Chapter 3: Part 4
When Sorata came to, he found himself looking at a disco ball.
The ball hung right above Sorata and reflected suspicious-looking pink and purple light as it revolved.
Mashiro’s upside-down face came into view and blocked Sorata’s vision. Because of the room’s lighting, there was just a bit of color in her normally white skin.
Still feeling a bit disoriented, Sorata vaguely looked at Mashiro.
Something happened, didn’t it?
Why was this strange girl upside down?
Where did she buy this soft pillow? Sorata wanted to know, since he wanted one for himself.
However, it was probably about time for him to come back to reality.
“Am I… on your lap?”
With that one word, Sorata’s dim conscoiusness was instantly knocked back into reality.
Panicking, Sorata tried to get up. However, because of that action, his forehead crashed into Mashiro’s.
Without making a sound, Sorata fell to the floor and rolled around in agony.
However, Mashiro didn’t seem bothered by it at all, but just rubbed at the affected area with her hand.
“Then sound more like it hurt!”
“That didn’t hurt.”
“Then don’t say it hurt in the first place!”
Sorata didn’t get her at all. This being known as Shiina Mashiro was just beyond comprehension. Also, you really shouldn’t be so willing to let a boy rest his head in your lap like that.
“What the hell were you thinking?!”
“About the world and how it works.”
“What the hell?! You were thinking something that deep?!”
Seeming to not know of any other option, Mashiro didn’t say a single word in response, but just sat there blinking.
“Also, this place…”
When Sorata stood up, he found himself on top of a bed. It was a double bed. The bed was in the shape of a pink heart, and took up half the room. The room itself was intended just for this bed.
The ceiling and the walls were all pure white. It was just that with this bewitching lighting floating through the place, there was a rather lewd feeling wafting through the air.
The room was furnished by antique-style furniture, and it ultimately came off as a room you might expect a princess to inhabit in a fairy tale. However, this wasn’t a pure princess who dreamed of a prince riding in on a white horse, but rather a sketchy princess who was using everything in her arsenal to win a power struggle going on in the castle.
Sorata blinked. His started to feel dizzy.
Dumbfounded, Sorata stood there stock-still. Mashiro just continued to sit on her knees, on top of the bed. Together, they stood out like a sore thumb, like two innocent kids who got lost in the wrong part of town.
“Are we seriously in a love hotel?!”
Mashiro just looked up at Sorata without a response. It’s almost as if she wanted to say “Isn’t it a bit late to be saying that?”
“I… I was punched by Jin-san, and then I fainted…”
And when he woke up, he was in a love hotel.
It was pretty clear that Jin had carried him in.
“Right, what happened to Jin-san?!”
“He went back.”
“He said he would leave me to you.”
“…… Got it. Alright, let’s go back.”
“I don’t want to.”
“You, just think for a bit! Do you have any idea what kind of place this is?!”
“We’re staying tonight.” (1)
Sorata began to choke loudly when he heard Mashiro utter those bold words.
“Y-You! Also, you definitely looked like you didn’t want to go into the hotel bac kthere…”
“You know, when you were in front of the hotel.”
“Jin told me.”
“That if I did that, Sorata would come.”
Sorata would come. What the hell was that supposed to mean?
It’s not like he was some sort of superhero that would just come when people cried out for help, so that was just ridiculous. However, maybe… if Jin had realized that Sorata and Misaki were tailing them, the story would be a bit different.
“Did you figure us out?”
“Figure what out?”
Sorata could tell from Mashiro’s eyes that she wasn’t lying. So, that meant… Jin was the only one who knew?
“Hey, did you happen to turn off your cell phone back there?”
Mashiro lightly nodded.
“Jin also told you to do that?”
There was no mistaking it anymore. Jin had figured it out.
Sorata had been completely taken in. His feelings had been completely exposed and had been put to the test. He had probably agreed to this data collection session in the first place because he was planning to get Sorata into a room alone with Mashiro.
“I’m going to go tell him off for this later.”
“Jin is a good person.”
“Yeah, fine, I understand that. But why are we in a place like this?! Shiina, you should think a bit more too about things like this!”
“Also, since when did collecting data involve going on a date?”
His emotions began to run wild and made Sorata spurt that out. He suddenly realized what he had said, but it was already too late.
“We weren’t on a date.”
“But you were shopping together, weren’t you?”
From an observer’s standpoint, they looked every bit like boyfriend and girlfriend.
“Jin asked me. That’s all.”
“Asked you for what?”
“That’s our secret.”
That just made Sorata more annoyed.
“Oh, is that right?!”
Suddenly, Mashiro stood up.
“W-What are you doing?”
She ignored Sorata, and headed for the bathroom.
“Wait just a second!”
“We’re still not done talking!”
