Contact 137 – Beyond the Vanished Words
“May I sit here?”
I was approached by a girl I never met before.
It happened when I was in the free space of the town library, solving the summer assignments.
The clear voice was like a wind bell echoing.
I looked around, and found the other tables occupied by other students, who like me had laid out their textbooks, studying. Of them, many of them were using the red book series, preparing for the college entrance exams. These guys will be how I look a year later.
I was about to clear up the unused textbooks from the table, “It’s fine.” but she waved her hand, “I’m just reading. This much space is enough. Are you doing your summer assignments?”
“I’ll just read quietly then.”
She put the index finger on her lips, seemingly shushing me. She revealed her pearly white teeth, and the first impression she gave me was a little immature. Even so, she seemed a little older than me. Disposition-wise, she seemed rather relaxed.
As she said, she’s basically quietly flipping through the pages, but sometimes, she would chuckle softly, or hum a little. I was captivated by her voice, looking towards her, and then, I lowered my head. I felt a little apologetic, sorry, so I apologized. She looked a little shocked, widening her eyes.
“Why are you the one apologizing?”
She chuckled. Seriously, I want to hear her voice, so I thought.
This wish was fulfilled earlier than I expected. I went to the toilet, and upon returning, found that she wasn’t reading her book, but at my assignments.
I returned to my seat, and she whispered to me in a secretive manner,
“Your answer for the third question is wrong.”
She took my mechanical pencil, and began to write. Within a minute, she arrived at a different answer. I had a look, and found her answer to be exactly the same as the one on the answer sheet.
“You’re bad at maths? Shall I teach you?”
She smiled slyly, her slender fingers gently pulling her hair behind her ears. Suddenly, there was a sweet fragrance. What’s this scent? After some thought, I got the answer–
It’s the fragrance of sakura.
It happened in summer, during my second year of high school.
That was how I met Yuki Shiina.
I inhaled the morning air, and ran out of the house.
Summer assignments, stationery, wallet, smartphone, and towel. For every step I took, the items in my bag touched, clanking away.
I strode forth hard, and the world began to spin a little faster. So I kept running, my emotions rising. On the way, I turned right, and went down a jogging alley by the riverside. Light sparkles appeared on the river surface, and it seemed the air was filled with the light of summer. Fuu, haa. Sweat started appearing on my forehead.
After I abandoned track in middle school, I would regularly run, but my body was extremely sluggish compared to my physical prime. Well, this should be enough, I think. Everything has become a thing of the past.
On the last summer day in middle school, I surpassed the one I ‘admired’.
Before I realized, the finish line was behind me. Ah, I finally did it. That was what I thought, for that particular moment, there was nothing I looked forward to. However, I was past the finish line.
That was the place I finally reached after running for three years in middle school.
I felt something exploding in my heart.
It was something I had already given up on.
It was something I let go of.
It was something that had ended.
I slowed down, quietly waiting for those things to calm down. Beside my feet was a distinct black shadow. Crickets could be heard from afar. My memories were slowly awakened.
It seemed I was alone when I broke my record on the hottest day that summer, ending off my track club career, I guess?
While thinking about this, I suddenly heard a voice.
“What are you doing standing in the middle of the road?”
That shocked me.
It was my classmate, Akane Rindou.
Her hair, a little shorter than the average girl, covered her forehead, and large beads of sweat flowed down her forehead.
It’s summer vacation, but she’s wearing a uniform instead of her plain clothes. Is she attending club activities?
“Just spacing out.”
Ahahaha. I tried to laugh it off, but Akane asked worriedly.
“You got heatstroke? Are you alright? Need me to buy you some water?”
“I’m going to the library now. There’s a water cooler at the lobby, don’t worry. Are you attending club activities now, Akane?”
Akane was on her bicycle, and the basket at the front had a bag messily stuffed into it. It’s the orange bag she would always bring for her club activities, and I saw it all the time.
Akane interpreted my stare to be something else, scolding me.
“You’re looking at my bag. You know what’s inside, right?”
