Naoki watched the rain fall with increasing momentum and felt despair rising from the pit of his stomach.
The facade that he had so carefully erected during the past weeks was no match for the turmoil that was rumbling within. All that he had meticulously achieved over the past few weeks was unravelling faster than he could breathe.
The mere thought of her being with that Ikezawa gave him a paralysing chill. The thought of the two of them ending up together in some happily ever after tale where he had no major part was driving away what little bit of calm he had been grasping on to. Whatever resolve he had managed to maintain so far was turning into an empty gesture.
Try as he might, those feelings that had drawn him closer to her were not so easily expunged. In the good old days, they would have been promptly dispatched in a matter of minutes.
This cannot be happening.
He had done his worst to push her away, cast aside his own feelings and suppress his deepest desires. The day he embarked on that path he was determined to see it through whatever the cost to himself.
Little by little, however, he sensed that the cost was exacting a toll he didn't know if he could pay. Fighting his own heart was a mammoth task even for a genius with an IQ of 200.
Giving up his dream of being a doctor had been difficult but it had been a fleeting dream. A childish fantasy he had toyed with. An idea and a thought that came to him when that stupid girl was rambling on and on about making a difference.
Abandoning that newfound ambition had been easy enough.
Turning his back on that stupid girl, however, was another matter entirely.
Somewhere along the way, when he least expected... he had inadvertently given her his heart.
Naoki could scarcely believe his ears.
"Kotoko is going to give her answer to Kin chan's proposal."
"Proposal?" Irie echoed in complete disbelief.
This piece of news landed on him like a blow to his stomach.
"Oh you didn't know? Kin chan proposed to Kotoko." Jinko reiterated with no lack of gleeful satisfaction.
"Jinko... no..." Saitomi tried to silence her friend.
She would never agree to marry him... surely?
The ground beneath him was threatening to split apart. Naoki couldn't be sure. He had no reason to be confident. After all, he had done everything to push her away. Hadn't he proven to the whole world that he didn't care if she was dating Ikezawa?
"You two are a perfect match."
But marriage? That was a bridge too far .
It's impossible... that idiot, she can't...
The possibility, however remote, of the stupid girl falling prey to Ikezawa's limited charms, had crossed his mind. Naoki, however, could not understand his own reaction.
That infernal Ikezawa... despite being stupid in all other things, he was quick to seize the opportunity... to step in when she was at her most vulnerable.
Despite his rising anger, Naoki knew only too well how much pain he'd given her... how he'd broken her heart. That had been plainly written on her face. Now she was contemplating marriage with another guy?
Was it so easy for her? Just to let go...
Things were happening ridiculously quickly. Never in his wildest dreams did he think that Ikezawa would come this close... that he might actually succeed in winning Kotoko's heart. That she would even consider marriage with him.
Naoki tried to brush the entire notion off as wishful thinking on Ikezawa's part.
It's impossible. Kotoko loves me. She has loved me for five years. Ikezawa is a fool to think he has a chance.
But now he was second guessing himself. All because of her.
Marrying Oizumi Sahoko was the right thing to do. It had been the right decision... to protect his family, to save Pandai.
But could he live with it?
One thing was becoming clearer: Living out his existence without Aihara Kotoko portended an air of bleakness in his future.
The fact that he could lose her to another... the thought that she could stop loving him was a terrifying and gut-wrenching prospect.
She loves me... only me...
She can't... possibly... love him
Then he understood what his heart had been saying all along...
I can't love anyone else...
I can't lose her to anyone...
The proverbial bolt of lightning had struck. An epiphany no less. Whatever it was, he couldn't see a future without her by his side.
The rain poured down and offering no resistance, he let the falling water washed over him.
Naoki staggered past the front door and slumped onto the sofa. He let his bag and books slide off his hands and land on the coffee table.
"Are you alright, Naoki?" His father who had been sitting reading the daily paper noted the unhealthy pallor of his cheeks.
What was he to say? He could scarcely reveal to them his recent change of heart. Not yet anyway. Not until he was sure that he wasn't too late.
"Is it dinner time already?" Naoki asked nonchalantly, deftly evading the question.
"Almost." His mother chirped from the dining room.
"You should get changed or dry off immediately, Naoki." His father advised.
"Later. I'm fine."
"Is it pouring outside?" Mrs Irie inquired while busying herself round the dinner table, laying the cutlery and dishes.
"Oh dear. Kotoko's not home yet. She's going to be soaked to the skin."
"She may have brought an umbrella with her." Irie senior chimed in with characteristic optimism.
To their surprise, their older son got up and offered to go. "I'll go and get her. She's probably forgotten to take an umbrella. She's so stupid about these things."
The suspense was killing him. He had to know. He hoped desperately he wasn't too late.
Without giving it a second thought, Naoki grabbed an umbrella and dashed out the door. He knew now... when it was all too clear he could lose her... that there was no other person he wanted to be with.
Thank you all for the encouragement and lovely comments. My notifications must have gone into another folder and so I missed all your comments. Perhaps it was just as well because life has been ridiculously hectic. This one was sitting in my hard drive since October last year but I never got around to re-writing and posting it here.
I'm sure you've all heard that we're getting a second series for Love in Tokyo. Yay... this time, I think I should just wait for it to finish before starting. The 15 weeks waiting for every episode was very, very hard.