A/N: Sorry for the long delay! I'm going to be updating this and Two Queens now, since I'm not really busy these days. Please Read, Review, and ENJOY!

ALSO: This first part of the chapter is from Natsume's POV, in case you get confused by POV changes.

Chapter Four – Innocence Lost


"Yes, Misaki?"

"...Never mind."

I glanced down at the girl beside me, her head lying on my shoulder, then turned back to watch the Sun that was slowly sinking down below the horizon outside.

We were the only ones in the cabin of the train, and the only sounds being made were the soft, clanking sounds of the train's wheels and the gentle breathing of Misaki, who seemed to be slowly falling asleep.

It was the peaceful three-day weekend I had been looking forward to for a while. Misaki and I had planned to go and visit her grandmother in the country, where we could relax and not have to worry about the troubles of the city.

From the beginning of the train ride, I could tell that Misaki had something she really wanted to tell me. I had no clue what it could have been, but I decided to just let her think it over and ask me whenever she could.

By the time we had arrived at the train station, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Misaki had fallen asleep. I gently pushed on her shoulder, and said, "Misaki? We're here..."

She slowly opened her eyes, and seemingly sprung to life, though she instantly held onto her back after doing so. When I moved in to help her, she smiled and told me, "I-It's fine, I just jumped up to quickly."

I nodded, relieved, and Misaki locked her arm with mine, leading me out onto the platform. Looking around, there were a few fields of crops and farm houses, and only a couple of other people were boarding the train from the station.

I don't think I've ever been this far out into the country, I thought as Misaki led me down a stone path going through the town, if you could really call a few houses a town.

At the end of the path was a fairly large two-story cottage. "Is this it?" I couldn't help but be surprised by how new it appeared compared to everything else.

Misaki giggled. "Yep, it was built recently by a few locals who appreciated her for all that she's done for them," she said as we stepped up to the front door.

"I hope I'm nice enough to people so they'll make me a place like this," I said as we entered, and we both smiled.

It was late when we had arrived, so Misaki's grandmother had started cooking. It smelled delicious, and the aroma instantly lead me to the kitchen when we walked into the cottage. Once in there, I noticed a young girl with pig-tails helping her grandmother cook. Is that...her sister?

"Oh, you're here," Misaki's grandmother said, turning and smiling at us. She gave Misaki a hug, and then, surprisingly to me, gave me a hug as well.

"This is Natsume. Natsume, this is my grandmother; everyone just calls her Grandma, even if they're not related," Misaki told me.

"It's nice to meet you," I said to her grandmother, who dipped her head to me.

"This is the first time I've gotten to meet one of Misaki's friends," her Grandma said with a smile. "Oh Ki, say hello to your sister!"

The little girl turned and seemed to give a cold look towards Misaki, before turning and continuing on with what she was doing. "S-So, grandma," Misaki said as if avoiding the topic, "How long until dinner is ready?"

"Oh, I don't know...Maybe half an hour?" Her grandmother looked at her watch and tapped her chin in thought. "Yes, that should be good."

Misaki nodded. "Okay. We're going to go and get changed, then we'll come back down," she said, motioning for me to follow her.

"I never knew you had a sister," I commented as we started to walk upstairs.

At first, I thought Misaki might continue to ignore the subject, but she said simply, "Well, she's really my step-sister. We... haven't talked much since what happened..."

Oh...I see. I decided to leave it at that, knowing the passing of her mother and father in their accident is probably not something I wanted to discuss, less it ruin the entire trip.

"Here we are," Misaki said. We had ended up at the entrance to the attic. "We'll have to share this room, because Grandma has loads of junk stored up in the others," she told me as she opened the door and stepped in. I nodded and followed her inside.

The attic room was like any other room, with two beds, a desk, and even a television, though it looked a little old. The room was dark though, and the only light coming in was the rather large, ovular window on the other side of the room.

"It feels like that train ride took forever," I commented, walking over to the nearest bed and dropping my bag beside it before laying back onto it.

Misaki sat on the bed and gave a big stretch. "I know...If I wasn't hungry, I'd prefer to just fall asleep right now." She laid back onto the bed beside me, and we stared up at the brown ceiling above.

