But now I have a problem.
Well, I already had a problem to begin with, but now I have a bigger problem, and it is the fact that I don’t have a single friend who would let me stay with them for a while.
I do have friends.
Having a somewhat problematic personality, I can’t say I have a lot but, in my own way, I have built up a network of friends appropriate for the average student during my school life.
Speaking of which, while Araragi-kun speaks of his lack of friends with not so much masochism as something closer to pride, on this point, allow me to testify that he is not speaking untruths.
It is not an exaggeration to say that he has no friends.
Or rather, he has for a long time been conducting himself so as to make as few friends as possible — making friends lowers your strength as a human being, or so he says.
He seriously thought, and said, this.
Though this philosophy has already been abandoned, he was still undergoing rehabilitation, and I had never seen him talking to the boys in class.
Actually, I had never seen him speaking to anyone other than Senjougahara-san and me.
Did he know that, just as how Senjougahara-san used to be called a ‘high-class daughter’, he had been called a ‘motionless mute’?
Compared to Araragi-kun’s situation, I still had friends.
Friends with whom I got along well with.
But, when I thought about it carefully, I had never stayed at a friend’s place before.
I had never experienced anything like ‘staying over’, as it was called — hmm.
Now that I thought about it again, I wondered why this was.
Though I hated spending time at the house, I had never genuinely attempted the act of ‘running away’ —
Araragi-kun would probably say something like, that’s because you’re an honor student, and while that might seem to be the truth, perhaps it was rather Senjougahara-san’s view that was correct.
In other words,
“Have you ever said, ‘help me’?”
It wasn’t limited to Araragi-kun.
Perhaps seeking help from others was simply something I could not do — I didn’t like the thought of entrusting something decisive to another person.
I didn’t want to let go of my casting vote.
I wanted to define my own life myself.
That was why — I became a cat.
I became an abnormality.
I became me.
“Well, I guess it’s all right. As luck would have it, I know where to go.”
To cheer myself up, I said this in a way that wasn’t quite talking to myself, and set off. The only luggage I had was the bag I brought to school — as it was the opening ceremony on the first day of the new trimester, it only contained stationery, notebooks and other such unimportant things, but right now, they were my only possessions.
This feeling of being like Anne Shirley, with my single bag containing all my fortune, meant it was untrue that I wasn’t cheekily enjoying the current situation, so I suppose that, as a person, I wasn’t so serious all the way through — and the place where I was going was, of course,
the ruins of that tutorial school we all knew.
It seemed to have been called Noble Minds Tutorial School when it was still in business.
This was the place where Oshino-san and Shinobu-chan had lived for about three months — and Araragi-kun as well during the spring break, so regardless of its ruined appearance, it should have the facilities for one person to stay for the night.
That was how I read it.
I would be thankful for a floor and a roof, at least.
It would be pretty far going on foot, but as I wanted to start saving money from here on, I did not take the bus.
In the past, Oshino-san had placed a boundary field there so you wouldn’t be really be able to reach it even if you wanted to, but it was removed now.
If you just walk along the route,
you should get there normally.
Naturally, there was no electricity, so I had to make my bed while the sun was still up.
Oshino-san and Araragi-kun made their beds by arranging the desks and chairs, didn’t they?
In which case, I should follow their example.
Passing the fence and entering the ruins, the first thing I did was head up the stairs to the fourth floor — I chose the fourth floor because I heard from Araragi-kun that Oshino-san often lived on that floor.
Judging from the living patterns of its previous inhabitant, I guessed that the fourth floor would be easier to live in compared to the others — I had put everything I had in this wild stab.
Rather than hit its mark, it missed completely.
The first classroom I entered on the fourth floor had a hole in the ceiling.
The next one was lacking in floor.
No floor, and no ceiling…
And something must have happened in the last remaining classroom, as though some sort of beast had rampaged around the room — if I had to say, it was as though Araragi-kun and Mayoi-chan were allowed to run amok as much as they wanted.
I felt some regret at my rashness.
It wasn’t supposed to be this damaged…
When I first declared that I would stay at a friend’s house, these ruins were actually already on my mind, but this might be a more severe environment than I had imagined.
Forcing a smile and trying my best to raise my spirits, I went down to the third floor — the first classroom I entered on this floor was lacking in both ceiling and floor.
It would seem that the hole in the ceiling was connected to that classroom on the fourth floor I saw earlier — what happened here, really? From the hue of the hole’s edges, it seemed to have been destroyed very recently…
The earthquake proofing of this building would be put in quite a lot of doubt, if this had collapsed by itself.
With my heart thumping I challenged the next case and, finally, I arrived at a classroom that maintained the normal appearance of its ceiling, floor and walls.
But it was too early to feel relieved, and I immediately began working to make a bed. This feels a bit like going camping with the Scouts, I thought, but of course, I had never joined the Scouts.
Knowing something means you only know it.
It is not experience.
It was as Senjougahara-san had said.
It was as if I accumulated knowledge, and alongside it I accumulated meaninglessness.
Actually, binding the available desks together to make a bed was, despite appearances, not a simple task. I had no rope to bind them with in the first place. I left the ruins for a moment and went to a nearby store to buy some things.
“All right, it’s done. Oshino-san used one more desk for his bed, but I’m not as tall as him, so this size should be enough.”
It was enjoyable, though. Making something.
I thought the bed I had created was quite a piece of work — tempted to try it, I could not resist and laid down, still in my uniform.
This isn’t going to work.
As high as my expectations had been, the mental damage I suffered was extreme.
It really wasn’t going to work.
