Monogatari Series:Bakemonogatari Volume1/Suruga Monkey 004
For Senjougahara, it was two years. For me, it was two weeks.
For Hanekawa, it was during Golden Week.
For Hachikuji…well, I don’t know for sure about her.
If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, it’s the length of time we spent in contact with a monster. The length of time we had a strange experience. The length of time we had a horrible experience that was most certainly not normal.
Take me, Araragi Koyomi, for example.
It embarrasses me enough to want to crawl into a hole and hide, but I was attacked by an old type of vampire during this civilized society of the 21st century. I felt blood-chilling fear and panic, and the traditional and legendary vampire sucked out all the blood of my body.
I was sucked dry.
And I became a vampire.
I feared the sun, I hated crosses, I avoided garlic, and I disliked holy water. In exchange, I received physical strength tens, hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of times greater than a normal human. And in exchange for that, I felt an absolute hunger for human blood. I became one of those night walkers seen often in manga, anime, and movies. I really felt such a realistic vampire was unfair. The popular vampires these days walk around fine during the day, wear crosses as accessories, eat gyoza, and drink holy water. Only the physical abilities remain.
Even so, the need to suck human blood remains for vampires even in modern popular culture.
A blood-sucking demon. A vampire.
In the end, I had been saved from that hell by a middle aged man passing by. He was not a vampire hunter, he was not part of some Christian special forces, and he was not a vampire that killed his own kind. Oshino Meme was merely a flippant Hawaiian shirt-wearing man who had been passing by. However, that did not change the fact that those two weeks had in fact happened.
There was one thing different between myself and the other three that I had to keep in mind. The difference was greatest when it came to Senjougahara Hitagi.
This was not the difference in the length of time.
It was how much we had lost.
She had said she did not intend to go back to how she was.
But that was not absolutely necessary. Wasn’t it just that Senjougahara did not want to go back?
After all, Senjougahara had cut off any and all socializing with others for two years. She had not made contact with anyone in the class for those two years. Even now that those two years were over, she had not changed.
Other than her dealings with me, nothing had changed.
Araragi Koyomi had merely become a special exception for Senjougahara, but everything else had stayed the same.
No difference could be seen between before and after.
She merely no longer had to go to the school infirmary.
She merely could join in during PE.
She still quietly read in the corner of the classroom. It was as if reading in the classroom was her way of constructing a solid wall between her and her classmates.
She really had only started to talk with me.
She only ate lunch with me.
Her position in the classroom was still that of the quiet, sickly A-student. The rest of the class only saw it as her mood and illness improving slightly.
Hanekawa, the class rep, had innocently rejoiced and said it was a wonderful improvement, but I could not view that scene and feeling positively.
She had not lost all that.
She may have cast it aside herself.
But the result was the same.
I don’t mean to sound like I knew what I was talking about. I had no idea what our relationship would be like from then on, and I did not think it was a problem I should interfere with.
I did not feel that interfering or meddling was the right thing to do.
Even so, I couldn’t help but have a certain thought.
What if Senjougahara-…?
She currently was not carrying around a stapler. That was a step forward and a change, so couldn’t she continue to head down that path?
What if she opened up to others and not just me?
“Hello, sorry about the wait. This is Hanekawa.”
While that was the proper way to answer a telephone, was it really right to say that with a cell phone?
The class rep and a high end student.
She seemed to have been born to be a class rep.
I had originally joked about her being the class rep among class reps chosen by god, but in the two months I had worked with her as the vice class rep, I had learned that she matched that so well it was no longer funny. It was greatly important for humans to acquire knowledge, but that was one thing I wish I had not learned.
“What is it? It is rather unusual for you to call me, Araragi-kun.”
“Oh, it’s nothing really. I just wanted to ask you something.”
“You want to ask me something? That’s fine. Oh, is it about what our class is doing for the cultural festival? Really, it would be best not to think too much about the cultural festival until the exam is over. You have your hands full with that, right, Araragi-kun? I will of course take care of all the minor tasks for the time being. Or are you saying we should change what we are doing? We decided it by survey, so that would be difficult. Oh, or is there some kind of problem meaning we have to change it? If so, we need to deal with that as quickly as possible.”
