Kimi ni Koi wo Suru Nante, Arienai Hazu Datta - Chapter 6
Inside a bustling, jam-packed transfer hub station, I looked up at the electronic screens displaying the train schedules and, with my ticket in hand, double-checked the time when my bullet train would be leaving.
The screen displayed a variety of destinations spread across the entire country. I watched the mass of people in front of me walking to and fro, wondering where each of them had come from and where they were headed to.
I turned around at the mention of my name. There, I saw a small, petite woman donning a white coat and a skirt made of fabric. She had fair skin; black, shoulder-length hair; and perfectly mediocre features. This girl, who at first glance seemed like a prim and proper young lady, was named Iijima Mikiko. …In other words, she was my older sister. She walked up to me with a nylon duffel bag in her hand and, in a voice often described as being “much lower and colder” than what her appearance suggested, asked me.
“Got the reserved seats?”
“Yeah,” I nodded.
A few days ago, the university of my first choice announced the results of the entrance exam. Thankfully, I’d managed to find my examinee ID listed among those who passed, so today I was on my way to a real estate agency near the university to decide on an apartment to live in.
At first, I thought, Well, it’s only going to be for a year. After all, I’ll be going to a different campus once I reach the second year. I’ll just look up some places on the Internet and call it a day. However, my family, cautious and worrying as they were, told me that I would “make a mistake if I didn’t look around the room in person” and that “even if it was for a year, it’d be better not to have a bad experience at all”, so I decided to follow their advice.
But, as a green and clueless high school student, I was still unsure of whether or not I could pick an apartment by myself. My parents were too busy to take time off, and real estate agencies were usually less crowded on weekdays; not to mention that if I didn’t make a decision soon, all the good rooms would quickly be rented out… So, my older sister, a fourth year uni student currently on spring break, was chosen to accompany me.
In addition, they had also told me to “go and enjoy the hot springs there with your sister while you’re at it”, which was why tonight, I would be staying at a hot spring inn near the university. At first, I refused since I didn’t see why I had to go to some hot springs with my own sister. But she surprisingly latched on to the idea and said, “The hot springs there are those famous ones for their beautifying effects on the skin, right?” And so, my refusal ended up getting swept aside. I always thought my parents doted on my sister more than me…
My sister, being a student at a pharmaceutical university downtown, mentioned something about “having some things to do at school” and left home even earlier than I did. When we met at the station, she had a somewhat fatigued look on her face. I handed her an express ticket which she piled on top of her basic ticket and together, we made our way through the ticket gate.
I didn’t expressly voice it out loud, but it occurred to me that this was my first time going out with my sister since elementary school.
While waiting for the train to arrive, I used the allowance my parents gave me to buy lunch boxes and drinks for me and my sister. A few minutes later, a silver-colored mini-shinkansen slid into view right in front of me. I boarded it and made my way to the seat indicated on my ticket, putting my sister’s luggage on the overhead rack along with my own backpack next to it. We then sat down side by side as I handed one of the lunch boxes to my sister. It wasn’t even lunchtime yet, but she must’ve been hungry since she quickly split the wooden pair of chopsticks and dug in.
“Y’know, I never would’ve expected you to leave home,” she muttered with a sigh. She seemed to have a few more words on the matter, so I put my earphones down and waited for her to continue.
“When I heard the news from Mom, I was shocked. I was like ‘What? How did that happen?’”
My sister usually takes about an hour and a half to commute to school; add on top of that the fact that she’s always occupied with training sessions and experiments and she ends up with a hectic schedule where she leaves early in the morning and returns pretty late at night. What’s more, she has a part-time job on her days off, so we rarely ever see each other at home.
I wouldn’t say we have a bad relationship or anything; it’s just, we are somewhat apart in age and members of the opposite sex. It was only last week after the exams were over that my sister found out I was applying to a university far away.
“…I told them I found something I really want to do, and they gave me their blessing.”
The day I finished my Center Exam—the day I decided to leave this place—I immediately informed both of my parents. In response, my father patted me on the back and told me to do my best. My mother, too, though she looked sad at first, joined my father in supporting my decision when she heard of my firm resolve. That’s why I believe my passing the entrance exam for the university is in part due to the support my parents showed me. As I internally thanked my parents for their understanding and support, my sister snorted as if to snap me out of my mood.
“Really? I mean, it is you, so I thought you got dumped by some girl and were just running away.”
I flinched at how scarily accurate her comment was. I barely ever spoke with my sister so I knew she was just making random guesses, but still, I can’t deny that that was one of the reasons behind my decision. Of course, I did refute her, saying, “Of course that’s not true.” But my sister gave me a sharp, almost clairvoyant-like gaze before opening her bottle of tea and chugging it down. With a detached voice, she said, “Well, whatever. Just don’t get too crazy out there. You’re still dependent on our parents, after all.”
You’re one to talk when you’re just a student, too… But I couldn’t say that to her. My sister always crushes me in arguments. So, too bothered to continue, I gave a short “Yes, I understand”. I then reclined my chair and shut my eyes as I pretended to sleep.
In the end, I actually ended up falling asleep for real, but was soon woken up by a loud thud noise. I looked around to see what was going on, only to find that it was apparently just the train entering a tunnel. A concrete wall drifted past outside the window, and the smartphone in my hand displayed the words “No signal”. My sister, perhaps not even aware of this, was sleeping peacefully with her face buried in her scarf.