“Your swimsuit, right? I’m just looking at the bag. Don’t call me loud.”
But upon hearing my reply, Akane leered cheekily.
“Too bad. It’s underwear.”
“Because I’m already wearing my swimsuit.”
Akane lifted a little of her skirt. The black school swimsuit could be seen.
“Akane, just a reminder, don’t do that even if it’s a swimsuit underneath. Isn’t there an old song with the lyrics, ‘men are all perverts, be careful out there’.”
“See? You’re a pervert after all.”
Akane gleefully grinned. It’s my complete defeat.
I recovered to realize the thing that was raging within me had disappeared completely. Instead of that, there was something a little more honest, trying to peek out. It’s a swimsuit, a swimsuit. The underneath of a skirt that was not to be seen to begin with was getting my male instincts riled up.
Well, I can’t help myself here, right? So I muttered and defended myself.
I’m a healthy high school boy in his second year after all.
I sheepishly said, and Akane immediately froze up, running away from me.
So, why are you calling me a pervert after I thanked you?
After thinking for a moment, I realized my verbal gaffe.
Am I an idiot? Saying thanks after seeing an upskirt? That’s perverted of me.
“No, it’s different, Akane.”
“What’s the difference?”
She sounded really repulsed.
“I’m lewd, but I’m not a pervert.”
“How’s that different?”
Akane went a little further away. Ah, I said it’s different, it really is. But the more I denied it, the distance between us increased. At this point, it’s a shouting distance between us, rather than a talking distance.
“Stop calling it as if it’s my name. That’s not what I’m called.”
“Hey, lewd guy. You remember the promise two days later?”
Ahh damn it, can’t deny what I just admitted.
“Remember!! 6pm at the temple, right?”
“Looking forward to it!!”
“I’ll be wearing a yukata, so look forward to it, pervert!”
Once she said that, Akane peddled off without hearing my answer. I watched her cycle off towards the school, thinking about needless things. Ahh, it’s really unnecessary.
Do people go commando when wearing yukatas?
I was at the water cooler of the library lobby, drinking. The cold water slipped through my throat, into my stomach.
Back then, I had trouble using it, as I had difficulty lowering my head to drink. The water in my mouth always flowed out due to gravity.
When did I become capable of drinking like this?
This memory remained in a corner of my hazy consciousness, and remained different to extract. It’s like eating, going to the toilet alone, or riding a bicycle.
I guess it’s the same, that somehow or another, I learned how to do it.
After quenching my throat sufficiently, I went to the self-study room. I pushed the glass door aside, and the air conditioning met me. It felt really comfortable.
I found Yuki at the table by the wall.
On the first day we met, she had two books on the table, and was reading one of them. It had been three days since we met, but she had not progressed, and the reason was me. Ever since that day, I had been bothering her with my assignments. Maths especially was a bother; without her help, I wouldn’t be able to finish most of them.
I approached Yuki, and sat opposite her.
“Good morning, Yoshi-kun.”
“Sorry for being late.”
We didn’t agree to a time to meet up, but I apologized. I felt that since I had owed her so much, and showed up late, it was unbecoming of me.
I left home earlier, and ran over because I didn’t want to be late, but my conversation with Akane today caused me to be later than expected. I’ll leave home a little earlier tomorrow, so I decided.
“It’s fine. Don’t worry. I just arrived myself.”
“But I can’t keep a girl waiting.”
“Hm hm, you’re pretty sincere, Yoshi-kun. You’re the same as before.”
“Nothing. Anyway, have you solved yesterday’s questions?”
“Nope. I just don’t get it. The given method was correct, but the answer just don’t match.”
“Hmm, you’re always making some simple mistakes Yoshi-kun. If you can’t get the correct answer, it’s normally because of that. Look.”
Yuki took the notebook, looked for less than a minute, ahh, and blurted.
“See? It’s a simple mistake here.”
Yuki looked a little dumbfounded, and pointed the operation symbol.
It seemed I forgot to put a minus sign.
