Chapter 2:

Kiyomi Haru, the fake imitation

Ai no shiki: 4 seasons of love

That one autumn evening, she still remembered it with lasting clarity...Bookmark here

...Bookmark here

Her loose shoulders shook like leaves, her head dropped to her chest, her palms hung low, her body curled up in the space. Aside from her reddened face, she looked pale as the moon and her hair was as disheveled as any park during fall. But where ever she was, none of the things existed. Only her worst fears were kept alive, whisperings cruel things in her ears that she tasted poison in her lips.Bookmark here

You were never a friend...Bookmark here

Please, no...Bookmark here

Why would anyone befriend someone like you?Bookmark here

No...t-that's-Bookmark here

They left you because they know it too, didn't they?Bookmark here

Stop reminding me...stopBookmark here

Wasn't that because they had never wanted you in the first place.Bookmark here

STOP!Bookmark here

She heard them over and over, loud and louder, echoing around her, sending ripples of anxiety and pain in her head. She tried to lift her head and to scream but she couldn't move. She tried to move her hand but they bore a heaviness that she found impossible to shoulder. She gritted her teeth, helplessness eating her.Bookmark here

You're selfish. You keep pretending to be a nice person. In the end, all you care about is yourself.Bookmark here

LEAVE ME ALONE!Bookmark here

You are alone, Kiyomi...Bookmark here

Tears leaked from the corners of her closed eyes. Why do they have to be so right?Bookmark here

...Bookmark here

She woke up suddenly, her dream repeating in mind in high definition. She tore her glassy hazel eyes away from the ceiling and looked to her lift, towards the window. She took in every bleak ray of light in the room, the source was the faint orange glow on the dull, violet curtains added from the morning light.Bookmark here

Her heart continued to pound heavily against her chest and she knew that heaviness in her eyes was not her paranoia. Slowly raising a hand to her cheeks, she felt the dried trails of her tears. A sigh that spoke of her long-standing suffering left her thin pale lips.Bookmark here

It'd been a while since Kiyomi last dreamt of that dream. But it was still better than how she woke up to the morning every day.Bookmark here

'Any dream that doesn't involve her is a good dream,' the thought of that women left a rotten taste in her mouth.Bookmark here

Swinging the blanket off her sweat-stained body, she sat up in her futon. She took in few steady breaths and took in the state of her apartment in the shadows.Bookmark here

A low ceiling colored in white, wooden floor, and three doors. One that led to the outside world, one to the kitchen, and other behind her that led to the bathroom. Overall, it was one room apartment that was cheap and enough for a person who wasn't expecting anyone. Interiors of the living room (also her bedroom and dining room) were sparsely decorated with a low table, a wall hanging by the front porch, a wardrobe beside the kitchen door, a study table to the south by the window and a bookshelf opposite to her bathroom, shelves filled with books of several topics concerning human anatomy. The only item that stood out in the room was a teddy, it had only one visible button for an eye and an eyepatch covering the other but overall looked to be in good condition. There were no pictures, television or colors in the room. It was plain and white, except the curtains. Usually, it's like that.Bookmark here

But today, the usual neat and tidy room was looking like a place victimized by a hurricane. Papers were scattered on the floor haphazardly, and her stationery kit sprawled over the study table. And if the bags under her eyes were any indication, it looked like she had a really tiring night.Bookmark here

A weary sigh left her parted lips, and with that, she left the comfort of her futon and pulled away the curtains to allow every little ray of light in her small room. It wasn't enough but still, without switching the lights on, she began her day. After so many years of solitariness, every action came automatic and reflexive to her.Bookmark here

...Bookmark here

And soon Kiyomi was out of her small apartment. She walked down the empty streets as cool, morning wind ruffled her gold tresses, tousling it playfully, messing her long, straight hair. Dressed in a simple blue plaid skirt with a white ruffled shirt, wearing a smile that never crinkled her deep honey eyes, she was ready to face another day at the school. Her one hand clutched the handle of her umbrella, and the other secured her bag.Bookmark here

Her school was just down the road. A very long and straight path through alleyways and crowded markets. A quick glance at her left wrist that held the handle in firm grip told her she had an hour more before the school begins, sharp at 8.Bookmark here

