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flight AAR106 bound for tokyo has been delayed.

tzuyu sighs heavily as she hears the announcement over the system. there’s a series of united groans from other passengers sitting near her. no one likes delays, especially around this time of the year. post new year’s, people want to visit their family and friends. well, most people. tzuyu isn’t one of those.

there’s a long set of flights set ahead of her for the final destination. the other two boarding passes are tucked safely in the back of her passport holder. all up, it’ll take almost eighteen hours to reach her chosen holiday spot this year.

when she told her boss she wanted to travel to new zealand for her next project, she encouraged her to make the trip. jeongyeon has always been supportive. her co-workers, not so much. she disregarded it. because everyone knows not to come in between tzuyu and her decisions. being a wildlife photographer means taking such leaps, especially for the outcome.

now, what is she meant to do to fill up time? maybe she can peruse the duty-free area.

it takes all of five minutes for tzuyu’s disinterest to take over and she finds herself back at the gate, making the most of the empty space. there’s barely anyone else around, most likely trying to do the same – find something to entertain them. for tzuyu, her phone becomes her best friend.

though, she didn’t expect for the battery to drain out so quickly. she’s saving her power bank for the multiple flights. her charger is packed in her main luggage, which she won’t be seeing for almost a day. would duty-free shops sell them? tzuyu wracks her brain for a solution. that is, until she spots an iphone cable hanging off another woman’s bag. considering they’re seated in the same area, tzuyu deducts that they’re on the same flight.

“excuse me.” tzuyu stops in front of her. “sorry for bothering you. i was wondering if i could borrow your charger? i promise i’ll stay right here. it’s just that my battery is about to die.” she points to her phone.

“oh. yes, sure.” the woman hands it over to tzuyu. wait, why does she seem so familiar? does she know her?

“are you on the flight to tokyo? or is it another flight? i don’t want to use it for too long.” tzuyu asks.

“that’s my flight too. don’t worry about it.”

tzuyu sighs in relief as she sits beside the woman. she doesn’t want to come off as a thief by taking it elsewhere. she plugs her phone in the charger and quietly stares off into the distance. note to self, next time, she needs to make sure she packs one in her carry-on luggage to prevent this from happening again.

she can’t spend any more time counting the seats in the room. tzuyu will go insane. she tugs her laptop and her camera out of her backpack. maybe a head start on editing footage would be enough to tide her over for the remainder of the delay. connecting her camera, tzuyu dives into her recent captures from her trip to jeollanam-do. she’d been so grateful for the opportunity because she ended up encountering a siberian musk deer. she smiles as she sifts through the photos, the deer busy chomping on some leaves.

“wow. that’s beautiful. did you take that?” tzuyu is taken aback by the sudden comment from the woman beside her. “oh. i’m sorry. i didn’t mean to scare you.”

“it’s fine. i guess it can make up for me approaching you all of a sudden.” tzuyu chuckles. “yes, i took that recently. i like taking photos of wildlife.” she pauses for a moment and then offers her right hand. “i’m tzuyu, by the way.”

she’s never been one to open up first. maybe it’s because of the kindness the woman shared with her when they’re strangers or the tinge of familiarity she senses.

“i’m nayeon. nice to finally meet you. i’ve heard a lot about what you do.” the woman shakes tzuyu’s hand firmly.

“nayeon? im nayeon? you’re friends with yoo jeongyeon?” tzuyu clarifies. her boss is always going on about her friends from school.

“i see jeongyeon has been spending time gossiping about us.” nayeon rolls her eyes. “i hope she hasn’t said anything too embarrassing.”

“just once about a party at your co-worker’s house. i think her name was mina?” tzuyu clarifies. “to be fair, it was mainly jeongyeon digging herself a hole with her stories. don’t worry.”

“it’s such a small world. jeongyeon has been singing your praises for months. i feel like i know you already.” nayeon compliments. “what animal was that by the way? if you don’t mind me snooping around.”

tzuyu chuckles at the comment, not worried about it in the slightest. she loves talking about her work, especially if it’s in regards to special animals like this, which many locals are unaware of. she spends the next few minutes rambling about the deer, showcasing some more photos from her gallery. tzuyu thinks it’s cute how nayeon studies each one, commenting on her favourite parts. it makes her heart swell with pride.

