Monthly Archives: April 2016
Kazuto’s laughter was louder and more obnoxious—if that was even possible—than I had ever heard it. I wanted to glare at him but honestly all I could do was bury my head in my arms and knees. I cowered on the farthest corner of my bed while he sprawled out on my orange patterned bedspread.
“I cannot believe you said it like that! That’s so embarrassing!” He cackled. “My god, what did she say?” He turned to face me, clearly enjoying my despair and I groaned loud enough for the neighbors to hear.
“It doesn’t matter!” I shouted at him. I didn’t want to think about the completely rude and unnecessary stab to my ego that was Azusa’s response.
‘We did have that conversation when I said I wasn’t into you right?’
I pulled my knees closer at the thought of that blunt phrase and slightly condescending expression. Of course I had to say it like that and of course she had to respond like that before I had time to correct myself.
‘I didn’t…! What I meant was that I have these tickets for the three of us! It was Kazuto’s idea!’ My response was just as stupid as my initial question. I had meant to appeal to her about the manga artists and making it out to be all business, but in the end I made it a casual thing. It really looked like I was just making excuses to hang out with her. How embarrassing.
“So are we going or not? She doesn’t have to come with us.” Kazuto smirked and a part of me felt like he was hoping she’d shoot me down like that.
“She said she would go on Saturday.” I noted his frown, confirming my suspicions, but I ignored him. “But not Sunday.”
“What? Amamiya actually had plans? With who? It’s not like she has any friends.”
“Hey, if not for me you wouldn’t have any friends either.” I felt bad about it as soon as I said it. I didn’t really know why I felt like I had to defend Azusa, but it really pissed me off that he seemed to dislike her so much. I looked away, probably out of guilt, as he scowled. “I mean… I didn’t mean…”
“Whatever. Just shut up, okay? I get it. I’ll stop ragging on Amamiya.” He looked at me seriously, an unusual sight that seemed to be reserved for the topic of Azusa. “As soon as you admit that you like her.”
“I mean, I don’t dislike her…” I dodged.
“You know what I mean.” He was staring me down now. To the people at school this situation would probably look strange since everyone seems to think I’m some kind of hard ass, but for all of Kazuto’s smiles and charm, I’ve never been able to win a stare down with those icy green eyes. He could be so intense and even though I knew he was more of a coward than me I couldn’t bring myself to stand up to him. If it happened that I could win he would probably take it hard and I would just feel bad about it. Then again maybe I was just afraid that I might lose.
“Fine.” I buried my face in my knees. “I’ll admit that I’m being obsessive about her, but that doesn’t mean I like her like that. I just…” I looked at him, feeling a little less trapped when I saw that intense look soften. Then the words started to pour out of me into an explanation that I hadn’t been sure of until that moment. “I don’t know… She’s just so different. I can’t stop thinking about the way her mind works. Someone like that must be able to create the kinds of stories that change my whole world. Like that manga you gave me and Obana Michiyo’s books. How am I supposed to accept that she’s just going to keep those stories to herself? If there’s a way to get her to bring her stories to life than I have to try.”
He watched me with a blank expression before sighing in a way that looked almost resigned. “You’re a nerd, you know that, Kou?”
“Yeah…” I relaxed. “But that’s why we’re friends.”
Kazuto scoffed, but he couldn’t hide the smile on his face. I knew how much he loved it when I validated him and in the end he kept his promise and stopped bad mouthing Azusa for the time being. I was sure it wouldn’t last, but there wasn’t really anything I could do about that so I just let it go. For the next week I would be too busy dying of anticipation to worry about it anyway.
I didn’t get many opportunities to talk to Azusa during that time, but every now and then I would find her in the library and she would tell me more about her stories. Sometimes she would ask me strange questions like what I would do if I thought someone was going to kill me. I told her it would be hard to answer a question like that, but I think I just didn’t want to answer in a way she might think was lame. Azusa never pressed me though. She’d just smile and agree that it was a difficult question to answer.
The more we talked the more of a mystery she became. When I asked about her she would tell me her life is boring and that there wasn’t much to say. That besides her one hobby all she really does is study and be as lazy as she can be. I laughed at that. It didn’t fit my image of her. She always seemed so diligent and strong, but she assured me she wasn’t. I didn’t know what to say to that so I didn’t say anything.
Before I knew it the event day had arrived and I found myself at the train station in the morning with Kazuto, waiting for Azusa to arrive.
“Dude, chill.” Kazuto put a hand on my shoulder and I realized suddenly how tense I was. “What is your problem? Are you nervous? This isn’t a date, you know.”
“I know that!” I defended.
“Why are you yelling so early in the morning?” A sleepy voice asked from behind me and I nearly jumped out of my skin, but luckily managed to keep from shouting.
