Part I: Asougi Kazuma
18 August, 1915 hrs
Re-reading yesterday's entry fills me with a distinct sense of embarrassment.
Despite my initial hubris and firm belief that I had the speech competition in the bag, it is regrettable that I have to now put into writing that I have, in fact, lost. Instead, some other freshman by the name of Naruhodo Ryuunosuke had managed to clinch the prize.
The fault is mostly my own. When I first saw who the other finalist was, I was convinced that it would be an easy victory. So brimming with overconfidence was I that when I made my own speech I managed to trip up on my concluding statement. The shame of it haunts me still - I can still recall the looks the audience were shooting me while I was struggling, and there was little doubt I've failed to win any hearts today.
Even though Naruhodo's speech did not seem spectacular, or perhaps, precisely because of that, he delivered it perfectly, with clear enunciation and even clarity. I'm somewhat bitter that I've lost to something so plain, but Professor Mikotoba reminded me that there was an elegance to simplicity. There's a validity to his words, but he doesn't know that when I spoke to Naruhodo after the competition, the man actually had the gall to tell me something as ridiculous as "speaking fast is a hobby of mine."
What an odd and infuriating character.
Still, I will readily admit that there was something arresting about Naruhodo and the way he spoke. Each word continues to linger in my mind, even hours after the competition, and I can still picture his smile as he regaled the hall, holding the attention of the room so perfectly.
I have a responsibility to myself to seek constant improvement, so I should at least strive towards his level for now, with the hope of surpassing him one day. To this promise, I have committed to wearing a hachimaki until I have mastered the tongue twister that he taught me today.
22 August, 1732 hrs
I saw Naruhodo in my English class today.
As it is, we seem to have been classmates all along. Somehow, I've never noticed him, but then again, it wasn't in my habit to pay attention to my peers.
Nonetheless, I had made a commitment towards learning from him, and if he was at all surprised when I sat down next to him, then he hid it very well.
Observing Naruhodo was an interesting experience - he got along with our classmates in a way that I do not, and it's apparent that he was well-liked by many, speaking with a casual candidness that always left others with a smile. When we exchanged our essays, I was impressed by his writing - not only did he argue with brevity, but he also provided a surprisingly insightful dissection of moral action in Dicken's Great Expectations.
Talking to him was also pleasant. We had lunch together in the school cafeteria, and I accidentally spent hours talking about family values with him. Naruhodo has a way of capturing my attention, and when we parted ways, it felt... odd. I enjoyed myself with him in a way that I don't think I have in years, perhaps ever.
I wonder what sort of expression I had when I waved goodbye, because Naruhodo told me that he would see me again tomorrow and that we ought to have lunch again together.
I don't know precisely how I should feel about this, but I know that I am looking forward to it.
1 September, 2215 hrs
Naruhodo makes for a terrible study partner. I must have been mad when I suggested going through our homework together because the amount of sleeping that he did was honestly appalling.
It's a wonder how someone with such poor study ethic managed to get into Yumei Imperial at all, and when I asked him about it all he did was laugh and tell me that he was capable of studying at times, but that he just wasn't in the mood now.
Something about not having the right incentives or needing the right pressures.
Well, I certainly refuse to be a poor friend to him. I've spent the past few hours drawing up a study plan for us, and we'll see if it's the right pressure now.
Naruhodo has it in him to do better, and the idea that he might fail his exams because he was too lazy to study for them is wholly unacceptable.
2 September, 1345 hrs
I was having second thoughts about the study plan that I had prepared for Naruhodo - in retrospect, it seemed somewhat presumptuous - but then Naruhodo found it anyway when we were looking for a specific text in my stack of notes. He was silent for a moment, and I worried, but in the end, he smiled and thanked me for caring.
I had not considered that, but I suppose that I do, indeed. Care for him, that is.
It's an odd thought to concede, but it also feels right.
His good mood was also brief, quickly crashing when he realised that the punishment for failing to stay on task was running a lap around the school campus. There was an attempt on his end to negotiate out of it, but that's on him for agreeing to a contract without reading it through.
4 November, 1900 hrs
Exams are finally over, and it's a relief to be able to relax for a moment.
As a reward, Naruhodo and I cycled to Ueno Park for a picnic. Autumn seems to be arriving early this year - even though it was still early in November, the wind today was cold enough that the two of us had to huddle together for warmth. I don't mean to be dramatic, but even the dry onigiri from the school cafeteria tasted divine as we sat there, luxuriating in the comforts of an afternoon with no responsibility. A temporary reprieve it may be, but I enjoyed myself nonetheless.
It's a persistent truth of any time I spend in Ryuunosuke's company - that being with him always leaves me feeling lighter, that not even the autumn air could permeate the blanket of comfort he his presence was.
I noticed, today, that when Naruhodo laughs, there's a crinkle at the corner of his eyes and a pink blush dusting his cheeks. That he raises his hand to his face out of politeness to hide it but his joy escapes from behind anyway, large and vivid and generous.
I also noticed, today, that when Naruhodo laughs, something in my chest lurches, and that I too, want to laugh with him. That his happiness alone was enough to incite the same in me.
The fact that we will no longer have lessons together next term tastes bitter, and I know I shall miss him.
24 November, 2312 hrs
Naruhodo surprised me with a suggestion today - that in exchange for me joining the kyudo club, he would join the kendo club, of which I was already a member.
Of course, I took him up on it immediately, even though it occurred to me belatedly that the added pressure of having yet another club on my already busy schedule of preparing for the bar was probably not a good idea. Nor am I at all well-versed with the bow, and with such a disadvantage I must put in more effort so that I may keep up.
Still, the prospect of being able to see Naruhodo with such regularity was too tempting to pass up on, so I suppose I will simply have to figure out what to sacrifice from my timetable.
A little less sleep once in a while probably never hurt anybody.
1 January, 2115 hrs
As is customary every New Year, I visited the shrine last night. This year, however, instead of doing hatsumode with Professor Mikotoba and his daughter, I went with Naruhodo. Professor Mikotoba seemed surprised when I mentioned it, but oddly pleased.
