Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu:Volume1 Epilogue
On the first day of the summer holidays, I was in Haruka's room.
"To be honest...Yuuto-san, I want to show you something."
I am in Haruka's room because of that sentence. What does she want to show me?...Could it be that she wants to show me how she looks like in a maid uniform...Because there are real maids in the Nogizaka residence (the most famous being Hazuki-san) -- No, I don't think so, even though Haruka had talked about how she would like to try it...
Just as my brain clicked into high gear as it started to process the wild fantasies that my teenage hormones could come up with...
"Sorry to keep you waiting."
Haruka returned as she held a teapot in one hand.
Of course, she was not wearing a maid uniform.
"Hmm? Are you trying to say something?"
"No, of course not. I didn't say anything..."
Of course I won't say anything about what I was fantasizing about.
"Maybe I was hearing things...Ah, would Ceylon tea be alright?"
I've gotten better at this, at least I know that Ceylon's the name of a tea now.
Haruka elegantly poured the tea into the teacups (An artifact from the reign of Edward VI, valued at 65,000 Yen per piece).
"Right, I haven't seen Hazuki-san around today?"
I suddenly realized that Hazuki-san, who normally took care of pouring tea, wasn't here today.
"Hazuki-san's on leave. She went back to the countryside to visit her family."
"Oh, I see."
Only when Haruka told me that Hazuki-san's on leave did I realize that it was another maid-san who had led me into the Nogizaka residence.
"She's going back to Hakkaido, so I asked her to bring back some kuma-curry."
This was yet another one of Haruka's obsessions.
"I haven't seen Mika around either..."
"She went hunting with my grandfather, so I don't think she'll be back before midnight."
Such an ancient hobby. But wouldn't it be illegal for Mika to wield a hunting rifle at this age?
"My father's on a business trip to NASA, while my mother's in Paris to take a look at a family business, which means that they're both not at home. So please relax, and make yourself at home."
Haruka emphasized the fact that we were alone to soothe my nerves of sitting in such a luxurious mansion.
I see, so I'll be alone with Haruka for the whole of today. Hmm...Of course, I'm not saying that I don't like to have Mika and Hazuki-san around, it's just that spending time with Haruka alone occasionally is nice too...
Hmm? Only the two of us...
Something about that phrase got my hormones raging again.
Of course, strictly speaking, we weren't the only ones in the Nogizaka residence, as there were other maids in the mansion. But without the ninja-like maid chief (Hazuki-san), no one will come and scare you by silently appearing behind you. From this perspective, it's as good as me being completely alone with Haruka.
It feels quite good.
"Eh? Yuuto-san, why is your face so red? Are you feeling unwell?"
However, the more I thought about how we were alone, the more nervous I became. Because for some unknown reason, I realized that I've been following every single little action that Haruka had been making.To put my nervousness to rest, I started to force myself to recite the dates of historical events (The Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919...), but at that very moment...
Haruka leaned in towards me.
My voice trembled as I struggled to respond. Argh, calm down, I must calm down!
"I did say that I wanted to show you something today."
"Ah, yes, you did."
The moment Haruka mentioned the thing that she wanted to show me, the image of Haruka wearing a maid costume immediately appeared in my mind (I'm such a pervert). But once I saw the seriouness in Haruka's expression, I started to treat this seriously as well.
Haruka said to me as she carefully picked up the magazine that was beside her.
The magazine was the one that I had seen hidden in the corner of a bookshelf in this room a while ago.
"This is the first issue of the <<Innocent Smile>>."
It contained some of Haruka's memories inside it.
"Would you...be willing to read it together with me?"
"Yes, you...don't want to?"
"Of course not, I'm alright with anything..."
I answered that way since I didn't have any reason to reject her request. But it was obviously a much more serious matter to Haruka.
"...To me, this is an extremely special magazine."
Haruka said softly,
"Whenever I'm upset, I would read it to encourage myself. I believe that no matter what happens, the person who comforted me at that time is somewhere in this world, and the strength that he gave me has carried me through all this while."
