It was the last day of summer vacation.
Amane found the person he wanted to meet at a cafe not too far from home, and straightened his back.
Standing before Amane was a man with a familiar looking flax-colored hair, caramel-colored eyes, white skin, and a poised demeanor.
Amane once brushed him by, and chatted. They never gave their names, but Amane had already heard of the man’s name from Mahiru.
He called out, and the man, Asahi Shiina, turned his eyes towards Amane, showing a faint smile.
“This is our first encounter…or not, though I shall say this is the first time we are meeting while knowing each other.”
“…Oh, yes. I heard from Mahiru.”
The man did not seem to falter when Amane mentioned her name directly, and he probably had this investigated thoroughly.
Asahi then showed a faint, wry smile once he heard that.
He did not have a feeble impression, but a gentle one, and on first glance, he did not seem like one who would mercilessly abandon MAhiru.
“I suppose this saves us some explanation. May I have some of your time?”
“That’s the reason why you called me out, I suppose?”
“Yes, I am very grateful that you would accept my hasty request. I suggested it, but I never expected you to agree.”
“Well, I’m very curious as to why you would call me out…but I think you shouldn’t be looking for me, but Mahiru instead.”
“You say so…but that child might not wish to meet me”
Asahi showed a wry smile, filled with regret, it seemed.
Amane was furious about Mahiru’s situation, and found Asahi unforgivable, but he did not think Asahi was not an compassionate man, for the latter would not have silently tried to approach his own daughter otherwise.
And thus, Amane was increasingly skeptical.
Asahi tickled his cheek, looking perturbed, perhaps because he had noticed Amane’s probing eyes.
“You have lots to ask me, I presume? Let us enter that cafe first then, and not ask so much here.”
Amane nodded in agreement, since they should not stand too long near a cafe, and entered it along with Asahi.
“Order as you wish. It is the last day of summer vacation after all, and I troubled you by inviting you out.”
Amane did occasionally visit this cafe, which had suite rooms for booking. It seemed Asahi had prearranged a booking, for they were ushered in.
They sat down, face to face, and the genial looking Asahi smiled as he recommended dishes to Amane.
I shall accept your graciousness then. Amane replied, and ordered the coffee and daily cake special on the menu. Asahi too requested for the same from the attendant.
His face remained serene, and he was silent until the dishes were served.
Asahi was silent, probably because he did not want the attendant to overhear them, but Amane found it awkward to be facing a man of similar age to his own father.
Amane sorted out the things he wanted to ask, wanting to alleviate this awkwardness. After doing so three times, their orders were finally served.
“So, what do you want?”
Once he made sure the attendant left, Amane spoke up.
It was rude of him, but Asahi did not seem to mind, and smiled away.
“Hm, I heard you are dating my daughter, so I want to ask you how that child is doing…probably.”
“You are really wary of me.”
“Yes, it is strange if you are not wary of me.”
Asahi nodded understandingly, and Amane bit his lips, not knowing what to do.
He could have acted defiantly if Asahi was as aloof to his own daughter as the mother, and various others means.
However, the impression he gave was one who was worried about his daughter, and really unlike someone who abandoned her. By this conversation alone, Amane would have assumed him to be a kind father.
Amane was curious as to why Asahi abandoned Mahiru.
“I really want to ask, why are you making the effort to approach Mahiru right now?”
Right now? Amane spoke with a bemeaning tone, for he saw how hurt Mahiru was.
The thorns on her had never fallen off for years, and caused her much suffering.
They finally fell off recently, and the wounds were healed, but if new wounds were inflicted, how would he find it bearable?
“……You really do treasure that child.”
Asahi did not retaliate with harshness, and merely looked impressed, and yet delighted, at Amane.
“I have no intentions of taking that child away, and do not intend to do anything you worry about, anything to affect that child’s life.”
“Naturally…at the very least, I have no right to interfere with that child’s life, and I do not intend to.”
“Then why did you try to look for Mahiru?”
“…You ask that, but I do find it difficult to explain. I just want to meet her.”
“Even though you abandoned Mahiru?”
Amane knew he should not say this as an outsider.
But despite that…he could not forgive Mahiru’s parents for what they did to her.
