Kotori called Shimizu “dad,” and Shimizu called Hatsushiro by her first name, “Kotori.”
At first, Yuuki couldn’t catch up to this too-much-of-an-unexpected event, but he immediately understood the meaning.
Coach Shimizu is Hatsushiro’s father? But wait, their surnames are different…
In the meantime Yuuki was lost in thought, Shimizu walked up to the front of Hatsushiro at a fast pace, “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING!?!? HUH!?!,” and Shimizu’s angry voice resounded inside the supermarket.
Shimizu’s voice was usually loud, but just now was different in both the loudness, and quality. It was in voice as if he was giving a harsh scolding to a child.
Other customers were looking in their direction, wondering if something had happened.
“Ca-calm down, coach Shimizu”
“Ah, aah… My bad. I didn’t mean to scare you”
At Yuuki’s words, Shimizu calmed down his breathing for a moment. His expression was not that one with his usual smile. His smile was closed tightly, his eyes were squinting.
“Kotori, what have you been doing all this time?”
It was now closer to his usual tone, but even so, Shimizu spoke in a tone as if he was questioning her.
Yuuki looked at Hatsushiro.
Hatsushiro was completely frozen in place, hanging her head down.
“What’s wrong? I won’t understand anything if you keep quiet”
Hatsushiro was silent, hanging her head down.
“Did you not hear me? I’m asking you what have you been doing after you disappeared from home”
Hatsushiro moved her lips, trying to give a reply. However, only a small, wordless breath escaped her lips.
Looking at her state, Shimizu wrinkled his brows even more and spoke.
“What’s wrong? Quickly answer my ques…”
“Please wait, coach Shimizu,” said Yuuki, interrupting Shimizu’s words, unable to just stand and watch.
There’s now way Hatsushiro could give a proper answer at her current state.
“I will be the one to answer that question”
Together with Hatsushiro, Yuuki got into Shimizu’s car. In the passenger seat, Yuuki talked about what had happened so far while leading the way to his apartment.
How he brought Hatsushiro home from the rooftop of an abandoned building, drenched in the rain, then they became a boyfriend and girlfriend, and lived together until Hatsushiro calmed down. He told everything without hiding anything. The other party was the parent. There’s no point in hiding it at this point.
Well, as expected, he kept silent about how she tried to commit suicide.
“Normally, I suppose I should’ve immediately reported it to the police, but I didn’t because of my decision. I apologize for causing you so much worry due to my decision…,” said Yuuki, bowing his head.
Shimizu was silent for a moment as he handled the steering wheel.
Yuuki was also silent, waiting for his next words. He was ready to be scolded. It might’ve not been the right thing to do, but he could say with confidence that what he did wasn’t wrong. That’s why he’d take the scolding head on.
Or so he thought.
“Ooh, I’m really glad!! I’m glad she stayed with a boy like you, Yuuki-kun,” said Shimizu in his usual tone, smiling.
Yuuki was thinking that he would be severely scolded, just like how it was with Hatsushiro, so he was puzzled.
“Are you not angry?”
“Hmm? Well, that’s a secondary thing. I did get worried because she suddenly disappeared by herself, and I thought she got caught by a bad man or something. So come back to your story earlier, you’re not having any illicit sexual relationship, are you?”
“Eh, ye-yes, of course ”
“Hmm-mm. Very splendid, behaving like a student, pure and proper. Kotori lost her mother early, you see. Perhaps that’s why she became introverted and it made me worried. But I’m relieved she got a reliable boyfriend like you, Yuuki-kun”
“…No, Hatsushiro is a very considerate and good girl after all. Ah, turn left at the traffic light there”
“Okay, got it. Ah, by the way, Hatsushiro is the maiden name of my late wife, you see”
I see, so that’s why. It’s no wonder that there shouldn’t be any student with the family name Hatsushiro when Ootani looked it up. When Yuuki asked about her name on that rainy night, she must’ve immediately given her mother’s maiden name.
“And be sure to thank Yuuki-kun too, okay, Kotori!!,” said Shimizu to Hatsushiro sitting in the back seat.
“…Yes. Yuuki-san, thank you very much”
“Aah, it’s all right. I was happy to be with Hatsushiro too”
“Hmm-mm. I like it, it’s very pure… Ah, is it here? Your apartment”
“Ah, that’s right”
Shimizu’s car stopped in front of Yuuki’s apartment.
“Okay, you two go ahead and grab her stuff. I’ll wait here”
Yuuki then got out of the car.
Hatsushiro also got out of the car, remaining silent.
That’s right, it’s only natural.
From now on, Hatsushiro would pack up all of her belongings, and return to her real home, to Shimizu’s house.
Their life together, which had been going close to two months, met its sudden end.
After going up to his room, Hatsushiro was packing up her belongings in silence.
That said, there were hardly any things belonging to Hatsushiro. She had only packed enough stuff to fit in her school bag, and the uniform she was currently wearing when she first arrived. Daily necessities she had been using were bought by Yuuki, so what’s left was the clothes they bought together with Ootani.
“…But that really surprised me. I would’ve never thought that your father is coach Shimizu. Is that why you’re so good at playing catch?”
“Ah, no. We didn’t have anything like playing baseball together. But, that’s right, I often went to watch my father’s games with my mother”
“Aah, maybe that’s how you got the knack for it, Hatsushiro… wait, I guess it’s not Hatsushiro. It’s Shimizu Kotori, right?”
“Hatsushiro is fine. I’m also used to being called that way by you, Yuuki-san…”
“Is that so? Well certainly, I’m also used to calling you that way”
And the conversation stopped.
Yuuki looked around the room.
“Ah, want to bring the game console?,” said Yuuki, pointing at the game console connected to the monitor.
Hatsushiro shook her head.
“No, that’s yours after all, Yuuki-san…”
“It’s originally like something I bought for you, Hatsushiro. If you’d like, you can freely bring it with you”
For a while, Hatsushiro stared at the game console intently without saying anything.
Yuuki waited for an answer from Hatsushiro.
Dozens of seconds passed, and before long, she smiled a little and spoke.
“…Indeed. Then, I’ll take up on your offer”
“Don’t overdo it and get sick again, okay”
“I-I’m not playing that much anymore, you know,” Hatsushiro said shyly as she put the game console into her bag carefully.
And with that, she was ready to go.
“…Well then, I’m going now”
Hatushiro stood up with her bag and clothes, and went to the entrance.
“Yuuki-san, thank you very much for everything,” said Hatsushiro.
And when she was about to bow her head, “…Wait, Hatsushiro. There’s just one thing I want to ask”
“What is it?”
“Hatsushiro… Is there, something you want to tell me?”
Hatsushiro opened her eyes wide at Yuuki’s question.
“…Why, do you think so?”
“It’s because you’ve been fiddling with your hair since we were talking earlier. You may not realize it, but that’s your habit when you have something to say but can’t bring yourself to”
That’s right. It’s been the whole time since earlier, no, ever since they met Shimizu.
Hatsushiro’s habit of fiddling with her hair kept showing.
That’s why there’s something she wanted to say.
Something she wanted to say, but couldn’t say so as not to inconvenience other people.