“you probably travel to a lot of countries frequently if you find rare animals like these.” nayeon points out.

“actually, this one is native to korea.” tzuyu laughs at nayeon’s look of surprise. “you have to journey a little far from seoul. i found it in jeollanam-do.”

“i didn’t know they existed.” nayeon shakes her head.

“now you do.” tzuyu grins.

“are you travelling to tokyo to take more photos?” nayeon asks.

before tzuyu can respond, an announcement cuts their conversation short.

attention, flight AAR106 bound for tokyo is ready for boarding. flight AAR106 bound for tokyo is ready for boarding. please proceed to the gate.

tzuyu sighs, disappointed with the sudden call. just as she finally started to converse with nayeon a little more. she packs away her belongings before returning the charger to her.

“thank you for lending that to me. you saved my phone and me.” tzuyu bows deeply.

“please don’t worry about it. you kept me entertained for that delay as well. hope you have a safe flight tzuyu-ssi.” nayeon waves as she moves to line up.

tzuyu sighs as she watches her retreating figure. at least, she’ll be able to reach out to her again when she returns. she’ll have to bug jeongyeon about it and deal with the nagging that comes with.

 

/

 

tzuyu had forgotten how annoying transfers are. the one hour she has at narita airport is barely enough for her to make it through to her next gate, but she makes it with a little time to spare. the next chunk of her flight will be exhausting and tzuyu knows it’s best to sleep it off. her travel pillow and eye mask will come in handy. after all, what else is there to do on a ten-hour flight? she’ll need the energy to make that last connecting flight after this one.

as tzuyu finds her aisle seat, settling in comfortably, she spots a familiar face heading down the opposite end. now, she’s not sure if she’s seeing things at this stage. has thinking about meeting nayeon again driven tzuyu insane? she pinches herself for good measure, wincing. yet, her sight never changes.

in that moment, nayeon turns around and locks eyes with tzuyu, a beaming smile gracing her lips. it’s terribly infectious and she can’t help but return it. nayeon’s in the same row, except on the other end, window seat. tzuyu feels an itch to approach her, but resists, shaking herself out of her thoughts. they’re barely acquaintances at this stage. so what if they’re on the same lengthy flight. so what if talking to nayeon is what tzuyu wants to do. mid-air is probably not the best time to start conversations. especially on a night flight where everyone wants to sleep.

tuning out the captain as they take off, tzuyu slips on her eye mask and her travel pillow, letting herself be drawn in by the tugs of sleep.

 

/

 

surely, their coincidences couldn’t continue. that’s the only thing that tzuyu could think about as they exited the plane. it’ll end here, in auckland. there’s no way that nayeon would be going to christchurch too. but with the way things have been, the chances of that happening aren’t so miniscule.

“fancy meeting you here again.” nayeon laughs as she sits next to her after their next transfer.

“this has been a crazy string of events. you’re headed to christchurch? or is there another connecting flight for you?” tzuyu gasps. “i can’t believe it.”

“that’s my last stop. it’s been exhausting, hasn’t it? you seemed to be sleeping soundly on the plane.” nayeon teases.

oh.

“so, your eyes were on me?” tzuyu retorts, proud of the hue of pink that spreads over nayeon’s cheeks.

“maybe.” nayeon looks out the window.

the two sit in a comfortable silence as they await the announcement of their final flight. auckland to christchurch is just over an hour in flight time. they’re almost at the end of their lengthy journey.

“are you travelling to christchurch for work as well?” tzuyu breaks the quietness. her curiosity is getting the better of her.

“no, actually. i’m going for a holiday. i needed a break from work. it’s been a hectic year for me so i thought i should take a week of leave. i joined a tour group this time.” nayeon answers. “will it only be a work trip for you?”

