Chapter 3 – The World of Children
Diana waved at the car that began to move away from the house, and after it was no longer visible, she turned to Nodoka who was standing by her side.
“Nodoka, at what time do you usually leave?”
“Hmm, after about twenty minutes, I guess.”
“Understood. I am ready to leave at any time, so I’ll keep watch near the front door.”
“Okay, but I can’t relax with you standing around out here, so please come and wait in the living room instead. I’ll let you know when I’m ready to leave.”
“Yeah, unlike my brother, I don’t really hate you or anything. Also, I have pretty much believed you from the start, so I won’t do anything like sneaking out without telling you. Come inside, and have a cup of coffee while you’re waiting.”
“Hmm? What, did I say something weird?”
Nodoka thought she was just saying what was natural, but it looked like Diana was shocked, as her eyes were wide open.
“Umm, does Ya-, no, Onii-sama…”
“Don’t call him that, Diana-san. ‘Onii-sama’? That’s hilarious. So, what were you saying about him?”
“Ah, well, does Yasuo…”
Diana appeared flustered, and asked as if she was preparing herself for the worst.
“Does he hate me?”
Now it was Nodoka’s turn to be shocked.
“Well, he’s not exactly fond of you, to say the least.”
It looked like Diana was shocked for real this time, and looking at her, Nodoka was worried.
“Eh? I had a slight suspicion about it from the beginning, but don’t tell me, are you actually interested in my brother, Diana-san? Seriously? Pfft.”
Nodoka actually laughed after being worried, but Diana just kept staring with a blank face, so Nodoka’s smile gradually turned into a grimace.
“For now, let’s set aside the fact that my brother is not what a typical young man should be like.”
“During these past three days, has my brother shown even the slightest inclination towards liking you?”
At Nodoka’s cold question, Diana had only one reply.
“……No, he hasn’t.”
“Well, it’s okay as long as you understand that.”
Nodoka nodded, looked at the clock, and climbed the stairs to the second floor.
“Huh, you actually stood here waiting?”
Nodoka came back downstairs after about fifteen minutes after confirming that she hadn’t forgotten anything, only to find Diana still standing in the same spot with a crestfallen expression on her face.
“Was it that big a shock?”
“No, after thinking about it, it’s only natural. I’m like… an unwanted pest who is trying to take away Hideo, who is like the supporting pillar for all of you. On top of that… despite my assurances that I would protect you, I failed to notice the approach of the enemy, which led to your house being damaged… And what’s more, I also acted very rudely towards Yasuo’s friend, so…”
“Crap. This looks like it’s too serious for me to handle.”
Looking at it that way, Diana’s actions since coming to the Kenzaki house weren’t exactly praiseworthy.
“No wonder people say that I’m just riding on my parents’ coat-tails….Haaaah.”
Diana let out a large sigh and sat down on the ground.
“I’m pretty sure that I’m wrong, but for you to be depressed to such an extent… Diana-san.”
“Are you perhaps… seriously in love with my brother?”
No matter how much she tried to raise her brother up on a pedestal as his younger sister, Nodoka couldn’t see any manly charms in Yasuo at all.
He’s not particularly tall or handsome. He’s not good at sports, and his personality is vague. He’s not fat, but he doesn’t have a stunning physique or anything. He’s already eighteen years old, but forget about having a girlfriend, he doesn’t appear to even talk much with people of the opposite sex.
Besides, Diana had only met him three days ago. In spite of that, this beautiful young lady with stunning proportions and superpowers was seriously being depressed because a guy like that hated her.
Rather than the thing with the other world and such, Nodoka found this much harder to believe. Just what did Diana see in that brother of hers, a type of guy who seemed like you could easily find around a hundred of them in the same school?
“Umm, rather than love, this might be something closer to pure admiration.”
Even though she was a student on the verge of taking exams, Nodoka was unable to immediately process the meaning of those words.
“Don’t tell me, it’s not just my father, is my brother a legendary existence in Ante Lande as well? What kind of disgusting and embarrassing legend could that be!?”
“It’s not like that. It’s… haaah. At this rate, I won’t be able to face Hideo when he gets back.”
Diana hugged her knees and continued to be depressed.
“All the Magitech Knights from my generation grew up listening to bedtime stories of Hideo and Madoka’s travels. All the boys wanted to be like the hero who saved the world, and played around with wooden sticks that were a substitute for the holy sword.”