“Hatsushiro. I’ve told you this before, that I want you to be more selfish. That I will respond to it as much as I can. That’s why, you know, will you talk to me about it?,” said Yuuki, looking straight into Hatsushiro’s eyes.
Hatsushiro immediately averted her eyes, and looked down.
“…No, there’s nothing”
“Really, there’s nothing at all. I’m… all right…”
Her expression didn’t look all right in the slightest.
However, even if he were to ask any further, Hatsushiro probably wouldn’t tell him. Forcefully asking her to talk was… as expected, Yuuki didn’t want to do it.
“I see… then it’s fine. Let me know if you ever want to talk about it, okay”
“It’s fine, it’s not something to apologize for. More importantly, if I feel like playing a game, can I come over?”
“Yes, definitely. I’ll be waiting…,” said Hatsushiro with a smile.
A smile different from the usual. It was a stiff smile.
Shimizu, who had gotten out of the car, was smoking a cigarette.
“Aren’t you a bit slow, you two”
“Aah, I’m sorry for keeping you waiting,” said Yuuki.
Shimizu then dropped the cigarette to the ground, and used his foot to put out the fire.
“No, it’s fine. I’m sure that you two also want talk about the memories you’ve had together”
“…Then, Yuuki-san. I’m going now”
After Hatsushiro bowed to Yuuki and got into the back seat, the door was closed.
After confirming it was closed, Shimizu walked to Yuuki and then spoke in a small voice.
“Yuuki-kun. Once again, thank you for taking a good care of Kotori”
“No, not at all. She was doing housework for me, if anything, I was the one being taken care of…”
“Fufu, I see, I see. Kotori’s cooking is quite something, right?”
“Yes, it is”
Already the most perfect taste for Yuuki. It’s enough to say that eating Hatsushiro’s cooking after coming home, exhausted, was his reason for living.
“Aah, that’s right. Yuuki-kun”
Shimizu took out another cigarette, lit it, and took a puff.
“Do you mind if you don’t meet with Kotori for a little while? I want to have some time to talk about the future as parent and child, you see”
That, well, I guess having that kind of time is also necessary.
“I really can’t thank you enough. I’ll contact you when things are sorted out, okay… Incidentally, I’d be more thankful if you could join the baseball club, though…”
“That, I have to refuse”
“Is that so… How regrettable. Really regrettable”
Shimizu then got into the driver’s seat and closed the door.
The cigarette was still in his mouth, and lit.
In the room that Hatsushiro had disappeared from, alone, Yuuki was in a daze.
With no one but himself. That would’ve been the norm two months ago. However, right now that was…
“Is this that, that one where there’s a gaping hole in your heart?”
If that’s the case, how fragile-hearted I am. Just where on earth did he go, the Yuuki Yuusuke who kept repeating monotone days of only studying and working again and again.
However, I can’t stay like this forever.
For now, let’s go study, then he headed to sit at his desk.
“…Aah, this is no good”
He couldn’t concentrate at all. To this day, it was the first time for him to be unable to grasp the words in the workbook.
The workbook Hatsushiro had been using placed on top of the desk conspicuously stood out to him.
The futon Hatusushiro used that’s placed in the corner of the room, the knives and tableware she used for cooking, and the bath towel she used, which feel she liked. Even though Hatsushiro should’ve taken her belongings with her and left, her presence had been ingrained into this room.
“Let’s study at a family restaurant”
Yuuki took with him his wallet, utensils, and workbook, then left the room.
The car Shimizu and Hatsushiro rode stopped at the garden of a two-storied detached house.
It was the house Shimizu and Hatsushiro had lived in together for many years.
“…We’re home, Hatsushiro”
“Hey, quickly come out”
“…Yes,” Hatsushiro replied in a small voice, got out of the car, and walked after Shimizu.
As she opened the front door and walked in, the familiar smell of cigarettes wafted in the air. The smell that had even permeated into the wall should’ve been that of her parent’s house, and yet, she didn’t feel the slightest bit relaxed.
Yuuki-san’s room has a warmth that makes me unconsciously take a breath when returning from outside, and yet, I wonder what is this difference, Hatsushiro thought.
Clack, the front door was closed.
Shimizu’s face, which was smiling until a moment ago, was now distorted into a grimace.
“…Now then, Kotori. I’m all ears if you have any excuse”
Knowing that it was meaningless, Hatsushiro shut her eyes and clenched her teeth.
Immediately following, a hard impact struck her cheek.
When Yuuki arrived at the family restaurant, he found familiar faces.
“Oh my, how unexpected”
It was Ootani and Fujii.
It seemed that they had been having a long conversation seeing that the ice inside the empty glasses from the all-you-can-drink menu had melted.
Seeing the workbook in Yuuki’s hand, Fujii spoke.
“Come on, Yuuki. The test just ended but you’re going to study?”
“…Yeah,” Yuuki replied listlessly.
Seeing his state, Ootani frowned and then spoke.
“Yuuki… Something happened, right?”
“Don’t give me ‘it’s nothing’ with that gloomy face of yours. In the first place, it’s weird you’re not with Hatsushiro-san even though the exam is over”
Yuuki stayed silent, and couldn’t say anything as Ootani shot a piercing glare straight at him.
“Give it up, Yuuki. Shouko-chan is stubborn when it comes to something like this,” said Fujii, shrugging his shoulders.
“As for me, I’m also worried about my best bud. If you don’t mind, will you talk to us about it?”
“…Yeah, I guess so. You guys got along with Hatsushiro, after all ”
Yuuki then took a seat at their table.
For the time being, he ordered a drink from the all-you-can-drink-menu, and then talked about what had happened today.
They firstly raised their voices in surprise when they learned that Shimizu was Hatsushiro’s father, but after that, they remained silent, listening to Yuuki’s story with serious eyes.
Yuuki told everything to those two.
Not just the general idea of it, but also how he felt. How Shimizu showed a different face in front of Hatsushiro, how before Hatsushiro left, she looked like she had the truth she couldn’t say. Everything he felt, everything he understood.
“…I see now”
Ootani, who had listened to the whole story, took a sip of the coffee she had freshly brought from the self-service drink area.
“First of all, Yuuki… You’re one big moron,” she declared without a single bit of restraint.
As Yuuki was taken aback by the words he hadn’t been expecting to hear, he spoke.
“Wh-what’s that supposed to mean?”
“Exactly as it means, you big moron. If you knew Hatsushiro-san had something she wanted to say but couldn’t bring herself to, why didn’t you make her talk?”
Ootani continued as she placed the coffee cup on the table.
“Number one, why did you oh-so-easily listen to Shimizu’s words and let him take Hatsushiro-san away. Even you can tell, can’t you? That Hatsushiro-san… didn’t want to return with him”
That’s right. That’s certainly something even Yuuki could tell.
He had thought if that might’ve been the case.
“But, it’s up to Hatsushiro to decide what to do…”
“Telling her to do this and that is not… right. I don’t want to force her to talk. And it’s not like we won’t see each other anymore. Besides, Shimizu is Hatsushiro’s father, you know. He’s obviously worried. Then… and then”
Yuuki grasped the glass in his hands tightly.
“…If your old man is still alive, wouldn’t you want to be let to stay with him? He’s not going to be around forever, so…
“Yuuki…,” Fujii, who had once seen Yuuki practicing with his father, muttered quietly.