She kept her sight ahead, look out for anything odd and suspicious. Anything could happen in this part of the city, she needed to be cautious and on her guard all the way until she crosses a certain district. Her ears caught no sounds of movement around her and not a single soul in sight. Her footsteps echoed sharply around the deserted square, sounding deafeningly loud in her own ears like booming heartbeat heard after one's meltdown. Devoid of all warmth, this place was just that, a big collection of buildings and she being one of the very few dolls that used them.Bookmark here

"I wonder how my friends are doing..." she mused to herself, cheer and wonder in her voice dripping in falseness. "Hmm...and lunch..." like she was distracting herself from the eerieness that hung over her like a thick blanket.Bookmark here

Kiyomi's eyes caught a familiar bell design, and as if on cue her pace quickened. Her back straight, and face void of any trace of emotion. Her wait was over when her eyes caught the change in the buildings some five blocks away. With hurried footsteps, a pounding heart, and occasionally attracting a call or two from the women and men from the towering buildings, she scurried down the street. Flashy neon lights of bars and hotels, and the scarlet glow of rooms reflecting against the window panes were tell-tale signs of the forbidden district.Bookmark here

Just as the alleyway that took her to the main road, straight into the heart of the city, came in her sight, she wasted no time to enter it. After making a good distance away from the open roads of the district, she stopped to catch her breath.Bookmark here

"W-well did there," she hummed to herself appreciatively as she always did out of habit. She could always take a detour but that would take her more time to reach the city and then another hour to school. Risky as it was, the gold-haired teen had been taking this route for years now and nothing ever happened to her. She was almost familiar with the buildings and some people who lived there. Not on a personal level, but some people were kind enough to smile at her when she'd recognize her. And she could see right through those smiles, past their fake nature and right into the souls that were mourning. After all, only a master could tell what was genuine and what wasn't.Bookmark here

A deep breath in, umbrella pulled back into a bundle and she dashed down the dim road. More distance she covered, more the dimness grew because of the sunlight obscured by the towering buildings that begin to grow in size and then she saw a bright light a little ahead of her.Bookmark here

She still had forty minutes at her arsenal, she thought as she reached the end of the alleyway and stepped right into the main streets. The hustle and bustle of a typical, busy morning finally greeted her senses. Some shops had already begun to go through their business, with people, mostly housewives, filing in and out of grocery stores. Children were talking and sharing laughs to a joke that only they understood, and teens who walked hand in hand with their lover and friends. Traffic was loud and clear with the frequent honking that gave away their impatience to reach their workplace. A chuckle left her lips, laced in longingness. Her eyes, mellowed.Bookmark here

Every day Kiyomi enjoyed imagining that she was living in a video game, where she, the main character goes through many twists and turns in life to finally reach the light that was the happy ending. Her happy ending.Bookmark here

The warmth left her eyes as a pair, a mother and a daughter drew in her line of sight. Her lips parted when she saw the happiness in the little girl's blue eyes that seemed to touch her soul like there was no part of her where sadness dwelled. Their smiles, so bright and charming, could light up the world if it were possible. The honey-eyed teen grimaced as envy gripped her.Bookmark here

But in all reality, she was living a nightmare, wasn't she? Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, she put away her folded umbrella in her bag and slung it on her shoulder.Bookmark here

"As if I could have a happy ending." She muttered to herself while she ventured down the street, mingling amidst the people, getting lost among the sea of people.Bookmark here

...Bookmark here

"Right on time..." Kiyomi murmured to herself as she entered the grounds of her school. She still had 15 minutes before the bell. Straightening her back, she walked straight to the main entrance of the science department, past the energetic kids who played tag among each other and teens who chatted excitedly about their last day or the new album release of some idols that was going on these days.Bookmark here

She passed some of her classmates on the way, but they never responded to her nods when they made eye contact. Girls pretended to ignore her existence and boys passed her weird looks.Bookmark here

'I'm glad that my lack of love life is least of my worries,' crossed her thoughts as she made her ways straight to her class, Her class was on the last floor, aka, the third one. Students were bustling the corridors and chattering outside their classes, the bell would signal the start of the school anytime now. Kiyomi looked on as a group of girls, she recognized that they were her juniors, share hugs among each other. Their happiness and bond showed what an ideal high school life looked like.Bookmark here

It didn't take her long before she was standing right before her destination.Bookmark here

