The Longing Of Shiina Ryo:Volume1 Chapter 1: Ryo
For the very first time in my life I was woken up by a common electronic alarm clock.
This might strike you as odd because you probably are someone who had the chance to lead a common life so far, but till now I have been woken up by the weirdest things, including the deathly elbow blows of my female cousins, by the screams of classmates and neighbours and there was even this time a maid walked in and...
Quick as something very quick, I opened the curtains and promptly let the sunshine in. With the open windows it was easy to see that I wasn't paying much attention during the move yesterday, this city seems to be really awesome. I have been in many, many places around the world (probably more than most TV channels, including the cable ones), but I still think this place looks great especially because of its simplicity.
It kind of reminded me of a small rural village I had the chance of visiting once. It seemed really peaceful at the start, but after a festival dedicated to one of their local gods, I suddenly found myself trapped in a mysterious murder case. A brutal one. With time loops.
Maybe I am not that fond of simple places after all...
Still half asleep I slowly crawled out of my bed and did my best to dodge the several randomly placed closed boxes on the floor on my way to the flat’s kitchen, and if we just ignore that surprisingly tricky last box it will be obvious to anyone that I managed to complete said task marvelously. I wonder if there is a world record on that.
While the water boiled, lazily as if it was too tired to respect or even consider the laws of Thermodynamics, I too did something without giving that much attention to that action: brushing my teeth. Having such a distracted mind in the early morning could give me enormous problems in the not so distant future. Most of them involved dental care.
However, to find myself in a numb state was not something usual to me (which is a great thing, considering that at the very least it postpones some rather painful visits to dentists); at that moment there was something deeply disturbing me: it's incredibly really hard to get used to the silence when you were surrounded by noise your entire life. Actually, the absence of noise is not pleasing in said circumstances, but truly unsettling.
As you can already imagine by now, this is the first day I'm living on my own.
It's pretty unusual for a teenager to do that, especially with their parent's consent (and I guess in my case, I could safely say "relief"). I don't blame them or feel angry about it. It's better for everyone, hopefully.
We have moved around many, many times and still, this force I like to call Mystery always managed to find me. They eventually got tired of being in a different town every month and if I hadn't left, they'd probably grow tired of each other. I couldn't let that happen, not when they gave up so much for me. So, I asked for their permission to live by myself. I wasn't expecting them to like the idea, though.
Which leads us to my first solo flight and the awkward taste it leaves in my mouth. No, wait, I can actually explain the awkward taste. Distracted as I was, I managed to mistake two things that were not similar at all and ended up brushing my teeth with soap. Well, I suppose it could be worse; at least my teeth are clean.
The tea kettle eventually became too bored of that slow heating and after making up with Physics, caused the water to quickly reach the proper temperature and whistled in an earsplitting high frequency that interrupted the house’s maddening silence all of a sudden.
Ignoring the shiny and nearly bubbly reflection of my teeth in the mirror, I ran to the kitchen to turn off the stove. After adding the hot water to the instant noodle cup, I look at my new whole-floor apartment through the kitchen bar. It seems really big, especially because I am fully aware there will be only a single person living here.
My first breakfast alone was both silent and simple, and it tasted a little bit like solitude. And soap.
“I really need to stop doing this.” I said to the air, oxygen and carbon being my only companions. No, that was quite imprecise; I’d better take that back before the rest of the Periodic Table elements that can be found in my house start feeling uneasy. “Living by myself can be a good experience for me, and I might grow up a lot because of this situation. This self-pity thing is not good for me, and I'm certainly not going anywhere thinking like that...”
If reality was a perfect place, that would be the moment an incandescent light bulb would have magically appeared over my head mostly for comedic effect (thankfully, since I assume the sudden materialization of an object above my body for purposes other than comedy would be rather terrifying).
“...wait a second.” My monologue went on, finally bringing some action into such a monotonous setting. “That's it! I need to go out! Yes, going out sounds like a fabulous idea to get rid of those unneeded feelings. The timing for that is also perfect: I have a new city to explore and I bet there are many places worth visiting here.”
It sounded like a plan to me at the time. A much better plan than spending the day tidying the place up, which seemed quite pointless to me considering I wasn’t expecting any visits. It was a Sunday, for crying out loud. Sundays are for rest.
