“What are you doing?” I heard Ayano’s voice behind me.
Startled, I let the picture frame slip out of my hands and the glass shattered.
Ayano hurriedly dropped the big pile of books in her hands on her desk and stared at the broken picture frame in concern, “Why did you touch that? You aren’t hurt, are you?”
I remained silent as she bent down and picked up the picture. I didn’t know who she believed this guy to be, but she was clearly mistaken about him.
“Who is that guy in the photo?” I asked straightforwardly.
“Him?” Ayano never removed her gaze from the guy on the photo as she spoke, “He used to be my senior in middle school and lived in my old neighbourhood too. His family has also been close friends with mine for generations.”
Family friends for generations… Is she trying to say she’s family friends with the Yakuza?
“His name?” I asked.
“Akira.” She blushed, making me burn from the core. “Akira Tsuji.”
“Tsuji?” I frowned in confusion, “Isn’t it Oshiro?” It slipped out of my mouth.
Ayano blinked and then burst out laughing, “Oshiro?! Like…the Yakuza boss?! HAHAHA!”
Somehow she found it so amusing that she couldn’t stop laughing at least for an entire minute.
“Are you done yet?” I asked, getting irritated.
“Uhuh…” She let out a final chuckle before regaining herself, “He is the smartest and coolest guy I have ever known! I’ve known him and his family since childhood so there’s no way he could have any relation with the Yakuza!”
I couldn’t understand what was going on. Akira had clearly told me that he was Oshiro’s only son. And the guy on the photo looked exactly like him so there was no doubt about the fact that she knew the same guy, but Ayano claimed that his last name was Tsuji and that she’s known him since childhood. So where does Oshiro come into this?
“Can you tell me more about him?” I asked awkwardly, knowing that I was probably starting to sound like a girl wanting further information to gossip about.
“No.” She answered bluntly, “You just want to waste my tuition time! I’m not stupid!” She huffed and sat down at the desk after carefully setting the shattered picture frame aside.
“Obviously…” I sat down on the chair next to her and hastily grabbed a random book, trying to find something to keep her occupied with. I hated explaining things to others.
“Let’s start with maths.” I said, placing the opened book in front of her, “Do the questions on this page and then tell me when you’re done.”
I got up from the chair and sat on the foot of her bed, leaning against the wall for a nap.
“What?” She stared at me, “That’s it? You’re just going to set me a bunch of questions and then sleep for the rest of the session?!” She pouted with a frown.
I held myself back from laughing at her funny expression, “No, I want to see what you’re capable of first. If you refuse to do things as I say, you can consider this to be your first and your last lesson.”
Ayano coughed, “Sorry,” and turned back towards her desk obediently.
I couldn’t possibly take a nap. I was too pre-occupied trying to figure out the mystery behind Akira’s identity. Who is he really?
My train of thought was interrupted by a thud from Ayano’s desk. She was lying with her face flat on her book.
“Oi…” I called out, wondering what she was doing. But I got no response.
I got up from the bed and walked towards her, only to find her fast asleep. She hadn’t even managed to get past the second question on the page.
“Are you serious?” I sighed and tapped her on the shoulder, “Oi, Ayano!”
She slightly opened her eyes, “Akira…” She murmured.
“Akira,” I made a distasteful expression upon hearing that name, “What about him?”
“I want to study medicine…” She said.
“I know,” I answered.
“…with him.” She finished her sentence.
“I know,” I mused again, “Wait, what did you say? With him?”
She slowly nodded her head, closing her eyes again.
“Ayano?” I voiced, checking if she had fallen asleep again. And indeed she had, because she wasn’t responding anymore.
I sighed and turned away, ruffling my hair with my hand. This was getting more complicated than I thought.
“I like you,” Ayano’s voice suddenly mumbled behind me, “Akira.”
It felt like a dagger had pierced through my chest. I turned back around and stared down at her whilst she smiled gently in her sleep.
