Mini After Story – Kazusa ending (Ch. 3)

Haruki
“Kazusa.”
Kazusa
“Mm… zzz…”
Haruki
“Hey, Kazusa… Wake up already. Come on.”
Kazusa
“Hmm…?”

The light shining in through the enormous high-rise hotel window
was already flooding the entire room.

And somehow, in this blindingly bright room,
my Sleeping Beauty in the bed had yet to wake up.

…Granted, this scene was the same
regardless of what country we were in.

Kazusa
“Yawwwwn… Hey, what time is it…?”
Haruki
“It’s almost eleven.”

Well, at this point I had no reason to be surprised, or to lament.
When Kazusa wasn’t playing piano, she was always like this.

Kazusa
“Why would you wake me up at this ungodly hour?
At least let me sleep until lunch.”

Haruki
“I’m already starving.
I want lunch now.

As for me, I had been awake for five hours already.
Look, even I couldn’t keep looking at this girl’s sleeping face forever…
Well, no, I wasn’t tired of it, but I seriously was so hungry that I could hardly stand it.

Kazusa
“Call up room service or something, then. Come on…”
Haruki
“No, no. Get up.
We’re going out.”
Kazusa
“Wheeere?”
Haruki
“It matters not.”
Kazusa
“What are you, a poet?”
Haruki
“We’re finally back in Japan. We should take advantage of it, right?
…We did make a promise to Youko-san last night.”
Kazusa
“…”

Maybe it was going a little far to call that a “promise,”
but Kazusa still hadn’t objected in the moment.

…Of course, she hadn’t out-and-out agreed to it, either, but…

Haruki
“Let’s have lunch in the lounge, and then we can discuss where to go.
For now, get dressed…”
Kazusa
“I’m not going.
I’m gonna sleep forever.”
Haruki
“…You seriously don’t have anything to do?
Have you miraculously finished all of your work for the year?”
Kazusa
“I’m just tired of going out.
I would much rather keep you… inside forever, Haruki.”
Haruki
“That… That would tire you out even more than going out.”
Kazusa
“Anyway, I said I’m not going out, so I’m not going.
Stay here with me, Haruki.
Why don’t we watch some stupid suspense movie or something together?”
Haruki
“If you already know it’s stupid, why would you watch it…?”

I could keep whining like a child as much as I wanted,
but I knew Kazusa was never going to say,
“It’s fine, just go on your own.”

Kazusa
“I mean, there isn’t anywhere I want to go,
or anybody I want to see.”
Youko
Why don’t you go and visit your friends?

I didn’t know whether Youko’s parting words
were intentional, whether they were forced,
or whether she was teasing us.

…In any case, I was certain she knew exactly what she was talking about.

Haruki
“But, look… You’ve already been…”

Forgiven, is what I wanted to say.

In Vienna, six months ago.

A visitor we never imagined.
An impossible reunion.
A miraculous reconciliation.

Kazusa
“But that doesn’t mean…”
Haruki
“You don’t want to see her?”
Kazusa
“I do!
But… I can’t make myself go.”
Haruki
“Kazusa…”
Kazusa
“Even if she’s forgiven me,
I still can’t forgive myself.”
Kazusa
“I liked her.
I really admired her.”

I knew that.

Somehow, she loved someone like me.
And yet, I…

Kazusa
“What’s your deal, Haruki?
Are you telling me you’re going to see her?”
Haruki
“I, well…”

I wanted Kazusa to save me.
But this wasn’t a situation I could be saved from.

We really hadn’t grown at all in the past three years.
Neither I, nor Kazusa.

Kazusa
“Like I said, I’m not going out.”
Haruki
“It’s just for a walk.
That should be fine, shouldn’t it?”

In the end, it took about thirty minutes
to get the grumbling Kazusa out the door.

We had our lunch without incident, and by the time we exited the hotel,
the weak winter sun had already passed due south.

Kazusa
“And what are we supposed to do if we run into someone?”
Haruki
“Where do you think we are?
We’re in Tokyo. There are ten million people in this city.
What are the odds of a coincidence like that?”
Kazusa
“B-but, look…
the day that we got here, plenty of people must have seen our faces.”
Haruki
“It’s fine. The Kazusa Touma Boom has long since passed.
Don’t underestimate the fickleness of the Japanese public.”
Kazusa
“How can that possibly be okay from a managing standpoint?!”
Haruki
“I’ve thought of countermeasures for that.
Anyway, just come with me for a little while.”
Kazusa
“I don’t wannaaaa!”

Kazusa, now fully awake and fed,
still was loath to move, and clutched at my sleeve,
forcing me to drag her along.

Nevertheless, with some effort,
I took Kazusa outside and into Japan.

