Saturday noon, Orino-san and I were on the terrace of an Italian restaurant in front of the station. We had come to see a movie together, and were on the way back.
Yesterday, ‘I used my connections in the movie club to get some presale tickets, but do you want to go?’ Orino-san invited me out. To me, it felt like she had quite purposely prepared the tickets to make a strong appeal to the fact she was indeed in a movie club, but that’s just what you call reading too deeply into it.
After brushing off all the food and draining the water in my cup, I asked.
“What do you want to do now? I think it’s a little early to go home.”
She put her hand to her chin in thought. It was a cute, girly gesture. When I looked at her mouth unable to conceal its smile, my own mood warmed up. And there—the uncouth vibrating sound of a cellphone resounded.
A moment later, Orino-san’s expression clouded.
As if she knew exactly what was going on from the vibration pattern.
“You’re not going to answer?”
“I will. I’m sorry…”
Standing from her seat, she answered the phone a little away. After exchanging a few words, she returned with an apologetic face.
“Sorry… um, I have some urgent business to attend to, so I have to get going.”
“Really? … I see. Then there’s nothing we can do about it.”
“It’s fine. If it’s urgent, you’d better go.”
She apologized with a truly pained face, making me feel apologetic myself.
“… You’re not suspicious?”
The words softly spilled from Orino-san’s mouth.
“Suspicious of what?”
I couldn’t tell the meaning of her question.
“I might be lying to you. About urgent business, and my stomach hurting…”
At her faint voice as if her heart was leaking, I tilted my head even further.
“Why would you have to lie to me?”
“… Never mind. I’m sorry I asked such a strange question.”
Well then, Orino-san left in a hurry.
Her back looked extremely unreliable, too fleeting to entrust the world.
I ended up calling out.
“I’ll be waiting for you.”
Orino-san turned in surprise.
“I’ll be waiting. Until you finish your business, I’ll be in the area. Today, I feel like playing with you some more.”
“… Okay. Thank you!”
Her cloudy face slightly clearing, Orino-san ran off. Her step was a little lighter than before.
“I wonder what she has to do…”
I pondered a bit, but quickly stopped thinking.
I went to the arcade and department store to kill time. Along the way, Kagurai-senpai called me. When I wondered what it was, she reported she was returning to her parents’ house.
‘So you won’t be able to call me for a while, but don’t worry about it.’
“Is your parents’ house out of service? Could it be out in the country…”
‘No, that’s not it, but… well, just know you won’t be able to get in touch. It’s too far away.’
“Where is it?”
‘By the standards of this world, as I recall… it should be around Shibuya.’
“That’s really close.”
‘It’s close space-wise, but time-wise… no, never mind. It’s nothing.’
Kagurai-senpai’s voice had more intensity and leisure than before. Like a seasoned warrior who overcame a life or death struggle and matured, she had increased in awe.
The reason she was returning home was owing to the fact she had finished up a job, apparently.
… I wonder why, I got the feeling I just missed a climax. Like a new finishing move, and a wager with the last boss, and some drama between brother and sister, the sort of feeling that I completely missed out on all of it.
‘Well, I should be back after around a week.’
She said before hanging up the line.
That person went as far as skipping school to go home. I wonder what she was doing.
Thinking over such things, I killed even more time.
Orino-san returned passed six in the evening.
I was sitting on a bench in the station-front plaza, and when I raised my face from the Corocoro I was reading, I saw Orino-san jogging towards me.
“… I’m really sorry. I kept you waiting.”
“It’s fine. I said it before, but I don’t hate boredom.”
I put my Corocoro away in my bag… huh, it won’t fit. I guess Corocoro really is just too big. But don’t think that’s going to stop me! Hup. Hup. Hup!
“… Do you want to go buy a bag?”
(TL: An Issue of Corocoro Comics is approximately 750 pages long (~6cm))
I walked with Orino-san through the darkened residential district.
I really wanted to walk her home, but, “I can’t reveal the location of my house to a civilian… I-I mean my father is very strict, so if a man escorts me back, it’ll get a little…” so while it pained my heart, the arrangement reversed and she was walking me back to my place.
“There are less children playing around these days, though the park is getting old. I heard they’re going to flatten it and make a parking lot.”
“I see. It’s always a little sad when that happens.”
“I’m also sad. I’ve got some memories here.”
“Yeah. Back in elementary school, I met a wonderful person here.”