Ahahahaha, I tried to laugh it off, only to be smacked on the forehead by Yuki. A beat later, I instinctively held my forehead. It didn’t sound heavy, probably because she held back.
“Be careful next time.”
Yuki might have liked the ‘sensei’ part a little too much, for she gave a dazzling smile.
We spent the entire time studying until closing time, but the sun didn’t set even then. I could see it fully, clearly.
The setting sun colored the world vibrantly, dragging our shadows.
I accompanied Yuki to the station, like usual, and she stepped on the torso of my shadow. The place stepped on was right at my heart.
“What are you doing?”
“Stepping on your shadow. Now you’ll be like me, Yoshi-kun.”
“Eh? Is there such a rule for shadow stepping? I remember the rule is more like tag, whoever shadow gets tagged becomes it.”
“What? So you’re not going to be like me, Yoshi-kun?”
“What do you mean, like you?”
Yuki put her index finger on her chin, and teased,
“Errm, like a pretty girl?”
Ehhh, I karate chopped her head, and she squealed like a pig, Ow ow, that’s violent. You’re terrible, hitting a girl. She kept grumbling, and I continued to listen to her delightful voice, remaining silent.
A pouting Yuki was very cute, and I just kept staring at her.
We continued walking, and the position of the shadows changed. Yuki’s shadow shifted to my feet, while I was following from behind.
“Now you’re it, Yuki.”
We continued walking, checking the position of the sun was right beneath our feet as we tried to tag each other. A second ago, I thought my shadow was moving towards Yuki, but at the next second, Yuki’s shadow shifted towards my feet. Even at different laces, I could see many different sceneries.
From time to time, we would turn left, then right, and into the alleys. We were just focused on the positions of the sun, and before we knew it, we didn’t know where we ended up at.
I was the first to realize.
“Yuki, you familiar with this area?”
“Nope. No idea at all.”
“Well, it’s not too far, so we should be fine. Let’s walk back.”
I turned around to leave, but Yuki suddenly grabbed my hands, her fingers intertwined with mine. At that moment, the nerves in my body froze up. Yuki’s fingers were twitching clumsily, trying to ease my tension, and once she figured out how to interlock the fingers, she grasped my hand firmly. Our palms were thus touch each other’s.
“Ah, sorry, I’m scared of going lost, so.”
“Erm, are you worried about that?”
“No. Erm, it’s a habit I had since young. I held hands with my little sister, just making sure she didn’t get lost.”
“I see. Well, I get that experience.”
She had no intention of letting go, so I didn’t say anything else, and held her hand gently.
I didn’t know how much strength I should use, and it’s difficult trying to figure that out. My little sister Natsuna had a smaller hand than Yuki, but it’s a completely different situation. I was a lot more nervous holding Yuki’s hand.
“A little tighter.”
“I know you’re worried, Yoshi-kun. You want to treat me gently. But right now, please hold my hand a little tighter, like when you grabbed mine at the convenience store.”
“Did that happen?”
Hearing that, for some reason, Yuki exerted more strength in her hand, seemingly angry.
“This much strength is also fine.”
“But won’t it hurt?”
“I want you to hold my hand…tightly. Don’t let go.”
So I cautiously exerted more strength into the hand. My palms were starting to heat up, my cheeks hot, and so were my ears. I was quietly hoping that the hot palm wouldn’t let go. What’s this?
The name of this heat is–
“Yep, it’s nice to get lost once in a while.”
Yuki nodded with satisfaction.
“Eh, ah, yep. I guess it’s nice to do something irregular once in a while.”
“This isn’t what I mean.”
We walked back for a short while, and saw the familiar road. It seemed we just went deep into a side path away from the usual road. Going straight down, we could see the public hall, and we arrived on the main road.
“What? We aren’t exactly lost after all.”
Yuki suddenly waved her hand, smiling at me. My hand was pulled over, and I ended up waving as well. Ahahaha. Well, Yuki’s happy. I ended up swinging my hand. Yuki’s small body never fell over, and was pulled up again due to recoil. Ahahaha. I ended up laughing as well.
