Mar 4, 2019

Riku and Chise Chapter 3

Chapter 3 - The Color of The Vast, Vast Sky

Three days had passed since Chise’s mother phone call.

Ever since then, neither parent contacted each other and Chise could not find out anything more about their divorce settlement.

It was noon. Dinnertime.

Chise looked, no, glared down at the dandelion-colored plate in front of her with a frown.

The edge of the plate was indented and it really resembled a dandelion. It was so cute it could make you smile.

As long as those thinly-sliced green objects were not present on its surface.

Or, at the very least, if the glossy-looking green objects were not vegetables known as green peppers.

No, even if they were to bear that name, Chise would be fine with them if they did not taste like that.

“Chise-san, you don’t have to force yourself,” said Andou-san.

“No, I will eat them.”

Chise answered with determination on her face.

“How about I cook them a little? Some bonito flakes should be able to reduce the bitterness and make them delicious. Or maybe, I can add some tomatoes and bacon, and fry everything in olive oil. Or add some minced meat to make patties so that you can’t feel the texture… You don’t have to force yourself to eat something you don’t like.”

Three days ago, Chise had told Andou-san that she hoped for green peppers to be added to the side dishes. Andou-san was yet to understand why had she done so.

On the first day, Chise managed to successfully down the broiled green peppers and, on the second day, she cleared the stuffed green peppers. The third day brought eggplant, green peppers, and shimeji mushrooms with Japanese-styled pasta. On the fourth day, this day, Chise wanted to challenge raw green peppers.

“If I cannot taste green peppers in the meal, I cannot say I have conquered them, no?”

So Chise picked up her chopsticks, picked up a slice with just a tiny touch of Italian salad dressing, and brought it to her mouth.

It tasted bitter after all.

So bitter it made her groan, but she chewed and swallowed it.

Followed by another slice.

And another slice.

“Chise-san, you don’t look so good.”

“So-sorry... I’ll just try to smile.”

Chise fixed a smile on her face, picked up another bit of green pepper, and brought it to her mouth, still smiling as she chewed them.

After swallowing, she smiled again.

“...You don’t have to have to force a smile as you eat them either,” muttered Andou-san.

It appeared this approach also would not work.

(This is really difficult.)

But if she could force herself to like the taste of green peppers, she might be able to gobble them down nonchalantly.

The morning after she had received the call from her mother, she received the newspapers from Riku. It was because of the encouragement his presence offered that she recovered. Ever since that morning, she had made up her mind.

She wanted to become stronger.

Even though her parents were going to divorce, she wanted to be able to smile with determination.

She wanted to become independent. She wanted to be like Riku-kun, capable of delivering newspapers to supplement the family income.

Chise asked Andou-san to allow her to not only clear the cutlery but also to do housework.

Andou-san initially refused. “I can’t allow you to do this, Young Miss,” she said. “You may leave the cutlery to me.” However, ──

“Back in Tokyo, my parents would not allow me to do housework. And I do want to learn some essential life skills.”

── Chise kept pleading with sincerity.

“Really. You must finish your school assignments first, though.”

Eventually, Andou-san reluctantly agreed.

And Chise’s goals also included conquering the foods she hated.

(I am going to learn how to eat green peppers this summer!)

Chise again glared at the plate covered with green peppers.

The dandelion-colored plate was filled with the horrible things, giving the appearance of a sumptuous meal. Chise couldn’t help but marvel at the sight as she chewed on the green peppers one by one.

Finally, the last green pepper was swallowed.

“Thank you for the meal.”

This time, her smile was genuine.

Andou-san looked impressed.

“My, there were three full green peppers on that plate,” she said. “You managed to finish them all.”

The rest of the menu consisted of chicken gomoku rice, yuzu and mizuna lettuce, and shiitake soup. Each of them was delicious too. Chise also helped to cut the daikon and ginseng.

To be fair, she had cooked a few dishes with her classmates during the culinary classes in the past. However, she had only ever been in charge of a few menial tasks back then, like peeling yam, sieving flour, cleaning the used utensils, and so on. Thus, it was a refreshing, interesting experience to have an experienced helper like Andou-san guide her in how to cut vegetables and season a meal.

If her parents were going to divorce, her entire life would change completely, and there might not be any happy things awaiting her thereafter. But ──

(After Riku-kun delivered newspapers to me, I became really enthusiastic. Andou-san taught me lots about of housework too.)

── her heart remained filled with thanks to Riku, and a bunch of hopelessly sweet thoughts.

On the following morning, she waited for Riku at the gate as usual and, when a thin ray of light appeared at the crest of the hill, the boy arrived on his bicycle.

“Go-good morning.”

Chise approached the postbox and lowered her head as she greeted Riku. The boy did likewise in a shy response.

“The weather is fine today too.”


Since the day when Riku had been late delivering the newspapers, both parties started talking a little more.

Riku’s demeanor remained standoffish, and even though he did talk, he uttered only a few words. Chise, in turn, was overly tense, stammering for a few moments before going silent.

But one could truly sense a certain change between those two since that day.

Chise might not be the only one who realized this. Riku might have as well.

His words were often terse and cold, but he did respond to Chise. There were times when he appeared to want to speak to the girl, staring at her face only to hurriedly avert his eyes when handing over the newspapers. Or looking back while getting into the saddle when he was about to cycle off.

Last time, when Chise’s and Riku’s eyes had met, the girl’s heart threatened to jump out of her chest. Riku too raised his eyebrows in shock and immediately turned his face away.

(Riku-kun just looked at me!)

Chise’s mind went blank, her sizzling cheeks were so hot they threatened to self-ignite.

She went back indoors with her cheeks red, her heart beating wildly. After hurriedly climbing the stairs, she laid out the newspapers on the floor. The contents somehow seemed to be a lot sweeter than usual.

She wanted to say many more things to Riku.

