Chapter 1: Chance Encounter.
My first novel, my first time writing, my first EVERYTHING! Please give it a chance. I promise I’ll try my best......
Thirteen-year-old Haruki Fukuda unhurriedly made his way up the street near his neighborhood with an aloof expression that couldn’t be described. Earlier on, he’d just received news he couldn’t categorize as whether good or bad from his mother, and up until now he still couldn’t believe it.
His mother hadn’t tried to stop him from leaving the house at the time, only quietly glancing at his father who sat holding Haru’s school report card in his hand, as if the two of them had mutual understanding for their child’s reaction after they’d told him the news.
Any perceptive person would probably think, from the child’s disdainful look, that someone had done him wrong and that he hated the world and everything in it. Or maybe that he had received the most devastating news in his entire life, shocking him to the core.
But that wasn’t the case at all. No, it was far from it.
Still, Haruki couldn’t believe it. To him, what he’d been told couldn’t be classified as ‘good’.
He walked aimlessly for a few minutes, inattentive of where he was going, until he final came to a stop having noticed that the once quiet street he’d been treading had suddenly came to bustling life. It was only once he looked up and paid attention to his surroundings that he realized he’d walked straight into a park.
The opposite of where he’d wanted to go.
During the late afternoon like this, the park would still be crawling with people. Where would he get privacy at a place like this?
However, he figured that since he’d already arrived, he might as well continue walking. The place seemed unfamiliar to him, so there were high chances that he wouldn’t bump into anyone who knew him. As long as no one bothered him, it was still okay.
He examined the place as he walked, talking note of how the place was infested with love-sick young couples and less families. Had he come here earlier, he’d have back-tracked the moment he’d entered the gate and gone somewhere else.
The only reason he decided to hang around at this hour was because he’d noticed how most people were already packing up to leave. Now that he thought about it, maybe he did know this park. He’d never been here but he figured this was probably the park his older sister hated visiting since it was always full of couples. The one she’d often take him to was in the opposite direction.
At this point he just needed a secluded place to sit and think. If he found none he’d just keep walking until he became tired and went home. Thus, he continued his search.
It was late, so even though the park still had people in it, they were already leaving. He glanced at his black wrist- watch. At most, he still had a full hour before the place closed. His parents wouldn’t be that worried about him if he came home a little late, right?
He hadn’t walked very long when he spotted a huge, secluded tree area at a certain corner of the park and approached it, hoping that he wouldn’t bump into a couple making out behind it. The closer he got, the more certain he was that no one was around. In fact, he spotted no one even within a ten-meter radius of the place, which only made him a little uncomfortable. A place as peacefully quiet and beautiful as this, yet there weren’t any signs of litter to show that it’d been previously occupied? Wasn’t this the perfect make-out point? Or perhaps the people who’d occupied the area had all been clean freaks...
Even so, no one was there now he saw a chance to be alone.
When he’d finally approached, he noticed a single low-lying swing secured to one of the lower strong branches of the tree but didn’t pay much attention to it, only casting it but a glance before settling down on the soft lawn and fallen tree leaves, his eyes distant as he rested his back against the trunk and raising his knees.
His thoughts wandered.
Earlier that day:
“Ha, I thought Middle School would be tough but I guess it was just all talk,” those had been Haru’s smug words the very moment he’d entered the front door to his house, a black sling bag across his left shoulder while the right held a white envelope. The moment he’d stepped into the kitchen, he’d waved around that envelope in his mother’s face.
She’d been dicing up some ingredients for their early dinner when her son walked in, looking quite conceited.
“Well, you’re back early. And you seem excited,” came her comment as she wiped her hands on her dark apron and took the envelope from her son’s hand, “Did you get good grades?”
He scoffed, “Good? Don’t you mean excellent?”
And indeed they were. He’d snatched first place in his entire stream consisting of almost two hundred students. And that first place hadn’t been just pure luck. He’d scored a hundred points in each of his subjects. He’d even been awarded more points than normal as extra-credit, which showed just how much of a genius he was.
His mother, Maki Fukuda had long since gotten used to her son’s extreme brain power, and could only sigh in helplessness, “I truly wonder where you got this trait from, Haru. I was no genius like you. Not even your father was this smart during his time. No sir, he didn’t even come close—”
“Okay, he gets it,” Akashi Fukuda interrupted with a chuckle as he walked into the kitchen and took his usual seat at a high stool at the table near the counter where his wife was working.
Maki chuckled, “I’m only praising him.”
“Good afternoon dad,” Haru gave his salute before looking smug again, both his hands resting on either side of his waist, chest puffed and chin held high as if he was some kind of hero, “You said my time in middle school would be challenging. I dare say it wasn’t.”
