Part 44: Stepping into Promises
06/01 (FRI), Morning
...Thus, another day of school rolls by. I stayed up late last night doing research, so I'm still a bit tired. And wouldn't you know it, I checked my calender, and it's June already. I'm already nostalgic about the time we went to that amusement park. Once my surprise fades, I get ready to head to school.
BGM: At Amecha Girls' University High School
06/01 (FRI), Noon
Once there, I find myself talking to the usual group.
Mornin'! You two decide on what you're gonna do for the culture festival yet?
Well, I mean... They already settled on me helping out for an hour on both Saturday and Sunday, right?
I've been forced into it, as well.
Talking to these two really helps to hammer home that I'm back to my typical daily life. The culture festival's next weekend. My class has finally decided to go with the fortune teller booth idea. I'm a bit worried about it, since they've decided with hardly a month to spare, but it should be fine because there's nothing too difficult to prepare. None of us are playing a big part in it, but we do need to help out because it's a class effort. And said help comes in the form of one-hour shifts on both Saturday and Sunday, it seems.
Not! What! I mean! I'm asking how you're gonna spend the rest of the time.
Ahh, okay. I kinda wanna check out the cafe that Naomi's class is running.
Her class, huh...
Not like you gotta tag along, y'know.
Wrong. Wherever Rinka goes, I follow.
Spending time with Naomi should be fine so long as it's while we're at school. She's been working hard for this, so I want to see how it turns out.
You got any plans, Mao?
I'm not interested in what the others are doing, so I booked a morning shift. We're allowed to go home, so long as we're at school when we need to be, so I may as well.
Hmm, I might do the same. Don't particularly care about anything else.
Aww, you two suck!
Ignoring Mao's attempts to tease us, we start to trudge over to the cafeteria.
06/01 (FRI), Evening
Okay, see ya!
With that, Mao skips out of the classroom. Looks like she's heading home in a hurry today. I'm not sure why, since she generally keeps that aspect of her life to herself. Still, she tends to be busy more often than not. Not like she's in any clubs, either... I can only assume she's got a part-time job or something. Miharu is getting ready to head home, herself. Seems like she's working a shift today...
Let's offer to keep her company. Rinka probably could use the chat, with everything on her mind these past few days.
-Go home alone
-Offer to walk with her.
Wanna head back to the station together?
...Are you sure?
She starts to pack up even faster when she asks. Under her notebook is an unfamiliar book. Doesn't seem like one from the school's library.
No need to rush, though.
I'd rather not have you leave me behind for being too slow.
I can only smirk.
Thanks for yesterday, by the way.
I didn't do much, though I'm glad you brought it up... Mind if I ask what happened?
Uh... Get ready for a long story, I guess.
This isn't a topic I can avoid so long as we're together. I tell her all about how I went to Shigetsugu's house and how Numeral XI forced her way in. She is wide-eyed at the start of the story, but by the end, all she does is sigh.
Honestly... At this point, I'm just scared of what you'll try to pull next.
Things worked out well enough, though. I managed to talk things out with Numeral XII.
What about it? You still have to eliminate him when all's said and done.
I figure I am being optimistic, but Miharu makes sure to beat reality back into me with her words. Lacking a proper retort, all I do is avoid eye contact.
Well, I'm not going to nag about how what you're doing is wrong. If anything goes south, just know I'm ready to protect you. Most importantly, I'm happy that you're revealing this all to me in the first place.
Has anything happened on your end?
Ehehe. Are you curious?
She teases the question with a smile.
...You're not gonna tell me anything.
That's my girl. You know me so well.
We move to more standard topics following that as we make our way to the station. Then we exchange goodbyes and part ways.
BGM: At Amecha Girls' University High School
06/02 (SAT), Evening
Yesterday was a rare day. I was able to open the store for once. Customers dwindle during holiday periods, but regulars in the area still tend to drop by. I'm glad most of them understand that my gran's away, so they make it a point to cheer me on rather than criticize my offerings.
Yo, Rinny. Wanna go somewhere the week after the culture festival?
Mao comes over to chat as I'm getting ready to go home.
Sure. Got someplace in mind?
Hmm, not yet. Could always go see a movie or hit up karaoke.
She grins as she notices my hesitation.
C'mon. Don't deny me the pleasure of watching your sheepish singing, Rinny...
I'd very much like to deny you that.
We haven't been to karaoke with Naorin yet, have we? It'd be good timing, so let's do it! I bet that girl's got a killer voice. Dunno what she'd sing, but the quiet types are always surprisingly good at singing. The only curveball is Miharu and her job... Eh, whatever. Things'll sort themselves out.
She prattles on and on without giving me a chance to speak. I'm all too aware that this is her way of making sure I can't turn her down. I am pretty curious about what Naomi would try to sing, so I end up agreeing.
Yessss. Make sure you keep the Saturday after next open, then.
The Saturday after next... would be the 16th. Two more elections stand between now and then. I should be fine for this week's, but who knows about next week's. That's not the mindset I should have, though. My utmost priority is making sure I never get elected.
I apologize for getting lost in thought before we make our way out.
After spending some time in Shinjuku, I find myself waiting for the train. I realize it's been a while since the last time I went to the bookstore, so I decided to stop by before heading home. There are a fair number of new shoujo manga on sale, so I buy a couple to try.
As it happens, Naomi is already there and waiting for the same train. She even has the same bag in hand as me, which means we were both at the same store. After discussing what we both bought, Naomi's expression gets a bit more serious as she changes the topic.
BGM: A Dot on a Piece of Paper
How did things go with that child, if I may ask?
