❀ December 22, 2012 ❀
Oboronishi, Gifu Prefecture
For as much as she loved every season, rejoicing in the arms of the lovely summer sun, the aroma of never-ending spring and the colourful autumn, she knew winter had its own charm as well.
This Saturday marked the end of everything she knew, after all.
Pulling her head from under a double-layered quilt, her breath came out as if it were a weak, sweaty smoke that carried a particularly pleasant smell. Yet, she considered her own body sweat a more imminent concern, she did not like how her pyjamas were sticking to her body, showing her perfectly shaped body. She didn't like it one bit, not at all. That was why she decided to uncover from every bit of layer that protected her from the cold to keep her warm at night, however, to her dismay, it was the worst mistake she could've done during the whole month of December when her feet touched the ground.
A huge miss on her part.
"Why is the floor so cold? Ohmigosh, it's freezing in here..." muttering, Yuiko hugged herself while warming up her arms. "Is the air conditioner broken? It should be with the heater option turned on... Where could the remote control for it be?"
She kept repeating 'where, where' while exploring her room, being oblivious by believing it would be lying there waiting to be found. It couldn't be that easy, after all.
Yet, she opened her drawer and there it was under all sort of knickknacks she collected such as hairbands, scrunchies, ribbons, phone straps and even some soft stickers that were rare to find nowadays.
"What are you doing here, little guy?" Yuiko wondered out loud, containing a yawn. "Strange for you to be here of all places... But at least I'll be able to turn on the heater right away instead of going on a wild goose chase in the living room!"
And so, she dramatically pushed the "ON" button.... just for the function to be ultimately ignored or, better said, not working.
"Is it broken?" The fourteen-year-old girl sighed, pushing it again trying her luck just to be in distraught. "Why is this happening...? I just want some warmth... I need to hurry up since today is the Closing Ceremony!"
After attempt number one hundred, the girl sighed in defeat... Until a small thought made its way through her mind: "What if...?"
She turned the remote the other way around, heartbeat fast while opening the battery slot just to find it empty... Yet, there was a small note that screamed suspicious in every sense. That was why Yuiko left the object on top of her study desk and unfolded the strangely placed paper. Much to her surprise, it was a note with her brother's handwriting.
'Happy Fool's Day!'
"...That was in April..." Yuiko turned around the piece of paper, just to notice another small detail which said: 'And no, my dear little sister. I mean the South American Fool's Day!'
Yuiko Tsukiame felt something.
"That was in November."
You see, from outside, the Tsukiame Estate seemed to be quite the quaint place. Not a big, extravagant house from the outside as you would expect from a renowned classical painter's family yet, at the same time, on the inside was completely different but still kept that 'sweet, sweet home' ambience. It had its pompous decorations scattered here and there but, at the end of the day, it was just an ordinary place where a classical married couple with two children lived in.
The living room would be the cosiest of them all, with two sofas laying against the cream coloured walls covered with paintings that were not by Yuiko's father. Just your typical decorative items to make the place be brighter and livelier. However, you could see that they were not the only items hanging against the walls. Pictures and certificates could be seen, mostly belonging to the girl's older brother Yukio. At first glance, any person would think that there is a preference between both siblings. Truth be told, there was no one in the first place. Yuiko always rathered keep those things under her personal watch, instead of being trophies of all her over excelling achievements plastered against some layer of concrete.
Back to the living room itself, it was a grand space, to say the least. The huge mahogany table took up most of the vast space the room offered, left without a tablecloth and daring guests to ruin the perfectly varnished shine with their fingerprints. Two tall, silver candelabras commanded attention from the centre of the table, holding smooth white candles whose wax never dripped.
Wearing her black coloured dress school uniform, the three small white ribbons that decorated it moved with grace while she tiptoed towards the kitchen where a freshly made lunchbox waited for her.
"Good morning, dear."
An endearing voice made echoes inside the kitchen absorbing Yuiko's undevoted attention.
"Are you ready to go to school?"
A woman that seemed young of age was standing right behind her, the lavender-haired girl unable to know when she exited her bedroom.
"Yes, mother." Yuiko nodded as a reply, not knowing what else to say.
"Excellent answer. I will wait for you outside while I turn on the car, okay?"
