All this time, for 4 years, I've waited for an opportunity. A chance to see her again.
Perhaps the childish optimism blinded me from what was real.
I thought I would be able to handle 10 years without her. I thought it was only for a brief moment. In truth, that was my foolishness speaking.
Such a coincidence was too convenient. It was stupid of me to rely on something so unreliable, like fate.
I used to indulge myself in romance novels when I was a kid, even novels that weren't even supposed to be read by a 4th grader. Regardless, reading was something I held dear to me. It was something I could use to escape from the loneliness at the time—until I met her.
Would you actually believe it if I said that—it was love at first sight?
I still remembered that day so vividly, like it was yesterday.
While on the swings at the playground, I was busy reading, I believe it was The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima.
Ironically, we first met by pure chance. She sat on the swing next to mine. It was awkward, yet something was soothing about the feeling of not being alone for once.
Her first words to me weren't anything special, yet they were truly unforgettable.
“Aren't you too young to be reading that?”
I never remembered replying. Maybe I was ignoring her, maybe I was shy, maybe I didn't know how to respond.
“Wait, wait, wait. You're that super-duper smart boy, right?”
Her face was lit up with excitement as she uncomfortably closed the distance between us.
Panicking, I tried to move back, and I fell from the swing. It was embarrassing.
“S-sorry for getting so excited… I'm Mitsuki! Mitsuki Shimazaki!” she said with a smile as she offered her hand.
There was no mistaking it. At that moment—I fell in love.
It was for that reason that I just couldn’t let go. That I couldn’t forget. Ever since I got a part-time job when I began high school almost 2 years ago, I’ve been saving up. I’ve decided that if fate wasn’t going to bring us back together, then I would do it myself.
That’s why I saved every single yen I could get—to take a trip back to my hometown and see Mitsuki again.
However, that chance for a reunion came sooner than I expected.
A month prior, she called me.
“Kyoto? What for?” I asked her.
“We’re having a school trip to Kyoto next month,” she said.
At that moment, that chance revealed itself.
“Kyoto? The prices for a roundtrip ain’t cheap, you know?” Nanase said.
“Yeah, I know.”
“How long are you staying there for anyways?”
“A couple of days.”
The price for a shinkansen ticket to Kyoto would cost over 20k yen, counting the trip back. It certainly wasn’t cheap, not to mention I had to find a hotel to stay in as well.
She was silent, then she sighed.
“I’ll come with you.”
I couldn’t hide my surprise when she said that.
“Are you an idiot? If it was for a day, sure. But I don’t trust you’ll be able to last a couple of days there by yourself.”
“I’m not a kid. I don’t need a babysitter.”
“My grandmother lives in Kyoto. We can stay there instead of spending extra on a hotel.”
As I looked up at her face, it seemed stern as usual. If she was really serious, I won’t be able to stop her.
“You’ll be meeting with her, right? I want to help you the best I can, Taiyo.”
Her tense face loosened, and her lips curled into a smile. She seemed genuine, yet why did I feel like there was something wrong?
Nanase has changed a lot since we first met. Her black hair that used to be shoulder-length was now long, resembling Mitsuki’s.
“Wouldn’t that cost more for your ticket too?”
“It’s fine. I was planning to stay at my Grandma’s anyway.”
I sighed and said, “I get it.”
I gave her a warm smile. Not only because of today, but for everything she has done for me, I was grateful to her.
It was finally the day we embark for Kyoto.
We were just outside the Yokohama Station. The blue sky was clear. However, thick layers of snow were visible as far as the eye could see.
As we prepared to leave, there was a buzz.
[Have a safe trip, okay?]
I typed out a reply.
[Thanks. I can’t wait to see you there.]
It’s been 4 long, slow years. I was still in disbelief that it was finally happening. However, this was reality.
If things go well, we could see each other the moment we arrive there.
“Shall we head off then?” Nanase said.
Together we went inside the station. After buying our tickets, we boarded the Shinkansen 700.
Admittedly, it was my first time boarding a Shinkansen. My eyes darted around the train with excitement like a little child.
I heard Nanase chuckle from behind me.
“W-what is it?” I awkwardly asked.
“Is this your first time on a Shinkansen or something? You look like a kid.”
“Y-yeah, it is, so what...?”
It felt as if she was teasing me again.
“You used to live in a rural town in Kyushu, right?”
“Yeah. Our town's pretty small, and we don't even really travel all that much.”
Crossing her arms, Nanase began nodding her head repeatedly while letting out a muffled 'umu'.
Afterward, she placed both her hands on her hips and puffed her chest.
“I believe that riding a Shinkansen is something everyone should experience at least once in their lives,” she stated.
