My eyes shot open, and I could see a light that emitted from a shadowy figure just as I did so. It looked like a woman, and I say woman because the first thing I noticed was her curvaceous bust.
Is this heaven?
“Oh, you’re awake.” She talked while my vision began to clear to properly view.
The woman held a clipboard above her chest with a cheery look on her face.
“Here, drink this. It’s to keep you hydrated.”
She let down the clipboard on a nearby table and got a hold of a water bottle. When the nurse picked it up, I could point out a straw that exited out the top. She brought herself closer to me and offered the bottle.
It’s warm… I thought as I drank from it.
“Oh, by the way, are you in a polygamous relationship?”
I pulled away from the straw and bewilderingly gaped at her. “What?”
“Sorry, never mind. That was rude of me.” She regretted, “It’s just, you have a group of girls waiting for you outside.”
Wait, a group? Weren’t Shiori and Miyake the only girls I had been with? Who else is there?
The nurse didn’t waste any time leaving the room, rendering me dumbfounded in the hospital bed. The noise cleared, with only the nearby clock above me ticking to help remind me how long a second was. The more clicks that came, the more knowledge of my current situation poured into me.
With nothing to keep me entertained in this blank, white, cold room, I brought my hand and started to touch my face. There were bandages and bumps that I could feel.
Oh, right. That happened.
“Ow.” I sighed.
“Toshirooo!” The silence shattered.
I darted over and watched the door burst open with a tall woman rushing inside. She had long black silky hair, and shades that didn’t allow me to spot her eyes. When we saw each other, she dashed at me and didn’t hesitate to embrace me.
“Toshiro! I was so worried! You look so bruised! Who did this to you?! I-I’ll file a lawsuit or something! I have the money! Are you okay?!”
“Yes, yes! I’m here! Don’t cry, baby, don’t cry! I’ll be right here! I’m not leaving!”
I’m not crying, though. I think you’re overreacting. Well, I like your hug, at least.
She brought herself back and set her hands on my shoulders. It was obvious that she was troubled, anxiously staring at me before sliding off her glasses and throwing them aside, revealing the vibrant purple eyes that we shared. There were some tears that were welled up in her eyes, ready to flow down any second.
“Who did it?! Tell me, tell me!”
“C-Calm down, will you?” I begged, startled.
“No! I won’t! I’m not letting it happen again! I’ll sue them like last time!”
“That’s not required.” I rejected her plea.
While my mom continued to scold and beg me, I peeked over her shoulder and caught a fuzzy sight of three girls.
“Is that his mom?” One asked.
“Mhm.” The other answered.
I couldn’t distinguish any of them, and before I could, one of them came inside and approached the rail beside me. She hovered her face close, helping me point out who it was.
“Ki-kun! Are you okay?! You didn’t tell me you had a fever!” Miyake exclaimed.
She was a mess, to be frank. Her hair was all frizzled with strands poking out as if she just electrocuted herself, and there was a large red spot on her left cheek that caused me to be uptight. Yet, she wasn’t bothered at all, just absorbed in my own well-being.
“That’s why you passed out!” She added.
I looked over, and saw my mom, who continued to stare worriedly at me.
“You could’ve just stayed home! You’re too careless, Toshiro!”
Even when my own mother was reprimanding me, I still couldn’t let out a fraction of attention. I became too preoccupied with the memories that trickled in my head when I began to form the pieces of how I ended up in a hospital. It left me burdened and demoralized when I heard myself say the words I expressed prior to passing out.
Shit. Now I’m going to start crying, huh?
I sucked my wimpy self back in by breathing in slowly and composing my body.
… I won’t cry. Not right now, anyway.
Miyake and my mom gave me an earful for the next fifteen minutes; fretting about my health, fever, why I shouldn’t have said so, and so on. At first, I was a little agitated, but as time went on, their insults became plainly verbose. They’d back off from my case after they saw my detachment from the conversation and just stood in exhaustion now.
“Wow. They’re really mad, aren’t they?” Someone whispered behind the two.
“Y-Yes.” Someone else added.
I looked over and saw Shiori, who clenched her handbag in her small hands with a troubled smile. Beside her, was some woman that I had never met, and I was stumped when I tried to identify her.
She looked like she was straight out of a spy movie: wearing a neat formal black suit and a tie. She had jet black hair, too, just like mine, and it reached down to her porcelain nape. Her eyes took the striking color of silver, just below her long eyelashes. Her hands were joined together in front of her hips, and she was present with a glum expression.
