YAY! An update after a month! I'm sorry that this is a teensy bit short - I promise the next one will be nice and long! Hope you guys enjoy this one!
The New Neighbours
The New Neighbours
Wanting to go to school early on a Monday? Taichi was absolutely certain that I had gone out of my mind, but I was too excited to respond to his usual, lame teasing. Years of experience had allowed me to be well-versed in the art of Tuning Out.
In fact, I found the walk to school, so much more peaceful and quiet than usual, to be a rather pleasant experience – even more so the quiet hallways and corridors of the school, still devoid of students rushing to their respective classes. As soon as I stepped into the school grounds, I made my way to my destination, the reason why I had even bothered to come so early in the first place – the Photography Club notice board.
My steps quickened as I climbed the stairs to the second floor. The notice board was located right at the end of the second level's corridor, right next to the school library. It was completely deserted. The library wasn't even open this early! I practically ran to the board, feeling a little breathless with excitement.
Taichi, Takeru and my other friends had been highly amused about how excited I was about this competition. So maybe I had gotten over-enthusiastic telling them about it, complete with wild hand gesticulations and too-fast speeches. But I couldn't help my enthusiasm – photography was my passion and the idea of the competition itself was enough to get me revved up! And now, knowing that the details were just steps away from me, that starting from today I would be wrapped up in this for the next three months… I couldn't remember the last time I had felt so passionate about something.
Funnily enough, I hadn't actually spoken to my partner since Thursday. But it was cool – we would probably have a chat later and get our plans rolling today.
I stepped right in front of the board – the poster was so large, it was impossible to miss. It took up half the board, and was glossy and bright and colourful – it looked great! The words "ODAIBA HIGH'S ANNUAL PHOTOGRAPHY COMPETITON" were printed at the top of the sheet in yellow bubblegum letters, and tiny versions of past years' winning entries served as decoration. I leaned closer and began to read.
There was a short paragraph on what the competition entailed. I skimmed through that, seeing how Ms. Suzuki had already gone through that with us on Thursday. Instead, I skipped through to the most important part…
THE THEME THAT HAS BEEN CHOSEN FOR THIS YEAR'S COMPETITION IS NONE OTHER THAN…
"Liberation," I whispered to myself, half-formed thoughts and ideas racing through my head as I took in the meaning of that one word. Well, I would have to discuss this with Ken later. Pushing my ideas to the back of my mind, I started to read the section devoted to explaining what the prizes were.
First Prize (one entry): Stands to win 70, 000 YEN and for your entry to be displayed at the National Youth Museum
Second prize (one entry): 40, 000 YEN and 20, 000 YEN's worthof CANON vouchers
Third prize (one entry): 30, 000 YEN and 10, 000 YEN's worthof CANON vouchers
Consolation prize (five entries): Five sets of iPod nanos (depending on the number of members in the groups) to be given away!
They all looked very attractive – my heart leapt when I saw the second bit of the first prize. A display at the Museum? That was so unbelievably cool!
I read through the poster once more, then checked my watch. Half an hour to go before lessons started – I was indeed really early! I slowly made my way to my classroom, hoping that Ken would be early today too so we could have a bit of discussion before lessons begun.
As fate would have it, Ken didn't turn up in school at all.
To say that I was disappointed was an understatement. I was fully aware that it wasn't his fault for being absent, but I had just been looking so forward to start the planning with him! I stared miserably at the empty seat in front of mine. Of all days to be absent… he had to pick today.
Well, at least we were neighbours. Our teacher had given me Ken's stack of homework for the day (Monday was typically homework day, and my bag felt rather heavy when school was over) to pass to him, and being neighbours, I had all the time and convenience to update him whenever it was possible.
After the usual routine of a quick snack and shower after I got home from school, I grabbed Ken's homework and headed over next door. I rang the doorbell and waited, feeling slightly apprehensive. I still felt uneasy around Mr. and Mrs. Ichijouji, and I half-wished that it would be Ken who answered the door.
