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Edited by RedPandaChick
The Tanabata—Star Festival—began in the streets of Tokyo. We all planned to go together. Since Father hadn't returned yet, it was the perfect opportunity to experience it for the first time.
In the evening, we met at a Yukata shop near the festival for each of us to rent one, but they were already out of stock. We visited several other shops with no luck. We had to conform with our current outfits.
The sun began to hide on the horizon behind the buildings. More and more people walked on the streets, it was getting quite crowded. We were a big group. Suzuka, Hashimoto-san, and Rem-san seemed happy chatting. Tarō-san tried to maintain a conversation with Kawahara-san, but her responses were short and straight to the point. And Hisaki and Sae-san looked uncomfortable every time they talked to each other. Still, we all talked to each other from time to time.
I hadn't realized how much things had changed in a matter of three months. Just in the first week after transferring into Kasen, I felt free from all that burden. Even though there were rumors about me, it was nothing compared to having to be perfect every second. Apart from the rumors—which seemed to be as common as in Zei—people minded their own business.
In the first week, I had learned more useful things than what I learned in Zei. The next week, I ran late for the first time in my life because I played games until very late. I bumped into Suzuka and we touched by accident. But who would've ever expected that we were going to swap bodies? It never stopped sounding like fantasy.
We learned a lot about each other. Too much. Eventually, we fell in love. Did the swapping have to do with it? Probably. But we didn't care anymore. It was the best thing that could ever happen in my life. I met people I could call friends.
Bad things happened, too. But I learned from them. We all did. And we supported each other through them.
Nevertheless, I hadn't achieved my main goal after transferring; finding my passion. I liked games and manga, but I wasn't passionate about them. I tried programming and writing with no luck. The same happened with cooking and music. I had a lot of things left to try, but I had the feeling that finding what I wanted to devote my life to was a matter of luck.
I observed our surroundings as we walked through the festival. Colorful ribbon strips hung above us from poles and wires, along with decorations of all kinds. Most stalls were open, whilst others had only begun preparing. They all had one thing in common; delicious-looking food.
"Araki-kun," Hashimoto-san called.
"You look out of it."
"I'm just overwhelmed. This is the first time I've come to a festival."
"Aww! Anyway. Suzuka wants to walk alone with you."
"Eh?" Suzuka uttered. "I didn't say—"
Rem-san covered Suzuka's mouth with her hand and continued, "She's too shy to ask."
It obviously wasn't Suzuka's idea, but it was a good one.
"Sure," I replied.
"Perfect!" Hashimoto-san said. "Don't worry about us, I promise we won't spy on you. We'll be having just as much fun."
They walked away and, just like that, Suzuka and I were alone.
"Hashimoto-san and Rem-san are quite mischievous," I said.
Suzuka chuckled. "What can you do? I must admit their idea wasn't bad."
"I thought the same."
After smiling at each other, we began walking. We talked about what we were seeing. I asked many things about the festival and she answered with confidence, always smiling.
Then we stayed silent for a while. I realized it was the typical moment in romance mangas where the protagonists hold hands. But that was out of the question.
"Do you like teaching?"
She seemed confused. "I do. Why do you ask?"
"Every time I ask you something, you seem very happy to explain it."
"Is it that obvious?" she giggled.
"Would you say that you're passionate about it?"
"Yes, I am," she answered without hesitation.
"How did you find out?"
She stayed silent for a second. "Sports were my life. I loved them and I was good at them. I was destroyed when I was told that I wouldn't be able to even run anymore after spraining my ankle. As you saw before, I didn't care much about it and I still run even though I shouldn't," she giggled. "I had to spend some weeks at home, not being able to do much. Yu-tan was only one year old, so I played with her a lot. I started teaching her essential things for toddlers. As basic as they were, I had a lot of fun doing it. Months passed and it became more obvious that I was passionate about teaching."
"That's quite the story," I said. "What about music?"
"I like it, but not enough to dedicate my life to it."
"You could do both at the same time."
"Yeah, I have thought about it," she replied. "What about you? You were looking for what you're passionate about, right?"
