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Chapter 13

When I came to, Marumi's worried face greeted me. I slowly sat up and winced a little because of my swollen arm. I looked around and was surprised to see I was actually already at Marumi's. "H-How did I get here?" I muttered.

"Minoru-senpai called me."

I turned to her, and blinked. She had her strawberry hair in a messy bun, some strands falling on the sides of her face. Her blue eyes were filled with concern. Her brows were pulled together in worry, causing lines to appear on her forehead, "Naoki did?" The scene when I was bullied flashed in my head for a second that caused me to inhale sharply, "He...Don't tell me he told you what happened? That he saw it?"

"I don't know. He just called me and told me that I had to come back to school to pick you up," she stood up and went towards the accent table beside the bed and took a tray of food. "When I got there, I was really surprised seeing you in the clinic like that. He gave me money for the taxi fare." Then she set the tray on my lap, "Are you hungry? You should eat."

"What the fuck happened to you, Mirai?!"

"Wh-What about Aoi Jin?!"

"Aoi Jin?" she looked at me as she sat back. "What about him?"

"Ah," I forced a smile. "N-Nothing." I looked at the tray and wondered if I was actually hearing things. I mean, my mind must have been influenced by Jin that much because I'm even making up memories about us. I let out a sigh. Wait. "Maru, what about school? You should go to school!"

She smiled at me, "It's okay, geez. I am your best friend so I have to take care of you, too. Besides, I can't leave you alone at home. Mom and Dad are overseas." She gently placed her hand on top of mine and squeezed it, "I won't ask you what happened, okay? I will wait until you are ready to tell me." When our eyes met, I could see her genuine sincerity and it made me really happy having someone by my side right now.

"Yeah, thanks, Maru," I smiled back.

She nodded, "Okay. I'll be in my room, okay? Just call me when you need me."

"Yes! Thank you!" I watched as she disappeared behind the door as she shut it close. I immediately looked for my bag and was glad that it was right by my right foot. I placed the tray beside me, careful not to let it slip and reached for my bag. I placed it on my lap and rummaged through it, looking for my phone. When I found it, I fished it out and tapped it on.

To my surprise, there were no messages from either Aoi Jin or Naoki. Oh, I have twenty missed calls—and they're all from Jin.

I texted back, asking how he was doing and what it was that he needed from me. I just really wanted to make sure if he was there... if he was the one who caught me.

I raised my arm and looked at the bruised part. I held my cheek and sighed. Why would they do that to me, anyway? Just because I'm going out with Naoki, just because they weren't chosen—does that immediately give them the right to unleash their bottled up frustrations at me?

Why hasn't Naoki contacted me, yet, anyway? Why hasn't he sent me even an email or something? How long have I been asleep?

I slowly climbed down the bed and pushed the curtains of the window aside. The little balls of light on the sky were making their presence noticed. The streetlights had lit up, too. Well, it hasn't been that long, huh.

I looked at the time on my phone and was surprised seeing that it was actually already three in the morning. Seriously, why must the outside confuse me! I wish there was a different colour of the sky when it's dawn. This early at dawn.

So there definitely isn't a possibility that Naoki or Jin would reply to my mail.

But my phone suddenly beeped that it almost made me jump out of my skin. I tapped it open and there it was, a message from Naoki.

From: Naoki~!

Subject: How are you?

Body: Akane, good morning. I'm sorry, I know it's still too early to be sending you an e-mail but I am hoping that when you read this in the morning when you wake up, you'll be able to smile.

I sat on the bed as I read his mail. It warmed my heart just reading it. It warmed my heart knowing that he was this concerned about me because he still thought of me even when he just woke up. I mean, he just did, right?

Body: I am really sorry that I wasn't there to protect you. It was my fault. I shouldn't have asked you to wait for me. If I had known that they would go to that extent, I should've stopped them before when they had sent you those threatening notes. I should've stopped them when they had started dumping your shoes in the toilet. I should've stopped them when they wrote those bad things and curses on your desk. I should've stopped them before they had hurt you that way.

My heart started to pound violently in my chest. Naoki had actually known about them all along? Why hasn't he said a thing? Why...hasn't he done anything?

Body: I was really mad when I saw what they did to you. They had crossed the line! At first, I wanted to see how you would react. I wanted to see that you would still stay by my side no matter how hard it would be for you because you love me. And you did, Akane. You tried to take them on all by yourself. You tried to face them alone. You didn't run to me or to your best friend because you didn't want to trouble or worry us. I know that, Akane. I was waiting for you to come to me. I was waiting for you to complain to me. But you didn't. And it had hurt me.

Tears started to well up in my eyes. I didn't know this was how he felt. If I had known, I should have told him sooner. If I had known he was this worried about me, if I had really known... Naoki.

Body: But I still love you, Akane. I have loved you ever since I laid my eyes on you. I know I promised not to let anyone touch you or hurt you, and this time, I failed at it. So as a peace offering...this is my way of showing you my repentance, Akane. This is my way of showing you how much I really love you.

When I scrolled further down, my eyes grew wider, my breathing got stuck in my throat, my heart stopped and my hand froze.

It was a picture of those five girls, tied on the chair with their jaws broken, their tongues hanging out as blood dripped from there to the uniforms they wore. Their eyes were gouged out, leaving a trail of blood from the whole rolling down their cheeks. Their throats were slit open, their legs were open, too. And in between their legs...inside their womanhood, were chopping knives.

My stomach churned and even when I didn't eat anything, something climbed up to my throat that I ran to the nearest bathroom as tears started falling one after another.

Body: Justice has been served, Akane. I promise you, I'm never gonna break that promise again. I'll protect you, Mirai. I'll protect you as long as I live. I love you so much, my dear, dear, Akane. See you in school.

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