Chapter 11:

Beaches and Betrayal


“Wasn’t there a festival here like last week?” Kento asked. He was wandering in between booths and rides, trying not to be overwhelmed by all of the loud noises and flashing lights.

“This is by the beach!” Abe said, waving an arm to the view they had.

“I haven’t been at the beach in a while,” Kento admitted. “But still, it feels like overkill to have two events like this so close to each other.”

It had been less than a week since Kento drove up to confront Aiya’s father. It went a lot smoother than he expected, and Abe had to cough up more money for betting that Kento would get into a physical altercation and lose. Now things were seemingly smooth sailing, except for one loose end that Kento had to tie up.

“So where are the others?” he asked.

“You miss her that much already?” Abe asked. “Seriously, are you attached at the hip? The girls said they’d be here soon. Also, you need to get down to the beach more often. I know you live on the other side of town, but you still live in a coastal town. There’s no reason for you to not make the trip every now and again.”

“Abe, you’re forgetting who I was a month ago,” Kento said. He looked at his surroundings again. “Usually you wouldn’t catch me dead in a place like this.”

“Yeah, because who knows what would happen if you had a bit of fun,” Abe said.

“It’s not about fun!” Kento protested. “It’s about wasting money.”

“Oh, and it’s not wasting money now?” Abe asked.

“If it makes Aiya smile I’ll pay any amount,” Kento said. He was being overly sappy because he knew that Abe hated it.

“You are a disgusting man, Mr. Shifutu,” Abe said, putting his hand in front of his mouth as if he was suppressing the urge to throw up. “You two have been dating for all of a week and I already want to break you up.”

“It’s your own fault,” Kento said. “You got in my head and made me overthink things. If you hadn’t said anything I would still be blissfully ignorant. If you want to blame anyone, blame yourself.”

“How was I supposed to know she liked you too?” Abe asked. “I just wanted to see you go up in flames, nothing more.”

“What a good thing to hear from your best friend,” Kento sarcastically said. “I can feel such a wealth of gratitude to you.”

“I’m just doing my job,” Abe said. “I have to give you grief, just like you have to ignore it for the sake of our friendship.”

“My good grace might not last forever, you know,” Kento said, trying to sound threatening.

“You’ve got infinite patience for me,” Abe said. “After all, you should be grateful to me. It’s because of me that you’re in a relationship, remember?”

“You don’t think we’re moving too fast, right?” Kento asked, ignoring Abe’s remark.

“Do you feel like you’re forcing it?” Abe asked.

“Nope,” Kento said. “On the contrary actually. I feel like I could propose today, but I know that’s insane so I won’t do it. It’s the honeymoon phase, or whatever they call it.”

“I don’t know about that,” Abe said. “I mean no one could possibly know it today, but if you and Aiya end up going the distance then what’s the harm in tying the knot early?”

“Yeah,” Kento said. “You might have a point…Wait a second. Are you trying to make me crash and burn again?” Kento shot a suspicious glare at Abe.

“Guilty,” Abe said, lifting his hands defensively. “But in all seriousness, some people are just more compatible. As long as neither of you or forcing yourselves, whatever speed you move at is fine. Just don’t give me a niece yet please, I can’t handle that responsibility.”

“Well, about that,” Kento said. Abe’s neck cracked with the speed at which it spun his head to face Kento, who had a sheepish grin.

“You didn’t…” Abe said.

“Nope, I didn’t,” Kento said, the sheepish grin turning to a malicious smirk. “That’s revenge for betting against me.”

“Don’t do that to me, kid,” Abe said. “Trust me, you’re too young for kids.”

“If it were up to me I’d never have kids,” Kento said, looking to the skies. “I can’t be a dad. I’m almost definitely going to mess it up somehow.”

“Yeah, it’s a lot of pressure,” Abe agreed. “But seeing how they grow up into good men and women… There’s no greater reward than that.”

“I guess I’ll wait and see,” Kento said. He was about to continue when he picked up familiar voices behind them. He tapped Abe on the shoulder and motioned for him to turn around. Behind them were Rin, Aiya, Mirai, and Hina. The girls waved and Kento and Abe half-heartedly waved back.

“We need more guy-friends,” Abe said in a hushed voice, maintaining his smile.

“Speak for yourself,” Kento said. “I am quite enjoying the view. Speaking of, wasn’t your wife supposed to come along?”

“She was, but she’s not feeling well,” Abe explained.

“Still?” Kento asked. “I feel like it’s been a while now.”

“She just can’t shake it,” Abe replied with a shrug. “Doctor’s got her on new meds now, we’re hoping this time’s the charm.”

“Well, here’s to hoping,” Kento said. It was the last of their private conversation as the girls came into earshot.

