Chapter 1:

First Encounter Wasn't Always Smooth

Where The Sky Meets The Land

I have been staring at the boy with peculiar behaviour. My after school journey was supposed to be very comforting. I should not have encountered such miserable sighting for my whole life, especially when coming back home was one of my favourite activity. Sixteen years of turning to deaf ears over unnecessary concern to my surrounding, I finally broke the record ever since I caught an insightful view with my own eyes.

Judging from his physical, I bet he was around my age too. Nevertheless, I couldn't say if he was at the same age as mine mentally. I couldn't really accept the truth if he revealed himself as someone older from me. I might accept it if he was younger than me though.

Either one, I didn't think he should act that childish. Playing slides by the hill slopes? He must be joking himself, and my eyes must have deceived my mind due to overwork or such. I unknowingly and keenly watched how he hurried to the hill top, put his cardboard box onto the grassy ground, carefully sat on the box, and drove it down the hill.

He played it all by himself, but he never seemed tired or lonely. He enjoyed wearing himself out repetitively, and he totally ignored every pair of eyes who paid attention to him. It looked like he was currently living in his own imaginary world, but I didn't think he was talking to himself or to whoever invisible in my sight. So I concluded that he was still in the real world.

I squinted as he repeated his game for the nth time. My steps got nearer to his starting point on the hill top, which indirectly meant my very presence would be noticeable by him. I didn't consider accosting him in the first place when I got myself closer to his playing venue, but his reaction was beyond my expectation.

"Do you want to play with me?"

The breeze gently brushed against my face and fringe, incidentally unveiling my forehead and chilling me out. The sky was changing in colour from bright blue to orange-ish as time went by, reminding both of us that the day was ending and night would take over its duty in few minutes. I scanned around me to figure out to whom he has just asked to play.

"Who? Play what?" I asked monotonously.

The unknown boy put his folded cardboard box onto the grassy ground, but he didn't straight away sit. He somehow shifted towards me. Our eyes collided and both of us were overwhelmed by the cool breeze which washed away half of my untrue concern towards him.

"Slides!" he cheerfully replied while his index finger pointed to his box on the ground.

I ogled at him in disbelief. Not enough with alluring everyone's attention for being a 16-years-old slide player, he has also invited an unknown boy (me) to join him. I didn't even know him or his identity, and he never seemed to recognize me as well. He did wear a plain white shirt, but I wondered if he actually wore a complete school uniform before I arrived at the spot. I have just come across him for the first time. It was my regular route to return home, and it was also my common timing. Everything was normal to me except his presence.

"I don't want to. I want to get some rest," I humbly (precisely undoubtedly) rejected the offer and walked pass him.

I have just distanced myself two meters from his standing spot when my wrist was tugged from behind. I yelped as the reflex, and I was about to smack the doer with my bag when I found out who the culprit was. He laughed at my alarm face until he pressed his stomach for laughing too much.

"What now?" I grunted because I felt belittled.

The boy obviously chortling at me, not my outrageous reaction. I grunted louder to display my loath, but he did not seem to grasp it. He wasn’t the type to be sensitive during certain time, which indirectly told me that I needed to be extra careful around him.

"You don't seem like having fun for the whole day, dear boy."

My scowl was spontaneously laughable. I never expected him to judge my emotion for the entire day. Was I that easy to be read? No one among my classmates has approached me the same way he did. No. I guessed no one in anyone's perspective would accost a stranger like he unexpectedly did.

"Come on, join me!" He persistently tugged my wrist.

It was not to fulfil my lacking. It was more to satisfying his need. Even though his countenance didn't show it, but I could guess he might be lonely. There was no one around him, believably because of his weird behaviour. Why did he bother to play if he had no one else to accompany him? I didn't see anyone who I could call his friend. I sighed but I didn't decline his second invitation.

I haven't changed my mind though. I just thought it wouldn't hurt to satisfy him. Who knew when I would bump into him in the future? Nevertheless, I hoped we wouldn't meet again soon.

He sat on the cardboard box first, then he glided down the hill. His delighted face shimmered in the sunset rays, and I was almost mesmerized by the scenery I rarely laid my eyes on. He enjoyed playing slides - His face divulged it all. At this point, there was no way that I could stop him from continuously playing slide. As a watcher, even I could feel the satisfaction and contentment shown, thus hindering him from playing it would give him bad impression about me.

He climbed back to the hill top where I waited for him to return. He scrabbled into his school bag, fishing out a cutter, and splitting the box into half. The box fundamentally became thinner but his delight doubled. He handed me half of the box, and while I was staring at it blankly, he stored his cutter back in his bag.

"You do know how to play it, right?" He mumbled obviously to me but I pondered why he had to mumble instead of voicing it out loud like his laughter. Based on his tone, he might want to not expose my weakness if I said I didn't know how to play slides on the hill slopes.

"I know. It's my childhood game after all," I put the box he handed me onto the grassy ground. "In fact, I even detected your mistakes in playing it."

"What mistakes?" He abruptly grabbed both my shoulders and shook me, "Tell me! I'll fix it right away!"

