Chapter 5:

Chapter 4 - A Long Dream

Youth


Note: The italicized I, me, and myself is referring to Yuugo's younger self.
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   Since when did I lose sight of what's important in life? When did I lose my path? When did a part of me die?Bookmark here

   Oh that's right, it was after that day. That day where I lost my purpose in life. No that's not quite right, I have actually never had a purpose to live and it was on that day that I realized that truth and was forced to accept it.Bookmark here

   After that, I kept asking myself, "What's the point anymore?", "What am I even living for?", "Is there any meaning in my life?". They say the answers lie in one's self. I tried. Countless times I sought an answer. Countless times I tried to tell myself to find an answer. Any answer, yet every single time I would give up halfway through. "It's too tiring", "It's too much work.", " Is there even a point in doing this?".Bookmark here

   Isn't it easier to not think too hard about it and let fate decide for us? Wouldn't the pain of disappointment disappear if I just don't try?
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   To live aimlessly, and just let myself drift away, to wherever the winds of fate may take me... is that so bad?Bookmark here

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   I opened my eyes.Bookmark here

   A blinding white light engulfs my sight, no it wasn't light. Everything as far as the eye could see was only white. A vast, expansive, yet lonely space of whiteness. There was nothing else, a blank and monotone world occupied only by white. Even I did not exist, I had no arms to reach out to, no legs to walk on, no lungs to breath with. Nothing, there was simply consciousness.Bookmark here

   But slowly. This monotonous world started to become something more. Colors, objects, and people began to fill in that world of white. I closed my non-existent eyes and when I opened them once more, I was on a completely different plane altogether. I was standing in a room. A familiar room from my past. It was my classroom during my last year of middle school.Bookmark here

   The sight felt nostalgic, as memories, both pleasant and unpleasant memories started to resurface in my mind. Tears began to well up in my eyes, but I didn't care to wipe them off. I looked around, the seats were all occupied by students. Most of them I barely recognized anymore, but some of them were all too familiar. I spot my friends, Kyousuke, Takuya, Tetsuya, Daisuke, and...Bookmark here

   I looked down at the boy seated in front of me. It was a black-haired boy slouched in his seat, playing with his pen seemingly disinterested. It was me. Apart from me being shorter I practically never changed at all. When did I get so boring? I wasn't always like this.Bookmark here

   "Okay class, please take one and pass it in the back. As you all are about to graduate, you all need to think carefully about your answers as you will look back to this in 3 years." The teacher standing in front of the class carefully explained as she began handing out copies.Bookmark here

   I eventually received the last copy, I took a glance at what the paper was for. "Career and Future Plans Form, huh," I muttered under my breath. "Oh right, we had something like that..."Bookmark here

   Eventually, the teacher left the classroom. Leaving the students to their own devices. I spent some time going around and taking peeks at other student's answers, but every time I did, their answers would be blurred out. I couldn't make out what was written in them no matter how hard I tried.Bookmark here

   The form lists various questions like: What are your ambitions? What are your short-term goals? What are your long-term goals? What do you want to do in the future? What is your ideal career? How do you see yourself 10 years from now? And other similar questions.Bookmark here

   "Me! Me! I want to get a girlfriend!" Excitedly shouted Tetsuya.Bookmark here

   "Yes. Yes. Me too, I also want a girlfriend!" Takuya joined in, raising his hand.Bookmark here

   "Well if everyone is sharing theirs, I'll share mine as well. I want to become a professional in kendo someday." Daisuke shared.Bookmark here

   "You all really don't have a good grasp of your futures except for Daisuke... seriously... and I hate that I'm also guilty of it..." Kyousuke admitted.Bookmark here

   I could only give a big smile at their childish bantering. Sharing their innocent and petty dreams. Well except Daisuke of course. However. I looked over at me, who doesn't seem to be making any sort of progress whatsoever. I walk over to myself and sneaked a glance at my paper. The paper was blank, devoid of any ink or scribbling. "I've always been really hopeless..." I criticized myself.Bookmark here

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   "Katsuragi-kun, you still haven't decided? Your form has been completely blank, there's not even a single speck of ink." Said Amatsuka-sensei. My former homeroom teacher in my 3rd year of Middle School. She's a beautiful woman, in her mid-30s, with long and lush black hair. She was sitting cross-legged on the sofa. Facing me, my younger self that is."Bookmark here

   "I'm sorry Amatsuka-sensei, I'm still unsure..." I replied.Bookmark here

   "Katsuragi-kun, you're a talented boy. For someone your age, you're a genius, but you really need to decide what you want to do. That is what most teachers would say but... leaving it blank... I personally believe that's also an answer. I mean you don't have to give it that much thought right now, you still have high school. You can save your choices until then." She lectured.Bookmark here