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3-B.Bookmark here

She clutched the strap of her black bag tightly, deep breath in and out, and pushed at the door. Standing at the foot of the room, she examined the room. Not many students were in the room, she had earlier seen more of her classmates on her way to the class. Even if the room was not cluttered with people, the noisy chatter in the room was loud which didn't cease at her entrance, it went on and on with some people passing a glance at her before returning to their conversation as though her presence didn't matter. Well, it really didn't.Bookmark here

Kiyomi took only a step inside when something flew across her, missing her face by merely an inch or two. Blonde lashes fluttered in surprise at the attack. Whatever the thing was, it hit the wall on her side and fell on the floor with a sharp thud.Bookmark here

Bending down, she picked it up and rolled her between her small, slender fingers. Once sharp-edged pencil had gone blunt from the impact. It wasn't a coincidence then.Bookmark here

"Man, you suck at aims, Ryu!" Kiyomi's contemplative face blanched when she recognized the voice spoke from behind her. Of course, it'd be her.Bookmark here

"She was simply slow," came a gruff reply from the back. He was probably implying that she was slow to enter the room.Bookmark here

Silent as always, hazel-eyed girl straightened up. Shoulders though tense, her lips formed a well-practiced smile when she turned to the amused looking girl. She tossed her dyed red hair over her shoulder and turned her sharp, blue eyes from one of the boys in the group to her. Kiyomi felt her throat tighten uncomfortably when the girl walked up to her, appraising her as she did. Her smile looked natural on her face.Bookmark here

Ria Akane. The popular girl in the class and her friend. The two terms were like imagining magma with ice, things that shouldn't coexist but here they are.Bookmark here

"Finally, Kiyomi, about the time you came," she began, dramatically rolling her eyes heavenwards as she gently placed a hand on her shoulder and other over her own rack. Like Kiyomi was a friend. "I was worried you wouldn't show up."Bookmark here

"How could I not, Ria-chan, especially after you asked for it?" Kiyomi smiled. There was no way she would have not come. They had threatened her after all. However, she understood it was normal between friends to threaten each other to turn up at school every day. It gets boring without them otherwise.Bookmark here

"Of course not!" When Ria began to guide her to the group, Kiyomi let her without complaint. The new-arriver didn't flinch when she earned unkind smirks from some of them and just smiled blandly back at them.Bookmark here

Turning eyes back to the red-haired girl, she asked, ", you...dropped it."Bookmark here

Ria kept her eyes fixed on Kiyomi when she took the pencil from her palm.Bookmark here

"Ah, yes, you see, it slipped off his hand, stupid Ryu-kun!" her honey eyes shifted to the dark haired boy who was twirling a pen between his long fingers, looking bored and unapologetic when as Ria mentioned him.Bookmark here

"Apologize to Haru-chan now, Ryusuke," the girl beside the male chided him, voice serious but brown eyes playful. Risa, his girlfriend. Ryusuke raised his red eyes to meet her own dark ones when she bumped her shoulder with his. His eyes frowned when she tipped her head at Kiyomi.Bookmark here

"Tsk," he only clicked his tongue when he turned to her, eyes glaring into Kiyomi before shifting back his attention to his pen as though it was worth more his time than the girl. Risa and others who watched on only laughed at the gold-haired girl's expense.Bookmark here

Kiyomi felt heat blazing on her cheeks but willed to let the smile not falter from her quivering lips. Light bangs obscured her eyes from view when she laughed along weakly. Distantly she heard the ringing of the bell, signaling the commencement of the class.Bookmark here

"They are only joking, Kiyomi," her smile faltered when she felt a hand make contact against the small of her back but she didn't look at Ria.Bookmark here

"I know, It's okay." Throwing another one of her crafted smiles to the boy who let a smile curl his lips, mock apparent in the action. Ignoring, Kiyomi slipped her bag to her front.Bookmark here

"Ria-chan... about the homework..."Bookmark here

"Ah, yes, that assignment! I almost forgot...!" Ria's blue eyes grew as if in shock and her hands flew to her painted lips. "Kiyomi, I'm very sorry you had to do this."Bookmark here

