Initially I wanted to write the first character post – but it just got longer and longer with no end in sight. So I decided to split the common route into a single post. You’ll have to wait longer for the following post. Being the first post, this will contain the most (common) plot/character information.
Far from the mainland lies a small island, Zangetsutou, a place of scenic beauty filled with lush nature and gushing hot springs. It’s the season of summer. On the island is a town, Koukashi, which has been in a recession as of late but right now it’s extremely bustling in one of the town’s attraction, Karyuugai. An upper class customer has appeared in the red-light district, and a beautiful lady is seen walking in the gleaming light.
Light and shadow
An oirandouchuu is ongoing, in which the courtesan (oiran) proceeds from her quarters to the entertainment establishments (ageya) or tea house (hikitejaya) to welcome the customer. It’s a rare chance to see a high-ranking courtesan and the people have left their work to gather to watch her, including Fuyuura Megumi. Everyone admires her beauty, but quickly lose interest once she disappears and Megumi overhears people talking about Rinkasai – it’s an annual summer festival where they pray and grieve for their ancestors and courtesans who passed away with no family members, and having lanterns float in the water. They didn’t celebrate it last year due to the drastic circumstances, and they wonder if they’ll be celebrating it this year. The topic of the garrison is also raised and they’re afraid that it will scare the customers away since this is a tourist spot.
Fukami and the Koukashi residents
Fukami Mikoto, an important person in a consulting firm from the mainland, who’s been invited over to the island for consultation work. He sees the procession going on from a distance, before leaving.
Night of a beautiful moon
On her way home, Megumi notices the moon hanging in the night sky. She spots someone in a distance before her, Kagurazaka Hibiki, the leader of Koukaseinendan which is a volunteer group that helps with the security and public order of the town. Hibiki wasn’t born on the island, and was but a traveller when the island was hit by a large earthquake last year. He swiftly gave out detailed instructions to the residents, who was still in shock and panic then, and single-handedly did what should’ve been done by the government office. It was rumoured that the mayor, Yamabato, was at the mainland for work at that time, and the other officers kept passing the responsibility around when pleas from the people came in. If it weren’t for Hibiki taking the initiative, who knows what the actual damage could’ve been. With this, he earned everyone’s praise and was selected as the head of Koukaseinendan to rebuild the streets. He’s seen as a hero in everyone’s eye, and Megumi sees him as the complete opposite of her. As she wonders what he’s thinking, she starts to stare at him and this catches Hibiki’s attention. He eventually tells her that he was only thinking about how beautiful the moon is tonight, and surprises her when he adds that she should’ve been thinking the same thing too. Megumi can’t help but think how it’s a curious fate for them to think the same thing, when they’re opposite existences.
Thinking that it’s dangerous for her to walk alone, no matter how familiar she is with the streets, he’s about to offer to walk her home when a young man approaches Hibiki. He report to Hibiki that Fukami has returned to his own quarters. Hibiki then tells the man to see Megumi back before disappearing. As if used to this, the man only sighs as if resigning himself. Megumi decides to accept this offer and thanks him, though the man tells her to thank Hibiki instead. Megumi sees that he isn’t being spiteful or anything, and merely saying his honest thoughts. They eventually introduce each other and so she learns that he’s Mochizuki Satoya and part of the Koukaseinendan.
Reflected heart of shadow
Their conversation topic soon runs out and only their footsteps can be heard. Satoya awkwardly asks if she’s alright but Megumi reassures him that she’s fine with not talking, and so after that the rest of the way back home is in silence. But Megumi notes that there are few like him who would be so attentive so someone you met for the first time. They reach Tsuki no Hotori, which is both her house and a small restaurant she runs. She’s been the proprietress since a year ago, which surprises Satoya as he asks if it’s hard work. While agreeing to this, Megumi adds that more than that she feels a stronger sense of accomplishment. She’s carrying out the duty she’s given herself to fulfill – to continue protecting this place which her “important person” has protected till now. Satoya commends on how strong she is, but Megumi doesn’t even see herself as a worthy person. It isn’t much but she’s merely doing what she can, and this appears to impress Satoya as he admires her more. Megumi is unable to clear the misunderstand, and ends up averting his strong gaze. Smiling, Satoya remarks that he’s glad to have met her as his doubts have cleared up. He fumbles at his next words, before suddenly taking Megumi’s hand and says that he’ll do his best. While Megumi is unsure of what he’s referring too, she decides to smile back too and tells him to do his best.
Megumi returns home and sees her older brother (not blood-related) trying to take notes while listening to the radio. The person on the radio says that if they accept the garrison idea, they’ll be able to receive a grant in return. Moreover less customers are going to Onsengai, the town’s other attraction, and with the aging population, this way they’ll be able to gain younger men. The town would receive benefits, younger population grows, economy is revitalised, and security will be better. Megumi’s brother, Ooigawa Mamoru, switches off the radio as he remarks that he’s at his limit. He asks if she received any candy from her side job and her reply disappoints him. Megumi’s side job involves delivering the customer’s item to its destination before her shop opens, and reporting to the customer at night after her shop closes. She also tells Mamoru that she saw an oirandouchuu, which excites him. Megumi observes that as outsiders, they easily praise how beautiful the courtesan is but without knowing how they really live like. It’s a common image of Karyuugai. Mamoru says that he has no time go out at all, as he has to collect his own material and write his articles. Megumi tells him to properly plan his schedule out so that he won’t be driven to a corner when his deadline nears, but Mamoru shrugs it off as he can’t do anything if he isn’t in the mood. It’s their usual conversation in such peaceful days.
