Chapter 6:

Rapid Changes「Taiyo」

Two Points

1Bookmark here

Countless gazes were directed at me as I stood on stage. It was all entirely foreign to me. Such a large audience in front of me, with their attention captivated by my words—it was the first time I experienced something like this.Bookmark here

“...I’d like to thank everyone who was always by my side ever since I began my journey here.”Bookmark here

I spoke with a quivering voice. Though, it wasn’t because of nervousness. Rather, it was because I was trying too hard to suppress these feelings.Bookmark here

"To my parents, who made me who I am, for all their unconditional love and support—I am immensely grateful.”Bookmark here

My eyes focused on the audience—the students, parents, and school staff, keenly listening to my words. Occasionally, I would glance below to peek at the paper on the podium.Bookmark here

“To the teachers who taught us invaluable things, who were patient enough to put up with our silly antics, and were there to support us—I am immensely grateful.”Bookmark here

It felt as if I was witnessing the end of a long journey. That’s why it was so difficult for me to hold back these intense, unexplainable emotions that filled me.Bookmark here

“To the friends I made who were there for me when I needed them the most. Even after all the times I rambled on about stupid things. I'm really sorry for having to put you all through that, yet you never left me—for that reason, I am immensely grateful.”Bookmark here

As more words continued to spill out, my feelings followed suit. Eventually, it became progressively harder to hide them.Bookmark here

My eyes were teary. My voice was faltering. However, I had to push through.Bookmark here

“Before I moved here to Yokohama, I had a good friend. No matter what happened, she would always be there for me. When I was at my lowest, she accepted me and picked me up. She would always be by my side, and I’d always be by hers. Even after I moved out, she was always there for me. I remember we would exchange letters every month for a year. Then we got phones, and we began calling each other regularly. The reason I’m standing here before you now—was because of her. Even a million thank yous wouldn’t be enough to convey how much she has done for me. That’s how much she impacted my life.”Bookmark here

“Thank you.”Bookmark here

I paused to contain my emotions. Although I knew it was wrong, I had to stop for a moment. If I didn’t, I might have actually broken down on stage right then and there.Bookmark here

I thought I mentally prepared myself.Bookmark here

Wiping off the tears with my arm, I cleared my throat and continued to speak.Bookmark here

“...Although the time I spent here might not be as much as the rest of the graduates. That doesn't make that time or the friendships I made any weaker. Every second, every moment—everything I've learned here is something not only I, but the entire graduating class will cherish and remember as we begin our advance—take the next step in life and start High School. I wish everyone good luck in their future endeavors—”Bookmark here

How can I describe it? Satisfaction.Bookmark here

Satisfaction, for once in my life, I felt satisfied with my achievements. For once in my life, I could confidently say that—I did it.Bookmark here

“Your Valedictorian—Takizawa, Taiyo.”Bookmark here

...and with that, the curtains closed in my speech.Bookmark here

With a bow, applause from the crowd followed. Then tears began to drop one by one. I kept my head lowered and let all the tears—all the emotions be released.Bookmark here

I wiped off the tears and exited the stage. All the while, the harmonious sounds of hands clapping together never stopped.Bookmark here

“Good job out there, Valedictorian-kun,” Fujiwara said, greeting me as I went down the stairs.Bookmark here

“You did well too, Salutatorian-san,” I replied the same way to try to tease her. She only looked away in response.Bookmark here

Then, suddenly—Bookmark here

“You were crying, weren’t you?” She got closer to me, and we stared at each other straight in the eyes. I took a step back from instinct.Bookmark here

“N-no...” I denied. She gave me a warm smile, her cheeks slightly flushed.Bookmark here

“It’s pretty obvious. You don’t have to hide it.”Bookmark here

As I continued to peer into her eyes, I noticed something peculiar.Bookmark here

“Fujiwara, are you…?”Bookmark here

Before I could finish, however, she backed away and turned around.Bookmark here

“S-Shall we get going?” she stammered as she gave me a sidelong glance.Bookmark here

“Y-Yeah,” I nodded and followed behind her.Bookmark here

What I noticed wasn’t wrong.Bookmark here

Her eyes were tinged with slight redness. In a moment, I understood.Bookmark here

She was crying too.Bookmark here

2Bookmark here

We spent the rest of the day after the ceremony just roaming around the school grounds one last time.Bookmark here

“Anyway, Takizawa, I’ve got something to ask,” Fujiwara said.Bookmark here

“Yeah, what is it...?”Bookmark here

However, before she could reply, Fujiwara was approached by three girls. Each of them had a bouquet of flowers.Bookmark here

“Congratulations on graduating, senpai!” They all congratulated her at once. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit jealous. Though, I was never really that popular in the first place.Bookmark here

The girls began to whisper to each other.Bookmark here

Then, one of them—Mizuno-san, approached me with the same bouquet in hand.Bookmark here

“Takizawa-senpai, congratulations on graduating,” she said as she handed it out to me.Bookmark here

I accepted her gift with a courteous smile. She averted her eyes the moment we made eye contact.Bookmark here

“Is it... Is it okay if I borrow s-some of your time, senpai...?”she asked, stuttering over her words.Bookmark here

I immediately understood her reason. So I wanted to give her some closure, at the very least.Bookmark here