“ah, actually i found this company that’s doing a nine-day tour. honestly, the tour groups give me a wonderful experience of a lot of different things. and i like touring around when i have the time. even though i love the animals, the scenery can be so beautiful. cameras can’t always capture the sights that your eyes can.” tzuyu sighs softly at the thought.

when nayeon doesn’t respond, tzuyu glances over at her. she’s greeted with a sweet smile, catching her off guard. the tips of her ears burn and tzuyu looks away quickly, cursing under her breath.

“it’s cute. i haven’t come across people so passionate about what they do.” nayeon compliments. “imagine if we end up being in the same tour group too.” she laughs as she theorises another potential coincidence.

“is it this one?” tzuyu hands over her phone to show nayeon the name of the company.

“oh my god. that’s the same as mine. are you doing the queenstown and kaikoura tour?” nayeon gasps.

“that’s the nine-day tour i’m on.” tzuyu is left stumped for words. out of all the possibilities this could have happened, they’ve been on the same flight since the beginning.

for a moment, tzuyu suspects her boss having something to do with this. it’s awfully suspicious. but, jeongyeon is busy with work. she wouldn’t be exposing her itinerary to someone else, right? ah, this is driving her insane. the coincidences have piled up and tzuyu doesn’t what else will happen next. for all she knows, they’ll end up rooming together. she’d chosen to be paired up with the tour company’s roommate pairing service.

that’ll be difficult for her to deal with. she’s already been struggling to talk to nayeon directly without becoming flustered. is the world out to embarrass her in this trip? she silently pleads for everything to go smoothly from here on.

attention passengers of flight NZ537. the plane is ready for boarding. please proceed to the gate.

“i’ll see you when we land then nayeon-ssi.” tzuyu moves to the line.

“i think we’re past the formalities, aren’t we? you can just call me by my name.” nayeon quips. “see you outside tzuyu-ah.”

her sudden forwardness leaves tzuyu scrambling to form a response. she shakes her head. admittedly, the way nayeon says her name makes her heart flip in her chest. and that is exactly how tzuyu realises that she’s going to be screwed for the rest of the trip.

 

/

 

it turns out that they’re the only two solo travellers. as such, they’re roomed together like predicted.

tzuyu’s left panicking the entire time they’re unpacking their luggage. the room isn’t too bad. there’s two single beds and a shared bathroom. they’ll only be staying here for a few three nights anyway. it’ll be okay. at least, that’s what she tries to tell herself.

there’s a knock on their door and tzuyu squints through the peephole to see who it is – a couple also in their tour group.

“hi there. we’re so sorry to bother you. i’m momo and this is my wife, chaeyoung. i know you’ve already unpacked but we have a big favour to ask from you both.” she frowns as she talks.

“is everything okay?” nayeon asks, sidling by tzuyu’s side.

“i don’t know what happened with the booking but our kids ended up being in a separate room down the hall. would it be possible to swap rooms? we’ll reimburse you. anything you need.” momo explains.

“dahyun-ah, stop running in the corridor!” chaeyoung reaches out to stop a little girl from moving again. “where’s jihyo?”

“i’m here mom.” tzuyu looks between the two girls before glancing over to nayeon. she seems deep in thought.

“that’s fine. we’ll swap. i think this room has a connecting door as well. it’ll come in handy.” tzuyu smiles as nayeon crouches in front of dahyun, busy making friends.

“we’ll pay you–”

“please, it’s fine. don’t worry about it. we’ll pack our bags and move there soon. do you have the room cards?” tzuyu cuts off chaeyoung’s words.

half an hour later, tzuyu and nayeon make their way to their new room. though, tzuyu halts in her steps when she opens the door. nayeon bumps into her, groaning as she rubs her nose.

“why did you stop?”

there’s only one bed. but it seems like tzuyu’s the only one having a problem with this. nayeon walks by and drops her bag on the floor.

she lets the realisation sink in. she’ll just have to stick to her side of the bed instead. there’s no pull-out sofa and tzuyu isn’t going to bother reception for it after such an exhausting day.

