Kugiyama Ichigo had someone in his early teens that he liked.
It was his older friend from childhood, Sakura.
She was a girl who always had a sweet aroma around her, a blend of a flowery scent akin to lavender with a citrus fruit scent.
Her long black hair that reached to her waist was so well manicured that it seemed to be artificial, and it always shone beautifully as it reflected the sunlight.
Her fair skin gave a sense of translucency.
Her face was well-defined, with a smooth bridge at the center of her nose.
She had slightly slit eyes that, when downcast, her long eyelashes would create a truly striking impression, giving off an atmosphere with a charm far unlike that of a child.
The image of the slightly lifted corners of her peach-colored lips that produced her smile and its captivating beauty that could very well be out of a painting, is still vivid in his memory.
Sakura lived in a large house near Ichigo’s, where her family ran their business.
From her dignity and refinement, it could easily be inferred that she was a true Ojou-sama.
But she didn’t put any air of self-importance or arrogance, rather her personality was very friendly and easy to talk to.
“It’s a beautiful day today, isn’t it, Ichi?”
Ichi. That was the nickname she used for Ichigo.
She was Ichigo’s childhood friend and was three years older than him.
In other words, she was like a big sister to Ichigo.
His feelings for her were like that of a younger brother’s respect and affection for his older sister.
The way she looked, the way she behaved, and the idle time they spent with each other all contributed to this feeling of his, and before he knew it, Ichigo’s feelings had turned into love.
He was in love with Sakura.
After spending time with her, even since childhood, he suddenly found himself falling in love with her.
“Sakura, how about we hang out at that new park at the edge of town that we talked about before?”
“Yes, sure. Do you want me to make lunch for us?”
Since when has it become clear to him? Well, as far as those feelings were concerned, he had never tried to define it in words before, nor had he tried to figure out the cause to be sure before that point.
In fact, he had been fleeing from the thought.
Probably because Ichigo himself was also embarrassed and ashamed.
Nevertheless, he was certain that he had feelings for her.
He had a wish, he wanted to be with her all the time. To entertain her, to make her feel happy, to please her.
He wanted to impress the older girl.
He wanted her to be aware of him as someone—as a “special someone” differently from the others.
“So, I’ll come to your house at 8:00 in the morning, ok, Sakura?”
“Got it. I’ll be finished by then and I’ll be waiting for you.”
The smiling Sakura, as she said this, was like a goddess brimming with compassion.
She never got upset when Ichigo, who was younger than her, called her by her first name.
He had a small sense of superiority when Sakura accepted that he called her by her first name without any further ado.
But surely to Sakura, it was as if she were being called by a close younger brother of hers.
Even so, Ichigo’s mindset was different.
It would be different from how it was with her parents, her family, her friends, and the adults she respected and admired…… In other words, Ichigo wanted to be Sakura’s boyfriend.
And, in order to achieve this, Ichigo, who was only an elementary school student at the time, tried many things.
In the end, it was just an effort within the scope of a child’s capacity for imagination and financial resources, but he still tried to make her happy by suggesting places to go, giving her handmade gifts, and so on.
However, there is only so much a child can do.
None of his wealth, his disposition, his knowledge, all of it was beyond her, or even her classmates for that matter.
She was very affluent.
Combined with her good looks and charm, naturally, Ichigo was far from being the only one who fell for her.
Often, she would be seen engaged in conversation with boys in her class.
He felt both envious and jealous of the older boys, who were the same age as her and could treat her at an equal footing.
Regardless, Sakura always regarded Ichigo as a younger brother to her.
She always acted like an older sister with Ichigo.
──And, that relationship remained unchanged until the end.
At the same time that Ichigo was thoughtless rushing headlong into his love for her, she had her own problems. And it progressed steadily like a disease, while Ichigo was oblivious to it…… And, one day, unexpectedly, he was only announced of the result.
When Ichigo was thirteen years old and about to enter the second year of junior high school, Sakura had moved abroad with her fiancé after graduating from junior high school.
He was a well-known company executive in the industry, and was much older than Sakura.
When he first heard the explanation from her parents, he couldn’t quite follow what they were saying, much less understand what had happened.
Sakura was disappearing from his life.
That fact alone was hard to swallow, and while it loomed in front of him, he didn’t want to accept it.
It took him a few days of stupor, but…… eventually he was able to gradually digest the details surrounding the story.
Apparently, back then, Sakura’s family had suffered a business failure and was deep in debt.
That’s when the company of this fiancée came to their rescue── with the promise that she would eventually become his wife.
Ichigo had no idea.
Behind the smile that Sakura had always given him, she had been dealing with such a harsh reality.
He felt anger at himself well up in him for not realizing this before.
But at the same time, he felt dejected because he realized that he would only make her worry for nothing, since there wouldn’t be anything he could do to resolve the problem.
Until the end, even Sakura thought so—she didn’t think of him as someone reliable, who could help her.
Such thoughts of self-pity became more and more frequent as he continued to think that he could not become that kind of person to her.
Though…… ultimately, he came to terms with the fact that he was just a child and there was really nothing he could do about it.
Or perhaps, it was just resignation.
All of a sudden, Sakura had vanished from Ichigo’s life without leaving so much as a word.
Looking back on it now, she was probably just a very considerate person.
Ever since then, he has not seen Sakura again.
Thus, Ichigo’s tender first love ended as a lost love. Before long, the months went by.