This title is too long!:Volume2 Final Chapter
Final Chapter - May 22, I touched her
On this day, I'm taking the Limited Express to Tokyo, seated at the usual seat by the window.
The train's already moving under the clear blue skies of May. The scenery of the platform slowly departs.
The seat beside me remains empty.
Will Nitadori arrive here?
I know that.
On the prior week, May 15th.
As for what happened to me after I left the sick bay--
First, I had the towel wrapped around my neck, and in the station that was packed with people who were headed home, I went through the gentry.
Then, I hurried to the station building, looking for a muffler. Given that it's May, I can't find a shop that sells one.
But I found an Afghan scarf sold in a sundry shop, called a 'Shemagh'.
It's a large, thin piece of fabric worn by the residents of the dry area. Recently, this scarf has become a trendy fashion item.
I did investigate on ways to wrap this when I debuted the desert tribe in 'Vice Versa'. This scarf is very convenient; it can be wrapped on the head to block out the sun, and wrapped around the face when there is a sandstorm.
This is it! I thought, and hurriedly bought it.
I bought two, just in case I needed an extra one. The color's a dark yellow, and there's patterns on it in light ink.
I then ran to the washroom.
There are various ways to wrap the Shemagh, and I chose to use the common triangular method. It's a poor example, but it does look like a drool bib.
It's a waste to throw away the towel, so I decided to use it, and kept it in my bag.
On that day, I did not pass through the gantry again. I did not take the bus, and instead, took a taxi directly to the hotel.
The scenario of 'me not feeling well' did not happen.
I was choked until I was unconscious, but it's fine that I managed to wake up. Strictly speaking, it appears that my brain cells took quite a bit of damage, but I'm unable to realize that.
The reasons why I chose to take a taxi were because there was a huge downpour--
And I needed some time to myself to think.
Of course, it was about Nitadori.
There was something I had to tell her no matter what.
If only I had a cellphone number or a mail address to contact her, but right now, I can only regret. Speaking of which, it's too difficult for me to ask something like that from a girl in my class.
Would Nitadori show up for the After Record the next day? Even if she did, I would hardly have the chance to talk to her.
Would Nitadori show up at school starting Monday? Even if she did, I would hardly have the chance to talk to her…
And so, on Friday morning.
I had been feeling frustrated before I slept, but I did manage to sleep well. After I woke up, I felt refreshed.
I checked myself in the hotel's mirror, and found the clear marks on the neck.
Those were the imprints left by Nitadori's icy, slender fingers. The color got darker, and I don't suppose they'll vanish these few days, I put on the Afghan Scarf, and head off to the After Record.
I entered the Control Room,
"Oh! Sensei, you're being trendy here. It does suit you!"
The productor greeted me, saying that.
In any case, being praised is something to be always being happy about. Feeling optimistic, I looked at the voice actors behind the soundproof glass, and realized that Nitadori wasn't there.
Before recording began, the sound director told everyone in the recording booth.
"Ehh--Miss Nitadori today won't be here as she's feeling unwell. The voice actor portraying villager A will be--"
The After Record of the seventh episode ended successfully.
The story is adapted until the end of the first volume. In other words, after the battle in Reputation ended, Sin went to Japan, and found Yui and Shin, who returned to his original world.
The visuals and everyone's acting were impeccable.
The editor-in-charge and I were headed to the lobby,
The voice actor portraying as Shin earnestly spoke to me.
I guess he has a fondness of me? On a side note, he brought in rookie voice actresses today, two of them, in fact.
"That Shemagh's pretty cool, isn't it? --Did your girlfriend give you that?"
I answered. I couldn't tell the truth, but I didn't want to lie either. This is basically a lie, but the one who necessitated me to wrap this shawl on myself was her'.
"Whw--! Hey hey, come here for a while."
The voice actor left the two rookie actresses and went to me. He patted me on the shoulder with a genial action that wouldn't annoy anyone, and brought his face to my ear.
He then spoke with a voice similar to Shin's.
"You can't do that, sensei...little Nitadori will cry, you know? Good thing she's on leave today."
"Because when we shook hands the last time, Nitadori was watching you leave the entire time. She couldn't respond no matter what I said, you know?"
"Don't you understand? She's fallen for you for you, sensei."
"...How exactly has she fallen for me?"
"Hmm, I suppose it's because of your personality?"
I returned home on Sunday night.
I had been staying in the hotel on Friday and Saturday nights, with all expenses paid by myself.
