Chapter 5:

Mistake and Coincidence


Aiya woke up to the sound of her phone’s alarm going off. She sat up, rubbing her eyes. She hadn’t slept well the previous night. She was worried about Rin. She was such a nice person, it pained Aiya to see her hurting. She mentally cursed at Kento. He seemed like a nice guy, but he was about as dense as a brick. How could he act so coldly towards Rin? His stupid workplace philosophy just caused rifts between him and those close to him.

Aiya jumped out of bed, determined to try and smooth things over between Rin and Kento today. With newfound drive, she began her usual morning routine. She was halfway done with her hair when she heard a knock on the door. This was unusual. She almost never had visitors. She was pretty sure only Hina knew where she lived. She dismissed it as a door-to-door salesman or something and continued doing her hair.

Another knock rang out, louder this time. Whoever it was, they were persistent. Aiya let out a frustrated breath. She put down the hairbrush and made her way to the door. She really didn’t want to deal with whoever was on the other side.

“I’m coming, don’t break the door down!” She called out when the third series of knocks landed. She threw open the door without a lot of care, intent on showing her displeasure with being bothered so early in the morning. “Whatever you’re selling, I don’t want any part in it.”

“Ms. Hisakawa, it’s good to see you again,” the man on the other side of the door said. Aiya’s blood ran cold. She slowly raised her head to meet his eyes. His face bore a smile, but his eyes didn’t show even a trace of kindness.

“Mr. Sasaki,” Aiya said, her voice shaking. “What brings you here?”

“Don’t play dumb, Ms. Hisakawa,” Mr. Sasaki said. “You know exactly why I’m here.”

“I assure you, I don’t,” Aiya said, trying her best not to let the fear welling up in her show, a task made all the more difficult by the tremors running up and down her body. “My business with you is finished.” Aiya tried closing the door but Mr. Sasaki stopped it.

“Now, Ms. Hisakawa, is this any way to treat me?” he asked, forcing the door open again. “After I showed you such kindness?”

“You didn’t show me kindness,” Aiya said, trying to hold back tears. “You tricked me, and now you’re trying to bleed me dry!”

“I did nothing of the sort, Ms. Hisakawa,” Mr. Sasaki said, feigning innocence. “I simply lent a helping hand during your time of need, and now I want you to do the same for me.”

“How is extorting me going to help you?” Aiya asked. She tried to sound angry, but a crack in her voice gave away just how scared she was. It took everything she had not to fall apart right then and there.

“Cash is King, Ms. Hisakawa,” Mr. Sasaki said. “And I’m sure if you asked your father he would be more than happy to help out.” This was his trump card. He knew she had the means, and he intended to wring it out of her. He turned around, walking away from the door. “You have a week, Ms. Hisakawa. Please don’t test our patience.”

Aiya slowly closed the door before her legs finally gave way. She barely managed to keep it together, and now that the immediate danger was over all that pent-up fear boiled over. She spent the next few minutes on her knees with her head against the door, crying. There wasn’t anything else she could do. Once the immediate shock wore off she pulled herself together and went to wash her face. She couldn’t let this set her back. She had just managed to get her life in order, she didn’t intend to lose all her progress this early. Mr. Sasaki was nothing but a bully and a con man. She wasn’t going to let herself be intimidated by him. She managed to pull herself together, and within minutes she set off to the station.

Aiya was paranoid for the entirety of her trip between her house and the office. She kept casting glances around her, trying to see if someone was following her. She didn’t think there was anyone, but thinking was a lot different than knowing for sure. The moment she stepped off the elevator into the office it was like a mountain being lifted from her shoulders. She should be safe here, at least until her shift ended. She made her way to her station and nearly fell into her chair.

“Morning,” Kento said.

“Good morning,” she greeted back. “Is Rin not in today?”

“No, I haven’t seen her yet,” Kento said. He stopped typing. “I feel bad about what happened yesterday.”

“Oh, so you have a soul after all?” Aiya asked in a teasing tone. This interaction with Kento set her at ease, something she desperately needed after the events of the morning.

“Listen, I know I can be a difficult person sometimes,” Kento said. “But please trust me when I say I have my reasons. My work is the most important thing in my life. I can’t do anything to jeopardize that.” His eyes fell to his desk, remembering the events of the previous evening. He hadn’t expected his past to be dredged up like that, and by a stranger no less. It made him all the more aware of how lax he had been getting these past few days.

