Anzu was unable to suppress a long squeal of happiness as she descended the last step and walked away from the Kyoto Train Station, stretching her arms out to either side of her. The action made her friends (and passer-bys) look at her with quizzical expressions, although Jounouchi's showed that he was more unimpressed than anything.
"Anzu-chan?" said Yuugi, shifting his backpack slightly as he came up beside her. The chain around his neck clinked; the inverted pyramid which hung from it, the Millennium Puzzle, caught the sun's rays and sparkled.
The girl lowered her arms and turned to him, her lips spread back in a wide smile. "Oooh, I can't believe it, Yuugi! I can't believe we're actually in Kyoto for the Hanami! Isn't it wonderful?"
"I really don't see what's so good about it," said Honda, as he and Jounouchi joined them (Bakura was absent as he had politely declined the invitation to come along, even though Anzu had insisted). "It's not you've never been here; we came on that school trip last year, remember? We could've stayed in Tokyo for the Hanami: it happens around the same time as here. Why did we have to come all the way to Kyoto?"
What he said was true. Beginning first in Kyushu, the most southern of Japan's four main islands, the nation's cherry blossoms bloom in a northward wave from (on average) January right up into May. The fact that Tokyo and Kyoto were practically parallel each other meant that usually they had the Hanami at the same time.
"But coming to Kyoto is special!" Anzu retorted, fuming – just a little. "It's practically Japan's cultural centre! Haven't you guys been listening in History class?"
Jounouchi stuck his pinkie in his ear and twisted it, in a motion as if he was trying to get rid of something blocking his hearing. He made a face. "Boring. All Kyoto has are temples and shrines. Osaka would have been a much better place to go: it has the best cuisine in Japan after all, and the Hanami happens around the same time there as well, right? So we can look at the cherry blossoms and eat out at the same time."
The boys' expressions – even Yuugi's – instantly and simultaneously became dreamy, drool streaming from the corner of their mouths.
"Just imagine all that food we could eat. I've always wanted to try the takoyaki in Osaka."
"Okonomiyaki," said Honda, "that's what I want to eat." (Said food being his favourite.)
"... Yuugi, Osaka has the best Japanese food there is. You can't be telling me that you'd spend the time there eating Western food."
"I like hamburgers."
"So do I, but not eating Japanese cuisine in Osaka seems like a waste to me."
Anzu watched all this, growing more exasperated by the minute. "Guys!" she almost whined, then sighed. She glared at them for a few moments, and finally threw up her hands in defeat. "Oh ... fine. You guys can go along to Osaka and I'll just wander around on my own. We can meet up here later: unless you get lost or spend too much of your money on your stomachs and can't catch the train again," she added, earning an indignant remark from Jounouchi, which she ignored, spinning around on her heel to begin walking in the direction of the nearby bus station. "Honestly, I can't believe you can't think of anything except eating ..."
While the other two exchanged enthusiastic high-fives, Yuugi watched Anzu walk away. He couldn't help feeling a little guilty, and mentally slapped his forehead with the palm of his hand for acting so stupidly. He hadn't really meant that he'd wanted to go to Osaka ... he just got caught up in the moment. After all, she had been the one to organise and invite everyone on this trip in the first place.
"Partner, you should go with Anzu."
Yuugi felt the presence of the spirit of the Puzzle materialise behind him and half-turned. "Mou hitori no boku ..."
This more confident mirror image of himself was currently smiling (or smirking; Yuugi wasn't sure), with his arms folded and one eye closed in a wink. "You can't leave her here alone, and it would the perfect chance for you two to be alone together for a while."
"What!" the boy spluttered, a flush appearing on his face. The spirit was smirking for real now, satisfied with the reaction he got.
"Well, it's not as if you've had much time together since Battle City and all." It was strange that, despite the three-thousand-year difference between the two, he could still lecture the other boy like an older brother. He even behaved like one, as his smile suddenly became a forced one (even showing a little teeth) and a muscle under his eye twitched. "Not to mention that little stunt you pulled on me last time, huh, partner ...?"
Something in his chest twisted unpleasantly at this, and there was a small voice in the back of his head which began to mutter sadly, but Yuugi earnestly stepped on and squashed them both. Instead, he chuckled nervously, bringing his hands up in a peaceful gesture. "Aw, come on! If I hadn't done that, would you have ended up in the museum and therefore found out more about your past?"