That was because I wanted to let the scar on my neck fade as much as possible before I went home. I couldn't let mom see this.
I called mom beforehand, telling her that I would be gathering research material before I returned.
As it was the weekend, I was worried if there was no room available, but I managed to stay in. I was relieved.
I spent most of the time in the hotel, writing, and only on Saturday afternoon did I go touring around in Tokyo, all in the name of gathering materials.
I had already thought of Shin and Yui heading to Tokyo because of extra curriculum lessons in Tokyo (and Sin would show up there), so I surveyed Asakusa and the Sensoji there, and then visited the Tokyo Skytree that was located there, thinking of using these locations as stages of the story. I also rode a boat alone down the Sumida River, and took a lot of pictures.
I would worry whenever I thought about Nitadori, but I won't do anything the next time we meet. I can't continue to worry, and after such consideration, I arranged this tour.
I returned home, and luckily, mom starting taking the night shift from this week onwards.
We practically won't be meeting, and I'm able to easily hide the marks on my neck.
On Monday, I went to school as normal.
I wore the Afghan scarf to school, and never took it off, even during class.
I said I had a flu during gym class, so my homeroom teacher and my classmates did not really say anything.
Well, I hardly talk to my classmates even if there was nothing anyway.
And so, Nitadori--
Did not come to school.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.
She probably did contact the school,
"Nitadori will be absent today too."
For the homeroom teacher simply recorded it down in the attendance book.
I didn't know if Nitadori would come to school, but I had prepared this beforehand. I had the printed draft in my bag before I went to school.
The marks on my neck seemed to have vanished completely, so I did not put on the Afghan carf.
I went to school slightly earlier than usual, and was reading books in the classroom.
"Eri! It's been a while! How are you?"
I didn't know whose voice it was, but I knew that Nitadori came to school.
And then, I understood that she came to school without having changed much, with the color contact lense and the glasses on.
"Hm...I got a weird, little flu. I'm fine now though."
I heard the voice from behind, and it's the same as usual.
And then, I heard the sound of the chair being pulled out, and the sound of her sitting down.
I heard those sounds for quite a few times already, but I gave a little smile.
I didn't know what kind of expression Nitadori was showing.
And so, same as before, I left my seat once it was break time, only to return when at the last minute.
When I leave the classroom, I would go by the front door, and return from the back door. Thus, I would only see her back.
Following this would be language class.
The recital today would be done by--me.
The teacher called my name.
'Nobody's pointing a gun at my head though'.
I thought as I stood up. Nitadori was seated behind me.
I did not have a book in hand.
I was merely holding a few pages off the draft prints.
"Erm...what I'm going to recite today...eh...it's not a book."
My classmates let out a little murmur. What's with that?. However, the shock doesn't seem to be as big as it was with 'Momotaro'.
"It's a novel--"
I felt that there was still some time to look back, but I didn't.
"The title is 'Vice Versa'."
There's the sound of the table and chair shaking behind me. I continue,
"It's what people call a light novel, and I like it. There are a few volumes of the pocket books out--but what I want to recite is the unpublished part."
This isn't a lie.
"This part is from the work the author uploaded onto the internet when he's free, and after he debuted, he deleted this part. It wasn't popular back then, so I feel that most people didn't know of its existence either."
This part is a barefaced lie. This isn't the truth. Ever since that incident, I felt that my acting got better.
This time, I really heard a chair being pulled greatly from behind me.
Please, don't run away.
I prayed earnestly as I quickly explained the situation,
"This story describes the scenes of a character's death. Eh, this girl called Meek is a Homunculus, a man-made character. She died suddenly in a huge battle, and so her corpse was brought to the main character. It's a rather shocking scene, actually."
Then, before Nitadori could run,
I began reading,
Sin asked a rhetorical question. This were not question a prince who won a massive battle would say.
Kind, weak, unreliable. These were the attributes he should never show in front of his subordinates. Sin understood this well, and till this point, he never showed off that kind of attitude.
"Yes. Is there anything strange about soldiers dying on a battlefield?
Pluto's attitude was a stark contrast, brave and courageous, never losing any of the dignity any warrior would have. She was blunt in her attitude, as if to say that the death of a mere subordinate was to be expected.
(These two are really stupid.)
Sin showcased the kind side he tried so hard to hide in the past, and Pluto was the complete opposite. Both Sin and Pluto should be showing opposite attitudes.
It was just reciting, but I merely read it flatly.
I didn't put in any emotions, my lines sounded forced, my voice was soft, and I liked fluency.
