When Kaede thinks of her younger days, she remembers her mother's gentle hugs each night she cried about her nightmares, and her father's guiding words about proper manners and praises of her today's score in class. Her mother's call for her to be careful as she leaves for school each weekday, and her father entering home from work and Kaede always always always being the first to greet her home.
Kaede thinks of her dearest friend, Etsumi. Kido Etsumi, who is always cheerful and supportive of her, who usually beats Kaede at the top of the jungle gym in the playground, and who lends a helping hand in building castles in the sandbox.
The memories of going to the sweets shop each week along with her parents was most precious of all. They always ordered the same food: cheesecake for mother, chocolate cake for father, and strawberry shortcake for Kaede. It's these peaceful days that Kaede loves dearly and treasure in her heart.
But days like these don't last forever though. On the school year before she began her final year in grade school, her father had been assigned to work in another country for a few years. Her mother cried that night upon hearing the news and Kaede hugged her father's leg tightly, begging him not to go.
But her father never really had a choice, it was a final decision made by his boss and he couldn't back out of it anymore.
With tears, promises to visit once he's free and farewell kisses, he leaves for the land beyond and Kaede cries out for her father to come back soon, with her mother pulling her back so she wouldn't run to him.
Nothing can be done now to bring him home, so Kaede's life goes on once more.
Kaede's life has become much quieter since then.
While her mother still takes her out to now mother-daughter bonding dates, it doesn't feel the same as with her father around. Going out every weekend just becomes a once a month routine, and soon they don't really go out of the house anymore unless something arises. They do spend lots of time at home however, with Kaede watching her favorite show on TV and her mother with her, sewing away a new scarf for her daughter.
Her father would call to home from time to time, and it was these moments that made Kaede really happy. She would storytell to him about school, her classmates, and the after school activities she spends with Etsumi. Afterwards, they would say their "I miss yous" and "I love yous" before the call ends and Kaede is once again left almost empty without her father.
But she smiles and mumbles to herself that she will work hard so that one day, her father will finally stay home once again. The distant calls will be no more and it will be her, her father, and her mother again.
Her final year in grade school has come and gone. Kaede graduated and her mother shed tears of happiness as she watched her daughter walk up to the stage to receive her diploma, while the seat meant for her father had remained empty as always.
The first day of her new school year in middle school finally arrives. Kaede wears the uniform of her new school with a smile on her face and a radiating positivity that things will go great for her.
After eating a quick breakfast, her mother lectures her to behave in school and enjoy. Kaede smiles as a response, grinning from ear to ear and telling her mother that she will surely have a good time. She waves farewell to her mother and she leaves her apartment unit for school.
The sensation of youth tingles her in excitement as she sprints her way to school. Cherry blossoms dance in the breeze and the sunny sky is bluer than usual.
A new chapter of her life has begun and from the bottom of her heart, she has made a vow to make the most out of it. For herself, for her mother who keeps her company, and for her father who works hard to make them happy.
Kaede passes by another student who seems to be on their way to school, and as she sprints past them and is about to turn and see who is that, her feet somehow lose coordination and she trips to the ground.
She yelps in pain as she feels her foot aching, but she doesn't want that to be her first obstacle in her new school life. With determination, she slowly stands up from where she trips, dusts away the dirt coming to her skirt with her hands, and turns around behind her.
Kaede comes face to face with the student who seemed to have been the one she had passed by and something in her heart flutters.
The boy seems to be the same age, same year as her. A fresh face in neighborhood, perhaps? His short brown hair that looks quite fluff and soft blows with the wind, and his blue eyes stare at hers in wonder. Time feels like it has come to a halt when they make eye contact, the only movement made were the cherry blossoms that fly by them as they stare into each other's eyes.
In that moment, Kaede's heart bursts open with delight and a new emotion has awoken from the depths of her soul.
Instead of acting with how her hearts want though, Kaede instead waves at the boy with a chuckle and she runs to the direction for school once more.
