Chapter 10:

A Moment Frozen In Time

Two Points


1
「Taiyo」Bookmark here

One, two, three...Bookmark here

It was silent. Only the rhythmic tick of the clock and my fingertips tapping on the wooden floorboards could be barely heard.Bookmark here

Four, five, six...Bookmark here

Phone in hand, I patiently waited for a new message. The moment my fingers could feel that distinct vibration, the wait would be almost over.Bookmark here

My mind and heart were racing. It was the same excitement like the night before a school trip in elementary school.Bookmark here

Seven, eight...Bookmark here

Lying on the floor, I stared off at the ceiling. My thoughts were reserved solely for her. I couldn't get her off my head. I wouldn't want to anyway.Bookmark here

I recited the things I wanted to say in my head.Bookmark here

It's been a long time, Mitsuki. How are you?Bookmark here

I missed you so much, Mitsuki.Bookmark here

Nine, ten—Bookmark here

The long hand of the clock passed 12—another minute had passed.Bookmark here

6:09Bookmark here

The countdown to our reunion slowly ticked close and closer. However, for how long more, I had no idea.Bookmark here

We still had till dusk of the 12th to meet up. However, I refused to let this first day go to waste. No matter how excruciating it was, I would wait.Bookmark here

Then, two knocks.Bookmark here

“Taiyo? I'm coming on.”Bookmark here

It was Nanase. I got up as she went inside.Bookmark here

“I brought you some snacks.”Bookmark here

“Thanks.”Bookmark here

She placed the plate of biscuits and tea on the small table in the middle of the large room.Bookmark here

I snuck a peek at Nanase. Man, she looked so good in that.Bookmark here

“T-Taiyo? You've been staring weirdly...”Bookmark here

This was the first time I’d seen Nanase in her home clothes. I didn't think she'd look that cute.Bookmark here

Her long hair was tied in a bun. She wore a long sleeve shirt and short...shorts... revealing her smooth, slender legs.Bookmark here

Then, she got close. The tips of our noses touched. I was taken aback.Bookmark here

“Are you listening to me?”Bookmark here

Embarrassed, I moved back.Bookmark here

However, it was like my eyes had a mind of their own as they began to avert their gaze down...Bookmark here

“IDIOT!” Nanase yelled.Bookmark here

She covered her chest, and I felt a striking pain on my brow.Bookmark here

I dropped to the floor, back to the original position I had before.Bookmark here

I tried to process what had just happened. All the while rubbing my forehead to ease the aching.Bookmark here

“Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow.”Bookmark here

I heard Nanase's murmurs of pain.Bookmark here

“Oh my god,” she said. Her face was suddenly above me.Bookmark here

“A-are you alright? Sorry! I'm really sorry!”Bookmark here

“I'm... fine...”Bookmark here

The face she made when she's worried was insanely cute. Her cheeks were painted with sakura pink.Bookmark here

I chuckled.Bookmark here

“W-what? Why are you laughing?!”Bookmark here

“It's nothing.”Bookmark here

I checked my phone.Bookmark here

No new messages.Bookmark here

I sighed from disappointment. Maybe I was being too excited.Bookmark here

Though suppressing such feelings was easier said than done.Bookmark here

I arose from the floor, her hands caressing my hair.Bookmark here

“Checked the news; the weather ain’t looking good later. An unexpected snowstorm is coming.”Bookmark here

I replied with silence.Bookmark here

“It’ll be dangerous out. Let’s just hope it’ll clear up tomorrow.”Bookmark here

Why did this have to happen now? It was unfair, just when we were so close—everything distanced once more.Bookmark here

No, I won’t let that happen.Bookmark here

“Taiyo, are you even listening?”Bookmark here

“...Yeah...”Bookmark here

“...I see...”Bookmark here

“Taiyo...”Bookmark here

Nanase placed both of her hands on my shoulders. We looked straight into each other's eyes.Bookmark here

“Don't go anywhere, okay? I trust you. Please promise me you won't do anything stupid,” she said in a determined tone.Bookmark here

It felt as if fate itself was trying to keep us apart like the whole world was against us reuniting. And now you too, Nanase?Bookmark here

“Yeah, don't worry.”Bookmark here

With a fake smile, I lied.Bookmark here

I felt bad lying to her like this. I really did. I had to apologize properly after all of this was over.Bookmark here

2
「Mitsuki」Bookmark here

“Sorry for always asking for your help, Haruto-kun.”Bookmark here

I gave him a smile. He returned the same gesture and shook his head.Bookmark here

“I'm doing it cause I want to, y'know? Anyway, take care of yourself.”Bookmark here

“Haruto-kun, are you okay with this?”Bookmark here

With a confused expression on his face, he asked me, “W-what do you mean?”Bookmark here