Not paying Sorata any attention, Mashiro undid the shoulder strap holding her one-piece up.
“Why are you stripping?!”
“I’m taking a bath.”
“Well, that’s obvious! But I’m still here too! What do you expect me to do?!”
“Go in with me?”
“Alright, great! I can finish lecturing you while we’re at it!”
“Take off your clothes then.”
“I’m begging you, just cut it out!”
“I don’t understand Sorata at all.”
“Let me just make this clear. Shiina is the strange one here. Also, seriously, stop what you’re doing!”
Mashiro stopped what she was doing when she heard Sorata’s raised voice.
“Think a bit more before you act, seriously! What would you do if something happens?!”
A heavy silence permeated the air, and Sorata’s annoyance was sullied by the same dirty color that floated in the air.
In spite of that, Mashiro left herself in her state of half undress, and turned back slowly to face Sorata.
“There’s no point.”
Her voice sounded exceedingly cold to Sorata.
“It’s the same either way.”
“Please put it in a way I can understand.”
“It’s the same even if I think about it. I came to collect data.”
Sorata ground his teeth and they made an unpleasant noise.
“And what about Sorata?”
“Why are you here? You said you were busy.”
In just a moment, the flames of Sorata’s annoyance and anger subsided. Mashiro’s voice was cold to the core, and he could feel a clear sense of rejection from her unwavering gaze.
“Sorata is the one who doesn’t have a reason.”
He did. He had a reason. He became all too aware of that reason back at the shopping mall. He had no choice but to become aware. Seeing Mashiro together with Jin didn’t make him happy. And these feelings weren’t things that had just appeared that day or the day before. They had been there for a long time. It was possible that, the day he and Mashiro had met, the seeds of these feelings had already been planted within him.
So, he couldn’t help but worry.
He didn’t want to see her in danger.
He didn’t want to see her get hurt.
Because one day, he wanted to see her in front of him with a smile on her face.
So he understood, and he had a reason, but he couldn’t say those reasons out loud.
“This has nothing to do with Sorata.”
Sorata couldn’t turn his eyes away.
“Sorata is leaving Sakurasou, so this has nothing to do with Sorata.”
This discussion was already completely one-sided.
Not being able to voice his true feelings, Sorata didn’t have a shred of a leg to stand on. On the other hand, Mashiro had come out and spoken her mind sincerely, and Sorata didn’t even have the right to argue against that on equal terms.
“I need to do this so I can draw.”
No matter how many trivial pieces of common sense Sorata threw at Mashiro, it would be pointless. Those things did not mean anything to Mashiro. They went in one ear and out the other.
Mashiro lived in the moment, and to her heart’s content.
She continued to express her true self through her actions.
Life gives birth to works of art. She was the embodiment of that principle.
Her artwork took priority over everything else. Having watched her from the side up until today, Sorata understood that all too well. He knew all too well that she was the kind of person who had given up her own joy in order to bring that same joy to others through her work.
Data collection was crucial. Mashiro had decided that, and that’s why she was here.
Sorata was almost amazed that he had told her something as trivial as to think about her actions.
Mashiro thought about her actions.
She thought about them, and that’s why she could move forward without losing her way. Without wavering.
Sorata was so sure he was right, but he didn’t even understand that much. In the end, Sorata was the shallow one, the one who hadn’t thought enough, the one who couldn’t utter anything but cheap drivel.
Sorata didn’t know what the look on Mashiro’s face was like when she said that.
After all, he no longer had the confidence he needed to look her in the eyes.
Changing places with Mashiro as she came out of the bathroom, Sorata took a shower with his eyes pointed at the ground. He didn’t feel good at all, but he did sense that the sweat and dirt that had built up on his body had been washed away a bit.
When he returned to the room, Sorata found Mashiro sleeping face down on the heart-shaped bed. She looked utterly defenseless, sleeping there wrapped with only her bath towel.
Sorata began to yell at her to put some clothes on, but in the end the words just wouldn’t come.
Instead, he wordlessly draped a blanked over her.
While Mashiro was showering, Sorata briefly considered going back. However, no matter how tiring it was to be by her side, he was too worried to just leave her in a place like this. Getting annoyed at himself for even thinking about it, Sorata decided to stay.
There was no way he could sleep in the same bed as her, so Sorata tried to find a place as far from Mashiro as possible that he could go.
He plopped down on the floor beside the entranceway.
He took out his cell phone, dialed Jin’s number, and got an answer pretty quickly.
“Hey. How you doing?”
“Haha, sorry about all that. I thought you were going to punch me, but I didn’t think you would come at me looking so furious like that. So then I thought, I probably wouldn’t get away with just getting punched once, and then before I knew it I had already struck out.”
“It’s fine. I don’t mind.”
“What? Don’t you want to yell at me?”
“I don’t feel like it.”
