Chapter 2:

The Virtuoso Violinist

Spring Flower on the Sidewalk

"Ittekimasu!" I waved goodbye to Oba-san and aim for the door.Bookmark here

"Itterasshai!" She waved back at me.Bookmark here

Today is my second day of high school. After my horrible start yesterday, I was thinking of making up for it today.Bookmark here

First things first, I prepared early for school. Since I'm almost late yesterday, I can't afford that horrible experience to become worse.Bookmark here

I'm just thankful that I didn't have that weird dream again and I didn't overslept. If that really happens everytime, I better not sleep again and just go to school as a sleep deprived zombie.Bookmark here

For the second thing, I want to take back what I said to Hachisaki-kun and just be atleast on neutral terms with him. I may find it difficult in the future if I just made an enemy when I'm just about to start my high school, right?Bookmark here

And the third and last thing to deal with was about the attention that I'm getting. Bookmark here

Now, now, listen to me folks. I'm not really the kind of person that wants to stand out. When I was on middle school, I'm apparently invisible and I survived it without getting attention. I'm actually planning to do the same here in high school.Bookmark here

Why? What are you guys thinking? That I'm looking forward to this high school life and whatnot? Bookmark here

Sorry to disappoint you but I'm not.Bookmark here

Others might be thinking that, 'This is high school! The peak of my youth!' Bookmark here

For me, high school is just a stage of life that you must finish like those certain level in role-playing games.Bookmark here

I arrived at school earlier than expected. There are only few students outside right now. Well, that's the normal thing for me to be honest. Bookmark here

I'm just really unfortunate yesterday.Bookmark here

When I got into my classroom, I'm the first student to arrive. The room was very silent, I can also hear my breathing.Bookmark here

I took my seat and opened my bag to get my notebook and pencil. I started scribbling something to ease my boredom.Bookmark here

This scenery is really different when the whole class was here and having a good time with each other. Bookmark here

It's not that I'm envious that the class started dividing into groups and groups of friends which already started yesterday, I'm actually much more concern on my state here.Bookmark here

While doodling in my notebook, I heard the door opened. I didn't dare to give a glance and I just resumed my pointless writing.Bookmark here

"Good morning, Harada-san." The person greeted me in monotonous voice.Bookmark here

Without batting an eye, I responded, "Good morning,-----" I stopped writing when the lead on my mechanical pencil broke again. Remind me to change the lead later.Bookmark here

That voice! That emotionless voice...Bookmark here

I looked to that person as he gave me the cold shoulder again. It was the serious Hachisaki-kun.Bookmark here

"... Hachisaki-kun..." I continued what I'm about to say before.Bookmark here

He didn't say anything again and just took his seat beside me. Bookmark here

The awkward silence was slowly creeping in the room. Very awkward, I must say. Bookmark here

"Uhm... Hachisaki-kun... about yesterday..." I decided to break the silence.Bookmark here

There's no point dilly-dallying now. I must overturn the situation. Even though I'm not good at dealing with people, I still have my standards and I'm against having enemies.Bookmark here

"Oh, that?" He responded with an uninterested voice. "I'm not planning on holding back, so you better give it your all too."Bookmark here

Urk! I'm just about to apologize to him when he raised the war flag! Bookmark here

"Actually, I..." I said in a small whisper.Bookmark here

He stood up from his seat. When I looked up to him, he was glaring at me. Bookmark here

"You better not be thinking of surrendering." He said with a cold voice.Bookmark here

His glare plus the cold voice made me feel like Antartica moved beside me. I feel chills running down on my spine. He's freaking scary!Bookmark here

I swallowed the lump on my throat and muster up all the leftover courage that I have deep inside me.Bookmark here

I want to say that I'm taking back the challenge, but with his demeanor, I'm sure that he won't accept my white flag.Bookmark here

"Why... do you..." I started.Bookmark here

His eyes behind his glasses shifted to look at me. Bookmark here

"Why do you seem like you hate me?" I finally said what I want to say.Bookmark here