I looked down at the screen again and noticed there was an unread message that had arrived while I was asleep. It came from Katsuya and read, “I’ve sent the photos from the graduation ceremony to your email address. Make sure to check ‘em out later!”
That reminds me, I haven’t checked my emails in over a week now. Now that I think about it, there’s actually no need for me to boot up my PC to read my emails when I can just use my smartphone instead. So, having nothing else to do anyway, I decided to kill some time by opening up my email on my phone’s browser.
After a few seconds of waiting, the emails in my inbox showed up. Katsuya’s was first on the list, followed by a plethora of other unread ones. Most of them were ads or newsletters from sites I had registered for, so I decided to delete them without bothering to check their contents. As I made my way through each email, marking them with a checkbox for deletion, I suddenly came across an email from a certain address which made my hands stop immediately.
It appeared to have been sent the day after my university’s announcement of my acceptance, and the title read “It’s been a while!☆”
Is it her…? I wondered as I opened it out of curiosity. Prefacing the email were the words “I finally finished my exams”, followed by several lengthy, high-spirited paragraphs, and finally concluding with the following:
“By the way, do you still remember when we talked about going to a Scosho concert together? I actually got tickets on the waiting list for their next one at Quattro! What a miracle! If you’re free, I’d love to go with you. ♡”
The sender in particular was listed as “[email protected]……” and although no explicit name or signature was provided inside, I think I can say with certainty that this is from Isogai Kumiko-san.
What should I do? I pondered. I do faintly remember making that sort of promise with her, but I have to prepare for the move, and although I may seem to have plenty of free time, I’m actually quite busy. Plus, I’d originally met Kumiko through Kitaoka, so now that I was no longer in touch with Kitaoka, it felt a bit weird for me to be friends with her.
But she really seems intent on going, so saying no to her makes me feel kinda bad… I’m sure she asked me out with good intentions, too. I feel reluctant about turning her down just because of my personal circumstances, not to mention that I myself would love to see the concert, too…
I thought long and hard, and eventually decided to send her a message saying, “I’m sorry, but if you know anybody else who would like to go, then please feel free to invite them instead.” Unfortunately, the moment I was about to send the message, the train entered a tunnel once more, thus leaving my phone without cell service. The tunnels were long and very frequent, so I couldn’t find the opportunity to send my message.
Forget it, I’ll just send it later… I gave up for now and threw my smartphone into the pocket in front of my seat. I then unwrapped the lunch box I’d bought earlier and started eating. After I finished, I decided to go back to sleep until we reached our destination.
I got off the train and onto the platform. My first impression of the place was that it was a pretty thriving and flourishing area.
The campus I visited for my entrance exam last month is the one I will be attending from my second year onward. The actual campus I’ll be attending for the first year along with the other undergraduates is the main one here in Yamagata city. I stepped outside the station where numerous high-rise buildings stood and vast roads stretched out with dense traffic and plenty of vehicles moving along them. It truly lived up to its status as the capital city of the prefecture. However, there was still some residual snow that could be seen melting in various parts of the city, causing the overall temperature to be much colder than the southern Kanto area. Nevertheless, the cold, clear air felt pretty refreshing, so I didn’t mind it.
Because we had already contacted the real estate agency beforehand, an agent came to pick us up in front of the station by car. She was a young, tall, and lively-looking woman who looked to be about the same age as my sister. However, in contrast to my sister she spoke in a considerably charming accent. She spoke amiably to both of us as she drove.
We looked around several apartments near the university in the order of the list she recommended to us. When I had called them the other day, I had told them my deal-breakers—points I considered non-negotiable—when it came to apartments, so all of the ones I looked at today were decent.
But the one that especially caught my fancy is a unit on the second floor of a two-story apartment that’s a little far away from the bus stop, but has rent in the 30,000 yen range, a separate bathroom and toilet, a constant hot water supply, and air conditioning.
Although it was built twenty years ago, its interior seemed to be well-maintained and cleaned and did not look its age at all. When I asked my sister, who had the final say, what she thought of the place, she seemed to be of the same mind as me. “I think this place is good enough,” she said.
Originally, I’d only planned on taking a look for the time being and waiting until I got home before seriously giving it some more consideration. However, the moment the agent learnt of my interest in the property, she suggested (half-threateningly) that if I didn’t reserve the unit quickly, others would snatch it away from me. I called my mother to confirm with her, and she gave me the green light, so I decided to settle it with a provisional contract on the same day. I made my way to the real estate agency’s office and proceeded with the paperwork and other procedures.
I thought things were going pretty smoothly, but the whole process ended up taking a lot more time than I expected, and by the time we reached the hot springs inn it was already well after dark.
“Oh, is your boyfriend younger than you? He looks really cute,” said one of the waitresses to my sister as they guided us to our room. She immediately denied them and said, “He’s my brother,” but for some reason, she seemed to have a delighted expression on her face. I got goosebumps when I saw my aloof sister’s unusual reaction.
Afterwards, I immediately made my way to the large bathroom and soaked in the hot water to clear my mind. The water there was so acidic that I felt like my skin would melt if I stayed in it too long.
After I returned to my room, I browsed through the few channels available on the provided TV. Not long after, my sister returned as well. She was wearing an elaborately patterned yukata provided only to female customers. Male customers, on the other hand, were all given standard yukatas with the inn’s name embroidered on it. Even so, I didn’t really mind it too much.
