The Fall of Prince Hayashi
If I didn’t know any better I would call him a master at lying. He lied to everyone in his life. His parents, his friends, his girlfriend, And even to his employer. I wonder if there was anyone who ever really knew him. Or if he even knew who he really was.
The head editor was kind enough to lead us out of the building after the shocking news we received from him earlier. Hayashi didn’t buy those newspapers. He was actually supposed to be the paperboy that delivered them along the streets of Kumano that weekend. When he didn’t deliver the papers in time, the head editor at the time thought that maybe he was skipping out on his job to do stupid stuff that all high schoolers do. It would make sense because if it were anyone else they would also believe the same thing.
There was no way the head editor could have ever known that Hayashi was planning on leaving this world forever.
“Can you believe this?”
The sun was gone at this point, as the night settled in. We had spent one whole day running around town. Just recalling today seemed impossible. Imai and I went to Hayashi‘s house, went out to eat lunch, and found out so much in the short span of one day. It made me wonder if his parents spent any time trying to figure out exactly what caused their son to end their life at all. Or if they even knew of the hideout or their son’s occupation. If they stayed and looked for an answer, they would’ve found some thing. And some thing was always better than nothing.
Or maybe they were satisfied with not knowing their son at all.
Imai hadn’t said anything after we both received the big news. She must’ve been shocked beyond belief. This was the third time today we both found out a secret Hayashi hid. But this time. she was shocked beyond belief. I wonder… Did he believe that if he just held her hand a couple of times, that Imai would’ve been satisfied? That she would’ve just accepted all these lies afterwards if he was ever going to tell her? Imai told me that she loved Hayashi. I doubt he felt the same amount of love towards her. Compare that to my own relationship with Hayashi that tread on a thin line of friendship versus acquaintance. But love? I looked over her from the corner of my eye, her face eyeing the floor as we went along.
“I’ll drop you off to your place,” I offered whispered. “I’ll pay for the ticket today.”
She nodded her head. “Thank you Fujiwara.”
The least I can do for Imai was pay for her ticket back home.
Our steps echoed through the night as we walked in the silent night. Kota Hayashi was working at the newspaper ever since he transferred to Kumano high school. He must have made a fair amount of money, enough to get whatever he wanted by the time he ended his life. Yet when you thought about it, why would he bother with a job? His parents were very well off. There was never a need to work. There was never a need to make money. If he was saving for any major things he didn’t live long enough to see the fruits of his labor. So why did he work at all? I made money because I wanted my university life to be carefree till the very end. If Hayashi hadn’t planned for his future, just what did he plan for?
“Can you drop me off at the store.” Imai’s eyes focused on her hands, lost in thought. “The convenience store.”
I shoved my hands into my pockets. “Yeah. I’m probably going to have to buy my dinner and breakfast at the store again so I’ll drop you off.”
“Of course you’d forget about food Fuji,” she said, rolling her eyes. A small part of Imai woke up again and I caught myself smiling at the pet name she called me. Looks like she was going to be alright after all.
The station came into view and we both booked tickets for the last train. The station was virtually empty, with the both of us being the only people waiting sat on the side of the platform for the train to come by.
Duh dun. Duh dun. Duh dun.
The last train swished past us, blowing air into both of our faces. Warm air laced with the scent of burning metal. It only took a minute for the train to settle down after thundering onto the tracks. The train cart in front of us opened its doors wide open and we both got up to board the train. The train turned out to be completely empty too, with the only other person being a young man in a suit, sleeping away in his seat in the corner. Poor guys must have worked throughout the day here in the work district. Me and Imai didn’t do as much harsh work, but it was safe to say that the both of us were completely drained at the moment.
I took a seat near the closest window and Imai sat next to me, her arm touching mine. It didn’t bother me at all even as her head laid down on my shoulder. She seemed fine, but if I knew anything about Imai this past two days, was that she was great at hiding her sadness. Yet this time, she was hurting and the cause of her pain was someone she couldn’t kick in the shins like usual.