She wanted to know Riku a little better.

These desires kept intensifying, but Riku had to deliver his newspapers within a certain time, and Chise could not keep delay him for too long.

On this day, having received the newspapers as usual, as she was about to thank him, Riku spoke.

“...I read... that novel,” he muttered, as always avoiding looking at her.


This startled Chise quite a bit and she looked at him again

“...The one serialized in the newspaper,” he added, maintaining his gloomy look.

Did Riku grow curious about the novel because Chise had mentioned she was looking forward to the continuation?

(Waaah...! What do I do now?)

Her face immediately flared bright red. Riku had remembered what she had said, had developed an interest in that novel, and was willing to tell her about it to boot. She was really happy.

“The story is great, isn’t it?” she whispered with a smile.


Having said that, Riku muttered a goodbye and pedaled off faster than usual.

The frail figure slowly faded in the distance, taking with it the sound of tires grinding against the dirt.

Chise suddenly recalled that she was yet to thank Riku on this day so, holding the newspapers down to her chest, she yelled, “thank you for delivering the newspapers!”

She did not know if her voice reached him because he didn’t look back.

(I will be waiting for you tomorrow too.)

Chise embraced the newspapers once again and, with a sweet smile and heart full of bliss, she returned indoors.

Her feather-light feet carried her up the stairs.

She opened the door, knelt upon the thin carpet, and laid out the still warm newspapers and the colorful advertisements.

Then, next to them, she placed a scrapbook, glue, pair of scissors, and colored pens.

It made the floor look like it was blooming with flowers, and just by looking at this Chise felt her heart was bursting with excitement.

She started reading. The horizons of her world expanded, and she started imagining various things.

She soaked the new experiences with her eyes, her ears, and her skin, encountering the unknown, hearing the unknown, and obtaining new knowledge.

Of course, Chise saw depressing, terrifying incidents amongst the articles.

But she also saw delightful reports, heartwarming anecdotes, or some surprising information.

The counselor’s answer in the life advice column was crisp and clear; the 4-koma left her chuckling; even the quarreling couple in the serialized novel finally conveyed their feelings to each other, the heartwarming development soothing her soul.

“It is great that Saburo-san and Wakako-san are finally able to get along.”

She heaved a sigh of relief, but also suddenly recalled the conversation she had with Riku earlier in the morning, and her cheeks immediately sizzled.

(Riku-kun is reading the same story...)

What were Riku’s thoughts after reading today’s chapter? It would have been great if she continued the conversation tomorrow, but could she? Would he think of her as a strange girl?

(I really want to talk to Riku-kun a little more…but…I guess that is impossible…since he is different from me. He is a middle schooler that is already helping his mother through work, delivering newspapers...)

She found this Riku to be really admirable.

And at the same time, she was very envious of him.

(Riku-kun’s mother really depends on him...)

There were times when Chise would imagine Riku’s daily life with his mother.

Theirs was not a big family, surely it was peaceful and filled with warmth.

“How nice,” she muttered to herself with envy.

(If Riku-kun’s family is like this...)

It would be great if Riku-kun was living a happy life...


Riku really did not want to see his mother, so after delivering the newspapers, he went straight to school and stayed in the Arts Club room alone, drawing.

He applied the warm colors of sunset to the canvas and, at the same time, he recalled the adorable memory of the thin, fluttering white ribbon, and the clean looking, long, black hair.

The apprehensive girl with white, delicate skin, and a petite body…

On the night of Riku’s crying mother return after she had been dumped by her latest boyfriend, the woman kept clinging to him.

──Just Riku, why aren’t you smiling?

His mother kept shaking him, reproaching him. Every corner of his world was hollow and filled with darkness.

Was he destined to spend his entire life in such darkness?

Was he destined to trudge on with this hollow, parched heart?

Was this really ‘living’?

Was there a reason to keep living on this planet?

It was almost midnight when his mother finally calmed down. She slept like a child, her arms latched around his neck. He couldn’t be bothered to pry them off and leaned onto the wall until it was dawn.

The newspapers delivery was due soon after, so he had no intention to fall asleep but unwittingly did so nonetheless when dawn approached.

He woke up and found that it was 30 minutes past the usual time he left home.

He was late!

He hurriedly laid his mother onto the floor, put a blanket over her, washed his face, and dashed out of his apartment.

He forgot to leave a key at home.

Not that she would use it even if he did. Whenever she was at home, in- or outdoors, the front door was always opened. But no thief would steal from such a tattered apartment even if it was empty. And even if one tried, there was nothing to steal.

Riku rode upon the bicycle, huffing and puffing, towards the newsagent.

“Riku, you’re late!” growled the owner.

“Sorry,” he apologized as he rushed to stuff the sheets of marketing material into the freshly printed newspapers, before placing everything into the back seat and the basket of the bike.

“Careful out there! If anything happens to you, the shop will be in trouble!” Riku heard the boss growl before stepping on the pedals hard.

Riku had never been late before.

Because he was a middle schooler, no other place in this rural village was willing to give him work. Thus, not to lose this one, he was often tense and cautious to avoid mistakes.

At first, he bought two alarm clocks from the 100-yen shop, but they never got to ring.

He always woke up before the alarm time, prepared himself, and went to the shop. He would then collect the newspapers and deliver them to every household that placed an order.

This had always been the case for at least two years now.

However, Riku was late this time. Peevish, he remembered that his mother would remain at home until she fell in love again and he felt frustration.

If his mother really wanted to know why he did not smile...

Just imagining his crying mother embracing him, asking him to smile, left him increasingly frustrated, as if someone was clawing away at his chest.

He inadvertently hated his mother’s immaturity and insensitivity.

That was what he thought of his only kin. Surely, he had not been quite right in his head. Perhaps he was unable to communicate with anyone.

Riku never thought of getting involved with anyone. He was at his most relaxed when he was drawing alone.