Mamoru thinks that the town has changed. In the past, you just couldn’t only laze around drinking, eating and sleeping. Megumi agrees as in the past people were self-sufficient and lived to their fullest according to Hotaru, Mamoru’s mother. Megumi also mentions that she met a Koukaseinendan member which excites Mamoru again, as he starts listing the names. On the other hand, Megumi is quite clueless and he comments on how estranged she is from everything else besides the shop. Hearing that she met Satoya, Mamoru recalls that he’s the leader of the shock troops. He wished she’d brought him inside so that he could’ve gathered some exclusive information. Upon hearing that she saw Hibiki too, he sighs at her sad reaction. Mamoru somehow convinces himself that it’s cute that she’s led a sheltered life too, but feels bad that her hands are filled with managing the store and so her freedom has been robbed off. Megumi smiles as she tells him not to pay mind, for it’s Hotaru’s important store. As Mamoru thanks her, he says that she can call Hotaru “mother” too but Megumi replies that she has her own mother too, Yukino. Mamoru thinks that it’s about time to visit her parents’ grave and she says that she’ll find time to do so. They retire for the night, though Mamoru falls asleep immediately there and then lol.
That night, Megumi dreams of her childhood when she tried to chase after someone but could never grab the person’s hand. Ever since her father, a fisherman, never returned on that stormy day, her mother ignored Megumi and constantly pined for him. No matter what Megumi did, Yukino never responded and when Megumi says that her father is gone Yukino answers coldly. She claims not to know Megumi, and wonders if she’s a lost child. Megumi couldn’t find any words to say. Once all hope is gone, the only thing that’s left is a pain that surpasses what you can imagine. It was painful, and that’s why Megumi stopped thinking past that.
Regular customers and days at the shop
After Megumi’s father passed away, her mother pretty much lost it as she forgot all about Megumi and soon passed away too. Left alone, Megumi saw herself as a useless and hopeless existence. But she was taken in by Ooigawa Hotaru, Yukino’s friend. Megumi is abruptly called back to reality as one of her regular customers comments on her fragile, melancholic expression. She apologises but her customer, Haruna Nozomu, likes any of her expressions to be honest. He’s a traveller and tends to appear at her shop at odd hours. Megumi notes that he’s always looking tired recently and Nozomu takes this chance to flirt with her though it hardly works on her. He prompts her to question what his job is, though he answers that it’s personal information and asks if she wants to know him personally then. Megumi gracefully avoids this and Nozomu remarks that this is why he was attracted to her since they first met. He decides to share with her a secret piece of information: this town will soon be swayed by a big case, including her, and it’s related to water. Megumi can only wonder what this means, as she realises that she hardly knows anything about Nozomu – except that they’re the same age and that he likes sweet things. He would sometimes say mysterious things, and she can never tell his true intentions.
As Nozomu digs into his sweet, he asks if Megumi cooked since young. She replies that she helped out the past proprietress, as those who don’t work don’t eat and she was taken in by this family. Nozomu then mentions the oirandouchuu from yesterday, remarking on how they’re being so indulgent despite the harsh state of affairs now and not doing anything. Megumi realises that he’s commenting on the town people, and how they only complain to the government while drinking and watching the women. She advises him not to say such things now, and Nozomu notes that she doesn’t deny his words and doesn’t seem like one of the town people. He asks if it feels thrilling to share this dangerous conversation together, and Megumi merely smiles in return as she asks if it’s like sharing a horror story. She goes to attend to another customer, leaving Nozomu to himself.
Projecting love onto those misty eyes
A customer enters the shop as he wants to request Megumi to delivery an obi to Koyuki, a maiko at Koukarou, the largest courtesan quarter in Karyuugai. He appears nervous and shares with Megumi that he fell in love at first sight. He doesn’t mind her not knowing his name or face, and just wants her to live happily. Megumi replies that Koyuki would be happy to have someone think of her this much.
I only continue wishing for immutability
As day changes to evening, Mamoru appears at the shop asking for food. He also switches on the radio and the mayor is going on about the garrison case. It’s the only talk going on in town recently. Megumi wonders what will change if it’s implemented, and Mamoru replies that it depends on the details they decide in an actual meeting – perhaps nothing may change or perhaps everyone will be forced to evacuate. Mamoru soon dismisses this topic for food and Megumi is relieved to be able to turn off the radio. She also asks him if there’s any rumours about water. After mulling over this, he recalls that the water supply to the whole town now is free. In the past, for the convenience of the tourists, there was the proposal to have water supplied to all households and facilities. At first, it wasn’t known how much this would cost, and so the people expressed great disapproval to this. But when the government said that they’ll bear all the costs, the people agreed in the end. Mamoru poses the thought of what if water supply was no longer free, but later passes it off as a joke. Megumi never observed any hints of this to occur though, and hopes that the same, peaceful days can continue on.
