Chapter 11:

Alone as the Winter Cold Blew

Two Points

「Mitsuki」Bookmark here

My heart felt cold.Bookmark here

Was it normal to doubt one’s own feelings? Bookmark here

As I looked out the window of the bus, I asked myself that question. It was something that has been bothering me these last few days. Yet, no matter how many times I repeated it inside my head, an answer never came.Bookmark here

Feelings of doubt sprouted inside me. Those uncertainties gradually grew, dampening my own heart.Bookmark here

I couldn't bear to leave it unanswered. It was one of the reasons why I agreed to this. Whether these emotions still lingered or had already begun to melt.Bookmark here

If that closure wasn't achieved, certainly it'd surely be something I'd regret in the future. Yet, how would Taiyo-kun feel? That worry was also one of my concerns.Bookmark here

Would it be fair to selfishly seek those answers, even if they might cause him great pain? Yet, wouldn't it be worse to keep up an act instead of telling the truth? It'd feel as if giving somebody false hope. It would be a joyous moment at first. However, slowly and inevitably would lead to the dissolving of our own bonds.Bookmark here

Lost following a dirt road, it felt like I had reached a fork. The choices dangled in front of me; it was a dilemma that slowly ate away at me.Bookmark here

How would I feel once I see him again? The answer to that would decide everything henceforth.Bookmark here

The bus came to a halt, and I had arrived at the station. I stood up and got off the bus. My boots dug deep into the heavy snow. It wasn’t this thick when I left before. The station was a few meters away from where I stood.Bookmark here

A chilling breeze blew past me. Pulling my coat to cover my mouth, I proceeded forward. My steps felt heavy as I trudged through the winds towards our place of reunion.Bookmark here

「Taiyo」Bookmark here

My heart felt cold.Bookmark here

Alone I sat, waiting. As the icy winds blew, tormenting my frail body, I waited.Bookmark here

6:50 PM. Glancing at my watch, I sighed. Having lost my phone, it was at this moment that I felt that cold. Despite the layers upon layers of clothing I wore, it was insufficient. Failing to blanket me from the distinct coldness I felt inside my exposed heart.Bookmark here

Winter was the season I looked forward to the least in the year. Unlike most people, I couldn’t understand the excitement they derived from it. To me, snow was nothing more than a bother. A source of frustration, an annoyance.Bookmark here

Unlike Mitsuki, my body was weak. I got sick often, especially in the winter. However, irrespective of that—Bookmark here

6:52 PM. It felt as if time moved so much slower in the winter. The bus was supposed to arrive 7 minutes ago, possibly delayed. Again, it was the snow’s fault.Bookmark here

I heaved a sigh. My fingers trembled from the cold, my nose was runny, my lips began to freeze. I wondered how much longer I had to wait. I wondered how much longer I had to make Mitsuki wait.Bookmark here

6:53 PM. Narrowing my eyes, I began to count the seconds in my head. Stuck with nothing else to do, my mind flickered from one thought to another.Bookmark here

Time continued on slowly. Each passing second felt like an eternity. With every minute that passed, the creeping feeling of anxiety grew inside me.Bookmark here

Until eventually—Bookmark here

7:00 PM. Two tiny points of light emerged from the distance. Fully opening my eyes, I realized it was a vehicle’s headlights. Slowly, the two lights grew larger and brighter, then finally came to a halt in front of me.Bookmark here

“Finally...” I muttered under my breath. Slowly, I got up from my seat and went inside.Bookmark here

「Mitsuki」Bookmark here

Masses filled the station. Though it was expected, I had completely forgotten to take it into account. It’d be difficult for us to try to locate each other in this crowded labyrinth. I took out my phone and began to type a message.Bookmark here

My fingers momentarily froze as I was about to send it.Bookmark here

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

I sent it after a brief moment of hesitation. Tightly, I clenched my phone, then returned it inside my pocket.Bookmark here

I exhaled. The sounds of countless footsteps intruded my ear. A worry that was already present began to enlarge. It gave off bad feelings in me that I wasn’t able to explain.Bookmark here

