Fluffy like a Cumulus
Fuu fuu fuu…- the glimpse of the vast blue sky flickers by his sight as he struggled to keep his nose and mouth above the raging crystal clear streams that are slowly consuming him.
Holding the cat he was trying to save close to his chest, his body jerked as he was enduring the relentless shock of coldness and pain from hitting the rock that are scattered along the Katsuna River.
As he’s tossed around by the stream, he realized that he’s drifting further away from the surface after he realized that the current is going downward sharply at a certain point far away from where he is, but he couldn’t do anything as his body started to trembles from the cold of the river.
Fuu fuu…-the blue sky flickers once again as he got into the water's surface. Then, he catch a glimpse of his friend frantically running along the river line, he couldn’t hear what they said but their tears says it all, they were screaming for help.
But, the more he sees the world around him, he started to realize that it started to dim. Until at one point, he felt a searing pain after he hits a large rock.
Fuu…- as he couldn’t endure it any longer, he put his sparkly blue eyes to rest while his mind wanders his memory before any of this had ever happened.
The gun fires before clouds of dust take off at the school’s field white lines.
Tap tap tap tap tap tap!
Hundred of cheers fill up the spring air as each of their representative's roaring relay darted before their eyes. It was a breath-taker, as each team from different classes passes on their baton to their teammates, the leader of the race changed but the losing team clawed their way back to the lead before losing it again until every team reaches their final runner, it was the time for the climax as the baton being passed.
Sprinting along the far right of the track, his velvet hair dances as the far wind of the sea blows against him, an 8 years old Alto with white headband struggles to take the lead from his rival that is on the other side of the track, it was Umi who represents class C who wears a red headband.
「Haa…!」Alto breathes heavily, but he’s still unable to run past Umi despite giving it all.
He took a glance at Umi and he can see that she was also struggling to keep her pace, but as the finish line drew near, it looks like she was going to finish first before running out of stamina.
But, as all hope seems to be lost in his mind, he heard something that started to fill his ear.
“Alto!!!” he turned his head to that deafening call.
Tap tap tap tap!
「...! Jeez- you guys are…」he sees his classmates running along with him outside of the track, they’re sweating buckets and shouting their cheers to Alto.
“Come on Alto! Just a bit more!!!”
“Don’t you dare give up on us!!!”
“You are our last hope!!!”
「I got it!」he started to feel refreshed from his friend's cheers and slowly gained speed against Umi.
“H-hey! That’s cheating- how could you!?”
In a span of a second, Alto finally outpaced Umi and then the finish line are no longer than a meter.
The whistle blows.
“The winner of the relay race is…”
“Class A!!! Who overtakes class C on the last leg!”
The crowd erupted with cheers while Alto’s classmates ran up to him and started to pile up on top of him.
“Good job Alto!”
「Hahaha, alright guys I got it, remember?」Alto’s face beamed with a smile despite all of his dripping sweat.
「Hehehe…I did it.」After all the ruckus and celebration following class C’s win, the exhausted Alto happily walks up to the bench located in the far corner of the middle school.
It was the thought of everyone’s smile from the relay race and being able to help them reach victory using his own strength that makes him content, being reliable so that he can receive all the snacks and love from everyone had been stuck in his mind. But, he realized that it was only the first day of the festival, so then he sighs and wondered…
「Haa…what can I do next?」 as he feels like it still wasn’t enough.
「...yes?」he turned to his left and saw a strand of blue hair coming out of the corner.
“You were so cool at the school festival today!” she ran and shouted at the exhausted Alto, trying to catch a breath on a bench after the relay race.
「Haa...thank you…so much Umi」he sat down beside her before gulping on his water bottle.
「You were so cool too you know? I just couldn’t catch up to you」he argued.
“Oh shut up, you were the one who won at the end anyway” Umi shrugs it away and offered him a towel.
「Well…I guess so.」he wiped the sweat on his face with it as he blinks a couple of times before talking to her again.
「...so, is there any reason you came here?」
“Of course, I was gonna ask you if you want to go to the SUPER ARCS with Miya and Yamada for the matcha ice cream after school. It’s my treat!”
