Warm Place Extra 5

Author: Korota
Translator: Aoitenshi


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The Young Girl’s Feelings Towards Her *1

 

 

I open my eyes, and I faintly see that my classmates are in the middle of preparing their bags to return home.

I raise my body from my desk and look outside the window while rubbing my blurry eyes. Before I know it, the sky is already tinged with red. I can hear the yells from the courtyard, or to be specific, from the students who are devoting themselves to their club activities.

…It seems that school’s been over when I was asleep. I think I remember listening to the lessons up to the fifth period, but I have no memories of what happened afterward. It seems that I’ve completely fallen asleep.

One of these days, I might receive a much obligated sermon from one of the teachers. Thinking about it deflates my spirits. Although, I guess it’s my own fault for dozing off like that. I stretch my whole body, and I cover my mouth as I make a yawn.

(Sensei could’ve woken me up or something.)

My seat is next to the window, a perfect spot for the sun to shine on. It feels pleasant and warm, which makes me drowsy every time. I mentioned that to the teacher last time when I got summoned for dozing off in class, but I got scolded and my cheek lightly pinched.

People might not believe me, but I’m doing my best to stay awake every day. But, the Sandman has always been my weakness since forever. I can’t seem to oppose it no matter what. Even though I turn in early, I can’t wake up in the morning, and I still feel sleepy in class. I wonder why.

“Hayase.”

When I’m cramming everything from inside my desk into my bag, a girl (my classmate) approaches my seat.

“Good morning to you— Slept well?”
“Why didn’t you wake me up if school’s already over?”
“You looked like you were sleeping so pleasantly, you know. Even Sensei hesitated to wake you up.”

Hey… it’s good that I managed to wake up when it’s time for us students to go home. But what are you gonna do if I happen to wake up in the middle of the night instead? She ignores my grumbling and proceeds to pull the seat next to me and sit down. Then, she shows an ominous grin as she produces a printout. I wonder what’s up as I receive it in my hand. I skim over the piece of paper, and I see that it’s the so-called career survey. There are three fields under the instructions for me to write my future choices in.

“Sensei told us that we need to submit it by next week.”
“Future choices, eh…”

The paper makes a rustling sound as I wave it around before placing it on my desk. I’ve already reached the period where I must think about my future course, and it makes me feel a little lonely. Although, since I’m still in my second year, I still have much time ahead of me… But on the other hand, it’s just a matter of time.

“Hayase, you’re going to the university, aren’t you? With how smart you are, so you must be aiming for a national university or something.”
“Nah, a national university is impossible for me… Besides, I haven’t decided yet if I will go to a university or not.”
“Eh? You won’t?! What a waste!”
“Like I said, I haven’t decided yet. I haven’t properly thought about it.”

Although, it’s not that I haven’t thought about my future careers at all. It’s more of a matter of feelings, I don’t know what is it that I want to pursue. I may have a vague idea about it, I can’t seem to clearly put it in words. I don’t need to hurry just yet, but not having a vision of the future makes me feel a bit anxious.

“Heeh~ That’s surprising. Here I thought you had finished working out your life plan all the way till old age. I really didn’t expect you to be the one who hasn’t decided on your career plans.”
“What kind of person do you think I am?”
“I mean, Hayase, you may look childish at a glance, but you have this aura around you that makes me feel like I’m facing an adult… or should I say, a person who’s old in the inside.”
“What… did you say…?”
“Sorry, my bad. I’m just messing with you.”

I know that I think far ahead sometimes, but it doesn’t feel right to be told that I’m like an adult. Well, I’ve lived twice longer than my classmates, but I’ve never gotten to the life that awaits after school graduation. I don’t actually have a wealth of experience.

I heave a sigh and fold the career survey paper before putting it in my bag. I don’t think I’ll reach an answer even if I think about it right now, so I’ll just postpone it for later.

“You know, even though I say that you look adultlike, I’ve never heard a single love gossip about you, Hayase.”
“Huh?”
“I’ve been in the same class with you for more than a year now, but you totally don’t show any motivation for romance.”
“How did our conversation even move to that topic?”

Hmm, I thought we were talking about my future career, but suddenly she’s already talking about romance. Well, I don’t really mind. Although, I’m not good at this kind of topic, so I might be a tiny bit troubled about how to answer her.

