A dream… Life is a dream.
Not literally. Probably not, anyway. I've learned by now not to make assumptions about reality, because they'll probably come back and bite me. It's just that it doesn't make as much sense as it likes to pretend it does, and there isn't just one way it can go. This world has so many variations, they start to blur together. Worlds where his condition gets worse, so he gets sick and dies. Worlds where we never meet. Worlds where we do, but it never leads to anything. Worlds where I'm the one who gets sick and dies. Lots of worlds where I'm a guy. I can never get used to those.
The thing that keeps me going? I screwed up once. I'm not going to do it again. It's the same for a friend of mine, too…
It was 1999, in a town I hadn't been to in a very long time.
Moving to a new town, one expects a few things. The moving boxes arriving at the right destination, for example. Her uncle had already called and said they'd arrived, so that was taken care of. Getting off at the right train station was another example, and she checked that ten times. Indeed, here she was, at the right train station. It had the right number and the town's name and that big clock on a lamppost that she was supposed to look for and everything. Well, everything but the thing she'd been most assured of, and that was somebody coming to pick her up.
The train station was nearly empty by now and the clouds above only got thicker and seemed to yield more snow. She shivered and hugged herself tightly, clutching the sides of her baggy green coat. With a groan, she looked up at the clock again. Two hours? Come on, Yuki. I blame you if I get frostbite.
"There's snow on you."
She jumped in her seat on the bench. The voice belonged to a guy in a long tan coat, probably a little younger than her if that, with a red bandana tied around his head like a headband with the ends tucked under the knot. He was looking at her curiously, sitting beside her on the bench. She shuffled away a couple of centimeters.
"There is," he repeated.
She sighed. "Obviously, there's snow on me. It's snowing."
He scratched his head without taking his hand out of his snowflake-caked mitten. "But it's piled up on your head and all over you."
She grimaced and tried to brush most of it off the top of her head, succeeding in part but mostly just spreading snowflakes through her long hair. She shivered again, brushing the snow off her coat and legs, and then rubbed her now red and wet hands.
"That would be because I've been here for the past two hours," she said. She carefully eyed him, making note of his confused look. I've seen enough TV dramas to know where this is going. High school girl in a strange town with no one she knows anywhere near the train station talks to some weird guy and ends up dead in a ditch. Then the rest of the show is dedicated to the cops figuring out just how mutilated her body ended up. In fact, I'm probably out of my mind for acknowledging this guy.
"I lost something," he said. "Have you seen it?"
"No," she sighed. "I just said I'd been sitting on this bench for three hours, and before that I was on the train to come here. Where would I have seen whatever you lost?"
"Uguu…" His shoulders slumped. "But you don't even know what it is."
"Well," she said, "if you'd tell me, maybe I'd know."
"…But I can't remember what it is either."
She groaned. "Seriously?"
"You can't remember."
"Not at all."
"But you know you lost it."
"And it's really important that I find it!"
She had to resist the urge to facepalm. "Maybe you should think about that first."
He frowned. "Uguu…"
Correction: This guy's as much of a serial killer as a beached goldfish. She sighed and leaned back on the bench, immediately sitting back up again and brushing off the snow that was now caked onto her back. "I hate the snow."
"My lost item…"
She looked over at the strange boy again. "Look, you won't find it like this. Rest for now and check the Lost & Found later." Another glance at the clock. "And go eat, if you haven't. It's three o'clock."
"Okay." He pouted like a little kid and got up from the bench. "If you find it, tell me, okay?"
"Didn't I just say…" She shook her head and sighed, getting up too. "Okay, sure. If I ever see you again, I'll tell you if I found it."
Satisfied, he ran off. She shook her head and started to try and pick the clumping snowflakes out of her hair again.
"You're covered in snow."
"Again? I know that-" She turned around and stared for a moment. In front of her now was a taller boy with straight blue hair down to just above his shoulders. He tilted his head at her before nodding firmly.
"It is you, isn't it?"
"It depends." She raised an eyebrow. "What's my name?"
