Chapter 8:

The Atmosphere That Binds

X = Y

For the desolation, they consider themselves the forsaken ones. They are hopeless, purged unjustly of their raison d'être, their reason to live, after being blissfully ignorant to the cruelty of the world. Oblivious when happy, sorrowful when lost, they scorn the world, seeking a new meaning, advancing without candidly comprehending what they wish to pursue. Such is the case for Kei Hirojima.Bookmark here

If one truly understands their feelings — to think about the inconsistencies in life and accept them, even acquiescently, they would understand the world's plan and the significance behind each action they take. Fear and sorrow manifested stigmatically would not prevail, henceforth restructuring one's life for a valiant, noble cause would alleviate the symptoms plaguing the mind of a desolation. Such is the case for Kei Hirojima.Bookmark here

The world is a single unified conscious, operating under the guise of a single entity. Every person has contributed to it, and their actions dictate the lives of others. The chance to change and the opportunity to act, bestowed unto humans by the single governing entity, and humanity cannot evade its destruction or mercy, for its omnipotency created their will.Bookmark here

A week passed unhurriedly for Kei, wishing to be revitalised and his return to school be plausible. Inside his newfound home, he wore his new school uniform, and his laptop sat on his bed. He stared at it forebodingly, hesitant in wanting to research the death of his parents.Bookmark here

"Should I do it...I shouldn't...but I should..." Kei mused.Bookmark here

His hand crept on the closed laptop lid, but his hand began shuddering whilst his head felt taut like a spring about to snap. On the cusp of rending his mind, his curiosity overthrew his intellect as he quickly clutched onto the laptop. But, his body refused, enacting a divide between his temporal thoughts and instinct.Bookmark here

"No...This is eating away at me! I can't...but I want to! I have to...but why? Why must I? I can feel something coming up my stomach is empty...It's like I'm being pushed into the ground and someone's holding my head, pushing me down from there!" Kei contemplated.Bookmark here

Tainted intents and tentative proposals hindered his sensory and actioned processes, entangling them into a disarrayed weave strenuous to disentangle, unnecessarily consuming the limited time he had. Kei withdrew his hand once more, walking away from the laptop dismayingly.Bookmark here

Kei attended school but was late to his homeroom class. Entering, he felt eyes analysing his very being, examing him down to his core. Every fault, every inconsistency, traced by their keen eyes that breached his privacy. Kanda and Meya were exceedingly worried but wanted to reassure Kei, thus smiling relievedly, knowing he would interact with everyone and normality would return to his life. Kei sat down in his seat absent-mindedly, like an astral projection drifting about the world. With his concentration and willingness to learn assiduously, he assuaged his tumultuous emotions, but an air of indignancy loomed across his mien.Bookmark here

The day passed, and Kei began walking down the hallway. A familiar voice shouted, taking his attention.Bookmark here

"Kei!" the girl behind him screamed.Bookmark here

Kei swivelled around, stopping to discern the figure that began running towards him. Abe Arisu, and Risa Kayo, ran towards him with their bags in their hands, standing and smiling sincerely. Kei glared phlegmatically but issued no reprimanding warning for calling him, desiring to be alone for the time being. Denying the role of a harbinger of chaos, he wished to listen to her, negating the chance of spreading negativity, aspiring to bestow happiness to others even if unattainable for himself.Bookmark here

"Yeah?" Kei answered unlively.Bookmark here

" are you? You've been gone for a week?" Abe asked anxiously.Bookmark here

"Oh...I'm fine..." Kei responded.Bookmark here

"Oh, that's great...Um...How do I say this? How is Rei doing?" Abe asked, inconsiderate of his situation.Bookmark here

"Abe!" Risa exclaimed, staring at Abe admonishingly. "You can't say that..."Bookmark here

Risa stared at Kei empathetically, who responded with an indifferent stare.Bookmark here

"Rei? He's missing..." Kei added, clenching his fists tightly. "What do you want to know about him?"Bookmark here

" is he going to return? Tell me when he return's, okay?" Abe replied with a smile.Bookmark here

Any potential anger caused by her words never surfaced, nor did hatred stemming from her neglect for him. None of those emotions crossed Kei. He only felt stagnant disappointment in himself for not persuading his brother to stay and the ensuing torment following his departure.Bookmark here

