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Yukinoshita Asuka

"What do you want from me? I don't recall asking for someone to bother me constantly, nor do I remember requesting your help with anything."

0 · 513 views · located in Kawazakura Town, Japan

a character in “Within These Worthless, Broken Wings”, as played by Tsukiakari

Description

Yukinoshita Asuka
Image

Gender: Female
Age: 16
Appearance: Standing at a total height of five feet, five inches, Asuka is neither short, nor tall, instead remaining between the two. She is rather unimposing, with narrow shoulders and rather soft, pale skin that makes her look more like a doll than a mature adult, but despite this, something about her inspires both respect and fear, as she has a very regal bearing and a commanding demeanor. These things, however, usually give the image that she is haughty, which serves as a sort of double edged sword to her. Her build is lean - almost unhealthily so - and clearly slanted toward her limbs, which are long and slender. Her waist is thin, her stomach flat, and her figure mature.

Perhaps the most notable features about Asuka are her eyes and hair. The former are the color of emeralds, and deep, yet fixating, with an intense sort of mistrust and anger to them that seems to be a constant feature of her piercing gaze. On the other hand, at times, her eyes seem dark and clouded, as though one is looking into an endless abyss. When she is sad, no matter how she tries to hide it, one can see it clearly by looking into her eyes, which, even when she doesn't visibly cry, show how much she is weeping on the inside. And, when she is happy, her eyes have a tendency to glimmer with repressed joy, as though they themselves are smiling and laughing rather than these features showing on her face, something she is generally reluctant to do.

Asuka's hair, on the other hand, is a shade of pure, midnight black, and almost uniformly perfectly straight from the top of her head to where her flowing tresses finally end just above her waist. Generally, her hairstyle is a minor variation on the Hime cut, with precisely clipped curtains of raven hair framing her face on all sides save above, where her bangs are swept across her forehead slightly, violating the general rule of straightness and perfect order. A second rather bizarre feature of her hairstyle is the hair on the left side of her head, which is pulled back and tied by a single long, flowing yellow ribbon into a side tail, with the ribbon winding around it into a double helix. It is by this distinctive trait that Asuka is most usually recognized.

Asuka is usually seen clad in her school uniform, consisting of a black button-up blouse with white sleeves trimmed in the darker shade, over which she wears a white blazer with the same black patterns running across it, and the school's emblem displayed prominently on the chest, done in gold-colored thread. Finishing this ensemble, she ties her blouse with a precisely arranged red and white ribbon, and wears a skirt in the same colors over a pair of black thigh highs and matching dress shoes.
Personality: Most people who meet Asuka have her pegged as an arrogant, self-interested individual, with good reason. She treats almost everyone around her to her bitter, sarcastic words, and, if at all possible, will withdraw to some secluded spot to avoid Human contact. Because of this, most people stay away from her, and those that do interact with her generally return her sarcastic quips with insults and abuse. Most agree, though, if anyone deserves it, it's her, and that someone needs to knock her pride down a notch.

More to be revealed as the story progresses.
Place of Residence: The Yukinoshita household, a small apartment in a rather dingy, run down complex overlooking the river and situated fairly close to Kawazakura High School.
Family Members: Yukinoshita Katsuro: Asuka's older brother. Rather self-centered and spoiled, with the firm belief that Asuka should "Stay in the kitchen." The two quarrel quite often, and, quite frankly, hate each other.
Acquaintances: Kirisame Shinji: Former class representative of Asuka and Yoshida's class. A friend of Katsuro's, and despite his seemingly polite and charismatic facade, a ruthless individual whose scheming is almost always directed against Asuka, thanks to her brother's influence.
Hobbies/Skills: She's reputed to be a remarkably good cook, even by those who dislike her, and although nobody can attest to having heard her sing, rumor has it that she's quite incredible when she does. Judging by the places in which she is usually found, her hobbies likely include reading, walking, and drawing pictures.
Favorite Places: Most commonly seen in the school library during club meeting hours, on the roof during lunch, and on the bridge over the Kawazakura river during time off from school. Rumor also has it she's a hikkikomori who stays home as much as possible and locks herself in her room at all times.
Other: Nothing is known yet.

All of this bio is subject to updating in accordance with the revelations to come later on in the story.

So begins...

Yukinoshita Asuka's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yukinoshita Asuka Character Portrait: Hideyeki Yoshida

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Prologue:Parting is Such a Sweet Sorrow
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BGM: Omoi Odorenai Waratsu


Was it the day of the festival already? is all the young, warm-hearted boy could think of as he had awoken from last night's slumber. Everything seemed so calm, so quiet for it to be the morning before such an event. Bed sheets were thrown off of him excitedly as he jumped from the bed with a small thud when his little, sockless feet hit the brown carpet on the floor of his room. Darting from his room, he enthusiastically (and annoyingly) woke his littler sister from her sleep, her head lazily rising as she yawned.

"Uwwawahhhh...wha....what is it?"

"Come on! The Festival!"

"....uu....But that isn't until nighttime..!"

"So? We can get there early! Mom and Dad are already---"

After the sun had begun setting and the sky turned a brilliant orange hue, the kindhearted boy and his sister-who was wide awake now-begun on their adventure through the crowded area that the festival took place along with their father. On each face was a smile, though compared to any of the ones before, there was a noticably dimmer light in their eyes. They walked at a slower pace, trying to enjoy the event as best they could, making sure not to miss a single booth or attraction that they paced by. However, there was bound to be a disagreement somewhere there and it took shape in a rather childish way. Given the fact that they were children indeed, this didn't seem too weird.

"Father! I want to throw the ball! Please?!" the young boy's voice pleaded as he pointed to that game that any good festival had. Bottles were piled upon each other and the objective of the game was to knock down all the bottles with three throws. They had been rumored to be rigged; glued together, but in his little mind, nothing could survive a pitch from him. This plead did not come without a rival.

"No! I want to go with the spinner! Lets go there!". Sakura's hair-a color that matched her brother's eyes-blew in the wind as a slight increase in windpower picked it up, along with the fallen petals of the trees that this town was blessed with. She held her skirt down with one hand as she gripped her dad's arm with her other little hand. Her puppy dog eyes were too much to bear, and he caved in.... with a compromise.

"We can do both,"

"How?"

"Son, you may go alone. I believe you are old enough to take on this responsiblitly," just enough money for one play for the game was handed to the young Hideyuki. The boy smiled much brighter than he had previously been doing the whole day. This in turn evoked a smile of the same degree from his father. The boy ran off, leaving father and daughter to each other.

"I'm going to give this to mother when I see her!"

In the young boy's hand, a golden ribbon, a prize for his victory against the bottles, waved with the wind as he held his arms outstretched to see it clearly. He was sure mother would love it, sure as anything else in the world. His little picked up a swift pace as he went back to the 'meeting point' he was always told to go if he or his sister got seperated their parents.

So on he went, making sure to follow the road around the bulk of the joyful people, all of which had a smile on their face and a warmth in their hearts as they spent their night with not a worry in the world or a weight on their chest. Everyone except her, that is. She was anything but happy, tears streaming from her eyes for a reason not quite known by the boy. She was invisible to the world, it seemed. Her presence was almost impossible to notice, had he not idly looked down the bridge for no reason in general. Maybe it was only by chance that he noticed her, or maybe it was fate? Then, it mattered not. All he knew was that some girl was sobbing alone and during a time of celebration, no less. He would've crossed his moral event horizon had he not chose to ignore his task at hand and focus on her instead. Even still, there was not a moment of hesitation as he jogged down from his position above her and stopped just before the depressing (and odd) sight of a girl-not any older than he-wearing a uniform to this occasion.

So he wiped the frown off his face, which had snuck up there when he originally noticed her, and put on a smile that radiated tenderness and compassion and most of all, understanding. Her tears weren't of something light, like a stolen candy or a broken toy, those emerald green iris betrayed a emotional pain much too strong to be something as 'lucky' as that. A tone not too loud nor soft was apparent in his voice.

"Hey, are you okay?" it was obvious what the answer was, but the question needed to be asked anyways. He figured that not a single soul had asked that of her, and that was unacceptable.

"No"

"No?... That's not good," he was not fazed in the slightest by her hostile tone which made it seem like she wanted to be distant from him and the world. He wondered what could cause such a pain to someone so beautiful, so innocent. He did not give up and continued to talk, knowing full well that she would respond in ice-queen way, but these attacks wouldn't intimidate him and he made it his duty to hear her out, to be there for her. A stranger is better than nobody.

So there he stood, watching her eyes as they displayed the combined force of the pain she had received. It was clear that she had pain... but what caused it became the new mystery. He took a step closer, making sure to approach with more caution than most other people would even consider. His soft, warm hand laid rest on her cold shoulder, a sign of his genuine care for her, a complete stranger.


A violent shake of his head snapped him out of the daze in which he found himself stuck in. Five years ago today, he had shown a kindness to someone that he could never forget. He treasured the moment, more than anyone would expect, him being the apprarent 'saviour' in this fairy tale. He looked up at the ceiling above his bed, arms behind his head in a relaxed position and a troubled expression on his normally bright face. He was tired and spent from earlier in the day and going to the festival just before his new term seemed.... illogical, considering he had just finished unpacking. These memories, the ones he cherished immensly, were bound to come back in force if he saw that bridge.... that river.... those trees..... he couldn't have that just yet. Had he been Superman, he might've burned a hole in the area he was concentrating at as if it was interesting or entertaining, but his mind found the past much more significant than his fixation on the wall.

A promise, one of great importance had been made back then. It hung in his mind now, a reminder of a... failure.

"Will you promise? To believe in me always?"

He smiled, her demeanor had changed drastically since they met not too long ago. Her smile was well worth the scolding he was sure to get from his father and he would take it with a grin on his face. "I promise," he told her, light illuminating his back as the fireworks detonated into a gorgeous display of neon.


"So clear yet... so vague. Damn... I...."

"Then.... say the words with me,"

"Alright. Tell me if I say something wrong, okay, Asuka?..."


His face, halted in a frown as a wave of nostalgia hit him, curved into his signature smile aimed at himself. "Asuka.... how did I forget such a name?.... I'm hopeless sometimes," he needed not to change his posture in the bed, nor did he need anything but to sit back and complete the memory with a grin on his face.

"....the world at times can be--"

"What? What did we say? Its been so long..." a blank spot in his memory at the worst possible time. It was like watching a movie, only for it shut off just before the final revaltion of the antagonist's plan. Such a downer, he thought. He massaged his temples, as if that would persuade his mind to retrieve his memory, but to no avail. Though it did tease him with their departure or... at least a small part of hit.

"...Alright, I promise! Don't worry!" with his lower limbs moving one in front of the other, he zoomed away from her, towards home, where he was sure to meet with his displeased father. Yet... he tripped, a flash of gold appeared before his vision before it slithered through the air and onto the floor. Immediately, he picked it up, not bothering to give any of his attention towards the scraped knee he earned from his accidental visit with the floor. His eyes dragged on it for a minute, before he shot a glance towards Asuka. She needed it more than mother, he supposed.

"Asuka! Asuka! Hey! Wait!" he ran back, stopping briefly before her and handing it to her without letting her speak. With one final smile before he set off, he said, "Keep this with you; a reminder of the promise, kay?"

As the he now began drifting off into unconciousness, he sighed.

Would anyone return my kindness and allow me to be selfish, just this once?

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yukinoshita Asuka

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Chapter the First: Ye, Who for the Living Lost...
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BGM: Screen


"The world at times can be sad and bleak.
Heartbreak and sorrow bring lonely tears to the cheek..."


My eyes snapped open abruptly as I was dragged to consciousness by a sudden voice ringing in my ears. For a moment, I didn't register the rather painful light streaming in through my window as I shot up in bed, looking almost frantically about me. For a moment, the sound lingered, the echoing words standing out amongst the jumble of countless murmuring voices beneath them as the voice rang in my ears, as though it had spoken forth from my dreams and, for an instant, both the words of that loathed promise and the one who spoke it had been dragged into reality. But, a moment's check told me that I was not in the festival, nor was that boy standing before me. It had merely been a dream, a phantasmal recollection that, even now, I could not entirely escape.

It made sense, I supposed, that the night from my past would appear now to haunt me during unconsciousness, as those words no longer meant anything in my waking hours. I supposed I should have expected the dream to happen again, especially today, considering that the previous night had played host to the same festival as the one upon which my wandering mind dwelt so frequently, even all this time later. After five years of solitude, it seemed that I could not forget that old poem, nor the promise it contained, no matter how much I'd have liked to.

I shut my eyes and leaned back in bed, blinking a few times as I tried to adjust my eyes to the sudden light, something which I was only reminded to do by the sharp pain I suddenly became aware of. I hadn't realized I had been gazing directly out my window and into the light of the new dawn, an act which rather pained my tired emerald eyes. So, I slumped back in my bed, resigned to wait in comfort until I could look about myself for any notable duration. I was almost tempted by the warmth of my bed to simply curl up beneath the covers and go back to sleep, but I realized at once that doing so would be impossible. I couldn't afford to waste my morning in sleep when I needed to be up and at school bright and early.

Ah, yes, school. The fall term started today, and, while I hadn't made much use of the break I had been given over the latter portion of the summer months, I also did not look forward with any eagerness to its end. School meant I would have to leave my comfortable home, my refuge against the world, as it were, and go to mingle with so many fools and self-interested, cold-hearted imbeciles, an interaction which I particularly detested. Considering the usual manner in which I was treated by my peers... well, let's just say I didn't need them to remind me of just what they thought of me. I had a little voice in my head to do that for me already, thank you very much.

Slowly, I rose from my bed, my still sleepy body taking a moment to find its proper footing as I glanced over at the clock. It was 6:45, fifteen minutes earlier than I was usually wakened by my alarm clock. Normally, I'd sooner have died than woken up so early in the morning - suffice to say that me dying by choice wasn't out of the question, and I was NOT a morning person - but the dream had startled me enough to force me to enter the waking world before my noisome alarm could drag me kicking and screaming from my comfortable slumber. It was just another loss I'd have to accept, I supposed, and so I bothered myself more with fumbling about and trying to find the off button on my alarm clock - an attempt which ended in my successful disarming of the instrument, but with my face planted rather harshly into my pillow by those annoying factors known as "clumsiness" and "gravity" - than I did with grumbling about the fact that I would have to wake up regardless of my preference.

