Chapter 1:

Stripped Away My Strength

Left Behind

As i shivered in my cold, dark room, the person that was with me, moved in closer.

I was holding her in my arms, and she was still sobbing and trembling.

Many feelings were building up inside me right now, and im way too exhausted to figure each of them out, one by one.

-Akane, im really sorry.

I glanced with the corner of my eye at the girl that was currently cuddling with me, as i fixed the blanket on top of us.

As i took a deep breath while holding herl in my arms, i couldn't bring myself to answer.

Be it hatred, sadness or guilt, any of these three have rendered me unable to say anything.

Its too complicated for me to try to offer her any kind words for now.

Im not even sure if i can give her kindness at all.

Kindness alone won't be enough to get through everything i've felt for you.

I started reminiscing about the disaster of a first day of high school i had today.

6:00 AM

A familiar piano melody started sounding, waking me up from my not so good sleep.

It was "Middle Age, Plagiarist" by Yorushika, which i used as my alarm since junior high. It doesnt have any deep meaning behind it, i'd just hate to wake up to something annoying like a buzz or something, so i'd figure i would use something more pretty sounding.

While i was already feeling anxious from the night before i slept, i woke up feeling slightly less anxious. It wasn't the biggest help, but it was help nontheless.

I followed the same morning routine as usual. Made myself some coffee, looked at myself in the mirror so i could at least look a little pretty for the opening day, and stretched before going out.

Today at least, the usually dark room i leave behind every day for school, didn't seem so dark for some reason.

Ever since my second year of junior high started, my old apartment at my parents's house used to feel like a prision.

I couldn't bring myself to smile, laugh or just feel any joy at all. It would be dramatic to call it a "living hell" like its usually described, but i hated living, throughout those two years.

That made me more scared than excited of whatever would happen today as my first day, but i managed to pick myself up and just push myself to walk to school.

My apartment is about 15 minutes away from school if i walk, so i could enjoy the spring breeze on my way there. It might have helped to calm me down a little bit, and i enjoyed walking often on junior high aswell.

As soon as i got to the front gates, my anxiety started spiking at seeing this many people just talking outside the gates, entering and just passing by.

It felt like i was staring down a sea of people, which felt incredibly uncomfortable.

With a couple of deep breaths and a lot of sighs, i entered Akina High School.

In the morning, i thought i looked good in the uniform, and for the first and probably last time i braided my hair, despite how much i usually hate doing so. I sadly couldn't get rid of my sleepy face, but there's not much i could do about that...

The only thing that affected how i looked was my usual eyebags, but i thought they looked a lot better than how they normally do.

I walked over to class 1-A and managed to seat myself in the front row, by the window. I managed to get here really early, cause i would have felt scared to enter a class full of people already... Oh, and because i'd hate to be late. I would miss the rest of the year out of embarassment.

About 10 to 20 minutes passed with my sleepy face staring out the window, until i suddenly just came back to my senses and turned my head to see my classroom full with students.

I slightly recoiled at the sight, but just buried this anxious feeling deep inside me and managed to stay calm on my seat.

-To your seats, everyone.

A rough and firm voice put order in the classroom quickly.

-Nice to meet you all, i'll be your homeroom teacher for these years.

A beautiful woman who seems to be in her twenties entered the classroom and declared herself as our future homeroom teacher.

We all stood up and bowed to her with respect, before she introduced herself.

-My name is Sonohara Haruno. Hope you all have a good time here.

She said as she gave the class a friendly, yet cheerful smile. I noticed she eased up the uneasiness in the classroom a lot with her friendly and cheerful attitude.

I thanked her in my head for this, and as she started explaining things like the school's vision, and other not really important things to us as students, she suggested we should start introducing ourselves to break the ice between the class.

As i expected, she was quite keen on having a good atmosphere in this classroom to start the year off. I figured, it would be insanely awkward to start in a class where people can barely look at each other without uneasiness, so i while i was happy for this, i was also a bit scared to be the odd one out in a near future.

Wait, what am i thinking? This is literally the first day...

This isn't like me, so i should breathe, and ca..

-Lets start off with you, young lady!


Oh, she's talking to me?!

-Um, ok.

I managed to whisper in a soft voice before trying to grab every single drop of courage i could to introduce myself, otherwise i'd probably die of embarassment.

-Im Katagiri Akane. I hope we all have a good year.

Did i screw it up? I dont know... I blanked out the second i said my name and just gave a stiff introduction.

My mind went blank again when i sat down and i couldn't really pay attention to anything after that.

I figured some people might have found me oddly stiff and awkward, which... well its prob..

-Niekawa Minami. Don't be afraid to ask me anything, nice to meet you all!


Wait, what?

There's no way Minami out of all people ended up here.

No, no. This can't be happening.

As i managed to look around the classroom, i did manage to confirm it.

Minami was here, in the same class and high school i was.

I didn't even make eye contact with her, and her hairstyle is different, but im sure, this is the same Minami i know.

She sounded a lot more upbeat than what i remembered, and her black hair was a lot shorter than how it used to be in junior high.

As i noticed she was looking around the classroom, i got scared and instantly looked away, as to avoid making eye contact with her.

I instantly felt a knot tie around my throat, and before it was too late i stood up and managed to blurt some way to excuse myself out of the classroom.

-Um.. i.. Im sorry, i have to go to the bathroom

-Oh, okay..

Haruno-sensei replied to me with a confused expression.

I rushed out of the classroom.

This really can't be happening. I didn't want to see her ever again, so why is she here?!

I started panicking hard by the time i got to the bathroom, and i noticed my pale face in the mirror

After staring at my own panicked expression for a good minute, i started laughing at myself.

-Ahahah... I can't really walk back in like its nothing, right?

As my breathing started slowing down, and my heartbeat slowed down, i felt like crying.

I really felt something break inside of me. I don't know what it was, but seeing her face just sent me into a downward spiral of confusion. I wanted to leave all my memories of her behind, but she ended up coming back to me.

The one person that could probably hurt me the most without even doing anything now, showed up.

As my frustrations started to build up, i started washing my face to prepare myself to head back to my classroom.

The water has never felt so cold before.

-I can't let go of the grudge this easily, and you go and show up..

I whispered softly to my own reflection in the mirror

Yes, she was my first love.

And she probably didn't even bother to remember who i was.

It doesn't matter. Its probably nothing to her anyways. Yet to me, it's been a grudge and a pain i haven't been able to let go yet.

Well, i shouldn't paint Minami as the sole reason i feel like this. I have my own share of the guilt too.

Yet, i can't stop the frustration im feeling, and the tears that are unconsciously coming out.

Just her voice alone, and her presence stripped away all of the strength i thought i had. But, why did a faint smile form at the thought of her being here?

Im getting more confused, the more answers i try to draw out of this mess.

-Alright, enough.

As i tried to push myself on, i walked back into my classroom.

I really can't get any of my thoughts in order right now, but there's one thing that's sure.

As of now, i won't try to run away from her.

I don't want to end up like i did before, so this time it will be different.