“I’m worried about you since your high school life feels so bland to me. You’re right at the springtime of your life, so you should be adding more hue to it!”
“Eeh~ I’m okay. I’m not feeling lonely at all.”

Even without a lover, I still have my friends and families with me. My life is far from being bland. I’m living while having fun every day.

“What are you saying?! This period only comes once in a lifetime! You’re going to regret it if you don’t make use of it, you know?”
“Well, what can I do?”
“One of the girls from our class, Hosohama-san got confessed to by a guy from another school nearby. Everyone was making a fuss about it yesterday, you know?”
“Yeah, I think I heard about it.”

The other girls in our class caught wind of the confession. Apparently, Hosohama-san received a confession from a handsome guy whom she had feelings for in secret. And so, they were making a ruckus right in front of the girl in question in the classroom.

When the girls were gossiping about love and romance, their eyes were all shining so brightly. It looked fun, just by watching them. I think the most enjoyable thing about the whole event was seeing Hosohama-san smiling with her cheeks flushed red. Anyone can tell that she was happy, and her charming smile felt as though it would infect anyone watching her. I guess that’s what it means to be a maiden in love.

“Don’t you think Hosohama-san is really fortunate~? She looked so happy to get herself a boyfriend. Like I thought, a happy life needs to start with love!”

I have no idea how to reply to that. I make a wry smile while looking at her nodding to herself.

“So, Hayase, don’t you have anyone that you like? Maybe, someone you’re interested in?”
“……I don’t think so. I’m not interested in romance.”
“S-she’s withered…!! This girl’s not even hoping for the guy to approach her…! Is modern Japan really okay to have someone like her living as a high school student?!”

She stands up all of a sudden and makes an exaggerated response. She points at me while saying, “You’re impossible!” again and again. Hrm, how rude. Let me tell you, I want to have a romance story for myself, too. I’m a girl, after all. Although, how should I say it… I want it to come naturally? That’s why I’m not being assertive about it.

I believe the fated encounter will come sooner or later… Although the fact that I’ve never seen anyone as a target of romantic interest might prove to be a problem.

“Hmm— Hayase, could it be that you actually have someone you love, but you haven’t realized it yet? Do you have any special person who are close to you?”
“…………”

Hearing the word ‘special’ makes me think of [her] face. But, no, that’s not it. Yes, she’s special to me. I consider her more important than anyone else…… but that’s not the love that she’s talking about… I think.

The closest word would be ‘family’. I want to protect her, stay with her, because I think of her as a family. She’s special that way. Although, I wonder why it feels a bit different. It’s close, but there’s another, mysterious feeling that’s tugging at the corner of my mind… It’s making me feel fuzzy for some reason.

“Oho~? It seems that you have an inkling of what I’m saying?”
“Hahaha, of course not.”

She approaches me with a full grin on her face, so I push her back and leaves my seat with a bag in hand.

“Oh~? Running away, aren’t we?”
“I’m going home. I promised Tsubaki to walk home together.”
“Aah, Kurasaka-san from Class 4. You’re really close to each other.”
“I guess.”

I show her my back and wave my hand as I leave the classroom in haste.

My classroom and Tsubaki’s are quite far. In fact, I will have to climb some stairs to reach there. We were in different classes in the first year, but our classrooms were located next to each other. We’re getting even further now that we’ve reached the second year, which makes me sad. Here I was sure that we would get into the same class this year… tough luck. Sheesh, I feel like putting a curse on the teacher who assigned our classrooms. Nevertheless, I keep visiting Tsubaki every lunch break, so I guess it’s fine.

“Hinata-san.”

I’m about to climb the stairs that I just mentioned, when I hear a familiar voice. I look up to see Tsubaki standing on the top of the stairs. When I wave my hand to her, she beams dazzlingly as she climbs down in a hurry. I’m going to caution her not to hurry like that when——I can hear a small yelp escaping her lips. As I feared, Tsubaki has missed her footing and her body is now lurching forward.

“Tsubaki!”

I climb the stairs in a hurry and catch her body with both my hands. I manage to stop her fall, and I sigh in relief as I watch her clinging to me. Aah, thank goodness I made it in time. I want to praise my quick reflex. I’m not going to say this aloud, but since I’m using my arms to support Tsubaki’s weight… she’s, um, h-heavy. My arms are trembling pathetically. Both of us are going to tumble at this rate, so I prop her back up with my weak hands somehow or another.

