Chapter 40:

“End Of Sorrow”

VISUAL SHOCK - sometimes you have to promise not to fall in love~


“That’ll be the pyjamas. Sure were slow about it, hah…”

I swap them for Kaori’s clothes, confirming they’ll be returned in the morning. The staff member nods and I tip her a ¥5000 note, so she’s good to us while on shift.

She tries to refuse, but I tell her to keep it, and not to let anyone know we’re here if people come looking.


A conspiratorial wink, her parting gesture.

Bet she thinks we’re having an illicit affair or somethi-

“…my fiancée!”

Toshi’s words come to me as I turn back to Kaori.

Her reaction, instant concern and desperation, indicating my expression says it all.

“M-my parents…”

I hand her the rented nightwear and sit down again. They remain in her lap as she slips once more into uncertainty.

“…they arranged it…”

Sounds like something out of that drama we used to watch in the dorms.

“…Kazu was married to Toshi’s brother, but her death…”

It split the families, they’re trying to patch it up by marrying Kaori off to the next heir apparent.

Is there no way out of it?!.

“…as soon as we graduate, they have already set the date…”

I sit in silence while Kaori changes. The sound of her brushing her teeth, must have noticed her own breath from when we… her sobbing over the basin.

A crushing feeling in my chest forces me to my feet and I help her come through to bed.

It’s the first time we’ve cuddled up like this - I’m as tense as I was when I lost my - skin electric with anticipation. I hate my baser natures rearing up when things are so… her hands become restless.

I take them in one of mine to stop the awkward grazing, light, tentative touches, igniting sparks I’m already fighting to snuff out. My free arm envelops her shoulders, keeping everything above the waist, and her face away from my neck.

I don’t want things escalating.

Well, I do, but - just like she felt when everything fell apart - not when she’s in such a vulnerable state, and definitely not when she’s drunk. This isn’t the time for any of that.

“Tai… I’m sorry.”

I don’t even know what she’s apologising for. I’m not sure Kaori knows either. It’s just that nervous impulse to apologise for every empty second.

“It’s ok. I’m here. You’re safe.”

She’s said similar to me before… the difference now is they may simply be hollow platitudes in the face of powers beyond our control.

My arm slowly cramps, so I stroke the length of her side to ease the strain, tracing lines on her body. I stroke her hair reassuringly, her steadied breath on my chest. This is all I can do right now. The sooner she falls asleep, the sooner I can try to work something out.

Kaori eventually settles. Her lightness, a pleasant weight.



“I’m sorry I never said I love you.”

Words I wish we’d said already, but it’s not too late, even though that’s why she’s saying them… to not have any regrets before the inevitable.

“I love you, Kaori.”

“I…” her breath catches in her throat, and she buries her face in the covers, clinging to me tighter than ever before.

I love her.

I think I started to even when I thought she was Kaoru.

I love her.

But that’s not enough.

She cries herself to sleep in my arms, and eventually she rolls over... releasing me.

I spend the night checking times, dates, prices, and what I can afford.

It’s a reckless, haphazard plan, but it’s all I’ve got.

It has to work!

When morning comes, Kaori is as groggy as when I first met her in the doorway of her room. I order breakfast and the clerk returns her clothes, clean and pressed, with another knowing smile… I tip her again.

She’s all forlorn sighs and vacant staring… the reality of the situation weighing heavily on her.


“Good coffee?”

I take it from her in anticipation of what’s to come. She watches the cup float away through foggy lids.

“Kaori…” her gaze circles back to meet my own, “…let’s elope.”


15 Years Later~

“Your grandparents are going to be here any minute, have you got everything packed?”



“Yeah! All packed!”

“Well done!”

I scoop Kazu up in one arm and grab her suitcase with the other.

“Daddy no! Put me down!”

Guess she’s getting to that age already.

She takes her bag from me and puts it by the door, then runs back over for a hug.

“I have to be ready for grandma and grandpa!”

Thank god… my heart had ached at the rejection. Just being diligent like her…


She runs off to her favourite, right on cue.

Still as subtle and elegant as the day we… well, not the day we met, and certainly not whenever I cooked… when has she ever been elegant?!.

“What have I told you about running in the house?”

Kazu, who had been hopping at her mother’s side for attention, takes on the same serious air I know too well.

“No running in the house, even in an emergency, because you could trip and fall and hurt yourself. Be quick, but not fast. Be safe, not sorry.”

I’m always amazed when she recites whole sentences or paragraphs verbatim. Sentimental old foo-

“I do not know what you are smiling about. You should not be encouraging this behaviour.”

A giggle from her miniature shadow.

I hang my head in repentance.

“Good boy.”

Was that a little something I heard in her tone?!.

She bends down to be on our daughter’s level, a flash of a photo leaps to mind, and I am struck by just how similar a scene this is…

I flick my phone on silent and snap a quick pic to send to Maru later. Hope I don’t give the old softy a heart attack. Looking back up to see my wife glaring at me. Kazu oblivious, distracted by head pats.

“Good girl.”

It’s still terrifying that she can hold an expression like that and speak so cooly at the same time. God, I love her…

The sound of a car outside signals the arrival of my parents. Kazu excitedly bolts at first, but before a corrective “ahem” can be uttered, she slows herself to a hurried walk.

Lost in Kazu’s infectious happiness, I don’t even notice a creeping death sidle up, until it whispers in my ear…

“I hope you are looking forward to later…”

…my chest seizes, tightening at each syllable. It kills me every time.

I slip an arm round my wife’s waist and pulling her hip against me. Two can play at this game…

“Play nice until she’s gone, or I’ll have to puni-” Kazu opens the door, “…hey Mom, Dad, how are you?”

…I cop a feel as we separate, earning a subdued laugh, and a death stare I can feel burning through my skull.

“Good to see you, son! Excited about your anniversary? 10 years! What’s that one… metal?”

“Tin. Had to look it up.”

My Dad chuckles.

“Least you remembered to make plans!”

Oh, no… I bet Mom let him have it.

“How many years have you two been married… you still can’t remember?”

Gotta get a dig in, stay on her good side.

“That’s what I keep telling him!”

“Grandpa, grandpa! Look!”

Kazu waves a certificate from school, her grandparents coo in chorus.

A pinch in my side reminds me that I’ll get it later.

“We should be on our way as well.”

“Oh yeah, look at the time! We’ll lock things up for you. See you in a… week?”

“5 days.”

Mom nods as her granddaughter leads her around the living room, showing her things she’s seen dozens of times.

“And, who is it you’re seeing again?”

“We’re hoping to catch up with Fuyumi and Ryu… they’ve just had their second, so they can’t get out much.”

Seemed like madness on paper, but… opposites attract I guess. They’ve a beautiful family.

“Oh that’s lovely… but, no, I meant what band is it this time? Your On Grey?”

“You In Grey? No, they retired. It’s a festival, so there’s few. Mostly new bands, only heard of a couple.”

“That’ll be nice then, won’t it!”

Nearly 30 years of this and they still can’t remember a single name.

We busy about with goodbyes and hugs, and finally get off to the airport. It’s an hour’s drive, so we get in the mood with some appropriate music.

“Lunacy ok?”

“Only if you are looking to have a second one.”

I nearly swerve into oncoming traffic.

She cackles with glee at winding me up so easily.

You wanna play chicken? Fine!

“If it’s a boy, we call him Johnny, deal?”

Let’s see you take that bet!

“Deal! I love you, Tyler!”

Goddamnit… still can’t keep up.

“I love you too, Kaori!”

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