A Few Good Men

Chapter 2-Him

Twelve o' clock.

He always came down at that time. Twelve o' clock noon, sharp. Everyday, we eat lunch together at that exact time, here in the soccer field with the kids I coached.

But sometimes, he came early. Usually, it was if he was exempted from some exam. Or sometimes, their professor lets him leave early.

That's one good thing about being smart, like he is. Professors love you, not to mention you always get special privileges, and getting good grades aren't bad either. Course, I never cared too much for stuff like grades back when I was still in school, but he does. He cares a whole lot, because he still had a good chance to build up his future.

As for me-I don't.

I gave a little sigh. I wonder, if I was his age right now, under the circumstances, would I choose to do what he is doing right now?

I shrugged. Probably not. He and I are very different. That's why if it happened that I was the same age as he is, I don't think I would be doing what he is doing. And anyway, I'm not really smart like he is. I probably wouldn't get the special privileges he does. Privileges like getting out of class early.

Speaking of getting out of class early, I glanced at my watch. Eleven-thirty. If he was going to be early today, he should be here by now. But there was no sign of him anywhere, it seems. I wonder where his is now. Still in class?

I gave another shrug. Maybe he had a project to do or something. Whenever he came in late, that was usually his reason-a project of some sort, or some extra credit activity he was working on. I don't know what it is with him and extra credit activities, but I do know that, now that it was his last year in high school, things are pretty hectic, and they had a lot of stuff to do.


I turned my head in the nick of time when I heard someone call out to me. The soccer ball was heading my way, aimed straight at my head. I swiftly blocked it and passed it to the person nearest to me-a little red-haired girl named Seiki-the one who warned me about the incoming ball. I gave her a thumbs-up sign, and in a couple of seconds the game was underway again.

I walked out of the playing field and sat down on the bleachers to watch the kids for a moment. When he came in early, his first thing would be to come down here, towards the bleachers. He would sit here--right on this very spot where I was. He would then give me and the kids a wave. And then after that, he would open up his laptop computer and work on some project, and continue doing that until we finished our practice. During that time, he would close up his computer and talk to us.

But he does more than talk. Like a Boy Scout, he was always ready with all the necessary things. Like, if one of the kids got hurt or wounded during practice, he would take out some stuff and tend to the kid's needs. Or if I had a really bad headache, he'd give me a Tylenol to ease it.

He had everything from alcohol to bandages to tablets. I honestly don't know where he puts them, because he only brings one small backpack to school, aside from his computer. But no matter-he was always there, ready to help everyone.

Even with the kids' homework. Since he was very smart, he knew a lot. He was very good in teaching the kids when they don't understand something in their lessons or in their homework.

Heck, I think even I myself could use a little bit of the stuff he's teaching them. I always say he was really a genius, but when I tell him that, he just sort of smiles and shakes his head.

"Ken-kun, I'm no genius. You know I'm not. You're just saying that."

I swore to him I wasn't just saying that, for I know a genius when I see one. But he goes on.

"I'm just a normal eighteen-year-old just like other eighteen-year-olds. I just happen to work harder than the ordinary person. Now, if other people do what I do, then, this would be normal."

I don't say anything more after that. It's hard to argue when he starts reciting words of wisdom.

"Just like everyone else, there are some things I still need to learn. Like soccer."

When he goes on that note, I give him a smile and sort of shake my head. I always try to persuade him to play soccer with me sometimes, but he always refuses. Only recently did he give in to my wishes, but he didn't play with us that often. School was still keeping him really busy, he says. But I wonder why he seemed to be busier than everyone else? Sometimes I see some of his classmates around, and they never appear to be busy.

I asked him that.

"I told you, Ken-kun. I work harder than the ordinary person. Just wait, those guys will be borrowing my notes about two days before finals."

That explained it. In my opinion, though, he wouldn't have a problem acing any exam with his eyes closed, even if he didn't study. He was a genius, and that's enough for him to excel in anything.

Plenty of times, I still wonder how I, a wuss, and he, a genius, are such good friends. Are we living proof that opposites attract? I doubt that, but probably. I didn't really choose him as one of my friends.

