Chapter One

Noticing

The sound was tiring. The incessant screech of chalk on a chalkboard made me want to go and just rip the fragment from my teacher's hand. I was a first year here at Rikkai Dai Fuzoku High School, and I should have gotten used to the sound already. After all, it had been about three weeks.

I gave out a yawn and covered it with my hand. I wasn't ever the sort of person that talked much in class. I was practically known as the shyest girl in the whole school. I wasn't shy though, I was just quiet. I knew when to keep my mouth shut. I wasn't truly serious with anything yet, I was only serious about piano. I see the people at my school who are serious about everything. Even my idiot sempai Niou Masaharu was serious about something. There were eight (was it eight? I can't remember, I never noticed that sort of thing, no wonder I'm known as the lazy person in my class) people in the school who were the most well known. They had won the tennis nationals for two years in a row, but lost the two years after that. They were the tennis regulars.

I wish I could say I knew them, but I didn't. Well, I kind of did. Who didn't know them? I went to the same middle school as all of them and everything was always like "regulars this" and "regulars that" and "the guys are so hot". I'm not going to lie, they are hot, but they would never look at a person like me. Everyone on that team was my sempai. They were all either a 3rd or 2nd year, while I stayed a lowly 1st year.

The bell finally rang and I jumped up from my seat and dashed out the door. There was no one that I liked in my class, so I was always happy to leave it. I ran to the lunch room and got there before anyone else did. I took my usual order of melon bread and milk and sat at the table I always sat at. It was our table. When I say our table, I meant that it was the table that me and my friends always sat at every single day.

"Damn it!" my friend Tanaka Nana (last name first) said as she plopped down at the table. Her brown crimps were in a ponytail.

"What's wrong this time?" I asked.

"Ugh! It's just that my club always tries to practice, but then fan girls go and swarm around the boys' courts, which are right next to ours, and it's hard to concentrate. It's so stupid! Then those stupid fan girls go and try to join the girls' tennis team to get closer to the guys but they never work in the clubs, they just stand around and stare. I swear, if I have to listen to another girl scream for the guys, I will personally rip—"

"Nana!" I interrupted, "calm down and breath a bit will you? Stop ranting! I know what you're going to say. Anyways, aren't you just angry at all of the fan girls because you have a crush on every guy regular on the tennis team?"

"Yeah, but there's a difference."

"And what is it . . . ?"

"I am actually good at tennis. If you've forgotten, I'm the tennis team captain for the girls."

"How could I forget . . . ?"

Just then four of our other friends came along and sat down at the same time.

"Wow, synchronization!" Nana said.

"Thanks," Tsumi Asami said. She had short black hair that tickled just the bottoms of her ears. She hated long hair and always complained about how it got in the way.

The three other people at the table were all guys. There was Uchi Hiro and Uchi Ryoki. They were both twins that looked exactly alike and even talked alike. I swear, sometimes I think that they're one person split in two because they're all so alike. Then there was Goshima Takei. He had glasses that covered his eyes completely like Yagyuu Hiroshi from the tennis team, but Takei looked nothing like him, he had wavy blond hair that was always unruly.

I gave a sigh as I looked at all of my friends. If we were sent back in time and we didn't end up meeting each other on accident, we would've never been friends. We were all completely different from each other. There was only one thing that everyone had in common: they all were going to major in art. When I say everyone, I mean all of my friends not including myself. I don't care about art at all to be honest. You would think that Nana would want to have a future in tennis or something close, but when she wasn't chasing after the boys' regulars, she was teaching pottery classes at the community college. I was surprised myself when I learned. Nana cared about pottery more than anything else, and I felt left out. Asami was a sculptor and a painter. I had never seen anything from her that was less than magnificent. I'm always blown away by what she is able to do. The twins were in the same department as Asami and loved to annoy the hell out of her most of the time. Even though they joke around too much and never take anything seriously, they were at the level of greatness that Asami was at. Last of all, Takei, he was a photographer. I didn't know if that counted as an art, but apparently it did.

My friends were all avid art students that were all going to go to the Tokyo University of Art. I on the other hand had no true future, no passion about anything. I felt like the black sheep out of my family of friends.