And with that, she was instantly gone with a simple clang of the door, just like the way she appeared.
The girl sighed, taking her lunchbox and placing it inside her classic blue school bag you see in schools all over the country. However, while she did such mundane action, she recalled her mother's sudden appearance.
Her face was not quite as round as Yuiko's, but her vibrant, indigo hair is of the same hue. For as long as she could recollect her hair has always been short, but if it were not then it would be long, soft, wavy as the girl. The most outstanding similarity, nevertheless, was her mother's eyes. They both have the same unmistakable oval-shaped, clear orange eyes. Barely visible through wisps of her bangs are defining eyebrows that accent her striking, vivid eyes.
Being brutally blunt, you could say that there was something unusual in their relationship. Yet, this was the way it had always been between her, Yuiko and her big brother Yukio. Distant and callous, but at the same time loving and caring. Yūko Tsukiame was indeed a particular case of a person. However, the siblings never minded it much since their mother had never done them any harm whatsoever. It was as if their love was from a distance just as if your lover was far away and you cherished them though in this scenario Mother and Daughter were close to each other.
Still, Yuiko did her best not to think about this subject anymore even if it didn't pain her at all. It was just the way things had always been and will always be. Every family has it's particular quirks, and in her case, her mother was the biggest of them all. That's why she took a deep breath and opened the door to the outside, where her mother waited for her inside their black SUV, ready to ride her to school.
Once inside the car, she could feel the air conditioner set to a warm temperature, acting as a heater while the driver began to accelerate slowly due to being in a residential area. Luckily, her school was not that far away, just a fifteen-minute drive by taking the highway. No buses passed through there, so she definitely needed someone to take her every day. Walking was out of the question as well. Living far away from school was something she endured and counted as a blessing, given her previous experience.
Shaking her head, she turned on the radio without asking for permission. The silence was excruciating and her thoughts agonising.
The ending of a calming song soothed her, surprisingly.
"The song you just listened to was Dreambreaker Blues by Vallende Ster, the newest solo celebrity everyone's talking about," said a women announcer's voice, followed by a lively jingle which was overtaken by a peppy male voice. "Vivid! Morning Station! It is currently 7:20 AM, which means we have our fortune-telling corner with Mister Tooru Iwatsu. Please, tell us what our listener's personal forecast will be for today!"
"Oh, Gifu Chan was on," Yuiko mentions in surprise. "You usually only listen to music, not talk shows."
"Most likely your brother forgot to change the station after he used the car last week." Her mother smiles sweetly, without losing focus on the road. "You can keep on listening, I don't mind."
The girl turned her face to look at her, absorbing her words carefully and wondering why her mother had dressed the way she did.
She was wearing a deep brown nylon blouse with ivory dots; the slick material shines and reflects the light in its creases and wrinkles. It had a plain dress collar that was 'v' cut and undersized sleeves. Her bland brown dress pants complimented her blouse properly and did not draw attention away from her natural beauty. She was wearing a solitary silver chain around her neck and her wedding ring on her left hand.
Perhaps she has a meeting today.
"And now, I will present Capricorn's destiny. Especially for those born under the year of the tiger." Yuiko's interest perks up.
She was never one of those girls that faithfully believed in fortune-telling, nevertheless, today was a special day. It marked the end of everything she knew after all. That was why she decided to listen devotedly to the man speaking on the radio.
"For their present, we have the Six of Pentacles. It seems that your current time calls for wealth, financial success and material prosperity that comes thanks to you and you get only as much as you deserve. It shows as well that charity, generosity and patronage can be given towards you. In this case, you can receive gratuitous help, a bonus at work, patronage, or a promotion in your career."
"I'm not a grown-up so I don't really care about those..." a nervous smile escaped Yuiko's lips.
"Still, it does show that when you reach that day, you might have those blessings." Her mother added.
"In their near or imminent future, the Knight of Sword makes an appearance. This card shows abrupt changes for you, my dear Capricorn Tiger. It may indicate the occurrence of unforeseen or important events. Possible new acquaintances and new often indicates conflicts, but they will be solved quickly. I can also see in your future a young person, an ally, protector and partner, energetic and determined. With the support of this person, you will able to get the advantage in any confrontation or conflict and as a result, protect your interests and exit difficult situations as a winner."
