Tatsuki's life was over.
Once upon a time, he could float. He could fly. He did three-pointer shots like it was throwing trash into a bin. He relayed like it was a brisk morning walk. Swimming was closer to flying than it was in being an airplane. His school loved him. Scholarships poured from the heavens, eagerly awaiting the day Tatsuki would enter university.
Then his friends were driving him home one night after a small party. They didn't even drink alcohol, but for some reason a truck suddenly came flying out of nowhere.
When he woke up, they "broke it very gently" to him that he was now lacking his left eye, that he would be limping for the rest of his life, and that he shouldn't be doing any activities that would force him to breath harder, given his condition. But hey, on the upside, it was a miracle he was able to even walk at all.
Tatsuki thought maybe he shouldn't have woken up at all. Now here he was, half-blindedly dragging this hundred pound sack of scarred flesh that was his body, with a cane when once upon a time, Tatsuki could clearly remember when he fucking flew.
The scholarships left him. His school went from worshiping him to pitying him. He couldn't bear going to school anymore. Who cares about graduating, when there's nothing for him left after that? He couldn't even bear looking at his parents, who had such high hopes for him, and whom he failed immediately by merely going to a party.
And after months, it seemed like the only person left who was allowed to enter Tatsuki's room, a darkened cage for a crippled animal, was his little sister.
"Onii...?" Matoko peered out from behind the door.
"Yes?" The beast in the dark shadows of the room answered wearily.
"Can we go get ice-cream?"
"Anything for my sister."
Tatsuki put on his eye patch and grabbed his sterile stainless steel cane and hobbled his pitiful ass out after his sister. He just wanted to puke at the sight of passerbys looking at his sister attached to his arm. He couldn't tell if they were gushing at her cute features or at the fact she was looking after that stupid, crippled, slow, useless, thing that was her older brother.
Tatsuki looked up into the sky, wearily.
You, up there. Are you fair? Do you care? Was it a miracle that I should have even lived? Why should I still be, here, huh? Give me one good reason why I should still be here?
And on that spring day, something white landed on Tatsuki's face.
"It's just a wedding veil, Matoko."
"Where do you think it came from?"
"I don't care. The winds probably picked it up from some downtown wedding."
"But it dropped from the sky! Like, really high up!"
"Maybe it came from really far away! Like kilometers away, across the mountains and the seas!"
"Matoko, this thing is practically new. This thing couldn't have gone further than the other side of the city, and that's if you're lucky."
"Matoko, can you really believe that some wind could have continually carried this same veil from where ever it came from all the way to here? Without touching the ground? For kilometers? And avoiding the weather?"
"Well... it can happen! There are such things as miracles, you know!"
"Matoko... the reason they're called miracles is because they never happen. Whatever, we don't need to keep this anyways."
"Why? It's not like we need it."
"But... it belongs to someone..."
"You can buy this for a few thousand, Matoko. It's that cheap. Whoever got this won't miss it."
"Don't get rid of it!"
"Then what!? What am I supposed to do with it!"
"...If you don't want it, then promise me you'll return it!"
"I don't have time for this."
"But you don't do anything anyways!"
"Matoko, what am I? A kid?"
"But I want you to really try to find it..."
"Fine! It's pinky promised! Now get out of my room!"
And for the whole week, even Tatsuki wasn't at peace in his dark room, while that pure pearl white sheet laid on his desk amidst the shadows. He glowered at it, and hated it. Even a goddamn thousand yen piece of cloth looked better than him, and it was like the universe wasn't done mocking how pathetic he was now. He was tempted to destroy it, to burn it away, but it appeared his faith to that stupid pinky promise bound his spirit stronger than he realized.
On Sunday morning, he couldn't stand being in the presence of the wedding veil any longer.
"I'm going out." He said to the woman he failed to be a meaningful son to.
"Tatsuki, where are you going-"
Tatsuki hobbled about the city, irritated at his own slowness as he baked under the sun that was losing it's pleasant spring warmth for sheer blistering heat. By the time he reached the first place that sold and fitted for wedding dresses, his face was puffing red from effort and he was more embarrassed at how pitiful he looked than he was for entering the establishment.
