Chapter 23:

Past: A Silent Home

Master Of Rejections But Beginner At Love

"So? What do you want to talk about?" Yui asked after she took a sip of her tea.Bookmark here

It was Wednesday afternoon. Kazuma invited Yui over to his house after school.Bookmark here

"About myself." Kazuma answered as he placed some snacks on the table.Bookmark here

Thanks to Emma, he finally mustered up his courage to tell her. Just like Emma told him on Sunday, he had to take into consideration if Yui was someone who would be scared off by him after hearing everything. The answer he came up with was a no.Bookmark here

However, it took him two days to realize it.Bookmark here

"Are you sure?" she asked as she looked at him worriedly.Bookmark here

"Yes." he replied with a determined look.Bookmark here

He took a deep breath.Bookmark here

It was finally time to reveal his past to her.Bookmark here

"It will be a long story, you know?"Bookmark here

"It's fine. Just take your time and don't force yourself, okay?"Bookmark here

He smiled.Bookmark here

"Now then, let me start..."Bookmark here

Thus started the revelation of Ichinose Kazuma's past and his traumatic scars.Bookmark here

Four years ago.Bookmark here

A 13 year old boy with black hair and hazelnut brown eyes was on his way home. He wore his middle school uniform in a sloppy way with his shirt being untucked. In addition, his face was covered with a few band-aids.Bookmark here

The people he passed by looked at him in an appalling way but he did not care as he continued to gnaw on his toothpick.Bookmark here

"I'm home!" he said after he entered his house.Bookmark here

But there was no response.Bookmark here

"Thought so..." he commented annoyed.Bookmark here

He went to the living room which was also connected to the kitchen. He would always do that after he was home.Bookmark here

There, he found dishes wrapped up in cling film on the eating table.Bookmark here

"..."Bookmark here

Beside the dishes, there was a note.Bookmark here

'Sorry Kazuma, but we're at work. Heat up the food when you're hungry. Love you! Mom.'Bookmark here

"How surprising." Kazuma commented sarcastically.Bookmark here

It was still early for dinner. Therefore, Kazuma decided to take a short nap in his room.Bookmark here

Creak.Bookmark here

Exhausted, he fell on his bed.Bookmark here

Not being able to fall asleep, he gazed at the ceiling expressionlessly.Bookmark here

"Hey mom, how about letting me do the cooking for tonight's dinner? You must be tired from always taking care of Rika, right? So get some rest and leave her in dad's hands!"Bookmark here

"Oh my, how kind of you, Yui. I appreciate your idea but I think I would have more worries if I let Rika alone with your dad..."Bookmark here

"That's true, hehehe!"Bookmark here

With the window in his room being open, a conversation between a mother and her daughter was heard from outside.Bookmark here

"..."Bookmark here

Kazuma recognized these voices. They were the voices from his neighbors. It was the Nagisa family. His parents would occasionally chat with them. He also knew that their eldest daughter was about his age. But they never talked to each other because he could not stand her.Bookmark here

No. It was not because she could not stand her. It was because he was jealous of her. Bookmark here

The relationships within her family was more than just superb. Kazuma would always hear them laugh together when they were outside. When his parents were home, he would always hear stories about how his parents met their family when they were for example shopping or on the way home.Bookmark here

The Nagisa household was the perfect family.Bookmark here

They were everything Kazuma wished for.Bookmark here

While he was in thoughts, he slowly fell asleep.Bookmark here

Three hours passed until Kazuma woke up.Bookmark here

"Oh, crap. Did I sleep that long?" he said with a yawning voice as he watched the orange colored sky.Bookmark here

"Guess, I'll eat now."Bookmark here

Kazuma proceeded to heat the food up the prepared food and ate dinner by himself.Bookmark here

After he was done, he washed the plates.Bookmark here

During the whole time, no sound was heard. Only the sound of eating and washing plates. For Kazuma, it was everyday life.Bookmark here

To kill some time, he watched TV. But after one hour passed, he got bored and turned the TV off.Bookmark here

"Only 9 pm, huh?" he said with no signs of emotions in his voice.Bookmark here

He brushed his teeth and changed his clothes to his pajamas.Bookmark here

Creak.Bookmark here

And again, he fell on his bed.Bookmark here

But he had no desire to sleep yet.Bookmark here

Tick. Tick. Tick.Bookmark here

It was so silent that only the ticking of the clock was heard in the house.Bookmark here

Ring.Bookmark here

Suddenly, his phone rang.Bookmark here

"Mom?"Bookmark here

"Oh, hello honey! Sorry again but it seems like mom and dad have to stay even longer at work. So go to bed early, yes? Love, you!"Bookmark here

