Chapter 29:

Dear Agony

66 Hours

She has some serious sleeping problems I swear...

I sigh as I grab my own blankets and walk up to Ayase. Her eyes follow my movements as I come up and sit next to her. "Ever heard of sleep?" I tease her, trying to break the ice.

"I have, we're just currently not on good terms..." She replies bringing her knees closer to her face. Before I can say anything witty, she heaves a sigh and continues. “Feeling any better?”

There’s a hint of concern in her voice. I almost smile at that small, but heartwarming thought.

“I think? I don’t remember what happened exactly.”

“You passed out… Mayu and the others were pretty worried, but turns out it was exhaustion.”

Somehow I find it in me to tease her.

“And you weren’t?” I smirk slightly.

A slight blush creeps up on her cheeks as she buries her face deeper into her knees.

“So what if I was, huh?” That slightly defiant retort feels somewhat endearing, so I smile before replying…

“Nothing. I’m sorry for worrying you.”

“You better be.” Despite the nature of her words, her tone seems soft, almost relieved.

“How’s your leg?”

“Dunno, a little better I guess.”

I sigh a little. Let’s hope she will be in top shape come tomorrow, in case we’ll need to run for our lives again.

“So… why aren’t you off to dreamland?” I finally prod the main topic.

“What about you? Weren’t you exhausted?”

Hey, I asked you first.

I think, yet again a reply like that is just like her.

“I had a… disturbing dream.” My voice trails off slightly as I look away. Images of that dream I just had flash through my mind. What even was that?

“I see…”

“I told you my reason… So why are YOU still up?” I deflect my question right back at her. She certainly seems rather upset, or mostly shaken up by something.

“I’ve just been thinking about these past few days… It feels like my life has changed since all of this happened. And of course it has. Yet, I’m struggling to escape this place. Struggling to live. To live what? Even if I escape, my life will be as dull and fake as it was when I left it.” Ayase’s straightforwardness catches me by surprise. I didn’t expect her to lay her feelings bare like that. What’s eating away at her, I wonder? What about her life doesn’t she like? Is it about her persona, or is it deeper than that?

I wanted to know. But more importantly I wanted to help her. And thus, I opened my mouth to speak, trying to at least ease her suffering with a piece of advice.

"You know, I may not have a clue of what's eating away at you, but I know one thing. As long as you're alive, you'll sort it out. No matter the problem, no matter the odds. You just gotta keep living, and the answers will come to you. If you're not alive, you can't solve anything. Instead, all that you'll leave behind is unfinished business." For now, I just wanted her to know giving up is not the answer. "So you need to see this through, no matter what, okay?" I chuckle at myself, before I hold my pinky out to her.

Ayase gives me a questioning look, and rightfully so. Soon though, her cold exterior melts in the face of her warm smile. A smile that can probably illuminate the whole of Kirihama during this hour.

"We've already done that once, you sure you want another one?" Despite the blush on her cheeks, she somehow gives me her signature smug grin.

"Once is never enough, right?"

"Right." She says before she links her pinky with my own, and starts the chant…

"Cross your heart and hope to die..."

But before she can finish her sentence, and put the life of my genitals at risk yet again, I interrupt her.

"...Stick a needle through your eye!” I smile proudly at myself… “Ha!"

"Hey!" Ayase instantly gives me one of her very own pouty glares, before she resigns to her fate. "You're so childish sometimes, I swear..."

This atmosphere between us… is so calming. I suddenly want to stop time, and cherish this feeling.

What is going with me?

My utterly weird train of thoughts is interrupted by Ayase, who breaches an unexpected subject…

"Hey Hideki.”


“Sorry to ask you out of the blue… but how come Mayu's your only friend? You don't seem that unable to socialize to me." Albeit somewhat hesitantly, she manages to ask. As we’re both staring into the nothingness ahead of us, I sigh lowly.

"It's not that I don’t know how to get involved with people, I just don’t want to.”

