(Title – 冬来たりなば春遠からじ – Fuyukitarinabaharutookaraji – If winter comes, can spring be far behind?)
Everything that has a beginning, has an ending; and when that time comes, sure enough, a new beginning would arise. Just like the seasons — the warmth of summer and the colors of autumn had ended, making way for the chilly breeze of winter. Another year was about to end.
Ever since Miyuki vanished without a trace in Kichirō’s life, everything became stable in the group’s life. Kichirō finally found the happiness and inner peace he was looking for. Their grades in school soared up high… Er… Well, except for Ken. Kichirō’s popularity increased after that event (refer to previous chapter). Kichirō and Ryū dated just like there was no tomorrow, Naoki and Ken dated and bickered just like how they used to, and Aiko almost died of diabetes and toothache from all of the sweetness she had gotten from the free fan services she was getting from them.
Occasionally, they would stay in Ken’s vacation house near Kichirō’s place in Ohara, and invite his younger brother, Shūichirō, over to come and play. It seemed that Shūichirō had developed a close relationship with Ryū and Ken, to the point that they often ganged up on Kichirō. It was a good thing that Naoki was around, who served as the ‘princess’s’ savior.
Now that Kichirō’s birthday was fast approaching, he had high hopes that Ryū would grant him any of his wishes. Especially when he loved Christmas, too, even though he was not a Christian.
“Ryū~ What’s your plan this winter break?” Kichirō asked with anticipation written all over his face.
“I’m going home,” Ryū indifferently said.
Kichirō was dumbfounded. He was hoping that he could spend time together with the other boy. He then continued with the conversation: “Since our winter break will be on the last week of December, can you accompany me during my birthday? One day’s enough… Also add Christmas day to that, he he.”
“I can’t,” Ryū got out of his bed and went to the kitchen area to get a glass of water.
Kichirō sat up as he felt completely helpless. He was really thinking that Ryū would give him the special treatment. “But… But why?” He got out of the bed and followed Ryū from behind, then he tugged on Ryū’s sleeve.
Ryū looked back at Kichirō who had the visage of a poor little kitten who was about to cry. “I requested to go on break earlier. I need to get back to Tokyo by the 23rd. I’m sorry,” Ryū embraced the other to console him.
“Is there something that happened? Why do you need to go back home early? You promised me that you’d be with me during my birthday,” Kichirō felt like he was wronged as he kept on questioning the other boy.
“Ki-tan, I’m really sorry. There’s just something that I need to sort out back at home. If I don’t do it, my Otōsan will get mad. I hope you’d understand,” Ryū reasoned as he said these words with a gentle tone.” Tell me what you want for your birthday and I’ll send it to you,” he added to coax Kichirō.
“I just want you by my side,” Kichirō frowned but could not do anything. He then added: “It’s fine. Finish your affairs with your family first. You need to make it up to me, tenfold!”
“Consider it done.”
The days drew nearer and nearer to Ryū’s early departure back to Tokyo, yet they barely had the time to meet each other. Ryū was busy practicing for the All Japan Intercollegiate Basketball Championship that their team had been practicing for, for quite some time now.
If there was a chance to meet, it was always back in the dormitory. Kichirō was not even able to talk much with Ryū since he had the tendency falling asleep after a few minutes of conversing. Being the just and understanding boyfriend that he was, he tucked the other boy in bed and kisses Ryū’s forehead, hugged him tightly, and then fell into a deep slumber.
Before, they even agreed to at least visit Arashiyama once for the Hanatōro  but all of those wishes and promises seemed to have gone down the drain in Kichirō’s eyes, just like that. He could not even pull Ken or Naoki to talk to them since they were all in the same team. In the end, he ended up seeking refuge from Aiko.
(「京都嵐山花灯路」Kyoto Arashiyama Hanatōro – held every December in Arashiyama for 10 days. Hanatōro literally means “path with flower and light.” Hanatouro illumination will be taken at several locations in the area, including the iconic Togetsukyo Bridge [渡月橋] and Bamboo Grove [竹林の道].)
