“Yuzu.” The voice echoed through my head. It sounded familiar, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Meanwhile, I looked around. I didn't know where I was, yet… I couldn't help but feel like I was supposed to be here. “Yuzu!” The voice shouted again. Wait… Isn't that…?
“Yuzu!!” I sprung awake at that one. Satsuki was standing over my bed, obviously impatient. “Finally, you're awake.”
“Yeah, I am.” I yawned. “What time is it?”
“I don't know, but it's past 8:00, I can tell you that much!”
At first, I didn't realize what that meant. I'm usually a little out of it when I wake up. But when I did realize it, I frantically ran around the room, trying to get ready. “Sorry sorry sorry! I didn't mean to sleep in!” I said.
“It's fine. I'm used to it, and I'm sure the other staff are. But the guests aren't.”
“I know, I know!” I almost had everything ready to go.
“Just hurry up.”
After a few minutes, I had everything ready to go. “Alright,” I said. “Ready when you are!” After that, we walked out of the shelter. The morning wind hit us as hard as the sunlight. With the sun shining over the town, all the people walking around, and the leaves falling in all different colors, it was a beautiful scenery. “Hey, Satsuki,” I said. “Isn't this nice?” When I looked back, Satsuki was already on her way back to Konohanatei. She could be impatient sometimes, but that's because she was so dedicated to her job. I ran to catch up with her.
The path back to Konohanatei was even more beautiful. Probably because it wasn't as crowded. It was also accompanied by the sound of songbirds. When they whistled, I tried to whistle back. Though I wasn't really good at it. At one point, Satsuki started whistling with me. It made me happy when she did things like that.
“Look at all those leaves,” I said. “so many different colors.”
“That's why autumn is your favorite season, right?” Satsuki replied.
“I like all the seasons!”
Satsuki gave herself a chuckle. “Typical Yuzu, you can never pick just one favorite.”
I was confused as to what that meant, but I brushed it off. When we were almost at the inn, Satsuki said, “I sure hope Kiri will cut us some slack for being late.”
“She's Kiri. I'm sure she will.” I replied. And I did believe that. While Kiri may make a lot of jokes, and can be very serious at times, she is also a very forgiving person. Not too long after, we reached Konohanatei. To this day, I still think it looks beautiful. It looks like one big temple with trees surrounding it.
When we got inside, Ren was the first to greet us. We caught the corner of her eye, and she suddenly turned to look at us, visibly frustrated. “There you two are! Where have you been?!?” She raised her voice at us.
“We, uh, kind of got preoccupied in town.” Satsuki said in reply to Ren. Ren just sighed.
I heard her mutter under her breath, “I wish me and Natsume could go out in town as often as you two do.” Then she looked back at us, less angry. “Anyway, Kiri’s waiting for you two. She's on the second floor.”
“Thanks, Ren!” I said, going up the nearest flight of stairs I could find.
“Yuzu! Wait up!” Satsuki said, trailing behind.
“Ah, there you two are!” Kiri said cheerfully when we found her. “Lost in town again?”
“Actually-” I was about to say something, until Satsuki quickly interrupted me.
“Something like that.” Satsuki sighed. “Anyway, do you need anything right now?”
“Of course. After all, today's the Harvest Banquet.”
With those last two words, Satsuki suddenly had a whole different demeanor. It was like she gained some newfound confidence she had locked up somewhere, and Kiri said the words to unlock it.
“The Harvest… what?” I asked, curiously. This was something I had never heard of before.
“The Harvest Banquet.” Kiri smiled. “It happens every other year. When it happens, a random inn from town is chosen to host it. This year, Konohanatei was chosen.” She put her pipe in her mouth. “It's a really important event and shouldn't be taken with a grain of salt. It celebrates another two years of plentiful harvest. The people worship it as much as they used to worship the gods.”
“Exactly,” Satsuki said, determined. “which means we have a lot of work to do. Come on, Yuzu.”
“Coming, Satsuki-chan!” I replied, heading in the direction Satsuki went. Until Kiri stopped me.
“Yuzu,” she said. “Satsuki’s sister is going to be at this event. For what reason, I do not know. But we all know what happens when those two cross paths.” She exhaled. “Just keep an eye on them, okay? You might not be able to help Hiiragi, but you're the only person who can calm Satsuki down in any situation.”
