Ageha knocked on the door of the private hospital room.
“Come in,” said Rin.
He hesitantly pushed the door open and let Kaika in. The girl gingerly walked into the room. He followed her inside and shut the door behind him.
Rin was on the hospital bed. The bed’s head was slightly raised, allowing them to see her face. Her sunken cheeks and drowsy eyes clearly showed her weakened condition.
Overwhelmed by a surge of emotions upon seeing her, Ageha forgot to give a greeting.
“Hello,” said Kaika.
“Um, hello,” said Rin. Her hand crept to her chest, as if to protect herself.
Ageha immediately noticed something odd about Rin. A bit of awkwardness was expected considering everything that had happened, but Rin’s wariness looked like something else. It was as if she was meeting them for the first time.
Rin made a troubled smile. “Sorry, but do I know you?”
“Of course I do, I mean you’re visiting me and all!” Rin looked around, as if unsure what to do. “I’m sorry. My memory is still a little fuzzy. The doctor said I lost some of my recent memories due to brain damage. But he did say they might return in time, so… so please don’t make that face.”
Realizing she was referring to him, Ageha hurriedly relaxed his facial muscles.
She doesn’t recognize us at all.
A sharp stabbing pain assaulted his heart. He held his breath to prevent it from showing on his face.
Maybe it’s better this way.
Some wounds were better off forgotten. If Rin could live a normal life after losing her memories, then he had no reason to complain.
Even if he was completely forgotten as well.
Rin tried to sit up but struggled. “Uhm, please wait, my legs can’t move too well.” She eventually gave up and used the button on the bed to raise her backrest a little more.
What the hell is this?
Ageha desperately held back his rampaging emotions. He tightly closed his eyes and lips, cursing fate in secret.
Give her a break.
What did she ever do to deserve this?
No, this is all my fault.
“Kai, her legs,” he said.
“The doctors said it’s only temporary,” said Kaika. “With physical therapy, she should make a full recovery.”
Rin’s eyes opened a little wider. “You spoke with my doctor?”
“Yes, I know him personally.”
Rin tapped her thigh with a hand. “The doctor knows best, right? This is nothing to worry about. If you don’t mind, can you tell me how we know each other? Maybe it’ll jog my memory.”
Kaika narrowed her eyes and stared at her. Rin flinched from the intensity of her gaze. Ageha was about to tell Kaika to stop scaring her when she suddenly approached Rin’s bedside.
“I’m really sorry, Rin,” said Kaika.
“Ah, there’s no need to force yourself if you don’t want to talk about it. It’s my fault for forgetting.”
“I have to tell him. I swore to. And this is for your sake as well. Nothing will come of this except your suffering.”
“What are you talking about?”
“She’s lying, Ageha.”
Rin tilted her head. “I’m not sure what you mean.”
“It’s obvious from her eyes and tone, to me at least.”
“Wait, listen to what I’m-”
“It’s true some of her memories are hazy. Even the doctors said so.”
“But she recognizes us just fine.”
“I said stop!!!” Rin slammed down her fist on Kaika’s head.
“…You’ve gotten weaker, Rin. That doesn’t hurt at all.”
A blend of anger and sadness soiled Rin’s face. “You ruined everything! It would’ve been so much easier if you believed me!”
“Did you really think that level of acting would fool me? Lying about amnesia is a tough sell. I may have memorized a lot of books, but I’m not a dumb nun.”
“You evil jerk! Why can’t you just play along!?”
“Long story short, I’m under an oath that prevents me from lying to Ageha. It’s impossible for me to hide this when he asks about your condition.”
Ageha, still in shock from their exchange, remained silent with a dumb look on his face.
Kaika held Rin’s hand. “And this is for your safety. We need to know who attacked you. Now that you’ve regained consciousness, there’s a big chance they’ll come after you again.”
“…How did you know I was attacked? Everyone else seems to think I tried to kill myself.”
“You aren’t that selfish,” said Ageha. “Kai and I never thought that for a second.”
“You expect me to believe that?”
“You have every right to be angry. You probably don’t even wanna see our faces, but that’ll have to wait until you’re out of danger.”
Rin raised an eyebrow. “Who said I don’t wanna see Kai? You on the other hand…” She displayed a teasing smirk, as if trying to lighten up the mood.
Understanding her intention, Ageha dropped the grimness in his tone. “Hey, what’s with the difference in treatment?”
“You can dish it out, but you can’t take it, eh?” mumbled Kaika.
“Kai got shot saving my life, you know?”
“But I got rid of Jin for you.”
“Which wouldn’t have been necessary if it weren’t for his grudge against you.”
“Why are you even competing with me?” asked Kaika. “Are you trying to reconquer Rin? I’ll report this to Saya later.”
“Can you not bring her up now?”
“Rin isn’t as weak as you think. You overestimate yourself if you think she’s still carrying feelings for you.”
Ageha could not argue back.