“I get that,” Aiya said, grasping this opportunity. Everything would be fine again if she could get Kento to properly apologize to Rin. “But still, you have to keep people’s feelings into account.”

“I know that,” Kento said, a lot more frustration in his voice than Aiya expected. “I didn’t mean to hurt her. Just because she’s a pain in my rear doesn’t mean I want to see her sad.”

“Then why don’t you come with me after work,” Aiya suggested. “I’ll take you to the shops and you can buy her something as an apology.” Kento turned to look at Aiya, suspicion flickering in his eyes.

“Why are you trying to get us to make up?” he asked.

“Because I don’t feel like working in an office where the only other two people who work full days with me hate each other,” Aiya replied with a smarmy grin.

“I do hate her,” Kento mumbled, turning back to his work. “And I can’t tonight. I have work to do.”

“Why do you work so hard anyway, Kento?” Aiya asked. This conversation wasn’t going the way she wanted it to, and she was getting irritated by that.

“Cash is King,” Kento replied. Aiya froze again, her mind snapping back to that morning. Kento felt the vibe of the room change, and he looked at her. Her face seemed fear-stricken. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Why did you say that?” Aiya asked, her hands shaking.

“Why did I say what?” Kento asked. He was worried now. Aiya was very clearly shaken by something.

“Cash is King,” Aiya said, her voice barely above a whisper. Kento almost answered automatically but stopped himself. How he’d come to learn that phrase was another part of his shameful past, and he didn’t want to bring that up.

“I learned it when I was younger,” he said. “What about it is making you so shaken?”

“Nothing!” Aiya said, spinning back to face her monitor. She forced a smile onto her face. She didn’t want to drag Kento into her stupid mistakes. He clearly had a lot going on as well, it was unfair to burden him with this too.

“It’s also because of Ms. Sugiyama,” Kento said, turning back to face his monitor.

“What?” Aiya asked. She had gotten lost in her fearful thoughts again,

“One of the reasons I work so hard,” Kento said. “You can see how things are in this office. It’s a bunch of deadweight leeches who abuse her kindness and take advantage of her inability to be strict and demanding of people.” Kento seemed to get genuinely angry talking about this.

“Because of those pathetic lowlifes we’ve missed a lot of deadlines,” he continued. “If things kept going on like that this place would have gone under years ago. That’s when I started. I was working late one night when I overheard a phone call she was having. Apparently, the company was in real trouble. Our reputation was tanking, our funds were low, and the cretins that work here didn’t care. So I stepped up. I poured my everything into my work to keep this place open and to keep Ms. Sugiyama from falling into trouble.”

“You’re doing it for her?” Aiya asked, genuinely taken aback. Kento quickly sat up straight, the tips of his ears turning red.

“No, I’m doing it for the company,” he said. “If this place goes under I lose a well-paying job. I can’t let that happen.”

“Ok, I understand,” Aiya said. She decided not to dig into his true feelings. For the time being, she’d let him continue to believe his own lie. If she pressed him now he might just shut down to her completely, and if that happened she wasn’t sure she’d be able to get him to open up again. Her side project of turning Kento into a normal person would take some time and patience, but she was ok with that. Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all.

“Come to think of it, I need to get to shop for groceries anyway,” Kento said after a few moments of silence. “I guess I can do that tonight, and look for something to give to Ms. Sugiyama while I’m out.” Aiya couldn’t resist the smirk that slipped across her face.

“We can leave at six, so you’ll still get a little bit of overtime in,” Aiya said. “I’ll work till then too.”

“Sounds good,” Kento said. They fell into a peaceful silence again, nothing but the clacking of keys disturbing the office air.


“Quittin’ time!” Aiya exclaimed. She had been eying the corner of her display, waiting for the exact second the numbers changed. Her sudden exclamation nearly sent Kento leaping out of his own skin.

“Aiya!” He yelled. “Don’t do that!”

“What?” she asked, putting on her best innocent face. “We agreed to leave at six.” Kento ran his hand through his hair.

“You almost gave me a heart attack,” he said, taking a deep breath. “I swear, the people in this office are actively stealing years off my life.”

“Well, it’s not like you were planning to do much with those years, right?” Aiya asked playfully. She grabbed Kento by the arm and dragged him out of his chair. “Now come on! We have to go.”

