Illustrator: Kaizo Yuu

Author: Asamin
Type of Love: Philautia

“I wanna go and ride”

As the cerulean hue embraced the air space of Nagasaki University, Haruka, in his early twenties taking the Engineering program, whined internally. He’s a young man with lustrousblue-black hair that cascades in sleek waves, framing his face with a touch of sophisticated charm. His black-colored irises, deep and captivating, reflect an enigmatic gaze that holds a combination of determination and warmth. He couldn’t keep himself from wanting to take his bike named Goran for a ride. In the city of Nagasaki, uphill climbs are the best training grounds for aspiring cyclists. And yet, this man wants to sacrifice his studies for his bike.

“Aren’t you a bit too loud, Haruka?”

A voice from his right side reached him. As he turned to take a glance at his seatmate, Akari, he noticed her mahogany-colored hair that flowed gracefully like a silky waterfall catching sunlight. Long and dancing in the breeze, the auburn strands whispered secrets only the wind understood, embodying the spirit of autumn with earthy tones, akin to falling leaves. Another distinct feature she embodies is that she’s very thin, but doesn’t look unhealthy. There have been times when Haruka wondered how she kept her body like that, but it’s a secret only known by girls.

“Class is boring”

He said and turned his head towards the window once again, a red hue on his face. In his mind, he thinks about the conversation he had just now, something that would probably not happen again, but since they’re seatmates, it’s inevitable. He’s both cursed and blessed. After all, it’s just a small crush, he can’t possibly develop feelings deeper than that. 

As the hour turned to eternity and eternity coming to a halt, the bell rang. Without wasting a millisecond, Haruka stood up, fetched his bag and went off to the school’s parking lot. There stood his bike, a Pinarello Dogma F12, which he nicknamed Goran stood in one of the parking racks. It was something he bought when they had a trip to his Uncle’s place in Italy. Its black monochrome color gave it a sense of stealthiness. He clipped in on his pedal and rode off.

Akari, who was with her friends, noticed a distinct sound that only riders knew. As she took a glance, Haruka passed by her. Tilting her head, she thought that it was an interesting thing.

Without a care for the world, Haruka pedaled with vigor, his legs being pushed to its limits, his sweat a river. This steep uphill he’s tackling is known as the training grounds for cyclists who aspire to be a climber in their team.

“I’m going to faint.”

As he started seeing his own body from afar, a bike passed by him. He took a look at who it might be who could overtake him, in this steep climb. The cyclist who overtook him, pulled to the side and stopped. He also stopped and looked at the slim cyclist who seemed to be a woman since he noticed that there was an ample bump on the chest.

As the mystery cyclist took off her helmet and glasses, he was betrayed, he was backstabbed, he was taken aback, and most possibly bamboozled. Akari, who is his long-time crush, was standing before him. What’s more, is the fact that Akari overtook him! In this place where common cyclists would’ve died catching their breaths. She looks as if this hill was nothing, she only had a few smears of sweat, she’s not even breathing that hard.

“Hey, Haruka”

“Hey, Haruka… didn’t know you ride as well.”

It was probably his nervousness around his crush, or he’s still in awe that Akari also rides a bike. He took off to Akari’s location and glanced at her bike. He quickly noticed its attention to aerodynamics, it was boxy—to say the least. It’s a similar build to his bike and also has the same brand as his, the legendary Pinarello Bolide TR. It was truly a sight to behold, and yet, he fell deeper for Akari. He felt a sense of belonging, as if he’s not a stranger, as if he found a companion.

“Meet my buddy, Bol. We have the same brand of bike.”

“And yet, we are completely eons apart when it comes to using them.”

“You’re right, I’m not someone who daily’s a literal superbike.”

Haruka let out a sigh as he could no longer rebut what she said. He felt exhausted just by the thought of arguing with Akari. Sure, his bike wasn’t just any bike, it’s rated for racing. But he wants to have a reliable and lightweight bike he can use everyday.

“Hey, Haruka, wanna be my cycling buddy?”

“You just need someone who’s slower than you so you can prove that you’re fast.”

“I’ll take that as a yes, come now, I want you to help me train for a race.”

Being a better cyclist would be nice, is what Haruka thought. It was also his crush who asked for it so how could he not accept such an obvious invitation where he gets to spend time with her and delve deep into a hobby they’re both interested in.

This would continue for a period of four months, everyday, after school, Haruka would visit Akari’s place and accompany her in her training. They would ride for hours and arrive home at night. Haruka felt a sense of disappointment in himself as they encountered once again, another hill. This time, he stopped midway and wasn’t able to catch up to her. He wondered why, but found that he didn't know the cause. He felt his legs shaking uncontrollably, enough for him to
fall on the ground. His thoughts wondered, thinking how he wouldn't be able to catch up to the girl he loves. Of course, her bike was enough for anyone to feel a difference, but his bike was also, if not equally capable of doing the same thing. He got up and went home.

As darkness covered the sky, so was his room and him. A ring from his phone echoed through the premises of his room, the light coming from the phone seemed to be the only light available.

“Haruka? Where were you? I was looking for you!”

