Chapter 8:

Rest and Bets


Kento slowly faded in from unconsciousness. He didn’t open his eyes yet. He just tried to will his mind into gear. It was surprisingly hard to clear the fog that had built up in his thoughts. He wondered for a moment where he was. He could feel he wasn’t in his own bed. This one was much more comfortable. He tried to remember how exactly he ended up in a bed that wasn’t his.

He was out with Abe and the girls, then Abe got a message… The memories of how he was shot pierced into his mind almost as violently as the bullet pierced into his abdomen. He realized he had to be in a hospital bed. A sensible place to be given that he was forcibly given a very rapid dose of lead.

Kento slowly dragged open his eyes. Whatever the hospital had used to put him under hadn’t completely worn off yet, and even the act of opening his eyes felt like a Herculean effort. The bright lights of the hospital blinded him, and before he could take in his surroundings a weight fell on him and he was wrapped in a tight embrace.

“Owwww,” he said. The pressure that was now firmly being applied to the extra hole in his body wasn’t exactly pleasant. He looked down, and through bleary eyes saw Rin clinging on to him from the side of his bed. On the other side of him was Aiya, a mixed expression of worry and relief painted on her face. By the foot of the bed stood Abe, a wide grin plastered on his mug.

“Welcome back to the land of the living,” Abe said. “You gave us quite a scare back there.”

“I take it I’m not dead?” Kento asked. His voice was raspy, and Aiya quickly handed him a glass of water which he drank thankfully.

“Yeah, you still have to go in to work on Monday,” Abe said. He laughed at his own joke, then corrected. “Actually, the Doc said you should stay at home for a few days, and even when you start working again you should take it easy.”

“Would you be able to survive without me for a few days, Ms. Sugiyama?” Kento asked, tilting his head down to address Rin. She still hadn’t let him go. On the contrary, her grip grew even tighter.

“Stop calling me that,” She said, her voice muffled by the fact that her face was half-buried in Kento’s chest. “It took you getting shot to finally call me Rin, I’m not letting you go back to that ‘Ms. Sugiyama’ crap.”

“Ok, ok,” Kento said with a pained voice. “I’ll stop if you let go of me. Believe it or not but getting shot kind of hurts.” Rin pulled back from the hug, and Kento gave her a kind smile. It was short-lived, however, as Aiya took her turn to hug him.

“Never do that again,” she said. She released him from her arms, and Abe took a step closer.

“Abe, don’t you dare hug me,” Kento threatened.

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Abe said. He put a hand on Kento’s shoulder. “You did good, kid.”

“You’re not that much older than me, Abe,” Kento reminded. He and Kento shared a laugh, though Kento’s laughter quickly devolved into pained groans.

“I’m sorry,” Rin said. She looked close to tears again.

“Don’t even start with that,” Kento said, waving his arms as emphatically as he could in his condition. “You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Still, it seems like you ladies want Mr. Shifutu to end up in trouble,” Abe said. “This makes two damsels in distress in as many days.”

“Three, in three days, actually,” A voice from the door said. The four in the room turned to see Mirai. She seemed to be stuck, unsure of whether she should come in or not.

“You’re gonna try and hug me too, aren’t you?” Kento asked, letting his head fall back onto the pillow. Mirai took the cue and rushed into the room, hugging Kento.

“This wasn’t supposed to happen,” she said. “I’m sorry.”

“Why are you sorry?” Kento asked. “Like I told Rin, you did nothing wrong. Also, like I told her, getting shot hurts, so please let go of me.” Mirai obliged his request, releasing him from the hug. “Sorry, I don’t mean to push you guys away or anything, but when you hug me you kinda press directly on the sore part.”

“You girls really need to stop getting into trouble,” Abe said with a low whistle. “At this rate, Mr. Shifutu’s probably going to end up in five barrels at the bottom of the ocean by the end of the week.” His joke missed the mark, a guilty aura crushing each of the women in the room. Kento shot Abe a glare, clearly not happy that he made them feel even worse than they already did.

