Out in the world, you’d often hear remarks like, “We’re no longer connected with the local community anymore” or “Our relationship with the neighbors has gotten weaker”.
Well yes, they seemed accurate. If we take into consideration that I—my relationship with my neighbors and school being practically nonexistent—was the one saying them, there’s no doubt about them.
Long ago—though I wouldn’t say I knew it as long ago—I had never really felt close to something like the local community. That might be because whenever someone mentioned it, I had no idea who or what they were referring to. If they said it was the president of the neighborhood association or the mayor, I couldn’t think of a single face. In middle school, they’d make you participate in afternoon, clean-up efforts chanting some slogan, “Let’s pick up the trash for the local community.” But it ultimately turned into nothing more than my own personal time to go on a stroll because really, I couldn’t muster any kind of motivation for people I didn’t even know.
However, there would come a time when we’d finally feel the existence of this “local community”.
And such a day was like today.
Throughout the day, I could hear a lot of popping sounds in the distance. And the city was afflicted with small oscillations back and forth as if waking up from a deep slumber.
After I left the house, I could directly feel the commotion and restlessness in the air as if they were acting in conjunction with the fierce rays of the summer sun.
In making my way to the station, there were numerous people heading in the same direction. Women dressed in yukatas stuck out like a sore thumb in the crowd.
On the train, I was encircled by groups with men and women on friendly terms and families carrying coolers. I inserted my earphones into my ears and stood there absentmindedly, only to be pushed further and further into the corner by the pressure. It’s only a matter of time until my spiritual pressure1 had vanished.
For a few minutes, I breathed in and out quietly enough so that no one could notice me. The train passed several stations and the next station was finally my stop.
I was the only one to leave through the opened doors. The people who entered through the door, however, were far greater in number. After watching the doors close with the “door’s-closin’-quick”2, I laboriously walked to the ticket gate.
Jeez… it feels completely like I walked all this way for nothing. I can’t help but be depressed when the thought of having to go in another crowded train like that one…
As I thought about how I’d unload all of my dissatisfaction on her with complains when we met, I walked against the current of people past the ticket gate.
Our appointment was one minute past its scheduled time.
I think she should be here by now… I made a look around, but I didn’t see any signs of her anywhere. I didn’t see a Bulbasaur or Squirtle, either.
I leaned against a pillar of the concourse and familiar people from my school passed by. Of course, I didn’t call out to them nor did they call out to me since we weren’t acquaintances.
Both the boys and girls were wearing yukatas and jinbeis. As I followed those high school students with my eyes, I spotted a girl walking towards me from the north entrance with her sandals noisily clapping the floor.
Small blooming flowers were irregularly decorated on her peach yukata and her vermillion sash looked attractively vivid. Her hair was tied up instead of the usual chinese bun style.
She didn’t look used to wearing her sandals, so when she came trotting over here looking dangerous close to falling over, I found myself taking a few steps closer to her out of reflex.
“Oh, Hikki. There was some stuff going on… so I ended up kinda late…” She smiled, looking embarrassed and apologetic.
“Nah, don’t worry about it.”
Somehow it was quiet even though we were both facing each other. Yuigahama was looking down and fiddling with her hair. Are you Hamtaro or something?
Why the hell am I complimenting the yukata? You’re supposed to praise the person. But it looked like I didn’t need to correct myself since Yuigahama realized what I wanted to say and with her eyes darting all over the place, she answered, “Th-Th-Th-Thanks.”
And it’s quiet again. What the heck? The only things I could think of with all this silence were all the Seagal3 movies…
I opened my mouth to do something about the stiff mood. “…I guess we should get going.”
Once I started walking, the sound of footsteps followed right behind me.
We passed through the ticket gates and waited for the descending train. Yuigahama was facing downwards the entire time and didn’t say anything.
I was the type of person that wasn’t bothered by the silence.
But it did bother me that Yuigahama was so quiet. Considering how she’d be a little annoying about the dumbest things, I was kind of worried that she was angry at me or something. For the time
being, I brought up something random to ignite a conversation. “Hey, why did we meet up midway to the festival instead of at the actual place?”
“Well… It might be hard for us to meet up there since there’s so many people.”
“We have cellphones, you know.”
“It’s really hard to get through, okay?”
Ahh, now that she mentioned it, I recall hearing about how making calls in crowded areas was difficult. I never actually used my phone in those situations, so I was under the impression it was just an urban legend, though, it’s not like I used my phone in empty areas, either.
“Besides… it’d be kinda boring meeting at the festival, too…”
“Who cares if it’s boring? We’re not getting edible seaweed or something…”
“G-Gosh, why’s it matter!? Do you want to complain about anything else?”
I got her mad…
Now we were silent again. But when I realized how close we were, I started walking as if groping around in the darkness despite it still being broad daylight.
We both simultaneously spoke.
Yuigahama frantically motioned me to go first.
“…Do you usually go to the fireworks festival?”
“Ah, I do. I usually go every year with my friends.”
The moment I answered, the train had arrived.
The train was packed with people seemingly heading to the fireworks festival and amongst them were, of course, people wearing yutakas, people carrying vinyl sheets, and parasols.
But it’s just one station away. We both stood near the door. Once the door closed with a racket, the trained started off.
“So, what were you trying to say earlier?”
“Oh, right… Have you been to the fireworks festival before? That’s what I wanted to ask.”
She told me, “We thought the same thing, huh?” which was so pointless that I wanted to die. Um, can you stop with that embarrassing smile? Because it’s going to infect me, too. Like a real pandemic.
I removed my gaze and checked the time. Still four in the afternoon, huh…?
“I went with my family once when I was in elementary.”
The conversation then died again.
Our conversation that got chopped into pieces like a tuna continued as the train continued running.
As soon as the port tower came into view in the distance, the train stepped on its breaks.
There was a brief shriek, the sound of the clapping wooden sandals, and a faint, sweet aroma. I could feel something soft weighing down on my shoulders.
I imagine it’s because she wasn’t used to those sandals. She lost her balance and fell towards me. Naturally, I caught her.
Our faces were incredibly close. Yuigahama’s cheeks turned red and she hurriedly took some distance. “S-Sorry…”
“Mm, well, it’s pretty packed in here, after all…”
I turned my face away, pretending to look at the outside scenery. From a position that Yuigahama couldn’t see, I let out a long sigh. Only now did I start to sweat.
Th-That made me nervous… Phew, close one. If I was any other guy, I probably would’ve started liking her.
But that wouldn’t ever happen. After all, I wouldn’t ever misunderstand, mistake, or assume something anymore. “Unpopular boys” had the bad habit of trying to make plain coincidences and phenomena seem more meaningful than they really are.
It’s common sense to be greeted in the morning, the only reason they dropped their handkerchief in front of you was because of a careless mistake, and they really only wanted your mail address at your part-time job, so they could contact you for shift changes.