Although Diana talked about the travels of Hideo and Madoka, Nodoka could only think of the time when her parents had gone to the hot springs at Hakone, or the time when they had gone skiing at Niigata, or when they had gone to the zoo at Hokkaido. In any case, Nodoka was sure that Diana was not talking about things like that.
“And all the girls wanted to be like Madoka. They wanted to meet a wonderful hero like Hideo, and go on travels with him.”
“No, they should really reconsider that last bit. When my dad goes to an inn, his yukata is always completely open in the front when he wakes up, you know? Also, he snores like a freight train.”
“Huh? Yukata? Snoring?”
“Ah, sorry, never mind.”
Nodoka unconsciously passed a comment, but of course, Diana wouldn’t know about that side of her father.
“Of course, Hideo’s travels ended thirty years ago. I had heard from my mother that Hideo and Madoka had returned to the world that they had come from, but elsewhere in our world, people were saying that the two of them had gone to a different world to fight against another Demon King, or that they were still somewhere in Ante Lande, continuing their adventures. That’s just how much the two of them are respected and envied in our world.”
“Huh… I see.”
Apparently, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that her father was almost seen as a god in that world. In that case, now that her father had become a regular old man, was it okay to send him back there? Nodoka began to think about such things in her heart.
“Because of his fame, our world is filled with paintings and sculptures of the Hero, Hideo. Among them, there is a famous painting that everyone knows about, called ‘The Hero, Hideo, gazes upon the sunrise at the Sacred Mountain’. It was painted by a travelling painter whom Hideo met during the course of his travels.”
There was a time when Nodoka was in elementary school, when her whole family had climbed a hill to see the first sunrise of the year, but this was probably something different. While she was thinking about this, Diana said something shocking that made her doubt her hearing, as the daughter of Hideo and the younger sister of Yasuo.
“Hideo looks so gallant and inspiring in that painting… and Yasuo looks exactly like him.”
“What? No way, that’s creepy!”
“Eh? Why is that? The word ‘creepy’ means something bad, right?”
“Sorry! My bad, I said that without thinking.”
Her relatives often said that Yasuo resembled Hideo when he was young, and she had also seen pictures of her father in an album at her grandmother’s house. However, after hearing that Yasuo resembled Hideo who was being seen almost as a god, she felt it was creepy and blurted it out without thinking.
“When I saw Yasuo for the first time, I was really shocked. He looked like a living incarnation of Hideo whom I had seen in my dreams. Any young girl in Resteria would have fantasized about him at some point, and here he was, in front of me. Truly, my heart was fluttering with excitement.”
“Ah… I see…”
Even though Nodoka understood the logic behind it, having a girl talk to her regarding ‘fantasizing’ about her father and brother made Nodoka unsure how to react.
“That’s why… I might have been too excited. I thought that Yasuo had inherited Hideo’s spirit, and so he would definitely understand our plight. In a way, I was looking down on Yasuo in some corner of my heart. I wasn’t looking at Yasuo as himself, but as a replacement for Hideo… the Hero that I had dreamed about.”
“Ah, yeah, that’s probably not good.”
Although Nodoka could understand where Diana was coming from, it was probably not good to think that way.
“Of course, you’re right. Even though I said it myself, I feel like cursing myself for being so shallow.”
At that moment, Diana suddenly lifted her head.
“N-Nodoka, do you hate me too!? Do you dislike having someone like me for a guard!?”
“Seeing as you can ask me that right to my face in this kind of circumstance, you’re pretty tough, Diana-san.”
“Ah, I’m sorry!! I didn’t mean to…”
“In any case, you’ll continue to guard me if I don’t mind having you around, right? Come on, it’s time. I’d rather not be late, so let’s go.”
“Y-Yes! Umm, but the front door…”
Diana stood up and made to follow Nodoka, but suddenly remembered that the Kenzaki house’s doorway was in a state where the door could not be closed.
“There’s nothing we can do about that. Mom said it’s fine to leave it be. Apparently, policemen will be patrolling near here once every hour during the day.”
“Really? Well, if Madoka said so… umm, we’re leaving now.”
After being urged by Nodoka, Diana said that towards the house even though there was no one there to see them off, and hurried to catch up to the Hero’s daughter who was walking ahead.
“Umm, Nodoka, is your school far away from here?”
“It’s just a fifteen minute walk. My brother has to take the train to school, and it is several stations away, but my middle school is a municipal institution that I can walk to.”
“So it’s pretty close by.”
