AAAAAAHHHH! There's actually a Toshokan Sensou category on this site! I never thought this beautiful, beautiful day would come! Although it's under the English name, Library War, which in my opinion is less cool. And it only has one story so far (which I haven't read yet, but I'm going there now), but with this, there will be two. Still, awesomeness. More love to this great series.
Disclaimer: I don't own Toshokan Sensou, novel, manga or anime, nor do I own Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.
Chapter 1 - Monday's Smile
She smiled at him on Monday morning.
Shibasaki Asako was well aware of what her smile did to boys, especially when she smiled that smooth, serene smile that had a touch of suggestive impishness in it. After years of compliments, invitations and flirtations, she was very adept at using it to her advantage, combined with her long, silky black hair, delicate features and smoky, dark eyes.
But she didn't smile at him for the usual reasons - namely, because she saw something she wanted. She smiled because she was curious about him, this overly serious, reserved boy at the top of all his classes - in competition with her for that honour - this boy who, in spite of noticeable good looks, evaded popularity with his sober, studious manner.
Shibasaki Asako was curious about Tezuka Hikaru.
She carefully analyzed his reaction as she sat down next to him, gracefully sweeping her lustrous hair back over her shoulders. The thought of smiling back didn't seem to occur to him; but his small, keen brown eyes followed her, thin eyebrows angling downwards in a slight frown. His eyebrows never curved or arched; they were always straight, either shooting up or rigidly lowering. They made him seem like a very inflexible person, an impression reinforced by his neatly ironed shirts and pants, the organized state of his books, and of course his strait-laced attitude. The only thing mildly radical about him was his hairstyle; it stuck up, flat on top, with sideburns and an unusual widow's peak part at the centre of his forehead.
Shibasaki pretended not to be observing any of this as she casually flipped open her English binder. He was still looking at her, and that pleased her. She wasn't an attention-seeker, but she did like being looked at. Especially when she was baffling someone, and she was confident that that smile out of the blue would puzzle Tezuka Hikaru, the guy with all the answers, to no end.
Strategically, she waited until he had looked away, sitting up in his chair and directing his gaze to the front in preparation for the lesson, and then she turned and said pleasantly, "Good morning, Tezuka."
It was immensely satisfying to see his attention snap back to her. He had a very direct way of looking that made Shibasaki feel as if he was really looking at her, not just at her pretty hair or lips or breasts. "Shibasaki," he returned, curtly but politely. He was the kind of person who knew all of his classmates' names despite never having said a word to most of them.
"Oh, the teacher's here," she commented as the tall, glasses-wearing man walked in to the classroom. Nice timing, she thought, satisfied. She gave Tezuka another vague smile and then focused on the lesson.
As usual, she observed Tezuka during the hour-long period - it was one of the things that fascinated her, the way he changed during this English class. He was in several of her advanced courses, always sitting attentively at the front, answering every question promptly and correctly and rarely speaking otherwise. But in this specific class alone, he was different; he sat at the very back, beside her, and although he listened flawlessly, he only participated when called upon by the teacher, and even then she sensed a kind of reluctance in him. Also, his silence was a habit, but in this course it was not just the silence of a good listener and conscientious student, but a harsher, smouldering quiet, as if he were deeply resentful or sulky about something.
His mood swing was only visible to an exceptional observer, but that Shibasaki was, and it made her curious about him. She wondered if there was more to him than met the eye. Or perhaps he simply hated English.
She'd guessed rightly that he was the type who liked to have a solution for everything, and so he was fairly aggravated by the end of lesson, with her inexplicable advances towards him. Content with her work, she gathered up her things and made as if to sweep by his desk, when he stood abruptly in her path, stopping her.
She blinked. That was unexpected. He was more direct and demanding than she had thought if he was going to interrogate her.
"Do you want something?" he asked her bluntly.
"Not really," she said easily. She smiled serenely up at him - he was tall - and stepped to the side. "Excuse me."
His frown was very deep now, his lips tight, but he shifted wordlessly to let her pass. "I'll see you tomorrow," she told him lightly as she left him.
He didn't answer, and she was surprised at how hard it was to fight the urge to glance back at him and try to read his expression. She even hesitated in the doorway, tempted. Then she tilted her head, smiled to herself, and walked on.
