Chapter 1:

A Fateful Encounter

A Mistletoe In Winter

 The day was cold and damp. It was always like this around this time of the year in Kyoto. The holidays for the Christmas season had begun. After the last semester of the college before winter, Hirugami goes to the art galleria to look at some fine paintings there. It was his unforgettable passion which he had not been able to give up after that incident in his life.

He observed the new paintings which had arrived at the galleria during this time of the year. After going through these, he came across that painting he loved the most and compared his life with. It was currently the only thing he loved in this whole world. The portrait had a whitish blue coloured dressed girl standing on a beautiful, green garden with golden locked hair, and she looks down on the world as a sign of giving up hope. The background had a black sky, like the whole world was destroyed and the garden was the only piece of greenery in the whole destroyed, apocalyptic world. She looked just like an angel who had lost all hope on humanity. This portrait was the famous portrait of ’The Lady of Despair’.

Thinking about the portrait made him remember some dreadful and despairing memories in his life. Hirugami put his cold hands into his pockets and came out of the galleria. He looked up at the sky. It was snowing. It was beautiful but despairing at the same time. The snow made him even more depressed as he had many bad memories related with this time of the year.

He goes down the street to go up the bridge to his house, which was just around the corner. As he was about to go up the stairs, he saw a black-haired girl in a blue uniform falling down the stairs. He was surprised but with his fast reflexes, he made himself ready to catch ready and braced for impact. She fell on him with a thud. Both of them fell down the stairs. Hirugami was nearly out of breath due to the fall. Before he could get up and ask if the girl was okay, she straightened up, bowed and thanked him for saving her from the fall and quickly made her way out of there and was soon out of sight. He wasn’t able to see her face. He shrugged and brushed himself and went up the bridge, thinking that the girl was an ungrateful person for not even thanking him for saving her from that fall. But Hirugami didn’t know what this fateful encounter will bring in his melancholic life.

The winter vacation passed prettily quickly and the New Year came with a new day and a new exciting page in the life of 22-year old, Hirugami Souda. Winter went and spring came. The new semester at college had started and it was Hirugami’s first day of the new semester. He readied himself and went on his way to the college campus. On the way, he passed the art galleria and thought of checking out the latest additions in the galleria. These thoughts made him happy. The day was a beautiful one too. Birds were chirping here and there and a cool breeze was blowing around. This happy and beautiful atmosphere made him happy.

He reached college just in time. He had been admiring the beauties of nature on his way to college which made him nearly late for his first day. He found his class and sat on the bench near the open window. The teachings of the teachers didn’t enjoy him. He liked the view which his college window provided much more. He would spend most of a period staring blankly at the world outside the open window. Suddenly, he felt a hand on his shoulder. It was Mitori and behind him there was Hayako. Although Hirugami was a bit anti social and an introvert type of a guy, he had friends, whom he held very dear to him.

Hirugami greeted them with a smile and they sat next to him and talked about their winter vacation events. Mitori had gone with his family to Hokkaido to enjoy his vacations there, while Hayako went to visit his grandmother near Osaka who was celebrating her 95th birthday. They talked about the new admissions this year and suddenly the door to their class opened and the teacher came in. Everyone stood up and greeted the teacher. The teacher greeted them back and told them that there was a new admission this year. The teacher called her name “Kitomi Saiko”, and a black haired girl wearing a blue dress entered the classroom with beautiful grace and with a cute smile on her face, greeted the class saying

 “Hello everyone, I am Kitomi Saiko, nice to meet you all. I am new to this college and I will be in your care this semester.”

One look at the girl and Hirugami knew that this was the girl whom he had saved during that fall in Christmas. Kitomi also seemed to notice him and she was surprised to find him there. But what was even more surprising for the rest of the class and even for Hirugami was that Kitomi suddenly went up him and bowed and asked for forgiveness for her rude behaviour that day. Hirugami was startled. He couldn’t bring himself to say anything to her and was facing an awkward situation. Even his friends, Mitori and Hayako were in complete shock and awe. Everyone seemed to believe that Kitomi and Hirugami must have been friends from before, even though Hirugami told them that it wasn’t true.

After the shocking episode at the time of her arrival, during the recess, Kitomi introduced herself properly to Hirugami and his friend and told them that she was the daughter of the famous dress maker, Obanai Saiko. She was a member of the Saiko family who had been in the business of dress making for quite a long time now. She also told them that she was fond of love stories which are broken apart and cannot be mended together, a tragedy romantic story. Her favourite story was the famous story of two lovers from , ‘Socrates in Love’, by the famous writer Kyoichi Katayama. She said that she wanted to write a romantic manga by herself and currently she has been searching for someone who could help her draw the character arts and designs of the manga. On hearing this, Mitori jumped and declared that there was no one better at drawing than Hirugami and that he could help her with her passion. Kitomi’s eyes shined at this and she looked at Hirugami for an answer. Hirugami flatly told her that he would not be able help her in anything related to drawing. The talk about drawing made him remember some bad memories of his past. Before Kitomi could say anything in reply, Hirugami put his hands into his pockets and went out of the room.

