Volume 2 Chapter 1: The Correct Way to Steal a Moped II (Part 3)

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Volume 2 – Iriya no Sora, UFO no Natsu, Sono Ni

Chapter 1 – The Correct Way to Steal a Moped II (Part 3)

 

I was still in the Nevada Air Base when I learnt the ‘Peanut Approach’. It was Instructor Yesterday who taught it to me, and although that was most definitely not his real name and he never got to tell us where he came from and who he worked for, I surmised that he was someone in some Republic’s Air Force. After all, the trick he thought me was same trick that pilots from the North used to sneak up to an enemy’s AWACS.

First, we infiltrate enemy airspace at a high speed from a high altitude with four planes; two groups of two planes each. The planes should be flying so near to each other that they look like two peanuts flying through the sky, a few inches away from getting caught in jet efflux or wingtip vortices. Approach the Seed directly in this formation, but from this point on, timing is key. The enemy would be alerted to our presence but they do not yet know that we have four planes instead of two. We must grasp the correct timing to split the planes up, like two peanuts splitting into halves. One plane from each group would break off and switch course to perform a maneuver like a Cobra or a Hook which would momentarily interrupt the Doppler Effect and circumvent the enemy radar, and kinetic energy that was lost when switching courses would be recovered during the steep vertical dive of the maneuvers. The remaining plane from each group should stay on-course and continue approaching the Seed.

 

If we manage to pull it off correctly, the Seed should only see the two planes which served as bait approaching them. These two planes can turn around and leave the enemy airspace as soon as they deem fit.

The two attacking planes which have dived should make use of this opening to penetrate the enemy’s defense at a high speed at a low altitude and catch the Seed in their kill-zone in a Passive Lock-On. Even if the Predator package guarding the Seed noticed these planes now, it’ll be too late. We then fire a salvo of ram-jet engine powered long-range AAMs at the Seed.

I learnt this a long time ago, and it was the very first offensive infiltration tactic I used. It is something I am very good at now, but when I first started using it I was terrible at it. I couldn’t do properly it at all.

 

“—at the Nevada military base,”

The cicadas were warbling.

“—there were many other people with strange sounding names, and I was made to carry out tests on many different things. I tested deceptive systems using YAG lasers, off-board Active Decoys, and even did things like analyze Predator Spikes in order to create a threat library. At that time, half of the Manta was still in experimental stage, and riding it was very difficult because the cock-pit layout would change every time. I thought that if the team which developed the Aurora allowed us to look at their data we would have made better and faster progress, but Skunk Works is obstinate like that. Nevada, at that time, had five Manta pilots, and I was the youngest of them.”

 

Iriya took off the wristband on her right wrist, and the metallic spheres glittered sharply in the light. Asaba could no longer say ‘you wouldn’t tell me, anyway’ anymore.

“I cried every single day of the Peanut training. I couldn’t do properly, and was bullied by a person on my team. That person was also a Manta pilot, a boy, and was the second youngest of the five, but he was the best of us all, the ace on the team. He could do anything they asked, and the people with the strange names had high expectations of him. However, he was really mean to me; he would doodle on my Manta and put glue in my helmet, and even after I became able to do the Peanut he would say that he was copying me and would stall his engine on purpose so that his Manta would spin round and round—”

Iriya’s fingers closed tighter around her wristband.

“On the day that he and I were to do the Peanut together, I got into a big fight with him because there was a toy parachute stuck onto my helmet. I was still very angry with him after we took off, and I hated the fact that I had to fly to the training airspace with him. We received a distress signal from the communication aircraft as per the drill, and I was told that I was to perform the role of the baiting plane. We flew close together, and at my signal to break he made a dive from a Hook at about 9G.”

The cicadas were warbling.

 

Even till now, the official reports still say that the cause is unknown.

 

Perhaps they really didn’t know, or maybe they knew but decided that they would never ever tell us. At that time, I thought he was doing it on purpose. I thought that he was copying me and trying to make me look stupid. Even Instructor Yesterday who was watching from the observation aircraft scolded him and told him to stop fooling around.

