The Guild – Chapter 81 – Hitomi

    My skin tingles as I listen to this song through my headphones. The tune is purely melodious and I I feel the rise and fall of the chorus as the shape of the wind over the hills and cities that form the coastline of Nagasaki. I lay on my tatami mat, eyes closed, just listening. It’s moving day. Everyone has places to go, universities to visit, families to return to. I try to ignore the loneliness by procrastinating and leaving my room the way it is. I don’t like change.

    My phone buzzes against my stomach where it rests. If it wasn’t on me, I wouldn’t know if I got a message; I am prone to tune out everything around me when I listen to music. I crack my eyes open and check the banner at the top of the screen. It’s Yuu kun.

    He’s written his message in English, so it takes me a moment to translate it fully.

    I smile. Ice cream sounds good, but I am nowhere near done. I haven’t even begun.

    I grip my phone in both hands and swipe the keyboard into English. I assume he’ll meet me outside the dorm entrance.

    Kaze Sama isn’t with me today, at least, not yet. I figure it’s alright to meet Yuu kun for ice cream before he moves to America. I sit up, pausing the song and pulling my headphones around my neck. I look about my room and sigh. Soon I’ll have to move. I wonder where I’ll go. I suppose I’ll need a job to pay for rent or something. I find myself perturbed by the prospect of adult life. I’m not ready to try.

    Of course, I applied to universities and I got my scores back. I got accepted into a few, and with a little hard work, I suppose my language skills would get better and I could maybe join Yuu kun or other people like him overseas. I just… I don’t see where my future’s going. I don’t know what I want to do. It’s… daunting.

    I grab my change purse and switch off the light. Time to drown my worries with ice cream and my only friend. I leave the dorms and find Yamaguchi Yuu waiting for me outside in the warm spring sun. We no longer wear our uniforms, even though we’re on the campus until the end of the weekend. He wears grey skinny pants and a stylish button-up shirt. I have a loose fitting sweater that looks somewhat like a short dress over a pair of black tights. I don’t have much of a figure, so I hide it beneath the bulky cable knit of the overly large shirt.

    “Hi!” he calls in English.

    [Eigo de, doushite?] “Why are you speaking in English?” I ask him.

    “It’s for practice. I want to speak well when I go to America. Will you practice with me today?” he asks flawlessly.

    “O-K,” I agree, hesitantly.

    We match our steps and head off the school grounds, walking towards the cafe district of Nagasaki.

    “What is your favourite ice creamu taste?” he asks.

    I know a few in English, but Matcha is my favourite. “Matcha,” I say.

    “I hope America has Matcha ice cream,” he smiles.

    The idea that they don’t, hits me hard, unexpectedly. What if they don’t?

    We talk about America and things Yuu kun will miss when he leaves. I falter into Japanese when I can’t think of a word in English and he tries to correct me. When we both can’t think of it, he pulls out his electronic dictionary and checks, adding it to a small notebook he has begun to keep with new words in it.

    We finally stop before a cafe and ice cream shop and go in with excited anticipation.

    “Irrashaimase!” [Welcome honoured customer!] the workers call.

    We walk up to the counter and Yuu orders both of our ice creams. When the staff person hands us our desserts we walk towards the window and take a seat at an empty table. He chats about packing and things he wants to see in America. I am content to let him talk and tell me about his dreams because it’s a distraction from the obvious lack of thought I’ve put into my own.

    “What will you do, Nijiyama san?” Yuu kun asks me.

    It feels awkward now when he calls me by my last name. If we’re going to be friends, shouldn’t we both use our given names? I guess I should tell him. “Hitomi. Call me Hitomi.”

    He opens his mouth in shock. “Honto ni?” [Really?] he asks in Japanese.

    “Hai, honto desu ne.” [Yes, really,] I try to smile, but it feels unnatural. I nod instead and go back to my ice cream.  “mada wakaranai demo… ryouko ni ikitai to omoimasu.” [I don’t know yet, but… I want to travel, I think.]

    “Ahh. I understand. The future is difficult to know how you want to do,” he smiles.

    “Yes,” I agree. Silence falls between us as we eat our ice cream. My mind wanders to the mountains and Kaze Sama. How will my future be with him? What will we do? I don’t know anyone out there like me… other than that mysterious figure we saw the other night in Fukuoka. I wonder who they were, what their power was and why they were there.