“Yeah. It’s in the middle of the residential area though, so there aren’t any places where you can pass the time. Diana-san, there aren’t many beauties like you around there so if you just wander around, you’re going to stand out. You should probably just return to the house once you’ve learned the way to my school.”
“I-I can’t do that! I’m not a b-beauty or anything, and besides, my job is to protect you…”
“You know, even if one of those Shii creatures you told us about yesterday comes to attack me, with your speed, you can reach me in time even from the house. There are no tall buildings around here, and if you don’t want to be seen by anyone, you can just fly over their heads or something.”
Saying so, Nodoka pointed backwards at the sky over their house. Diana looked a little taken aback as she looked at Nodoka, who was a head shorter than she was.
“There are JSDF and American military bases around here, so there’s all sorts of stuff flying through the sky, but as long as you don’t fly too high, you probably won’t be discovered.”
As soon as Nodoka said that, they heard the sound of the engines of a large aeroplane in the distance.
Diana didn’t have any knowledge of the things known as ‘aeroplanes’, but looking up, she could see a large object that was making the noise as it flew through the sky. However, it appeared that everyone was used to the noise, as no one paid any attention to it.
“Nodoka, you said that… you believed me from the start, right?”
There wasn’t the slightest bit of hesitation in Nodoka’s answer, which prompted Diana to enquire further.
“Why is that?”
“Even if you ask me the reason… I don’t really know.”
“You don’t know?”
“I mean, you weren’t lying, right, Diana-san?”
“Of course not. I swear that everything I told you is the truth!”
Diana looked like she was going to say something else while being heated up, but Nodoka stopped her.
“Then that’s fine, isn’t it? Of course, at first I was surprised, and didn’t know what to do, you know? Dad said that he was going to quit his job and go off somewhere, after all. It would be weird to not be scared.”
“…Yes, that’s true.”
“But it seems that Mom, Dad, and you can really use magic, and I can tell when my parents are being serious. So I believe that Ante Lande exists. I also understand that you want to take our father there, Diana-san. Of course, I was really scared at first and I didn’t know what to do, but it makes no sense for me to doubt your words when my parents are saying that it’s true, and doubt won’t resolve the issue. Saying that there is nothing which does not exist may sound like the Devil’s Proof, but I saw for myself that what you said is true.”
Yasuo’s behaviour towards her was so stiff, that Diana actually felt a little let down.
The only Japanese people that Diana knew were the members of the Kenzaki family. The person whom she had seen yesterday, who appeared to be Yasuo’s friend, could not really be called an acquaintance.
However, after these past three days experiencing life with the Kenzaki family in this country called ‘Japan’, Diana felt that she understood just how much of an absurd existence she was in this world, and just how absurd her request must seem to the people that lived here.
It was because she understood that that Nodoka’s easy acceptance of her made her feel worried.
“Do you want me explain why I feel that way?”
Nodoka foresaw Diana’s question and said that before Diana could ask.
“Yes, if you don’t mind.”
“Well, it’s fine. I don’t have any club practice this morning so I’m not in a hurry. It would be awkward to explain who you are if I happened to meet any of my friends on the way, though, so let’s walk slowly.”
After saying that, Nodoka reduced her walking speed.
“In the past, Dad had to leave home for a couple of years because of work. Of course, he went to Sapporo in Hokkaido, not some other world or anything like that.”
“Ah, Sapporo. I’ve heard that Madoka is from a place called Sapporo.”
“Yeah. My grandparents’ house is pretty far away from the center of the city, though, and the apartment my dad was living in was right in the middle of the city, but in any case, do you remember? The day when we first met you, my brother was making a fuss about it being an important time because we both had exams coming up soon.”
“Yes, I remember that very well.”
Diana had not at all expected that Yasuo, who was the son of the legendary Hero and a Great Mage, would have been raised without hearing about Ante Lande. Hideo and Madoka immediately recognized her as a messenger from Ante Lande when she showed up, and when they realized that she was Erijina’s daughter, they happily welcomed her with broad smiles.
That’s why she had not expected Yasuo’s fierce denial, and she couldn’t forget it even if she wanted to.
“Well, I’m not sure if I should be saying this, or rather, please don’t tell him that I told you. Anyways, in the two years when my father was away from home, my brother became pretty wayward.”
“Wayward? You mean he was disobedient?”
Judging by his current behaviour, Diana couldn’t tell that he had a past like that at all.
