Translator: Pink Tea Editor: JackOFallTrades
In a few days after Yuuto came for a visit, I was finally released from the cage named hospital.
「Thank you for everything.」
「No, I am relieved that we were able to peacefully discharge you.」
Since it was a workday, no one came for me. Only doctor Maeda and a nurse were there to see me off.
Mai was in the belief that『It would be a pity if Brother were to get lost and started crying』and wanted to come, but I don’t think that going as far as to skip school just to pick me up is a good thing for her.
That is why I endured jabs like『I am worried that lazy brother will oversleep and trouble hospital personnel』or『Are you planning to pretend that you forgot something so you can leer at women in nurse attire?』or『Brother is a pervert, lecher, uniform fetishist, I cannot bear the shame of having such a lewd brother』and similar verbal abuse… And endured…but I couldn’t endure it for long.
I mean It’s just not possible, I never felt that I can win against that stare head-on.
On top of that, she is getting subtly better with her poisonous tongue, for example, I almost didn’t her last lines at all. I heard that she is saying something, but I completely shut myself out from the outer world. Sob sob.
Rather, it’s almost a miracle that I was able to make her attend school during my hospitalization at least.
Therefore, instead of leaving the hospital in the afternoon as I was originally supposed to do, I shifted it to an earlier time.
If I contact Mai after already reaching home, surely she wouldn’t skip school. Later, she certainly will sulk a lot, but if I make an offering of apple jelly, she will forgive most of the things.
「It surely will be hectic, but take care of yourself.」
「Yes, thank you for your consideration.」
Wearing casual clothes that Mai brought for me, I put the bag with all my other belongings over my shoulder.
After bowing deeply, I turned away from the hospital and began to walk.
The weather was really good and clear blue sky was just as grand as my resolve.
I thought about a lot of things and found a lot of them disheartening, but I could easily discard all of my concerns as they didn’t matter at all.
Because there was something more important than my worries, something that I had to protect.
「Well then, let’s begin from returning to ordinary life.」
There was a gap of more than one year between my own perception and the world around me.
Things that changed, things that did not, things that I understood and those I did not.
I have to adjust that as soon as possible and return to the ordinary days from my memories.
Staying by Mai’s side and protecting her.
So I won’t lose what is important to me, so I won’t let go of it.
I don’t have time to spare for anything else, I don’t want to repeat the mistake of not being able to protect…
『Say, where we made a mistake…』
『If it is in my power, I will do anything. I will even give you half of the world. So come to my side, please.』
Glaring sunlight, so bright that it’s almost painful, makes me dizzy.
In front of my eyes flashed an image of someone with a hidden face and red hair.
However, when I, with an intense headache, reached my hand out for that illusion, it disappeared into the blinding light.
「…I’m getting used to this.」
Struggling. That me that I lost is undoubtedly struggling inside.
…Somehow I understand that with my senses. I can feel how that me is trying to get to the surface.
For Yuuto, Mai, and my own sake as well, I have to regain my memories but I just could not bring myself to like this sensation.
No, it’s not even that I don’t like it, I am scared of it.
The voice screaming inside me is filled with such anguish and rage that I have to ask myself if it’s really my own.
With logic, I understand that I have to recall it. The past me urges me to recall it but somewhere deep inside, I am frightened.
Is that really me? what kind of cruelty happened? The uneasiness that I should have shaken off shows itself there.
「However, this one right now felt a bit different…」
It was different from usual when only hatred and anger are transmitted.
Just now it was filled with tenderness and love, but in the end, it, after all, turned into melancholy.
「Damn, really, just what I’ve been doing?」
A bit embarrassed by that lingering feeling of affection, I scratch my head as if to gloss over my own feelings.
Or rather, if I get a sad feeling over the sight of the woman does that mean that I got heartbroken during that period for which I am missing memories?
「〜〜〜——, Stop stop stop!! Aah, shit, this is just the worst.」
Treading over a dry asphalt, I halt for a moment and shake my head.
「Oh, what might be the worst?」
「? …, Ah, you are… Eeh, ehmm」
「Eh? What is this reaction, could it be that you had forgotten about me? It’s me, me, Kawakami Kumiko!!! Reporter from the『Monthly・Utopia』!」
The one that approached me was a mature looking woman in the cardigan and with well-arranged hair. However, there was such a huge gap between that appearance and the panicking demeanor when she was rustling through her bag, trying to pull out the magazine that I could not bring myself to say anything.
