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Flower Buds

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There was this one girl who never uttered a single word ever since she was introduced as a transferred student to the class. Even when the teacher asked her to introduce herself, she just slightly nodded to everyone and proceeded to her desk at the very back of the class. Maybe because of how haughty she acted that morning, nobody had tried to strike a conversation with her. She didn’t seem to care either, as she stuck herself in the book she brought, even when the lesson was going on.

 

When the lunch break’s bell rang, the whole class suddenly got lively. Some scrambled out of the class to quickly get to the canteen while some other students took out their lunch box and grouped together to eat. Yet, that one girl still didn’t move from her seat. Some glances were directed to her the whole day, but she remained seated while diligently flipping through the book on her table.

 

“Again??”

 

It was the end of her first school day when the girl flinched upon hearing the boisterous exclamation. A boy with ash grey hair was seen pouting and frowning as another boy with unkempt silver hair walked out of the class. The ash grey-haired boy scratched his head and turned to grab his bag when he met the girl’s eyes. The girl quickly averted her sight, but it was too late.

 

“You’re Fischl, right?” the boy came to her.

 

She ignored him.

 

She thought that by doing so, the boy would leave, but instead he pestered even more. “No? But I remembered the teacher introduced you as Fischl? Hey, so what's your name?”

 

Fischl looked up at the boy in annoyance. “I am Fischl. Now what is there more to talk?"

 

“Ooohhh you finally answer! So am I the first one who you talked to in this class? Right? Right? Other guys said you never spoke to anybody this whole day,” the boy said excitedly.

 

"....you know, when Ms. Lisa said…

"...and then Razor also…"

"...and this afternoon when I…"

 

The boy spoke nonstop, jumping from one topic to another. Fischl stared in disbelief.

 

"STOP!"

 

The boy immediately clamped his mouth.

 

"On whose permission for you to run your mouth like that?" Fischl stood up, glaring at the boy.

 

Fischl's sudden outburst got him taken aback. He didn’t think this silent girl had quite a temperament. Fischl grabbed her bag and hastily went towards the door. But her stride stopped when she heard his voice once again.

 

"I'm Bennett. I guess I'm being rude for not introducing myself first, eh? I'm sorry."

 

Fischl spun back to find Bennett had an awkward grin on his face. Fischl frowned. He really felt guilty on THAT? Doesn't he find Fischl's behaviour completely bizarre? Even she loathed this side of her.

 

Unable to understand his train of thought, Fischl humphed and left the class in a hurry. She was quickly walking away from him—almost like escaping—when Bennett's voice was heard even from the hallway, "See you tomorrow, Fischl!"

 

Seriously, is he stupid or something? What's wrong with him?

 

---

 

Bennett was a whirlwind—a typhoon. He appeared in a loud manner. Nobody would not know about his existence since every word he spoke was boisterous enough for the whole class to hear, even when he whispered. He talked to everybody, about everything, in, unfortunately, every chance he got, even during class. All the teachers knew him for being chatty, maybe even garrulous. Strict teachers such as Ms. Jean had him out of the class several times for disturbing the class. Ms. Lisa had already struck her marker on him every once in a while with her usual intimidating smile.

 

He was also famous for being clumsy and unlucky. He once helped Ms. Lisa carried a box of erlenmeyer flasks to the laboratory and ended up with him slipped on a wet floor and shattered the whole content of the box. Fischl also heard that the school’s incinerator broke down when he’s nearby. Such an ill-starred young man.

 

Despite that, nobody actually disliked him. Sure, he could be a handful sometimes, but he never had any ill intention and was actually in a friendly term with everybody: from the students to even Chef Mao, the cook who was in charge of the school’s cafeteria. Fischl thought that’s why Bennett had tried so hard to strike a conversation with her ever since her first day in this school. He was being amazingly persistent in doing so for these past few weeks she attended this school. She felt that she didn’t mind his presence nowadays, but she couldn’t make the same mistake as that day. Only by pretending to be a mute, she could survive here.

 

That morning, Fischl was walking alone through the school gate when a continuous ringing bell was heard from behind.

 

"Morning!"

 

Fischl knew who's talking without even looking. That weirdo boy, Bennett, was cycling his bike slowly beside her. Naturally, she ignored him and paced faster towards the school building.

 

"Hey, you don't have to hurry, there's still time until the bell," said Bennett in a relaxed manner.

 

Fischl sighed and turned around to face the boy. "Look, I—"

 

She couldn't continue. Contrasting to his usual high-spirited way of talking, Bennett was looking terribly disheveled and dirty. His summer uniform was no longer white; half of its side was mud-coloured and looked damp. His long pants, thanks to it being brown, didn't look that horrible but still had a large wet area around the thigh and waist—maybe also the butt but Fischl couldn't see it clearly.

 

But that was not the most shocking part. 

 

"What happened to you?!" Fischl reflectively grabbed his arm. She could see dried blood that was mixed with dirt along Bennett's left arm.

 

"Ouch, ouch!" Bennett whimpered upon the touch and tried to escape her grip.

 

Fischl quickly let go of her hand and mumbled an almost inaudible sorry.