“do you want to wash up first? i’m going to be out on the balcony for a bit.” tzuyu offers, grabbing her camera and heading out. she doesn’t leave room for any arguments.

taking a deep breath, tzuyu sighs as she looks out in the darkness of the sky. it’s astonishing in comparison to seoul. there’s no loud bustling of cars or buses. it’s peaceful and serene and she loves it. tzuyu takes a few photos with her camera before settling on a chair and enjoying the scenery. she closes her eyes for a bit, the tiredness becoming too much for her to handle.

she doesn’t realise that she’s dozed off until she feels someone shaking her. tzuyu sits up suddenly, blinking away the remnants of the mini nap. she’s greeted with nayeon hovering over her in concern. tzuyu’s heart almost bursts out of her chest. she inhales sharply, barely able to contain the overflow of emotions running through her.

“sorry. i must’ve take too long in the bathroom.” nayeon frowns as she shuffles back to give tzuyu space to get up. “it’s so cold outside tzuyu-ah. you shouldn’t be here.”

“it wasn’t you. i think i fell asleep because i’m so tired from the flights.” tzuyu chuckles. “thank you for checking up on me. i would’ve frozen out here.”

“all good. i’m going to head to bed. i’ll take the left side so you can take the right. good night tzuyu-ah.” nayeon smiles as she goes back inside.

tzuyu sighs heavily, pressing two fingers to her wrist. her heart rate is soaring. she takes a few more moments to herself, regulating her breathing before she heads to shower. internally, she’s a mess. externally? she hopes she’s not giving away her crisis to everyone else.

 

/

 

the following morning, tzuyu is up and out of bed before nayeon. it’s barely eight but she doesn’t want to spend more time sleeping in. maybe she can grab some breakfast while she’s waiting for everyone to meet in the lobby for their first activity for the day. they’ll be revisiting christchurch’s history and botanic gardens. apparently, there’s something called punting as well but tzuyu’s never been fond of water.

“oh, it’s pretty unnie.”

tzuyu doesn’t have enough time to process the child barrelling towards her. dahyun wraps her arms around tzuyu’s legs, grinning as she looks up at her. she’s adorable in her little pigtails.

“dahyunie, mom will be mad if you run off like that again!” jihyo huffs as she stands by the elevator with them.

“it’s nice to meet you again dahyun. i’m tzuyu.” she shakes dahyun’s small hand. “did you come here when you saw me?”

“yes. i wanted to say hi.” dahyun answers shyly.

“you have to be careful, okay? make sure you always hold your sister’s hand or your mom’s hand.” tzuyu advises. dahyun nods enthusiastically as she speaks, making a show of holding jihyo’s hand tightly.

“like this?” dahyun asks.

“right. you’re doing a wonderful job dahyun.” tzuyu smiles endearingly. she’s such a bubbly and bright girl, spreading joy with every step.

“did she cause trouble? i’m so sorry.” momo apologises as she reaches them.

“no, no. dahyun is adorable.” tzuyu compliments.

“tzuyu unnie said that i’m doing a wonder… a wonder…” dahyun trails off as she tries to remember what tzuyu said.

“a wonderful job.” tzuyu chuckles, high-fiving dahyun as she jumps up and down.

“are you headed for breakfast? your roommate isn’t here?” chaeyoung looks around.

“she’s still sleeping so i didn’t want to disturb her. the flight here took a lot out of us.” tzuyu sighs, stepping inside the elevator. “i was just going to the restaurant in the lobby. didn’t want to go too far.”

“i know what you mean. the flight from tokyo to here had the kids restless.” momo shakes her head.

“tzuyu unnie, where’s the other unnie? i miss her.” dahyun pouts as she tugs on tzuyu’s shirt.

“nayeon unnie is still sleeping. i’ll bring her next time.” tzuyu pats her head.

 

/

 

“i can’t believe you left me asleep in the room! i could’ve been up earlier.” nayeon whines as they board the tour bus. “i didn’t even have time to grab something to eat.”

“you were deep asleep. i wouldn’t want to be disturbed.” tzuyu laughs, taking a seat. she digs through her bag and sources a few muesli bars she’d packed. “when we get there, you might be able to grab something to eat. but you can have this for now.”

“don’t think i’m letting you off because you’re giving me this.” nayeon grumbles under her breath. “i could’ve woken up and done the hot air balloon ride in the morning.”

