Chapter 11:

Our Last Party

Second Chances

After my mother triple checked that I’m fine, she and my dad left to spend the rest of their day sightseeing other places. That is, of course, after I kept insisting them to. But my father insisted that he drive us to Hideki’s place, before we went our separate ways.Bookmark here

So I took up his offer, and also sent Hideki’s home address to Chiaki.Bookmark here

“My home has nothing, Shin,” Hideki said, as we both stood on his doorsteps.Bookmark here

“This is bad. We need to buy and prepare some food before she arrives.” he scanned the touch pad in front of his door with his key card. Inside this old apartment with only two floors, his room is the second one, after we walked up the stairs.Bookmark here

“Oh, I forgot to mention that Yui is coming later too.” I said, as he invited me in.Bookmark here

“Who’s Yui?”Bookmark here

“Chiaki’s friend.”Bookmark here

“Does she have… you know…”Bookmark here

“She doesn't have a boyfriend, I think. And she can be a bit clumsy.”Bookmark here

Hideki instantly put his hands on my shoulder. “One more thing I need to confirm.”Bookmark here

“I would say they are… more or less on par with Sakura's.”Bookmark here

He immediately stood up. “Say no more, Shin. Go to the convenience store and buy some food back. I’ll clean up this room. Hurry now, we must not make the girls wait!”Bookmark here

Before I could get a closer look on his room, he already pushed me out to the corridor.Bookmark here

“You saw that convenience store in the car, right? Go there! 10 minutes, Shin! Fast!” he yelled on the other side of the door.Bookmark here

“Fine!” I yelled back.Bookmark here

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Roughly 15 minutes later, I returned with bags of instant foods, some beverages, and some snacks. I knocked on the door.Bookmark here

“I don’t want to buy anything, try next door!” Hideki shouted from inside.Bookmark here

I sneezed. It’s cold.Bookmark here

“Damn it Hideki,” I said. “Open now or I’ll leave with the food.”Bookmark here

“No, Shin, wait—” I heard his footsteps rushing towards the door.Bookmark here

After a few seconds, the door clicked and unlocked by itself.Bookmark here

“Thanks for having me over,” I said, as I put the food on his kitchen table.Bookmark here

He searched through the foods, and immediately took out the instant ramens and a few packs of tofu.Bookmark here

“Shin… what are these?” he asked, showing me the ramen.Bookmark here

“Ramen.”Bookmark here

“Why?” he asked.Bookmark here

“Don’t we have these at parties?”Bookmark here

“NO!”Bookmark here

“Oh,” I said. “My bad.”Bookmark here

I looked at the clock on top of his television.Bookmark here

1:30PM.Bookmark here

“But I think they haven’t had lunch yet, right? So, we might as well make a hearty lunch.”Bookmark here

He paused at me for a while. “You know what? You’re right. Let’s get cooking.”Bookmark here

He put on his apron and started to wash some carrots from his fridge, and started to boil water.Bookmark here

“Wait, can you actually cook?” I asked, I think I only saw plastic packages of bento inside his rubbish bin.Bookmark here

“Yes, of course I can cook,” he peeled the skin off the carrot, and started to slice the cylindrical tofu in a few pieces. “I just don’t do it because I’m too lazy too.”Bookmark here

“Wear that apron,” he said. “You’re going to be helping too.”Bookmark here

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After 30 minutes or so, the bell rang.Bookmark here

They’re here.Bookmark here

“They’re here,” Hideki said. “Don’t panic, we are ready. Are we ready? Yes, of course. We’re ready.”Bookmark here

I unlocked the door for them, ignoring Hideki’s mumbles.Bookmark here

“Welcome in, ladies.” I said.Bookmark here

Chiaki and Yui were both stunned at first, but then they chuckled at my apron.Bookmark here

“Thanks for having us,” they said to Hideki and I.Bookmark here

“Sure, sure,” Hideki replied, and he pulled me to him.Bookmark here

“Shin, you did not lie to me,” he looked at Yui.Bookmark here

“Of course not. Why are you nervous?”Bookmark here

“This is the first time any girl has ever come into my home, plus, this Yui girl has a strange aura on her,” he whispered to me.Bookmark here

Right, he’d been living alone ever since he came to this university.Bookmark here

