One, two, three...
It was silent. Only the rhythmic tick of the clock and my fingertips tapping on the wooden floorboards could be barely heard.
Four, five, six...
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.
My mind and heart were racing. It was the same excitement like the night before a school trip in elementary school.
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.
I recited the things I wanted to say in my head.
It's been a long time, Mitsuki. How are you?
I missed you so much, Mitsuki.
The long hand of the clock passed 12—another minute had passed.
The countdown to our reunion slowly ticked close and closer. However, for how long more, I had no idea.
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.
Then, two knocks.
“Taiyo? I'm coming on.”
It was Nanase. I got up as she went inside.
“I brought you some snacks.”
She placed the plate of biscuits and tea on the small table in the middle of the large room.
I snuck a peek at Nanase. Man, she looked so good in that.
“T-Taiyo? You've been staring weirdly...”
This was the first time I’d seen Nanase in her home clothes. I didn't think she'd look that cute.
Her long hair was tied in a bun. She wore a long sleeve shirt and short...shorts... revealing her smooth, slender legs.
Then, she got close. The tips of our noses touched. I was taken aback.
“Are you listening to me?”
Embarrassed, I moved back.
However, it was like my eyes had a mind of their own as they began to avert their gaze down...
“IDIOT!” Nanase yelled.
She covered her chest, and I felt a striking pain on my brow.
I dropped to the floor, back to the original position I had before.
I tried to process what had just happened. All the while rubbing my forehead to ease the aching.
“Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow.”
I heard Nanase's murmurs of pain.
“Oh my god,” she said. Her face was suddenly above me.
“A-are you alright? Sorry! I'm really sorry!”
The face she made when she's worried was insanely cute. Her cheeks were painted with sakura pink.
“W-what? Why are you laughing?!”
I checked my phone.
No new messages.
I sighed from disappointment. Maybe I was being too excited.
Though suppressing such feelings was easier said than done.
I arose from the floor, her hands caressing my hair.
“Checked the news; the weather ain’t looking good later. An unexpected snowstorm is coming.”
I replied with silence.
“It’ll be dangerous out. Let’s just hope it’ll clear up tomorrow.”
Why did this have to happen now? It was unfair, just when we were so close—everything distanced once more.
No, I won’t let that happen.
“Taiyo, are you even listening?”
Nanase placed both of her hands on my shoulders. We looked straight into each other's eyes.
“Don't go anywhere, okay? I trust you. Please promise me you won't do anything stupid,” she said in a determined tone.
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?
“Yeah, don't worry.”
With a fake smile, I lied.
I felt bad lying to her like this. I really did. I had to apologize properly after all of this was over.
“Sorry for always asking for your help, Haruto-kun.”
I gave him a smile. He returned the same gesture and shook his head.
“I'm doing it cause I want to, y'know? Anyway, take care of yourself.”
“Haruto-kun, are you okay with this?”
With a confused expression on his face, he asked me, “W-what do you mean?”
I only stared straight into his eyes. He eventually sighed and said, “I'm fine, don't worry.”
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.
I knew, yet I still asked for his help regardless. I was a horrible person.
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.
I ought to repay him somehow after all of this was over. It was the least I could do.
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.
[Am about to leave now, where should we meet up?]
Alright, it was about time now.
“I did my part. You won't have to worry about any classmates or teachers noticing now. I took care of it.”
Ayane proclaimed proudly and puffed her chest. I couldn't help but grin.
“Thank you... you too.”
“No problemo~ I wish you the best of luck.”
I nodded and stood up. All the pieces were now falling into place.
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.
“Well, I’ll be going now.”
I gripped the door handle. I took one last look at Haruto-kun and Ayane-san.
I was indebted to them; If it wasn’t for their help, I wouldn't have been able to do this.
“Hey, Mitsuki,” Haruto-kun said.
“What is it?”
He became silent. I awaited his words, but I was met with disappointment.