Haruka hugged the <<Innocent Smile>> tightly to her chest.
"That's why this magazine is my most precious possession, for it holds the memory that I shared with that person."
Upon hearing the reliance that Haruka had on that person, I suddenly felt a pang of jealousy at the person whom I don't know anything about.
After a short pause...
"Which is why I want Yuuto-san to read this as well, I...I hope...that the person who is my greatest source of strength right now, can also read the magazine that has given me the strength to carry on all these years."
I'm very sure that I'm not hearing things.
"Hearing how protective Yuuto-san was of me made me really happy...When I was worried about how Yuuto-san would be ostracized by our schoolmates, a part of me felt happy at being protected like this...I'm sorry, I know that I'm a bad girl for feeling that way, but...I really....really felt happy..."
I was also very happy, as I got to know that Haruka sees me as her 'greatest source of strength'.
Because I felt as though I was going to explode with happiness, I suddenly had the insane urge to run around the room while celebrating wildly, but if I had really done that, I would really become a weirdo (to the extent that Haruka will probably call the ambulance). So I forced down the wave of happiness that was threatening to overwhelm me before saying...
"Then let's read it together!"
Haruka and I sat side by side on the edge of her bed as we started to flip through the <<Innocent Smile>>.
"I really like these lines."
"This is the climax of the story, it's really interesting..."
"This illustration is really cute isn't it!"
Haruka excitedly talked about what she thought about the content of the magazine. I've never seen such an animated Haruka, and this made me realize once again just how much Haruka liked this magazine. Because of that, even though I felt a pang of regret that I wasn't the one who shared the memory with her, I guess there's nothing I can do about it! I looked at Haruka with the complicated feelings of the new boyfriend looking at his girlfriend worrying about her ex-boyfriend.
Haruka continued to happily flip through the <<Innocent Smile>>
I suddenly felt something click in my mind as I looked at her posture.
It was the same feeling I had when I saw this book hidden on the bookshelve when Haruka wasn't in the room, my heart was drawn to it for some unknown reason. It was a feeling of deja-vu.
--Have I experienced this before?
In the evening, in the park that was painted orange by the setting sun, a crying girl, and the two of us sitting side by side, reading a magazine together.
An image suddenly appeared in my mind.
This was something that had happened on my way home after Nobunaga dragged me to Akihabara for the second time.
I was rushing home when I suddenly saw a girl sitting on the corner bench in the park.
That girl was crying.
She didn't care about how other people were looking at here as she cried her heart out.
All the adults around her heard her perfectly, but not one of them did anything about it as they merely quickened their footsteps.
I was really angry at how irresponsible the adults were.
Look at how sad she is. Everything will be better if only one of you adults went over to comfort her.
But no one went to comfort her.
The girl continued to cry.
So I walked over to talk to the girl.
The girl sobbed as she nodded.
"Don't you want to go home? It's getting late."
"...I don't want to go home."
The girl shook her head. I don't know what happened, but I could see that the girl really didn't want to go home.
Which was why I couldn't just leave her like that.
"Can I sit beside you?"
Although the girl was a little surprised by my question, but she still nodded her head almost immediately.
I sat down beside the girl.
After a short period of silence.
The girl started to cry again.
I couldn't take it anymore after a while, and decided to do something about it.
"Hey, I don't know what happened but wouldn't it be really boring to keep crying like this? Let's do something interesting!"
The girl looked at me without saying anything, but I could see the question in her eyes: 'What do you want to do?'
"Right...Why don't we play football?"
"...We don't have a ball."
"Then let's play hide-and-seek."
"...It won't be fun with only two people."
She was right again.
I came up with a few more suggestions, but they were all rejected either because we didn't have the required equipment or because we didn't have enough people.
"This is not good...What should we do then?"
The girl looked down at the ground as she looked as though she was about to start crying again. Is there really nothing that could make her happy...?
"Ah, I've got it!"