"Natsume..." I turned my head towards Misaki, who seemed to have a nervous look on her face. "I-I wanted to tell you something...but I never knew how."

"What is it? You can tell me anything," I told her, placing my hand on her arm in reassurance...

But what came next was something I had not expected. In a sudden move, Misaki rolled over on top of me, straddling me and grabbing my hands. "M-Misaki?..." I looked up at her, and she looked down at me, silent, her breathing becoming heavy...

And I knew at that moment just what was going to happen. "I-I love you!"

Even though I knew the words were coming, it was still shocking when Misaki blurted them out. "M-Misaki, I..." I trailed off as tears entered Misaki's eyes.

"I just...I never knew how to say it. This is hard, it's really hard..." She wiped the tears from her eyes. "I wanted to go on this trip with you so I could be with you, alone, and I could tell you and show you just how much you mean to me..."

Misaki... The girl clasped her hands with mine and started to lean in close to me. "Natsume...D-do you...feel the same?"


Misaki's eyes widened. "No, I... Misaki, I care about you, but I don't...I don't want to be with you..." I felt nervous under Misaki's gaze. I lifted a hand and caressed her face gently. "I'm...sorry."

Misaki leaned back, quiet, her hair covering whatever emotion might be displayed on her face...

She slowly crawled off of me and I sat up. "Misaki, I...Don't let this get between us," I told her... But she seemed to be dead to the world.

"I'm sorry," Misaki said in a tear-jerked voice. She made her way to the other side of the room, and I placed my head in my hands, feeling bad about what had just happened.

I don't want something like a relationship to get between us, I thought. I...I just don't.

"Misaki-" I turned around to see if she was alright...but what I saw was her sitting on the edge of the open window on the opposite side of the room, her feet dangling outside.

"MISAKI!" I jumped up and ran towards her.. She turned her head towards me, then closed her eyes and pushed herself off. I reached out for her, but there was no point...

She was gone.

"...After that, she had to get a metal rod surgically placed by her spine so that she could continue to move," Natsume said. "When I talked to her sister, she said that Natsume and her never gotten along because it was Misaki's fault their parents died..."

Being blamed for something like that might make anyone crazy, Hisao thought. "But how could it be her fault?"

Natsume shrugged. "Apparently her parents were on an errand or her when they got into their accident," she said. "I...I feel really bad for her, but she shouldn't have to hate everyone..."

It was obvious that Natsume was struggling not to let the tears flow. After all, it was the first time she had told anybody besides Suzu about what had happened.

"I-I'm sorry..." Hisao didn't know exactly what to say. "I had no way of knowing."

Natsume looked over at him and nodded. "I know...I don't blame you," she said.

Hisao glanced over at Natsume, and their eyes locked. A tear had slipped out of the corner of Natsume's eye and slowly glided down her face. Hisao reached forward and wiped the tear away instinctively, then realized what he had done and pulled his hand back, embarrassed.

"I-" He tried to make an excuse, but Natsume didn't let him. She leaned forward and gently put her lips against his. Hisao's face flushed at the softness of her lips upon his and allowed their hands to slowly entwine.

After a few moments, Natsume moved back, blushing intensely. She opened her mouth to say something, but another voice came from behind, "That was good."

Natsume looked behind her, and Hisao looked past her, seeing none-other than Suzu standing there, her usual uninterested face showing just a little perk of interest in what was going on.

"S-Suzu!" Natsume reddened even more and turned away, placing her free hand onto her face as if trying to hide herself.

"I-It's not what it looks like," Hisao said, though he knew it was of no use.

"Don't worry, I won't disturb you any longer," Suzu stated, walking past the two and glancing down at their hands that were still entwined together. They both let go and looked away from each other, which only amused Suzu further as she walked away.

"Suzu, wait up!" Natsume seemed eager to get away from Hisao at that moment, and she quickly grabbed her crutches and limped after her, while Hisao watched on with slight amusement.

Once they were gone, Hisao placed a finger against his lips.

So... soft.

To be continued...

Next Chapter – A Friend's Warmth