Chapter 17:

Even At the Beach, You Can See the Stars

We Are ☆ Star Club!

Pudding was melting. So was the rest of our club, but with her, it was all the more visible. I just didn't have the energy to do anything. The air in the bus was barely breathable, with so many excited, sweating bodies inside of it. I desperately tried to fan some air in my direction, but it didn't help much.

"Aaaaahh," Pudding said, leaning against the glass of the window, cooling down just a tiny bit.

I was still amazed that Erica managed to convince the school president to let us join the beach activities. It was an exciting thought, as I had never seen the stars at the beach before. It would be beautiful, I was sure, but I still couldn't fathom how beautiful it would be. The waves, dark as the sky, crashing against the sand, with the light of the stars glittering on the water.... The thought alone let me feel cooler, and a slight smile snuck on my face. It would be an experience, for sure.

On top of that, I didn't mind having to pass the time until darkness came on the beach. While the daylight would be more interesting for the other clubs, we would have our fun, too. Excited chatter was going on all around me, with other students discussing their ideas: playing sports in the sand, painting at the beach, underwater photography... Some were silently suffering in the heat just like our club, too. I looked outside, where I could see the ocean in the distance, as long as Pudding's hair wasn't in the way. She was probably spending the time in here the best, sleeping half against the window and half pressed against Erica. I wish I found it as easy as her to fall asleep, too.

Erica was captivated by the beauty of the beach. Her eyes sparkled, and her mouth twitched, as if she wanted to say something, but she just sighed quietly. It made me appreciate the beach even more. I mean, who isn't loving the beach, right?

"What's that?"

Arisu barely got the words out, all her muscles tense as she sat next to me.

"That. That's too much water."

I blinked. The memory of the stream came rushing back to me, and I flinched. I had completely forgotten how suspicious she was of water.

"Oh no. Did you think we only meant the sand when talking about the beach?"

"Of course!"

She pouted, and I threw her an apologetic glance.

"I don't think there's a beach without the ocean... at least not a natural one."


She didn't say anything more, but watched the ocean with suspicion.

"It's still so much water."

"Hey, you don't have to go in it." I patted her head. "Or anywhere near it. There will be plenty of beach without the water."

"Good. Because I won't."

Arisu exhaled through her nose, a determined look on her face. PURIRIN flew up from her shoulder, beeping.

"But isn't it so romantic? Spending time on the beach... we'll even see the sunset," Maria sighed.


Arisu violently shook her head, her eyes still fixed on the water.

"But Pudding will surely keep you company," I said.

Apparently, the girl heard her name, and made a small, approving noise.

"See? You're not alone."

Arisu nodded slowly, and as we got closer and closer to the beach, she seemed to relax a bit. She made it out of the bus and down to the beach with us, but she was still nervous. Her eyes were fixed on the sand. That, apparently, was enough for her.

"We'll make sure nothing happens to the gear," Pudding said while putting down her beach towel under the nearest sunshade.

"Yup," Arisu nodded, plopping down next to her, her head still tilted downwards.

"Thanks, you two."

Erica dropped off her bags next to them. While we didn't risk taking out telescope here to the beach, she had brought a few pairs of binoculars, as well as star maps and, of course, snacks to make it through the night. And now, it was Arisu's and Pudding's quest to keep all of it water- and sand-free.

"No worries. We'll protect it."

Arisu looked at Erica, and even gave her a thumbs-up, which Erica mirrored. She looked fierce, as if she really was ready to defend our bags from the massive amount of water close to the beach.

"Come on, then."

Maria grabbed my hand, and started running towards the glittering waves.

"Ahaha, wait!"

I giggled, while I could barely keep up with her until she ran into the water. That's where I jumped back.

"That's too cold," I squeaked.

Maria, instead, looked like she belonged in the water like a mermaid would. Her long, chestnut hair fanned around her, playing with the waves.

I took a few, careful steps into the water, slowly getting used to the temperature.

"Come on in," she said with a smile.

Slowly, I got deeper and deeper into the water, until it reached my knees. There, I waited again.

"I'm not a mermaid like you," I muttered.

"Aw, that's so sweet of you to say."

She smiled at me, before she took a deep breath and went underwater.


I tried to find her, but it was difficult to see anything in the water. I even looked back at the beach, where the other clubs had scattered, some enjoying the ocean while others stayed on the sand. Still, there was enough room for all of us so we wouldn't step on each other's toes. And yet, I couldn't wait for nighttime, when the others would leave the beach and we would be all alone. I sighed at the thought. Sunset was so far away, and still...

"Watch out!"

Maria emerged from the water, and splashed some one me, making me shiver.

"You're so mean," I complained at her.

But with that, I got deeper into the water, trying to get back at her. My determination was stronger now, and so the cold didn't bother me as much as before. Soon, the water didn't feel cold anymore, and I swam around, trying to catch up to her. She had a surprising amount of stamina, and smiled all the way through our little game of catch.

"How... are you...," I coughed.

"I was on the swimming twam for most of my life."

"Oh? So why... are you not with them... now?"

Of course, our school's swimming team was here, too. They saw faster and more daring than any other students, and weirdly enough, they reminded me of sharks.

"Ah, didn't I tell you ages ago? I wanted to make new friends."

Maria smiled brightly at me, before diving back underwater.

I kept afloat, and still wasn't sure if she was really human or maybe part mermaid.

After drying and warming up in the sun again, time seemed to go by much faster. Soon, the sun started to set. While some clubs were enjoying the colors of the sky, others started to leave the beach for the comfort of the nearby hotel. Our little club gathered under the sunshade, valiantly protected by Pudding and Arisu. Erica had joined them at some point and was drawing in her sketchbook. Sometimes I wondered why she stayed in the astronomy club, instead of joining the art club.

"Ah, I could fall asleep."

Maria lay on her back, lazily looking at the other students, passing by us.

"Well, you should rest, then," Erica said without looking at her.

As an answer, Maria yawned.

"Will do," she mumbled.

Arisu also seemed sleepy, and even I felt like yawning. Pudding was already fast asleep, but that didn't surprise me. I stretched, before sitting down next to Erica, trying to stay awake.

"Don't you want to join the art club?" I asked her, watching her draw.

"Not really."


Somehow, her answer really surprised me. Apparently, she heard it in my voice, and looked straight at me.

"What, and abandon this club?," she asked. "Who do you think I am?"

I felt myself blush. That wasn't what I was trying to say!

"That's not what I... I mean, you're doing so much for this club, and..."

Before I could get to my point, she interrupted me.

"It's a lot. But this," she looked at the three girls sleeping, "Is worth it."

With that, she went back to drawing. I didn't know how to reply, or if I even really needed to do so. I simply smiled at her. I'm so glad that you're here for us.

She only stopped drawing when it was too dark to see anything. It was like a wake-up call for me, and I helped her gently waking the others up. With them, we looked at the beauty around us.

At night, the ocean was its own, different beast, beautiful and terrifying. Now that most of the others students had left the beach, it was eerily quiet around us, and I only could hear the sounds of the wind and the waves gently lapping against the sand. As it got colder, we took out the warm clothes we had brought with us, and I put on a cardigan and some trousers over my dried swimsuit. But even though we acted quickly, it was cold, and took some time for me to warm up again.

But the stars, oh, the stars. They were beautiful. We were truly lucky, as there was not a single cloud to be seen in the sky. I could enjoy the stars both with my bare eyes and with the binoculars, as I lay on one of the towels, my eyes pointed towards the sky. I took in the sight, all while the moonlight glittered on the waves.

I didn't say anything, but instead, tried to burn this memory deep into my heart, so I would never forget it.