I never choose any of my friends. Just like him, all of my friends become my friends because, well--because they become my friends. They came to me, because they came. Putting it simply, there was no reason why they became my friends, because I didn't choose them, nor did anyone else choose them for me.

And in one small part of my life, that became my mistake. Not choosing my friends cost me, not only my career, or my other friends, or my future-but my whole life.


One mistake, one wrong friend. I had one-only one wrong friend, and I had lost everything because of that singular mistake.

More than five years ago, I was in the Japanese Soccer League. Our team was one of the best teams in the country. We were champion for several consecutive years, and one of the main reasons why we were able to carry the champion title that long, was me.

Yes, you heard right. Me. Though I didn't excel much in school, one thing I excelled at was sports. I can play almost every sport very well.

Except maybe chess. But I'm particularly good at soccer.

Okay, not just -particularly good-. My coach in J-league used to say that I was an exceptional player. Well, at least that was before everything that happened. But that comes later.

I was our team's goalie. Or star goalie, whichever way you put it. I was a very good goalie because in my soccer-playing lifetime I was able to make plenty of saves. That was another way of saying I was usually able to prevent the other team from scoring most of the time.

And that was another way of saying our team usually won--for even if the goalies of the other teams were good, they weren't as good as I was.

Just like all the other soccer teams I had a relief goalie--he was the one who played when I wasn't around--which was almost never, and he also played every time I took a break. And that wasn't very often either.

Which was another way of saying he never got to play a lot. And I don't know if that was unfair or not, but my coach had told me very honestly that I was better than him. -Way- better. And as much as I hated to admit it--because he was my friend--I've seen him play, and I really was better than him. Our coach thought so, too, I guess that was why he(coach) allowed me to play more often and benched him most of the time.

And as much as I didn't think that was fair, I wanted to win.

I knew he wanted to play, too, but all I could do was sympathize since I didn't have the last say regarding our team lineups. Coach did, and his decision was to for me to play as long as I can, and for my relief to take over if and only if it was really necessary. I knew he didn't like Coach's decision. He told so himself. He told me everything, as I, likewise, told him everything.

He was my best friend. He was also our team's relief goalie, and his name was Koichirou Kase.

And he was the one mistake in my life I couldn't undo. For a long time, I had thought he was my best friend. I trusted him completely with all my problems and my secrets. I never even knew that trusting him completely was the gravest mistake I could ever make in my whole life.

-He- was the one who took away my life--and I never even knew, until a year ago.

The year when I was fifteen was the last year I ever played in the Japanese Soccer League.

A game that was to decide who would get to the semifinals was the first ever game where I missed seven successive saves. I don't know what had come over me that day, but the steps I took then and after that eventually decided the course of my life.

I sought advice from my best friend Kase. After the game (which we won, luckily, in spite of my misses), I talked to him. He gave me a drink that would restore my strength--or so he had said. And then I became hopeful that I was going to make it this time. And my guess was, Coach was hopeful too, because he didn't take me out of the next game.

We lost our first game of the season that day. Even worse, we lost our first -ever- game on that day. It was my fault, I knew, for I made a lot more misses that time than I did on the first game of the season.

Everyone thought I was just going through a phase. Even I did.

But the next blow came upon me like a crash. Louder, harder. I was then accused of betting on my own games--that explained a whole lot, especially, one on particular--my missing a lot of saves.

From that time the word of my so-called "deeds" went around, I was never allowed to play first-string again.

And then one day, I found out that I had been kicked out of the team.

Kicked out of the one thing--the -only- thing I ever really loved.

And after that, I made another mistake that made everything even worse.

I mean, what the heck--I lost my life the day I was kicked out of soccer, because soccer was my life. Things couldn't get any worse, right? What's the worse thing that could happen after you lose your life?

I found out, soon enough. When I decided to ask for Kase's help again, I made a mistake, and in the process, I lost something far more precious than my life--I lost myself.

Kase and I met in an old warehouse at the back of a restaurant outside of town. The occurrences in that old warehouse had been the turning point in my life. Or should I say, the turning point in my non-life. It was his idea that we meet there.

