Chapter 30:

“The Melancholy Of April In The Year Of Sexual Injury”

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

Turns out, Kaori doesn’t know about them.

Another Deadmen situation.

She thought I was talking about a group from the student riots and post-war political unrest in Japan… not some obscure techno duo. I’m a little flattered but bemused that she thought me so worldly to have read up on that area of history, designing revolutionary zombie uniforms for us based on it… though I guess that’s what the band was going for.

I bring Shinjuku POWER up on my laptop. Even though they’ve been going since 1999, they still don’t have any music videos. Just fan uploads of singles and some live shows.

“How are they still active and not… bigger?!.”

Kaori shrugs, but, thankfully, gets into them quickly. It kinda highlights the conversation we had at IN-LAW FAMILY FEST… am I really that stuck in the past?

Maybe? But, I am growing, at least a little. I get the itch to put on Bullet Bell, very similar shironuri make up and gakuran aesthetic to Shinjuku POWER, but rock instead of electronic. Just as weird and experimental in their sound, though. They’re new, and I was listening to metalcore earlier, so I’m not a complete boomer!

She tries the uniform on and instantly reverts to Kaoru, her androgyny making the clothes shine. I take a few measurements to make it fit better, pinning things to sew later, and get everything ready for the weekend.


“Where’d that come from? I didn’t do anything!”

Did I accidentally touch her while she tried on the outfit?

I start freezing up with uncertainty, trying to work out what I could have done.

“I guess you got my basic sizes from doing the laundry. I knew you had ulterior motives.”

She smirks.

Damn! She got me!

The rest of the evening is lazily engulfed in the domestic, sewing, and music appreciation. A much-needed recharge before we conduct more investigations into my excommunication.

Finances may be solved for now - our lord and saviour Kaori, we give her thanks and praise - but after sleeping she’s still seething over my ostracism. I have to reign her in from going full blood hound on the student body, but after another day of limited progress, I finally decide to bring up what Ryu had to say…

I mean, it can’t hurt, right?

“He said what?!.”


Kaori is incredulous when I fill her in outside the library.

“I got the sense he wants me to shoulder all of this…” and straight away she wants to march off and grill Toshi, but then he’d hunt her too, “…so let me.”

The fire in her flickers, threatening to go out.


“I know you said it doesn’t matter that Toshi can make things hard for you after graduation, but I don’t want that for you, so just let me carry this burden.”

Her eyes flit back and forth across my face, trying to read the inside of my skull.

“But… why?”

I place a hand on her head and stroke her hair lightly.


I can’t say because Ryu asked me to - because her old friend risked the same fate as me to beg for her protection - can I?!.

…I smile and leave my answer at that.

Kaori, placated by my the little comfort I can give her right now, calms enough for us to get some revision in before returning to the dorms… and not going off to fight Toshi, for now at least.

It doesn’t last long though, as after dinner, the conversation returns to…

“Ryu asked you to look out for me, didn’t he?”

When she gets even a little casual with her speech, I know things are going to get serious.

I nod.

She sighs.

“I told you we were friends once…”

“I had wondered about that… what happened? You made it sound like he just started being a dick at some point, and…”

She shakes her head.


The bluntness emphasising her response, carrying apology to both myself for the misunderstanding, and to Ryu for besmirching his name.

A long, wavering, slow breath…

“ I ruined our friendship…”

I daren’t interject. This is some heavy lore being unlocked. Not the time for questions or reassuring platitudes.

“…something happened. Something that made me the way I am…”

I’m not sure what she means, there’s nothing wrong with her, other than being a little standoffish at times.

“…and I used Ryu’s feelings for me against him…”

Did he? Did she? Did they?

“…I needed to feel something other than sadness and…”

Kaori starts to tear up, she looks at me imploringly.

“…you said you didn’t care about what Fuyumi might have done… that what a person has done in their past doesn’t matter to you now, so long as they only want you, right?!.”

That’s why she seemed comforted when I said that. Why the mood changed so positively. That I would be able to see beyond an indiscretion of her own in pursuit of our future.

“I meant it. I still do.”

She gulps back her emotions, not wanting to cry, but very nearly being overwhelmed.

“We don’t have to talk about this right now if it’s too much. You afforded me the same courtesy when…” I want to know, even though I know it’ll hurt, but I don’t want Kaori to be upset any longer “…when I was choked up over things as well, so…”

“No, thank you, Tai, but I can… I want to tell you.”

I brace for the inevitable.

“The summer before highschool, Ryu confessed…”

Instantly this is harder to listen to than I anticipated, but I have to brave my way through it. For her, for us.

“…that was when my Father called his family social climbers…”

They dated.

“…I’d only just come to hate my parents, and it was an opportunity to get back at them…”

Ryu loved… maybe still loves Kaori in some way.

“…we hung out all summer to get under their skin. I told Ryu I’d answer his confession at Obon. I needed the time to think after what had happened…”

She was grieving something?

“…we went to the festival together, our one and only date…”

She takes another pained breath to steady herself.

“…not a thing we did that summer truly distracted me like I’d hoped, but it all annoyed my parents greatly…”

I realize what’s coming.

“…so I kept pushing and pushing…”

I don’t think I want to hear this.

“…and when I used him…”

I feel sick.

“…I felt nothing…”

The tears finally come.

“…afterwards I felt disgust, at myself for being so cruel…”

She sobs on her knees in my room.

“…at my parents for pushing me to it…”

I want to scream and cry myself, but there’s no place for my own selfish tantrum in this.

“…at Ryu for letting me do it to him…”

Kaori is struggling to get her words out through sobs at this point, but I push against my own feelings to go to her, to hold her close, and help her through her own confession.

“…then when we started high school, I couldn’t look at him, so I never spoke to him again. He was crushed. I didn’t care. He sought revenge. I let him…”

Her sadness turning to anger, a complicated mess of emotions, churning under her words.

“…I just wanted to punish him, me, us, for what happened. Even though it wasn’t entirely our fault…”

A final fit pitters out.

“…eventually he turned cold, calculating, and mostly left me alone. Time must have passed by for him to be so mature now…”

It’s my turn to breathe a sigh of relief as the worst finally passes.

“…I hate that he has grown enough to care about me now after everything I did…”

She tilts her face towards me. All snot and streaks down her cheeks from where her tears flow.

“…I’m sorry someone else cares about me that way…”

These are probably the rumours she meant that have circulated about her. Why Fuyumi called her a landmine and Saki warned me against her. Kaori, like many others before her, screwed up when she was young and stupid, and regrets it.

“…I’m sorry, Tai.”

I kiss her forehead and hold her closer. As tight as possible without being rough about it.
Burying my own feelings over her confessional.

“You don’t need my forgiveness…”

I stroke her hair and guide her to rest her head against my chest.

“…I don’t care about what you’ve done…”

I rest my cheek against her scalp.

“…all I care about is what you do now.”

Kaori looks up with a start. Her eyes grateful and expectant.

“Let’s focus on the future, ok?!.”

Her nodding, enthusiastic and sincere, as she buries her face into my shoulder to let out some renewed tears… but this time of hope and joy.

I’ll take care of her, Ryu. I promise.

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