A day to remember

The sweet spring air gently flowed onto Akiara’s face and through her hair, bringing with it feelings of serenity, as she stepped out of her home. The morning sun, which peeked out from behind the surrounding mountains, hinted at the beginning of summer and as Akiara looked around, the suns reflection on the morning dew left her feeling refreshed. A tall sakura tree which stood in their family’s lawn released some of its petals which twirled in the breeze and blew off into the distance. Taking a deep breath, Akiara hovered just before the gate to their lawn, enjoying the moment. Soon she was ready to move on, at which point she opened the latch on the gate, made her way outside of the yard and onto the sidewalk. Closing the gate behind her, she began her short trek to school.

Unlike some of her classmates, she was lucky to live near school, which meant that she’d be able to get to classes without much of a hassle. Walking down the sidewalk, she occasionally passed other students and she made sure to greet each one with a smile and a wave. After just a few minutes, Akiara arrived at a quiet crosswalk which was just a few minutes from school. Checking both the walk sign and oncoming traffic to make sure the path was indeed clear, she started walking across. Just as she stepped up onto the curb, she heard the metallic sound of bike gears moving behind her. Before she even had the opportunity to react, a bike flashed past her and knocked her onto the sidewalk. As she fell, she moved her hands in an attempt to lighten the fall but the warm concrete still hit her hard and she let out a gasp. Slightly disoriented, Akiara felt a sting on her hands where she’d fallen on them but her first thoughts were to look around and find the biker responsible for this. Finding no one, she got up and couldn’t help but flinch as the sharp pain resurfaced. Pushing through, she picked up her bags and made her way up when the voice of her friend drifted her way.

“Akiara, are you okay? I saw that guy knock you down and ride off without even an apology!”

Now upright, Akiara glanced over her shoulder and saw her friend Hinako coming her way. She smiled and said, “Hey Hinako. I’m fine, thank you. If they were in that much of a hurry, it must have been important. I can’t really blame them for it.”

Sighing, her friend shook her head.

“You can’t just be nice to everyone. You have to stand up for yourself because you won’t always have someone here to stand up for you.”

Akiara brushed some dirt off her clothes and continued on her way with her friend in tow. Akiara glanced at her hand and noticed that her scrape had already begun to heal over; the bleeding had stopped and much of the redness had already disappeared. Hinako glanced over and a surprised look appeared on her face.

“Wow, is that from when you fell earlier? I can’t believe it has already healed this much!”

“Yeah. Interesting that it healed to this point already.” Brushing the thought away, Akiara returned her hand to her side just as their school came into view.

“I guess we got a bit of a late start today. There are already so many people here,” Hinako exclaimed.

“Yeah, but we’re still on time, so we’re fine.”

As the two moved closer to the gates, they soon began to blend into the sea of students. The sound of students’ voices grew louder and louder, but it was familiar and welcoming. They passed through the gates and made their way through the crowd, heading in the direction of their class. A brief pause at the entrance was required to change their shoes, but it only took a minute. Heading up a flight of stairs, they took several turns before they ended up in front of their classroom.

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Glancing up, Akiara double-checked that the room number, 1-C, matched with what they had been assigned. The number checked out so she went and stepped into the room.

“Huh. I can’t believe it’s so empty here. I guess most people are still outside,” Hinako said.

“I’m not complaining. It gives us a chance to enjoy the calm before the storm.”

Glancing around the room, the orderly arrangement of desks and the standardized classroom brought feelings of familiarity. Moving further into the room, a cloud of chalk dust floated by her and a sneeze escaped her, causing a surprised squawk to be heard across the room. Wiping her nose with a tissue, Akiara looked over in the direction from which the noise had come and noticed a black bundle of hair peeking out from behind the table.

Hinako’s voice piped up from behind her asking, “Are you our professor?” The black bundle of hair turned around to reveal a middle-aged woman with gentle eyes. She gave an embarrassed smile and exclaimed,

“Hello. I apologize for earlier. You caught me by surprise as I was grabbing the eraser I had dropped on the floor. I’m Professor Yamanaka. what are your names…?”

“My name is Akiara Shiro. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Professor,” Akiara exclaimed while giving a small bow.

“I’m Hinako Suzuki. Nice to meetcha!” Hinako replied with a smile and wave.

