Normally when Yosuke woke up on a day off for school, he was excited. He loved national holidays because it meant not having to go to class, sleeping in, and lazing about all day. However, this particular holiday was different. Instead of sleeping in, Yosuke ended up tossing and turning all night while giving up right before dawn, unable to sleep because he was still indecisive about what he wanted to do today. It was Autumnal Equinox Day, which meant families would be going to visit gravesites to pay respects to their family members who had passed away. However, in Yosuke’s case, his grandparents were still alive and his great-grandparents were buried in the city so his family wouldn’t be going to visit them. Instead, they would set out flowers and food offerings to their portraits which were kept on display in his dad’s study.
There was one grave that Yosuke wanted to visit, however. He just didn’t know if it was appropriate. And that is what had kept him up all night. Yosuke knew that Saki’s family would definitely be visiting her grave today, and that some classmates may visit as well. He also knew that he probably wouldn’t be welcome by any of them and definitely didn’t want to show up while they were there. However. Yosuke glanced over at the small bouquet of flowers he had bought the night before that were currently sitting in a vase of water in order to remain fresh overnight. Yosuke personally wanted to pay his respects, especially after all the growth he had gone through after her death. He felt he owed it to her.
Yosuke heard movement downstairs and figured his mother was probably up, getting ready to prepare the food offerings for their private ceremony in the afternoon. Yosuke had never really met his great-grandparents, so he always felt awkward bowing to them and trying to be reflective on their lives. He only knew a few stories his parents had told him about them and not much else. Teddie had disappeared to the Shadow World a few days ago, wanting to give the family privacy for the holiday, and Yosuke suddenly missed his usually boisterous presence; it would be a welcome distraction for a change.
He shook his head before heading down the stairs, surprising his mother when he popped into the kitchen. “Can I help with anything?” he asked, and she took one look at his bleary eyes and let out a small sigh.
“Couldn’t sleep?” she asked delicately, before reaching forward and placing a cool hand against his forehead.
“No,” Yosuke replied. “I’m not sick either.”
“I was just making sure,” she replied, looking at him thoughtfully. “I noticed you bought flowers yesterday.”
Yosuke nodded, before looking down. His mom gave him a sad smile. “Maybe you should go now. It’s early so no one else should be there yet,” she suggested, and Yosuke bit his lip. It was like his mom had read his mind.
“I think I’ll do that,” he said, her words giving him the boost he needed. Yosuke quickly dashed upstairs to get dressed before pulling the flowers out of the vase and drying off the stems before re-wrapping them in wax paper. He had bought the flowers in the shopping district, knowing that if he had gotten them from Junes it would have seemed rude. After carefully arranging the white lilies, he glanced at the time on his phone. It was just now 6am, so if he headed out he should still be early enough that he wouldn’t encounter anyone else at the graveyard. Yosuke headed outside, pulling out a basket that he could strap to the front of his bike and placing the bouquet in it before pedaling over to the gravesite.
As he biked, the world around him began to grow steadily brighter as the sun began to rise up over the horizon. It was actually a beautiful fall morning with crisp air and a clear sky, and by the time he arrived at Saki’s gravesite the early morning light gave all of the monuments and his lilies a rosy glow. Yosuke let down his kickstand and stepped off his bike, before solemnly turning to look at Saki’s grave, his chest tight as his mind raced with all the things he wanted portray to her. First, though, he bowed before placing the flowers in a little holder at the foot of her monument, and then he kneeled down until he was sitting on his knees with his back straight. He clasped his hands together and looked down, taking a steadying breath as he got his thoughts together. And then he prayed, although, really, it was more like sending her a message.