However, it was not the case.

After that, I don’t remember who suggested it, but someone said that all four of us should go to where his aircraft had crashed, without telling anyone, of course. We were told never to go outside of the Air Base unless we had obtained special permission to do so, so we stole the log from the flight recorder and compared it with satellite images in order to determine exactly where the crash-site was, before sneaking out of the base in a car.

We soon ran out of gasoline, so we abandoned the car and travelled by foot on a straight road through the desert. Whenever we heard the sounds of planes overhead or the sound of a car passing by, we would hide in the shadow of boulders or whatever it was on the side of the road. Truth was, if the people from the base truly wanted to chase us down, we would all be caught in the blink of an eye, but at that time, I actually believed we succeeded in getting away. There was a girl amongst the four of us who was older than me, and when night fell she got scared and cried, saying that she wanted to go back. I did not, however, because I wanted to see the crash-site, no matter what. I wanted to see with my own eyes where he had fallen, and I wanted to pick up the fragments of his plane.

 

Eventually, we ran out of food and water and could no longer continue walking so we huddled together, exhausted, in the shadow of a boulder, and I thought that we might die, there and then. When it grew dark, we could see the lights of the next city in the distance, but we didn’t think that we could make it there. At last, even the oldest boy started to say that we should go back, and took out the wireless transreceiver that he had secretly brought along with him. I snatched it from him and dashed it to pieces on a rock nearby. Everyone was furious with me, but I was dead sure that I never wanted to go back there again. That was why I tried to persuade them to hitch a ride to the city on a car that passed us by on the road. That boy vehemently objected to the idea; he said that it would never do, and that it was a rule that we were to never show ourselves to anyone else outside of the base, but I didn’t care. Since no one agreed with me, I sat in the middle of the road by myself, waiting for a car to come by.

I gave that middle-aged man a shock, I think.

I mean, just imagine coming across a girl sitting on a road right smack in the middle of the desert, in the dead of the night.

That man practically leapt out of the car and ran to where I was standing on the road. He yelled at me, demanding to know who I was, where I came from, and what I was doing there. I tried to ask him, please let me ride on your car to the city over there, but that man was large and his voice was loud so I got scared and couldn’t say a word. Please let me ride on your car to the city over there. That was all I needed to say, and I kept practicing that sentence while waiting for a car to come by, but when I actually needed to do it, the words wouldn’t come out. Just as I was about to burst into tears, the oldest boy in our group emerged from behind the boulder. I thought he was going to tell the man, please put us in your car and bring us back to the Air Base, so I started bawling my eyes out.

 

Instead, that boy showed that man the satellite image.

And implored him to bring us to the place in the image.

 

Without thinking, Asaba asked:

“—so, did you all manage to get there?”

He then clamped his mouth shut. Iriya did say that he couldn’t ask questions, but he had already blurted that one out.

However, Iriya nodded.

“Everyone else decided to come out from behind that boulder then, and they gave him quite the scare, I think. Everyone piled into the car and felt asleep almost at once, and by the time we woke it was already noon, and the car had stopped in front of a hamburger joint in some town somewhere. That man bought tacos for us from there, and we ate through them like there was no tomorrow.”

“But, didn’t he ask a lot of questions? Did he try to contact the police?”

Iriya’s eyes grew hazy as she recalled her past, but she shook her head.

“I remember the oldest boy sitting on the passenger seat and talking about all sorts of things with him, but I don’t remember what they talked about. I slept most of the way, after all.”

Perhaps she was tired from all the talking, as she rested for a while before continuing.

 

Even up till now, I am not very sure what that man had thought of us.

