For a while, he could pretend that it belonged there. It wasn’t sharp and pervasive, just soft and subtle. Some delusions can last forever. But illusions so often become disenchanted. The forceful pull from sleep was inevitable. Opening his eyes, Yotogi Shuji immediately regretted that decision. The noon sun had filled his room to the brim, and daylight had come faster than expected. Sitting up slowly, his eyes sleepily scanned the room for the source of noise. After a moment of confusion spent discerning dream from reality, Shuji heard the all too familiar sound of someone knocking at his door. This. This had better be good.
“One minute,” he called. He slid out of his futon and stood up slowly. Shuji debated taking the whole minute to cross his room, but that would be low. What he didn’t consider, however, was throwing on some clothes. Anyone bold enough to knock on his door at noon was bold enough to see him in his underwear. Grasping the doorknob, Shuji let out a sigh. His last day in Tokyo and he was already awake. It was all downhill from here. As he turned the doorknob, his door swung open too quickly.
What happened next was something Shuji should’ve truly expected. As the door opened the frame of the short Kobayashi Hanako filled it. Without a moment’s hesitation, she stepped into the threshold of his room and began throwing punches at anything she could reach. Collar. Ow. Jaw. Ouch. Groin. Dammit. Shuji grimaced. He’d forgotten to tell her he transferred. That was probably bad.
Well, he hadn’t forgotten. It was more he decided she didn’t need to know. Hanako obviously thought that wasn’t the case. He considered this as he ducked and dodged slaps. He wouldn’t ask her to stop. Somewhere he knew he deserved this. He’d just let her tucker herself out.
“Shuji! How in the hell could you not tell me you were transferring?” she finally asked. Until that point, she’d been slapping him without speaking. That wasn’t uncommon though. She knew that he was smart enough to know what he’d done wrong. Three years with someone tended to breed familiarity.
“Good morning, Hanako-chan,” he said casually. “I take it you’re upset then?”
“Of course I’m upset! Why didn’t you tell me? Why would you just say nothing when you’ve known for months?! Why...why the hell aren’t you wearing clothes?” Looking down, Shuji confirmed that he was indeed still wearing underwear. He was fine.
“I’ll take twenty percent of the blame on this one. You woke up me before noon. You knew that was a bad idea.” He turned from her, confident that she wouldn’t butcher him. “Shut the door please, Hanako-chan.”
He quickly adorned pants and then turned back to her. “Your reaction never gets any better to that one.” A brief scan of her face told him this was not the time for jokes.
She pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed. “What time does your train leave?”
“Late this evening.”
“Shuji,” she spoke with a steady tone. “Why didn’t you tell me you were leaving?” Her soft blue eyes narrowed as she stared at him, expecting a satisfactory answer. Shuji had to fight back a smile. This was one of the things he loved about her. She looked and acted so sweet and childish but was capable of snapping to cold and logical in an instant. Moments like this he’d miss.
“I’m sorry,” he lied through his teeth. She probably knew it was a lie by now, but she’d accept it, nonetheless. Shuji rarely meant those words. “I just didn’t think that you’d want to talk about it. Because if I told you, you’d offer to transfer with me and go through all that trouble. You have family here and I know you don’t want to leave them. I certainly wouldn’t want to make you leave them for me.”
That was partly true. He didn’t want her to go through the trouble. But he really didn’t care about separating her from her family. They were all quite awful. The Kobayashi clan was trying its best to seem noble and dignified despite only being five generations old. They were the ones that had forced a smart, ambitious girl to be the conflicted mess that stood in his room today. They told her to be subservient. They told her to be the epitome of a lady. They even told her to marry him.
“No. I’m going to do it anyway. The train ticket will be last minute but it’s not like I’m paying for it.” She was already on her phone, likely digging through sites trying to find the best travel deal. Her spurt of emotion was gone, and she was back to doing what she could to keep things from changing. It was a shame she was only this assertive around him. It was an even greater shame that she was only being this assertive because of him.
“How are you going to handle the transfer?” he asked without a hint of interest in his voice. Shuji had gone to put on socks for the day.
“I’ll take it up with the captain. It shouldn’t be a problem. I’m not the one becoming a Lancer so it’s not like it’s anything more than paperwork.”
“Are you done hitting me? I wouldn’t want you to wrinkle my shirt.” He grabbed his shirt and gestured to it.
“I’ll punish you for this later. Hope you like playing Nagasaki food taxi.”
“You seem determined,” he noted, sliding on his shirt.
She peered at him over her cell phone. “I found out about twelve hours ago that you were transferring to a branch eight hours away by train. Of course I’m determined. You have to be on your toes when your fiance’s an asshole who has no problems ghosting you.”
Shuji sighed. He had really hoped she would just take the hint. That was unfortunate. Hanako was generally such a smart girl. No. She’d gotten the hint...she just didn’t want to see it. It ruined her plans. So she’d reject it. This was going to be a pain...he hated direct intervention like this.
