The autumn wind shook the curtains.
Glancing in from the fragmentary flashes of the other side were the crimson dyed cirrocumulus clouds. The slightly opened window saw the passage of the blowing wind.
That scenery continuously flickered and my hands that turned the pages stopped. The slight, incessant flickering at the corner of my eyes was aggravating. I wasn’t able to concentrate at all due to how bothersome it was.
In contrast, from this end of the long table to the other, sitting diagonally from my position was a girl.
Yukinoshita Yukino had not the slightest movement since a while ago.
Her gaze was directed at the book in her hands, quietly tracing line to line. It was surely because of the window being situated behind her that her field of vision didn’t capture the movements of the curtains.
Sitting on that side might have been the better choice. Regardless, given that both of our positions were already fixed at this point, taking the trouble to relocate myself literally would have been a bad seating.
Habitually, I would occupy the side that received less light from the sun, taking up the position away from the window while it was common for Yukinoshita to sit in the area where her back would receive the tender sunlight.
But now with the onset of fall, the sunlight was visibly dwindling. The day was getting shorter.
Summer vacation had ended and we were just a few days into the month of September. Strong traces of summer still lingered during the day, but we were transitioning to a season in which the evening would be imminent along with the sudden blowing of the freezing wind just like now.
We may have been entering the second semester, but our lives weren’t going to differ all that much. As always, Yukinoshita and I had been making sure to attend club. Though, the only activity we really engaged ourselves in was reading. While Yukinoshita and I were engrossed in reading, Yuigahama was fiddling with her bothersome cellphone, the sounds of “click, clack” echoing.
The wind that blew by, stronger than earlier, shook the window frame.
The curtain flapped back and forth, abusing the page I was just about to read. Hey, cuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurtain! For a while now, the curtain’s self-assertion, “curtain, curtain!” has been really out of control, what are you, Bonchuu1?
Out of pure annoyance, I glared at the window and clicked my tongue. The wind was pretty aggravating in its own right, but so were the curtains that simply let it blow by. Where’s your sense of self? The only permissible things that could be blown were the skirts of girls and Chiba Marine Stadium.
Whoa, at the corner of my eyes, a skirt flapped back and forth. The owner of that skirt, Yuigahama, stood up from her seat, situated midway of the long desk from my side, and shut the window. The bold fluttering of her skirt suggested that there might have been Pokémon lurking there, nearly making me want to venture forth. Phew, my Pocket Monster was this close to going wild there…
“The wind’s gotten pretty strong, huh?”
Not a single voice answered.
Only audible were the reverberations of the clacking window.
Despite the lack of responses, Yuigahama opened her mouth without getting discouraged. “I hear a typhoon’s coming.”
Since she continued further, Yukinoshita and I finally lifted our faces from our books.
Yuigahama displayed a relieved expression. “The weather was so good during the break too.”
“Really? Felt more like the days were mostly dark to me.” I racked my head in contemplation, but I had no recollection of the days being bright out. The only memories I had of the DO-TEN P-KAN2 weather, the painfully sunny weather, were on the days I had left my house so…
“Hikki, you don’t leave the house so of course you wouldn’t know.” Yuigahama lightly snickered. I guess so.
“…It’s that. Light curtains are just too efficient nowadays. It’s because of that that it’s so dark.”
“It’s light, but it gets dark?” Yuigahama made a puzzled face and I found myself returning one as well.
After Yuigahama and I looked at each other curiously, I somehow realized she had meant something else. Hey, this girl wasn’t seriously asking this, right? Oh gosh, what a scary girl.
Yukinoshita, who had been listening to that helpless exchange, closed her book and hesitantly opened her mouth. “…I’ll explain just in case, but light curtains are things that block light.”
“Eh…? Ah, t-that’s right! Yeah… I-I knew that…” Yuigahama answered, initially with a short pause from surprise, but at the end, she was totally looking away. With eyes that gazed upon a pitiful child, I added a follow-up.
