Chapter 28:

Hidden Meanings

Grace Dances Upon the Clouds

“Looking sharp. Digging the casual Uniglo ensemble.”

“Excuse me, but I’m not a platinum rewards Mistercard holder like you. I buy my threads on the cheap or convince a sugar daddy to drop an investment.”

“So you’re say that I’m that sugar daddy?”

“Your words. Not mine.”

Haru and Kasumi laughed, both throwing jabs at each other. Kasumi looked fresh in her department store wear, while Haru had his typical designer gear, albeit messy. A casual glance gave off the appearance of someone possibly requesting for favors. Aware of this scenario, they played off it with humor before heading off to the shops. They linked arms, exuding a ‘we don’t care’ attitude to anyone who decided to think that way.

Haru took this chance to thank Kasumi for putting up with his whims. Kasumi was just grateful that she could own something nicer that wasn’t her school uniform or a maid outfit. Her eyes lit up as the glamor of fancy shops lined her vision.

Haru flashed his card at her, winking to confirm that it was her choice for a nice yukata for the festival. He knew from their interactions. Kasumi was a reasonable girl. Even when she had coerced him into things, her motive had been finding a way to grow closer. Haru wasn’t exactly clean either when it came to making up excuses for the sake of convenience.

As expected, Kasumi headed straight for a modest yukata shop first, rather than the high-end ones with million-yen samples articulately dressed upon store-front mannequins. What high schooler but him could even afford such luxury? That was a dumb question anyways. His parents would look at the credit card statement and blow a fuse if he tried.

Kasumi eyed the patterns in the store, pulling out one for Haru to see.

“Look, they have jellyfish, your favorite aquatic animal!”

Haru tripped and nearly fell. They were his favorite. At one point. Not anymore. Not since-

“Yeah, no. Let’s move on.”

Frankly, Haru wasn’t sure what would look good on Kasumi. Like most high school students, fashion for the other gender was a hot-or-not only when seen. But as Kasumi passed by the floral pattern section, his eyes lit up.

“Hey, wait a moment. Back up a few steps.”

“Like this?”

The memory of how they met in the flower gardens flashed before his eyes. Purple wisterias were the first thing that popped, upon a white background. Haru walked over and pulled the fabric off the shelf, holding it up to Kasumi.

Kasumi glanced at it before staring at Haru, a blush forming on her cheeks. She hid her face behind the yukata fabric before peeking up again at Haru.

“How sudden. I was planning to pass over the floral ones because I didn’t want to send you the wrong message. I didn’t think you knew the language of flowers.”

Haru arched his brow, wondering if he had overstepped boundaries.

“What does wisteria mean, if you don’t mind sharing?”

“Success. Particularly when it comes to love,” Kasumi said, looking off to the side.

Now, it was Haru’s turn to blush.

Hidden meanings are dangerous! I should have checked the web first!

Haru’s hand jerked to place the fabric back on the shelf, but it was met with resistance. Kasumi had grabbed his wrist, a pout starting to form on her lips.

“No takebacks, mister.”

Haru sighed, but then, a thought came to mind. He spread the yukata above their heads and moved in, closing the distance between him and Kasumi. He brought his face right up her, letting the yukata fall onto their heads.

“Doesn’t this seem like we are right under a wisteria tree? Would you call this success in romance?”

Haru meant it as a joke, one that Kasumi would playfully dodge like she always did. But then, he heard the jitters on her breath. Under the fabric, Haru felt a slight warmth growing between them. Perhaps, because her face was getting closer-

A gunshot would have fired and Haru wouldn’t have noticed. The gentle touch on his lips made him forget everything – how to breathe, where he was, the fact that they were in a public place, separated only by a thin sheet of fabric.


Haru and Kasumi flinched and stumbled away from each other. Light penetrated their vision, along with a lady shopkeeper that was trying very hard to hide her grin.

“Dear customers, do you need some assistance with your selection?”

“No, no! I think we’ll found a good choice! Right, Kasumi-chan?” To which the girl in question nodded. “Let me go pay for it then!”

