In a small garden surrounded by green trees, there was a pond with floating lotus flowers in the middle.
Sitting at the edge of the pond, I (Riri) inhaled the fragrance rising from the incense burner in front of me.
The sweet and gentle scent made me feel comfortable, but I bent slightly forward and shook my head.
“It smells nice, but it doesn’t smell like this. I thought if I mixed Indian sandalwood, aloes-wood, musk, ambergris, and agarwood together then I would get something close to the scent father gave me, but it doesn’t smell the same at all. The scent he gave me smelled more ‘sad and painful’.”
The scent that my father had let me smell was a very precious incense that had been passed down for generations, and although it was too old to be effective, it had a faint scent. When I smelled the sweet and sour scent, I was filled with incomprehensible feelings of loneliness, sadness, pain, but also happiness and tears welled up in my eyes.
The last emotion that remained in my heart was ‘sad and painful’.
I really wanted to recreate that scent, so I tried to make it many times, but it never works out.
I heard a rustling sound while I was thinking. When I turned around, I saw a boy who looked a little older than the ten year old me.
(Huh…? His face is…)
I rubbed my eyes since the boy’s face looked blurry even though he was standing so close to me.
“It’s a sweet and elegant scent.”
The boy’s voice hadn’t changed yet and sounded a little high.
“It is. But it’s not done. There’s something missing.”
The boy’s face and figure still looked blurry when he came closer to me and I couldn’t tell if he was someone I knew or someone who I’ve never seen before. But strangely, I didn’t feel scared. I wondered why and suddenly realised.
“I smell a gentle scent from you. But it also smells sad. What happened?”
“Scent? You can tell how someone is feeling from their scent? That’s absurd.”
“It’s not. I have super olfaction, in other words, I have a really good nose. I can tell how you feel by the scent you’re giving off. My father said that my nose can detect changes in the scent of a person’s sweat.”
“That’s unbelievable… but something sad did happen. So, I’m in pain, but I didn’t let my feelings show on my face and no one else noticed how I’m feeling.”
When I quietly approached him and smelled the scent again, I imagined a puppy shivering in the cold rain.
“The scent of sadness is getting stronger. You must have felt really sad and lonely… Don’t cry.”
I couldn’t see his face clearly, but I thought I saw tears in his eyes. I held out my hand and the boy grasped it in confusion. The boy’s hands were cold, and I could feel his sadness through them.
“Don’t tell anyone that I was crying.”
His voice was curt, but I could tell that he was trying to be strong.
“Alright, I won’t tell anyone. So, you don’t have to hold back.”
For some reason, I felt how he felt as well; my emotions were so high that tears welled up in my eyes. I clasped both his hands, leaned in close and our foreheads were pressed together. I felt his heat on my forehead and we both sobbed.
I wonder how much time has passed since I accompanied him in his grief. The boy finally stopped crying.
“It’s the first time someone has noticed that I was hiding my sadness, and it’s also the first time that someone cried with me. I was really happy… Come to think of it, what’s your name?”
I wanted to know the boy’s name too. I also wanted to know where he lived, how he grew up, and what he did for fun. It was the first time I’d ever felt that way about someone whom I’ve never met before, and even though I was confused, I thought it would be polite to tell him my name first before asking for his, so I put my hand on my chest.
The moment I opened my mouth to tell him my name, I heard a loud rustling sound of plants breaking. I looked at the noise and saw several men dressed in black. They were hiding their faces and I could smell ‘danger’ from them.
I noticed that the men’s eyes were on the boy, and quickly threw the ashes of the incense at them.
“Somebody! Somebody help!”
I cowered in fear in front of the men, but I shouted as loud as I could. My feelings of not wanting the sad boy to be put through anymore pain was stronger than my fear.