“Well, you know. Light does have its ancient origins for Japanese people. Considering we have things like light-blocking clay figures, historically, we’re sort of like people of the light.”
There existed people who shouldered the fate of hating the light, but loving the dark. They were called the Japanese. Whoa, that’s one chuuni explanation there.
“Oh right! But I guess that might make sense if you put it like that. Pit-houses don’t seem like they’d have any windows too.” Yuigahama said, expressing a gasp of admiration.
On the other hand, Yukinoshita placed her hand on her temple as if trying to hold back a headache and sighed. “The light-blocking clay figurines are only referred to as such because they resemble the devices used by the Inuit to ward off light in the snow, so light doesn’t have any relevance here…”
It was a small voice resembling a gentle whisper. Those words clearly resonated, whereas any other sound could not.
“Ah, is that so? H-Heeeh…”
The displayed embarrassment from her mistaken knowledge with her triumphant look was abnormal. Jeez, there’s no way we can have a decent conversation now. Most of all, the reprimanding tone wasn’t given any talk back, different from how it had been up until now.
Yukinoshita didn’t reproach her any further, seemingly out of consideration.
She returned to her reading again while I rested my cheeks against one hand, flipping pages with the other.
In the distance was the whooshing sound of the blowing wind. It was going “whoosh, whoosh” that you’d end up thinking it was a Japanese Railroad spy of the sort.
Only someone’s cough could be heard.
Upon realizing, the sole sound to reach my ears was the ticking of the clock’s second hands.
Was the timing in which people became aware of silence not all that different, I wonder?
Yuigahama took a deep breath with something in mind. “Hey Hikki, you should, like, go out more, definitely. You know, vitamin C? You’ll make stuff like that or something.”
“I think you’re talking about vitamin D. Making vitamin C or whatever, you some kind of lemon? Human bodies don’t produce vitamin C.”
“Yeah. By the way, apparently, exposing yourself to sunlight twice a week for thirty minutes is enough to produce the vitamin D you need. Therefore, there isn’t a need to leave the house.” I explained with a triumphant face. As one who belonged to the private liberal arts, when it came to bits of trivia classified as miscellaneous, I was strong. In fact, that actually might be a characteristic of those in the liberal arts.
Yuigahama’s expression had a look of hesitation, surprised by my abundant knowledge. “Why the heck do you know so much…? Are you a health nut or something? Gross…” She hit me with some horrible words.
“…Long ago, my parents said something similar so I looked it up.”
“You didn’t really want go out that much, huh…”
“Nothing less from Hikikomori-kun.”
Again, how the heck did you know about my nickname in middle school?
I was planning to go farther, but I immediately stopped there… Well, not saying anything wasn’t particular anything bad. Right, it’s like, you know, I didn’t have anything interesting enough that’d be good enough as a retort. It’s that, you know? Just now was one of those patterns where staying quiet was correct. You get that sometimes. Whenever someone talks to you for just a little, you get carried away and make some sort of retort which everyone responds with silence. The sudden recollection made me writhe in agony.
But despite having said nothing, the silence didn’t change.
Yukinoshita’s eyelashes didn’t move a single inch as she apathetically looked at the page of her book.
Her reactionless behavior bothered Yuigahama as she tried to bury the silence with a laugh. “A-Ahaha… Hikki, you really are a hikki, after all.”
“Hey, hey, it’s the right way to live, continued by the righteous since the age of gods. Even the chief god of Japanese legends, Amaterasu-oomikami, shut herself in.”
I followed the legends and didn’t leave my house. I performed the acts of gods, in other words, I was the God of the New World.
“The gods in Japanese legends aren’t exactly all righteous after all…”
“Eh, is that how it is?”
“Pretty much… There’s quite a lot of that in polytheist stories.”
In reality, it’s a huge mess. If you read the legends carefully, you’d find a bunch of ridiculous stories all over.
Yuigahama moaned in admiration after that conversation. “When I hear god, I think of something perfect though.”