Rin smiled at them. “I’ve been asleep for more than a month, but you two are the same as ever. I’m relieved.”
“Not nearly as relieved as I am right now,” said Ageha.
“…Sorry for worrying you.”
Ageha shook his head.
Kaika coughed to get their attention. “Back to what I was saying. I know it’s unpleasant for you, but can you tell us what happened when you were attacked? Every bit of information will help in figuring out the culprit’s identity.”
“There’s no need for that,” said Rin. “It was the woman I shot in the parking lot. She watched in a wheelchair as her men strung me up.”
Kaika crossed her arms. “I knew it.”
“You knew?” asked Ageha.
“I had no proof, but there are no other viable suspects. Akane Kogami is officially dead, but that can be faked.”
“Then I just have to make it real.”
“Easier said than done. The problem with ghosts is they’re completely invisible. You can’t be dead if people see you walking around in broad daylight. I’ve tried tracing her whereabouts, but it was a dead end.”
“Can you not talk about that here?” asked Rin with a frown.
“Sorry about that. Has anyone else visited?” asked Kaika.
“My parents and a few friends. The people from Sapore gave me those fruits.” Rin pointed at the gifts on the table.
Ageha realized that he and Kaika had been so preoccupied about meeting Rin that they had forgotten to bring even a simple gift.
“Then I’ll get right to the point,” said Kaika. “I’ll have you go into hiding. Tell your parents and friends that you’ll be moving to a different hospital for better physical therapy. You’ll be transported to a safehouse the day after tomorrow.”
“Hey, hey, slow down. I haven’t agreed to any of that.”
“It’s not a request. I’m going to protect you whether you like it or not.” Kaika gripped Rin’s hand tightly.
Rin remained silent for a while. She looked at Ageha and then at Kaika. “…Okay, I understand.”
“It’ll only be until I catch Akane’s tail.”
Kaika released Rin’s hand, took a step back, and bowed deeply, her forehead brushing against the bed sheet.
“I’m sorry for getting you involved in all this. Thank you for saving my life at the parking lot. And thank you for freeing Ageha.”
Rin reached out to Kaika’s cheek and gently lifted her face up. “I’ll accept the first two. The last one I did for myself.”
A single tear rolled down Kaika’s face and landed on Rin’s thumb.
Kaika took the hand on her cheek and lowered it onto the bed. “I’ll be outside. I’m sure you two have a lot to talk about. I’ll contact you about the details later.”
The teenager trotted out of the room with lighter steps than when she came in.
A minute of silence passed between Ageha and Rin. He tried to say something several times but hesitated at the last moment. Unable to bear the awkwardness, he spat out the confession he had practiced many times in his head.
“Kai told me everything. About what happened at the arena, about why you said those things at the park.”
“She really can’t keep her mouth shut. Well, not like I asked her to keep it a secret.”
Silence resumed. Their eyes met, but they looked away at the same time. Ageha took a deep breath and readied himself to continue the conversation, but Rin beat him to the punch.
“So, you quit Sapore?”
“Where did you hear that?”
“Yama-san visited me yesterday. He told me all about the troubles you caused them, including the cooking showdown.”
“That was his idea.”
“And you lost.”
Ageha frowned. Losing seemed to be all he had been doing lately.
“That was then. I’d pulverize him if we had a match now.”
“What a sore loser. Just so you know, Yama-san was defending you. He said you’d win ten times out of ten if you weren’t in a slump.”
Rin gazed into his eyes. “Were you that worried?”
“Do you even have to ask? You’re irreplaceable to me.”
“Are you sure you should be saying that? What about Saionji-san?”
“Out with it then. You came here to tell me something, didn’t you? If it’s another apology, I’ll smack you on the head.”
“I don’t think this counts, but feel free.”
“Then go ahead.”
Ageha looked down and organized his thoughts. After calming his breathing, he sent an unwavering gaze at her. “You’re very important to me, Rin. You’re my support, my best friend, my lifeline to being human.” Ageha paused for a breath. “But I don’t love you. I never did. That’s why I chose Saya.”
“…You’re terrible. I can’t believe you’re saying that to someone who just got out of a coma. What if I fainted and never woke up again?”
“Then I’d carry that sin and go on living.”
That was what he learned from Mei Xing. Regret and guilt were unavoidable but meaningless. Those feelings could not and should not be the end of anything.
Ageha’s cowardice had forced Rin into cutting ties with him. He needed to say the words for both their sakes, but he had shirked that responsibility and hidden behind a faux promise.
Rin smiled. “You love her that much?”
“Yeah. And I won’t apologize for it.”
“I didn’t ask you to. Ah, but don’t forget that I dumped you first.”
Ageha chuckled. “Yeah. I’ll tell the world I was dumped by the best woman on Earth if you want.”
She made a deadpan face. “No, please don’t.”
“Don’t worry about me. You’re not my first love, and definitely not my last.”