"I don't personally hate you," he said in his emotionless voice. Bookmark here

'Then why?! Why are you treating me like a rival?' I want to retort back at him but I decided to let him finish what he's about to say.Bookmark here

"Your music... Your playing style... It was a disgrace." He said.Bookmark here

He then slammed his hand on my desk making me flinch.Bookmark here

"Do you understand?! You are making fool of the piece when you played it yesterday!" He raised his voice at me while maintaining his glare.Bookmark here

I was taken aback by his words. I didn't expect him to say something like that. How can he say that? Bookmark here

"Just... Who are you, Hachisaki-kun?" I asked him as I managed to have eye contact with him. Bookmark here

For a second, I think I saw his expression change. There's some hint of shock which I didn't expect to see in his face.Bookmark here

His mouth opened as if trying to say something but he backfired and closed his lips. Fixing his glasses on his face, he was back on his expressionless reaction.Bookmark here

Pressure started building up in this room...Bookmark here

The door flew open and it revealed the cheerful Akane-san brimming with energy.Bookmark here

"Ohayoooooo!" She greeted with her hands in the air.Bookmark here

What a nice entrance. I can't believe that she just entered and the pressure building up minutes ago vanished into thin air.Bookmark here

"Oh? Haruki-kun and Harada-san?" Bookmark here

"Good morning, Akane-san." Hachisaki-kun monotonously said and took his seat.Bookmark here

Akane-san approached us and she turned to Hachisaki-kun quickly.Bookmark here

"Haruki-kun, you meanie! Why don't you call me by my nickname?!" Akane-san whined with a pout on her face.Bookmark here

"I don't know what you are talking about, Akane-san." Hachisaki-kun replied to her while showing no interest at all.Bookmark here

I don't know what's going on with this two but they seemed to be getting along together... Uhm, maybe not. Bookmark here

"Tch. Killjoy." Akane-san grunted in annoyance.Bookmark here

"Uhm, good morning Akane-san." I said awkwardly.Bookmark here

Their situation is getting awkward so I think it's better to lift the mood just a little bit.Bookmark here

"Oh, Harada-san! Good morning!" She said as she cling to me.Bookmark here

"A-Akane-san..."Bookmark here

"Ne, Harada-san, have lunch with me later, okay?" She pleaded as she continued to cling to me.Bookmark here

"O-okay..." I just replied awkwardly.Bookmark here

Akane-san beamed at me with a carefree smile as she took her seat in front of the classroom.Bookmark here

_*_Bookmark here

Time passed away quickly and it was now the time for lunch break.Bookmark here

"Harada-san, let's go to the cafeteria~!" She hummed in happiness.Bookmark here

I nodded and took my bento with me. I actually prepared this myself. It was a good thing that I can cook sometimes but I just did this out of sheer curiosity so I can't honestly tell if it was good or bad.Bookmark here

We made our way to the cafeteria as we talked about random things like who can be the class rep and such.Bookmark here

And you know what? Akane-san said that I'm going to be a class rep! I can't believe it! Is she really serious?Bookmark here

"That's not going to happen, Akane-san." I said awkwardly.Bookmark here

"Why not? You seem like the leader type when you confronted Haruki-kun yesterday!" She reasoned out.Bookmark here

I deadpanned at her. Bookmark here

That was the most absurd reason that I've heard of. I'm not really myself when I talked back to Hachisaki-kun yesterday, it was actually the demon on the piano.Bookmark here

"Haha, I'm not going to agree with you." I just said to put an end to the conversation.Bookmark here

We entered the school cafeteria and it was filled with swarm of students. It was unexpectedly spacious and we managed to find ourselves a decent spot.Bookmark here

She ordered some food while I was waiting for her in our table.Bookmark here

By looking at her figure from the back, I can't help but think of what with her and Hachisaki-kun. Bookmark here

They seemed to be close friends yet they also seemed to be just strangers.Bookmark here

Remembering what she said to me yesterday, Bookmark here

"Haruki-kun was not a bad person, I swear!"Bookmark here

That must only mean that they are closely acquainted before, right? Bookmark here