After waking up a couple times during the trip, I opened my eyes and found that the car had stopped in the middle of the desert. The oldest boy said to the man, up to here would do, we would go the rest of the way on foot, and we got off the car and waited till his car was out of sight. Then we went off the road and started to walk through the desert. We had a compass, a Magellan GPS, and the satellite image to rely on, we had food and water, and the crash-site was not too far away. That man had bought us many other things other than food and drink. The other boy in our group who wasn’t the oldest was wearing a toy gun belt and a cowboy’s hat, and I was wearing a pair of glasses with stripes that had a large fake nose and a beard. The oldest boy said that at the rate we were going, we would reach by evening, and everyone didn’t have very much to say after he said that. In silence we walked and walked and walked and walked, till evening came. After scaling the last rock wall, we suddenly came out onto flat plains.

And the crash-site was right in front of us.

 

Iriya lifted her face.

She gazed intently at the playground equipment in front of her, which was illuminated by the rays of the dying sun.

“Right in the middle of the desert, where there was nothing for miles, was a park.”

 

With a single jarring buzz and a flutter of its wings, a lone cicada flew over and away from them.

“Park?”

Iriya nodded.

“Park—as in, a park, like this one?”

Iriya nodded.

“There was nothing on the horizon, but right in the middle of the desert was a place that was paved with concrete and asphalt. There were swings, a Jungle Gym, a see-saw, and the thing which you hang from and the thing which spins you round and round, and many other playground equipment. The paint on them wasn’t even dry yet. There was a drinking fountain and a decorative water fountain too, but neither dispensed water. Of course, there wasn’t any children in it. Other than us, that is.”

Iriya was looking at the park that was right in front of her.

“It was at that point that I realized—that we were all children that nobody wanted.”

She was looking straight ahead, but her gaze had traversed time and space and was now trained on the park she had most certainly seen in the desert in Nevada, something that couldn’t even have been a grave marker. She was looking at herself in the past, standing there with her back on her with three other children, staring dazedly at the group of playground equipment painted in garish colors like a bad joke, sitting right smack in the middle of the dusk-colored sky and the rocky horizon.

 

Not long after, a girl in a pair of striped glasses with a nose and a beard, the youngest girl of the group, took a step forward, like she had made up her mind to do something.

And starting walking towards a swing.

“While I was still alive, I wasn’t allowed to see anyone, and I wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone, and I thought that when I was dead they would pretend that I never existed in the first place. They treated me like someone with an infectious disease, the way they tidied up and cleaned everything I laid my eyes on, laid my hands on, and the places I walked. To be honest, I think I was a tiny bit afraid at first. Although I knew that it wasn’t possible, my heart pounded like crazy when I imagined that I might see pools of blood or a finger or something like that where he had crashed. But I realized, just by one look at that park, that there was nothing there anymore. Not a single fragment of his plane, not even a fleck of paint. Despite that, I knew.

That this was where the Black Manta No. 4 had fallen.

And where Jamie Zachary had died.

That was why I got onto the swings.

Not even thirty minutes passed before four helicopters came to bring us back to the Air Base. No one reproached us. This is where my story ends.

Iriya’s gaze returned to the present.

 

“You are the first person I told. I couldn’t tell anyone about this till today. That is why,”

Iriya casted her eyes down.

“Asaba, promise me you won’t tell anybody.”

Asaba nodded.

There was nothing else he could do but nod.

“Even up to now, I get headaches and feel like throwing up every time I think about what happened that day, but something like just now was a first. I’m sorry. You asked me out on a date today, but I have been nothing but trouble.”

To which Asaba ventured a lighthearted “What are you saying, now? You spouting blood and falling flat on your face is nothing new, right?”

Truth was, it was a bluff.

Even so, Asaba thought that Iriya smiled just a little. Iriya was looking down and her hair obscured some her face, so he was only able to see the expression in her eyes, but he thought she smiled.

“—ah.”

The bus had arrived, and Iriya noticed it coming first.

“Thank you, for today,” said Iriya, as she ran towards the bus stop.

 

—this is where my story ends.

She was lying, Asaba thought deliriously. His face was flushed with excitement, like he had a fever.

Iriya must have many other stories which she was not allowed to tell anyone while she was still alive, about what she had seen, what she felt against her skin, and the paths she had walked. Stories that she kept hidden in the dark, which would someday be buried in eternal darkness when she died, and everyone would pretend they never existed in the first place.