“Yeah. it was just a case of him becoming nervous because of the upcoming exams. When my brother was in the third-year of middle school, he apparently had grades that placed him somewhere between average and the top of his class, but he also had some subjects in which he could drop below average if he let his guard down. Ah, now that I think about it, he’s still the same. In any case, a student taking exams for high school needs to have a good foundation in English, Math, Social Studies, Japanese, and Science, are you with me so far?”
“Yes. They have to pass exams in a number of difficult subjects, correct?”
“Yeah. If I remember correctly, my brother was pretty bad at English and Math. And then, in some kind of mock exam or a regular test, he got a really bad score, and Mom told Dad about it over the phone while they were having a conversation.”
“I have had a similar experience. I felt like wasn’t going to make it out alive when I had to tell my parents about my grades in Officer Training.”
“Yeah, it’s not even a matter of grades, Diana-san, you seem pretty careless after all.”
Nodoka lightheartedly poked fun at Diana while grinning, and Diana turned a little red. The two of them turned right at the crossing near Tokorozawa Station and gradually came closer to Nodoka’s school, which was called Kitahira Middle School.
“I’m not really sure, but at that time, Dad said something to my brother over the phone or through a message, something like he wasn’t working hard enough, while my brother was already feeling depressed. And that started a big fight between them. My brother said stuff like, “You’re living in Hokkaido, what would you know about me?” and “How dare you say that so arrogantly even though you haven’t seen me working for yourself,” while he was in tears. I was still in elementary school at that time, so I was a little scared, looking at my him while he even vented his spleen at my mother.”
“It seems everyone has a past like that.”
“What? Diana-san, you’ve done something like that as well?”
Nodoka looked at Diana who said that seriously, and Diana smiled while having an expression that looked a little uncomfortable, yet nostalgic.
“I think my brother still hasn’t forgotten about that time. He must be worried that Dad might say something similar to me, or that his absence might make me unstable.”
Nodoka said that, and lowered her shoulders.
“Basically, what my brother and I were actually worried about, was the fact that our father who we thought was a normal person was being taken away by someone we didn’t know. The thing about him being a hero, and the thing about another world was surprising, but that was of secondary importance. Once I understood that Dad was planning to go to some place I had never heard about, whether I was going to agree or disagree, I realized that I had to listen to the circumstances while staying calm. Well, that’s how it was for me. My brother wasn’t able to stay calm, though.”
“…Such a wonderful brother and sister.”
“Ah, it’s nothing. I was just thinking how wonderful the two of you are, since Yasuo is always thinking about you, and you are trying to cheer him up.”
Nodoka looked at Diana who said that with a serious look on her face, and shook her head frantically.
“No, don’t misunderstand. I’m different from my brother. I’m not trying to put up a brave front or anything, but I don’t have a problem with Dad deciding to go somewhere else.”
Even though they were finally having a proper conversation, Nodoka suddenly said something like that while looking indifferent, so Diana didn’t know how to react.
“I mean, he’s pretty annoying. He keeps asking me about my studies, or about the exams, and tries to give me advice which is out of date. That just builds up my stress.”
“I-Is that so?”
“Yeah. When my Dad was transferred for work before, my brother was probably thinking things like, “I’m a boy, so I have to protect the house and support Mom!” or something like that. But I don’t feel that way. Despite all his talk, my brother didn’t really protect the house or help out with the chores that much anyways.”
Nodoka delivered some more sharp comments, and so Diana really didn’t know what to say.
“Besides, it’s not strange for Dad to be away from home a lot because of work, just like he is now. When he’s busy with work, there are times when he works from dawn until late into the night, and I don’t get see him at all. So whether he’s around or not, it doesn’t really make a big difference to me. If anything, having one less person around means that I have more leeway while using the bath, so that’s actually better.”
Even Diana began to furrow her eyebrows after listening to Nodoka talk about the supporting pillar of their family in such a manner. Nodoka ignored that and continued to speak.
“I’m pretty sure everyone feels the same way. When they’re around our age, at least.”
At the very least, all people of her age group acted that way. Of course, it might differ from family to family, and Nodoka didn’t know exactly how the others behaved at home. However, Nodoka had never come across any girl her age who would still say stuff like ‘I love my daddy’ during a conversation with friends.
“Ah, that’s my school over there. That window on the left on the third floor is my classroom. By the way, my brother also graduated from here.”
Standing beside Diana who was still shocked, Nodoka pointed a finger at her school.
It was the type of school that you could find anywhere, with a cream-coloured school building and a large playground, right in the middle of the residential district.