Her cheeks flush with red like the roses and her heart is soaring high. This feeling, this emotion, this is...
Kaede realizes that for the first time in her life, she is in love.
Kaede and the mystery boy don't become classmates this school year and it saddens her. But she learns of his name and just a tiny bit of information of him through gossip from the girls of the other classrooms.
His name is Yuuki Setsu, one of the many transferees from the rival elementary school of Kaede's last year, and he likes read books and usually keeps to himself. His grades are decent and he's disciplined and kind.
People like Setsu remind of Kaede of those cool and collected characters from the shoujo manga Etsumi lets her borrow. The only difference is that Setsu isn't actually that popular or is super duper cool like how the manga depicts these kind of characters. Setsu seems more...humble, more kind than he shows, and that's really...admirable.
Just the thought of Setsu makes Kaede's heart beat so fast. Her cheeks flush to an even deeper red and she isn't sure how to deal with these feelings of love. All this is so new to her, not even all the shoujo manga she reads before her bedtime help her in dealing with the situation.
Unsure with what to with these pent up feelings, Kaede runs to Etsumi's aide in hopes of knowing what to do. She had asked Etsumi to meet her at their favorite cafe after school so she can tell her everything. But the moment they had settled down and ordered their food, Kaede had spouted out to Etsumi everything she felt about the boy she saw on the first day of school, Etsumi's first reaction was a gasp and a face filled with surprise and wonder.
"M-MINAMI KAEDE I IS IN LOVE WIT-?!"
Kaede quickly shuts Etsumi's mouth with her hands before she could shout out anything else. Her cheeks are a deep beet red and her heart racing with embarrassment. Thank god no one caught their attention, but that still wouldn't stop her from shutting Etsumi up.
"E-Etsumi! K-Keep it down…!" Kaede whines. Kaede lets go of her hands from Etsumi's mouth and Etsumi lets out a loud sigh of relief.
After gaining her composure, receiving their orders from the waitress (strawberry shortcake for Kaede and a chocolate parfait for Etsumi), and asking Kaede to repeat what she had said, Etsumi finally gathers her thoughts properly and smugly grins at Kaede.
"Sooo...you ended up liking one of the new guys, who isn't even our classmate, of all people?" Etsumi inquired her, taking in a bite of her parfait and Kaede's cheeks burned to a dark red.
"W-Well, yeah! I mean...I saw him during the first day of school and t-the moment I saw him, I-I..."
"Love at first sight, then?" Etsumi finishes the train of thought that Kaede had. Kaede nods furiously and Etsumi chuckles. The twin bun haired girl takes a spoonful of parfait and forwards the sweet to Kaede's direction. Kaede's mood softens seeing the spoonful of parfait before her and takes a bite.
Etsumi moves back the spoon and goes on to eat her parfait once more, "Well, if you like him so much, you have to get to know him first. When all goes well, perhaps after a year, his feelings could reciprocate and you can be the one to take him to here instead of me, talking about this and that and feeding him parfait!"
Kaede's blush returns at the thought of being together with Setsu. It was already hard for her to even stay a few meters near him, just the thought of getting together and actually dating was…
"I-I'm not sure if that's possible, Etsumi...I mean, we're not really classmates. I'm not super great in making friends...I'm better off just watching from afar, I guess." Kaede looks down from her plate of half eaten strawberry shortcake, her fingers twiddling at each other.
Etsumi lets out a sigh and after eating one last bite of her parfait, she stands up from her seat and hugged Kaede. Kaede's eyes widen at the sudden gesture, her cheeks blushing at the warmth of Etsumi.
"Don't think that, Kaede." Etsumi speaks, "You just need some courage. I'll be there for you if you need help with getting to know Yuuki, okay?"
"O-Okay…!" Kaede embraces Etsumi back and smiles to herself, grateful for having a friend like Etsumi, who is truly supportive of her.
