False Hope – What if…

The branches of the trees whipped at his face as Kasei Hidaka ran as fast as he could. He felt no pain. Only the anxiety of trying to make it in time. With his right hand placed on the hilt of his sword, he was ready to strike if needed.

Entering a clearing, he stopped dead in his tracks. Ahead of him stood Jennie Schaffer. Their eyes met. A small smile formed on her lips while tears streamed down her cheeks. She staggered forward.

Instinct hit him and he ran for her.

With arms out, he caught Jennie, but her body already felt cold. He held her close to his chest, listening as her breathing slowed.

What had happened?

A chuckle broke the silence.

Looking up, he caught sight of red hair.

"KASEI!"

Throwing himself upward, he woke from the nightmare. His heart was pounding in his chest and felt like someone was squeezing it. He took a deep breath then exhaled slowly.

The dreams were getting worse.

Every night it was the same thing. Watch Jennie die in his arms.

Stepping out of his bedroom, he dragged his feet in the direction of the bathroom. All the way at the other end of the hallway.

As he passed Jennie's door, he gave it a small glance. He frowned.

When the door opened, he found Jennie staring at him with a wide-eyed expression. He returned the awkward gaze.

"Sorry!" Jennie rubbed at the back of her head while trying to apologize for startling him. "Let me use the bathroom real quick. Okay?"

Kasei watched as she jogged off.

"Why's she alive?"

Sitting down in the classroom, Kasei kept his eyes on the back of Jennie's head. She had been gone since their sophomore year. Two years later and there she was. As if nothing had happened.

No one else seemed to think it odd.

Girls in the class were talking to her as if she had been there the whole time. It was a bit unnerving. At least to him.

Had he lost his mind? Still dreaming?

The chime that announced the ending of class sung above his head. Immediately he got to his feet and grabbed up his textbook.

Leaving the room, he headed toward his locker.

"Kasei!"

Her voice was behind him. Kasei grimaced then felt the hard slap of a hand to his back.

"What's the rush?"

Glancing downward to his side, he found Jennie walking beside him with a happy smile. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. She looked the same as she did when she was seventeen.

He had gotten taller and matured physically. But there was no change with her.

"Hello?" Waking from his thoughts, Kasei found Jennie waving a hand back and forth in front of his face. "You're a little off today."

"I need to go."

"Okay." She sounded disappointed.

"Talk to you later." Kasei quickened his pace, leaving Jennie behind.

When afternoon classes finished up, Kasei headed for the gym with his sheathed sword in hand. Like he had been doing for the past few years, he would spend a few hours practicing. Honing his skill the best he could.

Something his older brother had taught him to do.

Entering the large room, he stopped in the doorway. His gut felt queasy at the sight of Jennie as she had her bow poised. A sound snap was heard followed by the thud of hitting the target.

Jennie faced him. "Hi."

"If I'm disturbing you, I can leave."

"No!"

Everything was so quiet and her voice echoed against the walls.

"Why are you…?"

He had to finally ask.

"Still alive?" She had finished his sentence.

"What?" He paled and felt his body shudder at her words. His eyes widened.

Kasei saw the glistening of tears around her eyes. Just like he remembered.

Then she staggered toward him. It was the same.

When she neared, Jennie slipped her arms around him, hugging him tightly. Her face pressed into Kasei's chest.

"Get off me!"

Shoving her back, he dropped to the floor while covering his ears with his hands. "Just go away! Leaving me alone!"

"Kasei." His name with her voice was a stab in the heart. She knelt down in front of him. "Kasei."

He forced himself to look. Tilting his head up, he found her gaze to be soft yet unyielding. "Why are you torturing me?"

"Because it's the beginning."

"The beginning?"

Once again she hugged him, keeping him in place. Kasei felt it hard to breath, having her this close. He wanted to escape, but a part of him yearned for her touch.

"You need to be faster this time."

"And be stronger."

She pulled back slightly. "I know you can do it."

"I trust you."

With a tilt of her head, she leaned forward.

"Save me."

Kasei felt the cold contact of her lips against his. It jolted him back into reality.

Kasei's eyes focused on the ceiling. He found himself lying in bed.

Sitting up, he pressed his hand to his chest. It ached.

"Morning."

He became aware of the extra person in the room. Gazing sideward, he found Reikoku Hidaka, his brother, packing up a bag with books and extra clothes.

"Hurry up and get ready."

What was happening? His brother had left last year.

Kasei scanned the room only to stop at the mirror on the closet door. His reflection shocked him causing him to scoot toward it.

He was thirteen again.

She had given him a second chance.