Amane showed clear hostility, which he hardly did, but Asahi was not angry, and merely took on that glare with calmness.
“That truly is direct from you…yes, I do feel that at this point, I have no right to be that child’s father. I doubt that child really thinks of me as her father, probably just an outsider who is merely blood related.”
“…You know that’s what she’s thinking, so I guess you understand what you did.”
“I cannot shun away from what I have done…Sayo and I have not done anything that a parent should do, and we basically abandoned her. It is to be expected that we would be reproached.”
Amane bit his lips hard once he saw how Asahi calmly and gently analyzed what they did in an objective manner.
Why, didn’t you do so earlier…
…Why did they not reflect on their actions earlier?
If that was the case, Mahiru might not be so hurt. She might not be able to get the love from her mother, but there was a chance she could have received it from her father, and could have been smiling happily.
Why did he only regret it at this point? Amane did not know to whom he should be outraged at.
Amane might not have the right to be outraged, and his fury might seem unreasonable.
But despite that, he had this notion.
Why did he not help her out a little earlier.
“‘If they found it inconvenient, they should not have given birth to me.’…who do you think said that? That’s Mahiru herself. You drove her to that extent.”
Amane tried his best to stop his voice from shaking, and finished with a poised voice. The response he had was an expression that accepted everything, which infuriated him further.
“Why didn’t you have such an attitude in the first place, rather than abandon Mahiru and regret it now? Mahiru wouldn’t be that hurt if that happened.”
“You are correct…I do know that I did the worst thing possible as a father.”
“…But seriously, why do you want to meet Mahiru right now? I don’t want to let you two meet if she’s going to be hurt from seeing you. I know that I’m talking too much as an outsider, but if Mahiru’s going to be hurt, I’m not letting you meet her.”
Logically speaking, he should not be preventing a father from meeting his daugther, but Mahiru refused to meet her father, and Amane’s tone was increasingly forceful.
Asahi sheepishly took on Amane’s harsh glare, and showed a bitter smile.
“Why I want to meet that child, you ask…why exactly?”
“Are you avoiding the topic?”
“I am not intending to, but, it is difficult to convey in words…well, I want to meet her while I have the chance.”
“You mean you won’t get to meet her again, or that you won’t intend to meet her again?”
Asahi affirmed, and bitterness spread in Amane’s mouth.
“…That is selfish.”
“Yes, it really is. I do not intend to change this, and I can no longer do so. I do not intend to inflict more unhappiness on that child however, so I think it might be better for me to hate me instead.”
“I don’t understand what you’re saying.”
“You will understand one day.”
Amane understood from Asahi’s distant looking eyes that the latter was not prepared to mention anything more, and stopped asking.
“Is there anything you wish to ask?”
“…Nothing, that’s it.”
“Hm…shall I ask a question then?”
“…Is that child happy now?”
Amane, not knowing what Asahi would have asked, postured himself, and Asahi asked with a gentle look.
His voice and expression seemed to imply that he was wishing happiness for his daughter, so Amane let out a little sigh of relief.
“…You need to ask her, but I do wish I can ensure her happiness, I have confidence that I will, and that I will make her happiness.
It was his wish, his confidence, and his determination.
Amane had no intention of abandoning the kind, delicate girl who yearned for love more than anyone else.
He hoped for her to maintain a smile the entire time, and wanted to personally grant her happiness. He made up his mind to give her happiness, and had no intention to change this will of his, no matter what others say.
Amane’s voice was not too loud, but it was indomitable. Once he affirmed so readily, the caramel-colored eyes opposite him widened, and at the next moment, relaxed in relief.
“I see. I am glad to hear you say that.”
The gentle smile was really reminiscent of Mahiru’s.
“…I have no right to ask of you, but I shall entrust that child to you.”
“Obviously, I’ll make her happy.”
“I see…thank you.”
Amane’s voice and attitude were truly vulgar, and he would have expected to be reproached, but Asahi was smiling happily. Feeling inexplicably conflicted, “There’s nothing to thank me for.” Amane retorted with a tone that was not as blunt.
TN: Mahiru means middle of noon, Sayo (mother) means little night, Asahi (father) means morning sun. They’re never meant to meet.