I looked up to see Mrs. Ichijouji standing behind the gate, looking rather surprised to see me. For once, she wasn't immaculately dressed, but looked homely and in fact, rather motherly – an aspect of her that I had yet to see so far. She was clad in a plain blue shirt and beige pants, with a colourful apron thrown over the simple outfit. It looked as though she had just begun to prepare dinner.
"Hello, Mrs. Ichijouji," I bowed politely, then held up the stack of notes. "I'm here to bring Ken his homework, and to update him about what happened in school today."
"Oh, thank you," Mrs. Ichijouji replied at once, a slow smile spreading across her face as she gazed at me. I couldn't help feeling slightly thrown off as the smile grew into a full-out beam – since when was she so friendly? Weird or not, it was a good change though, and I allowed myself to be led to Ken's room without any further questions.
With the door left conspicuously open, Mrs. Ichijouji headed off to make dinner and I walked into the room, feeling a little awkward. Ken was sitting by his table, looking fit and healthy and wide awake – I hadn't expected that, seeing how I had assumed that he hadn't gone to school because he was sick. I walked over to him and handed him his homework.
"Your Mum seems like she's in a really good mood today," I remarked, sitting down on a nearby chair that Ken had gestured me to.
"Yeah, she's always happy whenever somebody comes to visit me," Ken sighed in response, his gaze fixed on his laptop screen. "She thinks that I don't have enough friends."
"Oh, I see," Uncertain about what to reply, I gazed at the back of his head for a minute. He didn't turn around, and I groped around for something to say. "So why didn't you come to school today?"
Ken gestured to his laptop. "I had to work on my design for the Youth's Mechanics Competition that I'm taking part in. It's a Nationwide Competition and we've got two months to design the most functional robot we can come up with."
"Wow, that sounds really cool!" I exclaimed, stunned. Building robots... I had always thought you would need at least a degree in Engineering or something. But I had meant what I said. It sounded really cool and exciting…
Not to mention difficult. And time-consuming.
"You know," I said tentatively, "The poster for the Photography Competition was put up today."
Ken turned to look at me now. "Oh yes, I'd forgotten it was today. What's the theme?"
"It's liberation!" I could feel the excitement bubbling up once again as I spoke. "It's quite a broad theme, but all the more fun to work with, don't you think so? I've got some ideas already, do you want to discuss them now? What do you think? I – " I stopped short in mid-sentence as Ken held up his hands, looking apologetic.
"I'm sorry, Hikari, but I'm… kinda busy now. I've got to get the first draft of my design out by tonight." Ken did look genuinely sorry. "Look… how about we discuss this after school tomorrow? We'll get something out by then, I promise."
"Oh… right," I said, feeling slightly sheepish. "I'm sorry. So... I guess I better be going now."
Ken nodded. "Goodbye."
As I lay on my bed twenty minutes later, I couldn't help but feel a slight twinge of unease. This Photography Competition really meant a lot to me. I was prepared to give my all for the next three months just for it. But it hadn't occurred to me that my partner wouldn't feel the same way. Ken seemed really busy now, and I must've been stupid for not realizing – he was, after all, a prodigy teenager and would most definitely be involved in other competitions and activities. Who could blame him?
I sighed and rolled over, nearly falling off the bed in the process. I could only hope that everything would work itself out.
:D Please review!!
I don't know if a National Youth Museum exists in Japan, so yeah. As for the prize money, I converted it from my country's exchange rate (S$) using amounts that seemed plausible for winning competitions.
Thanks so so so much to all my reviewers for chapter 4: SugarSpiral, PrincessJaded, fairytaled, dracula-key, emotionless-robot, DestinyInterwined (but... this isn't KENOC. It's Kenkari.), Bridgette Barrymore, KoumiLocness, BenignUser and Hiei's Kage. :D You guys are great! I didn't count GoggleMaster01, because his "review" was crap. You want to revive season 01 and 02, sure - do as you please. But can I just say that leaving mass reviews, without even bothering to read the stories and say anything about it (you do know what a review is for, right?) is plain stupid.