Please Tell Me How to Remember Love - Chapter 2 Part 5
Chapter 2 Part 5
Seven years ago. During the summer vacation.
For Aoi, that day was the day when she met her hero, a day that she’d never forget for the rest of her life. For Takayuki, it was the biggest turning point in his life.
“Wait for me here, okay? I need to prepare something!”
“…Are you leaving me?”
Holding the flashlight under the dark path of the mountain, there was no fear in Takayuki’s eyes. Instead, what he was feeling was a sense of elation. He was sure that his grandfather would praise him for finding the missing Aoi.
There was no hesitation in his heart when he decided to use the hairpin that his grandfather gave him.
“Haha, I won’t leave you! I just need to prepare! I’ll tell you this, my hairpin has a special power! I need to use it to transform into a real hero!”
“What’s that? That sounds dumb.”
“Hahaha, maybe you’re right. But, I’ll do my best to make it happen! Will you trust me?”
“…If you leave me here, I’ll break your fingers.”
Even after receiving a scary threat from the girl that he tried to save, his feelings didn’t change. For Takayuki, his feelings about the girl didn’t matter. Yes, he wasn’t really fond of the girl, but that wasn’t enough of a reason to abandon her here. He moved further away from Aoi’s side.
“Oh my, this is a surprise~ My contractor this time is a young boy, huh?~”
He summoned the witch. The boy wasn’t surprised by her presence as he was certain that she’d answer his call.
Then, she told him about the price that he had to pay. Again, he wasn’t surprised. He just accepted everything and their conversation went smoothly.
“Okay, to make it more fair, I’ll give you a little bonus. Later, if you want to take your wish back—”
Even the witch took pity on his delusion and ignorance and ended up giving him a special treatment that none of her other contractors received.
“You have to find your love. Love is the thing that you need to free yourself from the curse that is tied to your ability.”
For the young Takayuki, her words didn’t mean anything. It sounded pretty and awesome, but ultimately, it didn’t change his decision. Without paying any more attention to it, he paid the price for the contract.
Even after seven years had passed, he still didn’t know that those words were his only hope.
* * *
“Guess your ability doesn’t come with protection from cold, huh, Satou-kun?”
“*coughs* God, I wish…”
Next day. The planned discussion was canceled due to half of the participants catching a cold.
“Now that I think about it, you two walked quite a distance to get to my house. Knowing Tohoku’s night, it would be a miracle that you two would be healthy after that.”
“…Your point is? Also, why are you even here?”
“To bring your uniform to you. My mom already washed it clean.”
Currently, Aoi was visiting Takayuki’s room.
It was a holiday, the time was during late afternoon. To be exact, it was 2pm. Takayuki’s room was dimly lit. The light source came from the faint light that seeped through the curtain. One could hear the pattering sound of rain from inside the room.
“Ugh, d**n… How did you find my address?… Ah, right, your mom… I knew that something was up when she said she’d wash my uniform for me and asked for my address…”
“Well, it was our relative’s mistakes that caused you to be in that kind of situation. It was the least thing that we could do for you. When she heard that you caught a cold, she told me to visit and take care of you.”
“And my mom didn’t stop you?”
“She entrusted her idiotic son to me with a smile. Actually, I want to refuse her, but I couldn’t bring myself to.”
“You put in quite the effort or someone who’s unwilling. Why are you even peeling that apple for me?”
“Even if I’m unwilling at heart, I should at least do this much to a patient.”
Other than the pattering sound of the rain and the ticking sound of the clock, the only other sound that could be heard was the sound that Aoi made when she was peeling the apple in her hand.
After she had done peeling and cutting the apple, she placed it on a white plate made of porcelain.
“Hm? Do you want me to feed you? It can’t be helped then, open wide~”
Takayuki sent her a sour look before glancing at the apples that she had cut. Not only did she make a rabbit with it, she even went out of her way to make a phoenix. The phoenix looked so beautiful that it made him reluctant to eat it.
“What is it?”
“Are you mad with me? Wait, no, are you actually nervous?”
Aoi proceeded to cut her work of art into smaller pieces and shoved one of them to Takayuki’s mouth.
“Don’t get the wrong idea, Satou-kun. Yes, this is my first time being in a boy’s room, but I don’t feel nervous or anything.”
“Nom nom… Well, you seem restless ever since you entered my room. You can look around if you want, not that there’s anything interest—”
“Can I turn the light on?”
“So you really are going to look around.”
