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The Garden of Yukako Yamagishi

Chapter Text

The Garden of Yukako Yamagishi

Chapter One

A Bouquet of Daffodils

 

A familiar jingle echoed in her head as she could feel herself wake up with the alarm. She felt a bit disoriented from her sleep. Had she meant to sleep this long? However, she soon recalled why she had to wake up so early.

“Yukako,” her mother called out as she walked in the girl’s room. Unlike the room she was previously strapped down in, Yukako still had to get used to the different layout of the room. While she remained in the hospital to take care of any additional health concerns, her parents had moved the family to a new home – one that’s closer to the hospital. Since Yukako had attend physical therapy still, it did eventually become a strain on her parents. “It’s time for school.”

Despite the additional expenses, her parents never complained. They kept their word and did their best to avoid traveling – or if they absolutely had to, they tried to make it short as they could and were in constant contact. If one parent traveled, the other had to make sure they stayed at home with her. Yukako never stayed alone again; her parents made sure of that.

Once her mother smiled at her, as brightly as she could, Yukako’s own attitude brightened up. She couldn’t show it on her face but she really was excited! It was finally the first day of the new school year! Even though she was captive in Kira’s grasp, she somehow managed to keep her grades up and managed to pass to her second year.

Whether it was out of pity, or whether through her hard work, Yukako was just happy she managed to pass her classes. She couldn’t attend the rest of the school year but the boys brought her homework and Koichi even explained the material to help her. Yukako smiled at the memory of it all and she hoped that they would be continue being friends that year.

Her mother helped her out of bed and even helped her get ready – although Yukako would sometimes whine about being able to do certain things herself now. Her strength had been growing more and more but she at least understood her mother’s worry.

While Yukako was told she’d still have a limp for a while longer, the doctors gave her a cane so she could ambulate better without much help. With physical therapy and just being able to walk around, Yukako could feel herself getting better. She’s confident she wouldn’t need the cane anymore – hopefully, before her second year ended.

Once the couple made it to the dining room to eat breakfast, and just as Yukako finished hers, there was a knock on the door. Yukako was actually surprised to hear it. She didn’t get up right away but her mother did to answer the door. Her father had sat with them and he was quiet. He usually didn’t talk to Yukako before the Kira incident but it was even harder for him now. He lowered the paper and folded it up to place it on the table before them. He looked at her – and now that Yukako got a closer look at her father’s face; she now realized where she got her aura.

To most people, her father seemed scary, mean, and always grumpy – but that was just his resting face. She understood why she looked the way she did now. She knew he wasn’t mad at her. She knew, if anything, her father was lost on how to talk to his daughter, especially since the incident.

However, before her father could open his mouth, her mother called her from the foyer.

“Yukako-ch—“ Her mother had to stop herself for a moment. “Yukako! Higashikata-kun and Hirose-kun are here!”

Yukako had to tell her parents not to call her “Yukako-chan” anymore as it triggered memories of Kira. She’ll always be angry at that man who ruined a nickname for her. It was an adjustment for everyone – and it wasn’t easy for anyone. However, they wanted to try their best to make Yukako’s recovery be as swift as possible.

Once Yukako stood, with the aid of her cane, she grabbed her school bag and couldn’t resist a smile. Ever since she had been released from the hospital, it was abundantly clear that Josuke, Koichi, Okuyasu – names that could easily fall from her lips better – cared for her and were sorry for not noticing her absence sooner. It was easier to forgive them because they made sure to see her at least once a day.

However, she was surprised that only Josuke and Koichi had shown up – was it far for Okuyasu? Excited, Yukako gave her parents a warm goodbye and while it was clear her parents didn’t fully trust the two teenaged boys outside their doorstep, especially with Josuke’s hairstyle, they could tell that they brought Yukako happiness. Thus, they bit their tongues and kept their criticisms to a minimum, or at least tried.

.x.

“Are you sure it’s not too much of a bother?” Yukako asked. She still stuttered a little bit as she knew how she looked with her cane and the teenagers each by her side. Her smile had long since dropped but her happiness inside hadn’t. It didn’t take long for Yukako to relax her face – she didn’t have to force herself smiling. They knew. They finally knew how she felt inside.

Josuke, whose own school bag was tossed over on his shoulder, gave her a bright smile and thumbs up. “It’s no problem. We live pretty close by.”

Koichi held his bag in front of him, another contrast between the two Yukako noticed, and, while he was more subdued, he also gave her another reassuring smile.

“Yeah, you live in between Josuke and I. It’s really no problem!”

Yukako couldn’t help but wonder about the distances between their houses but it would unbecome her if she were to visit their houses alone…

Eventually, they met up with Okuyasu and he greeted Yukako and walked next to Josuke as the four friends made their way to school. Koichi eventually made his way towards the duo but while it would seem to a bystander they purposefully ignored Yukako, she was content. She was content to listening to their conversations and they would occasionally talk to her. They learned very quickly that Yukako was actually pretty introverted but she enjoyed listening to them and just being in their company.

“Oh,” Okuyasu suddenly said. “Are we in the same homeroom?”

“Yeah!” Koichi chirped. “I made sure to triple-check!”

The quartet had to leave pretty early, which Okuyasu complained about but accepted, since they had to make extra time for Yukako to walk. While she was gaining her strength back, it would be impossible to expect her to be as fast or be as able to walk with them. Often, she would need to take breaks and relax for a moment before she resumed walking.

Yukako couldn’t help but be annoyed with herself somewhat but she was thankful that the boys were at least patient, despite Okuyasu’s complaints.

As the teens approached the familiar gates of the school, Yukako couldn’t help but feel a looming feeling – she couldn’t place it but she couldn’t help but think about what happened in orientation a few days ago.

.x.

Because of her temporary disability, Yukako still needed to get used to walking such a distance from her new home to the school. She panted once they reached the gates and the boys tried their best to help her while giving her independence.

“Josuke-kun,” Yukako whimpered as she found her strength lessen and the other teen helped her up. She felt embarrassed but it couldn’t be helped. She had tried to make her way to the bathroom but needed Josuke’s assistance, as he was the closest one to her.

Josuke understood immediately and walked her towards the bathroom. The teachers were more than aware about Yukako and having the three boys help her – after her own insistence – so they shouldn’t find it unusual to see the two walk together in such a manner.

Once they made it to their destination, Josuke made his promises he was outside the bathroom and for her to yell if she needed his help. Yukako nodded as she forced her tired body into the bathroom.

Ever since the Kira incident, anytime she felt an inkling to use the bathroom, she did not want to risk holding it. She became scared of peeing herself in front of anyone – most certainly in front of her friends. Thankfully, the school bathrooms had stalls.

After she struggled to flush the toilet, she struggled to walk to the sink. Her pain became unbearable as she tried to groan as silently as she could. She hated this pain. She hated Kira for giving this pain to her. She hated Kira. She was glad he was dead.

“Is that your boyfriend?” a gloomy voice echoed in the bathroom. Yukako then realized there was another girl in the bathroom with her. She turned to the girl and was surprised to see such a glare from the girl’s face. Her hair was greasy as was her skin. The girl’s paleness reminded her of her image back then and she tried to hold back her body’s reaction.

It wasn’t the girl’s fault. It wasn’t the girl’s fault.

It was her fault. She never should’ve fell in love.

“Uh, did you not hear me? Is that your boyfriend out there?” she repeated the question. She sounded progressively annoyed with the fact she had to repeat herself.

Yukako stared at her for a moment and then shook her head. “That’s my friend. He’s… helping me.” She tried to hide her cane even though the whole school already knew about Yukako Yamagishi – the girl who survived a serial killer.

The girl turned off the faucet and it was clear she progressively got more annoyed at Yukako.

“With what? Didn’t you just survive a serial killer? What more help do you need? God, I wish you’d die after all.”

Yukako was shocked at the girl’s comments. She wasn’t sure what exactly made the girl angry with Yukako this much. However, it didn’t show on her face. The girl wiped her wet hands with the paper towels that were around.

“Look,” she started again. “My name is Mine Takako, and as long as you hang out with him, you’re my enemy. Goodbye.”

The girl briskly walked passed her, with a flip of her greasy hair, and Yukako didn’t know how to react. When she first arrived, most people were curious, sure, nosy, fine, and maybe asked an inappropriate question or two, okay, but for this girl to just tell her to die… it was a shock for Yukako.

But she didn’t want to worry the boy outside who waited for her patiently.

She pushed her tears aside and decided that if any did come out, she’d blame it on her pain.

.x.

However, as the quartet entered the school and changed shoes in her shoe box, she was relieved not to see that girl again. She hadn’t told the boys, or even her parents, about that Takako girl. She still didn’t know why she had said such a thing to her – if she wanted to date Josuke, it wasn’t like Yukako was going to stop her. She was just happy to have a friend like him.

