It’s been over 20 years since they’ve been married, yet he still felt that this was all a dream.
Tezuka Kuniharu awoke to the sound of his wife’s alarm clock and lazily reached over her to hit the snooze button. He fell down on top of her as his head rested in between her bosoms. He liked how soft they were and he quickly dozed off until his wife pushed his head off of her chest.
“Haru, do you really have to use my chest as a pillow…” his wife said groggily as she yawned.
“Good morning, Serenity.” he chuckled.
“Really now…?” she answered as she sat up.
“Why not? You are my Serenity.” Kuniharu said as he moved up and began to cuddle up to her. His face pressed onto her’s and she pushed him away.
“Stop. Your face tickles. At least shave first.” she replied.
Kuniharu gave her a sad face. “I can’t get a ‘good morning’ kiss from my own wife?”
She rolled her eyes and gave him a light peck on the lips. “Good morning, Endymion.”
He pulled her closer and was about to kiss her for longer until she put her hands out on his chest. “Not until you shave, Haru.”
Ayana rolled herself out of bed and walked towards the bathroom. She turned on the tap and washed her face with the cold water to wake her up. She slapped herself with her hands. She stared at herself in the mirror and her attention quickly shifted towards the ring on her left hand. She looked at it and contemplated on the thought that she did make the right choice many years ago, like she does every day. It was hard not to notice the ring on her finger because of how eye catching the purple diamond is on a gold-plated platinum band.
She brushed her hair and tied it up into a bun before she walked towards the closet in their room to get a change of clothes for the day. She giggled as she watched her husband struggle to tie his necktie for the 7000th time. No matter how many times he tries, he just never puts it on right. He stared at his wife with desperation in his eyes. She just laughed and proceeded to tie it for him as he tries to distract her with a bunch of kisses. Typical pre-breakfast routine and it’s usually the only time they have alone with each other until their only son and Kuniharu’s father wakes up.
“When will you ever learn how to tie this on your own?” Ayana asked.
“Well, when you die, I’ll have to tie a tie for the funeral.” Kuniharu joked.
“Very funny, Haru.” she said. “We both know you’re dying first.”
“Ouch. Your words hurt me deeply.” he replied sarcastically. “But I doubt I’ll ever learn how to. My fingers are too fat. Your beautiful and slender fingers are better for tying ties.”
Ayana finished looping his tie and pulling it to finish the knot. “There. Now put on a blazer or go to work as is. It’s cold outside so I suggest the blazer because I’m not going to take care of you in bed two times this month, okay?”
Kuniharu looked upset, but then he had a small epiphany. “Ayana, what’s today’s date?”
“The 30th of November?”
“Aw yeah! No blazer for me today because tomorrow’s December!”
“Haru, please.” Ayana said, sounding defeated.
“Fine, fine. I’ll put on a blazer just for you, Ayana.” Kuniharu replied flirtatiously.
It took a while before Kuniharu came into the kitchen. Ayana had already begun planning the meals for today and was already cooking. Today’s cooking was different from the previous day’s because Kuniharu noticed a lot of foreign ingredients usually not found in Japanese cooking.
“Ayana, what the heck is this stuff?” Kuniharu asked as he poked everything with his finger.
“I have no idea. Mitsu wanted me to make him this new stupid health diet thing for his tennis, so I’m trying to follow his instructions, but what the heck is this ‘wheat grass protein extract’? I wish he labelled the ingredients too…”
Kuniharu kissed her forehead. “I’m sure you’ll figure it out or our genius son will tell you.”
“Speaking of genius,” she turned around from her cutting board, “you’re going to be late for work in the next hour if you don’t sit down and eat food. I made your favourite.”
“Cha-chawanmushi?! In the morning?! Ayana…” he began crying. “I LOVE YOU!!”
“You’re such a kid, Haru…” she sighed. “Now eat it or I’ll force it down your throat.”
Kuniharu sat down at the table and hyped himself as he spooned up some of the chawanmushi and ate it. He melted into a metaphorical puddle of ooze as he continued to eat it. The euphoric face he had on made his son sigh and slap him back into reality.
“Father, wake up. It’s just chawanmushi.” came the cold and somewhat annoyed voice of Kuniharu’s son, Kunimitsu.
“You don’t understand, Kunimitsu.” Kuniharu replied meekly. “IT IS THE BEST CHAWANMUSHI EVER AND IT WAS MADE BY YOUR BEAUTIFUL MOTHER! IT TRULY IS THE PINNACLE OF CHAWANMUSHI!” he shouted as soon as he regained his energy.
Ayana giggled. “Good morning, Mitsu.”
“Good morning, Mother.” Kunimitsu replied. “Father’s still the same.”
“No, I’d have to disagree. Your father has changed a lot from when we first met.” Ayana thought. “It’s weird how you didn’t take after him and took after your grandfather.”
“I do not know if that is a good thing or not.” Kunimitsu replied as he continued to stare at his father. “Am I seriously the biological child of this man…?” he thought to himself.
Kuniharu cried as he finished his food. “Thank you for the food, my beautiful, lovely wife!”
“Now, now. Don’t cry, stupid. I made more for your lunch today.” Ayana said as she held the bento boxes for her husband.
Kuniharu ran up as quickly as he could and held her tight. “Ayana… I LOVE YOU!!”
Kunimitsu looked dumbfounded. “Really, Father…”
“You don’t understand this feeling, Kunimitsu.” Kuniharu said. “Chawanmushi is the best thing in the world if it was made by your mother. Any other type of chawanmushi is considerably pleb-tier compared to your mother’s.”