The change on his face was instantaneous; the spirit’s expression softening as he wistfully turned his gaze to the sky. "I suppose you're right ..."
Yuugi watched his friend, smiling sadly. He could only imagine the number and the intensity of the thoughts which must have been rolling around in his head. Heavens knows he'd been thinking quite a bit himself: such has what would happen now that they had collected the three God Cards, what was going to happen when they placed them on the tablet at the museum, what would happen after all this was over, what was he going to do when his friend left ...
Shaking his head, Yuugi glanced over to the bus station and saw that Anzu was already there, checking the timetable. He looked in the direction of the stairs and saw that Jounouchi and Honda were already starting up them and were shouting at him to hurry up. If he was to make a decision, he had to decide now.
His head tilted briefly, sighing with a smile. The choice was quite obvious, really.
Lifting his head, he began walking towards the bus station as he waved back at the other two boys. "Sorry, guys: I'm going with Anzu!"
A shout of "You don't know what you'll be missing!" followed after Yuugi as he picked up the pace and began running. He'd noticed that a bus had pulled up at the station already, and he didn't know if Anzu was going to be getting on this one.
"Oi, Anzu! Wait for me!"
It turned out that she wasn't getting on this bus, but the next one. Still, she looked happy as when he reached her. Bent over with his hands on his knees, Yuugi saw that smile and returned it ... but inside, that feeling in his chest and that little voice had returned – and this time, he didn't bother to stop them.
That smile had been meant for a friend.
As much as he wanted her to, Yuugi doubted that she would ever smile at him with that smile. He had had daydreams, once, that she might one day, but it seemed fairly obvious to him now that it was never to be.
Nevertheless, when they got their bus cards from the ticket machines and boarded the correct bus, Yuugi managed to suppress his own feelings and began scheming. His mind once again whirled in the dance that came when one was decision-making, even as they found seats and Anzu told him about what she had planned to do, but it wasn't long before he caved in. Therefore, when they had reached their stop at Higashioji Street and Anzu, in her excitement, turned to Yuugi to announce that they were almost at the Kiyomizu Temple, she discovered that his eyes had become sharper and he was sitting straighter, appearing taller than he usually did. Some of his golden bangs had risen up as though by static: physical evidence of the dark energy that was now flowing from the Puzzle.
For a second, the Other Yuugi looked baffled, as though he had not expected to suddenly be in control of the boy's body. Then his face contorted and the other people still in the bus turned to watch in amazement as he cursed irately in one of the few lapses of maturity he had had since he had been released from the Puzzle.
"Not again! I'm going to kill you for this!"
And all he managed to get in response was light-hearted chuckling before there was the sound of a door closing, and Yuugi shut off their link to each other to let the spirit enjoy his day without him.
For Anzu, the day pretty much flew by – much like the first time.
By the time the Other Yuugi had gotten over his initial ... tantrum, they had already completed the steep climb up the hill to the temple itself, and he had then stared in wonder. No doubt that, having once been a Pharaoh, he seen many temples and shrines devoted to the gods of his homeland; but Domino, being highly urbanised, had little use for such things, so this was the first time he had ever seen a temple devoted to one of the main religions of Japan. And what luck that they were at Kiyomizu first: built on an incredible number of stilts, its expansive veranda offered an impressive view of the city below. Many of the trees within the area were also simply bursting with cherry blossoms in all the shades between white and a very pale pink, making the sight simply breath-taking.
Kiyomizu also offered a number of things for superstitious tourists to try out, such as the Jishu shrine's two stones, the Mekura-ishi ("blind stones"). Placed at a moderate distance apart of about twenty metres, if a person could successfully walk unguided from one stone to the other with their eyes closed then it suggested that they would have a happy love life. Yuugi had looked from one rock to the other, a brow raised at he watched a few schoolgirls try their luck with them. Anzu was tempted to try, but seeing how he was staring with more interest at his surroundings decided to continue on.
There was also the Otawa Falls: three streams of water which fell down, and from which visitors could drink from using cups which were provided to them. Drink from the left fall, and you were bestowed with wisdom and knowledge. Drink from the centre fall, and be blessed with good looks. Drink from the fall at the right, and you would live a long life.
