Hello, Hello and Hello:Volume 1 Chapter 2
Contact 33 - The Hottest Day in the Summer
“You’re really working hard.”
I was approached by a girl I had never met before.
It happened after I did five 100m sprints on the track.
It was a gentle, sweet voice, akin to the evening when the heat had just subsided.
As I had just finished a sprint, I was gasping for breath, unable to respond to her words. The girl approached me, and handed me a towel. I instinctively grabbed it, but can I really use it? I smelled the sweet scent of the fabric softener, and hesitated.
“You’re not wiping your sweat off?”
She asked while I remained silent, tilting her head cutely. Her hair was on her face, looking a little itchy. The tip of her pretty index finger stroked down her soft face, putting the fine hair behind her ear.
“Of course. That's why I'm giving it to you.”
The girl smiled, looking bemused, and it made her look a lot more immature. Maybe it’s because the atmosphere around her had lightened up a little.
All the concerns in my heart immediately vanished, and the tension in my shoulders eased.
But even so, my heart was moving a little faster than usual.
Whenever I finished running, I would be panting, feeling unbearable, my heart aching in pain. I experienced this feeling hundreds, thousands of times ever since I joined the track team. But why? Why does this racing heartbeat seem a little weird, different from before?
But I didn’t know what exactly was different, in what way.
This thing…seemed to be called ambiguity. “I’ll use it then. Thanks.”
“Please do,” so the girl said.
“I’m Shiina Yuki. Nice to meet you”
“Huh? Nice to meet you. I’m Segawa Haruyoshi.”
I gave my name, “Haruyoshi, Haruyoshi.” And Shiina-san muttered it.
“Alright, I’ll call you Yoshi-kun.”
So she suddenly declared.
“Not Haru or something like that?”
“You don’t like it?”
“Not that you can’t, but I never had anyone call me that before. Just a little shocked to hear it.”
“If nobody called you that, isn’t it better? This is my personal way of addressing you. Oh yes, just call me Yuki.”
“Leave the ‘-san’. Just call me ‘Yuki’.”
“Alright then, Yuki. I got something to ask.”
Once I said that, Yuki looked away from me, and towards the guys from the soccer club. Seemed like she noticed them ogling her.
“What is it?”
“You’re not from our school, right?”
“…You figured it out, huh?”
The soccer club guys were spotted by her, and panicked as they returned to practice. “Pass! Yes! Run! Yes! Minigame! Yes.” Loud voices echoed from the field.
“Are they your friends, Yoshi-kun?”
“More like juniors, I guess. We never interact though. I’m from the track team, and those in the soccer team on good terms with me are all retired. I’m a third year after all.”
They’re probably in an air-conditioned room, cramming through the words on the textbooks, and not thinking about soccer. For us third years, the term ‘exam candidates’ really was annoying.
It was the middle of summer vacation.
The intense sunlight of the summer day dyed everything white, and I was unable to open my eyes.
The soft cream-like clouds were drifting forward.
Due to the heat, the field appeared to be floating, unsteady.
The cricket voices heard from nowhere made it sound hot and unbearable.
“How did you know I’m not a student from this school?”
“Ah, it’s simple. I have no memory of you.”
“Yoshi-kun, are you able to remember the faces of everyone in school?”
Yuki was really shocked. Of course, I couldn’t possibly remember all the students’ faces.
There were many students I didn’t know, let alone the entire school. However, there’s no doubt I knew Yuki’s not a student’s of this school.
She had white skin, wavy hair as fluffy as cotton candy, raised eyebrows, large, deep looking black eyes. She’s pretty special compared to all the other girls I met.
If there’s such a girl in school, there would be a huge commotion the moment she first came to school.
Picking out cute girls in the school is a necessary subject for all the boys, including me.
But I couldn’t say this reason so blatantly in front of her. “Sorta” I tried to dodge the subject.
“Hm, I failed. I even dressed up as a student of your school too.”
“Relax, I’m not telling the teacher.”
Yuki kicked lighting at a stone by her feet, and it bounced off, landing 2m away from us. She wasn’t exactly going over to kick the stone.
“No, that’s not what I’m getting at. More or less, I think I’ll be a little happier if you think of me as a classmate, Yoshi-kun?”
“What do you mean?”
“I see. So you don’t know.”
Soon after, the 3pm bell rang.
“It’s about time to start running soon, right?”
Yuki held an end of the towel wrapped around my neck, and pulled it away. My neck was a little cold without it.
“I’ll wash it and return it to you.”
“It’s fine. Don’t worry.”