The train doors closed shut besides us, and the train started to move once again. The train started out slow and slowly erupted into the fast motion that whizzed past us earlier. Yet in here, we felt nothing except the breeze of the train air conditioning. Imai closed her eyes, her breathing soft and steady next to me.
“If you want, we can stop,” I whispered. Her face was close to mine, so I knew she heard me.
Imai didn’t answer automatically, instead shifting in her seat slightly.
“No we can’t,” she whispered, her breath hitting my neck. “We can’t and you know it.”
“I can find out the rest of what happened and tell you-”
“I promise I-”
Imai got off my shoulder and laid her head back on the seat. I watched her lay back, her face morphing into the sad expression she was hiding out in public.
“Promises are nothing,” Imai let out a huge sigh. “-I want to find out what happened to him. What insanity he was tied to behind all of our backs. I wanna know for myself. I can’t just let that go. You should know that.”
I laid back in my chair, letting my head barely touch hers. I knew exactly what she meant. I hated to admit it, but I knew everything she was saying was right. It was an odd feeling you could never let go of after getting hold of it. The idea that Hayashi was more than what he showed was one you could never get rid of till you found out what. After following the trail this morning, there was no going back. Imai is ten times stronger than I am. I admitted that early on. But how strong was she? Everyone had a breaking point. It just so happened that mine was a little early on in comparison to hers.
I decided to drop the conversation for our sake, and let the train ride fall into silence. I didn’t know what to say to Imai. How to comfort her and not make things worse. She shifted her head back onto my shoulder, the soft echoes of breath hitting my neck. A promise is a promise. I promised Imai to bring her on this journey with me to find the truth. She could quit whenever she wanted to, but I could never drop her for her own sake.
Imai stayed on my shoulder for the rest of the ride back, the sounds of the track ringing through the air. It was humming along for a while, making me nod off slightly. The last night I had good sleep must have been two weeks ago, and the effects were starting to take its toll on me. Sleeping on the trains isn't the safest thing to do, especially in a place as unknown as this one. Yet, with Imai half asleep next to me and the excitement of the day fading away, my eyes started to close shut before I could even command them.
Before I knew it, the train came into the station. Imai and I jolted awake at the sudden halt of the cart, giving us both enough energy to get all the way to the convenience store.
The store lit up from the distance, and once we got close Imai stopped at the door.
“Why’d you stop?” I whispered.
Imai looked up at the security camera and grabbed it, ripping the camera right off the stand.
I took a step back. “What the hell?”
Imai rolled her eyes. “Look in the camera idiot.”
Looking over at her hand, I saw that the camera was actually fake. Rather than wires filling in the camera, there was a small slot made. A key. The golden edge shone in the light. It was a key hiding in the camera.
Imai smiled. “Genius right? I came up with the idea.”
“You call it genius. I’d say it’s troublesome.”
She went to open the door. “Why? Hate having fun?”
I took a step inside. “More like normal people carry keys with them versus ripping their security cameras apart.”
She stuck out her tongue at me for a quick moment and then went into the back room. Probably changing into uniform or getting inventory. I stuck my hand in my pockets, as I unconsciously headed to the food aisle. I needed a little bit more than just a custard cake tonight. I took a look at the section for a minute or two when I heard footsteps behind me.
“Are you planning on staying here Fuji?“
I turned around to see Imai and her convenience store uniform. She looked exactly the same from how she was a couple of days ago, except for the slight fact that she had an underlying worry to her.
“Do you want me to stay?“ I asked. Ramen seemed to be the best choice for a quick meal. I grabbed the first packet I saw, ignoring the flavor or the spice level. At this point I would take anything, even if it burned the roof of my mouth off.
Imai’s face turned away from me. “Take your stuff and leave. It’s on me.”
I took another packet. “Thanks for that.”
Paying for a small packet when you spent a whole ton on her today.
Imai crossed her arms. “I’ll call you once I’m ready to move on with our mission. Don’t do anything without me.”