“Father, stop using slang. It doesn’t make sense to me.” Kunimitsu said as he began to eat breakfast. “And there’s no point for me to understand at this age. I’m not popular with girls.”
“Bullshit.” they both thought.
“Oh well. I best be going before my father wakes up and brings on the wrath. I’m heading out now! See you later, my lovely wife.” Kuniharu said cheerfully as he kissed Ayana on the cheek. He grabbed his suitcase and ran out the door, dropping some papers behind.
Ayana ran over to get them. She was going to run after her husband to give them to him, but he already sped out of the driveway. Sighing, she returned inside as she caught a glimpse of a photograph within the stack of paper. She pulled out the photograph and saw a picture of the two from when they were younger and ‘enjoying the uni life’ as Kuniharu always says.
“That rat bastard still hasn’t changed…”
“Mother, why are you cooking the wheatgrass in dashi stock?” came the voice from her son, who was watching the pot on the stove boil over.
It was another boring and cloudy spring day in Tokyo. Tezuka Kuniharu was skipping class, as usual. He sees no point in going to his Calculus II class if he already knows how to do triple integrals while the rest of the class is still stuck on defining functions. He’s always found on the rooftop of the Material Science labs building because the Dean of Faculty of Commerce never has time to cross to the other side of campus to look for him. All he does is stare out into the streets of Shinjuku, looking for something fun to do. Apparently, going to Waseda University didn’t interest him at all. All he thinks about now is how he could have gone to Tokyo Tech and work on something that could advance technology, but instead, he chose to be a business major.
Today was a bit different, as he noticed something way out of the ordinary.
Walking into the clinic during his Calculus II class was none other than Hashimoto Ayana. The Hashimoto Ayana. The one girl who has never skipped a single class. The one girl who always goes to every lecture, no matter how infectiously sick she is. The last person you’d ever see walk into a clinic during the middle of Professor Kanno’s boring lecture on double integrals. This piqued his interest and he decided to go down and see what’s up. He climbed over the railings and was about to jump onto the tree branch when the Director of the university opened the door to the roof and sees him try to jump.
“TEZUKA!!” came the shout from the director.
“Shit.” Kuniharu muttered to himself.
Quickly, he jumped onto the branch and descended to the ground before the director could reach the railings. He fell into the shrubs that lined the building as the director got to the edge to look and see where he was running towards. Kuniharu stayed still and kept quiet as the director scratched his head and walked away from the ledge.
“That was close. Holy shit.” Kuniharu stood up and brushed himself off. He ran for the clinic before the director could catch him. “Last time I ever do that…”
Just ask he reached the door to the clinic, Hashimoto Ayana walked out of the clinic with a bandaged left arm. She held the door open for Kuniharu with her bandaged arm. Kuniharu looked at her in the eyes and she just stared at him with a weird look. “Are you not going to go in?” she asked.
It took a while before Kuniharu snapped out of his daze. “No. What?”
Ayana snorted. “Typical.” she then let go of the door and walked away.
“Wait!” Kuniharu called out. “Hashimoto, isn’t it?”
Ayana stopped in her tracks and turned around. “Tezuka, isn’t it? What do you want? The Calculus II lecture ended a while ago.”
“I-” Kuniharu began, but was cut off by his friend, Sanada Gennosuke.
“Oi! Haru, you bastard! Skipping Calc II again?! Professor Kanno’s gonna have my ass if you don’t show up for the next lecture! Literally!”
“He’s right you know, Haru. Prof Kanno’s got the hots for Sanada here!” his other friend, Atobe Keisuke remarked. “I’m jealous, Sanada! Kanno’s really hot too! Why turn her down too?”
“Oh shut up, Keisuke. You got your eye on that sophomore doing sociology!” Gennosuke shouted.
“At least I’m not Haru and going after Ms. Stick-Up-Her-Ass!” Keisuke retorted. “She’s not even hot!”
“Hey!” Kuniharu shouted at Keisuke. “She’s right there you- huh?”
Ayana was nowhere to be seen. Kuniharu sighed heavily. Keisuke and Gennosuke both laughed at him.
“Oh damn! Shot right out of the sky this time, Haru!” Gennosuke said. “Fourth girl this week, man! Fucking brutal!”
“No wonder you’re still a kissless virgin! You can’t even talk to women without them walking away!” Keisuke added.
“Oh shut up, you two.” Kuniharu replied.
“TEZUKA!!” came the angry yell from the director of the university. who was now running towards the three of them.
“Shit! Run!” Keisuke shouted. The three of them split off into different directions.
“Good morning, Ayana. Kunimitsu.” was the groggy voice from Kuniharu’s father, Kunikazu. “You guys were loud this morning.”
“Sorry, Father. You know how Haru can be.” Ayana responded.
“Oh yes. I’m quite aware. That child… I swear I’ll never understand why you married him, Ayana.” Kunikazu wondered.
“You just have to look past his stupidity, Father.”
“I’ve tried so many times, Mother. I still do not see why you married him.” Kunimitsu finally said after staying silent for a while. “Thanks for the food, Mother.”
“Done, Mitsu?” Ayana asked as she walked over to the table. “You didn’t touch the chawanmushi.”
“It’s father’s favourite. Give it to him when he comes back.” Kunimitsu replied. “Mother, are you having problems with identifying the ingredients I’ve bought? Do you need me to label them for you?”
“That would be lovely, Mitsu.” she sighed.
“Excuse me then.” Kunimitsu said as he got up and walked over to the counter.