“Well, don’t one of you two look handsome?” Rin asked, her tone of voice innocent. Kento could see the evil spark in her eyes though. He and Abe had gained a reputation in the group for having arguments that were extremely high in entertainment value.

“We’re not falling for that,” Kento said defiantly.

“Yeah, we know you’re talking about me,” Abe said. Kento felt the stake of betrayal stab through his heart.

“I gave us an out,” Kento said, his voice filled with disbelief. “Why wouldn’t you take it?”

“I believe in chaos,” Abe said, shrugging. “And I enjoy arguing with you. It gives me hope. I mean if someone as stupid as you can keep ticking the world might just have hope.” A giggle emanated from the girls. Kento frowned and spun around, hiding his face.

“Abe, if I catch you looking at any of the girls even once I’m telling your wife,” Kento said. This was a party foul and he knew it. They were at the beach, and even the most well-intentioned man has to look at someone when talking to them. Kento just had to look for the slightest tick of Abe’s eyes and he would have him in his grasp. It was a harsh card to play, but Abe had left Kento with few other choices.

“Kid, I was joking earlier, but you might just really be an idiot,” Abe said. He sounded a lot more serious than Kento expected. He slowly turned around, his victorious smirk quickly disappearing when his eyes met Aiya’s. “You see, you can tell my wife. She might even believe you. All I have to do is help Aiya catch you in the act, which is a lot more effective. Now, remind me, what was that you said earlier about enjoying the v-”

Abe was cut off by Kento’s hand slapped across his mouth. He forced him to turn around and duck into a quick huddle.

“Listen, Abe,” Kento said in a hushed tone reserved only for the most desperate of negotiations. “We are heading towards mutually assured destruction here. Neither of us can win this. I say we both call of our arms and pretend this conversation didn’t happen.”

“I’m not convinced,” Abe said. “You stand to lose a lot more than me, I don’t mind sinking a little if it means you sink a lot.”

“I’ll help you win one of your next bets,” Kento said, throwing out his last card. “You can bet on me and I’ll make sure to give you the winning outcome.”

“Deal,” Abe said. “I can finally get my money back from Rin.”

“You should stop making bets with her,” Kento said. “You always lose against her.”

“Not until I win one,” Abe said. “I am not ending this on a losing streak.”

“Are you guys going to be doing that for long?” Aiya asked. Kento and Abe had completely forgotten they were in a huddle and had devolved back into casual conversation. Both quickly jumped back up and faced the girls.

“So what do you want to do first?” Kento asked, smiling wide. He didn’t like having to put his faith in Abe to not screw him over, but it was all he had.

“Let’s do some rides first, then we can go relax on the beach,” Hina suggested. The rest seemed to generally agree with her.

“You guys go scout out some rides,” Kento said. “I’ll go and grab some snacks for us. Mirai, come help me carry them please.”

“Oh, I don’t mind going,” Aiya said. Kento cursed under his breath. Of course, she would volunteer, she was trying to be a good girlfriend after all. He had to play this very carefully. If he didn’t it would look like he was trying to score some alone-time with another woman, and while he wasn’t the most well-versed in relationships, Kento knew that did not look good. The relationship was working to his detriment, but maybe he could spin it to his advantage.

“No, I want to surprise you,” Kento said. He gave himself a mental high-five, celebrating this genius strategy. “Wouldn’t be much of a surprise if you bought it with me, right?”

“Well, I don’t mind going either,” Rin said. Kento had to bite on his tongue to stop the curse from coming out loud this time. It seemed like these girls were actively trying to mess with him. He had to think. He couldn’t use the surprise excuse again, since then it would be less special to Aiya. But he did have an ace in the hole to use against Rin.

“Do you want Abe to win a bet? Because if you do, then yes, please, come with me,” Kento said. He knew Rin and Abe had made a series of bets with each other since he and Aiya started dating, and neither had a greater source of joy than taking money from the other. Rin would probably pay a great sum of money if it meant she didn’t have to give Abe even a single coin. This strategy had the downside of Abe being able to protest it, though.

“In that case, why don’t I go?” Hina asked. Kento felt like running into the ocean and never returning, leaving himself to the mercy of the waves. For what possible reason would everybody be so generous with their help on this specific thing. Kento was trapped. He had no ammunition he could use against Hina. She was a wildcard, and he had no way to prepare for this. He was about to resign himself to his fate when a moment of pure friendship between two men happened.

Abe took a step forward, and seemingly accidentally tripped, spilling the contents of the drink he was holding all over Hina. He immediately started apologizing profusely, but the look he gave Kento told the true story. Kento may have gotten shot for someone else’s sake, but Abe had just aimed the gun at himself. At that moment Kento could not express the gratitude he felt to Abe. He knew he might get scorned all day for this, but he did it for the sake of his friend.