Remembering everything she said on the train, I waved my goodbye and nodded. “I definitely won’t do anything without you.“
It took three days for me to get a callback from Imai. As a man of my word I really didn’t do anything until she called me. For those three days, I spent most of my time talking to my mom, walking around the shopping district, and trying to adjust to life here in Kumano. By the third day I was losing hope in Imai ever contacting me again. At that moment, that’s when she finally called me.
This summer heat was still pounding down on Kumano. After that cool breeze three days ago, it seems like Kumano sent itself down to hell. Day after day, the heat seem to cling to everything. When I went to the store, when I went back home, and even when I used to go to restaurants. But the heat stayed. Right now, it was past twelve in the afternoon. The sun was starting to settle as the light shone through all the small windows in this tiny apartment. I took it upon myself to lay down on my bed, fan straight at me, dozing in and out of consciousness. Wasn’t it my summer vacation too? I had the right to just be lazy sometimes. Even if I didn’t use that right often.
Bzz. Bzz. Bzz.
That must have been Mom calling. I picked it up. “Hello, Souta Fujiwara speaking?”
“Do you not see my name saved as your contact?” I heard some noises in the back, as I was still processing the fact that this is Imai‘s voice. “-you saved me in your contacts. Right?”
I didn’t know what to do. What did girls think? Did she want me to bring up we’re having three days ago? Did you want me to move on like nothing ever happened? Or was that me being insensitive? Maybe she wasn’t even here to talk about that… Maybe she was just as tired as I was and wanted to go home and sleep.
She slammed her hand against something, as the pound rung through the phone. “Are you already spacing out??”
Goddamnit I was already spacing out. I thought maybe hanging out with a girl for a whole day was going to help me get over my awkwardness. Turns out I was just ten times more awkward now.
I let out a huge sigh. “Yes, I was spacing out. But what do you want?”
“Is that how you talk to a friend?” Imai shouted, her voice echoing through the phone. She let out a sigh, recollecting herself before she exploded from pure anger. “Anyways...what are you doing right now?”
“Right now?” I lifted my head up looking around my room. “Um… I was just laying down at home.”
“Good because I’m coming over,” I heard some noise on the other end and I could’ve only assume that Imai must’ve been working right now. “I think it’s time we move on with our mission, correct?”
I let out a sigh. “If you’re coming over, you’re bringing over food.”
“What happened to ‘gentlemen will always pay’?”
“That’s under the assumption that there’s a lady to pay for,” I sat up on my bed and shut the fan off.
“Ha, ha, ha real funny.”
Without even a proper goodbye, Imai dropped the phone. She was coming over so I guess there was no real need to say goodbye. I would be seeing her in the matter of 10 minutes, hopefully with food in her hands. Maybe I should just shut the door on her she doesn’t come with anything. Like in those sitcom‘s my parents used to watch.
She would definitely break down the door if I close it on her.
Suddenly napping didn’t seem like an option anymore. Besides she was here to talk to me about something relatively important: The next place we were going to look for the truth. The newspaper headquarters turned out to be beneficial. But the question now was what did Hayashi do with his money? And how could we find that out?
I have some common decency, so I decided to clean up a little bit. I’m not a huge mess maker. Yet at the same time, I felt a little bit uncomfortable just leaving my laundry out for some random girl to see. If my mom were here, she would first kill me for letting things gather around the house, then she would kill me for letting a girl into this apartment.
That’s exactly why I left her home.
The first place I cleaned was the living room, followed by my bedroom. The kitchen was spotless and the bathroom was clean. I had a habit of cleaning the bathroom before using it. Something my mom probably installed on me when I was younger. By the time I was done fixing up my room to make it look acceptable, I heard a knock on my front door.
“I’m here!” Another couple of knocks on the door. “-and I brought food, just like you ordered me too.”
Food? Imai wasn’t as heartless as she seemed then. The thought of food almost made me forget the fact that Imai had ghosted me for three days. Depending on when she got me. If she brought ramen noodles, there was no way I was ever going to forgive her. On the other hand… If she got me food from a nice restaurant… I’d probably be a little easier on her.
