Have you ever been so lost in your thoughts that you forget where you are? I think I've done that more times than I count. Maybe it's just human nature. Most of the time, it's fine to get lost in thought. I think it was fine for me to be lost in thought at that moment. I remember looking out through the window of the train that was taking me to the airport, which would then take me back to the place I was born. I remember... leaves. There were lots of leaves, all frolicking through the air in the wind, falling one by one ever so slightly. There were so many, they nearly filled up the air and created a cascade of spring's greens. Looking at the trees revealed their stories too, and the hardships they've gone through, thanks to Winter's unforgiving chill. In a fleet of flying green and pink, seeing any shade of brown stuck out like a sunflower in a rose garden.
With the window ajar, I could feel the light breeze of Tagami waft through. It came in through the window, brushed past me, and then left without a word. It did leave words, though. In the trees, in their leaves. As the wind swept through the land, you could hear the whistling of the wind's song.
It was Fall now, but it still felt like Spring. That's because Fall didn't have the chance to kick in just yet. Today was the day of the Autumnal Equinox, the only day in which the sun and the moon could meet each other halfway on both sides. It would be daylight for 12 hours, and it would be moonlight for 12 hours. But that wasn't the only thing special about this day. The Autumnal Equinox also marked the first day of Fall in Japan.
I've always loved Fall the most out of every season, Winter is the only runner up. Shiro insists I call it "Autumn" though, saying it's "more formal". Thing is, formality has never been a thing that really matters to me. I don't care if I'm a god now, and besides, I don't want people to look at me like they'd look at other divine beings. I just want people to see me as another person... that may be too much to ask for, though. Especially in Tagami.
The train closed its doors, and our journey had begun. It would not be a long one, and it would not be an eventful one. Despite that, it would be a journey nonetheless. The train started slowly, but got faster and faster until its speed became consistent. You could feel the small rumble as the train glided across the tracks, not in any sort of rush. The same could not be said for the passengers, however. All around me were people looking at their watches and tapping their feet. Some even had their laptops open.
I don't blame them, though. In the current state of the world, it's go go go. If you stop for even a second, you'll be left behind. That rule, however, does not apply to me. Since I am no longer human, I no longer have to worry about the responsibilities that everyone else on this train has to face. I'll admit, it did make me feel a little disconnected for a bit. I still had to accept that I'm not human anymore. If I couldn't accept it, then... Well, I didn't think I'd have to worry about it. I looked back through the window, only to have my vision cut off by the darkness of the tunnel. I slouched back in my chair with a sigh. Something about all this made me feel homesick.
* * * * *
The sudden sound of the plane woke me up with a jolt. The plane had landed at the airport just outside my hometown. Since my hometown wasn't even on most maps, it'd make sense that there wasn't anything big, like an airport. I waited for everyone else to get off first. I didn't feel like pushing through crowds at the time. I don't ever feel like pushing through crowds, now that I think about it. Hm.
The flight was long, and tiring. Up in the air, it didn't matter how much artificial oxygen they were pumping through the plane. That sort of altitude still made me tired. As I grabbed my suitcase from the grey matte compartment above me, I let out an extended yawn. As I was walking out of the plane, I rubbed my eyes with my free hand, still sluggish. I didn't even see the puff of white barrelling towards me until I got knocked to the floor.
"Joshhh!" Fuyu exclaimed. She had hug tackled me to the ground, but I just returned the hug.
"Happy to see you too, Fuyu," I chuckled a bit. "Now, can we please get up? I imagine these airport floors aren't very sanitary."
"Oh, right! My bad!" Fuyu let go of the hug, then offered me a hand to help me up. I grabbed it, and got up with a smile.
Fuyu was the child of Shiro and... well the jury's still out. You could argue it was the magic of some other god, or argue that Masaki Konno is technically Fuyu's father. Point is, magic was involved. Because of that, Fuyu is 100% god like her mother. There was no trace of "human blood" in her whatsoever. Despite that fact, Fuyu still always looked to me as a father figure. I don't know if I should've been grateful for that, but I was.
As soon as we walked outside the airport, the bustling community showed itself. Everything was going on at all times, and everyone had somewhere to be. For the first time in about a year, I had somewhere to be, too. Although, something was missing. Or rather, someone was missing.
"Hey, Fuyu," I started my question with genuine curiosity. "Where's Isa? Wasn't she gonna join us?"
"Oh, Isa!" Fuyu had an expression as if though she just remembered something extremely important. "Isa's busy, she's running some errands. She'll catch up with us, though. I probably should've told you that sooner."
"Don't worry, Fuyu, it's fine. We'll see her sooner or later. Though I gotta say, I'm impressed. Isa doesn't usually run errands."
