The Ultimate Len Tsukimori Guide
by Pathetic Rainbow
Chapter Two: The Lake
During finals week, the General Education department would be divided into two so that everyone didn't have to take the exam all at once. The seniors took up the morning while the rest of the students had the school in the afternoon. Being a second year meant that my examinations would end at around four in the afternoon—and I didn't know when that Tsukimori guy would be out of his own exam. I knew that it was the tests of the music students were difficult because they'd have to perform an advanced piece in front of a jury that would decide whether they get to move on to the next grade level or if they were to be kicked out of the program. But from what I heard, Tsukimori was supposed to be a different level of genius with the violin, so surely he didn't have any troubles with his exams. But the problem remained that I didn't have anything to work on, not even a schedule—so how the hell am I supposed to find him?
I looked up from my paper and saw that the teacher had written on the board that we only had fifteen minutes remaining. I only had fifteen minutes left and I had yet to complete the last part of the exam because I couldn't stop thinking about Len Tsukimori. Kami-sama, help me.
"Time's up!" the teacher announced and I put my pen down after shading the last five items of the exam. I shook my head, knowing that the answers I randomly chose were probably not right. I wore a pensive frown on my face as I wondered where I was heading next.
"Hey!" Mio, one of my best friends in the entire world, came up to my seat. "What's with the gloom?"
"Did you study for the exam, Kaho-chan?" Nao, the one to complete our trio, also piped in. "It looks like you barely got any sleep in."
"Of course I did!" No, I didn't.
"Then what's troubling you?"
"Oh, maybe Kaho-chan's thinking of a boy!"
"I am not!" Yes, I am. It felt so wrong to lie to my best friends, but I couldn't tell them about my assignment. I couldn't even bring up the fact that I was flunking a class! "I'm just—thinking about the weather. It rained outside during our exam, didn't it?"
"Ah, so it did rain! I was wondering what that sound was." Nao didn't seem convinced, but Mio, ever the happy one, played along to my conversation. "Hey, Nao and I planned to go to the newly opened tea shop by the station. Wanna come with?"
I shook my head no. As much as I wanted to join my friends and just unwind after that stressful exam, I had to do something for my assignment—like figure out where in the world I could find Tsukimori Len.
"You guys have fun," I told them genuinely with a big smile on my face. "I'll see you tomorrow!"
"Alright." Nao pinched my cheek. "But next time we're not letting you make excuses for you to get lost in that mind you call wonderland."
"Hey!" My friends always meant well, but Nao especially had a weird way of caring. Mio was very upfront and candid while Nao was more recluse and wasn't as talkative—me, on the other hand, well, I guess I was somewhere in between. That was why we were great friends, because we balanced one another. "Take care, you two."
"You too, Kaho-chan!"
And they left the room with their bags, talking to each other—no doubt they were asking themselves why I decided to skip out on a lovely evening with tea and biscuits. I myself was questioning the same, but I shook my head. Now wasn't the time to be thinking about that; I had a project to work on.
I didn't have an idea as to where I was heading, but somehow my feet led me to the garden behind the school. Aside from the mysterious carillon which supposedly rang on its own, there were a few benches and gazebos on the grass area where students usually hung out, but as it was examination period, they were all unoccupied—that and because of the rain earlier, it was quite muddy. There was also a small lake and a bridge which symbolized 'the bridging of the gap between the two departments'. Ha! Everyone laughed off the supposed meaning because there was no way in the world that the two departments would get along.
I stood in the middle of the bridge and looked at my reflection in the water. I could only see a plain face, plain red hair and dull gold eyes. Nothing special, really—but my mother would always tell me otherwise. I didn't feel special in any way, either; the past three years of high school were a testament to how boring my life had been. I wish there was more excitement, more life—I wanted to be more happy.
Out of no where came music—specifically, the sound of a violin. I looked up from the water and saw that one of the practice rooms had an open window. I recognized the song Ave Maria as my grandmother used to have a music box which played the exact same song the person was playing now. I closed my eyes and let the sound of the strings soothe me. I started to hum along. The song was able to take my mind off my Tsukimori-related problems, and I was grateful.
I reopened my eyes when the playing stopped and I smiled to myself. Maybe I didn't need to do anything today. I'll just try again tomorrow! With that resolve, I started to walk down the arch. As soon as I took a step off the bridge, my foot landed on the slippery ground, making me slide down the steep slope that led to the lake which was deep.