Meanwhile, Ootani lifted her cup once again, and drank the remaining coffee in one go.
“Phew… I kind of understand your feelings”
Then she placed the cup on the table hard, as if to slam it.
“Say, Yuuki. You subconsciously hate telling other people to do this and that, don’t you? I think it’s probably because you’re forced to play baseball by your own dad. You said that you didn’t really hate it that much, but you subconsciously understood that it was wrong, and that pointlessly-kind you don’t want to do that to other people”
Not true. The words he tried to say couldn’t come out. That’s just how much what Ootani had said was ringing true for Yuuki.
Yuuki certainly had the tendency of avoiding making others do something for him. Especially when the other party refused once, he would then back off easily. The time when he tried to hold hands with Hatsushiro, the time when he tried to have her make breakfast for him, the time when he tried to give her a present, and this time as well. Basically, he would just wait until the other party was willing, or ask in a roundabout way to make them willing.
“Well, I’ll ask you later about why, for some reason, you’re not feeling reserved when asking me for a favor. You want to be meddling, but you also don’t want to force it. I think that’s a fine way of thinking. And because you’re like that, I think that’s why Hatsushiro-san could feel at ease at your side… But you know”
Ootani brought her face closer to Yuuki, then spoke.
“Meddling forcefully is not always a bad thing. When we were shopping for clothes, I forced you to buy clothes for yourself. Was that just me being an annoyance, I wonder?”
“…No, Hatsushiro was really excited. She said I looked cool. I’m glad for what you did”
“That’s what I meant. Even now it’s the same. Because I forcefully asked you to talk earlier, you can share the story with us like this”
“Even you are like that, Yuuki. It’s that Hatsushiro-san, you know? If you don’t forcefully meddle a little, that girl will definitely continue to put up with it… Indeed, until she tries to jump off again”
“…Why do you know about that”
“It was when I was choosing her clothes, you see. I asked about it as we were talking… It’s about trying to commit suicide, though”
Ootani took out her phone and navigated through the screen.
“At first, I suspected that it was bullying at her school. She’s like that after all, so I thought she probably couldn’t connect well with her classmates, and that the bruises and scars on her body, that I saw when I was choosing her clothes, were probably because of that. But you know… A short time ago, I got a contact from my friend who’s been looking into that all girls high school”
Ootani placed her phone on the table.
Showed on the screen was an exchange of messages.
The content was about how there was no student named Hatushiro, but there was a first year student who had been absent from school for two months. It’s probably about Hatsushiro. If it were to be looked up with the name Shimizu Kotori, it should tell that this student was Hatsushiro.
And then, what he couldn’t believe his eyes was what lay ahead from there.
“…There’s… no bullying?”
“Yeah. To be exact, there were girls messing with her at first. But it seems that one day, when they half-jokingly thrusted Hatsushiro-san away, she fell spectacularly and bled from her head”
However, Hatsushiro’s reaction at that time was strange.
With a face dripping with blood and without changing her expression, she simply apologized and said, “I’m sorry.”
“It seems the girls who thrusted her away were horrified. Well, it’s obviously a strange reaction. And from then on, no one wanted to have anything to do with her. It’s a school for reasonably bright kids after all. I think their maths checked out enough to not touch anything obviously risky”
That was the only time Hatsushiro had been injured at school. Never it happened before, nor since.
It didn’t mean she was ignored afterwards. However, everyone kept a distance, and only had the bare minimum contact with her.
“Hold on… So, Hatsushiro’s injuries and bruises are…”
When we were studying together, she told me that after coming home from school she’d immediately go home.
If her words weren’t lies… isn’t that the only place where Hatsushiro could get her injuries, which is also the source of it then?
“Hey, Yuuki. I don’t know what your father is like. But, does Hatsushiro-san’s father, does Shimizu look like a good father in your eyes?”
Hearing Ootani’s words, Yuuki once again recalled Shimizu’s attitude towards Hatsushiro.
Coercive words, authoritative attitude, and an expression that made no attempt to conceal his anger.
Yuuki’s father was also the same, but obviously of a different quality…
Fujii, who had been silent until just now, started to talk.
“I’m receiving coaching from that person. It helps me that his coaching is really in-depth and easy to understand. I’m always impressed by him, as expected from an ex-professional baseball player. But, there’s something that’s always in my mind…”
Fujii dropped the tone of his voice and then spoke.
“His eyes are not smiling at all. He’s smiling and speaking cheerfully, and it’s scary enough to look at”
That, too, was a sense of discomfort Yuuki remembered.
Perhaps, why it felt difficult to talk about Shimizu in a way, was because he didn’t look to be having fun in the slightest, even though his face was supposed to be smiling. And such a person had been living with Hatsushiro for a long time, and he was still with her even now.
Yuuki found himself suddenly on his feet.
At that, Fujii then spoke.
“If it’s coach Shimizu’s house, it’s a two-storied house with a red roof across from a yakiniku place near the municipal high school”
Fujii put one of the ice cubes from his glass into his mouth. As he crunched on it, “Hmm well… Why don’t you just do whatever you want? If you need anything, I’ll be around for a jumbo parfait,” said Fujii, smiling slightly.
“Yeah, I’ll treat you to as many as you want”
Having left behind these words, Yuuki placed a 1.000 yen bill on the table, then left the family restaurant.
A person can never get used to pain.
They’re just, tired of even reacting to it, Hatsushiro believed.
“You’re such a pain, you’re making me go through all this trouble for nothing”
With his rugged, large hand, Shimizu lifted Hatushiro up by the collar.
“Don’t think apologizing will be enough!!”
With a shout of anger, he slammed her to the floor.
A mute groan escaped her lips as the air was squeezed out of her lungs.
It’s painful. However, she couldn’t even scream.
“While I was dealing with a bunch of cocky high schooler brats in the heat of the day, you were having fun fooling around with a guy? Are you messing with me?”
“Like I said, apologizing isn’t enough!!”
Like a soccer ball, he kicked her flying in the stomach.
THUD! Hatsushiro’s whole body spasmed from a shock that resonated down to her core.
Shimizu then spoke, breathing heavily due to extreme anger.
“Haah, haah… What a piece of… Hmm?”
At the time Hatsushiro was knocked over, the contents of her school bag were spilling out onto the floor.
One thing among those caught Shimizu’s eyes.
“What’s this square box?”
It was the game console Yuuki had given to her when she left.
It’s the game console Yuuki bought for her, which she played and was obsessed with, which she played together with Yuuki while laughing.
“Aah, the game console that’s on some commercial, huh… Ooh? Is it a present from that Yuuki guy? Trash, THIS THING IS…!!”
As Shimizu raised both hands overhead, about to throw the game console to the ground, “NOO!!”
Hatsushiro desperately leaped towards Shimizu, and snatched away the game console from his hands.
“…Hey, what did you just do, Kotori?”
“Ah, umm, that’s…”
I did it, I had done it, she thought.
With an expression filled with even more anger, Shimizu walked over to Hatsushiro who was lying on the floor.
He then stomped down on her with his heel as hard as he could.
Once again, a mute groan escaped Hatsushiro’s lips.
Even so, Shimizu didn’t stop. Again and again, he stomped down on Hatsushiro.