“So, how will you pass the time now that you’re Doctor has ordered you not to go to work?” Abe asked, trying to change the subject.

“I have a computer at home, I’ll work from there,” Kento said, picking an answer he knew would get a reaction from Rin and Aiya.

“I’ll fire you,” Rin threatened. “If I see even a single line that you typed I’ll kick you to the curb.”

“Well in that case I guess I’ll become an otaku or something,” Kento said with a smirk. He’d managed to salvage the mood in the room. “Who knows, the world is my oyster. Maybe I’ll pick up knitting.”

“You do that, champ,” Abe said. “We should go and let you get some rest.” The others agreed and said their goodbyes, walking out.

“Mirai, hold on,” Kento called out. “I need to talk to you.” Mirai seemed surprised by the request, but hang back in the room.

“What’s up?” She asked.

“You ran away again, didn’t you?” Kento asked. Mirai’s face went white.

“How did you know?” She asked.

“I wasn’t dead when they put me in the ambulance,” Kento said. “I saw those three waiting there, but you were gone.” Mirai looked down, unwilling to meet Kento’s eyes. “Mirai, you told me you wouldn’t do that again.”

“It’s not like that,” Mirai said. “I didn’t want to go away.”

“Then why did you?” Kento asked.

“I didn’t have a choice, ok?” Mirai said, her voice unexpectedly forceful. “If I could, of course I’d be there. But when you got shot...”

“Mirai, I get it,” Kento said. Mirai looked up. Her expression told him she didn’t believe him. “It was a scary situation. I think I know that more than anyone. But you can’t abandon the people around you because you’re scared.”

“I’m sorry,” Mirai said again. “You weren’t supposed to get shot.”

“Nothing is ‘supposed’ to happen,” Kento said. “They just do. Now stop apologizing to me. I’m not the one you abandoned.” He gave a light chuckle. “Sorry, I probably sound like your dad with how I’m preaching at you.”

“It’s fine,” Mirai said, her eyes shooting up at his words. She paused for a minute. “My Dad was never really the type to preach at me. He was too lost in a bottle…” She trailed off. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to bring up my personal life.”

“That’s ok,” Kento said. “That’s what friends are for. Now promise me you won’t abandon them when they need you again.” Mirai looked down again.

“I’m sorry, I can’t do that,” she said.

“Why not?” Kento asked, his kind smile fading.

“Because I’m not sure I can keep that promise,” Mirai said. Kento studied her, trying to figure out the mood she was giving off. She didn’t seem malicious. It was like she was genuinely concerned that she wouldn’t be able to keep that promise.

“Ok,” Kento said, giving up on reading her. “Just know that they would never do to you what you did to them.” Mirai’s eyes began glistening. It seemed like she felt a lot of guilt for what she did.

“I should go,” Mirai said in a morose tone barely above a whisper. “They’re probably waiting for me.”

“Yeah, I think you should,” Kento replied. “Try not to vanish on the way there.”


The first week of Kento’s recovery was wholly uneventful. The first day was spent in the hospital. The doctors said they had to keep him for observation, but Kento was absolutely sure that they were trying to bore him to death. He finally managed to get himself home, calling a taxi instead of one of his friends. He didn’t want to be a bother to them. He was sure they were busy.

Sure enough, each of them were very busy. Coincidentally, though, they were all busy with the same thing. Each was worried about Kento, wondering why he hadn’t called for a ride back home from the hospital. Rin’s self-control was the first to fail her. She called Kento to ask if he was alright.

“I’m fine,” Kento said. “I got a cab from the hospital, and I’m resting at home just like you said I should.”

“Kento!” Rin yelled. Kento had to pull the phone a few inches away from his ear to avoid going deaf from her supersonic screeching. “You should know better! I was worried sick! What if you got hurt?”

