Sugar Sweet

Translator: Reo

Editor: Cale

Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!

Part 4 – Langue de Chat of Truth

Chapter 14 – The Start of the Beginning

— A memory from a long, long time ago —

At the edge of the town, there was a forest. Since it had a river flowing through it and all kinds of interesting bugs, it was a common location for children to play.

Even though he didn’t have a hobby of collecting bugs, and despite sweating from the dry summer weather, Sui would still go to the forest by himself because he liked the beautiful scenery created by the nature around him. Also, the shade of the trees was quite cooling, and the forest doubled as a place to complete his summer homework assignment: taking a photograph of a memorable scene.

Listening to the buzzing chorus of the bugs, Sui walked through the thick, green, summer foliage. In the middle, he became fascinated by an indigo flower he found and he crouched down to inspect it. Then, he stopped to admire the brightly colored wings of a butterfly, and then… Such things repeated again and again until the sun disappeared all the way behind the trees. The forest, soaking in the red rays of the setting sun, was beautiful.

Together with the cry of insects, the sound of running water grew louder. Sui was almost at the river.

Sui liked the clear water of the forest’s river. The water flowed and fell, creating all kinds of ripples. It was so clear that you could see the bottom of it carpeted with little stones that sparkled like gems. The red and blue fish of various sizes that inhabited the river were also interesting. Sui never got tired of watching them.

When he walked to the bank of the river, he heard a strange sound that was not the burbling of water.

A sound?

No. I think it was a voice.

When Sui looked around, he spotted the figure of a man crouching under the shade of a tree on the opposite bank.

Sui crossed the river by jumping from one big stone to another and ran to that person’s side.

“Are you ok?”

The man only let out a groan.

Getting closer, Sui saw that the man’s body was covered in wounds. Maybe he had fought with someone.

There was no blood on the ground and the wounds weren’t bleeding so they probably weren’t recent injuries, but the big and small wounds still looked very painful.

Oh yeah.

Sui took his backpack off his shoulders and rummaged through it. He was pretty sure that this morning, his grandmother had put a bag of candy that was supposed to prevent heat stroke inside of it. He’d only had two or three of them so there was plenty still left.

Sui unwrapped a piece of candy and carried it over to the man’s lips.

The candy was lemon flavored but it was sweet enough that even children like Sui were fine with eating it. Sui had also heard that it had citric acid in it that was supposed to be effective against fatigue. He didn’t really know if it would have any effect against fatigue caused by injuries though.

“Can you eat?”

“…up.”

The man’s already hoarse voice was even more muffled because he was crouching.

“Can you eat this?”

“Shut up. What’s wrong with you?” The man suddenly lifted his head. He was frowning deeply.

Sui, however, didn’t feel any pressure or fear. The only thought in his head was that the man was beautiful.

His narrow, red eyes were redder than the sunset and far more beautiful than the gem-like stones at the bottom of the river. Sui wondered if this was what an actual ruby looked like. Not only his eyes, but his whole face was so well-proportioned that Sui wondered if he was a forest fairy.1

“Ah.”

“!”

Sui had pushed the candy inside the man’s open mouth. Since he was conscious, it was probably fine.

“Hey, you-”

“It’s candy. It’s lemon-flavored, so it’s good against fatigue! I think.”

The man’s eyes opened wide, dumbfounded as he looked at Sui.

“I’ll go call for help, so wait for a bit, ok Forest Fairy-san?”

“…Hah?”

Sui ran back the way he had come from. He reached his house out of breath and told his grandmother what had happened. Then the two went back to the river.

The man had waited like Sui had asked him to, but he didn’t know if it was because of what he had said or simply because he was too injured to move.

“You…”

Sui’s grandmother looked at the man for a while then shook her head slightly and squatted down.

“My grandson called me over saying a forest fairy was injured.”

The man’s eye turned to Sui and Sui nodded.

“Anyway, can you get up?”

“…Leave me alone.”