Yuki waved, basically telling me, “Go on”. I couldn’t ask any more, so I thanked her, and returned to the starting line.
I stood at the starting line, and took a deep breath. Before my eyes was a shadow cut out with a shaver, clinging to the ground. I glared at the guy. No matter how hard I tried to sprint, this guy’s always easily making it just before me. I could never catch up to it. It’s like a nightmare. Even so, why am I running?
And before I knew it, Yuki, who wisely went to the shade under the tree, said.
“The third years in the track team should be retiring soon. Why are you still running, Yoshi-kun?”
She had practically read my mind.
I didn’t answer, and merely smiled as I placed my hand gently on the starting line, crouching down as I prepared to sprint. The ground had amply absorbed the heat from the sun, nearly burning my skin, and my fingers felt a burning sensation. Ready. So I quietly noted. BAM. I exerted strength in my legs, and started sprinting.
It happened during the summer of my third year in middle school.
Thus, I encountered Shiina Yuki.
Initially, I didn’t like running .
I could get second or third in elementary school, I got seconds and thirds during the sports festival. I guess I should be proud to be second to a really fast guy, but the ones sprinting at the sports festival were all similar to me in speed. Results wise, it’s all a matter of ability.
And the reason why I joined the track team was because I met a classmate called Takeshita.
Right after I entered middle school, we switched seats for the first time, and Takeshita sat next to me, dressed in the same uniform I was unfamiliar with.
“Are we seriously wearing this every day starting today? Isn’t this hell?”
I truly understood the discomfort of having my neck touch the shirt collar, along with the urge to scratch away the itch.
For us, who had been wearing comfy, practical clothes that’s easy to move in over the past few weeks, this uniform’s too heavy and uncomfortable, and also strangely shameful.
“Yeah. Really want to get rid of this as soon as possible”
I agreed, “Oh.” Takeshita widened his eyes, before beaming with an earnest smile.
I had been a student for six years, and to a certain extent, I got the feeling, “Yep, looks like I can be friends with this guy.”
“Please take care of me”. I said to Takeshita, and shook his outstretched hand.
Takeshita had been part of the track team since elementary school. He’s usually quiet, but when it comes to club activities, he got really excited.
For example, he would talk about how he beat his rivals in the last competition, the memories of summer camp, the harsh winter training as he hated the cold and loved the heat, that there were many seniors he was familiar with.
Personally, I had no interest in athletics, but I was invited by Takeshita once to watch the track team.
Takeshita’s really fast.
In a 100m sprint, not even the third years could beat him.
The way he sprinted, nobody would think of him as the guy who got an unbelievable 13 points in the language test. His running self was a far cry from the guy who till an hour ago was trying to figure out how to destroy his answer script, not the guy who spouted such nonsense. “It’s stupid to just burn it though.”
He was really cool when he ran. Really cool.
The next day, Takeshita happily took the track team’s application form to me.
“That’s a lot more fun than you imagined, right?” Takeshita seemed a little proud when he said that.
“Yeah.” I nodded. It’s too embarrassing to say the real reason though. Well, we’re all guys. There’s no need to say everything.
In our freshmen contest, I did terribly, while Takeshita took first on the podium. He kept winning, and passed the local preliminaries as a first, even making it to the finals in the prefecture competition.
There were many competitors like Takeshita in the finals, and he really had little chance of winning to begin with, the results had many looking forward to his performances next year, or the year after. “Well, guess that’s how it is.” I remembered him saying that with a dumb smile, and the seniors cheering him on appeared a lot more unhappy.
On the day the third years retired, most of them directed their words to Takeshita. “Do your best.” “You’ll definitely make it to the Nationals.” While the seniors cheered him on with tears in their eyes, “I will.” it appeared Takeshita nodded seriously.
But soon after the second semester started, Takeshita easily quit the track team.
Takeshita never had much interest in track to begin with.
His objective was the senior two years older than he was, who graduated from the same elementary school.
Takeshita liked her.
But the outcome was that his love didn’t bear fruit.
At the end of the retirement ceremony, the senior Takeshita liked announced that she was dating the vice captain.
The first year Takeshita, the fastest in our team, lost to the third year senior who was the slowest. Ah, yeah. He lost. Even so, he was just smiling dumbfoundedly. “Congrats.” He said with a trembling voice. Thinking back, he probably was trembling with such a voice when he lost in the prefectures finals.
Even till now, I don’t know why I was so emotional. I just couldn’t forgive him however.
“Hey，Takeshita. Are you fine with that? You didn’t fight it out against him?”
