The moment I woke up the following morning, I jumped out of my bed and ran to Marumi's room which was just beside the room I was occupying. I knocked, "M-Marumi? Can I come in?" I waited for an answer but a couple of minutes have already passed and there was still no answer from inside. As I gripped the doorknob, I prayed hard that she'd be there.
I turned the knob and the door creaked as I gently opened it. "Marumi?" The room was bright because of the sunlight. I scanned the room—no signs of anyone sleeping here the previous night if Marumi had come home late. The bed was empty. The bathroom door was adjacent. No. No Marumi here right now.
I rushed back into the room, took a quick bath, dressed in my school uniform and rushed outside. I didn't even bother combing my hair, I just let it down even when it had already felt so messy and tangled I didn't mind. I ran towards the train station as I tied my necktie. The doors of the train was about to close that I had leaped my way in. Other passengers scolded me for it but I just forced a smile at them.
I fished my phone out from the pocket of my skirt and dialled Aoi Jin's number. It took three rings before he'd answered it.
"Mi—Akane! What the hell! What's wrong?"
Why does this guy always sound angry? His voice sounds different, too. It's deeper and it sounds as if he's just dragging the words out of his mouth. Could he have just woken up? No, wait, that's not why I called him. I heaved a deep breath as I walked towards the door and leaned my back on the pole near it, "U-Uhmm, I'm sorry. I know I disturbed you but I just have to make sure."
I looked outside, the scenery looked as if it was flying because of the speed of the train, "I-I was wondering if you noticed Marumi at school yesterday?"
"Ah? Who the fuck's that? She a hot chick?"
My jaw dropped. "Wha...hot chi—what! I'm asking you if you'd seen my best friend!"
"Oh, sorry, sorry, Akane. I just woke up, see." Then I heard a rustling and a yawn. "Anyway, if you're referring to that girl you're always with—uh...strawberry hair?"
When I noticed he'd called me by my name, I was confused if he was half asleep or was fully awake. I nodded, "Yes, that's her."
"Yeah, so, Sensei asked my help yesterday. I was told to go to your class so I could ask if anyone of your classmates is a close friend of those bullies. I don't think I noticed any strawberry-haired chick there."
"Are you sure? Really, really sure?"
"C'mon, you expect me to look at the faces of your classmates and memorize each one of them? Why are you asking me, of all people, anyway? Wait, how are you doing?"
"Are you coming to school today?"
I stomped my foot, "Are you coming to school today?!"
When I realized I had raised my voice, I looked at the nearby passengers who were looking at me. I bowed a bit, apologizing, and turned the other way around—I was now facing the door. "Sorry, Jin. So uhmm...are you coming to school today?"
"No, I don't think so. My head hurts. I've only had four hours of sleep. Pulled a shitty all-nighter last night 'cause I had an overtime."
"O-Oh, I see..." I couldn't hide the disappointment in my voice. I was really worried about Marumi and I don't want to doubt Naoki but I saw them yesterday and Aoi Jin said he didn't notice her in the classroom. She couldn't have arrived late because she left the house early. "Okay. Sorry for disturbing your sleep." I was about to drop the call when I heard him yell my name. To my surprise, I slapped the phone back on my ear, "Ow! Wh-What is it?"
"I...I think I'd be in school before second period."
"Yeah. See you, then."
"Okay, see you." When he dropped the call, I looked at the screen and couldn't help but feel a bit of my problem had lifted. "Thanks, Jin."
The train had stopped and I ran towards the school. I tied my hair into a messy bun as I entered the school grounds. I walked towards the shoe locker and as I was about to get my indoor shoes, Aoi Jin had just also arrived.
His hair was dishevelled, his blue eyes looked weary but they still gleamed, his blazer was a bit crumpled and it wasn't rolled halfway across his arms—like the usual.
"You look messy," we chorused.
I blinked and checked myself. My necktie was crooked and my blazer was crumpled, too. My socks weren't even the same colour! "I went out looking like this?" I muttered under my breath. When I heard him chuckle, I turned to him, "Really."
"Sorry." He proceeded and took out his indoor shoes, as well. When I had closed the locker, he spoke, "So what did you need me for?"
I looked at him and our eyes met. His blue eyes didn't show any emotion other than curiosity. I heaved a deep breath, "Let's ask around for Marumi first before I tell you everything."
He blinked. He looked like he wanted to say something but he must've sensed how serious I was that he shrugged, "Alright. I don't get what the hell's going on but okay. We still have a couple of minutes before recess, though."
