[Hello X3 V2] Chapter 1

“Eh, it’s Yoshi-kun. Hello~”

It happened 30 minutes before we were supposed to meet.

I stopped at the southern exit of the shopping arcade. There was a small antiquarian bookshop opened to the public, and Yoshi-kun was beyond it.

It seemed he never noticed my voice ormy highly raised hand.

After some thought, I went a different way. To him, of course.

He could not hear my footsteps, and so I crept up to him.

Dust refracted the light shining through the door and windows of the dimly lit shop, glittering as they danced in the air. His look as he focused on the book in such an environment was mesmerizing.

A day’s worth of lessons was over, but the white shirt on him remained. His back was so straight, one might wonder if there was a stick in his back. His long bangs might have been causing him difficulty in reading, so he did move them aside from time to time. His eyebrows are pretty long for a boy, as the gentle eyes beneath them were following the words.

I went to the entrance and pulled a book from a cart full of them.

The cover was completely tattered, and there was a long crack down the spine. I could see a faint ‘¥100’ on the back, in pencil. It was cheaper than a drink can.

This book was written by a certain famous author—so famous that even those who hardly read would know of his name and the textbooks had records of him. This might be his most renowned work.

The pages were parched by the sun, and I enjoyed the distinct crispness they had, but I never paid attention to the words and the story. The entire time, I was staring at the boy bigger than me, and a year younger.

Did he sense my stare? Or was it just a coincidence?

Yoshi-kun lifted his eyes from the book, as though he had thought of something, only to finally see me. He was surprised, and beamed.

I too beamed.

“Is this book interesting?”

“Sorta.”

“But you seem rather engrossed there?”

We never talked, and merely twitched our eyebrows, mouth and eyes to express our emotions and thoughts.

“You figured me out. Ehh, mind waiting a bit? I’m almost done here.”

“Ehh~shall I wait~?”

“Please do.”

“Just joking. Enjoy yourself.”

“Thanks. What are you reading?”

Yoshi-kun nodded towards me, and tilted his head sceptically. I raised the book to his height, showing him the cover, and saw his look of understanding in while his vision was halved.

“I see. That famous one. Give me five minutes.”

“Yes.”

Yoshi-kun immersed himself into the sea of the story, beginning to navigate once again.

This time, I quietly pursued the impatient words eager to convey their story, so as not to disturb him.

I first met Haruyoshi Segawa-kun two days ago.

I approached him while he was heading home, asking him how to head to the station.

I already knew however, and he would unsuspectingly accept this flimsy approach.

“Thanks for helping me out. I’m staying at the hotel near there. Didn’t know how to go back after going out on a stroll.”

The gloomy skies were on the verge of crying, the tips of the two umbrellas scraped the asphalt, creaking away.

“A hotel? So you’re on a trip or something?”

“Hm, something like that.”

“There are places more appropriate for sightseeing though. Ah, not there. This side’s a little closer. Oh yes, erm…”

“I’m Yuki Shiina.”

“Segawa Haruyoshi.”

We introduced ourselves as we went down the paths, which I had walked countless times. We talked about our our names, ages, and even our blood types, which was unnecessary to begin with. One again, I heard for the first time, the things I had heard so many times.

“Now that you mention it, it is a pity. Guess a town with nothing much around is pretty boring, eh?”

“Hmm, you can’t be saying that about the town you live in though. I prefer to just walk around and see the plain, ordinary sights than the famous tourist attractions. Also, I like this town..”

This is true.

I really do like this town.

“Well, I can’t say that I don’t understand how you feel. Every time I find an unfamiliar alleyway, I end up walking in.”

“You really do, huh?”

“Yeah, even though I don’t know where I’ll be going.”

“It’s fun when you don’t know where you’ll end up at.”

“I do get what you mean. It’s not a feeling I want to know, not something I should, but I always end up getting lost, as you say.”

While we were chatting away, we found an alleyway. I tapped the entrance with my umbrella, and as I knew Yoshi-kun had stopped behind me, I turned around to smile.

His face was clearly going ‘Whelp, here we go’. It was really funny.

That face of his definitely was not of disgust. I, and only I, knew that.

“Okie, let’s go.”

“Ohh~!”

We raised our fists enthusiastically, and entered the alley.

Day by day, we were moving to summer, and the temperature continued to rise with the number of days. There were uncommon flowers growing on the walls, and the leaves looked exceptionally green next to them.

“Shiina-san, if I may ask, where are you from?”

