Chapter 4:

Decisions, Decisions

The Fall of Prince Hayashi

Hello everyone again! I'm so sorry I didn't publish yesterday. I was fasting and got a little sick so updating completely left my mind. I know this is the second time this has happened but fear not! I put on an alarm to remind me to update now :) it should be near 12:00 pm PDT so make sure to check at that time! Bye and thank you for reading!

My parents were super worried about the fact that I was stuck in my room for a week. My father had a harsh way of showing his worry, meanwhile my Mom showed her care through food. They both knew better than to knock on my door and force me outside. They had already tried that in our old home and I took that as a challenge. To see how long I could stay out of the worlds sight before someone truly called for me besides my parents. After all this time, my parents learned that the thing I usually needed was space and a good meal awaiting me in the fridge.

I left my bedroom at the ripe time of 10am the next morning, my face washed and shaved clean. My parents were sitting in the kitchen, my father probably reading the daily newspaper. They weren’t expecting me to be outside my room, nonetheless, up and ready to face the world at 10am.

The sun was bright this early in the morning, as each room shone a light shade of yellow. Mom made my dad some rice earlier in the morning and he was sitting at the head of the table, eating his meal in silence. He was reading the newspaper for today that the mailboy always dropped off. Meanwhile, Mom was toasting up some bread for herself. My heart warmed when I saw that she set up my place on the table, although there were no signs of me eating breakfast.

At least, not until she sees me hiding in the hallways.

If I stood here all morning my parents would never notice. They were so absorbed in their own worlds, the ones they created whenever I fell down on my knees. Since they couldn’t help me, they decided to just move on with their lives. Like I was never born, or like I was never that important.

Stop it stupid. Get to the table and then sulk.

Taking in a deep breath, I tiptoed my way to the breakfast table. I sat at the other head of the small table, while my mom and father sat down on the other end. They acted like my entrance was nothing special, eating their food in silence. Yet, Mom was clearly watching me through the corner of her eye and father was sighing quite a lot compared to earlier. I felt a odd smile creep onto my face as I grabbed two bread slices. Look at them. Trying so hard to be ‘casual’ when they were actually thanking God that I was out of my room.

I took in a deep breath. “Good morning Mom, Dad.”

Mom smiled. “Good morning Souta.”

“Morning,” Dad muttered, eyes still not dropping from the newspaper.

I grabbed the chocolate spread and brought it closer to me. My mom brought this for me after I told her I hated traditional Japanese breakfasts. That I wanted toast and eggs, like in all the shows I watched when I was younger. Of course, I told her that back in middle school. Still, the non-traditional breakfasts stuck, to the point where rice in the morning felt wrong. I spread the chocolate over two slices of bread, my mouth watering at the thought of digging into something sweet.

Aren’t you forgetting something Souta? The reason you’re here on the table?

I dropped the chocolate covered knife back into the container and concentrated on my slices of bread. “I’m going to Kumano for the rest of the month.”

My mother stopped what she was doing and looked up at me. Her face dropped, as if her good mood was ruined the instant I mentioned Kumano. Dad on the other hand, chose the dramatics and dropped his newspaper completely, slowly turning his head towards me. He would have been a great actor if he wasn’t busy working a nine to five job.

“Kumano?” My Dad said, fury washing over his eyes. “Didn’t we move away from there?”

“Yes,” I said. “That’s the old town we lived in.”

“And you want to go back?”

“Yep, for vacation.”

Father’s anger seemed to take a nose dive, as he shook his head. “Vacation he says. Vacation.”

Dad picked up his cup of tea and took a sip, the room dead silent besides our breathing. I was waiting for his response. Mom was waiting for father to decide. And father was waiting for his brain to finally make a decision on what I just said.

“It’s with my own money. I’m just going for a month,” I said, grabbing a cup of tea in front of me. “ I’ll be back for university-”

There was a sudden clank that broke the cycle of silence we were battling. It was Dad’s teacup, hitting the saucer on the table.

“Fine, I’ll let you go,” Dad said. “Since you’re a grown man, I can’t really stop you anyways.”

My mom and I both let out a sigh in relief. Mom was glad that I wasn’t disappointed and I was glad that father didn’t throw me out the window for such a odd request. I was able to go to Kumano. I didn’t know whether to feel happy or angered, but there was a sense of satisfaction. Like I was moving towards the truth versus running away from it. Mom went back to eating breakfast, her face shinning in happiness. It was nice that she was happy, but why was she so stressed anyways? She had no clue why I was going back to Kumano or if I was being honest and actually going to vacation.

Vacation? Yep, you would definitely vacation in the same hell that tortured you for most of your youth.

“I’ll call you every weekend Mom, but if I can’t please don’t freak out,” I said.

Mom took a sip of her tea and then put the cup down. “I know you will Souta. You always uphold your promises.”

Something in me wanted to tell her that I was going for a reason. That it was all because I needed answers about everything I had learned earlier that week. I need to know more about Hayashi. My dear friend whom I failed. If anyone else were to tell me even the smallest insight on why, I’ll be satisfied. That something inside me was itching for a reason and until I could resolve that itch I would never move on.

They...they would never understand me. Even if I explained it.

Sometimes, older people had a habit of pulling a blind eye on things they didn’t like.

