Chapter 14:

Stab in the Dark


Aiya walked out of the restaurant. She sighed a deep sigh, her shoulders slouching low. Another date that had gone terribly. She began walking home. It had been this way for a few months now, ever since…

She shook her head. She wasn’t going to think about him. She refused too. She hadn’t seen him since that night and had managed to get along fine without him. It took weeks before she was even willing to leave her house for anything except work. Now she finally had the courage to go meet people again, so she wouldn’t let herself slide back into the hole she’d been in. She took out her phone and called Hina, who set her up.

“Hey! How’d it go?” Hina asked.

“Bad,” Aiya said.

“Aww, how so?” Hina asked. “He’s such a nice guy.”

“I’m sorry,” Aiya said. “I don’t know what it is. You’re right, he’s a really nice guy, but…”

“He’s not Kento.” Hina finished for her.

“I told you not to mention him around me,” Aiya said, her mood became even sourer.

“Yeah, sorry,” Hina said. “Listen, I know that was a really bad situation, but you two were together for like, what, two months? Why are you still so hung up on him? You gotta move on. Find someone else.”

“I know,” Aiya said, slightly agitated. “I know I have to, ok? I don’t know why I’m so hung up. Maybe because it ended so badly.”

“You need to get him out of your system,” Hina said. “How about this. We do a group date. You can invite Rin, I’ll ask my boyfriend to bring two of his friends. No commitment or anything, we all just go hang out and see how it goes. Maybe you’ll be more comfortable if it’s not just you and a guy alone.”

“Yeah, I think that’ll be nice,” Aiya said. “Thank you, Hina. You’ve been more patient with me than I deserve.”

“What are friends for?” Hina asked in a cheerful tone. “Now go home and shower off the bad date. I’ll organize the group outing for Friday, at our usual spot, ok?”

“Sounds good,” Aiya said. “Goodnight, Hina.”

“Night,” Hina said, then she hung up the phone. Aiya put her phone back in her pocket. She tried to look forward to being with a big group of people again, but the feeling just wouldn’t come. Every time she tried she just remembered all the fun she had with Rin, Mirai, Abe, and…

She shook her head again. She wasn’t going to think about him. It had hit her pretty hard when Abe took his side, though. He was a monster, and Abe always seemed like a really sensible guy. She couldn’t understand how he would choose that rat over her. Such is the bond between men, though.

Mirai was also a sore subject. Aiya wanted to help her through what was surely a difficult time, but she had vanished after that night. She wouldn’t even answer her phone or texts. Aiya had never asked her where she was from. Now that she thought about it, she didn’t even know Mirai’s last name. She had no way to track her down and see how she was doing. Aiya was still in thought when she nearly bumped into someone on the street.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” she said, looking up. Her apology died halfway out of her mouth.

“Aiya,” Abe said, looking just as surprised as she felt. “Hi, it’s… it’s good to see you.”

“Hi, Abe,” Aiya said, the mixture of joy and sadness in her making her confused on how she should approach him.

“I haven’t seen you since…” Abe said. He laughed awkwardly.

“Yeah,” Aiya said. A painful moment of silence passed.

“Well, I should get going,” Abe said. “It was good seeing you, Aiya.” He walked past her, hoping to end this conversation.

“Yeah,” Aiya said again, still frozen in place. It took a few moments before she managed to gather her nerves. “Wait!” she called out after Abe. He stopped and slowly turned back to face her. “Why did you choose him?”

“Aiya, I…” Abe began, then stopped. He wanted to choose his words carefully. “It’s more complicated than that. He’s been my best friend for years now, and I know you must feel awful right now, but I can promise you that he feels worse.”

“How can he feel worse!?” Aiya yelled. “He doesn’t deserve to feel worse!”

“Aiya, that’s what you think,” Abe said. “And I understand why, but you’ve never even once let him say his piece. More than anything, more than losing his good reputation, more than losing his job, even more than losing you and Rin, the thing that hurts him the most is that with all the love he gave you you didn’t even give him a chance to tell the truth.”

“I know,” Aiya said. “I know I didn’t. I can’t stand to hear it from him, Abe. It’s one thing to hear it from Mirai, but the moment he tells me it’ll become undeniable.”