    I’m so lost in my thoughts I don’t notice Yuu kun talking about the hardships of packing, but instead, I stare in shock and panic as a person dressed in blue jeans and a brown tweed vest and jacket enters the shop. He’s decidedly foreign, with his bright blue eyes and short brown hair. He’s not from around here. It’s the same person Kaze Sama and I saw from a distance. I know this because they seem to glow an ominous purple hue.

    “Irrashaimase” the shop staff call. The person looks around, seemingly confused, then approaches the counter as if to order. Yuu kun has stopped talking now, noticing the wide-eyed look on my face.

    “Daijoubu desu ka? Nande?” [Are you ok? What’s wrong?] he asks.

    I turn to him, trying to hide my panic. Kaze Sama said to stay away from them. How did they find me here? It was a mistake, going out to find them. I pick up my handbag and push my chair back, nodding towards the door. “Ikerareba.” [We have to go,] I say with a finality to my tone.

    Yuu kun looks confused, but I don’t know how to explain and I certainly don’t want to wait for that person to turn around and see me leave. I hurry out the door, followed closely by Yuu kun, but I don’t stop there. I turn to the right and speed walk up the street until I reach the alley that leads us back to the school, a shortcut I’ve used in the night to get to the main shopping street.

    I know Yuu kun wants to know, but I keep a brisk pace until we’re halfway up the alley and he grabs my wrist in his hand, yanking me sharply to a stop.

    “Hitomi… Nan desu ka? Ikenakatta ka?” [Hitmoi… What is it? Why did we leave?] he looks me straight in the eyes like no one’s ever done before and I feel like a cornered animal in his hand. I feel my cheeks warm with embarrassment. He didn’t use the honorific.

    “Ano hito ga… abunai da to omoimasu. Kaze -” [That person is… dangerous. Kaze-] I stop, realizing I was about to tell him Kaze Sama told me to stay away. That would be bad. I don’t want Yuu kun to know my secret… if he did, he might hate me… he might not believe me. He might not even want to be friends. Why don’t I want that to happen again? I’m not sure, but I know I wouldn’t want him to get hurt.

    “Ano hito ga shirimasen ka?” [Do you know that person?] he asks me, loosening his grip on my hand. My arm falls to my side and I try to take silent deep breaths to calm down, but it doesn’t work. Where is Kaze Sama? I don’t know what to do! I start to wave my hands at my face as I panic.

    Yuu kun knows a panic attack when he sees one. We’re all prone to them during exams. He grabs my hands gently in both of his and holds them together. He holds my gaze and takes a deep breath, urging me to mimic him. “Daijoubu desu ne. Iki wo shimasu.” [It’s ok. Breathe.]

    “Dekinai!” [I can’t!]

    “Boku ni hanahite ga irimasu. Nan desu ka? Dare deshita ka?” [You need to tell me. What is it? Who was that?] he begs.

    The skin on my arm begins to prickle and I feel the slight movement of the breeze down the alleyway. I close my eyes and take a deep breath as the breeze turns to a wind and my hair is whipped free of its hair tie, blowing into Yuu kuns face. I exhale, relaxing as Kaze Sama settles beside me in his translucent humanesque form. When I open my eyes, I see Yuu kun’s squeezed shut against the torrent of wind that has just passed.

    ‘Hitomi Hime, what in the matter? Your panic is worring to me,’ Kaze Sama asks me.

    Yuu kun’s eyes open and look at me again. “What’s wrong?” he asks in English.

    I guess I can answer both. !Ano hito desu. Ano hito ga tsuite ikimashita.! [It’s that person. They followed me!] I say, looking towards Kaze Sama, hoping he knows I can’t go into detail. His face morphs into one of serious concern.

    ‘Where?’ he asks.

    “Ano aisu kurimu ya de imasu.” [In that ice cream shop.] I say, pointing down the alley. I’m sure the broken phrases make sense to Yuu kun too.

    “Shirimasen ka?” [You don’t know them?] he confirms.

    I shake my head no. Kaze Sama drifts to the end of the alley and peers around the corner. He promptly returns, and points between two houses. I step back towards the gap between two houses, pulling Yuu kun with me. Kaze Sama doesn’t want us to be seen.

