Monogatari Series::Bakemonogatari Volume2/Tsubasa Cat 003
To me, June 13th is a date of commemoration.
At least, it should be.
It has nothing to do with the bloomers or the school swimsuit. It began with a question from my girlfriend, Senjougahara Hitagi, who I've been going out with since last month. Mother's Day. May 14.
"We're going on a date."
This was during lunch break on the appointed day.
She abruptly said this while we were having a seemingly friendly lunch on the courtyard bench. I was so surprised that I dropped the egg omelet that I was holding in my chopsticks.
What did this woman just say?
I look at Senjougahara.
She's wearing the summer uniform.
It is a short-sleeve blouse with the folds held by a pin, giving the impression of it being sleeveless. This has been a fad among the female students in our school recently. I had thought Senjougahara to be someone who wouldn't follow fads, but it seems that it was just my mistaken assumption. Nonpolitical. This is a new discovery. By the way, Hanekawa hasn't been grumbling about, though she isn't following this fad. Though both are honor students this is the difference between those who are staunchly so and those who are not. Of course in Senjoiugahara's case, the length of her skirt is the same as always.
Senjogahara keeps her bangs, which seem to have gotten longer recently, and the rest of her hair out of the way with a red band while eating. Though it may seem to be stupid hairdo, it puts her beautiful forehead on display without reserve and, to me, makes a very striking impression. On top of that, being able to see this seemingly "careless" side of Senjougahara does feel nice.
My haphazard reaction prompts Senjougahara to say, "Hmm," and to pick up a small amount of rice from her bentou with her chopsticks and to bring it towards me.
What is happening...!
You see this "love dovey" event between "love dovey" lovers in manga a lot, but I'm not happy in the least. No, just the opposite, or rather I'm just afraid! Senjougahara is as always with her usual flat expressionless tone....if she showed some embarrassment I would happily welcome this, but not being able to read the emotions of your partner in this situation is too intense...
I automatically wonder if she has an ulterior motive.
This just screams of something hiding under the surface.
Two "B" sides.
What if it's a feint and when I carelessly open my mouth she laughs at me.
"What is wrong? Araragi-kun. Say 'ah'."
I shouldn't be suspicious of my own girlfriend.
Senjougahara may be little mean, but she isn't someone that would do something so cruel. Though the month that we've been going out together can't really be called a long relationship, we have still gotten to understand each other rather well. We should have reached a point of mutual trust. There is nothing to be gained in destroying that by doing something stupid myself. I'm Senjougahara's boyfriend.
I open my mouth.
"Here." Senjougahara places the rice just to the right of my open mouth and pushes it into my cheek.
No, no, no.
I already knew the punch line, but...
"Fufufu." laughs Senjougahara.
A quiet laughter.
".....Seeing your smile makes me incredibly happy."
She almost never used to laugh before.
Though now she only laughs at things like this.
She is fundamentally expressionless, I guess.
"Araragi-kun, you have some rice on your cheek."
"You're the one that put it there."
"Let me get that for you."
Senjougahara puts down her chopsticks momentarily and brings her hand towards me. With careful movements she plucks the rice that she plastered onto my cheek one grain at a time. Hmmmm.
Well, this is a little unexpected....
"There, I got them all," she says.
She briskly throws the clump of rice in the nearby trashcan.
....She threw it away.
Threw it away right in front of me...
Well, it's not like I really thought she would eat it.
"Well then," Senjougahara says and cleverly moves onto something else, making it seem as if the previous events didn't happen.
"We're going on a date," she repeats.
Though right afterwards she says, "Hmmm," and seems to be uncertain.
"That's not right. Not like that. We are..."
"Shall we...go on a date?"
"How would...about...going on a date...."
She really doesn't even know how to go about asking for something...!?
But what surprises me even more is that Senjougahara proposes a date in such a straightforward and abrupt fashion.
Such is the one month anniversary of when we first started going out.
The girl that would not move a finger for my open pleading, or even for time itself.... as unmovable as the wind, as unmovable as the forest, as unmovable as fire, as unmovable as the mountains, Senjougahara Hitagi...would ask for a date? [Some of these things move, but this sounds better]
We, who have, up until now, been maintaining what Kanbaru Suruga calls "a platonic relationship." So much so that it is almost as if we had signed a treaty to this fact. And we are finally going on a date?
What has changed in her mind.
Although not as strongly as when she asked me to "Say ah," I still feel as if she's hiding something.....to feel such suspicion after being asked out on a date by your girlfriend is not good thing, but this is definitely surprising.
"What is it?" Senjougahara says flatly. "You don't want to, Araragi-kun?"
"No, it's not that I don't want to exactly..."
"That's right, I heard." Senjougahara says while showing a fierce expression.
Is that really an expression make to your boyfriend, though.
"Araragi-kun, your date with Kanbaru was quite fun it seems. You must be quite close to have passed the entire night together yesterday, right?"
"Oh, you heard? From Kanbaru I guess?"
"Yes...although that girl was reluctant to say anything."
What was the point in being reluctant to explain......! There is nothing to hide so just explain without trying to keep anything secret! By doing that, you just made it seem like there really was something to hide! People who don't know when to leave things out and when not to leave things out are the most troublesome!
"'Please do not blame Araragi-senpai' is what she said."
"Why do I have to be protected by her!? I didn't even do anything wrong!"
"In any case," Senjougahara said. "I am glad that you seem to be getting along with her."
What is that supposed to mean?
Of course, Senjougahara most likely feels indebted towards, and even a little inferior to, Kanbaru. Then there is the rivalry for Senjougahara that Kanbaru and I share, Senjougahara also knows this. That's why, to Senjougahara the closeness that Kanbaru and I have, I'm not sure what nuance it is, but whatever it is, is in the words that Senjougahara just spoke I think. Which makes me think about what Hanekawa said to me yesterday.
"Seeing this, I think Senjougahara-san would feel quite anxious."
With that in mind--
What in the world is this woman thinking I wonder?
"With this, now I have quite a valuable hostage in Kanbaru with regards to you, Araragi-kun." "Thinking like a villain!"
Hostage!? She brought up the word hostage in an ordinary conversation!
"Kanbaru's adorable isn't she...by the way, that adorable girl will happily do anything I want her to. What do you think of that, Araragi-kun? This is unrelated , but don't you want to see a girl walk through the school on all fours while naked from the waist down?" Senjougahara utters those dangerous words in a forced melancholy tone with a sigh... Being born in such a peaceful country, I would have never thought it possible to something so violent with such a deadly stillness...
You're not a tsundere or anything else, simply an evil person...
"My, how rude, Araragi-kun. This is the first time someone has ever said such a thing to me."
"Not only that, but I am often told the opposite. 'You're a really upstanding person' is what I often hear."
"They're saying it sarcastically!"
If that's what you want, I can say it too! You're a really upstanding person!
"What did you say? Those people are lying to me? To be suspicious of their words, even if it is you saying that, Araragi-kun, I can't just ignore it..."
"Don't protect the people badmouthing you!" Or something like this. This exchange was done in jest. Just testing each other's "sense".
"With that said."
I don't know what "with that said" is all about, but Senjougahara ends the digression.
"You are going on a date with me, Araragi-kun."
"So that's what you came up with in the end..."
Well, it's proper in its own way. And there doesn't seem to be more to it than this.