Isabelle Latem, or just Isa for short, was my ex girlfriend from years ago. She lived in the same town as me, and didn't live far either. Only a couple blocks away. We didn't grow up together, though. We didn't even know each other til our senior year at Winter Lakes High. I remember clearly, we met in the middle of a snowstorm. We became very close after that. At one point though... well it doesn't matter anymore. All of that was in the past. Isa and I were just good friends now. No feelings towards each other whatsoever. None... Well, none that we acted upon.
Fuyu and I eventually crossed the border of chaos and were in my hometown. There was never anything really going on there, and I was relieved to see that hadn't changed. It was still quiet, it was still calm, it was still home. It was the place I remembered. Although I had my sour moments with it, it was still the place I grew up in.
"Hey," A feminine voice with an oddly deep tone greeted me. You could argue it was meant for Fuyu too, but the owner of the voice was looking at me when she said it.
The owner of this voice was Faithe Pond, one of my childhood friends. We had known each other since middle school, I still remember clearly the details of the river she was painting when I came up to her. We were both shy kids at the time, but we found we had more in common than we first thought. Eventually we became really close friends. I've never had feelings for her, and I don't know if she's ever had feelings for me. If middle school rumors are anything to go by though - disclaimer; they're not - then yes, she definitely did.
"Gee, Faith," The man next to her said. Although he was nearly 30 now, his facial features still resembled that of a teen. "That's one way to greet a god."
I let out an audible sigh. "Jack... please."
The man let out a short laugh. "Relax, Josh, I know you wanna be treated like a human. Just making jokes."
This was Jack Korus, the only person in my life who I've known since birth, besides my parents. Jack and I lived next to each other when we were newborns, he ended up moving away halfway through elementary school, though. He might sound insensitive at times, but he's trying his best. He's a good person, I promise you. Always has been.
"It's great to see you two here!" Fuyu said cheerfully. Her wolf ears - yes, you heard me correctly. She got them from her mother - stood up. That tended to happen when she was gleeful. "Where's Isa though? Shouldn't she have been back by now?"
Faith shrugged. "Last I heard, she was at the mall. I don't know where else she'd go from there."
I panicked a little. Isa was never the kind of person to update people on where she was going or what she was doing, but it still worried me that nobody had heard anything. The neighborhood should've been a relatively safe place, but there's always those bad apples you get from time to time. Did Isa encounter someone like that?
Faith noticed my panicking, and responded to it with, "I'm sure she's fine, though." Faith was always the master of reading other people's emotions. But because of that, she was also the master of not being able to recognize her own emotions. You'd think she was hiding them, but honestly, I'm not even sure if she knew what she was feeling.
"Right," I let out a breath. "Right then." I turned to Jack and Faith. "Well hey, we've got time." This time I turned to Fuyu. "Let's all get caught up, yeah? I'm sure America's been busy while I was away."
Jack rolled his eyes with a smug smile. "As if Tagami doesn't constantly change either."
I opened my mouth to object, then closed it. He was right, after all.
"The world changes," Fuyu said. "I think that's fair to say." She looked to me for validation. I patted her head.
"Yeah, I'd definitely say so."
* * * * *
"I'm telling you," Jack said with excitement as he plucked a tortilla chip out of the bowl on the marble coffee table. "It was the best play of the season."
"It wasn't," Fuyu whispered to me.
"Fuyu, you don't even watch Football!" Jack exclaimed.
"Wait, we're talking about Football?"
Faith and I shared a laugh while Jack let out a small groan. Fuyu was still next to me, genuinely confused.
We were all gathered at Faith's house. Her parents used to live here, but they moved away a few years after graduation. There were planning on taking Faith too, but she wanted to stay. She had too many memories here, too many sentiments. She couldn't just throw that all away.
Jack didn't live in the neighborhood anymore, in fact he lives two towns over. Similar to me, he only comes by the neighborhood again every year or so. Probably so that he won't be so homesick.
Isa still lives in the neighborhood too, but not with her parents. She lives in a relatively small house that's near the school. She's texted me many times before complaining how loud it is during the day, and how the fire drills always distract her from drawing her art.
Fuyu's been living with Isa ever since she left Tagami. I think she likes it here. When she finally learned how to use a phone, she kept texting me about what was happening each day. I'm pretty sure the texts were meant more for Shiro than anyone else, but Shiro didn't have a phone, so the texts went to me.
A few minutes later, we all heard the front door open. "Oh, good," a familiar voice said. "So you are all here." The owner of the voice was none other than Isabelle Latem, and she was looking at me now.
"I'm happy to see you again, Josh.