3. Finding Truce.
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She put the books aside on a nearby table before staring blankly at the window, reflecting a cheerful gaze between a pane and what seems like beautiful scenery. “That's an interestingly optimistic approach to interpret it.”

“You think so?”

“Yes, I like it.” She quietly clapped the visitor's stool beside her bed three times, asking him to have a seat and continue chatting with her. “Sound can do so much power, both in message and communication, just as you've said.”

“I can see that.” To which he replied casually; silence swiftly took over the room, scattering through his mind to think of what to talk about. He notices her still staring blankly at the window, not moving an inch, not saying a single word — almost like a doll, almost like she wasn't there.

“What is . . .” he gulped, muttering and stuttering, before finally mustering the strength to say the words the mind was wavering on about. “May I ask for your name?”

“Rina.” She finally looked his way, meeting his gaze again once more, “Rina Aoi.”

He descried it at last, I finally see it, he was overjoyed, I can finally see your smile again, Hana.

“That's a great name.” A small tear rolled down his cheek, “it reminds me too much of someone,” Wiping his eyes with his elbow, his voice cracked. “I should stop thinking of her this much, and maybe move on.”

“She a friend, relative . . . lover?”

“Not quite, but I guess you could say that; she was a great acquaintance, even though I didn't know her long — it felt like she didn't think twice to do such a thing for me.”

“And that is?” She leaned slightly in over to his direction.

“Something I'll be grateful about for the rest of my life.”

“She means that much to you, huh.” Rina tilted her head towards the opposite side to grab the book from the table, and began reading it from where she left off. “I hope she's in a better place now, surely.”

“I suppose you're–”

“Don't make justifications, don't try to rationalize your actions too much, it's kind of weird and ultra unrealistic for someone to bring up another person the moment they meet them, but — it's because I look like her or details that connect us together, correct?” She flipped through a page, slowly and gracefully.

He stood silent.

“You were trying to justify your feelings by thinking you could see a form of her again? Or maybe perhaps you were thinking that your irrational feelings are out-of-the-blue but didn't worry you so, because you're just fine seeing me — not wanting to engage with me further, more so leads you to believe it's all done the moment you go out through the door, and that you never want to see me again after this?

I think that's quite sad... to be seen as another person I don't even know, and then not given the roots to its story. Sounds like it came straight out of a video game or manga.” She pointed to a word in the book and showed it to him.

'Stay.' Come back tomorrow, I like your line of thinking. I'm also curious as to who this person I keep reminding you of—so tell me stories! I'm a very curious cat,” She put a book upfront to hide her face, “Can you do that?” She quickly glanced at the clock at the wall. “w-well—unfortunately visitors' hours will end soon,” she waved. “So you better get up on your feet and go! You probably have better things to do, right? So, uhm, I'll see you next time...” There was an instance of her smiling softly.

“Uhm, wait–!”

“Hm?”

“In exchange for that, can you tell me your stories too? Any, I'll listen to them.”

She beamed happily at the afterthought of it, “Gladly, that would be great!”

How come he couldn't stop comparing her smile to Hana's — delusional, or torment?

He grinned like a Cheshire cat and waved back happily, heading out of the room. The day passed like any other, with him going back to his humble abode — at the very least he has plans on what to do: first and foremost, figure out what in the living hell school is, and how to handle it for tomorrow morning. The way to get started is to quit talking, quit thinking too long, and begin doing, is what he firmly believed for as long as he matured and still to this day.

“Rina,” He repeated the name for quite a bit before ending it with, “Aoi.”

She insisted that I come again everyday . . .

Is she lonely?

Why didn't she say so?

divider.

Navigating through the unfamiliar terrains again, he adapted quickly and memorized some of the easy-to-remember pathways. The imagery was still a blur, but the guy is learning and improvising more and more by the second; truly a fascinating and wonderful world he had himself stumbled upon — it's still something new, but alas the roads weren't as narrow as he remembered from the rack and ruins he lived previously.

How did he live through that? Even one wonder; how did he survive that for so long? He kept on asking, conceivably so before dropping one remark: “Survived . . . ?” He stopped in his tracks for a quick second. “I didn't.”

He scratched his head, and continued walking the quiet barren streets; must've been the countryside(?) — especially on Sunday, to be this quiet, he meant. There were some kids and liveliness passing by, but seeing and hearing laughter; bearing memory of those fun giggles turned leer, reminding himself of those times that once passed with frowned and scared children — it was hard.

“Who am I kidding,” he muttered to himself, “I saw too many corpses, too many tears and sadness; it wasn't bearable, all that led to my long-lasting survival was my selfishness. I didn't care about the others who died, only my friends and saving my own skin.