“But it hurts, right? It’s not good to be hurt. After we get to my house, Grandma will give you treatment, so please come with us.”

The man stared at Sui, not saying anything, then he let out a sigh and got up.

With Sui leading the way and his grandmother supporting the man, the three made their way back to the house.

“We really should be taking you to the hospital.”

“I don’t want to be taken care of at an institution for humans.”

“Can’t Forest Fairy-san be cured at the hospital?” Sui tilted his head and his grandmother chuckled.

“It seems that way.”

“I’m not a fai-” The man opened his mouth in annoyance, but Sui’s grandmother interrupted him.

“For now, come to our house and get medical treatment, Forest Fairy-san.”

It seemed like he was going to refuse again, but the man turned to look at Sui and then reluctantly nodded.

After the man washed up and received treatment, Sui stared at him in fascination. His now clean, white hair was beguiling, and his red eyes looked like expensive jewels. Though his grandmother had prepared an old set of monk’s working clothes for him to wear, it did not take away from his beauty – he still looked like a fairy.

“Forest Fairy-san, are you a forest fairy?”

“What’s with the Forest Fairy-san?”

“You’re very beautiful, so I thought you were a fairy. And you were in the forest.”

The man blinked several times and then let out a small laugh.

“Sorry, but that’s wrong. I’m not a fairy. I’m… that’s right.” He put his finger to his chin as if thinking about it. “I’m something like a foreigner.”

“Are you someone who came from a different country?”

“Something like that.”

“That’s amazing! You’re so fluent in Japanese.”

“You, why were you in that forest?”

“For an adventure, or something like that,” Sui said, imitating the man, and the man narrowed his eyes as if annoyed.

“By yourself?”

“Because I don’t have any friends.”

“Hmm.” The man stared while opening and closing his hand. “Should we…?”

“?”

“No… nothing.” He huffed, turning the other way.2

“What did you say?”

“I told you it was nothing.”

“But-”

“It’s past your bedtime, kid. Go to sleep.”

“You’re stingy aren’t you, Forest Fairy-san?”

“I said I’m not a fairy.”

“Former Forest Fairy-san.”

“Why you-” Though it seemed like the man was angry, there was a little smile on his face.

“Former Forest Fairy-san smiled.”

“I-I can at least laugh.”

“It’s beautiful.”3

Sui, who had abruptly turned his back to the man and greeted him goodnight, did not see his eyes widen in surprise.

From the following day onwards, the man became Sui’s playmate. There was a limit to how many games two people could play together, but for Sui, who had no friends, it was refreshing to be with someone other than his grandmother.

Every time they talked and played together, the man would show him different expressions. It was interesting and fun. Sui came to really like the man.

Today, they’d decided to draw the flower bed in the garden.

“I’m keeping an observation diary for my summer vacation research project.”

“But you didn’t write anything yesterday or the day before that.”

“It’s a hassle, so I do it roughly once a week.”

“Is that ok…? Also, ‘roughly’ you say…”

“It’s fine.”

Sitting side by side in the garden, the two drew the robust sunflowers in their sketchbooks.

“Wow, Former Fairy-san is really good at this.”

A vivid and praiseworthy sunflower was drawn on the sketchbook in the man’s hands.

“Well… I don’t hate drawing.”

“Mr. Sunflower looks like he’s sparkling. He looks like he’s dancing and having fun.”

“Y-yeah?”

“I also want to be like Mr. Sunflower. People always tell me that I don’t look like I’m having fun.”

“Well, your expressions can be hard to read.”

“I am having fun though. Drawing like we’re doing now is extremely fun.”

 Sui grabbed the man’s hand. “Next time, will you draw me?”

“I mean, I don’t really care if we do it right now.”

“No, in a little bit. After I grow up and become an adult! Right now, I’m small and not cool at all.”

“Even if you grow up you won’t necessarily be cool…”

“I will! So, after I become cool, I want you to draw me sparkling and having fun with lots of colors.”

“It’s turning into some kind of amazing request.”

