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Chapter 11 - Believe
Asahi shoveled in his ‘fried rice bento’ with tremendous force, and stood up with his cheeks stuffed like a squirrel’s.
“Starting today, I’m doin’ the noon training.”
He sends grains of rice flying while putting away his bento. He’d like him to say it after eating. No, before that, he wants him to stop eating here. If he’s in a hurry, he should’ve eaten at his own seat.
“See you later.”
Kisumi waves his hand with a smile and after he watches Asahi leave, he asked Haruka.
“The swim club’s land training. Makoto does muscle training and stuff, too.”
“What about Haru?”
He wouldn’t have minded if he could swim, but he has no interest in training on land.
“I’ve got library committee member stuff.”
“But you’re not on duty today, are you?”
“I write the book report in the library room.”
“Wow, book report? Looking forward to it. The one for ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ before was awesome. Starting from ‘I can only say that it’s wasted effort’, and rounding it off with ‘it’s something an old man shouldn’t do’, it’s just what you’d expect from Haru.”
Nao published it in the ‘News from the Library Room’.
“Even though you’re not praising it at all, it sure put me in the mood to read it.”
Thanks to it, ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ has been completely reserved for the next three months.
“What book is it for today?”
“Lemon.” [Short story by Kajii Motojirou]
“Ohh. So, what’ll you write in the book report?”
More importantly, he’s been curious about Kisumi’s bento for a while now. Tomato sauce on something that looks like chicken. In that sauce, finely chopped onions and something green. It’s not the ‘avocado’ from before……
“This? It’s chicken sauté. The green is pickles.”
Kisumi put up a screen with his own body and he dealt out a portion for him on his bento’s lid while making sure that the others wouldn’t see.
An odd sense of urgency hangs in the air.
Since he went through the trouble, he decided to try eating it. The chicken was kept on fire until it was slightly burned, so even though the exterior is crisp, the inside is juicy. Although it felt like the tomato sauce is somewhat sweet, it’s enough to match the sourness of the pickles well. ––It’s good.
“––So, what’ll you write in the book report?”
“’If you’re going to fantasize, do it at home’.”
All of a sudden, the voices of the girls eating their bentos by the window came rushing into Haruka’s ears.
“He’s running again.”
He knows without looking out the window. It’s Natsuya.
“I heard he’s the swim club’s captain.”
“Even though it’s so hot, it’s a wonder how he runs, huh.”
“Really, just looking at him makes me feel like I’m roasting.”
“Nowadays, being hot-blooded’s not popular.”
Oh, he gets it now. It looks like there’s a big disparity between society’s values and Asahi’s values.
“Look, look. Another person came.”
“Annoooying. Even though one is roasting enough, they’re increasing.”
“At this rate, what’ll we do if they keep increasing?”
“Uwaah, I couldn’t stand that.”
“Hey, isn’t that our idiot?”
“It really is.”
“You mean he’s annoying, for an idiot?”
Hang in there, Asahi––.
“Nanase-kun’s going to the library room, too?”
After he finished eating his bento and wiped off his desk, he was about to leave the cla.s.sroom holding the writing paper and the book when Satomi called out and stopped him.
“Let’s go together.”
Satomi holds up and shows him her writing paper and book. It was t.i.tled ‘The Grave of the Wild Chrysanthemum’ [in English: The Wild Daisy, written by Itou Sachio]. Looking at the ‘grave’ in the t.i.tle, it’s probably a book that moves you to tears. Since Satomi’s reading it, it can’t possibly be horror, he thinks.
While walking in the hallway, Satomi looks at Haruka’s book and asks.
“How do you read it?” [The book’s t.i.tle is written in complicated kanji that Satomi doesn’t recognize.]
“Wow, another book that looks difficult, huh. Is that person famous?”
He doesn’t know.
“They’re already dead.”
They walked in silence for a while, but Satomi opened her mouth again as they were climbing up the stairs.
“You know, Ikuya-kun’s really looking forward to the next tournament.”
The topic changed from ‘Lemon’ to Ikuya.
“After practice, if he has even a little time, he goes to Bandou SC.”
It seems likely that that’s why he turned down going to cheer for Kisumi.
“Looking at Ikuya-kun, I started thinking that I can’t let myself lose, either––”
Could she be swimming at Bandou SC? However––.
“Didn’t you quit?”
Satomi shakes her head a little.
“I didn’t. I couldn’t really leave Ikuya-kun to be alone, so I couldn’t quit.”
Why did she say that she quit at that time?