Distorted family love
Megumi dreams of the past again, this time she was playing with Mamoru. He wanted to play hide and seek and Megumi tried to find him later, but she couldn’t and the only place left was the store. She was told by Hotaru not to enter during business hours, but she had little choice. Unfortunately for Megumi, she was spotted by Hotaru once she entered and also tripped when her leg was caught on a chair. Hotaru quickly saw to her, but the dishes she let go accidentally dirtied a customer’s pants. The customer got mad and despite Hotaru profusely apologising, he also demanded for the frightened Megumi to do the same. Mamoru appeared then and helped Megumi outside, but she can still hear the customer complaining even when another tried to speak up for Hotaru – that she took in her cousin’s daughter and had it hard too. Hotaru continuously apologised, and Megumi couldn’t help but blame herself especially when the customer concluded that it was ‘cos Hotaru took Megumi in that this happened. Megumi dashed off in the rain, eventually ended up at the harbour and the rain cleared up then. She had nowhere to return to and could only cry for her parents. Just then, Hotaru came hugging her. However, Megumi was hesitate to return – perhaps she really was an existent that shouldn’t have been. Hotaru gently called her name in return, and apologised for not looking to her properly. She asked after Megumi’s injury, and questioned when she was ever sad. Instead, all she ever remembered was being happy to gain a cute daughter. She took Megumi’s hand, and Mamoru came over and offered to give her a piggyback ride back. As they returned home, Megumi vowed to do her best for this house, and to lessen her burden on them.
A girl of marriageable age and talk of love
As Megumi wondered why she dreamed of her past twice in a row, she arrives at Koukarou to deliver the obi. She spots Ayame, a retired geigi who now teaches the younger ones, though on the rare occasion she does perform for the familiar regulars. Hearing why Megumi is here today, Ayame is reminded of her past love and asks if Megumi has anyone in mind. If the latter chooses to only gives a small smile, for she doesn’t know herself if she’s interested in love. She feels bad for downing the mood, and blames herself. OR Megumi answers that she does. She doesn’t understand it yet, but she knows that she’ll have to leave the house if Mamoru gets married and his wife would tend to the store instead. And if she’s still along then her brother would worry, and she doesn’t want that. Either way, Ayame remarks that liking someone is easy yet difficult so it can’t be helped – there are many reasons, you don’t notice it as it’s too close to her, or pretend not to notice your overflowing feelings as it’s scary. But if someday Megumi meets the one, she hopes she won’t run away from those feelings – love turns people into adults. Knowing that Ayame is worried for her, Megumi only smiles in return. Ayame apologises for holding her up, and offers to deliver the obi on her behalf. Megumi declines, as she’s out to do some shopping too. Ayame happens to be going out too, and offers to accompany Megumi midway.
They arrive at the harbour, where Beniichi is held. It’s a market held every Saturday in which the government would order a batch of goods beforehand and have them shipped from the mainland. However, only the people of Shoutengai (where Megumi’s place is located too) can buy from this market. The reason being that both Onsengai and Karyuugai already earn from tourists but not Shoutengai. The island doesn’t have any other industry but the tourist one, and so it has to import all other resources. There are already souvenirs and food provided at Onsengai, so tourists hardly spend at Shoutengai. So if anyone can buy at this market, Shoutengai would eventually become obsolete and the shops targeted at the island people would close down and all the shops would become completely devoted to tourists. So the mayor implemented this Dokusenkounyuuken (policy) to preserve Shoutengai. At the entrance of Beniichi, a person-in-charge would check the people’s identity and also do body checks now. Just then, both of them notice a commotion and see the people crowded around the mayor and Fukami. Ayame quickly goes to see what’s going on, and Megumi follows behind.
The mayor is trying to persuade the people to give their cooperation to the garrison plan – the tourists have dipped in the recent years and things are getting worse. They’ve done all they can so now they’ve to rely on others. But the people aren’t persuaded at all, and demand for another solution from the government. Hearing the ruckus, Megumi secretly feels like running away. Fukami then steps in and questions where their dissatisfaction lies. The tourists flow is already low as it is, and the status quota can’t be maintained for long. At this rate it’ll cease soon so they need to do something before that. In reality, the service quality at Onsengai is worse than others and Karyuugai is full of pretentious, old-fashioned shops and haughty women. Megumi observes that Ayame is offended, and she feels like covering her ears. Fukami goes on to say that people will naturally gather if it’s a good place, but the people reject Fukami’s words. The mayor wants to retreat for now, and so Fukami does so and decides to hold a conference for the garrison plan later. When the people demand for another solution, Fukami answers that he’ll consider it. After they leave, Ayame asks Megumi for her opinion. While Megumi doesn’t agree fully especially with regards to the garrison plan, she does feel that there’s some reason to his words. She apologises for her words as she isn’t that well-informed. After that, they part ways and Megumi finishes her shopping. It’s still bright but both her body and heart feel tired.
