(Title – 苦 – Ku – Hardship, Part 1)
This was supposed to be a 4,500-word chapter but I decided to divide it into three parts. This is definitely the end of my flashback. We will move on to Kichirō’s and the guys’ encounter with Miyuki after these three updates.
Kichirō arrived home around 10 in the evening. A lot of things were running endlessly in his mind, fleeting, to the point that he was completely lost in a daze. Little by little, he was swallowed by oblivion. He did not know that it was just the advent of a more tragic and unfortunate event…
As soon as he opened the door, he just stared blankly following a bee line toward his room. He could perceive with his ears that his mother was yelling at the top of her voice; yet, he still kept a straight face, as if he was unaffected by what was happening before him.
“Do you have the nerve to ignore your own mother?!?” Fumiko yelled. “Why did you go with that boy? We talked about this, right?!?” Fumiko looked flustered as her eyes were glaring.
“Honey, let’s just discuss this tomorrow. It’s already late,” Akihiko tried intervening, but it appeared like it was futile.
“No! This boy should learn his lesson now. I won’t let this pass, I certainly won’t!”
Kichirō kept silent. He was thinking: I already did what you want, what more is there to say? After being silent for a few seconds, he decided to speak with a low, weak voice: “I won’t see him again.”
Fumiko was dumbfounded. “What did you say?” She heard it clearly but she wanted to make sure that she heard it right.
“I said I won’t see him again! Are you happy now?!? Is this what you want me to say? Okāsan, I’ve always done what you wanted me to do, to the point that I’ve let you control my entire life. Are you happy doing this to your own son? Since I was young, all you could think of was me making a good name for the family. Have you ever wondered if I was happy? Have you ever considered what I really want to do in my life?” Kichirō suddenly raised his voice. A bead of a tear could be seen rolling down his cheek, then followed by a stream of glistening tears. He was panting, almost out breath. He let go all of the suppressed emotions and resentments that he was keeping all his life.
Fumiko was astonished. She never expected that her son would have the guts to talk back to her. She was speechless, to the point that she was like a mute. Only Kichirō’s sobs could be heard within the hallway. She wanted to utter a word but could not — she realized her own mistakes; yet, she was too proud to admit it. Finally, she walked out of the hallway.
Kichirō was still crying like a child. Akihiko was torn between following his own wife and comforting his own son. In the end, he got over with this dilemma and chose to comfort his son. “Kichirō, son, I completely understand how you feel right now,” he said with a hoarse voice as he hugged his son in his embrace.
Kichirō’s sobs became louder. He could not stop crying because of the pain, misery, confusion and resentment he had been keeping for too long. He hugged tightly onto his father’s embrace and dug his face into his father’s chest. “Otōsan, am I really that despicable for Okāsan not to appreciate all of my efforts?”
“No, son. You’re not. You and your brother are the best for me and your mother. Your mother is just the type of person who has difficulty with expressing her own thoughts. All along, she has been proud of you. She was just afraid that all of what you have right now will go down the drain because of a single mistake…”
“Otōsan, what mistake did I commit? I just fell in love, is that wrong? I know that both of you were disappointed because of my preference, but for once, could you please let me choose for myself? I’m a grown up now. I know what to do with my life.” Kichirō’s voice was shaking.
“Hush, don’t say that. Whoever son likes, daddy will agree. Even if you will love a monster, I won’t mind, as long as you are happy. I’ll discuss this with your mother. You are allowed to fall in love but of course, you need to weigh the consequences. Just know that daddy is always here for you even if the world will turn its back on you.”
Feeling a bit reassured, Kichirō decided to go to his room. He plopped on his bed, then he immediately fell asleep.
In his dream, he saw that he was still in his room, but he was standing beside his bed. It was dark. The crescent moon’s light shone through the window, giving a dark blue tint to the room. He looked all around, “Why am I awake?” he thought to himself.
He looked at his bed and realized that he saw a familiar visage on it — it was himself.