“Sure.”Bookmark here

3Bookmark here

We were at the back of the school building. Only the two of us alone were present as Mizuno-san’s figure gleamed from the sun. She struggled to let out her words, frequently taking deep breaths to calm herself down.Bookmark here

“The truth is... Takizawa-san, I... All this time, I’ve liked you...!” Eventually, she was able to do it. I was proud of her. She was a kouhai I helped a lot, and the current Student Council President.Bookmark here

Though, getting a confession on graduation? I thought it wouldn’t happen.Bookmark here

“I am happy you feel that way for me, Mizuno-san. However, I’m sorry—I can’t.” This was the right choice to make, and she knew it as well.Bookmark here

Instead of feeling saddened over getting rejected, she heaved a long sigh.Bookmark here

“I thought I wouldn’t be able to say it... I already knew I had no chance—so thank you.”Bookmark here

4Bookmark here

“Mizuno-san confessed? What happened?” Fujiwara asked.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I turned her down.”Bookmark here

As we exited the building, we were met with crimson orange rays. I looked up at the sky in awe.Bookmark here

“You must have gotten a bunch of confessions, right? Fujiwara?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Hah? Uh, I...Bookmark here

“In this month alone. I got 13 confessions...”Bookmark here

As I thought, Fujiwara was really popular.Bookmark here

“13? T-that’s quite a lot.”Bookmark here

“I’ve turned them all down, though.”Bookmark here

I feel bad for those guys, but I could guess her reasons.Bookmark here

“I mean, you’ll be focusing on your studies first, right?” I asked.Bookmark here

She was silent. A reply never came.Bookmark here

“Fujiwara?”Bookmark here

“Huh? Ah, yeah... sure...”Bookmark here

“Say, Takizawa, would you have rejected anyone who confessed to you?”Bookmark here

I didn’t understand why she was asking me that. However, there was only one way I could answer her.Bookmark here

“Probably.”Bookmark here

It took her a few seconds before she spoke again.Bookmark here

“Is it because of your promise with her?”Bookmark here

“Yeah.”Bookmark here

“I see...”Bookmark here

Feeling a vibration inside my pocket, I took out my phone, a Nokia 3100. My parents gifted it to me last year for my birthday.Bookmark here

There was a message. It came from Mitsuki.Bookmark here

[Congratulations on graduating, Taiyo-kun!!]Bookmark here

I smiled and began to type out a response.Bookmark here

[Thanks a lot, you too, Mitsuki. Congrats on graduating, the both of us.]Bookmark here

“Aight. Taiyo, Fujiwara-chan, say cheese!”Bookmark here

Suddenly, I heard a familiar voice. Then, from the corner of my eyes—a flash.Bookmark here

“Ah jeez, you both weren’t paying attention at all...”Bookmark here

I looked away from my phone for a moment.Bookmark here

Standing a few meters away was Kazuya. With a DSLR in his hands.Bookmark here

“K-Kazuya, I already told you to stop taking random pictures of me.”Bookmark here

“It’s the last time we’ll see each other, and you won’t even let me take some? Harsh, not even for a remembrance, bud?”Bookmark here

I sighed, “Fine.”Bookmark here

He made a goofy grin. I could not help but return the same expression. After all, he was a good friend, though it was unfortunate that we were going to different high schools.Bookmark here

“Ooookay! Taiyo, move a little closer to Fujiwara-chan. Fujiwara-chan, you do the same as well.”Bookmark here

We followed his instructions. I felt my shoulders touch Fujiwara’s.Bookmark here

“That’s a bit too close... but it works, too. Now, hold up your flowers in one hand, then raise your graduation certificates in the air with the other. Aaaaand don’t forget to smile!”Bookmark here

I smiled then a flash came.Bookmark here

“Perfect, I’ll give it to you both later,” he said.Bookmark here

He approached me and placed a hand on my shoulder, then he whispered something to my ear, “Your dedication is great but don’t leave out Fujiwara...”Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

“You seriously don’t get it?” he sighed, “I don’t want to point it out to you. Find it out by yourself. If you need advice on stuff, call me, and we can hang out over some ramen or something.”Bookmark here

“Whatever.”Bookmark here

I had no idea what he meant. I only looked back at his figure as he slowly walked away.Bookmark here

Turning my head, I shifted my view to Fujiwara.Bookmark here

“Takizawa...? Is there something wrong?” she asked.Bookmark here

I only continued to stare at her.Bookmark here

“T-Takizawa?”Bookmark here

“S-sorry about that...”Bookmark here

“It’s fine, everything is—everything is fine,” she clarified.Bookmark here

A cute smile formed in her gentle red lips.Bookmark here

“Wanna get some udon?” she asked.Bookmark here

“Sounds good.”Bookmark here

“My treat,” she said.Bookmark here

“Sure.”Bookmark here

“Wha?! You’re really so ungentlemanly.”Bookmark here

She pouted and made a sour face. Was she expecting me to turn down her offer?Bookmark here

“Why should I decline free food?”Bookmark here

“Idiot.”Bookmark here

Then, we both began to laugh. Out of all the people I’ve met here, I was particularly thankful to her. Fujiwara has always helped me from the first time we met up until this point.Bookmark here

The sounds of our laughter never ceased as the sunset continued.Bookmark here

Debrishi Kar
Abraham B. A.
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