“We’ll see about that,” he received Haru’s report card from Maki with a face full of doubt but the moment he browsed the results, he gave Haru a weird look, brows raised, “Extra points for more credit? Whose son are you?”
“I wonder the same thing, ha-ha! Both you guys are dumb compared to me...”
“Now, now, let’s not get carried away,” Maki could only give her naughty son a playful pinch on his left cheek, “You dare call us dumb?”
“No, no, I don’t dare. Ah, mom, you want to rip my face off? And my treasure!” he complained, trying to get away. Only then did his mother let him go. He raised a hand to rub his cheek which was already slowly turning pink, constantly dropping his gaze in attempt to look at it. By treasure, he’d meant a shallow dimple which defined his left cheek, which added to his mischievously cute appearance as a you boy, especially with his untamable hair, it’s natural dark color and bangs giving him a wild air about him.
This dimple hadn’t been there during his years as a younger kid. It’d suddenly appeared when he’d just turned nine, and it’d remained there ever since. Such a rare opportunity had made Haru immediately treat it as his treasure, no questions asked.
“You and your dent,” Maki shook her head and went back to work, “It’s not like it’s going anywhere. It won’t just suddenly vanish. Look, I’ve got the same things right here,” Maki boasted to her son, using two of her index fingers to poke at both her cheeks.
It was true. His mother had always had a pair of cute dimples on either side of her cheeks, and she didn’t make effort in trying to make them show. Even when she wasn’t smiling, one could tell that she had small dents on either sides of her cheeks. Growing up, people had always said he’d inherited his mother’s looks, especially with the dark bluish shade of his hair. However, he’d inherited the gentle brown gaze from his father.
His older sister had been the one who’d inherited their father’s deep chestnut hair color and as well as the same brown eyes. Even the full figure she’d inherited belonged to her father’s side of the family. Still similarities between her and her mother still existed, especially when it came to the elegant shape of her face.
“It might,” Akashi commented with an awkward cough, as if supporting his son.
His wife had sighed, “.... You two. In any case, Haru, don’t get cocky just yet. You still have a long way ahead of you. Things won’t always be as easy as this time.”
“She’s right,” Akashi added, thought his attention was back on his report card, “After all, you’ve just finished your first middle-school term. Give it time and you’ll see how difficult it gets.”
Haruki considered their words for a while before saying, “Even so, it’s just a repetition of what I’ve been doing in elementary. Only with larger numbers and longer sentences. Learning a bunch of new things and expanding that knowledge. That doesn’t sound hard.”
Both his mother and father were rendered speechless. It wasn’t like he’d been wrong.
“Whatever,” Haruki’s excitement continued on, “I’ll go show this to Ayame when she comes back. She owes me twenty bucks for looking down on me. Speaking of, I didn’t see her the entire day today...”
He stopped his rambling when he noticed his parents both looking at him strangely, as if he’d just said the weirdest thing. He blinked, “What?”
Was there something off about what he’d said? Was showing off his test results to his sister a bad thing?
“Haru, you do realize that Ayame isn’t here right?” his mother was the first to speak.
"En, she always comes home after me. She is a High School Senior after all. Studying must be that important to her,” he found nothing unusual about that.
Akashi raised a confused brow, “Eh? But Ayame’s already—”
“Haru, honey, why don’t you change out of your uniform. You must be feeling uncomfortable in that already,” Maki quickly urged with a smile before her husband could finish his statement.
Of course Haru hadn’t quite paid much attention to his father’s earlier reaction, so he’d ignored it. It’d only been when he’d come back in his casual clothes downstairs, ready to help his mother out with the cooking, when he was told the truth.
Ayame wouldn’t be coming home that day.
The reason being that she’d already been on a flight from Japan straight to Washington.
Haru sat under the tree quietly as his mind kept wandering back to what he’d learnt. According to his parents, Ayame Fukuda had a flight at eleven in the morning today, to which they’d accompanied her to the airport to see her off. They told him that Ayame had been offered a scholarship a certain University in Washington months ago, and during this entire time she’d been arranging for her tickets and prepping to leave. He knew she’d planned on going overseas once before, and she’d even told him she’d been offered scholarships by a bunch of Universities abroad.
But wasn’t all that supposed to be next year, once she’d finished High School?
She was smart, sure, big deal, a bunch of schools had wanted her, but all that had to be dealt with next year.
Haruki’s brows furrowed slightly.
No. The real question is, why didn’t she ever tell me she was leaving?
And that was all.
