Chapter 20:


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


I’d closed the laptop in a rush and completely forgot I had it open on that random model.

“It’s not what it looks like!”

At some point I must have accidentally caught the hyperlink and opened their FansOnly.

Kaori doesn’t even turn toward me. From her silhouette, she is glued to the screen, expression unreadable.

I look back at my computer.





“K… k…”

It’s Kaori.

It’s her profile.

She’s the model.

She’s KEi2.

She wrenches the laptop from me.

“How did you…” stumbling over her words, “…h-how… d-d-”

“I was researching the person I’ve been fighting with over auctions, and I came across these modelling photos for someone using a similar username, then you knocked just as I saw the link. I didn’t click it or anything! It must have opened by acci-”


She erupts with an anger I’ve never seen in her.

“How could you?!. Is this what you have been doing? Stalking me online? We hang out every day, is that not enough? Am I not allowed my own life? Are you that obsessed?”

“Hey, I said I jus-”

My attempts at cutting through the torrent are in vain.

“Of course you are! It is all you talk about! Visual Kei, Jrock, You In Grey, Gothic Girl Testament, and fucking H.naruto!!!”

I’ve never heard her even come close to swearing.

Not while drunk.

Not when Toshi is annoying her.

Not even when she broke down over the stress from work.

“All their stores have been closed for nearly a decade! All you do is take up all my time talking about music and clothing from 20 years ago! Even Yoma has been in two other bands since then! I’m sick of it! How can you not know any of this?”

Her anger spilling over and spiralling out of control. Everything. Every single little thing that has ever bothered her about me is spewing forth at once.

I can’t tell whether I want to puke or cry, run or hide, or even lash out at her in retaliation.

“What am I then? Am I part of your fantasy? What your life in Japan would be like? Is that why you are digging up everything about me? So you can get even deeper under my skin? Were you going to blackmail me, or…”

Maliciousness and fiery venom fill her murderous glare.

“…is that why you look so tired? Have you been up all night looking through my content? Do you not get enough out of cleaning my clothes, you need to see what is under them? Go on… LOOK!!!”

She flings the laptop open, forcing it into my face.

“Get a good look! Is it like how you imagined? Are you satisfied?!.”

Tears welling up in her eyes, a hiccup cracks her fraying voice.


Kaori screams her parting shot and sprints from my room, not taking anything with her.

My door left wide open as her own slams shut.

Shaking the wall between us.

Her cries of pain and anger and betrayal are barely muffled by it.

“It was an accident…”

I want to run after her, pound on the door, shout through the wall, explain myself over and over and over and over until she understands!

“I didn’t mean to…”

Instead, I’m rooted to the spot for several minutes. A prisoner of my own tiny skull sized prison.

“I didn’t know…”

Eventually, I can shuffle about like a zombie. Autopilot taking over to put food in the fridge, so it doesn’t spoil… almost forgetting to close the door.

“I’m sorry…”

An hour later and I can still hear her occasional sobbing.

“I’m sorry…”

Two hours on and it’s deathly silent.

“I’m sorry…”

3AM and I can’t sleep.

I’ve been lying in the same spot, paralysed, just listening.

Numb and nauseous.

My favourite song on loop on my headphones since about midnight, the only thing keeping me alive.


I call in sick for class on Monday.

I didn’t sleep and just stay lying in bed.

Sometime after midday, I start scrolling through my phone.

The things Kaori said burned into my brain…

H.naruto closed all their stores in 2016. The address I found on their site is for post only.

Yoma really has been in two other bands, one actually started 10 years ago!

I consume both discographies over the course of a few hours.

It’s shocking that Inugami isn’t a solo project, with how reminiscent they are off his poetry books. Every member has been in another band I’ve heard of, but none of them still active.

Brabanter Griffon is even more insane!

The drummer is from R’ainbow, the guitarist is from MUKK, and every track sounds like a perfect collaboration of their styles.

Three of my favourite bands - favourite musicians - are in a super group… and I didn’t know!!!

“I didn’t know…”

Around dinner time I finally feel sick hungry enough to drag myself out of bed.

The HattaMatta in my fridge makes my stomach knot, so I put it all back in the bag, and leave it outside Kaori’s door.

She paid for it.

She should eat it.

I don’t want to be taking more from her.

There are some scraps of half-eaten things from the end of last week. I finish them off, not caring whether I get food poisoning.

After staring at my laptop for a few hours, I finally build up the nerve to open it.

If our friendship is over, what harm would it do seeing Kaori’s FansOnly for a split second, so I can close it.

I sicken myself that it’s not just for a split second.

“I’m sorry…”

I sit there staring at the previews for a solid minute.

There’s nothing even slightly lewd - except maybe an exposed shoulder or absolute territory - let alone anything overtly sexual.

I was too fixated on finding out if KEi2 was kei002 when I first went through her socials, but seeing them now, every post is for the love of the clothing being worn.

Like an archivist.

The VK library of Alexandria.

Like her sister.

I recognize a couple of the guys that were at the love hotel in a behind the scenes shot from another photoshoot.

They’re photographers.

Of course they are.

A couple of tags link to make-up artists, hair stylists, even brand reps.

Her following isn’t anything to be sniffed at, either. It’s not internet celebrity big, but certainly notable within her niche.

Kaori thinks I went searching for all this on purpose?

Even if I did, what’s there to be ashamed of?

Reviews of new pieces, retrospectives on classic collections, and collabs with clothing companies…

Still… she didn’t tell me about it, so it must have felt like an invasion of privacy. Especially having the FansOnly open…

“It was an accident…”

Blackmail… she mentioned blackmail.

After everything I’ve done, does she really think I’d do that?

Spending all my time helping her with chores, so she can work and study, just to extort her for something?

The warning from Ryu.

The harassment from Toshi.

Has this happened before?

Is that why?!.

She mentioned being friends with Ryu until… middle school, so maybe?

I go to start looking up keywords, full names, any information about what might have happened back then…


I’d be doing exactly what she accused me.

I put my laptop aside and just… rotate the whole mess around in my head.

Trying to find the right route through all the tangled threads that will unravel everything.

Let’s assume she started modelling when she was young, she said she wanted to be like her sister after all.

Makes sense.

Then Ryu finds out and tells people about it. Bad thing for a friend to do, but he was a kid at the time, and might have thought he was looking out for her.

Kaori gets told off, forbidden from continuing.

All a bit convenient, but it’s a hypothesis.

She finds out Ryu told on her, then their friendship ends?

No, she said he’s calculating. Snitching isn’t like him. Maybe Ryu told Toshi, then he spread rumours about Kaori?

That would make more sense. Fits both of their personalities from what I’ve seen.

Kaori’d feel betrayed by her friend, hence why she was so upset with me.

All pent-up from being unable to pursue her passion until university, now that she’s out on her own, and is trying to make up for lost time. Scared, it could be snatched away again.

Gossip probably made it out like she was doing lewd stuff… just like I was worried about.

Salt in the wound.

That would have definitely gotten her family involved to put an end to it.

And I just made her relive all that.

“I didn’t mean to…”

What the hell am I meant to do?!.

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