“And then, after I become an adult, I’ll be your… patron? I’ll buy Former Fairy-san’s drawings.”

“You know some difficult words, don’t you?” The man chuckled at Sui, who was boastfully sticking his chest out. 

“Then I’ll use super expensive paints and make super fancy drawings.”

“Uu, I’ll have no choice but to become a super hard-working adult then.”

The man patted Sui’s head as he clenched his fist.

“It’s a promise.”

“Please make it within a budget of 100 million yen.”

“You, you’re a weirdly precocious kid. And money’s not really… No, well, fine. In the future, as my patron-sama has requested, I will make an exceptional and colorful portrait within a budget of 100 million yen.”

The two made a pinky promise.

“Food’s ready, you two.”

At the sound of Sui’s grandmother’s voice, the two chorused yes and went back inside the house.

In the middle of the night that same day, Sui woke up for some reason. As he was heading to the bathroom on the first floor, he overheard a conversation between the man and his grandmother.

“A long time ago, just for a little bit.”

“How is that even possible?”

“But that was it – I just made a friend. We haven’t seen each other in a very long time though. I wonder if that child is doing well.”

“Magicians have a longer lifespan than humans. As long as they didn’t get into an accident, that friend should be living well.”

“Magicians?”

Surprised, his grandmother and the man turned to look at the eavesdropping Sui.

“Are you a magician?” Sui asked, fuzzy-headed, rubbing his eyes.

The two adults looked at each other.

“Sui-chan, why are you up this late?”

“Ah… Bathroom.”

“The bathroom isn’t over here you know.”

After his grandmother escorted him to the bathroom, she took Sui to his room and he went back to sleep.

“Former Fairy-san, are you a magician?” Sui asked the man the next morning, having a vague recollection of what he had heard the previous night.

The man, who was about to take a bite out of his breakfast, blinked.

“…You remember last night?”

“Are you a magician?”

“Uh… No.”

“Sui-chan, he’s someone who’s like a magician,” his grandmother butted in, carrying a tray of tea.

“Something like a magician?”

“That’s right, you could call him an illusionist. Later, he’ll show it to you.”

“H-hey, wait a minute-”

“My friend told me that magic is a little, special skill meant to give other people a bit of happiness.” Sui’s grandmother continued to tease the flustered man.

He flinched slightly.

“That-”

“That’s how it is, so I’m counting on you.” She winked and disappeared into the kitchen.

The man had told Sui that since he was doing an observation diary, he had to do it every day. So, the two lined up in the garden again to draw the sunflowers. Sui liked looking at the flowers but they were hard to draw.

“I’m done!”

Sui somehow managed to finish his drawing for the day. And the man patted him on the head saying, “Good work.”

“Well, since she already told me to do it… this is a prize for trying your best.”

As Sui tilted his head in question, the man snapped his fingers. Flower petals softly fluttered around his fingertips and a small, white flower that hadn’t been there before appeared in his hand.

“Amazing!”

“It’s ‘magic.’”

The man put the flower in Sui’s hair, and his lips stretched into a smile.

“It suits you.”

“Does it?”

“Wouldn’t it be more sensible to aim to be cute rather than cool?”

“I will definitely become a cool adult!” Sui puffed his cheeks, and the man laughed merrily.

Sui’s vision blacked out for a second, but it quickly came back, leaving him confused as to what had happened.

“What is it?”

Sui shook his head at the man who was looking at his strange behavior with concern.

“Hey… Sui?”

“Yeah?”

“How about we go to the forest tomorrow?”

“Have your injuries healed?”

“I’ve gotten all better, thanks to you. It will be rehabilitation that coincidentally doubles as an adventure.”

It was the first time someone had asked Sui to go to the forest with them; he nodded his head many times.

Afterward, at his grandmother’s recommendation, the two went to a small candy store and got some snacks for the following day.

At night, Sui couldn’t fall asleep. It was because he was feeling very excited, but also because his head hurt a bit. However, since he wanted to go to the forest no matter what, he woke up with high spirits the next day.