I thought it would continue, but Yuki quickly stopped.
She stopped swinging, and stopped walking as she looked at the billboard of the public hall. Is there something rare there?
“What is it?”
Yuki pointed at the poster of the local summer festival. The black paper contained a photo of the fireworks. At this time of the year, such posters would be pasted all over the shopping streets and the like; thus, it was not a rare sight.
“Ahh, the Nobume festival? It’s two days later. I–“
“Say, Yoshi-kun, if you have time.”
“I agreed to go out with a classmate though.”
Yuki, having made up her mind, called out to me, and my trailing words overlapped with hers.
The reactions, responses and emotions were all the same. However, Yuki calmed down before I could. I couldn’t; my heart was feeling all chaotic.
“When did you?”
“Ehh…two nights ago. I was supposed to go along with everyone in the class.”
“Two days? It’s summer vacation, I got careless.”
Yuki looked up at the sky, seemingly frustrated by something as she closed her eyes. Her front hair was dropping forward, onto the face. Well, I found her straightened neck to be beautiful. She frowned, let out a sigh, and let go. Her body temperature became distant.
“…Guess the promise is gone.”
Yuki left me behind, and left. I could have said “Wait for me”, but I was still confused, unable to say such simple words.
A little distance away from me, Yuki turned around, looking at me. As the light was shining on her back, I couldn’t tell what was the expression she made.
Yuki then turned to leave again. As she said goodbye, I naturally thought we would meet the next day, so I waved to her, byebye,
But on the next day, and the day after, Yuki didn’t show up at the library.
“If ya don’t wear this, it’ll be see through.”
I heard a voice when I was wearing the yukata over the slip. It’s a distinct, raspy voice of an old person, of an unknown dialect. Yes, yes. Put the hands through the sleeves, and pull. Isn’t this good now? Straight out that side. Can’t not dress up there. Yep, looks good.
I looked around, but naturally, I was the only one in the hotel room.
This is where I should wrap around.
It’s been a year since I wore a yukata, but I managed to wear it successfully with the voice of the old granny guiding me. It’s a dark blue yukata, decorated with red and black goldfish swimming in a river. It was something the old granny left for me, despite me only meeting her once, and not knowing her name at all.
I spun around before the mirror, checking for any wrinkles on the yukata. Nope, perfect. It’s a pity, but it doesn’t seem to match the mood of this Western styled room.
The yukata really seemed befitting of the old, nostalgic house the granny stayed at.
It was a year old, last summer, when I met that old granny.
That day, I was about to go for the summer festival with Yoshi-kun. If we mention about summer festivals and fireworks, then yukatas should be mentioned as well. So, I went to a common old house.
Actually, I was always curious about that place.
There was a signboard with the words ‘Yukata/Kimono Rental’. I nudged aside the fence that was waist high, and with a creak, it revealed the path linking towards the house. The old granny was at the house at the end, flapping her fan.
She narrowed her eyes, and because of the wrinkles, for a moment, I couldn’t tell where she was looking. The pure white hair looked well taken care of, silky and glittering.
“Whatcha. Who are ya?”
Her voice sounded harsh, but there was some warmth in it. Why’s that?
“Erm, I saw the signboard outside. I want to rent a yukata from you.”
“Signboard. Singaboard. Ahh, that. Beencha while since I did that, ya. Sorry.”
“Eh, I see.”
I lowered my shoulders dejected. I was really looking forward to wearing one.
Despite her saying sorry, the old granny was fanning away happily.
“But Missy, ya’re pretty. Want to be a little cuter, ya?”
“For a boy?”
“Ya like him?”
The old granny beamed, but unfortunately, it’s a little different.
“No. But I want him to say he likes me.”
“A bad girl you are, ya.”
“You think so?”
Of course, I knew that, but I pretended not to.
“Well, it’s better for a girl to be feisty, but well, ya have to dress yourself up better. This old granny ain’t able to wear it anymore, so guess this is fate, ya. Here’s something good for ya, Missy.”