"Do you have a problem...no, I mean do you have any questions?"
"I do not have any questions..."
"Well then, I will make up some sort of excuse after school and go home to get things ready. Araragi-kun, come to my house immediately after you finish with the cultural festival preparations," Senjougahara said in conclusion and proceeded to resume eating her lunch as if nothing had happened.
Senjougahara Hitagi is the one who gave higher priority to the date than to the preparation for the cultural festival, but I can't say that I'm not happy to be able to go out on a date with Senjougahara. On top of that, the date is at night so it's filled with profound significance.
Senjougahara told me to leave the destination, the activities, and all the planning to her.
I chose not to press for further details and just decided to enjoy it while striking a triumphant post in my heart.
It was a long journey...
Who would have thought that just getting the promised date from her would require so much labor.
I had to go out on a date with her junior to achieve this, but as long as the results are good, then everything is all right.
June 30th was to be the day I had my first date with my girlfriend and was to be a special commemorative day--or it was supposed to be.
Several hours later.
After school, upon finishing preparations for the cultural festival and heading home, I was met at the main gate by my younger sister's old friend, Sengoku Nadeko, bearing a pair of bloomers and a school swimsuit to give to me. That is when I was found by Hanekawa.
"Please! I'll give you 50,000 yen if you don't tell anyone about this!" I said with great emotion in my plea (of course, after that Hanekawa replied, 'trying to bribe an upright person, don't you feel ashamed,' and proceeded to preach to me. So I was scolded by a fellow classmate while holding a pair of bloomers and a school swimsuit under my arm). With this out of the way I proceeded to pedal the bicycle with greater intensity than normal and rode home, changed from my school uniform to some appropriate clothes and, taking only my wallet and cell phone, headed to Senjougahara's house without delay.
I thought I was a little late, but Senjougahara said, "You got here earlier than I thought you would." And continued with, "This is fine. It would have been troublesome if you had gotten here any earlier."
Senjougahara was in street clothes too.
Her hair is divided in two in the back.
In school, aside from lunchtime and during physical education(recently Senjougahara has started to take part in physical education), she normally keeps it straight and outside of school she keeps it tied as a rule. Splitting it in two like this does conjure up an image of the class representative Hanekawa, but along with that, it seems to allow freedom of movement and is stylish. I was about to think of what her clothes reveals about our destination, but right at the moment she said, "Well then, let's go. Follow me."
As always, that was it.
From then on I was left with just waiting for the next unexpected development. Senjougahara Hitagi led me from the apartment in which she lived to a jeep parked out front.
We are going by automobile.
This is good.
I have no problem or question regarding this automobile based society.
The problem is that neither Senjougahara or I have licenses, neither for four wheeled vehicles nor for motor-bikes, due to the school regulations forbidding students from having them.
As a necessity both Senjougahara and I got in the rear.
But there was someone in the driver's seat.
It was Senjougahara Hitagi's father.
The girlfriend's father coming along on the first date...
A date that seems to be about torture...
What kind of commemoration is this.
No matter how you looked at it, the bad atmosphere inside the cab was everywhere. After hurried greetings, the jeep departed.
Though I was there, I still could not ask about our destination. Moreover, I couldn't care less about our destination right now.
Of course, this was my first meeting with Senjougahara's father.
If Senjougahara's father were someone frank and open, or even as polite as Sengoku, I would have been relieved, but he was the most difficult type of person for me to interact with, the taciturn type. A taciturn girl who is younger than me would be one thing, but such a quality in an older man...
Coming home from work---no, from his appearance, he seems to still be in the middle of work, Senjougahara's father handles the steering wheel quietly.
If I remember right, he is employed at a foreign company...He looks to be a very rigid person.
It might just be my self-consciousness acting up, but it seems like there's nothing I can do that will not make him angry.
At any rate...under these circumstances, this person's salt and pepper hair, as seen from our generation, would normally seem right for someone of his age, but it's incredibly cool. He's like a famous actor. It's as if the term "attractive older man" were tailor made for him. If I can say this of someone I care about, then a daughter such as Senjougahara Hitagi, who's beauty is spoken of in class as akin to that of a secluded aristocratic young lady, can only spring from such a father.
Since her father is so cool, then she herself would score even higher cool points...
"What's wrong, Araragi-kun?" Senjougahara asked after we had been on the road for a while. "You're very quiet."
"You know...do you get what kind of situation we're in?"
"I don't understand. When is 'now'? What characters do you use to write 'situation'?"
"You really don't get it!?" This girl, she's playing around. Without even taking my feelings into consideration.
"Araragi-kun. It's fine to be nervous on our first date, but if you don't relax you'll just wear yourself out before the evening is over. The night is long."
"Yeah..." I'm not nervous because this is our first date...! I miss the me that thought that an evening date was all that I had to be nervous about. That me was truly blissful.
Honestly speaking, the fact that the night is long is truly terrifying.
Why does the night have to be so long.
I am just wishing for this time to be over as soon as possible...
"Araragi-kun." Senjougahara says in an even tone.
She really doesn't feel any nervousness?
"Do you like me?"
"..........!" I'm suffering from incredible harassment! She can do this without using any biting words!?
"Answer. Do you like me?"
"What is it? You aren't going to answer? Araragi-kun, it can't be that you don't like me, can it?"
This is harassment...
There is no worse harassment than this....
" I, I like you..."
"I see," Senjougahara says without cracking a smile. A peerlessly expressionless facial expression.
"I like you too, Araragi-kun."
"Thank you....very much."
"Not at all, not at all."
....Wait a minute. You're okay like this?
You can really be this nonchalant with this type of conversation in front of your own father....No, that's not it. This is a person that would take a wound if it allowed her to harass me.
In that case, I timidly try to spy on the driver's seen with a sidelong glance (too timidly, I can't get a good look). But Senjougahara's father is blessedly unresponsive. He is completely concentrated on driving. Such a cool person.... From the route we're taking, I guess we are headed for the freeway after all. Freeway...I get the feeling that we are going really far. Well, I guess even Senjougahara wouldn't bring her father along on a date if that weren't the case...
Ten minutes later, we got on the freeway as expected. I have nowhere to run to anymore. No, even without this, it's not like I planned to run away from the start anyway.
"Araragi-kun, you really are quiet. You are being quite taciturn. You are usually much more talkative, could it be that you are in a bad mood today?"
"It doesn't really have anything to do with my mood..." [bad mood is kigen ga warui and stupid is atama ga warui so Hitagi plays around with that at Koyomi's expense]
"I see. It's because you are stupid."
"You took advantage of my internal turmoil to say what you wanted to, right!?"
"Araragi-kun's retorts are always naughty, aren't they. That's fine. Well then, I will just kindly talk about other things. You just have to respond," said Senjougahara.
"What about me do you like?"
"The parts I don't like are showing themselves!"
What does she want? Anyway, I'm really beginning to wonder if this date is just an elaborate setup so that she can wallow in her great harassment of me.
Now I feel like running away.
"Damn it....even though I was feeling really good...even though it felt like my dreams had come true....!"
"Dreams? How grandiose," Senjougahara says in an expressionless voice.
[a kanji pun/joke that I have no intention of trying to translate]
A new kanji is born.
"I see you are troubled, Araragi-kun...but being able to only cheer you on as you struggle is irritating."
