Chapter 29:

Happy New Year

Second Chances

“Shin, are you ok?”Bookmark here

I opened my eyes to see Chiaki bending her head over to check my reaction.Bookmark here

I took a look around my surroundings.Bookmark here

The large bell is still being rung.Bookmark here

Fireworks are all over the sky.Bookmark here

People are cheering.Bookmark here

“Happy New Year!” they screamed, happily.Bookmark here

Chiaki is still holding my hand, standing right beside me.Bookmark here

She’s alive, and well.Bookmark here

The first drop of snow fell on her face.Bookmark here

“Are you ok?” she asked, as she wiped the tears from my eyes with the sleeve of her kimono. “Why are you crying suddenly?”Bookmark here

“I’m not,” I try to smile. “I’m not crying.”Bookmark here

“Yes you are,” she continued to wipe the tears. “Calm down, Shin.”Bookmark here

“I can’t—I can’t—”Bookmark here

She wrapped her arms around my neck and put her head on my chest. “It’s ok. I’ve got you.”Bookmark here

I started to sniff, as I let out a loud cry. I hugged her tighter.Bookmark here

Everyone stared at us, but I couldn’t let her go.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry, I couldn’t control—”Bookmark here

“I’m here.”Bookmark here

I cried like a baby. It was immature, it was pathetic but I just want to let it all out. My pent up emotions of not being able to say how I feel, my pain to go through their deaths again and again, my struggles to keep them alive, and my small, small wishes of only wanting to be with them. To be with her.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

After a while, I only calmed down, as Chiaki sat on one of the benches beside me.Bookmark here

Some people walking past us still giggled at me.Bookmark here

That was the most embarrassing moment in my entire life.Bookmark here

“Cheer up,” Hideki said, as he passed me a cup of corn. I don’t know where he got it.Bookmark here

I took it with a “thanks”.Bookmark here

He sat on my right, while Yui sat beside Chiaki.Bookmark here

“Are you sure you do not have any mental problems?” Hideki asked.Bookmark here

I chuckled. “No. For the millionth times, no.”Bookmark here

“It just feels weird, you know. You were normal then all of a sudden, you were not normal again. What happened?”Bookmark here

“I… I’m not sure. I just felt like a heavy burden was lifted off me the moment I passed through the gate. I don’t quite remember what happened. It was vague.”Bookmark here

“Could it be stress?” Yui asked.Bookmark here

“No, guys like Shin never have stress in his studies.” Chiaki said.Bookmark here

“I just felt like there were these intense emotions following me the past few days, urging me to do something, and I felt desperate. I felt like I needed to do so, in order to protect things that are important to me.”Bookmark here

Hideki looked at me weird.Bookmark here

“I don’t know how to say it, but I felt a small part of me gone missing after I passed through the gate.”Bookmark here

“Ohhh, that must be what they called a ‘death turn’, those things we talked about during our presentation.” Hideki said. “Perhaps there was this lingering, uncomfortable, death-like feeling crawling all over you, and passing through the shrine gate cleansed you of all that.”Bookmark here

“Maybe,” I said. “But I feel much better now. Looking at you guys, I feel relieved. That I’m glad to be here.”Bookmark here

Yui chuckled, “You sure are weird, Shin.”Bookmark here

Hideki nodded. “Yeahhh.”Bookmark here

I then saw Yui signalling Hideki, without Chiaki noticing it.Bookmark here

“So, Yui,” Hideki stood up. “Want to buy those amulets?”Bookmark here

“Sure,” Yui said as she followed Hideki.Bookmark here

They both winked at me.Bookmark here

I turned my attention to Chiaki.Bookmark here

She held her paper cup of drink that Yui gave her, looking at the ground, without saying anything.Bookmark here

I waited for her.Bookmark here

“So,” she said. “…I’ve given it some thoughts.”Bookmark here

She continued, “I was really surprised when you suddenly said it in front of my parents.”Bookmark here

“I mean,” she softly played with her cup, rubbing her fingers on it. “I was not sure of how you felt…”Bookmark here

Her face then slowly turned red, and she turned her head away from me.Bookmark here

I chuckled, loud enough to be heard by her.Bookmark here

“Don’t laugh, this is serious!” she said.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry,” I replied. “You’re just too cute.”Bookmark here

“I—You—Just promise me one thing!”Bookmark here

“What is it?”Bookmark here

“That you will never shoulder things by yourself again. It worries me to see you like that, if you want me by your side, then you should—”Bookmark here

whoosh… bang!Bookmark here

Under the dark sky lit by the fireworks, I kissed her.Bookmark here

Her lips were soft, and they trembled a bit when I made the kiss.Bookmark here

I backed away from her for a bit, and she kissed me back.Bookmark here

whoosh… bang!Bookmark here

Another round of fireworks were shot into the sky.Bookmark here

She slowly backed away from me, her face still a bit red.Bookmark here

“I wasn’t ready,” she said.Bookmark here

“That’s what makes it surprising,” I replied.Bookmark here

“Shut up,” she said.Bookmark here

“I promise you,” I said. “I promise you I will share my burden from now on, with you, with Hideki, and my parents, if possible.”Bookmark here

“Pinky promise?” she held out her pinky finger.Bookmark here

I hooked my pinky finger with hers. “Pinky promise.”Bookmark here

“Awww,” Hideki came back. “You two are so adorable.”Bookmark here

“Shut up,” Chiaki and I said in unison.Bookmark here

Yui chuckled at us.Bookmark here

Hideki leaned closer to me, and whispered, “You kissed like an amateur, Shin.”Bookmark here

I slapped his arm. “Go away.”Bookmark here

“I’ll be taking Chiaki with me then,” Yui said as she looked at Chiaki. “You wanted to buy an amulet, right?”Bookmark here

Chiaki nodded, but she also held my hand as she stood up.Bookmark here

She looked at me, “Let’s go.”Bookmark here

“Together?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Together.”Bookmark here

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