But his world was like a newspaper page, rough, dry, and filled with dull grey. No matter how he moved forth, he could not see the end and felt no urge to carry on.

The emptiness, mixed with rage, filled Riku’s heart, and all he could make himself do was to keep delivering the papers like a robot.

“Aren’t you later than usual today?” grumbled the early riser old man.

Riku could only lower his head and murmur an apology. After dealing with half of the route in his manner, he finally arrived at the girl’s house.

The old, majestic-looking villa surrounded by a fence.

Where the girl stood apprehensively at the fence every morning.

On this day too, she stood next to the postbox, her head lowered uneasily.

Perhaps she was disappointed that the newspapers had not been delivered.

How long did she stand there, staring at the empty postbox?

He felt his heart be gripped by something and, at that moment, the girl suddenly lifted her head.

And once she saw Riku approaching on the bicycle, her adorable black eyes grew wide like saucers.

She seemed taken aback. Perhaps she had assumed Riku would not come.

Her tender lips widened slightly, her eyes wide open as she stared at him.

Surely, he had kept her waiting for a long time.

Once again, Riku lamented the fact that he was late. He took out the newspaper from the basket and handed it over to the girl.

And this time, her face seemed full of shock, just as when she had received the newspapers from him for the first time.

She kept staring at Riku, who inadvertently held his breath as he studied her little white face.

The slender arms slowly reached out, and the pure, speckles hands received the newspapers from Riku’s with a little shiver.

At this moment, Riku noticed the girl’s eyes were a little red and he was quietly startled.

Also at this moment, the girl’s cheeks and lips seemed to ignite fiery red and a clear glint shone in her eyes.

She smiled a blissful smile, one akin to a blooming mountain flower of purity unknown to man. When it bloomed before him, his heart throbbed, and he kept staring at her startled.

Riku did not know why would she smile so happily.

Was it because she had been waiting for him to deliver the newspapers? Was it because he finally arrived?

Just because of that?

“Thank you.”

Like usual, the girl thanked him bashfully. However, Riku could sense from the tone of her voice that she was filled with boundless joy and gratefulness.

All because of some newspapers!

Just because of this, her eyes dazzled, her cheeks reddened, and she brought the crude, grey pile of papers Riku delivered close to her chest like a treasure...

At this moment, a ray of warm light shone into Riku’s hollow heart, and the dull, colorless world brightened immediately.

Because of that girl’s smile.

For she really treasured the newspaper so much and was hugging it firmly.

Riku’s world seemed to come under a spell. All he saw, the meaning to everything changed.

Everything was being purified by the girl, becoming crystal clear.

Riku wanted to remain at this place, to keep looking at her blissful face, and yet, at the same time, he had the urge to flee from her immediately. Those conflicting feelings left him rattled, and thus, he lowered his head, and gingerly pedaled off towards the next customer.

Ever since that day, the girl at the villa seemed to be a special existence to Riku’s heart.

He did not understand in what sense she was special.

After all, Riku had never paid particular attention to others, let alone girls. However, this girl was different from his classmates, and he found her to be important.

He started to worry about how the girl would view him, and really did not wish to offend her with his crude words.

Whenever he delivered newspapers to the villa, his heart would speed up a notch. As soon as he saw the red postbox, his heart would skip a beat. When he would see the girl standing apprehensively by the postbox, his chest would fill with warmth and his breath would be taken from him.

He wanted to talk with her a little more. He wanted to hear just a little bit more of her voice.

These thoughts were a lot more intense compared to before, almost spilling out of his mouth. He was flustered by this, and at the same time, he tried to chat with the girl many a time, only to fail every attempt. However one day, they finally managed to have a decent conversation.

“...I read... that novel.”

The girl exclaimed in shock, probably due to how unexpected his sudden words were.

For a moment, Riku was remorseful and anxious, but he muttered once again, “...the one serialized in the newspaper.”

It took effort to eke out those words. This time, the girl looked perturbed and seemed to hesitate.

“The story is great, isn’t it?” she asked with a tender smile.

The girl’s kind understanding caused his heart to sizzle and race. He found himself embarrassed. Then, with a forlorn heart that felt like it had been doused in cold water, he flatly muttered,  “…Yeah,” and quickly pedaled off.

He felt happy to be able to talk to the girl, but why did he feel so forlorn?

Surely, it was because, even though he had read the novel the girl liked, he was unable to have the same feelings as her.

The story depicted a large family living on the old streets after the War. Theirs was a bustling, heartwarming daily life.

Each character was earnest, understanding. They would laugh and cry as they continued with their busy lives...

Such an ordinary, peaceful story as witnessed by his cold eyes seemed to be a fantasy of a distant world.

But if this story could bring a gentle smile to the girl’s lips and cause her to say that ‘it was great’, surely, it resonated with her.

Surely, the girl had a ‘family’ she could rely on, one like in the story.

(That girl... She’s different from me. She’s a Princess, a rich person living in the city. People dote her.)

This fact cooled his heart.

But at the same time, the girl really saved him. Her upbringing in an affectionate family allowed her to become a girl who could share this warmth with others. These thoughts made his heart tighten.


Chise was startled, and the thin contact lens slipped off her finger, falling into the drainage hole.

It was night.

Chise removed her contact lens in the washroom and pinched it with her thumb and index finger as she washed it with tap water, only for the tragedy to strike.


She frowned dejectedly as she looked down at the bottom of the sink.

She had first started wearing contact lenses in the spring of her second year of Middle school.

Initially, she had been wearing the hard lenses, rather than the soft disposable ones, to correct her astigmatism. She had to put them on in the morning, and remove them at night. Back then, she would plug the drainage hole with a special stopper, and then carefully wash them. It was only when she had gotten used to the habit that she would not necessarily use the plug all the time.

Once, she had accidentally washed her contact lens away.

