Chapter 20:

Volume 2, Chapter 3-2: Ichizen’s Room

Heroes of the Past

“Yuki, let’s go. We don’t have time to waste!” Felicity declared and we headed out once again.Bookmark here

We arrived at the mall, heading to the decoration store first. She pointed out party items and I placed them in the shopping cart. Felicity was really trying her best at making a good party, quite befitting of her personality.Bookmark here

“This is a lot,” I observed, noticing the amount piling up.Bookmark here

“I have most of the Christmas decorations at home, but I wanted stuff specifically for this party,” Felicity explained.Bookmark here

She placed a large amount of effort into this. Was Felicity just this nice? I wondered about her motives. Felicity maintained an upbeat composure but there must be some hidden darkness. I would like to witness that side of her. Same for Tess.Bookmark here

“Yuki, let’s hurry! The sale items are over here!” Felicity ordered.Bookmark here

We finally finished after three hours of shopping in the mall. Felicity pulled out her shiny credit card during checkouts, more proof of her wealth.Bookmark here

“I’ll take these back to the car. Yuki, can you go to the supermarket over there and start getting food? I’ll text you the list,” Felicity said.Bookmark here

I nodded, heading for the meat aisle first. I glanced at plates of meat, not sure which ones were good. Not my specialty, I leave it to Felicity. The list included baking supplies, easy enough for me to pick out.Bookmark here

I noticed a classmate from high school while placing a bag of yeast into the cart. Her name was Len Rui. One of the more active students I knew, she was the treasurer for the student council and played sports.Bookmark here

“Yuki, it’s been awhile! How have things been?” Rui asked.Bookmark here

“It’s been a rough month but I’m glad it’s almost over,” I replied, recalling Ichizen’s death and the training from yesterday.Bookmark here

“Ah, sorry to hear that. Are you baking some sweets to give to Ichizen?” she asked, a smile on her face.Bookmark here

“About that..,” I said, surprised Rui didn’t know about Ichizen’s death.Bookmark here

I was in the same classes as Rui for the last two years of high school. That in turn meant she knew Ichizen pretty well. I suspected she liked him, but Rui never said anything about it. Out of everyone, she should have already heard about his passing.Bookmark here

“Did something happen? I came back from a trip overseas so I’m not caught up with anything,” Rui asked, her medium length black hair swinging.Bookmark here

“Ichizen got into an accident a month ago and he….didn’t make it. I thought you might have heard,” I revealed.Bookmark here

Rui’s expression changed within seconds. I saw sadness in her eyes and my thoughts wandered back to the decisive moment. There was no denying it. A lot of the responsibility for the incident was on me. Before I could dwell any further on it, Felicity tapped me on my shoulders.Bookmark here

“Yuki, I’ve been looking for you. Oh, who’s this, a friends of yours?” she asked.Bookmark here

“Felicity. This is a friend from high school, Len Rui,” I responded, clearing my head of any previous thoughts.Bookmark here

“Nice to meet you. I’m Felicity Smoke,” Felicity introduced with a dazzling smile.Bookmark here

“Sorry about that. Yuki just told me some rather sad news,” Rui reciprocated Felicity’s smile with her own.Bookmark here

Felicity noticed the expression on Rui’s face, prying no further. I was thankful for her doing that. After catching up with Rui and updating contact information, Felicity and I resumed our shopping.Bookmark here

“Cheer up, Yuki. You still feel responsible for it, I can tell from your eyes. But I’m sure Ichizen would not approve of your moping right now! The party on Friday will definitely give you a good boost!” Felicity encouraged, noticing my expression.Bookmark here

I nodded at her words. Meeting Rui had shaken me. While Ichizen was definitely an idiot at times, he had a lot of friends. He had an impact on people’s lives. The least I could do was continue that. It was how he lived his life and that made me feel a little better.Bookmark here

Winter Break Week 1 ThursdayBookmark here

Meeting with Rui yesterday got me thinking about Ichizen’s state of affairs. I wondered if he left any clues behind. After my conversation with Rui, it was the right time to visit his house.Bookmark here

“Hello!” I greeted Ichizen’s mom with a smile.Bookmark here

“Yuki, it’s been a few weeks. How are you feeling?” Mrs. Michi asked, a soft expression on her face.Bookmark here