“Could you not get so off topic?”
She really was the type to move the conversation off somewhere on her own.
Not only did she jump to the wrong conclusions a lot, but she talked a lot and quickly.
It was hard to get a word in edgewise.
It was 8 PM.
On the way back from Senjougahara’s home in the Tamikura Apartments, I was walking along an asphalt road while pushing my bike rather than sitting in the seat. This was not because Hachikuji was next to me or because Kanbaru was running toward me. I had simply wanted to think.
In the end, we had studied until 8PM.
It was dinner time, so I had gotten my hopes up that Senjougahara would cook some food for me, but she showed no sign of doing so. I had finally run out of patience and had complained about my empty stomach.
“I see. Then we can end this here. I am sure you remember, but there are very few streetlights in this area. Be careful on your way home. See you later, alligator.”
She had readily driven me out. As her father often worked late into the night, Senjougahara Hitagi essentially lived alone, so she had to have been able to cook.
Her difficulty level just kept getting higher and higher.
But then, I did not get hungry much, so my complaint of hunger had been mostly a lie.
I said I had been thinking, but I was the person Senjoughara had given up on trying to teach to the level of getting an average grade. For me, thinking did not produce all that much. It was mostly just for my own satisfaction. However, there were some things it was okay to have end at the level of self-satisfaction and some things that were not. This was the latter.
And so I called Hanekawa’s cell phone while walking along and pushing my bike with my right hand. It was half past eight at night, so I was unsure whether that was an appropriate time to call a girl I did not have all that close a relationship with. However, from Hanekawa’s reaction, it must have been in the acceptable range. Hanekawa was the personification of diligence and was stricter about morals than most, so she would have told me if I should not have been doing what I was doing.
“Um, this might end up being a long conversation. Do you have time, Hanekawa?”
“Hm? Yes. I was just doing a bit of light studying.”
She truly must have been the class rep among class reps chosen by god to give that answer so readily and without sounding displeased by it.
What qualifies as “light” studying?
“Well, I’ll try to keep it as short as possible. Hanekawa, you went to the same middle school as Senjoughara, right? What was it…? Oh, right. Public Seifuu Middle School.”
“Yes, I did.”
“Then do you know Kanbaru Suruga who is one year below us?”
“Of course I do. In fact, is there anyone who does not know who she is? Even you do, right, Araragi-kun? She is the captain of the basketball team and seen as a star throughout the school. Even I have gone to some of her games with friends to cheer her on.”
“Well, I’m not really interested in the present. I want to know about when Kanbaru was in middle school.”
“Hmm? You do? Why?”
“I just do.”
“Hmm. Well, she was not all that different in middle school from now. She was the ace of the basketball team. From the latter half of the second year on, she was the captain just like now. What about it?”
I could not tell her.
I could not say it.
She would not believe me.
Who would believe that the star of the school was all but stalking me of all people?
There was also the issue of how much of the situation it was okay for me to tell her. But, well, it was Hanekawa, so I decided I could tell her a certain amount. Of course, I would be indirect about the parts I should keep hidden.
“I’ve heard Kanbaru and Senjougahara got along well in middle school. Is that true?”
“Hmm? I believe I told you this before, but even though I was in the same middle school, I never actually had any physical contact with Senjougahara-san. She was popular, so someone more plain like me had just heard about her.”
“That modesty of yours always moves me, but could we do without it for once?”
“The Valhalla Combo.”
“I just remembered. They were called the Valhalla Combo. Senjougahara-san of the track team and Kanbaru-san of the basketball team were the Valhalla Combo.”
“The Valhalla Combo? What does Valhalla mean? The term sounds sort of familiar. And why were they called that?”
“The ‘baru’ of Kanbaru and the ‘hara’ of Senjougahara were put together to get ‘baruhara’ or Valhalla. Valhalla is the heavenly temple Odin lives in in Norse mythology. The spirits of warriors that died in battle are invited in, so it is known as the holy ground of the god of war.”
