Chapter 2 — Coming of age, a ceremony needed for emancipation. Part 8
I felt a sudden dull pain in my foot, and it only added to my vexation.
I wanted to be beside Shiro. I couldn’t keep my calm in this place. I felt like a fish that was stranded ashore.
“Seriously, it’s unfair. Even your appearance when you hit and kick stuff like that is beautiful. It’s so unfair.”
I suddenly heard a cheerful voice. And it was a voice of someone whom I thought had been left behind earlier.
Biting my lip, I answered that voice without turning around.
“Are you spying on me?”
“You see, I wanted to talk with you, but you suddenly kicked the wall, you know?”
As she answered my question, she moved to my side and peeked at my face from down low.
Her large eyes sparkled like a kid’s and appeared to be even brighter in this dark place.
“But well, this is something that happened a bit before I moved, actually,” she began, as her eyes narrowed and she looked past my face into the distance behind me. “Near my home, I saw a scrawny dog.”
In her distant eyes, I saw my own reflection. A face that looked like ice and nothing like a dog’s.
“I always saw him standing by the same street light. All the other dogs were driven away by the city council or something, but the scrawny one always overpowered them and continued standing there by that street light.”
She paused for a moment to place her finger on my lips.
“Now here’s my question. What happened to that dog in the end?”
“It starved itself to death.”
“That’s correct.” Her finger left my lips. “For some reason, whenever I see you, I’m reminded of that dog. Scrawny, tattered and lacerated, but still an exceptionally beautiful dog.”
“Nothing, that’s it.” Her eyes focused on me again, her face still smiling.
“Good bye,” I told her, and walked away.
This time she didn’t grab my hair.
“Isn’t it painful to live like that?”
The tone of her voice was unusually serious, almost sad, when she asked me that.
I didn’t answer, nor did I turn around.
All I wanted to do was to find a place where I could change into the winter uniform that I had just bought.
Shiina Tsukasa was the last thing on my mind.
It was still too early to be calling it sunset when I started heading back home together with Shiro. Probably because of all the recent incidents, Shiro’s large silhouette attracted a lot of unwanted attention from the people passing by, but I decided to ignore them.
It would be a pain to deal with otherwise.
Since I was wearing the winter uniform now, I wasn’t feeling as cold as before.
In the midst of our idle chatter, I slowly reached out to his back and picked up a gray hair that was left there.
A wolf’s hair, the remnant of a fight and a fragment of a dead body.
“Is something there?”
We both came to an abrupt halt.
We were close to the place where we first met, on the road that lay in the gorge between the forest and the city.
In the short time between yesterday and today, something that could only be described as a kind of stand had been set up there.
Apart from that, there was also a table and six chairs. They were all roughly built from what seemed to be varnished timber, which made them appear as though they were part of the forest itself. It all fit cohesively.
Beside the stand was a sign with some sort of label, but we were standing too far away to make anything out of what was written there.
But just that wouldn’t have been enough to make us stop.
The other components that made up the scene were far more eye-catching.
A man was standing there, wearing a light blue aloha shirt, a striking pink bandana, and gold rimmed sunglasses. In addition to all this, his hair was also bleached so much, it was almost white.
Positioned inside the stand, he boiled water with an idiotic grin plastered on his face while wearing a pink apron that matched his bandana.
Many questions were already piling up in my mind, but the main one was probably what he was even thinking, building a stand by this road that almost no one passed through. There were a few houses along the road, but they were all built in such a manner that they faced away from the forest, so even their tenants would only rarely go this way.
“…What is that supposed to be?”
“I’d like to ask that myself.”
Shiro looked at me and we both stared at each other for a while, then shrugged at the same time.
Then we proceeded to continue walking as if we hadn’t seen anything, but–––
“Heeey you two! Don’t you think it’s a bit too harsh to just pass like that and ignore me? I’m a little hurt.”
We had no choice but to stop.