He asked as he pried aside the leaves reaching his eyes.

“Call me Yuki. No honorifics, of course.”

I was unable to answer this question, so I replied so to throw him off.

“Eh, but you’re older.”

“It’s fine, don’t worry. I’ll call you Yoshi-kun.”

“Not Haru?”

“Is that what others always call you?”

“Yep.”

“Well, I guess I should call you Yoshi-kun. It’s boring to be the same as everyone. Guess we decided?”

I smiled, and Yoshi-kun’s face was a little red, maybe because of the simmering heat. He spaced out silently.

“Yoshi-kun?”

I tilted my head to look up at his face, and he reeled flusteredly. For some reason, he looked away again. Eh, what was with that response? I’ve never seen that before.

“Eh? Ah, yeah. Got it. Please take care of me, Yuki.”

“Hm? Okay, please take care of me, Yoshi-kun.”

It happened on June 29th, Wednesday.

We began the 130th meeting on that day, the day where the plum rain was about to arrive.

Once I was done reading a short story within that old book, Yoshi-kun left the shop. The bag slinging from his shoulder was swaying by his waist. He was holding a brown bag as big as a book.

“Kept you waiting.”

“Couldn’t resist after all, huh?”

“Sorta. But I don’t like it when I can’t finish the exciting parts.”

He raised the paper bag as he said so, and I noticed something else in his hand. It was a rectangular pale blue paper. A bookmark? It would be boring if it was.

“Say, Yoshi-kun. What is that?”

“Which one?”

“The pale blue.”

“Huh, this? A gift I guess. Well…it’s July soon, right?”

“Yes?”

“And on July 7th…”

“Tanabata.”

It was the day where two lovers, separated by the Milky Way, could finally meet.

In other words, that paper is—

“Yeah, I guess the committee came up with this to liven up the shopping street this year. All the shops give this strip to the shoppers. There’s an open space down this road, and all the bamboo will be there. The lights will be lit on Tanabata.”

That imagery was conjured in my mind. The bamboo leaves swaying with the leaves, the dazzling lights shining upon countless wishes.

Being a little agitated, I said,

“That’s great.”

“Eh? Really?”

“Yeah. It really is. Can I join in too?”

“I guess so? As I said, you get one strip if you shop here.”

“I see. Wait a sec please. I’ll buy a book too.”

This time, Yoshi-kun’s waiting outside, and I entered the antiquarian bookshop.

The shop’s darker and smaller than I imagined.

There was a cashier deep inside the shop, and an uncle was seated on a bench, reading intently. He was wearing a loose shirt and pants, and clearly did not look like anyone belonging to the service sector. Was he the boss? He merely glanced aside at me, and returned to the world of the book in his hands. I merely nodded to him, and trotted to the aisles between the bookshelves

Renown and obscure works were lined together. The book spines were door handles leading to another world.

Which, one, shall, I, choose, then.

Seeking out stories is an interesting experience. To be honest, I really wanted to spend lots of time choosing one, but Yoshi-kun’s waiting for me, so I have to choose quickly. Dazai? Akutagawa? Or maybe I should try out Yukio Mishima since I never read his works. There’s his Temple of the Golden Pavilion and so on.

Erm…Mishima, Mishima and …

I slid my finger by the names of the author on the spines, according to Gojuon, only to find a completely unrelated book between them.

The title was written in white, with a deep blue base.

Someone probably stuffed it here without returning it to the proper place.

I touched the hard spine of the book with my fingertip, and slowly pried it from the pile. Its cover, adorned with light blobs of various sizes, slowly showed itself from the spine. It was a graphic book depicting the constellations.

I knew nothing of the stars’ names, nor their shapes. Such knowledge was commonly used as novel themes, and I wanted to learn about them one day, but I never got the chance. This might be it.

I pulled the book out from the row of them, and took it off the shelf. “Huu”, so I blew at the dust gathered on the cover, and gently dusted it. The smooth surface was nice to touch.

It’s a well made book. A little dirty, but pretty clean for a second-hand book.

I nonchalantly flipped through the pages, and found lots of colorful illustrations used in this book. It explained each and every seasonal constellation. I then checked for the page number indicating Tanabata, closed the book, and took it in my hands. I then said to the uncle.

“I’m buying this book.”

It was priced exactly at 500 yen.

I didn’t know if that was expensive or not.

I was given a pink Tanzaku.

 

Pata pata.

I sensed the pattering on the windows, and then lifted my head from the book I was reading.