She was through with love. It was too scary for Yukako to fall in love. She just wanted to heal and live a quiet life.

“Come on, Yukako!” Koichi called for her. His voice brought her out of her daze and she was thankful for it.

“I’m coming!” Yukako called out after him as she made her way towards him. He was already grouped with the other two boys and once Yukako reached them, they made their way towards homeroom.

Although, once the door was opened, Yukako had a visceral reaction. She almost fell backwards when she thought she saw Kira Yoshikage sitting in one of the seats. Thankfully, Okuyasu caught her and kept her steady.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” Okuyasu asked with concern.

Yukako turned back towards the seat and was relieved not to see Kira anymore.

“U-uh, it’s nothing, Okuyasu-kun,” Yukako lied. She hated herself. She thought she was through with lying…

Instead, Takako Mine sat in the seat where Kira was and glared at her through her greasy hair.

Chapter Text

The Garden of Yukako

Chapter Two

A Bouquet of Gerbera

 

Despite the initial shock earlier, Yukako still had a pretty good day at school. The homeroom teacher was the same one from the year before and he had decided to go easy on the students a little bit for Yukako’s sake; clearly, an effort to make sure she’s about the same level as the other students.

She tried her best ignore the glares from that Takako Mine. The girl was seated near her – unfortunately, nearer than she would’ve liked but there wasn’t much she could do about it. Sometimes in her peripherals, Yukako could see the girl studying but other times she’d make sure to give her a look of disdain, or even outright anger. Yukako couldn’t understand why this girl glared at her so – she wasn’t even sure what she did!

“As long as you hang out with him, you’re my enemy.”

Those words still echoed in her head and she just wished she knew if the girl wanted Josuke as her boyfriend. She shrugged it off as best as she could. For now, she tried to get into the habit of focusing on her work more so than the strange problems of a teenage girl she didn’t know existed until that day. Because of that strange conversation, she was now painfully aware of her presence.

Thankfully, lunch came and that usual feeling of loneliness crept up through Yukako’s mind. She got her bento box her mother made for her and let out a heavy sigh. However, before the loneliness could settle in, the screeching of chairs echoed around her. She looked around her and the three teenaged boys were unaware of what their smiles chased away. Grateful, a small smile appeared on her lips as she saw the boys pull out their lunches.

They talked about nothing important of note but Yukako couldn’t help but feel relieved nevertheless. However, Yukako could feel herself already tire out.

“Hey, are you okay?” Josuke asked gently as he leaned in. Because of how tired she suddenly felt, it was then she noticed Koichi and Okuyasu had been missing. “Oh, Okuyasu had to use the bathroom and I think Koichi went to get drinks for all of us.”

Yukako was glad she didn’t have to openly ask where they went. Continuously so, she was grateful to him. However, being this close to him, Yukako noticed a scent that’s sort of different. Had she already become accustomed to his scent? Did he put something different on? Maybe it was because she was tired.

“Yukako?” Again, Yukako had told them to avoid using “Yukako-chan” for the time being. Although, it did warrant surprised glances from the students around them. “Do you need to go home?”

A heart could feel itself squeeze and throb.

The strange smell wafted into her nostrils. His piercing blue eyes knew she was tired but waited for her to say it.

Yukako looked down at her meal and noticed her mother stylized her bento box into an elegant design as she had outgrown the cutesy type of bento boxes.

“Oh,” Yukako tried to find her words to answer the question. “I’m fine.” She didn’t mean for it to come out as a whisper but it felt a cool wind had picked her up and cradled her gently. Whatever smell that was – that’s what protected her.

Soon she heard the familiar screeches of the chair and saw that Koichi had returned with drinks and Okuyasu eventually followed.

“Yukako, I got your favorite! I got you strawberry milk. I hope that was okay.”

Unlike Josuke’s soft whisper, Koichi’s loud concern again made Yukako feel her heart squeeze itself and throb. Unlike Josuke’s different smell, Koichi’s familiarity kept her grounded. She blinked and tried to calm her heart and the anxiety that immediately bubbled up.

She smiled, though.

“Thank you.” Her grateful words were louder and it seemed things went back to normal. The boys carried their own world of conversations while Yukako merely listened to them. She inserted the straw Koichi brought for her and slurped her favorite drink in peace as she could once again feel herself float away within the conversations.

To the naked eye, again, it seemed the boys purposefully left her out but Yukako was at peace. She could feel the wind of peace waft through her head, and finally, her heart. Whatever kept her heart tight and whatever made it throb relaxed its chains and she could feel things go back to normal.

Her fears lowered itself as she knew things were okay.

Even when she heard the angry screech of the chair behind her echo and a door slam, Yukako knew that Takako Mine couldn’t, and wouldn’t, do anything to her as long as Josuke, and Koichi, and Okuyasu were there to watch and protect her. They were friends, after all. And that’s what friends did.

But the thought of her and Josuke being friends, however, gave her heart one last throb. Yukako wouldn’t have noticed it. She enjoyed the company of her friends too much.

.x.

As Yukako was nestled in her warm new bed, she couldn’t help but reflect on the day. Despite the fun she had with her friends that day, she couldn’t help but feel a shadow follow those pleasant memories. A memory of glares from a classmate who declared her an enemy. The sound of an angry chair echoing in her mind followed the chill up her spine that took such a while to heal.

Yukako once again started to wonder why Takako even targeted her in the first place. Surely, she understood that Yukako had to have the assistance of a cane and her friends, the word echoed so freely in her mind now, because of what Kira tried to do.

That girl didn’t understand… did she even want to understand? Did she choose to ignore the cane Yukako had to use? Most of the time, sure, Yukako hid the cane as best she could from the other students but sometimes it was difficult. It was difficult to hide the fact she needed help and she hated that.

For a long time, Yukako Yamagishi was used to being alone. Whenever she was in pain, before Kira, she kept it to herself and everyone seemed happier that way. Everyone seemed to be more satisfied that way when Yukako didn’t ask for help. Koichi, Josuke, and Okuyasu always seemed more than willing to help her but they’re supposed to.

They still felt guilty, didn’t they? The cane was an ugly reminder of what they ignored for a month. The cane was a reminder that Yukako was kidnapped and held hostage for a month. She was tortured in the house she grew up in until that point. However, they didn’t save her. They were only there when it was convenient for them, weren’t they? They only hung out with her out of guilt. If it wasn’t for Kira, they wouldn’t have come.

“No one will come for you, Yukako-chan.” Kira said as he ran his fingers through her hair. “You’re the kind of student to keep things to yourself, weren’t you? No one would understand such a beautiful flower like you.”

Strapped to the chair, Yukako didn’t say a word but her tears did the speaking for her. She wanted to cry out but she was bad that day. She fell in front of Kira when she first got out of bed. That was bad of her. How dare she did that. She was terrible.

“You’re such a bad girl, Yukako-chan. No wonder no one will come for you. You’re just a nuisance to everyone around you.”

He was right.

He was right.

The night wind blew through her hair but she couldn’t breathe. She didn’t know when she left the house. She didn’t even realize she left her cane behind. She fell to the ground on the concrete sidewalk but didn’t see the night and the clear walkway.

Instead, she saw blood. His blood. Kira’s blood. It stained her broken legs, her malnourished arms, weak elbows, her torn up clothes that was too big for her and too dirty with vomit, and urine, and poop, and half eaten food, and blood. There was so much of his blood. So much of his blood seeped into her skin as though she were a human sponge.

She would look up and see his crushed head on the pavement. One of his eyes had fell out and the other eye stared directly at her.

“You’re a bad girl.”

Another scream could be heard in Morioh that night along with cries of despair and fear.

“Yukako!” a voice tried to bring her back but Yukako sat on the concrete ground and stared at nothing but the guilt of what she had to do to survive, to prove her worth, to prove she was worth saving, to prove to herself that he was all in all, a human.

Soon, Yukako could feel the embrace of someone and ran their fingers through her hair. Something told her it was safe. She didn’t deserve to be safe but here she was. She cried into this person as hard as she could as she coped with the blood that she soaked from a body she killed. Someone who tortured her but was still human.

“I’m right here, please, please… come home…”

The voice begged. The voice pleaded. The voice cried along with her but softly.

She could feel another hand on her back. A touch just as gentle as no one would expect and it shocked her. She crumbled down more as she couldn’t have deserved such a warm hug and a gentle touch. No, she was a monster. She’s a murderer.

Yukako Yamagishi was a bad girl.

.x.

Yukako soon realized she was back in her bed. Her eyes burned from the earlier tears and her throat was raw from the earlier screams. She saw her mother with her hair completely down along with her robe which had gotten a bit dirty. She sat next to her bed and seemed to be extremely tired. Her father was next to her mother, stern as ever, but Yukako could tell he was just as concerned if not more.