If it was the all-encompassing GOD, then he was probably established as such, but when you hear gods in Japanese, they weren’t confined to just perfection . The existence of many kinds of gods was this country’s legend. Absolutely righteous gods who were omniscient and omnipotent gods weren’t necessarily seen as such everywhere else.
When that came to mind, I slipped out some words. “…Well, forcing your image on things including gods isn’t exactly something you should do.”
I wasn’t expecting a reply from anyone. It was just number eighteen of my familiar and special monologues. After a considerable pause, a tiny voice slipped among the sound of turning pages.
“…I suppose so.”
She held the same opinion as well, likely not expecting a reply either. Her voice and her gaze weren’t directed at anyone.
You mustn’t force images on things.
Only gods were what you should expect perfection from.
You mustn’t demand an ideal from anyone.
That is weakness. It is an evil that must be hated. It is negligence that must be punished. It spoils not only yourself, but those around you.
You are allowed to be disappointed with only yourself. You should hurt only yourself. Hate only yourself for not following your ideal.
The only one who you must not forgive is yourself.
Conversation had halted. The atmosphere had frozen. Time had passed. The room was closed off, yet the suspended time felt as if it had brought down the temperature of the room.
“A-Ahumm…” Yuigahama alternated looks between Yukinoshita and me, trembling, and then dropped her shoulders.
Recently, there was nothing but these kinds of exchanges.
Everyone would try their best to talk and try to find chances to start conversation; they were those kinds of days.
This having been the state for the past few days, even Yuigahama was starting to get tired.
As if to destroy the room submerged in tranquility, the wind pounded against the window.
The rattling of the glass window sounded in the room, sending tremors to the air of the room. Yuigahama looked outside, hoping to trigger a conversation.
“I-It looks like things are going to get pretty bad, huh? If the Keiyou Line stops, Yukinon won’t be able to go home, right?”
“Yes, that’s true.”
If I remembered correctly, Yukinoshita commuted to school using the Keiyou Line.
If the typhoon said to be large and powerful were to set for Kanto, then Chiba would become an isolated island. Following the Keiyou Line at the head, the Sobu Line, the Jouban Line, the Keisei Line, the Toei-Shinjuku Line and many other railroad network systems would be temporarily suspended. We would be cut off from the rest of Japan and we would undoubtedly become independent.
Then again, Chiba sure had a lot of railroads. Besides the already mentioned, there was also the Choushi Electric Railway Line and the Kominato Line, both of which were in a good sense, shabby railroads. Even more, there were the major ones like the Uchibo Line and the Sotobo Line, but unfortunately, you’d find it hard to differentiate between the two if you lived near Tokyo. Sometimes when you honestly mistaken them, you’d get yelled like a raging fire. The anger of the citizens of Chiba was the Flame of Recca!
Anyway, if a typhoon came around, the numerous urban city transportation facilities would be halted. Even Yukinoshita wouldn’t be able to avoid being influenced by that.
“I know, right. So, like, my house is pretty close…” Yuigahama tried to speak her words, but stopped.
When I looked around, bothered by the bizarre silence that sprouted up, Yukinoshita was making an extremely, painful expression.
“…It’s fine. When that time comes, I can walk back home.”
“I-I see. It’s not, like you can’t walk that distance or anything.”
The nearest station Yukinoshita lived next to was about two stations away. It definitely was a walkable distance.
Yuigahama adjusted her disposition and talked to me. “Hikki, are you going home by bike?”
“Yeah”. I answered and looked outside. Luckily, there wasn’t any rain yet. I brought my umbrella just in case, but I wanted to avoid going home while using it in the middle of a typhoon.
“Why not go home on the bus at least for these kinds of days?”
“I don’t like how crowded the buses are, so no.”
Add in the fact that it was ridden by mostly our students. If I bumped into a classmate, it’d be a big problem. It was fine if it was someone that did me the favor of ignoring me. It really was painful forcing people to be weirdly considerate of me and stop their enjoyable chatter. My chest would be full of guilt. It was on the level of Dazai, where I’d apologize for being born out of reflex.