“What, you’re disobeying me?! Your parent?!?”
Again and again. All the while shouting at her.
Without even being able to move, all Hatsushiro could do was enduring the pain, and cowering in fear.
Even so, she embraced the game console full of memories with both arms, protecting it.
“HEY!! WITH!! WHOSE!! MONEY!! YOU THINK YOU’RE EATING FOOD!?!”
Her father’s voice smeared with fury rained down from above.
…In the midst of the pain that made her feel like about to lose consciousness, Hatsushiro wondered.
Why did it end up like this?
At least at the beginning, until Hatsushiro turned seven years old, they were a happy family.
Her mother was beautiful and kind, yet sometimes strict. Her father was a professional baseball player, so he wasn’t home often. Even so, when he returned home, the three of them would go to a nearby restaurant and have a meal. Hatsushiro’s favorite was a pancake set. She remembered well how her father used to coax her mother, who would say, “I can make something like this at home.”
The three of them were smiling.
However, when Hatsushiro was seven years old, her mother died in an accident.
That day, she and her mother were on their way back from a pool. On the way, when Hatsushiro selfishly asked for ice cream, and tried to cross the road to the convenience stores on the other side of the street, without listening to her mother’s attempts to stop her, a speeding minivan came rushing at her.
Her mother saved Hatushiro right away, and was run over by the car.
She was taken to a hospital, but by the time Hatsushiro’s father heard the news and rushed over, her mother had already passed away. Hatsushiro vividly remembered the words her mother had said on her last breath.
I’m sorry, I’m sorry. It’s because I was being selfish.
The minivan was indeed speeding heavily. However… The pedestrian signal was red.
She was the one who ran out. So it should’ve been her who was supposed to die, not her mother…
To Hatsushiro, who was crying and apologizing, her mother spoke in a hoarse voice.
‘I’m sorry too, Kotori… Be a good girl, okay. Please support your dad in my place…’
Hatsushiro deeply engraved those words in her heart.
I will, be a good girl. I will do my best. So that I can support dad in mom’s place.
Her father had also retired from baseball, and he was home more often than before. However, he spent all that time holed up in his room, crying.
And then, after a certain day, her father started to discipline Hatsushiro in a way that had never been done when her mother was still around.
‘Don’t just play around all the time. Go study,’ Hatsushiro was told.
Naturally, Hatsushiro tried her best to support her father, as her mother told her so.
Yes, dad. I’ll be a good girl.
From that day on, Hatsushiro had never played around, and just worked hard on her school studies. It’s just, even when she struggled hard to study and got good scores, her father didn’t smile at her.
‘Why don’t you at least help out with the housework?’
Yes, I’ll do my best.
Hatsushiro took charge of all the housework at home from that day on.
Even so, her father was not happy.
‘You’re a girl, learn to cook at least one dish’
Yes, I’ll do my best.
From that day on, Hatsushiro learned to cook using her mother’s cooking notebook.
She practiced hard, so that her father would smile at her. However, no matter how delicious she tried to cook, her father just ate it without saying anything with a blank look on his face, never smiling at her.
On a certain day, when Hatsushiro played around with a stray cat on the way home and returned after dark, her father slapped her on the cheek in apparent anger.
‘Don’t make me worry!! You idiot’
At that time, she thought that he was probably still worried about Hatsushiro, and just accidentally resorted to violence.
However, ever since then, her father’s violence kept escalating.
Punched, kicked, sent flying, and had a cigarette’s flame pressed at her.
Such things had become a daily occurrence. Even so, Hatsushiro thought it was fine. If it could make her father feel better, who hadn’t smiled ever since her mother passed away, then.
Please watch me, mom. I will support dad in your place.
Dad. I’m all right, so please smile again.
And just like that, times passed…
On a strong rainy day, two months ago.
Hatsushiro managed to perfectly recreate the taste of the curry her mother used to make by accident.
It was the taste that she’d always been looking for. She had heard that this curry was the first thing her mother cooked for her father. It’s no mistake that this would make him happy.
Hatsushiro served that curry for dinner.
When her father took a bite of it, he stopped moving.
I wonder if he’d say it’s tasty with a smile on his face, such expectations filled up her chest.
However, her father suddenly stood up with the plate in his hand, and, ‘…Hey, are you insulting me for losing her? Or were you actually thinking that you could take her place?’
He then threw the whole plate of curry into the trash.
She blanked out.
Afterwards, she was beaten up and yelled as usual, but she didn’t remember much about that part.
She just realized that what she had been doing was useless.
I wonder what I’ve been living for until now, she thought. Going through bitter, painful, and tormenting experiences like this.
…I want to get some rest even if just a little, she thought.
That’s why, before she realized it, she had put the bare minimum of things into her school bag, and was leaving the house.
After wandering around aimlessly, she found herself on the rooftop of an abandoned building.
She climbed over the fence and looked down at her feet.
Aah, It looks like I can get some rest, she honestly thought so.
She then let go of her body, as if she was being sucked in…
It was that moment. The moment when she heard a voice. The voice of a boy close to her age.
That’s right. It sounded just like this. A voice that’s somehow gentle and calming. Perhaps, ever since that time, I’ve already been charmed by that person somehow.
Yuuki was standing at the entrance of the living room, drenched in sweat and breathing heavily.
About ten minutes back. Yuuki was running up the hill to the nearby municipal high school.
It’s hard to breathe.
Damn it, my stamina has dropped.
The steep slope and the asphalt, which was hot and humid despite the sun setting, sapped Yuuki’s stamina.
He’s starting to lose the sensation on his feet.
Even so, he ran.
Swinging his arms, and moving his body forward.
Why would he go this far?
The answer had already been decided.
My girlfriend is waiting for me…
Thinking about it, from the very beginning, Hatsushiro was abnormally scared of being touched by other people. And the bruises and scars visible underneath her uniform. And how she was bizarrely afraid of being a nuisance to someone.
He knew immediately she was carrying something heavy on her back.
And yet, Hatsushiro was a kind girl who tried her best to respond to Yuuki’s feelings.
“It’d be a shame for a beauty to die, so date me,” even such an idiotic, in the spur of moment confession, too. She accepted it, and was happy with his straightforward feelings.
When he wished to hold hands with her, she grasped Yuuki’s hand, despite being afraid.
For Yuuki’s sake, she cooked delicious food everyday.
And above all else.
How Yuuki, who had his youth filled only with his studying and part-time job, and couldn’t even properly find love, tried to make her happy in his own way.
Yuuki’s awkward feelings, which were said to be hard to understand by Ootani.
Hatsushiro saw it, understood it, and was happy about it.
There’s maybe nothing else like it. Such happiness.
There’s probably no one else like her. Such a kind girl.
That was why, Yuuki, he ran as hard as he could.
Wait for me, my girlfriend. I’m heading your way now.
After climbing up the hill, he saw the municipal high school. After going clockwise around its perimeter, there was a yakiniku place with its distinctive black sign.
And across from it… found it. A detached house with a red roof.
Written on the door plate was “Shimizu.”
As he ran to the front door with all of his remaining strength, and was about to ring the intercom, he could hear Shimizu’s angry shouting and loud noises coming from the inside.
There was no need to ponder what’s happening.
