Volume 2, Chapter 3: Gal
It was unusual to receive a message from Sayu while I was at work, so I thought I would check it out and when I saw the contents I frowned.
『 The thing is, a senpai from my part-time job came over. I couldn’t refuse, I’m sorry. We’ll probably be there when you get home. Ah, it’s a girl. 』
I sighed. No, having her was a good thing. I think being able to have close friends is a good thing. However, will it be okay if I explain my relationship with Sayu? And she sent an additional message that made me feel uneasy.
『 I explained that you were an older brother who has no blood relationship with me but had always taken care of me since I was a little girl. 』
“An older brother who’s helping her, huh.”
How it was a little strange, I laughed ironically. She was always harsh, repeatedly calling me “an old guy” so at that moment I don’t know how she was able to tell a lie like that.
Certainly from this day on she decided to say that I was her older brother, it will be difficult to fake the name and some other things that made me not want to go through with it. Though I appreciate the fact that she described the neighborhood I “used to live in” as a good one by telling that lie. Anyway, she told me that she couldn’t refuse so I thought I had no reason to stop it. Besides, our house isn’t a problematic one.
『 Understood. 』
I answered briefly and put my phone onthe desk. And then, as I raised my head to look at the monitor screen, I realized that my subordinate Yuzuha Mishima was standing to the side. When she suddenly entered my field of vision, my shoulders shook reflexively.
“Ahh, you scared me! If you’re close, warn me.”
“Your field of vision is narrow, isn’t it senpai?”
Mishima said that and then laughed sarcastically. Hashimoto, who was in the seat next to me, snorted through his nose.
“Is that a message? From whom?”
“I think that’s none of your business. Well, are you working on something?”
Along with my answer, I showed an expression of discontent on my face for a moment, then immediately sighed a little and pointed at my work computer.
“Please verify that the data has been uploaded to the server.
“Oh, it’s still early today. Okay, I’ll confirm.”
I nodded and looked at Mishima. I continued and bowed my head as if something had caught my attention and she also bowed her head a little with a puzzled expression on her face.
“What’s the matter?”
“Uh, just that?”
“Well, I think that’s all, although…”
No, I let those words slip away like a murmur from my throat.
“Send me that information through email. If you hand me one by one physically, it would be a waste.”
“Huh? Really? But if I’m ten seconds away, wouldn’t it be absurd to e-mail it?”
“No, because the emails will remain, so there won’t be any problem at any time.”
Mishima frowned at my words.
“What’s wrong? Why do you say that as if there’s going to be a problem?”
“Because there have been a few times when you haven’t caused one.”
And then I added:
“Problems occur just when you think they can’t happen. That’s why if you “upload them to the server” it will remain in an email. In fact, it will immediately tell you that it’s “uploaded it to the server” and recorded in the email. So, if the information is deleted from the server, it won’t be your fault.”
When I explained those things to her, Mishima had her eyes and mouth wide open saying “Ah…” in a dull voice.
“You said that for my sake, didn’t you?”
“Not at all, I didn’t say it for you in particular. I said it so that you’re able to defend yourself from problems that aren’t your fault.”
“But Yoshida-senpai, I like the fact that you’re teaching me correctly.”
When he heard what Mishima had said, Hashimoto who was working in silence said:
“You like Yoshida.”
“Silence. I want to impose a job on this girl.”
“Huh? How unfair! I can’t work as a subordinate of anyone except Yoshida-senpai!”
“Although whose subordinate could you be?”
I said that and Mishima laughed to dodge the question, then Hashimoto said in a whisper:
“Well, it’s working better than before lately.”
Yeah, I thought so too. Lately, she seemed to be more precise than before in doing her job. However, also up until now, dealing with Mishima’s slow pace when working made me uneasy. Having no idea of my thoughts, Mishima suddenly puffed up her chest and smiled.
“I can do anything if I concentrate.”
“Ah, um… well, go back to your seat right away. First of all, from now on it’s okay to send the email.”