I didn’t believe in coincidences, fate, or destiny. I believed only in company orders. I don’t think becoming an adult like that was very good. Yeah, I really don’t want to work…
The station we got off on was overflowing with people and noise.
The looming Chiba Port Tower illuminated the lower world with its mirror-like walls, intensifying the brilliance of the setting sun several times over that served to liven up the expectations of those who waited for the start of the festival.
Everyone laughed and exchanged looks of animated joy.
On the streets, there were food stalls with the standard takoyaki and okonomiyaki, neighborhood convenient stores and liquor shops placing their products out on display, and restaurants fervently advertising to potential customers that they could view the fireworks from their place.
This was a summer in Japan.
Perhaps it was carved in my genes as well because even I was starting to feel excited.
The curtains to the fireworks festival for the denizens of Chiba were about to be raised at this very moment.
× × ×
It was a short distance away to the fireworks festival venue from the front of the station. The public park was practically adjacent to the station. But with this many people, we couldn’t move ahead as we had hoped.
The plaza of the park was normally sparse with people and only gave me the impression that it was wide, but I could tell from afar that it was blotted with people.
The wind that blew from the sea through the gaps between all these people felt pleasant.
I looked at time and it was still only six in the evening. The fireworks were supposed to start at seven thirty.
Until then, what should we do…? I turned to Yuigahama at my side to check with her. “It looks like we still have some time left. What we should do? Go home?”
“We’re not going home! How can you suggest that so naturally!?”
Oops, my bad habit kicked in where I’d immediately think of going straight home whenever I went out. No matter the time, no matter the situation, my biggest priority was to make it back home in one piece. The fact I was so suited to being a spy or ninja was a little problematic, I had to say.
“So what then?”
Just when I was going to add with “Go home, after all?”, Yuigahama took out her cellphone from her purse.
“Um, so Komachi sent me a mail listing out the things she wants as thanks.” Yuigahama operated her phone and then showed me. The bothersome decorated and sparkling rhinestones on her phone were incredibly annoying, but I decided to focus on the screen.
Komachi’s Shopping List:
Yakisoba – 400 yen
Cotton candy – 500 yen
Ramune – 300 yen
Takoyaki – 500 yen
The memory of watching fireworks – Priceless4
What’s with that last one…?
When I visualized how she might’ve typed this with a triumphant look, onii-chan felt a little embarrassed…
Yuigahama took my expression as if I was annoyed and let out an awkward “ahaha”. So embarassing! Onii-chan is SO embarrassed right now!
But still, there she goes again with her meddlesome tactics… I thought for a bit, but well, I could see that Komachi was trying to be considerate in her own way. I wasn’t that dense that I’d be missing the obvious planning she had in mind.
Rather, I was sensitive. So sensitive and perceptive that I was prone to overreacting.
After all, eighty percent of the boys in the world were always living their lives with the thought, “Could it be this girl likes me?”
And that’s exactly it’s necessary to reprimand yourself. You needed to be calm and collected, so you could look at yourself with an indifferent attitude and say, “Fat chance.”
I didn’t believe in others all that much, but I absolutely didn’t believe in myself at all.
I let out a sigh and adjusted my mood. “Alright, I guess we should just buy them as we go…”
Yuigahama trotted along in her sandals cheerfully, either due to Komachi’s mail relieving the tension in the mood or due to the passion of the festival affecting her.
I could hear her humming along with her every footstep very clearly in this crowd.
Streams of people continued towards the plaza.
Numerous stalls were situated side by side, many of them booming with business.
I thought I knew how tasty the food was, but now that I was in front of the food stalls, the way the food was highlighted by the naked light bulbs whtted my appetite. Case in point, the sauce and the oil on the yakisoba made it look wonderfully juicy. I thought I was looking at Kabaya5 for a second there.
Yuigahama pulled at my sleeve, her eyes sparkling. “Hey, hey, what should we eat fiirst? Apple candy? Apple candy first, right?”
“That’s not even on the list…”
It looked like her objective wasn’t to buy things anymore; now, it’s to eat…
Yuigahama stared at the apple candy and reluctantly groaned, but then faced her cellphone to me with her hand. “Well, what should we get first then?”
“First, we should get the stuff that’s okay at normal temperature. So that means we—“
“Oh wow! You can win a PS3 here!”
Just as I tried to move, she pulled my sleeve. Yuigahama had her attention stolen by the treasure angling stall. Beside the PS3, there were other gorgeous goods piled with it.
“No, I doubt it… Anyway, listen to what I’m saying.”
“Huh? But there are strings connected to it.”
“Yeah, they probably are connected. But we don’t know which ones are connected to which.”
The strings for the treasure angling stall were connected to every prize in which all the strings were joined at a single point and then extended out again in various directions. Exactly what kind of mechanism they had prepared in the middle of all that, we didn’t know.
“Just remember, the way they set up all these good looking items for display is the first trap. There’s always a flipside when something’s convenient for you. Common sense much?”
“Uh, common sense from where exactly…? People from the underworld?”
While we were having that conversation, the old man of the treasure angling stall glared at me.
I made a discrete getaway from the stall and hurried to a different one.
I guess we should start with the cotton candy.
At the cotton candy stall, a machine was puffing while releasing a sweet smell in the air, spinning white, fluffy strings and pressing them together.
They were then packed into a bag and sealed at the end. These kind of resembled the Toei bags that had anime characters and heroes printed on them with money inside.
Nothing had changed regardless of the generation; I think this was how it felt when I was a child. Similar in age to me, Yuigahama looked apparently nostalgic and looked at the cotton candy with sweet eyes. “Oh wow, isn’t this like totally nostalgic!? Hey, which one should we get?”
“They’re all the same inside. I’ll go with this. I’ll take this please.”
I pointed at the pink bag in front of me and handed over five hundred yen.
Yeah, well, I had absolutely no interest in anime catered towards little girls nor did I watch them. But Komachi’s a girl and all, so you know, it’d be better to give her something from that P-P-Precure thing or whatever, right? Yep, I had zero interest it. I was apathetic to it that I couldn’t tell the difference between Jewel Pets and Pretty Rhythm.
After we bought the cotton candy, we purchased the ramune and takoyaki.
“So, next is yakisoba?”
“Right. I think I saw it around over there earlier…”
The moment I turned around, I noticed there were people looking at us. They waved their hands and approached us.
“Oh hey, it’s Yui-chan.”
“Oh, Sagamin.” Yuigahama answered back along with a small wave and walked a few steps towards them. Both parties took similar actions.
Oh ho, so this was what they called “mirroring”. By copying the actions of the other party, it made it easier to connect to each other; this was a technique I saw in Mission Research6.
At times like these, it’d be better to blend into the background so diminish my presence. I’ll become a tree!7
But you know? When girls called out to each other, there’s this bizarre difference in their attitudes towards each other. Yuigahama was more or less friendly. On the other hand, it felt like Sagamin or whatever her name wasn’t as intimate and looked a little distant.
