I sank into the living room sofa, and I could hear the long hand of the clock on the wall ticking and ticking.
I made a casual look at it and the small hand was pointing at midnight.
It’s been some time since Hiratsuka-sensei had took me home.
My parents and Komachi already had their dinners and were locked away in their rooms. Kamakura was likely dozing off in Komachi’s room as well.
The kotatsu, perhaps being an old model, would occasionally buzz. No one was using it, yet it was still turned on. I stood up and unplugged it, returning back to the sofa I was resting in earlier.
As it turned out, the room being chilly was helpful. I didn’t get sleepy and most of all, my head was as clear as the cold sky.
Hiratsuka-sensei, without a doubt, had given me a hint. Of course, today wasn’t the only hint; she had given me numerous hints before. Hiratsuka-sensei most certainly did give me a hint. That was likely not limited to only today as it was also something she had continued to tell me up until now. But every single one of them, I either overlooked them, misinterpreted them, or was conflicted with them. So I needed to rethink everything over again, all from the very beginning.
I needed to establish and scrutinize the problem once again.
The biggest recent obstacle was, of course, the Christmas collaboration event. Despite acting as a helper for the event, it was well on its way towards collapse.
In addition, the issues with Isshiki Iroha came to light. Although I was the one who forced her into becoming the president, she wasn’t demonstrating her capabilities as the president at all.
Also, Tsumuri Rumi’s situation was thrown into the mix. I don’t know what kind of effects my actions had on her during summer at Chiba Village. But she was by no means in a favorable position in the present moment.
And lastly… And lastly was the problem with the Service Club.
Only, for this final problem, whenever I’d think about how to solve it, my chest would itch and anything like a solution wouldn’t come to mind. But as far as this last problem’s concerned, just thinking about it made my chest feel murky and something resembling a solution wouldn’t come to mind. I’d cycle through the same resigned expression, the same forcibly, bright smile, and those words she told me at the very end over and over again all so I could procure a clue as to how.
I was so wrapped up in that that I had been wasting time for a while now. This was a problem that should be left for later.
For the other three problems, they were easy to understand because they had clear goals to strive for.
The first problem was to get Isshiki to perform her duties as the Student Council President in this event. The next problem was to make Tsurumi Rumi be able to show that smile even if she’s alone or even if she’s with someone else. And the third problem was to cooperate with Kaihin Sogo High and Tamanawa in order to carry out the event with realistic expectations.
If these could problems could be resolved, we should be able to have a working solution.
I arranged the problems from my head as though I was planting my own death flags, looking for the most optimal solution. The converging point for all the problems was the Christmas collaboration event. That’s where the three problems could be summed together.
So I just needed to think of a way to make the event a success as ideally as possible.
But after working the entire week, I was aware that wasn’t an easy feat. I won’t think I could do something about the situation alone. I even spoke with Tamanawa several times hoping to improve on the situation.
What should I do? Ask for help?
That being the case, the only one who I could really ask was Komachi.
But she was preparing for her upcoming exams, so there’s no way I could bother her now. With her exams just about two months away, there’s no way I could ask for her help. There’s no way I could obstruct the turning point of her life.
Who else was there? Zaimokuza? I could bother him without feeling too bad about it. And I bet he didn’t have anything better to do anyway. But if I take into consideration the groups involved, I don’t think Zaimokuza would function properly. He’s already terrible with communication as it is, so I could only imagine it being worse with people from another school.
…No, I know it’s not his fault.
The responsibility was mine and the cause lied with me.
It’s unbelievable how weak I was.
Why did I immediately try to look to others for help? I felt I could be forgiven if I asked help just once. But because I misunderstood that, I tried to quickly lean on others.
When exactly did I become this weak?
I’m sure the bonds between people were some kind of narcotic. You unknowingly became dependent on those bonds, your heart gradually deteriorating for every incident. Eventually, you couldn’t help but be dependent on people, ultimately being unable to do anything by yourself.
Could it be that while I thought I was helping people, I was only causing them to suffer instead? Was I just giving birth to people who couldn’t stand on their own two feet unless with external assistance?
Our goal was supposed to teach them how to fish, not to give them one.
