Chapter 9:

An Untimely Promise「Mitsuki」

Two Points

1Bookmark here

I was only 8 at the time when I first laid eyes on him.Bookmark here

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

Neither too fat nor too skinny, messy gray hair that was neither too long nor too short. Black eyes that seemed to stare off into the void. His voice, so quiet, so frail, you could question if he was really there. His head lowered, gaze always focused below. That was my first impression of him—of Taiyo Takizawa.Bookmark here

They say that looks can be deceiving, or don't judge a book by its cover.Bookmark here

The same could be applied to him. A silent genius—was what he was. You wouldn't get that impression just by looking at him, yet he was the smartest boy in the entire school.Bookmark here

However, despite all that—he was alone.Bookmark here

He sat in a lonely corner at the back of the classroom, seeming so cut off from reality. Secluded from everyone else, nobody ever spoke to him, nobody ever approached him. It was as if he never existed in the first place—like I was the only person who could see him.Bookmark here

It was quite lonely, wasn't it?Bookmark here

Yet, he never seemed so.Bookmark here

He would pass the time immersing himself in all sorts of books.Bookmark here

Whether he was enjoying these stories or not, I didn’t know. The stoic expression he always had would make it hard for anyone to guess.Bookmark here

We were really similar.Bookmark here

That is what I thought at the time.Bookmark here

After all, we both didn't have many friends and never actively made an effort to.Bookmark here

However, he just looked so aimless. Dead, black eyes with not even a slight hint of glint. Doing the same thing every single day. Living for no reason—could it even be considered living?Bookmark here

It was akin to a body floating in the sea. Surrendering himself to the mercy of fate—to wherever the winds carried him.Bookmark here

Day after day, his routine was all the same. Arriving early, he would water the plants. Afterward, he would read a book right before class started. The free time in between classes, he would spend reading. After class, he would stop by an old, abandoned playground that nobody ever used anymore and read again.Bookmark here

The slide was filthy, the bars rusty, and worst of all—the swings made piercing shrills.Bookmark here

Situated near a forest where reports of a suicide took place—it made sense why it was abandoned.Bookmark here

For an entire year, I never spoke to him. Simply observing, it might have seemed weird, but there was just something about him that made it hard for me to approach and start a conversation.Bookmark here

However, on one summer day in fourth grade, I suppressed all these fears, and I followed him to the abandoned playground.Bookmark here

There were three swings, and he would always sit in the middle.Bookmark here

That day, like any other day—he was once again busy reading.Bookmark here

My kid self hid behind a tree and silently watched him. I couldn't help but cringe at myself for doing such creepy and embarrassing things, but 9-year old me didn't know any better.Bookmark here

I don't remember how much time I spent there like a stalker, but eventually, I decided to walk over to him and sit on the swing to his right.Bookmark here

I snuck a glance at the book he was reading. I remembered it was The Sound of Waves.Bookmark here

My kid self was surprised that someone my age would be reading a book like that.Bookmark here

And so—Bookmark here

“Aren't you too young to be reading that?” I asked him.Bookmark here

No response came.Bookmark here

Perhaps the source of his loneliness came from not being able to fit in with everyone else. Maybe, he simply grew faster mentally than everyone else. And so, he had no friend his age that he could relate to.Bookmark here

At least—that was what my kid self assumed.Bookmark here

Frustrated by him ignoring me. My naive kid self stood up.Bookmark here

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

I acted as if I was surprised. At this moment, I was being desperate.Bookmark here

Desperate for what reason, I wonder?Bookmark here

Unfortunately, my kid self only realized it a few years later.Bookmark here

The reason I took an interest in him, that I followed him, that I decided to approach and speak to him—was love.Bookmark here

There was no mistaking it.Bookmark here

At that moment, I made my choice.Bookmark here

I reached out my hand.Bookmark here

“S-sorry for getting so excited… I'm Mitsuki! Mitsuki Shimazaki!”Bookmark here

It was a choice I've never once regretted. For he was the reason that—I was saved.Bookmark here

2Bookmark here

The only sounds present were the rumbling of bus engines and the muffled voices of our teachers, chaperones, and classmates.Bookmark here

Although it wasn't even 6 yet, the sky was tinged with eerie gray as light snow rained down from above.Bookmark here

February 8. The day we’d leave for our four-day school trip to Kyoto. The ride would take over half a day, so it'd be morning by the time we arrive there tomorrow.Bookmark here

I exhaled a misty breath.Bookmark here

Taiyo-kun was also going to Kyoto tomorrow.Bookmark here

After all, a month ago—we promised each other.Bookmark here

Hard to believe it's already been 4 years since we parted ways. I wonder how much he has changed since last time.Bookmark here

I stretched out my arm, my hand reaching towards the sky.Bookmark here

In just a day, I could see him again. His gray hair, his cute face.Bookmark here

In just a day, I could feel him again. His warm embrace, his gentle touch.Bookmark here