Our family ate the rest of our breakfast in silence. I didn’t bother eating that much, since I had cold soba at 2am and was already really full. But to please my parents, I ate my two slices and drank a full cup of tea. Dad picked his newspaper back up, a sign that he wasn’t going to talk any more for the rest of the day. I knew he was curious on what a university student was going to do alone for a whole month in a small town. He guess was that I was probably going to go mess around. By messing around, my father thought of three things: girls, drugs, and crime. As much as my father would have loved a fiery and lively son, he had me.

A sad homebody.

After the last slice of bread was devoured, I decided it was time to leave the table. I had done what I intended and my parents were rather boring to hand out with for more than thirty minutes. I pushed myself out of my chair and made my way to the fridge. I was really craving some coffee right now. The sickly sweet kind that made me jittery for hours. I don’t think I saw any in the fridge last night, yet I still hoped that someone brought some home. I opened the ridge and to no ones surprise, there was no coffee. We were truly tea people. Not even the sign of a coffee bean left in the house. I would have to visit the convenience store later. Right now though, I had something a little more urgent than coffee hanging above my head.

I needed to pack today if I wanted to arrive at Kumano tomorrow. From the moment I woke up last night till 10am, I was busy planning out how to get to Kumano and where to stay. I found the quickest path was, unsurprisingly, the train from Onomichi to Kumano. As for a place to stay, I found a rather empty apartment complex where the landlord was desperate for any inhabitants. I spoke to them over email, explaining that I would only be staying for a month in so said apartment. Nonetheless, the landlord seemed to be beyond grateful that anyone was stepping foot into that building.

After all, who the hell would want to waste their lives in a stinky town like that one?

Taking my head out the fridge, I turned back to the table and caught my Mom’s attention. “Mom, do you have any suitcases?”

Mom swallowed her food and nodded. “...The suitcases? Yes, their in our room, in the closet. Remember the red one, that one should be in there.”

“Got it.”

A shining red suitcase is easy to find ina house full of grey and brown. Heading towards my parents room, I opened the door and took a look around. Our whole house was small for what it was worth, and my parents had the honors of the largest room. The huge bed laid in the center of the room, nice and tidy after my Mom made it early in the morning. On the wall opposite of the bed was a photo wall. Some of the photos were from a time before I was born (or even a thought in my parent’s head). Then, the barrage of photos of me as a baby. Me as a toddler was scattered around every now and then, but after the age of eight, the wall seemed to stop keeping count.

The suitcase. I was here for the suitcase. Not some trip down horrible memory lane. Mom said it would be in the closet. The closet was large and the moment I swung the door open, I was greeted with a ruby red suitcase. It had small strawberries all over it in a more pinker shade of red, as a stark contrast with the vibrancy of the case itself. It wasn’t a huge suitcase, but it was slightly larger than a carry on case. Kind of the perfect train traveling size. I rolled the suitcase out of the closet and turned it around on its wheel. The suitcase moved around so smoothly, like it was gliding on butter rather than the old, scratched up floor. Satisfied, I gave the top of the ruby red case a slap on top, wheeling it back to my room.

This was the suitcase I used to pack my stuff moving into this home. My parents were scrambling to move out of this house before the next week started and they decided to let me pack what I wanted. It might have been based off the fact that they were worried any traces from my past could cause another meltdown, so they wanted me to bring what I liked and most importantly, leave behind what I didn’t. In essence, it was a way to let me choose what parts of my old life I connected with. That one week was so blurry to me. Everything felt like a fever dream, except I didn’t know if it was for a good reason or for a bad one. All I knew was that this shiny red suitcase needed to be filled.

My old room was small but back then I was smaller too. The walls were a sickening color of dark blue and my room was covered in posters and dust. I kept the most basic things I owned. Like shirts, games, books, awards. But a lot more of my room ended up in the trash pile than the keep pile. The suitcase was barely filled by the time scavenging through my room was over. Although they saw how much of their own money was going into the trash, my mom must have forced my dad to keep shut.

The red suitcase was one thing that I loved back then. Because it had something ten times more valuable than anything I had in my small room: hope. I was finally leaving everything behind me, getting another chance to grow into the person I’ve always wanted to be. Moving on from everything. Another opportunity hidden in a red suitcase.

And now, this suitcase was helping me go back to the past.

I went back to my room and dropped the suitcase on the floor. My room was bigger than the small cramped up one in our old apartment. The walls were a light shade of gray and were finally free of posters. As an adult with my own money, I brought things that I actually loved and kept them here in my room. Shirts that spoke to me. Décor that seemed nice enough. Yet all this value meant it was ten times harder to pack.

First, the necessities like a toothbrush and a comb. I searched up a list of things you should bring on a trip and put it up on my laptop. Then, I packed anything that would help me in my search. That meant my trusty laptop was coming with me, and some high school stuff that my parents forced me to keep. Things that would help me remember those days I shoved to the back of my mind. Photos really did speak a thousands words and in this case, these photo could tell me the truth.

The last thing I needed to bring with me was something that my parents had never seen before. It wasn’t a horrible thing, nor was it something that could get me in trouble. It was a small mini portrait photo of Hayashi. The photo was the size of a photocard, small enough to hide anywhere you wanted to hide it. In the photo, Hayashi was smiling at the camera, his face genuinely showing happiness. That was a rarity in of itself and to catch it on film was almost impossible. Yet here it was, in the tips of my fingers. Kota Hayashi’s only genuine photo.