Nikaho, Akita Prefecture, January 30th, 2022
“Your ankle's sprained. Fortunately, it could be much worse. You should be in bed for a week, at least”
Shun: “Thank you, doctor.”
The doctor leaves the room, leaving Shun alongside his girlfriend and his best friend.
Shun lays on his bed, sighing. Sakura sits down on a chair next to him as his best friend was in the other side of the room with his arms crossed and a few stiches on his forehead after the battle against the group of Shinji.
“I'm happy that you'll be alright. ”
Shun: “I wouldn't be here if it were not for you.”
Sakura: “Both of us.”
“Enough, I wouldn't be here as well if the rest had appeared with proper timing.”
Shun: “Still, you're the one who planned it.”
“And losing my shining time in the arena at the same time. Bitches must be sad, missing me!” He laughs. “I guess you want to be together. Well, I'll go see the others. Leave you cheesy lover for private!”
Sakura grabs the hand of Shun.
“I suppose the date is cancelled?” Sakura.
“It's fine. It was not your fault. You saved me.”
He remains thinking of those words for several seconds, remembering what had happened nearly an hour ago. The battle against the six of them at the same time, both his and Sakura’s, and the one of his friends against them.
He concluded after 30 seconds of absolute silence and thinking were done.
“I didn't save you.”
“You were almost raped..I'm useless.”
“Shhh. You did what you could. Not all of us can be stronger...”
“But it wasn't enough. I have to be stronger! Much stronger! How can I call myself the kenjutsu chapion of Kirei if I can't protect my own girlfriend!? How I'm supposed to..."
"YOU DID WHAT YOU COULD!”
She grabbed her hand with hers, as she was still tearing. Shun looked at her and she was still wearing the blue jacket. She had almost been raped and knowing this, he still focused on himself rather than on her, and the horrible situation she had been. She had tearful eyes a strong heartbeat. And even, after all what had happened, she still cared more about him.
She didn't focus on what had happened to her.
“I'm sorry.” He leans up. “You've worked a lot for that festival. Don't miss it, go with someone else.”
She gets up from her chair, and goes outside of his room. Neither of them say goodbye.
Miya: “What will you do if Kirei finds out?”
“No idea. But neither do I know what Shinji'd say to his own sensei about this.”
Tai: “But Izumi and I stand with you on this. Whatever the punishment, we will share it.”
Izumi: “We will.”
“We won't have to....if he doesn't find out.”
Yamato: “Are you serious?”
“Of course I am. I'm the only one with a few bruises and wounds. If he asks, I'll use an excuse. after all I'm used to do this.”
Tai: “And what of Shun?”
“He felt from the dormitories stairs.”
Daisuke: “Why you even want to hide this?”
“If he found out I fought against somebody in the streets, I'd be done. He'd force me out of the Dojo, and therefore, I couldn't go back to Tokyo with all of you once March arrives. No one from the Dojo has to know this, alright?”
Yamato: “Sure. Count with us.”
Sakura comes out from the front door of the hospital, finding her friends in a circle. They catch her sight and opening the circle for her.
Ikuto: “How's Shun?”
They begin walking back towards the school.
Sakura: “He won't walk for a week. He'd remain in bed for that time. But he'll be back to the school in just five. He'll be alright...mostly…”
Sakura: “He's upset and disappointed with himself. He thinks that if he can't even protect me, he can't become Champion of the Dojo.”
Tai: “Shun has always been focused on becoming stronger and stronger. It does not suprice me.”
Sakura: “But he's being harder with himself than before.”
Takeru: “He has a reason.”
Everyone of them looks to the silent boy.
“Sakura, that's you.”
Yamato: “Takeru doesn't talk at all. But when he does, he's allways right.”
Sakura: “But even still, he shouldn't be so hard on himself.”
“Shun doesn't care about that, neither about himself. And he can't forgive himself for what happened.”
She looks towards the Blue Ronin.
“But he'll train a lot harder for this. He'll take care of you no matter what. I know him better than anyone. He'll be alright, and if he isn't, we will stand with him. The same as does a table of with ten legs. If one falls, the other nine support.”
Sakura briefly stares at him, as he placed his hand on his pockets. She remains silent for the rest of the walk as the rest of them speak to each other.
In few minutes, they arrive to the school’s dormitories. Everybody sparates after arriving, but not before saying goodbye to each other.
They all look back.
“I wanted to speak to you, alone...”
He stays as the rest go on their ways.
“What happened? It's about Shun?”
“If it is about Otome, I…”
“Then, if it is about Sena, I…”
“NO!...can you please shut up for a second?”
“I've been working for the winter festival on four days. I was going to go on a date with Shun. But now he can't walk. Even still, he told me to go, because he didn't want all my effort to be wasted. I want you to come with me...”
He surprises due to her words.