Above all else, going home on the bus at this time meant doing so together with Yuigahama. And this is Yuigahama we’re talking about here. There was no doubt she would try to talk to me somehow.
—-For us to be seen like that.
For Yuigahama to be seen amiably chatting with someone at the lowest denominator of the caste wasn’t a feeling I could stomach at all. I didn’t want her to go through that time during the fireworks festival again.
Anyway, it’d be nice if we could go home before the weather gets any worse…
With the terrible weather overheard, the other clubs were readying to leave early. We can stay longer, but I doubt we’ll see any more clients today, I thought.
The door of the room then clattered open without warning.
“You guys are still here?” Hiratsuka-sensei, the adviser of the Service Club, entered the room, choosing not to knock like always. “The other clubs are already leaving. Head on home before the weather gets any worse.”
Yukinoshita closed her book after listening. “Let’s call it a day, shall we?”
The room was dark with the clouds looming low overhead. Pulling those shadows along made even Yukinoshita’s face look dark.
“…Well, take care on your way back.” Hiratsuka-sensei looked at Yukinoshita in consideration, but said nothing further and left.
Yuigahama and I didn’t raise any objections, readied to go home, and left the room together.
“…I’ll return the key before leaving.” Yukinoshita left with those words, walking down the empty hallway.
I faced towards the entrance without seeing her off. Yuigahama was three steps behind me, slightly hesitant about what she should do herself.
We were speechless up until we changed our shoes.
Only the sounds of the loafers dropping echoed at the entrance. When I slipped on my loafers, I went straight outside.
“I’ll be going home on my bike.”
“Okay. Bye-bye.” Yuigahama waved her hand in front of her chest and we exchanged our goodbyes.
The wind that contained the humidity from the south was awfully lukewarm.
× × ×
I desperately pedaled my bike through the headwind. The city bike which I abused for over a year now screamed. The pedaling sounds rippled atop the incessant noise.
No matter how much I pedaled, it felt like I wasn’t making any progress. If anything, it was more like I was getting pushed from behind. My spirit was nearly going to break from the considerably, strong wind, but I desperately stepped down on my pedals.
Though the day may have gotten shorter, the sun should still be looming overhead. It’s just that thick clouds were beginning to form as if to hide it away.
The staggering street lights unreliably lit the way, with the vinyl bag and empty cans jerking back and forth.
In the darkness, the smell of dirt mixed with the humidity wafted in the air with black spots emerging all over the asphalt.
The stains increased by one, and one. Raindrops continued to pour, accompanied by loud sounds.
Eventually, the black spots engulfed the entire ground.
The rain noisily fell and fell, paying no heed to me at all, dropping and dropping. It was at the point where my arms getting hit were in pain.
The rain droplets mercilessly pounded against my body, turning my dress shirt transparent. I couldn’t help but be frustrated at the lack of high school girls in the area.
—-What a pain, what the heck is this…? I whispered inside of my mouth and I pulled my umbrella from my bike.
I expanded the vinyl umbrella while shielding myself from the rain.
But in the next instant, the powerful wind picked up strength and destroyed the umbrella. The frame of the umbrella crumpled and the vinyl turned into a simple sail. The wind carried me along, right, like that of a yacht.
I lost my balance and frantically regained my footing.
…I was this close to falling over there.
I wiped off the cold sweat and the raindrops and folded the broken umbrella in resignation.
—-Really. What a pain.
The wind that drowned out the surrounding noise and the torrential rain that you couldn’t even squint in.
My drenched clothes sapped away the warmth of my body, subjecting me to the weight of the humidity. My vision was already obscure.
In this kind of rain, my tires, my words, and my thoughts started to slip away.
The Hanami River that stuck out from the cycling course continued to spew out black water, washing away all sorts of things.
But in the middle of the storm, the only thing it left behind was me.