(Title – 言い分 – Ībun – Grievance)
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. Although he felt this, he still chose to flash a gentle smile at Kichirō. He was just like a charming heavenly young prince, riding on his white horse, as he came to the rescue for some damsel in distress. His smile alone was enough to melt the biggest and oldest icebergs — melting them into a puddle.
This smile was deeply engraved in Kichirō’s heart and mind. His memory of him has long been locked up in a treasure chest, to be forever forgotten — and somehow — the key was found, and it was opened up again by that special person. While he was deep in his thoughts, Shirō woke him up from his daze. “Are you okay?”
Kichirō was startled and took a step back, away from Shirō. Then he awkwardly said: “I’m fine. I just remembered something. I think I need to go.” He turned around and while he was about to leave, Shirō grabbed him by his wrist. He was dumbfounded. He looked back at Shirō then said: “This is wrong. We shouldn’t meet again.”
Shirō frowned and did not let go. He took a step closer to Kichirō and asked: “Why? Is it really because of your family, or is it because you already found somebody else?” He fixed his gaze at Kichirō’s hesitant face, with grievances in his heart.
Kichirō dodged Shirō’s eyes. He could not look straight into his eyes. He knew that he was guilty in his heart. “I… I don’t know what you’re talking about…” In the end, he said these words, as if he was oblivious of what Shirō meant. He wanted to avoid this conversation about them and most especially about what happened in the past. He thought that after everything had been settled between him and Miyuki, the ghost of his past would slowly vanish in time, leaving no trace behind. He did not know that the remnants of his past still lingered in his mind and soul — and it may stay drifting like this in his life for a much longer time.
Shirō did not speak. Kichirō could not read what was in this man’s train of thought nor could he fathom what that look on his face meant. What he did know is that if he would let this continue, things would get ugly in the future…
As Shirō was tightly holding on to Kichirō’s hand, he pulled Kichirō away from this bustling crowd, and continued walking. Kichirō wanted to break away from his grip, but he could not. Was it because his grip was so tight, or was it because, in his heart, he did not want to let go, too?
Shirō was one step ahead of Kichirō as he pulled Kichirō. He did not let go even if people were already looking at them. Kichirō was already flustered so he bowed down, with the intention of avoiding the questioning and curious looks these people had on their faces.
The sun was slowly shrouded by the dark veil-like clouds that fleeted in the sky. As time went on, the temperature gradually dropped, making the surroundings unusually colder — it was about to snow.
After a few minutes of walking, they finally reached a small children’s park. There was no one around at that time, probably because of the cold weather. Shirō made Kichirō sit on a bench and sat beside him. They were so close so that Kichirō’s heart started beating so fast. Oh no, could he hear it?
“That…” Shirō could not take the silence anymore so he started speaking his mind. “Who was that guy?” He asked Kichirō.
Kichirō, whose mind was obviously fleeting, was startled: “Oh… Sorry, what was that?” He looked at Shirō and appeared to be really ready to listen to what he was about to ask.
Shirō heaved a deep sigh. He patted Kichirō’s back and started fixing the boy’s scarf. “You should wear more. It’s cold. I know you can’t tolerate the cold,” he said with a concerned tone.
Kichirō was touched in his heart because of the man’s concern, but he wanted to end this conversation as soon as possible, so he frankly said: “I’m already dating someone.”
Shirō was not the least bit shocked when he heard this. He held on to Kichirō’s cheeks with his hands and drew closer: “I know. And can you imagine how hurt I am right now?” Shirō’s eyes were watery. He looked away, sniffed a little, and rubbed his eyes. He did not want Kichirō to see this weak side of him.
Kichirō tugged on to Shirō’s sleeve. He wanted to confess everything and apologize to Shirō for what have happened: “Shi-kun, I’m really sorry. I really wanted to wait for you… so bad that I wanted to cry each day that passed by without having you near me. But you disappeared. I thought I’d still be able to talk to you after all that. I went everywhere to look for you, but I couldn’t find you… so when Ryū came—”
“So, what if he came? Is he so much better than me? I can’t see why you couldn’t wait for me. I’ve been so patient and done everything for you. Why did you break your promise?!” After saying this, he broke into tears. He was so disappointed and aching in his heart so that he was beating his own chest with his fist. “It hurts, Kichirō. It hurts!” 2
Kichirō was speechless. He tried to stop Shirō from beating his own chest but Shirō flung his hand away. In the end, Kichirō started to cry, too: “… I’m sorry, Shi-kun. I really am. Please forgive me. We can still be friends, right?!” His rationality was shrouded by his emotions so that he did not know what to say anymore. All he could think of at the moment was to apologize to Shirō.
Seeing Kichirō crying like this, Shirō’s anger and frustration died out like a candle that ran out of wick. All of his grievances and frustration turned into helplessness and pity for the other: “Please come back to me… Give me one more chance. I know I was wrong for disappearing and leaving you like that. Please, Kichirō.” He embraced Kichirō, who was currently sobbing like a helpless kid then kissed the boy’s forehead.
The other boy who was secretly following them could not take it anymore either. So, he dashed toward them and immediately gave Shirō a punch on his face. “Stay away from him!!” He loudly roared.
Kichirō stopped crying and looked deathly pale. He was out of words and was completely dumbfounded. In a split second, he stood up and tried to pull Ryū away from Shirō, but he was completely powerless when it comes to the overbearing Ryū. Shirō did not fight back. He just sat helplessly on the ground. Apparently, he was knocked down after Ryū punched him. He was holding onto his cheek where Ryū punched him earlier and looked at Ryū, not with fear, but with sheer indignation. Ryū was not taken aback by this and even fought back with a deathly glare at him. “Stop, Ryū. Stop it… We were just talking…” Kichirō tried to stutteringly explain.
Ryū sneered. He was not blind. He was following them all along and could clearly see from the start what was going on. “Really? So, can you explain to me why he was embracing you and why did he kiss you like that?! I want an answer, and I want it now!” He yelled. He was really frustrated with Kichirō at the moment. So frustrated that he was even tightly gripping Kichirō’s arm.
“Ryū, you’re hurting me. Stop it. I can explain everything, please…” Kichirō was in pain and his voice was weak as he trembled.
Shirō did not sit there idly. He stood up and pushed Ryū away. “Are you dumb? Can’t you see you’re hurting him?!” He yelled at the top of his lungs and suddenly punched Ryū in the face, too.
Kichirō continued to cry but he could not do anything. From the start, he knew that he was a helpless weakling. How could he fight against these tall and overbearing guys before him? Despite all of that, he mustered all of his strength and, in the twinkling of the eye, two loud crisps could be heard — he slapped Ryū and Shirō. The two were so astonished that they stopped hitting each other. “Can you guys stop?! I know I’m the worst but how can we settle this if everyone will let their anger control them?! If you won’t stop, I’d better leave now. And Ryū, I told you to trust me with this, but it turns out you don’t trust me at all…” Kichirō was really disappointed in his heart — disappointed toward his own self because he could not make a clear and firm decision… and disappointed because Ryū did not trust him at all.
In a matter of seconds, Kichirō’s back disappeared as he dashed away from this scene, leaving the two, stunned and helpless guys behind, as they stood there at the park.
On this cold and melancholic January afternoon in Osaka, snow slowly began to fall…
To be continued…