“Chawanmushi? Ayana, you know that Kuniharu-”
“-gets overly excited when he eats a good chawanmushi. I know, Father.”
“Speak of the devil,” Kunikazu sat down and looked at the photograph, “why is this here? Kuniharu never leaves for work without this picture.”
“It dropped out of his suitcase this morning. I was going to chase after him, but you know how Haru is with cars and driving fast. That idiot’s going to kill himself…”
“Not like it’s the first time…” Kunikazu laughed to himself. “I would have killed him easier if I knew he hurt you back during your university days.”
“Father, please. It was a good thing you didn’t kill him.” Ayana laughed. “Besides, I would have killed him first, hands down.”
Kuniharu couldn’t find Ayana after running away from the wrath of the director, so he decided to lose himself in the shops around the Golden Gai area of Shinjuku. He always finds something interesting in the Golden Gai because every day is always different. He walked aimlessly around, looking at the walls plastered with movie posters for upcoming films starring more and more foreign actors. His favourite bar was open and he was tempted to go in, but realized that it might not be a good idea. He kept walking around until he stopped in front of a cafe. He was about to go in when (surprise, surprise) Hashimoto Ayana walked out with a coffee in her hand that was bandaged along with the rest of her arm. Again, Kuniharu was lost for words and again, Ayana gave him an annoyed look.
“Tezuka, isn’t it? If you don’t stop following me without a reason, I will call the police on you.” she threatened.
“Why is your arm bandaged?” he asked bluntly.
“Is that your concern?” she asked. “It’s nothing. Routine checkup.”
“My ass. Routine checkups don’t result in you having your entire arm bandaged up.” he retorted. “Well then, shall we walk and talk, Hashimoto?”
“Uh, no. I have to study for my Physics III midterm. I’m going to the library.”
“Then I’ll walk you there.”
“It’s not even dark out. What the hell are you planning?”
“I genuinely want to know what’s wrong with your arm.”
“Are you sure this is not some sort of bad attempt to get into my pants?”
Kuniharu grabbed her arm and held it. He looked carefully at the bandaging job and looked for any bleed throughs. He also took this time to just stare at how slender and fragile the arm really was. He let go after he felt that it was okay for him to.
“You have an infection and it’s just so utterly gross that you needed to have it covered up.” he concluded.
Ayana rolled her eyes. “As expected from a commerce student.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Infection isn’t even close to the real reason.” she replied. “It’s covered up because of the allergic reaction to the medication I’m taking. This is just to prevent infection and from me bleeding out.”
“Medication? You don’t look sick at all.”
“I have a form of hypothyroidism. I don’t talk about it because the name of the condition is weird.”
“How so?” Kuniharu said, suddenly really interested.
“It’s called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. My grandfather was the one who discovered the condition and I just happen to have it.”
“Wow. No wonder you don’t tell people.” Kuniharu started laughing. “That’s just too funny.”
“Oh shut up, you ass.” she groaned. “I’m going to go then. Later.” she said as she walked towards the direction of the university’s library.
Her bandage was becoming undone and Kuniharu saw the crimson blood stain the bandages faster and faster. Ayana began to lose her balance and orientation when Kuniharu ran towards her to hold her steady. He quickly grabbed the part of her arm where the blood was trickling out of in an attempt to clot the bleed. Ayana began to lose consciousness and Kuniharu did the only thing he could think of; he took off his shirt, tied it around her arm to makeshift a bandage, picked her up and ran towards the university’s infirmary, which was a good 20 minute run from where they were.
Kuniharu sighs heavily as he eyes his endless pile of paperwork he has to get done for the day. All he was thinking about was the lunch that awaited him, and he’s only been at work for less than ten minutes now. Defeated, he begins to attack the stack of papers. He opened up his suitcase and realized the photograph of his wife and him was missing and he began to panic.
“Shit! How the hell am I supposed to work now?! Oh man, this feels just like that time she almost died!”
Ayana woke up in a very white and very sterile room. She tried to set up, but the supernovae headache she was experiencing made her lie still. She turned her head to see an IV in her right arm with blood running through the tube. Attention shifted towards her left arm, which was bandaged more heavily than before. She didn’t feel much pain and it was hard for her to move her legs, so she must have been sedated. She tried looking around the room to see if she recognized anyone when a nurse walked by and came up to her.
“Oh, good! You’re awake!” the nurse said, surprised. “You’ve lost a lot of blood, but thankfully, that young man who brought you in was the same blood type as you!”
“What?” Ayana replied in a daze.
“Oh, you don’t know? Some nice, young man carried you into the clinic in a panic and he gave some of his blood after he found out he was the same type as you. You were bleeding a lot, so it was a good thing.”
Ayana tried to think about what she was doing before she ended up here, but nothing came to her. “Who was it?” she asked.
“He didn’t leave a name, I’m afraid.”
“You’re free to leave as soon as we finish the transfusion and you feel okay enough to go.” the nurse said. She walked over to the IV and examined it carefully before adjusting some measurements on the machine and leaving to check on other patients.
Ayana tried to think hard about what happened before she ended up in the clinic. She was leaving a cafe in Shinjuku and was heading towards the library, but she felt that something was missing. There must have been some interaction she didn’t remember.
Meanwhile, Kuniharu was standing outside of the clinic, shaking with fear of what to do next. He’s been trying to decide whether or not to go in to see her or not and if she even wanted to see him at all. He didn’t know if he should go see her in case she goes into some sort of rage that would make her injury worse. He wanted to go see her to see if she’s doing okay or if there were any more complications. He was just so nervous about what to do.