When Takayuki gave her permission, Aoi, without hesitation, turned on the light in the room. Then, without reservation, she looked around the room, observing every corner that she could lay her eyes on.
Aoi didn’t know anything about a boy’s room, but she found Takayuki’s room quite tidy.
There were only a few notable things in his room. The only furniture that stood out were his bed, a bookshelf, a study desk and a built-in closet at the back of the room.
“A bookshelf, huh? The books are all of different genres. Oh, you got quite a lot of romance books. Come to think of it, you reviewed some of these on your social media. Do you like them? Romance, I mean.”
Among the furniture, the first one that caught Aoi’s attention was the bookshelf. Despite the variation of genres, most of the books were romance. There were some books about psychology mixed in too.
“Not really. I don’t particularly like it, but I don’t hate it either. Well, if you want to be a love counselor, then you’d have to do this much research at least, no?”
“What a diligent guy.”
Hearing that clear cut answer made Aoi sigh in amazement.
Takayuki proclaimed himself as a ‘love counselor,’ at first Aoi thought that it sounded so childish, but seeing how much effort he actually put in made her appreciate him a bit more.
“Then again, even after reading all those books, I still couldn’t understand what exactly is ‘love.’”
“Really? From the way you handled Tomoe’s case, I thought you’d be more experienced in this matter.”
“Because I was pretty much a bystander then. I could see it clearly from that perspective. I’ve never actually experienced it myself.”
“Hmm… Do you have a type of girl that you like?”
“I love me a seductive and kind girl.”
“You’re the worst.”
“What do you mean? That’s a normal taste for a high school boy like me.”
However, that appreciation Aoi had was soon lost due to Takayuki’s own words.
“Hmm… Can I ask you something? There are notebooks with ‘for research’ notes on them. What is it for?”
When she was trying to find other interesting things, Aoi found a stack of notebooks lined up on the shelf of Takayuki’s study desk.
“Hm? Ah, those… You can read them if you want to. They aren’t that interesting, though.”
“Are you sure? You’re letting me recite your black history out loud?”
“Don’t recite it out loud! Well, it isn’t exactly my black history. I mean, it’s still ongoing and stuff…”
Takayuki’s vague words made Aoi tilt her head in confusion. She then took one of the notebooks and opened it. As expected, the notebook was filled with letters. They looked wriggly, if someone were to tell Aoi that the letters were arranged by ants, she’d believe it. Though, they weren’t completely unreadable.
“When did you start writing this?”
“Ah, around the end of my second year of middle school? I just wrote all the stupid things that came to my mind. It’s dumb, really.”
Takayuki let out a wry smile, but unlike his usual smile, it looked like he was in pain.
What was written in the notebook was the result of his research. To be more specific, it contained Takayuki’s view about love.
It compiled various love stories, from fictional ones to real life ones. Analysis about how people came to love each other. The notebook was filled to the brim with those cases, along with the question, ‘Why does love exist?’
“…I don’t think you could describe this as ‘dumb,’ this is easily beyond that.”
The dense amount of information made it seem that he had a particular obsession toward this topic. Aoi had never seen another person around their age who’d give this much thought toward love.
‘Why did he do this?’ Aoi wondered. The obvious answer would be because of his consultation gig.
But Aoi gave it more thought. ‘Why did he start the gig in the first place? Because of his ability? But, why? He gave up on becoming a hero, but he went out of his way trying to use his ability to help other people, even though he knew the risk of doing so.’
Right before she was about to ask him the question that bugged her, she stopped.
She remembered the time when Takayuki kept her mouth shut, refusing to answer said question. They weren’t close enough for him to tell her his circumstances, Aoi was painfully aware of this fact.
So, she decided to change her question. After all, she could try to ask that other question later when they became closer than they currently were.
“Why did you stop being a hero?”
“…That isn’t something you should ask a patient.”
Hearing her question made Takayuki narrowed his eyes, but his smile didn’t fade.
“Sorry. It’s fine if you don’t want to tell me. I’d appreciate it if you were to tell me about it, though…”
Her words were laced with pain, but she managed to force them out of her throat.
“You know, a long time ago, there was this little brat who thought that she was a princess. The little brat was talented, she could do anything easily, but that made her conceited and she grew up to be a selfish brat. She became arrogant… No, she didn’t even know what arrogance meant back then. She was just that stupid. In any case, she thought that the world revolved around her.”
“I see. But, at least everyone fawned on that little brat.”
