5

“Kendou”? Is that her name? Or a nickname?

Perhaps he misheard. Her appearing to be the very image of a kendou swordsman did not necessarily mean that her actual name was “Kendou”. Or so Sorakara thought, but then,

“Sorry for the belated introduction. My name is Kendou Kenka. Something like that.”

she cancelled out that entire line of thought by giving her name.

Then she grasped Sorakara’s hand, held out in expectation that his cell phone would soon be returned, and shook it. Being left-handed, Sorakara held out his left hand, so they ended up both shaking with their left hands.

This kendou girl — Kendou had actually been holding the phone with her left hand, though perhaps that was not so much proof that she was also left-handed as merely due to the fact that she was carrying her practice sword in its bag with her right hand.

In any case, this left-hand shake, being something of a breach of etiquette and in fact a sign of hostility, was painful to the point of being unbearable for Sorakara, even with the cell phone separating their hands.

However, for the time being he decided to endure the pain, to try his hardest to not feel pain at all, but of course, even if he had not made this decision, he would have done it all the same, but either way, he did not throw her hand off.

“You really… helped me out. Um, yes.”

Kendou’s showing of gratitude was oddly vague. Maybe she doesn’t know why I helped her, Sorakara thought. It was curious, but not to the degree that he wanted to know the answer. It happens, he supposed. Perhaps the call itself was a necessity, but the conversation was unenviable. Sorakara interpreted the situation as he saw fit.

“I really wish there was a way for me to thank you… um, what’s your name?”

“My name? It’s Sorakara Kuu.”

“Sorakara Kuu.”

Kendou repeated his words and said his full name — she definitely can’t tell how it’s supposed to be written, he thought. She might think that it was a phrase, like sora kara kuu. He hoped she was not misinterpreting it some strange way.

He was about to go on and explain how his name was written when —

“So thanks, Sorakara.”

Kendou stopped him by sealing his lips.

‘Sealing his lips’ would be a rather poetic expression in this case. In somewhat more direct, boorish terms, Sorakara was kissed by Kendou — who was almost ten centimetres than him, as he still had not gone through puberty. She bent down, like she was trying to look at the ground.

“…?”

He thought.

For an instant, Sorakara could not understand what was happening.

He did not know what was being done to him.

Earlier, Dr Kisaragi had pronounced that he was very good at accepting the truth, and Sorakara himself was in complete agreement, but for this moment in time at least, that diagosis seemed to have erred — as it was utterly indecipherable to him what exactly was going on in this moment of time, this reality.

There was a terrible lack of reality in this situation.

No, he did understand the reality of this.

His lips were touching the lips of an older girl — someone wearing a kendou uniform, someone he did not know, someone he had just met. He knew that was the truth.

He knew this was a kiss.

His first, of course.

“Mn… mmn…”

But it seemed that his opposite was used to the task and, without a single change in her expression, tasted him as he stood there completely frozen.

It was just another road, one which connected the Kisaragi Clinic to a bus stop nearby.

This was happening right in the middle of a residential neighbourhood — the street lights shined down on the two like spotlights, but there were no witnesses around.

“…!”

Just as Sorakara’s consciousness caught up with what was unfolding, Kendou released his lips, like she had it timed all the way. And briskly, before Sorakara could make his next reaction,

“There. Thanks.”

she said shortly. She declared.

This definitive statement left Sorakara in confusion — as after all, the sensations within him were contradicting with the state the world was in.

Wait, is this how it is?

Do all girls give kisses for something as simple as lending them your phone? Isn’t a kiss supposed to be important? For boys too, of course, but especially for girls. Or maybe that is just a childish fantasy, and this was simply a fair and balanced exchange of goods — is he in the wrong for wanting to complain about this? Is he being old-fashioned?

Would it in fact be correct here for him to thank her in return? “You too, that was pretty good”?

Seeing Kendou straighten her back and release her vice-like grip on Sorakara’s left hand, calm and collected during the entire process, certainly made him think that way — but if there had been a witness here, he would not think the boy was currently being torn apart by this paradox.

Regardless of what he felt internally, what he thought internally,

right now, he appeared as nothing more than a young boy flustered by an older girl — he might have been trying to keep his cool, but with his face flushed crimson and his mouth unable to utter another word, Sorakara looked nothing more than an innocent thirteen-year-old.

“Well then… maybe we’ll meet again someday… oh, right. I have to ask you this.”

With an air of utter composure compared to Sorakara, Kendou looked like she was about to simply walk off and leave Sorakara behind, but, as though it literally just occurred to her, she asked him a question instead.

“The scream, from six months ago. Did you hear it?”

“…Well, yeah, of course I did. I don’t think there’s anyone who hasn’t.”

Sorakara answered. It was a simple miracle that he did not stutter even once.

Besides, to all currently existing human beings, the question itself was too simple, its answer to predetermined and too clear for there to be any room for any hesitation or to be incorrect in any way.

But it would seem that this question was simply a preface and what she really wanted to know was after that.

“How did it sound to you?”

“How did it sound?”

He wondered then why exactly it was that he was having this conversation. Is this what people talk about after getting their first kiss? Is there a rule about talking about screams after kissing?

Without understanding, the boy answered.

He gave a frank response.

“It sounded really angry.”

“…I see.”

Kendou nodded.

There was no way to guess at the intent behind her question from this gesture alone.

“You know, most people would say that it sounded ‘mournful’ instead.”

(…)

“How did it sound to you? That scream?”

“I don’t know. There’s no point in asking me, since I never heard it…”

“Huh?”

Never heard it? Did she just say she never heard it?

Never heard — the scream that every human being experienced?

“What do you mea-”

“I’m probably just too much of a failure to hear it, you know… to hear the Earth scream.”

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