I had sort of forgotten about him after becoming a girl. Everything had changed and my focus placed elsewhere he never really came up. It was likely that as my new identity we rarely exchanged any words.
The fact that he sought me out naturally surprised me. I had a slightly unnerved feeling in my stomach thanks to the warning from that god. I had no idea what might happen. And I could not really act on just a gut feeling something might go wrong. I just had to play things cautiously.
Kenta kept a distance from us, likely trying to respect our space. "So the school idol knows my name."
Yikes, I made a slip. I shouldn't have said anything, but it was just reflex. Nothing I could do about it. But it was Kenta. I knew enough about him that he was not really anything to worry about. He was polite and generally pretty anti-social. He did not really seem to fit in with the rest, being too shy. Probably why we were able to get along a little bit. Admittedly, I didn't give him a lot of attention even when I called him a "friend".
It was hard still not to sweat a little. I had to say something even as a lie. "I remember you from first year introductions."
"That's quite the memory. It's an honor to be remembered."
"Y-Yes…" This was getting way too awkward. I don't think he really bought it, but it's not like I can actually explain it to him. Besides, there was more pressing matters. "Was there something you needed from me?"
"Yes. Since I was next in line it fell to me to inform you that we'll be respecting your decision. There will no longer be any boy in the school trying to approach you with intent to be your boyfriend."
'Really, he came all the way out here just to do that? Seems odd, not to mention I didn't really see them as the open type.' It was not as if I could say anything about it. I pretended the whole group didn't even exist. Not to say they were doing a very good job hiding the organization once it was open season on me. "T-Thank you."
"I'm sure that you noticed. While we prefer to remain secret, you likely understand now. So our pledge now is to ensure you have your privacy and others respect your decision."
I waved my hands trying to dismiss all of it as unnecessary. "You don't need to do that. Please just be yourselves."
"As you wish, but plenty will continue to feel obligated to protect you."
Minoru stepped up standing in between Kenta and me. I felt the tension skyrocket. 'I don't need a fight, not to mention Kenta isn't that sort.' I stepped up trying to speak for myself.
"You heard her," Minoru enforced. He did everything short of actually threatening him from just his posture. "I'm more than enough to protect my girlfriend."
It was getting difficult to stand between them. I didn't actually think Kenta had it in him to stand up to anyone. I always thought he was too shy to have a backbone. "I don't need either of you to protect me! I'm fine!"
Kenta seemed to read the mood and stepped down. "I've delivered my message."
Nodding, Kenta departed and disappeared into the shadows of the school. The whole thing felt so weird. It was like with Mizuki, she was insane and now Kenta. I sort of wondered with Mizuki if it was just something I didn't see. I didn't see her personal life, so maybe she really good about hiding it. However, I knew Kenta, sort of anyway. And this wasn't like him. It was a lot more aggressive than I've seen him ever be around me.
Minoru looked back at me. "Don't let him come near you again, Tomiko."
"Minoru!" I thought it was jealousy at first, but when he took my hand, I sensed something else. His hand shook, but it was not from anger. I didn't know what bothered him. "Minoru? What is it?"
"Something's not right with him. I don't trust him. Just keep away from him."
"Huh? But he's harmless. He's couldn't do a thing."
"Do you know him?"
"W-Well…no…I…" Crap, I didn't know what to say in such a situation. The same problem as before. I shouldn't know anything about him. So I can't really speak knowledgeably about him. Sure it was strange and not the Kenta that I knew, but what could he really do? Besides with how protective Minoru was acting at the moment, I doubt I had anything to fear.
I mean I nearly got killed last time by Mizuki. Giving the warning from the god, I figure there's going to be a lethal accident coming for me. There not reason for Kenta to want to kill me, not like Mizuki. We have no ties. So he wasn't a threat.
Given that I was warned that I'd likely die, I should be more worried about my life. I'm not sure why I wasn't. Maybe I thought it couldn't happen. Maybe I thought that Minoru would be able to protect me with whatever luck he had. I mean he had already rescued me twice despite my lack of luck.
Or maybe I was just happy to live what time I had. Not really sure, but I wasn't afraid.
Probably should be.
