Chapter 15:

"We're Not Alone"

VISUAL SHOCK - sometimes you have to promise not to fall in love~

I know it’s Kaori.

Even with a limited view, at this angle, from this distance…

She’s wearing the shirt we bought together.

The rest… I’ve never seen.

Never would have considered she’d even own!

Patent kitten heels, fitted pencil skirt, and her hair up in a long ponytail.

I hate that it suits her.


That’s a hell of a strong feeling to be having…

I need to calm down.

I can’t stay here.

I need to get out!!!

Go for a walk!

To where though?


No… we were just there. It’d be too embarrassing going back. I don’t want to be stuck around a lot of other people, and there’s nothing to do there.

Same issue with the common room, and not far enough away…

Convenience store?

Sure, why not.

“I need music!”

Agitation scurries through my skin, impelling me to do the same around my room.

I grab my keys, wallet, headphones, and put them on full blast to drown out the noise in my head, while storming out of the dorms.

My heaviest playlist kicks in hard with the opening scream of Smart Sleazoid.

It almost has me screeching and growling along as I weave through strangers in the street.

Why am I so beat up by all this?!.

Because she’s dressed up for work?

The hell is wrong with that?

She can dress how she wants! She does, every day, that’s why she’s so damn cool!!!

Turning up the volume doesn’t work to quiet the chatter.

Is it just because we’re not hanging out?

Am I just lonely?

I mean, maybe, but that’s pathetic. I’m not a child. I shouldn’t be having a god-damn tantrum over something as simple as missing my friend!

My friend?

She’s not just mine. She has other friends.

She has work and university and a whole life outside of me. There’s plenty I don’t know about her. We’ve only known each other two weeks, for crying out loud!

Ruby comes on, our karaoke floods back, and I flick to the next track…



I glare at my phone and notice it’s on shuffle.


That word…

It just keeps coming back.

Like finding that shirt.

The shirt?

My chest tightens, like my heart is being squeezed.

Is that it?




Because she’s wearing it for someone else?

Another ache deep in my bones.

“Am… am I…” jealous?

“Jesus Christ!”

What the hell is wrong with me?!.

I’ve been staring at the Gaijin Killer selection for 5 minutes and the self loathing sinks in.

Don’t be stupid!

I’m not getting drunk.

That would be a mistake.


I don’t want to leave empty-handed.

I’ll have wasted the staff’s time, while looking like some weirdo, standing about in the shop for no reason. I’d never be able to come back!


Peaky Sweat!

In the corner of my eye, I notice some energy drinks not far away. It’ll just look like I couldn’t decide on alcohol or not.

Good save!

I get a bunch of snacks as well.

Sneaky little impulse buy shelves everywhere!

It’s late, so they’re selling off the last of the fresh food too, and I end up enticed by a few different things.

By a few, I mean one of everything.

This is turning into a big shop… maybe angry shopping isn’t the best idea, but it’s all I’ve got.

A little retail therapy, then binge-eating. Totally normal, healthy behaviour!

The cashier doesn’t even bat an eye at me piling half their remaining stock of junk food onto the counter. She just politely gives me the usual keigo schpiel and helps me pack a couple of plastic bags.

I feel like a prospector’s donkey… she could have laden me up with them like saddlebags, and I’d have been fine with it.

The walk back is no less painful.

Thoughts on what job Kaori could be doing to dress up so…

Hey! Don’t think like that about your friend!

Why does it matter how she’s dressed?

Why do you care what she does?

Suddenly, coldestrain starts filling my head with memories of my brother...

One song, glorious in its cliché, from an anime he wouldn’t share with me. It was his show. For when he needed time to himself, but I always knew…

It was one of the few he’d let the intro play through on, that he’d scream along to, pain and frustration in every attempted note...

Can’t you tell she’s stressed too?

She said she missed hanging out. She’s covering for other people who got sick. She’s being responsible, supporting her team, but she’s hurting from it all too.

Stop being so selfish!

Help your friend carry that weight!

“Yeah…” she doesn’t have to carry it alone.

I offered to walk her to and from work, that was me trying to get more time with her. It wasn’t the kind of help she actually needed. It wasn’t a rejection of me, just the support I was offering, because I was in the wrong and only thinking of myself.

She might not know what she wants or needs from me, so she can’t ask. I gotta trial and error ideas with her until something works. You don’t know unless you try, and even the dumbest thing might lessen her load.

It’s the weekend tomorrow.

She might want a lie in rather than make plans.

Don’t force your wants on her. Don’t add to her burden and cause her to burn out.

“Oooooo… sorry!”

I nearly walk into some exhausted businessman who was probably just trying to get home.


There’s something I expected to hear more of…

He clutches his shirt front in shock, looking up at my lanky, sulking visage in obvious shock.

I bow to him a couple of times and repeat my apologies until he tiredly accepts, seemingly still a little scared of me.

I’m just in the SEX POT VeNdeTtA I bought the other week, so besides my height - and I’m not that tall - I don’t get why he was so worried.

Do I really give off that much of an intimidating aura?

The other exchange students said I was unapproachable before, that I suited playing a gangster… did I look like a delinquent to him or something?

My brain wanders distractedly, finally broken from the cycle of neurotic, fury fuelled fixation.

By the time I get back to the dorms, my mind is made up.

When Kaori gets home, I’ll give her a knock, see if she wants some late night junk food… I’m not eating all this on my own anyway. Even if I had been intending to gorge myself silly when I bought it all, I’d just make myself sick.

We can eat our feels together!

She isn’t back til late… very late.

It’s nearing midnight when I finally hear that distinctive tak down the hallway, but at a much slower pace.

A sluggish, scrapping thud on the off beat.


Then no more tak…

Just a lethargic pat, pat, pat…

I’ll give her a few minutes to get changed and decompress, then go see if she’s up for hangin-

A rapping at my door startles me into motion.


I am up, opening the door in seconds, only to find a bedraggled and upset…


“Can I come in?”

She looks like she’s been crying, still sniffing down another deluge.

“Yeah, of course. Hey, what’s up? You wanna talk? Sit here, I’ll grab you a drink. You hungry? I got snacks earlier and was thinking of coming round to share them with you. You didn’t have dinner before work, right?”

Her polite smile is painful to see.

She’s hurting and I want to help and I don’t know how!

It’s all too familiar…

…my parents standing in the doorway, smiling with sorrowful uncertainty…

…I’m just used to being on the receiving end.

I start to freeze up.

My breath feels too shallow.

Am I having a panic attack?!.

“It’s ok. I just… I need a minute.”

She’s not budged since entering my room. Her tights laddered, shoes in hand, make up running… was she mugged?!.

A rage starts to build in my chest, from the pit of my stomach to the back of my throat. Every breath aflame.

“What happened?”

Searing bile billows up, boiling me into scorching focus.

Someone hurt my friend.

“Who did this to you? Tell me? Was it Toshi? I’ll fu-”

Fear fills her features.


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