"Renji-kun, what took you so long?"
"What do you mean? I'm here on time!"
"Minako doesn't think so. She thinks you've been avoiding her!"
"What? I don't! I'm telling you, I got here on time!"
"Oh, whatever. Let's just get to school, okay?"
"If it'll get to stop harassing me, then fine. We're already late because of your false accusation."
Minako ran briskly ahead while I just watched her. She doesn't have a care in the world, does she?
My name's Hibiki Renji and the girl that's running is Mizuki Minako. I have to say, she's a bit of an odd one. Why? She refers herself in the third person, which annoys me to great length, but since she's my friend, I let it slide. We've been childhood friends, which is why we sort of fool around from time to time. Where are we going? To Youzuka Middle School, which is in, where else, Youzuka. It's a very small village that seems to be unidentified on the map of Japan, but that's their loss. It's a beautiful village, mind you. Rows of sakura trees and smells like true nature, if that even exists.
There's a lot to do in here, things that can make or break you, and I'm serious about that. There's been a supposed "curse" that's been roaming around, and people always worry about when the day comes. Now, I'm not one to believe in those silly things, but when that day did arrive, I started to worry…
"Renji-kun, hayaku ne!"
"Why did Renji-kun stop for no reason?"
"I was deep in thought."
"About what, about what?"
"Nothing that should concern you, Minako."
"Please? You can tell Minako anything! Is it a crush? That's it, isn't it?" Minako's eyes sparkled.
"No, it's not! I was just looking at the scenery, that's all!" I immediately pushed her away.
"Renji-kun has a crush! Renji-kun has a crush!" Minako danced around me and chanted.
"Minako, it's not that…I'm telling you, it's because I—"
"Oh, there they are, in their own little antics as usual!"
Oh, great, it's her. Hinamori Shizune, otherwise known as my biggest annoyance. Let me tell you, she can be quite a handful at times, but most of the time she has this cool persona that surrounds her. Nothing scares her, nothing makes her sad. She just lets it go by. I met her when I was about 6, and once she saw me with Minako, she proclaimed that Minako and I were going to be together for a long time. She was right.
"Shizune, I didn't see you there!"
"Come on, of course you did, Ren! You just didn't notice!" That's her nickname for me, Ren. Many people can easily mistake me for a girl when they hear that. Good thing Shizune doesn't blab it to the sky.
"Shizu-chan, Renji-kun has something he's hiding from us!"
"Minako, please, it's not true!" I whispered sharply at her.
"If it's not true, then why is Renji-kun scared?" Damn. She caught me.
"Hontou?" Shizune dashed at me and wrapped her arm around my head. "What is it, Mina-chan?" she asked slyly.
"Renji-kun has a crush on a girl!"
"So, which one is it? I'm dying to know, Ren!"
"It's no one!" I pushed her aside. "Minako just assumed that because I was looking at the scenery!"
"Denial, the first stage of love. Trust me, Ren, you say that you love no one, but the day will come when you inexplicably say those words to the girl you like."
I highly doubt that those words will ever come out of me.
"Anyway, Hikari and Haruna are waiting for you two. They kept chanting 'Where are Renji and Minako?' over and over again. It's getting on my nerves. Besides, we have enough time before school starts, so let's go!"
Shizune ran ahead and following along like dogs, so did Minako and I.
"Hee-hee, Renji-chi and Mina-chi arrived! Yay!"
"Now we can really have some fun! Get over here, you two!"
On the ground, sitting on a cloth, were Inazuka Hikari and Mashiro Haruna. They're the youngest girls in our class, and I met them when I first came to school here. To me, they're the cutest girls in this school, and everything they did was cute, whether it was their words or actions. Hikari was very shy when she first met me, but as the days passed, she found that there was no need to be scared towards me. She was considered the quiet one back in the day, but now she's outgoing, but not as outgoing as Haruna.
Haruna was the bossy one to me. When I first met her, she didn't like me at all, and said that if I ever threatened Hikari, she would kill me. And she wasn't kidding. But, that was back then. She adores me now, and practically thinks I'm her big brother, even though she has, I mean, had one. Yup. Her brother passed away quite some time ago, and he used to go to this school. His name was Mashiro Junichi, and we were best friends. No one knows how or when he passed away, but some believe that he left on that day. Many believed he committed a crime that angered the gods, but no one had definite proof. Since Haruna believes I'm like her brother, I try my best as to not recreate an image of him in front of her. So far, it's going well, but one day, she'll notice, and once she does, there's no way in stopping her sorrow. I'm glad that Hikari doesn't have to go through this, but I'm also upset.
"Renji, are you okay?" Haruna was staring at me.
"What? Oh, yeah, I'm fine, Haruna. I just got lost in the moment."