Rin was strong. Unbelievably, beautifully, tragically so. Ageha could flip cars and break down brick walls, but the toughness of his will was like candy glass compared to hers. Her heart was a diamond immune to blades and hellfire.
“Thanks,” said Ageha. “For everything.”
“Words are cheap. Can you do me a favor instead? I’ll call it even if you do that.”
“If it’s something I can do.”
“You’ve changed, Ageha. You’ve learned to add conditions to your promises.”
“I learned that the hard way.”
Rin softly wrapped her fingers around her neck and lost all expression. “Murder Akane Kogami for me.”
Even a diamond would crack when struck hard enough.
I broke her.
This is my responsibility.
“You can count on me.”
About an hour after Ageha and Kaika left, Rin heard a knock on the door.
Yama, holding a bouquet of flowers, entered the room. “How are you feeling?”
“Like I’ve been asleep for days.”
“That’s great then, considering you’ve been asleep for weeks.”
“Should you be visiting this often? Aren’t you sous chef at Sapore now?”
“It’s a slow day.”
“Liar.” Rin pulled out a few paper napkins from a box beside the bed. “Here, dry yourself off.”
He probably ran over here.
He took the napkins and patted his sweaty brow. After placing the bouquet in a small vase, he grabbed a chair and took a seat beside the bed.
“How are your legs?” he asked.
“They got a bit thin, but they’re still quite sexy, if I do say so myself.”
“That’s good to know, but I was asking if you could move them better now.”
Rin giggled. “Not much change. They aren’t completely numb though. I can move my toes, see?”
The tip of Rin’s blanket faintly fidgeted.
“That’s a good sign. Relax and take advantage of the break. Chef Kirishima said that when you get back to the sala, he’ll work you hard enough to make up for all the time you spent away.”
Rin told Yama about her transfer to a different hospital for therapy. Guilt pricked her heart for lying to him, but she rationalized the pain away by thinking she had no choice in the matter.
“Are you going to be okay?” asked Yama.
“I’m going there for treatment, you know?”
“Not your body…”
“Like I said yesterday, I don’t even remember why I did such a thing. To be honest, it doesn’t feel real to me at all.”
“I’ll be under surveillance round the clock. It’s a necessary precaution, according to the doctors. Does that make you feel better? I wish you’d trust me a little.”
“…You’re right. I’m best being a paranoid old man.”
“You’re in your thirties. Real old people would kick your ass if they heard that.”
“Can real old people even kick in the first place?”
Rin shut her eyes and giggled. Yama changed topics and narrated funny stories about Sapore’s new employees, focusing on how the new cameriera continued to fumble around.
“Don’t be so mean to her, Yama-san.”
“I’m not! Shimatane is doing good work. She just has big shoes to fill. Hurry up and get better so you can show her how it’s done.”
“You just said to take it easy earlier. Make up your mind.”
They shared a carefree laugh. However, underneath her finely crafted smile, Rin was having trouble restraining the pain in her chest. Despite Yama’s entertaining company, a swelling solitude threatened to overwhelm her.
Without her noticing, her hand was already on top of his.
“Why are you doing this, Yama-san? I’m just a cameriera who got hospitalized after failing to kill herself. There’s no reason for you to go this far.”
“Aren’t we friends? It’s only natural to do what I can to support your recovery.”
“Can you come closer? It’s tiring raising my voice.”
Yama nodded and leaned towards her face. Rin placed her hands on his cheeks and pulled him closer.
“Is that all?” she whispered in his ear, her voice sultry and slick.
“W-What do you mean!?”
“This.” Rin raised her back from the inclined bed and slowly inched her lips closer to his.
But their lips did not touch. Yama kept her from coming any closer by holding her shoulders. He gently removed her hands from his face.
“What happened?” he asked.
“Nothing. I just felt like it.”
“Then why were you crying? Your eyes are red, and the trash bin is full of used tissues.”
Despite her valiant attempt to hide it, he had figured it out so easily.
“…Ageha was here.”
“…He dumped me.”
“It’s the first time we saw each other in ages, I just miraculously woke up from a coma, and he dumped me.” Her voice broke like an overreaching songstress.
“Didn’t you tell me yesterday that you dumped him a while ago?”
“That’s right! I did! But he dumped me back!”
“…I’m not sure what that means.”
Her vision blurred by tears, she blindly reached for warmth. Rin felt Yama’s shirt on her fingertips and firmly squeezed it, twisting her fingers into the fabric. She bawled into his chest, not caring if her cries reached the corridor.
Yama wrapped his arms around her. “It’s his loss.”
“Don’t badmouth Ageha!”
“Then it’s your loss.”
“…This is bad,” he mumbled. “I wasn’t seriously going for it, but this girl’s just too cute.”
Rin pretended not to hear him. “What was that?”
“Uh, then is it a win-win for the two of you?”
“…Men are horrible.”
“Sorry about that.”
Despite her complaints, Rin left herself in his clumsy but tender embrace.