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April 2016
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Energy! 24/6 [Book 1: Chapter 4]


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My eyes traveled across pages and pages of what looked like… character profiles? It was like she was logging people’s information carefully down with excruciating detail from physical description to behavior patterns and interests. That’s when I saw the name Izumi Koichi written on the top of a page. My name.

“What is this?” I felt a bit sick. Was she stalking me? Was she stalking everyone? Why did she have something like this? Before I knew it my cell phone was in my hand and the ringing was loud in my ear.

“Hmm?” Came an uninterested tone from the other side of the line.

“KAZUTO!” I panicked.

“What the hell, Kouichi?! Don’t scream in my ear like that! You messed up my rhythm!” I could hear a low music playing in the background of Kazuto’s grumbling about a perfect score. I might’ve rolled my eyes at what I was sure was that stupid rhythm game I suck at if I wasn’t so alarmed.

“Amamiya’s notebook!”

“You opened it? Man you have a weak resolve.” He teased.

“It was an accident! But there’s really weird stuff in here! Like profiles on people… like really detailed profiles and…” I paused nervously.

“And what?!” The tapping of buttons intensified and I couldn’t tell if his irritation was at me or the game.

“There one of me in here.”

The distinct pausing sound effect echoed on the line before silence and I knew that I was about to hear the worst possible thing that could mean.

“Dude. Amamiya is totally a serial killer. She going to kill you, Kou.” It was hard to tell if he was serious or not, but he sounded urgent enough to make me pretty damn paranoid.

“Th-that’s! No way! There’s no way!” I knew I didn’t sound convincing. By now the notebook was on the floor again and I sat against the wall on my bed, staring at it as if it was a dog held back on a chain. “I mean… she did seem like she was thinking about how I could handle myself in a fight… Oh my god. What am I gonna do?”

I thought I heard snickering, but I wasn’t sure. “She’s so going to kill you, you’ve gotta skip town!”

“I can’t skip town, you idiot! Where would I even go?”

“Don’t worry. I know a guy you can stay with in Amagasaki.”

“Shut up, you dumbass! No you don’t!”

“You’re right. That’s not far enough…” He sounded like he was contemplating something, but at this point it was clear he was messing with me.

I took a breath, picking up the notebook again and going over some details. “Looks unfriendly, but is actually approachable… She must’ve written that on that day…” I thought about Azusa’s face and something in me wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. There had to be an explanation.

“She’s got you down.” Kazuto snickered. I could hear the game in the background again.

“I’m going to ask her.”

“What?!” There was the pausing sound again. “Uh, Kou, that’s so creepy. I mean maybe she’s not a serial killer, but she’s obviously a freak and she’s straight up stalking you, bro. Don’t just go up to her and give her the evidence!”

“What the hell am I supposed to do with it? Pretend I don’t have it?”

“That’s exactly what you should do!!”

I sighed. Calling him was a bad idea. “I’ll see you at school, Kazu.” I could hear more garbled words as I hung up, sure he was swearing at me from wherever he was, but it didn’t matter. I had made up my mind.

That’s what I told myself, but the next day I couldn’t find Azusa anywhere, as usual. If it was easy to find her I probably wouldn’t have been losing my nerve. I steeled myself. I couldn’t bring attention to the fact that I was looking for her, so I decided to wait after school despite Kazuto’s many warnings and glares. It was easy to ignore since I knew he was too lazy to actually try to stop me or wait with me. There was nothing he could do. So I stood at the entrance after school with Azusa’s notebook in my hand and what was probably a very intense looking expression on my face.

I waited in silence as a few people passed me by, whispering to each other with worried expressions. It depressed me a bit to know that I most likely looked like a delinquent waiting to make good on some vendetta and I was about to try to reassure a scared looking first year when Azusa passed me by.

“A-Amamiya!” Dammit. She surprised me and I stuttered.

“Izumi?” She looked distracted until she noticed the notebook in my hands. “Why do you have that?” And there she went again taking control of the situation. It struck me then that somehow she always managed to have the upper hand and I couldn’t let that continue.

“I should be asking you that.” I glared. “It’s really rude to keep people’s information like this.” I held the notebook up in what I thought was a menacing way, but she didn’t seem phased.

“You say that, but isn’t it also rude to go through people’s things?”

“I…! I didn’t go through it on purpose! It just fell like that!”

“Oh, I see. Well, no harm no foul.” She shrugged. I dropped my shoulders at that response. I was beginning to see that thing about Azusa not taking anything seriously.

“That’s not right… You should stick to your guns a little more…”

“Oh, should I be angry with you then?” She looked at me as if I were asking her to do something confusing. “But I thought you wanted me to feel guilty.”

“Of course you should feel bad about it! Anyone would find it pretty unnerving to see this kind of thing, you know! But you can be a little angry too!” I’m sure my exasperation was clearly visible at this point. I mean, what’s wrong with this girl?

Then, suddenly her face lit up. “That’s very good, Izumi! Conflicting emotions! I get it! Could I have my notebook back? I’d like to write that down.”

“Wh-what?” I was thrown for a loop again and I knew any hope I had of having the upper hand in this conversation was lost now. Trying to regain my footing, I paused and put a hand out to stop her from grabbing at the notebook. “No. Wait.”

“What is it now? Oh, that’s right. You’re angry with me.” She sighed, clearly tired of the situation. “Alright then, go on. Berate me or whatever it is you had planned.”