Surrounded by countless boxes I still needed to unpack but didn’t feel like doing so at the moment, I quickly finished that flat’s soundless inaugural meal.
A few minutes later, I started my amazing journey through unknown city streets. There was a lot of green on them, but not enough to classify it as a rural town (hopefully). I could see some fancy shops and a few restaurants of famous franchises and then realized that I had probably moved to a developing city. My parents surely did a great job by buying real estate here, since its value will only rise as the city grows.
I can’t help but wonder what they are doing right now.
The streets were surprisingly calm, even for a Sunday morning. Keeping in mind that the schools were closed, I supposed the city manages to be a look more crowded on the other days.
Without a proper destination, I walked through the streets and saw several great places to spend and, if it comes to that, kill time. It occurred to me that I could and presumably would bring my friends to some of those cafes and shops. As soon as I made some new friends, that is. Anyway, I guess hanging around in this city will be nice.
Before you manage to mess everything up again, right?
The mysterious yet recurring voice at the back of my head just spoiled the whole moment for me. It's really hard to be optimistic about your future when the one pointing out the flaws in your plans is yourself. Especially because you alone can't argue with your own life experience, and every single discussion is pointless because it is nothing but a poorly written monologue in the end.
No, I won't let myself surrender to pessimism so easily. You can only fail if you stop trying, or so I heard. Obviously, I have heard a lot of sayings that didn’t actually work on real life, but that’s certainly not the point. If you haven't stopped trying, every apparent failure is just a step in your journey to victory. Perhaps just another failure, making it a series. Or just adding new elements to an existing set. Anyway, I won't allow myself to succumb to such a fate without even trying!
“Take that, mysterious voice!”
With my self-confidence reaching a high level, I kept walking aimlessly until I approached a bridge that directly connected the residential side of the city to the commercial one. Oh, so there were the big stores, the important buildings and probably the schools. Maybe this city isn't that small, after all. Which is a great thing, since big cities are less prone to unfortunate things such as, say, time loops than rural villages. That’s common sense, right?
When I was just about to cross the bridge and resume my exploring journey, I was stopped by a magnificent, overwhelming vision.
Next to the bridge, the most beautiful girl I had ever seen was staring directly at me.
Her long, golden hair moved like flames due to that precise, perfect action of the wind that we only get to see in ads and fiction. The frilly one piece dress she was wearing was crimson red and along with her beach sand coloured skin, made her look like the sun itself. Wait, why do I feel so poetic?
She, whom I could easily mistake for a statue of a Greek goddess, suddenly started moving and I felt my own heart clearly skipping a whole beat. No, that's way too cliché and imprecise; actually my heart had a syncopated pause, to be more exact, a dotted eighth rest which marked a drastic change in the time signature of my heartbeat. Now that I think about it, ‘you make my heart go prog’ sounds like a fairly decent pick-up line for musicians. I can even picture it as a popular t-shirt stamp.
It skipped, anyway.
As she sweetly came in my direction, I noticed that I couldn't move or look away; it was like her innocent face (that for some unknown reason perfectly matched her well developed body) was made of quicksand, and I took way too long to realize that I was sinking in.
She stopped in front of me, close enough for me to feel her delicious scent, the scent of raw sunflower seeds. The Sun smiled at me and tried to tell me something, but I was deeply lost in the smooth movement of her cherry lips. Once she stopped talking, I realized that I was missing something.
"I'm sorry, what did you just say?"
Now, I need to confess; I understood what she said, I really did. It would be weird if, after paying such devoted attention to her beautiful lips, I hadn't read what they were trying to say. However, I really wanted to see them moving one more time. Call me what you want, I don't mind. You'd have done the same thing, or wished you had.
"I said 'excuse me, what time is it?'"
"Oh, let me see..." I looked at my cell phone screen. "Exactly 11:45."
She smiled, looking so radiant I was afraid I would go blind.
"Thank you very much." She started walking away, then turned and waved to me. "Bye bye!"
I never saw her again.
Just like that. I know, it sounds unfair and kind of dull, but so is life. We could have been through many adventures or solved mysteries or even have common, peaceful high school years together. We'd probably face the possibility of being torn apart at one point, but just to set the scene and build a decent literary climax.