The thoughts of an empty girl
On her way back, Megumi takes a short rest at the central plaza. She stares at the sky and starts to get lost in a different world. Since young, she’s enjoyed these moments when she could daydream. One could say that it’s escaping reality, but for the insecure her this is how she compromises with this world and maintains the balance of her heart. The perfect her at Hotaru’s store is the her on the surface, as she wants to do her best to act like Hotaru did. Megumi wonders if she’s properly breathing.
An unexpectedly strong man
Megumi notices people gathering, which reminds her that people often do so to listen to Koukaseinendan.
>> If she decides to head straight home, Megumi loses her balance when she gets up thanks to her heavy bags and a soldier quickly helps her out. In the end, he helps her carry her stuff all the way back but has to return to work when she offers him tea as gratitude.
>> If Megumi decides to take a roundabout way back home, Nozomu soon calls out to her. He remarks on how she looks like a picture wherever she is, and is happy to be able to see her smile for free outside. Megumi replies that she’ll willingly do so but Nozomu says that he’ll lose appreciation for it if she does it every time. Moreover, he still prefers her melancholic expression to her smiling one. He offers to help carry her groceries, though as expected Megumi kindly refuses him. When Nozomu insists, Megumi starts thinking about how to go about this since to be honest, she doesn’t really like relying on people like this. In the end, Nozomu gives up as he’s satisfied that he got to see her face and says that he’ll see her next time at the shop.
>> If she decides to rest a while longer, she soon sees a Koukaseinendan rally starting and Hibiki addressing the crowd. He expresses their opinion on the garrison issue, and repeats what the pros of accepting it is, as mentioned by the government. However, will it really solve the island’s problems? There are too many unclear points so they can’t easily approve of it. Hibiki proceeds to address everyone’s worries, and seeks their views. But before he can go on, the police come to forcefully stop the rally and the crowd flees. The police leave after seeing the crowd disperse and Hibiki spots Megumi when he comes down the stage. They’ll just have to continue another time, though there isn’t any fixed time for their rallies as they observe when the crowd gathers. He soon leaves to join the other Koukaseinendan members and thanks Megumi for the small talk as it was a good change of mood.
>> If Megumi goes to check out the noticeboard, she hears Satoya speaking to his fellow Koukaseinendan members. She turns to leave quietly, but he spots her and calls out to her loudly – only to apologise later for doing so. He’s pleasantly surprised to see that she still remembers his name. Satoya leaves soon after though, as they’re preparing for something. Soon after, the Koukaseinendan rally starts and Hibiki gives the same speech as above. The police come, and Megumi leaves with the rest of the crowd while wondering if the Koukaseinendan will be alright.
A foreign child and that existence
Back at her place, Megumi decides to sort the groceries, cleans both the store and house, and also think of a new menu for the season. She takes out Hotaru’s recipe book – she still can’t cook all of them so the current menu she offers isn’t the same. She happens to flip to the last page, which describes Hotaru’s ideal: To provide a menu such that the customer can feel at home. After Megumi cleans the place and does her stock-checking, she quickly goes to buy some condiments before Shoutengai closes. On her way back, she notices a foreign boy on the streets. The people recognise him as Inoguchi’s child, as they avert their gazes away. The Inoguchi family was a powerful family which contributed to the town’s prosperity, but recently it’s in strained circumstances. Moreover, the eldest son left the island and married a foreign woman as he returned. The island people only welcome tourists who spend, and not outsiders who end up settling down here. No matter how much this island has modernised thanks to the tourist industry, it was still originally a small and deserted village – the tradition of fostering each child and grandchild hasn’t changed. Seeing that he’s lost, Megumi eventually calls out to him but he tearfully apologises instead and runs off. She sees that he’s normally avoided by many so it probably can’t be helped, but she finds him rather pitiful.
Brothers who aren’t alike
Just then, Megumi hears a breathless voice from behind (and sees that it was the soldier from before). He asks her if she saw a blonde boy and she recounts what happened to him, which surprises him. He thanks her before going off to find his younger brother. If it were the usual her, things would end here and she wouldn’t involve herself with anyone unnecessarily. But for some reason she’s bothered – is it due to the boy’s sad expression, or her recent dreams which causes her to see herself in him. Before she realises, she’s already chasing after them.
Please don’t look into my hidden heart
After some searching, Megumi sees the boy from before surrounded by a group of kids, who are throwing stones at him and calling him the demon’s child. She freezes at this sight, but questions herself why then did she chase after them. Shakily, she tells the kids to stop and seeing an adult arrive, the kids get bored and leave. Megumi approaches the boy and pats his head, but to her surprise he observes that her hand is trembling. Just then, the boy spots his brother who carries him. As the boy explains that Megumi helped him out, Megumi states that she was just passing by. For some reason, it sounds as though she’s being proud despite the fact that she was so scared before. The soldier holds her back to at least thank her, since someone actually helped his brother. (Megumi thanks him for earlier too, which causes the man to remarks on their strange fate.) Not expecting him to be this grateful, a ticklish feeling grows inside of Megumi. The man tells his brother to thank her too, and introduces himself as Inoguchi Wataru and his brother as Noah. After Megumi introduces herself too, and tries to calm her embarrassed self before taking her leave. Wataru offers to see her back, but she declines and tells him to see to Noah instead. While she feels happy, she doesn’t want to expose her ugly side any further. In the end, it’s as if she’s running away and she apologises in her heart.