Because…

Haruki
“Ah, here we are. Our first sight-seeing spot.”
Kazusa
“Huh? This is… We’re still in front of the hotel.”
Haruki
“Come on, Kazusa… This scenery isn’t familiar to you at all?”
Kazusa
“Scenery… It’s just the front of Onjuku Station…”
Haruki
“…This same old telephone booth is still here.”
Kazusa
“Huh?”
Haruki
“When you were on the run from those reporters,
you dropped your wallet, your phone, everything…”
Kazusa
“…Ah?!”
Kazusa
I can’t believe this…
Of all the phone numbers I have, this is the only one I remember…
What the hell is wrong with me?
Haruki
“With a ten-yen coin you found, you used this box
to call my phone…”
Kazusa
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!
I’m leaving! I’m leaving now!”
Haruki
“And with a pitiful voice, like an abandoned dog…”
Kazusa
“Y-you were the one with the pitiful voice!”
Haruki
“Well, naturally.
Because you sounded so pitiful.”
Kazusa
“Rgh…”
Haruki
“I rushed over here in a panic,
and you were soaking wet, shivering violently,
and I thought, Wow, she really does look like an abandoned dog.”
Kazusa
“That’s rich, coming from the owner who abandoned me!”
Haruki
“Now, don’t turn on me…”
Kazusa
“I could say the same to you. Stupid…
Don’t go saying stuff to set my teeth on edge like that. Not now. Dumbass.”
Haruki
“Well, it’s only because, after all this time,
I still have an idiot with me who keeps pulling the same old line.”
Kazusa
“That’s because it’s you. Dumbass…”

Yes, with my best effort,
I took Kazusa out with me into Japan.

I wasn’t going to let us just sink into degeneracy on our own
the way we had once before.

No matter how much we got hurt, how painful it was,
we would continue to live in contact with the outside…

I had decided to keep living,
even if it meant sometimes hurting others, or being hurt myself.

Haruki
“Here, have a look in the mirror.”
Kazusa
“Oh, I see. That’s your “countermeasure”…
Your tastes and methods haven’t changed a bit.”
Haruki
“I made sure to choose things that would go together, okay?”
Haruki
“So, how about it… Kazumi Touno-san?”

A comb to decorate her hair, a pair of fashion glasses.
A scarf and a hat.

And a false name.

I had given these to Kazusa three years before.
And this was where I had given her everything outside of the false name.

A shopping mall in Onjuku, a few minutes’ walk from the hotel.

The arrangement of the stores and the layout had changed just a little bit,
but all of the stores that had been there when we went shopping before remained.

Kazusa
“But… Now that I’m looking at it again,
glasses really don’t suit me at all.”
Haruki
“Really?
I think they look great on you, especially with that hairstyle.”
Kazusa
“That’s because you’re my husband.
I can’t exactly take your opinion at face value.”
Haruki
“Oh, thanks.”

As ruthlessly as she disparaged my aesthetic sensibilities,
I could tell that she was secretly pleased.

Plainly in a good humor,
and wearing all of the accessories I had purchased for her,
she began walking ahead of me through the mall.

Kazusa
“Hey, Haruki, why don’t we go get something sweet?
I think there’s a Rascal in the underground level.”
Haruki
“We’ve come all the way back to Japan,
so why don’t we get red bean soup or something like that?”
Kazusa
“All right, we can do that afterward.
Come on, let’s hurry.”
Haruki
“No, hang on. We don’t have to go jumping around from shop to shop.
If you want pudding, you can save it for when we get back home.”
Kazusa
“…You are underestimating the smoothness of Rascal’s pudding.
You can’t even get a texture like that in Europe.”
Haruki
“Putting aside whether or not that’s actually true, it’s cold out.
Why don’t we get something warm?”
Kazusa
“I told you, I’ll take you there afterward.
God, you’re fussy.”
Haruki
“I could turn that line right back around at you.
Why don’t we pick up the pudding to-go, and take it back with us?”
Kazusa
“No way. I want to eat it now. I am not budging on that.
I’ll eat three in the shop, and then I’ll have them wrap up twelve more.”
Haruki
“…You won’t have any room for dinner.”
Kazusa
“What are you talking about?
Dessert goes to a different part of the stomach, you know that.”
Haruki
“…Fine, fine.
Do whatever you want.”
Kazusa
“Oh, that’s right. Once we’ve warmed ourselves up with the red bean soup,
we’ll have to get ice cream, and then…”
Haruki
“Are you trying to freeze me to death?!”

Yes, she was definitely in a good mood…
In fact, maybe she was getting a little carried away.

Kazusa
“Mmm, I finally feel like myself again.
This way, Haruki.”
Haruki
“Mrph…”

Around the time that we left the shopping mall
and started ambling around the streets of Onjuku,
our senses of initiative made a complete switch.

Kazusa
“Look at you! That’s just pathetic.
Don’t tell me you’ve got food poisoning just from eating that much?”
Haruki
“Food poisoning is usually about the ingredients, not the amount…”

That said, my blood sugar right then must have been at a seriously dangerous level.

Still, Kazusa hadn’t eaten the same amount that I had—
in fact, she had probably taken in twice the amount of sugar.
What kind of iron digestive tract did she have…?

Haruki
“H-hey, why don’t we head back toward the hotel?
We could watch a stupid end-of-year variety show or something.”
Kazusa
“Why would we watch something if we already knew it was stupid?”

