I have taken the liberty of rewriting parts of the first chapters to try and keep them on par with the quality of the more recent chapters. For those of you who have been reading C:TLY since its release, you may have been aware of my intentions to end the light novel at chapter eleven. However, plans have changed and I am continuing the story for reasons I will explain later on; probably in my profile for those genuinely interested. Also, located in my profile is a chapter status update so you know where I am at in terms of completion. I promise to try not to go on hiatus that long again. Another thing, the light novel has been divided into story arcs classified by the following titles:
Arc One, CH 1-6: 'How she fell in love for the second time.'
Arc Two, CH 7-11: 'How he fell in love for the second time.'
For those reading for the first time: Please enjoy chapter one.
Arc One: How She Fell in Love for the Second Time
Chapter 1: Dango Daikazoku
"Feel that? It's Ushio's cheek.
Yeah? Feel that?"
You said you'll always be with me, right?
You said you'll always be with me...
W-We promised we will, many times, right?"
"If only we never met..."
"Nagisa..." I uttered into the quiet darkness, my hand falling to the side as I tried to reach for her fading image. I could feel the cold consume me as I laid on the unforgiving hearth. I turned over to my side trying to look away from the emptiness that extended around me. I curled up into a ball ashamed of how pitiful I had become. I felt the tears trace my cheeks, falling to the floor where my head lay.
I groped through the darkness trying to find something familiar. I was reaching for her, but all I could feel was the emptiness of scattered cans and cigarette cartons. I closed my eyes no longer having the strength to keep searching. Overwhelmed by the pain and fatigue, I began to feel myself drift away.
I woke up to the sound of a phone call echoing through the silence. My arm was still outstretched across the floor where she used to sleep next to me every night, but she wasn't there anymore. I didn't have the willpower to even sit up and answer the call. I stared at my hand reaching out to the barren ground waiting for the the receiver to take their message.
The ringing continued to blare through the room for another few intervals followed by an ear-piercing beep.
"Tomoya-kun? It's Sanae. Akio and I haven't heard from you in a while. Would you like to see Ushio? She's grown so much in the past year. She said her first word just the other day... you should stop by for lunch your next day off. It's not healthy to work so much without having any fun! Akio wants to play baseball with you, doesn't that sound nice? Give me a call soon... please, Tomoya-kun?"
It's been a while since I've heard that voice. An eerie chill shot down my spine as I remembered the last time I heard that cheerful voice. The night Ushio was born... the night I lost Nagisa. They took in Ushio knowing that I was incapable of raising her alone. I couldn't bear to look them in the eye after all that has happened.
I shuddered at the thought of having to see them again. Not under these circumstances.
She said it's been almost a year, huh?
The sound of knocking echoed throughout the room, startling me from my sleep. I laid there motionless hoping that whoever was at the door would just leave me alone. I couldn't think of any reason why someone would be bothering me at this time. I paid all my bills and the rent on time. Why couldn't they just leave me the hell alone?
"Tomoya-kun? It's Akio and I. May you please open the door?"
My eyes widened at the sound of that familiar voice.
This wasn't actually happening.
This was just a nightmare, that's all.
Some screwed up dream that took a bad turn.
The knocking continued, except louder this time.
"Tomoya, open the door already, we brought Ushio-chan with us. Don't leave your daughter outside in the cold."
I refused to accept that this was happening. I wanted to run away but my body didn't even have the strength to try. My head still ached from the alcohol last night and there wasn't anywhere to run to even if I did muster the strength. Maybe they'll go away if they think I'm asleep.
A loud creaking noise followed a series of an even louder pounding at my door.
"Oi, sorry about th- To-Tomoya..?"
Through the blinding light coming in through the door, I could make out two figures standing in the doorway carrying something in their arms.
"Hey Tomoya, are you okay? It's Akio."
"Yeah.. I'm fine," I mumbled back in a half-awake daze. I opened my eyes more, the light passing through my retinas burned like acid violently awaking my dulled senses. I shifted my gaze towards Akio whose hand was extended towards me, gesturing his intentions to help me sit up. I refused his offer. Each movement I made trying to sit up sent each muscle and joint screaming in excruciating pain. I could feel their stares weigh down my body, ridiculing me as I struggled in agonizing shame. I don't know what hurt more; my body or their empathy.
"Tomoya-kun, how have you been doing?" asked Sanae completely disregarding the state of my apartment which alone would have answered her question.
"Fine... I'm doing fine."
I was obviously lying through my teeth.
"I'm glad to hear that you are," she replied with a smile. "Would you like to meet Ushio? You haven't seen her in a while. Look how much she's grown!"
I hadn't realized until that moment that Sanae had been holding Ushio. She really had grown. She looked so much different from the first time I held her that day. Her hair was a warm chestnut exactly like Nagisa's with the exception those antenna-like strands of hair Nagisa could never keep down. Her eyes were a perfect replica as well; an innocent deep gold, tinged with copper.
"Why don't you try holding her? I'm sure Ushio-chan misses you." Akio beckoned me towards Ushio with one hand as he ruffled her hair with the other.
