Sakura (The Legend of the Cherry Blossom)

Thursday, May 31, 2012



 

Akihiro sat underneath the apricot tree, enjoying all of the beauty and smells of spring time. It was a bright evening. The moon was hovering in the starless night sky, and its beams were passing through the gaps of the flowers of the apricots, washing everything in an enthralling and magical glow. Paper lanterns were hung on the branches of the trees to add elucidation to the ground of the Daigoji Temple.
Watching and marvelling the beauty of the flowers of the apricots was Akihiro’s favourite way of letting the time pass as inevitable as the flow of the water of the river to the sea. They never failed in making him caught his breath with awe and pleasure. He stood up and ran his fingers all over his kimono to tidy his appearance again. He closed his eyes and breathe in, loving the serene feeling he devours every time he was standing under the canopy of the apricot trees. He opened his eyes and released a fulfilling sigh.
Nothing could ever surpass the beauty of the apricots, he thought.
The newly blossomed apricots were swaying as the crisp wind of February blew in whirls. They were like long drapes hung over an open window. As the petals cascaded through the wind from the dancing trees, Akihiro reached his hand, palm up, and caught a single petal. It was the colour of the sky when the sun kisses the sea during sunset.
“Aren’t they just breathtakingly beautiful?” a voice of a lady behind Akihiro said and he almost jump in surprise for he did not notice somebody came behind him.
He turned to his back and held his breath as he stared of such beauty that instantaneously held his heart captive. Standing in front of him was a lady around his age. She got deep brown eyes, and as he stared at them, he feels like being lured. He felt like the world had seemed stopped running around him. Her lips were as rosy pink as her cheeks, like they were still in the grasps of the winter chill. Akihiro wanted more than anything to touch and caress them. She was wearing a kimono a pale hue of crimson. Her hair billowed with the wind, and Akihiro thought for a moment he might like to run his fingers in delight over her hair. She looked at him, and for a moment, he felt like his heart was going to jump out of his chest as she smiled at him a bewitching smile. Ethereal. He finally found something that surpassed the beauty of the apricots, only she wasn’t a thing.
“May I have the pleasure of knowing your name, my dear lady?” he said, and curtsied.
“Sakura.” She said, and handed him a beautiful pink flower. “My name is Sakura.”
Akihiro stared at the beautiful and velvety pink flower that was rested in the palm of his hand. Its petals were elliptical and as pink as her cheeks and lips. Never did he ever see that flower before. A flower that, like Sakura, was far more beautiful than the apricot’s. He looked up. His mouth gaped as he realized that Sakura was gone. He let his gaze travel around him, to the trees and to the bushes, but she was nowhere in sight.
Sakura. He kept on thinking about her as he lied that night to sleep. Sakura, he kept on muttering under his breath, loving the feeling of her name on his lips although it made nothing to fill the huge gaping hole of longing he felt for her in his heart. That was a night full of thoughts about her, and Akihiro was oblivious that the sleep was lurking around until it claimed him.
The next days after the night of their meeting, Akihiro had searched for Sakura. He’d gone back into the temple and onto the ground that was packed with people. But she’s nowhere to find. He had searched everywhere, high and low, but it seemed Sakura was refusing to reappear again. He’s hopeless, searching for a lady he barely knew. He almost give up until one day, he finally found her.
Akihiro was getting into a caving stone archway that led to the ground of the temple. In the distance, he could see the people were gathering on the grounds. Others were already settled underneath the apricot trees, eating and drinking, and children were running and playing. The apricots were in full bloom now, and its flowers were like flames decorated all over the tree. Despite the distress he was feeling, his lips curved into a weak and tired smile. But that smile was ephemeral, for it turned into a hopeful smile as his gaze darted into a single pink flower that lied peacefully on the grass. It was the same flower that Sakura had given him the night they met.
“She is here,” he said in a whisper, picking the flower from the embrace of the grass. He went half-running to the ground, unable to suppress his excitement of the thought that he had a chance of seeing Sakura again.
Akihiro found her sitting on the edge of the fountain, running her fingers in its water and humming a very enchanting lullaby.  She was staring at a tree that I’d never seen grow; bear fruits or leaves or flowers before. It was the only unattractive and distracting thing among all of the beauty there was in the temple’s ground.
“Isn’t it very distracting?” Akihiro said the moment he was standing beside her. Sakura didn’t even flinch or cringe in surprise. But instead, she gave him a puzzled look when she looked at him. “I mean the tree. It’s out of place here in this beautiful ground. How unfortunate. It should be cut down and make firewood.”
Sakura shook her head before turning to look at the tree. Then she stood up beside Akihiro.
“It’s beautiful. Just because it doesn’t have leaves and flowers and fruits doesn’t mean it’s unsightly.  We must look inside and deeper because sometimes, what we see with our eyes is deceiving. Some beauties are hidden. Just like this tree.” She said. She slowly walked towards the tree and Akihiro followed behind her. She stopped a few feet away from the tree’s trunk. She reached up her hand and pressed her palm on the trunk, and then closed her eyes. “Feel it.”
