Chapter 2 – I want to keep touching you
“Heeeey, the three of us should really go out to play!”
I received this message on LINE from Sudou just after I finished changing into my school slippers. The notification bar showed a short sentence along with a green icon.
The one who had installed that app on my smartphone was none other than Sudou Itsuka. She had installed it on her phone around our second year of middle school and was fairly impressed by its usefulness. So she just arbitrarily took my phone, installed the app and made an account for me. I then got Sudou and Hiroo Shuuji registered as friends.
I didn’t really use it, so I had uninstalled it. However, when Sudou noticed that she ended up throwing a fit and had reinstalled it after she took my phone. I tried to uninstall it again a few more times after that, but the same thing kept happening again, so I just gave up in the end because of how troublesome it was. Since then I’ve been receiving messages from them from time to time.
Incidentally, whether I answered or not was entirely up to my mood. And this time,
I just put my phone in my blazer’s pocket and went to my classroom.
A week has gone by since Hiiragi asked for my help.
Since then, I tried my best to stay near her during breaks so that I could help her during conversations.
“Hiiragi-chan, do you play any mobile game? Wanna play with us?”
“… Err, games? Umm…”
“Nah, Hiiragi doesn’t play any. She doesn’t even look like she can use her smartphone that well.”
“… O-oh, you really cut into the conversation, Hosono…”
“Ah, but it’s as Hosono-kun said… I don’t play any games…”
“Wow! Hiiragi-san’s pen case is so cute! Did you make it yourself?”
“I, umm… Well…”
“Seems to be a little old, isn’t it from someone else in her family?”
“Holy, you surprised me! Don’t suddenly speak from behind me…”
“B-but he’s right… I received it from my mother…”
Honestly, it was doubtful if there were any results at all. I did the minimum I could to help her along in her conversations, so in a way it might have been the same even if I weren’t there.
Besides, I couldn’t bear the fact that the mood turned awkward every time I interrupted their conversation. Now that I think about it, I was clearly supposed to be avoiding people. So of course it wouldn’t go so well when I am the one helping someone communicate with others.
What’s more, somehow Hiiragi herself wasn’t that proactive about it. If you leave her alone she’ll immediately start to read a book and seclude herself in her own world. I was the same, so I can’t really complain, and I’m also glad when she thanks me, but shouldn’t she be showing a little more motivation?
“… Can’t give me a rest, huh.”
While I was walking towards my classroom, my phone kept receiving notifications from LINE.
Most likely, Sudou and Shuuji were talking to each other. All three of us are in the same group conversation, so even when the two of them talk between themselves, my phone too keeps vibrating.
I let out a sigh, then looked at their conversation until now.
Shuuji: Yeah, sounds great! It’s been a while so I want to go somewhere too!
Itsuka: Right? I wanna go to the karaoke. Didn’t go recently.
Itsuka: (Stamp of a dog inclining its head with a “What about it?”)
Shuuji: Karaoke sounds good. I wanna go too!
Itsuka: And Hosono? Karaoke is fine right?
Itsuka: Actually, it’s not marked as read
Itsuka: That guy, he isn’t looking at his phone
Shuuji: Nah, the first message shows “Read 2”
Itsuka: You’re right! He’s ignoring us!
Itsuka: Heeey! Read the messages we are sending you!
Itsuka: (Stamp of an angered dog)
Shuuji: (Stamp of an angered American Comic Hero)
Itsuka: Ah, it changed to read
Itsuka: You’re looking right? Hey, Hosono! Answer!
I put back my phone in my pocket. I still keep getting notifications, but it should stop before long. If I answer them now, it’s highly likely that I’ll end up going to karaoke with them.
Finally reaching my classroom, I opened the door and headed to my seat.
“Good morning,” said Hiiragi who was already seated as she raised her face from the book she was reading.
Since that day, greeting Hiiragi the first thing in the morning had become my daily routine. In middle school I went to school without saying a word, so I have to say that this is a rather surprising change.
Thinking about change, I decided to talk to Hiiragi regarding my concern.
