Chapter 20:

This Life Has Now Come to an End

The Fall of Prince Hayashi

Kota Hayashi.Bookmark here

I always took that name with such pride wherever I went. My parents made it clear from the moment I was born that I was someone who was meant to have it all. There was nothing missing from me. Intelligence. Looks. Charm. It felt like I was born a prince, with everyone around me adorning me with compliments and care.Bookmark here

High school was supposed to be another stepping stone in my journey of glory. It was supposed to be an experience that further proved how amazing I was to everyone. My transformation from a mere prince to a king was underway, as I was supposed to mature into a fine man by the end of my high school experience.Bookmark here

Yet things kept falling apart. My grades went from perfect to horrendous. My popularity became less satisfying. Satomi Imai, the most popular girl in school, broke up with me out of nowhere. Soon, my enjoyments were replaced by two jobs needed for cheating papers. My popularity started to falter as I assimilated into Kumano. I was falling into the background. The worst thing about it all was that some part of me was holding on to this all. To the idea that I could fix everything around me. But was that even possible? Or was I worth fixing?Bookmark here

“Did you guys hear?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, I heard that creep Souta Fujiwara moved away.”Bookmark here

“Finally! All he used to do is fill our room up with stench!”Bookmark here

“What am I going to use as a punching bag now?”Bookmark here

One of my friends bumped into me in the hallway, the school day over for almost everyone today. Of course, I had plenty more things to do at school today thanks to the millions of clubs I needed to be in. My friend….I couldn’t remember his name...but he bumped into me and flashed me the fakest smile ever.Bookmark here

“Did you hear the news Hayashi?” he said. “Heard that freak Fujiwara finally left town.”Bookmark here

“It makes sense,” I held my laptop close to me in my backpack. “The trash does end up taking itself out most of the time.”Bookmark here

Fujiwara….the kid I used to play with….I wonder if he truly left?Bookmark here

The ‘friend’ started laughing and like always, I laughed with him. I was a master at fake laughing with people now. Just like how I was a master at most things anyways. But the idea of Fujiwara leaving still bothered me. Why wouldn’t he tell me before he left? I was the only friend he had apparently and yet he didn’t say anything to me.Bookmark here

“Give me a moment,” I said, lifting up my hand. “I need to do something….important.”Bookmark here

“Important?” he asked. “What’s the important thing that your doing?”Bookmark here

“I….I need to use the bathroom,” I started walking away before he could stop me. “I’ll try to call you later after my clubs are over.”Bookmark here

The bathroom was just down the hallway, all I needed was some more time to...I don’t know...think? Or make sure that Fujiwara was actually doing okay? I didn’t...I didn’t even know why I was rushing to get away, or what I was running from. The moment my eyes caught the sign above the boys bathroom I sprinted across the hall and flew the door open.Bookmark here

No other guys were in here. Actually, almost no one was left in the building anymore. All of them ran out the moment school ended, with the couple of student government leaders being the exception. I was alone in the bathroom, the line of mirrors in front of the sinks making it clear that no one else was here with me.Bookmark here

It never hit me that my hands were shaking. Or that every step I took felt like I was carrying lead in my shoes. I opened one of the stalls in front of me and pulled out my phone. I didn’t have his number, but I knew that Fujiwara was active on Winkstagram.Bookmark here

Your chats with Souta_Fujiwara starts here!Bookmark here

….Bookmark here

….Bookmark here

Kota_Prince_Hayashi178: Souta, can you talk to me for a minute? It’s something serious and I need your help. Just...message me back ok pal.Bookmark here

My body crumpled to the ground, a sudden tiredness running through me. I ran a hand through my hair and tried to contain my fear. WHat was happening to me? Was I falling sick? This was the fifth time this has happened this week….was it fatigue? Maybe I should go home and rest.Bookmark here

No. I couldn’t rest. Everything was falling apart and the first thing on my mind was sleep? I needed to work, study, do my club assignments and send the money over to the people who gave me the test answers. Sleep is for the weak. For people like Fujiwara, who can’t handle the stress of reality.Bookmark here

I tried to get up but my body failed me. Every muscle put up a fight, trying to keep me on the ground. Why? I was fine a minute ago? I was fine when I first transferred! Everything was great and now….my life was miserable.Bookmark here

My mind fogged up, my eyes slowly closing as I laid my head back on the stall door.Bookmark here

Can like this anymore?Bookmark here

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“Alright,” Satomi said, walking out the room. “I get it. You really don’t care about me. I’ll just go-”Bookmark here

I grabbed her arm and threw the laptop to the side. “What the hell are you doing?”Bookmark here

“I’m leaving!” Imai shouted. “Isn’t it obvious?!”Bookmark here

“But why?” I asked. “Don’t you want to know what happened to Kota?”Bookmark here

She looked down at the ground as her lips parted. “I...don’t think I have a right to know. Just like how he never told us anything. It sounds crazy but I feel like he would be furious if we looked through his stuff.”Bookmark here

“Why do you still care so much about him?!” I asked.Bookmark here

“Why does that bother you?”Bookmark here

“Do you still love him?” I snapped. “You care about him more than me?”Bookmark here

