Chapter 1: Ai's Confession

I have to talk to him. Ai was terrified. She had had a crush on Naoki since the very first day of Middle School. He was the smartest and the richest boy of all of Japan, the son of a renowned surgeon. He was tall and had mysterious blue eyes. His mother was American, with blonde hair and blue eyes. Naoki had black hair, inherited from his Japanese features on his father's side. He seemed to have it all together. He was chauffeured to school in a limo, and wore very distinguished shoes along with his school uniform. However, it wasn't his looks that Ai was drawn to, though they definitely contributed to it. It was his ability to stun an audience with very sensible words, solve problems as if they were nothing, and his unbelievable kindness. The first night she had seen him, she had no idea who he was. He was walking by her house at night, trying to chase a cat to return to an elderly woman. She had been so stunned at this kind act that she began to dream of him. Three days later, that same boy stepped up onto the platform at school, and gave a speech on studying hard and being there for each other throughout the middle school years, and stated that he was happy to be there with everyone. From that moment on, Ai was infatuated with him. She spied on his every day chores, watching him perform his duty as student body president. He seemed so serious, yet so efficient. He was kind to everyone. Now they were beginning high school, and Ai could no longer hold her feelings to herself. She knew that if she didn't do something soon, he would get a girlfriend. That thought was too unbearable. Ai glanced down at the love letter she wrote to check it over once again.

Dear Naoki

I really, really like you! I've liked you since middle school-I saw you chasing a cat to return to it's owner, and I thought it was really nice! Would you go out with me?

Ai

"Uuuggh! On second thought, maybe it's not a good idea!" Ai blurted out while crumpling the piece of paper.

"What's not a good idea?" Ai's best friend Akiko asked.

"Nothing," Ai muttered.

"You were going to give Naoki a love letter, weren't you?" Akiko stated matter-of-factly.

"Yes," Ai groaned, "and now I'm too nervous. What if he thinks I'm stupid?"

"You never know until you try. I'll come with you to deliver it if you want."

Ai nodded. "thanks, Aki, you're a true friend."

Akiko rose from her seat and waited patiently for Ai to stand up, and check herself in her pocket mirror. Akiko gently guided Ai toward class 1-A, where Naoki was just arriving.

Akiko gave Ai a little shove, to let her know it was time.

"Umm, Naoki-senpai!" Ai blurted out, her heart beating very quickly as she clenched the already wrinkly letter.

He stopped and looked at Ai. "What?"

"Would you please accept this?" she almost choked on her words.

"Is this a love letter?" He asked suspiciously.

Ai blushed and said nothing, and just looked down.

"I don't need that sort of thing," Naoki snapped. He walked away towards his class. "After all, girls are stupid."

Ai raised her head and stared in shock. He didn't want it. He HATES me. He thinks I'm STUPID. The shock settled in. As quickly as the beautiful face of Naoki was sweet in her mind, it was dashed. Everything that she thought he was suddenly wasn't. Crap. How could she have fallen in love with such an idiot like him?

"Let's go, Akiko." Ai kept her head down, shading he eyes. She grabbed her best friend's hand and they walked away.

"Ai" Akiko murmured, placing her hand on Ai's back.

"I don't need any charity, Aki." Ai was trying her best not to cry, but the tears were already falling, and she was biting her lip so that no choked out sobs would emerge.

"I think I'm going to go freshen up a bit," Ai muttered as she stumbled into the nearest bathroom. She immediately shut herself into a stall, and then could not hide it. Her choked back sobs came out like an erupting volcano. She had not been just crushing on Naoki all of these years. She had grown to love him. She thought she had a chance, but she was proven wrong the first day of high school. I don't want to be here, she thought. I want to leave. Now.

After drying her tears, Ai stumbled out of the stall, crumpled up the love letter once again, and tossed it into the trash can. Instead of going to class, she ran with all her might out of the school and towards her favorite spot-Mom's grave. Mom will know what to say, Ai thought, while some unescaped sobs found their way to the surface.

Mom had died when she was four years old. She didn't remember too much, but she knew she had loved her. Mom would brush her hair for hours on end, and would tell her how beautiful she was. Mom always knew what to say to make her feel better. Unfortunately, Ai had forgotten how Mom had died. She knew it was bad, because Dad remembered. In fact, everyone remembered but Ai. It was like that part of her memory was completely roped off, banned forever from her consciousness. Why was mom gone, and what had happened to her? Ai finally reached her mother's grave, panting and heaving from the running. "Mom! What do I do? Naoki hates me!" She fell to her knees in front of the tombstone. "What do I do, mom? How do I react when I see him?"

Ai cried a few last sobs and sat there in silence, half expecting her mother to respond with "it will be ok, Ai. Just have hope. Life will go on."