Once I'd managed to recover from the slight daze my abrupt fall had caused me, I rose shakily to my feet and headed to the bathroom. One shower later, I was busy drying off my dark hair and muttering sleepily about soap slipping down the drain and towels that tried to strangle me, these rather unfortunate incidents reinforcing my already quite firm belief that waking up early was one of the most cruel tortures a person could be forced to suffer. But, then, I realized, there were several that were much, much, worse. Specifically, it was much, much, worse to be forced to remain in the presence of an idiot.

The door on the opposite end of the bathroom, leading into the second bedroom on the opposite end of the suite, opened violently, and as I quickly wrapped a towel around myself to maintain my decency - having long since been used to my arrogant intruder's habit of entering without any hint or warning - I turned upon the bothersome pest who had now decided it would be fun to ruin my already unpleasant morning. The face that met me was familiar, framed with short-cropped blonde hair and wearing a cocksure smirk, like someone who has just captured a particularly interesting insect and is pondering whether or not to simply crush it underfoot just because he can.

"Katsuro. And here I was under the impression that my brother understood basic laws of Human politeness and decency," I said sarcastically, holding the towel I wore over myself as I turned to face him with well-controlled rage simmering in my green eyes. He simply laughed rudely, as though amused by the fact that I thought I could correct him in any regard.

"Shaddap, quit actin' like you're anything worth looking at, and get outta my way," The boy jeered. "Some other people need to shower too, ya' know. Did you lose track of time while staring at yourself in the mirror or something? Egotistical bitch. Why not go and do something useful, and get out of my sight?"

"Just because I happen to be interested in basic hygiene when not absolutely forced into maintaining a certain level of it under pain of death does not make me arrogant," I shot back coldly before turning to leave the room. But, I just couldn't pass up letting fly with a final sarcastic comment as I strode through the door. "And by the way, I'm fairly sure spiking your lunch with a chemical neutering agent, or perhaps a highly lethal toxin, counts as something useful. I would be doing a service to the Human race, after all. I wonder if I'd get a medal for ensuring that your clearly inhuman genetic structure is never passed on to a future generation? I'm sure I'd at least get some sort of song or statue dedicated to me. Maybe even a parade in my honor?" A sharp snarl from behind me warned me of the incoming punch aimed at the back of my head, and I ducked just in time to watch the poorly aimed fist sail over my head. I turned, giving an eerily calm smile that contrasted sharply with the fire in my eyes as I stared down my tormentor.

"You know, it's occurred to me that it's a terrible idea to treat the one in charge of preparing your food with such a complete lack of manners. After all, you never know what I might put into your meal." Giving a final smirk, I shut the door and locked it just as Katsuro raised his hand to take another swing at me. "Food for thought," I finished, my words punctuated by the slamming of the door, followed by the impact of my idiot brother's fist against it in vain, followed by a cry of pain and frustration.

I didn't pretend for an instant I'd get away with insulting my idiotic brother, but, it was just the price I paid for trying to stand up for myself when faced with the chauvinistic force of ignorance and stupidity that was my direct blood relatives. My father would doubtless have words with me tonight when my older and supposedly more mature sibling told about how disrespectful I'd been - pot, meet kettle - but I could probably get out of the house before Katsuro would have time to make his little report to my still-sleeping parent, which bought me some time for now, at least.

Quickly, I opened up the plastic bag holding my new school uniform for the fall term, and quickly finished setting myself in order now that the issue of my brother had been temporarily dealt with. Finishing my preparations, I took up a long yellow ribbon from my bedside table, glared at it for a moment with the air of one who is wondering whether or not looks can kill, and then finally gave a resigned sigh and tied it into the side of my hair. Honestly, the gaudy ornament repulsed me. The bright and vibrant color didn't just clash with my rather cynical and melancholy nature, it reminded me of the reason why exactly I maintained that attitude in the first place. But, it was because of that fact that I bothered to wear it at all.

Finishing my self grooming, I quickly made my way down the rather cramped hallway and into the small kitchen/family/bedroom that made up the single room aside from the two interconnected bedrooms of our rather tiny abode. Making my way over to the counter situated in the back corner, I quickly opened several drawers and cabinets, taking out two small metal cases which served generally as a convenient way to carry both mine and my brother's lunch to school. I didn't have much time to prepare anything, but I didn't need much time, either, and it was a fairly simple matter to quickly prepare a few slices of sausage and warm up some leftovers from the dinner I'd made the previous night. Dividing these provisions equally - albeit reluctantly, motivated as I was only by the demands of my father to take care of feeding my helpless fool of a sibling - I left the one tin on the counter while I took my own container and slid it into a small pocket of my backpack along with my school books. Time was getting short, and I'd have to leave immediately if I wanted to get across the river and to the school on time, as unlike my brother, I was not privileged with the possession of freedom to use that wonderful invention known as the bicycle. Well, there was no point in delaying, then. I slid on my shoes, slung my backpack over my back, and set out.

I had a feeling from the very start of the day that something was going to happen. Call me superstitious, but considering the dream I'd had just half an hour earlier, and the fact that it was the first day of the new term, I couldn't help but feel like all the buildup was toward something important. Well, I don't know if fate has a sense of humor, but, although I didn't realize how right I was then, I would soon come to appreciate just how auspicious that day had been. For that day, the start of the fall term, was the beginning of a string of events I had never dared hope for, never predicted, never even dreamed of.

That day was the day that I, a caged bird with broken wings, began learning to fly.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yukinoshita Asuka Character Portrait: Hideyeki Yoshida

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(Oh, hey, right! Almost forgot the weird present-ish tense most visual novels use. Imma use that too! =P)

After a short elevator ride, I make my way out of the dingy coffee-smelling air of the lobby of the apartment complex I call home, and into the open, empty streets. Instinctively, I turn left, letting my footsteps carry me along my usual route. Most people wouldn't consider the path I usually take to school, since it runs through a residential area and a veritable labyrinth of alleyways and unused streets, but it allows me to cut corners that I'd have to go clear around if I were to take the more well-walked route, and allows me to avoid coming into contact with many people while I'm at it - two birds with one stone, as it were. So, I wound my way down narrow lanes and through small, untrodden passageways, my feet carrying me swiftly through the pink-hued neighborhood - and abruptly out onto a long walking path running along the green banks of an azure river.

Kawazakura always looked best around this time of year, with the summer blossoms still floating on its cerulean currents and the fall blossoms just starting to come loose from their branches, carried by the wind to swirl and flutter through the air. Even I, bitter though I was about having to return to the ordinary life of a high school student, couldn't help but crack a wry smile. When there weren't so many people wandering about in the now lifeless festival grounds on the opposite bank, I didn't mind the sight of the river so much. It was a quiet, and solitary place, where I wouldn't be bothered by inquisitive idiots who thought they needed to remind me of my place. In short, it was one of my few refuges against the world.

The footpath quickly led me to the foot of the high, wide bridge that spanned the river, and reluctantly I found myself pulled into the current of similarly uniformed students heading down the road towards the school on the opposite bank, its rooftops plainly visible where they stood out on a high hill, overlooking the river and the rest of the city. Shying away from my peers, I found myself, instead of strolling along the sidewalks that, along with the small, fenced off strips of turf and almost-bare summer sakura trees they were set around, formed the bridge's center median, taking the less frequented walkway alongside the railing overlooking the river. From where I walk by myself, I can see the festival grounds, the clearing in which they were nestled blanketed in the falling cherry petals from the fall sakura trees all around them, where they stand empty, skeletal booths and the last of the gaudy banners that had painted the celebration the previous night the only hints left behind that something had recently occurred there.

As I strode briskly along, the morning breeze running gently through my hair and spreading it behind me like some gold and black pennant, a random whim compelled me to glance over to my left, toward the small, noisily chattering crowd making its way across the bridge's center. At the very midpoint of the bridge, standing out like a beacon of life in a jaded, dead world, something caught my eye almost immediately. The largest of the summer sakura trees, its boughs spreading in a vast, pinkish-white canopy above the streets beneath it, still had quite a few blossoms left on its many branches, evidently not having shed its flowers quite so soon as those other trees around it. Were it not for the slightly different color of its leaves, I might have assumed it was one of the fall trees, rather than the summer sakura that it really was. But what caught my eye wasn't so much the tree as what was beneath it.

Standing at the foot of the tree was a tall, lean youth whose unusual whitish-blonde hair caused my eyes to fall upon him almost immediately. He situated himself rather casually beneath the tree, gazing with what I could only assume was admiration up at it, although I couldn't actually see his face, since his back was turned to me. I would usually have passed him off as an unusual, but otherwise uninteresting sight, were it not for a strange occurrence that happened in the next moment.

At exactly the same time as I turned to look at the strange boy, I found him suddenly turning toward me. For a split second, I could see clearly that his deep blue eyes gazed right down the same line as my own emerald green stare, as though our opposing sight had met and clashed for a moment before a crowd moved between us. It could have been a random coincidence, I suppose, but somehow, it seemed to me that he had meant to turn and look at me in exactly that fashion. What he had meant by it, however, I could not venture such a guess.

Unable to explain what had just happened, but resolving to keep an eye out for the boy in the future, I decide it's high time to go quickly to the school, as it must be almost eight o'clock by now, which means that homeroom will be starting in about fifteen minutes - just enough time for me to make it, if I hurry. Thinking thus, I turn and begin making my way off the bridge and up the steep hill, at the top of which the school towers familiarly over me. Little did I know at the time exactly how significant my momentary eye contact with the strange, white-haired boy was, or what it would mean for the future...

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yukinoshita Asuka Character Portrait: Hideyeki Yoshida

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(Hehe. I agree. The KS OST is a pretty awesome soundtrack. Feel free to use it as much as ya' want, Pants, since I'm probably going to be using basically all of the Dai songs from the Umineko no Naku Koro Ni BGMs and just as many Touhou songs on piano, as well as some Katawa Shoujo songs at times, too, although I only really know the iconic ones from Hanako's route, since that was the one I ended up on the time I played through it. Anyway, too much OOC.)

Shaking off my unease at the strange encounter on the bridge, I quickly make my way into the school. The sun rising overhead paints everything in a golden light, but I hardly have time to marvel at the scenery right now. Deciding thus, I head inside, quickly slipping off my shoes and switching into the school's standard issue footgear - something like a combination between rubber slippers and closely fitting tennis shoes - placing my own rather dressy black shoes into a nearby cupboard for safe keeping while I did so. Adjusting to the new footwear in an instant, I join a small crowd of fellow students bustling in a bit late to the homeroom on the first floor. I was entirely surrounded by uniformly white-clad youths who were, sadly, rather tall compared to myself, causing me to remain rather inconspicuous as I slipped into a random seat along the side of the classroom. Despite the small crowd obscuring my view, however, I did manage to get a fairly good glance around the room. I already knew most of the students here, although we could hardly be called acquaintances, let alone "Friends." No, that was a term that was entirely inapplicable to me. Thanks to my rather aloof demeanor, I was usually treated with apathy at best and scorn at the worst. One who never spoke to others couldn't help but be labeled arrogant, but despite the fact that I knew this, it was a little late to change anything, and I honestly doubted I'd willingly approach another Human being even if given the chance to alter my rather bad reputation. Did that make the rumors that I was an arrogant airhead, or, perhaps more aptly, that I was a paranoid and mentally unstable loner, true? Maybe it did, although I preferred the terms "better safe than sorry" and "properly prepared." In any case, it didn't really matter. It was the first day, which meant that the other students would probably be busy renewing old ties and greeting new transfer students - or perhaps making other arrangements for the beginning of the fall term - which in turn meant they'd probably ignore me for now. That gave me a reprieve, however brief, that I'd be sure to en-

"Excuse me, Yukinoshita-san." The voice snapped me almost instantly out of my thoughts, turning my attention upward to the dark-haired boy standing in front of me holding a clipboard. I recognized him as the former Class President and representative to the student council, Kirisame Shinji. While he had technically lost his position at the end of the last school term, and a new election would be held at the beginning of the new trimester, it looked like he was still serving as a lame duck and setting things in order before his replacement would come to power. And, although he was speaking politely as always, I recognized his manners well enough to realize that he was going to ask me to do something. It seemed my previous assumption had been wrong. Probably, he'd ask me to do something menial like cleaning toilets, or moving some meaningless and unnecessary piece of equipment from the storage shed to the gym closet for no reason other than it was somehow convenient. But, then again, maybe I was just being paranoid.

"We've got a new transfer to this class, and, although it's not your turn to, I'd like you to run him through where everything is for cleaning up after class. Everyone ahead of you on the list has things to do this evening, so you're the only one available. Do you mind? I think it'll be a good experience for you." Shinji continued. Ah. So that's how it is. Doubtless, the others he had "asked" had put him up to this, hoping to aggravate me by bothering me with the job they were simply too lazy to do. The unnesecary last comment was just proof of this. By "a good experience" he certainly meant that he expected me to be bitter and sarcastic to the new student, in the hopes that I'd end up making a fool of myself and driving another person to join the ranks of my tormentors. Well, while one more idiot to deal with hardly mattered that much, it would be rather annoying to simply play into his hands so easily. I was about to deny his request outright when voices began speaking up around me, reaffirming that it was only the right thing for me to do, and that "even I" had to contribute something to society once in a while, whilst other voices loudly advised against the idea, saying I didn't have the necessary social skills. Well, at this point, there were two options. I could do it, and act according to the random whims of my peers, or I could deny the request, and give them just one more bit of ammunition to use against me. The way I say it, only one choice was feasible.

"Fine. I'll do it," I said at last, driving the mocking voices around me to silence.

Homeroom continued as usual after this little encounter - if one's definition of usual included one's idiot brother busting in late and making quite a bit of noise as he hastened over to his seat, striking up a loud but rather unintelligible conversation with several of his friends. Soon, they rose as a group - their numbers included Katsuro, the old class rep, and two other people whose names I didn't remember, but whose role I unforgettably recalled as my brother's personal cronies - and made their way to the front of the classroom, where the teacher was evidently late, as his seat remained empty even now. The three of them aside from the class rep were all delinquents who had been held back enough times to be in the same grade as myself - I was two years younger than Katsuro - but despite that, they put on almost suspiciously innocent smiles, and called out to someone named Hideyeki Yoshida, speaking very, very politely. I could tell in an instant that this had been scripted, and probably planned out far in advance by Shinji, just by the fact that my brother had dropped his usual Kansai accent and started speaking in a very proper manner, something he almost never did.

