Energy! 24/6 [Book 1: Chapter 2]
Scented Letters by Obana Michiyo. It took me exactly six hours and forty two minutes to read it and by the end I could feel the stains of the tears I’d shed just minutes before. The sun was coming up, but I couldn’t think about how much I was going to regret staying up all night. Instead I buried my face in my pillow and thought back on every compelling moment. I was sure I’d rant about it to Kazuto when I saw him next—of course in my retelling any crying will be limited to almost—but for now I had to see how much sleep I could get before my mom dragged me out of bed.
My mind whirred with the events of the story, the characters, the romance of it all. I felt my eyes shutting and my body relaxing as the moments animated themselves behind my eyelids. Then for some reason I thought about Azusa. I reflexively tried to put her in the heroine’s shoes and wondered what she would’ve done in her situation. Would she have cried or smiled and shut out her emotions? I didn’t know, I realized. I didn’t know anything about her and as my thoughts strayed out of my control and blacked out into skewed dreams I couldn’t deny the thought that I wanted to.
“Get up, Kou! You’re gonna be late for school!” My mom ripped the cover’s tangled folds from my legs, nearly pulling me off of my bed. “God, you’re turning into your father.”
I stared groggily at her and struggled to sit up, my body half off of the bed. “Mooommm…” I whined. “I stayed up all night.”
“Not my problem.” She laughed before kissing the top of my head, her long black hair tickling my nose. “Make better choices.”
I glared after her as she walked out of my room, making sure to shout for me not to go back to sleep from the hallway. Begrudgingly, I got out of bed.
By the time I was dressed and halfway down the stairs Kazuto was already at my door. I could only glare as my mom welcomed him in and he made himself at home in my living room. I probably needed a little more sleep before I could deal with him, but I knew I didn’t have any say.
“Koichi! You look like you had a fun night!”
I wanted to slap him in his waggling eyebrows. “Don’t you have someone else to bother?”
“Nope!” Kazuto grinned and wrapped an arm around my neck, bringing our faces much closer than I’d like. “C’mon! I hear we have a mega hot sub today!” There was that stupid waggling of the eyebrows again.
School wasn’t as much of a nightmare as I thought it would be. I was tired at first, but the more I thought about the fact that I’d finished that book, the more wired I became. I wanted to talk about it, but I knew that Kazuto wouldn’t have the slightest interest in something like this—he only read comics. No, I guess that wasn’t the real issue either. I didn’t want to talk to just anyone about it. I wanted to talk to Azusa.
The minute lunch started I was out of my chair, but I only made it a step before Kazuto sat me right back down.
“Where the hell do you think you’re going?” He grinned like he’d caught me in a dirty act.
“What? I’m just going to return a library book.” Well, I wasn’t exactly lying.
“Mmhmm.” He sized me up suspiciously. “Right before you run off to find Amamiya?”
I couldn’t help but groan. I didn’t have the patience for this sort of thing. “I’m just going to return a book, okay? Why does it matter if I talk to someone on the way? You’re not my girlfriend, dude.”
“But Koichin! I thought we had something special!” Kazuto slapped a hand over his heart dramatically.
I dragged an exasperated hand over my reddened face and tried to ignore the giggling of the girls behind us.
“I’m just looking out for you, Kou.” His voice was lower now and I peeked through my fingers to see actual concern in his eyes. “Amamiya’s bad news. She literally has no friends. Why do you think that is?”
“Maybe she’s anti-social?”
“C’mon, dude. You’re anti-social. She’s… I don’t know. I just don’t trust her.”
“And you’re an amazing judge of character so I better cease all contact with her immediately.” I could tell it took him a few seconds to realize I was being sarcastic, but by that time I was already out of my seat again and heading for the door.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you!” Kazuto called after me. I didn’t have to look back to see he’d already pulled out a handheld to play some dating sim. And he called me anti-social.