Yeah, a solid climax. If this was a manga or some sort of fiction, we'd probably have a dramatic reencounter under the rain (maybe snow, it depends on the author) with generic sad piano background music and a dialogue that involved the word "promise". No, a whole dialogue based on the word "promise". Yeah, that’s much better.
That was the shipwreck of our romance, I suppose: the fact that it never happened. I believe they call this tragedy.
Back to the story.
I still had a smile on my face (especially because I didn't know that I'd never see her again at that moment) when the cell phone in my right hand started to vibrate. As the dog biting The Fool in Tarot's Major Arcana, that message worked as the call of the real world to me. It reminded me of something that I was so used to that I didn't even need to think about it; it was like a built-in mechanism, something that was hard to believe wasn't there from the start.
It was Ryo, and I shouldn't be surprised; she did know that I was supposed to arrive in her city yesterday and I forgot to send her a message saying that I was already here. Anyway, I was so tired from travelling yesterday that I just entered the apartment and went to sleep, without even looking at it. Yeah, I'd better use that excuse.
With that in mind, I pressed the button to read the message.
Where are you? We didn't talk yesterday, you know ._.
My smile was so wide at that moment that my jaw hurt a little bit.
She usually talks like a guy and I blame the internet for her manners, so seeing her act in such a cute way sure is good for my self-esteem; it's nice to have a friend that actually worries about you. Also, she has a decent reason for being worried. Since we met we have been texting each other every single day without taking breaks. Sometimes I wonder if the day will come when we won’t have anything to say to each other.
For a reason I don't know, I feel that I need to make it up to her. I cannot just say ‘I was tired, lol’ or something like that. It would be really inconsiderate of me, and we have known each other for a while. I need to think of something quick, before she starts to think that I'm ignoring her or something.
I looked around, searching for an epiphany or at least, something that I could use to avoid that topic for now. OK, I'm next to a bridge; there are a few shops over there, a French-themed cafe...
What comes next can be very, very dangerous. Don't try it at home, kids.
Hey, I'm hungry: do you want to eat something? Right now I'm in front of a cafe called Le Ciel Bleu.
Wait, what on Earth am I doing?
Realizing what I have just written I tried to delete the message, but my attempt to do so failed in the most miserable way possible; my fingers betrayed me and pressed the SEND button on their own. How could you do that?! I trusted you!
OK, so the message was sent; big deal, there's no reason to panic. Don't panic. I said don't panic, damn it!
Fine, I just (technically) called a girl I only know on the internet out and despite talking to her for a whole year I can't help but feel nervous. Not only because I just happened to walk through half of the city and I think I'm starting to sweat, but also because I'm afraid to meet her and see that she might not be exactly like the persona she represented on the net. There must be a way out of this. I just need to relax and think about it. Think, think...
From the moment my cell phone quivered in my hands, I felt like its vibration had spread through my whole body. It's interesting to think that vibration in English is also a slang for aura, atmosphere. Possibly, that slang started when someone was in the same situation as me. Yes, someone who also has endured the massive, dark wave of dismay that is receiving a text message from a girl you just called out.
I know I can't run away now. If I choose to ignore her message, I might have to move away from this town. The reason for that is because I am supposed to attend my first day at her school tomorrow; even if I decide to pretend I never got the message, I'll probably have to face a questionnaire at school. And that would probably mean the end of our friendship, because despite my reputation, I just can't lie.
With another movement of my untrustworthy fingers, I pressed the READ button and faced my destiny. It just occurred to me (a few milliseconds before the screen finished loading the message) that she could reply by saying that she didn't want to meet me or that she was busy (which, according to centuries of mankind's knowledge and experience, most likely meant that she really, really didn't want to meet me). That hypothesis hurt my pride a little bit. Fine, not only a bit.
Don't you dare say you can't come!
Oh, I know that place. Get us a table next to the windows; I'll be there in 15 min.
Thank goodness, she is coming. No, wait. DARN, SHE IS COMING!
Would you please decide whether you want her to come or not?
