The Fall of Prince Hayashi
Mori and Hayashi knew of each other within the first week of school. They shared a couple classes together, but it was mostly due to their other friends that they knew each other. They exchanged greetings every now and then in the hallway, but nothing felt formal. All they knew of each other was the name and appearance of the other. Mori preferred it that way and apparently, so did Hayashi.
Before Kota entered Kumano, Kuro Mori was the most popular guy in middle school. He thought it was because of his nonchalant attitude and somewhat good grades that made him mysterious enough for the girls and smart enough for the guys. Popularity was never something he reached for. Rather, it landed in the palm of his hand without warning. The first year of high school seemed to confirm that Mori would stay popular. That was until Hayashi transferred over. Hayashi was a sudden hit overnight, and Mori just sat by the side and watched it all happened. Mori’s popularity went down the drain and he watched it all happen silently.
Hayashi was staying after school every day late and only a month had passed at that point. He would stay until the sunset, apparently working on his multitude of clubs that he participated in. Drama club. Newspaper club. Student government. He was working every single moment for all of these activities. Putting his one hundred into everything. All to call himself a well-rounded person. All for people to acknowledge him as the greatest. The undereyes Hayashi scored during the day became something he was known for, a sign of his hard work.
It was exactly one month past after Hayashi transferred. While Kota was going through his own school pains, so was Mori. His parents had found out about his uncle’s underground dealings, and were starting to worry about the influence his uncle had on him. Every day for that week, his parents searched hias room, his bag, trying to find anything that could get him in trouble. Mori was tired of being home, so when his Mom demanded he attend clubs that afternoon, he didn’t complain. Anything to escape being seen as a criminal by his own parents. Even though the worst thing he’d ever done at that point was cheat on a quiz.
To get the easy way out of things, Mori chose a simple and stupid club: cleaning club. The benefit of this club was that they met once a month, to survey if every room was actually clean or not. As the newbie, more you got last pick and had to head to the one room that no one wanted to: the old theater.
Mori couldn’t head home early, so he decided to not be lazy once in his life and actually visit the old theater. The old theater went out of commission the year before, but it wasn’t demolished until our class left high school. Mostly because the school just never got around to doing it. The only people who really went there were couples planning on wasting time together or the gangs at school preparing fights and trading cards. Yet here Mori was, trying to see if this place was clean or not, like anyone cared if it was actually dirty.
It was late winter, the cold air rushing around everyone. Mori headed into the pitch dark theater and saw a white light in the distance. It was like a light from a cell phone, except it was pointed down at the floor. Interested, Mori head towards the light and couldn’t believe what he found.
Kota Hayashi was sitting on the floor of the theater, textbooks surrounding him. His attention split between books with a paper covered in red ink underneath him. Mori looked over the chair pile he was hiding and couldn’t believe the grade.
Hayashi turned around, facing me with red rimmed around his eyes. After that, everything fell apart for Kuro Mori.
“It was 50%” Mori told us, sitting down on his couch. “Hayashi got a 50% on the practice test for Geometry and was studying in the dark to at least pass.”
Mori’s eyes glistened, as he stared in the distance. “I found him there, on the edge, hoping to turn his 50% into an 90%. I couldn’t just walk away after that. So...I helped him.”
Imai’s eyes widened, as she got up from where she was sitting. “Hayashi wasn’t selling his homework. You were selling him your homework.”
“Well, that’s half of it,” Mori said, motioning for Imai to sit down. She took her seat again, waiting patiently for Mori to tell the whole truth.
“In all honesty, I was going to help him that day and be over with,” Mori said. “Yet, I’m not the type to do something without expecting anything in return. Whether that was in the form of money or in the form of something else. I had something Hayashi wanted and he had what I wanted.”
“What did you want?” I asked.
“I wanted to get out of the limelight and let Kota take my place,” Mori got up from where he was sitting. “Kota wanted the popularity that I wanted to get rid of. So by giving him the right connections, I solidified his place as the King of Kumano High.”
Hayashi and Mori made a deal: Mori got rid of his popularity and helped Hayashi reached his own. It made sense sadly. Hayashi never recognized me because his fear of losing popularity and he dated Imai because she was the most popular girl at school. I looked up at her to find her watching Mori walk into his tiny apartment kitchen. She wasn’t super shocked right now, which either meant she was taking things well or was taking the news horribly.
“Connections?” I asked. “What type of connections?”
I heard something shift in the kitchen, followed by a large bang. “You know, people with test answers and stuff that would help Hayashu. All he had to do was pay if he wanted the answers.”
“So that means Hayashi took the newspaper job to pay for test answers,” Imai said. “He needed the money to get good grades.”
To be honest, if he just spent that extra time studying he could have at least gotten a better score than a 50%. Maybe an 80%, but that would still have been better than failing class. That would have been enough for anyone else. Yet...Hayashi wanted perfection. No. He needed perfection. That’s why he choose Imai as his girlfriend. That’s why he ignored me. And that’s why Mori used him to his own advantage.
As if he could hear my thoughts, Mori came back to the living room. Except now, he was holding a small black laptop in his hands, which was covered in a fine layer of dust. Looking at it made my nose itch.