I hope my death then, was the punishment they all wanted for me — I deserved it. Some died doing what they loved doing. At the very least, that one bittersweet thought to commemorate, is worthwhile.”

He wasn't the most emotional character. He didn't want to die, he didn't want people to leave him, he didn't want to lose his friends and family, he didn't want to lose her. All that he cared about was trying to see another day, and despite his underwhelming courage and confidence; it took him a long mile before his downfall. He had hoped Hana and the others were proud, but he must still bear the burden of letting them all down. “I'm sorry I died back then.”

“If I could reverse time and undo my mistakes, if I was able to actually say goodbye back then — I would've bawled my eyes out, in front of everyone, all of you; I want to apologize for everything I've done, I want to let my heart out and tell you how much I loved you back . . .”

He knew.

 “But I can't. You all sacrificed your little time just for my survival, and I died following suite — blacking out, and awoke to my broken hand.”

Yet I was never satisfied.

What was he supposed to do? Gauge his heart out in hopes the returnees from the afterlife forgive him? For dying in vain? For nothing? And act like, “Oh, no worries! I mean — all of your efforts, and lives, didn't mean anything.” Or reassure himself, over and over, It's how it all worked.

 “I was pathetic, I'm sorry, 

I'm sorry that I… I was selfish.”

But you don't get to have a say in that. Not ever. Sacrifices will end in vain: some live to see, the rest don't. He thinks so, and firmly holds it true to his nature.

He felt a hand tucking from the back of his shirt, “Hey, big brother, why are you muttering to yourself?” It was a little boy. Around the age of 6 or 7, he'd reckon.

“Oh,” Haru smiled back, maybe it was false confidence to mask what he was just feeling—but perhaps being the most selfish person to have lived before, may have given him the advantage to start grasping how much people loved him just to see him live one more night, and of course . . . start loving others but himself more, for their sake. “I was trying to think of a way to impress a girl.”

I realized that Hana had always liked me before, but . . . I neglected that. I'm not going to bat another blind eye again. Not anymore.

I didn't care that much back then, I was a coward.

A total filth to be loathed, absolutely.

I'll make sure she, even in another world . . .

has her feelings returned.

“If life were predictable it would cease to be life, and be without flavor.” He remembered that. remember hearing that.

He returned home after a long walk, he looked at the clock and realized it was already evening. “Hey mom, I'm home.” He untied his shoes—at least that's easy—putting them neatly on the shoebox before entering the house.

“Haru?” She looked at him, perplexed. What is wrong with her son? Is what she was probably thinking, but she was quick on the uptake and perceived it as another opportunity to tease him again. “Have you forgotten anything?” she grinned like a dare-devil, “you sure spent a lot of time at the hospital—perchance, it's someone you like? Ehehe..” Her smug-face was seriously bothering him, and it's quite embarrassing to say the least.

“Shut . . . up,” He blushed at the comment faintly, “And yes, it's a girl, in case you'll ask.” He looked to the side, avoiding eye contact—it was obvious his low voice was a sign; perhaps, a bad omen. And the sound, the expression he gave, it's like he's talking to a crush up close, face-to-face—now that's agitating. Hypothetically speaking, ofcourse.

“Ohoho?!” She exclaimed at the sight of her cute son's response. “Tell her I said hi! The next time you two meet, promise me that pleasee!”

“Wait,” He quickly interrupted her. “I forgot about the digital dictionary . . .”

“Hey, that's not fair! Give yours to her instead!”

Crooked—his smile, perhaps forced, even. “Like, I. . . You know, we all just get that feeling of—you get it? Where you just . . . k-kind of forget . . .” He beamed a weird and confused smile, whilst scratching his cheek with beads of sweat rolling down his face. “Can you spare me the details—again, please..?”

She sighed in subsequent, “Your friends—don't you remember?”

He nodded, and faked his shock. Silence followed—he's fidgeting, as-if at a disparity and confusion. Mother gave him a pfft, he's not the most subservient—despite this, she got a clue and continued.

“Opposite row from this house. It's close so you usually visit it on free weekends—the park.”

“Oh, yeah, of course!” A smile grew, and his eyebrows struck upward. “How could I forget, haha..” He's very bad at this, in case it wasn't obvious.

He tied the shoes this time by himself. No assistance, no help, no nothing—independence is key! But, as expected. . . to no avail: it's done with the shoestrings tangled and weird—it's good enough, he thought. “I'll be off now, mom!” He stood up, revealing his shoelaces being all over the place to his mom's field of vision.

She only smiled—faintly at it. That was her response to his idiocy. “Take care, Haru.”

He dashed off, looking at the rows which became the separator between the houses intertwined and everything else. Took another quick second before realizing he's on the right track, and only a matter of time before he got there. “Is this really it?” He mumbled to himself.