“What’s gotten into you?” Kento asked, getting out of his chair, but refusing to let himself be dragged any farther.

“I haven’t been able to go shopping in a very long time,” Aiya said, pulling even harder on his arm. “And there’s a very cute dress I’ve been eying for a while now.”

“I never agreed to that!” Kento protested. “I am just going for groceries and an apology gift for Ms. Sugiyama. I’m not following you around while you go clothes shopping.”

“Oh, come on!” Aiya said. “Don’t be like that. It’s not like you have anything better to do, right?”

“I have plenty better to do!” Kento said, still resisting her pulling. “Can’t you ask Hina to go with you?”

“Hina’s out of town till tomorrow!” Aiya whined.

“Then go clothes shopping tomorrow!” Kento demanded.

“But we’re going to be right there today!” Aiya said. Kento took stock of the situation. He wasn’t a stupid man. He knew that he had lost this battle the moment Aiya had set her mind on something. Such has been the fate of men since the dawn of time. Kento just despised that she had set her mind on clothes shopping.

Had it been anything else he probably wouldn’t have put up this big of a fight, but like most men, he didn’t understand fashion, and shopping for clothes with a woman was akin to a caveman shopping for computer parts with an avid gamer. He would be completely out of his element and bored out of his mind.

“Fine!” Kento said, yanking his hand free. “I’ll go, but you owe me one.”

“Deal,” Aiya said, grabbing Kento’s hand and shaking it vigorously. “Now stop dragging your feet, and let’s go!”

Aiya bolted out of the office. She was ecstatic at the thought of killing two birds with this one stone. Mending Kento and Rin’s relationship, finally getting out to buy that cute dress, it all came together like a beautiful tapestry. Above everything, it took her mind off the bad start her day had had. She felt like she hid it well, but she was still really scared. She was sure that part of her life was behind her, so for it to suddenly land on her doorstep again… it left her a lot more shaken than she expected. She couldn’t tell Kento, and she had doubts that he realized this, but she didn’t want to be alone yet. To him, this was probably just humoring his pushy colleague.

Kento slouched over and followed after Aiya. He wasn’t looking forward to what was about to happen, but he knew he had to do this. Aiya had clearly come into work really shaken this morning. Something had happened to put her on edge, and even if she didn’t say it Kento could tell she didn’t want to be alone yet. It went against his work philosophy, but a much older philosophy had taken precedent. One he followed when he was still known as the White Dragon. If a good person was in trouble, especially if that person was a woman, he was obligated to do everything in his power to help them. Just because he had given up on being a delinquent didn’t mean he had to give up what he stood for.

On the way out the door, they were given a friendly greeting by Abe who was vigilantly standing his post. As they walked past, he shot Kento a knowing grin. Kento aggressively shook his head in the negative, trying to get the message across to Abe that it was a misunderstanding. Abe nodded and waved Kento off, as of to say ‘Yeah, sure buddy.’ Kento knew he would have to clear things up with Abe, but he also knew right now wasn’t the right time to do it. Aiya was already pulling ahead of him.

“Come on, slowpoke! You’re falling behind!” She called after him. Taking an objective look at the situation, Kento couldn’t really blame Abe for what he thought. This sure as hell looked like a date from the outside. Abe should have known better, though. Kento didn’t even want to get platonically involved with his coworkers. It would take some kind of supernatural disaster to make him get romantically involved with a coworker.

“Yeah, yeah,” Kento grumbled, picking up his pace to match Aiya. “Where are we going, anyway?”

“Oh, you’ll see,” Aiya said. “It’s right around the corner.” And so Kento was dragged along, down the street and around the corner. Aiya took the corner a little fast, and nearly tackled another woman. Aiya remained standing, but the victim of this runaway train was sent falling to the ground. Aiya reached out her hand, trying to grab the hand of the falling girl before she hit the ground and potentially got hurt, but Kento proved to be quicker on the draw. He quickly caught her by her shoulder, helping her back up to her feet.

“I’m so sorry!” Aiya said, bowing low. “I was distracted and I wasn’t watching where I was going.”

“Are you ok?” Kento asked, walking back around to stand by Aiya, who lifted her head. They got their first proper look at the girl they had collided with.

“Mirai?” they both asked in unison.

“Hehe, hi,” Mirai said, with a giggle. “It’s nice to see you again, Kento, Aiya.”

