Having Trouble Coming up With a Decent Story
“Who would be here this early?” Sumiye herself had woken up super early that day so she could find out what was going on with Umiko Sawada, but now she was pressing her ears against the principal’s door, trying to hear the conversation happening inside the room:
“...why do you want to know about Umiko Sawada all of the sudden?” it was the muffled voice of Katayama-Sensei, the school principal.
“I’m just curious Katayama-Sensei…” the second voice was a female one.
“I was absent yesterday, but my friend told me something odd about the girl, and... it sparked my curiosity!”
“You even came here this early! Always the honor student, Takayama-chan!”
“I’m just trying to look after a fellow student!”
“I’m so proud to have you here in our school! But, as I told you before, you should talk to him.”
“...” a hush descended over the conversation.
"C'mon girl, what are you waiting for? Keep it up!"
The hush remained for several seconds, until: “Thanks Katayama-Sensei! I’ll be going then!”
Sumiye heard steps coming towards the door and hurried to turn a corner a few meters from there, where she waited for Takayama while leaning against the wall with her arms crossed.
“Umiko Sawada?” the woman startled the girl when she turned the corner.
Takayama stared at Sumiye for a moment with a serious face and then smiled: “Oh! if it isn’t my favorite Sensei! Good morning, Suto-Sensei!”
“You don’t need to pretend in front of me, Takayama-san.” Sumiye gazed at the girl’s eyes, “I know of your true nature.”
“What are you talking about Sensei?!” Takayama laughed, “You’re so silly!”
“Just a piece of advice Takayama: you should act more like yourself, don’t hide it, be more confident.”
“Oh, Suto-Sensei! You’re so funny!”
“Well, I advised you.”
“Acting as a teacher for the first time.” Takayama’s smile vanished, “Today I’m not in a good mood.” she started to walk past Sumiye.
“I’m not done with you, Hayami.” Sumiye stopped Hayami by her shoulders.
“Aah?” Hayami glared at her teacher, “Didn’t you tell me to act like myself, Su-to-Sen-sei?”
“I’m serious here.” she grasped Hayami’s shoulder, “You were just talking about Umiko Sawada, right?”
“What do you have to do with it?”
“You could say that she’s currently under my guard.” Sumiye shortened the distance between their faces, “I like to look after mine.”
“Huh, is that so?” Hayami scoffed, “Just like Koshiro Koike, right?”
“What do you know about Umiko Sawada?” Sumiye insisted, staring at Hayami.
“Arara!” Takayama’s smile returned, “Lucky you! I’m trying to look after that girl as well!” she put her hand over Sumiye’s, “It happens that the one to put her in this school was the last school principal, the old Katayama-san. He is the one that must know about her…”
“And my family happens to be an acquaintance of Katayama’s.”
“But, although my family is…” Takayama hesitated as her smile diminished, “...that’s not necessarily the case for me.”
“So I have the means to find out about Sawada, but I’d rather not do so.”
“Hmm… I see.” Sumiye loosened her grip.
“I can give you the number of someone who’ll be able to contact the old Katayama, and in return…” she rummaged through her pockets and picked her phone, “...I want to know if you find anything.” she showed Sumiye the number, “Do we have a deal?”
“Yes.” Sumiye added the number, “Thanks Takayama.”
“Just tell her I was the one to give you the number.” the girl uttered and headed to the stairs.
“Hmm…” Sumiye looked at her phone, “Let’s see who are you, Sawada-san.” she then typed the number and started to make the call.
“Of course, there were a lot of other details that will be probably used to cover any plot hole or inconsistency in the future, but I just can’t think of anything other than that Takayama part.” this type of thought would haunt Koshiro through several days. That writing contest was sure to wear him out.
The next morning was quite unusual for the boy, he woke up at the normal time for a student (instead of a writer) and felt something odd, “Huh?” he looked to the side, Scar was sleeping right next to his face, but this wasn’t the cause of the weird feeling, “Huh?” he looked at his feet: “Why is there four of them?” but it wasn’t the cause either. “Hmm…” he looked at his chest, where a girl was leaning her head while hugging him. “Wait…” Koshiro looked around him and confirmed that he was in his room.
“Koshiro… idiot…” Sawada was still asleep.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?!” Koshiro woke the girl up with a growl.
“Dolaa… aaah!” Sawada jumped out of the bed, “W-what are you doing you Lolicon?!”
“You were the one hugging me! Besides…” Koshiro stared at her, “Did you just admit that you’re little?”