I just hoped that—Bookmark here

“Please be safe, Taiyo-kun.”Bookmark here

I navigated through the thick crowd, out of the station. The snowfall had increased since then, the winds had also begun to pick up. The situation was taking an unexpected turn for the worse.Bookmark here

Nevertheless, I continued. We made a promise; It wouldn’t be right for me to hesitate and abandon it now. Yet, those worries never ceased.Bookmark here

“If anything happened to him, I—”Bookmark here

—I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself.Bookmark here

I went back out into the snow, exposed to the freezing conditions. Taking small steps as I made my way to the bus stop. The short walk took only a few minutes, and I sought shelter inside. I took a seat and checked my phone.Bookmark here

There was no reply yet.Bookmark here

Deciding to make a call, I put the phone to my ear.Bookmark here

However—Bookmark here

“Hello, it's Taiyo. It seems I'm pretty busy right now, so could you leave your message now, or just call again later.”Bookmark here

I was met with a generic response. A beep. I didn't say anything. Bookmark here

Again, I tried to contact him.Bookmark here

“Hello, it's Taiyo. It seems I'm pretty busy right now, so could you leave your message now, or just call again later.”Bookmark here

Yet, once more, it was useless.Bookmark here

“Why isn’t he picking up...?”Bookmark here

Panic began to set in. I tried to call him again, then again, and again. All attempts proved fruitless.Bookmark here

[Hello? Taiyo-kun are you okay? Why aren't you picking up my calls?]Bookmark here

Biting my lip, I didn’t want to fear for the worst. Yet, I couldn’t not be concerned.Bookmark here

My heart pounded as I waited. I questioned myself if it was a mistake after all. Perhaps we should have thought this out more clearly, yet this unusual weather came out of nowhere. There was no way to prepare for it.Bookmark here

[Taiyo-kun? What happened?? Please pick up. I'm getting worried.]Bookmark here

It was useless at this point, yet I still tried. Hoping for a chance, just to confirm if he was alright.Bookmark here

“Please, Taiyo-kun... please be safe...” I said, trying to reassure myself. All I wanted right now was confirmation of that fact.Bookmark here

As the storm around me worsened, my hope began to grow weaker.Bookmark here

「Taiyo」Bookmark here

“Heyo, this is Mitsuki. I'm currently unavailable, so just leave the message after the beep or try again later.”Bookmark here

That reply greeted me on the other end as I held the payphone to my ear. Bookmark here

I exhaled a nervous breath; Once more, I dialed her number. I anxiously waited for her to pick up, but I was afraid that it wouldn't ever happen.Bookmark here

“Heyo, this is Mitsuki. I'm currently unavailable, so just leave the message after the beep or try again later.”Bookmark here

7:45 PM. Gritting my teeth at yet another unattended call, I returned the payphone and walked away defeated.Bookmark here

“Why...” I asked myself as I sat down on one of the benches.Bookmark here

Not only was the feeling of hunger gnawing at me, but the coldness also remained inside me. It felt as if I was at a dead end. There was nothing else I could do.Bookmark here

“Hey, Mitsuki...”Bookmark here

“Be safe in going back...”Bookmark here

I knew those words wouldn't reach her, yet they were my sincere feelings. She must have gone back to her inn.Bookmark here

The situation was far too unfavorable, so I wouldn't blame her for it.Bookmark here

Yet—Bookmark here

Yet, regardless of that, the bitterness remained.Bookmark here

I felt a sense of deja vu, and then a memory flashed through my mind.Bookmark here

We were in our first year of middle school at the time. A day in fall, we agreed to meet up at a local library.Bookmark here

That day, it ended up raining really hard. Yet, paying no heed to my parent's warning, I snuck out with only a raincoat and went to the library anyway.Bookmark here

When I arrived, Mitsuki was asleep on one of the tables. Apparently, she had been waiting for more than three hours.Bookmark here

The realization pained me; However, I also felt the joy to know that she was patient enough to wait for me.Bookmark here