“Yukako-ch…Yukako,” her mother called out as soon as she realized her daughter was awake. Immediately, she reached over and tried to comfort her daughter as Yukako started to cry again. The pain was too much. She didn’t deserve such kind parents. She didn’t deserve to be in this world if she was going to cause them this much pain.

“Yukako…”

They murmured something but Yukako couldn’t understand. However, as she could feel her body relax more, she felt stupid and could still feel the lingering feelings.

“I’m sorry I’m such a bad girl.”

Yukako’s tears still flowed freely as she didn’t know what to do.

“Yukako…you’re not a bad girl. You’re safe here at home. Kira is dead and you’ll never have to see him again.”

Even as Yukako’s tears flowed, she shut her mouth tight. It was clear that her parents couldn’t understand the pain she had to carry in her heart for the rest of her life.

“We’ll protect you. Father will protect us from any evil in the world.”

Yukako appreciated the thought – but it wasn’t that simple. She was the evil in the world. Kira may have kidnapped her and tortured her, but did he actually plan to kill her? No. She was the one who did. She was the one who ended his life.

“Okay, Yukako? You’re good. You’ve always been good.”

If she was good, why did she kill Kira? Why did Kira pick her? Why?

Her mother sighed as it was clear her words didn’t get through to Yukako. The two parents looked worriedly at each other and seemed to come to a secret understanding.

“Let’s dream of sweets tonight, Yukako-ch-…Yukako.”

She reached over and tucked in the tuckered-out teenager. She touched her hair gently and let out another sigh. It wasn’t apprehensive – but Yukako could still feel the guilt rise.

“Good night.”

Her father’s words for the evening were the last words she heard before she fell into a sleep where blue eyes and a familiar wind protected her from the monsters of her inner self.

Chapter Text

The Garden of Yukako

Chapter Three

A Bouquet of Gardenia

 

A familiar jingle echoed in her ears as she felt her tired body weigh an incredible amount. She whimpered softly to herself. Was she strapped down again?  But Kira was dead. She brought her legs up close to her, even when it hurt and, oh, it hurt so much. Her throat felt raw. Her head pounded. Her heart started to race when she felt stuck to her bed. She whimpered softly once more.

But Kira was dead.

She tried to push back any tears but some still flowed freely down her cheeks. She winced in pain. She could feel herself needing to use the bathroom. Another whimper escaped her lips as her mom immediately went to her side.

“Yukako,” her mother worriedly called towards her. She bent down and tried to help the girl up from her position. Yukako couldn’t hear her as her head continuously pounded from the pain, whether imagined or real. She managed to lift the teenager up and finally Yukako slowly realized that she was not strapped down anymore.

Instead, she was with her mother – a woman in her early 40s worried about her teenaged daughter who had gone through an incredibly horrific situation while her husband and her had been abroad for a business that never understood how much more stressful it was for the two parents to be away from their daughter. Yukako soon recognized her mother and she cried once again just as harsh as she did the night before.

“I’m sorry,” Yukako apologized. She couldn’t help but apologize – she felt so guilty for what a horrible daughter she’s been.

“Don’t be. Let’s get you to the bathroom, okay?” her mother had said gently. Ever since the incident, her mother had been wary about how her only daughter slept. She always checked on her. She always woke her up after her alarm went off and helped her get ready.

“I…” Yukako tried to speak in between her cries. “I don’t think I can go to school today, Mother. I’m sorry. I-I’m still very weak…”

“It’s okay, Yukako…” Her mother had to think for a moment. “Father and I need to go to work today, okay? But I promise I’ll be back to see how you’re doing during lunch.”

Yukako nodded slowly. She just wanted to go back to sleep. As long as Yukako recognized her mother’s face as her mother, then she would know she’s out of that horror.  She didn’t want to have to face that man’s corpse anymore. She wanted to go back to the dream she had.

She didn’t quite remember it – the only thing she remembered were orbs of blue and a familiar wind protecting from the horrors of her reality. She wanted that reality. She wanted the reality that maybe someone besides her parents could see her as worth protecting. She wanted to be someone worth loving. She just wanted to be herself again.

After she used the bathroom and cleaned up, her mother tucked her back in bed and once again promised she would visit during lunchtime. Yukako knew that her parents couldn’t be forced from their careers because of her. She knew she would have to be alone in the house, the new house they moved to, instead of listening to the echoes of the old home. The ghosts didn’t follow her, at least she hoped they didn’t, and she wanted to get better. She didn’t understand how she was going to get better but that’s what she wanted.

Once her head hit the pillow, once her mother gently closed the door, Yukako’s heavy eyes closed. She didn’t hear the door knock or the see the disappointment on her friends’ faces when they were told that Yukako was not well enough to go to school that day.

She knew that they would be back to drop off homework and classwork. She could trust them this time.

.x.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

Yukako didn’t know how long she slept in her dreamless sleep but whatever sound that was, it woke her up. Surprisingly, the new neighborhood she was in had been more silent than her previous neighborhood. It was oddly pleasant.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

That sound needed to go away. She opened her eyes and could feel her stiff bones crack and move against each other with an unnecessary intensity she will never get used to. Luckily, or unluckily, her parents set up her bed to be against the window as she could rise and sleep with the sun. Perhaps it was easier, with her condition, to set it that way so Yukako could be sure when it was day or night.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

“Stop!” Yukako cried out, irritated. She turned to yell at the source of the noise and was surprised to see Josuke. He froze in place and held some tiny pebbles in his hand before he’d throw them against her window. He was surprised to see Yukako respond to him, apparently, since he didn’t move. He had something in his other hand that Yukako couldn’t exactly recognize immediately.

However, she was still surprised. She could feel her heart beat a bit faster. She could feel a different sort of anxiety. Warm. Excited. Anticipation.

She bit her lip. She opened her window and stuck her head out. The cool spring breeze, leftover from the winter, blew through her hair and she had to put a hand in order to see Josuke.

He smiled and tossed the pebbles in his hand down on the ground and wiped his hands on his pants as best he could. She then knew he was definitely alone.

“Josuke…kun,” Yukako said, surprised at how clear her voice was compared to the night before, “what are you doing here?”

He smiled gently. He seemed more relaxed and almost even at peace when the two locked eyes. Yukako tried to stifle her quickly beating heart.

“I’m here to rescue you.”

A burst of something cascaded through Yukako’s body which started from her heart.

“Huh?”

Josuke then lifted the bag in his hand in between them. Yukako was surprised but a different feeling immediately replaced it. She remembered the bag that contained the hand – the hand that led Kira to her. She wanted to vomit then and there but just as quickly her nauseated feelings surfaced, Josuke took the bag back.

“I-I got you lunch, I mean. Yeah. Lunch.”

He seemed a bit nervous.

Yukako smiled gently. “I’m going to me let you in.”

She wasn’t sure what she was doing. She knew if her mother kept her lunch promise – it was okay she didn’t just for that day – her mother would forbid her from ever seeing Josuke ever again. She knew what she was doing was considered stupid but she felt giddy. Despite the weight, and despite the pain, she felt light and giddy.

It didn’t take long for Josuke to make it around towards the front of the house and he took off his shoes.

She knew if she were caught, it’d be disastrous.

It was unbecoming of a young woman like her to allow a man, especially when she was so weak, into her home. But with Josuke, it was different. He wouldn’t harm her. He always helped her at school and he would also talk to her about anything. He knew what she was thinking and she was grateful he never made her say it out loud.

The two had a simple lunch together. They talked to each other about mundane things and Josuke’s latest prank towards the manga artist, Rohan.

“He’s honestly kind of weird. I don’t know why he hangs out with a bunch of high schoolers.” Josuke shrugged. “He claimed it’s for his manga. Whatever, man.”

Yukako smiled and nodded as he prattled on. She still felt a tightening when she saw the bag – but Josuke did his best to keep the bag away from her.

Eventually, the two finished their lunch and moved towards her room. Josuke grabbed his shoes in case he had to make a break for it as Yukako did tell him about her mother’s promise.

When they made it to her room, Yukako made it a point to cover her legs. She could, slowly, manage to go to the bathroom by herself by this point, even with the use of her cane. However, she didn’t expect Josuke to notice the portraits around her room.

Stereotypically girly, Yukako kept her room clean and devoid of any unnecessary clutter. She had always hated messes and always did her best to clean whenever she had the energy. Normally, her mother would always offer but as she healed, she wanted to clean up after herself once again.

“Wow!” Josuke blurted as he looked around her room. Put off by taking pictures of humans, other than when requested, Yukako had forgotten she had taken pictures of landscapes she deemed her favorites. “You have such a good eye for photography! Maybe you and Rohan would get along fine… since he could always use more references!”

Yukako smiled and politely thanked him. She didn’t know who this Rohan was but even though Josuke talked a lot of gossip about him, she could tell he still somewhat respected him, in some way.