“Geez, did you already get into a fight with Mashiro-chan?”
Jin knew all too well. Sorata wished he could also be so calm about it.
“You couldn’t even call it an argument. It was more like I got hit in the face by an eighteen-wheeler.”
“What’s Mashiro-chan doing?”
“In your arms?”
“How in the world would it get there after she beat the hell out of me? She’s sleeping alone on the bed.”
“And what’s Sorata doing?”
“I’m sitting here scrunched between the shoe rack and the wall.”
Jin exploded with laughter.
“What in the world do you think you’re doing?”
“Yeah… I know…”
“… What about me?”
“You don’t deserve any sympathy.”
Sorata didn’t think so either, but for some reason, having Jin say that to him left him with a sour taste in his mouth. He started to voice his complaints, but thinking that he would lose his nerve if they got off topic, he ultimately decided against it.
“I’m going to leave Sakurasou.”
“You called me to tell me that?”
“Should I not?”
“Well, it’s not like I really mind. If that’s what you think is best for you, then that’s what you should do.”
“Yes, that’s what I think.”
“It’s just… well, I don’t like standing by and watching cute girls looking sad.”
“Who would get sad over something like me leaving?”
“Also, if I don’t tell anyone about all the trouble I went through, it wouldn’t be worth it.”
“First of all, I was scolded pretty harshly today.”
“She told me not to tease you.”
“It’s not like she said it directly, but after I left the hotel and thought about it for quite a while, I concluded that she probably had wanted to say something like that.”
“What? That makes no sense.”
“I’m not a Mashiro professional like you, you know. So I have to work hard first before I can communicate with her.”
“And yet, you looked like you were having fun on that little date.”
He spoke dryly.
Jin fell deep into thought for a bit, and there was a sudden gap in the conversation.
“Did Mashiro tell you anything about what happened today?”
“She said it was a secret.”
Even if Sorata tried hard to prevent it from sounding that way, when he said that out loud it ended up coming out sulky.
“I was the one who swore her to secrecy. I told her to not tell anybody about this.”
“That doesn’t mean anything to me.”
“Don’t say that. Seriously, all I did was ask her to go shopping with me while we were on her data collection trip.”
“What are you trying to accomplish by telling me that?”
“Don’t get so offended. Geez, I really didn’t want to say this… but tomorrow is Misaki’s birthday. So I asked her to help me pick out a present. Got it?”
“I told her that she could tell you though if you asked her. I wonder if she was just being considerate…”
Even if he asked her now, there would be no point. Sorata had already decided to leave Sakurasou.
“And also, at that umbrella shop, there was a really nice umbrella.”
That same umbrella was leaning against the door, still in its wrapping paper.
“The shop employee and I both recommended that umbrella, but she said she wouldn’t buy it today. Why do you think she said that?”
“How would I know?”
“She said that she was going to go buy it with Sorata. You promised her, didn’t you?”
The minute he heard that, Sorata felt a sharp pain run through his chest.
Certainly, they had had a conversation like htat. However, that wasn’t really a promise. It was just annoying to deal with Mashiro, so Sorata had said that just to make her leave him alone.
However, Mashiro took it as a promise that would naturally be fulfilled.
Sorata had no idea why she was so willing to believe the words of someone like himself, but the fact that she did sliced him to the very core and gouged him out from the inside.
“If you don’t want someone to snatch her away from you, then as her leash holder you should look after her.”
“Leash holder… well, I guess it’s not too far-fetched to say Shiina is like some strange animal…”
“And if you don’t catch her properly then you’ll regret it later.”
“You want me to put a collar and chain on her or something?”
“Ohhh, that’s nice. Mmmmm not bad, not bad.”
Sorata couldn’t help imagining what Mashiro would look like with a collar and a chain, and then quickly tried to get rid of the thought.
“Don’t make me imagine weird things like that!”
“Well, why not try? There are quite a few options over there and I’m sure you can borrow a collar and chain.”
“Who the hell would do something like that?!”
“Ah, so I guess you’d want your first time to be more normal.”
“Let’s just drop the subject!”
“Aww, why so serious?”
As that long conversation came to a close, Sorata found himself unconsciously turning his gaze towards where Mashiro was sleeping on the bed.
“Alright, I’m hanging up.”
“Ah, wait just a bit.”
“You still got something to say?”
“Jin-san, where are you right now?”
“Hm? I’m at Rumi-san’s mansion, but why do you ask?”
“Can you really stay on the phone then?”
“Ahh, she’s in the shower right now.”
Now that he mentioned it, Sorata could hear the faint sounds of a shower in the background.
“Well aren’t you a gentleman.”
“So, what did you still want with me?”
“Please go back to Sakurasou today.”
Jin probably knew what Sorata meant by that even if Sorata didn’t spell it out.
