I was sitting on a bench at a certain park when I called Senjougahara-san — said park, by the way, was also where Araragi-kun and Mayoi-chan had first met.
Speaking of which, this had been where Araragi-kun and Senjougahara-san began as a couple as well, so to them, this was probably more memorable a place than the tutorial school.
Of course, to me, this was not a place of any memories worth mentioning, but simply a park which happened to be close to my house, and along the route of my usual strolling course, meaning that there was no significant, deeper reason as to why I had stopped here to make the call.
Thinking that I would go take a look at the remaints of the burnt-down Hanekawa house, I headed in its direction after leaving the library but, having lost my nerve when I finally began my approach, I decided to call Senjougahara-san first.
Or perhaps I did not so much lose my nerve as turn my eyes away from it, but at this point, I no longer understood fully what ‘turning my eyes away’ actually meant.
I was not confused.
Rather, I was perplexed.
In truth, Senjougahara-san pointed out something that had never crossed my mind — but, as she had said, it certainly was something I ought to have noticed even without her saying anything.
Although it took something of a leap of imagination for me to consider the Hanekawa house as ‘a place where I had slept immediately before’ (being my own house, sleeping there was simply too obvious an act and I had difficulty reaching this definition), at the very least, I ought to have thought of the ruins of the tutorial school as ‘a place I stayed at last night’.
It burnt up because I had stayed — while that was something I had not thought of, if the dates were off by just one day I could have been burnt to death — that was the kind of fear I ought to have felt.
And yet this concept had never entered my mind, not in the slightest, which seemed less like I had lacked the imagination —
— and more like I was turning my eyes away.
I turned my back on reality.
That was perhaps what happened.
That was likely what happened.
Of course, be that as it might, I could not simply accept Senjougahara-san’s suggestion — could not accept it on faith, as there was far too great a lack of data to support such a conclusion.
A logical conclusion cannot be derived from merely two samples.
Then again, we could hardly wait for a third or fourth.
Having ended the call with Senjougahara-san, I once again steeled myself, and headed for my burnt-down house — however, contrary to my belief, there was nothing there at all.
there was an astounding lack of anything.
It was now devoid of any spectators, but it was not just a burnt field, looking as though it had always been so for the past fifteen years, nor was it like a crime scene, cordoned off by tapes and fences — it was, as anyone would call it, a vacant lot.
There was nothing — and nothing could be felt.
Although, at this moment, I could not entirely believe in this sensation of ‘not feeling anything’ — I had not simply lived on this plot of land, but in the house that was here, so I could perhaps accept about half of this sensation as truth.
there had been nothing here at all.
Seeing as I would draw undue attention if I stood there for too long, I stayed for little longer than a minute and then removed myself hurriedly.
Aren’t the places where you have slept immediately burning up one after another? — In other words, if this continues, won’t my apartment or the Araragi house also suffer fires some time tonight?
Even after those burnt-down remains, I could not deny that these misgivings of Senjougahara-san felt rather forced — however, those words had made another precedent come to mind.
It was the story of Yaoya Oshichi.
After falling in love with a boy she had met during a great fire, she attempted to burn down her own home so as to meet her beloved again — although it was a terrible thought, one not to shiver in excitement but to tremble in fear for, I could not help feeling that sentiments like this were also quite typical of love.
Oshichi was born in the year of the Hinoe Uma, the Fire Horse, and women born of this year tending to be strong-minded became not so much an abnormal folk story as a kind of superstition, or rather, simple prejudice.
After all, such emotions could be possessed by anyone equally.
It was a horoscope that anyone might fall under.
Nevertheless — in this case, the term ‘Fire Horse’ had a deeper meaning.
Well, to be honest, I knew it didn’t really mean anything.
It meant ‘horse’.
It was very embarrassing allowing the word ‘trauma’ to catch my imagination this way, much like Senjougahara-san and her pun, but nearly half of all folk stories were made up of wordplay in any case, much the same as how Hinoe Uma came from how ‘a fire drives a horse mad’.
The tiger and the horse — together, ‘trauma’.
Damage to the psyche.
“As far as possibilities go, it gives me a lot to think about — but I can’t make any conclusions yet.”
However, I got the feeling that I would be seeing one soon.
