Author's Note: Hello and welcome to the last chapter of this story, and I just want to say my thanks for everyone who stuck along with the ride (honestly, I didn't expect my first OreGairu fanfic to be this appreciated). And yes, this is the final chapter for the story, I know a few of you wanted me to expand the story more but I already had it all planned out and I felt just adding more to this would just be unnecessary longer. But I may be writing more based on this universe but so far, Yukinoshita is the only I had a solid idea on (you can send me some suggestions for other though).
And apologies if it took too long, honestly, I had a hard time writing the character of Haruno, scrapped one too many dialogue and scenes before being able to settle on one. So apologies if I fuck up her character.
Once again, I am deeply grateful for all the kind reviews and favorites, really, it helped me a lot. I don't know if I will be writing more like this in the future so until then, consider this good bye. Thank you so much for reading it caused I really loved writing it.
Until next time.
Now, let's get on with the show.
Chapter 4: A Sunny Day in April
I stood at the platform awaiting the train to arrive that would take us to the inevitable meeting with Yukinoshita's dear older sister. It wasn't like I was looking forward to it, more dreading if possible, in my head I had already damned the women in her life as the sole cause of dooming her in the first place. But I decided to keep my transgressions about them to myself, no use letting my personal feelings intrude on something I barely know anything about.
It was another clear morning on a Saturday, it was nearing lunch time so there wasn't as many people at the station as I originally expected. Which was good, the less people that would see the two of us together the better. After Scum-yama's little talk, I was a lot more cautious about where we were going now, in the fear of getting spotted by some schoolmates who have nothing better to do, and then throwing more fuel to the fire that was already burning in the halls of Sobu.
Yukinoshita was quiet as she stood beside me, she has been ever since we left her apartment, it was concerning and it bothered me a little. She didn't seem to be as lively as she was the other day, hell, if I could comment on it, she looked to be a zombie. Her eyes were a bit distant and distracted, her movements were stilted and she seemed to get tired a lot easier.
What I'd pay for her to comment on my eyes once more…I thought in my head before slapping myself for it, fearing I might have been opening a door I'd rather not open.
"Hikigaya-kun…", she suddenly spoke up.
I turned my head towards her as she casually faced me, her hands clasped in front of her and she was looking at me. Her eyes weren't as distant but they were still shifty and unfocused, as if a raging sea was bending to the will of a dying wind.
"Yeah?", I replied.
"How…how…", she began to speak but seemed too embarrassed to finish it. "How do I look?".
If it was possible to be able to physically say that I was caught off guard by her question, I would say, it was as if I was walking down the street and was suddenly struck in the face by a baseball out of nowhere. It was enough to give me a momentary whiplash and made my head dizzy for a moment, more to the fact that Yukinoshita asked me of all people of her looks.
Me. This is gonna be an interesting day if this how its starting.
Regaining my focus once more I look at Yukinoshita, she was wearing a white blouse and plain black skirt and covered by a brown coat. She even wore a pair of expensive looking shoes, it was an odd mix to say the least. But in the end, what the hell do I know? I'm a just a simple guy who'd wear a shirt and jeans and call it decent enough to go out into public with.
"You look good", was my reply before turning my head back around to face the front.
"I see…", she replied before turning back to face front as well.
I suddenly grew conscious of a couple whispering to each other a few feet somewhere behind us, snickering at my apparent "lame" answer to a girl's question. I wanted to tell them off, no wait, I can tell them off but instead it made question something.
"Why are you asking about your clothes anyways?", I asked, fighting the urge to look at her but feared what look she would give me.
But instead Yukinoshita simply answered, "My older sister, she's a bit judgmental of people, sometimes so critical as to judge their clothing at the first meeting…"
I suddenly grew conscious of that and looked down at myself to see if I at least look decent, I was wearing black jeans, sneakers and a rolled up black dress shirt, Komachi said I looked cool in it but Yukinoshita's older sister is a different story entirely.
"And so I wanted any unwarranted comments from her as much as I can", she said.
For some reason, that reply of hers was a lot more biting than she intended. As if she was trying to hide a lot more in between those words, a million other words tucked between the spaces of her answer that seemed to reveal a much more painful reality. I decided then, I wasn't going to let this meeting go south, I just can't.
"But for you Hikigaya-kun, she might see my value vastly decline in a blink of an eye", Yukinoshita said, her usual cold and smug tone coming back.
I internally sighed in relief, "Please, your sister doesn't even know Hachiman Hikigaya yet, I'm sure she'll find me charming".
"Now let's not speak in hyperboles Hikigaya-kun, I mean, if you even know that means given how rotten your brain is"
"My brain is only rotten of knowledge Yukinoshita, ones that you cannot even begin to understand"
"I think my own peace of mind is spared of that Hikigaya-kun"
Even with our usually banter back it didn't seem as natural as before, more of forced dialogue just to fill in some dead air before the silence becomes deafening. But I decided to take comfort in it, no matter how flimsy or forced it seems, it was a good enough distraction from the troubles that seemed to plague her mind.
The train pulls into the station, the couple that seemed to eavesdropping on us earlier had decided to stay away from us after hearing our short exchange as we enter the train car. We sit down and let the train take us away from Chiba, away from the prying eyes of Sobu, away from the atmosphere that haunted her for most of her life.
I begin to wonder if I was some brave knight, rescuing the Queen and taking her somewhere safe and far away. But no, I was no Knight, I was just a rotten loner with arrogance and wit at his disposal instead of a sword and shield. Much like how Yukinoshita was no Queen, just a quiet girl who learned to keep people away just so she can never let them hurt her.
She speaks again, a lot quieter than earlier.