There was something intriguing about Azusa and I just couldn’t bring myself to think that she was as bad as Kazuto was saying. He didn’t trust anyone so it was no surprise that Azusa wasn’t an exception. I didn’t blame him. He’s been victim to his fair share of jerks in the past so I could understand why he wasn’t jumping up and down to meet new people, but at the same time when you’ve been unfairly judged you’d think you’d have a bit more compassion. Well, it’s not like I knew him to be the compassionate type anyway.
I shook Kazuto from my mind as I entered the library and returned Scented Letters. I was sure she’d be there waiting for me some reason, but in the end she was nowhere to be found. Something hit me then. What was I even thinking? I’d been chasing after a girl who I’d already turned down! It’s not like we were suddenly friends because we had one good conversation. Of course she doesn’t want to start hanging around me after I rejected her! Why would she be waiting for me to come talk to her?
My walk back to the classroom felt shameful somehow. I felt so stupid. I had gotten my hopes up over something ridiculous. I must’ve looked even more irritated than usual because Kazuto didn’t say anything to me when I got back. H played his game until class started again and probably a bit into class too, but I wasn’t paying attention. I was too bust thinking about how dumb I was to stay up all night so that I could talk to a girl who wanted nothing to do with me.
I spaced through most of the day, probably because I was running on three hours of sleep. Kazuto didn’t bring Azusa up again, but I knew from the look on his face that he felt a bit triumphant. That pissed me off so I didn’t wait for him to finish class duties before leaving. I removed my shoes from my locker and slipped them on, but before I could put my indoor shoes away my locker slammed shut.
I tried not to look startled as a harsh looking dude with a buzz cut stepped up to me, but the guy had to almost 190cm tall.
“Um… can I help you?” It was more of a task than I thought to not sound nervous.
“You’re Izumi Koichi, right?” He looked angry. I tried to place his face, but I knew I’d never met him before.
“Do I know you?”
“You will.” He glared. “I’m about to kick your ass.”
For a moment I panicked and heard my shoes hit the ground. I had no idea what I could’ve done to piss this guy—who I’d never seen before in my life—off, but he was most definitely about to smash my face into these lockers. I contemplated throwing my shoes at him, but there was something undignified about that and I didn’t want to be a pansy.
“Whoa, now. Are you starting a fight right here in front of the school? That’s so bold!” Azusa was suddenly beside me. She didn’t flinch when the guys heavy glare turned toward her. “Oh, hey! I know you! You’re on the baseball team, right?”
He didn’t answer, but I could see his shoulders lowering and his glare softening. He was backing down.
“Wow, you’re brave. Aren’t you worried you’ll get kicked off of the team or something? That would suck! You guys could totally go to Koshien!”
The sound of a frustrated click of the tongue brought my attention back to the guy just as he was leaving. I couldn’t help but to look back at Azusa, probably a bit in awe. I had to wonder if she had done that on purpose or if she just happened to say the right thing at the right time.
“You’re into baseball?” Was not the question I wanted to ask her, but my mind was still reeling a bit.
“We live in Nishinomiya.” She looked at me like I was asking a dumb question. I probably was. “Anyway, that guy looked like he was about to beat the crap out of you so I said what I had to.”
I don’t know why, but that kind of irritated me. “You say that like I couldn’t have taken him.”
“Well, he was pretty big. And he looked like he’d been in a fight before.”
“And I haven’t?”
I didn’t want to answer her. I mean, I hadn’t been in a ninja battle before, but it wasn’t like I couldn’t take a punch. Something about her attitude made it seem like she had no confidence in me at all. It made me mad that that hurt my pride so much, but I was beginning to see what those girls must have meant.
“I get it.” She backed up, still smiling, and I suddenly realized I was glaring at her. “My bad. I won’t butt into your business again.” She leaned down and picked up my shoes, handing them to me.
I didn’t look at her as I took them and she walked away without saying anything. I felt bad, but at the same time wasn’t she the one being rude? I rubbed the back of my hair in frustration. Then I noticed something on the ground. A notebook?
Amamiya Azusa, I read from the front cover. Reflexively, I took a couple steps toward where she left until I realized that I would have to talk to her after that super awkward moment we just had. I warred with myself until my cowardice won and I slipped the notebook into my bag. I think I sighed about forty times on the way home alone.