This short story booklet comes as a bonus for purchasing Ken ga Kimi from Stellaworth. It contains six short stories in total, with each of them focusing on the main characters. All the short stories in this booklet take place in the second arc of the game, after the Tokaido journey and Kayo’s reunion with them in Edo. Special thanks to Mitsu for helping me to get Ken ga Kimi and this booklet! ❤
One morning, I go out of the restaurant to put up the shop curtains. When I look up, I see the clear blue sky above. The sun is shining brightly.
“We have a nice weather again today.”
A lot of customers come when the weather is sunny like today, so I have to work hard. After putting up the curtains, I’m about to go back inside when something catches my eyes. I stop and turn around to see a black wood pigeon flying in the sky.
When I hold out my arm, Hayato comes to perch on my wrist. The way he purrs as he tilts his head is just as cute as always.
“Good morning, Hayato. Let’s do our best today.”
Just before patting his head, I notice that Hayato is holding something in his beak.
“Hayato, what’s that?”
“Ah, wait! …he left.”
Hayato leaves a piece of paper on my hand before flying away. Is this a letter for me? It’s strange, but I decide to take a look.
“It seems like there’s something written on it, but…”
Since the paper is torn, I can’t tell who wrote the letter. Even after turning and flipping it around, it’s still difficult to read.
“Hey, give me a hand!”
Father calls before I can figure it out, so I put it into my sleeve and go back inside.
The next morning, I go out to put up the shop curtains as usual. Just as I water the ground, Hayato flies over again.
“Hayato. You came again today?”
I stop watering the ground and run up to Hayato. When I pat his head, Hayato purrs in pleasure.
“Huh? Hayato, you’re holding something again.”
Like yesterday, Hayato is holding a piece of paper in his beak. I tried taking a look, but I still can’t figure out who the sender is.
“Hey, Hayato. Where did you pick these pieces of paper from?”
Even if I try asking, Hayato only answers with a purr.
Since then, Hayato keeps coming everyday to deliver pieces of paper. Sometimes he puts it on my room window or even the kitchen, making his action even more mysterious. This continues for a while. Before I knew it, these pieces of paper from an unknown sender have piled up.
When I tell Tsuzuramaru about Hayato’s suspicious action, he looks surprised. After the wedding parade safely came to an end, I was reunited with Tsuzuramaru here in Edo. It’s truly a strange twist of fate. He came to our restaurant when he was looking for a job, and he’s been helping me ever since. Maybe that’s why I keep relying on him recently. Even though I know that it’s not good, I can’t help but give in to his generous kindness.
“Yes. Lately he’s been coming everyday just to deliver pieces of paper. It’s so strange.”
As we drink tea together during his break, I explain the situation to Tsuzuramaru.
“I’ve been wondering where he flies off to every morning, but I never thought he’d go to visit ojousan… If you don’t mind, may I see those pieces of paper?”
“Yes, of course.”
After taking the pieces of paper from my room, I quickly return to Tsuzuramaru. He hums in thought as I put them on the floor.
“It’s indeed difficult to tell who the sender is… They’re also torn here and there. Let’s try putting them together.”
I nod at Tsuzuramaru’s words, and we start working on it immediately. We gather the torn pieces, putting them together based on their shape.
Tsuzuramaru whispers as he observes the pieces of paper.
“This handwriting feels familiar…”
“Tsuzuramaru, can you take that piece over there? We might be able to read this soon.”
“Hm? Ah, yes. Here.”
With the last piece from Tsuzuramaru, everything is finally put back together. It seems like these pieces were originally a single letter. The moment he sees the letter, Tsuzumaru suddenly looks surprised.
“Eh? What’s wrong, Tsuzuramaru? Why are you panicking all of the sudden…”
“N-No. Um… Uh, are you thirsty? Let’s take a break first…”
“No, I’m fine. Let’s read this first.”
Tsuzuramaru’s sudden panic confuses me, but I’m curious about what the letter says. After holding him back in place, I read the letter out loud.
“Let’s see… ‘Today, I found a small flower blooming at the back of the house. Somehow it reminded me of ojousan. If you have the time, let’s go and see it together next time. From Tsuzuramaru.’ …huh?”
Upon reading the sender’s name, I look up at Tsuzuramaru. He awkwardly lowers his gaze.
“That’s… the letter I wrote… for ojousan.”
I couldn’t hide my confusion, because the letter is written by the person I least expected.
“Recently the restaurant is busy, so we didn’t get much chance to talk. At work, we always get interrupted by master and the customers…”
Tsuzuramaru awkwardly scratches his head.
“However, even when we can’t be alone, my… um, my gratitude towards ojousan never changed. It’s just that I find it embarrassing to say it in front of a third party… so from time to time, I wrote them down on paper. I ended up tearing them apart and throwing them away out of embarrassment, but Hayato must have picked them up.”
I never knew that Tsuzumaru was thinking of something like that. I can feel my face turning red.
“Ojousan? Um, your face is slightly red… Do you have a fever…?”
