Chapter 3:

The Final Year Of High School

The Weight Of Ignorance


 I Woke up to the sound of my alarm. It was 7:30 am. I got off the bed and dragged myself to the bathroom. The mirror was shattered, so there was just a wall in front of the sink that looked tanned compared to the rest of the wall. It was time for my final year of High school. I didn’t want to go to school but felt like I owed it to Akira to go to the safe environment she created for me.

I wore my uniform and left for school. I knew full well that I was in a pathetic state and that I didn’t need to go to school, but it felt wrong to sit at home knowing that Akira gave up a lot to make this a safe school for me.

I stepped into my class and all the eyes were already on me. None of them approached me but I knew what they were all thinking- “what a pity! He lost the only person that spoke to him. Should we approach him?” Well, it didn’t matter. I wanted nothing to do with anyone else. My only friend had passed away and I wasn’t going to replace her. I couldn’t replace her.


“Good Morning everyone, Today we have a transfer student” the teacher said while gesturing to the student to begin speaking.

A girl with pure white hair like a Calla lily flower, she had a slender body with bright purple eyes. She walked up to the front of the class and gave her self-introduction. I hardly bothered to listen. I kept looking out of the window, devoid of thoughts. The transfer student had at the very least taken all the attention away from me. The last thing I wanted was people to pity me. I didn’t need anyone’s pity.

After a few classes, the recess had begun. I hardly knew what was happening around me but someone had approached me from behind and kept their hand on my shoulder. I didn’t want to deal with this but I guess the bullying was only minimal and not completely gone. I turned around to see a familiar face, Kazuhara Kinoshita, the boy that bullied Akira. The moment I saw him, rage filled me. I didn’t know what was to be done in this type of situation. I was angry but I knew more than anyone that I couldn’t beat him.

“Yuuto, I’m So-”

I punched him to the ground. My body had moved without even thinking. What was I doing? I couldn’t win this fight. I sat on top of his body in a position that pinned both his hands under my legs and started punching his face. I let go of his hands but continued punching him.

Stop me
Stop me
You know you’re stronger, so fucking fight back
Show me that no matter what I had done, I couldn’t win
Punch me
Beat me
Please
I let your hands go, so beat me up.


I finally decided to stop punching him. He stood up and bowed-

“Yuuto, there’s nothing I can do to atone for my sin. What happened to Akira was my fault and I’m sure you’re not satisfied with just punching me, for all you care, you probably want me dead. All I can offer now is, I’m sorry” He spoke softly, he was bruised all over his face, and he was bleeding from his nose. Why didn’t he resist? Could I have really beaten him up if this was an actual fight? I didn’t know but today’s outcome instilled fear into me like nothing else. I walked away from him and moved back to my seat.

Everyone started looking at me again but this time it wasn't pity. I didn’t know what kind of eyes these were, they were completely new to me. Were they afraid of me? Was I that ferocious? I continued looking outside the window. I wanted to tell them to stop looking at me like that. Had I done something that bad? He killed my friend. Was I not allowed to punch him?

“ So when I was in Kobe right?” The new girl began to make conversation that broke the silence. The other girls followed the conversation and moved on ahead. If she was doing this for me, I would like to thank her but I thought it would be pretentious to think that she started talking to make me feel more comfortable.

The class after recess was Maths. I opened my book nonchalantly and started looking at the problems we had to work on. As I started writing in my notebook, I could feel the new girl shooting glances at me. Did she want to talk to me? Well, whatever the case, I decided to try to ignore it. This continue for all the remaining periods until school had ended.

I decided to go home as soon as school was over. I didn’t want to hang around in this place. Just being in this place had made me feel nauseous.


I started to walk towards my house but I could feel the presence of someone else. I turned back and looked to see the girl with white hair standing near a bush while following me. Somehow her airheaded behavior did put a smile on my face. Upon seeing my face smile, she looked dumbfounded and came out of the bushes, she raised her hand in an awkward attempt to gesture her greetings but I decided to keep quiet and do the same.

“Hello, I’m Hana Urashima, the transfer student”

“Hello, I’m Hanazaki Yuuto, is there anything I can help you with? You seemed to me glancing a lot towards me during class”

I didn’t understand why she was taking an interest in me but I wanted it to stop. I didn’t have the right to make more friends or the right to be happy. Even IF she became my friend, who knows if I would stand up for her when things go south? I knew I didn’t deserve any friends.

“I was just wondering if you’re fine?”

“Fine?” That was rather unexpected. I thought she was under the impression that I was a violent person that beat up some guy that came to apologize to me.

“Yeah, well….when you were fighting that guy, you were crying. It almost looked as if you wanted him to stop you” Those words stabbed my heart like daggers. These were exactly my thoughts. I wanted him to beat me. I wanted him to show me that no matter what I had done for Akira, the outcome would’ve been the same. I wanted to find a way to ease my guilt. After coming to that realization, I felt more pathetic than ever.

“I…see. Well, thank you for your concern but I am fine” I said as I started to walk back to my apartment. The only thought in my head was “what a pathetic excuse of a person, I might as well die”

“Um… If you don’t mind, would you mind if I accompanied you?” She asked in a low voice almost afraid I would reject her, she was right.