‘Do I bring her flowers? What if she’s allergic to those flowers? Should I bring her food? What if she’s not hungry? What do I do??’ was all that went through Kuniharu’s mind at the time. He didn’t realize that Ayana was standing in front of him by the time he was partially done worrying about her.
“Are you not going in?” Ayana asked him.
“Hashimoto! Hi! Uh. Are you-”
“I’m fine. What are you doing here, Tezuka?”
“N-nothing! I was gonna check on you and stuff but, uh-”
“Nothing. It’s late now. Should I walk you home?”
“Thanks, but I’m not going home. I’m studying in the library’s reading room. You’re free to join me. It’s Calculus II review for midterms.”
“Uh, maybe I’ll just walk you there. It’s dangerous at this time anyways. Campus gets sketchy after 9 PM.”
“You don’t have to, Tezuka.”
“Judging by the stab wounds you were hiding under your bandages, I think it’s safer if I walk with you.” Kuniharu turned around. “Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Hah! I knew it was too much of a coincidence to be true!”
“How did you-”
“Hashimoto, you can’t fool me. I’m a streets kind of person. Plus, I was with you when the nurses were fixing your bandages and taking my blood, so-”
“So you’re the person who brought me in. What happened?”
“A huge volcano of your blood spewed everywhere and dyed all of the Golden Gai red, so now it’s called the Red Gai.”
“Very funny, Tezuka.”
“Ayana…” Kuniharu sniffled as he talked on the phone with his wife. “The picture is GONE.”
“Do you mean the picture of us at some sort of summer festival? You dropped it as you ran out of the door again, Haru. I have it right here.”
“You do?!” he said as he began crying. “Ayana… I LOVE YOU!!”
“Get back to work, Haru. You have stuff to do. I need to get back to the stove.”
Professor Nanaki’s Statistics and Dynamics lecture was over for the day and Ayana was always the last to leave his lectures. Today was no different, but Professor Nanaki approached her as she finished packing up her papers.
“Hashimoto, I have a favour to ask of you.” Professor Nanaki began.
“It’s about the one kid who never shows up for my lectures.”
“Atobe Keisuke? Professor, if I’m not mistaken, he dropped your-”
“No, not Atobe. Tezuka Kuniharu? Do you know of him?”
“Tezuka? What about him?”
“Well, you see, he hasn’t done anything this semester and he’s going to fail my course if he doesn’t write one test before the exams. He might be struggling to learn the material and gave up. I was wondering if you could talk some sense into him for me? Or even tutor him?”
“You’re asking for a lot, Professor.”
“I know, but I don’t know who else to ask but you, Hashimoto.”
“Don’t worry, Professor. Count on me. I’ll get the job done faster than ripping off a bandage.”
Professor Nanaki laughed. “Good to hear it, Hashimoto.”
“Oh that stupid son of mine… Always causing trouble for you, Ayana.” Kunikazu sighed as he finished eating his breakfast.
“It’s fine, Father. Really.” Ayana said as she continued to chop up this gelatinous substance. “Haru’s just who he is. Kind of dense if you ask me.”
“I almost killed him when you told me he skipped classes frequently. Do you know how expensive those classes are?! If I wasn’t chief back then I don’t know how I would have been able to put him through school if he never went to his classes…”
“He did finish top of his class though. All he took for electives were math courses whereas everyone else took petty courses in philosophy or the other social sciences.”
“I swear to God if I didn’t force him to go into business, then he would have been different and doing something even more insane…”
Ayana waited in the cafe in the Golden Gai for Kuniharu to arrive, but he was late, as usual. She was growing more and more impatient as time kept passing. It was almost 4:30 and she planned to meet with him almost half an hour ago. She sighed heavily as she continued to work away at the problem set that she was supposed to do with him. Kuniharu showed up as Ayana gathered her things and packed them up.
“Oh, was that today? I forgot.” he said nonchalantly.
“You’re an ass, Tezuka.”
Ayana shoved the rest of her papers into her bag, but one of them fell out of her hands and landed on the ground. Kuniharu picked it up and examined it.
“That’s wrong. You didn’t do it right.” he said. “For instance, when you attempted to simplify the identity, you made sine of x equal cosine of x over tangent of x, when it’s supposed to equal cosine of x times the cotangent of x.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me. You know everything?!”
“That’s why I skip. Shit’s useless to me.”
“Thanks for wasting my time, you ass. I’m leaving.” she said as she slung her bag over her shoulder and walked towards the exit.
“Wait. Hashimoto!” Kuniharu called out.
“What the hell could you possibly want now?!” she yelled at him with rage. Her voice echoed throughout the cafe and everyone looked at them.
“I-” Kuniharu began. “Nevermind.”
Ayana turned around and walked out of the cafe, leaving Kuniharu in a daze and everyone else in the cafe whispering.
Kuniharu arrived home from work, exhausted. His morale was low and all he wanted to do was sleep. “I’m home…” he said weakly.
“Welcome back, Haru.” Ayana replied. “You’re tired. Go take a bath. Dinner’s going to be a little later because Mitsu’s not coming back for a while.”
“No, I was gonna say that I wanna take a bath with you…”
“Maybe later. Maybe.”
“Ayana… I LOVE YOU!!”
“I know you do, Haru, but stop shouting it so much. Your father always gets grumpy when you say it so loudly.”