However, despite feeling more hopeful after having that talk with Etsumi, Kaede couldn't find it in herself to even greet him a "Good morning!". Her heart wants to say so many words to him, to speak and finally interact, but her body hesitates to move from where she stands, and she's left in the dark and away from the spotlight from Setsu's stage.
She mostly admires him from afar, observing how he really does keep to himself. Kaede watches how he heads for the library most of the time after school, heads for the bookstore at other times, and rarely, he heads for another place that isn't the two aforementioned and buy something that piques his interest. There was a time she stumbled upon him buying a small cupcake from her favorite sweets shop and mentioning how it's a gift for his mother.
Kaede smiles and admires how thoughtful it was of him to buy that for his mother.
But with the chance to be able to observe him from afar, she also realized something that had been quite prominent from people's words of him since the beginning.
Setsu never really hangs out with anyone, he mostly keeps to himself and is alone.
And it makes her curious as to why he was always so alone. He didn't seem like the type to be alone because he didn't like anyone. No, Setsu seems much more kind-hearted than he shows. Perhaps…
Perhaps, he's afraid?
Kaede shakes her head, because she really can't that kind of assumption immediately. But perhaps, they are kind of similar in that kind of regard, not being exactly great in making lots of friends and mostly keeping their feelings to themselves.
If he was truly thinking that, it makes her want to get to know him more. Not because she loves him, but because she wants to really be his friend too. More than love, Kaede wants to follow him, take his hand, and give him her best smile.
If there was anything that Kaede remembers so well about Setsu, it was when she saw him taking care of a stray cat.
It was a cold, snowy day before winter break began. The wind had been more chilly than last year's and Kaede had worn a thick coat that was from a gift package delivered from her father and a scarf sewn by her mother. Midterm tests had ended for the semester and most of the students had rushed out of the the school, breathing out their sighs of relief and heading for who knows where along with their friends.
Kaede had been invited to go to Etsumi's house later in the afternoon to hang out for the rest of the day. Kaede accepted the invitation happily and she heads home to eat lunch and have a change of clothes before heading there.
On her way to Etsumi's house, she stumbles upon a scene and hides to a corner nearby. She peeks out from where she hid and lets out a soft gasp upon seeing what was before her.
It was Setsu, still wearing his school uniform along with a coat, scarf, and earmuffs to keep himself warm. He is crouching on the snowy ground and his hand reaches out to something on the snow. Kaede recognizes what he is reaching out to: a small, black kitten in a cardboard box. The black kitten looks like it is shivering from the cold. But Setsu's hand is reaching out to it's soft fur and petting it as the kitten eats.
"Are you feeling well, Kuro?" Setsu asks and Kaede wonders if Kuro was the name of the cat that Setsu had given him, "I'll take you to the vet, perhaps? You're shivering here, you can't stay in a place like this..."
Kaede blushes as she watches the scene before her, quite surprised that she didn't except to see Setsu be there of all people. But she can't help but smile to herself and her heart flutters once again. It was so admirable watching him take care and be there for the cat. She didn't expect to see such a soft side of him, but it makes her heart feel all mushy and at peace.
As distant as they may be, somehow, Kaede's love for him grows even more.
Her first year in junior high school goes by like a breeze and disappointingly, she hasn't made progress at all to approach Setsu or even become acquainted with him. She's disappointed at herself, but at the same time, she really can't find the courage during her whole first year to approach him. Approaching him is like heading straight for the treasure chest of a well-guarded castle, and it hurts hurts hurts.
So she prays that perhaps, a chance will fall down in her hands for her to be able to interact with him, even just once in her life.
The chance does come, actually. It starts off with the class list posted on the first day of her second year of junior high. She skims through it to find her name quite quickly, and she heads for her classroom in haste.
When she arrives, Kaede almost screams upon seeing an all too familiar face sitting on one of the chairs in the middle of the room, reading a book in his hands.
Yuuki Setsu is one of her classmates this school year.
