Teen Heart Manga Stories presents:
a Dear My Shoujo production
1000 Cranes For Love
Final Fold: "Her Silent Words"
It wasn't until the 5th day that he first noticed Seriko's absence from school. And then a second day. Fellow students had noticed right away when he and Seriko had stopped coming to school together, and whispers had sprung up instantly, whispers which he either ignored or didn't hear, but Ryuusuke was caught up in his new-found freedom to care.
Now however, seeing her empty desk for the third time in a row, he began to listen to the whispers, the whispers that abounded about her whereabouts, the most fanciful being that she had either eloped with a college student, or that Ryuusuke had killed her in a jealous fit of rage and buried the body. He knew where that lie came from, at least. He checked his cell-phone which he had only this morning remembered to bring with him and found nothing. That's when he grew worried. That's when he approached Sakimoto.
"Seriko-chan? But she's at Prefectural Childrens General Hospital. Something about more tests." Junko said.
"Eh, she's in the hospital? No way...you'd think she'd tell me something that important. She really is a scatterbrain. So, how long's she gonna be there?"
Sakimoto shrugged her shoulders.
"Beats me. I just found out myself. Say, since you'll be going over to the hospital, could you take this over with you? It'll be a real help!" She said, handing him a packet of papers. "Oh, and stop by the faculty office, I believe Yamada-sensei has some work as well."
"Eh? What makes you think I'm going over?" Ryuusuke demanded.
"Of course you're going over there. This is Seriko we're talking about, not some stranger," Junko said in an exaggerated exasperated tone.
"Please!" she begged, clasping her hands together in a pleading bow. "I know it's probably my responsibility as class-rep, but I don't deal with hospitals really well. Ne?"
Ryuuske sighed in defeat.
"Here," he grumbled, opening his hand for the packet.
Junko grinned beneath her bow.
"Thanks, Aihara-kun, you're a life-saver," She said to his retreating back.
"Gomen, Ryuuske-kun, but this is for your own good. And Seri-chan's," she mumbled under her breath.
She flashed a "V" sign to Arashi Toki, a mutual friend, who just shook her head as if in resigned acceptance of the inevitable.
Looking at Toshi, she said in her defense. "If I don't push them into it, they'll never get over their little tiff. Even obasama agrees with me. That's why she wouldn't let me say anything about it until today."
"Are you sure they'll be all right?"Toki asked.
"Why wouldn't they? Why else has she been struggling all these years to complete those origami cranes of hers?"
"But...doesn't she lose them all the time? She's always complaining about that. So na, you don't think that Aihara-kun's really has been throwing them away too, all these years. Poor things."
"Saa...I think Aihara is a little more dependable than we give him credit for," Junko replied with a knowing look. She threw her arms out wide and exclaimed. "Ahhh...ahhh, if only I could have a wonderful boyfriend like that, one to pick up after me no matter what."
Toki just shook her head.
"You just want to be pampered."
Junko flashed another "V" and grinned in reply, and both girls laughed.
"And speaking of pampering, did you see the article in Girl's Day Out..."
Ryuusuke bowed and closed the faculty office door. How much work could teachers possibly give, anyway?
"This stack must be an inch thick," he grumbled. Sighing dramatically for his benefit, he headed for the entrance.
"Oh, Aihara-kun, you're going to see Kajika-chan? Could you take this to her? We all chipped in to buy it for her," A female classmate stopped him in the hall, holding an oversized teddy-bear with a pink heart. "I'd take it myself but I have club activities. Thanks!"
The girl dropped the bear in his arms before running off.
"Why does everyone know about this hospital stay but me?" Ryuusuke grumbled a little louder as he made his way to the school entrance, and stopped twice more by pleading classmates asking him to take something to the hospital for them. So it was that Ryuusuke found himself loaded down with many items when he left school.
"Wait a minute, I don't even know which hospital she's in," he thought aloud as he reached the river bank, quite forgetting the name Sakimoto had given him.
Just then the phone rang.
At the hospital, Seriko was fretting. After the blow-up she hadn't been able to find a thing that she needed. The second day had been worse than the first. Then the arrival of the cold had eventually turned into a trip to the emergency room. Now this ward. It was too much. It was 5 days, and still, Ryuusuke hadn't shown his face to apologize, or commiserate with her over her illness.
