Chapter 12:

Hanabi Summer Event

Real Life Starfight

With only a few weeks left in summer vacation, I played any time I wasn’t working or sleeping, wanting to level up enough to play with everyone again on even ground. Although tough at first, I ended up having a lot of fun. Seiji and Hinami helped me a few times too. I was able to reach level 38 before school started.Bookmark here

For the most part, it was a normal summer, except for one moment where I started to fear what Hinami was capable of. I also couldn’t contact Sun a week after my birthday, but I wasn’t worried. I just assumed Steve arrived earlier than expected and she was devoting all her time to spending it with him.Bookmark here

August 21st 2018 - Ryuuji, Seiji, and Hanabi are playing Starfight and have just completed another dungeon, bringing Ryuuji to level 31. The two boys are excited and ready to do another, but Hanabi is less than enthusiastic.Bookmark here

“Sweet I went up another level!”Bookmark here

“I haven’t done that dungeon in a few years. I forgot how fun it was, though also stupid easy.” Seiji comments.Bookmark here

“See? Helping me out isn’t so bad. Now what should we do next?” Ryuuji asks, eager for more.Bookmark here

“Instead of preparing for another dungeon, how about we plan to go out tomorrow instead? You know, the outside world.” Hanabi suggests.Bookmark here

“Why? This is plenty fun.” Ryuuji says.Bookmark here

“Because it’s SUMMER!” Hanabi shouts. “Normally people go for walks, to the beach, or even shopping. I don’t know where Sun is, but I know she would agree with me.”Bookmark here

“I guess it would be good to get some fresh air. Just pick where you want to go, Hana, we’ll both join you.” Seiji says, going along with his girlfriend’s wishes.Bookmark here

“I already go out most days in the week for work, do I still have to go?” Ryuuji asks, thinking he’ll be able to get out of it.Bookmark here

“You work inside, correct?” Hanabi asks in a harsh tone.Bookmark here

Hesitant to answer at first since he knows what the answer will be, Ryuuji simply says ‘yes’.Bookmark here

“Then you will be joining us. Otherwise you’ll just sit here and play more instead.”Bookmark here

“Yes ma’am.” Ryuuji says, feeling that arguing further would be futile.Bookmark here

After discussing it a bit more, they all agree to meet at the garden near the train station, the place where they all first met outside of school, then they will go into the nearby shopping area to find something to do. It isn’t much of a plan, but the main point is to just go out anyway. While a trip to the beach was an affordable option, they didn’t want to go without Sun.Bookmark here

The next day, Hanabi is already waiting at the garden with Ryuuji arriving not long after. He comments on how he’s surprised Seiji isn’t here, but apparently he called Hanabi to tell her he will be running late. Not having much to talk about, they stand there side by side waiting for Seiji. Spending time with these two, Ryuuji can't help thinking back to when he had to rush over to Seiji’s house and he spilled his whole story. That woman Reiko who took care of him, has Hanabi ever met her? He decides to ask and gets a reaction he never would have expected.Bookmark here

“Hey Hinami. When I went to Seiji’s a few weeks ago he told me about his caretaker Reiko. Have you met her before?”Bookmark here

Once he’s finished asking, Ryuuji glances over to Hanabi and is surprised by what he sees. Her normally gentle face turned fierce almost immediately, with her telling Ryuuji,Bookmark here

“I can’t stand that woman.”Bookmark here

Ryuuji feels a chill after witnessing her reaction and takes a step back. ‘So scary!’ He thinks, but since he came this far, he just has to know more and ventures deeper, treading carefully.Bookmark here

“Why do you say that? If you don’t mind me asking, that is.”Bookmark here

Hanabi then realizes how she was acting and calms herself, apologizing to Ryuuji. Refusing to mention the woman’s name, Hanabi explains that she only met her once 6 months after she started dating Seiji, then proceeds to tell him their story.Bookmark here

When it was almost the end of the school year, Seiji missed a day of school which was practically unheard. Despite being a ‘problem student’ he always strived for perfect attendance and the teachers weren’t told anything about this absence either. Since we were still in the class where he confessed in front of everyone, they all pushed for me to bring him his notes and homework for the day, even though I still haven’t been to his place.Bookmark here