“Ai-chan,” Kichirō listlessly called out Aiko’s name.
Aiko, who was busy reading at the university park, looked at the boy who was seated in front of her. She furrowed her brows then asked: “What’s wrong, Kichirō-chan?”
Kichirō hesitated voicing out his feelings, but in the end, he mustered his courage and said with a soft voice: “Eto… Am I wrong for thinking that Ryū doesn’t have time for me?”
Without any hesitation, Aiko immediately responded with a loud voice: “Don’t say that! He cares for you. In fact, he —” She has not yet even finished what she was saying when Ken suddenly covered her big mouth. “Ngg~~~” She struggled.
Ken grinned at Kichirō with his squinty eyes forming two straight lines: “He he, yo, Kichi, let me and my wife borrow this girl for a moment,” he gleefully said then dragged Aiko away from where she was seated, away from the park, with his co-conspirator, Naoki. Before they even left, Naoki looked back at Kichirō with an apologetic expression on his face.
Aiko, who was being ‘borrowed’ by the two, suddenly bit Ken’s hand. Ken yelped in pain: “Ouch! Why did you have to bite me!”
“Ken-senpai, you’re being too nasty!” Aiko cried.
“Hey, you were about to blurt out our secret!” Ken whispered, loud enough for Kichirō to here.
All of a sudden, Naoki rapped Ken’s head with his book: “You’re even worse than her,” Naoki frowned as he scolded Ken.
“Sorry, babe,” Ken wryly smiled.
“Let’s just go,” Naoki ordered.
Without further ado, the three left the park, leaving Kichirō all alone.
Kichirō was puzzled. He stared blankly into thin air and continued being dumbfounded. Now, he was all alone again… The cold winter breeze even made him feel more depressed.
And so, the 23rd of December finally came. Kichirō waited for Ryū to bid him farewell but there was no sign of the other boy. He waited all day in his dormitory room, but nobody came, nobody knocked on his door, nobody opened it with a spare key, like what had happened in the past…
Kichirō could no longer take it so he decided to march out of his room and knock on the door right across from his own. After one loud bang on the door, he yelled: “Get out of there, Ryū! Am I not important to you anymore?!?”
One of Ryū’s classmates happened to pass by that corridor. He noticed Kichirō was knocking loudly and yelling in front of Ryū’s door: “The boss and lady boss had a quarrel?” He asked.
Kichirō’s face turned red when he heard that. He was still not used to being called the ‘Lady Boss’ by his schoolmates. Technically, everyone knew that they were dating and everyone, most especially Ryū’s fans, had unwillingly and helplessly accepted this reality.
“Ano~ Senpai… Please stop calling me that. I have a name. I’m called Ishikawa, Kichirō Ishikawa,” he shyly said as he fidgeted, as if he was a bashful young woman.
The senpai chuckled, took a step forward, closer to Kichirō, then said: “Ha ha, I’m sorry. I know your name. People called you that, so I got carried away. By the way, my name is Nakashima, Seijirō Nakashima. I’m Ryū’s and Ken’s classmate.”
Kichirō took a step back, then awkwardly laughed: “Ha ha, I know you Nakashima-senpai. It’s important for us juniors to know our senpais. Eto~ have you seen Ryū?”
Seijirō smiled then responded: “He already left more than an hour ago.”
“Eh?!?” Kichirō was stunned. He did not expect that Ryū would just leave without even informing him, especially when it was the day before he was even born into this world.
His judgment became cloudy and forgot that he was still talking to his Senpai. He ran out of the dormitory, in an attempt to look for Ryū, but it was too late before he realized what Seijirō had mentioned — Ryū had already left more than an hour ago!
He was breathing hard and fell to the ground on his knees. It seemed like all of his energy has been sucked out of his body by some unknown force. He dialed Ryū’s number, only to get a busy tone. He tried hard not to, but the tears just would not stop from dripping on his rosy cheeks. After a few moments, the first flake of snow fell on his hand. He looked at it as it slowly melted on his hand. After that, he looked up to the sky that was covered by dark clouds — it was the first snowfall this year.