“T-thank you very much, Hinata-san.”
“Yup, I’m glad that you’re alright.”
“I’m sorry for the trouble.”

She looks pale as she apologizes to me, so I pat her head to soothe her. She’s trembling. It must have been scary to slip from the top of the stairs. I thought my heart was going to stop when I saw her tumble like that. Anyway, I’m glad she’s alright. I grab her hand that’s still quivering.

“Okay, let’s go home.”
“Yes…”

…She doesn’t seem energetic. The ever delicate Tsubaki must be feeling down because of her blunder. Alright, then I’ll just——

“You know, Tsubaki… earlier, when I looked up after you called me, I could see up your skirt. You’re so defenseless about such things. Be careful next t——”

Huh?!

…What the heck am I saying?!

I’m trying to make Tsubaki laugh with a joke☆ since she’s looking so dejected, but I end up saying what doesn’t need to be said! Wait, it’s also important to point it out to her. It’s possible that someone else will catch a glimpse of her underwear next time. There’s no way I’d let it happen, definitely not. I think of Tsubaki as my precious girl, akin to my own family, yup. What do people call this again? A parental love?

“………ah.”

She’s stunned for a while, then her face gradually turns red. Perhaps due to her embarrassment, she runs away with a speed that I wouldn’t expect from her normally.

…Wait, where is she going—?!

“Wait, Tsubaki—!!”

She’s covering her reddened face with both her hands as she runs off. Left alone, I stand still with a dumbfounded face until I can’t see Tsubaki anymore. We’re both girls, so it’s nothing to be embarrassed about, right?——and so I ask my classmate who happens to be passing by. But far from agreeing with me, she replies, “I don’t really get it, but it’s Hayase’s fault, right?”

…………

Alright, then. I’m sure she’ll come back if I wait. But since I have nothing to do anyway, I’ll just follow Tsubaki’s steps leisurely.

 

*

 

I somehow catch up with Tsubaki, and we start walking abreast on our way home. Her face was still red when I grouped up with her, but she’s now completely back to normal. It seems that she doesn’t want to touch that topic, as she keeps talking about other harmless things. As long as Tsubaki is back to her lively self, I guess. I shouldn’t bring it up anymore.

“Ah, right. Tsubaki, have you filled your career survey?”
“Actually, I submitted the printout as soon as I received it.”

So fast?!

“Have you… decided on your future course?”
“Yes. Ever since I entered high school, I’ve decided to enroll in the K University’s department of education. Although, I think it’s going to be slightly difficult for me with my intellect. I’ll have to do my best.”
“I-I see.”

Department of education sounds like something that only national universities have, but I guess the private ones have it, too… Hm? Does Tsubaki want to become a teacher?

“Hinata-san, are you still thinking about what you want to do after you graduate?”
“…Nothing’s come to mind so far.”
“It’s alright, we’re still in our second year. I think Hinata-san should think about it slowly, without rushing.”
“Yup.”

I know that nothing would come out even if I panic. I know that I still have time. Although, even if I understand it in my head, I can’t swipe away the anxiety in my heart.

 

“…Tsubaki, sorry. I just remembered something to take care off, can you go home by yourself?”
“Ah, yes. I understand.”

 

 

I part ways with Tsubaki and retrace my steps. Then, I make a stop at an empty park that we passed by, and I decide to sit on one of the benches.

I don’t have anything to take care off. It’s just that, I came here to take some time thinking by myself.

“……”

I retrieve the printout from my bag. I’ve filled the field for my name, but everything else is still blank. Tsubaki has chosen the path that she’ll tread in the future. On the other hand, I can’t even decide on anything. When I was still Sekiguchi Tsubaki, I managed to write down my future career without hesitation, but it’s different in [the present]. After losing my ‘future’ once, I came to realize just how important this is. It’s not a matter that I should decide so simply.

The past me believed that I could just go and enroll in some university, get some job, earn some money to live, and have a carefree life. But since there’s nothing that I wish to do in the present, maybe it’s okay for me to choose the same thing as I did in the past. Even with a half-baked decision, I might just be able to discover what I want to do along the way. My parents are also encouraging me to go wherever I want to.

(But……)

It makes me waver instead. I don’t even understand what is it I’m wavering about, and I can’t seem to find any answers.

“Ah.”