“Not like it’s the first time he gets grumpy…”
Ayana didn’t want to talk to Kuniharu, but he wanted to talk with her. Kuniharu had tried every attempt in his small, small book of picking up women to try and coax her into talking to him. Nothing worked. He lost hope and fell into a bout of depression. He skipped classes more frequently. He stopped handing in assignments. He didn’t show up to write any tests. He began to drink in excess. He did the typical depression stuff that any university-aged man would do when they were heartbroken. Yet none of those things seemed to matter to Hashimoto Ayana. She didn’t care about him.
Both Professor Nanaki and Kanno grew interested in the subject, but for different reasons. Nanaki worried about the wellbeing of Kuniharu, Kanno was more concerned about the effect women have on men and their ability to progress in academics. Either way, both seemed to be concerned for him since he was the brightest in their classes, but they didn’t know what to do, since they had no idea where he even lived. That was classified information due to the fact that his father was the chief of police for the Shibuya section of Tokyo. They tried asking Sanada and Atobe both on his whereabouts, but the both of them didn’t know anything.
It wasn’t until the Kanda Festival two weeks later that both Ayana and Kuniharu’s friends saw him.
Against his will, Kuniharu was attending the festival alongside his father, who was in charge of security. He became a NEET those past few weeks and he really didn’t want to be outside with people celebrating a holiday he really didn’t care about. He didn’t want to be spotted by anyone he knew because he grew callous to the company of others and he didn’t want to hurt them.
Ayana didn’t approach Kuniharu and continued to walk down the streets. Kuniharu spotted her and began to run after her. He just had to talk to her, despite him not wanting to interact with anyone. Something compelled him to go after her.
Ayana turned around to see Kuniharu chase her down the street. “What could you possibly want, asshole?”
Ayana scoffed. “Isn’t it a little late for that?”
“Goodbye, Tezuka Kuniharu. I’m done talking with you.” she answered as she turned around and continued to walk away.
“I love you...” Kuniharu said to himself.
And because of pathetic fallacy is a thing, it started to rain. Really hard. Everyone on the streets ran for cover in the nearby shops, but Kuniharu stayed out. There was nothing else to do for him anyways. Ayana ran off. His friends left him. He’s failing. Typical stuff. Nothing changed.
Kuniharu, seeing no other option, decided to walk around the streets. He wasn’t needed anywhere, so it didn’t matter where he ended up. He just kept walking. Walked past the busy intersection in Akihabara, looking at his tiny reflection on the front facade of the Radio Building. Realizing that he was just as small and worthless like everyone else, he continued his walk.
He ended up in Ueno, where he stopped and stared at his reflection in Shinobazu Pond. He didn’t know what he saw. Physically, it’s just a man staring in a pond. His short, brown hair fell in front of his eyes. His vision has gotten worse these days, but he never wore glasses for them. He could barely make out much of the small details he sees. He reached out to touch his reflection, but his perception of sight was off and he fell into the pond. The surprisingly cool water quickly engulfed him. He couldn’t bear the cold, so he quickly got out and attempted to find the edge of the pond. Two passerbys happen to notice him struggle to find the end, so they helped him out. His vision wasn’t returning to him, but he recognized the voices of the two that pulled him out.
“Tezuka! You idiot!” came the scowl from Gennosuke. “What the hell are you doing?!”
“Sanada?” Kuniharu asked.
“Oi, Haru! Do you not realize what you did?!” was the shout from Keisuke.
Gennosuke and Keisuke looked at each other. Keisuke held Kuniharu by his shoulders and violently shook him. “Snap out of it, Haru!”
“Haru, you idiot! You need to go see that stupid Hashimoto or you’ll go insane!” Keisuke yelled.
“But she doesn’t want to see me, Keisuke… She hates me…”
“So what? Tezuka, I’ve never seen you more into this stupid girl than ever before! You’re getting soft!” Sanada scolded.
“Dammit, Haru! You bastard, look at yourself! You’re letting your life go to waste, dammit! That goddamn Hashimoto Ayana has been driving you crazy! Usually, girls are always awed by my prowess, but that goddamn Hashimoto doesn’t even budge! She’s head over heels for you!” Atobe added.
“Is she? Is she really, guys?” Kuniharu asked. “Is she really head over heels for me? Is she the same person after she met me? Is she still the same person who never skips a single class? Is she still the same teacher’s pet? Is she really Hashimoto Ayana? Is she? Is she?!”
Gennosuke slapped Kuniharu across the face and then grabbed his shoulders. “KUNIHARU!! YOU BASTARD! JUST FUCKING DO IT!”
Kuniharu finally snapped out of his phase and looked at Gennosuke’s face. Though he can’t make out most of the details, he felt his icy glare as Gennosuke let go of his shoulders. Keisuke looked at him too with a more worried face.
“You’re right. If I have balls, I got to do this.” Kuniharu murmured. “But you guys need to help me. I can’t see.”
“You can’t see?” Keisuke asked.
“No. I can’t see. I can’t see anything. Just outlines but that’s it.”
“There’s no time. Let’s just get him to her doorstep and ditch.” Gennosuke said.
“I’m home.” Kunimitsu sighed as he walked through the door.
“Welcome back, Mitsu.” Ayana greeted. “Tired?”
“Kind of. Working hard to get to the next tournament.” Kunimitsu replied. “Is dinner ready yet?”
“Kind of. Not really. Not sure. Still waiting.” was the indecisive response.
“Mother? Are you okay?” Kunimitsu said as he ran up to her.
“Maybe. I think.” Ayana answered before stumbling.
