Because I ……
“Tokiwagi-kun. What are your thoughts and what do you want to do from now on?”
The words said by Rin’s father replayed over and over in my brain.
The first time I heard this question, I thought it was going to be a bit more indirect, but it caught me off guard and I felt it resonate in my heart.
“… Rin’s straightforwardness was inherited from her father, wasn’t it?”
“No, no, me and Rin are different.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes, that’s right. Rin is “pure” and I am “impure”. I act this way because I know it is the most effective way.”
Indeed, Rin is a headstrong, determined person.
Whenever I asked her, she was direct, and in a way, easy to understand.
But I didn’t feel that way about Rin’s father.
Even though it’s the same directness and the discomfort I felt …, I can understand why.
“Is that something you’re allowed to tell me ……?”
“I’m sure you’ll devote your thoughts to unnecessary intuitions if I don’t tell you, won’t you? Well, these things are difficult for you to say out loud, so I won’t force you to do it.”
Rin’s father chuckled, splashed hot water on his face, and huffed.
He then straightened his posture and looked up, as if reminiscing about something.
“I never thought I’d be talking to Tokiwagi-kun face to face like this.”
“Right. I’m surprised too… maybe the world is smaller than it seems.”
“Fufu, no doubt.”
A man I met by chance.
I’ve never had a chance to talk to him, but we came to a point in time where we had a connection.
I guess that’s what a strange fate is all about…
“As I recall, …… this is the fourth time I’ve met you, including the last time we met? Do you remember the day we first met?”
“Yes, it was in junior high school, wasn’t it? Thank you very much for that time.”
“Oh? I thought you were going to deceive me.”
“You lent me your handkerchief. I remember that.”
“Fufu, is that so?” He smiled and stared at my body.
It would have given me goosebumps if he had looked at me like this, but he seemed to be observing me rather than staring at me.
“From what I can see, you have a healthy body now. For the time being, I am relieved by that fact.”
“Thanks to Rin.”
“It’s nice to hear it straight from you. As a father, it’s nice to hear a compliment about my daughter.”
“But you admitted it quite frankly. That’s not the impression you got from my daughter, is it?”
He knows what he’s asking, doesn’t he?
He’s smiling, but he looks incredibly wicked…
What I heard and what is happening now are different.
He must have a rough idea as to why.
But the reason he dared to ask me is because he is waiting for me to say something.
I swallowed hard and tried to suppress the tension that was rising in me.
“I’m being honest, and I don’t think there’s any point in trying to hide things from you here. Besides, I’m indebted to you, and the most I can do is … this much.”
“This much is …? I don’t think there’s any need for you to be so humble about it.”
“No, …because I’m really only being given things …”
This is true.
In the months that I’ve interacted with her, I’ve only been given things and helped …
I owe Rin more than I can ever repay.
It’s building up day by day, and I need to give a little back, but I haven’t … been able to repay it.
If I do anything, she reciprocates with something several times more than I have done.
I appreciate it and I’m happy about it, but …
“You say that, Tokiwagi-kun, but Rin herself gets it too, you know?”
Suddenly, a hand was placed on my head and I jerked up.
I thought I heard something I couldn’t believe my ears, so I fearfully looked at Rin’s father.
He smiled gently and just stared straight at me.
“… Is that so? I don’t recall doing anything for Rin, but …”
“I don’t think so. You gave Rin something she can’t control: her emotions.”
“What do you mean by something she can’t control…? The way you just said it, it sounds like someone forced a troublesome thing on you…”
“Haha, that was not the right way to put it. It’s a messy, difficult thing, but it’s an indispensable, necessary thing.”
“……Is that so?”
“Yes, that’s right. The old Rin was emotionally inept and had little interest in people. She was also not very good at expressing herself, … and that was a problem.”
“That’s all changed thanks to you.” Rin’s father said happily.
However, his expression looks somewhat sad despite his smile.
He seems to have mixed feelings of happiness and sadness.
A side of Rin that I can’t imagine from the current Rin.
But when I think back on it, there were times when she was salty to those around her.
In other words, she used to be like that…
An attitude that only I know about makes me feel a little superior and happy.
“Rin is a hard worker and works harder than anyone else, but people around her don’t understand that. People around her lump her together because she is a genius. That’s her problem, too.”
“I see… I was the same way at first.”
“Well, it seems you’ve saved that aspect of my life. In that sense, I can’t help but say it’s because of what I have been given.”
Rin is amazing, as expected of a rear god.
She’s an inhabitant of a different world!
That’s what I thought at first.
But the more time I spent with her, the more I began to see her humanity and her efforts at every turn.
It is true that she was born with talent.
However, Rin is neither proud of it nor arrogant about it.
She works hard at everything she does and tries harder than anyone else.
That is why she has become such a great person and an attractive presence …
But that’s just her power.
Her efforts have paid off.
She has only changed from before as a result of it.
“I think Rin may indeed have changed. But I don’t think I inflicted it on her. She made the choice to change, and it was not my intention to do so.”
So I shook my head to the left and right, denying what he said.
“I see, but you’re right.”
“You didn’t give it, so you don’t need it back. That’s what you’re trying to say, right? So there is no need to thank you, no need to feel indebted to you.”
I expected him to argue with me, but I didn’t expect him to agree with me.
It was so unexpected that I was at a loss for words.
Rin’s father, seeing the situation, said a series of words as though he didn’t give me a chance to think.