“Why don’t you all go get that cleaned up,” Kento said, jumping on the opportunity. “Mirai and I will go grab the snacks.” Kento locked gazes with Abe, filling his eyes with gratitude. “You better take responsibility for that, Abe.”

“Of course I will,” Abe said, giving Kento a knowing nod. Kento returned the nod. A conversation worth a thousand words, made without a single sound. Kento turned around and began walking, and Mirai rushed forward and fell into step next to him.

“That was quite the show you put up,” Mirai said, her tone and expression flat. “Though I think Abe is definitely the star player.”

“Picked up on that, huh?” Kento asked with a nervous chuckle.

“Of course I did,” Mirai said. “I’m not stupid. I don’t think the others noticed, though.”

“Are you calling them stupid?” Kento asked.

“Of course not,” Mirai said. “They all have their reasons. M- I mean, Aiya was too busy making kissy faces at you to notice, Rin was staring down Abe because he owed her money, and Hina did notice but got distracted by the big climax of your little play.”

“We had to do what we had to do,” Kento said. He looked over his shoulder. He couldn’t see their friends through the crowd anymore, exactly what he had been waiting for. He grabbed Mirai’s arm and pulled her in between two of the stalls. He pushed her against the side of the stall, the smile he had worn up until this point nowhere to be seen.

“Don’t you think you look a bit serious for a confession?” Mirai asked, seemingly panicking slightly. “Not to mention you’re in a relationship. I mean, is this really-”

“Why did you tell Aiya’s dad about us?” Kento asked, interrupting her. In his eyes blazed anger that was very uncharacteristic on his usually calm face.

“What are you talking about?” Mirai asked her expression darkening as well.

“I know it was you,” Kento said. “There’s no use denying it. That’s not the only time either. You are constantly trying to get between me and Aiya, trying to force us apart. I want to know why.”

“I have no clue what you’re talking about,” Mirai said. She tried to leave, but Kento slammed his arm into the cart, blocking her bath.

“Listen, Mirai, I don’t know what you’re deal is,” Kento said. “I would honestly have like to be your friend. As things stand, I don’t think I can trust you. I want you to stop whatever you’re doing. I love this girl, and-”

“You think I don’t know that!?” Mirai shot back, the anger inside her seemingly finally bursting forth. “I know better than anyone how much you love her. I’m the one-” she suddenly stopped herself. She took a deep breath, trying to gather her composure. “I can’t tell you why, but I can’t stop either.”

“Then I need to tell Aiya,” Kento said. “Mirai, I don’t know who you are or what you’re trying. I remember you from the train station that night, the night before I met Aiya. Is my life some kind of game to you? Is that why you’re getting mad? Are you not winning?”

“No, I’m not,” Mirai said. Kento was slightly taken aback. He hadn’t expected to get a legitimate response to that rhetorical question. “And I have to win. If you tell Aiya, I promise I’ll make it look bad for you too. I can go to the police now. I’ll file a report against you. I know enough about you to make it convincing.”

“You can go now?” Kento asked, picking up on her phrasing. “Why couldn’t you before?”

“Because before you and I were never alone together,” Mirai said. “Well, there was the time in your apartment, but now is different. I can just tell them you took this time to hurt me, and your friends will testify that we were alone and that both of us went back there with sour moods. It’ll be especially effective if you try to pin some crap on me about splitting up you and your girlfriend.”

Kento thought for a moment. Mirai had him backed into a corner, and she knew it. There was nothing he could do. He had confirmed that she was the one messing with his relationship, but he had no idea why, and even worse, he had no idea what he could do to stop her.

“At least tell me why,” Kento demanded. “I’ll keep your little secret and play your game, and mark my words I will win. At least tell me why you want to tear us apart.” Mirai’s expression darkened even more. She didn’t seem angry anymore. If anything she looked sad. Kento was surprised by this but resisted showing the reaction on his face.

“If you two stay together people I care about will get hurt,” Mirai said. “And I’ll suffer too, but I don’t care about that. I can save them as long as I keep you two apart.”

“If that really was true, why not ask us for help?” Kento asked, trying to force a little compassion into his voice. “Why try this stupid abstract plan? Why not talk to Aiya and me about the people we’ll hurt. I’m sure we can find a way to prevent it.”

“You can’t!” Mirai yelled. She dashed away from Kento, but not before he could notice the tears in her eyes. Of the many unexpected things that happened during their conversation, this was probably the most unexpected. He was sure Mirai hated him or something, and that the only emotion he would get out of her would-be anger, maybe disgust or contempt. Grief seemed pretty far down the list of possibilities.

Kento quickly popped out from between the stalls, catching a glimpse of Mirai running towards the entrance. This was probably for the better. Remove her from the equation, at least for the time being. A couple of people were giving him dirty looks. It made sense. A crying girl just ran out of a secluded corner, and a guy who seemed angry followed seconds later. It did not exactly look great on Kento. He didn’t care though. He went to one of the stalls and ordered some food, then slogged over to where the others were supposed to be.