Kiyomi shook her head, eyes creasing in a smile. "It was nothing, I only did what any friend would do,"Bookmark here

she rummaged through her bag and drew a folder out. After examining the first few pages in the file, she nodded to herself. Others didn't pay her attention as she arranged them in sequence and handed the sheets to the waiting hands of Ria.Bookmark here

"Thank you, Kiyomi. You're the best!" Satisfaction sparkled her ocean eyes when she glomped the shorter girl. Kiyomi didn't hesitate to hug the girl back and allowed the happiness soak right into her bones. She closed her eyes and savored the moment, thinking back to the group of girls she saw on her way, sharing hugs, with each other.Bookmark here

Kiyomi didn't dare open her eyes when she heard one of the girls laugh, not even when she felt Ria's body tremble against her hold.Bookmark here

"I will see you after class, yes?" When Ria invited her, she could only nod mutely.Bookmark here

It was when they parted from the hug that Kiyomi noticed the ceaseless buzzing the room had increased. She didn't hear Ria say goodbye when the girl left her side to join the group who had already moved further in the back. She took her time to see many of her classmates were settled on their seats and from the sounds of the loud footsteps and opening and closing of the door behind her, some were still filing in, passing waves and exchanging fistbumps at their friends. She, too, zipped her bag and nimbly walked to sit in the front, right across teacher's desk.Bookmark here

Her honey eyes darted to the back of the room to settle on Ria. She was passing the sheets to everyone in the group. Group of 7. When she saw the look in her cerulean eyes, Kiyomi felt as though she'd been slapped. She had seen that look many times over in those eyes yet it always had the same effect on her.Bookmark here

For someone who could feign gentleness and warmth so well, her eyes sure were ruthless and biting as ice.Bookmark here

Suddenly the class grew silent when the door opened, one more time, and revealed their biology teacher, Kaori Matsuda, all in her austere glory.Bookmark here

...Bookmark here

'Kiyomi Haru, meet me in my office after school.'Bookmark here

The words played in her mind over and over. She tried to think of all reasons why her teacher would ask her to stop by. Could it be that she finally was going to be reprimanded for helping her friends? It's been over a year now and no one of the teachers ever made a comment on it. But Kiyomi had noticed the way Kaori's eyes flickered to the back of the class and returned to settle on her.Bookmark here

It was already the end of the school. After spending the whole day in the classroom doing nothing but attentively listening to lectures and joining Ria for lunch, she was exhausted. Even though most of Ria's friends never pay her any heed unless to make fun of her, they never denied her presence and there was Ria, who, nevermind her two-faced nature, was the closest thing she had for a friend.Bookmark here

Any day she'd choose a friend who'd hate to see her die for her own selfish reasons over someone who wouldn't care of her existence. Such a friend was Ria, but it never bothered her.Bookmark here

Kiyomi passed many people on her way to the teacher's room, many known but no words got exchanged as they crossed paths. Ria and others had already left saying they had some plans before going home. Something that didn't involve her, yes Kiyomi could live with that. She doesn't expect to be part of all of their plans. She knew she wasn't even their friend, none of them think of her as one. Not even Ria. But as long as she doesn't have to leave the school as alone as she comes, she was okay with anything. Even if she was forced to become their workforce.Bookmark here

Shaking her head, she again crossed the halls and down the last flight of stairs. "Plus, it isn't like I don't gain anything from it,"Bookmark here

Then just as she was about to descend another flight of staircase that led directly to the opening at the back of the building, she stopped. Kiyomi turned to a deer caught in the headlight when her ear caught the sound of familiar words from somewhere behind her.Bookmark here

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"N..No..." A plead. The voice belonged to someone young, much younger than she. Probably a middle schooler. "P-Please d-don't...I'll s-shout!"Bookmark here

"You can try, kid. Everyone's already left though," Kiyomi remained rooted in her place, too afraid to look out of the small window that displayed backyard to her.Bookmark here

'She is still on it eh, some things never change even if you have a better life,' she thought distantly. But that was beside the point, her lips set in a hard line.Bookmark here

"S-Stop, not that! That's my sister's! I will do anyt-ack!" the boy was cut off and she heard a loud thud next second. It sounded as though he was pushed away.Bookmark here

"Damn this brat's so clingy, take care of him and make sure no word about this gets out while I go buy us drinks. This calls for a party!" It was for money after all. Kiyomi felt a whirlwind of emotions pass through her.Bookmark here