It's not as easy as it sounds. You see, both choices have bad points. Lots of 'em. Therefore, while I myself have excellent reasons to want to avoid both choices, I also know that as long as I'm in this town, I can't avoid an encounter (not even by using a repellent spray while walking on the tall grass, since this is probably a boss battle, most likely necessary to plot advancement), which leads me to a dilemma and...
...wait a second. Why is there a mysterious voice that speaks in underlined italics inside my head? I know that "speaking in italics" is an idiomatic expression that implies the use of tone to emphasize certain words, but how does one actually speak in underlines?
Does it really matter? You'd better use your time on getting a table like she told you instead of wasting it on pointless videogame references or discussing linguistics with me.
Unfortunately, the voice was right; I didn't have much time. The Rubicon was crossed and now I had no choice but to face the resulting responsibility of my betraying fingers' actions.
I must enter that cafe, get a table and patiently wait for Ryo to show up, even if it kills me.
Oh, shut up.
As I walked toward the cafe's door, I saw mischievous words engraved in a banner. From the moment I read them, I found it hard to conceal my anxiousness and keep moving forward easily. Deep in my heart that is engulfed by despair, I know that it had "Welcome!" written on it but the banner meant "abandon all hope, ye who enter here".
Bravely I opened the door and walked straight into the endless darkness.
The absolute worst case scenario: the awfully bad situation I avoided and had nightmares about since I was little and dreamed of being on spaceships (which didn't work out because my father was opposed to my career as a space marine). However, even creatures from outer space and other dimensions sound like a great idea compared to this. I mean it. Words fail to describe the horror, the absolute dismay I'm feeling at this very moment.
This is just dreadful. I don't believe in karma or past lives, but if I did (and I'm not saying I do), I would probably have been (and I'm not saying I am) a really mean, distrusted and hated person. Probably a soccer referee.
It's just a maid cafe, stop being such a drama queen.
Just a maid cafe, you say. I swore to myself that I'd never enter that kind of place. Will you look at the waitress? She thinks she is still a teenager, but anyone can see the wrinkles on her face! That horrible makeup isn't helping at all! This is outrageous, almost an insult for those who were once in the presence of a true maid!
Meanwhile, could you please tell the "fake maid" that you're not going to order now? She keeps staring at you with that "I don't get paid to stand here and look at you" look.
Against my will I turned around and saw the eldritch, I mean, elder abomination looking at me. Oh my, she was actually trying to look cute. That was really, really lame. She was probably in her 30's, and shouldn't have to put up with this anymore. I wondered if she hated her job. I certainly did.
"May I serve you, master?"
"I mean, I intend to order, but right now I am waiting for someone."
She probably did not realize that she was making an awkward face, a feat which in her case was not a challenge at all.
"Oh, I see." The maid said, without much conviction. I cannot even blame her, since she probably deals with hardcore otaku every single day. She gave me a cheap, fake smile and tried to talk in a high pitched voice. "Just call Myu-chan when you're ready to order, myu~~"
Just at that moment I realized that the maid assigned to my table was the only one that wore cat-ears. Great, a cat-maid; I must be the unluckiest person on Earth. When I thought it couldn't get any worse, a song that I could only believe came from some anime filled the room.
I couldn't recognize the song, but I guessed it was an anime opening because of the overused structure and the shrieking child-like voice of the singer/voice actor/whatever you kids call it these days. The synthesized bass was steady but clearly uninspired, which hurt my pride as a bass player. And when I looked at my cell phone, I noticed that Ryo was already seven minutes late.
Heavens, what am I doing here?
You know, that's an interesting question that intrigued humanity since the beginning of time. There is a great deal of people who believe that the mysterious reason of their existence will only be unfolded when we reach a definitive conclusion about the creation of say, everything. Some believe that gods created the universe, and others that everything began because of a random explosion of nothingness. Fascinating subject, no matter how you approach it.
...I didn't mean it like that. I was just wondering how my life had reached this point. It's always been weird (really weird, for honesty's sake), but not anything like this. I'm used to dealing with "supernatural" weird, or "murder case" weird, even "space monsters" weird; I just don't know how these people manage to deal with "normal" weird. I mean, it's my first day in town and I've already broke a promise to myself and thought about my maid.