“Sorry, I prefer being alone right now. Quite honestly, its probably better for you to stay away from me” After saying that, I nodded, bowed, and left on my own. I felt a little bad for rejecting her straight out but I knew if she hung out with me any longer, I might’ve started feeling a little happy but I still didn’t think I was entitled to that emotion. Those emotions were for people that had earned it, And so I made my way back to my empty house that was filled with crap all over.

“I should clean this place sometime,” I said as I nodded off to sleep on my couch.

***

I woke up from my 30 minute nap to the sounds that were coming from the kitchen. Was it an intruder? I slowly stood up and started walking towards the kitchen in a wary manner. I peeked into the kitchen to see the red hair that showed up in my dreams but she was wearing another uniform. I slowly understood who it was.

“Um, Kokone? What are you doing here?”

“Oh, you’re up Yuuto?” she said while turning back from the stove that she was cooking on.

 “Uh, yeah….how did you get in?” I was genuinely curious. I was sure that I had locked the door and if I didn’t, then I should start paying more attention to these things.

“I had the spare key you gave sister, I used it to enter. When I knocked you didn’t open the door, so I assumed that you were either out or asleep and I was right on the mark”

 “Oh….so what are you doing here?”

“What a rude thing to ask, I’m here to make food for you. I’m sure you haven’t been eating properly.”

This brought back some memories. Akira had always come over to make food when things got a little tough for me. This felt a little too close to my heart since Kokone was looking more and more like Akira as she was growing.

“So how was your day at school” This was the one question that I wished didn’t come up. “Kazuhara had come and apologized to me” I said while looking down.

 “What for?” She looked completely dumbfounded.

“He was the one that bullied your sister. My body moved before I could think and I ended up punching him”

“Oh” After that exchange, she quietly brought the miso soup that she had been making and in placed it in a bowl.

“This soup really brings back memories”

It was the soup Akira had always made for me when I felt down. She called it “Akira’s I’m okay now converting soup”. It was really a stupid name but it really did make me feel better. Before I knew it, I found myself smiling while drinking the soup. This wasn’t such a bad feeling.

“Yuuto, it is been ages since I’ve seen you smile. I’m happy you’re doing better”

“Yeah, this soup is wonderful.”

“I call it the “Only I can make a person’s mood good” soup” she said as she stood up and pointed to the sky.

“Haha” They really were sisters. I was happy that Kokone didn’t have too much of a grudge against me. She was acting just the way she used to. There was a bit of awkward silence when I mentioned Kazuhara’s name but we eventually moved forward past it. I didn't know what the silence meant but I decided not to pry right now.

“By the way Yuuto, I was cleaning up the house earlier and noticed that there was a broken mirror on the floor”

“Yeah…It was something done in the spur of the moment. Sorry”

“Leaving aside the fact that it brings bad luck, it could really hurt you if you stepped on it you know?” She said in a worried tone.

 “Did you step on it? Are you fine? Do you need to go to the doctor?” I said in a panic. I didn’t want anything to happen to Kokone. She was very important to me. She was like a little sister to me and moreover, I didn't want her to get hurt.

“I’m fine, for god’s sake Yuuto. Chill” She said.

“I…see. So how was school today Kokone?”

“Well, It's fine. I’m struggling a bit with maths but apart from that it's pretty fine.”

“If you want, I could help you with maths. I may not look it but I do get the top grades in my school.”

I didn’t understand why I offered to help her. Akira in my dreams had told me to stay away from her family and told me I didn’t deserve their warmth or pity. She was right, I didn’t but somehow I really felt the need to help Kokone. Was I trying to help Kokone because I couldn’t help Akira? Was I trying to help her because I saw her as my little sister? It was all still a little confusing to me but Kokone on the other hand had completely lit up with eyes sparkling with joy.

 “Really? You mean it? You’ll teach me?”

This was my chance to break it off and tell her that I didn’t deserve her warmth. I’d failed as an older brother model.

“Sure”

“Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!” She jumped and started hugging me.

“Yeah yeah fine” I said with a smile. I couldn’t tell her that I didn’t deserve her. I wanted to spend time with her and more importantly, I was afraid that if I told her I didn’t deserve her, she would agree. I couldn’t handle that thought.

                                                                                  ****

                                                                                HANA

What was up with that guy? He looked like he was about to cry when he told me to stay away. I couldn’t quite grasp what had happened in class. He and the other guy fought but he clearly wanted to lose. As I was lost in thought, I kept walking towards the closest station to make my way home. I had decided to try not to stick my nose into this matter. He clearly didn’t want me to stick my nose in it, I think.

 The next day I went back to school. It looked like Hanazaki had not gotten any sleep last night. He had eye bags, he had them yesterday as well. I had decided not to stick my nose into this matter but somehow I found it a little hard to stay away from this stuff.

“So, why exactly were Hanazaki and Kinoshita fighting yesterday?” A girl sitting next to me had asked another girl. This was fair right? I wasn’t sticking my nose into it at all, I was just merely sitting next to the girl and happened to hear what had happened.