That had caused her to be a little cautious for a period of time, but it appeared she had just let her guard down again.

No matter how she peered into the drainage hole, the washed away contact lens could not be seen.

So she put on her glasses and sighed.

“I made a mistake again...”

It appeared that since she made the same mistake again, she was far from being the ideal independent female. One might however also say that these things just happen, and even an independent female may lose or break her contact lenses once every while.

She let her thoughts run wild with no rhyme or reason until, suddenly, in her shock, she realized something.

(What do I do tomorrow morning!?)

It was night. There was no way she could obtain new contact lenses before daybreak.

If she took a bus to the town, she would probably be able to find an optician capable of producing contact lenses she required, but the earliest that could happen was tomorrow during business hours.

Chise’s natural vision in both eyes was no better than 0.04. Without her contact lenses, she could not read words located beyond 30cm away.

But she found it embarrassing to meet Riku while wearing glasses.

There had been that one time that she had been wearing glasses when she had looked out of the second-floor bedroom. Their eyes had met before she had hurriedly pulled the curtains down. He had probably never seen her clearly in that short moment.

But this time, Riku would clearly see her wearing glasses.

It required her lots of courage to show him an appearance that differed from her usual self.

(And I am...unsuited to wearing glasses... Also, mine have a black frame. It does not look cute at all...)

Chise suddenly felt strong regret. If she had known this would happen, she would have made a cuter pair of spectacles instead.

She put on her black-framed glasses, stood before the washroom mirror, and stared back at herself.

Reflected on the surface of the mirror was a plain, dull girl with no charm. She resembled a disciplinary committee chairperson. or a bookworm of the kind that only appeared in gag manga.

“I look ugly!”

Chise immediately frowned.

She covered her glasses with both hands and knelt in front of the basin with a groan.

“Uu, I should not be showing this ugly look to Riku-kun!”


The following morning, after much thinking, Chise decided at the last moment to go out with only the right contact lens on.

If she could see with one eye, things might somehow work out.

The plan of having one good eye and one blurry eye, however, fell to pieces the moment she stepped outside. She instantly felt groggy and stumbled about.

Within a few seconds, she felt discomfort and sat down just inside the hallway.

(I-I will stay here for a moment...)

If she closed her eyes, she could maybe hang on.

She just had to head out when Riku was about to arrive, approach the postbox, and wait to collect the delivery.

It would be but a moment and she should be able to endure this little bit of discomfort.

But gathering her wits took longer than expected. By the time she opened the front door, Riku had already arrived by the postbox.

(Uh oh!)

Chise ran out in a hurry.

At this moment, her field of vision shook violently, and her body tumbled forward.

Chise wanted to run forward, but her feet were stumbling about, not willing to obey her instructions. A thought occurred to her that walking slowly with her eyes closed might be safer, but she wanted to arrive by the postbox just now. At this moment ──

— a pair of thin arms supported her stumbling body.

Riku caught Chise.

He saw that she was stumbling, and left the bicycle to approach her, perhaps irate by her tardiness.

Chise crashed into his hard chest, catching a whiff of the scent of his sweat. Her thoughts were utter chaos.

(Ri-Riku-kun is carrying me...! Riku-kun’s arms are on my shoulders──Riku-kun’s smell──his chest ──)

While Riku did look gaunt, he was strong.

He held up Chise.

“...You don’t have to come out if you aren’t feeling well.”

The deep voice muttered flatly.

“I-it is n-not that. I am feeling fine, but...”

If Chise was to say that she was only wearing one contact lens, she would have to explain everything that had happened since yesterday night.

And that she could not do, for the reason was that she did not want to show Riku her ugly self while wearing the black-framed glasses. That was why she had been stumbling about.

She could never, ever say that aloud.

If she did, Riku might look down on her, thinking her a girl full of fake humility.

Just imagining it caused her cheeks to sizzle immediately.

“Your face is red. Having a cold?”


Chise was so tense, she was breathless. To Riku, she appeared to be in discomfort. Thus, he carried her to the hall.

He then returned to the bicycle and handed the newspapers over to her.

“Th-thank you...”

Chise held her newspapers, her head lowered bashfully.

“...No problem.”

Riku muttered. He wanted to say something but did not. He ran back to the bicycle and pedaled off.

(I caused Riku-kun so much trouble...)

Chise returned to the washroom dejectedly, removed the lens from her right eye, washed it, and returned it to the case. Then, she put on her glasses.

Her vision became clear. The mirror showed a devastated girl wearing black-framed glasses.

With her shoulders lowered, she returned to her room on the second floor and opened the newspapers. There was a promotional pamphlet from an optician stuck between the pages, one that appeared to sell contact lenses too. Thus, after she finished her breakfast, she took the bus to town.

It was morning, and the bus was full of people. She managed to find a seat, however.

The vehicle rumbled on, past the plains and fields, down the quiet countryside road. Half an hour later, a tall building finally appeared outside the window.

The bus stopped before a department store, with a banner that read ‘Summer Special Sales’ on the door. Almost all the passengers alighted here.

The glasses shop from the pamphlet was on the town’s main road and Chise found it immediately.

She did a vision check and ordered the same brand of contact lenses as the one that had washed away.

However, the clerk reported that they had just sold out on this brand and there would be at least two days wait.

“Would you try a different brand?”


Chise really wanted to obtain new contact lenses. After much thought, however, she decided to stick with the brand she was familiar with.

“I can come back to collect in two days.”

The next day.

Chise wore her black-framed glasses and stood in the courtyard, waiting apprehensively for Riku.

She had been wearing a single contact lens the previous day, causing Riku trouble. Thus, she made up her mind to wear glasses this time.

She was dressed in the white dress she liked, but she was worried that it did not match the black frames causing her appearance to look off.

Though worried, she left earlier than usual so that she would not miss out on Riku’s delivery time. Riku, on his bicycle, as usual, approached the residence slowly as she lazed around behind the fence.