To add on, there's no way to know who's Shin or Sin in this recitation, and I didn't explain who Pluto is. This recitation was probably hard to understand for those who never read 'Vice Versa'.
But I didn't mind.
This recitation was meant for the one person in the world I want to say it to.
(Then...what do I do?)
Shin asked himself, brooding over it. He could not obtain the answer.
In Reputation, he's an immortal. Like a game character, he could revive countless times. Because of that, Shin was able to keep fighting 'without giving his best'.He watched the people around him die from afar.
But even so, perhaps he should be giving a similar attitude, knowing that the Homunculus who treated him so kindly in the past died? Should he not feel anguished? Even if he merely intended to treat this as a game, that was a real death which he could never retract back on.
He couldn't find the answer. Was it because he could not think? Or that his brain was resisting, thinking that there was no need to think? Or--
Hearing Pluto order him with a harsh tone, Shin recovered,
Never once did she summon Shin before. The only one who could talk to her face to face was Sin, leader of his own country.
Shin turned his head around in shock, only to see the warrior dressed in armor stained by enemy blood commanded him with a harsh stare,
"Come here--ah, Prince, I'm borrowing this immortal body for the time being."
"Make sure he returns. He's an important fighting strength.
Leaving those words behind, Sin left the place, wanting to establish the casualties suffered and his remaining fighting strength.
Shin understood well. At this point, Sin had no time to grieve over Meek's death.
Shin quietly walked down the tense several hundred meters. He was brought to a simple tent used by Pluto's forces.
Shin heard before that when setting camp on such an open plain, the commander protect himself by setting up a plain, simple tent, just as the soldiers would, and hide amongst them. But though it was plain, and though they were allied forces, this area was her headquarters, and not a place for Sin's subordinates to actually enter.
Shin silently entered Pluto's tent. It was unexpectedly bright, for inside this tent that was no more than 3m in diameter, the sun shone in through the gaps on the top, so it was unexpectedly bright. There was a simple, easily assembled bed.
The subordinates entered 20 seconds later, moving a corpse onto the bed.
It was Meek's body, a large patch of blood on her abdomen.
There was no custom on Reputation to close the deceased's eyes. The wine red right eye and the yellow left eye were glittering due to the sunlight shining in.
Shin's ind recalled the incident when he first met Meek in the basement, and the few conversations they had thereafter.
Should he cry? Should he feel sad? Or should be vomit? --He could do neither of them.
That was all he could only think. In this world, he was merely a powerless outsider, unable to feel death.
Shin didn't understand why Pluto wanted to show him Meek's corpse, and asked,
"Wha... are you...?"
Pluto told her men to back down, and replied shouting. She removed the leather gloves from her hands, and drew a dagger from her waist.
And then, she stabbed into Meek's large right eye.
Shin could not stop her, and could not look away.
He heard the soft sound of flesh being ripped apart, and the sound of fluids dripping it. Pluto was gorging out Meek's eye.
Pluto gorged the right eye out with the dagger, and placed it on her right hand.
She then crushed the eye gently. Thinking about it, her slender fingers were really feminine. The white liquid oozed out from her slender fingers.
Some of the liquid dripped onto the left eye of Meek's corpse, and the cheek below the right eye socket that was hollowed out.
She opened the clenched left fist, and there appeared a gemstone. The ball-shaped gem showed a radiant wine red.
The eyes of a Homunculus were the gemstones infused by their masters--Shin recalled what Meek said.
And so, Pluto's left hand grabbed the back of Shin's head, her right hand holding down his forehead that had nowhere to escape.
Shin immediately understood the reason why his forehead was hurting; the gemstone was forcefully pressed against him, almost sinking into his flesh.
However, Shin could understand why Meek's face appeared in front of him.
Meek was standing in front of Shin, so close it appeared she was about to kiss him.
They were so close together, so Shin could not see her entire body, but he knew that she was not wearing any clothes, for in the corner of his vision, he saw the frame of the white skin collarbone.
Meek's face had eyes on them, as before. The right was wine red, and the left was yellow.
She slowly gave a smile, smiling benevolently,
While Shin heard Meek call for his name, her smile suddenly vanished. Following that, appearing in front of Shin's eyes was Pluto, who pulled her right hand back. Her expression was as intimidating as a demon's.
"Did you see it?"
"Did you see it? Did you hear the voice?"
Shin affirmed wordlessly,
"I guessed so...your immortal body isn't due to magic, but a relic that surpasses human intelligence in this world, I suppose...