Since the subject is breaking promises and maids, you also had sworn that you would bring her favorite ribbon back when you were kids. Instead, you mixed things up and mistook her for her sister.
Wait, I did return that ribbon; in one of the routes, at least. And they were identical twins, so no one can blame me for being confused. That doesn't matter, anyway. Discussing my past won't change the fact that I have to wait in the most hideous place on Earth for a girl I'm not sure I want to meet in real life because if I do and she is different from the girl I've met on the Net, I won't have any friends left. No one should have to face such a crisis.
Crisis, which comes from the Greek ‘krinein’, ‘to separate’. Which is funny because you do feel like you're being torn apart, right?
That's not funny at all!
...oh, c'mon, it's not that bad. She might be different, but in a good way.
Well, she could be a guy. You wouldn't feel so awkward waiting for a guy, right?
I'm not sure; it would depend on the guy and...
... just wait a second. What are you insinuating?
Oh, nothing. Nothing at all.
The mysterious voice coughed nervously, and I wasn’t even sure if it was a possible feat for someone who doesn’t have a body because it involved stressing the throat and such.
...anyway, it's not like people lie on the internet or anything like that. I mean, there is no way someone would set up an offline meeting with you just to make you wait for a long time and make you feel like an idiot.
Nah, no one would do that.
I sighed in relief.
It's too simple, way too simple. Unless...
...what? Unless what?
...unless they were recording your reactions to post the movie on the internet later. It sounds like a fine reason to set up a date instead of just saying they couldn't come.
Why are you assuming that Ryo is a "they" or a "he" instead of a "she"? Why do you need to make me feel more paranoid about everything, when it's not like I need your help to ruin my self-esteem? Why the heck don't you just leave me alone?
Despite the awfully loud music that seemed to fill every corner of the room, my mind was completely silent. However, that was only the calm before the storm. The peace only lasted for a blink of an eye and after that, I was thrown into the deep well of agony once again.
It was like someone made an enormous hole in the submerged submarine that was my mind, the unfounded theories (but not impossible to practice) being the black waters of the ocean surrounding it. They found their way in and were filling me, making me too heavy to keep floating.
What if the voice was right? What if every message, every single word she typed was a big fat lie? It's not like I never considered that hypothesis myself, anyway. Darn, I wished I had talked to her on the phone. Once would have been enough, at least to destroy my doubts. At that moment, they were crushing me.
The agony suddenly transformed into white anger. I was suddenly mad at everything. At myself, for being such a fool and talking to someone for so long without knowing simple details about her, which is practically a requirement in healthy human relations. At her, him or they for making me wait for so long. At the waitress, for being so old (she was probably not much happy about that too). At the clients, for repeating what seemed to be the same song over and over again. At the voice, for ruining my day. Especially at that voice.
I listened to the piercing sound of laughs. Laughs of many, I'm completely sure of that. The mysterious voice was right! Surrounded by hunters, the white beast of Rage wanted to reverse to its previous state but failed and stayed in the middle of the road between Anger and Agony, becoming a creature with features of both and decent Special Attack stats.
As I stood up, I heard the table shaking and the chair I was sitting on quickly falling on the floor; I felt my eyes twitching and my head hurt, but I ignored it and focus on the sounds around me. The laughing ones are...
...on my right! ...on your left side! ...right there! ...on the ceiling!
"I'M IN DESPAIR!"
Just a moment after screaming that, I realized that the clients were laughing at an anime scene on the widescreen television. However, after my performance, I manage to finally become what I was afraid of being from the start: the center of their attention.
I lowered my head and grabbed the chair that was on the floor, ignoring the infinite sounds hovering around me. I sat on it again, not only because I was finding it hard to stand, but also because I was too confused to run. I covered my face with my hands. Have I gone completely insane?
What? Are you going to mock me by saying "good job!" or something like that? Save it, I don't need your offensive remarks to feel bad about myself. I'm only glad that I hadn't ordered coffee or anything when my burst of despair occurred, or it would have fallen on the floor and I'd be even more embarrassed than I am right now, and I’m not quite sure if that is possible.
Shut up. Now, pay attention to the people around you.
For some reason, I did. They were not only laughing.
How often have you seen bullies clapping their hands in ovation to the weak kid?