"Would Hideyeki Yoshida-san please stand up?" Katsuro asked again. "Thank you. Everyone, we would like to welcome our class' newest member, a transfer student to this school. Yoshida-san, is there anything you'd like to say to introduce yourself?"

I grasp what was going on immediately. Katsuro - or, rather, the one behind all this, Shinji, who was without a doubt the only one with any brains amongst my brother's personal band of idiots - was trying to draw attention to this Yoshida - who I recognized to be the same white-haired boy I'd seen earlier on the bridge after a few moments of searching the class for new faces - so it wouldn't seem suspicious when he struck up a conversation with him amongst the crowd of welcoming buffoons who would certainly flock to ask him questions, their interest piqued by his introduction and abrupt appearance. Then, they could weasel their way into showing him around and helping him fit in, and, while doing so, offhandedly mention myself so as to give me a bad reputation even before the two of us ever even spoke. I didn't particularly care, but that did mean that he'd probably end up another member of the already formidable troupe of fools who devoted their free time to driving me up the nearest flat vertical surface of the structure I presently occupied.

Ah, what a pain. What was it that they hoped to gain from all this? Somehow, I doubted that making my life into a child's caricature of a living hell could possibly be so amusing as to warrant this sort of pointless behavior. But, then again, I didn't have the mind of a child in the first place, so perhaps it was something my mature, world-wise mind simply couldn't comprehend because the idiots behind it were thinking on an entirely different level?

Sometimes I envied their immaturity. If it meant being able to be so carefree, seemingly without consequences, it almost made me question my own mentality. There wasn't much of a point in meticulously planning for the future, in keeping everyone around you at arm's length so as to protect yourself from betrayal, if all around you were countless examples of those who simply didn't care about such things, and yet somehow managed to remain perfectly unharmed despite the cruelties of the world that seemed almost entirely directed at myself. Just what was it that I was doing wrong to earn such punishments, even now? And why was it... why was it that this was only happening to me?

I couldn't understand it, and that was why... that unfairness, that incomprehensibility, was the reason why, with all of my being, I hated the world itself above all else.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yukinoshita Asuka Character Portrait: Hideyeki Yoshida

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At last, my boredom ends with the ringing of yet another bell, followed by a brief conclusion by the most recent in a cavalcade of teachers as everyone begins sorting through their bags, picking out lunchboxes and such while shifting their desks so as to be closer to the classmates they knew before. Since there aren't many new students - the white-haired boy being the only new arrival to this class - everyone finds their old friends quite quickly, leaving a great deal of space empty, with small clusters of students spread along a single band down the center of the room. It's not a coincidence that a single desk remains outside of this group, as everyone moves as far away from me as possible, quickly accosting the boy named Yoshida and dragging him away from me as well. I can see Katsuro shooting me an evil look as he explains to the new boy why he should move over with the rest of the students and leave me by myself, and even though I can't hear him, I can still read his lips and his expression to plainly say "That's my sister, over there. I'd advise you stay away from her. She's not all there, if you know what I mean. A real psycho."

And so begins the gossiping as everyone in the group begins talking at once, generating a quiet hubbub amongst which I can hear the word "Yukinoshita" used several times. Seems they've pulled out all the stops to tell the new kid everything about me, true or not. While at one time, I might have gone over to confront them out of an unreasonable sense of pride, or perhaps a desire to see my good name justly defended with my own two hands, I've long since abandoned such foolishness and arrogance. The only result of such a misguided confrontation would be my nonexistent good name utterly and unjustly demolished, slipping through the helpless hands I tried to use to defend it. So, while it might seem like conceding my defeat, I simply shake my head, giving a wry smile and a cold, mirthless laugh before rising to my feet, hoisting my bag up along with me as I silently turn away and head for the door. For a moment, the conversation at the other table grows silent, but as I slide the door open and simply walk out, it quickly sparks up again, comments such as "Did you see that? I think she was trying to threaten us?" and "What a creep," harrying me even as I hastily depart, striding briskly through the empty hallways of the school. While you're technically free to leave class for lunch, not many people do save those who, like me, would rather not talk to others, so even if I did run into someone out here, we'd probably just pass each other with a mutual, silent nod and carry on our gloomy way. In my case, that path takes me quickly down a hallway, then up to a large, nondescript metal door. Opening it silently, I step through and into a small, blank stairwell.

The staircase to the school roof is clearly pretty old, but there are obvious signs that it is frequently used. The door opens without a sound despite its age, and the concrete stairs aren't nearly as dusty as one would expect from such a secluded passageway. That's right... I use this staircase quite often during the year, and although it's gotten a bit dingier in my absence, I hardly care. It's not the stairway that matters, it's the refuge at the end of it.

At last, I reach the top and, swinging open the door, step out into the light of the open sky. The heavens, which were dyed orange by the rising sun upon my arrival, have shifted during the time I wasted in class, turning to a bright azure while I couldn't see it. The wind, the silent, almost cloudless sky, the cherry blossoms fluttering in the breeze below, those silvery petals that are still in the midst of blooming flowing like pearly waves in the courtyard beneath me... all these things add together to give even me a sense of peace as I gaze out over the empty rooftop. Here, there's no noise, no harassment, no burdensome people to deal with... This peace is one of the few things in this world I can cope with and enjoy.

I only have a limited time to relax. Generally, once lunch ends and the tour starts, all students are expected to participate and welcome the newcomers. But I'd rather not be forced into socializing, so I usually skip the events of the first day, if I can. Since the roof is an out of the way place, people usually don't come here, even while exploring. The library, on the other hand, generally gets included at some point during the tour, if only so people know where I'll be so they can avoid me. That's why I don't go there right off the bat, instead moving up here to the rooftop while I wait for the crowds in the main building to thin out so I can slip back to the library undetected while the student body gathers for welcoming speeches in the gym. From that point on, all I have to do is sit around in the library until school gets out, and then-

Oh, wait, I almost forgot. Damn. After the tour's over, I'll be in charge of walking the new kid through cleaning the classroom. What a pain. After all the stories they were telling about me, I can easily guess how awkward that conversation will be. "...and here's the Windex." "AH! NO! DON'T MAKE ME DRINK IT! I DON'T WANNA DIE OF POISONING! SOMEBODY HELP! I'M LOCKED IN HERE WITH A MADWOMAN!"

...

Fun. Anyway, there's no point in ruining the short time I have to myself, so I might as well contemplate more pleasant subjects than my impending social demise.

...

Oh, yeah. Of course my first reaction is to simply ignore any threat to my reclusive nature. Real mature, Asuka.

...

This is really, really sad, isn't it? Now I'm harassing myself so my classmates don't need to go to all the trouble.

...

I hate my life.

...

Anyway, it's not like it's the end of the world to have to talk to other people. Sure, this Hideyeki guy is probably going to insult me in all manner of ways, stay five feet away from me at all times, have his phone set to call the police from the moment we're left alone until he's safe in his own bed tonight, and possibly attack me the moment I do anything in the least bit suspicious, but the worst things I can think up happening are my own expulsion and possible demise, and even I, paranoid as I am, can't really see exactly what catastrophic string of events could lead to either. Not that it really matters, anyway. Call me apathetic or morbid, or even crazy if you like, but I wouldn't really care even if I was expelled or killed. I guess you could say you're not afraid much of losing things when even your own life isn't your own. Worst case scenario, I lose a worthless piece of trash I call my body and suffer for all eternity, but if that happens, I can't say I don't really deserve it.

The sun overheard draws my attention back to more pleasant thoughts, and I begin unpacking my lunch. It consists most of some leftover pork curry I made for dinner last night, along with a few sausage octopi - call me childish, but they're easy to make, and seem somehow more appealing than just plain old sausage slices - and a juicebox. I slide the straw out of its plastic packaging, driving it into the top of the container without even really looking at it and taking a quick sip as I remove a small pair of nondescript wooden chopsticks from my lunchbox and, placing them between my fingers, begin to dextrously pick at my meal. The birds sing overhead, and that, combined with the relaxingly cool breeze and the delicious food in my mouth - I don't want to brag, but I am a decent enough cook - serves to momentarily drive away my apprehension. And once again, I'm alone in my own little world, a world that nobody else can penetrate, enjoying a life that, at least, for the time being, I can really, truly call my own. In the end, the time I spend by myself like this is the only time I consider well spent.

And yet, something still seems off today. Little did I know, as I sat there across from the staircase by which I'd come up onto the roof, that I wouldn't be alone much longer...

(Feel free to briefly control Shinji, Katsuro, and the others in your post. Yaaay! It's finally time for the plot to really get started! I can't wait! \(>.<)/ )

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yukinoshita Asuka Character Portrait: Hideyeki Yoshida

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Whether I heard the bell, or the students flocking around me first is debatable. It wasn't just the students from before, either. A majority of the class surrounded me, as if rehersed and I must admit that I did not have the time to react quick enough to evade them, so I was stuck. Well, I never thought that I would ever be the most popular student in the class, especially only being here for such a short time, but by the looks of it, I was to be. At first, I thought they were going to ask me more about America and stuff like that, but as it turns out, they had completely ditched that topic and started on another one altogether.

"That's my sister, over there. I'd advise you stay away from her. She's not all there, if you know what I mean. A real psycho." a blonde haired young man informed.

I couldn't help but feel uncormfortable at the tone this man used when addressing his own sibling. It seemed....wrong. The venom in his words.... I could never use them when speaking of Sakura. Maybe I'm just lucky enough that she only annoys me a little bit, and that we've got ourselves a great relationship. I scan his face for any signs anything besides the smirk he seems to have glued on his face. I'm new here, so I don't exactly know...... maybe these people are warning me for my own safety? "A-are you sure?" I question, glancing over at the abnormally familiar girl for just a brief moment. "She doesn't look harmful...."

"Of course she doesn't!" he exclaimed. "That's how she gets you! She'll invite you with..." there was a relatively long pause, as if he had to force himself to speak the next word. "....her beauty, and then she'll snap. Just like that!" he snapped his fingers for emphasis. He lightly enticed the others to join in, to tell me more 'facts' about the girl and I had no choice but to listen.

"....What is her name, if you don't mind me asking?"

"Yukinoshita Asuka," he told me, more hints of disgust present in his voice. "Oh, and I'm Yukinoshita Katsuro. Refer to me by first name, and 'her' by last. It only seems appropriate. Hey Shinji, tell him about the time she snapped on Takeru," he lowered his voice, as if to display the seriousness of this tale. At the time, I couldn't tell whether this was true or false, so I simply sat back and listened.

"Ah, yes. Shirogone Takeru.... he was just like you, Yoshida-san. A new student, unfamiliar to her devilish attitude, and unable to see past her looks," with a shift of his glasses, I found that his eyes were locked onto me, almost looking through me, and I couldn't help but feel a bit uncomfortable. "Listen closely, Yoshida-san. You are in this young man's exact same position. Heed these words. Yukinoshita was tasked with instructing Shirogone-san how to clean the classroom. He, oblivious to the danger he was in, followed her and when they were alone....." cue dramatic pause. "She forced him to drink the Windex!"

I sat there, looking at him for the longest time. I could swear I saw a tumbleweed blowing in the nonexistent wind in the classroom before speaking. "....This sounds serious," I say in a tone not unlike his when he was telling me the story. I honestly hope that they aren't serious, as that was probably the dumbest thing I've ever heard. If that was true...... what? I can't even..... but I decide to go along with it, if only to keep them from bothering me any further.

"I'm glad you see the seriousness in Yukinoshita's actions. Sure, Windex might not sound all that bad..... but if you drink enough of it, you can die without medical assistance," he informed as he backed away from me just a bit. I wanted to ask him why she was still in class after doing such a thing, but eventually I choose not to do so because it would probably lead to more...... bullshit. I'm not sure what they have against this woman, but I'll leave it up to myself to determine how 'dangerous' she really is.

Everyone quiets down as Yukinoshita begins to rise from her desk and leave. I couldn't tell, but I think she might've laughed. Maybe she heard these tall-tales being spoken about her. Maybe she was laughing because it was true? I honestly doubt that. That would be stupid. She probably is just fed up with this stuff and is retreating away, to escape the voice of her own brother trying to make me fear or hate her. I'm not a bad person, I think, and as such.... I feel I can just 'tell' if people have 'evil' or 'good' inside them when I speak to them. Call it a 'gut feeling'. However, I have yet to talk to the girl, whose apperance is something too familiar to just be a hunch. I... know her, but..... I can't tell from where just yet. Maybe if I actually conversate with her, then I'll find out.

"Did you see that? I think she was trying to threaten us!" Shinji commented as Yukinoshita left the classroom in a small haste. I wasn't surprised when her brother chimed in a comment.

"What a creep,"

I'm still unsure what to feel about all of this negative talk towards such a 'flower'. Flower is a term I use to myself when I address an attractive woman, such as she. Might not be the most popular way to call a woman beautiful, but 'hot' and 'ass-a-licious' are two terms I don't find myself using without feeling....weird. In any case, I'm willing to throw myself in the fire and see firsthand how Asuka truly is before I judge her. Well, before I do that, I ha---

*GRUMBLE*

A moderate pain shoots through my stomach as it growls. Missing breakfast sure does put it in a rather unpleasant mood and it probably decided that since it was lunchtime, it deserved to eat. I guess I finally have an excuse to break away before they start up on more stories about her. My hand shoots down to grab my bag and I rise, nodding. "Well, I'll be sure to look out for her then. Thanks for the warnings," I tell them before moving through a gap in the surrounding students and untactifully out of the classroom.

Now, where to eat?

Should I go outside and feast there?

Nah, that's probably where they will expect me to be, and I would like to enjoy a peaceful lunch.

How about..... the roof? Quiet, and I doubt anyone will expect me to be there, if it's like the one at my old school.

Bingo, now..... where was it again?..... Ah, that's right! Down the hall...... through this metal door..... up these stairs...... and.....

*Schwing*

Okay, doors don't really sound like that when they open, but I'm hungry, so I don't care. When I step through the door, my eyes have to adjust to the change of brightness between outside and inside. (Okay, I'm pretty sure I just kinda slowly walked up the stairway, which had little light in comparison to the other parts of the school). The first thing my eyes rest on after I can actually see is none other than the girl I was just told to avoid. I should've deduced that she would be up here for the same reason I was.... to be alone. I almost feel like I'm treading into a bear's cave, unwelcome, but leaving now is not an option. And, I guess..... I get to speak to her, so I smile warmly and speak.