Feeling a tingling sorrow like the pain of being pricked with a pin, I proceeded through the empty park. At that moment, the misanga on my right arm let off a faint light. But it quickly died out.
“… Hm? What’s this?”
Next to the stone slab that spelled out ‘Gentle Breeze Park’, it was scribbled in with chalk: a complicated shape made of circles and quadrilaterals.
“I wonder what it is. It kinda looks like a magic circle.”
“I’m sure some kid doodled it.”
Good grief, what are they doing to public property? The park belongs to everyone. My civil service spirit revived, I borrowed a picked tissue from Orino-san and got to erasing the white doodle.
I gave a light wipe, and the moment one portion of the doodle was gone,
Came the sound of breaking glass.
I nervously looked around in surprise.
In the center of Gentle Breeze Park that had been empty up to a moment ago, Kurisu-chan was collapsed.
Orino-san and I rushed in.
“… Ah, Kagoshima-senpai… and Orino-senpai too… I see, so you broke the barrier for me… that’s good. I couldn’t do anything from the inside, it was really bothering me.”
Kurisu-chan returned a faint voice. Her body was limp, her breath was shallow and short. Her face was pale.
“Whoah. You’re burning up… Orino-san, call an ambulance!”
“… I’m fine.”
Kurisu-chan reached a hand towards Orino-san, blocking the report to 119.
“I just used a bit too much magic… I tried every spell I could to break the barrier, and wasted quite a bit… the doctors here won’t be able to do anything but… I really am fine. If I rest a bit…”
She muttered incoherently as she closed her eyes. For a moment I panicked, but noticing a sleeper’s breath leak from her lips, I gave a sigh of relief.
“What should we do… she said the hospital’s no good so, should we let her rest in my house for now…”
When I turned towards Orino-san,
“… Magic… barrier, and spell…?”
Her mind had stopped on all the words I ignored.
My house was a standard two-story and I lived there alone. This was the first time I ever thought it better that my parents weren’t there. Just what sort of ruckus would they have made if I took home a debilitated young girl?
“How’s Kurisu-chan doing?”
When I climbed the stairs with a first-aid-kit and towel in hand, I ran into Orino-san on her way out from my room.
“Hmm, she’s still in pain, but she’s calmed down.”
While I hesitated a bit, I tucked Kurisu-chan into my bed. I had the option of my mother’s bed (my father’s bed was not an option), but it hadn’t been used for a while, so the futon was gathering dust in the closet. I couldn’t keep a patient waiting while I made the bed.
“… Huh? Orino-san, why are you holding your bag?”
I said, noting the bag in her hands. She didn’t have to carry it around, she could’ve just left it in my room. Hmm? In the first place, why was she leaving?
Could it be she was already going home? It was getting late, so if she really had to…
“… You ask why I have my bag?”
Orino-san said in a low voice, patting the bag a few times.
“Because I can’t leave these in the same room as a patient!”
As she yelled with a reddened face, she forcefully pulled the bag open.
Inside it was… yeah, well, they were so-called erotica. Five, no six indecent covers were crammed tightly into the bag.
“Orino-san… do you always carry those around with you…?”
Learning an unexpected side of Orino-san, I was filled with concern.
“Ah, but… yeah. Your secrets safe with me. Yeah. That’s right. Women have interest in that sort of thing as well.”
“Wha!? Y-you’re wrong! Look, take a good look at this!”
“Take a good look!? At that book!? What’s gotten into you, Orino-san!?”
“Aah, god! Just take a look at it already!”
She grabbed my head and thrust it into the bag filled with porn mags.
It was embarrassing, but I had no choice but to look them over as ordered.
For some reason, I had a recollection of all of them…
“Wait, these are mine!”
I forgot to put those away!
Whoah! That wasn’t the right time to say, “This is my room, so just go in. I’ll go get some towels and ice!”
A classmate (female) just cleaned up my porn.
When even my mom’s never put it away before.
“Putting it under the bed is one thing, but they were just normally strewn around the center of the room…”
No, I mean…
A man hides his porn out of fear his family might find it, so I have no reason to do so while I live alone, and wait, when a boy lives alone eight to nine out of ten cases, it’ll turn out like this!
Or so I wanted to give an excuse, but Orino-san glared at me with anger and a maiden’s embarrassment flushed all over her face, so I couldn’t say a thing.
“Now look here, Kagoshima-kun. I won’t tell you it’s bad to look at this sort of thing, but it’s real troubling to me if you…”
“Stop! Please don’t be kind!”
