Chapter 10:

The Present

TRUE false

It’s 1st of march. And I’m in a hospital. I’m here because I tried to kill myself and failed. Practically speaking, that’s the truth but theoretically, I died yesterday and have been reborn as a new person. Before I was a fool depressed over one single failure, but now I’ve learned to accept my failures and move on. I’ve decided to live my life with a new purpose and a positive attitude.

I now realize how foolish I was, for always thinking negatively, for always focusing on the negative aspects of everything. Just changing the way, you look at things could help you understand things so much better. Yukawa tried to help me back then, but the negative person that I was only focused on the negative aspect, but a change of view helped me understand not only myself but Kenzo too. My best friend who I never truly understood until today.

In my stupidity, I’ve hurt a lot of people. People who genuinely cared for me, but I’m gonna make things right. I’ll apologize to them just like I did to Kenzo. I’ll keep apologizing until they forgive me.

That’s what I’ve planned at least.

KENZO- ‘Good for you, man. Well, if you wanna get started on it, Tomonaga came here with me. Do you want me to send him in?

What? Do I have to start with him? Well, I’ll have to get to him anyway so what’s the difference. Bring it on!


Kenzo brings Tomonaga into the room.

I’m sorry.

TOMONAGA- ‘I’ll never forgive you!


KENZO- ‘What?

TOMONAGA- ‘Hrr… He seems fine now so I’m leaving!



KENZO- ‘Ok, you two talk, I’m gonna go grab a bite.

Kenzo left the room. And now only the two of us were in there.

I’m sorry, I mean it.

I don’t want your sorry.

Please! I understand what I did was wrong.

Wrong? You broke my teeth! It was bleeding for a whole hour.

I don’t know what else I can say. But I truly regret doing that.

I guess it’s okay now. Plus, it seems like you’ve punished yourself enough already.

Really? I mean I didn’t expect you’d forgive me. Is it because now you have my spot?

What are you talking about?

I mean, if I’m rank 6 then you must be on rank 5, right?

Wrong. I’m on rank 10.

What? He’s not in the toppers? But then why did he help me? I assumed that his temper must’ve lowered because he got that spot, he said I stole from him. But if he fell five ranks below, then…

I don’t understand.

Really? You don’t understand? I thought you’d understand better than anyone, that petty motivations don’t take you so far in life.

That’s not what I’m talking about… wait, what? What petty motivations?

Did he also, just tried to be a topper to beat me?

Then, what did you not understand? Why I helped you?

Ah… yeah…

You can say it was my way of trying to atone.

Atone for what?

You aren’t the only one who thought of killing himself.


And it wasn’t even my first time. Each time I failed, that thought occurred to me. But I kept on living because I still had a reason to.

I still have that reason, but I do understand how it feels to be hopeless, to feel like your whole life has been a waste. It’s terrible. No one should get to feel that way. And I understand that I was a big reason for your feeling that way.

I couldn’t accept my own weakness and blamed you for all my problems. I began to hate you, so I kept discouraging you. I said to you what I meant to say to me. I kinda put my depression on to you.

He’s not completely wrong. He did always discourage me, at every opportunity he got. But…

I’d be lying if I said your words didn’t affect me. But more than anything it was my own weakness that led me into darkness. Because like you, I didn’t accept my weaknesses either.

We’re alike in that.

Yeah, so about this motivation of yours, you wanted to become a topper so you could get into the same college as Nozomi, right?

What? How did… how did you know?

Wow, So I was right on spot huh?

Just tell me how’d you know!

At first, I thought your goal was just to beat me, but after listening to what you said and considering everything you’ve said in the past, that’s the conclusion I arrived upon. You wanted to get into the same college as Nozomi because she is the one you love!

Shh… keep it down! will ya?

I’m right, aren’t I?

I’ve liked her ever since we were kids. But I could never tell her, I was afraid. She was better than me in everything. She’s much more good-looking, much better in academics, she’s even stronger than me in a fight.

Really? I can’t imagine Nozomi fighting anyone. But Tomonaga is pretty weak, so I guess it’s possible she’s better in a fight than him.

When I told my friends in middle school about it, they laughed at me. They said it’s impossible for a guy like me to get a perfect girl like her.