Mori took his seat back onto the couch and put the laptop down on the coffee table. “This is Hayash’s laptop.”
He flipped open the cover. “He gave it to me months before he passed away. I gave him some money because I thought he was trying to sell it to me. Turns out that he didn’t want his old folks to go snooping in it after he passed away.”
The screen lit up a light blue, the small plant icon lighting up “Kota Hayashi” in bright white letters. Imai and I both scooted closer to Mori, as if he had pure gold on his coffee table versus a beat-up laptop. It really was Hayashi’s laptop. The stickers that covered the areas near the keyboard looked exactly like the stickers from our favorite video game to play. The way that the keys were worned down to the point where the letters were disappearing. This laptop was loved while it was kept in Kota’s hands. Undoubtedly, there was something to be found in here that no one would know about.
“Well,” Satomi whispered. “What are you waiting for? Are you going to open it?”
Mori closed the screen with a quick snap and both of us jolted back. He crossed his arms and stared at the top of the laptop.
“Actually, I never knew the password for the computer,” Mori said. “Hayashi never bothered to tell me, so I thought he would be taking it back once he made the money back.”
“I think he was making sure you didn’t snoop around either,” I said.
“No doubt he worried about that too,” Mori pulled the laptop off the table and turned to face me. “I think if anyone could guess the password, it might be you two: the ex-girlfriend and the ex-nerdy friend.”
Mori handed the laptop to Imai and she took it in her hands, the weight of it causing her hands to drop a little bit.
“I have no idea what the password might be,” Satomi raised her brow at me. “Do you?”
“If you have no idea, then I’m all out of luck too,” I said.
“Take it back with you,” Mori offered. “All it’s been doing is weighing down my luggage going to and from America. I’ll be glad to hand it off to you two.”
I looked over at Imai and she nodded in agreement. There was no reason to not take the laptop back with us. If anything, what was in this laptop could be the solution to our search reveal all the mysteries Kota hid. It was like finding a gold inside a locked safe. Once we cracked the code, who knows what we could find.
“We’ll call you if we get it open,” I said to Mori. “He gave you the laptop in the first place for a reason.”
Mori waved his hand at us. “Don’t bother Just tell me if anything interesting pops up. Or anything illegal, because then I’ll have to leave the US immediately.”
Was….was that supposed to be a joke?
I let out a small forced laugh, motioning for Imai that it was about time that we left Kuro’s apartment. We got up and noticing the signs, Mori got up and headed towards the door.
“Maybe when I bring my girlfriend back to visit my parents, we can all have a double date,” Mori said, opening the door wide. “If you request me on Winkstagram, I’ll add you two in.”
“Why were you on private anyways?” I asked, ignoring his offer. “Isn’t that odd?”
“What do you mean by that?” Mori asked. “Most people I know are private on Winkstagram. Sure, when we were younger being public was cooler. But as you two know, I never liked the spotlight.”
Imai nodded. “I guess it might be more common now. I….I don’t really go on Winkstagram that much.”
“Me neither,” I said. “But mine is caused by my past experiences.”
Imai grabbed my arm and dragged me out of the apartment, and I waved the last goodbye to Mori. She let go of my arm the moment the door behind us closed tight, heading downstairs with the laptop under her free arm.
It never occurred to me that even with all those followers that Satomi would hate Winkstagram. Or at least, not use it at all. I don’t know why I assumed that she was popular online. Maybe it was because she was just naturally beautiful and fun, and that type of person was always the one with a following behind them. She would have been famous, if it weren’t for the fact that she was stuck here in Kumano. Stuck connected to a past that held her down like glue.
That laptop...could solve all of her issues with a simple password. Even if I never moved on, there was a possibility that after this search she would finally soar once again. I watched the setting sun hit her face, lifting up the warm smile on her face. Imai wouldn’t just soar. She would have blown everyone away the moment this all was in the past.
And….maybe we can be by her side when that happens.
“Souta, your always zoning out!”
I snapped back to reality, my foot almost slipping off the last step of the stairs. I caught myself on the railing and heard Imai break out in a fit of laughter.
She cleared her throat and offered me a hand. “You’re such an airhead sometimes. I’m surprised you haven’t just flown away yet.”
I took her hand and got off the stairs. I expected Satomi to let go of my hand the moment I regained myself. To make a snide comment about my lack of balance and go back to walking three steps in front of me. Instead, I held her hand in mine the silence of the moment settling around us.
The sun was almost gone by the time we reached my apartment complex. Imai walked in and opened the door to my apartment like it was her own place. I closed the door behind me slowly, watching her place the laptop on the coffee table in front of us.
I couldn’t leave her. Even when this was all over, was there a way to bring this feeling back to Onomichi with me? To have her hold my hand back at home, and introduce her as mine. My face flushed as the image of Imai greeted my parents flashed in my mind. Was this okay to image? Was it okay to let this attraction grow into something….something like this?
“Souta, are you okay?” Imai asked, sitting herself down on the couch. The way she just seemed to fit in my life, it scared me.
I’m falling in love with her.
But she might still love Hayashi. Even after all this time.
I shook my head. “Yeah, I’m fine. Now….let’s get to cracking that password.”