The piece of paper slips off from my hand, fluttering in the wind. It moves in an irregular fashion, until it finally falls to the ground a few meters away from me. I rush to recover it, but someone else has picked the paper up before I could. He’s an old mister, looking at around 50 years of age. He looks at it for a while, before shifting his eyes to me when he notices my gaze.

“…………”

His eyes seem clear and honest, and his expression gentle.

“Is this yours?”

His low-pitched voice sounds tranquil and pleasing to the ear.

“Yes.”
“I see. Then you must be Hayase Hinata-chan.”
“How did you know my name?”
“It’s written on this paper. Sorry, I read it without asking you first.”

He looks apologetic as she passes the paper to me.

“Please, don’t be. Thank you very much for picking it up for me. Although, it seems to me that you already know me from somewhere…”

I look at him as I suppress my thumping heart. As opposed to my agitated self, the man in front of me is calm.

“You’re acquainted with Sekiguchi Rumi, right? I’m Sekiguchi Yoshikage. I’ve been hearing about you from my daughter.”

He narrow his eyes as a gentle smile appears on his expression. It’s been so many years since then, so naturally, he looks old now. His wrinkles have increased, and his white hair stands out. But, he hasn’t changed at all. It feels so nostalgic that my body starts to shake.

 

(…Dad.)

 

Sekiguchi Yoshikage. Father of my past self, of Sekiguchi Tsubaki.

 

(Damn you, Rumi.)

I told her not tell them about me, but look at what she did. She promised me that she wouldn’t say anything. Although, I wonder if she only told them about Hayase Hinata while leaving out the fact that I was Sekiguchi Tsubaki.

“Rumi and Tsubaki-chan are always talking about you.”

Father sits on a nearby bench, so I sit next to him. I’m really curious about what they always say about me, but at the same time, I’m afraid to know.

“I’ve been wanting to meet you, but I couldn’t find the chance to.”

Actually, there were many occasions when we could meet, but I’ve been avoiding it every time on purpose. Who knows how many times Rumi has asked me to meet them, but I escaped every time. I mean, it feels awkward, and embarrassing.

“There’s something that I never get to tell you all this time… Thank you, for mending the relationship between Hiori-san and Tsubaki-chan. And also, for hearing out Rumi’s problems.”

Really, what kind of stories are Rumi and Tsubaki feeding him?

“Not at all, I didn’t do anything.”
“Is that so? The two of them are really grateful to you. Hiori-san has also cheered up lots after she met you.”
“…You must have gotten the wrong idea. I believe that they managed to overcome their problems with their own strength.”
“Which is thanks to you supporting them by their sides in secret, right?”
“……”

I’m at a loss for words. I can’t seem to say any more excuses. Aah, that’s right. Father’s talking skills don’t lose out against Hiori. Although unlike her, he always spins his words with a smile.

To my silence, Father gazes at the career survey in my hand.

“Were you thinking about your future career?”
“Ah, yes. I was.”
“I see that your choices are still blank… You know, I’m here to listen to any worries you may have. Although, who knows if I will be useful or not.”
“…………”

He smiles, seemingly in a good mood.

“Actually…”

I wanted to think about it on my own, without relying on anyone. But, it seems that meeting my father after such a long time makes me want to depend on him.

 

“Hmm… I see. You’re wavering because you don’t know what you want to do, nor what kind of path you want to pursue.”
“Yes.”

Father thinks for a bit, before opening his mouth again.

“But in truth, you’re not wavering. You’re only averting your eyes from what future that’s coming to you. You’re running away from it.”

My father looks at me straight in the eye, and his words jolt my heart. It feels as though he just pierced through my weakness that I didn’t even know it existed. My heart aches with pain.

“Deep in your heart, you already have your decision. The path that you want to pursue, what is it that you want to do… It’s already there, isn’t it?”
“……That’s not…”
“Only after you admit them, then you can waver all you want… Think about your future carefully. After all, there’s still a lot of time ahead of you.”

It’s as though he sees through me. He always gives off the impression that he understands everything. Whenever I was worried, or confused, although Dad never gave me the answer directly, he would always guide me patiently until I reached the answer that I was searching. He was strict, kind, and a bit mysterious. He was my beloved father.

“…What I want to do.”

The future that I wish for. It’s vague, but it’s there inside me. The things I want to do, the things I want to have. The ‘form’ that I’m wishing for from hereafter.

——Just a bit more, I think I’ll be able to grasp it.

