A/N: When I found out FFN actually put Ichigo's name in the character filter, I got excited and dug out a oneshot outline. However, the story is much longer than I expected so I decided to split it several parts. This first entry may seem short, very short by my standards, but I feel it is the appropriate place to cut it. Consider this a ficlet story of some sorts, with continuous entries in terms of the time line.
As implied in the summary, this is written in Wakaouji Ichigo's perspective. For those of you who don't know who she is, she is an anime-only character who doesn't speak a lot. This is my attempt to characterize her, along with some of the more notable 'background characters' of the series. Also, it is quite interesting to look at the light music club and its members from an outsider's point of view.
Thanks to ghikiJ for beta-ing as always. Enjoy.
Step(1): Frozen Strawberry
"Have a good day, ojou-sama."
She wordlessly nods at the amiable chauffeur and steps out of the black, shiny Western car. Blinking, she tries to ignore the prickling annoyance at the back of her mind as she walks towards the school gates. The sun continues to send glares through the clouds, oblivious to her growing irritation at the brightness.
The weather feels pleasant, too pleasant in fact. She does not particularly dislike sunny days or spring itself and, well, she doesn't really have any preference. Yet whenever the world around her seems too happy for her taste, she would always feel this irrational tick at her temples. The birds are chirping too loudly and people are bustling on campus like they are all pumped up about something.
Why the excitement? She does not understand how the world works at all. Today is the first day of school, her last year at Sakuragoka, but she sees no reason to be happy about such occasion. She is not particularly fond of school but it feels so much freer than the atmosphere in her household. If she has to put a name to her current feeling, she would say that she feels sad about time passing by so fast and forcing them to become adults.
However, Wakaouji Ichigo is not one to ponder about such matters. She does not sigh wistfully, she does not glare at the sun for its preppy light, and most importantly, she does not express her sentiments about this utterly boring opening ceremony.
She sits still in her seat, wearing an intense expression with focused albeit bored eyes. When the event was over, she stands up calmly and follows the crowd in confident steps. Even when she almost slips on a pile of flower petals that are randomly there in the middle of the hallway, her face remains blank as if nothing happened. Her ears burn a little, but her deadpanned stare is able to scare most of the freshmen away.
Good, no one in her year saw her little mishap. She makes a mental reminder to never think about how the principal seems to gain weight each year, or she would trip for real next time.
She easily finds her new classroom and sits down in her designated seat like she has been doing it for years. She is not trying to show off her knowledge; maintaining composure is the one thing etched into a Wakaouji's mind after their birth. Even as an heiress, her father does not exempt her from their family's usual teachings.
She glances around the classroom and notices that it is only half-full. Automatically, she begins to play with a strand of her pigtail while her mind starts to wander. She is not a social person by nature, so she usually keeps to herself and ignore any who tries to strike up conversations with her. However, she does not have many thoughts to ponder about either. Inane matters, such as how new these desks look and who might be their homeroom teacher this year, are able to keep her mind occupied. Despite the bored expression usually present on her face, she despises feeling this particular sentiment. Therefore, she would much rather fill her brain with trivial thoughts than have nothing in it, just so she would feel like she is doing something.
Some people daydream and some people just fall asleep. Wakaouji Ichigo does neither. Her mind goes over trivial facts about irrelevant matters even though she has no interest in attaining such knowledge.
Soon, the volume in the classroom increases proportionally with the amount of people entering it. Ichigo's eyes wander about and she quickly recognizes a few of her classmates from previous years. She isn't close with any of them though, and the few friends she made in this school have yet to show up. They are probably busy advertising their volleyball team. Speaking of clubs, Ichigo wonders if the baton club needs to recruit anyone. She is the president now so the responsibility falls on her, yet she cannot imagine performing a routine display just to impress freshmen. Maybe she can ask the vice-president to take care of it. If the younger girl does not comply, well, she will comply.
The auburn haired girl tilts her head haughtily at the imaginary scenario. It is her way of smirking without showing how amused she really is. Wakaouji Ichigo shall remain expressionless in any circumstances for being unpredictable and unreadable is another family teaching ingrained in her mind. She does not mind this particular quirk either, since handling matters with a level-head is just so much more peaceful than-
"I can't wait to see Azunyan!"
Ichigo's eyebrow rises as she turns towards the source of such a childishly sweet voice. There are a few people standing around a girl's seat at the very left back corner of the room. If she recalls correctly, the brunette with yellow clips is named Hirasawa Yui.