“Really what now?” Another unfamiliar face appears right beside Haru, it didn't really scare him as much as they'd expect it to.

“Oh, hey,” He tilted his head to meet his gaze, looking vacantly—remaining stagnant and confused. “I know you, right?” Instead of asking who, he took the most plausible choice in the situation and went with the “I recognize you, but I hit my head” approach. Albeit—that's just what he thinks he's doing, not realizing how much of a fool he's made himself this time around.

“You okay? We've known each other longer than time itself existed as a concept!”

“Yeah, right. Another statement coming outta your ass Akiochi.” Yet another unfamiliar face spoke.

“Shut up—” He sighed upon being awfully interrupted, “You sure you're good, Haru? You're kinda goofy today, mate.”

“Yeah, yeah, I'm good!” He exclaimed, before taking in his seat with 2 more unfamiliar faces in the park.

“Alright, you all gonna get the usual? My treat this time.” Said the teen who Haru had spoken to just now. Seems so that his name is Akiochi.

“Yeah,” they all answered, agreeing on it.

“Alright. Mika, Rito, and finally—Haru, wait for a bit.”

“Hey, Akio, give me a coke instead, not feeling it right now.” Mika, the one who spoke earlier, replied before going back to typing on his phone.

“Uhuh,” He replied, casually, “For some reason, it feels like our conversation right in the here and now is a bit robotic,” He laughed it off. “School's starting tomorrow, and summer break's ending. Bummer, isn't it?” He left to find any vending machines nearby for a quick drink with the homies. A small, minor, but insignificant silence ensued.

 Then—it broke. Perhaps Haru had something he wanted to get off of his chest. “Hey, I just want to ask something real quick . . .” Haru inquired quietly.

“Hm? Just say it.” Rito looked at Haru's way to pay close attention. He wasn't really doing anything, particularly, but the dude knows his ways in an actual conversation, definitely—okay, maybe just hopefully.

“Well, I've just started knowing this one person, and we've recently just started establishing . . . mutual contacts (?) Friendship, urm, acquaintanced?”

“Seriously?” Rito grinned, “aren't you the girl-picker? You get too much sometimes.”

“I hit my head too hard, again and again, and forgot.”

“Huh?”

“What?”

“Summer break; it was, uh, well—it was something.” Haru rested his shoulders onto the bench, finally being just a slight bit more comfy with the guys. “I-in any case, how did you tell it's a girl?”

“Oh, that's obvious. Everyone's head over heels for you.”

“heads are always over your heels, Rito.” Mika says, oblivious to his surroundings as he immerses himself into scrolling endlessly throughout the abyss of … Twitter.

“Way to beat up a metaphor, Mikael.” 

“How many times do I need to tell you not to call m—” He sighed. “Continue on, stop being superficial. We're furthering from the actual flow of the conversation.”

“Right, my bad.” Rito picked up a pen nearby from his pocket and started writing on a small sheet of paper he happened to have, “Don't ask. You know what happened last week.”

“?” Yeah, no. Haru doesn't. At least, the current one. He played along anyway.

“That's rough innit, mate. Hope you're still tryna move on from that past—I support you on that one.” Mika closed his phone for the first, ever. Thankfully, he's worth respecting.

“If you really want to do it for a girl you're embarrassed to talk to, then your confidence is hostile and non-existent—but it's not entirely non-docile.” He remarked.

“Spill the details.” Mika, now back on his phone; reluctant to listen to such fluff, and mayhaps trying to tell him “The heck do you mean by that?” And cutting it right to the chase.

Rito showed them both a drawing of a flower with writings all beside it. “The obvious: flowers.”

They were surprised, but can't say they're not disappointed.

 Rito yawned upon the reactions for a quick second before continuing his speech, “Forget-me-nots symbolize true love and respect. When you give someone these tiny blooms, it represents a promise that you will always remember them and will keep them in your thoughts. Fancy, convenient, call it whatever.”

“You know, it's really not that serious, right?” Mika brushed it off.

“Huh? What? Did I do something wrong?” His tone was of the confused nature. It's alright, Rito, everyone takes every single little detail seriously sometimes! Maybe not everyone… but it happens.

Phone geek raised his hand to condemn, “Yes, yes. I'm rebutting. You technically did,” He stood silent, still with his hand in the air, for quite a moment now. “Uh, wait a minute,” It starts to get more awkward by the moment, by the overtime. “I'm scrolling, okay?!” Everyone else nodded, as-if expressing concern for Mika's well-being. Sarcastically, ofcourse. Seriously though—they're grinning quite a bit. Hurry up, will you?!

“You know, you could've actually tried finding it first rather than trying to make a point the moment you get an idea.” Rito stamped the everliving embarrassment into him. Way to get yourself ‘down’ an ego trip. Literally.