"Yuuko," he said.
She nodded. "That's me. Aizawa Yuuko. What took you?"
"Has it been that long?" He blinked slowly. "What time is it?"
Again? "Three o'clock. It's a wonder I'm not buried up to my neck in snow."
"Ah! Sorry." He gave a nervous smile. "Are you cold?"
"What do you think?"
"I'm sorry for that, too. It isn't far to the house, though, just a bus ride and a couple of blocks, so you could have…" He trailed off.
Yuuko shivered. "Do you think I know the way around here? I haven't been here in seven years."
Pause. "Oh… right. I guess the town has changed."
"Even if it had stayed the same, I probably wouldn't remember it."
He looked off. "You remember me, right?"
She hesitated and studied his soft hair with the peaks that looked like an animal's ears, his light blue eyes, his slow and sleepy voice. The words started to fill her mind, not unlike, she thought, the snow covering the ground.
"Of course I know who you are. You're my cousin. Minase Yuki. I waited in the snow for you for two hours. I wouldn't brave frostbite for just anyone."
Was that a sigh of relief? It was practically undetectable either way. Yuki looked back at her.
"Yes, you would," he said. "But do you remember me?"
Yuuko hugged herself for warmth. "To tell you the truth, I don't remember much of anything that happened here. I mean, I was just nine."
Yuki paused. "…That's okay. It just means that I'll have to help you remember!" He gestured to the path. "Come on, let's go home before we get too cold."
Before you get too cold, you mean, Yuuko thought. I've been too cold since I stepped out here. Another five minutes and I'd probably die of exposure. She looked at him, though, and decided against commenting.
"Heh. All right. Let's go, Yuki."
At the edge of town, an orange fox cautiously nosed at the lunch box sitting in front of it. About a meter back, two older boys stood watching it, one with soft, short dust-coloured hair and a warm winter coat on, the other with dark hair in a small ponytail with a stoic expression. The fox gleefully leapt at the lunch box to devour its contents.
"Ahaha, it's eating, Mahiro!" The first boy smiled, gesturing to the second, who watched it intently. "It looks happy, don't you think?"
"…Yes." Mahiro nodded slowly. "It's a wild animal, but it seems to be used to humans."
"You're always so kind, Mahiro," the other one continued, resting a hand on his shoulder. "You feed the animals when they come by, and you gave that girl at the bus stop your coat because it was cold, too."
Mahiro watched the fox eat with a little smile. "You're the one who's kind, Satoru."
"Ahaha..." Satoru rubbed the back of his head.
The two of them turned to see the same boy with the red bandana. He fiddled with the strap of his backpack and looked up at them from where he stood, about a head shorter.
"Have either of you seen a..." He thought hard and shook his head in frustration. "Have you seen anything strange that looked lost? I lost something and I can't find it."
"Satoru is sorry, but he hasn't seen anything out of the ordinary," Satoru said. "Have you, Mahiro?"
Mahiro studied the shorter boy before answering. "...No."
"Uguu." He bowed. "Thank you anyway! I'm going to look somewhere else!" He ran off, the wing patches sewn onto his backpack becoming clearer as the snow shook off.
When the two of them looked back, the fox was already running away from the lunch box.
"Welcome back! I'm glad you two are all right. I was starting to worry."
Yuuko had no idea what to expect of Minase Akio. He was her mother's younger brother, she knew that much, and she'd come to visit a lot as a kid and stayed at his house for a month or two seven years back. At least, her family kept reminding her of that, and she knew it must have happened. Unfortunately, that didn't mean she knew a thing about the smiling man at the gate of the house Yuki had enthusiastically led her to.
"It's my fault, Dad," Yuki said. "I got caught up with track team things at the school, and then I was talking to Kaoru, and I completely lost track of the time."
Akio smiled. "Well, as long as you're both all right. Come in and warm up. You must be Yuuko, right? I haven't seen you in a long time."
"Yeah, it's been a while," Yuuko said, pulling her feet out of her boots at the door. "Nice to meet you again, Akio-san. I hope you're doing okay."