“Well you saved me and Shun. It is payment from a friend to a friend. It isn't necessary.”
“Sakura we've been friends for like six years. You don't have to pay me with anything.”
He turns around, attempting to go towards his room but Sakura runs and gets in front of him.
“Please. If you do not want to come for that come from me. For our friendship. Would you?”
“Well.....There'll be some girls disappointed....and I'll have to cancel a few dates” He smiles. “But I'll go. Just for you, for our long years of friendship.”
“You're welcome. I have but one condition: I won't wear a male Yukata.”
Upon hearing this, she stares at him with angry and deadly sight, piercing him with her icy look upon him.
“I AM NOT WEARING…”
Nikaho, Akita Prefecture, February 3rd, 2022
“WHY THE FUCK I'M WEARING THIS!?!?!?”
Miya: “She forced you...”
He looks to himself by the mirror placed on the back of the door and curses again. Sakura herself bought it for him, and forced him to wear it.
Miya take out his cellphone and takes a photo of him.
“I'm uploading this to the internet right now...”
“Don't you fucking dare...”
“Jocking!” He gets up from his friends bed. “You'll be alright? What if Shinji and his gang of shits appear again?”
“I don't believe they'll be THAT stupid again. I think I left the guy sterile.”
“He deserved more if you ask me. Take your cellphone with you, just in case.”
“Yep. Well, I should get going. She'll be pissed if we arrived late to the festival.”
“Well I'll go back to my room. I'm having a test tomorrow, and I haven't even started.”
He walks towards the door, but notices a white envelope in the table of his friend’s desk. He grabs it.
“My dad sent me this letter. I don't know why the hell he uses letters. E-mail is much more useful. I guess he likes to write down things...”
“Maybe. But why it's still closed?”
“Read the other side.”
He turned around the letter, and read the lines that Kiritsugu had written to his son:
“Son you don't have to respond thi letter. Just for you to give you a message: that you don't have to lose hope and keep on advancing. And if in any moment you do so and refuse to advance, just open the envelope.”
“Why would he do this?” Miya asks.
“I do not know. My father has this wierd things that come out of nowhere.” He grabs the letter and places it inside a metal cage in his bookshelf. “But it may have meaning. If the day the letter says comes, I may find it.”
“Whatever...I should get going.”
He opens the door and both of them get out. He locks the door and places his keys on an inner pocket of the yukata.
“Don't try anything perverted with her....” Miya says teasing.
“Idiot. She's Shun’s girlfriend. My best friends' girl. That makes her a sister-in-law.”
“Best friend, huh?..." Miya says while staring him for a while."I was just joking. See you brother. Good luck.”
They shake hands.
“Same to you tomorrow.”
They part in opposite ways. He goes down the stairs and gets outside of the males’ dormitories, as he walks towards the girls’ just on the front.
Nearly arriving, he notices Sakura getting down the stairs. She was already wearing her yukata. A purple cotton dress with flower designs on it. It was tied with a yellow obi, which covered from the lower part of her breasts to her waist. He had sandals on her feet and her hair was a bun to her left, tied with a large purple ribbon.
In that moment, he realizes she looked really pretty.
She opened the door.
“Hi, you're late.”
“Better late than never. I've occupided with...pressing matters on the evening.”
“...of girls and drink?”
“There're any others?!” he smiles “The gates of heaven just have opened!”
“Because it seems an angel is before me.” He laughs after winking to her, teasing. "I mean it. You look beautiful."
He smiles and laughs.
“Thank you, for coming with me.” Sakura adds.
They arrived to the festival, after going up like a thousand steps.
There were lots of stands to play to see, placed at the edge of the stone way they were walking. Most of the stands were for both playing and food selling. And as Sakura notices lots of people were already there, and as she continued looking, she notices that most of them were couples of their age or higher. At that moment, she blushes a little.
“Sakura? what something happened?”
“No! Nothing....Is just that, I'm freezing right now.”
“The best for cold is filling you stomach with food. Come with me, I'll buy some Takoyaki.”
They continue walking across the road next to each other, when both of them notice Ovan Yamato and Naoto Sakura also in the festival, neither of them seemed to have seen Sakura and him. Naoto seemed to be smiling, and Ovan appeared to be having a good time. They still continued walking.
“They're a couple?” she asks.
"She's your friend...I don't even have a good relationship with Ovan."
“Well, she didn't tell me anything…Still they look like one...But so can anyone say about us.”
They arrived to the Takoyaki stand, and they rapidly got some. They sat down on a bench placing it between them, and began eating, by using a small chopstick designed to stab.
“God this is great!” He says enthusiasticaly.
“Yes it is.”
“You've done a good job setting all things up for this.”
“You're exagerating. I just helped Naoto with a few things. Kirei and others did the rest.”