“Oh, so it also takes the ‘god’ from Kanbaru and the ‘battlefield’ from Senjougahara.”
“And that was the Valhalla Combo.”
It fit too perfectly.
Some people did come up with clever names even if it was just for a nickname, but the difficult level for this one was so high and it had such a lovely ring to it that most people would simply be impressed upon hearing it. This left me at a loss as to what to say, but I suppose that’s just the cruel way you end up looking at it when you’re in charge of the witty retorts.
“Well, since they were a combo, I suppose they at least got along to a certain extent. Senjougahara-san was on the team right up to the point she graduated, so at the very least they had an association through both being on sports teams.”
“You know everything, don’t you?”
“I do not know everything. I only know what I know.”
That was our usual exchange.
At any rate, I felt like I was now better able to read between the lines of what was going on.
But what was I to do now that I had read between the lines?
What was I going to do about the lines themselves?
“This may be repeating a question I asked you before, but Senjougahara was a completely different person during middle school, right?”
“Yes, she was. Still, even she has been changing a bit lately. She is still very different from back then, though.”
She was changing.
She was changing, but only in things related to me.
And that was why she was different from the past.
“Was she popular with her underclassmen?”
“Yes. She was popular with the boys and the girls both. Also, it apparently was not limited to the underclassmen. When she had upperclassmen, those upperclassman were quite affectionate toward her, and she was of course well-liked by her classmates.”
“So she was popular with everyone be they young or old, man or woman, hm?”
“This is only a difference of upperclassmen and underclassman, so I do not think it is a matter of ‘young or old’. Even so, if I had to choose, I would say she was most popular with the underclassman girls. That is what you wanted to know, isn’t it, Araragi-kun?”
“…I’m glad you’re so perceptive.”
The problem was she could be too perceptive.
It wasn’t as bad as with Oshino, but it felt like she saw straight through you.
“But Araragi-kun, it is the current Senjoughara-san that you love, not the old one, right?”
You’re just like that fifth grader.
Incidentally, despite neither of us having ever told anyone, everyone knew that Senjougahara and I were dating. Senjougahara held the position of the docile A-student and she intended to remain in that position, so she did not have any classmates to whom she would tell something like that. The same could be said for me but for different reasons. People had no reason to openly mock the idea, so it wasn’t something that spread like wildfire, but at some point it had become something everyone was assumed to know.
Rumors could be frightening things.
It seemed to have taken some time for it to breach the wall between the third year and the second year where it reached Kanbaru. However, given that Senjougahara was well-known and that Kanbaru had reason to take extra interest when it came to Senjougahara, it seemed like it should have happened even quicker than that, but I guess that is just how things are when it has to go between classes.
“You may be sick of hearing me say this, but make sure to keep a proper and pure attitude toward your relationship, Araragi-kun. Do not do anything that would even begin rumors that something immoral was going on. Well, Senjougahara-san seems a proper girl, so I doubt this will become anything untoward.”
“Oh…A proper girl, hm?”
Come to think of it, Hanekawa still doesn’t know about Senjoughara’s true character…
Our other classmates were one thing, but Senjougahara was quite something to delude even Class Rep Hanekawa of the Strangely-Shaped Wings who had known we were dating before we even started dating. In that way, Senjougahara had indeed shown me a side of her she had shown to no one else, but that did not make me all that happy. When I said I wanted to see a side of her that was special or exclusive, I was referring to something else.
But really, that sort of summed up the state of our relationship. She would not even cook for me, so it certainly seemed unlikely it would develop into anything untoward.
Kanbaru had been rejected, so she knew of Senjougahara’s true character regardless of what may have happened in middle school. And since she had called out to me while knowing that, Kanbaru must have…
“Senjougahara-san is difficult,” said Hanekawa suddenly.
I recalled that Hanekawa had said something similar before. Of course, this was Hanekawa speaking, so she was not talking about the difficulty of completing Senjougahara Hitagi’s route.
“I do not intend to claim I really know what I am talking about, but Senjougahara-san has created an impregnable field around herself.”