"Very well," he said with a smile. "Have you eaten lunch?"
She sighed. "Not exactly. By which I mean, no, just a canned coffee from the vending machine after the first fifteen minutes outside."
"Oh!" Akio gestured towards the kitchen. "Don't worry, lunch is just about ready. You always liked my grilled fish, right?"
"Dad's cooking is really good. You'll love it," Yuki offered with a smile.
"I'll trust you on that. To be honest, I don't remember a lot." Yuuko shrugged her shoulders at Akio. "Don't worry, Akio-san. Yuki's already volunteered himself to help me out with that." Yuki turned bright red, and Yuuko bit back a burst of laughter.
"Oh? I'm glad it's going well for you already." Akio stepped back. He looked a lot like Yuki, mused Yuuko. His hair was shorter, aside from those same long bits in the front that peaked at the top like animal ears, but it was the same colour and he had the same helpful smile. "Your things are in the first guest room upstairs. It's down the hall from Yuki's room. You can show her, right, Yuki?"
"Right!" Yuki already had his shoes off and slippers on, and he gestured for Yuuko to follow him up the stairs. "Thanks a lot, Dad! We'll be down right away for lunch!"
"Thank you, Akio-san," Yuuko echoed. She bowed and followed Yuki up the stairs.
Yuki bounded up, checking every few steps for Yuuko behind him. "I can't wait to show you around town! There are so many great things we can do. We can go up to Monomi Hill, look around the shopping district, I can show you the school..."
"Can I defrost first?" Yuuko sighed as they got up the stairs. "We can do all that stuff tomorrow."
"Oh..." Yuki lightly hit himself on the head. "Of course! Anyway, here's my room." He pointed to a door marked by a large sign, shaped by a frog, reading YUKI'S ROOM in block letters. "And your room is down the hall, where all the boxes are." Yuuko looked over to see the next door over ajar, propped open with moving boxes with the cutesy moving company logo on them.
"I figured. Thanks," she said. "I'm just going in there to look around, okay? Then I'll be down for lunch. You can go back down without me."
"Okay..." Yuki nodded. "I really hope you like it here, Yuuko!"
"I hope so too," she said. "After all, I'll be here through the rest of high school. Thanks." Yuuko walked past with a smile and stepped through the door. She navigated through the scattered towers of moving boxes to the bed and flopped over on it. Sigh.
"So this is the place, huh..."
She looked to the side. Beside her on the bed was a large stuffed poly envelope. She pushed herself up to sit and pulled the bag onto her lap. Addressed to me from… the school, I guess. Must be the uniform.She recalled the blue suit jacket and grey plaid pants Yuki had on when he finally picked her up. Whatever was in here probably matched that. With a shrug, Yuuko tore open the flap of the envelope and pulled out the folded-up clothing.
She unrolled the red minidress and accompanying folded-up cape. What followed were at least a few minutes of staring, or at least enough to only be shaken out of her disbelief by Akio calling her for lunch.
"…I'm going to freeze to death."
The next day, sure enough, Yuki remembered to take her out as soon as he got back from practice and changed into normal clothes. Akio had asked them to get groceries, but Yuki was sure he'd be able to fit that in there, too. They were currently walking down the street, Yuki excitedly pointing things out.
"See, there's another box of sand," he said. "Don't mix those up with garbage cans or people will yell at you! These are for getting rid of the ice on the sidewalk after shovelling."
"I guess it's a big problem here," Yuuko said. "Thanks for bailing me out of more snow shovelling in front of the house, speaking of. You couldn't have come back at a better time. I've never seen that much snow in my life."
"Yes, you have," Yuki said. "You used to come here all the time."
"Okay, correction: that I can remember." Yuuko sighed. "This is going to get to be a problem."
Yuki pumped his fists a little. "Don't worry, I promised I would help you remember! 'Fight!' Right?"
"I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be fighting." She shook her head. "Thanks, though. Is there a vending machine around here?"