She must mean Yu. It's funny, thinking back to that first encounter. Not only did I not know his name, I actually thought he was a girl. How much should I tell Naomi, though? I can't give her all the details like I did with Miharu. Miharu's warning comes to mind as I mull it over.
Let's just say... things worked out.
The exchange is brief, but it no doubt leaves Naomi a tad vexed. If I'm not going to tell her everything, then I'm better off not saying anything at all. Her pained expression tells me exactly how the current situation makes her feel. Doing this to her hurts me enough already, but she must feel even worse on the receiving end. That's why I try my best to change the topic.
Is something wrong?
As soon as I do, I notice a familiar figure amongst the crowd. Not wanting Naomi to notice, I keep my gaze on her, only resorting to quick glances to make sure I'm right. And I am- it's Yu. He's standing in the crowd, as if waiting for someone. But I mean, there's a very limited pool of people he could be waiting for. He tries to seem nonchalant, but I notice him glancing over to me every now and then.
Oh, sorry. I forgot to pick something up for the cafe. Go on back without me.
Um, I don't mind joining you...
Nah, it's fine. I'm sure you're tired from all the preparations for the culture festival, so I say go and get some rest.
She nods, although it's obvious that she has read between the lines. Following that, I wave goodbye as she gets on the train. Yu makes his way over after confirming that I'm alone.
He probably realized that I saw him.
BGM: Two Crossing Paths -S/I V/S-
I need to ask a favor.
He cuts right to the chase. I opt to quietly hear him out.
I want to help Shigetsugu see his family again. But I need you to help me figure out where they are. Shigetsugu said he'd already given up, but it's obvious that he's wanted to see them again for a long time.
I'm the only one who can convince him, but... I couldn't bring myself to say anything. It just frustrates me so much. I've spent so much time up till now trying to figure out what I should do. Trying to figure out the right answer. It was tough, but... now I know! Things can't go on like this! We'll both regret it if they do!
He lets his emotions run rampant despite being out in public. There is nothing I can do to stop him, either. Once he finishes his spiel, he stares at me, worry all over his face. I can't blame him. Normally, people wouldn't hear him out, but he's probably hoping for the slight possibility that I will.
I don't know where they are. Shigetsugu probably wouldn't tell me, either. There's no way I could ask Aran, so... you're the only one I can rely on! Please...
He's probably expecting me to turn him down based on my silence. I don't seem to be in the right state of mind... His desperation to help Shigetsugu serves to warm my heart. As does knowing we both thought of the same thing.
BGM: Entrusted Feelings
They moved away due to his son getting transferred to another branch of his company, so finding out which prefecture they were in was pretty easy. Calling them and pretending to be other departments worked out well. I've been brushing up on my acting skills ever since Divine Selection started, so I was able to nail down the city they're in.
But the rest is up to you. Just ask around the neighborhood to find out which house is theirs. Guess I can give you money for the shinkansen and lodging for the night. I gotta keep it a secret from my gran, but it'll be fine as long as you pay me back.
What's... happening right now?
If you're not taking Shigetsugu with you, then you'll just have to convince his family to come see him instead. I won't help you out more than this, but I want you to trust yourself.
I honestly don't get what's happening...
Shigetsugu said that Yu is both brave and compassionate. I have to agree. I hand him an envelope. Inside is the information I've already dug up regarding Shigetsugu's family, as well as some money.
Did you... know I'd do this?
It's only because I had the same idea cross my mind.
It's their story from here on out. I have no intention of seeing it through. Now that I've done this much for Yu, I should be able to avoid waking up with regret if Shigetsugu gets eliminated.
I want to see him happy till the very end, so... I'll do everything I can to make sure that happens. Thanks, Rinka! I promise I'll pay you back!
After he says that, he remains still for a moment. Just as I mutter that I need to go, he stops me. His expression is deathly serious.
There's one more favor.
His face makes it clear that this one is serious. Even so, I don't expect what comes out of his mouth next.
BGM: He Reveals me the Answer
I want you to eliminate me.
I kinda figured that you've already obtained all three of my cards. I also figured that you wouldn't elect me. You're just too kind.
Because... I want you to live.
You're joking! Er, sorry... I shouldn't shout at you.
But I'm serious. If there's anyone I'm fine with being eliminated by, it's you. That's not all, though. I shouldn't be allowed to live in the first place.
What? What makes you say that?
My memories don't seem like they'll ever come back. But sometimes, I'm... scared of myself. Sometimes I get the feeling that the person I was before this... is ready to do something terrible... I may become something else entirely if my memories return. Who knows what I'll do then.
So, please! Kill me before that can happen!
I can feel the pressure he's been bottling up inside from the tone of his voice. That unknown factor has probably been haunting him for a while now. I had no intention of electing him this week, just as he said. Mostly because I don't have it in me.
Sorry, but I need some time to think.
Why? You'll have to eliminate me sooner or later if you want to live, right?
Right. But right now, I'd rather leave that for when your memories return. For when we can both learn about the link we share. Are you sure your amnesia isn't just causing you to panic? And I might regret my action by eliminating you before I learn something important.
But you gotta!
He refuses to give in. He knows what I'm like by now, and yet he presses on regardless.
Please... You'll do this for me, won't you?
I can't bring myself to answer. He refuses to stop staring at me, waiting for me to say yes. He believes he might do something terrible, but I can't see that happening. Sure, his past required him to know how to fight, but that doesn't feel relevant to his current fears.
It's a promise.
He cuts the conversation off after a period of silence and takes his leave without another word. There's a reason I couldn't give him the response he wanted. Deep down, I knew.
I just can't do it yet.