Chapter 1: Part 3
Was it alright to just bring this girl back to Sakurasou like this?
As Sorata walked along at a halting pace and thought about that, he still couldn’t help but be entranced by the figure of Shiina Mashiro walking alongside him.
Her body was slim. Her voice was soft. Her movements were calm. She didn’t show much emotion at all, and her face was close to expressionless.
Even now, walking next to her like this made Sorata feel as if he was standing on a slab of thin ice.
She seemed like a delicate glass ornament that would break if he just touched her.
Those were the impressions that Sorata got from Mashiro.
And what’s more…
“Sorata’s a nice name.”
“It sounds nice. I like it.”
She would suddenly say things like that and make Sorata quite happy. She was quite a defenseless girl.
Sorata didn’t think she would fit in very well at Sakurasou.
Sakurasou was a gathering place for those without common sense. It was a nest for the abnormal.
The alien Kamiigusa Misaki. The hikikomori Akasaka Ryuunosuke. The emperor of the night, Mitaka Jin. And last but not least, that very embodiment of apathy, the lazy teacher Sengoku Chihiro.
Now that he thought about it, at some point Jin had disappeared.
Because of that, Sorata was left alone with this girl he had just met.
And the more he tried to come up with some sensible topics of conversation, the less he could come up with.
And then, there was what Mashiro had said earlier.
Sorata could feel a burning in his chest.
But rather than discouraging him, Sorata’s misery just made him more impatient.
So, is Shiina going to start at Suikou this year?”
Mashiro lightly shook her head.
“Ah, I see… so you’re a second-year?”
This time, she gave a light nod.
“So we’re in the same year…”
Her clear eyes slanted up and looked at Sorata. Her facial expression showed no signs of changing.
Seeming to get embarrassed, she broke eye contact.
They continued to head towards Sakurasou in silence.
If it’s like this, then I’ll have to just shield her from everyone else. Our enemies will be fierce, but I’ll have to do what I can.
The roof of Sakurasou was already in view.
When Sorata and Mashiro arrived at Sakurasou, the moving vans out front were just leaving. The engines roared noisily as they disappeared in the direction of the train station.
Sorata set the suitcase he had taken from Mashiro on one side of the entrance way.
“Come in, come in.”
Sorata ushered Mashiro into the house.
And then, like a cheetah who had locked onto her prey, Misaki came running… or rather, leaping… down from the second floor. She landed on the ground and crouched to absorb the shock, looking exactly like a wild animal.
“Welcome to Sakurasou~!”
She didn’t hold back and let loose the party cracker she held in her hand. The confetti magnificently sprayed right into Sorata’s face.
For now, Sorata retaliated by sending a sharp chop right into the crown of Misaki’s head.
“Ugaah! How could you do that to a girl?!”
“If you want to call yourself a girl, at least stop sleeping in my room, dammit!”
“That’s fine! I haven’t even kissed anyone, so I’m completely pure, through and through.”
Left out of the loop, Mashiro vacantly stared from behind Sorata.
“Ah, it’s not like that, senpai is just my senpai, so it’s not like we’re in some inappropriate relationship or something! Don’t get the wrong idea, alright?”
“Ehh~~, what’s this? Kouhai-kun is already worried about what Mashiron thinks?”
“No! Also, calling her ‘Mashiron’… how did senpai know her name?”
“Hey hey, let’s not just stand in the entranceway like this. Let’s give her a tour!”
“You’re the one who stopped me in the first place!”
“So this means I’ll finally have a next-door neighbor now! I wonder if we’ll sleep over in each others’ rooms? Maybe we’ll talk to each other about boys and love! Uwaaah, I’m getting really excited now~!”
Brushing the now-entranced Misaki aside, Sorata took Mashiro to the boy-prohibited second floor.
A plate reading “Mashiro’s Room” was hanging from the door to room 202. Along with the drawing of an unknown anime character.
“I worked late yesterday night and made that.”
At some point, Misaki had caught up with Sorata and butt in.
“Even though you were playing games until the morning last night…”
Not perturbed in the slightest by Sorata’s comment, Misaki flung open the door to the room without even asking the room’s inhabitant for her permission.
Even though Sorata had thought this room had been empty, he now saw a bed, a dresser, a desk, and a PC with a huge monitor, along with a bunch of luggage carrying all kinds of clothing. Everything was perfectly neat and orderly.
“What do you think?! Isn’t it impressive? In the time kouhai-kun was out, they did an amazing job in here. Aren’t they great?! That moving company with the rhino on their logo! They’re pros! They were total pros!”
Pointlessly getting worked up over it, Misaki puffed out her chest and looked triumphant, as if it had been her own work.
“But it’s not like senpai did anything at all.”
“I was totally looking over them the entire time.”
All the while, the room’s inhabitant stood there silently and looking unimpressed, continuing to stare at this exchange between Misaki and Sorata.
“Shiina… are you sure you want to stay and live here?”
Her voice was as soft as a gentle breeze. She didn’t speak very loudly, but her tone was firm, and it was strange that she could sound so determined like that. But, as expected, no matter how many times Sorata heard her talk, her expression remained indifferent.
Just looking at her made Sorata’s pulse race. Where exactly were these feelings coming from…?
“Ahh, but I’m really really happy about this~~. It’s great to have someone else from the arts department here~~.”
Looking quite entranced, Misaki tried to get closer to Mashiro, but Sorata held her face back and stopped her.
“Ah, Shiina, so you’re also in the arts department?”
It was impossible to get into that department even under normal circumstances. It would be quite something to be able to transfer in as a second year.
“Yes I am.”
Mashiro remained calm and collected.