Pluto muttered, moving her right hand down. Shin had never seen Pluto give such a tragic look on the fact, and then, he understood that he would never see it again.
"I suppose you don't know, so I'll tell you now. The gemstone used to activate any Homunculus aren't created by us. They are dug out. That is a relic created by the 'Great Ancient Civilization'. We can't create them, and we can't repair them. All we can do is grant them one life. These artificial beings are living creatures after all. As long as the body dies, the gemstone will ultimately lose strength."
"I'm the ruler of a country. Be respectful, kid. However, today's an exception--Meek's dead. The power of this gemstone will vanish in the end."
"As long as it's not replenished with the power that's beyond human understanding."
"I shall craft this into a pendant for you to carry."
And so, Shin saw it,
He saw Pluto crouch on the floor, opening a small wooden box, and several thin chains placed inside. Then, he saw Pluto continue on with fluid actions, using the hand holding the dagger till this point to embed the gem into a metal ring, fastening the chain.
"I was born in a town of jewellery factories, boy from the other world."
Shin suddenly heard the voice of a kind woman.
Shin nearly blurted out these words, only to swallow them back in.
"Thus, I always wanted to do this. I want to live a life of making jewellery, pendants for those girls attending weddings so that they can smile. However, my bloodline doesn't allow for that. Do you believe this? I'm born out of wedlock to the king."
"When I was connecting chains, I was Janet. No matter how old I am, how many people I killed, I'll never forget my name--look, it's done. Reach your hands out."
Shin reached his hands out as told he was scooping water, and accepted these words and the pendant from the woman called Janet who was looking up at him, giving a gentle look.
"Don't lose it, okay?"
In response, Shin received the pendant.
"As long as this gemstone touches your body, it will never lose strength. It can leave for a while. Oh yes, you can't have it leave your skin for more than a day. When you receive a Homunculus, put that eyeball in, and Meek will revive. It doesn't matter whether you want to do it tomorrow or after the war ends, that is your right as the master. Do you understand?"
Shin put the ends of the chain around the back of the neck. He did not know the theory behind it, but whenever the ends of the chain were about to touch, there was a faint metallic sound, latching together. Shin placed the front of the pendant on his chest. He felt the weight of it, and answered,
"I understand now, Miss Janet."
"No need for the respectful courtesy now. People know that Janet of the jewellery workshop is the beloved, earnest craftswoman when you mention her. Remember that.
"That's all I have to say. I'm going to bury the dead. Get out now."
"Be courteous now, kid.
"I'll definitely find out the reason why I'm transported to this world. I'll do all I can. So don't die, at least until that moment."
Don't worry, I'm not going to die that easily."
Pluto slowly opened the tent.
And Shin continued on under the bright sun.
Thus, Meek became a bracelet. The girl called 'Instant'--would continue to glow as long as she was with Shin.
"No matter how cold it is...I guess it's fine."
Shin muttered. That pendant would forever remain warm on his chest.
I'll be waiting...until the day we meet again.
He could vaguely hear her voice.
I read until the end, and sat down immediately.
This part didn't sound very fluid when I read it. I paused several times, and repeated the parts I misread. I was sweating all over, and it was annoying.
Halfway through, I knew very well that most of my classmates were annoyed with it.
Of course. I was reading a novel with such atrocious presentation, and the context unknown. If I have to say, this part's written pretty messily. If the editor-in-charge is to see this, he'll probably point out issues without holding back.
Looking at the clock, I felt that I probably managed to meet the minimum time required, or exceeded it. I was desperate as I read, and I couldn't afford to notice the time.
Luckily, the teacher never stopped me by saying 'alright, that is enough'. If I was stopped without reading out the ending, everything I did would be futile.
I did what I wanted to do. I have no regrets.
"Now, the next one--"
The teacher mentioned the next name, but I did not pay heed to it.
The one seated behind me never said anything.
There's another chance today.
This chance was so miraculous that I was further convinced that there's a God.
I finished my lunch at the cafeteria, and was on the way to the library, passing by the corridor.
I found Eri Nitadori.
She, and two other girls, were walking down the corridor towards me.
As usual, she was wearing those glasses, had that long hair,, and the usual hair clips--used to hold down her wig.
The trio would have pass by me if they did not enter the Audio-Visual room on the way here.
I knew Nitadori saw me. She lowered her head stiffly, slowed down, and passed by the entrance of the audio visual room.