“Araragi-kun, you have one too. Everyone has a field around themselves in the form of privacy. The main difference is how strong this field is. You and Senjougahara-san have built that field into thick castle walls to hide behind. Most of the people who do that find social interaction itself to be irritating. Can you think of anything like that?”
“For me? Or for Senjougahara?”
“For both of you.”
“Well, I can certainly think of something.”
It was definitely true.
But in that case…
“But Araragi-kun, not liking social interaction and not liking people are not the same thing.”
“What? Aren’t they, though?”
“ ‘In this world of ours / people’s comings and goings / can be quite tiresome’,” said Hanekawa in a calm and composed voice. “ ‘But I happen to feel that / you are the one exception’ …No matter how bad at Japanese you are, surely you can understand what that means. Do you understand what I am trying to say now?”
I had no choice but to respond that way.
I resented being treated like a child, though.
However, I could not think of anything to do but to thank her.
“Thanks. Sorry about taking up all your time for these nonsensical questions.”
“Oh, they are not nonsensical. Wanting to know about your precious girlfriend is completely normal,” said Hanekawa.
She had no problem saying something as embarrassing as that.
She really was the class rep among class reps.
“However, I do not think you should be digging too deeply into your lover’s past. Make sure you are not doing this purely for fun, Araragi-kun, and also make sure you only do this in moderation.”
With that last obvious warning, she said “bye bye” and fell silent.
I was a bit confused as to why she had said bye but not hung up, but I then recalled that I had taught her over spring break that phone etiquette dictated that the one who called should hang up first.
She’s so much of a stickler for the rules that it scares me…
With that thought, I said “See you at school tomorrow” and hit the end call button. I then closed my cell phone and put it away in my back pocket.
Now, what was I to make of all that?
I had a certain level of understanding regarding how Senjougahara spoke and how she acted. This was due to having been in a similar position to her once and having experienced something similar to her. So why did I sympathize more with Kanbaru?
There was something I wanted to do if I could.
If I only I had been able to.
At some point Senjougahara had begun to view kindness as a hostile act. She would say it was none of the person’s business, that they were meddling, or that they were a bother. She had displayed that aberrant philosophy of thought to me, but what I wanted to do was not necessarily a kindness.
After all, I would be doing it for (hastily) calculated reasons. That impudent side to it kept me from speaking it and even kept me from openly thinking it.
But I could not help but think it.
I wanted Senjougahara to regain what she had lost.
I wanted Senjougahara to pick back up what she had cast aside.
After all, that was something I could absolutely never do.
“Discussing this with Oshino wouldn’t help. That cheerful bastard isn’t the type to take care of things after the main problem is solved. Well, I guess I’m not really one to talk……Wait a second.”
Suddenly remembering something for no real reason after you had completely forgotten it was not all that unusual, and that was precisely what happened here. I unzipped the travel bag hanging from my shoulder and checked the contents. I knew I would not find what I was looking for, but I could not help but put up that vain struggle. As expected, the envelope Senjougahara had given me was not in the bag.
It was the envelope that had the money for Oshino.
“Did I leave it on the floor next to the cushion I had been sitting on? …Ahh, what should I do?”
Since it was money, it would be best to take care of it as soon as possible, but it was also not that urgent an issue. I could just have her give it to me the next day at school. I doubted it was the case, but it was possible I had put it in my pocket and it had fallen out at some point as I was walking and speaking on the phone with Hanekawa. For that reason, I considered calling Senjougahara to check…but no.
I had been walking while pushing my bike, so I had not covered all that much distance. If I returned on the bike, I would arrive at the Tamikura Apartments in no time at all, so heading back right then was the best option. Given how late it was, that might mean running into Senjoughara’s father if worse came to worse. However, given how busy he seemed from the things Senjougahara had said, the odds of that seemed slim enough to ignore.
It was true that a phone call could have solved it all, but I wanted to take advantage of every chance I got to see Senjougahara.
I may not have known how to get it across to her, but I did want to feel a romantic atmosphere even if just slightly.
 Translator's Notes
- The "Kan" of Kanbaru means god and the "Senjou" of Senjougahara means battlefield.
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