Extra Episode

To You, My Sworn Enemy

Prologue

I looked up at the sky again, the familiar sky. The one I had been looking at since the age of twenty.

The sky I had been seeing since the days I’d built up collapsed, just a little.

……

Tomo
“Good morning! I’m Tomo Yanagihara, and I’ve been assigned to the news department. I look forward to working with you all!”
Desk
“Oh, are you the Miss Houjou I’ve heard about? Everyone is expecting you to be the star this year.”
Tomo
“No, that has nothing to do with my work. Here, I’m just a newbie in my first year. I may have a few inadequacies, but I appreciate whatever guidance I might be able to ask for.”
Desk
“Right, right. You don’t have to be so nervous. You know, you’re more serious than I expected.”
Tomo
“Th-Thank you. I’m going to give it my best!”
Desk
“Ha ha, all in moderation. Here, I’ll take you to the department chief.”
Tomo
“Thanks!”
Tomo
“…”
Tomo
“Keep your outside humble. When your chance arrives, get greedy. That’s the first step to glory!♪”

……

Takeya
“All right, I’m heading home for today. I’ll send you the new samples first thing tomorrow morning.”
Employee 1
“Oh, hey, hang on! Iizuka-kun, did you give any thought to what we were talking about before?”
Takeya
“Err, what we were talking about before…?”
Employee 2
“Don’t play dumb. The thing about the mixer!”
Takeya
“Ohhh, right, that…”
Employee 1
“Ever since you took over here, our sales records have skyrocketed.”
Employee 2
“So, to celebrate that, to welcome the new term, and to get ourselves pumped up going forward…”
Takeya
“Ah, well, I’m glad sales have increased, but I’m really just doing my job.”
Employee 1
“Don’t talk like that. There’ll be some new faces there, too.”
Takeya
“New… faces?”
Employee 2
“The girls who joined up this year are really cute. You’d have your pick of junior college and high school grads.”
Takeya
“…Ah.”
Employee 1
“So, with five or six of them… Tbey could be friends, not necessarily work acquaintances.”
Takeya
“…Seriously?”
Employee 2
“Yeah, seriously. You’re from Houjou, right, Iizuka-kun? Think you could supply a few in that department?”
Takeya
“Wellll, maybe if… ?! Wait, no, that kind of stuff really isn’t my thing! No, thanks!”
Employee 1
“Wait, hey! Iizuka-kun!”
Takeya
“See you tomorrow! Good work today! Bye-bye!”
Employee 2
“Man, he got away again. He’s a lot tougher than I thought he’d be.”
Employee 1
“Back in high school, he would’ve jumped in without a second thought…”

……

Io
“I just don’t understand!”
Section chief
“Now, calm down, Mizusawa-san.”
Io
“You’re cutting store training out of the education for new recruits? And after the welcoming ceremony is already done…? I’ve been preparing for the past three months!”
Section chief
“Well, the burden on the entire company is high this term, and the other departments have expressed strongly that they need new recruits. I do apologize for the fact that your efforts have gone to waste, but…”
Io
“No, they’re just griping. It’s not that important. I want to talk about the in-store training.”
Section chief
“Right, right, that. Hmm…”
Io
“I put a great deal of labor into that training last year, but I feel that what I gained was all the greater because of it.”
Section chief
“Yes, it is the only chance some people get to gain experience on-site. The company does understand its importance…”
Io
“Then, why would they get rid of it? Please, chief, you have to talk it over with the higher-ups! If that’s not possible, then I’ll take it to them myself!”
Section chief
“Is that the consensus among all the group members?”
Io
“Of course. I’ll take everyone’s opinions, including the leader’s.”
Section chief
“…I’m not so sure about letting you act as the delegate for that. You’re only in your second year.”
Io
“I don’t care what position I end up in.”
Section chief
“Come to think of it, you wanted to go into development, didn’t you?”
Io
“At this point, I’m fine with being anywhere. Development, operations, on-site, or even staying where I am in HR. As long as I through all of my effort into whatever position I occupy, the road will open for me sooner or later.”
Section chief
“…You’ve grown quite troublesome after just one year.”
Io
“I’m sorry. I’ve been putting on a quiet face, but this is the real Mizusawa.”

