A deep forest. The quiet sea. Towering mountains that enclosed the village. The village I lived in, Tsukuyomi Village, was in the centre of this valley. Due to circumstances and passing time, the old town had been left behind. Only the houses of people who had run shops for a long time, like my own, remained.
But I didn't hate the quiet village. Everyone was friendly and kind. In such a small village everyone lives snuggled together, and my brother, who had lived by himself in the city, told me that that warmth wasn't something you experienced living in a big town.
My childhood friends, the kids in the neighbourhood I'd played with since I was small, one by one graduated from high school and left Tsukuyomi Village for the city. Sometimes I felt kind of lonely, but I didn't regret staying behind. Tsukuyomi Village was the place that made me happiest.
But... when summer came in Tsukuyomi Valley, something always felt weird to me. I had lived there for more than twenty years, but each time summer came around, for some reason I felt like something was going to happen... Why was that?
This summer was the same. When we entered August and obon drew nearer, I felt a strange sensation stirring deep in my heart. The sounds of the insects and the crowing of the birds usually soothed me, but... Maybe it was because the breeze blowing through my room was more humid than last year. At night I would sit like this on my bed, looking at the moon through my window, with that feeling... Like something was being born inside me, bit by bit... So strange...
...Nah, it was just my imagination. No way, when did I get so gloomy? It must be because the moon was too bright. Because Tsukuyomi Forest was too quiet. That had to be it. I should think of something more fun. Hey, happy things came with summer. Like that phone call I got from Toshi recently.
A week ago I got a phone call from Toshi telling me that he was coming home for the summer holidays. Keeping his promise, every holiday he came back to Tsukuyomi. Usually I only heard about his plans from his mother, who lived next door, but this summer, he contacted me directly, which almost never happened.
"...Yeah, yeah, got it. You're going to come home for obon this year too, right?"
"What, didn't you think I would?"
"It's not like I doubted you or anything, but... You must be busy preparing your graduation thesis and getting work sorted out, right? You must have a part-time job as well, and coming home for every break must be a hassle..."
"Ah, not really. It's only for about a week, so... Besides, uh... This year is the twelfth anniversary of my uncle's death. If I didn't come back my mother would get angry at me."
"Oh, that's right. My dad and brother said they wanted to put in an appearance at he memorial service. They're looking forward to seeing you too."
Right. Even though I was the one looking forward to seeing him most...
"Looking forward to it, huh? I'm looking forward to it, too..."
Maybe it was my imagination, but his voiced seemed somehow so kind to me. I just wished he'd said it was me he was looking forward to seeing.
"Yeah... We've not seen each other since new year's, huh. You don't call much, so... Don't you think everyone gets lonely?"
"Hmm... Are you sure it's not just you who's lonely, Ryoko? Hahaha."
"N-no way! I'm just looking forward to the yummy food you're going to bring me back from Tokyo and your stories!"
...Idiot. Sometimes the things he said really flustered me.
Occasionally Toshi, who was always teasing me, would say horrible things that made it seem like he knew how I felt about him. And each time, I... Yes. I hadn't told him, but I had been in love with him for a long time.
The boy next door who was the same age as me. Toshi, who used to play around in the mud with the neighbourhood kids, who was always teasing me for acting older than my age. But really, he was so kind. Whenever the other kids went off climbing mountains or exploring the neighbourhood and left me behind, he was always there by my side, taking my hand and saying, "Hey, Ryoko, come on!" And then, at some point, he turned into a sturdy guy who was way taller than me...
When I heard he was going to university in Tokyo, to be honest I really wanted to go with him. But... In the end, I selfishly made him promise that he would come back to Tsukuyomi during the holidays. I didn't want him to forget me or the village when he went off to the beautiful big city...
"Oh, hey, Ryoko. Us talking for the first time in ages reminds me - I ran into Nobukuni the other day."
"Huh? Nobukuni... You mean our Nobukuni?"
"I went with a friend from university to get a drink at a bar, and he just happened to sit down in the seat next to mine. I was so shocked."
"Wow... what a coincidence. You hadn't seen each other in ages, right?"
"Right. He called me after coming to Tokyo, but I haven't seen him at all lately. He's at another school, so we don't really get much of a chance to meet up. Speaking of which, he didn't really talk much about you even after he went back there."
"Yeah... I guess so. I haven't really seen him since high school either."
"He's always been kind of attention-drawing, but he seems more and more that way these days, somehow."
"So did you speak to him?"
"U-uh... Well, I had a friend with me as well, so we didn't speak much."
"Huh... What did you talk about?"
"Nothing, really. When I was going back home, about friends, things like that. He seemed well enough, anyway. He should go home sometimes, too. I bet you want to talk to your old friends too, right?"
"Huh? O-oh. Yeah."
There was a reason I was reluctant to talk to Toshi about Nobukuni. I'd never told Toshi about it, but Nobukuni had once confessed his love to me...
Like Toshi, I had been friends with Nobukuni, the son of the family that had owned the Tsukuyomi area for years, since we were little kids. Unlike Toshi, who was quiet and sincere, he was the type of boy who stood out, both in looks and personality.
He admitted how he felt to me around the time we were finishing high school. He had decided to go to a university in Tokyo, and quite different from his normal self, with a serious look on his face, he told me that he'd been in love with me for a long time. Since he, Toshi and I had entered high school together, Nobukuni had been popular with the girls, and had lots of girlfriends. None of them lasted very long, though, and he said that it was because he had feelings for me...
But I didn't share his feelings. That, of course, was because...
"...I hope we meet up soon."
"Hm? With Nobukuni? Yeah, me too. I'll tell him that if I see him again. Well, see you next week. Look forward to your presents, okay?"
No. The one I wanted to see was Toshi. But I swallowed my words. We had always been such good friends, growing up like brother and sister. To fall in love with him now... I was such a coward.
That was a week ago. It was the day Toshi was coming home, so I couldn't get into a weird mood. I considered wearing the dress I'd bought the week before in the neighbouring town.
Remembering Toshi's sweet voice, I looked up out of the window once more. ...I had to be feeling strange because I was going to see him the next day. As I watched the moon, shining bright over Tsukuyomi Valley, I repeated this to myself...