So, who the heck is this?
They apparently had the same thoughts as me when they looked at Yuigahama for an explanation.
“Ah, right. He’s Hikigaya-kun in the same class. And this is Sagami Minami-chan in our class.”
Ohh, so she’s in our class. Now that she mentioned it, I vaguely recall her. I thought, giving her a small bow.
In that instant, our eyes met.
For a moment, Sagami’s expression had a smirk.
“Oh, so that’s how it is! So you both came together, huh? Jeez, just look at us, it’s just a fireworks festival of girls for us8! That’s so nice, I wanna live my youth, too!”
“…Ahaha! What are you even saying, we’re not at a swim meet or anything! We’re really not doing anything like that~” Yuigahama hesitated for a moment, but quickly went along and laughed.
But I wasn’t in the slightest mood to laugh.
Just seconds earlier, that smile Sagami had. It was something I was all too familiar with.
It wasn’t a smile nor was it a laugh.
It was a commanding laugh of scorn.
This girl, after seeing “the boy that Yuigahama Yui brought”, was undoubtedly sneering at her.
“Ehh, oh c’mon, what’s the big deal? It’s summer and all, so that’s totally cool.”
Her smile retained its shape, her gaze taking that moment to evaluate me. That was enough to make me understand that her earlier warmth was a lie, a coldness that made my heart congeal over.
The more my heart froze over, the more clear my head became.
My thoughts gradually became more vivid as if liquid nitrogen was poured down my spine. My reasoning, my logic, and my experience all assimilated and bumped heads with my emotions. My emotions were quick to surrender, not bothering to wait for a proper outcome.
Once again, I was on the verge of misunderstanding.
Sagami Minami and I wouldn’t get along. We didn’t know a thing about each other.
So what’s the fastest way to understand people you didn’t know very well?
That’s to label them.
The material she needed to understand a person like me was “my affiliated caste”. Obviously, that wasn’t limited to just Sagami; it applied to anyone else.
Before even trying to know someone personally, they’d start first with their affiliated group, their locations, their positions, and their titles. In school and society, it’s commonplace to have your human qualities be judged based on those things alone. I stopped hearing about this recently, but when you were out job hunting, you were wrung through a filter regarding rumors about the plausibility of your academic record.
It had completely slipped my mind that Yuigahama was someone that could handle inter-group communication, but she was originally someone who had belonged to the top caste in class, in school even.
Then you had me; I belonged to the bottom of the barrel. Putting aside Yukinoshita who was outside of those castes, a simple look from the sidelines would tell you that unless there’s some kind of charity, Yuigahama would never interact with someone like me.
Crap… At a prominent fireworks festival like this, students from nearby high schools would definitely gather here. I wasn’t being attentive enough.
The current situation was something like a social exchange between ladies. The man they brought along would likely serve as their status symbol. At the same time, the bag they carried and the brand of clothes they wore would be used to measure their value.
Suppose if I were Hayama instead, it’s likely their reactions would’ve been completely different. It’s possible they might even call Yuigahama onto a heroine interview9 tonight. But with me, I’d be treated as defaulting at a court-martial trial.
I won’t think that the worlds we lived in were different. Imagine how comfortable it’d be if we did. This world’s a pain because we’re living in it so half-heartedly.
I could be all smiles, but with me still here, only Yuigahama would look pitiful smiling.
“Looks like there’s people lining up for yakisoba, so I’ll be going over there.”
“Ah, okay. I’ll be right there.” Yuigahama answered with a seemingly apologetic smile. I left the area and quickly went on my way.
The faster I could eliminate any possible factors that could lead to Yuigahama being laughed at, the better. While I could still hear Yuigahama and Sagami talking behind me, I paid them no attention and continued to move my legs.
Using my second-hand memory and the source of the smell, I arrived at the front of the yakisoba stand.
When the naked light bulbs illuminated the yakisoba in a plastic pack fastened by a rubber band, it somehow got my appetite going.
After paying for the yakisoba, Yuigahama came over.
“Sorry…” said Yuigahama, looking a little awkward. She had no reason to apologize to me, however. Because of that, I wasn’t sure how to respond.
“Huh?” Yuigahama eyes blinked with an absent murmur.
I pressed further in emphasis. “You wanted to buy some, right?”
“Y-Yeah! I totally do! I’ll give you half, Hikki!”
“I don’t want any.”
Yes, well, I’ll gladly take the other half of the apple if it gets cut cleanly in half with a knife or something, otherwise, sharing it any other would be a bit, you know…
Anyway, that should’ve been everything on the list.
It’s just about time for the fireworks to go off. I didn’t need to bother checking the time because I could tell from the growing commotion from everyone around us.
× × ×
When the sun finally dipped past the Bay of Tokyo, the zenith of the sky was bathed in an indigo blue darkness. The moon climbed as high as it could if excitedly waiting for the fireworks to be shot up.
The plaza, from the street lined with rows of stalls, served as the main venue and was teeming with people.
When I thought about how vinyl sheets were placed all over leaving no extra room, there were people who had been here form the start and were exchanging sake cups, and the children crying in the distance, there were loud voices going back and forth nearby.
As such, there was no available space for us to occupy.
If I was alone, I could’ve managed to find some place to take a seat to watch the fireworks from afar, but since I was with someone, it’s a different story.
We decided to search around for open space where the both of us could sit since standing the entire time wasn’t an option.
With that being said, we didn’t have vinyl sheets, let alone newspaper. I couldn’t let Yuigahama sit down on the floor since she was wearing a yukata. I considered sitting at nearby benches, but
they were all occupied as if the same thought crossed everyone’s mind.
There’s nowhere to go. Isn’t this exactly like a school event for me?
“Yikes, sure is crowded, huh?” said Yuigahama, making a problematic laugh. You got that right.
“Had I known how ridiculous this would be beforehand, I would’ve prepared a vinyl sheet.”
“J-Jeez. You make it sound like it I’m at fault here… Sorry, I should’ve told you, huh?”
“…That’s not it. I’m not used to this, so I didn’t think that far ahead. My bad.”
If only I gave it some more thought, I should’ve been able to anticipate this. I was a bit depressed at my own incompetence.
I’m sure the so-called popular men were the guys who could be perfectly considerate of others and be thoroughly prepared in a situation like this. Management of these little details was far more important than how good their face looked and so forth.
For example, sending sincere mails, looking things up prior to going out, or being able to hold a tasteful conversation while waiting in line.
…Ehh, what’s with that? Sounds like a total pain.
If you had to do all that just so you could be popular, I’d rather just stay unpopular. Seriously. Also, why was it the guy who always had to do the courting? Where did gender equality go?
…Wait! Was it because they did the courting that they were popular!? Wow, talk about worthless. But I loved myself for being able to say stuff like this.
Well, you know. Wouldn’t it just be a lie if I forced myself to be someone I’m normally not when I’m by myself?