“Father! Something’s wrong with Mother!” Kunimitsu shouted. He catches Ayana in his arms and puts two fingers to her neck to check her pulse. “At least she has a pulse. She’s breathing.” He tried to pick her up and move her, but his shoulder pain kicked in and he almost dropped her.
“Kunimitsu! Don’t strain your shoulder!” Kuniharu exclaimed. “Ayana! Ayana!”
“She’s conscious, Father. I think it’s fatigue. Or cabin fever.”
Kuniharu got a hold of Ayana and lifted her up. He walked her over and put her on the sofa in the living room. Kunimitsu wetted a towel and put it over her forehead. Kuniharu held her hand tightly while Kunimitsu did other physical checks; heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure just to name a few of the things.
“She’s fine, but we should let her rest, Father.” Kunimitsu concluded. “Relax. She’s not dying, Father.”
“I know she isn’t, but this feels like the time I almost lost her.” Kuniharu replied.
Gennosuke, Keisuke and Kuniharu all stood in front of Ayana’s apartment door. Keisuke knocked on the door and he and Gennosuke ran for the hills, leaving Kuniharu blind and lost. Ayana opened the door and was reluctant to see Kuniharu standing in front of her door. She didn’t want to see him, but he was soaking wet and smelled like algae and petrichor. She didn’t want to let him in due to the sole reason that she was about to take a bath and was only in a bathrobe. Reluctantly, she sighed and let him into her apartment. Kuniharu took one step before falling over and collapsed on the floor.
“Tezuka? Tezuka?!” Ayana asked. She checked his temperature by feeling his forehead. “Shit. You’re running a fever.”
Ayana used her strength to drag him inside her apartment before anyone else saw. She took off his soaking wet clothes and dragged him into the bathroom. She turned on the shower head and began to scrub his body to get rid of the pond scum that was sticking to him. Using her herbal scented shampoo she scrubbed his hair to get rid of the damage done by the rain and pond water. Kuniharu felt the hot water on his back and Ayana’s fingers running through his hair.
“Hashimoto?” Kuniharu finally asked.
“Call me Ayana, Kuniharu.”
“Oh, shut up.”
“Ayana-” Kuniharu stopped mid sentence when he turned around to look at her.
Ayana blushed. “D-don’t look.” she said as she used her arms to cover her chest.
“Is my fever high or are you just that hot?”
“Haru is fine. My friends call me that.”
“It’s okay. You took off all of my clothes. Either you’re really into me or you’re trying to reduce my fever and clean me up.”
“Wash the shampoo out of your hair. I’ll fill the tub.”
Ayana’s eyes fluttered open. She turned her head to the side and saw Kuniharu looking at her with relief and joy.
“Ayana!” Kuniharu said in surprise.
“Haru? I’m okay, Haru.”
“Mother, you’re okay.” Kunimitsu sighed.
“It’s okay. I’m okay.” Ayana replied. “My blood sugar must be low.”
“Mother, did you eat anything today?”
“I must have forgotten to.”
Kuniharu suddenly got teary-eyed and began to weep. “Ayana…”
“Stop crying, Haru. It’s ugly.”
“I was so close to losing you, my beautiful, lovely wife! How can I not cry?”
“You’re overreacting, Father. Mother’s fine.”
“I know but,” he sobbed. “it was just so close.”
Kunimitsu rolled his eyes. “I’ll finish making dinner since you’re not strong enough to do so, Mother.”
As soon as the bathtub filled with steaming hot water, Ayana threw some bath salts in, swirled it around with her hand and climbed in. The bathtub was unusually large for such a small sized apartment. Kuniharu finished rinsing his hair and dried it using the towel Ayana left for him. Once he finished, he climbed into the tub as well, making Ayana blush harder.
“These salts smell nice. Or maybe it’s just you.”
“I’m only warming you up, okay? Only reason why I’m here is because I can’t afford to waste any more water until the next billing period.”
“Whatever you say, Hashi- Ayana.”
“Besides…” Ayana said as she looked down and pulled her legs up to her chest. “You’re good looking. And you’re also the only guy who’s ever came into this apartment.”
“Am I? Well then I must be one lucky guy.”
“I forgive you, okay?”
“I forgive you, Haru.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yes. I’m sorry too, Kuniharu.”
She started to cry. She really had no rationale to cry, but she did. “I’m sorry, Haru. I’m sorry.”
Kuniharu moved closer and held her face in his hand. He used the other hand to wipe away the stray tears from her face, like they always do in romances.
“Don’t cry. You look less beautiful when you do.”
“I didn’t say you didn’t look beautiful. Crying makes you ugly, yes, but you’re still beautiful when you are crying. God, what the hell am I saying?”
Ayana laughed softly. “You’re cute when you screw up like that.”
“And you’re just cute.”
Once Kunimitsu finished cooking the rest of the meal and Kuniharu set up the table, the family sat down to eat a meal together. Nothing out of the ordinary. Kunimitsu talked about tennis, as usual, and they all put up with it. Kunikazu usually drank in excess and began to ramble about the various criminals he stopped in his days with Sanada’s grandfather. Ayana usually never had much to say because her days were usually the same. Kuniharu never said much about his work because it was more boring than Kunimitsu’s ramblings about tennis. Today they were more quiet than usual and Kunimitsu noticed it.
“Father, Mother, you’re both awfully quiet today. Did something happen?”
“Oh, ignore them, Kunimitsu. Your parents are just huge lovebirds.” Kunikazu said in his drunken state. “Oh man, this sake is good! That reminds me of this one time when I busted down an illegal sake factory that was mass producing sake at an alarming rate and-” he kept rambling on and his words were becoming more incoherant the more he drank.