“And what if he tells you it’s not true?” Abe asked.

“Then he’s a liar!” Aiya yelled.

“He’s not, Aiya,” Abe said. “And even though he’s trying to get back out there like I assume you are, he still loves you, and I don’t think he’ll ever stop.”

“I don’t care!” Aiya yelled. “How do you think I feel, Abe? I lost him, I lost Mirai, I even lost you!” She buried her face in her hands and began crying. The tears continued to flow right up until she was wrapped in a warm hug.

“Aiya, you didn’t lose me,” Abe said. “Don’t be stupid. Just because you and Kento split up doesn’t mean I’m not your friend anymore. I know you must hate me for siding with him, and I’m sorry, but he’s my best friend. I can’t leave him alone during all this. He didn’t leave me when I lost my wife, after all.”

“Do you really think he’s innocent?” Aiya asked.

“I know he is,” Abe said. “Do you believe me?”

“No,” Aiya said, pulling free from the hug. “I’m sorry, Abe. It was really good seeing you.” With that, she turned around and hurriedly walked off before Abe could get another word in. After she turned a corner she stopped and waited to see if he came after her. After a few minutes, she peeked around the corner only to find an empty street. He hadn’t come after her after all.

She drifted to the station, her mind so awash with a whirlwind of thoughts and feelings that it may as well have been blank. She hadn’t expected to see Abe and wasn’t at all prepared to face him again. She was really happy she got to see him again, but that joy was chained down by feelings of anger and grief. She pulled out her phone again and dialed another number.

“Hey,” Rin’s voice came over the speaker.

“Hi, Rin,” Aiya said.

“How are you? How was the date?” Rin asked.

“I’m ok, and the date was fine,” Aiya said. “I ran into Abe afterward though.”

“Oh,” Rin said, her tone betraying her own mixed feelings about that. Abe hadn’t really done anything wrong. He was just caught on the bad side of the fence in this situation. “How is he doing?”

“He looked like he was doing well,” Aiya said. “I kinda lashed out at him, though.”

“And I’m guessing he took it in stride?” Rin asked.

“He always does,” Aiya said with a painful chuckle. “He’s still on… his side, but he told me he doesn’t think badly of me. He even gave me a hug.”

“I miss him,” Rin said.

“I do too,” Aiya said. “It was really nice seeing him again. Maybe we should invite him out one day.”

“Yeah, I think that’d be nice,” Rin said. “And I don’t think he’ll have a problem with it.”

“Also, Hina wants to organize a group date for us,” Aiya said. “You, me, and her, along with her boyfriend and two of his friends.”

“Wow, I can’t imagine a worse way to spend my time,” Rin said.

“I know, but I refuse to do it alone,” Aiya said. “So I’m dragging you down with me.”

“Fine,” Rin said. “But you owe me one.”

“Deal,” Aiya said.


Kento lay in his bed. He was going to do something today, but again he couldn’t muster the energy to do it. He’d been lethargic like this for a while now. He’d been living off ramen packs and the occasional supermarket bento box to get by. He didn’t mind it though. It wasn’t like he really got hungry anymore. Food had lost a lot of its flavor ever since he lost Aiya. Just the thought of her name sent daggers through his heart.

He dragged himself out of bed to go to the bathroom. While there he stared at himself in the mirror. His hair had gotten long again. It needed to be cut when he met her, but he never got around to it. Now he felt like he would rather rot in his apartment than go through the effort of getting a haircut.

Back in his room he turned on his computer and queued up another mindless TV show. He had burned through a lot of these ever since he got dumped. He didn’t really pay attention to them. He just needed the background noise to stave off even the tiniest bit of the loneliness he felt. He wanted to do something. He knew he needed to do something, but he simply lacked the energy to do it.

His phone rang, and he nearly broke his chair with the speed at which he jumped to answer it. He lost all of that energy when he saw it was just Abe that had called him.

“Hello,” he mumbled after picking up the phone.

“Hey, Mr. Shifutu,” Abe said. “How are you?”

“Dandy,” Kento said, scowling. “And you?”

“I just ran into Aiya,” Abe said, cutting right to the chase.

“What?” Kento asked, instantly perking up. “How is she? How did she look?”

