[x] Not today. Today is a day of reminiscence.
“No,” you finally say after a moment of deliberation, shaking your head. As soon as the words have left your mouth, however, you find yourself rushing to add to what you’ve already said, “Not now, anyway. I’m not really sure I’m ready for that yet. I’m sure... that I’ll tell them the truth someday, but today isn’t that day. And, besides, right now, I want to spend a little more time with... um...”
“Hmm?” Sanae narrows her eyes, inching a little closer with a growing grin. “What’s that, Hoshuu? You’re getting a little red in the face, and you’re stuttering. That’s really unlike you, you know. Now, what was it that you were going to say~?”
“Oh, be quiet,” you say, pressing two fingers to her forehead and pushing it away.
She claps her hands together, letting out a small, excited laugh. “Ahaha, look now, the tables have turned!” The girl steps closer, standing on the very tips of her toes, just barely passing over the top of your head as she does so. “From now on, maybe you should call me ‘big sis’?”
“No way,” you say, placing a hand on top of her head and pushing her back down.
She squirms away, a wide, silly grin plastered to her face. After finally settling down, she stands back and watches you for a moment. “...You know,” she begins, placing her arms behind her back. “Ten years ago, I thought you were really cool. Like, a super cool guy. Sort of like those love interests in shoujo manga that’s always really popular and handsome.”
“And now?” you ask, smiling wryly.
“Hmm... well,” she tilts her head, putting on an expression to make it seem like she’s putting in some serious thinking as she scrutinizes you. “...I think in my memories you were a bit cooler than you are now. You were really tall, and your hair was silky and wavy, and you had these really clear, baby blue eyes...”
“I don’t think I can compare to your fantasies.”
“I’m just kidding,” she says with a giggle. “I think the current you is cool enough.”
“I’m glad,” you say, smiling.
“Oh, speaking of which,” Sanae suddenly lights up, a sudden realization having hit her. “Hoshuu, you know, you’re really amazing!”
“Eh? I am...?” you say, taken by surprise.
“Yeah!” she nods, looking at you with admiration. “How come you never told me you had such spiritual power?”
“Oh, that,” you say, taking a step back as you rub the back of your head. “...To be honest, back in the outside world, I didn’t even know it was possible for me to do half of the things I can do now. It... just came to me a little naturally, as far as I can remember. It seems almost everyone in here can take care of themselves, so I guess what was rare outside isn’t so rare here.”
“Definitely, yeah,” she nods in agreement. “But still, you’re really exceptional! You were able to keep up with Lady Kanako! You should become the head priest here or something. Then you’d be a real permanent fixture at the shrine.”
“Am I furniture?”
Sanae waves her hand, “No, no, of course not. But all the same, you’re not going to be leaving again, are you?”
“I won’t. I won’t be going anywhere,” you say, putting on a rather grim smile. “...It’s not as though I really have anywhere else to go.”
“Oh!” she lets out a small gasp, placing a hand to her lips as though she’s said something she shouldn’t have, her eyes giving you a pitying, apologetic look. “...Sorry, I didn’t mean to remind you.”
“Don’t worry about it, I’m not bothered,” you say, softening your expression just slightly.
“Um... Hoshuu,” she begins, somewhat hesitantly, as she leans forward, rolling up her eyes to look up at you. “...How do you feel? I mean, um, well, it’s kind of hard to put it in words, but... I mean, you were really different before, you know? Almost like you were a completely different person. So, um... I’m wondering, which one... which one are you?”
“That’s...” you pause, trailing off. That’s right. Mikio and Hoshuu were different in their personalities, values, and thought processes, so what does it make you, who shares the memories and experiences of both of those individuals? “...I don’t really know it myself, but, I do know that... I’m not either of them specifically.”
“That’s a pretty difficult answer,” she says, biting her lip.
“Ahaha, I guess...” you say, shrugging your shoulders. “...But I don’t think it’s really like that, that what I was like before I came here and after should be separate. I might have changed a bit from what you remember, but I’m still the same person, isn’t that true?”
“Mm, yeah, I guess so,” she says, nodding happily.
To your surprise, she suddenly springs at you, grabbing hold of your arm and hugging it to herself while resting her head on your shoulder, letting out a content sigh.
“Whoa, hey, don’t stick so close,” you say, trying to pull away.
“Why~?” she asks stubbornly, only tightening the grip she has on your arm. “You didn’t used to mind.”
“Well that’s because back then you were a...”
She looks at you as you trail off again, her eyes narrowed and her lips in a smirk as she lets out a long, drawn out “Hmmm...?”
“Nothing, forget it.”
“Okay, in that case... Remember that show you were marathoning before you left? The one you rented out the whole set for?”
You take a moment to try to recall what she’s talking about, and when you do, you let out an audible gasp. That’s right, you were right in the middle of watching an old anime series just before you left; since it was so sudden, you hadn’t remembered to return all the videos before you’d departed. “...Oh, yeah, I remember.”
“We still have the tapes,” she says, grinning. “Ah, but don’t think I stole them. I completely forgot about them too, until I found them while cleaning the house. I tried to return them, but the rental shop was closed down already, they’ve been collecting dust for a while. After I watched them all, anyway.”
“Really...? I’ve forgotten almost all of it already...”
“So, let’s go! We’ll watch it together this time!”
“Whoa, hey, wait, don’t pull like that!”
END OF CHAPTER 5