Kuniharu was more focused on his wife, who was glowing brighter and brighter the more she ate. He stared at her as she took little bites of food, while smiling and even laughing at some of the random stuff his father was saying. He watched in awe as everything about her lit up. Everything about her just seemed too perfect to be real. He couldn’t take his eyes off of her. He just kept thinking about her.
“My dad left this here when he came for business. You can borrow it for now.” Ayana said as she handed him the cotton shirt. “I’ll just run down and put these through a quick wash. I don’t have anything that can pass as pants, so you’ll just have to wait.” She put on slippers and walked out of the apartment.
This left Kuniharu alone with her apartment, so he decided to look around at the stuff she had out. A bowl full of peaches on the kitchen counter that look fresh, no TV in her living room, a desk scattered with formulas, theories, textbooks, calculators and stationary, a closet with futons falling out, a sink full of dishes and various origami models scattered around the place.
‘She must not have time to do the dishes. Maybe I should do them for her.’ he thought. ‘Nah. She said something about her not being able to afford water earlier, didn’t she?’
Kuniharu decided to go into her bedroom and put out a futon for her. He was carrying the futon to her room when she came through the door.
“You’re setting up my futons?” she asked as she closed the door behind her.
“Yeah. I was gonna leave after my clothes dry so I mean-”
“Stay the night.” she said as she hugged him. “It’s late anyways. No point in going home. Plus you got a fever of 39, which is high.”
Kuniharu sighed. “Alright. I can sleep in the living ro-”
“You can sleep in my room. We can share futons.” she replied with her face getting red. “You didn’t button up the shirt.” she noticed.
“Not like I’ll be wearing it for long anyways. I tend to sleep shirtless.”
She sighed. She let go of the hems of the shirt and walked over to the futon closet to get out a bigger one. The walked into her room and spreaded out the futons on the ground. Kuniharu fell on top of the futon he was carrying. His body felt heavy and he was almost done. He turned around to see Ayana finish setting up the futons. She loomed over him and he looked back at her.
“You should get some rest, Haru.”
“Maybe. But I don’t like to sleep alone.”
“I know. I know. I’ll get some rest.”
“Good. I’m tired too. It’s been a long day so I’m going to sleep too.”
“Oh! Do you want anything?”
Kuniharu crawled under the futon and curled up under it. “Nothing… I’ll tell you later… Good night…”
“Good night, Haru.”
After dinner was finished, Ayana cleared the table and washed the dishes. While she was cleaning up, Kunimitsu retired to his room to do his work, Kunikazu watched some stupid variety shows and Kuniharu went into the bathroom and started a hot bath. He threw some bath salts into the water and stirred it around with his hand. As he waited for the tub to fill up, he turned on the shower and scrubbed himself with soap as he tried to wash off the stress he’s accumulated over the past month. He sighed as he rinsed the soap off and heard a knock on the door.
“Haru? There aren’t any towels in there. Can I open the door and put some down?” was Ayana’s voice on the other side.
Kuniharu turned off the shower and walked over to the door to unlock it. He slowly pried the door open in case there was someone else besides Ayana on the other side. He peeked out of the crack between the frame and door, but only saw Ayana. With a sigh of relief, he opened the door more and grabbed Ayana’s wrist and pulled her into the bathroom while closing the door all in one motion. He then relocked the door and walked over to turn off the water flowing into the bath.
“Geez, it’s really steamy in here, Haru.” Ayana said as she put the towels into the cabinet.
“I ran a bath for the both of us. Care to join me, Serenity?” Kuniharu asked.
Ayana took one look at her husband and looked at herself in the mirror. “Actually, I do.”
Ayana returned into her apartment with Kuniharu’s now washed and non-algae smelling clothing. She folded the clothes up neatly and placed them beside his futon and crawled into her own. Kuniharu tossed and turned until he finally opened his eyes and looked at her.
“I can’t sleep.” he finally admitted.
“Same. I’m tired, but I can’t fall asleep either.”
They both turned and stared at the ceiling and sighed. Ayana turned her head to look at Kuniharu.
“It’s cold tonight.” she finally said.
Kuniharu moved closer to Ayana and lifted up his blanket to share with her. “Now, the closer we are, the more heat we share. Enthalpy is fun.” he smirked.
Ayana giggled. “At least it’s not entropic.”
“I can make it entropic.”
Ayana gave him a funny look. “How?”
“I dunno.” he said as he inched closer to her. “It’s not a bad thing to fall in love.”
“Your words hurt me deeply. Really and truly.”
“Good. You’re an ass anyways.”
Kuniharu turned himself again and faced the ceiling. He sighed. Ayana continued to stare at him.
“I’m kidding. You’re not always an ass.”
“I’m only an ass when I want to be.”
Ayana closed her eyes and a warm, comforting type of silence filled the air. The both sighed as they made eye contact.
“I love you, Tezuka Kuniharu.”
“I love you, Haru.”
Ayana inched closer and rested her head on his shoulder. “I mean it.”
She turned to face him and grabbed his head with her hands. She closed her eyes tightly and pressed her lips onto his. Kuniharu’s eyes widened. Ayana was kissing him and he didn’t know what to do. All these weird ideas ran into his head, but all he did was push harder against her force.
‘This is how the theory of equilibrium forces works right?’ he thought.
He closed his eyes and began to intensify the kiss. He slowly wriggled his tongue into her mouth because that was a sensible thing to do. Surprised by the sudden move, Ayana returned the action. The moved slowly at first, not wanting to do something stupid, but it was their first kiss; both separately and as a potential couple.