After college was over, he went out without saying anyone anything. On his way home, he passed the art galleria; he didn’t want to go in today because he didn’t feel like it. When he went up the bridge, he saw Kitomi standing at the edge of it. She looked towards him and told him that she had always wanted to write a romantic manga of her own but as she couldn’t find a good artist she always suppressed her thoughts. But, now that she had met her artist, she wouldn’t let this chance pass by. She begged him to be her manga’s artist but he still denied. Finally, she revealed that it was her grandmother’s final wish before she died, to chase her dream and complete it. This brought Hirugami’s denial to a stop, which lightened Kitomi’s heart a bit. He told her that he will think about it at home and will make her know later. A look of relief passed her face and she smiled. It was the most beautiful smile he had ever seen on someone’s face. They exchanged contact info and made their separate ways home.

After making his way home, Hirugami went up to his room and sat on the bed thinking about Kitomi. He thought about the beautiful smile on her face and a bit of protectiveness towards her came within him. He took out his paintbrushes and a canvas from his cupboard. The moment he took the canvas and paintbrushes in his hand, a flood of bad and depressing memories came to his mind, but remembering Kitomi’s face made him think otherwise.

He contacted her and told her that he would help her achieve her dream and they would have to meet at a place after college to talk about the manga. On hearing this news, Kitomi said, “I am glad that you agreed to this plan otherwise I don’t know what I would have done without you”. On hearing this Hirugami was a bit glad he agreed to the plan and that someone was happy because of him. They agreed on meeting at a nearby coffee shop.

The next day, after college hours, they went at the said coffee shop together and sat at the table near the window. They ordered two cups of coffee and Hirugami decided to see Kitomi’s drawings until their orders arrived. Luckily, Kitomi presumed something like this would have happened and she brought her drawing copy with her and proudly she passed it to Hirugami. After seeing her drawings, Hirugami looked at her blankly and suddenly burst out of laughter. At this Kitomi felt a bit of hostility towards Hirugami and she looked down at the table, feeling insulted. Hirugami understanding that he had insulted her and her drawing, quickly asked her about her manga to change the mood. He knew how girls were in when they were in a sullen mood. Hirugami attentively heard about the whole story and he decided to draw the needed parts in the story during college hours.

The following day, he sat with Kitomi in the art activity hall and started preparing the scenes in the story. When Mitori and Hayako saw them go out the classroom together and in the art activity room, they came to the conclusion that Hirugami was hitting on Kitomi. Whereas, on seeing them leaving together, Ada and Ichiko, Kitomi’s new friends, thought that Kitomi was hitting on Hirugami. Mitori, Hayako, Ada and Ichiko, all of them were spying on Hirugami and Kitomi and looking for any kind of suspicious activities between them. Both Hirugami and Kitomi were unaware of the fact that they were being watched. When they were discussing about the manga, the eraser fell down the table. As Kitomi ducked under the table, to pick up the eraser, it gave an inappropriate image in the minds of the peepers. They felt that both of them were going too far with their sexual relationship. They barged in and asked what was going on there. Completely clueless, both of them told them about their situation and explained to them about their manga.

Although Hirugami enjoyed himself while working with Kitomi, she was too pestering about small details in the manga. Hirugami was not someone who wished to work in groups, and thus, he felt annoyed with Kitomi for always pestering him on and on about the manga. It has been two weeks since their meeting at the art activity hall and Kitomi has been annoying Hirugami ever since.

Five weeks after their meeting, things were going bad between Hirugami and Kitomi, as he decide to continuously evade her as the semester exams were approaching. One fine afternoon, when Hirugami and Hayako were on their way to home together, Hirugami found a girl bumping into him and falling on his face. This made Hirugami feel that he needed to see a doctor, as girls were continuously falling on him and he might have a bad omen. The girl, who fell on him straightened up, brushed herself and said, “Sorry, I didn’t pay attention. Are you hurt?”

Hirugami replied “Don’t mind me. Are you fine? You grazed your knee while falling”. At this he looked up at the face of the girl and her face reminded him of a certain someone he has been evading for the past few weeks. 

“Your face, is it you Kitomi? No, it can’t be I saw Kitomi go the opposite way to home”.

At this, the girl replied, “Kitomi? You mean Kitomi Saiko? Oh, I am her twin sister Miyomi, Miyomi Saiko. Then you must be Hirugami Souda, my sister tells me so much about you. She told me that you had agreed to help her write that novel of hers. I have been waiting to meet you for so long”.

Miyomi Saiko, another girl had entered his life. His life with Kitomi had already been much tiring and now someone else has also arrived to make it more tiresome. What will this encounter with Miyomi unfold in Hirugami’s melancholic life?  

Arashi Sensei