Chapter 22:

The Hidden Devil

Will The Stars Remember My Name?

"The braid was killing me," said Hinata as she slipped her hair-band into the pocket of her skirt. Her ginger had come loose as they slapped across her cheeks hiding the bottom half of her face. Her sea-green eyes were not docile anymore and gleamed mischievously. Her lips weren't visible but Ryouta was sure they were upturned into a familiar evil grin.

"How did you even survive in Europe?"

She pushed her hair back and sneered at Ryouta.

"You don't need to worry about that. And please... Don't remind me of those horrible times."

She walked close upto Ryouta and carefully traced his jawline with her finger. She looked straight into his eyes and whispered to him, "All this time I was looking forward to come back and meet you~"

She suddenly turned away and said, her back facing Ryouta, "And then you didn't even recognise me."

"How could I? It's been so long and I've been through so many things."

"Oh... Mr. and Mrs. Ito. It must've been especially hard for you considering how you-"

"What do you want Hinata?"

She turned around to face him, her eyes searching for the old Ryouta.

"I told you, the old Ryouta is gone. Stop searching for him."

"I can't.” She paused and continued, “I won’t."

Ryouta held his head.

"This is stupid. I thought you had changed after all those years but you're still the same. You're still afraid of losing your image. You're still-"

Hinata banged her foot in anger. She glared at him and yelled, "I'm not afraid! You, of all people, should know I'm not! I- I- just can't... Ugh. And what about you then? This stupid act of yours, being all formal and polite. This- this wholesome Ryouta that looks out for people and sacrifices his own wishes and desires so that "others" can be happy. Why don't you drop your act too? What're you afraid of!?"

"This is probably the last time I'll say this Hinata. I. Have. Changed. Get it through your head."

She lunged and held Ryouta by his collar.

She spitted out her words spitefully, "Don't you dare tell me that lie again. I know bad shit happened to you. Yeah, your parents died. Boo-hoo. That can't change who you are. People don't change. People can't change."

Ryouta, instead of getting angry, simply smiled warmly at her. He looked at her with pity as he said, "People can change Hina-chan and so can you."

She slowly let go of his shirt. She looked towards the floor for a few moments and then stepped back and started laughing.

"Oh god- Hahahaha- I- I just can't believe what I heard. Fine Ryo. If you want to play it this way, so be it. I'll amuse you. Let's see how long you can keep up with this masquerade."

She pulled out her hairband and tied her hair into a neat ponytail.

"Tell little Ryu I said hi." She said as she walked past by him and left for class.

Ryouta suddenly didn't feel like going back to class. He sat on the floor by the door. He pushed away his painful memories and closed his eyes.

"I'm still alive though. Why didn't you tell her I'm still alive?" Spoke a voice in his head.

"I thought you promised to stay away."

"Hey! I didn't say how long, did I? I was remembered so fondly, how could I not come back? Don't worry though. I'll keep my distance for now. I won't bother you. We both want her to change and right now you're the only one who can do that."

"Me? You think I can change her? She doesn't even believe me."

"Who knows mate. Maybe you can, maybe you can't."

"Just go away."

"So cruel~ Fine, fine! I'll go away. I'll come back one day though."

The voice faded from his mind. Ryouta sighed and rested his head on the wall. Before he knew, he had fallen asleep.


Ryouta opened his eyes slowly. The sky was just turning orange aand the sun was slowly dipping back into the horizon. He blinked twice and yawned. He felt something heavy on his shoulder and looked to his right. The first thing he saw were Futaba's fair cheeks with just a slight natural blush. Her eyes were closed and her lips parted. Her head rested on his shoulder and her chest heaved ever so slowly as she slept peacefully. Ryouta stood still astounded by her features up close. He could smell her strawberry shampoo from there. Captivated by the smell, he quietly leaned in towards her head to get a better taste of the wonderful odour.

He must have fidgeted a bit in doing so because just then Futaba slowly opened her eyes and looked up towards Ryouta. He shot back before she could notice as she slowly blinked her eyes drowsily.

She saw Ryouta's cheeks turning red as he looked the other way, trying to avoid an awkward situation. She realised where she was and sat up straight.

Her cheeks turned bright red as she stuttered, "O-Oh I- I must've fallen asleep. I- I'm sorry for sleeping on your shoulder like that."


"Actually, Haruto asked me to help him find you. He was worried you didn't return after recess. I texted him earlier that I found you. I- I didn't want to disturb you when you were sleeping so peacefully so I sat down beside you and then... Kinda just fell asleep too."She chuckled nervously.

Ryouta said, "Um... Don't worry, I won't tell Ryuuji about this."

"Oh. Oh! Yeah, I- yeah that would be for the better."

"Yeah let's just forget this happened."

"Yeah this never happened..."

They both sat there in awkward silence both able to hear the slow ticking of their watches.

Ryouta came back to his senses when he saw how late it was.

"Whoa, what's the time?"

He looked at his watch with shock and surprise.

"Wait. Did I just... Sleep through half of the periods!?"

Futaba giggled and said, "Welcome to the club."

"Oh wow. I never thought- Wow."

She laughed and asked, "Is this your first time skipping periods?"

"I guess..."

"So now you know what it feels to skip a period. Though all you did was sleep. What a waste."

"A period? Half the entire freaking day! And look, it's almost time for my part time job!"

Ryouta got up hastily and picked his lunchbox.

"C'mon Futaba! Let's go."

She smiled and said, "Go on, I'll catch up soon."

Ryouta hesitated a bit but finally said, "Ok then."

When Ryouta was gone, she got up and walked to the edge of the roof which was protected by a high fence. She slipped her fingers into the holes of the grill and looked at the clouds with a sad smile.

