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Five years

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Rin doesn’t remember when he began to notice the things that adults were concerned about or when he started to notice little things that were amiss in his daily life. The things which made his life different from most other children his age. The things that he never had.

Arguments with family members in Tokyo. Bills. Schooling. 

You won't get by if you live out there. Come back home.

We're doing fine. I'll talk to you later, brother. And she'd put down the receiver with a small sigh.

He’d come back home to find his mother sitting by herself at the dining table with a cup of warm tea, looking tired and fragile. He often caught her looking outside the window at the passing clouds, mind elsewhere, deep in thought, and he felt that she was getting older by the passing moment. She wasn't as tall as she used to be.

She began to work late night shifts.

His weeknights consisted of cooking dinner and keeping Gou entertained until bedtime. And he'd wait for mom to come back home. He'd do his homework in the living room, listening for the key to jiggle in the lock, before he slipped off to bed.


She lifts her head from her hands and looks at him. He notices that fine wrinkles line her eyes and forehead. Suddenly nervous, he wipes the sweat off his hands and hands over his end of term report card. She reads through the teachers comments. There is a small upturn at the corners of her lips.

You make me so proud



“You’re quiet these days.”

Nanase sits down next to him on an empty swing. Rin shifts in his seat.

“Why are you here?” He says rather rudely, on purpose- it’s a rather poor attempt to avoid interrogation. He doesn’t want to talk about the things that are troubling him. Besides, they’re not close enough for that any way. He frowns at that last thought. It doesn't sit well with him.

Nanase raises an eyebrow, “Why? Can’t I be here?” His tone is light and teasing but it’s still a question that Rin finds he has no answer to, and so he shrugs in apology and goes back to staring at the horizon.

It's a lovely afternoon in autumn. Not too cold or warm. And the sky is so beautiful that he could stare at it forever. 

The swing creaks when he begins to sway back and forth; the momentum carrying him higher and higher into the sky. He blocks out all his thoughts by focussing on the wind that rushes through his hair and the sound of gulls screeching near the docks, but it’s hard. He tilts his head back, further and further, until his neck aches from the awkward angle, to stare up at the orange clouds that are scattered across the pale blue sky. Everything is so ridiculously beautiful that it pisses him off.

He lets his feet skim across the ground a few times, to slow down, and eventually he comes to a halt.


A warm hand gently presses against his back. Rin tenses at the contact but doesn’t comment. Seconds drag on. Is it strange for him to not say anything? He’s glad for the contact but won’t admit it. It makes him feel small for some reason. It’s a complicated feeling.

He hears Nanase stand up and move behind him, then his hands are on Rin’s back, pushing him forwards. Rin finds himself set into motion again.

“Wh-what are you doing?” Rin stammers over his shoulder but Nanase merely pushes him on the swing, higher and higher into the sky. He's annoyed by this at first, and even somewhat scared when Nanase doesn't care about how high Rin is swinging, but then he starts to feel lighter, giddy almost. The world flashes past his eyes, multi-coloured and beautiful. He's swinging higher and faster into the sky.

This goes on until Rin’s laughing and screaming, Stop it! I’m going to fall out!

The air rings with the sound of his childish laughter.  

Rin twists around in his seat and opens his mouth to say something but his hair flies around his face and into his mouth.

He spits out his hair and pouts, “Let me down Nanase!”

He swears that Nanase laughed but it could’ve been his imagination.

"Seriously! I’m hungry!"

That works. 


They walk into a convenience store and browse the shelves. Rin picks out a bag of wasabi flavoured crackers and melon bread, then he heads over to the counter. The store clerk scans the items and asks for three hundred yen. Rin rummages his pockets and only manages to scavenge two hundred yen. It’s embarrassing but since the melon bread costed one hundred yen, he might as well just...

“Sorry, I’ll return that.” He says with a quiet voice, pointing at the melon bread, and the store clerk sighs. Right then, Nanase comes over and places several items over the counter, “Don’t worry, I’ll buy it for you.”

Rin says nothing. He simply hugs Nanase and grins when he gets away with it.


They sit on a bench and talk about random things to pass the time. It's a nice moment.

“How old are you?”


“You’re four years older than me then…” Rin fidgets guiltily with the melon bread packaging. “Should I call you Nanase-san? Or…” He’s blushing now, he can feel the blood burning up his face, but he manages to choke out the next few words, “…or Nanase-kun?”

Minutes pass by and Rin doesn’t dare to turn his head towards Nanase’s direction. He nibbles on the melon bread patiently.

“You can call me Haru,” Nanase says at long last, his voice sounds kind, “I don’t care about all that. It’s stupid.”

“O-okay!” Rin stammers out a few decades later. His cheeks start to ache from the wide grin that he’s wearing, but he’s just too happy to care. He must look stupid because Haru chuckles softly (it’s more of a snort really), but Rin finds that he doesn’t mind. 