Beep. Beep.Bookmark here

Not having a chance to reply, she hung up.Bookmark here

Kazuma heard how the busy she was as he heard all the noise and panic in the background. Despite all the noise, he still tried to focus on his mother's warm and lovely voice.Bookmark here

"A seven second call this time, huh? Two seconds more than last time." he commented after he saw the duration of the call.Bookmark here

He laid his right forearm on his eyes.Bookmark here

"Tch." he clicked his tongue.Bookmark here

"I... I hate you."Bookmark here

No, he did not. He loved his parents more than anything else on the world. However, this very love was the cause for all his pain and suffering.Bookmark here

Just like every other child, he wanted to spend time with his family. But he knew it was hard in his situation.Bookmark here

His parents were high-ranking police officers and were most of the time busy with work. Kazuma understood that they had to work. And yet he wanted them to be there for him. In the end, it was just wishful thinking.Bookmark here

Kazuma tried everything to get their attention, even if he had to resort to sly and malicious actions. He faked an illness or injury, he skipped school and he also began to fight other people. He did it all only to have his parents come to him.Bookmark here

They may scolded him for his actions but he did not really care. He knew that he was in the wrong. But if it meant that he could see his mother and father then it did not matter to him.Bookmark here

In the beginning, they would often appear but after a while, the times they would come gradually sank.Bookmark here

"9:41 pm..."Bookmark here

Kazuma hopped off his bed and changed his clothes again.Bookmark here

"Maybe I will take a walk around the block."Bookmark here

After making himself ready, he left the house and walked around aimlessly.Bookmark here

It was already dark outside. There were no people on the streets. It was as silent as at his house.Bookmark here

Only the cries of the owls were heard in this night as Kazuma walked alone.Bookmark here

Creak. Creak.Bookmark here

Kazuma heard the sounds of rusty metal rubbing. Curious about the source of the noise, he went into its direction until he arrived at the playground of the neighborhood.Bookmark here

There, Kazuma witnessed how a boy was using the swings which created the creaking sounds.Bookmark here

"Hm? Who's there?" the mysterious boy asked.Bookmark here

He took one last swing and then jumped off.Bookmark here

The boy landed smoothly and walked into Kazuma's direction.Bookmark here

Kazuma still looked unbothered and waited for him.Bookmark here

After the boy was illuminated by the street lamp Kazuma was currently standing under, he was able to take a good look at the boy.Bookmark here

The boy was approximately his age. He had emerald green eyes and his long black hair, which was parted in the middle, reached to his earlobes.Bookmark here

"A kid? What are you doing here at this hour?" the boy asked Kazuma.Bookmark here

"I could ask you the same."Bookmark here

"Nobody is at home. So I came here to play on my own." he shrugged his shoulders with his hands in his pockets.Bookmark here

"I see. Well, sorry for disturbing your fun." Kazuma said indifferently and turned around to walk away.Bookmark here

"H-hey, wait!" the boy panicked.Bookmark here

"What's wrong?"Bookmark here

"Why don't you hang out with me for a bit?" he suggested with a huge and excited smile.Bookmark here

Kazuma checked the time on his phone.Bookmark here

It was 10:23 pm.Bookmark here

He sighed.Bookmark here

"Just for a bit, okay?" he gave in since he could not say no to the pure smile.Bookmark here

"Nice!"Bookmark here

Then, the boy grabbed Kazuma's arm and dragged him to all the things on the playground.Bookmark here

And as they spent time together, Kazuma also started to have fun and laughed together with the boy without Kazuma noticing.Bookmark here

"Oh, crap! What time is it now?!"Bookmark here

After a while, Kazuma had to check his phone again.Bookmark here

11:03 pm.Bookmark here

"Oh no! My parents will be home in under 30 minutes! Sorry, I have to go now!" Kazuma said in shock.Bookmark here

"Oh, okay! Let's hang out together again!" the boy waved him goodbye.Bookmark here

"Sure!" Kazuma waved back with a smile.Bookmark here

With Kazuma gone, the boy was alone again. His smile slowly faded away.Bookmark here

"Hm?"Bookmark here

The boy looked into the direction where Kazuma was a few moments ago because he heard someone running.Bookmark here

"... haaaa.... haaa... I forgot to ask for your name! I'm Ichinose Kazuma."Bookmark here

Kazuma, who was out of breath, held his hand out for a handshake.Bookmark here

A smile returned on the boy's face as he shook Kazuma's hand.Bookmark here

"I'm Kanzaki Shinya!"Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.