Chapter 3: Part 3
Sunday was the first sunny day after a week of bad weather.
Sorata had been blissfully sleeping in until noon, but was given a rude awakening when someone kicked in his door and he found himself pinned under it.
“What the hell are you doing?!”
He crawled out from a gap in the door and rubbed his stinging forehead while turning all his anger to the cute alien who had barged in.
“Not good! Not good! This is nooooooot gooooood~~!!”
Sorata knew that there was only one reason why Misaki, why this being who had been born into this world just to cause trouble for others, could be so panicked.
Up until today, from the time he came to Sakurasou, Sorata had seen the same thing happen thrice.
“Hurry! Kouhai-kun, get changed! The battle’s starting, starting right now!”
Misaki was already completely ready to head out. She was wearing a fluttering set of checkered-patterned skirt overalls over a long-sleeved T-shirt.
“Did Jin get another girlfriend?”
“He has a date! A date date date! So stealth mission, initiate!”
“I do believe you’re confusing ‘stealth’ for ‘stalking.’”
Stifling a yawn, Sorata picked the fallen door back up and screwed it back into the door sockets with a screwdriver. Considering how many times he had done this, it was no surprise that the screws were already pretty messed up.
“We’ll really have to get a professional over here to fix this…”
In the meantime, Misaki started trying to strip off Sorata’s T-shirt, and tear off his trousers.
“Time out! You’re grabbing my underwear! Senpai, you’re going to make it fall off!”
“I don’t caaaare~~.”
Somehow or other, Sorata managed to get Misaki off of him, and retreated to the dining room.
Ever since the sun had risen, Chihiro had been in the dining room drinking. There were already six empty beer cans scattered about on the table. And right now, six became seven.
“Kouhai-kun is also worried, right~?! You are, right~?! There’s no way you aren’t, right~~?! So get ready and let’s go!! Go!! Go go!! Let’s goooooooo~~!!”
“Kamiigusa, a girl as old as you shouldn’t be shouting stuff like that out while the sun is up. Out of context it sounds like something really dirty is happening, you know.” (1)
“You know, that’s really not convincing coming from someone who’s been drinking since the sun’s been up.”
“You saying there’s a law against that or something?”
Chihiro’s eyes were completely glassed over. Lately, Chihiro hadn’t been able to go to any mixers, so she seemed to be in a pretty foul mood.
“No, not at all.”
In an attempt to escape from this drunken interrogation, Sorata fetched some milk from the refrigerator and voiced his agreement.
“If kouhai-kun won’t go, then I’ll go by myself? I’m going out right now!”
“Go for it. It’s not like I care who Jin-san goes out with.”
When Jin started going out with the nurse Noriko, Sorata had gone with Misaki out of pure curiosity, but, well… it was incredibly annoying, to say the least. Tailing them was difficult, restraining Misaki from lashing out was obnoxious, and it was hard to sit there and watch Misaki get more and more depressed when it became obvious that nothing unusual was happening.
And every time Jin smiled at the girl, every time he made her happy with a compliment, the smile grew dimmer and dimmer on Misaki’s face. And when they held hands, or when Jin put his arms around the girl’s shoulders, or when they embraced, Misaki would fall into dead silence, almost as if her usual frenetic energy had all been an illusion.
“How naïve~~. How naïve, kouhai-kun~~! If you keep on acting like it’s none of your business, your defeat will be swift indeed!”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Jin’s date today is with none other than Mashiron~~!”
Faced with a name he did not expect to here, Sorata momentarily stood there speechless.
Feigning composure, Sorata managed to get that out and began to drink his milk.
He had to calm down. He really had to calm down.
He wasn’t bothered by this at all. And there was no reason to be bothered.
Right. It was for her data collection trip. She had mentioned that she wanted to collect data. It was definitely that. Well, wait, there was absolutely nothing to worry about here.
The minute Sorata began to breathe an internal sigh of relief, Misaki added another piece of information.
“They said they’re going to a love ho! (2) Don’t blame me if you get her snatched away!”
Sorata spat out all the milk he was holding in his mouth. The milk sprayed directly onto Misaki’s face.