Once I knew that we would pass each other--
An idea sprouted within me.
I did not need to make notes.
I just needed to do it.
Luckily, back then, I--
Couldn't be bothered to wonder if I could do it. All I needed to do next was to make full use of the God-given chance.
First, I passed by the two girls.
And two seconds later, I passed by Nitadori.
And so, I reached my left arm out.
For the first time, Ii touched Nitadori's, no, a girl's shoulder--
I see. It's so soft.
Nitadori shivered in shock, stopping in her tracks, and then turned her glasses and brown eyes at me.
I then said with a voice only Nitadori can hear,
"You owe me one! Stella!"
As for what happened to Nitadori thereafter.
I hurried to the library, never looking back, and so I did not know what happened to her thereafter.
I even wondered if she actually heard my words.
The only time I realized the outcome--
Was after school.
I was cleaning the classroom.
In this school, the students would be grouped based on their register number, and each group would take turns to clean the classroom.
Surprisingly, the other places, like the corridors and gym would be left to a hired cleaning company at night. The students just need to clean the classroom.
Of course, Nitadori was of a different group from me, and she had long left the classroom.
I moved the tables and chairs aside, sweeping one half of the classroom. I then moved them to the other side, sweeping the other half.
I don't hate such a simple job. I like thinking about all kinds of things, piling up the rubbish and dust together. It's interesting seeing the rubbish and dust in the classroom slowly gather as a hill.
Even so, as it'll be 20 minutes later before I return home, I don't really like to participate in cleaning other than the week itself.
Once the cleaning ended, I put the cleaning tools in the shed, and a certain girl came to talk to me from behind,
"Erm...mind a moment?"
Nobody in class would talk to me unless there was an important reason. In this situation, I assumed that she wanted me to put the broom into the closet.
I thought I was the last one, no? But it's nothing major--thinking about it, I turned around, and found two girls glaring at me.
The girls were not holding anything.
They were staring at me. Both of them were standing closely, side by side, and they looked scared.
There were only a few people left in the classroom, and they were holding their bags, preparing to leave. As expected, I was the last one using the tools.
I remained silent, and one of them asked heinously,
"What did you say to Eri during noon?"
They were the girls walking alongside Nitadori on the corridor back then.
The good luck continued on, something to be grateful for. These two proved that Nitadori did hear what I said.
I was really grateful for those two--
But I couldn't answer this question.
"Erm...I didn't really say...anything important."
It's tough for me to talk with people I don't know (even though they're my classmates). I stammered.
And immediately, the other one lashed out at me,
"Eri immediately went to the toilet after that, and cried out loud!"
Ah, I see.
Once she knew the meaning behind Meek's name, I suppose she cried in the train toilet too?
Back then, it was May1st.
I did not know what Nitadori was so emotional after she learned of the meaning as 'instant'.
Thus, while reciting the manuscript yesterday, I again checked the word Meek.
And then, for the first time, I found the existence of the English word 'meek'.
The meanings were--
"Honest, compliant, docile, obedient."
So that was how it was.
Looking at the meaning of this word--
It was not strange for the Homunculus' name to be misunderstood as something bad.
What intent did I have when I named Meek? I suppose she had been worrying about this.
"Are you listening?"
Hearing that, my consciousness returned to the classroom.
"What did you say? Did you go overboard?"
"Say something, please! I'll report to the teacher accordingly!"
I continued to be verbally assaulted by the duo, thinking.
I'm really grateful for these two
But right now, I don't have a way to express my thanks.
All I could do was to play dumb and not lie.
"Erm...well...I didn't really...say anything. Actually...I didn't think she would cry."
I forced out this answer, and both of them got even infuriated.
"Enough already! You're terrible!"
"Next time, if we see you get close to Eri again, we'll sue you for being a stalker!"
Both of them unleashed slap-like attacks, and turned away. They went to their tables, grabbed their bags, and left the classroom; I was the only one left.
As for me,
"Both of you--thank you."
I muttered these thanks to the classmates whose names I did not know.
On that evening, after all that happened--
The train begins to move.
It accelerates successfully, continuously tossing the world outside the window to the back.
I stare blankly at the scenery outside.
Soon after, the automatic doors near the back open, letting out a soothing sound.
I see the black hair of the person entering the carriage, and immediately realize who it is.
She stands beside my seat, asking,
"Is the seat beside you empty? May I have a seat?"
I lift my head and look at her,
"The seat beside me isn't empty. Please don't sit here."
