First Posted at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu
Arc 3: Still, I’ll Remain Beside You
Before I realised, I was outside Where is this? When I looked around, I saw the cherry blossoms in full bloom under the dazzling light of the sun. Ahh, that’s right. I’m outside the hospital. It’s that place, where countless cherry blossoms grow.
I felt heart squeeze, realising I was at my favourite place. Hearing the laughter of a small child ring in my ears, I turned to look at its source.
“Is that…me? ”
Under the cherry blossoms, a little distance away was a much younger I, happily laughing.
I see, this is a dream. It felt nostalgic. It’s a dream of happier times. If that’s so, maybe he was here too. The one I really liked—.
Someone was calling the young me. It was a warm and gentle voice.
Hearing the younger me say the name, my heart thumped loudly.
Following the gaze of the young me, I looked up at the cherry blossoms. Ren-kun was standing on top of the branches, waving at the young me.
How nostalgic… “Ren-kun— Shiina Ren-kun was a boy two years older to me, a patient in the hospital just like me.
I didn’t know what Ren-kun’s illness was, but there were times when he couldn’t leave his room. But other than that, he was healthy. We would often go outside the hospital and play together in the courtyard or the small park beside it.
Come to think of it… Despite being hospitalised to begin with, Ren-kun had climbed the cherry blossom tree and broke his leg. The head nurse had gotten terribly angry at us.
I clearly remember how we had apologised to her and then looked at each other and laughed, even now.
“Mahiro, is your fever okay now? ”
“Yeah. Sorry for scaring you.”
“Me too… I’m sorry I forced you.”
I saw Ren-kun apologizing dejectedly to the young me as I dexterously descended from the cherry blossom tree.
When Ren-kun, who was just a little taller than me, bowed his head, he looked smaller than the young me.
But… a fever…? Then, this is… I see, it’s that time—
After playing around with Ren-kun, I had a fever and wandered between life and death.
But it wasn’t Ren-kun’s fault. I forced myself because I wanted to be with Ren-kun and because of that my physical condition worsened. But Ren-kun said it was his fault and stopped taking me outside after that day. So this was the last day I went out with Ren-kun.
It was lonely, sad and regretful. But looking back at it now, Ren-kun too must have felt terrible, thinking that it was his fault.
But, that’s right. If this is a memory of what happened after that—
“Hey, Mahiro. Come here.”
“Where’re you going? ”
“Good morning, Uncle!”
“Ah, it’s Ren-kun. Good Morning.”
Ren-kun spoke to the uncle nearby, who took care of the trees in the hospital while he tended to the cherry blossoms. The uncle told him to wait for a little, rummaged in his box for something and handed it over to Ren-kun.
“What’s… that? ”
“This is a cherry blossom sapling.”
“This is a baby cherry blossom.”
“I see! ”
Young me’s eyes sparkled as I looked at the sapling. Ren-kun’s scratched his cheeks, a little embarrassed, and spoke.
“Shall we plant this cherry blossom together?”
“Plant this? ”
“That’s right. “A sapling of this size will take around five years to begin flowering. That’s why let’s come see this together when the flowers bloom. Back here.”
At that time Ren-kun’s kindness felt painful. Because back then, I was—
“I don’t even know if I will be alive five years later.”
When I wandered between life and death, I could vaguely hear the nurses in my faint consciousness. They said, “I thought she had a little more time” “It was earlier than I thought,” and, “The doctor said she would be fine for another year too.”
Even I, a young child, could understand what they meant. Ahh, I will die before I even became an adult. That was why I was afraid to promise Ren-kun. I knew I couldn’t keep it.
“What is fine? ”
“You’ll definitely be fine! ”
“If Mahiro were to die, I would ask God to not let you die. I’ll ask not to take you away. That’s why you’ll definitely be fine! ”
Looking back now, Ren-kun’s words had no backing to them. It wasn’t that I wouldn’t die just because he asked God. But back then, Ren-kun’s words were my everything. If Ren-kun said I will be fine, I will be fine. If Ren-kun said I can do it, I can do it. There was something about Ren-kun that made me believe so.
“I’m sure! Have I ever lied to Mahiro till now? ”
Seeing the young me still frown uneasily, Ren-kun grabbed my hand and said, “You’ll be fine.”
“Once you’re better, let’s come watch it together.”
“…Will we be able to watch it?”
“We’ll come to watch it! Surely! Yeah, absolutely! ”
“…Then, promise me! It’s absolutely absolute! ”
“Yeah, I promise.”
When Ren said that, I felt like it really would come true.
After we made a promise with hooking our little fingers together, I and Ren borrowed a shovel from the uncle and planted a cherry blossom sapling together. We dreamt of the day when this sapling would grow big and we both saw the cherry blossoms together.
After that, just like Ren-kun had said, my deteriorating heart stabilised and I was able to live five more years without dying. But the cherry blossom never bloomed.
It was smaller than the cherry blossoms around it. It had no flower buds, only leaves in abundance.
And even this year, the sixth year, it hadn’t bloomed.
Mr Death had said that by the time the next spring rolls by, I would no longer be in this world. That’s why, in the end, I could never see it bloom. But I was fine with that. Because Ren-kun, who had promised to see them together with me— left the hospital before five springs passed, never to return.
On the day of discharge, he said, “I’ll surely come to see you.” Yet he never came. Even so, I believed that he would come to see me in the spring of the fifth year when the cherry blossoms bloomed. Because he had promised me.
But in the end— he didn’t come.
I thought I had misheard the number of years he had said. Surely, he’ll come next year, I believed. And then he would scratch his head in embarrassment, saying, “Huh, this wasn’t the year we promised?” I truly believed that. I wanted to believe that. But… He didn’t come this year either. I’m sure Ren-kun will not come to visit that cherry blossom next year or the year after that.
I’m sure he doesn’t remember that promise. I’m sure everybody would forget the promises they made here, once they get discharged. I am the only one why remembered, left alone in this place forever.
If I had to see the cherry blossoms bloom alone, all by myself—
A sharp pain ran through my chest. I could feel my heart, that I had almost forgotten about, revive.
Sorry for posting so late, totally forgot about this one…
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