“I, simply… didn't think of that, at the moment.” He stammered, furthering on to his main point the immediate he found such necessities, “Here!” And deliberate at that. He pointed his index finger at him.

“I've scrolled through your hundreds of useless quoted retweets on your user profile, and found out that on exactly… urhh..” He got his phone closer to his face, “approximately…3:24 A.M in the morning?? That you said, and I quote: ‘forget-me-nots represent food for thought; oh the misery, for you have forgotten me whom cherished thou. Although you will forever be in my memories, I can't say the same for you—my beloved.’ Are you kidding me?”

“…”

“So…”

“The fuck?”

“WAIT I—… I CAN EXPLAIN.. I THINK!”

Side your case for it is I who will slay thou.” Mika, in his pride and comeback, has reclaimed his throne! Ding ding, the fight commence!

SO LIKE, you know how when you're just on your phone? Scrolling through random useless information and stumbling across THAT ONE cool fact that's useless and you probably will never ever use at all? And I mean, AT ALL?!

“…”

“You're… you're not making it any more convincing, Ri-kun.” Haru finally got down, narrowing it all and adjusting into the already absurd, weird, disastrous, embarrassing scene—at the very least, his comfort is coming in clutch. Ofcourse, there's more to learn and adapt to.

SO AS I WAS SAYING!—” He stood up in disbelief, “Before you rudely interrupted my fine reasoning,”

“Here we go again.”

“—when the time and situation calls for it, and you instantly get reminded of the one cool detail you found in the deep-rooted murky depths of the surface internet web; doesn't it excite you? Exhilarate you, even?! That one ‘I CAN FINALLY SHOW OFF SOMETHING COOL I LEARNED! I DIDN'T WASTE MY 2 HOURS WATCHING DAILY DOSE OF INTERNET FACTS FOR NOTHING!’ moment!”

“Uhm, real-goers don't really naturally cut chase right onto such a tact. How I see it, really, is you're… trying to sound smart?” Mika demolished, destroyed, and absolutely obliterated him. Ten points gained with that one!

“Aughh… my heart..” He put his hand on his chest, oh how heartbreaking and heart-wrenching thing to be told! Such a grotesque scene does not require him to be so gruesome, Rito thought.

“Nobody uses real-goers, tact, and anything of that sort in such eloquence. How I SEE IT, is you're also doing… the same thing?” Gotcha! Haru's probably feeling all tight up in his pants, finally being able to bring value in the conversation! Oh. That's pretty sad to think about, actually… “Call me stupid, but your big words aren't even making sense. Stick to being real, mate. Let us, uhm, delve right back onto the main focus.”

“Oh right, yeah, yup. My bad.”

“Well, the way I REALLY see it,” Mika gasped for air before his eyes panned the idea, looking out for Akio, and right back at them, “Aren't you cutting it way too close quarters, Rito?”

“?” His eyes widened, his brow shot like an upward thrust; he was piqued. “What do you mean?”

“What I mean is… that you're skipping all the necessary steps in properly building a relationship. Drip-feeding, actual small talks to better understand said person, and times well-spent together. Those are all the criteria that necessitate a good, healthy, well-being of a solid bond.”

“Ahaha..” Haru was just, there.

“Right, I get it now—anyways, elaborate on the steps. What's number one?”

“Number one!” He shoved his palm forward, before clenching all but one index finger, “is obvious: establish, maintain, and become naturalistic.”

“Yeah, no, what does that mean?” Haru sighed, “Establish what? A connection? Make it natural? I'm lost here.”

“Awhh, alright, let me clarify—have you gotten her phone number yet?”

“...”

“Well?”

Everyone's eyes were on him.

“I, uhm,” He stifled in desperation, deliberate on that; it was a moment's plea in his expression—he definitely couldn't think of such a simple idea. “I don't, actually…”

“And you expect to have an established connection? Despite it being more-or-less acquaintances from an outside look?”

“I—I don't really need it, really! It's just, like, she told me to come again… and, and, she said me talking to her was enjoyable albeit it was quite, urh, stoic for me!” He stammered. He was a bit pushed off the edge. “Afterall, she sounded interested, in my perspective atleast! It was hard trying to maintain eye contact. It was, so, so hard to not think of someone else, something else; it was hard trying to divulge my attention to another thing! It was…”

“Haru?”

“It was hard, for me, to talk to her.”

“Haru… we get it.” Mika went in for a hug.

“We're here for you.” Rito followed suite.

“I'm…grateful.” Perching through the gaps of his peripheral vision, beyond the horizon—he saw Akio coming back.

“I'm sorry it took long! The vending machine was…” He realized what was happening. “The fuck happened?”

“It's nothing,” Haru smiled. “I gained some peace of mind, is all.”

More dialogues than narration! How's this?
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