I've never really enjoyed events such as these, considering how crowded Meiji shrine would get on such a day, but I'm glad I made the effort. Naruhodo wore a dark blue hakama that was different from the ones we typically wore for training, and even though I had seen him in one several times now, yesterday's was different.
I don't know how to explain it but, he looked... nice.
I have many things to be grateful for, including Professor Mikotoba's steady guidance and Mikotoba-san's warm acceptance of me into her family, but this year, especially, I am grateful that I met Naruhodo. I hope my friendship with him will continue for many more years to come.
1 January, 2357 hrs
I am still thinking about Naruhodo in that hakama.
14 April, 1935 hrs
I am not normally one for hanami, but Naruhodo seemed interested. Although he had suggested going to Ueno Park, I decided to take him to my ancestral home which had a large cherry blossom tree behind the dojo.
It's been a while since I made my way here, but I thought he might appreciate the relative silence. It's clear that despite my absence, Professor Mikotoba had made arrangements to preserve the place - even though the dojo had been closed since my father's passing, everything remained exactly as it was the day I left.
I wonder, though, if any of my father's students ever came by to reminisce.
I've never spoken about him with Naruhodo, not because I don't want to, but because I don't know how. Because I myself don't know half the facts, and the more I search the more afraid and angry I feel. Even now, I still struggle to articulate my thoughts - it's why returning to this house was always so difficult. That despite all the good memories I had of my childhood here, the current emptiness of the place without the bustle of the dojo or my father's laughter, all I felt looking at this house was a hollow ennui, and it worries me that that it will be all I can come to associate with it.
Naruhodo, for his part, didn't ask.
Instead, we sat for hours in companionable silence, and even though it was a surprisingly warm day, we were pressed up shoulder to shoulder as we rested against the trunk of the tree, watching the blooms sway gently in the wind.
With him, it felt peaceful.
21 April, 2205 hrs
The flower viewing last week was so pleasant that I asked Naruhodo if he wanted to do it a second time before the season was over, and he agreed, so we made our way towards my old house again. This time, however, instead of silence, I enjoyed the luxury of endless conversation with him, and we talked about everything and nothing at all, from the cultural impacts of Romanticism to which school canteen served the best nikujaga.
He even recited poetry for me, though I must admit that I had been a little distracted. I will have to ask him about it again, the next time I see him.
It reminded me of the idle afternoon we once spent in Ueno Park, huddled close as we were free to just be ourselves with each other.
This late into the season, some of the petals were already beginning to fall, and Naruhodo got some in his hair. I reached over to brush them out, but when Naruhodo looked up at me, I felt myself pause.
He looked very pretty.
For the briefest of moments, I wanted to lean in to kiss him.
I think I might be going mad.
We have walked in Love's land a little way,
We have learnt his lesson a little while,
And shall we not part at the end of day,
With a sigh, a smile?
A little while in the shine of the sun,
We were twined together, joined lips, forgot
How the shadows fall when the day is done,
And when Love is not.
We have made no vows--there will none be broke,
Our love was free as the wind on the hill,
There was no word said we need wish unspoke,
We have wrought no ill.
So shall we not part at the end of day,
Who have loved and lingered a little while,
Join lips for the last time, go our way,
With a sigh, a smile?
April Love - Ernest Dowson
23 May, 2330 hrs
Ryuunosuke managed to surprise me again today.
I had asked for his help in preparing for mock court for one of my classes, and I wanted someone to run through a case with me. It was supposed to be a simple exercise - I had already written the corresponding arguments for both the prosecution and the defense, and all he would need to do was read out the prosecution's case.
Instead, halfway through the practice session, Ryuunosuke went off-script, leaving me speechless for a moment.
I don't mean this in a bad way. It was just unexpected - and entirely impressive. With only the case notes that I had prepared for him, Ryuunosuke was able to create a series of arguments that I had not even considered, and for a while, I found myself on the back foot as we debated the case.
I've always known Ryuunosuke was sharper and more intelligent than he usually let on, but holed up in the tiny space of the library's dusty study room, I felt what I can only describe as an invigoration. Without an official adjudicator, it's difficult to say who was victorious today, but objectively, I'm inclined to think that it would be a close call. Ryuunosuke made for a formidable opponent, a brilliant partner. I am proud to call someone like him my friend.
I never thought I could find a mock court session fun, but it was. It's too bad that Ryuunosuke wasn't a law student - I have no doubt that I would find my classes far more engaging if he were next to me.
17 June, 1855 hrs
It's taken a while for me to get to this point, but today I finally received confirmation that I have passed the bar.
It was news that I received with little fanfare, but it does mean that I am at least one step closer to figuring out the truth of my father's death. Selections for the exchange trip to London are underway, and I know I still have an endless amounts of things to do in preparation, but I am beginning to feel that my efforts are not for naught.
Professor Mikotoba congratulated me, and we enjoyed a celebratory lunch at home. Ryuunosuke came by shortly after to offer congratulations as well, and we enjoyed a quiet walk in the neighbourhood. Before he left, he told me that he was proud of me.
It was unexpected, but not unwelcome, and the lightness in my chest returned. I told him that I felt the same towards him, that I was grateful for his companionship, and when we parted I felt an irrational optimism for the future.
In our time together Ryuunosuke had become someone I wanted to impress. I am glad, I think, to be thought of positively by him.
10 August, 1942 hrs
Preparations for obon in Professor Mikotoba's household have always been extensive and elaborate, so for the past few years I have attempted (and failed) to handle matters for my family by myself. He had always rejected me on this issue, but when I mentioned that Ryuunosuke had offered to help me out this year, he finally relented.
I don't like accepting Ryuunosuke's help anymore than I like Professor Mikotoba's help - not that I am not appreciative either way - but if I have to be honest.
I was being selfish.
I have always enjoyed Ryuunosuke's presence, and having him at my ancestral home made being there bearable. Like the things in the past mattered slightly less, like there were other, more pressing things to look forward to. Ryuunosuke gives me hope, and when he's here with me, I do not fear the melancholy of the empty house or the silence of the dojo. Instead, I am compelled to imagine, for a moment, that there could be a future here. I don't know what shape or form this future would take, but despite the abstract and arbitrary nature of that thought, I am unafraid.