"Gladly," another voice spoke, an abrasive baritone.Bookmark here

Then a pause.Bookmark here

Her brows furrowed. No sound, no beating. What was going on there? But all her confusion went to drain and shock seized her when a howl of laughter broke out. Kiyomi almost her footing when she jumped.Bookmark here

"Aww look who's bawling?...tsk tsk tsk," Kiyomi licked her chapped lips as she listened on. Even though she wasn't looking at the older male, she could picture a sick smirk on his face.Bookmark here

"Look, kid, I don't hate you. None of us do, really. I wouldn't feel sorry if I hit you right now and I wouldn't give a damn if I don't. We asked you for money, if only you had handed it as nicely as we had tried, you wouldn't have suffered her punch," so it wasn't a push, but a punch that threw him.Bookmark here

He sounded so easy-going that Kiyomi felt itched to punch the daylights out of him. But it wasn't any of her business what they did.Bookmark here

"Now," she pictured him walking closer to the trembling little boy. "If a word about this gets out, this senpai will make sure you wear glasses instead of just an eyepatch."Bookmark here

Kiyomi let the words sink in, suddenly looking poker-faced. Her honey eyes lowered to her feet as a pool of dread flooded her stomach and the urge to empty her stomach began to feel overwhelm her senses.Bookmark here

She swiftly turned away and clambered back on the stairs when she heard footsteps below her. They were coming in her direction so she quickly shielded herself from their view behind the wall.Bookmark here

"Hahaha...You went soft on the boy, don't tell me you felt sorry," a feminine voice teased and Kiyomi heard light jabs from the girl.Bookmark here

"Sorry? No way, he was a pain in the ass. You saw it, that brat looked more shaken than when Midori hit him, that's the power of words for you."Bookmark here

"It's been a while since we made such big hit,"Bookmark here

"Poor boy couldn't even move a muscle when she left him to Ryu...god knows why he had that much money on him,"Bookmark here

Kiyomi bit her lips, threw one look to heaven, took a deep breath in before she finally stepped in their view as though she heard nothing. Her eyes caught the way her presence froze them in their steps; like children caught stealing cookies. She pretended having not noticed anything out of the place and casually walked past them. They didn't stop her but they didn't dare move from their place either.Bookmark here

Kiyomi was right, it was indeed her friends.Bookmark here

...Bookmark here

She passed one persisting glance over her shoulder, to look at the source of the whimpers that fell on her ears like depressing music.Bookmark here

But instead of the back of the boy, she saw a little girl. Slumped on her knees and trembling as inner tremors shook her small, pitiful form.Bookmark here

She tore her nebulous gaze from the scene and continued down the corridor that led to staff room without a second glance.Bookmark here

...Bookmark here

"You are late, Haru-san," was the first thing her biology teacher said when she stepped a foot into the room. Kiyomi, still standing by the doorway, promptly closed her parted mouth.Bookmark here

When Kaori sighed and motioned her to enter, she mumbled her apology with a bow. "I'm sorry to keep you waiting, Kaori-Sensei."Bookmark here

"It has been over half an hour since the bell," Kaori's calm tone sent jitters down her spine. Kiyomi knew how stern her teacher can be, favorite student or not, she spared none. "What took you so long?"Bookmark here

Instead of replying, Kiyomi's eyes drew into the paperwork that was littered all over the Kaori's desk. It was their assignment sheets. Managing an inaudible gulp, she quickly fabricated a response.Bookmark here

"I fell down the stairs on my way and sprained my foot," was the best thing she could come up with. She regarded the emerald eyes as they narrowed and raked over her short form in a way that told her she wasn't convincing enough. After all, she looked fine except, maybe, her red-rimmed eyes.Bookmark here

"I see," her sharp eyes traveled over her face with unnerving thoroughness. Kiyomi mentally rebuked herself for not washing her face before the meeting.Bookmark here

There was a silence that dropped between them which sounded like ticking bomb to Kiyomi's ears. She fidgeted between one foot to another, uneasiness assaulting her insides. The older women had returned her attention to the paperwork; Kiyomi noted that she was almost relieved of the work.Bookmark here

