It was the same as always.
No student looked straight at my face as they walked past me in the school hallway, they didn’t have the nerve to. People I had never even seen or heard of before seemed to cringe away from my path.
It never concerned me, in fact, that’s what I had always wanted. The fear in the eyes of my opponent is what made my world go round. But things like that didn’t matter to me anymore. Fights, power and bloodshed were no longer part of my world, or at least they shouldn’t be.
For once, after 16 years of living with no purpose or goals other than planting seeds of terror within people, I too wished to live for something…for someone.
“Ayano Sakai…” I read as I stopped in front of the locker before me.
I traced her name tag with my finger tips, and exhaled heavily. I’ve been thinking of this nameless girl for an entire year, pondering over how I would ever show my face in front of her again, let alone tell her how I felt about her. Days felt almost like years during my time locked up in the slammer, yet the worst part of it was trying to suppress the eagerness to break out from that dreary place and find her again before I lost her forever.
I was afraid that by the time I got out of imprisonment, I wouldn’t be able to find her again. And I wasn’t wrong at first, because regardless of how far I travelled to search, there was no trace of her existence anymore. Eventually, meeting her seemed almost like a distant dream. Unable to bear the complex emotions inside my chest, I tried to force myself to forget everything.
But a close childhood friend of mine would always tell me,
“Fate has a way of landing back at your feet and taking you by surprise. The harder you try to throw it away, the harder it will fly back at you, just like a boomerang.”
I always hated hearing things like that, but in this case it seemed to have some meaning because somehow I didn’t only end up enrolling into the same high school as Ayano, but also ended up in the same class as her. At first I tried to hide from her as I feared the hatred she may have developed for me. But it took me by surprise when we bumped into each other in the classroom. I was off guard and frozen in a state of alarm as we stared back at each other. I expected her to scream at me, hit me or even throw things at me. That’s why I was even more shocked when she greeting me politely with a smile instead.
“Hi! I’m Ayano Sakai! You… You’re name is Kenta, right?” she asked after a failed attempt at discreetly taking a glimpse at the name written on one of the books lying on my desk.
Confused, I narrowed my eyes and shook my head slowly. I pushed the book that was covering the last few letters of my name aside, “Kentaro”.
That was when I realised it… She didn’t recognise me.
Although I should’ve been disappointed, I felt relief wash over me. If she didn’t remember me that also meant that she doesn’t remember what happened between us one year ago.
Today I’m standing in front of her locker with a note in my hands, asking her to meet me at the school garden at the end of school. Although I already came so far, I didn’t have a clue about what exactly I should confess to her.
Who I really am…Or my feelings for her?
I wasn’t sure if either of those was the right option, but not willing to give myself a chance to change my mind, I quickly slipped the note into her locker and walked away.
Come what may, I’ll handle it.
But what came wasn’t something I was expecting.
“What is HE doing here?” I grunted to myself when I approached the school garden.
Ryouta, my cousin, was standing by the water fountain. He had obviously skipped school again just like I used to, because he wasn’t in his uniform. His black sweater sleeves were rolled up above his elbows and he looked very impatient. It was obvious what he wanted.
This guy doesn’t know how to give up. I’ve told him a million times to lay it off, but his persistence had no limits. There was no doubt about it, he came back to aggravate me into fighting against him again. Ryouta hated that I quit my life as a gangster because he was my most dedicated follower. His goal was to beat me in strength and power one day, except he was never anywhere near to accomplishing it.
And that’s why the fact that I dusted my past as a delinquent off my shoulders for some unknown girl wasn’t something he could easily accept yet, or ever. He felt so repulsed by it that he would turn up wherever I went and try to pester me back into my old lifestyle.
But his sense of timing was worse than I knew it to be today.
Cautiously I tiptoed my way towards an old oak tree which was on the other side of the water fountain, extremely careful not to catch Ryouta’s attention. Suddenly he moved an inch and I stopped, balancing motionlessly on a single foot. Not a single breath escaped my lips.
“Grrr… Where is Kentaro? I’m sure he always takes a shortcut to go home by jumping over the garden wall.” Ryouta mumbled to himself and turned the other way again, scratching his head.
As soon as he turned his back fully towards me again, I leaped behind the tree and hid behind it just in time. Ryouta whipped around with narrowed eyes, scrutinising over the entire area with his determined brown eyes.
This is bad…
Ayano could turn up any time now! And if Ryouta finds out who she really is, things will get out of hand. Ryouta is the only one who knows about Ayano but he absolutely loathes her. The only thing that ensures her safety from him is the fact that he has no knowledge of her identity.
“I’ve got to make him leave…” I told myself and hurriedly stepped out from behind the tree but stepped back again as soon as I saw Ayano walk through the garden entrance, “Or maybe not.”
She looked around the garden for a couple of minutes and then fixed her gaze at Ryouta. I wondered why she was staring at him like that, until a thought came to my mind.
Did I write my name on that note?
Ayano looked at a familiar note in her hand and glimpsed back at Ryouta, which answered my question. The situation was only getting worse.
