Chapter 1:

Two, Three, Four... Five

Tulips by the Lake

 1. Two, Three, Four… Five

In life, we tend to ignore the things that go our way, and focus on the things that don't.

I glanced through the karaoke room, seeing the gleeful smiles my newfound classmates carried as they’re singing their hearts out.

People like them... those that thrive on social interactions, seem unaware of how lucky they are, since they'll be having loads of those in their life.

With one finger hooked inside my collar, and the others on the outside, I twiddled it a bit, giving myself some air. My eyes were glued to my soda glass when I felt a drop of sweat gliding down my forehead simultaneously with a drop of condense on the glass.

For people like me, those who’s energy gets drained from gatherings like these, and prefer the calm and peace, well...

“Waa-hoo, let's goo!!!” One of them jumped up as he got a new high score.

...we're doomed.

Some songs I knew, most I didn’t. I liked a few, but didn’t find the appeal in many. As I averted my eyes to the clock hanging on the wall, I realised it was either me or the clock that was out of juice. Perhaps both. Countless audio files ran through my ears, yet so little time had passed by.

“That was everyone right?” one of them asked the group.

To steer clear of their attention—so they wouldn’t notice I hadn’t sung yet—I nonchalantly picked up my glass and brought it up to my lips. Only when I tried taking a sip, I realised that my glass, too, was out of juice.

“Well, in that case, I’ll be going again!”

I let out a little sigh of relief. I thought no one noticed, until I caught one of the girls sitting across the table staring at me. When our eyes met we both got startled and quickly looked away.

Why is it that after such awkward glances are exchanged, my eyes always boomerang back to the place they just averted from… Hers too. This time, I turned the entirety of my head, making sure I wouldn’t be locking eyes with her anymore.

The singing felt like it was going by even slower than a minute ago. I really am hopeless when it comes to stuff like this. As the songs went by, the microphone got passed around from side to side. It took me a couple of songs to realise that the girl sitting across from me also hasn’t sung a song yet.

“Who’s next, or can I go again?” the same guy from before asked, very eagerly wobbling left to right.

One time is most likely a coincidence. The second time, it’s a little suspicious, but when my eyes drifted away from the singer and fell right into the girl’s eyes for the third time, I couldn’t help but think it wasn’t a coincidence.

I stood up and excused myself, “Going to the bathroom.”

In the hallway I saw the bathroom sign pointing to the opposite direction of the entrance. I didn’t actually need to use the toilet, and I do want to go home, so the choice was pretty easy to make.

“Eh?! Ryotarou? Shima Ryotarou?!”

I turned around and saw my friend Keito with his jaw pretty much dropped to the floor.


He pointed his finger at me, slowly inching closer until he poked my face. “You’re here for real?!”


As if to confirm the location he found himself in, he looked all over the place with both his eyes and mouth wide opened.

“This is a karaoke bar, right?”


His eyes started brightly gleaming, “So you’re already experiencing your high school transformation, huh! Where are we headed next?”


He slammed his arm over my neck and started ruffling through my hair. “Later, later! Where are we going in the future, I mean!”

“I’ve got no plans of going anywhere anymore.” Still stuck in his headlock, I turned my head to the room I just left. “I wonder why I even came here in the first place.”

He rubbed his knuckles over my head again, “Don’t say that! You came here with your new class, too, didn’t you?”


“Go make some friends! But not too many, okay? I’ll be lonely~” He cutely added as if he didn’t have an entire arsenal of friends ready to go anywhere with him.

Whilst I was still stuck in the headlock, the door I came out of opened. I rapidly tapped out, but Keito didn’t let go in time and the same girl I had been awkwardly making eye contact with, walked out the door, taking only a couple of steps towards us before—for the fourth time today—we locked eyes. As if her gaze casted a time-stopping spell, we stood still in the hallway staring at each other. Only when Keito let me go did she look away and leave towards the bathroom.

“Eh? What was that all about?”

I adjusted my shirt by the collar and shot a mean glance at him. He held the palms of his hands together and held his shoulders in, shrinking his posture, nonverbally begging for mercy, but I relentlessly landed the side of my hand on the top of his head.

“…Ouch,” he rubbed his head.

“I’m going home. See you at school.”

“See you, Ryotarou!”

When I set foot outside, it was already lights out for the pitch-black night sky. For a second I stood still and watched my breath veil a cloud over the visible stars and the crescent moon, all the more dimming their poor attempt at illuminating the sky.

In that fleeting second I realised just how exhausted I felt—and how I was hoping, with all that I am, that I wouldn’t fall asleep on the train home.

* * *

The following morning I was a little hesitant before entering the classroom, I thought a continuation would follow of our uncomfortable glances, but when I did enter, I saw that the girl wasn’t here yet.

Only when roll call rolled around, I noticed that the seat next to me was empty.

“Katsumata Erika,” the teacher called without getting a response. “…No Katsumata Erika?”

So that’s her name, huh…

It didn’t take long before any thoughts of her left my mind, since it was already preoccupied with this evening’s fishing trip.