"Hello there. Such a beautiful day, no?"

I couldn't help but glance down at her hands for a Windex bottle.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yukinoshita Asuka Character Portrait: Hideyeki Yoshida

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(And... Asuka reveals her terminal illness: Chronic Chessmastery Disorder!)

The sudden sound of a door opening splits the formerly peaceful silence, setting my relaxed nerves instantly on edge. I freeze mid motion, a sausage octopus falling uneaten back into my mostly emptied lunch tin as I slowly lower my hand, placing my chopsticks gently into the box and closing it briskly, my eyes rising in that same instant to meet the intruder upon my solitary world with an icy, yet placid gaze, my face left an unreadable mask of vague, undefined hostility. As I rise slowly to my feet, I quickly identify the boy before me as none other than the strange white-haired transfer student, Hideyeki Yoshida. Well, given what nonsense I heard him being told, I don't have any doubts why he's here, but still, perhaps I somehow hoped to avoid a direct confrontation by stifling by overwhelming urge to simply snarl a threat at him and give him the evil eye until he ran screaming in terror. Instead, I simply sized him up for the moment, staring intently with my eyes somewhere between wary and threatening. Considering my reputation, I didn't think he'd be too difficult to cow on his own, although if he went and got reinforcements to deal with me, I could already see how things would turn out. Or perhaps Katsuro and the others were already there, watching us both? Perhaps this was some kind of test of courage, something I didn't doubt them capable of for a second. If that was the case, then things would be much more difficult to handle.

So, let's summarize. I'm trapped on a third story rooftop with the only way down blocked off by a potential enemy, as well as an undefined number of possible reinforcements. My opponent is someone who I have no prior experience with, and whose resolve I cannot accurately gauge. His plans, unknown, his motivations... highly unsavory. His advantages... Surprise, numbers, strength, positioning, and initiative. My advantages... my cool head and determination, and his possible fear. In this situation, I am unable to retreat, and have to merely stand about while he makes the first move. So I'm playing the black pieces, am I? How fitting. But, unlike chess, this isn't a fair game. I'm fighting an opponent whose pieces have already breached my lines. He starts out with two queens, four rooks, eight knights, and twelve bishops, whereas all I have... is this meager pawn. Unlike the king, who can only be taken if completely surrounded, I have no such insurance on my life. But, given time, there's no telling what that mere pawn may achieve!

...

Then that settles it. I can't hope to overcome the enemy with force, so instead... delay. Act through every possible plan, and, if I must, face my defeat by losing the least possible. The more time I can buy for myself, the more chance I have to uncover bits and pieces of my opponent's plan. He has me right where he wants me, with no way out, so... he'll take his time. If I can use that to my advantage, I can predict his next moves, and evade them, even if I don't have the force to counter them.

A sudden smile lights up the boy's face, snapping me out of my reverie. While normally, a triumphant grin - just to let me know I've lost - wouldn't be out of place in a situation like this, this smile is distinctly different. I've seen plenty of people in my lifetime who smirk and posture prior to their assumed victory, but this boy... his face somehow doesn't fit into that mold. Instead... he's smiling. He's really, actually smiling. For a moment, I can feel some of the tension filling the air between us fading. But then, I snap back to myself, and tighten my guard, the old ice returning to my momentarily softened gaze.

So that's his play? Lull me into a false sense of security? Well, I'll admit, he's a good actor, but I won't fall for it. I'm calling your bluff, Hideyeki Yoshida!

"Hello there," He says at last, glancing about him casually as he speaks with a nonchalance that, once again, astounds me. His speech is polite, even gentle, a sound I haven't heard in earnest for a very, very long time. The last time I heard a voice like that was... Ah. That's right. It was a lie then as well, so what use is there in exposing myself and lowering my guard so easily?

"Such a beautiful day, no?" The boy continues, his gaze returning to me. I feel a lopsided, sardonic smirk returning to my momentarily pale, grave face as I notice a slight twitch in his eye. His facade cracked for just a moment as he gazed down at my hands before his eyes shot up to my face again. The split-second error was quickly masked as though it had not occurred, but I noticed it, my gaze long trained to spot such things by countless hours of paranoia and fear. Dealing with such an open book as Katsuro, then with a more veiled, refined intimidator such as Shinji... I'd had plenty of practice at spotting the intent to attack, as well as the fear of retaliation. The latter feeling was clearly shown in the white-haired boy's eyes as he looked at me with apparent calmness. This was proof enough to satisfy my strained nerves, and instinctively, I tensed slightly, setting aside the lunch tin from which I had been eating and spreading my fingers ever-so-slightly, fully prepared to enter a defensive posture at a moment's notice.

Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I couldn't help but note the irony of how paranoid I was being. This tense attitude, my standoffish behavior, the smug, indignant look in my eyes... all of these things must have appeared to him as sure signs of my supposed madness. That's right... I suppose that if not being "normal" like everyone else meant I was mad, then that was the truth. But, on the other hand, I'd been taken by surprise far too many times to relax my guard for a single instant anymore. I wouldn't be anyone's fool, even if it meant that instead I'd have to be my own lunatic.

My half-smirk twisted slightly with this thought, becoming harsher and colder - if that was possible at this point - as I carefully chose my words and spoke, my ice-filled green eyes fixated upon the boy's face as I intensely examined him for the slightest sign of suspicious intent, hoping to at the same time unnerve him and weaken his confidence in his own advantage. He had played his bluff, now it was time for me to use mine.

"I disagree," I replied with a calmness that hid within it a somewhat pointed venom, keeping my placid yet mirthless and hateful smirk as I continued. "Days like today are far too noisy for my liking. At times such as this, nothing in the world could rightfully be called beautiful, least of all this place. In my opinion, it's much better to withdraw from that world and into a less repulsive one. Don't you agree?" I stopped a moment, before continuing with my veiled comments. Hopefully, this dunce would spend enough of his valuable time pondering the meaning of my cryptic statements that I could discern a bit more of his intent. And, if that didn't work, there was always the hope he'd just decide he was being incomprehensibly threatened by a crazy person and would run screaming for his life.

...

Or, perhaps I'm being a mite too optimistic. Nevertheless...

"And yet, as always, it seems I forgot to close the rabbithole behind me, a noisome habit I suppose I should be rid off. A shame," I said sadly, shaking my head with a quiet "Tsk, tsk," as though honestly scolding myself for some minor infraction. At last, I looked up, my emerald gaze firmly resting on Yoshida's face yet again.

"Is there something you want?" I asked pointedly, as though I was really asking "What is your purpose here?" It was a manner of speaking that at once inquired as to his intent and ordered him to leave immediately unless said intent was a matter of life-shaking import. I doubted he'd be driven away solely by my veiled threats, but fear was a thing best cultivated in a slow, calculated manner rather than earned all at once. I would have my peace and quiet soon enough, even if all the odds were against me. Of that, I was sure.

(Yeah... Asuka has some serious issues. Epic level paranoia, imagined Xanatos Gambits, and the like... oh, this is going to be so much fun! =D)

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yukinoshita Asuka Character Portrait: Hideyeki Yoshida

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BGM: Kokoro


Although my smile didn't faulter, I could only sense the hostility coming from the girl before me. There was in fact an awkward moment of silence as she seemed to check me out, and not in the typical way, either. Judging just from her eyes, she was expecting something, anything from me, and I'm unsure what that something would be. Of course, had I realized she honestly thought I was planning something, that I was scouting her out or something, like a wild animal, I probably would've frowned. However, I had not that information, and I just figured that she was like this normally. Then again, that was also true.

"I disagree," she said. My eyebrow raised slightly in response before dropping back down as she explained what she meant.... I think. "Days like today are far too noisy for my liking. At times such as this, nothing in the world could rightfully be called beautiful, least of all this place. In my opinion, it's much better to withdraw from that world and into a less repulsive one. Don't you agree?"

I listen to her, my eyes not moving from hers for even a second as I do so. What was she getting at, exactly? I wondered. I can't help but to think she was referring to reading, or something like that. Some kid in my old class always liked to say that he was 'jumping into a better world' whenever he read a book, though I could be horribly, horribly mistaken in her meaning. Though.... she did seem the type to get lost in a book. I imagine that she's normally quiet unless spoken to, and it's obvious that she tries her best to avoid contact with others when she can.

"And yet, as always, it seems I forgot to close the rabbithole behind me, a noisome habit I suppose I should be rid off. A shame,".

What?

That -to me- made not a single bit of sense. Maybe that was her purpose? To confuse me to the point where I give up on keeping conversation with her and leave. Quite possible if you take into account those eyes of hers. They were anything but inviting. Perhaps even the opposite. But, I would not give up so easily! It takes more than jibberish to get rid of Hideyeki Yoshida!

"Is there something you want?"

As she speaks this, I start towards her, as if not wary of her defensive posture. Step by casual step, I near her, and I reach her, but continue on towards the wall behind her and rest my arms on it as I look down, towards the laughing, gossiping, eating students below, that same warm smile I could probably be famous for still on my face. It should be noted that I don't bother to look back at her and instead keep my gaze cast downwards as I speak. "You know.... you aren't proving your sibling wrong, Yukinoshita-san. If anything, you're tone is only bolstering the image he and those others have set for you," I say, bluntly. "In fact, were I smart, I probably would've turned and ran the moment those eyes of yours met my own. But, I guess I'm not too smart, am I?" I chuckle a bit, hoping to lighten the mood. She seems so tense, so defensive. It's as if she truly believes the world is against her and she's on her own. "Though, if you think I'm so foolish as to believe you're the monster they make you out to be, then I'll frown,".

Still, I don't look at her as I keep my sight locked downwards. If she wanted, she could simply run away and I wouldn't be able to do much about it. Maybe she would? Especially considering the fact she could feasibly take my next bit of speach wrong. "I disagree," I refer to her disagreeing with myself. "Sure, it's a bit noisy, and sometimes the world can be ugly, but there's always something beautiful to look at. You just have to keep an eye open, you know? The sky.... these gorgeous trees.... even yourself can all be defined as beautiful, so I don't think this world is lacking in beauty just yet," a sigh escapes my lips as I continue on, not even sure if this girl is listening to me. Perhaps she ran? I could be talking to myself, for all I know.

I really can't fight off this feeling of familiarity that is radiating from her. Those eyes.... ever since I looked at them, I've been feeling....regret? Like I've forgotten something important. I am pretty forgetful, so it's possible I did, and they are reminding me of whatever it is.

"I lived here quite a while ago, you know. Do you know what I missed most of all? The beauty of this small, forgotten town. The ever-blooming trees that it's known for. The festival celebrating it. Especially the memories I made here, even if they're long since forgotten, I'll still cherish them," suddenly, I begin chuckling, almost insanely had I a higher pitch and volume. It still might've looked wierd, even to someone such as her. "I'll finally answer your question though: I came to eat in peace. Being new in the town you were born and spent a good half of your life in is tiring, especially when the first thing that happens to you is being bombarded with negative gossip about someone,".

It's at this time that I finally turn, away from the kids down below and towards Asuka. But, I don't look at her eyes. I don't look at her hands. I don't look at her body. No, I look at that hair, or more specifically, what was in it. A golden bow that instantly suppresses me with a brief wave of nostalgia and regret. Her comments and tone couldn't wipe the smile off my face, but it seems that this bow did, as well as forcing my eyes to widen.

I finally remembered the one thing I've regretted for the majority of my short life.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yukinoshita Asuka Character Portrait: Hideyeki Yoshida

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I raise an eyebrow as the boy suddenly takes a step forward, not bothering himself to answer my rather pointed question - or, at least, to do so verbally. No, this was his answer, wasn't it? He was showing that he could stand up to my veiled threats after all, as though asking whether he even needed a reason to bother me. He continues to approach, his smile not faltering for an instant as he resolutely closes the distance between us. So he was making his move so soon? He must have realized I was stalling him, and had decided to act immediately in the hopes of breaking my resolve by foiling my initial plan. He'd be within striking distance in five steps, now four, now three, now two, and now...!

At the last second, I swiftly move to the left, repositioning myself so as to continue facing the new boy while staying just out of his reach. If he wants to attack me now, he'll end up telegraphing his movements before they're completed, giving me the chance to anticipate his blow and evade it even if I can't counterattack effectively. I'm rather physically weak, making my options rather limited even if I am fast on my feet. An expert at running away can only do so much.

To my surprise, he doesn't stop walking even as I evade him, instead continuing to the fence on the edge of the rooftop and leaning against it, gazing aimlessly down at the courtyard below. Oh, I get it, now. He was just trying to mess with my head all along, and now that he's got his proof that I expect his attack and seem afraid of it, he'll just adapt his plans accordingly. Even after all that carefully calculated action, I just played into his hands?! How worthless am I?

"You know.... you aren't proving your sibling wrong, Yukinoshita-san." The formerly silent boy suddenly speaks, his voice still casual and quiet, making him almost hard to hear over my internal turmoil as my inner voice reminds me exactly how stupid I really am. I shouldn't have gotten so cocky, assuming I could just chase this fool away if I wanted to. "If anything, your tone is only bolstering the image he and those others have set for you. In fact, were I smart, I probably would've turned and ran the moment those eyes of yours met my own. But, I guess I'm not too smart, am I?" He chuckled slightly, as though he thought his little remark was witty somehow. Oh, I'm sorry, did you think I even cared enough to try to defend myself anymore? Or did you think I was too stupid to realize what I was doing? Now he's just mocking me.

"Though, if you think I'm so foolish as to believe you're the monster they make you out to be, then I'll frown," He added somewhat stupidly. Did he honestly believe he could just set my mind at ease by claiming not to believe my idiotic brother's words about me? Did he assume I had any concern for what he thought regardless? The answer didn't matter. If he was serious, then I was already tired of dealing with naive fools who would lead me to my death out of an idiotic sense of "fairness" or "justice." If he wasn't, then I was in no mood to be toyed with.