Righto, the granny was slow to get onto her feet, and went from the porch to the house. I didn’t what to do, so I stood there blankly. After a while, the granny called me,
“Stop standing around. Come here. This old granny will dress you up good.”
I did as the granny told me to, and went from the porch to the house. There were few belongings, let alone furniture, and it seemed only the bare necessities were present. There was a classy looking cabinet amongst these belongings, and the old granny was carefully rummaging through it.
The room was filled with the unique smell of an old house. The air was thick, filled with many various things, life, age, death, a compression of human life.
I looked around the room, “Ah, here, here.” The granny muttered.
“A little old, ya, but still wearable. Come on, strip and wear this.”
The granny pulled out what was obviously an expensive dark blue yukata.
With the granny’s strict, relentless voice beckoning me, I stripped myself, as she ordered me to.
And right when I was about to put on the yukata.
“Goodness, if ya don’t wear this, it’ll be see through.”
Saying that, the granny handed me a slip. As it was to be worn by the sleeve, the slip dropping from the chest to the waist looked really pitiful. I was a little hesitant, wondering if I should wear it, but I obediently wore it in the end.
“Yes, yes. Put the hands through the sleeves, and pull. Isn’t this good now? Straight out that side. Can’t not dress up there. Yep, looks good.”
The granny chose not to lend me a hand, and repeatedly reminded me when I made mistakes. While I was wondering how to tie the obi, she asked,
“Ya’re going to Nobume-sama’s festival, ya?”
“I went there with a few others when younger.”
“But ever since those elders left, I never went again. The fireworks looked so colorless to me.”
“Is that so?”
“Not that I’m old. Just a matter of feelings. That’s wrong. Yes, hold it there ya.”
“Ya. Then pull it back. Right, done.”
Before I realized it, I saw myself in the mirror. I was a little touched.
“Hm, how pretty. Any boy will fall for such beauty. Go out there and make him say ‘I like you’. Ahh, go out there in this yukata with a cute smile next year, and the next.”
I thanked the granny, and went to the place I agreed to meet with Yoshi-kun.
Once he saw me, his eyes widened. I had never seen him like that before. After then, he shook his head like a drenched puppy. So cute. I was hoping for him to say such words, so I was a little unhappy about his response. I guess I’m a little happy to see his blushing face though.
We walked down the bridge, side by side, waiting for the fireworks as we ate shaved ice.
“You know, Yuki? The shaved ice syrup’s all the same, just different colors.”
I stood next to Yoshi-kun, whose tongue was colored lemon, and brought the blue ice into my mouth. It was chewy initially, but the more I chewed, the ice melted, and became textureless.
Actually, I knew that.”
It was written in the novel I lent Yoshi-kun, but he didn’t know that. The reality’s probably changed such that he ended up borrowing the novel from the library.
“I did read it in a novel before.”
“So that means this is the same flavor as that.”
“I want to try.”
Before I got Yoshi-kun’s approval, I took a scoop of lemon ice from his cup, using my spoon, and ate it. Ah. he exclaimed. I found it really sweet.
“How is it?”
“Hmm, can’t tell. How about you try it?”
This time, I took a scoop of my ice, and reached it towards him. At this moment, he was a little flustered, but I pretended not to notice. What is it? I tilted my head.
Two seconds later, Yoshi-kun gave up as he bit on my outstretched spoon.
“How is it?”
“Yeah, can’t tell. It’s like the same flavor, but a little different.”
“Well, sweet is sweet.”
We continued with some idle chit-chat, and a firework bloomed in the air, as though ending our conversation before fading. The loud echos shook our heart, and the fireworks, colored just like our tongues, gradually colored the world differently. Blue, green, yellow, red.
He too said.
After that, things naturally developed.
“I want to see this again with you next year, Yoshi-kun.”
“Okay. Let’s watch next year.”
For what was probably the first time since the accident, I looked forward to seeing the future beyond that moment.
Well, that future never came.
