(Title – さようなら – Sayōnara – Goodbye)
Kichirō stared blankly at Shirō’s face, then he slowly looked down to the table. What’s your deal, Kichirō? This is your chance. He thought to himself. He looked up again and gazed into Shirō’s warm, yet sad eyes. He was mustering his courage to say these very few words that he knew would break the other’s heart. Just when he was about to open his mouth and say what he was meaning to say ever since, the waiter came to serve their meal. Kichirō awkwardly looked to the side and cleared his throat, as he heard the thud sound from the dishes on the table.
To lighten up the mood, Shirō chuckled and said, “That’s okay. We have all day. Remember you promised that you’ll accompany me today.” Kichirō looked at Shirō again with a slight blush on his cheeks. Without further ado, Shirō picked his chopsticks up and got some radish for Kichirō. “Here, eat this.”
“But I don’t like too much vegetables,” Kichirō protested.
“You should eat healthy food. You’re going to become a nurse. You should know better. Now say ‘ah,'” Shirō smiled and offered to feed Kichirō.
Kichirō frowned then said: “People are around us. I can feed myself.”
“C’mon now. This may be the last time that we will meet again. Won’t you miss me? Let me pamper you just this once.” Shirō did not take no for an answer and immediately fed Kichirō the radish.
After eating lunch, the two stayed for a bit to chat. They exchanged smiles and laughter, as if everything was back to the way it was before.
Not far from them, a group of onlookers were attentively watching them. One pair of eyes looked particularly cold and aloof, as if that person did not care about what was going on around them; but one could clearly see the sourness of jealousy mixed with the bitterness of resentment that he was forcing to hide behind his facade.
“Dude, you look like you can throw daggers with your eyes. Chill. This was your idea,” the idiot-like but handsome Ken said.
Ryū closed his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest, pretending like he did not care. After a few minutes, he stood up and said, “This is stupid. Let’s just go back.”
Aiko tugged on Ryū’s sleeve and said, “Hush, Senpai. We’re already here. We need to oversee this until the very end.”
Ryū blasted a cold ray with his eyes at Aiko. He gritted his teeth as he said: “Who came up with this stupid idea? It was you. This is all your fault. If they will get back together, I’m going to blame you.”
“Ueno-senpai. Just relax. I’m sure Aniki won’t let that happen. I know him very well. You should be the one who understands him the most. Please have faith in him,” Naoki calmly said.
“But hey… I can’t imagine seeing Ryū’s face if that would happen ha ha ha!” Ken laughed.
Ryū frowned but still managed to stay calm. He sarcastically said, “Well, I can’t wait to see your face too after I beat you up when that happens.”
“Guys, let’s just wait and see before we react. This Morioka-senpai looks nice. I can feel he’s not a bad guy and he won’t take advantage of Kichirō-chan,” Aiko intervened.
“I second the motion. Kichirō-kun doesn’t look like the type who would just act so recklessly,” Seijirō agreed.
Aiko looked at Seijirō and felt like there was something queer in the way he looked at Kichirō. She then reckoned that there was another possible competitor for Ryū in this messy love affair. Joy and excitement were evidently painted all over her face. She looked like a painter’s work of art that was subject to the viewers’ interpretation.
She did not know that amongst the group, Naoki could clearly read what she was thinking. “Maki-san, you look so scary.”
Aiko woke up from her temporary daze and raised her hands. “Oh no, no. I wasn’t thinking of anything lewd.”
Everyone laughed after that. That said, everyone continued to follow the two, who had already left.
“Where do you want to go next?” Kichirō asked Shirō while they were walking. He was full with all the food he ate. Shirō made him eat a lot of food that he liked, as if he was a prisoner who was about to be executed.
Shirō touched his chin and thought for a while, then responded, “Let’s go to Kiyomizu Temple .”
( Kiyomizu Temple)
The two walked toward the temple atop the hill. On their way, they encountered different faces, foreign and native. The city was bustling with visitors since it was a weekend. Shirō enjoyed viewing the scenery before him. Though it was still winter, the sun was shining brightly and the vast sky was clear. Snow would not fall any time soon. Kichirō was panting with his tongue out, just like a cute little puppy on a hot summer day. He was obviously not used to walking, especially since they had to walk up the steep hill. From behind, the group acted like a bunch of paparazzi following two famous celebrities who were secretly dating. Aiko was holding a camera, secretly taking photos of the two ahead of them.
