Finally, a new update!
This one clocks in at just over 10k words and 20 pages. It's also the first chapter I've written since moving into my new residence with my friends, something that actually makes the place feel like home to me, if that makes sense.
The title of this chapter come from the song "More Than A Love Song" by the band Fireflight.
It was one of the songs that inspired me to write this entire story in the first place, so it feels good to finally get around to writing a chapter that I hope invokes the feeling of the song
Thanks again for your patience! Sorry it took so long to get this out!
Act 3: Ignition
Scene 6: More Than A Love Song
The sudden jolt of the bus coming to a stop rudely kicks me out of the small nap I was enjoying. The increasing background noise of excited conversation – not the least of which is right next to my ear coming from Chisato – does little to make the transition a peaceful one.
“Ugh, finally!” I hear her say behind me. “I thought we'd never make it.”
“That crash on the highway certainly took up a lot more time than I thought it would,” her boyfriend adds.
I raise my head from against the window where I was resting it and groggily look around me. People all around are excitedly gathering up their things and making a move to stand, but given that we're near the back of the bus and it will be another minute or two before we can move, I elect to stay put.
Mitsuru's definitely right about one thing – it did
take a lot longer to get here than we planned.
The four of us met up at Yamaku's front gate earlier this morning, decked out with everything we'd need for the beach trip today. After a pleasant walk into town and hopping our first bus over to the city, we had about half an hour to kill before getting onto the bus that would take us to the beach. That part went off without a hitch, even giving us enough time to grab a light breakfast. What wasn't routine was that just outside the city, traffic came to a complete stop. We talked among ourselves for at least an hour while getting more and more frustrated, until I finally decided to take a nap in the hopes that something would have happened by the time I woke up.
Poor man's time travel. The problem is, it only works in one direction, but that's all I needed it to do.
I run my hands through my hair, shaking off the last bit of dregs from that nap...which also lasted longer than I thought it would.
“Why didn't you wake me up when we started moving again?” I ask Saki.
She turns to me, slightly apologetic. “I'm sorry. We started moving about half an hour after you fell asleep...and you just looked so peaceful I didn't want to disturb you.”
I stretch in my seat, feeling my shoulders pop. “What ended up being the holdup?”
“There was a truck on its side,” Chisato pipes up, leaning over the backs of our seats and sticking her head between Saki and myself. “There were a ton of emergency vehicles there and they had the whole highway blocked except for one lane.”
“Must have been carrying something dangerous.”
“Who knows,” she muses. “But the driver was talking with the police off to the side when we finally went by, so it didn't look like anyone was hurt.”
“Just the schedule for the day,” Saki growls, checking her watch.
“What time is it?” I ask. I could probably check my own watch, but at this point it's easier to just ask Saki since she's already looking at it.
“About four in the afternoon.”
“Wow, that late?” I do some quick mental calculations in my head. “We were stuck in traffic for...what...two and a half hours?”
“Something like that,” Mitsuru confirms, finally standing up and slinging his backpack up onto his shoulder. The press of humanity in front of us is starting to thin as people get off the bus, more than a little eager given how long they've been trapped on it. I'm no exception. Even if we're only going to be here a few hours, I'm more than happy to deal with that if it means we're getting out of this bus. I'm not exactly claustrophobic, but almost four hours stuck in this thing without the ability to get up, properly stretch, use the bathroom, grab a bite to eat-
A sudden thought occurs to me. Chisato's not wearing her pump today, so she can wear her suit when we get to the beach...but we were stuck in traffic for the last few hours. I swing my head around behind me to look at Chisato as she gathers her things.
“Chisato, we're here a lot later than we thought we would be...are you okay?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah, I'm fine. I gave myself an injection a while ago and ate an apple. I'll test myself again when we get changed in the bathrooms.”
I'm impressed. “You were able to test yourself in a moving bus?”
“Well I mean, it's not like we were actually moving.
“Right,” I mumble. It must have happened after I dozed off. But I do feel a little foolish for thinking that I would have remembered something regarding her diabetes that she
wouldn't have. At least she looks appreciative of the concern, however.
“Hisao, can you grab my bag?” Saki asks, placing her hand on my arm to get my attention. “Looks like we're moving next.”
I reach down and grab both of our bags, moving them onto the seat between us. Saki reaches into her backpack and pulls out a bundle of pipes, deftly manipulating it until the elastic connecting them pulls them all together into the shape of a cane and an audible clack.
“That really is convenient, isn't it?”
“Mm-hmm,” Saki affirms, bracing her hand on the back of her chair to push herself into a standing position. “A lot better than bringing my normal one. Lighter too.”