The way she talked to Hachisaki-kun was a give away. She can talk so casually with him. Maybe she knows something about the weird thing that Hachisaki-kun said to me this morning.Bookmark here

When she got back here, I was greeted by her cheerful face again. Bookmark here

"Sorry for making you wait, Harada-san." She smiled apologetically.Bookmark here

"It's fine." I said briefly and opened my bento.Bookmark here

She peeked to it and stare at them intently. I don't know if she's thinking of this as a good food or not. Well, it's not as if it matters.Bookmark here

"Itadakimasu!"Bookmark here

"Did you made that bento?" She asked as she fixed her chopsticks on her hand.Bookmark here

"Y-yeah..." I said awkwardly. I'm not really calm with how this conversation will go.Bookmark here

"Can I taste it?" She said innocently and aim her chopsticks to my bento.Bookmark here

"W-whaa?! A-Akane-san... That was..." I was about to stop her but she finally got them in her grasps and stuffed them on her mouth quickly.Bookmark here

"Mmmm...." She continued chewing the food while I just face palmed at her.Bookmark here

Just as expected! I should've known!Bookmark here

"I know it was not good!" I apologized quickly. "Do you need some water? I'll go get you some."Bookmark here

I was about to stand up when she holds my wrist.Bookmark here

"Don't bother, Harada-san. It was good!" She beamed a smile to me.Bookmark here

I don't know if she's just saying that to not hurt my feelings or she really is sincere. But still, I feel bad for making her eat my trial version of food.Bookmark here

"Are you sure?" I asked worriedly as she managed to have me take my seat.Bookmark here

"Of course~! Why are you saying that it's bad? They're really good!" She said with her eyes sparkling in admiration.Bookmark here

I tried to taste them myself and I can say that they're pretty decent now. Yeah, that's it. Good thing they aren't that bad, because if they are, I won't forgive myself if Akane-san ended up being a victim of food poisoning.Bookmark here

Atleast I felt relieved for that.Bookmark here

We continued eating properly when Akane-san started a topic.Bookmark here

"Ne, did you already said to Haruki-kun that you're giving up?" She asked while silently munching her food.Bookmark here

Even if she doesn't show it, I know that this conversation was a serious one for her.Bookmark here

I swallowed the food on my mouth and decided to answer her. Bookmark here

"I'm about to take back what I said but... He said that I must not think of surrendering." I explained to her.Bookmark here

She let out a small chuckle, "Same Haruki-kun I must say..."Bookmark here

"Eh?"Bookmark here

"Ah, that was nothing Harada-san." She said with a flustered face and stuffed some food on her mouth again.Bookmark here

I shook my head to her. Bookmark here

On the other hand, I also need to ask something to her.Bookmark here

"Akane-san, you know Hachisaki-kun personally right?" I said as I put down my chopsticks since I've finished my bento.Bookmark here

She can't answer with the stuffed mouth like that so she just nodded to me.Bookmark here

"What is your relationship to him?" I asked to her which made her eyes widen in shock.Bookmark here

She raised her hand to say, "Please wait."Bookmark here

I don't know if my choice of words are inappropriate or what, but for me they just seemed okay.Bookmark here

She drank water to help her swallow her food and when she's done, she faced me with a serious face.Bookmark here

"What do you mean, Harada-san?"Bookmark here

Did her aura just changed?Bookmark here

"I didn't mean anything bad. I'm just curious since when you talked about him yesterday, you seemed like you know him very well. But today, I can't really understand what's going on." I explained my side to her just to clear the misunderstanding.Bookmark here

"Oh that... We're childhood friends." She smiled at me and goes back to her innocent mode.Bookmark here

I don't really understand why her mood just easily shifts like that...Bookmark here

"I see... I also want to ask why does he seems to be so serious about music. Is my playing yesterday really that bad?" I asked while remembering all of he said about how disgraceful my playing style is.Bookmark here

Even though I don't really get what he's saying to me about music and stuffs.Bookmark here

