This it the fourth chapter of a novel I am translating and publishing on this blog. See this post for the first chapter and more details about the novel.
I want to thank the author, Yuki Hoshizaki (星崎ゆうき) for giving me permission to translate and publish this chapter here, as well as Yeti san (from the site Shousetsu Ninja) for performing a quality check on this chapter. You can find the original Japanese text of this chapter here.
Because of the large amount of time it takes to translate a chapter, as well as my desire to focus on content that my readers enjoy, I consider this translation to be in a provisional state. So if you enjoy it, please consider liking or commenting here, or rating/commenting on novelupdates.com (see this story’s page here, which has links to all the other chapters). You can also send feedback on the story to the email address “selftaughtjapanese (at) com”, and commentary will be forwarded to the author as needed.
Past, Present, You
by Yuki Hoshizaki
Translated by J.D. Wisgo
Chapter 4: July 4 (afternoon)
I try groping around for my smartphone that should be next to my pillow. The bluish light of my phone’s screen glows faintly in the pitch dark room as I turn over in my stiff bed.
“In this day and age, there’s no way that she actually lives in a place where there’s no signal…”
I open up a social media chat application, set the recipient to Sora’s account, then stare hard at the place on the screen where I’m supposed to type in the message. When I actually try to write a message it’s difficult to put my feelings, appearing briefly in my mind before evaporating, into words. I try to put something down, but when I reread it I detect an overly-familiar tone and hurriedly delete it. I’m reminded of how difficult it can be just to figure out what to write someone.
Lying on the bed in my dark room, I repeat that process over and over until unbearable drowsiness overtakes me, and before I know it I’m fast asleep.
Joyo High School is part of an integrated school that includes a middle school. The middle school buildings were rebuilt using reinforced concrete a few years ago, but the high school still contains the original wooden buildings, not having been rebuilt in a quarter-century. There’s a plot of ground where a large sign stands declaring the plans for construction of new school buildings, but there’s no trace of construction beginning, only a large lot overgrown with weeds. Perhaps the school’s harsh economic situation precludes funds for such an improvement, but as it stands, there is no telling when the neighborhood residents will start complaining.
Sometime late last night, it seems that in a sleepy, half-conscious state I finally sent Sora a short message: “Which freshman class?”. But even now, after morning classes have ended, the Read mark still hasn’t appeared on the message. I guess she didn’t see it, did see it but is choosing to ignore it, or simply didn’t get it at all…
The inside of the school is hot and stuffy, the air-conditioning facilities insufficient to keep up. Windows are left completely open but ventilation is bad, stifled by the surrounding houses. I loosen my necktie, walking through the hallway where each step emits a creak. In this day and age, I can’t believe a school uses neckties for their summer uniform. There is always a group of people who want to protect tradition, history…whatever you want to call it. This school is no exception, and it’s not just the teachers.
“Mizuki, what’s wrong?”
“Hey Natsu. It’s…been a while.”
The voice that suddenly calls out to me in front of the freshman C classroom is from Natsu, Daiki’s little sister. These siblings get along well, and the three of us have often played together ever since Natsu was in elementary school. So I guess you could say her and I have been close friends since childhood.
“I haven’t seen you in a while, but you look sloppy as ever. Please tighten your necktie properly, or just take it off. And tuck in your shirt.”
“Who are you, my mother? Honestly, requiring a necktie as part of a school uniform is totally outdated.”
I peek inside the freshman C classroom, where lunch break is about half over. Despite being part of the same school, a great sense of alienation emanates from any classroom I don’t belong to, a feeling that’s difficult to put into words.
“Anyway, what business do you have being in a freshman classroom? You didn’t come to confess your love for me, did you?”
“Unfortunately, I’m not here to see you. Besides, I’m not into younger girls.”
“Yeah, whatever you say…”
“Is there a girl named Sora Itono in this class?”
In contrast to the ever-talkative Natsu, there are few signs of life in the quiet classroom. On the blackboard remains a handful of equations and a graph of a quadratic equation that nobody bothered to erase. For a moment I wonder what kind of class they had. Staring at the fragments of quadratic equations doesn’t tell me much. I’m not saying I don’t understand the math they used or anything like that. While traces left behind may provide evidence to support the existence of something in the past, it’s difficult to accurately determine exactly what existed from just those traces.
I’m searching for signs of her––signs of the existence of a girl named Sora Itono who once appeared right before my very eyes.
“Sora…Itono? That’s kind of an unusual name. There’s nobody in my class with that name, but maybe in the same grade…Hey Chisato, do you know a girl named Sora Itono?”
Natsu calls to a girl sitting on a desk by the window, reading a paperback book. The girl called Chisato stands up quickly in response to Natsu’s loud voice, turns towards us, and motions for Natsu to come over.
“Uh…I guess she wants you to go over there.”
“Mizuki, I’ll be right back.”
From where I stand in the hallway, I can’t hear what they are talking about. However, it’s clear that there is something serious in Chisato’s expression. I wait for some time at the doorway, hesitant to enter the classroom without permission, but just then the bell signaling the end of lunch break rings so I reluctantly leave the classroom behind.
Walking through the hallway on my way back, I check the smartphone in my pocket. The Read mark is still missing from the message I sent last night. I consider searching through the freshman classes once more after school is over, but I’m not comfortable with stopping by too frequently. Also, owing to the fact that I haven’t been feeling too well since lunch ended, I decide to turn down Daiki’s offer to go do karaoke, and instead leave school early.
I don’t know if it is because I was up late thinking about what message to send to Sora, or because (for once) I actually stayed awake in class today, but as soon as I board the train a great drowsiness comes over me. It takes thirty minutes on the train from the station nearest the school to my home––just the right amount of time for a nap. Fortunately, I manage to secure a seat on the usually packed train, sit on the tip of the seat so I can recline a little, and close my eyes.
[end of chapter]
(English Translation Copyright © 2019 by J.D. Wisgo)