I'm basking in the sun.

I can hear the waves nearby as they climb, ever closer, to reach my toes.

The sand underneath me is warm and grainy.

I'm at the beach.

Why am I here at the beach?

I hear someone call out to me.

The voice is like a child's, high-pitched and full of energy.

"Yukito-san, let's make sand castles!"

A girl blocks my view of the sun with her head.

Her golden blonde hair flows in the quickening wind.

Kamio Misuzu.

I remember her name.

I remember my reason for coming here.

My reason for lying down on this sun-baked sand.

She wanted to go to the beach.

And now, here we are.

But why does it feel like that is not the only reason I came?

"Kunisaki Yukito!"

I feel a sharp pain in my left side as a small foot digs its way into it.

"Guah!"

I turn to the culprit in anger.

There I see another girl.

Her magenta hair is tied up in twintails.

Tohno Michiru.

Like Misuzu, I remember her name.

That's right.

She and Minagi came with us.

Michiru insisted they tag along, since she wanted to show her big sister her swimming skills.

I see Minagi next to her.

She's taller than Michiru, with flowing gray hair hanging no lower than her chest.

Her expression, a soft smile, is vastly different from Michiru's beaming face.

They look more like a mother and her daughter rather than sisters.

"Yukito-kun!"

Leaning in front of my face is yet another girl.

Her hair is short and blue, and a yellow bandana is tied to her right wrist.

Kirishima Kano.

Her name comes back to me like all the others.

She came thinking it was going to be a date.

The look of disappointment in her face when she found out it was not so was priceless.

I stand up to address everyone.

Warm sand sticks to my back.

The summer sun beams down on us all.

"Well, what is it?"

I smile.

I know all these people.

I do not remember why, but somehow...

…In my heart...

I know my wish has been granted.

###

AIR ~ The Beach Episode

Written by David Zaragoza

I do not own AIR. All rights go to Key and Visual Arts.

###

"Wahoo~"

SPLASH!

Kano is the first to dive into the water.

The offset water is thrown upon me, soaking my clothes.

I growl in annoyance.

Kano quickly emerges from the water, and arrives on shore just in time for Michiru to jump in.

SPLASH!

Again, the water from the impact is thrown upon me.

I stand up to leave, spitting out salt water angrily.

Michiru calls for her sister as she emerges from the water.

"Onee-chan! Hurry up!"

I turn my eyes away from the water and towards Kano.

Her swimsuit is a bright yellow bikini, to match the color of her bandana.

It is rather distracting to look at at times, since it is so eye-catching.

It makes me want to know why she wears it, like I did with the bandana when we first met.

She notices I am staring at her and smiles eagerly in my direction.

"Yukito-kun! Come and splash with me!"

My clothes are still dripping from the previous two splashes.

"I don't think so."

"Why not?"

"I don't like getting wet, except in the bath."

"Come on, Yukito-kun! At least try going into the water!"

"Forget it."

"Uuu~"

Her cry of frustration is not enough to coax me into the water.

"Yukito-san."

I turn toward Misuzu's familiar voice.

Her bathing suit of choice is a pink one-piece swimsuit.

It reminds me of her pajamas, except without the long sleeves and pant legs.

Seeing her naked arms and legs just doesn't sit right with me for some reason.

Oh, well.

"What's wrong, Misuzu?"

She smiles warmly as she responds.

"Let's make sand castles."

"Sure thing."

I say that in order to get Kano off my back.

She pouts at me as I run off with Misuzu.

We stop a few feet ahead, where Misuzu points happily to a green plastic bucket.

"We're going to build here."

I remember Haruko giving her the bucket earlier before we left.

She was quite on board with the idea of taking Misuzu to the beach.

"Go on and have fun! I'll have some food fer yeh kids when yeh get back, 'kay?"

I wonder what kind of food it will be.

"Finished!"

Misuzu's already finished with something as I'm dreaming of food.