"Actually, you can say 'sorry' and apologize too, I think..." Still. Even if she apologizes, it's not like it will help. If apologies fixed everything, there wouldn't any need for the police.
"More than being troubled, I just feel really, really tired right now."
[another grammatical joke]
"...that's pretty funny..."
But I just can't bring myself to laugh. My heart just doesn't have the energy to spare for it.
"Hey Senjougahara...what is it that you really want?"
"Senjougahara? Are you directing that at me or could you be directing it at Father?"
This woman....just this woman....
Stop, get a hold of yourself, me......if you let what you are thinking spill out of your mouth this will turn into a discussion about breaking up.....
"Father, Araragi-kun is calling you."
"Hitagi-san! I'm speaking to Hitagi-san!"
Of course I can't use her name without an honorific.
It was just the other day that I had the "let's call each other by our first names" event with Kanbaru, but who would have thought that I would reach this point with my real girlfriend in this way....
"What is it, Araragi-kun?"
You're not going to use my name... Well, it's not like it matters anyway.
"Um, Hitagi-san. I'd like to ask again....please let me know. Just what the hell are you trying to do? What are you up to?"
"I'm not up to anything. More importantly, Araragi-kun. There is a renowned mystery author named Kuroiwa Ruikou, but if you split his name apart it becomes [black] [evil] and [child]. I think this was done on purpose."
"Who cares about that subject! That black child and that evil child are both about you!"
"What a horrible thing to say to someone in front of their own parent."
"Argh....!" It was a trap! I fell for it!
"Father. It seems that your daughter is a black and evil child."
She's reporting me...
Senjougahara's father is as unresponsive to that as he is to everything else.
It seems that Senjougahara's father is used to the black and evil child's antics. Of course, now that I think about it, she is his own daughter after all...
Then it's just natural for me to be frazzled.
She made me dance around even without music.
"My. You have become quiet again. Could it be that I teased you a little too much?" She says while looking at me.
"Araragi-kun, you react so well that I just automatically want to make you feel a little depressed."
"What you just said makes me feel depressed more than anything else...." Good grief. Okay time to try a counterattack. Sometimes I want to see Senjougahara depressed.
"What do you like about me?"
"Your kindheartedness. Your cute parts. The you that would rush to save me whenever I am troubled, like my very own prince."
Why did I even think of trying to counterattack.
At this rate one day will become a thousand years of suffering under this ill-natured woman's harassment....
Senjougahara, the essence of expressionlessness.
This woman has no emotions.
Even knowing that I'm just receiving verbal attacks, my heart is still pounding.
"I don't know...why is it so...how did I lose my way and end up walking upon this path of thorns..."
"It's quite nice though, this path of thorns. The blooming of countless beautiful roses on the path as you walk on it conjures up a wonderful image. Quite gorgeous and beautiful."
"Stop coming up with good explanations!"
"In the language of flowers, roses stand for 'foolish man'."
"Liar! Don't just throw out whatever you think works!'
"Which reminds me," Senjougahara said. She easily changes topics to suit her whims. "Which reminds me, trash...no, I mean Araragi-kun." [trash, gomi, sounds like Koyomi, but I'm not sure if she's trying to play off this, she does in the drama cd though]
"Right now you just called your own boyfriend 'trash', didn't you?"
"What are you talking about? I would appreciate it if you stopped falsely accusing me of saying things I did not say. More importantly Araragi-kun, how did the recent aptitude test go?"
"You remember, it was the reason why I watched over you so diligently while we were alone together at my house from noon to deep into the night."
Why do you purposely say it in that way....
Speaking of the time we spent together in your home when your father wasn't there with said father right here where he can hear perfectly....
"The test results all came back at the end of last week, but you didn't talk about it, so I assumed that the results were very bad and pretended to be uninterested. But I heard from Hanekawa-san today that it wasn't that bad, right?"
"That girl, as expected she was quite tightlipped so I couldn't get any details, but I figured that had you gotten red marks that she would have told me."
It seems that she employed an unpleasant method of asking. I did notice that Hanekawa seemed a little strained with regards to the topic of Senjougahara at the school gate earlier, so I guess this is the reason.
I did talk about the test results with Hanekawa at that book store yesterday...but despite Senjougahara's way of speaking, it was ungrateful of me not to let her know anything about them I guess. Well, I also talked about college exams with Hanekawa so I guess I just somehow ended up not telling Senjougahara about the results....
"Why are you being closed mouthed? Hurry and tell me in detail. If you are trying to assume an air of importance, I'll bend all your joints in the opposite direction and give you a cool body."
"There's not a single thing cool about that kind of body!"
"It's not even in the same level as uncool!"
"(laugh) <parenthesized laugh>?" [uncool is kakkouwarui and parenthesized laugh is kakko-warai]
"I'm not laughing!"
"Well, if you do not want me to make it so that your body allows you only to walk in the bridge position, hurry and tell me."
"Having all my joints reversed like that would leave me in a worse condition than that!"
I'd die five times before you finish making it so.
"Well, I guess I should have told you sooner. Sorry. Yeah, I actually did better than I thought I would. Even the math part, which was my strongest area, was higher. It's all thanks to you. Thanks, Senjougahara."
"Father, it seems like Araragi-kun wants to thank you for something. Maybe you should listen to him."
"Thank you Hitagi-san!" I don't care anymore.
So I ended up giving Senjougahara all the details of the scores for each of the subjects.
Senjougahara nodded her head while saying "yes, yes" and then asked about the problems that I got wrong and the ones that I didn't know. ....This girl actually remembers all the problems from the tests that she takes, I was a little surprised. Well, this is the prodigy that was able to grab the number seven rank in our year even while helping with my studies...to be honest, maybe I shouldn't be surprised at all.
Finally, we're talking about something that students should talk about.
This way I can feel more at ease in front of her father.
This is the perfect setting to present my serious side.
"We really should have discussed this right after the test was over, though," says Senjougahara. "Well, asking that of you right now would be harsh I think...but you did score quite well. Even though I was the one who held teacher's pointer myself, this is still a little unexpected."
"Yes. This was not a very interesting result considering it was your result."
"I didn't study with you just for laughs!"
"To be honest, I was hoping to get a result in which you would say 'even though I studied so hard, my scores ended up worse than usual,' in a way, I'm disappointed."
"Seeking such a development is much harsher!"
"My, is that so?" is what she replies.
With a plop Senjougahara places her hand on my thigh.
Right on my thigh.
......? What is she doing?
That's right, a jeep isn't that big of a car, so even if Senjougahara and I are in the backseat we are quite close to each other.... If the jeep hits a curve right now, our bodies would brush against each other.
But having said that, to bend over and initiate contact through her own actions just makes my decision of how to react all the harder....
"But I must say that this was quite an achievement," Senjougahara says this without pause and is so detached from what her hand is doing that it is as if her hand were moving without direction from her. How can she do this without any change in her expression. It makes me wonder if she isn't wearing a fine mask.
"It is quite rare for me to praise someone, you know. How long has it been since the last time I praised someone I wonder? That's right, it was in the sixth year of elementary school, the person next to me had three wins in a row while playing Othello I believe."
"It really has been a long time, but don't praise someone something so lame!"
"I am joking."
"But the part of about me rarely praising anyone is true, though."
"Yeah...I get that part."