“Uwaaah, that’s really perverted. It’s like you just came on her face.”
Sorata could vaguely hear Chihiro saying something ridiculous in the distance.
“A l-l-love ho?! They’re going to a love hotel?!”
“Well, I don’t know anything called a Love Holstein!” (3)
“I don’t either!”
“You’re overreacting. Who cares if they’re going to a hotel?”
Chihiro reached for another can of beer.
“I care! I care a lot!”
“But I heard they were just going to collect data.”
For someone who was in charge of taking care of students, Chihiro really had very little sense of danger.
“Do you really think that playboy of a senpai has any chance of going to a hotel and not doing anything? No chance in hell! Absolutely no chance in hell!”
“Well, I guess.”
“Yes, absolutely! That has just about as much chance of happening as sensei finding someone to marry!”
“Hm? Did you just say something rude? Did you think that you could say rude things to me because I was drunk? I can hear you, you know.”
Sorata just ignored Chihiro. At any rate, she was drunk, so she’d forget about it soon enough.
“Senpai, wash your face and come back! Sorry for making you look dirty like that!”
“Kouhai-kun, you go get changed, and we’ll meet in the entranceway!”
“In sixty seconds then!”
“Make it thirty, kouhai-kun!”
While Sorata ran for his room and Misaki charged into the bathroom, Chihiro reached for her tenth beer.
“Ahh, I really should prepare some red rice (4) for tonight. Although, I guess they might not be back until tomorrow morning.”
Flying out of Sakurasou, Sorata and Misaki flagged down a taxi, and following Mashiro’s cell phone GPS, reached the nearby station that had been in the process of being reconstructed for a few years.
Misaki passed a ten-thousand-yen note to the taxi driver, and without even waiting for change, ran out of the taxi and towards the big shopping mall.
“Ahh, Miss, your change!”
“Dun’ need it!”
Misaki sounded awfully masculine as she shouted that out while she ran into the distance.
Sorata chased after her frantically. The taxi charge was only a bit over a thousand yen, but the minute she stopped the cab, Misaki had thrust her cell phone in the cab driver’s face, and…
“Get here in three minutes! It’s alright, I know you can do it! I believe in you! Go go go, floor it! Where’s the nitro?! Show me what you’ve got!!”
So if you considered how much of a bother she was being, there really was no good reason she should have gotten any change at all.
Misaki ran to the mall’s entrance and stopped, looking back at Sorata. She waved at him.
“Kouhai-kun! Why are you so slow?! Release all your seals! You can get rid of the weights you have tied to your arms too!!”
“What kind of crazy training do you think I’m doing?! I’m going as fast as I can!”
“I think I’ll be able to transform after three more levels though!”
“What?! You’re going to get even worse?!”
When Sorata finally caught up to Misaki, he saw that she was about to take off again, so he grabbed her by the shoulder.
“Every minute we stand here is a minute they spend on their lovey-dovey make-out session!!”
“The GPS says that Shiina is near, so let’s proceed with caution.”
“Alrighty, switching to stealth mode!”
Misaki hid herself in the shadow of one of the fake plants nearby as more and more people started looking in her direction.
“You stand out even more like that!!”
“Kouhai-kun, which way?”
Sorata checked his phone. The map scale had zoomed in quite a bit as they drew closer to Mashiro. Mashiro’s signal was coming from the South Field, where there were lines of shops selling everything from stylish accessories to furniture.
Sorata beckoned to Misaki, and they proceeded closer to the flashing point on the GPS.
They went up to the second floor on the escalator, and hid themselves behind a pillar.
“Are they there?”
Sorata was crouched, but Misaki peaked her head out from behind the pillar above him. Her breath tickled his ear. Sorata could detect a lingering, faint scent of milk.
“Senpai, you still smell like milk.”
“Well, kouhai-kun was the one who shot it all over me!!”
“Please don’t say I ‘shot’ anything over you in public, if you don’t mind. Some of the girls walking by definitely just gave me an evil look.” (5)
“Ah, there they are!”
Getting excited, Misaki leaned her weight on Sorata, and he felt a blissful boing-ing sensation on his back. Sorata got excited for a second, but when he caught sight of Jin and Mashiro’s backs, his attention snapped to them surprisingly quickly.
