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Gateways to Casselonia chapter 2

The day of the field trip had finally arrived, and five large tour buses were in full capacity packed with Adachi Ward Public High School seniors on their way to Saitama prefecture. It was a nice sunny morning with moderate temperatures and a few clouds here and there floating in the blue sky, in other words: a perfect day with the perfect climate for a day out in the outdoors.

Way in the back in the third bus, on the last row, was Sorata and his friends Takeru, Sousuke, and Tsutomu, sitting almost quietly because of what happened yesterday. Fortunately for the boys, it seemed as though no one else in the school had caught wind of the verbal massacre that they went through because they weren’t being looked at weird, and luckily no rumors seemed to be circulating. The noise level in the bus was what anyone would expect if it was crowded; excited students chatting away about anything and everything and not one of them had a facial expression that differed from the rest. Only in the very back was it so different. Sorata had the seat right next to the window and his expressionless gaze never shifted anywhere else. Takeru was sitting in the seat next to him, and on the other side were Sousuke and Tsutomu. The tension around them was almost suffocating, it was tearing their relationship as a group of friends apart but no one seemed to have the cojones to say anything that could fix it. It was a rare sight to see Sorata in a bad mood such as this. Sure, the boys knew each other for a long time now, but Sorata was never one to stop talking to either of his friends and keep it up. The three boys had to say something to Sorata eventually, but more than anyone, Takeru felt the weight of pressure and the responsibility for the trouble he caused Sorata the day before.

With a pathetic little nervous laugh “Hey Sorata… I was thinking, as a way to make it up to you, you can have half of my share of the barbecue.” Takeru's voice changed from insecure at the beginning of his sentence, to completely confident at the end. He definitely had a good deal.

“Don’t want it.”

“...U-uuh..?” A sound of confusion came out of Takeru’s mouth. Out of all the better things he could have offered to make it up to his depressed friend, he suggested food for someone who had their dreams crushed. On the other half of the bus, Sousuke and Tsutomu had their faces planted in their palms, they expected Takeru to come up with something smarter to say and a simple barbecue wasn’t going to repair the earthquake-sized mental and emotional damage done to Sorata by Mizuki, the girl he liked.

Sorata kept looking out the window, his facial expressions never changing in the slightest. Once again Takeru mustered up the courage to talk to Sorata "Hey, I'm sorry okay? Like I told you before in my texts, yesterday was all my fault and I have no excuses for what I caused you." Sousuke and Tsutomu were listening in on the apology, their bodies stretching out onto the walkway in the middle of the bus that separated the left rows and right seating rows. " There's plenty of other  cute, single girls in our grade and I promise you I will do everything in my power to get one of them to like you. So please... just please... let me make it up to you." With his head bowing down pointing to Sorata and his hands together over his head as if praying, Takeru was with all sincerity trying his best to brighten up Sorata's day. After a few seconds of waiting for an answer, the sound of a long sigh broke the silence, causing Takeru to lift his head up slightly to see if the sigh was either a good or bad omen.

Sorata had his eyes closed and he looked tired, but that expression of fatigue on his face seemed more about him fed up with his silent treatment than of being annoyed by his friends. He pulled out two wireless earbuds and an mp3 device from his left pocket "I'll think about it." He 

mumbled fast and proceeded to turn on the music on his mp3, his earbuds now in his ears.  Takeru had the face of a child watching his first ever fireworks show after hearing those words from Sorata. Sousuke and Tsutomu had their thumbs up to Takeru for saving not just Sorata's day, but theirs as well because this was their last year as students of Adachi Ward high, making good memories was just as valuable as breathing for them.

The celebration was brief though, as Takeru heard a quick gagging sound coming from Sorata, he turned around only to see that his friend’s face was paler than a geisha’s with white make-up on. Only one thing could explain what Sorata was suffering from, and that was car sickness. Takeru couldn’t believe he had forgotten about this because he had known Sorata since they were only kids. It happened rarely to him to be honest, but the fact that it was rare didn’t mean in anyway that his chances of experiencing car sickness were zero, and the worst part was that Sorata hadn’t packed any anti-nausea pills with him  if the situation called for it.

“Dammit I can’t believe I forgot! Sorata where are your anti-nausea pills!?” He frantically searched in Sorata’s school bag for the medication.

“Don’t need them…” His words were slurred and his attempt to not look bothered made him look rather comical as we swayed slightly from the bus’s movements.

Tsutomu handed over a plastic bag to Takeru. “Hurry take it!”

“Oh thank you,you’re a life saver Tsutomu!”

