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What would his uncle paint upon these walls of white? Something incomprehensible... but not tragically so. It’s okay not to understand the original intent. That’s what it means to live, isn’t it? To make your own meaning of things, and try... He closes his eyes, wondering where the last bit of vibrancy went. His mother, downed in a gown so similar to the walls.

Wasn’t she absent of it last time?

Has she decided to be more open?

“Natsuhisa... you really mustn’t wander around so...”

Ah, that’s right. She told him, told him to be sure to wait for the car to pick him up, because walking alone might tire him. On whims, he leaves without hesitation, even asking the club he is supposed to be a part of leads to nothing but fascinated confusion. What causes him to go so far? What pushes him to explore beyond the limits his body has unfortunately set? Stubbornness? Desire? One can yell the question, but not a word will echo back.

And the young man smiles still, a serenity to it akin to no other.

“Mother, I am simply... ‘living.’ Is that not what you wished for me?”

“I don’t understand... all of it, I don’t understand... You nearly collapsed earlier, did you not? Natsuhisa, why...”

“I was curious about the cute little butterfly that fluttered so... he found his way to rest upon a flower I knew, so I wished to see how the flower welcomed him. And she bloomed, accepting the butterfly...”

And there’s no less than that simple smile upon his lips, painted so, the look in his eyes glittering with the remnants of curiosity. His mother, dressed in grey, gently pats his head, rubs his cheek. 'She will weep again soon,' Natsuhisa thinks, 'her beautiful tears will spread across the worldly plains and give light to all sides of her again.'

'I apologize, Mother, but I must follow this thread, the wind, my feet, so long as it remains to be unraveled, until it turns me to dust, until I am but ashes upon the breeze.'

He muses to himself, lifting his sketchbook from the bedside as she silently leaves. The oversized pad… while not as quaint as the smaller ones he has elsewhere, is the one he bought recently, and requested it not leave him, especially on days such as this. Inspiration needs plenty of room to manifest itself, so that the roots do not get too muddled and tangled up within themselves.

Does he… love painting? Does he hate it? Why does he have this impulse, this infinite urge to keep moving a pencil, a paint brush, whenever a canvas is in front of him? Even now, he wishes to cover these confining walls with a mirror of the sun, so that the warmth he has learned of may continue to reach him, so that the loneliness he…

No matter.

This is what he’ll continue to do. There aren’t any unread books seated on his bedside, nor does he feel the need to ask for any others. He must draw, fill that calling void, that beautiful, sobbing barren land.

Nothing but the slight scratching of his pencil fills the air. It is enough to bring him some solidarity, though he has more interest in exploring and finding a spot outdoors to sit and observe, fill the page with what he sees rather than what he recalls. His focus draws upon the page, regardless. He’ll shut himself away, find a way to communicate.

That’s right. Just one drop is enough.

“Young Master,” a knock at the open door comes soon, sound and steady, from Shikishima’s personal butler, but the boy doesn’t pay it any mind.

“Um…”

A girl peers out from behind, further bringing to surface the supposed difference between their lifestyles. And she, she asks herself, why is she visiting, when she had to be escorted in? Why is she so worried about him? Why is she thinking about him so much? Why is she acting on this?

“Young Master, this young lady is here to visit you,” the butler repeats, but in the end, he concedes to just allowing Rinka in, after sizing her up to be absolutely no danger. Should anything arise, he’d be right there, anyhow. Oh, how much the man has put up with, being in charge of caring for a youth with endless presses for discovery!

What about the time Shikishima came back, struggling to breathe from ‘joyful’ laughter, covered head-to-toe in dirt? How unsuitable for such a high status, weak child, finding adoration in dying blooms and crawling, shelled critters. But, the butler keeps a straight face, because things would be far different if the boy had been different. Perhaps, he wouldn’t be so endearing, either. He leaves the two high schoolers alone with those thoughts at hand, but considering the girl doesn’t hear his steps anymore, he’s stationed beside the door.