It was truly painful to be scolded in a big sister tone.
It would be easier if she just stretched out my cheeks.
“Good grief… well, now Kurisu-chan won’t have to see them, so rest at east. I got the place all cleaned up.”
“… Thanks for that… but it’s amazing you were able to clean it that fast. I thought it quite a mess in there, but how did you manage?”
When I asked, Orino-san mortifyingly clenched her fist.
“…… You’re a real piece of work, making me use it for such a stupid…”
She muttered resentfully under her breath. I couldn’t quite catch what she said, but I got the feeling she said something along the lines of, ‘I’ve cut yet another worthless thing’.
Hah, a large sigh came from her mouth.
“Though I’m a little relieved.”
And this time, she sent me a malicious grin.
“So Kagoshima, you’re a proper boy, I see.”
I grumbled at her teasings.
I mean, I still read Corocoro comics, and when I read boy’s magazines in-store, I’m a coward who hesitates when there’s a pinup girl on the cover, but even so, I’m an honest-to-goodness man.
“Hmm. So you like this kind of thing.”
“Stop, time out! Give it a rest, Orino-san! I’m really sorry!”
As she began checking over them one by one, I lowered my head with all my might. I was already at my wit’s end. Orino-san shrugged her shoulders.
“Then you’d better hide these properly.”
She said, handing me the porn. I immediately brought them into my father’s room, and while it was orthodox, I shoved them under the bed before returning to my room.
“So anyways, Kagoshima-kun.”
Orino-san said in front of the door. She changed gears to a serious tone.
“I want to wipe down Kurisu-chan’s body, so could you stay out for a while?”
“Yeah, go ahead. Kurisu-chan was sweating quite a bit. Yeah, I get it.”
I nodded and handed her the towel and other medical supplies I brought.
“No peeping, okay?”
“Do you really? With all that porn strewn about?”
Erk, she was still dragging that one on? I got the feeling she’d keep teasing me as long as I stayed there, so I swiftly proceeded down the stairs. From behind, I heard the click of a door shut.
“Now then. With that, I don’t think Kagoshima-kun will be in for a while, Kurisu-chan.”
“Thank you. I’m really sorry, having you help out with this.”
“Don’t worry about it. Even so, magic, is it… I still can’t believe it.”
“Hey, if you want to take it there, you’re also… I was shocked. Though it’s not on Kagurai-senpai’s level.”
“Kagurai-senpai is still just my guess. It’s a guess, rather a hunch, perhaps? Well, whatever the case, that much is about right for us. We’ve all got our own circumstance.”
“… As I thought, we’ve all got our appearance to keep up.”
“Right. Some people just get it…”
“Seriously, I had a faint… ah, sorry, Orino-senpai. That card’s a little crooked.”
I got the feeling the two of them were discussing something in my room, but it was mostly drowned out by the sound of my feet on the stairs.
Now then, I should make her some porridge.
“Kurisu-chan. Egg, or apricot? Which sort of porridge do you want?”
“Why are you coming in, Kagoshima-kun!?”
“Urgh, Kagoshima-senpai you pervert!”
“I told you I’m wiping her body!”
“I mean, I thought you would be done by now…”
“I just started!”
“Then what were you doing all this time?”
“That’s… whatever! Just get out already, you pervert!”
“G-got it… I really am sorry, Kurisu-chan.”
“Urgh… I like simple porridge without anything in it.”
And so I was in the process of making porridge.
Not covered up by eggs or fruit, a porridge using only the taste of white rice. Yes. It’s time for me to show my stuff.
To a self-proclaimed whiz in the kitchen like me, this is a battle I can’t afford to lose.
Um… we’re out of salt. Then I’ll have to use sugar. They look the same, so it’ll work itself out. Wash the rice as thoroughly as usual, ah, we’re out of Joy. Then I’ll have to use shampoo. Wash it all out, shove it all into a frying pan, cook in oil and orange juice, and put in this and that as a secret ingredient, cook well together, and I’m sure it’ll come out with porridge.
“… What is this smell?”
When I turned, I saw Orino-san coming down the stairs. She was wincing, holding her nose as if enduring a foreign scent.
“Ah, how’s Kurisu-chan doing?”
“She’s sleeping comfortably but… more importantly, Kagoshima-kun, what are you doing?”
Silently snatching away the frying pan in my hands, she discarded all its contents into the trash.