"Why?" After she asks that, a brief silence stretches between the both of us.


"Sorry, I guess you don't want to talk about it." Ayase’s voice displays a hint of… disappointment, as she dismisses her question. She had apologized, and the subject was no more. It was no more, yet why am I having second thoughts? Why do I feel the urge to tell her everything? Why does my chest feel so heavy all of a sudden?

I take a deep breath, and before I know it, I start talking. Images of the past flash through my mind. Emotions I had buried deep within my heart, and had locked away are about to resurface, threatening to overspill, and overwhelm me.

"Before I came back here I was actually living in Osaka. I had to move there because of my dad’s' work. Incidentally, I was born here, in Kirihama, but the reason why I came back here isn’t as simple as that…"

"You don't have to tell me if you don't want to." Despite her apparent eagerness to know, she tries to reassure me. And that alone makes me want to tell her even more.

"No, I think I'm ready..."

And I probably am. All this time… All this time, I had wanted for someone to listen.

"Back in Osaka, I had a pretty normie high school life. Friends, school clubs, hobbies, games… Pretty much anything a teenager could ask for. Maybe… a few crushes here and there. But nothing too extreme. My school wasn't all that bad either, if you exclude the typical delinquents that rode with some over the top gangs.” I stopped to take a breath, as I glanced at Ayase momentarily. Her eyes were fixed on me, as if she was subconsciously saying I have her full attention. As I started recalling the events, I felt a sharp squeeze in my chest. Yet I preserved. I pushed onwards…

“One day while I was walking back home from school, I saw a bunch of those delinquents ganging up on a girl from my class. At first, I thought it was the typical bullying thing… yet I didn’t want to just let it slide. I felt like I had to something… And when one of them hit her… that sense of justice within me only increased tenfold. So, I stood up for her, stepped between her and the delinquents, and told them to lay off. Of course they were angry, and they were about to turn at me. I had prepared myself for a beating… Yet they stopped themselves. They were angry… yet they didn't hit me. To my relief, they left without making a fuss, but before leaving, one of them, spat in my face, and spoke between gritted teeth. Even now, I remember his exact words: "This is your last day, punk." And then he left. The girl though, didn't thank me, she just up and left. At that time, I didn't think much of it. My deed was done for the day, I had helped a girl avoid a potential beating. The next day came, and I made my way to school just like normal… Yet…” I had realized my hands were trembling, as I recalled the events. I had to stop myself from talking, to compose myself. Yet Ayase, didn’t say anything, she just kept on listening.

“Yet… back at school, I was getting some weird stares, like there was something stuck on my face. None of my friends even came to talk before homeroom started. Before I had a chance to think about what was going on, homeroom had begun. And soon after, the principal walked in. The principal and the girl from yesterday, in tow. She was all bruised up for some reason. The principal offered a small apology to the teacher for the interruption, and immediately turned to us students. And then, to me, specifically. With an accusatory finger, he pointed at me, and asked "Is that him?" The girl nodded and he called out my name sternly. If it hadn’t been for his grim expression and his harsh tone, I would think I was being congratulated. When, I stood up from my seat, I asked him if I had done something wrong, and his expression turned to one of fury.

"You have Kobayashi Hideki. Molestation and abuse is no light offense!"