Could you really call the affection you earned from all your efforts actual affection towards your self as well as towards who you really are?
Whether it was okay to say you were still “you” after changing so you could be liked and loved or not, I wasn’t sure. If that’s something you created by lying and pretending, it was likely to crash and burn eventually. If something essential changed in you, you certainly couldn’t really call that your true self.
These worthless thoughts ran by in my head and I let out an exhausted sigh. I came back to my senses not knowing when I had dropped my gaze, and looked up.
My eyes met with Yuigahama who had a dumb look with her mouth open.
“…You know Hikki, you can be pretty considerate, huh?”
“Huh? You some kinda idiot? I’m super considerate. I’m so considerate to the point I don’t bother anyone by standing quietly in the corner.”
I’d speak to no one, I’d walk behind everyone instead of next to them, and I’d avoid inviting people, so I didn’t get in the way of their plans. I was such a master of consideration that I could easily shoot a Spirit Ball10 right now.
“Ahaha, that’s not what I mean… I mean, like, you’re nice or something?”
“Oh yeah? Good on you to notice. You’re right, I am nice. I’ve been through all kinds of things in my life, but I haven’t gone out for revenge on a single person at all. If I was any other normal person, this world would’ve ended already. You could even call me the savior of the world.”
“Normal people can’t destroy the world! They don’t go through all sorts of things either!”
Wow, she’s being totally reasonable.
“Yeah, whatever. Anyway, it looks open over there, so let’s go there.”
Although we started to proceed ahead, there was a last-minute rush of people heading to the stalls and bathrooms before the start of the fireworks, so we ended up having to go against traffic.
In the jumbled crowd of people, I walked as if weaving through the openings.
This had become a habit of mine; that is, I walked by killing any noise I make.
I was a fantasista with the ability to be Japan’s representative, so if it’s to look for space, this measly crowd was child’s play. Ha! If it’s going against what people would expect, I was totally good at that! After all, I was always going against the trends of the world that left me behind!
I handled the waves of people as if I was training with a wooden doll and when I made it out to an area sparse of people, I realized that Yuigahama might’ve not been able to do the same things as I could.
Crap, I used my skill too much there. I thought and turned around, but my concern wasn’t necessary.
Yuigahama made way through the crowd while expressing her apologies like, “I’m sorry”, “Sorry”, “Excuse mee”.
Ohh, her restlessness skill is pretty amazing…
When she managed to make it through and up to me, she tilted her head with a confused look.
On second thought, people used to these things were better at dealing with them. This place wasn’t an unchallenged sphere for Stealth Hikki.
“So it looks like we managed to find a spot with little people.”
“Isn’t this a pay area…?”
When she said that, I looked around and sure enough, there were taut yellow ropes that clearly partitioned the area off.
The entirety of this plaza was confined by trees, so if you sat at a normal spot, it might be a little difficult to see the fireworks. But this pay area was on a small hill, so the view was spectacular.
The security seemed flawless as there were part-timers patrolling the area.
The typical scenario would be us being chased away for stopping so close to the pay area.
“Guess we should look somewhere else…”
The path along the rope seemed less crowded, so I nodded to Yuigahama and started walking.
“Huuuh? It’s Hikigaya-kun.”
An air of elegance hung in the air of the area that was conspicuously dark blue in the darkness and there, a refreshing yukata sporting a design with lilies and autumn foliage.
The one there was Yukinoshita Haruuno.
She was there in the area literally drawn by the rope.
Served by the people around her, the seat she was situated in was like that of a throne as if occupied by an empress.
× × ×
At seven forty, there was an announcement that the scheduled start of the fireworks festival would be delayed by ten minutes.
Applause erupted and easily-elated people whistled through their fingers from somewhere. Had they been any closer, I might’ve smacked them. Typically fifty percent of guys who’d whistle so arrogantly like that often had the image that they’re usually docile, but only became noisy at times like these.
In this plaza, this pay area was situated on a small hill that directly faced the area where the fireworks would be shot off, allowing you to see them their entirety without the obstruction of the surrounding trees.
You could only enter this area if you purchased a ticket, but Haruno-san’s guidance allowed us entry.
“I’m here as a proxy for my father and I was getting bored with all the reception I had to do. I’m so glad you showed up, Hikigaya-kun.”
“Right. Proxy, huh? That’s amazing.” I made restless looks around while mostly ignoring what she said in the latter half.
Haruno smiled. “Ufufu, I guess you could call these VIP seats. You wouldn’t be able to get in normally.”
Haruno-san showed off with the innocence of a child. There were times where openly bragging didn’t give make you look like you’re being arrogant.
It’s that straightforwardness of hers that I thought correlated with her charisma. Just moments earlier, when she told the people gathered around in the surroundings, “I’m sorry, my friends were running late and seem to have arrived”, that was enough for them to back down.
On top of that, when she invited us in, the security part-timers unconditionally accepted it and didn’t bother to confirm with her. Actual VIPs are totally something else.
“Whoa, a celebrity…” said Yuigahama, expressing a sigh that bordered on a strange line between being impressed or dumbfounded.
Haruno-san chuckled. “Yep. You know what my father does, right? He’s rather influential when it comes to these kinds of municipal events.”
“Does the prefectural assembly really have that much influence over the city like this?”
“Oh, you’re so sharp. You really are something, Hikigaya-kun. But if I had to say, this has to do more with corporate than the assembly.”
If I remember correctly, it should’ve been something like the construction industry. If there’s overlap with public utilities, of course they’d be influential. In an election long time ago, they emphasized the importance of three themes such as foundation, advertisement, and bags which I guess was all assembled here. By the way, the themes actually meant cash; you could say real money, too. Also, the three things to a wife was “pay”, “cooking”, and “mom”. Are we having a wedding ceremony speech or something?
As the city mayor or whoever addressed every related party with words of appreciation and congratulations, Haruno-san encouraged us to take a seat beside her. Yuigahama and I decided to take her up on her offer with gratitude.
We bowed our heads to her and sat.
I wanted to sit comfortably, but with Haruno-san next to me, I couldn’t calm down; it had more to do with how frightening her more-than-perfect front than feeling nervous from sitting next to a beautiful older woman. The way it felt like something darker was swirling inside of her wasn’t something I was good with.
Suddenly, Haruno-san whispered close to my ears. “In any case… Having an affair isn’t very admirable, you know.”
“No, it’s not even an affair…” I answered.
When I answered, the warmth of Haruno-san’s expression froze over. “So you’re serious…? All the more reason why I can’t forgive you even more.”
She pulled at my ears similarly to how Katsuo would be done in by Sazae. I managed to avoid excessive damage by promptly making my escape from her, but if she had pulled any harder, I might’ve ended up inviting Nakajima to play some baseball.
“I’m not serious, either…”
Gosh darn it, I really don’t like pain, okay? How could I possibly be having an affair or be serious? “Motivation! Energy! Iwaki!”11 wasn’t my thing, really. I had no idea what that’s trying to tell me, but that ain’t happening, Iwaki!12
After I warded off Haruno-san’s attack, the important person or whoever finished his greeting and they were finally going to start with the first round of fireworks.