To think that our meeting was entirely by chance. I don't know what I would do without Ryuunosuke - he is not merely a friend to me. He is a partner, a companion to me like no other person in this world.
11 August, 1532 hrs
I did not, initially, mean to express that sentiment to Ryuunosuke.
Still, I should have expected it - Ryuunosuke had always been capable of reading me so well, increasingly so in recent times - and attempting to hide any secrets from him was not only foolish but would burn at me on the inside. When he asked me for my thoughts while we were cleaning my father's gravestone, I suppose I let myself be carried away.
Aibou is not a common term to be bandied about, but if I were to speak from the heart, there is nothing else that encapsulates my feelings as perfectly. The reality of admitting this truth to Ryuunosuke only hit me belatedly after I said it out loud, that I thought of him as my aibou, and for a moment, I felt a very real terror. That this sentiment I had was born out of my dependency on Ryuunosuke, that it was entirely one sided. That this confession to him would be too much, too fast.
Ryuunosuke had laughed nervously, sounding almost as afraid as I was, and asked me if I was serious.
In any other situation, I might have felt insulted. Did I strike him as someone who would joke about something like that?
But I could see that his hands were shaking, and on impulse, I held them firmly in mine. I'm not sure what good that did - my hands too, they shook as well, at this odd and unexpected confession before my father's grave.
I'm glad that my insecurities were my own. Ryuunosuke not only did not pull away, but squeezed my hands, and the relief that it offered continues to tingle on the surface of my skin. He confided in me then that he felt the same - that his feelings towards me were not simple admiration but also a deep reaching affection. I don't know what he saw in me, but it warmed my heart to know. Towards him, I promised my own loyalty.
I would like to think that my father would approve of him. Ryuunosuke is a great man, after all - sharp and clever with wit but above all else, kind. Ryuunosuke is someone to be treasured, as I certainly do.
17 November, 2234 hrs
Earlier this afternoon, I had a meeting with Foreign Minister Jigoku in his office about the exchange programme.
It seems I have been selected to study in London - just like my father before me.
I wonder, though.
Professor Mikotoba seemed glad, if unsurprised by the news. I'm aware that he and Minister Jigoku are close friends - the latter has been a visitor to the Mikotoba estate for years. I am also aware that Professor Mikotoba, Minister Jigoku and my father were fellow students in London many years ago. Even if Professor Mikotoba never spoke about his adventures as a foreign student, the photograph in his office was telling enough.
With what has been asked of me, I
I wonder what Ryuunosuke would make of all this.
19 November, 2135 hrs
I met Ryunosuke for coffee today to give him the news about my study trip to London. Ryuunosuke expressed happiness for me but also confessed to some envy, and in that moment, I knew what I had to ask.
Even though I knew it was a long shot, his rejection of my invitation for him to come with me bothered me in a way that I struggled to explain.
It took me a while to think it through, but now, I understand.
Writing it down is somewhat embarrassing, but in truth, Ryunosuke pushes me to be better. With him, I feel a distinct sense of invincibility, a genuine courage that lets me believe that there was no adversity I couldn’t overcome.
It should be a strange thought - I've only known him for just a little over a year, after all - but the realisation is instead comforting. He is my aibou, my partner, and if anything, I am only further compelled to want more of his presence, to seek the solace of his company.
I understand that I am being selfish again, but this knowledge has only strengthened my resolve for him to come with me. It is by his presence that I want to be better, to be more. With the weight of everything that is to come, I know I will need his friendship in London even more.
When I see him in class tomorrow, I shall ask him again, with hopes for a positive response.
22 November, 0140 hrs
It seems that in the time since my last entry, Ryuunosuke had gone and gotten himself into a lot of trouble. Tomorrow morning, he stands trial for the murder of a professor at our university.
I have little doubt that he was falsely accused, that this was just a matter of him being at the wrong place at the wrong time. In some ways, I curse my own negligence. If I had spent just another five minutes more at the cafe, if I had waited to leave with him, perhaps things would not have turned out this way at all.
As it is, the only thing that I can do for him now is to stand as his defence attorney. It was a tight rush to the court offices just now, but I made the cut-off just in time. For a moment, I feared the worst, that I might have been too late. Thankfully, the court officer had been reasonably understanding.
Minister Jigoku, on the other hand, less so. He even pushed an uncomfortable ultimatum regarding the study trip onto me. It only made this already suspicious case even more suspect, and the fact that Minister Jigoku himself would be presiding over the case leaves me greatly unnerved. I've spent the last few hours reviewing the information that I had been provided, even though it's so sparse that it only takes five minutes to cover everything. As incriminating as it looks, I know that Ryuunosuke is innocent.
In anticipation of tomorrow, I have prepared a half dozen arguments from different possible angles, but I know it's not enough. I have run through each of them several times now - if only I could have spoken to him about this in full detail so that I could be better prepared.
Sleep continues to elude me, so I will have to do my best to try and figure out more possibilities.
No matter the cost, for him, I cannot fail.
23 November, 2229 hrs
Ryuunosuke managed to surprise me yet again today.
Professor Mikotoba had poked his nose in where it wasn't unnecessary, and for a while, I really was quite mad with him. There was a moment where I was even disappointed by Ryuunosuke's lack of faith in me.
But the only disappointment in that courtroom today was me and my lack of faith in him. I should have trusted him too and in the evidence of our relationship, in all our previous interactions that had so clearly demonstrated how remarkable he was an individual. I'm not only immensely relieved but also so entirely proud that Ryuunosuke was not only able to prove his innocence, but identify the true culprit behind this incident.
Still, I can't stop thinking about his motivations. In my place, Ryuunosuke stepped up and took on his own defense not just for his sake, but for my own too. I had thought myself brave, willing to risk learning the truth of my father's death for a chance to save him, but Ryuunosuke showed me how the extent of his loyalty surpassed even mine, willing to risk his own life to save my dream.
A dream in which I haven't even told him the full details of.
I don't know what I've done to deserve this. The very idea that he would do that, for my sake - truly, I am once again at a loss for words. Pursuing this line of thought seems to lead to the edge of a cliff where the ground below is nowhere in sight. It feels dangerous and yet, I can't say that I refuse to take the leap.
