Title – 冬来たりなば春遠からじ – Fuyukitarinabaharutookaraji – If winter comes, can spring be far behind?)
There were no classes until the 25th in celebration of the Emperor’s birthday and Christmas day. Normally, classes would be cancelled during this busy season, but since his course was a hectic one, they only had a limited number of days for vacation. The next day was the 24th so it was finally his 18th birthday. It would have been better if Kichirō’s friends, including Ryū, would have gone back home with him to celebrate his birthday, and Christmas on the next day, but not a single trace of them could be seen.
It was a rather cold day and the snowfall from yesterday had already melted, leaving behind a mixture of bare trees and a few evergreens. The sky was somewhat melancholic with the dark clouds embracing the blue sky. When he was about to ride the bus back to Ohara, he looked back, in hopes that someone would come running after him — but nobody came.
He listlessly rode on the bus and sat in the middle part, near the window. He gazed outside the window as he was deep in his thoughts — consumed by his own emotions. “I should be happy today since it’s my birthday.” He did his best to be positive about his current situation by smiling and nodding, but in the end, the smile plastered on his face vanished — leaving a depressing frown.
An old lady walked toward his direction, aiming to sit beside him: “Young man, is this seat taken?” She asked.
Kichirō was startled as he awoke from his temporary daze. He looked at the old lady with a confused look. The old lady immediately understood that he was deep in thought, so she smiled and repeated what she had said: “Young man, is this seat taken?”
“Ano~ no, not at all. You can sit beside me, Obāsan,” Kichirō wryly smiled as he offered the seat beside him. After that, he awkwardly chuckled and went back to staring blankly.
The old lady looked at Kichirō with concern. She then asked: “Are you troubled with something?”
Kichirō hurriedly looked back to the old lady and shyly responded: “Eto… I’m not really sure if there’s anything wrong, but I feel really sad. I should be happy since it’s my birthday today, but… Obāsan, am I being selfish for wanting my partner and friends to be around me on this special occasion?”
The old lady smiled and patted Kichirō’s back to console him: “Happy birthday, child. May the heavens bless you on this wonderful day. Your parents are lucky to have you.” The old lady then looked straight ahead as the bus began to move. She then added: “There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s normal for a person to feel comfort with his or her peers and loved ones. You’re lucky to have such. I’ve been alone most of my life since my husband passed away. We didn’t have any children since I was infertile. Yet, I never frowned nor thought that I was pitiful because I know he’s just out there, watching over me. Someday, we’ll be together again. Love others and understand their own circumstances. I believe that they have a valid reason for being not around you lately. Just have faith in them. Not seeing them doesn’t mean that they don’t care for you, Kichirō.”
Kichirō was dumbfounded when the old lady called out his name. He rubbed his eyes so that he could clearly see the old lady beside him, but as soon as he opened his big brown eyes wide, the old lady already disappeared.
He just casually ignored what had happened but what the old lady said to him really had a deep impact in his heart and mind. Without even knowing, he fell asleep as he leaned against the bus’s window.
When he woke up, he was already at the bus stop in his home town. He got off the bus and shuddered as the cold winter breeze blew on his face. He put on his hoodie and rubbed his hands together while blowing them before he put on his gloves. On his way, he marveled at the Christmas decorations and illuminations. Although he could not see yet what they would actually look like, since it was daytime, he knew that they would look amazing at nighttime.
Even though he was still feeling a little bit unhappy, the words that the old lady spoke of made perfect sense and it also made him be in full control over his own emotions. Instead of feeling down and depressed, he chose to think of what was in store for him. “Okāsan might have prepared some delicious fried chicken and Christmas cake . I can’t wait to eat all the strawberries and sweets. Uwaah~~ Santa-san will definitely give me a nice gift this year. I just know it. I’ve been a very good boy lately,” he thought to himself as he sheepishly smiled.
( Sponge cake with strawberries and whipped cream)
“Aniki no minikui !” Someone suddenly yelled then jumped on Kichirō’s back.
( Ugly Big Brother)
Kichirō, who was not prepared for this, fell to the ground with the perpetrator. He looked back at the chuckling younger boy, and found it was Shūichirō.
“Why are you calling me by your own name? You’re uglier,” Kichirō teased as he chuckled.
“Waa~~ Otōsan, Onīsan is teasing me,” Shūichirō cried.
“Boys, stop fighting. I don’t want you to hurt yourselves. It’s your big brother’s birthday and Christmas is coming soon. You don’t want to stay in the hospital being taken care of by me or your mother. You hate injections, right?” Akihiko said with a straight face, but then chuckled.
Kichirō felt a cold chill running up his spine to his scalp and peripheries. He hates hearing the word ‘injection.’ He even hates meat injections  more than the real ones. He stood up and helped his younger brother stand up, then patted his clothes to remove the dust, just like a loving big brother. 1
( No need to explain what this is ha ha ha! (^○^))
“That’s more like it,” Akihiko smiled. “Happy birthday, son. Welcome home! I thought you were going to bring some of your friends. Where’s Ryū and the others?” He asked.