"Oh!" Yuki pointed and they walked more briskly down the road to a selection of them. "Here. What did you want?"
"Canned coffee, if they have it," Yuuko said, already reaching into her simple purse. She looked up, and Yuki was already putting the coins into the machine and pressing the order buttons. "Wait, what?"
"It's my treat," he smiled, reaching in for the hot can with his gloved hand and handing it to her. She took it in her own icy cold hands, feeling it warm her fingertips that were pink from the cold. He put back his wallet and put on the other mitten again. "Celebrating you coming back to town!"
"Thanks a lot, Yuki," she said, and popped open the can. "I mean it. Although is a reunion after seven years really worth just a can of coffee?"
"I guess not…" His shoulders slumped. "It's really been that long, hasn't it?"
"Don't worry about it, Yuki." Yuuko laughed nervously and took a sip from the can. "I really do appreciate it. Besides, you went out of your way to come show me around even when you just got home from track."
He brightened up again. "I want to help you get familiar with this place as soon as possible! You're going to be here from now on, after all. It's good to—"
"Yuki! Hey, Yuki!"
The two of them turned to see two people their age running toward them. One was a wavy-haired boy in a tan jacket with a furry collar carrying a few bags in one hand and waving with the other as he stopped in front of them. Following him was a girl with gold eyes and gold hair in twintails with a piece of hair sticking up at the top of her head, carrying about twice as many bags.
"I knew it was you, Yuki." The new boy gave a wide smile. "So you're out shopping, too?"
"Are these two friends of yours?" Yuuko asked.
"Kaoru here is one of my best friends," Yuki said. "He and Kitagawa are in our class, so you're going to be seeing a lot of them!"
"Aha, so you'reKaoru." Yuuko rubbed her chin like she was pretending to be a detective. "When Yuki mentioned you yesterday, I thought he blew me off for his girlfriend."
"I didn't blow her off!" Yuki interjected.
Kaoru shook his head. "You're Aizawa Yuuko-san, Yuki's cousin, aren't you? I've heard a lot about you. My name is Misaka Kaoru. Like Yuki said, we're going to be classmates."
The girl with him gave the thumbs up whilst carrying a handful of grocery bags. "And I'm Kitagawa Junri! I'm on the student council, so if you ever need anything, ask me! Kaoru and I went out shopping, and—"
"You're saying it like we're out on a date," Kaoru snarked. "We just ran into each other a minute ago."
Junri's face fell. "It's more than that! I offered to carry your stuff and everything…"
Yuuko raised her eyebrow. "Don't be so hard on her, Misaka. Speaking as the complete stranger you're so worried will get the wrong impression, all I'm seeing from Kitagawa is less 'girlfriend' and more 'servant'."
Junri flapped her arms, the contents of the bags shifting and clanking around. "I'm closer to a girlfriend than a servant, thank you very much!"
"Don't worry, you can just call me Kaoru. Calling me 'Misaka' just sounds weird. I'll call you 'Yuuko' if it feels more equal that way." Kaoru shot a look at his companion. "Watch it! You're going to make the cans either explode or go flat."
Junri's arms dropped to their sides, and Kaoru reached into one of the grocery bags she was holding and pulled out two pop cans. He offered them up to Yuki and Yuuko. "Here, to celebrate you moving in."
Junri sulked. "Those were for us…"
"No thanks, Kaoru," Yuuko said. "I've already got my can of coffee." Is this common?, she thought. At this rate, I'm surprised that weird guy at the station didn't get me a can of whatever too.
"Well, that's fine." He put one back and gave the other to Yuki. "I guess I'll see you tomorrow at school, okay?"
"All right!" Yuki smiled and waved. "See you too, Kaoru!"
Junri leaned in closer to Yuuko. "You'd better stay away from Kaoru, okay? Don't say I'm not watching you!"
"Well, you're definitely not watching him." Yuuko indicated Kaoru walking away. He was already halfway down the block.