1 December, 2152 hrs
I filed the last of my paperwork with the university today in anticipation of the trip. I ran into Ryuunosuke on my way home, so we decided to have dinner at our usual place.
I'm still processing this, but he's finally agreed to join me in London! I cannot overstate how pleased I am by this surprise, but I really am glad. We still have much to discuss about the trip, of all the logistics that would be involved, but for once, I am feeling genuine excitement about it. All this time, it had been purpose and duty that guided me, and the anticipation of coming closer to my goals can hardly compare to the thrill of adventure, of the prospect of running through London with my best friend.
Maybe things won't be as simple as I hope they would be, that despite my best efforts, the worst that can happen may come to pass. But with Ryuunosuke, I don't think there is any hardship I cannot overcome.
I ought to tell him about my agreement with Minister Jigoku soon. I know I must - I owe it to Ryuunosuke. But when we daydreamed about all the possibilities in London, when he looked at me with what I want to believe is adoration, I simply-
I only wish to lose myself in this happiness for a while more.
22 December, 2321 hrs
Ryuunosuke came by earlier today to join me at dinner, even though he would be here again tomorrow for us to carry out our plan. Professor Mikotoba believed he was here in the capacity of a friend offering some well wishes, and even though untrue, I'm glad for this misunderstanding - he was normally quick to catch on otherwise.
It's hard to believe that a month had already passed since his unfortunate trial, and I'm glad that Ryuunosuke had finally agreed to come with me to London. We had intended on reviewing the plan for tomorrow earlier, but instead, we spent the evening daydreaming about what London might be like, of what we might do. Of the kind of home we would share, of the streets that we could spend our weekends meandering through.
Tomorrow, our lives will become inexplicably tied together. Our possessions to be shared with each other, from the clothes that we will wear to the dreams we carry, the line between me and him further blurred.
The truth is that even now, I'm still in awe that this was happening at all, that in just a few hours we would be embarking on this trip together. When I had been presented with this opportunity - and of the requirements in its entirety - I won't pretend that I didn't have doubts about how it would all work out. But tonight, as we laid down next to each other on the engawa outside my room, I feel convinced that it will. I don't yet have a plan, but with Ryuunosuke close by, I know things will be fine.
I've already said this several times, but I don't think I could possibly overstate just how glad I am that he was joining me. And as we bid our temporary goodbyes, I'd like to think that the lingering gaze Ryuunosuke had meant he felt the same way too.
Shortly before Ryuunosuke left, he slipped a folded piece of paper into my hands. He told me that it was a poem that he had copied from his books, that he thought of me - of us - when he read it. It's a touching sentiment, and in the time since I've read it several dozen times. To know that I exist in some space in his mind... it's childish, perhaps, and greedy, even, but I wonder how often he thought of me, if I occupied his thoughts the way he does mine. I wonder if I might have the opportunity one day to ask him - I wonder if I even should.
Perhaps after, when my life is once again my own, when I can give myself to him freely.
For now, though I tuck the poem between the pages of this journal, the words continue to live in my chest, imprinted as they are into my heart.
NAY, let us walk from fire unto fire,
From passionate pain to deadlier delight,—
I am too young to live without desire,
Too young art thou to waste this summer night
Asking those idle questions which of old
Man sought of seer and oracle, and no reply was told.
Panthea - Oscar Wilde
23 December, 2012 hrs
I am surprised that such a simple plan to smuggle Ryuunosuke onboard worked. I could barely sleep last night, instead spending hours folding and unfolding the clothes in my trunk so that Ryuunosuke could be as comfortable as possible, even with that massive daruma of his inside.
In the early hours of the morning well before we were due to depart, Ryuunosuke showed up at our front door on the agreed-upon time, and I snuck him into my bedroom. It was a good thing that Professor Mikotoba slept like the dead and that Susato-houmujoshi's room was on the other side of the estate. We took a minute to marvel at my room, of the place that had been home to me for the last decade, before sitting down next to each other, talking the morning away in soft tones. We waited until the last possible minute to hide him inside the trunk, and throughout the whole journey, from the carriage we took to the port, to the moment the sailors clumsily lugged him onto the ship, I worried.
When I could finally open the trunk to let him out, Ryuunosuke's first comment was to complain about how his leg had cramped up. I don't think I have heard a sweeter sound in my life before. To make up for it, I offered a foot massage, and I think it's pleased him. With the excitement of the day, Ryuunosuke fell asleep halfway through, so I tucked him into bed before sitting down to write in my journal.
This tiny cabin room that we now share will be home for the next fifty days - I don't think I have ever had to live in such close proximity with someone else before. There's a thrill to this, to be so intimate with Ryuunosuke, but-
I think I am getting ahead of myself, so perhaps I ought to turn in too.
24 December, 2142 hrs
This morning I woke up to Ryuunosuke sleeping next to me, the first of many new firsts to come. It was the best sleep that I've had in a while, and I felt the odd impulse to kiss him again, but thankfully, he woke up before I could act on some unreasonable instinct.
I asked if he slept well, and he commented that he did. I laughed and teased him, saying that he ought to enjoy it while it lasts, because from tonight on he would need to sleep in the wardrobe.
Unfortunately, Ryuunosuke took that joke very seriously, climbing into the wardrobe after lunch for a nap, and now I'm too embarrassed to tell him that I had always intended on sharing the bed with him.
I suppose the one silver lining to this would be that I can't impulsively kiss him now.
25 December, 2338 hrs
There was a small Christmas celebration on board the ship earlier today, and although Susato-houmujoshi and I were not Christians we were invited to join in on the festivities anyway. It was rather enjoyable to watch the other passengers indulge in wine and carols in the dining hall, although they served some sort of odd roast bird at lunch. I did not eat any myself, instead waiting until Susato-houmujoshi returned to her room before taking it to my own cabin so Ryuunosuke could have it as compensation for missing out on the fun. I think he quite enjoyed it, so I've made a note to look for it when we arrive.
To think that this time next year, we would be able to witness such a celebration in London. A British passenger told me of the Christmas customs there, that gifts were traditional and accompanied by a feast meant to bring loved ones together. I was not adequately prepared this time, but next year I will make sure to be.