Yes, she is the person who came in late during the cultural performance festival last year. How distasteful, arriving late to a scheduled event because she forgot her guitar at home. She almost fell too, when she tried to climb up the stage without using the stairs on the side. How silly.
However, even as Ichigo muses over this entertaining memory, she does not feel any real animosity or scorn towards the brunette. She is slightly exasperated at Hirasawa-san's behavior but that is all. The clumsy girl's smile has this mysterious power that makes everyone overlook her conduct, and Ichigo is no exception. She wonders how the brunette can look so happy all the time. Yet unlike the annoyingly bright sunlight, she realizes that she does not mind listening to that chirpy voice. It inexplicably cheers her up, period.
The auburn-haired girl then shifts her gaze onto the tall black-haired girl standing near Hirasawa-san. Akiyama Mio. Everyone knows who she is. After all, she is the only girl who has her own fanclub that increases in number each year. She is practically the school idol with many secret admirers who adore her for her intelligent, cute and pretty looks.
To Ichigo, however, Akiyama-san is the unfortunate girl who inadvertently flashed her underwear during the performance back in their first year. How humiliating. Ichigo cannot picture herself in the same situation. No, never. She cannot even bear to imagine dropping her baton during a rally. Just the thought of such failure brings out a mild scowl on her perpetually blank expression. No wonder Akiyama-san is shy, especially after such a mortifying incident.
It is interesting that the black-haired girl is nothing like the rumors Ichigo heard about. Akiyama-san does not jump and squeak at loud noises. She appears to be confident and annoyed, even. Is it because she is surrounded by her friends?
The same logic applies to the blonde girl laughing reservedly beside the black-haired girl. Kotobuki Tsumugi is the renowned ojou-sama of the Kotobuki Corporations, though it seems like her status is only known to people like Ichigo and Tachibana Himeko. As the only daughters of successful businessmen, the three of them have met a few times in formal situations. They do not have classes together though, so they never really conversed at school besides the basic greetings.
Both Kotobuki-san and Tachibana-san hold a regal air about them, as expected of girls with such family background. One glance at their mannerism is evident enough of their fine upbringing and it instantly distinguishes them from the rest of the students. The sandy-haired kogal usually reads thick, poetic novels at her desk and prefers silence, or so Ichigo's friend often tells her. According to Taki Eri, "Himeko-chan is a loner wolf", apparently.
The blonde girl, on the other hand, seems to get along well with everybody with her affable politeness. Like Akiyama-san, Kotobuki-san appears to shine the brightest whenever she is with her friends. The distance is closed by that simple joy expressed through her small smile. She is truly happy at spending time with them.
There is another person who is so different from her usual persona. Manabe Nodoka, their new student council president, is a serious person who handles her job professionally. Satou Akane often tells Ichigo how reliable the bespectacled girl is for impeccably organizing school events so there would not be any conflicting dates. This same Manabe-san is genuinely laughing at something Hirasawa-san said. The brunette chuckles and sheepishly rubs the back of her head with her tongue sticking out.
Why do they seem so happy and carefree? Is it because of Hirasawa Yui?
Ichigo's curiosity deepens when she notices that they are all facing someone standing between the brunette and Manabe-san. The girl's figure is blocked by Akiyama-san, who moves towards her to…hit her head. Kotobuki-san smiles dazedly with sparkles in her eyes while the nameless girl grumbles in pain.
"Ricchan Ricchan! Let's patrol the hallway! Some of the freshmen must be confused! They're new here so they don't know where to go! We must show them the way! We're third years now, right? We're even more of senpais than last year!" Hirasawa-san leaps up from her seat and pumps her fist into the air.
"Oh geez Yui, without your ribbon no one would recognize you as a senior." An unfamiliar voice easily cuts through Hirasawa-san's declaration. Even though Ichigo cannot see the speaker, she can clearly hear the arrogance in the person's voice.
"You're so mean~" Ah there it is, the infamous puppy eyes she hears so much about.
"Alright alright! Don't give me that wounded look. Okay then, Private Yui, follow me~"
"Oi you two, remember to come back before homeroom starts." Akiyama-san folds her arms while Kotobuki-san continues to wear that mysterious, serene smile. Manabe-san simply sighs and nods her head in agreement with the black-haired girl's words.
"We'll be back!"
Ichigo blinks as the two girls dash out of the room, laughing childishly without a care in the world. That girl with the headband, the one who is usually seen around Akiyama Mio…who is she again?
