Memories of the Future
Disclaimer: I do not own Mekakushi no Kuni. MnK belongs to Tsukuba Sakura.
Summary: New Years.
chapter 21 the road home
The snow beneath his feet was packed hard from all the visitors that had trampled over it. Masahiro's geta were not exactly the best type of shoes to wear for navigating the snowy terrain, but each of them, Kanade, Arou, Kaichou, and himself, had come dressed in their winter kimono for new years. Kaichou's kimono was a yellow one with pink flowers decorating the entire left side. She wore a small, golden hairpin he had never seen her wear before, but he loved the way it held her hair back, letting only small tendrils escape. The chain of the little flower necklace he had given her that night during the summer festival lay against the nape of her neck. His eyes followed the curve of her neck up to the vibrant smile on her face. She had noticed that he had been staring at her. Masahiro couldn't help but smile in return.
Kanade's geta clicked against the cement steps as she came down from the temple with Arou. Masahiro looked up and raised one hand to catch her attention. He had been waiting at the bottom of the stairs with Kaichou for Kanade and Arou to finish making their new years wishes. While he waited, he tried to plan their return route, but Kaichou's presence had greatly distracted him from his task. Instead of studying the map, he had spent the time studying Kaichou instead.
Nevertheless, when both Kanade and Arou reached the bottom of the steps, Masahiro gestured at the large map that stood behind him. Although he hadn't exactly looked at the map all that carefully, he still knew it better than Kanade and Arou who hadn't even had a glance at it yet. He pointed at their current location.
"We're here right now," he said. He moved his finger along the map. "We can either retrace our steps and walk this way towards the station," he paused and traced out another possible route, "or we can take the long, scenic route."
Kanade exchanged hopeful looks with Arou. Arou squeezed their connected hands. The way they understood each other without words was something to be admired. Masahiro looked down at his own hand before sneaking a glance at Kaichou. He unfurled his fingers and then curled them up again. When Kaichou glanced his way curiously, Masahiro quickly dropped his hand and directed his attention back to the map.
Meanwhile, Arou and Kanade had moved closer to the map to study it. After a moment, Arou spoke up. "We prefer the long way," he said, speaking for both himself and Kanade. "What about you two?"
Kaichou hummed, one hand held to her chin thoughtfully. "Either is fine with me. The scenic route doesn't sound bad."
"The long, torturous path it is," said Masahiro with a sigh, making their final decision for them. Kaichou and Kanade laughed at his exaggeration. Arou shook his head and gave Masahiro a light push to get him moving. Masahiro almost stumbled, but he merely made a face at Arou as he caught his balance. Masahiro was actually pleased they had chosen the long way. This meant he didn't have to part with any of them just yet. He rubbed his shoulder and began walking.
The girls had taken the lead and were chattering away, making exclamations over the scenery they passed by. The path they had chosen as a group took them along the outer perimeter of a small lake. The lake was normally full of glistening water, but winter had transformed the top of the lake into a thin layer of ice. Even the sparse plants that grew along the banks were coated with white.
Behind them, Masahiro wasn't admiring the scenery; instead, he was watching the interaction between Kaichou and Kanade fondly. When he looked towards Arou, he found that the other boy was doing the same thing with a soft smile on his face.
"Not going to catch up with Kanade?" asked Masahiro with one eyebrow raised.
"Not going to catch up with Kaichou?" Arou asked in reply with a sideways glance.
The way Arou had spoken made Masahiro pause in his steps. Arou slowed down next to him until he came to a stop. Masahiro rarely forgot but the reach of Arou's power was unbelievable. Arou always made Masahiro feel like he knew everything there was to know.
"You're no fun," said Masahiro as he touched his shoulder once more, wondering if it had been that casual shove from Arou that had enlightened him to the relationship. He hadn't been keeping their new relationship a secret or anything. He was elated after all, and was still floating in so much bliss that he would have told Arou and Kanade sooner than later. There was no doubt that they'd be happy for him.
"I've always been rooting for you to get together, you know. That could have just been another remark towards this goal." As he spoke, Arou looked forward towards where Kanade and Kaichou stood waiting for them. Kanade had turned around inquiringly since the boys had stopped walking. Arou nodded at her to let her know that they were still following them. Kanade smiled and latched onto Kaichou as they started walking once again along the winding path.
Arou continued talking. "But you know me too well. I saw what happened at the Christmas party just now." He paused before adding quietly, "I'm glad for you."
Masahiro didn't think he'd get flustered over such simple words, but he felt his cheeks heating up. Even his ears felt warm. He was just that happy. He ducked his head and turned away to face the lake, but his red ears were probably telling Arou all he needed to know.
"I wanted to tell you guys myself," said Masahiro stubbornly. "But...thanks," he uttered softly while rubbing his nose. He wasn't just thanking Arou for his support of the relationship but also for all those times Arou had given him not-so-subtle nudges to approach Kaichou. Arou was a true friend, loathe as Masahiro was to admit that in front of the guy himself.