I pried the curtain aside, and found that it was raining outside. The rain got heavier, the lights of the town dimmered in the rain, the familiar night scene gentler than before.

The moist street reflected blue and red lights, and depicted on the puddles were the sights of pedestrians moving on and the rain pelting from the sky. Replacing them were ripples expanding one after another. Such a sight left me bemused.

I closed the constellation book I bought the same day, and opened the window a little. Once I did, the moist cold air immediately swept into the humid room.

There’s a fragrance spreading gently in the room. Do I call it the smell of rain? Or perhaps it was the smell of the sky.

The countless transparent rain droplets fell from the sky, and to me, they were the threads linking heaven and earth.

I gently reached my hand out of the window, and a raindrop landed on my fingertip, before splashing away. It never rested on my finger, and quickly slid further down..

I looked towards its source.

The sky typically wouldn’t lose to the lights of the town, but on this day, the skies were grey.

I could not see beyond the grey clouds, but I was imagining the imagery beyond the dark clouds.The constellations that were depicted in the book.

On the topic of the summer night sky, the most famous of the constellations are α Cygni, α Aquilae and α Lyrae, the vertices of the Summer Triangle. The bluish-white star of α Lyrae is Vega, and α Aquilae is Altair. The Milky Way flows right between them, and they can only meet once a year.

With my other hand, I patted the pink paper that was next to the book.

It was an ordinary piece of paper.

It was a little thin, regular, a uniformly colored bookmark. On the yearly Tanabata however, it seems wishes can be granted if one is to write a wish and hang it on the bamboo.

Such trivial things won’t cause miracles however.

The world’s occasionally kind, but it’s typically cruel.

I knew that, very well indeed. But…

I had countless urges to write my wish, but I could never express them clearly. Right now, the paper’s still blank.

Will it be all different if I can see the stars? If I can imagine them passing the Milky Way, will I gain some courage.

The rain continued to pour.

The clouds remained so thick.

And my eyes did not reflect the glow of the stars.

 

It’s hot. So I thought as I couldn’t help but close my eyes. Nowhere in particular, I was hot all over. I was burning from head to toe. When did such heat reside in my body to begin with?

I woke up due to the energy oozing from my body. I really didn’t know what happened.

My back was all sweaty, the shirt clinging to the skin. It was uncomfortable, my nose was stuffed, and I had difficulty breathing. What’s going on?

My joints were searing uncomfortably, and I grimaced. My eyelids were heavy, my body moreso. I couldn’t get up like usual, and while I tried, I quickly fell back . The neat bedsheet was crumpled, and the bed let out a little creak.

“Haa…haa…” I wheezed heavily, thinking hard as I looked to the digital watch by the bedside. The green light informed me it was less than an hour till my meeting with Yoshi-kun.

It seemed I slept for at least 12 hours. If possible however, I wanted to continue sleeping. I really had no urge to move at all.

Despite that, I unwittingly reached my hand out.

Just as how I sought the light when I was young.

I had to go.

Yoshi-kun’s waiting for me.

He probably would be waiting for me in the rain if I did not go. I felt heartache just imagining that scene.

And more importantly, I wanted to see his smile while calling my name.

“Nn, nnnn…nn!”

This time, I propped my body up with my hands.

I slowly wiped my sweat off with a cloth, and put on a winter jacket.

I looked in the mirror, and found a completely flushed me. The face was redder than apples and strawberries. The eyelids were heavy, and my eyes were half opened. That face did not look cute at all. I really didn’t want to show Yoshi-kun that.

I withheld the urge to cry, combed my hair, put on my makeup, and of course, never forgot to apply the sakura perfume.

I was exceedingly late by the time I left the hotel, but I hurried over to Yoshi-kun. I passed the station, and entered the arcade of the shopping street opposite the hotel.

I kept moving with my legs and the umbrella. My legs felt light, and I felt I was about to fall. If there was a strong gust and I did not stand upright, I would have fallen over. How long left? How long more until I could meet Yoshi-kun?

Right at this moment.

“Yuki.” I heard a voice. My name was called.

However, that voice did not seem as warm as before. It sounded more worried instead.

Ah, but it is still very warm.

“What are you doing!?”

He yelled as he hurried to me. I lost all strength at that moment, probably because I was relieved. I nearly fell over, and Yoshi-kun hugged me. It’s hard. It hurts.

They were the hands of a boy.

It was the body of a boy.

“Well, we promised.”