“Ha! Good thing I went to the convenience store this morning to pick up some cup ramen and yakisoba bread for all of us. Speaking of yakisoba bread, I also bought tons of mayonnaise and ketchup so we could smother it all over and -”

Bonk!

“Ow! Hey what gives!”

Sousuke hit Tsutomu with a karate chop to the head “ I don’t think talking about food is a good idea right now.” Sorata was on the brink  of vomiting and even the slightest thought of food, the smell of it, or it’s many popular condiments such as mayo or ketchup, could immediately make a nauseated person’s stomach turn inside-out. Tsutomu rubbing his head looked at Sousuke as if telling him he would get him back.

 

Noon was only an hour away now and riding on the second bus was Mizuki Amamiya looking out the window from her he seat. One of her friends was sleeping in the seat right next to hers, a bit of drool coming out of her mouth accompanied by a cute snore as her head tilted on a small, red pillow she brought from her house. They were in the middle of the bus as per the seating arrangement that Mizuki had mentioned yesterday to her friends. She was also thinking back on the moment she was knocked down by Sorata, resulting in her left wrist bruising and swelling slightly. She looked down at her wrist wrapped in a few layers of thin white bandages that didn’t make the swelling look any bigger than it was already, the good thing was that it was a simple injury and it would heal itself after a few days of rest.

It still made her wonder if the injury would get in her way of participating in any activities like the barbecue or hiking. She knew though, that she wouldn't be able to drive the four wheelers in the four wheel race. She would just have to be a passenger and let one of her friends be the driver. Mizuki tried rotating her wrist slowly to see how much movement she could do without feeling a lot of pain. Slow movements weren’t a bother and the pain was minimal, so she tried 

rotating her wrist a few degrees. “Ouch!” She held back on the volume of her voice, not wanting to wake up her friend next to her or any other sleeping student nearby. The injury was still as bad as it was yesterday, but that was a given since not even 24 hours had passed since she received the injury. Just last night she had applied packs of cold ice to her wrist in hopes that some improvements would take place. Mizuki was a naive and impatient girl when it came to this kind of thing, since she really wasn’t the athletic type, she hardly ever had to deal with lesions and didn’t have any knowledge on treating bruises and swellings. She only knew that ice was was good for numbing pain and for swelling.

Mizuki tried distracting herself to keep her mind off of her wrist so instead she looked at her friend sleeping the ride away. It brought a smile to her face seeing how cute her friend looked while sleeping like a child. Her other friends sat on the other side of the bus just parallel to them, they were also sleeping but one had her head resting on the other girl's shoulder. Mizuki took out her phone and snapped a quick picture of them. The moment was worthy of being remembered in a picture she thought, and she knew she had to tease her friends about it just for fun sometime.

A girl sitting in the seat right behind Mizuki suddenly stood up and leaned her upper torso against Mizuki's seat. "Hey Mizuki how's it going?" Mizuki lifted her head up and saw the girl looking at her with a smile on her face waiting for a reply. The girl had long hair just like Mizuki but it was wavy and dark brown in color. Mizuki recognized her, she was a friend from when they were first year students at Adachi Ward. They had met at the entrance ceremony on their first day and had been good friends since then.

"Hi Nozomi. Busy with the usual student council work, and since it's our last year, we're working as hard as we can to make our last events a big success." Mizuki smiled back at her friend Nozomi. "Hihi! No wonder we haven't been in contact lately, you're so busy working hard for the rest of us right vice-prez?"

"Yes it's pretty hectic right now, and even more for our underclassmen whom we've left all the work to while on this the trip. I feel bad for them, but even I had to endure the same pressure for last year's seniors when they left for their trip."

"You were the treasurer back then weren't you Mizuki?" Mizuki noded in agreement.

"Hopefully we can spend a bit of time together on this trip then."

"Yup! I'm looking forward to it." As soon as Nozomi finished speaking, the bandages around Mizuki's wrist caught her attention and she asked her in a worried tone "Oh my god Mizuki! What in the world happened to your wrist?" Mizuki was caught off-guard and she wanted to try to hide her injured wrist. It was embarrassing to her, but she knew it would eventually need to be seen by everyone, so why not start now she thought. "Oh this? U-umm..."

"Did you fall? Or maybe you sprained it?"

"N-no, I just had a little accident, that's all. I was told by the school nurse that it wasn't anything serious and it would heal on its own. In fact, I applied some ice on it last night. So there's no need to worry, okay?" Mizuki gave Nozomi a reassuring smile, hoping she wouldn't ask anymore.

