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Chapter 3

School Trip: Second Day

IT WAS THE morning of the second day of our school trip. After breakfast and getting dressed, we were relaxing in our room until the bus left for the ski resort. 

Watanabe and I casually turned on the TV. On the screen, people were reading out a summary of this morning's news, and making casual comments.

After a bit of this, the atmosphere changed when the program moved on to a special, on kittens. Ryūen, who was in the same room, had already taken his place on the one-seat sofa, and Kitō was browsing through a stack of magazines that the ryokan were available for free. They all seemed to have fashion in common.

“It's so disturbing to see that he’s just reading a book and it looks so menacing… It's like he's reading a murder manual.”

Watanabe whispered this in my ear. He probably thought no one would hear, but Kitō’s sharp eyes instantly glared at Watanabe. Perhaps intimidated by this, he averted his gaze as he hid in my shadow.

“He's definitely a scary guy, right? Right?”

He shook me by the shoulders, but, if possible, I wanted to concentrate on the cat special on TV.

“Hey, Kitō. You got a little indigestion from yesterday's pillow fight, didn't you? Let's have another game today.”

As if to bring a storm into this peaceful morning, Ryūen made a proposal to Kitō. Needless to say, this wasn't a welcome proposal for Watanabe and I.

“You fool. Do you wish to embarrass yourself? If you want to regret it, I won't stop you.”

“Well, then, let me suggest something.”

“What kind of game do you want?”

“The skiing we're going to do sounds good, doesn't it?”

It seemed that he wanted a simple competition to see who would finish first. Although Kitō may not be a beginner, yesterday at least made it clear that Ryūen's skills were superior.

There was no need for Kitō to go out of his way to play along with Ryuen’s strategy of trying to drag him into his own ring. However, Kitō firmly closed the magazine with the same energy.

“You think you can win with skis? I'll crush your confidence.”

He seemed to accept the challenge and refused to show any signs of backing down.

“I'm not going to let you win”

“Um guys… can we not make it a competition?”

Watanabe's voice was so low that a child might have said, “Ants are talking!” 

While we were whispering back and forth, the two sides were heating up. Then Kitō stood up, curled up a borrowed magazine in his hand, approached Ryūen and thrust the tip of the magazine at him as if it were the tip of a sword.

“If you lose, you’ll be as quiet as a cat during this trip.”

He demanded, perhaps unknowingly inspired by the TV special on cats.

“Oh? I'm already more mature than you, if you ask me.”

With a snap, he brushed the tip of the magazine away with his arm.

I'd just like to see this feature on cats in peace. I urged them to keep their distance and avoid struggling.

“You've got some nerve, Ayanokōji, even though the brunt of the trouble might come your way.”

I don't think so. I'm not going to let them take advantage of me.

“Anyway, now that things have quieted down, I'm going to continue on...”

Those were my intentions, but before I knew it, the cat had disappeared from the TV screen. It seemed that I hadn't had much time to watch, as it was over in a few minutes.

“I’m sorry to see that, Ayanokōji. You like cats, don't you?”

“No, not really.”

“You didn't like the feature?

“I just wanted to see it for some reason, but I don't have any special attachment to cats as an animal.”

I would’ve felt the same way had this been a dog feature or a hippopotamus feature. The program was a cheerful topic of conversation for a while, but then breaking news was presented instead.

The news showed that after a long period of recuperation, former Secretary-General Naona Ee had passed away at a Tokyo hospital. From the Prime Minister's Office, Prime Minister Kijima Onikijima had something to say...

With numerous flashes, a man with a stern expression began to speak.

“‘Let the man be with you, and the horse with you.’ These words were given to me by Dr. Naoe shortly after I met him.”

Just as the Prime Minister began talking about the deceased, the screen darkened. It was time for the bus.

Kitō, holding the remote control with his index finger on the power button, called out.

“Come on, let's go, Ayanokōji.”

I'm going to enjoy skiing, but I'm a little concerned about the competition between the two of them.


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