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Volume 1, Chapter 4-1: A Bad Feeling

Monday Autumn Quarter 2015 Week 5

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Ichizen looked serious for once as I watched him type an essay. There was free time to kill so I hung out at his house today. Besides, I also wanted to talk to him about the entire situation.

“Have you changed your mind?” I questioned.

“Huh? Oh, I get it. You want me to take a class with you, right? Alright, Yuki, what will be easy enough so I’ll still have time to do my own things?” he responded, giving me a grin.

“That’s not what I’m talking about. Felicity isn’t telling us everything. You really want to go through with something like this?” I clarified.

The only sound afterwards was his fingers striking the keyboard. I sighed, knowing full well once Ichizen committed, he wouldn’t back down.

“Of course. What else would we have if we can’t trust her? Yuki, trust me on this, it’s gonna be good. Aren’t you even a little excited if a small piece of her blog turns out to be true?” Ichizen finally said.

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No, Ichizen, it is not exciting at all. To put so much faith in someone we didn’t even know, that was crazy. Although, this was the norm for someone like him.

“You can’t deny what you saw, Yuki. You’re trying to forget, but you saw everything with your own eyes. Right now, you’re hoping everything was just a bad dream,” Ichizen stated.

I didn’t like to admit it but Ichizen had a point. Maybe pursuing this could give me closure. Ichizen’s expression remained stubborn and determined. I sighed, noticing something different about him.

“When did you get that hoodie?” I asked.

“Finally noticed it, huh? It’s pretty sweet, right? I especially think this is the best part!” Ichizen said with pride, pointing at the logo on his hoodie.

The logo was a smiley face with its tongue sticking out. One of its eyes was a ‘X’ and the other, the Chinese character for death. That really did fit Ichizen’s lax and fun seeking personality. Very appropriate.

“You didn’t answer my question,” I pointed out.

“A few weeks ago. It was a gift from someone,” Ichizen replied.

“Not going to tell me who?” I pressed Ichizen.

“Does it matter? You don’t care about stuff like that,” Ichizen remarked.

“Guess it doesn’t matter too much. Just surprised since you always like to open your big mouth and tell me everything,” I admitted.

“You know me too well, Yuki. Do you really have no homework ? Aren’t you here just to procrastinate and end up having to do it last minute?” Ichizen resumed his typing.

“That’s you. I have a quiz on Wednesday but I’ve done a lot of studying for it. Aren’t you the one who’s always saying I need to take breaks?” I sighed once more.

“You staying over for dinner today? I heard from Mom that we’re having duck tonight,” Ichizen revealed, glancing over at his essay outline.

“No, I’ll head home. Ichizen, just think about it, okay? I sound really pushy right, but I just don’t have a good feeling,” I said, standing up.

“Shame you’re not staying. Yeah, I’ll try to keep whatever you said in mind while playing games later. Wonder if Bruno wants to proofread my essay?” Ichizen nodded.

Walking home, I reread the strange message from that night. If this was a scam, it made sense to target Ichizen only. But why include me too?

Wednesday Autumn Quarter 2015 Week 5

I finished writing down my answers for the quiz, handing it to the TA. I returned to my seat and packed up my stuff. Ten more minutes before class ended. Not too bad at all, perhaps my luck finally was changing.

Walking out, I checked my phone for any new messages. Hmm, Felicity discovered something important. I searched for her in the library, locating the woman near a study room door.

“Felicity, what did you find?” I asked.

“Let’s go in first. We’ll need Tess’ help,” Felicity replied, pointing at the door.

Tess sat in the back. Today, her hairpins weren’t in the shape of a star. Instead, six black hairpins were arranged in the shape of a crescent moon. I stared at them, impressed by her dedication.

“Fel, what is this favor you requested?” Tess asked, placing a thick stack of papers down onto the table.

“I want you to help me with homework later on but that’s not the favor. Could you come with me and Yuki to our old high school?” she asked.

Tess gave Felicity a blank stare. I waited for her response, unsure if she would actually agree. With midterms coming up, it would be understandable for her to refuse.

“I have some available time today so I will accompany you,” Tess agreed.

“Thank you so much. I promise it’ll be worth your time. I know that what we find there will really help Yuki and Ichizen,” Felicity exclaimed.

“Ichizen’s waiting for us near the entrance,” I announced, checking my texts.

“Perfect. Tess can drive us!” Felicity revealed.

I nodded, surprised we would get a ride there. The three of us exited the library and headed toward the front entrance. I spotted Ichizen first.

“Ichizen!” I called out.

“Yuki! You’re here and with two beautiful women too!” he greeted.

I slapped Ichizen on the back of his head. He grimaced, but showed me his cell phone. I peered down at the screen, seeing a message.

“You must be kidding me. The picture of the map actually changed?” I asked.

“Yeah, this is big. I just got out of English and planned to catch up on two days of missed reading and suddenly got this. I’m surprised you haven’t gotten one yet,” he answered.

“Send the map over to me,” I requested, showing it to Felicity and Tess.

“Ah, you already planned a route out to the high school already?” Tess questioned, inspecting the picture.

“Your high school, huh?” I answered.

“Are you ready to head out?” Tess nodded, looking over at Ichizen.

“Yeah, we’re good. Sorry, I’m going to talk with Ichizen for a quick second,” I said.

“Yuki! The path of heroism is clear! We must travel to this place and obtain it! I mean, it’s not going to be easy of course,” Ichizen proclaimed.

“Dumbass! Let’s just go!” I said.

“Wait a minute! Did you just agree with me? You finally believe!” Ichizen shouted, pure happiness emanating from his face.