Suddenly, her heart pounded loudly.

Her slightly reddened face frowned as she stood by the postbox, full of expectations.

Once Riku saw Chise’s face, his eyes went wide.

Chise’s face started to feel hotter and hotter by the second, and sweat started to trickle from her armpits.

He stared at her face more intently than usual, and it left her flustered. Perhaps the glasses looked weird after all?

Chise had a sudden urge to explain to Riku that she would only be wearing glasses these two days, that she would be wearing contact lenses again after that.

Once he noticed her blushing face, Riku realized he was staring too intently, and awkwardly averted his eyes, handing the newspapers over.

“Thank you.”

Chise received the newspapers with both hands.

“No worries.”

Riku muttered and lowered his head respectfully.

Then, he looked towards Chise’s eyes again, averted his eyes again, and hurried off.

On this day, they did not talk to each other.

Chise lowered her shoulders dejectedly.

She spent that morning finishing her remaining assignments, and during afternoon tea time, she pinched the muscats chilling in the freezer.

She put the icy-hard green muscats onto her palm and, at that moment, she immediately felt a cold sensation spread out from the point of contact. She rolled them gently and peeled them.

The crystal-like, transparent fruit had a refreshing taste of sorbet which, combined with the soft fruity flesh, formed a unique flavor. The frozen fruit left behind a stinging cold sensation that slowly melted away in the mouth, leaving Chise elated.

“This really is a unique way of eating it,” said Andou-san to Chise.

“The newspaper recommended it. It was written that various frozen things can taste unexpectedly delicious.”

“So it was you who put the baumkuchen, red bean bun, butter buns, honeydew buns, fruit Swiss rolls, chocolate croissants, and cotton candy into the freezer, Chise-san?”


Chise’s cheeks reddened as she whispered.

The muscat was to Chise’s liking, and she wanted to try other foods, so she wrapped everything she could get her hands on in cling wrap, and put it in the freezer.

It would probably take quite a while before she finished it all.

“Feels just like an elementary schooler’s summer experiment,” said the housekeeper with a smile.

Chise once again blushed, tucking her head in as she pretended to adjust her glasses.


The next morning, Chise appeared with her glasses on, and Riku kept staring at her all the time.


He could have asked why she was wearing them, but he didn’t and kept himself to simply studying that part of her face. It was all the more embarrassing for Chise.

Perhaps even more embarrassing than wearing a swimsuit.

“E-erm, it seems…there will be rain, this afternoon,” she said in a shrill voice deliberately avoiding the subject.

(I have been talking about the weather recently.)

However, she did not know what to talk about, especially at this critical juncture.

Riku’s response was a terse, “yeah.” He then handed over the newspapers and left, but not before one last long look at her face and glasses.

“Th-thank you.”

Chise deliberately lowered her head so that Riku could look at her face no longer. However, her bow was too deep and the glasses slid down her nose. She barely managed to hold them back in place with one hand.

Later that afternoon Chise took the bus to the city once more.

(I can wear contact lenses again tomorrow.)

She held her hand to her chest with relief.

The morning was clear and sunny, but before she knew it, the skies were filled with dark clouds. Perhaps the weather report was accurate and there might even be a thunderstorm.

(It will be good if I can return in time...)

But the optician was busier than she expected, and collecting the order took her some time. She managed to procure two sets of contact lenses, had the shop attendant help her, and boarded the bus with a smile preparing to head back.

But once the bus started to move, its windows started to be pelted by raindrops.

(Ah, it is starting to rain...)

It was just a drizzle at first but, slowly, the downpour hitting the windows grew stronger and stronger. Just as Chise was starting to worry that the rain might break the glass, there was a bright flash.

She gasped.


The next moment, a sharp, deafening noise roared through the skies on the way to her ears.

(I-I hate this.)

Chise was scared of thunder.

While Chise found flashing lights in the sky pretty, she hated the loud boom that followed immediately after. She hated all kinds of loud sounds, like the noise of human commotion, animal growls, or the crash of falling and breaking objects. But amongst all of that, Chise hated the powerful boom of thunder the most.

She shriveled on the cushioned seat, covering her ears.

But even so, the thunderclaps kept coming, the earth-shattering noise reaching her ears.

She was already terrified to hear thunder at home. Having to hear it inside the bus had her heart beating wildly. She imagined the dazzling lightning accompanying the tremendous noise, striking the roof of the bus. That image made her shiver all over.

She heard that electricity was drawn to metal and the bus so happened to be metallic.

(Please do not land here.)

She prayed quietly in her heart.

She felt like she was riding a roller coaster in a theme park. Whenever the alluring lights flickered in the skies outside, she would instinctively jolt, and the boom that followed would cause her heart to race faster. The rain kept getting increasingly stronger, pelting the windows without mercy.

How many stops had it been?

The rain and thunder did not relent.

It appeared as though the lightning was pursuing her.

Another four stops and Chise would get off the bus.

She brought a folded umbrella along, but if she was to alight from the bus at this point, she had no confidence in her ability to return home in this weather.

If this kept up, she might not be able to do so. This troubled her.

(Please stop, rain.)

Chise covered her ears and looked out of the window timidly. At this moment, she noticed a boy riding a bicycle alongside the bus.

(No way!)

The boy was dressed in a white shirt and black pants. It appeared to be a school uniform.

 (It really is Riku-kun...!)

The bus slowed down to stop at a red light.

Riku kept pedaling next to the vehicle and he charged across the junction at the last moment before the lights changed.

His hair and shirt were drenched by the rain and stuck closely to his thin body making him look frailer than usual and yet, somehow, stronger. He charged forth with narrowed eyes and a scowl on his face, as though challenging the storm itself.

The red light turned green and the bus started moving again.

Chise’s hands, which were covering her ears just a moment ago, were now firmly pressing against the glass while as she sought for Riku’s silhouette in the gloom.

