Kevin watched the flood of reactions take place upon Nori’s features, causing him to chuckle lightheartedly. She was as modest and sincere as she had been from the day that they had met.
"Sorry, sorry! ♪ I just get so excited when it’s a friend’s birthday that I tend to get ahead of myself. But, ‘m sure you could already tell as much, huh? ♪" With a playful wink and a small squeeze on her shoulder, Kevin continued smiling at his friend - softer this time, as if a warmness had overtaken him.
"We can do anything you’d like to do, Nori. It’s your birthday and it only comes once a year! … … And if you can’t think of anything, I know of a beautiful little place that I could take you to. Just say the word~"
Her eyes widened at the mention of the “beautiful place”. She blinked, looking up to Kevin with a small, hopeful smile. “Really?” She replied with a bit of wonder.
Nori giggled, a hand lifting up to cover her light, pink lips. “That sounds like something I would really like to do, actually. Do you think you could take me? I would like to see that. Oh — .. Could we take some iced tea, or water with us, first? I’m quite thirsty…” She gave him another hopeful look, hoping that her request wasn’t too much. Nori wasn’t really used to asking things of others. She would always do these things for everyone else!
Instantly, Kevin’s eyes widened in an almost embarrassed manner. A pink blush arose onto his cheeks and surged throughout his features, before he blinked both eyes and leaned in closer as if to make sure he really had heard Nori properly.
"It’s your birthday today? Really??” The farmer’s lips began to form a genuinely enthused smile and he gave the back of his head a sheepish rub. “Well, would you look at that! Who would have thought that Miss Nori would come and visit me on her birthday. Right then!” Kevin grinned at her now and gently wrapped his arm around her delicate shoulder.
"This calls for a celebration, isn’t that right? What shall we do together, birthday lady? ♪"
Nods her head when he replies back in surprise, assuring him that it was indeed her birthday.
When he brings his arm around her porcelain shoulder, she pulls back a bit, surprised at his physical affection, just as she always was. Swallows back a lump in her throat, one that was ever so familiar to her when Kevin’s physical affection should appear.
"Does it? Ahh — I don’t really know, I wasn’t expecting to be celebrating my birthday with you today… Ermm.." Pauses as she glances at his hand that dangled from her shoulder. "What do you think we should do?"
Suddenly, Kevin could feel his eyes dilating in surprise. He hadn’t meant to be so blunt about his feelings, but there was just something captivating about Nori that made it difficult for him to not express what he truly felt.
Mmmmm, this is what they call love, isn’t it?
"Yes. I did." The brunette farmer casted a warm, affectionate smile to the woman who was by his side. Slowly, he eased his hand off of the cherry blossom tree. "Look at me, hm? I went a little while without seeing you, so I planted these trees ‘cos they were the next best thing. ♪ Not that they even come close to actually seeing you, but— just my way of saying that I missed you, Miss Nori! ♪”
A dark blush arose and stained Kevin’s face, before he scratched his cheeks with a bashful smile spread across his lips. “Hope that doesn’t sound silly to you, heh…”
She watched as his expression changed in an instant. It was a lot softer now, less playful… more bashful in a way.
She could feel a heat rise to her cheeks when he spoke to her. The words he spoke made her feel an excitement she had never felt before — not unless she was with him. As she listened, her heart rate increased to the point where she thought it would burst from her chest. But she retained the facade of tranquility as best she could. She was hoping the sunlight would mask the blush of her own, though she couldn’t pull back her smile and keep that from him. “I missed having you visiting Konohana, too. Though, I must say, there is nothing planted for you back home… I am very flattered.. Thank you. No one’s has ever done something like this for me.”
She stepped up beside the tree, her hand resting against the bark, her fingers trailing along its rough surface. “It is probably the nicest thing someone has done for me..”
"Yep, I sure did! Never grown trees before, I’ll have you know - but I’m happy that you like ‘em, sugar. ♪" Kevin chuckled along with Nori, lifting up his chin to smile admirably at the trees with softened eyes. In the moment when he fell silent, the wind blew and sent a chill up his spine. "Actually, yeah. I miss Konohana a whole heck of a lot. Somethin’ about the air there is sweeter…" He turned to exchange glances with Nori, keeping that same gentle expression upon his features. "I’m sure you know what ‘m talking about, hm?"
"And these—" Kevin turned his attention back to the cherry blossom trees, lightly pressing his hand against one of their trunks. "They reminded me of you! ‘S why I tried my hand at growing these babies. ♪"
She gave him a single nod, the corners of her lips curving into a smile. “I do know what you’re talking about, quite well actually.” A light breeze picked up, blowing a few strands of hair into her face. She quickly brushed them away before continuing. “No matter where it is I go, there’s something about home that I always miss. And not because it is home, but because there is something about the air… the water.. everything makes me miss it.”
