Chapter 1: Part 5
That night, in order to deal with the huge problem that was Shiina Mashiro, Sorata called the residents of Sakurasou together for a meeting.
In short, it was a place where the residents would lay down some ground rules on how they would live together.
Up until today, many of the Sakurasou rules were decided at these meetings, from normal duties like assigning who would prepare the meals, who would do the shopping, who would clean the bathroom, to stranger tasks like assigning who would fix leaky roofs and who would deal with beehives.
Today, the goal of the meeting was to establish the new task of taking care of Mashiro, and to decide who would be responsible for this “Mashiro duty.”
For the first time in around a month, all the residents of Sakurasou gathered around the round table in the living room. In clockwise order, Chihiro, Misaki, Jin, Sorata, and Mashiro were sitting around the table.
Akasaka Ryuunosuke, who refused to come out of his room, was participating in the meeting via web chat. Misaki was talking with him, clacking on the keyboard of her laptop with a piece of fried shrimp in her mouth.
“Um, well, we all know why we’re here today. I want everyone in Sakurasou’s participation for us to overcome this very difficult problem.”
Completely unlike Sorata, who was giving it his all, everyone else was engrossed in their meal and wasn’t really listening.
Trying to breathe life into the otherwise disinterested meeting participants, Sorata banged both his hands onto the table.
In the end, he had gotten to school late this morning.
After washing Mashiro’s face, he got her to put on a camisole that was the same color as her panties, got her to change out of her wet blouse, forced her to wear socks, and fixed her frazzled head of bed hair… and by the time all of that was done, they were already pretty late.
If they were going to be late anyways, Sorata figured that they might as well eat breakfast properly, after which they leisurely strolled to school.
They couldn’t make the boring opening ceremony, but Sorata made an appearance in homeroom.
When Sorata brought Mashiro to the staff room, he was surprised that Chihiro didn’t yell at him, but it seemed that she had been expecting them to be even later than they were.
Well, in that case, she really should have given me a warning in the first place.
Completely exhausted by this morning, Sorata couldn’t pay any attention in his new second-year classes.
And after school, Chihiro forced him to show Mashiro around the school all by himself.
No matter where Sorata brought her, Mashiro reacted in an ambiguous way that made it difficult to judge whether she was interested or not, and the whole ordeal made Sorata feel quite powerless.
Sorata was also the one who brought Mashiro home. It was because Mashiro could not even remember how to get home, even though it was only a ten minute walk.
After Sorata got home from school, he waited one hour… then two… but no matter how long he waited, Mashiro didn’t come back.
Getting worried, Sorata went back to look for her, and found that she wasn’t even on the road home, but was rather wandering around the school like a lost puppy.
And what’s more, the person herself didn’t seem to be conscious of the situation, and claimed that she wasn’t planning on going home until then in the first place.
And that wasn’t all.
Being responsible for buying groceries that week, Sorata stopped by the convenience store to get some milk that Misaki had wanted.
Mashiro followed him there too.
And without even paying, Mashiro began to eat the food on display. As if it were completely natural, she took a baumkuchen (1) from the shelf, opened it without apology, and began to hungrily stuff her face with it. She did it so unapologetically that it took Sorata a moment before he realized what she was doing.
“Umm, Shiina-san? Pray tell, what exactly may you be doing?”
“I like them.”
“If everyone could just do anything because they ‘liked it,’ then we wouldn’t even need the police!”
“But there are a lot.”
“Those are on sale! You have to pay for them!”
Mashiro cocked her head to the side and looked puzzled.
“Shiina… what kind of life have you been living up until now?”
“I’ve been drawing.”
“And what else?”
“I’ve been drawing.”
“I’ve been drawing.”
“I heard you! I was waiting for you to say something else!”
At that point, the shop manager heard the commotion and came by, making Sorata feel thoroughly humiliated as he bowed his head over and over and over in apology. While that was happening, Mashiro finished eating her baumkuchen, and was reaching for her second.
“Shiina! What are you trying to do to me?! You have it in for me or something?!”
“You want some?”
With a cute expression, she tore off a piece and held it out for Sorata.
“I don’t want it!”
“It’s tasty though.”
In the end, Sorata was allowed to take the empty package and the half-empty package of baumkuchen to the register. Sorata was at least relieved that he knew the shop manager from before, and the manager had a good laugh about how strange Mashiro was.
“And those were all the horrible things I went through today.”
“Well, nothing you could have done about that.”
The one who had said that was Chihiro, who was the only person cheerfully drinking beer at the table.
“All she’s ever done is study art, so she’s not exactly normal.”
“No no no, I don’t think ‘not exactly’ is strong enough here!”
Obviously not caring about the terrible things that were being said about her, the topic of discussion herself was skillfully using her chopsticks to get rid of the fried breading around a fried shrimp. Afterwards, without a care in the world, she placed the fried shells on Sorata’s plate.
“What are you doing?”
“Shedding the skin.”
“Is this the time to be trying to be funny?!”
“I’m not being funny.”
“That was a rhetorical question!”
Mashiro cocked her head lightly to the side, and turned her focus back on her dissection, turning her second fried shrimp into just a normal shrimp. She once again put the liberated fried portion onto Sorata’s plate. And then, she ate the now naked shrimp in one bite.
“Oh, she’s also really picky with her food.”
“Sensei, why couldn’t you have told me all of this before?!”
Shocked at this new problem and now no longer paying attention to his plate, Sorata couldn’t react in time to stop Misaki from snatching two pieces of fried shrimp from his plate. He didn’t even have a chance to complain before she popped both pieces into her mouth.
“Senpai, what the hella re you doing?!”