And that’s why you said the same thing to me regarding Yukawa.

I was jealous, I couldn’t accept the fact that everyone believed in you. I just didn’t want to accept that you had a chance, while I didn’t.

You know? If you believe me, I don’t think you don’t have a chance.


Nozomi isn’t the type of girl who’d reject someone for reasons you speak of.

What this? You’re trying to encourage me?

Just telling you what I think.

That so? Well, thanks anyway.

You’re welcome.

But there’s something I want you to know.


Regardless of what you say, I’ll never forgive you for what you did to Nozomi.

Oh… I can understand. I wouldn’t either if I were in your place. But still, I’m gonna try. I’ll apologize to Nozomi too as soon as I meet her.

…Ok, then you since you’re fine now, I’ll be leaving.

Ok, see you later. And thanks for everything.

Ah… one more thing.


Don’t tell anyone about my feelings for Nozomi, alright?

This is coming from the guy who openly blurted out everything about my feelings in front of everyone, even Yukawa? But still, I’m not such a jerk that’d do the same to get revenge


Tomonaga left the room. Kenzo had gone to get something to eat and hadn’t returned since, and Yukawa… Well, she left the room embarrassed and hasn’t returned since. I stayed alone in the room for the next 15 minutes or so, and then Nozomi showed up.

I got tired of lying down, so I sat up on the bed before she entered the room. As soon as she came inside the room and saw me, she rushed over to me and gave me a light hug.

Thank God Tomonaga had left the room! Now that I know how he feels I don’t think this is something he should see. Seriously Nozomi! you’re gonna give people the wrong idea! maybe even to me.

When moved away, I saw her face. She wasn’t the type who could hide their feelings, her face was a clear display of how she was feeling. She was worried, extremely worried, so much so that she was crying. Her eyes were red and I could see tears coming down her face. Seeing her like this reminded me of what I did to her. I cursed myself for it, for hurting someone who cared so much for me.

NOZOMI- ‘I’m so glad you’re awake now!

Ah… yeah.

Are you okay now? If there’s anything troubling you, please tell me!

No! I’m… I’m fine, Nozomi.

You… You idiot! Don’t you ever do something like this again!

I won’t.

You dumbass! If you were suffering, why didn’t you come to talk to me?

How could I? After what I did, I thought you hated me.

Why do you always think like that? I tried… I tried so many times to talk to you, but you kept avoiding me. I couldn’t even see you for so long.

She tried to reach out to me, even after what I did? She’s really the kindest person I’ve ever met. How could I hurt someone like that? I’m really a selfish bastard for that. But I have to make things right.

Nozomi… I’m really sorry for what I did, please forgive me!

…I’ll forgive you on one condition.

You name it!

You have to promise, you’ll never do anything stupid like this again, and you’ll stop avoiding me, and you won’t take grades so seriously.

Hmm… Nozomi, those are three conditions, not one! Honestly this girl. Even now, even in her condition, she’s thinking about me. How stupid was I to think she could plot something like hooking me up with someone for her benefit? I don’t think she could even come up with anything like that even if she wanted.

I accept all your conditions.

Good! Then I forgive you.

Thanks a lot, Nozomi.

By the way, I heard it was Yukawa who saved you. Is that true?

Yep! It was her.

Wow, I don’t know if you’re lucky or unlucky. Normally it should be the boy’s job to save the girl to impress her.

I’m definitely lucky. Yukawa has saved me in more ways than you can think.

What’s this? Have you fallen for her again?

No, I’ve always been in love with her, I just didn’t realize it sooner.

Mmm… This is getting exciting! So, we’re back to setting you two up, right?

Ah… I think it’s gonna be a little complicated this time. As you remember Tomonaga has already blurted out about my love in front of her.

Yeah, but doesn’t that just simplify things? Now you just have to ask her out.

No! now that she knows, it’s become pretty embarrassing for us to even talk to each other.

Oh… But I don’t think it’ll be a problem.

Why is that?

One thing I know about you is that you’re the most stubborn guy I’ve ever met. You kept following a path that felt like hell to you in chase of a goal that wasn’t even for you. If you decide to go after Yukawa, the girl you love, I can’t even imagine how strong your resolve will be. I don’t think anything will be able to break you.