Before then, Seiji already told me wasn’t comfortable having people over, but I still didn’t know the full extent of his reasoning. Bookmark here

Hanabi was given Seiji’s home address by one of the teachers. A short distance from the school, it’s a small apartment building, a bit older compared to some. Following the apartment number on the paper, she reaches his door on the second floor and knocks, waiting for a response first. After hearing nothing, she announces her name and tells Seiji that she brought him notes from today, but there’s still no response. Bookmark here

Although she’s sure the door is locked, Hanabi still turns the handle and to her surprise, it opens. She slowly enters, whispering ‘sorry for intruding’ so as to not scare Seiji, but after fully opening the door, she’s shocked by what she sees. Seiji is sitting on the floor with his back against the wall, clearly sleeping, but looks disheveled. He’s in his school uniform making it seem as if he tried to go to school, but simply didn’t have the strength.Bookmark here

“Seiji!!”Bookmark here

Hanabi rushes over to check on him since something is clearly wrong. She bends down and feels his forehead which is hotter than it normally would be, indicating he has a fever. Without thinking, she turns around, bending down beside him, and puts Seiji’s arm around her shoulder to attempt to lift him up so she can at least put him in bed. She manages to lift him a few inches before slipping and falling. Frustrated, Hanabi lets out a huff, blowing her hair out from in front of her eyes.Bookmark here

“I didn’t expect to have to do this.”Bookmark here

Hanabi then takes a deep breath, gathering all her strength, and attempts to lift Seiji again. It proves more successful this time and she carefully walks to his bed just a few feet away. She lays him down, upper body first, then turning his legs onto the bed and places the covers on. Exhausted, Hanabi sits on the bed beside him, looking down at her boyfriend who didn’t wake up at all. She then hears him mumble.Bookmark here

“I have to go to school...”Bookmark here

Hanabi lets out a heavy sigh and still responds despite knowing he can’t hear. “School is over for today, Seiji.”Bookmark here

Hanabi then observes Seiji’s apartment. It’s a one bedroom apartment with all the simple necessities and a single bed, but no TV and not even a proper desk. She now realizes that Seiji lives alone in this small room.Bookmark here

“No wonder he ended up like this.”Bookmark here

Determined to do more to help, Hanabi gets up and checks the cabinets and fridge. Unexpectedly, it’s all fully stocked with various easy to make meals and ingredients. However she doesn’t question it and decides to make what she was always taught by her mother is best for a person who is sick: rice porridge. She figures that even if he doesn’t wake up while she’s here, at least she can feel comfort knowing he will have one meal prepared. Hanabi heats up the pan and, when ready, starts mixing the ingredients. In the middle of doing so, the front door opens and she looks over to see an older woman walk in.Bookmark here

“Seiji, are you home?”Bookmark here

The woman asks, not even taking a moment to knock first. Her and Hanabi then look at each other, both equally surprised to see someone who they’ve never met in the apartment. The woman first asks who Hanabi is, in which she responds that she is Seiji’s classmate named Hinami Hanabi, then asking who she is. The woman says her name is Reiko and she is Seiji’s caretaker. However, hearing that lights a flame in Hanabi’s eyes and she responds with fury.Bookmark here

“How can you call yourself a caretaker if you don’t even notice the person you’re entrusted to watch over is so sick they can barely move?!”Bookmark here

“What did you say?” Reiko asks as she tries to enter to assess the situation, but Hanabi steps away from the stove and in front of the woman, holding her arms out, not allowing her in any further. Not saying a word, Reiko looks at the young girl.Bookmark here

“As Seiji’s g-girlfriend I refuse to let you through. If you can’t properly take care of him then I will!” Hanabi declares.Bookmark here

Although Reiko knows nothing about this girl, she can tell it won’t be easy to get through. Rather than argue, she calmly takes a step back and crosses her arms, deciding to challenge Hanabi’s earlier statement.Bookmark here

“I thought you said you were his classmate?”Bookmark here

Knowing she messed that up, Hanabi blushes, but still stands firm, then admitting.Bookmark here

