Chapter 18:

Volume 2 ❀ Chapter 2.1: Opposite Laws Against Dreams ~ An Asura’s Antinomy


January 31st, 2013 - Shirakawa

Driving yesterday night’s events out of my mind was certainly a difficult task to accomplish, especially if I had to attend school as if nothing had even happened. My aching body was crying from exhaustion at every single minute, considering the huge fight I had less than twelve hours ago. Giving up to exhaustion was a huge, appealing alternative at sunrise; however, I can't miss class out of nowhere. I hadn’t shown signs of a slowly approaching cold, so calling out sick wouldn’t be a smart thing to do considering Shinji’s unnatural instincts to detect whether I’m alright or not.

I can’t even fathom how I even made it back home.

Yet, one thing was for certain.

There was something going on behind my back. Something a certain someone should be telling me, instead of creating lies and secrets which in turn create misleading misunderstandings that, eventually, could take a turn for the worse.

Still, why should I get mad at Nobuyuki if I am doing the exact same thing with… my friends.

As if it were an old, worn tape recorder, I could barely make out Miss Tanaka’s lecture. Each of us was reading out loud a section of Souseki Natsume’s novel titled Kokoro. My book was open on the page she was reading, however, if I was asked to do so I wouldn’t know on which paragraph to start.

That was why, instead of trying to focus, I diverted my attention to my flip phone. Up until now, I hadn’t checked if Yuiko had replied to my message yesterday. After all, it took me more than a week to reply to hers and it is perfectly understandable if she takes her time as well. Even still, a small peak wouldn’t hurt. I’m already far behind in the lesson so indulging in this shouldn’t make it worse.

I opened it, making my way into my text messages to see she had indeed replied, contrary to what I believed.

【From: Yuiko Tsukiame. Sent: 11:30 PM. Date: January 30th】

Dear Yui,

Good evening, my apologies for replying at this hour of the night. Here is hoping I do not wake you up. I got engrossed in a book and did not notice your message. Do not worry about not replying immediately, please take your time, I will always be here.

In regards to your invitation, it would be lovely to have a nice date with you. After school sounds perfectly fine. That way, I can get to know more about Shirakawa as well as enjoy precious time with you.

I’ll be looking forward to our date.

Sincerely yours,



Date? Yuiko is pretty funny about going out together. It's actually kinda endearing! And she isn’t mad at me… that’s a huge relief… Time to write back to her!



This is so exciting! Okay, let’s see each other after school then! I have the perfect place in mind to go to! Do you like sweets? There is a Coffee Shop called Hina that is around an 18-minute walk from our school. It’s on the other side of the village, crossing Shō river. Have you been there yet? I live kinda close to that place. Now that I think about it, I have no idea where your house is!

See you after class!!


I hope she does not think lowly of me for texting her during class.


To my surprise, her reply came insanely fast.

【From: Yuiko Tsukiame. Sent: 3:15 PM. Date: January 31th】

Dear Yui,

Good evening, it is a delightful surprise to see your reply during class. Please pay attention to your lessons! Right now I am in the middle of P.E Class, however, I am resting for a bit.

I do love sweets, I would be delighted to accompany you. Thank you for the invitation, there are so many things I want to talk about with you.

It is a date then ♡

Sincerely yours,


PS. I live near the school. Around a 2-minute walk. The day we met I got lost so I did not realize how actually close I was to it...


That’s insanely close!!! That means that if we go there she’ll have to walk home all alone afterwards...

Nevertheless, before I could reply in order to plan for a better meeting spot, Miss Tanaka’s voice echoed inside the classroom.

“Alright, please proceed, Hazakura.”

My heart skipped a beat when her voice changed tones, indicating who was supposed to keep on with the lesson.

Glad I didn’t get caught...

I felt a huge relief, knowing I wasn’t the chosen one… yet, I was completely wrong.