“Isn’t this from when you were in the hospital?” Josuke pointed to one photo in particular. The photo itself was indeed from the view from her hospital room. While most people would find sadness within the photo, the context, everything about it, Yukako couldn’t allow that image to be removed from her memory.

“Yes,” Yukako answered truthfully, “I… never want to forget what I first saw after what happened.”

Josuke was silent but a sigh did escape his lips. Was he annoyed at the answer? Did he think that was stupid of her? Yukako could never deny she was a romantic at heart. “That’s silly, though, huh?”

Another moment of silence passed between the two.

“No. I think it’s beautiful. I’m glad you took a picture of that moment. It’s a reminder you’re still with us.”

Something about that statement made her heart throb. She bit her lip. She knew what this feeling was. She couldn’t allow herself to fall in love again. Not after Kira. Especially after Kira. But she couldn’t deny the feelings that developed very quickly for the teenager before her. She knew she was falling for Josuke and she couldn’t stop herself.

The eyes that protected her in her dreams were his.

Just as that thought passed through, he turned and the two once again locked eyes with each other. Lightning struck. Did he feel the same way? Was this just a desperate girl looking to make up her own worth from a crush again? She immediately looked away.

“Yukako?”

The unexpected sound brought the two back to earth. She jumped.

“Mother.” Yukako whispered.

“Ah, that’s my cue to leave!” Josuke said as he grabbed his shoes and moved quickly towards her. Yukako was surprised but then suddenly remembered the open window. She didn’t realize how cool she felt. She didn’t realize she placed the blanket over her legs.

However, when Josuke jumped on the bed to reach the window, he looked at her once more and whispered to her, “Get me a copy of that view.”

He hopped out of the window, somehow, and ran as fast as his tall legs could carry him. Yukako watched him leave and tried to process what he had just said to her.

“Get me a copy of that view.”

“It’s a reminder you’re still with us.”

Her heart felt it could burst any minute. She felt the wind blow through her thick, full, black hair. Hair that was once stringy and greasy and lost its fullness had bounced back to its normal volume in almost no time flat and in about the same time, Yukako had accidentally fell in love all over again.

“Yukako! Where are you? I brought you lunch!”

Pricked from her romantic daydreams, Yukako shut her window once she was sure Josuke was safely hidden away from her mother’s prying eyes.

“Mother!” Yukako said as she got up and grabbed her cane. Before she went out the door, though, she paused by the photo Josuke stared at earlier and the words echoed in her head once more.

“It’s a reminder you’re still with us.”

Maybe Josuke didn’t realize how vulnerable Yukako’s precious heart was but he stole it so easily. So cruel, Josuke was, but she was willing to risk it all again.

Chapter Text

The Garden of Yukako

Chapter Four

A Bouquet of Tulips

 

It took a few days for Yukako to recover. Even in those few days, though, the boys stopped by every day like clockwork to see if she was well enough to go. Even with her mother’s growing annoyance, she at least understood the boys were just concerned and wanted to see their friend.

Even though they were boys, Yukako still called them her precious friends.

Even though Josuke hadn’t visited her since that day, she was still highly aware of her newfound feelings for him. Maybe he had his reasons. Maybe he was afraid to face her. Maybe he was afraid of her mother. Maybe he had feelings too. Maybe he was disgusted by her crystal clear feelings. There were so many maybes – and Yukako was willing to forgive him all for that.

They were patient for her return and soon Yukako had the strength to go back to school. Once the teens were on their own, Josuke placed his hands in front of him and bowed to her in apology. He had to hunch over a little bit to reach Yukako but Yukako felt a little embarrassed.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry for not coming to visit!” He apologized sincerely. He didn’t give her an excuse or a story filled with so many improbabilities on why he didn’t visit her after that. But even if he had a million different stories, she would always forgive him. Even if he had rehearsed it at the last minute, Yukako would still smile gently and accept his apology. She was that weak for him.

“I… have that copy of the photo you wanted.” She dug around in her school bag and pulled out a manila envelope and handed it to Josuke whose smile instantly brightened up her world more so than it already had.

He took it with such glee – maybe Yukako had made it up herself to make herself feel better – and he was excited for it.

“What picture is it?” Koichi suddenly asked. Honestly, Yukako had almost completely forgotten he was even there. She felt slightly embarrassed – especially since he was her first love at the beginning.

“It was from when I was in the hospital. The view there was so nice that night, I had to take a picture of it. I didn’t want to forget that…” she paused as she thought of the words. “I didn’t want to forget that I’m still here with you.”

She didn’t mean to hesitate. She didn’t mean to steal Josuke’s words but Koichi smiled brightly and warmly. Something tightened around her heart again. Something familiar.

“I see,” Koichi said. “Well, I’m also very glad you’re still with us. If you don’t mind, I’d like to have a copy of that photo too!”

“Sure!” Yukako grew excited once more. She was surprised her picture had touched the two in such a way she never expected. The walk to school was as peaceful as she had hoped, even better since she was with Josuke and her friend.

However, she could feel the familiar grip around her mind, around her heart. The urge to stare at Josuke as he talked about mundane things once again. The urge to look only at him, to focus only on him, to love only him, it was hard for her to bear almost. She wanted to see him when she’s at home, when she slept, when she first opened her eyes. She wanted to have a life with Josuke and only Josuke.

There was only Josuke and she’d gladly give up her world, her ability to walk, her everything if it meant Josuke only looked at her with those kind, blue eyes.

It was only when Okuyasu appeared and distracted Josuke was when she could relax and reel herself back in.

Stop this, Yukako.

She took a deep breath.

You can’t do this again.

Another deep breath.

Stop this.

“Yukako, are you okay?” Koichi’s voice echoed.

But as his voice rang out, a different voice, a different him, the familiar squeeze of her heart teased her feelings once more.

 “Yukako?” He called out again. Finally, Yukako paid attention and didn’t realize she had been glancing at Koichi. “Are you okay? Do you need to stay home another day?”

Yukako shook her head, embarrassed. She tried to focus on what’s front of her. Not to Koichi, and not Josuke. She tried her best to ignore Josuke the most. That familiar part of her tried to force her to look – You love him. You need to keep an eye on him, please! – but she knew she couldn’t. It hurt too much. Those exact phrases are what caused her legs to be this way. It’s what caused her to walk with the cane.

“I’m fine, Koichi-kun,” Yukako said. It was true. She was fine, as fine as someone like her could be. She didn’t want them to worry about the inner turmoil. Her seeing Kira that day, her feigning sick, is what caused her pain that day.

However, she couldn’t help but wonder – would they still be friends if it weren’t for a monster like Kira?

.x.

It didn’t take long for Yukako to get used to the school days as she was always excited for lunchtime instead of her old self of dreading it.

“Oh, Josuke, it’s your turn to get our drinks!” Koichi said happily as he helped Yukako to the small circle they had formed.

“Eh, alright, alright! You’re lucky that I have my allowance.” Josuke complained as he walked out but before he left, he gave Yukako a wink.

A tight squeeze.

Did he know?

However, as the other teen was gone, Koichi looked between Okuyasu and Yukako as Okuyasu complained about not having money for his turn.

“Hm, are you guys busy this Sunday?” Koichi asked suddenly. The two turned to the shorter of the four and Yukako seemed to hesitate. “I was thinking since it’s still pretty cool, maybe we can have a small picnic to celebrate starting a new year!”

The idea honestly sounded really nice to Yukako and she would love to be outside in the spring day instead of being inside all day. Often she would go out with her mother for grocery shopping for that week just so she can move her legs and it wouldn’t be so stiff for school the next day – this sounded like a good idea.

“I believe I’m free!” Yukako said, energetically. She couldn’t lie to Koichi about her feelings especially since he had always gone out of his way to help her. He’s extremely short but he always seemed to carry a strong heart and that was something she had always admired about Koichi. “I could make sandwiches if you want.”

“That’d be great!” Koichi stated as he was seemingly pleasantly surprised at her eager response. The couple then turned to Okuyasu who seemed lost in thought.

“I would like to but Josuke and I have this thing we can’t get out of.” He seemed disappointed. “I’d love to join but you see, it’s complicated. There’s this kid that we, uh, have to, uh –“

“Ah, it’s okay, Okuyasu-kun!” Koichi interrupted him but he seemed to understand the situation just fine. Curious, Yukako wondered what Josuke and Okuyasu had to do that couldn’t wait until next time. She was a bit disappointed but it wouldn’t be bad to be with Koichi at this picnic! She hoped the weather would be favorable then!

“Okuyasu, come over here and help!” Josuke shouted from the door.

Yukako was about to get up and go after him. She wanted to tell Josuke about the picnic herself but Koichi suddenly got up and rushed over towards Josuke.

“Here, let me help!”

Yukako sighed as she used the cane to sit back down. She could feel herself go off balance just a little bit but was thankful her cane was near. Still, she couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed that Josuke wouldn’t join them, but it would be okay. Wouldn’t it?

.x.