Heading to the door, I opened it and let Imai inside. She was wearing a pink shirt, regular jeans, and finally a small bag on her side. Of course, how could I forget the two bags of food in her hand, letting out steam and clearly not just ramen. Completely different for her lousy uniform and her plain attire just three days ago. Like the small break had revived her, and this was her true Satomi Imai form.
“Did you miss me?“ Imai dropped the food into my hand, not even asking if I would take it from her. Luckily, I quickly grabbed both of the bags and put them on the coffee table in front of the couch.
She threw herself back onto the couch, letting herself relax as I opened the bags of food she brought. I open the bags to find two bento boxes, completely wrapped in saran wrap. One box had a green leaf pattern on it while the other hand red flower petals.
“Where did you get this?”“ I didn’t want to admit that I was looking for a traditional food this whole time. That I was starting to miss the taste of rice from my mom‘s rice cooker.
Triumph marked her face, as she sat back up properly and pointed to the red box. “Let’s just say that I know this plays way better than you do. Also, you seem like a more ‘traditional’ guy. Am I right?”
I couldn’t help the fact that my mouth was starting to draw. Days of eating convenience store ramen and random foreign food that tasted like oil made me crave for just the simplicity of some good rice. I took the green box, and opened it up. It was beautiful. The steam coming from the race hit my face, and I couldn’t help but burst into a smile. Imai saw my sudden grin and started laughing.
“I'll forgive you,” I said automatically digging into the food. “I wasn’t before, but you’re lucky today.”
Imai stopped laughing. Her eyes darted to me. “Forgive me?“
Oh. Imai didn’t understand why I was forgiving her in the first place. And here I thought that she was bringing me all this just because she wanted me to forgive her. My face went red, some thing I noticed always happened whenever Imai came over.
“Well… You did ghost me for three days,” I poked at my shredded cabbage with a chopstick. “I thought that you were just going to leave me alone.”
Imai‘s face soured. “So did you find anything while I was away?”
“No, I didn’t. I’m a man of my word, and I said I wouldn’t do anything without you.”
Imai suddenly coughed very loudly and went back to stuffing her face with her own red bento box. Was she okay? She’s coughing a lot today. I decided to ignore the strangeness and focus on my first good meal in about two weeks.
We both ate our meals in silence. I noticed that Imai didn’t like to talk too much while she was doing some thing or thinking about some thing. On the train she was dead silent, thinking about everything that we just saw that day. Here, she was dead silent while eating her food. I wonder if she was thinking about that day again, or if she just had a habit of staying silent while eating.
We both had a habit of staying silent while eating. Probably some thing we learned from high school.
It seemed like hours till one of us spoke. It was Imai who broke the silence, Setting her chopsticks down on the table side next to her. She fished something out of her pocket and slid it towards me.
It was the English assignment we found a Hayashi‘s house. Both of the assignments exactly the same, except two distinct differences. The first difference was the handwriting, and the second difference was the grades. I didn’t know how Hayashi’s handwriting. I couldn’t tell which one was actually his or which one was the fake. I picked up the one with a higher grade and took a look at it. Kota Hayashi was always known to get good grades. Apparently, he was a star student in his old middle school. It would only make sense that this paper is his.
“I was thinking about this assignment and the other assignments we found in the hidden room,” Imai pushed her food to the side. “I’m starting to think… that may be Hayashi sold his homework to people.”
I dropped my chopsticks to the side. Now this conversation was getting serious. We were back on track to finding out what was happening to Hayashi this whole time. She wasn’t leaving this mission, and I certainly wasn’t either. But Hayashi selling his homework? Why would he even do that? He already had his newspaper job apparently, wouldn’t that suffice?
Imai nodded her head. “I know exactly what you’re thinking Fuji: but why? Why would Kota even bother selling his homework?“
She slammed her hand down on the table, making everything levitate for a quick second. “I think that Hayashi was blackmailed by his own friends.”
Notes from Zen:
I have a new cover guys! I made it and it took me a while so hopefully it looks good. Also, sorry that I'm a little late today, I woke up near 12pm so I couldn't upload as early as I did last time.
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