Yui-Yui…” Manabu’s whispers were scratching his throat, doing his very best to pass unnoticed. “Page… tell me… the page…. And the line…

In a panic, my mind became a jumbled mess. I hadn’t been paying attention too, there was no way I could help my friend in this dire situation. In fact, if I helped, it could end in him being punished by Miss Tanaka to carry water buckets in the hallway, just for him to pester me about it afterwards for weeks. However, it was either that or him doing another crazy thing.

What crazy thing? Yelling in the middle of the class that he didn’t know and ended up blaming me.

Doing a huge leap of faith, I focused my memory as much as I could to at least remember the last syllable of what was read.

Second page of chapter seven…!” In a ragged breath, I gave him an answer I was not too convinced about, trusting pure instinct.

He gave me a subtle thumbs up, a trainwreck of a smile with sweat combined while he stood up to continue the lecture.

But even when you’re with me, he went on, you probably still feel somehow lonely. I don’t have the strength, you see, to really take on your loneliness and eradicate it for you. In time, you’ll need to reach out toward someone else. Sooner or later, your feet will no longer feel inclined to take you here.

After being done with the paragraph, he sat down more relaxed, combing his fringe with his right-hand fingers.

“Hazakura… we read that section thirty minutes ago. In fact, it was right at the start of class since that’s where we left the previous lesson.”


Miss Tanaka was clearly annoyed even if her green eyes and pink hair gave her an angelic aura.

“For not paying attention, you’ll go outside to the hallway and—”

However, before our professor could finish her sentence, Manabu furiously stood up and pointed at me.

“Well, if Yui-Yui had not given me the wrong paragraph to read this mess wouldn’t be happening! She wasn’t doing so either!”

“...H-H-Huh!?” I blurted, taken aback after being exposed yet again by him, my previous scenario becoming true in a totally different direction. “Y-You shouldn’t rely on others for not paying attention…”

“What Miss Samidare says is correct. Nonetheless, both of you were ignoring the lesson and won’t get away with it.” Miss Tanaka’s smile became our worst enemy. “Let’s see, now that I think about it, being outside won’t help since this is the last period so… who is on cleaning duty today…?”

Leaning towards the edge of the green chalkboard, she noticed that whoever was in charge wasn’t pleasing at all.

“Hm, this will not do. Alright then,” grabbing the eraser, she disappeared both names and wrote two new ones. “Miss Otsuka and Takimiya, you both are free from your cleaning duty today. Hazakura and Miss Samidare will take care of it.”

The whole class giggled, me shrinking my shoulders due to the embarrassment of being called out in such a shameful way.

I could see Miss Otsuka’s face of relief knowing, her short black hair being swayed with her hand, meanwhile, Takimiya snorted and bragged under his breath about how lucky he was towards his friends.

“That’s unfair!!” Manabu stood up. “Yui-Yui should be the only one on duty, not me! I’m the victim!”

“I beg your pardon?” Even if nervousness and anxiety were eating me over, I could not stand by while Manabu blamed everything on me. “It’s your own fault for not paying attention from the start! I’ll admit I was not concentrated during class but if you had been paying attention this wouldn’t have happened…”

“Would you two please stop bickering, accept the punishment and get on with it…?” Shinji grumbled in the front row. “Miss Tanaka, please proceed, these two won’t stop unless one proves their righteousness.”

With that said, the whole classroom burst out in laughter, my anxiety growing up to insane levels. They were making fun of me, for a simple mistake. I was being judged by twenty-three eyes, all of their attention focused on me for being a silly clown who could not hold her temper in and ruined it all.

“Betrayed by Shinji…” Manabu let his body fall on his seat, clearly with all his energy sources drained.

Meanwhile, doing my best to ignore my surroundings, I sat down incapable of believing what I had just said and wanting to die. I never confront stuff like this in front, perhaps Miss Ameka’s personality is slowly rubbing off me… or perhaps the stress I already have with Nobuyuki at home is making me more prone to react to dumb accusations.

Let this living madness end soon… please…


And it was. Indeed, it was over.

Being on cleaning duty wasn’t the worst thing in the world. It had been a while since the last time I did but, for some reason, Manabu wasn’t behaving as his usual self. Usually, when we were paired up sometimes, he would just goose off and leave everything to me while giving me encouraging vague words or something. However, this time he was fully committed to this duty making it hard to even strike up a conversation… which, again, was extremely strange.