Easily giving away something was undoubtedly a sham. I’m sure if you could easy give away something, it could also be taken away just as easily in the same vein.
During the Student Council election, Komachi provided me a reason. I acted back then under that stance to maintain the Service Club for Komachi’s sake.
That’s why I was probably wrong at that time.
I should have acted not for her, but with my own answer, my own reason, that I found for myself.
Even now, I was searching for a reason to act from someone. For Isshiki’s sake, for Rumi’s sake, for the event’s sake.
Would they even serve as my reasons to act? I felt I was mistaken about the prerequisites for that. I was thinking about the wrong thing.
I needed to start from the top so I could distinguish between what’s right and what’s wrong.
For what reason did I act the entire time? What was it? I took my thoughts from earlier and contemplated them backwards.
Isshiki Iroha and Tsumuri Rumi were the reasons why I needed to make the Christmas event a success. And I directly involved myself in helping with the event due to forcing Isshiki into the role of president during the Student Council election. That, too, was to keep Yukinoshita and Yuigahama from becoming the president in her place. But why did I not want them to become the president? I was given a reason, a stance, by Komachi, but the real reason was…
Because there was something I wanted.
I’m sure in the past, it was the one thing I truly wanted. Anything else I could do without. Anything else I even hated. But I began to be under the impression that it didn’t exist because I wasn’t able to obtain it in its entirety.
But I felt I could see it. I felt I could touch it.
That’s why I was wrong.
I made the question. Now I needed to think, to think of my answer to that question.
I don’t know how much time I spent brooding over my question. But the blue night began to dissolve, replaced by a faintly whitening sky in the meanwhile.
I kept thinking and thinking, and I couldn’t come up with a single method, strategy, plan, or anything at all. No form of logic, theory, reason, or sophistry came to mind.
───That’s why. That’s why I think this was the answer I was looking for.
× × ×
It was after school in the classroom. I stretched my body at my desk. Lightly moving my body caused my neck and waist to crack.
Last night, I ultimately didn’t get much sleep and headed to school. As soon as I made it to my seat, I fell forward on my desk. I ignored most of my classes.
However, my conscious was rather clear.
I was still dubious of the answer I thought of after spending the entire night. Whether it was really the right one I was looking for, I wasn’t sure.
However, I couldn’t think of anything else.
After one final, big breath out, I stood up from my seat.
I was headed to just one place.
I left the classroom and walked in the hallway.
The empty hallway that looked bleak now didn’t bother me. My blood had been flowing awfully fast the entire time that it made me feel needlessly hot. I couldn’t hear the wind knocking on the windows nor could I hear the distant voices of the various sports clubs. I couldn’t hear anything else over the words that I needed to say, continuously repeating them over and over in my heart.
Eventually, I could see the door that connected to my destination. It was shut, emitting a heavy silence.
I stood before the door and briefly stabilized my breathing. Then, I made two to three knocks on the door. To this day, I had yet to knock on the door before entering the club. However, today was different as I was here with a purpose, so it’d be proper and formal to knock this time around.
Though I waited for a moment, no voice answered my knocks.
I knocked one more time.
I was answered with an audible, but fleeting voice. So that’s what she sounds like. I never noticed, but this is how she sounds from beyond a single door, huh? Once I was acknowledged, I held the handle of the door.
The door racketed as I opened it. It felt heavy. Was it really this heavy before? I used my strength to forcibly open the door.
I went inside and the terribly surprised faces of the two were sitting in their same positions as always.
“Hikki, what’s wrong? You usually don’t knock.”
With her cellphone gripped in her hands like usual, Yuighama Yui had a puzzled look.
Yukinoshita Yukino slid her bookmark into her unfinished book and set it on the table. She then focused on it, casting her eyes downwards.
Not to anyone in particular, she whispered as though quietly mumbling to herself, “…Didn’t I tell you that you don’t need to force yourself to come anymore?”
I waited quietly for her to finish, all so I didn’t let her voice slip by.
“…I know, but I have some business here,” I answered briefly. Yukinoshita didn’t say any further as I stood there idly. A silence then filled the room as though an angel had graced the earth.
