Please Tell Me How to Remember Love - Chapter 2 Part 5
Chapter 2 Part 5
“This is a glass of water.”
In front of Takayuki was a transparent glass, filled with water to its brim.
“The glass is the vessel and the water is its content. Think of it as our body and spirit respectively. The spirit possessed our body entirely, just like how this water filled the glass. Just like our lives, the water in this glass could get muddy, corrupt and its color might change, but the important thing to note here is that no matter what kind of change you give it, the amount of water will never change. From our births to our deaths, it will stay the same… Except for one occasion.”
The owner of the voice, Reina, took the glass and placed it near her lips. With a small gulp, she lowered the amount of water inside the glass.
“When we pay the price for our abilities, to make sure we have a room for it within our vessel, we have to reduce what we have. This is why the witch demanded us to pay her the price.”
After placing the glass of water back onto the table, Reina smiled at Takayuki.
“If that’s the case, what’s in it for the witch? If the price we paid isn’t what she’s after, then what’s her purpose?”
“Mhm… I live long enough to know a little about her. She told me once, ‘I want to know about love.’”
“…As expected. Love, huh?”
Takayuki and Reina were exchanging words at a certain family restaurant. After breaking up at the coffee shop, ‘as planned,’ they contacted each other and met up here.
“Whether it’s magic or other kind of supernatural powers, none of them can beat love, huh?”
“Oh my, amazing! Did you come to that conclusion on your own, Takayuki-kun?”
“No. When I first met the witch, I was young, stupid and naive, so she deliberately told me this as a hint. To regain the price I had paid and break the contract, love is the key.”
“Hehehe. The witch only answers the wish of someone that she likes. She must’ve really loved your wish back then.”
Reina began to speak with a distant gaze in her eyes as Takayuki tilted his head in confusion.
“Yeah, it took me a long time to realize that. I wandered around for a long time, involved myself with various people despite myself being forgotten not long afterwards. Yet, some things stay the same.”
“Wandered around, huh? With that kind of side effect, I can see why you did that… Speaking of side effects, were you really okay when you tried starving yourself? Sure, your body could restore itself to its healthy state, but that isn’t the case with your mind, right?”
“Hehehe, well, let’s just say that I’m special. You understand what I meant, right?”
At that question, a frown formed in Takayuki’s brows and he fell silent. He had an idea what she was talking about, though he didn’t feel comfortable talking about it.
“We’re different from the rest of the humanity. I mean, we live with an ability that goes against common sense. Someone’s nature could change depending on their environment, but that isn’t necessarily the case with us. You understand what I’m trying to say, right?”
With a gentle smile, Reina slowly poured some milk and gum syrup into the glass in front of her.
“Once foreign substances are mixed into the water, we can’t turn it back into water again. We aren’t water. We’ve turned into something different compared to normal people. And we have to try to obtain our love in this kind of state, it’s a little difficult, don’t you think? I had been living for a long time, but I still doubt that I’d ever get over my regrets before I eventually perish.”
Then, she drank down the liquid in front of her in an unconcerned manner in one gulp before turning her attention back to Takayuki.
“So, don’t you think we should help each other out? We’re of the same kind, after all.”
“Right… I guess so, huh?”
Takayuki looked at her and nodded. Satisfied with his reaction, Reina continued her words.
“Alright, let’s move on to our deal. As a sign of good faith, I’ll give you the information that you need.”
With a cheerful expression and an affectionate smile, Reina began to tell Takayuki the information that he needed.
“Your grandfather’s will… The story about the curse behind his will…”
* * *
With Reina’s help, the plan to help out Rinko’s confession was going smoothly.
Reina, who was assigned to tail Shuzou, did a better job than they had ever expected. Within the span of three days, she managed to finish everything. Not only did she find his home address, but she also succeeded in figuring his daily schedule out. This was beyond what an amateur could pull off.
Inspired by her good work, Takayuki started cooperating with her to work out a plan so that Rinko’s confession would go smoothly on D-Day. Meanwhile, Aoi, after shelving her own problems, were making final adjustments for the confession with Rinko herself.
“Uhh, despite everything, I take a bath everyday, you know?”
“But, you didn’t do more than that. I can tell by looking at your skin and hair. What I’m doing is just a small thing but it’s still better than doing nothing.”