"I was just wondering, did you ever sell a dress which had a veil of this design? I... promised someone that I would return this to its rightful owner."
"Let me see..." The woman murmured to herself as she inspected the cloth, and Tatsuki was curious if the woman was saying it to remind herself to look at the veil and not at his ugliness.
"This is most peculiar, sir."
"Sir, this style of pattern is not adopted by our company."
"You see? This exclusive detailing on the hemming? We don't have a veil of that design."
"So... do you know any other... wedding shops in the city that may possibly use this design?"
"Well... I can give you an address..."
The cashier offered a business card with both hands. Tatsuki knew it was proper that he accepted it with both of his as well, but his sole ability to stand remained in the cane he whitely gripped. What was left of his pride refused to allow him to embarrassedly apologize or explain his condition, and he wordlessly snatched the paper from the woman's hand and limped out of the store with it and the veil in tow, wishing to be gone from her sight, all people's sight as soon as possible.
And so he went to the next shop, and they didn't also didn't sell that sort of design either, though they knew the address of somebody else Tatsuki could try and pathetically hobble his way half-way across the city to, just because of some stupid pinky-promise.
And from one wedding fitters to the next, spitefully ignoring the rumors and gossip that began to build up around him, while he carried the wedding veil with him whenever he went out. For those months where spring passed into summer, Tatsuki scoured every inch of the city to find who owned that stupid veil.
Apparently, nobody in the city did.
Tatsuki had been spending months searching everywhere, past the immediate reaches of the city to the homes beyond, asking if they owned this wedding veil. Nobody ever recalled losing a wedding veil like that. Theirs was tucked away in the basement or attic, if you would like to see.
The wedding veil remained on Tatsuki's desk.
As the summer heat ebbed away to let red leaves fall from trees, Tatsuki's anger burned itself out into a mere bitterness. He was tired of being angry, but that sickened gall that remained in the pit of his stomach still remained, continually reminding him of the dead end he had been placed in, while others were allowed to move on. Still, Tatsuki found some weak solace and purpose in trying to find the rightful owner of that white cloth he had unexpectedly come into possession of. Not quite peace, but it was a goal he definitely preferred over that shadowed ghost of his past that was high school.
His family began to get worried about the amount of effort Tatsuki was spending on this 'project' of his. All day he walked and questioned, all night he searched the Internet for the brand that use this oh so peculiar hem design. Even his own sister came in, nervous.
"Onii?What's going on? You're always out..."
"I'm just keeping your promise."
"But you don't have to go so far for me..."
"It's not just for you, Matoko. I want to do this, myself. I just feel... more sure of myself doing this."
"...Don't work too hard, Onii. You need to go to school, too."
"I'll try not too."
As the door closed, something passed through the printer. Tatsuki picked it up and read. The hem design was a perfect match with one a company used, one that was based in Osaka. If he wanted to keep on going, Tatsuki had to leave the city.
He had little qualms with that idea.
At three 'o' clock in the morning, Tatsuki's household was lacking one, replace with a mere letter of explanation and apology.
The wedding veil was gone, too.
Days later, in Osaka prefecture, a boy limped from one wedding shop to the next, asking if they sold this veil, and if so, to who. Thirty three cities to go, and Tatsuki had all the time in the world to waste away on this strange endeavor.
Winter was in full force when a haggard and limping boy boarded the train to Murigochi. It looked like his current journey was about to come to a close in this city. All that was left for his travels were used up for the fare. He was left alone for the most part, other train goers somewhat nervous and put off by his scraggly, dirty, scarred and eye-patched face, the other eye half-lidded with weariness, dressed in a tired coat that was wearing out at the seams, and in his grasp a scratched stainless steel cane whose rubber tip looked ready to fall apart. What stood out more than his appearance was the sheer white wedding veil that was comfortably draped across his stomach like a blanket. For all the travels it looked like this figure had gone through, the veil seemed to have not lost its fresh luster and cleanliness from since the day it had been bought.
Asking around let him find out that given the size of the city, there really was only one place the did fittings for wedding dresses. He almost wished that there were more shops for him to query, given that this would be the last city he would be exploring, but it looked like he would going out with a whimper, than a bang.
