Hitomi awoke to the sound of one of her alarms. Her consciousness was foggy, but she quickly counted the number of small devices to the left of her hand. “Two.” She lowered her hand back under her blankets, staring up at the ceiling until her eyes adjusted to the light of a new day. She was a notorious deep sleeper so she had to set multiple alarms and hope that she caught herself in the right place in her sleep cycle. The four alarm clocks were only fifteen minutes apart, but they worked in basically all cases. The day before was very stressful for her, so she had expected to sleep through her alarms. Since she managed to get up today, she wouldn’t have any excuse for being late like the day before. Her father was getting breakfast ready downstairs, so she got ready as quickly as she could to avoid her food getting cold like the day before. The only reason she was able to bare with it then was do to the speed she had to eat. If at all possible, she’d like to avoid that situation from happening again. By the time that she had finished her daily routine to get ready, she felt a familiar voice. Like the sun rising above the horizon, her very thoughts drowned out the darkness that clouded her very mind. This time, she wasn’t going to embarrass herself by still being upstairs when she entered her room. Hitomi headed down the stairs fast enough to almost miss the entrance to the dining area, just barely sliding in before Rose opened the door. She was earlier this morning because of what her father had told her the day before, but to think she’d actually go through with it was surprising.
“Good Morning!” Her voice was loud enough to act as a doorbell, which was actually how she often used it. It would be a few moments before Rose would enter the room with the slippers on. “Sorry to intrude this early in the morning.”
“No need to be sorry. We are just starting breakfast, so please join us.” Her father handled the situation without missing a beat bringing thing to the table. Even he didn’t expect Rose to show up so early but since he only promised tea it was easy enough to accommodate her.
“I brought my scooter today. I left at the same time as yesterday so I showed up a bit early.” Rose admitted as she took the cup of tea that Mr. Kagami held out for her. She still had an air of energy around her, and just one look at her thoughts was enough to know why. Since she didn’t want to spoiler herself, Hitomi asked what Rose wanted to hear most.
“Rose, did you come up with anything good for us to do?”
“Yeah!” She dropped the tea cup onto the desk in excitement. Luckily despite how shortsighted it was, the cup was empty enough to not spill when it hit the table. “I know this might seem a bit boring to you since you lived here your whole life, but I’d like to learn about the things in this town. We could write about places! Like the school, or the uhhh, shrine? You know, things like that.” Rose didn’t really have any plans beyond those two places but it was a start.
“It’s a good idea.” Hitomi looked at her father, who responded before she could due to her eating. His smile was sweet enough on the outside, but she knew he was messing with her by holding her own words hostage unless she spoke them herself. As a result, she became more talkative than she usually was.
“I agree. Despite going to school every day, there is very little we know about it. We hardly would step outside of our class other than for lunch. Same goes for your shrine and many other things we go to in our dailies life.”
“Right?! I tried to pick something that we’d both be able to do.”
“It sounds like we might learn a lot. Are you sure it’s ok with you?”
“Hey, I like to learn things too. Just because I’m not very good at it doesn’t mean I don’t like it.” Rose pouted. Her resolve was true, yet Hitomi knew that her resolve might fade if she wasn’t the one to go with her even once. As such, she knew planning their outings would be best.
“Let’s set some days to go out and do things. When are you free?”
“Basically every day until five. All day on the weekends. You?”
“I’m not sure yet. I still have to see the dates for the track team.” She didn’t like talking about how she ran, but since Rose already knew she planned on joining the team it was easier to do. “I think practice is everyday before school, and for about two hours after.”
“That’s so much! I guess they really step the game up in middle school.”
“Don’t worry I’ll be fine. Well, practice doesn’t start till next week so how about we use the time after school today to look at the school?”
“Yeah! Can I call my mom to tell her I’ll be late today?”
“Feel free.” Mr. Kagami motioned for her to do so, leaving just him and his daughter at the table. “This might be good for you.”
“I hate to agree.” The two whispered to each other to make sure that Rose didn’t overhear from the phone. They were getting a bit too old to not know anything of the outside world due to the fear they had of the outside world. By slowly expanding their world, they would become more open to the idea of entering society. “That’s a bit too much for someone my age.”
“Hahaha, yeah, I guess it is. Just have fun. These days will be looked on with happiness in the future.”
“I hope so.” That was the agreement they reached. To go out and have fun to make their future better. They finished this half silent conversation as soon as Rose came back into earshot.
“Mom said it was ok that I come home a bit later if I’m with Hitomi.”
“I know you two won’t do anything bad. Have fun.”
“We will! Make sure to bring your journal Hitomi!”
“I didn’t take it out of my backpack. If I manage to forget it, feel free to make fun of me for the rest of my life.”