“I’m still a bit nervous to admit we are dating sometimes.”Bookmark here

Seeing that genuine reaction, there’s no doubting her words. Reiko glances around Hanabi to see Seiji is indeed laying in bed, not waking up a bit despite their confrontation, making her believe he is indeed sick. Instead of pushing forward, she offers to buy Seiji medication at least, but Hanabi refuses, telling her that she has had to for her family a few times and knows what is best. Hanabi then smells the food she was cooking has started to burn and rushes back to the stove to stir it before it gets worse.Bookmark here

“Aahh I can’t believe I got distracted.”Bookmark here

Watching the flustered Hanabi, Reiko opens her wallet and places 2000 yen on the kitchen counter.Bookmark here

“At least let me pay for it.”Bookmark here

Although she would rather not accept anything from this woman, Hanabi knows she means no harm and answers the best she can in this moment, refusing to make eye contact. “That’s fine. Now please leave.”Bookmark here

Reiko takes one last look at Hanabi before leaving, deciding not to say another word. Once she hears the door close, Hanabi’s eyes widen and her face turns bright red. ‘I can’t believe I just stood up to her like that!!!’Bookmark here

With the porridge complete, she turns off the burner and pours it into a small bowl. Calming down, she then says, “But Seiji is always saying he will protect me...what’s the point if I can’t protect him in return?”Bookmark here

Going back to Hanabi and Ryuuji still waiting for Seiji at the garden, Hanabi continues to explain that she put the porridge in the fridge and went out to buy him cold medicine with Reiko’s money. When she got back, she put it on the table by his bed with a glass of water and a note telling him about the porridge. He recovered overnight and had no issues attending school the next day.Bookmark here

“What a lucky brat.” Ryuuji complains. “I’m sure you’ll tell me next that he fell in love with you even more after that.”Bookmark here

“Actually...he still has no idea I did all that.” Hanabi says, upset by the thought.Bookmark here

“What??” Ryuuji shouts in complete shock. “But you said you left a note!”Bookmark here

“I was rushing so much I forgot to leave my name. The next day at school he did thank me for dropping off his notes and, after telling me for the first time about his living situation and caretaker, he said she took care of him and just assumed she did all that.”Bookmark here

“What a jerk!”Bookmark here

Hanabi can’t help smiling at Ryuuji’s comment.Bookmark here

“Basically. I also couldn’t say anything in return and instead cried and called him an idiot without explaining what happened. Even now I’m nervous how he will react if I do tell him.”Bookmark here

Knowing their relationship, Ryuuji is surprised she would even say that. Bookmark here

“If you want my opinion, Hinami, whether you told him about this now or back then, it wouldn’t have mattered. Maybe you’re afraid he will be upset you entered his place without his permission, or you’re too embarrassed you scared Reiko away, but none of that matters. You had your own reasoning and Seiji will be thankful no matter what.”Bookmark here

Hanabi takes a look at Ryuuji and considers everything he just said. ‘You’re probably right, senpai. Just like how Seiji has been confronting his problems recently, I just need to face this and tell him myself.’Bookmark here

At the end of her thought, they both notice Seiji running over to them.Bookmark here

“Sorry I’m late.”Bookmark here

“It’s okay, we weren’t waiting too long.”Bookmark here

However Ryuuji offers a different reaction.Bookmark here

“Glad you made it, you jerk.” he says with a scowl.Bookmark here

More confused than upset, Seiji asks. “You’re attacking me because I accidentally overslept?”Bookmark here

“Nah, you’ll find out one day you jerk.”Bookmark here

Seiji then turns to inquire if Hanabi knows why Ryuuji is reacting that way. While she definitely does, she tries to hide it.Bookmark here

“Do you know what this is about?” Seiji asks.Bookmark here

“No way, how should I know what Ryuuji is thinking?” she says, shaking her head.Bookmark here

“Good point. Let’s just get going then.” Seiji suggests.Bookmark here

They all start walking to the shopping area with Hanabi thinking to herself, ‘Yes, I’ll explain it some day….but today is not it!’Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.