Chapter 6 – Rebirth
Any unease I had from Kenta showing up at lunch disappeared by the time school was over. Since I recovered and everything seemed to be going back to normal, I figured it was time to be hit again. Just as I adjust to the new status quo, it always came to hit me with something I didn't see coming. I guess I had to wait a little longer.
Minoru had club activities today, so he had to say behind. But insisted that I stick around as well. It was pretty boring, but I hung out in the library waiting on him. If he was feeling that worried about something from Kenta I wasn't going to be able to convince him otherwise. After a week he'd see nothing was going to happen and things should ease up.
Everything went smoothly. I kept a look out the first couple of days for anything that might show signs of a risk. But my dutiful watch eventually slid away as I let the lull roll over me. It was wonderful finally having normal days again. So I got caught up on the days.
No longer were boys bothering me. The bullying from the girls ceased. I still had the matter of figuring out how to confront Kumiko and Haruki about their involvement, but all I really did was distance myself from them. Which in fact seemed to work out for them. The moment I got a boyfriend they dropped any interest in my activities. So that was what fake friends is like.
Unresolved made it a nagging poke in the back of my head, but I was content to let it rest for the time. I didn't need to stir up trouble for myself. The first time since the start, everything was fine. I only had to worry about my period, painful and annoying, but manageable with medication. If that was the worst I had right now, it was a good time.
But good times don't last and I knew that better than anyone. I might have wanted to dismiss the whole warning as a way to get me to undo things, but I knew there was truth in what he said. There was no doubt about it. My situations progressively got worse and I sort of expected the next to kill me.
If I died now I'd be fine with it. I had resolved myself to that. Though with Minoru I felt bad not telling him anything, but how do you explain that you might die because you have no luck anymore due to a wish granting god that failed to deliver the fine print on said wish. No one would believe it. I wouldn't in their position.
The day, the final day of my life, started out as normal and unassuming as one would expect. Everything moved along smoothly without a problem. During lunch, Kumiko and Haruki approached me, something that they hadn't done for a while now. Ever since we all seemed to silently agree never to talk to each other again.
"Hey Tomiko," opened Haruki looking a little uneasy with her words. "I…We wanted to invite you out after school."
"To what?" I wasn't sure what their game was, they lost any motivation to really do anything about me. Their boyfriends secure with them now, they had no reason to really concern themselves over me.
Kumiko stepped in, naturally she was the better talker. Explained why she was the one hanging on my actions and trying to pump me for information. "What Haruki is trying to say, we want to celebrate you get a boyfriend now. Everything that's happened was a little crazy and we've been trying to give you your space. After the accident, we didn't want to…"
Sounds like excuses to me, but maybe this was a clean way to mend and close the bridge off without burning it. A final chance to give closure to everything. "What did you have in mind?"
"The café out on corner that we went to before. It'd just be a few us."
Seemed safe enough to me. "Sure, sounds good." The two of them nodded and smiled, fake or not, I didn't really seem to notice.
I walked over to Minoru and explained things to him, since he was still insisting on walking with me after school. "Just call me after you're done. I'm still worried."
"Alright, I will." Such a worrier, but I can't fault him considering my situation. Not that he knew.
The little get-together at the café ran very well. The girls seemed a little more willing to talk to me, rather than interrogating me. It felt like it flowed better. I still didn't know who all was involved and Minoru was convinced that Kumiko and Haruki were part of it. Maybe they were the ring leaders of the whole thing. I don't know. I had zero proof. So while I couldn't trust them, the others I felt might be able to get along with afterwards.
We all got out and went our own ways. I called Minoru before we broke, but it was still going to take some time for him to arrive. So I waited outside on him. Felt a little odd just standing around the café.
"All done with your party?" a voice said from around the corner.
I jumped nearly to the second floor it felt like. My heart was with my mouth and I had to swallow roughly to just get it back into place. Then I saw Kenta poke out of the other side. "Oh, it's only you. You scared me."
"Sorry, I didn't mean to. I was just walking home from class and saw you standing here."
"Yeah, I'm just waiting for Minoru."
"Ah, your boyfriend."
"Right." The conversation started to feel a little weird and uncomfortable to me. I never knew this side of Kenta. He always seemed reserved and almost lacking a presence. Now he almost felt intimidating as if he was trying to exert dominance. "Well, he'll be along soon and I don't want to hold you up. It's already so late, you're parents would probably be worried."