I grunt as I pull myself up to where I'm standing, wincing as I realize my right foot is asleep. “Why don't you use one of those all the time then, if it's easier?”
“This is just for trips and stuff. My normal cane was a gift from my brother. He had it made for me.”
“Really? That explains why I've never seen one like it.”
Saki laughs. “Solid wood, with my name engraved on the handle. When I go back this summer though, I need to get the handle redone. The rubber on the grip has worked almost all the way through.”
The light conversation comes to an end as the area in front of us finally clears up enough for us to head out. Mitsuru and Chisato actually go first, followed by Saki and then myself holding both of our bags. Saki carefully navigates down the two steps and takes Mitsuru's hand to help her keep her balance as she steps onto the concrete.
When I step down myself, the first breath I take in is filled with the smell of the sea. It's been so many years since I've smelled it...but the crisp saltiness seems familiar, somehow. Not even the slight aroma of the diesel engine rumbling away at my back can do more than scratch at it.
“We're here!” Chisato exclaims, jumping halfway up Mitsuru's back in excitement. This causes him to laugh. “See? Aren't you glad you came?”
“I am now that we actually made it,” he answers, ruffling her hair. “I'm still not completely confident I finished all my studies...but this break should be worth it.”
Glancing around as the bus moves off, I take in what's around me. The bus dropped us off at a station only a few hundred meters from the beach. A concrete pathway is loaded with a busy throng of people enjoying the beautiful, cloudless day – some walking, some jogging, some on bikes or even rollerblading. Music comes out of shops along this boardwalk area, adding to the ambiance of the atmosphere or drawing the attention of more curious patrons. Two squat buildings with bathroom signage and a low wall separate the thoroughfare from the sand of the beach itself, and another hundred or so meters beyond that, the blue and white turbulence of the ocean.
“I hope all the good spots aren't taken,” Saki pouts. “We got here pretty late.”
“All the more reason to hurry up!” Chisato shouts, already making a beeline down towards the sand, writing off all the other sights around her as a mere distraction keeping us from our ultimate goal.
“Aren't we going to change first?” I shout back, making the best effort I can after her with Saki in tow. Mitsuru, curiously, doesn't pick up his pace at all, and I get the feeling he's more than used to putting up with his girlfriend's enthusiasm.
“See those shed things next to the bathrooms?” Saki asks me, raising her arm to point. “Those are the changing rooms.”
“Been a while since you've been here, hasn't it?”
“Chisato's right then...what are we waiting for?”
“Actually...what's he waiting for?” I ask, nodding my head towards Mitsuru behind me.
“He's carrying Chisato's bag. Don't worry, she won't get far.”
“This is just like the recording studio.”
“Yep. And she still hasn't learned,” Saki grumbles before cupping her hands around her mouth to shout. “Just wait a minute! It's not like the beach is going anywhere!”
Even from this distance, I can see Chisato roll her eyes with all the force in her body as she finally relents and starts to walk back in our direction. She bounds up right at the same time Mitsuru knowingly comes to a stop right next to us.
“Saki, you and Chisato go on ahead and get changed,” Mitsuru suggests. “Hisao and I can find a spot for the blanket.”
Without waiting for an answer, Chisato snatches both her bag and Saki's, eager as ever. “Alright! We'll find you when we're done!”
“How are we supposed to keep this from blowing somewhere?” I ask. There's not much wind, but enough of a breeze to possibly lift and move the lightweight blanket we brought with us. The thought of chasing it down the beach with this many onlookers isn't a good one for my dignity.
“Have a seat, at least until the girls get back. Then we can use all four of our bags as anchors on the corners.”
“Huh. Good idea.”
I lower myself first into a crouch, then a seated position on the blanket, feeling the heat of the sand through it. Before I can stop myself, I end up flopping down on my back, letting the heat permeate and relax me. I can practically feel the tension from the bus trip being leeched out of my body.
With a rustle of clothing next to me, I turn to see Mitsuru sitting next to me, reaching his arms down to pull his shirt off in one smooth motion and unbuckle his belt.
“Uh,” I start, suddenly aware of just how many people there are around us. “You're planning to do that here?”
“Hm? Oh!” he says, looking at me and laughing, continuing to strip. “I wore my trunks under my pants. You didn't?”
In retrospect, that probably would have been a very good idea. I shake my head, feeling a bit sheepish. I don't just have my swim trunks in my bag, but also one of my gray shirts I brought with me to Yamaku so I could swim in something other than one of my gym ringers.
“You should at least take your shoes and socks off so that you don't get sand in them.”
I sit up and start fumbling with the laces. “Another good idea. If I didn't know any better, I'd say you've done this before.”
“Don't take too long,” Mitsuru says, his focus shifted to something behind me. “Here they come.”