“Eh!? Ah, n-no. I didn’t expect the sender to be you, so I’m a little surprised…”
“Haha, me too. I never thought Hayato would deliver them without my knowing.”
“But… I’m happy. You also wrote a letter for me before, right? I was really happy back then.”
On his first day at our house, Tsuzuramaru sent Hayato to deliver a letter for me. I thought it was strange because we’re living in the same house, but the letter was certainly heartwarming. While it was short, his handwriting really conveyed his feelings.
“…thank you, Tsuzuramaru. Next time I’ll write a reply.”
“Ah, no. You don’t have to. It’s alright. Don’t force yourself.”
“I don’t. Everyone would feel happy to receive a letter, right?”
That’s why, let me write it. When I say that, Tsuzuramaru smiles and nods.
“Well then… I’ll be waiting. If you write it down, it’ll be easier to remember too.”
We exchange looks and smile. Just then we hear the sound of wings flapping gently, and Hayato comes in from an open window. He spreads his wings above our heads before finally landing on Tsuzuramaru’s shoulder.
“Hayato… I heard you delivered that letter to ojousan?”
“You… I can’t tell if you’re doing in on purpose or not. Well, I guess I have to thank you.”
“Hehe, me too. Thank you for delivering such a wonderful letter, Hayato.”
Hayato happily purrs when Tsuzuramaru pats his head. We both laugh upon seeing this.
“Ojousan. Hayato helped me this time, but let me say it myself. Normally I’d be too embarrassed to say it, but your smile is always supporting me… Thank you.”
A wind blows from the window, sending the pieces of paper to dance in the air—as if they’re showing his excitement for the reply. The pieces of paper flutter in the wind and gently fall into my hands.
“This is a really strange mochi.”
Kamuro, who came to the restaurant during his patrol, is looking at the mochi with great curiosity. Just like Kei, the older brother figure he loves, Kamuro often comes here for patrols. We often give him tea and meals to show our gratitude, but today I gave him a sample dessert.
“It’s called zunda-mochi, a traditional food in Sendai. A customer who came from Sendai told me about it, so I tried making one… If you don’t mind, can you please taste it?”
“Okay. If you don’t mind having me, I’ll eat it!”
Kamuro looks really interested as he puts the zunda-mochi into his mouth.
“Wow, this is delicious! It’s my first time tasting something like this, but I like it.”
“Really? I’m glad to hear that.”
As Kamuro eagerly talks about how delicious it is, I let out a relieved sigh. The thought of giving it to Kei comes into mind, but I quickly brush it away. I just made up with Kei not too long ago. After the wedding parade and our reunion in Edo, we keep getting into fights. When we finally made up, I feel happy more than anything. Maybe that’s why I keep thinking about Kei lately.
(No no, that won’t do. After all, this dessert is made from beans.)
Zunda-mochi uses jam made from young soybeans. As much as I want Kei to taste it, I can’t ask him to eat it because he gets hives whenever he eats beans. Before, he even had to stay in bed after eating bean dishes.
“This is really good. Can I have another one?”
“Of course, eat as much as you like. Ah, I’ll make more tea for you.”
The restaurant door slides open just before I go into the kitchen. Upon seeing the person who walks in, I can’t help but greet him cheerfully.
“Yo, excuse me.”
Kei must be in the middle of his patrol, but even so, the fact that he comes to visit makes me really happy. Maybe it’s because we fought that much before.
“Have a seat, I’ll go make some tea now.”
Kei joins Kamuro at his table, while reporting his patrol results at the same time. After checking up on them, I head into the kitchen to make tea for both of them. However, I return to the restaurant to find a shocking sight.
“Kei… What are you eating…?”
“Ah, this dessert is good.”
Kei turns around to see me and smiles in satisfaction. It can’t be… When I reluctantly look at his hands, I see him holding a plate… with a green dessert on it.
“Kei, did you eat that too? Zunda-mochi…?”
“Yeah. That’s… uh, because I heard you made it.”
Kei looks embarrassed for some reason, but this isn’t the time for that. Noticing that I’m turning pale and freezing in place, both Kamuro and Kei look confused.
“What’s wrong? You look pale.”
“That mochi… It contains jam made from young soybeans…”
Kei becomes as pale as I am. Kamuro, who didn’t know about the ingredients, is turning blue beside him. Unfortunately, he already swallowed the mochi and can’t spit it back out… Before we can figure anything out, hives are starting to appear on Kei’s arms.
“Kei! A-Are you alright?”
“Y-Yeah… It’s no big deal.”
Kei waves his hand, as if he’s trying to act strong. However, he had to stay in bed because he ate a plate of boiled beans before. Even if it’s just a little, doesn’t he find it hard just to stay awake? He looks in pain, and I put my hand on his back.
“A-Anyway, want to come inside and rest?”
“Nah… I’ll rest at home… I’m done with work for today.”
“But you look in pain. Don’t force yourself and come inside…”
“I don’t need that kind of help.”
