A/N: It had been a longand I do mean LOOOOOONG time since I haven't updated! I was on total hiatus, and the writer's block got the heck out of me for these past 'few' months. There are people who kept on mailing me though, saying that I should continue now and stuff, and I think that was so nice of people to be waiting for the next chapter. To Sechskies...oh well, I never reached 10 pages...9 pages is enough! There's not much to say though, just the fact that I'm really so busy and when I have free time I'm 'ordered' to do what I should still do, and instead of leisure. So there...

Chapter 13:

Oh...did I forget the disclaimer?... Here it is:

Disclaimer: I disclaim Gals.

Awlrighty here we go...

Chapter 13: Cuts and Burns

A chill went down her spine as she did come into realization. She felt so dumb and ignorant. She wasn't there all along.

Mami.

All this time she was so drowned in her problems that she thought Mami was there sympathizing with her and her friends at Lavender's, when her first problem happened. Yet...when she tried to recall it...she wasn't really there.

Ran was fooled.

But she doesn't think that way.

She thinks she's so dumb to let herself be fooled like this.

The numbness of her legs forced her to take a seat on a bench nearby. The light some blocks away flickered and the surroundings seemed to blink at Ran. It was a cold night and she was wearing a red skirt not a mini, but it was short enough to make her legs feel frozen and a brown turtleneck sweater. She only wore sneakers and thin socks. Not that it mattered since she didn't even think of how she looked even before she left the house. Her legs just felt all insensitive.

She sighed. Her swollen eyes scanned the place and tried to look for something that could be of help to bring the life of her legs back. But only the darkness looked back at her and the light nearby stopped flickering and went out. The nearest light to her now looked like a flashlight because of its distance. But at least it's not a total darkness. Ran hugged her knees to her chest.

She thought of her home, where she could actually sleep on her comfortable bed and cover herself with her warm blankets. But home didn't really sound good to be a 'meditation' place right now. She preferred being out on the cold than being at home where it's a lot warmer since being at home means hurting herself more. She can't help recalling things when she's being pried at by her family.

Can't they just see how much she gets hurt when they snoop on her?

But then...she wondered...--How does everyone around me feel anyway? Are they hurt too?--

--I think they are.--

Then she thought of Yuuhi...when she kissed him.

She made the move. During those few horrible days, he was there all the time. He was with her all the way. Tatsuki was supposed to be in his place...but actually Tatsuki was one of the reasons of why she needs someone to comfort her. And now, because of that...Ran was having second thoughts on her love for Tatsuki. Somehow, there's a candle's flick beginning to glow, and she could tell, the shadow of the hand holding the candle wasn't Tatsuki's...

Maybe it's not him. For now.

Tatsuki...it took a long time before she fell in love with him. But as for Yuuhi, it's a different story. She wasn't so surprised when she felt her heart beat a different tone near Yuuhi these past few days. Because of that simple reason.

He was there. And he still is.

--...Why am I comparing them? And Tatsuki IS STILL my boyfriend. I STILL love him...But on second thought, I'm not the only one who could possibly love two people at a time. Some other strangers out there could be loving two guys at the same time...or three..or even four. Aya's doing the same thing.—

Aya.

The sudden change of topic hit her. How could she forget? She had been there for as long as she could remember, and she was with her until she got drunk like that. Ran never had any news on her ever since that very night. Ran only thought about herself.

She realized she was too selfish. Such a bitchy friend, huh?

On second thought, Aya hadn't shown up these days when Ran needed her the most, either.

Something tells Ran there's something really wrong about Aya not showing up.

Suddenly, as if nature was sympathizing with her, it started to rain.

"What's this...the sky's trying to put a melodramatic background to my situation?" Ran smirked as she looked up, her face welcoming the drops that seemed heavier than ever.

Before, it was a big deal getting wet unreasonably outside her house. Talk about make-up consciousness. Fountain water, rain, and disturbing puddles could possibly ruin the outfit, the eyeliner, the lipstick, the great hair spray or even stain the colors of those high boots.

But right about now, the accessories, cosmetics, and everything that's an add-on to Ran's features weren't put on for the first time. And having the rain wet her wholly is not the biggest thing she had to deal with.

She had been repeating the rules on being a supergal for as long as she can remember. But now even the strength to say something encouraging was useless. She was tired.

"Ran."