My spinning head caused stars in my sight. I quickly gestured my hand in the air to stop him from shaking me more vigorously. Fortunately he grasped the message, thus he ceased right away. I pressed my temple with my thumb and index finger to withstand the dizziness while he waited my next action like a puppy.

I took a glance at the cardboard box in my hand. Secretly exhaling a sigh, I cursed at myself. Just what has gotten into me, huh? But when I shifted my eyes towards the boy, the anticipation gleamed in his eyes perturbed me a little.

"The worst mistake you did was your position," I carefully sat on the cardboard box while describing, "When you've started sliding down, you must lower your upper body. You can't stay upright when you slide, or you may fall over. You must lower your equilibrium point so that your body becomes aerodynamically suitable to go fast."

The best explanation to make was by demonstrating, therefore I showed him how I played slide. I did the exact thing as I've mentioned to him, so that he could understand what I was trying to deliver. He clapped his hands soon after I've reached the bottom of the hill slopes, and his face lit up when I've returned to the hill top.

"Nice play, I must say!" He commented while thumbing up, "I want to try it!"

"As you please," I let him applying the so-called technique I've taught him, "But if you can't lower your body backward, you can always curl yourself. As long as you lower your equilibrium point."

"What kind of advice was that?" Then he emitted a genuine chuckle.

This boy really loved to laugh at people. I squinted at him as my reaction, not really pissed off but I was more to conveying ‘How dare you laugh at me!’ complexion. He saw me and replaced his laughter with a very wide smile, displaying his white and clean teeth.

"Ittekimasu!" He proudly announced and waved at me.

I subconsciously waved back at him. He giggled at my spontaneous response, then he began sliding down. I saw the effort he put in order to copy my skill in hill slope slides. Frankly he has done a great job imitating me, and he literally hopped to the hill top to reconcile with me.

"How was I doing it? Was it good? Or was it bad?" Nonetheless his face glittered in pure satisfaction.

The gladness in his countenance portrayed how happy he has become, perhaps it was because he has found the best method to enjoy hill slope slides. I thumbed up as my ‘Good Job’ wish for him, and he chuckled in glee. He seized me again to have another round of slides.

"It's almost dark. I don't want to get home late," I gave my excuse. No one was going to get mad at me if I returned home late, but I wouldn’t like the fact that my timing was not the same.

The boy pouted like he was sulking. I pondered if he really was, but I was about to ignore him completely when he straightened his index finger.

"Just once more, can we?" He pleaded.

I was so convinced that my frown was the deepest I've created for that day, obviously to show my reluctance to follow his demand anymore. However, his countenance told me that he totally ignored that. I rolled my eyes in displeasure and stared at him.

He handed me the split cardboard box with a wide grin from ear to ear. I took it without even smirk at him, but he just let it pass no matter how awful my facial was.

"I hope we can meet again tomorrow, dear boy," he said. It was when we have already sat on our own cardboard box and prepared to depart. "Ready? On count of three! One! Two! Three!"

It felt strange. A lingering pleasure within me washed away my uneasiness which basically blocked the joy of this legendary game. It accumulated along with our speeding slide. We surprisingly slid simultaneously, and I witnessed how sparkling his eyes were. He was purely gratified by the opportunity.

The funny part was both of us crashed as soon as we reached the bottom of the hill slope. I dirtied my school uniform by rolling myself onto the bare ground, yet I manageably blocked the course with my hand or I might roll straight into the bank. As the result, my palm was pressed onto pebble, marking themselves on it.

Naturally I burst into laughter. It has been a while since the last time I had a joyous moment like this. My high school life has been filled with studies, club activities, and such that I never thought of self-rewarding. This mysterious boy has favourably brought back my childhood pleasure which I've already forgotten since I've left elementary school.

Well, this isn't that bad though.

I turned to his direction to thank him for inviting me to play when I just noticed he was lying unconscious on the bare ground. It could be that he has knocked his head quite hard while crashing which resulted in his faint. I was panicked and immediately rose from the ground to get him. I carefully placed his head on my laps and gently slapped him on the cheek to wake him up, but it was to no avail. He has totally passed out!

I couldn't think much when it came to emergency cases like this. I was terrified even more when I failed to recall what his name was. It declared our meeting was undeniably unpredictable that we didn't even introduce ourselves. I doubted he would recognize me after this either.

Remembering that he had his school bag on the hill top, I quickly dashed to get his and my bag. I rushed down to where I put him lying, and scrabbled in his bag by his side. I wanted him to see me first if he happened to wake up while I was looking for his personal document.

"Hey, you! Wake up!" I said in teeth gritting.

I found his wallet containing neither cash nor shilling, but it has a bright coloured card with large sized font. The purpose of its presence was believably to allure the attention of whoever uncovering it, and I wasn't excluded. I fished that card out first and read the content.

Hello, my name is Sora. If you found me unconscious somewhere, please call the stated phone number as below or inform my family about my whereabouts. I apologize in advance for the inconvenience.

Joe Gold
Syed Al Wasee
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