TL: Kyoko Sagaki
Not long after the lights went out, Souichirou spoke to Fumiya from within the darkness.
“…Are you asleep yet?”
He knew Fumiya wasn’t asleep.
About a month had passed since they had become roommates, and Souichirou had come to learn that Fumiya had trouble sleeping. Because of his sleeping issues, he would often wake up in the middle of the night.
As Fumiya tossed and turned over and over, Souichirou wondered what was eating at him so much.
“N-No, not yet… not at all. Are… Are you thirsty? Shall I… get you some water?”
“No, that’s okay.”
“…Then, what should I… do?” Fumiya asked, as if at a loss. “I-I can’t play, the sha… shamisen at this hour… so…”
“In that case, we’ll just have to settle down.”
“…All… All right.”
Souichirou wasn’t sleeping all that well either.
Since he was young, looking back on the day’s events before he went to bed had been a part of his daily routine. But now that he was in his last year of school, he also had to think about the family and future that had been on the back burner up until now.
Long nights passed with the two of them lost in their thoughts; they still weren’t close enough to confide in one another.
When he heard his roommate’s breathing deepen, Souichirou assumed that he had finally fallen asleep.
Hmph… How dare a retainer fall asleep before his master? he thought to himself, a chuckle slipping past his lips.
Regardless of how it looked to other people, Souichirou giving orders and Fumiya obeying them were working well.
There was no way he couldn’t be satisfied with how enthusiastically Fumiya obeyed his unreasonable demands. Souichirou didn’t care at all if he gained the animosity of the stalwarts who had become attached to Fumiya, or if the juniors who had viewed him with such admiring eyes were disillusioned by his actions.
And anyway, I’m an exiled prince, and I’ve finally met the retainer who chased me here.
He had a feeling that by Fumiya fulfilling his demands, it affirmed his entire existence; that side of Fumiya pleased him. So, even if he had fallen asleep before him, he wouldn’t criticize him.
“I’m pretty tired now myself.”
The bed creaked as Souichirou turned over to lie more comfortably on his side. Before long, he was asleep, breathing rhythmically through his well-shaped nose.
Fumiya was not asleep yet.
Granted, it wasn’t as if he had forbidden himself as the retainer to fall asleep before his master, but it wasn’t a good thing that Souichirou was so worried about him that he couldn’t sleep.
He opened his eyes to the darkness, careful to keep his breathing quiet and deep.
Fumiya knew that Souichirou was giving him orders for his sake. He could even say he was thankful that Souichirou was playing the role of the selfish prince.
Finally… It seems like he’s fallen asleep.
The minute he thought that Souichirou had fallen asleep, Fumiya quickly got up.
Careful not to make any noise, he left the room. Stepping softly on the creaky floorboards of the hallway, he crept towards the shared washbasin which had five faucets.
Taking a sip of water, he realized he was much thirstier than he’d thought. He filled an aluminum cup and drank it down in one gulp.
As the water cooled the inside of his body, the headache that had resulted from him thinking too hard began to settle down.
…There are still two years until I graduate. There’s no need… for me to get so worried about the future yet, he reminded himself.
Suddenly, the hallway window shook with a clatter as it was hit by the wind. When he looked through the glass, he could see the trees trying to fight away the wind with their branches in the darkness.
Fumiya concealed the sound of his footsteps as he went down the stairs, and narrowly managed to get through the passage to the roof.
The rough wind was damp: it looked like a spring storm was on the way. It would anticipate the fall of all the cherry blossoms, and then come through to toughen up the new leaves. It was something to be welcomed.
It would water the fields and revive the rivers that had started to dry up.
Since it was nighttime and everyone was asleep, Fumiya wouldn’t mind if the violent rain arrived. It didn’t matter whose roof or whose land it was, the rain would fall indiscriminately. He hoped it would weaken the disease lurking in the dry land.
Fumiya kept those happy thoughts as he watched the old leaves dance in the wind.
Soon after, rain started to fall. Stirred up by the strong wind, the water was blown over onto the passage. Because of where he stood, Fumiya’s legs were drenched.
According to the calendar, it was already April, but the rain still wasn’t at all warm. His soaked toes were already turning red.
As he stood there, as if rooted the ground, he felt a wool cardigan being gently wrapped around his shoulders.
Fumiya turned around and realized that it was Souichirou.
“Kobori, we’re going back to our room.”
Was he woken up by the rain, and realized Fumiya wasn’t there?