“I was already shot, how much worse could I get hurt?” Kento asked.

“You could get shot again!” Rin said.

“Does getting shot once suddenly make you attract gunmen from the wild?” Kento asked, half-teasing and half-loopy from the pain medication.

“Point is, you can’t just leave me hanging like that!” Rin said. “From now on, send me a text every day until you can come back to the office.”

“Ok, Mom,” Kento said. He hung up the phone before he could hear Rin’s reaction.

Aiya was the second one to break. She had been pacing up and down her living room just waiting for a call from Kento. After a few hours had passed she began fearing a call from the hospital saying his infection got worse. When she began expecting a call from a funeral home her willpower broke, and she called his number. She started berating him for not letting her know anything.

“Did you and Rin coordinate a plan to chew me out or something?” Kento asked.

“Did Rin call you too?” Aiya asked.

“Yeah, I just got off the phone with her like five minutes ago,” Kento said. “She was pretty upset with me that I got a cab home from the hospital instead of calling her.”

“You got a cab home?!” Aiya yelled, the shock and disbelief in her tone making her sound like a mother who just found out her teenage daughter was pregnant. “Why didn’t you call me?”

“You don’t have a car, Aiya,” Kento replied. It was a very convenient excuse considering the circumstances.

“Still, I could have thought of something!” Aiya said. “Seriously Kento, take others into account for once. I’m sure Abe is worried sick too.”

“Knowing Abe he’s probably drinking a cup of coffee without a care in the world,” Kento said.

“No, he’s worried!” Aiya yelled. “As soon as we hang up, call him, got it!?”

“Why are you acting like my mother too?” Kento asked, a childish whine in his voice. “I’m a grown man, let me be self-destructive.”

“With the way you’re acting you’re definitely not a grown man,” Aiya said. “You better send me a text every day till you can come back to work, ok?”

“Yep, standard procedure,” Kento said. “I should just start a group chat or something.” With that, he hung up his phone. He stared at the screen illuminating his face in the darkened room. He sighed loudly.

Abe was at his post, enjoying a cup of coffee without a care in the world. He had one earbud in and was listening to a mix of his favorite song. The mix had just gotten to a song he particularly enjoyed, so he was understandably frustrated when the music stopped just as the chorus began, replaced by the chirping of his ringtone. He grumpily pulled the phone out.

“Oh, you’re not dead yet?” he asked.

“That’s not a nice way to greet someone,” Kento’s voice rang over the phone. “Rin and Aiya just gave me a proper thrashing for not calling them for a ride home from the hospital.”

“Why would you bother them for a ride?” Abe asked. “You can just call a cab.”

“Right!?” Kento said, overjoyed that someone finally understood. “And now they want me to send them a message every day until I can get back into work.”

“What’s the point of that?” Abe asked. “If you died we’d just read about it in the papers.”

“Exactly!” Kento exclaimed. He and Abe shared a laugh.

“Don’t be too hard on them,” Abe said. “They’re like that because they care.”

“I know,” Kento said. “And I give them a hard time about it because I’m thankful.”

“You are something else, Mr. Shifutu,” Abe said.

“Are you still going on with that?” Kento said. “I’ve been shot, you know. The least you could do is call me by name. I even recall you promise to do it once I called Rin by her’s.”

“For the record, I did call you by name in the heat of the moment after you were shot, but at this point, I’m used to calling you Mr. Shifutu, so it’s staying,” Abe said. “I’m sure Rin is happy about you finally dropping that stupid stuff though.”

“Yeah, she is,” Kento said. In his apartment, he collapsed onto his bed. “It’s kind of crazy how close I’ve gotten to everyone. If the me from a week ago could see this, he wouldn’t believe it.”

“Hell, I almost don’t believe it,” Abe said. “And I was there for a lot of it. With Rin I kinda understand, you’ve known each other for a long time, and you finally decided to let go of that philosophy of yours. Aiya though…” he trailed off for a minute. “You two have a special connection.”