“Ugh! Why are you like this?! It’s like you don’t understand basic emotions! It’s not like I just wanted to get mad at you and yell and stuff…”

“Then what do you want?”

“I don’t know… An explanation?”

Then she met my eyes and bluntly answered. “Alright. I write down notes on people so that I can make more three dimensional characters for my stories.”

I was so taken aback I didn’t notice her gingerly slipping the notebook from my hands. I watched blankly as she flipped through the pages of data to one that contained a simple bullet list of notes. If I was more aware of my surroundings I might’ve noticed the title, “Emotion vs. Logic”, above the list.

“Are you alright, Izumi? You look a bit drained. Do you need me to walk you home?”

“Uh… Sure.” I ended up saying. I wasn’t sure if it was her straightforwardness that shocked me or her answer, but the more I thought about it the more I didn’t know what to say. It was weird. Even with the explanation it was a weird thing to do. Despite that I wanted to know more about it. What prompted her to do that? Does she know how creepy that is? What kind of stories does she make? Am I a character in one? That last thought was really intriguing.

“Is it really so strange?” Azusa’s words snapped me back to reality. Suddenly we were down the sidewalk, far from the school. I was walking side by side with the girl I’d turned down two weeks ago. How did that happen?

“W-what?” Ugh, why do I keep stuttering around her?

“Is it really strange to study people? Isn’t that what anthropology is? Or I guess this would be more like psychology.” She stared ahead, a face like she was talking about the weather. I couldn’t be sure, but there might’ve been something akin to loneliness in her voice.

Somehow, I wanted to comfort her. To tell her it wasn’t strange if that would make her feel better, but I stopped myself from lying about it. “It’s a little unsettling to be dissected… especially if you don’t know why it’s happening.”

“Oh.” She looked at me like she’d realized something. “So it’s about being self-conscious, then?”

I looked away from her to hide my exasperation. How was I supposed to tell her that it made her look like a serial killer in a nice way? “Sort of…” Was what I went with. Brilliant.

“I don’t get it. You’re interesting. It’s a compliment!” Azusa grinned.

I wondered about that grin. She reminded me of a conman when she made that face. I wanted to ask her why she just gave away smiles for free and if they were the real thing or just cheap knockoffs. I don’t know why I was so entranced by her. It was as if she emitted a force that made me want to speak my mind, which is something I’ve never been so inclined to do. Before I knew it I was speaking again.

“Is that why you asked me out that day? To study me? Because I’m interesting?”

“Of course!” She smiled like it was no big deal. It shouldn’t have been.

“So you have no romantic feelings for me then?”

“Oh, no. Don’t worry. I’m not interested in relationships.” She patted me on the shoulder as if to comfort me. Don’t worry, she said, like I was making sure she didn’t have any bothersome feelings. I wondered why that kind of hurt.

“I see.” Was all I could think to say as I shoved my hands in my pockets to keep from fidgeting.

“Well, this is me.” She suddenly stopped and I realized we were in front of a house. The name plate read Amamiya and a part of me was annoyed that I didn’t pay attention to how we got there. “Are you going to be okay on your own, Izumi? You look really out of it.”

I opened my mouth to protest the comment, but before I could say anything the front door opened. I looked up to see a beautiful, but very strict looking, business woman staring right at me. There was no doubt in my mind that she was Azusa’s mother. The resemblance was uncanny.

“Azusa.” She said curtly, without looking away from me. I tried not to shrink under her gaze. “You sure took your time getting home.” She looked over at Azusa now and I suddenly noticed that Azusa looked surprised to see her. “If you have time to fool around with boys then you have time to be punctual. As it turns out something came up I can’t wait around for you all day.”

“Okay.” Azusa answered casually and I wondered how she wasn’t intimidated by this woman.

Azusa’s mom looked at me again after she closed the door. “Aren’t you going to introduce yourself?” She glared.

I felt my whole body tense up. “Y-yes, ma’am! My name is Izumi, ma’am!” I ignored Azusa’s snicker.

She seemed unsatisfied with my response. “Well, Izumi. Please don’t take up too much of this girl’s time. She’s lazy enough as it is.” Before I could say anything she got into a sleek black car and drove off.

“Does my mom scare you, Izumi?” Azusa teased, a sly grin on her face.

“She would scare anyone!” Was my reflexive response.

She laughed. “Yeah, I guess so. She’s not that bad though. She just wants everyone to be the best they can be.” Her smile quickly turned sheepish as she scratched the back of her head. “It’s tough when you get stuck with a lazy kid.”

That didn’t seem right to me. I wanted to say something about it but I also felt like I was butting into something I shouldn’t so I kept my mouth shut.

“Anyway, she’ll have my head if I don’t get some studying done before she gets back so I’d better go.” She waved to me from the door and I waved back with considerably less enthusiasm. The image was laughable to me because I was sure that I was far more interested in spending time together than she was. “Be careful on your way home, Izumi!”

I nodded. She closed the door. I put my hands back in my pockets and trudged home, frustrated. The more I learned about Azusa the more I felt like I didn’t know anything about her. The further I felt from her the closer I wanted to be. The worse she made me feel, the more I wanted her to treat me fondly.

I kicked a small stone in irritation and thought for a moment that I was beginning to fall for someone terrible.

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