Kei brushes my hand away and runs out of the restaurant, with Kamuro chasing after him in a panic. I can’t follow them after getting rejected like that, so I can only watch Kei’s back going further away.
That being said, I’m still worried about him. Not to mention I feel responsible as well. After thinking about it, I end up coming to Kei’s house. Of course I don’t want to disturb him while he’s resting, so I’ll only visit to deliver some food. Since Kei is living with his grandmother, I’ll just hand it to her and go home.
Or at least that’s what I was planning to do.
(…what should I do?)
For some reason, I’m now standing in front of Kei’s room. His grandmother asked me to check how he’s doing and dragged me inside. Since this is Kei, he’ll probably get angry and say it’s none of my business.
(Let’s just go back.)
Let’s just hand the food to Kei’s grandmother like the initial plan. However, just as I turn around from the door, a groan is heard from inside.
The voice sounds incredibly painful, and I spontaneously slide the door open.
“Kei, are you alright!?”
“Wha—! Y-You! Why are you here!?”
“Are you okay? You sound like you’re really in pain, so…!”
I run up to Kei’s bed, but then I freeze in place. Not because Kei is in a terrible condition, but because his kimono is loose and exposes a lot of skin.
“N-No, it’s because I couldn’t sleep well…”
“I’ll go outside!”
I apologize in a high-pitched voice as I try to leave the room.
Before I can escape, Kei grabs my arm.
“Turn over there and wait. I’ll fix my kimono real quick.”
Kei doesn’t let me argue. When I turn my back on him, Kei rushes to fix his kimono and sits up straight on his bed. Once he’s done, I turn to face him again.
“…so, why are you at my house?”
“I’m sorry… I’m worried about you.”
As I explain that I was only planning to deliver some food, Kei narrows his eyes in disbelief.
“I told you, I’m fine.”
“N-No, it’s not like I’m blaming you.”
“But if I was more careful, you wouldn’t have to rest in bed…”
“As I said… Argh, damn it!”
Since we just made up, I want to avoid anything that might cause him to dislike me. Upon thinking that this was caused by the dessert I made, I feel both worried and guilty. As I lower my head in sadness, Kei lets out a heavy sigh.
“I’m not angry. It’s just that you made that dessert yourself, and yet I couldn’t really show you that I find it delicious. So how to put this… I’m the one at fault.”
I blink upon hearing the surprising answer. Kei keeps looking to the side as he continues.
“It wasn’t a lie when I said it’s good. Don’t worry.”
He looks embarrassed as he mutters in a small voice. Upon feeling the kindness behind those blunt words, I can’t help but smile.
“What are you laughing about.”
“Nothing. I’m just relieved that you’re alright.”
“I told you, it’s no big deal.”
“But I was worried.”
That being said, he should be fine in this condition. It lifts a burden off my heart and puts me at ease.
“Well then, I’ll take my leave… Sorry for disturbing your sleep.”
Something stops me before I can stand up. Kei’s hand is holding onto my sleeve.
Surprised by the unexpected action, I look back at him. Kei glances away while still holding my sleeve, but his cheeks are turning red.
“…there’s still some time before the sun sets.”
“Since you already came here, talk to me. I was… bored of sleeping all the time.”
It seems like he’s saying that I can stay for a little longer. I naturally smile upon hearing his indirect words. Kei is stubborn, and it took his everything to say that. As something warm spreads in my heart, I answer him with a smile.
A cold night breeze is blowing. As I fill a sake bottle for the customers, I look up to the round moon from the window.
(Is father not home yet?)
Father went out for a gathering around thirty minutes ago, at six in the evening. Usually he would return around this time, but today there are no signs of him coming back. Thinking that father must be invited to a drinking party, I put the sake bottle and cups onto the tray. Just as I leave the kitchen, I hear the door sliding open.
When I carry the tray and quickly go back to the restaurant, I find Kuroba-san standing there.
Why is he here? After the wedding parade, I met Kuroba-san in Edo—just once. Back then he looked like he wants to avoid interacting with people, so I never thought he would come into town.
I’m not the only one who’s surprised, because Kuroba-san is looking back at me with a dazed expression.
“Why are you…”
“Um… this is our restaurant.”
Kuroba-san freezes in place for a while. It seems like he came into our restaurant without knowing that it’s my house. Once the realization sinks in, he bows his head and reaches for the door.
“I see… Goodbye.”
Since he’s about to leave just like that, I quickly grab Kuroba-san’s sleeve.
“I-If you don’t mind, please have a seat! Besides, I haven’t thanked you for the wedding parade.”
“Please, I won’t take much of your time.”
I know Kuroba-san doesn’t interact with people more than necessary. Now that he knows that I’m here, maybe it’s only obvious for him to leave. That makes me terribly sad, so I end up stopping him. However, before I can guide him to a table…
“He~y, where’s the sake~? …oops.”
A drunk customer staggers and tumbles towards me, pushing me from the back. I lose balance and fall over, but someone gently catches me in their arms. When I look up and realize that it’s Kuroba-san, I can feel heat spreading all over my body.
“It’s fine, are you alright?”