"Can I be honest?", she asked me.
"Sure", I replied.
"I'm really nervous about meeting her right now", she answered.
I say no reply, as much as I have nothing to say really. I don't know her sister like she does, as much as I'm concern, Yukinoshita must still love her half to death but dreaded of being stomped on once more by a person she deeply cared about. And going by what Scum-yama had said, Haruno Yukinoshita didn't seem to be the nicest person in the world, same goes for their Mother but I'm not going to say anything more.
Instead, I act a little brave, and a little reckless at the same time. I grab a hold of her hand, not minding the biting cold of her touch anymore. She tenses up a bit, surprised most likely, before I can feel them loosen up and curl her fingers above mind.
I'll take comfort in this as long as I can.
The meet up place was in this upscale café near the university her sister was studying at, I didn't know how to describe it as but it just screamed "rich". I suddenly felt insecure in my attire, stealing a few glances around me towards the people clad in high end clothing and jewelry. I wondered if all the places Yukinoshita's sister could've set up the meeting she just had to pick this one. We sat by the front window that gave us a view of the outside, sitting in white leather seats and fancy tables, I would be caught dead spending money on a place like this.
I took a sip from my high end coffee, seriously this thing costs half of my weekly allowance, before glancing back at Yukinoshita who sat beside me.
She was curling her hands in a nervous fit, an attempt to calm her nerves down before the inevitable reunion with her beloved sister would happen. Honestly, I dreaded it, I feared the fact I would finally put a face to the name I seeming cursed and banish, the water that nourished the seeds of what Yukinoshita would become today.
I feared I would just meet a pretty face.
I sighed, "God, this anticipation is killing me".
"Nee-san is almost never late, so she'll be here when the time for our meet up comes", Yukinoshita replied.
"Yeah, but I'm starting to feel nervous as well", I admitted.
A ghost of a smile graced her lips, her eyes remained glued on the table. The smile dissipates quickly and she is left with that expression on her face once more, the look she had when we left the station. But no words of comfort come to my mind, it draws a blank and I give no reply nor comment.
What can a loner like me say in the situation like this?
But it seems the silence was unbearable for her and so Yukinoshita speaks up, giving me an answer that sent my thoughts, and my heart, into a loop.
"Hikigaya-kun…what did you think of me the first time we met?"
It took my brain a second to process, "What?".
"When you caught me when I fell down the stairs last week….", she answered before looking at me, her eyes keen in wonder beneath the hollowness. "When I told you off, what were you thinking then and there?".
It's a question Yukinoshita had asked me before but at the same time it's different, I didn't really know what I would say to her. I didn't really know what I thought when I managed to catch Yukinoshita in my arms, all I thought about was the fact that I shouldn't let this girl fall face first into the ground before biting cold of her skin and her equally biting voice gutted me. The way it just cut into me like a knife, I even wanted to go about her warning before my damn curiosity got the best of me.
But I knew I had an answer, in the end, it was the inevitable truth.
"I thought you were really cold", I admitted as she continued to watch me. "Like real cold, the kind of person that would turn me away just breathing at her general direction, let alone have them be caught in my arms -"
"Oh", she said, a little glumly but I continued.
"But I also got curious, I wondered what could've happen to Yukino Yukinoshita that made her skin so cold to the touch. I realized I wanted to know more, explore more, understand you more", I look at her before I say anything else, I place a hand on top of hers and give it a squeeze. "I realized I wanted to be your hero".
I give her a small smile and she stares at me, wide eyed and in shock. Slowly I can see something change beneath her cold and zombie-like eyes, as if the clouds in the sky were finally clearing up and the warm rays of the sun came flowing through, I would say they sparkled almost.
That's when I realized the situation, how I was placing a hand on top of hers while giving that pretty boy speech in the middle of the café. I blushed instinctively before removing my hand on top of her and placing it back on the handle of the coffee cup, an attempt to restrain myself from any further attempts at physical contact.
"Something like that", I backpedaled, hoping I didn't shock her into silence with my words. "I just wanted to see the real Yukinoshita break through".
"You think there's a real me?", she asked and I nodded, not glancing her way.
"I know there is, she's sitting beside me right now about to confront her sister", I replied as I sipped my drink.
Yukinoshita looks down again, in her eyes I can see the clouds fully disappear and the blue of a deep sea break through, I did a mental high five for that achievement. She then closes her fist and straightens her seat, her face more determined than I've seen of her all morning.
"I think I want to confront her alone", she declared.
I nearly spat out the coffee in my mouth, "You want to what?".
"I want to talk to nee-san alone", she replied before snapping towards me, the sudden sharpness in her eyes made me unconsciously flinch. "I think it's better this way, since many of our problems are around each other and it would be unfair to have you be involved, Hikigaya-kun".
I raised a hand, "Yukinoshita, are you sure you want to do this? If things get bad, I don't want a repeat of last Monday".
"It won't", she answered back. "I won't let it happen this time, I swear".
She looks at me, like really looks at me and I could finally the steel determination she had in her eyes. It warmed my heart a little, to finally see Yukinoshita seemingly come back to her old self, a little more courageous if anything. And she was right, since it is going to be a thing between sisters, it was best if I stay out of it as much as I can.
And so I caved and did what she asked me. I decided to seat on the booth behind Yukinoshita, it was a good cover and I can still hear their conversation without needing to be seen or even be acknowledged. I stand up and move to the seat, behind me I hear Yukinoshita say to me.
"Thank you Hikigaya-kun, for everything"
I was about to reply before the bell on the front rang and a cheery voice pounded into my ears.