“What do I do?” he asked, after I did not reply to him. “What do I do?”Bookmark here

“Act natural and you’ll be fine,” I said. “Those magazines though… have you hidden them?”Bookmark here

“Of course. That was the first thing I did.”Bookmark here

“Oh… so many guests you’re having here today,” said an old woman, suddenly standing in front of the door which we had not closed yet. She’s holding a pot of udon.Bookmark here

“Mrs. Yui!” Hideki called out. “What are you doing out here in this cold?”Bookmark here

“Oh, I just wanted to thank you for helping me last time. We had some extra udon sent by our children, and they are expiring today. So, I cooked them and—”Bookmark here

“Oh, Mrs. Yui, you don’t have to.”Bookmark here

“Take it, take it,” she said.Bookmark here

And so, Hideki took it over from her. “Thank you very much, Mrs. Yui.”Bookmark here

“You’re very welcome,” she said, then she waved goodbye at us.Bookmark here

“Stop laughing,” Hideki said.Bookmark here

He must have noticed me covering my mouth, and was trying to stifle my laughter the whole time. ‘Yui’… that’s why he thought I was playing tricks on him.Bookmark here

I then closed the door as we headed back inside.Bookmark here

“So, your neighbor is called ‘Yui’ too?” Yui asked.Bookmark here

Chiaki and I started to giggle.Bookmark here

“Oh, shut up, you two,” Hideki said, a bit flustered.Bookmark here

“I just think that’s sweet,” Yui said to Hideki. “You helping your neighbor.”Bookmark here

Hideki scratched his head. “Umm… thanks.”Bookmark here

I’ve never seen him so awkward in front of a girl before. They have this strange chemistry.Bookmark here

We then took our seats at the kotatsu table, right in front of the television. Four people, Chiaki, sat across from me, Yui sat across from Hideki. And the weird thing was, Hideki was nervous the whole time, his eyes darting around his room.Bookmark here

On top of the table was a hot pot Hideki and I prepared, with ramen, some tofu, carrots, meatballs, mushrooms, and lettuce. I didn’t buy any meat. Then, another hot pot is filled with udon and some chopped spring onions only. And of course, soft drinks, tea in bottles, and snacks.Bookmark here

“Thank you for the meals,” Yui and Chiaki said, as they started to scoop and take their own bowl of food. Or at least, it’s what I thought.Bookmark here

Yui gave the bowl of udon to Hideki, with a piece of meatball on it. Chiaki filled her bowl with ramen and was starting to eat when she saw Yui handing udon to Hideki.Bookmark here

Chiaki looked at me. “Get your food yourself,” she said. Then she started slurping on the ramen.Bookmark here

“T… Thanks,” Hideki said, taking over the bowl.Bookmark here

“You’re welcome,” Yui said as she gently smiled at him.Bookmark here

Hideki looked taken aback, and he immediately wrapped his arm around me and pulled me back, a few feet away from the table.Bookmark here

“What’s happening?” he asked.Bookmark here

“She gave you udon?”Bookmark here

“Yes, I know, but why?”Bookmark here

“Because you welcomed her into your home, cooked her food, and she thinks you’re a nice person.”Bookmark here

“That’s ridiculous. Shouldn’t the hosts do all these? It’s a norm, right?”Bookmark here

“Well, I mean… yeah.”Bookmark here

“Then?”Bookmark here

Chiaki coughed. “Are you two finished over there?”Bookmark here

Yui was also looking at us weirdly, biting the end of her chopsticks.Bookmark here

I whispered to him, “Maybe she likes you, as a person. Just accept it.”Bookmark here

“Yeah,” I replied to Chiaki. “We’re done here.”Bookmark here

“Good,” Chiaki said. “The food is getting cold.”Bookmark here

We then sat back and started eating. But before I got to eat, some of Hideki’s hot soup sprayed on my cheek because he started with a quick slurp. I jerked away from it.Bookmark here

“Hideki, eat slowe—"Bookmark here

“Don’t move,” Chiaki said. She suddenly swiped my hair away, taking a closer look at the plaster on the temple of my forehead.Bookmark here

“Does it still hurt?” she asked.Bookmark here

I peered into her eyes. She looked worried. She hasn’t asked me anything after we met because Hideki and I were too occupied preparing this and that. Bookmark here