Previously, I heard from mother that a woman can transform with well-applied makeup and a proper hairstyle but this is harsh.
「A, Aaah Aaah, yea, yes, Kawakami-san, it’s okay, I remember, I do.」
「…You should try to learn how to lie better. If it’s this obvious, it’s not just infuriating, it awakens an urge to kill.」
「No, I really do remember. It’s just that time it was nighttime and I wasn’t in the right state of mind. You, Kawakami-san, also looked completely different. So different, that to be honest, I thought you were a different person.」
「Isn’t that obvious? If my appearance after persevering over the last day of stakeout didn’t look any different from my complete battle form, as a woman, I would want to cry.」
Perhaps she was happy that I said that she looked different, but her face softened and now this, not such a young woman was puffing her chest with pride.
I guess it would be better not to say that unless she puts make-up on her character as well, there is no point, I know, I know.
「Ah, no no, That’s not what I came for.」
「Aah, today I want to go home and relax already, so some other time.」
「But that’s not possible, right?」
Pressured by that sharp glare and low tone of voice, I had no choice but to make a forced smile.
「Considering the time, you are yet to have lunch? Let’s talk at some family restaurant nearby. But, before that, this.」
「? A mask?」
I received a disposable white mask.
「Yes, and then this and this. Why are you walking around this vulnerable?」
「Eh? Ah, Yes?」
「Come on, hurry up and put it on! You completely lack the sense of crisis!」
Besides the mask, I was given sunglasses and the knitted hat, thus I was forced into the complete set comprising a suspicious disguise.
「You didn’t hear about the『Transference Applicants』? Those fully converted criminals are completely nuts. Were they to learn of your identity, they would undoubtedly come at you with a kamikaze attack.」
「…I will be careful.」
Looks like I didn’t recognize the danger properly.
「For starters, a drink bar for two and two rice sets with hamburgers.」
「Two drink bars and two rice sets with hamburgers. Certainly!」
The family restaurant that we entered had a fair amount of customers even though it was still too early for lunch.
「Good grief, you have to be more careful. Lately, it became quite dangerous in this country. Do you understand your position?」
「…Yes, I will be much more careful from now on.」
That warning was right on point, so without arguing, I dejectedly lowered my head.
「Well, you don’t really have to worry about it too much. Looks like you have the guard properly assigned to you as well.」
Kawakami-san pointed at the pretty ordinary tall man that was sitting at the table near the exit with her gaze.
「Ah, ehm, so he is there to protect me?」
I thought that it was my imagination, but I felt that someone was watching me from the moment I said my goodbyes at the hospital entrance.
But I didn’t feel any hostility and it felt more like he was monitoring not me but my surroundings. In addition, he is the only one that can be seen but several more presences can be sensed.
（…No, wait, wait, wait, ain’t I being too optimistic. Not feeling any hostility or sensing multiple presences outside of my field of vision, what is this, a relapse of eighth-grader syndrome? Wait, wait, wait, I can’t afford to go back to my dark history.）
I shake my head and deny this baseless feeling that follows me for the last couple of days.
But even so, there is indeed a man that took the position on the seat near the entrance.
「You weren’t told anything? Since I was waiting for you, I was taken to the police station by that old man that sits there with an indifferent face. And then they made me do a written oath that I won’t write an article about you.」
「…No, even if you look at me like that.」
I avert my eyes from her unblinking stare.
「Even a simple interview article without any mention of your name is no good. It seems that they hid the very fact that there is a returnee. I don’t have the courage to write after being told『And what are you planning to do if your unnecessary article will lead to someone’s death?』」
「…Then what are we doing here?」
I ask sighing Kawakami-san.
「Pure curiosity. Even if I can’t turn it into an article, after working so hard for it, wouldn’t you want to at least hear the story?」
「Well, Sure…? 」
While saying so, I was thinking about what I should do.
「And? Will you tell me a story worth thirty thousand yen?」
Kawakami-san had grin beaming with excitement, to which I for starters responded by making a forced smile.
So, what should I say since I don’t remember anything?
「Haa~… I’m tired…」
The splashing water within the bathtub at home felt so good that I could feel the tiredness from the day disappearing as I entered its watery embrace.