"Yukino-chan! Long time no see"
"Nee-san", Yukinoshita replied. "Thank you for meeting with me"
Haruno Yukinoshita looked like everything I expected her to look and more. She was like Yukinoshita but older, and more mature, she had shorter and her eyes were livelier and an ever affixed smile on her face seemed to be a permanent feature to her person. But unlike Yukinoshita though she didn't seem to be as cold or as aloof of people. Hell, if I would to describe her, she looked and acted to be the exact opposite of her younger sister, she seemed warm and friendly, a bit cheerier than I'd like but I didn't let that fact bothered me as much.
She walked up to Yukinoshita, she exuded the look of a rich man's daughter by the expensive looking clothes she was wearing. A white blouse, a long teal skirt and brown leather boots, I'm starting to wonder how much of a fashion sense did the two Yukinoshita really share.
But Haruno takes her seat in front of Yukinoshita, even taking a quick glance at me and I realized I was watching her. I look away, a bit embarrassed with an evident blush on my face and decide to try not to watch them as much.
"Its been so long Yukino-chan", Haruno greets her as she leans on the table, placing her elbows on the table. "Nee-san here hasn't heard anything from you since you started high school, are you doing alright?".
I can hear hesitation in Yukinoshita's voice but she answers her sister nonetheless.
"It's going fine nee-san", was her answer, honestly, I wouldn't know how to reply myself.
Haruno smiles at her answer, almost teasingly, with a smile saying that she knew more about it than she was initially letting on. It disturbed me somehow, the kind of mask she could easily slip on.
"That's good to hear", she replies before widening her eyes in reply and eying her up and down. "What's with those winter-like clothes Yukino-chan? It's a sunny day in the middle of April, you can get a heatstroke".
The sudden concern in her voice surprised me and Yukinoshita both, given how she initially reacts but calms herself down and recovers surprisingly fast.
"I've been feeling a bit cold these past few days", Yukinoshita answers.
That's an understatement…I mentally said as I sip my coffee.
"I see…well those clothes are cute Yukino-chan", she teases, even pulling at the sleeve as she did. She sighs almost wistfully. "Its like everyday your growing up faster and faster and I can barely catch up, doesn't help you practically decided to cut yourself out of my life but I'm glad you called me out here to meet with you, it made Haruno-nee here feel special".
"Nee-san, about the reason I wanted to meet with you…"
"Hold that thought Yukino-chan, let me order something really quick", Haruno interrupts her before raising her hand to call a waitress over.
I could tell Yukinoshita was nervous, the way it permeates in the air around her I was practically getting infected by it. Slowly being nervous about this meeting myself as it dragged on, seeing now there was something more to Haruno Yukinoshita than meets the eye.
"So why did my cute little imouto wanted to meet with me after so long?", Haruno asks as the drink she ordered, a small cup of coffee and muffin arrives.
"I wanted to talk about us", Yukinoshita replies.
Haruno tilts her head in wonder at that, "What do you mean by that?".
I can feel Yukinoshita hesitate, unsure of what she wanted to say. Her thoughts were astray of all the built up frustration, agony and sadness her family had caused for her all her life, how running away from her problems only got worse of her as time went on. As if she was forever haunted by a past, a past she wanted to run away from and a family she wanted no part of. She couldn't even begin to utter a single word to help convey everything she wanted to say, but then I hear her take a deep breathe and let out a deep sigh.
Yukinoshita faces ahead, more determine now.
"Nee-san, for the longest time all I ever wanted was a chance to prove myself to you and Mother", she begins, finally letting her real emotions flow through. "I tried so hard to be great, perfect even, I studied hard, got into everything you did that made Mother so proud of you and I thought by pursuing you that I would finally find my happiness but…", she pauses for a moment. "It was never enough, even Mother hated it, especially I knew that you hated me for it. The fact I lived under the shadow you had casted for so long that both of you thought that everything I've done and wanted was to out shine you, she hated me even for it".
"When I couldn't take it anymore, I decided to run away, I thought by doing that I could find finally find some peace of mind but…", her voice quivers abit. "It made it worse somehow, I was living the consequences of pursuing you for so long and I thought I'd just bear with it like I've always had. But the past few days I've made it hard for me to bear it any longer, it was suffocating almost but then someone made me realize that I had to face everything I've kept buried for so long if I ever wanted to move on and that's the reason, I wanted to talk to you today".
Yukinoshita steels her resolve once more and finally lets all of her pain go.
"Nee-san, I forgive you for everything"
There was silence soon after, I didn't know what to make of it really. Was it the kind of silence that meant shock? Was it the kind of silence that meant they were both processing what had just happened? I looked at Haruno's face, it seemed surprised by the revelation, more surprised that she saw her beloved but cold sister suddenly bare her emotions for her to see.
She places the cup of coffee back down and I awaited what she would say next but then I saw her eyes turn cold and distant, horrifyingly enough, she looked like Yukinoshita when I first met so many days ago but what irked me more was a small smile on her lips.
"The proclamation of forgiveness…", Haruno noted. "Usually entitles me to apologize to you isn't that right, Yukino-chan?".
That answer of her seemingly catches both of us off guard, especially Yukinoshita, who seemingly became flustered and even worse that Haruno seemingly looked at her with such scrutiny now.
"No, no- that was not I wanted to imply – "
"Suddenly wearing your heart on your sleeve, you've surely changed my dear little sister", Haruno says and it clenches my heart somehow the way she said it, lacking any tone of affection but more of mockery. "Is it because of that someone you mentioned? Has that person influenced you that much?".
Yukinoshita answers, "No, he hasn't but he has helped me see things more clearly and – ".