"I disagree, Sure, it's a bit noisy, and sometimes the world can be ugly, but there's always something beautiful to look at. You just have to keep an eye open, you know? The sky.... these gorgeous trees.... even yourself can all be defined as beautiful, so I don't think this world is lacking in beauty just yet," He continued, evidently trying to take the hopelessly optimistic point of view in contrast with my own blunt realism. For a moment, my eyes widen slightly in surprise as he drops what seems to be, for lack of a better explanation, a veiled pick-up line. I'm not sure if this guy really thinks he's some kind of white knight in shining armor who can solve everyone's problems and convert everyone to the side of blind moral naivete or if he's just some kind of genius at causing people to lose their composure, but either way, I could feel my face flushing slightly with combined annoyance and slight embarrassment at being so suddenly spoken of in such a way. No, damnit, that's just what he wants! If he gets you all hot and bothered, he'll be able to overwhelm you easily. Not to mention the asshole seems to be enjoying it, judging by that condescendingly angelic smirk he won't stop giving.

"I lived here quite a while ago, you know. Do you know what I missed most of all? The beauty of this small, forgotten town. The ever-blooming trees that it's known for. The festival celebrating it. Especially the memories I made here, even if they're long since forgotten, I'll still cherish them." Another stupid laugh. Okay, that settles it. He's just some idiotic Prince Charming wannabe who happens to be uncannily good at screwing with my mind. "I'll finally answer your question, though." Good. Please do. "I came to eat in peace. Being new in the town you were born and spent a good half of your life in is tiring, especially when the first thing that happens to you is being bombarded with negative gossip about someone."

Okay... I have to wonder... What was even the point of that? It's like when the villain in a movie goes on a massive rant about his motivations and evil plans for no explicable reason, or, perhaps more fittingly, like when the Hero won't stop preaching about his stupid ideals, and instead goes on and on ranting about his beliefs for no explicable reason. I mean, sure that's great and all... I envy you your ability to hope so carelessly when by all rights you should have long since been given a lesson in caution, and I suppose it's nice that you actually like it here - I certainly don't - but why did I need to know that? Why didn't you just say "I came here because the idiots downstairs were getting on my nerves?" Was I supposed to care about your life story, or were you just trying to screw with my head again?

I decided I'd best speak up, since he seemed to just be staring at me stupidly, and the silence was getting rather awkward, as though he was just waiting for me to throw away the knowledge I'd learned through painful experience and accept his own moronic view of the world. Either that, or as though he had forgotten where he was. Anyway, I might as well let him know exactly what I think of all his mockery and similar trash.

"Better frown then, although I'm beginning to doubt your face is physiologically incapable of it. Do you give the Mr. Sunshine routine to everyone you meet, or are you just giving me special concessions because you think I'll be desperate enough to buy it?" I said acidly, placing one hand nonchalantly on my hip while leaning casually against the fence with the other, shaking my head and giving another heartless laugh before continuing. "While I honestly doubt anyone seriously believes in those tales, that image is the 'truth' that is supported by the entire student body of this school, give or take a few insignificant exceptions. Whether this is out of malice or convenience, I don't really care. Either way, what's the point of trying to disprove something everyone already accepts as fact? It just makes you look like an idiot, and shows your enemies they've got something that works against you." I gave my trademark half-sneer, pushing home how rudimentary this basic rule of Human interaction was, speaking with an underlying condescension in my voice to match the venom on the surface.

"Me, I don't really care what people think and don't think. This is actually pretty convenient for me, actually. Everybody says I'm a psychotic bitch and a loner, so fine. Here I am. What's your point?" I spread my arms for dramatic emphasis, stepping away from the railing as I continued. "And, anyway, who cares what the world looks like literally? I was speaking metaphorically, in case you were too mesmerized by a few too many dying trees to notice." That was a lie. Actually, I rather liked the sakura blossoms myself, even if they symbolized an unattainable ideal. Still, I was trying to oppose him, and oppose him vehemently, not to mention make a fool out of him so he might go and leave me alone.

"Augh," I sighed disgustedly, shaking my head with mild annoyance. "This is why I don't talk to people. If you can't listen to what someone has to say, then what's the point of expressing your own opinion? Language only works if it's mutually understood, or did you not realize that? Or maybe you just don't understand a metaphor? Fine. I'll simplify it for you. I don't like your 'beautiful world' because it's full of idiots who make a game out of getting on my nerves every waking hour of my life, so I like my privacy, which you currently happen to be intruding upon. There. Did I get my point through your thick head that time?" Giving another exasperated sigh, I snatched up my lunchbox and wordlessly headed for the stairs, shaking my head rather condescendingly the whole way. However, at the last moment, I turned aside, and instead of walking through the door to the stairwell, I moved around the side of the small entrance and instead climbed up a small ladder on its side, quickly scaling it and seating myself securely out of the reach of my newest nuisance.

"Well, I do agree with you on one count. I'd like to eat in peace, so pipe down and mind your own business, would you? If you want someone to preach to, perhaps you should go share your little theory with my buffoon of a blood relative and see what it gets you. Perhaps a bit of a beating from that brute and his goons might teach you to look at a little bit more than just pretty things that catch your eye," I concluded, sitting properly - sure, the seiza position was completely unnesecary and actually rather painful, although I didn't show it, but it allowed me to look elegantly down upon him in a manner I was 100% sure that the boy would feel uncomfortable with, so it was a worthwhile tradeoff - atop my new perch and opening my lunchbox once more. I withdrew my chopsticks in an altogether over-the-top manner, giving them a slight flourish as I dextrously slipped them between my fingers, and brushed back my long, midnight-black hair as though dusting it of the filth left it by proximity to such a worthless cur as he who stood looking rather perplexed beneath me.

Rule number 1 of making people leave you alone: be an insufferable asshole. Nothing personal, but- Well, wait, actually. It was personal. You ruin my carefully laid plans to avoid Human interaction throughout the entire afternoon, and I ruin your seemingly implacable good mood so you don't go and do it again. Hate me if you want, but in the long run, that only accomplishes my goals regardless!

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yukinoshita Asuka Character Portrait: Hideyeki Yoshida

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"This is why I don't talk to people. If you can't listen to what someone has to say, then what's the point of expressing your own opinion? Language only works if it's mutually understood, or did you not realize that? Or maybe you just don't understand a metaphor? Fine. I'll simplify it for you. I don't like your 'beautiful world' because it's full of idiots make a game out of getting on my nerves every waking hour of my life, so I like my privacy, which you currently happen to be intruding upon. There. Did I get my point through your thick head that time?"

I was bombarded by a serious of insults and ice-cold tone that -to me- had to have been rehearsed. I guess I might've come off as some dude trying to pick her up, really, but that was not my intent. I sometimes forget that in this world we live in, any and every compliment might has to be because I want nothing more than to get into a girl's pants, or the sort. Stereotypes are a killer here, aren't they? Well, even still, it's not like I don't deserve to be insulted, because I realize that I have to be the cause for this. I now know who this girl is, if only because of that bow....and it's clear to me that she doesn't remember a single thing about me. Probably for the best, and I'm not sure if I'll mention that I've seen her; it would probably only make things worse. She doesn't want to see me, or the boy she had become acquiented to a night years ago.

It seems that I've grown quiet, and by the time I look towards her, she had disappeared and reappeared above me. She could've simply walked downstairs and disappeared. I wonder why she didn't. Though I guess that doesn't matter, does it? I didn't really here much of what she said after, something about eating in peace, just as I came here to do. This is...bad, not good in the slightest. She's so hostile, so distant, and I can only assume it's all because of me! I can't even work up the courage to tell her who I am for fear it'll only piss her off more! At least right now, she's just mad at me for disturbing her peace and not genuinely mad at me for.....

For the first time in a long time, I put a bit of effort into smiling, but I pull it off flawlessly. In truth, it wasn't what she said that made me feel down, it was the fact that I deserved such horrific displays of ice towards me. It's really hard for any words to hurt me, this much I know, but although they didn't actually cause pain, I fear that if she was truly mad at me, she might be able to do something about that. I must be a bit pathetic, right? But.... I have to do something about this. Had I not realized who she was, I would listen to her advice and stay away from her, but now I can't. I caused this and I've got to fix this.

I can't be quiet anymore. No! I won't be! You can't be helpful by not doing anything! You can't make up for your mistakes by just saying, "I'm sorry!"

......Did I just.....say that aloud?

"...."

What do I...how do I respond? Now she probably thinks I'm scared of her or something, that she's succeeded in her obvious goal to rid herself of my presence. I can't have her thinking I'm just some scared kid, who, because of some foolish notion of pride or other, won't run away even if he's pissing himself. In the end, though, isn't that what I am? Just some kid who can't bring himself to say "Hey, I'm the kid that gave you a bit of hope for this world, and then disappeared the next day!". Nonononono! I won't be that guy after all. Didn't father teach me better? Alright, then I'll take responsibility for everything, as anyone should.

"I just remembered you, Yukinoshita-san.....from way back then. I made a promise I couldn't keep, didn't I?" I say slowly as I sit down, retrieving my lunch from my bag as I do so. I rest my back against the wall, taking a deep breath in before speaking, keeping my smile, though it probably didn't make sense to. But, without it, I'd lose, and I can't! "I guess back then, as a child, I sorta acted like some 'White Knight in shining armor or something....." where the hell am I going with this? I know I might've been spouting out random crap earlier, but I seem to only be noticing it now. Finally, I feel my mouth stop curving upwards, and fall downwards into that frown I didn't want. I lost?....

I lost. I think we're done here and I didn't even touch my PB & J. As I quickly stand back up, I half-expect her to laugh at me and tell me how worthless and horrible I am for bringing her hopes back up, only to crash them the next day. Maybe she was? I, in my state of self-pity, was probably just subconciously ignoring another string of insults and maybe even more vulagirities as I hastily do exactly what she wants me to do:

I leave.

(Did you expect anything less? He does feel pretty bad..... Eh, if you don't like the thought of him leaving, either tell me or stop him if you don't think that'd be out of her character. And YES he's not sure if he wants to be brave or not c:)

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yukinoshita Asuka Character Portrait: Hideyeki Yoshida

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(With all of the "White Knighting" references, I just couldn't help myself. =P)

"I can't be quiet anymore. No! I won't be! You can't be helpful by not doing anything! You can't make up for your mistakes by just saying, 'I'm sorry!'"

The boy beneath me mutters something I can barely hear, likely directed at himself rather than towards me. I'm not sure I understood what he said correctly, but even if I did, it still doesn't make any sense. Despite the fact that he's talking frantically now, as though terrified of something, I can't see any fear in his eyes, a fact which confuses me. He's still got that annoying smile on his face, making whatever emotions he's feeling - and, by extent, whatever it is he's talking about - completely unreadable. I've met a great many people in my short life, plenty of them very strange, but none of them can yet compare to this bizarre boy. When he talks, he seems to either do so in a rambling, unnecessary manner, or in a way that only makes sense to himself and not to others. I, who most people call crazy, can't see any rhyme or reason in this boy's unusual actions. He approaches me for seemingly no purpose whatsoever, messes with my head a bit, does the exact opposite of what he says he wants to, and now that I'm shunning him he starts acting like he's losing his mind.

At last, he seems to calm down, and seats himself, beginning to fish about in his bag, presumably for his lunch box. But just as I assume he's relaxed or gotten over whatever was wrong with him before, he says something even weirder.

"I just remembered you, Yukinoshita-san..." He says quietly. His voice almost doesn't reach me, nearly drowned by the almost nonexistent sound of the quiet breeze. Despite this, however, I can still hear him, and this time, there can be no mistaking what he's saying, or who it's directed to. His meaning, on the other hand, is another story entirely. What does he mean, he remembers me? I think I'd recall if I'd once met a white-haired, noisome idiot who alternatively spouts idealistic garbage and absolute nonsense. Maybe he means he recalls me being bullied by Katsuro all the time? What, is he trying to blackmail me? Then what was that about apologizing? Maybe he bothered me at some point back then, too? I don't get it. As he begins to continue, I grow tired of trying to guess all of the possible meanings of his cryptic comments, so I speak up finally, not even bothering to mask to irritation in my voice as I cut his timid speech off with my own forceful words.

"What are you talking about?" I ask pointedly, gazing irritably down upon the new transfer student. "If you're going to say something, then you can at least make sense. Otherwise, talking is just a waste of breath. I think we covered this already, idiot. Are you trying to be a nuisance, or is it just some natural talent of yours?"

He shuts up immediately. Evidently, what he wanted to say wasn't all that important, since I seem to have cowed him into silence. I can't help but feel a little proud of myself at that feat. This boy has almost never stopped talking since he showed up, and has been doing his best to screw with my mind with each and every word he utters. The fact that I've managed to shut him up - not to mention that I've wiped that cheeky smile off his face completely - somehow feels like an achievement to me. But then, why? Why is it that, as I look into his suddenly crestfallen, serious eyes, I feel almost guilty? Or maybe it's... worry? A sort of foreboding sense fills me to the core, and despite my satisfaction at his dismay, I can't help but shake the feeling that I'm not understanding something important. He said he remembered me... but from where? How is that significant, and what does it mean?

After a few minutes of awkward silence, he gloomily repacks his lunch, gets up, and heads for the stairs. As I hear the door shutting beneath me, his footsteps echoing off the stairs below ringing upward to my ears even after he has departed, I give a mirthless smirk and kick back, lying down on the rooftop as I finish the last of my meal.

"Tch," I mutter. "What's with that guy?" The question doesn't really serve much of a purpose, since it doesn't seem likely to be answered any time soon, but it helps to distract me from the confusion I can't but feel after that bizarre encounter.

Fortunately, after a few minutes of staring upward in silence, the lunch bell rings, snapping me back to reality. That transfer-boy will probably have moved on my now, and the other students will be joining him out in the gym at this very moment. That leaves the path to the library clear, since the club hallway won't be frequented by anyone at this point, as it's in the very back of the school, and close to the stairs, whereas the main doors and the gym building are in the complete opposite direction. Reasoning it safe to depart, I gingerly hop down from my perch, and, after giving a few glances to the courtyard to make sure people have already started moving, I depart down the stairs, headed for my old sanctuary amongst the books. But, even as I make my way into that familiar place, try as I might, I can't shake the feeling of uneasiness left in my heart...

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yukinoshita Asuka Character Portrait: Hideyeki Yoshida

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So, I believe I managed to do three things nearly perfect:

One; Babble to some girl about my past and not get my point across. It was clear that she didn't realize my meaning behind mentioning literal beauty instead of figurative beauty, but that's fine.