She was definitely the tallest woman in the room- just a few inches taller than me. I was one hundred and seventy-two inches in centimeters, and if I had to assume, the woman I was looking at was probably around one hundred and seventy-eight centimeters.
Spooky genes there, woman. I wish I was that tall.
She had to be an adult, especially with how mature she appeared.
“Oh. He’s looking at us, Kawahara-san…” Shiori pointed out.
Instantly, that stern look of the woman vanished in an instant, turning into a tense, and fretful look.
“Oh, shoot.” She blurted out. “Put your head down, Shiori-san!”
She grabbed Shiori's head and shoved it down just as she did with hers.
“My name is Kawahara Kamako! You can call me Kawaraha-san! I’m Shiori-san’s caretaker! I’m so, so sorry for what happened earlier, and I’m glad I got in time! Thank you for taking care of Shiori-san while I was gone!” She announced.
Shamed, I nodded.
Her gratitude didn’t feel deserved, because I knew that I wasn’t able to do a single thing about keeping Shiori safe. Rather, I was just an unnecessary being in that situation. I was embarrassed just being confronted about it.
“... What happened to the guys?” I finally questioned.
“The guys?” Kawahara looked up. “Oh, them? I sprayed their eyes with pepper spray, and beat each one to the ground while they screamed in agony.” She assured me.
My fear for this Kawahara girl became tenfold. How did she say that with such clarity? Is she some sort of psychopath? I feel like she’d break each bone in my body with just one move if I disrespected her in any way.
Just thinking about it sent chills down my spine. Her silver-crystal eyes seemed innocent and dainty, sure, but I had the feeling that it was just a pretense to hide what she could really do.
“Anyway, Shiori and I will be going now.” She lifted her head back up, “We were supposed to leave a while ago, but this whole thing happened.”
She fixed her posture and made a fist to hide her mouth when she coughed to clear her throat.
She raised her finger, “But before I leave, I shall give you something as a thank-you gift!”
She walked toward me and pulled out a white card from the chest pocket of her suit and provided it to me.
“Here! It’s my business card. Call me if anything wrong happens to you, or you need help. Got it?” She smiled. “It’s the least I can do to repay the favor.”
I took the card and looked at the number on it.
“Are you giving me your number?” I asked, flustered.
Oh, hey, a girl’s number. You see that, mom? I didn’t even have to ask for it. Hmph.
“Yes, and no.” She didn’t shy away from replying with a light-hearted: “I knew you were going to ask that, you still being a lustful teen and all, and I should hit you for asking such an immature question, but I refuse to do any more damage to your low-spirited confidence.”
Her grin only became heftier the more she added salt into her slashes to make the wounds worse.
“It’s my business card, Okumori-kun. My business card.”
I took her words in with acknowledgment.
I made a mistake, didn’t I? I’m sorry. Don’t hit me. Your smile scares me to my utter core. I’ll never say juvenile-like things ever again. Forgive me, Kawahara. I won’t say a word to you anymore. Also, how do you even know my name?
“Good!” She clasped her hands together in the air with a cherubic smile.
She then pointed at me and tilted her head to the side.
“Buuut~, if you call me for some dumb reason, like how horrible your love life is going, or just to call me because you’re bored, I’ll personally come over there myself and probably do something unspeakable to you. Mmkaay~?”
Do what, Kawahara?! Do what?! You’re just making me feel like I shouldn’t call you at all! There shouldn’t be a reason to give me your business number if that’s the case!
I gave Shiori a terrifying stare, but she only returned a smile that told me: “You’ll get used to it.”
“Okaaay! That solves it! Bye-bye, Okumori-kun!”
She then turned around, gripped Shiori’s shoulder, then led her out the door, all the while muttering and nagging Shiori murderously.
“What were you thinking, disappearing all of a sudden, huh? You’re an idol, Shiori-san, something bad might happen to you! Your parents would kill me if I all of a sudden reported you were gone! I had to run around the mall around thirty times just to find you getting grabbed by some perverted men! You should be happy I came in time!”
“Sorry, Kawahara-san… It’s just, I got scared, and ended up going with them.”
Kawahara sighed and rubbed her head.
“... Fine. But, let’s keep it a secret between us, hm? No one else needs to know what happened today…” Kawahara politely suggested.
Shiori nodded gladly, “Okay.”
What? Shiori isn’t scared of her at all!