“Please… pardon the intrusion,” her voice is hardly above a whisper, perhaps due to the feeling of the environment: A bare, hospital room… Somehow, this empty feelings makes her uncomfortable. Funny, coming from someone like her.

This doesn’t suit him…’ but she’s coming to conclusions, making assumptions based on her biases, what she thinks knows about him, but even that’s new for her, isn’t it? She, the one that used to do the bare minimum, entirely average and pulled by the flow, she the one who had no drive, no ambitions, no dreams, slowly begins to beat on the edges of her comfortable box and break out. It is this what it means to live? She wonders, if these emotions really…

Next to this… weird, incomprehensible boy… has she started to etch a spot where she belongs?

She doesn’t know. She really doesn’t know.

How does she process the vibrancy that she’s been introduced to? How does she plan on moving forward?

It spins, but she approaches his bedside after steadying her pace, and it isn’t until she’s beside him.

“Good morning, Rinka,” he says without batting more than an eye, as if he hadn’t been lacking notice until just a second prior. He places his book down, pen sitting atop, and Rinka can’t help but see an image in progress – a flower? It resembles one, she guesses, not that she can completely tell.

There’s a lot that’s changed for her. She doodles on her papers, little floral patterns, butterflies, caterpillars, the sun. She feels comfortable, she’s interested.

How beautiful, the light surrounding her makes her look, her pure soul still over untainted – ah, but her aura…

“Shikishima-san, did you just wake up?”

His fingers move ever so slightly, as if tracing an image on his blanket, as if he really hadn’t stopped drawing. But, he’s still taking in her, how she appears, how he breathes… Her blue uniform is a stark, welcome contrast upon the unstained backdrop, a lovely splotch. Is she worried, curious? What a stubborn, interesting flower.

“Just a tide’s passing before…”

He’s… ‘happy’ she visited, of her own choice. Not leaving him alone, she keeps trying to ‘get’ him, even when his words cut him off, even when his eyes shut and his ears are covered. She gently makes sure he’s alright, that he can go on, and supports him. He wonders… did he ‘hope’ she would come? Has he come to ‘want’ to create more, and actually enjoy it, because of her? Why is that?

Why, why does the sun take such effect? What could it mean for him?

Ah, he likes her.

That’s the way to put it best, in terms that might get things across, but it’s okay if she doesn’t understand. She treats him as any other. She doesn’t seem to think a single touch will shatter him; in fact, it’s been quite the opposite, has it not?

He, truly he doesn’t know much at all, either. An odd soul, moving upon whim, without grounds, without direction, so aimless that he truly believed that would just fade, just like his uncle. He’s been tumbling through life, sheltered, told that what he pursued was senseless, unsuitable for someone of such status, so he should keep, keep to the cold white.

But she, she has managed to pry open the cycle he has been engulfed in, resting on his withering petals, breathing again a hope in them. That’s is how powerful the sun’s rays are, he cannot help but want to peak at them. His greatest sin now, the burden he has placed upon those that care, does he deserve the view? She… She is so much more, astonishing, outstanding, the furthest reaches are those she can chase.

“Oh!” Just as he wanders, she reveals an array of colorful art supplies, “The people from your club told me to give you these… They said it’s probably not the same quality as the kind you buy, but…” Carefully, she sets them down beside his bed. How thoughtful, how beautiful. Those kids, perhaps they worried for him as well? The one who hardly stops in, only to show them parts of his adventures does he actually bother, to which he finds that they can’t understand either.

But, he’s become rather fond of that field of flowers, so he can’t just leave them. Does he trouble them? Her? Terrible. What a scoundrel he is, foolishly causing everyone about him sadness. But, he cannot be different, because he believes this is all he can be. Floating, he’s floating… but the sun is paving his way, ever still. What right does he have?

Why did she go to see them? That is something he decides he will not ask, or presume his assumption is correct on. There is no need to tie that part down. The sun is here. She gave those flowers a glimmer, and then rose higher in the sky.

His mind dwells more so then, however, so his words speak their volumes.

“Perhaps, I am a wilted sunflower, biding time, coming to my calling of making way for those smaller, stronger, to come out of the shadows and bear the embrace of the sun.”