Two; Fuck with her mind to the point where she might believe I'm somebody who needs to be in an asylum. Maybe I should be, who knows? Something about the first day of school just seems to make things sound much better in my head than they actually do sound.

Three; The top two on accident PLUS I manage to find out that she's the very same girl that I met the night before I moved, and I am the reason she is.... anti-social. I am the reason she hates this world. I am the reason that I 'lost'.

Even still, my feet drag me to where I need to go, and my head seems to be attracted to the ground, as if I did something wrong, which I do firmly believe I did. Though, as I begin to pity myself, a bell snaps me to attention, and a nearby teacher announces that I should get my ass to the gym. I am absorbed into the lively crowd as they move as one single entity to the gymnasium. The back of my shoe is stepped on countless times during the journey, and I resist the urge to feel sad that I have nobody to speak to yet. I don't feel like Asuka's brother or his gang in general would make new friends, so I would hope to avoid any contact with them. After all, if anyone's a 'monster', I'm the closest to fit that description. Or, at least I should be the mad scientist that created the monster.

As I make my way through the doors to the room in which I'm supposed to be, I remember that I am to later meet up with Asuka again, and I can't help but have a feeling that it's going to be a pretty awkward time. I can't predict her actions, having not really known her for more than a few, hostile minutes, but I hope that she'll not give any fucks and simply peg me as weird without bringing up my rambling. I think that because I nearly treat everyone as a friend, I come off as weird, because who else would give two fucks about what I mentioned to her earlier- about my past? I mean, I have no doubt that if I didn't move, she'd have been a lot better off, and that we'd be friends, but that's not what happened. I left her and she'll hate me. It's just how it is.

All because I wanted to be selfish.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yukinoshita Asuka Character Portrait: Hideyeki Yoshida

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The library was, quite simply, a mess, yet it was an orderly one, both caused and maintained in a methodical manner. Books lay alternatively ordered upon their shelves and in rather disheveled heaps across the floor, which, although they had clearly been organized in some manner, it was clearly one that only the library's keeper understood. Potted plants decorated several shelves, or alternatively sat idly on the floor, perhaps as evidence of a beautification project that had been abandoned halfway through, although the plants were quite obviously watered daily. Ladders were stacked against those shelves too high to be reached, but other seemingly random bits of furniture were strewn throughout the room. Light streamed down from countless hanging lamps and through the giant bay windows that towered over the room from where they were situated in both side walls, giving the meager collection a seeming majesty that, perhaps, it did not deserve.

Opening and closing the door silently, Asuka entered the room, clicking the lock as she turned to slip between two mammoth heaps of books, passing right by the computer desk at the center of the room and purposefully striding instead over to a very comfortable looking wooden armchair situated in the room's far corner, its soft red cushions looking rather out of place in the predominately green filled environment of the various plants that surrounded it. As she passed, Asuka quickly grabbed several books from the shelves, placing them at the foot of the chair before she turned toward a small table nearby, upon which there was a small microwave, a box holding disposable cups, and a small tube of cocoa mix. Snatching up a cup with a practiced hand, Asuka filled it with bottled milk from a nearby mini-fridge, then, after filling it with a somewhat excessive amount of cocoa, quickly placed it in the microwave to heat.

She gave a wry smile as she waited for her favorite drink to finish, pacing impatiently about. It was rather cold, even indoors, thanks to the somewhat chilly weather outside and the library's predominately marble construction, causing it to retain very little warmth at times like this. There was a reason, she supposed, that the student council had removed the funds from the library club's budget. Even if she had purchased quite a few new books with them, she had also ordered a water dispenser and several random plants, as well as paying students to move in random unused items from the school's storage and her own personal belongings, including the fridge, most of the furniture, and the microwave. Now, however, all of these things were being maintained by her own funding, which wasn't much. Hence, the cocoa supply was one of the rare things she was able to keep up.

The timer on the microwave gave a quiet beep, and she quickly removed her now-warm beverage, taking a sip as she seated herself in the chair, pulling a small blanket that had been draped over one of the armrests up to cover herself. Together, the hot cocoa and the covering did wonders towards restoring her warmth, so she cast this matter aside and moved onto the next.

Although the break hadn't been long, it was important to start studying for the new term, just to make sure she didn't forget anything important. It would be a pain to have to look things up later if she put refreshing her knowledge off, so it was best to spend her time wisely in preparation right now. Reasoning thus, Asuka began to sort through some of the several books she had brought with her. They were various supplementary textbooks and the like, mostly collected by previous students in the reading club so as to get some extra information for reports and the like. Still, they'd serve her purposes just as well.

Even so... although she had opened the first book and begun to read, she couldn't bring herself to fully focus on the passage before her eyes. That strange feeling of uneasiness flooded back to her in full, not at all driven away by her change in activity and environment. Those words... she couldn't help but wonder what they meant.

"I just remembered you, Yukinoshita-san."

She was looking forward to the cleaning job that evening with some trepidation.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yukinoshita Asuka Character Portrait: Hideyeki Yoshida

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Standing. Apparently that's the new 'thing' in town because we're all standing. We don't venture over to the bleachers tucked into the very sides of the gym, nor do we make proper use of the ground we are standing on and sit. Nope. We simply stand. Stand like we've never stand before. Stand like it means something. Of course, it doesn't as far as I'm concerned. Maybe there is some form of standing competition right now that I'm unaware of? No... there would be a lot more thrilling action, like people starting on one leg or something. I look left and right to check before I deny that anyone is doing that.

I assume that they are still herding the rest of us into her before they want to start this 'tour' or whatever it was, because there are still students pouring into this place. By pouring I mean one or two students who weren't in the big group walking in every now and then. Because of this, I can't really tell when we'll be ready. All I know is that somebody is either really excited to get things started or trying to annoy me by bumping into my shoulder every three seconds. In honesty, I can't actually tell which it is. I can only stand here and endure the random collision between his shoulder and my own and hope that he gets bored enough to calm down and stop.

It's only a few minutes later that I begin to hear someone trying to hush the crowd, the majority of which was composed of friends reminscing about something they had done this week and stuff that normal people talk about with their companions. I find myself not having anyone to speak with, but that might not be such a bad thing; I'm glad the 'heat' died down because I really cant just answer a bunch of random questions about America. Well, at least I don't want to. I'd much rather talk about someone else than myself because I don't think I'm even that interesting. It's just me, Hideyeki Yoshida, the nice but uninteresting kid. I don't think anybody has ever really been enthralled about a tale of one of my past doings. Nor would I want someone. That word sounds too old for me, personally.

Even as the students are being hushed, most continue on talking as if they don't care one bit about anything else than social interaction. I'd have figured everyone got enough and would want to see the building they would be going to in order to earn their education. Well, talking about a close game of baseball is always more fun than learning where your school library is, at least for most. Actually, I hope to pass by the library and see if that have anything I can borrow of personal worth. I've ran out of books I haven't already read. Though I can't say that is that much - I only really read after a day of long exercise or when I'm really, really bored. But, it is better than nothing.

It feels weird. I mean, I don't want Asuka to remember who I am but because hearing about me might only make her hate me more, but I hate not telling her. I'm lying, truthfully. Not telling her that I'm the kid who basically ruined her chance at seeing beauty in the world is just as bad as telling her that I'm not him. So, I'm a liar now. That's not chivalrous last time I checked. Yet... I feel scared, terrified of the look she might give me. I can't stand it when a lady hates me, and right now I'm sure she just thinks I'm weird and it doesn't feel bad because she's apparently hostile towards everyone, not just myself. But if I tell her who I am.....

....She won't treat me like everyone else. And that might not be a good thing.

((Sorry for using the same track twice, but the mood doesn't change. c:))

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yukinoshita Asuka Character Portrait: Hideyeki Yoshida

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The two grinned proudly as their charge stated his approval, Shinji especially so. Since the Student Council had a say in club budgets, he probably felt some level of personal credit - deserved or not - for how the school currently was. "I'm glad you think so," the bespectacled boy said proudly, adjusting his glasses as he seemed to do almost constantly. "In any case, I would say that the real tour is only just beginning. As you might guess, the school's inside is rather more complex than its outside."

"Yeah. Don't worry, though. We'll show you through everything," Katsuro picked up, gesturing Yoshida to follow him as he strode towards a small door in the back of the main building. "Just follow me." Shinji headed in as well, holding the door and motioning for the one they guided to follow them into the large, first-floor hallway of the roughly rectangular building. For the most part, this was where the classrooms themselves were, with clubhouses, teachers' offices, and class facilities like chemistry labs and such on the floor above.

"As you probably noticed, the first floor is where we'll be attending classes, lined up along this hallway. From here, you can also get to the lobby, the second floor - and, by extension, the rooftop, although, of course, you already know how to get there - and the gym, through doors in the front and sides, while this back door, obviously, leads to the sports fields," Shinji directed, gesturing around while he and Katsuro led the way towards the stairwell Yoshida had already used just a short while before. Opening this door, they made their way upward, continuing their tour.

"The lab for science classes is there, on the left side, while clubrooms are on the right. Further down on the left are teacher's offices, and the... library," Shinji said, pointing out and opening each door in turn as they passed it, pointing out the contents before moving on. He stopped at this last door as he finished speaking, turning the knob slightly before it abruptly stopped with an audible clack, the lock refusing the would-be intruders entrance.

"As I thought..." Shinji sighed, stepping back as the sound of a book closing and a chair sliding back into place sounded out from beyond the door. "Well, it seems our part of the tour concludes sooner than I'd have liked..." Even as he said this, there was a rustling from beyond the door, and the lock clicked, the portal opening with a creak and revealing the one who stood behind it...

......

I size up those standing outside, and grimace slightly in irritation. I had at least expected to finish my small stack of reading material before I was harassed by the banes of my existence, but it seems I overestimated how long the windbags downstairs would ramble for. Either that, or the two fools hadn't wasted any time in turning their newest victim over to me. Geez. If they were going to offer an explanation of how the school worked, the least they could do was actually walk the new student through everything instead of leaving me to do anything that couldn't be adequately summarized by a self-centered monologue.

"What do you want?" I ask, deadpan, although deep down, I already know the answer. Brushing my dark fringe out of my eyes, I quickly find myself face to face with none other than who I had expected - that new student, whatever his name was. "I'm busy, so if you're going to force more tasks on me, the least you can do is make things quick so I can go on with my day."

"That's a fine way you have of greeting a sibling." The idiot gave a sneer as he spoke, as though he actually expected this comment meant something to me.

"Oh. I'm sorry, would you prefer it if I groveled?" I reply, matching his sarcastic tone and his stupid grin with my own confident words and a sardonic half-smirk. "'Oh, welcome, my great and wonderful master! How might I ease your life today? You'd like me to complete the tour you volunteered to give but just don't have time to? Oh, certainly, I would be overjoyed to be of assistance!'" The performance I gave could probably have landed me a key role in any production of the drama club, were it not dripping with enough sarcasm to be along tangible. Using the most absurd of respectful tones, I probably gesticulated and hammed it up more than the average protagonist in a magical girl anime, while at the same time letting it be known that I saw right through him.

"Let me guess," I continue, not giving him a chance to get a word in edgewise. "You want me to go show him around all the various clubs, including my own, then go take him off to clean the classrooms? You're lucky I expected you to slack off like this from the moment you asked me to do even half of that this morning, or I'd be laughing in your face right now."

"Well," Shinji replied, sounding rather indignant at being accused of impoliteness. It did tarnish his image, so that was to be expected. "Would you prefer if we just barged in and showed him around your precious little 'club' ourselves?" He put particular emphasis on that word, although I didn't really see the point of the insult, if it was supposed to be one. Still, he raised a valid point. It would be far more trouble than it was worth to let them run amok in my library, and Katsuro would raise hell for me at home if I refused to comply, while Shinji still had enough power here to make things problematic for me. While even this wouldn't have dissuaded me for an instant normally, there was also something far more pressing on my mind. The boy's strange words from before... I didn't know nor particularly care what he had meant by them, and I had the feeling I wouldn't ever find out, but still, I was curious. It would be far more practical to simply concede on this point, cut my losses, and move on, and it might allow me to discern what exactly this boy knew about me. If he had some means of blackmailing me, for example, I wanted to know about it.

So, my mind made up, I simply smile, and, stepping out of the door, rather forcefully, if not outright violently grab the new student's wrist, and, without ceasing to smile cheerfully for a single instant, draw back into my shelter, dragging him with me.

"Good point," I say smilingly. "In that case, get out." And, with this, I slam the door, locking it and sealing the unwanted idiots outside before turning back to my now quite likely bewildered charge. In an instant, I release him and step back, moving quickly between two stacks and keeping my eye on him as I enter the open space at the center of the room.

"Tch. What a pain," I mutter to nobody in particular before turning to address the boy directly. "Well, welcome to the Literature Club. Or, should I say, the library, since the only thing resembling any sort of 'club' is me. If you don't have any questions, then let's move on and get this farce over with quickly, shall we? I'd rather not deal with the nuisance of being a tour guide any longer than I have to, and I get the feeling you'd rather be gone as well, so I guess we agree on something."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yukinoshita Asuka Character Portrait: Hideyeki Yoshida

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At one point, I could've sworn this tour was a little enjoyable, albeit a tad bit on the boring side. Aside from the asthetic beauty of the school, I could care less where all the clubs were, for I never really cared to join clubs in the first place. I feel that being tied to a club makes your schedule a lot less flexible, and considering the fact that I do stuff nearly at random, flexibility is something I can't afford to lose. Video Games don't play themselves, you know.

At that exact moment, I wasn't sure why, but I disliked that sound of the word 'library'. It was weird, considering that I, on occasion, am known to delve into a story and be lost for hours on end. I couldn't claim to be an avid reader, but to say I never read a book in my life would be an outright lie. As the sound of a failed attempt at opening the door comes from the locked handle, I glance down, a bit confused. Though, by his expression, Shinji seemed to know exactly why this was, and soon the area behind the door came to life with the sliding of a chair and the click of a lock.

Well, shit.

Behind the door stood none other than Asuka, who wore a less-than-welcoming expression on her. It reminded me of those stories I was told, and for an instant, I wouldn't have a hard time believing them - hearing both her and the boys bicker on at each other only made her sound more intimidating, though it also seemed like this was routine. It sounded like a lot of things, really, and it definetly sounded like something I wasn't going to involve myself in, lest I be killed on the spot, and so I glance around the area behind Asuka with an observant eye.

