Chapter 13:

Breaking Point

Vanish


“How are you holding up?” Kento asked. Abe was sitting across from him. His kids were visiting his sister, so he had the night free. He had been in a bad place emotionally ever since his wife passed, but some time had passed now, and Kento was relieved when he was invited out to drinks. Abe had constantly occupied a piece of his mind, whether he was at work or on a date with Aiya. He was worried about his friend, but it looked like things might finally be going better.

“I’m doing ok,” Abe said. “Every day is still hard. I wake up in the mornings and she isn’t next to me, and I go to sleep at night with an empty bed. Those are definitely the worst times. There are times when I am sure I could hear her walking in the other room, or I can smell her perfume. Sometimes I even think I see a wisp of her hair in the corner of my eye. She’s so burned into my mind, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to move past that.”

“You don’t have to,” Kento said. “No one said you had to move on.”

“But I know it’s what she wanted,” Abe said. “We always told each other that whoever dies first is gone, and the one of us left behind should try to find someone else.”

“Yeah, but there’s no reason to rush that, Abe,” Kento said. “You can take your time, even if it takes a few years. And when you’re ready to get back out there, your wingman will be here.” Kento raised his glass, and Abe clinked his against it.

“Thanks, Mr. Shifutu,” Abe said. “But enough talk about me. This is the first time we’ve been out and alone since… wow, how long has it been?”

“It’s been a while,” Kento said with a chuckle. “We almost had a successful night out after my first date with Aiya, but they crashed it.”

“You don’t think they’ll do it again, do you?” Abe asked.

“No, they’re doing their own thing apparently,” Kento said. He took a long sip from his glass.

“How are things with you and Aiya?” Abe asked. “I’ve been cut off for a while here, so you need to catch me up to speed.” Abe raised his glass to take a drink

“She’s pregnant,” Kento said. Abe began choking almost immediately. Kento had to grab the glass from his hands to keep him from spilling. “I’m kidding!”

“Don’t do that to me!” Abe said. “You’ll give me a heart attack!”

“Sorry,” Kento said, laughing. “I just couldn’t resist.” Abe gave a warm smile as well.

“Seriously though, are you two doing well?” Abe asked. He didn’t take a sip this time.

“We’re doing great,” Kento said. “She’s really great. I know this is going to sound really cheesy, and I give you full permission to mock me for saying this, but it honestly feels like destiny. I’ve never connected with a person like I did with her. Even our fights never last longer than five minutes. It’s as if some force of the universe is pushing us together. Who am I to fight against that?”

“I get it,” Abe said. “It’s how I felt with my wife. Even when we fought, I still loved her dearly. A lot of our fights ended with me just giving up and letting her win, ‘cause I couldn’t get it over my heart to fight more with her. I expect she did the same with me a few times as well.”

“Love is a powerful thing,” Kento said. “I think a lot of it comes from the fact that she’s the one who dragged me out of that life I was living. I mean, I still like working hard, and I do overtime when I can, but it’s not the be-all-end-all anymore. If it wasn’t for her, I might not even have come out to drink with you tonight.”

“Yeah, you were a really crappy friend back then,” Abe said. “She really changed you for the better. You need to make sure you hold on to her.”

“I’m trying,” Kento said. His expression dropped. “But that’s making someone pretty upset.”

“What do you mean?” Abe asked.

“I told you about Mirai, right?” Kento asked. Abe nodded. “After the funeral she cornered me. She told me she held a cease-fire for your sake, but that she was going to go all out again to split us up. At the start, she at least tried to hide it, but now she’s just coming after me with no regard for how it looks on her.”

“Have you told Aiya?” Abe asked.

“I can’t,” Kento replied. “If I do Mirai is going to claim I assaulted her, while we were at the carnival. We were gone long enough, and she left, so her story would fit. If she said it with enough tears Aiya would believe her. Even if I told Aiya about what she was planning Mirai can just say that I’m trying to bury her story. I don’t want to take that risk, you know?”

“I get it,” Abe said. “But you need a plan. At this rate, that girl might just manage to split you two up, and I don’t think either of us wants to see that happen. Do you have any idea why she is so set on making this happen?”

“Not a clue,” Kento said. “She said that if Aiya and I stay together some people would get hurt, but she wouldn’t tell me anything else, even when I asked.”

“She’s being vague on purpose,” Abe said. “I don’t think she wants you to know who you’d be hurting.”

“But why not?” Kento asked.

“A few reasons,” Abe said. “Maybe you wouldn’t care if those people got hurt. Maybe you’ll try to play hero. Maybe she’s lying and she just can’t stand seeing you together.”