After a few hours, Ai managed to get up and walk on. She needed to go home soon, if not go back to school. Father might ask questions, she realized. But even so, it would be better than returning to rejection. As she reached the front door, her father stood waiting.

"Otoosan! Why are you home? Don't you have work?"

"I got a call from your school. Why did you skip your first day of high school?" He growled. Ai had never seen him this angry. He usually responded in an understanding way. But then again, she had never done something as extreme as skip school. She had always attended classes, even if she didn't make the best grades in the classroom. Her father was furious. "Come in, Ai." He solemnly opened the door and allowed his daughter to come in. He shut the door behind her, and walked into the living room. He looked back at her, showing her that he meant her to follow. When Ai approached quietly and closely enough, her father stared into her eyes for a few minutes, with anger so immense that Ai cowered with fright. She had never seen her father like this before. It was terrifying. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a harsh, stinging powerful blow hit her cheek, and she fell to the floor.

"Don't you ever skip school again, do you hear me?" Her father bellowed. "You don't understand how ashamed I felt when receiving such a call from the school. What got into you, Ai? Don't you ever pull a prank like that again! You will go to the principle's office first thing in the morning and apologize! You will do whatever you have to do to stay a student at that school. It is a very prestigious place, and you are very lucky to have gotten in. You're lucky I could pull favors from the higher ups for you to get in there. You never would have had a chance otherwise. Don't you dare mess it up."

With that, he stalked out of the room, grabbing his briefcase, meaning to return to work. Ai stayed sprawled on the floor in shock. She had never had an encounter with her father like that ever before. After a few minutes, she slowly rose to her feet. Her left cheek hurt. She went to look in the mirror to see what damage had been done. There was no bruising, just a huge red spot with force of contact. She slowly shuffled to her room, too tired to cry anymore. Her father meant well. He was right. It had taken a lot to help her get into the high school she attended now. It had taken her father several long hours of asking favors for her to go. It was wrong of her to leave. With that in mind, she climbed into her bed, and fell asleep immediately.

"Ai, it's mom." Ai heard a voice coming out of nowhere. Everything around her was white.

"How's your cheek, honey? Is it still tender?" Ai reached for her cheek but felt nothing. She tried to speak, but had no words.

"You know, Ai, you shouldn't stress your father out so. He is very worried about you, and can barely afford to keep you where you are. He might have a heart attack if he stresses too much.

Ai stiffened when she heard that. She tried to ask if this was really true, but she could not find her voice.

"Ai, you need to hear me. You need to be good!" Her mother's voice became more frantic. Why was she stressed? Ai wanted to reassure her mother that she would do as she said and not stress father out, but she had no power to do that.

"Ai, Ai! Ai! AI!" her mother's screaming became more frantic. Suddenly she could smell smoke. What was going on, a fire? She could feel heat licking her face, but she still couldn't move.

"AI!" suddenly she jolted awake.

"Naoki?" She shrieked in surprise. He was on top of her, in her bedroom. "What-"

"We need to get out of here! Get up!" He yelled at her.

Looking around, Ai noticed that her room was on fire, destroying all of her things, even her only picture of mother. "Mom!" she shrieked.

"Get up!" Naoki grasped her hand and started for the door. Ai couldn't seem to move her body. She fell with a thump with the force that Naoki had asserted to move her. He turned back to glare at her. "Why won't you get up? Can't you see you'll die?"

"I can't move!" Ai quietly sobbed.

With a groan, Naoki quickly approached her and pulled her on his back. "You better thank me for this later, dummy." He quickly walked towards the window.

"Wait-we're two stories up!" Ai shrieked.

"Too bad. The stairs are on fire." When he opened the window, there were firefighters with a net at the bottom. He quickly shifted her to the front, and prepared to drop her.

"NO!" Ai screamed with fear.
Naoki didn't listen. He let go and she fell through the free air, feeling her heart leave her chest. As suddenly as she was let go, she was caught in a net. She was quickly transferred to a stretcher, where they shoved her into a nearby ambulance.

"Naoki!" she yelled. She heard him land on the net, and people ask if he was alright and if he needed an ambulance. He told them he didn't need it, so they settled to questioning him. She couldn't hear him anymore, because they had shut the ambulance doors.

Immediately she could hear reports being passed between the several people looking over her body.

"What happened?" she murmered, but no one answered her.

"One second degree burn, and several first degree."

"How's her breathing?"

"Very shallow. Haruma-set her up with oxygen."

"Yes, sir."

"Sweetheart, we're about to put you to sleep, ok?"

"Ai looked at him with stunned scared eyes, but could not muster a reply. Soon she was out.