The realization hits her so hard that she almost falls to the ground, but Etsumi grabs her attention before anything can happen and when she sees Kaede and Setsu, who is still reading his book, a smirk forms on her lips and mouths "Lucky!" to Kaede.
Finally!, Kaede's mind races, I can...try to speak to Yuuki-kun! Please give me the strength!
But the chances of talking to Setsu from 99.9% plummet down to 0.5% as soon as the new student, Azumi Hidaka, grabs hold of Setsu's arm and they walk out of school together after classes.
Kaede can only remain frozen in place as she watches them leave together. Somehow, even with so many chances that day to even make small talk with him, her whole self fails to do anything and she is left once again in the dark.
When Kaede bought the blue mug from that odd shop she stumbled upon after school, she didn't expect anything from it except to drink the hot chocolate she poured on the mug after making she made her wish.
What she didn't expect was for a blue fairy who calls himself Mirumo to appear from out of the blue and proclaim he can help grant her wish of having Setsu fall in love with her.
Kaede screamed out so loudly the moment the fairy had made his greetings and she went as far as to try to show her mother what had popped out from the mug she bought. However, her mom didn't see anything and afterwards, Mirumo had to explain to Kaede that only her and other humans with fairy partners can see him.
So after Mirumo explained more things about himself and fairies, especially on how they possess magical abilities that can almost always help in various situations, the first thing that popped up in her head is if there is a wish that can make Setsu fall for her.
Thinking with that in mind, Kaede tries as much as she can to convince Mirumo to help her make that wish come true. She bribes him with chocolate and fun activities like going to the playground, but at the end of the day, Mirumo gives her the same answer as he had always had.
"No! I'm not going to help you. You humans are all the same...wanting to just use magic to make your wish real. You don't try to work hard for your wish! I don't want to use my magic on someone like you, understood?!"
That hit Kaede hard and it made her realize something.
As much as she loves Setsu, as much as she gushes about him all day and all night, admires him from afar, she never tried to work hard to let those feelings go through him.
She is a coward.
Tears form from her eyes, realizing how too afraid she was to face her feelings and too timid she was to face whatever consequences may come upon letting out her true feelings to Setsu.
Kaede cries and cries and cries until her tears were no more, but even so, her heart aches and wails out, wanting to let out all the pain. Mirumo was right, she truly was a coward...she truly, truly, truly is...but…
...She realizes, as she lay in bed tossing and turning, with only her thoughts to keep her company, that if she truly is a coward, it was natural that she had to turn the tables. Kaede realizes that she needs to change. Starting tomorrow, for sure, she will definitely talk to Setsu. Kaede Minami will finally become a fellow acquaintance, a somebody, in Setsu's life, and from there, work her way to let her feelings be reciprocated.
But first, she needs to make up to Mirumo, obviously. Say her apologies for being selfish and tell him that she will work her way to Setsu's heart.
Kaede wakes up earlier than usual and after preparing herself for school and eating breakfast, she looks through the pantry of her home and finds small pieces of chocolate in one of the many packs her mother bought from the store. She picks them up and places them on a handkerchief on the table of her room, where Mirumo can easily find it, and leaves an apology note along with it.
She picks up her school bag and waving her mother farewell and a "see you later!", she heads for school once again.
Somehow, the gust of wind is stronger than usual. Though cherry blossoms aren't in bloom as the time of it had passed, Kaede feels a strong sensation. It felt like more than a year ago, when the bursting feeling of youth and excitement rushed through her and tingles her very soul. Only this time, it wasn't because of the excitement of school, but it was the excitement of love and a newfound hope.
She finally sees Setsu, and unfortunately, Azumi, just passing by the end of the road. Gathering up her courage, Kaede takes a deep breath and bursts forth to their presence. Her eyes lock onto the familiar blue eyes of Setsu, and with a flustered words, she finally brings herself to the spotlight of Setsu's stage and introduces herself.
"G-Good morning, Yuuki-kun! I-I'm Minami Kaede...we're in the same class! N-Nice to meet you!"