To be exact, she dragged the unwilling Rinko into her house and scrubbed every inch of her body.
“I told you I’ll fight my own battle!—”
“I thought you’re the kind of person who’d do your best for the sake of winning?”
“Uwah, you always have the perfect comeback to everything, huh, Aoi?”
Rinko resisted for a while, but after being beaten by both logic and force, she languidly stopped her resistance. She looked like she was on the brink of giving up on everything.
“…Well, tomorrow is the big day, so stay over for tonight. We’ll do this again tomorrow morning.”
“Uu, you said that I’m hard to handle or whatnot, don’t you realize that you’re also hard to handle when you’re like this, Aoi?”
“Is that so? We can call it even then.”
After Aoi finished scrubbing Rinko’s body, they both entered the bathtub together. There were still things to do after bath and they didn’t want one of them to catch a cold from waiting, so they just entered the bathtub together. Thankfully, Aoi’s bathtub was big enough, so despite both of them being inside, it didn’t feel cramped.
“Hm? What is it?”
Both of them submerged their bodies into the water. After a while, Aoi opened her mouth again.
“…Aren’t you scared, Rinko-senpai?”
“I am. Would be crazy if I’m not.”
“I guess so, huh?”
“Surprising isn’t it? Well, I did say that I’d just focus on other things if I got dumped, but I’m still scared, you know?”
Rinko let out a chuckle and leaned toward Aoi.
“But, you see, the fear in my heart means that I’m taking this matter seriously. Both this matter and my career as a painter. I really can’t choose one over the other, that’s why I decided to confess in the first place. If I get rejected then, I will never confess my feelings to Shuzou-kun ever again and focus on my career. But, if he accepts me, then, I’ll abandon my career and dedicate my whole life to him.”
“…You weren’t joking about that, Rinko-senpai?”
“Yes. Well, to be honest this just shows that I’m incapable of doing both at the same time. It isn’t like I can help it. If I dedicate myself to love, then I want to reach the future where I’d eventually marry Shuzou-kun and create a happy family together with her. If I dedicate my life to my career, then I expect at least I’d mark my name in history with my doodles.”
“Doodles you say…”
Aoi gently accepted Rinko’s body as the latter leaned on her while muttering, “You’re amazing…”
She muttered the words in such a small voice, she barely could even hear it herself, but Rinko somehow managed to pick up on them.
“No, the amazing one here is you, Aoi. You were the one who taught me that I’m worthy of being loved. You’re the reason why I became who I am right now. If it wasn’t because of you, I’d probably still be trapped in that dark room and I could never have fallen in love with someone.”
“That’s why, it’s okay, Aoi. You’re amazing, you don’t need to hesitate. Just do it.”
Rinko’s smile, which remained unclouded even after being covered by the bath’s steam, looked gentle and mature. A hot sensation grew from inside Aoi’s chest.
“Seeing through what’s on my mind like that, you’re too hard for me to handle, Rinko-senpai.”
“That so? We’re even then.”
To those words, Aoi could only turn her face away from Rinko’s while pursing her lips. With a boiling red face, she couldn’t bring herself to meet her gaze head on.
* * *
The day of confession.
The preliminary investigation by Takayuki and Reina was perfect. They predicted Shuzou’s movement perfectly and managed to catch sight of him on a holiday just right before noon.
“Are you ready, Rinko-senpai?”
“Yes. I won’t be a coward who runs away on D-Day.”
Shuzou’s figure could be seen at a certain bookstore. There were no familiar faces around him, so this was the perfect chance for her to call out to him.
“Right. You look cute and pretty now, Rinko-senpai. Good luck out there.”
“Haha, thank you, Aoi.”
The preparations were in place.
Aoi hid and positioned herself so that she would be able to watch Rinko’s confession from the shadows.
Rinko herself was dressed in the casual clothes that Aoi picked for her. Long skirt that emphasized her feminine side while also retaining the charm that came from her baby face.
“Phew… Alright! Um, Shuzou-kun!”
After taking a deep breath, Rinko dashed toward Shuzou and called out to him.
Shuzou was a tall, well-built man in his late twenties. With short black hair and blank expression, as if his facial muscles were frozen in place, he dressed in a black suit. Apparently he still wore his suit even on his days off.
