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Days Gone By

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Akane has known Jin since the day he was born. Not that she remembers any of it, but both Seito-san and her own mother love to torture them with embarrassing, “cute” baby-pictures. They are very much not cute, especially the ones where Akane is bald, thanks to her father’s idea of a “haircut”, but no matter how often she and Jin have stolen and burnt those pictures, their mothers always come up with more. It’s infuriating, but Akane and Jin refuse to give up even though it’s obvious they’re fighting a losing battle.

Akane’s first real memory of Jin stems from her sixth birthday. She is still too young to understand what the word “fiancé” really means and Jin’s older sister Shin is much more fun to play with anyways. The only reason Jin appears in that memory is because Shin convinces him to play the dog of their “family” and in exchange they promise to play “The-floor-is-lava” with him later. They never do and Akane feels incredibly guilty for a long time.

She doesn’t feel all that guilty anymore when she’s nine years old -pretty much a grown-up now, finally understanding the meaning of “fiancé” and not liking it at all. Jin is an icky eight-year-old boy after all and even if he shares his sweets with her, she’d rather marry a prince than some boy with nothing but swords in his head. But she is nearly an adult so of course she doesn’t say anything.

At the age of 14 Akane definitely doesn't think that Jin is icky anymore. The complete opposite actually. Even though he's still a year younger he is pretty handsome and way nicer than the boys at her school have ever been to her. She’d secretly still rather marry a prince but if she has to marry someone Jin isn’t a bad choice.

Akane is 16 years old, when she understands that she might marry Jin someday but still he will never be hers. Not completely. Hidehito is quiet, gentle and polite. Next to Jin he's easy to overlook. Just a shadow to his ever-glowing light. But everyone knows that light and shadow belong together. It's there to see for everyone. It's clear in the way you nearly never meet one without the other. It's clear in the way the shadows cast on Jin's face are mirrored on Hidehito's. It's clear in the way they speak to each other, touch each other, look at each other. It's clear for everyone but them. Akane hates it a little, but it’s not her place to say anything.

Akane is nearly 18 when Jin comes to say goodbye before he goes to join the battle at the Shiseikan. They both know he won't make it. But Akane lets him go. She has no other choice but to let him go. He has never been hers to begin with anyways, it's not her place to hold him back now. Jin has already turned around but Hidehito is still looking at her. "Take care of him", she tells him. It's a cruel thing to do, but she can't help herself. "I will", Hidehito answers, mouth set in a thin, bitter expression. It's the last thing she ever hears him say.

The funeral is on the day of Akane's 18th birthday. She cries and cries and is still crying when everyone else has already left.