“I’m doing well. It’s been a little hard to adjust to the fact Ichizen isn’t here anymore,” I admitted.Bookmark here

“That boy, he would be overjoyed whenever you came over. It’s a shame I won’t see that anymore. Please come in, it’s a cold day. I’ll make you some tea,” Mrs. Michi offered.Bookmark here

I accepted her offer, bowing in thanks. A flood of memories came back to me once inside. Some good, some bad. Still, it was odd to not hear Ichizen’s trademark yell whenever a guest came over.Bookmark here

I followed his mom into the dining room, seeing someone unexpected. A woman the same age as me sat there, picking up a tea cup. She had medium length brown hair tied back into two long ponytails in the back. This was Ichizen’s cousin, Machi Manami.Bookmark here

“Manami, it’s been awhile,” I greeted, taking a seat next to her.Bookmark here

“Yuki, I could say the same. I come back for break and I get hit with bad news one after another. I find out that my adorable, younger cousin has died in an accident and then I hear that our grandfather is ill. It’s really all too much to take in,” Manami said, her eyes filled with melancholy.Bookmark here

“It is quite unfortunate. I should have been there for him,” I said.Bookmark here

“No, he died as he lived. It may be the greatest compliment for someone like him. He loved adventure and in a way I guess he did get it. This really sucks. I thought I would come back for a nice break,” Manami said, attempting a smile as she sipped her tea.Bookmark here

“Now, now. I just got news that Grandfather will be fine so that’s one less thing you can worry about, Manami. You can still enjoy your break,” Mrs. Michi reported, placing a cup of tea in front of me.Bookmark here

“Ah thank you. By the way, do you mind if I go see Ichizen’s room? I may be intruding but I just.. want to know what he was doing,” I requested.Bookmark here

“It’s no problem at all, Yuki. Just be careful. I’ll have to get around to packing his things up sooner or later,” Mrs. Michi agreed to my request.Bookmark here

“Thank you very much. Manami, how long are you here?” I asked, sipping the tea.Bookmark here

“For four more weeks. Yuki, you mind if I tag along with you? I’m curious as well,” Manami asked.Bookmark here

“Go ahead. It’ll help since I’ll have someone to talk to. Oh, sorry, I got a text,” I said, feeling my phone vibrate.Bookmark here

Tess? Oh, it was about the party tomorrow. She asked if I wanted a ride. I thanked her for the offer and accepted it. An immediate response arrived with an ETA for me. I was wary of it. Tess always arrived earlier or at unexpected moments. Putting my phone away, I finished the tea and headed upstairs with Manami.Bookmark here

“This brings back memories, Yuki. I remember how Ichizen would use the hallway as a race car track and push all his little toy cars across here. You would alway stand near the edge, making sure to not let them fall off the stairs,” Manami reminisced.Bookmark here

“Oh yeah. You always teased Ichizen by hiding his cars. He always fell for it when you said you didn’t know anything,” I nodded at her statement.Bookmark here

We arrived at the front of Ichizen’s room. A plain white door, nothing special hanging on it. Manami turned the doorknob but it remained closed.Bookmark here

“Locked,” Manami tried the door one more time.Bookmark here

Ichizen never locked his door. What was going on here? My mind flashed back to the mysterious text messages which started it all. Could the sender of those messages have anything to do with it?Bookmark here

“Oh, sorry about that. I locked the door after peeking in. I just couldn’t take it,” Mrs. Michi said, handing us the key.Bookmark here

Manami and I stepped inside. The inside was nostalgic. A disheveled blanket and pillow lay on top of the bed. There was a wooden desk with two computer monitors on top near the window.Bookmark here

Ichizen’s cousin inspected a medium sized bookcase on the left side and stared at it with a soft smile. Pieces of lined paper lay scattered across the desk. Some had red marks on them and others were highlighted. I opened the drawer and saw various writing utensils. A few pens, two highlighters, three erasers, and pictures. I checked the photos.Bookmark here

“You find anything interesting, Yuki?” Manami asked, looking over my shoulder.Bookmark here

“Just some photos. Guess he still kept them after all this time,” I replied, showing her the photos.Bookmark here

Manami glanced at them and nodded. The photos were of me, Manami, and Ichizen during our younger days. Sometime around fourth or fifth grade. I looked down at his computer and reached for the power button but decided against it though.Bookmark here