And once she saw that familiar silhouette, her heart skipped a beat.

The moment he passed her by, she saw the rain-soaked sidelong face. He looked grim, extremely manly. Her heart felt concern because Riku kept charging forth in the midst of the thunderstorm without even an umbrella. That amazed and excited her.

If she were to open the window and call for Riku, could he hear her voice?

At that moment, Chise had forgotten that she hated the sound of thunder.

Her heart was driven by one impulse. She wanted to run to Riku’s side, even if she got drenched in rain, even if the lightning struck her. However, the bus just overtook him again and left him behind.


At this moment, she felt like a thousand blades stabbed her heart at once.

(I hope that Riku-kun can return home safely and that the rain will stop sooner. I hope the lightning will not strike him. I hope his bicycle will not crash because of the slippery road.)

Chise stared at the wet window and kept praying with bated breath.

By the time Chise reached her stop, the lightning was starting to fade away, and the rain had weakened greatly.

(Has Riku-kun...returned home?)

Chise thought of Riku cycling in the rain with a scowl on his face, of his delicate and feisty silhouette, and her heart ached tremendously.

Surely this pain was a result of her own weakness. Riku was strong, able to get through this thunderstorm on his own. She, on the other hand, was a lot weaker and unable to stand on equal footing with him.

The dirt path leading home had not been paved with asphalt, so all the rainwater had turned it into soft, mushy mud that stained her sandals and the hem of her skirt. By the time she reached the villa, she looked tragic.


(I want to draw that girl.)

Riku gritted his teeth and pedaled on through the thunderstorm, thinking about the girl at the villa.

Earlier today, Riku drew a sketch of that girl while in the school’s art clubroom.

Using a pencil, he drew her silhouette on the canvas, the thin and long black hair, white skin, and petite body.

Typically, he would not draw people.

His classmate Suzuka had often leaned over in this direction, saying, “Use me as a model then!” only to be ignored her coldly. She would always growl that he was petty in response, or say, “Besides, you probably don’t want to show it because your drawing is too terrible!”.

But no matter how she would try to taunt him, he did not want to draw her.

Neither Suzuka nor any other girl.

But lately, whenever he was at home or the club room, instead of wanting to draw scenes from around the village, as usual, his mind conjured one image on the canvas or the back of the adverts. Image of that apprehensive, bashful girl standing on the cold morning air next to the red postbox, her long hair dancing slightly with the wind.

He wanted to draw, those fine threads of hair, the petite lips, the large, watery eyes.

That desire took a hold of his heart more than once.

And when she had come out to meet him while wearing her glasses, the desire to draw her discreetly took firm root.

The glasses were large, black-framed, and loomed over her bashful reddening face. That sight shook Riku greatly for some reason.

She just seemed so different from usual...

These uncanny differences caused his heart to throb. He stared at the girl intently, to the point of rudeness even, and she eventually lowered her eyes in embarrassment.

Her expression was more mature than usual, cuter. Riku wanted to draw this face, the impulse to do this held sway over his heart.

So, once he was done delivering the newspapers, he changed into his uniform at the newspaper shop, went straight to school, laid the sketchbook on the rack, and focused on his image of the girl.

Her face was probably like this.

Her lips, her eyebrows... like this probably.

The eyes deep beneath the glasses had a round look to them. Apprehensive, reserved.

The girl’s appearance from earlier the morning lurked in Riku’s mind like a ghost, her fleeting presence leaving him anxious.

Once he was done, however, he gritted his teeth. The girl on the canvas was a lot less charming than the one his eyes had witnessed.

(This isn’t how she looks!)

The eyes should be purer. The lip smaller, softer...

(It’s completely different!)

In the end, Riku, unable to produce a sketch that satisfied him, tore up all the attempts he had made that day.

On the next morning, the girl from the villa wore glasses again as she stood by the postbox.

(Right, this should be the look.)

 Riku’s heart beat wildly again.

(The actual person looks best. Better remember this face well. Especially the balance of those glasses. Better make sure I get a good look.)

Riku narrowed his eyes at the girl, but his gaze was probably a little too intense because the girl reacted as if he had been glaring at her. She said in a shrill voice, “there might be rain in the afternoon.”

But Riku never heard her.

He hastily handed off the newspaper and pedaled away hard. This morning he was focused on making his round as soon as possible so that he would be able to finish the drawing of the girl on this day.

But in the end, he ended up tearing the pages of his sketchbook again.

To make things worse, on the way back home from school, there was a sudden downpour, accompanied by thunder. The terrible weather seemed to reflect his mood. He frowned as he glared at the rain, pedaling hard.

The lightning flashed several times accompanied by loud booms. Each thunderclap inflaming his frustration and anxiety.

(I worked so hard to look at her, so why can’t I draw her well!?)

He roared from the bottom of his heart.

The girl in his mind was adorable, charming. The moment he would try converting that image into a drawing, the result was so ordinary, bereft of all the colors it should have.

Angst gnawed at his mind and he wanted to scream out loud.

He knew it was dangerous cycling too quickly in the rain, but he forced his way past a bus and jumped the traffic lights at the junction seconds before they turned red.

He was unable to draw the beauty formed in his heart, and the rage this caused gradually became a desire that burned hot within him. He wanted to draw her well no matter what.

(How do I draw her?)

If the girl was standing before him, perhaps then he could capture her charm perfectly.

Should he ask her to be a model?

(That’s impossible.)

There was no way he could ask the Princess of the Villa to do this. The village was small, and everyone would know immediately. He must not cause trouble for the girl.

Also, she was shy and introverted. There was no way he could convince her to accept his request.


The next day, the skies were cloudless, endless, and blue.

The ground remained a little wet though, and there were was an occasional droplet of water visible here and there on the grass and the vines.

