Greetings. This is another rather short chapter, as I spend a lot of time figuring out a good ending to this series, after erasing my previous edition which contained some logical flaws. Completing this story is harder than I thought it would be, for I get stricter and stricter with the writing style to a point that I cannot feel enticed by any phrases I could think of.

As always, I recommend to read in 1/2 page length to give off the feeling of reading a book.

Chapter 6: Adagio sostenuto

The moment came when Hinagiku was aware that whatever followed might hurt her deeply, even if she had prepared herself for the worst case scenario before she stepped into this haunting building.

She sat calmly on a bench in the colourful garden, where she first spotted her target under the instruction of the nurse. The sun was covered by a thin slice of cloud that permitted only a portion of sunlight to reach the ground, so she raised her head to look at the sky. It looked a lot dimmer than it was a couple of hours ago.

Hayate rested next to her, as he closed his eyes to listen to the singing tune of the birds on the trees, his fingers twirling in circles along with the rhythm. One thing that Hinagiku knew about him was that he always had a preference of listening to the sound of nature. Anything that could produce a beautiful melody, be it a bird or a water droplet or a Stradivarius, would be able to capture his full attention. It was as if he breathed music.

She shifted her attention to the boy next to her. He did not look any different. In fact, he looked calmer than usual. She could not tell he was actually a patient in the hospital, under supervision of doctors and nurses who feared his condition could worsen at any moment.

So she just remained sitting there, watching him feeling the atmosphere, until the nurse came and urged for him to return to his room. Not a word was exchanged among them.

'Please, Hinagiku-san,' Hayate began after the nurse made sure he was positioned on the bed, 'I know you have many questions to ask. Feel free to ask any of them.'

The pink-haired girl raised her head to meet his gaze, thinking what she should say next. Right now she knew emotion could easily take over her: during the weeks of his 'disappearance', she experienced all kinds of emotions. She was sad, anxious, eager, confused, frustrated. Yet now that he was finally here, sitting in front of her, she found her throat turn dry and words failed to leave her larynx. She wanted to recollect her thoughts properly and ask him logical questions that would have a logical outcome, but she could not even think clearly without being overwhelmed by her uprising emotion.

'How long?' She finally murmured. Hayate seemed to have seen this question coming.

'Doctor says it could be weeks, or it could be years. My condition is a rare one, so they can't say for sure.' He raised his hand and put it on his chest, feeling the heartbeat that controlled his mortality. 'According to them, my lungs could collapse anytime, but based on the current condition they probably still have months to go.'

Hayate went on to explain his disease thoroughly for the teenage girl. Hinagiku just gulped. She had come across rare diseases only in books or in TV shows. She had never personally known someone with one. Her limbs weakened slightly, but she maintained a strong posture.

'Is that why you went to Athena, when I first met you in the student council tower? To ask for her help?' Knowing the reputation of the Tennosu family, Hinagiku knew that anything would be possible given the fortune they had and the power they held.

'Partly, but not truly,' he sighed as he leaned back on the pillow. 'I went to A-tan to see if she could find better medical treatment for me, but doctors after doctors failed to give me a plausible solution, so I'm prepared for the worst already.'

Hinagiku wondered how he could say such things with a monotone.

'Ikusa-nii did some research and confronted the doctors, and finally realized that the disease I have is actually hereditary.'

'I just mentioned that the Ayasakis were unfortunate people. In fact, it's almost like the whole family is cursed.'

'It was in the recessive side of the gene, so Ikusa-nii did not have it. My father showed symptoms of it after I was born, and that was why he quitted his job in the orchestra in Europe and hoped to set up a music school to educate the youth instead. He simply could not perform consistently for months again.

'No known cure has been found for my condition. A-tan has sent requests to doctors around the globe already, but all the feedback she got remains the same.' Hayate gave out a short sigh, as his face began to lose its colour as he spoke.

Hinagiku looked at him with mixed emotions. She wanted to feel sympathetic for him. She really did. But then, she was mad: why did he move into her life when he knew he could be gone anytime? Did he not know that this would hurt people around him? Did he want to cause pain for them? What about herself, who was helplessly falling for him? She cursed herself for being a heartless monster to think like that, but still, she could not understand.

She wanted to yell at him for being selfish.

She wanted to yell at him for being ignorant.

She wanted to yell at him for being inconsiderate.