“I’m so sorry about that!” Aiya apologized again.

“Please, it’s fine, you don’t have to apologize,” Mirai said. “Where are you two going in such a hurry?”

“Shopping!” Aiya said, immediately perking up. “Do you want to join us?”

Kento froze. Around him, time seemed to slow down as his brain went into overdrive. His situation had just become infinitely more dangerous. Shopping with one woman was already bad, but it was a situation he could at least somewhat control. He could recommend they stop to drink something, or, if he wanted the outing to end, he could become a bad conversation partner. It wasn’t nice, but it would work. With two women, however, they could keep each other going. He could already see it in his mind. The reactions to cutesy dresses and shoes fueling each other to try on even more, with him being dragged along behind, slowly withering away into a soulless husk.

“Aiya, I’m sure Mirai has other things she’s busy with,” Kento said. “We really don’t want to be a bother to her.” This was a Hail Mary. Kento knew that. The odds of success were low, but it just might pay off. He sent out a silent prayer, counting on his lucky stars. His lucky stars answered, telling him to go to hell.

“Oh no, I’d love to come with you!” Mirai said with a sweet smile.

“Oh, that’s great!” Kento said, feigning happiness. Inside he could feel a part of him had just died.

“What are we shopping for?” Mirai asked, falling in stride next to Aiya.

“A few things, but most importantly a gift for one of Kento’s friends,” Aiya said. “He said something that upset her, so now he needs to apologize.”

“Kento has friends?” Mirai said with a teasing tone. Her eyes grew a bit more suspicious. “Who is this mystery girl.”

“Oh, one of our coworkers,” Aiya said.

“Oh, it’s Aunt Rin,” Mirai said, apparently to the open air. Her suspicious look was dispelled, replaced with a smile.

“Aunt Rin?” Aiya asked. “Are you and Rin related to each other?”

“No!” Mirai said quickly. “I’ve never met her!”

“Then how did you know we were talking about her?” Kento asked, puzzled.

“You mentioned her last night,” Mirai said.

“Last night?” Aiya asked, turning to Kento. “What exactly happened last night?” Kento stammered for a second, not expecting the interrogation to be turned on him.

“Well, when I got home last night…” he began explaining, lifting his hands defensively. “I heard a bunch of people in the alley behind my apartment building. I checked it out and found a bunch of guys trying to harass her, so I stepped in to help. She was shaken up, so I gave her some tea and let her stay in my apartment till the next train came.”

“We talked a little bit while we waited,” Mirai added. “He mentioned Rin then.”

“I did?” Kento asked. He wracked his memory, trying to remember. It had been such a heavy conversation, he might have let something about her slip. “I guess I did,” he said, shrugging.

“So you told her about your friends?” Aiya asked, trying to trap Kento.

“Ms. Sugiyama isn’t my friend,” Kento shot back, instantly seeing through the trap.

“What are the odds that the three of us all got to know each other separately, only to run into each other here?” Aiya asked, changing the subject. It looked like Kento didn’t really want to talk about what happened the previous night, so she wouldn’t pry.

“A lot less than you think,” Mirai said.

“I don’t think so,” Kento said. “This town is a lot smaller than you think it is.” He took a breath and looked up into the last golden rays of the sun. “And sometimes things are just meant to happen, you know?”

“Are you trying to say our meeting was destiny?” Aiya asked, crossing her arms. “Why, Kento, if I didn’t know any better I’d say you were a hopeless romantic.”

“I’m not,” Kento said with a shrug. “But what is destiny, if not random chance spurring on small coincidences?”

“Wow, that’s soooooo deep,” Aiya said. She mimicked throwing up, eliciting a laugh from Mirai.

“Yeah, forgive me for trying to be profound,” Kento said, frowning. He turned away from the girls, clearly not happy with how he was being treated. This was exactly why he was worried about going shopping with two women.

“Oh, don’t be such a baby!” Aiya said, grabbing onto his arm. “Now come on, we have a lot of stores to go through, and not a lot of time.

“Yeah!” Mirai said, grabbing Kento’s other sleeve and pulling him forward. “Let’s go have some fun!”

Kento sighed hard, but let himself be dragged. He already learned the lesson all men learned eventually. Fighting against one woman is hard. Fighting against more than one woman united to a single cause was impossible.

“At least I can get that new ramen flavor,” he muttered, following behind his two companions.