Otorimonogatari : 004

Nadeko hadn’t noticed Ougi-san’s outstretched hand, by the way — actually, it wasn’t that I hadn’t seen it.

I kept my head down without looking at Ougi-san’s face, so of course, her hand entered my vision — my head was down, so in fact, you could say I saw nothing except her hand. If I’m not wrong, Ougi-san must have wanted to shake hands with Nadeko.

Ougi-san pulled her hand back with a smile, like nothing happened, but it should have been a very uncomfortable situation.

In a way, maybe her confusing talk of ‘victims’ and ‘victimizers’, ‘everyday lives’ and ‘stories’, were just a way to get back at how rude Nadeko had been.

Implying things to fan up anxiety, that’s a common and effective method of communication, isn’t it?

But,

Nadeko just can’t.

I know that it makes people uncomfortable, but Nadeko can’t.

Nadeko can’t be touched by people.

Nadeko can’t touch people.

A handshake would be even more ridiculous, and I don’t even like light touching, or getting knocked on my head or arm — I’d probably jump.

I would tremble.

The nade in my name means ‘to pet’, but I don’t like that either.

Please don’t pet me.

To put it in an extreme way, it might even be better if you just hit me.

At least then — it wouldn’t ever count as mixing in with other people.

Mixing what? Temperature, and body heat.

Yes.

Nadeko didn’t like a person’s body heat — didn’t like feeling the warmth from someone’s skin. Worst of all would be mixing my own body heat with someone else’s.

It would be awful if I were to shake someone’s hand and could feel how warm — or how cool — their hand was.

I might even break out in a cold sweat.

That’s why, on a smaller note, I was surprisingly fine with being touched through my clothes.

“Disliking contact with other human beings to a strong degree, is a manifestation of the strength of your self-consciousness. So following on that line of thought, although Sengoku-chan looks docile, it may be surprising that you have a strong will of your own, and don’t rely on others.”

— Well, that was what Hanekawa-san had said to me when I discussed this with her, but maybe that was just her being kind?

Maybe she was just choosing her words?

Maybe, in truth, I was just a coward.

Maybe Nadeko was too afraid to even rely on others.

It was just that, if Nadeko could give her own opinion, it was all the other people who were strange — why?

Why would they let other people into their hearts so easily?

Why would they let others touch them?

Nadeko didn’t want to be hindered, and wouldn’t let them.

Anyway, I got to school. My arrival.

The traffic accident with Ougi-san (which in the end was just self-infllicted injury on part of Ougi-san) didn’t make Nadeko late for school — it felt like I had talked for a surprisingly long time, but Nadeko had left home very earlier, so that I would be fine no matter what trouble I ran into on the way.

Of course, it was after June that I started being on guard against trouble like this.

Although, rather than being alert, maybe I was just being even more timid than before.

…And on that topic,

that actually hadn’t been so bad.

When I experienced the snakes wrapping directly around my naked skin — oh, that’s right.

I learned this in science class. Snakes had variable temperature — so body heat didn’t really mean much with them.

It was October 31st. Not quite time for the year’s first snowfall, but the temperature was enough to call it winter — very cold. In that case, maybe it was already the season for reptiles like snakes to go into hibernation.

I entered the school building and changed my shoes.

From outdoor shoes to indoor ones.

My shoes were in the second-year Class 2’s shoe cupboards, the second from the top, so Nadeko wouldn’t be able to reach them without stretching a bit — I always wished that I was a bit taller when I arrived at and left school, so basically, whenever I had to use this cupboard.

I took my shoes off first and then stood onto the platform and reached up.

My fingers searched inside the cupboard —

“Hyaa… waah!”

I screamed again. That was the second time today.

Nadeko’s voice might be small in general, but my screams were loud as normal.

I hadn’t moved at all when Ougi-san was about to run over me, but this time I fell with a commotion, right on my backside.

The pose felt a bit immodest.

If anyone had been watching they might have thought I stretched too far and lost my balance and, since I was wearing socks, slipped on the smooth platform. Maybe I was just clumsy.

But that’s wrong. That wasn’t the case.

Unable to even stand, I just looked at my own right hand — the one that was searching around the cupboard.

“……”

Not seeing anything unnatural about it, my gaze moved to the cupboard — but all I saw there was just a cupboard, nothing more.

Nadeko’s indoor shoes were poking out slightly.

So Nadeko didn’t see anything there.

Not even — a white snake.

But I felt it.

You could say it was a very familiar feeling to Nadeko — the feeling of snakes wrapping around my naked skin.

Soft, and hard.

Slippery, but scaly.

You wouldn’t feel much body temperature,

but you would feel life — in the way it entwined itself, possessed you.

“……”

Timidly,

Nadeko stood up, stretched my back, and peeked into the cupboard — but my height just wasn’t enough.

If only there was some sort of stand nearby, but there was nothing so convenient close by.

In any case, I had no choice but to nervously pull out my shoes with the tip of my nails — and check inside them.

Empty. There was nothing in them.

No socks, no human ankles, and of course — no white snakes.

It wasn’t there, and I didn’t see it there.

“……”

Well, of course, although Nadeko had less friends than most, was shy and quiet and bad at communicating with others, and so difficult to deal with that some people might feel unpleasant, but I wasn’t exactly being bullied — so I didn’t remember ever finding a snake in my shoe cupboard.

Actually, that would be beyond just bullying. It was scarier to imagine who would do something like that just for a laugh.

Um, so basically, Nadeko wasn’t so important a girl to get live snakes shoved into her shoe cupboard just for the sake of bullying her.

Being disliked is also a kind of talent, a proper type of individuality, after all.

Back in June, too — a lot of things happened that Nadeko wasn’t connected to.

Oshino-san, and Ougi-san from this morning, had called Nadeko a ‘victim’ — but in that sense, I think that I wasn’t even a victim.

Just ‘involved’.

I couldn’t help but feel that this was the most fitting term.

After all.

After all, I had no choice but to admit it — looking at the disaster that was second-year Class 2 right now.

That’s right.

Nadeko’s personality, how I got along with people, it didn’t have anything to do with those — bullying just would not happen in the class right now.

“…Was I just imagining it?”

But, just in case, I hopped up and down to look inside my cupboard (just a bit) but naturally, there was nothing out of place.

It was strange, though.

If I had been just imagining it, then of course, that would be best — it would be a wonderful conclusion, but, why?

Even if that feeling of a snake wrapping around me, possessing me, was just imagined — why did Nadeko imagine a white snake when I didn’t see it at all — ?

“What’s the matter, Sengoku-san? Are you all right?”

A girl in the same year as Nadeko called out, worried about my bizarre act (which must have been what it looked like) around the shoe cupboards.

With a small voice,

“I’m all right.”

Nadeko looked down.

“I’m all right.”

Nadeko didn’t know if she actually heard it, but accepting and seemingly understanding it, the girl went on ahead to her classroom — she was in a different class, so of course she went to a different classroom.

This shoe cupboard was just one of the many second-year Class 2 cupboards, so it wasn’t as though there weren’t other students in the same class as me — but they wouldn’t call out to me about my strange behaviour.

Nobody looked this way, and everyone just headed to the classroom without talking to each other.

Yes.

This is how it is.

This is the state of second-year Class 2.

My school life of melancholy.

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