He immediately put his hand on the front door. The door was unlocked.
He opened the door, and ran towards the living room, where the noises and angry shouting were coming from.
And then, what greeted Yuuki’s eyes was… as expected, the worst sight.
Yuuki found himself shouting.
With a pale face, Hatsushiro was cowering on the floor, and Shimizu was stomping on her body.
It’s as clear as day what he had been doing.
Blood rushed to Yuuki’s head.
“Shimizu, bastard… get that foot away right now”
“Haah, what a bummer. Trespassing is a crime, you know, Yuuki-kun,” said Shimizu, as he moved his foot away from Hatsushiro as Yuuki told him to.
Shimizu had his usual smile. However, his eyes weren’t smiling at all, just like what Fujii had said earlier.
You’re the only one I don’t want accusing me of crime, Yuuki felt so from the bottom of his heart.
“Don’t make me keep saying it. It’s because I’m your boyfriend, of course,” said Yuuki in a soft voice and faced Shimizu head on.
“Hey, Yuuki-kun. This is our house’s problem, you see. Although you’re her boyfriend, it’s still bothersome to have an outsider like you butting in…”
This bastard… At this point in time, he still has the audacity to say that.
Yuuki clenched his teeth.
“…Hey, do you even know what you’re doing?,” said Yuuki, in a harsh, condemning voice, the exact opposite of how he had spoken to Hatsushiro.
However, without changing his expression, Shimizu spoke.
“If you asked what I’m doing, it’s that, you know… Disciplining”
“Yeah, that’s exactly right. I’m disciplining her. I’m trying to educate this bad daughter who ran away from home without telling her parent where she’s going, and stayed in a man’s home for two months without going to school. I’m just trying to make sure this doesn’t happen again, okay? That’s not strange, don’t you think?”
What’s this parent, who didn’t even file one missing person report, was spouting about? He’s probably just afraid they would find out about his abuse towards Hatsushiro.
“Beating someone to a pulp like that is educating? Don’t screw with me”
“It’s called an educational policy. This much is natural when disciplining a child who doesn’t listen to you. That’s just how it works in Shimizu family”
Shimizu didn’t look guilty at all.
This man is hopeless.
My old man was a man who would do with a little physical punishment, but this man is a completely different kind of ballgame.
Judging that talking was futile, Yuuki spoke.
“…Why don’t you try saying the same thing to the police”
Shimizu’s eyebrows twitched.
That’s right. The moment Yuuki saw this scene of a crime, Shimizu was checkmated. No matter how many sophistries he laid out, there’s no way he could get away with it when there’s such clear evidence engraved on Hatsushiro’s body.
“Haah,” Shimizu sighed.
Did he give up?, Yuuki thought.
However, “Are you calling the police? That’s fine, do it then”
Yuuki frowned at his attitude, which was unthinkable coming from someone who had been really cornered.
Shimizu walked towards Yuuki.
Although he moved slowly, it’s quite the impact if a large adult with height in the upper 180cm came towards him.
Before long, Shimizu came right in front of Yuuki.
BAM!!, an impact hit Yuuki in the abdomen.
Shimizu landed a merciless knee strike to Yuuki’s stomach.
His internal organs screamed in pain, and his mouth leaked a pained cry.
The hell you’re doing, however, his diaphragm spasmed, and he couldn’t speak.
To such Yuuki, Shimizu mercilessly brandished his right hand.
CRACKLE! Together with a bone creaking sound, this time, an impact ran through his temple.
Yuuki tumbled onto the floor and crouched.
“Yuuki-san!? Stop, please stop it, Dad!!”
Hatsushiro’s sorrowful cry echoed through the room.
Somehow managing to raise his upper body, Yuuki looked towards Shimizu. However, the blood entered his eyes and blurred his vision.
It seemed that he was bleeding from the head.
What reflected in his vision blurred by blood was Shimizu’s expression as he looked down at Yuuki from above.
That same old forced smile, that didn’t reach the eyes, felt as if he had lost something important to him as a person.
“Yeah, exactly. Go and call the police. In exchange, I’m going to disclose everything to the public, and tell the school officials, okay? What kind of abuse I’ve been committing, and that you two have been living together for the last two months”
Seeing Yuuki who was at loss for words for a moment, Shimizu deepened his smile, and spoke as if pressing for an answer.
“You sure it’s fine? You’re going to cause problems for everyone, you know? How about your scholarship? Although you two are fellow high school students, isn’t it bad to live together for two months in an apartment with rent support from the school? There won’t be any adult who would believe you even if you say you’re not having an illicit sexual relationship, you know? The worst is expulsion… or at the very least, probably removal from the scholarship program. Moreover, if I, the coach of the baseball club were arrested for abuse, the club would naturally be suspended for a long time. That close friend of yours, Fujii-kun, wouldn’t be able to go to the national either”
“Fujii? That guy isn’t that interested about that kind of”
“Aah, looks like you haven’t heard it. And recently, Fujii-kun has been practicing almost everyday until the very last minute before he has to leave school, you know?”
That Fujii… He never said anything about this.
“You must’ve been working hard for your future dream up until now, and then your close friend, Fujii-kun, has also started to seriously work hard at baseball. I believe he’s definitely aiming for national, you know. He’s been playing baseball since elementary school, and continues to play the baseball he loves, you see. Besides, aren’t you forgetting the most important thing?”
Shimizu grabbed the arm of Hatsushiro, who was lying on the floor, and forcefully pulled her up.
“Why don’t you think about how Kotori feels? It’s going to be revealed to the public that she had been abused, and it would cause you and Fujii-kun irreparable trouble, you know? There’s no way this girl would wish for that, don’t you think? Right? Kotori”
Hatsushiro nodded slowly.
“Then you must beg for it, right? Beg to Yuuki-kun”
With a hoarse voice, Hatsushiro desperately spoke.
“Thank you very much, for coming… I’m, just that much I’m already happy, the feeling alone is enough…”
“Yuuki-san is a kind person, that’s why, that’s why you should stop here… I’m all right. It’s always been like this after all…”
With her body full of wounds, Hatsushiro spoke with a smile.
“…I think, becoming a doctor is really a wonderful dream. I’ll always be cheering for you”
It’s completely, like a final farewell. No, it was probably said with the intention of not seeing Yuuki anymore.
Yeah, I know.
I really do know. That Hatsushiro is this kind of girl.
I’m sure that precisely because her father, Shimizu, also knows this, that he’s so calm about it.
“That’s how it is, Yuuki-kun”
Shimizu took out a cigarette, lit it, and put it in his mouth.
“Anyway, try to cool your head, Yuuki-kun. Throwing away all the things you’ve built up just for one woman is idiotic, right? If it’s a woman, there are billions of them besides Kotori in this world. If you want love, you should forget everything about Kotori and find someone new. And that’s the wise way to live”
“…I get it now. Shimizu, I totally understand what you’re on about”
Fuu, Yuuki caught a breath, and then spoke in a calm voice.