I seriously felt let down.
There was no difference between this and sleeping on the floor.
My expression became rugged.
Believing that a side-by-side test was important, I actually tried lying down on the floor, and it really didn’t feel like there was much difference.
No, in fact, with the number of joints in a human body, it was harder to sleep on the desks.
What a fearsome man you are, Oshino-san.
He can probably sleep on a bed of nails.
I tried thinking of how Araragi-kun and Shinobu-chan had done it, but seeing as Shinobu-chan was a former vampire and Araragi-kun had been a vampire when he lived here, it couldn’t really be used as a reference.
I hadn’t the faintest idea of how a vampire would feel in sleep when they could sleep comfortably even in a narrow coffin.
“A futon. I need bedding…”
Saying this, I left the ruins once again.
I left, carrying my wallet which had a cash card inside — it wasn’t as though I couldn’t go and buy things.
Besides, there were many necessities which needed to be bought in the first place aside from vinyl cords, and it shouldn’t take much time or effort — it was just that, at this point, I had to cut down even on bus fares, so there was no way I could buy a something like warm Hanege quilt bedding, so I had to prepare some sort of replacement.
On this topic, I read in some book that newspaper, magazines or cardboard were very reasonable for the purpose of warming oneself. I ought to be able to get cardboard at department stores for free.
Considering the amount of this-and-thats which I had to buy, I would have to take the bus for the return trip, but on that point, I cleanly gave myself up. It was a bad idea to cut down on even the things I need.
Poverty dulls the wit.
How beautiful those words were.
And that was why I walked.
I walked, slowly.
One step at a time, firmly.
Foodstuff that could be preserved, and water, things like these were absolutely necessary. I’ll use cardboard as the mattress and newspapers, not magazines, for the cover. Tearing the pages would be an essential task if using magazines, and I didn’t think I could manage it. Even if I were to use magazines, it seems I had some resistance to destroying reading material. On this point, newspapers are already undone to begin with.
I couldn’t sleep in my uniform — Araragi-kun seemed to began thinking that I didn’t own a single piece of regular clothing, but this was not true, of course.
Those two hadn’t done a single parent-like thing for me, but they weren’t negligent, either.
They did the minimum.
They did it as though they were fulfilling some obligation.
So they bought me clothes, at least — it was simply that I didn’t really want to wear them.
Well, everything’s been burnt now.
After it’s been burnt, everything came to be nothing.
It felt as though I had been reset.
Yes — though it was, in truth, imprudence on my part, I could not deny that I was in a brisk mood.
Of course, said briskness was also in truth a trick.
There — had been no reset.
This situation was nothing more than a temporary refuge.
Something that was lost cannot be made into something that had never been.
Walking around the mass retailers in the department store, I saw that clothes as a product was surprisingly expensive. I would have to take the bus, but maybe I should head to Uniqlo… as I started thinking this, the neighboring hundred-yen shop suddenly came into my view.
Actually, I thought as I approached it, I already had a hunch about coming here, and I was right. Of course, you would be hard-pressed to find pajamas (-style sweaters) for a hundred yen, but thankfully, underwear was sold for that price.
I bought them without a moment’s hesitation and finished up my shopping.
As I thought about stupid things like how I really can’t show off underwear I bought at a hundred-yen shop to Araragi-kun, I stepped onto the bus for the return trip as planned, and returned to the tutorial school.
Oshino-san hadn’t spoke of bothers like these when he had lived here, but as he was a human being and not a vampire, I felt a strange sense of admiration for him as I wondered if he had really went through three months of hardships like this.
In the third-floor classroom, I began reinforcing the bed. Cutting the cardboard with a utility knife, I used packing tape to wrap together two layers on top of the desks. You may think that, no matter how much I worked on it, cardboard was still cardboard, but this was overwhelmingly more comfortable a bed. I wrapped another layer of cardboard just to be sure, and completed my bedding.
As the amount of work so far had tired me out considerably, I had dinner.
Preserved foods were all that I bought, so there was no need to cook anything.
“Thanks for the meal.”
I did not forget these words.
Even if it was just preserved foods, once you trace it back to its source, it had been the sacrifice of some life, somewhere.
At least that’s what I believe, so, thank you.
In fact, even if it wasn’t a living being, it would still become a part of my blood, and my bones, so I will accept it with gratitude.
Life is precious.
Even if it no longer lives.
However, as might be expected, having only this sort of food would be wearisome eventually, so perhaps I should buy a portable stove and pot sooner or later. Though this was supposed to be temporary dwelling until those two found a house to rent, as they are both busy with work, the situation might turn into one where I will live here for quite a long period of time.
“I can use the washrooms and showers at school… if it comes down to it, I can recharge my cellphone at school as well. I can study at the library or reading rooms. As for what’s left…”
Going over the various things that may become problems, I continued the task of inspecting them one by one — I immediately found measures to deal with every single problem.
It would seem that by doing this, I was not so much working out response plans due to the stress my life will be in from now on, but rather working hard to confirm that I was not troubled in any way by the burning down of that house.
I did this, as though I was adjusting myself so to fit into the current situation.
As though I was resolving a paradox.
It really was quite like me to do this.
“That was delicious.”
Seasonally speaking, it was still the height of the summer so the sun should set fairly late, but it had become pitch dark before I realized, so I changed into the nightclothes and the underwear I bought at the shop, and went to sleep on the bed I had just made.
‘Comfortably snug’ weren’t quite exactly the words I could use.
Even so, it was a mysterious thing that I felt a sleep more peaceful than when there had been in the hallway at home.