After the two left, I turned to my right and saw that Miyake was the only person left in the room. With my mom not present to keep her in control, Miyake’s ferocity was in free reign, and it showed instantly.
Her face was alarmingly close to mine: so close that I could taste her breath and pinpoint my reflection in her irises. Scared, I jolted my head away.
She was bent over to me, both of her hands supporting her chin, and her elbows resting on the bed mattress. She had an attentive look, her orange eyes observing my bandaged face in curiosity mixed in with distress.
I groaned and pushed myself back up. “Where’s my mom at?” I asked, irritated.
“She went to talk to the doctors. It’s just us in this room for now.” She grinned.
I stopped and took a moment to consider her smugness.
“Go home, then,” I advised.
"What? No! Not yet, at least."
“There’s no reason for you to be here. Leave.”
“Whaddya’ mean? You’re injured, Ki-kun, of course, I should be here!”
… You just don’t give up, do you?
“... That’s a dumb excuse.”
If she thought that this excuse was good enough to sway me, then she’s wrong. I know who she is. I know how she acts. So, I won’t be fooled. It sickens me just engaging in a conversation with her.
“Really? What’s so dumb about it?”
No, I shouldn’t say it. Not now.
“... You’re weird, that’s why,” I mumbled.
“That’s it?!” She instantly exclaimed.
“You’re still so rude to me, even when you’re sick...” She howled. Then, her tone of voice suddenly changed and began talking in an informative-like voice now. “Oh, by the way, Kojima-kun couldn’t come. He said he needed to take care of the ice cream restaurant.”
Of course, he did. Well, it’s not like him being here would be any better.
“Disregarding that… I’m still mad that you didn’t tell me you had a fever! I could’ve just stayed home, Ki-kun!”
“... As I said, I didn’t know.” I fought back.
“That’s not a good enough excuse! You can tell that you have a fever as soon as you wake up!”
“Apparently those signs were ineffective to me, then.”
“Well, then pay more attention to it- Oh my god, wait… You’re talking so much...” She pointed. “Do you open up to people when you’re sick? Is it like how alcohol works?”
What? Where did that come from?
“N-No.” I tried to deny it.
But, the truth was, she was correct. In fact, it didn’t even cross my head that I had been talking this much. I had lowered my guard, and in return, was going to feel Miyake’s wrath of exhilaration that was soon to come.
“But, like, maybe if you get sick a lot you’ll talk more to me! Wait, what if you could just be like this forever? Having an actual conversation with you is super-duper rare! You haven’t talked to me this much since that time on the bench! It’s refreshing, you know? You should keep talking like this, I’d never get bored! I’d love to show Shiori-chan and the others what you’re like when you’re ill! I’m staying here! I want to talk to you forever! You know what? What do you think about the ice cream earlier today? I didn’t see you finish it at all! Did you throw it away? Did you eat it all? Also, you looked really cool when you charged those perverts! But, you fell and your face planted on the floor… But still! I thought you were going to do something cool! It doesn’t matter, though, because you’re fine! You definitely have the face of steel! I shall believe in you, Ki-kun! I can tell that you have devastating punches! It was surprising, though, because you came out of nowhere! It was like instinct! Do you really care for us that much? I like that side of you, Ki-kun! You’re a really nice person deep down, aren’t you? Are you a tsundere? You hate me, but you like me, don’t you? I can tell! I have good intuition like you said! I appreciate it! Now, I know what type of person you really are! Haha!”
"Huh? Ki-kun?! What's wrong? Say something! Should I get the nurse? The doctor? Tell me, tell me!" She leaned forwards.
I was under the impression that she only wanted to hear me talk, and had no genuine plans for getting help. I kept silent, not wanting to satisfy this eager attitude of hers any longer.
It pissed me off, though, thinking that she could fire her mouth at me with incessant chattering and expect me to answer all of them, or tease me and act like I actually have any proclivity for her, or brag about that she’s this ‘special’ person after hearing me talk for longer periods than usual.
It pisses the shit out of me.
So, to my best ability, I answer her thoughts.
“Hey, hey, did you want to go again? Because I really want to experience that date all over again-!”
“Shut up and listen, brat.”
“I said, listen. I didn’t attack those guys because of you, or anyone else there. And, I’m not a ‘tsundere,’ either. I just hate your guts. I’m not a nice person in the slightest, either. In fact, you don’t know me, so don’t say such repulsive things to me. The perception you have of me will only lead you to a darker path, you delusional shit.”