……

Hamada
“How many more times do I have to tell you before you understand?!”
Matsuoka
“I could say the same thing, Hamada-san! I really don’t think I’m in the wrong at all where all this is concerned.”
Hamada
“Rrgh…”
Kizaki
“You can’t groan like that, Hamada-san. It’s basically the same as admitting you’ve lost.”
Matsuoka
“See, it’s obviously better to have all these conversations firsthand. But there are some boundaries that have to be respected.”
Hamada
“But that’s too businesslike, don’t you think? Magazines are made by people. The communication should be more human, too.”
Matsuoka
“This is the ‘necessary pointlessness’ that you always talk about, Hamada-san. I don’t hate the idea, myself. But, right now, there are orders of priority to follow.”
Suzuki
“Wow, Macchan, you sound all grown up…”
Matsuoka
“Well, I’m into my fourth year. …But, at the moment, I have to be the lowest one.”
Hamada
“…”
Suzuki
“Ah…”
Kizaki
“W-Well, I’m gonna head out to the usual place. Be back soon!”
Matsuoka
“…I’m sorry. But, as you see, I can’t respond to the level of your request this time, Hamada-san.”
Hamada
“Matsuoka…”
Matsuoka
“We don’t have enough people. We have to be efficient. Um…”
Hamada
“That’s enough. I’ve left this matter to you. If you really get stuck, come and talk to me.”
Matsuoka
“…Thank you.”
Suzuki
“…”
Matsuoka
“What?”
Suzuki
“Oh, nothing.”
Matsuoka
“Ah, okay.”
Suzuki
“…”
Matsuoka
“…”
Suzuki
“Keep it up, Macchan.”
Matsuoka
“You don’t have to tell me!”

……

Senior
“What? You can’t do overtime?!”
Setsuna
“Not today. I’m sorry.”
Senior
“Oh, god… We’ve got that presentation at ten o’clock on Monday morning, but our documents…”
Setsuna
“How far along are you?”
Senior
“As far as making up my mind to start working on it.”
Setsuna
“Ah. Ahaha…”
Senior
“There’s enough that if I come in on Saturday or Sunday, I should be able to make something work, but if we split it up, we could probably finish it today…”
Setsuna
“Aha.”
Senior
“…”
Setsuna
“…”
Senior
“You really can’t?”
Setsuna
“Not today.”
Senior
“Even if I beg?”
Setsuna
“…I’m sorry.”
Senior
“…Your boyfriend?”
Setsuna
“…I’m really, really sorry!”
Senior
“Dammit! You two and your lovey-dovey couple thing!”
Setsuna
“We made plans to have dinner together… I’m sorry.”
Senior
“I bet that’s not all. I bet you’ll be staying at your boyfriend’s place tonight and tomorrow, too.”
Setsuna
“It’s only now and then. …Once every two weeks.”
Senior
“Yes, I see. The sophisticated strategy of simultaneously bragging to your senpai about your love life, and refusing to come in and work on the weekend.”
Setsuna
“Um, will you send me a mail about what you’ve been able to do up to this point? I’ll come in early on Monday morning to finish it up.”
Senior
“…Ah, it’s fine.”
Setsuna
“I promise I’ll have it done by ten!”
Senior
“That’s not what I mean… It’s my fault for slacking off in the first place, and I can’t throw cold water on you when you’re so happy.”
Setsuna
“…Again, I’m really sorry.”
Senior
“I told you, it’s fine. I’ve made up my mind to come in over the weekend, so I’m heading home for today. Want to go to the station together?”
Setsuna
“Oh, sure.”
Senior
“All right, you’d better tell me some more about your boyfriend. I want to taunt all the guys here who have their eyes on you.”
Setsuna
“It’s nothing that juicy! We’ve been dating for a while.”
Senior
“I can think of five guys already who would look like the world was ending, just from that fact alone…”

……

April.

The second April since I graduated from college. The second spring since I entered society.

A friend burning with hope, in a new place to belong. A friend who never broke the oath that we swore last spring. A friend who finally regained brilliance that had once been lost.

And…

In that way, we each continued along our own paths.

This is the story of that spring, all the way until autumn.

From the end of winter, to the beginning of the next…

Another story, from the melting of the snow, to the snow’s next fall.

Setsuna
“I’m back…”

When I opened the front door, darkness and silence welcomed me.

Without touching the switch for the wall lamp, I took off my heels and entered the apartment.

I followed along the wall, and after opening the door to the bedroom, I finally turned on the night lamp right by the entrance.

Setsuna
“My senior at work caught me just as I was leaving. For a moment there, I wasn’t sure whether I would make it home today!”

Within the dimly lit room, I felt almost no sign of any human occupant.

There was just one little bit of proof that he lived here…

The clothes and underwear, scattered over the floor.

…Anyone who knew him well might be shocked by the “disastrous” state of this room.

Well, to a somewhat lazy person, though, it wouldn’t seem like an unusual sight at all.