I forgot to introduce myself didn't I? My name is Akemi Yoriko. Everyone thinks that I'll be the someone great, someone wonderful. But that doesn't mean anything, I may get good grades, and I may seem like a goody-two-shoes because I never talk or do anything bad.

"Hello? Earth to Yoriko?" Kyrui said.

"Hm?"

"You're spacing out again! When will you get serious about anything? You have to get your life ready."

"It is ready."

"So what are you going to do?"

"I'm going to be a famous piano player." There was one thing that I was sort of serious about; the piano. I was forced to learn it at a young age, and no matter how hard I try to quit it, I just can't.

"You're not serious, are you? You can't just play piano at random clubs or whatever and expect to earn a decent living."

"I wouldn't be talking, art student. I heard that artists are usually very poor until after they die." I waved a carrot stick around in the air. I could sound so sarcastic with my friends, it was a gift really. Like I said before, everyone thinks I'm good just because I seem shy, but (again) like I said before, I'm not shy, just quiet.

"You have to understand something, Yori," Asami said. "We all can't live out our dreams, so we have to get a backup plan for everything. For example, if I don't make it as an artist, I'm going to go into medical school afterwards and become a nurse."

"But you all actually have talent!" I cried out. "I don't have anything but the piano! Which is a useless instrument anyways! I only get good grades, but I'm not really majoring in anything, and I'm a nobody! I won't make it anywhere in life and I won't be able to do anything."

"That's not true!" everyone said.

"You'll find your calling," Takei reassured.

"Yeah! That's right!" the Hiro and Ryoki agreed. There they went again, being all . . . twin-like and psychic.

"If you don't want to be a nobody," Asami started. Her eyes met mine and she had the coldest stare in her eyes. She always was the serious one out of all of us. "If you don't want to be a nobody, make everyone look at you."

If only it was that simple. Asami was serious about almost everything, and I knew that there was nothing more she cared about then art. If only I could listen to her and actually be like her.

"We are all doing what's best for ourselves," Takei started. "Asami, maybe you should just let Yoriko do what's best for herself. We can't all be like you."

"I'm sorry, Yori. I know you're under a lot of stress right now," Asami apologized.

"It's fine, Asami," I said. The truth was, it wasn't fine. I wish I could make people look at me, but I didn't have the sort of air that Asami had. She had a commanding air, and it was at times even more commanding than Nana's, even though Nana was the captain of the girls' tennis team.

"Just do what's best for you," Nana agreed with Takei.

I could feel the looks of my friends. Even if the looks weren't mean, they were disapproving. Well, they weren't necessarily, but I felt as if they were all a bit disappointed in me.

The bell rang, interrupting the awkward silence that had somehow sneaked in on me and my friends. We all parted ways, and Asami apologized to me once again, but I didn't want an apology, I wanted her help in making me change. I didn't want to continue living life this way. It was just . . . wrong.

"Meet me in the art room after school," Asami said to me before she left. It was like she read my mind.

After school, I rushed to the art room, but Asami wasn't there. Instead someone else was, it was a boy that had a bit of a girly look about him. There was no one in the whole school that didn't know him. His blue hair was restrained a bit because of a green headband he was wearing and he was already changed into his tennis uniform. His name was Yukimura Seiichi.

"Do you know if Tsumi Asami is here?" I asked him.

"Asami-san? I have no idea," he replied with a smile.

"You know her?"

"Of course I do, she is an art student, like myself."

"I see . . ."

Being alone with him was creeping me out a bit. His smile made me a bit unsettled, it was as if he was too nice. He was overly nice.

"Yori!" a voice called from behind me.

"Asami!" I exclaimed while turning around.

"Asami-san," Yukimura greeted.

"Hello, Yukimura-sempai," Asami said. "What are you doing here? The tennis team has already started practice."

"I just stopped by to gather my stuff."

"Well, good-bye then, Yukimura-sempai."

"In a rush, Asami-san?"

"Not at all, Yukimura-sempai."

There was a crackle in the air and Asami and Yukimura just stood there staring at each other. It was as if they were having a battle, and whoever moved or blinked first would lose.