"Well... ok then... but you need to be more careful Mizuki. Things like bruises and injuries don't suit a girl as beautiful as you." Nozomi puffed her cheeks out as she pouted. Mizuki smiled again and chuckled quietly at how Nozomi was complaining. All of her friends were worried about 

her and that alone was enough to not let the bruise on her wrist stop her from doing the things she looked forward to on this much anticipated trip.

“Hey Nozomi! I specifically said no standing up while the bus is moving didn’t I!?” Nozomi had been caught violating one of the safety rules that were mentioned prior to their departure. She froze in place instantly by the tone the teacher yelled at her. With his index finger he fixed his large glasses and glared at Nozomi for disobeying and added “ You’re not even in your assigned seat young lady! Get back to where you need to be!”

“Dammit! I’ll see you later Mizuki!” She scurried her way down the aisle and disappeared back into her place.

Mizuki put one hand over her lips and laughed quietly at how the whole scene had turned out.

 

The bus in which Sorata and his class were in was almost nearly vacant of students. Only a small handful of them were left inside but that was only the ones who were the slowest at gathering their things to head out. Sorata was still paler than a geisha with white make-up on, he rested his seemingly heavy head against the window of the bus suffering from his nausea. The good thing was that he was able to hold back his vomiting, sparing everyone on the bus from having to smell the miso soup, rice, salmon fillet, and vegetables he had for breakfast a few hours ago. He didn't want to cause a delay in getting to the campsite on time. If he did, all the buses would have to stop and Mizuki would most likely find out about it and she was sure to hate him more than the she did already.

Takeru was getting his things ready to head out of the bus, Sousuke and Tsutomu had already gotten off, not because they didn't want to help Sorata, but if too many students were left on the bus they were going to get in trouble.

"Come on Sorata we have to get off now. If we don't we're gonna get yelled at." Takeru persuaded Sorata in a rushed voice.

"You go... I'm going to … stay here and wait it out..." Sorata looked awful and at any minute could give up the tough guy act.

"Fine, in that case I'll tell one of the male teachers stay with you."

"No!... I will only delay... delay the welcoming speech at the beginning... Cover for me and don't mention me if they don't ask." Sorata had obviously thought this through already. One of his good points was that he was a quick thinker, at least when he really needed it, and this time was one of those situations where it was necessary.

Takeru couldn't see how well this plan might play out so he sighed at Sorata and scratched his head, making his doubts clear. " What if we get caught? If anyone is going to get blamed, it's going to be me. And I won't be able to sweet talk my way out of it either. No doubt." Takeru felt a chill run down his spine as soon as he finished speaking and when he took notice, he saw Sorata staring at him with piercing eyes sharper than the edge of a sword.

"Oh? Did you forget who's fault it was that I knocked down Mizuki Amamiya, resulting in her getting injured, and hating me for it?" Sorata pulled Takeru by his collar close to him with amazing strength that he shouldn't have while nauseated and looked him dead in the eyes.

"If you are my best friend like you say you are, then I shouldn't hear any complaining coming out of you... Don't forget your promise..."

"Eeeek! You're right you're right! I've got your back, don't you worry!" Takeru jumped back almost on instinct with his face full of fear. He turned around and walked toward the entrance of the bus to exit but stopped right before descending and said in a slightly embarrassed voice "I'm- I'm gonna make it up to you... I promise." And got off the bus.

 

Long rows of students were lined up before a group of teachers standing front and center of them. They were in a wide open area in the woods with a few trees here and there, behind the teachers at a small distance were rows of huts with picnic tables and stationary brick barbeque pits below the huts. The camp grounds included water fountains and even a  pay phone in case of an emergency.

“Okay boys and girls! Your attention please!” A young female teacher called out to all the students as she was going to prepare a quick speech. It didn’t take more than that to get the attention of the male students though, they all become silent upon hearing the enchantingly-hypnotic voice coming from her. She was considered to be the favorite teacher among all the male students of Adachi Ward Public High School, even to the ones who weren’t in her class or grade level. “ We just want to remind you again about a few things to keep in mind. For those of you who will be working the grills, if you are having trouble turning on a fire for cooking the meat, please ask one of the teachers for help instead of another group. Also, keep in mind that we need to wash our hands before handling and serving any food. Handle all knives and cutlery safely, we don’t want anyone spilling blood everywhere.” A few students laughed quietly.

“ And last but not least, if anyone is to get cut by any tool, remove the tool away from the tables and ask for the first aid kits please. No fooling around! This is food we are handling not toys.”