Jin and Mashiro were looking at the shops that were lined up and walking deeper into the mall.
The sight of a tall handsome guy walking with a beautiful, slender girl drew attention not just from Sorata and Misaki, and most of the people who passed by them ended up turning their heads.
They stopped in front of a fancy-looking shop. Jin pointed at the show window while he said something to Mashiro. They were too far for Sorata to hear what they were saying. Sometimes, Sorata could see Mashiro’s lips moving a bit in response, but it seemed that Jin was doing most of the talking, and Mashiro was just answering. Just like she acted when she was with Sorata, Mashiro didn’t seem to be talking much at all.
The fancy-looking shop didn’t seem like it had what they wanted, so they began to move from shop to shop. If something caught their interest, they would stop, talk for a little bit, and then once again begin to walk. This sequence of events happened a number of times.
“Are they collecting data? Hm? Is this data collecting? Wasn’t that supposed to be at a love hotel?! This is a shopping mall, a shopping mall~~! What are those two doing~~?!”
“…… It looks like a date to me too.”
“This is all because kouhai-kun was careless! You weak coward!!”
“I’m so sorry…”
“You weak coward!!”
“Why did you have to say it twice?!”
Waves of gloom swirled in Sorata’s chest. No… waves of anger.
Sorata wished he could just stick his hand down his throat and fish out all this unhappiness he was feeling, but he understood that unhappiness doesn’t work that way.
This wasn’t funny.
What wasn’t, you ask?
This little intimate scene between Jin and Mahsiro, of course.
Just seeing them get a little closer was enough to make Sorata want to shout. Whenever their shoulders were about to touch, he wanted to jump out and run up to them. However, there was no way he could do that.
“Kouhai-kun, I can’t take it anymore!”
Misaki began to run out, but Sorata stopped her by grabbing onto the crisscrossing straps on the back of her overalls.
“Hey, if you do that, we’ll get found out!”
“It’s alright! I’ll just tell them that I got the urge to go shopping or something!”
“That’s the weakest strategy I’ve ever heard!”
“But… but but but! I can’t take this anymore! I’m about to burst! Everything’s about to leak out! There’s a huge flood coming!”
In order to let out some of those pent-up emotions, Misaki began to hammer her head into Sorata’s chest.
“Calm down, dammit!”
Misaki looked up at Sorata, and he saw that she was close to tears.
As Misaki weakened, Sorata took her by the hand and moved to the next pillar.
Jin and Mashiro were staring into an accessory shop.
“OooOoooOooo… I can just hear them right now. ‘If you like something, I’ll buy it for you.’ ‘Ahh, no, I can’t ask you to do that.’ ‘It’s fine. It’ll be a memento from our first date.’ ‘Well, maybe something’s fine then…’ That’s what they’re saying, I’m sure of it!”
“Well, I can see Jin-san saying that, but I’m positive Shiina would never say anything like that.”
“’Well, I’ll cook something for you as thanks for the gift.’ ‘Seriously? Wow, I can’t wait.’ ‘Is there something you want to eat?’ “Yeah there is.’ “What is it? Tell me, tell me!’ ‘I want to eat you.’ ‘Oooo, you’re such a pervert~~.’ ‘Well, I can’t help that. You just look so delicious.’ ‘Ugh, I don’t like how you’re so perverted all the time.’ ‘Ahaha, sorry, sorry. Cheer up.’ They’re saying something like that, aren’t they?! Those two are!”
“Stop making it dirty! I mean, I can see Jin-san saying something like that to someone, but that’s completely out of character for Shiina!”
“So, how is she responding then? Let’s hear from the Mashiron expert!”
Jin and Mashiro stopped at a shop with an assortment of umbrellas arranged outside. Seeming to find one she liked, Mashiro picked up and opened a light-blue umbrella.
“’Ahh, that one really suits you.’ ‘……’ ‘I’ll buy it for you if you want.’ ‘……’ ‘So you don’t want it?’ ‘……’ ‘Alright then, nevermind.’ It’s probably going something like that.”