Anzu had been surprised when, after her explanation of the Falls,Yuugi had stared intensely at the third one, his face unreadable, and she wondered if it was because he was thinking about how he himself had technically been alive for three thousand years, or because he had technically died when he was still young and only just started becoming a man.
The look had disappeared when he turned to her, his eyes warm as he asked where they were going to next. Walking down back to the bus stop, he also began asking questions, of which she tried to answer as well as she could, about some of the things he had seen or noticed at the temple, such as the use of the colour red, and the purpose of the little ornaments which he had seen many of the schoolgirls buy when they got to the souvenir shop by the Otawa Falls. Anzu herself had bought one of the charms they sold there: from it hang a sphere, and inside it was a bell, which rolled around and jingled noisily at the slightest moment.
They had stopped briefly at a café for lunch, and then taken the next bus to the Sanjusangendo Temple. Anzu had had to work hard to stifle her laughter at the way Yuugi's eyes had bulged at the sight of all one thousand and one Kannon statues, each with its arms posed differently from the next and each face being unique. The guide who led their group jokingly added that they should try to find a familiar face among them, and that was what they did. By the time they had reached the end of the hall, Anzu was convinced she saw Ushio, Karita-sensei and Insector Haga among the statues, and Yuugi thought he saw the faces of the real Yuugi’s Grandpa and Tsuruoka-sensei.
When he mentioned him, Anzu remembered the incident in which the obnoxious student advisor had been involved – when Yuugi had won a game against the teacher by using Anzu's Lovely pocket chain to find the one that Tsuruoka had confiscated from him. He had needed her pocket chain because the Lovely series involved inputting one's personal data into the Lovely, and it would then create a personal signal. Should two Lovely chains with matching signals be close together, they would ring (loudly) when the buttons on them were pressed. Basically: it was a matchmaking device.
Anzu had then blushed, recalling how when Yuugi pressed the button on hers, it had revealed the location of his Lovely to be hidden in the advisor's wig when it beeped loudly in response.
She paused. It was a little strange, now that she thought about it, that the Lovely chains had gone off when this Yuugi had used it, but not when the real Yuugi had tried earlier that morning after he had just received it from her.
Some time later, they had arrived back at Kyoto Station and had just found a place to start waiting for their other two friends to come back from Osaka when Anzu realised (slapping a palm to her forehead) that they hadn't actually arranged a time to meet up again, meaning she had no idea exactly how long they had to wait. Sighing loudly, she had stared up at the sky, which had started to darken.
Rather unexpectedly, Yuugi then suggested that they might as well do one more thing before they leave.
The girl had given him a dumbfounded look, blinking at him for so long in silence that for a moment he wondered if he shouldn't have said anything. Then she had jumped up, saying why didn’t she think of that, took out a map and examined it. Her finger had traced a blue line running vertically down most of the page, before she smiled and turned to Yuugi.
The banks of the Kamo River were always crowded at this time of the year, for it sported a line of cherry blossom trees on both sides, and couples sitting in every available space would find themselves under a constant shower of falling petals. The restaurants nearby provided nourishment for when they could no longer ignore the grumblings from their stomachs, but also provided places from which they could overlook at the river.
By the time they arrived at this beautiful place, night had fallen, and there were already a number of young couples lining both sides of the river. Anzu first marvelled at the sight before her, lifting a hand to brush away some petals which had already landed on her hair. She couldn’t help but think, despite how cliché she seemed, how romantic everything looked.
Then she wondered if it had been the right thing to do, coming here. She had only heard about it from some of her girl friends who had already been to Kyoto before, praising the view above all, and the one or two with boyfriends had exclaimed about how magical the atmosphere seemed.
No doubt Yuugi would have already noticed all the couples everywhere ...
Suddenly she found herself looking away from him and squeezing her eyes shut. She was afraid of how he would act when he put two and two together.
But his voice was calm, and she could hear a smile in it when he said, "Come on, Anzu. Let's find a place to sit."
The girl opened her eyes and stared after him as he walked forward, his head craning from side-to-side as he looked for a good spot they could occupy. Blinking and coming to her sense, she followed him to an area of grass where they would actually have a bit of room to themselves, at least for a little while.