“Diana-san, this place is close enough for you to protect me even if you’re at home when something happens, right? I’ll give you a call on our landline at home once school is over, so please stay there. Bye, then.”
Nodoka waved so nonchalantly and began to walk away that Diana unconsciously attempted to grab her hand. However, Nodoka abruptly turned around to look at her and spoke with such a sad expression that it was hard to believe that this was the same girl who had been cheerfully talking until now.
“You know, I’m not as hard-headed as my brother, so I truly believe everything you say, and in these past three days, I’ve honestly felt that you’re earnest and cute, and I’d much rather have you for an older sibling. However…”
Nodoka continued to speak.
“That’s also the reason why I don’t want you to take my father away from us.”
Diana was about to take a step forward, but faltered after hearing Nodoka’s sudden declaration.
“If my father goes to Ante Lande and fights against the Shii, then there’s a chance that he might die, right? And then he’d have his heart ripped out. And in the worst case, he might become one of them. After hearing something like that, do you honestly think I can just say, “Okay, have a nice trip!” or something like that?”
“If my dad had to leave because of his work, I wouldn’t care even if he was sent to the North pole or the South pole. But it’s a different story if you’re asking him to go to the Resteria Kingdom and fight while putting his life on the line.”
Diana could not say anything back to Nodoka who presented a logical argument unlike Yasuo, and in a manner that was easy to understand.
“I’m sorry. I’m not blaming you or anything, Diana-san. But you know, if it’s okay with you, please go back to Ante Lande and tell the King and all the important people there that the Hero, Hideo, will never return to that place. If they’re worried about the Shii appearing in Japan, then…”
Nodoka turned around on her heel once more, as though indicating that the conversation was finished.
“Dad and Mom will protect us. So please don’t worry. Well, I’ll be going now. I’ll give you a call once school is over. You know how to answer the phone, right? ”
Diana was not able to go after Nodoka, who slowly disappeared from her sight. She understood that Nodoka spoke that way exactly because she had believed what Diana had said.
In a way different from Yasuo, Nodoka had also rejected Diana’s request, but in a way that she could clearly understand.
More than anything else, she was also a ‘daughter’, so Diana didn’t have the means to counter Nodoka’s words.
“A chance that her father could die…”
Even after Nodoka had gone into the school and disappeared from her sight, Diana continued to stand there while looking dazed. Once more students started to arrive, as though she was fighting against that wave of people, Diana slowly started to walk back to the Kenzaki house.
“Saying that everyone should have the same kind of resolve… would be selfish, right?”
Japan was different from Resteria.
There was a definite difference between herself, who had first-hand experience, and Yasuo and Nodoka, who had just found out about this a few days ago.
Is it okay for a person who has experienced the horrors of a battlefield, to blame a civilian who glorifies peace in spite of never having fought?
Even if those peace-loving people were dragged into the conflict, what would happen to the country once the fighting ended? There would be no immediate peace. Instead, the number of people who experience misfortune would simply increase.
Besides, she was a Magitech Knight, and she was sworn to protect the innocent.
In that case, should she be ashamed of Ante Lande for being so weak as to continue clinging to a Hero who had retired thirty years ago, instead of trying to do something with the strength that they had on hand?
Diana listened equally to both the voices that were arguing in her heart. It was also a fact that lives could not be saved by relying on pride alone.
Even now, there were people in Resteria, and the other kingdoms of Ante Lande, who were losing their lives because of the rampage of the Shii. If the Hero, Hideo, was to appear before the people once again, he would definitely be a big help to the people, both physically and mentally.
Unlike his adventure thirty years ago, when he fought against the enemy with almost no support, this time, the entire world was prepared to assemble under Hideo, the Hero, and fight in an organized manner. Compared to the time when he fought against the Demon King Kaul, he would be far safer now. Erijina, the King of Resteria, and the other Kingdoms did not think that Hideo was immortal. They understood that he must have aged significantly, and were making plans to ask for his help while accounting for that.
So, Hideo’s life was definitely…
“…Not in any danger, or so I’d like to say.”
He would probably be safe.
But there are no certainties on a battlefield. Even Diana, who had only spent two years as a Magitech Knight, learned that simple truth.
She was forced to learn it.
She saw it for herself.
She acknowledged it.
“It’s probably impossible.”
Words of defeat came tumbling out of Diana’s mouth. Nodoka’s resolve was harder than she had expected. No matter how much Yasuo and Nodoka came to like her, she understood in these past three days that becoming friendly with them and having them give their consent to send Hideo to the other world were entirely different matters.