“Kouhai-kun, I’m about to starve to death from your lack of imagination! That was completely boring!”
“Why does it have to be exciting?!”
“Also, Mashiron barely said anything there!”
“Shiina doesn’t talk that much! I was being realistic!”
Jin and Mashiro now stopped in front of a trendy-looking tableware shop. While Jin searched through the tableware, Mashiro gave one fleeting glance back at the umbrella she saw earlier. Even though she chose not to buy it, she still seemed to have a lingering attachment to it.
However, Jin spoke to her, and her attention shifted to a mug.
“Kanda-kun, what exactly are you doing?”
Sorata gave a light shriek at the sudden intrusion. That wasn’t Manami’s voice. Terrified, he slowly, slowly turned around, and saw Aoyama Nanami standing there, giving him a suspicious stare. She was wearing a cream-colored sweater and a denim skirt, along with leggings that extended down to her ankle. A largish bag hung from her shoulders. Sorata was used to seeing her in nothing but her school uniform, so for a second he had no idea who he was looking at.
“Ahh, Nanamin! Heya~~!”
“Kamiigusa-senpai, I’ve told you time and time again to please stop calling me that.”
“So, would you prefer Nanapon?”
Nanami knit her brow.
“You can just call me Aoyama.”
“Ah, Aoyan then.”
Well, now that just sounded like a nickname some bully with a runny nose would get from his lackeys.
“Please call me just Aoyama!”
“Just give up. I think at this point you should just stick with Nanamin.”
When it came to nicknames, Sorata also had some bad memories. Soratan, Sorapon, Soranin, along with others… names you would expect from moe characters, or cute animal mascots, or out of an organic chemistry textbook… and it took a full month before Misaki settled on the present “kouhai-kun.”
But Sorata had no time to stay here and watch this argument until the morning. After all, Sorata and Misaki were in the middle of trailing Jin and Mashiro.
Nanami seemed to sense something from the tired expression on Sorata’s face, and she gave a huge sigh.
“Alright, we can stick with Nanamin…”
And she put up a white flag.
“So, what exactly are you two doing?”
“Well, what about you?”
“I’m going to my part-time job. I work at the ice cream shop over there.”
“Ice cream?! Let’s go get some ice cream, kouhai-kun!”
Misaki responded instantly.
“Don’t just act completely based on instinct! Use your head and think once in a while!”
Already, the straps on the back of Misaki’s overalls were beginning to seem like the leash on a naughty dog.
“Whoa, that was close… I could feel my mind flying away from reality there… you saved me, kouhai-kun!”
“Kanda and Senpai seem like they get along.”
Nanami had turned the other way and muttered that. It didn’t seem that she had noticed Jin and Mashiro yet. There might still be a chance that Sorata could fool her. As expected, he couldn’t exactly tell her that he was in the middle of tailing two other people on their date.
“Umm, Aoyama, don’t you have to go to the training center on Saturdays?”
“Today’s lessons are already over.”
“And you go straight to a part-time job after that?”
Sorata was pretty impressed by how hard she worked, but he chose not to voice those feelings out loud. He had already heard the reason for why Nanami had a part-time job.
Going to Tokyo and wanting to be a voice actress… both her parents were fiercely opposed to those goals… or at least her father was. So even though they paid her high school tuition, she had to fend for herself and get a part-time job when it came to her dorm fees and the cost of her special training.
For that reason, she was forced into living a very frugal life, and whenever the end of the month approached, she even ran out of money for lunch, and Sorata could often hear her stomach growling. He had treated her to lunch quite a few times already, but each time, she made sure to pay him back the following month. You could say that this was just Nanami being her usual, reliable self, but to Sorata, she just seemed like someone who was really clumsy when it came to asking others for favors.
“So, Kanda-kun is here following Shiina-san and Mitaka-senpai on their date, isn’t he?”
Nanami seemed somewhat displeased by that.
“How the hell did you know?!”
But the minute Sorata screamed that out, he realized what the answer was. Misaki had flattened herself to the pillar and was peeking at Jin and Mashiro.
“You have pretty bad taste in hobbies, you know.”