It sure as heck doesn't look like a sand castle, though.

"What is it?"

"Ramen setto."

She imitates my voice as she explains what it is.

"Nihaha."

Indeed, it is a finely crafted ramen set made of sand.

She must have made it as I was drooli – I mean, dreaming about Haruko's food.

"Kunisaki-san..."

I turn around to face the voice.

It's Minagi.

Her dark blue bathing suit looks more like a track jumpsuit than an actual swimsuit.

I don't know if she has something against showing off her body, but I do think it fits her.

"What is it, Minagi?"

"..."

She pauses for a while to find the words.

"Kunisaki-san..."

"Yes?"

She shows a soft smile.

"...Would you... like to walk with me?"

Are you sure you didn't bring track clothes to the beach, Minagi?

Well, maybe she has no intention of swimming today.

Sounds like good company.

"Yeah, sure."

"..."

She pauses again, then she smiles in relief.

"...good."

I turn back to Misuzu, who is busy making a sand stegosaurus.

"I'm going for a walk, Misuzu. I'll be back later."

She replies without turning to face me.

"Okay."

I set out with Minagi, stepping lightly along the beach.

###

As we walk, I take time to look around the place.

The sand beneath my feet is moist from the high tide.

The sound of the tide is soothing.

The sunlight shines off of the blue water beyond.

It is a breathtaking scene, worthy of being painted on canvas.

And beside me is Minagi, a beautiful, honest, and courageous girl in her own way.

She is smiling as she looks forward.

She notices I am looking at her, and turns to me.

"Umm...Kunisaki-san..."

"What is it, Minagi?"

My attention is on her.

"...What are you...looking at?"

"I'm taking in the scenery."

I answer half-honestly.

"Is that so...?"

She takes a look around her, moving her head slowly as she does.

But my focus is on her.

"Hey, Minagi..."

"...Yes?"

There's something I need to ask her today.

Something that's been on my mind for a while now, ever since I came back to this town.

"Do you think...Michiru is happy with us?"

She is surprised at my question.

She turns to Michiru, thinking I am talking about her.

Then she remembers.

There was another Michiru in her life.

This Michiru was a good friend to her.

As Minagi recalls everything, she looks up at the sky slowly.

As she does, so do I.

That peaceful, cloudless sky...

Michiru is there somewhere.

Both of us can feel her warmth.

"...I think so."

Minagi finally answers.

I turn back to her.

She is smiling.

The memories of Michiru are coming back to both of us.

They are sad, but also quite pleasant.

Michiru, Minagi's sister, calls to us.

"Onee-chan!"

We turn to her.

Michiru tackles the both of us, sending Minagi backward into the sand.

I, on the other hand, fall face-first into the tide.

SPLASH!

Minagi shakes off her fall and laughs.

Michiru, of course, laughs too.

I get up and shake off the water, spitting out salt water even more angrily than before.

"You brat..."

I give Michiru a good whack on the head.

"Nyobu!"

"Unyuu~"

As she squeals, I hear Kano coming from behind.

"Yukito-kun!"

Kano shows up again, her body dripping from a recent swim.

"I'm not swimming."

"No, no, that's not what I'm asking!"

I spit out some salty saliva.

"Then what is it?"

"You've got to see what Misuzu-chan and I built!"

She points over to the other side of the beach.

A massive stegosaurus, built completely out of sand, towers above the water.

Misuzu waves from the beast's back.

"Gao, gao~!"

She makes noises as if she were the stegosaurus.

"Nihaha!"

"Uwah! A giant sand creature!"

Michiru points at the stegosaurus.

Minagi smiles, her eyes starting to sparkle.

"...How cute."

We spend quite a while admiring the sand sculpture.

The light of the sun eventually moves beyond the sea.

I have noticed the sunset in this town many times before.

Seeing it at a new angle makes it all the more beautiful.

"I think it's time to leave."

Many groans meet my statement.