He shouted, and I swear I could feel time stop for a second. I couldn’t understand what he was saying. I just stood there, frozen in place. Eventually, I was dragged into his office and I obviously got more than just an earful. Of course, I managed to snap out of it, and told him the truth, I told him everything but he just wouldn't listen. He wouldn’t believe me no matter what. He said there were four witnesses that supported her testament and that he couldn't deny it. The witnesses I assume were those delinquents that started this whole thing in the first place. They had roped the girl into a mess she couldn’t get out off. She confessed against me, and made me look like the bad guy. All of that, just because I stood up for her. Just because I stood up to THEM. Just because I did the right thing. But THEY got off the hook. Instead, I was expelled from the school, as I was found guilty of rape and abuse. As I got back to class to gather my things, I couldn't recognize a single face amongst my classmates. It felt like everyone was a different person at the moment. All of my friends, the people I knew. They all looked at me as if I had really done it. They didn't even try to think otherwise. They didn't believe me when I told them the truth. They shut me out. The people I had trusted in, turns out they didn't trust me back. Amongst other things, they called me… a “monster" and a "cold-hearted bastard” … On my way back home, I saw that same prick from yesterday. Turns out he had pretty strong connections to make something like that happen. Turns out, I had just messed with the wrong person. Yet, as I was walking, he was laughing. Laughing at me… He had destroyed everything. He had played with my life, like it was just a toy, and snapped it in half on a whim. Just because I defied him. ” My breathing had become ragged, as bits and pieces of that time came back to me. I clenched my fist so tight it hurt, as I got through the last part.

“…I was furious, I don’t remember much. I just punched him in the face with all the willpower that I had left. But it wasn’t long before his pals showed up and they gave me a run for my money. Of course, they beat me black and blue, but I at least managed to get my hands on that one guy. Yet, I didn’t feel any better… I walked back home battered and bruised. After that incident, I had to transfer schools. It was almost a year after I had lost my dad, and I was alone with my mum at the time. I never told her about what happened. I couldn't bring myself to, thinking that she wouldn't believe me, just like everyone else. She just asked me if it was true and I just shook my head. At that point, I had lost every ounce of trust on anybody. After searching for a school that would accept a student with a rape accusation, we found our way back to Kirihama. Thankfully, the school didn't go public about it. I don't even know if the teachers have heard of any of this. Ultimately, I shut myself away from everything and everybody. I never talked to my mother about it, despite her advances. I even stopped talking to her as much and just shut myself in my room. I just didn't want to deal with life. All that I had known came crushing down and the only one I could trust was myself. So, I avoided people thinking that eventually they would betray my trust in them too. Just as all my other "friends" did."

As I finish talking about this mess of a past, I exhale sharply. I didn’t know when it started, but somehow I was physically in pain. Yet I didn’t stop. I had confessed all of what I had held inside for so long.

Suddenly and without warning, Ayase slides her hand next to mine, and intertwines our fingers together. With a gentle tone, she says "I'm sorry... It must have been painful." She squeezes her hand reassuringly, and like rushing waves, all of the memories I have of my time in Osaka come back. Moments of laughter, and moments of excruciating pain. I thought I had left it all behind in order to move on, but I had probably left myself back there too. Suddenly I can feel my vision blur, and a sudden urge to let it all out overwhelms me…

No one had ever listened to me like that.

"I didn't do it...”

“I know Hideki.”

No one had ever believed me.

“Why wouldn’t anyone believe me…?"

“I believe you, Hideki.”

Her words were so simple, yet they held so much power, they were nothing sort of liberating.

“I… didn’t… do it.”

“I know, Hideki. I know...”

The tears were now flowing freely down my face, as I repeat the same words over and over. The words that everyone had dismissed. Yet Ayase didn’t.

All this time, I just wanted someone to listen. Someone to believe. The dam that had been holding back all those emotions for so long, has finally burst. With another light squeeze, Ayase reassures me of her presence yet again.

When all the tears have dried up, I wipe my eyes and take a deep, refreshing breath, finally looking up. I turn to the girl beside me, and see her eyes glistening in the dark.

She quietly sniffles, before looking away in a rush, having realized I caught her in an awkward moment.

"Were you… crying too?"

“Yeah I was, got a problem… with that?” Her tone is weak and shaky, as she pauses to sniffle in between her words. "It was just... too cruel, dammit…”

I can’t help but smile at her weird, yet refreshing sincerity. At the moment, Ayase feels more precious to me than ever before.

“Thank you, Ayase-san.” I squeeze her hand tightly.

"Thank you… for talking to me about it." She replies, before ultimately relaxing against my shoulder. 

Lucid Levia