“I would never!”
“Uhum, I know.” the boy looked at the hour, “But now you should hurry and get ready for school.”
“Huh?” Sawada tilted her head, “We have to leave already?”
“Hmm…” Koshiro pondered for a minute, “Not exactly, we have to pass somewhere to buy some Dorayakis.”
“Dolaaki?!” her eyes shined as she drooled.
“Yes, it’ll be our breakfast and lunch for today, is that alright?”
“So, go change.”
“Yes!” with that, the girl darted out of the room.
Koshiro received a lot of stares when arriving at Obaka high, not only because of the weird Senpai accompanying him (even though she kept some distance from him) but also because she insisted that he brought Kuma-chan as well.
“Kuma-chan is very important to the school! She can’t take one day of absence!” Sawada repeated over and over.
"Looks like she's only important to you." “Okay, okay, I got it.” Koshiro gave up arguing with her.
It was a day in which he went to school with a little girl, and the school mascot, so of course it wasn’t going to be a normal day for Koshiro: first, he had the impression that he was being observed; second, Takayama didn’t hit him that day; third, Sumiye was absent from school, and fourth:
“Huh? Where is she?” it was lunch break and the first time after a long time Sawada didn’t appear in the back of the school building. Koshiro looked all over the place, to be sure the girl wasn’t there, and then started to make his way to her class. It was the first time he was going there (indeed a day of firsts).
After just a few seconds of walking the boy realized something; “Oh shit! This is the part she’s going to get picked on because she came to school with a boy! Her kouhai of all things!” Koshiro began to sprint, “If something happens to her, I’m sure Sumiye is going to kill me!”
He started to hear the muffled voices a couple of meters from Sawada’s class:
“What about that boy, Sawada-san?!” a female voice laughed.
“Yeah! Is he your boyfriend?” it was another female voice.
“No…” Sawada replied.
“Yes… they should start bullying her right n..”
“Oh! Thank god Sawada-san!”
“Yes, thank god!”
“I know we’re not really your friends, but that guy?”
“He looks like someone who could never write a decent story!”
“How dare you, NPC character?!”
“Or balance seven books on his head!”
“That’s weirdly specific… although my limit is six…” Koshiro started to slide the door.
“And…” one of the girls stopped when she saw Koshiro on the door, “Let’s go NPC 1!!”
“Okay NPC 2!” the girls bolted out of the classroom.
Koshiro observed the two get away and then turned to Sawada, who greeted him with a scowling: “What are you doing here, Koshiro idiot?”
“Isn’t it obvious? You didn’t show up to lunch so I was worried you might've got into trouble! Maybe some girls could be bullying you…”
“Huh?” the scowling face disappeared, “You were worried about me…?”
“Of course! If something happened to you Sumiye would kill me!” he smacked his face and sighed, “Will I have to come here every day from now on?”
“No…” Sawada fiddled with her fingers, “But I wouldn’t mind…” she murmured.
“Okay, okay, let’s have lunch.” Koshiro showed her the Dorayakis.
The girl quickly picked one from his hand. “You know…” Sawada said while eating, “If you come here again you should consider coming faster! The girls that bullied me were the ones before those…”
"Is that so?" Koshiro sighed, "Oh, man. Maybe I should start coming here every day, then."
"Huh? What did you say, Sawada?"
Not much happened during the rest of the school day. Koshiro had his typical club meeting and reported to Murakami that not much was going on there. The boy then went home, but this time, with a little Senpai and an inflatable bear.
“Hmm…” Sawada was following Koshiro to the Koike household, “Thank you… for worrying about me…”
“Huh? Haven’t I told you that it was because of Sumi-nee?”
“Yes, but either way…”
“Watch out!!” Koshiro yelled and prevented Sawada from being run over by a car.
“W-What are you doing you pervert! I was wrong in thanking you! Koshiro idiot!” the girl started to scream with him.
“Aaargh, you are such a bother! I save your life and you curse me?” he let go of her, “Next time I might let you taste that car!”
“Hmm!” Sawada sulked and pouted.
"Yeah, next time I'll only save the stupid bear in your hands. Is that alright?"
"Her name is Kuma-chan! How can you not know that?! You're so dumb!"
"Ugh." Koshiro frowned at the girl. "If it wasn't for Sumiye, if it wasn't for Sumiye!" he kept murmuring to himself.
The boy composed himself and they returned to their walk. They remained in silence until it seemed that Sawada forgot their fight:
“What will we have for dinner?” she asked.