He had realized that he was being followed. So he probably also knew who Sorata was with.
“Even I can tell what’s going on, Jin-san…”
“Don’t say the one thing I’ve been trying so hard to keep myself from saying all this time.”
“I just can’t stand watching Misaki-senpai like that anymore.”
“Ahhhh, you said it…”
Jin didn’t sound too serious about it. He was probably expecting something like this to happen eventually.
“I can’t do anything about that.”
“Is Misaki-senpai not good enough or something?”
“Who the hell asks a question like that?”
“Well, I don’t exactly have the time to pick my words carefully here.”
“So you knew how bad that sounded and you still asked? Ugh, geez…”
“I mean, you said you were going to buy Misaki a birthday present too… so I mean…”
There was a bit of a pause, and then Jin spoke from the other end of the line.
“… I can’t do that now. If I see her looking depressed, I’m going to get this desperate urge to just go and ravish her.”
“W-What?! You monster!”
“It’s there. This beast inside me that just wants to hurt her. That wants to release all my lust and take her forcefully and dirty her. That wants to break her… even for just a moment, I want that feeling of utter superiority.”
His voice was quiet, and yet Sorata could hear it trembling just a bit.
“However, to me, that girl is special. She’s so important to me… so important that I hesitate before even thinking of laying a finger on her… so there’s nothing I can do.”
Sorata got the feeling he thought that way just from how he usually acted. Even though he was almost never at Sakurasou, he was always thinking about Misaki. Sorata even remembered times when he looked pretty grumpy when he saw Sorata and Misaki together.
“The first girl I dated once said something to me and it made me realize something.”
“… So, you mean Misaki-senpai’s older sister?”
“Hey hey, Misaki even told you that? I think I’m starting to get a bit pissed at you…”
“I guess I really was right to punch you back there.”
“I’ll get you back for that.”
“Let’s just let bygones be bygones on that one.”
“I will not. I also want to ask you why you broke up with her sister.”
“Now, let’s just flush that topic right down the toilet.”
Jin forced out a laugh. But he didn’t resist further. Jin seemed to have no intention to stop now that he had already come this far in the conversation.
“What Fuuka said to me… I still remember it. It’s impossible to forget. Every word, every sentence, I remember them all crystal clear. ‘To you, I’m just a substitute for Misaki. You’re afraid of hurting her, so the only reason I’m the one you come to is because you want her to be forever unspoiled but close by.’”
“That’s pretty harsh.”
“Probably don’t have to tell you that I never thought about it like the way she was accusing me of. I had no awareness of it. But I couldn’t argue back. In the end, she got annoyed that I wasn’t even trying to argue and punched me.”
“It’s not funny. My nose was bleeding.”
Just the thought of Jin cowering and clutching at his bleeding nose made Sorata want to laugh even more.
“I have no idea what Jin-san is thinking sometimes when it comes to love.”
If you like someone, then doesn’t that mean you should take good care of that person? To dirty that person, to break that person… those were both the opposite of what you should do.
“In any case, just go back to Sakurasou today.”
“As. I. Said. If I go back now, I’m pretty sure I would just attack Misaki.”
“Then just attack her.”
“Sorata, did you hear a word I said?”
“Yes, I head you loud and clear. You love Misaki-senpai.”
“Ugh! You said it! You damn went and said it!”
“It’s payback for punching me.”
“I just can’t. It’s just that…”
“Just that what?”
“It’s just that I came to understand why exactly I wanted to hurt her.”
“And why is that?”
“Ah, sorry. Rumi-san just came out of the shower, so I’m hanging up.”
“Hey, wait a minute! Make sure you go back today!”
There was no response. Sorata had no choice but to have faith. Chihiro was also back at Sakurasou, so there was probably no need to over think it, but Sorata couldn’t help but worry. Today was the first day Sorata had ever seen Misaki cry. Every other time, she would just bite her bottom lip and barely manage to hold it in. It wasn’t like today was special or something. It was just all the emotions that had built up over the years spilling out. So this wasn’t that simple of a situation.
Sorata shut off his cell phone and placed it on the shoe rack.
He buried his face in his knees and shut his eyes.
It was quiet. Without even his own voice to keep him company anymore, Sorata felt strangely alone.
The things Jin had said swirled around in his head. The things about Mashiro. About the umbrella. About the date.
Sorata could hear Mashiro breathing. Using that as a lullaby, Sorata tried desperately to get to sleep. With his eyes closed, he thought about apologizing to Mashiro tomorrow. And then she would forgive him, and he would be able to leave Sakurasou without regret…
(1) The lack of a personal pronoun here means there’s an ambiguity in translating this either to “We’re staying tonight” or “I’m staying tonight.” There is also nothing in context or about Mashiro’s character that would suggest one over the other. So I just took some poetic license here.