“I guess so. Anyway, she grew up to be selfish. Because she had a good-looking face, she started to look for a good-looking prince. And then she found a kind older sister who fit that role. That older sister happened to be someone who often wore boy clothes and her face was also to the princess’ liking. Honestly, rather than looking for a ‘prince’ specifically, that little brat just wanted someone who’d listen to her selfish desires. As long as they were good-looking and kind, no matter the gender, she’d still try to make them her possession.”
Aoi continued her words. There was an awkward smile on her face.
“Unfortunately for her, said older sister managed to see through her shallow thinking. So, she refused her confession. It was obviously for her sake, the older sister just didn’t want her to be selfish for the rest of her life. Too bad it backfired on the older sister. The little brat was a fool. Instead of trying to think what she had done wrong, she hurt the kind older sister and troubled everyone around her. On top of that she went out of her way to hide in the mountain to guilt trip everyone who cared about her.”
“I feel bad for everyone who spent the night trying to look for her sorry a**.”
“Well, after they found her, they scolded her really hard. They made sure that she regretted her action and ever since then she never attempted to do the same thing ever again. But, it wasn’t the scolding that made her change for the better. It was the hero… The boy who came to save her…”
Aoi glanced at Takayuki.
The latter returned her gaze silently.
“She was suffering by herself in the darkness. It was the boy who offered his hand and saved her. He granted her wishes that she thought would never come true at that time. For a long time, she wanted to give her thanks to that boy…”
Aoi knew that her words wouldn’t change anything. But, she wanted to say it anyway. Chances like this wouldn’t come often, after all.
“Thank you for saving me back then. You were very cool, you know?”
“I-I’m just thanking you, okay? D-Don’t think much of it!”
She held her face in her hands.
The embarrassment she felt made her want to turn her face away, but she didn’t want to miss his reaction. Through the gaps between her fingers, she continued to stare at Takayuki’s face.
Takayuki closed his eyes for a moment before turning his face toward the ceiling
He still wore the same irreverent and fearless smile, but the tone of his voice was considerably softer than usual. The words that came out of his mouth afterwards were filled with both nostalgia and regret.
“You know, I don’t think it’s right to let a girl embarrass herself like this. Also, being sick made me feel like talking about the old days…”
And so, he decided to tell her his story.
The story that turned the boy who aspired to be a hero into a boy who called himself a monster.
* * *
Seven years ago. At the end of summer vacation.
Takayuki’s grandfather passed away after saving a little girl.
There was a landslide that year and a house was buried by it. To save a little girl who was left behind in a mudslide, he received a fatal injury and ended up bleeding to his death. The cause of the injury was because during the process of him saving the girl, a piece of debris impaled his abdomen and he prioritized saving the girl over treating his own injury.
Takayuki thought that it was a fitting end for him, but for some reason, he shed no tears during the funeral. The same thing happened when he bid his final farewell to his grandfather’s body and after he picked up his ashes. Until he graduated from grade school and became a middle schooler, he never mourned his grandfather’s death.
Instead, he became more invested in his heroism acts. He knew that there was no point in doing any of those since his grandfather wouldn’t be there to praise him, but that didn’t stop him. Takayuki was determined to grow to be a man like his grandfather, to be a hero.
In hindsight, it was just his childish attempt to escape from reality. It was just his way to take his mind off his grandfather’s death. In truth, he didn’t really want to be a hero.
“I can’t stand looking at you. If you really want to be a hero, then use your head better.”
But, even when he had that half-a**ed resolution, there was still someone who stood by his side.
Her name was Takayama Yui, Takayuki’s seatmate and someone that was involved with him quite deeply. She was the only person who could stop Takayuki from doing dumb things in the name of heroism.
“If you really want to help someone, then make sure to take care of yourself too. The way you’re right now, it feels like you want to hurt yourself rather than saving someone.”
Takayuki still remembered her words clearly.
Back then, he was sitting alone in an alleyway, his body ridden with injuries after a huge fight. Takayama approached him and threw a towel at his face, along with those words.
They already became good friends back then. Takayama was the only person who willingly went along with Takayuki’s antics, despite her grumpy look and harsh complaints. She was someone that Takayuki cherished from the bottom of his heart.
“Seriously, stop this already, you look like an idiot! Look at yourself! You got broken bones everywhere! Your condition is bad enough to be hospitalized! Why do you still care about other people? Hey, did you even notice that I was worried sick about you?! When I heard that you got into an accident after saving that child, I almost got a heart attack! Yet you still!—”
It was Takayama’s words that stopped Takayuki’s foolishness.
When he was hit by a car to protect a child, trying to act selflessly like his grandfather, he didn’t feel anything in particular. Takayama’s words inflicted more damage to him than the car ever did.