"Now for your more distant future,"
The radio was turned off.
"Here we are, just in time." The girl's mother spoke with serenity, opening the automatic locks.
The short-haired woman had parked the car one block away from the school, students walking towards the gates alongside the designated pavement. Fluttery black dresses which were the uniform danced with the wind, running towards their circle of friends highly excited for the closing ceremony of today.
Yuiko got off, her school bag in hand and waving goodbye to her mother who in a couple of minutes was out of sight.
The building was as white as the same light, irradiating a pure girl's innocent maiden heart. It was not just a single intricate piece of concrete, it had as well two different small towers which resembled a church, alongside a dial clock that moved its hands every passing second. The adjacent tennis courts had girls doing their last morning club practice, running through the green concrete with sweat dripping from their necks.
Yuiko Tsukiame quietly made her way from the entrance gate towards the hallways, keeping her head down and alongside her gaze on the floor. She knew exactly which path to take. A path that would take her towards the only place she considered a safe haven in the school. A place where, even if it had a rough beginning, brought her happiness and a sense of belonging.
❀ Investigative Literature Club ❀
First of all, you may wonder, what is an Investigative Literature club. That was a question not even Yuiko could even fathom to answer. Do the members do activities pertaining to literature? You could say so. Did they do investigative work? Of course. Yet, no one even knew how to properly explain what their club activities were, not even their own members. During the last club funding meet-up, they found a hard time coming up with something in order to get the necessary money for activities.
In the end, we managed to and we created so many lovely memories.
Opening the door, what greeted her first was the tied silver bell chime on its frame. A wonderful, soothing sound that echoed in her ears, reminiscing a sudden spring breeze instead of the looming gloomy winter outside. White rays shine through the opened window and the madder checkered curtain flows, rays of brightness casting squares onto the glossy grey floor, reflecting onto several objects in the room which decorated its otherwise simplicity. Yuiko blinked a few times, in an attempt to help her eyes adjust to the illumination directed right at her.
Indeed, the room was quite simple. A few works hanged around in portraits, with a huge classic school table in the middle with four chairs. One of them had a pleated cushion, while the others were just your common seats. However, at the same time, you could spot in a single glance that both sides of the room were divided by the objects the cabinets contained. On the far right, you could find all kinds of books dedicated to journalism, investigative writing, psychology and human behaviour while, on the far left, everything pertaining to literature was there such as famous novels either by Japanese or international authors, alongside books that helped you improve your writing and comprehension skills plus some poetry.
The dust particles flew by, intersecting with the light, similarly to the waves of an uneven, shimmering ocean.
"Ah, you're here. About time!"
Stealing her attention, a voice Yuiko recognized perfectly well called out to her towards that small maroon used sofa against the far off corner of the room. A place where anyone could hide and have their presence unnoted since the door covered it up as soon as it was opened, hence why the lavender-haired girl failed to notice that the leader of her club was right there all along, leisurely reading the latest edition of her favourite manga series: Macaron Honey Beats.
Her hair was auburn, melting with the clear light against a face so pale as to be striking. The strands flow down her back, stopping in a line around her hips. As she leans forward to take a stance in front of Yuiko, her hair moves with her, hiding her face until she straightens and flicks it back over her black dress school uniform. A beret of the same colour was lying on top of her head, complementing the two braids tied with ribbons that fell symmetrically by her oval-shaped face.
The petite-statured girl blinked her crystal onyx coloured eyes, inspecting Yuiko. The girl, which now felt her whole personal space being invaded, dropped her school bag.
"G-Good morning, upperclassman. Is everything okay?" Yuiko raised her palms, doing her best to avoid the small girl from getting any closer. However, after hearing her words she retreated and crossed both arms. "Upperclassman?"
"Is everything okay? Is that all you have to say? You've disappointed me, underclassman Tsukiame!" pointing her pink coloured nailed covered with fake heart jewellery, she raised her high pitched voice. "Is that all!?"
"Eep!" Yuiko retreated a step, her back going against the worn-out table. "W-What am I supposed to say...?"
"Forget it!" Turning her back, the small girl was still with both of her arms crossed, clearly pissed off.