'It has to be a long talk if she wants to complete the work first,' she twirled a lock of platinum around her fingers behind her back. She used the moment to examine the features of her teacher. She didn't look much old in appearance, but if eyes could tell the age, then she'd be quite old. Experience does that to you. She never interacted with the women unless it concerned her subject. She'd sometimes open up and talk about her passion for medicine but that was about it. Their relationship mostly only involved her putting questions and Kaori clearing her doubts in ay way she could: an ideal student-teacher relationship.Bookmark here

"About why I called you here..." She began to trail off as she focused on arranging the sheets, and set them aside. Kiyomi resisted flinching when the older women shifted her gaze to her. Green eyes always looked sharper than any blade. "How would you like to work after school?"Bookmark here

Kiyomi blinked. Once, twice. What was that?Bookmark here

"A...job?" Kaori rolled on her seat to face her student with her body. The surprise shone brightly in her doe-eyes like she didn't expect this to be brought up, but the women knew better.Bookmark here

"Yes, a job. I have a job for you." As if that made all sense in itself, she leaned back on her cushioned chair and waited for the girl to find her voice.Bookmark here

Kiyomi had thought of many reasons why her teacher demanded her presence, and none of them had anything to do with a job search. She didn't need a job. She had all her fees paid by the school and as for her rent, her orphanage had got it covered. If God had blessed her with anything, it was nice old people who recognized her talent and were doing what they could do to see it flourish. She lacked any understanding of why her teacher would ask her such a question. Kaori Matsuda who only ever bothered to help her academically.Bookmark here

Better question, why would she ask her of all people?Bookmark here

"B-But why?"Bookmark here

"Your scholarship has been withdrawn."Bookmark here

The news passed through her like a tempest. Her mind blocked out all the sounds as she processed the words again and again and thought of all the consequences that it will ensue. It meant she will have to quit school. When the older women reached her drawer and pulled a sheet that she placed beside the still girl, Kiyomi didn't need need to look to know it was her result. Her slipping grades.Bookmark here

Kiyomi felt nothing but emptiness weighing inside her.Bookmark here

"But...I...I was...No way..." From the heaviness she felt in her eyes, she knew she was about to break down. The beads of tears rolled down one after another, without a sign of stopping. "I can't afford the fees...a..and I can't go elsewhere at this time of the year. It's almost year end!"Bookmark here

Kaori silently observed the raw pain in the girl's eyes. Kiyomi had told her that it was her dream to become a doctor. Seika Academy was immensely popular because of its affiliation with the top medical college of the state. One could say that it was a brand of some sorts for people who wish to enroll in a medical school. Kiyomi was one of the most promising students in her year and Kaori would be lying if she said that she wasn't impressed with Kiyomi for her dedication in the subject. She was, in a way, her favorite student as well.Bookmark here

When she was called to the principal's office to be informed that Kiyomi would have her scholarship withdrawn, she felt pity for the girl. When she questioned about it, the topic of her dropping grades rose. There was a sharp decline in her studies, not in biology- no, she aced it- but in other non-bio subjects like mathematics and music, the latter which she barely passed. Regardless to say, she begs to differ about Kiyomi. Kaori knew more than anyone that the girl has a bright future in medicine. Consequently, she argued about it and managed to make it a partial withdrawal.Bookmark here

"Don't worry, it is not completely withdrawn. You are to pay only half the fees, about 50%," Kaori raised a hand to massage spot between her brows when she heard pitiful sobs from the shaken teen. She wasn't particularly good at handling emotional outbursts of people. "That's why I have a job for you."Bookmark here

Kiyomi felt life slowly return to her. It made sense now, she would really need a job if her scholarship goes invalid. She knew her grades were not as good as she'd have liked. Moreover, with the addition of her friend's workload on her shoulders, she was having a hard time balancing all subjects. Literature and Biology came like breeze to her, but logic was never her best suit. She wasn't a big fan of mathematics, sure she wasn't failing but she wasn't very good at it. As for music...Bookmark here

"I...I that's why..." She shakily bobbed her head in understanding. "But the job, what sort of job would pay so well? And I'm only a student..."Bookmark here

Kaori reached for her purse and after fished out a card. "A job like this. Here. You are to join them this weekend."Bookmark here

Kiyomi mutely took it from her hand and carefully read the content. 'RIN 24/7' was scripted in bold. A pharmacy. After looking at the address below it, she instantly realized why she thought she had heard it somewhere. It was a unit of RIN Hospital Enterprise, one of the few successful largescale hospital chains in the city.Bookmark here