All the students gave a nod in agreement. “ Then welcome everyone and please enjoy yourselves! That is all!

The huts, barbecue pits, and water fountains were all in their full use with busy students walking from place to place because everyone had a job assigned to them. Chatter and laughs filled the camping grounds, everyone was having the time of their lives helping out with the barbecue. In one of the huts were Takeru, Sousuke and Tsutomu preparing and using ingredients. Tsutomu was the exception, he had an apron on but he was texting someone on his cell phone, most likely his girlfriend. Takeru and Sousuke took notice, the expression on Tsutomu’s face gave him away that he was texting his girlfriend and was maybe receiving risque selfies.

“ Hey Tsutomu, knock it off and help out for crying out loud. We promised Sorata we wouldn’t do any of that, remember?”

“Oh come on cut me some slack! He’s not even here at the moment so what difference does it make? We gotta enjoy our youths after all - our youths!” Tsutomu felt he had to express the youth part in order to make his point get across.

“Sometimes we doubt your loyalty as a friend.” Takeru and Sousuke said in a monotone voice in sync.

“You guys are mean!”

“Tell your girlfriend you’re busy and that you’ll talk later. We can’t let you be the only one with special treatment. Hurry up and get back to work.” Takeru gave Tsutomu one last chance to put away his phone and help out with the barbecue.

“Fine! Have it your way then, sheesh!” Sending the last text to his girlfriend, Tsutomu angrily tapped the buttons on the screen of his phone and finally put it in his pocket. Takeru whispering to Sousuke said “ That bastard’s girlfriend is pretty damn hot though.”

“I know, I don’t really blame him for texting her either.” Sousuke responded without his eyes leaving the cutting board as he cut away lettuce.

A few seconds later, two girls from their class came walking up to them. They had semi-worried looks on their faces but they certainly wanted to ask the boys something that only they could answer. One of the two girls was short in stature and wore glasses that made her look like the studious type, and her hair was black, about shoulder length. Nonetheless she looked cute putting on a brave front as she asked the boys “ Umm... excuse me but… w-w-where is S-S-Sorata H-H-H-Honda? If it’s... n-not too much to ask...” Her stuttering and blushing face when she mentioned Sorata’s fullname gave her away that she clearly had a crush on him. It was so obvious, she was practically saying “I like Sorata Honda” even without using those exact words. The girl’s friend put her hand on her shoulder meaning she intended to take over for her because she was just too shy. The boys’ attention now shifted to the other girl, almost knowing what the gesture meant.

“Sorry guys, but as my friend just said, she just wants to know if you know where Sorata Honda’s at.’

Sousuke looked and smiled at the two girls as a way to thank them for their concern. “If it’s Sorata you’re looking for, he said he needed to use the restroom and would be back in a minute. He should come back here any minute now, so we’ll let you know as soon as he’s here okay?”

“Oh, then if that’s the case we’ll go back to our group and wait until he gets back then, right Himawari?”

The short and shy girl Himawari, thanked and bowed at the boys for helping her.

“I l-look forward to hearing from you. T-Thank you!” The girls turned around and headed back to their group.

Takeru, Sousuke, and Tsutomu all looked at each other with optimism in their faces, they had found a potential replacement for Sorata’s broken heart. Though the girl wasn’t as popular or outspoken as the school idol Mizuki, she was petite, shy, pretty, and she looked like the kind of girl who would take care of you if you caught a cold. Furthermore, Himawari seemed to be more polite and respectful than her counterpart Mizuki who now was nothing but a two-faced witch according to the boys.

A few minutes had passed and Sorata was now coming into the hut where his friends were. His friends crowded around him instantaneously eager to let him know that there was someone interested in him, a very cute girl who was girlfriend material at that. But before any of them could say a word, Sorata still had the same pale face as before and the only thing that kept him on his two feet was willpower. Takeru, Sousuke and Tsutomu were amazed and confused at Sorata for hanging on so long. This boy surely didn’t intend to puke, but by not doing so would only make him even sicker and it could have greater repercussions on his health. He was either 

very strong for holding out this long or very stupid for not taking a few minutes to vomit and make himself feel better. Sorata opened his mouth and said something inaudible to his friends.

“What?”

Sorata mumbled his sentence again, but it was still hard to comprehend him.

“Umm, we can’t understand a single word you’re saying.”