“If I’m standing here, who’s that? That’s me right?” He stuttered after realizing what he saw.
“Ki-chan~~” a faint, soft voice resounded within the room, beckoning him.
Kichirō looked around. “Who are you? Show yourself!” He was stammering as he spoke.
After searching all over the room, he noticed that his closet slowly opened, a creaking sound reverberated within the room. Out of curiosity, he walked toward the cabinet. When the closet was completely opened, he saw two hands, slowly pawing on the floor. Then a head emerged with long, silky, black hair. Finally, he saw a girl emerge from the closet, wearing a black seifuku, crawling on the floor.
He felt a tingling sensation on his scalp so that he was taken aback from what he saw. “Who are you? What are you doing in my room?” He stuttered.
“Ki-chan… You don’t even recognize your own girlfriend?” The girl said with an ominous voice.
After realizing who it was, the moonlight suddenly faded, making the room devoid of light — it was pitch-dark so that Kichirō could not see anything. Afraid of the circumstances, he dashed toward the corner of his room, sat on the floor, his knees toward his chest, and covered his face with his hands out of fear. He was shaking and started sobbing. “Stay away from me!” He yelled.
The girl did not respond. Thinking that he was alone again in the room, he took away his hands from his face and looked around aimlessly, even though he knew it was futile because of the darkness that surrounded him. All of a sudden, he felt something cold as ice that slithered around his waist, seemingly embracing him. “Ki-chan, you can run but you can’t hide. I will love you forever,” the girl’s voice echoed again in the room. She then laughed grimly. This time, the laughter was closer, making him realize that the girl was standing behind him. He dreadfully screamed at the top of his lungs.
Finally, he woke up and found out that he was still on his bed. He was breathing hard and sweating profusely. “It was a dream…” he muttered to himself.
The next day, Kichirō decided to go to school. It was already the last week of classes so he knew that there wouldn’t be many activities; besides, the teachers were busily preparing for the graduation. He went down from his room to the dining room to eat breakfast. As usual, the food was set aside for him on the tabletop. He was alone again for breakfast.
His face looked haggard, as if he was not able to sleep. His eyes were still swollen from all of the crying he did yesterday. He was listless, almost out of energy, but he was still able to muster all of the remaining strength within him, using his father’s reassuring words as its foundations.
After preparing for school, he went out and noticed that someone was waiting for him by a car. Looks like his mother arranged for someone to bring him to school. What he said last night appeared to not have had the slightest effect on his mother. He deeply sighed and got into the car.
Even though Kichirō was going through something, he was still able to go to school early, just like what he always has done before. He forced a smile on his face, as if he put on an imaginary mask of a happy visage.
As soon as he entered the campus, the rising sun’s rays shone, greeting everyone a pleasant morning. Although Kichirō could feel the warmth, he was still feeling dead and cold deep inside. He squinted his eyes upon seeing the bright light.
“Ishikawa-kun, I need to talk to you,” a voice came over.
Kichirō looked back and saw that it was their student council teacher. “Sensei, ohayō. Can I help you with something?” He wryly smiled.
“Let’s talk about this in the office.”
Kichirō nodded and followed the teacher. As soon as they entered the office, the teacher acted strange. “Close the door and have a seat.”
Kichirō closed the door and took a seat in front of the teacher’s table. He flashed a smile, just like what he always did.
“I’ve received some reports from other students about you.”
Kichirō was baffled but maintained his calm. “Is it something bad?” He asked.
“Read this letter.” The teacher handed over a letter to Kichirō.
Kichirō slowly took the letter and opened it to read it. After reading the first line, his face became pale, then it became dark.
“Is that true?” The teacher asked with a flat tone.
“No, Sensei. Why would I do that? I never stole the school funds. Who would be stupid enough to do that? You know me. I have been here for a long time and I know that you trust me.”
“It’s because I trust you that’s why I’m shocked as well, but we need to investigate this matter. I need to talk to your parents about this. Please call them, advise them to come over here tomorrow in the afternoon.”