Still, spending the evening playing shiritori with Ryuunosuke over a few bottles of wine I coaxed out of the crew wasn't so bad.
1 January, 2230
It's odd that instead of going to the shrine this year, I am spending it on a ship where the days and weeks blur into one another.
Last year, I enjoyed hatsumode with Ryuunosuke, so even though we are not partaking in that today, I at least have his presence as a constant. Still, there were some rituals that we could go through regardless, and after dinner I retreated to my room where Ryuunosuke wrote down our wishes for the new year on paper.
Ryuunosuke joked about how it was too bad that we couldn't pick up lucky charms for the year, but I know I already have mine.
6 January, 2123
I met an odd fellow by the name of Herlock Sholmes today. Ryuunosuke just about missed being acquainted with him, but I'm sure there will be plenty of opportunities later. It seemed that Ryuunosuke had snuck out to steal a bit of food from the kitchens, which led to an entire thing.
I'm used to skipping the odd meal here and there, but I've neglected to consider that I am unfairly subjecting Ryuunosuke to a hardship that he does not deserve. Again, I am forced to think about whether I am being fair to him, if my actions were right just because I wanted it. Ryuunosuke laughed it off when I brought it up, but I don't think he realises how much I owe him.
It's not as if I don't already plan on it, but I absolutely must make sure to treat him properly when we arrive.
9 January, 0123 hrs
I can hear a faint whistling sound.
9 January, 0135 hrs What looks like some sort of speckled band is dangling from the ventilator grille.
Part II: Naruhodo Ryuunosuke
17 January, 2354 hrs
It took a long time for me to convince Susato-san that I would not read this journal, that I had nothing but the best of intentions in wanting to fulfil all of Kazuma's wishes, even something as trivial as keeping a record the way he did.
Obviously, she eventually relented, because I am here, as you can see. Or not, because-
I guess I should offer an update. It's not my place to do this, but I'm doing my best to try and carry your dream forward. Susato-san has been helping me in my preparations for becoming a lawyer, working me really hard each day. You would be proud - we start the day at five in the morning and finish late at eleven in the night night. We've been focused on trying to help me understand the legal system and court procedure, but in all honesty even I know it's a long shot. Lawyer or not, I can't measure up to you, but I know I must try anyway. It's all I can hold on to, because if I let myself think about how-
It's just so unfair. It's so stupid and unfair. You deserve to be here still, you deserve more, you deserved everything. I can't stop thinking about how if only I was awake then, if I had heard the commotion, if I could have been there, then maybe-
This is probably not what you would want in your journal, so I'll stop here.
I miss you.
21 January, 2342 hrs
It was too unbearable tonight, so I convinced Sholmes to swap rooms with me for the night.
When I look at the floor where you were, sleeping is impossible. Often, I rely on Susato-san's grilling and lessons in the day to wear me out so that I pass out the moment I lie down, but sometimes, it doesn't work as well. When I lie in your bed, all I feel is the pain of your absence.
I miss you, Kazuma.
I miss you so much.
On our first night on this ship together, I woke up before you did, and I watched you sleep for a few moments. Do you know that even while asleep, you wear a small frown on your face? I shouldn't have done it, but I pressed my lips to your forehead the way I've seen my father do for my mother, and for a while, the frown eased away. I felt happy that I could do that for you, but then I realised the gravity of what I had done. Would you even have wanted that? Instead, I've imposed myself on you again.
When you later joked about how I would be sleeping in the wardrobe, I knew you were joking, but I couldn't bear the thought of you hating me, of what you might think when you found out. It's so difficult to control myself around you sometimes, like all rational thought flies out and all I know is a terrifying emotion swelling through me. Towards you, I-
I guess you might call me a coward. I'm sorry.
I've only ever wanted to be someone you could rely on, in the way I relied on you.
25 January, 0115 hrs
Susato-san asked me if I have been diligent in record keeping. In truth, even though I was the one that coaxed her into letting me have this journal, I don't know what I should be writing in here. I want to look at what you've written so that I could at least try to imitate you, in the way in which I am trying to do what you do, but I've given my word to Susato-san. I know you wouldn't want it either, so I've had to make do.
It's probably not endless pages of whining, though.
But then I think about how you've always asked me to be myself, that I was fine the way I was. And I think that for now, it's all I can give you.
I hope it's still fine.
27 January, 0023 hrs
Sometimes I sleep in the wardrobe instead, desperate that this was all a terrible dream. That I will wake up to you opening the wardrobe door to greet me good morning, that all of the things that we have talked about will still happen.
I can barely remember what life was like before you, and trying to imagine one without you hurts so much. All I can do is push through one day at a time. I know Susato-san is hurting too, and I try to be strong for her. But it's so difficult - it's you that I've looked up to. It's you that I think about when I am afraid, when I am uncertain. I think about what you would say or what you would do. I think about your confident laugh and the comforting arm you would put around my shoulder, how you would stand silently next to me in affirmation whenever I had doubts.
But now I cannot, because you are not here, and my fears are so plenty. I cannot be you. I need you.
Please, I want to wake up from this dream.
6 February, 2340 hrs
Break, break, break,
On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.
O, well for the fisherman's boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O, well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!
And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanish'd hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!
Break, break, break
At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.
Break, Break, Break - Alfred, Lord Tennyson
14 February, 0210 hrs
I loved you, you know?
I guess that's inaccurate to say. I still love you, because I haven't stopped. I think that I have loved you for the longest time.
I think that I have loved you since you spoke to me after the speech competition, and you were so ridiculously angry that I thought, ah, this was a man who understood passion. I think that I have loved you since you sat next to me in class, and during, instead of eating, we talked for hours about family values over cold and forgotten beef stew. I think that I have loved you since you forced that study plan on me so that I wouldn't fail, and I saw how much you cared.
I know that I have loved you since the day we went to the shrine to pray for blessings, and when I watched you smile as you closed your eyes in prayer I knew I wanted to be a reason for your happiness. I know that I have loved you since we watched the cherry blossoms together in spring, and you meticulously laid out a mat in the garden of a home you had not returned to for years just to indulge me. I know that I have loved you since you called me your aibou in front of your father's grave with my hands in yours.
