Tapping footsteps echoed throughout the halls of the school, belonging to the 13-year old student, Shintaro Kisaragi. He walked cautiously, glancing into every classroom door before going back to his path.
“I guess it’s no surprise. At this time of the day there’s nobody here. Still, why are schools at night so creepy? Nothing weird’s gonna jump out, right?” He narrated his own thoughts. He passed a water fountain just as a stray droplet of water fell from it’s tap. Before he could process it fully, a scream escaped him.
“Oh.. oh, it’s just a sink. Don’t scare me like that, dammit,” he sighed, both ashamed of the fact that he just screamed, and that he just told a fountain not to scare him. “To forget my wallet in class first thing in the semester. I really am unlucky. Why do I have to come to school this late at night anyway?”
Continuing his thoughts without speaking them, he reminisced on the small amount of time he’d had in his class. It’d only been a week or so into the new semester.
That aside… those guys in my new class are just a bunch of idiots. The average score for the last test was ridiculously low, too. That alone would be fine, but they’re obnoxious and loud and they kick the desks. Totally unreal. What’s there to gain from spending time with guys like that anyway? Would they even be capable of having soulmates? God…
He didn’t often bother with thoughts of soulmates when it came to himself. But he often wondered about others, their experiences…
A door ahead, there was the sound of things falling, snapping Shintaro out of his thoughts. He gasped, and let the air back out in the form of a yelp.
“W-what was that sound? There’s someone on campus at this time? Wait wait wait, there’s no way! Even if there’s someone here, no lights are on,” he rambled to himself, panic rising in his chest, “that aside, the sound just came from my classroom, right..?! I-it can’t be like… a-a ghost or anything, right…?! Give me a break! It’s scary, but I have to go inside and get my wallet or I can’t go home… Aaaaah, what am I supposed to dooooo—!?”
Trying to think logically, he knows it probably isn’t a ghost. It’s just a delinquent or thief who’d, like, kill him or something-
The door slid open, breaking his train of thought, and two screams rang out at the same time.
Shintaro instantly cowers, bowing as low as he can. He began apologizing profusely, pressing his eyes closed tightly. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry! Please spare my life, ah-”
“Huh? Shintaro…? Ah, I’m right! You’re Shintaro Kisaragi, right?”
The sound is soft and pleasant, causing Shintaro to question it. “Huh..?” He looked up, and the sight astonished him. Not because it was a kid in his class instead of a ghost or thief, but because of how she glows.
Shintaro has never, ever been able to see red.
But this girl is red as a strawberry.
“It’s me! I’m in your class and I sit next to you. I’m Ayano Tateyama. Although, I don’t think we’ve talked before.”
“Tate… yama?” He says, his voice failing him. He stares at her in bewilderment. It makes sense that her favourite colour was red- she was covered in it. Shintaro struggled for words, trying- and failing- to make a better first impression to his goddamn soulmate.
How is she being so casual about this? Can she not see-
A realization dawned on him. I don’t HAVE a favourite colour. She’s probably had full colour vision her entire life. There’s nothing new TO see.
He smacks his hand against his forehead, about to drag it down his face, before he sees Tateyama’s expression. She is smiling at him somewhat blankly. Shit, I’m being SO weird right now.
Pretending that his forehead smack was that of remembrance rather than realization, he says, “oh, the one that’s always getting failing grades.”
Why… why did you say that. Dumbass.
The conversation continued awkwardly, leading to a late-night study session. Shintaro found himself lamenting his soulmate, pondering how someone can do this bad on a math test. At the end of their session, they walked halfway home together. The hill they walked on was dimly lit by the moon and streetlights.
As he was about to announce he had to turn a different way from her, Ayano spoke up. “Shintaro, would you mind if I got your number? I, uhm.. I’d like to study together again sometime.”
As he got home that night, he practically ran to take his uniform off and shower. He tossed his wallet on his desk, sparing a glance at the clock. It was an hour before midnight.
He approached the door to his sister’s room, knocking on it softly. He heard a muffled response of, “come in.”
He entered, looking at his sister. Her hair was not sporting it’s usual ponytail, likely due to the late hour. She took one look at him and said, “you look like trash, what’s up?”
“Wow, thanks,” he deadpanned. “Momo, I don’t.... I- ugh. What colour can’t you see?”
“Purple,” she responded. Scooting over, she patted a seat next to her. He sat down gratefully, huffing out a sigh. “Why?”
“I saw red for the first time today.”
“I- you- oh my God. Who was it? A girl? A boy?”
“A girl,” he nods. “She’s apparently my classmate. She was staying late for a study session.”
He explains the scenario, leaving out the detail of how he thought she was a ghost.
“Ayano, huh…? That’s a pretty name. What’s she look like?”
“Well… you can tell red is her favourite colour. She wears a big red scarf, and she’s got two red hair clips,” he motions across his bangs, “and, uh... her hair is brown. Her eyes, too.”
Momo put her hands on his shoulders. “Do you love her?”
