Scent of plums’ blossoms (10)

“Aikawa-kun, I can walk on my own!”

“Sorry.”

After leaving the clubroom for a period of time and a protest from Seiko, he let go in a panic.

“What on earth is happening? Explain yourself.”

“Ah….”

He is unable to think of an explanation right away. This was too much of a surprise because just when he was about to go on a search, that person in question appeared before him.

“Sorry, just follow me for now.”

She nodded and walked beside Keito. While taking her shoes from the shoes rack,

“I commute with my bicycle, but you came by bus right?”

When he told her the bus stop nearest to Utaha’s home and suggest that they should up there,

“Let’s ride together.”

Seiko declared.

“It is a violation of the school rules.”

“Now is not the time for that. I will sit behind you after we left the school gate and walked for a minute. Okay?”

How long has it been since he had done that? That memories will not resurface unless you traced it all the way to elementary school. More leaves from the tress of the roadside are soaked in the morning. Seiko is sitting behind with one of her legs out to one side. While feeling the weight on the pedal, Keito sped up.

“Hey, Aikawa-kun.”

She immediately broke the ice.

“I will tell you everything once we arrived.”

“Once we arrived?”

“Yeah, to where your grandmother is.”

“……………”

Seiko was trying to say something at the back, showing hints that she is trying to take it in.

“Very well, I am placing my trust in you, Aikawa-kun.”

After she whispered in his ear, the both of them didn’t mention anything about the sketch.

“This is the first time that we are going home like this right?”

“Although we are not going home.”

“A detour then? Regardless, it is the first time isn’t it?”

“Is it okay to take a detour or letting two people riding on the same bicycle? Aren’t you the committee chairman?”

“We are not going out to play and it is an emergency so it is fine. Besides I usually perform good deeds so I am sure the committee will somewhat let it slide. Aikawa-kun, do you what is the advantages of always being so serious?”

“Who knows?”

“The advantage is that he is a reliable even if he occasionally skip classes or playing a prank. If it was him, I would think that oh well, I am sure he has his reasons.”

I see. I feel like telling Sarasa off. She always looks like she is pushing herself to the edge with all her devotion without a plan.

“Is that why you recently have your head in the clouds during lessons?”

“Eh? Let’s see…….are you interested, Aikawa-kun?”

“I heard the one of the seniors in the club saying it. Just now, you did sighed as well. I thought it was unusual for you, Haruchika.”

“Yeah………I see. Other people have noticed as well huh. I even let my seniors worry about me, I failed as their junior.”

After that, the subject has swerve to a very different direction. They talked about the art club, the members, plans for the summer holidays and the cultural festival that is after the holidays.

If he was cycling alone, he would reach Utaha’s house in about twenty minutes. With Seiko behind him, he was cycling slower and took longer than usual.

“Haa, haa”

By the time they reach their destination, Keito was breathing heavily.

“Are you okay, Aikawa-kun?”

“Not really. It is because I don’t exercise much often…………”

“Oh well. Let’s stop for a moment. I will follow from behind.”

Seiko jumped off from behind, in front of the bridge.

“I have practically never come to this side. Can you show me the way?”

“It is a straight road, you won’t get lost.”

While recovering his composure, he pressed on slowly with his bicycle.

“The river is right around the corner, it will probably be satisfying in the summer.”

Seiko followed him by immediately rushes from the side. She is acting exactly like a small dog.

“I want to come here and sketch the mountain, it is pretty as well.”

“If I am not wrong, the art club came to the park last summer right?”

At the foot of Kinpo mountain, fountains and playgrounds are installed. In addition, there is a big park called the Somiya Park where it is filled with public facilities such as libraries for the public to relax.

When I was a kid, there was even a small zoo and aquarium. There were lions, penguins and peafowl, where I would often visit with Shizuka. I sympathized with her because even when she was a child, she was locked up in a cage.

Even if it is called an aquarium, there were only freshwater fishes that inhabit the Nagase River such as sweetfish and catfish swimming in the fish tanks. Nevertheless, there was a natural monument of a giant salamandar as it’s centerpiece and I remembered that it’s slimy body was creepy.

