Author's Note: No matter who the person is, you never give them your full trust. Family, friend, stranger, or enemy…it's the same with everyone. You never know who a person truly is until something happens, but by then, it might be too late. In the end, the only person you can truly trust is yourself.
When Shindou walked into the hospital room, bandaged and all but still standing, the first thing I did was curse my bed-ridden state because I couldn't get up and yell at him for coming up with that stupid idea of his. After I did that, I cried. I feel embarrassed just thinking about it now.
Truth be told, I think I cried so much that I couldn't remember if Shindou cried as much as I did though it's safe to say he probably did.
I think I saw Kariya smirk later on when we both calmed down. I swear, he better not bring this up later.
And then, Akane and Midori brought out this cake! Next thing we know, we're all celebrating. It was pretty hectic. A nurse came in and told us to quiet down.
Right now, Sangoku is just talking with Kuramada. Hikaru is talking Kariya about something. He looked pretty freaked out. I'm glad because I'm writing right now and the last thing I want that little devil to know is that I keep a journal.
I'm feeling sleepy. I'm going to tuck you under my pillow now.
The first thing I saw this morning Shindou sleeping in another bed next to me. I fell asleep during the celebration so I don't know what just happened.
"He insisted on staying in my room with me," as the nurse said and he was so adamant about it that they had wheeled in another bed next to me for him to sleep on.
When he woke up and I asked him why he did such a thing, he said, "Well, I just wanted make sure nothing happened."
I laughed, saying he shouldn't worry so much. He gave me a shaky smile in return. I guess he's feeling embarrassed for worrying so much like that but considering everything, his worries were justified.
So we ate breakfast together there in the room. We both agreed that it tasted awful. Then the rest of the team came later to visit except Tsurugi and Tenma. Kariya was saying something about Tenma resting and Tsurugi getting paranoid and not wanting to leave.
I think Shindou and Tsurugi are starting to mirror each other, not that I'd say it with Shindou here.
And then, Sangoku was like a telepath or something! He snuck in some outside food for me to enjoy; ice cream. A small tub of it actually and it was strawberry! He knows me so well.
I wanted to grab it when he showed it to me but then Shindou said it was a bit too early for it. I still wanted some so of it and Sangoku tried to convince him too. And then Shindou got angry and yelled at him. And then when he tried to calm him, he swatted his hand away and threatened him.
The room got quiet. I've never seen Shindou so angry before. And then he ran out and left.
I'm really worried about him now.
Today's my first day with physical therapy. The therapist was hesitant but I felt raring to go. And anyway, if I could trek all the way down a mountain with a, well, open wound. It shouldn't be a problem walking with a cast now.
I was finishing practicing my walking with this cast I have in my leg now when I saw Shindou hanging around outside. He said he was sorry about his outburst yesterday. I said it was fine but he should eat ice cream with me then. I didn't touch it and saved it in the fridge. I thought he might need something sweet to cheer him up too.
But he got angry again. I said it was all right as we walked but I was going up the stairs when he offered to help. I didn't want any because I wanted to try it myself but he insisted. I said no again and then he started getting angry, saying what I was doing was dangerous and I might get hurt.
Since I was doing well a couple of hours ago while practicing on the stairs, I figured I could do it anyway without his help. But he got angrier.
I tried to hold his shoulder but then he slapped it away and told me not to touch him!
…he said he was sorry again but that was really scary. Shindou's not himself.
Today, I talked with Tenma who finally visited me again. He apologised for not visiting but he wanted to rest and sleep. He said how weird it was Tsurugi chose to stay with him the entire time. He had a really strange expression when he said. I think it's safe to say that whatever Tsurugi was doing, it must be weirding Tenma out a lot.
I told him about Shindou and he gave a torn frown. He told me how he had yelled at him, hit him, and how violent he would get and how he nearly killed that person.
That's… I can't believe it of course but this is Tenma we're talking about. The super, childishly honest Tenma. There's no reason for him to spread nasty lies about Shindou like that.
He told me that he had asked him what had happened to him several times but he only got quiet, changed the subject or got angry. He offered to stay with me and for some reason, I accepted.
When Shindou came and I asked him about it, he became quiet with this intense stare. I pressed him more and that's when Tenma tugged my shirt but I ignored him. I should have taken that seriously.