"He? My, what would Mother think of you suddenly having a 'someone' in your life?", she wonders, even twirling a thread of her hair, that I know noticed had purple colored tips. "You know I always envied you Yukino-chan, you had all the freedom in the world, to become anything you wanted and you choose to chase after me in some vain attempt to make Mother happy?", I can Haruno shake her head in disappointment. "Pathetic, Yukino, pathetic".
This was the Haruno Yukinoshita Scum-yama had told me about in full view, someone who could seemingly beat you down with just a move of her tongue and destroy anything and everything you seemingly held dear. I could only swallow thickly, feeling my insides freeze at her words, I wanted to intervene and take Yukinoshita far away from here and keep her safe but I knew she'd hate me for it.
She hated to be so weak after so long.
"Its not pathetic, I'd rather be honest with my true feelings than keep it to myself like always", Yukinoshita answers.
"True feelings? Since when did my dear Yukino become so in tune with her 'true' feelings?", Haruno questions, almost exasperated by the sudden revelation. "If you didn't obsess over your studies you were pushing people away, you became so good at it its almost natural for you at this point, right?".
I found myself gripping the handle of the coffee cup tight, but I sighed and tried to calm myself in case I accidentally break it off somehow. But those words pierced me, it was the same words Hayama said that Monday afternoon, it was the words of people who didn't who Yukino Yukinoshita really was.
Somehow, hearing it from her own sister made it worse.
"Nee-san", Yukinoshita says, putting an abrupt tone in her voice. "I didn't come here for an apology from you or anything of that matter".
"Then why did you come here Yukino-chan? Hm? Did you say all those words to me in the hopes that I would throw you a pity party and tearfully apologize to you and make you feel better?", Haruno accuses, I sensed a hint of venom in her words.
"No…", Yukinoshita says before slightly bowing her head down, her tone having become more somber than before. "I thought that maybe…we can fix our relationship and start anew".
Those words made Haruno smile, but it wasn't a happy smile, no, it was a smile of satisfaction. The satisfaction that she finally got Yukinoshita to admit her real intentions. And so she leans back against her seat and crosses her arms, almost cocky in her moves.
"Fix our relationship? There's no fixing it Yukino-chan, you made sure of that"
That's when Yukinoshita stood up, so violently that it made a noise at it scratched against the floor. Everyone's eyes were now trained on her as she glanced behind her to look at me, her eyes were looked as they were before, withdrawn and lifeless, tired to the point of exhaustion. The fear pooled in the pit of my stomach and the truth of the matter was clear.
"Hikigaya-kun, let's go, we're leaving", she said as she moved out of the booth and I drain my coffee as she picks up her bag and was about to move.
"Hikigaya-kun?", Haruno addressed and we both froze in our spots.
I looked down at her, she looked at me with a bit of a mischievous glint but there were the evident cold blue eyes that Yukinoshita had but it was masked with that faux happiness and appreciation. She was a lot scarier than Hayama made her out to be and I knew now she wasn't the kind of person one should trifle with.
She seemed unsympathetic, even towards her own sister.
"Who might you be then?", she asked, in a sultry tone as she leaned in, resting her chin on her hands as they were placed on the table. "Are you that 'someone' who influenced my dear little sister's life so much?"
I open my mouth to reply, to tell her off hopefully and redeem Yukinoshita in her eyes, to finally destroy the image of her she had in her head. But then Yukinoshita grabs my wrist and I look at her and she was looking down at her sister. Her eyes seemingly glazed with something unquestionably hostile but at the same time, a could see a wisp of sadness play around them.
I knew then and there; her heart was breaking.
"Hikigaya-kun, who he is and what he is to me is none of your business…at least not anymore"
Without another word we left Haruno behind in that high coffee shop, with it, somehow a feeling of hope that had been snuffed whiffed its way out of that booth and followed the both of us as we continued our now silent trek back to the train station. As if a chance of a flower blooming into something beautiful after a cold harsh winter had been viciously cut down, never getting the chance to bloom once more.
Dead before it was even given a chance.
Yukinoshita is quiet once more as we await the train to pull into the station, today was a disaster once more and I knew she was blaming herself now for what had transpired. But I wanted to reassure her like she did me, it was not her fault for what had happen but I couldn't say it, for I know my words wouldn't overwrite every hurtful thing Haruno said back at that café.
I felt my blood boil now, just the thought of her was enough to make me angry. How could someone be that cruel to their own family? How cold and hateful does one had to be to be able to close their own hearts against their own little sister? Even if it was just a fraction of it, I felt the chilling bite of the Yukinoshita's, the family that singlehandedly destroyed their own daughter's life.
My first curl unconsciously at the thought of it.
"Hikigaya-kun…I'm sorry", Yukinoshita apologized.
I turned to her, I could see how distraught she was after that, "Don't be…it was my idea in the first place and now…".
The guilt of before has returned once more and it was somehow worse than before, I've managed to cause more pain and agony for Yukinoshita all in a vain attempt to combat something that had the upper hand against us all this time. But to hear those words from someone you love and admired…I couldn't even imagine the wounds a knife like that could cut.
"I thought I could finally be strong enough to face her, that I finally had the courage to fix what was already broken", Yukinoshita said before clutching her chest. "But I've realized I can't, after so long, I realized there was never really fixing us".
I lower my head in shame, shame in my arrogance and belief that a simple this and that could magically fix away any problem I could face, that it was enough to combat the atmosphere and rid of the Puberty Syndrome entirely. But I was wrong, not every single problem was going to be fix the same way and irreparable damages could never really be patched up and mended.
"Hikigaya-kun…", Yukinoshita said as I turn to her.