I was alone, wearing the same yukata, and went to the shrine alone.
For every step I took, the clogs a little larger than my feet clicked.
I arrived at the old house that had been sold, and suddenly stopped in my tracks.
The fence was locked by metallic wire-like things. It was like this ever since a few days past the festival last year.
–Go out there and make him say ‘I like you’.
The smiling old granny with a few mere teeth left was no longer around.
This yukata alone was the only proof of me interacting with her.
“Sorry granny. You put in so much effort to doll me up, but I couldn’t do it.”
I went to the shrine, and for some reason, my feet felt heavy.
It’s not that I was unhappy about going to the festival, but I’ve been like this since yesterday. My mind was always thinking of a certain girl.
“Oh, you really came, Segawa.”
The classmates gathered before the shrine perimeter called out upon seeing me.
Typically, I wouldn’t participate in such group gatherings, so they’re probably shocked to see me.
I would normally go alone, and they probably had the impression that I liked to be alone. It was the same last year at the Nobume Festival. I ate shaved ice alone, and watched the fireworks alone.
The guys were all dressed the same, either with shirts matching pants, or shirts matching jeans. A few of the girls were wearing yukata. Speaking of which, Akane did mention that she’s wearing a yukata.
“Hey, that’s rude. I said I’ll come, so I came.”
“Why are you so angry?”
I started sounding harsh for some reason, and a few others pulled their distance away from me.
“Well, Haru might not be used to this. Maybe he doesn’t know how to react.”
Hooking my neck with that meaty arm of his was my friend, Takuma. Yeah, so he said up close to me, sounding a little intimidating and concerned. It’s too immature for me not to change my attitude after knowing that. I relaxed my shoulders. It’s rare for me to be invited out, so I should just enjoy it a little.
“Ah, sorry. Actually, I didn’t progress much with the assignments. Just a little annoyed.”
“Heh, it’s rare to see the model student Haru unable to work.”
I understood what he was getting at, so I graciously went along with the flow.
“You trying to pick a fight? You’re the one with better grades.”
“Well, I’m a genius.”
“Hey, you guys wanna beat Takuma up?”
Saying that, a few of the boys deliberately cheered loudly in agreement.
I’ll smack him good. Righto, a blood festival. I could hear such cruel words beyond my imagination. Wait, hold on, seriously, don’t do this. Ow. Which idiot hit me there? Takuma was surrounded by the guys, yelling away; I met him in the eyes, and found him still laughing away. I nodded at him. The awkward mood from before was gone in the noise. This should be good. Look, it’s important to keep going until the very end, but we’re still kids. There’s no need to be so stubborn.
Takuma then mouthed to me, help me out here already. He blinked a few times, giving me a few clumsy expressions.
Naturally, I shook my head.
As for what I should do, the situation’s beyond my control. You can’t be serious. Having said such words of despair, Takuma’s massive body crouched over as he covered his head, disappearing as he continued to be beaten by everyone. I clapped my hands together. Namusan.
Suddenly, I sensed a stare.
I looked over, and found a girl a little distance from us. She appeared to be looking at something dazzling as she narrowed her eyes. She was wearing a dark blue yukata, which depicted a river with red and black goldfish.
I wanted to call out her name, and I took a step out from the circle. The moment I was about to call out her name, my name was called.
The one calling me was Haru. As she had said, she too was wearing a yukata. It’s faint green, with green and yellow Morning Glories. The bright colors were befitting of her lively self.
While I was distracted by the voice, the girl vanished into the darkness. The place she stood at was empty.
I quietly called her name.
But it was pointless.
And Akane, who arrived next to me, tilted her head in confusion?
“Yuki? It’s summer now.”
While we were chatting, Takuma finally managed to return from Hell, and called everyone over. Let’s go. So Yuki said, and teetered towards everyone. I took my time as I went over.
Finally, I turned back towards that place with some hope, but it was empty.
The Nobume Festival is an old summer one with at least 150 years of history.