I blushed. We both knew exactly what she meant by that, without her even having to describe it. “Y-yeah, alright. I'll keep an eye on them, I promise!”
“Yuzu! Where are you?” Satsuki yelled from around the corner of the hallway’s end.
“Coming!” I yelled back. I ran to the direction where I heard her voice.
The full moon was illuminating the back fields of Konohanatei, creating a beautiful scenery of flowers, water, and happy guests. Most of them were local farmers. So this is the Harvest Banquet. There's a lot of people here, but I'm not nervous. The only part I'm nervous about is how Satsuki is going to react to her sister coming.
“Hey!” A guest from my side caught my attention. “Could I get more sake?”
“Yeah, me too!” The person sitting across from him said.
I did a quick bow. “Sure, sirs! Two sake coming right up.”
I ran into the inn, which was unusually dark. Or at least, I'm not used to it being this dark. I reach around, trying to remember the steps to where we keep the sake. Where is it? I kept asking myself. I eventually stopped for a second to think. Then I remembered, and immediately went to get the drink. After getting the sake, I ran out to the guests.
“Sorry it took so long, I had some trouble finding this!” I frantically said, nearly spilling the drink everywhere.
“It's fine! I can tell the staff here is working harder than normal today.” The guest from before said. “Speaking of, you're Yuzu, right?”
“Yep, that's me!”
“The brown fox told me you worked on the decorations for this field. They look fantastic.”
“That's really flattering, but Satsuki did most of the work.”
“Then I'll be sure to compliment her as well.”
As I was about to go around checking on guests, I heard a familiar voice from behind me.
“I'm here!” The fox with white hair jumped from the small wooden steps. “Now the party can begin!”
“Welcome back, Hiiragi-sama.” Ren was the first to greet her back before I could.
“What's she doing here?” Satsuki and Natsume asked at the same time. Although, it seemed Natsume said out of curiosity while Satsuki… well…
“What, sis?” Hiiragi said. “I thought you'd be glad to see me… ah, and Yuzu!” She gave my head a quick pat. “You haven't grown an inch since I last saw you!”
I wasn't sure if that was insult or a compliment, but I went with the latter and replied with “Um… thanks.” I sounded really awkward, but I really wasn't sure how to respond to that.
“Anyway, back to what I was saying.” Hiiragi said, moving towards Satsuki. “Wouldn't it be normal for a priestess to show up at a banquet like this?”
“Maybe if they were serving a god of harvest,” Satsuki said. “but the nearest harvest god shrine is all the way out in Tagami.”
“Where's Tagami?” I asked.
“That's a different story for a different time.” Ren said.
“Alright, ya caught me.” Hiiragi said to Satsuki. “That's not the reason I'm here. But you may enjoy what I have to ask next.” She looked determined. “Remember how you've always dreamed of being a priestess?”
I open in my eyes in a daylight so bright it could blind somebody. I rubbed my eyes and yawned. “Yeah, Satsuki? What time is it?”
“It was 7:00 last I checked.”
“Hm? Why'd you wake me up early then?” I stretched my arms to wake them up. “Does Kiri have work for us to do already?”
“Not as far as I know, but I figured you'd want to say goodbye to me before I go.”
“'Goodbye’?” I asked. What could she mean by that? Then it clicked. “Oh… yeah.” My memories had caught up with the present. I got up, and looked Satsuki in the eye. “I'll really miss you, Satsuki.” I gave her a big hug.
She hugged me back. “I'll miss you, too, Yuzu.”
“I'm going to be sad that you're gone, but you're going to fulfill your dream. That's all that matters.”
That's all that matters.
“Yeah, this is a big step.” Satsuki said shakily. I decided I should probably end this goodbye before it gets any worse for either of us.
“Good luck with being a priestess, Satsuki.”
“And good luck here at Konohanatei, Yuzu.” She said, breaking from our hug. She turned around, and walked out.
I could've reached out and grabbed her hand, or even her sleeve.
I could've begged her to stay.
But I didn't. All I could bring myself to do was reach.
And just like that, she was gone.