Shizuka was strangely fond of that building even though all the facility were demolished many years ago.

While reminiscing about the past, Keito stopped the bicycle as they are just about to reach their destination.

After Seiko scanned the building that is in front of her from top to bottom, she stared at the picture of an Asiatic dayflower that is adorn at the entrance and mutter words of admiration by saying: “What a lovely painting”.

Then,

“……..Is my grandmother here?”

Seiko has never forget the purpose of coming here. Instead she is forcing herself to behave animated in order to contain her frightened face.

The toll of the bell rings, informing of their visit as they turned towards Utaha’s face.

“Welcome, Aikawa-kun. And to you, I have been waiting.”

“Hello. I am Aikawa-kun’s classmate, Haruchika Seiko.”

Seiko’s voice sounds nervous when she greeted Utaha.

“Could she be the person we are looking for?”

Seiko looked at the nodding Keito in a confused manner.

“I see. So she is your friend. Is this some kind of fate as well?”

“……….Aikawa-kun, who is this person?”

“Oh forgive me. I am Umegae Utaha, the representing manger of this 『Tsuyukusa』 .

This time, I have ask Aikawa-kun to find a person named <<Chikako>>. This is for your grandmother’s sake.”

“…..<<Chikako. How you know that name?”

Seiko held her breath like she was surprised.

“Hey Aikawa-kun, what is going on? Is my grandmother really here? Why do you have a portrait of my grandmother? Only a limited amount of people call me <<Chikako>>, so how did you know that?”

Then, she kept talking like the gushing water bursting out of broken dam. It seemed she has reached the limit of her tolerance and is going all out at the moment.

“Even I don’t understand everything that is going on in here.”

Keito faced her and accepted her outburst as he started to talk.

“Believe or not, your grandmother’s spirit………is here.”

To be precise, she is a lost word. Although it is not going to take an ordinary method to explain the difference.

“You are not pulling my leg…….right?”

“Utaha-san and I are able to…….see it. I know it is difficult to convince you otherwise.”

Only Utaha and Keito are able to spot the lost words. In the first place, the appearance of the lost words that might be her grandmother was not found.

When he thinking so, the old lady began to walk slowly. Although he thought that her way of walking seemed dangerous, she was definitely heading towards Seiko.

She then stood beside Seiko. Her small eyes that seemed to hide her wrinkles seemed to have caught Seiko’s attention.

“She is at your left now, Haruchika.”

“My grandmother……..really?”

Seiko turned towards her left and extends her left hand but that act ends up as a dud.

“There is no way Aikawa-kun is fooling or making fun of me. Besides you know about <<Chikako>>. So……..what kind of face……is my grandmother’s spirit making……?”

“Her face? It looks like the one in the portrait though.”

“So she is not angry?”

That was a weird question.

“Nope, she is not….or so I think. She is not showing any form of emotion.”

“…….Really?”

While Seiko felt anxious and remembered the sense of discomfort, Keito replied with the same answer again.

“I see.”

Seiko showed a sigh of relief.

The old lady who was watching to the exchange, spoke out and said <<Chikako??>>. Futhermore, she continued saying, <<Shouta?>> , <<Minoru?>>, <<Katsuo-san?>>, <<Atsuko-san?>> these four names.

“Haruchika, who are those people?”

“Ah.”

Seiko covered her mouth and groaned.

“Shouta is the little brother, or rather my father, Katsuo is my dead grandfather and Atsuko is my mother……I was partly convinced, but looks like grandma is here after all.”

She extended her hands once more.

“Would you be so kind as to tell me your grandmother’s name?”

“It is Haruko. Haruchika Haruko. She was married to my grandfather, gotten a weird surname and had been ridiculed often.

“My name is read as Seiko <<せいこ>>, but my grandmother likes to read my name as Haruchika Chikako <<はるちかちかこ>> , that was why she called me <<Chikako>> <<Chikako>. That is something only my family knows……”

“Thank you very much. So your name is Haruko-san. I can finally return your name to you.”

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