When I pressed him, he yelled at me to stop. I didn't because he was my friend and I had to know what was tearing him apart so much.
And then he slapped me right across the face and yelled some more at me, grabbing me and started shaking me. Tenma got up and tried to talk to him but then Shindou told him to go away and shoved him.
Luckily, Coach came and took him away to calm him.
I still remember the fear I saw in Tenma's eyes. I told him to go back to the inn they were staying in and to stay there with Tsurugi and not come back. He didn't want to but I insisted and he left after an hour.
At least now I know something's wrong with Shindou. But how do I help him?
Reading the two week old entries was like reading a oracle's cryptic warnings. It didn't show anything wrong, but at the same time, it showed everything that was wrong. It was all so obvious now. Kirino wondered how he could missed them. He wondered if there was anything that could've been done to change things.
It was three weeks… Kirino still remembered it.
"All right, Ranmaru! You can do this!" Kirino muttered to himself. He had done it a couple of times before but he wanted to try walking up some steps on his own and without a worrisome nurse to help him. He was going to have to learn how to do it himself eventually so he thought, "Why not a practice start now?"
Kirino, with his fully casted foot, placed it on the first step of the bus and he winced a bit from the pain. "Now's the tricky part." he thought. He was still in a pretty bad shape, courtesy of a crazy old crackpot, and if it hadn't been for those shots of morphine, he would probably faint from the incredible pain. Just thinking about it made him nervous as he clutched his crutches tighter. Slowly, Kirino moved his good leg back and pushed himself up with his crutches behind to keep him balanced but then his right crutch slipped just as he was about to board. Kirino yelped and instinctively moved his crutches to a position to keep him. Somehow he did it, his casted leg still on the bus, his other foot on the ground, and his heart beating like crazy from that brief mishap.
"Kirino!" a panicked voice yelled behind the defender, surprising him so much that he nearly slipped again but thankfully, he simply froze on the spot, long enough for the boy, his best friend, Shindou, to arrive and help him back on the ground, bombarding him with concern, asking, "Are you okay? Did you pull anything? How's your leg?"
"I'm fine, Shindou. Stop worrying so much about me." he answered with some annoyance and Shindou frowned angrily.
"Stop worrying? You nearly fell! If you did, what would happen to your leg?" he scolded.
"Well, I didn't." Kirino answered back.
"You could have!" Shindou said. "What were you even trying to do?"
"Just practicing on walking the steps." Kirino answered and weakly as possible, but Shindou heard him clearly. He got angrier.
"How many have I told you not to do things like this by yourself? You need assistance or something might happen and worsen your condition!" Shindou yelled. Kirino scowled with a glare to cast.
"But I can't always ask for it. What if there's no one around? I need to learn how to do this on my own. Anyway, I don't really want to make someone keep waiting on me hand and foot. It's awkward." Kirino answered. He realised how much he sounded like a child trying to defend himself to his mother for doing something naughty.
"I don't care how awkward it makes you feel!" Shindou snapped to Kirino's surprise, who took a step back as Shindou suddenly came to close to him, cornering him against the bus. "Do you want your leg to get worse? Or maybe you want your arm to break before you get the idea?"
"W-What?" Kirino said, shocked at the scene he was making which was more than uncharacteristic for the usually mellow boy. "It's just walking up the stairs! My arm won't break!"
"You don't know that!" he yelled, smashing his fist against the bus within centimetres of Kirino's hair, startling him further. "When are you going to stop being so stupid?!"
"Stupid?!" Kirino said, now getting angry himself. "You're the one being stupid! Ever since you came back, you've been acting strange but you won't tell me what's wrong!"
That was when Kirino saw something flicker in Shindou's eyes. It was quick and went in a blurry flash, but with the least, he could still tell he had made him angrier.
"We discussed this already. We don't bring up about what happened." he answered but it wasn't good enough for Kirino.
"When have we discussed this?! I'm your friend, aren't I? We're supposed to discuss things like this!" Kirino said back, partly confused, partly furious, but mostly hurt and worried. "Why are you acting so weird and saying all these strange stuff?"
"Damn it! I said we aren't going to talk about it!" Shindou yelled. The two glared menacingly at each other, almost ready to continue their little bout when thankfully a third party came and interrupted, saying, "Stop it you two."