“How is it? Does it suit me?” my sister asked. She held the cuffs of her sleeves and did a twirl. Feeling a little annoyed, I kept my eyes glued to the screen as I lazily replied.
“Yep, looks fine to me.”
“No, do it again.”
She suddenly marched up to me and pinched my cheeks with both her hands. She glared menacingly at me and continued.
“Listen. You have to properly look at me when you say that. This is precisely why you aren’t popular with the girls. Also, you have to be more specific when you give compliments.”
“…Your beautiful, white skin is jaw-droppingly gorgeous together with that pastel-themed yukata. I have never seen anybody else don a yukata so well.”
I couldn’t possibly care less about this whole “complimenting” thing, but nevertheless, I gave her a blatantly forced, over-the-top compliment. Perhaps she found my response passable since she didn’t ask for any more do-overs.
For dinner, we had a traditional Japanese meal (known as kaiseki) brought to our room. In particular, the locally-farmed beef, which was well-known for its excellent quality, as well as the sashimi, which was caught off the renowned Shounai coast, were among some of the best foods I’d had the pleasure of tasting. I was very grateful to my parents for giving us the opportunity to sample these delicacies while also shouldering all the costs.
My sister had ordered some sake to drink, but perhaps because she wasn’t a strong drinker by nature, she stopped after only two small cups.
“Mmm… I don’t think I can drink any more.”
“Then gimme some of it.”
I borrowed the rest of the bottle and tried sipping it slowly to get used to the taste. Soon my head began to bob as if drifting in the sea, and half an hour later I conked out on my warm futon.
The next day, since we’d already finished our search for my apartment and had some time leftover, we decided to do some sightseeing before we departed. As I was checking out, I asked the staff at the inn if they had any recommendations for places to go.
“Since you’re here at Zaou already, might I suggest you take the cable car to the top? The ice-covered trees there are quite the spectacle.”
“Yes. They’re called “Ice Monsters” and tourists from all over the world come to see them. However, the weather has gotten somewhat warm lately, so they might have melted a little.”
We decided to follow their advice and headed for the cable cars, where we rode one to the top of the mountain. A vast expanse of trees and bitingly cold weather gave way to a beautiful landscape once we got high up.
I inwardly praised myself for having brought my camera with me. I was completely engrossed in taking pictures of this winter wonderland until my sister threw in the towel. “Uh-oh. My feet’s all frozen,” she said.
Thus, we made our way back to the inn where we soaked our feet in a footbath, ate a slightly late lunch of some locally famous soba noodles, and spent some more time relaxing in the footbath.
By the time we had finished shopping for souvenirs, the sun was beginning to set, and our trip came to an unexpectedly satisfying conclusion.
“…I have to say, it was way more enjoyable than I thought it’d be,” I muttered as I munched on my mochi-like manju on the bullet train home. My sister, who was sitting next to me, stared out the window at the snowy landscape atop the mountain and replied in a low tone.
“…So you’re really leaving, huh.”
I was surprised at how docile she was. I gave a perfunctory “I guess…,” and my sister heaved out a heavy sigh before she continued.
“I’m sure you’re excited for your new life, but everybody you’re leaving behind is going to miss you.”
I couldn’t help but let out a strange noise. “What?” my sister asked, a puzzled look on her face.
“No, it’s just, I didn’t expect you to say something like that.”
My sister was usually so calm to the point where she could be considered “cold-hearted”, and as such, she had never shown this sort of frail side to her in recent times. And yet, that very same sister of mine had oddly enough just blurted out some pretty sentimental lines. I didn’t know how to react.
She seemed to pick up on what I was implying as she smiled bitterly and proceeded to plainly state.
“I mean, we have been together for eighteen years now. I never imagined you’d be leaving the house before I did. Plus, you aren’t planning on returning after you finish college, are you?”
“I’m still not sure…”
Nothing’s set in stone right now, but honestly speaking I do have a feeling that that’s very likely going to happen in the future. In other words, I’m only going to be a part of my household for a few more weeks and after that, I may come back occasionally to visit, but never to “live” there again.
Thinking about it now made my heart suddenly ache. I had many memories of the place where I had been born and spent practically my entire life at; some painful but certainly not all of them. At the very least, I was blessed with a wonderful family. My father, mother, and of course, my sister, all accepted me for who I was and cared for me…
“At least thank our parents one last time before you go,” she reminded me.
“I know. Also…”
“Thank you, Nee-chan.”
Perhaps she was trying to hide her embarrassment, but she grabbed my head and ruffled my hair. Then, she muttered her trademark “I’m beat” phrase, put on the eye mask she had in her bag, and went to sleep.
Now alone and with nothing to do, I took out my phone, put on my earphones, and began listening to some music on shuffle mode. After several songs, a song by Scosho suddenly began playing. It started off with a distinct guitar solo, followed by a hard and intense message in the middle.
Oh, right. It occurred to me that I hadn’t replied to Kumiko’s message yet. That’s stupid of me; if I can’t go then I have to inform her as soon as possible. I wondered if my memory was getting worse.
I accessed my web browser and opened my email where I tried to type out my message of refusal I had thought of yesterday, but stopped myself.
Well, maybe it’s fine after all. Sure, we only got to know each other because of Kitaoka, but after that we became friends because of our shared interest in Scosho, so I don’t think the issue with Kitaoka matters in our current relationship.