Accompanied by music, the extra large star mine bloomed into a large flower in the night sky. Numerous layers of red, yellow, and bitter orange expanded incessantly while continuing to light up the darkness.
The blossoming halo of light brilliantly reflected against the half-mirror glass of the port tower, intensifying the halo’s radiance. With this as the start, it looks like they planned to continue with eight thousand more multi-colored shots of fireworks.
Numerous thunderous sounds roared and roared. It’s almost as if I was listening to Tao Pai Pai13.
As the explosive sounds resounded on, Haruno-san adjusted her seating.
As if she had been trying to find the timing to speak up the entire time, Yuigahama spoke to Haruno-san with me in between them. Haruno-san blinked her large eyes at her. “Umm… You’re Something-gahama-chan?”
“Ah, that’s right. Sorry, sorry.”
Haruno-san didn’t seem like she meant any harm at all. But that definitely had to be on purpose… She wasn’t the kind of person to forget a name after hearing it. After all, her specs were equal to that of Yukinoshita’s; rather, it’s likely she was beyond her. I couldn’t help but think that even this trivial slip of the tongue had some kind of hidden intention.
I stared at Haruno-san to see if I could figure out what that was and she slipped out a chuckle.
A chill ran down my spine. She smiled as if she knew exactly what I was thinking and the fact that it was beautiful made it even scarier.
“Is Yukinon not here with you today?”
“If you’re looking for Yukino-chan, I think she might be at home right now. It’s usually my job to handle these public appearances. Remember how I said I was my father’s proxy? It’s not like I’m here to have fun.” Haruno-san pointed to herself and smiled in jest. “It’s my job as the oldest daughter to attend events like these. It’s what our mother decided on a long time ago.”
I had the feeling Yukinoshita had said the same thing before, that it was the older sister’s job to take part in these events and that she was just a substitute.
So in other words, did that mean Haruno-san was the official successor to her father? Well, it should be natural that the eldest daughter was taking over the family business.
But with just that, there’s still something missing.
“Is that, like, something Yukinon can’t attend?”
Right, Haruno-san being the successor was fine. However, that didn’t hold as a reason as to why Yukinoshita couldn’t come.
Haruno-san made a problematic smile. “Mm. Well, it’s what my mother decided… Besides, it’s easier to understand this way, right?”
“Well you both do look similar, so if only one of you attends, then you won’t be mistaken for the other, but…” said Yuigahama, but that probably wasn’t what the issue was.
The idea was how they’d be perceived. Demonstrating that there’s a single successor meant less bothersome problems. There’d be more negatives to giving the people the idea that they were having a family dispute over succession. They’re like a samurai household or something…
Haruno-san placed her finger on her cheek and let out a difficult sigh. “You see, our mother is really forceful and scary.”
“Huh? Even more than Yukinoshita?”
After giving me an intent look, she laughed pleasantly, “Ahahaha!” Compared to her cheerfulness all this time, she truly looked like she was laughing.
Haruno-san wiped the tears at her eyes as she breathed out in satisfaction. Apparently mindful of her surroundings, she cleared her throat. “Gosh, you’re so rude, Hikigaya-kun. Is that what you think of a girl that cute?”
She giggled for a moment, moved her face closer to mine, and whispered into my ears, “My mother’s scarier than me.”
“…Is that human?”
Yukinoshita’s one thing, but she’s scarier than Haruno-san? That’s bad, right? We’re not talking about the level of a strengthened power suit here, that’s totally a gundam.
“My mother’s the type of person who decides on everything and forces people to follow her, so we end up having to make compromises… And Yukino-chan’s a little poor at that.”
Poor’s not the right word. It’d be better to emphasize it by saying, “A little and little and little poor.”
“That’s why it was a big shock to all of us when she said she wanted to live on her own after she entered high school.”
“So Yukinon started living alone after getting into high school?”
“Yep, yep. She wasn’t the type of child to say selfish things like that, but our father was so happy he rented out an apartment for her.”
Ahh, just why were fathers of the world so sweet to their daughters?
“Our mother opposed it to the end and I’m sure she still doesn’t acknowledge it even now…”
“She must be on good terms with your father.”
“Oh, interested in your father-in-law perhaps?”
“Um, you say Gifu14, but I honestly can’t tell it apart from Shiga and I’m not interested either.”
“Mmhmm, twelve points.”
Unlike her gentle appearance, her grading was strict.
“I don’t think ‘on good terms’ is the right way to put it. Our mother’s really strong-willed, so I think my father just goes along with her.”
I wonder if it’s something like “good cop, bad cop”. Although, I think the “carrot and stick” approach might be easier to understand.
“Of course, Yukino-chan and I understand that, so we’re just keeping the peace.”
“Talk about unpleasant sisters…”
Haruno-san maintained her smile regardless of my dejected response, but then spoke to Yuigahama. “So, were you two on a date? If so, I’m sorry for distrubing you.”
“O-Oh no, it’s not like that…”
Haruno-san’s gaze didn’t miss the chance to carefully observe Yuigahama.
“Ohh… a little suspicious if you’re getting that embarrassed. But if it really is a date…”
A teasing tone.
The surrounding grew dark from being in the shadow of the fireworks. I wasn’t able to look at Haruno-san’s eyes. However, there’s no doubt that the shine in her eyes were darker than the night sky.
“…Yukino-chan wasn’t chosen again, huh?”
The fireworks shot up, exploding as if to override Haruno-san’s whisper.
The intermitten, but continual thunderous roars and the flickering sky.
The smell of gunpowder that floated along the wind and the imprints of the black screens.
And occasionally, Haruno-san’s illuminated smile.
“Um, just now…”
Yuigahama tried to speak up, but the fireworks were shot up at the same time. Haruno-san cheerfully clapped to it. She then turned towards her.
“Hm? What’s that?” She asked, as if she had never noticed she was entranced with the fireworks the entire time, and smiled.
“Ah, no, um… nevermind.” Yuigahama swallowed her words and the conversation ended there.
The brief sounds of gunshots continued and the lights expanded in the sky. Haruno-san innocently clapped to them.
That kind of gesture was something Yukinoshita didn’t do… Well, I wasn’t sure if that’s because how she appeared outside or that shew did it naturally and intentionally.
Although they resembled each other on their surface, deep down, they were different. But something about the two sisters felt as if they were both looking somewhere in the same direction. I thought that was a little strange.
“Ahh… Yukinoshita-san, you’re—“ I mulled over how I should call Haruno-san, but for the time being, I used her family name. We weren’t close enough that I could call her by her first name.
When I called her, Haruno-san smiled. “Hm? You can call me Haruno. Or onee-chan even. In fact, I highly encourage it.”