On her way back home yesterday, Chise bought blue rain boots with white water droplets pattern from the village’s convenience store. She went out to wait for Riku wearing these boots, muscat green T-shirt, and a cyan flared skirt.

Her hair was tied into twin tails that she had draped along the chest.

Today, even if it rained, there was no need to worry about rain or mud getting onto her shoes or dress. Of course, she was wearing contact lenses

Riku finally appeared.

His face looked as aloof as usual, but he appeared otherwise unscathed and did not seem to have caught a cold from getting drenched. Chise heaved a happy sigh of relief.

And her cheeks naturally raised to form a smile.

But once Riku saw her, he was taken aback and his face immediately stiffened.

His eyes grew wide and he was staring at her intently.

At her face and eyes to be precise, and for quite a while too.

It seemed he was struggling with something, wondering why was Chise not wearing glasses perhaps? Should she explain? Wouldn’t it be a little too late?

Riku was so mesmerized by Chise’s face that he even forgot to take out the newspapers

Chise was inadvertently terrified.

“E-erm...” she muttered timidly.

Only then did Riku recover, and he hurriedly took out a newspaper from the basket.

When she reached for the newspapers with both hands, she whispered, “My-my contact lenses fell off, so I had to wear glasses until I got a new pair.”

He did not ask, and she sounded like she was giving an excuse. It felt really, really embarrassing, so much so that she felt her face go bright red.

In reply, Riku looked up at the sky and just said, “Ah, okay.”

Did this mean that he understood, or that he was just answering for the sake of it?

Chise felt a sudden urge to mention that she saw Riku riding on the bicycle during the thunderstorm. However, she figured she might end up delaying his newspaper delivery, and cause him trouble again if they were to chat longer.

She brought the still lukewarm newspapers to her chest,

“Thank you.”

Saying that, she lowered her head.

It seemed Riku wanted to say something but, before Chise could ask, he acknowledged her with a slight nod as usual.

But just as he was about to pedal off, he lowered his head slightly, and whispered with a voice only she could hear,

“The suit you very well.”

Then, he averted his eyes again, and in a flash, he was gone.

Chise remained rooted to the spot, completely stunned.

(...What... did... Riku-kun... just say...?)

Once again, the cold, deep voice rang in her ears.

──Suit you.

──Do suit you very well.

(Suit, the glasses, he means...? The black framed glasses...! Is he referring the disciplinary-committee-chairman-like glasses?)

For a moment, she was confused as to whether she should be happy or sad.

But that usually reticent Riku did speak up to praise her.

(I-I guess so. He praised me...)

She did not like to wear glasses, but just now the usually aloof Riku noticed Chise’s look and said that it suited her.

She should be elated.

Once all doubt vanished, a sweet feeling arose to take its place, one as sweet as honey. Still wearing the long blue droplet-patterned boots, she jumped—

“How delightful.”

—and the mud splattered everywhere.


“So happy, so happy. Riku-kun...”

—Chise just skipped back into the house happily.

On this day, she maintained had a smile on her face all the time, no matter whether she was making newspapers clippings, or helping Andou-san with housework.

In the afternoon, she helped the housekeeper clear the storeroom.

First, they laid out plastic sheets in the courtyard, on which they then stacked old vases, hanging scrolls, and books.

“How great that the sun came out and dried the ground,” said Andou-san.

The items removed from the storage did not appear to be antiques and were not of high value. Everything that had been worth something had been purchased by an antique dealer when the original owner of this house, Shiori-san had died.

“Your father did say to discard anything unnecessary, Chise-san, but I can’t bring myself to do so. Also, there is a need to see if these are really just of no use.”

The deliberate words of the housekeeper warmed Chise’s heart.

There was a sky-blue bale of cloth in the pile.

Once Chise unfurled it, she found it to be pretty wide. It appeared to be bought with curtain making in mind, and while the color was a little faded, it still retained its unique charm.

 (It does look like a slice of a summer sky.)

Chise was mesmerized by the look of the fabric.

“May I have this cloth?” she asked, eyes dazzling.

There were instructions on how to sew a dress in the morning’s newspaper. The guide was as detailed as a cooking recipe, and Chise felt she was able to do it.

As soon as Chise explained herself, Andou-san narrowed her eyes and responded,
“Oh, making a dress by yourself! That sounds great. By all means, you can use this cloth however you want. I think I recall a sewing machine lying around somewhere.”

Andou-san returned to the storeroom for a brief while.

“Ah, here it is, Chise-san.”

The housekeeper was holding a portable sewing machine.

Chise was initially worried that the machine would be powered by stepping on the pedal, but while the implement was old, it ran on electricity. Andou-san then found an ornate sewing box.

The box was large, embroidered with flowers on the outside, and looked heavy. Once the lid was opened, it revealed scissors, needles, rulers, and all the other necessities. There were also zips and buttons, and a large variety of threads.

It appeared she would not need any additional tools or materials.

(It will be great if I can finish it this summer vacation.)

Chise imagined the sky-colored fabric becoming a dress, her own self wearing it, and was mesmerized in her own fantasy.

(I really want to wear it and show it to Riku-kun.)

It was time to do her best!

Chise brought the sewing machine, sewing box, and the sky blue fabric to her room on the second floor.

But hauling the sewing machine upstairs was a little tough on her


Sewing box, sky blue fabric, sewing machine. Chise laid out these things in a line, exhaled, and smiled faintly.

She opened the sketchbook and had a look at the dress sewing guide she had just pasted into it this day.

It was written there that it is possible to make a dress even without a template.

Chise laid out the page with the guide, opened the sewing box, and checked the items inside.

The box was three-layered. The second layer was crammed with thread reels and buttons which explained the extraordinary weight. The third layer contained a pile of pieces of cloth and felt, but there seemed to be something hidden underneath too.

(A book...)

