The Fall of Prince Hayashi
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.
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.
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?
“Did you guys hear?”
“Yeah, I heard that creep Souta Fujiwara moved away.”
“Finally! All he used to do is fill our room up with stench!”
“What am I going to use as a punching bag now?”
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.
“Did you hear the news Hayashi?” he said. “Heard that freak Fujiwara finally left town.”
“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.”
Fujiwara….the kid I used to play with….I wonder if he truly left?
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.
“Give me a moment,” I said, lifting up my hand. “I need to do something….important.”
“Important?” he asked. “What’s the important thing that your doing?”
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
Your chats with Souta_Fujiwara starts 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.
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.
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.
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.
My mind fogged up, my eyes slowly closing as I laid my head back on the stall door.
Can I...live like this anymore?
“Alright,” Satomi said, walking out the room. “I get it. You really don’t care about me. I’ll just go-”
I grabbed her arm and threw the laptop to the side. “What the hell are you doing?”
“I’m leaving!” Imai shouted. “Isn’t it obvious?!”
“But why?” I asked. “Don’t you want to know what happened to Kota?”
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.”
“Why do you still care so much about him?!” I asked.
“Why does that bother you?”
“Do you still love him?” I snapped. “You care about him more than me?”
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.
“Why the hell would you ask me that! How do you even believe that?” she shouted.
“Then why?” I asked, clearly not taking a hint. “Why do you care so much about this whole mission?”
“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?!”
She knew exactly what points to hit, and I felt that last remark burn my skin. “I...don’t remember why I started this either...to be honest.”
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?
“You don’t remember?” She whispered.
“I-” I stared at the ground. “I don’t…”
Satomi held her hands tight in front of her. “Why….why did you come back then?”
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?
I closed my eyes, feeling the tears in my eyes threatening me. “Why did you join me then?”
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.
“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.”
“Can’t get rid of him?”
“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.”
“It’s the town that made his name unbearable,” I whispered. “Am I right?”
She nodded. “Yeah. But what can I do? Run away?”
“Believe me, running away doesn’t solve anything,” I felt a tear drop from my eye. “That’s from personal experience.”
“Why did you come back? You still haven’t answered my question?”
I raised a brow. “You haven’t answered mine either.”
“Yes I did!” Satomi took her hand out of mine and crossed her arms against her chest. “I came to move on! Remember?”
“Oh yeah,” I said. “Sorry about that.”
She nodded. “Now answer my question!”
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?
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.
“Why are you giving me that?” Satomi asked. “What does this?-”
“Open Winkstagram,” I said. “Then look at the messages.”
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.
“You really haven’t updated your profile?” Satomi asked.
“Why do you forget that I have trauma?” I teased.
“Get a new excuse,” she said, rolling her eyes at me.
I pointed to the messages. “Prepare yourself. This message shocked me enough to come all the way back to Kumano.”
She took a deep breath. “Okay….let’s see how bad it could be.”
She clicked on the messages and Hayashi’s message popped up on the screen.
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.
Satomi’s eyes watered. “Okay…so that’s pretty bad…”
“Yeah,” I said. “That’s why I came back to Kumano.”
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.
She handed the phone back to me. “Souta, look at the date of the message.”
I looked down at the message again, this time focusing my attention on the small date that sat above it.
“That isn’t the day Hayashi died,” Satomi said. “It’s not even the same month.”
No….that’s not possible. I grabbed the phone back into my eyes and read the date over and over again.
It was the day after I moved. The day winter break started.
“This wasn’t him asking for help,” Satomi said. “He was probably curious as to why you left!”
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.”
I felt my eyes tear up. “So it wasn’t my fault?”
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.”
“Stupid idiot,” I muttered, letting myself finally cry. “Would rather die with pride than let anyone else help.”
Satomi sighed. “That’s the stubborn prince we both have always known.”
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Satomi whispered into my ear.
I nodded. “This is the best option we have. Are you okay doing this?”
“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.
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.
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.
“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.”
“You remember what we told you?” I asked. “About what we’re doing today?”
“Yep, although I still think it’s crazy.”
“Well, who's going to do it?” Satomi asked.
“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.”
“I can stomach it,” I said. “Satomi, hand me the laptop.”
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.
“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.”
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.”
Satomi and Mori sat down next to me, and Mori handed me the hammer he held in his hands.
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.
“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.”
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.
“It’s over,” Mori said. “It’s finally over for all four of us.”
Next Chapter: Epilogue and Final Notes!