"Ah!" She stood up straight, pigtails bouncing, and ran off down the street with the shopping bags. "Kaoru! Kaoru, wait up! What about your groceries?"
Yuuko shook her head as she watched her run off. "Yuki, you have interesting friends. Speaking of groceries, weren't we supposed to go get them?"
Yuki's eyes widened. "Oh, right! We're right by the store. Let's go. It's Cosmos Grocery, just down the street—"
Down the street, in an alley, a figure could barely be seen nodding and walking off in the other direction.
"Out of the way!"
What happened next was a blur to Yuuko. When she thought back on it later, she was able to piece it together mostly based on logic the vague memories didn't provide. Someone or something had bowled the two of them over, and the next thing Yuuko knew, she, Yuki, and the mystery assailant were a mess of arms and legs in the middle of the sidewalk.
"Ngh—What was that for?" Yuuko untangled herself and got up to her feet. Her hair was a mess and her coffee was all over the ground. She picked up the can and regretfully tossed it into the recycling bin. "Yuki, are you okay?"
Yuki's can wasn't open, but it was dented and lying beside him. He twitched and pulled himself up to a seating position before picking it up. "I am. Is he, though?"
Yuuko looked over to the person who'd knocked them over. The smaller boy with the red bandana was picking himself and the full paper bag he was holding up off the ground and dusting off his face.
"Uguu… I told you to move."
Yuuko stepped back and pointed at him. "You're from yesterday! The 'uguu' guy!"
"You two met yesterday?" Yuki stood up. "When was this?"
"I'm not the 'uguu' guy, I have a name…" He stopped, his eyes wide open. "Come on! Quickly!" Before either of them could say anything, he took hold of the paper bag with his mouth so he could grab each of them by the wrists and start running, dragging them both behind him. At the faint sound of someone yelling "stop", he sped up and dragged the two of them down the next street with no sign of stopping.
"Hold it!" Yuuko dug her heels in, not giving in even when she stumbled, and yanked their abductor to a stop. She shook her wrist free and glared when he took the bag out of his mouth. "What do you think you're doing?"
"I'm being chased!" He let go of Yuki as well and turned around to face them. "Since you saw me, he'd ask questions!"
"So you drag us into it?" Yuuko groaned. "Why don't you just abduct the whole town? You're not exactly inconspicuous."
"The reason you're running away…" Yuki thought for a moment. "Does it have to do with the paper bag?"
The stranger gulped.
"That's a yes." Yuuko twitched again. "What's in the bag, anyway? Some kind of illegal contraband?"
"I don't even know what that is! It's just taiyaki!" He turned red and nervously opened the bag. The two of them peered in; it was indeed just taiyaki, and fresh, too.
Yuki smiled curiously. "Are you playing a game?"
"I have no idea why this would be a game," Yuuko sighed. "Come on, explain. You owe it to us, anyway."
"It's a long story—"
"Just do it."
Yuki thought. "When you were running away with us, we heard somebody say 'stop'… You didn't steal that, did you?"
The stranger shuddered. "I didn't mean to! He just scared me, and I didn't have my wallet, and then I ran away, and I couldn't stop or else I'd get caught!"
"I'm leaving." Yuuko turned around and started to march away. "Come on, Yuki."
"Uguu!" The smaller boy ran after. "Why are you so mad? I didn't even mean to do it!"
"You should forgive him this one time, Yuuko," Yuki said. "He didn't mean to, and besides, running into an adventure like this is kind of fun!"
The other boy paused. "Yuuko…?"
She shook her head with a sigh. This was becoming a habit. "You're a guy. Of course getting kidnapped by a total stranger who's just confessed to a felony sounds like fun to you. Am I the only one who thinks we're going to get murdered?"
"Uguu…" The boy with the taiyaki sulked.
Yuki blinked. "Is stealing taiyaki a felony, or just a crime?"
Yuuko turned back around to them. "Never mind." She grabbed each of them by the wrist and tugged. "We're going back to that taiyaki stand and I'll pay for the food. Then we get groceries. And you, no more kidnapping… whatever your name is."
