Chapter 4:

Regretful Past


Kento was typing away at his station when a thought struck him. This was the first morning in a while that he managed to get to work without anything happening. Aside from a very mild hangover, the morning was completely uneventful. He had half-expected aliens to invade. He checked the time. His shift didn’t technically start for another ten minutes, but he managed to get here very early. He’d gotten a few strange looks at the station, no doubt people who recognized him from the day before, but aside from that everything went off without a hitch. It was strange. Even though it was short-lived, his chaotic mornings at least brought some variation into his life. Now that he had a normal morning he found himself feeling… bored.

Kento brushed these feelings off and got back to work. He had lost a few hours last night, and he was set on making up for lost time. Memories from the previous night twirled through his mind as he did the near-mindless preparation for the day. He wasn’t happy that Abe dragged him away from work, and even less thrilled when they injected themselves into someone else’s conversation. The fact that the ‘someone else’ in question was a co-worker was the worst part, but looking back he couldn’t deny that it was a nice night. Aiya and her friend turned out to be more than pleasant company, and with Abe there to keep conversations flowing there wasn’t a single dull moment.

Kento shook his head, trying to dispel his thoughts. He had gotten so lost in them his fingers had stopped moving across the keyboard. This never happened before. Usually, he could focus on work without any issues, even if he was sick. Now his mind kept wandering around. He slammed his hand on the desk, setting his resolve.

“Hey now, what did the desk do?” a voice behind him asked. Kento nearly leaped out of his skin from fright.

“Ms. Sugiyama!” He yelled, trying to catch his breath. “Don’t sneak up on me like that!” Rin’s eyes dropped, clearly disappointed.

“Really? Even when I scare you you still keep it professional?” she asked.

“Yes,” Kento said, falling back into his chair. “Why are you so adamant about that anyway?”

“Because,” Rin said, smiling.

“Because what…” Kento prompted.

“Just, because,” Rin said. She spun on her heel and walked away. Kento sighed, watching her leave.

“I’ll never understand you,” he said, turning back to his work. Despite how he acted, he was somewhat thankful to Rin for the scare. It put him back on familiar footing, and his focus came back to him with relative ease. He managed to keep a steady workflow for a few minutes but was pulled away again when the chair next to him suddenly became occupied.

“Good morning Ken-” Aiya began, catching herself before calling him by his first name. “I mean, Mr. Shifutu.” Kento let out a long, drawn-out breath, his head falling to his chest.

“The seal’s broken,” he said. “You may as well call me Kento now.”

“Are you sure?” Aiya asked.

“Yeah,” Kento replied. He gave Aiya a kind smile. “I don’t want things to get awkward between us, and you forcing yourself to call me Mr. Shifutu will probably do just that.”

“Alright then, Kento,” Aiya said. It sounded to Kento almost as if she was teasing him. “What’s on the docket for today?”

Kento explained what he was busy with, and what Aiya could do to help. She had picked up the work surprisingly fast, and could already do most of the job on her own. At this rate, Kento thought she would be able to handle her own assignments by the next week. He was impressed, both in Aiya’s ability and in his own teaching skills. He didn’t like to blow his own horn, but he felt like he did well.

They spent a few hours working mostly in silence. As Kento expected, the office remained mostly deserted. Most of the employees only bothered with showing up after lunchtime. There wasn’t a lot that could be done about that, though. They were a small company, and staffing turned out to be a bigger challenge than anyone predicted. If they could get new hires they would, but for the time being, workers who only showed up for half-days were better than no workers at all. Deep down Kento also preferred it this way. The offices were quiet, and the only people who bothered him were Rin and Aiya. He didn’t mind it when they bothered him.

Kento’s head shot up. He frowned, trying to process what had just gone through his mind. Did he really not mind Aiya and Rin’s interruptions? No, of course he minded. They were in a professional work environment. Their interruptions, especially Rin’s, were completely out of line. Right?

“Are you ok?” Aiya’s voice rang out beside him, yanking him from his thoughts.

“Uhh, yeah, I’m fine,” Kento said, stammering to try to cover up for his apparent slacking. “Can you go fetch me some printouts I just sent out?” Aiya didn’t look convinced but elected not to pry into his business.

“Sure thing,” she said. She rose to her feet and wandered over to the printers. She pressed a few buttons and waited. A few moments passed with nothing happening. She sighed, then called out to him. “Kento, I think this thing is jammed.”

“I’ll be there in a second, Aiya,” Kento replied.

“What?!” Rin’s voice came from the conference room. She stormed out as if her parents’ killer had just waltzed in.