I turned to see Azusa’s uniform skirt and blouse and felt myself deflate a little bit. Not that I was hoping she’d be dressed cute or anything! She yawned, clutching a tumbler of something in one hand. Her cherry hairclip was gone, leaving the right side of her bangs, which were normally pulled back, to fall a bit in her face. Her sneakers and light green coat were the only things I hadn’t seen before and something about the comfortable looking texture made her seem really tired.
“What a letdown!” Kazuto greeted, rudely. “Aren’t girls supposed to try a little harder to dress cute on the weekends?”
“I overslept a bit so I just put on whatever.” I thought I saw a twitch in Azusa’s brow before she smiled the same as always. “Besides, it’s not like there’s anyone here to impress.” The way she said it almost sounded like she was giving a compliment, but I’m sure Kazuto’s pride was as damaged as mine was as we both wilted a bit.
“God, you’re so un-cute, Amamiya.” Kazuto’s comeback was dampened considerably by the wound to his ego and Azusa didn’t seem to care too much about what he had to say. She just smiled and I found myself glaring at him until Azusa spoke again, asking Kazuto to remind her of his name. He was angry about it, of course, but despite their one-sided argument it felt so casual. It was so easy for them to converse—probably because Kazuto wasn’t trying to act princely like he normally would—and I wanted to be relieved that the atmosphere wasn’t tense between them but, in all honesty, it kind of bothered me.
“What’s the matter, Izumi? You haven’t said I word since I got here. Are you not a morning person either?”
I stared at her for a moment, wondering why my heart was pounding. Her amber eyes were fixated on me, but I couldn’t tell what she was feeling. Even in her uniform skirt she looked so casual, but that wasn’t it. There was something about her smile that made me feel like she was pushing herself.
“I… No, I’m fine.” I said before an announcement sounded that our train was arriving. “We’d better go.”
I caught a glimpse of a concerned expression before she smiled at me again and we boarded the train. I wanted to ask her so many things, but in the end I lost to my social anxiety and Kazuto’s undefeatable charm. We sat with Azusa in the middle and even though I had spent the most time with her, anyone would think I was the third wheel beside the two of them.
“A protein shake? That sounds gross.” Kazuto grimaced at the tumbler in Azusa’s hand. “Why don’t you just drink some coffee?”
“Caffeine is bad for you, Hinamori.” Was her simple answer. I couldn’t decide whether I was happy to learn something new about her or annoyed that Kazuto seemed to be the only one who could get it any information out of her.
“Everything’s bad for you.” He rolled his eyes. “You’re gonna die eventually so why not live a little while you’re here?”
“That’s an interesting viewpoint.” Azusa’s eyes gleamed a bit like they do when she wants to write something down, but she didn’t move to pull out her notebook and I noticed her bag looked a bit too small for her to have it on her. “Don’t you want to feel as good as you can while you’re alive though?”
“What feels better than indulging?” Kazuto looked at her like she was weird for not feeling how he felt. Like it was strange that he even had to explain it.
“But what if you indulge too much and it makes you sick?”
“You’re not going to get sick from one cup of coffee.”
“Coffee? You’re still talking about coffee?”
“What?! What are you talking about then?”
They looked exasperated with each other, Kazuto not quite understanding Azusa’s need for general information. Clearly Azusa didn’t get why it was difficult to understand what she was asking. For some reason that filled me with a quiet satisfaction.
The train ride was short since we weren’t going far, but once we were on foot we were forced to follow Kazuto seeing as though he was the only one who knew where we were going. That left me to the cruel, silent reality that I had no idea what to say to Azusa. I struggled to think of any kind of conversation starter I might have used in the library, but it was no use.
“Izumi, do you dislike bitter things?” She suddenly asked.
I must have flinched, but I quickly collected myself. “Is… that a bad thing?”
She smiled. “I’m just asking a question. It’s not really a positive or negative thing.”
“Okay then, I don’t like bitter things.”
“I see.” She smiled. “Then you probably wouldn’t like this protein shake…”
I glanced at her in my surprise. Why would that be a concern? “Do you like bitter things?”
“I don’t particularly like them.” She smiled. “But I’m used to it so I don’t mind it. A lot of bitter stuff is good for you.”
I laughed at that. “Are you a health nut or something?”
“I just don’t like feeling bad.”
Before I could ask her anything else, Kazuto called for us. I didn’t realize how far ahead he’d gotten until he was beckoning us with a very displeased expression. I only felt a little guilty. He did buy the tickets after all. Luckily he didn’t make too much of a fuss about it and his mood shifted considerably as soon as we entered the tall building.
The place was kind of smaller than I’d expected, not that I’d been to many things like this before—there was a limit to how far I’d usually let Kazuto drag me. It seemed like a regular restaurant until we got inside. The tables were all moved to the sides of the room and the elevator at the far end of the room had an attendant. It wasn’t until I saw the sign next to it that I realized this event thing was probably on every floor of this building. Just how much money did otakus have anyway?
