Chapter 13:

Bella was a Little Bit Shy

Hanako won’t Grant my Wish!

There was an umbrella sitting next to the cozies on the way home from school.

It wasn’t weird or flashy, nor did it stand out in any other way other than being slightly misplaced. Maybe it was just unusually nice, bunched in with many other students’ cheap, convenience store models. Its dark, metallic finish certainly juxtaposed against the cheaper plasticy styles. Folded up neatly and nicely in its own little corner, I was a little bit drawn to it.

I wondered who left it sitting all alone. Rain was apparently in the morning forecast, so a few students had thought to bring theirs. Whoever left it here must have thought the same thing. Maybe they were just in a hurry.

It was a shame that some students went through the extra work to bring one, because the sky had nothing to offer but blinding sunlight and a clear sky.

But I almost pitied the inanimate object, sitting alone just beside where it should have joined its peers.

I picked it up and placed it inside the cosie. I figured that at the very least, it would make the thing look a little less gloomy and out of place.

Hopefully the person who left it there to begin with would think to check the cozies. They misplaced it after all, so they could probably make the assumption that a teacher, or some student on cleaning duty happened to move it for them.

As I walked past the school’s front doors though, I couldn’t help but feel unsatisfied. Maybe this was what they called “fate”?

I would go back and search for the umbrella’s owner throughout the school. After hours of looking, I’d give up, returning the poor thing to its initial resting spot. But sure enough, it would be then that I’d find its owner, making the rest of the time shuffling through halls and peeking through classrooms seemingly pointless. But the umbrella would belong to a girl so stunning; so beautiful; that such a thought wouldn’t even cross my mind for a second. It wouldn’t mean much, as we’d just exchange a few words and an umbrella. But following the initial encounter, fate would tie us together, causing us to meet more and more often under different circumstances each time. Until eventually, we realize we’re already close.

There would probably be a love rival introduced by then too. Maybe he’s a really mysterious type, appearing out of nowhere? No, actually, I think he’d be the popular guy in this case. Under this scenario, my character already fills the “mysterious guy” role. And then the girl would have to choose between us, causing misunderstandings and making mistakes along the way.

Would there be a third guy too? Or maybe a curveball love rival that’s a boy disguised as a girl? Like a femboy or something.

This wasn’t a bad story idea. Maybe I should write it down.

Should I go and find the owner after all? Y’know, just in case.


I was just letting my imagination run a bit loose is all.

I knew that wouldn’t happen. Obviously.

I looked back behind me to take one last glance at it before heading on my way again, squinting to get a good look through the glass windows.

Not for any real reason.

The umbrella was… back in the spot I had moved it from.

No, wait. I had moved it, right? Did I just imagine that whole sequence? I mean, I shouldn’t have, but just in case, I decided that I would go back and do the same thing again. If it happened twice, then it definitely wasn’t just some weird deja vu.

So I went back inside the school, moved it again, and this time looked around to make sure there was nobody waiting to strike again. And sure enough, the entire shoe-locker area was clear of students. It was pretty late in the day after all, since I stayed back for cleaning duty. The only students still inside the school were likely club-goers and those practicing sports; not that I was any kind of expert on extracurricular activities.

Sports kids… I bet they would be the types to tease a poor rumor-plagued boy like this, if anybody in this school.

I completed my second round of the same routine before looking back behind me again to check on the little black cane-handled stick.

Again, it was back where it started.

Was I being pranked?

I was definitely being pranked. Or was this some form of light bullying?

There was somebody somewhere that was getting a laugh out of me. I could feel it at my core. Knowing when I was being laughed at was practically a sixth sense of mine by now.

According to online guides, bullies most often give up when they can’t get any sort of reaction out of you. So in theory, I could avoid this situation by keeping my cool and just giving up on the umbrella. Or so the internet claimed.

Ignore it.

So I looked away, despite a twitch in my brain telling me to go back and fix it again. At first I thought the nagging feeling was just some sort of slight OCD in my brain, but it was surely more than just that.

After all, the black umbrella appeared again leaning against a telephone pole on my walk home.