She blinked, looking at Kevin’s hand resting against the deep brown bark of the tree. Her eyes trailed up to the blush pink flowers in full bloom above their heads. She smiled and her eyes did not stray.
"Did they? Why is tha… you wished to be reminded of me?"
He was so focused on putting all of his attention to Nori that he hadn’t even noticed the basket of plants until she held it out to him. Beaming, Kevin happily accepted it. “These are for me? Aw sugar, they’re absolutely beautiful! Stunning, really! ♪” He carefully cradled the basket in his arms and playfully winked at her. “Lucky me~”
Seconds later, Kevin’s eyes followed Nori’s to his fields. He smiled and nodded cheerfully. “Yep, I sure did. I don’t normally grow and take care of flowers and trees but…” The farmer shrugged his shoulders casually. “They’re the best things to grow when the snow melts, you know?”
After a moment, Kevin started stepping towards the cherry blossoms and peonies, passing his signature smile to Nori from over his shoulder. “Wanna get a better look?”
There was something about his smile that made her heart skip a beat, and it didn’t quite scare her anymore. It excited her to feel this way about someone, and she didn’t want it to stop.
His smile beckoned her over, and, with a nod and smile of her own, she hurriedly made her way to his side, scrimping her clothing from gripping it and lifting it up a few inches so she wouldn’t trip from moving so quickly.
"You grew these all yourself? Cherry blossoms too? Those are my favorite. What made you want to grow such lovely trees?" She released her hold on her dress now, her hands dangling at her sides. "Did you miss Konohana so much you wanted to be reminded of it?" She said with a breathless giggle at her own jest.
Since the harshly cold winter had finally come to an end, Kevin was once again able to toil away on his farm. Ever since he had left Nori’s house on that day, the ex-soldier had found himself in spirits that he’d never experienced before - warm ones that brought him comfort and made him feel like everything was going the way that it should in his life. He even caught himself grinning at any little thing that made him think about Nori in the slightest. It was a foreign yet highly welcomed feeling…
His farmland had almost reflected the emotions he was experiencing. Vibrant cherry blossom trees were in full bloom and a bed of peonies garnished the fields. For Kevin, so many flowers were unusual to grow. But they made him happy. The way that she made him happy.
He was busy watering the flowers before he caught glimpse of something - or rather, someone - from over his shoulder. He recognized the lovely person at his door right away, her long hair draped elegantly over her shoulders. Without hesitation, Kevin approached her, the watering can dangling in one hand.
"Miss Nori. ♪ Kevin’s not in right now. May I perhaps take a message?" Chuckling, Kevin stepped closer to stand right in front of her. He smiled warmly down at the woman, almost lovingly. "You look well. ♪ Out for a stroll?"
The voice caught her by surprise, though she wasn’t startled by it as she turned her head to see the man leaning over the fence so casually. She smiled, her eyes and face lighting up. “Yes, please. Tell him that I miss him and wish to see him.” She turned to face him now, holding out the basket with the young plants. “I brought these for you. To celebrate the lovely weather. I hope that you like them, and that they bear you much fruit!”
She looked over his shoulder for a quick moment and out at the field of flowers. Tilting her head, she smiled, and looked back at Kevin. “Your fields look beautiful. Did you take care of all of this by yourself?”
It had been some time since the two had seen each other. The winter storm the two of them had faced was fierce. Somehow they had managed to stay warm throughout the night and clear out the snow so that Kevin could make his way back home to Castanet.
Needless to say, Nori had missed the man once he left. His beaming smile as he waved goodbye to her and made his way down the road to get himself home. However, the winter was rough, and she hadn’t had the time nor the energy to gather up her things and make a trip out to Castanet to visit him. Until today.
She had been nurturing a few select plants that she planned to save for Kevin and not sell to any farmers who decided they wanted to get their hands on them. Nori wanted these plants to excel. Perhaps she wanted to impress him with that.
The sun was shining bright and warm that day, and there was a lovely cool breeze that cooled anyone down if they had decided they were becoming too hot. A basket hung over her elbow with little plants settled neatly inside. The juvenile leaves shone the sunlight beautifully as they bounced jubilantly with Nori’s steps.
After walking through Castanet without so much as a hello from any of the other villagers, she finally found herself at Kevin’s doorstop. She rolled back her shoulders, lifted her chin, then calmly knocked at the door.