Chapter 4:

You Could Tell By The Fact That Everyone Avoided Her

I Woke Up in a Light Novel or Giant Expanding Robot Bear Devil Prince and the Invasion of the Secret Legion Brigade Army


Maybe memory was hell. Remembering things. Seemed like everyone just moved on like last summer hadn’t happened. The whole school, no, the whole town, all smiling faces like the pins on Sara’s bag. Like a meadow of identical flowers whose fragrance made you forget. Nothing remained of it. Just waters that had passed through and left no trace of themselves. Except in her.

Was there something wrong with her?

I mean, besides the things that are obviously wrong with me…

Things stuck in her brain like it was a net. They’d catch and hurt and the more they did the thicker the net got, like scar tissue, and the more got caught in it. Everyone else lived in the peaceful lowlands of Tokayashi, mowing lawns or regurgitating schoolyard gossip, while she was stuck up in the mountains, where memories caught, where things didn’t just pass you by, they thickened and fell as rain that made your sky a permanent grey. Like that cloud that never left Gibraltar. She’d heard about that from her dad when she was little. It seemed magical, a rocky island spire eternally shrouded in mist. Time could never reach it. Whoever lived there would look over the parapets and see the world below where the days and months and seasons rolled on, buildings rose and fell, their shadows forever turning, babies were born and lived and grew old and died, and not one moment of its pleasures or sorrows could touch them. She wondered if it would be nicer in there, or outside. Then a thought occurred to her. That no one could live in that castle. That humans, life, was what happened when you left the castle. And the castle was where you returned when you left life.

It was like she’d been adopted, not just by her parents but the world. Taken off from her real home, with no memory of it, just the feeling that she didn’t belong. She’d come from some mountainous land, the absent memories of which still filled her with longing, to find that place she knew as—-

‘DINGDINGDINGDINGDINGDING!’ Chichi was wrapping her on the side of the head with a bird-like knuckle.

Do birds have knuckles? And even if they do, shouldn’t it be a bird’s-knuckle-like-knuckle?

She had successfully given her the world’s first simultaneous triple heart attack.

‘Hey Kaori… guess what!!! ‘

Kaori looked at her.

Chichi was shaking with excitement. ‘SHUT UP!’

Yeahhhh… you really didn’t plan that out, did you…

Chichi was gasping for breath as though the capital letters passing out her little mouth had been a surprise to her as much as anyone.

‘I wasn’t saying anything!’ Kaori glared at her friend.

‘WAAAAHHHH.’ This was how Chichi generally reacted to being shouted at. She didn’t know if it accounted for all known Chichis but certainly this one.

Chichi.

They’d been friends since middle school when Kaori’s family had moved to the towwwwn of nothingness… as they’d referred to it for some time.

Wait.

… as they’d referred to it for some time. That’s better. Ok. Where was I?

The towwwwn of… never mind. Kaori’s family had moved in and Tomaki and her had hit it off straight away. By hit it off straight away, I mean that as the new girl, Kaori was forced on her first day to take the only vacant seat in her class, and that seat was beside an insane looking girl with sparkles in her hair and a smile that extended beyond the fringes of her face. Who was holding it out and pointing to it with both hands.

Chichi really was a beautiful person. You could tell by the fact that everyone avoided her. There are two things in this world that people avoid. Ugly things and beautiful things. Chichi was the most loving, warm, open and kind person Kaori had ever met. Naturally that caused most people to dislike her.

It wasn’t like she hadn’t tried to make friends. Like when she’d tried to give the other girls snail shells as presents, only she’d forgotten to remove the snails. She’d spent hours going around her garden, finding the prettiest - which had generally meant slimiest - snails. Or the time she’d stolen Eriko’s lunch, placed a hand on her arm and told her it was because she was ‘extremely fat’ and she was worried because she’d seen a show about diabetes the night before. She had mouthed ‘diabetes’ to her from across the canteen for several weeks after, as Eriko desperately tried to avoid catching her eye.

But setbacks like that hadn’t changed her. She still came in every day smiling, bringing all her plushies and sticker covered textbooks. It was just that when she was speaking to Pear-Shaped-Bear or Giraffe-That-Is-Designed-To-Look-Like-Pig.. she was doing it on her own. The other kids would sit away from her, whether it was in class, or in the schoolyard so that eventually it became habit, and Chichi came to spend her lunch breaks sitting on the bench at the edge of the grass alone, playing with the hair of her doll, or thanking each item in her lunch box dutifully before eating them. It was as though she didn’t exist. When you practice ignoring someone enough, they disappear. She didn’t seem affected by it, just accepted that this was where she went, while the other kids ran around smiling and laughing. She would sit smiling too, watching them. It was just that she was sitting alone.

There was something in Kaori that saw a person like that, a weird looking girl, with too much make up, who smiled too much, who always said the wrong thing, who did stupid crap all the time, who, while the other girls were wilting over photos of the latest boy bands, was obsessed with a old crooner from the 50s named ‘Tommy’ Takahashi, and brought in a bunch of toys that looked like she’d dragged half her bedroom into school… something in Kaori saw a person like that, an undeniable, complete, utter, irredeemable, unsalvageable, incomprehensible idiot… and the rest of the school vanished. All she felt was that something in her chest, drawing her toward this one person, making her sit down next to her and say: ‘I’m Kaori. Would you like a rice ball?’

‘What were you thinking about?’ Said Chichi.

‘Ahhhhhhhhh nothing.’

‘Another secrets!’ Chichi was pointing at her. She had a slight jealousy problem when it came to Kaori’s private thoughts. A moment later her eyes shifted, her mouth had dropped open and the pointing finger had moved to an illustrated poster advertising a new cat cafe.

‘Otters.’ Said Chichi.

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