The lights were off. There weren’t any shoes in the entrance either. Haruko stepped in carefully and waved her around, trying to find the lightswitch on the wall. She could see her breath in front of her and suddenly stopped. It was still spring so it wasn’t really hot outside, though it wasn’t supposed to be so cold you could see your own breath. Haruko suddenly felt it; the coldness of the room and its abnormality. She gave up on finding the light switch and kicked off her shoes. She was starting to panic, her head feeling heavy. Unlike the one room apartment Yulan gave to her personally, this one was much bigger. There were many rooms it seemed, the entrance led to the living room, which in turn led to a narrow corridor. It was evidently bigger, yet emptier. Haruko stood in an empty apartment. Her eyes were frozen, her small hands were so cold that she dropped the small gift box on the dead tatami mats.
She tried to call for Yulan but stopped herself. Running over the gift box on the ground, Haruko slammed open all the doors in the apartment. The dust from the ground rose in little clouds, with only the moonlight in the window to illuminate the space. She tore at the drawers and dusty curtains in all the rooms, anything, to prove Yulan wouldn’t have lied to her. To prove Yulan had been here at least once. Haruko started to rip apart the removable tatami mats in the living room, giving her hands splinters and bloody scratches. She was insane. Her hair was messy and unkempt, she was still wearing her dirty school uniform that hadn’t been washed, her face was dusty and dirty.
“Hey, why are you wearing your gym uniform-”
“Shhh stop, Taichi-kun. Hey, can you bring me find the blue dictionary- somewhere over there? I think I misplaced it…”
“Huh? Itsuki-chan, who cares, just take the red dictionaries.”
“No, I like the blue ones better.”
Taichi groaned out loud but Itsuki gave him a strange look. Scratching his head, Taichi stood and left the library table. Haruko was shuffling through a pile of white envelopes. The ones from Yulan’s apartment. She was so focused on reading them that she didn’t notice Itsuki cleaning up her things and packing them in her bag.
“Where are you going?”
“Home. Club’s over. No one’s interested anyways, am I right? You won’t even tell us why you’re wearing your gym clothes? Or why was your uniform so dirty? Or where did you go last night?”
Itsuki forced a smile. It was at this point that Haruko felt something was off. She stood quickly.
“I’m sorry, I just wanted to clean these up before I-”
“Save it, Kitamura-san. Or should I say, Sasaki-san?”
Haruko stopped. Itsuki was really mad. Since the day she met her, Itsuki had never called Haruko formally by her last name.
Itsuki sighed heavily and forced a smile.
“Why did you lie to everyone? You put on this act like you were so shy, stuttering every time you spoke. You acted like you were a friend but you were really using everyone. I can see why Shun-kun hates you. I would too.”
She looked away. Haruko was at a loss for words.
“What are you even saying… I never acted like that at all! Why would I pretend to be someone I’m not?”
“Back then, when Shun-kun was introduced to the literature club. He said something about your name. Kitamura. He said you were now using that name. I pretended to act like I didn't hear, bringing you away from him because I thought he’d done something to you. But, I couldn’t shake this feeling out of my head. When I heard your story about that man, that mentor, I knew something was off but again, I made a joke out of it and pretended it was fine.”
Haruko was frozen in place. Itsuki looked away and continued,
“I came to school early and looked through the teacher’s file folder. Kiyoshi-sensei’s folder, I looked for your papers. Your name isn’t Kitamura, it’s Haruko Sasaki.”
“... even if it were true I stole someone’s name, I don’t get how that would make you so mad.”
This sentence was Itsuki’s last thread. She threw her bag violently against the wall, making the contents inside spill out. Her long braid was undone and her normally gentle face was red with anger. Taichi, who was spying from one of the bookshelves, ran and held Itsuki who threw herself onto Haruko.
“IT’S THE FACT THAT YOU USED HIS NAME SPECIFICALLY- OF ALL NAMES! YOU USED SOMEONE VULNERABLE LIKE YULAN TO MAKE YOURSELF LOOK BETTER ABOUT NOT HAVING ANY PARENTS! YOU USED HIS NAME TO GAIN PITY FROM EVERYONE!”
Haruko was barely breathing because of Itsuki’s firm grasp on her collar. She was about to beat her to death, before Taichi managed to pull her away. Haruko coughed slightly and tried to focus her blurry eyes onto Itsuki.
“Do you… know Yulan…?”
Itsuki grit her teeth through her tears.
“I can’t believe you…..”
She stood quickly, slamming Taichi onto the wall. She didn’t even grab her bag and dashed out of the library. Haruko tried adjusting the bow Itsuki had held while choking her. She looked at Taichi, who was still laying still against the wall.
“Haruko-san. You really didn’t know?”
“Yulan Kitamura. You haven’t heard the other students whispering behind your back? They’re all talking about you, because you have the same last name as him. I know a lot of people in Japan have common last names but everyone just took it as an eerie coincidence...”
“Explain it to me… properly. Who is Yulan? How does... Itsuki and … everyone else know him? I don’t understand anything.”
Taichi looked up from his position on the floor and stared at Haruko’s slightly bloody face.
“Yulan Kitamura was a student here, at Miyazaki High, many years ago. He was also Kiyoshi-sensei’s close friend. He jumped from the school roof, a month before graduation.”
Haruko suddenly felt dizzy. This wasn’t true. She’d seen Yulan in person just a couple of months back, before starting school! Not only that, she’d grown up with him! He adopted her… didn’t he? Or was he too young at the time? The adoption papers… she needed those right now… wasn’t she supposed to find those papers?
“No, that's wrong. That must be someone else. It’s a strange coincidence to have both the first and last name be the same… but the Yulan I’m talking about is still alive.”
Tachi raised his eyebrows.
“It’s hard to believe. You basically told Itsuki you knew nothing about him. His age, how he’s basically non-existent... “
“I’M TELLING YOU IT’S NOT LIKE THAT! IT’S A MISUNDERSTANDING- I SAW YULAN LAST ON THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL THIS YEAR!”
Taichi looked away.
“Haruko-san… I don’t know who to believe anymore.”
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