Apparently, this festival was to celebrate the shrine lady named Nobume who married the dragon god disrupting humanity. However, the dragon god here refers to the river, and this festival’s held to comfort the souls of the girls who became human pillars to stop the flood.
Like the previous years, people were beating drums and blowing fluters for Nobume-sama.
I heard the noise from the center of the festival, and sat alone on the stone steps, laying out my prizes.
Five butter grilled chicken, baby castellas. For us high school kids with limited pocket money, it’s common sense for us to share money for such events.
Everyone else went off to buy food that’s easy to share.
After waiting for a while, Akane alone returned. She was holding two Ramunes, three beef sticks, and a packet of takoyaki. Kept you waiting, she said bashfully.
“This is for you. Keep this a secret from the others.”
Saying that, she handed me a light blue bottle.
“Yep. But it’s just for you and me. Finish it before everyone comes back.”
“Got it. Thanks. Is everyone else buying stuff? It’s been a long time. Is it really that much trouble?”
I thanked her, receiving the Ramune. I suppose it’s chilled in iced water, since it felt cold. I held the glass marble down with my tongue, and drank the soda water. The bubbles exploded, causing me much bitterness inside.
“No, I don’t know whether they’re worrying too much, or that they’re being busybody.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing. If you don’t understand, forget about it. You don’t need to know.”
Akane sat next to me, blushing as she nodded a few times.
While sitting next to her, I looked at the bustling sceneries of the festival, mesmerized while my mouth was on the Ramune bottle mouth, sipping little by little. There were various voices, dazzling colors that caught my sights, and many people gathered around. Various things filled the place.
So I continued chatting with Akane, waiting, but none of my classmates showed up.
“Aren’t they too slow? I’ll go look for them–“
Saying that, I was about to get up, but Akane said,
“…I feel a little giddy right now.”
“Eh? Ah, it’s a festival. It’s normal to feel agitated.”
“Hm? Really? I guess if you say so.”
A light breeze blew by, gently stroking my hair.
“But you seem a little distracted today.”
“…I don’t think so.”
I was being honest. I wasn’t lying. I was really enjoying the day, fooling around with Takuma and the others, enjoying the sights of the girls in yukata, basked in the mood of the festival. I was really enjoying everything, but–
“Then, where are you going?”
“I said I’m going to look for them.”
“Really? That’s not it, right? You might not have realized it, Haru, but you’re looking distracted. What are you looking?”
Once she asked, I found myself speechless.
Maybe it’s as Akane had said.
I was having fun, joking around with everyone, but my mind was preoccupied with a certain person. I was looking around, even when we were queuing at the stores, or when waiting on the stone steps with everyone. I wasn’t actually looking for my classmates. I was looking for Yuki
There was only one girl I wanted to see.
My heart recalled the softness of the palm, the feeling, the warmth.
Once I realized those feelings, my body began moving.
“Sorry, time out.”
“I’ll go call someone. Regroup with everyone first, Yuki.”
Wait, while Akane called out behind me, I didn’t stop.
I kept running, looking, and wanted to invite her to see the fireworks. I wanted to use all the courage I mustered to invite her.
Will she be shocked? Will she be happy? If she’s happy, then great. If she’s able to smile happily, that’s greater.
I went into the crowd, looking around, searching. The scenes changed as I moved. I looked around, but no luck, so I kept running, repeating.
On the way, I bumped by Takuma.
“Haru, what are you doing here? What about Akane?”
“Sorry, I’ll explain later. It’s urgent.”
“Ahh? Seriously, where are you going? Hey, where’s Akane?”
Takuma’s unhappy voice faded behind me.
Where is she? Where is Yuki?
The world’s quiet as ever. It felt as if time stood still. I quietly made a countdown. 3, 2, 1, 0. Once it ended, I heard a loud bang ripping through the silence, and at the next moment, there were cheers.
It seemed the fireworks had started.
Triggered by the sounds of the fireworks, the imagery from before appeared in my mind. He’s surrounded by the other classmates, looking really happy, having fun. For some reason, I felt my heart aching when I saw that.