“Certainly, I’ve worked hard until now in order to become a doctor. If the two months I spent living together with Hatsushiro were to be reported to the school in a negative way, I would definitely not be able to remain as a scholarship student. If that happens, then I’ll have to leave that school as I’m broke”
“Exactly. That’s exactly right. All of your hard work will be in vain, isn’t it”
“And that Fujii, too. I’m kind of glad now that that guy is finally taking something seriously. He will definitely be an amazing player. And I sincerely want to root for him”
“That’s right, he’s got the talent. If you join the club, you can also seriously aim for the national. And that’s my honest, true feelings as a former pro”
“And then… I also know that Hatsushiro will never want to have our dreams ruined because of her. After all, I fell in love with her because she’s that kind of girl”
“I’m just glad that you understand. Now then, go home, Yuuki-kun. Go home, forget about Kotori, and go on with your life as before”
As Shimizu had no more business with Yuuki, he looked at Hatsushiro.
That expression of his was distorted wickedly.
“Now, Kotori. Let’s continue. Our talk isn’t over yet, you know. This time, you’re getting a special hard punishment. Open your mouth. I’m going to carve the pain so hard that you won’t make the same mistake in the future”
Shimizu took the cigarette from his mouth.
And then, he tried to press its flame against Hatsushiro’s tongue.
At that moment.
“──Don’t underestimate me, shithead”
Shimizu’s body rolled on the floor after receiving an impact from the side.
“Gu, ha. Wha-what…”
Shimizu was bewildered by the unexpected development.
While looking down at him, Yuuki clenched his right hand tightly, which was tingling from hitting Shimizu’s body.
“Hatsushiro, are you okay?”
Yuuki crouched down beside Hatsushiro, and gently raised her body.
“…Yuuki-san. Wh… why”
To Hatsushiro, who had a look of disbelief, Yuuki spoke.
“Don’t make me keep saying it, really. I’m your boyfriend, right?”
While staggering, Shimizu managed to stand up.
He wasn’t even showing a fake smile anymore. It was a face that smeed to show the true nature of this man, unsightly distorted with hatred.
“YUUKI, BASTARD, THE HELL WERE YOU DOING!? Do you understand? If I really feel like it”
Yeah, I understand it completely.
That I won’t be able to stay at that school if I lose my scholarship student status.
That the path to the national baseball tournament, which Fujii had worked so hard to achieve, will be closed.
And that Hatsushiro is probably going to suffer from that guilt.
“So what?,” Yuuki declared.
Shimizu was surprised. However, Hatsushiro was even more surprised.
“Yo-you can’t, Yuuki-san!!”
“Really? If it’s just becoming a doctor, it’s still possible even if I can’t go to school, right? I can just take the high school equivalency exam.1 And then there’s that. I don’t know about the other bunch of the baseball club, but I’m going to treat Fujii to a jumbo parfait and apologize all over again. Of course I won’t stop until he forgives me”
Hatsushiro shook her head.
“You can’t, Yuuki-san… You’ve worked so hard to get this far, right?”
“Guess so. That’s why I just have to work hard again. And so, Hatsushiro, about how you’re actually suffering from guilt right now”
That’s right. For Hatsushiro, this might be the most unbearable pain of all. More painful than her father’s violence.
Yuuki’s mouth bent into a grin.
“I’ve decided to ignore that part”
Hatsushiro looked blankly and confused
Oh, it really feels like I haven’t been able to see her cute expression in a while.
“I’ve already stopped caring about that part of you. There would be no end to it if I go along with your kindness. So I decided to save you on my own accord because I want to. Actually, I’ve already hit Shimizu anyway. It’s already too late for that. So give it up and let me save you”
Hatsushiro was speechless with her mouth open.
Yep, my girlfriend with that expression is also really cute.
“And then, what was it again? Aah, if the fact that you’re abused is revealed to the public and bla bla bla, was it? Something like you can’t become a bride anymore? That’s pretty simple”
Taking both of Hatushiro’s hands, Yuuki spoke.
“Then I’ll take you as my wife. Is that okay with you?”
“Eh, ye-yes. If you’re okay with me… wai, EEH!?”
“Good. With this everything’s settled”
Yuuki folded his arms, “hmph,” snorted, and grinned at Hatsushiro.
“How’s that, Hatsushiro? This is the way of being selfish. Amazing, right?”
“Yuuki-san… You are… Really is, always…”
“ARE YOU SCREWING WITH ME, BASTARD!?!,” Shimizu shouted as he held on his right cheek where he was hit.
“I’m not screwing around. I’m basically almost serious. I’m a serious man, so serious I was once told to read the mood during PE class. And it looks like you’re making a very big misunderstanding. Earlier you said it’s stupid to throw away my hard work for her because there’s plenty of women out there, didn’t you?”
Listen to this well, shithead.
“It’s the opposite. There are so many ways to live and so many ways to reach your dream. But you know what, there’s only one Hatsushiro. My gray colored world became colorful when I met her. I already can’t get going anymore if I don’t eat the food she makes, and flirt with her before going to sleep. That’s why there’s nothing like a substitute”
In response to Yuuki’s brazen declaration, Shimizu spoke to Hatsushiro while scratching his head to the point it’s making a scratching nose, perhaps because his irritation reached its peak.
“You’re already hopeless, this love brained moron. Talking is useless. Hey, Kotori!! Say it with your own mouth. Tell him what he’s doing is just a nuisance!!”
Yuuki looked at Hatsushiro. Her body was trembling. Hatsushiro probably had never been able to disobey such an angry order from her father so far.
That was why Yuuki spoke to Hatsushiro in a clear voice.
“Hey, Hatsushiro. I’ve told you this many times before, but I’m going to tell you this once more. I want you to be more selfish. I want you to speak your heart out and say what you want to do. I’ll be there for you as much as I can, okay?”
Hatsushiro looked hesitant for a brief moment, but then she closed her eyes briefly.
And then when she opened her eyes, there was a strong determination hidden in her gaze.
“…Yes, Yuuki-san. I will… try becoming selfish”
Hatsushiro stared straight into Shimizu’s eyes.
Suddenly, a familiar warmth touched Yuuki’s hand.
And then in a whisper, “…Can we hold hands?,” Hatsushiro asked.
“Yeah, of course,” replied Yuuki in a whisper.
Hatsushiro took a deep breath.
And then, in a small voice, “I’m sorry, mom,” she muttered.
“What’s wrong?! Quickly tell him!! Can’t you hear what your parent tell you!?!”
Hatushiro shouted in the loudest voice she had ever raised so far from the bottom of her stomach.
“I DON’T WANT TO BE WITH YOU!!! I WANT TO BE WITH YUUKI-SAN, WHO SAYS HE LOVES ME AND CHERISHES ME!!! THAT’S WHY I WON’T LISTEN TO YOU!!!”
It was a clear, powerful voice that echoed throughout the house.
Yuuki involuntarily smiled.
Yeah, I finally heard it. Hatsushiro’s true feeling coming out from Hatsushiro’s mouth.
And then, as if being pushed by her voice, Shimizu’s body staggered.
“…Kotori. Even you… even you too”
“He-hey, what’s wrong, Shimizu?”
Clearly, something was strange.
His vigor was drained out of his entire body, as if the angry look until just now had just been a lie. His expression looked hollow, and unfocused.
“He-hey!! Where are you going!?”
With staggering feet, he left the house and walked off somewhere.
After Shimizu had left, Yuuki and Hatsushiro were silent for a while, without saying anything.
It was dead silent. It was as if everything until just now had just been a lie.