“No, um…” She tries to find footing in her soon-to-stem words. How is she to play into a metaphor she can hardly grasp? How is she to venture into a field such as this? “I think, you were dormant… some flowers come back every year, just as pretty as the last, don’t they?” Rinka isn’t really sure, since it’s not like she’s every really gardened, at all, but it sounded right, “Maybe you just hadn’t woke up yet..? But you shouldn’t, um…” It’s more difficult than she thought, perhaps, to speak her mind, and to a figurative image like this this, but she gathers up her strength and pushes out her last words, “…want to wilt away. People want to see you bloom too.”

Her voice, even if the impact doesn’t settle in for her, mean so, so much.

'I… as well… Maybe… I am allowed to leave my mark upon the world, and stay as well…'

Can he stir emotions like this? How? How can he do it? How can he compare to what she believes for him?

He is warmed as she notices the slight surprise in his gaze, trying to put on a weak smile, as if to comfort him, or even to push off what she said as not being serious. Uncertainty in how she phrased it, but eager settlement in the ideas themselves.

Basking in this moment, he feels his head is clear enough to think, and then it strikes, something that he must do, something he has to do, right now.

“Rinka, please hand me one of those…” His gaze turns to the adorable collected gift upon his bedside as he picks up his sketchbook once again.

“Okay..? But… Shikishima-san, which one?” Rinka reaches, returning them to her hands and opening the package, staring down at them intently.

“Any of them. The sun’s ray shine on all after all.”

So she resorts to closing her eyes and picking at random, holding it out for Shikishima to take, and he gets to work, moving and using them wordlessly, setting them down and requesting another when the one before has been used to satisfaction.

Once again, Rinka searches for any answer she can find, but she will not locate them.

---

Eyes peer up at the completed work, which hangs within the gallery of silent truths. They tie not his name to the painting for fear, for caution, that recognition will skew words and ripple hesitation. In this much, Shikishima Natsuhisa becomes more certain in himself, in the fact that his presence will not yield itself to the lightest of breezes.

“It’s very… unique,” a woman says, “The choice of colors here, they seem to be of a particular order…”

“Yes, yes, look closer!” a man chimes in, “the darker portions of the petals fade into the lighter ones. Clearly this sun has saved the flower.”

Rinka really can’t follow all the symbolism that the critics grab at, but the piece still… she finds tears coming down her face, blurring the variety of shades to an even more unified picture. Somehow, that mess of colors is perfect to her, born of her choices and his determination. It’s hard to believe, that she was – is – a part of this.

She feels his hands touch her cheek and soon, she’s looking right at him, though her sight is still clouded by the rain. Such affection, in such a public place… it’s embarrassing, and she feels so hot, gaping, her cheeks reddening – “Um…”

“Your tears are beautiful,” he speaks. “A shining glimmer of dew, dripping of the leaves of a bloom…”

He’s no longer gazing at the distance when he looks in her direction, not as often at least. And this, this makes Rinka happy, so happy she doesn’t have the power in her to do anything more than place her hands on his own. Enveloping, bubbling, this slight touch stirs upon her heart.

Everyone can bring something to the table, even when they’re not particular good at something. Rinka has never considered herself someone that excels in any one particular area, but in times like this, it’s as if she’s told that herself really is enough, as she is, so long as she has spirit, and makes her want to try her best and see where it leads.

The clatter about his piece reaches her ears again, this time it is about the artist himself, not the content, which snags the air.

“This is the first time I’ve seen this artist, a newcomer then? Are they here? I would love to speak with them over this.”

“No, there’s no contact at all.”

Rinka’s arms fall back to her side, Shikishima retracting his own, as she steps over, closer, to the piece.

“Before summer comes spring, the time when blossoms are first able to open their hearts to life’s rays. As the cycle presses on, they will find themselves giving way to the cooling of fall, and the chill of winter, still searching for the sun as they close their eyes. But spring is where beginnings comes to bare their first gifts of fruition,” Shikishima explains as Rinka looks closer at the name he signed for the painting, printed upon the plaque underneath. He leans in, looking over her shoulder, so close that his speaking tickles her ear. “We mustn’t forget that all roots and stems must sprout from seeds, springing up into their place.”