“Ohh, too slow, too slow! You have nooooooo idea what’s going on! Modern warfare is a battle of information, you know! You’ll lose a hundred out of a hundred battles like this! How sad, how sad, makes me want to lasso you!” (1)
Stopping himself from responding with “I really don’t care what you say,” Sorata tried desperately to get this runaway train named Misaki back on the rails.
“So, what does senpai know about all this then?”
“Mashiron is really really famous in the design art world! She’s been in England since she was little, getting a special education for gifted children in the arts!”
So in other words, she had come back to Japan from overseas. So how strange she acted, how softly she talked, the generally weird atmosphere that surrounded her… those might have all been because of her extended stay overseas. (2)
“She’s already gotten a lot of her artwork hung in foreign art museums! And she’s won prizes too! People also say that some of those paints are really, really valuable.”
When Sorata saw that Mashiro wasn’t denying any of this, he realized that it was probably true.
But Sorata knew nothing about how impressive that was in the art world.
“If you had to compare her to a Shinkansen (3), which one would she be?”
“She’d be the Nozomi (4), of course!”
“Whoaaa, that’s amazing.”
Giving me a triumphant look, Misaki thumped herself on the chest with both hands.
“Hmm, I guess senpai is still a fine arts student, even if she’s rotted away since then.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Well, that’s why you knew about Shiina, right?”
“Ah, no. Chihiro-chan told me everything yesterday.”
“Why the hell are you acting so proud of yourself then?!”
“Because even if only for a second, the person with the information first is the winner! Fuahahahahaahaha!!”
In response to her nonsensical, raucous laughter, Sorata once again tried to chop her on the head. But Misaki caught his hand in midair.
“Don’t think something ever works on me twice!”
Well, in that case… Sorata quickly backhanded her now-defenseless forehead.
“Ugaaah! Oww!! What are you, kouhai-kun, some kindergartner who likes teasing the girl he likes?!”
“When it comes to senpai, I don’t remember ever feeling anything other than annoyance!”
“I can understand that you’re at that age when you tend to fool yourself. I understand that you’re at that age when you like to talk big! But lying is bad, kouhai-kun! Don’t forget that time you tried to attack me while I was naked in the tub and got a huge nosebleed over it! Don’t forget how you got completely aroused by my wet, naked body! Kouhai-kun is so cute when he gets flustered like that!”
“Argh! T-That was… you were ignoring the bathroom usage rules and it was your fault I saw you like that! I was the victim! Give me back those red and white blood cells!”
“I’m pretty amazing when I strip naked, you know!”
“I’d say you’re pretty amazing even if you don’t!”
And then, he suddenly remembered where they were… and Sorata timidly turned towards Mashiro. Sorata couldn’t see even a tiny speck of emotion in Mashiro’s expression. All she did was stare at them with a slight hint of wonder.
“Umm, are we scaring you?”
“Well, just this entire conversation between me and Misaki…”
Mashiro cocked her head to the side, looking even more confused than before.
The sheer cuteness of her actions were enough to choke Sorata up before he could speak again.
“Oh God, she’s so cute… is what you’re obviously thinking, kouhai-kun.”
“Even if that’s true, why the hell would you go blabbing about it like that?!”
Sorata took hold of Misaki’s head and began to grind his fists on both sides.
“You two are getting along as usual.”
Turning around, Sorata saw the figure of Chihiro, shuffling about like a zombie. Perhaps Sorata’s curse had taken effect, but it seemed that the mixer hadn’t ended in success for her.
Behind her stood Jin, who had separated from Sorata and Mashiro at the station. For some reason, Jin seemed to be in a bad mood as he looked at Sorata and Misaki, holding shopping bags in both hands. The bags were filled with a complete set of nabe (5) ingredients, as well as sweets and juice.
He met Sorata’s gaze.
“We’ll need these for her welcome party, right?”
A single corner of Jin’s lips curved upwards, and he gave us a practiced smile.
“Sensei is also back pretty early. So you couldn’t find a husband, could you?”
“Well, I also got made a fool of. There wasn’t a single doctor there! It was all a lie! They sure had some nerve, making all that stuff up!”
“Well, sensei lies about her age, so you really can’t talk here.”
Chihiro had told Sorata earlier. At the mixer, she was an eternal 27-year-old.
“Ugh, dammit. I hope all the happy people in the world just fall off a cliff.”
“Chihiro-chan, don’t give up. If you can’t find a husband, kouhai-kun says he’ll take you as his bride.”
“I never said that!”
“Hmm, give it five years and that’s not a bad idea.”
“It is a horrible idea!”
“But honestly, so you finally got here.”
Chihiro’s line of sight turned firmly to Mashiro. It probably wasn’t Sorata’s imagination that there was some hidden meaning behind that gaze.
Mashiro responded softly.
“Umm, sensei, can I ask you something?”
“I really want to just punch someone right now, so make it brief.”
“Just one question then.”
Sorata honestly wanted to ask a lot of other things.
Like, why would someone who was getting a good education overseas deliberately come back to live here?
Like, where were her parents?
But out of all the questions Sorata wanted to ask, he ended up asking the one that was most on his mind.
“Why did Shiina move into Sakurasou out of all places? There should have been vacancies in the normal dorms, right?”
“That’s obvious, isn’t it?”
“No, I really have no clue.”
“Because Mashiro belongs here.”
“It’ll be clear all too soon. Especially for you.”
Chihiro had a suspicious glint in her eye, but as expected, Sorata had no idea what it meant.
(1) Sad in this context is “nagekawashii,” while “want to lasso” is “nagenawashitai.” So there’s some vague nonsensical play on words happening here.
(2) Western education doesn’t turn people into quiet meek people… Western education generally tends to make people into crazy drunkards.
(3) Bullet train system in Japan.
(4) Probably the fastest shinkansen line in Japan.
(5) Let’s throw random stuff in a pot of boiling water and eat it!