After a simple and unnatural military greeting, Mishima returned to her seat. I took hold of the seat in front of my desk, sighed, and then turned it to face the computer.
“Yoshida, aren’t you being too nosy?”
Hashimoto suddenly opened his mouth just to give his point of view. Without looking away from his screen, he continued:
“That way, I think you’ll only reduce one of many bad experiences.”
“Yeah, I’m aware of that.”
“Don’t you think it would be better if you left her alone?”
Hashimoto stopped typing and looked at me sideways.
“It’s as if you’re somehow giving her the privilege of escaping bad experiences.”
“It’s not like that.”
“I don’t know what’s on your head, but your conversation with her tells the story.”
Hashimoto finished saying what he wanted to say, looked at his screen again, and also made some noise with the keyboard.
“I’ll show her what I can teach her, including how to avoid unpleasant things.”
I said that quietly and also begun typing. Although he may have heard what I said, Hashimoto remained quiet.
“Oh, it’s an old guy!”
A girl with blond hair said that while pointing at me. A super rude girl. I was speechless for a moment and while shrugging my shoulders I looked at Sayu, while the gal who was out of my field of vision bowed her head a few times.
“Ah, but looking at him, he’s probably a good looking man… his aura… his aura is that of an old guy. I think his face is handsome, I also have the feeling that he’s too good. Ah, I am Asami. Feel free to call me just like that, okay? YOLO.”
“Ah, thank you.”
Suddenly she reached out to greet me, I bowed slightly and shook her hand. Just when I took the hand of the gal, um, of Asami I meant, she looked at my hand with her eyes wide open.
“Whoa, amazing! Your hand’s extremely big, isn’t it?”
“It’s quite interesting. Look Sayu-chaso, they’re quite big, that’s so interesting.”
As I was holding my hand firmly with hers, Asami seemed to be glad. She turned in the direction of Sayu while saying “Too big!” repeatedly. Sayu somehow implied with a smile that she could not say anything.
“Yeah, super interesting.”
Ah, so that was her “I give up” face. She didn’t show the slightest sign of wanting to intervene. Asami didn’t mind Sayu’s reaction, and after a while of making a fuss over my hand, she looked at my face attentively as if she remembered something.
“Wha… What is it?”
“Yup! You seem like a good guy! Okay!”
Although I didn’t know what for or why she said that, I received her approval. Asami nodded and then returned briskly to the room.
“Just want to say that when Sayu-chaso said that she was living with a guy with whom she had no blood relationship, it caught my attention. Besides, you say he’s not your boyfriend, right? Eh, so what is this setup? A man who is neither your family nor your boyfriend, so what does that mean?”
This “old guy” had only a slight idea of what this girl’s talking about. Her words didn’t seem to match in context, form, or meaning. Sayu only listened to Asami’s talk with a subtle smile on her face so she didn’t know if she was enjoying it or suffering from it.
“But it’s a good thing that when you see him in person he seems a completely harmless old guy. Oh, big brother, sorry, sorry.”
After Asami talked to herself like a machine-gun, she seemed to remember something and with her hand, she tapped my bed and said:
“Well, Yoshida-san, how about sitting down?”
This is my house, you idiot. The senpai at Sayu’s part-time job looked like a cartoon character with a lot of punch.
“Oh! What’s this? It’s extremely delicious, Yoshida-cchi. Are you eating this every day? You are an incredibly happy person, aren’t you? Surprising.”
Her words flew like machine-gun bullets. Asami, who was sitting in the living room very naturally, while Sayu was preparing the meal, persistently asked me and Sayu questions. Honestly, I wasn’t good at lying.
“Yoshida-cchi’s room is so cramped.”
“Well, if you went home it would get wider.”
“I’ll eat first.”
“After you eat, go home.”
Asami laughed foolishly, as she took away the strange vegetables prepared by Sayu which, when chewed seemed to have tasted delicious to her.
“But I like this splendid cramped feeling.”
“Stop calling it cramped.”