"Oh no, no, no. You played really well yesterday!" She tried to cheer me up.Bookmark here

"But why did he said that I'm just fooling around with the piece? Who is he really?" I interrogated Akane-san with determination showing on my face.Bookmark here

She was slightly taken aback by my question but she soon gave me a confused look.Bookmark here

"You don't know him?!" She retorted to me, slightly raising her voice in shock.Bookmark here

The other students started giving us glances so she decided to tone her voice down in embarrassment.Bookmark here

"Harada-san, are you for real?" She said in a low voice to me.Bookmark here

I don't know what she's talking about but by judging her reaction, is it really that big deal if I don't know Hachisaki-kun?Bookmark here

"Uhm, sorry Akane-san but I honestly don't know." I just said awkwardly.Bookmark here

She took a deep sigh of frustration and faced me. "No wonder you acted brave in facing him, you just really don't know him..."Bookmark here

She shook her head in disappointment.Bookmark here

Hey! What is she supposed to mean? I can't understand what she's saying!Bookmark here

"Huh?" That's all I can say in pure confusion.Bookmark here

She took another deep sigh of disappointment and decided to finally talk to me.Bookmark here

"Hachisaki Haruki is a virtuoso violinist, he bagged all of the awards at a young age and he was really talented on playing the violin. He was a prodigy and made a name for himself, he was called as an "Enchanter", the one who captivated the listeners with his magical music." Bookmark here

For a second, I can imagine Hachisaki-kun chanting some spells and putting curses on people. You know what I mean right? He's more like an evil sorcerer to me with his icy glare.Bookmark here

"All musicians of this generation know his name, I was really shocked that you haven't heard of him." She said in a matter of fact tone as if it was a common sense.Bookmark here

Sorry, sorry, I'm not really a musician nor fit to be a musician in the first place.Bookmark here

But is it really true that he was that great of a person?Bookmark here

I feel like I messed up with the wrong person. Yeah! I definitely messed up this time!Bookmark here

"Is he really that great?" I asked her with a whisper.Bookmark here

"Of course!" She said proudly as if she was Hachisaki-kun herself.Bookmark here

I suddenly felt like I've drained all my energy. This new discovery was taking a toll on my mental health.Bookmark here

I stood from my seat gloomily and started walking like a zombie back to our classroom.Bookmark here

"Hey! Harada-san, wait for me!" I can hear Akane-san trying to catch up with me.Bookmark here

When she did, she was a panting mess. Of course, it was bad! We just have our lunch and she's running around!Bookmark here

"Are you okay, Harada-san?" She asked worriedly when she recovered from tiredness.Bookmark here

"Huh. Me?" I replied unconsciously.Bookmark here

"Why? Is there another Harada-san here?" She said sarcastically.Bookmark here

I looked around and when a student passed by, I asked them if they are Harada-san. They awkwardly said no and left.Bookmark here

"Harada-san, I'm serious!" Akane-san ranted while puffing her cheeks in irritation.Bookmark here

"Oh, I'm perfectly fine." I replied. "I'm just going to beg Hachisaki-kamisama to spare my life."Bookmark here

"Eh?!" Akane-san said in confusion and disbelief.Bookmark here

When I opened the door of the classroom, most of our classmates are already here. Given that the afternoon classes are about to start, that's very likely common.Bookmark here

When I took my seat, Hachisaki-kun was not on his seat. Bookmark here

'Where might he be? I need to ask for forgiveness quickly!'Bookmark here

"Harada-san!" It was Akane-san. Bookmark here

I gave a glance at her when she was about to speak, our teacher arrived and ask for the class to settle down.Bookmark here

Strange...Bookmark here

Hachisaki-kun didn't showed up on any of our afternoon classes. Did he skip classes?Bookmark here

I think I need to plan to ask forgiveness tomorrow! It must be grand so that he can't say no. Hehe.Bookmark here

