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bright white sparkles and tousled red locks

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As Mai skipped up the steps leading to the train, she was certain that her first year at Asagao Academy was going to be different from all her previous school experiences. Not only would she be going into high school, she had her mind adamantly set in finally being able to see the colours of the world again. Her memories were fuzzy, but she seemed to have a faint recollection of dancing around in a world with shining colours, the earthy greens and rich browns of the land intermingling with the periwinkle of the soft afternoon sky.

The thought alone excited her, making her heart beat faster when her black Oxfords clacked on the wooden floor of the train. She'd be able to see the world in all its brightened glory once again, so different to the monochrome greys she was so used to.

She hummed softly, clutching her suitcases and backpack with a formidable grip. A sunny smile crossed her face, a straight parallel to the bored, or frightened expressions that greeted her as she stepped on board.

Ah, the age old question. Now where would she sit? Mai’s luggage clattered noisily from the fragile things with definitely should've been shipped separately, as well as the numerous keychains and charms she had on her bag. The corners of her mouth sagged downwards a bit. Everything looked so… Well, ordinary! The same shade of grey painted all of the compartments, save for the occasional splash of black or white. She made her way towards an empty seat in a desolate compartment, a sigh escaping her lips.

Nevertheless, she began to bounce energetically on her heels. A window faced her, exposing the breathtaking landscape of Japan. In the distance, a sea showed through the cluster of trees. A yearning tugged at Mai’s heart as she wished to see the gentle blue the water had to offer.

She plunked down on the plush cushions of her train seat, swinging her backpack around and placing it at her hip. Her suitcases thumped on the ground as she put them down. Mai ran her fingers through her bangs, taken by surprise at how short they were. It always took her a few days before the outcome of a new haircut finally settled in.

Her head tipped from side to side, bopping to imaginary music. In her mind, scenarios drifted back and forth, imagining the new life she would make for herself at Asagao. She was so lost in her daydreams that she almost didn't notice a voice speaking to her.

“Miss?” The voice asked. It was low, with a slight gruff to it.

“Hmmm?” Mai responded lazily, still somewhat transfixed in her thoughts. A figure stepped into the doorway of her compartment.

“I believe you dropped this.” He stated, holding up a small, rubber strawberry attached to a chain. One of her charms must have accidentally fallen off her bag.

Mai smiled sheepishly. “Yeah, that's-” her voice cut off abruptly as she tilted her head up to meet the gaze of the boy.

He was the most beautiful person she had ever seen in her entire fourteen years! His hair was groomed well, not a strand out of perfect place. He had a strong chin, as well as a dazzling smile. His eyes somehow fell at a balance between fondness and a cool glint.

Mai was so awestruck that, for once, she was at a loss of words. Her eyes widened.

“Miss?” The boy tipped his head to one side. Mentally, Mai slapped herself. You can't just let people stand, blinking, while you think up the correct answer! But her tongue was dry in her mouth.

“Yeah, yeah, that's mine,” she said, flushing, and gingerly took the charm from his outstretched fingers. She lightly brushed them with her own, and swallowed. “Thanks so much!”

Shyly, she glanced down at the strawberry. Then she did a double take- it wasn't as grey as it once was. In fact, it had brightened and faded into a soft colour, one that reminded Mai of camping nights long past, bouquets of roses her father brought home, and fruity desserts.

She looked back up at the boy, who watched her with a bemused grin. Had his eyes been like that before…? They twinkled happily, and they were cool and icy like trips to the beach and snow forts.

And it seemed like he was surrounded by flickers of sparkles?

“I'm surprised you only lost that one,” the boy remarked with a low-throated chuckle. He gazed past her and at the charms that decorated her luggage. Mai reddened, nervous laughter escaping her. Now that she thought about it, his hair was pale like the wooden flooring.

Mai’s heart pounded in her chest rapidly as she locked eyes with the boy. Her blush grew, and she felt joy like a rising bird inside of her. Colours!! She could see colours!! Just minutes ago, she had been lamenting about the prospect of them coming back into her life. Now, by fate or by chance, they had appeared before her in the form of this godlike boy. “Yeah,” she tittered. The colours, once pale, now grew intense, spreading across his entire body. “I collect them, a lot. My mom says I have a problem.”

It being rude to stare was not a concept Mai quite grasped. She was enraptured by the boy; not simply for his unrealistic beauty, but the vivid colours that engulfed him. The boy shifted.

“Oh, um, could I maybe take a seat in this compartment?” He asked, diverting the topic.

The original shock of the situation faded as Mai was faced with the decision. Instead it was replaced with genuine giddiness, and a smile was plastered on her face. A cute boy wanted to sit with her??! She nodded eagerly, wanting to learn more about him, and his magical colour-bringing capabilities.

“Of course!” She beamed, withdrawing further into the compartment. The boy gave her a grateful nod and stepped in.

She plopped back down on the seats, which were now a distinct red colour. With a quick glance around the small area, the sparkling boy took the seat adjacent to Mai. She bounced happily.

“Oh, how rude of me. I haven't introduced myself yet! The name’s Jared,” he greeted, giving her another beautiful smile. He adjusted his tie.

Jared. The name, the sound of his voice saying it echoed back and forth in Mai’s head distractingly. But she couldn't help it. Her heart was beating a mile a minute, cheeks dusted in indecent pink.

“I'm Mai,” she introduced herself. She figured she ought to tell him a bit about herself, but no facts came to mind. She was lost in the present.

“Mai.” Jared repeated the name. In the pit of her stomach, a feeling stirred. Her name on his tongue sounded so right. “You're a first year?”

“I will be!” Mai piped.

“Nice. I'm a second year,” he informed. Disappointment dropped in Mai’s stomach. They wouldn't be in the same class.

Of course, she had guessed he'd be older, but even with his tall stature and well-crafted body, he still had a young, ruffian look about him. In a coy moment of wonder, her eyes wandered to his chest. And for the first time, she noticed something… Off about his jacket.

It was a different colour from her own blazer- green. Mai relished for a second in the fact that she could see it once again, and differentiate it from the harsh hues of red and yellow. And it seemed to be styled like a varsity jacket. On his right, there was a patch sewed on, embroidered with an image of a small, brown pair of boots.

“What's with your jacket?” She blurted out.

“Hmm?” The boy glanced down. “Oh. It's a club we have at Asagao. I'm in it with some of my friends. It's called the Normal Boots Club.” As he stated the name, his tone changed to give it a flare of pizazz.

“Normal Boots Club…” Mai echoed. She felt as if this would hold some significance to her life at her new school, especially the social aspect. “Do all of you guys have the magic to make people see colour?”

Jared looked confused, tipping his head to the side. Then, his eyes grew large. He passed through a whole slew of emotions before he turned back to Mai, face darkened.

Then it lit back up.

Then he burst into hearty laughter, like music to the ears. The noise filled their entire room, and Mai sat awkwardly, a small feeling of pride blooming in her chest. Though it hadn't been a joke, she made him laugh!

Jared wiped a small tear away from his eye. “Yeah, I guess we all just might.”