“I’m not sure but I think it has something to do with Akira”

Classic boys huh? Fighting over a girl like that? Well, it's still weird that Hanazaki was crying…maybe he got netorared? Well, I guess it was nothing much. Come on Hanazaki, there’s plenty of fish out there. You can do it. So what if one girl left you? Were the thoughts I was having now. Romantic Dramas were soo much fun to watch but this was the first time I had seen a situation like this in real life.

“Yeah, I guess since Akira was the only person that ever spoke to Hanazaki, her death must have been very hard on him. Well, we should maybe stay away from him.”

Wait, what? Her death? It had suddenly dawned on me that the boy I was making fun of a moment ago had been going through worse than anyone I knew had. I felt really bad for my comments earlier, though it was only in my head, it was still stupid of me to assume something and make an insensitive comment.

During Recess, I walked up to his bench. I didn't know why exactly but I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to help him. It might have been pretentious to think that I could help him but I still believed that I could do something.

“Hi Hanazaki”  I said to him, fully ready to get rejected.

“Um...Hello, is there anything I can do for you?”

“What are your hobbies?”

I had decided to talk to him and understand him first. It wasn’t out of pity but it was that I was genuinely interested in understanding him and making an impression of my own. Everyone told me to stay away from him but I knew better than to trust others’ opinions rather than making my own.

“Well…I like anime, manga, and- wait I thought I had told you to stay away?” well there it was, his sign of rejection.

“Oh, are you watching seasonal anime?”

I ignored his question and continued talking to him. Last evening I saw him smile but despite that he wanted me to stay away, I wanted to know why exactly. He looked so sad when he told me to stay away and I really wanted to know why. I didn't want to be rejected for lousy reasons. I want to know what exactly happened to him. 

 “Hey, Stop ignoring the question”

“Then tell me, why do you want me to stay away?”

“What? Why do I need to explain that?” he said with a bit of frustration but I could see that he wanted to let out all of the frustration he was holding within himself. 

“Because I want to talk to you and I need to know why you can’t talk to me” 

“Fine”  He said resigning himself. I knew full well that he wanted to let out steam. He was probably holding it in for a while and was looking for a reason to tell someone. 

He told me everything. Akira was one of the girls in this school. She had helped him through a rough time to make his lifelong bullying stop. Eventually, she had started getting bullied but Hanazaki was too afraid to do anything for her, and eventually, she had killed herself. During the course of the last 2 years, they had become quite close. She had helped him get over a lot of his fears and helped him grow as a person. Hanazaki felt like Akira’s death was all his fault and decided on his own that he didn’t deserve friends anymore.

“That about sums it up” He said while looking to the floor. 

"I see” I said while thinking with my hand on my chin.

“So, as I told you, it would be better if you stay away from me. I don’t deserve friends. I betray them the first chance I get” he said while looking down and smiling sadly.

 What he had done wasn’t right. He definitely should have stood up for Akira and made sure she felt safe but instead he ran away from the situation and only heard her when she expressed her feelings. I was thinking to myself about what I might have done despite my own ideals. Would I have tried to stand up for my friend if I had just gotten out of bullying myself? Would I put myself back in danger if I had the option not to? I thought about this for a while before I decided to talk again.

“What you did wasn’t fine Hanazaki”

“BUT I think I would’ve done the same, If I was in your spot, I don't think I would’ve been able to stand up for her either. Humans are selfish creatures, it's not like we don’t know how to care for others, it's just that we care for ourselves more than anything else. Your friend Akira sounded like a great person.”

“She was” He said with a smile. You could see that he cared for that girl a lot. I felt a little envious of not having a friend that made that expression when talking to me.

“Well, so answer me, are you watching seasonal anime?”

“No, not really...I haven’t been in the mood for anime in a while” he responded with a slight smile. I could see he felt a lot better than a few moments ago.

“ I see…You wanna meet up and watch some seasonal anime sometime?”

“Oh, you watch anime? I thought you were just making conversation”

“Well I don’t really tell too many people since I got a little bullied as a kid for it”

“I see”

“So You up for it? Anime at my house on Saturday?”

 “I’ll let you know later”

He still didn’t really think he deserved kindness. I wanted to tell him that this was not how his friend would have wanted him to be after she passed away but I chose not to since it was something for him to figure out. I didn’t know the girl at all but from the way he described her I was sure that she would’ve wanted him to be happy even after her death. I decided to leave him be for the rest of the day. He still had a lot on his mind but hopefully, he would come to forgive himself and understand that he was the only one still holding a grudge against him.

Just as I was leaving I realized- Did I just invite a boy to my house? I suddenly felt very embarrassed. I did it so casually that I didn’t realize that this was the first time a guy would come to my house. Although he didn’t say he would come right? But it's not like I didn’t want him to come, in fact, I wanted him to come. I hadn’t spoken to anyone that enjoyed talking about anime or manga so I haven’t made friends with anyone with that I could be open about my interests so this was going to be fun. The thought was still scary.

Should I change my sheets before he comes? Maybe take down a few anime posters so he doesn’t think I’m too much of a weeb? What if he sees my room and realizes I’m weird?

  
I walked around school with panic on my face looking like a complete dumbass.