“Don’t wander around in the middle of the night in such light clothing.”
“…I-I knew there was, a spring storm coming, so I thought I would wel… welcome…”
“Of course. This rain is a blessing.”
When the storm ended, the time for farmers to begin planting rice would arrive. With that, vibrant greens would decorate the country landscapes.
With Souichirou forcing him to head back, Fumiya reluctantly returned to their room.
He went to his bed straight away, but the cold still lingering in his body stopped him from sleeping – it seemed the chill had gotten to him even more than he thought.
As Fumiya kept tossing and turning, Souichirou lifted up his bedspread.
“Guess there’s no helping it, huh? Come on, get in.”
He didn’t even think of turning him down. It was the prince’s exalted order, so he obeyed.
They tucked themselves into Souichirou’s warm bed, lying in the same direction like two spoons. Fumiya’s cold feet inserted themselves between Souichirou’s, allowing the older’s heat to warm him up.
“This is just for today.”
He wondered how long it had been since someone had warmed him up like this.
Up until he entered elementary school, he had slept in the same futon as his adoptive mother, but eventually, his adoptive father had forbidden him from doing so, saying that he was old enough to sleep by himself. Fumiya still had not forgotten the sadness and bitterness he had felt at being reprimanded for sneaking into his older stepsister’s futon.
That sense of security that the feeling of another’s skin gave him only lasted until his body became warm.
When his frozen mind started working again, he began to feel uneasy about the arms wrapped around him – the strength, heat and smell were all different from a woman’s.
He’d always hated being touched by men—no, in fact, it was more than hate: it was a disgust so intense it gave him goosebumps.
Everything’s… Everything’s okay. This is Akamatsu-senpai. He wouldn’t do that kind of thing to me, Fumiya told himself, but after accidentally conjuring up the memory of that horrible event, he found it impossible to drive it back out. He couldn’t stop his body from tensing up.
His mind was beginning to lose focus and it had become difficult to breathe.
“…I-I’m, okay now. I-I’ve warmed up.”
Hurriedly, Fumiya crawled out of Souichirou’s arms.
Thankfully, he’d started to fall asleep, so he thought nothing of Fumiya’s ungrateful impatience.
“…This bed is too small for two people, huh?” he muttered with a yawn.
“I… guess so.”
Fumiya returned to his own cold bed.
Although he had calmed down, as the warmth he’d gained began to leave his body, the feeling of misery intensified. Because of his cowardice and excessive self-consciousness, he’d missed out on what could have potentially been an extremely pleasant situation.
Be that as it may, it wasn’t normal for two young men to share a bed. He couldn’t know what the stalwarts would think of it, but there was little doubt in his mind that they wouldn’t simply think of it as two men becoming friends.
But it wasn’t as if Souichirou had touched Fumiya in a sexual manner. All he had been trying to do was warm Fumiya up.
Thinking Souichirou had long been asleep, Fumiya muttered to himself, not intending for the older to hear.
“I-I’m, an… adopted child. I w-was adopted by a family, that has generations of doctors… I-I didn’t know I wasn’t related by blood to my, adoptive parents until… I was s-six.”
“…You’ve been through some stuff, too, huh?”
Not expecting an answer, Fumiya’s heart jumped.
“I’m not very good… at studying… but, I have to… have to become a d-doctor.”
“Do you want to be one?”
Fumiya shook his head – he didn’t.
“But, I… I want to be a part of the family…”
His response was simply to show that he had heard him; he wasn’t pressing him to say more.
And with that, the conversation ended.
Maybe Souichirou had finally fallen asleep.
The storm still hasn’t stopped.
He could hear the window clattering, along with the distress of the roof passage as rain violently pounded on it. The trees in the courtyard were probably being battered by the vicious wind.
When Fumiya told himself to go to sleep and pulled the covers up over his shoulders, Souichirou said in an extremely tired, muffled voice,
“…A doctor isn’t a bad profession. But to me, your tanka was a pleasant surprise.”
Those words went straight to Fumiya’s heart.
“N… Next time I write a poem, I, I’ll show it to… you first.”
When he turned to look at the bed beside him, he could vaguely see Souichirou in the darkness.
Lying sprawled on his side, he reached his arm out towards Fumiya.
In response, Fumiya reached his hand out as well.
Souichirou’s large palm gripped Fumiya’s hand.
Do princes and retainers shake hands, I wonder…?
Fumiya was glad the room was dark: his face and ears were abnormally hot, and he knew he was completely red.
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