“Natsu-nii told me to. To swim in the swim club for a while. I was very hesitant, but I kept telling myself that it’s for Ikuya-kun’s sake…… But while I was watching Ikuya-kun be with Nanase-kun and the others, I realized that it was wrong.”
“Because, he’s so lively there. Ikuya-kun’s a little awkward, he closes off his heart because he hates people, but that’s not it, I think he’s just timid a little. Because if he has people like Nanase-kun and the others, who’ll understand him properly, even he can make friends.”
Properly…… That’s pretty questionable. Besides, when did they become friends?
“Even without thinking about making him stronger by pushing him away, I realized that Ikuya-kun’s getting stronger little by little and that I don’t need to worry or anything. That it’s okay, little by little, little by little––”
Satomi finishes climbing the stairs and shows Haruka a smile while lightly panting. Only as if to say “I can’t let myself lose, either”.
While walking in the hallway side by side, they happen to pa.s.s by the front of the home economics room. Through the open door, he saw Tomo climbing up the stepladder. Could she be trying to get a pot or something again? If they use it frequently, they should just store it lower.
“Listen, there’s something I’d like to ask Nanase-kun……”
When Satomi began speaking to him in a small voice while looking down like she was bashful, all of a sudden, he noticed that the stepladder’s lock was undone, and Haruka went inside the home economics room.
“It’s dangerous if you don’t lock it.”
His timing for speaking was bad. Tomo, who had finally laid her hands on the pot by stretching herself, ended up breaking her balance in the moment she was surprised, and because of that, only one side of the stepladder became loose. Inevitably, the unlocked stepladder opened up, and holding the pot, the only thing Tomo could do now was fall.
Tomo screaming. Haruka breaking into a run. White flour dragged by the pot and taken down. ‘Lemon’ thrown away.
The fall is 1.2m. As long as you don’t hit your head, you won’t get injured too badly. Haruka had judged that he can’t support her with just his arms, so he slid his entire body beneath Tomo. He catches the falling Tomo by making sure to take hold of her shoulders, the pot bounces onto the floor, the white powder flutters. The din of the collapsing stepladder and Satomi’s scream. And, the wheat flour densely enveloping them like it had exploded.
“Are you alright?”
He’s supposed to have protected her upper body. Haruka caught Tomo’s shoulders in his arms. However, there was a possibility that she hit her legs or waist. Perhaps because she hasn’t grasped the situation, Tomo stares at Haruka’s face in blank amazement.
“Can you stand?”
Tomo shifts her eyes to the sight of the white flour fluttering. With that, it seems that she had comprehended the situation she’s in at last. Taken aback, she separates herself from Haruka.
“Can you stand?”
Haruka asked again.
Tomo stands up. While looking at her do so, Haruka pulled out his right foot from underneath the stepladder.
“Does it hurt anywhere?”
He’s relieved. He can’t stay lying down on the floor forever where the wheat flour is fluttering, so when Haruka tried to stand up as well, a pain ran through nearby his right ankle.
“––––ck.” [This is the guttural, breath stoppageっhalf-sound that can’t actually be transliterated.]
He involuntarily falls to his knees.
Tomo and Satomi shouted at the same time. He curbs Satomi who runs up to him with his right hand.
“I’m alright. I lost my balance a little–– ck.”
As he tries to stand up, the pain runs through again. This time, he somehow managed to not fall down, but he can’t put his body weight onto his right foot.
“The nurse’s office! Nanase-kun, the nurse’s office!”
Tomo takes Haruka’s left hand, she puts it around her shoulder and holds Haruka.
“Nii-san, Nanase-kun’s book!”
Without even waiting for Satomi to pick up ‘Lemon’, Tomo began to walk.
“I can walk on my own, so––”
“Don’t talk! I’ll have you treated right away!”
He ended up being turned into quite the seriously injured patient. At any rate, it seems like Tomo was okay. While walking as he borrowed her shoulder, Haruka was feeling relieved about that. Haruka was taken to the nurse’s office while also feeling relieved that incidentally, that wheat flour hasn’t been used again yet.
By the time club activities began, the pain had already subsided. It seems like the latest poultices are quite effective. When he takes off the bandage, the smell of the salve spread in the changing room.
“Haru, are you alright? What if you went to the hospital?”
Makoto’s meddlesome habit peeks its head out.
“Hey, what’s that?”
Why’s Asahi surprised now, when they’re in the same cla.s.s?
“Did you break it?”
It seems like Ikuya thinks that you can swim even if you have a broken bone.