“So, what should we do?”
“No well, you asked my help and all, but… in the end, I only back you up during conversations, no?”
What’s more, I’m doing it rather poorly.
“Shouldn’t we do, you know, something about that?”
“Hmm…” Hiiragi put her book on her desk and started to think. “Certainly, I do think we should do something more… But if it’s not done gradually, it’s a little scary. Suddenly going out to play with someone totally different is impossible…”
“Yeah, that would be hard…”
I tried imagining people who were different from Hiiragi, for example gals, going out to play with her, and it made me almost crack up.
If it came to that, would she end up putting some showy make-up and do lots of photo shots? In a way, I want to see that.
“So I think we should slowly go at it, so that we can naturally get used to it…” said Hiiragi looking at me imploringly. “I’m sorry for being so demanding…”
“… Nah, it’s fine.”
While feigning calm, I felt strangely moved as I looked at her apologetic expression.
To say it again, it really was an extraordinary development.
It’s already been a week, but I still couldn’t help but feel like all of this was a dream.
I became acquainted with Tokiko, and was able to talk with her everyday. If I said that to the me who had just finished reading “14 Years Old” I’m sure that he wouldn’t have believed me. After all, I’m still thinking that I might wake up in my bed before long.
After I met Hiiragi, I reread “14 Years Old” many times.
Changing Tokiko, who was only a figment of my imagination, with Hiiragi, a concrete existence, made a great difference in my opinion. Her thoughts and words felt far more real than before.
Rather than Hiiragi appearing and making reality look like a dream, perhaps it was more like the dream, the world of the novel, had come closer to reality.
Then as if trying to cut my thoughts to shreds,
“He’s here! Hosono!”
“So you really came to school.”
The two who were like the incarnations of reality appeared.
While sighing, I looked towards the entrance of the classroom, where the voices had come from.
“Really, why do you not answer on LINE!? I was worried and thought that you might have been sick!”
“I didn’t think you were, though.”
Sudou Itsuka, her small animal-like face filled with anger, and Hiroo Shuuji, tall and good looking like an actor, came towards me.
On the side I could see Hiiragi stiffening because of their apparition.
“Hey, you read the messages on LINE, right!?”
“… Yeah, I did,” I answered reluctantly as Sudou stood before me.
“Then answer! Because we’re not in the same class anymore, we can’t talk directly as easily as before!”
“You don’t need to go that far just to talk, you know? We can do that just fine with the people of our own class.”
“What the, you’re so cold! Weren’t we always together ever since primary school!” said the angry Sudou, her hands on her hips as she threw her chest out.
She was trying to be intimidating, but it didn’t work at all with her 150 centimeters stature. The hair tied up on both sides of her head shook up and down as she talked, so it was more comical than anything.
But well, being like that was actually a good point to some guys, and her bright personality on top of that made her rather popular.
“But really, for Hosono to be the only one in a different class,” said Shuuji with a wry smile as he sat down on a vacant seat behind Sudou. “The dream of being in the same class for ten consecutive years was broken off.”
“I never dreamt about such a thing…”
During this conversation, the girls in the class were all staring at Shuuji.
If I had to give an example about his looks, then it would be something like “a handsome actor showered by the passionate gaze of married women who just started acting after being a model”. What’s more, he has a calm and composed personality, as well as quite the high communication powers. So yeah, girls can’t ignore him.
“So in the end, how is it? Got any friend?”
“Well… Don’t know if you can say friends…” I unintentionally looked at the seat before me as I answered.
I don’t know if I can qualify her as a “friend”, but in this class Hiiragi was the one with whom I had talked the most.
And of course, Shuuji noticed my glance.
“Could it be that you get along with this girl? It looked like you were talking with her before we came.”
“What!? Really!?” changing her expression from anger to curiosity instantly, Sudou bent towards Hiiragi. “Nice to meet you! I’m Sudou Itsuka from class 2! I’ve been friends with Hosono since primary school!”
“And I’m Hiroo Shuuji. Same as her, I’ve been friends with him since primary school too.”