Chise removed the material and found not a book, but a diary. It had a handmade cover of sky-blue cloth with a white flower embroidered upon it. Chise opened it and found the dates and words recorded in blue ink.

(Is this, Shiori-san's...?)

Chise had a look at one of the dates. It appeared to be a diary Shiori-san wrote when she was sixteen.

(I do not know if I should read it...)

She should not be reading another person’s diary. She should really return it to the sewing box.

But Shiori-san had died.

And Chise was curious.

Chise had never met Shiori-san. There had been a funeral service, but it was a private affair and she was not allowed to attend. Ever since she came to this house, she had found herself intrigued by this lady, this Shiori-san, who had lived alone in this cute house. Chise wanted to know what she was like as a person.

The villagers called her a fairy. Undoubtedly, she was the prettiest in the village, so why did she not get married?

Did she not feel lonely living alone?

What kind of life had she lived on her own?

When did she write that poem inside the desk drawer? What emotions did she harbor in her soul?

If she could understand the young Shiori-san, might she be able to work out the clues and learn what had happened thereafter?

After some hesitation, Chise opened the cover of the diary and flipped through the yellow pages.

Like Chise, Shiori-san studied at a girls school. From her fine handwriting, it appeared she had a serious personality. She jotted down the minutiae of her school life enthusiastically.

Shiori-san’s daily experiences and thoughts were basically no different from Chise’s. She would admire flowers with her friends, or discuss the books they liked. There was a passage saying, “this is what XX-chan says, but this is what I do think.” Shiori-san would never say what she thought at that time, however, and was devastated for quite a while. There was also an instance of her breaking an egg and being elated when she found two yolks inside.

Chise felt similarities with Shiori-san’s daily life, and at the same time wondered, (why did Shiori-san leave behind this diary she wrote at the age of sixteen?)

Chise learned from the diary that Shiori-san was a member of the arts and crafts club. In that case, she probably had this sewing box by her side, at a place she could see every day.

And yet she put her teenage diary inside.

Surely it was not a coincidence.

This diary Shiori-san had written when she had been years old must have been pretty special to her.

Chise kept reading and discovered a reason.

During the sixteenth summer of her young life, Shiori-san had fallen in love.

A college student came to this village from Tokyo to recuperate due to an unspecified issue. Shiori-san encountered him while he was reading by the forest marsh. After that, they met a few times more, and soon after, fell in love.

The words in the diary clearly unveiled the frustrations and excitement he had brought her, so vividly in fact that Chise’s cheeks blushed from the lecture and her heart pounded wildly.

When it rained, the pair took a stroll sharing an umbrella. Shiori-san was worried that they would be seen, so worried that her heart nearly stopped at times, but she was also really happy, and her face and head were so hot she was feverish, nearly fainting.

Shiori-san found a poem collection he was browsing through on that first day in the school library, and as she kept reading, her heart fluttered. She borrowed the book home and recited it alone, her heart racing, bitterness and sweetness filling her heart.

She did some embroidery on his handkerchief, and when he accepted it, she felt really elated

She was on cloud nine.

Chise could understand this feeling.

Her face would redden, and her heart would jolt whenever she saw him. So elated she was to hear his voice that she nearly ceased to breathe, and the world seemed so dazzling.

And at the swamp they first met, Shiori-san made a promise with him.

They knew that once he recovered, he would surely return to Tokyo. However, he vowed that he would come back to meet her again.

So Shiori answered, “I shall make a new dress, and wait for you. When you return to see me, I shall welcome you in this dress.”

But the diary did not mention what happened to the two of them thereafter.

The diary ended with that entry.

Shiori-san never left this village and remained single though. From this, one could tell that he never came back to her…

What feelings did she have when she waited for him? When she thought about this, Chise’s heart winced.

(Did Shiori-san keep believing in him, and wait for him until her death...?)

Was that why she did not marry and kept living alone at this house?

Chise only learned what she read the diary, and could not answer those questions.

All the diary contained was that dazzling love story.

What did Shiori-san want to do with this sky blue fabric?

── I shall make a new dress, and wait for you. When you return to see me, I shall welcome you in this dress.

Chise recalled these words, and her heart, brimming with sweetness and sadness, tightened more than ever.

Shiori-san’s feeling had never been answered.

But the feelings in this diary were so concentrated, so pure, so beautiful, that the whole affair was mesmerizing.

Shiori-san had copied the poem she liked so much into the diary.

The title was: “Who exactly is he?”

Thanks to the title, Chise understood it was the same poem as the one written inside the drawer.

The author was a Russian poet who also wrote the folk songs ‘Katyusha’ and ‘Ogonek’. Shiori-san had been taught those by her love.

She would recite them often. The more she recited them, the closer she felt to him.

Chise too started to recite the verses aloud.

“At sunset, a young man,

Passed by my door.

He looked at me.

Without a word.

Who exactly is he?

Why does he look at me?”

“Whenever I left for a stroll,

He danced and sang.

Whenever I faded from view beyond the wooden door,

He turned aside with a sigh.

Who exactly is he?

Why is he sighing?”

Chise opened her lips, sighing. There was some lingering sweetness in her fading breath. The silhouette in her mind somehow changed from Shiori-san’s lover to Riku.

“Who exactly is he?”

“The sun darkened because of him.”

“Who exactly is he?”

“A deliverer of mysterious letters.”

“Who exactly is he?”

“My heart is about to melt.”

With every phrase she muttered, her mind conjured an image of that frail boy, his tanned skin, his matured look.

(Who exactly is Riku-kun?)

When Riku had embraced her with his strong arms when she had stumbled.

When Riku, still wearing his uniform, had ridden his bicycle through the thunderstorm with a scowl on his face.

When Riku had paid particular attention to her when she had been wearing her glasses.

Chise wanted to know Riku more. She did not want to know him as just a newspaper delivery boy, but also about him as a middle schooler. She wanted to know more about those aspects of Riku she knew not of.