This is likely the last chapter for November. I plan to have three more out before the end of the year.
Chapter 7 – Erosion
Mizuno Yui was left without an explanation after Saki struck her just before homeroom. Yui hadn’t thought to listen to any of the murmuring around her; she could only think back at her limited interactions with Saki and come up with no reason at all for her to think anything of her at all, much less anger. Saki couldn’t give any answers either; she left campus right afterward.
An idea was starting to take shape.
“I thought Misaki tried to force himself on Mizuno…”
“But what could make Satoumura act like THAT?”
“She probably seduced him first, then put on that innocent girl act. What a slut.”
“I still think it’s Misaki’s fault. Satoumura should have seen this coming. You can’t change a delinquent.”
Everyone thought it best to give Yui some space. No one approached her during lunch break… No one except Misaki Ryogo.
Ryogo: Hi. Sorry about yesterday.
Yui: . . .
Ryogo: You probably hate me now, so I’ll just get out of your way.
Yui: Answer me something.
Yui: Do you know Satoumura Saki?
Ryogo: Er… Well… We’ve kind of been… going out.
Yui: …I see. So it’s your fault.
Ryogo: My fault for what?
Yui: That Satoumura slapped me.
Ryogo: Huh? She did that?
Yui: Yes. I don’t know why, but it figured it had something to do with you. Looks like I’m right.
Ryogo: Probably. But why didn’t she come to me instead? Sorry, she’s not usually like this. I’ll talk to her later today. Oh, and if you don’t mind, I’d like to make it up to you.
Ryogo pulled a slip of paper out of his bag and handed it to Yui.
Ryogo: Come by this shop after school. I’ll treat you to something good, promise.
Yui: . . .
Ryogo: Well, you don’t have to come if you don’t want to, but I’ll be waiting.
* * *
Even though Yui was in the swim club, she wasn’t a competitor. She mostly floated around to clear her mind and only swam to stay fit. Today was a floating-around kind of day.
Yui had spoken to her father the day before, asking him about Misaki Ryogo. Dr. Mizuno was shocked just hearing the name. Yui pushed forward, but all she could get from her father was: “stay away from him.” That was what she was planning on doing in the first place. After all, he seemed like a shady character. And yet she had seen him again and even conversed with him. But it was a necessity to get answers.
Sayu: Sis! Dry off, let’s go home!
MIZUNO Sayu, 13, Younger Sister
Yui: Sayu… How would you like to eat something first?
Sayu: That’s cool. You treating me?
* * *
After school, Ryogo made a quick stop at the apartment. Saki was waiting there.
Saki: Congratulations. You found me.
Ryogo: I figured you wanted me to. Why did you hit Mizuno?
Saki responded by taking out her cassette player and playing it. Saki and Ryogo’s recorded moans and breaths filled the small apartment room, followed by Ryogo’s utterance of the name “Mizuno.”
Ryogo: Because of that?
Saki: Mostly. But I won’t do it again without good reason. You’re free to do what you want.
Saki: I’m telling you I don’t care anymore. If you want to chase that girl, go ahead. I won’t stop you.
Ryogo: Then the tape…
Saki: I didn’t say anything about that. Just that I won’t stop you. I’m still holding on to this for insurance.
Ryogo: What kind of insurance?
Saki: That’s for me to know. You don’t need to know yet.
Ryogo: Why not?
Saki: I don’t want you worrying about it. If you need to know, I’ll tell you. Now go, and don’t bother me.
Ryogo: You mean that?
Saki: Yes. If I need to see you here again, I’ll let you know directly.
Saki: Do I need to repeat myself?
Ryogo: No. I’m just confused. But if you mean what you say, then… thanks.
Saki: Is that so?
Ryogo: Yeah. I’ve got to get going now, so…
Saki: Just go.
After Ryogo left, Saki stayed in the apartment a while longer.
Saki: It’s so boring in here… I wish he’d at least keep something in the fridge.
* * *
Sayu: She did what?!
Yui: She slapped me. In the middle of the classroom. No one told me why. But I think it’s because she thinks I was trying to take her boyfriend away from him.
Sayu: You? Bwahahaha… That’s hilarious! You never had a boyfriend in your life, why’d you go boy-crazy now? But you know what this means, right?