“We got here pretty early.” Kazuto turned to us. “The crowds will start coming in around noon, so if you want to have time to talk to some artists about your thing before they’re bombarded, now’s your chance.”
“Izumi?” Azusa called. I looked down at the orange sleeve of my favorite hoodie where her hand was lightly tugging and blushed a bit before seeing the confused expression on her face. “What is he talking about?”
It was then that I realized I hadn’t told Azusa why we were there in the first place and my heart started pounding. I had made a mistake. Actually, I felt much more comfortable blaming this on Kazuto. If he had just kept his stupid mouth shut I wouldn’t be in this mess.
“Look.” I scratched the back of my head. “I swear I wasn’t going to do anything without your permission, but I just thought… You know, since your stories are so good… Well, actually it was Kazuto who thought of it.”
“Thought of what?” She turned that intense gaze toward Kazuto, but I still couldn’t relax. I had never seen Azusa get angry before so I didn’t really expect her to blow up at us. But not knowing how she would react at all was just as bad.
Kazuto groaned impatiently. “He likes your stories, Amamiya. So much that he’s willing to find someone else to draw them for you.”
“Draw them?” She stared, dumbfounded. “Like a manga?”
“Yeah, it would be easier to market and you wouldn’t have to write anything. Wouldn’t that be a good thing for you? You could make a lot of money.” He watched her, unfazed, but I was starting to sweat.
Azusa looked thoughtful before staring up at me. “You really like them that much?”
“I…” I swallowed hard before steeling myself and nodding. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest when she started laughing. “Wh-what’s so funny?”
“I just never know what to expect from you, Izumi.” Azusa wiped a small tear from her squinting eyes and smiled at me. “Alright, since I’m using you for inspiration then you can have that story.”
“What? Seriously?” I’m sure I was making a dumb expression as the relief and shock were fighting for my face. I glanced at Kazuto for a second to see an equally shocked and somewhat annoyed expression before turning back to Azusa’s smiling face.
“Why not? I’m pretty sure people don’t just agree to this sort of thing without being offered payment or something so it’s not likely you’ll find anyone.” She smirked as I deflated a bit, always at her mercy it seemed. “But who knows! If it’s you, Izumi, maybe it’ll work out.”
There it was. She turned away from me to ask Kazuto about how these things work and soon he was yelling at me to hurry up as well. I trailed behind them, my heart pounding faster and faster. It was true that Azusa was rude and weird and blunt and unreadable, but every now and then she’d give me a look or say something like that and my legs would turn to jelly. What was wrong with me? Was I really falling for someone like her? Why couldn’t I just be interested in her stories and nothing else?
I silently cursed myself for a stupid reoccurring thought I kept pushing out of my head. What if I had said yes that day when she asked me out? What would she have said? I wanted to ask her, but I was afraid of what she might say. Whatever I felt for her, I didn’t want to hear her say she didn’t like me again. So I didn’t say anything.
In Kleronomos, the protagonist, Charlie, must play the ocarina in order to lend power to a magic owl. “The Song of Change” is the ocarina tune that changes him into a dragon. “It’s Time for a Change” would be the background music that plays during the fight that would inevitably occur directly after said transformation.
I was lucky enough to meet up with a friend and talented pianist, Maxim, over a failed group project. But it works out because he’ll be working with me to create some music for Kleronomos!
For those of you who missed the post, Kleronomos is a short book series that will begin serialization this summer. Leading up to that several songs will be released along with promotional art.
Charlie was a music prodigy until she realized that her music attracted strange and terrifying creatures. After she successfully cuts both music and the supernatural out of her life she accidentally speaks to a demon who curses her to stay awake for five days. If she falls asleep the demon will eat her. In an effort to break the curse, Charlie finds an old owl who turns into a dragon when she plays the ocarina.
“Song of Change” is played on a 4-hole Ocarina and is composed by Dighm Liting.
“It’s Time for a change” is played on the piano and is composed by The Weirdo Maxim.
I found myself infinitely distracted as I reread “Sunday Morning Coffee”, one of my favorite Obana Michiyo novels. It wasn’t the feeling that I wanted, I realized, so I set it down and scanned my bookshelf for something else. Every opening line I read only fed my frustration. Then, finally, I understood why. I wanted to read Azusa’s story. I wanted those feels.
For a moment I panicked, first wondering if I had said that out loud and then wondering who the hell was in my bedroom. The alarm subsided as soon as I recognized the voice in my doorway and turned, probably too fast and with too defensive an expression.
“Kazuto!” I glared. “I told you to text me before you come over!”
“I did.” He grinned, holding up his phone. “You didn’t answer.”