Night of Koukashi
Upon reaching home, a woman from Shoutengai comes by to ask for some miso and promises to give her some stuff from her store in return. Megumi agrees, while wondering why the woman came all the way to her place to ask for it. She soon realises that it’s a mere excuse as the woman advises Megumi not to get too close to the Inoguchi boy before leaving. Megumi can only question why they are being despised – why is everyone treating them harshly just ‘cos they came from a foreign land.
At home, Megumi waits for her brother’s return as she gazes at the moon at the porch. When her brother returns, he asks why exactly does she like gazing at the moon so much. She never thought about it till now, and tries to answer him. She likes how its warm, gentle light appears to embrace and protect you, giving you a sense of assurance. It’s also nice how it gently lights up the path at night, as if guiding you. In addition, even though it’s the same moon it changes shape each time and it’s interesting to see its different sides. And ‘cos there’s the moonlight, you also get to feel the darkness of this quiet night at the same time. Whichever answer Megumi chooses, Mamoru would infer that she liked that type of man. Megumi replies that she’s talking about the moon and he laughs it off, as he wonders why no men go after her. Megumi is reminded of Ayame’s question and Mamoru expresses his interest in seeing the change in her when she’s in love – he’s sure she would be the type who’d change drastically, though it’s just his prediction. She then asks if he likes gazing at the moon, to which he answers that it’s more that he enjoys looking at the sky. He finds it amazing how it envelopes everything and wishes to become the same too. Mamoru passes it off as a joke though. When asked where he went to just now, he replies that it was to gather material and asks for dinner.
Invited by a refreshing wind
A few days later, Megumi finished her side job early that morning and decides to take a short walk somewhere.
>> Don’t go to the tea house with the Haruna who acts too fast
Megumi heads to Karyuugai and admires the buildings. She’s about to head back when she sees Nozomu sitting on the bridge. Hearing that she’s here for a walk, Nozomu remarks that if they could rebuild such extravagant buildings they should use it so that the people can live better instead. Megumi is confused as she doesn’t see any contradiction, and he points out that it’s wrong to think so. The people in this town fundamentally don’t know how to use money. Customers won’t come if you simply build some extravagant-looking buildings – the focus is wrong. Sure it may be pretty, but they won’t come to such a remote place just for that – most customers aren’t interested in the buildings. If so, they shouldn’t spend so much on the appearance and focus on service which can’t be found anywhere else. Hearing his words, Megumi recalls Fukami’s words from before. Afterwards, Nozomu invites Megumi to come with him to the tea house. Megumi doesn’t understand the intention of his words at first, till he implies by how the tea house “this area” lets men and women do their affairs in private. Megumi quickly distances herself from him as she excuses herself for she has work. Nozomu easily gives up, for he doesn’t want his favourite healing place to close down.
>> The Inoguchi tempted by fish
On the way to Onsengai, Megumi stops to gaze at the sea. She spots Wataru at the harbour and noticing her, he thanks her again for the other day. She gets flustered, unsure of how to react and thinks that no one else should be around. While staring at the ground, she notices a bunch of fishes at Wataru’s feet. He explains that he’s been fishing and plans to bring them back to the lodging house for all the soldiers to eat. Megumi points out one of his catch as poisonous, and Wataru quickly returns it back to the sea. He also asks for her advice on how to cook them, and she gives him her detailed suggestion. Wataru happily remarks that women are good at cooking as expected, and for some reason Megumi stiffens at the word “women”. She realises that she ended up talking a lot and quickly excuses herself.
>> Well-learned Kagurazaka and the voice of cicadas
If Megumi goes to the central plaza, she sees Hibiki staring at a large tree. Curious, she approaches him and he shows her the cicada he caught in his hand. He eventually explains why he finds them curious – different cicadas make different sounds. As nymphs, they can live underground for some 6-10 years. Yet when they mature and finally sprout wings, they can only live for a fleeting period of 1-2 weeks and maximum 1 month. If one doesn’t know anything, they’ll just find the cicadas noisy. But if you do know, then you can see it as them singing to their fullest the eulogy on their short life. Megumi agrees with him, and Hibiki appears satisfied with her words. He finds it interesting how you can see different emotions, if you change your perspective. For example, in the past there was such a verse in a folk song: “rather than the singing cicada which yearns for love, the silent firefly which burns with love (is better)”. It’s basically saying that your feelings are better conveyed if you say nothing and keep them to yourself, rather than say them aloud over and over again. It’s implying that the cicada is noisy and doesn’t think which is quite cruel when you know its background. Hibiki puts the cicada back and Megumi remarks that with just a single cicada people have many things they can convey. Hibiki agrees that that’s what’s interesting but no one but the cicada itself knows what it wants to convey. He invites Megumi to listen in to a ralley the Koukaseinendan are having later, but she has work later. She thanks Hibiki as she learned something new and leaves.