Even Hideo would not come to Ante Lande if that meant breaking his ties with his family, and Diana was not firm enough in her conviction to forcefully take Hideo back using any means necessary.
While dragging her feet, Diana had already walked far enough that she couldn’t see Nodoka’s school anymore, and finally raised her head.
“…Ah? Which way was I supposed to go to get back home?”
Diana finally realized that she was standing in unfamiliar surroundings.
“Mom, what are you planning to do?”
Yasuo asked his mother while she was waiting at a red light.
“I mean, the stuff about Diana, Ante Lande, and Dad.”
While waiting for the traffic light to become green, his mother had a habit of moving the index finger of each hand up and down while gripping the steering wheel with both hands.
“You’re right. Whatever should we do?”
But, the answer he received once the light had turned green sounded like his mother didn’t even care.
“‘Whatever should we do?’ Come on, you’ve got to do better than that.”
“What about you? Were you convinced after hearing her talk yesterday?”
“…No. Well, I won’t deny that a world called Ante Lande exists anymore.”
When his mother turned the conversation to him, Yasuo turned to look out of the window.
“But believing that and agreeing to send Dad to the other world are different things, right?”
“So you don’t want him to go.”
“Of course I don’t. I mean, he’ll have to quit his job to do that, right? Even if everything goes well and he manages to defeat those Shii or whatever they’re called, can Dad really find another job at his age?”
“Do you just want your dad to keep working like he is now?”
“What do you mean?”
“I didn’t know that you were so attached to your father’s job.”
“Well, I don’t know if I’d call it an ‘attachment’, but…”
“In that case, would you say the same thing if your father decided to quit his job and open a soba restaurant?”
“Eh? A soba restaurant?”
Since he was asked something completely unexpected, Yasuo took a moment to imagine that, and then replied.
“I’d be surprised, and would worry if he could make any money that way… but I’d probably let him do it if he really wanted to.”
“Right. I’d definitely object, though.”
“Back when he was young, one of his managers took him to some kind of cooking class, and he brought back some of the soba that he had made. It tasted incredibly bad, and even the shape of the noodles was irregular. Besides, that person doesn’t even have the social skills required to open a restaurant. Since he was a hero in the past, and is in an important position in his company now, he’s probably not humble enough to deal with unruly customers in a proper manner.”
“We’re not talking about that sort of thing, though.”
Yasuo thought that his mother was just messing with him, but her face looked more serious than he expected.
“That’s exactly what we’re talking about. You can imagine what a person working in a company does, and what a person does if they’re running a soba restaurant. But if you’re against sending your father to Ante Lande just because you don’t understand what it means to be a Hero, or a Magitech Knight, then you’ll have a hard time convincing your father not to go.”
“It’s not… I don’t think…”
He couldn’t confidently declare that his mother’s words were not true.
That’s because Yasuo actually didn’t have any idea what kind of work his father did now. It was on the level where he only found out what his father’s company did after being asked by the girls in his class.
He understood that his father was “working hard”, and “earning money”, and “supporting his family with that money”. However, he had never given thought to “what kind of work his father did”, or “how he earned his salary”, or “how much money he earned” in order to support his family.
“By the way, Nodoka is definitely against it.”
“Why are you acting so surprised?”
“I mean, Nodoka was okay with having Diana around, and believed her words before I did…”
“Did you hear that from her?”
“No, but that’s what it looked like.”
“You’re really going to have trouble with women at this rate.”
“Where did that come from!?”
“Well, from my perspective, both you and Nodoka are against him going to the other world, so I can either take the side of Ante Lande, or take the side of you both. If I pick one of the options, the other might break beyond repair. Saving one of them, means choosing to not save the other. If both I and the woman you love were about to fall off a cliff, which one of us would you save? If you were really faced with such a decision in real life, you wouldn’t be able to arrive at an answer so easily.”
“That’s why I’m saying that you should give it some more thought. You should properly think about the reason why you don’t want him to go. This is especially important if you believe what Diana-chan has to say.”
After hearing his mother talk so seriously, Yasuo had nothing to say in return.
The interior of the car was completely silent after that, and eventually, the front gates of Yasuo’s school came into sight.
“Well then, I’ll park the car somewhere close by and have tea in one of the shops around here. You have prep school today as well, right? Give me a call once school is over. Bye, then. Go and concentrate on your studies.”
Saying that, his mother dropped him off at the gates, and drove away.