Despite my desperate apology, the cups on the tray have fallen over. The sake inside are soaking into Kuroba-san’s kimono.
“I-I’m sorry! What have I done…!”
“No… It’s alright.”
“I’ll get something for you to change into, please wait a moment!”
Kuroba-san is hesitant about borrowing a kimono, but I convince him since I would feel bad otherwise. In the end, he gives up and nods. I quickly take him inside, where I give him a towel and father’s kimono.
“I’m sorry that you have to wear father’s kimono, but…”
Kuroba-san shakes his head, as if he’s asking me not to feel guilty.
“I’m sorry for troubling you too.”
“No… Don’t mention it. Um, tell me when you’re done changing.”
Kuroba-san nods, so I close the door and go back to the restaurant. I feel embarrassed by my own action, but I try pulling myself together through work. After cleaning up the spilled sake, I serve a new one for the customers and take orders for those who just came in.
By the time I’ve returned to my usual pace, I heard a loud sound from the door. Not from the one leading inside, but from the entrance.
“Huh? Why, there’s only a few people here.”
A customer is standing at the entrance. He’s drunk and his face is all red, probably because he came here after drinking somewhere else.
“Hm? Ooh, so we have a nice lady here~?”
The customer walks up to me with unsteady steps and grabs my hand. His eyes glaze over me, as if he’s judging my value.
“Hey, miss. Let’s sit over there and pour sake for me.”
“Um… I’m terribly sorry, but…”
I softly refuse and try to escape, but he’s unexpectedly strong. He’s holding my hand in place.
“Come on, it’s no big deal. Here, sit over here.”
His breath reeks of alcohol, and I can’t stop myself from looking away.
“I’m… sorry. Please… let go of me…”
“Huh? Why, are you not gonna listen to me!?”
The customer suddenly raises his voice, angrily kicking the chair beside him. I cower in front of his rage. I can’t let him disturb the other customers, but I don’t know what father would do in this situation. Once again, he holds out his hand towards me. As I close my eyes, a clear voice echoes in the restaurant.
“…don’t disturb her.”
Upon turning around, I see Kuroba-san in father’s kimono.
“Huh? What’s your problem?”
“…this isn’t that kind of restaurant. If you’re not going to have a meal, then leave immediately.”
The sharp sound of metal is heard as Kuroba-san draws his sword. This is probably what people mean by a true spirit, as I can feel the temperature around us slightly lowering. In front of Kuroba-san’s sharp gaze, the customer turns pale and backs away.
“W-What, I didn’t know you have a bodyguard like this!”
Kuroba-san takes one step forward. Feeling intimidated, the customer raises his strained voice.
“…w-who wants to come to this kind of restaurant, anyway!?”
After violently letting go of my hand, the customer quickly runs away. As the other customers make sure that I’m alright, I can feel my body turning less and less tense.
“…I’m sorry for coming so late.”
When I start trembling, Kuroba-san comes to my side—expressing his concern. The kindness in his eyes is relieving my heart from the fear left by the customer’s threat.
“Are you alright?”
“Y-Yes… Because Kuroba-san came to help.”
“I see… Does that happen often?”
“It’s not that often, but since we’re serving alcohol… it does happen as a rare case.”
“…you have it tough too.”
Kuroba-san sighs and turns to look at me. I feel a little surprised by his concerned, gentle expression.
“Um… Thank you. For saving me.”
I bow my head deeply to express my gratitude, but Kuroba-san keeps shaking his head.
“I only threatened him a little. I didn’t do anything that deserves gratitude.”
“It’s not true. If Kuroba-san wasn’t there, I wouldn’t know what to do. So… this time, please let me thank you properly.”
After saying that, I try to guide Kuroba-san to a table. However, Kuroba-san shakes his head again.
“Your father is away, so I shouldn’t trouble you further.”
“If I stay here, the other customers will find it uncomfortable as well.”
When Kuroba-san walks outside, I follow him in the hope of sending him off at the very least.
“Please come and visit us again!”
I call out to him before he walks away. I was expecting him to leave just like that, but Kuroba-san turns around and our eyes meet.
“…I’ll come again to return the kimono I borrowed.”
His reply is quiet, but his gentle words reach my ears. His voice is surprisingly soft, sending warmth to light up in my heart.
“…yes, I’ll be waiting.”
Kuroba-san smiles at my answer, then he continues walking away. This time he doesn’t turn around, and I send him off until his back disappears into the darkness of the night.
Cheerful voices can be heard everywhere. The streets are more crowded than usual on my way home from the bathhouse, and the cool breeze feels really nice on my flushed skin after a bath.
(Just as expected from a festival, it’s so lively with a lot of people…)
Upon hearing the distant festival music, my heart starts dancing as well. This is the only thing that never changes ever since I was young. The Five Swords Festival is held every year, but this year is especially lively. Following the wave of people who are enjoying the event, I walk towards the shrine. The area is bustling even in the evening, as the mikoshi are being carried around onto the streets.