    When my back touches the wall of the house, I stop moving. Yuu kun blocks the view of the alley before me. I stare at Kaze Sama, whose gaze is fixated on the opening of the alley. I can’t stop myself from calling out.

    “Moshi anata ni mirunaraba?” [What if they see you?] I ask in a shaky voice.

    Yuu kun looks over his shoulder at the alley. “Mitekunai.” [They won’t see,] he says, blocking me.

    Kaze Sama smiles and shifts his form into that of the wind, invisible even to me. I sigh, relieved.

    Yuu kun’s hands are warm as they hold mine firmly. It’s comforting. I almost forget the awkwardness we had earlier in the ice cream shop. Almost. I hold my breath as the moment’s tick by, waiting for a sign from Kaze Sama. It’s a wonder to me why Yuu kun hasn’t asked any more questions.

    Finally, I hear the voice of the wind in my ear. His words are indiscernible to others, but to me, it’s like someone whispering in my ear, softer than anything.

    ‘Hitomi Hime, he is gone. You are safe for now.’ I exhale a ragged breath. Yuu kun loosens his grip and sighs with me.

    “Kaerimashou.” [Let’s go home together,] he states.

    “Iie, moshi tsuite kurunareba suru ka?” [No, what if he comes back?] I ask.

    “Hitori botchi yori ii. Shinpai shimasu.” [Better than being alone. I’m worried,] he says, looking over his shoulder.

    He might be worried, but I’d much rather fly home on the wind. It would be faster than walking. Ohh, this whole thing was ruined. How did that person follow me? Why? What do they want? How can I get rid of them? Why does Kaze Sama say they are dangerous. The questions swirl and I’m tempted to freak out again. All this social attention is draining.

    ‘Go with him. I’ll be right behind you. Listen and breathe,’ Kaze Sama prompts. I give Yuu kun a nod and he returns it. He looks out from our hiding spot, unaware that Kaze Sama already confirmed the way was clear. Slowly he edges out into the alley and waves for me to follow.

    We take off at a jog towards the other end of the alley. The school campus is maybe a 15-minute walk from here. I listen, as Kaze Sama instructed, to the wind for warnings but it seems they have lost our trail. We arrive at the school without further incident.

    At my door, I fumble through my handbag for my key. I finally find it when Yuu kun speaks up. “Anata jishin de, daijōbudeshou ka? Mōsukoshi nagaku issho ni itaidesu ka?” [Are you sure you’ll be ok on your own? Do you want me to stay with you a while longer?] he asks kindly.

    I shake my head. “Iie, daijoubu desu. Moshi nandemo shimasu, Anata ni LINE surunaraba. Kyo wa, arigatou. Tanoshikatta.” [No, I’ll be ok. If anything happens, I’ll LINE you. Thank you for today. It was fun,] I shoot him a nervous smile, slipping my key into the slot and unlocking the door.

    “Jaa mata. Kyoutsukete.” [Ok, See you later. Be careful.] I give him a quick wave and slip into the dorms. As soon as I find my room I slide down my door and begin to shake. I really hope I didn’t hurt Yuu kun’s feelings. I feel my heart begin to race and my breaths become shallow until Kaze Sama appears at the window.

    He glides through the room and kneels beside me, wrapping his arm about my shoulders in comfort.

    ‘Hitomi, it will be ok. I’m sorry I wasn’t there earlier. I was investigating, far away. I’ll take you with me from now on. I had no idea, that person would follow us here. I’m sorry for putting your safety at risk.’

    I let him speak, not confident I can say anything without asking a question. We sit there like this for many minutes until I can calm down again. “Wakarimasen. Nande?” [I just, don’t understand. Why?] I say, confused and tired.

    ‘I don’t know. Let’s go for a fly. Maybe we can think of something,’ he suggests.

    “Yuu-kun, wa doshite?” [What about Yuu kun?] I ask, worriedly.

    Kaze Sama thinks for a moment before answering. ‘I think he’ll be ok. Don’t worry about him.’ I search his eyes and see certainty. I nod and stand. We merge and flutter out the window, far far away to calm our nerves and forget the concerns we hold.

By Kayla West


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