>> Dancing Mochizuki
Megumi heads to the bamboo forest for some alone time, but sees Satoya in a distance who appears to be dancing. But it’s a dance she’s never seen before and she gets drawn to his nimble movements. He soon realises that she’s been watching and awkwardly asks when she saw there. He gets excited when Megumi sincerely praises his dance, and explains that he was asked to teach a dance to the children for the upcoming festival. He was rejected at first but accepted in the end as they kept insisting on him. Moreover, Hibiki kept pressing him too. Satoya’s been practicing secretly on an original dance as the children wanted an original dance which looks cool to others. He’s reluctant to ask others for feedback if it looks “cool” though, even when Megumi offers to do so. He reminds her about her work, and also thanks her for her input though he was a bit embarrassed. Satoya also has her promise not to tell Hibiki about this, if not he’s most likely to go on about it for 3 days.
>> Idiots don’t catch colds, Brother
(This option doesn’t always appear.) Unable to decide, Megumi returns straight home instead and sees Mamoru sprinkling water outside the store entrance. Wondering why he’s doing her work, Megumi insists on taking over. However, the struggle between them ends up making the bucket of water splash on Mamoru. He quickly goes to change lest he catches a cold. That night though, Mamoru ends up sick and Megumi scares herself when she thinks he’s dying since she’s never seen him this weak before. This scares him instead as he says that it’s just a cold. While taking care of him, she falls asleep beside him and Mamoru thanks her. The next morning, Mamoru feels better and Megumi thinks that it’s really best for him to remain as energetic as he usually is.
The brother who is looking forward to it but not working hard at all
As they’re eating breakfast, Mamoru mentions the upcoming summer festival. When asked if he’ll go this year, he replies that he will if he finishes his work – but at the moment things are looking precarious.
Under a hero’s dazzling light
Hibiki and (an awkward) Satoya visit Megumi’s store that afternoon. Hibiki is soon pulled to a customers’ table as they order more food and treat him. Satoya sighs as he mutters that it’s tiring to be with Hibiki. Megumi stops herself from asking if they’re on bad terms/he’s bad at dealing with Hibiki, but Satoya notices that she heard him. OR Megumi changes the topic and Satoya thanks her as he notices her intentions. Either way, when they hear the other table get noisy, Satoya remarks that Hibiki has the power to attract people, something he doesn’t have at all. Megumi notices that he appears sad, and he apologises to her for saying such a thing. She replies that it’ll just be their secret, and leads him to the counter.
The colour of the moon a hero possesses
Satoya ends up getting dragged to the same table though, and as Megumi serves the table the customers asks her to listen in seeing that they’re the only customers. Thinking that it’s rude to decline, she agrees and the topic happens to be Fukami’s talk at the harbour the other day. They complain that they’re paying Fukami’s pay yet he’s creating trouble for them. They believe that with a garrison and influx of soldiers it would make living harder, not that they’re sure of the details. They ask Satoya for his opinion, but he insists that he’s still learning so he can’t answer. Commenting on how unreliable he is, they turn to Hibiki instead. In reply, Hibiki says that there are a lot of unknown points regarding the garrison plan so they can’t openly approve of it as a good idea. The mayor only claims that it’s good but doesn’t address the worries the people have. So one can say that this itself is a problem even before the garrison construction. So before these worries are dissolved, the Koukaseinendan is trying to persuade the government not to see through the garrison. However their voices are too weak so they need everyone’s help too in coming together to create a better town. They’ll do whatever they can for the town. Everyone applauds Hibiki’s words, and feel reassures. Satoya seems to appear uncomfortable, and the customers ask Hibiki what they should do. Megumi sees how Hibiki has to shoulder everything – the people’s worries and demands. She ends up staring at Hibiki, till she’s asked by him for some more drinks and embarrassingly, she quickly sees to it. OR Megumi purposely asks if Hibiki wants some more water, hoping that he can at least relax here. Hibiki notices her intentions and asks her to see to it.
A heavy weight and Koukaseinendan
Megumi passes by the harbour, a favourite place of hers, as she’s on the way back from reporting to a customer. She thinks back to Hibiki’s words at the restaurant, and feels that it’s not enough just to rely on the Koukaseinendan, it’s everyone’s town. By right, they shouldn’t push to others and think about things more seriously – not that she’s one to say this. Just then, she hears people arguing and decides to leave the scene.
An unexpected relationship
However, one of the people calls out to Megumi and it turns out to be Nozomu and Wataru – this combination surprises Megumi. The pair are surprised to realise that both of them know Megumi, and explain how they came to know her. Wataru comments on how it’s dangerous for a girl to walk this late at night, however Nozomu remarks that it’s her life and in this case, way of earning a living which causes Wataru to apologise for saying too much. Observing this, Megumi thinks that perhaps they make a good pair. When asked on what they’re doing out here though, Nozomu merely answers that they were taking a walk. If Megumi asks Wataru if he enjoys gazing at the moon, he replies that he does and she’s happy to have found a fellow friend. Seeing this, Nozomu smiles as he says that it’s a case of when one runs after two hares (one ends up catching none). OR Megumi asks Nozomu the same question and he doesn’t really mind but naturally he prefers gazing at her. OR Megumi asks the both of them. While Wataru replies that he does, Nozomu says that it’s more like he hates the glaring sun so he prefers the moon. Either way, after that the three of them end up gazing at the moon. It was mysterious for Megumi, as she somehow felt closer to them.