“Ah, I-I see… I’m Hiiragi Tokiko,” Hiiragi drew back. “Nice to meet you…”
Her shoulders stiffened up, and she looked like she was about to flee at any moment.
Whether she noticed it or not, Sudou continued to talk with a smile.
“Hosono isn’t really the sociable type, but he isn’t a bad guy. I hope you’ll get along with him.”
“Y-yes… I know that he’s a good person.”
“Eeh, Hosono really made a friend. That’s good. I was worried that you would become a loner,” said Shuuji.
It’s none of your business. Or so I thought, but didn’t voice it out.
Still, these guys are really something. In a good way, and in a bad way too. And in this case particularly, it was the latter.
To talk like that with a girl you just met isn’t something easy to do. This carefreeness is a privilege given only to those blessed with a certain character. Tokiko said the same thing in “14 Years Old”.
“Ah, I know!”
Suddenly, Sudou made an expression like she found the answer for a quiz.
Then she bent forward even more towards Hiiragi and,
“Hiiragi-san, want to come to the karaoke with us after school?”
The one who raised a surprised voice, was me.
“Hey, Sudou… What are you trying to do…”
To invite someone you just met, what’s more to the karaoke, just what was she thinking?
No matter how you looked at her, Hiiragi didn’t seem like the type who would sing. In the first place she’s totally drawing back and has been hanging her face since earlier, there’s no way she would accept.
“That’s fine. We finally became high schoolers, I want to play with lots of people! Shuuji, you want to invite Hiiragi-san too, right?”
“You’re right. It’s always the three of us. Should be fun to add a new member.”
“Look here, you guys should just… Hiiragi, just ignore them.”
It was useless to say something to them, so I gave up midway and continued to speak to Hiiragi.
“These guys are the type who approach others easily, so you don’t need to accept and go to the karaoke.”
Looking at her, Hiiragi was looking down seeming like she was thinking hard about something. Perhaps it got really uncomfortable for her.
She was already at her wits end with just talking to our classmates. So yeah, she might not be able to keep her calm after being invited so suddenly.
“Anyway, just give up for today,” I said as I turned towards Sudou once again. “I’m still thinking about going out to play. But you shouldn’t involve Hiiragi──”
I doubted my ears when I heard her voice.
“Me too… I want to go to karaoke.”
Looking at her, Hiiragi was making a resolved face while she looked up at Sudou and Shuuji.
“Oooh, nice, Hiiragi-san!”
“Alright, then it’s the four of us after school.”
“No, wait a second!”
Leaving the two who were cheering alone, I once again turned towards Hiiragi.
“Are you sure about this? It’s karaoke you know? It’s not just going out to play.”
“It’s true that I was thinking that you should be a bit more proactive just earlier, but still…”
That Hiiragi… That Tokiko from “14 Years Old” going to karaoke, I couldn’t imagine it.
In the novel, Tokiko did speak about the songs that she liked. It was written that she liked stylish western music, and the subculture songs sung by female singers, so I guess she might actually be singing secretly in her room from time to time.
But even then, singing at the karaoke in front of Sudou and Shuuji…
Based on “14 Years Old”, I truly didn’t think that she was the type to do that.
“But if i miss this chance, I might not have another one… Also, those two look like good people.”
I could feel a strong sense of determination in her voice.
“That’s why, I want to go too…”
If it’s like that, then she won’t change her decision. Her determination isn’t something you can twist easily. I was charmed by her stubbornness in “14 Years Old” too after all.
… And that means that I can’t run away anymore either.
I can’t just throw Hiiragi alone between Sudou and Shuuji. The moment she asked for my help, it was decided that I would go with them.
“… I got it,” I said after letting out a deep sigh and nodded reluctantly. “I’m coming to the karaoke too…”
“It’s 1430 yen per person, self-service bar included. Your room is on the third floor, at the far end on your right when alighting from the elevator. The bar is to the left of your room. Please take your time,” the receptionist of the karaoke in the neighbouring town told us as we entered.
