"There you are," Akako said softly as she was approaching the shadowy figure sitting on a swing.
Hakuba looked up, his eyes appeared to be greatly hurt and damp, and it tightened her chest to the point she thought she could no longer breathe.
"How did you find me?" he asked, and she managed a smile. "You told me about this place, remember?" she replied. "May I accompany you?" she asked, pointing toward an empty swing to his left. He nodded.
"At your place that night," he echoed out his thought. "We had a deep, emotional and meaningful conversation, didn't we?"
She laughed lightly. "So now you know why we can never study together." He didn't join her in the laughing part. Normally, he would but not right now, and it saddened her.
"Listen, Hakuba-" she began.
"Tell me everything," he interrupted her. "Everything that has happened." He looked her square in the eye. "I've been feeling pretty weird lately, like my internal clock has been adjusted more than once without my knowing. I want to know what happened to me. Every single thing."
To his surprise, a slight smile danced across her lips as she said, "I'm glad you said that. It means there's still hope for us." Then, she took a deep breath and started from the very beginning.
He kissed her again and again. She pressed herself further against him and he kept kissing her. And they wouldn't let go until both parties were out of breath.
"So?" she asked, breathless. He shook his head.
"I can't feel anything," he answered, feeling remorse. "Nothing," he hugged his head between his hands.
Akako gently placed her hands on his shoulders and squeezed them lightly. "These things take time," she said, unable to conceal the sadness and desperation in her tone. "After all, if it didn't work so well, that witch wouldn't be so proud of her product, and the potion wouldn't be legendary."
Hakuba was shaking his head. "I want to feel what I felt again. I don't want these fake feelings. Yet somehow, I can't seem to recall what true feelings are anymore." His voice was breaking as he said that. And it broke her heart.
"Hakuba," she begged, "please try. Promise me you won't give up on us."
He didn't answer.
"I still love Aoko."
"You can change."
"I can't! Akako, don't you see? I don't feel anything with you. All this time when I was kissing you, it's Aoko's face that I saw, not yours!" He then took a step back, away from her, away from her desperate clutch.
He looked up at the approaching moon with hands dug deep in his pockets, and she could tell he was deep in thought.
Finally, after a good silent five-minute, he turned back to her, his eyes were as cold as stone and resolved, and it sent chills down her spine. "I'm leaving," he announced.
"I can't stay here anymore. I can't pretend that I love you while I don't. I can't go on loving Aoko now because I know she used potion to make me fall for her." When Akako opened her mouth to protest, he gingerly placed a finger onto her rosy lips. "This place has too many unbearable memories that it's impossible for me to stay. Leaving is the best option, and hopefully, time can cure this curse."
Her eyes welled up instantly. But she knew that once he'd made up his mind, nothing in the whole wide world could change it.
Akako was shaking her head vigorously and the tears kept flowing down effortlessly. This isn't the way, she was screaming inside. This isn't what the answer's supposed to be!
Then, he leaned down and kissed her tenderly. For the first time since this morning, they both had their eyes closed. When he withdrew, he whispered softly. "Thank you for everything."
"Yes, please, put that box there," said the young woman as she checked off the delivery list. Her crimson eyes squinted a little as she looked closely at the items' names to make sure she wasn't missing anything.
Two men stood up and stretched their backs. "Are we set, ma'am?" one of them asked.
She flipped through her papers quickly and expertly and nodded. "Yes, thank you, gentlemen." Then she paid them and they left after shaking her hand.
She gave a sigh as she took off a pair of glasses, and gave her inventory another good look-over.
Everything looked like they're in order, and she smiled to herself.
Her business was doing more than okay. Goods had come in regularly, and goods had also been exported regularly. She was on good terms with her customers; her employees liked her. Money had been flowing in without interruptions. Bluntly, her business was thriving and her company was becoming one of the largest, most influential companies in the country.
Akako put the clipboard, along with her glasses, down onto a wooden box, and massaged her nose bridge. She needed to rest her eyes a bit; they had been overworked for the past few weeks because of the many incoming contracts. Now that she was sure of her business's future, it was time to take a deserving break.
She was dreaming of lying on a beach, tanning her pale skin while sipping cool, delicious iced tea when a child's voice rang out, "Mommy!"
Her eyes glanced over and spotted a young boy running toward her with arms in front of him. He had walnut-colored hair that flowed softly in the wind. His eyes were exact replica of hers, but his smile was definitely a copy of his.
He ran toward her, she had her arms open and he fell in them. "Mommy, look what I found!" he said, eagerly showing her a pair of twin marbles. She looked at them and noticed how both had the same design, same cut, even the same brunette color.
"Hmm, that's interesting," she commented after giving his cheek a smooch. "Where did you find them?"
"Over there by the river. Do you like them, Mommy?" he asked with those big wide, curious eyes, and she laughed.
"Of course, they're so pretty and rare." It was indeed rare to see a random pair of marbles like that. "Are they for Mommy?" she inquired jokingly, and to her surprise, he nodded enthusiastically.
"I'm going to go find more for you, okay, Mommy?"
She kissed him again and playfully tickled him. "Alright, just be careful."
And she saw him run off. Chuckling to herself, she turned toward the new arrival of goods, put on her glasses, and started counting again.
Ten minutes passed. All was quiet and she was still carefully examining her inventory; she wanted her material to be of high quality. That was how she earned the trust and loyalty of her customers, and the well-known name for her company.
Suddenly, a man's laugh sounded from a distance, followed by that of her son.
"Haku." Akako swirled around, becoming alert instantly. This was her private property. No one was supposed to come in without an invitation. There was even a sign on the fence that read, "No Trespassing."
And now, hearing a strange man's voice so close to her defenseless son, she felt as though all her senses were on high alert and her guts coiled.
"Haku!" She ran outside and stopped dead in her tracks.
A handsome young man was carrying her six-year-old son in his arms. Haku was laughing, so was the stranger. Their smiles were like twins….
Then, the man turned, saw a wide-eyed Akako and said, "Such a beautiful child you have here." As he said those words, he never stopped smiling. That smile… the smile that she owned. The smile that was reserved just for her. The smile that she thought she would never be able to see again.
And Akako couldn't help but smile back with tears welling up in her eyes.
Welcome back, Hakuba…
A/N: I apologize for the very lateness :( But finally here it is! :) Thank you for your patience and support! It's very appreciated :D
Shara Raizel: I know I promised to put in some friendship moments between Kaito and Hakuba, but I just couldn't seem to fit it in this chapter... I don't know, like it just wouldn't flow as smoothly, so after a lot of consideration, I decided not to :( My apologies!