I’ve never felt so uncomfortable around him before.

Manabu opened the window towards the backfield of the school, where you could see the usual spot where we all sat down to eat our lunch during recess. At this time of day, some students were in their Baseball club practice. You could hear even from this far distance their yells of enthusiasm.

His golden hair flew with the sudden winter breeze that made its way through, his red eyes intertwining with the dying sunset. He sighed, resting his left shoulder on the wall while his right hand held the cleaning mop. I won’t deny that Manabu could be considered extremely handsome if he could keep his goofiness to himself most of the time. In fact, I do believe he has amassed quite a good number of followers in our class and outside of it.

For a second there, I felt out of breath. His figure was suddenly ethereal, out of this world. The classroom was enveloping us, glimmering through the light that went through the window. His silhouette was picture frame perfect, his ponytail swaying with the delicate winter breeze. A fragile sigh escaped his lips as if it were to break at any moment, intertwining with the atmosphere.

His stare was surprisingly clear-cut as if he were examining carefully his objective. His eyes downloaded the data of whatever he was looking at, absorbing it and processing it carefully. Nonetheless, a shimmer in the corner of such breathtaking scarlet turned that gaze upside-down from my point of view.

Melancholy. Sorrow. A heavy heart.


“Hey, Manabu—”

“Kinda cruel of the teach for making us do this, huh?”

Usually, Manabu’s smile could cheer me up in an instant, change my world and transform it into pretty colours and bright lights. Everywhere he went, that was him. Bringing jokes and smiles, showing you the way out of the deepest darkness. He had done that with me multiple times, even more than I dare count.

Now it all makes sense, why I was feeling so uncomfortable before.

That smile just now was make-believe.

“Yeah… totally…”

Why can’t I say anything?

“Very well then, I suppose we can wrap this up and call it a day, right Yui-Yui? I daresay, we did a mighty good job!” Proudly, he huffs and puffs due to what we had just achieved. “Man, those rubber shavings were a pain, people should be more considerate!”

In the end, I couldn’t mutter a single word.

Taking a single step, I managed to stand by his side.

The sunlight was warm.

“Yui-Yui… you’re too close.” His hand was still on the window’s railing. I reached out to it, placing mine on top of his. A lukewarm feeling overcame my senses. “...Okay…?”

“It is a beautiful sight.”

He turned back to the scenery he was watching a few seconds ago.

The sun rested amongst the clouds; its amber radiance dazzling upon the sweaty students running laps around the field. The clouds lounged lazily in the sky, floating carelessly amongst the heavens like dandelions in the wind. The sky shone brightly amongst the dim embers of the sinking sun; a splash of vibrant hues enhancing its pristine beauty. The contrast between the upcoming twilight and the luminous sky was like the meeting of two worlds, the known and the unknown.

Manabu was like the sunset itself.

Not only from his beaming smiles, but in his heart. He always, in particular, used to exemplify these characteristics. The redness in the sun resembled his playful eyes when he was laughing extremely hard; the sound echoed for kilometres.

Even if I can do nothing about it right now…

I tightened the grip on our hands.

I’ll be there. I’ll always be there.

My eyes followed his gaze, his body not tensing after my sudden action.

Bravely, I decided to follow it, wondering what made him put such an act.

Down there, out in the courtyard where children played with aspirations and dreams, I saw Shinji and Yuiko having a pleasant conversation under the naked cherry tree we all use to gather around during lunchtime.

A peppy conversation was taking place, Yuiko expressing herself and Shinji was…


“Oh right, I forgot I told Yuiko to wait for me before we started cleaning since this was so sudden.” I blurted out without thinking, letting go of Manabu. “It seems my message did reach her.”

“Do I smell a date?” Manabu’s sly fox’s face was illustrated all over. “It’s a date isn’t it?”

“That’s funny, both of you are using the same word. Is that what’s hip and trending nowadays?”

“You’re so innocent. It would be nice if you grow up one day,” Manabu suddenly did a rushed pat on my head. “Poor Tsukiko.”