"Excuse me. I was just wondering if you ever sold a dress that came with a veil like this."
"Hmm... sorry, can't say I have."
"Oh. Sorry for taking your time."
"Actually, though, you remind me of something interesting that happened last winter."
"Yeah. I remember this guy that came in once, asked how much it was for a dress, and of course I told him more than whatever he had or could make at the moment, that's for sure. He's in high school, you see."
"Well, he just asked how much it was for the veil then. Which, of course, in that case wasn't actually very much. Come to think of it, the one you have actually looks a lot like the one he bought."
"How much alike? As in the same one?"
"Well, I find it hard to believe that after a whole year, some other guy could walk into the same store with the same veil, but yeah, I might believe this was the same one if I tried..."
"...Do you know the name of this person you sold it to?"
"I didn't ask his name, but if you're really looking for him, all I can really say is that he's about your age, average looking, and it didn't look like he was buying that veil for his girlfriend."
He wandered through the shopping arcade, he wandered through the rows of houses, through the park, past the large fountain, about the train station. Everywhere.
Bundling himself up, he felt colder than before, and he looked up into the sky to see what was up. Somehow it was night already. But would that really mean anything? There was no place to stay, there wasn't even money for a hotel. He wasn't even sure if he had pocket change. It was the end of the journey, he didn't mind freezing to death on a bench.
No. He was in this city. Somewhere in this city, he had to return something to him. So he had to keep walking until all population on the earth was missing from the streets, replaced by their glowing counterparts that were now awake in the sky.
He sat down on a bench under a pale street light and idly entertained himself by watching his own breath leave his body in ghostly clouds. So close, yet so far. Now just another dead end upon dead ends.
"Excuse me, are you lost?"
His attention turned to the young woman that stood in front of him, full, beautiful, chestnut brown hair, the works, glowing in the light under the street lamp. He was somewhat annoyed by how pretty she was.
Lost? I sure feel lost. But then again, something's only lost when someone is looking for it. What does that say for me, huh? Do I deserve to be found? "Not really."
"Then... are you waiting for someone?"
The woman was quiet, but it seemed she couldn't leave him yet, her face showing she was thinking something over, as she looked over his worn body and soul.
"...Do you have a place to stay?"
"Not even a hotel?"
He gave the woman a dark look, reaching into the pockets of his coat and turning them out in a physical gesture of 'You think?'
"Then where are you going to stay?" She asked, concerned.
"This bench if fine. I've done it enough times."
"You can't stay out here in the middle of winter! You could freeze to death!"
He simply looked at her apathetically, that he didn't care about that factor, didn't really think about it, and had nothing better to do than deal with it, since he was after all, quite substantially lacking in the housing department-
"I know! You can stay at my place tonight!"
"...You're asking a complete stranger you met in just five seconds to stay at your place? Are you insane?"
"Well, you're insane for wanting to stay out here, so we're even!"
With that, she cheerfully grabbed for one of his arms, and he found himself grunting and meekly following-hobbling after the woman, since yes, having a warm room was infinitely better than skirting death outside, and no, he even if was a complete stranger, he apparently hadn't lost enough of his morality to go taking advantage of every good Samaritan he came across.
"By the way, I'm Sawatari Makoto, nice to meet you! You are?"
"Nobody in particular."
They continued on, until he found himself being helped up a flight of stairs to a door.
"Well, Mr. Nobody, here we are."
With a turn of a lock, he followed Makoto into a average sized whitewashed room, complimented by as much colored furniture and a little fluffy carpet that was made out of fur of an arctic fox that never really existed.
"Sawatari, I really don't think I should be here-"
"Just make yourself at home, Nobody! Shoes off, coat off. I'm sure there's enough brisket leftover to eat again... want some?"
He didn't really want to take any more advantage or freebies from the woman, but his resistance broke down quickly, as he swallowed rather loudly in affirmation, suddenly remember that the last actual meal was yesterday night's dinner.
"Just sit down. I can handle it."
He sat, then he ate. Silently wolfing down food without care until all that was left was an embarrassed silence as drank out of a cup of green tea to save himself from having to speak with this woman who plucked him off the street on a whim. What were the odds of something like that happening? Probably something short of miraculous
The hell was going on around here?
