Chapter 3: Part 5
Sorata had a horrible experience waking up.
Sitting on the floor hugging your knees wasn’t a position suited for sleeping. Each and every one of his joints ached, and far from being able to stand up, he was barely able to move his body. Sorata massaged his stiff limbs, and it took him a bit of time before he could come out of that space between the shoe rack and the wall.
In the place of an alarm clock, Sorata had gotten a pushy call from the front desk, telling him to check out. Mashiro was a bit slower getting out of bed, and Sorata brought her along with him as he left the love hotel.
It was raining outside. The temperature was fairly cold for June. You could say it was a bit cold.
Mashiro looked up at the grey skies.
For some reason or another, Sorata was lured into doing the same.
Ever since they woke up, the two of them had not uttered a single word to each other.
Once Sorata had missed the window to say “good morning,” he felt that it was too late to say anything at all. Even when they were leaving the room, Sorata just nodded towards the door to signal they were leaving.
Whether in the elevator, or in the hallway, or in front of the unmanned front desk where they returned their key, they remained in complete silence.
Mashiro was even more stubborn (1), and didn’t even try to look in Sorata’s direction, much less talk to him. It was almost as if she was preparing for war, and seeing her attitude made Sorata lose any desire he might have had to apologize.
If she wanted to act that way, then that was fine with him.
At any rate, he was getting out of Sakurasou.
He wouldn’t have to deal with Shiina Mashiro any more.
She could do whatever she wanted.
Maybe she didn’t think the rain would stop soon, but Mashiro began to walk home in the rain. Her back seemed frail and thin. Sorata couldn’t stop himself from calling out to her.
Mashiro turned back only halfway.
Her gaze was directed at the ground, and she wasn’t looking at Sorata.
Sorata stuck a long, thin bundle out at Mashiro from underneath, making sure she saw it. It was the umbrella he had bought at the shopping mall.
He forced her to take the bundle, and then began to walk up the stairs to the footbridge by himself.
The cool rain felt nice. It washed all the unpleasant things from his body. He could immerse himself in these feelings of self-deprecation, and could feel like he was receiving his punishment for everything he had done. Even though nobody was forgiving him, he could feel like he was being forgiven.
He slowly walked across the footbridge. His head was turned upwards, and raindrops continuously fell onto his face.
However, suddenly, his field of vision was blanketed in light blue.
Mashiro had caught up to him and was holding up an umbrella. A sky blue umbrella. An umbrella with the sky painted on the underside. Sorata felt it was a bit flashy for someone like Mashiro, but it was much, much better than the red one she had borrowed from Misaki.
“Well, a certain someone was looking at it like she wanted it, so I thought I would give it to her as a present.”
“I see. Then I have to give it back.”
“It’s fine. You can have it.”
“What about the certain someone’s present?”
“Are you sure you’re not misunderstanding something?”
“That certain someone is Shiina, you know.”
Feeling himself blushing, Sorata began walking mid-sentence.
Mashiro followed him with a light jog.
She held up her umbrella right next to Sorata. Because of that, it was a bit difficult for Sorata to walk.
“… It’s fine, don’t mention it.”
Mashiro looked down at the ground.
Walking right next to him, Mashiro looked up at Sorata. It was the first time their eyes had met on that day.
Mashiro seemed like she wanted to say something, but the minute she began to open her mouth, a voice called out to Sorata and Mashiro from behind them.
“Hey, you two.”
A police officer wearing a plastic raincoat was standing there. He didn’t have an umbrella, but a plastic cap also covered his head.
“You both look like you’re high school students…”
He looked at them suspiciously. It was probably correct to assume that he had seen them coming out of the love hotel.
“No no, we’re college students.”
Sorata and Mashiro responded at the same time.
The police officer’s stare became even more suspicious, and he took one step closer to Sorata, as if trying to see through his lie.
“Hey, come on, we have to fool him.”
Sorata whispered to Mashiro.
Trying to talk in secret like this with Mashiro was completely pointless.
Sorata felt the energy draining from his entire body.
“Even if you’re boyfriend and girlfriend, leading such an unwholesome sex life like this just isn’t going to impress anyone.”
“We’re not boyfriend and girlfriend.”
“Hey! Shiina, you just shut up from now on!”