The bus which swallowed Iriya up set off sleepily, and he could see her walking along the aisle towards a seat at the back of the bus. She didn’t look his way again.

And Asaba was left alone in the park.

There was no one around.

Somewhere in the distance, the evening cicadas chirred.

A speaker somewhere in a park crackled to life, and the melody of ‘Tōki Yama ni Hi wa Ochite [The Sun Sets in the Mountains Far Away]’ played, after which a recording of a female voice started to play. It’s already seven so be careful on the road on the way home. When you reach home, remember to do your homework, help out around the house, take a bath, brush your teeth, and sleep early.

—mind your own business.

 

Asaba looked up numbly at the sky. It was evening sky that should stretch all the way to Nevada, far away in the distance. It looked no different from the sky he saw in the two months he didn’t need to go to school. The date had come to an end, and so did Sunday.

But summer had not yet ended.

Dates and Sundays were also, simply things that people of this world defined to suit themselves.

 

Clang, went the parabolic microphone as he threw it on the dashboard. Enomoto took off his headphones and flung himself onto the backrest of his reclined seat, and there he lay like a dead person with a face devoid of any expression, lifelessly muttering to himself.

“… Christ. That brat even told him that. Seriously, what the fuck…”

“It can’t be helped, you know. It was Asaba-kun she confided in, so it’ll be alright, won’t it? You expected something like that would happen anyway, didn’t you?”

“… I guess I did.”

“Suizenji-kun’s a bigger problem now, actually. If we don’t do something about that photo of us he took in the movie theatre…”

“… We will. We will.”

“Also, about the bike that Kana-chan stole. We should probably sort that one out as well.”

“… How long more before I can finally get a bath, I wonder…?”

Shiina Mayumi opened the door and got off the car, and Enomoto hurriedly looked up.

 

“Oi, are you going to run away now? We’re not done with work yet, you know.”

“I’m not. I’m going to that vending machine over there to get us something to drink. What would you like?”

“Which vending machine?”

“Like I said, that one over there.”

“No, I mean which manufacturer?”

“How would I know something like that?”

“—canned coffee, sugarless.”

“And if they didn’t have that?”

“—canned coffee, with sugar.”

Shiina Mayumi closed the door behind her and stretched, her spinal joints making popping sounds as she stretched her back. It was then that she thought of something.

The most difficult part of a first date is getting over the awkwardness and embarrassment of seeing each other in school again on Monday.

She shall do that, then. Yep.

Shiina Mayumi started walking, as she tossed her coin up into the air. She hummed along with the melody from the speaker in the park as she lowered herself down an earthen wall, and went up to the vending machine that was sitting at a crossroad that cut across the paddy fields. There, she bought canned coffee which was not sugarless, and orange juice which was 30% juice. She then drained the can of orange juice in one gulp before flinging the empty can into a waste-paper basket.

 

Affixed to that waste-paper basket with steel wire was a tiny portrait-oriented poster which said:

 

I pray that the humans of this world may live in peace

 

 

“Is Asaba in?”

It was lunch break on Monday, but before Asaba could finish his lunchbox, a customer had come by looking for him.

“Yea, okay.”

He scarfed down the rest of his lunch and stood from his chair. His customers were three boys from another class on the soccer team, and each requested a short crop. We have a practice match on Wednesday, they said. Asaba put out a chair in the roofed walkway and plugged in an extension cord into the socket in the walkway for his electric razor, which he intended to use for all three of the jobs. Since the three of them had a lot of hair to be trimmed, he thought that it would be comfortable for them if he did it outside the room.

The boys on the soccer team played a round of Rock-Paper-Scissors to decide who would go first, and the winner, Scissors, was to go first, followed by Paper and then Rock.

 

“But you know, it’s great that you are skilled with your hands,” said Rock. “Will you take over the family business?”