“What am I supposed to do?”
He believed that what Diana said was true, but it was probably not wrong to think of that as being different from agreeing to let his father go.
Thinking about it normally, it would be best to reject Diana and Ante Lande’s request, and continue to live their life peacefully as they had been doing until now.
However, why did he feel that that was the best option?
“Thank you so much, for believing me!”
After remembering Diana’s expression that was a mixture of relaxation, relief, and joy, Yasuo shook his head. Her expression at that time told her just how tense she had been until then, and he couldn’t deny that he felt some sympathy for her.
If he had a friend who had fought beside him while putting their life on the line, and if that friend’s child came to him looking for help… If he was in his father’s position, he would definitely want to help if there was something he could do.
“I guess I can’t really arrive at a proper answer.”
Yasuo was in this state after having spent just a few days with Diana. His parents, who had a far deeper connection to Ante Lande, must be much more confused than he was.
“Just what should we do from now on?”
Yasuo’s father would be back soon, but how would Hideo react after knowing that Yasuo and Nodoka had accepted Diana’s existence, and believed her words?
Even if the five of them assembled in the living room and talked again about whether his father should go to Ante Lande, Yasuo had absolutely no confidence that he would be able to offer any constructive comments, so he just felt more depressed.
“Oh, Yasu? Did you just get out of a car?”
At that moment, Aoto walked up from behind him, and Yasuo turned around while still being in low spirits.
“Ah, good morning, Aoto.”
“How lucky, you get to come to school by car. Were you absent the other day because you hurt your leg or something?”
“No, it’s nothing like that. My mom had some work around here so she gave me a ride.”
“You really are lucky. At my place, only my dad has a driving license, and even in a situation like this, he would tell me not to waste the money I put into my train pass, and refuse to give me a ride.”
While he was speaking, Aoto was dragging a large suitcase behind him, looking as though he was about to head off on a journey to a foreign country.
“You’re carrying some pretty heavy looking stuff today as well, I see. More props?”
“Well, there’s that too. I’m also carrying makeup equipment for the new members of the club. They’re surprising heavy if you carry a number of them at the same time.”
“Makeup equipment? Oh, you actually go to all that effort just for a high school-level play?”
“Of course we do. We can’t put on a performance otherwise.”
“If you stand under a bright spotlight without any makeup, only your eyebrows would pop out. It would make it impossible to show any facial expression.”
He probably meant that the harsh light would make it harder to see the face, but Yasuo imagined the eyebrows popping right off the face and found it funny.
“The Cine Club uses a camera, so they do a lot more. Even if they enact the same scene, depending on the time when they do the filming, the amount of sunlight will differ and mess with the recording, so they have to measure the intensity of light before each cut and adjust the makeup of the actors accordingly.”
“Seriously? They do stuff like that?”
“Even for acting on stage, we redo the makeup of the actors between each of their parts.”
Yasuo had often seen the performance of the Theatre Club and the Cine Club during the cultural festivals, but he never imagined that so much effort was going into each production behind the scenes. However, it was easy enough to imagine if one just put a little thought into it, and so Yasuo felt depressed after being shown yet again just how shallow his thinking was.
“Hey, mind if I ask you something weird? Aoto, what kind of work does your father do?”
“What’s with the sudden enquiry into my father’s occupation? He’s nothing special, just an ordinary salaryman…”
“…I wonder what it means to be an ordinary salaryman.”
“Eh? Like I said, he just puts on a suit in the morning and goes to his office, just like other salarymen do.”
“I wonder what salarymen do once they reach their office.”
“They work, right?”
“I mean, what kind of work do they do? What does a salaryman do once he reaches his workplace?”
“Ah, they probably…”
Aoto, who had been casually answering Yasuo’s questions until now, stopped speaking, and:
“I wonder what he does. Stuff like management and accounting…? Back when I was in elementary school, we were given an assignment to find out what our parents did for a living, and I remember talking to my dad about stuff like the price of iron, and something about the stock of other materials, so he’s probably walking around, selling iron and steel to manufacturing corporations.”
“This isn’t a game, there’s no way he’s walking around while carrying a lump of metal that he can sell in a shop.”
“Well, yeah… but I really have no idea what he does. Maybe I’ll ask him when I get back home today. Actually, I won’t. I’ll probably get a lecture if I do.”
Yasuo smiled bitterly at Aoto who took back his words after barely a second, but he realized that he was feeling reassured somewhere in his heart.
