Soon enough, my work at our humble little café was done. With the little free time I had, I thought I'd try watching some TV, but the channels here were just so random, that I ultimately gave up rather quickly… Not to mention that the TV my grandma owns is so old, there are only like three channels at best! And guess what, they either feature boring cooking shows, weather forecasts, or other tedious shows.
With nothing to do other than that, I got back to the terrace and started contemplating my life choices.
If only I had my phone, I could just laze around all day and do nothing...
And with thinking as wishful as that, it was time for Hana to make her appearance, skipping down the road as usual.
"I, Izumi Hana, have returned!" She voices dramatically as she hops onto the terrace with a goofy, yet radiant smile on her face.
"And I, Soraji Yukio, have been here the whole time..." I reply in a lot less enthusiastic way as I finish wiping the last of the tables.
"But that won't be for long! We have an adventure ahead of us!" Hana seemingly unfazed, continues speaking in the same manner. She must be really excited about this...
An adventure, though? Come on...
After we work out the smaller details of our plan, each of us goes their own way to get ready. We have decided to ride our bikes up the mountain hill, from the opposite side that we used, to visit the haunted cabin (Apparently it was revealed that it was all Ms. Yui's doing but Hana still wanted nothing to do with that place regardless...). After arriving there we would eat lunch by the lake and also attempt to fish. Frankly, I'm not getting my hopes up for that...
After I get changed into a blue athletic t-shirt and some black shorts, I slip into my white trainers, pick up a bag with my bare essentials on it, such as water, and a hat, and give the bike another once over. You can't be too careful, after all.
"Hey, you ready?" I hear a voice as Hana rides her bike just outside the café, wearing her usual sleeveless hoodie, but this time, with a white t-shirt underneath, a pair of black sporty skin-tight shorts that reach to her thighs, and a pair of red trainers.
"Think so." I reply fastening my backpack before getting on the saddle, making a point not to look at her legs, which are clearly highlighted by the tightness of her attire. But I have to say, that bag she’s carrying? Damn, it’s huge!
"Then let's goo!" Crying out enthusiastically, she starts riding ahead of me.
Seriously, where does she find all that energy...?
I thought, following behind her.
We rode down the road to the port and reached the city center fairly quickly. As we drove slowly by some shops, we came across a familiar face.
"Oh, it's Emi!" Hana voiced, as we both came to a halt next to her.
Raising her head from her phone, she turned to look at us, raising her eyebrows in surprise. "Oh, it's Hana and Yukky. Heyooo." She finally voiced nonchalantly.
Oh, she's really gonna keep using that nickname, huh?
"What you up to?"
"Oh, my bike's fixed, so we thought we should ride up the mountain!" Hana replied almost instantly, bringing her energy into the mix.
Man, these two are like, polar opposites. Emi is so laid-back and relaxed, while Hana is... well, Hana. An endless bundle of energy.
"More like YOU dragged me into riding up the mountain with you..." I give one of my usual whiny comments.
"Oh, riding up the mountain together? So you wanted to be all alone up there... Heh, you naughty kids..." Emi grinned at us while chewing on a piece of gum.
"W-What?! I-It's nothing like that!" Suddenly Hana got all flustered before I spoke up.
"Yeah, I mean who would wanna be alone with HER? As far as I'm concerned she might try to drown me in a lake, this time."
"Haha, well you have fun kids." She says before making a bubble out of her gum while Hana passes me a disapproving glare.
"Don't you wanna come too, Emi? I mean the more people there are, the less danger I'm in." I propose as she shakes her head with a chuckle.
"Nah, I'm not really the athletic type, and besides I have to take care of these..." She replies somewhat reluctantly, pointing at a pair of little boys playing in the park behind her.
"These are her brothers, Takashi and Natsuo." Hana fills me in.
"Plus, I wouldn't wanna butt in your FUN alone time..." Emi winks mischievously.
She's really fixated on that, huh...
"Emi!!" Hana voiced, her cheeks turning slightly pink.
"Hehe, have fun, you guys!" Emi waved at us as we got on our bikes. "...And no funny business without protection, okay?!" She shouted at us before we got too far away.
"EMIII!!" "EMIII!!!" This time we both shouted in complaint.
Seriously, what's with this girl and dirty jokes!!?
"Protection as in helmets, guys, jeez!!!" She shouts back.
Yeah, as if that's what you meant...
Honestly, this girl reminds me more of the normie girls from back home, who do nothing but sip at boba tea all day...
After we left the center of town, we drove along the coastline, and soon started descending a hill overlooking the blue ocean.
I don't like the sea, but I have to admit, the views here are not half bad...
I thought to myself as a mixture of salty and fresh natural air gently caressed my face. For these people living here, this must be the norm. Waking up to these sights,
I wonder what it feels like...
Have they gotten used to it, and just feel indifferent about it, or do they appreciate the view every single day, thankful for what they have?
Wait, what am I thinking?
I snap back to reality as I feel a gaze on me, and return the stare I've been getting from Hana.
"You like the view?" Such a simple, innocent question, yet I feel that if I reply yes, then it would be like admitting defeat. Or that's what her grin makes me think anyway.
"Well, I don't really mind it." I reply casually as she sighs and shakes her head.
"Your middle name should be stubborn!" Hana throws back at me in exasperation while I shrug.
"Yukio Stubborn Soraji... Has a nice ring to it."
"No, it doesn't!"
"Hey, you said it, not me."
"Wait, I thought I was stubborn?" I continue playing dumb, enjoying the frustrated look on her face.
Okay, note to self: teasing Hana is REALLY FUN!
I momentarily smile to myself as she sighs and falls silent.