“—I don’t know. I haven’t acquired a license yet,” was Asaba’s noncommittal answer as he flipped the switch for the electric razor. “Let’s open some new roads here, shall we?”

He pressed the edge of the razor into Scissor’s hair and mowed a straight line from the nape of his neck all the way to the top of his forehead, before switching the electric razor off.

“Okay, done. This is your reverse Mohawk.”

Paper and Rock laughed, as they pointed at Scissors.

“C-Cut my hair properly, you ass-face!!”

“I got it, I go it, so look to the front.”

Asaba began moving his hands. The head that was clean-shaven three months ago had since taken great pains to grow this much hair out again, like a round fruit which grew mold. Deftly, he ran the razor all over that head.

—good morning.

He had said to her casually, this morning. It was a simple greeting which required a considerable amount of courage on his part.

However, Iriya didn’t even try to meet his eyes.

 

After that all the way till noon, he kept looking at her, hoping for an opportunity to strike up a conversation with her, but to no avail. Iriya had completely reverted to her normal self. In fact, she didn’t open her mouth at all except during English lesson when Tachibana called on her to read aloud from their textbook, to which she obliged, in very well-polished English.

Asaba understood how she felt.

After all, one entire day had passed since yesterday. By the time the next day arrived and Asaba went back to his normal daily routine, his head had cooled off, whether he liked it or not. Even he felt shy, not to mention Iriya, who had the personality of a hermit crab. Despite knowing this, he couldn’t help feeling uneasy when she would neither speak to him nor look him in the eye.

He started wondering if Iriya regretted going on that date with him.

“Hey. Come to think of it, what happened between you and that transfer student after that?” asked Scissors, out of the blue. It was almost as if he had been able to read Asaba’s thoughts by feeling Asaba’s hands on his head, and the timing of the question was so uncanny that Asaba was completely thrown.

“Eh?!”

“Have you guys gone on a date already?” said Paper.

To which Rock said, “You imbeciles! Do not speak to Asaba-sensei in such in rude manner! You should be fawning at his feet, for he is a brave hero who challenged a girl to the ultimate battle at the shelter! He must have risen above lowly techniques such as the ‘date’ a long time ago! Please forgive us, Asaba-sensei, I shall harshly discipline them for their trespasses. You! get on your feet, and clench your teeth!!”

 

These three boys have been Asaba’s customers for quite some time now, and even though their classes were different, they were on friendly terms with Asaba and often spoke to him. After the Incident at the Shelter, they took delight in poking fun at him about it, but Asaba found more solace in their bare-faced teasing than in the whispered banter of people who kept their distance from him after that.

“—erm.”

Asaba abruptly said, and Scissors turned to face him.

“Hm?”

“Have you been on a date before?”

“Yea, but.”

Scissors crossed his arm under the salon cape as he tilted his head, deep in thought.

“I wonder if you would consider that a date, since she was a child of my cousin. This was last year and she was Elementary Four then, now she is in Elementary Five. Considering her age, it was a little, well, you know—”

Gyaaaaaaaah, someone shrieked. “But, won’t that be considered a walkover?” Paper had retorted, and for that remark he was now writhing in agony under a foot that was grinding painfully into his crotch1.

“Back then she would go Onii-chan, Onii-chan, and follow me around. She gave me a love letter that read like a kanji dictation, followed me shopping, and ate a parfait with me at a café, after which we went on one of those sightseeing cruises before going home. She made a huge fuss, saying that it was a date and all, but what do you think? Was that babysitting, instead?”

 

Somewhere deep inside his heart Asaba shouted in reply, if you ask me what I think, well, all I wanted was to go on a peaceful date like the kind you just described, one without strange smells causing a disturbance in the movie theatre we were in or secret microphones in my bag or having to zip about town on a stolen moped! So what if the girl was your cousin’s daughter? What are you so unhappy about?

“What happened after that?” he said, instead.

“Nothing much. We only see each other during the Bon festival, after all.”