This time Sorata took a deep breath and gave himself a minute to gather enough strength to articulate his words properly. “I decided… I’m going over to the nearby lake in the woods and… empty my insides. You guys stay here. If they see… that more of us are missing… they’ll get mad. Understand?”  Another selfish request came out of Sorata’s mouth, but this one just seemed more ridiculous than the last one he had proposed on the bus earlier. Sousuke and Tsutomu looked at him like he was crazy and said “Huh!? Are you out of your mind Sorata!? Instead of that, you should’ve puked it out as soon as you received the plastic bag!”

“Hold it you two, I think we should let him do what he says.” Takeru was behind Sousuke and Tsutomu as he said it and started walking toward them.

Tsutomu looked back at him not believing that he would agree to Sorata’s terms. “What are you talking about, we should just take him over to the restrooms which are a lot closer and have him do it in there! Why should it be at the lake anyway?” He had an arguable  point, but Takeru knew Sorata more than the others, and he knew Sorata didn’t want to be seen by Mizuki throwing up, but that was the problem because now there was a girl who was interested in Sorata who could replace Mizuki in his opinion. Either way, Takeru didn’t think the sight of Sorata vomiting would please Himawari, so the only option was to let him go to the lake. “I have to make up for what I did to him yesterday and this is only a small request.” He said firmly and looked at Sorata in the eyes, letting him see for himself that Takeru kept his word and said what he meant.

"Go to the lake Sorata. Just be careful and try not to take so long. Because when you get back, the three of us have some good news for you, alright friend?" He gave him a thumbs up and a wink. Takeru was on the right path to winning Sorata's trust again, he was proving that he was serious about helping him get back on his feet after being told off by Mizuki yesterday. "I'll be back you guys." Sorata once again separated himself from everyone and set out to settle things his own way. "Are you sure that was a good idea Takeru? He could get lost or something you know. And we'll be the ones to get in trouble more than him." Sousuke turned his head over to Takeru, questioning his decision.Takeru looked confident in the stance that he took but also he looked as if something was bothering him from deep within his conscience. "Don't you guys worry, it's not as if we'll never see him again." Fixing his glasses, he turned around and walked back to the hut. "Come on guys, we still have much work to do." Sousuke and Tsutomu looked at each other doubtfully, they felt something was off about Takeru and this whole situation, but they shrugged it off and followed him back to the hut.

The lake Sorata was going to was hidden away in the woods and about a five minute walk away from the camping site, but at Sorata's current sluggish speed, it would take double the time to get there.


About a couple of huts away from where Takeru and company were at, were Mizuki and her friends mixing and matching ingredients to make barbecue sauce for marinating the meat. The group looked like they were having fun making the food for everyone and collaborating with one 

another. They also took turns taste testing the sauces to make sure everything was coming out as per the downloaded ingredient files they received from the teachers on their cell phones. Mizuki was now cutting vegetables and small chunks of meat for a kabob. One of her friends a few meters away was having trouble opening a jar of pickles. The girl was struggling to open it, and her thin arms weren't giving her the opportunity. She stopped briefly to rest her hand from the tight grip she had on the lid, a look of disappointment spread throughout her face.

"Here, let me help you." Mizuki offered herself to help out in opening the jar.

" But Mizuki, what about your wrist? Don't lie and say it's already healed, I'll get one of the boys to help out." But Mizuki wouldn't take no for an answer.

"Don't worry yourself over it, I won't even use my bad hand to undo the lid." She took the jar from her friend's hands and gripped it between her forearm and lower torso. "Watch this." Mizuki used her good hand for this and began twisting the lid. She could already feel the lid rotating very slowly. More of Mizuki's friends from across the table were impressed that a girl as classy as her volunteered to help with opening a jar for someone. Normally you would see a boy doing something like this in place of a girl, but Mizuki was proving that stereotype wrong. It could be because of what happened yesterday, she was trying to prove to herself that a little injury such as this wouldn't keep her from having all the fun she wanted. "Just a little... more... grrrrr!"

Pop!

The lid snapped off suddenly and pickle juice sprinkled everywhere. The one who got the most of it was Mizuki, she didn't have an apron on over her uniform so it ended up getting wet. "Oh no my uniform! What am I gonna do? It's going to stink now!"

Seeing this, Mizuki's friend immediately began to apologize. "Oh Mizuki I'm so sorry, this is all my fault for not stopping you! Here let me help you get it off!" She grabbed some paper towels and panicked as she wiped off some pickle juice from Mizuki's cheek. Mizuki's friends who were watching from across the table came to her aide as well and suggested she go to the girl's restroom to wash away the smell of the stains.

"Mizuki, we should go over to the restrooms and help you out in there!"

"She's right Mizuki, we can use the restroom's paper towels to get the stains off your uniform!"