Is that so? Maybe… you’re right.

We chatted for about an hour before she left. After that Kenzo came back and informed me that Yukawa went home. The two of us chatted for another hour and then finally I was discharged from the hospital.

Both me and Yukawa were completely fine. She only passed out from the fear of falling and had no injuries, so she was allowed to leave immediately. My case was different but still not anything dangerous. I passed out due to malnutrition and overexerting myself. I haven’t been eating any proper meal for a long time, and couldn’t walk for more than one kilometer without feeling dizzy, but last night I pushed myself to swim continuously more than 500 meters while carrying another person. Of course, that’d take its toll on me.

After being discharged, Kenzo accompanied me on my way home. And although I told him I was fine, he insisted on staying, so ended up staying at my place till the next morning.

At around 9 P.M, Yukawa and Nozomi brought us homemade dinner. There was rice with miso soup, tempura, and salad. It was the first decent meal I had in a long time, so the food tasted even better. That or it could be because, Yukawa was the one who brought it, or it could’ve been because… after all that time, for once, I wasn’t alone. This was the first time, that I shared dinner with someone ever since Sis left. I’ll never forget that feeling in my life, what I felt that day.

After having dinner together with us, Yukawa and Nozomi went back to their homes. Kenzo stayed the whole night, keeping watch over me so would do anything stupid again. But he didn’t have to worry about anything because I was sound asleep the whole night. Yes, I slept peacefully, after so long. It’s like I was having the longest nightmare that finally came to an end.

Even when the morning came, Kenzo didn’t leave, he waited for the arrival of my father. But he wasn’t the only one waiting for them.

I had made up my mind. It’s not like I have any other choice, but this time that’s not the reason. I’ve made up my mind to face the consequences of my actions, because I know I was wrong. Now the only person I need to come clean with is dad.

I was waiting in my room when Kenzo informed me that they have arrived. I’d be lying if said I wasn’t nervous, but I wouldn’t back off. I prepared myself, and just as I did, he entered my room. My father was standing in front of me for the first time in six and a half years.

Hey, Dad!

He took off his glasses and sat next to me on the bed.


I could feel the tension in the air. This was much different than with them. I didn’t know if I should say something or wait for him.

Dad, I…

Do you hate yourself, son?

Huh? That’s an unusual question. But… at the moment I don’t think I have an answer for it.

I don’t know.

When you did what you did, did you hate yourself then?

That I can answer.

Yes, I did.

And what was it that made you feel that way? What did you hate yourself for?

What should I say? Right now, most of them seem foolish to me. But at that time, they seemed like the very fabric of my being, like I was nothing but those mistakes, that I was a waste.

Because I failed. I failed to follow your path. I couldn’t pass the entrance exam of the college you went to. I couldn’t be like you.

And why did you wanted to follow in my path? Why not make your own path? Why try to be like me?

Because I was foolish. That’s the only reason I could think of right now, but back then, it was the sole purpose of my life.

Because that’s what I’ve always tried to do, in my whole life.

Ok, but why? What for?

I wanted to prove to everyone, that I was just as capable as you and Sis.

To whom did you wanted to prove this to? Did your classmates bullied you with this notion?

No! they didn’t do anything.

Then to whom did you want to prove it to.

People I don’t even remember names of. As ridiculous as it sounds, that’s the truth. But I can’t say that to him. And what does it matter now that I’ve changed?

That doesn’t matter Dad. I don’t want to prove anything to anyone anymore.

No, it does matter, I want to know everything. Why did it have to come to this?

Then… then, I guess I’ll have to say it. Yeah, this was the plan anyway, tell him everything with full honesty.

Dad, all my life I’ve always been compared to you and Sis. Everyone that met, all our relatives, they always said that I was inferior to you two. That I was the only one in this family who didn’t have any potential. So, it became my aim, my goal to prove them wrong, to show them that I was your equal, and when I failed to achieve that goal, I thought… I thought that my life has no purpose anymore.

If that’s how you felt then why didn’t you talk to me about it?

Because… I thought that you wouldn’t wanna see me, not after I failed to follow in your path.