“Promised?”

For what? Yoshi-kun was definitely not suffering, but he looked like he’s about to cry.

“Yes. We promised. Just yesterday, didn’t we? We said we’ll meet the next day.”

“We did, but you can’t be showing up like this.”

“You’ll be worried if I don’t show up, no? You’ll just wait for me stupidly, right?”

“That’s…”

Not the case—but to stop him from saying these words, I placed my index finger on his lips.

“You lie. I knew that.”

Because you’re here now, right?

You came looking for me because you’re worried about me, right?

I knew that. I already knew how kind a person you were.

But at this point, I was suffering, unable to say anything. I could not voice out.

And my consciousness started fading away.

“Yuki? Yuki?”

The voice calling for me became distant.

Ahh, it’s fine. I’ll just have a nap. I’ll recover after some rest. But it’s because of a person like you that I—

And my consciousness snapped. At the last moment, nobody, not even I, knew what I was thinking, what I wanted to say

A long time ago, I went to see the stars.

Where did I see them? When was it?

“Hey, Yuki. Can you see it?”

Papa said to me after he got out of the car.

Just dozens of minutes ago, he suddenly yelled for me to get into the car, and I was brought to this place without knowing my destination. I was probably feeling uneasy back then.

And a little pouty.

“Mhm~Can’t see anything.”

“You got to switch off the car lights, hubby.”

“Ah, right. Wait a sec. Righto, done. How about now?”

Papa switched off the lights, and the world immediately turned dark.

We were at a corner of the world, devoid of light and noise.

At that moment, my eyes could not capture that miniscule speckle of light.

“I still can’t see.”

“Seems like your eyes have to get used to it. Okay, how about this?”

“Kya!!”

Papa covered my eyes with his hands. They were large and powerful, reliable and warmer than anything in this world. Before I knew it, I had calmed down. I heard the wind blowing, the green grass swaying away. It was extremely relieving, and I really had the urge to take a deep breath.

“Ne, nee, Sis, Papa, what are you doing? Hide and seek?”

“Yeah. You want to play too, Umi?”

“Yes!”

“Play with Mama, Umi. Come here.”

“Oh.”

I heard my sister’s innocent voice, along with Mama’s kind words. Those voices were neither too overbearing nor too soft to be heard, and they blended perfectly with the breeze.

“Hey Papa. Are you done yet?”

“What do you mean, done? I just covered your eyes, Yuki. You’re impatient. Who do you take after?”

“Well, it’s definitely not me.”

“So that makes it, me?”

“Finally have some self-awareness?”

Mama’s giggle was as carefree as my friends—

“Are we done~?”

Papa and Mama burst out laughing at Umi, who never understood what was going on. They answered in unison.

““Not yet~”“

“Oh.”

“Looks like Umi is as impatient as I am.”

“Great. Everything I love is linked to the future.”

“What about the things I love?”

“Well, you have passed them down to these two, no?”

“For example?”

“Beauty.”

“Fhm. This is true.”

“Say, hubby.”

Mama pretended to sigh,

“What is it?”

“You should be a little embarrassed when saying that.”

“Even though it’s a fact?”

“That’s all the more reason.”

And the two girls who had been silent all this while let out a unified sigh, breaking the mood.

““Are we done??”“

I didn’t know what Umi was thinking, but I cried out as I really had enough of their conversation.

All this while, I felt itchy on the side of my head, along with my throat.

So the two adults replied to our immature voices with definite answers.

““It’s done~”“

Papa suddenly removed his hands, and my eyes regained light. The next moment, I saw a sea of light in my eyes. Why? Why? That space was complete darkness just now.

I looked to my side, and found Umi seated on mama’s lap, grinning away.
“Umi? Have you found them?”

“Un~”

“Tell me what you found then.”

“I found the stars!”

As Umi had said, right before our eyes were tens of thousands of glittered.

Shown in our eyes were thousands of stars glittering away. I felt that I could touch the stars as long as I reached my hand out. I tried tiptoeing, reaching my hand out, but of course, I could not touch it. For some reason however, I sensed the light of the stars gathered upon my fingertips.

Papa stood next to me, pointing at the sky.

“It’s not often we get to see a starry night in spring. Let’s look for the Big Dipper. Do you know what that is, Yuki?”

“Just the name.”

That name did appear in a book I read.

“Hm, I see.”

Papa knelt down, bringing his eyes to my level.

“Think of the stars in the north as a scoop. That’s the Big Dipper.”