When I looked at them, I saw that the voice was right. The clients were on their feet, smiling and screaming and clapping their hands like there was no tomorrow. For some reason, they weren't laughing at me, but with me. Technically, since I wasn't laughing. The point is, I was not being mocked.
It felt warm.
"That was a nice performance, and your voice does resembles Teacher's," There was a small pause, and I could hear a rasp in her breath. "...however, it would have been much more effective if you had done it while wearing a hakama and glasses. A great performance, nonetheless."
I turned around to see where that voice was coming from. A pale, geeky girl with pitch black hair watched me with interest. It took me a little while until I realized who I was talking to.
(sorry about that cliffhanger)
Her silky long hair.
Her expressive eyebrows.
Her dark-grey eyes and that stupid yet cute cat-like grin of hers.
She seemed to know everyone in here and everyone seemed to be watching us. I'm not being paranoid now; ever since we sat down and started staring at each other in silence, I felt the gaze of the whole cafe. Everyone here seemed to want to know about Ryo, and while being popular can be nice I was only worried that her fandom was composed only of people significantly older than her.
The maid that insists on calling herself Myu-chan coughed and brought an end to the empire of silence.
"S-so, are you guys going to order now myu~~?"
I heard a small dosage of despair in her words. Everyone in the cafe seemed to hold their breaths, just like the crowd waiting for the gunslinger's duel to start in a Wild West movie. I unintentionally moved my fingers in the air next to my chair, like I'm getting ready to draw my gun.
We stare at each other for what seems to be an eternity. Suddenly her face changed from unique cuteness to mad anger and before I could react, she rose up and hit the table with her hands.
"OBJECTION!" She pointed to something behind me. "I do realize that we're having a Grand Duel tense moment, but is that rolling ball of hay really necessary? We're still in a maid cafe and that doesn't even make any sense!"
I looked behind to see the ball of hay along with the rest of the customers, just to find out that there was absolutely nothing like that there; then I turned around just in time to see Ryo calmly sitting in her chair again, ordering two portions of ‘the usual’ from the maid like nothing happened. She tricked me, and it worked out just as she planned.
As the maid scurried away and the mood in the cafe lightened up, I relaxed my shoulders and gave up on the whole tense scenario. I still tried to sound grumpy, but mostly for comic effect.
"But I came just in time for your anime impression show, right?" She blinks and smiles. "I'm sorry for taking so long. I was just reading an article on Hikkipedia for a novel I’m writing, and you know how those things work; you decide to read just one small article, then a related one and when you finally notice what you’re doing several hours have passed since you started researching, the daylight is gone and the cat either needs food or to be buried."
I released a big sigh; she was not even going to lie about being in front of the computer when she was supposed to meet me and it's really hard to get mad at someone that's being genuinely honest because there are not many of those these days and we all have the duty of protecting endangered species. Take that, mysterious voice; not only is she a girl, she is also honest.
Now that the whole scene was gone I got to look properly at her
Her white baggy t-shirt and khaki jeans failed to hide her developing body, but her long hair managed to attract the attention of those who looked at her (at least for a while). Her medium-sized eyeglasses looked big on her petite face and she seemed oddly familiar to me, despite the fact that I never saw a picture of her before or something like that.
Too familiar, actually; it's exactly like I have seen her face my whole life, but I'm unaware of details such as where I could have seen her before or whose face she resembles. The fact that I've met thousands of people in the last years doesn't help at all. Technically, it should, since my travels around the world could count as a decent reason for having a "been there, done that" attitude. However, my memory is not that good in every aspect; while I remember every single little thing about the situations I've been in, I often forget people.
Wait. Where is the mysterious voice now? I'm pretty sure that it was time for some mean comment or paranoid idea.
Now that I think about it, I haven't heard that voice for a little while now...
...whatever. I need to focus on the important things. I'm here, Ryo is here. We're in a cafe and the awful music is gone, so I'm probably going to have a fine day. The first common day in my brand new common life. That's all that matters, right?
I shook my head to get rid of the thoughts about the voice. Fading back to Earth, I noticed that Ryo was typing on her cell phone furiously. She probably started it while I was daydreaming.