Are you retarded? When did I ever say I wanted you to follow me?

You didn’t.

Son, I’ve made many mistakes in my life, but the biggest one of them is neglecting my duties.

He has? Even father has made mistakes? I couldn’t believe it. Yukawa, you were right again.

I should’ve done it sooner, but better late than never. Son, I’ll tell you about me, the man that you wanted to become.


We Takase were a family of blacksmiths for many generations. Our ancestors made swords for some of the most legendary swordsmen of history. But I… I was more fond of a pen than the hammer.

Ever since I was a child, I always loved experimenting. I made a lot of weird toys even as a child. I wanted to understand things, and use them to advance our way of living.

It’s the same as Yukawa. I guess that’s why they both ranked no. 1, they both shared pretty similar goals.

Right from back then, I loved science more than anything. But I knew that we were a family of Blacksmiths, so I would have to take over the family business.

I trained for the job every day, but I was never as good as my father. I was always regarded as second class, people said I didn’t have the right genes of Takase blood.

That’s just like me. Dad also had to go through something like that.

I never told my father what I wanted to do, or what I liked, I was too scared. But he didn’t need me to tell him, he figured me out himself.

Grandpa did?

Yes, and then without telling me, submitted my application form for St. Stephen’s entrance exam.

The night he told me about it, I asked him ’But what about the family business?’ and he said ‘The family does not exist for business, the business exists for the family, pursue your own path son. Be what you want to be.’

That’s what he told me. And I thought it was so simple, then what was I afraid of? After that I enjoyed my life to the fullest, I became what I wanted to, and could do what I wanted to. And then I met your mother, fell in love, got married, and had you two, there was nothing more I could ask for.

But I couldn’t become for you who my father was for me. In my love of science, in living my life, I completely neglected you. I never knew you close enough to understand what you wanted to do. I failed as a father, and that was my biggest mistake.

It’s not your fault, even I didn’t understand my own desires, how could you?

When I got the invite to Switzerland and brought you along with me so I could spend some time with you, but even there I was busy for most of the time, and you ended up alone. And then, while we were there, your mom… passed away.

I loved your mom so very much, I was devastated. The only way I could think of to distract myself from the pain was to work, again back to science. I ignored your feelings, I didn’t consider what you were going through. But Yukawa told me what you had done, my heart stopped for a second. I couldn’t handle it, I couldn’t lose you too.

I never truly understood you, but I want to. So, I decided that I’ll take you with me to the U.S. If you want to pursue science further, then I’ll get you admission to the best university possible with your grades. But I want you to know, I never wanted you to follow in my path, I always wanted you to find your own path because that’s the way to live. You should live on your own terms and not someone else’s.

Thanks for telling me this dad. I’ll do it, I’ll find my own path.

That’s good, son. But if you ever feel hopeless again…

I’ll come and talk to you, to all of you, and won’t do anything stupid.


I’ve never imagined that dad had to go through a similar situation as me. In my mind, he was always the most successful person in the world, who never had to come across any failures, who was only praised for his achievements in his whole life, but I was so wrong. Just like Yukawa said, to others only the destination matters and not the journey, but it’s only the individual himself who knows how hard the journey, the path to success was. Dad failed at what was expected of him for his lineage but became successful on the path he chose for himself when he did what he wanted to do. And the one who guided him to take that path was grandfather and for me… for me it was Yukawa.

After talking with me some more dad left my room and then finally Sis came in and as soon she entered she rushed over to me and grabbed my hands.

Akio! Are you okay? Did you get hurt? Oh! Look how thin you’ve gotten! Have you eaten anything? Did you…

Sis! Calm down! I’m fine now.

Upon hearing my response, she hugged me.

Why? Tell me why Akio? How could you do that? Did you even think about how I’ll feel if anything were to happen to you?

I’m really sorry Sis.

Why? If things were so hard on you, why didn’t you tell me? I feel so stupid right now!

It’s not your fault Sis!

How is it not? For all the time we lived here together, you were my responsibility, and I completely failed at it. You were right in front of me and I still didn’t see what you were going through! I never gave you enough time, I was always busy with my friends and that’s why… and that’s why… it came to this!