“What do you think you’re doing to my porridge!?”
“Such purple porridge does not, and shall not exist in this world… move for a second, I’ll put something together.”
She stole everything from me. My position, my apron. With accustomed motions, she equipped the apron and fastened her hair into one with a hair tie. Seeing her uniform motions, I secretly pumped my fist.
Yes, how should I put it, it got to me.
A woman who can cook. I was filled with an excessive urge to marry her.
“Hey, where’s the rice cooker?”
“Rice cooker? What’s that?”
When I tilted my head, she glared with dreadful eyes.
“Why do you have rice but no rice cooker!? How do you usually eat it!?”
“Just normally. Eat it as is as a snack, and put it in milk to eat it like cereal.”
“Of course, I properly wash it before eating it. With detergent and everything.”
“… I can kinda get why someone would be charmed by a woman who can’t cook, but a man who can’t has no appeal whatsoever…”
A man who can’t cook? Who was she referring to?
A wrinkle on her brow, Orino-san briskly began to cook.
“Hey, do you have a pot?”
“In that cupboard. I mail ordered the latest pressure cooker the other day.”
“… Pearls before swine.”
Orino-san smoothly washed the rice with nothing but water, taking out the earthenware pot she found in the back of the cupboard (Porridge tastes better in an earthen pot, apparently), pouring the rice in and boiling it.
“Kagoshima-kun, what do you usually eat? As I recall, you said you cook for yourself, right?”
“I exercise my creativity every day! It’s an improv with no scenario. A recipe-less wonderland. Even I don’t know what I’m fully capable of. Yes, every day truly is a box of surprises!”
“Well, I usually come out with something tasty.”
“This is my first time meeting a taste-deaf person.”
“How rude. Whatever I eat is tasty, that’s all.”
“That’s what the world calls taste-deaf.”
Orino-san was sharper-tongued than I remembered her. I got the feeling she wasn’t insulting me, and was just saying the right thing, but that was surely my persecution complex.
Seeing Orino-san cook in the kitchen, she gave off a familiar warmth and just seeing her soothed my soul.
She continued boiling the pot a few minutes. Tasting it a few times along the way, she tuned the flavor with various seasonings, finally adding minced green onion to complete the dish. Thankfully, she even made a portion for me. Kurisu-chan’s was patient-made, and mine was for normal consumption, she said, but I couldn’t tell the difference.
We sat across the table from one another, I parted the gleaming grains of rice with a Chinese spoon and led it into my mouth.
“Whoah, it’s delicious.”
“Thank you. Though being praised by someone who calls everything delicious doesn’t make me happy.”
“Harsh,” I let the spoon take its round trip between my mouth and the bowl as I gave a bitter smile. “But I think I’m actually better off this way.”
“What do you mean?”
“For example, the gourmand has too-developed taste buds, he won’t find anything tasty unless it’s extra-high-class. And then you have someone taste-deaf who can see everything as delicious. If you ask which one is happier, wouldn’t it have to be the latter?”
“I see. I get what you’re saying.”
But, Orino-san raised her eyebrows.
“… You mean it’s happier to be an idiot? Completely separated, unattached to the essence, the ugliness of the world, are you trying to say an imbecile will be happier.”
“I know it doesn’t sound good, but that’s a true statement…”
Orino-san’s tone was strangely heavy, overpowering me.
“Ignorance is a bliss, is what you want to say…”
The colors of sorrow gradually revealed themselves over Orino-san’s face. As if she was trying to endure her sadness, she bit her lip.
“… I should get home.”
I could only watch as Orino-san swiftly prepared to leave.
In the end, Kurisu-chan stayed the night. For a high school boy, it was a situation where one’s tensions would have no choice but to rise. However, when I looked at her, with a slight fever remaining, I couldn’t think the slightest strange thought. It’s not like we were sleeping in the same room. I decided to sleep in my father’s room next door.
My eyes opened to a strange voice in the middle of the night.
‘Well I’m glad to see you’re doing your best, Crea.’
“Yeah. I’m getting by, mama.”
‘I really caused you some trouble. It’s all because I let the enemy get it away.’
“It’s fine. I got the school to treat it as a study abroad, and I always did want to pay a visit to this world.”
‘That’s good. And so? How’s the world your papa was born and raised in.’
“… In spring, when I had just arrived, a lot of things confused me, but I’ve gotten quite accustomed to it. Both this world and that one aren’t very different at the root.”