That was why—Bookmark here

I stood up and put the hood of my jacket over my head.Bookmark here

If she continued to endure two hours of waiting for me, then I would be ashamed of myself if I couldn't even do half of that for her.Bookmark here

I had to keep searching. That was my only way forward now.Bookmark here

No matter if she went back or not—Bookmark here

No, she was still waiting; Somewhere so cold, so lonely. Bookmark here

That was why I had to keep trudging onward, towards this worsening snowstorm—in search of her.Bookmark here

No matter how long it took, I had to find her.Bookmark here

I just had to, no matter what.Bookmark here

「Mitsuki」Bookmark here

“Hello, it's Taiyo. It seems I'm pretty busy right now, so could you leave your message now, or just call again later.”Bookmark here

That same response awaited me on the other end. No matter how many times, my wishes were never answered. I felt tears well up in my eyes, yet I tried to hold them back.Bookmark here

It wasn't right. It wasn't right for me to cry right now. So long as that tiny flame of hope was still lit, I would be able to take it. However, even that was uncertain at this point.Bookmark here

[It's getting a bit windy now, please be safe, Taiyo-kun...]Bookmark here

With trembling hands, I pressed send. Inside me, I knew how pointless such a thing was. Yet, I denied that fact over and over again. Numerous times I ran away from it. Wanting to cling to that slim chance, no matter how unlikely the outcome was—it was no more than a delusion. A fleeting fantasy, cause no matter how much I tried to escape, that inevitable truth would come and slap you back to reality.Bookmark here

It was painful.Bookmark here

“Hello, it's Taiyo. It seems I'm pretty busy right now, so could you leave your message now, or just call again later.”Bookmark here

It was laughable how I simply couldn't accept that. It was comical how I continued to pointlessly struggle.Bookmark here

“Hello, it's Taiyo. It seems I'm pretty busy right now, so could you leave your message now, or just call again later.”Bookmark here

Yet, I just couldn't help it. I mean, how could I? At this point, I didn't care anymore about the meeting.Bookmark here

I just—Bookmark here

“...want you to be alright.”Bookmark here

If I was given proof of that, then all this burden would cease.Bookmark here

However, a different, unknown feeling began to take form inside me. Gradually, it sapped my confidence bit by bit.Bookmark here

I tried calling him over and over again, and the result was still the same.Bookmark here

“Hello, it's Taiyo. It seems I'm pretty busy right now, so could you leave your message now, or just call again later.”Bookmark here

The number of times I heard that message must have already been too many to count with both the fingers of my hands.Bookmark here

Then—Bookmark here

As I was typing out a message, the screen turned black.Bookmark here

“Huh...?”Bookmark here

It won't open at all.Bookmark here

Although it was something I should have seen coming, my mind drifted away from it, and I completely forgot about it.Bookmark here

“The battery's dead...”Bookmark here

With this, we’ve both completely lost contact with each other. I cursed my own naivety that perhaps there was more I could’ve done. All I did was contemplate my own selfishness, not taking Taiyo-kun into account.Bookmark here

He wasn’t particularly fond of the snow, and I should have already known how sickly he was. Yet, all I knew was myself and my own wants.Bookmark here

The darkness enshrouding the snowy night was misery. The winds enveloped me in a cold embrace filled with melancholy creeping up inside me.Bookmark here

There was nothing I could do but to wait and blindly hope for a future so doubtful. We’d have to wish for the stars to align so that our own fates were to intertwine. It was a future so impossible that calling it a miracle were it to pass would be an understatement.Bookmark here

We both surely knew that, yet in the end, we simply looked the other way and never gave it a second thought. In our minds, the chances didn't matter.Bookmark here

Even if it was a one in a thousand, in ten thousand, or even a million—we just didn't learn when to give up.Bookmark here

However, whether that was a good or a bad thing was unknown to us.Bookmark here

And a time might come where we would regret these decisions.Bookmark here

Nevertheless, I only continued to wait for that uncertain future. Letting my mind drift as time slowly ticked like always without ever coming to a halt.Bookmark here