So the guy she was talking about in the school garden was Akira.
Tears rolled down from Ayano’s closed eyes and I clenched my fist, hesitant to accept the truth. Although I now knew that Akira meant much more than I had thought to her and that her goal was actually to reach him, I couldn’t simply allow that. Not when I knew how dangerous Akira really was.
“Umm…” The class president’s head suddenly poked around the open door, “Sorry to disturb, but I think I lost the mouse.”
I looked at her and she jerked in fright. I reckoned that my expression wasn’t looking too friendly at the moment.
“Ah… s-s-sorry! I’ll go and search in the other rooms!” She laughed nervously, still holding tightly onto the broomstick.
“Magi, wait.” I called after her before she left the room again.
She hurried back into the room, looking slightly offended, “It’s Mari.”
“How long have you known Ayano?” I asked.
Her eyes gazed at the ceiling as she thought about it, “Uhh… half way through middle school I think.”
“Good,” I narrowed my eyes at my target, “Sit.”
I liked people who answered without annoyingly questioning me back.
She blinked as she reluctantly took a seat. She briefly glanced at Ayano and frowned slightly. I could tell she was probably wondering whether Ayano was asleep or had been knocked unconscious from the way she was sweating.
“Do you know someone called Akira Tsuji?” I asked, nodding towards the broken picture frame.
“Of course! He was always the top student at school!” Mari nodded, “He even made it into Taigou University as a medical student!”
“What is his relation with Ayano?” I pressed since I had already figured that out earlier.
“Oh…” Mari mused, “She’s always on about him so I reckon she still likes him. They seemed to be pretty close… until he left to go to high school. After he got into University, she lost contact with him completely.”
I nodded and leaned against the wall, content with the information so far, “Do you know anything about Akira’s family?”
“I don’t know if you know much about Ayano’s family, but his family was almost as high and mighty as Ayano’s. His family seemed to look up to Ayano’s family and would follow them almost religiously.” Mari made a face, like that was absurd, “But I don’t think Akira liked that.”
That last sentence tweaked my interest, “How do you know that?”
“I don’t know… It seemed like he didn’t get along with his parents. And near the end of his time in high school, Ayano started getting more and more depressed due to the growing distance between them. Something was weird about him, but Ayano would never agree to that. She said he was probably only stressed about entrance exams.”
So there was indeed something strange about him, even back then.
Finally, I decided to ask about something that had bothered me for a long time, “What happened between Ayano and her family?”
This time, Mari hesitated to answer.
I raised a brow, waiting.
“W-well… Something happened a year ago, that really angered her parents. They said she brought shame to the family and told her to leave.”
“What happened a year ago?” I narrowed my eyes, anticipating the answer.
“Sorry, but even I don’t know exactly what had happened. Ayano claimed she has no memory of it, but everyone thought that was only an excuse to cover her mistake.” Mari answered.
“That day she suddenly disappeared after school. She never got home that night. And the following day it was found out that she had stayed over at some guy’s place… ” Mari sighed, “But she was badly injured! Clearly she couldn’t have done anything wrong, something must’ve happened to her! But it still had a grave impact on her family’s reputation…”
I stepped back with wide eyes, almost losing my balance.
This couldn’t be possible…
I absentmindedly stared at Ayano, too shocked to think, let alone say anything.
“Um…Are you okay?” Mari looked at me, slightly concerned.
“I’m fine.” I breathed, “I’ll leave for tonight. She seems too tired to study anyway.”
“But she…” Mari started to say something, but I was already on my way out of the apartment. I needed to get myself far away from Ayano… to a place that only belonged to me. I decided to head back to my old hangout.
I got on my bike and started the engine.
I always thought that Ayano was the one who caused a huge impact on my life. She was the one who caused me to end up in jail after all… but it had never crossed my mind that I too had turned her life upside down.
I was the reason she was exiled from her family.