In just a day, I—Bookmark here

Withdrawing my arm, I clutched my chest.Bookmark here

We were about to reunite after so long.Bookmark here

Yet—why can’t I feel excited?Bookmark here

A misty breath escaped my mouth.Bookmark here

“Hey Mitsuki, you ready?”Bookmark here

A voice called out. Turning my head, I met Haruto-kun's gaze.Bookmark here

“Haruto-kun...”Bookmark here

“Are you feeling unwell?”Bookmark here

I shook my head, “No, I'm fine. Sorry for worrying you.”Bookmark here

I gave him a slight smile.Bookmark here

“Heeeey! Mitsuki! Haruto! What you both waitin' for?” My friends yelled out.Bookmark here

Waving my arm in the air, I shouted, “Coming!”Bookmark here

I brought my hands to my mouth and heaved an icy exhale. The mist grazed my gloves then dispersed into the air.Bookmark here

“Ready to go?”Bookmark here

“Yeah.”Bookmark here

After that confirmation, we made our way to the bus.Bookmark here

One by one, we went inside. Haruto-kun and I were seated next to each other.Bookmark here

“You go first,” he said.Bookmark here

“Thanks.”Bookmark here

We took our seats and laid our bags on the floor.Bookmark here

After everyone had gotten aboard, the teachers confirmed the attendance once more, then we were ready to go.Bookmark here

I've never been to Kyoto. I've always wanted to. I'll be sure to get some good pictures.Bookmark here

As the time of our departure neared, I couldn't help but think of Taiyo-kun.Bookmark here

Peeking out the window, the scenery began to move.Bookmark here

Maybe Taiyo-kun had moved on already. I wouldn’t blame him if he did. We were stupid kids back then. I mean, meet together after 10 years and marry one another? That seemed like something out of a fairy tale. I’m sure such a happy ending could not come so easily.Bookmark here

10 years was in no way short. However, childish delusions blinded us. It was only after, that I’ve felt just how long of a wait it really was; I’m sure he did too.Bookmark here

That’s why—if he moved on and found someone else, I’d be fine with it.Bookmark here

I say that...Bookmark here

Yet—Bookmark here

Yet—a part of me still couldn't accept it.Bookmark here

Just when I thought I began to change without him...Bookmark here

I'm really selfish, huh?Bookmark here

My emotions were uncertain, even I could not understand the extent of where my feelings lay. I was unsure if I still hold these strong feelings or if I have already moved on.Bookmark here

The answer was too far for me to reach with my own two hands.Bookmark here

That's why, when we arrive in Kyoto—I'll see him. I'm certain that the moment I see him once more—I'd fall in love all over again. Like how I fell in love when we first met.Bookmark here

My phone vibrated.Bookmark here

It was a message from Taiyo-kun.Bookmark here

[Have a safe trip!]Bookmark here

[Thank youu!]Bookmark here

I sighed.Bookmark here

I'm really such an idiot.Bookmark here

If he already moved on, then I would have to do the same. Yet, even still, if that really was the case—I don't know what would happen to me.Bookmark here

Up until middle school graduation, my entire life revolved around Taiyo-kun. When I began high school, I've determined to steer away from that.Bookmark here

Though it was difficult at first, with Haruto-kun's help, I started to form friendships that I couldn't before.Bookmark here

That's why, no matter the outcome—I think I could accept it.Bookmark here

However, that tiny bit of doubt remained. Like a parasite desperately clinging onto its host.Bookmark here

3Bookmark here

Kyoto.Bookmark here

We've arrived. Yawning, I stretched my arms. A clear blue sky greeted us. It was a beautiful day.Bookmark here

I checked my phone. No new messages from Taiyo-kun.Bookmark here

“Mitsuki-chan!”Bookmark here

Hearing a sudden call from behind me, I turned around.Bookmark here

“Smile!”Bookmark here

It was my friend, Ayane, with a camera pointed at me.Bookmark here

I made a peace sign, smiled, and she took a picture.Bookmark here

She ran up to me and showed me the picture.Bookmark here

“You looked super cute, Mitsuki~”Bookmark here

“T-thanks.”Bookmark here

I still felt a bit weird whenever I was praised. I start to get embarrassed and stuff.Bookmark here

“Alright, class. Listen up! We'll be grouping you to determine which rooms you'll be staying in. Kindly get your belongings from the bus and come inside.”Bookmark here

The teacher gave out those brief instructions.Bookmark here

“Ayane-san, let's go.”Bookmark here

“Awwww, but I still wanted to take some pictures.”Bookmark here

“You'll get plenty of chances later.”Bookmark here

Ayane pouted and made a disgruntled groan, reluctantly accepting.Bookmark here

Together we got our stuff and went inside the Ryokan.Bookmark here

I took my phone and began writing out a message.Bookmark here

[Have a safe trip, okay?]Bookmark here

The countdown to our reunion thus commenced.Bookmark here

Abraham B. A.
You can resume reading from this paragraph.