I have loved you for so long, and I have waited and waited to tell you.
But I have waited too long, and now you will never know.
18 February, 0452 hrs
Despite all my wishes, we have arrived in the United Kingdom.
At present, we are currently at Dover station waiting for the train to London. I finally have something new to report on, rather than burden this journal with overly maudlin writing.
The white cliffs are every bit as majestic as we had imagined, as written about in books we poured over in the library together. The air here is colder than that of Tokyo, and it reminded me of the times we would huddle together to stay war
Kazuma, we were always meant to be here together. Standing here without you, it's wrong.
Susato-san is watching me now, and I don't know what else I can tell you, so I offer another poem. Indulge me once more, won't you?
The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.
Dover Beach - Matthew Arnold
24 February, 2137 hrs
The past few days have been brutal.
Even though I had only just arrived in London, I have already had three cases pressed onto me, all in immediate succession.
The first case was meant to be a test of my ability to take your place. It left me with a bitter taste even though we managed to get an acquittal. I think - no, I know - McGilded really was guilty after all. The conclusion to it was so shocking that I still have a hard time believing it, but after we left the courtroom, apparently a crucial piece of evidence - the bus carriage - caught fire, along with the defendant in it. The Lord Chief Justice told me that McGilded passed, and that it was the work of the Reaper, the prosecutor on the case.
Kazuma, shinigami do not really exist, do they?
I also met a fellow Japanese student by the name of Natsume Soseki who seemed to be incredibly unlucky, and with him we fought through another two cases in court. He's made the decision to return to Japan, and frankly, I am rather envious of that.
I know what I need to do here, or at least, I think I do, but it's just so terrifying. I've never been this lost, and I don't think I've wished harder for your presence and your guidance. But, if you were here, I would not find myself behind that defence bench in the first place.
Kazuma, what would you have done about McGilded? When I was accused of murder last year, you told me that you believed in me, not just as a defence attorney, but also as my friend. But what if we had not been friends? What if I was indeed guilty? Would you have believed in me then, in the way I'm supposed to believe in McGilded despite all the evidence? Should you have?
15 March, 1654 hrs
My mother had always said that busy moments tend to happen at the same time. I haven't had a new case since February and if I'm honest, I'm secretly glad. Being at court is terrifying - to have someone else's life in my hands - I don't know how I can ever learn to manage this responsibility. Still, I owe it to you to do my best, so even though I'm relieved, I feel somewhat restless as well.
I've been studying past cases with Susato-san, and Mr Sholmes helps out at times (I guess I never mentioned that we're living with him and Iris now, so there's that). It reminds me of that time you asked me to help you prepare for a mock court, and by some wild coincidence, the case that Susato-san had prepared for me today was the same one as the one I studied with you.
It feels like some kind of twisted irony that this time, I'm holding your arguments. The notes are even yours - of course I recognised it. Of the words written in your hand and spoken in your voice. That I am now expected to say.
You might laugh at this - I would too - but it's only now that it's fully hit me that I'm here in your place. Doing what you were meant to do.
I guess it must have shown on my face, because Susato-san suggested that we take the day off, while Mr Sholmes and Iris decided that it was time for us to properly see the sights in London.
We went out for a picnic in Hyde Park and had tea there, but even though I was there physically, I found it hard to focus and enjoy myself. I just can't stop thinking about how you would have liked it too, like the time we had a picnic at Ueno Park.
Sorry. I meant to enjoy it on your behalf, but I guess I can't even do that.
18 April, 0243
Kazuma, why was your name on the telegram? What does it all mean?
20 April, 1632 hrs
I needed a few days to sort through my thoughts.
I didn't realise this, but I've come to depend on Susato-san over the last few months too, so when she had to leave the day after my last case, it's left me feeling a little empty as well. Apparently Professor Mikotoba had taken ill - I hope he's alright. I know he was important to you too.
On the last case that I worked on, there was a telegram carrying leaked government information on it in Japanese morse code. Your name was on it.
There's no one for me to talk to about it, because Mr Sholmes had asked me to put it out of my mind, but there were three other names on it, including Dr John Wilson and Detective Gregson, an officer here in London. I don't know who the last person, Asa Shinn was, but I'm so confused.
Does this have anything to do with the mission you had in London? No matter how hard I tried to think, I couldn't recall any time that you've mentioned any of those names. I want to know so badly, but there's just no way I can ask you now.
As you know, I've always had a habit of saving the bad news for last, so.
I've been suspended indefinitely.
For all the effort that I had taken to get here, in the end, trying to make you proud has become harder than ever. Still, I did what I thought was right, and it's what I think you would have done too.
I hope you forgive me.
1 June, 2351 hrs
Suspension is torturous.
The Lord Chief Justice had insisted that I take the time to study instead, reminding me that I did have years of work to catch up on.
He's not wrong, but it did sting. I still hate being in court, but for Natsume-san and Gina it felt like I was doing something useful. I wonder if that's how you felt, if that was what you saw in being a defence attorney. I think I'm starting to understand, even if I still have a long way to go.
The studying isn't any less painful though. I guess this was a path that you once had to take as well, and I wonder what things would have been like if we could have been law students together.
15 August, 1924 hrs
Yes, thou art gone and never more
Thy sunny smile shall gladden me;
But I may pass the old church door
And pace the floor that covers thee;
May stand upon the cold, damp stone,
And think that frozen lies below
The lightest heart that I have known,
The kindest I shall ever know.
Yet, though I cannot see thee more
'Tis still a comfort to have seen,
And though thy transient life is o'er
'Tis sweet to think that thou hast been;
To think a soul so near divine,
Within a form so angel fair
United to a heart like thine
Has gladdened once our humble sphere.
A Reminiscence - Anne Brontë
30 September, 1742 hrs
My days have begun to blur into one another such that I can barely tell them from one another.
I miss my study sessions with you, so much that every time I found that my mind had drifted, I would go outside and make a lap around the law library. It helped me think of you and let me pretend that you were the one that sent me out as punishment, but if I'm honest, it's usually thoughts of you that led to my attention faltering anyway.
