Chapter II-1: A Warm Day with Thundershowers Just Before

“…Is that so? I see!” Kousei Tachibana said, holding onto the telephone receiver. Although his son Shou continued to yawn beside him, he tried hard to get his ears closer to the receiver and listen to the words coming from the other end. “How about this, when you head out to work, you can drop off your daughter at our place, and then we’ll take her to the carnival with us…time? How about you decide, for we’re fine with any…alright, nine-fifteen it is. Address is…Oh? You live quite close by! Very well, see you on Saturday…excuse me.” Shou’s father’s voice remained in his optimistic ‘business tone’ all the way until he put down the receiver. “Well? Is Yuki going to go out with us together?” Shou widened his eyes and asked excitedly. Yuu quickly gave her brother a wallop on his head. “Shou! Are you trying to make us all deaf? Must you yell out loud?” Kousei changed to a mysterious tone, “We still have two days until Saturday, and I foresee that it will be warm and sunny…” “Wh…what the heck? How is this got to do with anything? Didn’t the weather forecast just say otherwise a while ago?” Shou confusedly asked his father. “But…tomorrow will be blazing hot, with a chance of thunder-showers in the afternoon. Be careful of trees catching fire…especially hardwood trees that sway in the wind a lot.” Shou’s father finished his statement seriously. “Kousei my dear, you’re saying really weird things again…I don’t understand it.” Shou’s mother was caught completely off-guard by her husband’s paradoxical statement. Even knowing it was a riddle, she had no idea of what it meant. “Well, I was just trying to remind Shou to stay in the cool shade! That’s all.” Kousei innocently replied as he tugged his pyjamas and briskly walked out of the living room. Ei violently pulled on Shou’s hoodie, her fists clenched tightly. “Shou, what were you doing today? Did you know that if the sensei knew, me and Jyun could get consequenced!” Although caught off-guard at the moment, Shou already had some mental preparation for this. Blinking a few times as if he couldn’t understand her anger, he laxly said, “But I am thinking for your own good! If I don’t take away your note and you guys keep passing it back and forth like that, sensei WILL consequence you for sure!” Hearing her argument turning back against herself, Ei felt even more unjustified and barked, “So what the hell does that have to do with you?” Shou’s lips pushed to one side and thought to himself: What ugly choice of words, Ogasawara-kun. However, he remained undaunted from blunt honesty and said calmly, “So what’s so important in the note? Trading answers in the workbook aside, but talking with Jyun about plans together for the fair? Heheh…if anyone else had caught hold of the slip…” Ei turned increasingly thunderous as Shou’s tone becomes increasingly humiliating. She pointed her index and middle fingers at him and burst at him outside the school gate, “WHAT?! Shou Tachibana, how dare you, peeking at other people’s secrets!?” Shou also blurted, “I always tear up notes after I take them away. Nobody can expect to have it back. In that case, why not read the contents before pulverizing it and disposing…” An inscrutable sound came from Ei’s nostrils as she yelled at the top of her lungs, “That’s it! You are not my friend anymore! I’m gonna make you pay for this! DIE!” She reached for Shou’s neck as if to mangle his head right off, scaring the little boy to run for his life with half his mind completely jumped out of its shell. And so began a “thrilling, bloody, and tearful” episode of action-packed chasing and martial arts performances. Scene i. First, Shou realized his disadvantaged position, turned and ran outside of school, no longer paying any thought to waiting for his sister to go home together. At the sloped path between the school and home, senior elementary students occasionally can be seen walking unhurriedly homebound. Suddenly from far away came the sounds of children yelling. “Stop running! If I don’t rip you to shreds today, my name ain’t Ogasawara!” Ei yelled in a mafia tongue. Less than one meter out of her grasp, Shou panted his reply, “But…manslaughter…is…criminal! Ca…Calm down, Ei…!” He suddenly recalled his father’s words: “Tomorrow would be hot, with a chance of thundershowers in the afternoon.” Suddenly realizing the reference, Shou cursed his father for being ambiguous as he ran down the hill, almost tripping and rolling from time to time. Scene ii. Unfortunately, the slope path ended at a busy intersection, with the pedestrian lights flashing red. Although the automobile traffic wasn’t busy, any attempts by Shou to dash out would mean immediate peril to his physical being. With only half a metre of distance behind, Ei instantly caught him and made a direct punch into his backpack. In panic, Shou turned and made an empty pass with his left hand, while raising his right hand to block Ei’s chop. “OW! That hurts…help…!” In result, Shou’s right arm immediately became numb from the block and lost control of the limb. Imagine from the pure anger of the rampaging child, how much more force can be created in his or her desperate attacking blows? Ei was about to make a sweep for Shou’s feet, when the frequency of the traffic signal’s tapping sound changed with the green light. Shou was still sufficiently agile to make a jump like a manga character and effectively dodged Ei’s sweep, turned a half circle in mid-air and ran with all due speed. “You’re not getting away!” Ei gasped and panted as another chase ensues. As one absconded, the other chased. Soon they have reached the residential area and not far away from the Tachibana residence. “Haa…you…I won’t let you…let you go…” Ei desperately panted as she uttered futile threats. Both were on the verge of exhaustion when Ei suddenly yelped. Shou tiredly turned to take a look. From here on, the drama ended with the “blood and tears”. Behind Ei was a pothole not too large or small, which formed the perfect trap for tripping over children’s little feet. She limped beside the whitewashed wooden fence beside the path, crying as she held her bleeding, scraped knee. Shou hurried beside Ei and was about to help her back up. She unthankfully slapped away his outreached hand. “Go away! I don’t need you caring for me, you ungrateful scum!” Having hit right into his weak spot- of being called uncaring to others’ feelings – Shou stood stiff, looking wordless at his own shoelaces, not daring to speak or to walk away. On the quiet lanes in the residential area, a girl sobbed painstakingly, holding her bleeding knee, while a boy stood helplessly beside her. There were no passers-by to give strange or pitiful looks at them, let alone anyone offering to help. Suddenly, a glint caught Shou’s attention at the corner of his eye. Looking carefully, a metallic nameplate shone in the setting sun from a house not far away. The words seemed to make out the familiar words “Ogasawara”. “Ogasawara-kun, don’t tell me your house is that one not so far away?” Ei bobbed her head while she continued on sniffling. He stretched his hand to Ei again, “Come on now, I’ll carry you home. Don’t be a kid now…you can make it, can you?” Although the trip already dissipated most of Ei’s fiery rage, the wounds on her knee and the pain in her heart continued to squeeze tears out of her eyes. Shou squatted beside her and apologetically whispered, “It looks painful…I’m sorry, Ei…” He took out a handkerchief and gently pressed onto Ei’s wound. When the cloth touched her wound, she yelped as she gave a small reactionary seizure. She was about to curse as she gave a snarling stare. Looking into Shou’s expression, his eyes pleaded, Ei, I’m really sorry, I feel like crying too, but please bear with me for now. Don’t punish me anymore. She felt a sense of calmness as she continued to gaze – and she began to take pity and guilt for the poor boy in front of her. From the gentle pressured applied by Shou’s hand, Ei felt a sunlight-like warmth seeping into her from his soft palms. “Come on, put your arm around my left shoulder, and I’ll carry you. Remember to go easy on your leg, go easy! Don’t raise your legs too high either, and let me hold onto your wound…” Shou babbled ceaselessly as he herded Ei home. “Shou, did anyone tell you that when you babble like that, you’re worse than my mother?” The worse than part was unneeded, Shou thought to himself, but smiled at the idea.

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