The library is on the first floor of the new building, the furthest part in of the school as seen from the front gate. That day, I had come to the library instead of the old meeting room. There was some research I wanted to do... and besides, I couldn't see the courtyard from here.
It was the dimmest place on campus, even the thick-growing trees from the hills around the back casting shadows inside the room.
Maybe high school girls these days don't like these kinds of places much, since hardly no students come here after school. That day, there were only a few people there including me - just the regulars. I guess I'm a modern high school girl too, though. Maybe I'd gotten lost.
The regulars intentionally ignored each other, spending the time as they pleased on their own turf.
Sitting down by the mountain-facing window with the sun streaming through it, and able to settle a little with the familiar atmosphere and people around me, I postponed the reason for which I had come to the library and absentmindedly thought about recent events.
Ms. Hasegawa - "senpai" - had never come to school in the end, her teacher training period having ended. I head from a teacher that she had never recovered, and had taken leave from university to be hospitalised. I don't know whether or not that's true. I can't just ask around about it, either. It's not like I'm Yoriko.
...And Yoriko has been staying home these past few days due to illness.
No, I'm making too much of it. Just overthinking things. At least things were the same here as they always were. I sucked in the tree-scented breeze, stretching slightly.
And then, from between the shadowy library's shadowy bookshelves, I sensed someone staring at me. It was coming from the area of the library where the oldest books were kept, somewhere a high school girl would never venture. Standing there, almost melting into the shadow, was...
"Yoriko?" I called in a stupid voice reflexively. The "regulars" shot reproachful looks at me. I forced an ever stupider-looking smile in response, then looked back at Yoriko.
The person standing there, head down, in the dimness was Yoriko, without a doubt. Had she left home when she was supposed to be resting and come to see me...?
Then I had to make sure. Had Yoriko seen "it" too? I had to talk to her about it. What should I do...?
I stood up, and the heavy wooden chair thumped loudly. Eyes turned back to me once more, but I paid them no attention.
After circling around the big reading table, I could no longer see Yoriko standing between the bookshelves. They were only a few metres away. I came to a sudden stop.
I could feel "that" air from the bookshelves - the one I had felt from the gloomy man. But it was even deeper, more shadowy, like darkness.
My heart raced, my ears ringing. Suppressing the urge to get the hell out of there, I approached the corner of the bookshelves and quietly peeked inside.
...No one was there.
I let out a deep sigh. Of course Yoriko wasn't there. I hadn't seen her in homeroom before leaving, either. I must be seeing things... that had to be it. I should just get my research done.
This bookshelf contained books, so-called "bizarre books", that were considered heretical even amongst folklorists. Occultism, the spirit realm... curses... This was all Yoriko's specialty, not mine. Maybe I could learn something from them about the diary.
I ran my eyes along the spines aligned on the bookshelves. And then, amongst the books with faded spines...
I found it.
The book the colour of a clematis...
"You mustn't look... no, you mustn't investigate it."
The gloomy man had been right.