"It's Ayumu!" He waved his free arm. "Tsukimiya Ayumu!"
"Tsukimiya Ayumu, then," Yuuko repeated. It barely registered, but her expression softened. "Don't do that again. You scared us. Well, at least you scared me. I can't speak for Yuki. Just make sure you have your wallet next time. Come on, let's go."
As she led the boys to the taiyaki stand (though it was really Ayumu doing the leading, as she pried the directions out of him), Yuuko looked at the lowering sun.
Well, this has been eventful. Hopefully the rest of my time here isn't like this.
"It sounds like you had a lot of fun today," Akio laughed, setting out the full rice cooker.
"Fun's one word for it…" Yuuko thought back on the ordeal. "But yeah, it was kind of fun. Some of it. Not the kidnapping part."
"Ayumu-san was nice, though," Yuki said. "So it was all fine!"
"Either way, I hope that doesn't happen again," Yuuko groaned. "I'm okay with meeting the guy again, just not the accessory-to-theft part or anything involving fearing for my life."
"Don't worry." Yuki offered her the serving scoop. "This town is safe."
"Hopefully." She took it gratefully. "School's starting for the new term tomorrow, so we'll be busy with that. I don't even know where my alarm clock is in all those boxes."
"I can help with that!" Yuki's face lit up. "You can borrow one from me. Don't worry, I have lots. There are some cute ones, and some that sing, and some that talk, and some that you need to throw in order to turn off…"
"I'm okay with just a normal one, thanks."
If this was how life would be from now on, maybe it really wasn't all that bad.
She had a dream that night. She was a child, and so was Yuki, and they were wandering in the shopping district – or maybe they had a purpose? Going out for groceries, it looked like. She got distracted waiting outside the store for Yuki after he went in. There was another child. He was crying.
"What's your name?"
"You only have the one name?" Yuuko rested her hands on her hips. "So I guess you're an alien."
The boy blinked up at her. "What do you mean?"
"Aliens on TV always only have one name." She grinned. "If you're here to conquer Earth, could you beam up the school building with your spaceship so we don't have to go to class?"
He sniffed and rubbed his eyes. "Uguu… I'm not an alien."
"Not an alien, huh?" Yuuko peered closer at the other child's reddening eyes. "How come you're crying?"
He hiccupped back a sob. She frowned and looked around. "C'mon, a distraction…" All she could see was a slowly growing crowd of adults watching and whispering, encircling them so she couldn't even catch sight of the grocery store's doors.
"I can't even hear myself think," Yuuko said under her breath. She reached out and took the crying boy;s wrist, tugging gently for him to get up. "C'mon, Ayumu-alien!"
He got to his feet. "Uguu, I'm not an alien."
She nodded and started to run through the sea of grownups, pulling him behind. "All right then, your name must be Ayumu Ayumu!"
"Uguu!" He protested, dragged along. "I'm not Ayumu Ayumu either!"
"Heh." Yuuko smiled. "Come on, let's find someplace to talk!"
They ran off, Yuki and the groceries now a thought that sat firmly on the backburner.
I'm dreaming, too. A different dream. A dream about life. A dream that really happened.
About strangers and people who only forgot each other.
About miracles that could happen, as long as one believed that miracles existed.
About a warm spring that wouldn't end and a cold winter that only got colder.
About demons that weren't really demons and angels that were never really angels.
About memories that were missing, but were really always there, hiding.
About a promise, and another, and another, all converging, trying to save—
And then the dream started again.
(Author's Note: Welcome to Canon in G, a mass genderswap of the Seasonverse (Kanon, AIR, and CLANNAD) centered around a retelling of Kanon. This can be seen as a new variation just like the canon variations, and will take elements of every version of Kanon, from the VN to the 2006 and 2002 anime to the manga, the light novels, Kanon Another Story: Wonder Three, Kanon & AIR Sky, and even collectible card games. There will also, of course, be things you haven't seen before. After all, every version of Kanon has its surprises.)