The two turned to see Sangoku, the oldest of the team who looked rather angry and disappointed and he was. He didn't believe it until now, finally seeing what he'd never thought to even imagine; Shindou and Kirino were both actually arguing with each other.
"What are you two doing? Shouldn't you be celebrating instead of fighting?" he asked.
The pair merely denied it, saying, "We weren't fighting." in unison. Sangoku didn't believe them, showing it with a scowl. "I just saw you both screaming at each other."
This time they didn't say more but still shot a glare each other which made Sangoku want to scold them more. They should at least be more subtle about it if they wanted to hide their anger from him.
"Oh for-Will you two stop being selfish?" he said. "I don't know why you're both arguing, but what I don't get is how it could be more of a priority than you two being alive."
The goalkeeper did nothing more and stormed off, leaving the friends to contemplate on his words. Shindou said nothing but Kirino felt guilty for fighting like that considering how lucky it was already for him…the both of them, to be alive.
"…I'm sorry." Kirino said, putting aside his pride first willingly as in their childhood years. "But I can't just stay like this. I can still do things myself. I don't need you or anyone to keep helping all the time!"
"Still, t wouldn't hurt to ask for help sometimes." Shindou said. "You're in the worst state condition of us all. We want to help you. It's the least we could do."
"You make it sound like I'm some sort of hero." Kirino said quietly. "…I didn't do anything."
"Tsurugi told me that it was you who told him that Tenma had been taken." Shindou answered supportively. "If you hadn't made it all the way back and told Tsurugi, no one would have had a more specific idea as to where Tenma was."
"But let's not forget how he ended up there." Kirino said. "If I had just been a little more careful, Tenma could have told them the whole thing himself."
"No. He couldn't have." Shindou said. "I asked him about that. He wasn't in any trouble at that time."
"So he was only kidnapped after we bumped into each other?" Kirino said. "Thanks. That makes me feel better."
"But, it's also thanks to you that monster was stopped." Shindou said. "If it hadn't been for that. For you, there would have been more victims and Tenma and I would have been killed. I'm grateful to you for that."
Kirino was shocked and stared at him with a wide set of eyes. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. The great, prodigy Shindou was thanking him? Well, that had happened a lot back when they were, back when Shindou still used to cry at the slightest shock, something he had thought he overcame many years ago.
Then Shindou's face recoiled and he frowned and looked away from him. "And…I also hate you for that too." Shindou finally admitted with a disgusted expression on his face, but Kirino could tell it wasn't to him. "…I'm sorry. I'm your friend and…heh, this sounds stupid doesn't it? Even after everything, I'm actually jealous that you did more than me."
Shindou couldn't even bear to say such things straight to Kirino's face, facing down the entire time so as not to see whatever disgusted expression he had for him. "I'm really the worst…" he dryly laughed as if it was meant for himself. Kirino managed a strong smile, one he hadn't needed in a long time.
"It's fine." Kirino said with the cheeriest grin he could for his friend. "I'm…just as bad too. When you asked me to help you, you got kidnapped. When I went to find you, I ended up losing Tenma and when I tried to help him…well, just look at me. I can't do anything right in comparison to you."
Shindou gave him a surprised look and let out a little chuckle. "Are you kidding me? I got myself kidnapped and once more, I couldn't even save Tenma when the situation got dire. At least you were able to do something."
"Now what are you talking about?" Kirino asked. "Weren't you the one who broke him out in the first place?"
The two began laughing a bit, not remembering as to why they were fighting so much. Maybe holding all that pain throughout the ordeal had suddenly begun to turn unbearable for them. Now though, they felt so free with all of it finally off their shoulders.
"Haha…I guess we were both stupid." Shindou said. "In the end we both did something so we should leave it there."
"Yeah." Kirino said. "…and I guess it wouldn't hurt for me to ask for help every now and again. When I'm in real trouble of course."
"…I guess it wouldn't hurt to calm down too." Shindou said though more hesitantly than his friend. "Do you still need a help up?"
"Let me give it one more go." Kirino answered. He turned and resumed what he was doing. Shindou stood quietly, fidgeting his fingers together but did nothing, wanting to respect his friend's decision. Kirino readied himself and pushed himself up again with his good foot. Shindou nearly jumped when he saw Kirino do it but once Kirino managed to get up in the bus, Shindou managed to breath.