“No, it’s just that my house is super big! It’s so big that it scares me.”
“Are you showing off?”
I laughed sarcastically as I put the white rice in my mouth, Asami’s expression seemed to shadow and glow at the same time.
“Not at all, I’m not.”
Her mouth was smiling, but her eyes seemed to show melancholy. I think she did it unintentionally. It seems that landmines were buried in unexpected places. I shouldn’t probably have said that especially that it’s my first meeting with her.
“Is your house close by?”
I competently changed the subject. The expression on Asami’s face changed completely and she nodded several times.
“That’s right! I live ten minutes away from here on foot. Cool!”
“There’s nothing cool about it.”
Sayu, who was listening to our conversation in silence, began to laugh. When I turned over her to see what was happening, she was shaking her shoulders with laughter and looking at Asami and me alternately.
“I just met you, but we’re already too close.”
“Well Yoshida-cchi, I think you and I are already soulmates for eternity.”
Do you even know the meaning of “soulmate” to use it like that? No, you definitely don’t. I laughed ironically at Asami’s comments, and from my accurate observations, Sayu laughed out loud. When I first arrived from work Sayu seemed to be quite tense about Asami as well, but now she seemed to be relaxing little by little.
“So here’s today’s miso soup.”
The moment Sayu began to speak, her smartphone on the table vibrated at full volume. Because of the loud noise it made, all of us in the room shook our shoulders in surprise.
“Damn, that scared me!”
Asami was pretty scared. Apparently, she got a phone call, and when she checked who it was, Sayu showed some tension.
“It’s the store manager, what could it be?”
“Ah, the manager? Maybe it’s about shift change.”
“Excuse me, I’ll go out for a moment.”
Sayu took her smartphone and ran to the door, put on her shoes, and left the house. Since it didn’t seem like a private call and she could make it inside the house, it generated unnecessary suspicion. Asami and I were left alone. Before, when Sayu was preparing the meal, one could say that we were talking alone, so it wasn’t an exaggeration. For that reason, one could think that there wasn’t much difference between being alone “really” and being alone “virtually”.
If I were asked, I would say that Asami is the same age as Sayu, which is 17. When Sayu first arrived I thought about it, being alone with a high school girl I had just met was a pretty risky situation and I unconsciously sweat ran down my back.
“When the manager starts, his calls are damn long so it may take a while.”
Asami, after saying this, took a mouthful of white rice.
“Isn’t this just about work?”
When I asked, Asami was chewing and as she did so she waved the palm of her hand in my direction. I think that was the signal for me to wait a little while until she finished chewing. Mishima’s face came to mind. Hey, even high school girls know not to talk while eating. After she finished chewing what she was eating, Asami said:
“The manager is the kind of guy who’s longing for company. First of all, he talks to you about work, but in the process, he also talks about other things. That’s why his calls are long. Even though I’ve told him many times, he still does it and I’m really fed up.”
I had a strangely uncomfortable feeling when I heard the phrase “fed up”. It wasn’t because she used it incorrectly. However, it seemed to strangely deviate from the way this girl was talking, and the word echoed back to me.
“Even though you say that you go along with it every time. Isn’t that being nice?”
“Because I felt bad for him? I just thought that I don’t want to become a lonely adult like him.”
I thought that was a rather bitter description. A lonely adult. I think I fit that classification appropriately.
“Putting that aside.”
Asami squinted mischievously after saying this.
“What kind of relationship do you have with Sayu-chaso?”
To that question, I bowed my head. I wondered if Sayu had been disconnected from the situation while preparing the food.
“I think I told you about that already. A long time ago, I lived in the same neighborhood…”
“Ah, that’s enough of that.”
Asami waved her hands, interrupting me.
“Yoshida-cchi, you really suck at lying. It’s so obvious that all of it isn’t true.”
I honestly thought that even though I had time pulling that off, I would hear expressions like “hey!” or “unbelievable!” and other reactions like that which she had done before.