"I'm sorry about everything, Ken. I know I should have told you this sooner, but…"

"What, Kase?"

"I didn't know that they put something in that drink! I didn't know!! Ken, I'm so sorry…"

"I'm not blaming you for it…"

"I'm sorry, Ken! I really am! I'll make it up to you…"

"It's all over for me, Kase. But don't worry, I'll be fine. Just get on with your life…"

"No, Ken, NO! You're innocent! I promise, I'll clear your name! I'll find proof! I promise, Ken!"

"Kase…" A noise. "What's that?!?"

"Ken, I promise I'll…"

"KASE, LOOK OUT!" A sharp, stabbing pain pierced my head. Above me stood a man, with a scar, holding a steel pipe, aiming another blow at me.


The last thing I saw was Kase being dragged out of the warehouse. Then the man with the scar hit me on the head once again. And then, there was a puff of smoke, then a burst of flames, before there was darkness.


I don't remember anything that happened after that, because when I awoke next, it was from a bad dream. Everything that happened in the warehouse during that night, I relieved all over again in a dream.

Or more like--a nightmare.

One thing I was thankful for was the presence of another human being in the room where I was when I had that nightmare.

I gazed at the school building at my back and smiled.

Him. I owe him a lot, for he was the other human being I was talking about--the human being who was there in the room on that day when I had my nightmare.

I remember waking up and feeling as if the whole place was on fire. I was in panic. I wanted to jump from the bed and run out, away from the fire…

"No, DON'T! You'll hurt yourself." A calm and firm voice and a strong pair of hands stopped me.

"THERE'S A FIRE! Don't you see?" I choked, pushing him away. "We have to get out of here…"

"There is NO fire, Ken-kun," the same firm and calm voice said quietly. "You were having a nightmare. Open your eyes."

That was when I realized I had my eyes closed. I opened them…and a peaceful night sky flashed before me. No sign of fire. I gazed at my hands, the whole room.

No sign of fire. I looked at the person standing in front of me--to the face of the owner of the voice that calmed me…and came into eye contact with a boy.

A boy, young, with blond hair and blue eyes. That was him, five years ago. His eyes held an expression of concern.

"Where am I?" I asked. I noticed my speech was slurred and husky, like I haven't spoken for a long time.

"In a hospital room. You've been in a coma for three months." He answered.

"Who are you?" I asked again. " What am I doing here? Where's Kase? What happened to him? The warehouse…"

"The warehouse burned, Ken-kun. And about your friend…" His voice trailed off, and he looked away. "Someone saw him get abducted by two men, but didn't know where they took him."

I buried my face in my hands.

"I'm sorry." He sighed. "As for your other question…my name is Tsukiyono Omi. After you recover, I'm going to take you to the apartment building where you will live from now on. It's all been taken care of."

I gazed at him in amazement. I was very surprised at what he had said, and the way he said them--everything sounded so final, so decided. And he didn't look like he was older than…thirteen?

Such things he said, I expected to have come from someone older, much older.

"When we get to the apartment, I'll tell you everything you need to know, and I'll try to answer some of your questions. If I can't, then someone else will."

I didn't say anything. I was still a little speechless.

He sighed again. "You'd better get back to sleep, Ken-kun. Tomorrow, we can talk more. If that's alright with you." He started to head back to the seatee where he slept.

"Omi." He stopped and turned around. "Thank you."

He smiled. "You're welcome, Ken-kun."

Then we both went back to sleep.


The next morning, the doctors checked me up. He stayed by my side all throughout the checkup. Then I was told to stay for two more days. Two days after, I was discharged. Then we went out and drove towards the apartment building in his motorcycle.

He stopped at a building with a flowershop at the front. The building was about three floors high, and on the front of the first floor, that's where the flowershop was. There was a shade that seemed to separate the first floor from the other floors, because it was situated right on the spot where the first floor ceiling and the bottom of the second floor meet. The front of the first floor was covered with glass windows, and flower boxes lined the outside front. On the window on the right, at the top just below the shade was a sign that said Kitten in the House, which I guessed to be the name of the flowershop. At the entrance was a tiny old lady sitting in a chair with a cat in her lap--a lady, whom I guessed to be the caretaker of the whole place.