He stepped into my personal space nearly letting me feeling his breath as he spoke. "That's fine, I wouldn't want a girl like you to be standing all alone on the corner of the street. We are supposed to protect you."
I tried to slip away a little, but he followed my movements. "That's alright. It's a safe neighborhood. It won't be long before Minoru shows up." Flashes of the mixer and the aggressive boys came to me. I thought I had forgotten about that time, but it came back in the worst possible moment. The paralyzing fear trapped me. I knew I should run away or do something, but my body didn't want to react. 'Not now…I need to get out of here…there's something really wrong with Kenta.'
"Can never be too careful."
As he leaned in more, I fell back into the wall. The movement seemed to be enough to jump start my body. I quickly slid away from him trying to keep my distance. "T-That's kind of you and all, but unnecessary." He kept a slow and steady progress towards me even with me backing away. I'm not sure how it looked to others, but the street wasn't exactly bustling. I only saw one person out of the corner of my eye and they just seemed to want to ignore the entire thing as if it wasn't their business. 'I just need to hold out. Minoru will show up eventually.' I didn't think I'd be one to rely on someone else, but the look from Kenta frightened me. Not to mention anything I might do could trigger my next episode. Placed in the position, I really didn't want to die even though I said I was fine with it.
Such a hypocrite.
"You know it surprised me that you knew my name that day."
'Oh crap, was that the trigger? Did I start this?' The considering of my fate being inevitable leeched into my mind. Was it truly inescapable? Was no matter what I did the world conspired against me? "W-Well that is…" I was just as much at a loss of words to explain myself.
"I knew it had to be true."
"T-True?" The look in his eyes started to go a little crazed. It seemed like he could do anything.
"Yes, you knew me, because you've been watching me."
Backing up, it happened too late for me to realize that he had been directing me out of the street and into the alley. I lost any hope of a public place. Once I knew what happened I did the only thing that seemed natural. I ran to try to get back to the street, but he grabbed my arm.
"You've just been pretending not to notice me."
"Please stop! Kenta, don't do this!"
"You don't have to lie anymore! There's no one around! You can be honest with yourself!"
"No, you're not right! You're acting crazy!"
I seemed to have hit a trigger on him. He yanked my arm violently and knocked me against the wall. Then he grabbed my other arm and pinned me to the wall. "No, you're wrong! It's the school, this world that's wrong! Thinking that you belong to all of them! Thinking that they have the right to control you."
He really was crazy. Just like Mizuki. This world was completely insane. Out to get me, I only had myself to rely on. 'I don't want to die! I want to see Minoru again!' I still had my legs free. I kicked and stepped on everything I could in reach. Finally, I kneed him in the stomach to break free. I was half way down the alley and back into the street when I saw he was getting back up. It was then I realized I should have gone for the nuts and put him down for good. But I wasn't going to run back to do that.
Unfortunately, I felt like I was in a teen horror movie now with the scary bad guy that already murdered everyone else. I was the last one on his list. And conveniently there was absolutely no one around. I ended up only a little away from where I left the café, but in my fear and adrenaline rush I hadn't a clue where I was. I really didn't get out this part of the city much. 'Damn luck, it's forcing this to happen isn't it? No one around to call to for help.' I ran in whatever direction seemed the best.
Running blinding, it wasn't until it was already too late that I realized I had brought myself to the park. 'The park, this is no good…' I knew it and where I was, but it was big. It was just as bad as being in the alley. I tried to turn around and find another way, but Kenta was still on me. I kept to the edge of the park, knowing going deep inside was a bad idea.
My body already roared in complaint. I had been panting hard long before I got to the park. My sides cramped up and I didn't think I could go anymore. The lack of exercise was coming back to bite me.
Kenta had caught up to me and grabbed me again. I fought him, but all the running left my strength severely lacking. He had me exactly where he wanted. I knew in that moment I was going to die. There was no doubt. Even the fear was gone. Just sadness.
"I know you love me! You're just pretending with that other guy."
"What? I don't!"
He suddenly slapped me across the cheek. "No, I know what's going on! I knew you didn't like any of those guys. So I just waited. I knew you'd come to me."
