird line in the middle of the corridor (these happened all the time). or because they were “cosplaying” like a centipede (the cosplay club did that all the time as well), it was due to Takayama’s absence.Bookmark here

“Takami-sama didn’t come today?”Bookmark here

“That’s Shimizu-chan, but where’s Takayama-san?”Bookmark here

“Where is Takayama-san?”Bookmark here

"Takayama-san??"Bookmark here

"Oh no! When I finally brought that bread with banana for her to try!"Bookmark here

After a couple of minutes of this, Yasutake was the one to undo the line. “I-I have to g-go now.” she said to Hirata while looking down.Bookmark here

“Okay!” the boy replied, “You do what you got to do.”Bookmark here

“Shizumi-chan… will y…”Bookmark here

“Let’s go Yasutake-chan! I’ll chaperone you in your arduous journey!” Etsuko interrupted her.Bookmark here

“But…”Bookmark here

“It’s fine! It’s fine! Let’s get going!” Etsuko started to push Yasutake forward, “We don’t have time to waste! Bye, Bye, Hirata-kun!”Bookmark here

“Hmm…?” Hirata observed the two walking away, “See you later…”Bookmark here

“H-Hey, Shimizu-chan! Y-You c-can stop p-pushing me now!” Bookmark here

“What do you mean?! If we don’t hurry we’ll never get to the…” Etsuko stopped, “...where are we going again?”Bookmark here

“Hmm…” Yasutake stared at the ground. “To the library…”Bookmark here

“Huh?” Etsuko looked at the girl, “Why would we go to a sanctuary now? It’s kind of far…”Bookmark here

“No!” Yasutake protested softly. “I-I s-said library!”Bookmark here

“Oh, the library!”Bookmark here

“Y-Yes, I-I go there… sometimes…”Bookmark here

“Okay, let's go!” Etsuko smiled.Bookmark here

"Hmm... o-okay." Yasutake nodded.Bookmark here

The two girls started to make their way to the library until they had to turn a corner, where Etsuko suddenly stopped. “Huh?” she looked through the window and noticed two figures in a short stair. One seemed to be an average boy, and the other, a bedraggled little girl, “What’s he doing…?” she got closer to the window.Bookmark here

“Hmm?” Yasutake stopped as well, she followed Etsuko’s eyes and said: “I-It l-looks like he'll do absurdities to her!"Bookmark here

"Absurdities?! What do you mean?!"Bookmark here

"Oh, n-no, he’s j-just giving her food…”Bookmark here

“Oh, yeah…” Etsuko murmured, “Is that girl a homeless child? Well, she’s wearing our school uniform...”Bookmark here

“I-I d-don’t know, but I-I think that I’ve seen her somewhere...”Bookmark here

“Hmm…” Etsuko stared at them for a few more seconds, “Anyway… let’s go…”Bookmark here

“Uhum.” Yasutake nodded, but she kept murmuring: “Where… have I seen her?”

With that, Etsuko turned to Yasutake, and they made their way to the library of the school.Bookmark here

“Yasutake-chan, do you come here often?” Etsuko asked as they entered the library.Bookmark here

“M-Me? W-Where t-that come from, Shimizu-c-chan?”Bookmark here

The girl smiled: “I thought maybe that’s the reason why you’ve been arriving after Hirata-kun at the club meetings.”Bookmark here

“O-Oh! I-I s-see! But you see, I don’t come here that of….”Bookmark here

“Oh! If it isn’t Erity-chan! Do you want the usual tea?” a female voice interrupted her, “I thought you wouldn’t come today! ‘Maybe she’s tired of seeing an old owl like me every single day.’ that’s what crossed my mind!”Bookmark here

“Oh…” Yasutake's voice was low, “H-Hi… T-Tamaki-san.”Bookmark here

Etsuko turned to her side to see a tall (and not old) woman wearing glasses and smiling at them.Bookmark here

“Oh, dear. I’ve told you that you can call me Mana.”Bookmark here

“Okay… Tamaki-san.” Yasutake replied shyly.Bookmark here

“Hmm… what do we have here…?” the lady straightened her glasses and glanced at Yasutake’s back, “Oh, so you’re embarrassed in front of your friend.” she concluded.Bookmark here

“F-Friend…?” Yasutake stared at the ground. “We are from the same club… no… as if someone like me could be friends with a popular girl like her…” she murmured while glancing behind her.Bookmark here