“I wouldn’t do that.” Rose’s voice suddenly became serious for a few seconds before returning to normal. “Come on! Let’s be early today!” As soon as Rose noticed that Hitomi was done with her food she wanted to leave. Since she couldn’t argue with Rose’s energy, she got up and went over to her bag. “Aren’t you going to take your lunch?”
“Ah…” Hitomi was so distracted by Rose that she didn’t notice that her father had already gotten her lunch from the counter.
“Don’t space out too much. You’ll end up missing something important.”
“I know i know. Don’t you have a book to write or something?”
“I do, but missing out on sending off my daughter would be far too sad. Now off you go.” Hitomi took her lunch headed out with Rose.
“See you tomorrow Mr. Kagami!” Rose waved goodbye as Hitomi closed the door behind them. Rose ran over to her scooter, jumping on top of it and riding it to Hitomi’s side. “See, I look childish.”
“Not at all. What about everyone else that takes a scooter?”
“Even if they are younger?”
“You weren’t specific on purpose weren’t you?” Rose looked over at Hitomi, who was smiling slightly as she walked. “How mean! You know what I mean!”
“Forgive me. Believe me when I say you do not look childish. You are a fine young lady.”
“I did grow a few centimeters over the summer~” Rose completely forgave Hitomi for messing with her as she basked in the compliment. Hitomi looked towards the sky as Rose was off in her own little world, taking note of how the sky was slowly getting darker. “Rose, is it going to rain today?”
“I don’t think so.” Rose snapped back to reality and took a look at the sky more closely. “It does look like it might.”
“I didn’t bring an umbrella, did you?”
“Nope. It’s spring, the rain should be warm, maybe it’ll begin after we go home!” Hitomi couldn’t help but think that if it did rain, it would be as soon as it would inconvenience the two of them. Hitomi pushed this thought to the back of her mind as Rose continued to converse with her. The day itself went by before she knew it. It seemed the excitement from Rose had transferred to her as she found herself using it to avoid another failure in concentration. As soon as the last bell rang, Rose jumped out of her desk, throwing everything into her bag and looked directly at Hitomi expecting the same.
“We need out journals out.” The single sentence caused both of them to laugh. Rose reopened her bag and sorted through her stuff to get out the journal as Hitomi gathered her things normally. “Got it?”
“Did you even need to ask?” Rose waved around her journal.
“No, but it’s polite. It’s amazing how quickly everyone leaves.” The room was empty minus the two of them only minutes after the day was done.
“No reason to stay after school just yet I guess. Clubs don’t start till next week after all.”
“Time to spend with their friends before then. I guess we would do the same if we didn’t have any business here.”
“We have some exploration to do! That’s better than anything else I could think of. Where should we go first?” That was the million yen question. It’s not like their school had a plack to explains things, or some book that tells it’s history. “Hitomi, what are you thinking about?”
“Oh, sorry. I couldn’t think of an answer- wait someone is coming. Mr. Yamada?” As she said that, the door opened up, showing a surprised teacher.
“I didn’t think anyone would still be here. Good afternoon Ms. Edith, Ms. Kagami.”
“Good afternoon! Hey Mr. Yamada, do you know where we can find out things about this school?”
“Like the history, cool features, things like that.” Hitomi answered his follow up question before he had it as best she could without giving away that she took them from him. She let him say his answer without interrupting.
“If anyone knows about it, it’d probably be the librarian, Mrs. Nishimura. I haven’t been here very long, so I’m not much help, sorry. Are you writing about our school for your social studies project?”
“We are going to write about a lot of stuff in the town. We are starting with the school. We want to learn more about the things in our town!” Rose’s excitement rubbed off on the teacher as he answered with equal enthusiasm.
“Good to hear! I’m glad that you are starting the project so earnestly. Well don’t let me keep you here.”
“Thanks for the start!”
“Thank you.” They both bowed before leaving for the library. Hitomi took the lead as she was the only one that knew the way there. If it wasn’t for their interaction with their teacher she would be just as lost as Rose. She moved through hallways and past rooms she wasn’t even sure existed before this as if she had walked it a thousand times. Rose took in the surroundings in awe.
“Is this where our seniors take class?”
“Yes. Those one year ahead of us to be exact. There are actually more classrooms for them on the second floor as well.”
“Really? That must be confusing. Is the library on the first or second floor?”
“Both, actually. You can enter from either floor.”
“You got all of that from him?!”
“Umm… yes. Sorry, that’s weird. Let’s just get there.” Hitomi was embarrassed and wanted to avoid talking about it any further than needed. She sped up a little, but Rose immediately failed to keep up with her.
“Hey! No running in the halls!”
“Aren’t you the one running right now?”
“That’s… unfair…” Rose caught her breath as Hitomi slowed back down to a speed appropriate for her. “Thank you.”
“It’s my fault for speeding up. We are almost there, I didn’t have a reason to-”
“It’s ok. I forgive you. Forgive me for not being very athletic.”