"What are you saying?!"
"I've been waiting for you all the time!"
"Stop this, Kenta!"
"I've watched you. You're aren't like the others. You're perfect, you're better than all of them."
He pulled me in against me. Chills ran up my back. It was even worse than the others guys. I didn't think it could get any worse. "You watched me, just I like I watched you! You said it before!" Fighting him was difficult and I turned and twisted as much as I could. But he closed in kissing me. I turned and it was only my cheek, but it still made me cold just feeling it.
Enough of my strength came back that I pushed free from him and tried to run away, but he quickly grabbed me. We struggled and fell over. He forced himself on top of me holding me down and sitting on my legs. I couldn't move at all anymore. "Stop this! Don't do it!"
I felt his disgusting lips over me again and again. Tears started building up as I plead with him to stop. "I love you, Tomiko! I know you do as well! We're the only ones meant for each other!"
I didn't want him any closer to me, but that was all that happened. I felt his hands in places no one was supposed to go. Each touch and grab just made me freeze up more. I wanted it to stop.
It was then I realized, remembered perhaps, the words from the god that warned me. 'Just remember there are also things worse than death as well.' I knew then what was about to happen. That realization only made me seize up more. I had never been more frightened in my life than in that single moment. It was completely indescribable. In a way that I never wanted to be asked to describe it. It was only something that could be lived. Something that should never been lived.
The Kenta I saw was not the one I knew. I didn't know where he had gone. I didn't understand how he could do this. How he was capable of it. And then I remembered, before the change, when we were friends. I remembered there was some rumor about him. One I completely ignored. It had no basis, but it did isolate him from the group. Something happened with his previous girlfriend. He never spoke about it and I didn't really pay attention to it. Now I wondered if the clue was always there, like how Minoru said. Something was off about him.
This is a moment that I hate remembering. So you'll forgive me being a distraction. I can still remember it all as if it happened a minute ago, which is the worst possible feeling. The fear of knowing what's about to happen and being unable to stop it. Being completely powerless and violated. I never want to remember it. I try to forget it all the time, but I can't. It's with me, forever until the day I die.
Eventually it was all over. Kenta just sort of left. I didn't know what he was thinking. I didn't want to understand. I couldn't understand.
I was there in the park half naked trying futilely to cover up and not feel completely disgusted. I just cried laying there not knowing what to do. It didn't seem real for a while. I just wanted it to be a dream. I didn't want to think that it happened. I did everything to pretend it was a lie. But I knew. I couldn't run from myself or the truth.
Minoru found me even though I didn't want to him see me. I didn't want anyone to see me. I thought I had seen a murderous intent before from Mizuki. But the look in Minoru's eyes completely eclipsed her with little effort. It scared me to see him like that. He knew who it was without me saying a word.
"I'll kill him…" He seemed to be repeating it or maybe it was repeating in my head. I'm not sure anymore.
The one single person that was right in the world scared me. I didn't want that. I was already scared enough. I grabbed his hand. "Minoru…" My eyes did all the talking for me. I barely had any words. I barely felt alive. I needed something. Anything that was safe.
He understood. He knelt down and put his arms around me. It was so warm. It felt like a blanket. I buried my face in his shirt. I smiled weakly glad to have something real. And then I couldn't stop crying. Because I knew what else was real.
Minoru brought me home. I didn't want to explain anything. For now, I just wanted to try to forget. So I insisted he not say anything yet. I cleaned up as best as I could and just blamed the rest of the dirt stains on tripping. They didn't seem to fully believe me and my mom had a panicked look on her face that seemed to read through everything. But they let me go.
I crawled into my bed and just tried to hide under everything I could. I could escape the world, but not the reality. Whenever I closed my eyes I felt it. I felt him. And it just made me cry again even though I was completely out of tears.
A knock came on my door. "Tomiko?" I didn't answer my mother. "It's been three days, we need to talk." I learned not long after that Minoru spilled everything to my parents after he left me in my room. I wanted to punch him, to hate him, for betraying me, but I knew he had to say it. He couldn't leave my parents in the dark, especially when they sort of already had an idea.
I didn't respond to her, even with her pleas. I just laid in my bed with everything I could around me. I had almost wished I did die. Stupid god was right.