"Let's go to the beach, I want to see the ocean"
I accept her request and I stare up ahead, wondering why she suddenly wanted to go to see the beach but I kept it to myself. In my head I begin to plan once more, another way to dispel it, a sliver of chance that there was still answer hidden in there somewhere. It was there I just know it.
The train arrives and we join the passengers as they board. Somehow, I foolishly hoped that Haruno would appear to us once more and come to her senses and apologize and the matter would be resolved, but I can't, she had too many reasons to hold herself back to feel sorry for a life she seemingly envied. The train lurches and we begin to leave Tokyo, I feel it pool at the bottom of my stomach once more, the failure and the hopelessness and again, we were left on our own once more.
Yukinoshita then takes a hold of my hand, I was taken aback abit by the sudden biting cold of her hand on mine, but I realized what she wanted and so I intertwine my fingers and give her a squeeze, a form of comfort somehow after today.
She squeezes back.
We stood to watch the sun set over the horizon as the waves crashed quietly against the sea, we were at the Shichirigahama beach in Kamakura, admiring the view from above the sea wall. It was a good two hour train ride from Chiba, and a pretty far away place to get away from everyone and everything. This seemed to be what Yukinoshita wanted for now, to be far away and feel safe in a place only she knew to find peace in.
I stood beside her, leaning against the railing, admiring how the clouds seemingly began to divide over the rays of the setting sun. My hands were resting on top of the railing and I could not say a word, haven't been talking to each other much since we left the station back in Tokyo. Personally, I couldn't say anything to her that could possibly be of any help or comfort, after the falling out she just had with her older sister, I didn't if there are words that could be of any comfort for her.
And so, we basked in the silence and the cool air and wind of the beach fill in for us.
"My Mother…", Yukinoshita said as I glanced at her, she was still staring ahead at the sight before us. "She used to take us here and we were very young, back then I always said to myself that if I was ever to go back here it would be for a happier reason but now…", she sniffles. "I'm just using this place to run away".
"Yukinoshita…", I speak up, feeling my heart ache at her words.
"Hikigaya-kun…", she then spins around to face me, tears were streaking down her face and her mouth began to quiver, I reach out my hand but then she bows her head. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry", she raised it to face me. "I was stupid, so stupid to think that a simple talk could fix everything between after all these years but…I was wrong".
She straightens her stand but her eyes were still glued to the ground, "You know, I was actually looking forward to meeting with her once again, that your plan might work and I can finally have a proper relationship with my sister. But…", she then brings her hands to her chest, as if to stop the tightness of her heart. "She was right, I had every chance to live a life for myself but instead I used to pursue her because that's what I thought would make my Mother proud of me…".
"But it was more than I could ever imagined and when I couldn't take it anymore, I decided to run away from it all, thinking all my problems would just go away and I could live as normal of a life as I can, maybe nee-san was right, I really am just pathetic", Yukinoshita admitted before looking down at her hands. "Maybe the Puberty Syndrome is a just punishment for my selfishness".
I lunged at her, immediately grabbing her shoulders and surprising her as I did. Yukinoshita balances herself, shocked at my sudden reaction but I just look at her. My emotions flowing through, suddenly triggered by her admission and the fact she thought she deserved it all.
"Don't say that", I practically screamed at her. "Don't you ever say that, the Syndrome, it's not a punishment for you, its not something you deserve just because you wanted something better for yourself", I grip her shoulders tighter, I stare deep into her eyes. "These people, they don't know you like I do, they don't know the Yukinoshita I've known these past few days and-and seeing you think that way its-its…killing me".
With each fallout and failure another arrow pierces its way through my body, it was strange, to feel so much for someone I barely even know. But this wasn't just a 'someone', this was Yukinoshita, the girl who fell into my arms on a dull on April morning, the girl who smiled so rarely it was like staring at a shining star up close. The girl who wanted nothing more than the world to take her back and feel safe and secure once more, to return a precious beach she had so much memories of without an aching heart and a head full of so much hateful and spiteful words.
"We can't let the Puberty Syndrome win us over again", I said as I detached myself from her. "There has to be another way, we can still fight the Syndrome and rid you of the atmosphere".
I turned to face away from her, my mind racing of any and all possible ideas we can still have to combat. There has to be a way, maybe if I have her contact her Mother or even her Father, but I seeing as how things Haruno blew over I didn't want to think it was viable answer anymore. I wanted to pull my hair, what else can I do?
What else can I –
That's when I felt her on my back once more. She rested her head and arms against it, the biting cold of the contact made a shiver run up and down my spine, but then she spoke to me in a quiet and hushed tone, a desperate plea that became a whisper.
"Stop it, Hachiman, please…", she begged me and I deflate and I lower my head down and sigh.
I follow her down the stone steps and into the sand, she said that she wanted to be closer to the ocean as much as she can. I felt exhausted now, all the feelings of hope and happiness were crushing at this point, I didn't know what to do anymore. My brain drew a blank with any possible ways to resolve this, for the first time in a while, I felt like as I did back then. Helpless and naïve, thinking I could do everything but at the same time, knowing nothing.
Kaori…I'm so sorry…
We walk along the sand, taking in the relaxing scent of the ocean and basking in the light of the setting sun. Yukinoshita was glumly kicking the sand around her feet with her hands on her back, and I just followed behind her without another word. But I wanted to say something, no longer being able to bear the silence between us and so I looked up and was about to open my mouth when I saw her suddenly collapse.
I catch her in my arms before her body was able to hit the sand but I stumble back and land on my butt, my arms still around her as I did. Yukinoshita was violently shivering now and she began to let deep and labored breathes, wisps of cold coming out of her mouth as she did.