"This is where you're going to live. This is where I live, too. And this is Momoe-san," He added, referring to the tiny old lady. He led me inside the place that was to be, as he had said, my home from that time on.

As soon as I got settled in, he filled me in on all that occurred after the fire in the warehouse.

"You were knocked unconscious. Totally unconscious. When they dragged your body out of that warehouse, you were half-dead. But I wouldn't know that for sure, though. I wasn' t there. I only know what Manx told me."

And then, I asked, who was Manx?

"You'll find out soon enough," he answered. "You were rushed to the hospital, and luckily, they were able to save you. However," he continued, "you wouldn't wake up. For three whole months, you just stayed unconscious in your hospital bed."

"Were you with me the whole time then?"

He shook his head. "Not all the time. I had school. Manx and the nurses took care of you in the mornings. I only stayed to watch you at night. And anyway, they only allowed me to do that because Persia found out that someone wanted to kill you."

Someone wanted me dead? I wondered who. I didn't know who would've wanted me dead--I was nothing but an ex-J-leaguer. What would anyone want with an ex-J-leaguer?

"I know. We were wondering that too," he said, as if he read my mind. "But we hope to find out."

Find out? Who are these people?

"Manx. Manx will explain who we are. Who you will be, if you decide to become one of us." He gave me a reassuring smile. "Anyway, two weeks ago, you awoke from the coma. But it wasn't waking up at all. You were physically awake, but you weren't there. You wouldn't move, you wouldn't speak, and you wouldn't even focus your eyes. It was as if you were willing yourself to die."

And that's when I remembered that first time I woke up after the warehouse fire. I had thought I had lost everything--that there was no life, that there wasn't even a non-life left for me. I thought I saw something, yet I refused to see. I thought I touched something, but I didn't try to feel. Then I thought I heard something, but I didn't try to hear it. I wanted to say something, but what's the use? Technically I was dead. Heck, I didn't even have a non-life.

"I was like that for two weeks." I stated, more to myself than to him.

A nod. "That's right. For two weeks you were…"

"For two weeks I was unfocused. Until three days ago."

"Right." He confirmed. He gazed at me. "You almost cut your IV tubes, you know." He pointed to my hand.

"But you stopped me." For the first time in a long while, I felt like smiling. "I have a lot to be thankful for, especially to you."

A shrug, then he grinned. "Don't thank just me. Thank them."


"Manx. And Persia. Kritiker," he added.


That night, I met the woman called Manx. She was in her early twenties, with red hair.

And the things that happened next--the things she said, and the things an unseen man called Persia said, and my decisions that night, started the new life that I was to live.

I was to become Weiß, a white hunter during the night--one who "hunts the tomorrows of the dark beasts." In the morning, I was also a salesclerk at Kitten in the House.

In the morning, I was known as Hidaka Ken, flowershop clerk. At night, I was Siberian of Weiß Kreuz, an assassin who uses tiger claws to kill.

Then, there was him. He was also like me. Only thirteen years old and he was already an assassin. He was a child with no past, as I found out, for he couldn't remember anything, other than coming to Kitten and becoming Weiß. He couldn't remember any of his childhood. That was then.

In the morning, he was Tsukiyono Omi, flowershop clerk and junior high school student. At night, he was Bombay of Weiß Kreuz, an assassin who uses a crossbow and darts to kill.

In my previous life, I was a soccer player.

Now, I was one of Weiß, an assassin. This was my new life.


"Ken-niichan?" A male voice.

"Ken-kun? Are you okay?" Another male voice. Older sounding this time.

"Ken-niichan? Can we eat now? We still have class." A small hand waved in front of my face. Seiki.

"Ken-kun, have you been daydreaming again?" The older sounding male voice. Him.

"Ken-niichan, it's after twelve," the male voice earlier. Soujiro, Seiki's older brother. I noticed he was beside me.