“Huh? Am I missing something here?”

“I feel so sorry for her…”

“Manabu, please explain—”

My poor, poor Tsukiko I’m sorry for Yui-Yui being so dense.” Overdramatically, he shed a fake tear while waltzing out of the classroom.

“Hey, come back here!”

I trailed behind him, grabbing my and his backpack.

Suddenly, everything returned to its usual, laidback pace.

“I’m so sorry for making you wait!”

Yuiko was calmly standing near the school’s gate, not minding my delay. Her perfect figure and striking similarity to me still were oddly enchanting, yet her essence was unique to me. She gently smiled, waving her porcelain hand.

“No worries, Hinaga made me some company.” She replied once I was by her side. I expected to see her tremble, so I blinked thrice. “Oh, my… phobia? I’m getting used to hanging around Hinaga and Hazakura! That makes me truly happy.”

She placed a hand on her chest, letting out a sigh of relief.

“At first I was trembling, and pretty scared. We were completely alone after all, but somehow he managed to make my anxieties go away. He’s a considerate boy, such a lovely friend you have.”

I wanted to ask more questions, especially given that I couldn’t get out of my head Manabu’s lonely gaze and Shinji’s smile. Nonetheless, this was not the time or place for inappropriate questions. We were going to spend a fantastic evening together and I was there to guide her to a place with the most delicious deserts Shirakawa had to offer—at least, for me.

Hopefully, she likes them too. Although, now that I think about it, I never asked for her feedback, and her house is quite far from Hina Coffee Shop… Maybe we should change places? The nearest one sells ice cream but I don’t want both of us to get sick… Uuugh, maybe I should call it day and think about it more carefully?

“Yui?” Yuiko approached me, placing her palm on my forehead. “Nope, you don’t have a fever. Then why are you… overheating?”

“Hm!?” I panicked. “W-What are you talking about?”

“You’re pretty red.” She casually mentioned with a worried tone.

I’m overthinking! And I’m worrying her! Yui, come on! Relax!

“It’s nothing… I was just…” My voice trailed off.

“Everything is fine, we’re going on a date right now,” now, both of her hands held mine, bringing them up where both our eyes could see them. With a loving head tilt, she started to walk to the outside world, where the snow would eventually cover our path in the upcoming months and gloves and scarves would warm up our hearts. “So let’s have some fun!”

An array of colours bloomed with every step she gave. The cherry blossom leaves are still a-light, but barely. They replace the sound of children running through the mouse-coloured path. A weak pitter-patter is heard, but it is not the sound of our feet matching their speed. It is the centuries-old, hissing drip of the evening winter dew. Spiders flood the corners of the light posts, clutching their snare strings tightly, their eyes a glitter.

Just like I read somewhere, it is possible to identify somewhere between 7.5 and 10 million distinct colours. Right now, I was living proof that it was possible to go way beyond those numbers. Everything became alive, the air was whispering, the earth was speaking, the birds were chatting and happiness was overflowing. My dull scenery was immediately transformed into Wonderland, Yuiko dragging me gently down the rabbit hole to a wonderful place I had never experienced before. Gently, calmly, yet assuringly, she kept on transforming my reality into cotton candy and sugar, just like her fluffy lavender hair.

Once we made it to the main road, she stopped, stretching her free arm to the left.

“If you keep on walking, my house is a little further in this direction. Surprising how I could have missed such a huge school.” Yuiko seemed ashamed of herself, but her face didn’t reflect that. “I might have been enchanted by this town’s lovely atmosphere. It’s magical since it brought us together.”

My heart raced once again today, a rush of emotions flowing inside of me.

She is such a nice girl.

Making our way after turning right at the intersection, we traversed through the concrete path with almost no cars. Since it was getting colder, kids went straight home or took a bus to Takayama. Neatly lined up, you could see how older Japanese house structures were slowly being replaced with concrete, signalizing that change was slowly coming. Families were earning more, thus house remodelling is one of the first things in your plans if you can afford it. If you leave in the countryside, there are many things that need regular maintenance, and upgrading your house is an easier way to tackle all those little things that piled up over the years.