“I admit I'm not a great fan of some aspects of Japanese culture....but this one's great.”
In few time, they were done with the Takoyaki boat.
“Way better...you were right.”
“Of course I was!” He smiles while looking to her and gets up. “Come on, we should go to see something else.”
“I had a great time, Sakura.”
“So do I.”
“Unluckily, It's already 11:45. The festiva ends in 15 minutes.”
“Uhh.” She looks towards the clock on her cellphone; placed on a small bag he carried everywhere while using a yukata. "Come with me!”
She grabs his hand and begins running going up the starts towards the temple in the top of the small mount. Just before arriving to its entrance, she turns to her left, and continues walking entering thought the woods by a small way. After some steps, they arrive to a clear space, where a small lagoon of approximately 10mts radius was. Sakura blossoms were seen everywhere, flying across the place by help a soft wind. The sky full of stars could be seen from there.
“What's this place?” He asks
“It's beautiful right? I planned to bring Shun here by the end of the festivalt. That's why I brought you here”
“Well...Thanks for showing me this.”
They sky would be seen, as billions of star covered it, making they place they were shine. Sakura also looks up.
“Look at that!” she points at him
A shooting star could be seen from there leaving a small trail of its way.
“The trail the meteor is leaving behind is Stardust, which is the result of the friction between the air and the meteor. “She looked back to the comet with a wide smile on her face and her eyes sparkling.
"You do seem to like stars a lot..."
"They remind me of my mother...while she was still alive?"
"It's alright. The truth is, I've never told something about her to anyone. I thought about telling Shun but...."
"You can tell me..."
Sakura looks at him and nods.
“When my mum was still alive, she told me that each small particle of stardust represents wishes. Those wishes gather and form a new shining star, which lights the path to the future."
"Is that a metaphor."
"You could say that...I think it's a leadership methapore."
"Wishes can't create a star alone. They need someone that can lead them to achieve it.” She looks back to him. “That's you.”
“Yes. You. Remember years ago after you saved me and Shun from the fire? Or days ago when you saved me from Shinji? You have that power. The power of gathering peoples wishes and hearts to advance to the future.”
“Until it comes, I will stay by your side....You also said that, back at the hospital.” He smiles to her. “How do you know that? I have no power.”
“Yes you do. You just have not discovered it yet.” She looked into his eyes as he did the same. “Also you still haven't told me what you want to be when you grow up? Or it's still a secret.”
“Sort of...I've never told anyone. But, I left that belief behind a long time ago.”
“I revealed something today. Can you tell me...?”
“The truth's, I wanted-”
Something in the sky explode upon the distance, they look up, and notice now other colors. Fireworks. It was the end of the festival. Thousands of other colors swiftly followed the first one, now coloring the place they were.
He they then loot to their front, and noticed they were looking to each other deep in the eyes. They stay like that for the longest time, while both of their hearts beat fast as never before. She approaches to him a bit, as he does the same. Both of them close their eyes as their lips touched for the first time.
His heart had never beaten like that before; neither had he felt that taste. She was unlike any other girls he had kissed before. He placed both of his hands on her waist as they continued kissing. She moved her hands to his cheeks, and continued kissing him, as she could not stop. She moved her right hand to his neck, as she reminded how she came to the good idea of bringing Shun there. She opened her closed eyes at that moment, reminding of him. She continues kissing, but he reminds of Shun again. She parted and both of them look to each other eyes, confused and realizing what they had done.
“We...should go back...to the school.”
He looks down to the ground and closes his eyes.
They begin going back to the school as the entire way back, both of them are silent.
Upon arriving to the place, they have to continue walking opposite ways. He to the right. Sakura to the left.
They say goodbye to each other while still looking down. And as they walked back to their respective dormitories, he looks to her, and realizes that she does the same, but she parts sight from him and enter the room almost running. He closes his eyes and breathed a single time, shaking his head.
He enters to the dormitories.
Sakura has a long bath and cleans herself well while crying. She couldn't stop thinking about Shun and him. What they had done. She finishes slowly cleaning and grieving at the same time. After going out of the batm she gets dry and covers her body with a white housecoat gets out of the shower. Walking out of the bathroom and sitting down on her bed, while looking to a photo of her and Shun on the table next to her bed. Other remoreseful tear rolls out of her eye. She gets inside her bed cover herself, shuts of the light and tries to get some sleep, as she hopes for the absence of dreams.
He takes off his yukata and throws himself to the bed, tring to sleep. He keeps on trying for fifteen long minutes but he can't foucus enough. He couldn't stop thinking about Sakura and Shun, both of his best friends. In his head there was nothing else. He bends, looking to their photo when they were yet children. Much had passed and happened since then.
He rises from the bed, and walks to the window in his room, looking towards the room of Sakura that shuts lights in that second. He doesn't tear eyes from that place for a long time.