Aikawa Keito is standing on board a ship at night.
Unlike the azure daytime landscape, the night sea gave the impression of intense despair.
Right after looking, it seems he is falling deeper and deeper to a bottomless pit.
Even though he was about to leave to a place of memories where five of his childhood friends would gather for the first time in a while, just remembered something unpleasant for some reason and Keito looked up in the sky in a panic.
There was an infinite amount of stars in the sky.
Then for a moment, he had forgotten that he was on a boat or the fact that his neck was hurting for looking up at the sky for too long.
Occasionally, the winds blows fiercely but a surge of advisory had been made publicly.
The night breeze came howling while carrying along the smell of the tide from Keito’s back.
That march wind had once again delivered her presence to him.
“Haru no Umi*. Although it’s a song about undulating tides, it looks like tonight does not have that feeling.”
A voice came from his back.
“Found you, Kei-kun.”
“Were you looking for me Shi-chan?”
He is soon going to be a third- year student at junior high and it’s not like there is no aversion in calling a girl who is one year than him “-chan”, he just can’t get over his old habits.
“The stars are amazing. I was worried about a sea voyage at first but it was pleasant. Thank you, Kei-kun.”
Keito didn’t reply her but instead, he was staring intently at her――Takamori Shizuka’s smile.
She have become very mature-ish. Shizuka will soon be a senior.
She bequeathed her face, eyes and mouth that she had since young, however, looking at her profile from a breathtaking distance where he could feel her breathe on him, she has certainly approaching womanhood.
Those clear eyes that prefers to be reading are currently reflecting upon the stars of the night sky. Her hair which were short when she was young, have now grew past her shoulders and is swaying violently every time there is a strong draft.
That slender and refined fingers holding down her hair , had went past her eyes and nose, almost revealing her delicate jaw line.
The memories left of an innocent childish face is roughly gone from his memory. Nowadays, she has completely looks like an adult.
Are this unusual place, unusual time and unusual situation shown here just an illusion?
A star gazing Shizuka.
And Keito who is looking at Shizuka.
It seems like a remote past where the five of them including Shizuka played together every day till dark.
“I hate you. You are just a boring person who reads books all day.”
Thinking back to that time still hurts Keito’s heart.
Even if there is are no incident, it’s impossible for adolescent boy and girl to maintain their current their relationship forever. Sooner or later, estrangement will be unavoidable.
I know that. However, there is no doubt that I am the one that create that trigger.
Didn’t you feel like you could hear the voices of the stars when you are young?”
Shizuka looked at the skies and asked while her eyes are still projecting towards the stars.
“I sure heard a lot of them. A voice that only the both of us could hear. As if the twinkling star are chattering between themselves……I really heard it back then though. Somehow, I felt like I can remember it better compared to the past………Wonder why.”
“We are still junior high school students you know?”
“I am going to be in high school soon though.”
Keito and Shizuka are one year apart.
When they were children, the difference were difficult to tell, but once they entered middle school, it became more substantial. If their grade varies, the chances of meeting in school will be greatly diminish.
When they are being separated between middle school and high school, it would be worse.
This trip may be the last time they could remain as childhood friends.
Not just them, those who came with the both them, Takumi, Junichi and Sarasa probably have that premonition.
Meigetsu Academy is a prestigious girls school right? Are you going to be okay? The fact that you are an avid reader does makes you look like a refined lady, but you have a very perfunctory way of talking so I am worried about you.”
“Oh dear, that can not be helped. After all I am not a noble lady to begin with……..like that?”
“It feels wrong somehow…..nevertheless, we are already high school student huh….”
“It will be great though………”
The words muttered by Shizuka were swept away by the night breeze and Keito could only hear a few words.
“Kei-kun, what are you going to do about your future course?”
” I haven’t decided yet. Takumi would probably go to a similar school with Junichi. Sarasa…….senpai is enrolling to Kikusui right? She is pretty smart after all.”
“So Kei-kun is going as well………I know, how about enrolling to the same school as me?”
“No way, absolutely not.”
“You want to cross-dress?”
The laughing Shizuka suddenly trembled. The snow-colored cardigan that she wore on top of her uniform fits her tightly together, protecting her against the cool evening.
“Are you okay? It is getting cold out here.”
Today is the third month of higan (equinoctial week)* with both hotness and coldness. It is supposed to be a warmer period after this but because of the gust of wind, it was still chilly even after putting on a coat.
“Well we are in the middle in the ocean so it is obviously cold.”
Shizuka’s long hair swayed in the strong wind. Her light pink lips on her white skin is moving smoothly and conveying words to Keito.
“If, I dive in from here……..can I become a fish?”
Shizuka sometimes compares herself as a fish.
For a moment, Keito recalled a pitiful fish being obstructed by a rock enclosure while the ocean is before it’s eyes.
When he shook his head as if to drive away that illusion,
“Shi-chan, you loved the aquarium in the park right? I remembered that you didn’t moved at all when you are if front of the sweetfish and three spined stickleback.”
“Ihe colour of it’s tiny see-through body is pretty. Kei-kun, you loved the giant salamander.”
“……….I suppose. How long was that aquarium gone for?”
“Really brings back the memories.”
As Shizuka exhaled, she stretched her back as if to peeked into the surface of the sea which she supposedly can’t see.
“Wonder if the fishes are sleeping. The fishes in the river are great but once you gotten used to it, the fishes in the sea are better. The sea is deeper, quieter, darker and more peaceful. I want to sleep at the bottom of the ocean while dreaming all night. Then maybe I will go and see Kei-kun in my dreams.”
“Hey, Shi-chan. Did something happened?”
Keito can’t stand it and opened spoke out. Her words are more ephemeral as usual, like it is fading away.
“Nothing. For now. Oh yeah, if I become a fish that is sleeping at the bottom of the lake, will Kei-kun be the great wind and come pick me up?”
Shizuka’s face seems to be dreaming somewhere, as if it is close but to far to be touched at the same time. However, it is tender, calm and gentle and if you touch her cheeks, it will makes you think it would surely be soft. That is the expression I have fallen for.
“Please pick me up.”
Shizuka said it again.
The waves could be heard with a constant rhythm. Sky filled with chattering stars.
As if being supported by the rest, Keito have decided.
First, he need to apologize for that day. Due to the flow of the trip this time, they have made it here. They have no choice but to find a place to stop for moment.
Then――he want to proceed forward. That was Keito’s wish.
That’s why he didn’t listen properly to Shizuka’s request at that time.
Shizuka spoke with a serious face ahead of Keito, placing her hand on his chest, patting his pocket several times as if looking for something.
After showing bewildered expression,
“Oh right, I gave it to Sa-chan.”
He nodded as if he was convinced. Then, once again,
She projects a composed face as if nothing had happened. When Keito smiled at the situation getting strange,
“I am going to talk about something serious after this.”
Shizuka announced to him.
While Keito waited for the next sentence, silence flowed for an eternity.
Time has gently and definitely difted.
Once it passed, it will never return.
When I sincerely hoped,
When I desperately prayed,
No matter how I wished,
When I painfully repent,
I can never return back to those days.
Just before Shizuka and I could continued talking, Keito could hear the clamorous sound of the emergency bell piercing through the darkness of the night.