I only stared straight into his eyes. He eventually sighed and said, “I'm fine, don't worry.”Bookmark here

He gave a slight smile to reassure me. However—I could see through it. The genuine emotions he kept to himself that even words could not convey.Bookmark here

I knew, yet I still asked for his help regardless. I was a horrible person.Bookmark here

“Thank you.”Bookmark here

However, I was truly grateful for him. Everything he had done for me couldn't be expressed with words alone. All the things he had done for me could not be counted with the fingers of both my hands. Not even double, or triple that would be enough.Bookmark here

I ought to repay him somehow after all of this was over. It was the least I could do.Bookmark here

“Alright.”Bookmark here

As I slung my bag over my back—everything was now ready. I took my phone and began to type a message to Taiyo-kun.Bookmark here

[Am about to leave now, where should we meet up?]Bookmark here

6:40 PM.Bookmark here

Alright, it was about time now.Bookmark here

“Mitsuki-chan!”Bookmark here

“Ayane-san?”Bookmark here

“I did my part. You won't have to worry about any classmates or teachers noticing now. I took care of it.”Bookmark here

Ayane proclaimed proudly and puffed her chest. I couldn't help but grin.Bookmark here

“Thank you... you too.”Bookmark here

“No problemo~ I wish you the best of luck.”Bookmark here

I nodded and stood up. All the pieces were now falling into place.Bookmark here

I’m sure I’ll have a lot of explaining to do later, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. To prevent anyone from noticing, I needed to be really careful and quick.Bookmark here

“Well, I’ll be going now.”Bookmark here

I gripped the door handle. I took one last look at Haruto-kun and Ayane-san.Bookmark here

I was indebted to them; If it wasn’t for their help, I wouldn't have been able to do this.Bookmark here

“Hey, Mitsuki,” Haruto-kun said.Bookmark here

“What is it?”Bookmark here

He became silent. I awaited his words, but I was met with disappointment.Bookmark here

“It’s nothing...”Bookmark here

That just made me want to know more. However, while I was curious, there was no time to ask right now.Bookmark here

I turned my head to face the door with a deep breath as I readied myself.Bookmark here

Was this the right decision? Was this really the right thing to do? I didn't know.Bookmark here

However, there was no room for doubts now. There was no going back after all. This was what I had decided on.Bookmark here

I slid open the door and made my way out.Bookmark here

As I was about to leave—Bookmark here

“Mitsuki!” Haruto-kun yelled.Bookmark here

I shifted back my gaze to him.Bookmark here

“There’s something I want to talk to you about after all this is over.”Bookmark here

A warm smile emerged from my face.Bookmark here

“Yeah.”Bookmark here

With that, I said my goodbyes and proceeded.Bookmark here

I swiftly made my way to the entrance. Making sure I was sufficiently hidden, I pulled the hood of my jacket to slightly conceal my face.Bookmark here

Opening the door of the entrance, I made my way outside. The night had just fully arrived. Feeling a vibration inside my pocket, I took out my phone.Bookmark here

There was one new message. It was from Taiyo-kun.Bookmark here

6:43 PM [How about Kyoto Station? I'll be around there. I'm leaving now.]Bookmark here

6:44 PM [Got it.]Bookmark here

I exhaled a misty sigh and shivered. For some reason, it felt more chilly tonight, was Kyoto colder than back home?Bookmark here

The light of the moon was barely visible in the cloudy sky. It only acted as an outside nightlight. Bookmark here

The night was shrouded in murky darkness, enveloping Kyoto with a grim atmosphere. It gave off an ominous feeling, almost unpleasantly so.Bookmark here

I let out another breath. Snow began to build up on my jacket.Bookmark here

I had to move forward. There was no more time to waste.
Bookmark here

3
「Nanase」Bookmark here

“Auntie, did you find him?”Bookmark here

“Nope, I've looked everywhere.”Bookmark here

“It can't be... did he...?”Bookmark here

Taiyo... just where did you run off to?Bookmark here

No, I should already know that...Bookmark here

If he wasn't here, then there was only one possibility.Bookmark here

I wanted to believe that wasn't the case.Bookmark here

But... I was stupid, huh?Bookmark here

That stubborn guy just won't listen.Bookmark here

I shook my head repeatedly.Bookmark here

There was no time to beat myself over it now.Bookmark here

I had to go—Bookmark here

“But I found this.”Bookmark here

Auntie held up a phone. It was a Nokia 3100, the same as Taiyo's.Bookmark here

“Auntie, can I see that for a second?”Bookmark here

“Sure, here ya go.”Bookmark here

Examining it, I could confirm that it was Taiyo's phone.Bookmark here

“Auntie, where did you find this?”Bookmark here

“Just outside the door.”Bookmark here

Outside? Did he drop it?Bookmark here

I had no choice but to check…Bookmark here

I'm sorry, Taiyo... please forgive me, but this is for your sake too.Bookmark here