"Be that as it may, though, this time I am actually indirectly praising myself. To be able to teach a dummy of Araragi-kun's level to this extent really is something for me to be proud of I think."
Well, I guess the truth is the truth.
"Well for a dummy of a caliber that would make the mistake of writing 'Indian elephant' when trying to write 'impression', coming this far is still quite an achievement." [a kanji joke]
"I didn't make a mistake like that!"
"Still, it does seem that you had a lot of careless mistakes...yes. At this rate you may be able to aim higher."
College entrance exams.
"If you are fine with it, I can continue to help you study from now on."
To be honest, I'm secretly aiming for the school Senjougahara is likely to get into by way of recommendation, though right now I am nowhere near her level; so there is no reason to refuse her offer.
"This is better than I could have hoped for."
"Is that so," Senjougahara says while completely composed.
Hanekawa is pretty tightlipped even with all the things I've been sharing with her so it's not likely that she told Senjougahara about my intentions, but this woman may have already deduced what my plans are. That's what I think. But that's still fine. It looks as if she'll wait for me to tell her myself--having such an understanding of each other without using words feels quite nice.
But it seems as if she isn't satisfied with just touching my thigh, but has started stroking my inner thigh. What's she trying to do? Isn't this how a molester would act? Is this really something to do in front of your father?
...Well, it's more accurate to say that she's doing it behind her father's back.
"Well then, from now on we'll be studying at my house everyday."
This wasn't part of our telepathic communion! Wait, no... So it's no good unless I do it like this? But everyday.... is everyday? But I'm already studying in school, you know? So I have to do afterschool and Sundays too?
"What is it, Araragi-kun?"
"Nothing really...it's just that I'm thinking that smart people really do study this much."
"No, I don't study so much. It would be too bothersome. This is a special program for you of course."
Genius.... The person who has grabbed the seventh rank in our year just said that studying is bothersome...
"People who are smart are already smart even before studying. Grades are about the ability to understand and memorization."
"I see....but Hanekawa has said that her head starts to hurt if she doesn't study, or something like that."
"The 'studying' that Hanekawa-san does and the 'studying' that you and I do are of different ranks," said Senjougahara.
Having said that, there was a short silence.
"Hanekawa-san is the real thing. She lives in a world different from the two of us."
Even you see it like that?
The seventh rank, and the first rank.
They are supposed to be the same level, but there is still such a gap.
"The real thing..."
"It may be more accurate to say a monster instead. To be honest, it's unsettling, don't you think? For a person to have such a sharp mind. It's not about the wits she has at her disposal," Senjougahara says with her usual poison.
But that's not the impression I get. With regards to Hanekawa, this woman is always....yes, it's not that there is any spite.
There is just a strange detachment.
"You said the two of us?"
"Yes. The two of us. Just like how from your point of view, Hanekawa-san and I seem the same, I think from Hanekawa-san's point of view, you and I are of the same level."
"Is that how it is?"
"Yes. There is nothing more humiliating to me."
"Humiliating..." On top of that, there is nothing worse. She really does like to dent my pride.
"But even Hanekawa didn't get perfect scores in everything, right? Though she did get perfect scores in most of them..."
"If Hanekawa-san did not get a perfect score, it only means that there was something wrong with the test problem. ...But I wonder. How much pressure does she have to deal with...I cannot say that I feel very envious of her."
"Or to be more accurate, stress."
The girl of the fantastical wings.
"Even with that, it would be absurd of us to use such a reason to feel pity for Hanekawa-san, though," says Senjougahara.
"With that out of the way," says Senjougahara as she forces the conversation back on topic.
"Someone that grovels at the bottom of class rankings like Araragi-kun, who will never be able to match said 'real thing,' can only rely on his own unflagging efforts. That is what we will be studying at my place everyday from now on."
"Yes, yes...please allow me to do so."
"There are supposed to be three yeses, Araragi-kun"
- this is a play on the usual retort for when someone says "hai" twice since Hitagi wants 3 "hai" instead of the normal 1
"Yes, yes, yes!...Wait, why are you demanding that I be in such high spirits!"
"I want you to show that you are willing to put that much effort into it. I am offering my house as the place of study after all."
"Is that why..."
"Of course, Araragi-kun's house would be fine as well."
"My place isn't a good environment to study in...since my little sisters are so loud."
"We will occasionally use Kanbaru's house too."
"Why is Kanbaru coming up in this conversation?"
"Just like I am helping you study, I have to play with her a little too. Since I did promise her," Senjougahara says in a strong, flat tone.
...She stubbornly plays the villain with me, but with Kanbaru, she might really be a tsundere...
Well, she is the hostage after all.
"That girl does not seem to need any help with her studies, but you would like to play with her too, right?"
"Well. She's pretty interesting."
She might be too interesting though.
"She might be a little too attached to me, though I don't know why...she always gets me to play along with her a little too easily."
"I may be responsible for that," says Senjougahara. "I told her about how you save children from drowning and volunteer at nursing homes on Sundays."
"So all you did was lie to her!"
"I'm joking. I only told her the truth."
"Hmmm....is that so."
"By truth I mean I was badmouthing you of course. Kanbaru's adoration of you comes from her own judgment."
She's using her badmouthing of me to indoctrinate...
Would you please stop.
"Praising my boyfriend to my beloved kouhai would be too embarrassing, so this is just my way of hiding it."
"When talking about hiding your embarrassment, I would rather you say it while actually showing embarrassment like a normal person...oh yeah, Senjougahara," I say to Senjougahara as I lower my voice in order to make sure that her father can't hear from the front seat. "I'd like to ask one more thing about Kanbaru though..."
"Father, Araragi-kun seems to want to speak with you privately---"
She's just too sharp! She never lets a chance to tease slip by!
"What about Kanbaru?"
"Why is she so perverted?" I say as I place my hand in front of my mouth just in case Senjougahara's father can read my lips in the rearview mirror.
"Yeah. Has she been like that since junior high?"
"Weelll. You are asking how she was in junior high...but I think a better question is whether she actually is perverted in the first place."
"She isn't? But even Oshino sees her as not a sporty type, but as a perverted type."
"That just reflects the mistaken image that you and Oshino-san have of feminine modesty, don't you think? A theory held by men I guess. That girl is just true to herself. I do not think she takes it too far though."
Is that how it is?
I don't know.
"Araragi-kun, if you have the opportunity, you should read shoujo manga or BL novels targeted for junior high school students and above and see for yourself. You won't be able to call Kanbaru Suruga perverted anymore."
"Really...No, I don't think I'll read it." Especially BL novels. If I read them I feel that it will be the end of a lot of things.
"Is that so? I cannot overlook my precious kouhai being called perverted by someone judging her with such a narrow worldview."
"If you can't overlook it, what are you going to do?"
I was supposed to be the victim...it's no good, discuss Kanbaru with her and Senjougahara will become Kanbaru's ally in her expressionless way it seems.
Even though she was supposed to be a hostage...
Wait a minute. Doesn't this mean that I'm the hostage?
"What will I do? I will shake the foundations of your point of view. By doing this you will see Kanbaru for the innocent girl that she is."
Upon saying this, Senjougahara moves closer to me and does not only lower her voice, but also proceeds to place her lips to my ear as if about to share a secret. Then she uses her hand to hide what she is saying.
Argh...! What did she just say.......!