Kichirō smiled upon hearing his father greet him, but immediately frowned when he was reminded of the others. “Ano… They all went home to their own families,” he wryly smiled.
Akihiko knitted his brows as they walked toward their house. He immediately knew something was bothering Kichirō. “Did you have a fight with your handsome friends?” He asked.
Kichirō, who was walking side-by-side with Shūichirō, did not answer immediately. He then thought of a good explanation: “No, we’re okay. They just needed to go back to their families. Hey, it’s Christmas, Otōsan. By the way, what are we having for my birthday and Christmas Eve?” He changed the topic.
Akihiko smiled then replied: “Your mother went on a medical mission so no one can cook for us. But don’t worry, we’re going to ask for home delivery. You know how bad I am at cooking, ho ho.”
“Oh~ okay,” Kichirō frowned. =_=
“Onīsan, that’s fine. I have a gift for you. I hope you will like it,” Shūichirō cheered him up.
Kichirō forced a smile, although he was really genuinely happy that his brother prepared something for him. He kept in his mind what the old lady had told him.
Later that night, Akihiko fell asleep while he was watching TV. The mood within the house was rather peaceful and without any hint of festivity. Kichirō left his room and went to the living room only to see his father sleeping. He turned off the TV and while he was about to go upstairs to his room, he heard someone knocking outside. What came into his mind was that the group may have arrived with a bunch of surprises in store for him, so he immediately ran toward the door, but as soon as he opened the door, he found out that it was just the delivery man who delivered the food that they ordered. His mood dropped even further than six feet below ground.
Shūichirō, who was just passing by, saw his big brother frowning. He felt sad for his big brother, so without delay, he approached him then tugged on to the other’s sleeve. “Onīsama, why don’t we go up that hill behind our house? It would be great to watch the stars from there,” he smiled as he invited Kichirō, but there was an obvious trace of worry in his eyes.
“It’s cold outside,” Kichirō listlessly responded. “Let’s just eat this and go to sleep early,” he added.
He went to the dining room and took out the chicken they ordered from KFC. It is a tradition for the Japanese to eat KFC fried chicken during Christmas, then couple it with Christmas cake, but after Kichirō rummaged in the kitchen, he did not find a single trace of Christmas cake. He just heaved a deep sigh and sat on a chair. He reckoned this year’s Christmas would be the loneliest one.
Shūichirō witnessed all of this. He knew he really needed to brighten up his big brother’s mood. He was suddenly reminded of the gift that he mentioned earlier. He knew his big brother was a sucker for gifts. “Onīsan~ c’mon let’s go to the hill. I’ll give you my PRESENTS once we reach the top,” he beckoned as he emphasized on the word ‘presents.’
Hearing this word made Kichirō look back. He was somehow overjoyed by his younger brother’s efforts. Not to mention, he heard it with the letter ‘s’ on the end of the word so he expected there would be more than one.
Without hesitation, he took his coat, scarf, bonnet and gloves, then started pulling his younger brother out of the house. “Chotto matte, Onīsan, I haven’t put on my winter clothes yet!” He yelled.
“Gomen ne, ha ha. Okay, I’ll wait for you here,” Kichirō chuckled.
While waiting, Kichirō woke up his father to inform him where they were going. At first, he thought his father would forbid them to go out, but to his surprise, he actually allowed them!
Kichirō’s curiosity was piqued but did not bother with it anymore.
The two brothers trekked up the hill. Though it was cold at four degrees Celsius, the celestial sky was clear and it was not snowing. It was indeed a perfect night to view the stars and the waning moon. Kichirō was out of breath but still eagerly continued going up the hill with his energetic younger brother.
As soon as they reached the top of the hill, they sat on the rock where they usually sat when they were younger.
“So, where’s my gift?” Kichirō asked to tease Shūichirō. He really did not mind it even if the other really did not have any gifts for him.
Shūichirō’s lips twitched. “Can’t Onīsan wait? We should rest first and look at the sky. See, it’s pretty, right?”
Kichirō looked up to see hundreds of stars glimmering like gems in the dark cloudless sky. The waning silver moon was shining brightly, giving hints of blue and grey onto the surroundings. He smiled and placed his right arm around his younger brother’s shoulders as they sat together.
All of a sudden, Shūichirō spoke: “Actually, I don’t have a gift, ha ha.”
Kichirō squinted at him, then said: “You little rascal!” Kichirō was so shameless. Wasn’t it that he did not mind it if his brother did not have a gift for him?!!
Shūichirō just chuckled and continued to marvel at the sky. Kichirō followed after him. He reckoned it was not such a bad idea going up this hill once in a while. In the twinkling of the eye, someone suddenly embraced Kichirō from behind. What happened next was that flashes of majestic and colorful fireworks had brightened up and gave color to the dark sky. They were like flowers that bloomed marvelously in the night sky.