The problem, then, was whether I could face that conclusion — forced though those misgivings might have seemed, I could not help feeling unease after the implication that Senjougahara-san’s apartment or Araragi-kun’s home could burn down.
Yes, of course.
It was time to put a stop to all this.
To this story of fire — this story of mine.
“…Um, excuse me.”
The distance between the Hanekawa house (remains) and Araragi-kun’s home was such that I could have taken the bus, but in the end, I walked back on my own two feet without using any public transport.
Having been handed a duplicate key, I could enter without using the intercom (I was quite trusted) but I was naturally rather nervous about that. I could not conduct myself in that way even though I had been told to treat this place as my own home.
After all — ‘my own home’?
I did not even know what that was.
I did not even know myself.
Besides, seeing as the places where I had slept in were going up in flames one after another, I doubt I should have even returned to Araragi-kun’s home, but having already stayed here for one night, perhaps it was already too late — making it all right to come back, the twisted logic that had taken hold within me said.
the fact that I had required a logical reason in order to return to my own lodgings, the poverty of my own heart, made me want to die a little inside.
“Welcome back, Tsubasa-san. You’re pretty late! Where’d you go off to?”
As I was taking off my shoes, Karen-chan came out from the living room to greet me. However, I felt rather troubled that I had no words to reply to her ‘welcome back’.
“Just a park around here. I was there for a bit.”
“Has there been any contact from Araragi-kun?”
“Nope, nothing. He just doesn’t know when to quit wasting his life. When he gets back I’ll kick the crap out of him. He’ll go flying.”
When she said this, Karen-chan actually made a kicking motion.
It was a needlessly splendid double kick.
It would seem that even if Araragi-kun resolved his current case and returned safely, there would be more than one or two predicaments here for him to overcome.
Well, I should not speak as though it did not concern me.
I, too — would very much like to voice my complaints to him,
which was something that I could do only if I were to resolve my own problems beforehand.
wanted to have a predicament for him to overcome.
“Well, who cares about that brother nobody cares about, anyway? I’ve been waiting for you, Tsubasa-san. You could say I was getting sick of waiting. Or maybe I should say I was tired of waiting.”
“Both mean pretty much the same thing, actually.”
“Tsukihi-chan’s back too, so let’s play something! We’ve already got a deck of cards on the living room table.”
Not console games?
That was rather unexpected.
“Oh, but I’m sorry, Karen-chan, I’ve got some things to think about by myself, in my room — ”
“Come on, forget about that.”
When I waved my hand in an attempt to reject her invitation, Karen-chan took my arm forcefully and began dragging me to the living room.
“But, I can’t just — ”
“It’s better for people not to think about anything, you know.”
“What kind of logic is that?!”
“Logic and all that, it just makes your head hurt, don’t it? So what if ‘man is a thinking reed’? Who says that we can’t be an unthinking reed?”
“That’s a very bold opinion!”
But ‘an unthinking reed’?! Wouldn’t that make you just a reed?
You’re fine with that?!
“Oh, come on, hurry. Don’t think you can resist me!”
“Wait, okay, I get it, I get it, just, just let me take my shoes off! We’ll play, we’ll play cards!”
How innocent she was.
There really was no time for me to enjoy card games, not when there were things I wanted to think about, or rather, things I had to think about — so perhaps I should have rejected her regardless, however forceful the invitation might have been.
However, I had not done so, because I realized the meaninglessness of thinking by myself — not, of course, that I agreed with Karen-chan’s “unthinking reed” perspective.
It would be horrible, being just a reed.
But — in much the same way, it was horrible that I was exactly the same whether I was thinking or not.
After all, no matter how much I thought about it,
how much I were to think, or whatever I might realize — when that something was inconvenient to myself, I could simply turn my eyes away, cutting it away from my heart, in the end forgetting it, and ultimately becoming unable to even recall it.
In that case, just as how Senjougahara-san had done so for me before — I could instead approach this with a clear head, waiting to seize on any hints in the midst of a conversation or dialogue.
Sensibility told me that I ought not involve middle schoolers like Karen-chan or Tsukihi-chan, but seeing as I was already inconveniencing them at this very moment, any awkward reservation now would be contrary to the effort — and most of all, if we were to discuss of fire, then in a sense, no one could be more suitable.
They were the Fire Sisters of Tsuganoki No.2.
It was right there in their names.