The auburn-haired girl props up her arm and rests her chin on top of her hand, bemused. She is proud of her photographic memory yet this tawny-haired girl does not register in her data bank. She probably isn't that memorable, thus escaping Ichigo's notice. She recalls hearing that same loud voice in the hallways a few times but she is not able to match a face with it. Is she part of the light music club? She must be, since she was chatting with the guitarist, bassist and keyboardist.
Keionbu. It is the most eventful club Ichigo knows. Due to Akiyama-san's accident, Houkago Teatime became famous even though the members were only freshmen. After recruiting a skillful guitarist in their second year, the band gave the school a truly memorable performance. The kind music teacher, Yamanaka Sawako who happens to be their club advisor as well, filled in for Hirasawa Yui before the brunette returned and played their most popular song, Fuwa Fuwa Time.
No, Ichigo never, ever hums that song whenever she is alone at home. Never.
Anyways, that headband girl must be the remaining member since the second-year, Nakano Azusa, is the other guitarist.
But what is the drummer's name?
Her interest in learning the girl's name quickly fades though, when her classmate from last year, Saeki Mika, plops down in front of her. Ichigo's placid expression never changes even as the twin-tailed girl animatedly talks about how Eri successfully snagged a few freshmen after their demonstration out in the schoolyard just now. The president of the baton club continues to twirl a strand of her hair, listening silently to her friend's epic tale of their volleyball finals last year. Yes yes, the senpais were great and it was by sheer dumb luck that the opponents snatched the championship trophy from them. Ichigo has already memorized it, whether she likes it or not.
"Hiya, Ichigo-chan! Still wearing the same face today?" Eri twirls towards the bemused girl with a bright grin on her face.
"Ignore her; she's still high from that coke." Akane smiles at her and grabs the hyper girl by her collars.
Ichigo zones out as Eri and Akane bicker as usual while Mika makes giggling comments every now and then. It is only when a teacher enters the room that she finally looks up from the table.
"It's Sawako-sensei!" "I'm so glad we get her as our homeroom teacher!"
The auburn-haired certainly shares sentiments with her classmates. The bespectacled woman is easily the most popular teacher in the whole school because she is patient and friendly to everyone. It would be nice to spend the last year of high school with such a kind person.
She glances back at the empty seat at the corner, bemused. Since Hirasawa-san isn't back yet, she will be marked either late or absent. Manabe-san is frowning, and Kotobuki-san is still smiling. Akiyama-san is mumbling something as she takes her seat behind Ichigo.
Oh well, it does not concern her.
Before Yamanaka-sensei can speak, the door slides open with a loud bang.
"Ha! Got here before you!"
It is the tawny-haired girl. She does not seem apologetic at all for interrupting and coming in late. Mild annoyance flutters by Ichigo's mind before indifference takes over again.
Then Hirasawa-san makes her grand entrance by tripping at the doorstep and slamming into the loud girl. They both topple over and land in a heap on the ground. If Ichigo were any other girl, she would have groaned and slapped her palm against her face. But she isn't, so she merely gives a deadpanned stare to the tangled figures on the floor while the rest of the class bursts into laughter.
"Ta. I. Na. Ka. San. Hirasawa-san!"
Hmm. Yamanaka-sensei sounds scary. That is quite interesting, considering she never raises her voice since Ichigo met her. Her interest piques when the tawny-haired girl sits up, scratches her hair and grins widely. The headband is askew, causing her bangs to fall over her unusually bright forehead.
"Gomen gomen! It's the first day, cut us some slack, Sawa-" the girl stutters when the teacher glares at her, "er, sensei. I mean, Yui and I got here right on time so you can't mark us late!"
Yamanaka-sensei folds her arms and sighs exasperatedly. The two girls are still seated on the floor, clasping their hands and shooting large, pleading gazes to the teacher. Finally, she relents and marks their names on the clipboard.
"Fine, go to your seats. Hirasawa Yui, Tainaka Ritsu, checked."
And that is how Tainaka Ritsu leaves an impression in Wakaouji Ichigo's grey memory storage.
A/N: quite short? The entries will get longer. This is just the first step.
Notes on these anime-only 'background' characters:
Taki Eri - the girl with long brown hair with a small side tail. Part 1 of the Cola combo. She's on volleyball team.
Satou Akane - the dark haired girl wearing her hair in two low pigtails. Part 2 of Cola Combo, also on volleyball team.
Saeki Mika - orange haired girl with two long pigtails. Also on volleyball team.
Tachibana Himeko - the infamous 'girl who sits besides Yui'. She wear loose socks and has sandy-brown hair.