Wilted wheat fields greeted at some corners, farming taking a huge blow when winter struck. The soil was sorrowful, and I wanted to touch it to imbue it with the wonderful colours Yuiko was showing me. I pictured the field during summer, where the harvest would be unstoppable and the soil would feel most alive. I was never fond of farming work and found it a bit annoying since it prevented me from playing with Shinji often.

During summer vacation, he was always busy helping his mother’s field. His already tanned skin ended up darker than usual, and his shirt would leave marks on his arms as if he had two tones. I remember pointing it out to him once, and the next day he was working shirtless. To his mother and my surprise, we ended up modifying one of his older shirts by cutting the sleeves, since the old ladies were gossiping about the short-tempered kid now being indecent. At that time, I remember how Shinji’s skin reminded me of warm cosy afternoons as well as a burning ocean. I have never seen the ocean before, yet, his extra summer tan made me believe I was being coloured by the sun rays under the deep blue sea, and afterwards drinking something hot near a fireplace as if the seasons had abruptly changed.

I couldn’t help but feel that my face was beaming.

Usually, I wouldn’t have those thoughts while making it back home on my own, or even with both of my best friends. Yuiko had managed to connect me with all the colours of Shirakawa, brightening up my gloomy afternoon.

Without letting words escape from our mouths, we made silent company with each other while holding hands. We passed one of the millions of backpacking, trekking and snowboarding lodges. At this time of the year, they were usually empty, serving tourists from Takayama that ventured to hike the mountains for the whole day.

Now that I think about it, Shinji, Manabu and I once went hiking. I wonder if we should go again, but this time with everyone. Yuiko, Seraphine, Koharu… I’d even invite Miss Ameka…! Although, I’d feel bad for Nobuyuki. He wouldn’t be able to go with us.

I ended up regretting feeling sorry for him almost instantly.

He’d find a way to go, I just know it.

And that’s when a thought hit me.

I haven’t told him I’ll be home late! What if he starts a search warrant or calls the police?! Or even worse, breaks into my friend’s houses thinking I’ve been held captive. Guess I’ll call him…

Taking out my flip phone, I realised one big problem.

It was dead.

I ran out of battery!!! Why!!!! Why does this always happen?!

“Is something the matter?” Yuiko asked, concerned. “Do you need to call someone?”

“You could say that,” I avoided the question. Everyone at school knew I lived alone, so suddenly telling Yuiko I had to call home to say I was arriving late would be strange. I don’t know if Shinji or Manabu have casually said I live alone around her, so I’d rather avoid that situation.

“You can borrow mine.”

“It’s fine, really. I might take your offer up at the café though!”

I could excuse myself for a minute or so and call while going outside. I am pretty sure my house has a caller ID, and if Nobuyuki who already knows how to use a PC overreacts by seeing it’s not my number, I’ll let him know I borrowed one from a friend since mine is out of commission. Excellent plan, Yui!

“Hmm… alright.” I am pretty sure she found it strange, but I did my best to push away those thoughts.

We kept on walking, both chit-chatting about the huge array of small hotels for tourists, shrines and small restaurants and shops. Ever since Shirakawa became a Heritage Site, it continued to develop even more bringing all these little businesses to flourish. At first, many people were against the massive influx of tourists popping up, however, they soon noticed that coming here meant more business and opportunities for their lives to get better.

I greeted many of them on the way, introducing Yuiko. All of them mentioned our similarities and even asked if we were long-lost sisters. She even got some coupons to use with her family as a token of friendship and to include them in the neighbourhood activities. Everyone is truly nice.

And I don’t deserve them.

Without noticing, we were almost halfway there. We had just arrived at the bridge that we could use to cross Shō River. The breeze was perfect, and it wasn’t too cold either. We make our way through it, but the girl that stiffs my emotions suddenly came to a halt, breaking our held hands and placing both of hers on top of the cold, brass railing.

“What lovely scenery,” her eyes were twinkling amidst the sunset surrounding the grey sky, giving it more life than it already had.