"She cares about him and not me. That's fine...Even though I look exactly like him, what does he have that I do not? He's my twin brother...Our beginnings may be the same, but who said our endings had to be the same?" Kei pondered.Bookmark here

"Yeah sure...Goodbye..." Kei responded, walking the other way.Bookmark here

Once he was far away, after staring at him, Risa turned to face Abe.Bookmark here

"You shouldn't have done that to Kei, Abe." Risa said.Bookmark here

"I didn't want to ruin the surprise that Meya was planning. Once Rei came back, Kei would be there, and there would be a whole big celebration or something." Abe added. "It was for both of them, and I want it to happen."Bookmark here

"Yeah...because a special someone is involved that isn't here." Risa replied, smiling insistently, walking away.Bookmark here

"Hey! It's not like that! Risa!" Abe exclaimed, embarrassed by Risa's implication.Bookmark here

Kei walked down the stairs to the ground floor, and Kanda was waiting there. Upon seeing him, Kanda turned his body and took his hands out of his pocket. Bookmark here

"Kei. How's things going?" Kanda asked honestly.Bookmark here

"I don't really know...It's going take me some time..." Kei responded.Bookmark here

"Oh. Yeah, life is like that. It's a hassle. Come with me. There's something that Meya set up for you." Kanda said.Bookmark here

Hearing her name resonated with Kei, grasping his attention, becoming intrigued by her plan. Fascination arose, and his impassive behaviour diminished.Bookmark here

"Meya? What did she do?" Kei questioned Kanda.Bookmark here

"Just come with me, and you'll see. You're not going to get answers if you always ask questions like that." Kanda responded.Bookmark here

They walked towards a room on the ground floor, and all the desks and chairs were placed neatly to one side. There was an impromptu stage at the front with red curtains, resembling an actual theatre stage. Gawking in confusion, Kei wandered in, realising some classmates were sitting on seats organised in rows. He felt anxious, and at centre stage was Meya, along with other girls part of Act Time.Bookmark here

"Kei!" Meya exclaimed happily.Bookmark here

She dashed off the stage in her elegantly lavish costume, with the other girls perplexed by her immediate charm, like a magnet, for Kei. He stood there more confused than the others, wanting to see what Meya would do.Bookmark here

"Hey, Kei! Take a seat! This is a play we've been working on! Just wait for Abe and Risa to get here, and we can start." Meya said ecstatically.Bookmark here

"A play? Oh, I just saw Abe and Risa." Kei responded, enchanted by her dress.Bookmark here

"What?!" Meya exclaimed in disappointment. "Did they tell you?"Bookmark here

"No. Kanda brought me here." Kei responded.Bookmark here

"That is what I did. You know, I'm kind of excited about the play. You wrote it yourself, and the principal gave you permission to rehearse here." Kanda said.Bookmark here

"Yeah! I hope you enjoy it, Kei!" Meya yelled cheerfully.Bookmark here

Kei sat down on the front row with Kanda beside him. The play commenced, lasting for an hour until the end of lunch. Other students brought out their food, and the actors and actresses took a break in the middle to eat and drink, replenishing themselves.Bookmark here

Captivated by the diverse cast, enthralled by their prowess, Kei immersed himself into a new world. His eyes glimmered, burying the tragic adversity and pessimism domineering his life, guiding him further into lamentation. The dark scape within his mind erupted into a white background, brimmed with the majesty of this world that submerged him in beauty. It occupied Kei for the hour, and his satisfaction only increased, never dwindling. The music, the movement, the feelings conveyed — and thus inherited — from the cast, and the people he admired were wholly devoted to providing the best experience.Bookmark here

The play finished, but more students joined whilst it progressed, and they received a standing ovation from the crowd. Kei stood up, clapping gleefully with a smile that gathered Meya's attention, reciprocating with a smile.Bookmark here

"Thank you all for coming today! We're a small cast, but we want to grow, so support us along the way!" Abe exclaimed in her sumptuous dress, posing.Bookmark here

The students stood out of their seats, walking away back to class. Meya and Act Time were left behind to change back into uniform and tidy the stage. Kanda and Kei were walking back to class.Bookmark here