After hearing her, we went into the narrow elevator, heading towards our room.
“Is this your first time, Tokki?” said Sudou to Hiiragi, with a strange nuance in her words, while being illuminated by the clearly too white fluorescent lights. She even started to use a nickname before we noticed.
“Y-yes… It’s my first time.”
“When was the last time for you Hosono? A year ago?”
“… No, more like three years ago.”
“Seriously?… Wait, you mean you haven’t gone since I had forced you when we entered middle school!?”
“… I mean, it’s not like I wanted to go.”
“Just how much are you going to sever yourself from the outside world!?”
“You’re going too far just for not going to the karaoke…”
“… U-umm, Hosono-kun,” Hiiragi called out to me with a faint voice. “Hmm, I’m really not used to these kind of things, so… Please teach me how it works.”
Hiiragi looked at me with an expression like a student going to appear for a test.
Seeing that, I got anxious again.
Is this really fine? We kinda went on a whim, but will Hiiragi be able to bear with the discomfort for two hours?
Even I, who knows them, am feeling a little depressed. In Hiiragi’s case, she’s going to have to sing in a closed room for two hours with people whom she just met. Perhaps she’s regretting her false bravado now that we have almost arrived.
“… Yeah, leave it to me. I did come once before so I know how it works.”
In this confined space, I secretly strengthened my determination.
The only one who can help Hiiragi here is me. In that case, I have to assist her.
The old elevator made a strange noise as it went up, as if being affected by my uneasiness.
“So, first, this is the remote control.”
After entering our room, I started to first explain about the remote control of the karaoke.
She doesn’t go to game centers and things like that, so she’s rather weak with machines.
“You can touch and write with this pen, here you search for a song, and this button is to search for a particular singer. Then when you’ve chosen a song, you press the ‘Add’ button, and that’s it.”
“I-I see… What are ‘key’ and ‘tempo’?”
“Ah, key is for people with a low or high voice, to change the musical interval of the song. Tempo is to change the speed of the song. But you should go with the default settings for your first time.”
“Got it… I’ll try.”
Making a difficult face, Hiiragi started a staring contest with the remote control.
“Aaaalriiight, time to start!”
Seeing that I had finished my explanations, Sudou took the mike with vigour.
“Let’s sing to our heart’s content! Time is short, so add as many songs as possible! Hosono, Tokki, from now on it’s first come first served!”
It seems that she didn’t intend on going easy on us beginners. This innocence in being unreserved is something characteristic of popular people. But well, it’s still far better than forcing us to sing in order.
The room was just right for four, five people.
You could see the street from the huge window at the north.
The sofas were cracked, the walls had a yellow tint, the air was stinking of cigarettes, the painting of the door was coming off. Really, having Hiiragi here was oddly mismatching.
First, I have to make her calm down.
Just as I took a sip of the drink I took along, the song that Sudou chose started with a very loud volume.
Once Sudou was finished with her idol song, Shuuji immediately followed with a rap.
I guess they come here often as they seem pretty used to hyping themselves up and singing. Hiiragi, who was grasping the remote control tightly while looking at them let out an “Amazing…” with an expression that combined both surprise and impatience.
And abiding to the “First come first served”, Sudou and Shuuji had immediately added a second song for themselves. On the other hand, Hiiragi was still looking at the remote control, thinking hard about something.
“… You don’t need to force yourself,” I said to her in a small voice.
“… I-I know,” said Hiiragi, raising her face. “Thank you, but I want to try my best…”
“… Well, I guess it’s fine then.”
I wonder why. Right now, she seems to be quite stubborn about this karaoke outing. Perhaps she has an objective. I don’t know what it is, but I guess I shouldn’t interfere too much.
“… In that case.”
I took the remote control and started to look for a song.
I think it’s going to take a while for Hiiragi to start singing. She may be stubborn about something, but it should make it easier for her if I sing first. It should lower the hurdle for her.
I thought about a singer and continued to search for a song.
