Miyuki spent the better part of the day scouting a location adequate for moon viewing, and in the evening he finally found a park that met his expectations.
Countless red-leaved trees lined an expansive lawn, and against a darkening sky the nearly full moon slowly gained brilliance. He surmised that it might be more crowded on the night of the Mid-Autumn festival, but even so, the park was spacious enough that it wouldn’t matter.
Maintaining eye contact with the moon, Miyuki reached into his pocket and ran his fingers along the little velvet box. Standing in the midst of such tranquility, he nearly forgot that he was in the middle of Tokyo. Yes, he thought. This is the perfect spot.
“Do you think we’ll get a nice view of the full moon from the balcony?” Kaguya asked the following morning while peering through the sliding glass doors. They’d only been back from America for a few months, and they’d been living in this apartment for even less than that.
Miyuki walked over and hugged her from behind, earning a small gasp from the receiving party. He bent slightly to rest his chin atop her head, while Kaguya placed her hands on top of his.
“Actually, I had a specific place in mind.”
Kaguya twisted her neck around to face him, raising a brow.
He hummed in confirmation.
A smirk played on Kaguya’s lips as she looked back out to the clear blue sky. “And where might this specific place be?”
Kaguya felt him shrug against her back. “Just a park I found yesterday while taking a walk.”
“Mmm, yes. That hour long stroll you took yesterday. Or was it two? I lost track after the sun went down.”
He let out a small laugh. “You know how much I like moon viewing on the night of the harvest moon.”
“Please, there’s never a full moon you let go unseen.”
Miyuki smiled. She was right, of course, but this night would be so much more than simply staring at the moon. Spurred by the excitement pulsing within, he pressed a kiss to the crown of Kaguya’s head. The two remained standing like that until it was time to officially start the day, and both agreed on a plan to head out after an early dinner that very night.
“I wanted to come early so that you could see the trees,” he explained as they walked through the park.
“It’s beautiful,” Kaguya said as her eyes took in the shades of yellow, red, and orange. A breeze rustled the leaves and sent a slight chill through Kaguya despite the layers of clothing she wore in anticipation of a cool October night. Noticing her small shiver, Miyuki unhesitatingly placed his jacket over her shoulders.
“You don’t have t—”
He hushed her mid-protest. “It’s alright, I’m not cold.”
She pouted, but after he reassured her once more she decided to let it be. She had a feeling he’d do something like that, after all.
Miyuki’s theory that the park would be more crowded proved to be correct, but he was pleased that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Parents sat atop blankets while their little ones ran around, the sound of their laughter echoing through the air. Couples sat about as well, some side by side and others nestled in each other’s arms. Miyuki spotted a group of uniformed high school students consisting of two girls and two boys. A glance at Kaguya’s slight smile in their direction told Miyuki that the same memories swirled through her head as well.
He continued on, leading Kaguya by her free hand to a somewhat secluded area within the park. In the other she held a plastic plate of two dango skewers that they had purchased from a food stall on the walk over. Park-goers were still visible from their vantage point, but they were far enough away that the children’s squeals were mostly lost to the wind.
Kaguya waited as Miyuki laid out the blanket they’d brought and took a seat by his side once he finished, placing the plate of dango down beside her. From a backpack, Miyuki produced a thermos filled with piping hot green tea and two mugs, each wearing a knitted cozy. He filled both nearly to the brim and handed one to Kaguya, whose cold hands accepted it happily.
She brought the mug up to her face and breathed in the scent of green tea, its steam warming her up.
“This is nice,” she sighed happily, looking up at the darkening sky. The lights of Tokyo made it impossible to see a fully star speckled sky, but the gigantic moon made up for it. It looked almost unreal, as if someone had painted a large yellowish-white circle against a dark blue backdrop.
“It’s amazingly clear,” Miyuki noted.
“Mm, you can really see the rabbit pounding mochi.”
“Speaking of which, we should eat the dango while it’s still warm.”
“Oh, right,” Kaguya agreed as she picked up the plate and placed it in between them.
They ate their skewers in relative silence as they gazed up at the sky. Their tea had cooled down enough so that it wouldn’t burn their tongues while still managing to warm their bellies. Gradually, the moon shed away any traces of yellow and gleamed brightly as the blue evening sky dissolved into black.
“That was nice too,” Kaguya once again sighed in content as she set her bare bamboo stick down onto the plate. Miyuki finished his at the same time and transferred the plate next to his backpack, making space to get closer to her.
“It was, wasn’t it?” he agreed, maneuvering himself so that he could wrap his arms around Kaguya’s shoulders from behind. He motioned to lay back and she followed suit, laying slightly on top of his chest.
“I can’t believe I used to hate the moon,” Kaguya said.
“I wonder how different I’d be if not for my name. Kaguya’s tale was the reason I hated it, after all.”
“Maybe it was fate. You being named Kaguya, me being captivated by all things outer space from a young age.”
Kaguya snorted. “You always get so sentimental while looking at the night sky.”
“It’s hard not to, don’t you think?”
“I guess,” she conceded. “Still, remember the first night we ever went moon viewing? Your lines were so cheesy I could hardly sleep that night!”
Oh boy, did he remember. He also remembered cringing for an entire week straight, his mind constantly assaulting him with the memory of every single thing he said. It was for this reason that the memory unfazed him today—he had already suffered for it more than enough.