"See? I told you nothing was going to happen!" Kirino said. Shindou was simply still reeling from the shock he gave him. Kirino stood there for several minutes still in the same position; his two legs in the bus but his two arms out with the crutches.
"….Shindou?" Kirino said. "The opening's too thin. I don't know how to move my crutches in."
"What?" Shindou said. "I thought you knew how!"
"I thought it would be like going up a normal stair like how I practised in the hospital!" Kirino said. "Just…you think you can give me a push?"
Shindou grumbled and pushed Kirino up from behind. Kirino sighed with his pride now sullied by his own doing.
"Thanks." Kirino said with a humble chuckle but looking behind him, Shindou didn't look happy at all, not taking the ironic situation with the faintest humour. Kirino simply said nothing but looked down, feeling like a child in trouble though not knowing why. As far as Kirino knew, he hadn't done anything wrong yet, Shindou looked at him as though he had just done something on the level of double-crossing the team.
But then Shindou hung his head a low but relinquished sigh and looked back at him with a tired smile. Kirino, upon seeing this, smiled back but he did it awkwardly. Inside, something felt wrong about this.
Now, three weeks later, Kirino let out a low moan to himself, cursing himself over and over as he recalled the days after Shindou's return. "I should have noticed." he muttered to himself as he reread all his previous entries in his journal with memories returning.
Suddenly, he heard a knock on his room door and Kirino jolted up. When he saw his mother come in as she she opened the door, Kirino just sighed with obvious relief.
"Ranmaru, are you hungry?" she asked as she would normally, but the awkward force in her tone note did not escape her son's ear. Kirino, with the most sincere smile he could make, shook his head.
"It's fine, Mother. I'm not really hungry at the moment."
"Are you sure?" she asked with concern. She knew very well what was wrong, but Kirino didn't want her to worry any more about him.
"Yes, mother." he answered. "And thank you for worrying."
His mother smiled back with visible hesitance and worry still lingering in her expression. It wouldn't go away so easily, but over time, Kirino hoped that it would lessen or be less burdening on her by the very least. Until then, he wanted to give his parents nothing more to worry about.
"All right. If you need anything, your father and I will be right here for you." she said lovingly.
"I know, mother." Kirino answered gratefully. His mother nodded and closed the door behind her. Kirino's smile dropped and let out a frustrated huff. He turned his eyes to his desk nearby and, seeing there was nothing else to do, took a pencil and flipped the pages of his notebook to the next vacant page.
I now know the best words to describe Shindou's recent behavioural changes ever since he came back.
What else could it have been but an ominous sign? A sign of what was to come. But the worst thing about this is that I didn't even notice until this afternoon.
Despite the long years of our friendship, knowing each other since preschool, I never even noticed it. I don't know how but…argh. I can't even write this part down.
Damn it! I should've realised something was wrong. I should've realised it right there and then. Maybe if I did...he would have gotten help quicker and he….
This afternoon, we went to my house where we started talking about his behaviour. You know about it, right? How lately he's been getting into fights lately?
He's becoming more violent. If I didn't do something soon, he would get into more trouble. I couldn't let it happen. So I asked him about the old man again; the one who kidnapped him. I didn't care if he wanted to talk about it or not. I just wanted to know what happened so I could help him, but we ended arguing as usual.
But…as we argued, I left to some to get water in the kitchen. Shindou got angry about and stopped me. We fought and then…
My hands are shaking right now…
Kirino stopped writing, steeling himself before continuing his narration. Writing it down in there was hard for him. It meant reliving what had happened the day he ventured into the forest to search for Shindou and what had happened hours earlier, but what made this task almost unbearable was that doing this also meant acknowledging what happened had happened. It had only taken him a few seconds to acknowledge a madman wanted him dead simply for the joy of it, but this…he still couldn't bring himself to believe it.
Yet, he had to. Like it or not, it did happen. He had to acknowledge it. He had to acknowledge that just hours ago, his best friend since childhood, Shindou; the friend he trusted so much, believed in, and willingly risked his life for, had tried to kill him.
Kirino wiped a tear away.
This was for the better.
"If something happens, then at least someone would know…it's not his fault. I'm sure of it. It has to be that old bastard..." Kirino told himself before continuing to the details. The night had never been colder.