“Akanashi-san? I kept telling you to call me Iwanaga-sensei, please do that properly.”
“No. Didn’t we agree that I’ll only call you that when other teachers or students are around? No one is around right now, so can you let it slide this time?”
“…Right. It would be unfair if I don’t fulfill my part of our agreement. From now on, I’ll strive to do my best to prove that I’m worthy enough to be called ‘sensei.’”
Shuzou responded in a flat tone that seemed to be devoid of emotion. Despite how hard it took for Rinko to dress up for the occasion, he didn’t even mention anything about her outfit, though this wasn’t the most outlandish thing when it came to him.
His response showed his honesty, albeit it also showed how boring of a person he was. Rinko didn’t dislike him for it though. In fact, ever since she fell in love with him, his boring side felt endearing to her.
“Then, Akanashi-san. Today is a holiday, but do you need something from me?”
“U-Um, Shuzou-kun! Uh… Y-You haven’t forgotten about our agreement, have you?”
“Agreement? Which one? Can you please be more specific?”
Talking to him was like talking to a machine. But, Rinko knew this was his ruse so that he could safely get out of this situation. If she didn’t pressure him now, he’d just make an excuse and leave without any hesitation.
“Y-You told me that you’ll answer my confession in private!”
“Yes I remember that, but this is a public place. If I were to do that here, my career as a teacher would be over. Let’s do this another time. Then, see you.”
“If the place isn’t right then, just shut up and follow me! I already have a place in mind!”
“…It can’t be helped then.”
Despite her bright red face, Rinko managed to crush Shuzou’s attempt to escape the situation. He seemed to be unwilling, but he walked beside Rinko without making any fuss.
“Alright, this should be the place!”
After walking for a while, they arrived at a certain park. Despite its size, the place was sparsely populated, mainly due to its location, it was on a steep slope, and the lack of equipment for children to play around. The park was a perfect place to sit down and paint, though.
Yes. This park was the park where Rinko and Aoi first met.
“U-Um, Shuzou-kun? I-I know you’ve figured what I’m going to say already… W-Wait, I’ve already told you about this before! A-Anyway! I-I’ve known you for a year. A-At first, I thought you’re like an udo tree, boring and— W-Wait, no! T-That isn’t what I’m trying to say!”
“Calm down, Akanashi-san.”
“I-I am calm!”
Rinko’s gaze swam around as she tried to say what was in her mind, but in the end, she failed to do so and ended up screaming loudly. But then, either out of desperation or determination, her gaze finally found its way to Shuzou.”
“Shuzou-kun… Iwanaga Shuzou-san.”
Her big eyes stared right at Shuzou’s eyes.
“I love you. Please go out with me.”
With a little prayer that she could convey her feelings properly, she confessed with a strained voice. At the very last moment, she managed to squeeze out a genuine confession without any of her usual eccentricities.
To that, Shuzou closed his eyes, before he opened them again and faced Rinko’s gaze with his pensive gaze. He didn’t run away as he decided to face Rinko’s feelings directly.
“I’m sorry, I can’t go out with you, Akanashi-san. No matter what happens, I can’t go out with you. This isn’t because of my status as a teacher, this is my genuine feeling as an individual.”
And so, he responded with the answer that he had prepared since a month ago.
* * *
Initially, Iwanaga Shuzou’s feelings toward Akanashi Rinko weren’t something close to fondness. He genuinely hated her. The pure black hatred he felt stemmed from his jealousy toward her talent.
Shuzou was an ordinary man.
He came from an ordinary family, his talent wasn’t anything outstanding and his life wasn’t anything special either. If there was any distinguishing feature about himself, it would be the fact that he went to an art college and somehow managed to become a teacher. But that wasn’t the future that he wanted. It was just the path he ended up choosing because his dream of being a painter was shattered by the harsh reality.
Yes, Shuzou wanted to be a painter, but he couldn’t make a living from that occupation. If anything, his heart had already been broken before he could even start his career as one.
But, he already saw this coming from a long time ago.
He had no talent and luck to keep up with the trends. He didn’t have the passion necessary to risk everything to achieve his dream. That was why he ended up burying his dream and chose the more stable career path for himself.