“would you really have woken up at five?” tzuyu points out the schedule as she looks it up on her phone. they have availabilities but it’s only in the mornings.

“maybe.” nayeon scrunches up her nose as she takes a bite.

“oh right. dahyun wanted to see you.” tzuyu remembers her conversation with the little one a few hours ago.

“you met dahyun? now that’s just unfair.” nayeon sulks. “she’s precious. i wanted to talk to her some more yesterday.”

“it seems like she wants more of you. she said she misses you.” tzuyu adds on. she watches as surprise washes over nayeon’s face, morphing into a proud grin. the way she goes on about dahyun is cute, tzuyu thinks. it seems like she has a soft spot for small kids.

the remainder of the bus ride flies by and soon enough, they’re at their first stop, lyttelton harbour.

“wait, are we going on a boat?” tzuyu stumbles as they step on the wharf.

“well, to get to quail island you have to take a boat.” nayeon clarifies. “are you not good with water?”

“makes me queasy. as long as i’m not inside the water i’ll be okay. i just need to wear a lifejacket.” tzuyu breathes heavily as they board the boat.

it’s shaky at first and tzuyu closes her eyes as a wave of nausea hits her. she shivers a little bit but there’s a strong grip on her arm and she looks over to see nayeon holding onto her. she’s rooted on her spot, legs feeling like lead.

“i’ll keep you up. don’t worry. just take small steps to the seats. you’re almost there already.” nayeon encourages.

tzuyu nods as nayeon guides her to the north of the boat. it’s fairly empty and she’s grateful for the peace.

“see, you did it. it’ll be easier from here.” nayeon pats tzuyu’s leg, reassuring her. “if you look at the scenery instead of the water, it’ll help.”

“how do you know this?” tzuyu asks.

“you can say that i’ve had my share of experiences. i never used to be able to step in water confidently. jeongyeon helped me out then.” nayeon explains as she shuffles in her seat. “it makes it easier when someone’s there to help you overcome it. i’m sorry if i crossed a line by helping. i didn’t think it through.”

“not at all. i probably would’ve been stuck on the wharf.” tzuyu chuckles. “i’m very grateful. somehow, i missed out on the memo that we’d be travelling by boat.”

(for the rest of the ride to and back, nayeon doesn’t let go of tzuyu’s hand, claiming her safety always comes first)

 

/

 

tzuyu isn’t very eager to leave the bed the next day. the boat ride took a lot out of her and even though she managed to grab some photos of some native animals, the trauma she received as a result is deeply rooted in her chest.

“aren’t you coming with? everyone will be down there in half an hour.” nayeon calls out of the bathroom.

“i’m staying in and skipping today.” tzuyu grumbles, sinking her face into her pillow. “have fun.”

“but we’re going to the antarctic centre! you love animals.” nayeon’s voice is louder as she nears tzuyu’s side of the bed. “don’t you want to see the little blue penguins? they’re adorable.”

“is there anything related to water?” tzuyu asks, peeking out of her blanket.

“no. and if there will be, we won’t go on it.” nayeon smiles reassuringly. “now come on and let’s go. i guess i’ll spend some time with dahyun and jihyo while you take your time.” she sticks out her tongue as she makes a move to the door.

tzuyu panics, scrambling out of the bed. nayeon cackles as she watches it all unfold, enjoying the sight. of course, she’s teasing her.

 

/

 

they leave for kaikoura in the early hours before sunrise. tzuyu’s travel pillow and eye mask comes in handy again. she waits for nayeon to take her window seat before she moves. sleep comes to her very easily and she drifts off.

“unnie.”

“tzuyu unnie, wake up.”

tzuyu stirs from her sleep when she feels someone whispering near her. jihyo and dahyun are standing beside her, sheepish smiles on their faces. their focus isn’t on her though, rather, on nayeon. following their gaze, tzuyu looks to her left, doing a double take when she finds the top of nayeon’s head right beside her. actually, on her shoulder. no wonder she couldn’t feel it anymore. nayeon’s fast asleep in the seat. tzuyu looks around the bus, realising it’s empty now.