Her shoulders shuddered. Her eyes immediately darted to where the voice had come from, feeling half-relieved that someone was there for her. Well, the other half...didn't want anyone to interfere with her life right now. Now's not the best time. She "half-thought".

Her eyes got a blurry vision that time because of the tears and the rain, and it was so dark she could hardly see the person standing in front of her. But the silhouette took form of a familiar body build and Ran felt a very familiar aura enveloping her senses.

"I'm sorry." The man spoke.

Ran blinked a few times. "Are you...?" she asked. For that moment she began to feel too tired to ask more questions, and her body started to become weaker too.

The person sat beside her however, ignoring her question, and hugged her tightly. It felt so warm. He really was so familiar to Ran, but the thing is, she can't make out whose voice it is. Thinking of no other person who could be so worried about her like this and would be by her side at that time, she spoke out loud.

"You're so warm, yet you're already soaked in the rain." She said, holding the arm surrounding her neck. The man kept quiet. "Thank you so much. I'm so glad you're here...Yuuhi."

All of a sudden, the man's arms shivered and he gasped as if he was so surprised at the last word Ran said. He loosened his embrace. Ran quickly got the message, and sat up straight. 'Wait...you're not Yuuhi?" she asked out, confused and unable to think clearly who this guy might be. This man being Rei was too far off. Then the thought hit her.

Ran's jaw dropped. How could she do this to him? "Don't tell me you are..."

----------

Aya's tears have all been let out almost an hour ago. It was as if there were no more tears to shed because all of them had already been done for.

All this...for Rei. She pictured herself as the bright and cheerful student she was before. She wondered, if Ran hadn't slapped her that day when she was going to have a date with a drunkardepisode 1 of Chou Gals, she couldn't have thought Ran was a true friend. She couldn't have met Rei and fell in love with him. She couldn't have been hurting like this.

But...well...she fell for it.

Then Aya shook her head. It's a different world. A totally different world if Aya didn't choose to be friends with Ran. Who knows what could have happened to her if she continued her sort-of rebellion towards her parents? But it's not the topic. This is about Aya...and Rei.

She was caught by his trap. Just like all those other fangirls out there who would do anything just to get a date with Rei. But during those times, he chose to go out with Aya. Usually they would sneak out the back door to avoid the fans by the building's façade. Perhaps Rei did that to escape them, not that he really wants to go out with her.

--That's me. I'm just a reason. A utensil. Something to use for someone else's own good.—Aya thought. –And I've let them use me. I've let 'him' use me.

I'm so dumb. But this time, I won't be. I won't fall for him again. Never again.

Aya thought maybe it's about time she learns how to say "no". Ever since the day she fell in love with Rei, 'no' is just a simple word used to answer plain questions like 'Did you eat already?' or 'Are you busy today?' and she never understood the word "no" by heart until Rei secretly taught her how.

In the first place, she had agreed to do this anyway. The deal was to let him go, if he tries to dump her for the last time. The whole thing was about letting go, which she actually tried to do, and almost failed...but not yet successful. But why did she do it? Something in the back of her mind keeps on telling her that Rei dumping her for the last time wasn't and shouldn't be the only cause of her letting go. But then again, if there hadn't been that kind of deal, Aya won't realize the things she'd been realizing lately.

Life gets more confusing for Aya. Meanwhile, Katase is just standing by.

But this doesn't mean she already loves Katase right now.

Of course, Katase should understand that she needs space. And time.

Finally, an involuntary smile had been painted on Aya's face, denoting the end of the tears. Her eyelids turned to lead, and sleep was the only action available for Aya to do at the time.

----------

Rei opened the fridge to get some drink. It was as if his throat wanted to jump out of him and find a new person who could quench its thirst. He refused to take dinner—no, actually all the meals for the day. His mom always left something by the door of his room, and Rei opened the door only once to take the small snack outside it.

He never turned the lights on as he tiptoed to the fridge, thinking that a single careless noise could wake up the whole house. It was something he never used to do, and he never did it more than once when he was little.

As Rei searched the contents of the fridge, he saw a slice of black forest cake and what seemed like an orange shake. He smiled gratefully for the leftovers. As he took them out of the fridge, something hit him.

These were the same foods Aya ordered when he dumped her for the first time. It was in a shopping center and they ate inside a restaurant within it. Their seats were even near the glass window where the coastline could be seen. It was a very clear memory.