"Oh, it's you, Akari. I went home during the climb."

“Yeah, I can definitely see that. Anyways, are you accompanying me again tomorrow? You should've continued earlier, the view was great! Oh… “

"Akari, I plan to quit being your partner.”


Upon pressing the red button which was followed by a beep, he deliberately fell on his bed. I finally said it, he thought. Although he really wanted to accompany her, he felt too weak.

As he shrunk into deeper misery, he found himself scrolling through some videos, he found one talking about people who have great techniques on climbs and such. The sudden enthusiasm filled him, and impulsively, went out to ride for the night. Once again, he attempted to climb the exact same hill. The training regimen consisted of him doing warm-ups before he took it on.

While warming up, he thought to himself, “I shouldn’t just be her shadow. I should be riding with her on an equal level.”

And, with a bit of struggle, he managed to climb it, resting each time. He now knew that being able to rest during rides is still a better option than pushing himself trying to catch up to her. A sudden realization hit him as if a truck hit him.

“I could’ve just rested and told her to wait for me at the end!”

Of course, he wanted to be a better man as well as a better training partner, so he resolved to train himself as well. His role is already composed of being someone who would ride alongside her as well as being her personal mechanic, but now, he wants to ride alongside her as a fellow professional cyclist.

He apologized to Akari about what he said and how he acted, and he once again, promised to stay by her side during her training. Hearing this, Akari stood up from her seat. Haruka thought that she might be too upset and never accept him as a partner ever again. Whilst thinking that, he felt something collided with him. Akari hugged him.

“I’m also sorry for not noticing you.”

With that, he hugged her back, but remembered that they’re in school so everyone was shocked at the view.

Later, they went training again, but this time, after every ride, he went to a nearby gym to further improve his physique.

The night before the ride came, Akari invited Haruka to her house to tune her bike. She admired how a gentleman Haruka is and being a ‘One Call Away’ kind of guy. As she watched him work his magic on the bike, she couldn't help but admire the way his fingers deftly adjusted the gears and brakes.

"Thanks for doing this, Haruka," Akari said, her voice laced with gratitude.

"Just doing what I love, Akari," Haruka replied, a hint of shyness in his voice. "Plus, I want you to have the best shot at winning tomorrow."

As the clock struck midnight, Akari's bike was finally ready. Haruka stepped back, a satisfied smile gracing his lips. "All set. This bike will fly tomorrow, I promise."

Akari felt a surge of warmth in her heart, grateful for Haruka's unwavering support. Little did she know that Haruka's feelings ran deeper than admiration for her racing skills.

The sun rose on the day of the race, casting a golden glow over the bustling crowd and the determined athletes. Akari's heart pounded with anticipation as she lined up at the starting point. Haruka stood in the crowd, his eyes never leaving her, silently cheering her on.

“Do your best!” shouted Haruka.

The starting signal blared, and the racers shot off like arrows from a bow. Akari weaved through the pack, her muscles burning with exertion. The wind whipped through her hair, and the rhythm of her pedaling matched the pounding of her heart.

As Akari crossed the finish line, exhaustion washed over her like a tidal wave. She had given her all, yet 12th place was not the result she had hoped for. Disappointment gnawed at her, and the weight of her unspoken feelings for Haruka hung heavy in her heart.

Just as she was about to slip into the depths of dejection, a familiar voice cut through the crowd. "Even if you're not the best to everyone, you're still the best cyclist to me, Akari. I love you."

Startled, Akari turned to see Haruka pushing his way through the spectators, determination etched on his face. His words hung in the air, enveloping her in a warm embrace. She was taken aback, her heart thundering in her chest.

"Haruka, I..." Akari stammered, her emotions swirling like a tempest within her.

"Just hear me out, Akari," Haruka interrupted, his eyes locked with hers. "I've admired you for so long, not just for your cycling skills, but for who you are. You're strong, determined, and you have a heart of gold. I've been in love with you for as long as I can remember."

Akari's breath caught in her throat, her mind reeling from the confession. The air crackled with unspoken emotions as the crowd fell into a hushed silence, giving the two friends a moment of privacy amidst the chaos of the race. Haruka reached for her hand, his touch sending a jolt of warmth through her. "I know we've been through a lot together, and I don't want to rush you into anything. But I had to tell you how I feel. You mean the world to me, Akari. Without you, I may
not be the man that I have become. Thank you for your presence.”

As their eyes met, the barriers that had kept their feelings at bay crumbled away. In that moment, they both knew that their bond was deeper than friendship, and the race had brought them to a turning point neither had expected.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, painting the sky in hues of pink and gold, Akari and Haruka chuckled. Love had found them in the most unexpected of places. Who knows that they would cross paths? An enthusiast who loves to tinker with bikes, and a cyclist who wants to go pro, it’s such a majestic combination that you’d think fate played its card very well, as if they both won the lottery, as if the two of them had maxed out all of their lucky cards. It’s just the beginning of their journey, the ride of a lifetime. NO—It’s a ride for a lifetime.

Owl Tribe Creator

Philautia (Love of Self) by Asamin and Illustrated by Kaizo Yuu