After walking among the excited crowd for a while, a familiar samurai comes from the other direction.
“I’m happy to see you here, princess. Are you here to see the festival?”
Enishi-san lifts one hand as he walks towards me, skilfully avoiding the crowd along the way.
“No, I was only taking a walk. How about you, Enishi-san? Here for the festival?”
“No, no. It’s really crowded, I won’t be able to take my time drinking.”
As Enishi-san casually walks towards the river bank, I also leave the crowd to follow him.
“That’s why I was thinking to have a drink at the restaurant over there. I heard their food and drinks are great, not to mention they also have a cute poster girl.”
Right after saying that, Enishi turns to look at me and grins. In the area he’s pointing at, there’s only one restaurant that has a poster girl—it’s ours. I laugh as I respond with a little joke.
“That restaurant is already closed for today.”
“Oh, really? That’s too bad.”
Enishi-san shrugs and laughs as he dramatically replies.
“But thanks to that, I get to see princess after a bath. How lucky.”
“After a bath… How do you know that…?”
Enishi-san is standing really close to me, so much that I can feel his breath. Upon seeing his mischievous smile from so close, my cheeks are turning even hotter. On the other hand, Enishi-san looks satisfied.
“You’re so cute, princess.”
Even though I know that he’s only teasing me, it’s really bad for my heart. Somehow, I manage to move away from him. Before I can complain to him, we suddenly hear loud laughter from the river. The sunset’s reflection is glittering on the water surface, and a lot of people are cheering on the river bank. Some of them are carrying tubes.
“Are those tubes…?”
“Ooh, fireworks? How stylish!”
Enishi-san happily exclaims. Handheld fireworks that contain gunpowder are very valuable. We rarely get to see them outside of the Five Swords Festival—which is just as the name says, a festival dedicated to the Five Heavenly Swords.
“Should we see it, princess? Since we’re here and all.”
“Yes, might as well.”
Since Enishi-san looks really happy, I can’t help but feel excited too. We sit next to each other on the river bank. Just then we hear the crowd cheering again, and I accidentally let out a shriek.
“I-I’m sorry. I was surprised.”
“It’s okay. Everyone would be surprised to hear the sound, but take a look. It’s beautiful.”
Following Enishi-san’s gaze, I see the fireworks being set off. The crowd cheers when they burst, inviting more people to watch the show. When the sun goes down, the fireworks look even brighter. They’re so captivating that Enishi-san and me lose all words. After they were lit, all the fireworks shine brightly and scatter into ashes.
“Fireworks are so beautiful, and yet they disappear quickly… Transient, aren’t they?”
I spontaneously put it into words. If only we can capture their bright light that lasts for an instant, then it would be very wonderful. I can’t help but think that way.
“Yeah, they’re transient. But even so…”
Words are flowing out of Enishi-san’s mouth.
“Even if they only shine for an instant… the fireworks must be happy.”
I turn to him upon hearing these words, but his face is hidden under the shadows. I can barely see him. Even though he’s right beside me, the gap between the darkness and the fireworks’ bright light gives a strange sensation.
With a loud sound, the fireworks light up our surroundings. Beside me, Enishi-san is looking up at the sky. Maybe it’s because of the crowd’s cheering, the festival music in the distance, and also the fireworks, but it feels like his expression is filled with sorrow. Suddenly I feel worried. Enishi-san probably notices this, as he turns to smile at me.
“Just kidding. Sorry for saying something weird.”
Enishi-san forces a smile and slaps his own cheeks.
“Let’s stop this gloomy talk. Stop!”
When he turns back to me, his expression has changed to the Enishi-san I know.
“By the way, princess, did you know? There are fireworks that are even more striking than those handheld ones.”
“Yeah. Seems like there’s a great fireworks maker in Ryougoku, and they can make super big ones. Right now we can only look down at the fireworks, but we’ll be able to see them in the sky.”
Enishi-san spreads both of his arms as he explains. Strangely enough, his long arms make him look like real fireworks.
“If fireworks are bursting in the night sky… it must be beautiful. Truly like flowers that blooms at night.”
“It must be wonderful to have fireworks in the sky.”
“…it’d be nice if I can see those fireworks with you, princess.”
Enishi-san is looking straight at me. Behind his back, I catch a glimpse of more fireworks being lit up.
“For things like this, the sooner is always the better. I’m making a reservation now… It’s okay, right?”
Enishi-san doesn’t take his eyes off me, but somehow it feels painful. Maybe because his sad expression from earlier still remains in my mind. As I search for words, a batch of fireworks set off at once. The impact gains a very loud cheering from the crowd, and my attention nearly shifts to their bright light. However, Enishi-san’s voice pulls me back.
“Princess, your answer?”
I see my reflection in his eyes. After glancing around a little, I look back at him. Behind us, the fireworks are casting their light on us.
“…yes, gladly. I’m looking forward to it.”
“Yeah, me too.”
Our voices are blending with the crowd’s cheering, but we made a promise. Quietly, but firm enough not be buried under the bustling noises.