--It would be easier for me to court you and be my girlfriend, or to kiss you now, than for me to know that I'm your first love.— It rang several times in Rei's head, with the following words, –I'm sorry, but I'm a very selfish person, I'm not ready for a serious relationship right now. I'm not the one for you.—

That went beyond being a simple harsh word. That was more than an insult. It was just like dumping Aya straight to the point without letting her say anything at all, or rather, not giving her a chance to say to him her feelings by herselfsince Ran was the one who told him about it, right?.

But after that time, Aya didn't seem to get a hangover. She seemed to have taken up more courage, instead of pushing herself away, she never looked as though she wanted to give up.

Something in Rei felt like it was squeezing his heart. The more he realizes how Aya had suffered under him, the guiltier he becomes. –She really loved me after all.­— he thought. And that hurt him a lot. For being so oblivious when she was still his.

Still his.

Rei tightly gripped onto the glass of orange shake that he took out of the fridge. When he was still sure Aya loves him, he had every single opportunity to give it back. Remembering how he turned her down every time she confesses and how Rei let her do them again as though he was giving her chances, now Rei concluded that the number of times Aya talked to him about how she feels was the number of times Aya gave him a chance to give her love back. It was Aya who gave chances to Rei, not otherwise.

--How could I have been so indifferent?—he shouted in his mind. Silent tears came out of his eyes, not being able to hold it inside. He wanted her back in his life, not as someone who loves him and someone who follows him around, but someone he could love in return.

This feeling...the pain he's trying to endure is not even comparable yet to how Aya felt. He did more things to Aya than she to him. Aya didn't even do anything, she just got tired of loving someone whom she thought can't love her back. It was Rei himself who created this pain.

It wouldn't be true love if someone gets tired of waiting. Somehow it crossed his mind. But it won't be true love as well if he knew that she was waiting, and left her standing there on that place where he never tried to reach...Then Aya must have shown true love then, Rei just ended it though.

--My indifference has caught me off-guard.— He gritted his teeth. He knew himself as the selfish one, the apathetic one, the numb person, until Aya had done something she didn't even know she did.

Aya woke up a sleeping Rei beneath him. He didn't know he had that split personality. That urged a smirk out of his lips.

--I have to do something to have her back.—he resolved.

----------

Ran's heart almost jumped out of her chest when Yuuhi asked her why she seemed to be frightened after he loosened his embrace.

"I thought you were someone else." Ran mumbled with nervous trembling lips. --Gawd, if it really happened that it was Tatsuki embracing me and those words came out, I'd be more than upset! When he loosed that arm around me I've had the greatest fear it was Tatsuki all along and...oh god, I wouldn't know what to do if he heard those words.--

Yuuhi cleared his throat to speak. "Why do you sound so uneasy? It was as if some lion would seize you, not to mention the lack of light around here.", he said, emphasizing how dark it was around them. Their eyes almost can't see, but somehow Yuuhi managed to keep track of Ran by following her around when she left home. He had that feeling Ran would feel so confused about the happenings around her.

"Well...", Ran said, getting an idea of what excuse she would give him from what he just said. "It's so dark, I thought you were some kind of...you know, a bad guy or something. And I don't know...since I can't see your face I—"

He stopped her talking by sniggering for a short time. "You? Getting nervous with a criminal around?" Ran sensed Yuuhi leaning on the bench they're sitting on. She heard him sigh. "That's not the Ran I knew. You're too brave to be that tense feeling that the person hugging you is a bad guy. I even for a moment thought you were going to punch me or kick me away."

No response.

"Ran?"

Yuuhi felt Ran's fidgeting in her seat. "Are you alright?"

Ran gave a frown, aware that no one else could see it, not even her. "What do you think?"

There was silence between the two of them. Somehow Ran didn't question him when he didn't answer her, unlike what he did. She already knew what answer he gave. "I'm tired." Ran said, not to break the ice, but because she really feels that way. "It's so cold out here I could get frozen to death by morning."

Yuuhi doesn't like it when Ran's trying to keep things on her own by making a topic that seemed to get her cool. "Ran..."

