Chapter 22:

Inogura's Ramen

The Day I Forgot About You

On the following day, Neo remained locked in his room, delving into the thoughts provoked by the conversation with his brother. 

With each passing thought, the resolution to find his mother's whereabouts grew stronger. He felt that this search was one of the key pieces to unraveling the enigma he was entangled in.

With this decision in mind, Neo devised a plan. First, he needed to find a job to sustain himself financially. After all, his money was running out, and once he had that sorted, he could start searching for clues. 

When he looked at the calendar, he realized that the next week would mark the beginning of the exam week. It was yet another problem he needed to address. He had been so busy lately that he hadn't had much time to study or review the material. 

The school had provided a book containing various exercises from different subjects to help prepare for the exam. It wasn't as if the same questions would appear from the book, but it provided a guide to identify difficulties.

So, he planned to divide his time between studying and finding a job before focusing on anything else. He spent the rest of the day studying. 

Throughout the week, tension at school was palpable. While all the students were dedicating themselves intensely to studying, Neo struggled to balance his studies, training, and his quests to find a job. Saya was as brilliant as ever, but her attention was entirely focused on her studies.

However, despite his efforts, days went by, and Neo couldn't secure a job as the same problems as before kept recurring. 

Anxiety began to accumulate, and he felt the weight of responsibilities increasing. Nights were particularly challenging, he couldn't sleep.

Thoughts of giving up pass through his head and he starts to consider asking for help from Leo. However, Neo's body vehemently rejected that idea, especially when he considered being near his father.

While the training with Takeshi remained relentless, Neo's performance was declining. He felt mentally and physically exhausted, and his fatigue was starting to affect his physical ability.

During an especially intense training session, Neo, while batting one of Shike's balls and running to the base, tripped and fell to the ground. The fall wasn't normal, which worried Takeshi even more when Neo wasn't getting up and seemed to be in pain.

"Hey, stop, stop!" Takeshi shouted to the rest of the baseball team, who hadn't noticed and continued training. He ran over to the boy and searched for any visible injuries. "Are you okay, Neo?"

Takeshi called Pietro over to check Neo's foot. The boy quickly removed Neo's shoe and sock to take a look. It was bruised.

"He probably sprained it."

"Nagoya, can you take Neo to the infirmary?"

Nagoya responded by carrying Neo in his arms to the infirmary. 

Katherine was startled to see a crowd of students gathered at the entrance and especially to see someone being carried.

"Put him on the bed," she said almost instinctively.

"Be careful with his foot," Shike said, drawing Nagoya's attention. 

Nagoya carefully maneuvered through the doorway and placed him on the infirmary bed.

"So, what happened?" she asked, alarmed, after things had calmed down.

"He twisted his foot," Tadashi said.

"Just that?" she said, annoyed at having been scared, thinking it was something more serious. "And you all give me a fright like this?" Then she turned to Neo, who was lying on the bed. "Let me see."

She looked, and it was just like Pietro had seen before—bruised and swollen.

"It does seem like a sprain. I'll have to send you to the hospital for an X-ray to check if nothing's broken. For now, I can give you some ice to reduce the swelling."

While Katherine went to get the ice, the boys gathered around Neo, who felt a sadness for interrupting the training.

"Sorry, Takeshi, lately I haven't been doing well."

"It's okay."

Katherine returned with an ice pack and two crutches. "Does anyone have a car to take Neo to the nearest hospital?"

"My dad can pick me up," Shike suggested.

"If you can ask him."

Shike pulled out his phone and called his father while Katherine applied ice to the injury. "Do you have insurance?"

"I don't know, do I?"

"My dad is coming," Shike said.

"Just give your full name, and don't forget to return the crutches when you're better. Leave the ice on while you wait. They'll immobilize your leg, and if nothing's broken, you'll feel better soon."

The baseball team went with Neo, who, upon presenting himself at the reception, was quickly attended to by Dr. Wellington Miyamoto, who ordered an X-ray. 

After confirming that nothing was broken, he applied a splint to the injured leg and mentioned it would get better in a few weeks. He just had to be careful and not let it get wet when showering.

Takeshi suggested they visit his uncle's ramen shop to lighten the mood a bit.

"IRASSHAIMASE!" (Welcome in Japanese), his uncle said as they entered, exuding an energy that Neo had been lacking. It cheered him up a bit, though he still felt sad about getting hurt and exhausted from sleepless nights.

The place was full, and they had to sit in the back, where only two separate tables were available. As the baseball team chatted, their words mixed with the conversations in the room, making Neo's head spin.

After eating, he rested his head on the table. "Sorry, guys. I'm a bit exhausted."

The other boys agreed to let Neo rest especially after what had happened, it was understandable. As he lay there, he watched Takeshi's uncle work. He had so many orders to fulfill. There were so many people, and it was so much work that it seemed impossible for one man to handle it all.

"Takeshi..." Neo called.

"Yeah, feeling better?"

"Your uncle, doesn't he have anyone to help him?"

Takeshi looked at his uncle struggling to serve all the tables. It made sense to seek assistance.

"No, he was actually looking for two helpers, but no one showed up."

Neo got up from the table and smiled, as if all his energy had returned. "Hey, Uncle!" he shouted.

"Sure thing, boys, what do you need?" the man said, taking out a notepad from his pocket, sweat clearly visible on his face from the effort.

"I heard you need an assistant, I can help."

"You want to work here?" the Uncle asked, confused, his fatigue affecting his thinking.

"Yes, please."

He thought for a moment, his day's problems coming to mind. "Okay," he gestured to Neo's foot, "but I think it would be better to start after your foot heals."

"Thank you."

"We'll stay in touch."

Later, Shike's father gave Neo a ride back to the dormitory, in a way Neo felt a bit of jealousy of Shike for having a father that cares about his son.

That feeling goes aways after he realize that now have found a job. The weight on his shoulders was lifted, and he finally felt like he could rest. He used the elevator and quickly went to his room, climbed onto the top bunk, and lay down. Despite his energy returning, he was still tired and soon fell asleep.

In the middle of the night, a loud noise at the door woke him up. It sounded like someone was trying to open the door. It could have been a student who got the room wrong, so Neo tried to go back to sleep.

Then the door opened, causing him a huge fright. He was so startled that he grabbed one of the crutches to defend himself. 

A boy of the same age, a bit shorter, with slanted eyes, long silver hair like the moon, and wearing a colorful outfit with a white dragon in the center, entered the room and turned on the light. The boy seemed as calm as a light winter rain. Neo had the impression of feeling a cold breeze as soon as the boy entered the room.

"Who are you?"

The boy went outside, looked at the names on the door, and closed it. He was carrying a travel bag that he placed beside the bunk.


"Yes?" Neo asked, startled, pointing the crutch at the boy.

"Pleasure to meet you, I'm Len, and I'm tired." He lay down on the lower bunk, turned off the light, covered himself, and fell asleep.

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