“I said I think the printer is jammed?” Aiya said, caught off guard by Rin’s aggression.

“No, before that,” Rin said. She swung her head to shoot a glare at Kento. “Why does she get to be called by her first name? She just started here!” Kento stood and walked over to the printer.

“Blame Abe for that,” Kento said. “He forced us into it last night.” Rin looked after him, her face a mix between shock and embarrassment.

“It’s not what you think!” Aiya said, reading Rin’s reaction. “I was out for drinks with a friend and they just happened to come into the same place we were.” Kento turned around to face Rin. This was a golden opportunity and one that didn’t come around all too often.

“What did you think I meant, Ms. Sugiyama?” He asked, very clearly trying to get a rise out of her.

“You know, it sounded like…” Rin began, her face turning bright red. Kento considered this revenge enough and turned back to the printer.

“Yeah, yeah,” he said, waving Rin off. “You know how I feel about workplace fraternization.”

“You’re mean,” Rin said. “And you use big words for no reason.”

“It makes me feel smart,” Kento said. He began fiddling with the printer, trying to get it to function like it was supposed to.

“Forget about me and Kento, the two of you should get a room,” Aiya said, joining in on the teasing.

“Never,” Kento said, almost instantly.

“Hey, I’m a catch,” Rin protested. “Any guy would be lucky to land a girl like me.”

“Yeah, I would rather do my own dental work with rusty farm equipment,” Kento shot back. He didn’t expect Aiya to keep the conversation going, but now that she had he didn’t plan on losing.

“Kento, do you really hate me that much?” Kento’s hands immediately froze. The tone of Rin’s voice wasn’t playful anymore. She sounded genuinely hurt. Perhaps he took it too far.

“I don’t hate you,” Kento said, his eyes still fixed on the printer. “I don’t hate anyone. I don’t have the energy for that.” He quickly lifted his head and made his way back to his station. He fell into his chair, his fingers immediately clacking away at his keyboard. Rin went back into the conference room, her head low. Aiya quickly followed after her.

“Are you ok, Rin?” she asked.

“I don’t get it,” Rin said. “I’m trying to be his friend. I don’t get why he has to be like that. We’ve worked together for such a long time, and I always tried to be nice. I don’t know what I did to make him dislike me like that.”

“I don’t think he dislikes you,” Aiya said, wrapping Rin in a hug. She knew it wasn’t appropriate, especially since she barely knew Rin, but she couldn’t help it. Rin looked like she needed it. Rin returning the hug proved her right.

“How can you know?” Rin asked.

“I just do,” Aiya said. “I haven’t known you very long, but from what I saw you and Abe are the only people he ever smiles around. I think he cares a lot, he just has trouble showing it.”

“I don’t buy it,” Rin said, pulling out of the hug. “Maybe some people were just never meant to be friends.”

“Don’t stop trying just yet,” Aiya said. She knew it was bad manners to pry into other people’s business, but Kento already seemed so alone. She didn’t want to see him lose one of his few dear friends. “I’m sure it won’t be long until you break through that shell of his.” Rin seemed to perk up at this.

“Yeah, you’re right,” she said. She wiped the moisture from her eyes. Aiya hadn’t realized she was this close to crying. She doubted Kento realized either. “I’m not going to let all the work I put into that boy go to waste.”

“If you ever need help, you know where to find me,” Aiya said. With that, she walked out of the conference room and got back to work.


“Are you planning on working late again?” Aiya asked as she packed her things.

“I always do,” Kento said, still typing away.

“Careful not to work yourself to death, ok?” Aiya said. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“See ya,” Kento called after her as she walked off. He would have like to go home early, but his deadlines grew ever closer, and he wasn’t sure if he would be able to reach them at this rate. If he couldn’t make it work somehow Rin would catch a lot of flak. He was determined not to let that happened, even if it meant working himself to exhaustion every day.

Rin left work a short while after Aiya. She didn’t cheerfully say goodbye like she always did. She didn’t even acknowledge Kento’s existence. A pang of guilt shot through his stomach. He had to find a way to make it up to her somehow. He pushed this train of thought away. He could think about it later.

The next few hours dragged on slowly, with Kento constantly getting distracted by his own meandering thoughts. His pace was a lot slower than usual, and it was hard for him to focus. When he couldn’t bear it anymore, he decided to call it a night. It was a quarter to eleven. He should still be able to make the next train.