The dismissal bell rings... Bookmark here

Like yesterday, I walk home with Akane-san.Bookmark here

While walking, she said something that I'm not expecting.Bookmark here

"Harada-san... I honestly don't want you to take back what you said to Haruki-kun..."Bookmark here

Akane-san was not her cheerful self right now. The way she talks right now was not the Akane-san that always clings to me.Bookmark here

She was sad.Bookmark here

"Why is that? You know he's a genius, right? I don't think I can prove myself to that kind of person."Bookmark here

Somehow, I feel bad for my reasoning to Akane-san. But that was how I truly feel about this showdown.Bookmark here

"I think you don't know about this but... Haruki-kun quit the violin when we started middle school." Her voice has the evidence of sadness in it.Bookmark here

Hachisaki-kun quit the violin?Bookmark here

Why would he do that?! Bookmark here

I know Akane-san isn't lying when she told me how great Hachisaki-kun was, but she's also not lying now. There's no point for her to lie to me.Bookmark here

"It just happened on the break before we go to middle school, he stopped attending competitions even if the professionals keep chasing him. I don't know what happened but he also started being cold to me." She said with her voice almost breaking.Bookmark here

She's trying her best not to cry. I admire Akane-san, she can hold back her tears like this.Bookmark here

I took a sigh, I can't afford Akane-san to be miserable like this. But the same me deep inside doesn't want to get tangled up in this course of events.Bookmark here

"I'm sorr---"Bookmark here

"Harada-san, when you played that piano yesterday, it brings me back to the time where Haruki-kun was still playing... It reminded me of those times..."Bookmark here

Akane-san entwined her hands with mine. When I looked at her, her tears are flowing from her eyes even though she was still smiling.Bookmark here

"A-Akane-san, are you okay?!" I asked worriedly and was about to pull my hands away to give her my handkerchief but she tightened it up.Bookmark here

"I'm sorry if I'm asking this selfish request even though we just met yesterday..." She said with clear voice but her tears won't stop.Bookmark here

"Ah no... That was fine..." I can't help but agree with her.Bookmark here

"It's been three years since I saw emotion on Haruki-kun's face. Even if he looks angry yesterday, I'm really glad that I can see his emotions again." She smiled sweetly to me.Bookmark here

_*_Bookmark here

We took a break to the bench on a nearby playground in the neighborhood to let her out everything she wants to say.Bookmark here

She finally calmed down when I gave her an orange juice from the vending machine beside the bench.Bookmark here

"Do you like Hachisaki-kun?" I asked out of thin air.Bookmark here

I know it was stupid of me to ask something like that but I'm really curious!Bookmark here

She smiled to herself as she looked to the orange juice that I gave her.Bookmark here

"Yes, I really like him a lot!" She gave me a heartwarming smile.Bookmark here

Awww, that must be the explanation why she cared a lot for him. I won't let Hachisaki-kun go unscathed, mark my words!Bookmark here

I also agreed with her that I'm not taking back the challenge and she agreed to help me practice.Bookmark here

"But if Hachisaki-kun quit the violin, what is he going to do on Friday?" I asked Akane-san when we started walking to go home.Bookmark here

"I don't know. Maybe he will use a different instrument?" She wondered while looking up on the sakura trees along this way.Bookmark here

"Eh? But that means..."Bookmark here

"He may not be as good as it is unlike the violin." She continued what I'm going to say.Bookmark here

She has a point, maybe it was a good sign that I can still prove myself to Hachisaki-kun.Bookmark here

But...Bookmark here

There's something deep inside me that I can't explain. Something like, dissatisfaction?Bookmark here

"Harada-san, you might stand a chance against Haruki-kun~!" Bookmark here

Akane-san was back to her cheerful self. I'm thankful that she was back to this mode and I'm glad that I managed to do something about it.Bookmark here

After all, Akane-san was my first friend. Whether she was for real or not, I'm just glad that she's giving me company.Bookmark here

I also looked up on the sakura trees. Making a wry smile, I wondered to myself...Bookmark here

'I know I promised Akane-san, but can I really do it? I know Hachisaki-kun was still that genius deep inside...'Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.