My words are a little harsh, very cold, but those are my true feelings, so I have no choice on this matter.
She asks again. I knew what she's thinking, but I certainly can't agree to this.
"I said no, and that means no. How about the window seat on the other side? The view of the mountains today is very pretty."
I say, and,
Miss Kamishiro, wearing a deep blue business suit and skirt, looked displeased as she snorts. She then places Nitadori's luggage to the back of the seat, and follows my suggestion by sitting at the seat on the other side.
Then, I say to the girl standing beside Miss Kamishiro.
"I left a place for you."
I intended to force a smile, but I don't know if I managed to make one.
She, who had lowered her head for a while, lowers it further, and then, she hands over the convenience store bag to me.
And I accept it wordlessly.
And as usual, Nitadori--
Had her black hair carefully tied in a knot, draping it over her right shoulder, down to her chest before sitting down.
I can hear a barely audible voice.
I place the convenience store bag, slightly larger than usual, on my thighs, and looked at Nitadori who was seated on my right.
Nitadori isn't looking at me. Opposite her sidelong, lowered face, I can see Miss Kamishiro glaring at me, and I look away.
Hearing Nitadori continue to stammer, I close my eyes.
Nitadori's willing to sit next to me. Now then, what we can talk about now? What will she say? What kind of attitude will she show.
I don't know at all.
To be honest, i'm scared of it.
But I can't run away. This is because, if she isn't willing to stand up, I won't be able to leave my seat. I coaxed her into sitting here, having realized this fact.
Once I calm myself down, I again open my eyes. Nitadori still isn't looking at me.
"What kind of lie?"
Finally, Nitadori lifts her head, and turns to the left to look at me. Her face remains rigid, the pupils beneath her glasses showing the same colors.
"Only eat consommé flavored potato chips. I hate everything else. Especially sea salt flavor."
I look at the bag placed on my thighs.
Inside it are the salt flavored ones, together with the consommé flavor.
I quickly inhale to say what I want.
"Eh? I think that consommé doesn't feel right in some way. Isn't consommé some kind of soup flavor in the first place? Is there significance in using this to make snacks?"
I think the word 'dumbfounded' can aptly describe Nitadori now.
I can see such pearly white teeth from her agape mouth. The rich brown eyes behind the light grassy glasses are looking at me.
Nitadori's mouth then mouths slightly, and then, she starts to twitch agitatedly,
"That's not it! I feel that saying 'we shouldn't replicate consommé flavor on potato chips' is being disrespectful to the who initially made that flavor! That person must have tried all kinds of possibilities before deriving the answer! To be honest, I don't understand the reason for sea salt flavor! Can they can make it 'salt' flavored instead? And there'll be a lot of salt on the teeth!"
So I proceed to retort,
"That's an unavoidable ritual for a sea salt flavor supremacist. It's destiny. If you have to care about that, you won't be able to swallow! Just look in the mirror and brush. Speaking of which, the consommé flavor is too strong; it'll linger."
"Strong? The sea salt flavor doesn't lose out in that, right? Those that like it says it's an aroma, but those that hates it says that it's a strong stench. I think this logic can be used for all kinds of food! Anyway, which flavor do you think the supermarkets provide more of? Consommé or sea salt? It's definitely consommé. There's no way to find sea salt unless you really look for that."
"I agree, but we can't discuss this world based on sales numbers itself. I believe that one day, the sea salt side will be the majority and be the ruling party."
"That day will never come! Anyway, I'm starting to wonder if there's any country other than Japan that accepts sea salt flavor!"
We continue with our argument without stopping until the conductor arrives.
Neither of us held back in this conversation.
Not a single respectful word occurs.
Soon after, Miss Kamishiro sharply tells us,
"Both of you, your tickets need to be checked."
We stop our argument, and fish out the tickets from our wallet and coat respectively. Then, we exchange looks with Miss Conductor, who arrive on the aisle.
I remain silent.
Nitadori too remain silent.
"...Please show your tickets…"
Miss Conductor continues to work hard as she has to do her job.
The one I want to apologize to is there. Miss Conductor's professional smile looks obviously rigid. I cautiously hand over the ticket, and then receive it.
Nitadori too looks aside as she does likewise.
Miss Conductor checks Miss Kamishio's ticket, put my hand on the beak of her cap.
"Th-thank you very much."
I say to her in a less than fluid manner. Actually, I really do want to say a lot to her.
Miss Conductor intends to pass through the opened automatic doors, only to stop,
"Please do get along well."