"I forgot to bring a bar of chocolate even. I've been so busy thinking about things that I forgot to feed my stomach. Maybe I should—"

Even though it's too dark, Yuuhi could feel Ran's surprise when he gave her a sudden kiss on the lips. His hand held her head towards him, while he touched her lips with his, and the shock was returned to him when Ran gave in to that liplock.

Ran had been looking for that caressing emotion for some time that Yuuhi had been gone. It had only been seven days, yet it seemed everything occurred for as long as a month now. Tears flowed out of her eyes as the warmth coming from Yuuhi's lips removed the coldness from the surroundings.

When they both let go, it was hardly hurting them that they can't see each other's reactions, because they both know the other smiles right at that moment. Ran rested her head on Yuuhi's shoulder, her ears hearing every calm rise and fall of his chest, as though he was the most content person in the world. This feeling that there was someone who wanted to protect her, someone who was there for her in the midst of what he might risk, it was enough for her.

"Don't let go, Yuuhi. Someday I will be able to return to you all this kindness you're showing me." Ran muttered in a way it would sound when saying those words to someone you care for the most. Ran was supposed to tell him. "Actually, I—"

"I'll stay right here. Until Tatsuki comes back, I will--" Yuuhi cut her off, but he halted. Until Tatsuki comes back meant tomorrow. Tatsuki's out of jail by tomorrow, if he's correct, and that was so soon. Ran doesn't seem to realize that tomorrow was a day she waited for.

All of a sudden, a voice came out of nowhere. A voice so deep and so familiar to ears of both of them. A voice that describes the friend himself.

"Until Tatsuki comes back, you'll what? I'm waiting for your promise to that traitor."

----------

Her eyes opened slowly and tried to adjust to the almost pitch-black darkness. The only thing that was there to light the room was the moon's angry glow, passing through the thick glass window placed high on the wall. She felt sweat dripping down her forehead and down her chest. Even though she had just roused from sleeping, energy seemed to have been drained from her body. The only things she was able to do were to breathe, to sit down, and to stare into nothing. Not an inch of vigor stroke her to stand up and try to look for the exit.

Fortunately, someone finally opened the door. The person held a lamp in one of his hands. Brown hair was reflected because of the candle's light, and her eyes immediately had the power to stay awake and they grew wider. She stood up and called out, "Yamato? A-are you there?"

The man closed the door carefully. "No, I'm sorry. I'm not Yamato." The man said, with a flat voice though there was some sort of softness Miyu sensed. The candle was placed on a surface that looked somewhat like a table made of wood.

Miyu backed off some steps. "W-who are you?" Then a thought hit her. "You were the one who did this to me, weren't you! You were the one who ruined my life!" She shouted, aware of the tantrums she's pouring over this man. She ran up to him and gave him a punch that aimed for the man's head, but he refused to accept it and placed a hand to stop the attack.

Tears didn't stop flowing from Miyu's eyes. He was the one who destroyed my future. He was the one who took me away from Yamato. Raging thoughts surfaced on Miyu's emotions. Her voice turned hoarse and she was out of control. "Why did you do that? Why?"

--The man's P.O.V.—

I couldn't help pity this lady who's trying to pound me off. She looks so helpless with those tears coming out of her closed eyes. She kept on hitting me with her fists, and I held both of it to stop her. She opened her eyes and looked up at me.

The pain welling up inside those eyes swarmed over my wholeness. Was this what Mami really planned to do? Was this the effect of being hurt by someone that badly? She wanted to ruin Ran's life so badly. But why does this one in front of me have to suffer like this? I saw that glitter of red sorrow in her when I looked into those big resenting brown eyes.

There was no choice. I pulled her close to me and gave her a reassuring hug, probably to say voicelessly that I should be trusted. I'm not an enemy. I'm not a friend, either. She didn't have a choice but to collapse into my arms and cry so hard. It squeezed my heart to hear the sounds of the Miyu's aching.

I'm going to wait for her to calm down. And then I should tell her.

--end of man's P.o.V.—

After a few seconds, the loud crying voice trailed off and diminished into very soft sobs. Sobs that sound as though the person letting it out was too tired of crying.

Miyu heard a quick rush of water. When the noise stopped, she heard a glass being placed on wood. "Drink this. You should calm down first. There are a few things that you should know." The man said. He sat on the bed, looking at Miyu while showing the least concern as she sits down on the floor. He waited for her to get up and grab the glass of water on the table.