"Where are the others? I thought we were all going together to the auditorium for the ceremony." Picking-up her school bag, Yuiko left it on the table, sighing.
"Beats me," crossing her legs, the petite beauty sat down on the sofa to keep on reading, disregarding proper etiquette. Thankfully, right under the dress, she was wearing her P.E shorts. Grabbing the manga she had left unattended, she resumed her reading. "I'll go once I finish this volume."
"But the ceremony is going to start soon!" Closing her eyes, Yuiko catches a breath, smiling. "Let's go get the others!"
"Eeeh..." with a disapproving tone, the unnamed girl remained annoyed. "Go get them yourself. I'm reading the climax and I cannot be bothered."
"If I hear another but coming out of your mouth I'll kick you out."
"That was a bit rude... I think?" Yuiko was still smiling, with a hint of nervousness on her lips.
Something about that statement had caused something to stir. However, she quickly disregarded it.
"I am the club president and if a member is being annoying I can give them a timeout outside the room." Sighing, the girl lowered the manga book from her face and looked at Yuiko straight in her pastel orange irises. "The music idiot should be on the Light Music Clubroom, giving her awful sense of time."
"You're right! I should have thought of that!" Nodding, the lavender-haired girl was about to leave the place, just to stop midway outside the door, a question lingering in her mind. "And what about...?"
"Don't even summon her. I'm finally being able to catch up with MacaBeats in peace!" Her pale face turned purple, Yuiko not understanding why.
"But you two always come to school together and are inseparable!" Yuiko clasped her hands endearingly. "I don't understand."
"Just go!!! And if she asks for me, I'm not here, okay!? I had a hard time escaping from that maid!!" And standing up, the petite girl pushed Yuiko through the door, closing it behind her.
"There was no need to push me out that way..." Deflated, Yuiko stretched her back and looked through the left side of the hallway, towards some stairs. "Time to go to the Light Music Club."
The hallway that Yuiko traversed was made of black marble floor and white walls, pristine materials to reflect every girl's pure soul. The doors of the classrooms were of a glossy black as well, with silver globe-shaped handles. However, even if everything gave a refined atmosphere, student's had placed their own decorations as well onto the walls or, in fact, posters for activities or club related messages such as hanging posters in primary colours, yet the overall impression the school itself gave was classy.
Laughter sounds along the halls joined with exciting conversations and shouts. Small groups of girls gathering just like social butterflies, perched onto undying popularity while Yuiko hurriedly made her way past them, doing her very best to ignore their gossips about her. Even if two whole semesters had gone by, word-of-mouth never died even if everything told about her were made-up lies. Yet, she now felt less afflicted by them in comparison to how she did when she transferred here.
Quickening up her pace, she noticed she only had around fifteen minutes left before the closing ceremony begins. That was why she hurried upstairs and managed to reach the door towards the Light Music Club. What she could hear from behind were some low beat noises.
Her heart fluttered, skipping thousands of beat while each chord slowly caressed the owner of such beautiful sounds fingertips. Such passion and love poured over a single instrument reached her ears, making Yuiko forget everything that was going to happen in a few more minutes, how she won't hear again such wonderful notes, a lovely voice that greeted her each morning making her life more bearable and the warmth of her small, happy place in the clubroom downstairs.
Opening the door, an array of colours and sounds greeted her surrounding a tall figure who shine brightly while delicately enjoying the raspy feeling of her bass' strings fluttering inside her very deep core.
Reflected through the winter's sun rays, the girl who was the centre solo musical piece spectacle moved alongside the beats she solely produces with gleaming passion. Her long, evenly cut blue platinum hair resembled a recently lit flame with the graceful movements she did, completely immerse into her solo piece. The evenly short cut bangs complemented her wide forehead, sweat dripping from the girl's dancing while holding a red coloured bass covered with rabbit stickers.
Shaking her head, a colourful array of small feathery flowers decorations hit against each other by being her hairpin accessories going from the deepest green to the lightest of azures decorated with miniature red coloured ribbons. Her black dress uniform made all these wild combinations shine as brightly as her, being the Sun's most fierce competitor.
She opens her bright pink diamond eyes indicating the end of her rehearsal with a loud bang from her bass.