They broke the kiss after a while and Ayana hid her face under the covers. Kuniharu laughed. “You’re so cute, Ayana.”
“T-there was a scientific rationale for that! There’s this theory going around that important events, such as one’s first kiss, gets imbedded into your hippocampus so you can never forget it…”
“Too bad for you, Ayana. That wasn’t memorable for me.”
Kuniharu pulled her into his arms. “I’m joking, but we can make it more memorable.” he said, which made her blushed. He smirked. “It’s not a bad thing to fall in love with me.”
“It’s been so long since we’ve done this together, Haru.” Ayana sighed as she let her body relax in the hot water. “Almost forgot this feeling.”
“Same. Life just gets to you. Wish money wasn’t a thing so I could do this all day.” Kuniharu joked as he wrapped his arms around Ayana’s waist. “I wanna sleep, but I’ll drown.”
“I won’t let you drown. I still need you.”
“I can’t die either. I need you too.”
Kuniharu woke up with his head spinning. At least it was Friday, which meant no classes until 11 AM. He sat up and realized he felt all weird and warm and fuzzy on the inside. Smiling, he looked at Ayana, who was sleeping peacefully beside him. Her bare shoulders were showing and he finally remembered what happened.
‘Oh shit, I slept with her, didn’t I?’
He did a quick scan of the room and saw his clothes folded up into a neat pile. Quickly, he got out of the covers and began to frantically put on his clothes before Ayana woke up. The noise he was making, trying to get his clothes on, woke her up.
“Do you have to be so loud in the morning, Haru? Are you late for class or something?”
“What?” Kuniharu turned around. “Sorry. I’ll get out of your hair.”
“It’s fine. You can stay, idiot. Last night was like a dream.”
Kuniharu fell back onto the futon and lied there. “What the hell happened last night…”
“I don’t know. That’s something you should tell me.”
“I know what happened last night. I’ll tell you what happened from my view, but you must also have an opinion on this matter too.”
“It’s fine. If you don’t actually remember, then whatever happened last night meant nothing and we can continue with our lives.”
“I think I know what happened last night. Honestly it’s a blur because I still feel like I’m dying, but I don’t regret it. I might regret it if my stupid friends find out because they’ll never let me live it down.”
“What about you?”
“It was just a dream to me. I don’t remember every detail, but it was nice. Great, even. I don’t regret it either, but I don’t know. I want more.”
“What do you mean?”
“Will you be my boyfriend, Tezuka Kuniharu?”
He cracked a smile. “That’s my line. Except replace ‘boyfriend’ with ‘girlfriend’ and that’s totally my line.”
“You what?” was the only answer that came out of Keisuke and Gennosuke’s mouths.
“I slept with her. She’s my girlfriend. What do you not understand? Is my Japanese incoherent?”
“Dammit, Haru. Mad skills.” Keisuke muttered. “You, out of all people, got laid. And with… her.”
“Man, Haru. Respect. No wonder you look better these days.” Gennosuke added.
“I’m just gonna assume you guys mean well.” Kuniharu replied. “Anyways, I don’t know what’s gonna happen next, but I mean, wow.”
“What’s this? The infamous Tezuka Kuniharu finally showed up for my lecture? You’re just in time for the surprise test today.” came a voice from behind.
“Good to be back I guess, Professor Nanaki?” he answered.
“Man, that bath felt so nice.” Ayana sighed. “I just wanna sleep now.”
“Same. Thank heavens it’s Friday.” Kuniharu added.
The both of them walked into their bedroom and plopped themselves on their bed. Ayana inched closer to Kuniharu as he wrapped his arm around her.
“We don’t do anything interesting these days, Haru.”
“Life does that to you. We can always do something when New Year’s rolls by, if you’re not going to be cleaning the house spotless, that is.”
“I’d get Mitsu to do it if he didn’t have to use the ‘oh I have tennis practice all break’ excuse.”
“Get my dad to.”
“I’m kidding! We’ll think of something, Ayana.” he yawned. “Time for bed for me. I’m done.”
Ayana giggled. “Okay then. Good night, sweet prince. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
“I’m not dying yet.”
“You will if you don’t sleep.” Ayana answered as she kissed him goodnight.
Kuniharu paced around nervously, as if he had a horrible itch to scratch, but he couldn’t. He questioned if he was doing the right thing. He questioned if he could do this thing he was about to do.
“Geez, Haru. You look like you have spaghetti in your pants or something.” Ayana laughed. She had her hands behind her back.
Kuniharu turned around. “A-ayana! I- uh. Um. Uh…”
Ayana kissed him so he could shut up. “Happy six years of us, Haru.”
“So why did you call me out, Haru? It’s not like you to suddenly plan this stuff last minute.”
Kuniharu got down on one knee and pulled out a ring. “Marry me.”
Ayana put her hand to his forehead to check for a fever. “Are you sick?”
“Haru, I know you mean well, but…”
“What? What is it?”
Ayana moved her hands from behind her to reveal a small box. She opened it and inside was another ring. “I was going to ask you to, but I had a hunch you were going to screw up somehow.”
Kuniharu hugged her tightly. “Ayana… I LOVE YOU!!”
“I love you too, Haru.”
Ayana stared at the ceiling as her husband slept beside her. She looked at him and admired the gentle expression on his face. How his hair fell onto his face. How he snores. There were a lot of things she could point out about the way he sleeps and she smiled.
“Looks like I never made a mistake.” she concluded.