"He's such a bastard! And he's short!" Shibasaki listened amusedly to her close friend Kasahara Iku rant energetically about her next-door neighbour and best frenemy Doujou Atsushi, with whom she kept up an unending feud. "Like, if I'm here - " Kasahara held her palm up to her head - "then he's way down here!" She lowered her hand to somewhere around her hip, a rather gross exaggeration of the height difference between her and Doujou. "He's like an ant. An annoying ant."
"I heard that," Doujou's voice came from behind Kasahara as he set his tray down on the cafeteria table next to theirs. "And since I'm a human being with feelings, I can't guarantee that it won't affect my opinion during our peer evaluations in French."
Her face having gone from blanched-white to angry red in a matter of seconds, Kasahara twisted in her chair to shout at the back of his neck, "You jerk! You wouldn't dare! We get actual points for those things, you know!"
Shibasaki rested her chin in her palm as Kasahara and Doujou railed back and forth until Kasahara tired of the argument (or ran out of witty comebacks, as was more likely), and stood up haughtily, announcing, "I've lost my appetite. Let's go, Shibasaki."
Shibasaki followed her, having had plenty of time to eat her own lunch during the live entertainment, but as she passed behind Doujou's chair, where he sat scowling fiercely, she leaned over and whispered into his ear, "Don't worry. She likes you."
He started violently, nearly upsetting his tray, and Shibasaki sailed tranquilly on past, having satisfactorily patched up their quarrel. She shook her head in good-humoured exasperation; people like Kasahara and Doujou needed all the help they could get, really.
"Why don't you ask him to dinner?" she suggested to Kasahara as she joined her in the hallway.
"Who, Doujou?" Kasahara said dismissively. "He already comes to dinner sometimes anyway." He lived next door and their families knew one another, so that was no rarity.
"I mean, ask him to dinner alone," Shibasaki pressed, looking skyward.
Kasahara reacted to that more or less the way Shibasaki had expected. "Ehhh? Him? What? No way!" she exclaimed, making a ridiculously scandalized face.
Obviously it was too early for someone as clueless and immature as Kasahara to consider anything like that. But Shibasaki believed in the power of repeated reinforcement - if she talked about it and hinted at it often enough, eventually the girl would start thinking about it, and eventually, get around to doing it. And of course, Shibasaki would be there to supervise when it happened.
"Hey, what about you?" Kasahara demanded, turning the tables. "You're always pushing me and Doujou together for some crazy reason, but don't you have anyone you're interested in?"
"I like to keep my options open," Shibasaki replied glibly, but an image of Tezuka's serious face passed unbidden through her mind. She was interested in him; she would go so far as to say that she had set her sights on him. But no further, for the moment.
"Hmph," Kasahara grumbled, folding her arms over her chest at the lame excuse. Shibasaki just smiled.
As she did almost every day after school, Shibasaki headed for the library that Monday. She didn't belong to any high school clubs as such, despite her general liking for socializing, but she had helped out at the school library since the beginning of ninth grade. Similarly, she volunteered at the public library during the summer, shelving books, assisting patrons and inputting new titles into the system. Shibasaki liked libraries; they were quiet, restful places full of fascinating stories and information.
She greeted the librarian genially - they were practically old friends by now - and shed her sweater in the room's comfortable warmth, leaving it on a chair beside her shoulder bag. Then she slipped on her reading glasses and tied her hair back into a slapdash but fairly clean bun, letting a few long strands graze her collarbone at the neckline of her pale pink fitted T-shirt. She let her hair down for maximum effect, but it got in the way sometimes.
She climbed up onto a stepladder to shelve a returned book, and it wobbled slightly as it was wont to, but she took no notice, especially since it steadied a moment later. It was a bit shaky, but perfectly stable, or at least it hadn't toppled anyone yet, and it had been put to the test by much heavier people than slender Shibasaki.
Hands empty, she tilted her head back to watch her step as she descended the ladder, only to let out a low gasp and nearly lose her balance from pure astonishment.
"Oh! Tezuka," she exclaimed with a touch of breathlessness. Dark-haired and stern-faced, he stood on the floor, head level with her hip. She glimpsed his fist gripping the ladder's metal bar, anchoring it. Unexpectedly moved by his unprompted assistance, she smiled and lowered herself down the rungs. "Thank you very much."
"You're welcome," he replied evenly. He was an extremely courteous person, Shibasaki was beginning to realize; gentlemanlike, even. It was rather endearing.
"Can I help you with anything?" she asked, explaining, "I'm a library assistant here."
"I'm fine," he declared brusquely, hardly hesitating before segueing into, "may I ask you something, though?"
"Of course, go ahead."