I suddenly remember the 'thing' that I was holding in my right hand. I took out the 'thing' that took me an entire day of shopping around Akihabara to buy and showed it to the girl.
"Why don't we read this together? This is manga."
The girl seemed to be a little excited about that.
"Yes, apparently this is a really rare magazine."
I randomly opened the magazine up to one page, and after flipping through a few pages, the girl's eyes started to light up.
"It seems...really interesting."
The girl smiled as she said, this was the first time that I've seen her smile.
The manga inside the magazine was really interesting. Although I was not interested in this magazine that Nobunaga bought at all, but I think that my attitude might have changed a little after reading it.
It was already dark when we finally finished reading the magazine.
"Do you feel better now?"
I asked. The girl replied me with a voice that was a little louder than how she was crying.
"I have to go back, what about you..."
"Hmm, I'll...go home too."
The two of us stood up from the bench we were sitting on.
"Thank you...for cheering me up."
The girl bowed as she thanked me, still holding the magazine in her hands.
"Ah, right, I have to return this to you..."
The girl looked at the magazine longingly as she reluctantly returned it to me. She looked really sad, as though she was letting go of her most precious possession.
"...You can have it!"
I blurted out.
"You want this magazine don't you? I'm giving it to you."
The girl's eyes were like the full moon, bright and round.
"Eh? B...But...This is a very precious item."
"I guess it is, but you really like it don't you?"
"Yes, I...I really like it..."
The girl answered me forcefully.
"That's settled then, I would think that this magazine would rather have you as its owner."
"Is...Is that so..."
The girl looked at the magazine that she was holding before breaking out into a exultant smile. Which is to say, no matter what happens, this magazine will be a source of happiness to this girl, so she's a more suitable owner of this book than Nobunaga. Hmm...That's decided then.
I let the girl hold the magazine tightly in her hands.
"Umm...Umm...I'm really grateful to you."
"Don't mention it. Just remember not to cry in the future, because you look much cuter when you smile."
This was what I truly felt after looking at her smile.
I ran off immediately after saying that.
I seemed to have heard the girl calling out to me, but I didn't turn back because it was almost going to be my curfew (to make dinner for Ruko).
From that day onwards, that magazine belonged to the girl.
On a side-note, when I told Nobunaga about what I had done...
"You gave it away? You gave the first issue of the <<Innocent Smile>> to a stranger...My god! How could you do that! Do you have any idea of the suffering I had to endure just to get that magazine!"
He scolded me harshly, but I retorted that if the magazine was that important, then he should have held it himself instead of giving it to me, and I also suffered a lot when he dragged me through all the bookstores in Akihabara looking for that magazine! You bought three copies of the magazine anyway, there won't be a problem even if you lose one!
"Of course there'll be a problem! God, Yuuto, don't you understand! It's common sense to buy three copies of a rare book or magazine, one for collection, one for reading, and one for showing off! It's all your fault that I won't be able to show it off to my friends!"
How could I have known about such complicated rules.
However, this is something that one must endure if one is to remain friends with an otaku.
--I finally remembered it.
I remember it all.
The park in the evening, a crying girl, the two of us sitting side by side, reading a magazine.
Could it be that the girl from that time was Haruka?
"Haruka, was the person who gave you this <<Innocent Smile>>...a slightly obnoxious boy?"
I asked Haruka tentatively, but she shook her head in response.
"He wasn't obnoxious at all, he was a great guy. Although his speech was a little rough, but he was an extremely kind person...Oh, right, he's like you."
Haruka smiled shyly as she looked at me. At that moment, her cute smile looked exactly like how that girl smiled!
This was amazing.
In other words, my relationship with Haruka didn't start three months ago, but from a very long time ago. One of the reasons, or should I say, the main reason for Haruka becoming an otaku was because of me--
I couldn't help but laugh.
Haruka looked at me with a surprised expression on her face, looking like a primary school kid who's looking at the Mexican Salamander for the first time.
All in all, I can be absolutely sure of one thing.
That is...My strange extraordinary relationship with Haruka will continue like this.
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