“YOU DON’T KNOW HOW RARE IT IS TO SEE THIS SPECIFIC METEOR SHOWER!!!”
“Isn’t it a yearly occurrence?”
“DOESN’T MAKE IT ANY EASIER TO SEE.”
“But, if you fail one year you can just try again next year… it’s not a once in a lifetime thing…”
“IF YOU CAN’T APPRECIATE OUR EFFORTS THAN GET OUT! GET OUT!”
Taichi slapped the student with his cardboard sign.
“Ow- Okay! Sheesh…”
Haruko worked through the crowd and got to the front. She looked at Taichi but he avoided his gaze. He didn’t look particularly angry, rather, he looked like he didn’t know what to say. Haruko scratched her head and saw Itsuki making her way into the classroom. Things were going to be quite awkward… suddenly, the history teacher yelled at the hoard of students.
“EVERYONE, GET TO CLASS! What’s this?”
He said, picking up a poster from the floor.
“Astronomy club, help needed...Please sign the petition… are you lads seriously going to continue doing this? Scram! Skipping morning classes isn’t going to boost your chances of going to Hokkaido is it? GO! EVERYONE LEAVE!”
The students all started running away. Out of the corner of her eye, Haruko looked back at Taichi and saw him slowly put his things away.
The morning passed by painfully. Every second felt like a lifetime. Itsuki looked like she hadn't slept for a decade. Once the lunch bell rang, Haruko quickly got up and brought her bag with her. She wasn’t really thinking about Itsuki or the others at the moment. She had to take things one at a time. Primarily, she had to figure out if what was written in “52 Hertz” had really happened today.
“I saw them with their signs in the hallway this morning…. But then, the history teacher came and told them off.”
Haruko was sitting on the school’s rooftop. Most students spent their lunch hours in the classrooms or in the field. The roof was usually deserted, albeit the few rebels who had fist fights or the couple that would find a quiet corner to fool around. In fact, it seemed someone was making a racket behind the wall… Haruko had no other choice though. She coughed awkwardly and kept reading.
“I like spending time on the roof. I want all of my good memories to be born there.”
Haruko gasped. How uncomfortable. It was too cliché to like a school roof. Every protagonist of every book written in this high school’s library had a “He confessed to me on the school’s rooftop!” moment. She decided to flip to another entry and see what was written there.
A classmate of mine was killed when he rode his bike into a car. They said the traffic was really bad when he was on his way home. It happened near the park with the green dinosaur. You know, where the rich people send their kids to play. That whole neighbourhood is crazy rich. Suki-chan was the one who told me about it. The park, I mean. I only heard of that boy’s death about a week later. His name was Shun.”
Haruko’s eyes widened. Shun? Not another name coincidence like the whole Yulan ordeal right? She suddenly felt chills up her spine. Things just kept getting stranger, the way Itsuki acted, the way the book predicted the Astronomy club’s resistance in the halls that exact morning. As Haruko closed the book she thought to herself that she might have her priorities in the wrong order. First of all, she had to settle things with Itsuki. Itsuki clearly had the wrong idea about everything, yet there was something she was not telling Haruko. Itsuki was never the type to lash out over anything, there was definitely a detail Haruko had missed. If she could sort that out, she could focus on the book.
With a decisive nod, Haruko stood quickly. At that exact moment, her phone started ringing, making her jump. Who could be calling her? Itsuki was too mad at her to call. She looked at the screen. It was Yulan’s number.
“Kitamura-san? Kitamura-san? Did she go home? I’ll have to check with the office…”
The teacher mumbled, marking Haruko as absent on his sheet of paper. Haruko hadn’t come back to class since lunch. Itsuki turned around to look at Haruko’s empty desk. She grit her teeth, looking defeated. She was more depressed than angry. She whispered over to Kaito, who was folding a pile of papers on his desk.
“What is it?”
“Huh? I don’t know. She probably just told the office she couldn’t make it…”
“Itsuki-san are you really… not going to mend things over with Kita-... uhm.”
Itsuki looked down.
“These days I’ve just been stressed. I was too harsh on her. It… probably was just that. A coincidence. They had the same name.”
Kaito looked at Itsuki pensively.
“I don’t think that’s it. The real reason you were so mad. Tell her the truth or don’t say anything at all.”
“I don’t know what you’re trying to say…”
“Yes, you do. Kiyoshi-sensei. You still like him-”
“That’s not it!”
Itsuki said quickly, controlling her voice, now barely above a whisper. Kaito frowned and rubbed his eyes.
“If Kitamura Yulan wasn’t on such good terms with Kiyoshi-sensei, you wouldn’t have even thought about the connection between Haruko-san’s Yulan and the one from our school.”
“No.. I’m telling you it’s not like th-”
“HEY YOU TWO! GOT SOMETHING TO SAY TO THE CLASS? SPEAK UP! WE’RE LISTENING!”