I nodded. "No luck so far. Honestly, I haven't tried that hard. Maybe I should."
Suddenly, we arrived at a crowded path. People hung colored paper strips on bamboo trees.
"What are they doing?" I asked.
"They are hanging their wishes for them to come true."
"Do they work?"
Suzuka giggled. "Do you want to try it?"
Hesitant, I replied, "Okay."
We queued up on the line to grab a strip. Meanwhile, Suzuka explained the meaning behind them.
They were called Tanzaku. People would choose a color based on what they wanted to wish. Red for a wish related to parents and ancestors. Blue for self-betterment. Yellow for friendship. White for personal resolutions. And purple for academics.
Then they would hang them on a bamboo tree. Since they grew straight up towards the sky, it meant that they carried your wish to the sky.
After a few minutes, we arrived at a table with hundreds of Tanzaku. We had already decided which one to grab whilst we queued; I chose blue and Suzuka chose red. I wrote my wish and waited for Suzuka to write hers.
Most of the bamboo trees were full, so we searched for one that had space. We hung our Tanzaku.
"What did you write?" she asked.
"I want to improve myself to be able to find my passion and fix the problems with my family. And you?"
"I wished for my parents to get over their economical struggles."
Suddenly, Suzuka's phone rang with a notification. She took it out of her shorts' pocket and read something. Her face instantly showed preoccupation.
"What is it?"
"It's Hisa. She says that Hisaki received a call and walked away. They have been looking for him but haven't found him. He isn't replying to the messages either."
"Should we look for him?"
"Yes. Let's split. Send a message if you find him."
I nodded and we walked away.
It was near impossible to find anyone among that many people. Fortunately, my height was helpful. Hisaki was tall too, which should've made it easier. But it didn't.
I didn't know the streets at all, so I stayed at the festival. Then it occurred to me that, if something bad had happened, as I suspected, he would've wanted to be alone. I strayed from the crowded streets. Still, most of the benches were occupied.
I saw a small hill with many bushes and trees, perfect for hiding. I headed there. As I expected, there weren't many people, only a few couples and kids playing on the small playground.
Hisaki was sitting alone on a bench, staring at the city. I approached him.
He glanced at me. "It is. Are you the one that is going to comfort me? I doubt you're qualified for it."
"Indeed I'm not." I sat beside him. "Are you going to tell me?"
He took a deep, quivering breath. "The hospital called. My mom… she just passed away."
It was just as I had suspected.
He started crying. As much as he swept his tears, they wouldn't stop. I didn't know what to say. I felt really bad for him.
"I knew her condition was bad, but it has been like that for months," he continued. "I wanted to stay with her today, but you invited me. I had told her about all of you before, so she wondered if I was coming with you to the festival. She wanted me to come, so I accepted. She was very happy."
He took his phone out of his pocket. He opened the chat app and scrolled through the messages. None of them had the read mark.
"I took pictures of everyone and the festival. I sent them to her as soon as I took them, but it looks like she wasn't able to see them…"
I looked at the pictures as he scrolled up. Some were of the festival decorations, others with everyone, and even one with only Sae-san. Then a picture of a cat appeared. He instantly locked the screen.
"You saw nothing," he said, wiping his eyes with his arm. "Aren't you going to say anything?"
"I don't know what to say. As you said, I'm the least qualified to comfort you. Nothing like this has happened to me."
"But you just said that she was very happy about you coming with us. It means that she went away smiling."
He stood up. "I guess you're right."
"Are you leaving?"
"I need to go to the hospital. I just needed a moment to compose myself. By the way, how long have they been watching us?"
I turned around. Everyone was peeking out from behind trees and bushes nearby. Suzuka realized they were found, so she walked out and approached Hisaki. She hugged him.
"Suzuka? I haven't even told you what happened," Hisaki said.
"It doesn't matter."
Hashimoto-san and Rem-san followed behind and also hugged him.
"Who's the lucky bastard now?" I joked.
He couldn't help but burst into tears100Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9sjaZZ81l5ns220.127.116.11da2