Besides, I’m sure this will be my first and last time going to a concert with Kumiko. It’s important to show my appreciation for my parents, but the same goes for my friends, too.
I clumsily typed in the words “I’m sorry for the late reply. Congratulations on passing your exams.” Then, I wrote “Can I still take you up on your offer? If it’s okay with you, I’d like to join you at the concert.”
If she’d already gotten tired of waiting for my reply and I had to go with someone else, then so be it. With that in mind, I clicked on the “Send” icon.
The train exited the tunnel, and the snowy landscape I’d seen earlier was now turned completely on its head as the sky above turned into a crimson red, dyed by the setting sun on the horizon.
Ahh, what great weather we’re having today…
Today was the day I would be going to the Scosho concert with Kumiko. More specifically, it was going to take place later tonight in downtown Tokyo. Kumiko and I had agreed to meet up at 7 PM, but I thought, “Well, it’s not every day I get to go to the city, so why not head there now and explore until then?” So, I left my house early at noon and rode my bicycle to the station.
Once I arrived, I parked my bike in the bicycle area in front of the station when suddenly, an announcement came through the speakers, announcing the arrival of a train. If I don’t hurry, I might miss the train I’m supposed to take. I quickly hurried to the ticket gate under the blazing spring sun and strong winds.
I tapped my prepaid Suica card and made my way through the gate. I climbed the stairs just as the train was arriving at the platform and so was able to board in the nick of time.
As I leaned on the wall close to the train doors, I found my gaze inexplicably drawn outside the window, to a person sitting on a bench on the platform.
It was a girl with her face cast downward; her long hair spilling onto the seat. Her dark brown hair, glistening in the spring sunlight, looked very similar to that of Kitaoka Ema. Wait, “similar”? What if she really is her?
What is she doing here? Who is she waiting for? And why does she look so lonely─
I was about to move my body when the train doors closed on me. The train began moving, and the platform slid out of view, snapping me to my senses.
…I must’ve gotten the wrong person.
What an idiot I am. There was no reason for Kitaoka to be there at all. I can’t believe how delusional I’m getting just because they share a slight resemblance.
Truthfully speaking, I actually had another dream about her this morning. For some reason, she was a junior high school student in it, and I was comforting her after she got separated from her friends, telling her that everything would be okay. Perhaps that dream had influenced me, deluding me into believing that the girl on the platform was Kitaoka.
I turned my back to the window and sighed. Looking around the car, I saw that a seat in the back was empty, so I moved to it and slowly sat myself down.
“Fuaaah…,” I yawned. Lately I’ve found myself in a constant state of busyness. Whether it be packing my belongings and cleaning the house, visiting my relatives, or being taught how to cook from my Mom. I even met up with some of my friends from junior high school, whom I hadn’t heard from in a while, and we went on a trip together to make sure I had no regrets before I left this town. Our destination? A scenic spot famous for its plum blossoms.
And last night, I played an online shooter game in co-op mode with Katsuya, which was surprisingly fun. We played all the way until dawn.
The schedule for my move has already been decided. My stuff will be taken away in two days, and I will receive them at my new apartment in four.
I scratched my chin. The other day when I was at the hot spring inn, an employee had teased me about how “cute” I was, and it bothered me a bit, so ever since then I’ve been trying to keep my beard long enough to avoid being called that. I only realized right before I left the house that I had forgotten to shave it off, but it wasn’t like Kumiko saw me that way. So I left it as it was, thinking that there was no particular need for me to impress her.
A few transfers and several rattly train rides later, I finally arrived at the heart of Tokyo in all its hustle and bustle.
I browsed through a large electronics store before stopping by a clothing store that my sister had taken me to before, where I found a nice shirt at half price. I tried it on and found it to be quite comfortable, so I bought it and left the store. After that, I killed some time at a bookstore with an impressive selection of goods, and finally, when dusk fell I headed for the station closest to the concert venue.
I made my way through the crowds and arrived in front of the meeting place, a run-down bookstore, a little earlier than scheduled.
While waiting, I listened to songs from Scosho’s new album which I hadn’t had the chance to listen to yet due to my exam preparations. Eventually, no sooner had the third song begun playing than I spotted a familiar girl among the passersby.
“Ah, there you are!”
I took off my earphones at the same time that Kumiko came running towards me. Today she was wearing a spring-themed, cream-colored cotton jacket and jeans, and her hair seemed to have grown a little longer than the last time I saw her. Perhaps it was due to all the cramming she had to do for her exams, but she also looked even thinner than before. However, her bright smile was just as I remembered it. It made me relieved and a little embarrassed at the same time.
“It’s been a while,” I greeted her. Once she came to a stop in front of me, her eyes opened wide in amazement.
“Woah, you’ve got a beard now.”
She immediately called me out. Does it really look that bad on me? I was beginning to slightly regret my earlier decision, but for some reason Kumiko just giggled and slapped me on the back.
“I wonder how you manage to align with each and every one of my interests. I’m telling you, you’ve gotta go easy on me.”
…Her response was surprisingly positive. I have to say, liking my beard? She’s got some really weird tastes. It’s better than her finding it disgusting, sure, but it’s also pretty embarrassing for me.
“…I’m shaving it tomorrow.”
When she heard my low mutter, her lips curled into a dissatisfied pout.