Takeshita merely laughed in a silly manner.
“Are you just going to keep losing?”
I was really anxious, and yelled.
The shocked classmates around us gave me weird looks, whispering things. Back then, I ignored everything I would have usually listened to. Those were just noises. What I really wanted to hear wasn’t that. I wanted to hear the true thoughts of that classmate, that buddy on the team.
But Takeshita just gave a dumb smile, and left without a doubt.
I could no longer find the Takeshita I once admired. Left there was the same back of the guy who got 13 points in the exam. That’s not the silhouette of a winner, but a loser.
Ever since then, two years passed.
I continued to work hard on the track team. I supposed I was working hard. I wasted two whole years, and finally arrived at the place Takeshita ran at during his first year. Like the guy I once admired, I put my fingers on the starting line. The fingertips turned red as they withstood my body weight.
The gun was fired, I stomped hard off the ground, and sprinted off.
I did my best to run.
And I had no regrets about my defeat.
As an ordinary guy, I made it to the finals of the prefecture. Isn’t this enough. Ah, yeah. It’s enough. But why did I feel so hollow inside? I felt like I was going to be out of breath. The endless sweat slid down my cheeks and neck. The strong sunlight caused me to be unable to open my eyes. I took a deep breath of the scorching air, and looked at the time.
That was the best I ever ran.
That was the shortest time I took.
But it was still 0.1 second slower compared to Takeshita’s best.
The next day, and the day after, Yuki looked for me. She was often holding a sports drink or ice cream.
I was supposed to ask my juniors to handle the stopwatch, but before I knew it, it ended up in Yuki’s hands.
I gathered my strength in my legs.
At that moment, I started running immediately.
The start seemed good. My forward leaning body slowly rose. My body felt light, and my legs could take large strides forward. The impact of my feet on the ground sent my body forward, my arms swinging. Yuki appeared to be increasingly bigger. I felt a painful, burning sensation on several points on my body. I continued to take short breaths, inhaling the oxygen into my lungs.
I gritted my teeth.
I stared at the shadow before me, and gave chase.
The moment I dashed past Yuki, I heard a little ’beep’.
It’s from the other side of the finish line.
Did I make it to where I want to be?
I slowed down little by little, and stopped, my hands on my knees as I held my body up. I felt moisture seeping all over my pores. Ah damn it, it’s tiring.
“Haa, haa, haa. Ho-how is it?”
“Didn’t break your best record. Just a little more.”
“Ah—not good enough.”
I had no strength to stand, so I collapsed to the ground. There’s the smell of dirt, a smell unique to the summer, with the blazing sun. Sweat soaked my shirt, and as a result, the dirt’s sticking to my back. Whatever.
The sky’s blue, the world’s white, and the scalding sun’s burning my skin.
My body’s yearning for oxygen, gasping for breath, and my heart’s beating wildly. My chest expanded, contracted, and expanded again. I felt worn out. My body and soul seemed to be separated.
The moment I said these words, a shadow covered my face.
“Good work. Have a little rest.”
She was holding PET bottles, one containing an isotonic drink and tea. She asked for my preference, and I chose the former. I thanked her, sat upright, and held the PET bottle. Thank goodness she uncapped it, and I was able to drink it immediately. I gulped down about half of it at one go.
Yuki made sure not to sit down as she knelt on the ground, helping me cap and uncap the bottle. She narrowed her eyes, as though looking at the sun, and said,
“Smells like a boy.”
I brought the PET bottle to my lips once again, and this time, I drank it slowly. My throat throbbed greatly. The liquid flowed into my body.
“You’re lying on the ground? You don’t care about your clothes or hair getting dirty.”
“Well, of course I don’t really care about that. You find it dirty?”
“It's fine, isn’t it? I think it’s pretty cool.”
I started to recall the morning weather report, when the big sister reported that it’ll be hotter than yesterday, or something. After finishing the drink, I stood up.
“I’ll go wash my face. Go rest in the shade, Yuki.”
For some reason, my throat felt thirstier than before.
I went to a sink in the courtyard, where there were fewer people.
Using the faucet, I washed my head to cool myself off. My head was heavier after my hair got wet, but I felt refreshed. I then quickly washed my face, the sweat filled water entering my mouth. It tasted a little salty. I gargled, spat the water out, and left the place.
I lifted my wet, bundled hair, and rested a little in the shadow of the classroom block. “Haa.” I let out a long sigh.
I leaned my back on the wall, and closed my eyes, my mind recalling Yuki’s smile. “I think it’s pretty cool.” Her voice echoed countless times. Each time, my heart would feel happy, and at the same time, anguished.