“Why would she hate seeing us together though?” Kento asked. “You don’t think she’s in love with me, or maybe even Aiya?”

“No, I don’t,” Abe said. “I’ve seen her eyes when she looks at you. She cares about you both, for some reason. I honestly think that she’s trying to do what she thinks is best for you.”

“How would she know what’s best for us?” Kento asked. “And even if she did, why won’t she just let us bang our heads against the wall? Life is about making mistakes. Does she think I’m going to hurt Aiya or something?”

“Maybe,” Abe said. “But she should realize that if you hurt Aiya then Rin would kill you long before anyone else had the chance.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Kento said. “Aiya’s dad is really scary.”

“Yeah,” Abe agreed. “You might just vanish off the face of the Earth.” Kento slammed his hands on the table.

“That too!” He near-yelled. “She just randomly disappears whenever it’s inconvenient. When Aiya and I had our first fight, she ran away. When Rin was in danger and I got shot, she disappeared. Hell, the first time I met her it was like she vanished into thin air. I can’t put my trust in someone like that. I know I should be angry at her for all of that, but…”

“You can’t be,” Abe said. Kento nodded. “I get it. There is something about her. When the three of you are around each other you seem genuinely happy. Almost like…”

“Like?” Kento asked.

“Nothing,” Abe said, brushing it off. “For now I think you should just focus on Aiya. Enjoy the time you have with her, while you have it.” Abe polished off his glass and rose to his feet. “I’m going home now. Good night, Mr. Shifutu.”

“Good night, Abe.”

***

Aiya took a deep breath in through her nose, enjoying the aroma of the tea she brewed. She poured two cups and handed one over to Rin. They were both in Aiya’s home, having opted for a girls’ night in as opposed to the guys’ night out. What lay before them was an evening filled with gossip and laughter. That was the plan, at least.

“How long has it been since it was just the two of us?” Rin asked.

“I think when Kento was at home recovering,” Aiya said.

“Ever since you two started dating he’s been hogging all the time with you,” Rin complained. “We girls barely get a chance to do anything anymore.”

“I think Abe feels the same way you do,” Aiya said. “This is the first time those two have gone out together in a long while.”

“You should break up with him,” Rin said. “Then we can go hit the town.”

“Sure,” Aiya said sarcastically. “I’ll call him right now.” She took a sip of her tea, then continued. “Why don’t you just get a boyfriend? Then you won’t be bored.”

“You stole the only nice single guy I know right from under me,” Rin said. She sighed and sunk into her seat a bit. “It’s hard to meet someone if you have to work as much as I do. I’m barely keeping the company afloat as it is. If it weren’t for you and Kento I’d definitely not be able to make it.”

“I’m sure a good guy will come eventually,” Aiya said. “Until then, I have a body pillow you can borrow.”

“Why exactly do you have one?” Rin asked, her interest peaked.

“They’re comfy to sleep with, sue me,” Aiya said in defense of herself.

“You should hide it if Kento ever comes over,” Rin said. “I doubt you want him to see it.”

“He can see it if he wants,” Aiya said. “As of now that body pillow still outranks him.” Aiya and Rin both laughed at this. “Are you really having a lot of trouble at work?”

“Yeah,” Rin said. “The others just don’t do their jobs, and I don’t know what I can do to make them.”

“Go on a firing spree,” Aiya said. Rin shot her a glare. “I’m serious. I mean Kento already does half of all the work. If you fire all of them it’ll send a message. You’d just need a few more hard workers to fill out the ranks. You’d save money and a lot of pressure would be taken off your shoulders.”

“I know,” Rin said. “Objectively, I know you’re right. It’s a completely different thing to look them in the eye and tell them that they’re fired. I can’t get it over my heart to do something like that, you know?”

“You’re too kind,” Aiya said. “But I get it. Just remember that they have it coming. I haven’t seen anyone besides you, me, or Kento work a full day since I started working with you. At this point, they’re just dead weight.”

“You’re right,” Rin said. “Still, it’s not as easy as it sounds.”

“Probably not,” Aiya said. She took a long draw from her tea, giving Rin a chance to change the subject.

“Are things going good with you and Kento?” Rin asked.

“Are we really just going to talk about work and my love life?” Aiya asked.

“What else is there?” Rin countered. “I’m living vicariously through you, so I need to know all of the details. Tell me everything.”

“I didn’t think you were this into gossip,” Aiya commented.

“Only if it’s about my friends,” Rin said. “Now spill.”