“Took you long enough!” Abe called when Kento joined up with them.

“Where’s Mirai?” Aiya asked, taking some of the food from Kento and passing it along to the others.

“She felt sick, so I called her a cab and she went home,” Kento lied. Everyone seemed to buy the lie. Everyone but one. Abe had always been able to see right through him. He would be sure to tell Abe everything, but it was probably best to leave everyone else in the dark for now.

“So, what ride do we do first?”


The Ferris wheel slowly turned along its axis, gently carrying the passengers to the apex of the circle. A magnificent few awaited them. It had been nice the entire day, but Kento tried to time their ride to perfectly coincide with sunset. He tried to be subtle about it, but he frequently counted the seconds it took one car to go from the bottom to the top during the day. Because of that, he could time the sunset so they could see the golden rays of the sun scatter across the ocean as it just began to dip below the horizon right as they reached the top of the arc. He felt like he did an admirable job.

Because each car could only take four people, Abe had split them into two very distinct groups. Single and married, and currently dating. Kento knew it was his roundabout way of giving him and Aiya some alone time on their outing, and he appreciated it.

“It’s beautiful,” Aiya said, her face nearly pressed against the window. It really was a great view.

“Yeah,” Kento said. As much as he wanted to enjoy the view and the company, he just couldn’t. His mind kept drifting back to Mirai. He desperately tried to understand her motives, but he just couldn’t. Even worse, he couldn’t be angry at her. As much as he tried, he couldn’t find it in him to see her as an enemy that he should be wary of.

“What’s been up with you?” Aiya asked, tearing her eyes from the view outside and looking at Kento.

“What do you mean?” Kento asked, pulled from his stupor.

“You’ve been acting off all day today,” Aiya said. “I was planning on raking you over the coals when I caught you looking at one of the other girls, but that never even happened. You’ve been distracted.”

“First off, don’t treat me like some animal who can’t control himself, ok?” Kento said, leaning back in the seat. “And if it’s something I could tell you, I would.”

“Why can’t you tell me?” Aiya asked. She sounded somewhat hurt by Kento’s refusal to tell her. “I thought we were supposed to stand by each other. Isn’t that what relationships are for?”

“Aiya, that’s not what I meant,” Kento said. “It’s just…” Kento thought carefully. He had to choose his words right, otherwise, he would just end up upsetting Aiya more, and that was the last thing he wanted. “Look, I promise I will tell you everything eventually. I want to tell you, and the second that I can I will. For now, please trust me and let me have this secret?” He took Aiya’s hand, trying to ease her mind.

“Ok,” Aiya said, squeezing Kento’s hand. “I’ll trust you, but please sort this out quickly? I don’t like seeing you like this. It feels like you’re slipping back into your old obsessive self.”

“What’s so wrong with my old self?” Kento asked.

“You had no room for me,” Aiya replied. She had averted her eyes again, staring out of the window. “I don’t know what it is. We’ve barely known each other a month, but it just feels like…”

“I know,” Kento said, joining her in admiring the view while they still had time. “I feel it too.”

Kento saw Aiya move out of the corner of his eye, but his mind had drifted again and he barely noticed her. The kiss on his cheek instantly reeled his thoughts back into place. He turned to find a smile on Aiya’s face that he would fight all the armies of hell for. Unfortunately, it seemed like the enemy that wanted to take that smile from him was a lot more formidable than the forces of the dark lord. He needed to think of a plan, and fast.


“Are you serious?” Abe asked. Kento drew a cross over his heart with his index finger, indicating how serious he was. “That’s almost hard to believe. Are you going to be ok?”

“I’ll be fine,” Kento said. “I just need to make sure to not let Aiya go.”

“You’ve really fallen hard, huh,” Abe commented.

“Not just that, my dear friend Abraham,” Kento said. “I also have a mystery to solve, and in the name of love! I can’t think of anything that would drive a man more.”

“The release of Generic Fighter 12?” Abe suggested.

“Right, that’ll happen when humans learn to fly,” Kento shot back. “Point is, I won’t lose to Mirai. I don’t know who the people are she’s claiming to protect, or if that’s even the truth, but I don’t need to know. I love Aiya, and I’m not going to let anyone stop me from recklessly rushing headlong into a life with her.”

“Is that your way of saying you’re going to propose?” Abe asked.

“Oh, no,” Kento said. He took a step back as if he wanted to distance himself from the very idea. “We’ve been over this, I’m not insane. But I am committed. I will win this war.”

“Here’s to you then, General Shifutu,” Abe said, raising a glass.

“May we enjoy the spoils of this righteous war,” Kento said, clinking glasses with Abe.

“Either that or drown in defeat together.”