   "But I don't want this to become a bad habit, that is, putting things off until later... Is it connected to that? If so then you don't have to worry, we will be trying our best so that nothing like that ever happens again so—" She added.Bookmark here

   "Sensei... I believe you're a great sensei, and there's a lot of things I learned from you, but I please ask of you to not speak about that incident." I cut her off.Bookmark here

   "Yes... I'm sorry for being insensitive and reopening old wounds."Bookmark here

   "Thank you for today sensei, can I please request to leave now. I still have my part-time job." I lied as I stood up from the sofa. I didn't have work that day, I only work on my part-time job on weekends. I wasn't only hopeless but also a straight-faced liar.Bookmark here

   "Of course, I apologize for keeping you here for quite some time. You may leave now."Bookmark here

   "Thank you." I thanked her once more and gave her a bow before opening the office door and leaving.Bookmark here

   I followed myself out, today I was alone as I walked in the school halls. No, I wasn't alone, after all, I was there, watching over me.Bookmark here

   Then all of a sudden. My vision started to blur, and my surroundings began to disappear. The walls, the floors, the ceilings, everything was turning to white. And before I knew it, I was back in that monotonous white world, yet I was still there. Continuing to walk as if nothing had happened. I continued to follow me. Yet eventually, even I was not unaffected by this whiteness and slowly, I started to disappear as well, my figure was growing smaller and smaller with each second. I desperately reached out my hand to me but it was too late. I was gone, and my hand could only clutch nothingness.Bookmark here

   I was gone, but I was still here. If I keep going like this... will I continue to lose more precious things and people that I care for?Bookmark here

   "I'm sorry Takuya... I'm really sorry..." I muttered to myself, recalling a faint memory from my past. The sight of Takuya, sleeping soundly on a hospital bed. "It's all my fault..." I blamed myself. Tears began to flow, it won't stop. I desperately tried to wipe them off as my body dropped to the ground, but the tears just wouldn't stop flowing.Bookmark here

   Then from the corner of my eye, I spot something. I saw what looked like shoes, and long socks. It was somebody's legs, I continued to scan the person's body. He, no she wore a skirt that reached her knees. Her body was petite. She was clad in a black uniform, the same one girls used in Samija High School. She had her back turned to me. Her long white hair fluttering to the side from a non-existent wind. Bookmark here

   Slowly, she turned to face me. What stood out to me was her gorgeous white hair, as white as this world. Her cute face and pinkish cheeks, her brown eyes. Everything about her was alluring. Takahashi Alice, stood there with a warm smile on her face, looking at me.Bookmark here

   This reminded me of the first time I laid eyes on her, at the opening ceremony of high school. I immediately felt something inside me that I haven't felt before. My heart was beating fast, and all I could do is stare at her, admiring her beauty. It was at that moment I fell in love, and it was during now that I fell in love all over again.Bookmark here

   Can I find the answer that I am so desperately searching for from her? Can I find the meaning of my life, my reason? Can I find those things from her?Bookmark here

   She bent forward and reached out her hand to me. In turn, I took my own hand and reached out for her. Slowly, our hands began to approach each other, but like a tragic twist of fate, before our skins could even touch. She was gone. I was left alone in that world. Is this the price I have to pay for atonement? "Yes, that's right," I affirmed as tears continue to flow down my cheeks.Bookmark here

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   I opened my eyes.Bookmark here

   It was as if I had just woken up from the longest dream in my life. What I felt when I slowly opened my eyes was a distinct feeling of coldness that permeated my entire body, I shivered from the cold and looked around. There were only a few people left on the train and I seemed to have fallen asleep standing. My right hand was clutching the handle as I faced the train door. I could barely see what was outside, only orbs of light that pass by at a fast rate.Bookmark here

   Amidst the cold that flowed through my entire body, I felt an imbalance coming from my face. It was a warm feeling, unlike the rest of my body. I ran my left hand across my cheeks and noticed a particular liquid substance.Bookmark here

   "Tears..?" I muttered. When I came to that realization, I wiped the rest of the tears off my face.
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   As I was cleaning my face. The train made a full halt, and an announcement was made that we had arrived at a stop. The train door opens, what greeted me on the other side was the sight of a well-built black-haired young man, wearing only a white t-shirt and shorts, sitting on one of the benches at the train stop. It was my big brother.Bookmark here

   I walked out of the train alone, the door closed behind me and I approached him.Bookmark here

   "Yo Yuugo, took you long enough. You had me worried." He said as he stood up. Although I was quite tall for a 16-year-old, standing at 175 centimeters. My 18-year-old brother however was like a giant, he is 193 centimeters.Bookmark here