“I shall gladly be your guide through this trip,” she said as she held out her hand.
She seemed shocked. When it came to things she liked, Nanase tends to go on an overly long tangent. I wasn’t interested this time though.
“It’s just a train but far more comfortable. That’s about all I need to know.”
I wanted to tease her this time. Seeing her distraught reaction was cute.
“I thought a country boy like you would be more interested.”
“I’m just not interested.”
I went ahead inside.
Looking back at her, “Who’s the kid now?” I remarked.
She made a childish pout.
The trip would take more than 2 hours. Nanase was seated by the window, with me beside her.
“Want a drink?” she asked.
She handed me a bottle of green tea.
“Can you tell me a bit about this girl?”
I didn’t expect Nanase to be interested. It caught me a bit off-guard. After all, she never asked about Mitsuki even once all this time.
So why now?
“She kinda looks like you. You both have long black hair.”
“...and she’s really nice too.”
“I’ve always wanted to ask.”
A tense silence came for a brief moment.
“What kind of relationship did you have with her?”
Slightly confused, I tilted my head to the side.
“Like, is it childhood friends, a relative, or perhaps... a girlfriend?”
I thought for a moment before giving her a response.
“I guess, a girlfriend? We made a promise to each other before I moved out.”
“That we’d marry each other after 10 years.”
Nanase had an uncertain look on her face. I was about to ask her if she was okay, but she began to speak before I could do so.
“Good luck, Taiyo. I’m wishing you good luck.”
She turned to face me with a smile. Her smile seemed to bore a feeling of pain, but I was unsure. However, I didn’t want to press on further, so I simply accepted it.
Feeling a bit sleepy, I yawned.
“I think I’ll take a nap,” I told her.
I closed my eyes and slowly began to surrender myself to drowsiness. I had a lot of trouble sleeping last night because I was too excited.
As I neared unconsciousness, I felt something hard against the side of my head.
Then, a voice whispered. I was unsure if I was dreaming, but I heard it. However, I didn’t know whose voice it belonged to.
“—I love you, Taiyo.”
We arrived in Kyoto.
I stretched my arms and yawned. The sunlight greeted us as we stepped out of the station.
Now that I thought about it, this was my first time in Kyoto. Maybe Mitsuki and I can go sightseeing. There were a lot of things we could do.
I was so excited that I got ahead of myself.
We first had to take care of things at Nanase’s grandparents’ place.
“Yes, yes. We’ve arrived safely, don’t worry, Auntie.”
Nanase was currently busy with a call, it seemed.
“W-what? Tai—he’s not like that. You’re misunderstanding!”
It was wrong to eavesdrop, but I just couldn’t help it.
“I get it. We’ll get there soon, okay? Please don’t try to pull anything when we arrive.”
“Yes, thanks. Bye.”
She heaved a deep sigh. I wonder what it was about. She seemed quite stressed.
“I’m fine. Let’s get going.”
We took a 30-minute bus ride to Shimogamo district, where Nanase’s grandparents’ lived. Afterward, we took a short walk.
Eventually, we arrived at what I assume was the place. It seemed like a typical 2-story house, though.
“What are you standing there for?” Nanase called out.
“...Isn’t this the place?”
“It’s still up ahead.”
Up ahead? But the only thing up ahead was—
I knew Nanase’s family was wealthy, but not to this extent. It looked like a traditional mansion.
“Why do you look so surprised? It’s just those old-styled houses, dunno why everyone suddenly goes crazy when they see one.”
“Sure, train enthusiast.”
“Auntie, we’re here!”
“S-sorry for intruding...” I murmured.
This place was really huge. I’ve always wondered why the rooms were so spacious yet empty. It seemed like a waste, but it looked really pretty.
“Big sister Nanase! Big sister Nanase!”
A little girl suddenly appeared; was she Nanase’s cousin?
“Hello, little Rin. How have you been?”
The little girl ran towards Nanase and hugged her. Nanase patted her head and carried her in her arms, like cradling a baby.
“Ah, Nanase. You’re here... and you must be Taiyo-kun, right?”
The voice came from an older woman. I instinctively bowed.
“S-sorry for intruding, ma’am!”
“It’s quite fine. Come in, come in. Also, it’s been a while, Nanase.”
It felt like I was gonna die from the pressure. This was beyond nervousness at this point.
“Ah, auntie. Ye—”
Nanase’s aunt whispered something to Nanase’s ear, which prompted her to jump in response.
“I told you already it’s not like that! Jeez, you’re making Taiyo wait.”
Her face was red. I think I could kinda assume what their conversation was about.
“Anyway, let’s just go inside Taiyo.”
This was going to be quite a trip.