“thank you for waking me up.” tzuyu whispers. “where is everyone?”

“we just arrived. most of the people are checking in their rooms.” chaeyoung answers, grinning as she sits on tzuyu’s other side. “you planning on waking her up?”

“i’m not sure what the consequences will be.” tzuyu laughs as she shakes her head. “is your wife already checking in?”

“yes and she is back with your keys as well.” momo steps up on the bus. “the guide was handing the cards out in the foyer so i grabbed yours too. i thought you’d probably need it. we’re on the same level again.”

“thanks momo. i guess waking nayeon up won’t be necessary then.” tzuyu looks over to her. the issue is how she’s meant to get her to their room without waking her up.

“why don’t you carry her? we’ll grab your luggage.” chaeyoung pats tzuyu’s shoulder. “plus, the kids are enjoying your company too. they wouldn’t leave without you.”

tzuyu laughs as she tries to manoeuvre her way out of her seat. nayeon is incredibly clingy. she ends up piggybacking her out of the bus, trying her utmost best to ignore the ticklish feeling of nayeon snuggling against her neck.

“unnie looks like a koala.” jihyo points out, trailing beside tzuyu.

“what’s a koala?” dahyun ponders.

“it hugs trees tightly while it eats.” jihyo replies.

tzuyu chuckles at their conversation, pushing nayeon up as they reach their room. chaeyoung scans the card for them, letting tzuyu go in first before leaving the key behind.

“see you soon. i think you might need to wake her up soon after all.” chaeyoung points to the clock on the wall. “let’s go girls.”

moving to the bed, tzuyu carefully lets nayeon down, sighing in relief as she rolls her shoulders back. she’s not sleepy and there’s nothing to do right now. tzuyu decides to quickly wash up first. she knows they should be heading out soon but she doesn’t have the heart to wake nayeon up.

it turns out she doesn’t need to. because when she comes out of the bathroom, nayeon is up and confused as she looks at tzuyu.

“did i sleep walk?” nayeon mumbles sleepily. “i don’t remember coming inside the room.”

“that’s because i carried you inside.” tzuyu rolls her eyes. “you fell asleep on the bus and i couldn’t wake you up. momo and chaeyoung helped us to our rooms an hour ago. their girls think you’re a koala.”

nayeon looks mortified as she speaks. “you carried me the whole way? you should’ve woken me up.”

“according to jeongyeon, you bite the people who wake you up.” tzuyu makes up a lie.

“i did that once .” nayeon mumbles. “only because i was having a bad dream.”

tzuyu erupts in laughter at the confirmation. she didn’t think it would be true. “alright, alright. are we going out with the others? we have a bit more than an hour.”

“do you want to go with them today? they’re going on a boat cruise.” nayeon tilts her head. “i mean, we can if you want to.”

“no! that’s fine.” tzuyu shakes her head. “how about we go out for lunch? apparently, the crayfish is amazing.”

“does that mean i can go back to sleep?” nayeon yawns.

“yes, actually i’ll probably take a nap too.” tzuyu nods. the double bed isn’t so intimidating this time around.

 

/

 

the two are ready early for their second day in kaikoura. well, it’s mainly tzuyu having to chase nayeon to get dressed quicker because she’s eager to hit the kaikoura peninsula walkway. she wants to see the seals and the hutton’s shearwater. tzuyu particularly wants to see the little birds, vulnerable now because of the changing environment.

“i’m not good at hiking. how long is the trail?” nayeon asks as they leave the hotel.

“did you pack bottles of water?” tzuyu looks back to check. nayeon nods. “how about food? muesli bars?”

“i have them all. why do i sense this is going to be a tiring walk.” nayeon groans.

“it’s four kilometres one way to see the seals. one kilometre for the colony of the hutton’s shearwater.” tzuyu smiles at nayeon’s demise. “don’t worry. we’ll go slow and take breaks. i promise it’ll be worth it.”

nature walks always uplifts tzuyu’s spirits. maybe, since she’s always loved animals and their habitats. but, there’s something so beautiful about being at a height and watching the waves crash on the shore. the serenity that comes with the chirping birds and the lack of noise pollution.

she hears a shutter go off and she turns to find nayeon, holding a film camera.