"You are entirely too kind for letting me stay here tonight."
"Well, I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I just let someone as young as you sit out to freeze to death, though I'm sorry to say that this is only a temporary solution. The job I have at the moment won't be able to support two people for that long."
"You make it sound like I'm a parasite single or something..." he deadpanned, only to be met with laughter. His face eventually broke down as he realized how stupid he declaration did sounds, and his joined hers soon enough. It felt good to laugh. It had been a long time since he felt the need to. As the joyous cackles broke down with time, Makoto asked.
"So, I'm guessing that you're new in town or something. Any particular reason, or is it Nothing Really as usual?"
He gave a wane smirk and simply replied, "Just trying to find somebody."
"Don't know. I just think he needs this returned to him."
He produced the white sheet. Makoto held it.
"It's beautiful. Where did you get this?"
"It's a long story."
"I don't mind."
With the night in no hurry to finish, Nobody told her of everything that happened for the past year.
"You ran away from home just to find out who owned this and return it to him?"
"It's all I really can bring myself to do. I can't explain. It's a really stupid story, isn't it? Bet you want to call the cops on me or something."
She shook her head, "I think you're doing something you feel is important for yourself. I don't know every detail, but looking at those scar at your body, and how hard it is to move your body at your age. It must be hard for you..."
"It is..." He lamely admitted.
"You remind me of someone I know. He also came to me accidentally when he was having a hard time."
"But you know what, I think like him, you'll be fine. Come to think of it, you'll be staying in this city for a while, right?"
"As long as it takes to find whoever this belongs to."
"Well, he's staying at his aunt's place, the Minases. They always have a room to spare. I'm sure if you go see them, you'll have a place to stay."
"Is it just me, or are you people here a little too charitable for your own good?"
"Just us. We were next door neighbors. Give it a try! Go there tomorrow and tell them I sent you."
"Nothing to lose..." He shrugged. After that, it was the issue of who was sleeping where. Makoto insisted on letting Nobody use the bed, but he said that he rather preferred the floor, being used to it for months, and even being hardwood, it was more than comfortable compared to the outdoors he sometimes winged it on. Plus, he had enough kindness from, heaven forbid a keep a woman from sleeping in a proper bed, too. He eventually lucked out.
The next morning, he found himself in the empty room, like Makoto was never there, save a note telling him to leave the key in the mailbox when he left, something in the fridge if he was hungry, along with some basic directions toward the Minases.
Cane in hand, he quietly made his way through the city that yawned with the morning, with cars soon filling the snow swept roads, students passing him with looks of every kind, until he was deep in streets laden with houses laden with snow.
He found himself looking through the metal gates of one house, "Minase" spelled out beside it.
He had to admit, this idea was turning more and more absurdly retarded as he spent more minutes thinking about it. All of a sudden he was going to barge into this woman's house asking if he'd like a room, sorry no money, I'm just relying on the goodness of your own heart I heard someone tell me about.
"Did you want something?"
A woman was beside him all of a sudden, clad in a heavy coat, shovel in hand.
"Are you... Mrs. Minase?"
"Yes. Do you want something? I noticed you were standing in front of my house for a while..."
He measured his options and noticed nearly all of them sounded stupid. Oh well.
"I... was told you might be willing to lend a room for me to stay in." He managed to bite out. Come on, who the hell in their right mind just lends out rooms to the first person who asks?
"That's nice. Would you like to come inside to talk more about it?"
The home was clean and uncluttered, but only as a testament to the wonderful upkeep Mrs. Minase had put into home, rather than a sense neglect. The woman didn't have any immediate issues concerning his staying over, for god knows how long. Apparently, she was used to having free-loaders, and it made him feel that much guiltier, inexplicably. She didn't even ask a question about why he was here.
Then all of a sudden, while he waited for nothing to happen while he drank his cup of tea, Mrs. Minase appeared with a small bag.
"Would it be alright if you helped me get the ingredients for tonight's dinner? I'm hoping to make some Taiyaki for desert, since I'm having a family friend over..."
He snorted, while drawing his arms along the his body sarcastically.
"I don't see what somebody like me can do, as you can see."
