Chapter One

Sometimes you have to let a person go to move on.

With those words in mind, Sudou was doing just that. Even as the cool breeze kissed his cheeks, and the cherry blossoms fluttered to his feet in a soft sway, he moved on, past the administration building and toward his car. He was escaping from his own feelings. And although he wanted so much to turn around and embrace her, he knew he couldn't.

This was for him—and for her.

It would do them both good; although, the separation would help him better than her. But, of course, he would be deluding himself to believe that she cared for him. She never cared for him. And if she did, it was hard to tell. Her emotions were guarded by a strong shield he could never break.


He heard his friend—should he describe Kotoko that way? After all, she was the only one who listened and offered companionship—and turned his head. He stopped in his step, turned halfway, and watched as she jogged to meet him.

Back bent, hands on her knees, she gathered her breath. She must've sprinted from the tennis courts to the parking lot with all her jovial energy to catch up to him. She was a true friend—no, a dear friend, who cared for his happiness.

Sudou needed someone like that in his life; someone he could depend on and talk to and receive honest answers in return. The type of friend he should be for her.

"Sudou, you can't just give up!" Determine was a word to describe her. "We didn't go to that dating group only to waste it! We went there for a purpose! We can still win their love!"

Denial was another word—the most often used in his mind—to describe her character. She wasn't ready to let go; neither was he. But he couldn't delude himself to believe that Matsumoto would come running to him with open arms, accepting his love. It was a harsh reality he needed to wake up to, something that the dating group taught him.

And just as Kotoko had given him support throughout their blooming friendship, he would return the favor by being direct.

"This is a waste of time. I let her go. You should do the same."

She shook her head. Refusal gripped her soul and tugged her into the dark where the truth was obscured into lies. He had to dig deeper for her to accept reality.

"Let him go!" he harshly voiced.

Tears began to cloud her vision. Again, she refused, sputtering out, "I can't."

"You can. You can," he repeated. He placed his hands on her shoulders, almost as if he was shaking her from her fantasy. "I'll be there for you. I won't leave you to suffer alone. I won't."

She began to cry silently.

"I can't. I just can't."

Tears spilled and ran down her cheeks in fat drops. She cried with a high ferocity; wailing loudly as students walked by, raising eyebrows toward their direction. He glared at them, and they, almost a few, flinched and walked on, never questioning the scene, but killing their mild curiosity.

But he had to admit that the parking lot was not the best place to cry. Kotoko, however, was no longer able to contain her sorrow. She needed a release, and the perfect opportunity was given to her. Sudou did not mind. In fact, her tears reflected his broken heart.

He took her in his arms and rested his chin on top of her head. With a hand pressed against the back of her head, he soothed her into a quivering silence. No words were needed. Chatter filled the area; laughter followed after. Cars roared with life and drove past their embrace.

For a second the world was forgotten.

Sudou glanced up, disbelief covering his expression. He shook away his confusion and impassively stared at the man ahead of him. Returning his gaze, Irie stood, with the same cool indifference he always carried.

Then he took a few steps back and turned in time as Kotoko pulled away from him. She followed his gaze and saw nothing, or in this particular case, she did not see Irie. She sighed, almost as if she was wishing that Irie was there, and turned her puffy, red-eyes toward his direction.

"Let's go," she suggested. It was her way of saying that she was ready to move on.

He wanted to tell her about Irie; he practically wanted to shout that Irie was behind her. But what difference would it make? Knowing Irie, he would still treat her with same mistreatment, and Sudou did not want her to chase after a man whose feelings were questionable.

So he kept it to himself and led her away from the campus ground and into his car, where they drove off into the mysterious future.