"It's okay. We could stay here and wait for the school bell," I answered as I sat down on the wooden platform, careful not to let even a peek of my underwear out.
He grunted as he sat beside me. He crossed his legs and leaned his back on the locker behind him and looked up at the ceiling. "Seriously. I don't know what is happening yet I still came here. Akane, you have to fucking promise me you'd tell me what the hell is going on."
I nodded, "I will. I promise."
Silence enveloped us for a couple of seconds until I cleared my throat. "S-So, did Sensei update you about those bullies?"
"That's the uh...mystery."
"I tried to contact Sensei just this morning but I couldn't. His phone was ringing but he wasn't answering. I was thinking maybe homeroom had started so I just left him a mail. The parents of those girls did drop by yesterday and said that they had already filed a police report."
I clenched my fist.
"I don't understand. I thought they'd gone home and hid under their beds 'cause those who knew what happened had emailed them and I think they were mad because of what they did to you. Guess they had a taste of their own medicine."
Tears started to well up in my eyes as the feeling of guilt spread throughout my chest.
"Anyway, isn't it weird?"
I blinked as I fought the tears back. I looked up at Jin, "What do you mean?"
"Doesn't the school feel awfully quiet today?"
He was looking outside—towards the school gate, "I mean, normally, that stupid guard would be standing there by the gate, right? Along with this stuck up student council president." Then he looked at the locker in-front of him, "The lockers don't look as if they had been opened, either." He stood up and patted his slacks. He opened one shoe locker and I was surprised seeing the indoor shoes there. He opened another one and another—all of the indoor shoes were there!
"D-Does that mean what I think it means?"
Aoi Jin looked at me, the corner of his lip lifted as his brow twitched. For some reason, I think I could see a vein throbbing on his forehead, "Really? What did you think this means?"
I gulped, "Th..That maybe..." I smiled nervously, "Classes were postponed?"
He planted his hands on his waist and looked down, his bangs fell over, too. His shoulders started to shake as I heard a faint giggle coming from him until it became louder and as he raised his head, he looked angry, alright, "I would still be asleep right now!"
Yeah, well, I didn't ask him to come but having him here feels a bit better not being the only person who didn't know there would be no class today— "Wait, shouldn't you have known? I mean, you were here yesterday, I wasn't!"
He opened his mouth to protest but clamped it shut. He looked away and frowned.
I wanted to laugh but it would only anger him more. I was about to tell him everything when he'd clicked his phone open, dialled something and I think that person answered. "Sensei!"
Oh. He's calling Sensei. Sensei finally answered.
"Why didn't you tell me there'd be no class today?!" His back was facing me now and his free hand was still planted on his waist. "No, I'm not here at school—of course, I am! Why didn't anyone tell me? There was no announcement yesterday!...What? The announcement was made just now?...Wh—Ha? Who the fuck's that? What do you mean someone from the school was found dead?!"
My heart skipped a beat hearing the last question that Aoi Jin threw. I looked at him as my eyes grew wider. I grabbed him by the shoulder and forced him to face me. He was about to say something but I said, "A-Ask him what that's about! Sensei! What do you mean?!"
Jin just frowned at me as he clicked the 'loud speaker' icon.
"Akane? Is that you?"
"I'm glad you sound fine. Good heavens, how are you?"
"I'm doing great!"
"Doing great?!" Jin repeated.
I shook my head, "No, uh...nevermind that. Sensei, what did you mean when you said that someone from the school was found...dea—life...lifeless?"
I heard him sigh heavily, "I'm...I'm so sorry, Mirai. But, the head of the school had decided to call off the classes until the case would be solved."
"What case??" Jin and I chorused.
"La—Last night, uhmm...si—six bodies were found by the riverbank..."
My heart started to pound harder in my chest. Tears started to well up in my eyes. I could feel my hands growing ice cold. I gripped Jin's shoulder as I heaved a deep breath. The numbers match up when Marumi's added to the girls who bullied me. No, please, no.
"Sen...Sensei, ca-can you tell us in detail, please?"
"Their state was...horrifying. The police couldn't almost identify them but they had their personal belongings and their school IDs. I shouldn't be telling you this but the victims...Mirai, they were all involved with you. Five of them were your bullies and... Mirai, I'm so sorry."
No, please, God, no. Not my best friend, too. No, please.
"The other one was Mitsukage. Mitsukage Marumi..."
My tears started to fall one after another as I felt my knees weaken until it buckled I fell on the ground.
"And you'll be better off at home. Don't go anywhere, Mirai. I have a bad feeling you'll be the primary suspect."