“So you came anyway…”
“Yup!” He sat cheerfully on my bed as if it was his own and immediately pulled a handheld from his pocket. “Looking for a word book to read?”
“I was.” I rolled my eyes and turned away from the shelf. There was something annoying in every direction it seemed.
“Oh, don’t stop on my account.” His eyes focused on his game, but he looked like he wanted attention.
Normally I would’ve ignored it but he was making a face I knew all too well. It was the face he made when he was upset, but Kazuto wasn’t the type to talk about feelings. He didn’t like drama or getting deep and even though I wanted to ask what he needed in times like this I knew his carefully crafted superficiality would keep me from making any progress.
I slouched against the shelf when I realized he was probably just annoyed at how much I’d been ignoring him lately. It reminded me of Azusa’s story and I found myself sympathizing. It must be hard when you only have one person to care about and they suddenly find someone more interesting. I groaned out loud and Kazuto paused his game to give me a quizzical look.
“I’m sorry.” I met his eyes, but he looked away. I knew he was embarrassed.
“What the hell are you apologizing for?” Immediately he was busy with his game again, a light dusting of pink across his cheeks. “I just came over here to give you some attention and now you’re getting all weird.”
“Sorry…” That one was considerably less sincere.
“Anyway, what about your feels?” He dodged. “Are you bored with your word books?”
I rolled my eyes. “It’s not that…” I hesitated, wondering if bringing up Azusa was a bad idea. “I found out why that stuff was in Amamiya’s notebook.”
“You gave it back to her?!” He put his game to the side and I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. I knew he was interested at least, even though he looked unhappy about my decision.
“Well, it belongs to her.” I defended.
“So what was that profile stuff about? Is she a serial killer after all?” His eyes sparkled just a bit. “No I guess you wouldn’t be here if she was.”
“She’s not a murderer and she’s not crazy.” I scowled when I couldn’t find something nonlethal to throw at him. He looked unconvinced. “She uses people as references for characters. Then she makes stories with them.” I didn’t realize I was smiling until I saw Kazuto’s face fall a little.
I leaned back on my hands and watched him suspiciously, but he quickly corrected himself, grinning and asking me about the conversation we had. Normally I would’ve left it alone, but it bothered me that I didn’t really understand why something like that would’ve upset him. It made me wonder what kind of face I was making. I opened my mouth to tell him what I was thinking. I know you don’t like to talk about this stuff, but if you’re upset with me you need to say something or I won’t know.
I couldn’t do it. Instead I told him about Azusa’s story and he picked his game up and leaned back on my bed. He seemed to go back to normal after that. Commenting every now and then about how the heroine sounded like me and I opted out of telling him the truth about that too.
“Sounds like it would make a good shoujo manga.” He grinned. I felt a bit relieved at that grin. “Too bad you nerds probably want to waste a good story on a word book.”
“Actually…” I glared at that stupid phrase before looking unintentionally sullen. “She isn’t going to write it at all.”
To my surprise, Kazuto sat up at that. “What? Why even bother with all of that effort?”
“That’s what I said!” I threw my hands up. “She said she sucks at writing and that it’s just for fun. It seems like Amamiya really doesn’t like to work hard.”
“Lame.” He flopped back down. “It’s too bad she can’t just get an artist to draw it for her. It’s a lot easier to sell manga and doujinshi independently than word books.”
“Yeah…” I thought about that. It wasn’t the most satisfying option available, but it gave me an idea. “I wonder if it was easier… if she didn’t have to go to university. If she didn’t have to write anything. If she only had to do the fun parts… Do you think she’d publish her stories?”
He stared at me for a while with a strange face before looking uninterested again. “Maybe. I don’t know anything about her so I have no idea what she’d do.”
“If I could find an artist for her then we could publish her stories as manga and sell them at those things you go to!”
“Aren’t you getting ahead of yourself, Koichi?” Kazuto turned his game off and sat up on the edge of my bed. He looked a little annoyed. “You don’t even know her that well and you’re already planning out her future. What if she doesn’t want to do that?”
“She has good ideas, Kazuto. Like real talent. Doesn’t it bother you that she’s wasting it?”
“Not really.” He said in a way that felt more like, not in the slightest. “Because I don’t even know her and frankly I don’t really care what she does with her life.”
Finally, frustration got the better of me. “Why does she bother you so much?”
“Why are you so stuck on her? Didn’t you reject her? Why the hell are you so obsessed with this now?” He looked more frustrated than I was and that annoyed me even more. If he would just communicate in the first place, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.
“I just really like her stories.” I glared. “Is that a problem?”
Kazuto stood up and pocketed his game. I watched him walk to my bedroom door without a word and stop at the doorframe.
“I hope it’s just me you’re lying to, Kou.” He left before I could say anything.