The sister who doesn’t know the brother’s heart
When Megumi returns home, she sees Mamoru sleeping on the porch. She wakes him up, though she soon ends up sleeping herself. Mamoru says that it would be good for her to live life in a more relaxed manner, as right now she keeps feeling this sense of responsibility. He apologises to her for being an unreliable family member, and carries the sleeping Megumi back to her room.
Preparations for the festival
There’s a week left to the festival, and everyone is preparing on a rotation basis. Today is Megumi’s rotation and she goes to receive instructions. They’re not in dire need of help except for labourious work so they let her choose.
>> Well-learned Kagurazaka and the whereabouts of the Shouryouuma
At Karyuugai, Megumi sees Hibiki giving out instructions while attaching lanterns at the same time. Unsure of what to do, she asks him and he directs her to a group of women who are making Shouryouuma (lit. spirit horse). Megumi honestly says that she doesn’t know what they’re for, as she always say her mother making them but found them scary and never asked. Hibiki takes this chance to explain to her that the one with the cucumber is meant to represent a horse, while the one with the eggplant represents the cow. A horse runs fast so it’s meant to bring back the ancestor’s spirit from the other world quickly. The cow moves slower, so that the spirit would return to the other world slowly. Basically, the people wish for the ancestors’ spirits to remain in this world for as long as possible. Megumi feels embarrassed for just being scared, and Hibiki remarks that it couldn’t be helped since she didn’t know the truth. After thanking him for his explanation, Megumi goes to help make the Shouryouuma.
>> Mochizuki who gives out instructions splendidly
She goes to the central plaza where she sees Satoya on stage, giving out instructions to the lines of people in queue. Megumi joins the queue and when it’s her turn she approaches Satoya, who’s surprised to see her there. However, he’s busy with giving out instructions to everyone else and Megumi can’t help but admire how impressive he is . When he finally returns to her, he asks her to help fold the flags before getting back to him when she’s done.
>> The activities of a soldier in times of peace
Megumi chooses to go to the harbour. She sees that it’s mostly the moving of large goods from the harbour to other places, so perhaps she made a mistake. She still tries to help out, and is asked to carry the baskets of candles to where people are making the lanterns. The lanterns would be released at the river there, and it flows out to the harbour side. After completing her task, the lady who took the baskets notices that her finger is bleeding and quickly directs her to the river to wash her wound. At the river, Wataru spots Megumi as he’s doing his rounds. He helps her bandage it up, as he explains that he was ordered to do rounds by the mayor since there’s a lot of influx of people with the upcoming festival, and to make sure there are no disorders. Without any war, they’re actually pretty free and usually do paperwork or train. So he feels happy to be able to walk around like this now. Megumi secretly doesn’t quite understand this, as she’s the type who prefers to hole up at home. But she agrees that it’s better to have peace. After he’s done, Wataru tells her to treat it properly at home, and Megumi returns to help at the harbour.
>> The goldfish which does not adapt and Haruna’s talk
Megumi heads to Onsengai and Nozomu spots her among the crowd. As she wonders if he’s always able to spot her as she’s incompatible from the rest, he agrees and says that her existence is different – in a good way. For example, if there’s a fish bowl full of snow which has melted halfway, then she would be the goldfish sitting on top. They can’t live above snow, but they can in meltwater. However it takes time for the snow to completely melt so by the time it has, the goldfish would’ve died. In other words, when she has adapted, the existence that is “her” would be killed off. And so whatever happens, she won’t adapt to her surroundings. Megumi wonders if she stands out that much, and Nozomu simply confirms this before ending the topic. He then remarks on how everyone is in such good spirits just ‘cos of the festival, despite the dire circumstances now. When he hears that she closed her store today to help out with the preparations, Nozomu questions why she has to go to that extent. Though he expected that she can’t not help out due to her serious personality. He’s doing work now but at least he’s getting paid unlike her helping out for free now. If only they were at least paid but Megumi explains that they’ve been doing this since the past. As Nozomu repeats her last words, he then offers her the dango he has in hand as his reward for her. Megumi accepts just his feelings and so he waves her goodbye, adding that she can get her reward from him anytime.
>> Brother and stuffing oneself with a mountain of dango
After Megumi is done helping out at Shoutengai, her stomach growls and she uses the excuse of buying Mamoru some dango to fill her own stomach. However, she sees him eating at the store and Mamoru quickly insists that he’s on a break now. When he hears that she’s actually here to buy some for him, he’s too taken aback as it’s unlike her. Megumi apologises as it’s only an excuse. She notices a group of women looking over, and Mamoru remarks that they must be attracted to his good looks. On that note, Megumi wonders if he had ever been in love and when she asks him he chokes lol. He eventually answers on the type of woman he likes, such as someone who can produce (a lot of things) though Megumi is confused as to what this exactly refers to. Mamoru adds that it must be someone who can forgive his lazy personality too, and Megumi sees this as him pushing his wants onto the woman. Just then, the mountain of dango he ordered arrives and Mamoru apologises when Megumi tells him off. She decides to eat some too, and tells him to take note next time. Sometimes days like these are fine too.