"Hang on everyone. I like that you're all offering to help me out but, I think it'll be a lot easier for me if I did this myself. Having you all crowded around me like this just won't do any good, and I'll only more stressed out about it."

The girls became silent for a second but they knew she was right. They all wanted to help at the same time but that would become uncomfortable for Mizuki, and forming a line to take turns was a silly idea, so there was no helping it but to let Mizuki go by herself.

"I promise I'll be back as soon as I can. This will only take a minute so don't worry about me." Mizuki smiled at her friends and left for the girl's restrooms. A few minutes passed and Mizuki was now outside the restrooms only a few steps away from the entrance. She sighed in relief and continued her way toward the entrance. Right before she went inside, a medium-sized lizard crawled up the wall of the entrance and stopped about a meter and a half on the wall. "Kyaaa!" Mizuki jumped back at the sight of the lizard, it had popped out of nowhere and scared her nearly half to death. 

Mizuki was afraid of any animal that crawled, they gave her goosebumps and really terrified her the way they went about crawling everywhere. The lizard didn't move from where it had stopped and just sat there. Mizuki looked at it with fear in her eyes and was unable to say anything. She thought to herself "Ooh why is this happening to me?! Ever since yesterday nothing but bad things have been causing me trouble. What should I do? If I don't do something, I'm gonna be reeking of pickle juice for the entire day! Mizuki didn't want to get closer to the entrance, fearing the lizard might jump at her. Going into the men's restroom next door was out of the question, someone could see her going in or even worse, someone might be inside already. Then Mizuki remembered. There was a lake not too far away from the camp grounds and maybe she could use her handkerchief she had in her pocket to rub out the stains with the lake's water. It was her only option now, so she turned back and headed in the direction of the lake without notifying any of her friends about her change of plans. This was an irresponsible action she felt needed to be taken behind everyone's backs.

Meanwhile, Takeru, Sousuke, and Tsutomu were making progress with the barbecue. They had already successfully grilled a few ribs, chicken thighs, wings, and kabobs. The boys had a proud smile on their faces and couldn't wait to sink their teeth into those delicious chunks of meat, but they had to wait and grill more for the rest of the students who were making other dishes and recipes. "Hey Sousuke, pass me my yakisoba bread from my bag please, I can't wait to eat any longer." Sousuke went into Tsutomu's bag and tossed him his yakisoba bread "Thanks man you're a life saver."

"That thing's been in there since before we got on the buses this morning. You sure you still want to eat that thing Tsutomu?" It's 1:45 in the afternoon."

"You guys don't understand, yakisoba bread is yakisoba bread. How many people out there wouldn't want to have some of this in their hands right now?" Tsutomu said as he took a bite from his already unwrapped yakisoba bread. The strong smell reached the noses of Takeru and Sousuke.

"You're about to be joining Sorata at the lake pretty soon." Takeru covered his mouth to stop the stench from reaching his nose.

"Whatever you guys are jealous." Tsutomu believed in what he was saying but it was all nonsense to Takeru and Sousuke.

“Excuse me again boys but…”

The three boys recognized that voice, it was from the girl who has friends with Himawari: the girl that liked Sorata. She came alone this time it seemed, Himawari wasn’t next to her or behind her.

“I just wanted to ask about Sorata Honda again, but this time in my friend Himawari’s stead.”

“Dammit, I thought I told this girl that we would let them know whenever Sorata came back. Speaking of which, he was here not too long ago though.” Takeru couldn’t come up with anything convincing fast enough.

“ We saw him earlier actually, talking with you all… but he didn’t seem like himself, or so Himawari told me. Is he alright?”

For a girl with glasses, she’s got some pretty good eyes on her. Not to mention, it looks like she’s been observing Sorata for quite some time now… that damn little stalker.” Takeru still 

couldn’t come up with anything, seeing now as they knew Sorata was with them not too long ago. It seemed like any excuse he gave them now would only make himself look like he didn’t want to help them out. But just as Takeru was leaning towards telling them the truth, Sousuke butted in at the right time.

“Sorata said he was gonna go stretch somewhere and then come back shortly. Sitting on the bus for so long made him feel all stiff. That's why you saw him walking around all weird like that. When people don't use parts of their bodies for a long time, the muscles tend to soften and they usually get back their strength by moving about. So you can rest assured that he'll be back and we'll let you know as soon as he's here."

The girl looked at them a bit suspiciously and asked "Are you sure Sorata is really that weak? I mean, he wasn't the only one sitting in the same position for so long."

"Yes he is." Takeru, Sousuke, and Tsutomu all answered in-sync but the real question was if she would take their half-assed explanation as legitimate.