“It’s not fair if kouhai-kun is the only one that Mashiron is sharing with!”
“Well, then take these empty fried pieces away instead!”
“But I’m growing, you know!”
Misaki puffed out her chest.
“I am too!!”
“Hmm, you know, just a thought, but don’t ‘notebook’ and ‘no panties’ sound pretty similar?” (2)
“What the hell are we talking about now?!”
“Alright, alright, don’t throw a hissy fit, Kanda~~. Bring out some more beer.”
Now completely drunk, Chihiro rolled her empty beer can in Sorata’s direction.
“Go do it yourself!”
“But you’re closer.”
Jin, who had stayed silent up until that point, put on a bitter smile and stood up, getting a can of beer from the refrigerator and passing it to Chihiro.
“Ahh, Mitaka is really a nice kid~~. Completely unlike Kanda~~.”
“You’d say that about anyone who gave you a beer, wouldn’t you?! Also, don’t forget that we’re talking about what to do about Shiina today!”
“Well, her parents told me that she would need a caretaker. So that’s why she’s here at Sakurasou.”
Caretaker. What made it frightening was that she probably wasn’t far off the mark.
“In that case, sensei should take responsibility for her and look after her!”
“Hey now, don’t be crazy, Sorata.”
The one who had interjected was Jin, who had finished eating first and was now shooting off email after email with his phone.
“This meeting is pointless.”
“Don’t say that!”
“You haven’t thought this out, have you? I’m not here very often, and asking Misaki to take care of someone else would be ridiculous. I’m her childhood friend, so I would know. And Chihiro-chan is busy looking for a husband right now, so it would be pretty terrible to stick her with a child.”
Jin had skipped one name, but it was pretty obvious that leaving Mashiro up to that person would have been a terrible idea.
“Then please, Jin-san, you’re my last hope!”
“No no, that’s impossible, I said. Monday I have to meet with that fourth year drama student Misami-san, Tuesday it’s the nurse Noriko-san, Wednesday it’s the florist Kana-san, and Thursday it was that young married woman Meiko-san, I think? And then Friday it’s that promotional model Suzune-san, and Saturday I doubt that office lady Rumi-san is going to let me go home. I don’t have a single moment free.”
“You damn bourgeois playboy! You completely changed your class to maharaja, didn’t you?! (3) You gonna move to India or something, you asshole?!”
“Don’t get so worked up. It’s not like I’m doing anything wrong.”
“Wake up! At the very least, it’s definitely immoral to be doing this with a married woman!”
“Ah, I guess that’s true. And we almost got caught by her husband a little while ago… that seriously was bad.”
Perhaps he had finally finished sending off all his emails, but Jin finally put down his cell phone.
At the same time, Chihiro was working on downing her sixth beer of the day.
“As for me, I wouldn’t be able to overlook getting my cute little cousin involved with Mitaka’s evil ways, so at any rate that option is a definite no. So Kanda can whine all he wants, but it’s pointless.”
Jin chuckled a bit at his own expense. Well, no, he was clearly having a good time with this.
“Umm, I guess I have to ask then, but for sensei, exactly what are the options other than myself?”
“I prepared four slots, and all of them ended up being filled by you.”
Sorata didn’t even flinch at this unexpectedly candid response. If he backed down now, he would never win.
“Also, I’m planning on leaving Sakurasou soon, so it’s impossible. Come on, it’s impossible.”
“Have you found an owner for your cats?”
Jin smiled as he looked at Sorata.
He asked that question in a manner that suggested he already knew the answer.
Her lips glistening from the oil used to fry the shrimp, Misaki looked at her laptop monitor.
“Ryuunosuke is saying ‘I don’t have time to waste on pointless meetings like this. I’m signing off.’ Hmm… ah, he signed off. No, come back! Well, it’s not like that would get him to come back… well then, thanks for the meal. I’m full.”
“Alright. So, the person in charge of ‘Mashiro duty’ has been decided as Sorata! Meeting adjourned!”
Jin stood up from his seat, holding his cell phone. Rather than returning to his room, he headed for the front door. Today was Tuesday, so it was Noriko-san the nurse this time.
Misaki watched his back with a tired look until he was out of sight, and then spoke.
“Well, good work, everyone. Hmmm, weeeelll, maybe I’ll go continue with my retakes. Here I go! Off I go! I’m going!”
Misaki folded her laptop up, and skipped up the stairs.
Next, Chihiro went to get her next beer from the refrigerator.
Only Mashiro and Sorata were left at the round table.
A heavy atmosphere permeated the air.
It was the first time either of them had been entered into this kind of relationship. Both the caretaker, and the one being taken care of.
A whirlwind of confusion spun through Sorata’s mind.
“Please get along with me.”
Mashiro gave a small bow.
“A-Ahh. Sure, please get along with me to- wait a second, that’s not right!! Why are you so easily accepting the fact that you need to be taken care of?!”
“Sometimes, Sorata is hard to understand.”
“If I’m making a mistake here, may the world go up in flames…”
“That would be troublesome.”
“Ugh, dammit, I don’t want this! I’m going insane! I’m definitely going to get out of here. I’m definitely going to get out of Sakurasou!”
The following was written in the Sakurasou meeting minutes:
Kanda Sorata was selected as the person in charge of ‘Mashiro duty’! Do your best, kouhai-kun! I’ll be cheering you on!
– Secretary Kamiigusa Misaki
END CHAPTER 1
(1) Kind of layered cake.
(2) Especially in Japanese, where the former is “no-paso” and the latter is “no-pan.”
(3) The Indian version of “king.” Presumably they had many wives?