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A Song for You


by fallingdaybreak

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It had been nearly ten years since Nagase had stepped foot back in Shenkuu. Ten years ago, the Great War of Shenkuu rocked the land to its very core, forcing a young Nagase to flee from the land he called home.

     But tonight, no such war tore across the land. Instead, it was a time of festivities and joy. It was July 7th, the night of the Star Festival.

     As the draik walked down the paved stone path, he could feel eyes on him as he walked. Nagase’s appearance was unlike any draik in Neopia. Though he retained the whiskers near his nose and the fin on his tail like most maraquan draiks, he had several other features unlike any other. Instead of the usual purple and orange stripes, teal stripes tore across his eyes, tail, and what was visible from his hands. Instead of dorsal fins, a pair of pointy ears took its place (though one was badly torn). Finally, a pair of dull yellow, almost ixi-like antlers protruded from the top of his head, jetting out towards the sky.

     But this did little to bother Nagase as he stared at the colourful lanterns and streamers hanging from the blooming cherry blossom trees in slight awe. Vendors of all kinds lined the streets, ranging from fortune telling to sweet and savoury treats alike. Children ran through the streets excitedly, dressed in lovely patterned yukatas, which Nagase couldn't help but smile upon seeing. Nagase himself wore a rather simple yukata in comparison, with dark blue at the top, a white sash around his waist, and the lower half being black. His teal-green hair was tied in a short ponytail and a shamisen and a small sack hung over his shoulder.

     The Star Festival was an annual celebration in Shenkuu. According to an ancient legend, a pair of star deities once met and fell in love, but the pair ended up becoming separated from one another. July 7th was the only day the two could reunite, which marked the annual festival. Lanterns were an especially common sight during the Star Festival, and citizens would often light them as offerings to the deities so that they could find each other once again.

     Nagase’s footsteps came to a stop at a flower vendor. Flower vendors were common during the Star Festival, and bouquets were often bought for couples. Lanterns and elegant flower pots lined the shelves of the vendor, and once the shopkeeper, a red acara, noticed Nagase, she greeted him with a smile.

     “Hello, young man! Can I interest you in some flowers today?”

     “Well…” Nagase’s voice trailed off as he eyed the vendor’s numerous flowers. There were lotuses, spider lilies, all of which were quite lovely. But they weren’t the right ones, at least for what he had in mind. The acara, noticing Nagase’s quizzical face, spoke again.

     “Was there anything you were looking for in particular?”

     “Hmm…” As he hummed, a small bouquet caught his eye - a bundle of cherry blossoms tied with a teal ribbon. Though a common sight around Shenkuu, cherry blossoms were nonetheless among the most popular flowers in the land. Seeing those, Nagase knew that those were the ones.

     “Those,” he finally answered, pointing to the blossoms. “I’ll take that one, please.”

     “The cherry blossoms? Are you sure you don’t want anything fancier?” The acara’s voice carried the slightest sense of confusion.

     “No, thank you. I’m sure she’ll love those cherry blossoms.”

     “She?” The acara smiled almost playfully. “If that’s what you like, then of course! That will be...950 Neopoints, please.”

     From the sack on his back, Nagase reached to grab the necessary Neopoints as the acara brought the flowers to the wooden counter.

     “Here you are.” Nagase placed the coins on the counter and took the bouquet, while the acara took the coins in exchange.

     “Thank you very much, young man.” As she counted the coins and looked at the bouquet in Nagase’s hands, the acara spoke again, curious.

     “If you don’t mind me asking, young man, are those for your special someone?”

     At the acara’s question, Nagase once again fell silent, but only for a moment as he gave her a smile.

     “They’re for someone special, alright.”

     “I see! In that case, I hope you and your special one enjoy the festival!” The acara gave him a friendly wave.

     “Thank you! I hope you enjoy it as well!” Nagase gave the acara a polite bow before turning back towards the street, cherry blossom bouquet in hand. By this time, the sun had finally vanished behind the misty mountains, and the sky was starting to darken with shades of blue. His gaze went the mountains, eyes now steeled with a newfound determination.

     “It’s almost time...I’d better hurry. Before it starts.”

     - - - - - -

     It was quite the hike up, but he made it.

     Nagase let out a huff as he stepped over the final rock, now atop a large cliff in the mountains. A cherry blossom tree stood tall next to him, petals swirling as they fell from the tree’s twisting branches. From the edge, Nagase could almost see the entirety of Shenkuu before him, the streets still bustling with activity despite the darkening sky. But in the town square, Nagase could see a large cluster of citizens grouped together, each of them holding lanterns of all kinds. Looking at the group, he knew it was time.

     Slowly, the citizens were letting their lanterns go. Carried by the heat, the lanterns slowly floated higher and higher, growing more distant from the brightened city with each second. The varying colours of each lantern as they reached the deep blue sky...Nagase’s eyes sparkled as he watched them. They were like a rainbow of stars, soon to reach the two star deities.

     But as he watched the lanterns float to the sky, Nagase could feel a slight pang of sadness in his chest. Though today was the Star Festival and he had come back to Shenkuu to see it, he had also come home for another reason.

     Reaching for his sack, Nagase slowly unravelled the contents before he started to arrange them. Slowly, a small shrine of sorts came to sit in front of him, consisting of a small plate of red bean dumplings and a white lotus hairpin.

     But in the middle of the two was a portrait of a faerie draik. Like Nagase, she had pointy ears and ixi-like antlers. Long, sea-green hair fell to meet her shoulders and her eyes were wide as she was depicted with a permanent smile. Looking at the picture, Nagase tried his best to smile as he set the bouquet of cherry blossoms down in front of it.

     “Happy Birthday, Namika.”

     July 7th was a special day to Nagase. It was not only the Star Festival, but it was also his sister’s birthday. Namika, who was five years younger than him, always enjoyed the Star Festival as a child. Nagase still remembered the giddy excitement in her eyes as she pulled him along the brightly lit streets all those years ago.

     If she was still with him, she would have turned seventeen.

     Though looking at the picture made Nagase smile, he could feel tears starting to well up in his eyes. It was seven months ago that an accident from one of Nagase’s closest friends took Namika away from him. Even after those seven months, Nagase still missed his sister more than he could ever describe.

     “Namika…” Nagase took a breath in, but with a slight shudder. “I hope that you’re enjoying the festival too. I know that if you were still here, you’d absolutely love it.”

     As he took in another shudder-like breath, Nagase reached for the shamisen from his shoulder.

     “Even if you’re not here anymore, I'll always love you. Now, this is my present to you."

     With one hand holding the end of the shamisen and the other holding the bachi, he started to play a song. At the same time, he started to sing, shutting his eyes as he did so.

     Let the sakura dance with the gentle breeze

     Will they ever reach your home by the sea?

     Though we may be so far apart

     The petals shall bring you my heart

     It was a song Namika enjoyed hearing as a child, and one Nagase would often play for her. But he knew that now, it wasn't the same without her here. Amidst his singing and the music from his shamisen, the tears Nagase had been holding back now trailed freely down his face. But despite his tears, he continued to sing for his beloved sister, all while the rainbow of lanterns continued to float to the endless night sky.

     Even if I never see your eyes

     Forever blocked by the raging tides

     My heart will dance for all eternity

     For my beloved, who lives by the sea.

     The End.

 
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