“Remember when you were talking about you and Sayu-chaso’s past? Your eyes were looking all over the place as if they were swimming. It’s almost like a swimmer competing internationally.”
After saying all this without pausing, Asami laughed. “Like a swimmer competing internationally”, I also laughed reluctantly at that metaphor. This lady had a peculiar way of choosing her words but I think it’s interesting. As I thought about it casually, my feelings for it was almost as impatient.
The lie had been discovered. Yet how should I explain it? At this point, I couldn’t find a way to deceive her. And honestly, I couldn’t speak without Sayu’s consent, nor could I speak here selfishly.
“Hey, look, even now they’re still moving around!”
Asami said with a grin on her face.
“You can be honest with me.”
The cold sweat didn’t stop. But I also couldn’t remain silent forever.
“Sayu and I are…”
I swallowed my saliva because of the stress of having to lie. Sayu’s smile passed through my mind. I couldn’t put any strength into my facial muscles, so I could only put on a weak smile. If I were to confess everything to Asami at this moment, what face would Sayu make? Suddenly my impatience subsided and I became calm.
“What Sayu told you was the “truth”.”
Asami’s shoulders shrugged when I said that.
“What do you mean by “the truth”?”
Asami was investigating the meaning of the word “truth”. Although that didn’t mean she was looking up the meaning of the word itself. I knew what she meant and why she was asking. I scratched my head, even though it didn’t itch, and said:
“I think it’s like what a politician would say sometimes.”
“I don’t remember.”
When I said those words, Asami let out a little laugh.
“That was sudden. But what’s your relationship with her now?”
“No, you should ask a question about the last thing I said.”
At my request for a question, Asami, during the time she was thinking, seemed not to refuse it, and then shook her head.
“There’s no reason to do that, is there? A politician who doesn’t remember what he said is too dangerous.”
“Isn’t it? But, as politicians would say, I think I have no choice but to apply it in this situation.”
Until that moment Asami seemed to understand and nodded a bit several times.
“It will be like that then. In other words, that’s how you’re going to solve this situation, right?”
I didn’t answer. I was silent for a moment and then nodded. It was Sayu and not me who lied to Asami. It was a mistake to expose a lie for my convenience, no, I thought it was deceitful.
“But isn’t that the same as acknowledging a lie?”
Asami narrowed her eyes and looked straight at me as if she were shooting with her eyes. I felt that she was testing me, but either way what she had said wouldn’t change.
“I admit I want to hide the truth. Also, it’s isn’t like I’m good at lying anyway.”
I finished saying this and I sighed deeply. As I sighed I felt all the words I had to say coming together in my chest. Suddenly I thought I wanted to smoke a cigarette.
“I don’t think it’s right for me to expose what she’s trying to hide.”
When I finished saying this, I put the last of the white rice in the bowl into my mouth. Although Asami didn’t say anything, she had an empty look at her face.
Asami opened her mouth as if she had remembered something and while she was sighing she tapped her mouth with her hand, and then a wide smile was drawn on her face.
“Hahaha, you really are a very nice guy. It’s surprising.”
“Huh? A nice guy?”
As I answered with this question, Asami nodded a little and looked at the surface of the table.
“I think it’s usually not a question of whether it’s “right or wrong” but rather whether they “want or don’t want to”. It’s a human thing.”
“Well, I guess I was thinking about whether I want to or not.”
At my words, Asami looked up and stared into my eyes. I thought that was the meaning of what she had asked me. Asami’s eyes expressed a strange sensation at what I expressed strongly. I sighed a little and continued with my words. It was simple.
“I just didn’t want to do something deceitful, that’s all there is to it.”
Asami opened her eyes wide. Suddenly her resolution came.
“Hey, what’s wrong? Did I say something strange?”
“Ah, no, it’s different…”
Asami laughed with all her strength, so much so that her shoulders shook because of it, she raised her face and while covering her mouth with her hand she said:
“When you said that, your eyes didn’t seem to move around at all, it was damn hilarious.”