I place a hand on her face and I reel it back, it felt a lot colder than before, maybe even worse.
"I…thought I had…more…time", Yukinoshita said in between breathes.
I looked down at her, the horrifying truth I was slowly coming to realize, "Yukinoshita, why didn't you tell me you were feeling this way? I had no idea your condition was already this severe".
She gives me a weak smile in reply and lets out another deep breath and I feel the cold air slap me in the face. She replies to me but her voice has gone weaker now, a lot more tired than before.
"Because…I didn't want to…worry you…", she said to me. "You were…already…troubled with my sister and…I didn't want to…burden you…anymore".
"Idiot", I reprimanded as I can feel my heart begin to ache. "Don't you realize you're dying? And you never bothered to tell? Dammit Yukino", I have to go, I have to seek help, I need to take her to a hospital before its too late. But Yukinoshita stops me from getting up by placing a hand on my head, and I looked down at her face.
She still had a small but weak smile on her face, why can't she realize the severity of the situation? Why can't she see that she's going to die?
"Don't…you've done more than enough…", she replied.
"Enough? Yukino, we need to get you to a hospital", I retorted. "You could die".
But Yukinoshita replied to me, "I know…That's why I wanted to spend some time…here…and with you…please…Hachiman…just stay with me…that's all I ask…".
My arms begin to shake as I lower my head down. Here was Yukinoshita, in my arms with her head on my lap, dying. The girl who I wanted to see no more than succeed and overcome the Syndrome was now dying in my arms and there was nothing I could do stop it. I was beginning to cry, but I held back the tears that were threatening to burst out of my eye.
I had to be strong, I needed to be strong for her. The waves crash loudly as I felt the sun beginning to die out as the dark and oppressive darkness of the night begin to take over. I wanted to banish it all away, I didn't want her final view of her precious beach to be blanketed in darkness.
"Hachiman…I'm so thankful that I met you…", Yukinoshita begins to say, petting my head with her free hand. "You have done more for me…than anyone has done for almost all of my life…I'm so happy I got to meet you…and I'm so happy you tried so hard to save me…".
I didn't save you…I wanted to say but the words are blocked and only whimpers come out. I didn't save you Yukinoshita, I failed you, I failed Kaori, I failed everyone. I lower my head down and hold her close, praying to God to intervene and save her.
I'm so sorry Kaori, I'm sorry Yukino, I failed you, I failed you, I failed you, I failed you…
"That's why…truly…I have fallen for you"
A tear leaks from my eyes and I finally begin to cry.
The tear streaks down Hachiman's face and drops unto her cheek, at first it felt wet but as the tear ran down her cheek Yukinoshita suddenly opens her eyes. A sensation she had not felt in a long time comes back, the tear dries on her face and she finds herself staring at Hachiman's distraught face.
But she could feel the sand beneath her, the cool breeze of the ocean and the heat of his arms wrapped around her.
It was so –
I felt Yukinoshita sit up, her face was stricken with shock and surprise. She raises her hand to admire it as sand softly breaks and falls off. I sniffed, wondering what was going on, eyes still stinging with the tears I've been holding back. I was at a loss for words but then Yukinoshita looks back at me, and smiles.
"I can feel it", she said before standing up, and throwing her arms to her side as the wind blew around her. "I can feel all of it".
Yukinoshita smile grows wider as her eyes begin to shine, like the sun breaking through the dark gray and oppressive clouds, the stars finally shine after a long black night. Yukinoshita's eyes were bright and full of life. She then looks back at the sea and begins to run towards it, stripping off her coat as she does.
"Oi! Yukinoshita!", I call out to her as I pull myself off from where I sat and ran after her, fearing something bad might happen if I don't.
But Yukinoshita kicks off her shoes and runs into the sea. I follow in suit, carefully taking out my own shoes and socks and throwing away my phone, not wanting to go home with damp footwear and a busted cellphone and chased after her, crashing myself into the waves as I run after the girl who seemingly chased for the sun.
She stops in the middle, we're in the waist deep water and the waves crash softly against us as the birds above us begin to fly away and in disappear into the distance. Yukinoshita is staring at the setting sun before her, her silhouette becoming more clearer as I neared her.
"I can feel it…Hachiman I can feel it…", she joyfully exclaimed, not even glancing behind her to look at me.
I let out a grateful sigh that sounded like a shaky breath as I felt my heavy chest begin to lighten.
"How does it feel?", I asked her.
That's when Yukinoshita turns around and I see a sight I thank my lucky stars to finally see, she was smiling, a smile so wide and happy that it reaches her eyes, tears of joy streaming down her face and she answers me.
"Its warm", she said before running towards me, collapsing into my arms.
I felt my eyes visibly widened, no more did I feel the biting cold of her skin, no longer did feel painful to touch. No, it was warm and comforting, I feel my own tears streak down my face and I hold her close, much like I did before but now it feels different. I hug her tight as she buries her face into my shoulder.
I stare back out at the sun finally dies out, the last traces of the bright lights dissipate and the night shrouds over us. But I pay it no mind at this point as I continue to hold Yukinoshita in my arms.
"It's so warm"
Now for the conclusion, or more appropriately the punchline, the punchline of a winding joke with Yukinoshita being the gut punch in the stomach that would illicit the laughter and tragically, I was left as the only cackling madman at the end. But regardless it had come to an end and miraculously, we had defeated the Puberty Syndrome altogether.
Yukinoshita was able to regain her ability to feel everything again, the cold feeling and touches having disappeared on that beach along with the pain and agony seemingly being washed away along with the waves of the oceans where we shared an embrace. Sure, the first few days we were cautious about it, fearing that it was some sort of momentary relief but by Monday the truth of the matter had been evident:
Yukinoshita had rid herself of the Puberty Syndrome.