“What are you talking about, Abe?” Kento asked, laughing off the comment.

“I’m serious,” Abe said. “It was the same with me and my wife. I was in love with her the day I met her.” He laughed a jolly laugh. “Of course, it took me a while to convince my wife that she was in love with me too.”

“Abe, I don’t feel that way about Aiya,” Kento said. “I barely know her.”

“Ten bucks says you break and ask her out,” Abe said.

“I’ll take you up on that action,” Kento said. “It’s the easiest money I’ve ever made.”

“We’ll see,” Abe said. “Now get some rest. You have a big day of doing nothing tomorrow.”

“Ok, goodnight Abe,” Kento said. He hung up the phone and put it on his bedside table. He thought again about all the friends that had so suddenly become so dear to him. Well, they’d always been dear to him, it had just taken a bullet to make him realize it. Kento closed his eyes and went to sleep. Abe was right. He had a big day of relaxing coming on.


The next seven days dragged on. Like he promised Kento sent a daily message to both Aiya and Rin, letting them know that, against all odds, he was still breathing. He was sure both of them would be at his doorstep if they could be, but he’d never given either his address. Only Abe and Mirai knew, and he was sure neither would stab him in the back by letting it slip.

As the days crept by Kento’s text exchanges with Aiya began to grow. It was mostly just her asking if he was getting enough rest and eating right, and Kento assuring her that he could take care of himself, but after a few days, their conversation drifted towards more general wellbeing. It wasn’t a big shift, but it was something.

Kento spent a lot of his time thinking about Mirai. He wasn’t sure how to feel about her. He was sure he should be upset, but he couldn’t bring himself to hold a grudge against her. Something about her just made it impossible. He tried to push it to the back of his mind, but with little else to do, he kept dwelling on it. When the week drew to a close he wasn’t any closer to resolving his thoughts though. Luckily, he didn’t have to resolve them. He finally had something he could distract himself with. His faithful mistress.


Kento walked into the office expecting to find his sanctuary of productiveness and hard work. Instead, he found something else. The moment he stepped off the elevator two loud bangs went off. He screamed in terror and instinctively used his arms to cover his stomach. Aiya and Rin peeked in from the two sides of the elevator. Kento was against the back wall, wide-eyed.

“We didn’t really think that through, did we?” Aiya asked.

“Probably not,” Rin said, her usual smile not fading. Kento gathered his composure. He was glad to see Rin back to her usual self.

The rest of Kento’s day was, as he would describe it, hell. He wanted nothing more than a peaceful day with his computer so he could get work done, but Aiya and Rin kept fawning over him, asking if he needed anything. He bumped his foot on the counter when he was getting water out of the fridge and it nearly sent the two women into a fit. Normal men might enjoy the idea of two women doing everything they could to make sure they were comfortable, but Kento was no normal man. For a week he had wanted nothing more than to work, and their constant distractions made him long for the time he had a chunk of lead lodged in him. As the sun’s last rays tinted the windows of the office, Kento’s patience finally ran out.

“Don’t you two think you should head home? It’s getting late,” he said. He knew they were just worried about him, and he didn’t want to sound like he wasn’t thankful, but at the same time he felt like taping both of their mouths shut and leaving them tied up in the storage room.

“Oh, that’s not necessary,” Aiya said. “We don’t mind staying late.”

“Yeah! We have work to do, too,” Rin said. Kento’s head dropped. It looked like he couldn’t take the easy way out.

“Listen, you two, I am really grateful for what you’re trying to do,” Kento said. “But please, can you stop? I’m fine, really. I just want things to be like they were before.” Aiya and Rin exchanged a look.

“Sorry, we were just worried,” Aiya said.

“I know, and I appreciate it,” Kento said. “But you don’t have to be. I won’t just drop dead.”