“I forgive you.” And like that they moved on. At a regular speed they reached the library.
“Wow! It’s so-”
“This is a library, you are suppose to be quiet.”
“Oh. Right. Ehehehe~” Rose twirled her hair in embarrassment. After getting over it, she walked up to the front desk and did her best to converse as silently as possible. “Excuse me, are you Mrs. Nishimura?” Hitomi could only wonder how Rose could produce as much energy when speaking so quietly.
“Yes, I am. You can talk normally.”
“Ok!” The look of instant understanding of why Rose was speaking in a hushed tone almost made Hitomi burst into laughter.
“Ok, maybe lower your volume a little. Believe it or not some people are here today.”
“I’m sorry. Why are people here today? It’s only the second day of school.”
“They are our seniors and are studying to help them get into the high school the want.” Hitomi answered for the librarian, who nodded her head in confirmation.
“That’s exactly right. You must also be looking to go to a good high school.”
“Ah, no I’m, not really, Rose what did we come here for?” Seeing Hitomi struggle with the spotlight on her, Rose took control of the conversation.
“Mrs. Nishimura, we are trying to learn about the school. Can you tell us anything about it?”
“A strange question, but I’ll tell you what I can. I’ve been here for quite a long time. What do you want to know?”
“Let’s start with the history.” Hitomi gave what she thought would be the best answer, and based on what she could hear it’s the most she could get in a single question. As she began to speak, Rose and Hitomi took notes on what she said, compressing it down to a more easy to read form.
‘ Originally the town had no school, but as more and more people began to live here, the need for some sort of school grew. Right before the second world war, the elementary school was built. At that time it was just the school for everyone. It wasn’t until after the war that the need to split up the students further arose. The middle school was built right next to the other school, allowing most children at the time to go to school within the town. Any high school students still had to go far away, and it wasn’t until recently that the high school was built near the edge of town to give them a closer option. ‘
“Ah, forgive me, I went a little off topic there at the end. I wish there was more to say, but much of the early history of the school isn’t recorded or passed down as far as I know.”
“It’s ok. We didn’t know any of this, so it was a huge help! Are there any places of note that we should see here?” This time Rose took the charge. She was really getting into what they came here for, even if she couldn’t show it with the level of enthusiasm she wanted to.
“I might be a little bias, but the library is quite nice. Along with that, the auditorium looks far larger when it’s empty. And ummm… let’s see… ummm…” Hitomi could tell that she really didn’t have anything else to say, so she tapped Rose on the arm and tilted her head to get her to continue.
“That’s good enough. Finding our way there will have us learn even more than just being told of every place.” It was flawed logic, but the librarian was too impressed by her optimism to notice.
“Right. I’m glad I could help you learn about this school, although it took quite a lot of time.”
“Thank you for your time!”
“Thank you for your time.” The two bowed before heading further into the library to see what it had to offer. “Rose.”
“Yes?” Rose turned to Hitomi, who to her seemed to call her out out of nowhere.
“She wanted to point out your good Japanese. I just thought I’d tell you.”
“I’m glad~ Soon I’ll be a fluent speaker.”
“You already are…” Hitomi didn’t want to bring up that it was her clearly foreign accent that made her Japanese stand out. Her hard work learning the language was clear to anyone that talked to her expecting her to use basic words. “Let’s focus on the task at hand. Sorry for sidetracking us.”
“Well, to be honest, I don’t know what I could write about this, so I wasn’t really focused to begin with.”
“Give me a moment to write down what I see.” Hitomi took out her journal and right below the short summary she had just recorded she wrote what she saw around her.
‘The library is a rectangular space with two floors. It could probably fit around a hundred students comfortably. Around 90% of the walls are covered with books. There is a small hole that allows the second floor to see the first.’
After finishing, she looked behind her shoulder to see Rose nodding her head to what she had wrote. “You can right something similar if you want.”
“Well, I already said I didn’t have anything to write about. It’d defeat the point if I just copied you right? Right?” Rose was confused by her own words implications, but Hitomi agreed with her.
“I would say so. Sometimes you’ll see things I don’t as well. It’s the differences in our views that make our journals ours.”
“That sounded really mature! I’m going to write that down!”
“No don’t!” But it was already too late. Her mind was already made up, so trying to stop her was impossible. “I’m so embarrassed. And no, just because you think it sounds good and that others will like it doesn’t stop me from feeling so.”
“I’m still writing it down.”
“I know, I’m just saying things to stop myself from turning red.” Rose did as she said she would, and looked at Hitomi with a smile that showed no sign of guilt. “How about we go to the auditorium?”
“Sure! I hate having to be so quiet anyway.” Rose walked as quickly as she could out of the library with Hitomi trailing right behind her. She immediately stopped as she turned to Hitomi for directions.
“I can only trace our steps back to our homeroom. From there we go the way we did yesterday.”