“No… Don’t approach him… Don’t approach him!” I whispered under my breath, but I knew well enough that it’s exactly what she was going to do. For a minute or so she absentmindedly stared at Ryouta, which he tried to ignore but it was evidently starting to irritate him.
Before I knew it, Ayano was already walking towards Ryouta. I slumped myself back against the tree and banged my head at it in frustration, “Stupid!”
I was aware of the fact that Ayano was pretty slow to catch onto things, but I couldn’t understand whether casually approaching such a dangerous looking guy was due to bravery or pure lack of common sense!
I’d admit that it wasn’t something I disliked; in fact, I kind of liked that about her because at the end of the day, I was one of him. I was also always condemned as one of those rough and dangerous looking delinquents who caused nothing but disruption. But Ayano’s eyes saw no difference in humans regardless of their attire and behaviour. Even so, Ryouta was the wrong delinquent to mess with.
“Excuse me?” she awkwardly attempted to talk to him, but he ignored her and continued to stare at the garden entrance. He obviously didn’t want to risk missing me.
“About the note…” she started but flinched back in fright when Ryouta suddenly snapped angrily at her.
“WHAT do you want?!”
“Eh? I’m not the one who asked you to come here you know!” Ayano frowned whilst biting her lower lip.
“So? I can be wherever I want to, at whatever time! Go and call the police if you can’t stand it… you nerds are so good at doing that.” He huffed.
Ayano blinked at him in total confusion, “I don’t understand what you’re trying to say, but I thought it was appropriate to let you know that I already have someone I like.” She blushed slightly, “Sorry.”
Time froze into a complete standstill at that moment as her words sank into my head. Did I hear wrong, or did she really just say that she already has someone she likes?
Ryouta stared at her in an utterly dumbfounded state, “Do you simply go up to any guy in sight and say high and mighty things like that? Why would I care? Stop wasting my time and get lost!”
“I thought you wanted to confess!” Ayano retorted.
“Are you kidding me? You’re the one who was staring at me like a hawk! Girls are so annoyingly desperate nowadays…” Ryouta muttered, trying to walk away from Ayano.
Yes! Keep walking away from her. Don’t get provoked!
Ayano nearly got away from Ryouta’s wrath, but it seemed like she wouldn’t have it turn out that way because as soon as he turned to walk away from her, she grabbed hold of his shoulder and pulled him back.
“Take that back!” she demanded angrily, making me wonder whether she had any sense of fear at all.
But that wasn’t my main concern. I could see the rage in Ryouta’s eyes as he clenched his hand into a fist and glowered at Ayano. I knew that if I didn’t step in now, she would be done for.
Just make one wrong move and you’re dead meat, Ryouta.
I inched away from the tree and stood still, knowing Ryouta would see me. And he did.
His eyes met mine and at first he looked a little puzzled, but soon he understood what I was trying to say with my fierce glare. However the sudden look of realization on Ryouta’s face when he looked back at Ayano confirmed what I had feared.
He had realised it.
“Get away from her…” I mouthed when I noticed the colour of his fists turning pale.
“Hello?” Ayano, totally unaware of the situation, waved her hand in front of Ryouta’s face. But he neither reacted to it nor said anything. He remained staring at her with utter hatred, obviously wanting to destroy her there and then, only if it wasn’t for my presence in the garden.
“Whatever, I need to get home. Bye!” Ayano waved him off and walked away. He surprisingly let her go without a scratch.
As soon as she left, Ryouta looked back at me irately, “Is that her?”
“Try to do anything to her…ANYTHING, and I’ll break every single limb on your body”, I warned as I walked towards him.
Ryouta smirked, “That means I found a way to make you fight again.”
“I’m not joking” I responded seriously.
“Neither am I! I’d rather become limbless than have her join our family!” he grumbled.
“She likes someone else anyway, you heard her, and so you have no need to mess with her!” I growled, getting angrier at the thought. Acting calm about it wasn’t easy.
Ryouta looked at me with a confused expression, “The other person she was referring to wasn’t you? Who else can it be other than you?” He rolled his eyes.
I never thought of the possibility that the person she likes might actually be me, but as good as it might sound, I wasn’t one for wishful thinking. It was my fault that there was danger in Ayano’s life now, and although I knew Ryouta wouldn’t really disobey my words, it was my responsibility to make sure of it.
“It doesn’t concern you anyway.” I said, “Forget about all this and go home!”
“There is no way that I will let that girl get away so easily!” he replied, “I will never forgive her!”
“Why? For being the girl I like?!” I snapped angrily.
Ryouta shook his head, “For being the girl that sent you to jail.”
A chilling silence followed as no one spoke after that. What he said wasn’t nonsense, it was the truth. The reason I spent a whole year in prison at this age was all due to Ayano.
“Will you drop this if I treat you to savoury pancakes?” I asked, not wanting to dig deep into the past again.
“Deal!” he bit the bait, “For now, and only because I’m hungry.”