Chapter 02: Warmth
It never seemed to stop raining. Ohana's arms were wrapped around her legs as she pulled them into her chest. Her brown eyes stared blankly over them as the pattering rain could still be heard despite her attempts to silence them via her headphones. Where am I...? Blinking, she raised her eyes somewhat to see that it was pitch black all around her. What...am I doing...? Her lips parted for a moment as there was movement in that endless darkness. Her slightly lidded eyes widened as the movement became clear as day. Contrasting the darkness completely were two figures essentially radiating with light. The path underneath them was the only other thing that was visible to Ohana's eyes as she followed them slowly with her gaze.
It was him and Namiko.
Their hands were clasped just like before, and their eyes never seemed to leave the other. They were speaking to each other, but all Ohana could hear was the rain. She could clearly see the bright and happy smiles on their faces though, and it only brought her to tighten her hold on her knees. As they passed by without noticing her, Ohana lowered her gaze before she buried her face behind her legs. She squeezed her eyes shut as she couldn't keep her body from trembling. Why do I keep thinking about it? I'm just...I'm just making myself more pitiful... If I ignore it... If I just forget about it all. Everything...if I forget everything... If I forget his confession, maybe I can move on. Maybe I... Just that very thought pained her heart, and she couldn't hold back the sobbing outburst her body let out in reaction to those painful thoughts. Don't...don't cry. I'm not the one that wants to cry the most. Not me... She opened her eyes just for a moment to see that her vision had completely blurred.
Ohana woke up with a start as she sat straight up in her futon. Breathing heavily, she could feel that body was trembling somewhat. Raising a hand, she touched her cheek to find the tears that she had dreamt of. Sniffing, she raised her arm and wiped away the tears, trying to not make too much of a commotion for her mother to hear. With sunlight filling her room, she could only hear the sound of birds aside from her occasional sniffing. She couldn't remember when she had gotten home last night, but she assumed that running in the rain was brought on that horrible nightmare. Still, Ohana could faintly feel the same heart-wrenching pain that she had felt in her dream. Her thoughts came to a halt as she sneezed. Sniffing, she tried to shake those thoughts out of her head as she got up out of her futon to prepare breakfast and dress for the first day of school since she had gotten back. She prepared breakfast fairly quickly, mainly due to her lengthy experience in doing so from a young age, and sat down across from her surprisingly awake mother.
"Itadakimasu." Ohana clapped her hands before she started in as Satsuki pushed aside the laptop she always seemed to be on to start eating as well.
"What were you doing last night, Ohana? You came home rather late completely soaked. I was afraid you had caught your death of a cold when you came back like that. I wouldn't have anyone to feed me if that were to happen..." Satsuki spoke in her usual tone as she looked up at her daughter while eating.
"O-Oh, u-um..." The curly, light colored haired girl stuttered as she tried to find a response that wouldn't worry her mother, although she honestly didn't think much would make her worried. "I was just revisiting some old places because I haven't been back in so long! I didn't even realize that a storm was coming till it was too late, and then I couldn't find a place to buy an umbrella and I had to run all the way back, eheheh..." She knew her lie was pretty see-through considering that there were so many places that sold umbrellas in Tokyo.
"Mmhm... Well, are you feeling alright at least? It'd be pretty impressive if you decided to skip the first day of school since you got back into Tokyo. You'd be known as the rebel that goes at her own pace! That'd be kind of fun, wouldn't it?" Satsuki teased lightly as she took another mouthful before leaning over the table and moving a hand underneath Ohana's bangs, trying to feel the temperature of her forehead. "...Are you sure you're feeling up to going to school? It feels like you're coming down with a fever..."
"O-Oh! It's okay, mom. I'm sure I'll be fine once I get outside and get some fresh air. I also don't really want to be known as a rebel! I want to make sure that everyone knows I'm fine after moving back into Tokyo, so...I'll be going to school, okay?" Continuing to eat while defending herself, Ohana glanced at the time to see how much time she had left before she had to leave.
"Alright, alright. Just don't overwork yourself today. Whatever you're coming down with could become much worse if you don't take it easy," Satsuki responded along with a sigh, continuing to eat her breakfast.
"Mm!" Ohana responded with a mouthful of food, gobbling down the rest of her breakfast and clapping her hands together, "Gochisousama deshita." She quickly got up to clean her dishes. Working quickly, she finished and went into her room to dress in her school uniform. Grabbing her bag, she shoved her bento box into it before she raced out to the front to slip on her shoes, "Alright, I'm off!"
