Chapter 6:

Seeing Red

The Fall of Prince Hayashi

The train to Kumano came to the platform five minutes after I brought my ticket. If I came by any later, I would have had to wait an hour for the next train. I took a seat in the far corner of the train cart closest to me, as everyone else swarmed in and took their place. Most people were stuck standing on the train while the lucky few with seat were enjoying the small break they had from running around. Kumano was the last station of this train, so I tucked myself into my seat and ate away at the lunch box Mom gave me.
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The hours passed by like minutes, as I slept through most of the trip. More people started to leave the train then enter it, as we moved farther and farther away from Onomichi. There were others on the train planning to head to Kumano too. Except I didn’t feel a need to talk with any of them. If they were from Kumano, either they were old or they were annoying. Everyone from that town was either or.. Bookmark here

Once the train was almost completely empty except a couple of people, I decided to take a seat near a window and let myself be consumed with sleep until we reached Kumano. I needed to sleep now so when we arrived at night I could be half-conscious. Bookmark here

I probably won’t be able to sleep well in Kumano anyways. Bookmark here

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“Last stop: Kumano Edge Station…”Bookmark here

Kumano? My eyes strained open to take a look around me. What time was it? Bookmark here

“If you miss this station, you will be heading back to Onomichi. Hope you have enjoyed your trip on the Kumano bound train.” Bookmark here

Where was my phone? I fished for it in my front pocket and let out a sigh when I found it safe in there. If someone actually stole it, I would have looked like an idiot. I pulled it out and tapped the screen lightly. Oh. It was 1am right now. I’ve been on the train for over half the day. So I’ve slept the whole day away on the train, without battering an eye. Bookmark here

Like sleeping the whole day isn’t normal for me. Bookmark here

Did I have all of my money? Leaning forward, I swung my backpack off and unzipped it. To my relief, I was once again assured that no one robbed me in my deep sleep. I had all my money, I had my phone, and I doubted that anyone would steal the photo of a dead person from me in my sleep. So I was all set to arrive in Kumano. Bookmark here

I wanted to go back to sleep, opening my eyes the moment we arrived at the station with a refreshing sense of ease. Like I was actually arriving at my dream vacation, with no worries in my mind except finding things to do around here. Yet, I had this feeling of numbness around me. It made me feel on edge, like moving an inch would cause the train to collapse at my feet. We were inching closer to a place I ran away from on purpose. It felt as though I put my head in an sleeping alligator’s mouth. Once the train came to a rushing halt the moment we all arrived. I had a funny feeling that the alligator would snap it’s teeth shut on my-Bookmark here

“Oi, mister.” Bookmark here

Mister? How old do I look? Thirty? Bookmark here

That voice was coming from my side, and I turned to be greeted by a stranger sitting next to me. There was a guy my age, with artificial red hair that looked like chili flakes. His eyes were a hazel brown and his face rocked a small piercing near his nose. If his appearance wasn’t the most shocking thing about him, it had to be the cards in his hands. This stranger was shuffling cards in one hand, like a professional poker player. The cards all disappeared into each other so smoothly that I couldn’t help but stare at his hands to try to find a flaw in his technique. Bookmark here

The strange man caught me staring at his hands and stopped shuffling, snapping his free hand in my face. “Oi Mister? I asked you something? Did you hear me?” Bookmark here

My attention snapped back up to the man’s face and I put on a smile. Based off his appearance and attitude, this guy was not someone you wanted to make mad. “Nope, I didn’t hear you sadly. It’s rather late at night and I’m-”Bookmark here

The stranger leaned back and kicked his legs up on my suitcase. His eyes focused on his hands as he let out a sigh. “You’re not from this place are you Mister?” Bookmark here

I froze. “What do you mean by-”Bookmark here

“I know everyone on this train cart,” he said, looking around the room. “I’ve never seen you before, and I ride this train everyday.” Bookmark here

Now that I think about it, I saw this guy board the train a few stops earlier. He was sitting near the front of the cart, with a group of guys near him. Looking over my shoulder I found the same group he was with now fast asleep. Did he notice me back when he first boarded? Or was it only as we got closer to Kumano that he started to wonder who I was? I doubt that someone who looked like this would have the brain capacity to even think that far ahead. He was probably just bored and looking for someone new to mess around with.
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I smiled and moved my suitcase away from under his feet causing his feet to fall to the floor “You got that right. I’m from the Corner Onomichi Station.” Bookmark here