“She’s keeping it together,” Abe said. “But I can tell she’s devastated.” Kento somehow found a little bit of peace in the fact that maybe Aiya was feeling like he was too.

“Did she mention me?” Kento asked.

“Not in any way you’d want to hear about,” Abe said. “It looked like she just got done with a date.” This news crushed Kento a lot more than he expected.

“Oh,” he said in a small voice.

“Kento, I know you’re not going to like hearing this, but you need to get back out there,” Abe said. Kento instantly listened more intently. Abe wouldn’t use his name for no reason. “The only way you’re going to get her out of your system is if you find someone else. You can’t just sit in your apartment forever. I can introduce you to someone. She’s really nice, and I think you two will get along great. Please, let me.”

“Abe, I don’t know,” Kento said.

“If you don’t I’ll just bring her to your apartment,” Abe threatened. “You two are going out on Friday whether you want to or not. Sorry, but I’m not going to humor you anymore.”

“Fine,” Kento said. “I’ll do the three S’s. Where am I meeting her.”

“At our usual spot,” Abe said. “At seven. Don’t you dare be late. And make yourself presentable.”

“Whatever you say, boss,” Kento said. He hung up the phone and collapsed onto his bed.

“Friday, huh?”


Kento strode out of the cafe with a downtrodden look on his face. His date had left a few minutes prior. Abe was right. This girl was nice. Pretty too. If Kento had met her a few months ago he would almost certainly have asked for a second date, but now was different. She was great, but she wasn’t…

“Aiya…” Before Kento stood the person he couldn’t get out of his mind for even a single second. She seemed to be with a group of people, but Kento couldn’t even see them. His entire world had become confined to one person. “What… why are you here?”

Rin suddenly appeared in front of him, stepping between him and Aiya. Kento finally took note of the people around Aiya. He noted the three guys, and a pang shot through his chest.

“Why are you here?” Rin asked, her voice filled with hate.

“Rin…” Kento said. He struggled to find the words. Just seeing these two people who were so important to him had left him speechless.

“Is this the guy?” One of the men asked.

“Yeah, that’s him,” Hina said. Kento’s awestruck expression twisted into a frown as he looked up at the men.

“Is there something you want to say to me?” He asked. He was acting irrationally, and he knew it.

“Just that you’re an idiot for letting a girl like her slip you buy,” the guy said. Kento clenched his fists and was about to deck the guy when Aiya’s hand on his chest stopped him cold in his tracks.

“Please leave,” she said, trying hard to keep her composure.

“Aiya, I-” he began, but he was interrupted.

“Kento, please!” she said, her voice cracking slightly. “Just go.” Kento looked at Aiya for a moment, then his eyes scanned by everyone else. His posture collapsed. He stepped to the side and began walking away.

“He really is an idiot, throwing her away like that,” one of the guys said.

“Well, she’s ours now,” the other said. They both laughed a disgusting laugh. Kento stopped in his tracks. His clenched fist was shaking as he fought back the anger.

“What, do you want to go?” the first guy said.

“We’ll kick your ass,” the second said.

“Listen up, and listen close,” Kento said, his voice barely above a whisper. “Treat her well. If you do anything, and I mean anything to hurt her I swear to you on whatever god you may choose to worship that I will make you regret it.” The absolute rage and resolve in Kento’s tone left the two men speechless. He began walking again, forcing his legs to move forward. He wasn’t welcome here, and he had to leave before he made things worse for Aiya. The next train would run soon. When he got home he could call the girl Abe set him up with and apologize for tonight, and ask her to out with him again. He could finally put all of this behind him. He just had to get home.

Kento kept believing this as he rode the train to his station. He even believed it on the walk from the station to his apartment. As he opened the door to his dark, solitary apartment, his resolve faded. He was never going to make that phone call. He went and collapsed on his bed. He faded in and out of sleep, but eventually, a single thought dragged him fully back to the land of the waking.

“How did it all end up like this,” Kento asked the cold, barren walls. “Where did it go wrong?”

Of course, Kento knew exactly where everything had gone wrong. It all started with a girl named Mirai. She was gone now, seemingly disappeared off the face of the Earth with no trace that she ever existed in the first place. If he could just find her. She caused him all of this grief. She caused Aiya the pain she was feeling. And worst of all, she vanished. Again. She always did this. Whenever he and Aiya fought she vanished. And now that she ruined everything, she was gone too, and despite all that, Kento couldn’t hate her. Something in his heart made it impossible.

