Misane had been a little selfish in her letter.
The date that she’d requested Nanashi to meet her was very shortly after her return to her proper time. The contents of that message aside (she could scarcely recall it without blushing a bit); she was a little worried about something else.
Or, if she was being truthful, very worried about something else.
From her perspective, she would’ve stepped into the time machine just a few days ago, waking up in her bed as though nothing had happened. Why, exactly, the time machine deposited her into her bed, she didn’t know. Mikado—or rather, Nanase—had declined to comment on how his machine functioned. He simply informed her it would be a one-way trip, and the machine would have a one-time use.
“Is this a theory or a certainty?” Misane inquired.
“A theory. You’ll likely forget about the original, unaltered time…In fact, you may forget time-traveling altogether.” Nanase eyed his past self as he spoke, though he was addressing Misane. His next comment seemed to be for the both of them. “I would keep notes, just in case…at least until you see each other again.”
Nanase was Nanashi, it was true, but she still wanted to remember him as he was now. She wanted to remember the Nanase she first met, and see the person he would become. Forgetting the “original” Nanase—with him disappearing from time like this, too—it felt as if he would die, in a way. Nanashi was similarly a bit perturbed about the situation, and she could see the cogs spinning in his head as he sought a solution.
The Nanase from her time only had this to say. The last words she’d hear him utter before he activated the time machine, one hand closed tightly around hers.
“I’ll see you soon, Misane-chan.”
...She was worried that eight years was a long time.
Eight years was a very long period to hold onto a promise that might disappear forever into temporal space-time. Eight years was a very long stretch for reality to rewrite itself, to create a new era where a few small changes could alter so much.
Yoshi Nanase valued himself. Yoshi Nanase had friends. Yoshi Nanase had a promise to keep, a girl to meet on a certain day in the year 2230.
A few beats of a butterfly’s wings could cause a hurricane across the sea, as the saying went.
The park was the only place of natural greenery to be found in the city.
The automatic lights would come on soon. As it was, the sole illumination came from the setting sun, painting long shadows that stretched like questing fingers across the grass and play equipment and walkways. Despite the advent of darkness, Misane wasn’t too concerned. There were still a few people around, and even if there hadn’t been, well…
She’d come here to meet a friend, and would wait however long it took.
Her fingers were knitted on her lap as she sat, head bowed, mulling over what she’d been told.
He promised he’d meet me here. He promised.
Misane was prone to taking action when a problem presented itself. Unfortunately, this wasn’t something she could investigate, or pick apart, or interrogate others about. All she had to do was wait.
(It was the longest wait of her life.)
As time continued to pass, she became uncharacteristically anxious. Misane resisted the urge to pace, twisting her fingers in her lap, too distracted to read anything from her BitPhone or otherwise try to pass time with games, sightseeing, and the like. She was afraid to start the action of looking around, because if she did, she’d probably never stop; she’d end up looking utterly ridiculous, like a paranoid animal, head whipping every which way.
Patience was an important virtue for a detective, she told herself.
But this time? This one instance? She felt like she was going to burst out of her skin. What if he’d forgotten about her? What if he’d changed his mind and his feelings after eight years? What if he couldn’t make it, or didn’t care anymore, or—
“…I didn’t forget about you, Misane-chan.”
Misane startled—shown only as a small widening of her eyes—lifting her head to look at the owner of the voice at the exact moment the park’s lights blinked on.
The result was that the young man was shrouded in a halo of white. He smiled down at her like an angel, arms loosely folded, his voice soft and smooth and low.
(Despite herself, her heart skipped a beat.)
Misane straightened a bit, shifting her stance so she could see him clearer. She could hardly believe her eyes. She knew exactly who he was.
“Sorry I’m late!” He scratched his cheek. “I think I came in from the opposite end of the park, so I ended up searching all over the other side before I thought—”
Misane interrupted him with a rare show of emotion—a vigorous hug. She'd been giving him a lot of those, lately, but no one deserved one more. Her arms went around his waist and she was hit with the startling, vertigo feeling of nostalgia and confusion both, because she’d grown used to Nanashi being around her own height, but he was so tall now…or, had always been. She squeezed him with all the strength she had, and to her shock, he wrapped his arms around her and embraced her right back.
They stood like that for what felt like forever, sharing each other’s familiar warmth and presence. She heard Nanashi let out this great, contented sigh.
“I was worried too, actually. I was afraid Misane-chan would forget about me.” The admittance was said matter-of-factly, but there was something vulnerable creeping behind the words.
“That would never happen, Nanashi.”
They pulled apart, and Nanashi gave her this goofy smile that looked out of place on his older self’s face. She supposed she’d have to get used to it. It was different…but good different. Having to gaze up to meet his eyes, or the fact that he actually grabbed her hand without needing an invitation—
That was new. She’d have to get used to it. This slightly-more-forward Nanashi.
“I haven’t gone by Nanashi in a while,” he admitted with a sheepish chuckle. “It’s just Nanase now.”
He quirked an eyebrow at her at that utterance of his name, but Misane just hid her smile with the fingers of her free hand, turning a bit away from him. Her heart couldn't stop pounding. Was that something he could tell just from looking at her, too?
He’d waited eight years for her. Followed her letter’s request to the T, all in the name of preserving this future with minimal complications. And here they were, together once more; Nanase and Nanashi and Nanase again. Nanase and Misane.
(They’d have to wait some more for their age gap to not be so alarming, but that seemed like a trivial thing.)
“Can I give you my reply now?”
“…What do you mean?”
His eyes lit up with nervous excitement, and she retrieved her hand from his grip so she could fold her arms defensively.
“…That won’t be necessary. I think I know what you’re about to say.”
“But I’ve waited eight years to tell you, Misane-chan!”
With his newfound confidence came the ability and willingness to tease her. She was one hundred percent certain he was pulling that puppy-dog eyes look on purpose.
Yoshi Nanase, she decided in that moment, was an absolute headache in any timeline.
Nanase suddenly laughed, and Misane shot him a look.
(She couldn’t stay mad at him for long, though.)
…is the truth of this case.