It took a week for me to actually leave my room. They left me food regularly, but I didn't feel like eating most times. I was weak. I felt weak. I hated it. I hated it all.
After we had our long discussion and explanation, I left. They were opposed to it, but I told them that I was meeting Minoru and I'd be safe. He met me at the location I requested.
"An abandoned shrine?" he asked, once meeting me.
"It's important to me." I walked up the steps. It didn't feel scary in the slightest this time. Perhaps I knew real fear so illusionary fear was empty now. But Minoru seemed a little unnerved. "I didn't think you'd be free. School is still not over."
"I got suspended for a week."
"Why?" I asked, even though I should have already known the answer.
"For fighting." That was all he said on the subject. He seemed to not want to even mention Kenta's name let alone acknowledge his existence. But Minoru didn't seemed bothered by the suspension. He probably felt it was earned punishment for doing something right. It was justified.
At the top of the shrine, I came to a stop and turned to look at him. I made my decision. "There's something I need to talk you."
"What's wrong, Tomiko? You're sounding a little ominous." He picked up quickly on my mood.
"You've been honest with me, brutally so at times." He seemed to take a little offense to that. "I'm glad though. I didn't really think too much about honesty before. My life was a lie and I lived lies every day. It seemed normal. But at the same time, I didn't know how many lies were around me as well. I was a hypocrite for thinking that the others didn't lie, but I still lie and it was fine. I thought I knew people. And now I understand how wrong I was about all that."
"What are you trying to say?"
"You've been honest from the start with me. So here at the end, I want to be honest with you as well."
"Tomiko, you're starting to scare me."
"I'm sorry, I wanted to say this to you because I felt you should know. I needed to stop lying."
"You may not believe any of what I say, but you should know. About two months ago, I made a wish. A wish at this shrine we're standing in. It was part a joke, but completely sincere. It was probably the first time I was actually being honest with myself. I made a wish to whatever god that slept here to correct what I felt was a mistake. See, when I made that wish I was boy, a cross-dressing boy that believed the world was wrong and I was right. And I wanted the world to be right as well.
"And someone heard me. The god here granted my wish. I became a girl and I have been living that way since."
"Are you serious?"
"Completely. But there's a problem. To grant my wish, they had to consume all of my luck or what they call fortune. I have none left for my life. Meaning nothing but bad things will happen to me and with no luck to protect me. Bad things will happen worse and worse until I die. In a world turned against me, you were the only good thing that happened. I sort of wonder what sort of luck you have to be able to fight against the world as you have. But I realized in the end…"
Minoru grabbed me. He seemed to already get the feeling of what was going to be happening. It only made it worse. "Tomiko, it's all fine! I believe you! You don't have to do this!"
I smiled and cried a little. He believed me. I knew he would. He seemed like that sort of person. "I have to do this." I looked up to the heavens not sure what I should be doing. "Hey god or whatever you are get down here right now!"
"I'm sorry, Minoru."
A bright light descended into the shrine. The god was returning.
Minoru started to lose his grip on me as the sleep started to kick in. He fought it as best as he could. He held on to me to the last moment. "Tomiko! I love you! Don't leave…me…" Sleep fully kicked in, even whatever amazing luck he had could not fight a god.
Not even me.
"I know and that's why I'm doing this."
"You told him," the god said. I wasn't sure if he was bothered by this or not. He had a perfectly unchanged face when he said it.
"Yeah, I had to be honest with me. You never gave me any instructions on do's and don'ts for this so blame yourself. Besides, it's not like he'll remember any of this anyway, right."
"Correct. Only you will."
"So high and mighty. I really hate you."
"You made the wish."
"I know. I have to live with that. I have to live with all of this."
"Then you're ready?"
"Yeah, get it over with. Undo my wish and restore the world to how it was before."
"As you wish."
I looked down at the sleeping Minoru. I felt guilty doing it, but it had to be done. "I'm sorry. This was the only way. I hurt you because of my wish and eventually I'll die. And knowing how much that'll make you suffer I couldn't let that happen. If you can live without knowing that sadness I'll be happy with my decision. And it's not like I haven't learned something from this. Thank you for everything you've done for me. My eyes are open now."