However, Hatsushiro’s body suddenly lost its strength.
“Hey, are you okay?”
“Yes… I’m okay. My knees just gave out a little”
Hatsushiro looked completely exhausted.
That was obvious. After all, she had been beaten up by Shimizu until a moment ago.
However, with all that said, her expression looked strangely bright.
“Yuuki-san. I… said it,” said Hatsushiro, proudly.
“I said it clearly”
“I could do my best because you’re there for me, Yuuki-san. Because I thought you would definitely be by my side, I could say it…”
Hatsushiro cut her words a little short.
Then tears began to ooze out from her eyes. Her tightly closed lips conveyed even more than words that she was desperately trying to hold something back.
Seeing her state, Yuuki felt it once again.
Yeah, Hatsushiro truly did her best. She roused her frightened heart, and held on as best as she could.
Yuuki couldn’t control the urge welling up within him anymore.
“Hey, Hatsushiro. Do you remember what I said that day, when we first tried to hold hands but we couldn’t?”
Yuuki suddenly spread his arms wide, and wrapped Hatsushiro’s body around it.
And then, squeezed.
He hugged her. Gently, but strongly.
“…Even though you’re scared, you really held on well”
Large drops of tears flowed out from Hatsushiro’s eyes, and she started sobbing.
“It was scary, it’s really scary…”
“Yeah, you’re really amazing”
The body trembling in Yuuki’s arms was delicate. Even so, it smelled soft and gentle, and was warm.
While wishing to stay like this forever, Yuuki continued to gently stroke Hatsushiro’s back until she stopped crying.
When Hatsushiro had calmed down from crying for a while, she noticed something.
“…Yuuki-san, aren’t you trembling too?”
“Ah, you found out? Actually, I was pretty scared, you know?”
It’s embarrassing after having said numerous courageous words.
But well, I mean, it’s just plain scary. Something like facing an adult who uses violence without batting an eye. That Shimizu is retired, but his body is still pretty big.
As Yuuki’s mind was filled with such thoughts, Yuuki’s body got wrapped in warmth.
It was Hatsushiro who hugged Yuuki.
“This is a return gift. Even though you’re scared, you really did hold on well…”
These were the words Yuuki had said earlier.
…Well, I’m not going to cry, okay. As expected, it’s embarrassing to cry hard in this situation.
Ah, crap, I’m starting to tear up a bit.
I feel like I’d cry if I don’t separate from her soon…. But, I really don’t want to do that.
In the end, Yuuki raised the white flag at the warmth of Hatsushiro, and cried in her arms just for a bit.
Shimizu wandered around aimlessly in the nightlife district like a sleepwalker.
“…Everything in my life was supposed to be going smoothly”
He started playing baseball in elementary school and his talent quickly bloomed. He continued on to become an ace and a fourth batter in middle and highschool, and went on to be a runner-up at the national tournament.
Everyone praised Shimizu. He then continued to join a team in Tokyo as the second pick in the draft, and was the starting pitcher since his first year with the team.
And then, he got to know and marry his wife, Hatsushiro Kureha. The following year, they had a child. Even if parental bias were left out, she was a lovely child, just like his wife.
Everything was in place. Everything must’ve been smooth sailing.
Everything was as Shimizu wished.
However, along with his shoulder injury, everything began to fall apart one by one.
Eight years into his professional career, he became unable to lift his shoulder well. And when he tried to force himself to throw, this time, his elbow and hip joint failed on him.
Mass media, fans, and coach who had highly praised him until yesterday stopped caring about him.
Two years later, the team’s intent to not renew a contract with him was announced. Shimizu himself already knew that he couldn’t throw a decent pitch anymore.
Even so, these things were bound to happen in the professional world. He had a wife who always supported him and a daughter he loved. He pushed through his frustration, and tried to work hard on his second career.
That was when the unprecedented accident happened. All he remembered was that he broke down in tears upon seeing his wife’s dead body.
Even so, he still had a daughter, so he had to persist.
…Watch me, Kureha. I will show you that I will definitely protect our precious daughter.
His new job was as a salesperson of a local food company.
However, it didn’t turn out as well as it did in baseball. It’s a work-life where he had to be scolded and bow down to everyone around him. And when he got home, parenting and housework were waiting for him. It didn’t go the way he expected. It was just like a lie that not so long ago, he was a professional baseball player whom everyone admired. Ultimately, his job didn’t last long and he quit.
Before he knew it, Shimizu had lost everything.
He merely spent his days like an empty husk.
Then on a certain day, he saw his daughter watching TV in the living room for a long time. Speaking of which, now that her mother is gone, I have to remind her of these things myself, he thought.
‘Don’t just play around all the time. Go study’
After that, his daughter immediately stopped watching TV. And from that day on, she would hardly do anything but study at home.
There were days when doing the dishes became a hassle. And on that certain day.
‘Why don’t you at least help out with the housework?’
When she mentioned it to her in frustration, far from just doing the dishes, his daughter started to take charge of all of the housework from that day on.
Only this girl who still goes on as I want.
Once such thought came to his mind, he lost control.
Even if ordered, harshly scolded, punched, or kicked, his daughter would faithfully carry out what she was told without a single complaint.
Yeah, I’m still on top of people.
Exactly right, that’s only natural.
After all, I’m the one who raised you. With my money, I fed you and raised you. It’s only natural for you to do as I want.
However, just a little while back.
He was rejected. By that daughter of his.
At that moment.
He saw the girl in front of him as a human being, not a doll who only listened to him.
As a single girl. As the precious daughter, whom he swore to his late wife to protect.
That’s right. I…
No. For my daughter, I. No, it’s wrong. For my own sake, to my and her precious daughter, I…
When he realized it, Shimizu had run away from that place.
“I… I… What have I been doing until now…”
At that moment.
Thud, he bumped into someone from the front.
“That hurt, man”
It was a pair of ruffian-looking men. One had blonde hair, and the other had a shaved head.
Thump! A strong impact hit Shimizu’s abdomen. It seemed he had been kicked flying.
Shimizu crouched, falling down to his knees in pain. However, the two men mercilessly showered him in violence.
It hurts, it’s painful… Aah, I’ve been giving this to that girl all these years, haven’t I?
“Hey, old man. Where the hell are you’re goin’ around lookin’?”
The blond man pulled him up by the hair.
“Hey, you gonna shut up?”
“Well whatever, just take out your wallet. Then we’ll forgive you”
“…Where I’ve been looking, huh”
“What you spoutin’ about?”
“…Really, I wonder where I’ve been looking all this time”
Crash! Shimizu’s right fist struck the blond man in the face.
The blond man fell to his knees, his nose bleeding.
“Ba-bastard. The hell yo… goho!!”
He also hit the shaved head man before he could finish speaking.
With tears in his eyes, Shimizu kicked the fallen shaved man flying.
“HEEYY!!! TELL ME!!!”
Over and over again, just like what he’d done with his daughter.
“WHERE!! THE HELL!! HAVE I BEEN LOOKING!?!?”
The blond man got up, and ran towards him.
In his hand was a sharp, edged tool, gleaming in silver.
Then fresh blood spilled onto the ground.
Shimizu was arrested for excessive self defense.