He let her know that they did find out who murdered her and that he was currently in jail serving time for his crime. It may not bring her back, but at least it should bring her some peace. He let her know that he had really grown up in the past year and believes that now, he could have been a friend to her if he had a chance again, something that she had probably needed back then. He let her know that while she’ll always remain special to him, he was finally moving on and had his heart set on someone else, and that he hoped she can be happy for him. Yosuke felt pinpricks of tears suddenly at the corner of his eyes and took a shaky breath. “I’m sorry,” he said softly. “That I couldn’t do more, sempai.”
Even though the remnant of Saki’s shadow had said some pretty mean things about him, Yosuke knew deep in his heart that there was more to the girl than that, and he didn’t blame her for it. They had all faced their own shadows after all. Yosuke clapped his hands one more time before carefully getting up, and he reached forward with one hand and placed it on the cool stone before closing his eyes. ‘I hope you are at least at peace now,’ he thought, before pulling away and wiping at his eyes.
Yosuke then got back on his bike and started to pedal back home, before suddenly making a detour over to the Samegawa flood plains. He parked his bike on the path that overlooked the river and pulled out his phone, hesitating for a moment before pressing a number on his speed dial. He held the phone up to his ear and closed his eyes. It was still early so maybe he wouldn’t… “Yosuke?” Yu asked after only two rings, and Yosuke felt his heart flutter nervously.
“Hey,” he said softly.
“What’s wrong?” Yu asked, and Yosuke couldn’t help but let out a short laugh. His partner knew him too well.
“I just left Saki-sempai’s grave,” he replied, sitting down on the grass. He wiped at his eyes again, and Yu could hear him sniffling on the phone. “I brought her flowers and let her know that we found her killer and that he’s serving time for his crimes.”
Yu was silent for a moment, giving Yosuke time to speak. “Do you think it’s…ok?” he finally asked.
“What do you mean?” Yu asked.
“I mean…that I visited today. It’s supposed to be family and friends right?” Yosuke replied. “And I’m really neither if you think about it.”
“Yosuke…” Yu said with a soft sigh. “It’s ok. You thought long and hard and this is the decision that felt right to you, correct?”
Yosuke nodded, before remembering Yu couldn’t see him. “Yeah, I kind of couldn’t sleep last night,” he admitted. “But I think I would have regretted it if I didn’t come.”
“Then I think you already have your answer,” Yu replied smoothly, and Yosuke couldn’t help but feel better. Yu always had that effect on him. Which is why… Yosuke lay back down on the grass.
“I’m sorry I’m bothering you about this,” he said, staring up at the early morning sky, a few pieces of tall grass in his vision.
“Yosuke, partner,” Yu replied, immediately catching his attention. Yosuke felt his face warm at the use of his pet name – Yu rarely used it in return.
“Yeah?” Yosuke asked.
“You’re never a burden,” Yu replied. “I’m glad you called me. So, how do you feel now?”
Yosuke took a deep breath. “Better. I feel like I settled some things. I’ll always care about her but…” he trailed off. “I think I can finally let her go, you know?” He thought about his new feelings, for his partner, the person he could always rely on, and knew that now he had finally settled his feelings for Saki, he would be able to move forward to act on those new feelings. “When are you planning on visiting next?” Yosuke asked.
“I’m going to spend winter break in Inaba. My parents are busy anyway and my uncle says it would really make Nanako happy if I visited around New Years,” Yu replied. “Why, do you miss me or something?” He had a slightly teasing quality to his voice, but Yosuke knew that he was using it to mask the fact he was hoping Yosuke would say yes.
“Of course, you dork,” Yosuke said playfully. “Make sure you save a day for me, ok?”
Yu was quiet for a moment, pondering the meaning of his words. “Of course,” he finally replied. “So, are you feeling better now?”
“Yes. Thank you,” Yosuke replied honestly.
“Always happy to help.”
After they wrapped up their conversation, Yosuke stood up and got back on his bike, suddenly feeling his exhaustion now that his anxiety about his visit had worn off. He had a feeling once he got home he would be crashing until he had to honor his great-grandparents that afternoon. At least now his mind was clear and he was motivated again for his future.