“That makes sense. Lead the way!” With her energy dialed back to full, Rose followed Hitomi with a cheery step. They were both on the lookout for anything interesting on their way there, but they both ended up empty handed with anything. “I guess we did just come through this hallway and didn’t find anything.”
“You just noticed that now?”
“I was really hopeful ok?! No matter, water under the street.”
“It’s water under the bridge.”
“Water under the bridge! Yeah that does make more sense now that I think about it.” Rose corrected herself and memorized it so that she wouldn’t make the mistake again. “To the auditorium! I’ll take the lead this time, you’ve been doing that too much today.”
“If you will.”
“I don’t really get that saying, but I will!” Rose followed the pathway that she ingrained in her mind from the day prior. The way that their footsteps seems to echo through the halls as less and less students and teachers walk around was beginning to freak Hitomi out. She focused her attention onto Rose, who was completely unaware of how creepy the school was when silent. The only thing on her mind was getting them to the auditorium without getting lost. It wouldn’t take long before they were standing before the door that seperated the hallways from the room. “I’ve done it!”
“You’ve done it.”
“You think the door is unlocked?”
“Go ahead and check. I think it is.” Rose lifted her hand and with a single motion brought the handle down and pushed forward. As Hitomi guessed, the door opened easily. “It was open.”
“They probably keep the doors open for a little bit after school is over for clubs and such.”
“You’re so smart Hitomi!” Rose’s voice boomed throughout the entire auditorium. After hearing her own voice so clearly reflected, Rose began shouting into the room. “I’m a giant! You are my food, you tiny, uh, person! Roar!” Rose turned her head back to Hitomi. “Do giants eat people?”
“Maybe?” Hitomi had no idea how to answer that question, and she hadn’t read many stories that focused on giants to give a good answer.
“That’s ok, no one but you heard that.” Rose took a quick look into the hallway to make sure no one else as there. “Yeah, no one but you. This really does look much bigger without people filling the seats. Is there a sign that shows how many people this can hold?”
“A max occupancy sign? There should be one.” The two walked into the room and looked along the walls to find the sign. Rose, being the more energetic of the two, found it before Hitomi.
“Five hundred people?! Didn’t we have more people in here yesterday?!”
“It was only around two hundred. Wait do I need to speak up?” Unlike Rose, Hitomi’s voice didn’t carry across the room. Hitomi cleared her throat and yelled. “It was only around two hundred!” Just hearing her own voice so loud had her red up in embarrassment.
“Really?! It seemed so much more!” After completing her objective, Rose ran back over to Hitomi. “Are you ok?”
“I’m fine. I’m just not use to yelling.” She made up the first excuse she could give to avoid telling her the real reason. Luckily it wasn’t too far from the truth so she didn’t feel bad for such a white lie to the pure Rose. “Um, let’s write down something.”
“Right. I almost forgot that that is why- wait did I say that right? Either way, let’s go!” Hitomi took out her journal and wrote down what she thought was a great description of what she learned.
‘The auditorium is a large room that can hold up to five hundred people without violating the fire code. Sound travels well across the large room, allowing even a small girl to project easily. I can’t without yelling, but I don’t plan of yelling in here any time soon. The seats are pretty nice, and the stage looks like it would be able to fit a play on it.’
Hitomi held her pencil above the paper, trying to think of anything else to write down that wasn’t coming from Rose. With no more original ideas of her own, she placed the journal back into her backpack. Seeing this Rose asked her a question. “Are we done here?”
“I don’t know. What else can we write?”
“I was hoping you’d know. Sorry, I had this idea but I have no idea how to do it.”
“It’s a good first step. We learned a decent amount, and we got to see this, right?”
“I don’t know I expected more. Like this school was built on top of an ancient samurai burial ground and is haunted by their warrior spirits!”
“That’s way too dramatic. This is a small town, not Kyoto or Tokyo. Did Mrs. Edith tell you more strange tales?”
“They aren’t strange, they are cool! But you are right, I shouldn’t expect something like that. I’m sure something will be like that though!”
“Maybe. We’ll just have to keep going to different places to find out.”
“That’s the spirit! Now let’s go home!” The two left the auditorium the way they came, walking to the front gate as something became increasingly clear as they neared it. “Hitomi.”
“It started to rain.”
“And neither of us have an umbrella.”
“It’s ok! You can run really fast and I’m too stupid to catch a cold!”
“Are you sure about this?”
“Of course. Kinda. We really don’t have any other choices.”
“You’re right. I wish you luck.”
“What do you mean- hey wait!” Hitomi knew that running at full speed would only make her slip onto the ground, so she went as fast as she could without risking too much. Rose ran to her scooter, but by then she was already covered in water. Hitomi gave Rose a prayer for health in her mind, hoping that despite being out in the rain for so long she wouldn’t get a cold.