Chapter 2:

Katsumata Erika

Tulips by the Lake

2. Katsumata Erika

With his fingers pinching his nose shut, Keito childishly said, “Ew, you reek of fish…”

“A good morning to you, too.”

Dropping the act, he smiled and asked, “So, how was it? Caught a kappa yet?”

“I’ll turn your existence into a myth if you keep asking stupid questions.”

“Ho-hoo, scary~”

As we continued walking towards school for a while, he suddenly said, “Isn’t that the girl from before?”


“She’s staring at you,” he grabbed me by the bottom of my chin and turned my head sideways. “Seriously, what’s all this about?” He asked.

Before I could get annoyed by his weirdness, I was met with long, light brown hair swaying in the wind and Katsumata’s bewildered gaze right beneath it from across the street, waiting at the crosswalk.

“That’s the same one, right? Tired of fish, looking to reel in a girl, I see.”

She didn’t look away, and neither did I. A little awkwardly, she brought her hand up, hesitantly averting her gaze, only to look me in the eyes again right after. With her hand on the level of her stomach, she waved at me.

“Eh…? Got her on the hook already?”

I waved back, and ignored everything Keito said.

“Getting all flustered, huh,” he started laughing, before spreading his arms wide in the air and enthusiastically exclaiming, “High school transformation!”

The light turned green, I spun Keito by the shoulder and walked away from the crosswalk, resuming our walk to school.

“So… am I gonna get the story, or do you want me to knock it out of you?”


* * *

The stairs creaked. After a couple of steps were taken down, I raised my head and saw how my eyes fell right into hers… for the fifth time.

I was too stunned to look away, she also froze up. Kazuo turned around, facing his daughter, then looked at me, “That’s Erika,” he pointed behind him. Turning back to the stairs, he said, “The little fisherman over here is Ryotarou, but I guess you already know that, huh,” he laughed.

She hid the bottom of her face with the back of her hand and looked away, “…Yeah.”

I followed the direction of her gaze, she was looking at the trophy cabinet. That’s when everything started making sense.

She sat down at the table, next to her dad.

“You’re so quiet,” he said to her. “Seeing the little skipper in the flesh turned you a little shy, huh,” he laughed.

“Honey,” his wife—well, Miss Katsumata—told him off with a single word.

“Sorry, sorry,” he apologised as he scratched the back of his head.

“Say, Ryotarou,” her face returned to being full of joy, “How has school been going, you’re a first year, too, right?”

I nodded. “It’s been, uh, alright so far…”

“Which school do you attend, is it nearby?”

I glanced at Katsumata, who’s lips started trembling before she looked away.

“I go to Higashi High.”

Perplexed stares where shot all over the table. Kazuo looked at his daughter, who looked at me, I, in turn, looked at Miss Katsumata again, who looked at my mom.

“Hm? Hm? Hmmm?” Mom was looking at pretty much everyone, unaware of what’s going on.

“Which class are you in, the same as Erika?” Miss Katsumata asked me.

Even though I didn’t see her at school on opening ceremony day—only in the karaoke “after party”—and she was absent today… I was definitely in her class and her seat neighbour no less.

I nodded. “Yes, we’re in the same class…”

“Erika… you didn’t say a word about it yesterday…” Kazuo said.

“No,” Miss Katsumata intervened, “you didn’t say a word about it! You’re always going on and on about Ryotarou’s fishing talent, but you never told us he would go to the same school as our Erika…” she sighed. “Do you even talk about anything other than fish?”

He looked at dad, both of them shrugged and shook their heads.

Mom turned her head towards me, “Hey Ryo-kun, what sort of things do you talk about when you’re fishing?” She asked.

I looked at my two fishing partners. “Well… when we’re fishing, we don’t really talk—”

“—We fish,” the three of us simultaneously said, which got the two laughing like little kids.

“I can’t believe you guys…” Miss Katsumata complained, but smiled soon after.

* * *

“Eh?! She is your dad’s friend’s daughter?!” Keito gasped with his hand in front of his mouth. “That was a mouthful,” he silently added.

“Shh! She’s walking right behind us,” I aggressively whispered.

He tried to turn his head around to look behind us, but before he could, I grabbed him by his chin this time and repositioned his head forward.

“Don’t look!”

“Aye, Aye, captain.”

He did as I commanded for the rest of the walk, though he did use his bribing skills to make me do something in his favour. He had me walk along with him to the outside fields instead of the main building.

“This is…” he started making drum noises, “—Tada! The football field! Will you be joining the club, too? Our school’s pretty known for its football, have you heard?”

I shook my head, “Won’t be joining.” Then nodded, “Though I did already know that, yeah.”

He jumped up and landed with his legs spread in a steady position. His hands were stretched out in front of him, ready to catch a ball.

“You’re not aiming to be some star striker?”

“Nope!” He proudly bumped his fist against his chest, “I’m going to be a worldclass goalkeeper!”