Kento took a brisk walk, the cool night air aiding him in calming his mind. He was sure tomorrow would be better. Rin would have moved on, and the memories of going out with Abe, Aiya, and Hina would have faded. He smiled at the thought of getting a productive day of work in.

“This is what happens when you mingle at work,” he muttered to himself. His train ride was spent thinking about which flavor of cup ramen he would eat that night, and his walk home, deciding what to watch while he ate. He was just about to enter his apartment building when a familiar sound caught his ear. The sound sent a chill down his spine.

Kento slowly sneaked around the corner of the building, into the alleyway that ran behind it. He spotted a group of teenagers near one of the walls. They seemed to be seniors in high school. It was a scene he was all too familiar with. He wondered what poor kid was being threatened, and for what. Kids, especially teenagers, could be very cruel at times. As Kento got closer though, his stomach dropped. In the center of this group of guys was a girl, fear clearly written on her face.

“Hey!” Kento barked out. The group all turned to him, staring him down. A twinge of familiarity stirred inside Kento.

“Walk away, old man,” the leader of the group said. “You don’t know who you’re messing with.”

“No, kid, you’re the one who doesn’t know who he’s messing with,” Kento said. He stepped forward, into the light surrounding them. The group stood strong, save for one, the small one who stood in the very back.

“No way,” he said. “It can’t be.” The others turned to question this strange statement, and the girl took this chance to rush away from their grasp, hiding behind Kento. Her auburn hair was messy, and her clothes were full of dirt and wrinkles. She’d clearly tried to run away from these guys and failed.

“Please, help me,” the girl said. She was shaking, and clearly scared out of her wits.

“What is it?” The leader asked, directing the question at the small one who spoke up earlier. The small one stepped forward.

“Are you the White Dragon?” he asked. Kento’s head dropped. He felt a mix of emotions hearing that name again, predominantly shame. In contrast, the boys all seemed to get on edge at the mention of the name.

“And what if I am?” Kento asked, adjusting his footing. He knew where this might lead, and wanted to be ready.

“There’s no way this guy is the White Dragon,” The leader said. He turned back to Kento. “This guy doesn’t stack up.”

“Wait,” the small one said, fear trickling into his voice. “Kazuya introduced us to the White Dragon years ago, remember? He might have changed his look, but I think that’s him!” Kento frowned. He recognized the name Kazuya and was almost certain he knew who these kids were now.

“No way,” the leader said. “You can’t be him, can you?”

“Yeah, I can,” Kento said, seizing the opportunity. “And if you don’t scram, I’ll teach you boys exactly how I earned my name.” The threat worked. Evidently, none of the delinquents were brave enough to see their actions through. “And if I ever catch you threatening a girl again, there will be hell to pay!” Kento yelled after them.

“Thank you,” the girl behind him said. She was clutching onto his shirt.

“Don’t mention it,” Kento said, letting go of the breath he was holding. He turned to the girl, getting a good look at her face. She seemed to be around high school, maybe college-aged. Her eyes reminded him of his mother. “Hey, aren’t you-”

“I’m Mirai,” the girl said, interrupting. “Thank you so much for saving me.”

“I told you, don’t mention it,” Kento said, averting his gaze. He was happy he could help, but not so much about why he could help.

“Why were they so afraid of you?” Mirai asked.

“It’s a long story,” Kento said, averting his gaze. “Where do you live? I’ll walk you home.”

“Oh, I live one stop away,” Merai said. Kento checked his watch.

“Yeah, well the last train won’t come for a while,” he said. “If you want you can come to wait in my apartment. I’ll give you some tea.” With that, he began walking. Mirai quickly fell into step beside him.

“Thank you, I think I’ll take you up on that,” she said. The walk up to his apartment was silent, Kento lost in a swirl of memories, and Mirai content to walk in silence. Kento was so in thought that he nearly overshot his apartment door, but Mirai grabbed his sleeve to stop him.

“Isn’t this it?” Mirai asked.

“Yeah, sorry,” Kento said. His eyes narrowed. “How did you know?”

“You told me!” Mirai said with a smile. Kento massaged his brow with his thumb and forefinger.

“Yeah, sorry, I guess I forgot,” Kento said as he opened the door.

“It’s ok,” Mirai said. “You seem to have a lot on your mind.” She followed Kento into the apartment, taking in the tiny room.

“Excuse the size,” Kento said. “I’m not used to having visitors. You can take a seat by the computer, I’ll brew some tea.”

“Thanks!” Mirai said. She seemed to have fully recovered from her ordeal. “So, since we have time, can I hear that long story of yours?” Kento looked at her questioningly. “You know, why those guys were afraid of you?” Kento sighed, deflating a bit.