"No way...this is insane," shock was evident on her face. Her gaze traveled from the card to the women who regarded her with a cold look but warm eyes. "There's no way I'd not be able to pay the fees if I work here, even if as an errand girl,"Bookmark here

but why would they ever take her in? Kiyomi couldn't understand this so she asked.Bookmark here

"My friend is the manager of one of their division, I talked her into giving you a chance. She will fill you with the job details, but I'm told it will be only an assistant duty so you don't have to worry about your qualifications," she explained smoothly. "But don't be happy just yet, in the end, she's the manager so she'll decide whether or not you stay."Bookmark here

Kiyomi paled at the implication. Licking her dried lips, she nodded her assentment, even if a bit forcefully.Bookmark here

"Believe me, I wouldn't let you down, Kaori-Sensei!"Bookmark here

Kaori didn't smile through her lips, but Kiyomi knew she was smiling because she saw it in her jade eyes.Bookmark here

"I wouldn't have bothered with you otherwise, kid."Bookmark here

With that, her teacher stood up from her chair sending it rolling a little distance away behind her. Kiyomi rolled her shoulders back and waited for more instruction, eyes unreadable.Bookmark here

"Also, next time, try not to copy the whole thing. They may be your friends, but they are not you," Kaori's green eyes bored fixedly into her browns, yet she held her ground and nodded. She saw dissatisfaction in her eyes, probably because she was looked as uncommitted as she felt.Bookmark here

"You're dismissed." Kiyomi was glad she was easy-going if she could let her get away with it.Bookmark here

"Thank you very much!" She stepped back and bowed deep by the waist. Sincerity melted in her voice when she did. Kaori nodded inexpressively and walked past the girl with her and paperwork at hand.Bookmark here

This was the second time in the day when she felt warmth touch her heart. She allowed a slow smile stretch over her features. The soft embrace of warmth and happiness that bloomed from genuine feelings. Care.Bookmark here

It was the first time in years that someone showed her kindness.Bookmark here

...Bookmark here

"It's yours now! Mr. Bo says he wants to protect you," she was one of the new kids. A lovely child with eyes so blue and bright that put skies to shame and hair that shared the same color as soft petals of the daisy. She was 6, more or less half of what she was.Bookmark here

"But...your dad brought you this..." When she shoved her precious little companion to her, Kiyomi was sure she looked like a fish. Never once did her face gave in to the pain that flared down the sides of her cheeks. She felt her back hit the bark of the tree soundly. She distinctly noticed first leaves falling around her, over her muck covered hair, like a rain in slow motion.Bookmark here

The little girl jumped back, her hands joined behind her back. With her platinum hair, she looked to be glowing with the sun setting overskies behind her.Bookmark here

"He gave me with a promise that as long as Mr. Bo is with me, I'll never have to fear anything," a pensive look aged her face. For a moment there, Kiyomi felt like she was the younger one out of two.Bookmark here

"And...?" But that didn't justify why she'd give up the only possession that tied her to the memories of her father, something so priceless, to someone like her.Bookmark here

Thinking back, her brows furrowed. What had they called her back again? Ah, right, insignificant.Bookmark here

"But I have never feared anything more than his absence," that dropped at Kiyomi like barrels full of explosives that ignited the world around her in fiery balls of yellow flames. She knew how scary it was to lose the only thing that made everything else unimportant.Bookmark here

Suddenly Kiyomi was aware of the dull pain on the sides of her face, just when she wanted to actually say something useful, she failed to will her lips to move. A hand raised to her cheeks and she felt it, cold and hard. Probably swollen.Bookmark here

A silence filled the space between them. The void was a cruelty Kiyomi inflicted unintentionally, but she was as helpless as she was. What words could she say about family love when all words fail her, and the fate, oh the hateful fate, that never provided her a life that had one? Did she even have rights?Bookmark here

Soon the little girl smiled, looking up from her feet and Kiyomi felt the tension buzz off her. Her smile was one of satisfaction and promise.Bookmark here

"Besides," that little angel who bestowed her kindness that all world failed to give her. "he did say that I need to pass this down to my favorite person in the world,"Bookmark here