Then, having finished to sing the new song from a group of techno-pop, Sudou let out a surprised voice.
“Oh! You’re already singing, Tokki!”
I raised my face and what appeared on the screen that showed the songs was:
──Added Song “Cappuccino”.
Thinking that it was impossible I turned to look next to me, and I saw Hiiragi pointing the remote control while nodding.
“Yes… I did my best and chose one.”
… You serious? I thought suddenly.
But is she really fine? She has the face of a warrior going to commit seppuku.
Sudou’s song had ended, so she passed the mike to Hiiragi.
Hiiragi took it from her with stiff movements, then “Ah, ah,” did a short mike check. She looked so anxious with her strained expression and trembling voice that I couldn’t help but feel pity.
I knew that she wouldn’t be fine.
If she was going to end up like that then I should have insisted a little more. It’s not like anyone urged her to sing.
Not caring about Hiiragi’s mental state, the song started.
Because the name comes up in the novel I had listened to it before, it’s the type of song with lyrics right from the start.
When doing karaoke, that type of song needs you to be used to it. It’s a difficult song for a beginner like Hiiragi.
And sure enough, Hiiragi was confused by the sound of the counter.
Then a few seconds after the intro started, Hiiragi noticed and started to sing.
The mood in the room was strained.
It was extremely, well, avant-garde.
If we were to put it more frankly, she sucked.
Hiiragi’s voice coming from the speakers was, putting aside the fact she was a beginner, astonishingly off.
An interval was never right, going from low to high unsteadily. The rhythm was off, she made mistakes in the lyrics, and gradually it made you wonder what was she doing.
That’s amazing. I never saw someone so off at karaoke.
Still, what’s this?
Even then she did her best trying to sing. Her face was bright red, her eyes were darting everywhere and she was holding the mike strongly with both of her hands.
“… So cute,” let out Sudou next to me. “What’s this, Tokki, she just look so cute…”
Shuuji too was looking at Hiiragi bewildered.
“What’s this, I just want to cheer for her, support her, just what is this feeling…”
I felt the same. She was so bad that we didn’t know how to react, and yet Hiiragi’s singing held a strange charm.
The kind of charm where you want to always listen to it, or record a video and watch it endlessly.
You often hear that singing isn’t just about the skills, but rather about the feelings you pour into it. And yet, it was the first time that I got so attracted to someone who is bad and isn’t even pouring her feelings into the song.
“I-I’m sorry for being so bad at singing…” said Hiiragi her face bright red as she put down the mike now that the song ended. “I’m not used to singing… Or more like, I’m bad in music class too…”
“No, well, in a way, it was good,” said Sudou earnestly, with a certain passion in her voice.
Then Shuuji continued with a serious expression:
“I want you to sing forever, Hiiragi-san.”
Unusual for me, I agreed with what Shuuji said.
“Eh, t-that’s embarrassing…”
Her whole face bright red, Hiiragi twisted her body bashfully on the sofa.
“Anyway, we stopped singing, someone has to! Actually, you still didn’t sing Hosono!” said Sudou, as she picked up the remote control.
Seems like everyone lost themselves in Hiiragi’s song and forgot to add a new song.
I sighed, then added a song amongst the ones I had considered doing.
Immediately after the intro started. I took the mike and cleared my throat lightly.
Time to sing.
I was quite reluctant in coming, but actually I’m pretty confident in my singing.
“Ah, you want to drink something too, Hosono-kun?”
On the way back from the toilet I encountered Hiiragi who was pouring herself black tea at the bar.
“I sang quite a lot, so my throat is parched.”
“Yeah, me too. Then can you pour me a coffee? A hot one.”
“Of course… This cup should be for hot coffee,” said Hiiragi, taking a cup on the tray, then she proceeded to fill it with hot coffee at the bar.
We both looked at the dark liquid pouring noisily into the cup.
Hiiragi sighed suddenly.
“… What? As I thought, was it uncomfortable?”