“Onomichi?” he said, regaining his composure. “How cool…”Bookmark here

Cool, was that all he had to say? Cool? Bookmark here

Wait...if he is near my age, maybe I could recognize him? At the very least, he must have known about Hayashi since we all seemed to be the same age group. Even graduates were envious of Hayashi because of how popular he was. I should ask him, then I’d get a head start on my mission. The curious words floated in my mouth but before anything could come out my throat went dry. Hayashi….wouldn’t have really known this person. On top of that, I seemed to remember that artificial red hair from somewhere. Bookmark here

The stranger chuckled. “You’re definitely not from here. Or you would have known not to sit next to Old Baldie.” Bookmark here

Old Baldie? I turned my head towards the old man next to me, who was actually completely bald. Since when was Old Baldie sitting next to me? Since when was this stranger next to me? This poor man’s head radiated light, even in the dark of night we were surrounded in. Bookmark here

Dear God, I hope I never end up like that. That’s my only request in life. Bookmark here

“What’s wrong with sitting next to him?” I asked. Bookmark here

“Old Baldie drools in his sleep,” the stranger chuckled. “He even has a habit of slapping people in his dreams. I know that bit from personal experience.” Bookmark here

Personal experience? Why did this stranger seem so familiar? “I’m sorry, but what’s your name?” I asked. “I didn’t catch it ea-”Bookmark here

“My friends call me Red,” Red held out his hand, a four red hearts card tucked in his fingers. “It’s something that stuck on me from high school.” Bookmark here

Red….The Red Ranger…..this was the Red Ranger. Bookmark here

A stressed laugh left my body before I could stop it, and Red pulled in his hand almost immediately. Red….This was all too much for 1am in the morning. This guys must have been the same Red from high school. Red Ranger aka Koki Kageyama, one of the upperclassmen who would bully me after school on Fridays. Bookmark here

Now, since I was a wimp in my childhood, almost everyone got their chance to pick on me. The grade took their anger out on me and this infection of hate soon spread around the whole school. If Hayashi was loved by everyone, I was the villain everyone hated. People let out their anger at life, school, and home on me every day of my life. I was a creep who deserved hate in their eyes and the fact that I had no backbone didn’t help either. Red wasn’t the biggest bully I had back then. He was just a person a year older who loved to torture underclassmen. He was the person responsible for constantly throwing my books out the window. And throwing my lunch in the trash. And my coat in the pool. Bookmark here

Sure had a knack for throwing my stuff all around the school. Bookmark here

Red pulled himself away from me, his face twisted in confusion. “You’re a weird guy, just chuckling and coming to Kumano at night. What the hell are you doing in a town like this one?” Bookmark here

With all the courage in my stomach, I pulled myself together and flashed a big smile. He didn’t recognize me. He couldn’t tell that the kid he bullied for years on end was sitting in front of him, with a plan in mind. Oh this poor idiot. Red was never a smart guy. He stuck out like a sore thumb when it came to academics, so he thought that being a douchebag might help his case. My smile grew larger as I ran a hand in my hair. Revenge isn’t something that people should hunt down for, yet this time it felt like I was being handed the opportunity on a golden platter.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry, the night has that effect on me,” I whispered, poison laced in my words. “You see, I’m in Kumano because my boss used to live here. His name was Souta Fujiwara,” Bookmark here

I felt the wheels turning in Red’s head. I let out a soft chuckle. “You remember him right?” Bookmark here

Red’s eyes widened as he raised his finger, pointing it directly at my face. “Fujiwara? I remember that guy! He was such a creep when we were younger,” Red shivered like the memory brought him pain. “I feel kinda bad for everything I did though. I should have taken him under my wing an-”Bookmark here

“Souta Fujiwara doesn't need your help,” The ice in my tone was too cold. Relax. I took in a deep breath. “Actually...he sent me here on a secret business trip. He’s a successful business man you see. So he wanted me to find a place for his new store.” Bookmark here

Red lowered his finger and stared at the space in front of him. “A successful business man huh...I never would have expected that-” Bookmark here

“Fujiwara Sensei feels bad for the poor people in this town so he’s looking to bulldoze a couple of buildings,” I could feel Red’s fear grow as I continued to speak. “It would start at the Kageyama residence and end at the Kumano Edge high school.”Bookmark here