Sunday didn’t take very long to come despite the fact Yukako could barely sleep! She was extremely excited for the picnic that she had managed to get up earlier than expected to make her sandwiches. She then decided to make some small sweets to enjoy in the outside.

“Yukako, what are you doing?” her mother asked, sleepily. She was clearly surprised to see her daughter up that early but once she remembered her daughter’s plans, she couldn’t help but be a bit happy. Although, her worry couldn’t be hidden. “Oh yeah, you have that picnic with that boy, don’t you? Why don’t you make some girl friends? It’s a bit improper, isn’t it?”

The excited teenaged girl tried to ignore her question. Instead, she said nothing. She didn’t want to say anything to dissipate her mood from the coming day.

Once her mother realize Yukako wasn’t going to answer, she muttered something she couldn’t hear but went back to bed.

Mother doesn’t understand. I… can’t make any girl friends. It’s hard. They don’t seem to like me.

Yukako wished she could have simply just say that. However, she knows her mother would never understand. She hesitated but after she exhaled, she realized she couldn’t dwell on those thoughts. She knew her mother only wanted what was best. Her mother never truly seemed to like Koichi and the others, especially Josuke and Okuyasu based on how they looked and acted.

Sure, Josuke had acted the part of a proper gentleman but with the pompadour and the uniform alterations, it was hard for Yukako’s mother to see past that.

Yukako tried to get passed it. The more she thought of her mother disliking her precious friends, especially Josuke, the more she longed for him. The more she longed for him, the faster her appetite started to disappear. She just wanted to see him and for him to tell her it’s okay to be friends with him despite everything.

Yukako was very much still a beautiful young woman and the boys were growing men. She was very much aware of how she looked. She’s aware of it every day. However, these boys were the only ones at the school who ever showed her an inkling of kindness, especially after the Kira incident. Couldn’t her mother understand that? Shouldn’t she understand that?

A flash of Takako Mine’s face appeared and she could start to feel bad.

Thankfully, a knock on the door woke her from her stupor.

From what Yukako wore – a light sundress, sandals, along with a big sun hat – she remembered why she was up in the first place.

A picnic with Koichi Hirose. Her old self would be excited and dancing. Her old self would scold her for being so weak and not rehearsing any particular lines or scenarios before the meeting.

It wasn’t a date, she had to remind herself, it was just a picnic between friends.

Any tears that tried to fall were held back this time. She didn’t want to cry about this anymore. She was happy with how things were, wasn’t she? She might’ve developed a crush on Josuke – although her heart claimed it was love otherwise – but she still valued him as a friend.

She gathered the sandwiches and sweets she made and grabbed her cane that was close to her. She put an honest smile on her face and opened the door as the sun shined inside the dark home.

.x.

Thankfully, Yukako had remembered to bring her camera to the picnic. Even though she gave up human photography, she still wanted to take pictures of the park.

The park had changed in the year she’s been in it since. Maybe Koichi didn’t realize where the spot was – the spot where Yukako discovered the hand and where she vomited – but she was grateful it was nowhere near that area.

The picnic itself was fun! Koichi had brought drinks, the blanket they sat on, and some sides as Yukako volunteered to make the main dish, the sandwiches. They were light as they were delicious – Koichi complimented them over and over. Yukako was so happy she could bring joy to him in such a way.

And there would be another tightened squeeze around her heart she would never notice – it was too familiar.

The couple talked about the weather and various trivia about the flowers around them. Tulips seemed to grow around where they were at and Yukako couldn’t help but take snapshots of them in bloom.

“Hey,” Koichi suddenly said, “can I have a copy of that?”

Yukako turned to him and she felt warm.

Ahh, it was happening again.

The familiar heartbeats, the familiar feeling of being warm, the familiar feeling of love. Maybe she wasn’t truly over Koichi as he never truly rejected her. It was something her mind made up to justify moving on to Kira. She needed to let him go but she could never truly.

Koichi was always kind and bright. He was always honest and sweet. He would never bring harm to her and, even with his short stature, would stand up to the biggest monsters for her. She could never deny for all Koichi did for her and thus her feelings for him resurfaced.

“Sure.” Yukako simply said. He knew she wasn’t curt with him. He laughed a bit and the two enjoyed a lunch together. People around them never paid them any mind just as they never paid them any mind.

Ah, Yukako was so weak for kind men like Koichi Hirose. She grew angry with herself for even thinking he could reject her, even after everything she’s been through. And for that, she’s willing to risk it all again.

Chapter Text

The Garden of Yukako

Chapter Five

A Bouquet of Sunflowers

 

For countless hours and minutes, Yukako was extremely conflicted. All she could think about were the two who stole her heart so easily. She had always dreamt about them but the urge to see them again and again and again came back as hard as it once did. The urge came back as though Kira didn’t happen. It acted her temporary handicap wasn’t proof of how dangerous that urge could be for her.

Did it not realize she would’ve died? Did it not realize that Kira was a bad man?

However, she just wanted to see them again. The nights went too long. Any moment she didn’t see them, time moved painfully slow. What did they do at that moment? What would they do in the future? What will they do? Yukako just needed to know. It bothered her, not knowing, what the two boys were up to.

But she needed to stop these thoughts. She saw exactly what happened when she immediately acted on those thoughts. Her damaged legs were the result. Because of her, she had to move out of her childhood home – her memories of that place were now tainted with Kira’s blood across the pavement, across her arms, her hands, and fingers. Now she was tainted and her feelings dared to ignore all that just to flare up at the first sign of kindness.

“Were you always this weak, Yukako-chan? Did you always fall for the first man who gave you a hint of kindness towards you? You’re actually quite selfish, Yukako-chan.”

Yukako had been a good girl that day. Kira had splurged a bit and bought her some soup – something easy on her stomach for once. However, her head hurt. She kept her head on the table as her heavy hair was the extra weight on her scalp. Her weak body remained motionless.

She might as well be dead. She didn’t answer Kira’s question. She had learned that if she had done so, she would become bad and get strapped. She didn’t want to get strapped.

“Were the children cruel to you in school? Ah, I don’t envy you. I never stood out. I just wanted a peaceful life.”

Yukako wanted a peaceful life. Was he correct? Was she so easily swayed by any man’s kindness? Then, how come she didn’t fall for Okuyasu? Was it because he wasn’t conventionally good-looking like Josuke? Was it because he wasn’t an average relief like Koichi?

After the teens had walked to school, they had gone to their separate lockers. It hurt Yukako’s newfound feelings. It hurt her bad habit to follow them wherever they want – but her legs reminded that urge the consequences of those thoughts She needed to take care of herself before she could think about perusing any of them. While the boys were kind, she didn’t want them to be seen with someone like her. She took care of herself and had resumed her usual beauty treatments. She still took a lot of pride in her looks – if she wanted the best, she had to look her best. Even with a cane, she didn’t want people to think she was homely on top of their pity that came along with the cane.

Absolutely not, she did not want people to think she needed any extra sympathy.

When she managed to put on her inside slippers, she gently closed the shoe locker and saw Okuyasu as the only one waiting. The ugly urge to think about the two others nearly took over. Yukako shook her head. She didn’t want to think too hard.

Let it be a passing thought! Please!

She sighed as she walked towards him. The students ignored her as they usually did and paid her no mind. It was something she was used to and was thankful for. She didn’t need their pitying eyes or words.

“Watch out!” cried out a student’s voice. Whoever it was, they pushed Yukako into Okuyasu once more and he managed to catch her.

“I’m really sorry, Okuyasu-kun,” Yukako apologized as she gathered her bearings. As per usual, Okuyasu was strong as he was gentle. He helped her gain her balance as he tried to retain his own balance.

“Oh, it’s fine, Yukako! I’m not hurt! Are you okay?” he asked.

She gave him a small smile and nodded. A lie.

Why was it so easy to lie to someone like Okuyasu? If Josuke or Koichi asked her the same thing, she would instantly tell the truth. She couldn’t keep a lie to herself around them but with Okuyasu, it was so easy.

He was very kind and Yukako had no reason to lie to him. Perhaps, maybe, she wasn’t as easily swayed as she had previously thought?

In truth, her left knee hurt. She must’ve accidentally put too much weight on it when she fell. She tried her best to make it seem everything was okay when it greatly pained her. Perhaps it wasn’t out of malice. Perhaps she didn’t want her friend to worry about her. She didn’t want the others to worry either but she felt especially special when they did focus entirely on her.

Was it her terrible habit? Ah, it probably was. She wanted them to focus only on her. She wanted them to pay attention to her. She wanted them to give them only their special tender loving care to her and her only.

Perhaps she was a selfish girl indeed.

“Um, uh,” a familiar voice with an unfamiliar tone surprised the couple, “Okuyasu-kun?”

The two turned away from the awkward scene and focused on the new voice. As it turned out, it was none other than Takako Mine.

