Aoi Jin... he's lying on the ground... Wh-What do I do?!
An old lady's voice snapped me from what seemed like a trance. I slowly raised my head. Her gray hair was twisted at the bottom of her skull, some strands falling on the sides of her face. She was hunched over and had an empty basket on her hand. Her knees were frail and so were her arms. Her wrinkled eyes looked at me, "Is this man your friend?"
I didn't even notice her.
I inhaled sharply and looked at Aoi Jin's corpse. "Ye..Yes. He..." tears started to blur my eyesight. My knees finally gave in and with trembling hands, I tried to reach out to Aoi Jin, "He was a very special friend to me..."
"Yes, please, bring your friend to the hospital."
"B-But..." I looked up at her as tears rolled down my eyes, "It's...It's too late..."
She looked at me kindly. "Little Miss, your friend just slipped on a banana peel. I think he's fine."
The old lady sighed as she placed her hand on her cheek and shook her head, "I was walking and a cat surprised me when it suddenly jumped. My basket fell and this kind young man rushed to me and didn't notice the banana peel. He slipped and fell face flat, squishing my poor tomatoes." Then she looked at me, "What's wrong?"
I could feel my face flush red in embarrassment. And as if on cue, Aoi Jin let out a moan. When I turned to look at him, he rubbed his head as he sat up. True enough, there were squished tomatoes on the ground. His uniform was stained, too. Then he looked at me, "Mm? Mirai—Akane, what are you doing here?"
"You!!" I stood up and smacked him on the head, "You idiot!!!"
"Ow!" he looked up at me, frowning. "What was that for?! What's your problem, ha?! Are you asking me for a fight?!"
"Now, now, little boy," the old woman interrupted.
"Little boy?!" he exclaimed.
"Just let the little miss go. She was crying because she thought you had—"
"N-Now, now, grandma," I said as I rushed to her side and placed my hand on her shoulder as I gestured we walk to the opposite direction, "Let me buy you more tomatoes, okay? Let's not mind that clumsy idiot over there."
"Oi! Akane! Who are you calling clumsy—oh, geez. My uniform's a mess! Oi! Wait up!"
"Why are you catching up to us? No one told you to come with us!"
"You piece of shit. I'm the one responsible for the tomatoes, aight? I don't want anyone doing me a favour," he said as he caught up and walked next to the old woman. She's in between us now.
I let out a relieved sigh. "And here I thought you..." I muttered.
"What? Are you saying something?"
"No. Just keep quiet and it'll all be alright."
"Akane, for some reason, your attitude towards me changed. Was I wrong for thinking you were a meek girl?"
I nodded, "So wrong." I glanced at him, "But you should get changed. People might think you'd murdered someone and grandma's next on the list and I'm the hero here and you're chasing after us."
He clenched his hand into a fist and I could see a vein popping on his forehead, "Why this little! I liked you better when you were meek and soft-spoken!"
"Uwah~! Am I really hearing this from the person who just encouraged me to speak up and not let anyone trample all over me?"
In a snap, his angered expression turned into a realization, "Oh." Then he slid his hand in his pocket while he used the other hand's index finger to rub his nose, "Yeah. Yeah, I told you that." And then he grinned like a little child. "That's good. You should always listen to me."
I couldn't help but smile. My chest felt a whole lot more lighter now and even when he kept calling me by my last name and not my given name anymore, I get this feeling of determination to bring that friendship back. But he did say something about forgetting about him because I already have Naoki now. I wonder why he said that...
Who was it that sent me an email?
I gotta find out. Aoi Jin might be safe but that may be for now. And besides, the culprit might harm Naoki next. I have to hurry up and find this guy. Whoever he is, I'm going to find him.
I looked over my shoulder at the sound of that voice. My heart recognized it and reacted. Minoru Naoki was running towards us.
"Na-Naoki," I said as I stopped on my tracks.
He huffed as soon as he was near me and leaned on his knees. "Wh-Where are you going? I was looking for you."
"Looking for me?"
"Yeah. Sensei asked me to bring some papers to the faculty room and then I snuck into your room. Marumi said you were absent so I called you, you weren't answering, I saw your shoes at the back of the school and I rushed outside and saw you and I—haaaa~!" He stood properly and heaved a deep breath then smiled at me, "Found you."
My breath got stuck in my throat as my heart started to thump louder.
"Let's go, old woman," I heard Aoi Jin say.
I was about to turn to them when Naoki wrapped his arm around my shoulders and smiled, "Let's go back to school? You shouldn't really be hanging out here."
"But..." I looked over my shoulder. I opened my mouth to call out to Aoi Jin but froze upon seeing that deadly glare he threw. No. His gleaming blue eyes weren't glaring at me but...
I looked up and Naoki immediately smiled at me, "C'mon."
Why were they exchanging deadly glares with each other? I don't like assuming things so perhaps they have history... I'd probably ask Jin one of these days.