“Really? What a shame.”
I couldn’t tell if she was joking or actually being serious, but nevertheless I brushed her remark aside and asked her, “How much did the ticket cost?” After I paid her and received my ticket, we walked up the narrow stairs to the concert hall on the upper floor of the building.
The concert was a standing-room-only concert. The doors had already been opened, and the seats near the stage were crowded with fans vying for space. Meanwhile, Kumiko and I weren’t too concerned since although we came somewhat late, we were some of the last people to get numbered tickets, so our seats were already reserved.
Right as we reached the lobby, I told Kumiko that I’d be changing my clothes and headed for the restroom. Since concerts tended to be hot and humid, I had with me a T-shirt I’d bought from an earlier concert.
It took me about three minutes to change and when I came back, Kumiko gazed longingly at my black T-shirt with the band’s logo imprinted on it and said, “I want a T-shirt, too.”
We looked over the merchandise booth that was selling T-shirts behind us and exchanged thoughts.
“Which one do you want to buy?”
“I think the purple one looks good.”
She hesitated for a moment, but eventually, seemingly trying to convince herself, she declared, “You can never have too many shirts, right?” as she charged toward the booth.
Afterwards, I waited for her to change into her newly bought apparel. It seemed like she would take a while before she came back out, so I went downstairs and got some drinks for the both of us at the bar.
“I’m back,” announced Kumiko. Initially, I didn’t expect her to look good in a T-shirt since she had a slender build and narrow shoulder width, but apparently I was wrong. Having the T-shirt on really gave her a “naughty rock girl” sort of look.
I passed one of the drinks I had placed on the table to her. There were only two types of drinks available, soda and oolong tea, so I’d taken one of each.
“I grabbed drinks for us; feel free to choose whichever you’d like.”
“Oh, thank you. That reminds me, you paid for my share of the drinks too, didn’t you?”
When we first entered the venue, we were asked to pay for access to drinks. Kumiko had had a hard time taking her wallet out, so I opted to pay for the both of us.
She hurriedly tried fishing out some coins from her purse, but I shook my head and refused.
“…You already got me a ticket here, so it’s fine. Think of it as my treat.”
“I couldn’t possibly…”
“Rather, it wouldn’t sit right with me if I made you pay me.”
My firm refusal eventually led to her giving in. “Alright,” she said, “I guess I’ll take you up on your kindness.”
I forcefully shoved my handbag into a tight locker allocated for the two of us. The show was about to start, so we made our way towards the hall. Foreign techno music was playing loudly on the floor, and there was a huge swell of excitement from the people waiting for the show to start. Even I could feel myself getting excited.
“I wonder which song they’ll play first,” she muttered. Immediately afterwards, my vision darkened and the room was filled with loud cheers.
Thus, the curtains raised on the very first (and possibly last) concert that I’d be watching with a girl I met by chance.
The silhouettes of the band members emerged beneath the curtains, and the cheering got louder. The rhythmic strumming sound of a guitar riff resonated throughout the venue, followed by the pounding of drums. Finally the thin fabric separating the stage from the audience was peeled away at once.
“So they’re kicking it off with this one!” Kumiko excitedly exclaimed.
The song they chose to start things off with was a new single they released about half a year ago, which had a contrasting mix of upbeat instrumentals and dark lyrics, leaving listeners with a lasting impression. Even though I didn’t really like their new album, this one really struck a chord within me.
Listening to a recorded version of the song at home or on my music player is great, but listening to it live really is a completely different experience. It even made me think, “So this is how good the song was.” I think I’ll start listening to this more often from now on.
Amidst the roaring crowd, Kumiko excitedly raved about how “Mimura has gotten more buff!” and that “Nishi-kun is really cool!” As soon as they finished, the next song started without even the slightest of delays, and the crowd grew even more excited.
After performing about four songs in a row, the vocalist, Mimura, briefly addressed the crowd.
“Err, I’d like to thank everybody for coming all the way here…”
I could immediately hear some laughs from the crowd. Kumiko, too, giggled from beside me. “He stuttered just now, didn’t he?”
This particular vocalist was characterized by the fact that he was fierce and sharp as a knife when he sang, but as soon as he started talking, he would suddenly turn into your run-of-the-mill, older-brother type of guy, which seemed to be popular with his girl fans who couldn’t get enough of it.
Soon, the performance went back into full swing. At first I wasn’t sure if I should come, but now I’m really glad I accepted Kumiko’s invitation. It was truly incredible to be able to partake in my favorite music along with such a huge crowd of people. I felt an indescribable sense of elation. In fact, I wish I hadn’t hesitated on going to more of these events just because of my exams. Such were my regrets.
“Mimura’s really going to town with his voice, huh?”
“Yeah. He seems to be in tip-top shape.”
We chatted with each other as we listened to their performance, but after a few songs, I noticed something strange.
Kumiko seemed very concerned about the person standing next to her, and was constantly maintaining a certain distance away from them. The person standing to her left was a plump, young man who seemed to be by himself. He was sweating so much that even I could tell from here.
I observed the two of them for a bit after the song started. As the song reached its peak, I noticed the man was being way too close to Kumiko for comfort.
Is this what I think it is? If I had to say, this man was most likely trying to take advantage of the crowd to touch Kumiko’s body. It was similar to what the pervert who’d traumatized Kitaoka on the train did.