That’s not true Sis, you did everything you could. After mom died, if I didn’t have you, I would’ve broken a long time ago. Sis, I don’t think there’s anyone in this world who could’ve handled that responsibility better than you.

No, Akio, I shouldn’t have spent so much time with my friends and…

Why wouldn’t you? You had your own life too! If anything, I was the stupid one for not realizing my own situation, my own feelings. If I didn’t understand myself, how could you?

But, Akio…

Sis, believe me, you are the one who cared for me the most in the world. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I didn’t have you. If anything, I was the one who was often rude to you. I’m really sorry for that.

No! You don’t need to apologize for anything. You were the best little brother in the world. Just don’t ever do anything like this ever again, ok?

I promise, I’ll never do anything to worry you. Never again.

I meant every word I said, the only person I never doubted in my life, that I knew genuinely cared for me more than anyone else was my sister. After mom’s death, for whatever reasons, both Kenzo and dad left me alone, at one of the most difficult times of my life, she was the only person still standing with me. One of the reasons I tried to kill myself was that I couldn’t bear it if she didn’t want to see me anymore, how ridiculous is that? My sister, who never abandoned me, who cared for me more than anyone in the world, why would she not want to see me if I failed a stupid exam? When I think about it now, it sounds like a stupid joke. I really was a fool.

I’ve always known about Sis, but she wasn’t the only one who cared about me. Kenzo, Nozomi and Yukawa and up to some point even Tomonaga. I feel like I never really knew them before. But now I understand, I always wanted everyone to accept me, but I was never accepting anyone myself. The world is full of different people and not all of them could be how I want them to be, that’s what makes them different. And if I want them to accept me, I have to first accept them for who they are.

Kenzo had a very similar problem as me, yet I never understood. I react just like Tomonaga, blaming Kenzo for everything, for leaving me in my time of need and when Tomonaga blamed me for his problems and framed me as inferiors, I tried to avoid him just like Kenzo avoided me. We were all doing the same thing to each other and yet didn’t understand each other’s situation. But then in just one day, I came to know so much about everyone around me, so much more than I had ever known in all those years we spent together. I wonder why didn’t we understand each other before?

I know why. The answer is still the same, we didn’t explore. We all kept our emotions shut to ourselves. None of us tried to explore the other’s feelings, none of us tried to express our feelings. And if we don’t express ourselves how will anyone know how we feel?

It’s like Yukawa answered all my questions years ago before they even came to me. It’s just as she said we have to explore to find answers, we have to express ourselves to others. She really has her way with words. But I’m not like her, I’ve never been able to express myself with words. But she’s told me, that she understood my situation, my emotions from my painting, and if I can express myself with my paintings then that’s what I’d do. Because the first person that I need to express myself to, to express my true feelings to is myself. I still don’t know what I wanna do in life, what is my true goal, my own path that I wanna pursue. If I can express that with my painting, then that’s what I’d do.

After a long time of a year and a half, I had Sis’s handmade dinner. And for the first time in almost six and a half years the three of us, me, Sis, and dad had dinner together.

After dinner, I went back into my room and sat down to think. I planned to paint the very first thing that came to my mind. If I don’t understand it myself, I could ask Yukawa for help to understand what I’m trying to say through my painting. But as soon as this thought crossed my mind, I found my subject. I knew what I had to paint, so I started on it.

After working late at night for about 3 to 4 hours, I finished my artwork. And didn’t need Yukawa’s help to understand what it meant. In fact, anyone could tell the meaning with just a glance. I smiled as I looked at the painting. For the first time my desires, my emotions were crystal clear to me. I turned off the lights and went to sleep.

The next day all my friends visited me again. Yukawa, Kenzo, Nozomi, Tomonaga, they were all here. My dad thanked them all for what they did for me and then we had breakfast together. And later Father and Sis, especially called Yukawa alone for dinner tonight.

Sis prepared a huge feast for dinner that night, and when we sat to eat, dad properly thanked Yukawa again for saving my life.

DAD- ‘Chizuru, I can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done. We’re all in your debt, you weren’t there and anything had happened to Akio, I don’t know what I’ve done.

SIS- ‘Yeah Chi, thank you so much. We’ll always be grateful.