"×××× in ×××× from ×××× like this, so××――×× with ××××――××× in ××――"
Senjougahara Hitagi...h-how can she say something so embarrassing and so dirty! ×× in ××!? Can you even do that!? I don't believe it...
...To think that simple words can arouse such sexual desire in a person!
Argh....no good, I can't say anything! Senjougahara's father is right there! I can't let him see me so affected!
"×××――×× with ×××――"
Bu-but her breath is tickling my ear...hey, what does this mean! Having your girlfriend whisper lascivious stories to you while she strokes your thigh, both done while in the presence of her father, this doesn't just seem like torture, it actually is torture! What do I have to confess to be freed from this torture!
I don't know anything!
I really don't know anything!
I see now... So that's how it is. The mystery has been solved, you are the master that Kanbaru studied her pervertedness under! Now that I think about it, it's so obvious! After all, Kanbaru was influenced so much by Senjougahara....! Damn it, I really have had a paradigm shift, the foundations of my world view are crumbling.... I see, Kanbaru isn't perverted, Kanbaru isn't perverted at all....
She nibbled my ear! I feel her lips! NGNGNG, this is totally erotic!
"Or something like this," Senjougahara calmly says as she moves away from me.
"What's wrong, Araragi-kun?"
"Please, just do what you want with me already...Hitagi-san."
I can't do it anymore.
I didn't want a date like this...you really are shattering my cherished illusions piece by piece...
While this was happening, time had passed.
By the time I noticed, we were getting off the freeway. Looking out the window I noticed that we had gone far outside of our town and were deeper into the countryside and what appeared before me was a rural landscape.
Where is this.
Where have I been brought.
While I was in the middle of a stupid conversation...
"Just a little bit further," Senjougahara says while looking out the window in the same way. "About thirteen more minutes I think. The timing is just right. I am quite impressed with myself."
"......" "I don't know what you mean by that, but I think the timing is all thanks to your father--you're not going to thank him?"
I wonder if they're not close.
Speaking of which, Senjougahara and her father haven't said much to each other.
No, but they shouldn't get along badly. After all, they worked together while she was trying to save 100,000 yen to pay Oshino and he paid her that much.
It's only to be expected for relationships with our parents to be complicated at our age. That's how it is with me and Senjougahara did grow up under less than normal circumstances.
Hanekawa is the same.
Which reminds me.
What about Hanekawa's headache.....after the fight about the bloomers and school swimsuit it seemed to have faded away....but to go away over something like that gets me thinking....headache.
Her head hurts.
I guess I should discuss it with Oshino.
But I shouldn't really rely on Oshino so much--I've said it before, but it's not like he'll always be in that old building--
We'll eventually part ways.
I don't know when, but it's not the distant future.
Even though I stopped and corrected myself, Senjougahara silences me without even taking notice of it.
"Blahblahblah, you're so noisy."
"We're almost there so just be quiet for a little bit."
"I am not a person with the leisure to take part in your foolish conversation, nor am I a Martian."
"Wouldn't a Martian join me in my foolish conversation?"
You say arrive, but where are we arriving at?
It's about time you told me.
If you wanted to have fun, haven't you had enough already? But even with that, I'm at the limits of my ability for that type of torturous conversation in front of Senjougahara's father so I'll just follow her orders. So with an, "I got it," I let myself sink into the car seat.
"You're so loud."
"Huh? I didn't say anything."
"I'm saying that your breathing and heartbeat are loud."
"That would mean that you're telling me to die, though."
What an end to the conversation.
Senjougahara stops talking.
It's not like she looks nervous.
Is she planning to take me to a place that would make her nervous?
It seems the car turned onto a mountain road.
Mountain. This isn't like the small hill that Kanbaru and I climbed the other day, but a true mountain. Using the jeep's horse-power we scale the mountain as the road winds through it in large spirals. The road is well maintained, also unlike the hill from the other day.
The top of the mountain...?
Our first date is going to be a visit to a shrine...
You've got to be kidding, right?
"Now might be a little late to ask....where in the world are we going??"
"Some. Place. Nice."
Even if you say it in such a sexy voice....
It's definitely a lie.
"Araragi-kun, how should I put this. You ask where we are going, but we are already here. Look, the parking lot is right there."
I do as she says and she's right.
Right now it's about ten 'o'clock....so we've been driving for over two hours. The drive was so terrifying that I could hardly breathe, but now that we have finally arrived it seemed to have passed by so quickly. Senjougahara's dad, with remarkable skill, stops the jeep at the edge of the parking lot. With an expression of relief I was about to get out of the car, about to, when Senjougahara stopped me from doing so. She did not stop me by grasping my hand, but by sinking her nails into the thigh that she had been stroking. A wondrous way of stopping me.
Is she a beast or something?
It's not like you're a cat.
"Please wait here a little bit, Araragi-kun," says Senjougahara. "I'll go first to get things ready then come back."
"Get things ready..."
There's a need to get things ready?
But, Sejougahara, in this situation, if you go first and leave me here to wait then--
"Just chat with Father while you wait."
You say it so easily as if what you said wasn't outrageous.
Just as she said, Senjougahara gets out of the car by herself.
I never expected to describe myself this way, but this reality leaves me no other way to say it....I feel like a dog whose owner has just discarded him.
What kind of person are you, Senjougahara.
Leaving me alone in a situation like this....
Did she betray me? Did she switch sides?
Or is it that she turned me inside out!
...I'm so confused that I don't even know what I am saying.
Of course, she didn't betray me or switch sides on me. Now that I think about it, she is the one that put me in this situation in the first place.
But I still can't believe it....
Stuck alone in a small car with my girlfriend's father....
This is no longer even torture.
This is the punishment.
Even if you looked all over Japan for a third year high school student who has had such a cruel experience, you'd probably never find one other than me..... What an unhappy reality.
But, a pleasant chat?
Still, being silent creates a bad atmosphere too.....but having said that, I don't want to give a bad impression to Senjougahara's father. But....I don't have any experience talking to someone who is so much older than me that wasn't a relative or a teacher....
While I was at a loss, contrary to my expectations, Senjougahara's dad started talking first.
"Araragi-kun, was it?"
Was it, he says....
Immediately I feel a high wall.....
But even with that, this person really is like a famous actor, what a cool voice....I haven't found very many people that have had such a cool voice.
"Ye-yes...My name Araragi Koyomi," I answer.
"I see," Senjougahara's father nods.
"Please take care of my daughter."
This person just said it so suddenly!
"Just kidding," Senjougahara's dad continued.
Old Man joke?
Is this really an Old Man joke?
But saying that without breaking into a smile--it doesn't seem like he enjoys seeing me be unsure about how to respond....what am I supposed to do? Whatever it is, it's not like I can do it.
"Araragi-kun. I think you've heard, but as you can see, I'm the very picture of a workaholic. I have almost no time to spend with Hitagi."
It's only natural, saying you own daughter's name without an honorific.
On top of that, it sounds totally natural.
This is what it means to be parent and child.
"That's why having this come from me may not have much persuasive power, but I haven't seen Hitagi enjoy herself so much in a very long time."
Do you really understand what you are saying...? You're saying that your own daughter seems to really enjoys tormenting a fellow classmate...
After that, Senjougahara's dad says, "Ummm" before faltering. It feels like he is looking for the right words. It seems that Senjougahara's dad, unlike his daughter, is not very eloquent--on the contrary, he seems to be rather awkward with words.