But, two guys baring their hearts out like this was a little embarrassing. After a brief but awkward moment of silence, Masahiro cleared his throat.
"You know what, I think I'll take your advice." With that said, Masahiro hastened his steps to catch up with Kaichou. The two girls had gotten a good lead on them, which put Kaichou much farther than Masahiro would have liked.
"Hey there," said Masahiro once he reached Kaichou's side. Kanade immediately scooted to the left to make room for him. He flashed her a grateful smile that Kanade returned with a cheerful grin.
"Hey there to you too," said Kaichou next to him. She glanced back at Arou who was walking towards them at a leisurely pace. "What were you two talking so intently about?" she asked curiously as she brushed her hair back.
The movement attracted Masahiro's attention to her hand. Before he knew it, his own hand had darted out to capture hers in his.
Kaichou blinked at him, and for a horrid second, Masahiro thought it better to let go, until he felt a gentle squeeze.
Relief only made him even bolder. Masahiro leaned closely to her and whispered, "I was talking about us." He felt his heart hammering in his chest, but he also saw her shivering from his words. He rubbed her hand gently in case she was cold, but when he peered at her, he saw that Kaichou had flushed red, much like what he must have looked like a mere moment ago.
Next to him, Kanade squealed. Apparently, his whisper hadn't been quiet enough, though perhaps it was his actions that had clued Kanade in.
Masahiro slowly turned to look at her, only to be greeted with sparkling eyes and clasped hands. He almost took a step back because of Kanade's enthusiasm, but doing so would have forced Kaichou too near the banks, and that was dangerous.
"Does this mean you're together now?" asked Kanade hopefully.
Kanade squealed again. "Congratulations!"
"Thanks," he said from the bottom of his heart. Beside him, Kaichou answered with a nod and a smile. Kanade squealed some more. The smile on her face was uncontainable.
"I'm so happy for the two of you!" she exclaimed. "Does Arou-kun know yet? Have you told him? Can I tell him?" she asked all in one breath.
Kaichou chuckled at Kanade's enthusiasm.
"Arou already knows," replied Masahiro. "That's what we were talking about just now. You can squeal all you want with him."
Kanade beamed happily and went off to do just that. Once she left their side, Masahiro glanced sideways at Kaichou, wondering what she thought of all this.
"She seems more excited than we are," she commented in amusement. She tugged on his hand slightly so that they could walk side-by-side along the edge of the frozen lake.
"Yeah," said Masahiro, agreeing with Kaichou's assessment. Since when had Kanade become their number one fan? "Arou gave his congratulations too."
Walking next to Kaichou with their hands entwined was not something Masahiro had ever imagined for himself. Why would anyone want to hold hands with him? For him, such an act was even more intimate than kissing, this casual and gentle touch. He could read her future at any moment with their connected hands, but he didn't want to, not when he could spend the present with her.
"I wonder what Marota is up to at the moment?" asked Kaichou.
"He's probably waiting in front of the door," he replied, imagining Marota looking up at the high doorknob, tail thumping behind him. At least the turtle was there to keep the dog company. Masahiro just hoped the stupid dog wasn't chewing on the absentminded turtle again. He really needed to buy Marota a new chewing toy instead.
"You should have brought him with you then!" exclaimed Kaichou. "I'm surprised you didn't."
Masahiro had considered bringing Marota. He knew Kaichou adored Marota greatly, and she had a knack with dogs. Marota never calmed down around him, but he was practically an angel when Kaichou was around. But with such deep snow, Masahiro would have had to carry him in his arms.
"I wanted to be able to hold your hand like this," Masahiro said. He raised their connected hands up in the air to demonstrate what he meant.
Kaichou laughed, her laughter ringing out clearly on this cold, winter day. He watched her, entranced. "You're so silly," she said as she squeezed his hand. "Don't be jealous of Marota."
Masahiro was probably pouting, but he wasn't going to admit it. Kaichou merely laughed some more at his expression.
They continued bantering, their exchange more full of witty remarks than anything else. He had never imagined that he'd feel so comfortable in someone's presence. He had thought it impossible, but here he was. Even though they had taken the long, scenic route, before he knew it, they were already at the bustling train station, leaving the serene lake behind them.
"We should do this again next year," Kaichou murmured when the train pulled into view.
"Definitely," he replied. Although there was nothing definite about the future even when he could see more than most people, he knew what he wanted, and what he wanted most at the moment was to be able to spend more time with Kaichou. The warmth of Kaichou's hand in his made him feel that perhaps his new years wish would come true after all.
With that thought in mind, he boarded the train with his friends to return home.
to be continued
next chapter: good night
A/N: Thank you all for the heartwarming reviews. Once again, I've taken far too long! But I'll always return to this story no matter how long I take. Your reviews inspire me.
One thing that I love about Mekakushi no Kuni is how it was never really about Kanade and Arou getting together, but rather about their life together and all the things they overcome together with their friends. I hope this fic manages to capture some of that magic, only with Namiki in the center of it all~