 

"Ah, no, no. It's okay. My bike just slipped into a hole on the road," Bennett quickly explained with a grin.

 

"...Sorry I got your hand dirty," he added when seeing the now dirty hand that grabbed him before.

 

Fischl couldn't believe what she just heard. She looked at her hand and stared back at Bennett in anger. "THAT'S NOT THE PROBLEM!" she shrieked in frustration.

 

Bennett flinched.

 

"Do you think, I, Prinzessin der Verurteilung, would be bothered just by this insignificant matter?" she showed him her hand.

 

No, not again.

 

"I shall tell you that you should be grateful for this Prinzessin has shown proper attention towards thy well-being."

 

Stop, don't say that.

 

"It is not your place to worry about this Prinzessin, you perilous young man!"

 

NO!

 

Fischl covered her mouth with her two hands. She looked at Bennett, who was staring blankly at her, in fear. She had been doing well all this time, but why could she never restrain herself in front of this boy? Why did he have to be the one to always see this hateful side of her? Fischl felt frustrated and tears started to well up in her eyes. Bennett looked like he wanted to say something but she was scared to know. Fischl ran towards the school’s building, took the stairs and disappeared from his view.

 

“Did you manage to upset her this time?” a voice startled Bennett. He didn’t notice him at all but the literature teacher, Mr. Kaeya, had stood right beside him.

 

“Ah, Mr. Kaeya,” Bennett mumbled. Now that was a small voice coming out from him. “I just talked to her like usual though? But she’s mad at me…”

 

“She had it hard in her previous school,” Mr. Kaeya suddenly said.

 

“Huh?”

 

“Well, there were her circumstances, but I won’t say anything anymore. You should talk to her,” said Mr. Kaeya, gently patting his shoulder. “Now let’s get you treated, you don’t want it to get infected.”

 

Bennett was dragged away by Mr. Kaeya to the school’s infirmary. To be honest, the slight throbbing under his elbow didn’t bother him that much compared to the face Fischl showed him. She was about to cry. He wanted to chase after her as quickly as possible. But now, he had to bear with the nagging Barbara first. 

 

--

 

Bennett found Fischl that afternoon on the school’s top floor, inside the empty music room. She was hiding behind the stacked up desks in the corner of the room. He almost didn’t see her if it’s not because of the sound she accidentally let out when he was about to close the door.

 

Fischl was sitting on the floor, hugging her knee tightly to make her presence as miniscule as possible so he didn’t approach her. It didn’t work. Bennett proceeded on sitting beside her cross-legged.

 

“I’m sorry I irritated you this morning,” he suddenly spoke.

 

“...Not your fault,” she muttered.

 

“But you’re angry because of me,” said Bennett. Who’s fault was that if it’s not him? 

 

Fischl didn’t say anything. Bennett fidgeted, but he didn’t leave.

 

After an agonizing long time of silence, Bennett heard Fischl talked in a very small voice, "Why are you so persistent to hold a conversation with me?"

 

Bennett whirled his head. Fischl was facing the opposite way, but Bennett was sure she was talking to him.

 

"Why? I couldn't?"

 

Another long pause before her voice was heard again, "I'm a freak.”

 

Bennett frowned upon hearing that unexpected remark coming from her. "Who said that?"

 

"Everybody."

 

"Our classmates?"

 

"...No, not yet."

 

"Then, who—”

 

"Everyone who knows me says that. Do they think I don't know when they talked trash behind me? Saying my speech is that equivalent to a freak and they only befriended me because of my parents’ money. And when I refused to treat them, they started to call me names. And what did my parents say? ‘You never bring any friend home, you must be lonely’? On what basis can they talk like that when they're never home? Such pretense. And they transferred me here for what? So I can go through life full of ridicules all over again now? I have enough—”

 

Fischl's voice gradually diminished as she choked at the end of the longest speech Bennett had heard her. She buried her face to her knee, her shoulder shook slightly. Bennett stayed silent the whole time. He didn’t know what to say to a crying girl, especially not to her after all that outburst. Instinctually, he reached out his hand and gently patted her back. Once, twice, thrice.

 

After some time, Fischl seemed to have stopped crying. "You can leave now. If you’re here because the teacher is asking me, I shall go back after this. Don’t worry.”

 

"No, nobody asked me to. I'll be here and we can go back to class together," said Bennett.

 

Fischl felt it was not his usual boisterous tone of talking. It sounded, strangely warm.

 

“...You’re not gonna avoid me?”

 

“Why? Oh, because you’re a Prinzessin der Verurteilung? It’s cool actually. Are you really from the royalty family?” Bennett asked, enthusiasm was apparent in his voice.

 

Fischl looked at Bennet in the same disbelief stare for the umpteenth times. Her eyes must looked puffy and horrible, but she didn’t care.

 

“You know what, Bennett? You are indeed the first. I think I like you.” she chuckled and smiled.

 

It's just a small raise of her lips, but Bennett felt that his chest squeezed hard it hurt him. No, it's different from the pain he knew all this time. It still hurt. But, strangely, he didn't mind it.

 

-fin