"How come Daichi didn't join us?" I ask, changing the subject.
"He works at his family's shop, you know that fishery down by the center? He's rarely free at a time like this." Hana replies in her usual tone, having shaken off her annoyed mood.
After a few more minutes of idle chatter, the hill started to get a lot steeper and we started to struggle the more we ascended.
"How... much... further?" I managed to spell out as I felt a burning sensation throughout my legs.
"Almost... there!" Hana replied in the same pained manner as me, before the ground started to even out.
"Phew..." She exhaled sharply as she got out of her bike, while I followed closely behind.
"Remind me... to never... do this again..." I voice, in between bated breaths, as I get off my bike and raise my head, for what feels like the first time after forever.
As soon as I do, and to my surprise, I'm greeted by a sight that nearly takes my breath away. The endless, azure ocean spreads out before my eyes, filling my vision with nothing but blue. As the cool, mountain breeze caresses my sweaty skin and makes my hair float, I bask in the calmness of it all, with the cicadas and birds singing their usual tune in the background. For a moment I freeze in place before a thought finds its way to the front of my mind.
Blue... Is a beautiful color.
Everything I see is painted in that same azure tone. The sea spreads out as far as the eye can see, its color shifting slightly with each deeper part of the ocean. In the distance I can faintly make out the shapes of other, smaller islands. And at the farthest point that my view can reach, the blue sky. If I didn't know otherwise I'd think something magical lay there. Right where the ocean kisses the horizon. I stretch out my hand, instinctively, as if to grab hold of that sight, and never let it go.
I want to see it for myself...
"Haah... Haah... Phew..." Just as I think that, I somehow find myself back in reality and hear Hana's labored breaths next to me... I shake my head, trying to wake myself up from the dreamlike trance I found myself in.
Seriously, what's wrong with me?
"Come on, you'll survive..." I say turning to Hana, who's still panting away. I have to admit, I'm still a little out of breath myself, but I've been on the track and field club back at school for as long as I can remember, so an altitude like that won't do me in. I have to say though, Hana is pretty fit herself...
"Stop ogling... And let's go!" She notices me staring and punches me in the arm, before dragging her bike behind her between a set of trees. Rubbing the spot where she hit me, I tail her, and soon we're walking inside a thick forest.
"Just so you know, I'm not a fan of bugs, okay?" I announce while making myself as small as possible trying not to accidentally touch any unfriendly life form lurking about.
"Oh, don't worry. We only have the big ones here." Hana replies, as I feel the hairs all over my body stand guard.
"The BIG ones?!" I reflexively shout.
I didn't sign up for this, dude! Ship me back to Tokyo this instant!
As I internally scream, Hana seems unsure of something.
"I think it was this way..." She taps her chin.
"You think?! Get us out of here, woman! We're about to be eaten alive!"
"Calm down, I've got this!" She tries to play it cool as she turns back the way we came and takes a different turn.
Yep, we're definitely lost! GG!
Suddenly, a loud bang echoes through the forest as Hana and I share a look.
HOW BIG ARE THESE BUGS BRO?!
"OYEEE!" Before we can say anything, we hear a heavy, deep sound, resembling a voice.
"AAAHHH!" I turn around to face a tall, brawny creature, with white hair covering its face and head, and naturally my first instinct is to scream.
What in tarnation?!
"Uncle?!" Hana smiles wide and runs towards it.
Uncle!? That's NOT an uncle, girl! That's Bigfoot!
"Hana-chan!" The creature, or should I say her uncle, smiles back.
"What are you doing out here?" Hana asks as the tall man, who indicates the rifle in his hand.
"Oh, just huntin'."
Oh, so that's what made that banging sound, then...
"The real question is what YOU two, are doing here?" He eyes me suspiciously. "...And who are you son? Haven't seen you around before..."
Uh-oh, code red, I repeat CODE RED...! I'm in danger!
"Oops, sorry, forgot to mention that! This is Yukio, remember him?" Hana clears up the air with a smile on her face, before things take a turn for the worse.
NICE ONE, HANA-CHAN!
"Yukio... You mean, Aoi's son?" Hana's uncle's eyes go wide.
Aoi. That is... was, my mother's name.
"Yeah, I'm THAT Yukio." I reply with a smile, almost instinctively.
"Hahaha! You've grown up so much, I didn't recognize you!" His tone is full of delight as he pats my back with his tree trunks for arms of his.
Come on now, why does everyone have to do this? Is this some sort of Ryusejima ritual that I’m not aware of?
"Yukio, this is my uncle, Fukumoto Junichi, in case you don't remember." Hana introduces us, and honestly, I'm really thankful about that, because I had no idea who he was.
Fukumoto Junichi. A tall, brawny man around his late 50s. For someone his age he's extremely well-built and his long white hair and mustache make him look like some kind of android exterminator. Despite his appearance though, he seems like a kind-hearted man. Judging by his surname, it’s clear he’s on her mother’s side, while Daichi’s dad, is on her father’s side. But damn this Fukumoto guy is huge…
Yikes, I don't wanna imagine what he did to guys who were flirting with his sister back in the day... Or with his niece now, for that matter... Phew... I LITERALLY dodged a bullet today!
"So, uncle Jun, we've been looking for the lake..." Hana starts explaining our situation.
"Oh, the lake! It's right down there. I'll guide ya."
“Really? Thank you, uncle Jun!” His niece gave him a beaming smile.
TANK COMPANION ADDED TO THE PARTY! WE'RE SAVED!
And thus, it was decided that, Hana's uncle, Junichiro-san, would take us to the lake. Let’s just hope he is a better guide than a certain someone, at least…