“Ha, ha, ha…” I instictinctively let out a dry laugh. You swear I’m going to call you by that.
“Haha, oh you’re so stubborn. How cute.”
Damn it, this person is seriously hard to deal with…
People who were barely older than you were the scariest. The age disparity with someone like Hiratsuka-sensei was another matter entirely since I could see her as a proper adult, but when it’s someone who’s only about two to three years older, they just seemed culturally different somehow.
“Yukinoshita-san, you’re a graduate from our school, right?”
“Mmhmm, that’s right. I’m three years older than you Hikigaya-kun,” said Haruno-san with a casual tone.
Yuigahama nodded in interest. “So does that make Yukinon’s onee-san twenty?”
“Almost. I’m still nineteen. I have a late birthday—also, you can call me Haruno. That’s too long. Or if you’d like, you can call me Harunon♪, too!”
You sound like a clothing hand warmer, Harunon. Yuigahama made a wry smile to that.
“O-Okay, Haruno-san then…”
The fireworks had already transitioned to the next program in the schedule.
The fireworks that were shot up along with the played music formed some kind of heart shape, apparently meaning something.
The balls of fireworks looked to be decreasing as if this relaxing period of time was progressing forward and people here and there heading to the bathrooms or to shop stood out.
Voices engaged in pleasantries in the pay area also began to be audible.
On the tables, there was small food prepared as you’d expect of a seat for VIPs.
Yuigahama and Haruno-san were enjoying their conversation while I was stuck in the middle.
“So does that mean you’re a university student, Haruno-san?”
“Yep. I go to a nearby national university for sciences and technology.”
“Wow… So smart… That’s Yukinon’s onee-san for you.”
“I really wanted to go somewhere better, but my parents told me otherwise, see.”
While Yuigahama looked surprise out of admiration, Haruno-san wore a slightly, complicated smile.
Indeed. If you were going to assume a position in a local corporate, going to a local university seems to be the right fit.
But this sure was something. When a conversation involved more than three people, this kinds of topic were usually brought up. As for me, unless it’s to stuff myself with food, I don’t think I was going to open my mouth like I’ve been doing earlier. For now, the best plan was to continue eating in silence. Mmm, yakisoba’s so yummy. Yep, sauce was definitely the taste for boys15.
“Oh, but, but, both of you sisters are doing the sciences, huh?”
The remark Yuigahama nonchalantly blurted out caused Haruno-san to slow her movements. In the continuing commotion of bursting fireworks, it bothered me how strangely silent she was beside me.
“…Ahh, so Yukino-chan’s aiming to go to a national or public university for the sciences, huh…?”
Her smile, somehow, looked as if it was one of ridicule.
It might’ve been due to looking at Yukinoshita Haruno with a perceptive view that I felt that. Haruno-san might in reality be fond of Yukinoshita.
Yuigahama’s eyes were fixated on her smile.
“She’s no different from back then, huh…? Always trying to match with me, always trying to take after me…”
Nostalgic, distant eyes and a gentle tone. But in her words, I could sense some kind of eerie uncertainty.
I wonder if it’s a bad habit of mine to instinctively try to see what’s underneath things.
But in this brief moment, even if it wasn’t me, there should’ve been something perceivable.
Yuigahama’s squeezed fists that were on her knees gently shook. “Um…”
While Yuigahama looked like she was brooding over her thoughts, Haruno-san tilted her head in calm fashion.
“…Haruno-san… do you not get along with Yukinon?”
“Oh, what are you saying? Of course not. I love Yukino-chan very much.”
Not even a moment to think, she immediately answered. Upon finishing her sentence, she showed a slightly warm smile.
Those words were spoken with a timing so perfect that didn’t allow for interruptions along with her gesture.
And that’s exactly why it gave the impression she had foresaw the attack with her own.
“How could I not find my little sister cute when she’s always chasing after me?”
“Always chasing after her.” Did that mean Yukinoshita continued to lose to Haruno-san?
It was a harshness akin to the absolute winner looking down on his foolish challenger and scoffing at him, as if dealing with a child.
With a beautiful face that was so perfect that showed no signs of cruelty, Haruno-san smiled at Yuigahama. “How about you, Yuigahama-chan? Do you like Yukino-chan?”
Yuigahama made a confused look when she was asked directly. But trying her best, she answered, “I-I really like her! She’s so cool, so honest, and so reliable. Oh, but she can be so weird and cute sometimes and like, when she gets sleepy, I get this funny feeling. Also, she’s kind of hard to understand, but she’s really kind… Umm, and, and. Ahh, ahaha. I’m kinda saying some weird stuff, aren’t I?”
Yuigahama made an embarassed grin with the fireworks flashing her cheeks.
“Oh… I’m glad to hear that.”
For just an instant, Haruno-san showed an expression that could perhaps be called affectionate. But for this person, it seemed oddly out of place.
But—or should I say, expectedly—in the next instant, her eyes changed into the eyes of a yaksha16.
“That’s what everyone says at first. But they all end up doing the same thing. They get jealous of Yukino-chan, hate her, reject her, and then start ostracizing her… I hope that you’ll be different from them.”
Her smiling expression was so sweet that it was fierce, to the point frightening.
“…I,“ said Yuigahama, pressured, but continued. “Won’t do something like that.”
She glared right back, not removing her gaze.
Haruno-san took it head on and shrugged her shoulders and then looked at me. “Hikigaya-kun, you understand what I’m trying to say, right?”
“Yes, more or less.”
There’s no way I wouldn’t understand.
I’ve been witness to it more than enough. Yukinoshita wasn’t the only one; anyone who was above the others was ostracized by groups. The protruding stake didn’t get smashed in. It would get
pulled out and tossed aside, only to be left in the rain and wind to rot.
“Right, right. I really like those eyes,” said Haruno-san.
I turned towards Haruno-san and our eyes met. Her eyes were cold enough to send chills down my spine. Suddenly, she smiled. “Hehe, you really are something else, Hikigaya-kun. I like how you look at things so curiously and give up.”
It didn’t feel like she was praising me at all.
There’s no second guessing here because anything this person said had something hidden in them.
You shouldn’t believe people who’d take a positive part of you, compare it with another, and say they liked it. “I really like your senses~” and “I like that. Your senses, too…” were completely different. Source: my time in middle school. I wouldn’t fall for a trick description like that at this point.
“So how about you, Hikigaya-kun? Do you like Yukino-chan?”
“I’ve been taught by my mom to not discern between my likes and dislikes.” I answered and Haruno-san made an amiable laugh.
The time went later into the night with the slow progression of the fireworks festival.
A curtain of gold descended down in the sky.
The conclusion of the fireworks festival was a golden shower of fireworks and was met with a grand round of applause.
“Okay, it looks like the fireworks are over,” said Haruno-san, standing up. “I’ll be heading home before it gets hectic.”
Her eyes asked us what we were going to do. Looking back at her, Yuigahama stood up and turned to me. “We should get going, too.”