"Sorry, Asami-san," Yukimura finally said. He gave her his trademark smile. "I have to get going, my team is going to be worried if their captain is missing." He turned to me then. "And I believe your name is Yori? Well, Yori-san, I'll see you again sometime soon. In fact, I'm sure that I will see you again, after all, you are friends with my adorable younger sister Asami. Good bye now everyone." He walked away then. His smile was ever more present then.

I stood in shock for about ten seconds before I turned towards Asami. She was getting her art supplies and stuffing them in a bag angrily. I took a step closer to her and said, "Asami! Are you really his younger sister?"

"He's a liar. I'm not his younger sister," she replied, still not looking at me.

"Is that the truth?"

"You aren't here to learn about me, Yori, you're here because you need help, correct?"

"Yeah! But how can I trust you if you don't tell me anything?"

Asami turned to me then. Her eyes were angry, and I had never seen her that angry before. "You want to know the truth? I'm not truly his little sister, I was just adopted into the family, understand? I hate him! He acts as if I'm a charity case! Just because his father was good friends with mine, his family thinks that they should be the good guys and adopt me after what happened. That's why I never acknowledge him at school. You understand, right? I just have a feeling though, that because of today, he's going to start acknowledging me as his sister in school. I just want to turn eighteen already and never have to look back at this time with him and his family pretending to be my family. He's sadistic, you know. He truly does hate me for intruding upon him and his family. I was able to keep my original last name, so it was easy for me to pretend as if I didn't know him, but I think that's going to change now."

"I don't think so," I said. I wanted to approach her and make her feel better, but the way her body was held was screaming at me to not get close to her.

"I have to go," she suddenly said. Her voice was hoarse and she rushed away past me. I guess we weren't going to work on anything that day.

I wasn't able to see Asami the next day until lunch. She had a sort of distant look in her eyes. It was as if she wasn't truly there with us that day. She was right about one thing though, Yukimura was going to start acknowledging her as his sister and acknowledging me as her friend too.

"Asami," he called from his table.

The look in Asami's eyes didnt' disappear as she turned her head. I noticed that Yukimura didn't use her name with a suffix anymore. "Hm?" she said.

"I haven't introduced my little sister to anyone in this school yet," he replied.

The whole cafeteria stopped talking. It was as if they too, were all frozen in shock like I was yesterday. Asami didn't say anything, and she didnt' move an inch from her spot at our table. Hiro, Ryoki, Takei, and Nana were all staring at her in shock. I looked over at the table where Yukimura was sitting and I could see the shock that was on his teammates faces too. Kirihara Akaya was about to fall out of his seat when Marui Bunta pulled him back. Even the stoic vice captain Sanada Genichirou looked as if he had just seen an elephant come up and talk to everyone.

"Maybe later," Asami finally said. She stood up from the seat and threw away her lunch. I didn't know where she was going, but she just left without saying anything to her brother or her friends.

I rushed after her then. I was the only person in the room ahead of time who knew anything about her and her "brother" Yukimura. I wasn't able to find her, I ran around the whole school and I still couldn't find her. I knew that the others were looking for her too. They wanted an explanation, like I had wanted yesterday.

Yukimura seemed to come out of nowhere and I bumped into him.

"Have you seen my younger sister Asami?" Yukimura asked.

"No, I haven't," I replied coldly.

"I just wanted to talk to her about her last name, I think our family wants her to change it to Yukimura now."

"How could you?" I screamed at him. "You act as if you care about her, but you're actually hurting her! What type of a big brother are you?"

"What do you mean?" His face was completely calm, and he gave a smile. "I do care about her, after all, she's my younger sister."

"Stop pretending!" I couldn't stand it anymore, I rushed up to him and slapped him across the face. He moved out of the way fast enough and I ended up hitting air.

"I don't think you should be acting too rashly, Akemi Yoriko, also known as Yori. You see, you've been invisible up until now, which has been good for you. But you've just been attracting too much attention lately. You've made me notice you, and I wouldn't exactly say that that is a good thing. I think, that we'll all be very good friends, in the future."

"What . . . ?" I said. But he was already out of sight.