“Where?”

“There are four brighter stars there, right? Start linking from the one at the bottom right.”

I did as he said, and began to connect the lights.

And on the pure black canvas in my eyes, the yellow lines of lines slowly formed the shape of the constellation.

“Link that, and that, and that, right?”

I drew the lines with my finger.

“Yes. Now, draw a bigger arch with a scoop. There’s an orange light on the line, right? That’s Arcturus, Guardian of the Bears. It’s the alpha star of Boötes. Next is the white Spica, in a corner of Virgo. Link them all, and you get the Spring Triangle.”

After that, papa told me the names of many stars, like Spica and Arcturus and Denebola forming the Spring Triangle, and a larger spring Great Diamond with the Cor Caroli.

Actually, I was beginning to lose track of which star was which, but Papa was explaining so enthusiastically, and I decided to listen quietly. Even without knowing about them, I liked looking at these sparkling things. I’m a girl after all.

“Which star do you like, Yuki?”

Papa asked, and I had a little thought. The little stars were cute, and the large ones were pretty. They were all of various colors, some white, some yellow. I lifted my head towards the sky, and said the name of the first star I found.

The orange light was dazzling there.

“Arcturus. I like it.”

The moment I said this name, I felt the nameless cavity being filled up completely. I see, moments of liking something can happen at such ordinary moments too.

“I see.”

Papa patted my head. That careless way he does it always messes my hair, so I didn’t really like him touching my head. It didn’t feel so bad this time however.

“Then let’s learn a little more about Arcturus before we go home. It means Guardian of the Bears, and in Hawaii, they call it Hōkūle’a.”

“Hōkūle‘a.”

I repeated papa’s words, wanting to engrave it in my memories.

“Yes. It means ‘the Star of Gladness’. If there’s anything to be happy about, look up at the sky and find this star. Your joy will definitely reach it.”

I opened my eyes, and the orange light I had seen in the sky a long time ago entered my eyes.

I unwittingly muttered the name of that star, and the boy seated by the bedside tilted his head. It’s Yoshi-kun. Looking at it carefully, I found that it was not the starry sky, but the familiar ceiling of the hotel. That light’s a lot darker than a real star, bigger, and closer.

“Eh? Why are you here, Yoshi-kun?”

Papa was not here; neither was Mama, nor Umi.

Such was the reality I was in.

“You don’t remember? You had a fever, and you forced yourself to go. You collapsed there.”

Speaking of which, that seemed to be the case.

I had some memories, but my mind was preoccupied with something else entirely. Those things were still by my side just moments ago, like my family’s laughter, the glitter of the stars, Papa’s reliable arms, and Mama’s flowing long hair. These memories continued to grip my heart, never fading away.

“Looks like you forgot.”

“You brought me here, Yoshi-kun?”

“Eh? Ah, yeah. I kinda explained to the hotel staff. Really took a lot of effort. And well, just to add, it’s the hotel staff who changed you, not me.”

I didn’t know when I had changed into a different set of clothes. My undergarments were different, and I felt a lot more refreshed.

“Hm hm, I see, I see. You’re embarrassed.”

I wanted to get up, but Yoshi-kun stopped me. I felt his hand on my hand being colder than usual, probably because of my fever.

I turned to the side, and found there was the constellation book I had bought days ago

I guess I had this dream because of the book. Its cover’s smooth and cold, comfy to touch.

I pulled the blanket to my mouth, and whispered with a hot breath.

“Erm, I had a dream. When I was young, I saw the stars with my family.”

“Stars?”

“Yes. It’s probably…back in spring. Papa taught me many things, but yes, I was young, I didn’t know them very well. He taught me so much, but I never got to memorize them.”

If only I had paid more attention to what he said, only at this point did I think so.

I heard Papa and Mama say many things, and talked about lots of things with them. Their cheesy conversations were a little embarrassing, but I wouldn’t say I disliked them

“Are you done~?”

“Why say this now?”

“That’s what my little sister and I said back then. We were looking for the stars, and we were saying things like ‘Are we done yet’, ‘Not yet’, ‘Are we done yet’, ‘Not yet’. And after that, we saw the stars cluttering the skies. They’re pretty, they really were…”

For some reason, a tear fell. My voice was shaking. My chest was in pain.

It was really, really painful.

I recovered to find myself reaching towards the ceiling. It was an orange light, not that of the stars, but artificial. Arcturus, Hōkūleʻa, the star of gladness. No, that’s not it, I had nothing in my hands. Everything was long gone from me, those days, the past, my family’s voices, the warmth.