Her narrowed eyes were filled with disdain.
“I can’t tell you the particulars, but there’s a pretty deep reason I’m doing this. There’s nothing personal about this.”
“There’s no point in giving me excuses.”
Nanami shrugged Sorata off and began to walk.
“H-Hey, wait a second!”
“I’m going to be late for my job.”
“A-Ahh. Do your best then.”
Nanami turned around at those words.
“I would do my best even if Kanda-kun didn’t tell me that.”
She gave him a light smile, and took a turn at the next corner.
Sorata watched her leave until he couldn’t see her anymore, and then he resumed his mission.
However, when he moved to the next pillar, Misaki didn’t follow. Finding no other choice, he backtracked.
Misaki looked down at the ground, and crouched down in the shade of the pillar.
“My chest hurts…”
This wasn’t the same Misaki that Sorata was used to.
Sorata didn’t like seeing Misaki like this. Sorata could feel her depression infecting him as well. Every time they stalked Jin on one of his dates, it ended up like this. Sorata didn’t know what to say in this situation, and it’s not like Misaki was asking for Sorata to comfort her in the first place, so ultimately, they just ended up fading into silence. Even Sorata began to feel like he had a broken heart.
However, this time it wasn’t that Misaki’s feelings were just transferring to Sorata. This time Sorata also felt genuine pain of his own. Just like Misaki’s, his chest hurt as well.
“I wonder what senpai is feeling right now is contagious.”
“I dunno, I sort of feel sad too.”
Jin and Mashiro walked further away. From an objective point of view, they really looked like a good couple. Somewhere deep in Sorata’s heart, he probably thought that Mashiro would never get close to anybody else. Even though there wasn’t a good reason to believe that. Jin was better when it came to dealing with girls. So Sorata had no real basis on which to believe that.
Sorata opened his eyes to the clear, cruel truth.
However, the pain in his chest wasn’t a result of some pride he had as the person in charge of Mashiro Duty. This twisting in his chest was a hurt that was affecting Kanda Sorata, the individual.
He didn’t even have to think about why he was feeling this way.
He wasn’t the kind of idiot who would ignore his own feelings this late in the game.
“Jin-san seems to like pretty but quiet girls, doesn’t he? Or should I say, calm girls?”
That Asami-san from the drama department was a quiet type. The nurse Noriko-san was the comforting type. The office lady Rumi-san was an intellectual, mature woman. And all of them were older than he was.
“I think that’s right. The girl he had his first date with, Fuuka-chan, she was also like that…”
“Were you stalking him on his dates from the very start…?”
“I would have found out even if I didn’t. She was my sister.”
“Wha…?! Your sister?!”
“They broke up after Jin graduated from junior high, so it’s been around half a year.”
As Misaki stared at the back of the person she felt deeply for, Sorata found that he could no longer look at her.
“Fuuka-chan was really pretty. I was really proud of my sister.”
Sorata couldn’t bring himself to speak.
Misaki was also cute. There wasn’t a boy on the entire planet who wouldn’t think so. However, there was no point in Sorata telling her that. The only voice Misaki heard was Jin’s. The only one she wanted was Jin. That’s why she chased after him, couldn’t get him, felt pain in her heart, but even then, couldn’t stop herself from trying again.
“I think something must have happened.”
“With Jin. After he started high school, he started going out with a bunch of people all at once. Before that, he was completely dedicated to Fuuka-chan.”
“Ah, I see.”
“…. Sigh. Why couldn’t it have been me? Just makes me sad…”
Misaki seemed on the verge of defeat.
However, she had to keep chasing after Jin and Mashiro. Sorata had asked her before, and she told him completely seriously that even though it was painful to see Jin in these situations, it was even worse to just stay at home and do nothing. Sorata wasn’t sure if being wounded gave her peace of mind or something, but to Misaki, this had become the only way she could keep on living, and Sorata begrudgingly accepted that.
Jin and Mashiro descended to the first floor on the escalator.
Misaki followed them.
“Ah, w-wait up!”
Sorata stopped at the umbrella shop Mashiro and Jin were looking at earlier, and picked out the umbrella that Mashiro had opened up earlier. He took the umbrella to the register.