“O-Okay, why don’t you take a seat first?” Yuigahama said, determined. Both Yukinoshita and I sent her a look.
I nodded and pulled the closest chair to me. After taking a seat, sitting right before me was Yukinoshita and Yuigahama. Oh, so this is what people see when they come to our club to consult with us and make requests. The seat which I had always sat in, diagonally across from Yukinoshita, was currently occupied by no one.
“What’s wrong…? Aren’t you sitting farther than usual?”
That should be a given. After all, I wasn’t here as a club member, but as a client.
I thought, thought, and thought, and I arrived at only one answer.
The moment you were wrong, that was your answer. You couldn’t solve the same problem over.
But you should definitely be able to question it again. That’s why, from now on, I’d start accumulating the correct answer one by one using the right methods and by taking the right steps. That’s the only thing I could think of.
I let out a big breath and focused on Yukinoshita and Yuigahama.
“I want to make a request.”
These words which I continued to regurgitate inside my heart repeatedly came out far smoother than I had imagined.
Perhaps that’s why Yuigahama had such a relieved look when she listened to me.
“Hikki, you’re finally gonna talk to us…”
Yuigahama smiled warmly. Yukinoshita, however, had a completely different expression. Her eyes were looking at me, yet it felt like she wasn’t focusing on me at all. The way she looked at me like that caused my voice to gradually grow weaker.
“It’s regarding the Christmas event with Isshiki the other day. It’s turning out to be a lot worse than I imagined, so I wanted your help…”
I managed to wring out my words and Yukinoshita dropped her gaze, replying with hesitation. “But…”
“No, I know what you want to say,” I said rapidly, interrupting her before she could turn me down. “I know I took up the requuest on my own. I even said it wouldn’t help her in the long run, but I’m still the one who forced her to become the president. All the problems lie with me.”
It’d be extremely bad if I was turned down here. I didn’t prepare anything that could hope to convince Yukinoshita, but even so, I had to avoid getting rejected here. I gave the few reasons and listed them out to her.
“Do you remember the elementary kid from Chiba Village? She actually hasn’t changed at all…”
“Oh… Do you mean Rumi-chan?” Yuigahama made a difficult face. The incident with her in the past wasn’t a good memory for anyone. Not a single individual was saved, rather, everyone was forced to deal with the worst result ever.
That was how I did things the entire time. But that’s where I was wrong again. That’s why, I desperately spat out my words so I wouldn’t make that mistake once more.
“That’s why I want to do something for her. I know things turned out the way they did because of what I did, and I know I’m being presumptuous, but I still want your help.”
After I finished, I looked at Yukinoshita. She squeezed the fists she had on the table even harder.
“So you’re saying… you’re at fault?”
“…Yeah, I can’t deny it.”
Directly or indirectly, my actions were the cause of everything. That was an infallible truth. Upon answering her, she quietly lowered her eyes and bit her lips.
“I see…” she said, her voice resembling a sigh and lifted her face. Her eyes that were slightly moist looked at me for an instant, but were quickly averted. After taking a moment to search for the words she wanted to say, she spoke with a cold tone.
“…However, if you think the responsibility is yours and only yours alone, isn’t it something you ought to solve on your own?”
Those words caused me to choke for a moment. But I knew I couldn’t stay silent, so I somehow managed to bring out a husky voice. “…Right. Sorry, forget I even asked.”
Now I had lost all my options. I didn’t have anything else in mind. And most of all, Yukinoshita was someone grounded on the fundamental truth, so what she was saying was right.
It made sense to me enough. At least, logically.
I stood up looking to leave the clubroom. But in that moment, I was stopped by a passionate voice.
The voice reverberated in the quiet and cold room.
With damp eyes, Yuigahama looked at Yukinoshita and me.
“That can’t be right. Why the heck do things have to be that way? It makes no sense,” Yuigahama said, her voice trembling. Compared to the two of us who were logically satisfied, she judged it otherwise without a single reason.
To see her like that was so fitting of her that my cheeks slackened. As she wore that weak smile, I slowly opened my mouth as though to explain to a child, though wondering who exactly it was that I was trying to persuade.
“No, it does… It’s only natural to figure out your own problems.”
“…I suppose so.” Yukinoshita agreed, only after taking a moment.
