Author's notes

I'll write them shortly, I know how much people hate preambles...

1) I'm Italian, so unluckily English is not my native language. I've checked my work, of course, but please keep yourself from shooting me if you find something wrong :)

2) If I have time to write it, this will be quite a long story. I don't know how much often I'll update it, it will depend on my free time. I loved a lot of stories here, especially Crimso's ones, but my chapters won't be so long...

3) If you know about the full original story, you also know that the Sonozaki twins, after June 1983, had to go to their "college", while in my story they are still in Hinamizawa's school. It's the only poetic license I took on purpose. Probably I could write some excuses about it, but I prefer not to write something which could be impossible in Japanese school, so I'm just "forgetting" it. (EDIT: In the review section, they've made me notice that the twins have nearly a year to spend there (Thanks Michael), I will keep it in mind while writing)

4) In this story there is a couple of Westerners, too (Italians, of course :P). I don't know exactly how studying/working in Japan as stranger works (I read some web page about it, especially having full time jobs in Japanese companies seems quite complicated, however), so I had to be probably imprecise. But after all, they're living in village which has fought against the law and the Dam, so being so strict is maybe even useless... Ah, and of course they all are fantasy names.

5) That's all. Let's start...

...

1 – Looking around

Hinamizawa, 31st August 1983

"Ouch! Hey, could you drive slower, please? This road is completely ruined!"

Coming from the Sonozaki Manor, a little blue car is going towards the heart of the little village called Hinamizawa. It was nothing special, especially compared to the luxurious ones that often go through that country road. Aboard, a boy was massaging her head, while looking bothered at his older sister, while she was driving.

"You should know I'm already late. We were not supposed to introduce ourselves today."

"I know, but you should organize better your engagements. I don't want to risk my safety because of your lateness."

"To be honest I don't even understand why we had to go there. We were going to meet them elsewhere in a few days, after all. This is another little village, finding someone around is not that difficult!"

The boy sighed "Have you already forgotten what grandpa told us before leaving? This is an unwritten law, here, and that old lady cares it as nothing else... and this is somewhat a way to recognize her authority, just like a king receiving respect from his liegemen. And don't forget that Oryou is quite an old woman, I don't think she spends her day walking through the village. I think it's nice to go to her house and say who we are, where we are from, and so on."

"Hmmm... whatever. I still don't think I'm someone's servant, at the moment."

"And at the moment I don't think it's good to break this kind of rule. That's something purely formal, it doesn't have any real consequences... and just ignoring it is not a good calling card, don't you agree, Flavia?"

Flavia (the young woman who was driving) didn't answer at once. Then she said "It's just because they're the leading family here. If she was a common lady this would have been a nonsense. Shouldn't you go and do the same courtesy to all the families around here, otherwise?"

"You're quite right, but I told you this is a sort of law, and I personally don't have anything against it. However I think I... no, we have to do that with the other villagers, starting from our neighbors. We can't stay at home ignoring who lives here, it would be a nonsense. We should have stayed at home, otherwise."

"Even because you can't go unnoticed here, isn't it right, Giancarlo?"

Giancarlo looked at the driving mirror. Yes, she was right. The dark brown hair could be even "normal" here, even if having such a wavy one is not common in Japan. The problem was his face... and not only the one on his shoulders. The villagers, once they had met them, would have immediately understood they were westerners.

"I wonder if Hinamizawa has ever been touched by any other westerner..."

"It's not impossible. Watanagashi is quite a popular festival, and possibly some maniac of Eastern traditions went here in the last years. But I don't think they were common, however... be careful, they are going to focus their attention on you, during the next days!"

Giancarlo looked at her ironically smiling sister, and replied "Why should I be the only one? You'll be in the same situation, don't you think?"

"Oh, but I'm ready... and I think I am much more suitable for such a role than you."

He blushed "I can't change my character. I'm not that communicative man, and I'm not a leader... At least not a messy one."

"Ha ha ha, very funny, are you referring to someone?"

"Who knows... Come on, did you really have to tell the Sonozakis we had already gone to Hinamizawa last week, and that we couldn't go to their house because that evening because we all had the flu?"

"But it was true!"

"I know it was true! But saying it was not necessary at all! We've given a terrible impression." Once they arrived in Japan, they stayed some day in a hotel in Tokyo, since they had to wait for the Embassy to give them the proper documents about the change of residency. They had initially decided that only one of them had to stay in the big city, while the others would have moved at once at Hinamizawa, but the flu forced them to stay all together in the hotel, since leaving one or two of them alone and ill in a little village didn't seem a good idea. If it wasn't for the documents, they could have healed also in Hinamizawa. Damn you, bureaucracy.

"But what she said was still true, however. You can't complain because Flavia has told the truth, Nii-chan."

A voice interrupted his thought, and Flavia and Giancarlo turned their heads. Behind them, another girl started talking. The youngest girl of the family. Flavia looked at her only for a second, since she was still driving. Giancarlo could instead think about an answer.