Kento went to his cupboard and pulled out a bottle of sake. He quickly polished off the bottle. Usually, he wasn’t much of a drinker, but tonight was a special night after all. He had seen the girl he thought was lost to him forever. He collapsed into his chair and let the alcohol swirl into his mind. He let his thoughts wander, but no matter what he tried they kept coming back to one thing.

Mirai. Something about her was poking at the back of his mind. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but his mind was trying to tell him something. He pushed the thoughts away. It was probably just another time that he and Aiya fought and she disappeared.

Kento sat upright. That wasn’t right. The other time she disappeared was when he got shot. Why then? All the other times were when he and Aiya had some kind of fight. After she lied about him, and the first time when they were shopping together.

Kento jumped out of his chair. That wasn’t right either. She disappeared one more time. That first night on the train platform. Why? And where did she go each time? It was like she became completely invisible. But that wasn’t possible. People couldn’t just become invisible to others. Right?

Kento nearly jumped through the roof at a memory. The tea shop. The waitress asked if they needed a table for two, but there were clearly three of them. Kento shook his head. It was impossible, right? At the carnival, everyone could see her. But that bastard that wanted money from Aiya didn’t see her either, though he might just not have noticed her. And when they all went out to the bar together for the first time, that guy nearly trampled her. Now that he thought about it, for the first while he knew Mirai it seemed like people didn’t really take note of her. Why was that? And what changed as time went on to make more people notice her?

And why was she so secretive about her disappearances. The first time Kento asked her she told him to not dig into it. What was she hiding?

A flood of memories started whizzing by Kento’s mind, as pieces of the puzzle came together. Mirai had always acted strange, and every now and again she would make some kind of slip. She called Rin ‘Aunt Rin’. She hugged Abe the first time she met him. Why did she seem so close to them when she barely knew them?

Unless… she did know them.

A single moment in time now stuck in Kento’s mind. After Abe’s wife’s funeral, Mirai told him she stopped her attack for Abe’s sake, but she stopped before Abe’s wife passed. How did she know it would happen? There was no way she could predict that. But… she could remember it.

Kento rushed into his kitchen, grabbing something from the counter and storming out of his house. He had a hunch. It was completely insane, but it explained everything. Why she disappeared, why she acted so familiar with Abe and Rin. Kento didn’t know why she would want to split him and Aiya up, but that wasn’t important now. If he could get to Aiya, if he could get her to talk to him for just a minute, he could prove it. He could prove everything. But right now that meant he had to run.

It was late, but she shouldn’t be home yet. She probably took the previous train after her little get-together ended. Unless she went home with one of the guys, but Kento tried not to think about that. If he was right she would be home in less than ten minutes. He had to get there before her. If he could that meant he could talk to her. He could convince her to hear him out. All he had to do was be there. Kento pushed himself and ran faster than he had in a very long time. Probably faster than he’d run since the night he got shot. He knew where this speed was coming from, though. For the first time in months, he had something worth running towards.

Kento ran down Aiya’s street. He notices Rin’s car parked in the driveway. The lights were on, which meant they just got there. He could still make it. As long as Aiya didn’t close the door he could convince her. He remembered her face only a few hours ago. She was holding herself back from lashing out at him. He could endure that. Anything was fine, as long as she was interacting with him in some way and not just ignoring him.

His shoes skidded across the sidewalk as he took the corner in the driveway too sharp. He almost fell over but manages to keep his balance. He looked up, and there she was, standing in the doorway, just like that night. Rin stood just outside, and both stared him down.

“Aiya, please,” Kento began, but Rin interrupted him.

“What the hell are you doing here?” She asked. “Get away from her!” Kento stood firm, his resolve unwavering.

“No,” he said, his tone absolute. “I need to talk to Aiya. Please.” He turned to face Aiya. “Fifteen minutes. That’s all I want. After that, I’ll leave, and I promise you’ll never see me again. I’ll move to a different town, change my name, whatever you want me to do to get me out of your life. Please, just give me fifteen minutes.”