Seriko cried, and her mother let her.
"How could he, how could he say those mean things. I...thought...we understood each other better than that."
"Still, it is surprising that he hasn't shown up once. You did tell him the correct hospital, right?" her mother said.
Seriko sat upright, panic in her eyes.
"I thought you told him."
"I? But I wasn't the one going to hospital, dear, you were," her mother replied.
"But, then... Oh what will I do? I was so mad, I didn't tell him anything. I meant to really, but I didn't have time to cool down before we came to the hospital." She turned pleading eyes toward her mother. "Would you, could you please…"
"Dame, it is your responsibility to inform your important friends where you are," Okasan chided.
"But...I can't face him over the phone."
"Seriko," her mother folded her arms. "It is time you grew up. How much longer do you think Ryuu-kun is going to be around, at this rate?"
"Arh, what do I care how long Ryuusuke is around. He's too nosy. I almost forgot how mad I am at him."
"So? Should I release him from his promise then?"
Seriko looked frightened for a minute.
"Okasan, you wouldn't!"
Her mother smirked. "That's what I thought."
She picked up the phone and paused with her fingers over the button.
"What's his number again?" She asked innocently.
Seriko rattled off the number, and her mother smiled. "See, you don't entirely hate him. Would you hate someone whose number came so readily to mind?"
A blush was Seriko's only answer.
Ryuusuke picked up the phone. "Moshi mosh?"
"Really, I was beginning to wonder if you would ever call, Ryu-kun," Seriko's mother said, hiding a smile that he couldn't see.
"Gomen, I didn't realize how serious it was."
"Oh, there's nothing to worry about, just a bout of pneumonia in the lungs. Could I ask you to bring over a few things for Seriko and I? The key's in the usual place. She needs a change of underwear -you know where they are- and a few books, maybe a sweater..."
It felt weird, being directed to go into Seriko's room, and pack items to bring. He actually hesitated at the threshold.
"Baka…what are you nervous for, you do this every day after all."
He sat down heavily on the floor. A stack of books and papers disturbed by his motion, toppled and fell. The top book fluttered to the ground face down in front of him.
"Diary of the Cranes" by Najika Seriko read the cover.
"Wha?" He said as he picked up the book and a solitary half-folded red crane was left behind. He couldn't believe his eyes. He knew it was improper to read another person's journal, especially if that person was Seriko, but...he somehow found himself reading it nonetheless.
"Dear Crane-kun, please make my wish come true. I promise to fold 1000, 10,000 cranes for you." He read how many times she had had to start over, learned how precious those cranes he had picked up all those times over all those years really were to her. What he also noticed was that these feelings were directed somewhere, but that not even here was that direction listed.
While he would never admit that tears were the cause of the wetness tracking down his face, Ryuusuke nevertheless wiped his eyes with his sleeve before placing the book down. His head came down into his hands and he sat in silence for a while. Then he pushed himself off the ground and made for the door. There was something he needed to pick up from the house before he went to the hospital. He just hoped his mother hadn't thrown them out by accident, or worse, by intent. She had just started a cleaning project in the storage shed, after all.
It was a hair-rising ride to the hospital, with a giant stuffed bear tied on the back of his bike on top of a box full of paper cranes and two backpacks strapped to either side. He just knew something would happen to disperse them to the wind, but thankfully, other than a couple close calls, he arrived at his destination safely. Even so, he struggled to get the box through the door. The nurse at the nurse's station directed him to the proper floor, and then stood to watch as he headed to the elevator.
"Ara, is that Kajika-chan's boyfriend?" The other watch nurse asked, looking up from her terminal. "I was beginning to wonder if she really had one, since he hadn't come before, but loaded down as he is, I suppose he had to make preparations first. I wonder what's so important he had to bring it in an old box like that. The doctor will have a fit when he sees it."
"I'll be making my rounds if you need anything, just press the call button," Nurse Mikama said, stepping outside.
Ryuusuke had a large box with him, with Seriko's name on them, she noted. (Actually it was labeled "Seriko's Mistakes"). On top of the box was an oversized teddy bear.