Akihiro did the same. He pressed his palm just beside Sakura’s, and reluctantly closed his eyes, feeling foolish. Akihiro was stunned, for he felt like the tree was shuddering by his palm. It seemed like it had its own heart and was pulsating and beating. They took their hands away, which left Akihiro in a bewildering moment.
“Did you feel it, Akihiro?” Sakura asked, smiling at him. Her hair was ornamented with those beautiful pink flowers. He reproduced the one he got from the grass and tucked it back on her hair, where it truly belonged.
“Yes. It was shuddering however that happened. Or maybe it was just my imagination.” He replied, shrugging his shoulders.
“Maybe,” she said and started walking off.
“Sakura, how did you know my name?”
“The people said you have searched for me. Have you?”
“Yes. I mean…uh … It’s just that…” he stammered.
He stopped struggling to find some words to say when Sakura held his hand, and entwined her fingers with his. “Then I will stay and never leave you again.”
That was the spring time when their love started growing in their hearts. Akihiro never dreamed that the day would come he’ll find a lady that would capture his heart. All of those days that he was just chasing down a daydream; all of those days that he was living in a blur have come to an end. For there came Sakura who made his life clearer than a crystal.
Summer time came, and the two became inseparable. The love they felt for each other had bloomed, emanating a fragrant that nothing could ever be compared. Autumn came, when the flowers were starting to wilt and leaves were starting to fell off from their branches, yet their love had never wilted nor fell off from their hearts. It was still entrenched in there, irremovable, for forever.
But when the snow of the winter had just started to fall, Sakura was tainted with a terrible sickness. She was constantly visited by a high fever, and sometimes she was retching blood if not through her nose. Akihiro was very anxious, for he didn’t know what to do. His heart was being tortured and tormented every time he heard Sakura groan in pain. He dreamed that if only he could take away her pain, he would ache herself just for her. But he can not. And he didn’t know what to do about her. He was sorrowful every time he played in his mind what Sakura had said to him one night that she’s destined to die on the time of the winter solstice. He knew she could be strange some times. But he chose not to believe her. He cannot lose her.
“I’m leaving,” Sakura said in a weak and tired voice.
“No. you are not leaving. You’re too weak to go out.” Akihiro said, squeezing her cold hands. He dried the perspiration that was forming on her forehead with a cloth, and then threw the blanket to keep her warm.
The snow was still falling lightly outside. The chill of the winter was grasping Akihiro’s heart, turning it into an ice, and he didn’t know what to do to give it warm again.
“It’s winter solstice. I’ll leave now,” Sakura rested her head on Akihiro’s chest, loving his smell and the warmth he was emanating.
Akihiro threw his arms around her and released a heavy sigh as he realized what she really meant about her leaving. “I thought you are staying with me forever.”  Akihiro struggled not to cry, but the tears were starting to form, stinging his eyes. “I thought you will never going to leave me.”
“Don’t worry. I will come back for you.” She looked on his face, and dried the tears that were now flowing to his cheeks with her fingers. “I will.”
“When?” he asked between sobs, although he knew she wasn’t coming back ever again once she’s gone.
“On spring. And every spring since. I will ”
Akihiro didn’t really understand what she was saying, but he agreed anyway, not wanting to wear her out. He hummed the lullaby she taught him until she fell asleep. She fell asleep in his arms. And she knew that she will never wake up forever. The winter chill that was grasping his grief-stricken heart thawed and its water flowed out through his eyes into something that he knew would never end cascading.
He never knew why, but when spring came, he waited for her, convincing himself that she’s coming back. He knew that she was gone, but a tiny flame of hope was still flickering inside his heart. Everyday he was dreaming of having her again; caressing her rosy pink cheeks and kissing her little soft lips.
It was blooming season again, and this time, the apricots failed in making him happy. He wandered as lonely as a wind all over the ground of the temple, until he came into the flowerless, fruitless and leafless tree that Sakura had admired for a reason that was too bewildering for him to understand. The memories of them had come ringing through the air, and Akihiro sat down, and leaned his back on the tree’s trunk. He gazed around him, feeling like he was reunited with Sakura again. He could hear in the breeze the lullaby that Sakura loved to hum. Akihiro found himself smiling again since a long time that he wasn’t as he hummed along with the breeze, closing his eyes, hoping Sakura would appear when he opened them again.
When he opened his eyes, his mouth gaped in awe. Right before his eyes, a magical moment was happening. The beautiful pink flowers of Sakura were emerging one after another on the branches of the tree; from velvety buds until they dramatically open, revealing their surrealistic beauty. She had lived with her promise, and Akihiro can’t help himself not to smile. He stood up and kept his gaze onto the beautiful flowers above him. Then he reached his hand and pressed his palm on the trunk of the tree. Now, he will never be bewildered again. But he would believe that the tree was pulsating and beating Sakura’s heart.
The fruitless, leafless and flowerless tree was now the most beautiful thing in his eyes.
“Aishiteru, Sakura.”



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