That just made me want to know more. However, while I was curious, there was no time to ask right now.
I turned my head to face the door with a deep breath as I readied myself.
Was this the right decision? Was this really the right thing to do? I didn't know.
However, there was no room for doubts now. There was no going back after all. This was what I had decided on.
I slid open the door and made my way out.
As I was about to leave—
“Mitsuki!” Haruto-kun yelled.
I shifted back my gaze to him.
“There’s something I want to talk to you about after all this is over.”
A warm smile emerged from my face.
With that, I said my goodbyes and proceeded.
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.
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.
There was one new message. It was from Taiyo-kun.
6:43 PM [How about Kyoto Station? I'll be around there. I'm leaving now.]
6:44 PM [Got it.]
I exhaled a misty sigh and shivered. For some reason, it felt more chilly tonight, was Kyoto colder than back home?
The light of the moon was barely visible in the cloudy sky. It only acted as an outside nightlight.
The night was shrouded in murky darkness, enveloping Kyoto with a grim atmosphere. It gave off an ominous feeling, almost unpleasantly so.
I let out another breath. Snow began to build up on my jacket.
I had to move forward. There was no more time to waste.
“Auntie, did you find him?”
“Nope, I've looked everywhere.”
“It can't be... did he...?”
Taiyo... just where did you run off to?
No, I should already know that...
If he wasn't here, then there was only one possibility.
I wanted to believe that wasn't the case.
But... I was stupid, huh?
That stubborn guy just won't listen.
I shook my head repeatedly.
There was no time to beat myself over it now.
I had to go—
“But I found this.”
Auntie held up a phone. It was a Nokia 3100, the same as Taiyo's.
“Auntie, can I see that for a second?”
“Sure, here ya go.”
Examining it, I could confirm that it was Taiyo's phone.
“Auntie, where did you find this?”
“Just outside the door.”
Outside? Did he drop it?
I had no choice but to check…
I'm sorry, Taiyo... please forgive me, but this is for your sake too.
I opened his phone.
13 missed calls.
5 unread messages.
Why so much?
6:44 PM [Got it.] - Mitsuki Shimazaki.
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.
7:05 PM [Hello? Taiyo-kun are you okay? Why aren't you picking up my calls?] - Mitsuki Shimazaki.
7:10 PM [Taiyo-kun? What happened?? Please pick up. I'm getting worried.] - Mitsuki Shimazaki.
7:19 PM [It's getting a bit windy now, please be safe Taiyo-kun...] - Mitsuki Shimazaki.
7:19? It was already past 8:30 now.
I searched through his message history, desperate to find a clue.
6:43 PM [How about Kyoto Station? I'll be around there. I'm leaving now.] - Taiyo Takizawa
That was the last message that Taiyo sent.
Upon that realization, fear and anxiety took control of me. My knees dropped to the ground, I gripped my chest.
My heart was racing so fast that it felt as if it was being ripped off my chest.
It's already been almost 2 hours. Just what... happened?
I tried to call Shimazaki-san's number.
However, even after numerous tries, she just wouldn't pick up.
...Did something happen?
Coughing, I tried to catch my breath. I was hyperventilating... I had to calm down.
I took repeated deep breaths and cleared my head. I stood up.
I had no other choice now.
“Nanase, where are you going?”
“I'm going to pick up Taiyo.”
It was my fault; If only I had been kept close watch of him, then this wouldn't have happened.
Auntie grabbed onto my wrist.
Please don't stop me now. I had to find him. I had to—
“Auntie... please let go.”
I tried to stay calm, but my emotions were beginning to take over.
“There’s a storm outside. I won't let you leave.”
“I have to go! I have to make sure Taiyo's alright! So please let me go!” I shouted.
I knew it was wrong, but I couldn't stop my emotions from overflowing. I was unable to contain them, and they leaked out.
I was at my limit.