"Ohoho, the stomach comes first, right?"
"How can you think about eating now after you drank that much tea, anyway?"
"Tea isn't food!"
"So you don't mind if we don't drink anything at dinner, right?"
"Hmm... that is..."
“I don’t know what we'll eat." Koshiro sighed, "What do you think of Dorayaki and popcorn? Maybe a very unhealthy soda?”
“Yes, I’ll watch a movie tonight, so I’m considering buying some popcorn.” Koshiro had decided to read some things and watch movies and anime so he could be able to draw inspiration from them, for the writing contest.
“Hmm…” Sawada fiddled with her fingers. “Can I watch it too?” she asked with a low voice.
“What?” Koshiro stopped and looked at Sawada
“It’s nothing, it’s nothing!” she shook her hands in front of her.
“Okay then…” he resumed his walk.
“It’s nothing…” Sawada murmured downcast.
“Do you want to watch it with me?”
“Huh?” she looked with high hopes at Koshiro, “Really?!”
“Of course. As long as you don’t get in the way.”
“Thanks!” Sawada celebrated and started skipping.
“Huh?” Koshiro glanced at the girl right behind him, “Why is she so happy?”
“I’m here.” Sumiye was in front of a huge gate while talking on the phone. She had skipped her job coming to the place the woman on the phone had told her.
“You can just wait there.” the woman ended the call.
“Hmm.” Sumiye looked at her phone. She waited for several minutes until “A maid?” appeared to open the gate.
“I’m sorry for the wait, Suto-san, but you can now come with me.” the woman ushered Sumiye through a garden, passing by a fountain and arriving at a house that looked like a castle. It made the young woman finally realize the huge walls she had seen on her way there were all part of that property.
“What is this place?” Sumiye turned to the maid after admiring the view.
“I’m sorry but I can’t answer that.” the woman replied, “You’re only here to talk to Katayama-sama, isn’t that right?”
“Yes…” Sumiye stared at the back of the maid while they entered the castle and walked through a huge hallway until they made it to a double door.
“He’s waiting for you.” the woman stopped beside the door.
“Hmm…” Sumiye stared at the door for a moment, and then pushed it to enter the room.
“Oh! Suto-san! Isn’t that right?!” a man greeted her as she crossed the threshold. “I’m Osamu Katayama!”
“Yes…” Sumiye approached the man with caution. He was sitting before a desk in a large room, similar to a principal’s office, “Maybe he likes to keep old habits.” “Excuse me.”
“Please, take a seat!” he indicated a chair in front of his desk, and then poured a brown liquid onto two glasses.
“Whiskey.” as a drunkard, Sumiye had the obligation to know what that was. She did as the man said and sat on the chair, staring at him.
“So! You’re here to talk about Umiko Sawada, right?” he handed her one glass, which she accepted in autopilot.
“Yes, I enrolled Obaka High last year and noticed that Sawada-san barely attended classes...” Sumiye glanced at the glass on her hands, “...but since I wasn’t her homeroom teacher there wasn’t much I could do about it. But this year…” she sipped some of the whiskey, “... I realized she didn’t have any files on our school.”
“Oh, I see that you know your way around a drink!” the man remarked and smiled, which annoyed Sumiye.
“What about Umiko Sawada-san?”
“Oh, of course!” the man reached for a portfolio with laziness. “You can see it for yourself.” he opened it on the desk.
“Huh?” Sumiye approached the thing, “What is that?” she looked at the man.
“That’s everything we know about Umiko Sawada.” the smile on his face vanished, “It’s something no one should go through.”
Sumiye incredulously skimmed through the portfolio, seeing the images regarding the girl, and reading some of the key parts: “...low height… scarlet eyes… abandoned… from house to house… Obaka High…” she murmured while reading, and, before she realized it, her eyes were burning.
Koshiro and Sawada bought everything they needed for the movie night and went to the Koike household to begin their session.
“Just wait here in the living room while I find the movie.” Koshiro left the girl on the couch and went up the stairs.
“Okay…” Sawada laid on the couch and caressed it with her hands (something that wasn’t that easy with Suto-Sensei’s huge clothes on her), “Cozy…” she observed the place, the girl had been to houses similar, but this was different for some reason... it had a different "aura" around it. "Everything feels cozy..."
“Huh?” some time after Koshiro went to the second floor, Umiko heard a muffled sound coming from the front door.