But—

My empty hands were filled by something else.

It was soft, a little crude, wide, and warm.

It’s Yoshi-kun’s hand.

I sniveled.

Yoshi-kun wiped away my tears with his other hand. He’s unexpectedly clumsy at doing such things, a little like Papa in this sense. With a hoarse voice, I told him.

“I really want to see the stars.”

“Eh?”

“Take me there.”

“…Sure, I got a good hiding place. Few of the locals know that place. I’ll take you there once you’re feeling better..”

“Hey, Yoshi-kun..”

I wonder if he realized that my voice had contained thousands of words worth of gratitude.

—Thank you, for being by my side.

And once again, I closed my eyes.

The boy’s smile was ingrained deep within my eyes.

I felt the sadness and loneliness in my heart become a little milder, and before I knew it, my erratic breathing had become calm.

 

I spent the rainy day in my sleep, and when the sun set down from the sky, my fever had subsided completely, as though everything before never happened.

There was still some time for us. I heaved a sigh of relief.

If it had been a day later, I would be unable to see the stars with Yoshi-kun.

Once the sun had completely set, we gathered at the station near Yoshi-kun’s house. It seemed the ‘good place’ was on a hilltop.

He emphasized that I should be careful of bugs, so I covered my skin almost completely, not exposing anything. But he said I should wear something comfortable to move it. Well, I guess he’ll be flustered seeing some of my flesh. He’s unexpectedly a silent pervert.

I took a rental bicycle from the station, and from the corner of my eye, I glanced at the farms while riding down the alleys.

The breeze blew into my face, and the scenery clattered back. I pedaled on, moving faster than usual.

There were street lights at intervals of 10 meters or so, forming little yellow blobs in the space called night. My eyes slowly got used to the night, recapturing the various silhouettes dyed black by the darkness.

The vegetable leaves on the green farms were swaying leisurely in the wind, it seemed. Some noisy frogs were croaking together, their cries echoing from various distances.

The bicycle continued to clatter, and there was a little round beam of white light shining before me, along with the silhouette of a tall boy.

“Yoshi-kun—”

I called his name.

I felt a tingling in my heart. I was happy, probably due to the sweet mood during this night.

“What is it—?”

“How much longer—?”

“About 10 minutes on bike—”

“I see—”

We yelled at a volume no softer than the frogs’ croaking. Farms were the only things down the sides of this road, and there was no obstacle blocking our voices. They spread across this open space, mixing and merging into the darkness of the night.

“Feels good—”

“Eh? What? Can’t hear you clearly—.”

“I say the wind at night feels good!!.”

I yelled with a louder voice than before.

We parked the bicycle by the foot of the hill, and scaled the linear slope for about 5 minutes or so. There appeared a space large enough for an adult male to duck through, and Yoshi-kun went through it without hesitation. He sprayed some insect repellent on me, and I kept coughing. I didn’t like this smell.

The further we went in, the darker it got. We ended up holding hands, though I didn’t know who started it. Whose hand was the moist one?

I should know about myself very well, but at this point, my mind was a complete blank, and I couldn’t tell at all.

We pried aside the shrubs, walking on for another ten minutes or so. We arrived at a wide and empty space, and I knew without being told, this was the destination.

The wind blew, and my hair fluttered in a mess. Despite that, we never let go of our hands.

“Yuki. Close your eyes.”

“Eh? Why?”

“Just do it.”

“But..,”

“It’s fine. I’ll bring you over.”

So I obeyed his gentle little request, and closed my eyes. He held my hand with some strength, and I was led to take a single step. At this point, I was really in the midst of darkness, devoid of light.

“You done?” It was a trembling voice.

Yoshi-kun giggled, and answered me a pre-planned reply..

“Not yet~”

“Are we done?”

“Not yet~”

This happened over and over again, many, many times. I took his voice as a marker while moving forward. We stepped upon the green grass, the rustling sound and the sensation of the grassy ground clearly reaching my ears and feet.

I had a feeling we walked for a very long time, but we probably walked for a dozen meters or so.

Soon, Yoshi-kun said,.

“We’re ready. Princess, please open your eyes.”

“What’s with that out of a sudden? Why Princess?”

I unwittingly imagined Yoshi-kun’s face being all red.

“Please don’t retort me here.”

Dammit Takuma, this isn’t what you said would happen. I could hear Yoshi-kun muttering. Seemed like his friend suggested.