Kano's, of course, is the noisiest.

"Eh?! What about the fireworks?"

"Fireworks?"

She points to a corner of the wall, where a box full of all kinds of fireworks lies.

Everyone else gets excited at the prospect of seeing fireworks, but not me.

"Do we really have to?"

"Umu, we really have to."

Kano's lust for fireworks infects Misuzu as well.

"Let's stay awhile."

I have no choice but to stay.

###

They are all cheap fireworks.

Nothing like the massive onslaught of firecrackers Hijiri bought for Kano that one day.

While Michiru and Kano try their hand at the mini volcanoes, Minagi and Misuzu settle for simple sparklers.

Naturally, I decide to sit by them.

"...Pretty."

"Yes, very pretty."

The luminescence of the sparks reminds me a bit of the sparkling of a star.

Perhaps Minagi thinks the same way.

"Owowow..."

I have no idea what Misuzu is doing, though.

She is holding the sparkler the wrong way, burning her hand.

She drops the sparkler and rushes to the water to soothe her burnt hand.

"What an idiot..."

I shake my head and snicker.

As Minagi's sparkler fizzles out, the first star appears in the sky.

"Ah..."

Minagi is the first to notice.

"Michiru..."

"What is it, Minagi?"

Michiru appears next to Minagi, wondering why she called her.

Minagi turns to Michiru, then back to the star.

"...It's nothing."

She smiles.

"Time to shoot off the last rocket!"

Kano happily unveils her big surprise.

It's a firecracker the size of Michiru.

How she managed to get enough money to buy that, I will never know.

"Isn't that firework too big to be legal?"

Kano just smiles.

I have a bad feeling about this.

"Everybody out of the way!"

We all scatter to the far end of the beach.

The fuse burns quickly.

The rocket shoots towards the last rays of the sun.

We wait for the explosion.

And wait.

…...

…..

Nothing happens.

"Where's the explosion?"

We all turn to Kano.

"Don't look at me! I don't know where it went!"

Just then, we hear a loud boom come from across the sea.

A massive displacement of water comes rushing at us.

Before we can make it to the steps, all of us are soaked.

But more importantly, I get soaked.

When the water recedes, all of us cough out salt water.

"This is the worst beach trip ever..."

I spit out the last of my salty saliva after saying that.

###

"Does your hand still hurt?"

I ask Misuzu as we walk home about her hand.

It still looks like it is burning.

"No, it's fine."

Minagi and Michiru went their way after the last firework was shot.

Kano stayed behind to clean up the mess.

I offered to help, but she said she was fine.

So now, I'm alone with Misuzu.

The streets are dark.

The stars and the lamplight are our only guide home.

"Today was fun."

Misuzu tells me with an honest smile.

At least I'm glad she is happy, even if I am really not.

"That's good to know."

"Do you think we can go tomorrow?"

I don't think I can afford being drenched again.

"Probably not."

"Why not?"

"A man needs his rest. Besides, I have to work tomorrow."

She looks pretty sad.

"But maybe we can go again this weekend."

The summer holidays are not yet over.

Misuzu still has plenty of free time, despite her studies.

"Really?"

"Yes, really. We'll invite Minagi and Kano and Michiru again if you want."

Misuzu looks down again.

It worries me.

"What's the matter?"

"Umm...if it's okay..."

She nervously looks up at me.

As if to make an embarrassing request.

"Can we go alone next time?"

The blush on her face is apparent.

I look up at the starry sky.

So many things have happened since I came back to this town.

I don't know how long it's been since I last came, but I do know this.

My mind had always been on Misuzu.

And Misuzu has always thought of me.

So why did I invite the others to the beach when it could have been just us?

Because I wanted to see them, too.

They are my friends.

Kano was pretty eager to see me after so long.

Minagi wanted to introduce me to her new half-sister.

And Misuzu...

"Yeah, we'll go together."

I feel like I've been with her all this time.

The End