“We’re doing fine, I guess,” Aiya said. “Recently he’s been acting a little strange, though. As if something’s on his mind, but he won’t tell me what it is.”

“It’s probably Abe,” Rin said. “Their best friends, it would make sense if he’s worried.”

“Why wouldn’t he talk to me about that then?” Aiya asked. “And I don’t think it’s Abe, or at least not just Abe. He’s been like this since before Abe’s wife passed. It’s like he’s worried about something.”

“You don’t think he’s two-timing, do you?” Rin asked.

“When would he get the time?” Aiya asked. “Unless he doesn’t sleep there’s not enough time where he’s out of my sight for him to have a mistress.”

“You have a point,” Rin said. “And Abe definitely wouldn’t let Kento do that.”

“Exactly, so it’s something else,” Aiya said. “But I have no idea what. On top of that, Mirai is acting weird too.”

“Do you think it’s related?” Rin asked.

“Maybe,” Aiya said. “I mean she’s always been a little eccentric, but it’s become even stranger.” Aiya’s phone chirped a tone. She pulled it from her pocket and checked her screen. “Speak of the devil, it’s Mirai. She’s asking if she can come over. Apparently, she needs to talk about something.”

“I don’t mind,” Rin said. “Maybe this will clear a few things up.” Aiya nodded and responded to Mirai, telling her to come over. A few minutes later there was a knock on the door. Rin and Aiya walked over and pulled the door open. A chill blew past them as the cold night air gently sank into the house. Outside stood Mirai. She looked worse for wear, and tears were streaming down her face.

“Mirai, what’s wrong?” Aiya asked, grabbing her and pulling her inside.

“Aiya, I’m sorry,” Mirai said, through her sobbing tears. “It’s…”

***

Kento was trying to think of a way to burn time. The next train wouldn’t run for another half an hour. He was about to resign himself to sitting in boredom at the station when he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. He pulled it out and checked the newest notification. It was a text from Mirai. He had to resist the urge to just delete the message. He opened it and nearly choked at its contents.

Get to Aiya’s place now. She’s in danger.

Kento immediately began running, calling a cab to meet him at the next corner. It would cost him a lot to have a cab drive the distance, but he didn’t care. The cab took a few minutes to arrive, and Kento spent all of it agonizing, trying to call Aiya or Mirai, but neither picked up. When the cab finally arrived Kento jumped in and offered to pay double the fare if the driver put the pedal to the metal. The driver happily accepted and sped off.

Kento spent the painfully slow minutes in the cab trying to get through to either Mirai or Aiya, but he still had no luck. He even tried calling Rin, just in case she was still there but had equally bad luck. The drive mercifully came to an end after a few minutes though, and Kento quickly paid the fair and rushed past Aiya’s driveway. He had lost all decorum and threw the door open, storming in.

Inside was Rin, Mirai, and Aiya. Mirai’s eyes were red from crying. Rin looked at him with disgust, and Aiya seemed torn between anger and abject misery. Kento took a tentative step forward, and the girls all recoiled slightly, grouping tightly together.

“What’s going on?” Kento asked, trying to make sense of the situation.

“How could you?” Aiya asked, choking back tears.

“What are you-” Kento began, but then stopped. His eyes fell on Mirai. She had pulled the trigger on her plan. He was sure she wouldn’t play this card as long as he didn’t tell Aiya about her plan.

“Answer her!” Rin demanded. Kento had never seen her this furious before.

“I don’t know what she told you,” Kento said. “But it’s not true. I swear.”

“Like we’d believe you!” Rin shouted.

“Rin, we’ve been friends for years,” Kento said, desperation seeping into his voice. He wouldn’t have a lot of chances here. He had to make his words count. “Why would I lie to you? Can you imagine me doing something that awful?”

“Aparently we don’t have to imagine,” Rin said, her voice catching. “Kento… what were you thinking?”

“I didn’t-” Kento began, but he was interrupted.

“Yes, you did!” Mirai shouted. Kento was taken aback. She seemed genuinely angry at him, and her eyes were filled with determination, or maybe even desperation. Kento turned to Aiya.

“Aiya, please,” he said. “You know me. You know I’d never do anything that would hurt you.”

“Get out,” Aiya said, his voice barely above a whisper.

“Aiya, no,” Kento said. “I can’t. I’m not lying. Please, don’t do this! Mirai is lying to you. She wants to tear the two of us apart. That’s been her plan this whole time! She told me so herself! Isn’t that right, Mirai?”

“How dare you,” Mirai said, choking out the words between her tears. She ripped free from Aiya’s arms and ran out, shoving past Kento and sending him tumbling to the floor.

