Chapter 10:

Old News To Me

The Fall of Prince Hayashi

“His hideout?” Bookmark here

Imai gave out her hand to me. She wanted me to go inside a random small room just because she remembered that Kota used it back when he was alive? What if she ended me there and left? No one would ever find me, and at that point I could ask Kota face to face why he ended his life three years ago. Bookmark here

A heavy sigh broke my train of thought and then suddenly I was being dragged into the small room. The dark consumed me whole, whole Imai’s grip stayed tight on my collar. Bookmark here

“Are you going to end me?” I whispered into the darkness. Bookmark here

“If you keep acting like I loser I might consider it.” Bookmark here

There were the pats of footsteps as Imai (or I hoped it was Imai) walked through the room. It was pitch black in here, even if I brought my hands right up to my face I couldn’t even see the outline of my fingers. It was like the world around me was gone and all that remained was the memory of how I looked. Bookmark here

A flicker of light came on above me, sparkling like a faint star in the sky. I heard Imai slam something down and the glimmer of the lightbulb exploded into a fair amount of light. My eyes stung, tears already filling up my eyes. Bookmark here

God, my eyes were really taking a hit. “Can’t you warn someone before flashing the lights on?” Bookmark here

“Can you stop complaining like a big baby for five minutes?!” Imai shouted. Bookmark here

The room was small, being able to walk only seven steps before hitting the back wall. In the back, Imai stood near a electricity panel, her hands covered in a thin layer of old grease and dust. The slamming from earlier must have been Imai opening and closing the front panel with all the vigor she carried.Bookmark here

Which is a whole lot of vigor by the way. Bookmark here

The bright orange light illuminated just about of the room to convince me that I want about to get murdered. A bunch of boxes scattered around the room, all of them open and all of them raggedy. These boxes looked like they went through hell and back with how bad they looked. Bookmark here

“These is only one person who knows about this room,” Imai said. “And that person was me.”Bookmark here

“Why did he bother telling you about it is it was secret?” Bookmark here

Imai sat down in front of the nearest box. “A secret is only worth it when at least one person knows. He was hoping to tell, he just didn’t trust anyone until he met me.”Bookmark here

With the falter in her voice, I knew what words were on the tip of her tongue right now. Bookmark here

At least I thought he trusted me. Bookmark here

I sat down on the floor, ignoring how cold and moist the floor was underneath me. Imai pushed a box near her towards me, and I took that as a sign to start searching. Bookmark here

The boxes that Kota kept in this small room all had value to him. The first box I dove into contained all of the rejected versions of the Hayashi family photos, from kindergarten to the second year of high school. The years flew by in minutes, as the once joyous smile of a five year old turned into an artificial smile by a now full grown adult. I decided to take a few photos from the pile, focusing on the more recent ones. Bookmark here

The box Imai was searching through turned out to be all of Hayashi’s homework from middle school to high school. Every single assignment, all of them graded and accounted for. Bookmark here

“Fuji,” Imai whispered. Looking up from my pile, I saw Imai holding up two exact copies of an early English assignment. Except one of them had a pass and the other had a fail. Bookmark here

“Why are you shocked?” I got up to take a seat next to her. Bookmark here

“Kota’s best subject was English,” she whispered. “How could he even get a failing grade? He was the top of the class!” Bookmark here

I pulled the papers closer to me. “The passing grade is Hayashi’s handwriting, but I don’t think the failing grade is his at all. Look at the differences in the letters.” Bookmark here

Imai took a closer look and nodded. “That’s not his writing. So…” Bookmark here

I raised my brow. “So?” Bookmark here

“Why did Kota have an assignment that wasn’t his, with a failing grade nonetheless, with his own name on it?” Bookmark here

Imai grabbed the papers from my hands and folded them up into fours. “Let’s take these two with us. I don’t think he’ll mind.” Bookmark here

Imai looked up to face me. “Have you found anything in your box yet?” Bookmark here

Looking behind me at my box, I shook my head no. Imai let out a frustrated sigh and I took that as a sign to get back to my own side of the room. Bookmark here

The next box near me was filled to the brim with newspapers. All of them were rubber banded together, all in a neat and tall pile. I moved the band and took a peak at the date. It could have been an important date for Kota. Or if anything, the reason why he had a whole stack of newspapers meant something of importance. I moved the band and saw that the date on the top newspapers. Bookmark here

January 9th 20XXBookmark here

This company...wasn’t a national newspaper. Instead, it was the Kumani newspaper. The paper was thinner than the newspaper my father carried with him every morning, and the paper contained small news that pertained to the town of Kumano. The headline story was “New Year Resolutions in Kumano” which was not only a week late, but I doubt that all of Japan cared for the expectations of random people in Kumano. Bookmark here

I took out the first paper from the pile and brought it close to my face. It still smelled fresh, like a new book. Hayashi must have just gotten this stash of newspapers before he passed away. Yet...what was the point? If he really wanted a copy, he could have brought one and read it like a normal person. Having thirty in a pile hidden in a secret room seemed a little too suspicious to just point to Kota having a love for the news. Bookmark here

Moving the paper away from my face, I slapped the top paper with my hand. “Imai, I think you need to look at this…” Bookmark here

Imai looked up, immediately dropping whatever was in her hands and coming towards me. The huge stack of newspapers caught her attention too, and knowing her, she might know a little more behind why this stack of papers were in this room in the first place. Bookmark here