   "Nii-san, how long have you been waiting for me?" I asked.Bookmark here

   "Uh, maybe 10, 15 minutes?" He replied.Bookmark here

   I stared in silence in response, just giving a quiet 'Hmm'.Bookmark here

   "Anyway, let's go home. You must be hungry."Bookmark here

   "You don't usually wait for me, so why now?"Bookmark here

   "What's wrong with worrying for my cute little brother? You always arrive home at seven o'clock sharp so I got worried you were fifteen or so minutes late."Bookmark here

   "That's it?! Also, stop calling me cute!"Bookmark here

   "Since you're here now, onwards to home!" He said in glee as he slapped my back with great force. I rubbed my back to ease the pain. It was an annoying thing to do, and he does it frequently. However this was odd behavior for him, he never waits for me. There must be a different reason why he waited there for me.Bookmark here

   "Your uniform is wet, did you take a bath in the rain?" He asked me.Bookmark here

   "No. it's... it's a long story..." I gave that reply and sighed.Bookmark here

   "Well, in any case, we should get going already."Bookmark here

   "Y-Yeah."
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   "I also cooked some delicious miso soup, you wouldn't want it to get cold now would you?"Bookmark here

   "Yes. Yes."Bookmark here

   We began to make our way back home. The rain seems to have subsided, but the cloudy atmosphere remained, covering the stars. The moon however was faintly visible. Looking around, I lay my eyes on the mundane green fields I've seen so many times now, I've grown up seeing them whenever I go take the train. Our shoes being soiled by the muddied dirt road from the prior downpour.Bookmark here

   "Is Mom home?" I asked to break the awkward silence.Bookmark here

   "Nope, she's working late again today." He replied.Bookmark here

   "Again? Isn't she overworking herself? If we're tight on money then we can just take more jobs right?"Bookmark here

   "I kept telling her that but she just won't listen."Bookmark here

   "Why is she working so much at this specific time? Did something happen?"Bookmark here

   "I have no idea why."Bookmark here

   "Nii-san..."Bookmark here

   As our conversation continued, my doubt only continued to grow. I decided to strike the heart of the matter, and confront him about it.Bookmark here

   "What are you hiding from me, Nii-san?"Bookmark here

   "I wonder what."Bookmark here

   "Stop dodging the question."Bookmark here

   "I'll tell you when I'm ready."Bookmark here

   "So I'll get nothing out of you huh?"Bookmark here

   "Nope, nothing, I'm not speaking one word."Bookmark here

   At this point, I was getting frustrated at his refusal to answer my question, but if I kept poking and forcing it onto him it will only get me on his bad side.Bookmark here

   "Nii-san, I swear, if this hurts mom I..." I notice Nii-san's face tense up and his eyes narrow in response to my statement.Bookmark here

   "It already is... I told her I can take care of it by myself..."Bookmark here

   "Nii-san! Just spill it already!" I snapped.Bookmark here

   "The miso soup's going to get cold. So let's hurry it up."Bookmark here

   I clicked my tongue and bit my lip as I reluctantly accepted the outcome, deciding to not pursue the topic any further. I wanted to know what he was hiding a secret from me, but for now, I'll leave it at this. As I looked up at the sky, the sky began to clear up. I could see some stars beginning to appear and the moon brighter and clearer.Bookmark here

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   Walking under the rain in the suburban neighborhood was a sole young lady—Takahashi Alice. She wore a male's uniform, the one Yuugo had let her borrow. Although it wasn't particularly late at night, it was still quite early in fact. Yet it doesn't remove the fact that it was still dangerous for a young lady like her, especially in heavy rainfall to be alone and defenseless in a potentially dangerous area.Bookmark here

   Thankfully, she seemed to have safely arrived at her destination when she stopped in front of one of the houses in the neighborhood. It was the Takahashi Residence. She walked towards the door, closed her umbrella, and rang the doorbell. A few seconds later a middle-aged woman with white hair opens the door. Greeting the cold and lone Alice.Bookmark here

   "I'm home, sorry to worry you, mom," Alice said.Bookmark here

   "Alice, thank goodness you're alright. Welcome home, you were cold right? The rain was really strong, did anything happen to you? Why are you wearing a boy's uniform?" She barraged Alice with those questions.Bookmark here

   "Slow down mom. I'm okay, I'll explain everything later. Sorry again to worry you."Bookmark here

   "No such thing, I'm just glad you're okay. Come in! Come in!" She made a gesture inviting Alice inside. Alice enters, she removes her wet shoes and leaves them just beside the inside of the door to dry off, and hangs her folding umbrella outside.Bookmark here

   "You must be hungry, I'll get you something to eat real quick as you get changed."Bookmark here

   "Yes. Thanks, mom." Alice affirms as she ascends the wooden stairs.Bookmark here

   A few minutes pass by and Alice comes back wearing her loungewear. A simple pink long-sleeve shirt and black and white striped shorts.Bookmark here