“Yasutake-chan?” Etsuko hadn’t heard what she murmured.Bookmark here

“N-Nothing!”Bookmark here

“Anyway.” the woman apparently named Mana Tamaki smiled a the girls, “Are you here to study again?”Bookmark here

“Y-Yes, e-excuse m-me.” Yasutake uttered and headed to one of the aisles. Etsuko followed her, while the woman went to behind a counter and started to read a book. Bookmark here

The two girls passed through several aisles, Yasutake picked up books from different subjects, but Etsuko realized that were all related to the upcoming midterm exams.Bookmark here

“Wow Yasutake-chan, do you like to study?” Bookmark here

“N-Not r-really…”Bookmark here

“Oh! So you have a goal!” Etsuko smiledBookmark here

“Huh??! A-A g-goal?! But how did you know…?” Yasutake was blushingBookmark here

“She’s blushing? Hmm… so it’s probably Hirata related…” “Ohohoho! You see, I’m actually a mage!! Hohoho!” Etsuko pretended to be casting a spell, “Is what I wanted to say for real…” her smile diminished, “But the truth is that I know how it is…”Bookmark here

“You… know...?”Bookmark here

“Yes… I…”Bookmark here


“Aaah!” Etsuko and Yasutake exclaimed and jumped back at the same time.Bookmark here

“W-What was that??!” Etsuko yelled to Yasutake.Bookmark here

“Shhhhhhhhh, be quiet in the library.” Mana Tamaki shushed her from afar.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry Tamaki-san!” the girl whispered back and then looked at Yasutake: “What was that?”Bookmark here

“I-I d-don’t k-know! B-But I-I’ve b-been h-having t-the i-impression t-that s-someone i-is f-following u-us f-for a-a w-while.” Bookmark here

“W-What?!” Etsuko's face lost all its color. “D-Did y-you s-see w-who i-it w-was?” the girl started to shudder uncontrollably.Bookmark here

“No…”Bookmark here

“Y-Yasutake-c-chan…” Etsuko held her shoulders, “C-Can y-you g-go s-see w-who i-it is? Please?”Bookmark here

Erity Yasutake stared at Etsuko’s shuddering arms for a moment, then she looked at her frightened face… and nodded: “O-Okay.” Bookmark here

Yasutake put the books on the ground and started to sneak through the aisles, looking for someone that might’ve followed them. “Found anything?” Etsuko whispered. She was actually hiding behind the short Yasutake during all this time.Bookmark here

“No…” Yasutake whispered back, “B-But if you want me to look, why a-are you coming along?”Bookmark here

“What are you saying??! if I stayed alone he could… he could…” Etsuko stared at the ground, not being able to finish the sentence.Bookmark here

“Could b-be a ‘she’...” Yasutake remarked, and, as she finished that, she could hear a low female voice trying to whisper:Bookmark here

“Shut up! Idiot! Idiot! Idiot! They are coming this way!”Bookmark here

“You are the one shouting! Shut up, please!” a second voice followed.Bookmark here

“I’m hearing their steps! Run!!”Bookmark here

Two figures darted out from behind a bookshelf, but the first, a little girl with long dark hair, ended up bumping into Yasutake and Etsuko, making all of them fall to the ground with an “Aauaah!”Bookmark here

“Hey, Sawada!” a boy came from behind the same shelf as the girl and helped her get up, “Are you alright?”Bookmark here

“Ouch… my head hurts.” the girl named Sawada replied.Bookmark here

“Of course! You shouldn’t bolt like that!” the boy helped the other two girls get up, “I’m sorry for that…”Bookmark here

“Hmm..?” Etsuko held her head, “What…?” she stood up still groggy and saw what was in front of her: Koshiro Koike and a bedraggled small girl.Bookmark here

“I-I remember now…” Yasutake, who was beside Etsuko, murmured. She was looking at the little girl.Bookmark here

“W-What..?” Sawada stared at Yasutake and widened her eyes, “Y-You rem...?”Bookmark here

“What?” Koike turned to Sawada.Bookmark here

“It’s nothing! It’s nothing!” Sawada replied abruptly, “Let’s go!” she then grabbed Koike’s sleeve and ran away.Bookmark here

“Oh! So she must be the girl Hayamichi talked about…” “Do you know her?” Etsuko looked at Yasutake.Bookmark here

“K-Kind of...” she nodded.Bookmark here

“Hmm..” Etsuko mused at the girl wondering what that was about, she then looked at her hand, where the boy had held to assist her in getting up: “It was cold…”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.