Ballad Days: The Ballad of Ishimaru Masato

Stanza One
So It Begins.

Funny.

It almost seemed as if he’d been sitting here at the library for all eternity. Not that he’d even feel it. Ishimaru Masato was too preoccupied reading the latest adventure of his favorite detective on the net. He stretched his legs and looked around. What time is it, he asked himself. Looking around, he slowly realized that those who came after him had already left, or were being called to leave. That’s weird. He glanced towards his back, only to recognize a face he couldn’t just forget. It was her once again. She wasn’t looking at him, but he saw that she was smiling.

How could he ever forget how it all began? It was almost like remembering your favorite book. Not that he wanted to remember. The moment just seemed to burn into his mind. They had no classes after the first period, so he and his friend, Matsuwara Takumi decided to go to the library to surf the net. There was nothing much happening around campus. Just the same people walking the halls, you’d easily forget them even if you didn’t try. There was already a line when they got there, so they had to wait patiently for their turn. When they managed to get inside, they both gave their identification cards to the lady at the counter. The rest of the hour proceeded as it always did. They either went to their favorite forums, or browsed thru manga scans until time ran out. It was at their departure however, when a most curious thing occurred. They got their ID cards, and he courteously told the lady at the counter, “Thank you”, to which the lady replied by smiling at him. Masato knew better than painting things which were black and white, yet for some unknown reason, he felt glad all over.

 

Stanza Two
Nudge of Fate

Classes had ended early. That meant only one thing: the library. How many days had he already spent there? What made every visit special? He just went there to surf the net right? Yet somehow, he felt unsure. As if other things were slowly creeping in his mind. Things he never thought possible. Thought. That’s what he was good at. Creating scenarios inside his head, trying to weigh every possible action before he made a move. Just like right now, he was rambling once more in his mind, in a futile attempt to silence his longing heart. She wasn’t there when he got to the library. He wouldn’t be able to answer if anyone asked him why he didn’t go inside. Why he had to spend around thirty minutes just walking along the halls, going up every floor, then going down once again. What was I expecting, that she’d be there this time? Cause she wasn’t, and Masato wasn’t sure if it was disappointment he felt. Once he got seated, it didn’t take long for him to realize that he was sitting where she once sat. That was on a Saturday, when he noticed she wasn’t at the counter. Back then, as if like instinct, he swiftly searched around for her, and finally he saw the outline of her hair, and she was there, in front of a computer terminal like all the others. They were at least one table apart; he couldn’t help but marvel at the turn of events. That was another thing he was good at: trying to make sense of everything, trying to connect it all to some force called fate.

 

Stanza Three
Made-up Mind

Perhaps he was a fool for doing so; nevertheless Ishimaru Masato already had his mind made up as early as noon. No, it wasn’t delusions due to hunger. He and his friends already ate around mid-morning at a diner whose true name they’d never understand. When they finally got to the library, Masato was told by his friends that the lines were packed. As much as he wanted to wait, he knew he had to give in. Even at that moment a plan had been slowly weaving itself in his mind. They decided to settle for another floor. He could wait.

While passing time, they swapped stories. It seemed they accomplished more laughs than completing any serious work. Not that it really bothered them. They knew for sure that their professor would most probably be late for class again. It wasn’t long before it was one o’clock, and they made preparations to leave. Not him. He knew what would happen next. He bade them goodbye. Matsuwara Takumi, meanwhile, also chose to stay. After all, their class wouldn’t be until five o’clock. So they made their way to the lines and awaited their turn. For some reason, he already knew what awaited him, and he knew he wouldn’t regret it.

 

Stanza Four
Free-fall

Ishimaru Masato was late for class that morning. When he got to the classroom, their sociology professor had already started the lecture. The “Sandman” had come once more to them. It wasn’t them who gave Professor Suzuki that name. He was already famous in campus for his long lectures, and the seemingly uncanny ability to suspend time while teaching. It already took much effort on their part to even sit still. They felt they had to be restless to remain awake for the remainder of the longest hour of their lives.