"Congratulations then Hikigaya-kun", Hiratsuka-sensei said as she lights up another cigarette.
We were in the faculty room again, just because I managed to resolve things with Yukinoshita and she was able to live normally again doesn't mean much has changed of the current situation. It was after school at least, meaning the least likely I would encounter the ever present rumor mill on my way out of school.
"You somehow managed to save the day after all, that you have my respects for", Hiratsuka-sensei added before blowing a smoke and sitting back on her seat. "Guess good guys do finish in the end".
I shrug from where I sat, a little more agitated and antsy about wanting leave, it was a Friday and I didn't want to spend my prelude to a glorious weekend in the teacher's faculty. But I curse my good nature, something Yukinoshita still doubted existed, and agreed to meet with Sensei after class.
"You're making it more dramatic than it really was", I replied as I sit back on my seat as well,
"Nonsense Hachiman…", Zaimokuza exclaimed before turning back to face me from his spot by the window, dramatically staring out at the crowds of student as they left…what the hell was he doing here anyway?
"You not only managed to dispel the atmosphere around Yukinoshita but you also managed to rid her of the Puberty Syndrome altogether", he stated as he walked to the other side of the couch, wanting to avoid Sensei's cigarette smoke. "That itself warrants great praise".
"Yoshiteru here has a point", Sensei agreed as she jabbed a thumb his way. "Not many people would bother to stick around a girl like Yukinoshita like you did, even help her out with her a lot of her problems".
"I wouldn't say that…", I admitted. "Her classmate's are still shitheads, except for Sodachi and her relationship with her family still remains as tumultuous as ever".
It was true, as much as a victory this was it didn't change anything about her current situation. She was still vilified and hated by the people around her and her hopes of repairing her relationship with her family had been crushed, but for now, Yukinoshita seemed unbothered by any of it. Hell, I would even say she stopped caring about any of those at all.
"Well baby steps, can't fix everything in a day", Sensei assured me.
"It maybe a long and dangerous road but for now find peace in the fact Yukinoshita is saved", Zaimokuza added. "You did it Hachiman, you saved her".
Saved…That word used to gut me, it felt like an unnatural burden to carry and made me out to be more heroic than I actually was but now I felt my pride swell at the thought of it. Back then, I would make excuses left and right just to avoid being branded as such, but the truth of it made me feel relieved about all of it.
I saved her.
I saved Yukinoshita.
Kaori, I did it…I saved her…
I felt myself smile at the thought of that. That's when Zaimokuza puts a hand on his face, covering both of his eyes and raised his other one to point at me.
"But this is not the end of the heroes journey my partner in crime", he said before opening his fingers to reveal his left eye. "The Syndrome might not be as joyous of our victory over it and will seek any means to exact its foul revenge and- ".
"I'm going to head home, got stuff to do, see you both Monday", I interjected Zaimokuza's ranting before it devolves, I stood up, grabbing my bag and slinging it over my shoulder and was about to head towards the door.
"One last question before you leave, Hikigaya-kun", Sensei calls out and I turn to her.
"What is it Sensei?", I asked.
"What do you think triggered the Syndrome to manifest in the first place?", she wondered.
I never really thought of that to be honest, given I was looking more into the atmosphere and the Syndrome but I never really thought of it being suddenly triggered out of the blue. I paused for a few moments, racking my brain of a possible answer, a possible way to explained how the Syndrome managed to manifest in the first place.
But Yukinoshita passes my mind, her eyes, her lips, her words and her past come flashing at me and I knew of the answer. I look back at them, their faces twisted in anticipation.
"I guess it was when she gave up on people", was my answer.
It was when Yukinoshita got tired of the world around her coming down so hard on her, that she finally gave up trying to grow close with anyone at all. Fully embracing the Ice Queen persona that plagued her all her life, feeling that if she could finally detach herself from people that she could finally be at peace with everything that had happened to her.
She gave up seeking relationships, gave up on wanting anything more than being shallow acquittances and finally, ice people out of her life in the hopes that they would never hurt as much as they already did. She gave up seeking the warmth of others and left herself out of the cold. And in the end, I guess that's what she needed all this time, a person she can find herself being vulnerable around, someone she can be honest with, someone she can lean on and be able to support her with everything she wanted to do.
All she ever needed was someone's warmth to comfort her through the cold.
I shrugged, feeling stupid for that answer, "Or something like that, who knows".
But Hiratsuka-sensei seemed satisfied with that answer, sitting back on her sit, she throws and arm over and leans back like a cocky overgrown child having been given a proper sweet candy. Zaimokuza merely smiles, a little smugly by my accounts but I decided to ignore it and make my way to the door.
"Well, at least another good thing came out of this mess", Hiratsuka-sensei said as she takes a drag at the cigarette. "If it hadn't been for that, you wouldn't have been able to bag yourself a cute girlfriend".
I felt my face heat up as the blush threatened to spread across my face, I snapped my head towards the both of them but Sensei just waves me off and tells me to leave.
"See you back Monday Hikigaya-kun, don't have too much fun – "
Whatever teasing words she was going to say next had been blocked off when I slide the door close and let out a sigh. Suddenly feeling tired, all I wanted to do now was just crawl into my bed and clock out for the rest of the day and eat some of Komachi's signature curry. I felt my stomach growl just at the thought of that as I began to make my way to the stairs.
"Just how long were you planning on making me wait?"