“Hmmm... alrighty then. I’ll just tell Himawari what you told me and that she needs to wait a little longer.” The girl gave the boys a cute smile and bowed before heading back to her hut where Himawari was anxiously waiting for her. Sousuke couldn’t have come in at a better time, Takeru thought, he had just saved them from losing face and looking like outright liars. “ Sousuke you are the man!”

“Smooth talking everyone out of trouble huh? That’s Sousuke for ya.” Takeru and Tsutomu laid out the red carpet for their friend now turned a superhero.

Sousuke gave out a big smile “Now you guys owe me something he-he-he-he.”

 

“Blerrrgh!” Down to his last vomiting interval, Sorata was breathing heavily as he looked out to the lake in front of him.

The lake was vastly wide, the water was clean and clear, and approximately over 15 meters deep according to a nearby sign that also warned any would-be swimmers with heavy fines. The thick forest surrounded the lake entirely but you could still see a chain of mountains at a distance from almost anywhere you stood. Fresh, clean air was abundant in the area as well, so Sorata helped himself to a few deep breaths of all natural air to recover after the hellish vomiting he had to endure. Now he was feeling much better and more like his old self, and after a few moments of enjoying the scenery around him, he turned around heading back to the camp grounds where everyone was. Too much time had passed already and he needed to go back now to take the pressure off his friends for covering up his absence. Worst case scenario, Takeru and the others could be in trouble by now.

For no reason whatsoever, Sorata looked back at the lake one more time and was surprised to see that out on the other side of the lake was Mizuki Amamiya on a wooden pier that stretched far into the deep lake. “ Is that… is that Mizuki?... Mizuki Amamiya?” Sorata was bewildered at the sight of seeing Mizuki- the girl he liked and had injured on accident the day before- on the pier of the lake with her uniform blazer in hand and crouching down dangerously close to the edge of the pier. “What on earth is she doing all the way out there? Washing her uniform? No that can't be right.” Sorata thought it was really a strange sight to see Mizuki using water from a lake to ‘wash’ her uniform in such a fashion that definitely did not fit the image of someone who was the granddaughter of the mayor of a city. Sorata hesitated if to go and help 

Mizuki with whatever she needed, or simply go back to where everyone was at. He chose the latter and started walking back once again. There could be no way that Mizuki would want to see him again so shortly after he injured her, besides, she even said it herself that she never wanted to see him again. Going over to help out would only create more problems for the both of them and Sorata might end up being hated more than he already was. It was a hard decision he thought, but it was the right choice for now.

It could have been a chance to make up for yesterday's incident but the odds were against him.

Sorata turned his body back around and took a few steps forward in the direction of the camp grounds. He bit his bottom lip regretting his decision to ignore Mizuki because he still had feelings for her.

Splash!

Sorata stopped walking suddenly and turned around as he heard something fall into the body of water behind him. Mizuki was no where to be seen on the pier anymore, and there was a lot of splashing going on in the water close to it. "Could it be... She fell in!" Sorata's eyes were as big as an owl's as fear seeped into his body. He was frozen in place and didn't know what to do.

"Does she know how to swim?" There was an ongoing argument in coming to a conclusion of what to do inside Sorata's head. Everything was happening so fast and unexpectedly, also he had never found himself in a situation such as this one, so he could only guess what to do.

He was able to see arms moving above the surface, and could faintly make out a few cries for help.

No doubt that it was Mizuki.

"I should go get help!" Sorata started running back, but as soon as he did, he stopped once again "No, that's gonna take too long, I should save her now! Who cares if she hates me even more afterwards, she'll drown and die if I leave her there!"

Sorata started sprinting faster than he had ever done in his life. Due to the sudden acceleration right after vomiting, he became light headed as he ran but he couldn't afford to stop and rest.

Getting to Mizuki was priority number one.

"Help me... someone..." These were Mizuki's last cries for help as she held out an arm towards the clear, blue sky hoping that she would experience at least a miracle. Her body's stamina gave out at last and the lake slowly swallowed her until she was completely underwater and only bubbles left behind where she used to be. Mizuki was underwater and running out of breath, she tried to swim back up but when she moved her injured wrist, the pain was unbearable and sent a shockwave of pain all over her left arm. Memory fragments of how she got it in the first place, flashed in her head. She could now only cry as she looked at the bandages around her wrist coming undone almost beautifully in an ascending circular funnel formation, and revealing the sight of the bruise that denied Mizuki the right to continue living. She lost consciousness shortly after.