“What’s up?” Okuyasu turned to face her and gave her his attention. The girl gave Yukako a quick glare but as soon as she turned to the male teen, her expression completely changed.

From her angry attitude to a demurer one, she seemed more nervous around him and tended to stutter. Yukako noticed the familiar signs – she stuttered more and more. She fiddled with her fingers. She fiddled with her skirt. She fiddled with her hair that never seemed to be brushed.

She could hardly give Okuyasu eye contact but when she did, she tried to entrap them with her big doe eyes.

It was so obvious. Yukako couldn’t believe she didn’t see it sooner! Unlike Takako, Yukako was a bit more subtle. She kept a blank slate on her face – one where the object of her affections couldn’t read her face. She knew not to fiddle with her hair. She knew not to fiddle with her skirt. She left her hair alone and instead of trying to keep her love trapped – she tried to entrance them for more.

It never worked, as far as she knew, but it was what she knew. She learned from her mother not to give everything away right away. She knew to leave them wanting more. She knew to leave an impression on them – make them they could never have her when they already did.

But this girl was more than obvious! Surely, while Okuyasu wasn’t that bright, he wasn’t that oblivious, was he? Disregarding the subject of their conversation, Yukako could easily tell from Okuyasu’s body language that he had absolutely no clue about Takako’s feelings.

Oh, it’s too bad Yukako didn’t know what to do with this information. She wasn’t one to gossip about other people’s feelings towards each other. If she could barely be open towards Josuke and Koichi, what made her think it was right to reveal another woman’s secrets, even if it was Takako?

.x.

Focus on them! Why aren’t you swimming in their images, Yukako?

Surprisingly, when it involved someone else, Yukako found it easier to think about the situation with Takako and Okuyasu than her own. Then again, she didn’t want to focus on her own feelings. She knew it would immediately spiral back to where she started. She refused to go back to that weak state – she refused to be Kira’s puppet. She had to change if she were to survive in this new world of friends. She had to keep her head above water or she’d drown.

Oddly enough, those feelings were quite fitting as she washed her hands after using the bathroom. Outside the door, this time, was Koichi. She could feel her knee worsen through the day but she wanted to push herself to at least finish the full day before she could take care of her pain.

She hummed a quiet song as she reached for the paper towels when she saw Takako Mine walk in the girls’ bathroom. The greasy girl stopped and saw Yukako.

“Why do we keep running into each other? Didn’t I tell you we’re enemies as long as you hang out with him?” Takako mumbled loud enough for Yukako to hear.

“You should’ve told me you like Okuyasu-kun,” Yukako thought the blunt approach would be best. Takako was clearly one who didn’t like dealing with niceties. “We’re just friends.”

Takako immediately stopped and turned around to face her.

“Who told you?!” she harshly whispered.

“Huh?” Yukako asked. “No one told me anything. I just paid attention when you talked to him earlier this morning. It’s obvious you like him, right? That’s the him you were talking about, right?”

Annoyed and irritated, they both were, Yukako had to walk closer to the surprised Takako to get her point across.

“I said, who told you that?! No one was supposed to know!” she seemed to ignore everything Yukako just said.

“I just saw you two!” Yukako couldn’t help but raise her voice a bit. She slammed her cane down on the ground for effect. “I just saw you! It’s clear you like him! If he’s the one you like, I’m just letting you know we’re just friends! You can date him if you really want to!”

Takako was scared of Yukako coming towards her so suddenly that she backed into a wall. Yukako kept coming forward even when she was literally backed into a corner.

“A-ah!! No one was supposed to know! Back off!!”

“So it’s true! Was that so hard to admit?!”

Yukako couldn’t help but release her anger out on this girl. She had glared at her, and slammed doors, and scared her in the beginning semester – over the fact she thought she was a threat to Okuyasu? While Yukako had been a possessive girl herself, she was at the very least honest with her feelings. If someone were to ask her, privately, about her feelings towards Josuke or Koichi, she’d happily give it to them. She’d happily tell them to back off unless they told her about their true status. She wasn’t like that anymore! She wasn’t the type to be jealous over every girl that came into contact with her loves anymore!

She wasn’t like Takako Mine anymore! And it angered her. Oh, it angered her so much! Yukako had to suffer to learn her lesson and Takako wouldn’t get anything. Truly, Takako had the more enviable position!

“Back off, I said!” Takako yelled as she reached her arms out towards Yukako.

Her hands collided against the girl’s chest and Yukako ultimately lost her balance. As she fell backwards, she didn’t remember if she screamed. She couldn’t recall when her head hit the ground. She didn’t recall when her knee finally gave out under her, under the push, under her anger and jealousy for the normalcy Takako had – normalcy that was taken from Yukako.

All because she fell in love with a serial killer in Morioh.

Chapter Text

The Garden of Yukako

Chapter Six

A Bouquet of Aster

It hurt.

It hurt.

Yukako’s head hurt so much. She didn’t know what to do when she saw the bright light as she opened her eyes.

After Takako pushed her, after the ambulance ran over his head, Yukako didn’t remember when her head hit the ground. She remembered screaming into the night. She remembered being so angry and jealous towards Takako’s enviable position.

Her legs hurt so much. Her legs hurt so much.

Around her, Yukako could hear her parents yell at the nurse. Around her, the familiar voices of Josuke and Koichi could be heard. Yukako could hear the nurse reassure her parents, Josuke and Koichi – she was okay.

She couldn’t move an inch. Was she strapped again? She wanted to scream again. She wanted to tell them about her pain.

“My precious daughter! How could this have happened?”

Two voices blended together as Yukako drifted in and out of consciousness. It was hard to make out what Josuke and Koichi told the nurse. Their voices were loud but Yukako couldn’t wake up.

But Yukako assumed her parents finally decided to show up. After a month of being trapped in her childhood prison, they finally decided to return. Yukako didn’t know where Josuke came from. She knew Koichi waited for her out the door for her when she fell but her head hurt so much. It was hard to focus between the past and the present.

“I don’t know! I think she was trapped in her own home… The strap markings indicated she was held down against her will for a period.

“I’m glad you got me. I was worried! Why didn’t the school contact us something was wrong! How could they…!” The familiar sound of her mother sighing at the situation before them; the boys muttered something Yukako couldn’t hear. There was the unfamiliar sound of her mother sobbing. Was it really such a shock?

The pain was so great and Yukako knew she wouldn’t be awake for much longer. It was over. It was over.

But Yukako’s body was so weak from the fall in the bathroom. Her head throbbed from the push and Yukako wondered if she was going to be punished for her crime when she woke up. Her body gave out from exhaustion. Her malnutrition on top from the overexertion of her pushing herself with the amount of pain her knee, the hunger, the emotional turmoil, and her haunting thoughts of when Kira’s head splattering all over the pavement became almost too much to bear.

.x.

A strange dream emerged from her frazzled imagination: she’s a stay at home mother with a child. The child made a mess with their food but it’s okay – it was adorable! Oh, how silly her precious baby is… Yukako looked around the house – something unfamiliar to her but her eyes met the clock’s face and gasped at the time. She didn’t realize how late it had gotten! The sun was about to set and she could tell she did such an excellent job cleaning the house.

Everything was in tip top shape, a house anyone would be proud to call their home.

Enter a man with spikey black hair. He had a very handsome face and seemed very well built. However, he wore something familiar to Yukako – he had a purple business suit and he had a sinister look on his face.

“I’m home, Yukako-chan.”

Suddenly, the idyllic life melted and splattered all over Yukako. She screamed in the darkness even as the man’s face became obscured with blood.

However, she could feel something pull at her scalp. She half-expected it to be someone, or something, pulling it but instead it was her black, hair that protected her. It strangled the headless body and kept it away from Yukako’s trembling self.

She cried as she held the body away from her. Her hair knew what she wanted – it seemed to grow an unnatural amount to throw away the body from her. Blood somehow did not get on her hair and her hair enveloped around the crying girl.

She didn’t understand what was going on. It scared and comforted her – all she knew that things might get better if she trusted herself more.

Deep down, though, Yukako knew she couldn’t trust herself for long. She remembered she got pushed by Takako. Maybe she shouldn’t have gotten as riled up as she did. Maybe she should’ve just kept quiet.

But she needed to know that she didn’t see Okuyasu that way. Yukako hated herself and hated how she got. She knew she was jealous and she reacted out of jealousy. Takako may very well have meant to push her like that but Yukako deserved it. She should’ve just told Okuyasu how much pain she was in. He would’ve taken her to the infirmary and she would have to go home. She would have to see her mother’s worried expression and hear in what ways would be best for her to heal – like stay home for another week.

Deep in Yukako’s heart, she didn’t want to go home and rest. She wanted to experience high school as best and quietly as she could. She deserved this much. She wanted to work as hard as she did before. She didn’t want to be left behind because of an injury such as this.

