Osanai-san was sitting at the same table, but with different cakes in front of her, none of which seemed to be a pumpkin pudding. It seemed that she’d demolished the pumpkin pudding in the time it took me to get from that junction to Humpty Dumpty. The remaining cakes were a baked cheesecake, a tart, and a tiramisu. I couldn’t tell what kind of tart it was just by looking at it.
Approaching the table, I instinctively asked.
“Can you still eat?”
Osanai-san’s face clouded over as she shook her head weakly.
“I wanted to eat the marjolaine1, but I thought that would be impossible.”
That means that she probably had confidence in finishing everything on the plates in front of her. Seriously, that’s the attitude that people who want to take on a buffet should have. Osanai-san quietly pushed a fork into the baked cheesecake, which had a glossy layer of jam on its surface.
Osanai-san murmured. Her voice was so soft that I couldn’t immediately tell that it was a question directed at me. Finally realizing that she was getting right to the point and asking me about the results, I showed a vague smile.
“What are you asking about?”
It was just for a moment, but Osanai-san glared at me, as if to say, “Don’t play dumb with me, you bastard!” However, in the next moment, her gaze immediately dropped to the soft cake.
“What I’m asking about, you say?”
A brief silence followed. The clink of the fork touching the plate sounded extraordinarily loud. She moved the piece she just cut out to her mouth, then remained still. Seeing that I wouldn’t fold, Osanai-san sighed.
Of course she would say that. If she mentioned that she wanted to know the culprit who caused the drink bottle to fall, she would be breaking our agreement. She might have been planning to get me to make a deduction if all went well, but it wasn’t that easy. As long as we had the promise, all I could do was to listen to her complaints.
Osanai-san and I had a promise, to let each other escape. I’d decided to escape so that I could stop showing off my wisdom. Similarly, Osanai-san also had a reason for wanting to escape. Kengo had been annoyed at me for having changed, but Osanai-san was not like this in the past. Just like me, Osanai-san had sworn to become a little citizen. And a little citizen wouldn’t hold a grudge, even if someone had caused a disruption in their exam for selfish reasons. Osanai-san had indeed changed.
Her capacity for cake hadn’t changed, though. It might have even increased, actually.
After that, Osanai-san’s lips remained sealed. Of course, that was just a figure of speech; in reality, she opened and closed her mouth multiple times to put in and swallow all sorts of things. Looking on from the side, I observed that her pace had increased. Osanai-san showed no emotion, and was mechanically moving her knife, fork and spoon. Humpty Dumpty. Spilt water will not return to the tray. Well, for Osanai-san, somewhere with a little more meat might have been better.
I ordered another cup of coffee from the waitress, then took pleasure in looking at Osanai-san modestly enjoying herself. Eventually, she finished the last bit of tiramisu, wiped her mouth with her own sepia-colored handkerchief, and muttered a line.
“Keeping silent is like…”
Yeah, that is certainly an apt phrase to describe this situation. I grinned and completed the phrase. “A swelling in the mind, right?”
We left Humpty Dumpty. We’d both ridden our bicycles here, but Osanai-san felt like walking, so I followed her as we dragged our bicycles along. As for why she wanted to walk… well, I don’t need to spell it out. Osanai-san would probably have to skip dinner later.
Neither I nor Osanai-san could head straight home from Humpty Dumpty, which was located a little away from the north side of town. There was a small river in the way, so we would have to cross a bridge no matter what. We decided to reach the city area by walking along the national highway and taking a southbound road that passes through the area near Funa High.
Osanai-san was being quite taciturn, so I felt like I should say something. Since I’m not exactly someone who can easily think of uplifting words to say, all I could manage was, “You sure are holding it in.”
Hearing that, she looked up at me and nodded. Then, she smiled and gave her reply.
“If it’s just like this, I’m fine…”
I glanced at my wristwatch. It was a little before half past four. We’d entered the shop at around three o’clock, meaning that Osanai-san had spent one and a half hours in Humpty Dumpty. She probably hadn’t spent the entire time eating at that speed, though.
The highway, on which we were heading west, finally folded to the south. We approached the traffic light of that L-shaped curve, or to be more precise, the T junction, since there was also a narrow road that extended to the north. Since we didn’t have to cross the road, we ignored the traffic junction and turned to the left.
As we were doing so, Osanai-san suddenly raised her head, a fiery look in her eyes. I instinctively asked, “W-What’s wrong?”
She responded in a sharp voice.
I followed her gaze to the other side of the highway. A metallic silver bicycle zipped by at a dangerously high speed. I couldn’t see it clearly, but was that…?
Osanai-san grinded her back teeth vigorously. She turned the bicycle she’d been dragging along by a 180 degree angle, quickly straddled it and put her feet on the pedals. I immediately shouted out.
The light at the pedestrian crossing was red. With a high amount of traffic on the highway in the evening, it couldn’t be crossed without a pedestrian crossing. In the first place, what could Osanai-san do even if she caught up to him? Immediately realizing that, she stopped her bicycle after moving for just a few meters.
“That’s my bicycle…”
All we could do was watch Sakagami’s rapidly retreating figure. Sakagami headed straight towards the T junction and went into the narrow road leading north. The road immediately reached a hill and became a sleep slope. We could just make out Sakagami get off the bicycle and push the bicycle up the slope.
Osanai-san seemed to be staring intently at Sakagami. I was facing her back, so I couldn’t see the expression on her face. Being able to recognize Sakagami in one glance was remarkable, but not forgetting Sakagami’s face showed that Osanai-san didn’t have enough devotion, either.
Sakagami pushed the bicycle up the hill until he eventually disappeared from sight. We couldn’t just stand in the middle of the pavement forever, so I timidly called out to my companion.
“Osanai-san… I understand how you feel, but let’s go. We can’t catch up to him anyway.”
She slowly turned around to face me.
Her face, unexpectedly, had a smile on it. In that state, she replied.
“You understand how I feel…? Kobato-kun, you know what I’m thinking of right now?”
Ah, Osanai-san, that’s impossible. Also, your smile is becoming tight.
As I said nothing, Osanai-san continued talking to herself.
“Yeah, I suppose today was a good day. The tests ended, I had cake, and now I know what happened to my bicycle. What a good day it was…”
Well, if she says that, I know what to say.
“You’re right. I hope tomorrow’s like this, too.”
But Osanai-san was lost for words after hearing my simple reply. She looked like she was about to say something, but forced it back into her mouth and just smiled.
While looking at her painful smile, I had a thought. I wondered if not speaking your mind could interfere with the next day, which was supposed to be a nice day.
In more ways than one.
Editors (Tier 2) : Joshua Fisher, Slush56, _Maki
Assistants (Tier 1) : Karen Kronenberg, Definitelynotme, Rolando Sanchez, Kevin Kohn, Jaime Cuellar, Yazmin Arostegui
Thank you very much for all your support!