「Taiyo」Bookmark here

8:42 PM.Bookmark here

I sighed.Bookmark here

The search had already gone for almost an hour, yet Mitsuki was nowhere to be found. From the entire station to around it, I couldn’t find her anywhere. At that point, I questioned if she was still even here, waiting.Bookmark here

I sat down and took a little break. Running aimlessly for hours obviously didn’t have a good effect, especially considering that I was already pushing the limits of what my body could handle. If I continued to run around like a headless chicken, praying for a coincidence, I’d as well buy a lottery ticket instead.Bookmark here

The sensation of my feet began to dissipate as my steps and breathing were uneven; I knew it wouldn't be long till my body gave out to weakness. Yet, I clenched my fists. The frustration boiling inside was directed to no one other than myself. My utter lack of strength, as well as my stupidity, brought forth this situation.Bookmark here

I took a sip of coffee; the heat from the styrofoam cup was enough to keep my trembling hands warm at the very least.Bookmark here

“Ah, this doesn’t feel refreshing at all.”Bookmark here

Oddly, it felt more chilly now than before.Bookmark here

“I need to find a clue.”Bookmark here

Yet, foolishly, I clung to that slim glimmer of hope. Although I was the type to give up easily. When it came to the things I cared for, I just couldn’t seem to consider that an option.Bookmark here

That’s why, I had to find a way.Bookmark here

There was something I did consider. However, there was something that held me back. After all the trouble I caused her and lying to her—wouldn’t it be too selfish?Bookmark here

It was all too wrong; I wanted to sincerely apologize, yet all I could think of right now was how to take advantage of her kindness. I was a terrible person. I wonder why—how she even ended up falling for a guy like me.Bookmark here

Slowly, I got up. Finishing the rest of my coffee, I threw it in the nearby trash bin. Then, I went over to the payphones. One hand clutched the telephone, the other held a 10-yen coin.Bookmark here

8:52 PM.Bookmark here

Inserting the coin, I dialed her number.Bookmark here

I don’t expect to be met by a positive response, not that I expected her to pick up anyways.Bookmark here

That was why—Bookmark here

“Taiyo...?”Bookmark here

When I heard the sound of her voice, I was surprised.Bookmark here

“Hey, Nanase—”Bookmark here

I gulped.Bookmark here

“—I’m sorry.”Bookmark here

I spoke those words, believing that they took precedence over anything else. Bookmark here

“It’s fine. We’re coming right now,” she replied.Bookmark here

Biting my own lip, I hated myself for adding more to her burdens. So, I was silent.Bookmark here

“Taiyo, are you okay...?”Bookmark here

“...Yeah.”Bookmark here

“Were you able to meet her?”Bookmark here

I cast my gaze down.Bookmark here

“N-no.”Bookmark here

There was an awkward silence that came next.Bookmark here

Then—Bookmark here

The words she spoke next were the words I did not expect her to say.Bookmark here

“The bus stop near the terminal,” she said.Bookmark here

“The bus stop is, what?”Bookmark here

“She's there... Shimazaki-san is waiting for you there.”Bookmark here

I could hear the slight hesitation in her voice, as if she was trying to hide her own sorrow.Bookmark here

“How do you know that?”Bookmark here

Then, silence.Bookmark here

“Your phone. You dropped it by the door.”Bookmark here

It felt like a fire inside me was rekindled, blanketing me with warmth like never before.Bookmark here

I didn't know the proper response to say.Bookmark here

“So—” she spoke once more.Bookmark here

“Go meet her.”Bookmark here

Her words relit the passion inside my heart that had nearly run out. I wiped off the tears that began to well up in my eyes.Bookmark here

“Nanase! I—”Bookmark here

Yet.Bookmark here

“—Thank you.”Bookmark here

Before those words could reach her, she hung up.Bookmark here

「Mitsuki」Bookmark here

I’ve lost count. The time I spent here waiting, hoping, wishing—I’ve lost count of them. Whether it was only 30 minutes or a few hours, I didn’t know. Though the answer was within my reach, I didn’t wish to know. Because if I did, I knew the unease would torment me again.Bookmark here