"Have a nice day," The mother responded as her eyes turned to look at the write-up she had brought up on her screen.
After closing the door, Ohana sighed as she walked down and out to the sidewalk, glad that she was out of her home and away from those questions. She raised her hand and touched her forehead to see that she really was burning up slightly, but she shook her head as she willed herself to bear with it. "It just makes things worse if I don't go to school when everyone expects me to be back now. I've got to at least go today. I'll make sure I get enough rest for the rest of the week," She muttered to herself her game plan as people passing by gave her odd looks.
Stopping in her tracks, her brown hues rose to see the familiar path she took everyday to meet her closest friend so they could go to school together. Swallowing, her hand gripped the strap of her bag before taking a step backward and turning down a different and unfamiliar street. Would he still be waiting there? Like...always? No, I'm sure...I'm sure he's not. It's been a while anyways, right? Thoughts raced through her confused mind as she continued onward, knowing that it would take her a little bit longer to get to school with that path. Then why...am I going this way... Why am I...trying to avoid...
It hadn't taken her as long as she expected as she reached the front gate to the school grounds. Walking into the building and up to her classroom, Ohana greeted back to all those that welcomed her back as they passed her. It brought her spirits up a little as their smiles made her smile that much more honest. Opening the door to her classroom, she found a seat by the window before plopping herself down in her seat. Her bag was slipped underneath her desk as she crossed her arms on the desk and rested her head on them. With brown hues gazing out the third story window, she felt that nostalgia of always looking outside and daydreaming before she had went to the Kissuiso. But she always looked forward to the breaks between classes, lunch, and when classes ended because there was always one thing that cheered her up despite her previous perspective on city life. He wasn't in her class, whether that be lucky or unlucky, so Ohana felt a bit more at ease at having extended the time she wouldn't have to see him. Yet...it was still an unpleasant feeling.
The morning classes seemed to breeze by too quickly. Ohana smiled as the familiar students welcomed her back before they all had settled down in their seats. She had stayed in her seat throughout all the small breaks between classes. Her focus just wasn't there that day, whether it be because her mind was elsewhere or because of her slight fever. She just didn't know. Ohana only knew that her eyes continued to drift toward the window, with her cheek against the hand of her propped up elbow, glad to have such a view to distract her from both her thoughts and class.
Before she knew it, classes broke for lunch. Blinking, Ohana sat up straight as she pulled out her bag from underneath her desk and took out the small bento she had brought for herself. Normally, she would have left the room to catch up to him so they could find a place to eat, but she could only picture him eating with someone else now. She didn't think that she went to the same school as they did, but she had this vivid imagery of the two sitting very close to each other as they ate their lunch with Namiko at times feeding him.
Shaking her head, Ohana tried to force the images out of her mind as she slipped her bag underneath her desk again before opening her bento box. "Itadakimasu," She whispered softly to herself as she handled her chopsticks deftly. Picking at the octopus sausages, she stayed rather silent as she ate her lunch. She was somewhat concerned with her current state though. While she was trying to keep her mental state stable, it was clear that her physical condition was suffering because of her little escapade the night before. The heat she felt in her ears and temples only seemed to grow hotter as time passed, but she reasoned with herself that she could withstand the entire day of classes. After all, she could still move, and she hadn't collapsed yet, so that was a good sign, right?
"You know, you're pretty hard to find sometimes, Ohana."
Widening her eyes, Ohana didn't look up from her bento box as that familiar voice rang in her ears. It was all too clear as to who it was, and she couldn't help but feel too frightened too look up into those eyes of his.
Placing down a can of corn soup next to her head, Koichi sat down in the empty desk in front of her. Letting out a sigh as he sat down, he looked toward the curly haired girl with a broad smile. He held a meat bun partially unwrapped with a bite already taken out of it. "Where did you go last night? By the time I got outside, you were already gone. Did you make it home alright? You didn't have an umbrella, did you?"
Setting down her chopsticks across her bento, she slowly, and perhaps shyly and nervously, looked up into those familiar and welcoming eyes of his. "K-Ko-chan... I, um...I had to get back home to do the laundry and clean up after my mother. She gets really messy, you know! And...and I haven't been back in a while, so there was a lot to do, so I'm sorry I didn't say anything last night, but, um...I...I knew we'd see each other again anyways, so I decided to let myself out and not bother you anymore than I needed to! Eheheh..." Her words came out rushed, and she hoped she didn't sound like too much of a babbling idiot when she tried to make up an excuse.