“Ok, but if we’re going home you are too,” Rin said. “The doctor said to take it easy your first week back.”

“Fiiiine,” Kento said, lifting himself out of his chair. “Let’s go.”


Kento strode into work on Monday with fierce determination. His recovery time had finally passed, which meant he could throw himself into his work with all of his might. It was also the first time since he got hurt that he beat both Aiya and Rin to work. He would have a few blissful minutes to himself. He didn’t get annoyed by his coworkers’ presence anymore, in fact, he found he enjoyed the occasional conversation while he worked, but he was still eternally thankful for these small moments where it was just him and his work. Unfortunately, nothing beautiful lasts, and his silence was destroyed by Rin running into the office.

“Kentoooo!” She called out. “You’re too early!”

“I’m always this early,” Kento replied. He turned back to his computer and typed away, and Rin left him to his devices. She had a mountain of work too, after all. Kento got another half an hour of work in before the elevator dinged yet again. This time, Aiya stepped out. They locked eyes, and Abe’s words floated through his mind.

You two have a special connection.

Kento shook his head. Abe was just seeing things. It was true that he and Aiya had become good friends, but there was nothing more to it.

“Morning,” Aiya said, sitting down next to him. She turned on her station and began working. In the week he was gone Rin had finished Aiya’s training, and she almost never needed his help anymore.

“Good morning,” Kento replied. “Have a nice night?”

“Nothing out of the ordinary,” Aiya replied. “What about you?”

“I dreamt about finally working late again,” Kento said. Aiya laughed.

“If you could marry your work, you probably would,” she teased.

“Probably,” Kento said. “My work is the only one here who hasn’t put me in a potentially life-threatening situation.”

“Are you going to keep bringing that up?” Aiya asked. She had no way to fight against that, and that frustrated her.

“Of course I am,” Kento said. “It’s not every day you can hold something like that over someone. I intend to get every drop of use out of it.”

“Pragmatic as always,” Aiya said with a disappointed sigh. “Oh, by the way, Abe wants to go out for drinks tonight.”

“Tonight!?” Kento exclaimed. “But, I can finally work late!”

“I know,” Aiya said. “And he does too. That’s why he chose tonight.”

“That rat,” Kento said. “Fine, I’ll go, but only because you asked me.” Kento didn’t realize the connotations of what he’d said, as he kept typing away at his computer. They did, however, come through clearly to Aiya, who quickly excused herself to hide her red face. She stormed into the conference room, where Rin sat.

“When is he going to ask you out already,” Rin said.

“Kento and I aren’t like that,” Aiya said.

“Oh, please,” Rin said. “We all know it’s only a matter of time. The two of you are just needlessly dragging this on and wasting everyone’s time.”

“You’re wrong,” Aiya said. She crossed her arms and walked out of the conference room. The day passed without much more incident, but because of Rin and Abe’s words both Kento and Aiya were hyper-conscious of each other. Kento made a mental note to give Abe a proper piece of his mind that evening.


If Kento had to pinpoint exactly when it happened, he would have to say the Thursday following the ending of his recovery period. Rin, Aiya, and Kento were working late. They had a deadline the next day they couldn’t afford to miss, so they ganged together to get the work done. Rin ordered ramen from a local restaurant and brought it to them to serve as their dinner. They enjoyed a small break from work, eating and laughing together.

“I still can’t believe you got called the White Dragon,” Aiya said.

“It sounded cool at the time,” Kento said. “And in my defense, I didn’t name myself.”

“Well whoever did, they did a bad job,” Aiya said, taking a bite of her food. “What’s it even supposed to mean? ‘White Dragon’?”

“It was supposed to symbolize how I was strong but only fought for pure causes,” Kento said. “Which was total crap, I fought anyone for any reason.”

“You really were a bully,” Rin said.

“I’m not arguing with you,” Kento said. “That’s why I put in the effort to change.”