I approached, basking into her world and discovering new colours I took for granted.

A turquoise-blue stream wound its merry way underneath us. Pebbles whisked about in the under wash like pieces of glitter. It was glinting with little sparkles, like a thousand diamonds blessed with an inner fire.

I was the first to chance upon the brook. It was a fragile blue colour, like the subtle sweep of a painter’s brush. Seeping and snaking smoothly past all obstacles, it managed to hurdle the river’s boulders. Twigs twirled on its murmuring surface, little messengers from the mountain trees where they had come from. The brook flowed over the pebbled riverbed. It sounded like the airy, velvety whirl of a starling flock.

The mountains stood silently in the background, a brooding presence of sky overwhelming me. My gaze returned to the swirling brook. I could see now how the water had gained its glassy clarity. Speckled trout drifted under the shady eaves of the bank, flicking their tails lazily. The watery grace of the river seemed magical to me at that moment.

I feel like Alice in an underwater Wonderland.

“I remember my family being afraid I wouldn’t get used to living in the countryside but, you know what?” She turned around, an array of vitality and life submerging me under that same river we were above. “They were wrong, this place is special.”

She stretched out her hand again, my breath returning as if I were a fish back in the water.

“Let’s go eat so delicious sweets.”

“Let me lead the way.”

Finally, I took it upon myself to be her guide.

I’m sure Yuiko has noticed I wasn’t feeling well, which is very selfish of me. I proposed this outing to be open with each other, to ease her anxieties and worries about what happened during the school trip. About her uneasiness, her misguided guilt and the hug we took under the stars and moon.

The Community Fire Centre flew by past me, the famous restaurant near the shrine that was hustling and bubbling became silent, the clothing shop was vibrant, and to top it off, the streetlights guided me towards the goal.

On the outside, the café was as rustic and beautiful as ever. Even if the trees were only branches due to the season, the warmth from inside could be felt even before stepping on the green carpet carefully placed outside. The outdoor terrace was empty and probably would stay that way until the high winter season when tourists from the other side of the world would sit to enjoy the mountain view while drinking some hot green tea.

Before entering the café, the big blue sign located at the side had neatly written down the evening options at affordable prices. One nice detail was that this menu was written in Japanese and English for overseas customers due to its proximity to the Ogimachi Observation Deck and the Tenshukaku Observatory, as well as a really nice hotel located right in front of the Tourist Association. It was the ideal place to stop after a long day to unwind eating a yummy sandwich or dessert, along with a nice cup of coffee or tea as an afternoon snack.

“Straight and blend, arranged coffee… hm, toost? What is toost?” Yuiko tilted her head. “Oh, they meant to write toast. The katakana helped there. Oh, they sell a morning set too!”

“You can read English?!” I couldn’t even read what was underneath the katakana even if I knew that below it, the English part meant the same thing, hence why I never noticed that grammatical error with toost.

“That’s basic English, Yui.” Yuiko stated matter-of-factly.

“O-Of course I know basic English!”

“Then what does it say here? I’ll block the katakana from your view.” Happily, Yuiko placed her arm just at the perfect angle so her uniform didn’t erase the chalk and at the same time made it impossible for me to read.

“Ca… uhh…” I struggled. “It ends with an e, right?” I could feel how the English lessons I always spent ignoring in the back of my mind slipped by. “... I give up. I’d rather not embarrass myself any further…”

I need to study harder… I’m such a failure.

“It’s the word cake, Yui. We use it a lot as a loan word.” Yuiko went ahead and hugged me gently. “Keeki.

That's such a basic word, please end my life!!!!

“And you can’t spell cake without cheese in it. I wonder what flavours of cheesecake they have here!”

Even after her trying to cheer me up, I did feel like utter garbage. However, I had to shake my head and open the door so we could enjoy this evening together. Who cares about other languages anyway? Long live Japan.

Long live Japan!

“Long live Japan!!!”

I opened the door, and half of the coffee shop was staring at me.

Author's Note: Chapter 2 has been divided into around 3 parts due to it's total length being over 20K.