We both replied and Yuigahama quickly shook her head and retorted. “That’s wrong. The both of you are saying completely different things.”
When I looked at Yuigahama to see that she was making a face that was on the verge of tears, my chest tightened and I wanted to remove my gaze from her. But her kind voice wouldn’t allow me to.
“Look, Hikki, you’re not the only one responsible. I mean, you did think up of all the ideas and even carried them out, but we’re just as responsible, too. We’re the ones who forced you to do all the work…”
“…No, you got that wrong.”
I scrambled for the words I needed to tell Yuigahama who was hanging her head. They didn’t push the work onto me at all. In fact, they helped me quite a lot.
However, she lifted her head to look at me, still showing that weeping expression.
“No, I didn’t. You’re not the only one responsible for why things ended up this way. I am, too…” Yuigahama looked over at Yukinoshita’s face. Her gaze implied that there was one other person guilty as well.
Yukinoshita directly returned her gaze, however, she didn’t utter a single word. Her lips were tightly sealed shut.
Pressured, Yuigahama lowered her voice and mumbled, “…You’re being unfair with what you’re saying, Yukinon.”
Her voice may have been docile, but her gaze was firmly locked onto Yukinoshita. Her sincere eyes looked even aggressive.
Yukinoshita didn’t break away from their locked gazes. She took a moment wondering whether she should say anything and responded with a subdued, but sharp tone.
“So you’re bringing that up now…? You’re just as unfair,” Yukinoshita said.
Yuigahama slightly bit her lips. Their gazes went back and forth as though they were glaring each other down.
“Hang on, I’m not here to talk about that.”
Digging out the culprit and placing the blame on him was pointless. I don’t want some kind of pretense where everyone was at fault. I was here to talk about something entirely else.
Not so I could see a quarrel between Yukinoshita and Yuigahama, especially with those expressions they had.
My voice, however, just didn’t reach them. Despite that, my still voice didn’t reach them. Though they looked at each other in diffidence, their words continued to flow out without stopping.
Yuigahama swallowed her breath, her white throat trembling. She faced Yukinoshita with moist eyes and spoke on.
“It’s because you never said anything, Yukinon… There are things we won’t understand if you don’t tell us anything.”
“…You didn’t say anything, either. You would just keep talking as if nothing was wrong.”
Yukinoshita’s voice was cold. Her expression resembled a congealed sculpture that simply and indifferently laid out only the truth. What she was speaking about was likely the time we spent together in the past few days.
“That’s why… I thought if you– I thought if the both of you wanted things to stay this way, then…”
Her murmur was so soft that it could disappear and Yuigahama choked on her words.
The freezing and hollow clubroom simply waited for the end of time to come. That, too, was something Yukinoshita had felt herself.
Both Yuigahama and I, however, had willfully swallowed that temporary nonsense. And by doing that, it might’ve coerced Yukinoshita into acting the same way.
Everyone was the same for not saying the truth. We were here, unable to say a single thing about the things we wanted.
Both she and I had been too indulgent on each other, on how we were supposed to be.
Our ideals and our understanding should’ve been completely separate things, too.
“…We won’t understand if you don’t tell us anything, huh?”
Those very words Yuigahama uttered pulled at my heart. There were things you wouldn’t understand if you don’t say anything. There’s no mistake about that. However, would you really understand if you say something?
Yuigahama turned to me after hearing the words I leaked out. Yukinoshita continued looking downwards. The words I slipped out caused Yuigahama to face my way. I opened my mouth as though urged by Yuigahama’s gaze.
“But that doesn’t mean we’ll understand just by talking things through.”
Yuigahama’s mouth distorted sorrowfully. It looked like tears were close to trickling down from the corner of her eyes. That’s why I spoke as gently as I could to avoid that.
“…I know for sure I won’t take anything I was told at face value. It’s because I might start thinking that there’s more to it, that there are circumstances behind it.”
After all, Yukinoshita was an individual of a few words. Even Yuigahama would be indecisive with her words to try to smooth things over.
On top of that, I was plagued with the habit of looking deeper into what people say.
