Note: This is the new, edited version of "Our Promise Beneath the Cherry Blossom Trees". After receiving so much support and interest for this idea, I gave it all a good, long thought and decided to work out the flaws, plotholes and shortcomings present in the outdated version. Since the changes were too big and needed to be represented in every chapter, I decided that simply updating, adding to and replacing the old version will not do. Hence, the new story. If you followed me all the way from my first version, I want to thank you very much for putting up with this. I promise it is the last major change; the outline is so tight and thorough that it cannot go wrong anymore. Also a huge shoutout to my beloved beta reader NagareboshiStar, who helps me at any moment and supported me to pull through with this update, rather than throwing it all into the trash. It is also thanks to her that you can read this bittersweet tale. Without further ado, I hope you will enjoy the update!
He looked back at the village that had been his home for nineteen years. Within his chest, feelings of hope battled with anguish, boiling and twisting and clenching tightly enough to make him bite his lip. Was he doing the right thing? Was there truly no other way? And where were these feelings of doubt coming from, so suddenly? It was not like him. The bag he had shouldered felt heavy, unnaturally so, and the darkness that engulfed the lit housings, almost hidden beneath trees and rocks, was like a reflection of his own heart. Tightening his jaws, he tried to reassure himself that it was the right choice. His only choice.
After all, it was not like he was to turn his back forever. One day, he would come back, to meet with her once again. They had made a promise, and he was not a man to break his – and she was not a woman to break hers.
The thought comforted him, albeit a little. He drew a deep breath and averted his dark eyes from the place no longer home to him, turning his night-clad back. Before him waited the world, waited his true calling. Waited freedom.
He did not know that freedom came with a price.
She held her hands tightly clasped, close to her shaking chest, suppressing the sobs echoing in the quietude of her guarding bedroom. At least she had managed not to cry in front of him. At least she had managed to wish him well. Petals of the cherry blossom trees were still stuck to her clothing, but she had not brought it over herself to brush them off just yet. They were the reminder of this night, the most important one in her young life. A night she would never forget. Filled with words meant for their ears only.
A teary smile sent ripples through her grief-stricken face. Yes, she believed in those sweet words, that beautiful future he had pictured – he, the man who always hid his true intentions behind a facade only she and a select few were able to look past. He had let those walls down a few times before, but never as completely as just a few moments back, never as bravely, and the metal in her palm burned.
It was a secret to be kept within her aching chest until the time was right. Until they were reunited again, on a day to come in the not too distant future. If she believed this strongly enough, then surely it would become truth. She just had to be strong.
She did not know that strength would not be enough.