“So what are you two then?”
Sorata tried desperately to think of an excuse, but Mashiro had already opened her mouth.
“Sorata is my owner.”
A blizzard blew over the footbridge.
The icy, cold stare of the police officer froze Sorata to the spot.
“Y-You’ve got it all wrong! Shiina, what crazy things are you saying?!”
“He said he would put a collar on me.”
“What the hell?! Were you awake when Jin-san and I were talking on the phone?!”
If she was, then she should have also heard when Sorata said that he was leaving Sakurasou. And that shook Sorata to the core.
Mashiro didn’t answer.
“You said you would put a chain on the collar.”
The police office started to cough loudly, and Sorata didn’t have the courage to look him in the face.
“No no no, wait wait wait! Don’t just take the bad parts out of context and spew them out! What? You have a grudge against me or something? You still angry about what happened yesterday? Well sorry! I won’t get carried away and lecture you anymore! So just explain that to the police officer! At this rate, I’m not going to be able to show my face in town anymore!”
“If there’s something you want to explain, let’s do it down at the station, master.”
“Mr. Policeman! What do you think you’re saying to a poor townsperson like me?! Who are you calling master?! If they find me innocent later, I’ll sue you for slander! I’ll see you in court, you ass!”
“Stop complaining and come with me!”
The police officer took Sorata by the arm, and dragged him down from the footbridge.
“I also have some things to ask you, so come along.”
“Before you do that, just tell him what’s going on!”
After two hours of explaining the situation to a female juvenile crimes division detective in the hallway of the police station, Sorata was completely exhausted.
The actual situation was way too complicated to explain in detail, so Sorata had given them a short summary: Mashiro wanted to be a manga artist, and went to the love hotel to collect data for her manga. After that, they finally believed him. They did make sure to emphasize though that whatever the reason, he should make sure to never have something like this happen again.
Just as Sorata’s desperate attempts to convince the detective succeeded, he saw Chihiro finally getting there to pick him up. Seeing her looking so openly apologetic and bowing to the police was pretty strange, but Sorata knew he might regret it if he said anything, so he also remained impressively polite and gave a bow of his own.
At any rate, he was cleared of all charges. They didn’t even make a mark of this on his record.
When they left the police station, the rain had already stopped, and Sorata could see sunlight peeking through from the gaps in the clouds.
“You know, I really didn’t think that I was making the red rice for you.” (2)
“You seriously made some?! And are you sure you don’t want to say anything else to me?”
“Of course I want to say something else, but I’m trying my very, very best to be patient. Got it?”
Chihiro brought her face close to Sorata’s, visibly restraining her annoyance.
Sorata took three steps back.
“I don’t care what you do, but just try to do them better. Like Mitaka does.”
“Telling me that I can do anything as long as I don’t get caught sounds like something only a villain would say.”
“What? So you want to be a good guy then?”
“That is my intention.”
“Good luck with that then. You’re really not suited for that. And neither are you.”
Chihiro sent that last comment at Mashiro, who was behind them.
“Ugh, getting back to school from here is so annoying.”
Chihiro began to walk in the direction of the station.
Not in a rush to catch up, Sorata stood there facing forwards, and called out to Mashiro without turning around.
He could feel her presence, but couldn’t hear her respond.
“I’m sorry about yesterday. I shouldn’t have said what I said in the way I said it.”
“I know Shiina does what she does only after a lot of thought.”
“But, still, even if it’s for data collection, you really need to think a bit more about the place.”
“I’m going to leave Sakurasou, but I’m still here if you need someone to talk to. Just tell me anything. And please tell me if you go off somewhere, and what you want to do.”
If he knew where she was going, even Sorata wouldn’t have told her to ask Jin.
“After all, I’ll have plenty of free time.”
Sorata tried to joke around to hide his embarrassment, but Mashiro remained silent.
Seeing no other option, Sorata beganto chase after Chihiro, but he almost tripped when Mashiro caught him by the sleeve of his sweatshirt.
He tried to turn around, but he couldn’t.
Her words were soft, but clear as day.
Sorata felt that if he didn’t say anything, his heart would break into two.
His brain wasn’t functioning. The words he wanted wouldn’t come out. All he wanted to do was to tell her one more time that he was leaving, but he couldn’t even do that.