“Woah.” I applauded. “Such confidence in your declaration, it’s like I’m watching a movie.”

The first warning bell rang.

“Eh? Already, huh…” he turned his eyes away from the bell and looked at me again, “Soon we’ll both be stars on the football field.”

“No thanks.”

“Already decided on a position?”

“Hmmm… maybe waterboy.”

He chuckled, then said, “You’re about the same height as me, you know? We could be goalkeeper rivals!”

“There’s only one on the pitch, don’t make too many rivals…”

We arrived at his classroom. As soon as he opened the door, several of his classmates jumped up from their chairs to talk to him.

“Keito! Listen to this—”

The sound of his classroom faded away into the distance as I was nearing my own.

When I arrived, because of my little detour, Katsumata Erika was already seated next to my desk. I entered the classroom and sat down without taking a single glance in her direction. Our teacher arrived soon after.

* * *

“Eh? You haven’t talked to her yet?” Keito seemed flabbergasted by that during lunchbreak.

“Why would I?”

He counted on his fingers as he rambled on, “Well, for starters, you need more friends—remember, high school transformation! Also, you’ll be left behind in your class if you don’t get to know anyone. Don’t forget, she’s the daughter of your dad’s friend, it’d be nice if you two got along, you know? On top of that, don’t you think Katsumata is a little cute?”

Flustered, only because of the sudden question, I said, “..Sure.”

“Then what are you waiting for? Go get married already!”

“I think I’ll be eating lunch on my own from now on.”

He sighed as he laid his head on the table, “You’re no fun.” When he turned his head around, he noticed something, “Eh? See that?”

I followed his gaze and saw Katsumata sitting alone.

“Eating all by herself… she’s got no friends in her class, too?” He asked with his head still down on the table.

I shrugged my shoulders as I continued to eat.

“Haven’t you heard her speak with anyone in class yet, like with her seat neighbour or something?”

I coughed, nearly choking on my food.

“That’s… quite the reaction…” He readjusted his posture. “Anyway, it’s time for—” he started doing weird waggly hand and arm motions, then yelled, “—high school… trans • for • ma • tion!!” Which got nearly the entire cafeteria staring.



“I will kill you if you ever do that again.”

My threat was nothing more than an invitation to do it again to him. Once more, he got the entire cafeteria staring at him. “I’ll stop if you go ahead and sit over there.”

“In that case, do as you like.” I know he wants me to make more friends, but I don’t really care. I just want to eat my lunch.

“—And I’ll go fishing with you someday.”

My legs automatically got up. “Deal.”

With my lunch in my hands, I walked over to where she was sitting with her back facing me.

“Is this seat taken?” I politely asked once I stood in front of her.

She looked up from underneath her bangs “…It’s not.” Her hair concealed her eyes once more, “Go ahead and take it,” she added in a teensy voice.

I think she meant ‘feel free to take it away from here’ since she tensed up the moment I sat down.

“…Do you want me to leave?” I asked to clarify.

“It’s okay…” She took a sip of her strawberry milk carton. “We can eat together again.”

Instead of breaking my head over what to say, or what she was thinking right now, I simply ate. As I was doing so, my eyes got glued onto her ribbon—a small, white ribbon tied to the side of her bangs which she wasn’t wearing yesterday.

Her thumb and index finger suddenly emerged out of nowhere, landing onto the ribbon, caressing it from above and underneath.

“…I tied it into my hair today,” she stated. “…I thought it had some cute charm to it,” she added after a brief pause.

“Mhm, I think so, too,” I agreed.

That was the extent of our conversation. For the remainder of lunchbreak, we both ate our meals in silence. A silence that lasted until right before the bell rang.

“White is my favourite colour, with all the calmness it brings and such. I suppose it’s not actually considered a colour scientifically, but this ribbon is a ‘white coloured ribbon’ so I guess it is kind of considered one,” she suddenly started rambling with no signs of stopping, with her face still pointing downwards.

“I also have a bigger ribbon for the back of my hair that I got from my mother,” she took a moment to count on her fingers, “…I think seven months ago. We were on our way home late in the afternoon from my grandparents on my father’s side when it suddenly started to rain and we didn’t have an umbrella with us, so we took shelter in the first store we came across and that store happened to be a clothing store that had quite a large collection of accessories such as hair clips and ribbons but also earrings and necklaces, oh, and bracelets, too. While looking at the hair accessories, I found the bigger one that my mother bought for me.”

“Uh… is that so…” I said right as the bell started to ring.

Her eyes widened as she looked up from her lunch tray. She placed both her hands on her mouth and said, “S-sorry…”

Instead of getting up and going to class, my body decided to stay glued to my seat as I stared at a side of Katsumata Erika I didn’t expect to see.

She averted her eyes down again and murmured, “Let’s… head to class.”

As I watched her get up and leave with her stuff, my gaze landed on my seat from earlier—where Keito was still seated.

With the same waggly hand and arm movements from before, he mouthed “high school transformation” to me.

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