Yui: No… what?
Sayu: You are officially in a love triangle! How exciting!
Yui: Huh? Love triangle? No, that’s not…
Sayu: I heard things, you know. When you mentioned that guy yesterday, I got interested. Found out a few things. That guy was a real delinquent. Then Satoumura came and turned him around. She started out counseling him, but then she started falling for him and after a couple of weeks he finally came around and they started dating.
Yui: That’s quite the narrative.
Sayu: But then you show up and within one day, he’s all over you!
Yui: . . .
Sayu: You’ve got this one in the bag, I swear it. You just gotta want it a little!
Yui: You expect too much.
Sayu: Tsk tsk. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to open your eyes myself. Is this the place?
Yui: Yes… “Sweet Tears.”
Sayu: If I’m right, you owe me a little extra.
Yui: You’re on.
The apartment was on the way to Sweet Tears, so Ryogo managed to arrive early enough to greet the two.
Ryogo: Mizuno! You made it! And…
Yui: This is my sister, Sayu.
Ryogo: Oh… Nice to meet you too. Take your pick, it’s on me.
Yui: So… You work here?
Ryogo: I run the place. Well, after school, anyway. So it’s only open for three or four hours a day.
Yui: Do you get many customers?
Ryogo: Just the usual locals every now and then. And my special invites.
Yui: That’s nice.
Sayu: Oh! Oh! Hey, Misaki-sempai. I heard you’re part of a yakuza family! That true?
Ryogo: It was a long time ago, but my family used to be in that business.
Sayu: I knew it, I knew it! See, word gets around fast, and I’m always there to catch it.
Yui: Then… Does that mean, my father…?
Ryogo: I won’t say anything if he won’t.
Yui: . . .
Sayu: Next question, next question!
Sayu: What kind of relationship did you have with Sis?
Yui: Sayu, I told you!
Sayu: Hey, hey… Yui, you said you didn’t remember him, right? And I don’t remember much about before we moved, either. But sempai, you remembered someone like Sis for a loooooooong time. Why is that?
Ryogo: Well, it’s… a little embarrassing…
Yui: I’m sure it would be. It’s not cool thinking about old memories of playing around in the sandbox or whatever.
Ryogo: There’s that, and… I wouldn’t forget something like my first kiss.
Sayu: Woohoo, jackpot! Toldja, toldja, tol- wait. So that means you actually got your first kiss before me?
Yui: N-no… I wouldn’t… You’re kidding, right?! Tell me you’re kidding!
Ryogo: I wouldn’t joke about something like that.
Yui: . . . unbelievable.
Yui: So, because of that, you betray Satoumura’s feelings?
Ryogo: Actually, we just broke up an hour ago.
Yui: How… could you… for such a…
Ryogo: Actually, she’s the one that called it off.
Yui: . . .
Yui got up and left the shop, leaving Sayu and Ryogo behind.
Ryogo: What was that for? I wanted to cheer her up.
Sayu: Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it. By the way, I still haven’t made my decision.
Ryogo: Huh? Oh, right.
Sayu: I’ll take this… and this… and this too!
Sayu: Sis’ll pay you back tomorrow, promise.
Ryogo: Alright, alright.
Sayu: Heh heh, thanks bunches!
* * *
Sayu caught up with Yui just outside.
Sayu: What’s wrong this time?
Yui: Hey, Sayu… do you remember your first kiss?
Sayu: Hmm… Not really. The early ones all kinda blur together. Maybe if any of them were any good I’d remember. You’re lucky, you know?
Yui: How so?
Sayu: I’ve misjudged every guy I’ve ever gone out with. When it came down to it, none of them had a spine. But you, you’ve got a yakuza kid with the hots for you! He can protect you from delinquents and rival gangs, and then maybe one day you get kidnapped and he’ll go on a bloody crusade to rescue you!
Yui: Sayu, you’re drooling…
Sayu: Don’t worry, I’ve got napkins.
Yui: Anyway, you’re expecting too much. I’m not that interested.
Sayu: Actually, you’re plenty interested. The only reason you ran out was because you couldn’t handle the fact that someone’s actually interested in you.
Yui: That’s not-
Sayu: SUUUUUURE it is! “Oh! To think, such feelings reserved for me, all these years! And yet, I have thought nothing of him. Surely, one such as I am not worthy of receiving such love!”