“No, that’s not it,” said Hiiragi as she passed me the now filled up cup. She said as she pouted, “To think that you were such a good singer, Hosono-kun… I feel a little betrayed. I thought we were comrades…”
“Ah, yeah, sorry,” I said as I took the cup while scratching my head from the embarrassment. “Singing is one of my only strong points… But really, your singing was good too. I’m not flattering you.”
Hiiragi took the straw in her mouth and drank her iced tea while sulking.
We could hear Shuuji’s voice and Sudou’s tambourine from here. These guy could get hyped to 120% even without us. While I envied how carefree they were, it was also proof that they were people from a different world than me.
“Anyway, you’re really fine?” I asked Hiiragi, still worried. “It’s great that you’re trying your best, but if you’re bad with it then you should stop quickly.”
An hour has passed since we started. Hiiragi sang three times, and each time she was bright red with her voice so feeble that you could barely hear it. Yeah, she’s really forcing herself. She’s trying to be considerate to Sudou and Shuuji. I couldn’t help but feel that way.
“Yes, I’m fine,” answered Hiiragi. ”I’m still a little nervous but… I really want to try. If I get used to it, then I think I’ll start to enjoy myself too.”
Her tone was very natural and it didn’t feel like a lie.
“I see, then I guess that’s fine…”
I let out a short sigh and took a sip of my coffee.
“Still, it’s hot…” said Hiiragi fanning herself with her hand.
Actually, looking at it, her iced tea was filled with ice cubes.
“To think that singing used so much energy… I started to sweat, so I left my blazer in the room…”
I only noticed after she said it. Hiiragi was currently only wearing her blouse and her skirt.
“Yeah… They say that pro singers lose a few kilos when they do a live.”
“Ehh, could it be a way to diet…”
Then Hiiragi pinched the chest part of her blouse, pulled it and started to fan the inside of her clothes.
The lines of her body were emphasised, and her white blouse was transparent enough to see a shoulder strap. My eyes focused on that part for an instant, then I felt guilty and averted my eyes. Even though I wouldn’t feel anything if I saw Sudou’s bra…
Thinking that, I remembered something.
In “14 Years Old” there is a scene where Tokiko speaks about her underwear. Something like she bought flower patterned underwear, but she felt like they didn’t suit her personality and body.
Once again, I stole a glance at Hiiragi.
Maybe she’s wearing flower patterned underwear right now too?
Perhaps she’s wearing underwear that she felt didn’t suit her.
“… Is there something?”
I averted my eyes from Hiiragi who looked at me puzzled.
I really want to stop looking at her like that using information from the novel. In the first place that scene wasn’t written with the intention to be glamorous.
In the end we ended up extending our stay two times and sang for three hours.
We sang ballades, children songs and anime songs, then Sudou sang the Suginami Ward’s Song as a finish, and when we went out we were completely exhausted.
Honestly, it wasn’t that bad.
I won’t go as far as to say that it was fun. Still, I got the chance to see Hiiragi’s singing, and it was perfect as a training to get used to people.
“Aaah, I sang a lot! How satisfying! … Ah, by the way, I forgot to ask!”
We were on the way back, going towards the nearest station. Then suddenly, Sudou exclaimed as if she just remembered something.
“How did you become friends, Hosono and Tokki? I just can’t imagine how people like you two could become friends naturally.”
“… Aaah,” I unintentionally faltered when confronted with this unexpected question.
Just as Sudou had said, we aren’t the type to become friends naturally with others. If there wasn’t a reason then we wouldn’t even speak to each other, and yet an incredible reason actually brought us closer.
However, I can’t talk about this “incredible reason”. After all, Hiiragi being the model for “14 Years Old” is a secret.
“Well, you see…”
While thinking about a lie that I could use as a suitable reason I looked around us.
Even though it was a weekday, the street was filled with people, notably salary men coming back from work and couples going out to eat. There was a long line before a restaurant and there were people looking at the furnitures of an antique shop. A foreigner working at a Nepalese restaurant was distributing leaflets on the street. Usually I would feel uncomfortable with so many people around, but for some reason I didn’t care that much today.