“Kouhai-kun! Jin and Mashiron are going to leave!”
“It’s fine if they get a bit away from us. I can just use my GPS.”
In exchange for a 500 yen note, Sorata obtained an umbrella. The shop employee seemed to be overly zealous though, and mistaking the umbrella for a gift, began to wrap it in gift-wrap. As a result, it took a bit of time before Sorata left the shop.
Misaki seemed to have worked up a temper while she was waiting.
“Ugh, geeezz~~, I can’t even see them anymore!!”
“We’ll be able to catch up to them soon.”
Sorata took out his cell phone and began to check Mashiro’s location.
The load screen came up, but the map Sorata was expecting never came out. All he saw was the loading icon moving back and forth, telling Sorata that it was trying to get a signal.
The phone returned an error message: signal not found.
Sorata tried once again, but was blocked by the same error message.
“I think Shiina’s cell phone ran out of battery…”
“Hey~~!! You said that we would be alright!!”
Misaki took Sorata by the collar and shook him violently.
“I-It’ll be alright! If they went down to the first floor, then they must have gone out! And if they’re going to a love hotel, the only one of those around here is that castle-looking thing by the highway!”
“That must be it! Let’s hurry!”
They flew out of the shopping mall, and when they reached the highway, they spotted Jin and Mashiro on the footbridge that crossed over to the other side. Trying not to get caught, Sorata and Misaki bent down and went up the stairs to the footbridge.
They waited for Jin and Mashiro to descend on the opposite side, and then watched them from above, hiding themselves behind the iron railing. On the other side where they had gone down was a pure-white castle.
“Are they really going to go in?”
Mashiro emotionlessly looked up at the castle. She said something, and Jin laughed. After that, Jin whispered something into her ear.
“Senpai, we have to stop them! They’re seriously going to go in!”
Misaki had been leaning against Sorata for cover, but Sorata suddenly felt her weight disappear.
Sorata turned around, and saw that Misaki had stood up. She was going to get spotted by Jin and Mashiro.
“I’m done with this…”
She spoke in a hoarse, low voice. It was a voice that Sorata couldn’t believe was coming from Misaki.
“I’m… I’m going home.”
Big droplets of rain ran down her cheeks.
But the sky was clear.
However, the rain didn’t stop. The water droplets just continued to pitter patter down. Misaki was making them pitter patter down.
“I’m going home.”
Misaki repeated that once more, and then returned the way she came with her head hung. She slowly picked up her pace, and her walk became a jog, and her jog became a flat-our sprint.
Sorata began to chase after her, but saw Jin and Mashiro out of the corner of his eyes.
Jin had grabbed a hesitant-looking Mashiro by the hand and was trying to force her inside.
At that point, all the restraint that Sorata’s humanity afforded him vanished.
Something inside him snapped. All his thoughts about Misaki also flew out the window.
Giving out a feral roar, Sorata flew down the stairs.
Jin and Mashiro turned around. Jin said something, but Sorata didn’t hear a word of it.
Sorata raised his arm, not planning to hold anything back. His clenched fist felt hot. His throat was dry. His entire body was on fire.
Sorata sent a straight punch right at Jin, and Jin took the full force of it full on. The moment before the punch hit Jin’s jaw, Sorata’s vision blurred. He had no idea what was about to happen next. After all, he hadn’t even considered the possibility that Jin would send back a counterattack.
Jin was taller and had a longer reach, and his counter punch caught Sorata’s jaw and sent his brains rattling in his skul.
All his muscles switched off. All he could see was the ground rushing up to meet him. The concrete came closer and closer. He couldn’t even feel himself fall. His vision warped around him. He only had a moment to think about how strange these sensations were before Sorata’s consciousness faded to white.
(1) The Japanese word for “go” in some contexts can be translated as “come” in English. Hint hint.
(2) Short here for “love hotel.” A place where couples often go for some privacy to do *ahem.*
(3) A type of cow.
(4) Meant for special occasions, when there is reason to celebrate.
(5) The verb Misaki uses is “bukkakeru,” which means… you know… mumble mumble mumble.