She caused her injury. She caused the pain. She caused that man to die. She caused Takako to push her and to hit her head against the floor. Yukako caused all this. She would never dare to put the blame on anyone else anymore. It was all her fault.

It was Yukako’s fault. As far as she knew, her garden should have withered and dried. She didn’t deserve such a beautiful garden.

Yukako then found herself in the garden. Around her, there were different bouquets of flowers and even though she tried her best to convince herself she didn’t deserve such a beautiful garden – she couldn’t deny it for too long. She knew that the garden she now found herself in, locked in her own dreams, was hers and hers alone. And it was beautiful.

The wind around the garden was cool and oddly comforting. For all the ugliness in the real world, Yukako was surprised her mind could think of this garden and yet it was strangely familiar to her.

Soon, it started to come back. When she had arrived at the hospital, she vaguely remembered being in the emergency room – but she remembered this garden. It was safe. The garden stretched out for miles where different flowers bloomed around her. Patches of daffodils, sunflowers, and gerberas were some flowers she instantly recognized. Yukako could tell there were other flowers trying to bloom but she didn’t know what they were, yet.

However, she turned around and noticed a new patch of flowers. Her mind told her they were aster flowers and the cool wind blew through them. Had this been the real world, grass and other debris would collide with her but her garden protected her so no debris flew in her face. She took a deep breath and felt no injuries and felt no pain, even though something whispered in her ear it was still her fault.

However, if it was her fault, why is her garden so beautiful? She couldn’t help but cry grateful tears. Maybe she knew that it wasn’t her fault.

How was she supposed to know Kira would target her? How was she supposed to know Takako was going to push her that hard?

How was she supposed to know she was to be in love with two?

Yukako laid down in the flowers – they had grown tall enough to protect her from the sun’s anger and they provided shade, comfort, and warmth.

She closed her eyes.

.x.

“Oh, you’re awake finally! How are you doing?” The school nurse asked. Yukako turned to the window near her and saw that she had been out since early afternoon – the sun had almost completely set. Then she looked back at the nurse, solemnly. The school nurse was extremely beautiful and had her hair tied up in a bun. She did seem about average height and hid her eyes behind huge plastic glasses. She was as kind as she was beautiful. Since Yukako returned to school with her handicap, she became quite acquainted with her. However, it was hard for Yukako to be anything but formal towards her. “You’ve had quite a spill there. Did you slip on the floor?”

The nurse pried as gently as she could.

Yukako shook her head, even though her head still pounded from the fall.

She tried to open her mouth to speak but found that her throat was extremely dry.

“Here. Here’s some water,” the nurse said as she passed her a small paper cup of water. Yukako slowly sat up to drink it. “Be careful.”

“Thank you,” Yukako properly thanked the nurse after she drank the water. “I’m sorry for always causing such trouble for you.” She tried to bow as she sat up, as guilt still weighed her down.

“It’s okay, Yamagishi-kun,” the nurse continued with her gentle tone, “As long as you’re okay, that’s all that matters to me.” The nurse seemed a bit dissatisfied Yukako didn’t give her any type of answer but seemed to have expected from the teenager. “Just be careful, okay?”

Yukako nodded her head. “Yes, ma’am.”

The nurse smiled and then got up to walk to the door. Yukako kept her head low for a moment and then looked up to watch her open the door. She had said something outside the door and Yukako’s heart nearly stopped when she saw who walked in. She grabbed the blanket because she was so shocked.

“Hey, Yukako, are you okay?” Josuke asked.

Chapter Text

The Garden of Yukako

Chapter Seven

A Bouquet of Hibiscus

 

“Hey, Yukako, are you okay?”

Such a simple question – Josuke could never know how much those simple words meant to Yukako. Her heart beat quickly and heavily against her chest. She knew she had just fell for him all over again. Each heartbeat reminded her why she lived, each heartbeat reminded her on why she wanted to survive – she wanted to love. She wanted a summer’s romance and she wanted one with Josuke Higashitaka.

She nodded her head slowly but couldn’t help but winced because of the sharp pain in her legs. Her left leg, the one in the most pain, buckled and Yukako almost fell. Josuke reached over quickly and caught her arm and even helped her up.

Yukako glanced up and immediately got lost in his deep eyes. She tried to force herself away. She knew what could happen if she had gotten lost in front of him. Josuke laughed softly as he helped her up. Yukako eventually found her balance on her own and looked around her finally.

It seemed she had almost forgotten about the sunset around them.

“Oh,” Yukako tried to bring attention away from her legs, “it’s almost nighttime.”

“So it is.” Josuke said as he looked around the couple. Yukako wondered what he looked for and looked around with him. It seemed that there wasn’t anyone else at this time of day – she wondered if most of the other students had already finished club. She also wondered if the other teachers had left for the day, aside from the school nurse. However, she realized there wasn’t anyone around her.

When she turned back to Josuke, though, she saw that he had bent down and had his back towards her. Confused, Yukako was taken aback at this sudden position.

“Climb on!” Josuke encouraged her. “Unless you think it would hurt you instead.”

Yukako was finally brought back to earth. She immediately leapt on his back and hoped her weight wasn’t too much on him. Though, if it had, Josuke didn’t say anything to her. He grabbed her legs up for better support and while Yukako did hurt a little bit – she was more ecstatic than in pain. She never could’ve dreamed she would be this close to her beloved!

After Josuke was comfortable, he ran with the young girl on his back holding on to him as tight as she could – but without choking him.

The cool wind pressed against her forehead as did his scent. He smelled so good to her and she had immediately gotten lost within his scent. She felt so safe and protected even though she knew this would probably be a bad idea for her legs, especially for as much pain as she’s been in lately. She didn’t care. It was worth the pain – this fluttering moment, a moment she didn’t dream of – as long as she got to be close to Josuke.

Yukako didn’t pay attention to the world that surrounded them. She was just concerned about how much longer she got to be with him. How much shorter was her time with him? A romantic would hope for longer than eternity; a realist knew it was limited – Yukako hoped and wished for the former.

Josuke truly didn’t know the power he had. He will never understand the hold he had on Yukako’s heart.

The wind parted for the two of them as they made to their unknown destination. Yukako wished she could smile. Yukako wished she could express what was in her heart.

I love you so much.

Such a short phrase easily encapsulated her entire feelings towards the teen who carried her. He seemed to carry her so easily. Her and her burdens must’ve been so heavy but he was so light on his feet.

Soon, the teen finally stopped. Once Yukako was aware of her surroundings yet again, she realized it had grown dark. Through gritted teeth, she managed to get off Josuke’s back and looked around.

While the early evening was still somewhat illuminated by the day’s dying sun, Yukako’s breath was taken by the sight before her.

It was a secluded area of the park, that much she recognized. There was a pond which reflected the night’s infant moon. Cattails surrounded the pond but there were small dots of light around them.

The fireflies, they must’ve been, were gentle around the couple. She could almost touch the fireflies with the tip of her finger. This must’ve been a dream. Fireflies wouldn’t be this gentle with her touch. She was always a gentle young woman – but the world had been cruel to her. A monster crippled her and almost killed her but peaceful moments like this reminded her she was still a young girl.

She didn’t need to say a word and neither did Josuke. She turned around and saw him staring at her. She was sure there was a small smile but maybe she was still dreaming. Maybe she was spending the night in the infirmary. Maybe she was still in the hospital – she had never woken up. Josuke’s kindness was just a hallucination from a lonely girl.

Maybe she was asleep at home and she’ll wake up and cry that this isn’t real. Maybe she was still stuck in that horror.

“Look,” Josuke finally spoke. He turned away and seemed to be embarrassed. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you slipped. Koichi did his best to get you to the infirmary.” He gave out a deep sigh. “I hope this makes up for it.”

Yukako still didn’t smile but she didn’t need to. Josuke knew she was still grateful and was happy.

“It’s okay. I can’t expect you and Koichi to worry about me all the time. I’m very grateful to have both of you in my life… to care for me and to help me.”

There seemed to be a flicker of disappointment in his face. Yukako wished she could kiss it away but she turned back to the sight before her.

She tried to soak it in as much as she could. Had she known about this place, she would’ve brought her camera – but there was no way a camera could capture the feelings she had in her heart.

It wanted to burst out but she tried to keep it contained under lock and key. When she was sure Josuke didn’t see her face, she finally gave the scenery a small, sad smile.

I love you so much.

Such a short phrase could easily change the course of someone’s life. Yukako may have been under Josuke’s spell, and deep, but she could never realize her own spell that she casted that night. Perhaps she had already casted it at some point but this moment deepened the magic – whatever it was that was between her and Josuke, something deepened.

It deepened in a way Yukako knew she couldn’t keep her love a secret any longer. Eventually, it would come out and this would disturb this peaceful pond. A ripple could change the entire tide and she wanted to keep it calm for as long as possible.

She still smiled but she was surprised to see Josuke so close to her so suddenly.