“Ichizen really was an idiot, but he did do well in some subjects,” Manami muttered as she waved around a stapled essay.Bookmark here

Manami was right. Ichizen struggled in most subjects, but excelled in writing. I hated to admit it but he was probably much better than me. For now, the desk had been investigated enough. Time to move on to something else.Bookmark here

Manami stared out the window, a thoughtful expression on her face. I checked the bookcase. Volumes of assorted manga were flat on the shelf. What else did I expect? Ichizen never was one to keep things in an orderly fashion. On the bottom shelf, I saw textbooks and a photo frame.Bookmark here

“Hey, Manami, do you know this person?” I called her over, handing the photo frame over.Bookmark here

Manami focused on the picture. For a good minute, there was just silence. Finally, Ichizen’s cousin returned the frame back to me.Bookmark here

“I don’t know. Maybe his girlfriend?” Manami finally said.Bookmark here

“He never talked about it before. I guess he could have just never told me,” I responded.Bookmark here

I took a picture of the photo frame. Zooming in on the unknown female, I took two more. Placing the photo frame back in its original position, I glanced at the top of the bookshelf.Bookmark here

Assorted photos were displayed, some including me and others with his group of high school friends. However, I couldn’t quite focus because of the picture from before. Who was this girl? It agitated me and Manami saw my frustrated expression.Bookmark here

“Yuki, it’s okay. I’m sure Ichizen had his share of secrets he hid from us. Although, I do understand your feelings. It does piss me off he never told us about this girl,” Manami said.Bookmark here

There were posters plastered on his walls, some of bands he enjoyed and others of idols he liked. Something felt off. As if I was missing something that was usually in this room.Bookmark here

“Yuki, I’ve been thinking….Yeah you have the same thought as I do. Where’s Ichizen’s display case?” Manami pointed out the thing bothering me.Bookmark here

Ichizen’s display case was usually next to his bookshelf. I bought him a four shelf glass case for his fourteenth birthday. Manami and a few other of Ichizen’s friends contributed but I came up with the idea. Ichizen kept his robot model kits and trophies he won over the years.Bookmark here

“Yuki, this is really weird. It looks like someone’s been in his room. But that’s not possible, right? I mean you heard Auntie, she said that she hasn’t been in here to clean up at all,” Manami said, looking at the spot where the display case was.Bookmark here

“It’s possible that his dad came in but it wouldn’t make sense. Everything else is untouched,” I said, walking over to the spot.Bookmark here

I felt my pendant moving after touching the spot where the display case originally was. Tess said outside of her artificial dimensions or another world, none of our powers worked. Yet my pendant reacted. When I moved my hand away, it remained still. Hmm, I would have to call Tess later and ask her about it.Bookmark here

“I guess there’s nothing else to do for now. Want to try asking Auntie?” Manami asked, stretching as she stood near the window.Bookmark here

“Yeah, let’s do that. She might be able to tell us something,” I agreed.Bookmark here

Walking back downstairs, I saw Mrs. Michi looking at something on her tablet. She raised her head at the sound of our footsteps. Manami returned the room key and glanced over at me.Bookmark here

“Mrs. Michi, Manami and I went upstairs to look at his room and noticed his display case was missing. Did something happen to it?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Oh, I guess you didn’t know, Yuki. But Ichizen broke that thing a week after your last visit. He was pretty sad about it. I didn’t see it myself, but he assured me he had taken care of the mess. I checked and it seemed fine so I just left it alone,” she revealed.Bookmark here

“He’s had it for so long now that I thought something happened,” I said.Bookmark here

“It is really a shame though. After all that effort you went through to get it for him,” Ichizen’s mom lamented.Bookmark here

Even though I heard the story from Ichizen’s mom, something felt off. Why would my pendant react? There had to be more to it. I thanked Mrs. Ichizen for her tea and updated my contact information for Manami.Bookmark here

“Remember to come by soon and see me again,” Manami reminded as I walked out the door.Bookmark here

On my way home, many thoughts entered my mind. The picture of the unknown girl with Ichizen irked me and then there was my pendant. I wanted to accept the story that the display case broke. Yet, something was off. Preoccupied with those thoughts, I finally noticed two unexpected people exit out of a car upon arriving at my house.Bookmark here

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