“Anyway, I can open my eyes now, right?”

“Ah, yeah. Please do.”

So I slowly opened my eyes.

“Eh?” I sensed the murmurs getting swallowed up.

It was a place the sun could not reach. It was dark everywhere; up, down, left, right. In this darkness, there were yellow, white, orange, red and green lights sparkling brilliantly. There were clusters of stars seemingly filling the sky, and clusters of ground stars formed by many things.

Yoshi-kun and I were floating in space.

“There are stars blinking in the sky and all the ground.”

“Pretty, isn’t it? This is a treasured place of mine.”

“Yes, it really is pretty. Really pretty.”

I repeated the words over and over again, and began to run, causing Yoshi-kun, who was holding my hand, to nearly lose his balance, making a flustered sound.

“Ah, sorry. You alright?”

“I’m fine. I’m happy seeing you happy. Let’s go.”

This time, I walked alongside him towards the light.

The weather was perfect, and it was a cloudless, clear day. The bright moon shone in the night sky, so brilliant it swallowed the light of many stars. It was no match for the sun, but the queen of the night showed its sharp golden light, proudly dyeing the sky cyan. Yes, it wasn’t black. The brightness of the moon turned the black night a deep cyan.

Before we realized, the moon had shone a shadow at our feet, one combining the two of us into one.

“This is the second time in my life seeing such a pretty night sky.”

“Does it suit what you desire?”

“Of course.”

“Great.”

“It’s really, really pretty. Oh yeah. Let’s spot some constellation, Yoshi-kun.”

“You know about them, Yuki?”

“Not at all. What about you, Yoshi-kun?”

“Same here.”

“We’re the same then. I bought a constellation book some days ago. Let’s use that to look for them, shall we?”

“Sure. Let’s try.”

Yoshi-kun was sufficiently prepared for this, for he had red film stuck on the flashlight. It seemed this was to prevent excessive brightness. We stared at the compass and the picture book, and we were so close, our foreheads nearly touched. We weren’t embarrassed however, maybe because of the night atmosphere.

“Let’s look for the Summer Triangle First. We’ll connect the constellation from there.”

We looked at the sky in unison. My long hair grazed my cheeks, and it’s itchy.

The bluish-white light right in the middle of my eyes was the α star of Lyra, Vega. Like the Queen of the summer skies, it was the star of Orihime. Next to it was white smoky trail, probably the Milky Way. In that case, beyond it should be Altair of Aquila, Hikoboshi.

“Ah, is that it?”

“Eh, which one?”

“See, that really bright one.”

Yoshi-kun beamed as he pointed at the sky. I had a rough idea of which one it was, but I wasn’t sure if I was correct. There were tens of thousands of dazzling stars after all.

“Erm, well, I guess so. Deneb’s left, so let’s look for anything that might form a triangle. Ah, Yoshi-kun. That probably fits. I guess that’s Deneb. See, the Summer Triangle.”

After that, we began connecting the stars like kids who had just bought new toys, having much fun in the process. There’s Cancer with the red heart, Libra, Ophiuchus. Of course, there’s also Aquila and Lyra. We might have connected them, or might have connected different stars altogether.

Despite this, we’re happy.

Yes. I’m happy.

We flipped the pictures, looking at their stories, debating one after another about some unimportant stuff, not giving way, and nearly breaking into an argument. But the mood never got tense. Someone burst into a giggle, and the other got affected. The whole world was filled with two people’s laughter.

“Right, now then, the next page.”

Then, something fell out of the opened page.

It was something I had tucked at the page introducing Tanabata.

I lifted that up, and found a pink paper. There was nothing written on it. No, I had not written my wish on this Tanzaku

“They say it’s 15 lightyears.”

“Eh?”

“The distance between Orihime and Hikoboshi. It’s written here.”

Yoshi-kun pointed at the words ’15 lightyears’.

The two stars didn’t look very far when viewed from here. It seemed I could bring them into my clutches just by opening my arms wide. Despite that, it’ll take these two stars 15 years of lightspeed to meet. Was it not the same for Yoshi-kun and I?

He’s right within reach, and I was holding his hand, but our feelings, our hearts, were tens of thousands of miles away.

“They’re so far. But this is why they made wishes.”

“What do you mean?”

“They made wishes because they’re so far from each other, praying that they’ll be reunited with their beloved once ago.”