"Oh, why's that?" She gently responded. He didn't get it.
"...Are you making fun of me? I'm a hobbling, one-eyed... I can't even walk for thirty minutes without losing breath, I can't even stand without cane... I'm useless, alright?!"
Sour silence, before Mrs. Minase gently responded.
"I don't see what that has to do with carrying some bags around. I understand if you're still tired from walking across town, and want to stay here, but it would have been simpler if you said that. I don't mind you staying here, since I can get them myself, but it would be nice if you came."
With that, she walked off cheerfully, and he couldn't do anything but sigh and pick himself up from the couch.
"Wait! I'll come."
And so he trailed after her like a crippled puppy, carrying one bag in his free hand.
"I think that's all we need. Let's go back. I think you'll like my daughter and nephew, as well as Ayu."
"...Yes, Mrs. Minase."
"You can just call me Akiko. By the way, you never gave your name."
"I'm just a nobody."
They walked for a little while longer, until the shopping district began to lag away at their heels. Then Akiko spoke again.
"Tell me, how long have you run away from your home?"
"W-what!? How did you..."
"You should be in school, you know. Not the mention your clothing..."
"...I disappeared a few months ago..."
"Did it have something to do with the way you are now?"
"Sort of... I'm here for many reasons. You're going to call the police aren't you?"
Akiko turned around with a smile that he couldn't decipher, as genuinely kind as it was, "Maybe I'm just being silly, but I don't think you're a bad person. You just need... time to sort out whatever reason brought you all the way here. You'll return home when the time is right. Until then, you can stay at my place."
He wasn't really sure what he could say to something like that. He just stared in disbelief until his mouth worked properly.
"I... uh... I... I... thanks."
"No need. Let's get back. You can help me prepare dinner."
"...I did tell you I need to hold onto my cane if I need to stand."
"I'll get you a chair then."
That was how he found himself sitting in front of the dining table mashing red beans into a paste.
"Akiko-san, we're back. Ayu's here, too." Came a man's greeting, backed by those of two girls as well.
This will not end well... in a good way.
Akiko's splitting, younger image entered the dining room cheerily for the whole of two seconds before she noticed a "scary-looking scarred guy at the table" as she reported back to the front door terrified. In the following moments, a particularly... undescriptive fellow rushed into the room, before glaring at him.
"Who are you?"
"What are you doing here?"
"Akiko's letting me stay here."
"First name basis?"
"I don't believe you."
"You could just ask her."
That was how he found himself listening to a heated debate in the living room down the hall between Akiko and Mr. Mopey.
"But he's a complete stranger!"
"So was she."
"That... that's completely different! Look at him! He's a runaway! He could just as easily steal from here!"
"He won't do anything like that."
"And you're sure because...?"
After that, he was quickly introduced to the initially wary but quickly hospitable Nayuki, the rightfully paranoid Yuuichi, and the excitable Ayu, who's movements were mainly narrowed to being carried about by Yuuichi (whatever that implied), and using her upper body. Apparently her legs had gone through atrophy, and she was still going through the ropes to start walking about again.
"Just get this straight. I've got my eye on you." Yuuichi blandly intoned.
"Fair enough." He responded.
Then night came, and all went to bed, even Ayu staying over. Apparently this wasn't anything new.
He couldn't sleep though. He just wasn't into it. He stayed behind on the sofa long after everyone turned in, watching late-night dramas as the hours rolled from tens back to ones.
Eventually, he had a notion that he was in fact still hungry. That was no more worse for wear. The fridge was only a short pace away. It was in the yellow ray of fridge light that he found a voice snorting at his rummaging.
"Yo, suspicious person. Shouldn't you be looking for the silverware?"
He gave a dry laugh in retort to Yuuichi, "Sorry to not meet your expectations. Hungry?" He raised some unidentifiable object wrapped in plastic.
They moved away from the the fridge light back to the one cast off by television serials.
"I still want to know what a person like you is doing here."
He turned his head away, eyes not bothering to meet Yuuichi's for the simple truth: "You probably wouldn't believe me anyways."
It's Miss Sawatari all over again.
"I'm trying to return something to somebody I never met, and don't know who."
"You're right. That's a pretty lame story."