"Um, everyone at school sends their wishes for a speedy recovery. Ah, and sent me with gifts -they're on your bed at home. I ah, didn't have room to bring them all with me on the bike."
An uncomfortable silence enveloped them. Her eyes traveled from the bear to the box, and widened with the beginning of tears.
"Where did this come from?"
"From cleaning your room, baka. You think I'd throw away something as obviously important, and childish, as that? I fully intended to bring them out some day and poke fun at you over it. But, now seems a better occasion."
"How many are there?" She asked, half-fearing the answer.
"In this box, or all together?"
She spread her hands.
"Oh, there's more where this came from. Probably 3 or 4 boxes in all, going back 5 years or more. Mataku, you never finish what you start," he said, thumping the box. "Considering the contents of this box, and assuming you're still attempting the impossible, probably enough to finish what you started several times over."
This time she couldn't hold back the tears and out they came. Concerned, Ryuusuke got out of his chair and came over to the bed, unconsciously wrapping his arms around her.
"Baka...you kept them all this time, and never told me?"
"You knew I was cleaning your room. I always figured if they were really important to you, you'd ask about them. So of course I kept them. What else was I supposed to do?" he said with a frown. She turned away again to face the wall to hide another onset of tears.
"Sa, do you remember that time you promised you'd help me make origami. I was so happy. My wish was going to come true," she said from the bed, her arms crossed over her legs. "Didn't you ever wonder what my wish was?"
"Baka, of course I remember saying that. But you quickly forgot about it, when they didn't come out exactly like you thought they should," Ryuusuke looked away, focusing on the box. "You wanted to throw them away, and I said no. Of course the only way to do that was to make sure your room was kept clean. And so I selfishly told obasama that from now on I would keep your room clean. All to keep you from throwing away a silly origami."
He stood and walked over to the window, to stare out at the wind blowing through a tree. "And, it's not important what your wish was. It is your important wish, afterall. You shouldn't share it lightly with just anybody."
"But, Ryuusuke, you're not 'just anybody'," Seriko protested.
"Aren't I? Aren't I just some obnoxious busybody forever messing around in your room?" Ryuusuke asked, turning around to face her again.
"No, you're Ryuusuke. And it wasn't a silly origami. It is a very important one."
"I know, your diary said so," Ryuusuke paused. "Only, you spelled my name wrong." She flushed angrily but had enough sense to keep quiet.
He went around to the box, picked it up and deposited it on the bed. Her hands grabbed it instinctively.
"I expect you to finish them this time."
"Umm," she said between tears.
"And don't be such a perfectionist when it comes to their shape."
"And if you don't want me to touch a particular thing or set of things, let me know in advance. That way, misunderstandings like this won't happen again."
"So please, smile."
"As for me, ah I'll try to be more considerate of your room and your things from now on."
"And, it has never been a bother picking up after you."
Seriko lifted her head and looked up at Ryuusuke.
"Actually, please continue to treat me kindly. If you don't mind, please continue to clean my room whenever you can," she spoke in a low voice, so low that Ryuusuke had trouble hearing.
"What was that?" he asked, leaning in closer. At that moment, she pulled his head down for the kiss she always had wanted to give.
The nurses wiped away tears as they stepped away from the door. Kajika-san's eyes glistened as well, but it wouldn't do to let the children know that.
"Well, I'm glad that problem sorted itself out."
"Young love is such a treasure," one of the nurses replied.
"Nurture it well, you two," the other one said.
"How long should we give them before interrupting?" the first one asked, turning to Kajika-san.
"I don't think they're at that stage yet," Kajika-san noted. "On the other hand, it wouldn't do to let them think they're totally unsupervised."
The two nurses giggled again, and nodded.
The two in the room, naturally, didn't notice a thing.
Owari / End
Acknowledgements and nonesuch:
Special Thanks are do to my impromptu Beta-reader, Katsurou Shimizu (Katsu dono) from the RAOSC Forum, and everyone who cheered me on, and even those hardy souls who read one of my other one-shots (such was this story as originally conceived, but authors must need bow to expectations sometimes, so a multi-chapter it is!