I finally snapped back into focus. "Oh, yeah. Lunch." I muttered. I stood up. Then I felt a hand on my shoulder.

Him. "You look like you were thinking of something pretty intense there." He commented, his blue eyes gazing at me intently.

I shook my head. "It was nothing, really."

He nodded. "If you say so." He then turned to the kids. "Okay everyone, Omi-niichan brought you some rice balls…now, eat!"

I smiled at the affectionate way he handled the kids. We were so alike in many ways, he and I. So alike yet so different. The only sports he played in school were darts and chess, while my favorite school subject was recess. I still wonder why we were such good friends.


I looked at him inquiringly. "Yes?"

"Let's eat!" He gave me a grin and handed me a rice ball. We sat down on the field beside the kids and started to eat.

We were quiet for a little while, listening to the kids eat and laugh and talk amongst themselves.

"I was remembering the fire." I told him quietly.

"The fire? At the warehouse? Ken-kun, that was more than five years ago." He gazed at me anxiously.

"I know. It's just that Kase…"

"You still think of him?"

"A whole lot. He was my best friend."

He nodded. "I guess you never completely forget."

"I had no right to end his life, you know."

He shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not."

I sighed. Right after I became Weiß, I had thought a lot about Kase. Back then, I had felt sad and guilty that his desire to clear my name probably caused him his own life.

Then, just last year, I saw him. He was alive! I was very happy about that fact. He was the same as I remembered when I saw him. He still wanted to do something--find proof, a witness, anything--to clear my name. He still wanted to help me.

Or so I had thought.

It was a mistake to trust him again, but it was all too late when I realized that. He was one of Weiß's targets, but I did everything in my power to delay the mission. I wanted to protect him the way he was protecting me.

Or so I had thought.

I never even knew I was protecting an enemy until he himself told me--that time, when I had decided to kill the other target who was his boss.

"I can't believe how slow you are, Ken! Haven't you realized it yet? I'M the one who got you kicked off the team. You were so great, and everyone loved you. But what of me? I'm just a relief--a spare for excellent players like you. And I hated you because of that.

"I was the one betting on our games, Ken. It was ME." A sinister laugh. "Goodbye, Hidaka Ken, my best friend." Then he fired his gun at me, repeatedly.

He thought he had killed me then. But he was wrong. I was smarter than he thought.

"KEN?!? You're alive?!? But…"

"My…mission is not yet…over." Then I lunged at him with my tiger claws.

"I'm sorry Ken! I'll make it up to you! I was just jealous! Ken, please…" He pleaded before me, and I wanted to forgive him.

And I was going to, but…

"Ken, you are so gullible." I saw that sinister look in his eyes again.

That was the last straw. I dug my tiger claws straight into his chest. "Sorry, Kase."

The last words I heard him say were, "And I'll see you in hell, Ken…" before he fell dead on the ground.

And that was the last of Kase, because I had killed him. But even in death, he still continued to haunt me. I still thought of him quite constantly.

"I know what you're going to say," I told Omi quietly as I unwrapped my rice ball. "I had no choice."

He shook his head. "I was going to say that, to my knowledge, you didn't have a choice." He shrugged. "As for him, he could have forgotten that hatred. It's not your fault you're good at soccer."

I knew he was right. But still…

"You can't help but think of him." He said as if he read my mind…again. "I guess it's only normal. And know what I think? Even if it's painful to remember him, hey, at least you remember. It only hurts when it's fresh, but gradually, whatever pain is there, will heal. Then, it's going to become just a distant and sad memory. The sadness will be there, but at least the pain will be gone." He gave me a reassuring smile.

I smiled back. What he said made perfect sense. "Where do you get all these stuff you know?"

"Nowhere." He said matter-of-factly. "It's just something I think about once in a while every time my thoughts take a twist to thinking about Weiß." He popped the last piece of his rice ball into his mouth.

"So it's better if you remember?" I asked.