“Many people out there are pretending to be cool and say things like that. Though most of the time you can tell they’re just faking it because their eyes are constantly moving around. I think it’s because they’re only saying what they think the people want to hear from them. Got me, Yoshida-cchi?”
After saying this, Asami stopped laughing.
“I could tell that you were speaking directly from the heart. It astonished me.”
I was surprised that I didn’t say anything. I laughed forcibly and said:
“Oh yes, of course.”
Asami’s shoulders shook as if she were surprised and she spoke rather quickly. And after that, she continued talking as if she wanted to trick me.
“I’m really amazed that you’re such a good person Yoshida-cchi.”
“That’s not true.”
“Yes, it is. Sayu-chaso’s really lucky.”
After saying that, Asami again looked at the table surface. I could see a faint glow in her eyes, so I impulsively looked away.
“Although you can choose the people you relate to, you can’t choose where you meet them.”
Asami said so in a low voice. Until a moment ago I wanted to ask her why she used the gal language and since I didn’t want to make fun of it, I stopped thinking about it.
“That’s why I think it’s incredibly lucky to be able to deepen a relationship with a good person you’ve met.”
At first, when Sayu said she would bring Asami, I didn’t wonder why she brought this senpai into the house. However, sometimes when I saw Asami’s look, it seemed a little similar to Sayu’s distant gaze. I scratched the back of my neck and said
“I think we all have such encounters. If it hasn’t happened now, it will happen later.”
“What does that mean? I’m not wishing for something like that to happen. LOL.”
Again, Asami used the gal expressions she was using before.
“Hey, isn’t it tiring for you to keep talking like that?”
“Eh? Is something wrong with it? This is how I’ve always spoken.”
“So when you switch to a normal way of speaking, it’s unintentional? Just a while back, you forgot to correct yourself to say “it surprised me” and instead said, “it astonished me”.”
When I said that, Asami was flustered and seemed pissed off.
“What are you grinning for? Ah! You’re so annoying.”
“No, no, I was thinking back what you said back then.
“What are you on about?”
“A swimmer competing internationally.”
Asami’s face turned red and then started to assault me.
“Dummy! You’re such a big dummy!
While I was fending off a violent Asami, the front door opened.
“Sorry, sorry, the call with the manager went long… What’s wrong?”
When Sayu returned to the room, she looked at Asami and me and then squinted with perplexity. Asami completely changed the expression on her face, stood up, and stood in front of Sayu.
“Listen to me Sayu-chaso, Yoshida-cchi’s abusing me. This damn old fart, he’s the worst I tell you!”
While looking at us, Sayu smiled sarcastically.
“You two seemed to be really getting along, huh?”
“Does this look like we’re getting along to you?”
Asami also quickly said:
Sayu said “Okay, okay ” as she approached Asami and sat in the place where she was originally seated and then looked in my direction.
“You’re no longer tense, are you?”
I was silent and shrugged my shoulders. I’ve had an impression that Sayu had an antenna sensitive enough to detect the atmosphere of the situation and the expressions on the faces of others. For some reason, I thought she couldn’t be fooled. Although from the beginning I didn’t intend to lie. I took a look at the clock and it was already around 10 pm. It would be problematic not to get the high school student back to the house.
“Go on, eat what’s left of your food quickly. After you finish, go home. I’ll go with you.”
“It’s fine, you don’t have to come with me, it’s only a 10-minute walk.”
“Idiot, a high school girl shouldn’t walk alone at this hour and if a policeman sees you, you’d be taken into custody.”
I said that to Asami, who just laughed and waved her hand.
“The popo in this area doesn’t do patrols.”
The “popo”. I was almost speechless at that old expression.
“I just thought that if I’m walking with a high school girl alone at night I’d also be detained and questioned by the police. Oh boy.”
For a moment, I was horrified by the idea of being questioned by the police. However, I felt uneasy about having a high school girl return home alone despite the risk of being considered a suspect.
“Either way, I’ll be anxious about you walking home alone at this hour. I’ll go with you.”