"You've already heard about Hitagi's mother I take it."
"Hitagi's illness as well I guess."
Senjougahara's illness--in a way it is an illness, but in this case, he can only be referring to the Kaii.
The crab Kaii.
With Oshino's help her illness has been cured--but it's not the type of simple problem where everything is settled just because it has been cured.
Just seeing her family can tell you that much.
"Well not just that--of course being so concentrated on my work, I deserve much of the blame, but...Hitagi became a person who had completely walled off her heart."
"Yes, I know."
I know quite well.
I've been in the same class with her throughout high school.
Throughout the first year and the second year.
Through the first month of the third year.
I know quite well just how much she had shut herself away.
"I won't make any excuses for that--a parent must bear responsibility for what their child has done, but a child is never responsible for what their parent has done."
"People who have closed themselves off separate those who they interact with into two groups. One group consists of those people whom the closed off person doesn't mind being hated by. The other group is for those whom the closed off person never needs worry about being hated by."
The stapler wielding Senjougahara that I first came in contact with definitely put me in the first group. In throwing off the mask of the secluded aristocratic young lady and exposing her terrifying true face, she could only have considered me an enemy who had discovered her secret.
But what about now?
Does she really truly trust me so much? Am I worthy of such trust...
"There was the thing with her mother--along with her illness. She is someone that wants to love--but she doesn't know how to show it," Senjougahara's dad says almost as if in soliloquy.
If I analyze it closely, it isn't really that extraordinary, but with such a cool voice I really can't help thinking it's really poetic.
"Araragi-kun. I feel that you deal with Hitagi wonderfully."
"Do you really think so?"
I get cut over and over...
I always feel as if I'm being minced...
If it had been from my heart, I would have bled out a long time ago...
"It's always like this. I can't help but think that she brought Father along just to humiliate me."
I automatically said 'Father'.
At this point will he say those words...? The legendary "You have no right to call me Father!".
"Not at all."
He didn't say it.
It's the generational gap...
"Well, there's a possibility that she wanted to use this against me, though."
"Use it against you...?"
It's only normal for a father to not feel good about having his daughter in the backseat with a boy that he only just met. Of course, though it was all I could handle, if she really had any intention of teasing someone, even more than me, it was her father...really?
"I don't think that is the case...even if it is Hitagi-san, to do that to her own father..."
"It's because I'm someone that she doesn't care if she's hated by," says Senjougahara's dad. "It doesn't matter if I hate her or not because I'm her father. Hitagi's mother and I fought over and over right in front of her...now she probably no longer has any memories of parents who got along."
Divorce by consent.
He hasn't said "wife" even once, only Hitagi's mother.
"That's why--she's throwing it in my face. I could almost hear her saying, 'I will never be like you two.' It's exactly as she says. The two you were really enjoying yourselves."
"Well...saying that I didn't have any fun would be a lie....she was really over the top, but that's just how she normally is."
Will this be taken as rude?
What if he lets my badmouthing of his daughter pass...I was meaning to praise her, but if I look at it from his point of view it would seem that I am badmouthing her instead. Depending on the situation, he may even think I am complaining....no, I just don't know how he will take it.
But why am I working myself up?
Aren't I just being incredibly lame?
"Hitagi is someone that wants to love," says Senjougahara's dad, "that's why she devotes herself entirely when she finds the right person, she allows herself to depend on that person wholeheartedly. It's because she is seeking to love someone. Even though she is my own daughter, having her as a lover may be too great a weight I think."
"Too great a weight..."
The conversation seems to have a taken cynical turn.
"It's shameful of me to admit this, but I couldn't support her when she needed me. That's why she stopped depending on me a long time ago."
"When was the last time I wonder...ah yes, it was when she waved her stapler around while in a rage."
You even did that to your father?
Isn't that domestic violence...
"But recently Hitagi asked me for a favor for the first time in a very long time. 'I want to help you with work' she said," Senjougaraha's dad says with a wondering expression. "And now this. Involving you. To be able to change that girl, you really are something, Araragi-kun."
Finally unable to bear it anymore I say, "....I am happy that you have such a high opinion of me...but that really just happened by accident."
It feels as if he misunderstood and mistakenly thinks more of me than I deserve. To be honest, I can't say this makes me feel very good.
"Really? But I heard that you played an important role in Hitagi's illness being cured as well."
"Actually--I think that it would have been the same even if it wasn't me. It just happened to be me is all....It would have been fine with anyone other than me anyway, and of course it was Hitagi-san who saved herself in the end. I was just there to see her through it."
"That is all you needed to do. That you were there when she needed you is enough, and for that I am truly grateful," says Senjougahara's dad and seems to smile for the first time.
"I'm a father that couldn't live up to my role, and I don't feel as if I am looking after my daughter even now. It is as if she is living by herself. I wasn't there for her when she needed me most. To be honest, I am at my limits just trying to pay back the debts that Hitagi's mother accumulated. Even this jeep is something that I borrowed from my friend. But even for a father like me, my daughter is someone I am very proud of. I trust her judgment. If that led her to you, then there is no mistake."
"Please take care of my daughter, Araragi-kun."
This has become a weird exchange.
But I think...
Most likely--she wasn't trying to use this against him.
Instead, Senjougahara wanted her father here, even though it was her first date, because she wanted to let him know that she was fine now.
She didn't want to say, "I will never be like you two."
She wanted to say, "You don't have to worry about me anymore."
That's the voice I hear.
...But this isn't something for me to say. An outsider should not butt into this. On top of this, I feel that I don't have the right to place myself into the relationship that Senjougahara shares with her father.
That's why it is not my place to say this.
No matter how I look at this, you aren't part of the group that she doesn't mind being hated by, but the group that she isn't worried about being hated by.
No way I can say this.
There is only one person in the world that can say this.
"...By the way, where are we?"
"Since Hitagi is keeping it secret, I can't just tell you. But...the three of us used to come here a long time ago."
"The three of you..."
Senjougahara, her father and -- her mother?
"But to choose this place for the first date with her boyfriend, that girl is pretty -- oh. The princess has returned it seems."
That sounds just like something a father would say.
I'd be able to say that if the person I was saying it to were my age, but I'll refrain from doing so here.
But Senjougaraha is back? Ah he's right, I can see her through the windshield calmly walking back.
Really, only a little while ago I was planning to complain to her about leaving me behind, but now it's as if an angel has flown down from heaven.
I'm being tricked...
"Sorry to keep you waiting, Araragi-kun," Senjougahara says in a level tone without taking notice of my unease and proceeds to open the back door. She then turns toward the driver's seat and says, "Father, from here on out it's time for the two young people to be by themselves. Thank you for bringing us. It will likely take about two hours so please be diligent about your work."
"Okay," Senjougahara's dad says while pointing to his cell phone.
As I thought, he is busy with work and only took a break to bring us here and take us home....it seems like he will continue with his work on the phone.
That means this is it for the parental chaperone?
"Let's go, Araragi-kun," Senjougahara says as she holds out her hand. I timidly take her and exit the car as if she were drawing me out.
Senjougahara immediately releases my hand.
She's definitely very obstinate.
"Thank you, Father."
I am finally able to offer my thanks.
Senjougahara closes the jeep's door.
But--really, even if it isn't that grand... we're finally on a normal date.