“Right now you aren’t a hero. You’re a monster. A monster who hides behind a cloak of justice. A monster who loves to hurt itself, everyone around it and laughs at their pain.”
Red-faced, Takayama stared at Takayuki’s limp body on the hospital bed. Her silver-rimmed glass was clouded because of her tears. Seeing this, something clicked in Takayuki’s mind.
His deepest desire, what he wanted to do. It was to scold his grandfather like what Takayama was currently doing.
“I see. I’m not a hero, huh?”
At that moment, he could finally let out the tears that he had been holding back for years.
Through those tears, he managed to accept the reality that he wasn’t a hero.
* * *
“In the end, we are the same kind of person, Miyama. Blinded by our own arrogance, we did nothing but troubling people around us. Only after we hurt someone precious to us that we regret everything. Both of us were fools, really…”
“…I’m a woman, though.”
“For you specifically, a dumb b**ch.”
“Haha, that’s pretty mean of you.”
After Takayuki finished his story, both of them looked at each other and laughed. The laugh was a sign that they could relate to each other.
“Well, that’s why I stopped hanging out with Takayama… She still checks up on me occasionally to see if I’m doing well, though.”
“…Um, Satou-kun, is the Takayama you’re talking about that girl from class A? The one wearing silver-rimmed glass?”
“You know her?”
“Yeah, kind of. I guess I can call her a friend.”
“I see. Don’t say anything about me in front of her face. She’ll get very grumpy if you do.”
“But, it seems like she still cares about you.”
“I know. She’s kind to a fault, really. Like I said, she’s still occasionally checking up on me to see how I’m doing. I don’t deserve her, really…”
Takayuki’s shoulders slumped as he let out a deep sigh.
“Anyway, there you have it. I really wish I gave up on being a hero before things turned out that way. The bad thing about me is that when I decided to do something, I ended up getting tunnel-visioned and unable to see what was going on around me. Not to mention that I never regretted anything afterwards, no matter how dumb my actions were. I guess that was what made Takayama disgusted by me.”
He was smiling, but his smile looked unfamiliar to Aoi. Seeing this smile, she realized that she really didn’t know anything about the boy in front of him. They weren’t close enough, after all, merely classmates, no more, no less.
But, they could become closer. Aoi didn’t want to keep the status quo. She wanted to stand side by side with him, not admiring his back like what she always did in these past seven years. So, she gathered her remaining courage.
“Um… S-Satou-kun, I have a suggestion.”
“Yeah, so, to prevent ourselves from making any more mistakes, we need someone to keep an eye on both of us, right? You had Takayama-san to act as that person for you, but you don’t want to trouble her anymore, right?”
“Same as me, I have my bad friend to restrain me, but I don’t think I can keep relying on her, you know…”
Takayuki nodded to her words. Aoi then reached out her hand to him.
“So, why don’t we be partners? Let’s keep an eye on each other so that we won’t make any more mistakes. We’re the perfect partners for each other, I can still remember your ability and you know my dark past. I believe that you’ll notice if I were to revert back into a selfish little brat. You can restrain me if that were to happen.”
There was a cheerful smile on her face as she reached out her hand to him. Inwardly, though, her mind was in chaos. ‘Would he reject me? What if I said something that put him off? Seriously, what’s wrong with me?!’
Despite her anxiety though, she managed to keep up a good front.
“Haha… Well, if you don’t mind taking care of a monster like me, sure.”
The moment he took Aoi’s hand, Takayuki’s fearless smile became a genuine smile. Meanwhile, Aoi’s smile matched that of a blooming flower. No, it was even prettier than that.
“Hehehe, then we got a deal? Anyway, for someone who’s calling himself a monster, you’re actually quite a decent guy. On the inside at least, I mean, you look like a delinquent.”
“Well, I promised Takayama to dress up this way, can’t just change the way I dress at this point. Besides…”
At this point, Aoi realized that she was practically squeezing Takayuki’s hand. She was about to loosen her grip, but she noticed a change in Takayuki’s expression.
“I think it’s correct to call someone who’s using his ability for his own personal gain a ‘monster.’”
After a slight pause, his irreverent smile turned into that of a self-mockery.
It was that moment when Aoi realized that the distance between them didn’t get that much closer at all. She still had a long way to go before she was able to walk side by side with him.
Even so, she decided to stay by his side to prove that the feelings that she held for him weren’t a mistake.
She had yet to know that her determination would be shattered to pieces in the near future.