She says with a timid look.
"Get along? Of course we are. So good that we're bickering away."
I answer, and Miss Conductor gives a grimace.
"It's fine, we'll watch ourselves."
Hearing Nitadori says this, I feel something on my right cheek.
I don't know what it is, but it feels soft.
Looking at the glasses that appears and disappears from the edge of my right eye, and the widened eyes of Miss Conductor, I realize that it's Nitadori's lips.
Miss Conductor shakes her head, practically saying 'I don't want to get involved with you'.
"Thank you for taking this ride."
Saying that, she passes through the automatic doors, leaving. The doors quickly close.
I turn to the right.
First, I see Miss Kamishiro bare her fangs as she looks as though she wants to kill me with her eyes.
And then, I see the sidelong face of Eri Nitadori giving a chuckle--
Or perhaps that is Stella Hamilton.
I don't know which is the actual name.
No, both of them should be the actual name.
In Japan, she'll call herself 'Eri Nitadori'--
When overseas, she'll probably use 'Stella Hamilton'.
This is the reason why Nitadori once said something strange, 'this is the name I use'. She meant 'just use my Japanese name'.
I'm guessing that Nitadori is of mixed ancestry from Japan and a foreign country (or maybe one quarter). Looking at the hair color, she might look like a Japanese, oe a foreigner.
By using the name of that particular country, nobody would bear too much curiosity. With a name in the local language, there's an advantage of it being easy to remember.
A few days ago, I investigated something on the internet. I learned that the name 'Stella' can be nicknamed as 'Ellie'.
I'm unfamiliar with English, and I've no idea how Stella becomes Ellie--
But the name Eri is derived from Ellie.
Eri can be called Ellie no matter which country she goes to. I know that her parents did think through this properly.
From what I can deduce, the reason why she's studying in eleventh grade while I'm in tenth grade is because she skipped years. The reader's letter only stated school years, so I thought she's older than me.
I'm thinking that Stella Hamilton, so outstanding at mental calculations, should probably be adept at studying, and started skipping grades since her third year of middle school. That kind of thing isn't rare at all in foreign countries.
That reader wrote on the letter that she's born with different colored eyes..
And no matter whether she likes it or not, it's obvious that her right eye's a faint grey, and her left is a deep brown.
Thus, no matter whether it's Japan or overseas, she's always been mocked, envied, and sometimes even bullied.
Nitadori probably began using color contact lense to hide the color of her right eye ever since she transferred to this school. I heard that color contact lenses were tools developed to treat 'heterochromia'.
Also, she wears a wig, and she doesn't attend gym classes at all just in case her wig falls off. She'll be careful when seated on chairs that are slightly higher--
And to avoid going through the bullying that made her contemplate suicide again, Nitadori portrays an ordinary high school girl.
Nitadori just so happened to read my novel when she's in ninth grade.
And then, she empathized with meek, who went through similar circumstances and appearance.
She sent me a highly emotional letter, and received the one reply I currently sent.
She was shocked when I said 'my handwriting's terrible', and that's because she read the words I wrote so deliberately.
And so, after a year and a half--
Nitadori received a chance to portray Meek.
I don't know exactly how hard she worked for this.
Maybe...she used her parents money or some unique bypass without me knowing. Even if that's the case, I don't mind. It's fine not to know the truth somtimes.
Us studying in the same school is just a mere coincidence.
There's no way she could have realized where I live. The replies to fan letters are all sent from Tokyo where I had meetings, so she wouldn't be able to know my residence through the mailing.
And speaking of which--she probably doesn't know that I'm a year older than her.
It's just a coincidence, but in this area, this is the only private high school that doesn't particularly pay that much detail on attendance.
We're in similar circumstances and we enrolled in the same school.
Nitadori has been acting in front of me.
Showing me the 'I'm not that devoted fan called Stella'.
I suppose the reason why she looked so uneasy that day when she heard me ask 'when did you start acting', but probably because I saw through her.
But well, I'm not that sharp.
Nitadori, as a devoted fan of 'Vice Versa',
Sent a letter to the author,
Received the only reply from the author,
Read the entire series,
And even won the opportunity to voice her favorite character--
I don't intend to blame her for peeking into the manuscript in my bag.
I was really careless for leaving the bag behind and going to the toilet.
Of course, I never imagined that Eri would be Stella.
Once she knew that the character she likes so much she put herself in the character, and finally had a chance to voice--
Would just die like that, and never to appear again--
I feel that 'she might want to strangle the author once or twice'.