He lightly touched her shoulders and it made her jump. His scent was overwhelming and it made her heart skip for more times than she could count. Once his hands softly landed on her shoulders, she looked up and tried to hide her smile.

She hoped Josuke didn’t catch her in this vulnerable moment. He had already seen her at her weakest and poorest state – she didn’t want to burden him with her feelings any longer than she had to.

“Yukako,” his voice sounded so close that it sent shivers down her spine, “let’s keep this pond our secret, okay? I’ll take you home now.”

He took her hand and Yukako hated how easily it slipped. She hated how she slipped. She hated how she fell so hard for this young man before her. And yet, she loved every single minute of it.

Chapter Text

The Garden of Yukako

Chapter Eight

A Bouquet of Camilla

 

When Yukako woke up from her bed, she realized the previous night had not been a dream at all. As a matter of fact, his scent lingered as did his gentle touch. The shivers from the night before remained it chilled her heart deeply.

She was in an incredible amount of pain because of the fall. She recalled when Josuke dropped her off, her mother was incredibly angry with Yukako. She had nearly missed dinner as her parents were worried sick. They had received a phone call from the school nurse – and when she didn’t come home after a couple of hours, the nurse promising she wasn’t alone, they nearly decided to call the police until the teenager brought her home.

Her mother nearly threatened to keep Yukako at home but Yukako needed to recover anyway. Her legs had actually given out on the way and Josuke had to carry her home on his back. He properly apologized for dropping the girl off so late as best as he could. However, her mother only accepted it because Yukako gave her a look which she recognized as a pleading look. A look that may have been unfamiliar to Josuke but her mother knew her daughter better than some teenager.

It was evident that any likelihood of her mother seeing Josuke for the man Yukako saw him as was impossible. Yukako immediately went to take a bath and her mother served her dinner in bed where Yukako could relax her pained legs.

However, Yukako was extremely distracted. She didn’t want the television on when she ate in bed. She wanted to focus on her memory of that night and even in her dreams, even in the next day, Yukako’s heart remained in that secret pond where the fireflies welcomed even Yukako’s cold touch.

Had her legs been better, had the two would be in different circumstances, what would’ve happened? Would Yukako have shared her first kiss with Josuke? Would they go beyond that? These thoughts clouded her mind as she ate breakfast in bed.

Luckily, this was the first day of Golden Week thus they had the day off. She hadn’t made any plans - she didn’t expect to do anything special. She just wanted to recuperate. She just wanted to dream of Josuke.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

Once again, her parents had left for the day. As they were relieved it was Golden Week, they knew Yukako wouldn’t leave the house. They knew even if she could, she wouldn’t make it very far. Her mother especially made sure that Yukako had her workplace’s number in case something happened. Yukako could vaguely recall her mother mentioning “cell phones” being assigned to everyone fairly soon but she was barely awake.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

Yukako wondered what she could do in her off time. She knew she couldn’t stay in bed all day. The person she wanted to see most had gone away. She wanted to know what he did at that moment. Was he thinking about her? Was he under her spell as deeply as she was with him? Oh, could he be thinking about her again?

She tried to calm herself down. She was doing it again! Her bad habit… she was thankfully stopped by her own physical condition – or for sure, she would’ve snuck out to find him. To see what he did. To see what he was going to do. To see what he was doing. Oh, she was desperate to know but she grabbed her blanket.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

She needed to stop that filthy habit. A stalker… how could Yukako become such an ugly thing? Yukako looked around her room to see flowers. It was filled with lovely portraits, lovely flowers, lovely décor. And yet the walls remained empty. She knew she needed to see his face before she slept and when she woke up. She wanted to hide in her closet when she dressed – oh, she shouldn’t be so exposed in front of him!

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

Annoyed, Yukako was pushed out of her thoughts of Josuke. She opened the window next to her to tell whoever it was to stop but once again was surprised to see Josuke, again, about to throw more pebbles at her window.

He laughed as he once again dropped the pebbles.

“Guess you caught me again, Yukako.” He gave her a playful smile and all of Yukako’s feelings of annoyances had went away in an instant. She immediately started to get up – she didn’t mind letting him inside her home again. However, before she was able to get up, Josuke called out to her. “Oh, don’t worry about it. We can talk right here.”

Disappointed, Yukako sat back down and asked gently, “Are you sure? Summer is getting closer and it’s getting hotter…”

“Nah, it’s fine. It really is! I don’t want to risk getting caught again.”

Even though one part of her is thankful because of her pain, she still wished to be touching distance with him. Though, it’s probably still possible if he’d only just get a bit closer. Yukako didn’t need to smile back – Josuke could tell she was extremely happy to have seen him. It seemed the teenager was learning quite quickly on the subtleties on Yukako Yamagishi’s heart and she needed to be a bit more careful.

“How are your legs doing? You seemed to be in a lot of pain yesterday,” Josuke asked with concern in his voice and yet it was still incredibly gentle. It made Yukako’s heart flutter. She tried her best not to expose her heart so readily when she answered.

“They’re doing fine. A bit stiff but it’s doing as well as it could.”

Josuke seemed satisfied with the answer and actually managed to come closer to the open window. He leaned against the house as the two talked in the early summer morning. Instead of his modified uniform, the teen wore a tank top, which accentuated his muscles, as well as some pants Yukako wasn’t sure of their material. On his feet, it seemed he wore a pair of seemingly expensive shoes.

Donned with his classic pompadour, Josuke looked like any of the bad boys her mother would warn her about but she’d defy anyway. She changed her position where she could easily look at him with better ease and be comfortable. The early summer wind comforted the two as they talked about Josuke’s latest exploits however, he noticed she noticed his new shoes.

“Oh, these? Yeah, I actually just got them! They were really super expensive!”

Yukako got a better look at them as he raised his feet up and she couldn’t help but grimace at them.

“Why are you wearing them with this outfit? Why are you wearing them around all this dirt?” Her question was blunt and Josuke couldn’t help but react to it.

“But they look cool, don’t they? If I’m going to pay as much as I did for them, I’m going to wear them every day! Might as well start breaking into them now!”

Yukako couldn’t help but side eye Josuke for that comment and he sputtered and tried to reason with the judgmental teenage girl.

“I never thought you were such a stickler for fashion, Yukako!”

“If I’m going to be seen with you outside of school, then at least look decent. I have a reputation to uphold.”

Josuke gave her a cheeky grin. “Ah, are you saying you have a reputation, Yukako-san?” He laughed in between his comment. “Now what kind would that be?”

Yukako was always cool with her comments but could feel the enjoyment of bantering with Josuke with ease. “The kind people expect greatness from.”

“I see, are you saying I’m great then?” Yukako almost went wide eyed at any implications of her feelings. “Wow! I can’t believe the Great Yamagishi-san of Morioh acknowledges me!”

Immediately, she snapped back. “Think of it as me doing you a favor, Higashitaka!” She didn’t mean to use his last name but she was surprised at how quickly their conversation had changed. The night before, she had almost thought he spoke to her like a lover would. Tender, sweet nothings in her ear as he’d show her a secret place just for them as he took her in his arms and swept her off her feet.

Instead, here he was against her house, wearing expensive shoes and chiding her for holding herself in high regard. Perhaps this is what most people would call “joking between friends”. Sometimes, these types of conversations would happen between Josuke and the other boys and Yukako was fine with listening to them – but to experience them herself was completely different. However, she tried to keep her wits about her.

Josuke put up his hands in defeat. “Oh, okay, okay, you’re doing me a favor then! Yamagishi-san, then, tell me how should I dress for next time?” He bowed in front of her like a subject would to a royal and frankly, she found it both funny and annoying – she didn’t know which side to pick.

However, she wanted to play along further. She sat up and crossed her arms. She pointed her nose to the sky and declared: “Wear a button-down shirt with some proper fitting slacks! To accentuate your shoes, make sure they’re clean every night! Change your pompadour to a more proper hairstyle to fit it!”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, Yukako, I don’t mind doing the wardrobe overhaul but the hair stays.”

Yukako didn’t budge. “Then you can’t walk with me outside of school!”

“Oh, but how will Yamagishi-san grace me with her presence then? Please, but seriously, the hair stays.”

Yukako opened her eyes and looked towards him and could immediately tell Josuke was serious about the hairstyle remaining as it is.

“Fine, you can keep the hair. I believe you can still make that hairdo work as long as you wear the proper clothes.”

The two bantered on about clothes and the proper styles to wear around the town of Morioh until Yukako heard her mother call for her during lunchtime. She had told Josuke to go away.

Josuke nodded and casually left the girl. She watched him leave and felt light in her heart. Never in her dreams did she imagine she’d have real banter with him. Yukako probably imagined a different sort of smile from him when he left but that was okay if she imagined it – she didn’t want to ruin what friendship she had with Josuke, despite the feelings in her heart.