“A bruise. It’s better now.”
Haruka took off the poultice and tried taking a look at the spot he hit. It’s turning glaringly blue, but there’s no pain.
“Haru, isn’t it swollen?”
He wants him to stop acting as if he were his guardian.
“Have them examine it at the hospital.”
As he turns around while thinking that they’re persistent, Nao was standing there. Come to think of it, he had heard that he’s coming to school starting today.
“There’s no pain anymore.”
“It’s swollen, isn’t it?”
“It’s just turning a little blue––”
“What did the school nurse say?”
“……That it’s a temporary treatment.”
“In that case, go to the hospital.”
The match is close. He can’t take a break because of something like this. He hasn’t even completely mastered the biaxial crawl yet.
“Doesn’t matter, I’m alright.”
“Why is Haruka diagnosing that on his own? Do you have medical knowledge!?”
He’s overwhelmed by Nao’s strong voice. With that, he realized it at last. That Nao’s talking about himself––.
He worsened his condition with an easy self-diagnosis, and he was tormented by strong feelings of regret for half a year. Those feelings were in his voice, and he didn’t let Haruka have a say on the matter.
It was diagnosed as “just a contusion” at the hospital and the same kind of poultice was put on it as in the nurse’s office. Since it was okay for him to swim as long as he didn’t have any pains, he partic.i.p.ated in the next day’s practice. When he reports it to Nao, he told him “call it off for today”, and Natsuya was also concerned about him, saying “swim lightly and get out early”.
The match is the day after tomorrow. Harboring an irritation in his chest that was poised between impatience and frustration, Haruka dived into the water.
While being conscious of his center of gravity, he lightly creates a streamline and he lightly begins the dolphin kick. While lightly accepting the water, he lightly tries swimming 1000m with the biaxial crawl.
All of a sudden, he took notice of something. Perhaps because he had swam lightly, perhaps he had succeeded at Sousuke’s ‘2LR stroke’, or perhaps he had merely reached that kind of period. In any case, he had come to realize that he was concentrating too much on the axis. Smoothly performing the transfer of the axis is nothing more than the means of it, not the purpose. The biaxial crawl is for the sake of swimming fast.
When he came back to it, biaxial crawl or not, whatever way of swimming it is, he realized that there’s no change in the fact of “swimming in the water”.
He nearly laughs at such simplicity, even forgetting that he’s swimming.
Suddenly, the water came seeking Haruka. Haruka responds to that and releases his feelings. The water comes rapidly. He doesn’t need to hold back anymore. No bewilderment, either. No hesitation, either. They’re just mutually acknowledging each other. He’s just accepting it, and having himself accepted––.
When Haruka finishes swimming 1000m, a hand was held out to him from the poolside. It’s Ikuya. Beneath his long eyelashes, he speaks curtly.
“Don’t push yourself too much.”
There’s no pain in his foot. There isn’t even any sense of discomfort. The blue bruise is just embarra.s.singly vivid.
He grabs onto Ikuya’s hand.
He may have a small stature, but the force he pulls him up with is strong. It’s proof that his lower body is well-balanced.
“I heard from Satomi. The tale of Nanase’s heroic deed.”
It’s because they spread such rumors that Tomo is feeling down. Each recess, he’d like to become the one asking about her condition.
“Nao-senpai says to get out for today.”
He looks at Nao. It seems like he’s coaching Asahi’s b.u.t.terfly. He’s impressed that after swimming for only two years, he can coach with just that. Perhaps he likes swimming very much, or perhaps he’s of an inquiring mind. Anyhow, he can’t help but acknowledge the accuracy of his coaching. Their swimming ability is making huge advances.
“Tell Nao-senpai I’m doing just 100m more.”
After entrusting the message to Ikuya, Haruka climbed onto the starting block once more.
While listening to his curt reply with his back turned, he equips his goggles and cuts into the start. While fluttering in midair, he felt Ikuya’s gaze. It neither bares a sense of rivalry like Rin’s and Sousuke’s, nor was it a sugary gaze like Nagisa’s. Much less like Makoto’s guardian gaze, either. He’s trying to face that something inside of Haruka. That something, which Haruka himself doesn’t understand, either……
Haruka slipped his body into the water so that he’ll shake off Ikuya’s gaze.
