Chapter 8:

An Untimely Promise「Taiyo」

Two Points

1Bookmark here

All this time, for 4 years, I've waited for an opportunity. A chance to see her again.Bookmark here

Perhaps the childish optimism blinded me from what was real.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Such a coincidence was too convenient. It was stupid of me to rely on something so unreliable, like fate.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Would you actually believe it if I said that—it was love at first sight?Bookmark here

I still remembered that day so vividly, like it was yesterday.Bookmark here

While on the swings at the playground, I was busy reading, I believe it was The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Her first words to me weren't anything special, yet they were truly unforgettable.Bookmark here

“Aren't you too young to be reading that?”Bookmark here

I never remembered replying. Maybe I was ignoring her, maybe I was shy, maybe I didn't know how to respond.Bookmark here

“Wait, wait, wait. You're that super-duper smart boy, right?”Bookmark here

Her face was lit up with excitement as she uncomfortably closed the distance between us.Bookmark here

Panicking, I tried to move back, and I fell from the swing. It was embarrassing.Bookmark here

“S-sorry for getting so excited… I'm Mitsuki! Mitsuki Shimazaki!” she said with a smile as she offered her hand.Bookmark here

There was no mistaking it. At that moment—I fell in love.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

That’s why I saved every single yen I could get—to take a trip back to my hometown and see Mitsuki again.Bookmark here

However, that chance for a reunion came sooner than I expected.Bookmark here

A month prior, she called me.Bookmark here

“Kyoto? What for?” I asked her.Bookmark here

“We’re having a school trip to Kyoto next month,” she said.Bookmark here

At that moment, that chance revealed itself.Bookmark here

2Bookmark here

“Kyoto? The prices for a roundtrip ain’t cheap, you know?” Nanase said.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I know.”Bookmark here

“How long are you staying there for anyways?”Bookmark here

“A couple of days.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

She was silent, then she sighed. Bookmark here

“I’ll come with you.”Bookmark here

I couldn’t hide my surprise when she said that.Bookmark here

“Wait, why?”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“I’m not a kid. I don’t need a babysitter.”Bookmark here

“My grandmother lives in Kyoto. We can stay there instead of spending extra on a hotel.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“You’ll be meeting with her, right? I want to help you the best I can, Taiyo.”Bookmark here

Her tense face loosened, and her lips curled into a smile. She seemed genuine, yet why did I feel like there was something wrong?Bookmark here

Nanase has changed a lot since we first met. Her black hair that used to be shoulder-length was now long, resembling Mitsuki’s.Bookmark here

“Wouldn’t that cost more for your ticket too?”Bookmark here

“It’s fine. I was planning to stay at my Grandma’s anyway.”Bookmark here

I sighed and said, “I get it.”Bookmark here

“Hey, Nanase,”Bookmark here

“Hmm?”Bookmark here

“Thanks.”Bookmark here

I gave her a warm smile. Not only because of today, but for everything she has done for me, I was grateful to her.Bookmark here

3Bookmark here

February 9.Bookmark here

It was finally the day we embark for Kyoto.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

As we prepared to leave, there was a buzz.Bookmark here

[Have a safe trip, okay?]Bookmark here

I typed out a reply.Bookmark here

[Thanks. I can’t wait to see you there.]Bookmark here

It’s been 4 long, slow years. I was still in disbelief that it was finally happening. However, this was reality.Bookmark here

If things go well, we could see each other the moment we arrive there.Bookmark here

“Shall we head off then?” Nanase said.Bookmark here

“Yeah.”Bookmark here

Together we went inside the station. After buying our tickets, we boarded the Shinkansen 700.Bookmark here

Admittedly, it was my first time boarding a Shinkansen. My eyes darted around the train with excitement like a little child.Bookmark here

I heard Nanase chuckle from behind me.Bookmark here

“W-what is it?” I awkwardly asked.Bookmark here

“Is this your first time on a Shinkansen or something? You look like a kid.”Bookmark here

“Y-yeah, it is, so what...?”Bookmark here

It felt as if she was teasing me again.Bookmark here

“You used to live in a rural town in Kyushu, right?”Bookmark here

“Yeah. Our town's pretty small, and we don't even really travel all that much.”Bookmark here

Crossing her arms, Nanase began nodding her head repeatedly while letting out a muffled 'umu'.Bookmark here

Afterward, she placed both her hands on her hips and puffed her chest.Bookmark here

“I believe that riding a Shinkansen is something everyone should experience at least once in their lives,” she stated.Bookmark here

“I shall gladly be your guide through this trip,” she said as she held out her hand.Bookmark here

“No thanks.”Bookmark here

“Eh?”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“It’s just a train but far more comfortable. That’s about all I need to know.”Bookmark here

“Ehhhhhhh?!”Bookmark here

I wanted to tease her this time. Seeing her distraught reaction was cute.Bookmark here