“Hanako,” he said sternly. He took a step towards her and slid his hand over her phone. In a swift motion, he locked it and forced her to look up at him. As he tilted her chin up, Shuji regretted stepping closer to her. He hadn’t seen it from the reflection of her screen, but her eyes were flooding. It was only now that he noticed how red they were around the edges, how dark the bags under them had gotten. Had she slept last night? She said she found out twelve hours ago? That was midnight. Had she called? He hadn’t checked his phone yet. Had she cried her eyes out over him before telling herself she was determined to tag along unless he explicitly told her no? Had she called her mother with a sob story over him asking for the money it would take to follow him?
Shuji bit his tongue. He was smart enough to know the answers to all of those questions was “yes”. But, he bit his tongue because he was stupid enough to answer himself aloud. “Yes” was not the sentiment he wanted to convey to her.
“You can’t do this to yourself for me.”
“And why in the hell not?!” A thud filled the room as her phone hit the ground and her weak fists met his collar. Her head smacked into his chest as she shook. “Why not? Isn’t that the point? Aren’t we supposed to plan a life together? Aren’t we supposed to get married? Doesn’t that mean where you go I follow? Isn’t that what love is?”
“No. That’s subservience.” He kept his words calm to keep her from flying off the handle. Or was he trying to steady himself? They’d been through enough fights for him to know that she wasn’t going to just calm down. The feeling in his gut told him he wasn’t very steady himself.
Strangely, this was the first time he’d really brought up her obedience as a problem. Or maybe it wasn’t strange. Maybe it was just convenient until now. Shuji could laugh at his hypocrisy later; he had a girl to break up with.
He kept waiting for her to talk, but nothing was coming. She just looked up at him with hurt eyes, hoping for it all to be some joke. Even he wasn’t cruel enough to joke about this. “Hanako, our parents set this up. In this day and age, you deserve to find someone you actually connect with. We have such little in common. You just didn’t care because you were taught to keep quiet when it inconvenienced me. You shouldn’t have been raised that way. You shouldn’t be told who to marry.”
Shuji took a step away from her so she couldn’t cling onto him physically, so he couldn’t touch her. “Let’s be honest with ourselves. We’re here because this was convenient. We trained together and lived close and our parents found this beneficial. We went out and had fun but we will not last if I go to Nagasaki. We will not last if we go to Nagasaki.”
“Is that all those three years were to you? Convenience?”
He bit his tongue.
“No. Don’t answer. I don’t think I want to know. I always knew you were a bit off. But I, I stupidly thought that you had opened up to me. Your dreams were all lies weren’t they? Everything you told me was a lie? Every time was a lie. Wasn’t it?”
Shuji clenched his jaw to keep from blurting out anything. He wasn’t planning on coming back so he needed to do what was best for her. Who cared if she hated him?
“Wasn’t it?” She stamped her foot down.
“Yes,” he replied quickly before going back to clenching his jaw. This was a lot more troublesome...no. This was a lot harder than he’d figured. It would’ve been so much easier if he’d just disappeared and changed his phone number.
Hanako stayed perfectly still, looking away from him. He could hear her fighting back tears, but he knew that she wouldn’t break down on him again. This was a different hurt than the one before. Him not telling her she could rationalize as him being in his own head all the time. She would still be mad, but she’d come to accept that. Which was unhealthy in its own right. But this...this was shattering for her. It did mean she wouldn’t chase after him, thought. It meant she wouldn’t keep clinging on to someone so indifferent. That was probably better for her in the long run. Hell, that’s why he was doing this. That’s what he kept telling himself.
“You really are heartless.”
“I’m surprised it took you three years to figure that out.”
She raised her head and they stared each other down. Her face wasn’t contorting into one of pain, but the tears kept falling. They stood in this deadlock for almost an eternity. She was contemplating all the implications of this and he was mentally logging everything about her. The stylish bob cut that was always messy. The soft eyes which could put actual fear into him. The lips which pulled back into a smile in comfortable silence. The brow which furrowed as she’d read news articles. Her. This was the last time he’d lay his eyes on her. He really should’ve started noticing this sooner.
But that was how things had to be. At least that’s what he told himself. That made things a lot easier. So Shuji just stood there. There was nothing left for him to say. To be honest, there were a lot of things for him to say. But nothing that would make any of this easier.
Slowly, she turned and looked about the room before turning her back to him. With a deliberate walk she put distance between them. Was she hoping he’d chase after her? Or perhaps was she just too drained to move much faster. She should sleep. She wouldn’t, but she should. The next few days would be hell for her.
Very slowly he walked after her and picked up her phone along the way. He wouldn’t blame her for forgetting she’d dropped it, but he wasn’t going to find her and return it. As he escorted her from his room, he clicked the lock button to see her lock screen picture. A small smile crossed his face before he clicked it again, leaving the screen black.
Hanako opened his door and took one last step to place her outside the threshold of his room and, in a way, outside the threshold of his life. She turned to him one last time as they stood separated by the doorway. Shuji outstretched his hand and offered her the phone. She took it slowly, her fingers lingering in his palm before she pulled back.
“Yotogi,” he corrected. He didn’t want her to continue to use his given name if he could help it.
“You’re such an ass,” she replied with a small sniffle to stifle the tears.
“Goodbye Hana-.” He caught himself before he broke his own rule. “Goodbye Kobayashi-chan.” He hadn’t called her that in a year.
Without another word, he closed the door. He heard a light thump as he assumed she leaned her head against the door on the other side.
“I hope your train derails.”
That made two of them.