With every ‘pasha’ sound that the camera made, Ryū grew more and more impatient. “Will you stop it?”
“Senpai, I’m trying to earn a living here. Don’t be such a party pooper,” Aiko protested.
Ryū did not respond and walked ahead of them.
“The male lead of this story has a very unstable temperament,” Aiko harrumphed.
“Ha ha, don’t mind him. He’s always like that,” Ken wryly smiled.
Upon reaching the top of the hill, the two stopped for a bit. Shirō offered Kichirō some water. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. Let’s keep moving. Good thing it’s cold and windy here,” Kichirō panted.
Shirō ran to the veranda and took a deep breath. He could faintly smell the gentle aroma of the incense in the temple along with the cold breeze. The view was awe-inspiring in this picturesque temple. To date, this was the happiest and at the same time, the saddest day for him. One could find better places to view the entire city, but this one was particularly special since he was with the one that he loved. He beckoned Kichirō, “Come over here. You can relax here for a bit.”
Kichirō sluggishly walked toward him. No more walking please! He thought.
After resting for a while, Shirō pulled Kichirō toward another place within the temple. He was like a kid who went to the amusement park for the first time. “You see, there’s this shrine here called the Jishu Shrine . There’s two love stones in front of the shrine. They said that if you would be able to find your way from one stone to the other with your eyes closed, your wish will come true.”
( Jishu Shrine and one of the love stones)
Kichirō was surprised. This was his hometown but he never knew that, so he responded with an “oh.”
“Want to give it a try? Let’s hold our hands together,” Shirō asked.
Kichirō nodded in response. He thought that there was no harm in trying. It would nice to do it too since he had wishes for him and Ryū. The two helped each other tie their folded handkerchiefs around their heads to cover their eyes. This may look so easy but it was a real challenge. There were a lot of people along the way and the two stones were several meters apart.
“Are you ready for it?” Shirō asked.
The two held each others’ hands as they carefully walked toward the other love stone. Some group of girls were squealing like crazy fan girls when they saw these two good-looking guys holding each others’s hands, to boot, this was usually done by actual couples so they had a vague understanding of what was brewing between these two.
Ryū’s eyes almost turned green seeing this. He clenched his fists but tried his best to keep his cool. From not far away, he suddenly saw Kichirō trip but Shirō helped the other up. Ryū could not take it anymore so he aimed to rush toward the two, but just when he was about to dash forth, Ken stopped him.
“Bro, calm down. Let’s just watch over them. That Shirō dude can take care of Kichi. If you’re worried about their wishes for each other, you can also do the same. Just wish for something that will counter their wishes,” Ken said.
Ryū knitted his brows then coldly said, “Why don’t you fulfill your own wish? By all means, I can help you jump off the stage here .”
(「清水の舞台から飛び降りる」”Jumping off the stage of Kiyomizu” has the same meaning as with “taking the plunge.” During the Edo Era, there was this tradition wherein if you will jump off the stage in this temple, your wish will be fulfilled but it was several meters high. Today, this is forbidden.)
Ken wryly smiled and said: “No man. I’m okay. Let’s just continue watching ha ha.”
After a few minutes of bumping into other people and tripping, the two finally reached the other love stone. Kichirō held his hands across his chest and wished in his heart I wish Shirō will also find his own happiness. He initially thought of wishing something for him and Ryū but he knew that with Ryū, anything was possible. Out of his concern for Shirō, he chose to offer his wish to his best friend and former lover.
“So, what did you wish for?” Shirō asked.
While Kichirō was untying his handkerchief, he smiled and said, “It’s a secret.”
“Fine, then mine’s a secret, too,” Shirō chuckled. If only you knew. I actually wished for you to always be happy with Ryū, that he won’t hurt you like I did in the past. I know you don’t love me anymore. I’ve realized ever since that it’s all over for us. I just wanted to see you some more, so I came here.
It was almost dusk. The vast orange sky was still clear as it was earlier in the day. Shirō and Kichirō were already down to the last part of their day’s journey. Shirō asked Kichirō to accompany him to Kyoto Tower . They took a cab to the famous tower.