Regardless, it had been hours already since I last ate or drank. Guts began to ache; it was unbearable. The water I had brought was cold and started to turn to ice. My entire body was freezing. Surely succumbing to the cold was inevitable. At any moment now, I was susceptible to that risk.Bookmark here

Wrapping myself upon layers of cloth, in hopes that it would mitigate the coldness at the very least. My skin shivered, my arms trembled, my legs shook—and my heart throbbed in agonizing pain.Bookmark here

One bus had already come by a few minutes ago, however, I didn’t have the intent to get inside. Now, I was beginning to question that decision.Bookmark here

Although, it would be a lie to say that I was still confident. Uncertain feelings remained, which blocked my logical thinking. In truth, I didn’t know anymore.Bookmark here

Minute by minute, all the pain slowly took its toll on me. Hypothermia was a concern. If I stayed any longer, that fate would be waiting for me. Yet, there was nothing I could do. It hurts to be so helpless that I’m reduced to simply just holding back my own tears.Bookmark here

I—Bookmark here

I’m—Bookmark here

“I’m done...”Bookmark here

I’m sorry for being so weak...Bookmark here

“Mitsuki!”Bookmark here

Then all of a sudden—an unexpected voice called out.Bookmark here

「Taiyo」Bookmark here

Intense gusts of wind mixed with snow mercilessly tore at me. However, with the little energy I had left, I persisted through it. Disregarding all the pain—the only path was forward. My legs wanted to give in, yet I continued to proceed, one step at a time. My vision blurred; I could barely even see what was in front of me. Along with the conditions that progressively became worse, my own life was at risk.Bookmark here

I wondered why I was doing something so stupid, yet I could offer no logical explanation anymore.Bookmark here

Love was scary.Bookmark here

After what felt like trudging up a hill, I arrived at the stop.Bookmark here

Then—Bookmark here

“Of course she...”Bookmark here

A feeling of overwhelming disappointment welled up inside me. As the joints of my fingers literally locked up, my lips froze, and my heart shattered. I simply stared blankly at the empty bus stop.Bookmark here

Mitsuki wasn’t there. No one was, not a single soul. Tears inevitably came streaming down my cheeks. Of course, she was gone. I was stupid to actually believe she was still waiting for me in this weather.Bookmark here

Why?Bookmark here

The tears won’t stop flowing.Bookmark here

The dim light provided by the flickering bulb caused something to sparkle from the corner of my eyes. Leaning forward, I tried to get a better look.Bookmark here

It was—Bookmark here

“A ring...” I muttered as mist escaped my mouth.Bookmark here

There was a small engraving of a sun affixed to it. Who it belonged to was obvious; there was no doubt about it. I clutched it tightly, holding it close to my chest. All the while, the tears continued.Bookmark here

I sat down. Today had been nothing but failures. There was nothing more for me to do now. My own life wavered as my consciousness began to fade in and out. However, there was barely any more strength left in my body to combat it. After foolishly resisting that fact, the severity of it only became apparent and came back to bite me. I felt the remaining strength leave my entire body, yet that was fine.Bookmark here

Perhaps if I embraced this newfound feeling and succumbed to its wishes, bliss would wait for me on the other side. Should I close my eyes now, all that pain would surely go away—momentarily, that was.Bookmark here

I closed my eyes. I awaited that emotion to take over and comfort me, even just for a little while.Bookmark here

Please.Bookmark here

Please—Bookmark here

“Taiyo...”Bookmark here

However—a voice chimed.Bookmark here

「Mitsuki」Bookmark here

Just when I had lost all hope. Just when I was beginning to give up.Bookmark here

There was—a voice.Bookmark here

“Mitsuki!”Bookmark here

I could feel the emotion imbued in their voice. At that moment, it felt as if I was saved. Slowly, I raised my head. The figure of a person stood in front of me. There was heavy, deep panting.Bookmark here

