A/N: Firstly, the formalities: I do not own Another. All Japanese interjections, flashbacks and the characters' thoughts are written in italic. English is not my native language; possible grammatical errors and misspellings ahead.
Welcome to the sequel to Never forgotten! I am glad you decided to pop by and give it a try. But first I'll type down a few lines of summary for those that don't exactly recall everything.
Never forgotten is set in the year of 2022 when Sakakibara Kouichi, Misaki Mei (now Akaike) and Teshigawara Naoya get reunited because the calamity has returned to the town of Yomiyama. Naoya, now the homeroom teacher of class 3-3, seeks the help of his former classmates who jump to his aid immediately. They successfully put an end to the curse once again (more accurately: Naoya is the one who ends it), but unbeknownst to the pair from Tokyo Naoya has to pay the price by never forgetting what he has done. Since even the darkest night is followed by bright sunshine he learns to live with the burden with the support and love of his wife.
Now, I think it's needless to say that I am both very excited and very nervous. Please let me know what you think, it'd mean a lot :)
Chapter 1: 雨 (rain)
The hospital was crawling with people. Patients, nurses, doctors and other employees were either rushing through the wide corridors or waiting leaning against the walls if all the seats in the waiting room had been taken. Nervousness and impatience was lingering in the air, filling it with a bitter taste. It wasn't even past noon on this Friday in early September; the day had barely begun.
Kouichi entered the beehive (this was the first comparison that popped into his head) through the main entrance and directed his steps towards the elevators. Ever since he became eligible to donate blood he visited the clinic for transfusion every year around the same time. He left behind half a litre of the lifesaving liquid and went home with a satisfied smile and a full belly of the free goods from the cafeteria. His father introduced him to this ritual when he came of age and so far he'd never skipped a single year.
When the doors of the first available elevator opened he regretted not investing his time more wisely by taking the stairs instead. Well, 'available' wasn't the most proper word to describe it. The metal box that was supposed to transport him to his destination was crowded with people. Much to his relief a couple patients exited the elevator providing enough space for Kouichi to squeeze in. The small space was lacking oxygen and fresh air in general and he hoped to reach his floor as soon as possible. He looked at the ceiling and tried to concentrate on his breathing. Even though he wasn't claustrophobic he never felt overjoyed in small crowded places.
As he was trying to block the smell of sweat (someone else's or his own? he wasn't quite sure) he noticed someone pulling him by the arm of his shirt. Looking over his shoulder his eyes met a pair of green marbles he immediately recognised. Despite the rather uncomfortable situation a smile spread across his features and for a moment he got lost in her emerald eyes. Ah, yes. She was using her contacts. It's easier this way, she said when he asked her about it the last time they saw each other. And besides, people stare too much if my irises don't match.
"Good morning," he whispered. Unfortunately, the elevator had already arrived at the floor he wished to step out at. Wanting to have a chat he reluctantly left the small space which he didn't perceive as negatively as before. Seeing a familiar face in an uncomfortable situation can do wonders to your mood.
Much to his surprise the person in question followed him.
"Strange meeting you here," said Mei without greeting him.
"Strange meeting you here," Kouichi said amused. "How come you're here? Is everything alright?"
"Yes, don't worry. I am here for my yearly check-up. It's for work."
"Ah. I reckon you're done then?" She nodded. "Wait, I think I'm having a dejá vu." Then, all of a sudden, images that had been hidden under the layer of the thick dust of time flashed before Kouichi's eyes. The veil had fallen from the memories from their very first encounter in Yomiyama.
"We met in an elevator for the first time," Mei voiced his thoughts out loud as if reading his mind. Back then she was on her way to the basement level of the Yomiyama hospital when a hospital gown wearing boy about her age joined her and asked for her name. "That was a sad day." She averted her eyes as she thought of her sister and the doll she was bringing her. Misaki liked that doll very much. She left the doll by her side; she didn't know what had happened to it after that. Not that it mattered anyway.
Mei abruptly realised how wrong the sentence she said sounded. "I'm sorry, I wasn't talking about meeting you," she added quickly.
"I know what you meant," said Kouichi with a sad smile. After a short pause he continued, "So, are you headed home now?"
"Yes, but I forgot my umbrella in the waiting room. I decided to come back for it since it looks like it might rain."
This corridor wasn't much different than the one on the ground floor where Kouichi entered. It was filled with people, healthy and ill. The air was heavy with the mix of sweat and the smell of disinfectant (and probably a lot of bacteria eagerly awaiting a new host they can multiply in). In conclusion, the distinctive 'hospital smell' everyone is all too familiar with. As far as the eye could see, nurses were hurrying either with a bunch of papers in their hands or giving directions to lost patients about the whereabouts of their doctors. Looking at all these people grouped together Kouichi couldn't decide who looked more miserable, the employees or the patients.