“Hello!” Suto-Sensei opened the door, “Koshiro! I brought some things for you two eat!” she had a plastic bag in her hands. “Hmm… what's going on here...?” the young woman observed the house until she spotted Umiko: “Oh! What are you guys up to?”
“We’ll… watch a movie.”
“A movie, huh?” she walked to the kitchen and left the bag there, “Do you mind if I join you?”
“Hmm…” Umiko hid behind the couch, “I don’t know.”
“Popcorn…” Suto-Sensei murmured as she looked at it, “Can I at least make the popcorn?”
“Have you ever eaten Koshiro’s food?”
“No…” Umiko stared at the floor with a terrified face: “…but I drank his tea.”
“His food is of the same quality level.”
“I’m counting on you with the popcorn, Suto-Sensei!”
“Great...” Suto hesitated for a moment, but then walked towards Umiko, “Look, Sawada-san... I… talked to the old Katayama-Sensei today...”
“W-What?” the girl froze.
“I talked to the old Katayama-Sensei today....” she repeated while stopping before the girl, crouching a bit so their eyes were at the same level, “I’m sorry.” Suto uttered while gazing at the girl’s eyes and patting her head, “I have your files with me, I’ll take care of them now.”
“What…? You… are g-going to… m-make me g-go back…?” Umiko was shuddering with a weak voice.
“No.” Suto-Sensei affirmed with conviction, “I’ll hold you right here for as long as it’s necessary.” she then hugged the little girl.
“Huh?” Umiko was looking at Suto-Sensei until just now, but suddenly she could only see a blur, feel something wet on her eyes, and feel the warmth of an embrace, “What…?”
“It must have been quite a trek to arrive here.” Suto was talking close to her.
“...” Umiko couldn’t voice a single word, she could only accept the embrace and let the tears fall.
“It’s exactly like it says there, it’s truly a sad situation.” the man called Osamu Katayama looked at the whiskey in his glass and started to summarize everything: “Umiko Sawada was abandoned as a child because her parents simply didn’t like her low stature and scarlet eyes.” he then sipped some of the whiskey and continued: “As an orphan, she never stabilized on a home, passing from house to house and from school to school, until she ended up in the worst there is: Obaka High...” Katayama looked at Sumiye, “...where I put her and made sure to give her a new home!” he smiled, “But I see that she escaped her last home, and you’re probably the next one to have to deal with her!”
“Huh?” Sumiye took her eyes off of the portfolio, “What? The next one 'to have to deal with her'?”
“Huh?” the man tilted his head, “Isn’t that why you’re here?”
“I’m not understanding, you are a wealthy man. I’m sure you could’ve given her a better place to live.”
“Hmm…” the man pondered for a moment, “Yes! A place like my own house perhaps?!”
“Kuaha” a muffled sound came from the man’s mouth.
“Huh?” Sumiye stared at the man.
“Hahahahahaha!” the man burst into laughter until tears started to form in his eyes: “My own roof?! That’s a good one!” he wiped some of the tears, “Why would I sully the name of my family with a girl that didn’t receive love from her own parents?!” he laughed more, “I mean, it’s a sad situation indeed, and I have a soft spot for defects, but I’m not crazy.”
“…” Sumiye stayed quiet, completely dumbstruck by the man’s words.
“Besides…” the man sipped more of the liquid, “I had to assume the presidency of Akabo, so I didn’t have the time to deal with that girl… I had to leave her to my brother over at Obaka.” he laughed more.
“WHAT?!” Sumiye growled and smashed her hands against the desk.
“Hey, hey! There’s no need to get angry!” he tried to assuage the situation while still smiling.
“You didn’t even leave her files!! How could someone do something for her that way??!” she gazed at Katayama with burning eyes.
“Oh! That!” the man glanced at Umiko Sawada’s files, “I just wanted to have an Ace up my sleeve... you know, to deal with my dear brother over at Obaka. You could call it a prank with you want.”
"Unbelievable” Sumiye glared at him, letting her eyes do the talking. She threw her glass on the wall behind Katayama and picked Umiko’s files, darting out of that sick place right after that.
“It must have been quite a trek to arrive here.” Sumiye tightened her arms around the now sobbing girl.
“...” Umiko didn’t answer.
“I’m sorry that you had to walk all this alone, but now everything will be alright, Umiko.” Sumiye tightened her grip even more as if saying she wouldn’t let that girl go anywhere else, “Everything... will be alright...” and it felt like that embrace lasted for years until the girl managed to voice screams that were muffled by the woman’s chest.