Splash! Sorata dove into the deep lake head first and lunged his body in as far as possible using every muscle he could.

Back in middle school, Sorata had taken swimming lessons as a hobby so he knew how to swim properly, but at the moment he wasn't swimming, he was deep diving. Leisurely swimming and deep diving consist of different training methods, an amateur like Sorata who only knew how to swim for fun was literally diving into dangerous territory.

He knew all of this already, but somewhere deep inside him was hope of resurfacing with Mizuki. He looked around beneath him but no sign of Mizuki anywhere, so he dove a little deeper into where the sun's rays didn't reach. Shortly after, Mizuki's unconscious body made it's way into Sorata's field of vision. Kicking harder now, Sorata went in deeper to recover Mizuki since he was running short on breath at that time. "I've got you!" A huge weight came off of his shoulders now with Mizuki's body in his arms. He had to hurry up now, they were three quarters to the bottom of the lake. The time it took to ascend was so much longer than it took to descend, or so that's how it felt to Sorata, but he was also carrying extra weight, almost double.

"Have to get to the top fast... it can't end like this..."

Sorata was getting tired now, he had dove into a deep lake without any proper training or equipment, and earlier he felt light headed after running.

"I'm running out of air dammit!! My legs are so tired... I... I want- I want this to end now!!!" Sorata was suffering from exhaustion and a shortage of oxygen, it was making him grow impatient by the second.

"Almost there... hurry please, I just need a little more!! I can do this... I know... I can do this! Let me save her! Let me save Mizukiiii!!! He bared his teeth out as a way of manifesting the adrenaline in his burning soul.

Sorata's inner voice was filled with determination and strength, but also full of agony and exhaustion as he neared the surface.He wanted to cry his eyes out but that would have to wait until later, they were also bloodshot red as a result from putting too much strain on his body. Everything seemed like it was now going to pay off though. Sorata was nearing the surface, engulfed in long trails of air bubbles, he was cutting through the water at an astonishing speed like a dolphin almost. So he stretched out one of his arms while the other held on tight to Mizuki because at any minute, any second they would be safe. Sorata smiled in relief, now closer than ever. Only a few more little, itty... bitty... meaningless centimeters and-.

 

“... I can’t move…”

Uttering in his physical voice underwater, Sorata stared at his hand that was only one miserable, little centimeter away from touching the surface. It was motionless, even though that wasn’t what he wanted, even though that wasn’t according to the signals his brain was sending to his arm. It just froze in place so randomly after traveling so fast! It was ridiculous how something could just stop so abruptly without warning, it was so unthinkable that in a way almost seemed funny to him.

A severe pain in Sorata’s joints and muscles started to grow at an alarming rate followed by heavy, paralyzing cramps affecting many parts of his body.

“Nngaaaaaahh!!” He swallowed a bit of water as his mouth opened to scream.

“You’ve gotta be kidding me… how- how could I have forgotten about this!!!” Sorata had committed a grave mistake and was now suffering the consequences. He was suffering from ‘the bends’, also known as Decompression Sickness to deep sea divers. It was the result of coming 

back to the surface at a fast pace after a deep dive that created nitrogen bubbles in body tissues and the blood.

“Why...why…” Very slowly now, Sorata and Mizuki began to sink into the deep, dark waters of the lake. It was too late now, Sorata began to feel heavy and numb, his blood pressure was dropping and he felt light headed again. They were descending to the bottom a little faster, Sorata still looking up, he saw how the rays of sunlight penetrated a few meters deep and the small waves on the surface making the glittering light rays look like they were dancing about.

“We were so close to breaking through… I’m sorry Mizuki, please… forgive me. I swear to you I tried, and I gave it all I could to save us both, but in the end… I might have caused both of our deaths. Maybe… maybe it wouldn’t have turned out like this... if I had called for help and had someone with more experience save you.”

Mizuki’s right hand was floating nearby and coincidentally made it’s way in front of Sorata’s eyes, blocking out the sunlight more and more as it neared his eyes. Sorata gave a faint smile and took it as Mizuki forgiving him for not being able to rescue the two of them and doing him the favor of closing his eyes as soon as he died.

“Thank you for forgiving me…”

Nothing but darkness filled Sorata’s vision now, and then, he passed out.

 

Flash!! Bang!!

His eyes were closed tightly shut now and couldn’t see the blinding, purplish-white light behind him no matter how bright it was. The light was so bright, you could even see it if you stood around the lake, but it was brief and lasted only a mere second, no one caught a glimpse of it nor did anyone witness Sorata and Mizuki drown.