The first person to notice her was Rock. His foot immediately froze, and Paper abruptly stopped shrieking. Scissors and Asaba lifted their faces and turned around. The sight of Iriya standing stock still at the end of the walkway with no expression on her face almost made Asaba shit his pants.

“—E-Erm, I think I’m done here.”

Scissors pulled off the salon cape that was draped around him. His head was, of course, still under construction.

“What! But, but I’m still in the middle of—”

Paper and Rock had already disappeared, with Scissors at their heels. It was almost pathetic, the way he took to his heels, like he was scared out of his wits.

“—did I interrupt anything?”

 

Iriya’s whispered words were like a knife to his back. Asaba felted like he was rooted to the spot, but he fixed a smile on his face as he said:

“N-No, not really.”

They didn’t need to run away, Asaba thought. Come to think of it, they were talking about ultimate battles and Gracie and what not since just now. Since when had Iriya been listening in? The thought that she might have been there from the very beginning made him break out in a cold sweat.

“Y-Yes?”

Iriya casted her eyes down. Her face had flushed a bright red. She took a determined step forward and started walking straight towards Asaba.

In fright, Asaba stammered, “Eh?! Erm you know I do think you’d be really strong if you knew Combat Sambo, but still!”

But Iriya, without a word, simply walked past Asaba to sit on the chair.

“—huh?”

“Do mine, too.”

Do mine?

“—you mean, cut your hair?”

Iriya bobbed her head in agreement.

Asaba could cut girls’ hair, he had done it before, too. In fact, he even thought that he was better at it than his father, since he was able to take good, close looks at the hairstyles people of his age sport nowadays.

 

However, no girl in school had ever asked Asaba to trim her hair for her before.

And there was Iriya’s hair whorl, right in front of him.

He took a deep breath, and readied himself.

Trepidation welled up in him, the same kind he faced every time he had to cut someone’s hair for the first time. Right at the bottom of that disquietude oozed a trickling of an emotion he could not explain; it was like when he caught a cold, a painful tingly sensation he got that made him want to run in circles while shouting at the top of his lungs.

He opened the bag that was lying at his feet.

It was a bag he usually kept in his room, one that contained his hair cutting tools. The zipper came undone to reveal not a laptop, wireless transreceiver units, microphones, tools, knife, nor lock-pick tools, but a pair of scissors and a comb.

He spun the scissors about in his hand while the other ran a comb lightly through her long hair.

“The fee would be 100 yen.”

Iriya nodded.

“How would you like it?” He asked.

“—how would I like, what?”

 

|083

“Erm, I mean, your hairstyle. Which hairstyle would you like me to cut for you?”

Iriya fell silent. Perhaps she had always left it to the person cutting her hair, and had never thought very much about how her hair should look like. There were many boys who was of this type, but girls like this were rare. She was deep in thought for so long that Asaba decided to throw her a lifeboat, and just as he opened his mouth, Iriya said, almost desperately:

“Cut it however you like.”

Whoa.

 

Gii once said to her, you are a tough, unsentimental, hard-boiled sort of girl, aren’t you?

Perhaps Gii was right, Yuuko thought to herself, as she looked at her own reflection in the mirror in her clubroom. Her face had three Band-Aids on it.

Yuuko stuffed her jersey into the bag she was carrying before leaving the clubroom. Her fifth period was Physical Education, which means they would just be doing some running, but in her carelessness, she had forgotten to bring to school a fresh jersey. The one that was in her bag now was a jersey she had left in her clubroom some time ago, and it probably reeked faintly of sweat, but she had no choice so she would bear with it. That part of her was hard-boiled too, she decided.

She cut across the school grounds, which was shimmering in the heat haze, and was about to enter the school building via the foyer when she spotted three boys running away from the direction of the gymnasium, their footsteps ringing loudly on the pavement. The boys were in their sophomore year, and they looked like they were running for their lives from a savage wild dog that was hot on their heels.

 

What caught her attention was that one of the boys had unevenly cropped hair, as if his barber had suffered from a heart attack halfway through the job and was unable to finish it.