But most of all, she just wanted to hug him. She wanted him to know how she felt. She wanted him to be there for her. She wanted him to know her feelings. She wanted him to look at her and tell her 'it's alright'.

So she just dashed forward and threw her arms around his pale shoulders.

'Hinagiku-san?' Hayate, obviously startled, was taken aback, his arms in mid-air, not knowing how to respond.

'Shhh…' Hinagiku silenced him. Right now she just needed reassurance.

For hours later on they shared themselves. They talked about their childhood and how they grew up in abnormal circumstances, he losing his parents by accidents and she losing hers by debt. They talked about music and how different melodies saved their lives. They talked about people they met and how they dealt with the irregularities in life. Hinagiku felt like she could finally say she knew Ayasaki Hayate, a complete stranger to her a while ago.

It almost became a daily cycle afterwards. Every day she would finish her student council duty at school as fast as she could, then she would promptly exit in haste, leaving her committee members in awe. She would then walk towards the hospital and go straight to room 507. He would always lie in the same position on bed, the loudspeakers playing loud, astounding melodies from his collection of symphonies in the room. Sometimes it was Gustav Mahler's romantic poem for his wife. At times it was Chopin's feminine nocturnes that fascinated both of them. Apart from visiting him, she also learned to explore the inner mind of each composer through their work. She gradually understood why this certain note was placed at that specific bar. A real journey had just begun.

At times she also frequented Café Speranza, and Nishizawa would be there to serve her. The two girls would talk about Hayate's condition and affairs in their respective schools. They gradually got to know each other better as well, and Hinagiku could tell from the girl's tone that the light-blue-haired boy in the hospital held a special place in her heart, just like herself. She shouldn't be too surprised though, for she had already felt something different about the way she addressed Hayate on her first few visits to this place.

Or was it the way the blue-haired girl looked at Hayate when they played their little duet? Hinagiku could recall clearly how Nishizawa's pale green eyes looked into Hayate's blue orbs as she strummed her acoustic guitar, while Hayate provided the piano arpeggios as background accompaniment. She never quite dared to confront her about it, though. She never knew why.

Now she was sitting in Café Speranza again, on a lovely Friday evening after a visit to the hospital. She was sitting alone. Nishizawa was busy serving other customers that she could not engage in a lengthy conversation with Hinagiku as she often did when there were not many people in the small café. The fifteen-year-old sipped her cappuccino, feeling the warmth moisturizing her lips. Her plate of lasagne bolognaise lay untouched as she observed the environment. It was tranquil as always, even when it was fully packed with customers. Everyone seemed to respect the unwritten rule here: you talk, but you do not annoy. Anyone who spoke loudly would receive a death glare from everyone else in return. How she loved this customary practice.

As she listened to the disc of jazz music being played in the background, she found two familiar figures on the table next to her. They were the old couple who always listened attentively to Hayate's performance. They dined in here so often that the owner usually served them himself and chatted with them about anything related to music. Judging by the slightly troubled look on their faces, the fifteen-year-old could only sign in sympathy. They must be disappointed that Hayate was not here again to play a tune.

Not many cafes nowadays offer live music that was so tranquil and relaxing, for many just played loud, pop music in the background through cheap, nearly-broken loudspeakers, causing the sound to be more distorted than ever. The old man acted unenergetic while the old lady sipped her tea carefully, looking perplexed over the disruption of their normal routine. It was their favourite moment of the day to see a fresh, well-mannered teenager producing such delightful sound for their ears. Now they could only sigh in defeat, as they already heard about Hayate's condition from the owner. Nishizawa also refused to play when Hayate was not here, claiming that she would not bring out her instrument if her partner was absent, so the owner opted to just play music from discs he used to collect.

Hinagiku thought about going over and talked to them for a bit, maybe just to make them feel better by any means, but then decided against this option, and began to consume her pasta.

How terribly strange to be sixteen.

Maybe it was because she thought about the old couple so much that as she gradually grasped how they felt about a broken routine, she stepped into room 507 on the third of March, only to be greeted by a strange stance of silence.

Piles of CDs lay on the floor next to the loudspeakers in chaotic fashion, as she vividly recalled how organized they were when she first stepped into this room two months ago. She knew very well that Hayate was an organized person. The amplifiers remained by the wall, standing proudly amidst the furniture in the room. All she needed to do was to look calmly around the room, then at the bed with a clean white sheet on it. Realization hit her slowly, yet not unexpectedly.