The voice calls out to me, cutting into me like a biting knife but it doesn't scar deep but enough to knock me back to my senses. I look up and see Yukinoshita, arms crossed over her chest and looking at me, her eyes filled with annoyance over the fact I had made her wait outside as I talked with both Hiratsuka-sensei and Zaimokuza alone.
"Sorry", I apologized, bowing my head slightly. "The talk took longer than I expected, hope I didn't make you wait long".
"It was longer than appropriate at this point", Yukinoshita retorted as we begin to make our to the stairway. "Honestly, I thought you'd be more considerate but I guess it was even too much for your Hikki-brain to comprehend".
I smirk at her jab, "Hey, now don't go around insulting the old Hikigaya thought machine, it has come up with some pretty wicked ideas".
"For that I seriously doubt but – ", Yukinoshita said before glancing at me. "I guess now I can have all the time in the world to understand it".
It warms me somehow, to know she was now a lot more open with me unlike before, sure, there was still a definite line that we have yet to cross but I took comfort in the fact that this was the Yukinoshita I was seeking to see from the beginning, this was the real her I hoped to reach out to and save.
I began to feel that this was the start of something genuine.
"Right", I said as we climbed down the stairs, suddenly remembering why I was so agitated to leave in the first place. "So this café you wanted to visit after school, it's a good one, right?".
Yukinoshita smugly smiles, as if I even dared to ask it, "Of course it is, I wouldn't recommended it in the first place if it wasn't, though, I doubt you'd find any enjoyment in it since it doesn't have anything cheap for you to indulge on".
"Please, don't make me out to be a cheap skate now Yukinoshita", I retorted. "I can find some enjoyment in high class coffee and sweets".
"I didn't know you had such a refined palate Hachi-I mean-Hikigaya-kun", she stuttered for a bit before continuing and I couldn't help but smile stupidly at her slip up.
Yes, we have been accustomed to addressing each other by our first name, but only exclusively when we were out of school. It was hell enough to be the current subject of the rumor mill, it was going to have a field day once it breaks out that we were dating. I can see it now, the creepy loner of 2-F actually managed to be dating the infamous Ice Queen? Has the world gone mad? What deep and dark magical ritual did he commit to entice the poor girl?
But it's not like we were open about it, hence why we still address each other normally when we're in school and don't act as lovely dovey as one would expect. Besides, I think people's minds would implode if they suddenly witness Yukinoshita acting lovey dovey and sweet, I know mine would often do.
"Of course I do, Yukino…shita", I replied, realizing this was going to be way easier for me than it would be for her.
Yukinoshita lets out a 'hmpf' as we make our way to the shoe locker, we pass by a couple of girls who watches us as we walked by them. I glanced back after we did and saw the two of them whisper something to each other before giggling and running off somewhere, I sighed, well, this secret isn't going to last long.
"Seems like the ruse isn't going to last long", I said to her.
"Well, I doubted we would be able to keep it up for so long", Yukinoshita replied. "Given how out of control the rumor mill here gets, it was only a matter of time".
"Yeah…", I said before a pregnant silence engulfs the both of us before admitting something I've been thinking for a while now. "You know…its not going to be easy for me suddenly going into this relationship with you, I'm not exactly experienced with these kinds of things".
Yukinoshita glances at me, "Its fine, I'm not experienced in this either, but I'm sure we'll learn the motions together as time goes on".
I was tad embarrassed by the proclamation of hers, but happy, even glad she was thinking of us that far ahead already. I decided to let my anxieties go and decided to roll with the punches, who knows, it might be a fun ride all the way through. Yukinoshita seemed elated to experience this new chapter of her life, seemingly free finally of the past that haunted her for so long and I was happy for her, glad even and excited for the next part of my life that was about to start.
We slip into our shoes and begin to leave the campus; the afternoon sun was high and bright and the cool spring breeze envelopes all around us. The weather itself seemingly set itself right, after the first few weeks of dark and heavy clouds that threatened to bring rain, I was relieved on the fact we finally manage to get a sunny afternoon.
I see a lot of students were still around campus, most of them still attending to their clubs and other businesses and somehow caught sight on both of us as we begin to leave, gawking at us and whispering to themselves in groups. A hear another group of girls, ones I've recognized from the cafeteria so many days ago, sneer and laugh at us as we passed by. I even saw a brief glimpse of blonde hair in the crowds but disappears almost immediately, I really stopped caring about him and his clique at this point.
I could even feel a few glares burn at my back but I ignore them and continue on.
"Well, it seems now everyone is just gonna hate me even more", I sighed.
"Hm, if that's the case let them", Yukinoshita reassured. "If it ever comes to that, then I wouldn't mind even if the world grew to hate you…", unexpectedly, she wraps her arms around mine and leans into my shoulder. I let out a sound of surprise at the sudden and brazen contact and my heart begins to beat erratically.
"That just means I can have you all to myself"
I dream of snow once more, I dream I was back on the barren white wasteland where the snow continued rain down from above and the biting cold was too much than one could bear. I was on my back, still laying on the ground where I collapsed, I began to shiver, it was so cold that my teeth were chattering and I crossed my arms and hugged myself tighter, curling into a ball in the hopes it would keep me warm.
But just when I was to give up and accept my fate here, I saw a bright light shine in the distance, I looked up to see the light come closer and closer. The figure approaches me and his recognizable fish tail hair bops out from beneath his coat and his dead fish eyes look down at me, but he was crouched down with his hand out for me to take.
"Come on Yukino, let's get you out of here…"
I take his hand, it's warm and I can feel it began to run through my body. Suddenly, the world doesn't seem so cold, the snow begins to gently rain like its suppose to and I had hope, hoped that this once barren meadow will one day bloom many beautiful flowers once this winter passes.
For the first time in a long time.