When I imagined how we’d be unable to move surrounded by a crowd of people, the strands of my hair stood on end. The correct choice here would be to follow Haruno-san and promptly make our way home.
And somehow, the three of us together started walking.
We continued through the small path towards the parking lot from the side of the pay area. It looks like we’d be able to avoid crowding by taking this path away from the venue.
When we arrived at the parking lot, a limousine approached us.
Did Haruno-san call her in advance? Or was it a first-class driver who anticipated her actions and moved in advance?
The limousine parked right alongside the sidewalk we walked on.
“I can give you a ride home if you’d like?”
“U-Um…” Yuigahama looked at my face while hesitating to decide.
I was staring at the limousine, not giving an answer. It was familiar and I probably wasn’t mistaken; it was that limousine.
“You won’t find any noticeable scratches regardless of how much you look, you know.”
Haruno-san smiled with a giggle.
However, Yuigahama and I didn’t have the slightest hint of a smile. Confused by the silence, Haruno-san held back her laugh. “H-Huh? Yukino-chan didn’t tell you? I wonder if I did something bad to her.”
An apologetic voice. She didn’t seem like she was lying, but the mood was heavy regardless.
I overheard Yuigahama’s small whisper.
I could easily tell what she was going to say. So, Yukinoshita knew, after all.
Haruno-san didn’t seem to have expected our reactions and tried to smooth it over, adding, “Ah, but don’t get her wrong. Yukino-chan wasn’t the one at fault.”
I… knew that. There wasn’t a single thing Yukinoshita had done wrong to this day. It’s because Yukinoshita was always correct.
“She was just in the car, so she didn’t do a single thing wrong. Is that okay, Hikigaya-kun?” said Haruno-san as if confirming with me.
That’s something I had heard for the first time, but it didn’t change anything. No matter Yukinoshita’s level of involvement, the truth wouldn’t budge.
“I guess so. It’s not like she’s the one that caused the accident. She’s practically unrelated.”
My voice was sounded harsher than I had thought. The night was so hot and humid, yet I could feel my body heat plunging.
There was the sound of clacking from wooden sandals and a single step towards me. As if that footstep pushed me away, I forcibly raised the warmth of my voice. “Besides, it’s already a done deal anyway! My policy is to not dwell on the past and if I did, my life would be completely dark, so really…”
H-Huh? Didn’t my voice get even harsher at the end there!? Past traumas are to be feared.
“Oh okay. Since it’s a done deal, there’s no problem now, right?” Haruno-san looked relieved, rubbing her chest in exaggeration. But thanks to that, the mood lightened up.
“…Okay, we’ll be on our way now,” I said.
She readily let us go, not bothering to stop us.
When the driver noticed the conversation was over, he came to open the door. Haruno-san thanked him in a small voice and boarded the limousine. “Okay, Hikigaya-kun, I’ll see you around.”
She cheerfully waved at me, but she honestly wasn’t someone I wanted to meet very often.
After the driver closed the door and returned to his driver’s seat, the limousine slowly drove off.
Then, Yuigahama and I began walking in silence. We might’ve wanted just a little more time before we could actually say anything.
× × ×
We had left the venue early, but many others seemed to have the same idea as us, so the station was considerably packed.
Due to the fireworks festival, the train had arrived at the home platform somewhat late. When we boarded the train, it had filled up just barely enough that we couldn’t sit, so Yuigahama and I stood in front of the doors.
The closest station to Yuigahama’s home was just one station away. As for me, my stop was about three stations away. It wasn’t that significant of a distance.
Less than five minutes in, there was an announcement saying we were about to arrive at the next station.
Both of us had been quiet the entire time until Yuigahama opened her mouth. I looked at her in response and after taking a moment, she said, “Hikki… Did you hear from Yukinon?”
Her question was the type that already knew the answer, but had to be asked regardless.
“No, I didn’t hear a thing.”
“Oh, okay. U-Um… Ah.”
The train jerked to a sudden stop. The door slid open and the cool night air flowed inside the train.
Yuigahama contemplated as she looked outside and at me. But a bell rang indicating the immediate closing of the door.
There wasn’t any time at all to think or worry about anything. I spat out a short sigh and got off the train. Yuigahama followed me off and asked me with a slightly surprised face, “Are you sure you should be getting off here?”
“It’s kind of awkward ending the conversation there… What’s with that? Did you time that on purpose?”
“O-Of course not! It was just hard to say something!”
It didn’t look like it was intentional judging by her flustered excuse. How sly. You’re so sly, Yuigahama-san.
“…I’ll walk you home.”
“Thanks…” she slipped out a word of gratitude.
It looks like Yuigahama’s home wasn’t considerably far from the station. But since she didn’t seem used to wearing those wooden sandals, our walking pace had slowed down.
We leisurely walked, two people’s worth of footstep sounds cutting through the still city.
The night grew deeper, and though we were walking outside—perhaps due to the wind—the humidity and heat didn’t feel excruciating.
“Did you hear anything from her?” I asked her, continuing from our conversation we had earlier.
Yuigahama weakly shook her head. “…But you know? I think there are some things you just can’t say. And when you miss your chance to, it gets even harder to… I mean, it was like that for me, too…”
Certainly. Regarding the accident, Yuigahama had only confessed to it a year later, but only when it was revealed to me.
“When you try to prepare yourself or think about it more, you just end up pushing it back farther and farther away.”
Yeah, I could slightly relate with that. That happened much more easily when you wanted to say something formally.
And for apologizing or repenting, it’s even more difficult. Not only was it already hard to say, the more time you took, the more trouble you had trying to find the right words. But there were also things you could say in the heat of the moment.
“Besides, maybe Yukinon couldn’t say anything because of stuff with her family. I’m not really sure what’s going on though. Haruno-san is kinda scary, too…”
She wasn’t exactly defending her.
However, it’s certainly true that given Yukinoshita’s enclosed environment, it’d be generally difficult to say anything. The high pedigree of her family, her older sister, and surpassing even that older sister that she had alluded to, her mother.
I felt there had to be something going on.
That’s what I felt, but, well, it wasn’t the business of an outsider to be concerned about the affairs of another person’s family.
“I don’t think we should be getting involved with other people’s domestic problems,” I said.
Yuigahama thought for a moment. “D-Dome, stic… Oh, you mean like DV.”
“Don’t say something you have no clue about. I’ll smack you.”
“So it is DV!?”
Nope, not DV at all. This was just V, the visual kind.
“Well, look. Shouldn’t we just pretend we don’t know anything about the accident or her family?”
That is, we shouldn’t be open about it. If Yukinoshita didn’t want to touch on those things, then it should stay that way.
It’s not like we could understand each other, and if we pretended to, that would just be irritating. There were all kinds of situations where indifference was something to be grateful for.
Just like how slipping in the rain with lots of luggage or being lectured in front of the entire class, you really wanted everyone to not talk to you afterwards.