So when Yukinoshita declared herself as a candidate for the election, I wouldn’t have taken her words at face value even if she told me straightforwardly that she wanted to do it. I’d try to think of other reasons for her declaration to find what it was that she was truly aiming for and ultimately, I think I’d end up being mistaken.
People looked only at the things they wanted to see in the same way of the things they wanted to hear. I was no exception.
Yuigahama rubbed her eyes and passionately lifted her face. “But if we just talk to each other enough, if we just made sure to talk with you Hikki, I…”
“That’s not what I’m saying,” I said, slowly shaking my head to her.
Anyone could say, “I don’t understand if you don’t say anything.” They’d stomach these borrowed words of a stranger and tell others despite being ignorant of what it was they wanted to say, what they wanted to get across, and the pain they had to go through.
There were things that wouldn’t get across even if you said something as well as things that would collapse once you said something.
“It’s arrogance to think saying things out loud is enough to understand. It’s self-satisfaction for the speaker and conceit for the listener… There’s a lot more going on than that and you won’t always come to an understanding just by talking things through. That’s why words aren’t what I want,” I said, feeling my body slightly shake. I made a quick glance outside the window and evening was gradually looming closer and closer. Because of that, the room was starting to get colder.
Although Yukinoshita was silent the entire time, she hugged her shoulders as though to warm herself up.
Yuigahama sniffed and wiped her eyes. Then, she spoke with a teary voice.
“But how we will ever understand if we never talk to each other…?”
“Yeah… Thinking you can understand without talking to each other is delusional. But… I…”
My eyes wandered as I looked for the words I wanted to continue with.
However, I couldn’t find those words no matter where I looked. The only things reflected in my eyes were just the red eyes that were frantically rubbed over and over again, and the profile with long eyelashes that continued to look downwards.
And suddenly, that sight blurred.
I started again, but still unable to find the words.
Just what was I supposed to say? I had already said what I wanted to say, the things I had felt and the things that I thought of. I posed the question so I could start from the top. I was supposed to have thought of the words to make that happen. Now, there was nothing left. I had no more options.
───Ahh, so that’s how it is. The things I tried to say were ultimately, regardless of where I was and regardless of how much I considered, were just my thoughts, my calculations, my measures, and my strategies.
But I still continued to look for the words I wanted to say, the words I needed to say despite not having an ounce of understanding after all that thinking. It’s not like they’d understand just because I said something, too. Saying anything would just be pointless.
I didn’t want words. But there was certainly something else that I wanted.
I didn’t want mutual understanding, friendship, dialogue, companionship; none of those things. I don’t want to be understood. I already know that I’m not and I don’t dare to think I want to be. I wanted something far more cruel and relentless. I wanted to understand. I want to understand. I want to know, I want to gain peace of mind for knowing. It’s because I’m terrified of not knowing these things. It’s terribly self-righteous, egotistic, and arrogant of me to wish for complete understanding. It’s truly wretched and repulsive. It just makes me absolutely disgusted myself for even wanting that.
However, what if… what if we felt the same way?
What if a relationship where we could force that unsightly self-satisfaction onto each other, a relationship that could allow for that arrogance existed?
I know that’s absolutely impossible. I know it’s out of my reach.
The grape that my hands couldn’t reach was, without a doubt, sour.
But I don’t need fruits that were so unbelievably sweet. I don’t need a sham of an understanding nor do I need a deceitful relationship.
What I wanted was that sour grape.
Even if it’s sour, even if it’s bitter, even if it’s disgusting, even if it’s poisonous, even if it’s nonexistent, even if it’s untouchable, even if I couldn’t wish for it.
I could tell my voice was shaking.
“Even so, I…”
I desperately held in the feeling of wanting to break into a sob. Even though I had swallowed my voice and words, they continued to come out in bits and pieces. My teeth would grind noisily and the words were squeezed out on their own.
“I want something genuine.”
The corners of my eyes were hot and my sight was blurring. I could only hear the sound of my breathing.
Both Yukinoshita and Yuigahama looked at my face with a surprised one of their own.
How unsightly. To demand things of other people in such a tearful and pathetic voice. I didn’t want to accept this kind of self. I didn’t want to show it. I didn’t want anyone to see it. Even the things I said were incoherent. There wasn’t any logic or cause and effect anywhere. This was just a bunch of nonsense.