( Kyoto Tower)
“If you’re already tired, just let me know if you want to go home, okay?” Shirō earnestly reminded the other.
Kichirō smiled and responded. “I’m fine. It’s been a while since we’ve gone out like this. Do you remember? We were still in Shinjuku when we spent the time together. Those were the days. I really missed how it was before. It was fine with just the two of us. If only those unfortunate events didn’t take place, we would still be together. I’d still be—”
“Kichirō, please don’t make it sound like I still have hope with you. It would be unfair with Ueno-kun if we will talk like this,” Shirō stopped him.
“Did I say anything wrong? I was just thinking of the possibilities. Of course, I love Ryū more than anyone in this world. Even if you were my first true love, I’m sure Ryū would be the last one. He was there for me all throughout. He helped me recover from my past. I’m not blaming you for leaving but… but at least, he didn’t leave me. He stayed until the very end.”
“That I am very aware of. I didn’t have the balls to face everything with you. I was stupid for leaving you like that. I thought that was the best solution, but it turned out to be the worst one. Kichirō, can we at least still be friends?” Shirō gasped and did his best not to cry; but, somehow, a bead of tear escaped from one of his eyes. He looked toward the window to hide this.
Kichirō held on to Shirō’s hand. He could feel that his hand was shaking. He held on it tightly then hugged Shirō from the side. He did not mind it if the cab driver could see them. All he could think of right now was to console the other. “Please don’t make me feel like you’re blaming yourself. It was our fault. I’m supposed to be blamed here, too. This forbidden love affair all started with the two of us. Now, it’s all in the past. Let’s move forward and just be friends. It may not be the same as it was before, but I hope we can still cherish and be content with what we have right now. I’m hoping the best for you, Shi-kun.”
Shirō did not respond. It was the perfect timing because they finally arrived at their last destination. They got out of the cab and headed toward the famous tower.
Atop the tallest structure in Kyoto, they enjoyed the 360-degree view of the city. Though it was dark already, they could see hundreds and thousands of flashing lights from the city’s structures, as if they were twinkling stars in the night sky. Since both of them were tired already from their all-day-long journey, they decided to sit on a bench and just enjoyed the view.
There was silence between the two, yet it was not the awkward one. At long last, they were able to come to a good closure and stayed as friends. Though Shirō did not respond to Kichirō’s last few words, Kichirō knew how the other felt and what was on his mind. Shirō did not have to convey it with words.
While seated, Kichirō yawned. Shirō noticed this so he offered his shoulder, “You can take a nap if you’d like to.”
Kichirō wanted to decline. He wanted to stay awake and cherish these last few minutes with his first love, but his sleepiness got the best of him. He unconsciously drew closer to Shirō and leaned on his shoulder, “Trouble you.”
“It’s fine. You’re my best friend after all,” Shirō earnestly said these words but upon saying the two words ‘best friend,’ he felt a sharp knife tear his heart. After a few seconds, Kichirō fell asleep. Shirō looked at the other boy’s clear and rosy-white face. He swore in his heart that this would be the last time that he would look at Kichirō with this kind of complicated feeling. The next time they would see again, they would be no more than friends. He secretly pecked Kichirō’s forehead then took his phone out.
After a short while, Ryū arrived. Shirō smiled at him. Though it was hard for Ryū, he managed to earnestly smile at Shirō, too. Ryū carried the sleeping Kichirō, and before they left, Shirō said, “Please take care of him for me.”
Shirō watched Ryū’s retreating back until he and Kichirō entered the elevator and disappeared. He could not hear the crowd’s mumbling around him. All he could hear was the loud thuds that his heart was making. He stayed there for a few more minutes, then decided to head back home.
While he was on the train, he looked to the window with a smile pasted on his face. Unexpectedly, it began to snow. As he looked at the first snow flake that fell on the window beside him, his sad smile slowly faded and in a matter of seconds, beads of tears started flowing down his handsome visage. He wanted to loudly wail but he chose to cover his mouth. It was inexplicable how he felt that very moment, but deep in his heart, he was thankful that this goodbye was not a bitter one…
To be continued…