Of course, back then, when I was strangled, I thought,
I was really going to be strangled by her.
It's not strange for me to die.
I could have died if not for Miss Conductor passing by coincidentally.
But I don't begrudge Nitadori.
I didn't die. Even if I really died, it's nothing much. I'll just die.
There's only one that I hope for now. That is that she doesn't feel overly remorseful on what she did, causing inner trauma.
So one day--
I have to talk to Nitadori properly about this.
But it doesn't have to be today.
If possible, from now on, we'll continue to chat as we want on this train.
I ask my female classmate who is my junior and a voice actress, who just kissed me,
I wanted to say, that was,
Unable to do so, I repeat myself again,
Finally, I said it.
"Was that...an act?"
"Well, who knows …? Even I do not know…"
Nitadori continues to lower her head slightly, answering in respectful language.
I decide on my own to see her as being in 'Nitadori mode' when she not using respectful language, and 'Stella mode' when she's in cautious, respectful mode as a fan. I just decided on this.
I feel that her face is a little red as she lowers her head. Maybe I'm the same too.
"Or--are you trying to repay me?"
I ask without thinking too much, and she immediately lifts her head with fiery eyes, staring right at me.
"No! There's still a lot more--how much favor do you think I owe you?"
The expression she answers that so seriously is so pretty, fleeting and beautiful.
I hope to use her.
I want to use her as the basis of a light novel character.
If possible, I don't want to care about 'Vice Versa' (to all the fans, I'm sorry.) I want to start writing a novel with her as the heroine.
I'm a High School Boy and a Bestselling Light Novel author, my heart occupied by my female classmate who is my junior and a voice actress.
It was Thursday noon, when the midterms finally ended after starting from Monday.
Like usual, I'll be riding the Limited Express to Tokyo in the evening--
But unlike before, I have more than enough time today. There's no need for me to hurry up.
I'll first have lunch in the cafeteria, and then I'll slowly walk home.
A girl starts to talk to me.
Of course, it's not Nitadori."
"From now on, we won't be talking to each other in school after all."
That's the promise both of us made last Thursday.
Nitadori is still seated behind me. I heard her putting her stuff into her bag all this while, only to stop because of the girl who came to talk to me for some reason.
I remained seated as I turned to the one asking the question.
Naturally, the one standing there is my classmate. This girl has short black hair, a petite figure, and gives an obedient vibe.
We have been attending classes together for almost 2 months, but I don't remember her name. I never spoke to her before. I guess she's...probably not one of the girls who questioned me about Nitadori.
She looks at my face nervously. I've no idea what she wants to say at all.
I'm worried that she'll have the other classmates giving strange looks to her because she's talking to me, who never talked to anyone else in class, and so I look around, but it appears I worried too much.
"Erm, about last week, that recitation."
She continued with respectful language.
I get the feeling that something bad's about to happen.
The insensitive danger sensor inside my head starts to run.
"About the 'Vice Versa' part you recited in class--"
I better run away.
"If you can see it on the website, do you mind telling me the site address? If it can't be seen, I hope that you'll at least show me a copy of that printed script."
I better run away immediately, I guess?
This timid girl seems to have shaken off all her qualms once she reaches this point, and her expression suddenly changes,
"To be honest!"
Her face brightens immediately as she says,
"I'm really a devoted fan of the 'Vice Versa' book series! I read through all the works! I'm really looking forward to the anime that's going to begin airing in July!"
Wow! Thank you! Thank you!"
"Ah...ahem, I-I see."
I fake a cough, covering my mouth as I say this. It'll be bad if I'm seen giggling to myself.
"I discovered this work ever since the first volume was sold, but I didn't know that it's originally a web novel!"
Yeah, that's a lie.
"If there's a chance to look at the latest plot developments, I want to see it! Especially the part you read! I want to know the result!"
No, that's impossible.
That's because I only rewrote the parts I read, and the editor-in-charge told me 'the plot's good, but the essay's a little messy', so I have to edit it. Also, I need to make sure the plot developments thereafter makes sense, so I'm currently editing the manuscript of the eleventh volume.
I can't mention these unspeakable matters to her. This girl continues to grin and blurt out,
"Erm...if possible...as a fellow 'Vice Versa' fan, can I have a chat with you? Can we go talk about this in the cafeteria? Actually...I had been intending to chat with you on this ever since exams ended!"
The sound of the chair shaking could be heard from the seat behind me.
To be continued...
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