TL: Kyoko Sagaki
On Sunday morning, Fumiya went out together with Sakamoto and his roommate, Andou.
Just outside of the shopping district, there was a Catholic church. There, Sakamoto’s crush normally played the organ during Sunday school which were held in the mornings. If they waited, eventually they would be able to see her walk home.
Sakamoto had finally found the courage to slip a letter into her sleeve.
Fumiya had given in to his begging, and wrote a romantic love letter for him. Its main line was a simple, “I want you to be my liebe,” but after adding in the greetings for the start of the season, and saying how long he had been in love with her for, and how much that love had grown, the letter extended over two whole pages.
Sakamoto’s face grew stiff as he waited impatiently for the moment she came out. Andou watched him with burning curiosity, as he teasingly said, “I don’t believe in love at first sight. You don’t know her name, which family she belongs to, or even her personality, so how can you be in love with her?”
“I don’t know myself. Before I knew it, she’s all I’ve been thinking about.”
“She might not be the mädchen you think she is. She could be really mean.”
“No way. She has really honest eyes.”
“Honest eyes? Ha! Like you would know.”
Zoning out from their quarrel, Fumiya was the first to see the girl come out of the church.
“Sa… Sakamoto-kun, sh-she’s coming this way. It… it looks like, her friend is with her today.”
“So, which mädchen are you aiming for?” Andou asked, scrutinizing the two.
“The girl I like is the one in the red kimono and navy hakama. The girl with the orange ribbon.”
“Don’t you think the girl wearing the flower kimono is more schön?”
“I don’t know, Red Kimono’s nose is too stubby. Flower Pattern’s is more nicely-shaped.”
“I’m telling you, no way.”
“Then I’ll take Flower Pattern. Forget about giving her a letter, I’m just going to talk to her. I’ll invite them to a dango shop.”
Aggressively and impatiently, Andou started walking over to them in large strides. Sakamoto hurried in a half jog to catch up with him—but, suddenly remembering Fumiya, he turned around.
“What about you, Kobori-kun?”
Fumiya smiled and shook his head.
“I… I, have an errand to run for Akamatsu-senpai… so Sakamoto-kun, be, be sure to ask her name. If… if I can, I’ll come next time.”
“Okay, got it.”
Sakamoto caught up as his friend’s conversation with the two girls was going well. After watching them for a short while, Fumiya turned around and began to head towards the shopping district.
Souichirou’s errand was to pick up some shoes that had been sent out for repair.
But before that, I might as well take a look in the bookstore.
The shopping district only had one bookstore.
Gyoukou, the literature magazine that he was looking for, was lined up at the shopfront. Printed on the front cover was the name of the author featured in that issue. As he reached for it, someone stepped onto the spot next to him.
“Hello, there, Kobori Fumiya-kun.”
It was Mr. Yamaki.
“G… Good afternoon,” Fumiya greeted him with a short bow of his head.
Yamaki was a math teacher in his thirties, with cold eyes behind the lenses of his glasses. Whenever a student was unable to solve a problem on the blackboard, he would make them stand as he scolded them, a sadistic smirk present on his pallid face the whole time he did so. He was the one teacher Fumiya didn’t like.
“I see that your friend… What’s his name? Oh, Sakamoto. I see that he and someone else managed to invite some cute mädchens to the dango shop. Were you not invited?”
“I-I didn’t… want to go.”
“It is a good thing indeed that you don’t feel the need to waste your time with schoolgirls.”
Mr. Yamaki picked up a copy of Gyoukou and flipped through it disinterestedly.
“You seem to like this kind of thing. You’ve had a lot of works published in our literature magazine… The classics professor Kishida has nothing but good things to say about you. But you know, you’re a science student, so shouldn’t you be memorizing formulas instead of thinking about tanka?”
“I’m… memorizing, formulas, too…”
“My house is close by. If you stop by, I’ll review the formulas we’ve learned this semester with you. Your grades during freshman year were just barely good enough. I’m worried about the upcoming exam.”
It was an unwelcome invitation.
As Yamaki gave him a once-over from head to toe, Fumiya had a distinct feeling of déjà vu. Feeling suspicious, Fumiya took a hasty step back.
“I… couldn’t possibly intrude…”
He tried to put some distance between him and Yamaki, but Yamaki immediately moved in closer.
“I live alone, so you won’t be disturbing anyone.”
“Ah, umm, but, I-I have things to do… today. My, my roommate, Akamatsu-senpai, asked me to run an errand for him… if, if I’m late he’ll worry… so, excuse me.”
After he finished speaking as fast as possible, Fumiya gave a quick bow, before turning on his heel.
Yamaki immediately grabbed Fumiya’s arms.
“You’re getting pushed around by that earl’s mixed-race son, aren’t you? If you don’t like it, I’ll talk to him for you.”