Setsuna
“Sorry, this might get a bit loud.”

I gathered up the clothes, threw them in the washing machine, added detergent, and switched it on.

Setsuna
“Do you have anything else to wash? Are you all right with what you’re wearing now?”

I turned my eyes to the bed, where the covers swelled up in the shape of the person beneath them.

And his head, jutting out from the covers, gave just the smallest nod.

Setsuna
“Did you manage to sleep today?”

No response this time.

Setsuna
“Did you take your medicine?”

Another tiny movement.

Setsuna
“Do you think you can eat something?”

Once again his head moved, but in a different direction from before.

Setsuna
“I’ll make you something that will keep for a bit, then. I’ll make it all in advance, and you can just nuke it whenever you’re hungry.”

I turned on the kitchen light, brightening the apartment by one more step.

Then, I opened my shopping tote and started setting out ingredients.

Setsuna
“…Ah, I said ‘nuke it’ again. I still can’t drop that phrase… Ahaha.”

This was our weekend.

For him… For Haruki-kun, it was no different from any other day. Just one day out of the three hundred sixty-five in the year.

But, for me, it was the beginning of a period of supreme bliss.

……

The end of February.

The curtain fell on Kazusa’s concert, to legendary success, and so it fell on her days in Japan, too.

And, on that day, I left him.

When Haruki-kun confessed everything to me, the truth about him and Kazusa, his feelings, his love, I wasn’t able to forgive him.

And, for the next week…

For seven days, I fled from the world around me.

I cried with the same regret as five years before. Screamed at my defeat, even more complete than five years before. And I experienced feelings even stronger than five years before.

I returned to this apartment once more.

……

Setsuna
“Today’s stew is pretty good, if I do say so myself. I had three helpings.”

When I set foot in this apartment again, Haruki-kun had fled the world, just as I had days before.

He was still in that state, even now.

Setsuna
“…Though, it’s sitting a little bit heavy now. I’ll take some stomach medicine later.”

Fortunately, Kaiou had protected Haruki-kun.

Through an interview with Occupational Safety and Health, they acknowledged that part of the cause might be “pressure from excessive work responsibilities,” and treated him as though he were on temporary leave.

Setsuna
“Come to think of it, it’s almost time for March’s new release. I’d forgotten this month because Tomo didn’t say anything to me.”

Right now, he only went out once a week, to visit a doctor of psychosomatic medicine.

…The rest of his days were spent here, in his apartment.

Setsuna
“You know, she finally got what she always wanted and joined the news department. I wonder how she made it happen this time?”

Right now, he spent alternate weeks unable to get up and unable to sleep.

Setsuna
“Oh, and Takeya-kun and Io were talking about maybe wanting to drop by here, some time soon…”

When he couldn’t get up, I didn’t force him.

After all, he never slept when we were in college. If I thought of it as him finally regaining the hours of sleep he lost back then, I saw no problem at all.

Setsuna
“I… told them they don’t need to worry that much. You’ll feel better soon, and then we can get together every month.”

When he entered periods where he couldn’t sleep, I didn’t say anything, either.

I knew how badly he wanted to sleep.

I knew he was suffering from being left behind in the real world.

…I knew he was trying desperately to forget about everything, and depart for the world of dreams.

Setsuna
“Yawwwn… I’m getting sleepy… I guess I did eat too much.”

And I didn’t have the right, or the courage, to know…

What, and who, waited in that other world.

Haruki
“…Setsuna.”
Setsuna
“Hmm?”
Haruki
“You don’t have to come here any more.”
Setsuna
“…Mm.”

That was… the first thing Haruki-kun had said to me today.

Haruki
“I’m fine…”

Words that he mustered up, with great effort, for my sake.

Haruki
“I’m going to be with my current self for the rest of my life. I’m ready for that.”

I was happy.

Haruki
“But, I… I can’t drag you into a frozen life like that.”
Setsuna
“Yes, yes, we can talk about that later.”
Haruki
“Don’t run away from this, Setsuna. Please, listen seriously…”
Setsuna
“I’m not joking. And I’m not running away. I would never run away…”

From his hand, from his cheek, I could tell he was shivering.

Setsuna
“All I mean is, we can have that conversation once you’re feeling better. Once we can talk completely calmly. All right?”
Haruki
“And when will that be? When will we be able to do that…?”
Setsuna
“Some day. But we will. I mean it.”
Haruki
“That’s not true. I’m gonna be like this for the rest of my life…”
Setsuna
“Either way, there’s no need to freak out looking for a conclusion. We can take it slow. So, why don’t you rest now?”

I wanted to wrap him up with great strength. I wanted to encourage him with strong words.