At dinner my mom asked why Kazuto left so suddenly, but I didn’t know how to answer. I just told her I made him mad and she fluffed it off saying he could be so finicky. It was true so I just ate dinner quietly and hoped he would be back to normal in the morning like he always was.
The next day Kazuto didn’t show up to walk to school together and I felt a sinking feeling in my chest. Maybe he was really mad at me. Maybe he was going to ignore me all day. Normally that thought would be welcomed, but that was when he was happy and obnoxious. Not when I knew my only friend was upset with me.
I found myself walking faster than usual to school and I’m sure that, even though I felt worried, I probably looked like I was about to make good on a vendetta. But as I approached my shoe locker I saw a familiar face looking more bashful and less upset than I had expected.
“Kazu!” I rushed up to him on impulse then immediately straightened myself out. Not going to lie, we probably looked like a couple trying to make up after a stupid fight. Bashful, a bit prideful, neither meeting the others eyes. I thought I should say something to stop the weird atmosphere so I opened my mouth to speak.
“Look.” He stopped me, clenching something in his hands. “I don’t hate Amamiya, okay?” He waited for me to nod before continuing. “And I’m…sss… I’m… I might have been aggressive last night.”
“Alright.” It honestly shocked me more that he didn’t make an innuendo about that last part than the fact that he literally couldn’t apologize to me. “So?” I folded my arms. I knew there was more.
“So…” He glared half-heartedly at me. “I got some tickets… For an event…” He seemed to be struggling, but eventually he mumbled the last bit and shoved the tickets he’d been gripping at my chest. “So you can… you know… look at independent… manga artists… or something…”
I took the tickets from him, instinctively straightening them out. I looked up at him in shock. Then I noticed something. “There are three tickets here.”
“Yeah, I know.” He looked away.
“Is…” I didn’t want to say it for fear that it’d only upset him, but I had to know. “Is the third one for Amamiya?”
He took a deep breath and looked as if he was resisting the urge to roll his eyes. “Yes! Okay? It’s for the three of us!”
“The three of us?” I raised an eyebrow and tried not to smile. This must have been hard for him.
“Yeah, I mean…” He shoved his hands in his pockets. “If you’re going to be hanging out with her all the time then obviously I am too.”
“Obviously.” I tried not to laugh, but I’m sure the relief I felt was all over my face.
“Ugh!” He turned around, probably to hide his embarrassment. “I know you’re thrilled about spending more time with me, but you’re going to have to chill, okay? We’re going to be late.”
“Suuureee…” Relief was immediately replaced with exasperation as I watched Kazuto walk away. At least he was back to normal. Now that I didn’t need to worry about him anymore I was going to have to figure out how I was going to ask Azusa to come with me to some otaku gathering without sounding like I was asking her out. Crap. After that last thought I was going to have to figure out how to ask her without freaking out and doing something straight up shameful.
I shoved the tickets into my jacket pocket and went to class, but it was hard to concentrate knowing I was going to have to ask Azusa to do something with me outside of school. What would she say to that? We didn’t even know each other well. It was nerve-wracking, but at the same time there was something else bubbling up inside of me. Something like excitement? I didn’t know what to call it. I had never really been happy about being nervous before and, honestly, I didn’t want to think about such a confusing feeling. So I tried to put it out of my mind. I tried to anyway, but then lunch rolled around and I was going to have to talk to her if I went looking and suddenly I had all of these other things I needed to do.
“Um… You finally have my approval to go find Amamiya and you’re not going anywhere.” Kazuto sat backwards in his seat in front of mine like he always did at lunch and his accusatory look was majorly unwelcome.
“Aren’t we having lunch? What?”
“Nothing.” Kazuto shrugged carelessly, but I knew he was judging me. Every bite of his melon bread was like he was rubbing my cowardice in my face.
“I don’t have to see her at lunch. I can see her after school.” I glared.
He laughed at me. “I didn’t say anything, dude.”
He didn’t have to say anything. We both knew I was going to put it off for as long as possible and fry my nerves until I was a wreck. I wasn’t going to last if I put it off, but right at that moment I definitely wasn’t ready to face her. So of course it was that moment that I heard Azusa’s voice at the door.
“Is Izumi here?”
If I wasn’t hardcore panicking I probably would’ve laughed at the strangled noise of disgust Kazuto made as I spit my milk out all over his uniform jacket.
I had no time to console him. I got out of my chair and practically leaped toward the door, grabbing Azusa by the arm and dragging her as far away from the eyes of my classmates as possible. I inwardly cringed at what that must’ve looked like but it was better than the dumbass I would’ve made out of myself if we had talked by the door.
“Izumi!” Her voice sounded a bit distressed and I felt my heart jump a bit. When I looked at her I was expecting a face I’d never seen, but aside from being a little out of breath she just smiled at me. “Where’s the fire?” She laughed a bit, but something about her looked fragile to me in that moment.