Until he feels he has fully bloomed, he will use the princely alias of a lukewarm but refreshing breeze.

“So that’s why…”

“Yes,” Shikishima confirms, “One day, perhaps, this butterfly will shed his cocoon comfortably. But for now, I am a summer flower locked within the guard of the spring.”

All these levels, melding together, fresh for the season.

And again, she reads the plate underneath his creation, “Haruhiko-san…”

Gradually, they will come to the day where he can accept more and more beyond those walls of white, that every section of the wind is a different sound.

“Yes. Now, these bees are rather busy, and I’d rather like some air. For a fresh perspective, we must escape the one that holds us first. Shall we, Rinka?”

She nods, following him out of the gallery, his breathing only just a little uneven, probably because of how heavy and crowded the atmosphere was, despite being so reserved and regal. Even she had begun to get a little winded, from both a combination of awe and the amount of people, so she can’t imagine how much it affected Shikishima.

Concerned, reaches out, and he, as though following the thread of her cue, links his air with hers, using her, just a bit, as support. “Thank you.” He says.

“You’re welcome.” She answers, and she catches a glimpse of his lips, curled into a smile that’s familiar, but more intense, and she immediately knows why.

It’s genuine, as inviting as a clear, summer day.

---

Later, she’s invited to his home for a small visit; in order to get to know him better, she finds herself unable to refuse. In fact, the speed she accepts surprises her. His home, too, is rather overwhelming, vast in size, and in value. Truly, the Shikishima family is powerful, influential, and known.

She struggles to take in his room, how clashing it is, how colliding from the image he thinks of and the image he wears. Even the canvases he has are covered with cloth, not revealing the beyond imaginable marvel beneath them. Every nook and cranny rings of a mess once there, but every dribble leads somewhere, right? Like a growing gem, a growing sprout, a section seems to not seem… as plain as the rest them.

But Rinka can feel this for herself as well. Once grey walls gradually become less bare. The first addition, a sketch he did of what he claimed to be her (though she found it difficult to connect). The second, the first letter he sent her, hand delivered by his butler to her school, because texting isn’t so ‘good’ for him. The third, a collection of purikura prints, from the day he got ever so curious, and insisted they try it out together.

His smile is so bright in them, and she… remembers having fun, too.

What does his wall contain? The first she notices must be pieces from the members of the his art club, ones likely to commemorate the fact that he will be graduating soon. “Thank you for everything, senpai!” a note reads beside one of them – well, it says more, but the distance and messier strokes makes it harder to read.

The next, is that the little doodle he asked her to try? So he kept it... How sweet of him. She’s really thankful, thankful that he hasn’t given up, that he’s help her so much.

“Rinka?” He says, looking over to her from his seat, “What encases this butterfly’s curiosity?”

“Your walls…”

“Ah, yes, I wished to paint one of my walls… I began, actually,” he motions to one of the corners, where aimless brush strokes of different colors appear against the otherwise spotless plain, “But Mother gusted in and asked of me to not fume my resting area, so I was stopped for now… Perhaps I will asked make something of another room’s wall…”

It’s just like him, to start something so suddenly like that. ‘When there is a canvas in front of me, I cannot help but paint all that I find beautiful upon it.’

All of this, it’s breathtaking to the young lady.

Shikishima muses once again over what his uncle would paint, and it’s still beyond him, because his uncle isn’t him. He looks over his walls, and then back to Rinka, then sets about adjusting what he had been working on just slightly. He has to update and capture the her of this moment, he decides. He wants to paint her, the sunflower. This, this is his desire, a fuel that doesn’t burn out so easily.

As he works, an idea strikes him, another exploration, another trial, another experimentation. Without ceasing, without looking up, he casts the reel.

“Rinka, soon, let’s go out on a small, outdoor adventure. Somewhere fresh, and I’ll bring along the soil bed of what we need to plant ourselves.”