"What were your intentions in English class?" he asked without preamble.
She blinked at his point-blank style, then laughed kindly. "Has that been annoying you all day? I'm sorry, it's just that you seem the sort of person to get impatient when waiting for answers."
He frowned, then softened slightly and admitted, "It's been frustrating."
She began to walk down the aisle of books, speaking as she went. He trailed her closely. "Well, since you've been honest, I will be too. I was curious about you."
"Curious about me?" he repeated.
"Yes. You're very intelligent, a model student, and you never lapse out of that routine. But during English, you lower your standards a bit - you listen and you participate, but grudgingly. That change in behaviour intrigued me, so I wanted to get to know you a little better." She looked over at him as she crouched in front of a shelf, scanning the book bindings along the row. "And they say the best way to breach communication is with a smile."
He seemed nonplussed at her reasons. "I...lower my standards?"
"They're still very high," she reassured him smilingly.
"Thank you," he said carefully, the bridge of his nose wrinkled intently. "But wouldn't you say your motives are somewhat - bizarre? If you'll forgive me for saying so."
"My curiosity is easily piqued, but often by the most bizarre things," she responded smoothly, thereby reversing his comment so that the label of "bizarre" was no longer aimed at her but at his behaviour. This was not lost on him, and he cocked an eyebrow quizzically.
"Here we go," Shibasaki spoke out in satisfaction, sliding a book out of the shelf and depositing it gently in his hands. He stared down at it. "Fahrenheit 451," she informed him, tapping its cover lightly. "Ray Bradbury. An interesting book with interesting themes."
His gaze flashed up to meet hers. "You're saying I should read it?"
"I don't know if it's your type of book," she said, brushing some loose black hair behind her ear, "but going on the assumption that your type may be similar to my type, I'm recommending it."
"I see," he said. He had an excellent poker face, but Shibasaki could tell that he was totally confounded by just about everything she'd told him. She almost felt sorry for him; it had been a long time since she'd deliberately gone about singling someone out like this. Tezuka was a much better target for it than Kasahara, at any rate; any mind games Shibasaki attempted on her just went right over her head.
He squinted penetratingly at her, mentioning, "You're wearing glasses."
It was her turn to be taken aback, albeit approvingly so. Apparently nothing escaped him. "Yes - I usually only wear them when I intend to do a lot of reading, since I don't see that badly without them. I also wear contacts a lot."
He nodded, adding suddenly, "Glasses suit you. They go with your image."
Her lips parted in surprise at the compliment, then curved into the latest of many smiles that day. He was more unpredictable than she had initially believed. She liked that - it made her even more curious.
Their conversation had been quiet and undisruptive, but it seemed time for it to end anyway. "Thanks for the recommendation," Tezuka said, in a wooden tone that she recognized as awkwardness.
"Anytime," she answered simply. "Please come by again."
He exited via a table in the corner, where he picked up a few books he had placed there previously - he was a frequent visitor to the library, she knew, as she had seen him here many times in the past. It just so happened that this time, he had steadied her stepladder and spoken to her.
She watched discreetly as he checked out the books, and was happy to see the librarian stamp Fahrenheit 451 along with the rest. She watched him stop in the doorway, too, and look back, not resisting the temptation as she had. She waved amiably; after a pause, he raised his hand in return.
That night, Shibasaki put on her glasses and examined herself thoughtfully in the mirror.
A/N: I think I made Shibasaki smile too much for one chapter...but she seems like a generally cheerful person, if somewhat devious, right...?
Anyway, as I said up top, I don't own the novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury either, although I have read it. For those of you who haven't read it or heard what it's about, it has something of a connection to the plot of Toshokan Sensou, which is why I chose it, although it's not a personal favourite of mine. Any opinions/commentaries expressed on it by Shibasaki or Tezuka in this story are purely of my own fabrication, and have nothing to do with the author or publishing company or anything, just to make sure we're all clear about that.
I kind of stole from the anime in that Doujou-Kasahara scene, in case you didn't notice (I don't know where that "peer evaluations in French" thing came from, but it's high school, so I had to think of something). Also, since I can't really imagine Shibasaki or Tezuka being referred to as Asako or Hikaru, I'm just going to have everyone call them by their last names (same with Doujou and Kasahara). Please ignore it! By the way, the setting is a Western high school, so don't expect any "-kun" or "-san", or cute uniforms, or anything like that.
Chapter 2 is already begun, but some feedback would, I'm sure, make it infinitely better. :)