“Well then, we can’t let you feel cold after a bath. Let’s go back.”
“I will escort you home, princess.”
Enishi-san stands up and smoothly holds out his hand for me. This reminds me of the wedding parade, and I chuckle as I take his hand… but then I notice. When the fireworks light up behind his back for an instant, I realize that he has a terribly sad expression.
“Enishi-san… We’ll see it again together, right? The fireworks.”
I ask just to make sure. Somehow, I just have to ask.
“…yeah, it’s a promise.”
Secretly, I strengthen my grip on Enishi-san’s hand. It’s as if I’m holding onto him, hoping to stop him from vanishing.
“…it’s gotten dark.”
As I look up at the sky, I hold onto the bundle in my hands. This morning I went out to run an errand for father, but it took up nearly the whole day. I rush through the streets while carrying the bundle, which I received as the return gift. The sky looks rather gloomy, so I have to hurry.
Just then, I notice a familiar pale blue haori heading towards me.
“Ah, there you are. What a relief.”
For a moment, I thought I might be seeing an illusion. Several days ago, Sakyou-san got wounded due to a certain accident. He’s been hiding in my house since then. He’s currently recovering, so I didn’t expect to see him walking through a quiet street like this.
Upon noticing me, Sakyou-san lifts his uninjured arm and smiles as he walks up to me.
“Even though it’s a straight path back to town, I was afraid that we might miss each other.”
“Sakyou-san!? Why are you here…!?”
“This morning you went out for an errand and didn’t return, so I got worried.”
“That’s… but your wound hasn’t healed.”
However, Sakyou-san doesn’t seem concerned. He keeps reassuring me that he’s alright.
“More importantly, at this rate it might rain before the sun sets. We should hurry.”
I feel that he’s changing the topic, but ominous black clouds are indeed approaching from the west. It looks like the sky really did turn dark because of rain clouds.
“Let’s go home before it rains.”
While there’s a lot of things I want to say, we really should go back first. Sakyou-san is wounded, and I can’t let him get drenched in the rain. After nodding at Sakyou-san’s words, I start walking beside him.
Just as expected, it starts raining soon after that. It’s unexpectedly heavy, making it a little hard to see.
“I-It’s pouring down at once…! I didn’t expect it to be this bad.”
“No. Looking at the way it pours down, this rain shouldn’t last for long. Your house is more than half a ri away. Rather than running back in this rain, it would be better to take a shelter somewhere.”
Sakyou-san pulls my hand as we run through the downpour, and soon we see a large sacred tree on the side of the street. A shimenawa is wrapped around it.
“Perfect. Let’s get a little rest. Come over here.”
Following Sakyou-san’s words, I stand underneath the sacred tree. Just how old is this tree? Its graceful branches and leaves are protecting me as the rain continues to fall mercilessly. I turn around to say that we can take a shelter here, but what I see surprises me. Instead of taking a shelter under the sacred tree, Sakyou-san is staying below a nearby cedar tree. The tree is too young to protect him from the rain, and his shoulders are getting wet.
“Sakyou-san, please come here!”
I shout out to him, but Sakyou-san only shows his usual gentle smile and shakes his head. This confuses me since I don’t understand what he’s trying to say, and he keeps smiling as he opens his mouth.
“That’s a fine sacred tree. It’s a place for a god to stay in.”
“Up until now, I’ve been staining my hands with blood for the sake of my objective. I’ve been walking on a suspicious path that you can never imagine. Do I still have the right to beg for god’s help?”
“Please…! Even if you say that, you are heavily wounded. If you get drenched in this cold rain…”
I’m afraid that his wound might become worse, but Sakyou-san only shakes his head again. Instinctively, I raise my voice.
“Sakyou-san, I don’t know what kind of things you’ve done in the past. However, I’m sure god will allow you to take a shelter at the very least!”
“…when you put it that way, I feel that I might take it for granted. I might believe that god will really allow me to do that.”
Sakyou-san looks sad as he quietly closes his eyes.
“But I can’t do that. I don’t have the right to.”
As the rain gets even heavier, the color of Sakyou-san’s pale blue haori is turning darker. Unable to hold back, I take off the cloth wrapping the bundle and run out of the sacred tree’s protection. Sakyou-san looks surprised to see this.
“Please stay under the sacred tree!”
“No! If Sakyou-san is that concerned about the sacred tree, then I will stay here with you!”
“Why are you saying something so foolish…”
“You’re the one saying something foolish, Sakyou-san!”
My angry voice echoes, so loudly that it doesn’t lose to the intense rainfall. Sakyou-san’s eyes are wide open as he looks back at me.
“I can’t happily take a shelter from the rain while ignoring you and your wound. If I do that, god will get angry at me. Here, maybe this won’t help much… but please use this.”
I put the cloth on Sakyou-san’s shoulders. Even if it gets drenched right away, I think it’s better than not having anything at all.
“…what a troublesome person.”
A sigh flows out of Sakyou-san’s mouth. He uses the back of his hand to pat my forehead, wiping the raindrops away.