“wasn’t the hike worth it?” tzuyu points to the few seals on the rocky platforms. “i didn’t know you had a film camera.”

“i like how the colours turn out when i print them. and pretty views like these will be memorable.” nayeon clarifies. “my legs are sore from coming up here. i don’t have any more energy.”

“we can sit for a bit.” tzuyu puts down her backpack and takes out a plastic picnic mat.

“how do you fit so many things in your bag?” nayeon mutters as she sits down.

“it’s a habit from travelling so much. i need these things when i sightsee.” tzuyu chuckles.

nayeon’s camera goes off again and this time, tzuyu bites back a smile.

“are you taking photos of me or the scenery?” tzuyu shakes her head.

“i did say that i like taking photos of pretty views.” nayeon shrugs.

it’s the nonchalant movement that makes nayeon seem like she had that prepared and it leaves tzuyu stumped. because how can someone say that like it’s the most natural thing in the world? her cheeks burn from the compliment and she’s a lost case for the remainder of the hike.

 

/

 

their sixth day leads them up to queenstown. they pass christchurch again on the way, stopping by willowbank wildlife reserve. tzuyu is detached from everything ever since her last encounter with nayeon and spends the time wandering around on her own. jihyo and dahyun keep her entertained and the distraction is welcomed. she has time to breathe, thinking about everything spiralling out of control.

she doesn’t know if she’s thinking too much or if there’s something slowly flowering between them. this is a nine-day trip. what will happen when they return? a part of tzuyu believes that this is unfolding quickly. could she have the hope that nayeon is on the same wavelength? would she want to pursue this when they’re back in korea? it’ll end up being awkward for both of them and jeongyeon.

tzuyu’s brought out of her daydreaming when she hears someone calling her – it seems to be one of the kids.

“tzuyu unnie. we’ve been looking for you everywhere. nayeon unnie is hurt.” jihyo huffs with momo by her side.

“is she okay?” tzuyu furrows her eyebrows as she’s lead to the entrance of the reserve.

nayeon is sitting on the edge of the stone wall. her foot is wrapped up in a bandage. tzuyu jogs the remaining distance, concern taking over.

“what happened?” tzuyu crouches to have a look.

“it’s nothing tzuyu-ah. i’ll be fine.” nayeon shoots down her worries.

“that’s not true. she sprained her ankle looking for you.” chaeyoung crosses her arms over her chest.

the words hit her hard. nayeon wants to argue against it but tzuyu shakes her head. this is her fault. if she hadn’t spent so much time thinking about herself, this wouldn’t have happened.

nayeon slowly reaches out, taking tzuyu’s hand in her own to guide her to sit down. “i wasn’t looking. it’s not your fault. i stumbled over a rock. i’ve always been a little weak on this foot.”

it only quells part of the self-blame. “but you wanted to go kayaking tomorrow. now you can’t.”

“i can do something else while you guys are out. maybe look around arrowtown. glenorchy also. some of the hobbit and lord of the rings was shot there. it’d be nice to see.” nayeon smiles, disregarding tzuyu’s words.

“well, i’m not going anywhere without you. i’ll talk to the tour guide to ask if we can hire a wheelchair.” tzuyu shakes her head.

“i’m not letting you. it’s the end of the tour. you should be going out and having fun.” nayeon furrows her eyebrows.

“do you really think i’ll go kayaking after what happened on the boat?” tzuyu raises an eyebrow. “if you were there, i might have tried it. but not alone.”

nayeon gnaws on her bottom lip. “you would go?”

“i feel like trusting you when i’m with you. makes me feel confident in trying out new things.” tzuyu confesses proudly. “just don’t tell jeongyeon.”

“do we really have to get a wheelchair? i can walk just fine!” nayeon whines, making an attempt to show her.

“jihyo and dahyun, can you hold nayeon unnie down for me?” tzuyu turns to the girls beside her.

“of course!” the girls giggle, grabbing on nayeon’s arms.