It was dawn when the Shimizu house received a call from a man who claimed to be a lawyer.
They heard that, apparently, he had gotten into a fight with two men on the street last night. One of the men took out an edged tool and went to attack. And in the ensuing scuffle, the edged tool stabbed the other in the heart, killing him.
They were told that it seemed the sentence could be considerably reduced due to the fact that it was one against two, that they had initiated the attack, and that a knife was taken out, above all else. However, since someone died, and Shimizu himself also admitted that he had fought back excessively, they were told that he might possibly be sentenced to prison.
After returning to Yuuki’s apartment with Hatsushiro and spending a day there, the two of them went to visit him.
“Hey, you two. Did you get a good night’s sleep yesterday?”
The way Shimizu looked on the other side of the glass pane in the visiting room was hard to describe… it was as if he had been dispossessed of an evil spirit.
“Hahaha, come on, don’t look at me with pitying eyes. I got what I deserved, every bit of it…,” he said with a self-deprecating smile.
His smile looked natural, and the unpleasant feelings that could be felt from his eyes just a while back weren’t there anymore.
He looked truly calm.
In a small voice that could only be heard by Yuuki and Hatsushiro, “…Rest assured. I didn’t mention anything about you guys,” Shimizu told them.
“That’s… well, that’s a relief”
“…Dad,” said Hatsushiro in a worried voice next to Yuuki.
“Haha, dad, huh. It’s fine, Kotori. You can go ahead and curse me”
Hatsushiro shook her head.
“No, you’re still my father, dad. It doesn’t mean that I’m going to forget the pain I’ve been through, but… You’re the important person who had raised me to this point”
“Let’s have a meal together after you’re released, okay. I’ll be waiting with the curry I made at that time”
Hearing her words, Shimizu looked up and covered his face.
He took a few deep breaths, and looked at Hatsushiro again.
“Phew. You’re just too good-natured. You’re just like your mother in that aspect”
It’s probably not an illusion that the area around his eyes was a little wet.
“Oh well, I’ll make sure I eat it properly next time…”
“…Yes,” Hatsushro said happily and smiled.
Afterwards, they had a bit of parent and child talk, but then Shimizu looked at the clock and spoke to Hatsushiro.
“…Aah, sorry, Kotori. I have something I want to talk about with Yuuki-kun alone. I know it’s a bit early, but could you leave first?”
“Eh? Yes. I understand. I will come again, okay”
“Just occasionally is fine. More importantly, you’ve got to take care of yourself”
“…Nope. I’ll be back rather frequently”
Hmph! Then Hatsushiro snorted.
Shimizu froze in surprise at the sight.
Hatsushiro gave a bow to the observer, and then left the room.
“Hey, Shimizu. Just how long are you going to stay like that”
“Aah, well, my bad. To think that Kotori would say something like that… She’s strong, huh. That girl”
“She’s the cutest ever, right? That’s my girlfriend”
“…Hahaha. I’m really no match for you guys”
Yeah, you really are smiling. You’re properly smiling.
Show that to Hatushiro too later, all right.
“So, what’s the talk about?”
“Yeah, it’s this,” Shimizu said and handed him something.
What was handed was a bankbook.
“It’s one of the bank accounts I have where I keep some of the contract money from my pro days. That’s for having taken care of Kotori for me”
“Even if you give me this, unlike Kotori, I’m still not going to forgive you, you know”
“If I wanted your forgiveness, I’d have handed this in front of Kotori. That way, it would be hard for you to condemn me, right? Rather, I’d feel slightly uncomfortable if Kotori’s man gives forgiveness too easily. By all means, you can go ahead and hold grudge against me”
Yuuki then checked the content of the bankbook.
“…Hey, as expected, don’t you think this is one digit wrong? Now matter how you look at it, this is…”
“Is it too much? Then I’d be glad if you use it if anything happened to Kotori. By the way, the password is 1111”
“That’s kind of too lax of a password, isn’t it. That’s just too lazy”
“That’s not quite it, though…”
What do you mean?
Shimizu spoke to Yuuki, who tilted his head.
“The eleventh of November, it’s Kureha’s… It’s Kotori’s mother’s birthday”
Shimizu had a self-deprecating smile on his face.
“For stuff like this, I suppose it’s not particularly a big deal to change it. It’s just, yeah. I just sort of didn’t want to change it”
“…Hey, Shimizu. If it’s women, there are plenty of them out there. And when you said someone who was obsessed over one person was stupid, was that you talking to yourself?”
Shimizu was only 28 years old when he lost Hatsushiro’s mother. Although he was retired, he had enough money and could have looked for a new partner as much as he wanted.
“I’ve no idea what you’re talking about… I forgot”
“I see… Well, then I’ll accept this gratefully”
Yuuki put the bankbook into his pocket.
Exactly at that moment, “It’s almost time,” the observer told Yuuki.
Yuuki stood up from his seat.
“Yuuki-kun. Maybe this is something I don’t have the right to say, but,” Shimizu said, bowing his head deeply.
“Please… Take care of Kotori”
“Yeah, leave her to me. And you better take care of yourself, too”
“What were you talking about with dad?” Hatsushiro asked while they were walking on the way home.
“Hmm? Aah, just a bit of talk between men”
“Fufu, what’s that even mean,” Hatsushiro said and chuckled.
However, her smiling face looked kind of gloomy.
“Hey, Hatsushiro. As expected, are you worried about Shimizu getting arrested? Could it be that you’re wondering if it’s your fault?”
“That’s… Yes, a bit”
“Oh well, I guess even if I tell you it’s not your fault it won’t make it any easier for you”
Yuuki was also indebted to Fujii. He planned to apologize to Fujii like crazy later.
“I guess so… it’s already like in my nature after all”
Then Hatsushiro stopped in her tracks.
“Hey, Yuuki-san. Yesterday I told you about my mother, right?”
All day yesterday, Yuuki was listening to Hatsushiro’s entire life story.
“Ever since that day I was being myself, acted selfishly and caused my mother to die, I started trying to support my father in my mother’s place. I wanted to give back the happiness that was taken away from him because of me. That’s what I’ve been living for. But in the end, it ended up like this…”
Hatsushiro’s face looked like on the verge of crying.
Sheesh… Just like Shimizu said. She’s too good-natured, it’s worrying me.
Yuuki spread his arms and hugged Hatsushiro.
Like how he had done it two days ago. Gently, but strongly.
“I’m going to make you happy. And please keep making me happy, too”
Hatsushiro also wrapped her hands around Yuuki’s body, and they hugged each other tightly.
A gentle warmth enveloped them both.
While burying her face in Yuuki’s chest, Hatsushiro spoke.
“My reason to live… I have found it”
“I see… I’m happy to hear that…”
Yuuki then spoke in a soft voice.
“But you know, not just the reason to live for me… But let’s find all kinds of fun things to do from now on, okay?”
That’s right. Hatsushiro’s life had just begun. Not to live in place of her mother, but to choose what she wanted to with her own will. Such a common life was about to begin.
“Yes. But since I’ll feel lonely if doing it alone, please stay with me, Yuuki-san. Okay?”
“Yeah, of course. I wouldn’t want to be without you, either”
“You have visitor”
“Hey, you two. Did you get a good night’s sleep yesterday?”