Having Senjougahara's dad stay in the parking lot after he brought us here feels a little awkward, but since he seems to have work to do, I'll just leave it as it is.
"...So, where are we, Hitagi-sa--"
I don't need to do that anymore.
Well, I do regret going back using her last name a little.
"Senjougahara, where are we?"
"Hmph," as Senjougahara suddenly turns away. "Have I ever once answered your question so far?"
No, I think you have...
I'm beginning to wonder if I'm in the group of people she does care if she's hated by as Senjougahara resumes her apparent indifference.
"To think that you would actually try to ask me a question, there is only so much leeway I am willing to give you."
"I don't have permission to ask questions...?"
"You are not allowed to do anything other than kneel."
"I have no plans of kneeling!"
"So you have plans of prostrating yourself before me?"
"So I can't even stand!?"
Now that we're not in front of her father I can counterattack as much as I want.
This is Araragi Koyomi at full power.
I follow behind Senjougahara as she walks briskly. Even though we are on a mountain, the parking has street lights so it isn't that dark. ...But are they still called street lights when there is no street? These are the kind of stupid things that I think about.
"But, it's really fortunate that we have good weather."
"Good weather? Are the weather conditions important?"
[a pun about the weather and Koyomi's head] "Like it's possible to mishear something like that!"
"Look," Senjougahara says as we leave the parking lot. "There is a sign over there. Read it." "Huh?"
From her tone it's almost as if she's pouting...is what I think, but just like she said, there's a sign right where she pointed: Hoshi no Sato Observatory.
Does that mean...?
Senjougahara's right hand stops me as I reflexively try to look at the sky. As I try to look up, she prevents my head from moving.
"What are you doing?"
This is pretty humiliating...
To have someone grab the top of my head like this at my age...
"You can't look up yet, Araragi-kun. You can't look forward either. Just look down at your feet while you walk. This is an order."
"Like I'll follow such an unreasonable command!"
"If you don't follow my command I'll scream and my father will rush here from the jeep."
"Or it will be that Kanbaru will meet an unfortunate fate tomorrow. Having her go to class while cosplaying as a kindergartener or having her stand in a hallway while wearing a placard around her neck that says 'I was a very naughty girl, so I am being punished,' which would you prefer, Araragi-kun?"
"...I will obey."
It's often said that one must be hard when implementing strategy, but it looks like she is nothing but hardness... so with amazement I lower my head and stare at my feet as I walk. But it seems that this isn't enough for her as she doesn't take her hand from my head and says, "Well then, let us proceed," and starts walking again.
This is just like walking a dog.
"....You really are ostentatious."
"You added an extra syllable. Well, I think I do want to make you cower a bit, anyway. This is a gift from my generous heart."
[ostentatious and cower sound similar in Japanese]
"You added an extra syllable! You keep saying all these mean things. Don't you have any compassion?"
[kanji pun]: "I have that."
"You don't have a heart!"
"You really are so grandiose. It is only polite to give explanations."
"This is too much suffering for a high school student to take..."
This is "esprit" itself. I'm suffering too much and carrying too much.
Now that we have left the parking lot, it's gotten very dark.
However-- because we are at an astronomical observatory in the mountains there is plenty of starlight even without looking up, so it's not completely dark. Our hometown is in the countryside so we can look at the stars at night too, but I guess that can't be compared to this.
I just thought of something.
"That's right, about Kanbaru."
"What? You want to discuss Kanbaru's unfortunate fate?"
"Who the hell would want to discuss that!"
"Very good Araragi-kun. It appears that you are saying that you will leave the decision up to me."
"I won't forgive anyone who does that to Kanbaru, even if it is you! I'm not talking about that!"
"Then what is it?"
"I talked to Kanbaru about constellations the day before yesterday."
The Serpent Bearer constellation.
I can't go into particulars or I will end up letting the details of Senjougahara's birthday plans slip. I'll have to stick to being vague.
"Kanbaru told me that she would go to an observatory in another prefecture about twice a year to attend the events there. Could this be the place she was talking about?"
For Kanbaru Suruga, who was so influenced by Senjougahara that she even assumed her pervertedness, this seems pretty logical.
Senjougahara confirms my suspicion by saying, "That is very likely."
"It has been a long time since I have come here myself... but I did talk to her about it before. I see... Kanbaru, hmmm..."
"That's right, I said that it didn't seem like something she would do. I guess this was why. Geez, she really is an adorable kouhai."
"Really. So much so, I always want to do it."
Oh... speaking of which, something else comes to mind too. The first time I went to Senjougahara's place... I tried to act like I knew a lot about astronomy. I talked about the patterns on the moon and tried to show off my meager knowledge only to have Senjougahara turn it against me. Ugh, so embarrassing. I wish I hadn't remembered this. Having it turned against me. This is the first time I've ever come to an observatory.
"...But really, no one's here."
"It is because there is no official event now. It is a weekday after all. All the people who have come are likely inside the observatory.
I try to raise my head, but she pushes it back down.
Not only that, but she just pushed her nails into my scalp.
"You know, Senjougahara... you do know that what you're doing is crueler than what you think it is, right?"
An unconcerned Senjougahara responds to my gentle admonishment with, "Is that so?"
"Don't you feel fortunate to have my hand, as white as a whitefish, hold your head?"
"A whitefish is a whitefish, but you are more like a great white shark... Jaws."
"Oh my, I am so happy. You are quite the flatterer to say that my cheek is so white that it is almost transparent. Now I want to be nice to you."
Her nails dig even deeper into my scalp.
This was quite an effective pain.
She really is a great white shark... speaking of which, her eyes are as emotionless as the den of said beast, which makes the comparison all the more fitting.
So that's it, my girlfriend is a great white shark....
"So there is an observatory, right?"
"Yes. It has a very large refracting telescope."
"Hmmm. I don't really know how great that is, though... so are we going in?
"No," Senjougahara immediately replies as she shakes her head. "There is an entrance fee."
"I am poor, you know," she says with pride...
Well, there is that.
"If it's only the entrance fee, I can pay... I brought that much at least."
"Wanting to spend money on me is a good mentality, but I will decline this time. The spot I have in mind is better than the large telescope in the building. This way."
Senjougahara moves away from the path and begins to head up a hill. I push through the short grass as I follow Senjougahara.
Halfway up the hill, Senjougahara stops.
There is a picnic blanket spread on the ground.
I see, so this is what she meant when she said she was getting things ready.
"Close your eyes and lie down."
Having come this far, there's no point in not following her orders now. Doing as she said, I close my eyes and lie down on the picnic blanket as she moves her hand away from my head. Then someone lies down next to me. Though I say someone, if it is anyone other than Senjougahara, it would be an outrageous illusion.
"You may open your eyes now."
I do as she says.
And there is a sky filled with stars.
More than a beautiful starry sky, seeing a starry sky and thinking that it is beautiful, even if I turned into an octopus, the part of me that is left would still be surprised.
Can humans really be so moved?
The stars almost seem to be raining down.
If I were to do an unrefined analysis, lying down like this allows the stars in the sky to fill my entire field of vision and spread even further, making it all the more spectacular. Trying to nail down why I feel so moved makes me a little self-conscious, but now I know why Senjougahara went so far as to push her nails into my scalp to prevent me from looking up too soon. She wanted my first view of this sky to be from this position.
This is an incredible place.
There really is no better place than this.
