Chapter 23:

Those Who Love You

Third and Final Time

It was Saturday and I was at home.

I was in the living room with a large group of people.

My mum.

My dad.








Ami and all my old friends - Haru, Sayaka and Amane.

I was sat between all of them, Hinata clutching my hand on one side, and Ami sat beside me, both of their eyes were wet with tears.

I told everyone everything I’d confessed to Hinata.

Of course, not all of them believed me at first.


“I believe you.”

Rei stood up for me.

“So do I.”

Then, it was Ami.

“We do, too.”

My parents agreed.

With a heartbroken smile, my mother continued. “Ever since you were little, I always felt like you were…mature, or that you were too special for your age. You never spoke back; you never had a rebellious phase and…” She started sobbing again. “You always told us how much you loved us.”

I cried into her arms.

I had vowed to make sure I told my mum and dad that every single day in this life, until my last day - I would not ever lose them again and, so far, I had managed that.

Finally, it was the most surprising person to speak out in my defence.

“…I believe her.”

Ryuuji spoke up with a sombre smile. “I…get jealous, easy. Especially of Rei. I mean.” He chuckled bitterly. “You were always with Akane, you were more popular than me and you always got better grades, no matter how hard I studied. Honestly…I…I hate to admit it, but I could see myself doing that…if I continued to think like that as an adult.”

He turned to face me, sat on his knees and bowed to me. “I know it wasn’t me who did that to you, but I want to apologise to you. I’m sorry that ‘I’ did that to you.”

I don’t know what I felt in that moment, but it wasn’t a bad feeling.

It did, however, make the tears continue to fall.

“…The birthmark.” Inori finally opened her mouth; unlike the others, she had a relatively calm expression, though I could see her lips trembling. “Can…we see it?”

“…No one can, but.” I started unbuttoning my shirt and the guys all quickly turned away.

When I lifted my shirt up, I pointed it at the burning mark but-

“I can’t see it.”

I smiled thinly. “I knew it. It’s right here.” I tapped my finger on it a few times.

“How long has it-?”

“Since I was born…again.”

My mother stepped in front of me and stroked the mark, even if she couldn’t see it.

“Is it…painful?”


“Is that-?”

I looked down and realised that I’d revealed my burn scars to everyone for the first time.

Not even my old friends who’d visited me in the hospital had seen it before; only mum, dad and Hinata had.

“…Is it ugly?”

“No!” Hinata touched it gently with her fingertips. “It’s not! I love everything about you and would never-”

“It’s my fault.”

Everyone heard Ami’s mumbling to herself.

“Akane, I’m-”

“Don’t.” Inori grabbed Ami by the shoulder. “No point in putting both of you two through this again.”

It was then I knew for sure my theory was right - Ami had been chained down by the guilt for all these years.

Ever since that day, she’d never broken free from those bonds, and they’d only tightened when our relationship started to fall apart.

She told me everything but this yesterday in tears.

She’d even confessed to me.

I didn’t respond at the time because I was still absorbing everything, and I told Hinata about it this morning.

Her only response was ‘I’ll think of something’ and that I didn’t need to worry.

After the mood turned sour, I dressed back up and we all sat back down.

“So…when…when…” Hinata sniffed, dabbing her eyes with a tissue. “When you…turn…twenty-five, you’ll just…you’ll…”

“I don’t know…how it’ll happen, but…I’ll die.”

I had less than ten years left - I imagine they all didn’t want this to be reality; they all wanted this to be a dream, or for me to say ‘Surprise!’ and reveal it as an elaborate joke.


“I…don’t regret…my choice,” I declared through the tears. “If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have become friends with you guys, I wouldn’t have Hinata as my girlfriend, and I would’ve died alone and miserable. That’s why.” I smiled. “I want to live a happier life than anyone else in the whole world.”


“But I don’t get it; why did you guys all believe me?” I asked.

Rei, Hinata, Ryuuji, Ami and my parents all accepted it as the truth, but I didn’t know why the others did.

Mum said it was because of how I acted as a baby.

Ryuuji said it was because he could see himself behaving like that one day.

What about everyone else?

“I might have looked into your past a bit,” Rei said. “At first, I just wanted to find the truth about the rumours surrounding you, and then I started hearing more and more about how you’d acted, and it all seemed…bizarre. Hmm, maybe that’s not the best way of describing it. It was like…you didn’t care about anything that wasn’t close to you. Everything else might has well have just been noise, like nothing around you mattered.”

“That’s not quite right, Rei.” Ami stood up. “Akane cared about us more than anything, and it was almost to an unhealthy level.” She faced me and said, “Akane, you hurt yourself so many more times before…well, that time. You almost broke your arm saving Haru from falling down the stairs, you cut yourself on broken glass when we were on the beach and said ‘I’ll be fine’. Then, when you saved me…you didn’t care about your scar. You just…acted like everything was the same as always.

“You always put us first and yourself second. It felt like if you didn’t, you’d lose all meaning or something. Then, when I saw you in high school all alone again, I realised just how much we’d meant to you…and how badly I’d hurt you. I’m so sorry, Akane.” She bawled uncontrollably and fell into my lap. “I’m so sorry! I’m so, so sorry!”


“Akane.” Hinata wrapped an arm around my shoulder and kissed my cheek. “I love you from the bottom of my heart and.” My father handed her the box of tissues, which she immediately used. “If you’ll have me, I’ll gladly spend the rest of your life with you.”

“Me too!” Ami shot up and tightly held my waist. “I swear, I’ll never hurt you again or-!”

“Hey, don’t hug my girlfriend!”

“If it hadn’t been for that idiot Hayate, I’d have confessed to her and she’d be my girlfriend!”

“Well, too bad. She’s mine.”


“…Guys, the moment,” Rei groaned, rubbing his forehead. “Well, I won’t make as grand of a declaration as those two, but, hey.” He grinned. “I’d be happy to keep you company until the end. If you’ll let me.”


“Me too!”

“Don’t forget me, either.”

“Kana, Inori…”

“Honey, we can’t be the last to join in!”

“I thought it went without saying.”


“…Akane.” Ryuuji spoke with a dejected tone. “If it’s too hard for you, then I won’t stay. I’ll-”



“You’re not the one who ruined my life.” I smiled warmly at him. “You’re my friend, Ryuuji.”

“Thank you.”

I had never seen a human being look so relieved before.

It was like nothing I had ever seen.

Why did he feel such strong respite?

He wasn’t you.


To the whimpering Ami, I lightly stroked her head and said, “I forgive you. I’m sorry that I left without-”



“Don’t ever apologise! Please…”


It was just like the incident with Inori.

God, Devil - whatever you two beings really were, I only want to say one thing to both of you.

Thank you.

Thank you for giving me these lives.