What the hell? I was disgusted. He must have gone through fierce competition just to get a ticket to this concert, and this was what he was using it for? To do such despicable things? Truly the scum of the earth.
I was squeezed by people from the front and back, but fortunately there was still barely enough room for me to move. I tugged on the sleeve of the T-shirt Kumiko had just bought and spoke to her.
She looked back at me. Her eyes showed a clear hint of confusion.
“Let’s switch places. It’s easier to see from here,” I softly told her before stepping between her and the man a bit forcefully to switch spots.
Truth be told, there wasn’t much difference in our heights, so us switching like this likely wouldn’t change her viewpoint at all. I only said that to avoid any offense.
“T-Thank you…,” Kumiko’s soft mutter reached my ears, and for an instant, the man next to me shot an annoyed glare at me. But perhaps he didn’t have the courage to lash out at me since he just stayed away and watched the concert quietly.
After our swap, Kumiko grew even more excited than before, probably because she didn’t have to worry about the man anymore. She seemed to like singing along with the songs rather than dancing or jumping around, and I could hear her faint singing voice coming from my right.
This, in turn, made me very happy, too.
The curtains were lowered, and the band members left the stage. The lights were dimmed, but there was no sign of the audience leaving.
Shouts from the crowd demanding for an encore continued unabated. In my opinion, this concert has been more exciting than any other I’ve attended so far. I don’t know if it was because of the band or the girl next to me. Either way, I had so much fun that the two hours spent standing didn’t feel tiring at all.
When the curtains were once again raised, all the members had changed into the tour T-shirts sold at the merch store. One of Kumiko’s favorite members, the guitarist, was wearing the same one as her’s, and Kumiko, pointing at the stage, excitedly squealed, “Nishi-kun and I are matching!”
The first song of the encore was, as promised, a cover song. The original had been released by a famous model and female idol celebrity while she was working as a singer, and apparently it hadn’t been popular at all at the time. However, for some reason, the members of Scosho seem to like this song, and it is played almost every time they perform. It has become customary for the entire audience to jump up and down during the chorus part of the song, marked by the shout “Yes!”
After the first song, the band continued to play a series of well-known classics from the past. When the fourth song, a slow ballad, ended, a sorrowful atmosphere began to fill the hall.
Perhaps everybody knew that the next song would be the last one. I myself had seen the set lists of other venues on the internet beforehand, so I had a general idea of what was coming next. Their recently released new song would likely be played as the last one of the concert.
“So, uh, this next one’s going to be our last.”
The vocalist spoke into the mic in a hushed tone. And just as I’d expected, everyone was reluctant to see the show end as they let out disappointed “Aww”s.
The loud thump, thump, thump sound of the bass drums roared through the venue as if to drown out the somber atmosphere. …Wait a minute. This isn’t from their new song.
Surprised, I turned to look at Kumiko. She, too, stared back at me with the same astounded look on her face.
The melody of the bass and guitar were seemingly overlapping each other. There was no mistaking this familiar melody.
“It’s Junjou Clumsy Boy!”
At the same time that Kumiko shouted this, the whole room was filled with loud screams and cheers, and the hype in the venue reached its peak. “Kyaaah!”
This was Kumiko’s favorite song and a wonderful masterpiece that was rarely performed. It wasn’t just Kumiko though; almost everyone in the audience was humming the song with feverish eyes as well. Come to think of it, although this is my second time hearing the song live, I don’t think I’ve ever paid much attention to the lyrics.
As I listened to the song being played as loud as could be, I listened closely and picked it apart. It turns out this song was a love-song-slash-confessional-song from “me” to “you”, apologizing for cruelly hiding “my” true feelings from “you”. The relationship between this mystery “me” and “you” in the song is unclear and cannot be completely inferred from the song alone. I could feel the nuance of a very deep connection between the two, but at the same time I could sense that it was still an unrequited love.
But I could tell what this song was really trying to convey the most. It came during the bridge of the second half of the song, where the vocalist shouted with all his might.
“It doesn’t matter if you get hurt! Love won’t kill you! You just have to get back up again!”
The verse likely didn’t hold much meaning for most. But for me, hearing those words again left me frozen, unable to move a single inch in the midst of the frenzied crowd.
Thus, the concert ended on a high note. As we followed the stream of people leaving the venue, Kumiko asked me, “Should we eat somewhere before we head home?” I could feel my stomach rumbling, so I readily agreed.
“Oh, but we might end up getting home late. Is that okay?” she asked
“The trains at my place run until 12:30 AM. I’ll be fine.”
Kumiko, whose house is farther away than mine, has a friend from her high school who immediately moved to live alone in the city. Apparently she’s planning to lodge with them for the night.
I asked her where we should go, and Kumiko said that there was this udon restaurant she’s always wanted to try, so we decided to walk there despite it being a little far.
The spring night breeze felt good on my heated body. We talked about our impressions of the concert, and before we knew it, we had walked the thirty minutes or so journey to the store.
“Ah, here it is.”
I looked to where she was pointing: a white and subdued mud-walled building.
We had to wait a while for the food, but since it was a noodle dish, it didn’t take long until we finished eating. I wasn’t in the mood for anything too fancy, so udon was perfect for my stomach.
After leaving the restaurant, we walked along a large street until we came to a subway station. Kumiko said she was going to take the bus from here, so it was time to say goodbye.
