(Title – 小春日和 – Koharu Biyori – Indian Summer)
All five of them were dumbfounded when they looked back and saw the handsome boy behind them. Kichirō stood still. He could not decide whether he should run away or just curl up into a ball. He was really speechless.
“Ki-chan! It’s really you!” Shirō was pleasantly surprised, but his heart sank as soon as he noticed the other boy standing beside Kichirō. He measured him with his own eyes. He was indeed taller, more good-looking, and had a domineering aura on his face. What even bothered him the most was seeing that necklace hanging around his neck. Ryū noticed his stares and held on to the crescent moon necklace as he pulled Kichirō close to him. 2
Kichirō did not know what he should do first. He could feel Ryū and his mother were both exuding a killing intent with their cold-as-ice aura that they emitted, to the point that it sent chills up his spine to his scalp, as if two strong blizzards just ravaged his heart and mind. His heart also itched seeing Shirō looking like he was wronged by him. In the end, he opened his mouth, gulped, and stutteringly said: “Naa, long, long time no see Shi-kun.” He awkwardly smiled at him as if he was unaware of what was going on around him.
Shirō played along with this, and just like seeing an old friend, he greeted the other boy and genuinely smiled at Kichirō: “Shibaraku ne (Nice to see you again).” He actually wanted to go back to Shinjuku to look for Kichirō all this time. Now that the other boy was standing right before his very eyes, he did not have to have a hard time looking all over for him, but as he looked around him, he could tell that a storm was about to come.
Fumiko could not take it anymore. Her suppressed hatred for Shirō resurfaced. She dashed forth and, all of a sudden, a crisp sound could be heard. She slapped him with her right hand. “This is for leaving my son all this while. Do you know how hard it was for us to get him back to how he was before you ever showed up? You’re an abomination! You almost ruined our family!” She yelled.
Everyone around stood staring at them and were whispering here and there. Nobody could blame them. It was a real-life drama in broad daylight. They had no choice but to witness this.
Shirō stood still, as if he was deeply rooted from where he stood. He held on to his cheek that had an evident ruddiness at that time and bowed his head down low. “Ishikawa no Okāsan, with all due respect but your words are contradictory. I already did what you wanted to happen. I disappeared from his life no matter how much I wanted to fight for your son. Now you’re blaming me for leaving him behind? I don’t see what your point is. You’re not the only one who was deeply scarred by those events. I was really hurt but Kichirō and I decided to go our separate ways for everyone’s own good. What else do you want me to do?!” Shirō was flustered. He cried bitter tears in the middle of this bustling street.
Fumiko, on the other hand, was stunned. Shirō was right all along. She took a step forward and was about to give Shirō another slap but was stopped by Akihiko. “Dear wife, please stop it this instant. You shouldn’t be doing this. That’s all in the past. Could you just accept the fact that our son isn’t what you’re expecting him to be and give the two a chance?”
Ryū, right then and there, pulled Kichirō behind him and immediately spoke out: “I can’t let that happened. My friend was hurt because of him. Why would you want them to go back together? There are a lot more out there who’s way better than him. Why choose him?!” Ryū almost blurted out the words ‘he’s now mine’ but chose not to for Kichirō’s sake. Instead, he acted like an ardent best friend that he was.
Kichirō frowned then pursed his lips when he heard these words coming out from Ryū’s mouth. “So, you really have to emphasize that we’re friends? Would that not make my Okāsan doubt us more?” He thought to himself. He popped his head out from behind the other boy, then said: “Okāsan, please. Don’t do this. Everything is okay now. Otōsan is right. It’s all in the past. Wouldn’t it be better if we would all think that I’m fine now? Shirō is still my friend.” After saying this, he broke away from Ryū’s grip and stood in front of Shirō, in an attempt to protect him.
Ryū’s face darkened the moment Kichirō stood there to protect Shirō. Deep in his heart, he could tell that Kichirō was still not over this Shirō guy all along. Jealousy started to bud in his heart and mind, consuming him so that he blurted out: “Come back here this instant!” His possessiveness emerged.
Kichirō glanced at Ryū and immediately saw his indescribable face. He knew something was wrong but for some reason unknown to him, he stupidly blurted out: “Can we all just be friends? Ryū, please be friends with Shirō. He’s my senior high school best friend after all.”
Fumiko felt like they were just going around in circles so she decided to stop this conversation: “Kichirō let’s just go. Your aunt is waiting. And for you…” Fumiko then looked at Shirō behind her son, then warned him: “… I don’t ever want to see you near my son again. Do you understand?”
For the second time in his life, Kichirō had no better option but to disobey his own mother again, like he did, almost two years ago. While facing his own family, and Ryū, he groped for Shirō’s hand and made a run for it. It was like history repeated itself, but this time, it was Kichirō who initiated it. Everyone was shocked when Kichirō pulled Shirō away. Even Shirō did not expect Kichirō would stand up for him. As soon as they were a few meters away from them, Kichirō looked back, and with a worried expression, he said to Ryū: “I’m sorry, Ryū. Please trust me with this.” Then they dashed off and disappeared in the wake of the crowd.
Ryū wanted to chase after them, but he was stopped by Akihiko: “Son, it’s okay. You can trust my son’s words. Just let him close this unfinished business with Shirō. He’ll be back soon. Thank you for your concern for our Kichirō.”
Almost in tears, Ryū heaved a deep sigh and composed himself. He responded to Akihiko: “Yes, Otōsan. I trust him…”
Shūichirō approached Ryū and patted his back: “Onīsan, I know my Aniki. He’ll be back soon.”
Those memories, the good and the bad, flashed right before Kichirō’s eyes. They ran and ran until they were out of breath. Kichirō was confused about his own actions, but he was already here, and he knew there was no going back. After a few minutes of running, they came to a stop. Both boys were panting — almost out of breath. Shirō chuckled and just like infested by an infectious disease, Kichirō also felt like chuckling. “What?” He chuckled.
“Don’t you find it odd? Every time we confront your family, we always run away like we did something really bad,” Shirō chuckled as he said these words. He swayed his hair, that was now black, to the side.
Kichirō squatted on the sidewalk and nodded in agreement as he continued panting: “Yeah, I guess you’re right! Shi-kun, how long has it been?”
Shirō, who was chuckling earlier, became silent, and that once smiling expression, now turned into a serious look. He looked at Kichirō, pulled Kichirō’s hand up, making him stand up, and gently asked: “Do you still remember our vow?”
The other boy could not look straight at Shirō. He still remembered everything like it was just yesterday. He was guilty, guilty that he broke his promise with him. What else could he do? He put his faith in Shiro’s words like they were from the scriptures, but Ryū came like an Indian summer in the middle of a winter. He came unexpectedly and made everything warm and bright for him, just when he was all left out, dying in this cold and cruel world. Shirō was his remedy to this world’s cruelty yet Ryū was his healing salve that made everything turned out right for him. He picked him up when he was down and made him look forward to brighter tomorrow… But at this moment in time, Kichirō knew it — he was indecisive.
Kichirō looked earnestly at Shirō in the eyes, then softly said: “I do…”
Shirō heard these two words but felt like something was not right.
To be continued…