"I think it depends on how intense the memory is," he answered. "But in my opinion, forgetting is like escaping reality. I think people who remember are really lucky." His voice took on a sad note. "Some people who forget, they forget for a long time, but when they remember, it hurts twice as much. Then they'll start thinking, it would've been better it they never forgot it at all."

I knew who he was talking about. Himself. Something bad happened to him when he was young, something he chose not to remember, but recently he was able to remember. None of us actually know the whole story--well, except for Persia, maybe, but he died last year…

"I remember Persia…Uncle Shuuichi telling me once that I was better off forgetting everything that happened, because remembering would only make me sad." He took a deep breath and his eyes met mine squarely. "I ended up forgetting my whole childhood. He thought it was for the best…" I could tell he was getting teary-eyed, from the way he spoke. Talking about his Uncle Shuuichi, also known as Weiß's former commander, was a sad subject for him.

I didn't want him to continue. One person reminiscing about the past was quite enough for one day. I understood what he was trying to tell me.

"I understand, Omi. It's better to remember." I gave him a smile.

"And remember too, Ken-kun, that no matter what, it wasn't your fault. You didn't make the mistake, -he- did. When he chose to let his hate for you overcome him, that was when he made the gravest mistake he could ever make." He told me.

I nodded. He really had a way of making me feel better.

But who would make -him- feel better?

He gave me a reassuring smile. "I'll be okay. I'll remember everything someday…soon," he added.

I only wish I could do something to help him remember.

I sighed, then I stood up when I saw the kids looking at us expectantly. "We should take the kids back to school, Omi."

He nodded. "Uh-huh." He stood up too. "And Ken-kun?"


"It's not your fault, okay?" He said. "Don't blame yourself."

I nodded. As we took the kids back to school I tried recalling all that he had said. He knew that it was sudden that I started thinking of Kase again. What he didn't know was, the reason I started thinking of Kase, was because I was thinking of him.


As soon as we had brought the kids back to school, I asked him if he was alright. I hadn't forgotten that time when he got really sad just a little while ago.

"I'm fine," he nodded, but he stayed silent after that as we walked.

Then I asked him if he had any more classes that afternoon.

"I'm done for the day," he answered matter-of-factly. "It's my turn to watch the shop this afternoon."

"Then we'd better get to the train station, fast. I'm sure Aya and Yohji are waiting." Omi and I took the train every morning because his school was in Tokyo and the kids I coached were here in Tokyo as well. Our moving flowershop, meanwhile, is now in Kyoto.

I started walking fast. I wanted to talk to him, but I couldn't find the right words to begin. And besides, I had no idea what I wanted to tell him.

"Ken-kun." He was behind me, thinking to himself, probably. I turned around. "It wasn't your fault that I remembered something today and you know….I got sad. The reason that happened was…" he paused. "Yesterday. The memory, my childhood, the nightmare…something else triggered it." He caught up with me and we walked to the train station which was still a couple of blocks away.

"What was it?" I asked, while all the while, I was thinking…the accusations against me, the warehouse fire, that thing about Kase…they all got triggered by something.

Or someone. Him.

"I was at the Police Main Building yesterday. The one where Uncle Shuuichi used to be a director." He added quietly.

"You mean, here in Tokyo?" I gazed at him strangely.


"But why would you go there?" I asked as we paid for train tickets.

He shrugged. "I don't know why I came. I just woke up yesterday morning and…decided I'd go there." He buried his hands in his pockets. "Something…drew me, I guess."

Something? I wondered. But what could that have been? Kritiker's headquarters was no longer situated at the Police Main. Sure, Manx and Birman still worked there, but…

"I know. I was thinking that too," he said as if reading my mind. "I did go inside, but when I got in, I realized I had absolutely no reason for going. But I stayed." A sigh. "It was really weird. I didn't have any business with the police, but I stayed. I asked for Manx, but she wasn't around. Then I asked for Birman, but she wasn't around either. I figured, maybe I needed to talk to them about a mission or something. But since they weren't there, I knew I had no reason to be there anymore." Then he looked at me and shrugged. "It was really weird, I was going to leave, but something held me back. It was as if something--or someone--wanted me to stay a bit longer." He gave a nervous laugh. "I thought maybe Uncle Shuuichi's ghost was haunting me."