"That was a good idea. Right?" Kanda remarked, smirking.Bookmark here

"Yeah. I enjoyed that..." Kei responded. "I didn't know Meya and the girls were that good at acting." Kei added.Bookmark here

"First time watching her? It's the same for me. It's also the first time I've watched Risa perform. She's in my top three, but I can't get too ahead of myself. Life's just going to hit me like a truck one day, and I won't have time for anything else. What a hassle..." Kanda added.Bookmark here

"Risa? She was amazing, just like Meya and the rest..." Kei added, returning to his apathetic state.Bookmark here

Kanda realised the retrogression in Kei's attitude.Bookmark here

"Hey, Kei. You can't go back to being sad. Meya did this for you so you would be happy again." Kanda added.Bookmark here

"That's going to take some time...I really did enjoy the play, but like all wounds, time is the second-best healing factor. The best factor is something I still have to work out." Kei added.Bookmark here

The day ended, and Kei exited school alone. Meya and Kanda were attending their clubs, whilst Kei desired to go home, to be comforted by his new family. A ball began rolling towards him, and he picked it up, riveted by the potential stories and the people it came across. Kei turned his head and saw Kazunori Mitsuishi, the captain of the Metagawa Highschool football team.Bookmark here

"Hey...Kei? Or is it Rei? Hehe." Kazunori said, attempting to create an atmosphere of ease around himself. "Too soon for jokes? Yep, too soon." Kazunori added.Bookmark here

"Here." Kei said, handing over the ball to Kazunori, who accepted it in bewilderment.Bookmark here

"Hey, what's up? Want to talk about something?" Kazunori said, smiling.Bookmark here

"Why? Is it to do with football?" Kei added.Bookmark here

"Of course! I'm practising by myself, and I have the time. Since you and Rei were gone, we've lost two of our last three games...Hehe..." Kazunori said flippantly. "Come with me and sit down."Bookmark here

They both sat down beside the football pitch on the grass, holding their knees with her arms.Bookmark here

"You know, it's been getting to me too. The losses, and being the captain, it's all on your head. Everyone knows about it, and I don't want to bring it up. So, how have you been?" Kazunori said kindly.Bookmark here

"Me? You want to know about me?" Kei added in surprise.Bookmark here

"Yeah. You're part of our team. You're as important as everyone else. Without you two, the games haven't felt the same. It feels so basic without flare." Kazunori exclaimed, looking up at the sky, staring vividly.Bookmark here

"It's not the same without him. He's gone, and I don't know when he'll be back. Rei could die...and I would never now. Something could happen to him, and I'll never know..." Kei stated pessimistically.Bookmark here

"You can't think like that. There's no harm in trying something that isn't bad, like believing that he'll be okay. You know when we're losing, would it bring any good if our morale just drops and we give up? No! You have to keep fighting, no matter what. And hey, maybe a comeback is on the horizon." Kazunori exclaimed. " you want to play some football?" he said, smiling.Bookmark here

"Is that why you asked me to speak? Just so you could get me back on the team?" Kei said in disappointment.Bookmark here

"No..No..." Kazunori smiled at first, but anxiety swallowed him whole. "I wanted to give you some time alone, and then I wanted you to join again. You may not be Rei, but you're still Kei, and you're good enough to play! Hehe..." Kazunori stated, realising the error he made, becoming repentant. "Wait, no! I didn't mean it like that-"Bookmark here

Kei stood up without looking at Kazunori, walking away in trudging away in shame from Kazunori's disheartening words.Bookmark here

"I'll think about it...but for now, I don't want to..." Kei sauntered away.Bookmark here

"Hey! I'm sorry, Kei! But get better!" Kazunori exclaimed remorsefully.Bookmark here

"You only cared about him and not me...Do none of you realise that I miss my brother the most?! I want him back too! If I went missing, would you miss me the way you miss him?" Kei pondered. "Leave it! I don't need the hate or negativity in my life...Just focus on the future, Kei."Bookmark here

Kei made his way back home, and the day passed. Kei was using his laptop after studying for hours. He was on a search engine, and his fingers began twitching.Bookmark here

"I want to do it...but I can't...but I must..." Kei mused again.Bookmark here

The void overwhelmed his stomach, creating an empty, lifeless sensation, but there was something omnipresent in there. His heart sank, the temperature of his body rose, and a bubbling texture promenaded in his throat. His interior, his viscera, swirling around, turning inside out, and the atmosphere compressing his mind, with its sultry, yet frigid, hands subsuming him.Bookmark here