Imai sat down next to me, automatically turning her attention to the pile. SHe did the same thing I did, taking one from the pile and smelling it. Her eyes grazed over the front cover, yet unlike me, her eyes widened at seeing the headline. Bookmark here

She pointed at the date, her finger shaking. “This was...this was the last week Hayashi went to school.”Bookmark here

January 9th?Bookmark here

“That post said that Hayashi ended his own life in March. So why did he stop going to school in January?” Bookmark here

Imai put the paper down. “I thought that maybe Hayashi was avoiding me at school after the New Year, but it turned out he was starting to skip school.” Bookmark here

Skip school?Bookmark here

“Why would the star student start to skip school?” Bookmark here

“Beats me,” Imai pointed at the company name on the top of the newspaper. “Maybe they know.” Bookmark here

The newspaper company? “What would they know?” Bookmark here

Imai pulled on the band holding all the papers together. “Use your mind. How the hell did Kota somehow get thirty copies of a newspaper for a specific date? Either he stole them from a paper boy, or he got them from the company.”

Bookmark here

She got up and surveyed the rest of the room. “There are only a couple of boxes left in here, but those have nothing out of the ordinary.” Bookmark here

I got up too, wiping the dust off my pants. “How do you know?” Bookmark here

“Back in high school, Hayashi let me in here. It wasn’t a big deal to him if I saw those boxes, so they don’t have anything of value to us now.” Bookmark here

“I think you should just take a look,” I said. “Just to make sure he didn’t hide anything new in those boxes.” Bookmark here

I decided to stand out of the small room while Imai looked at the old boxes. The opening for the hidden room was so small in retrospective to the room. It must have looked like the entrance to some tree house rather than a opening to a whole separate room. Bookmark here

Did Kota’s parents know about this room? They brought the house, so they could have had an understanding of a secret room, especially one this big. Yet at the same time...why didn’t his parents take anything in the room if they knew about it. Or at the least, why didn’t his parents check what was in the room if they knew it existed. Bookmark here

“They probably had no clue,” I whispered. “That their house had this room.” Bookmark here

Just like we knew very little about Kota, his parents must have known even less than what we did. To his parents and to us, Kota was just a prime student who fell into a sudden despair. The end of his life was everything but expected, as he kept silent to the end. Yet...for them to not even know of such a huge secret in their house….what were his parents doing? Bookmark here

Imai popped her head through the exit and sighed. “Nothing new in those old boxes. I did find some old stuff that could help us, so I just grabbed those.” Bookmark here

I took out my phone and looked at the time. An hour had passed from the moment we entered the house, the sunlight slowly fading away a testament to how quickly time flew by. In the end, we had a newspaper, some photos, odd English assignments, and knick knacks that seemed valuable enough to Hayashi to hide away in the boxes. Bookmark here

I guess today wasn’t a waste...well for now it wasn’t. Bookmark here

“What now?” Imai asked, staring down at the pile of stuff on the floor. Bookmark here

“Right now, we should find a way to carry this stuff back to my place,” The photo of Kota’s family phot flashed in my mind. “Then, we can go to the newspaper company.” Bookmark here

Imai stretched her arms up in the air, the sound of her joints cracking popping in the air. We were both crouched down in the room for over an hour. While I was used to bad posture because of video games, I doubt that she had the same level of experience as I did. Bookmark here

“‘I’ll go get us a box to put this stuff away,” Imai said, pointing at the room behind her. Bookmark here

I nodded. “I’ll start looking up the company then-”Bookmark here

Imai turned back, her brows furrowed. “What about lunch?!” Bookmark here

“Lunch?” Damn, I forgot about lunch. Back at home, lunch happened when either my Mom called me to get food or when my boss told me it was break time. Now that I was here in Kumano, I had to depend on myself to remember to eat. Actually….did I even have breakfast? Bookmark here

“I’m getting the box, then we’ll drop the stuff of at your place,” Imai shouted from the room. “And your paying for lunch!”Bookmark here

Wait...what? “Why do I have to pay?” Bookmark here

“Because that’s what gentlemen do.” Bookmark here

A box came flying at my head and I just dodged it, the wind passing by my ear. It landed on the wall behind me, a loud thud echoing in the empty room. Bookmark here

This woman is insane. Bookmark here

She was so lucky that she was a girl. Or else this box would have been thrown right back at her, hitting her forehead with the speed of a fastball. Rather than lose my cool, I swallowed my pride and started to fill up the box. Imai must have noticed my sudden urge because the smile on her face seemed more devilish than ever. Bookmark here

Imai watched as I threw everything we found into the box. All of these things could turn out to be completely useless. Maybe Hayashi was just weird. Maybe he just kept all these things to trick people who snuck into the hideout. Kota was the type of person to think three steps ahead, even when it came to small things like clothes and accents. Bookmark here

Once the box was completely packed, I lifted it up with the box in my arms. This small package is nothing compared to carrying the inventory out back at the convenience store. Imai looked unamused with my strength as she took it upon herself to walk out of the room. Bookmark here

“I guess I’ll just lead myself out,” I whispered to no one in particular. Bookmark here

Notes from Zen: Bookmark here

It's been a while since I last published.... :/  I don't know why finding a publishing schedule for this novel is so difficult, but for some reason it is. I'll try updating once every two days from today, so I can at least finish publishing this novel before the due date. While I'll def fail at the "consistent update schedule" part I hope the rest of my entry makes up for that. Bookmark here

Thank you all for being kind and understanding! If you liked this chapter feel free to give it a like and if you want, add the book to your library too :)Bookmark here

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