“S-sorry.” Dammit. “I just…”
“Panicked?” She grinned that magic grin that turned my face three shades of red every time. “I guess that answers my question.”
“I came to ask you how you are under pressure.” She gave me a funny look before I followed her eyes to our hands that had somehow become connected.
“I’m sorry!!” I snatched my hand away, inwardly cringing at my shouting and the fool I made of myself despite my efforts.
“It’s fine, Izumi. I don’t mind.”
We stood there in the quiet hallway and I was sure that if she couldn’t hear my heart pounding then she could definitely see it trying to force its way out of my chest. I told myself it was because I was embarrassed. It was because of the tickets. It was because she suddenly showed up at the door to my classroom. She was looking for me just to ask about my personality.
“A-are you… working on your heroine again?” I tried to hide my embarrassment by looking down and if she noticed then she didn’t say anything about it.
“Yeah, I just had this part in my head where they need to study for exams, but she keeps putting it off so she can keep an eye on the guy. Then exams come and she hasn’t studied at all.”
I laughed. “How irresponsible.”
“Is that too obsessive?” Azusa looked thoughtful and I watched her expression change and the way the light reflected off of her eyes and that cherry hairpin of hers and forgot all about her question.
“Amamiya…” The words slipped out. “Will you go out with me next weekend?”
Her eyes widened as she stared at me and I suddenly realized what I had just said.
Age: 19 Species: Human
Talent: “The Gift” or the ability to see the supernatural, Playing wind instruments
Likes: Music, Fashion, Praise, Freedom, Applause
Dislikes: Reading, Studying, Chores, Being put on the spot
Charlie had been able to ignore the strange things she sees quite well up until high school, at the peak of her musical career. She was a prodigy on her way to Julliard until she realized that her music attracts the supernatural. As she grew and improved the monsters became stronger and more frequent when, suddenly she was attacked during a performance. Since no one else could see the monster they chalked it up to the girl having a melt down. After trying to continue her passion only to repeat this same kind of event, Charlie finally gave up music for good.
A frustrated young adult at the end of her teen years, Charlie wants to move on with her future but finds herself trapped by the world of the supernatural. She’s usually positive and laid-back, albeit lazy, but sometimes becomes melancholy and lonely when she thinks about her secrets and the things she’s missed out on because of them. She is envious of her little brother, Elliot, who seems to easily obtain the things she can’t have.
Though Charlie feels like an awkward nerd most of the time, she is very vein and loves to impress. She often dresses fashionable and comes of as cool to onlookers. That is of course until she reacts to things that no one else can see. Then she looks kind of insane.
“If I can make people who see my art happy or aspire to improve or some such, that’d be grand!”
Redsplendence is a hobby artist with a great gallery! We had a short interview where Red gave me an “I do this for fun” vibe, but their unique and beautiful style suggests much practice. As an artist who’s surrounded by other artists, Red says their biggest influences are their friends. Though Red has many projects and webcomics, they would not divulge any spoilers. Guess you’ll have to follow Red to see what they come up with next!
I found myself thinking about Azusa’s mother at the dinner table. Miyuki was chatting away with my dad, who only became lively around this time and continued to be well into the early morning when he fell asleep. My eyes were drawn to my mom who was eating the meal she had made quietly with that air of strength and serenity she always had about her. She looked up at me with mirroring chocolate eyes and smiled.
“Got something on your mind, kiddo?”
Suddenly I felt embarrassed. Why are my feelings so obvious to her? “I met a friend’s mom today and she seemed really… strict.”
“A friend besides Kazuto?” She looked excited and suddenly all eyes were on me.
I grimaced. “Well they’re not really a friend… I just keep running into them…”
The excitement level of the table went visibly down at that and my dad and Miyuki continued their conversation, but I could tell they were still paying half attention to me.
“It’s just that this person is really cheerful all the time and it feels like they don’t take anything seriously and their mother seems kind of harsh about that. But instead of being annoyed they said, it’s tough when you get stuck with a lazy kid.”
“This person sounds kind of self-depreciating.” My mom said, contemplatively.
“I think they sound mature for a high schooler.” My dad cut in. He smiled at me. “It’s possible they’re just being realistic and they understand the trouble they’re causing for this overbearing mother. But if you’re worried about this person maybe you should keep an eye on them.”
I looked down at my plate as I realized how much Azusa consumed my thoughts. In the past two weeks I’ve only read one book and it was the one she’d handed to me. I thought I was changing this year. I thought that books were going to be my focus from now on, but all I seem to think about is her.
My mom definitely noticed my melancholy and I silently thanked her for not saying anything at the dinner table. But that didn’t save me from her looming presence in my bedroom afterward. The sounds of video games and laughter echoed from downstairs until my mom closed the door and leaned knowingly against it. I sat on my bed with a guilty expression.