I opened his phone.Bookmark here

13 missed calls.Bookmark here

5 unread messages.Bookmark here

Why so much?Bookmark here

6:44 PM [Got it.] - Mitsuki Shimazaki.Bookmark here

7:00 PM [It's a bit crowded here, how about we go someplace else? I'm going to the bus stop near the station now.] - Mitsuki Shimazaki.Bookmark here

7:05 PM [Hello? Taiyo-kun are you okay? Why aren't you picking up my calls?] - Mitsuki Shimazaki.Bookmark here

7:10 PM [Taiyo-kun? What happened?? Please pick up. I'm getting worried.] - Mitsuki Shimazaki.Bookmark here

7:19 PM [It's getting a bit windy now, please be safe Taiyo-kun...] - Mitsuki Shimazaki.Bookmark here

7:19? It was already past 8:30 now.Bookmark here

I searched through his message history, desperate to find a clue.Bookmark here

6:43 PM [How about Kyoto Station? I'll be around there. I'm leaving now.] - Taiyo TakizawaBookmark here

That was the last message that Taiyo sent.Bookmark here

6:43 PM…?Bookmark here

Upon that realization, fear and anxiety took control of me. My knees dropped to the ground, I gripped my chest.Bookmark here

My heart was racing so fast that it felt as if it was being ripped off my chest.Bookmark here

It's already been almost 2 hours. Just what... happened?Bookmark here

I tried to call Shimazaki-san's number.Bookmark here

However, even after numerous tries, she just wouldn't pick up.Bookmark here

Why?Bookmark here

...Did something happen?Bookmark here

Coughing, I tried to catch my breath. I was hyperventilating... I had to calm down.Bookmark here

I took repeated deep breaths and cleared my head. I stood up.Bookmark here

I had no other choice now.Bookmark here

“Nanase, where are you going?”Bookmark here

“I'm going to pick up Taiyo.”Bookmark here

It was my fault; If only I had been kept close watch of him, then this wouldn't have happened.Bookmark here

“Nanase...”Bookmark here

Auntie grabbed onto my wrist.Bookmark here

Please don't stop me now. I had to find him. I had to—Bookmark here

“Auntie... please let go.”Bookmark here

I tried to stay calm, but my emotions were beginning to take over.Bookmark here

“There’s a storm outside. I won't let you leave.”Bookmark here

“I have to go! I have to make sure Taiyo's alright! So please let me go!” I shouted. Bookmark here

I knew it was wrong, but I couldn't stop my emotions from overflowing. I was unable to contain them, and they leaked out.Bookmark here

I was at my limit.Bookmark here

“Absolutely not, don't be a brat right now, Nanase! Are you crazy?”Bookmark here

I didn’t care anymore. The only thing on my mind was Taiyo’s safety.Bookmark here

If something happened to him, I wouldn't forgive myself.Bookmark here

“In the first place, isn't the reason you even brought him here was to see an old girlfriend—”Bookmark here

“I get that! I know I have no chance. I love him, but I know he won't return those feelings but...”Bookmark here

My voice began to grow weaker. Bookmark here

My resolve began to falter, my heart getting weaker.Bookmark here

One by one, they came. The tears began to stream down my cheeks.Bookmark here

What a crybaby I was. Pathetic, how more petty could I be?Bookmark here

The tears flowed endlessly like a river stream.Bookmark here

“So, are you going to ruin it?”Bookmark here

“I don't want to do anything that would make him hate me... I love him. That's why I want him to be happy...”Bookmark here

Even if he didn't return those feelings, I would accept it. As long as he was happy, that would be enough. I didn't need any more than that.Bookmark here

I knew from the start that I didn't have even a fraction of a chance. The fact that his feelings were already for someone else, that he was unreachable for me—Bookmark here

I knew that.Bookmark here

It hurt at first. It was painful at first. It felt like I was gonna die inside.Bookmark here

But this was how it has always been.Bookmark here

“So, please... Auntie, I beg of you—”Bookmark here

“—Please let me see him.”Bookmark here

I bowed deeply. I didn't care anymore.Bookmark here

“I just want him to be safe and happy.”Bookmark here

Those were my genuine feelings; If I could only see his smiling face—everything would be fine.Bookmark here

“You've always been a sweet and hopeless girl, Nanase. Always going an extra mile for boys you don't have a chance with.”Bookmark here

“Sometimes love is unfair. However, this is how I truly feel, so I'll act upon it.”Bookmark here

Compared to the rest of them, Taiyo was special.Bookmark here

Compared to my feelings for them which decayed over time, my feelings for Taiyo only grew stronger.Bookmark here