“Get out,” Aiya said, her voice firmer.

“Aiya, please,” Kento said. “You have to believe me. I’d never do anything like that.”

“Kento, get out!” Aiya said, her own anger finally showing in her voice. “I never want to see you again! Get out!”

Kento staggered to his feet. This didn’t feel real. He looked at the door, still ajar from Mirai’s exit. He bolted over to it, intent on catching her and making her tell the truth. He was out on the sidewalk in a second, but Mirai was nowhere to be seen. He turned back around. Aiya stood in the doorway. The look of pain on her face was one Kento would never be able to forget. She closed the door without a word.

***

Aiya collapsed as soon as the door closed. Rin was at her side in an instant, holding onto her. Both of them cried freely for a long time.

“I can’t believe he’d do something like that,” Aiya said, her voice cracking. “I thought he was such a good person.”

“I know,” Rin said. “I did too.”

“I thought he was the one, Rin,” Aiya said. “I love him so much. How could he do this to me?”

“I’m so sorry,” Rin said. “I don’t know how. I can’t believe it either.” Tears began flowing down Rin’s face again, and Aiya broke down at the sight. The two continued to cry into each other’s arms for long into the night.

***

Kento collapsed to his knees as soon as the door closed. In less than five minutes he had lost the most important things in his life. It was surreal, and it struggled to sink into his brain that his entire life had just changed in a moment that passed in the blink of an eye. He dragged himself to his feet in a daze and began shuffling to his apartment.

“This is a dream,” Kento said. “That’s all this is. I’ll go to bed, and if I wake up tomorrow then everything will be alright, right? Yeah, of course, it will. I just need to go to sleep and wake up from this nightmare. That’s all I have to do.”

Kento kept reassuring himself, right up until he managed to get into his bed. The moment his head hit his pillow reality dawned on him. This wasn’t a nightmare. This was real life. Because of Mirai, he had just lost everything. A tear formed in the corner of his eye, growing as he replayed the night in his mind. A few facts dawned on him.

He was going to be fired from his job.
He was going to get a very bad reputation.
He was going to lose all of the acquaintances he had.
Aiya’s father was likely going to come to kill him.
Rin was never going to speak to him again.
He was never going to see Aiya’s smile again.

The last fact finally broke him. A pained noise escaped his mouth but was cut off when he buried his face in his pillow. It caught his tears as well, leaving no trace on his face. Up until half an hour ago, Kento was certain that getting shot was the most painful thing he would ever experience. He honestly believed nothing could ever top it. Now he was proven wrong in the most awful way possible. As his heart ached he realized that getting shot was nothing compared to this. He would rather take a hundred more bullets than suffer through this pain for another second. Unfortunately, there wasn’t such a way out. Kento cried all throughout the night, and well into the next morning. Once he managed to gather even a shred of composure he picked up his phone and called Abe. Through choked back tears, he explained everything that had happened.

Kento found relief, even if it was only the smallest amount when Abe said he believed him. He still had his best friend on his side. He didn’t have to suffer through this alone. It still felt like there was a void where his heart once was, but the mountain that also rested on his shoulders did feel a little lighter. Abe offered to let Kento stay with him while he landed back on his feet, an offer that Kento gratefully accepted. It took some time, but eventually, Kento managed to go a day without crying and decided it was time to start moving forward again.

***

Rin was glued to Aiya’s side, never letting her feel alone. She made sure that Aiya was always comfortable, and that she knew she had support. Rin buried her own sadness for the time being. She knew Aiya was going through a lot more than her and needed the support. It wasn’t easy, but some time passed and Aiya managed to somehow gather herself again.

Rin went to see Abe and felt another pang of betrayal when he said that he was taking Kento’s side. She couldn’t believe it, but it made a sad sort of sense. Men always stuck together, even if that made them trash. Deep down she was thankful to Abe for not letting Kento be alone during this, though the part of her that cared about Kento was so deeply buried under hate and grief that she could never consciously hear it.

The close group of friends that had formed over the past few months was ripped apart. Just like Kento had predicted he was fired from his job. Abe continued to work and stayed on civilized terms with Aiya and Rin, but without Kento there to drive them into working late hours they very rarely saw each other. As for Mirai, no one had seen or heard from her since the incident. Aiya and Rin assumed she left town to go to family or something. They probably got cut off because they reminded her of what happened. They couldn’t blame her for that.

Kento knew better. He thought she was nothing but a coward and a liar. She had taken everything from him, but he was determined to show her he was stronger. He would get his life back together, and be even more successful than he was before. She could count on it.