Everyone should realize already that calling out to people with kindness and friendliness would only serve hurt them, let alone not save them.
There, too, were times where compassion and mercy could act as the finishing blow.
“Should we really stay like this and pretend not to know…?” Yuigahama looked at her feet, seemingly not convinced.
I stood still to stay in line with Yuigahama who had stopped walking.
“I don’t think things you don’t know are bad. The more you know, the more annoying things can get.”
To know was just carrying the burden of risk. There were many things you could be happy about as long you didn’t know about them. And the most obvious one of them all was how people were actually feeling.
Everyone lived their lives cheating and deceiving others to some degree.
That’s why people were constantly hurt by the truth. Its only purpose was to destroy someone’s peace.
A few seconds of silence.
Using only that time to think, Yuigahama gave her own answer. “But… I want to know more… I want us to know about each other more and I want us to get closer. If we’re ever troubled, I want to be able to help.”
Yuigahama walked ahead as if leading the way.
A step late, I walked after her.
“Hikki. If Yukinon’s ever in trouble, help her, okay?”
I couldn’t find the words to answer that request.
A few seconds, double that, or even ten times that, I don’t think I could ever come up with the same answer as Yuigahama.
It’s because I had no intention of stepping over my boundaries. I hadn’t done so to this day and I wouldn’t from now on.
“No, I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Whether it was Yukinoshita being in trouble, her asking for help, or me taking that step over that line of my own accord.
When I stated my remark packed with numerous meanings, Yuigahama looked up at the starry sky. Her wooden sandals clacked and she kicked a rock near her feet. “Even so, you’ll definitely help her, Hikki.”
“There’s no way you’d know that.”
Before I could question how she could be so sure of that, Yuigahama turned around to me.
“I mean, you helped me, didn’t you?”
“I said it before. That was just a coincidence. I wasn’t doing knowing that it’d be helping you. That’s why, I didn’t help you at all.”
That’s why. That gratitude, that trust, or whatever beyond those.
They were all just illusional misunderstandings.
An assessment of something that anyone other than me could do wasn’t something to affirm myself. Evaluating someone’s actions and someone’s personality were entirely different things. Just like how a good person wasn’t judged as such on a single good deed alone, basing my personality on a single act was a problem to me. Therefore, Yuigahama’s sentimental trust was wrong.
“Don’t expect things like that from me.”
Because you’d definitely be disappointed. That’s why you shouldn’t expect things from me from the very start.
Yuigahama and I continued walking with a fixed distance between us. The sounds of our footsteps tapping the earth echoed alternatively in the night city.
The mismatched dissonance continued, that miniscule distance of a step never getting smaller.
And suddenly, it shortened.
Yuigahama abruptly stopped in her tracks and I fell forward, our bodies inevitably getting closer.
She turned around to me and was illuminated by the gentle light of the moon.
“Even if the accident didn’t happen, Hikki would still help me. And like, I think we’d still go see the fireworks together like this.”
“No… it wouldn’t… In the first place, I have no reason to help you.”
There’s no meaning to a supposition that didn’t happen.
There’s no “if” in life.
Life was only “then”.
Yet, Yuigahama gently shook her head. At the corners of her moist eyes, I could see the reflection of the street lights.
“No, that’s not true. You said it yourself, Hikki. That even if the accident didn’t happen, you’d still be alone… And you know what I’m like. I’d start worrying about something some day and then I’d get taken to the Service Club and that’s when I’d meet you, Hikki.”
That pipe dream that could potentially happen was so oddly entertwined with reality that I couldn’t just plain reject it or argue against it. If Yukinoshita, Yuigahama, and I had all met each other in another way, would we have been able to develop another kind of relationship?
As I was thinking, Yuigahama continued, her voice filled with passion. “After that, Hikki would come up with a worthless and dumb solution again. Then you’d help me for sure. And then—“
An interrupting sound.
It could’ve been from me or perhaps from her. The sound of swallowing or maybe even the intensifying of palpitations.
For a moment of time, a vacuum of words.
Curious about her interrupted voice, I looked up and my eyes met with Yuigahama’s.
“And then, I’m sure I’d…”
I could hear the sound of rumbling. Her cellphone was vibrating.
“Ah…” Yuigahama glanced at her purse in her hand. But she ignored it and tried to continue. “I’m sure I’d…”
“Are you sure you shouldn’t pick up?” I said, stopping her from continuing.
Yuigahama casted her eyes downwards to her purse near her hands and squeezed it. But she only did that for a moment before she took out her phone and let out an embarrassed laugh as she raised her face.
“…It’s from my mom.”
She told me to wait for a moment, took a few steps away, and answered her phone.
“Uh huh. Uh huh. I’m almost home already. Uh huh. Okay. Huh? That’s fine! I don’t need that! I’ll be right home, jeez!”
Yuigahama talked on the phone on and on about something and then one-sidedly hung up. After glaring at her phone for a little, she placed it back in her purse.
“My house is right over there, so I’m fine here. Thanks for walking me back… S-See you later!”
“Uh huh, bye. Good night.”
She waved her hands with a “bye bye” and I answered back with the raise of my hand.
Yuigahama briskly trotted into her home without hearing my response all the way to the end. I was a little concerned that she’d trip, but once she disappeared into her apartment, I walked off.
I went through the shopping district on my way home and as if the fervor from the festival hadn’t died off yet, groups of young men and women in a drunken stupor were frolicking around.
I avoided them and walked on the end of the street, indifferently moving ahead. For every silent step I took, the commotion and congestion grew farther.
When there were less pedestrian traffic and tall buildings in the surroundings, speeding cars came and went. The headlights of the cars that started accelerating in the oncoming lane were so bright that I looked away and stopped.
However, that had been only for a moment.
My averted eyes needed to be looking forward eventually.
- Bleach ↩
- The original phrase is ドア閉まります (doa shimarimasu) which means “The door is closing”. This phrase gets slurred to ダァシェイリェス (daa sheiresu) which is what Hachiman says here. ↩
- For some reason, a lot of Seagul’s movies in Japanese have the word 沈黙 (chinmoku) which means “silence” in their titles. ↩
- Parody of the MasterCard commercial ↩
- Kabaya is a Japanese confectionary company. ↩
- Mission Research 200-X is a Japanese variety program where they go around researching strange, interesting, and out-of-place phenomena and stuff. ↩
- Parody of Chitanda Eru’s catch phrase from Hyouka – 気になります (ki ni narimasu) which means “I’m curious!” ↩
- Parody of a program in Japan called, “A swim meet full of girls!” ↩
- Heroine interviews are interviews held after a victory in a team sports match. ↩
- One of Yamcha’s technique from Dragonball ↩
- Nobuko Iwaki’s phrase. He’s a Japanese politician of the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan. ↩
- Political ad ↩
- Dragonball ↩
- Gifu is a city, but can also mean father-in-law. ↩
- Kodoku no Gourmet ↩
- Yaksha ↩