My Cute Kohai is Actually My Archnemesis?!
The steady beep of a heart monitor echoed in the warmly-lit room. Wilting flowers rested on the bedside table and a picture frame decorated a dresser on the other side. Though it was small and sparse, Hoshi knew it was the most important place on the planet.
The woman on the bed smiled warmly as Hoshi sat down next to her. Despite the bags under her eyes and her pale complexion, it felt like Hoshi was bathing in the sun from how radiant she appeared. Grabbing her hand, Hoshi brought it to his cheek. “Mama,” he whispered.
Mayu Michiaki looked at her son with gentle eyes. “Hoshi,” she said, “Are you alright? You weren’t hurt, were you?”
Tears welled in Hoshi’s eyes as he shook his head. “No, Ma. I’m fine.”
“That’s good to hear,” said Mayu with relief. “I would hate to see you hurt because of something like that.”
Hoshi whispered bitterly. “I failed you, Ma. I wasn’t good enough. If I could have just gotten away, we would be—“
Mayu interrupted him. “We would be thieves and criminals,” she finished for him. “We would be no better than the villains on television.”
“That’s not true, Ma,” Hoshi argued. “I was doing this for us!”
With a shake of her head, Mayu shut down any argument Hoshi had. She then looked him straight in the eyes. “For us,” Mayu asked Hoshi, “Or for yourself?”
At that, all Hoshi could do was think. He dropped his gaze to the hand he held in his grip and squeezed softly. Was he wrong? Was he the one at fault?
The reason for Hoshi’s dilemma lay in the fact that he had just returned from being detained. Some police had been on the scene when he had tried to steal from a wealthier looking man and had been caught. The resulting lectures from both officers and a trip to the station was embarrassing and demoralizing, but his true horror came when his mother came to pick him up.
Throughout her life, Mayu never had the best of health. It inevitably deteriorated even further when Hoshi’s father had passed away, leaving Mayu alone to take care of him. This, combined with two part-time jobs stretched Mayu to her limit. Upon seeing Hoshi in the custody of the police, it became too much. Her body failed her, and she was immediately rushed to the hospital. All the while, Hoshi could only follow and drown in his guilt.
“Mama, I…” Hoshi choked. “I have no excuse. I’m a failure. I tried to get you money for medicine and food and presents. I wanted it so bad.”
Mayu hummed, her hand moving from his grip to stroke his hair. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting, Hoshi,” she said. “I’ve always wanted a stronger body. I wish your father was still here. I wish I was a better mother so you wouldn’t have to do this every night—“
“No, Hoshi,” Mayu said, and ruffled his hair. “You listen to me, and you listen well, okay?” After she saw Hoshi nod, she continued. “If this is what you’ve been doing whenever you come home with bruises and cuts, I want you to stop. If you are hurting other people, I want you to stop. If you think what you are doing is wrong, I need you to stop.”
Unsurprisingly, Mayu was met with a shocked stare. Hoshi’s blood had run cold and he looked at his mother’s twinkling eyes. He now knew that she knew, and he was terrified. However, the majority of his mind was overcome with relief and an aching feeling that plucked at his heart and made him want to cry. “I…I don’t know if I can, Ma. I…” He wrung his hands and took a shaky breath.
“Why did you do all this, Hoshi?” Mayu asked. “Is it because we’re poor? Or that we live simply? Are you ashamed?”
“N-no! Of course not! I love you, and I love our life! I just thought…“
“You just thought that if we had more, we wouldn’t be so desperate,” Mayu finished. “I know that feeling, Hoshi. It’s a thought that latches on to your mind and grows with every act until it becomes a parasite.”
“I wanted to help you, okay?!” Hoshi shouted. Hot tears began to spill as he clenched his eyes shut. “I wanted to help us! I wanted to get nice things for you and for me!”
A moment passed. Then another. Mayu let Hoshi regain some semblance of composure before she broke the silence. “And where are we now, Hoshi?” asked Mayu quietly. “What has helping us done?”
Hoshi shook his head with his eyes still closed, face scrunched in pain. “N-nothing, Ma,” he heaved. “Nothing at all. I’ve only hurt you. I’ve only hurt you and I’ve hurt me and I don’t know if you can forgive me.”
“There’s nothing to forgive, Hoshi,” Mayu said. “You thought what you were doing was right. You wanted to help. That’s good. I love you for that, okay?” She stroked his head and waited for Hoshi to nod. “But you must understand, Hoshi…helping others must always come before helping yourself. If you have the strength to give, give it.”
After another moment, Mayu sighed bitterly. “What kind of mother am I, that I don’t have strength to teach my son what’s right…?” She weeped. “I tried so hard all this time to be there for you, to feed you, to teach you…but it wasn’t enough, was it? This really is all my fault—”
This time, Hoshi interrupted her. He shook his head and clenched his fists. “No it’s not! You’re amazing, Ma! It was more than enough! I’m the failure! I thought I was special! I thought that, that…”
For a long moment, there was no sound apart from his mother’s breathing and her heart monitor. Hoshi felt his mother’s hand leave his head and rest on his hands. Steeling his resolve, he tried to meet her eyes. “I…I have a power now. I can see the future, Ma…” Hoshi said. “I get a sting in my head and I can see everyone moving before they move. I see the world before it becomes what it wants to be. And it hurts to look at.” He hiccupped. “I-it’s how…how I’ve been stealing. How I’ve been fighting my bullies. How I…failed you.”
The breath Mayu seemed to be holding was released as she gripped her son’s hands tight. “Hoshi…”
Hoshi shook his head. “I hurt you. I hurt all those people. I’m a failure. And it’s all because of this stupid power. All because I could see the best way to steal from them…” He unclenched his fists and curled them around his mother’s hands. “I…I promise I won’t use it ever again—“
Hoshi’s brain stopped. “H-huh?”
Mayu held her son’s hands tightly. “Use that power to give back what you’ve taken, Hoshi,” Mayu said. “You can see the future now. Don’t be blinded by it. Don’t forget the past, this moment. Don’t forget this guilt, this sadness, this weakness. Most important of all…” She released her grip and tilted her son’s head up. “Don’t forget who you are. Because you. Are. Kind.”
Hoshi watched as his mother smiled warmly and tilted her head at him. “Okay?”
Hoshi cried. He cried because he was glad, because he was happy, because his mother was still here, and because she still loved him. Vaguely, he felt himself being coaxed into a hug, and Hoshi found himself in the embrace of his mother.
Mayu smiled and whispered, “Always be who you are and help people, Hoshi. Even bad people need help sometimes… and who knows? Maybe they’re like you. Good people doing bad things…and all they need is someone to help them.”
After that tender moment, Mayu grinned cheekily. “How long has it been since you’ve hugged me, hm, Hoshi?”