“Heya, nice to meet you, Advisor. My name is Akanashi Rinko. I’ll be in your care~”
That was until a real monster appeared before his very eyes.
Rinko, who had just entered high school at the time, greeted him casually, but her hands never stopped painting. Naturally, Shuzou turned his gaze toward the painting… And the thing that he saw overwhelmed him. It was as if a kaijuu suddenly appeared in the city and stomped on him.
That was how beautiful her painting was to Shuzou.
The beauty of her painting made him, who had already given up on his dream, pick up his brush once again.
However, no matter how hard he tried, his painting couldn’t be compared to Rinko’s. Even though he cut down his sleep time as much as he could and spent most of his time painting, all his works would only end up as garbage compared to her’s.
“Iwanaga-sensei, you don’t really need to attend morning practice everyday with me. Aren’t teachers usually busy in the morning?”
And so, Shuzou decided to devote himself to observing the monster.
Taking advantage of his position as the art club advisor, he tried to learn something from Rinko. That was the reason why he kept visiting the club room as often as he could.
“Your paintings suck, Shuzou-sensei. Well, I don’t dislike them, though~”
Time passed and it had been six months since he first met with Rinko. Shuzou’s painting had improved somewhat, but compared to Rinko’s, it was like comparing a sand mountain made by a child to a real mountain.
That was why when Rinko casually threw those words at him, he started to despise her. He had been talking with her for a while, hiding his emotion behind his expressionless face, but Rinko’s words and actions suggested that she saw right through him. But that didn’t matter to him.
In the end, he decided that there was nothing he could do. Even if he were to wallow in his hatred, the situation wouldn’t change. Also, he’d rather give up on his hatred than not being able to see her new works.
Realizing that she really managed to figure out his true nature, Shuzou laughed at himself.
“Shuzou-kun, so, why are you still painting? Is there any special purpose behind it?”
One day. It had been almost a year since he first met with Rinko. All the club members had gone out to do something outside the club room and Shuzou happened to be staying alone with Rinko inside. The situation made him feel nervous. Not because he was alone with her though, he wasn’t a boy in his puberty.
It was because of Rinko’s question. Despite it being asked in a frank tone, it was clear that there was a deep meaning behind it. He had to answer her question sincerely, no matter what. And so, Shuzou braced himself to tell her the truth.
“I just think that it would be nice if my paintings could appear in textbooks. Wouldn’t it be amazing if people were still able to see my paintings even after centuries had passed?”
But, his mouth blabbered on without him realizing it. Instead of giving her a serious answer, it told her the remnants of the dream of a foolish child.
Shuzou stared at Rinko. He thought for sure that this monster in front of him would laugh at his silly, stupid words.
“What a coincidence, Shuzou-kun. That’s also my purpose to keep on painting.”
But, instead of mockery, he met with her sparkling eyes. They gave him as much shock as back when he first met her. To him back then, she looked beautiful, so beautiful that she managed to steal his heart.
He was stunned to find out that his feelings, which were supposed to be filled with hatred and jealousy, were completely flipped upside down like an othello. ‘What a foolish guy,’ he cursed himself over and over in his mind.
But, the moment he realized his love for her, he also came to realize another thing.
“Hehehe, we share the same dream, Shuzou-kun!”
The fact that she also shared the same feeling as him.
This was a serious problem for him. Not because they were supposed to be teacher and student, but because this was simply something that should never happen.
As a genius, she shoulda fell in love with her paintings, not with an ordinary guy like him.
Shuzou knew that a gallery from overseas had scouted her.
Shuzou knew that with her talent, she’d be able to spread her wings all around the world.
Shuzou knew of her weakness. If Rinko were able to gain his affection, even her talent wouldn’t save her and she’d end up falling into mediocrity.
He was in his last straw. That was why he decided to consult someone about this matter. There was a rumor about a certain consultant account in the social media that might be able to solve his case. And that account name was ‘Baku.’
The account of the love-eater himself, Satou Takayuki.
“You sure that’s the outcome that you wanted, Iwanaga-sensei?”
“Yes. It has to end this way, Satou-kun. There’s no other choice.”
Back to the present. Shuzou was on his way home when Takayuki suddenly blocked his path.