Oh-..... this is like the ultimate reward.
If feels as if all the hardships I've endured up until now have just been washed away.
"What do you think--Araragi-kun?" Senjougahara asks as she lies next to me.
She is most likely gazing up at the same sky as I am.
"Incredible--to be honest, I am just at a loss for words."
"I think that is because your vocabulary is lacking."
She just dumped a little water on my passion with her verbal abuse.
But--something like that isn't enough to get to me right now.
Even the poison that she spews is not enough to affect how I feel under this sky.
"That is Deneb. Altaire. Vega. The famous Summer Triangle. Far across from it is the Serpent Bearer. The Serpent constellation is made up of the stars in that area."
Senjougahara points at and explains each object.
She does it without a light or constellation map.
But for some reason it is still so easy to understand.
"The conspicuously bright start over there is Spica... which means Virgo is in that area. In that direction is the Crab constellation... but it may be a little hard to make out."
"I at least know the Big Dipper."
"Right. The Big Dipper is part of Ursa Major, and right next to it is the Lynx."
And like that, Senjougahara goes though each of the visible constellations and their accompanying stories one by one. It is almost as if I were listening to a fairytale that soothes as it soaks into me.
If only she would allow me.
I would fall asleep like this.
"Don't fall asleep."
The timing of her criticism is so perfect.
She's so sharp.
"There's a saying amongst mountain climbers for when they are in a blizzard that I can adapt for this situation--don't sleep, if you do, I'll kill you."
"You'd kill me!?"
"At any rate," Senjougahara says in a flat voice after finishing her descriptions of the constellations, "this is everything."
"Huh...? What is?"
"The things I possess, this is all of it," Senjougahara says as she continues to look up at the starry sky, "The ability to help you study. My adorable kouhai and my blunt father. And--this starry sky. That's about everything that I have. This is all that I can offer you. This is everything."
So this was what all this was about?
The thing with Kanbaru the day before yesterday... no, has she been thinking about this since we started going out together on Mother's Day a month ago? Was this why she has been refusing all my attempts at asking her out on a date... though reconciling with Kanbaru was unexpected, has she been waiting for the aptitude test to be over and for her father to have time?
Hanekawa's words come back to me.
Senjougahara-san is complicated she said.
"Well strictly speaking, I also have my wicked tongue and abusive language."
"Those are things I don't want!"
"Of course, there is also my body."
A roundabout way to be frank.
"Do you not want that either?"
"Well, not that... well."
I can't really say that I don't want it, can I?
But in this setting I can't say I want it, but it's something else...
"But you know right? That I was almost raped by that lowlife in the past."
That was the reason for the Kaii.
Or at least one of the reasons.
Kaii require the right reasons.
"To be honest, I am afraid of doing with you what that lowlife tried to force me to do. I do not want to use a fashionable term like trauma to describe this. I do not want to appear that weak. But... I am afraid. Before we started going out I didn't feel this afraid, but now I am so afraid of being hated by you."
Not of the deed itself, but of its aftermath.
"I am afraid of losing you now," Senjougahara says in a disinterested tone.
Her emotions are completely unreadable.
Her face is most like totally expressionless.
"Being afraid of being hated by the person you are going out with and being afraid of losing the person you are going out with, it sounds very silly, doesn't it... it's like asking whether the egg came first or whether the omelet did."
"Well, the egg came first."
"Being able to say it so straightforwardly, I feel as if I have become a worthless woman. I was supposed to be the beautiful girl beset by tragedy and struck down by an unknown disease--but now I am a beautiful girl that has become disconnected because all she can think about is a man."
"So in either case it's still 'beautiful girl'..."
"Anyway, for turning me into an uninteresting woman that can be found anywhere, I do resent you, Araragi-kun."
You're plenty interesting though...
It's too bad this had to happen in the middle of such good lines though.
"But, as you know, my life up until now can't be said to have been the most fortunate....but thinking of how I have come to know you, I think all of that unhappiness can just be brushed away."
"It was because of my misfortune that you were attracted to me, I think it was well worth it. That is how madly I am in love with you. That's why, even if there is even the smallest chance, I don't want you and that low life to overlap. Naturally, I won't always speak such sweet words... I know that what I am saying is childish. Something like a bye-bye... Something like a naive bye-bye...."
Why did she correct herself to make it more lame.
"Simply speaking, losing you now would be as if I had lost half of myself. That is why I would like you to wait just a little while."
"Just a little while--"
"Yes, until next week would be good."
"So be content with Kanbaru's body until then."
"You just said something incredible!"
"I will use that time to rehabilitate with Kanbaru too, of course."
"That means that Kanbaru will get everything she wants! Only her wishes will be perfectly fulfilled!"
"Well, next week would be too early--eventually I definitely will be able to deal with it, so please just wait a little bit. That's why at this point, this starry sky is the last of the possessions that I can offer you. ...When I was a child I came here with my mother and father."
Mother and father--the three of them.
From what I know of Senjougahara, that must have been a very long time ago. But even after all this, she still remembers.
It just came back to her.
The memory that she had forgotten.
"This is my treasure."
For Senjougahara, this is a very clichéd phrase--but because of this I feel that I have heard what it really means to her.
The starry sky in Summer.
The starry sky that they saw as a family in the Summer.
So this is everything.
I don't know much.
But I am certain about one thing.
Senjougahara Hitagi...she is incredibly smart and always plots the right course, but in area of love she is powerless. Absolutely powerless. Even on that Mother's Day when we first started going out, it was obvious, this woman is completely reckless, like the main character of an RPG that enters a cave without a torch. It's as if she is showing all her cards to her opponent and leaving it up to him to decide what happens next, but does she realize that she is basically engaging in diplomacy through intimidation? Emotions wouldn't matter in this case. Confronted with this, the opponent would run away ninety-nine times out of a hundred. That's why she's afraid. Even someone with absolutely no experience with relationships can see it....
If she can see that I'm the remaining one out a hundred, I have to tip my hat to her.
This is bad.
I've really fallen for her.
So much so that I can't help it.
Truthfully, I want to just go with the moment and hold her, but I don't want to lose Senjougahara like that. I don't have any cards to show her...so I think our relationship should stay like this for now.
It's not like I don't want to.
Lovers who stare up at the starry sky together.
Our relationship is fine like this.
A platonic love.
"Araragi-kun," Senjougahara says in even tone, "Do you like me?"
"I like you."
"I like you too, Araragi-kun."
"What about me do you like?"
"I like everything about you. There isn't anything that I don't like."
"I see. That makes me happy."
"What about me do you like?"
"Your kindness. Your cute parts. The you that would rush to save me whenever I am troubled, like my very own prince."
"That makes me happy."
"That's right," Senjougahara says as if it only just came to her now, "That lowlife was after my body, so he didn't even try to steal my lips."
"Huh? What do you mean?"
"In a manner of speaking, that lowlife wasn't able to see this... Araragi-kun. That's why."
Without even the slightest sign of embarrassment, Senjougahara says, "We're going to kiss."
I'm scared, Hitagi-san.
"That's not right. Not like this. Can....can I.....have a kiss? How ab....about a.......kiss?"
"Shall we kiss, Araragi-kun?"
"So it ultimately comes down to that?"
To be honest, that was the right way.
There is nothing more fitting.
This is how today became a day of commemoration.
For the two of us.
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