The neighborhood was a high-end residential area with no large commercial facilities around, and the few stores that were there had already closed except for restaurants. Thus, the streets were sparsely populated and much darker than the town we’d come from. When we arrived at the bus stop, I decided to wait with her for a while until the bus came.
There wasn’t anybody else around except us. Kumiko sat down on the guardrail and stretched her long arms and legs out toward the sky.
“Man, what can I say? Today was such a blast.”
Yep, yep, I nodded my head. Perhaps she found my response lackluster, but Kumiko teasingly slapped me on the shoulder and asked, “Do you really think so?”
It’s true though. I’m really glad Kumiko invited me to the concert. Once I move away, I won’t be able to go to any concerts for a while, so thanks to her, I now have one more good memory before I leave.
“Oh, right. Iijima-kun, you got accepted by your university too, right?”
“Where is it?”
“Oooh,” Kumiko nodded her head in admiration before suddenly speaking in a lower tone.
“That means we won’t be able to see each other for a while, huh.”
I was about to agree with her, but seeing her expression so sad and lonely made me swallow my words.
“To tell you the truth, I’m also going to be moving away soon.”
That was news to me. All she’d written in her email was that she’d gotten accepted to her university, so I didn’t expect that she’d be moving, too.
When I asked her where she was going, she told me the name of a suburban city located far westward. It was in the exact opposite direction of the place I was going to move to. Even if I took a bullet train or an airplane, it would take me an entire day to get there.
“I got pretty good scores on the Center Exam, so I put a dental school as my second choice on a whim and somehow made it in.”
“Are your family members dentists, too?”
“Nope, none of them are. They’re just regular office workers. Plus, people who go to private schools usually get into some other department than dentistry. But when I talked to my parents about it, they said, ‘Might as well go since you’ve already been accepted.’”
This was a decision that would affect her entire future, and yet she was using lighthearted words like “on a whim” and “might as well”? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I guess. I didn’t see the need to delve into that part any deeper, so I just laughed and moved on.
“If you ever open up a dental clinic, please give me a check-up, okay?”
“Sure, but that might be another twenty years down the road.”
We both chuckled. Twenty years later, huh… I’ve only lived for eighteen, so I can’t even begin to imagine what the future might hold. I’m sure the same goes for her, too.
“Anyways,” Kumiko began, staring intently at my face, “I hear there are tons of local delicacies there, too, so make sure to come visit with Ema.”
I froze at the casual mention of her name. I’d been trying to avoid bringing up her name the entire day, and just when I thought I was in the clear, it came back to bite me at the very end.
Seeing my odd reaction, Kumiko tilted her head to the side.
There was no way for me to deceive her now, so I answered honestly.
“Umm… You see, Kitaoka-san and I are kinda, well…”
Perhaps Kitaoka hasn’t said anything about it to her. They were both preoccupied with studying for their exams, and I’d imagine that Kitaoka wouldn’t want to carelessly bring up this topic with others. So Kumiko not knowing anything wasn’t completely unimaginable.
“What, did you two get into another fight?”
“I mean, I wouldn’t really call it that…”
I was reluctant to explain it in detail. Kitaoka is, first and foremost, Kumiko’s best friend before she is my classmate. Telling Kumiko the simplified version of things—that I’d overheard Kitaoka badmouthing me and subsequently cut ties with her—is not something I feel comfortable doing, especially since she cares a lot about her. Plus, I wasn’t too keen on the idea of telling her the rumors about myself, not to mention that there were plenty of other things I wanted to keep hidden away.
After hearing my vague and unclear stuttering, Kumiko suddenly burst out into laughter out of nowhere.
“What’s the matter?”
“No, I just…”
She covered her mouth with her hands while her shoulders shook. What could she have found so funny?
A short while later, her laughing came to a stop and, as she turned to look at my dumbfounded face, she loudly declared:
“You know, I really feel a sense of kinship with you!”
Her words confused me, and I was perplexed as to how I should respond. I mean, I’d never thought of myself as being similar to her. If anything, Kumiko’s lively and friendly personality put her on the opposite side of the spectrum as opposed to someone like me.
My reply contained the implicit rebuttal of “Are you really sure?” However, Kumiko’s smile never faltered as she replied.
“Yes. We share the same interests and the same kind-hearted nature which makes us go to weird lengths for the sake of others. At the same time, we can also be clumsy and stubborn in certain ways.”
…So that’s how she sees me, huh. I’m aware that I can be kind-hearted and clumsy, but I don’t think I’ve ever held such a strong opinion on something so as to warrant being called “stubborn”. Also, I don’t feel like I’m being complimented at all. My face unconsciously formed a grimace, but nevertheless Kumiko continued in a cheery tone.
“To be honest, I’ve been thinking ever since we met that maybe this is what things would be like if I were a boy.”
The heck? I was even more confused. Girls can have the strangest of imaginations at times. However, I could tell what her point was. She really, truly felt close to me. That’s probably why she treated me like an old friend when we met in the past and even again today.
After another short bout of laughing, she looked down at her feet and slowly spoke.
“So please, if you can, don’t leave things as they are. I’m honestly really worried about what’ll happen, and it goes without saying that I want you to be happy.”
Every single one of her words sunk into my heart. It was almost as if it was a farewell message. Or rather, perhaps it wasn’t an “as if” anymore; perhaps she knew.
Knew that I had parted with Kitaoka, and knew that our respective paths had diverged, never to meet each other again.
