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The Ocean

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 It used to be the ocean. Her freedom came in the rippling waters, just she and her board.

As it goes, though. Things change.


"Sumida?"

At the sound of her name, Kanae snapped out of her daydream, blushing madly. "Y-yes!" she said loudly, snapping rigid in her chair. Tono was next to her, she remembered, and he held a finger to his lips, gently hushing her outcry. Always watching out for her. He had his hand around her bicep now, and he lightly pulled. Though he wanted her to rise, she found herself frozen. The line of seniors walked further away.

"Sumida..." Tono whispered, again. Another tug. "Let's go."

Let's. The word thawed her, who believed for a moment that she was something more to the boy, and she rose.


Yep, people change for stupid reasons. She could.

She did.


Tono's turn.

"Tokyo University!" announced the principal, the pride obvious in his magnified voice as he handed him his certificate and offered congratulations. Tono turned a little bit red and hastily bowed before carrying on.

Instead of returning to his seat, though, Tono took a step back out of the line of students, taking a vacant spot next to the vice principal who turned to him, whispered in his ear, and shook his hand. That's right—as the student representative, he was obligated to give a speech to represent the graduating class.

He noticed Sumida staring at him, and begged with his eyes for her to move. She looked to where they directed. The principal was coughing in wait, certificate in hand. He didn't say anything as he handed her the heavy paper, just gave her the smallest of nods and grabbed the next student's from his assistant's hands.

She returned to her seat, waited, staring at the boy standing in front while the rest of the line passed.


 What happened to the water, the waves?

When did she start thinking of Takaki Tono instead?


"... and so, let's work together to become upstanding citizens of our community!"

Tono clenched a practiced fist in front of him as the gymnasium erupted into applause. A couple of students scattered among the crowd were in tears. Sumida hadn't really listened to his words. She wasn't interested. Instead, she'd been gazing at him earnestly the entire time, lost in her thoughts. That was the boy she cried behind. That was the otherworldly, kind boy, who she knew couldn't see her in the same way she saw him. That boy she still loved anyway. Now, he bowed gratefully to his audience, and the principal stepped up to take the microphone. Tono slipped out of a side door, presumably to come around the gym and return through the entrance rather than make his way from the front to his seat. But when he didn't come, Sumida noticed, and she slipped outside using scattered clapping as her cover. Her sister and mother would miss seeing her after the ceremony, but her heart had already decided to go as soon as she saw him leave.

Like expected, she found him at the archery range. But the sight of him tapping again at his phone urged a familiar pain that tightened in her chest.

It took a choked sob before she found her voice and momentary composure. "Tono-kun?"

He looked up. Snapped his phone shut. But he smiled as Sumida jogged over to him, who wore a smile of her own. "Sumida." he said, acknowledging her. "You came out too?"

"Mm," she nodded. "It was too hot." The lie came out naturally.

Tono moved over on the practice bench, giving her room. They sat together in silence for a while, listening to the sounds of the starting evening.

"It's going to be even harder now, huh...?

"What?"

The comment was sudden. But, after a second, Sumida recognized what he was talking about.I'm doing all I can to keep up; I have no breathing room.Words from his mouth, on a grass hill what seemed like so long ago.

Sumida was searching for a better reply when Tono sighed heavily, arms drawing his knees toward his chest, head dropping... a posture that he'd never shown before. But it only lasted a moment. Soon, once again, he was looking forward, past the standards of the shed into the horizon; the sky was pink and orange, and in the warm colors, Sumida could have sworn the elusive sky was meeting his gaze with understanding. Tono's eyes flashed, moved downwards, and his lips parted slightly to exhale.

"Thanks for everything, Sumida."

He had closed his eyes.

For her, the tears finally came, and the realization:


If she was the surfer...

"Let's go home, Sumida." A voice pierced through her thoughts.

...then he had become the waves.


"Kabu! Kabu, Kabu!" Sumida laughed as the Shiba jumped into her arms. "We're back!" She let the dog lick her face before setting him down. Immediately he ran over to Tono, who smiled a bit and knelt to pet him. He had always been an amiable dog, and that only grew once he became familiar with the boy who saw his master home safe. By this time it had grown to be nearly dusk; overhead, the moon loomed quietly, promising that the sky would soon be dusted with stars. Tono stood, letting Kabu return faithfully to his owner's side.

"Well, Sumida..."

"Right," nodded the girl. She had found a little courage. "So, when are you leaving for Tokyo?"

Tono considered. "Soon. There's not much I have to bring with me, so I think I'll be leaving in the morning."

"So early?" Why?

"Yeah."

It wasn't very surprising. For some reason, she hadn't expected him to stay for long. That didn't make seeing him off any easier.

"Then this is goodbye, I suppose..."

"... yeah." Tono was quieter today, more pensive. He bowed politely, and said for the last time, "Thanks. Again."

Sumida blushed, lowered her head. "N-no. Thanks, Tono-kun..."

Their eyes met, and held for a moment. Tono broke it with a smile, full of secret sadness. "Jaa. Later, Sumida."

An image of a hug goodbye flashed through their minds, but was dismissed. They couldn't.

Tono turned away and waved. Each step on the paved gravel rung louder than it ever had before in the still night. She stared at his back, again—like always. Even if she looked straight at him, if felt like she was looking at his back. That was the way it was, and had been, for five years.

"Wait!" Her cry came out strong. The power of her voice almost echoed through the countryside; the sheer force surprised her. But she continued nonetheless, without tears, staring ahead with determination. "Tono-kun." She bowed. Her head reached her knees. No tears. She wouldn't let them fall. "Thank you!" She exclaimed, again. For the time he gave her.

Tono just stood, staring at her, barely comprehending it. A couple seconds passed and he opened his mouth, expecting to respond with something, but no words came through.

He never got a chance to speak. After another few moments, Sumida turned her back and ran inside the house, Kabu barking and trailing behind her.

"... sorry, Sumida." Tono whispered, looking at where she had just been standing and not knowing exactly what he was apologizing for.

During his walk back home, he could have sworn he heard the sound of the ocean beating against faraway cliffs. Weeping, he thought.

By this time tomorrow, he would be on the mainland.