Fumiya tried to leave, but Yamaki didn’t let go.
“You should get along with me, for the sake of your grades, too… I don’t care if you don’t feel the same way at first.”
Fumiya turned to look back at Yamaki, but the way he licked his lips gave Fumiya shivers.
I have to get away… he thought to himself, feeling a sense of urgency. But as if working against him, his body was frozen to the spot.
The smell of fish on his breath hit Fumiya’s neck.
Suddenly, Souichirou’s scowl came to mind—the face he had when he was scolding Fumiya, telling him if there was something he wanted to say, to look him in the eyes and say it.
Fumiya lifted his head and looked straight at Yamaki. The man’s vulgar face was nothing in comparison to the beauty of Souichirou’s. I definitely don’t want to go with him, Fumiya thought.
“I’m… I’m in a hurry, so…”
His voice was shaking, but he’d said what he wanted to say, and managed to shake off Yamaki’s arm.
He rushed out.
Yamaki came chasing, but by the third store, Fumiya had upped his pace, and the second he was out of the shopping district, he began to run.
Fumiya was wearing shoes, but Yamaki was wearing geta – they were loud.
As if he could still hear them, he couldn’t bring himself to turn around and make sure the man was gone. He didn’t let up his speed until he reached the dorm entrance.
Souichirou was practicing with a wooden sword in the back garden.
When he noticed Fumiya, he stopped.
“What’s wrong, Kobori?”
The instant he heard his name, tears suddenly began to fall down Fumiya’s cheeks. Fumiya started to run towards him with such ferocity, he would have ended up jumping into his arms if he continued, but he stopped himself short – he couldn’t act like a girl here.
“What’s wrong, Kobori?” Souichirou repeated.
“M, Mr. Ya… Yamaki is…”
“Yamaki? Oh, the math teacher, right? What about him?”
Souichirou looked behind Fumiya, but Yamaki wasn’t there.
Yamaki wasn’t so young that he’d be able chase Fumiya at full speed through the shopping district, and his pride wouldn’t have allowed it.
Finally, Fumiya turned around, and saw for himself that Yamaki hadn’t continued to chase him.
He sighed with relief, and mumbled, “…It… it’s nothing. It wasn’t… a… anything at all.”
“It obviously wasn’t nothing.”
Souichirou pulled the towel wrapped around his waist and wiped off Fumiya’s tears.
“Weren’t you with Sakamoto and Andou?”
“We… split up. B… but, I’m okay.”
Even as his face was being wiped, Fumiya continued to repeat that he was okay.
Since Souichirou belonged to the literary department, he’d never had any classes with Yamaki, but it wasn’t as if he’d never heard any of the nasty rumors associated with him – namely, his fondness for cute, young boys.
He could guess what had happened.
Fumiya had clearly been scared, but Souichirou couldn’t thoroughly question him when he was so intent on saying nothing had happened, so he suggested that they both go back to their room.
“A cake from Australia arrived today. If you make the tea, I’ll share it with you.”
“I… I’m much obliged.”
As Souichirou pushed Fumiya from behind, he looked back at the entrance one more time – Yamaki definitely wasn’t there.
As they neared the shoe lockers, Fumiya let out a little, “Ah.”
“What is it?”
“I… I’m so sorry. I, I forgot about the… the errand. I needed… to go get your shoes…”
“You can leave it until tomorrow,” Souichirou told him. “So long as you don’t forget to get it tomorrow afternoon, don’t worry about it for today. In exchange, play your shamisen for me after we finish eating.”
“Ah… yes, cer—certainly…”
The two of them passed the day off in May in their room.
They ate the delicious cake filled with fruit that had been soaked in alcohol. Afterward, Souichirou stretched out on his bed, and listened to Fumiya playing his shamisen on the bed next to him.
He was playing Souichirou’s favorite, “The Crane’s Voice.” It was a song about love at first sight. Two people spent all night taking shelter from the rain at an inn, and became lifelong friends.
…In the end, they grew old together, huh?
Fumiya’s voice was quiet, but Souichirou noticed that he wasn’t hesitating, and he no longer sounded filled with fear. Had the sweetness of the cake cured him? Or was it something else…?
Souichirou silently ridiculed his conceit. If Fumiya really did feel something for him, surely he wouldn’t hesitate to rush into his arms?
“W… what next?”
“Play it again.”
“O, okay, one… more time.”
As Fumiya sang and Souichirou listened, he savored every happy word of the “crane” and the “thousand ages.”
He obviously didn’t think he’d be able to grow old together with him, so he wished that time could stop then and there – that this calm afternoon would last forever.
The song ended again.
“What… sh, shall I, play next?”
“Play it again for me. Play ‘The Crane’s Voice’ again.”
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