"Ah, is that so? Well, I guess it's good to get back into things and get used to the city life again, right?" Koichi only returned her panicked response with a simple acceptance of her excuse and another smile. Biting into the meat bun, he motioned to the corn soup, "I hope you still like corn soup? I was thinking about getting you cola, but I remembered that the strong fizz hurts your mouth, right?"
"U-Un..." Ohana responded with a simple sound and a nod as she took the can of corn soup and opened it. You know so much about me, Ko-chan. You...always look out for me, don't you? It's...It's selfish of me to say it out loud, but I always thought that you'd continue looking after me like this. For...a long, long time. Maybe even... She felt a bit awkward after all that went on between the two of them, and she wasn't sure what else to say to him. Raising the can to her lips, she took a drink from it before setting it down, "Un... It's still as good as I remember it, eheheh. The corn kernels still get stuck at the bottom, I bet." She blinked as she felt the heat in her face get a bit hotter, although it was just in her cheeks this time.
"Ohana?" Koichi showed a concerned face as he looked directly into Ohana's eyes, which in turn made her cheeks feel even hotter as they turned a bit red. "Are you feeling alright?" While Ohana didn't notice it, Koichi could clearly hear her somewhat strained breathing as her half-lidded eyes continued to stare forward into his eyes. Leaning over the desk, he moved a hand underneath her bangs and tried to determine her temperature. It was a bit difficult to determine it with his hands, so he leaned further over the desk.
Ohana widened her eyes the moment his hand had magically found its way on her forehead, and as she was about to question him, she saw him leaning even more over the desk. "W-Wait, K-K-Ko-chan! You don't need toーI meanーI don't thinkー!" Swallowing, Ohana's eyes were widened as he came close enough so their foreheads touched. While it seemed like he was intent on finding out what condition she was in, Ohana couldn't help but feel her face and entire body grow hotter at this interaction. Her eyes only found his closed eyes while their foreheads touched, but she let her gaze run along his attractive face, and she found herself holding her breath despite her rapidly beating heart when her eyes found his lips. It was as if their breaths had been mingling between them until she held her breath. P-Please, Ko-chan...stop...I... Your intentions are always so honest, so kind...but I...but I can't think straight like this!
Koichi pulled away after a few moments as he removed his hand from her, "Ohana, why did you come to school knowing that you're coming down with a fever? It feels like you're burning up... Is this because you were in the rain last night?" He paused for a moment as his eyes never left hers, finding that her face was still a bit red. "I'm sorry. I should have given you an umbrella or a raincoat or something last night. Instead, I let you run into the cold rain and you probably caught your sickness from it, andー"
It's not your fault, Ko-chan. I would...I would never blame you for anything like that! It's all my fault... I let myself burrow into the comfort of your kindness and took advantage of it, and now I...now I'm making you feel like this when it's all my fault! I...Iー! No words left Ohana's mouth as she focused on breathing. Her eyesight was getting a bit hazy as she faintly swayed left and right. Still, she used all of her energy to stay upright, wanting to set him straight. She would never want him to feel like that. She wanted him to know that she was being selfish, that she was the one to blame, but she couldn't bring her lips to move to form words.
Koichi's words came to a stop as he turned toward the door to the girl walking in. A surprised look was on his face. "Namiko? What are you doing here?"
The girl pushed up her glasses before she came to stand next to Koichi, setting her hands on his shoulder, "I couldn't wait to tell you the good news, and I wanted to tell you in person! My parents said that I could take a friend on the trip this weekend! And I asked if it was okay if I brought my...boyfriend," She lowered her voice for his status as she was still a bit shy about it in public.
"And they said yes! As long as they're supervising of course, but isn't this great! We canー" Namiko blinked as she turned to see Ohana's half-lidded eyes looking up at her, "O-Oh! Ohana? I heard from Koichi-kun that you were coming back. I hope settling back into the city life was a smooth transition!"
Is there someone out there that has it out for me? I...I know that things just won't be the same between Ko-chan and I anymore, but at least...at least I was happy with Ko-chan just now. At least I was happy with him caring for me like always even though he knows I'm acting awkward. So then...so then why at a time like this does she have to come along? And...and a weekend alone? Just the two of them? Koichi-kun? She's that familiar with him already? I...Ko-chan...do you...
"A-Ah, yeah, that's great news, Namiko, but you should have waited till later when classes were done. You're going to be late for your afternoon classes because you traveled all the way here!" Koichi expressed his concern as Namiko just shook his shoulder playfully.