While waiting for Natsuya to finish swimming, Nao was taking shelter in the meagre shade of a tree, so as to avoid the sunshine that has gotten strong. Natsuya’s free is dynamic as usual. With a stroke that used his well-muscled body to the fullest, he was striking the water like he was trying to expel the power he has too much of. Nonetheless, he’s not forgetting the sensitivity that was conscious of the moment, either. Organically mobilizing each and every muscle in his entire body, just for the sake of advancing forward, he’s sublimating that power. That was his way of swimming.
Natsuya, who had finished swimming at last, puts his hand on the poolside and stretches up. His strained muscles reflected the early summer sunshine and made small beads of light scatter. Then, he unashamedly displays his well-tanned body under the sun and he walks up to Nao while he lets countless rays of light drop on him.
He’s flaunting himself, he thinks.
“Don’t slack off. Manager.”
Natsuya shows the whites of his teeth. When Nao holds up his palm, Natsuya b.u.mps it with a snap and splashes scattered.
“Looks like you’re in great shape.”
“I suppose. What about you? The surgery went well, didn’t it?”
“Treatment, not surgery. It’s not whether it went well or not, it was just in case. It’s because Natsuya talks about it in that way that the first years come with a grim expression.”
“I see, my bad. But, thanks to that, you got to talk about all sorts of things, didn’t you?”
Is that what he was aiming for? Or maybe it was the handouts?
“It’s because Nao doesn’t talk about himself much.”
It’s not like he was hiding it, but he didn’t really like self-pity or self-glorification.
“That’s not it, though.”
“So, when can you start swimming?”
“Depends on the checkup in a month.”
“I see. It looks like you’ll be good enough on the whole, huh. –– What about Nanase?”
“I had him get out for the day.”
Nao leads Natsuya with his gaze. Haruka was just about to bow to the pool.
“How are the first years doing?”
“As you’d expect from a bunch of experienced swimmers. My superficial knowledge might be reaching its limits soon.”
Without measuring up to them only with what he himself had mastered, he made it this far while somehow fooling them by reading a large number of technical books and visiting senpais who had graduated. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that such pretense won’t flake off one day. Even today, his true character might come to light.
“Does it seem like Asahi will be able to swim the free?”
“It looks like he was capable of becoming serious with the ‘circuit’. Now, he’s practicing eagerly. Setting speed aside, he can somehow manage around 100m, I guess.”
He’s heard that he’s started to do the lunch break running with Natsuya. As long as he has those positive feelings, there’s probably no need to worry, he thinks. Guys who overcame pain and stood up are strong.
“He’ll become a good captain.”
Natsuya nods while he smiles with evident satisfaction. He looks at Nao after he tightens that relaxed expression.
“How’s he doing?”
“I’m thinking of putting him in the match the day after tomorrow.”
“Does it seem like it’ll work?”
“It looks like he’s balanced already.”
“How does he look?”
“He has the temperament of a prodigy, with that. But it looks like the person himself hasn’t noticed.”
“You think so, even if it’s you looking?”
“His sense of balance is good. No other first year has a streamline as beautiful as that.”
“Also, his breathing, I guess. He’s probably not aware of it, but he’s doing a way of swimming where he doesn’t raise his heart rate. So his speed doesn’t drop even on long distances.”
“He’ll become faster. ––Ikuya.”
Perhaps because the early summer sunshine has gotten stronger, the light reflected in Natsuya’s eyes shines brighter, it’s wavering like it’ll overflow at any moment. When he’s being looked at with those eyes, he can’t even say something like “faster than you” as a joke.
“……I’m counting on you.”
Those words were probably the most Natsuya could do, he thinks.
It was afterwards that the three first year boys came over to where they were.
Souhei was driving the pickup truck used for deliveries, heading towards the sea. Putting only the elbow of his tanned, thick right arm out the window, he was laughing beneath his stubby beard wavering in the sea breeze, forgetting himself.
It’s the first time he’s driving on this road, since the tournament in March. At that time, it was the last match Rin swam in j.a.pan, so he forcibly tried to drag out Rin’s grandmother, Kyou. Telling her to see it through not as Toraichi’s mother, but as Rin’s grandmother.
When he remembers what happened then, he couldn’t help but feel embarra.s.sed.
“’s not Tora. It’s Rin. I understand the feelings O-Kyou-san piles up, but ain’t it O-Kyou-san’s duty to properly look at your grandchild trying his best? You’re not looking at Tora. It’s Rin. O-Kyou-san, you’ll be looking at Rin instead of your son, Tora.” [In the past, it was common to add the ‘o-‘ honorific prefix to women’s names.]
He thinks he may have said things that sound a lot like a lecture, but seeing Kyou gazing happily at Rin as he’s swimming, he decided to think that it was for the best.