“Err… We kinda like the same novel,” I started to explain to Sudou and Shuuji the explanation that I came up with. “And well, it’s kind of a unique novel… So when Hiiragi noticed me in class reading it she started talking to me.”
“Oh, well, it’s true that you’re always reading something, Hosono,” said Shuuji with a smile looking like the holy mother. “And Hiiragi-san looks like a literature girl too.”
“Yes… I like books.”
“Then it’s just perfect for you, Hosono, you got a book lover comrade.”
“Well, yeah, you’re right…”
It’s true that getting closer to someone like Hiiragi is the kind of good luck that doesn’t happen often in life.
Though, more than being a book lover, it was because she was actually the heroine from a book.
But of course, Shuuji had to display his sharp mind,
“Still, it’s surprising. I thought that you were acquainted for quite a while. The way you interact doesn’t feel like you met just a few days ago.”
“… Well, we really talked a lot thanks to our common interest in books, so it might look like that,” I managed to answer without leaving an unnatural blank. “We met during the entrance ceremony. In the first place, you’re the best people who know that I don’t really have friends, no? If I knew Hiiragi since before, you’d have noticed.”
“Yeah… That’s true.”
Shuuji made a bitter smile, as if he didn’t agree but couldn’t disagree either.
Then as we talked, we finally reached the nearest station from our houses, Nishiogikubo Station.
Hiiragi’s was south, and ours was north, so it was our breakup point.
“Ah, let’s exchange our LINE contacts!” proposed Sudou as she took out her phone. “From now on we’ll go out to play with Tokki too after all! Do you use LINE?”
“No, I don’t…”
“Then can I install it for you?”
“Y-yes… I’d be glad if you could.”
Sudou took Hiiragi’s phone and quickly installed LINE. She made an account and added us as her friends. I thought so when she did it with my phone, but she seems pretty used to it. Perhaps she did it for her other friends too.
“… Thank you for today. It was fun,” said Hiiragi while bowing towards us after getting back her phone. “Please invite me again. Well, with this…”
After Sudou and Shuuji, I too said “See you tomorrow,” while waving my hand.
Then Hiiragi turned back and went towards the dim alley. Her retreating figure became smaller, blurring into the darkness, then disappeared after turning at the corner.
It was then.
For some reason, I felt like something was missing.
I didn’t know why. Still, something felt missing. A strange feeling, as if something that should be here wasn’t there anymore.
“… She’s a good girl.”
“I want to play with her more…”
Said both Sudou and Shuuji honestly, then they started to walk towards their house.
Thought I kinda felt as if I was forced to follow them, I went after them.
After walking for a few minutes, my phone trembled in my blazer’s pocket just when we reached the shopping district.
I took my phone out and saw that I had received a message on LINE.
The sender had the nickname “Tokki”. That is to say, Hiiragi.
Tokki: It’s my first message. I hope you have received it
Tokki: Thank you for today. It was fun. It might take some time to open myself up to them, but I’ll try my best
She politely sent a message to thank me.
Her formality really felt like Tokiko. I quickly started to type a reply.
Hosono: I have received it. Thank you too. Well, just don’t overdo it
Just after I had sent the message, almost immediately it was marked as read.
That simple indication made the fact that Hiiragi, in a street somewhere, had read my message feel strangely vivid and real.
“… What’s up, Hosono?” asked Sudou, who was ahead of me, with a curious expression as she turned towards me. “You seems happy.”
I didn’t realise it at all. Even as I touched my cheeks, my face felt the same as usual.
“Yeah, you really looked like you were in a good mood.”
“… You are imagining things.”
I put my phone back in my pocket and looked down at the asphalt. I feel irritable and can’t keep my composure when I’m with these two.
However, I noticed.
The feeling that something felt missing that I had when looking at Hiiragi’s back lessened before I knew it.
──I desire knowledge.
Knowledge is the converging point and origin of everything.
Thus, by possessing knowledge, I shall monopolise what is dear to me.
(14 Years Old/Hiiragi Tokoro – Machida Edition)