The only thing that stopped the Empire of Silence from striking back is the sound of her little fingers pressing buttons in an unreasonably fast tempo, and when I say fast I mean it; she is using both thumbs to type alternately, using a technique similar to a drummer's blast beat masterfully. Such precise movements...
If only she was doing it with her feet, I bet she'd be a great jazz musician. Maybe the world's most amazing cyclist, or a dance machine master, or just a weirdo stomping her own cell phone. It's only a matter of perspective. Or a matter of what have you got your feet on.
She stopped typing and looked at me with a curious face.
"It's getting cold."
I was going to argue and say that the day is actually pretty hot, and the sunlight is usually stronger by the lunch time. There's Ultraviolet radiation in sunlight and it can give you some problems. So, if you're on a beach, don't sunbathe next/during mid-day or you'll get sunburnt. Stay in the shade!
Judging by Ryo's skin, I came to the conclusion that she took this "avoid the sun" policy seriously. Far too seriously. She looks a little bit like a ghost. Not that this is a bad thing, you know. I've met some really nice ghosts and I learned to respect people that float and haunt places for a living. Hah, a ghost doing something for a living. That was a good one.
Unintentionally I blinked and brought myself back to reality.
"Your coffee, it's getting cold."
She pointed to the table and I noticed that there was, indeed, a mug of coffee there. Myu had probably left it here while I daydreamed and... oh my.
Ryo came to meet me, and I kept daydreaming over and over again. I was so lost in thought that I didn't even see the waitress bring us the coffee; I probably ignored Ryo as well.
I could feel the gaze of everyone in the cafe. There was a big chance no one was looking directly at me that time, but I had a bad feeling about this. No, my danger sense told me it wasn’t just my paranoia talking; they were waiting for me to do something. Ryo seems to know every one of those guys, and from what I saw I can judge that she is the little sister they never had. And I'm the jerk that ignored her after calling her out.
"Have you finished reading it?" Without any ideas left, I tried to redeem myself by making conversation.
She touched her lips with the tip of her index finger and raised an eyebrow.
"The Hikkipedia one."
She looked away, not paying much attention to me.
"I'm reading it right now."
Which means she is so bored that she'd rather be doing what she always does instead of being here with me. I'm used to talking to girls and I know that when they stop paying attention to you, you'd better get it back quickly and...
...the voice should have pointed out that if I'm such an expert with girls, I could have avoided this situation merely by paying attention to her. And if I could hear it right now, it would tell me that I am doing the exact opposite by thinking about it and...
Control yourself! It doesn't matter if you're nervous or not; Ryo probably waited for this day as much as you did. Now you'd better find a way to make this day amazing, or I won't forgive you (and by that, I mean you won't forgive yourself)!
I used my fingers to type in my cell phone as fast as I could, and instead of betraying me, they joined me in this special attack; our synchronization rate was now absurd and I could feel a great energy emanating from my body and flowing through me. The opening song I could listen to in my heart told me that it was a decisive moment, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as the one that was playing when I got here.
I won't let you down, Ryo! Behold my new power!
┌───────┐ | SORRY | └──y────┘ ∧___∧ （,,ﾟДﾟ) | つつ | | ~∪∪
With my ASCII art piece finished, I pressed the SEND button; Three seconds later her cell phone beeped, and she immediately looked at me. I tried to smile at her, but she gave me a cold stare that didn’t fit her and then her gaze went back to her mobile phone.
Now I could only wait for her reply.
She sighed and started typing again. Not as fast as before, and certainly not as furious. Ryo seemed pretty normal to me at that moment; she was just a teenager messaging someone (and not a girl with a mob-like fan base and machine gun fingers).
／l、 (ﾟ､ ｡ ７ - don't you dare ignore me again. l、 ~ ヽ じしf_, )ノ
Her ASCII art is much better than mine, but that was not the point. If you filter the harsh part of message, you’ll notice that the ‘again’ implies that I would have another chance to ruin everything again and therefore I also have the chance to make things right. There’s also a cute ‘drawing’ of a kitten, and you can’t send something like that to someone you’re genuinely angry at.
Everything was alright.
