Chapter 1:

When It Rains

When the Air was Filled with Petrichor

Ichiro’s head felt like it was spinning still.

The events had unfolded so quickly that he couldn't wrap his mind around them.

Hesitantly, he turned his attention to the frowning doctor standing before him, his gaze clouded with worry and uncertainty. With a voice laced with a hint of desperation, Ichiro uttered the question that lingered heavily in his heart "I can still play, right?"

“Yes, but you need to rest that shoulder of yours first,” the doctor replied, gently placing his notes down. Though his intention was to offer reassurance, his response fell short of providing the solace the young athlete sought.

In truth, it hadn't been much of an accident. During the exhilarating first practice of his junior year in high school, as he enthusiastically warmed up and pitched for his teammates, a sudden and agonizing pop reverberated through his back

Clutching his arm in the sling provided by the hospital, he pressed onward. "How long? When can I play again?” Ichiro's voice quivered, a blend of hope and anxiety intertwined within his words.

The gray-haired doctor adjusted his necktie collar as he considered his response. "Um, well, let's establish a rehabilitation schedule for you first. After that, we can discuss your return to the field, OK?”

Those words, though meant to offer a glimmer of hope, landed heavily upon Ichiro's ears.

He stared up at the sky from a bench under the overhang of the hospital.

Frustration and apprehension weighed heavily on him, causing him to slump back into the curved wooden seat and gaze aimlessly. Thoughts of what his friends would think of him missing class and his team playing matches without him swirled in his mind. Deep down, he worried about his future and his standing in the school as both an exemplary student and athlete, sinking him further into despair.

To make matters worse, the sky had opened up, and a torrential downpour was preventing him from leaving. Since he had been hurriedly taken off the field, he hadn't even had a chance to retrieve his own shoes and was still wearing his dirt-caked ball field cleats.

Though he wouldn’t have had an umbrella to walk himself home with as there was no hint of rain in the forecast, thus, he had left it at home.

And there was no one available to pick him up at the moment, since both of his parents worked long hours. He was accustomed to being the first one home, even after late practices. He understood their demanding schedules. He was used to it by now.

So instead, he watched the relentless downpour from the heavens and sighed silently to himself. “Geez…”

“Yeah, I know.”

A voice suddenly popped up beside him, causing his eyes to snap open and turn towards the girl sitting at the end of the bench. She, too, was gazing up at the cascading rain with wide eyes and a soft smile tugging at the corners of her lips. Dressed lightly in a hospital gown, she rubbed her arms together to ward off the chill of early spring. Turning her face slightly to the side, she shot a glance at him, “Beautiful, isn’t it?”

Ichiro had no idea when she had gotten there, and only stared across at her in confusion.

The teen giggled at the sight of his perplexed expression, causing her obsidian black hair to cascade around her arms. Turning her gaze back to him, she spoke, “What, cat got your tongue? Or are you deaf? Mute, maybe?”

He wasn’t sure how to respond, barely realizing he had been questioned at all. “What’s beautiful?”

She scoffed at his response, causing Ichiro to furrow his brow, wondering what that was supposed to mean. “Figures you wouldn’t either...”

As she trailed off her sentence, she shook her head from side to side while she answered him in her lackluster way, but ended with her eyes cast up again.

Ichiro felt his head start to hurt, and was just about to stand and walk away when another question stopped him.

“So what are you in for?”

"What?" he asked, utterly confused by the girl's inquiry, turning to grasp what she was referring to.

She glanced over from the corner of her eyes and nodded sideways at his arm in the sling, “What happened? With your arm?”

Following her gaze, he instinctively clutched his elbow with his free hand. "I bruised the muscle in my shoulder or something."

“And you won't be able to play?”

“How did you know-” The question caught him off guard as he wondered aloud how she could tell he was a baseball player.

"Your uniform," she snickered, pointing at his still-worn baseball attire.

Realizing his folly and frustrated with himself for being so easily teased, Ichiro let out a sigh before gazing out at the rain again. "For now. They say I have to undergo physical therapy before I can play again. It's so annoying..."

As his voice trailed off, he could sense the girl's gaze shifting from the rain onto him, lingering intently. A chill ran up his spine, causing him to unconsciously distance himself from the peculiar teen at the end of the bench.

"Are you OK?" he hesitantly questioned her, feeling an instinctive urge to pull away further.

Her face remained devoid of emotion for what felt like several minutes. Her deep, inky eyes seemed to peer not at him but through him, observing and deciphering. Then, her expression morphed into the mischievous smirk he had seen previously.

“Guess that means we will be seeing each other for a while then, huh?” she replied.

“What?” Ichiro asked, his mind struggling to connect the dots, “You are here for physical therapy too?”

The girl raised an eyebrow with a doubtful smirk playing on her lips. “Seriously? You’re kidding, right?”

It took Ichiro several moments to notice his mouth was left agape, unable to comprehend what he had missed. He tried to speak, but the gears in his mind were left steaming with no progress.

Suddenly, the teen stretched her arms above her head and puffed out her chest before speaking through a large yawn, “Well, I think it's about time I got back to my room. Thanks for indulging me for a while.”

As she finished speaking, there was a peculiar click, followed by her effortlessly gliding backward through the bench. Or, at least, that was Ichiro's initial perception. With a soft whirring of metallic clicks, she moved up directly behind him and playfully patted him on the back.

"The name's Izumi," she said, continuing to glide away from him towards the hospital's sliding door. Just before entering the building, she turned over her shoulder and waved. "Remember that when we see each other again. Bye."

As the sliding doors closed behind her, obscuring his view, Ichiro was left stunned by the enigmatic girl. But some of the oddities were beginning to make sense to him.

For one, she hadn't been sitting on the bench with him; she had been beside it.

"That was a wheelchair," he muttered to himself, unable to tear his gaze away from the spot where he had last seen her for several minutes.

Gripping his collar, he couldn't explain the mounting pressure in his chest at that moment.

MyAnimeList iconMyAnimeList icon