“Absolutely not, don't be a brat right now, Nanase! Are you crazy?”
I didn’t care anymore. The only thing on my mind was Taiyo’s safety.
If something happened to him, I wouldn't forgive myself.
“In the first place, isn't the reason you even brought him here was to see an old girlfriend—”
“I get that! I know I have no chance. I love him, but I know he won't return those feelings but...”
My voice began to grow weaker.
My resolve began to falter, my heart getting weaker.
One by one, they came. The tears began to stream down my cheeks.
What a crybaby I was. Pathetic, how more petty could I be?
The tears flowed endlessly like a river stream.
“So, are you going to ruin it?”
“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...”
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.
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—
I knew that.
It hurt at first. It was painful at first. It felt like I was gonna die inside.
But this was how it has always been.
“So, please... Auntie, I beg of you—”
“—Please let me see him.”
I bowed deeply. I didn't care anymore.
“I just want him to be safe and happy.”
Those were my genuine feelings; If I could only see his smiling face—everything would be fine.
“You've always been a sweet and hopeless girl, Nanase. Always going an extra mile for boys you don't have a chance with.”
“Sometimes love is unfair. However, this is how I truly feel, so I'll act upon it.”
Compared to the rest of them, Taiyo was special.
Compared to my feelings for them which decayed over time, my feelings for Taiyo only grew stronger.
I loved Taiyo. There was no doubt about that.
“It's fine to be selfish sometimes,” Auntie said.
“Okay, clean up your face and get dressed.”
“What do you...”
“We're going out.”
“What the hell, Mitsuki…?” I cursed under my breath as I impatiently waited for her reply.
“Still nothing?” Ayane-san asked.
“It’s been more than an hour now...” I didn’t want to think of the worst, but it was something to consider.
I told her before to keep in contact, but she has been silent for over an hour now.
“Did something happen...? Did we make the wrong choice?”
Ayane-san spoke with a wavering voice that felt like it was about to break down.
A snowstorm out of nowhere, and now Mitsuki has gone silent. Could this situation get any worse?
“...it’s all my fault...” I mumbled.
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.
“It's... both our fault.”
Ayane-san... she seemed deeply hurt over this. I should be the only one to blame here, not her or anyone else.
That's why I've made my decision.
I stood up.
“I'm going to look for Mitsuki,” I told her.
“Wha—b-but, that's dangerous…! Don't! Let's ask one of the teachers so—”
“I'll take responsibility for this mess. I'll be the one to bring back Mitsuki.”
After making my declaration, I began to walk over to the door.
“If something happened to you too... I won't be able to forgive myself...”
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.”
This was my decision, no matter how stupid it may be.
She didn't say anything.
“I guess rationality is non-existent in the face of love,” she finally replied.
“She loves Takizawa-san, you know?”
A brief moment of silence passed for a few seconds.
“Of course I know. I'd always known.”
It was a fact that I was forced to accept ever since Mitsuki first introduced me to Taiyo.
I'd always been a perceptive person, and the way Mitsuki looked and acted around Taiyo made her feelings obvious.
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.
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.
“I guess love is like a race, isn't it?”
“Because no matter who confessed first, her decision would be the same.”
She always loved Taiyo then, and I'm sure that if he was still with us, then that would never change.
“Didn't it feel unfair?”
“Emotions and feelings were unfair by nature.”
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.
“Tell me straight. Are you fine with all this?”
“If things could stay the way they always were, then I'm fine.”
Who a person chose to love was not something decided by another. Who am I to say that her love was wrong?
“So, are you also fine with never saying it?”
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.
“Of course not.”
“I trust you'll bring her back safely and that you'll do it.”
“You must have also noticed, right?” she continued.
I decided to not answer.
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.
“I'm going now.”
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.
However—was that really so wrong?
Why was I thinking of all this, I wonder?
There's something I should be prioritizing first.
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.
I'm sorry, Taiyo—I've made up my mind.