She muttered to herself, "Patience Futaba, patience."

She sighed and walked out of the door. Slowly, she closed the door to a shut. The wind quietly blew and the roof looked as lonely as the girl who was standing there a few moments ago.


Hinata walked out of the school building alone. She had told the rest of her "friends" that she had something to do. That was an utter lie. She just wanted to avoid them for today because she was in a foul mood and it was all because of Ryouta Ito. She walked past the notice board outside the football ground and something caught her eye. The board was used to post sports related announcements and often had a few club posters. She went near the board and tore out one of those posters. She couldn't help grinning when she saw the poster.


She took out her phone and punched in a number.

"Himawari? Don't bring the car for me, I'll be coming late today... Yeah... Don't worry about it, I'll take the train... Oh gosh, I can take care of myself please... Yes, yes, I promise I won't be late... Ok... Bye"

She quickly kept the poster in her bag and ran towards the main building to get the club joining form.


Ryuuji was reading a book in their club room. Most people assumed he didn't like books but he actually was quite fond of them. That was actually the first thing he and Futaba talked about when they met for the first time. There was a knock on the door and he closed his book.

"Come in!"

The door opened and Ai stood there. She looked at the empty club room and then at Ryuuji's smiling face.

"I'm sorry. Wrong club."

She shut the door and walked away. Ryuuji fell out of his chair and quickly got up to call her back.

"Ai, Aiiiii, Class president! Please wait!”

He opened the door and saw Ai walking down the hallway.

"Ai-sama, please wait!"

She turned around and quickly walked to Ryuuji, her face looking down hiding her red cheeks.

She muttered to herself with each step, "Stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid."

She came to him and without a word took his hand and dragged him to the club room. She closed the door and threw her bag on the table and went in front of the window. Her hands were on her face as she still tried to hide her embarrassment.

She turned around and quietly yelled at Ryuuji, "Baka-yuuji, what the hell were you thinking shouting 'Ai-sama' in the hallway!?"

Ryuuji laughed mischievously and said, "Calm down prez, it's not as if people were actually standing there. They're all in their rooms busy with club work."

She pouted and looked away.

"What a waste of such a good afternoon. I hope Futaba-senpai comes soon."

"You really like her, don't you? You should worry though, I'm not gonna let go of her so easily."


Just then, the two club members heard a knock on the door. Excited, Ryuuji got up to see who was on the door. This might be their first ‘customer’ after all.

He opened the door and bowed, "Welcome to the holy land of-"

He stopped short when he saw who was standing.

"Hi- Hinata?"

The girl standing outside saw Ai watching them from the end of the room. She pushed her loose hair back and bowed politely.

"My name is Hinata Ichinose and I wish to join the Odd Jobs Club."

Ryuuji stared at her expressionlessly for a moment and then smiled back forcefully.

"Have you filled out the form?"

"Yes. Here it is."

"Thanks Hinata. We'll consider it."

Ryuuji was about to close the door but Hinata blocked it with her foot. She leaned close to him, out of Ai's sight, and whispered, "Not so easily kiddo."

Ryuuji backed off allowing her to enter the room. Ai could sense some tension in the room. She saw Ryuuji's clenched jaw and just a hint of a smirk rather than a smile on Hinata's face but she didn’t give it much thought.

"I'm sorry for intruding in but I wanted to know a bit about the club before I joined. But it seems the club president is not here so maybe I'll come back later."

Finally Ai spoke, "Uhm- I can tell you a bit about the club."

"Really? That would be great! Thanks a lot, err-"

"Ai. Ai Tanaka"

Hinata flashed her brilliant smile and sat down.

"Thank you Ai!"

Ryuuji looked at the two girls and sighed. This was going to be a long evening.


That day when Ryouta returned home he found Ryuuji waiting for him outside.

"Did you miss your big brother that much?"

"Of course. Life without my big brother is empty."

"So? What is it?" Said Ryouta removing his shoes.

"It's Hina-chan. She filled out the form for joining our club."


"What do you mean by and? She's still the same person, isn't she? I still can't forget what she did back then. Imagine her growing up in Europe! She could've gotten into-"

"Don't you think you're judging her too quickly?"

"The past speaks for itself."

"Give her a chance."

"I can't believe you're taking her side after she betrayed you."

"Ryu... Please. We were kids back then. All kids are like that."

"Fine. Let her join. And here I thought you wanted a place just for us where we could be ourselves."

With those words Ryuuji stormed off inside the house. Ryouta sighed softly and sat outside the door. He wanted to believe in her. He wanted to believe that she's capable of change too. Otherwise, all that he worked for and all that happened to him since he got to know so many people would be utterly useless. It would simply be an invite for his death and the rebirth of the voice in his head.

The next day Hinata was absent. Ryouta was relieved knowing he wouldn't have to deal with her that day. He and Ryuuji both had work today and it would be just Futaba and Ai in the club.

The day went by pretty fast and Futaba went to the clubroom. She opened the door, but was surprised to find nobody there. She had expected Ai to be at the club room already but she hadn't shown up that day. Maybe she had finally lost interest in the club...

Futaba decided to lock the room and call it a day. She turned around and jumped out of her skin. A ghost-like girl with long black hair covering her left eye looked at her with anticipation. She clutched a book to her chest nervously and her eyes kept darting away from hers.

"Woah there! You scared me. Uhm- How- How can I help you?"

She mumbled something softly.

"Uh- What's that? I didn't catch you."

The girl mumbled a little louder but was still inaudible.

"I'm sorry. You're speaking too softly for me to-"

This time the girl looked up at her with desperation and grabbed Futaba's arm. Somehow she managed to say,

"Please save Ai Tanaka!"