A large truck passed by in front of us, creating a gust of wind that blew my bangs up.
After it was gone, my eyes were drawn toward the lights of the skyscrapers in the distance. Flashing on the tops of buildings like the twinkling of stars in the sky, it was the very symbol of cities themselves, and I made sure to burn the scenery into my eyes.
Kumiko muttered in a way that seemed like she was planning something. When I turned around, she lightly placed her hand around my cheek.
“Can I have one last kiss before I go?”
Her proposition was so unexpected that my body jumped. What an insane thing to say with that calm tone of hers.
I hurriedly looked down and refused. There was no way I could kiss her in public, even if there were few people around. It was too daunting a task for someone who hasn’t even dated a girl before.
I’m so glad the area was dark. I had no doubt I was turning red from the tips of my ears down to my neck.
I was so embarrassed that I gave her a curt and cold reply, but fortunately she didn’t seem too offended as she asked in the same tone.
“Can I have a hug, then?”
…Well, if that’s the case then I can play it off as “being a little too sentimental” if someone passes by. Besides, it was Kumiko’s request, and if she really wanted to do it, I wouldn’t mind.
“Sure,” I said. Kumiko opened her arms and wrapped them around my neck. Her slender body tightened around me. Her warm breath repeatedly brushed against my ear, making my heart beat faster.
“I’m glad I met you,” she muttered. It looks like she knows this is going to be our last date together. I’m sure today turned out to be a special day for her, too. She must have wanted to leave behind a truly memorable experience before she left her hometown.
“I feel the same, too. Thank you for everything up until now.”
It wasn’t just a formality, either; I truly felt that way. I had so much fun at today’s concert, more than I’ve ever had before, and her presence added a faint touch of color to my monotonous life. I learned that not all girls in this world were as severe as my sister or my classmates; there were also ones who were kind, caring, and understanding.
So, what if, I thought, what if I’d met Kumiko without Kitaoka? Perhaps I would’ve been able to have a deeper relationship with her. That said however, without Kitaoka, I would have never met Kumiko in the first place, so imagining such a scenario is pointless.
But what if, by some miracle, I had met her by chance? If I had been able to exchange words with her before the day of the training camp—on a street corner, on a train, in an empty store, or somewhere else…
I gently put my arms around her back and wrapped them around her waist. At that moment, she whispered to me as if she was overcome with emotion.
“Do your best out there.”
I tightened the arms I had put around her and pulled her even closer. Saying goodbye was always heartrending, and I felt a searing pain in the upper left side of my chest.
“Work hard and be happy.”
“You, too, Kumiko-san,” I was about to say before I shut my mouth. Kumiko had probably worked hard enough already. There was no way I could irresponsibly tell her to work even harder.
In the end, I didn’t even give her a “yes” or an “uh-huh”. All I did was nod repeatedly as I rubbed my cheek against her neck.
Over her shoulder, I could see two dazzling headlights. The bus was approaching. We put our arms down and sadly backed away from each other.
“See you,” she walked up the bus ramp, waving all the while. The doors closed and the engine started.
I watched her figure through the mirror slowly grow further and further away. I kept waving my hand until the bus carrying her disappeared and was no longer visible.
I walked down the stairs to the subway platform. There were only a few people waiting beyond the ticket gates, and the train that arrived at the platform had only a handful of passengers sitting in each car as well.
I put aside the matter of train transfers for the moment and boarded the train through the door in front of me. I made my way to the end of a long seat and rested my body on it before quietly shutting my eyelids.
The train started moving. In two hours, I would be at home, worrying about the move that would take place the day after tomorrow and looking back somewhat in disbelief at everything that has happened today.
I ruminated over what was to come in the following days.
For the sake of the girl who supported me, I will do my best to be happy. After all, I am her. I don’t want to do anything that would make her sad, because she gave me so much courage without any reward or compensation. Even if I never see her again, I must work hard.
The next time I fall in love, I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I have no regrets. And if I do get hurt regardless, I will remember today and what she said to me once before. “It’s okay. It might be uncool or embarrassing, but you have to get back up again and again until you seize happiness with your hands.”
I’m truly glad to have met Kumiko.
“Thank you, and goodbye. Let’s meet again in twenty years, if we can,” I called out to the afterimage of the carefree girl in my mind.
It’s chapter 6. Finally. Don’t ask why it took so long when I said it should’ve taken less time. Honestly my ability to procrastinate is a mystery to me, too.
Anyways, thank you again to Tibbs for the donation on Ko-Fi. I realize this is, well, 3 weeks late, but your message really stuck to my head. It should’ve made me want to translate faster (which it did, for a few days before Hamlet went back to his same old routine of delaying).
Also, this chapter is (again) unedited. Unu will get on it sometime soon. The tenses are kinda broken, I think, and I’m experimenting with using semi-colons and em dashes and all the other nice trinkets of the English language’s punctuation system. Also, I may decide on making an EPUB/PDF when I’m done. Well, if I know how to actually make one.
For those of you who are curious, there are 9 chapters in total so there are 3 left to go.
The next chapter, c7, is 22k chars.
c9, big. Very big.
Anyways, thank you for reading and bearing with me. I really appreciate all the nice comments (and to a lesser extent, the mean ones xd) even if I don’t read them very often. It really warms my heart and drives me to do a tiny bit more every day.