“But I’m sure my daughter would say the same thing. “I didn’t mean to give anything to Towa-kun, either.”
“Or did Rin ever say, ‘I’m doing this for you.’. Did she ever say, ‘Thank you for what you do for me.’?”
“She didn’t say …”
“That’s the point. You are the same way, and so is my daughter. She does it because she wants to, because she wants to, so she does it. And I don’t have to choose my words, I just mean…”
“I’m just being self-satisfied.”
I was at a loss for words even though I wanted to argue right away.
I wanted to say bitterly, “That’s not the way to talk to Rin, who is working so hard…” but only a breath escaped my mouth.
In a way, this has the same kind of meaning.
I’ve been using this to escape.
I did it because I wanted to.
So I don’t need to feel anything.
My escape route, which I have been using with such a reason, has been easily blocked…
“Tokiwagi-kun said, “I owe you a favor, so I have to return it.” You are always being given, so you have to give back. That’s what you think, right?”
“Well, then, that’s the wrong way to look at it.”
A sound leaked from my mouth without thinking, “Eh…?”
Hearing this, Rin’s father leaned back in the bathtub, put his arms on the edge, and looked up to the heavens.
Then he opened his mouth as if to lecture me.
“In the first place, there is no such thing as lending and borrowing in the self-complacent behavior that we take for granted. What exists is only the gratitude that the recipient feels one way or the other. It is only a convenient excuse to estimate gratitude based on feelings of gain or loss, such as lending or borrowing. So…”
He takes a deep breath and looks at me with sharp, piercing eyes.
I flinched at the change.
“Don’t … let your feelings get in the way of what you really owe…”
His words were right on target, and they sent a sharp pain through my heart.
I want to get out of here and end this conversation immediately…, that’s what I would have originally thought.
Remain indifferent and insensitive, as I have been up to now.
That’s what I’ve decided…
But I forgot even that circumstance and involuntarily looked at his face.
Like Rin, his eyes are clear, as if they can see through everything.
He looks at me tenderly with such eyes that give me a sense of security.
“May I … tell you something…?”
“Oh, of course.”
With a beaming smile, he shook his head.
Thinking about what I am about to say makes only my face hot, unlike the rise in my body temperature caused by the long bath.
My heart palpitates with intensity, and I feel as if I’m about to burst into a fit of tension.
“I believe that people have to leave someday.”
No matter how close you get, people change when the environment changes.
A friend who has been a good friend up to now.
A lover with whom you had a connection.
All of these things are not eternal.
Even family is the same.
Relationships end easily…
“Till death do us part.”
There is such a saying, but it means, in other words, that there is absolutely an end.
Death is an extreme example of the final end point, but even before that, a relationship can easily end.
No, in fact, it is quite common.
There are fights, differences, new encounters, and hearts being drawn together, but at the same time, the relationship ends.
It can’t be helped.
Because we are human, our emotions do not listen to us.
They sprout suddenly, and then suddenly disappear.
Therefore, the idea of “always together” or “pledging eternity”… is impossible.
“If you have something definite to lose from the source, then don’t get involved. If you try not to notice or think about it, you can stay at zero. The hardest thing of all is to lose it from the state of having it…”
“That idea has not changed. Those thoughts that have been ingrained in you since birth don’t go away easily, and it’s impossible to accept everything so easily.”
I was good at stifling my emotions.
Give it up.
Pretending I didn’t see it is what I always do.
I was fine with being insensitive, oblivious, lazy, and unattractive.
And until Rin left me, I would engage in the life of a pimp, coasting along and squeezing away.
It’s the easiest thing in the world to do.
It sucks the worst, but that’s what I should have done to get away from her.
If nothing is there, it is not lost.
If it doesn’t exist, it doesn’t disappear.
Because that’s what I thought was best.
I thought that way – I wouldn’t feel lonely.
“But I want to be someone who can stand next to …… Rin. That’s what I’ve come to think.”
This relationship could end at any moment.
It could be tomorrow.
When I get out of the bath, Rin may not be there.
It will happen someday.
Even though I understand that, I want to be next to her for as long as possible.
Even if it is hard for me to disappear, I want to spend time with her… even if it is only for a short time.
But I’m not qualified to stay next to her as I am now.
“But as it is now, I’m a fragile light that would be hazy even if I were next to her. Even I might be able to be her shadow. Not the kind of lousy shadow that sticks with you for the rest of your life…”
As a lousy shadow, I’ll be with her like a waistcoat.
It keeps her tied up like a parasite that consumes her.
It is a pimp.
It is a “pimp” who does nothing.
I can be such a person, surely.
“It is easy to be spoiled, to be satisfied with the present, to be given as much as you can …, and to depend on it.”
I can be fed like livestock and be satisfied with just the comfort of it.
No thinking is required.
Such a sweet thought would be easy in every way.
“That’s not good enough… If I just push my feelings away and spoil myself… it’s just hard for me to stand next to someone like that …”
“Why do you think that’s not good enough?”
I bite my lip and take a deep breath.
Then I looked at Rin’s father, who was silently waiting for me to open my mouth.
“I couldn’t hide it anymore, … this feeling that I’ve fallen in love with Rin.”
Feelings that started to flow.
Feelings that I had decided never to let sprout, that I didn’t want to be the same as my parents…
A feeling that I wanted to fake, that I didn’t want to admit, that I wanted to throw away… such feelings.
It’s like going down a rushing river, it won’t stop anymore.
…It was certainly beginning to flow within me.