“Then, at least… We should prevent you from catching a cold…”
Sakyou-san lifts his haori, which has gotten heavy after absorbing rainwater, and lightly pulls me under it. The way he does it is incredibly gentle, and I lift my head to look at him. He has a troubled smile on his face.
Still, the rain continues falling. Along with the rhythmic sound of rain, my heart is fluttering inside. Upon feeling Sakyou-san’s warmth and breath from so close, I can’t stop my heart from racing.
“Do you remember when we visited Mishima Taisha during the wedding parade?”
Sakyou-san’s voice blends with the sound of rain as he mutters. Due to the close distance between us, I can only nod. When I think that he might notice, my heart beats even faster. Sakyou-san hugs me under his haori as he continues.
“Even though it was my job, entering Mishima Taisha was… truly painful. Because I don’t have any right to step into such a divine place.”
“B-But… back then you didn’t say anything…”
“We prayed together for the journey, right? However, I am not a person who have the right to pray for myself. That’s why I prayed for you instead.”
As I raise my voice in surprise, Sakyou-san keeps his eyes on me and goes on.
“I prayed for you to return to Edo safely. For you to go back to your peaceful life, and also… for you to be blessed with happiness in life.”
It feels that through those words, Sakyou-san is saying that he’s not wishing for happiness. Surrounded by the sound of the falling rain, I fall into an illusion of his transient smile vanishing into thin air. Just as I’m about to reach out to him, he suddenly looks up at the sky.
“So it was only a passing rain after all. I’m glad it’s not a regular downpour.”
Before I realized it, the heavy rain has become a light drizzle. It seems like Sakyou-san’s prediction was correct. I was worried about Sakyou-san’s health, so I’m glad the rain has gotten smaller. That’s supposed to be how I feel, but…
“Well then, let’s hurry on to town. If it gets dark, your father will be worried.”
After saying that, Sakyou-san lets go of me and fixes his haori collar. The distance between us spreads an indescribable loneliness inside of me. Even though I know that we have to hurry back home, it seems that being with Sakyou-san also makes me happy.
If possible, I want to always stay by his side. Even it’s impossible, at least… for a little longer. I feel that if I don’t stop him like that, one day he will suddenly disappear to a place I can’t reach.
“The ground is slippery because of the rain. Your hand, please.”
Sakyou-san walks ahead, as if he’s protecting me through the muddy path. He’s a very reliable person, so why is it that I feel vulnerably insecure inside?
“Now, let’s go back quickly. If we keep on doing this… I might change my mind and feel that I don’t want to take you home. I would be troubled if I feel even more ashamed to face god.”
Sakyou-san gently smiles as usual. I smile back at him, hiding the indescribable sadness in my heart. Dusk slowly falls upon the streets after the rain.
(Suzukake… are you busy making medicines again today?)
I let out a little sigh on the way to Suzukake’s house.
“—I want to open a clinic. I want to cure everyone’s sickness.”
Ever since he decided to open a clinic that day, Suzukake has been locking himself at home. In order to cure as many people as possible, he’s been completely immersed in medicinal research—going as far as cutting on sleep.
It’s difficult for commoners to receive treatment from a good doctor. That’s why everyone is happy that Suzukake is willing to treat them. However, I can’t help but feel a little worried. Especially because I saw how cheerful and energetic he is during the wedding parade.
As I hold the food I made for Suzukake, I let out another sigh.
(It would be nice if he gets some rest today.)
With that hope in mind, I open the door to Suzukake’s house. Unfortunately, the scenery waiting inside is just as I feared.
“Suzukake, can I come in? I brought some food for you…”
I reluctantly call out to Suzukake, who’s busy broiling medicines. Suzukake stops scrubbing the medicines and lifts his head.
“Wow, thank you as always.”
Noticing fatigue in his weak smile, I only grow even more worried.
“…Suzukake, are you not going to rest?”
“Yeah, I’ll work for a little longer. I want everyone to be healthy as soon as possible.”
Suzukake closes his eyes before continuing.
“Besides, there’s a lot of thieves lately. Everyone looks very gloomy, so…”
That’s why he wants to do his best and cheer everyone up. After saying that, Suzukake starts scrubbing his medicines again. For me, it looks like he’s driven by sadness and impatience instead of motivation. I can’t help but open my mouth.
“…hey, Suzukake. Do you want to go shopping today?”
“Yes. There’s a new manju at Oharu-san’s shop. That’s why I want to see it with Suzukake. Do you mind?”
I try asking in a rather forceful tone, hoping to make it hard for Suzukake to refuse.
Suzukake absent-mindedly mutters.
“Okay. I want to eat sweets too for once. Let’s go.”
Suzukake smiles at me. I happily nod, hoping that his smile won’t disappear.
From there, we visit various shops together. The manju shop, the kimono shop, the accessory store… We walk around even after our legs grow weary, only going back home after we’re satisfied.
“The manju was really delicious, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, it was.”