Yoshi-kun then told him of the two wishes they made. He said some really embarrassing stuff as he looked at the starry sky, but I didn’t dislike it.

“I guess. They really are full-fledged lovers. Anyone will be happy if the partner is to keep praying for their beloved to say such things.”

“Will you, erm, be happy about that, Yuki?”

“What?”

“No, erm. It’s more like, what will a girl typically think. Not that if I’m to say that.”

Yoshi-kun’s still looking up at the sky.

“…I might be happy.”

I imagined that scene, and my lips curled into a smile. Luckily, Yoshi-kun wasn’t looking at me.

I couldn’t let him know who I was thinking of. To cover my embarrassment, I looked up at the Milky Way, like Yoshi-kun did.

I imagined the magpie bridge upon the Milky Way. Surely its true identity was the wishes of those two Yoshi-kun spoke of. But if they had made their seemingly trivial wishes with similarly intense emotions, these wishes will become the hope for the reunion no matter how far they were.

And then, I overlapped the wish I should write along with theirs.

“Yoshi-kun, do you have a pen?”

“Yeah. Here.”

He pulled an oil-based pen from his pocket, and I used it to write my wish. He tried to peek a few times, but I shielded away from his sight with my back.

“No looking.”

“No matter what?”

“No matter what.”

“Got it.”

Yoshi-kun turned to look at his watch, and stretched his back fully.

“Now that you’re done, let’s go back. It’s kinda late.”

“Yeah.”

Once he saw that I put the Tanzaku into my pocket, Yoshi-kun turned to leave. I gave chase, only to stop and look up at the sky one last time. Then, I found that star.

It was an exceptionally bright orange glow amongst the cluster of stars. It’s said that a long time ago, the Polynesians had this star leading them to Hawaii. If I look up at it and follow it like a compass, will I too arrive somewhere? Is that delight? Or happiness?

The name of the star filled with wishes was—

“Hōkūle‘a.”

I said inaudibly enough for Yoshi-kun not to hear.

My gladness was still dazzling in the night sky far, far away.

 

July 7th.

After spending that day and week seeing the Tanabata Tanzaku, I visited the shopping street alone before returning to the hotel

There were many colorful wishes hanging on the green bamboo.

The orange lights shone upon them, and the light shining through caused them to dazzle. There were innocent wishes, matured wishes, prayers of self-encouragement, and they were all equally pretty. They were similar to the lights of the stars

I tugged gently at a yellow Tanzaku tied at the bottom. Written on it was:

“I want a girlfriend.”

It’d be great if this was what Yoshi-kun wrote. I didn’t know if he was a late bloomer, or that he had no such interest.

And just to note, Yoshi-kun probably wished for something boring, like ‘improve my grades’. Well, it’s pointless, so I’ll teach him how to study next time. Let’s do it.

Of course, my promise’s still a secret to Yoshi-kun. I made sure nobody’s looking as I tied it at a place closest to the sky.

Even if he did see it, the him at this point might not be able to understand at all.

The fact that he went to see the stars with me days ago no longer existed anywhere. The conversations, the answer Yoshi-kun told me, none of them existed

I let go of the yellow Tanzaku, and took one, two steps away from the overflowing, noisy lights.

At this moment, the bamboo leaves rustled.

A gust blew.

“Woah, quite a strong wind here.”

Someone said this, and then there was a mini ruckus.

I looked towards where the gust came, and lifted my head towards the sky, finding a wish fluttering in the sky. It’s a pink wish, like sakura. I unwittingly reached out to grab it. I looked around, front, back, front, but I didn’t know which side was it. For there was nothing written on it.
Nobody knew if there was anything written on it to begin with.

Or that everything that was written vanished two days ago, at a certain time—

I didn’t know. I couldn’t be sure.

Despite that, I gently caressed that pink Tanzaku. Again, I entrusted my wish to that blank piece of paper.

I wrote down the two wishes Yoshi-kun told me of.

I managed to bluff my way through, but my consciousness was hazy due to the fever. I did somewhat remember Yoshi-kun bringing me to the hotel. I was relieved to see his face, and at peace when he called my name.

So, on that night. I connected the many stars together, and made a wish in my heart.

 

“Come look for me. Call my name.”

 

This would be the thought needed for us to meet countless times.

Just as Vega made a wish to Altair

Just as Altair had prayed to Vega.

It would be great if Yoshi-kun would do so for me one day in the future, so I earnestly hoped.

And I placed that empty, sakura-like Tanzaku into my pocket.