And I didn't know how to swim.
I was flailing, trying to hold on to the side of the lake with ground, climb back up, but it was still wet and slippery from the rain. I tried not to panic, but there was no one around to save me. My limbs were tired; I closed my eyes, ready to accept my fate, when I felt a hand reach out for my wrist. On instinct, I clutched onto whatever that was and soon enough I felt myself being lifted out of the waters.
I coughed, spluttering, trying to breathe in the air that I didn't have seconds ago. I was disoriented, dizzy, and my surroundings were a bit hazy. I could feel my heart crashing against my ribs from the adrenaline I couldn't channel well enough to save my own life. All I could see was the purple setting of the sun and a streak of cobalt blue in front of me. I blinked—once, twice—and then I saw it.
Or more precisely, him.
Tsukimori Len was my savior.
And he looked pissed.
Still, despite my almost-death, I couldn't help but think that this was a great opportunity for me to seize. He was my target and he was right there in front of me!
"Hi!" I paused to cough. Then, I smiled at him. I was grateful that he saved me, after all—as unlikely as it was, he was actually there. "I'm sorry to have troubled you, Tsukimori-kun!"
"You know who I am," was his remark. He seemed to scrutinize me with his piercing eyes which were a warm shade of gold—a far contrast from what was supposed to be his cold personality. Then his eyes landed to my soaking wet uniform. "You're a Gen Ed student."
"You have quite a reputation," I said, trying to engage him. "Everyone knows who you are, Tsukimori Len—"
"You interrupted my practice."
"I have an exam tomorrow and I was practicing upstairs when I heard you screaming for help." He shook his head and ran a hand through his hair. "And you're still wasting my time."
"What!" I felt enraged. That narcissistic jerk! I pointed an accusatory finger at him and began shouting. "I didn't ask you to save me! Any decent human being would help others if they were in my situation! But I guess what I heard about you was right; you don't care about anyone but yourself! No wonder people call you—"
He took the hand which I was using to point at him and I stopped talking.
An ice cube.
"Your hand's bleeding," he said softly, inspecting my hand. I could feel my cheeks heating up—which was something as I felt numb with the breeze on my wet skin. "And you're shivering." He shook his head once more, now muttering things to himself. I could only catch on a few words like clumsy, water and practicing violin. I waited for him to talk again, but instead he dropped my hand and stood, picking up the white uniform coat he placed on the side before he reached out for me in the lake. "It's getting dark."
He stood there for a while, holding on to his jacket and his violin case which he had set aside, too. I didn't know what I was supposed to say or do because I was still surprised at how soft he sounded and how gentle his touch was.
"What's your name?"
"Hino Kahoko," I answered dumbly.
"Hino-san," he tested my name on his tongue first and then acknowledged me again. "Hino-san, I'm taking you home."
"I'm not going to let a drenched girl walk her way home after dark," was his curt response. I wasn't aware that chivalry still existed. But still, I couldn't help but feel like I was extremely lucky that it was Tsukimori that was the one to save me. It was the perfect excuse to get closer to him. "Get up. I need to get home soon, too."
I nodded and got my bearings. I brought my hands up to wring the water out of my hair and he watched with a plain expression. I walked up to stand next to him and then he placed his jacket on my shoulders in one swift motion and then he wrapped his clean handkerchief around my wounded palm. He turned away afterwards, refusing eye contact, and then started walking with his violin case in tow.
I caught up and led the way to my house. The entire walk was spent in silence as I didn't really want to annoy him into leaving and avoiding me forever. I only had three weeks to finish my assignment and it wouldn't do to have him purposely avoiding me for the entire duration.
When we finally arrived in front of my house, I stopped and found that the lights in my sister's room were on, signifying that she was already there. I wanted to engage Tsukimori to get to know him some more, but it wasn't the time and place for it. If my family saw me outside with a boy, they wouldn't stop badgering me about it for sure.
"Tsukimori-kun," I addressed the blue-haired man. "Thank you."
"No, really, I owe you!" I said with a huge smile on my face. "For saving my life. I'm going to be your friend from now on, okay?"
He didn't say anything. Instead, he looked at me strangely, as if I had sprouted wings or grown horns all of a sudden. Without a word, he pivoted on his heels and turned around. By the blink of the streetlight, he was already far away.
He didn't refuse me. And that was good enough for now.