Felicity and Tess spoke with two people. I recognized one as Zhuyu. The other man wore black jeans and a thin, black rain jacket. He was taller than everyone around him. I estimated Tess to be around 5’ 10’’, but on one glance alone, this man stood maybe 6’ 2’’. His skin was darker in tone than everyone else, maybe indicative of frequent activities outside in the sun. His hair was medium in length, not too short.

“Yuki! You ready to go now?”  Felicity asked.

“Yeah, I’m ready,” I replied, nodding my head.

“I guess Tess isn’t done talking yet,” Felicity observed.

“Really? You think something is going on again?” I heard Zhuyu ask.

“It would be prudent of me to confirm the situation is indeed stable. Besides, Fel will be in my debt, an advantageous situation for me,” Tess nodded.

“Good luck,” Zhuyu said.

The tall man followed him, both heading in the direction of the student lounge. I was curious about who he was, but didn’t want to pry.

“Who was that tall lookin’ dude you were talking to?” Ichizen inquired.

“Shan Shigetzu, an upperclassman in the bioengineering department. He’s a friend of Long’s, but Darryl knows him the best,” Tess replied, a hint of monotone creeping into her voice.

“You guys know all the cool people,” Ichizen remarked, impressed.

“I’m all hyped up to go back to our high school. I just know something good is buried there!” Felicity shouted, raising her right arm in the air with exuberance.

Ichizen mimicked her actions and the two high fived. We headed toward the parking lot. Unlike Felicity, Tess’ face lacked noticeable excitement. It wasn’t serious like Zhuyu’s or humorous like Kisai’s. Her expression was more cryptic and harder for me to decipher. It made me curious how she became friends with Felicity. Tess stopped at a sleek, red four door sedan.

“Fel, before we go, I want to make sure you are sure about this,” Tess said in a serious tone.

I immediately noticed the shift in Tess’ voice. The level of seriousness present in her voice was on par with a parent confirming their child chose the correct college. I glanced over at Ichizen. He sensed the change as well.

“Of course, Tess, why wouldn’t I? It’s a great chance to visit our old teachers and help out these two!” Felicity replied with no hesitation.

Damn, it was hard to tell if Felicity was masking something. Her high level of energy and cheerfulness disguised any other possible emotions. I was concerned about why Tess bothered asking such a question. Was it possible she knew something Felicity didn’t know? I felt the soft leather of the headrest and comfortable fur covering of the seats. I almost fell asleep because the sensation mirrored that of a bed. Ichizen sat next to me, a stunned expression on his face.

Tess glanced at her rearview mirror. I could tell from the smooth movement of her car that she was no novice.Felicity turned around,  checking up on us.

“Impressed by Tess? She really is an amazing person!” Felicity praised.

“Your praise falls on deaf ears. Tomo, what exactly about the rumors intrigue you?” Tess asked, exiting out of the parking lot.

“I’m not that interested. It’s more like Ichizen dragging me along,” I replied.

“I see. Time of arrival is an estimated ten minutes,” Tess said, asking no further questions.

I looked over at Ichizen who stared out the window in silence. It was very eerie for Ichizen not to speak. In that respect, Ichizen and Felicity were very similar. They both yammered way too much. It was unbearable at times.

“Yuki, let’s play a guessing game. Since Tess here is driving and this is the first time you’ve been in a car of a person…. What do you say?” Felicity suggested.

“Let’s do it!” Ichizen replied.

I didn’t hear the middle part of her statement. I would play along for now. Felicity listed names of the people we met so far. She also added Shan and Tess to the mix as well. I still didn’t know what the goal of her game was.

“Oh, oh, let me go first!” Ichizen requested.

“Go ahead, I’m not even sure,” I said.

“I’ll go Tess, you, Shan, Zhuyu, Kisai and finally Ichaival from best to last!” Ichizen listed and waited for Felicity’s response.

“Your turn now, Yuki,” Felicity said.

“I would go Tess, Zhuyu, Shan, Ichaival, Kisai and you last,” I randomly listed the names, having no idea what was going on.

“I am humbled you assigned me to last place…. Tess is by far the best driver I know. Ichizen actually got the second one right… He’s an average driver but Jin actually comes in third…. but Darryl is still learning how to drive so he doesn’t count,” Felicity revealed, a sly smile as she said the last part.

From the bits and pieces of her long explanation, the intent of her game finally became clear. I nodded, surprised to find her little game enjoyable. It certainly clashed with the images of the people I met.

“We’re here,” Tess announced.

All four of us stepped out of the car. I looked around, unfamiliar with the location. I heard of the school before but never actually saw it in person. I saw residential houses nearby and tree stumps lining the grassy area.

“There’s a lot of cut down trees around here,” I observed.

“Yeah, it’s been like that for awhile. There’s a rumor at our school that for every student who doesn’t graduate, they cut down a tree. If they drop out, they cut down the number of trees equal to the years they took. I don’t know who came up with it,” Felicity revealed.

“Such a preposterous rumor but sometimes the most outlandish claims turn out to have some basis to them,” Tess added, staring up at the sky.

I searched around for an entrance sign but found nothing. Tess noticed my perplexed expression and tapped Felicity’s shoulder. She noticed my eyes wander around.

“Oh, the school sign is covered by the drooping tree branches. It’s been like that since we were freshman. You would think since they cut down so many trees around here, they could take care of that,” Felicity explained.

I found it hard to believe talented students like Zhuyu or Kisai attended school here. The school appeared decrepit. Cracks appeared on the bricks and among the letters spelling out the name of the school on the arch over the doors, three were missing. Walking up the steps, I almost fell as a piece of it crumbled underneath my foot. What had I gotten myself into?


Characters Introduced:

Shan Shigetzu


 

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