“This person you’re concerned about…” She grinned. “It’s a girl isn’t it?”
“It’s not like that, mom!” I defended, but she looked suspicious.
“Is it a boy?”
“Honey, I will love you no matter what you’re into.”
“Mom! No!” I hid my beet red face in my hands. “It’s a girl! But it’s not like that!”
“Oh.” She said casually before sitting cross-legged at the end of my bed. “Alright, then. It’s a girl. You like girls, but you don’t like this girl.”
I dropped my hands to scowl at her for the implication then looked back at my hands in my lap. “I don’t know…” I found myself saying quietly. “I don’t know how I feel about her… She just always seems to be on my mind.”
“You don’t have to know everything right away, Kou. And just because you care about someone doesn’t mean you have to want them to be your girlfriend.” She smiled sweetly at me and ruffled my hair. “If you’re concerned about her maybe it’s because there’s cause for concern. People aren’t one dimensional. No one has energy 24/7. I’m sure this girl has times when she’s upset, but she doesn’t know how to show it. Maybe you can help her with that.”
I thought really hard about that and, even though I didn’t really respond, I’m sure my mom could tell how much it resonated with me. She could always tell those sorts of things. She ruffled my hair and left to run my bath as I contemplated my apparent obsession with Azusa. There was no sense in wondering about her relationship with her mom or any of the stupid thoughts I’ve been dancing around. I would just have to get to know her.
So that was the plan the next day at school as I left Kazuto and his pouting face as soon as I finished eating lunch to find Azusa. I mentally prepared myself to search in vein again so you can imagine my surprise when I entered the library to find a mess of burgundy hair and a cherry shaped hairpin.
“A-amamiya.” I have got to stop stuttering around this girl.
“Izumi!” She smiled. It was fake. I was beginning to be able to tell that now.
I could tell she didn’t want me to sit down, but I did anyway. “We… um… never got a chance to talk about that book.”
“Scented Letters?” This time her smile was real. “Did you like it?”
“I loved it.” I corrected, somewhat surprised at the natural grin that found its way to my face. I had meant to use it as an excuse to ask about other things, but now that we were talking about it I couldn’t help myself. I wracked my brain to pull up the images of the book and the things I’d been wondering about when I remembered the one thing that really got me. “But I hated the ending.”
Azusa closed the book she had open on the table and leaned into her hand. My eye caught her notebook underneath her other arm. “Because you wanted the romance to work out?”
I blushed a little and remembered why I tried to fit Azusa into the protagonist’s shoes. A girl who’s had a loving relationship with a boy for years suddenly gets the opportunity to move far away and accomplish her dreams and realizes that she and the one she loves has very different ideas about how they want their lives to go. The heroine was emotional and struggled with her decision but ultimately chose her dream over her romance. I thought that was a decision Azusa would make with far less tears.
I defended my standpoint without all of the extra elaboration. “I mean… It just felt to me like the author was saying a career is more important than love.”
“Really? I didn’t see it that way at all.” Her amber eyes lit up as she explained and I couldn’t help but find them beautiful. “There are a bunch of different kinds of love. I think the author was trying to say you can love your dreams more than you love a person.”
“I see what you’re saying…” I admitted. “But that still seems so sad to me. It’s like saying that if the thing you love and the person you love are separate than you have to pick one.”
“Isn’t that how it is?” She shrugged. “Life’s tough. You can’t have everything.” As true as that statement was and as generally as I’m sure she meant it, it felt like she was saying, I can’t have everything.
“Is that what you would choose, Amamiya?”
“What? A career? Over a person?” Azusa looked almost shocked that I would ask something like that. “No way. I’d choose a person. Definitely.” She surprised me with a laugh. “I hated the ending too!”
I was a bit in shock. Suddenly I felt like anything I’d learned about this girl was tossed right out the window.
“Don’t look so surprised, Izumi! It’s only because following some daring dream is too much work for me.”
“What? But…” I tried not to be so obvious about it but my eyes instinctively sought out her notebook. “Don’t you want to be a writer?”
She sighed. “The notebook again? It’s just a hobby. All I do with this is story build. I don’t actually write anything.”
My brows furrowed reflexively. “What’s the point in that?”
“What’s the point in doing anything you like doing? It’s for fun, of course. Stress management. That sort of thing.” She looked at me funny just then and I realized I probably looked like I was glaring at her. “Does that bother you?”
“I guess… not.” I tried to relax my face. It baffled me that someone would go to such extreme lengths just for fun. I felt like it should be a bigger part of her life. “I was just wondering about your stories. It seems like you go through a lot of effort. So they must be good.”
“I don’t know about that, but if you want to know I’d be happy to tell you about one.” Azusa began flipping through her notebook until she reached a page entitled Compatibility. “Since you seem to be interested in romance, I’ll go with this one.”