"So, what's this something you feel so compelled to return?"
He reached for his pocket, searching for the folded material within, the one that never dulled.
Yuuichi's eyes, as he looked at the veil, slowly moved from narrowed in skepticism, to askew in nostalgia, until they were both shining shocked white, confounded.
"...Where did you get that?"
It was there, he realized that Yuuichi, now come to think of it, did look rather his age, and average looking.
He gave a rueful smile, "It literally dropped on my face. Then this belongs to you?"
"I... I didn't think I'd ever see it again... and you somehow managed to come all the way here?"
"A lot of it was just trial and error, though somebody pointed this house out."
"Some girl named Sawatari Makoto."
Yuuichi's face paled for just the slightest second before re-collecting himself, "Oh yes. Her. Strange..."
"You believe in miracles?"
He shrugged, "Do you?"
Yuuichi smirked, "I think this qualifies for one."
"Not much a miracle, if you ask me."
"A miracle doesn't have to be much to be one, you know. For something like this veil to return here, despite the odds, or the logic... can't you call that a miracle?"
He sighed aloud, not actually meaning to, but unable to stop. Damage done. All that was left were the words in his mouth.
"You know, it's been nearly a whole year since I was left disabled like this. Everybody was either pitying me or obviously trying not to pay attention, and I hated all of it. I hated myself the most, hating what I became and complaining about it. You know I was a star athlete at my school?"
"Yeah. I was so sick and tired of it all I didn't believe there was anything left for me. Then this stupid veil came out of nowhere, and somehow this thought came into my head, 'If I can't do anything else, at least the last thing I can do is return this thing'. At the end of my journey, I find myself in group of people who are so kind... is that a miracle?"
He shivered a little. He wondered if it was from the cold. As he recollected himself with a loud sniff, he asked.
"Why is that veil so important anyways?"
"This? It belongs to someone very important."
Yuuichi gave a smart look, "It's a long, complicated story."
"...Her name was Makoto..."
The sun fell over the earth again and again, snow showering atop man, and sunlight showering atop that, time and again. Eventually there was more sun that snow, then all a sudden, the ice melted away to water, which feed the soil, and gave rise to grass in the ground and the leaves in the tree like it had last year.
By a train station, a small family stood by to wave a temporary farewell to their latest member, about to board a train home.
"Are you sure you can't stay a little longer, Ta-kun?"
Tatsuki helplessly shrugged, raising one hand, while another held fast to a beautiful carved wood cane he received as a gift.
"Sorry Nayuki, but I already told my parents I was coming back. Besides I have to catch up with schoolwork... blegh."
"Well, that's what you get for skipping classes!"
"Yeah, whatever Ayu. This coming from somebody who hadn't been to school in seven years."
"Joking! Joking! Get better soon."
"We can take walks together, right?"
"Sure. Thank you for letting me stay at your home so long, Miss Minase."
"There's no need. You're welcome here anytime."
After Tatsuki returned the gracious bow, he gave one final look to the other male in the group.
"...You need a nickname."
"Seriously. Your name is a mouthful. Ai-za-wa-Yu-i-chi. It's like a tongue twister."
"It's perfectly fine!"
"Yuuichi-kun... it does seem rather long, come to think of it?"
"Don't take his side!"
"But it's true!"
"Not you too, Ayu! What about you? Tsukimiya Ayu? That's the same number of syllables!"
"That's not the same, Yuuichi. Her first name is only two syllables, so it's no trouble."
"And her last name?"
"...I'm sure people only formally acquainted with her will work it out fine, but your name is insane."
"Then what would you suggest, Mr. Nameless For The First Month?"
"What sort of nickname is that!?"
"I dunno. Just the first thing that came to my mind. A lot simpler that Yuuichi anyways. Right, Miss Minase?"
"It does have this interesting charm to it... maybe I should start calling you Kyon from now on?"
On a bright morning, a boy left town, a smile on his face as he saw himself take a train towards the unknown horizon.
In a house, a folded wedding veil came undone, the wind threatening to pull it towards an open window, into the bright spring sky it loved so much.
"Kanon" series property of Key. 2006 rendition by Kyoto Animation and Hundred Flowers.