I'm still hearing every bit of venom they are spewing at each other, but for some, strange and confusing reason, this plant just seems so damn interesting! All those leaves and greenness! I can't believe my--

Woah!...almost comes out of my lips as I'm pulled into the room rather violently and without warning. I was listening, and she hadn't agreed until AFTER she tore my arm out of my socket, so it did manage to startle me. But what startles me more is that now I'm in her domain without backup. Sure, that may have been the situation on the roof, but the library just seems like.... hers. Considering she doesn't let anyone in without convincing, she might actually just call it 'her' library. But instead, it is dubbed a 'club' which doesn't seem likely, even if she's full of fun and butteflies.

I'm unsure if she is, but it appears as though she's afraid of me, taking no time to move swiftly away from myself and behind some books. I'd give her points for being so quick, but praising a tiger for being able to chase you down quickly isn't something normal people do. Then again, she isn't normal. Then then again, it's my fault, isn't it?

I shake away those foolish thoughts that try to creep back into my mind and into my mood. I won't be so meladramatic about something like that.... there's no point. I simply give her a neutral glance that morphs into my silly smile she probably dispises, and I answer, glancing around at the library and inhaling its beauty through my eyes. Aside from the trees, this place looks a lot better, in my opinion, than any other place on the school. Maybe it just looks more old, and that's my taste. "You sound like you believe I just want to run off and join the others." I say as if I didn't a few minutes before. They had to be getting to me, because I remember I didn't before. I won't let others influence how I treat someone, especially if it would be negatively towards Asuka. "I'd much rather enjoy the tour, personally, but if it bugs you, you may continue at whatever pace you wish. And I have no questions as of right now."

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Character Portrait: Yukinoshita Asuka Character Portrait: Hideyeki Yoshida

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BGM: Stride

For a while, the new kid simply stands there, glancing about himself in surprised silence. Well, I admit my method of bringing him into the room was a bit rough, but still, getting away from Shinji and Katsuro was important. While I am caving to their unspoken demands, I don't have to be polite about it, and besides, it was best to leave quickly before they decided to push their luck - read: push more tasks onto me. Commander Clueless here was too busy spacing out, anyway, and it'll do me good to keep him on his toes, anyway. I don't want him thinking he can push me around, if cultivating that impression is even at all possible.

When he finally does talk, it's with that annoying grin of his. I don't know where he's coming from, to be able to smile like that constantly, but at this point, I get the feeling he's just trying to irritate me. His words don't help any, since when he speaks, it's with a level of politeness and courtesy that just has to be forced, yet comes off as being flawlessly sincere.

"You sound like you believe I just want to run off and join the others. I'd much rather enjoy the tour, personally, but if it bugs you, you may continue at whatever pace you wish. Oh, and, I have no questions as of right now."

"Well, you don't look particularly comfortable here, anyway," I reply as innocently as I can, although my half-smirk betrays my real meaning. The rather accusing tone I used didn't help much, either. "Fine, then. If you're so eager for a tour, then I guess you should be happy. While I'd like to 'continue at whatever pace I wish,' I don't really have much choice in the matter, anyway. My dear brother and his associates will probably start getting troublesome if I skim over anything, and, as they're currently probably still waiting in the corridor, I suppose I'll just have to tolerate this for now." Turning about with a wry chuckle, I quickly find my way back to my seat and place myself casually in it, keeping an eye on my unwanted guest while I do.

"So, yeah. This is the library. Forgive me if I'm not the most entertaining guide ever, but I don't think there's much more to say on that count. Time to pretend I'm doing something productive for the next few minutes until I can finally get things moving again. Isn't this fun?" I snark again, making it pretty clear what I think of things while also helping me get a measure for exactly how far this kid's act goes. If he's going to keep up that annoying gentleman impression, I'm at least going to make it hard on him.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yukinoshita Asuka Character Portrait: Hideyeki Yoshida

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It would seem like Asuka won't be dropping that tone of hers anytime soon, as even such as casual statement leaks sarcasm in it, and that was just her first sentence! She is apparently trying to express both her displeasure for her task, her dislike for me, and her hate for her brother and his friends all in only a couple of sentences by the way she makes everything seem so.... poisoned. It would take an idiot not to see the blantant hate that both ooze when in the presence of one another, and I'm going to go out on a limb here and believe it is genuine mostly. Not like other sibling rivalries where they seem to hate each other but then jump down someone's throat if they insult their brother/sister. They might laugh. Again, I feel this way with less than a whole day knowing either of them, so either it is true, or very wrong. I'll probably be completely sure at the end of the week at this rate.

I'll admit that I wasn't expecting her to do much during the tour, but I had hoped that maybe she'd show me a few of her favorite books or something because I can't think of anything else she does but read considering her attitude towards social interaction. Well, maybe she just hates my hair because it reminds her of my younger self, and she's actually a social--.... I probably shouldn't kid myself like that. It isn't mean accepting the truth; she probably has no friends aside from those books she probably immerses herself in. Her view of this world makes that theory quite feasible - what better way to look away from the ugly of one world than by staring at the beauty of another? Video Games interest me more than books, I'll admit, but I'm not her, and games are much harder to come by in a school anyways.

I hope that maybe we share the same genre interest, for at least she wouldn't be able to use her tongue against that. It wouldn't break me for her to point out all the stuff that she doesn't like about a certain category, but it would be nice to have, at the very least, one thing in common with her. Odds would be in my favor, for I like all different kinds of books. Action, Fantasy, Drama, Romance, Suspense.... They all interest me, but with my luck, she'd only like the few I don't.... I doubt she'd like autobiographies, because she wouldn't even be jumping out of this world when she read. I might as well take a gamble and throw out one of my more favorite kinds, and hope I at least don't somehow piss her off by saying that. Hopefully.

"Well..." I began, moving my glance around the entirety of the library. "I don't mind any of that, but I hope you can at least point me to some decent fantasy books? That's only if you know of any, of course. If not I'll simply scout for myself and not bother you."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yukinoshita Asuka Character Portrait: Hideyeki Yoshida

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"How accommodating of you. You don't have to bother trying to be so polite all the time, you know. If you feel like you've gotten short shrift here, might as well just come out and say it. I don't really care all that much about your good opinion, anyway, so there's no need to make a doormat of yourself for my sake. I'm not buying what you're selling, regardless." I say rather pointedly, casually swirling the last remnants of my once-hot cocoa as I trace the white-haired boy's movements across the room. At this point, I don't really expect him to bluntly and truthfully state his honest opinion without being disgustingly obsequious or obliging about it, but I decide to press him on it anyway. Might as well see how much it takes to make him lose his composure, just for future reference. So far, so good, since he's stopped calling me "Yukinoshita-san" and has settled on the more blunt address of "you." (Anata.) Not exactly polite or formal, but still much moreso than my chosen derogatory yet similar pronoun. (Omae.)

Similarly, I'm not all that worried at this point about him taking any sudden actions. If he's this determined to keep the whole "nice guy" persona up - even in a locked room, one-to-one with someone who's probably already started to infuriate him, I might add - then I highly doubt he'll suddenly take a 180 in demeanor and start acting all threatening. Still, I decide to keep a steady watch on him, just in case. It's mostly out of habit, and serves the added purpose of making sure he doesn't mess up anything in my library. I don't need a bull in my china closet, thank you very much.

Just then, my thoughts are disrupted by another question. While normally I'd be pretty irritated that he still insists on bothering me when I want nothing more than to get this over with, this time is a little different. For one, his attitude seems a little less forced. How should I put this? Even if his act before now was almost flawless, it was still like he was just putting up with me because he felt somehow obligated to. At least, that was the only way I could explain him simply giving up and leaving earlier when it seemed like he was trying to be as polite as he possibly could. Now, though, I can tell that he's actually interested in something for once. It helps, too, that he's brought up one of the few subjects I actually like, although I doubt this is just a coincidence. I suppose there's no real need to be an ass about the books I like so much, so, against my better judgement, I let my own facade slip a little, and give up on trying to break down the act of my unwanted conversational partner for the time being.

"So you're a bookworm, huh?" I ask with a wry half-smile, an expression a little less sour than my usual patented evil eye. "Well, at least we have one thing in common, then, and that's more than I can say for most people." Taking a sip of my cocoa, I ponder the subject for a moment, and then continue, rising from my chair and beginning to search a nearby stack.

"Well, since this is a school library, and a small one, at that, you don't really see many fantasy novels besides the really famous ones. Even with the additions I've made - at least, while the Lit club had a budget - most of the fantasy books we have are either ones you've probably already read, or in foreign languages. Well, or manga, but I have a feeling that's not exactly what you're looking for." Glancing about, my eyes fall upon a stack of more compact volumes, only recently set aside after being completely read through. It was a series I enjoyed a great deal thanks to its sarcastic humor and creative premise, and, although it was a light novel collection rather than a full-blown one, I figured I might as well recommend it.

"Hey, how about these books here?" I ask, motioning to the pile, from which stared up an anime-styled portrait of a red-headed girl with a wolf's ears and tail, labeled prominently with the title Ōkami to Kōshinryō (Spice and Wolf). "It's not exactly full-blown magical fantasy, but it has a pretty interesting concept and compelling story. You might like it. It's set in a sort of medieval Western culture, but with elements of traditional Youkai stories thrown in. It's got a pretty heavy focus on economics rather than actions, though, so if you're just looking for a light, easy-to-grasp read, it might not be the best choice." Without even realizing it, I find myself falling a lot more naturally than I'd have expected into the role of librarian and guide, quickly and precisely listing off the pros and cons of the book without even hesitating in my speech. As I did so, I didn't even realize that I'd stopped with my abrasive tone and wording altogether, caught up by accident in a trap I'd already recognized as such. By the time I realized that I was actually drawing small enthusiasm from the subject, I'd already finished talking, and, although I quickly corrected the slight smile that had taken shape on my once-again distant and aloof expression, I probably couldn't be so fortunate as to hide anything beyond that, having already made my little speech and suggestion. Damn. Perhaps this Yoshida boy was more charismatic than I'd realized...

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Character Portrait: Yukinoshita Asuka Character Portrait: Hideyeki Yoshida

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As she tells me to drop the 'act' that I have been putting up, I can't help but wonder when she'll realize that I am not acting, and am simply able to smile so easily. Far be it from easy to do this, I've heard, but because I can in fact just smile like I do, it isn't impossible, though Asuka seems to think that it is, as far as I can tell. Just like 'usual' - if I can use that word for the short amount of time we've known each other - I don't really allow any of that to change how I act, and continue smiling, challenging her 'belief' that I'm doing this simply for her sake. I'm not.

When she begins to answer my question with one, rhetorical as it might be, of her own, I can't help but chuckle a bit and naturally, my hand reaches to the back of my neck and begins to rub. "Well, I wouldn't say 'bookworm', but I really do enjoy sitting down on occasion and reading a nice book." I explain almost humble-like in a way. Before I know it and after my hands return to their normal places at my side, I somehow smile a bit wider as I get to witness her be enthusiastic about something that isn't negative and down-inducing. Again, knowing her for only a day, I can't say for the complete percentage that this is true, but I have a feeling that seeing her like this is... uncommon, rare possibly.

While she goes on explaining to me about the library, I listen with both ears, enjoying this moment of actual conversation. I know that any talk between the two of us has, for the most part, been just myself trying to get her to smile, willingly and truthfully. That, or she'd insult me or otherwise let unpleasantries out of her mouth. I find it odd I can say that and I don't recall her using a curse word yet. Hopefully, one of those words leaving her mouth is less common than an actual smile from her, which I know might be one of those things I cannot ever see again. I should be glad I got to see it when we were younger, but I am not. Well, not wholefully. I mean, I can't think of a more cherished memory than that, rivaling anytime I've ever spent with Sakura, but I won't allow myself to be happy because I never came back - now doesn't count - and I might as well have gave her the finger as I left.

Wait.

Can it be? I notice something small, barely perceptible curved-shape on her mouth. It gave me hope. Hope that I might be able to see more of that if I can 'worm', as I'm sure she words it in her mind, into a better standing with her. Hope that I am the cause of said smile, because causing happiness to someone else is just something I enjoy doing. And finally, hope that this friggin book is pretty good, because that would just be icing on the cake. If she can smile, then I can maybe change what I'm pretty sure I did, and that's enough for me. But Rome wasn't built in a day, and niether are relations, and maybe, just maybe, I can be a friend. It is definetly worth a shot.

"Thank you, Yukinoshita-san. The book sounds like it would be enjoyable, which is more than I can say for one I would likely have picked at random, after seeing I had spent too much time screwing around." I express my gratitude with my casual tone, which is anything but. I had been told at one time I sound like a mother greeting her son's girlfriend, which hopefully is a good thing. I guess, apart from my head, it sets me out from the crowd. A brief glance at her emerald orbs takes place before I take the book out of the pile, looking over the cover. It seems well enough to read, and with a reccomendation, what do I have to lose? "It seems perfect for now."

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Character Portrait: Yukinoshita Asuka Character Portrait: Hideyeki Yoshida

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(Back to Touhou songs. XD)

As my charge gives his reply, something tells me he noticed the small slip-up I tried to hide. He hid it well, but there was somehow an air of self-satisfaction in his countenance that was ever-so-slightly different from his somewhat tense manner upon entering the room. It wasn't all that hard to guess why he'd have suddenly changed. There were several possibilities, but, in the end, they all amounted to the same thing. He had noticed my half-smile upon actually doing something as a librarian for the first time in a few months, and had settled upon that as some kind of indicator. On the one hand, he might have decided that I was secretly vulnerable, and would now endeavor to make me show that weakness to him through false smiles and feigned kindness, just so he could wrench the dagger deeper into my already fragile heart, so to speak. Still, this approach seemed, admittedly, unlikely, and was probably just an imagining of my paranoid mind. Generally, if somebody wanted you to feel broken and depressed, they would be much more quick and direct about it. There was, in my experience, no such thing as a sophisticated bully. They would call you names or break your nose or beat you until you couldn't move, but they would never settle upon a long and arduous course of manipulation for the express purpose of breaking you as a human being. It just wasn't worth the time. Why shatter your heart when they could much more easily crush your body and lay waste to your will? The results were the same, anyway.