Yuiko claps in amazement, smiling as brightly as she always does whenever she hears the girl's music from the heart.
Taken aback, the mysterious beauty lifts her head noticing who was the owner of such passionate sound just to see the lavender-haired girl standing in the entrance of the clubroom. Leaving her bass on top of a pile of baskets filled with an array of tuning implements, she leapt towards Yuiko enthusiastically.
"Yui!!!" hugging her neck, the girl made Yuiko spin in order to avoid both of them falling towards the floor. "What brings ya here? Weren't we all meeting up downstairs???"
"Well..." Yuiko scratched her cheek in nervousness.
"Hm???" The platinum blue-haired girl turned around after letting go of her friend and looked around the place. The clock right above a cloth poster of a certain music band marked the time. "Ohmigosh, I'm late aren't I?"
"That's why I'm here to pick you up!" Happily, Yuiko entered to stand beside the girl. "We'll all go together."
"Hard to believe everything that happened these past semesters. I wouldn't believe myself if I told little old me all this!" crossing her arms while nodding, the pink-eyed girl stared at the cloth poster. "Distance won't matter between us!"
"Indeed it will not, I will make sure of it."
"That's what I like to hear from ya, my cutesy little Yui!"
Bowing against the poster cloth, the beautiful girl gave a word of thanks towards it. Yuiko could see a woman that could be around sixteen or eighteen years old, with orange wavy hair wearing a black short dress while holding a microphone, singing with all her might surrounded by another four girls whose appearances could barely be made out but you could clearly see the instruments they played: drums, guitar, bass and piano.
"Good job during practice today!!" The girl said with a big spurt of energy to then rise up. "I will keep on doing my best!"
"You always thank them, don't you?" Yuiko smiled sweetly.
"Of course I do, they're my favourite band after all!! Even if they have gone their separate ways years ago and aren't a thing anymore, I will play as long as I live until I form my own band and meet up with the leader!"
"That's such a wonderful dream, Hatsuka."
Nodding, the girl placed both hands on her hips affirming her aspiration.
"Now, now! Let's go!!" Yelling, Hatsuka pushed Yuiko outside while closing the clubroom.
"Where were the others?" Yuiko suddenly asked.
"Oh, they left already. Ya know how I can be a pushover about personal practice! No one came but it's all good! We aren't even a band nor anything, we're just a couple of gals playing the instruments we like. That's all I reckon!" Smiling brightly, Hatsuka took Yuiko's hand and both calmly walked downstairs towards the Investigative Literature Club.
"Say, Yui... Tell me more about this premonition ya have!" making small talk, Hatsuka's eyes sparkled with interest towards her best friend.
"It is not even a premonition... it's just... something I feel?" Even Yuiko was confused.
"That's what a premonition is called!" Halting, Hatsuka pointed towards Yuiko with her index finger. "That feeling when ya heart beats insanely fast and whatchamacallit... goes bang bang."
A nervous smiled escaped the orange-eyed girl.
"Honestly... I don't know how to explain it. I feel... something warm and light. As if... I were about to see someone I haven't seen for a very, very long time and my heart aches..."
"That's sounds so romantic!! Maybe a cute gal?? Or a handsome boy!! Although I would prefer a girl, I want to marry all of them!" Hatsuka's train of thought stopped, holding Yuiko's hand. "Of course, you're the one who stole my heart so I'll marry you first!"
Yuiko thought her cheeks lit up.
"Neeways, our small upperclassman must be fuming with my delay, let's hurry up!!"
Guiding her, both girls ran towards that one special place inside the monochrome school.
"My, my, Mistress! How come the clubroom is a mess? It is clear... I cannot take my eyes off you not even for a second. By doing so, I have failed one of the first duties of a Misato Trained Full-fledged maid. If this keeps up, I'll be a disgrace and tarnish the prestigious Misato-Manfredi Association! This time, swearing on my pride as one of the handmaids of your lineage I will be by your side even more than twenty-four hours a day the seven days of the week! I swear I will or Shioriko Misato is not my name!"
Pulling out of a small leather compartment she had right on her hip, a short dark chestnut-haired girl with emerald eyes took out a white maid apron from it, wearing it right on top of her black dress school uniform with a determined look on her face.