“Then it was effective, huh?”
She playfully slapped his hands that lay intertwined above her torso. The smile on her face then shrunk without disappearing completely.
“I stopped hating the moon that night,” she admitted soberly. “I also spent much more time looking up at the sky from then on. Trying to find whatever you were seeing so clearly, and whatnot.”
He absorbed her words in silence and hugged her a little tighter.
“Hey,” she tilted her head up toward his. He could hear the smirk in her voice before he saw it. “What was it you said again?”
A relaxed smile spread from ear to ear. Miyuki kept his gaze on the moon before redirecting it to her eyes. “I would never let go of Kaguya.”
Kaguya thought at nearly twenty-four years of age that she’d be able to handle that line, but beyond her control a rosy blush flourished across her cheeks under the moon’s natural spotlight.
“I still mean it, too.”
She hid her face in his chest and shook her head rapidly from side to side. Out of sheer curiosity she pressed her right hand to her left cheek, but even her old trick couldn’t contain her grin. The minute she fully allowed herself to be open and happy all of the time, there was no longer a need to hide her true feelings from Miyuki with her routine.
Meanwhile, Miyuki felt that it was the perfect moment to bring the night to its climax. The ring felt heavy in his pocket, and he’d been aware of its weight all day long.
“Want some more tea?”
With a long inhale and exhale to quell the butterflies in her stomach, Kaguya sat up and reached for her mug, holding it out in front of him. “Yes, please.”
He took the mug and set it down. Kaguya hugged her knees into her chest and set her sights on the sky above. More stars came into view, but still not as many as there might have been in a small town in the countryside.
It might be nice to live away from the city someday, Kaguya mused. She let her mind wander to a house full of children in a quiet town, with a night sky that could stun even the most disinterested person. She’d been away from her family for so long at university, but she didn’t mind the idea of living far away forever. As long as she had Miyuki, she’d be okay.
His voice pulled her out of her reverie. She looked over anticipating a full mug of steaming green tea, and instead found herself face to face with a diamond ring nestled into a black velvet box. Behind the small box, Miyuki was down on one knee.
Her hand flew up to her mouth once the reality of the situation clicked.
“Kaguya,” he repeated, his eyes firmly planted on hers. “I love you.”
His use of the more intense expression of love, aishiteru, erected goosebumps along her arms. She tried to open her mouth and speak, but the words couldn’t yet come out. How hadn’t she seen this coming?
He continued on. “I have for a long time, and I know that won’t ever change. Shinomiya Kaguya, will you marry me?”
A stream of memories flooded through Kaguya’s mind. She thought back to her mother withering away in a hospital bed while her father sat pretty in his palace, seemingly untroubled. She recalled long, friendless elementary school days and the ice that froze her from the inside out in middle school. She remembered tireless, yet joyful, days in the student council room where the ice began to melt away before she even realized. Or maybe it was Miyuki himself who had slowly and deliberately chipped away at it, along with Ishigami, Fujiwara, Hayasaka, Iino, and everyone else. Her mind traveled back to more recent years at Stanford before it leaped forward to a future full of little Shiroganes running around, maybe in that modest countryside home after all. The name Shirogane Kaguya flashed before her eyes like a neon sign and she felt that she would never tire of seeing those characters side by side. Finally, she thought of the only answer she could possibly give.
She dropped her hand away from her mouth, revealing a grin that split her face from ear to ear. “Of course.”
Miyuki sighed in relief. He had no doubt that she’d say yes, but the silence was enough to give his heart reason to beat faster than it already was. Matching her smile, he took the ring out from the box and slid it onto her finger.
Kaguya watched as the ring made its way down her finger, a perfect fit. Once it was on, she attacked Miyuki with a hug so powerful it sent him onto his back. “I love you too,” she whispered into his ear, before pressing a kiss onto his lips.
Untangling herself from him, she laid down onto her back and raised her hand to the sky. Flexing her fingers in every possible position, she admired the ring. It twinkled like a star against the night sky, perhaps the brightest star visible in Tokyo that night. She aligned her hand parallel to the moon and compared it with the circular white stone on her ring finger. As much as she’d come to appreciate the moon, the ring gave it a run for its money in the battle for her affection.
The diamond itself wasn’t what appealed to her. As a member of the Shinomiya family, being surrounded by jewels was nothing out of the ordinary. It was the fact that Miyuki had gotten it for her—picked it himself—that made her heart soar.
Kaguya had to wonder how she got so lucky. As ridiculous as it might have sounded, she never expected to fall in love, make a true friend, or even live a happy life. The shackles that bound her since birth seemed indestructible. If she hadn’t met Miyuki and fallen in love with him in high school, if he hadn’t given her the courage to take a stand against her father by studying abroad, she might still have been a prisoner in her own life.
At that very moment, Miyuki pondered the same thing. Studying alongside Kaguya forced Miyuki to test his limits and push past his breaking points. He truly excelled because of her, whether or not the driving force behind his success was well founded or not. He put in the work himself, of course, but he had to at least give Kaguya some credit for building his confidence as high as it stood today.
The night grew colder, but Kaguya and Shirogane hardly felt it as they lay in each other’s arms. They didn’t even notice as the park emptied out, leaving them alone as if in their own little word — just them, the moon, and the stars. Neither were in a rush to get home on a night as beautiful as this. They’d be spending the rest of their lives returning to the same home together, after all.