I closed my unfinished book over my bookmark, tossed it aside on the table, and lifted my face. The sight of people enjoying their day off going back and forth was easily visible from the open café near Chiba Station.
Of all places, why an open café at the end of the month on a cloudy and freezing day? I put on my coat again and made a reproachful stare. At the end of my stare, the person I had been waiting for was walking my way with a waving hand. After a quick order of coffee at the register, that person took a seat in front of me.
“Sorry for the wait!”
The person I was meeting with was Yukinoshita Haruno and she spoke to me in the same happy mood she had when she suddenly called me last night.
I was usually one to ignore calls from unknown numbers, but after incessant calls, I gave in. I picked up thinking it might’ve been something urgent, but after just informing me of a meeting place and time, the line was cut and here I was. I tried calling back immediately to voice my refusal, but she didn’t even pick up…
“…Um, why do you know my number?”
“I got it from Hayato,” said Haruno-san, not showing an ounce of shyness with a wink ☆. Oh yeah, I gave my number to Hayama at some point, didn’t I? That bastard… He went and blabbered it to the one person who mustn’t be told the most…
But nothing could be done now that she knew. I made a firm oath in my heart to block all communication from her from this day onwards and decided to question her business for calling me out today. “Do you need something from me?”
Seemingly not fond of jumping into the heart of the matter, Haruno-san’s cheeks swelled indignantly and she gave me a squint. “We’re finally on a date, don’t be such a party-pooper. Your attitude’s soooo different from the time with Gahama-chan.”
“Da… No, that’s not what it was, at all, and neither is this.” I answered while in a fluster.
Haruno-san smiled with a composed appearance and pointed at herself. “Hikigaya-kun, are you not into beautiful onee-sans like me?”
“I don’t believe a thing can be done if you end up hating beauties who can say things like that about themselves.” I answered.
After Haruno-san nodded, she gave me an upward glance and poked back. “But you hate girls who pretend as if they’re not a lot more, right?”
Crap, she got me… Though truthfully, I felt those kinds of girls really were a little out there for me.
Well, if I were to be honest about it… I definitely preferred pretty onee-sans a lot more!
But concerning Yukinoshita Haruno, I had other sentiments that were much stronger.
This person frightens me. It’s not just because of her perfect mask, but that unrelenting inner face that she wouldn’t bother to hide once it’s been seen through. And lastly, her eyes which indicated that there’s something else hidden in her depths. That’s why I covertly averted my gaze and again, asked, “But really, since you went through the trouble of calling me out here, do you have some business with me?”
“Ah, right, right. I was thinking of checking your answer as I promised. Did you ask Yukino-chan what her career path is?”
“…For the most part, I know what it is, but it wouldn’t be very fair for me to say it.”
“Oh, what a dutiful lad. But I see. So if it’s Hikigaya-kun, she’ll properly tell you. Mmhmm… Yukino-chan trusts you quite a bit, doesn’t she?” said Haruno-san, smirking as though indicating how pleasant that was.
Having someone else consider it as such was oddly embarrassing. Since the conversation we had in the infirmary room came to mind at the same time, I found myself fanning my cheeks.
“…You can’t really call that trust, can you?”
“Oh, wow. So you do get it.”
My voice was taken away. Although I had intended a casual reply, the words Yukinoshita Haruno apathetically stated without a smile resounded against my eardrums.
After taking a sip of her coffee, Haruno-san traced the rim of the cup and looked at me with somber eyes.
“That’s right. That isn’t anything remotely like trust… It’s something much more horrible.” She smiled, only her lips appearing tender. But the quality of her cold voice made her appear as someone else entirely from earlier. “Nothing’s changed and that child thinks that’s fine. I mean, sure, that part is also what makes her adorable, but… I really don’t like that.”
Her beautiful, slender countenance twisted inhumanely. Although her eyes appeared to be gazing into me, who sat directly across from her, it’s as though she wasn’t actually perceiving someone like me at all. I wanted to pull her back to this side and I let out my voice with my thoughts in disarray.
“If it isn’t trust… what else could it be?”
“Who knows? But at the very least…” Haruno-san overtly shrugged her shoulders, making a smile for just an instant, and focused on me. “You can’t call it something genuine… Those were your words, right?”
I certainly did say those words. But still without a proper grasp of their meaning and significance, they were simply groundless words of what I believed in.
Something genuine. That’s to say, the truth, or perhaps sincerity. Just exactly which of them you could call genuine, I still had yet to understand.
“I wonder if genuine things really exist…” Haruno-san looked overhead at the winter sky with suspended thick clouds and muttered. Where was her question that was tinged with a faint ring of loneliness directed at?
Suddenly, I thought back. A certain individual said that it’s an enclosed happiness. A certain individual asked if I hadn’t noticed it. And lastly, the Yukinoshita Haruno before me had doubts, doubts as to whether truth or sincerity really existed.
I reached out to the book that was left on the table with my quivering hand and softly touched it.
The book had turned cold from being constantly exposed to the wind and I became hesitant in continuing it further and in knowing how it would end.