Satomi shook my grip off and without hesitation, smacked me in the face. The impact was so sudden that I had to take a step back. Why did I feel like she was constantly smacking me in the face? What happened to talking with your words? I looked up at her and saw the fury in her still raging. Instead of hitting me again, she kicked my coffee table and walked away.Bookmark here

“Why the hell would you ask me that! How do you even believe that?” she shouted.Bookmark here

“Then why?” I asked, clearly not taking a hint. “Why do you care so much about this whole mission?”Bookmark here

“I don’t know!” she shouted, her voice echoing in my ears. “I thought at first that I was doing it for Hayashi and now….it feels like I’m struggling to even know why I cared about this in the first place! And what about you? Why did you suddenly care after three years?!”Bookmark here

She knew exactly what points to hit, and I felt that last remark burn my skin. “I...don’t remember why I started this be honest.”Bookmark here

The room went dead silent, as I processed what I said and Satomi was processing what I was saying. Why….why were we here again? This was for Hayashi...right? I was doing this to find the truth about what happened here...but then what was I doing right now? Opening his personal laptop…but what was I looking for again? A note? A letter?Bookmark here

“You don’t remember?” She whispered.Bookmark here

“I-” I stared at the ground. “I don’t…”Bookmark here

“….Why?”Bookmark here

Satomi held her hands tight in front of her. “Why….why did you come back then?”Bookmark here

I took a seat back onto my bed, ignoring the sound of the springs ringing through the air. Only moments ago, I was so confident that I was doing the right thing. Why was it that Satomi could change my mind so quickly?Bookmark here

I closed my eyes, feeling the tears in my eyes threatening me. “Why did you join me then?”Bookmark here

Satomi took a seat next to me, moving the laptop completely out of view. She grabbed my hand, completely ignoring the fact that she just slapped me a minute ago.Bookmark here

“I wanted to move on,” Satomi said. “It feels like everything I do gets tied back to him. It sucks knowing I can’t get rid of him.”Bookmark here

“Can’t get rid of him?”Bookmark here

“I don’t love him like I used to anymore,” Satomi said. “Every good memory has three bad ones connected to it. It’s not even his fault that it’s like this anymore.”Bookmark here

“It’s the town that made his name unbearable,” I whispered. “Am I right?”Bookmark here

She nodded. “Yeah. But what can I do? Run away?”Bookmark here

“Believe me, running away doesn’t solve anything,” I felt a tear drop from my eye. “That’s from personal experience.”Bookmark here

“Why did you come back? You still haven’t answered my question?”Bookmark here

I raised a brow. “You haven’t answered mine either.”Bookmark here

“Yes I did!” Satomi took her hand out of mine and crossed her arms against her chest. “I came to move on! Remember?”Bookmark here

“Oh yeah,” I said. “Sorry about that.”Bookmark here

She nodded. “Now answer my question!”Bookmark here

Why did I come back here? Only a month ago, I was ready to move on and completely forget everything in my past. To leave my horrible childhood locked up in the back of my mind. Then, that text came in. The one on Winkstagram. The one that Hayashi sent me. The one I received three years too late. Did Kota really call me “pal” in that message? He never did that…so what was he asking about?Bookmark here

I trusted Satomi. She was so much more honest with herself, although she had trouble expressing herself (unless kicking people counted as expressing). Would she judge me? For coming back because of a stupid message? I felt my hand reach into my back pocket and I pulled out my phone. She watched with curious eyes as I passed the phone to her.Bookmark here

“Why are you giving me that?” Satomi asked. “What does this?-”Bookmark here

“Open Winkstagram,” I said. “Then look at the messages.”Bookmark here

Satomi swiped the screen open and I moved in closer to show her where Winkstagram was. She opened the app, my sad profile being the first thing that popped up.Bookmark here

“You really haven’t updated your profile?” Satomi asked.Bookmark here

“Why do you forget that I have trauma?” I teased.Bookmark here

“Get a new excuse,” she said, rolling her eyes at me.Bookmark here

I pointed to the messages. “Prepare yourself. This message shocked me enough to come all the way back to Kumano.”Bookmark here

She took a deep breath. “Okay….let’s see how bad it could be.”Bookmark here

She clicked on the messages and Hayashi’s message popped up on the screen.Bookmark here

Kota_Prince_Hayashi178: Souta, can you talk to me for a minute? It’s something serious and I need your help. Just...message me back ok pal.Bookmark here

Satomi’s eyes watered. “Okay…so that’s pretty bad…”Bookmark here

“Yeah,” I said. “That’s why I came back to Kumano.”Bookmark here

Her eyes read over the message another time. Like she was trying to find something hidden underneath all the words typed on the screen. Her fingers pressed on Hayashi’s profile, showing the empty page except for the small black square posted three years ago.Bookmark here

She handed the phone back to me. “Souta, look at the date of the message.”Bookmark here

I looked down at the message again, this time focusing my attention on the small date that sat above it.Bookmark here

“That isn’t the day Hayashi died,” Satomi said. “It’s not even the same month.”Bookmark here