"I know that, Alice. But have you seen them? Oryou and the other woman were very amused because of this."

"And isn't this good?"

"I am not a clown."

Alice sighed "You're always the usual faultless Nii-chan, eh? You should relax, nothing bad happened, as a matter of fact. Moreover, she had to justify why we went to Hinamizawa's school last week without introducing ourselves at the Manor. Had she to tell a lie because of your pride?"

"You're exaggerating now. There's nothing bad if you do that kind of meeting some day after your coming."

"Weren't you the one who was talking about the importance of respecting the Old Good Traditions, before?"

It was Giancarlo's turn to sigh, now. "You're probably right. Ok, I think you've done the right thing, Flavia, let's forget this."

Flavia smiled, amused. Alice, instead, touched his light wavy brown hair, as sign of self-satisfaction.

"I gotcha, Nii-chan! You know, it's not that easy to do that, you're always so twisted and... and... Oh, no, how can you say it in Japanese... when you tell something which has also a deeper meaning..."

"Alice, if you don't know a word, just tell the meaning, or search for simpler words. Obscure here would have been more than enough."

"Hmph, why have we to speak Japanese here? We're among us, we should speak Italian!"

"You are going to get used to it. Firstly, it's a good exercise for you and me. Secondly, when we are with other people we should try not to use it, even if you are speaking to me and vice versa. It would not be kind, they wouldn't understand a word of what we're saying."

"Stupido fratellino!" was Alice's answer.

"Indeed, from now you're saying Stupid Nii-chan, instead of that".

"If I speak another language, that's because I don't want the others to understand, don't you think it?"

"It's not kind, still. However, it's still a good exercise, as I told you. After all it's the reason we went to Hinamizawa's school, last time."

He was right. Alice and Giancarlo were 18, while Flavia was 27. In Italy they had ended their compulsory school since they were 14, that's why they could move to Japan. But they however had to obtain their diploma, so they had to study another year for it. They decided to do it by "staying at home" (even if they were not at their home actually) and to pass their exams in September, in the Italian school located not far from the Embassy, as external candidates. Not that comfortable, but since they wanted to stay in Japan it was the best choice. And after all they were pretty good students, passing their exams wouldn't have been that problem.

The problem was their Japanese. Flavia spoke a perfect one, but the younger brothers learned it not a long time before, and they needed to improve it. And where else could they do that better than in a school? After having talked by phone with the principal, during the week before they went there in order to test their actual knowledge of the language. Chie-sensei gave them a small test about Hinamizawa's environment, and they had to give them their impressions about it verbally and with a little essay. They got the results a couple of days later, by phone since they had still the flu.

"Giancarlo seems to understand easily what he reads/hears, but when he speaks he doesn't use a large vocabulary and his sentences are maybe too short and succinct. Alice, instead, makes some mistakes and misunderstands some words, but she doesn't fear using terms she just has listened or read. They need some help, but I'm impressed by their level, since they started to learn it only a couple of years". The boy repeated aloud what she said that day, while thinking at it.

"It's not a bad judge at all, I'd say. Learning Japanese is often used as example for something really difficult" said Flavia.

"Well, I'd say it stands for our character, after all." replied Alice "You should be more outgoing when you talk with the others, Nii-chan."

"Yeah, yeah. I know it, it's not the first time you tell me that."

"I only hope" Alice continued "there are some boys with our same age. That would be boring if we were the oldest ones."

"I don't think there are. Here in Japan they go to college when they are 16-17, and that school is definitely not a college. Moreover, that school is attended only by half of Hinamizawa's boys, Chie-sensei told me this year there will be 18 students including us. The other boys goes to Okinomiya's school."

"A real pity. However... only 30, 40 young boys at most, in a village with 2.000 inhabitants? There are so few of them!"

"It's a bit strange, indeed... but aging population is a serious matter, here in Japan, this is not something unexplainable. But I hope at least there are a couple of students aged 16, or 17. Otherwise that would be not only boring...that would be incredibly embarrassing."

"Ah-ah! You will definitely become associate teachers, if that's the case." exclaimed Flavia. "Hey, by the way... What does I only hope there are some boys with our same age means? Are you looking for a new boyfriend? Are you planning to abandon your poor Alberto?"

"Nope!" Alice blushed "What are you saying? He's waiting for me, I couldn't do such a horrible thing! We have to get married soon!"

Soon meant in 3-4 years at least, thought Giancarlo, in that moment her sister was probably too young. But this detail had no importance for Alice, he knew it very well.

"Rather, I was thinking about Nii-chan. If he found someone interesting, who knows..."

"He should hurry, indeed. We can't wait for his laziness. A nice Japanese girl with long black hair, sweet and kind..."

"Have you finished hindering about my life?" he interrupted them "I am not lucky as you, it seems."

Both of the girls sighed "Lucky, he says...". Then Alice continued "At least it would have been nice if the Sonozaki girls were at home..."