A moment later, Minoru disappeared from my sight. The entire world was correcting itself. Correcting a selfish wish made by an ignorant boy.
"It is done."
I walked away from the shrine, restored to my old body with all my luck returned. Everything was back. The god disappeared just as simply as it came. I didn't even know what the name of the god was that granted my wish. But he felt like someone that was meant to teach a lesson rather than grant wishes. That's just my thoughts after thinking about it for a while.
There was a lot that I learned from the experience.
Reflecting upon those two months now, I find them to be the most important time in my life. As I said before, I was living a lie. I went to school as a boy not caring about learning. And called people my friends, when they weren't. And I carried myself alone pretending to be what was right.
In those days as a girl, I still remained convinced that was the right side. But I can't change the world for my own needs. That I can't do. Gods can change whatever they want, but it's at a price. And one I'm fine paying to be sure. But not at the additional price I didn't know I would also be paying with it.
It was when I saw Minoru with that look of murder in his eye that I knew. I caused that look. And when I died I'd cause an even worse expression to be on his face. He already suffered so much that he didn't deserve that sort of pain.
I'll never forget him though and what he taught me. What that whole experience taught me.
I needed to be honest with myself and those around me. I can't be lying for the rest of my life about who I was. Who I felt I was.
In the end, that still remained the most important part of me that I took away. That might have been the right world for me, but I had to live in the one I was born in. The world is a cruel place, but I have to accept reality. Though reality will also need to accept who I am too.
The truth started at home. Explaining things was hard and complicated to say the least. For the last few years, I hadn't really had a real conversation with my parents. So it was weird being straight with them. There was a lot of denying and confusion, in the end I only convinced them that I wasn't the son they raised.
At the time, I was convinced I was going to be disowned. I was right.
One honest turn deserved another. The school had a mixed reaction with a lot of offers of counseling by the faculty. They were so convinced that there was something wrong with me that I just stopped trying to get them to understand.
Reality really didn't want to accept, but I didn't care anymore. After everything I went through, this actually was pretty painless. I don't like thinking that I was using such terrible things that I try to forget as support, but with everything I went through I was used to being stared at like some inhuman object. I'm just different now and they'll just have to deal with it.
I was still a student and I hadn't done anything that violated the rules. So they couldn't really stop me. Returning to my classroom, I saw a multitude of different expression from people that I knew thanks to my other life. It had made me wonder how much it was like the one now.
My declaration gave me quite a bit of attention now. None of it was positive attention, for the most part. There were a few that seemed to not care or at the very least didn't find the notion unsettling. I guess the world has a ways to go still.
However, while I went to find my seat I saw an uncomfortably familiar face. The sight made chills immediately run down my spine. It paralyzed me on the spot. Memories flooded back unwillingly against me.
Yet worst of all, he didn't even seem to acknowledge me. This world and the other were different. All of the things that happened to me never occurred here. And in a strange way, that broke enough of the spell on me that I could move. It angered me so much that he would never know, while I always would.
A mixture of different emotions and reactions came over me as I approached. Hesitation was the strongest. It wasn't the same person, but it still controlled me so strongly. It was a terribly helpless feeling that I couldn't escape.
"Kenta," I said standing before him. The only relief I could feel was imagining what Minoru did in the other reality.
No, there was one thing I could do. It burned inside I could not do anymore. He looked at me a little confused, not expecting me to open the conversation. "I don't like you. I don't really think I've ever liked you. I've just be pretending to listen to what you say most of the time. So this fake friendship, or whatever it is, is over."
"Huh?" He just stared at me completely at a loss for words. If I gave him a little more time to react and process it all he might have actually gotten mad. But I left. I said what I wanted.
Then I moved on forward to my desk. As I was looking around, I saw a familiar face passing through the hall. I rushed out quickly and chased after them. "Um…excuse me."
They turned around a little looked at me a little strangely. "Yes? Did you need something?"
"We've never met, but I'm Yoichi Nakazawa. I was told about your club and I was thinking of joining."
"Oh? We're always looking for members."
"I'm glad to hear it!"
"Come by after school is over. We're very welcoming."
"I think I'll do that."
They started to walk away, but turned around and looked at me. Something about the way they looked was just as familiar. "By the way, I'm Minoru Sakurai."