"Excuse me! Please, make room!" The high pitched warning came out of nowhere. A nurse was hurrying towards them with a rolling cart full of medical supplies not focusing on being careful at all. She had no time for that; obviously she was running late, giving people only two options: move or be run over. Kouichi had just enough time to grab an unsuspecting Mei by the wrist and pull her out of the way of the cart that didn't seem to stop at anything.
"Watch out," he shouted after the brainlessly running nurse, but she'd already passed the corner. Besides, Kouichi's warning didn't seem to reach her ears anyway.
"Are you alright?" Kouichi asked with his gaze still directed at where the nurse disappeared to. Instinctively he placed his arm on Mei's back in a protective manner. Mei had her face buried in his shirt and was struggling with an answer. Due to the lack of response he looked at her and realised that the distance between them was shorter than he felt comfortable with.
"Err… That was… That was dangerous," he stammered in confusion. His heartbeat quickened with some delay as his grip on her wrist lessened.
Mei didn't think the day would come when she would be glad to have such a clumsy personality. Kouichi's tight and protective embrace sent her pulse off the scale as well, even though she didn't want to admit it to herself. Only her rosy cheeks testified to the short and unexpected pleasure.
"Yeah." She felt comfortable enough to make eye contact again. "I'm okay. Thank y…" Suddenly she felt her stomach cramp into a small ball. The blood left her features as quickly as it turned her cheeks a brighter colour just seconds before. Her eyes swung out of focus making her lose her balance. Searching for support she leaned against the wall with shaking knees. Kouichi was instantly by her side.
"No, I'm okay," said Mei trying to stand up straight again. "I just felt a little dizzy, but the feeling's gone now."
"Are you sure?" Kouichi didn't seem quite convinced.
"Yes." Of course that wasn't exactly true; nevertheless she tried to force a smile on her face. She didn't need Kouichi to worry over something like this. To prove her statement she let go of her support. "See? All better now." True, she wasn't shaking anymore. The colour also returned to her cheeks. Her eyes were telling a different story though and this didn't go by unnoticed by Kouichi. However, he of all people knew that when Mei wanted to share something she eventually would. There was no point in forcing her to tell something she refused to.
"Thank you," she added silently.
Kouichi didn't know what else could have been said regarding this topic, therefore he considered the option to ask Mei out on a coffee this weekend, but before he could say anything she wished him a good day and disappeared towards the stairs.
Mei, not trying her luck with the elevator again, quickly retrieved her umbrella and rushed out onto the street. The confines of the hospital were starting to get to her. If she had stayed one minute more she would have suffocated for sure. She still hadn't recovered from the light-headedness and she needed a change of room as soon as possible. Not regarding the air pollution the atmosphere outside was much more enjoyable. Mei took a deep breath, clearing only her lungs of the remains of the hospital, but not her mind. The latter was processing newly acquired information, something she found out about earlier. The same reason she felt ill. At first she thought it was just her imagination playing tricks on her. The uneasy feeling inside of her refused to vanish though and that's how she knew that it most likely wasn't a fantasy. The first thing she thought of was whether she should have told Kouichi when he inquired about her wellbeing. He would have immediately understood the situation and there would have been no need for further explanations. At that moment, however, the words she wanted to say refused to leave her mouth. Of course, it was easier to say she felt fine.
Maybe it's for better that I kept quiet for now, this way I have more time to think about it. The damage isn't done yet. Yes. There are a few reasonable excuses as to why I should keep it a secret for now. Firstly, I don't know anything for sure. Everything happened so fast, in the blink of an eye. Not to mention that I was distracted. It might as well have been a false alarm. Secondly, in the past months I have not noticed any signs that would raise suspicion or even confirm it. And thirdly, there is no logical explanation as to why this would be happening if it, in fact, really is happening.
In the back of her mind though there was a very big pro that outweighed all the cons: if it really was happening then Kouichi needed to know. Having arrived at this conclusion, Mei decided she would tell him the next time if her suspicions got confirmed. She swore that on the very thing that mattered to her most: their friendship.
Mei's train of thought was interrupted by a small raindrop that fell on her cheek as she was inspecting the sky above. Good thing she went back for her umbrella.
…or maybe not?
Mei couldn't tell anymore.
A/N: Oh boy, I am so hyped! Do you want to know why? Because chapter 2 will be up by the end of this week. Yay :D