'and I'm sure that person is you,' left unsaid but Kiyomi felt the warmth in her words graze her heart.Bookmark here

Lizzie was much younger than she, and her friends did ridicule her for 'sticking like a sore thumb to a kid', however, Kiyomi also remembered her happiest moment in the house was when she was with this little angel. That was until she was robbed from her too.Bookmark here

...Bookmark here

Kiyomi turned and began to walk back to the door, a small smile painting her lips. Her footsteps light and purposeful, however as her hand closed on the handle, a thought fogged her mind and she tensed. She looked like a rabbit caught in the headlight. Honey eyes lowered to her fists. She bit her lips, brows furrowed as she toyed with the idea until a picture came to her mind.Bookmark here

No, she shouldn't.Bookmark here

She turned back on her heels.Bookmark here

The women tore her eyes from the computer when she heard footsteps closing in on her. Her black-rimmed glasses shone in light when she glanced up at the girl questioningly.Bookmark here

"Excuse me, Sensei, do you have a moment?"Bookmark here

She clasped her shaking hands behind her back.Bookmark here

...Bookmark here

When Kiyomi left the building, a turmoil of emotions hung over her like a thick blanket. She couldn't discern them apart completely from the relief that she felt in her bones. She knew she had better things to worry about- like her scholarship withdrawal, her dropping grades and now she had to impress a total stranger as well- but the satisfaction that plowed her heart sent ripples of excitement as if she did a great job.Bookmark here

The ground was almost empty, except for few jocks who were busy showing off their toned selves by going shirtless in their games, and some kids who were busy playing among each other away from the older males. The sun was setting overskies behind her, setting pale orange glow to the world as a parting girl after a whole long day of camaraderie. The peace in the air, she felt it when chilly breeze played with her strands.Bookmark here

"I dare you, say that one more time and I'll wring the life of your weeny little cock, you motherfucker!" Kiyomi flinched at the crude language of the speaker. Her gaze tracked the sound of the shout. There were three males gathered beside the soccer court, standing only a yard or two away from her. There was also a small scattered crowd, spectating the scene like she was.Bookmark here

"I'd say it now, I'd repeat it over and anytime. The only reason why you're still here is that your fucking sister pl-" he was cut off when the other boy hurled a punch against his lower face -Kiyomi cringed when she heard a sickening crunch when his fist connected the taller boy's jaw- possibly dislocating it.Bookmark here

"Arashi, cut it out! You too, Fujisaki!" The older looking male, probably one of the many couches the school has, broke their fists fight and tore the shorter male away from the wounded jock. Although hurt, the brown-haired male managed to break a mirthless smirk at the growling man.Bookmark here

"He had it coming! That dick...tell him to keep my family out of it!" The jet-haired boy said through his gritted teeth, his jet hair obscuring his eyes from her view.Bookmark here

Having lost interest, she adjusted her bag on her shoulder and readied to leave when a kid bumped into her back, sending her stumbling few steps forward to the group. A pained yelp left her lips when she accidentally stepped on her own foot.Bookmark here

This probably garnered the attention of the group because when Kiyomi turned her head up, she felt the penetration of the cool violet of his eyes when the dark-haired boy looked her way. Frigid and steely.Bookmark here

"I will, i-if you keep out of mine, bastard,"Bookmark here

And her brief appraisal of his eyes ended.Bookmark here

Shaking her head at her thoughts, Kiyomi continued on her way. She heard shouts and insults once again ensue behind her, but this time she paid no heed. Once she crossed the towering gates in the main entrance, she found herself back on the street. She glanced at her watch.Bookmark here

An hour and a half hour before sundown. She could use a detour now. Bookmark here

...Bookmark here

End of Chapter 1: Kiyomi Haru, the fake imitationBookmark here

...Bookmark here

A/N: This concludes the life of Kiyomi Haru in a nutshell. So far. Bookmark here

The first four chapters will thoroughly focus on the life of each of the four protagonists. These four chapters will be little lengthy but I'm pointing only important bits of the story so bear with me! I hope you are still interested. Did you like Kiyomi's character? I suck at bullying and cursing people. God knows why I always choose topics where I lack knowledge. Bookmark here

By the way, which character interested you the most in the prologue?Bookmark here

Thanks for your time, likes and comments!Bookmark here

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