Chapter 8:

Autumn in Full Bloom

For When Morning Comes and the Sun Doesn't Rise

“Inoue, INOUE!”Bookmark here

A chop met my neck, my forehead slammed into my desk creating a loud thud.Bookmark here

“I-Is it lunch already?” Struggling to get a grip on reality, I stirred, rubbing my eyes as my groggy surroundings slowly came to life. The whole class was staring at me, including a new pair of curious eyes that I had never seen before. Two girls stood before me, one was the barbaric Okada, the newest member of the yet-to-be official Sweets Connoisseurs Club, her hand raised ready to hit me again. The other looked a lot more shy, her eyes continued to dart from side-to-side, avoiding eye contact with me, and also aware of the numerous gazes that were fixed in our direction.Bookmark here

Okada groaned, folding her arms over her chest.Bookmark here

“This is Kimura-san, she moved here right after orientation so today is her first day.”Bookmark here

Um, I-I’m Kimura Kei, Nice to meet you!” She nibbled at her nails shyly before giving me a polite bow.Bookmark here

Her caramel colored hair accented the deep oak hazelnut eyes that seemed to look deeply into me. As I looked into her eyes, a crisp autumn breeze blew through me, or at least that’s what it felt like. She resembled that of a peaceful forest in the midst of fall. Tied back into one cute ponytail using a russet-colored ribbon, her hair was charmingly assembled producing a goddess-like appearance.Bookmark here

This girl is seriously cute. My cheeks grew hot. Her eyes were soft and relaxing. They formed two small ponds in the middle of an autumnal forest, still and unperturbed. Looking into them felt like a whole new world had enveloped me, one where warm earthly tones had consumed everything else. Rather than a world of black and white, it felt like a world of brown, orange, and red. Life would be so easy if I could just stare into these all day. But like all things, they must come to an end.Bookmark here

“You disgust me, stop staring at her and introduce yourself!” Okada severed the cord connecting me to my enlightenment.Bookmark here

“Sorry, I’m Inoue Kazuki, the pleasure is mine.”Bookmark here

She smiled and nodded. Jealous stares began to pierce me from the other guys in class.Bookmark here

“Anyway, I took the liberty of showing her around school, and you’re going to help.” Okada boasted, before turning to glare at the guys in our class. “I couldn’t let these savage morons taint her.”Bookmark here

The guys cowered in fear under her menacing glare.Bookmark here

“Plus, this could be the final member needed to get our club instated.” She added.Bookmark here

“Class, settle down. Now that introductions are over lets begin.” Kobayashi-sensei ended our chit-chat and called for everyone to return to their seats.Bookmark here

Kimura walked back to her seat, her ponytail bobbing behind her. Autumn leaves gracefully sailing in the wind. Bookmark here

The bell rang, signaling that it was finally lunch time. Somehow managing to stay awake all of class, lunch felt even more tempting. Bookmark here

Agh! I’m hungry.” I groaned, lifting my arms over my head in a satisfying stretch.Bookmark here

Tomio and Kimura joined the two of us by our desks. Usually, Okada would join her friends during lunch, but today since we had a newcomer, she stayed.Bookmark here

“Grab me some sweet bread, Kazuki-kun!” Tomio implored partnered with a sweet smile to match as I got up from my desk to head over to the cafeteria.Bookmark here

Did you bring lunch, Kimura-san?” Okada asked her.Bookmark here

She shook her head and looked down, embarrassed.Bookmark here

“We can go together,” I inserted myself into their conversation.Bookmark here

Okada shot me a menacing glare, “If you do anything to her, I’ll kill you.” It said.Bookmark here

“Okay!” Kimura happily hopped over to my side. Bookmark here

The same jealous looks enshrouded me. Not being careful around the other guys in class could be the end of me. Side-by-side, we walked out of the classroom.Bookmark here

Okada had taken care of most of the rumors revolving me, however, glances from curious onlookers still held a level of disgust. Generally, they never really bothered me, today though, I was accompanied by a really cute girl so I felt even more self-conscious than usual.Bookmark here

“Kimura-san, tell me more about yourself,” I sparked a conversation.Bookmark here

Really? The best I could come up with is a vague interview question?Bookmark here

The question didn’t really bother her, rather she seemed enthusiastic about it.Bookmark here

“I moved because my father got a job nearby… Umm, I like food and eating-“Bookmark here

The fact that she mentioned food in her “about herself,” is enough to say that she’d be avid about joining our club.Bookmark here

“I love the beach and cats! Oh and also, I love looking at the stars at night.” Her demeanor had changed since my first impression. Similar to Tomio, she became extremely enthusiastic and outspoken. It could be just that she’s talking about herself.Bookmark here

When talking about oneself, it’s a whole lot easier than talking about things that don’t particularly relate to you. It probably has to do with human nature.Bookmark here

“How about you, Inoue-san?” My question came hurling back towards me.Bookmark here

The thing about the presumption I made earlier is that you have to have an interest in yourself to be able to talk about yourself. For me, feeling indifferent about everything had become my main trait. Growing up, I established a rule for myself.Bookmark here

Nobody cares for me, I care for no one.Bookmark here

Noticing that I had been silent for a few seconds, quickly, I spewed out the first thing that came to mind.Bookmark here

“When I was younger, I used to play soccer.”Bookmark here

“Really? Do you still play?” She replied, maintaining the same level of enthusiasm.Bookmark here

Um, no…”Bookmark here

“Did you like it?”Bookmark here

“Not really…”Bookmark here

Like that, the conversation was shot out of the sky, a sniper, myself, killing an innocent bird who was just trying to migrate for the winter. My insides were kicking around. “Are you really that boring?” Dull loser. My own thoughts were attacking me with no remorse. In a nervous shamble, I found myself on my knees resuscitating the bird in an effort to salvage the conversation.Bookmark here

“T-Tomio, er Nishimura really enjoys sweets, actually, we’re making a Sweets Connoisseurs Club…”Bookmark here

“That sounds really cool.”Bookmark here

“You should join.” I didn’t expect to urge her into the club so soon, but there it was.Bookmark here

She hesitated. Too soon. Bookmark here

“I’ll have to think about it.” Her reply was nervous and unsure.Bookmark here

“After school today we’re making chocolates, you should at least join us and see if you like it.” I continued to push her, hoping to convince her to join. My wallet was quickly slimming from treating Tomio after all the days that people didn’t show up. For my sake, and his, I needed to convince her.Bookmark here

She didn’t reply, so I pushed even harder, putting aside my already limited pride.Bookmark here

“Please.” Stopping in the middle of the hallway, I bowed my head towards her.Bookmark here

Everyone around turned to watch the unfolding situation. She stopped in her tracks as well, turning to face me, all I could see were her shoes. I couldn’t read her expression.Bookmark here

“Inoue-san.”Bookmark here

“Y-Yes.”Bookmark here

“I-I’ll join… So please raise your head.” She smiled nervously. Pressure emitted from the dozens of pairs of eyes around us.Bookmark here

Since I didn’t have much pride to begin with, groveling had become a second instinct. Bookmark here

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