“I have to cut everything off so neither of us will be left with any regrets.”
“…Couldn’t you just be honest with her and say that you do have feelings for her at least?”
“Rejecting her confession and giving her a sense of false hope just because of my feeling of guilt? That would be cruel of me. Besides, you were the one who encouraged me to make this decision.”
“I guess so, huh?”
Shuzou was unable to recognize Takayuki’s power.
According to Shuzou’s memories, a month ago, he talked with Takayuki and the latter somehow managed to convince him to forget about his love and make up his mind on what he should be doing next.
“I just think that it’s a pity. People said that as long as love is involved, things will always work for the better. Who knows, if you and Akanashi-senpai got together, a path where Akanashi-senpai will still be able to achieve her dreams could be opened.”
“Satou-kun, it isn’t wise to say things that you don’t even mean. Besides, reality is different. Love doesn’t always make things better. But still…”
Shuzou smiled at Takayuki, who had a regretful look on his face. He broke his emotionless facade and opened his mouth.
“I love Akanashi-san when she paints. I love that part of her the most. Therefore, if my love for her makes her stop painting, then I’ll discard it without any hesitation. How deep my love for her doesn’t matter when it comes to it.”
“…You’re such an egoist.”
“Yes. That’s why you don’t need to take pity on me, Satou-kun.”
With those words, Shuzou started walking once again. This time, Takayuki didn’t block his path.
Takayuki couldn’t see any hesitation in his step as he saw him off without saying anything.
“What am I supposed to do in this situation, I wonder?”
He looked up at the sky as he muttered those words.
But the sky was clear and cloudless, completely ignoring Takayuki’s anguish.
* * *
“Jeez, I was the one who got dumped, why are you the one who’s crying?”
“…I’m not crying.”
“Sure you aren’t.”
“Good grief,” Rinko said as she shrugged her shoulders. Despite what happened, her cheeks weren’t wet with tears.
“Me aside, why aren’t you crying, Rinko-senpai?”
Aoi asked with a crumpled face.
“When I got dumped a long time ago, I remember it felt really painful. I was still in grade school back then, but the pain made me cry and scream like it was the end of the world. Do you not feel the same pain as me?”
“I do, but it isn’t as painful as that. Actually, if I let my guard down a little, I’m sure I’m going to cry in a heartbeat. But still, I want to embrace this pain, I don’t want to let it go. Because this pain, this scar in my heart is something that I’m proud of.”
After patting the teary-eyed Aoi, Rinko answered her question.
“Hm, I don’t know if you’d understand if I were to tell you, but this rejection is Shuzou-kun’s way of encouraging me. It feels like he’s telling me ‘Move forward, just forget about me.’”
As she said, Aoi failed to understand what she wanted to say, but she at least understood that Rinko wasn’t being delusional when she said it. It was clear from her bright expression.
“That’s why, Aoi, I won’t hesitate anymore. I’m going to put this love aside and move on. One day, I’ll become someone that Shuzou-kun wouldn’t be ashamed of!”
Her smile was so beautiful that it was hard to believe that she was currently being heartbroken.
“…I see. But, if you’re going overseas, Rinko-senpai, I’m going to miss you.”
“That won’t happen for a long time, I still need to prepare for a lot of things first! Also, we can still talk on social media! If you miss me, I’ll call you every night!”
“Please keep it in moderation. Don’t make me block all your accounts.”
Her smile was so beautiful that even Aoi, who was annoyed by her words, was entranced by it.
And that was probably why Aoi was able to move on from this case without any regrets.
* * *
After seeing Rinko off, Aoi sat down in the park by herself. She kept taking deep breaths to calm her chaotic mind down.
Then, she sent the text that she had written in advance.
Its content was simple, but the courage it took for her to do that single action was immense.
[Can you come over to my house tomorrow, after school? I want to discuss something with you.]
The person she sent it to was Takayuki, her benefactor and most importantly, her partner.
That was the reason why she had to make this matter clear.
“I’m scared… But I want to face my feelings properly. Just like Rinko-senpai.”
Yes. Was she even qualified to be Takayuki’s partner? That question had been haunting her. And to find the answer to that, she decided to delve into her own past and Takayuki’s past.
Even when she knew that he had to confront her own guilt in exchange for it…