And so, Kazusa, heedless of the way I was holding my stomach and groaning,
continued ascending the hard concrete stairs.

Haruki
“H-hey, seriously, wait…”
Kazusa
“Come on, just a little more.
You can do it, Haruki.”
Haruki
“A little more, and then what—oh.”

And there, right where we came up,
was a certain building…

Kazusa
“Just as huge and self-important as ever,
a hall where you can’t feel a shred of tradition.”
Haruki
“Yeah… Now that you mention it, it was here…”

It was the Onjuku Arts and Culture Hall.

Kazusa
“Huh? You know this place, Haruki?
I thought you had never been here before.”
Haruki
“Ack…”

Yes, the venue for Kazusa Touma’s first public performance in Japan…

And for her additional performance, held a mere month later.

Kazusa
“I played here twice,
but you never once came to see me.”
Haruki
“I, well…
Yeah. I’m sorry.”

Tickets sold out immediately for both shows,
and even now, the additional performance was considered practically legendary.

And… in the end,
I couldn’t make it to either one of these monumentally valuable concerts.

Kazusa
“Nah, it’s… it’s okay.”
Haruki
“No, but…”
Kazusa
“I mean…
It’s because you didn’t come to either of those concerts
that you and I are where we are today.”
Haruki
“…Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

There was no point in talking about hypothetical branching futures,
saying “if such-and-such a thing had happened back then,”
since we weren’t in any of those branching futures.

Right now, I was with Kazusa.

And, even though we had turned our backs on the land of Japan,
we had been able to return once again.

We needed no more than this,
no outcome other than this.

Kazusa
“Incidentally,
my mother once held a concert here, too.”

Haruki
“Yeah, I remember.”

I had even received tickets.
But I wasn’t able to make it to that one, either…

Kazusa
“Well, I guess it wasn’t as widely talked-about
as my own concerts, though.”
Haruki
“That estimation
is probably something that should be determined between the two of you, next time…”

The clock was getting toward ten p.m.

Kazusa
“…”

We really had done a whole lot of walking around today.

We never set foot on a train or a bus,
just wandered around the streets of Onjuku, relying on our own memories,
reminiscing, laughing together, and having a great time all around.

Haruki
“…”

But, last of all, we had ended up here.

One street away from the road back to the hotel,
near the taxi stop at the station.

Our feet stopped automatically,
and, at last, we started to run low on words.

Kazusa
“…Hey.”
Haruki
“Hm?”
Kazusa
“What are you thinking about?”
Haruki
“Nothing, really…”
Kazusa
“Liar.”
Haruki
“…”

A bitter smile came to each of our faces.

It was a warped, pained, faraway expression
that no one would mistake for a real smile.

Kazusa
“We… we really acted stupid.”
Haruki
“Oh, no.
We were stupid.
We were absolute idiots.”

I hadn’t planned on coming here.

It was too painful, holding too many memories.
This was precisely the place I had wanted to avoid.

Kazusa
“…Heh.”
Haruki
“What’s that about?”
Kazusa
“Well, I mean…
God, I remember it now and I just… Ahaha… Aha…!”
Haruki
“Quit laughing.”
Kazusa
“You said the same thing then.
And you sounded like you were about to cry… Ahaha!”
Haruki
“But you were laughing and crying at the same time.”
Kazusa
“Ahahahaha… You don’t have to mention that.”
Haruki
“Ahaha…”

We had done a lot of crying here.

This place was full of firsts for us.

The place where we got into a serious fight for the first time.

The place where I vented my feelings for the first time.

The place where Kazusa let her own feelings spill out for the first time.

And…

Kazusa
“Hey.”
Haruki
“Hm?”
Kazusa
“Hey, I said.”
Haruki
“Yeah, I heard you. What…”

When I turned,
I discovered that Kazusa, who had been watching the road this whole time, just as I had,
was now staring straight at me.

No, she wasn’t just staring at me…

Kazusa
“Mm…”
Haruki
“H-hey, you…”

She wanted me.

Kazusa
“You’re more used to it now, aren’t you?
…With me.”

Kazusa
Why are you so used to this?!

This was where our lips met for the first time…

No, really, it was the second time, as I was often reminded afterward.

The two of us made so many mistakes back then…

And yet, that was when our relationship truly began.
Since then, we had shared one another’s feelings.

Kazusa
“So… C’mon, one more time. While we’re here.”
Haruki
“Everyone is looking at us.”
Kazusa
“They were looking back then, too.
But you did it anyway.”
Haruki
“I was young then.”
Kazusa
“You’re still plenty young.
So, Haruki…”
Haruki
“You sound like a pushy little kid.
You’re old enough to know better than that now.”
Kazusa
“What?! Hey, I’m still… mmph?!
M-mmm… ah…”
Haruki
“Mmm… Kazusa…!”
Kazusa
“Ha… Haru… mm, mm…”

And…

Kazusa and I,
there within full view
of all the people and cars passing by…

We kissed so passionately
that they all looked away.

Here, in the place where we first became accomplices.


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