Professor Yamanaka smiled as she studied the list in her hand and replied, “You arrived to class earlier than I expected. The two of you will be sitting next to each other: Akiara by the window and Hinako directly to the right.” Glancing up she said, “I have to leave the room for a minute to grab some supplies. Feel free to settle in.”

Thanking her as she left, Akiara and Hinako made their way over to their assigned seats. Hanging her bag on the small hook attached to the side of her desk, Akiara sat down and glanced out the window. While most of what she could see was the school’s athletic field, she was able to make out both the city and the distant mountains.

“This spot is perfect. I’m not too far back so I can easily hear the professor and I can glance outside when I need a change of scenery.”

Hinako laughed. “You always go for these types of spots.” Taking the spot on her right, Hinako hung her bag on the side of her desk and put her feet up on the table.

Akiara glanced over and sighed. Hinako always did what she wanted. Sneaking a look at her hand, the bright red color that had once surrounded the area had faded to a light red. Slightly puzzled by this mystery, Akiara had little time to think more of it as Hinako looked over in her direction and asked, “How’s Suki doing?”

“He’s doing great. As friendly as always and loves to spend most of his time outdoors.”

“That’s good to hear. He never gives you any trouble?”

“Well… Sometimes he’ll bring in a bird or two which is a bit of a nuisance, but he means well. His cute face always cheers me up,” Akiara laughed.

Hinako smiled and the two talked further as students began to enter. The room quickly filled up and they both greeted the familiar faces that they saw. Professor Yamanaka soon re-entered the room and from there, the day’s classes passed by in a blur.

“Hey, Akiara! I’ll see you tomorrow. I have club activities I have to be a part of. Try and make sure nobody runs into you this time around,” Hinako teased with a small grin on her face.

“I’ll keep an eye out. Have fun with club, and see you later,” Akiara chuckled, waving goodbye to her.

As her classmates slowly left the room, Akiara grabbed her bag and took one last look outside. Taking in the view, she took a mental snapshot and stored it in her memories. Satisfied, she headed towards the entrance of the school where she changed her shoes and left the building.

Passing through the crowd of students, she thought that, for a moment, she had seen the face of the person who had knocked her down earlier. In a blink, it was gone and the memory soon slipped from her mind.

The walk home was uneventful for the most part. She made a small detour to a pet shop to pick up some snacks for Suki then dropped by her favourite bubble tea store for a quick drink. Sure that she’d gotten everything she wanted, Akiara continued home.

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Turning a corner, her home came into view as well as the beautiful sakura tree that stood next to it. The already faint sweetness in the air grew stronger as she approached her home and a couple of cherry blossoms floated past her. Stepping up the gate, Akiara made her way through and headed in. As soon as she took her initial step inside, a bundle of fluff came running toward her and instantly began twirling itself around her legs. Smiling, Akiara bent down to pet Suki and whispered, “Hey, how’re you doing, you little fluff ball.”

Suki let out a gentle purr, moved a few feet away, and sat down to watch her. Taking off her shoes, Akiara placed them by the door then headed to her room to drop off her bag. With that in order, she made her way to the kitchen and set down the small bag of treats that she bought. Noticing a note on the counter, she picked it up to get a closer look.

Hey Aki. Your mom, sister and I are headed to Osaka for the next couple of days. We’re meeting with a potential client who could really help us grow our bookstore. We weren’t going to bring your sister but she insisted so… you know how she is. Everything you need should be in the refrigerator but we left some money just in case you have to go out. Love you and see you soon.

Not particularly surprised by the news, since her family often left for such business trips, she set the note down and walked over to the refrigerator to check its contents. A chilly gust of air escaped from the fridge and caused a small shiver to run down Akiara’s body. A quick glance around confirmed that everything was there… except for her favourite mochi ice cream. While she didn’t need it, she absolutely had to have it. This was a matter of life or death… for the most part.

Moving to her room, Akiara spent the next several hours working on homework and relaxing. As the sun set and darkness washed over the town, she set out to go to the convenience store. Switching shoes and waving goodbye to Suki, she headed out into the night.

Making her way to the convenience store, Akiara looked up to admire the stars. Pausing for a moment, she took a deep breath of the night air and enjoyed the quiet tranquility of an empty street. Realizing she was near, she shifted her focus back onto her mission and rounded a corner where convenience store came into view. At the same time, a shadowy figure entered her vision and the world went dark.

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