Sui put the snacks, his sketchbook, and an instant camera in his backpack.

“What are you going to use that for?”

“Taking photos. This is also homework.”

“It’s tough being an elementary school student.”

“It is.” When Sui wholeheartedly agreed, the man laughed, amused.

The two went inside the forest. The crying of the bugs felt much louder than usual.

The man walked around while looking here and there as if he was searching for something.

“Which way is the river?”

“That way.”

Continuing down the path Sui had pointed to, they started hearing the bubbling sound of the water.

“The place where Former Fairy-san had collapsed is over in that area.” Sui pointed at the opposite bank.

“I see…”

“Did you lose something?”

“No, nothing like that. Can I cross over to the other side?”

“Yes.”

Pointing out the rocks to step on, the two were about to cross the river when Sui’s foot slipped and he fell in.

“Sui!”

He could hear the panicked man’s voice.

This wasn’t the first time he had slipped, and the river wasn’t that deep, so there shouldn’t have been a problem.

Huh? That’s weird.

He couldn’t seem to get up. Even though he hadn’t really been hurt anywhere.

Sui felt his clothes soaking up the water, getting as heavy as lead, and the strange headache he’d been experiencing since last night spiked in intensity, making his head throb. Even his eyelids felt heavy and his consciousness was slipping away.

“Sui! Oi, Sui!”

The only things he could see were the man’s red eyes, narrowed in anguish and heartbreak.

Don’t make such a face. Everything’s ok. Sui wanted to tell him, but he lost consciousness before he was able to.

When Sui woke up, he was in bed in his room. His head hurt and his body was warm, but for some reason, it felt cold. It was painful.

“Are you awake now?”

He turned his head toward the sound of the voice, and his grandmother’s worried face entered his blurry field of vision.

“Where’s Former Fairy-san?”

“He’s currently in the bath. He got wet when he scooped you up from the river.”

“Oh…”

“Sleep some more. You probably have a summer cold.”

“Summer cold?”

“It’s a cold that you get during the summer.”

Is there a cold like that? It was a weird feeling to be both hot and feverish yet strangely cold.

“Good night, Sui-chan.”

She closed the door and Sui fell asleep once again. When he woke up for the second time, a day had passed and it was already morning. Sui’s condition hadn’t improved and he remained in bed.

Somebody knocked on the door. Sui thought it was his grandmother and told her to come in, but it was actually the man.

“How are you feeling?”

“I’m fine.”

“Liar.”

The man stared at the ground intently. “Sorry.”

“Why is Former Fairy-san apologizing? It’s the opposite – since you saved me, I should be thanking you.”

The man lifted his head like he wanted to say something, but in the end, he looked down again.

“Would you bring my backpack over?”

The man brought the backpack that had been placed in the corner of the room to Sui, and he rummaged inside of it.

Sui took out a bag of candy. “You know, when you eat something sweet, you’ll feel better in no time.”

“…”

“Come on. Aaahh.” Sui unwrapped the candy and brought it to the man’s mouth. The man glanced at him.

“Why are you giving it to me?”

“Because you look down. Ah, but if I feed it to you, you might catch my cold.”

Sui tried to pull his hand back, but the man pulled it closer. He put the candy in his mouth and took the empty wrapper from Sui’s hand.

“Thank you.”

The moment the man gently placed his hand over Sui’s eyes, as if he were going to caress him, drowsiness came over Sui.

“Sleep tight, Sui.”

The kind voice sounded like it was coming from far away.

As he drifted into unconsciousness, Sui remembered something – he’d never heard the man’s name.

The man had called Sui by his name, but he had only called him Former Fairy-san.

Sui felt too sleepy to call out to the man, like he was about to fall asleep at any second. He decided that the next time he woke up, he would definitely, definitely ask the man for his name and call him by that name.

And then, at the end of that day, the man disappeared from Sui’s home.

This was a memory of a long, long time ago that Sui had completely forgotten about.4

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