Chapter 9:

Best Friend

Second Chances

“Shin.”Bookmark here

I groaned.Bookmark here

“Shin.”Bookmark here

I groaned, again.Bookmark here

My mother pulled off my blanket, and opened the curtains. Day 2’s morning.Bookmark here

“You’re going to keep Chiaki waiting, again,” she said.Bookmark here

“I was worried about you two yesterday, you know,” she continued. “Your father called and he said the train was suddenly out of service, and you almost fell onto the tracks. Then he didn’t call for a few hours, then he showed up with you in a taxi. And you were already soundly sleeping. Your father had to carry you here.”Bookmark here

“Where’s him now?”Bookmark here

“Downstairs. Coffee.”Bookmark here

“You two are going out on a date today, right?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Don’t tease your mom,” she slapped my arm. “Did your father tell you about it?”Bookmark here

“Well… yes.”Bookmark here

“Well, we are planning to watch the 10:00AM movie. It should be about two hours long.” she paused at me. “But are you feeling sick or anything?”Bookmark here

“No,” I replied, as I stood up and pushed her to my door. “Don’t worry, and enjoy with dad. I’ll get ready and come down in a few minutes. Also, buy me some Hokkaido egg tarts on your way back.”Bookmark here

Then I shut my door.Bookmark here

I grabbed my watch and set the time, then I unlocked my phone and instantly texted Hideki. “We’re skipping school today.”Bookmark here

After a few minutes when I’m properly dressed, with my red scarf as well, I received a reply from Hideki. Well, replies. Weird reactions.Bookmark here

“Shin, are you having a fever?”
“You never skipped any class before.”
“Are you Shin?”
“What have you done to my Shin?!!!”
“GIVE HIM BACK!!!”Bookmark here

I texted him back. “It’s me. I have your Shin. If you want him, meet me in the cafe in front of your university at 9:00AM.”Bookmark here

“You REALLY have Shin!”
“WHO R U?”
“If I tell Chiaki, YOU’RE DEAD.”
“She will hunt you down, I tell you.”
“The last thing you see is RED.”Bookmark here

I texted him again. “Don’t tell Chiaki. She has other classes this morning. Yes. I know her routine. If you don’t want any harm to be done on Shin, shut up and comply with me.”Bookmark here

“I will comply.”
“Don’t harm him.”Bookmark here

I smiled. “Good. As long as you understand, Mr. Hideki.”Bookmark here

“I WILL GET HIM BACK.”Bookmark here

Then, I walked downstairs to have breakfast.Bookmark here

My father and I choked at the egg rolls. Too sweet.Bookmark here

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After saying ‘goodbye’, I left for the train station. Chiaki was already waiting.Bookmark here

She paused at my scarf. “You’re wearing it today, huh?”Bookmark here

“Of course, it’s warm.”Bookmark here

Her mouth edges widened, as she said in a low voice, “as long as you like it”, but loud enough to be heard by me.Bookmark here

I whispered to her, “You learnt, and made it after all.”Bookmark here

“S—Shut up!” she blushed, and walked a few steps faster than me to board the train.Bookmark here

Then, as usual, none of us said anything after a few minutes.Bookmark here

“So,” she said, scrolling the messages on her phone. “Are you skipping class today?”Bookmark here

She showed her phone in front of my face.Bookmark here

I took a look.Bookmark here

Sender: Hideki.
“HE’D BEEN KIDNAPPED!”Bookmark here

Then there was a few minutes gap.Bookmark here

“Shin just wanted to skip morning classes.”
“OK THEN. C U AT UNI.”Bookmark here

That idiot.Bookmark here

“So?” she continued to ask. “Why are you skipping?”Bookmark here

“Umm… nothing.” I said. “I just want to take some breaks from time to time. You know, sightseeing.”Bookmark here

“Today’s the last day of our semester though,” she said. “If you want, we can go tomorrow.”Bookmark here

“Nah… it’s ok. I’m only skipping the morning classes. I wanted to talk about something with Hideki.”Bookmark here

“Something?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, our project for the coming semester. I wanted to get some inputs from him, and check some historical places at the same time.”Bookmark here

“Oh,” she said. “Ok then. You’ll be joining the 12:30PM class, right?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, sure.”Bookmark here

“Then it’s fine,” she smiled.Bookmark here

After a few hours of the trip, we watched some funny videos Yui sent to her, and I listened to her sharing with me the magnificent tales of the Twelve Olympians that she learnt recently. Her eyes would always look like they are sparkling, when she’s excitingly sharing these tales. I would only look at her lively expression, and nod, without any intention to interrupt her.Bookmark here

After she finished on the third Olympian, we reached our stop.Bookmark here

I waved ‘goodbye’ to her in front of our university’s entrance gate, and was already on my way to the cafe.Bookmark here

“Ouch!” Hideki shout, as I smacked his back.Bookmark here

“I told you not to tell Chiaki, didn’t I?”Bookmark here

“But I’d already told her before you said so,” he complained with a pout on his face.Bookmark here

“Fine,” I said. “Have you had breakfast?”Bookmark here

“No,” he said. “I rushed here. Wait a bit, let me grab some rice balls from the convenience store.”Bookmark here

“No,” I replied.Bookmark here

I let out a sigh. “I’ll buy you breakfast, let’s go into the cafe.”Bookmark here

He looked stunned. “YOU! What have you done to Shin?!”Bookmark here

He started to shake my shoulders. “Be gone, demons! Be gone!”Bookmark here

I held his arms back. “Shut up, stop drawing attention to us.”Bookmark here

A few girls, probably from the same university, giggled as they walked past us.Bookmark here

“You’re going to keep adding embarrassing moments into my university life, don’t you?”Bookmark here