He had enough time for lunch, because they were dismissed early from their last subject. His friends already had an idea on what he’d do after eating. They seemed to take a liking to his tale of destiny. They poked fun at him, completely overjoyed with the idea. Still, Masato knew they were probably right. Even he could not help thinking how long this madness would go on. Perhaps all this was some fancy dream? A bumpy ride on the avenue of fate? It didn’t seem to matter to him at all. Only one thing mattered to him right now. In between mouthfuls of food, he knew he had to see her once more.

He had roughly forty minutes before his next class, so he hurried his footsteps to the library. The long line didn’t seem to bother him. Once he got inside, he felt that funny feeling inside him again. As if he was falling towards oblivion, yet it felt to him like being free. They exchanged awkward smiles for a moment, and then he proceeded to take his seat.

Nothing much was new on the forum. He had also finished reading his favorite detective manga scans. All he seemed to be doing that day was kill time, every now and then looking towards her direction, silently cursing himself for acting like a fool. Minutes passed by, and he found to his dismay that it was already time. Some of his classmates who were there ahead of him had already started getting their ID’s, so he hurriedly arranged his chair and went to the counter. He was too distracted looking at her that he didn’t notice until the last second that she asked him a question. And he was too surprised by that moment that it took him some time to answer. He then left hurriedly to catch up with his other classmates, silently cursing himself once more for acting like a fool, even though he still glanced back at her every now and then.

 

Stanza Five
Beneath the Beautiful Clear Sky

Endoh Miharu. That was her name. He kept on repeating it to himself, as if he was afraid he’d forget it. He was once again in his favorite place, and she was there, finally. Just minutes ago, he thought he’d be disappointed once again when he saw that she wasn’t there. It wasn’t his fault. If only his friend, Matsuwara Takumi had brought his ID along with him, then they wouldn’t have to go back to their building once more to fetch it.

He and Takumi descended the stairs along with another friend, Yoshikuni Kazuma. They separated ways outside the building. Takumi bade them farewell, while Masato was able to convince Kazuma to accompany him to the library. They didn’t immediately enter the internet room. They first visited the exhibit which was downstairs before lining up.

It wasn’t Miharu at the counter and that didn’t surprise him. Still, he couldn’t help but search for her among the sea of unfamiliar faces inside the room. He and Kazuma took their respective seats. All the while he felt like a castaway lost at sea, desperately searching for the sound of her voice.

He was so engrossed watching the amazing artworks from the site his friend recommended to him that he was surprised by the commotion he heard. One glance was all it took to see that finally, his waiting had paid off. Beneath the blur of faces, one stood out. The face of Endoh Miharu.

Fool,” he said to himself. What was he thinking? Kazuma didn’t seem to notice. He was to busy looking at the monitor to even hear him. As time passed, the number of people seemed to dwindle. Kazuma left some time later. The room seemed to be too quiet. What was he going to do next? He had been thinking of this moment for quite some time and now that he was there, he couldn’t seem to move a muscle. “Let it go,” a voice inside him whispered. Maybe. After all, he still didn’t know what it all meant. Yet each time he tried to walk away, there was always something that made him stay.

 

Stanza Six
Rain of Sorrow

They say the rain has a way of making you forget for a while. For Masato, that was never the case. He felt happy, yes, yet he also felt sad. He felt stupid most of all. He tried to play back the nights events. Miharu was already arranging the computer units, turning them off, preparing to close up. He just sat there watching her from his seat, trying to think of a way to talk to her. He hesitated, her friends were there and he certainly didn’t want to put her on the spot. “This is crazy,” he thought to himself. “I ought to leave right now.” But the more he tried to move, the more he felt compelled to stay. Slowly, the lights from the monitors around him went one by one. Masato had done enough thinking. He left without saying goodbye.

Another jeep passed him by. He just stood there under the shade of the old oak tree for so long he forgot how many minutes he had spent under the unforgiving rain. The weather seemed to punish him. Why, Masato would never know. Only that he felt he had been untrue to himself. Perhaps, if Miharu was alone, he’d have the courage to talk to her. Courage. He found it funny that of all things, this is where his courage failed him. He was not one to back out when faced with adversity. Yet at that time, he felt like a meek lamb being drawn to slaughter. The deafening roar of the wind failed to silence the anguished cry of his heart. Pathetic, what was he thinking? He knew it couldn’t be possible, even if he did do something. Miharu’s heart already belonged to someone else.

 

Around him, the raging tempest continued to pour.

 

-Ed. E.

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