Internally, he took a few deep breaths.
He prepared to turn around and tell her his intentions clearly.
However, the minute he decided that, Mashiro rested her forehead on his back. Because of that, Sorata’s back muscles stiffened, and he found that he couldn’t move anymore.
The place on his back she was lightly touching felt warm.
Sorata could feel every breath she took. She was right there. She was right beside him. And, what’s more, in her silence, she was making an appeal to him.
For some reason, her silent breathing seemed belabored.
It would be crazy to change his mind just because of this. However, even though Sorata thought that, he felt Mashiro’s unease pressing against his back, and he couldn’t just leave that be. Besides, lying to himself and regretting it later was even crazier.
“… You know, moving…”
“Moving is pretty hard.”
“… Yes it is.”
“Filling out an address change notification is also pretty annoying.”
“The normal dorms are all double rooms too, and that makes me nervous. The curfew is also pretty annoying. I don’t think I would like it.”
“And I mean, Sakurasou isn’t bad.”
“Yes, I really like it there.”
In Sorata’s imagination, he heard her add because of you to the end of that, and his heart jumped in his chest. Mashiro could probably feel his heart beating faster too.
“I also really like it there, I think.”
But Sorata thought that being honest with his feelings wouldn’t make him look too cool.
Everyone told him that Sakurasou was a nest for problem children, and getting convinced of that himself, he concealed his true feelings. He told himself that being able to live without standing out was the most important thing in life.
At first, he thought Sakurasou was ridiculous. Everyone was so bizarre, and every day something happened. All the students and even the teacher had such incredibly strange personalities.
However, it was fun.
Sakurasou was way, way more fun than the normal dorms.
Every day felt like a field trip in Sakurasou.
The other people in his class probably didn’t understand, and the majority of the teachers probably considered it a nuisance, but for a long time Sorata had known.
There was no mistake that this was the truth. This was reality. This was fact.
Having gotten quite a bit ahead of Sorata and Mashiro, Chihiro had stopped and her eyebrows were twitching.
“Did you forget I exist or something? It’s nice that you’re enjoying your youth to the fullest and all, but think about the people around you once in a while! It just makes my hair stand on end!”
“W-We’re not enjoying youth to the fullest or w-whatever.”
Sorata’s state of unrest was all because of Mashiro, who was still sticking to his back.
“And what did you say? ‘I also really like it there, I think.’? Geez, how lame are you?”
“Uwaaaaaah! Don’t repeat that! Don’t repeat that!”
“You know, you really don’t make me happy. What’s up with those lovey-dovey eyes you’re making? (3) It pisses me off.”
“Don’t throw salt in my wounds, dammit! Aren’t you supposed to be a teacher?!”
“When it comes to teaching, I think like a lion!”
“Aren’t you way too stubborn for a lion?!”
“If you’re going to complain so much… I’ve decided! Tonight, we’re calling a Sakurasou meeting!”
“Huh? What about?”
“I’m going to propose a measure that will ban inter-dorm dating and people enjoying youth in general!”
As the sun came out that day in June, Chihiro’s unreasonable declaration rang through the air.
Chihiro began a rough walk forwards, almost as if urging Sorata and Mashiro to hurry up.
Ignoring her, Sorata and Mashiro walked forwards slowly, their paces locked to each other.
Sorata looked at Mashiro from the side. Mashiro also looked at Sorata.
“Ah, it’s nothing.”
Sorata wanted to ask her why she asked him to stay, but in the end, she probably would just say that she didn’t want the person who bought her baumkuchen to disappear. When he thought about it like that, Sorata completely lost his desire to ask her the question.
Even if that were the case, at that moment, Sorata didn’t mind.
The following was written on the minutes of the Sakurasou meeting minutes:
The proposal for banning inter-dorm dating and people enjoying youth was denied, with one vote for, and five against. Once again, the meeting was a waste of time.
– Secretary Akasaka Ryuunosuke
END CHAPTER 3
(1) I find it somewhat ironic that the first time I typed this sentence I typoed this as “moe stubborn.”
(2) See footnote 4, Volume 1 Chapter 3-3.
(3) Literally, “eyes that say ‘I can’t see anyone but you.’”