Yui: I’m not that dramatic.
Sayu: Just trust me on this. Give him a chance and I’ll make damn sure he makes you so happy you’ll be like a changed woman.
Yui: But there’s still Satoumura. I’m sure she hasn’t really given up. Otherwise…
Sayu: Sis, let me tell you one iron-clad rule about the love triangle: there must be at least one loser! And with me, you can be guaranteed that loser won’t be you!
* * *
The next morning…
Natsuko: Hey, Saki… so what happened?
Yukiko: C’mon, spill! What’s really going on here?
Saki: I guess you could say we broke up. But it’s not like we were ever a couple to begin with.
Yukiko: You’re still saying that? Don’t give up on account of Mizuno.
Natsuko: . . . What really happened between those two?
Saki: Like you thought. It was just a misunderstanding.
Yukiko: So what about that slap?
Saki: It made me feel better.
Sayu: We both know you still hold a torch for Sis. Trust me.
Ryogo: I don’t want to rush anything.
Sayu: What rush? You’ll get to know each other again, and I’ll be there too so it’s not like it’ll be a real date.
Ryogo: Well, when you put it that way…
Sayu: I knew you’d come around.
And finally, after school…
Yui easily accepted Sayu’s invitation to eat out at a nearby café, not knowing that Ryogo would be there waiting.
Yui: Why did you do this, Sayu?
Sayu: Why not? Ryo’s a pretty cool guy if you get to know him.
Ryogo: When did you have the time to get to me? Hey, what do you mean, “Ryo?”
Sayu: Oh, that’s how I’ve been calling you in my mind, sempai. I want Yui to know you better, and I want you to know Yui better. She’s not the same girl you knew when you were 5.
Ryogo: I’m aware of that.
Sayu: We’re just talking. What’s wrong with that, Sis?
Yui: I suppose it’s fine.
Sayu: Just a few rules. First, nothing about old times. We start out fresh. As much as I love romance manga, that’s no way to build a relationship.
Yui: That’s fine by me, considering I don’t remember much of that time.
Ryogo: Sure. I’ve been hung up on that long enough.
Sayu: Second, Ryogo pays for everything!
Ryogo: Huh?! Wait, first you got free sweets yesterday and now you want more free meals?
Sayu: Oh… Heh heh, let’s just say that this date is compensation for the free eats.
Ryogo: Huh… Fine.
Yui: I thought you said it wasn’t a date.
Sayu: Well, it’s kind of the most convenient term I could think of.
The three of them talked, but in accordance to Sayu’s rule, not about their pasts. Simply about what they’re doing now, their likes and dislikes, and their own plans for the future. They continued their conversations outside the café at Sayu’s urging.
Ryogo: So, what do you like most about swimming?
Yui: It’s fun.
Ryogo: Yeah, but I mean, what’s the appeal for you?
Yui: I like it.
Ryogo: We’ve gone full circle… Fine, then why did you start swimming?
Yui: . . . I like it.
Sayu: Aw, c’mon, it wouldn’t hurt you to give some real answers.
Yui: I’m only doing this out of obligation.
Ryogo: Alright, new angle. What about the future? You want to turn pro?
Ryogo: Why not?
Yui: I just don’t.
Ryogo: Hmm… Maybe a lifeguard?
Yui: Uh… Well, yes. Nice guess.
Ryogo: Sounds good. So, you really do care about others.
Yui: Who do you think I am? Of course I care about the well-being of others. It’s only natural.
Ryogo: You just have something against me.
Yui: N-not personally. I just… don’t trust people I don’t know.
Ryogo: But you would expect strangers to trust you?
Yui: Ah. . .
Ryogo: Well, that’s natural too. You don’t know a stranger’s motivations, but if you really need something from them, you have no choice but to put trust in them.
Yui: No… You make me sound like…
Ryogo: Er, I was talking in general, not about you specifically.
Yui: Oh. I suppose that’s true…
Ryogo: Yeah. But it makes it easier if you do know them. I’m not saying I want something out of you, but it couldn’t hurt to have less strangers in your life, right?
Yui: . . . No, I suppose not.
Sayu: Alrighty, we’re here!
Sayu: Up these steps, let’s go!