She hadn’t pointed out any hints either. She’d just up and left.
“Whatever, good riddance!” he muttered angrily to himself. However, his words held the opposite meaning to how he truly felt. And that only made him even more pissed.
“We never mentioned it because she’d said she’d tell you herself when she first decided,” Maki had said after telling him about Ayame.
But Ayame had never mentioned it. Not even once.
And that was just...
Haruki shot up from his spot and walked over to the swing made from a wooden plank and some rope and stared hard at it. He stayed that way for a few seconds before suddenly swinging out his foot for a kick only to stub his toes in the process. The boy was filled with both pain and frustration as he hopped up and down on one leg, clutching his sore toes. He really hadn’t expected this abominable-looking wooden seat to be so thick and sturdy.
He stared menacingly at the inanimate object once more, as if it was its own fault for existing, even though it’d just been sitting there minding its own business...
In the next moment, after the painful rush in his foot had somewhat subsided, he lashed out again. Only this time he completely missed the swing and slipped, falling hard of his back onto the not-so-soft ground.
“Dammit,” came a muffled hiss from his slightly trembling lips.
And at that moment, after finally realizing that this was really happening and that his sister had really left without saying goodbye at least, he raised a hand and covered his now blurred vision, feeling dejected.
Dammit, dammit, dammit!
Why the hell am I crying? So embarrassing...
But he simply couldn’t help himself, his shoulders trembling uncontrollably as the sounds of his sobs became much more audible. Thankfully, he was alone. He’d have been embarrassed to death had anyone seen him in such a pathetic state.
A few minutes later, Haruki slowly sat up and wiped his red puffy eyes, sniffing quietly. Crying over someone who was already hundreds of kilometers away now was purely childish, so he made himself calm down once more, crossing his legs in his sitting stance, his gaze distant.
He’d just finished his first school term as a freshman at Ichihara Jnr High, which meant this was the beginning of summer vacation.
The first summer vacation he’d have to spend without Ayame.
He’d had so much planned for this holiday, and he’d been looking forward to it too. Never had he imagined that he’d end up so disappointed after it’d just started.
Reluctantly, Haruki got to his feet and approached the swing once more. This time he harbored no malicious intent towards it, only slumping down on the wooden plank and swinging very slowly, both hands resting well on his lap.
Judging from the confused expressions his parents had worn when they’d told him the news, they’d genuinely known nothing about Ayame’s plans. They’d really thought Haru already knew about his sister’s departure.
“Mei, you jerk...” Haru muttered to himself.
Who knew he’d suddenly receive an answer?
“Are you okay?” came a sudden voice, scaring him off the swing.
Haruki, after literally falling to the ground onto his knees and hands, anxiously whipped his head around a little startled.
There was silence at first that Haru even thought he was hearing things, but after some time, the voice spoke again.
“First you try to break it, now you’re sitting on it? I don’t think that swing did anything wrong.”
“The hell?” Haruki anxiously looked around but kept seeing no one. That instantly made him even more freaked out, “Who’s talking?”
He heard the voice sigh, “Look up.”
Only then did he shift his gaze upwards to find a small figure perched on one of the lower thick tree branches.
It’s a kid?
Even though the figure was mostly covered up by the shadows of the wide tree leaves, Haruki could pretty much make out that it was boy who appeared to be younger than him. He sat with his bare clean feet dangling off the tree branch, a book in his hands, while he himself wore a pair of grey three-quarter shorts and a turtle-neck navy sweater. Haru couldn’t make out much of his face except the kid’s mid-length dirt brown-ginger hair.
“You were crying earlier. Are you okay?” the kid asked him.
“Tsk, like hell I was crying,” Haru denied it as he straightened to his feet and dusted off his faded blue jeans.
Haruki couldn’t tell that the kid was genuinely asking and thought he was being ridiculed instead, so he immediately felt annoyed.
“You saw wrong,” he retorted, trying to keep himself calm, “Where’d you even come from? You’re disturbing my peace.”
“You’re the one who came here later though,” the boy in the tree said. He almost sounded a little wronged.
But Haru completely ignored that, stating fiercely, “So just because you arrived earlier gives you the right to meddle in other people’s businesses?”
The kid’s expression changed before he continued to speak, “I was just as shocked when a bawling kid came stumbling into my territory and threatened to vandalize my property.”
His tone harnessed some strange air of authority now, compared to the earlier concerned one he’d used before.
Haruki sensed it but scoffed instead, resting his hands on his waist, ”Your property? Don’t make me laugh.”
“If not mine, then whose?”
“Park property doesn’t belong to anyone, dumb kid,” Haruki snorted.