As for Souhei, he had a hard time and retired in the semifinals. His son Asahi ended up sinking while he was swimming. Asahi was considerably gloomy, he didn’t eat properly for a few days after it, either.
“I’ve become unable to swim the free……”
When Asahi told him that, he thought he’d surely end up quitting swimming. That’s the kind of guy Asahi is. He tends to get tired of things soon, he has no perseverance for anything. To boot, just by dabbling in something a little, he acts as if he’s knowledgeable. He didn’t intend to force him into doing it. He should do it if he wants to, and if he wants to quit, that’s fine, too. Anyway, it’s all the same no matter what he does, if it’s with half-baked feelings. If he wants to do another sport, that’s also fine, and it would be even better if he’d say he’ll concentrate on studying, but he gave up on it since he can’t expect that.
“I was overwhelmed by the swimmer swimming beside me and sank.” That’s what he said. Indeed, that was astonishing. He can nod to Asahi’s words of “the lane shone”. Not that it was fast, it was a kind of swimming that directly shook the hearts of the people watching. It would’ve been all the better if he could’ve swum beside it.
Though he had heard that Rin transferred schools to chase after him, that added up, too. He’s Toraichi’s child, after all. If something like that had been in front of his eyes, there’s no doubt that Toraichi would’ve shown his interest. No, not just interest, he would’ve probably shown everything, a rebellious spirit, compet.i.tive spirit and hostility, too.
–– Nanase Haruka.
He’s in the same swim club as Asahi in middle school. And, he’ll partic.i.p.ate in the tournament the day after tomorrow––.
Kyou’s house came into view. Enduring the wind coming from the sea, while it’s tormented by the tide’s erosion, nevertheless it was built so it confidently sticks out its chest. As if it were Kyou herself.
When he parks the car, Kyou had just come out of the sea and came walking, dripping wet.
“Working hard, eh, O-Kyou-san?”
The pearl diver’s isogi [the white clothes female divers wear] still suits her well, he thinks. She’s retired, but he hears that voices wishing for her return are coming from the fisher’s union. It seems like she’ll become the last pearl diver in these parts.
“Oya, this is rare.”
The isomegane [special type of face-mask goggles they use] she had pushed up onto her head was reflecting the early summer light to the point that it was blinding. There are sea urchins, turban sh.e.l.ls and the like flopping in the isotarai[big round wooden basket they use] she held in her hands. She didn’t look like she’s past her 60th birthday at all.
“Once ‘n a while, gotta offer an incense stick for Tora. Since he was the type to get lonely easily.”
Kyou suddenly laughs and cutting across in front of Souhei, she opens the front door.
“Gou––, we have a guest. Serve the tea, would you?”
He heard a cheerful reply coming from inside. It seems that Rin’s sister came over to play. So it means that the sea urchins and the turban sh.e.l.ls are a gift for her.
“Lately, she comes over to play on the weekends. Since Rin left, she thought I’d be lonely. Quite the elderly treatment.”
While saying it like it isn’t really that much of a nuisance, she goes inside the house. Souhei followed after her as well.
There were four mortuary tablets lined up on the butsudan [family Buddhist altar]. Toraichi on the left, with Toraichi’s father beside him. Kyou’s father and mother on the right. All three men were taken by the sea when they were young. In spite of that, Kyou didn’t try to leave the sea. She lived, loved, hated, feared and healed together with the sea. For Kyou, there’s no doubt that the sea was being alive itself.
The trophy and plaque that Toraichi earned were lined up beside the butsudan. A number of them are ones he swam with Souhei.
“It’ll be eight years now, huh.”
He mumbles, facing the butsudan.
“Since we finished the shichikaiki last year.” [The 6th anniversary of someone’s death. It has the number 7 in it, because the year they died counts as the 1st.]
Kyou was standing behind him, having gotten changed before he realized it. Her head is tied in a bath towel. Two cups of green tea were placed on the table.
“Gou––, prepare the hot plate, okay?”
At the entrance, he could see Gou carrying the hot plate. She knows everything, it seems.
“Don’t burn yourself.”
“I’m not a kid anymore.”
The tone she returns resembling Kyou’s, Souhei unintentionally ended up smiling beneath his stubby beard.
“So, what brings you here?”
Kyou sits down and carries the green tea to her mouth.
“Nanase-kun’s swimming with my Asahi. They’re in the same swim club, apparently.”
“Hoo, that child and Souhei’s child….. When is it?”