“Oi, what are you saying? That’s my!-”Bookmark here

“Then he’ll put up factories for our company to expand to making shoes,” I slid my hand down into my pockets. “I hope you like making shoes Red. It’s not a horrible business actually.” Bookmark here

Suddenly, Red grabbed my shirt and pulled me out of my seat. I looked him in the eyes and found myself filling with joy. Red was in despair. He was crying because he really thought that the kid he used to call pathetic was a millionaire and was on his way for revenge. The best part was that Red could do nothing to me. I wasn’t a small kid anymore, hiding in the classroom during lunch. I was an adult, minding my own business and telling him a simple lie. If Koki raised his hand on me, he would be the only person to suffer in the long run. Bookmark here

“What the hell is going through that rat’s mind?” Red asked, pulling me higher up by my collar. “Tell me now!” Bookmark here

The people on the bus were starting to wake up thanks to Red’s commotion, all witnesses to what was happening at this very moment. Bookmark here

“Sorry, sir. I cannot disclose any more information than that,” I pushed Red away from me, dropping back down onto the floor. Bookmark here

“Koki! What the hell are you doing?” Bookmark here

The group of people earlier surrounded Koki Kageyama the moment I made space between the both of us. Red’s face matched his namesake at this point, his face turning the same color as plums. There must have been steam emitting from his ears at this point, eyes glaring darts in my direction. Bookmark here

“Are you serious Kageyama?!” One person shouted.Bookmark here

“You need to keep your hands to yourself Koki!”Bookmark here

His friends were really giving him a mouthful on behaving on the train. I fixed up my shirt collar, the one that Red ruined by grabbing out of nowhere. Bookmark here

If I was an actual rich businessman, then maybe my words would be true. That this small useless town in the edge of Kumano would be dust. Every person here was an observer to my bullying and yet they all did nothing. No one dared to go against the system to help me. Even Hayashi couldn’t bring himself to care in real life. His smiling face online seemed to disappear when it came to school the next day. It always seemed like he was a completely different person, like he was hiding his face behind a mask. Did he ever care? Or was I stuck with this false image of Hayashi forever because of his death? Bookmark here

The screech of the train wheels coming to a halt echoed in the air. Everyone else who was somehow still asleep in the cart woke up in the matter of seconds. To them all, this train ride was free nap time. Till the train reached the station at least. The group of Red’s friends dragged him back to where they all were sitting near the front of the cart. He looked like a puppy who was scolded for dragging mud through the house. If he wasn’t such a horrible person, I might have felt bad for how defeated he looked. Bookmark here

I looked out the window behind me and saw the familiar platform from my past. That day we left, I swore to never come back. Crawling out of the hell hole this town was made me feel so light for a moment. I kissed the platform goodbye that day, with a false sense of moving on. Then, once I sat in my new room, reality hit me. I was gone from Kumano physically, yet my mind was stuck replaying the hell the students berated onto me every day. I tried to distract myself by working and going to my new high school, Nonetheless, Kumano had marked me as it’s loser forever. The memories from this place were never gone. The pain of everything was never gone. Bookmark here

Who would have thought that all because of Hayashi, I’m back here. Bookmark here

The train came to a complete halt as the doors swung open. Red and his friends were the first people to get up, which wasn’t a surprise to me at all. They were hoping that putting space between the ticking time bomb that Red was and me would prevent an explosion of anger. Koki “Red” Kageyama. What would he do when he gets off the train? Something stupid, like go kicking some cans as he walked home. All to ‘let off some steam’. Something that all temperamental high school kids do. Seems like even the passage of time can’t break some people free of their idiocy. Red turned to face me, like he could hear my thoughts. Might as well put an end to this performance. Who knows when I’ll see someone as gullible as him ever again. I got up from my seat and made my way to Red, standing right in front of his face. Bookmark here

“It seems like I’m taller than you,” I beamed at him. “How fascinating.” Bookmark here

Red shoved his hands in his pockets, the cards he played with earlier gone. He leaned in close to my face and bared his teeth. “I don’t know what Fujiwara is planning on doing to Kumano, but tell him to piss off.” Bookmark here

I was going to lose my sanity if I kept talking to this waste of space. “Oh of course, we’ll make sure to start demolition as soon as possible sir.”Bookmark here

Author Notes from Zen: Bookmark here

Hello everyone!  Once July is over in order to complete the story in time I might be adding another day to the update schedule (most likely Wednesdays). Which day would you guys prefer with Monday and Thursday?Bookmark here

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