‘Hmmm. You mean?’
“There are good people, there are bad people. Whether there are witches or not… no matter the world, the people don’t change.”
‘Oh my, when you’re just my daughter, you’re saying some wise things there. Back when I was your age, I was running riot, not a thought in my head.’
“You taught me by bad example.”
‘Someone’s learned to talk… but you’re right. You really don’t take after me. Meek and ladylike, you really are like your papa.’
“… I visited papa’s grave the other day.”
‘I see. Then you finally got to meet him.’
‘… Your papa, see. He was quite the wimp. Timid and cautious, a coward. He was always pissing the hell out of me.’
“But when it came down to it, he was reliable, a passionate man, right? You’ve told me again and again. You really love papa, don’t you mama?”
‘Oh shut it. Your cool papa went and protected me in that battle of Togahr Ghoul—no, he protected you in my tummy and died.’
“… It’s because of that incident that papa lost his life, and mama was driven out of the temple. It usually wouldn’t be strange if they called you a hero, but they keep giving you all the grunt work, the dirty work.”
‘It’s fine. Status, and fame, I never really cared for it. Your papa and I, we just protected what we wanted to protect. That’s— all there is to it.’
“Well then, it’s about time we get to the main issue.”
“Eh? There’s the main issue? Knowing you, I thought you just set up a connection to kill time.”
‘The enemy you’re chasing—the Red Crow’s finally entered the temple’s sights. They don’t want the world to start wondering why they’re taking so long to deal with what should be a small bandit troupe. That’s why they’re putting together a force to sent to that world all at once.’
‘In short, there’s no work left for a student like you. That’s why you should come home already… I’m sorry, I made you clean up my mess. I should’ve just gone there myself, but when the temple drove me out, they deprived me of the right to move worlds.’
“B-but… I don’t want to leave it to the temple’s people. Those people don’t care about this world at all. Even at Togahr Ghoul… it’s because you didn’t like the temple’s decision that you and papa fought together…”
‘… Crea, the reason you care for that world is because you’re a half-blood. Over here, a majority of people hold that world in contempt. The evils born from the witch hunts they carried out in the middle ages still remain as firmly rooted as ever.’
“I know that, but…”
‘If you leave it to their subjugation force, the Red Crow will be brought in in no time. Well, perhaps a city or two will be caught in the crossfire, but that’s what people deem a noble sacrifice.’
‘Just come home, Crea. You don’t have to become like us. There should be a better way for you to live out your life.’
“I-I don’t want to!”
“I value this world and that one the same… in school, you know, I met some really nice upperclassmen. They saved me today. They made me think this world can be warm too. Hey mama, do you ever regret fighting alongside papa? You don’t do you? I can tell. I’m your little girl, mama.”
“No matter the world, the people don’t change. That’s why I want to protect them both. Even if one becomes a sacrifice for the other’s peace, it won’t make me happy in the slightest. I’m papa and mama’s daughter. Even if the world doesn’t accept it, my papa and mama will always be amazing!”
‘Ahahahahahaha! So it’s come to that. You really are my daughter.’
‘I knew you’d say that. That’s why I moved some pieces in the temple and made the subjugation force never happen. Fufufu. Even like this, I’ve still got a few connections around. Just goes to show there are still people in the temple who’ll listen.’
‘Oh mama! You were testing me!’
‘That’s right. Only a parent has a right to test their child.’
‘As I thought, you really take after your papa. When it comes down to it, the way you get passionate is just like him. Fufu. When you find a man, make sure he’s a wild-type like me, and I guarantee you’ll get along wonderfully.’
‘You think… Hmm, what boys do I know? If I had to say, senpai’s the peaceful sort…’
“Hm? What was that?”
“N-no, it’s nothing!”
‘I see… Crea. You live as you want. You can follow my lead. You can choose a different path. Your mama… and your papa will always be on your side. Now do your best. Creastia Crimson Cridende Christopher Kurisu.’
A stream of words flowed through the single thin wall.
I pulled the cover over my head and sighed.
“… Kurisu-chan’s one amazing sleeptalker.”
I couldn’t catch most of it, but it sounded like some grand drama between mother and child. She’s cute, so I’ll give it a pass. It might even be a charm point. A sleep talking girl… no, there’s really no way that’s happening. That’s a little too much to handle. It’ll definitely become annoying. But, even so, I wonder why my heart felt warmer.