I loved Taiyo. There was no doubt about that.Bookmark here

“It's fine to be selfish sometimes,” Auntie said.Bookmark here

Sometimes.Bookmark here

“Okay, clean up your face and get dressed.”Bookmark here

“What do you...”Bookmark here

“We're going out.”Bookmark here

4
「Haruto」
Bookmark here

“What the hell, Mitsuki…?” I cursed under my breath as I impatiently waited for her reply.Bookmark here

“Still nothing?” Ayane-san asked.Bookmark here

“It’s been more than an hour now...” I didn’t want to think of the worst, but it was something to consider.Bookmark here

I told her before to keep in contact, but she has been silent for over an hour now.Bookmark here

“Did something happen...? Did we make the wrong choice?”Bookmark here

Ayane-san spoke with a wavering voice that felt like it was about to break down.Bookmark here

A snowstorm out of nowhere, and now Mitsuki has gone silent. Could this situation get any worse?Bookmark here

“...it’s all my fault...” I mumbled.Bookmark here

“Haruto-kun...”Bookmark here

If only I had thought this through more, then this wouldn't have happened. Feelings of regret started to take form inside me. It made my gut wrench like a bad stomach ache.Bookmark here

“It's... both our fault.”Bookmark here

Ayane-san... she seemed deeply hurt over this. I should be the only one to blame here, not her or anyone else.Bookmark here

That's why I've made my decision.Bookmark here

I stood up.Bookmark here

“I'm going to look for Mitsuki,” I told her.Bookmark here

“Wha—b-but, that's dangerous…! Don't! Let's ask one of the teachers so—”Bookmark here

“I'll take responsibility for this mess. I'll be the one to bring back Mitsuki.”Bookmark here

After making my declaration, I began to walk over to the door.Bookmark here

“If something happened to you too... I won't be able to forgive myself...”Bookmark here

I briefly stopped my steps, and without even turning to face her, I said, “No matter what you or anyone would have said, that wouldn't stop me.”Bookmark here

This was my decision, no matter how stupid it may be.Bookmark here

She didn't say anything.Bookmark here

“I guess rationality is non-existent in the face of love,” she finally replied.Bookmark here

“Maybe so.”Bookmark here

“She loves Takizawa-san, you know?”Bookmark here

A brief moment of silence passed for a few seconds.Bookmark here

“Of course I know. I'd always known.”Bookmark here

It was a fact that I was forced to accept ever since Mitsuki first introduced me to Taiyo.Bookmark here

I'd always been a perceptive person, and the way Mitsuki looked and acted around Taiyo made her feelings obvious.Bookmark here

However, even knowing that, I've never held anything against Taiyo. The fact of the matter was he was truly one of my closest friends, and I was grateful to have met him.Bookmark here

Though, to say I was envious was not wrong. However, it was simply out of my control. There was nothing I could do to change her feelings.Bookmark here

“I guess love is like a race, isn't it?”Bookmark here

“I disagree.”Bookmark here

“Why?”Bookmark here

“Because no matter who confessed first, her decision would be the same.”Bookmark here

She always loved Taiyo then, and I'm sure that if he was still with us, then that would never change.Bookmark here

“Didn't it feel unfair?”Bookmark here

“Emotions and feelings were unfair by nature.”Bookmark here

When Taiyo moved out, I never took it as a chance to make a move on Mitsuki. I understood that it was a shitty thing to do. However, I would be lying if I said I wasn't even a bit happy to spend more time with her now.Bookmark here

“Tell me straight. Are you fine with all this?”Bookmark here

“If things could stay the way they always were, then I'm fine.”Bookmark here

Who a person chose to love was not something decided by another. Who am I to say that her love was wrong?Bookmark here

“So, are you also fine with never saying it?”Bookmark here

Even if I had no chance, I'd say it, eventually. That was always what I told myself, but I just couldn’t seem to abide by it. It was easier said than done.Bookmark here

“Of course not.”Bookmark here

“I trust you'll bring her back safely and that you'll do it.”Bookmark here

“You must have also noticed, right?” she continued.Bookmark here

I decided to not answer.Bookmark here

Ever since Mitsuki and Taiyo parted, I've decided that I'd be there to support her all the way now that Taiyo was gone. Throughout all the time we were together, I've witnessed her feelings change in numerous instances. Her feelings for Taiyo began to deteriorate, and now she was unsure of those feelings.Bookmark here

“I'm going now.”Bookmark here

I knew that, yet I've done nothing to fill in the loneliness inside of her heart. Actually, I felt shit after thinking I'd take advantage of that fact.Bookmark here

However—was that really so wrong?Bookmark here

Why was I thinking of all this, I wonder? Bookmark here

There's something I should be prioritizing first.Bookmark here

I'll find Mitsuki. That was my goal right now, and I’d do everything I could to find her. No matter how long it took.Bookmark here

I'm sorry, Taiyo—I've made up my mind.Bookmark here

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