The teacher said, yelling. Itsuki and Kaito both had the look that said “oh no, we’re dead” on their faces.
“Omori Kaito-kun, aren’t you a model student? Well that’s fine, even the good ones need a little bit of tidying up sometimes. Both of you, stand in the hall.”
With no room for argument, Itsuki and Kaito got up slowly and walked out the door while the rest of the students snickered. Meanwhile, Haruko was far away, on a bridge near a major shopping centre. Yulan stood on the bridge, looking out pensively. He wore the usual black suit, yet this time he had a long, navy coat on top of everything.
Haruko came running up the ramp. The bridge had a small sidewalk off the side, while the cars passed by on the other side of the railing. She saw Yulan from a distance and ran even faster. By the time she stood next to him, she was out of breath. YUlan looked down at her without saying anything.
“Hah… Lan…. huff…”
“....Did you skip your afternoon classes to come see me?”
Haruko looked up, annoyed.
“Yes? Huff… if you call me out of the blue like that…. Of course… I will….”
Yulan laughed but didn’t say anything back.
“Lan-san. Where have you been? I’ve been calling you for weeks…. You never replied to anything. You didn’t even come back for your birthday.”
“You remember my birthday huh?”
“What? I always did! We always celebrate birthdays! We don’t even celebrate new years!”
“...Is that right?”
There was a silence as the cars passed by. Haruko felt all the frustration she’d built up suddenly explode.
“THAT’S IT? YOU DON’T MAKE A SOUND FOR MONTHS, NOW YOU MAKE AN APPEARANCE LIKE THIS? IF YOU’RE DEAD OR ALIVE I WOULDN’T KNOW! DO YOU THINK YOU’RE SOME SORT OF SAINT FOR PAYING THE RENT SECRETLY WITHOUT EVEN SAYING HI TO ME? DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL RESPONSIBLE FOR ME?”
Yulan’s face remained calm and collected despite Haruko’s yelling, only fuelling her anger. She felt like asking him right there, what the deal was with his “apartment” that he supposedly “lived in” for so many years. The one she found empty and dusty, untouched for so long. But, she couldn’t. If Yulan found out she’d gone there without his permission…
“Haruko-chan. I apologize if I’ve upset you. I simply thought that, as a student about to graduate, you wouldn’t need me to hold you by the hand anymore.”
“...What? WHAT? I DON’T NEED YOU TO HOLD MY HAND, I NEED YOU TO JUST REASSURE ME THAT YOU’RE ALIVE ONCE IN A WHILE! YOU CAN’T EVEN DO THAT???”
Yulan looked shocked. He turned around quickly and looked down at Haruko once again. She was starting to realise how tall Yulan was all over again. That being said, Haruko noticed something else. Yulan looked different. He used to tie his long hair back, but this time it was draping down his shoulders. He always had long hair. When Haruko was younger, the grandmas next door often told Yulan he resembled those Chinese princes in the imperial palace. The ones who showed up on the TV screen once a week, swooning all the viewers. Yulan did have those features. Long, black hair, tall, sharp eyes, fair skin. But, for some reason, he destroyed that image pretty fast by smoking, then tying his hair back, then not shaving…
Today of all days though, he really looked like he stepped out of the TV. Unlike the day he dropped Haruko off, his face was shaven and clean. He didn’t smell like cigarettes either. There was something about him… something had changed. Yet Haruko couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Yulan swept his hand through his hair, shocked.
“Hmm. What an unexpected answer. I didn’t realise so many days passed…”
“More like weeks. Months. Where have you been? What were you doing?”
“Me? I was out working.”
Haruko honestly didn’t believe that. When the man at Yulan’s office gave her the envelope, he didn’t mention Yulan was away. He made it seem as if Yulan was just at his apartment, therefore Haruko could give him the files quickly. Still, she didn’t know how to confront him correctly. Everything led back to the apartment… Why was it empty?
“... Have you been in Tokyo all this time?”
“Hmm. That’s right.”
Yulan leaned on the bridge, looking out at the water. Haruko couldn’t hold in her patience anymore.
“Your apartment. Let me go there.”
“...You know you shouldn’t ask that.”
“Why not? Give me a believable reason as to why I can’t even ask.”
“Stop now, Haruko-chan…”
“No. Am I still a baby in your eyes? Give me an answer.”
“TELL ME! I CAN’T PLAY YOUR GAMES FOREVER! TELL ME WHO YOU REALLY ARE! I CAN SEE RIGHT THROUGH ALL YOUR LIES!”
As Haruko said it out loud, she started to feel weak in her knees. Something was definitely wrong. Yulan didn’t have an age. He lied about living in Tokyo. Then, the whole mess with the deceased Yulan from Miyazaki High… she lost control. She never spoke to Yulan this way. Lately everything had just been… too much… she looked at him hesitantly. He was staring at her with a terrible look in his eyes. His face was scary. His presence was ominous.
Yulan Kitamura was a scary person.