"Haven't I told you to stop this..."

"I wasn't thinking about that now, Nii-chan! At least, not only about that. The matter is that knowing one or two of the students before starting school would have been very useful."

She wasn't wrong, this time. "You know, Alice, today is the last day of their holiday, and of our holiday, of course. I suppose they went out somewhere with their friends."

"I wonder where could they have gone. To Okinomiya? At the cinema, maybe?"

"I don't know. Probably they are in a nice place, certainly not, for example, to a tip..."

They laughed, amused by this stupid idea. Playing inside a tip, what an insane idea.

"Ok... we're nearly arrived. Don't you mind if I leave you here? I'm terribly late, and I need the car."

"Well, Flavia... I think there is not any problem. We're not far from home. I only hope our luggage is already arrived."

"Sure, sure, don't worry about it! I've personally taken care of it!". Giancarlo and Alice, instead, were worried. Flavia was quite a messy woman, all their clothes could be in New Zealand right now.

"Ok... See you soon, then." said Alice, while getting out of the car. Flavia waved her hand, then she took her police hooter, she turned it on and she left them, driving terribly fast and laughing crazy. Alice and Giancarlo observed her.

"Fortunately she didn't used it before... You and I might have looked as some dangerous delinquent just arrested, if someone had seen us."

"Don't say that, Alice... Especially to her... She's crazy enough to do really that, next time. Moreover, you know, these country roads are particularly narrow, and that's a further source of risk, if you don't drive carefully. Even if I will have to say this to myself too, I'm not used to left-hand drive and I have to learn quickly..."

"It will be as if we're in England!" answered Alice "However, I don't think Flavia will ever be that irresponsible. She hasn't driven that fast while we were with her. She has been more prudent in order to make sure we wouldn't harm anywhere."

"You're right, I know it, I was just joking before. She is like that since we were little children... Yes, probably acting that rashly is just a role she likes to play, sometimes."

Alice smiled, then she asked: "Well, what do you want to do now?"

"Hmmm... Let's check our luggage, firstly. Then I suppose we'll have to buy something to eat tonight, there won't be any storage at home. Just the most necessary goods, however, tomorrow we'll go to Okinomiya for a larger shopping. It's a bigger city, I suppose that prices will be lower there."

"Okay, Mr. Scrooge. Tonight it will be a good chance to meet most of the villagers at the market, then."

"Oh...Yes. Even if I don't think there will meet thousands of people there, I imagine. I don't think I'm the only one here who doesn't like to throw money off the window, like someone else I know."

"Tsk, since I work money is mine and I have the right to use it how..."

They looked at eachother, and smiled. Rather than a verbal quarrel, it was a game... a way to show and satisfy their ego, after all.

"We don't have time to waste, we are on foot. Let's go then."

"I'd like to have my bike." said Giancarlo "That would have been quite useful here."

"Probably... Well, you can still buy a new one."

"I am fond of my old one, you know. I've used it since... how many years... seven?"

"More or less. When you bought it you were too little for it. You were so funny while you tried to ride on it..."

Giancarlo didn't hear her, or at least he looked so. He was looking at the empty road. Alice noticed it, and she exclaimed "But is there... neither a car?"

"It seems so. You should know that this is something common to all this kind of villages. Moreover, I imagine that nearly all the villagers are still at work now, probably in the fields... today is not hot at all, summer is ending here, and it's just 4 PM. It's a good moment to work while waiting for the evening, that's why we don't meet even a pedestrian." And after that, he commented sarcastically "Flavia's hooter was completely useless..."

"I think she just couldn't wait using it. It's a strong sign of power and authority, its utility is a secondary fact." answered Alice, amused.

"Francesco will be happy when he finally understands what that feeling means for her..." Ignoring what the two brothers were saying about him, Francesco, the man Flavia married just three months before, was arranging their house in Okinomiya. He was lucky, he didn't have the flu like his wife, so he could look after her, during the previous days, and then start attending to the moving towards their new house. In fact, Flavia and him would have lived in Okinomiya, while Alice and Giancarlo would have stayed in Hinamizawa, and their parents had remained in Italy. They were starting an indipendent life.

"Fortunately houses here are quite cheap." he said.

"In country villages it always happens so. Here we are far from big cities, where the most important societies place their offices. In this way the expense was not too big for our parents, and for us. The building we bought is not small at all, it absolutely fits our needs, and is very comfortable, especially considering how much it has cost."

"I imagine they do so in order to appeal new villagers. Depopulation is a constant danger for such communities."

"I agree, Nii-chan. In Okinomiya the situation is already different... Oh good evening!" Alice said to a woman with a child, who had seen them. They were quite surprised to see them, especially the little child, who probably had never seen a Westerner before.

Yes, it's a good idea to say hello to them, the boy thought while joining her sister, it's quite early and our house is nearby. After all, it's a kind thing to introduce ourselves before the first day of school... tomorrow.