I shook my head at him, declining his offer. I haven't held Ushio since Nagisa left. I'm scared of remembering that day if I hold her. "No, it's fine."
Akio grimaced at my response, audibly exhaling in dissatisfaction. He quickly reached into his pocket for a cigarette carton and in a few swift motions of his hand placed an unlit cigarette into his mouth. He continued to brush Ushio's hair with the other hand.
"Are you hungry Tomoya-kun?" asked Sanae gesturing at the containers of food set on the table. "We brought food for you. I'm sure you haven't been eating properly with how busy you have been lately."
"Oh- uh, thank you..." Truthfully, Sanae was right. The only solid meal that I ate in a day was lunch with Yoshino since Kouko always packed extra for both of us. I was so busy with work back then that Nagisa would normally prepare each meal. On the way home from work I would just pick up whatever looked good at the convenience store along with a few beers or cigarettes.
Sanae had handed Ushio to Akio who had been organizing his surroundings with his foot, moving empty beer cans and improvised ash-trays to the side. I hadn't cleaned the house for some time. Cigarette butts lay disarrayed across the table next to a half-empty sake bottle. The floor wasn't much better, old wrappers and papers were scattered between the piles of beer cans and cigarette cartons. The only habitable area was a single pillow and blanket on a worn out mat.
Sanae was smiling as she proceeded to set the table for lunch. It was shameful that she was taking care of me as a son still, even when I didn't deserve it. She carefully unpacked the bentos and placed them on the table, giving each of us an equal portion of rice and chopsticks. I couldn't help but be reminded of those days when we would gather around the table as a family. I would have never known what it felt like to have a family without those two.
Sanae took a seat directly across from me placing Ushio in her lap. Akio sat down to her left within arm's reach of Ushio.
Sanae cheerfully placed Ushio's hands together to mimic proper manners, with Akio immediately following suit. I silently began my meal avoiding eye contact with everyone as I ate.
Sanae immediately started the conversation, nullifying any chance of silence during our meal.
"You know Tomoya-kun, you never called me back. So Akio and I thought it would be a good idea if we just visit you as a surprise instead. I hope you don't mind us stopping by like this."
"Yeah, you missed the baseball game yesterday. We needed a star-batter up on the plate. We were hoping you'd be able to make it. Of course with an arm like this," Akio began to flaunt his muscles to Ushio who cooed in reply, "We managed to win. But still, you should have been there."
"Sorry... I'll call next time." I quit the sport all together since it only reminded me of those days when I was trying to earn Akio's approval for Nagisa's hand in marriage. I wanted to avoid anything that reminded me of Nagisa. Life was painful enough without her, I didn't need to be constantly reminded of it.
I was too ashamed to properly thank Sanae for giving up the time to prepare all of this for me. Despite my lack of contribution, the conversation at the table carried on with Akio and Sanae enthusiastically speaking about yesterday's neighborhood baseball game. I found myself staring at Ushio whenever I looked up. I began to wonder if Nagisa were still here if she would be holding Ushio like Sanae was right now. If it wasn't for Ush-
No... I shouldn't think things like that.
This is what Nagisa wanted. I tried my hardest to convince myself that was the truth. Nagisa was determined to have Ushio even at the cost of her life.
I know she was prepared to give her life for Ushio... but I wasn't. The thought of Ushio never existing plagued my mind as I continued to try and eat.
"Tomoya-kun, are you alright? You're crying." I felt Sanae's hand on top of mine as she tried to comfort me. I became conscious to the tears tracing down my cheeks. As I wiped away the tears, an unfamiliar noise suddenly pierced the room. It was the sound of Ushio crying.
"Oh no, Ushio is crying. I'll take her outside for a second, okay Akio?"
Sanae was cradling Ushio as she made her way towards the door. I sat there clueless as those two rushed to her aid, unable to do anything but watch. As I watched them comfort Ushio, I realized that I could never be the man that Nagisa needed me to be. My own daughter was in need of help, but I was incapable of doing anything for her. And then something unexpected happened; they were singing a song that I never wanted to hear again.
"Dango, dango, dango, dango, dango, dango daikazoku
Dango, dango, dango, dango, dango daikazoku
Yancha na yaki dango yasashii an-dango
Sukoshi yumemigachi na tsukimi-dango
Osumashi goma-dango yotsugo kushi dango
Minna minna awasete hyakunin kazoku..."
As Sanae and Akio continued to sing, I began to hear Nagisa's voice.
"Dango, dango, dango, dango, dango, dango daikazoku."
I became numb and felt the impact of my body hit the ground; her voice echoed through my mind with each word.
"Dango, dango, dango, dango, dango daikazoku."
Nagisa's voice began to fade into the distance; I reached out trying to hold onto her so she wouldn't leave me again..
"Dango, dango, dango, dango, dango daikazo- "
But she was gone.
- The opening of the chapter was quoted from Episode 16 of Clannad: After Story during the scene of Okazaki Ushio's birth.
- If an unfamiliar word or phrase is italicized, there will be a definition or explanation at the bottom of each chapter as a point of reference.
*Disclaimer - I do not claim any ownership of Clannad or its characters.