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Chapter 01


He felt cold. His body was numb. He couldn’t move a muscle. The thought of being paralysed scared him. The light that was constantly switched on and off hurt his eyes. The lids were shut tight. He wanted to open them—needed to open them. He couldn’t. His chest felt tight. It was hard to breathe. The thick air was suffocating. He was afraid...of dying.


With a jolt, Sakamoto Takashi woke up. His eyes were almost in the shape of saucers; cold sweats dampening his brown locks, making them look darker. The neon light was blinding him. It was hanging right above him on the ceiling. Everything around him was too bright. The brunette found himself lying on a white mattress in a very small room with four walls that reminded him so much of a padded cell for mentally ill patients. From his position, he couldn’t spot a door; but he did find the ventilation up on one of those padded walls.


Takashi tried to sit up; it was when he noticed that his hands were tied, resting painfully beneath his lower back. He then began examining himself. He wasn’t wearing his own clothes. Instead, a plain white and oversized cotton shirt clad his lithe body. The hems of light grey sweat pants he was wearing were covering his heels. He didn’t recognise the clothes.


A surge of panic ran through his veins when his brain had fully awakened and started to work. He couldn’t remember how he could end up in this sickening cell. Struggling to untie the rope that bound his hands, he forced his brain to dig into his memories some more. Although what he could recollect was only a memory of him talking to a stranger after work. Then, the rest was forgotten. No matter how hard he tried to remember, he just couldn’t.


Angry, Takashi stomped on the mattress. That action alone made him more exhausted than before. Which confused him… could his energy feel completely drained like this? Once again, he had no clue.


The light was switched off again. The sudden blackout startled him and he let out an inaudible gasp. That was when the brunette realised that his voice had become hoarse.


Takashi let out a strangled cry of shock when the light bulb on the ceiling was switched on again without warning, filling his prison cell with strong white light.


He was forced to roll onto his side in order to avoid the blinding light, which pierced his eyes mercilessly. After being forced to endure the impenetrable darkness for what felt like hours—he had no way to pinpoint the exact time because his watch had been removed and there was no clock to mark the passing of time, his eyes had become too sensitive to strong lighting. How strange it was! When the light went out, he yearned for any source of light; but now the much-needed light hurt his eyes.


Takashi snapped his eyes shut, groaning in discomfort as he clung to himself amongst the mattress, waiting for his eyesight to return to normal. He was almost drifting off into sleep before the light bulb suddenly came to life again; but now he was fully awake, and once more, the reality of his absurd situation hit him with its full force.


The return of light and his vision gave Takashi a chance to examine himself and his surroundings.


Taking one glance at the rest of his own body was already enough to clarify that he was a mess. There were wrinkles on his clothes; sweatdrops seeping down his forehead, his shirt was equally soaked by cold sweat. His wrists had long become bruised and sore due to wiping against the ropes, which held his hands together. He also had other bruises on various parts of his body due to his fruitless struggle. He had shouted for what seemed like hours, even when he knew there was no one else neither within the cell...nor without. No one had come to his aid even after hours of shouting and pleading. Then, he could only come to the unwelcomed conclusion that there really was no one nearby to hear him scream.


Just how much time had passed? For how long had he been trapped? And what were his parents doing in the mean time? Did they notice he was missing? Did anyone notice!?


Where were his family and his friends? Where were they when he needed them?


Although he hated to do it, but Takashi forced himself to look around his prison closely, he didn’t want to look at his prison because the windowless cell, its grey-white walls and the locked iron door reminded him too much of his imprisonment; making it all too real.


But he did his best to calm down as he forced himself to scan the tiny cell, taking in as much details as he could. Then, realisation hit him when he noticed this cell looked to similar with the ward you could find in an asylum.

His own discovery sent a shiver down his spine as a fearful thought seized him. Was he mad but didn’t know it? He had heard that insane people always failed to acknowledge they were out of their mind. Could it be the reason for him being put in this miserable cell?

No, it couldn’t be. He wasn’t insane, he didn’t remember himself doing or saying anything out of ordinary in his recent past. He had done nothing to make those around him send him to an asylum. Therefore, he wasn’t here for something he had done; he didn’t bring this upon himself. There was no reason for him to be treated like this. Someone had intentionally brought him here, someone who meant him ill, someone who wanted to make him suffer.

Suffer? Yes, he was suffering now, and he didn’t have the slightest idea of why he would be held captive. He had done nothing wrong, he didn’t piss anyone off—at least not enough to hold him captive like this, he did nothing but minding his own business. His family was not rich; and usually, kidnappers would only target well-off families, right? Therefore, it was impossible for someone to have him kidnapped in exchange for a ransom.

There had to be some reasons for this imprisonment…...but if it weren’t for money, then why else would someone bother to kidnap him?

Takashi was getting even more confused; desperately he tried to think of something, which would help him to explain his condition. He opened his eyes slowly, blinking to adjust to the pale white light. He thought long and hard, trying to recall what exactly was the last thing he could remember.

Yes, he remembered talking to a stranger, who stood next to a van with the driver’s door half open. The man came up to him and asked him for direction, seemingly lost his way. Out of compassion, he had stopped and helped to study the map in the stranger’s hands. And then…...he remembered nothing. It was as if someone had pressed a ‘Pause’ button in his brain, resulting in his memory turning blank.

The stranger wore a pair of sunglasses, which covered most of the upper part of his face when he first saw those extravagant huge sunglasses were just part of the other man’s fashion statement. But now when he thought about it again, he couldn’t stop wondering could there be something more into it?

Did the man wear the cap and the huge sunglasses so his face would be less recognisable?

He thought this man was just a driver who had unluckily gotten lost in an unfamiliar area, but could this be more? Did the man… something to him?

The brown-haired youth was trying to recall more details about the driver’s feature when he noticed the light from the light bulb above head was diming.

Takashi looked up at the ceiling, only to see the ring of light from above getting smaller, the shadows around him spreading steadily as the light turned duller.

When Takashi realised what that meant, his eyes widened in shock and horror, “No!”

Despite his panic-struck cry, the light went out completely.