—?

The three boys didn’t even spare her a glance as they thundered into the foyer, before disappearing into the main building of the school. Yuuko stared after them, before turning to look in the direction of the gymnasium, where they came from.

She wouldn’t call it a hunch, but.

Yuuko couldn’t really explain why, but she began to walk in the direction of the gymnasium, like there was something pulling her towards it. What were they running from? What should she be looking for? Yuuko didn’t know, yet she continued walking, while slowly looking all around her as she turned the corner of the school building. She slipped in between the cars belonging to vendors who flocked to the school in droves every lunch break to sell their teaching materials. Unconsciously, she had been quietening her footsteps. When she soundlessly made the turn that led to the gymnasium, she saw it.

 

Under the summer sky in the shade of the roof over the walkway, was her brother, cutting Iriya Kana’s hair.

 

Yuuko’s gaze was riveted on the sight of the both of them. She was a good distance away so she couldn’t hear what they were talking about, but she was close enough to tell that her brother was nervous, from his jittery hand movements. Both of them did not notice that she was there. Perhaps Iriya had said something; her brother’s hands paused, and he laughed.

She continued to stare unblinkingly at them, with her mouth half-open.

Her brother’s hands moved to tilt Iriya’s head to the side, as he worked on the hair above her ear with his scissors.

The memory of feel of her brother’s hands on the same place on her head sprung to life.

It almost seemed like a hundred years ago. Yet the feel of her brother hands on her head had remained in that memory, a memory which now seemed like an old injury. It was spring, then. She was in Elementary Four, and her brother was in Elementary Five. Their parents had some gone out on some errand and she had been sulking because her father had skipped out on a promise to cut her hair for her. Her brother then brought out old newspapers, a foldable chair and hair cutting tools. At first, she thought he wanted to play at being a barber. The thought of him using such childish tricks on her to allay her anger displeased her, and she remembered saying unreasonably nasty things to him like: “I’ll do you a favor and play with you, only if you buy me a can of juice,” or something like that. Even so, her brother didn’t get angry. His hands were gentle, the sound of the scissors snipping through her hair was soothing on her ears, and she, being a child then, cheered up immediately. It tickles, it tickles, she had exclaimed in delight. When she removed the salon cape and peered into the mirror, she found that she looked different from before. For some reason, she felt like she had undergone remodeling surgery and was reborn as a one-million horsepower cyborg, and she had been so excited to show someone her new look that she dashed out of the house and ran down the road along the windbreak of trees, on which they often played.

 

If Yuuko at that time had opened both her arms, she would have no doubt that she could have flown across the sky.

This was before she stopped sharing a room with her brother, and before she stopped getting into the bathtub with her brother.

The hand with the scissors stopped moving; her brother was now bent over in laughter. Iriya, who had apparently said something that amused him, turned only her head to glare at her brother with a displeased look. Yuuko did not know what they had been talking about.

She did not need to know, she thought.

That was because there was a time when those hands once cut her hair, too.

The tension in her shoulders left her, melting away.

A smile floated to her lips.

“Well done, you.” She murmured.

She turned on her heels, turning her back on the two of them in the walkway, her gait almost a dance as she broke into a run.

A rather wicked idea floated into her head. She shall test Iriya one day, by using the same method that Suizenji had used in the movie theatre that day. She would nonchalantly approach her, and speak to her to blast a high output signal in the channel that Iriya was tuned to. If Iriya jumps up in surprise, bingo.

“Does he have hair, down there?” She would ask.

If Iriya were to spout blood from her nose like a fountain and fall over backward, then Yuuko would have hit the bullseye.

 

She ran to the grounds, which was empty. It was summer, it was lunch break, and the loneliness she felt was bright and cheery, like the kind one might feel at a school graduation ceremony. Yuuko stopped where she was to spin about in a circle in a dance, her arms thrown wide open around her as she thought to herself:

 

I should get a boyfriend, too.

 


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Translation Notes:

1  Denki Anma: Wikipedia link here and more information here