I should be focusing on running. What’s going on?
It was the first time I experienced such feelings. Even at this point, my face’s scalding.
After a while, I opened my eyes, and saw a familiar face pass before me. The person’s giving a very gloomy look, though I might say that’s just compared to her usual look. She’s the most famous person in school who really performed during the summer competitions.
It’s Rindou Akane of the swimming team.
“Eh, Akane? What are you doing here?”
The moment Akane heard my voice and noticed my presence, her expression changed faster than the turning of a page. The gloomy face from before was buried deep within her heart, and she was showing her usual cheery face.
“Hm? Ah, it’s you, Haru. I’m resting. I left something in the classroom. Going over to pick it up now.”
“Nyahahaha.” So she laughed, but well, it’s obviously a lie. There was no way she could be headed to the classroom block in that getup.
She’s wearing only a school swimsuit.
Functionality and design wise, it was the worst design ever. No matter the gender, nobody liked these swimsuits. The cyan colored swimsuits turn black after absorbing water. She was soaking wet all over her hair and body, and clearly she had not dried herself with a towel. Her short hair gathered a little bit of water, and the water droplets fell, gliding down the skin receiving them, before landing on the ground.
“…No. It’s nothing.”
“I see. Well, if anything happens, give me a shoutout. I can hear you out a little at least. Anyway, what’s with that face?”
“I’m a little shocked.” Akane said,
“Never thought I would hear such words from you, Haru.”
Really, these might not sound like what I would usually say.
“It’s summer after all. I do feel a little weird myself. No, sorry, better to forget about it.”
“No need to be so embarrassed. But well, guess you’re right. I’ll just say what I want then.”
Akane changed her direction, and went to my side.
It was an inexplicable distance that was within my grasp, yet not one I could reach just by stretching my hand out. At the same time, I could smell salt from Akane, no, the smell of the swimming pool.
Akane, leaning on the wall in the same posture as me, sighed as well. Ah, it’s so cold. She muttered to herself, and took a deep breath. I thought she would say something, but the silence continued for a while.
The sound of some wind instruments came from somewhere. I looked around, and found two girls at the window on the second floor corridor, blowing trumpets. The sounds from the high pitched trumpets drifted towards the lust greenery of the summer.
Once the performance ended, Akane spoke up.
“Well actually, I can’t really say that something happened. I just can’t bring out the motivation I had before. When I made the Nationals in the last tournament, I made a new personal best, and just feel a little burned out. Just today, the teacher asked me to guide the juniors, but I …”
Can’t swim like before.
Her voice trailed off at the end, almost inaudible.
Akane expressed herself. “it’s fine.” And I muttered. I knew that Akane was looking at me, but I was looking at those two from the wind instrument club. There’s no encore yet.
“Because well, aren’t you still swimming, Akane?”
“Swimming’s a habit of mine, like toothbrushing. I feel a little uneasy if I don’t swim.”
“Right. So the light’s still there. It may become smaller, harder to see, but it’s not put out. I’ll say this as many times as I need. There’s no doubt you can go to a further place, Akane.”
Akane’s different from Takeshita and I.
She’s swimming for real.
Though I didn’t say out the last two lines.
“…Feels like you’ve changed, Haru.”
“How so?” so I asked. “Back then, you wouldn’t say such things.” So she replied.
“If it were the old you, Haru, there’s no way you would have greeted me if I haven’t noticed you. I don’t know how many times I’ve been ignored by you. Even with everyone around, you would just stand by the side and watch everyone. You would then give some ambiguous lines with some really fake smile. That was different though. I know. These were your true thoughts, Haru. This might be the first time you’re saying what you really feel. So, hm hmm...I’m a little happy.”
“It’s the summer fault. It’s so hot out here that I’m not thinking straight and saying weird stuff. Sorry.”
“I say, you don’t have to be so embarrassed. Hm. But, yay! Since you say so, Haru, I’ll just give it a try. Ah yeah. Can I ask you for something this time?”
“If it’s something within my capabilities.”
“Do you mind saying ‘do your best’? I’m actually a simple person. If I’m cheered on, I might be able to work a little harder.”
“That’s it? Hasn’t everyone else said that to you many times?”
“No, that’s different. Say it to me. Please!”
“Got it. Do your best.”
Akane closed her eyes, seemingly trying to focus as she listened.
“Do your best.”
“Do your best, Akane.”
“Yep, I’ll do my best.”