The kid: “......”
“What, not going complain anymore?” he arched a brow, “You’re just a—”
Haru was at a loss at first. Suddenly, he angrily refuted, “Listen kid, I don’t know who you think you are but—”
“That swing, it’s got my name on it,” the kid spoke calmly.
“What name? What are you even talking about?” Haru had just had about enough of the kid so he lifted the swing seat and started examining it. It was just a dumb wooded plank. There was nothing special about it.
He flipped it over to examine the under-part.
There, at the very corner of the plank, was carved very large and clear initials, written in caps “K. N”.
Seeing that his opponent wasn’t arguing anymore, the boy perched in the tree said very flatly, “It’s mine.”
But that only pissed off the stubborn Haruki.
He spun around and snapped, “So what if it has initials carved onto it? Maybe some random delinquent brat decided to mess around and do some graffiti. Even if those really are your initials, it doesn’t mean that it’s yours. You found it here and decided to personalize park property which is against the rules.”
“It’s still mine.”
“Forget it,” the kid simply leaned back against the truck and re-focused on his book.
A few minutes passed like this, and it was only later on that Haru processed what’d just happened.
The kid was completely ignoring him now.
“Hey, I’m not done with you yet!”
“Are you listening?!”
“I know you can hear me!!”
The kid finally spoke, but it was only to say, “There is no point in wasting my words on someone who doesn’t understand human speech.”
“I dare you, say that again!” Haruki pointed an accusing finger, “Why don’t you come down here and I’ll reduce you to size!!”
“I’d rather not.”
“Ha, of course you’re scared,” Haru said proudly, “Just look at the way you’re trembling in your shoes!”
“I’m not wearing shoes.”
“That wasn’t literal!”
“My apologies then.”
Throughout their entire exchange, Haru had been the only one screaming and yelling. Meanwhile, the ginger-haired kid kept his cool the entire time, as if Haruki was nothing but a small nuisance which could be ignored easily. And with each sentence Haruki grew even more bothered. Sure he’d been pissed by the time he got here but this person had just made his mood far worse.
Even if he’d had a thought of making friends with him, it was too late now. A person as pompous as this would never qualify to enter his ‘friends group’.
“Tsk, screw this. As if I could even continue breathing the same air as you,” Haru finally spun around to leave, muttering angrily to himself, “Such an annoying brat. How troublesome...”
As he left, the kid in the tree lowered his book and placed it onto his lap, slightly turning his head to watch as the intruder stomped off. He heard Haruki’s angrily muttered remarks, but said nothing against them and only letting out a relieved sigh.
Finally, he had his peace once more.
As he concentrated back on his book, he couldn’t help but say to himself, “They’re all the same.”
Haruki made his way to the park exist muttering all kinds of insults to himself, feeling pissed to the core. He only noticed when he looked back once he’d reached the gate that no one else was being him, meaning he and that boy had been the only people left. Now that he thought about it, it was already so late. Just how long had he been wallowing in self-pity before he’d met that kid earlier? Under that huge leafy tree, it seemed difficult to keep track of time.
He spotted a security guard at a distance, who had just left his shed to start his early night patrol, and for some reason, immediately thought about the kid from before.
If he’s as terrible as me at keeping track of time, he’ll get locked inside before he knows it, he thought and subconsciously took a step towards the direction he’d just come from.
That made him utterly stunned.
Where did he think he was going? Just a second ago merely thinking about that brat had made him so angry. So where the hell did he think he was going?
Haruki stopped abruptly, turned once more, and exited the gate quietly. This wasn’t his problem to deal with at all. If the kid really was locked inside, visiting the patrol guard to let him out wouldn’t be a tough task.
That evening the minute Haruki had stepped onto his front porch, he’d been met by an extremely worried Maki Fukuda at the door who’d already draped a coat on her person in preparation to go out and look for him. He made the excuse that he’d ran into a friend from school earlier, hence his delayed return and had said nothing more on the matter. After apologizing for worrying them, he headed to his room.
It was obvious that both his parents hadn’t believed him, but they’d said nothing nonetheless. After all, the kid was still had a lot of things to think about so pressurizing him would only make him worse. And forcing dinner on him wasn’t an option so they let him come eat it at his own time.
Later that night as he lay on his bed, Haruki still found himself thinking about a lot of things, and that even included the kid he’d met earlier. He secretly wondered if he ever got the chance to leave that park in time, or at least had been found by the park’s guard-on-duty, and while he dwelt upon this thoughts, he sunk into a dreamless sleep.
[Author: Please forgive me if it doesn’t make any sense!!!!]