A part of me expected it would be him. However, that was fine. My gaze reached his face, his brown hair; I peered into his deep blue eyes. As I confirmed his identity, feelings of inexplicable joy and relief welled up inside me.Bookmark here

I felt my feelings slowly begin to leak out. It was impossible to hold them back any longer. Scrambling to get to my feet, yet my frozen legs gave out, and my knees touched the ground. I grasped his jacket, letting my tears flow. They felt endless. All the emotions I failed to convey were now pouring out.Bookmark here

His arms gently wrapped around me. In that moment, it was like all my problems disappeared. The warmth of his touch comforted and melted my frozen heart.Bookmark here

“Haruto-kun...” I muttered his name faintly. Afraid my calls were not heard, yet those worries soon proved needless.Bookmark here

“It’s alright now. I’m here.”Bookmark here

He consoled me with the words I wanted to hear the most at that moment. I got up and rested my head against his chest. The beating of his heart, I felt it. The gentle words he whispered into my ear, I heard them.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry... Haruto-kun...”Bookmark here

My frail voice let out those regretful words.Bookmark here

“I’m really sorry...”Bookmark here

As well, there was one more person.Bookmark here

“—Taiyo-kun, I’m so sorry...”Bookmark here

Those words could never be heard by him. They could never reach his heart—it was simply too far away. Yet, those were words that had to be said.Bookmark here

At the very least—Bookmark here

Wiping off my tears, I looked at my left hand, then removed the gloves.Bookmark here

“Taiyo-kun... if you’re still searching... please...”Bookmark here

Slowly, I took the ring off my finger. It was the same ring Taiyo-kun gave me four years ago; I took good care of it.Bookmark here

“This is the least I could do...” Bookmark here

I laid the ring where I sat.Bookmark here

So, please—Bookmark here

“...please go home, Taiyo-kun...”Bookmark here

「Taiyo」Bookmark here

“Taiyo...”Bookmark here

A voice chimed. It jolted my consciousness awake. Slowly, my eyelids opened. A bright light engulfed my view. I squinted my eyes, and a figure of a person stood in front of me.Bookmark here

“Taiyo...”Bookmark here

Once more, it called out my name. The voice felt distinctly familiar, alluring, really. My mind recalled the face of a girl with long black hair, whose voice was enough to melt my frozen heart. I wanted to believe that was the case. I wanted to believe it was her.Bookmark here

Sluggish, I raised my head. Long black hair, possessing a pretty voice, yet—it was different.Bookmark here

The identity of the person standing in front of me was not the one I had wanted.Bookmark here

My hopes were shattered once more.Bookmark here

“Nanase...” I muttered. Her face was in pain, in tears as she gazed at me. The reasons for that, I regretfully knew.Bookmark here

She lunged forward and embraced me.Bookmark here

“Thank god you’re alright...”Bookmark here

I could feel her tears on my cheeks. It felt hot, a distinct warmth that felt cathartic. It was as if it was the first time I was graced with such a sensation. Yet, whether I was deserving of it was another matter entirely.Bookmark here

“Seriously, you really worried me... reckless idiot...”Bookmark here

Her painful sobs made me regret this decision even more. There were a lot of things I wanted to tell her, a lot of things I wanted to apologize for—yet, my words could never be enough.Bookmark here

So, I simply wrapped my hands tightly around her.Bookmark here

“Hey, Taiyo... Let’s go home...” she whispered into my ear.Bookmark here

There was only a single appropriate answer. After all the things I’ve done, it would be wrong to say otherwise.Bookmark here

That was why—Bookmark here

“Yeah...”Bookmark here

Compliance was the only option.Bookmark here

To struggle any longer would be the same as rejecting her unconditional kindness. All the pain I’ve endured was trivial compared to Nanase’s own suffering. After everything I made her put up with, yet never uttering a single word of complaint, to continue would be an insult. After everything she had gone through, to keep going now would be too much.Bookmark here

The red string had already snapped; two hearts already crumbled—I didn’t want to add one more to the list.Bookmark here

Abraham B. A.

Two Points

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