“I thought a country boy like you would be more interested.”Bookmark here

“I’m just not interested.”Bookmark here

“Boo.”Bookmark here

I went ahead inside.Bookmark here

Looking back at her, “Who’s the kid now?” I remarked.Bookmark here

She made a childish pout.Bookmark here

4Bookmark here

The trip would take more than 2 hours. Nanase was seated by the window, with me beside her.Bookmark here

“Want a drink?” she asked.Bookmark here

“Sure.”Bookmark here

She handed me a bottle of green tea.Bookmark here

“Say, Taiyo.”Bookmark here

“Yeah?”Bookmark here

“Can you tell me a bit about this girl?”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

So why now?Bookmark here

“She kinda looks like you. You both have long black hair.”Bookmark here

“Hmm.”Bookmark here

“...and she’s really nice too.”Bookmark here

“I’ve always wanted to ask.”Bookmark here

A tense silence came for a brief moment.Bookmark here

“What kind of relationship did you have with her?”Bookmark here

Slightly confused, I tilted my head to the side.Bookmark here

“Elaborate?”Bookmark here

“Like, is it childhood friends, a relative, or perhaps... a girlfriend?”Bookmark here

I thought for a moment before giving her a response.Bookmark here

“I guess, a girlfriend? We made a promise to each other before I moved out.”Bookmark here

“Promise?”Bookmark here

“That we’d marry each other after 10 years.”Bookmark here

“...I see...”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Good luck, Taiyo. I’m wishing you good luck.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Thank you.”Bookmark here

Feeling a bit sleepy, I yawned.Bookmark here

“I think I’ll take a nap,” I told her.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

As I neared unconsciousness, I felt something hard against the side of my head.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“—I love you, Taiyo.”Bookmark here

5Bookmark here

We arrived in Kyoto.Bookmark here

I stretched my arms and yawned. The sunlight greeted us as we stepped out of the station.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

I was so excited that I got ahead of myself.Bookmark here

We first had to take care of things at Nanase’s grandparents’ place.Bookmark here

“Yes, yes. We’ve arrived safely, don’t worry, Auntie.”Bookmark here

Nanase was currently busy with a call, it seemed.Bookmark here

“W-what? Tai—he’s not like that. You’re misunderstanding!”Bookmark here

It was wrong to eavesdrop, but I just couldn’t help it.Bookmark here

“I get it. We’ll get there soon, okay? Please don’t try to pull anything when we arrive.”Bookmark here

“Yes, thanks. Bye.”Bookmark here

She heaved a deep sigh. I wonder what it was about. She seemed quite stressed.Bookmark here

“You okay?”Bookmark here

“I’m fine. Let’s get going.”Bookmark here

We took a 30-minute bus ride to Shimogamo district, where Nanase’s grandparents’ lived. Afterward, we took a short walk.Bookmark here

Eventually, we arrived at what I assume was the place. It seemed like a typical 2-story house, though.Bookmark here

“What are you standing there for?” Nanase called out.Bookmark here

“...Isn’t this the place?”Bookmark here

“It’s still up ahead.”Bookmark here

Up ahead? But the only thing up ahead was—Bookmark here

“A mansion?!”Bookmark here

I knew Nanase’s family was wealthy, but not to this extent. It looked like a traditional mansion.Bookmark here

“Why do you look so surprised? It’s just those old-styled houses, dunno why everyone suddenly goes crazy when they see one.”Bookmark here

“Sure, train enthusiast.”Bookmark here

“Shut it.”Bookmark here

6Bookmark here

“Auntie, we’re here!”Bookmark here

“S-sorry for intruding...” I murmured.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Big sister Nanase! Big sister Nanase!”Bookmark here

A little girl suddenly appeared; was she Nanase’s cousin?Bookmark here

“Hello, little Rin. How have you been?”Bookmark here

The little girl ran towards Nanase and hugged her. Nanase patted her head and carried her in her arms, like cradling a baby.Bookmark here

“Ah, Nanase. You’re here... and you must be Taiyo-kun, right?”Bookmark here

The voice came from an older woman. I instinctively bowed.Bookmark here

“S-sorry for intruding, ma’am!”Bookmark here

“It’s quite fine. Come in, come in. Also, it’s been a while, Nanase.”Bookmark here

It felt like I was gonna die from the pressure. This was beyond nervousness at this point.Bookmark here

“Ah, auntie. Ye—”Bookmark here

Nanase’s aunt whispered something to Nanase’s ear, which prompted her to jump in response.Bookmark here

“I told you already it’s not like that! Jeez, you’re making Taiyo wait.”Bookmark here

Her face was red. I think I could kinda assume what their conversation was about.Bookmark here

“Anyway, let’s just go inside Taiyo.”Bookmark here

I sighed.Bookmark here

This was going to be quite a trip.Bookmark here

Abraham B. A.
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