“No,” I said. “I’m fine.”Bookmark here

“Really?”Bookmark here

I patted her head. “Really.”Bookmark here

“Then it’s fine,” she said, continuing to eat.Bookmark here

Hideki and Yui stared at us with a grin on their faces.Bookmark here

Hideki raised his eyebrows in a quick up-down manner at me.Bookmark here

Yui only smiled, as she put both her hands on her cheeks, like she’s enjoying sweets.Bookmark here

“Shut up” I mouthed at Hideki.Bookmark here

He chuckled, looking less tense already. Then he took a deep breath, and awkwardly, but properly introduced himself to Yui. So was Yui, to him.Bookmark here

After hitting it off, they talked about various university stuff, a bit about their hobbies, favorite time-spending spots on campus and other seemingly unrelated things. Their conversation just flew naturally, on and on.Bookmark here

Chiaki didn’t say anything during their conversation, as did I. We were only busy refilling our food, and adding our laughter, comments occasionally. But I can see from the way Chiaki evolves from small chuckle to big laughter, and her sparkly eyes, that she enjoyed this. Especially Hideki’s lame dad jokes.Bookmark here

"Shin, what do you call a fake noodle?" he asked.Bookmark here

"An impasta," I said.Bookmark here

“Oh, come on! You were not supposed to answer that!”Bookmark here

I chuckled. “Sorry.”Bookmark here

“Apologizing just made it worse,” he frowned at me.Bookmark here

Both Yui and Chiaki chuckled.Bookmark here

“You two are close,” Yui said. “Are you guys childhood friends?”Bookmark here

“No.” Hideki and I blurted out.Bookmark here

“I only met Shin a year ago.”Bookmark here

“You stole my pen.”Bookmark here

“I did ASK for your permission.”Bookmark here

“Oh, really? I didn’t notice it because IT WAS ALREADY ON YOUR HAND!”Bookmark here

“¯\_(ツ)_/¯”Bookmark here

Chiaki turned on the tv.Bookmark here

There’s news being reported live.Bookmark here

Cinema. School bus. 10 deaths: children below 10. 2 in critical conditions: the teacher and the driver. 3 severely injured: adults passing by. 10 hospitalized: movie-goers leaving the cinema.Bookmark here

10, plus 2.Bookmark here

When there’s death, there will always be death. This is what Reaper was referring to. The crash site is in complete wreckage, with firefighters rescuing the victims, and some of the victim’s families are devastated, sobbing in public, especially the children’s parents.Bookmark here

“We were just there, a few hours ago.” Hideki said.Bookmark here

“According to the autopsy report released by the local police, the driver of this elementary school bus was found to have a sudden attack, while he was driving the children home. Right after he lost consciousness, he was still stepping on the engine pedal, which made any attempt at stopping the bus futile, as the teacher had tried, in one of these videos. More details on this incident will be updated later. Our deepest condolences to all the victim’s family. Thank you for tuning in. This has been Studio ABC—”Bookmark here

Without saying a word, or looking away from the TV, Chiaki held one of my hands.Bookmark here

“What’s wrong?” I asked.Bookmark here

She didn’t say anything.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry,” I said, intertwining my fingers with her. “I’m here.”Bookmark here

“It’s that scary, huh?” Hideki said.Bookmark here

Yui elbowed him.Bookmark here

“Well, I guess that’s it then. Our party is coming to a close. I’ll be seeing you tomorrow, Shin. For the countdown.” Hideki said.Bookmark here

“Wait, you’re going too?” Yui asked.Bookmark here

“Yeah, you too?”Bookmark here

“Yes!”Bookmark here

“That’s nice! Should we gather at Shin’s place, we’ll wait at the station then he’ll come get us.”Bookmark here

“Really? Sure!”Bookmark here

Hideki and Yui looked at me.Bookmark here

“Fine,” I said. “8:00PM sharp tomorrow.”Bookmark here

“Roger!” Yui and Hideki cheered.Bookmark here

“You’re coming too right, Chiaki?” Yui asked.Bookmark here

She only nodded.Bookmark here

“Great,” Hideki said. “Then it’s official. Cans up!”Bookmark here

We followed him.Bookmark here

“Cheers, for our last party this year.”Bookmark here

“Cheers.”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.