Mar 4, 2019

Riku and Chise Epilogue

Epilogue - Promise



Riku-kun,


On the way to school today, I saw petals of frost spreading on the ground.

They were glittering under the morning sun and looked really cute, so I knelt down and gazed at them for quite a while.

Winter is coming.

It has been four months since the summer vacation ended, when I bade farewell to you for the final time, Riku-kun. It is shocking how fast time has passed.

Last week, Father’s new wife gave birth to a child. My little brother, it seems.

I have yet to meet him but I am sure he is cute.

Three months ago I have started to live on my own. I am starting to get used to it.

When I go to school, a helper cleans my room and prepares dinner, so I am living well.

I make my own breakfast and lunchbox, however. The recipes printed in the newspapers have really helped me a lot. My repertoire has increased tremendously.


How many letters have I written to you, Riku-kun?

I am a high school student, but here I am, writing a letter I cannot post. One might think I am being childish.

But whenever I write to you, Riku-kun, my heart feels warm and enthusiastic.

All my letters to you are well hidden inside my favorite cookie jar. They are my treasures.

I do take another look at them from time to time, and though my heart may ache, I do get that warm fuzzy feeling within. I do feel blessed.

Now I finally know why Shiori-san would keep her love diary from when she was sixteen years old at the bottom of her sewing box.

Surely, she read it over and over again, and it made her happy.


Oh yes, yes. I believe someone took a photo of the firefly swamp you brought me to, Riku-kun. The caption beneath the picture, ‘Cowherd and Fairy’,  was based on a novel. I finally managed to read it a few days ago.

I started looking for it using the title ‘Cowherd and Fairy’, but I could not find it.

The real title is ‘A Midsummer’s Night Dream’.

The author is Kanoko Okamoto-san, a female writer active from the Taisho to the Showa period.
There was a princess called Toshiko-san in the story. She had a fiancé but ended up spending a wonderful few short days of summer with a friend of her older brother, a man called Masase-san. It is a short story, but the night the two spent together was so alluringly pretty, their relationship so pure, so warm.

Like the fairy and the cowherd, they spent the summer night together and went their separate ways.

Toshiko-san’s fiancé felt it was a wonderful memory and titled it ‘a Midsummer Night’s Dream’ so that she could treasure it in her heart and occasionally share this intimacy with him.

Her fiancé really was a nice man.

Surely, Toshiko-san would have a wonderful life.

Shiori-san never got married, but since she had such a wonderful memory, I suppose she was happy regardless.

She really liked that person and had to break up with him, but, despite that, she was still happy.
What I received from your hands that summer was that special, Riku-kun.


Every morning, I looked forward to receiving your newspapers, Riku-kun. You brought me to the firefly swamp and I rode on the bicycle with you. You called me by my name. I treasure these memories dearly.

Looking at me with those determined eyes of yours, you said that you were going to finish the painting of me, and hoped that I would see it. I think I should not have made that promise back then.

But if time were to be rewound back to that summer, to that farewell scene, I definitely would still have answered ‘yes’.

Even though I now know this promise will never be fulfilled, I would still smile and answer ‘yes’.
This would be my answer, no matter how many times I were to be asked.

Even if the promise will never be fulfilled, I will not feel sad, nor will I feel disappointed.

For that promise itself is the best memory you have left for me Riku-kun.”

◇◇◇

The seasons passed slowly.

In the morning, Chise would always head down to the first floor of the apartment block, where the postboxes were located. Cold wind would sting her cheeks when she would open the door, and she would tremble.

(If it is this cold, Riku-kun too will have difficulties delivering newspapers...)

She was worried about him.

Surely, it was snowing there during winter, no?

If the snow cover got too thick and the roads could no longer be seen, could he ride on the bicycle safely? Or would he walk and deliver instead...?

Chise took out the newspapers from the postbox, and gently embraced them, ostensibly to warm them before returning to her room.

Even after all this, she continued to read the newspapers.

And she was on her second sticker book too.

Whenever she was sad or lonely, she would flip the sticker book. She would instantly feel a lot better, as though she was back reliving those dazzling summer days.