Similarly unlikely was the opposite approach. While it could have meant that he was simply glad to see me smile, and felt successful for having done so, this could be crossed off the list of possibilities with similar ease. Every person in the world has an ulterior motive of some sort. There are no wandering philanthropists who live to bring happiness to others at the expense of their own time and effort, and to think that this strange transfer student was something like that was simply naive foolishness. I have learned this same painful lesson many times over, and have no need to be taught it again. That's right... that worthless, lying voice called "hope" only serves to bring us more pain if we listen to it. Better to dismiss false light outright and live forever in darkness than to try to brighten yourself, only to have that light snatched yet again. I don't intend to make my own life more miserable, so I turn away from this idealistic silliness and embrace reality once again.

The most likely plan Yoshida has for me is to win me over, just to see if he can. Given how he made his introduction - calling me "beautiful" and trying to cheer me up, even when it was pretty obvious I wasn't buying it, and making those strange comments about remembering me - he was probably trying to make himself seem memorable, harmless, polite, and kind. The whole "Knight in Shining Armor" act only made this more clear. Likely, he would embrace and yet attempt to overcome my cynicism for one reason: to gain my trust, win my heart, enjoy me as his puppet, and then throw me away when something more interesting came along. Probably, he just wanted to try his hand at being Casanova, and seeing someone apparently downtrodden, helpless, and lonely, an isolated outcast who he could easily bend to serve his purposes, thought he'd found an easy target. Well, if that was the case, he'd find me a much more difficult conquest than he expected. I didn't care to be toyed with or manipulated, and if that was his goal, then I'd impede his progress at every step of the way.

...Starting now. The first order of business is obviously to undo the damage I've already done, but I can't be obvious about it. For example, if I were to start acting even more rude than I was at first to drive him away, it would be painfully clear that I was just trying to keep up an act - a harsh, cold exterior meant to protect myself from harm. "I-It's not like I'm showing you this for your sake, you know! I'm just doing this because I have to, so quit smirking, you idiotic dog!" and similar remarks are completely out of the question. Besides, to even consider acting like that, I'd need a second ponytail. So, instead, I just need to revert to normal and act like nothing ever happened. If I could just stay cool and keep my guard up, I could cast doubt onto the truth of the self I'd let show a moment before. Resolving thus, I cleared my mind and began to speak, using the first response that even seemed appropriate in the hopes of acting as natural as possible.

"Heh. Well, then, if you're satisfied, shall we continue? The idiots outside will probably have left, which means there's no sense in idling here any longer. I have much better uses for my time, so can we get going?"

...

Damnit. I still sounded like a Tsundere there, didn't I? A very sarcastic one, but a Tsundere nonetheless.

...

I really, really hope he doesn't recognize anime cliches.

...

Oh, who am I kidding. I'm just digging my own grave even deeper at this point.

...

Wait a minute, another thought. That was one of the first responses I came up with. In short, that means that's something I actually felt like saying! I didn't fake that, which means-

...

NOT. GOING. THERE. I reject the existence of that train of thought. As far as I'm concerned, that never happened. That was most certainly just an act, and my brain is definitely not subtly trying to make me turn into a sugar-and-ice character archetype. There is absolutely nothing wrong with me, especially not anything even vaguely relating to the characterization known as "Tsundere!"

...

Definitely not.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yukinoshita Asuka Character Portrait: Hideyeki Yoshida

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I can tell. I can tell something's going on in her head, but as to what, I am unsure. Everything about her seems to be thought over before being commenced; every movement, ever word, every breath. I have to wonder if she's just playing chess or something in her mind each and every second, thinking over each and every possibility before making her move in order to have the best outcome. I could only assume that whatever it is, it's complicated and elaborate. Or just something with too much thought put into it. If this is the case and I'm not just thinking random thoughts on the matter, then I believe that we contrast greatly in that effect, for I spend too small amount of time with my actions. I simply play by ear. I guess this has its ups and downs because I don't take much time in responding which makes conversation flow smoother, but I bet it would be possible for myself to seize better outcomes to situations if I had given an extra moment or two to think it over. If that's the case, well, I guess I should switch myself up sometime.

It must be strange that I am already used to her tone of voice at this point in our short, short relationship. It doesn't really have much of an effect on me but I believe that it is because she just acts this way for everyone, not just myself. Of course, I think this one sounded a bit.... Tsundere. Just a little bit though - I'm not too big on the slice-of-life anime and manga that Tsunderes are known to inhabit. It still sounded just like her though, so I think I'm just in the need of my fix of some form of Japanese entertainment for today, that must be it. Only with strength can one endure suffering and torment, so that means I must be strong, right?

Ha.

Even I laugh at myself.

"Of course, Yukinoshita-san." Aside from wasting her precious time, I have not a single thing left to do here but simply gaze around, therefore I see no reason to rob her of her wishes of solitary confinement within a library. It is the least I can do since she actually took time to explain what kind of content this book withheld inside of it, which is more than I can say anyone else might've ever even seen in their lifetimes, I am almost completely sure. I even saw a smile from her, and I haven't seen one of those in so many years, so ha, this 'tour' wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. Certainly, it was a much better interaction between the two of us than the roof, so job well done and whatnot.

I'm too happy for one simple smile.

Calm down, Hideyeki, you didn't do anything too special.

Now if you made her laugh, or do a flip!....

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yukinoshita Asuka Character Portrait: Hideyeki Yoshida

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(Yeah, more Touhou BGMs. XD)

Although my charge agrees with me almost immediately, I can't help but notice that he seems very pleased with himself somehow. That contented smile hasn't faltered for a minute, but now it seems even more annoying than usual. His words seem almost knowing, which means he probably, as I feared, picked up on the slightly-too-blatant reminder of my time preferences. This is probably his way of calling my bluff without ever even having to break his carefully crafted facade. In short, he's just trying to get me flustered, something which I'm quickly realizing he is some kind of super-genius at doing. Still, I can't afford to lose my composure. At this point, if I was to do that, everything I've done so far would be for naught. I absolutely cannot allow him to see right through me, no matter what.

This situation, it's all wrong. Past experience tells me that everyone around me will just approach me directly and bluntly call me out on what I am: a useless, hopeless outcast. It's always been that way. So why is it that this anomaly has suddenly appeared? Why is there now a person who's actually pretending to be nice to me, someone who's simply going along with all of my acts meant to piss him off without even batting an eyelash or even ceasing to smile? I don't have any experience dealing with this sort of interaction. I don't know how to drive somebody like this away! I can't cope with this weird situation! How am I supposed to keep him away through my own facade if his act is even better? He has the advantage of experience and skill, and has already started to find ways to circumvent my outward identity completely and to break my composure. I'm already in the process of being completely outmaneuvered, and I can't even seem to find a way to make him leave me alone. I can make it as hard on him as I like, but at this rate, the ending will, without a doubt, be completely unfavorable to me, even if I thwart his probable goal of using me.

But I can't let him know that I've realized this. If he understands that I'm already beginning to crack under the weight of an unfamiliar situation, then he'll just press his advantage. I just have to stay calm, and think this out like I always do. If I can just regain my composure, then maybe I can still make the things he's noticed thus far just seem like flukes, or, even better, delusions of his own optimism. So, gathering my wits as best I can, I quickly - but not too quickly - make my way toward the door, sidestepping a few large piles of books and heading back to the exit.

"Well, then, let's get going," I speak in a resigned tone, not trying to seem overt about my distaste for the situation, but not really bothering to hide it, either. It seemed more natural, in my opinion, which was a good sign for the future. If I could just keep my act together, I might just be able to survive this situation with my reputation as an antisocial egotist intact. If I could just last a little longer....

I reach the door. Opening it, I motion for the white-haired boy behind me to hurry up and get going, stepping aside to allow him through. Even if his polite act means he probably won't try anything, I still don't trust anybody in my library unsupervised.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yukinoshita Asuka Character Portrait: Hideyeki Yoshida

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I follow behind Asuka as she makes here way to the door of the library, after voicing her desire to get this show on the road. As I remember, she has still got me for a little bit because she is supposed to show me what I am supposed to be doing. A chore, was it? I seem to have forgotten, how careless of me, but because I usually play life by the ear, this doesn't surprise or impede me in the least.

I step out the door and turn around as I wait for her to 'barricade' it shut or something. If the library 'needed to be protected from those who would destroy it' came out her mouth - that of course being paraphrased - then I'd not be too surprised. Whoever 'those' are. Yukinoshita seems a bit... paranoid about her library, or at least I get that feeling. Either way, it doesn't really matter to myself so long as it doesn't cause her or anyone else harm - and how can that possibly cause harm? Maybe if someone snuck in and got locked up..... for a while. Summer break, yeah that ought to do it.

What am I even thinking of?

I wonder what kind of adventure this school is going to be. Not that I believe that school is an 'adventure' in reality. The only time I've heard someone call it that was in the school-made PSAs or their advertisements. To me, I believe adventuring is daring, exciting and fun which school rarely fits into the category of. In general, I believe it to be a waste of time for anything other than academic purposes. This is good considering the fact that that's exactly what they are made for and try to be, so I can't complain now, can I?

Something about not talking would feel awkward to me. Maybe not her, but me. I come up with a random subject to start off with, though I'm positive she'll give me a time trying to keep it going. "Yukinoshita-san, does this school have any special activities, such as festivals or the such?" I asked, but then add. "Aside from the one the town has, of course. Does this school have a book fair?" While I'm sure I'd get a better response by just asking about the book fair, I'd personally like to know what the school is going to do - and I only expect a name and the basic of it. I can find out details from someone else if I really like the sound of one. That, and simply talking about books would probably give her weird ideas, like I'm just trying to nestle my way into her head or something just to break or betray her, like she's made it sound like the world has done.

Betraying her.....

I won't do it ever again, but if she knew, would I have ever had the second chance? Probably not.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yukinoshita Asuka Character Portrait: Hideyeki Yoshida

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(Asuka is trying really, really hard not to be a Tsundere. I'll give her that much. XD)

It seems the new boy has no objections to leaving and continuing on our not-so-merry way, since he follows me the moment I move for the door, and steps out quickly. I follow quickly on his heels, intending to go through my usual pattern of stepping out, shutting the door behind me, and locking it out of habit, only to be slightly surprised, as it seems Yoshida managed to predict I'd do this, since he stops almost immediately and turns about as though waiting for something. Unfortunately, it is even more evident that he forgot that the library door opens outward. Why do I say this? Well, it's because he stopped rather close to the door. Specifically, close enough that I, who was neither paying much attention to him nor expecting him to halt so suddenly, ended up taken by surprise, trying and failing to stop myself in time as I stumbled a single step too many forward, giving a slight cry of surprise as I found myself colliding with Yoshida, catching instinctively onto the nearest available handhold - his shoulders - for support as, despite my valiant attempts to stay standing on my own, I found my head buried in his chest. Although it wasn't as though I'd fallen completely over and ended up lying top of him or anything similarly stupid - look, we were walking, and he was at least a head taller than me, not to mention much more well-built that my own somewhat fragile physique. It was highly unlikely that I even had enough force or mass to make him stumble, let alone fall backward - the end result was more than sufficiently awkward/embarrassing/aggravating/infuriating/choose whatever similar adjective you like. Again I find myself wondering if he is some kind of diabolical mastermind whose single goal in life is to make me lose my composure, or just an idiot who serves the same purpose regardless due to a mutual lack of common social skills and a series of bizarre, freak accidents. At the moment, it didn't really matter to me, though. In an instant, my face had begun to turn quite considerably red, and I suddenly found it very difficult to remain calm and to concentrate on how to maintain my mask. You know, for some reason I now completely understood exactly why characters in fiction, when faced with similar situations, more often than not simply responded with seemingly irrational anger and shouts of "idiot!" or other such insults. I was feeling just a little bit livid, and it was becoming hard to resist the urge to do the same. Of all the annoying, embarrassing things, the seemingly innocuous act of stopping in someone else's way and causing them to run into you was suddenly rising very rapidly on my list of unforgivable social indignities.

But, I have to remain calm. Especially after my failures to maintain my facade before now, it is absolutely imperative that I not slip up now. Just stay cool, resist the urge to act out of embarrassment and irritation - and probably just humiliate myself more in the process - and things can still be salvaged. Oh, and also, whatever you're going to think up, brain, could you please do it fast? I've been in this situation for a little over a second now, and I seem to have completely recovered my balance. If I don't move quickly, things will become much, much more awkward, very quickly.

Acting on the first somewhat reasonable plan out of my head, I swiftly reposition myself, stepping back without raising my head in a somewhat futile attempt to hide the blush my face was now sporting. Perhaps it's childish of me, but if he is subtly orchestrating everything like some manipulative mastermind just so he can wreck what little serenity I have, I don't want to give him the sense of victory that would come from seeing that his plan had worked perfectly. And, even if he's not, I still don't like people seeing how easily I get embarrassed. It's annoying.

Keeping my hands on Yoshida's shoulders, I brace myself, then muster what strength I have to push him gently yet firmly a step backward and out of my way. Considering he's probably surprised from having me suddenly crashing headlong into and falling against him, I'm hoping I'll be able to move him without much difficulty. "Why are you stopping like that, exactly? I can't close the door if I'm stuck standing in it, you know," I say as I swiftly disengage myself, spinning about to keep my face from view until I can calm down a bit. Taking hold of the door, I close it swiftly, then pretend not to know which pocket the keys to the lock are in, just to buy myself some extra time. "Finding" them at last, I swiftly take them, place them in the lock, and methodically seal off my sanctum until my next return. Withdrawing the key, I at last turn about, taking control of my expression and my emotions as best I can.

"Well? What are you standing around for? Let's get going. What haven't the others showed you already?" I say pointedly, trying to move the situation away from what had just happened as quickly as possible. I don't like it when the conversation dwells on something I find awkward, like a clumsy mistake of mine or something similarly puerile, and if at all possible, I will prevent our discussion from reaching that point at all. If not, then I'll just perform damage control as best I can.

I sigh. This is why I avoid people. Well, awkward situations like this, and the fact that most people I know happen to hate my guts and remind me of all of the shortcomings I already know I have on every possible occasion. What exactly did I do to deserve this?

Oh. Right. I forgot. It's because I've committed the unforgivable sin of existing. By being born, I brought this upon myself, didn't I?

This isn't a subject I like to think about any more than I like to dwell on the embarrassment I'm only just now getting over, so I decide to drop it as well. I just hope this nuisance has enough tact not to bother me about all this. It's his fault, anyway.

...Baka.

cron