Miyu looked at him for a long moment with eyes that say "You better tell me those things." He wasn't so surprised she would do it so soon. She looked eager enough to know what lies inside his head. It was like moments ago she seemed to have no more strength to keep up with what's going on around her. Then the next moment she looked as though she had gathered what she had lacked before and was ready for anything.

She knew I wasn't joking. The man thought.

After drinking the glass of water, Miyu breathed hard twice then wiped the water dripping from her chin. "You..." she started, though she looked away. With a softer voice, she pleaded. "You have to tell me. You have to tell me what you know."

The man sighed. "My name's Shirou. Before anything else, I want to apologize for entering the room without thinking of how you would react if you saw me coming in while you're here not knowing what place this is."

Miyu didn't even nudge a shoulder. But she sat down on the floor anyway. She was looking down on her lap.

"First of all, I should clarify that..."

Miyu still didn't move for any reaction.

"That you're not really pregnant."

She immediately raised her head up. Again Shirou saw those eyes with pain, this time the half of it being replaced with relief. But still she was hurting. He hoped he could remove them after he explains things to him. He refused to look her way and turned his head away from her.

"Don't react so soon. I've only just started." He could tell out of the corner of his eye that Miyu looked down on her lap again. "Secondly...I didn't rape you or anything. I wasn't even the one who did that."

It seemed that the only thing Miyu would ever react to was the fact that she wasn't really pregnant.

"Someone else did it. He was ordered to fake your meeting with Yamato, and went to where you promised to meet him. He attacked you there and brought you to a hotel. He just sort of made it look like he toyed you until you lose consciousness, but he just removed your clothes and left the place. He never touched you. Well, maybe he did kiss you. To make it seem like he was doing it. But that's all there was to it."

The Miyu he met when he entered the room was starting to come back. The sound of her hands hitting her mouth when she covered it after a loud gasp was all it took to let Shirou know she was beginning to collapse again. He didn't let this affect him though.

All this time I was wandering around, trying to find a way to ease the pain this very guilt has brought me, not knowing what I should do next or where I should go now, and then I'd find out that everything was just a lie? All this time...all this time...Miyu thought. Tears welled up her eyes again, but she blinked it away. I should save the tears for later. There might be some more things that he's holding in.

Miyu hugged her knees to her chest and rested her forehead on them. "Who would want to do this to me?"

There was a momentary silence.

"I-I never did anything wrong to anyone. I already made peace with my enemies long ago. Why...why would someone want to make me undergo such..." her voice trailed off.

"I...I don't think she wanted to mess you up." Shirou spoke, not for the purpose of comforting, but rather for his own personal purposes. He took Miyu's silence as a voiceless 'What do you mean?', and he decided to continue. "I don't know, but I think I should tell you. You're the only one I can count on right now."

This person is a complete stranger. He just appeared all of a sudden in front of me when I gained consciousness, and not because he hugged me awhile ago, that meant he is free to ask a favor from me! Not in this situation I'm in. Miyu thought glumly, though a part of her mind told her she had no choice. She doesn't know when this man could be roughly dangerous. He stopped her attack some moments ago with just a hand. Anything else would be a great risk if she made a wrong move. "You said the person who did this was a 'she', didn't you? Who is she?"

"I'm afraid you know her well enough." He said, quite reassuringly. "The root of all this happenings is..."

Miyu looked up at him and gave him an eye contact. This time he didn't look away.

"Honda Mami."

--End of Chapter 13—

A/N: I know things were overactingthere were too many of them from the very beginning and I've re-read the whole storyall the chapters and found so many errors, on the plotting alone I should be using more than 2 sets of hands to count them. I realized I was using useless techniques and insignificant 'other' things. You might be thinking right now that I'm lacking self-confidence, eh?...But no, I'm doing just fine. Thinking that your work isn't that good is as normal as it seems to me.

Speaking of useless, I have a very unfortunate news for you. I don't know if you're going to dislike it or be relieved that I did it. But I removed Remembrance to remember from ffnet already. Much to my own surprise, when the thought just came to my mind one day while I was rereading the story, I found it really exaggerated. I'll try to make it up to you guys by doing my best for wlss. Please don't get mad about it or something. There are times people need to adjust. Thanks for the people who supported Rtr all the way. Since Rtr received more reviews than Wlss, I was touched, but that didn't move me to take back what I had decided.