Anzu sat down, drawing her knees towards her just enough so that she could wrap her arms around them. Yuugi, on the other hand, remained standing, shoving his hands in his pockets after he had put his backpack down on the ground beside him.
And they were, staring across the river together in silence.
It was a while before Anzu glanced up at his face. It was just as a breeze began whirling around them, bringing with it a number of white and pink petals; it made the chain around his neck clink, and tugged gently at his unusual hair, drawing his golden bangs back briefly to show his sharp, intelligent eyes. They had lost their usual focus, as though his mind had left his body and was currently far away. She wondered what he was thinking about.
He looked so mysterious, and that's what he was: mysterious.
Everything that revolved around him: the mysteries about his past, as a nameless Pharaoh in history; his connections with the game Magic and Wizards which seemed to have been based off monsters capable of being summoned in the time he was alive. There was still so much they didn’t know about him.
And then, when they did find out: what then? Was he going to leave them?
Sadly, Anzu already knew the answer.
... And what of her own feelings for him?
Yuugi looked down to see her watching him with a dark expression. He knelt down, his own expression becoming worried. "Anzu? Is something wrong?"
For some reason, Anzu found herself sniffing, and she rubbed her nose and eyes, just in case she was about to burst into tears. "It –It's nothing!" Opening one eye, she looked at him, then gestured at the space next to her. "Sit down! You'll get leg cramps if you keep standing."
Smiling, Yuugi complied.
Giving her eyes a final rub, Anzu turned them back to across the river, and again they sat in silence.
moshi mo kimi ni meguriaetara
nido to kimi no te o hanasanai
haru no owari o tsugeru hana midou
kasumu hana hitohira
It had surprised them when a voice suddenly rose up from somewhere along the river. Both of them, including many others, turned their gazes towards a lone figure, standing very close to the end of the river. She had her head lifted up, however, with her back to them, the people on her side of the bank could not see her face, hidden by her light aqua hair, but Anzu thought that she looked a little familiar. She was singing a song that some of them recognised was by Mai Kuraki.
yomigaeru omoide no uta
kono mune ni ima mo yasashiku
Time After Time
kimi to deatta kiseki
yuruyakana kaze fuku machi de
sotto te o tsunagi aruita sakamichi
ima mo wasurenai yakusoku
The quiet murmur died down fairly quickly, and the spectators were content with simply remaining seated where they were and quietly being this mysterious singer's audience. There was still the odd bout of whispering: one of which Anzu managed to overhear, as a small group to her left argued about the familiarity of the voice they were listening to.
kaze ni kimi no koe ga kikoeru
usurai sae kaeru tooi kioku
kizutsuku kowasa oshirazu chikatta
itsuka mata kono basho de
meguriaou usu beniiro no
kisetsu ga kuru hi ni egao de
By some uncanny chance, at the precise moment when the song rose in volume to meet the chorus a second, a gust of wind blew through the trees behind and carried a number of cherry blossoms to dance around the singer. She made no sign that she had noticed, although the fact she lowered her head slightly may have been an indication that she was watching the petals as they drifted passed her to fall on the surface of the river.
Time After Time
hitori hana mau machi de
chirazaru toki wa modoranai kedo
ano hi to onaji kawaranai keshiki ni
namida hirari matte ita yo
kaze mau hanabira ga minamo o naderu you ni
taisetsu ni omou hodo setsunaku ...
Anzu looked away, closing her eyes and smiling sadly. The lyrics to the song fit well with the situation she regarded herself to be in now.
Her eyes snapped open as she suddenly felt some pressure on her right hand. She looked down in surprise, and found that Yuugi had rested his own hand on hers. Her gaze travelled up his arm to his face and met his eyes. His head was inclined ever so slightly towards her, and for once, he looked a little embarrassed.
She smiled, this time more happily, and returned to looking across the river, and listened to the girl as she completed the song.
hito wa mina kodoku to iu keredo
sagasazu ni wa irarenai dare ka o
hakanaku koware yasui mono bakari
Time After Time
kimi to irozuku machi de
deaetara mou yakusoku wa iranai
dare yorimo zutto kizutsuki yasui kimi no
soba ni itai kondo wa kitto