Chapter I-Conclusion: Chalcedony, Crystal and a Quartet

Pling! Ker-crack! The sound of glass and wood dislocating itself into pieces echoed into every corner of the classroom. Yuki and Shou’s second-grade partner tripped on his shoelaces and fell forward towards the old coffee table. With a sweep of his body and a pull on the tablecloth, the porcelain vase and several glass cups pulverized upon contact with the ground, spreading piles of sharp shards and puddles of liquid. Yuki quickly pulled on his arm and managed to save him from falling onto the debris.
“Oh no! Is anybody hurt?” The teacher came rushing in.
Shuuichi clung tightly onto Yuki, “Yuki-chan, I’m sorry…” and burst to tears .
 Yuki’s face broke into a gentle smile. She stroked the boy’s hair, “Don’t be afraid, it’s all right. As long as nobody’s hurt it’s fine. We’ll help you clean up…”
Shou felt obliged to help clear the situation as well, and knelt down to the child and said, “You’re a good boy, don’t cry! Besides, you’ve already apologized to sensei and to us, right? You shouldn’t worry about it. Why don’t you go relax and play outside? Isn’t it already recess now?” At the conclusion of the last syllable, the school bell sounds its recess bell, followed by the clamour of footsteps from upstairs and surrounding classes. “All right, aren’t you going?” The child wiped away his tears and nodded, finally heading out of the classroom.
“You two can go play now. The shards are too dangerous to handle.” The teacher reassured the two fourth-graders. “This was a small accident, so don’t worry too much about it.”
Shou shook his head, “I’m sorry, sensei. But at that moment, he was supposedly my responsibility, and it was my fault for walking away at that moment. It should be my responsibility to clean up. I will be careful, so please don’t worry.”
“…I’ll help as well, since I’m also in the same group, naturally I have a responsibility as well.” Yuki also walked forward a step and said in an unusually firm tone.
“Hmm…all right, but then this is still your recess, you’re using your own time!” The teacher hesitated.
“Please don’t worry about it.”
“Very well. Thanks for everything. Be careful!” The teacher issued dustpans and brushes to the two children while urging caution.

“Hey, are you guys really staying inside to clean and not going out to play?” Shortly after the two started cleaning, Jyun asked Shou as he passed by the doorway.
“If we’re not, then may I ask what do you think we’re doing here?” Shou raised an eyebrow.
Forced silent and unable to reply, Jyun laughed in embarrassment, “It’s your loss then! Hohoho…” and walked away.
“Oh, I can’t brush up this piece, I’ll just pick this in the pan …” Yuki put down the pan in her right hand and reached for a thin piece of the remainders of the porcelain vase.
“HAND, SHARDS, NO TOUCH!” Shocked, Shou screamed his warning, all sense of grammar completely out the window.
A feeling of shock electrified through Yuki’s nervous system, freezing her ice-cold for a split second, and she screamed as her right hand jerked in reflex to the pain. The brush on her left hand also fell on the ground from the shock. “Ow! It…hurts…” On the tip of her index finger opened a fine but long wound, and blood gathered at the apex like morning dew, forming drops of chalcedony, falling in its ripeness onto her pink wool blouse and seeded itself into the woven material.
“Oh no, this is bad…” Shou hurriedly dumped the pan of shards into the garbage can, and then took Yuki’s hand to examine it. Suddenly, Shou pressed his fingers together, and squeezed the base of her index finger. Another large drop of blood was forming on the fingertip like a ripening fruit about to fall. Without second thought, Shou sucked the droplet away with his mouth.
Shocked, Yuki asked, “Shou, what are you doing?”
“I’m sorry, did I press too hard? We should go to the infirmary! Don’t just stand there!” Shou apprehensively grabbed Yuki’s small hand and headed for the door as he continuously mumbled something. Being dragged across the hallway by a boy in force, Yuki’s face flushed to a peach red as several students and teachers gave strange looks at the odd couple.

A while later…
After careful inspection from the infirmary staff to ensure no remaining fragments are left in the finger, they bandaged her up and sent her going. When Yuki stepped out of the infirmary, she timidly thanked, “Shou, thank you…”
Shou stared blankly at her, and blinked several times. He reflected to himself, I just panicked and dragged her halfway across the school for a minor cut. Why should she be thanking me, when I should be apologizing to her!?
“Shou? Did I say something wrong again? I’m sorr–“ Seeing Shou’s troubled expression, Yuki corrected herself. Shou impulsively wanted with all his heart to take Yuki’s body to his embrace, while silencing her with a light touch on her lips with a finger, but his sense of moral reasoning fought with him fiercely, limiting his hands to stop on her shoulders. He shook his head, “You don’t have to apologize…besides, it’s me who went overboard.”
He then wanted to hold her right hand, but hesitation made his hand land on her wrist instead. “Does it still hurt?”
Yuki shook her head as her reflexes shot back a little, as if too embarrassed to shake off Shou’s manacle grip too obviously.
 “Looks like recess is ending…” she changed the subject. Taking a peek on Yuki’s grip, Shou noticed the time and concurred with her feelings in a sigh, and let go of her after he realized where his hand was fixated to doing

 The sound of children playing and laughing outside faintly echoed along the empty hallway. Only two children, aged about ten years, strolled along the hallway’s ultraviolet-resistant glass windows. “There is going to be a market fair in the quay shopping district this Saturday! By then there is going to be a lot of shops, selling many different interesting things…” Yuki sighed.
“If it’s a fair, you should be happy, so why are you saying it so…” Shou asked caringly, noticing a touch of regret in her nuance.
Yuki lightly tilted her head to one side, closed her eyes and sighed again, “My parents have work to do and cannot tend to me. In other words, I can’t go. Looks like I may even have to follow them around at work again. It’s really meddlesome, them working all the time.”
 “What are you going to do then? Or should I say, isn’t there someone you can go with as a group?”
 “My dad doesn’t trust me going out without an adult along, and there isn’t anyone else around we can rely on. It’s actually still our first year in this city, so…”
 “What about us, say with Jyun and Ei?” Shou offered.
 “My parents are almost always free. They can probably go, I can ask. So will you come with us?”
 “…I will have to ask, but I can think about it.” Yuki uneasily conceded.

 “Is it really OK? Everyone?” Shou asked again happily.
“That’s right. Oh, also, feel free to buy whatever you like on that day. I’ll pay!” Kousei promised with a pat on his sons back. “Just don’t break my budget with some ridiculously expensive thingamajig.”
“Father’s the greatest! Banzai!” Yuu cheered.
 “It’s going to be a beautiful 26 degrees and sunny all day on Saturday! Kousei-kun, remember to bring water bottles for you and the kids, extra spare change and sunglasses!” Shou’s mother reminded her husband with a tone of endearment, calling directly by name. Obviously, she too was excited, in an almost-childlike anticipation.
 “Don’t worry, Suiryuu-chan. We all know how to take care of ourselves. The kids will grow up soon and have their own lives. It’s rather you who seem to be a kid in a candy store!” Shou’s father smiled meekly in reply. Once again, the family burst into a hearty laugh…
 But the joyful polyphony lacked one voice.

 In Yuu’s room, Shou held his school agenda with his left hand and the telephone receiver with the other, his eyes rolled in pendulum along with the calm “doo…doo…” of the waiting signal . Finally, upon hearing the receiving end respond, he tensely asked, “Hello, is this the Utsuki residence? May I ask if Yuki is at home right now…?”


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