Chapter 2:

The angel who held me in their arms

The Day I Forgot About You

Neo opened his eyes with a pounding heart and gasping breath. Once again, the same nightmare haunted him, enveloping him in a suffocating atmosphere of agony and discomfort.

The cats and the view of the small abandoned square brought tranquility to his mind. His body was sore, which was normal for someone who slept on a stone bench.

The sun hadn't appeared in the sky yet.

His mind was invaded by thoughts from the previous day, about his search for Hoshi and especially Karine's proposal.

He wanted to continue investigating; he couldn't keep having nightmares and sleeping poorly. But he didn't want to be trapped in school, so he thought about giving up, perhaps erasing his memories would be the best option.

An alarm started beeping, interrupting his thoughts. It was Karine's watch ringing.

He turned off the alarm with remorse; if it weren't for school, he wouldn't have been able to return it. He didn't want to keep something that wasn't his, especially from someone who took such good care of him. He thought about the sandwich he had received and also about the last words before he left, "Take care."

The feeling of loneliness grew as he realized he was alone in that darkness, with no one to seek advice from.

Both remorse and loneliness made Neo explode with anger, and on impulse, he decided that he would go to school just to return the watch and leave. Nothing more.

As he approached the residential area, he could see several students wearing the same uniform as him. The large number of identical clothes made him feel nostalgic and strangely agitated; he was anxious.

His quick steps brought him closer to two boys who looked completely disheartened.

"Oh man, the vacation went by too fast."

"Yeah, I haven't gotten used to waking up this early yet."

"I bet the math teacher is going to overwhelm us, right on the first day, with a bunch of assignments."

"Oh, don't even mention it."

Neo's curiosity grew as he thought about the problems he would have. Would his teacher also give him a lot of homework?

At the school entrance, just after the gate, it was crowded with different clubs looking for people to join. There were all kinds of clubs: sports clubs like soccer, kendo, basketball, baseball; cooking clubs, art clubs, journalism, photography—a never-ending variety.

And they were all eager, looking for new members. Their targets were new students, as the old ones already belonged to several clubs.

"If you had to choose, which one would you choose?" was one of Neo's thoughts as he passed by people offering various interesting offers. For now, he had more important things to solve, so he avoided as many people as possible and managed to pass through the double doors.

The corridors that had been empty and seemed like a dream setting the day before now seemed like a crowded marketplace, with people walking from side to side and the noise of conversations filling Neo's ears from all sides. The noise was so overwhelming that he longed for tranquility.

He didn't know exactly where Karine's office was, so he turned his attention to a group of students talking in front of the stairs.

"Did you see the club posters scattered around the corridors? Which ones are you thinking of joining?"

"I'm considering joining the photography club. I've always been interested in that."

"I'm going to sign up for the debate club. I love arguing and discussing ideas."

As Neo approached, the happiness and smiles on their faces disappeared.

"Sorry, do you know where the principal's office is?" Neo asked.

The group avoided looking directly at him, but as the situation was becoming a bit awkward, one of them decided to respond.

"Go up the stairs, on the first floor, turn right near the end of the corridor."

Neo nodded and headed towards the stairs. They continued to watch him as he walked away, whispering among themselves.

As he turned right after climbing the stairs, he passed by a man with short light brown hair who reacted with surprise.

"Neo! It's great to see you again!"

The boy turned around and looked at him, guessing from his appearance that he was in his thirties, but despite that, his energy seemed like that of a physical education teacher.

He spoke as if he had known Neo for years, but the boy himself wasn't convinced that it could be true, and rather that it was a mistake like what happened with Karine the day before.

"You must have mistaken me for someone else."

Neo then continued on his way towards the principal's office. The man pondered the response he had received, his eyes widened, and in protest, he said:

"No, it's you!" he approached the boy and looked closely at his face, "Your name is Neo, isn't it?"

Neo felt a bit uncomfortable with a stranger invading his personal space and responded awkwardly, "Yes."

The man reacted with surprise, "So, of course, you know me. There's only one Neo in the school. Are you a new student?"

"Yes, I am. I started today."

The man smiled at the response as if he had discovered something extraordinary. "Ah! So now there are two Neos in the school, and the other one looks exactly like you! You need to meet him; it would be like looking in a mirror. Which class are you in?"


The man's smile gradually faded, and his face expressed doubt. "Same class as Neo? Something's not right. Are you joking with me? Are you sure you're not him and don't remember me?"

Perhaps Neo was mistaken, so he searched his memories for any fragment of who that man could be.

"No, I really don't know who you are."

The man became irritated and desperate. "You know very well, look at my face. I'm sure you would never forget."

That insistence annoyed the boy in a way he had witnessed before. He managed to visualize an image, but it wasn't very clear. The pieces of the puzzle were slowly coming together. However, some information was missing. Images formed in Neo's mind, distant images.

In those images, he was wearing a uniform, carrying something on his back, seeing various faces he didn't remember, Karine arguing with him in her office, a celebration with a trophy, running around the court.

"Do you remember when we first met? I asked if you were a new student, just like now."

Neo managed to hear this single sentence among the many that the man had spoken while he had his visions, and his mind focused on a single image.

At first, Neo thought they were in the same place, but they were actually inside a room, sitting and talking. He couldn't see the details of what was inside the room. The man seemed much younger than he was now.

"Huh? Are you a new student? You must be happy to be in your first year at school, right?" The man adjusted his posture and continued, "Relax, don't let the pressure crush you. My name is Erick, nice to meet you. You seem like a boy full of doubts, but I see potential in you. If they're tormenting you, come talk to me!" He said, all smiles and enthusiasm.

Neo's eyes returned to normal. He was back. He looked into the eyes of the man in front of him.

"You're Erick..."

Upon hearing that, Erick became happy, crossed his arms, and before he could say anything, the boy in front of him fell backward.

Before hitting the ground, he was caught halfway by gentle arms that held him. It was so comforting that the urge to fade away only increased. All he could see of the person who held him were strands of blond hair shining in the sun. His last words were, "An angel..."

Slashed Ink.
Christian Widjaya
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