『A, Amnesia? Emm, so you are saying, all my work was for nothing?』
『Quite opposite, you got police attention so it can be called a loss?』
『Kuuuuuuh…!!! I even refused to go to a good mixer, I tried so hard, even though I tried so hard…! 』
After such an exchange, I went home as I have originally planned and sent the message to Mai’s phone.
I had no heart to talk with her directly over the phone so I made a brief message simply notifying of the fact, immediately after that I’ve got a call.
While I was hesitating to pick it up, the following reply came:
『Cowardly Brother, get on your knees and wait for me at the front door. When I return we are going to have a very, very important conversation <3 ♪ 』
The reply made me want to escape from reality.
And thus when my dear sister returned, with a blood-red setting sun behind her and a shining smile on her face, she went on lecturing me for quite a while.
Making me spill everything that happened today, she found out about Kawakami-san as well.
Mai was looking down at me with a cold stare of absolute zero temperature and kept persecuting me with phrases like『Stupid brother can only think with his lower half』or『Trash brother should first learn how to treat ladies before doing something like that』or『Shall your charming sister discipli… provide you guidance before failure-brother will turn into low-life brother that attacks women?』 and such.
If I wasn’t waiting on my knees with the offering of apple jelly prepared, the sermon would have continued until morning.
「It’s school starting tomorrow. To think I will become Mai’s classmate and underclassmen of Yuuto. 」
I muttered and got out of the bathtub before I became dizzy.
When I changed into pajamas and went back to the living room, Mai was sitting there on the couch and watching TV.
「Ah, Brother, how was the bath? Aah, look at you, you have to dry your hair properly or you will catch a cold.」
「Hey, it’s fine. I’m not a kid. That aside, you should take a bath yourself.」
「That’s right, then I will have it… The water… You didn’t contaminate it, right? Trash Brother.」
「Emm, for real, can you give me a break already? If my cute little sister will bully me some more, I won’t be able to recover.」
「Hmpf. It’s all your fault, so I don’t care.」
Saying childish things with an unconcerned expression, Mai averts her gaze.
Aaa, what is this, my little sister is too cute.
Cuteness that strikes right into my heart.
I followed Mai with my eyes as she was leaving for bath and then went to the refrigerator for a canned juice.
Returning to the living room, I out of boredom turned on the TV. The program that was going there happened to be a variety show about some pretty common incident.
That thing where a bunch of celebrities, experts and commentators watch a video and discuss it.
（…It’s about Transference Applicants again…）
『…Which means, that perhaps the suspect didn’t commit suicide?』
『Yes, cutting your own neck with a knife is a clearly abnormal method of suicide. The most common suicide ways are hanging, followed by jumping from height and carbon monoxide poisoning. Because there is no point in killing yourself in a clearly agonizing way.』
『Yeah but wasn’t the culprit doing like drugs or something? Perhaps he was completely out of his mind?』
『Then was it the last act of resistance from the victim? Ah, such a poor girl…』
『In any case, it’s an unbearable incident. At least may the soul of the victim『Saito Satomi』rest in peace.』
I turned the TV off.
「…Well, time to sleep.」
Emptying can’s contents in one go, I leave the living room and shout 『I am going to sleep』.
Mai responded with『Yees』and I went to my room on the second floor.
The room that stayed without the owner for one year was kept in the exact same state as I remember it. The same as with mother’s plants or father’s bike, I can tell that Mai was looking over them with great care.
I get under the blanket, close my eyes and calm my heart.
And then I seek the fragments of my lost memory.
It became a habit over those several days. Before I sleep, I search for my memories like this.
Deeper, deeper, as if sinking inside myself, I keep diving deeper aiming for the bottom.
There is certainly something that I absolutely shouldn’t have forgotten at the bottom.
Something very important.
But no matter how deep I dive, I can’t get to the bottom, eventually, sleepiness overcomes me and I let go of my consciousness.
Today as well, without getting hold of anything, my dulled down mind fades into sleep.
As I was dozing off and was on the brink of completely falling asleep, the sensation of my clothes being grabbed on the back brought me back to reality a bit.
I can smell shampoo that wasn’t mine, a bit more pricey one.
Lying on my side I tried to look behind me by turning my head but decided not to.
Without saying anything to Mai that sneaked into my bed, I once again closed my eyes.