“I don’t know,” he admits. “I know I should, because we’re soulmates. But…”
“But you don’t like her?”
“No! I do like her, just, I don’t know if… I don’t know.”
“Well, that’s fine. You can grow into loving her. And if you don’t, that’s cool too,” she kicked his leg softly, “now get out, I wanna sleep.”
“No problem, bro. G’night.”
The years passed by, and new people entered Shintaro’s life. Before he knew it, they’d formed a little group. They studied together, even when they didn’t have the same subjects to study for. They ate lunch together almost every day. Most of his weekends were spent with at least one of them. He wouldn’t admit it, but he liked them. Genuinely, actually liked them.
“Tono… Tono~... Beautiful Tono-”
“Will you stop serenading my rabbit and get back to studying?”
Haruka looked up sadly, his face pulled into an exaggerated pout. “Aw, come on, Shintaro~. She wants to play around with us,” he held up the white rabbit, who honked softly. “See?”
“I think Tono is right,” Takane stretched out, having stolen a large portion of the bed for herself. She tapped a pen on the textbook, previously in use. “We should take a break. We’ve been studying for like, an hour.”
“It’s been 45 minutes, not an hour-”
Takane made her hand into an imitation of him, closing her thumb to her finger everytime he said a word. Haruka giggled at the action, causing Shintaro to glare at him.
“A break would be nice,” Ayano finally pitched in. “My hand hurts, I’ve been writing so much.”
“Well- uh- okay. But we’re starting again in ten minutes at the most.”
“Of course he agrees when Ayano says it,” Takane smirked, making eye contact.
“You too are so good to each other, it’s adorable~”
“Stop,” Shintaro pulled his knees up, glaring at Takane. “A-anyways, uhm… Are you three staying over? It’s getting pretty late, and, uh. You still need to study to pass the test next week...”
“I’d like to stay over, I like it when we all eat together. And I do wanna study more, I just love Tono so much...”
“I’ll have to ask my dad, but he likes all of you, so he’ll probably say yes.”
Takane sighed, “well, if everyone else is staying, I’ll be here too.”
“Damn, I was hoping you’d leave,” Shintaro scoffed, only half-joking.
“I’m gonna kick your ass,” Takane responded, not moving from her sprawled out spot on his bed.
“Stop fighting!! I’m calling my dad,” Ayano shushed them, holding her phone to her ear.
“Tateyama~sensei!” Haruka shouted, getting close to Ayano. “Hello!!”
“Hey Shintaro pass the weed!!” Takane yelled maliciously, letting out a laugh as she did.
Sighing, Ayano put her phone on speaker.
“Hello, students,” Kenjirou said, sounding exhausted at their antics after a three-second phone call. “Kisaragi’s here, too?”
“Yes,” Shintaro straightened up, as if he were here watching him.
“Hello. Anyways, why’d you call me, sweetie?”
“Can we- uh, I- sleep over here? Takane and Haruka will be here too.”
“Hmm… sure, go ahead. You’re gonna miss out on some of your good ol’ dad’s master-level cooking, though.”
“Hah, okay. Save some leftovers for me then.. Thanks, love you, bye!”
“Bye, sweetie. Love you too.”
Ayano sighed, frowning at her phone as she hung up. A beat passed before she smiled again, looking up at her friends. “I can stay!”
“Yeah, we heard.”
The night continued joyously. After studying, the four watched movies, ate together, and played video games. Now they were setting up beds, spare futons and blankets being spread across the floor. It was much later than it should’ve been, but none of them cared about the time they’d spent messing around.
“Alright, I think that’s all the blankets I have-” Shintaro turned around to see his two friends cuddled up on his bed, both sleeping peacefully. Ayano sat awkwardly on the floor at the end of the bed, clearly having noticed how they’d passed out as well. “Well, I wasn’t planning on sleeping on the bed anyways. More room for us on the floor.”
Ayano giggled softly, sliding herself under one of the blankets. Shintaro turned off the lights, following her lead. He put a sheet over Tono’s cage as well, wishing her a good night.
Settled on his stomach, Shintaro glanced up at his stolen bed. Haruka’s foot hung off the edge of the bed, highlighting how tall he was.
“They’re really cute together, aren’t they?”
“Takane and Haruka. They’re a good couple, y’know?”
“Oh. Yeah, I guess,” he glanced down, moving his hands so they were holding a pillow under his face. He pressed his chin into the soft fabric. “Do you think they’re soulmates?”
“Hmm… Yes, probably.”
Shintaro nodded. Those two were definitely meant for each other. He wasn’t sure if they were actually dating or not, but they were a great pair.
“Do you have a soulmate, Shintaro?”
“Wh-what?!” He jolted, putting a hand over his mouth and glancing at the sleeping lovebirds. Lowering his voice, he continued, “uh… why are you asking?”
“Well, uhm. It was just on topic. Do you?”
“...yes, I do.”
“Oh, really? A girl?”