Akane slowly opened her eyes, seemingly back to her normal self. Cheerful, kind, a little clumsy, and very honest. She’s as dazzling as the summer sun.
Looking at her, I couldn’t help but narrow my eyes.
Then, Akane, who arrived by my left, turned around me and returned to where she came from.
The moment her silhouette grew smaller, for some reason, she turned towards me again. She walked out of the shade, and stood in the intense light. The water droplets all over her reflected the sunlight, and she looked really dazzling.
“Yep, I’ll do my best,”
Then, she raised a fist towards me.
“So do your best too, Haru.”
“Ah, I see.”
So I muttered.
Guess I really have to.
I felt a little itch within my heart, yet it felt so comfortable.
“What’s the matter?”
“Nothing. Just that I guess I really have to do my best.”
Hearing my reply, Akane’s cheeks turned a little red as she said gleefully,
“Isn’t that right?”
The conversation I had with Akane finally allowed me to regain some composure. I returned to the field, and that calm vanished in an instant.
Yuki was waiting under a tree by the field.
She was talking to someone.
That boy had slightly long hair, and looked pretty cool. He’s wearing the soccer team jersey, and if I remembered correctly, the name’s Sawachika. Three months ago, my classmate Satake proudly boasted that a really fast winger joined them.
Some distance away from the duo were a few guys from the soccer team, spying on them. Once one of them spotted me, they scattered in a panic.
I got a rough idea of what’s going on. It seemed Yuki was being hit on. Well, it’s not strange for her to be hit on, since she’s just standing there, looking beautiful.
If this is really the case, what should I do? What’s the right thing to do?
Suddenly, I realized.
What did I try to do?
Even I found it stupid to think of such a question.
Guess I was really acting weird due to the heat. It’s really unlike me, but well, it’s not a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all.
I approached the duo while they were still talking. Yuki noticed me, and scuttled towards me?
“Just a little trouble.”
While we were talking, Sawachika approached. Yuki saw him, and ducked behind me. I in turn took a step forward.
The moment I did so, Sawachika seemed hesitant, and swallowed his words. No, that was all he could do.
For us sports club members, seniors are revered like Gods. Sawachika intentionally approached Yuki when I was not around. He probably waited for this opportunity.
With a kind smile on my face, I said to Sawachika.
“I think you’re called Sawachika, right? I guess club activities aren’t easy after the third years retired? Satake does still pop by from time to time, no?”
I didn’t really care what the conversation was about. I just wanted to let him know of my relationship with their ex-soccer team captain Satake.
Sawachika understood what I was getting at, and while feeling unhappy about it, he bowed towards me politely, and returned to his buddies at the club.
That day, after practice.
Yuki, who until yesterday would disappear when I was in the club changing room, was standing before the door, looking up at the sky. The sun was about to set, and the clouds refracted the orange light, the skies turned the land a blazing red. The diagonal sun extended Yuki’s shadow, and compared to the day, her vague, fleeting silhouette gave the impression that she would disappear the moment I looked away from her.
“Hm, what’s the matter?”
I said to Yuki, who turned towards me. Her clear hair was sparkling, and her smile was really pretty. It was the first time in my life that I found someone’s smile so pretty.
“I want to thank you for getting me out of trouble. Let’s go to the convenience store. I’ll treat you to ice cream or something.”
“No need for that. I didn’t do much anyway.”
“I’m happy, so I want to thank you. Can’t I?”
“Not that you can’t.”
“Let’s go then.”
Before I could reply, Yuki turned towards the school gate. I pursued her, and walked alongside her.
Two shadows swayed side by side, but not once did they meet. There was a gap the size of a person between us. I just felt like I was whispering a little as I talked. Why?
“Really, Yuki, you’re pretty popular.”
“That’s not true.。”
“But you were approached by Sawachika today.”
“Ah, so he’s called Sawachika-kun?”
“You never asked for his name?”
“…I forgot to ask. I guess he came to look for me because of you, Yoshi-kun.”
“No, didn’t he approach you when I wasn’t around?”
“Doesn’t seem like it. When I was really alone, nobody actually talked to me. I know I was being watched, but well, that’s all, definitely. Yep, I guess I wasn’t human back then.”
“Alone.” So Yuki muttered. Her voice sounded a little forlorn.
That loneliness of hers caused me to feel lonely as well.
“So does that mean you become a monster when I’m not around?”
I made a joke. I didn’t care if she was angry, shocked, or took me as a fool.
I just wanted her to look anything other than sad. Yes, anything else’s fine, anything but that.