“Are you stupid?” Rin asked.

“If Rin can stay too, then I’ll do it,” Aiya said. Rin looked at her with an appalled expression. “Rin, if it gets him out of our lives for good I’ll give him fifteen minutes.” Of course, this wasn’t why she was letting Kento have that time. She dearly missed him, and this was an excuse to see him, even if it was for the last time.

“Thank you,” Kento said. Aiya gestured for him to come inside, and she and Rin followed closely after. All three stood in the living room for an awkward moment, before Aiya broke the silence.

“What do you want?” She asked.

“Mirai lied to us,” Kento said. “I know this is crazy, but I can prove it. Just-”

“This again?” Aiya asked. “You really are the worst Kento. How could you blame her? She’s the victim! What is wrong with you?”

“Aiya, please, just hear me out,” Kento said. “Think about what you know about me. Do you really think that I could ever do something like that? If I was the kind of guy who just takes what he wants, why would I do anything I’ve done since we met? Why would I get shot for Rin, or pay off your debts to that clown? Why would I help Mirai when she was in trouble with those delinquents?” Aiya looked down. A tear formed in her eyes.

“Kento, why would we trust you?” Rin asked. “Mirai’s tears. No one can fake that.”

“I believe you, Rin,” Kento said. “But I didn’t cause them.”

“Yes, you did.”

Aiya and Kento’s heads whipped around. Mirai was standing by the door.

“Mirai,” they said simultaneously, but with very different inflections. Rin looked to where their eyes were pointed, then back to them. Confusion was written on her face.

“She can’t see you, can she?” Kento asked, a victorious smile crossing his face.

“What do you mean she can’t?” Aiya asked. “Mirai is right there.”

“Aiya, are you ok?” Rin asked. “There’s no one there.” Aiya took a step back, an even greater look of confusion in her eyes than the one painted on Rin’s face.

“Kento, what’s going on?” Aiya asked.

“He’s lying to you, Aiya,” Mirai said. “He waited till everything died down to try and get you back. He even sent me a text to brag about it.”

“Stop lying,” Kento said, his voice almost a growl. “Mirai, I don’t know why you hate me, but you need to stop.”

“Do I need to call an ambulance for you two?” Rin asked.

“Aiya, she’s not who she says she is,” Kento said. “She wants to tear you and me apart. She came here just to do that. I don’t know how, and I don’t know why, but she knows more than she should. She knows something will happen if the two of us get together, and she wants to stop it.”

“Kento, do you realize how insane you sound?” Aiya asked. She took a step to stand next to Rin. “You’re really willing to tell a lie like that just to try to get me back? I’m not falling for it. Your time is up. Please leave.”

“Aiya, I’m sorry,” Kento said, his breathing becoming unstable. He reached into his waistband and pulled out the chef’s knife he had grabbed from his kitchen counter.

“Kento, what are you doing with that,” Aiya asked, fear quickly replacing the anger and confusion she felt.

“Put it down,” Mirai said, her expression matching Aiya’s. “Whatever you’re planning, it’ll only make things worse.”

“Mirai, you took everything from me,” Kento said. His tone was filled with grief and devastation, like a deathbed confession. “I was happy. Truly happy. Now all I have left is this.” He looked at the blade in his hand. His own reflection glinted within the shining surface. “I know what you are. It’s insane, but I know. I’m not going to let you go on with this game. I’m going to prove this once and for all.”

“Kento, just put down the knife,” Mirai said.

“Yeah, we can talk about this,” Aiya said. Kento smirked. It was probably the alcohol in his system altering his judgment, but he knew what he had to do. There was only one thing he could do.

“Aiya, look at Mirai,” Kento said. “And don’t you dare take your eyes off her.”

“Kento, please,” Aiya pleaded.

“Look at her!” Kento yelled. Aiya obliged his request, shaking with fear. Rin took a step back, desperately trying to make sense of the scene. Kento shifted his balance and took action.

He thrust the knife with great force, letting out a grunt of effort. He collapsed to his knees. Looking down, he admired his handiwork. The handle of the knife stuck from his abdomen. Mirai rushed forward, but she only made it a few steps before she vanished again before Aiya’s eyes, only getting out two short, pleading words that echoed across the room.

“Dad, no!”