Story 4: Other Short Stories – Part 1
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
Author’s Note: “Nobody Loves me” is kind of a different type of story, and I personally like it a lot. I wonder if there’s a world where this Kurageda-san1 attaches himself to Ushio. And today is another day where Ushio observes Kunieda-san’s sleeping positions and offers him advice about what to wear.
Translator Note: I’ve already translated “Nobody Loves me” as an extra for Volume 2 of “Yes, No, or Maybe Half?” but I’m including it here too for completeness.
Nobody Loves me
For some reason, he felt like he had turned into a jellyfish. He had
fell during a trip at a hot springs, and ever since he woke up, that was
the feeling that he had. Probably because he had hit his head, his
memories were fuzzy. At first, he felt like the reality of his
surroundings was shaky and unreliable, but now he thought otherwise.
It was himself that was formless, drifting about and taking in air. It was the world that didn’t know what to do with him, and it made Kunieda-san scared and worried.
He opened up a newspaper and turned on the TV. It was a normal and
ordinary day. There were words that he knew, news that he had heard, and
breaking news stories to process. Kunieda-san understood everything and
could digest it all. He took care of himself properly, made his meals
himself, and he more than supported his basic necessities with his
salary. What part of his daily life was unstable? He couldn’t come up
with an answer, and he didn’t know if thinking about it in itself was
the correct thing to do.
Sometimes he wondered if he was still unconscious from the hit to his
head (or some other accident or illness) and he was actually dreaming.
—Somehow it felt like he wasn’t himself…
He had talked with a doctor, but he had brushed it off saying, Let’s just wait and see how things go.
Which probably meant that at the very least, there was a third party
who felt that everything was normal. Would he feel better if he could
call or text someone? But there was no one he could think of to contact.
It wasn’t that he couldn’t think of anyone, but his parents, his work
colleagues, and the people he knew from college all felt wrong.
He couldn’t fall asleep until late at night, and he had hoped his
head would feel clearer in the morning after getting some rest, but his
sleep was shallow and nothing had changed.
It was just before dawn, and his empty bedroom was filled with a
bluish darkness like the middle of the ocean. It was his own apartment,
but his sofa, his coffee table, and even his bookshelves seemed cold and
distant. Why were there volumes of manga he had never seen before? What
was that extra key hanging on his keychain for? It felt like all those
things were simultaneously accusing him, You’re not you.
Kunieda-san was lonely. He didn’t know why he felt so lonely, and it
made him feel even lonelier that he could barely stand it. The thoughts
occupied his head like a curse saying, No one loves you. Why?
Why? He had never done anything wrong or said anything cruel—he had
lived his life properly up until now. He had carefully communicated
with the people around him, and there wasn’t anyone who he could
remember that obviously hated him. But despite all of that, there was no
Kunieda-san waited quietly for the morning. Morning came and went, then noon, and as night approached, he thought, I should go see him. Tsuzuki-san.
Tsuzuki-san was the single person he had no recollection of in his
memory. The first time he had ever seen him was when he woke up. And
yet— No, maybe that was why. It was only when he was with Tsuzuki-san
that the contours took shape and he felt less and less like a jellyfish.
He felt safe, and he enjoyed himself.
But sometimes when Tsuzuki-san would look at him, a hint of
loneliness would flash across his eyes. Maybe the thoughts that
Kunieda-san was having about himself, he was making Tsuzuki-san feel
right now. Imagining it only made Kunieda-san feel lonely all over
again. I’m sorry, he whispered. But I want to see you.
Even if no one—and perhaps not even you—loves me.
(First published in a blog post celebrating additional printings of Dear Plus Bunko’s “Center of the World” in July 2017.)
Stiff upper lip—it was an expression in English that described those who showed great self-restraint in maintaining their cool and composure. It was surprising because he most associated the lower lip with the image of someone clenching their teeth to keep their emotions in check.
He would frequently remember that expression whenever he watched Kei: the lips that he would set together while he read through newspapers and materials for work and watched the news, the lips that he would press into a line the moment before an inappropriate subject was mentioned live on the air. Those lips would loosen whenever he went to curse people out, kick up a fuss to cover up his embarrassment, and complain that he was hungry with his primitive instincts on full blast, but it was like his determined show of stiffness refused to yield any suggestion that other sides of Kei existed.