I wanted her to forget her sadness and loneliness. At this point, she’s not alone, since I was walking next to her.
For a moment, Yuki was flabbergasted. “Ahahaha.” And then she burst out laughing.
Her anguish was forgotten, as I had hoped.
“Yeah. I become a monster that spits fire!”
Yuki deliberately widened her mouth, raising her eyebrows “Gyaaa!!!!” she made this sound with her all might. Seriously, I could feel the intent to destroy a town.
“You’re going to wreck the town?”
“You’re going to fight the hero?”
“So, you’ll only become human again when I’m around?”
Yuki didn’t answer. I continued to ask.
“Why do you become human again only when you’re with me?”
Yuki answered with the same joking tone.
“Because you’re a weirdo, Yoshi-kun.”
“Because you’re the only one who’ll talk to a weirdo like me.”
“I see.” So I went with the flow, nodding, but thinking back about it, I had no memories of being the one who talked to her. It was Yuki who spoke first as far as I knew.
“Wait, aren’t you the one who first spoke to me, Yuki?”
“Is that so?”
“Think about it. I was practicing back then. You’re the one who told me 'You’re really working hard'.”
“Ah, we’re at the convenience store. Come on, let’s go in.”
Before I could finish, Yuki grabbed my arm, and ran off. Our shadows were merged together. For some reason, Yuki’s hand was a little cold, so cold I was worried that it could melt because of my hotter than usual hand.
We bought ice cream at the convenience store, and sat in the shade in the parking lot. I hurriedly removed it from the packaging, and munched on the sugar coating. My teeth broke through, and the sweet ice flowed out. It’s delicious. I munched through the ice, and there was a comforting sound accompanying the nice, chewy feeling.
“Is this really enough? There are some more expensive ones.”
“I like this one.”
“Well, it’s delicious after all.”
It’s evening, and many passed by the convenience store. There’s a young woman taking a dog on a stroll, high school students wearing headphones. The elderly man in a suit hurrying along was probably returning to his company. Two youths on bicycles were yelling, pedaling their ways home.
Yuki said as she stood beside me, licking the melted ice cream on her hand.
She noticed me watching her, and commented that she really couldn’t finish her ice cream.
I knew Yuki didn’t really mean that, so I waited patiently for her. Soon after, she nibbled on the wooden stick, just as I was.
“Have you ever competed against someone?”
“Have you ever wanted to beat someone?”
“Well, I can feel it. I’ve been watching you all the time.”
“All the time?”
“All the time.”
“Ahahaha.” I started laughing to pass the vague statement off. “What are you saying?” but Yuki wasn’t laughing. She was staring intently at me.
The awkward laugh of mine melted in the summer air, slowly fading away, and finally disappeared. I stared towards the tattered tips of my shoes. Suddenly, the tips bent softly. I was a little shocked. Everything in my vision, the world I saw became vague and faltering.
For a moment, for some reason, I started talking about the issue I had intended to hide in my heart forever.
It was something I had sorted out in my mind countless times, and had come to terms with.
Finally, out from my throat, my mouth, came the words, the scattered sequences of unrelated terms—
I had a friend called Takeshita.
About how he was really fast,
That he had a senior he admired,
How that romance ended up going nowhere,
And how he just gave up on track.
My voice was cracking, my body was shaking, my vision wavering. I was just saying out the emotions from my mouth. The parking lot got darker little by little. The hot, sharp emotions took the form of words, and were continuously poking at the softest parts of my inner heart.
How much time passed after I finished what I wanted to say? Two minutes? Three minutes?
“So that’s why you started running.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re always running hard, Yoshi-kun, but not really fully dedicated. That might be because you admire Takeshita-kun too much, and that’s why you’re just a step away from him. Yes, I see. I finally know what I can do.”
I rubbed my face with my palms, and lifted my head. The world was colored in night before I knew it, and there were many blinking little lights behind Yuki, who stood up. She was so pretty, whether it was in the day, evening, or night.
“Hey, just to check, Yoshi-kun, do you really want to surpass Takeshita-kun’s record?”
“I started running because of that guy.”
“You’re not being honest. If you have something you want, say it. If you want to win, say that you want to win.”
“Come on. Say it.”
“I want to win. I want to beat Takeshita.”
“Right. Good. I’ll get you to beat him.”
Yuki took the stick from my hand, and replaced it with hers. The words ‘You win’ were on it. Guess it’s possible to win this lucky draw after all. It’s the first time I saw it, and I thought for sure it was an urban legend.
“You’re really lucky, Yoshi-kun. It’s like you have a Goddess of luck following you.”