I couldn’t really handle my own feelings as I looked up to the source of the sound.
The red fireworks lit the darkness.
But the light immediately vanished.
Eh, what’s wrong? It’s weird.
I tilted my head.
The colors of the world were gone.
And so were the sounds.
Just last year, I found the fireworks to be beautiful, but at this point, they just appeared bland, black and white to me.
It felt like I was watching a black and white TV without sound.
So I lost all interest, looking up at the poster before me reluctantly. The poster had the picture of last year’s fireworks. It’s black and white here after all. Ahh, it’s so boring. I’m a little bored. I was the one who made the promise first last year.
And with a voice nobody else could hear, I muttered,
The starting fireworks got me anxious. The explosions seemed powerful enough to rip through the night air. BANG. BANG. As the fireworks rang, so did my heartbeat become louder.
In another thirty minutes, the fireworks will end. There was someone out there yelling Tamaya during the display, while others elsewhere were yelling Kagiya with a similarly loud voice.
I ran to the back of the arena, the bridge that’s the best place to view the fireworks.
She’s not here.
I hurried to the crowds heading to the station. There were kids around, along with grandpas holding the kids hands. There were five elementary school kids. The ones taking photos with smartphones were probably college students.
And while everyone was looking at the sky, I was the only one running on the ground.
The throat’s hurting more than it’s boiling. My heavy breathing couldn’t calm down. Ahh. It feels so difficult to breathe. Hah, hah. No matter how much I gasped, the oxygen wasn’t enough. My head was dizzy. It’s tiring. Hah, it’s unbearable.
I pinched my sweat soaked shirt hard, and wiped off the sweat dropping into my eyes. Even after being so tired, I kept running.
I couldn’t find her at the station.
Not at the library either.
Ahh, the star mine’s starting. Various voices echoed as the fireworks lit the sky with their distinct colors. It’s almost the climax.
I cursed as I continued running towards the alley I brought Yuki into.
We once held hands, shaking each other’s arm back and forth, laughed, and spent happy times together.
The flames bloomed in the pitch dark sky, and the rain of light followed. The breathtaking sight glided by like a shooting star. As I kept running, I quietly prayed for a wish towards the hundreds of trailing lights.
–This isn’t some ridiculous wish. So help me out here.
–Bring me to a girl.
I passed the alley, and continued running, before I stopped.
The faint lights of the telephone booth shone upon the adjacent building I was familiar with.
I heaved a sigh of relief.
She’s standing at the display board before the public hall, her hand touching the poster of the summer festival. She’s wearing the yukata I saw two hours ago, but she wasn’t looking at the fireworks blooming in the sky. Her sidelong face was colored blue, yellow, green and red.
I felt exhausted, probably due to relief. I had no strength to keep running, so I stumbled over a step at a time, approaching her.
“Why are you here?”
Yuki’s face was showing much confusion and shock, and she frowned, before looking through me with a piercing glare. Her face was as pretty as usual, and her raising her eyebrows slightly left me rather intimidated.
But even so, I couldn’t back down.
“Look, I’m here to hear what you didn’t finish.”
The trailing words that vanished when she spoke up at the same time I did.
“You’re only talking about that now? Yoshi-kun, you meanie.”
Another five steps. Yuki’s face got lower.
“You knew what I wanted to say.”
Another four steps. Yuki got bigger.
“You knew what I wanted to say, but you didn’t say anything.”
I took the third step.
“And, and, you’re a guy, and you want a girl to say that?”
Two steps left.
With all my desire, I took the last step.
Yuki was within reach.
“So I’ll say it. Can you come watch the fireworks with me? If I’m with you, I’ll be happy.”
“Because the fireworks ended.”
Yuki lifted her lowered head. There’s signs of sadness and anger in her eyes, but at this moment, she was giggling away.
“You’re a meanie too, Yuki.”
As Yuki looked up at the sky, little fireworks bloomed in the sky with a bang.
Standing next to Yuki, I was the only one who saw her black eyes, lit by the red lights.