“It’s not something I’m proud of,” he began.


“That’s how you throw a punch, Kazuya,” Kento said. He wiped his overgrown hair from his face, a smug grin on his face.

“Wow! You’re so strong!” Kazuya said, his eyes locked on the guy writhing on the ground.

“Damn straight!” Kento said. “I’m the best fighter in town!” His eyes were gleaming with pride.

“I wish the others could be here today too,” Kazuya said.

“Yeah, me too,” Kento said. “It’s fun to have you guys around.” Kento was well known as the local delinquent, and since he was a second-year in high school now he took it upon himself to train the next generation of delinquents. He would have just enough time to train and crown a successor to his title. With that as his goal, what better place to go to than the local middle school. It didn’t take long to find a group of troublemakers, and for the past year, he had been teaching them how to be proper delinquents.

“We’re really thankful to you for teaching us,” Kazuya said.

“You better be,” Kento said. “Now, what are the rules of being a delinquent?”

“You never pick on women or anyone who can’t fight back. Once a man is down on the ground, the fight stops until he gets back up. Lastly, you never snitch, even if it means you get punished harder.” Kazuya recited. He had burned those words into his mind and lived by them.

“Good boy,” Kento said. “Now come with me. We have a mission tonight.”

“Really?” Kazuya asked, excitement in his eyes. “What do we have to do?”

“Just give some asshole a beatdown,” Kento said. “Aparently this twerp is using his family’s wealth and power to extort other kids. We have to show him that’s not ok.” Kento led his follower to a local playground. The sun cast orange rays on their faces, giving the moment an almost surreal feeling. The playground was occupied by two other people around Kento’s age. One was dressed in a modest t-shirt and shorts, while the other wore very fancy-looking clothes. It was easy to spot who his target was.

“Please, I can’t give you anything more,” the poorer guy pleaded.

“Can it,” the rich kid said. “I told you what would happen if you didn’t deliver by today.”

“Please, I really don’t have any more,” the poorer guy said, bowing low.

“I think you heard him,” Kento said. The rich kid turned to face the voice, only to be met with a fist colliding with his face. Kento grabbed his arm, not letting him fall. He couldn’t touch a man who was on the ground after all. He delivered a hard blow to his target’s stomach, followed by another hook to his temple. This time Kento let him fall, and fall he did. A dull bang rang through the air as his head collided with the metal frame of the monkey bars.


“And then what happened?” Mirai asked.

“He almost died,” Kento said. “Massive cut on his head, cracked jaw, apparently I even damaged his liver with my punch. I never meant for it to go down like that. I just wanted to rough him up a bit, but I went too far.”

“So what did you do?” Mirai prompted. She didn’t seem too surprised by the story.

“I did what I had to,” Kento said. He was sitting on his bed, his eyes trained on the floor. He was too ashamed to make eye contact. “I called an ambulance and turned myself in. The family pressed charges, but because I was still a minor they let me off easy. I wouldn’t get a strike on my permanent record, and I just had to pay back the medical bills before I turned eighteen. Of course, I was broke, so I had to pick up a bunch of part-time jobs.”

“And I assume you managed to pay off your debt?” Mirai asked.

“Yeah, barely,” Kento said with a chuckle. “I had to work every day. I delivered papers in the morning, worked in a warehouse in the afternoon and did freelance work on my computer in the evening.” Kento finally looked up and met Mirai’s gaze. “I guess it was a good thing in the long run. It taught me the value of hard work and money.”

“So you had a bit of a reputation,” Mirai said. “But those guys seemed to know you personally.”

“Yeah, they were all friends of Kazuya,” Kento said. “I almost didn’t recognize them, but I hang out with them for almost a year. We were all pretty close before I swore off that life.”

“So that’s why,” Mirai said as if Kento had just revealed the secrets of the universe.

“That’s why what?” Kento asked.

“Nothing,” Mirai said, glossing over it.

“Ok…” Kento said. He wanted to dig into that, but thought better of it. “I’m a bit upset with them, to be honest. The thing I drilled into them the most were those rules. Looks like I didn’t drill hard enough.”

“Yeah, guess not,” Mirai said. She checked the time on her phone, then jumped to her feet. “I’m gonna miss the last train!” she exclaimed. She bolted out of the door before Kento could stop her.

“So much for walking you there,” Kento said to the now-empty room. He fell back into his pillow, closing his eyes. A smirk crossed his face.

“White Dragon, huh?”