Sometimes I feel like I can almost see you here, your figure arresting but perfectly at home against the backdrop of grand library shelves as your perused the books. Other times I chance upon a book that reminds me of you, or an article that I feel you would enjoy. I make mental notes of all of them, but for what reason, I don't know.
I still long for you. I know you're gone, and I know it has been months since we were on the SS Burya, but as foolish as it is, I also think there's a part of me that will never stop hoping.
22 October, 2143 hrs
Kazuma, are you alive?
I don't know who I saw today, but Prosecutor van Zieks had a new assistant. He was difficult to identify with his mask and his cloak and apparently had amnesia and couldn't speak, but. I just.
I know I shouldn't keep my hopes up, but.
He just felt like you.
I know you would hate for me to speculate so pointlessly like this, so even though it's just conjecture at this point, I think there were some clues that I can point to.
When you stand, your posture had always been so perfect. This doesn't mean anything, but I've looked at you for so long that I can imagine your form with such vivid clarity, and even with the cloak draped over him, I can still see how the shape of his shoulders and the angle of his chin were exactly the same as yours.
I don't know. Maybe I'm delusional from missing you so much that I'm seeing signs where they don't exist. Maybe I just want you to be here so badly that I'm going mad.
But you know, until his mask is removed and my theory proven otherwise, I don't see why I couldn't keep hoping. To be able to see you again, you know I would give anything.
24 October, 2154 hrs
I am so glad you're alive after all.
27 October, 1400 hrs
Kazuma, you are an infuriatingly impossible man to track down.
This almost feels like divine punishment - I've only wished to see you again for so long, only spent endless nights hoping that you were still alive - and while I am beyond happy to learn that you are, not being able to talk to you makes me think there's some kind of bigger conspiracy at work.
I worry that you might be avoiding me. I still have so many things I want to talk to you about, so many questions I need to ask you.
But more than that, I think I just want to finally be honest with you now that I know I still have a chance to.
London is so immense, but if I have to turn over every brick just to talk to you again, I will.
1 November, 2342 hrs
I finally got to talk to you again today.
I suppose it's a little silly for me to continue writing in your journal like this, but it's become a form of solace for me over the last few months, so I hope you would indulge me again.
It was brief, but being able to see for myself that you were well put my mind at ease.
Still, never in a million years would I have ever imagined myself on the opposite side of court from you. You're so different now - I see it in your eyes, how they seemed to sparkle with passion that verged on wildness. How your hair had grown out to a messiness that you never would have allowed back then. How you held yourself at such a distance from me, and it's so odd that even when you were right in front of me, I cannot reach out to touch your face in the way I once could, or to feel your hands against mine like we once did.
But in some ways, I think you're still the same. The Asougi Kazuma that I know from two years ago had never been any less than single-minded in pursuing his purpose, nor any less sharp with his tongue.
Maybe what you want from me is time, because this has to be it, hasn't it? The mission that you were talking about. I still don't know what that is, but if I could tell you anything now, I want you to know that I will keep waiting.
For as long as it takes.
2 November, 2154
I still can't get used to seeing you in that white outfit, but I suppose you do look good in it. Iris commented that we were rather like opposites now, so starkly black and white.
I don't really believe that, you know? We were always different, I know, but I always felt our similarities more keenly.
Do you remember how, once, I asked you why you kept seeking me out? You were the pride and joy of our university, after all, so brilliant and wonderful that you almost seemed unreachable. Actually, it had taken me a long time to work up the courage to ask that. But you were so unperturbed by that question, telling me that you liked my company, that you enjoyed talking to me and hearing my thoughts. I don't think you gave it very much consideration at all, but I think it was precisely how easily the answer came from your mouth that made me very happy indeed.
After all, it was the same for me. I had always seen you around, but you were so closed off from everyone else. Isn't it amazing that a chance meeting at a random speech contest was what brought us together? But once I got to know you, my reasons for continuing to meet with you were exactly that too - because I liked your company, because I enjoyed talking to you and hearing your thoughts.
I didn't think we need much more than that. I still believe that.
You insisted today that I was the one that had changed. But I think you have as well, because you've become closed off from me again.
3 November, 2034 hrs
In my short time practicing law, everyone has repeatedly emphasised the importance of evidence. The evidence now does little but incriminate you.
Was this how you felt once? In that courtroom that fateful day when it was I that was on trial? I still remember how you fought so fiercely for me, how you believed in me when no one else would. I can never forget those words you said when Professor Mikotoba pressed you - that if you couldn't have faith in me in my time of need, then you shouldn't waste everyone's time by going to London - and while they hit me hard when I first heard them, nothing could compare to how I feel now. The implications today, knowing how you are here for your father, knowing that your resolution was so firm and immoveable that not even amnesia could have stopped you, and that you were willing to risk all of that for me back then-
I don't know what I've done to deserve this, and I can't even begin to understand how you would be willing to do that for my sake. I feel like I am coming so close to a revelation that will change me so fundamentally that it terrifies me, and I don't know what to make of it at all.
But it also means that I only have one course of action now.
I, too, must believe in you the way you believed in me. Even if not as your defence attorney, but most certainly as your friend. It's what you have done for me, and I'm committed to fulfilling my role to the very end.
6 November, 0024 hrs
I decided to write one last letter to you before I returned this journal to you. It is rightfully yours, after all. Since I won't be seeing you for a while, I would have to remind Susato-san to give it to you after I leave.
Something occurred to me a few hours ago - I wonder if you had written about your mission in your journal. I wonder if I would have figured out the meaning of that telegram months ago, if it would have helped me understand the case sooner.
I didn't look, of course. I gave my word to Susato-san not to after all, and I've kept my promise all this time. I suppose there is nothing stopping you from looking at my entries, though, is there? Maybe Susato-san could be convinced to make you give your word as well, but I rather doubt that. The thought that you could conceivably read about all that I feel is terrifying, but I suppose this is what they call a leap of faith.
Goodbyes are always difficult, especially with how brutal and cruel our separation on the SS Burya was. I think you deserve better than this, so forgive me for being cowardly again, but the truth is that I don't quite know how to face you now. I've said this before, but I've always wanted to be someone that you could depend on, in the way that I depended on you. But I fear that sentiment is wholly one-sided - after all, you never did tell me everything. I remember that you have tried in the past, but when we met again in London, I wonder if you decided it was easier not to.