"Of Renji-kun's lover?" Minako unfortunately entered.
"This has nothing to do with that, Minako! And I told you I don't have a crush!"
"He's still denying it. Quick, grab him!" Shizune announced.
And just like that, the girls sans Hikari ran after me and attempted to grab me. This act lasted for ten minutes, when the bell fortunately rang. The girls gave up on their chase and vowed that they would come back and hunt me down. There is absolutely no girl that I love, and I'm not even sure if any girl loves me. Whatever. I'll lead them through this charade for a while, just until they get the message.
Hikari, why didn't you join? You like torturing me for the fun of it…
Our school is quite small, but it still has some place for learning. There's only one teacher who teaches all the students, which is about 90. She somehow has the mobility to go from student to student, and I respect her for that.
"Okay, everyone, I'm glad you're all here. Now we can begin with the lesson."
"Please take your seats."
Every student in the room sat in their assigned seats. As I saw Haruna from the corner of my eye, she seemed distraught.
"Hey, Haruna, are you okay?"
"Huh? Oh, I'm fine, Renji. You're such a worrywart over me, aren't you?"
School ended a few hours later, and as she vowed, Shizune and the girls sans Hikari once again chased me, trying to squeeze the truth out of me. You know, I might as well fake a crush just so they can leave me alone, but on second thought, that'll make even more complications.
"Ren, can't you just tell us? We're not going to laugh at you if you like this girl or something." Shizune wrapped her arm around my neck the whole way.
"Does this girl go to our school, Renji-kun? Minako can help if you tell her!"
I escaped the grasp and sighed heavily. "Look, there's no girl in the picture! How many times do I have to repeat that? Haruna, Hikari, you believe me, right?"
"Um… I believe you, Renji-chi, if that helps…"
"Hikari, don't fall for that! He's hiding something, and we're here to unravel the mystery!" And when did you start joining this investigation, Haruna?
"Can you guys leave me alone? I told you, there is no girl!"
"Still denying it, Ren? You can't keep your friends in the dark. That's bad for you, you know?"
"Shizune, if there was a girl I like, then I would've told you about her weeks ago! Since I haven't, that proves that there's no girl! Get it?"
"Oh… Renji-kun makes a good point, Shizu-chan…"
"I'll see you all tomorrow. I just want to rest." Before I turned around, I added, "And it doesn't involve a girl!" then stormed off. What does it take to calm them, anyway?
"Mom, I'm home, and—mom? Huh, she's not home. Oh, well."
My mom is usually never home because she has a lot of work to do. What's her job, you ask? Well…it's nothing you should concern yourself over. Trust me. At times, it's fun being alone because I get to have some free time to myself because of the snooping three—thank goodness Hikari's not a part of this—but it gets depressing at moments because there are some days when I miss my mom. Look, I'm not a momma's boy, so don't even go there, okay?
Seeing as though there was nothing to do, I decided to call someone. Why? Just wanted someone to talk to. Is that so much to ask?
"Oh, Renji-chi, konba wa."
"Hello, Hikari-chan." Can you blame me? "How are you?"
"Um…I'm not really doing much at the moment. You?"
"Same here. My mom's still working, and it's kind of quiet. Say, do you want to come over?"
"I appreciate the offer, but no thanks. How about tomorrow? Will that work?"
"Sure, if you can come."
"Hee-hee. I'll be there tomorrow, Renji-chi."
"That's good to hear."
"Renji-chi… Are you sure there isn't a girl you like?"
Not her, too… Did Shizune control her mind when I wasn't looking?
"No, Hikari-chan. I'm positive when I say that there is no girl that I like. Besides, I don't focus on those types of things. And even if I did like a girl, which I'm not saying I do, she'd probably break up with me in about ten seconds."
"Why do you say that?"
"Well, I'm not the type of guy who's comfortable with girls. I hang with you four, yes, but that's because you're friends. When it goes past that boundary, it gets complicated for me. I'm pretty sure it sounds silly to you, right, Hikari-chan?"
Her tone was so sweet…
"Everyone experiences that emotion. That's what love basically is. At first, you might not feel comfortable with it, but once you're with a person long enough, you tend to feel closer to him or her. You're not the only one, Renji-chi. In fact, I've dealt with it when I first met you, remember? I couldn't force myself to have my eyes on you, but as the days went by, I realized that you are a person, too. And since all people need to see each other at least once in their lives, I decided to follow that moral, and see how it turned out? I'm your friend now, and as your friend, it's okay for you to tell me anything that ails you, and I'll do the same. Can you promise me that, Renji-kun?"
"S-sure thing, Hikari-chan. I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
"Hee-hee. Bye-bye, Renji-chi."
Man, that girl sure has a way with words… A little too much, I should say.