Slowly, she walked forward and sat on the edge of the bed. Her hand started to move around, as if searching for the heat that miraculously remained. Yet she could only feel how smooth the white blanket was, as she playfully drew patterns on it with her fingers. It was one of his habits when he was in a light mood.

She then let her body relax and allowed her upper body to fall on the bed.

Hinagiku wondered if she looked pathetic right now. Normally one would not react like this in such situations, yet she just could not help it. What was she to expect, anyway? She had seen this day coming. Everyone knew it. She merely accepted the fact strongly, and that probably startled people around her. But they did not know her. They did not know her like he did.

A rapid succession of footsteps woke her, and she rose to see a nurse standing by the door, looking shocked then nervous. Before the nurse started speaking, Hinagiku raised her hand to signal her that she was alright, and giving her a small nod. The nurse, knowing what she meant, looked at her for a second before bowing respectfully, and then retreated quickly, leaving the girl behind in her own world.

Yes, everyone would act in the same way right now. But she could not blame them. It wasn't their fault that she lost her emotions. It wasn't their fault either that Hayate had left. The doctor had said it could be anytime, ranging from weeks to years. Just that she felt a couple of months sounded too short, yet it might also be the perfect timing, before her feelings for him turned into something graver than she could ever grasp.

A bright, white envelope lying by the pillow caught her attention, as she reached out her arm to get it. The square-shaped envelope was addressed to her, she just knew it, with the words 'Happy Birthday' printed neatly on the cover. She carefully opened it, and found a CD inside. Staring curiously at the round object, she was sure this was not from one of his collections. There was nothing on the top of the disc.

So in hopes of investigating the content of it, she inserted the CD into the player in the room, and after a few seconds of delay, the sound of Stradivarius began to fill the whole room.

She immediately recognized the melody, and could picture the skilled violinist moving his bow swiftly to adjust to the change of dynamics and the jump to the C-sharp an octave higher. She just stood in front of the amplifier, mouth agape, as the trills sent shivers down her spine.

Chopin's Nocturne in C-sharp minor. The first tune that she ever heard him play.

The disc took Hinagiku to a journey of violin and piano music. She walked through Chopin's nocturnes and waltzes, then climbed through Shostakovich's powerful fugue and danced to Mahler's lovely Adagietto. She had heard all of these before; Hayate had played them in the café across different nights. They were all pieces that she liked and enjoyed, especially when he rearranged some songs into piano or violin solo. It gave off a different feeling towards the masterpieces composed hundreds of years ago.

She wasn't sure how Hayate managed to record them, though, but she did not really care. He probably received help from Athena, and she hoped not to think of anyone else but him for now.

Hinagiku knelt on the bed as the music kept on playing, filling the whole room with joy, anger, hope, frustration. She could almost feel Hayate sitting next to her, arm reaching over to her shoulder and holding her tightly, as her mind absorbed the rich tone of Beethoven's Les Adieux. Her lips curved upwards, albeit crying silent tears.

The envelope rested by her side, listening carefully to its master's grand finale.

End of Chapter 6

Les Adieux refers to Beethoven's Piano Sonata No.26, opus 81. It is divided into three parts: Les Adieux, L'Absence, Le Retour (the Farewell, the Absence, the Return). Although beginning in a grave, gloomy tone, it ends in a delightful manner, echoing the theme of departing then reuniting. It is also the theme of the Japanese light novel series, Sayonara Piano Sonata, written by Sugii Hikaru. I recently completed the whole series, so I took some inspiration from the series as well, although I don't think the light novel has been translated into English yet. I've seen the manga version (English) though, and you should be able to find it with ease.

I've already started working on the next chapter, which is also the final one of this story. I want to thank everyone again for your kind patience. I'm aware that I started writing this story 2 years ago, and with my record of not updating on time I fully understand if anyone is mad at me for that. I can only hope you'll be happy with the flow of the story now, and be ready for the last chapter, which will be out soon, I do hope.

I also recently uploaded a The World God Only Knows fanfic, titled A Day in the Life of Shiomiya Shiori. If anyone is interested in that fandom, please check it out. I had a lot of fun writing that story.

As usual, reviews are always welcome. See you all next time.