Everything is covered with snow.

His feet sink into the ground with every step and he's glad that he's wearing four layers and gloves. A couple of kids around his age are building snowmen. Gou had wanted to build a snowman together but he ended up coming here instead. Feeling a bit guilty, Rin trudges through the snow at a faster pace, deciding that he'll build her a snowman as soon as he gets back.

The walk takes him thirty minutes. They live in adjacent neighbourhoods, a discovery (slip-up) that made Rin smile deviously and Haru groan. Rin may or may not have visited Haru's home several times a week already. 

“Haru!” Rin yells out from the bottom of the hill.

He jumps around and waves his arms at the figure by the window. The figure stills and turns to face him, then it rushes over to unlatch the window. Haru pokes his head out and looks down at him with shock visibly painted on his face. What are you doing out there in the cold? His eyes seem to ask.

“Mom says you should come over again!”

The neighbours shake their heads at him but Rin doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about them. 

"Let's build snowmen together! Come by my house!"

Haru hardly ever shouts, and Rin doubts that it would've been very effective any way seeing as his voice is naturally quiet, but Rin can see the roll of his blue eyes and takes it as an affirmative.

"See you soon then!"

He wants to shout Haru’s name one more time... just because. But that would be unnecessary. He blows him a kiss instead.

Haru opens his mouth and his eyes narrow down into slits, but Rin is laughing all the same.

He runs away before Haru can do anything.




"I've taught you everything that I know." Haru says one day.

What a stupid thing to say, Rin thinks to himself, feeling slightly nauseous. He has an inkling as to what Haru is about to say next. Probably something along the the lines of, I don't need to teach you any more. 

The thought is horrifying. 

Rin closes his eyes and thinks of ways to stall the inevitable. He can only think of one.

“Okay then, let’s race.”


Rin grins. "Why what? To see if I'm good enough."

“I'll have an advantage.” 

His grin falters and he furrows his brows together. He's not pouting. Not at all. 

Haru sighs deeply, and rubs at his temples. “You are good for your age Rin, but you’re still a kid.”

I know.

"...Show me how good you are then."

Rin's heart start to race. He knows he's pushing it. Haru is older than him, he really shouldn't be talking to him like this. It's impudent of him. But...  

"Show me." He says again, eyes finally daring to meet the older boy's. To his surprise, Haru is staring back at him, and he's wearing an expression that Rin can't really name. Curiosity? Annoyance? Understanding? It's an intense look. It makes Rin hold his breath.

"Fine." Haru says quietly, turning his face to the side, breaking eye contact. "A hundred metres, freestyle."

He swims over to the starting bock and hauls himself out of the pool. Rin follows in a daze. 


Of course Haru ends up beating him by a mile but that doesn't really faze him. He's surprised that Haru actually swam with him at all, let alone seriously.

"You see..." Rin breathes in short bursts and leans against the divider. He's exhilarated but tired from the swim. "I need more training."

Haru tears off his swimming cap and goggles, and shakes his hair out of his eyes. He looks troubled. "Rin..." He stops and bites his lower lip in frustration. "Why do you want to swim with me so much?" 

Rin opens his mouth but no words come out, and his heart is pounding and he's not sure why.

Because, he wants to say, I want to be with you.

It sounds strange, even in his mind, and so Rin licks at his dry lips and says instead, "Because it connects us."

It still feels like he has said something wrong. It kind of sounds like a confession, even though it wasn't supposed to be one. Sorta.

"I mean! Uh-" He stammers and looks up, face flushed and troubled, but he stops flailing when he sees that Haru is smiling at him fondly.

The world goes by in slow motion as Haru reaches out across the divider to pat his head softly. His hand feels large and comforting, and the warmth behind his smile makes Rin feel like the happiest person alive.

It also makes him feel powerless.

It's a strange feeling. 




{ What are you doing at the bottom of the sea? Aren't you lonely?

He reaches out to take Haru's hand but misses.

He sees a flash of blue.

Follow me, Haru says, flicking his tail lazily through the water.

Rin kicks and kicks at the water, trying to match Haru's speed and catch up to him. But he can't. He is just a kid. He wishes that he was older, stronger, faster.

I can't keep up with you.

I'll wait for you then. Haru swims around him in big arcs. Tail shining in the gloom. I'll wait until you're my equal.

Then we can race! Rin shouts happily, but air bubbles come out instead. There's no air. He panics. He's got to resurface now and leave Haru behind.

Just like that, he's pulled upwards, like a fish on a hook, but he turns around to yell, I'll come find you again!

But Haru merely stares at him from the depths.

Even from this distance, Rin can tell that he looks sad.}


When he wakes up, Rin realises two things.