His heart was thumping against his chest, and the sound and feel of his arteries pulsing battered his ears. Ambivalency, embodying self-doubt, curiosity, and idiosyncratic novelty, persuaded him to resolve his issue, committing to his search.Bookmark here

Kei typed in words, which had such enormous weight: "Hirojima Family Fire".Bookmark here

Abruptly, he gulped, shoving his hand over his face, his eyes broadening, shuddering violently. A worried, dolorous look instantiated on Kei's face as he pressed the enter key. He quickly read the articles and saw images of the remains of his house as his memories became a blur, converging into a single, overlapping slideshow.Bookmark here

"Rei Hirojima has gone missing."Bookmark here

"The death of the Hirojima family is an upsetting one."Bookmark here

"An arsonist attacked a family, and two have been reported dead."Bookmark here

"Only ash remains, and the brother of two is missing."Bookmark here

"The culprits are still yet to be found. Police are working on the case dilligently, trying to stop any and all criminal activies within Machira Town."Bookmark here

"The Machira Town fire is finally over, but witnesses are scarce."Bookmark here

He skimmed through images and the comments people made on the tragedy, prompting him to feel anguish.Bookmark here

Incapable of holding in the trauma, he ran to the bathroom, latching onto the sink staunchly, his fingers digging into the ceramic material. His eyes were quivering relentlessly, and his body began contracting from the inside, squeezing from the outside. Kei threw up uncontrollably, expressing disquieting desperation.Bookmark here

Staring at himself in the mirror, he loathed that ghastly creature he became, not human, nor from this world, is what he thought. Breathing heavily, each inhalation syphoning his verve, each exhalation exhausting himself, Kei walked to his bed. He sat down and exited the internet browser, staring at the laptop one last time before closing the lid.Bookmark here

"Dammit...I did it, but I regret it so much! Why did I do it? It wasn't worth it...It definitely wasn't..." Kei thought.Bookmark here

The door to his room opened, and the creaking of the hinges alerted Kei. Wondering who would present themselves to him, he glared, struggling to compose himself. Urika Rakashi, his adoptive mother, entered the room with an emblazoning, angelic smile.Bookmark here

"Kei?" Urika said, feeling consternation, expressing it. "What happened to you? Are you okay? I heard someone running so quickly above me."Bookmark here

Urika sat next to him whilst he was breathing, gazing at Kei, now smiling.Bookmark here

"You can tell me what happened. I'm not going to worried if you do." Urika added, placing her hand on Kei's forehead. "My my. Your temperature has gone up. You don't seem to be ill. Maybe a glass of milk would help?" she said, smiling warmly.Bookmark here

"'s nothing...I tried to search something I shouldn't have..." Kei replied.Bookmark here

"Search On the internet..." Urika responded in astonishment. "Like your name? You should never type your name on the internet..."Bookmark here

"How...did you know...You didn't make it weird or awkward either, and go for the obvious guess because I'm a teenage boy..." Kei stared at her in astonishment.Bookmark here

"Really? That never crossed my mind. Huh...But that was what happened in your past. You still have your future to look forward to, Kei. You shouldn't forget what happened, but you should learn to accept it and move on. Right?" Urika smiled.Bookmark here

She pushed her finger against Kei's nose dotingly, treating him like a child but in an endearing fashion, tending to his needs. Kei felt love burst from that one single action. It had tremendous affection and weight, preponderating his cynical outlook, lifting his heart using the chain that bound it, hanging in his chest. At that moment, it meant more than the world to him.Bookmark here

"I've...already been...accepted...Have I? I have...haven't I?" Kei mused, love, encompassing him, altering his outward presence.Bookmark here

"Let's go downstairs to eat. I've cooked something special this time." Urika said, smiling sweetly, tenderly.Bookmark here

Thus, Kei Hirojima eased into his life at the Rakashi family. Encumbered by tragic events immiserating his existence, he toiled forth, persevering through the shell encasing him, aspiring to shatter it and live candidly. His family at home, his friends, and lost memories would assist him in his endeavours to relieve him of a blemish left by that fire.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.