"So what was it?" I asked as we stepped into the train. It closed and then started up.

"I don't know," he replied dryly. "I've been wondering about that myself. But after that, I went outside. Maybe I needed to wait for whatever it is to happen outside. So I went out and walked around at the front. I thought maybe I'd remember why I came there if I took a walk. Either that or whatever it was I was waiting for would come or something." Then he gave me a small smile. "I don't know what this means, but the strangest thing happened. As soon as got near the benches around the fountain, I caught a glimpse of this…young woman. Then, it's as if I was able to accomplish whatever it was that I came for."

"A young woman?"

"Yeah. She was about my age, Ken-kun. I passed her by, and you know…I sort of gave her a smile." He rolled his eyes. "Yohji-kun would've been embarrassed. I didn't even approach her or talk to her, ask her name. Yohji-kun would've. She was very, very beautiful." Was that a hint of a blush I see in his face?

"Wait a minute…you don't mean to tell me -she- was the one who drew you to be there?"

"I don't know. I've thought about it, and she couldn't be my reason. It has to be something else that I just forgot. Anyway, seeing her was like…you know…dejà vu? I think I've seen her somewhere before, though I don't exactly know when or where. I've never seen her around Tokyo, but I think we've met before."

"That's really weird."

"You can say that again. Anyway, so I went back home, and then that's when the dreams started again, you know?"

"Well…do you think she's part of your past?" I asked.

He shrugged. "I'm not sure. But I hope to find out. Ken-kun, I want to come back there. I'm going to see Manx. She might know."

"Well…that's your choice," I said tentatively. "I guess."

"If it's alright with you, can you come with me? I need a little backing."

"Well, okay, I can come if you want." I smiled as the train halted to a stop.

He smiled back. "Thanks." He said as we walked out of the train. Then we walked a couple of more blocks until we reached the parking lot where Yohji and Aya had parked the flowershop trailer.

Then, we were there, at the front. "You're late." Yohji remarked.

I grinned. "Sorry. Did you have a date?"

"Nah. I'm gonna hang out. Man, I'm starving. Yo," he turned to Aya. "you about finished there?"

A brief nod. "Uh-huh." Aya took of his apron and tossed it on a table. He walked out and handed Omi the sprinkler. "Finish watering the lilies. And don't forget to count the cashier before you close up." He disappeared into the trailer.

Yohji threw up his apron. "Later, you two." He told us as he left.

Omi handed me the sprinkler and I finished watering the lilies. He checked the cash register while I was doing that.

We transacted some business for a little while. Several girls stopped by and gushed and oohed and aahed over the flowers and at…uh…us.

"Omi-ku~n, get me this!"


"Omi, I want this…and this, too!"

"Yeah, yeah…sure."

I could tell most of the girls were eyeing him, and I was glad for that. Hey, at least they weren't eyeing -me-. I think most of Aya's, Yohji's and my admirers shifted to admiring Omi this year. He'd grown a lot over the past year, and he was now as tall as me. But he still held that boyish, angelic face that most girls simply love and adore.

He looked over at me helplessly. I gave him a grin and a thumbs-up sign.

After the girls left, he sat down on a chair, exhausted.

"I don't know many girls who could wear me out like that," he panted. "Geeze. That bunch, they're so…"

"--in love with you?" I teased.

He glared at me. "Ken-kun…" he warned.

I laughed. "Kidding."

He smiled, then almost immediately, his face took on a serious look. "Ken-kun, I…want to thank you. For, you know…listening to me, and for everything."


"Don't thank me. I didn't do anything."

He shook his head. "You were there when I needed someone to talk to, and I'm grateful for that."

I wanted to say, you were there when I was almost ready to give up everything, and you gave everything back to me--and then some. I should be the one thanking you. But instead, I said, "You're very welcome."

He smiled. "You're very welcome too, Ken-kun." He said, as if reading my mind.

I still wonder if maybe, just maybe--he could read minds.

But then I start thinking, that's just his way.

Tsukiyono Omi, that was him.


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