My wet and hot breaths caused my throat to shake. During that, I suppressed my voice that I felt was going to leak out.
Yuigahama called me and gently extended her hand. However, the distance between us wasn’t close enough for her to come into contact. Her stretched hand wouldn’t reach and she weakly dropped it.
It wasn’t just her hand. I wasn’t sure if her words had reached me either.
What exactly could you understand from these words? They’d never understand even if I said them. But having said them was self-satisfaction itself. Or possibly, it was the deception that we detested. It might just have been completely worthless sham.
However, no matter how much I thought, an answer didn’t come out. I didn’t even know what I should do. That’s why the last thing left was this worthless wish of mine.
“I… don’t understand.”
Yukinoshita’s voice was quiet. She held her shoulders, squeezing them tighter, and her expression distorted into pain.
With a quick mutter, she stood up from her seat and briskly made for the door without making so much the slightest look at us.
Yuigahama tried to chase after her and stood up. But worried about me, she turned around.
I sat there, only watching.
I watched Yukinoshita leave the room in a daze with my blurred vision and I let out the pent up hot breaths in my chest.
I might’ve been relieved somehow, feeling how it was finally over.
“Hikki.” Yuigahama grabbed my arm as I spaced out. She pulled me, trying to get me to my feet. Yuigahama brought her face close to mine, looking straight into my eyes with hers mixed with tears. “…We need to go after her.”
My conclusion was already out. The words I needed to say and the thoughts I wanted to get across were no more. I let out a self-derisive smile and I averted my face from Yuigahama.
However, Yuigahama didn’t withdraw.
“We need to go together…! Yukinon said she didn’t understand. I think she probably doesn’t even know why she doesn’t understand… Even I don’t get it. But look! We can’t let things end this way! This is our only chance to talk to her! I’ve never seen Yukinon like that before! That’s why we need to go after her now…”
When she said that, she let go of my arm and then grasped my hand. The hand she strongly squeezed mine with was hot.
Again, Yuigahama pulled my hand along. It wasn’t as strong as the pull from earlier. It was a frailty that was trying to confirm and test something. I was sure even Yuigahama didn’t know what to do either. With our hands still together, she looked up at my face anxiously.
That’s why I gently brushed her hands away.
From that, Yuigahama’s hands dropped weakly and her face was about to burst into tears.
But that’s not what it was. It’s not that I didn’t want to take someone’s hand because I was uneasy. It’s not that I wanted someone to support me because I couldn’t walk on my own. To hold hands was something for an even more different occasion.
Right now, I’ll walk with my own feet.
“…I can walk on my own. Let’s go.”
After I said that, I headed for the door.
From behind was the following footsteps and voice. After confirming that, I opened the door and went into the hallway.
When I did, the figure of a person stiffly in place quickly came into view. It was Isshiki Iroha.
“Ah, Senpai… ahh, um, I wanted to call out to you, but…”
Isshiki was in a fluster as she tried to say things, but right now wasn’t the time to be bothered with Isshiki.
“Iroha-chan? Sorry, can we talk later?”
Yuigahama apologized and quickly ran off. I was about to follow after her as well, but Isshiki stopped me.
“S-Senpai, there’s no meeting today! I came here to say that… A-Also–”
“Yeah, got it.”
I didn’t listen to Isshiki’s words until the end and I answered randomly. I was about to dash off towards Yuigahama who was waiting ahead. But there, the sleeve of my blazer was pulled on.
When I took a look to see what it was, Isshiki had a resigned face and let out a sigh. She then pointed upwards.
“Please hear me out… Yukinoshita-senpai went upstairs!”
“Sorry, and thanks.”
After I thanked Isshiki, I quickly called out to Yuigahama.
“Yuigahama, she’s above us.”
Yuigahama quickly rushed back and we both climbed up the stairs of the special building.
Above likely was referring to the open hallway.
The hallway that connected the school building and the special building was something like a rooftop with a missing roof on the fourth floor. During the winter season, this floor wasn’t particularly used by the students during this time of the season because it was exposed to the cold winds.