   "Where's dad?" Alice asked as she approached the dinner table.Bookmark here

   "In the bathroom, he drank some expired milk and desperately had to go." She replied giving a smile and laughed.Bookmark here

   "Expired milk? What's up with that?" Alice said and laughed with her.Bookmark here

   "Anyway sorry it took a while, you're hungry. Would miso soup be fine, dear? Or do you want something else, I can get some for you if you want."Bookmark here

   "It's fine mom. Miso soup is enough, but I'll definitely eat a lot! I'm starving, thanks mom, your miso soup is the best." Alice said as she sat on one of the chairs. Her mom promptly gave her a bowl of miso soup. "If you want more you can call me." She told Alice. "Jeez, I'm old enough to get it myself thank you very much!"Bookmark here

   "Thanks for the food," Alice said as she brought her hands together and started digging in.Bookmark here

   "Hmmm, delicious~" Alice complimented her mother's cooking as she placed a hand on the side of her cheeks.Bookmark here

   "You're not usually this cheerful. Did anything good happen lately or something?" She inquired, as she sat herself down in one of the chairs opposite Alice's.Bookmark here

   "Good thing? I wouldn't say it was a good thing  but it wasn't necessarily a bad thing either."Bookmark here

   "Is it with a boy perhaps? Although I'm happy that you're slowly recovering, you shouldn't push yourself or it will be bad for your mental health. I don't want you to get hurt dear..."Bookmark here

   "Sorry for worrying you... but it's fine, I thought he was kind of weird at first! But now I definitely think he's really weird! Though he doesn't seem like a bad guy at least."Bookmark here

   "So it was with a boy huh... So who was it and what happened between you two exactly? If you don't mind me asking."Bookmark here

   The Mother-Daughter pair continued their conversation as Alice explained what had happened between her and Yuugo this afternoon. In the process, she ended up asking for a second bowl of miso soup.Bookmark here

   "That seems like a lot of trouble for a single day, thankfully Yuugo-kun seems to be a really nice boy."Bookmark here

   "I wouldn't say he's nice, I mean he left me in the rain! Can you believe that?"Bookmark here

   Her mom only gave a smile at her. "M-Mom? Say something, why are you just smiling like that?"Bookmark here

   "I mean how can't I? You're never usually this eager, you seem to be fond of Yuugo-kun."Bookmark here

   "Jeez weren't you listening to me?" Alice complained. Just then the bathroom door opens and a middle-aged man, with gray hair came out.Bookmark here

   "Augh, that felt really terrible. Oh hey, Alice, you're here. Welcome home."Bookmark here

   "Dad!" Alice approached him and gave him a hug. "Hah, there, there. How's your day?"Bookmark here

   "It was a bit different but otherwise good." She let go of his body and replied.Bookmark here

   "Oh, different? How so?"Bookmark here

   "I already told mom, no use repeating it again but I have something to show you now that the both of you are here. I'll go get it real quick."Bookmark here

   She said as she sprinted up the stairs and only after some seconds comes back down holding a piece of paper.Bookmark here

   "I'm officially a candidate for president in the student council election." She announced as she showed her parents the paper.Bookmark here

   "That's great honey! But are you sure you're not tiring yourself with all this?" Her mom worried.Bookmark here

   "If you want to do it then I'll cheer you on Alice just make sure you're getting enough rest okay? You already stay up late studying." Her dad said in concern.Bookmark here

   "I'm fine... actually all the effort I'm putting in isn't enough, I've nothing but a burden to you and now I forced us to move here... this is my way of repaying my debt and showing my gratitude to you both... To prove that moving here wasn't for nothing."Bookmark here

   "Dear you don't have to carry all the responsibility by yourself, we did this because we love you. If you're insistent in wanting to run for president then we'll support you all the way. Just don't carry all the burden by yourself. You can rely on your friends, oh, and that Yuugo boy too." Bookmark here

   "Yes..." Alice replied with a somber expression.Bookmark here

   Alice's Mom and Dad noticed her gloomy behavior and approached her, wrapping their hands around. Giving her a hug.Bookmark here

   "Finish up your miso soup dear, it's going to get cold."Bookmark here

   "Yes. Mom. I want thirds..."Bookmark here

   "If you eat too much you're going to get fat, Alice." Her father remarked as he patted her head.Bookmark here

   "Come on, it's just miso soup." Alice faintly smiled for a moment before promptly disappearing, the cold and stern look on her face returning.Bookmark here

   "I'll definitely become student council president..." She muttered under her breath, her parents barely able to make out her determined yet melancholic declaration.Bookmark here

   "For you... and for myself..."Bookmark here

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