「That’s great! I’m in!」he nodded in glee.
“And then…he just flung right through me and finished first!”
“No way! How did you do that Alto? That shouldn’t be possible!”
「Hahaha, who knows?」
“It’s like that one toy who moved when you scream at it…”
「Huh!? Are you comparing me with a toy now Miya!?」
“I’m just saying…Yamada, it’s like that one bird isn’t it?”
“Right! If you’re talking about Ms. Fuzzy then…”
“Oh yeah…it’s the same…”
「Are you all just making fun of me right now!?」
Walking along the sidewalk beside the river canal, they make their way to the playground they used to hang out around, each with a matcha ice cream in their hand and bags on their shoulder, where vehicles come to pass them from the road and the gentle breeze that swept their hairs, it was a breezy spring in Otaru, Hokkaido.
“Talking about the festival, we’re only one day in aren’t we?”
“Yeah, there’s still a lot of competition ahead of us”
“Man…I feel like I’m going to die from the football match earlier…”
“Oh, the one where you missed the goal?”
“Shut up Miya!”
“To think of it, it really hurts that your class could’ve got first place if you had scored that goal”
“You too Umi!? Ah…you guys just don’t understand! I was running around the field and I was so exhausted! How do you expect me to score a goal!?”
「Yeah, Yamada is right. He has done his best for his class, anyhow it’s just he’s unlucky for him」
“...” Yamada turns away from Alto after he hears it.
“Well…thanks a lot, but I just couldn’t help myself through it…If only I can do the same thing as you, I wish someone would cheer me up like that.”
“Well, at least we’re still there right?”
“H-hey! Get off me! Stupid Umi, I know-”
“Umm…guys? Can you come here for a second?” near the canal railing, Miya calls up to them.
「Wait, is that a…?」Alto placed his little hands on the railing before gazing far into the river.
“That’s a tabby cat!” Umi ran up and points her finger to the cat that are being thrown around the raging stream.
“How did the cat get in there Miya!?”
“I don’t know Yamada…but the water looks very cold…”
“Is there anything we can do to save it!?”
“I…don’t think so Umi, there’s a ledge up ahead of us but we’ll just be too late!”
「Can’t we call the police or something?」
“Do you know their numbers?”
“My…so we can’t do anything?
“Looks like it…”
The cat’s going to die…if we didn’t do anything.
「…」Alto clenches his fist, there’s just no way anyone could have let that cat die, but yet there’s nothing they can do to stop it from happening until a thought came across his mind, but that idea makes him tremble in fear.
I…can jump and save the cat…but Im so scared…-
He then turns around to see his friends and notices that…they’re all crying, they also didn’t want the cat to die.
If I can stop their tears then…
「I got it, you guys.」he takes off his backpack and throws it to Yamada.
“Alto…? What are you-” Yamada pupil shrunk when he see Alto start running to the railing.
“Stop!!! Alto! That’s dangerous!” Umi ran to try to stop him but it was too late, he had already jumped over the railing.
「I…got it!」as he is falling into the river, he opened up his arms and catches the cat.
But then a wave of freezing streams goes through him like a jolt of electricity.
Ah…I’m such an idiot.
It’s all their fault, I would have not jumped if they didn’t cry.
As darkness started to take over his vision, his grip on the cat started to loosen.
The skies…if only I could have seen it before I go out…
As if his prayer were answered, he started to resurface from the cold water and when he realizes it, he used the last of his strength to open his eyes.
But, instead of the clear blue sky he wished for, the sky was crowded with a flock of sheep’s fleece, a group of fractured clouds as far as his eyes can see, and then, he sees this one particular cloud start to get closer and closer to him as if they are falling on him.
Is that…the cloud spirit?
It came closer and closer to him until he realized that it started to turn into…someone’s face.
『Please hang on!』her sparkly purple gaze pierced through Alto’s vision, she opens her arms wide as if she wanted to catch him, and in a blink of his eyes…
…they both fall deeper into the depth of the river but she managed to cling on tightly to the freezing Alto, it was her warm hugs that stopped Alto from succumbing to the freezing streams and he can’t hold back his tears after being saved from his death.