Setsuna
“You’ve been rushing around so much. No one will complain if you stop and stand still for a bit.”
Haruki
“That’s got nothing to do with it…”

But I couldn’t do that for him right now.

Haruki
“I didn’t get like this because I pushed myself too hard at work. It’s not because I was rushing through life.”

So instead, I embraced him, gently, slowly, quietly.

Haruki
“You know that better than anyone else, Setsuna…”
Setsuna
“The one who drove you that far was me, five years ago.”

But just sharing my body heat wasn’t enough to chase away the cold in his heart.

Setsuna
“…You know that better than anyone else.”
Haruki
“What I did was unforgivable. You, of all people, shouldn’t forgive me for any of it.”
Setsuna
“Haruki-kun…”

He refused to stop this self-denial, which only served to hurt him.

Haruki
“You don’t have to come here any more… Just leave me alone.”

You’re wrong.

My reason for wanting to be with you isn’t a noble feeling like that.

Haruki
“Abandon me.”

Not because I felt sympathy, or forgave you…

Haruki
“Leave me on my own…”
Setsuna
“Haruki-kun, I…!”
Haruki
“…Sorry. I didn’t mean that.”
Setsuna
“Huh…?”

But, what interrupted his lamentation wasn’t my own words of self-denial…

Haruki
“I’m lying.”
Setsuna
“Haruki-kun…?”
Haruki
“No, it wouldn’t be okay if you left… If you left me, I wouldn’t have any idea what to do with myself…!”
Setsuna
“Ah…”

It was his own, even greater lamentation.

Haruki
“If I really felt that way, I could put the chain lock on the door. I could turn you away immediately.”

The guilt he had saddled himself with over me could no longer be swept out of him, no matter what anyone might say.

Haruki
“But I didn’t. I didn’t take back your key, and I never put on the chain lock.”
Setsuna
“Thank you, for giving me another chance.”

And so, just having me in front of him steadily threw his heart into disarray.

Haruki
“You do my laundry, you cook for me, you hold me… I’m finally saying all of this because I feel… fulfilled.”
Setsuna
“I feel fulfilled, too. We’re even.”
Haruki
“No, we aren’t. Lately, if you’re even a tiny bit late, my body feels like it’s being torn apart…”
Setsuna
“…I’m sorry for breaking my promise.”

And yet, now, he was burdened with the dilemma of having to rely on me, when I was nothing but poison to him.

Haruki
“I was so anxious, wondering whether you would never come again, wondering whether you had abandoned me, that I almost lost my mind…”
Setsuna
“Haruki-kun…”
Haruki
“I’m horrible. I’m horrible…”

And I…

Setsuna
“No, I’m glad… I’m happy.”

I couldn’t leave his side, couldn’t keep from ruining him.

Haruki
“I can’t stand hurting you. But I can’t bear a reality without you.”

I couldn’t keep some ugly part of me from finding a dark joy in his laments.

Haruki
“Both of these options are wrong. I can’t make up my mind. The world doesn’t need someone like me…!”

I couldn’t keep this disgraceful part of myself from feeling all the more affection for him as he clung to me.

Haruki
“And you need me the least… No, all I can do is harm you.”
Setsuna
“That’s not true. It’s not true at all…”
Haruki
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry… Ah… Ah…! Aaaah…”
Setsuna
“Haruki-kun… Haruki-kun, it’s okay.”

Not just because I saved him, but because I wanted to satisfy my own desires.

Haruki
“S-Setsuna… Ah… Ggh! Aah…”
Setsuna
“I’m not going to leave you. I’ll make you feel better, I promise…!”

Because I didn’t want to let anyone deny the two years that were left to me, only through a win-by-default.

……

.

Setsuna
“Hnn…”

I faced the brightening sky and stretched. It was almost ten o’clock.

He had cried all through the night, until he finally wore himself out… and, just as dawn was beginning to break, he fell asleep.

And, after watching his sleeping face for several hours, I quietly left the apartment.

It looked like my being there was going to take things in a bad direction this week.

Haruki-kun probably wouldn’t wake up for a day or more.

And, when he did wake up, he would probably be a bit calmer than he had been just before.

…As long as I wasn’t there with him.

I was poison to him today.

I couldn’t disperse any tiny fragment of his pain, and yet the side effects were extreme—useless.

Setsuna
“Oh, you’re awake! Good morning.”
Setsuna
“Yes, about the documents you mentioned yesterday… I’ll come in today and take care of it.”
Setsuna
“Yep. He and I got into a big fight last night, actually… Ahaha.”


0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   A