The sun is setting as we walk home, and we exchange smiles. Suzukake’s gentle expression makes me feel relieved, as it’s been a while since the last time I saw it from him. Did the trip give him a nice change of pace? If it did, I would be very happy. Sadly, bad things always happen when you drop your guard.
A loud bump is heard from somewhere. At the same time, a man’s voice roars with anger.
“You fool! How dare you touch master’s palanquin with your filthy hands!”
We exchange looks as we wonder about what’s going on, and then we follow the direction of the voice. There we find a palanquin bearer whose face has turned red with anger, along with a shocked little boy who’s sitting on the ground.
If I’m not mistaken, that palanquin belongs to a rich merchant who’s competing to be the best in town. I gasp upon realizing what’s going on.
“You, can’t you at least apologize for bumping into me? Who are your parents!?”
The boy grimaces when the palanquin bearer angrily yells at him. The next moment, he bursts into tears.
Despite the boy’s cry, no one moves from where they’re standing. Or rather, they can’t move. If they try to help the boy, they’ll become the next target of the palanquin bearer’s rage. Even if the palanquin belongs to a rich merchant, why are they doing this?
(But I can’t just ignore this…)
I clench my trembling fists and takes one step forward, but then someone grabs my hand. It’s none other than Suzukake.
His expression is surprisingly serious. Before I can say anything, Suzukake walks towards the boy.
“…are you okay?”
After walking up to the boy, Suzukake crouches down to see him.
“Come here. If we don’t immediately clean it up, the wound might swell.”
Suzukake takes out some herbs and smiles at the boy, who looks confused and reluctant.
“It’s alright. This herb will clean up the wound, okay?”
The boy nods and nervously shows his wounded arm to Suzukake. That’s when the palanquin bearer returns to his senses.
“W-W-Who the hell are you!? Don’t interrupt!”
“Old man, why are you so angry towards this boy?”
Suzukake looks up at the palanquin bearer with a confused expression. It seems like in Suzukake’s eyes, the fact that someone is wounded is the only thing that matters. The man’s shoulders shake with anger upon seeing this attitude, then he draws out his sword from its sheath.
“How dare you make a fool of me! I’ll chop you down!”
I scream when the man swings his sword towards Suzukake. However, Suzukake swiftly dodges it with an incredible speed and repels the man’s sword.
Due to the impact, the man loses his balance and stumbles forward—pulling the palanquin’s cover away from its place. Surprisingly, what sits underneath the cover isn’t a rich merchant. Bags of rice, gold coins, and other valuable goods are dropping out of the palanquin. It’s not normal to hide these things and secretly carry them like that.
The man loses all of his rage and turns pale. He quickly tries to stuff everything back into the palanquin, but this instantly turns into a commotion.
“Huh? Why is everyone getting worked up?”
“Suzukake! That man is a thief!”
“This old man?”
The man panics when Suzukake turns to look at him. He abandons his loot and tries to escape, but it looks like someone has called a roundsman. The man gets captured in no time.
“So you’re the thief we’ve been searching for! You’re under arrest, now behave!”
“N-No! It’s a misunderstanding! Y-You’ve got it all wrong—!”
The man screams and struggles as he gets arrested.
—with this, the thief who has been bothering the city of Edo has been captured.
After that, Suzukake and me are taken to various places. We receive a reward from the merchant, and the boy’s parents invite us to have dinner with them. By the time we’re done, the sky has turned dark.
“Thank you for today, Suzukake. It turned into something serious, didn’t it?”
“Yeah. I was surprised.”
Upon hearing Suzukake’s honest answer, I can’t help but feel envious. Normally, people wouldn’t only be “surprised” after what happened. Back then, Suzukake’s concern for the boy showed his strength and kindness. The fact that it doesn’t make him arrogant is also one of Suzukake’s charms.
(When I think about that… I can’t complain even if he’s busy with his clinic.)
While it’s true that I’m worried about Suzukake, this must be his way of living. The thought leaves a little bit of loneliness inside of me. Before I can brush it away, Suzukake gently smiles.
“But it made me happy.”
“Recently I’ve been thinking about nothing but medicines, so… I’m really happy to be able to interact with a lot of people. Thanks for taking me out.”
Suzukake’s expression is turning radiant. Upon realizing that his smile is directed at me, I feel really warm inside. I hesitate before answering, but Suzukake continues in a small voice.
“Oh, right. I received something nice earlier.”
“Yeah. Hey, can you look over here?”
I turn around while wondering what it could be, and something soft touches my lips—Suzukake’s finger.
“This is called beni, and you put it on your lips. The old man gave it to me, asking me to give it to you.”
Suzukake innocently laughs as he traces my lips, applying the beni with his finger.
“…yeah, you look really cute.”
As Suzukake happily smiles at me, my cheeks turn red even though he didn’t apply it on them. Suzukake then puts the small shell that contains the beni on my palm.
“That’s why, I’m giving this to you.”
When I thank him, Suzukake answers with a pleasant smile.
“Use it again when we go out next time.”
It’s a promise from Suzukake. I feel really happy as I smile and eagerly nod at him.