While Yuki was the one saying that, she smiled bashfully. She immediately looked away before me, but as I watched her from behind, I could see her ears redden slightly.
The next day, the sudden downpour meant that I could not go to school.
The day after was the same, and the track was terrible; I could not run. Three days after I ate that ice cream, I reunited with Yuki that afternoon.
I finished my warmups, and was jogging around when Yuki showed up like usual. I saw her, and froze. She in turn raised her hand, “Hi” acting like nothing happened.
“Seems like today’s the hottest day of the summer.”
“No, that’s one thing altogether. What’s with your getup though?”
I pointed at Yuki’s clothing. For some reason, she was wearing our school’s gym clothes. The white clothes were translucent, and I could see the outline and colors of her underwear. I was thinking that I shouldn’t be looking, but I just couldn’t look away from those lines.
“I bought it.”
“So why again?”
“I might dirty my clothes today.”
“No, that’s not what I want to ask. I’m asking why you bought our school’s gym clothes?”
“If I wear this, nobody’s going to suspect my identity if I’m seen. Anyway, are you ready?”
I felt that, well, with things coming to this point, and Yuki looking a little happy, I didn’t bother to retort. I nodded. Thanks to the sudden rain from before, I had ample rest, and I was feeling fine. This was the feeling I had when I broke my record at the Prefectures.
“But can I really beat, Takeshita?”
“Yep. It’s fine. Just run full speed as you do, Yoshi-kun, and believe me. Just watch me. It’s simple, right?”
I tapped my fist towards hers, which reached out to me with confidence for some reason. After that, Yuki went to the finish line, while I went to the starting line.
Like usual, I closed my mind, and within my mind, I kept repeating the best starting method as I extended my leg tendons. I placed my hand on my wildly beating heart. I took a slow breath, and inhaled the summer air into my lungs.
I opened my eyes.
The blue sky and the daylight entered my eyes, along with Yuki standing by the finishing line.
Before I knew it, my heart calmed down.
I positioned myself on the starting line. I got ready to run. Yuki raised her hand. I looked forward.
The world turned silent.
That was the only sound I could hear.
I started running. It was a perfect start. I maintained a forward posture as I pushed forth, accelerating as I slowly lifted my upper body. The wind blew by, and the scenery changed. I continued to dash forward with a speed I never felt before.
10m passed. 20m passed. Hah. Hah. My front foot latched onto the ground as I leaped forth.
30m passed. 40m passed. I might really be able to make it.
And the moment I ran past 50, like usual, I looked towards the shadow running before me.
It’s the shadow I could never surpass.
I had always been seeing it as Takeshita. But,
“Yoooooossssssshhhhhhiiiiiikkkkkkkkuuuuunnnn. Lift your hhhheeeeaaaaadddddd!”
Yuki shouted at me.
She’s probably not used to making such a voice. Her voice seemed to be breaking.
I lifted my head, just as she called out to me. I saw the finishing line. Her face was red as she shouted at me.
Seriously, erm, what are you doing, Yuki?
I ended up grinning.
She waved her arms, shouting.
“Fly over here!!!”
Then Yuki exclaimed, “Just trust me, just look at me.”
So I trusted Yuki.
I just looked at her.
Ah, yeah. It’s just that simple. Because—
For every step I took, Yuki was closer to me by a step. I wanted to be faster…I wanted to get towards Yuki faster. Even if it was just a second, a moment, I wanted to be faster.
Yuki’s at the center of the world.
There’s nothing else.
One step, two steps, three steps. I definitely couldn’t slow down. More importantly, I had to be faster.
On the last step, I stepped hard onto the ground, and as Yuki said, I leapt into her open arms. It’s summer, but I scented upon the sweet fragrance of spring. It’s the fragrance of the cherry blossoms.
At that moment, I heard a ‘beep’, and at the same time, the world revolved. Eh? All that was left was the dumbfounded sound echoing in my mind.
And before I knew it, I was lying on the ground, face up. Yuki’s hands were on my neck, herself on my body. It was likely that the moment I was about to crash into her, she pinned me down below.
The impact should have hit my back, but I was aching all over. I coughed, and had difficulty breathing. The pain was unbearable, and Yuki moved away her hands from my neck, not worried about me at all. All she cared about was the palm of one of her hands. I thought she would be embracing me firmly, and exclaimed,
“What are you doing? Falling hurts.”
But Yuki didn’t care about what I said at all, her face beaming as she brought her palm to my face.
“Here, have a look.”