I made a face, but didn’t protest. “I’m shocked you even have a romance in there.” I tried not to sound patronizing.
“It’s the only one.” What a surprise. “But I liked the concept. See, this girl has a childhood friend and they’re inseparable all the way up until high school where he starts to make other friends. They still hang out all the time, but she’s not interested in other people because she thinks she’s in love with him.”
“She thinks she’s in love with him?”
“High schoolers don’t know what love is, Izumi.” She said it matter-of-factly and completely ignored my annoyance. “Anyway the boy gets a crush on another girl and in order to be close to her he joins the literature club so naturally the heroine also joins in order to be close to the boy. Long story short, the heroine finds that she’s actually far more compatible with the literature club president than with the boy she thought she was in love with.”
Her way of thinking bugged me a bit—like she knew better than me even though we were the same age. But as she went on I found myself really interested in this love polygon. It was an interesting concept. I could imagine the drama of it all. Just when the heroine’s heart is broken, this new, better love shows up to pick up the pieces! As Azusa went on a bit about the characters I became more and more attached to the lead female. She was standoffish and came off as cool and mean, but she was really just shy and didn’t know how to act. That stupid childhood friend of hers didn’t deserve her. I immersed myself in these ideas and characters until I realized something.
“Wait.” I stared hard and Azusa who looked up from the notebook casually. “Who did you base the heroine off of?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” She leaned on her hand again and grinned wide. “I based her off of you, Izumi!”
I could feel the blood rushing to my ears as I buried my face in my arms on the table. I heard her giggle at me as I tried to hide my embarrassment. Somehow I could only take it as a compliment, but it was still incredibly unmanly. After a loud groan I looked up from my hiding place to ask the question that’s been on my mind.
“If I’m going to be used as reference then you’re going to let me read it first, right?”
“I already told you I don’t write anything. This is as far as I’m going to take this.”
“But it’s so interesting.” I was probably pouting. “What a waste.”
“It would be worse if I wrote it. I’m really bad at writing, Izumi. Trust me. It would just be disappointing.”
“I’m sure you’re just being modest.” I reasoned.
She raised an eyebrow at me and flipped through her notebook again. After stopping on a page she pushed it wordlessly over to my side of the table. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was as I began, but I quickly realized that it was supposed to be the opening of a novel. It wasn’t cringe-worthy… it was worse.
I struggled a bit to look at her. “It… You know… Everyone starts somewhere!”
“You don’t have to hold back so much, Izumi.” She looked like she felt kind of sorry for me.
“But… your ideas are so good.” I’m sure I sounded as disappointed as I felt.
She laughed. “Too bad you can’t write them for me.”
For a moment I felt filled with passion for the idea, but my shoulders quickly dropped as I realized that I wasn’t much better.
“I’m not really the creative type…” I defended.
“Don’t look so defeated, Izumi!” She laughed, resting her head in her palms again. “Like I said, chasing big dreams like that is just too much work for me. I’m not cut out for it. I’ve already decided I’m just going to be a civil servant. It’s easy and secure and I can still do this for fun.”
Something about that didn’t sit right with me. “But… aren’t you passionate about this? If not writing, what about editing or something?”
“That’s a high pressure job.” She looked really put off by the thought. “Besides, I’m not that great at school so getting into university would be hard.”
The bell rang before I could protest and I stood suddenly, realizing I was about to be late. Azusa didn’t seem to care one way or the other as she took her time packing up her things. I quickly said my goodbyes and bowed before running off to class, rushing through the hallway with one thing on my mind.
She’s wasting her potential.
Age: ?? Species: Black Tip Feathered Wyvern
Talent: Flight, Can speak all Languages and recall ancient knowledge, Can purify evil spirits
Likes: To share his wisdom, Hard-working people, Reading
Dislikes: Lazy people, Ridiculous or uncouth situations and topics, Stupidity
Mr. Sofós is an ancient dragon, though many confuse him with a griffin due to his unusual appearance. He claims to have been a servant of Charlie’s (the heroine) grandfather, but when he disappeared Mr. Sofós lost most of his power and became trapped in the body of an owl-like creature.
As a diákonos (servant), Mr. Sofós needs a kýrios (master) in order to function properly. In order to regain his strength he must feed off of the energy provided by the music Charlie plays. She then becomes his kýrios and can change Mr. Sofós into a dragon when needed as well as heal him, and temporarily give him special abilities.
Often called “Professor” by Charlie, Mr. Sofós strives to teach the young girl all he can about the mystical world before her. He doesn’t sympathize well with the girl’s lazy and sometimes even defeatist attitude nor does he quite understand her loneliness. He is not afraid to speak his mind and loves to offer his wisdom and advice. He can become quite agitated when argued with and has trouble admitting when he’s wrong since he believes he’s right more often than not. Well, he’s lived for a very long time so he probably is.