The color of blue sky was too deep and it looked almost black as if being reversed.
Takanobu felt that the density of gigantic columns of clouds rising into the sky was heavy and thick.
When it was the third year after having started to work, Takanobu was invited by Akihiko to go touring on a bicycle during his summer vacation.Â Akihiko was still a graduate student going to university abroad in those days.
In his summer vacation, he was to come back to Japan, and he wanted to have a trip by bicycle.Â After entering the university, the opportunities to play team sports had been decreased, Akihiko was devoted to marathon, triathlon, and something like that he could join alone.
Takanobu heard that Akihiko especially devoted himself to touring by bicycle as travelling here and there. Which influenced Takanobu to buy his own new road bicycle.
Then, they agreed to make a trip by bicycle together when their vacation would overlap.
In those days, Takanobu had already gotten married. His wife Yumiko was pregnant, and she had been confined to her bed because of her heavy morning sickness.
Yumiko stayed at her parental house, and was looked after by her parents. As a result, she could not take care of her husband Takanobu.Â When Takanobu said to her that he would like to make a trip with his old friend, she and her parents approved his plan without hesitation as if they thought it would be able to make up for Yumiko’s usual absence.
Still, Takanobu didn’t tell Yumiko that it was a bicycle trip becauseÂ she had been a little nervous during her pregnancy. If he had told her honestly, she might not have approved of his plan.
Their plan was as follows: Takanobu and Akihiko were going to depart from the town where they used to spend time together in their high-school days.Their first destination was the area faced with the sea of Japan. They intended to go there as passing through Saitama, Gunma, and Nagano prefecture.
Next, they were going to go to Hokuriku district as though tracing the coast.
Because Takanobu’s summer vacation was not so long, he was supposed to stop the journey at the point where he decided it would be proper to do so considering his health condition. He intended to start to come back to Tokyo by train from there.
On the other hand, Akihiko intended to continue going to west alone as possible after Takanobu would leave because Akihiko’s vacation was very long.Â At first, Yumiko was surprised when she heard that her husband had had such a long journey by bicycle without saying to her, but it was what happened a long time ago: almost 10 years ago.
Yumiko said, âAt that time, Akihiko said to you that he had a plan to see a friend of him during the journey, didn’t he?”
Takanobu noticed that his wife holding her coffee-filled cup with both hands was gazing at him, and her appearance was compatible with her old age.
Suddenly, he felt it was irreplaceable for him to have spent time with her so far.
âWhy do I tend to be sentimental today?”
Takanobu asked himself and added, “But, no one knows tomorrow’s fate.”
It was the third day after the airplane that Akihiko seemed to have boarded had disappeared.
âYes, he did. To begin with, I heard that Akihiko had thought up the touring in order to see the friend during our journey. Because he was a student in those days, and didn’t have money very much. On top of that, he was the craziest about riding bicycle in his life.â
Mitsuru also gazed at Takanobu, waiting for what he would say next while sipping her steaming cup of coffee.
âWhile traveling? Do you remember where Akihiko met the friend?â
Yumiko rapidly asked Takanobu again. But he stared vacantly, because his memory of the touring was too nostalgic and it absorbed his attention.
He remembered the continuous chorus of cicadas and the deep green color of mountain.
Mist suddenly appeared and soon lifted. Drizzling rain sometimes started and suddenly stopped. The clear view, which often appeared after mist or rain, was very divine. Takanobu and Akihiko saw a lot of sun pillars breaking through the clouds fell down on the ground in such a situation.
Takanobu came to his sense and said, âWell, I alone started turning back to Tokyo from a place called Itoigawa of Niigata prefecture, because my vacation was about to end. We have gone together until arriving at Itoigawa, but Akihiko has not met anybody till then. We stayed at the same hotel, and Akihiko didnât go anywhere alone while I was with him.â
The airplane, which had departed from Shanghai, disappeared, and it was proved that the person named Akihiko Waki being on the passenger list was the same person whom Mitsuru and Takanobu had known well.Â As soon as Mitsuru heard it, she jumped into an airplane to go to Japan from Paris.
Yumiko and Takanobu invited Mitsuru to stay at Yumiko’s parental house in Tokyo, but Mitsuru said to them that staying at hotel would be easier for herself.
After Mr. and Mrs. Takanobu picked Mitsuru up at Narita airport, they arrived at the hotel at which Mitsuru had booked a room. Being already time to have supper, they went to a restaurant of the hotel.
They felt restless because the restaurant was too quiet for them especially in such a situation. They quickly left the restaurant and moved to a chain coffeehouse in front of the hotel soon after eating.Â When they were talking aimlessly, they happened to start talking about that bicycle journey.Â It was the prime concern for three of them why on earth Akihiko had gone aboard the airplane whoseÂ destination wasÂ Q prefecture.
Even though Akihiko could not get any airline tickets for Narita airport or Haneda airport, which were located in the Metropolitan area of Japan, because it was high season now, it was still strange that Akihiko had intended to go to Q prefecture that was far from Tokyo very much. Q prefecture was located at western area in Japan.
Takanobu said, âNo matter how many times I look back on my long relationship with Akihiko, I don’t have any memories that would relate him with Q prefecture.”
âIt doesnât make sense at all!â Yumiko said again.
But Mitsuru had a prospect that âThat woman” might live in Q prefecture.
Although âThat womanâ did not write where she lived in now clearly, Mitsuru got an impression that she might live in western Japan, especially around Q prefecture, from the pieces âThat womanâ had written on her blog or something.
After all, the three of them couldnât get any answers why Akihiko had boarded that plane.
A silence hung over them abruptly.
Takanobu and Yumiko left their children in Takanobuâs motherâs care today.
âI am sorry to trouble two of you. Even though I’ve also come to Japan, I can’t do anything. But if I were at Paris, I must be unquiet. And I would not like to go back to Shanghai alone.â
Mitsuru again told them the same as what she’d already done several times after having arrived at Narita airport.Â Still,they adequately could understand Mitsuru’s behavior because Takanobu and Yumiko were as well as Mitsuru in a quandary.Â Mitsuru sometimes checked her iPhone to get more new information about missing of the airplane while talking with them. But she cried out suddenly.
âThe airplane was found out!â