“And you became a mindless corporate drone,” Aiya accused. “Thank goodness I came along to save you.”

“Yeah, thanks for that,” Kento said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. He slurped up another noodle. A bit of the broth splashed against his cheek.

“Oh, let me get that for you,” Aiya said. She pulled a handkerchief from her pocket and wiped the liquid from Kento’s face.

That was the moment. Kento wasn’t sure why. It might have been the fact that she helped him without him asking, or maybe it was what she had said before. It could even have been something as simple as the physical contact she made with his face. Whatever it was, if he had to pinpoint the exact moment he realized he had feelings for Aiya, that was it.


If Aiya had to pinpoint exactly when it happened, she would have to say the Thursday following the ending of Kento’s recovery period. Rin, Kento, and Aiya were working late. They had a deadline the next day they couldn’t afford to miss, so they ganged together to get the work done. They were all eating together, taking a break from working.

“Kento, are you ok?” Aiya asked. Kento had suddenly gone silent.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Kento said. “Sorry, I got distracted.” He seemed flustered. Aiya put away her handkerchief, studying Kento with a curious eye.

“Your face is a bit red,” she said. “Do you have a fever?” She reached out her hand to feel Kento’s forehead.

“I’m fine!” Kento said, jumping from his chair. “I need some water. Can I get you two anything?”

“I’m fine, thank you,” Aiya said.

“Get me some milk,” Rin said. Kento quickly walked over to the kitchen and came back with their drinks.

“Thank you!” Rin said. Kento gave a kind smile.

“Now, let’s get back to work!” he said. They worked the rest of the night in relative silence. They finally finished just as their watches read 1 AM.

“The trains aren’t going to run anymore,” Aiya said. “I guess we’re sleeping in the office.”

“No need, I’ll give you two a ride,” Rin said. “Come on, we all need to get some sleep.” The three made their way to the elevator. On the way down Aiya was absentmindedly looking around the small box, when her eyes met with Kento’s. He grinned and gave her a small wave.

That was the moment. Aiya wasn’t sure why. It might have been the kindness in his eyes or the cute childlike wave. It might just have been a coincidence that it was now. Whatever it was, if she had to pinpoint the exact moment she realized she had feelings for Kento, that was it.


Rin picked up on a certain mood that seemed to permeate the elevator. She smirked at her reflection in the steel doors. She knew it was only a matter of time. A part of her wanted to push those two to act faster, but she knew better. It might just make Kento lose his nerve. Still, she couldn’t help but smile as they stumbled over each other. Kento rushed to open the door for Aiya, then ran past to get the car door as well. He was so distracted he didn’t even notice Abe, observing them with a smug expression.

“That money is as good as mine,” he said, taking a sip of his coffee.

The ride to Aiya’s place was spent in what was, in Rin’s opinion, the most adorable awkward silence ever. She didn’t know what had changed, but Aiya and Kento could barely make eye contact with each other, and yet they kept trying to steal glances through the rear-view mirror. Rin decided to let them be, not interfering in their little dance.

To Kento, the ride to Aiya’s place seemed over way too quickly. He had something he wanted to do, but he hadn’t built up his nerves yet. Maybe he should just give up and try again another day.

“Are you sure this is fine?” Rin asked as Kento and Aiya got off at Aiya’s house.

“Yeah, my place is just around the corner,” Kento said. In reality, it was a few minutes’ walk, but he didn’t want to show Rin where he lived.

“Suit yourself,” Rin said. “Goodnight you two!” She rolled up the window and drove off, leaving Aiya and Kento alone in her driveway.

“Well, I’m off to bed,” Aiya said. “Good night, Kento.” She began walking to her house.

“Aiya, wait,” Kento said, just as she reached her door. “I know this is kind of out of the blue, but…” He trailed off, his nerves threatening to fail him. He steeled himself.

“Do you want to go out to dinner with me tomorrow?”