Sayu led the other two up a long flight of stone steps.
Katsumi: So noisy… Yeah, it’s Mizuno. What did you want?
SEKIHARA Katsumi. Age 13. Shrinekeeper’s son.
Sayu: This here’s my sister, Yui. And our new best bud, Ryo!
Katsumi: Uh huh… Well, nice to meet- Ah!
Ryogo: What? It’s rude to have that kind of expression on your face when you meet someone new. Is there something on my face?
Sayu: No, just your face.
Ryogo: . . .
Katsumi: Ah…. Oh no, pardon me. I thought I felt something.
Sayu: You mean like an evil spirit? Maybe we can see an exorcism!
Ryogo: I’m not possessed!
Yui: Couldn’t hurt. Heh.
Ryogo: Eh? Not you too.
Sayu: Hee hee…
Sayu: No, nothing. Sekihara-kun, can you do that thing I asked about?
Katsumi: What? Oh, that.
Yui: What do you have planned?
Sayu: Nothing that should hurt.
Katsumi: Now remember, I’m only in training, so this will be just an exhibition.
Ryogo: What will?
Katsumi: The both of you, please hold on to one of these arrows.
Yui: What are you going to do?
Ryogo and Yui each held an arrow, and Katsumi tied the two arrows together with a cloth.
Yui: What’s the meaning of this?
Katsumi: Now, I want the both of you to think only of each other.
Yui: *blush* W-wha?
Katsumi: Just do it.
Yui: Sayu, I told you, I’m not interested.
Sayu: Oh? He didn’t say “think romantically,” just think.
Katsumi: That’s right. It doesn’t matter what emotions come out. Simply think of the other person. The face, the voice, any and all memories that come to mind.
Ryogo: I”ll do it.
Katsumi: Good. Hahhhhhh…
After two minutes had passed, the arrows in their hands began to change. Buds formed on the arrow shafts and bloomed tiny leaves.
Yui: How did- What did you do?
Katsumi: Nature fortune-telling. The leaves on both arrows are tiny, but healthy. It means you both think favorably each other, but your feelings haven’t fully developed yet.
Yui: What? No, I don’t…
Katsumi: If you really hated him, the leaves would have died instantly. If you thought nothing of him, the buds would not have even formed.
Yui: I’m not going to be swayed by some cheap magic trick.
Sayu: Hey, how did you even do that, Sekihara-kun?
Katsumi: Well, I’m still practicing.
Yui: So you’re saying you might have done it wrong?
Katsumi: Yeah. This is my limit. It’s possible that you have stronger feelings for each other; I just can’t manifest it past this stage.
Ryogo: Well, that was fun, huh?
Yui: . . .
Yui: Okay. I’ll admit, I was… really moved that you thought of me for so long. To be honest, I couldn’t comprehend such dedication. There’s… nothing about me that deserves that kind of attention.
Ryogo: That’s not true. I’m more interested in you now than I’ve ever been.
Ryogo: Ever since the other day, I’ve been trying to find out the meaning behind those tears.
Ryogo: I thought at first I might have tried to come on too strong, but now I think I’ve got it. It’s because-
Yui didn’t let him finish. She covered his mouth with her own and held his head tightly.
Ryogo: . . .
Yui: I’ll remember this one. Sayu, let’s go.
Sayu: Right! Heh heh, how’s that? Maybe now you owe me instead?
Sayu: I only want one thing in return.
Ryogo: What’s that.
Sayu: From now on, you and Sis should stay together, okay?
Ryogo: I’ve got no complaints.
Sayu: You better keep your promise! See ya!
Sayu ran to catch up with Yui. Ryogo watched the two go down the stone steps.
Ryogo: . . . ah… AH!!
“From now on…”
Ryogo: That can’t be…?
WHAAAAAAT? So does that mean….
Questions will have to wait for tomorrow. It’s getting kinda late.
Huh? Oh, yeah, it is.
Wanna eat first, Rie?
I followed Nara out, but not before taking a quick look at the text. From what I could gather, the writing style was completely different from what Nara spoke, but all the events and dialogue were correct. She even added in some stuff that wasn’t in there. She probably completely understood this story and was simplifying it for my sake. But how much of it was true, and why was this story being told in the first place? I didn’t understand until much later how important it was.