There was a din of noise in the restaurant as happy customers ate and chatted, and okonomiyaki sizzled on the grill. But Ryoga heard none of it.
"I'm going out," he gestured, picking up his pack and umbrella. "Back in a few minutes."
Ukyo looked up from her cooking. "Ryoga, wait. Where are you going?"
"Just around the corner." And with that, he slipped out the door and was gone.
Ukyo bit her lip. 'Just around the corner' could mean anywhere from Hokkaido to Okinawa for Ryoga. Her eyes were frozen on the door as an okonomiyaki started to burn under her spatula.
Ryoga hadn't expected his trip to the gift shop to take him two weeks. But then, he did have a really bad sense of direction.
'Have to make it back in time,' he repeated over and over. There was no way he was going to let Ukyo spend her birthday alone.
As he made his way down the mountain—how the mountain had gotten there on the way to the store, he didn't know—he tripped over a root and tumbled downward until a jagged boulder stopped him short.
'Dammit!' He stood up, rubbing his head and brushing himself off. 'Have to keep going. Have to hurry!' And he stormed off, not noticing that the tiny jewelry box with the red bow had fallen out of his backpack, coming to rest in the shadow of the rock.
Ryoga sniffed the air and caught the scent of fresh okonomiyaki cooking. He smiled. He was home.
When he entered the shop, Ukyo was sitting with shoulders slumped behind the empty counter, back turned to him.
"Ukyo! I made it in time. It's a miracle! Happy birthd—" he reached into his backpack for the locket he'd gone through hell to get for her, and blanched when it was nowhere to be found.
Ukyo turned around with an unreadable expression on her face, staring up at Ryoga.
"Oh no," he whispered, starting to sweat. "Ukyo, I'm sorry. I went to get you a present, but I must have lost it. Everything's ruined—"
Suddenly his words were cut off by her lips and he was caught in her embrace. When she let him go, her eyes were wet and her face was shining. "You didn't ruin my birthday, Ryoga. You've given me the best gift of all."
Ryoga was still blushing. "I did? But wh—"
And again he was cut off with a squeeze.