Once, you called me your aibou. I don't know if that's still the same today. I don't know if I still have a place in your life now.
I'm not leaving because of that, though. Professor Mikotoba had asked me to return to Japan to help contribute to the development of the Japanese legal system - I think he was being kind. I still have a lot of studying to do, and court victories mean nothing if I am still constantly relying on the goodwill of others. I think it's clear to me now - that perhaps you can't depend on me because I can't even stand on my own feet.
So that is why I must return to Tokyo, but you should know that this I am not beating a retreat. Instead, I want to walk the path that you once walked so that I can catch up to you. And this time, it will be me that will chase after you so that I can meet you as your equal, and if I dare, perhaps even hope to surpass you.
Part III: Ryuunosuke and Kazuma (Or, There Is No Me Without You)
31 December, 1134 hrs
The boulevard leading to the university library ought to feel familiar considering the number of times he had walked along it, but instead, it felt alien and foreign to him. He was conscious of the dozens of eyes on him as he made his way down the stone path, the silent but obvious question of why was he back here was evident on their faces, but he remained unfazed by them.
Kazuma was here for one reason and one reason alone, after all.
It took him a couple of tries - the east wing study rooms had been fully booked out by some other faculty, while the central study area had been removed to make way for several new rows of bookshelves - but he eventually found the person he was looking for in the west wing.
Without knocking, Kazuma pushed opened the door to the mostly empty study room, his footsteps picking up as he marched forward to the figure staring vacantly at an open textbook. Perhaps Kazuma was wrong after all - it seemed that some things really never did change.
"Naruhodo Ryuunosuke," Kazuma said, clearing his throat, "you are an infuriatingly impossible man to track down."
Ryuunosuke flinched, staring back up at him in wide-eyed shock as he took in Kazuma's appearance. Kazuma missed this, missed him - it's a sight that he had not seen in a long time, and it struck him then that it was Ryuunosuke's surprise, of all things, that made Kazuma feel like he was home again.
"Kazuma," Ryuunosuke whispered unevenly, the book in front of him now fully forgotten as he shifted awkwardly to meet Kazuma's eyes, "how - what are you doing here?"
"Ah," Kazuma laughed, and it was only to hide the nervousness inside of him, "am I unwelcome?"
"No!" Ryuunosuke exclaimed, jumping up from his seat so quickly that his chair fell backward to land on the floor with a loud bang. The both of them winced from the sound it made, and Ryuunosuke cleared his throat, "sorry, I'm just surprised. I didn't expect to see you back in Tokyo - what happened to London?"
"I wanted to give you a reply to your last letter." Kazuma said, pulling out the well-worn journal from his coat pocket to wave it vaguely in front of Ryuunosuke, "considering what I wanted to say, it seemed appropriate that I give my words to you in person."
"Shhhh," the other student in the room hissed at them, and Kazuma shot him a glare potent enough that he shrank back before scrambling outside, leaving Kazuma was left alone with Ryuunosuke. Kazuma turned his attention back to Ryuunosuke, taking in every detail visible on him like the starving man that he was.
"So you read it then?" Ryuunosuke asked, his grip on the table tightening, "my letter to you?"
"That is why I'm here, yes," Kazuma replied, leaning in closer to Ryuunosuke, "though letters may be more accurate. Unfortunately for you, I had little compunction about going through every single one of them."
"I see," Ryuunosuke swallowed, and Kazuma could trace the visible bob slipping down Ryuunosuke's throat as he did, "and you had something you wanted to tell me?"
"Indeed," Kazuma drew closer still, enough he could feel the sharp inhale of Ryuunosuke's breath on his face, "I wanted to tell you that I love you."
"Yes. I love you, and I think that I have loved you for the longest time. I think that I have loved you since you beat me at that speech competition where you had the audacity to say such ridiculous nonsense like speaking fast is my hobby. I think that I have loved you since I sat next to you in class, and we spent hours after that talking without a care for the world. I think I have loved you since the day you thanked me for caring about you, for in that single moment I realised that you had accepted all of me into your heart.
"I know that I have loved you since the day we went to the shrine to pray for blessings, when I realised it was you that I was grateful for, that I wanted to love for the rest of my days. I know that I have loved you since the day we watched the cherry blossoms together, when I wanted nothing more than to lean in and kiss you. I know that I have loved you since the day you called me aibou as well, when I held your hands in mine before my father's grave.
"I have loved you for so long, and I have waited and waited to tell you. And now that I can, I will, and I will tell you that for every day that I continue to live. That for as long as you wish to have me, I will be here."
"I - I see," Ryuunosuke swallowed again, his eyes so glassy that Kazuma could see himself in them. There's a wetness in there, and Kazuma longed to kiss away brimming tears, "so where does that leave us?"
"I suppose that's up to you," Kazuma whispered, "but I want to be clear about something to you - that as much as you think depend on me, I am exactly the same way. Once, I called you aibou, and that sentiment hasn't changed. Or at least, it's changed, but only a little."
"I see," Ryuunosuke repeated, inhaling shakily, and Kazuma took his hands in his, firm but gentle in his grasp, "how so?"
"I don't just want you as my partner anymore," Kazuma said slowly, because even though he's recited these words a hundred times on the journey here, they still felt slippery on his tongue, "I want you as my lover too."
"Oh," Ryuunosuke whispered again, "how fortunate then, that I have thought the same."
Kazuma smiled, his heart full and pleased, "I'm glad. After all, there is a debt that you owe me, and I would hate if I couldn't collect."
"Yes," Kazuma said, "after all, I have evidence to show that on the 24th of December, Naruhodo Ryuunosuke stole a kiss from me, so I'm here to take one in return."
He leaned in then, pressing his lips to Ryuunosuke, and when he felt Ryuunosuke kiss him back, their synchrony set him alight and left him whole.
For, sweet, to feel is better than to know,
And wisdom is a childless heritage,
One pulse of passion—youth’s first fiery glow,—
Are worth the hoarded proverbs of the sage:
Vex not thy soul with dead philosophy,
Have we not lips to kiss with, hearts to love, and eyes to see!
Panthea - Oscar Wilde