“hey, that’s unfair!” nayeon succumbs to her fate between the two.

 

/

 

tzuyu chooses to go on a stroll around the lake in queenstown on their last day.

nayeon fiercely argued against being in a wheelchair, so they left it behind in their hotel. she brought her camera with her, even though she’s not expecting to find any special wildlife. she wants to spend the last day without any worry. it’s been an amazing nine days. 

she definitely will come to new zealand again just for the sightseeing and wonderful atmosphere. there’s something different about it. the people are sweet, the environment is beautiful. or perhaps it’s the company that tzuyu had this time around that made it so enjoyable. not only nayeon, but meeting momo and chaeyoung and their daughters. she’s never bonded with people from her tour group like this.

tzuyu is trying to take a picture of the sunset when nayeon stands in front of the camera. it’s not on purpose. she’s busy cuddling someone else’s child and cooing over them. tzuyu changes her focus, shifting to capture the adorable scene unfolding before her eyes. it makes her smile. nayeon creates bonds with little kids so easily and it’s endearing.

“what are you taking photos of? let me see.” nayeon approaches tzuyu, trying to grab her camera.

she’s faster, though. tzuyu walks backwards, keeping the camera out of nayeon’s reach. she uses her height to her advantage. that is, until her shoe hits the edge of a stray rock. tzuyu squeals as she tumbles backwards but nayeon is faster, tugging her camera strap.

“see, this is why you should’ve listened to me.” nayeon scolds tzuyu as she tries to catch her breath.

“i didn’t think that would happen.” tzuyu grumbles and turns around, walking on the path by the lake.

nayeon follows beside her, keeping some distance. as they round a bend, some joggers come up behind them and tzuyu shifts closer to nayeon. their hands brush for a mere moment and she inhales sharply. but, nayeon doesn’t move away. tzuyu gulps, unsure if this is meant to mean something. should she hold her hand? is that what nayeon’s signalling? or is she so absorbed in the moment that she hasn’t realised?

“i thought you’d pick up on the cue.” nayeon sighs, intertwining their fingers together.

she feels her cheeks burn and tzuyu opens her mouth to argue but realises there’s nothing to say. she’s going to sound silly if she confesses her confusion.

“i wasn’t sure. i didn’t want to cross a line.” tzuyu cringes as the excuse leaves her lips.

“did i cross a line? by doing this?” nayeon worriedly drops tzuyu’s hand.

“no, not at all.” tzuyu shakes her head and interlinking their fingers again. “i’ve just been going back and forth in my thoughts. half thinking there’s something here, half unsure.”

“do you want there to be something?” nayeon asks. “because, i do.”

“a little too much.” tzuyu smiles, a weight lifting off her chest upon the confession.

 

/

 

returning to christchurch feels daunting to tzuyu. this is the end of their trip. she’s out on the balcony of the hotel, making the most of their last evening. there’s still plenty of questions floating in the air.

“why are you out here brooding?” nayeon pulls her out of her thoughts as she stands beside her. “what’s on your mind?”

“you.” tzuyu deadpans. “and what will happen when we go back.”

nayeon cups tzuyu’s face, turning her around to face her. “there’s going to plenty of time for us. just because our relationship developed here, it doesn’t mean that it’ll end here too. we’re not far from each other, you know. we’ll make it work.”

tzuyu heaves a sigh and nods. she leans her forehead against nayeon’s. “nayeon, can i–”

“you don’t have to ask.” nayeon answers, squeezing her hand lightly.

she lets out a shaky breath, calming her nerves. slowly, she cradles nayeon’s cheeks between her palms. tzuyu’s overwhelmed for a moment. the sheer amount of patience and understanding nayeon is pouring for her.

tzuyu leans forward and kisses her gently. her heart is thundering beneath her chest. nothing prepares her for the softness that comes with this. nayeon grips her shirt, keeping her close. she feels warm all over.

“thank you.” tzuyu mutters as she pulls away. this is all new to her but she likes every single part of it.

 “do you think we’ll blow jeongyeon’s mind when we return?” nayeon cackles.

and tzuyu wouldn’t trade this for the world – nayeon’s craziness included.