Ushio thought that he had probably stiffened his lips during the time he had stayed at his parents’ home. He had ground his teeth together in full defiance. Not with his words or his actions, but with his heart. He had resolved behind closed lips over and over again that he would never agree with their values, that he would never abandon everything he loved, that he would never give up on his freedom. And although Ushio loved the face that Kei made whenever he shut his mouth tightly, Ushio would sometimes worry about him. Kei was stronger than Ushio, and that was because he placed an unbelievable amount of restraint on himself.
In the middle of the night, Ushio pressed at Kei’s upper lip with his finger while Kei was asleep. The lip felt warm to the touch and made a soft dent.
Oh, you’re okay.
Ushio was reassured. Against his better judgement, he kept poking at the lip, and Kei squinted his eyes open.
“…What the hell are you doing?” Kei demanded, sounding half-asleep.
Ushio answered, “I got bored,” and Kei got angry at him.
“Are you dumb? Go to sleep.”
“What are you smiling at? You’re giving me the creeps. Turn the other way around.”
Ushio let Kei push his shoulder to turn him in the other direction, and immediately Kei pressed himself up against his back.
“What? Do you miss my company? Want me to hold you?”
“Shut up and be quiet.”
Kei’s breathing tickled the back of his neck. Ushio laid his hand on top of the one wrapped around his waist. Ushio loosened his lips at the warmth. Even when Ushio hadn’t gone to seek it out himself, Kei would always give him an It’s okay. Ushio would always forget that little reassurance over and over again, and yet Kei would remain constant, unchanging.
“Let’s play together in the morning.”
Let’s talk, let’s eat, let’s laugh.
Kei didn’t give Ushio an answer, but he squeezed his arms tighter as he hugged him.
(First published in a bonus short story card for Ichiho Michi’s 10th Anniversary Commemorative Fair in July 2017.)
“There was a news story about baby pandas today.”
Ushio brought forward this particular topic of conversation.
“Asahi TV was playing TV shopping program, so I went randomly flipping through the channels. Sometimes they would refer to the pandas as a large animal, and sometimes they would say a small animal. So which one’s correct?”
“…If a person can carry the animal in their arms, it’s a small animal. If not, then it’s a large animal.”
“Oh, I see. So when they’re referring to pandas, it’s a large animal, but when they’re referring to baby pandas, it’s a small animal. Kunieda-san sure knows the answers to all my questions~”
“W-Why are you asking me this now!?”
“Oh, nothing. I just happened to remember it. So I guess this means that Kunieda-san is considered to be a small animal.” Ushio rocked into Kei’s body, the two of them joined together facing each other. “I mean, I can carry you in my arms.”
“Ah! Ugh, you idiot… ngh!”
“But a fish is pretty fitting too. I’d hate to give it up.”
“Why!? And your choices are devolving!”
“Because you flop around all slick and wet— Here.”
Kei clung to Ushio as Ushio thrust deep inside him, curving his back as it dripped with beads of sweat.
“Maybe I should call it trembling? Which one’s better? I guess there’s not a huge difference.”
“A-As soon as we’re done, you’re dead…!”
But once they finished, Kei would put it off because he would want to shower first. And after that, he would want to sleep first. And then he would wait for breakfast to be ready first… And yes, he knew that little by little he would let Ushio off the hook.
I’m not “all talk and no action.” Just that each time I’m generously granting him amnesty as a prince, Kei would repeat to himself.
At any rate, Kei thought, You better cut it out, you bastard. Pandas were the idols of the world, always in the media with announcements and stories capturing the public’s attention. It was embarrassing—that every time when a new panda story appeared, he would have to explain the large/small animal divide and pretend like he hadn’t remembered some very unnecessary memory so that no one would know—well, there was one person who did know. Kei didn’t care about the bears in kabuki makeup that probably tasted terrible; it was any collateral incidents that he was worried about. Plus, there was no sign of the pandas ever being dethroned from their top spot in the world. Just like Kunieda Kei and his image as a prince.
What should I do to erase a troublesome memory?
If he were to ask Kids Summer Vacation Science Hotline for help, would they come up with a brilliant plan to solve his problem?2
“The two of us as one large animal. That would work too.”
His ears still burned from the words that Ushio had whispered.
(First published in a bonus short story card for attendees at Ichiho Michi’s 10th Anniversary Commemorative Collaboration Cafe at ComiComi Studio in August 2017.)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
- Kurageda is a play on kurage (jellyfish) and Kunieda.
- Kids Summer Vacation Science Hotline is a call-in radio show for kids.