She took the bait––. He feigns calmness, so that she won’t realize that he thought that.
“It’s the day after tomorrow, O-Kyou-san, what would you say to coming with me?”
Kyou takes another sip of the green tea.
“Telling me to see it through in Rin’s stead this time? …..Fine. Come pick me up.”
Relieved, he relaxed his shoulders. As Souhei picks up the teacup, Kyou spoke in a murmur.
“Because it’s the child Rin even transferred schools for to chase. But you know, when I heard he’s transferring for such a reason, I was surprised.”
“Yeah, that’s true. Rin’s ability to take action is admirable. ––Has he contacted you?”
“A letter, once. It seems he’s doing well.”
“Then I’m glad. Though Rin used to be a crybaby, huh.”
“He still hasn’t changed.”
A sudden smile bubbles up from Souhei’s mouth.
“Asahi probably doesn’t remember Rin, huh. When we went to the pool with Tora, they raced each other. Whose child can swim 10m first.”
“Hoo. Something like that happened, eh?”
“Rin and Asahi were both still in kindergarten, and though it was before they attended swimming school, it sure was amusing. They both got more worked up over it than their parents, and they were absorbed in practicing. So then, they both became able to swim in just a single day, so Tora and I said they’d become good swimmers like that––”
Unexpectedly, his voice choked up. Turning around towards the butsudan, he turns his back to Kyou.
“You haven’t changed at all since the old days, either.”
He smelled the scent of the sh.o.r.e. Could the turban sh.e.l.ls be cooking on the hot plate? Without saying that the smoke is stinging his eyes, Souhai stayed facing the butsudan for a while.
Natsuya’s shout of “gather round” echoed over the pool. As big as his lung capacity is, his voice is huge, too. Even the soccer club on the grounds is looking this way.
“I’m announcing the members for tomorrow!”
The members for the ‘Time Trial By School Year’. There’s no limit for the number of events one person can partic.i.p.ate in, but only one person per school can partic.i.p.ate in the same event. For each event, the ranking is decided by only one measurement, the events with many partic.i.p.ants are measured by splitting them into several heats. That’s about it for the general rules.
“First year boys’ free. 50 and 100, Nanase!”
Haruka replies while being suspicious. What is he intending to do about the remaining free––.
The club members make noise about Asahi swimming the free.
Ikuya clenches his fist a little. This is supposed to be his first race.
Makoto and Ikuya raised their palms and high-fived each other. It seems that somehow, they had a talk where Haruka had no knowledge of it.
“Relay. Asahi, Ikuya, Tachibana, Nanase!”
Due to Asahi having jumped the gun with replying, the club members break out in sn.i.g.g.e.rs from their unaligned voices.
“Medley relay. Back–– Tachibana. Breast–– Ikuya. Fly–– Asahi. Free–– Nanase.”
Excluding Haruka, the other three’s voices align. Haruka was just glumly standing still.
“Next, first year girls––”
During the members getting announced, Haruka stealthily left the circle of club members. Feeling irritation at the fact that people were concerned about him and that they decided things as they pleased, when Haruka was about to go off, Nao called Haruka to stop.
He stops his feet. However, he didn’t feel like turning around to Nao’s bright expression.
“Yesterday, after Haruka went home, they came and made a direct appeal. To Natsuya and I.”
Involuntarily, he looks at Nao over his shoulder.
“They said they’ll all shoulder Haruka’s conviction.”
He wonders what he’s talking about. Is it a misunderstanding, a delusion, or a simple misconception? Anyway, he has no recollection of having a conviction. Supposing that he did, why would it be necessary for them to shoulder it? He thinks they can’t possibly be seriously worried about his foot injury, but if that were the case, they’re going through a lot of trouble. It seems that somehow, Makoto’s worrywart tendency is contagious.
As a hand is placed on his right shoulder, he turns around. Makoto was standing there, with his up-slanted eyebrows smile.
“Rely on us more.”
Asahi ran past him with a strong slap on his left shoulder, he turns around to Haruka while waving his fist.
“We’ll show you how firm the first year boys’ group’s unity is!”
After Asahi pa.s.sed through, Ikuya appears and directs his straight eyes towards Haruka.
“We’re companions, aren’t we? ––Haru.”
Oh dear. They’re free to interpret his fixation on the free as his conviction, but he’s astonished as to just how meddlesome they are. Things like companions are only constraining and stifling after all.
While Haruka thinks about things like that deep in his chest, he was faintly curving up the corner of his mouth.