 

“Well then, I should be going on my way.”

Father rises from his seat. While facing the other way, without turning his face, he says.

“If you like, come and visit next time, along with Hiori-san and Tsubaki-chan. She and Rumi will be happy to have you.”
“…Ah, yes.”
“Aah, right. There’s one last thing that I want to ask you. Is it alright?”
“Eh?”

He turns around a bit and shows me a smile.

 

 

“Are you happy right now?”

 

 

I can’t tell Father’s intention by asking me that question.

 

 

“Yes, I’m happy.”

 

 

Right now, I think I’m as happy as I can. I don’t think it’s possible to get happier than this. That’s why I can say that without hesitating in the slightest.

“I see. That’s good.”
“Yes.”

Father looks satisfied after hearing my answer. His response makes me wonder.

(My happiness right now…?)

No matter how much time passes, whether we like it or not, some things will change. It can be something that we can see, but it can also be things that aren’t visible to the eye.

——Aah, I get it now.

Perhaps I’ve been unconsciously refusing to move towards the future. That’s why I can’t decide about my future at all. I’m already content with the present, and I want to keep the status quo. After all, I might lose something in exchange of the future that I wish for. I think I want to keep my current happiness, and that’s why I’m afraid. The future will come to change it. There are just too many things in this world that can’t be taken back once I choose to move forward.

That goes to my career, and————about her, too.

 

“Then, goodbye. Be careful on your way home.”

Father sends me a gentle caution when I’m still thinking.”

“Yes, um… thank you very much.”

When I give Father a slight bow, his smile widens a little. He turns his back to me again, and slowly walks away. His back is just like how I remember it… and I see him off in silence. I was nervous at first. But, there’s this special aura around Father that made me able to converse with him calmly. I wondered what would happen after meeting him out of nowhere like this, but…

 

I’m glad that I met him.

 

 

 

“Ahaha… haah.”

I look at the skies above as I lament to myself. Good grief, I’m amazed at how dull I can be. I wonder why I never realized it all this time.

And now that I’ve realized it, I have to go and face her. Well, that’s exactly part of what I want to do. But you know, it feels embarrassing, or should I say ticklish? It’s like, I’ll start squirming in place the moment I let my guard down. I end up getting bewildered by experiencing this new feeling for the first time. How do I say it, it’s a really strange sensation.

 

Links between two people exist in various in shapes.

It can be friendship, love, hatred, or sadness. It can be solid and firm, it can also be so short-lived that you might wonder if it’s even there. It can come from a coincidence, but it can also appear to be inevitable.

It can’t be defined, and it can never be seen with our eyes.

But, no matter what kind of shape it takes, I believe that people can’t live without these links.

I wonder what kind of link connects me and her right now. I never doubted that we were a [family] all this time, but it seems that I was wrong. There’s a possibility that Hiori also thinks of me as her family. But, that’s not how I feel about it all along.

 

 

 

I’ve always, always liked her.

 

 

 

 

All this time, I’ve been in love with Hiori.

 

 

 

 

She’s more important than anyone else.

I love her so much that I think I’m going crazy.

I want to stay with her until the end of time.

I want to protect her, even if I have to put my life on the line.

 

It’s as though we’re a family, but there’s a tad bit difference. Whenever I think about her, I can feel a yearning within me, along with a suffocating pain. I couldn’t understand what it really was. But now, I realize that it’s ‘the feeling called love’. I thought that it was something that lies far beyond me. That’s why, it feels ridiculous to realize that it’s actually been there within me all along.

I pause my rampaging emotions, and I store the career survey in my bag. What I want to do is not much. In fact, I’ve already decided on it long ago, even though I didn’t realize it myself. People around me keep saying that ‘I’m a dull person through and through’, which I’m not happy about… But, they’re exactly right.

Ahaha, just how thickheaded can I be? Yup, realizing the true identity of the formless haze in my heart makes me feel refreshed. Well, I must start thinking about what I should do about this.

(Still, I’m getting excited.)

It scares me to think that our status will change. But, I”m also looking forward to it just as much. I can’t help but to feel that way. I’m already satisfied with the present, but who knows, I might just find even more happiness waiting ahead of me. Of course, there’s a chance that I might lose it instead. But, I don’t want to regret running away from it.

 

…We don’t know about the future.

 

 

 

But for now, let’s just treasure these sweet feelings.

 

 

 

 

 


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