After we climbed the stairs, we made it to the plateau of the open hallway.
The afterglow from the west was obstructed by the special building and the evening sun dyed past the glass of the hallway. The sky in the east was beginning to darken.
The open corridor was in the rift of the twilight and Yukinoshita was there.
Yukinoshita was leaning against the handrail and seemed to be in a daze. Her hair danced with the chilly wind. The evening light illuminated her lustrous black hair and the whiteness of her skin. Her eyes shaded with anxiety were directed far towards the cluster of buildings that began to show its night brilliance.
Yuigahama rushed over to Yukinoshita. I followed after her, walking along slowly. I was still catching my breath because we had run straight up the stairs without resting.
I called her with a disconnected voice, but Yukinoshita didn’t turn around.
Even so, it looked my voice had reached her as she spoke in a shuddering, small voice.
“…I don’t understand.”
She voiced those words again.
When she uttered them, my feet stopped.
The chilly wind blew past as if dividing us apart. Yukinoshita slowly turned around as if that wind was agitating to her. Her moist eyes didn’t have any strength as she stood there strongly squeezing her clutched hands that pressed against her bosom.
Yukinoshita asked me with a raspy voice, not bothering to adjust her hair that was disturbed by the wind.
“What exactly do you mean by ‘genuine’?”
Even I didn’t understand it too well. To this day, I have yet to see it for myself, let alone touch it. That’s why I was still here, not knowing whether that thing was something I could say “that was it”. Of course, there was no way that other people would understand. Even so, it’s something that I was wishing for.
As I stood there unable to answer, as if to make it up for me, Yuigahama took a step forward and placed her hand on Yukinoshita’s shoulder.
“Yukinon, it’s okay.”
When Yukinoshita added, Yuigahama made a troubled but an embarrassed grin.
“I honestly don’t get it, either…”
Yuigahama rubbed her bun hair trying to play it off and she retracted her laugh. She took one step closer to Yukinoshita and she placed her other hand on Yukinoshita’s shoulder. And then, Yuigahama gazed at Yukinoshita directly opposite of her.
“I’m sure we’ll figure something out if we just talk it through. But, like, I’m sure we’ll still not get what it is, though. So, like, maybe we’ll never understand, but, I think that could work, too… Okay, I really don’t get it… But you know… I…”
On Yuigahama’s cheeks were a flow of tears.
“I hate how we are our right now…”
Yuigahama said and hugged Yukinoshita’s shoulders that she pulled closer and began to sob as if the string of tension was cut. Unable to embrace her back, Yukinoshita let out a sigh and her lips trembled.
I looked away from those two for just a little.
No matter how much I thought, that answer, those words were the only thing that came out. Just how could she, how could Yuigahama say those words like that?
Like someone who could only wield a theory drenched with a contradicting falsehood in a roundabout way?
Like someone who couldn’t put into words properly their thoughts and instead stayed silent?
Nothing could be conveyed without words, yet there was a mistake because there were words. So what exactly could we understand then?
Yukinoshita Yukino’s held beliefs. Yuigahama Yui’s sought relationship. Hikigaya Hachiman’s desired genuine thing.
Just how different were these, I was here without knowing.
However, those honest tears were enough to tell me. That this time right now wasn’t a mistake at all.
Yukinoshita caressed Yuigahama’s hair while she was pressed against her shoulders.
“Why are you crying…? You really are… unfair.”
After saying that, Yukinoshita pressed her face against Yuigahama’s shoulders like an embrace. I could overhear them softly sobbing.
Both Yukinoshita and Yuigahama supported each other where they stood. Eventually, Yukinoshita breathed out and raised her face.
“Yeah,” I answered, and waited for her to continue. Although she wasn’t looking at me directly, I could feel a strong and resolute will in her voice.
“I accept your request.”
I slightly bowed my head. It was such a short word, yet my voice was close to shivering. When I lifted my head, Yuigahama also lifted her head from Yukinoshita’s shoulders.
“I’ll help too…” Yuigahama said, turning towards me with a trembling voice. When our eyes met, she smiled with wet eyes.
“…Thanks,” I said, and made a meaningless look up at the sky.
Across the sky before me was the blotting of orange.