Even Aoto, who had a much more stable school life, and was enjoying his student life a lot more than Yasuo, had not given much thought to what his father did for a living. Yasuo felt like he was able to confirm that this was normal for a high school student.
“Ah, but you know, considering my father’s annual income, I sometimes feel worried if I can earn the same amount as my dad when I’m his age. You know, the tuition fee for a private school is higher than a public school, right?. It probably costs something like a million yen per year. It’s pretty incredible that he’s able to pay that much money every year.”
“A million yen, huh…”
After hearing that phrase that he had only heard in television programmes so far, the amount of money didn’t seem real to Yasuo, just like Ante Lande felt unreal to him. However, considering how he wasn’t able to imagine the scope of that much money at once, he had to agree that Aoto was right.
“…It’s probably impossible, if I keep on being an actor.”
However, Yasuo was surprised at the next words that Aoto said.
“Aoto, you’re planning to keep doing plays in the future? You want to become an actor?”
Yasuo was surprised because he had assumed that Aoto wasn’t the type of person to do that, but Aoto returned an unexpectedly serious expression.
“It’s not that simple. Yasuo, did you join the Choral Club in your first year because you wanted to become a professional singer? You didn’t, right? Not everyone who enters a college focused on the Arts goes on to become a professional in that field, and not everyone who takes science in college becomes a scientist or a researcher.”
“Life would be fun if you could earn money while doing something you like. Thinking that way is a waste of time, though. If that was possible, wouldn’t everyone do that? Of course, if I could keep acting, I would like to do that, and if that lets me earn a decent amount of money, I’d be very happy. Things probably won’t go so smoothly, but it’s human nature to feel that it would be nice to keep doing the things you like. It’s something like that.”
“Something like that, huh…”
Right now, Yasuo didn’t have anything he was passionate about, so he didn’t really understand what Aoto meant by saying that it was something like that. However, there was something that he understood.
Were his parents really living their lives by doing stuff that they liked?
“Your father works at Yamahata, right, Yasu? Does he actually work with the making of recipe books and stuff?”
“…I’m not really sure. He’s off on a business trip to Osaka right now, but he usually doesn’t talk about his work at home.”
When Yasuo was in elementary school, he had the same assignment of “researching about the job of a relative.” At that time, since his father’s older brother, that is, his uncle, had the more interesting job of being a policeman, he didn’t understand much about his father’s job until recently.
“You know, my dad has recently started saying stuff like it is the responsibility of the child to become more successful than their parents. Even if I wash my hands of acting and put all my efforts into getting a regular job, I don’t think I’ll be able to win, considering the times we live in.”
In Yasuo’s current situation, the criteria for deciding the winner and loser were completely different, but there was no point in talking about that.
“Besides, I can’t really imagine what it would be like to be married, and have kids.”
“Ah, I understand. More like, I can’t even imagine getting a girlfriend.”
“Aoto, you’re better off than me. The Theatre Club has a lot of girls right?”
“You know, there’s no relation between knowing a lot of girls and getting a girlfriend. If you’re going to say that, half of our classmates are girls, so why don’t either of us have a girlfriend?”
“Ugh, you’re right.”
“And what about prep school? Yasu, you go to that Senshuu Academy, right? That place doesn’t hold regular classroom sessions, right? My place is completely self-study as well, so I can’t even talk to any of the girls there unless I happen to meet someone from the same school.”
This must be what it meant to be struck dumbfounded.
Yasuo was just letting Aoto do all the talking, but thanks to that, he remembered something important. Even before considering stuff like marriage and kids, wasn’t there an important event that he had to complete, right before his eyes?
After completely embarrassing himself in front of Tatewaki Shouko, and then causing trouble for her, would she be willing to treat the incident involving him and Diana as an issue of no importance when they met at prep school again?
The Head Teacher and teacher in charge of each student at the prep school would counsel a student not only on matters related to academics, but also offered advice regarding life issues.
To him, the incident with Tatewaki Shouko didn’t really feel like an issue compared to the problems his family was facing related to Ante Lande, but now that he was considering how he should deal with it, he realized that it was actually a pretty big deal.
A student was threatened by an unknown foreigner on the street, at night.
The only relief was that Yasuo was not directly responsible, but it was still a fact that this incident could mess up his peaceful life and act as an obstacle in the future.
“I wanted to at least have a peaceful life during the time when I was at prep school…”
Thinking about prep school that he had to attend this evening, Yasuo’s already burdened heart felt even heavier.