---

They sit somewhere where they can enjoy the company of one another, allowing the gentle breeze to hug them as they take in the crisp air, which in turn fills their lungs cleanly. It’s wonderful, calming, to be able to thrive in the moment, just like this.

Before them lays a set of paints and a clean white canvas, awaiting the story they wish to breathe life into upon it. Shikishima smiles, carefully taking her hand in one of his, carefully leading her finger tips to the different shades, which he then presses down into.

“This is odd, Shikishima-san, but what… exactly are we… you doing?”

He doesn’t immediately answer, motioning for her to be careful not to get paint on her clothes as he releases her hand, then dipping his own in, covering his digits with the variety of paints.

“You… too? Are we really finger painting?”

He nods, a laugh placed upon his lips, happiness seeping out, “Yes. I’ve wanted to try this, to allow us to once again together root our wills down, eternalize that the little flowers have met butterflies and have since let their hearts soar. No longer do they cage themselves…” there’s a brief moment of tears, and Rinka’s about to scramble to find something for him to dry up when they suddenly cease.

And ever so carefully, he places his paint-dipped hand atop her own, palm down, weaving his fingers between hers. Guiding their new brushes to the canvas, together, they gradually paint a picture of circles, their mismatching colors fanning out and pinching until a mass is formed.

When he releases her and pulls back, she looks it over.

Yeah, she doesn’t understand it at all. Yet, the emotions are all the same. She feels the sticky, dry layers settling in, but she doesn’t mind it. That will wash off, but this memory won’t leave her. Rinka glances between the canvas and him. What does she say, when she’s so overcome? What should she do, when he’s giving her smile that?

With the way he is now, she wonders, why he ever denied himself the same merits others around him have. But, maybe it’s because she didn’t know what it meant to be alive either. She had simply existed, if it could even be said that she went that far.

“There are many flowers, all waiting to take their bloom. They reach, reach until they even get a glimpse of their sun.”

Shikishima speaks, so she continues to listen.

“Along their period of growth, they meet others. The others may be different, introducing new shades upon those they meet, but their shared goal gifts them with strength. Every year, they will clap their leaves, shed inches of their worries, and attempt to begin anew, mingling once more

“Perhaps they will stumble. Such is in their nature to tumble so…” He says this with fondness, and Rinka cannot help but feel a swell inside her as well. “Delicate, broken,” he places his hand on his chest, not minding the bits of paint that are still on his fingers, “flowers can survive on their own, but they do not ‘live’ until they are planted with others, free from unstained isolation, creating a ground bouquet… That is why, this life is beautiful…”

Until something wormed its way into the changing their lives, they had been both stuck, stuck in blue, a cycle where a single curtain engulfed them, numbly blinded them.

“I… I’m glad.” She says, touching her face. She’s tearing up, isn’t she? But this pot of feelings, she can’t explain any of them. It’s foreign, feeling so much at once, but she doesn’t hate it. He can apologize for bring emotions to her, but she won’t ever hate him for filling her up with life.

“Oh, you got paint all over your face. Though, you really are a dreadfully cute bloom that way too…” His voice is so soft that she is mesmerized. He comes closer after grabbing a clean rag, but instead decides to bring his face so near that their noses are touching. His eyes close and he breathes in. Yes, she’s the person that’s become the subject of his affection, his sun, the cause of him learning that he can find true passion in the little things.

Shikishima Natsuhisa cannot help but find himself attached to Rinka.

He pulls back, dabbing the cloth on her face, to help her out, finally.

“Shikishima-san..! You’ve got paint on your nose now as well…”

“Do I? I was just as careless as you, then. We’re quite the mess together, it seems. Just look at us.”

He holds up his dirty hand, and releases a small laugh.  

“When the time comes, we should view the soft, pink petals that wished to soar,” a reminder of how brief but gorgeous life is, fleeting, dreaming, doomed to morality, which makes it all the more… precious.”

Make the most of this life, his life. He, a young artist, must do so… because his wish… he wishes to live.

“And then we will bear witness to spring’s green fleeing to make room for summer’s orange adoration.”