“Ooh… What’s she like?”
“Uhm…” She’s you. “She’s… nice. Pretty. Heroic. Kinda dumb. Heart of gold.”
“You seem to like her a lot,” her voice was low as she spoke. “Does she like you back?”
“I- I don’t know if I even love her,” he says, quietly, looking up at her. She’s watching him intently, her eyes soft and caring. “She’s my friend. And I know I should love her, but… I don’t know if I do.”
“Yeah. I’m… I’m not sure I even have a soulmate.”
“I- I’ve always had perfect colour vision. I can see the full rainbow. And I’ve felt clicks with people- but, I don’t know if that’s what a soulmate feels like. I don’t know what a soulmate is.”
She looked so, so sad. She almost always had a smile on her face, so this expression was… heartbreaking, and breathtaking.
“Maybe, your soulmate, whoever they are,” he took a breath, closing his eyes as an anxious tic. “Maybe they just… don’t have a favourite colour. Or maybe they’re blind.”
There was a silence. Even as he opened his eyes, he didn’t look at her. He thought of reaching out to her. But he didn’t have to, because she slipped her hand over his.
“Thank you… I didn’t really think of that.”
“H-hah… No problem,” he jerked his hand away, not thinking about it. “Goodnight. Sleep well.”
Random lyrics were scrawled all over the wrinkled notebook page.
“How do I tell you I don’t love you? How do I tell you I do?”
“Roses are red, violets are blue, I couldn’t see scarlet, until I saw you.”
“I’ll remember your smile, even through tomorrow.”
“Loves her, loves her not, loves her, loves her not…”
“Why couldn’t I be stuck with someone who makes me feel less complicated?”
“Red is the colour of the common rose… and you.”
He highlighted the last one, closing the notebook as his friend arrived to class.
The heat-filled days of summer break were soon to start.
She was crying in the classroom, and he didn’t say anything.
“You’re so damn annoying, just go away already!”
“I won’t leave you.”
He brushed her off, storming away. She watched him go, the sunset turning them both into silhouettes.
It was a normal summer day, the break leaving him bored while his friends were in summer classes. He was watching television, sipping a Coke casually. His mom was out for the day, so he took the opportunity to chill out in the living room. The TV played some sort of action show, he wasn’t really interested in it, but it kept him entertained enough.
Momo chattered about some cute thing she saw in a magazine, wondering if she should buy it.
“If you use your own money, go ahead, I don’t care,” he responded, reaching for his soda. Though he lifted it to drink, it never made it to his mouth.
The sound of metal colliding with wood sounded out, and even the TV seemed silent after.
“Bro!? What the hell?!” Momo looked ready to scold him, but stopped when she saw his expression. “...Bro?”
His eyes were wide, his mouth and hands shaking. He seemed to be choking on nothing, only snapping out of it when Momo shook him by the shoulders. Maybe it’s fine, it’s fine, don’t panic, it’s fine-
All the red had drained out of his world.
The can of his favoured soda was a bland gray, the heroes and explosions on the TV having odd-looking streaks and spots, and his sister seemed ashy in comparison to her previous brightness.
“Are you okay?” She looked frightened, and her grip on him was like iron.
“A- She- My phone,” he settled on. “I n-need my phone. It’s fine. I’ll just- call her, it’ll be fine, it’s fine. I’ll just call her.”
“Bro..? You’re repeating yourself…”
He knew what the colours disappearing meant.
But the first stage of grief is denial, after all.
He knows he loves her. He hates that he does.
When he met… them, he still couldn’t see red. But as their eyes glowed with powers far beyond him, he was reminded of the glaring colour of her heart.
He’s not sure why he can see it in their eyes, only their eyes, and he’s not sure he wants to. He pretends not to notice.
He’s glad he can’t see red when blood spills, when countless centuries- countless slaughters- pass before his eyes, when his body goes limp and falls back on his bed, when she’s waiting for him in the space between time.
When they reunite, the colour blooms back to his vision, and he doesn’t stop himself from crying.
After the defeat of the snake, they’re tasked with getting their lives together. He helps them wherever he can. He’s not sure he’s good at helping.
One day, they’re sitting together, a bit away from the rest of their group. She thinks about reaching out to him. She doesn’t have to, because his hand slips over hers.
“Y’know, a long time ago. I didn’t have a favourite colour. I didn’t care for colours that much at all.” She looks at him, and he is smiling. He almost always had a frown on his face, so this expression was… wonderful, and breathtaking.
“Ayano. I’m- I’m sorry. I could have said something. I could have done something. I just… want you to know. I’m not unsure anymore. I know… what my feelings are. I-I...”
She let the words build between them, and squeezes his hand. He breathes deeply, and leans in towards her. Their foreheads touch gently, and his bangs fall into her face. She brushes them away. “I love you,” she finishes for him.
The kiss following the statement lifts a huge weight from both of their shoulders. It’s pleasant and soft, and neither of them mind the cheers from their eavesdropping friends.