Ignore it.

And again resting against a seat at the metro station.

Ignore it.

And then it was on the train, somehow.

Ignore it ignore it ignore it.

Actually, wait… What the heck was this situation? Was there really somebody out there who could and would be this dedicated to some bit about leaving an umbrella around? I don’t think anybody cared about me enough to really go as far as to follow me all the way home.

Giving it more thought, what was happening here, whatever it was, was pretty ridiculous and nonsensical.

Whose umbrella was this to begin with? Was there somebody at my school with an aesthetic like this? It was a decent primary school, but nothing too special either. There were a few delinquents, but surely no gothic or hardcore lolita types.

I got off at the station which was about a twenty-minute walk from my apartment, doing my best to not to lose my mind over an inanimate object.

And yet, as if the final punchline to a multi-layered rakugo joke, the infamous umbrella, which might as well have been my sleep paralysis demon at this point, rested over three seats under cover while a sudden downpour invaded the surrounding air.

It took all of my might not to yell “as if!” and slap something with an imaginary paper fan. An umbrella and a shut-in middle schooler wouldn’t make a very good comedy duo to begin with.

At this point, I stopped caring that it might have belonged to somebody else. It might as well have been its own owner at this point.

And, well, I needed an umbrella. Perhaps this was the universe itself trying to offer me some condolences for forgetting my own.

Just kidding. That kind of thing only happened to protagonist types. Though, to whoever left the little thing for me, I was grateful. I popped it open, and took a leisurely stroll back to my home, where Hanako was likely waiting for me.

On the way, I thought about how I would get the umbrella back to its owner. It was a strange thing, how they thought to follow me home just to give this to me halfway down the line. Whoever it was, had they known I would pick it up from the start? Or maybe they were just waiting to stalk the first passerby that decided to pick it up.

What kind of person would even think to do something like that? Probably not the kind of person I’d want anything to do with.

“Ah, you found Bella! I was wondering where she wandered off to!”

Well, I should’ve known Hanako was involved. She greeted me with her heart-apron that she loved to dawn when she cleaned, (which I still don’t understand where she got it from. It was clearly custom tailored.) and a vacuum in hand.

“B-bella? You have a name for your umbrella?”

And such a cheesy one at that…

“Why were you following me home with it? Why not just give it to me at the start?”

Or so I asked, but I was already sure of the answer.

“Following you home? But I’ve been cleaning since this morning.”

“As if!”

A more proper straight man setup. Though I was still missing the paper fan.

“So then who was following me around all day?”

“Well just her, I guess…”



She pointed a jumpy, twirly finger at the object in my hand.

“Why don’t you just call it an umbrella?”

“Well we should call living things by their names if they have one, shouldn’t we? A bit of an unusual question coming from you, Shoutarou.”


I looked downward to confirm what Hanako was trying to imply, but it was already gone…


…and returned to Hanako’s own hands.

“Apologies, she’s quite shy. That may explain why she was following you for so long without making herself known.”

The umbrella was following me all on its own…

“So there are living umbrellas in The Nether…?”

“Is it different in Japan?”

“Uh, ours are usually… less alive.”

“You mean to imply that you walk around holding the corpse of some poor, unwilling animal in the rain? I knew humans were ruthless creatures, however that’s a bit much even for demon culture…”

What? Is that what I’ve been doing all my life?


Thinking about it, how were umbrellas made?

“No way… They’re just–manufactured… right? In factories. They’re not actually alive… I’m pretty sure.”

She was teasing me. I was being teased.

I really hoped that was the case.

“Well, I suppose I’m not one to judge other cultures, but I sure hope these supposed “factories” are humane. I’ve seen how humans handle other “manufactured” animal products and I must say I don’t exactly approve of it…”

The poor girl was legitimately sulking.

This… wasn’t a bit?

I didn’t understand quite how, but I could feel an aura of pure fear radiating from the umbrella in her hands. Or, “Bella”, Apparently.

“S-sorry Bella… I’ll be more careful which brands I support in the future.”

I apologized instinctually.

To the umbrella.

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