Spring, far-off spring, as I close my eyes, right there
You, who has given me love, I hear your nostalgic voice
Spring, as-yet-unseen spring, whenever I feel lost and stop
You, who has given me dreams, your gaze embraces me
—Haruyo Koi, Matsutouya Yumi
summer 2016. haori.
sunflower: loyalty. adoration. hope.
“Good afternoon, Susato-san.”
“Oh, good afternoon, Naruhodou-san.”
Beside you, Susato in her neat white uniform stands up and cheerfully greets the young man that has stopped by the nurse’s station on the way to his intended room. You eye him carefully—he looks nothing out of the ordinary, but his modest gestures border on shy and his dark clothes, while slightly disheveled, are neat and well-chosen for his figure, giving off an impression of an awkward but good-natured young man on the way to see a sick parent or a girlfriend. He was cradling a single, carefully-wrapped sunflower in his arms, a sight which instantly make you add some more points to the likable picture he painted.
“Asougi-san is very lucky to have someone like you visit him every day,” Susato was chirping, her hands clasping together irresistibly like she always does when she was overcome with something. In this case, it was logical to think that she was happy, but knowing Susato, you knew that it couldn’t merely be that. Susato’s smile seemed a bit too bright, almost forced.
“Hello,” the young man called Naruhodou turns his attention to you, and you murmur a polite greeting back. “I’m sorry. I don’t think I’ve seen you around before.”
“Ah, Haori-chan was one of the nurses who got rotated back up to day shift again.” Susato grins at you and you shrug with a sheepish smile.
“Good thing,” you say, “I was getting tired of all the ghost stories when I was in graveyard shift.”
Naruhodou laughs, his round eyes almost disappearing, and you think, Oh, he’s actually kind of cute.
Well, not my type, but if I had a little brother…
“I was thinking that you might not be visiting today, given the obscene amount of rainfall,” Susato was saying while you were busy gawking at the young man. He must have noticed your intense scrutiny of him because he turns slightly pink, but otherwise his attention was on Susato.
What an honest face.
“I was of the same opinion, but then I went anyway,” he answers. “I was watching the rain all the time I was in the bus, but I still managed to stop by the flower shop.” He holds up his flower bashfully and rather unnecessarily, making the huge golden blossom bob a little, and glances down the hallway. “Is it okay to come right in?”
“The doctor finished his check-up a while ago,” Susato says pleasantly. “You may go ahead, Naruhodou-san.”
Naruhodou nods and gives you two ladies a little bow, and he walks away. His manner of walking reminded you slightly of the way military officers in period movies walk—perhaps it was in the grave dignity of his back, or the sense that there was no wasted movement when he strides down the corridor.
“You seem really familiar with him, Susato-chan,” you say in a whisper when you hear a door down the hall open and close.
“Yes, well.” Susato shuffles her papers, arranges medical charts, types in her computer a bit. It was her way of stalling for time to collect her thoughts. “Naruhodou Ryuunosuke-san. He’s probably the only visitor that comes in here every day. It’s probably harder not to be familiar with him.” She gestures behind the two of you, where another pair of nurses were tittering and glancing in the direction Naruhodou had went. “Actually, everyone in here kind of knows him already. He’s famous in these parts.”
“Ooh…” You frown. “You said that he was visiting an ‘Asougi-san’, right?”
“Yep.” Susato takes a medical chart from the pile and hands it to you. You scan it quickly. “Asougi Kazuma-san, room 410. Remember that news about the car accident from a while back, more than half a year ago?”
“Wait a minute…” You screw up your eyes while thinking, and then gasped. “Oh! You know how I pass that area whenever I go to work? That news was such a shock to me. The first time I ever thanked the stars for my crap shift.” You frown. “So. Asougi-san was the victim, yeah?”
“I’m afraid so.” Susato points at her head. “He survived, but he hasn’t woken up once since the incident. Comatose. That was over six months ago.” She smiled sadly. “And that Naruhodou-san hasn’t missed a day yet.”
“That’s… that’s amazing.” You dab at your eyes. “And… and…”
“Er, Haori-chan? Why are you crying?”
“But it’s so beautiful,” you say, blubbering. “What a lovely bond those two must have. It’s comparable to the Chrysanthemum Pledge or someth—”
Susato whacks you on the head with a clipboard. “Asougi-san’s not dead, dummy.”
You rub the sore spot. “Ow! What was that for?”
“Don’t worry about the two of them,” she says, brightly. “Asougi-san has to wake up, sooner or later.” She clenches her fist. “And it’s our job to be there to help when he does.”
You stare at her firm smile, her brilliant eyes, and nod decisively. “You’re right. Let’s do our best to support them when that time comes, Susato-chan. Though…” You trail off uncertainly.
Susato glances at you askance. “What is it?”
“You know how people often say that they’ve met this person who has old eyes?” You tap your chin thoughtfully. “Well, it’s strange, but Naruhodou-san strikes me as that kind of person.”