“Your what now?” he said. “It’s OURS. OUR university life.”Bookmark here

“Fine, fine,” I said. “Just get inside already.”Bookmark here

“Fine, fine,” he replied, wrapping his arm around my shoulder and dragging me in.Bookmark here

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After two sets of breakfast, I was already too full to walk around. But after a few minutes’ walk, we arrived at a souvenir shop in front of a cinema. The cinema.Bookmark here

The souvenir shop is actually selling more than just souvenirs, but also a lot of trendy things that girls of our age are attracted to: trendy sneakers, facial sets, sunglasses, clothes of all kinds, and just about everything that you can choose a gift from.Bookmark here

“Necklace, for Chiaki?” Hideki asked, as he saw me stopping in front of this shop.Bookmark here

I looked at my watch.Bookmark here

10:00AM.Bookmark here

There’s still time.Bookmark here

“Let’s go for some browsing,” I said.Bookmark here

After some wandering around, I found the necklace section, along with other accessories. I looked through each different pattern that these necklaces offer.Bookmark here

I found one, a necklace with a sunflower shaped pendant, which can be opened and has a small space inside to put a picture in. The girls that were choosing some earrings beside us giggled at my choice.Bookmark here

Would Chiaki have liked this, just like any other girl? Does it look… lame? Old-fashioned, maybe? Maybe she would have preferred a book, or a scarf… She always said she didn’t need anything and that she had everything she needed already. But, for once, I really just wanted… to buy her something, to buy something just for her. Something, that would put a smile on her face.Bookmark here

The girls giggled again.Bookmark here

“HEY!” Hideki slammed the shelf behind me.Bookmark here

“You’re buying this for your girlfriend, right?” he said, loudly, silencing the girls.Bookmark here

“No one knows Chiaki more than you do,” he continued. “So don’t care about others. Care about her. About what you think she will like.”Bookmark here

“That’s what gifts are for, right?” he heightened his voice again. The girls frowned at him, and left to the counter.Bookmark here

I chuckled. “Luckily I brought you with me.”Bookmark here

“What are you saying? I’ve always got your back.” Hideki said.Bookmark here

And then we both laughed, loud enough for the people around our area to stare at us.Bookmark here

“This one it is then,” I said to myself, taking it off the display.Bookmark here

“Done?” Hideki asked, peeking into my final choice. “The girls were right, it looks a bit old.”Bookmark here

I elbowed his stomach. “Shut up.”Bookmark here

Is this the right choice? There’s a bookstore nearby, maybe I should…Bookmark here

I looked at my watch.Bookmark here

11:25AM.Bookmark here

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Taking the gift that I’d chosen, Hideki and I sat on WcDonald’s which was just a few shops away from the souvenir shop, on the opposite street from the cinema. I chose the window’s seat, just enough for me to cover the whole area in front of the cinema.Bookmark here

“There was dust everywhere in that book shop, you know?” Hideki said, slurping his soft drink. “And you stayed for like an hour. No one but us, in that old book shop, for an entire hour!”Bookmark here

He slurped again. “I don’t know why it hasn’t been closed yet.”Bookmark here

I smiled at him. Even though he ranted about it, he still chose to stay with me during the one hour, and picked some books to read on.Bookmark here

“What are you grinning at?” he asked. “Are you into men too?”Bookmark here

He swiped his hair up and coughed, “You’re a good guy, Shin. But, sorry. I don’t go that way.”Bookmark here

I threw the paper wraps of my burger at him. “I’ve already got someone I like.”Bookmark here

He swiped his hair up again, as he put his palm out to me. “I’ve already told you, Shin. I don’t go that way.”Bookmark here

“Shut up.”Bookmark here

I looked at his hair again. That day at the cafeteria, there were some small leaves in between his hair.Bookmark here

“What were you doing that day?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Which day?” he asked me back, only starting to stuff his mouth with the deluxe cheeseburger.Bookmark here

“The day you vomited in front of the whole cafeteria.”Bookmark here

He paused. “Shin, I’m eating here.”Bookmark here

“I know. So, what happened?”Bookmark here

He gulped down the bite in his mouth. “You know our university’s gardener, that Korean old guy?”Bookmark here

“Mr. Chu, yeah.”Bookmark here

“Well, I was sleeping under a tree that day, when he put a ladder sort of thing nearby the other tree. He climbed up the ladder, and with a.. a…”Bookmark here

Hideki paused, and began to make random hand motions. “The… ummm… what is it called again? Those things with long ends, and at edge, it has this curly sharp blade on it. Like what the Grim Reaper carried.”Bookmark here

I paused. “Scythe.”Bookmark here

“Yes, that.”Bookmark here

He slurped his drink again. “So, as I was saying, Mr. Chu was cutting down these small branches one by one you know, and the whole ladder he climbed on looked unstable the more he extended his hand out. But he didn’t realize this. Because he was wearing earphones, so he didn’t know how shaky the ladder actually is.”Bookmark here

He continued, “I got worried, and offered to hold the ladder steady for him. Then, it repeated for 10 more trees. 10, Shin. TEN!”Bookmark here

He took another bite out of his burger. “Yeah, so I was quite tired already that day when I was eating the ribs. I didn’t pay too much attention to my surroundings when a girl accidentally elbowed me as she walked, and I choked.”Bookmark here

“So, that’s what happened, huh?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, were you expecting something else?”Bookmark here

“No… just curious, that’s all. You are my best friend, after all.”Bookmark here

“… What did you just say?”Bookmark here

“Nothing.”Bookmark here

“I heard it. I HEARD IT!” he stood up, with a proud smile on his face, like Columbus who had made the land discovery.Bookmark here

“Shut up, sit down.”Bookmark here


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