chapter one: end of summer, year 1

The wind blew softly about the trees, rustling the bronzing leaves and whistling a forlorn tune, which hung precariously in the air. A sort of earthy smell filled that same airspace, mixed with a tender threat of rain. Though it seemed dreary, Hatori praised the beautiful weather and the ominous onset of rain. Such beautiful weather, especially at this time of year, was rare to a point of nonexistence. He was thankful for the extra days of wearing just his favorite hoodie, a comfortable pair of khakis, and chocolate shoes. He turned to the clouds and closed his eyes, relaxing as much as he could on the wooden bench upon which he sat. A book lay beside him with a flimsy bookmark placed inside, to mark his place. The tedious reading assignment could wait, since this weather wouldn’t last. For now, he wanted to enjoy this moment in time, the brief reprieve from the noise of the world, and escape into a small, quiet world.


The dreamlike state was broken as Hatori turned to look in the direction of the voice, one of metal cans being ground in someone’s teeth. He groaned as he saw a dark-haired, dark-eyed girl waving vigorously at him from a distance away. The wind began to pick up, so, ignoring the girl, Hatori reached for the book and started to read, if only to deter the girl. It was to no avail, however; the hideous thing bounced up to him with a huge grin on her face.

“What do you think of my outfit?” she gushed, spinning in place against the wind, which blew her hair about her head. Against the moderate tones of the campus, the garish neon green seemed to glow with a sickly aura. “It’s your favorite color, right? Green is your favorite, right? It’s my favorite, too. I can’t get enough of this fabulous color!” She laughed, spewing a bit of sickening charm that made her seem even more out of place.

Hatori sighed and closed his book, having made no progress in his reading; it’s not as though applied chemistry was interesting, anyway. “I hate green,” he muttered under his breath, and began to walk away with the book in tow. The girl stood there and forced a few crocodile sobs before following him.

“You’re so cruel, Hatori, but I don’t mind.”

He stopped for a moment, but chose to forgo this chance to run and turned his head to look at her. “You’re annoying. Go away,” he said through gritted teeth, and continued away from the girl, who stood there dumbfounded. The leaves that had littered the campus grounds began to spin in the air and passed all around Hatori, whose anger was beginning to seep through his normally nonchalant attitude. Somehow, it felt as though the leaves symbolized the fire that raged inside him, the intense dislike he had toward the people around him. Most of that anger was directed at the girls, though.

“Why…” Hatori said to himself. “Why can’t they all just leave me alone? Stupid, giggling, fussing girls. They’re all just children, nothing more.” He sighed and altered his course to make his way for the library; at least there, students were forced to be quiet. As he did, he passed a group of girls hidden within a bush, which conspicuously shook with laughter.

“Look, there he is!”
“Isn’t he just dreamy?”
“Oh my God, he’s so cool and calm!”

“I wish he were mine!”

Again, Hatori stopped and sighed. “You can come out now,” he shouted at the bush before continuing. Inside, the girls just laughed harder and continued to gossip as if Hatori had said a joke. He felt powerless, like a pawn in their game of romance. It wasn’t that he didn’t like girls in general; he’d once envisioned finding the perfect soul mate. That was so long ago, though, that it seemed to be merely a dream. Nowadays, it was just superficial. No one really cared about who Hatori really was; just the way he appeared.

The library loomed into view, a massive glass structure that seemed to tower over its inhabitants with an empty, transparent stare. To outsiders, the people inside were simply shadowy blobs moving about, rushing around, or just pausing to chat or sit and read. At its corners were four trees, all of them fake but not without merit. About fifty-odd students were in the branches of the northern tree, removing the leaves and other objects placed in its bows. Hatori knew that soon they would move to the eastern tree to place the goldenrod, blood, and cinnamon objects to symbolize the coming of autumn. After that, there would be a huge rush as students and faculty began plans for the Saiten no Aki (Fall Festival), which was undoubtedly the largest event on the campus. It seemed silly for college students to host festivals and dances, but it didn’t really affect Hatori; he never attended, seeing as how he would never ask a girl to the functions.

Hatori managed another sigh before passing between the northern and western trees, ignoring the whispers from those in the northern tree and from those sitting on the steps of the library. As per usual, there was another girl waiting to open the library’s massive glass doors for him. He ignored her as well and entered into the antechamber, where a motley crew of seats and students covered the intricately patterned carpet beneath his feet. As he passed, some averted their eyes from their studies to Hatori; mostly the girls, who sometimes seemed to have memorized the very vibration and impression of his footsteps and were seemingly tuned into these faint keys of Hatori’s presence. Beyond the antechamber lay the first of the library’s four floors, named the Room of Innocence for the number of freshmen that prowled its shelves. The more experienced students spent their time on the higher floors, but Hatori chose instead to remain on the ground floor; the younger students were less likely to gawk at him.

“Oh, checking out another book today, Hatori-san?” the librarian called from the desk, positioned between the staircase and the shelves of beginner’s chemistry books.

“Yes, actually,” Hatori replied dully. “Do you have that one book I asked for about a week ago?”

“I think we do!” The librarian blushed furiously; even the older women seemed to fall for him. “I’ll go get it for you right now.” Off ran the librarian, leaving a slightly embarrassed but mostly irritated Hatori behind her.

“Why…why can’t they just act normal?” Hatori shook his head and started to make his way for a table to wait. “Maybe I should just disappear or…” Suddenly, as Hatori was lost in thought, a hand shot out from the side and rudely shoved Hatori into one of the wooden seats. The chemistry book flew out of Hatori’s hands and landed on the librarian’s desk, unharmed.

“How’s it going, cousin?” said a joyful voice from the next seat over. Hatori looked to his right and, again, sighed.

“Go bother someone else, Shigure. I’m not in the mood,” Hatori said through his teeth.

Shigure didn’t seem to be paying attention, however; he too was looking toward the right, but instead at a passing brunette reading a graphic novel. His gaze was perfectly fixed and he heard nothing, completely lost in whatever fantasy his twisted mind could concoct.

“She’ll never ask you out, you know,” Hatori muttered. Shigure’s trance was broken and he turned to face Hatori.

“How would you know? Every girl here wants to ask you out,” he retorted and then sighed heavily, leaning back with an exasperated look. “EVERYONE wants you, Hatori-kun. Just give in like a good boy and pick one.”

Hatori stood suddenly, fury etched across his face. He was used to his cousin teasing him; hell, some of it was actually funny, even if Hatori wasn’t prepared to admit it. This time, however, Shigure had gone too far.

“Since when does your judgment matter?” Hatori hissed. “You don’t have a girlfriend; all of the girls are repulsed by you.” Out of the corner of his eye, Hatori saw the librarian returning with the book in her hands. As such, he decided to end the argument and turned away. “Just leave me alone.” He snatched the book from the librarian’s hands and started toward the door, leaving Shigure glued to his chair in shock.

With anger still flooding his veins, he didn’t even see the person on the other side of the door.

Yanking the door open, Hatori started to exit, but was met with a soft grunt and a flurry of paper. The surprise caused him to topple backwards and land soundly on his backside, the book skidding away. As the flurry of papers started to fall, he could barely see what he’d hit in his anger.

“Are you all right?”

end chapter one