Tatsuta River - 4

Inspiration comes from the smallest of things: watching the snow melt in spring, seeing the gentle ripples across a clear surface of water. Sometimes, I am inspired by simply watching a person for a short time or reading a story that touches me deeply. My editor believes my work was influenced by the English neoclassical genre, but the truth is that I was inspired by the One Hundred Poems in Karuta. This was the reason I had taken up Karuta in middle school, although my poor coordination and reflexes prevented me from rising above D class. I thought it was a delightful coincidence that Chihaya's favourite card was also my own. The poem on the Impassionate Gods card refers to the scenic red of the Tatsuta River. I personally believe the Tatsuta River is a metaphor for everlasting love.

After speaking with Taichi, I was peering at the notes I had written during our conversation when the ending of my novel suddenly came to me. I was seized with an insatiable desire to write. I worked solidly for several days and finished two days before my self-imposed deadline.

My novel was a story about a young girl who was separated from her lover for many years due to some tragic circumstances. When they reunited in their adulthood, they had both married other people. From a storytelling perspective, I knew the most satisfying ending involved the main characters divorcing their spouses and ending up with each other. Somehow this ending didn't ring true for me. I tried to write it, but I could inject no feeling into my prose. It was – for lack of any better word – clunky. I simply couldn't find any rhythm with my writing. None of the sentences flowed into each other easily. Thus began my writer's block; I had no idea how to portray everlasting love.

After Taichi told me his story, we never had another good opportunity to talk. He went out skiing with his wife for most of the day, and that night he packed his bags and went home. He did thank me for listening to him before he left. He was in a good mood: calm, dignified and charming, although not in any conscious way. There was something humble and unassuming about him; the brashness I remembered from his middle school days was gone. This was something I had noticed when I first encountered him at the hotel. When he was leaving, he took his wife's hand and squeezed it gently.

The smile that was on Taichi's face as he looked at his wife comes back to me as I write. He was certainly the kind of man who was sure of every emotion he had, whether it was weakness or folly, determination or affection. He had married late in life, he had told me. When he realised Chihaya could not be compared to anyone, he had stopped trying. His mother had wanted him to marry and settle down and one day it had occurred to him that this was the most natural thing for him to do. He would have had to push himself to maintain the virility in his youth.

"It just wasn't me," he told me, laughing. "Being popular with women is more trouble than it's worth. Being with other women only ever taught me what love isn't. Once I learned that lesson, it felt like I was just going through the motions. No matter how much I enjoyed sex, it always did feel more like a diversion than anything else. I could be playing Karuta, I thought."

As for his wife, he was fond of her and was careful to avoid compromising situations with other women. He did not remember any defining moment of falling in love - perhaps the wedding, but he remembered it more for being a really hot day. In any case, he enjoyed coming home early, spending his evenings quietly with his wife and making love as a natural course of things. Aside from fleeting moments of appreciation for other women, which was the natural instinct for any man, he had no desire to sleep with anyone but his wife. Not even Chihaya tempted him. It was true that he thought of her often and longed for her company whenever he was alone. It was a desire that was non-sexual but too intense to dismiss as platonic. "If adultery were a sin of the heart, then I've committed it every day," he admitted to me. "I'm sure that's how Arata felt too."

I wondered when he was younger if Taichi had ever looked at Chihaya the same way as his wife, or was it a different kind of love that had gripped him? For love to be everlasting, did it also need to be unchanging? I tried to remember the last time I had loved so much that I had assumed it would remain that way forever. What was it like for childhood bonds to be eternal, to be carved so deeply in you that it defined your very being? What did love even feel like?

I couldn't remember.


Afterword: Thank you for reading this story and I hope you enjoyed it! I wrote it very quickly in the span of a couple of days, so please forgive me for the errors in writing. Also, I happened to write it while the anime is still ongoing (up to episode 16 at the time of this writing) and I haven't read the manga. I didn't intend this story to be read as a sequel, but rather as a possibility. There were things I did assume from the manga story for this story to work, such as Chihaya overtaking Shinobu and the main trio becoming close again. If this doesn't happen in the real story, I will stab something.

One (very slight) disappointment I had with the Chihayafuru anime is how quickly it moves on from its original themes of childhood bonds and separation. I thought it would be a story about how friends drift, so when it didn't turn out that way I was inspired to write about it. As the anime continues, it will probably continue to invalidate the tone and overall pessimism in this fanfic, but I don't care. This was very fun to write. While the concept was simple enough, I did struggle with the level of depressing I felt was acceptable for this fic. There were a lot of things that happened here that I don't see happening in the canon universe. I like to think the trio wouldn't drift completely even if things do change, so I tried to portray that here. I didn't want the story to be OOC; I wanted the events to seem believable even though they will never happen.

Another issue which some readers have commented on is the pacing. I believe this story is better suited to be read in one sitting rather than being serialised. That was a mistake on my part. I was too eager to get this story out. The verbal narrative is fast-paced, but that's just how verbal narratives are. I've never tried this style of storytelling before, so please forgive my mistakes. I am still learning!

Oh, and lastly, my views on the shipping: I'm hoping for a threesome ending for this series. Fingers crossed! But Arata/Chihaya seems most hinted at… Poor Taichi.