When I looked at Ryo, she was giving me another of her cat-like smiles, and only then did I notice that I was actually enjoying myself. Despite the little things, I realized that I liked this place and I could see myself actually living here as a normal person. I could even get used to the atmosphere of this cafe and even with its customers. Not to that song, I’m afraid, but I suppose nothing is perfect.
We kept on chatting so happily it was like nothing bad has occurred to us in our entire lives.
Living here with Ryo could be really nice. Just being here with her right now is amazing, and from the things she told me on the net, nothing supernatural or mysterious ever happened in this town; I might finally be able to have peaceful high-school days along with a good friend like I always wanted to. It feels like I died and went to heaven, except I feel alive and I’m pretty sure heaven would have better music...
The thought of leading a common life got me in a good mood that accompanied me through the rest of that day.
From that point on, the day was pretty much perfect. Oh, contradictions. Right, I just said nothing is perfect. Yet, I also claimed the day I spent with Ryo was perfect. Ergo, this day would be the same as nothing, logically speaking. But not to me.
We laughed a lot and talked about random things like we did every day online. Somehow, it was much better than our previous conversations.
Ryo took me to some stores and parks and despite the fact that I had already visited most of them, I decided to not say it out loud; she was so happy to show me her town that I couldn't bring myself to spoil her fun.
Then Time passed, against our will.
The twilight sky looked absolutely beautiful from the spot we were sitting, and I must admit that I had planned that much based on my earlier visit to the park. There seemed to be no one else but us in the park or in the infinite Universe, and a different kind of silence kept waving in the air. We were both enjoying a calm and motionless moment after a full day that resembled anything but a storm, but I found myself also wishing that very moment to last forever.
The sudden spring rain that fell upon us, on the other hand, seemed to want the opposite.
It was a big surprise, because the day had been bright and sunny till that point. When I was about to start running away from the bench and look for shelter under the trees, Ryo pinched the sleeve of my shirt to attract my interest. My eyes met an object I knew she was carrying the whole time, but hadn't paid any special attention to: a white lace parasol.
"Shall we?" She instantly hid me under it and grabbed my arm tightly.
So, here comes a philosophical question for you: at what point does a parasol become an umbrella?
Her parasol was way too small for two people, so we were about as wet as if we didn't have anything to cover us at all. Not that it meant much to us at the time, anyway. We ran under the rain, laughing and singing and completely ignoring the prospect of catching a cold before my first day of school. I don't regret it at all, because it felt right.
We went in the direction of her home, because it was both closer to the park and because she told me that I could borrow the parasol after I dropped her home. I knew that it was practically useless, but I walked (technically "ran") to her home anyway.
Then we arrived at her building and I was truly glad she didn't invite me in because it's always weird when you meet someone's parents, especially weirder if you both of you just got your clothes completely drenched while running in the rain despite the fact that this someone had a parasol. She let go of my arm and looked at the lobby.
That was it.
In the end, I wasn't sad; the perfect day was over indeed, but we would still have tomorrow, and the day after, and so on. What started as a perfect day could easily become a perfect week, a perfect month, a perfect year and I know I am being utterly pretentious but I can even wish for it to become a perfect life. My perfect life.
Despite it being unrealistic, this was still what I truly hoped for.
When I was about to say "goodbye" and go back to my place the expression in her face stopped me.
"Look!" Ryo pointed to something behind me, and I instinctively turned around to see it in a blink. That action brought instant results, and none of them was regret. "It's so... beautiful..."
During the rain, a rainbow had formed in the skies above us. The rain was still really strong, but we ignored it for a while and kept watching the palette of pigments painting the sky. The sunset made its colors surreal, but we both knew that those were the true colors of the rainbow.
And then I realized that this day, so rich in events and full of interesting moments was coming to its end. I had no regrets, but I already missed it. There might not exist a day like this in my life again, or even on Earth; and even if the years pass me by and I die only to reborn again in this world, I will never forget the vivid colors of the rainbow I saw with Shiina Ryo.
I looked at her, and she was smiling like a child with a new toy.
"We need to do this again."
"What, hang out?" I laughed honestly. "I am going to live here now, you know. I'm sure we'll have plenty of time to do that."
"No, I mean we must watch the rainbow together again." Her voice had a serious tone now, and for some reason it made me happy. "Promise me we will..."
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