YUKAWA- ‘Oh come on… cut it out already Big sis. And it’s fine Uncle, really. You’ve already thanked me quite enough.

No, they are right. Thanks a lot, Yukawa, for saving my life.

YUKAWA- ‘Hey! Not you too! Ok, how about this? You helped me when I got lost and I saved you so now we’re even.

Hmm… but I helped you twice when you got lost.

YUKAWA- ‘Hey! You’re gonna count?

DAD- ‘Akio?

I’m just kidding dad.

SIS- ‘What’s this? I don’t know anything about this. When did you get lost?

YUKAWA- ‘Oh, it was many years ago, I was pretty young.

And once recently during Sis’s birthday party.

YUKAWA- ‘Oh, shut up!

SIS- ‘Wait you know each other from years ago? When did you meet each other?

YUKAWA- ‘We met in Switzerland, during that trip.

SIS- ‘Oh, I see.

And she got lost in the resort.

YUKAWA- ‘Would you cut it out already?

But seriously what are you, real-life female version of Zoro?

YUKAWA- ‘Wait you’ve seen One Piece?

Of course, who hasn’t?

YUKAWA- ‘But I thought you didn’t watch anime.

I don’t now, but One piece came out so long ago. And I did watch anime as a child.

YUKAWA- ‘So, how far did you see?

I was very close to the end, they were about to win against CP9.

SIS- ‘My god, brother, even after all that time, you still don’t know anything.

What do you mean?

YUKAWA- ‘Dude, One piece is still ongoing.

What? But it’s been over two decades! Has he still to become the king of the pirates?

YUKAWA- ‘Yeah, duh. I think at most you’ve only seen about 30% of the show currently available.

Wow, I gotta salute oda for it.

YUKAWA- ‘And here I thought I finally found something to talk about with you.

I… I’ll binge it, so don’t worry.

SIS- ‘Huh? You will? But I thought you didn’t like anime.

That’s not it. I stopped watching it to avoid distractions. But now I’ll start living my life to the fullest as well. Of course, I’ll focus on my studies, but I’ll also make sure to take a breather from time to time.

YUKAWA- ‘I think he has learned at least a little, big sis.

SIS- ‘Yeah, all thanks to you.

Yeah, Sis is exactly right. It’s all thanks to you Yukawa.

After dinner, father asked me to see Yukawa off to her apartment. So, I went with her. I was glad for the opportunity because I had something to talk about with her.



Thank you!

Will you stop it already! How many times are you going to thank me for saving your life?

This ‘thank you’ is for a different reason.

What reason?

For showing me the right way to live. For helping me understand myself.

Oh, then don’t mention it. If anything, I’m sorry I didn’t do it sooner.

No! you did it at a very appropriate time, but it was my stupidity that I didn’t understand it correctly. But I’m over it now.

That’s good, now you can focus on looking for your own goal.

I have found my goal.

What, you have? That’s great. So, what is it that you wanna do?

You’re the one who told me that I speak through my paintings, so that’s what I did. I tried speaking to myself with my painting, and I understood my feeling.

Yukawa, you remember what Tomonaga said that day? About my feelings for you?

As soon as I mentioned the topic her face got red again. I can’t say that I wasn’t flustered either, but I had to do it.

Why… hmm… why are you bringing that up?

I want you to know it was all true. What he said was the truth.

With that, I’ve jumped into the main topic. It was very hard for me too, but now that I’ve come this far, I’m gonna go all the way.

Her reaction to my statement was completely expected. She was very much flustered. Her face was even redder and she tried to ignore my gaze.

Akio… I… don’t… I don’t know if I feel about, you that way.

We were standing on the same spot on Yotsugi bridge, where just last night she changed my fate with her determination, and now it was the time for me to show my determination.

It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s still much better than straight-up rejection. Besides, I won’t be discouraged by failure anymore.

No problem, take all the time you need. As you know I’m a very stubborn guy, so I’ll keep asking until you give me a straight answer.

Because when I asked myself for my goal, for what I wanted in life. I spoke to myself through my painting. I painted you. That was my answer, and I’m not gonna ignore my feelings anymore. So…

Chizuru Yukawa, I love you.