As usual these days, I’d go fishing with my dad and his best friend, though this time we’re going in the evening of a weekday rather than the morning or early afternoon on weekends.

“You seem in good spirits. Part of the high school transformation?” Keito asked me during lunch.

I waggled my hand from side to side, “Nope, nothing like that.”

He leaned his head atop his fist and pierced through my soul with his stare, “Hmm, let me guess—” With one fist above his shoulder and the other one in front of him, he pretended to swing his imaginary fishing rod at me. Then rotating his right fist, reeling me in. “—You’re going fishing again?”

“What do you mean ‘again’.”

Mopingly, he collapsed onto the lunch table, “I don’t have the patience of a fisherman, man…” He raised his eyes, looking like a sad puppy. “Go find a new hobby that we can do together again.”

“It’s not hard to be a fisherman-man. The tranquillity combined with the exciting trill of reeling a fish in is what life is all about.”

He closed his eyes and sighed, “You sound about as lame as you look.”

When he opened his eyes again, he was met with a flick of my fingers.

“Ouch…” he whined as he rubbed his forehead.

* * *

With a loud bang, the trunk of Kazuo’s—my dad’s friend—car got slammed shut after we put our cooler box filled with fish in it.

“Come take a look little skipper,” my dad called. “Good pictures, no?” He asked as he was swiping through the pictures on his phone of us posing with today’s catches.

“Mmhmm,” I nodded, “they look pretty good.”

“I’ll send them to you when we’re home.”

“Hey, Akio,” Kazuo called from the front seat of the car. “Send them to me, too.”

Dad put his phone away, “Ha-ha, will do.” With a pat on my back, he said, “You’re slowly becoming one with the lake, huh.”


“Nah, nothing. Let’s get going already.”

Today, instead of sharing what we caught, we’re all headed to Kazuo’s house to eat together for the first time. He and dad are real masters of catching fish, but other than getting a hold of the ingredients, they haven’t mastered much else. That’s why mom is already there waiting for us, since she will be the one cooking—together with Kazuo’s wife that is.

After we arrived, I helped carry the cooler box into the house. While mom and Kazuo’s wife were preparing the fish, the three of us sat on the sofa.

In a little corner in the living room was a well decorated trophy cabinet that showed how skilled Kazuo is with his fishing rod. I’m sure we would’ve had one of those filled to the brim at home if dad also entered contests, though that may be my familial pride speaking.

From afar, I recognised myself in some of the pictures that were framed on top of it.

Following a short while of gazing around the room, I started feeling pretty useless. Even though we were hard at work earlier catching the fish, laying back like this makes me feel as if we did hardly anything at all.

“Shouldn’t we learn how to cook as well?” I asked.

Both of them looked at each other and started laughing.

“Little skipper, there’s two roles when it comes to a fresh fish meal.” He held up one finger, “There’s us; we do the hooking.” He held up a second finger, “And there’s our lovely ladies; they do the cooking.”

Kazuo nodded in agreement and added, “Fishing is a world of two forces, hookers and cookers.”

Dad gave him a heavy bump to the shoulder, “Hey, hey—leave those kinda jokes for the pub.”

I laughed, but still wanted to believe I’d someday be an omnipotent fisher, one who catches fish as good as dad does, and cooks meals as well as mom.

After a little while of chit-chat, Kazuo crossed his arms and sighed heavily, “Man, you’re lucky with a son like Ryotarou. I love my daughter to death, but if only she loved fishing half as much as I love her…” he sighed again. “At least she likes looking at the pictures I suppose,” he murmured to himself.

“All those sighs… what’s up?” Dad asked.

Another sigh followed. “The poor kid’s been sick in bed all day, she was actually thinking about tagging along for the first time today, but that went down the drain…”

“Well, at least she’ll get to eat something good, right?”

“True,” he nodded. “That is true,” he repeated. “I’ll go check on her real quick.”

Right as he set foot on the stairs, his wife called from the kitchen. “Honey, can you set the table, dinner is almost ready.”

“Alright, be there in a second.”

As if he took his own words literally, he ascended and descended the stairs in seemingly a second and started setting the table.

Both mom and Kazuo’s wife came walking out of the kitchen, their faces brimming with joy. I turned my head towards my dad’s genuine smile.

“They seem to be getting along quite right, huh,” he said.

“At least ninety percent of their conversation was gossiping about the two of you,” I scoffed.

“Shut it, skipper.”

I held my hand in front of my mouth to hide my cheeky smile.

The two of us sat down at the dinner table with the rest. From where I was seated, I had a direct line of sight to the staircase. I was not too worried about Kazuo’s daughter, since social interactions in small circles like these don’t drain me too much, especially since I’m already used to being around Kazuo—and my parents, too, of course.

When I heard her descending the stairs, I looked up and saw white pyjamas coming down. As her full figure appeared, my eyes fell right into hers… for the fifth time.

MyAnimeList iconMyAnimeList icon