"I know, I know, but isn't this great? This is the first time we'll be doing a real couple's event!" Namiko replied to Koichi as if Ohana wasn't still just looking up at the two of them, her body still swaying.
You told me you would give it a chance, give her a chance, so...so how do you feel? Are you...are you falling in love with her? Has she replaced me in your heart? Do you...do you watch over her now? Am I just an old friend that has become a bother? Did those...did those feelings of yours for me...did they...
"K-Ko-chan..." Ohana murmured with visible strain, which quickly caught his attention.
"Ohana? Ohana?! What's wrong?" Finally having realized that she had been swaying, he got up from his desk and moved to Ohana's side. Namiko had stepped to the side as she watched with concern, not exactly sure what was going on. "Are you feeling worse now?" He took Ohana's hand in his, grasping it with clear concern as his eyes were filled with worry for her. It took a bit of time, but Ohana had slowly turned her head to gaze into Koichi's worry-filled eyes, and while he wasn't sure about it, he was certain he could see a small smile appear on her lips.
"Ko-chan... You've always been...a strange person, haven't you? Eheheh..."
"What? Ohana, you're not making any sense." Turning, Koichi looked to Namiko, "Namiko, can you go get the school nurse? I honestly don't think Ohana's doing well, soー"
The rest of his words seemed to be drowned out in the droning, thumping sound that echoed in her head. It was so loud, and Ohana could hardly hear anything else but her own thoughts. Her eyes registered Namiko leaving the room as the boy in front of her turned back to lock eyes with her, his grasp on her hand tightening a bit out of concern. The few other students in the classroom had turned at the commotion, but Ohana could hardly focus on them. "Always...the strange...unique...kind of person. The way you eat the corn in the canned corn soup...eheheh..."
Blinking, Koichi's worry for her condition grew because she was spouting nonsense now. "Ohana, don't worry, the school nurse is coming, and we'll be sure to get you better, and..." He moved close to her again, moving her bangs so their foreheads touched again. She was burning up even more than before, her temperature far higher than it should have been.
Everything seemed like a dream now as he came close to her face again, and she felt something cool press against her burning forehead. Through half-lidded eyes, Ohana looked over his well defined face. This time her strained breath never stopped as her face was turned up slightly to get a better look at him, their breaths mingled between the two. "Ko-chan..." She mumbled softly, making his eyes open right in front of hers as his forehead was still pressed against his. "You're always...so nice, Ko-chan..." She let out every word as if she was exhaling, trying to catch her breath all at the same time. She felt almost delusional as everything surrounding them seemed to just melt into each other. "Y-You know, Ko-chan..." She started softly, her glimmering, brown eyes suddenly pooling with tears all of a sudden. Ohana could see his eyes widen in surprise, but she used all of her strength to raise a hand to his cheek, motioning for him to not move away as her voice could not get any louder. "You know...I've been keeping you waiting for so long...a-and I know...I know I'm a horrible person because of it...but...I...I have to know..." Tears streaked her face as the large hand squeezed her smaller one even tighter.
"Are all...the feelings you had for me...are they gone? Do you not...do you not love me anymore?"
Ohana's voice continued to break up with her soft sobbing. Her tears trickled down her chin as she couldn't make out his face anymore because of how blurred her vision had become. There was hardly time for her to even try and listen for a response. Moments after her desperation, she closed her eyes as she fell forward into him. She felt herself being wrapped in someone's arms so that she wouldn't hit the floor. Her consciousness was shutting down as she felt herself being lifted by someone. Despite her body's burning heat, she could still feel the warmth that radiated from the one that picked her up. The scent was a familiar and comforting one, and it brought a small smile to her tear-streaked face as she curled up against the chest of her carrier before her consciousness was fully lost.
.::|| A quick note about Itadakimasu and Gochisousama Deshita. I find it a little weird to translate it into English, so I left it in their Japanese romaji form. I'm sure most viewers of Anime already know the basic meaning behind these expressions, so it's probably fine.
.::|| Now, about this chapter. I was going toward a different ending to this chapter at the beginning, but as I was sipping away at milk tea, I found myself veering into this particular ending to set up for the next chapter. I feel like some parts are rushed, so I hope that it isn't too difficult to read along with the flow of the text. I hope any viewers of this story enjoy it, and I'd appreciate it if you leave a review with your thoughts or any constructive criticisms.