Days where a shadow starts to loom
A few days later, Megumi is shopping and someone is distributing newspapers. One gets shoved in her hands, and she notices an announcement that as suggested by Fukami, a tax on water supply will take effect the day after the festival as an economic countermeasure. The town’s funds are in a precarious state. In reviving the town after the disaster, it ate up a lot of their funds as even with the funds from the country it wasn’t enough. Even so, they somehow managed to hold out with no effects on their daily lives – but with things reaching this stage and funds are not recovering. This is ‘cos customers aren’t coming to Onsengai and Karyuugai. And so the monthly income is speedily decreasing. That’s why there was the garrison plan but the people opposed strongly to it. In that case, the government can only slowly impose the burden on the people themselves through this tax. This must be what Fukami thought of from the other day. Water is used everywhere, and it’ll be a greater burden for the likes of Megumi since they use it in their business too.
Back at the store, the customers are discussing this as they complain about how the government forced this on them without any pre-discussion. But perhaps there might be little change in the end. While the tax rates are not released yet, Megumi secretly thinks that it will affect them. The customers shrug it off as it’s been decided already so there’s nothing they can do about it – this is where Hibiki comes in. They decide to talk about a more light-hearted topic instead, the festival. They ask if Megumi is going this year. To be honest she isn’t sure. Every year she used to go with Hotaru and Mamoru, but Hotaru isn’t around now and Mamoru isn’t sure yet whether he can go.
END: The world which doesn’t start
As the customers leave, it rains and Megumi is left alone in the store. She enjoys such moments, when there’s nothing bothering her and the only sound is the sound of her own breathing. A moment where only she is existing. As much as she wants this to continue on forever, there is no such thing as immutability in this world. The cycle of the day ending and another morning arriving goes on. Nothing can remain fixed. Just like how Koukashi is being affected by what’s outside now, it will proceed to change too. For someone who doesn’t have anything, Megumi can only entrust herself to that flow, just like how she’s been living till today. However, for some reason a vague uneasiness seems to remain in her like a sediment.
END: I’ll remain together with my important “family” from now on too……
(Obtainable after one playthrough) The festival is tomorrow and that morning Mamoru excitedly tells Megumi that he’s managed to finish his work. After asking to be praised, he immediately goes to submit his work and says that he’ll return soon for breakfast. However, even after Megumi has opened the store he still hasn’t returned. Time passes and after the store is closed, Megumi thinks of searching for him. Just then, Mamoru staggers back home before collapsing onto Megumi as he explains that he got dragged to do more work by his senior at work. She feels that his whole body is hot and realises that he’s caught a cold again. So that night, she looks after Mamoru and calls him an idiot. Apparently he stayed up each night to continuously do his work. Mamoru remarks that with what happened to Hotaru, he wanted to at least go together with her for the lantern event but to think he fell ill instead. Megumi feels bad as she sees that he thought through things properly too, and apologises. Mamoru replies that there’s no need to, since he is an idiot anyway. In any case, Megumi tells him to rest at home tomorrow and she’ll go for the lantern event by herself tomorrow. After that, she remains by his side as he falls asleep. A year has gone by since Hotaru has passed away. Truth be told, both her and Mamoru have probably forced themselves.
A flashback is shown, in which a young Mamoru tells a young Megumi to start calling him “brother” starting from today. However, she apologises instead thinking that he’s angry when she remains silent. Mamoru quickly denies so, and says that she can call him when she feels like it then. However, he’s going to address her as “Megumi” since they’re siblings now – and siblings help each other out. So whenever she’s in trouble, she can call out for him loudly and he’ll come and protect her. In response, Megumi nods and finally calls him “brother”. The next morning, Mamoru is feeling better and insists on going to the festival together with Megumi. He goes to search for Hotaru’s yukata so that Megumi can wear it today. She remains worried as to whether he’s really all well, since if anything happens to him she’ll be alone so she doesn’t want him to force himself no matter what. But she’ll believe his words since he continuously remarks that he’s fine now. Mamoru then puts on the yukata for her to try and it fits her perfectly. She can bring it along with her if she marries out, but that thought hasn’t crossed Megumi’s mind at all though she doesn’t plan on staying on forever and troubling him. After a brief silence, Mamoru shrugs it off. In any case they’ll continue to look out for one another, and Megumi nods in return.
I hope the formatting of this post wasn’t confusing. Just take note that there are 3 areas where it splits into individual scenes (depending on whose route you’re on) as indicated by this sign “>>”. Anyway, in case you still haven’t noticed this game is quite heavy. Unlike other historical games I’ve played, Getsuei no Kusari isn’t based on a real town/event (I think) but the issues raised are all so real and relevant even in today’s context. That can be scary and put you off the game. Right now I think since I’m in the right mood for it, I’m still rather enjoying it. The writing is beautiful and what I like so far is how it “shows” rather than “tells”. For example, Megumi’s personality is “shown” by how she wants to shut herself off to Fukami’s talk, how she insisted on doing her own work instead of letting Mamoru help out. Nozomu’s views on the town and its people are “shown” with all the conversations he’s exchanged with Megumi so far. Anyway, I’m doing Wataru’s route first but I’m nowhere near the halfway mark for it…ahaha. Such a long game, this is. /o\