I didn’t know what she was saying. The important thing was that my back was hurting, and that my stomach was feeling Yuki’s ass. My reaction was a little strange, it seemed, as Yuki pouted, curling her lips.
“Can’t you be a little happier?”
“Eh. Erm, happy about what?”
“The time. Look, open your eyes.”
I spent about 10 seconds or so to comprehend what she was saying. Another 5 seconds, and I accepted the reality before me. My start was gathered upon the time shown on the stopwatch in Yuki’s hand.
It was a new 100m record.
I beat Takeshita’s record.
Suddenly, I cried. Appearing deep within my eyes was Yuki’s smile. The stopwatch was within my eyes. Ah, I can’t see anymore.
“Well, Yoshi-kun, I think you’ve already long surpassed Takeshita-kun, but you admired him so much that you somehow ended up running in a manner to conserve your strength. When you reach the last 50m, you would always look down. That caused you to slow down a little. You could have just looked forward, but you didn’t. No, you couldn’t do that, right? The Takeshita-kun running before you all the time is no longer before you, and you’re scared. You really admired Takeshita-kun.”
I covered my eyes with my hands, gritting my teeth. If I didn’t, lots of things would flow out. More importantly, I didn’t want Yuki to see this expression of mine.
“He’s a really amazing guy. If that guy was still running track, my speed would be nothing compared to him. That was what I wanted to see. Ah, yeah. I wanted to see the Takeshita that’s faster than he was.”
But such a person didn’t exist.
I knew that. I knew how much I worked hard, prayed for it, and had Yuki help me reach that place, but there was nothing I had hoped for. Even so——
Yuki moved my arm aside, and used her thin, long thumb to wipe away the tears in my eyes. Right, left. For every tear that was shed after, she wiped them for me.
My vision eventually cleared. I finally understood what was at the place I worked so hard to arrive at.
“Congratulations. You worked hard, Yoshi-kun.”
There was Yuki.
I guess all my hard work had been repaid in full.
On our way back, we dropped by the convenience store again.
As thanks this time, I offered to treat her to ice cream, and she went for a 300 yen ice cream cup. No, well, it didn’t really matter. After some hesitation, I too chose the same brand of ice cream. Yuki chose strawberry flavour, while I chose rum and raisin. I guess it’s fine splurge a little, since we’re celebrating.
We sat alongside each other, at the same place, and found a cicada carcass there.
Summer was about to end.
Yuki stared at the husk without a soul, and muttered.
“Cicadas spend about 6 years waiting in the dirt.”
“The Aburazemi’s the same, it seems. I think I read somewhere that like the Aburazemi, there are cicadas that wait 17 years in the ground.”
“Yes. And within a week above ground, they’ll die. What’s the meaning of that?”
“…At least, there’s the mission of continuing to the next generation.”
“That might be the case for the females, but the males are different. A male cicada can mate with many, and so there are males unable to leave children behind. So, do you think that male has a purpose to live?”
Yuki’s words seemed poignant, so I put some thought into it, and answered,
“The meaning of life differs according to each individual, and I think this isn’t something I can agree or deny easily. But they definitely lived hard.”
“Even if they did, there’s no point to it at all.”
“I don’t think so. That’s what you taught me, Yuki. If I work hard and reach a certain destination, even if there’s nothing I wanted, there’ll be other things to find. I found it. In fact, it seems like cicadas can survive for a month.”
“I’m not. It’s hard to raise them, and that’s why they can’t last more than a week. That’s why many are mistaken. In fact, wild cicadas can live for about a month. That’s what the TV says, and that’s why they’ll definitely find something”
The last bit was just consolation.
It was a cheap lie I made just to get Yuki to smile.
To be honest, I really didn’t care about what happened to the cicada. Even so, if Yuki wished for it, I would pray, hoping that its life would be meaningful.
Yuki finally picked up the spoon, and brought the somewhat melted ice cream into her mouth. “Nice, nice.” She said, and I kept watching her as I opened the lid.
“Hm? Speaking of which, you found something, Yoshi-kun?”
“It’s a secret.”
Under no circumstances should I say this. Thus, that was what I answered instead.
“But I feel this summer day is one I’ll definitely never forget when I grow up.”
Even when today becomes the past, even when I grow older, even as time passes and fade.
I would never forget this summer heat,
The tears and sweat that were shed,
The sweetness of this ice cream,
The fragrance of the cherry blossoms,
And the important thing I obtained.
Yuki stared at the plastic spoon, muttering.
It was dark, and I couldn’t see her expression.
All I heard was that she seemed to be pouting—
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