Haru pulled out his wallet, fumbling to fend off a heart attack as the shopkeeper took the yukata from him and proceeded to wrap it up nicely. Her moment of amusement passed, an air of professionalism returned as a cute, little package materialized in her hands within seconds.

Haru quickly paid, and they made their escape, but not before something tickled Haru’s mind.

If a simple floral pattern holds such meaning, then what about the melody of a song? All those times that Grace played, is she trying to tell me something?

Grace claimed that she didn’t know anything. That she couldn’t convey anything because she remembered nothing. But that wasn’t the case for the listener. It wouldn’t have touched Haru if the melody was empty. Even if Grace didn’t know, like how Haru knew nothing about flowers, it wasn’t devoid of impact.

If Haru wanted to write a song for Grace, what then was the message he wanted to convey?

He pondered that as the two went to grab a bite to eat. It stayed at the back of his mind as they looked at trinkets and baubles around the mall. A cat café sent them on a detour, where his mind had a momentary respite as he gazed at Kasumi playing with the kittens. He hesitantly reached out to stroke one too, only to get a cat butt shook at him. The afternoon zoomed by, Haru and Kasumi content on spending time on trivial attractions.

And then, Haru wondered.

Doesn’t this almost feel like a dream?

His legs froze. A sweat crept on his back. All of a sudden, he wasn’t so sure.

Is such happiness real?

He had gotten so used to it only in his dreams. But more than ever before, the daytime seemed so fun. He looked over at Kasumi and nearly panicked when a flash of pink hair overlapped for a moment. He rubbed his eyes, and it was gone. Her brown hair was the same as normal.

“Oh, look! A cosplay booth. I can dress up for you and take pictures!”

Kasumi ran inside and looked at the racks of costumes, wondering what would make Haru happiest. But that only made Haru more nervous.

Is Kasumi just a replacement for Grace?

Haru ambled toward the shop, his eyes looking all over for something, but he didn’t know what. After a while, it caught his eye, a pink wig. He snatched it up and plopped it on Kasumi’s head as she was still browsing, causing her to turn around.

“What’s this, Haru? Is this your type of anime waifu? Should I look for a magical girl costume or something?”

“No, never mind. I was just checking how you would look as a 2D character….”

Haru backed off in an instant. His heart slowed down with it. Seeing the pink hair on Kasumi convinced him somehow. They were nothing alike, kindness aside. Grace would have responded with childlike innocence. He had been drawn in by the way Grace approached everything with a light heart, like every possibility led to fun. She led the charge when it came to pushing Haru forward.

But the gaze from Kasumi, reserved only for him, gave off an acceptance. Even now, she was looking at herself in the mirror, testing out strange outfits, all to please him. Haru walked over and placed a hand on her shoulder, surprising her.

“You don’t need to put on any kind of act. The best you is the one right in front of me.”

Kasumi’s face froze, stunned at those words. Haru couldn’t believe that he had said it himself. Before the embarrassment kicked in, he led her out of the shop and into an elevator, heading straight for the rooftop.

Blue skies and fluffy clouds greeted them upon exiting. Haru stared upwards as they walked out into the open space to enjoy them. He felt a tug on his hand, a silent question as to what they were doing here.

“You seem to like the clouds a lot, don’t you?” Kasumi finally asked.

“I do. You know, I even see them in my dreams. Along with the girl upon them that I told you about.”

“They must be nice dreams.”

Haru closed his eyes. The sweet melody of Grace danced on his lips, forming a hum.

“Is that the song you are working on for the band?”

Haru nodded. He opened his eyes and grabbed Kasumi’s hand, leading her into a waltz.

“Oh? We’re dancing now? Okay, I’m cool with that.”

The two of them traded smiles, going with the flow. They slowly moved around, awkward at first, but settling into a rhythm. Haru realized as he looked at the clouds that this was how he felt whenever Grace came to mind.

It was a sense of freedom, a bravado to march forward and face whatever was to come.

And just like how he was conveying that feeling to Kasumi, his song to Grace would feel empty without it. He had to make sure that this vibe could be captured in reality.

Taylor J
Mario Nakano 64
Dhamas Tri (dmz)
Steward McOy
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