No….that’s not possible. I grabbed the phone back into my eyes and read the date over and over again.Bookmark here

It was the day after I moved. The day winter break started.Bookmark here

“This wasn’t him asking for help,” Satomi said. “He was probably curious as to why you left!”Bookmark here

“But…. Why?”Bookmark here

She closed the phone in my hands. “You said it yourself. That you were online friends with Kota. He must have not been aware of your move until you were gone.”Bookmark here

I felt my eyes tear up. “So it wasn’t my fault?”Bookmark here

Satomi put her hand on my shoulder. “Even if he messaged you anything else, this wasn’t your fault. We all ignored him, because that’s what he wanted.”Bookmark here

“Stupid idiot,” I muttered, letting myself finally cry. “Would rather die with pride than let anyone else help.”Bookmark here

Satomi sighed. “That’s the stubborn prince we both have always known.”Bookmark here

We both sat there, our minds tracing back the past couple of years we had spent thinking of the past. I was so obsessed with leaving everything behind. Satomi was struggling to even find a way out of her misery. All of this, because of Hayashi. Because he left, without any sign or tell tale of his departure. He died the way he lived: shrouded in mystery.Bookmark here

“I think I know what to do now,” I said, getting up from my seat. “The best way to end this all, the way Hayashi would have wanted it.”Bookmark here

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I had Satomi call up Mori and explain what my plan was. Once he heard it, he became a little hesitant. Yet in the end, Kuro Mori wasn’t the type of guy to pass up an opportunity as rare as this one.Bookmark here

Satomi and I took the train out of the shopping center of Kumano and headed to the outskirts of the town. Mori said he would find his own way there, without our help. I took his word, and me, Satomi, and the laptop were off to the one place we’ve yet to visit: Hayashi’s grave.Bookmark here

The graveyard stood on the outskirt of town, the large fence keeping out unwanted visitors. Satomi thought ten steps ahead and brought some flowers so we didn’t look suspicious. The woman who maintained the cemetery just gave us a nod, as we headed straight to Kota’s grave.Bookmark here

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Satomi whispered into my ear.Bookmark here

I nodded. “This is the best option we have. Are you okay doing this?”Bookmark here

“I’m okay,” she smiled. Her face finally seemed at ease, the happy expression on her face genuine. It made me a little bit flustered but I composed myself quickly. After all, we were here with a purpose.Bookmark here

In the distance, I saw a familiar head of black hair; it must have been Mori. I waved my hand up in the air, trying to catch the other man's attention. He looked up and waved back at the two of us.Bookmark here

The grave he was standing in front of was Kota’s. As expected, both Satomi and Mori knew where his tombstone was in this sea of stone. For a moment, I thought his grave would be marked up in a fashion different from the others. Maybe I thought his princely face would have been etched into the stone, watching over all the people who came to visit him. His tombstone was nowhere near unique. All he had was his name and the small flowers next to his family name headstone.Bookmark here

“Looks like the two lovebirds finally made it,” Mori teased, as we both went to greet him. He nodded at me and shook hands with Satomi. “I’m about to head back to America soon. But there’s no way that I could miss this.”Bookmark here

“You remember what we told you?” I asked. “About what we’re doing today?”Bookmark here

“Yep, although I still think it’s crazy.”Bookmark here

“Well, who's going to do it?” Satomi asked.Bookmark here

“I think the man who brought us all back here should do the honors,” Mori said, waving at me. “Unless you can’t stomach it.”Bookmark here

“I can stomach it,” I said. “Satomi, hand me the laptop.”Bookmark here

She handed the laptop to me, the heavy black brick weighing down my hands. I put it in front of Hayashi’s grave and put my hands together. I could hear Satomi and Mori follow my lead.Bookmark here

“Dear Kota Hayashi,” I whispered. “It’s me: Souta Fujiwara, and with me are Satomi Imai, and Kuro Mori. We’re here to give you something back that you’ve left behind with us.”Bookmark here

I pushed the laptop to the gravestone. “Your laptop. It holds information personal to you, and we almost took advantage of that fact. But, knowing your stubborn ways, you would rather die a million times than let people know your secrets. So, we are honoring your wishes today.”Bookmark here

Satomi and Mori sat down next to me, and Mori handed me the hammer he held in his hands.Bookmark here

I lifted the hammer above my head, my eyes focused on the target underneath me. This was for Hayashi. The only thing we could do for him here in the real world. The only thing we have done for Kota this whole trip. A purely unselfish act.Bookmark here

“I hope you have a wonderful afterlife Hayashi. One without the worries that plagued you when you were alive. Please accept our prayers God. For us and Hayashi’s sake.”Bookmark here

I slammed the hammer into the computer, watching it shatter into a million pieces in front of me. I kept smashing it, with each hit making the mess bigger and bigger. I handed the hammer to Satomi and she also took joy in breaking the laptop apart, the bits of it flying everywhere around us. Mori finally took the hammer out of our hands and passed over the garbage bag he hid in his back pocket.Bookmark here

“It’s over,” Mori said. “It’s finally over for all four of us.” Bookmark here

Next Chapter: Epilogue and Final Notes!Bookmark here

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