Yuiko and Hatsuka were received by an everyday scene once they opened the clubroom's door.
Apparently, the petite girl had made a mess while trying to store her favourite manga away after catching up with the latest volume and tripped over a tower of books, hitting the shelf and many of them came tumbling down. She was right on the floor, clearly pissed off while the self-proclaimed student-maid made a fuzz out of it, immediately tidying up the place.
"You cannot make that up, it's impossible to make a day have more than twenty-four hours..." grumbling under her breath, the auburn-haired girl stood up.
"Hm? Doesn't my Mistress know that specialized Misato trained maids have time-manipulating abilities?"
"Don't be stupid, that's silly. I have enough with your swords obsession pulling them out of your apron out of nowhere. Seriously, where do you even store them?"
"My, Mistress Camellia, that's a secret!"
"You truly do piss me off..." sitting down on the sofa, she gave a deep sigh.
"It seems Miss Tsukiame and Miss Hanyū have arrived just in time. It is a pleasure seeing you this fine morning." Bowing down, the personal maid of their upperclassman salutes them both.
"Finally you're both here. Now we can leave and end this school formality," the girl stood up and went outside.
"Wait, Mistress!!" rushing after her, Shioriko quickened her pace.
"Natsume sure is one interesting gal." Sheepishly smiling, Hatsuka mentioned Camellia.
"She isn't a long lost descendant of Souseki Natsume for nothing," Yuiko added.
"Or so she says. Yet she has such a cute maid so it must be true!"
A sudden silence enveloped both girls, the early morning birds chirping away the stillness that formed between the two. The silence that hung in the air like the suspended moment before a falling glass shatters on the ground. The silence was like a gaping void, needing to be filled with sounds, words, anything. It was eerily unnatural, given that anywhere Yuiko went alongside Hatsuka, bright sounds could be heard similarly to beautiful music. Silence seeped into Yuiko's every pore, like a poison slowly paralyzing her from either speech or movement.
Why does it hurt?
It lingered in the air, thick and heavy, like a blanket.
There was absolute stillness. No air stirred the grass from the outside or leaves. No clouds drifted in the sky of blue above. No water dripped or flowed. Not a sound could be heard either close at hand or in the far off distance. Even her own breath seemed to die as soon as it left her mouth. It was an eerie sort of tranquillity, so instead of being soothed her senses became heightened.
In those frozen seconds, she felt her world completely stopped.
Strange. It's so strange for Hatsuka to call me Yuiko. Why do I fathom the inevitable?
"I hope you find what you're looking for. I hope that premonition you have becomes true, so you can finally feel what happiness feels like."
She gazed into her soul; her eyes of diamond pink scrutinizing things inside of which Yuiko could only dream of seeing in herself.
The sun poured down on them, showering the girls with beams of light.
“You are like a fruitless flower that will achieve purity.”
Hatsuka smiled coyly, but then again, Yuiko had only ever seen her true, genuine smile only once. The way she looked at someone was very observant. As if she was studying every single bit of them until she had a picture of them wherever she went. She had a photographic memory. Never forgetting a single thing.
That was why Hatsuka knew Yuiko perfectly well, even more than Yuiko herself.
Yuiko knew something was missing. That something was wrong with her.
However, she was unable to know what it was.
Hatsuka knew but swore to never tell her until the day finally comes when she realizes it all by herself.
"I hope that the lock to your heart finds the key that will open it."
"Hatsuka..." Yuiko clenched her hands on her chest.
Looking inside her pocket, the platinum blue-haired girl took out a small bunny made out of cloth. Taking Yuiko's hands, she gave it to her, closing her palms.
"Take this. That way, I'll always be with ya!"
The white cloth was pristine, the marbled black dot eyes of the rabbit sparkling alongside the aquamarine coloured dress it wore. Behind it's back, it had a small loop which meant the bunny could be used as a scrunchie.
"Thank you, Hatsuka. I will treasure it for as long as I live."
"Now, let us go and mark the newest chapter of your life!"
Taking Yuiko out of her cocoon, Hatsuka broke the walls and pulled her towards the Closing Ceremony. A Closing Ceremony that opened a new path for Yuiko Tsukiame.
A path of new encounters.