When I said that again, Asami sniffed hard through her nose.
“You already said that. LOL.”
Why is this girl full of herself?
“Let him go with you. It would be troubling if you were involved in an accident or incident while on your way home.”
Sayu said this and Asami muttered an “mmm” as she nodded several times.
“If Sayu-chaso says so, then I guess there’s nothing I can do. Fine, I’ll go with you.”
“Where do you even get those things you say…”
Although I said it with a wry smile, up to that point I didn’t dislike the way Asami spoke. Talking to her was like having a casual conversation between men.
“But, I won’t be responsible if they question you Yoshida-cchi, that’ll be a YOLO situation.”
“Okay, eat quickly.”
It seemed funny to Asami who, with a wide smile, took the dishes from the remaining garnishes. After observing Asami, I looked at Sayu and our glances were in sync. Sayu looked into my eyes.
“What’s going on?”
“Yoshida-san, are you smiling?”
At my answer, Sayu giggled and grabbed the chopsticks to start eating what was left. Although at first, I thought it was rude to bring a gal into the house, surprisingly, they really seemed to get along well.
I thought it seemed like a pretty good thing that Sayu, who was always locked up in the house, would go out and make new friends. That way, she will accumulate new experiences, not worry about painful past, and be with someone who’s just the opposite of her.
“Thank you for the food.”
I went ahead and finished my meal and went out to the balcony in high spirits. Strangely, I couldn’t do anything else but smoke. It wasn’t because of stress. I wanted to have a cigarette to feel calm. I thought I only felt like smoking when I was angry, when I was happy, or when I was having some difficulty.
“This is far enough, I’ll take it from here.”
Asami said after walking for 8 minutes, he chatted friendly with her as he accompanied her.
“I can take you in front of your house.”
“Mmm, it’s fine. Besides, I don’t want you to see my house.”
Asami’s words made me clearly understand her “rejection”. Since I knew she’s being serious about it, I didn’t pry any further.
“I see. Well, even though there’s still 2 minutes left, be careful on your way back home.”
“You worry too much, LOL.”
Asami smiled a little and I waved my hand.
“Uhm… I know it’s kind of late to say this, but sorry for going uninvited.”
“It’s fine, except for the fact that you keep on repeating “your house is cramped”, I didn’t mind at all.
That it didn’t bother me was a lie. I was honestly uneasy since I returned home from the work.
“But, I really think that the house is good enough. Including the fact that it’s cramped.”
Asami said that and shrugged her shoulders. Although she had a joking attitude, Asami’s eyes showed a little hint of sadness. Although I didn’t know why I had an affinity with “cramped” houses, thanks to that very eyes of Asami, I’m now thinking otherwise.
“If you like it that much, you’re free to visit anytime you want.”
At my words, Asami opened her eyes wide.
“Huh? Is that okay?”
“Of course. You’re Sayu’s friend after all.”
Asami smiled widely and pointed at me.
“You’re like her dad. How funny.”
“I’m her guardian.”
Asami nodded when I answered and then sighed.
“I think it’s good that you’re her guardian. Well, if Yoshida-cchi says it’s fine, I’ll come again.”
Asami smiled and turned her back. I also raised my hand and nodded, and then I saw Asami walking away.
“I actually have some advice for you, Mr. Guardian.”
Asami said as she suddenly grabbed my arm.
“Sayu-chaso’s really good at taking advantage of her smile, I’d be more careful if I were you.”
Without waiting for my answer, Asami turned around and continued walking right after she finished saying what she had to say. I looked at her back in silence. After a few intersections, she turned left and after that, she was no longer on my sight.
I thought of Sayu’s smiling face. Her face when she was laughing. When she would make an ironic smile. And then I felt that there was a hidden meaning in her smiles. It was as if she had designed everything herself to manipulate me. What Asami had just said, “I’d be more careful if I were you.,” crossed my mind again.
“She asked me to be more careful.”
What are she even telling me to be more careful about? I sighed and started walking back home.
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