Chapter 4:

A Memory Best Left Behind

White Wings Café

Miyafuji Academy. A school with over 120 years of history. Not so prestigious that the entire nation expected big things from you, but if someone in a high position of power just so happened to attend, it wouldn't be much of a surprise either.

And it's for this specific reason that I'm struggling as much as I am now.

Though, if I said there was anyone else to blame other than myself— it'd be nothing more than a white lie to help me feel better. I ended up enrolling to follow my unpredictable upperclassmen, and she originally did the same because...well, I couldn't tell you. For the sake of throwing out a quick guess, she probably entered because it would be a fun change of pace.

And while someone (that someone being in the opposite corner from myself, mind you,) could argue that the more difficult something is, the more fun it'll be to challenge and beat, I was already below average before this sudden spike.

As I sat in the front row, head resting on my hand, everyone in the crowded classroom talked amongst each other. With no window to longingly gaze out of, Yuu became my primary target. For some reason I found myself staring at her more often than not. Since she found herself in my homeroom class, we spend most of the day together now. Whenever she sat down beside me and class would start, she'd put on these square-rimmed glasses that were always fogged up.

They look great on you.

The words sat on the tip of my tongue, and that's where they would remain. I didn't want to make her feel uncomfortable. Besides, no matter how great such a small change on her was, something still felt off. Come to think of it, she had only started to wear them once we had our first test.

A tall lady wearing a dark vest and pencil skirt finally made her way to our corner of the classroom, her hands shaking underneath the stack of test papers. Is this what it's like when people say they grow up too fast? If this was still middle school, she probably would have dropped everything and fell straight on her face. I applauded her. Only in my head, of course.

"E-Excellent, Miss Tsubasa!" she said, plopping her test down. "Another 100%! You're performing well but don't let it slip, alright?"

"Yuu smiled but it didn't reach her eyes. "Oh stop it. You're gonna make me blush." She spoke with little enthusiasm. "I appreciate it though. I'll be sure to keep up the good work."

As Yuu began to silently look over her work, (something that wasn't all that needed in my opinion,) I dropped my chin onto the desk and stretched my arms out as far as they could go. The teacher let out a nervous laugh, moved the papers over, and crouched to my level. Although her uncomfortable aura was slowly engulfing me, there was still this sense of relief in seeing her again. Part of me still wished she wasn't staring so intensely though.

"Still rocking the new hairdo I see, Shiro? Make sure to pop by once it, u-um, gets a bit unruly," she said, already exhausted. "This transfer has been a bit hard on me, so seeing a familiar face really calms the nerves."

"Yeah. Yeah, I will. I'd say that this fits me a bit more though, don't you think?" I pulled on my bangs a few times. "You called me by my first name again by the way. That's no good, Maeda. You might be accused of playing favourites."

"G-geez, you're no better! Why don't you start by calling me Miss Maeda? If I wanna earn everyone's respect, I can't have students being so casual! New Maeda. Gotta be strict...super strict...can't let anything get past me!"

"Strict, huh?" I swayed my head from side to side and grabbed the edge of the desk as something came to mind. "Ah, I see. I got an idea then. Why not chew me out for flunking again? That'll cement you as a force to be reckoned with."

Maeda's shoulders perked up before sighing and immediately slumping them back down. "There's no way I could do that! Besides, it's not good to rush to conclusions. There are thousands of reasons a teacher can come up to a student."

Well considering you just gave Yuu her test back...

"Is that so?"

"I-I mean it! Don't look at me like that, it's not good for my heart," she said, sinking until only her eyes could be seen.

I sat up and rubbed the back of my neck, uneven strands of hair brushing against my hand. If she was trying to soften the blow of another failed quiz, playing along with her wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

She dug into her pocket and rummaged around for a bit. Eventually, she pulled out a yellow star hairpin and held it in front of me.

"You dropped this when you came in this morning. I didn't have the heart to tell you during class, so I thought I'd do it now."

I took it quietly and stared at the cool, yellow surface. My reflection, distorted and blurry, greeted me back. How old was I when they first gave this to me? Four, maybe five years old.

Fireworks rumbled and crashed, lighting up the sky before turning into small blue specks and disappearing. They dressed me up in a yukata and held me in their arms. I wasn't used to the loud noises but crying was out of the question. Crying made you unstable, weak and fragile. You're easier to manipulate that way, you won't be able to lead anything that way. Tough it out and save face.

That's the only thing that mattered.

Even if we were supposed to be out enjoying ourselves, the shop always came up in conversation.

Out of all the stars in the night sky, it will be you who shines brighter than any of them. That's the path that's been laid out for you—the reason you're here. Never forget that, Shiro.

His disgustingly honeyed words seemed so nice back then, and I was still unaware of the true meaning behind them. And she could do nothing but smile, nod, and agree.

Maeda snapped her fingers and just like that, I was back in class. "U-um...hello? You're kinda spacing out."

"Sorry." I clipped the hairpin back on and rubbed the back of my neck. "Rough night. I'm still getting used to sleeping in the same bed as someone else."

"Oh, that's right! You're living with Miss Tsubasa now, aren't you? you maaaay or may not have messed up on our little test but that's completely okay. Seeing as she scored the highest in our class, why not have her help you out—"

Yuu whipped her head toward us faster than anything I had ever seen. The desk creaked out in pain as she dug her nails into the wood and gaped at us. Poor thing never stood a chance.

Maeda went pale. When I was talking about her aura it was more of a metaphor, but I could swear that something was legitimately emanating from Yuu. Maybe the sun powered her up too much on our way here.

Considering what I had said to her only three days prior, I guess it would be good to start with something small and then work my way up. She wanted to be relied on, huh?

"I don't see why not...I'm in your care, Yuu."