I took a deep breath and released the last of what I had desperately needed to say.
“Next, I’m not strong at all, so don’t say that I have “devastating punches,” or that I have a “face of steel.” This disgusting sight of me should prove that well enough. Your way of comforting me makes me outraged, and you fuel it the more you talk. I don’t ever want to hear you attempt to console me. Ever. Got it?”
… Wait, did I really just say all of that?
I zipped my mouth shut and turned to Miyake in humiliation. But, instead of seeing the pleased, gratified smile that was on her face earlier, I was met with a smile that reeked of anguish.
“Oh. I see.”
Her eyes were now closed, and her breathing oddly subsided. I watched her in silence, not knowing what I should do.
“I’ll be going now, then, Okumori-kun. I’m sorry if you ever thought that way.”
“No-” I tried to stop her.
She darted to the exit before I could even say anything and left the room.
But, it was too late, because she was already gone. The door that she had left swayed back and forth, with the wind flying inside my room and smacking my face as if it was angry at me. All I could do was just watch the door in shock.
“... I didn’t want to do that,” I muttered.
My mom then appeared from the doorway and looked at me in an offended yet bemused way.
“Toshiro, what was the reason for that?”
I stared at her blankly in response.
“I… Don’t know,” I responded.
She walked inside and shut the door behind her with a grunt, then approached me and took her seat right on my bed.
“It’s not right to do that.” She sharply said. “You’re sixteen, dammit, do I seriously have to teach you manners at this age?”
I aimed my eyes at my blanket and meekly nodded.
“Why do you push the most important people away in your life, Toshiro? Aren’t you only making it worse for yourself? What, do you think they can just spawn in and cradle you as if you were some sort of spoiled kid? Are you dumb?”
“I don’t know,” I said again.
“You don’t know? Then figure it out soon. Because I don’t want you to be disrespecting those who care for you.” She spat. “I know your hatred of people, but I can’t understand it. Why can’t I understand it, Toshiro? Tell me, what’s so satisfying about destroying people’s innocence?”
“... I don’t enjoy it.”
“You don’t enjoy it? Really? Then why are you doing it?”
I looked at her and saw that she had been red with anger. Her eyes were widened, and her eyebrows showed no mercy to me. At this point, I wouldn’t be shocked if she began to add some curse words to her attacks.
“You just don’t understand it, mom.”
“Damn right, I don’t understand it! You’re blaming your problems on others with this attitude you have, essentially! Miyake-chan doesn’t even know what happened to you. Not even in the slightest. And you think it’s right to bash her? For what? For what, Toshiro?!”
“Oh, just leave me alone, will you?!” I shouted now.
But even if I fight back, she’s right. For someone like me to be a hypocrite and deny her obviously accurate statements, I should be ashamed for it.
She dropped her head onto her hands and closed her eyes, clearly annoyed with me.
“I’ll ask you something, Toshiro. What’s the most hurtful thing a human can do unintentionally?”
She gave me a quick glance, took my silence into consideration, then looked away and stared ahead of her.
“I’ll tell you. It’s ignoring them. Ignoring their attempts of validation, or their presence, or even their love, any of it, hurts them to the very heart. That feeling that you’re not accepted by those around you, makes you feel very empty and lonely.”
She took a deep breath to recollect herself.
“Those are the relationships that never last. So you know what they resort to? They create pretenses, just so they can last a few more minutes with you. And when those pretenses are ignored, they create new ones, and when that isn’t feasible to use anymore, they just make another one. It’s a constant circle of problem-solving. Soon, they’ll just develop a phobia of doing irrational things, so they cling onto those fronts they’ve already created, using different ones for different people, so much so to the point that no one even knows if they’re somebody “real.” Not even themselves know it.”
She sighed, then faced me one more time with a solemn expression.
“So, what you just did, made her create a new personality. And that personality will probably only be for you. But you’ll probably shut it down again. You’ll destroy it because you don’t know any better.”
Her purple eyes gazed at me. Not in a glare, but not disappointingly, either. It was just a blank, empty stare, yet so readable. I could see each thing she was implying just from her eyes. It made me guilty just by returning that gaze back.
“The best truth to tell is the lie. That is what everyone believes in this world. That’s what Miyake-chan believes in.”
And, just like that, we both left for home. There were no words that left our mouths on the drive home, not even a glance at each other. All I could think of in this silent drive home was:
I myself am what I so heavily loathe. I’m no different than everybody else.