Second Story – “Somehow Connected” – Part 4
The moment we returned to the office, Senpai looked through Yayoi’s files. The room was filled with deafening silence as though time had frozen. Only the ticking of the clock echoed across the room.
Seeing this unusual side of him made me feel uneasy. Perhaps I ought to do something. Being passionate and motivated were my only strengths, after all. Even if sometimes they end up making things turn for the worse.
“Senpai, let me make you a cup of your favorite instant coffee. That will surely perk you up!” Although I still found his current state rather intimidating, I called out to him as though nothing was different.
But he gave me such a curt response. Am I overstepping my bounds trying to cheer him up?
I handed him the coffee I made while trying to suppress the awkwardness I felt.
“Here you go.”
Senpai sipped his coffee as he continued reviewing Yayoi’s files, seemingly without a care in the world. I could clearly hear the sound of his throat as he gulped the coffee.
This was definitely not the usual him. I preferred it when he was more nonchalant and easygoing.
“Mmm! Instant coffee is really the best.” Senpai remarked in blissful satisfaction, then looked at me. “Hmm? What’s wrong, apprentice?”
“What are you being startled about? Didn’t you call out to me?”
My heart was pounding. “Um… well, I just thought you were feeling down. I did say some pretty harsh words…”
He chuckled and shrugged. “Did you? And so you wanted to cheer me up? Well, it’s been ten years, you know. If I let every single thing put me down, I won’t be able to last in this job.”
Senpai took another sip of coffee. “Tomorrow, we’ll go to Asuka’s house again. It’s gonna be a tough battle so go home and take some rest.”
He was back to his usual carefree self.
Feeling drained that I worried for nothing, I replied impassively. “Got it.”
How could he recover that fast? Was he even remotely depressed? Not that I wanted him to be, but still. Give me back all the time I wasted worrying for nothing!
“Well then, I’ll head home.” I said a little grumpily. Getting emotional has always been a bad habit of mine.
“And don’t be late. We’ve got an early start tomorrow.”
“You don’t need to remind me. After all, I’m the one who woke you up this morning. How about you stop sleeping in the office and go home for once? And please take a bath properly.”
“Right, right. See you tomorrow, apprentice.”
“It’s Yuma! Anyway, see you tomorrow.” I turned around and headed for the door.
But before I could leave, Senpai spoke again.
“Thanks for the coffee, apprentice. It was especially delicious today.”
For some reason, hearing Senpai say such warm words made my heart flutter. I could even feel my cheeks blushing.
Why is my heart pounding like this?
Without dwelling on them further, I rushed to bury those inexplicable feelings.
“You’re welcome.” Without turning around, I closed the door.
Looking back, I finally realized what those feelings were.
The next day, Sunday.
The warmth from the morning sunlight felt good as usual. Seemed like it would be another fine day.
While waiting for Asuka again, we basked in the glory of the early morning sun. But Senpai, who was weak in the mornings, kept the broody expression on his face.
The curtains in Asuka’s room still remained closed today.
“Asuka still hasn’t come out today.”
“Well, waiting is part of our job. Be grateful it’s not raining.”
It sounded as though he directed that to himself.
“I guess so.”
I wonder if she’ll ever come out. She must’ve noticed that we’ve been waiting for her all this time. Maybe that’s why she hasn’t drawn her curtains. Just like Senpai said, it’s really a tough battle.
As I was mulling over it, the curtains in Asuka’s room suddenly burst open, revealing Asuka’s figure as she looked down at us through her window.
“Senpai!!” I was too happy to speak but Senpai said, “Keep calm and stay cool. Don’t let it get to you.”
There was a hint of command in Senpai’s tone.
Although in panic, I tried to collect myself. Calm down, calm down.
Then Asuka’s figure retracted to the other side of the window. When she came up to us, she seemed to have changed from her innerwear.
“It’s troublesome but…” She shrugged and looked at us like she’d made up her mind.
“Please tell me about my real mother.” She said in a voice full of resolve.
We moved to a nearby mom-and-pop restaurant and were now seated across Asuka. Senpai sipped the regular coffee brought by the waitress, looking nonchalant as ever.
“Did you remember something? Or realized anything?” Senpai cut to the chase.
Asuka shifted her gaze away and looked as though she was remembering. “I had a dream.”
“A dream.” Senpai repeated.
“I dreamed of a demon. He had a striking demeanor and looked down on me as he tried to do terrible things. But I didn’t try to escape at all. How should I put this… it was a demon and yet it’s not. I always waited for the demon. I was all alone in the dark waiting for him, and even though I was scared, I still kept waiting.”
For a middle school student, Asuka’s clear tone reflected her honesty and austerity. A stark contrast from her mother. I didn’t expect her to grow up to be like that. I guess it’s not always true when they say, ‘the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree’. (1)
“So that was it.” Senpai noted offhandedly.
“I’ve had that dream since I was young. I kept dreaming of that, not knowing what it meant. It was only after I met you that I realized. I used to call that demon ‘mom’. Asuka continued as she traced her fingers over the burn mark on her collarbone. “That’s my real mother, right?”
Senpai stared into Asuka’s eyes and said, “Probably. I do think so.”
It wasn’t much but I could feel some warmth in his tone.
“I see.” Asuka heaved a sigh, though whether it was relief or grief, I’m not sure. Then she opened her mouth and spoke with a tone full of maturity, uncharacteristic of her young age.
“I love my parents right now. They treat me kindly and I could always feel their love. I’m very happy. I don’t want this happiness to be destroyed by anyone. Not even my real mother.”
Without much change in his expression, Senpai nodded in understanding.
“Did your parents confirm that you were adopted?”
Asuka shook her head. “I didn’t ask. There’s no way I could ask. But I think I’ve noticed it since I was young. Like I’ve always known subconsciously.” Then she spoke in a firm tone. “I’m happy and content now. I admit I’m curious about her but I still don’t want to remember my real mother, after all. Please don’t ruin the peacefully happy life I have now.”
She breathed out a sigh and continued. “Please stop bothering me. You don’t have to tell me about my real mother anymore nor do I want to know.”
She said with firm indignation, as though to cut off any lingering attachments.
- 鳶が鷹を生む – literally “a kite breeds a hawk”, similar to the French proverb “Même la poule noire pond des œufs blancs.” (Even black hens lay white eggs.) It generally means “A great person may be born of perfectly ordinary parents.”
T/N: I don’t remember if we have the same proverb in English. The only thing that comes to mind is “the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree”, and well, it’s the opposite of that so I just tweaked the sentence structure to suit the context.