Her father’s new wife was just ten years older than Chise and since, as Chise had accidentally overheard her relatives discuss, she did not wish to meet her step-daughter, Chise’s father had his daughter move out of the house.

Chise did not know when they would let her see her little brother.

She had agreed to have a meal with her birth mother outside once, but it was cut short when someone called her mother, who then left Chise behind.

“I’m not opposed to you taking my family name. But right now, I am starting my new life, and I’ll be too busy to spare time for you. And I definitely can’t live together with you.”

There was no concern for Chise in the tone of her words.

She would never respond to any of Chise’s letters or messages.

Her classmates and her seniors at the tea ceremony club were worried for her when they heard about her parents’ divorce. Yuina especially looked guilty when she faced Chise at school.

“I didn’t know your parents were facing such a situation, Chise-chan… Sorry for sending such a message carelessly,” she said apologetically.

Chise pretended to not mind, cheerfully saying that she had already been prepared for it, and had been relieved to hear Yuina’s news instead. Everyone was relieved to hear that and envious that she could live in an apartment alone.

Chise kept her smile up whenever she was in school.

If she looked gloomy, everyone would be worried about her.

Back in her apartment, she would place the dinner that the hired help had prepared into the microwave. After dinner, she would do her assignments or read some books. This was how she spent her days.

And during this time, she would be thinking about Riku.

Thus, her heart felt very warm, even in this very cold morning.

(How is the serialized novel developing? Did Saburou-san manage to get Wakako-san back after barging into her wedding?)

Chise knew she really should prepare breakfast first, but she was really curious about the next events in the story, so she knelt on the carpet in the living room and opened the newspaper first.

(I’ll just have a peek... Hmm... The page number is...)

Chise flipped through the dull, crude, thin pages, and suddenly, that thing appeared in front of her eyes.

“!”

Chise’s hands held the edge of the page, her breath held as she remained still.

She widened her eyes, staring in utter disbelief.

There was a large color picture printed on the page.

It was filled with warm orange tones and showed a girl wearing a pure white straw hat that was standing by the edge of the brook next to a copse of trees. Her long black hair was flowing with the breeze, and she appeared about to turn her head away from the audience.

The sky blue dress wrapped around the slender body, and one could see a hint of a smile on the edge of the lips.

Black-framed glasses rested upon the bridge of the girl’s nose.

Her hands were holding the frames in place, and she looked really cute.

The painting was filled with vibrancy and warmth, the light of the sunset was gently flowing down the pure white ribbon and the dress...

The girl’s facial features looked very indistinct.

But this...

This painting was...

It was a drawing contest organized by the publisher.

And in the outstanding award section of the student category, the title of the winner was written as, “15-year-old – 9th grader, Riku Arimura”.

When she saw the name, tears rolled down her cheeks.

(Riku-kun fulfilled our promise!)

He drew a painting of Chise.

The colors he used were so tender, so warm... and amidst the genial, beautiful scenery, he depicted Chise so adorably, so happily...

He fulfilled the promise that could never be fulfilled.

He showed Chise, who was so far away, such a beautiful painting.

She lost herself in those days again.

The morning sun that gradually rose above the hilltops, the cool breeze, the approaching bicycle, the sound of the tires, and the lingering warmth of the newspapers on her fingertips.

With her heart racing, she watched the skinny, tanned face and the mature eyes. The bicycle slowly departed, and with a blissful heart, she watched the silhouette of that back depart.

The day he first talked to her.

When she was wearing only one contact lens, stumbled, and he embraced her carefully.
Finally, the night when both of them witnessed the swamp...

The clusters of stars that filled the sky and reflected in the waters.

The world belonging only to the fairy and the cowherd, the most beautiful of all secret places in the world...

Riku, who always scowled before, finally beamed upon seeing the smile bloom on Chise’s lips.

The treasured memories appeared one by one from the depths of her heart.

The tears Chise was shedding were like a warm rain landing on Riku’s painting.

“Riku-kun...Riku-kun...th, thank you...Riku-kun, Thank you. Riku-kun...Really, thank you.”

There was only gratitude on her lips.

She was so happy, so blessed...

She was choking. Her heart was shaking.

She could only cry in agony, whispering her thanks over and over again.


The tear-stained picture was captioned ‘First Love’.


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