Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Part 1 – Honey Milk Encounter
Chapter 3 – Magician’s Village (Part 2)
It seemed he was going to make food in the actual kitchen and not the one attached to the living room.
While Sui waited, the smell of cheese wafted over.
I wonder what he’s making? Sui thought about the chestnut rice, tamagoyaki and mushroom miso soup that Red had made for breakfast, remembering how tasty it had been. Red seemed to be good at cooking. He had even made berry jelly for dessert, but since Sui had been full, he saved it as a snack for later.
The tray Red brought back to the living room had two soup bowls and two wooden spoons on it.
His grandmother had made it for him once. In his memories, it was a western-style congee topped with thick cheese and milk.
“Yeah. Well, it’s easy to make and it’s delicious, so I like it. The taste also changes depending on what ingredients you use. This time, to be on the safe side, I put in onion and sausage. Black pepper would make for a nice accent and cheese powder would go well together with the cheese inside.”
Red’s tone had more spring to it than usual. He must really like food and cooking.
Sui helped set the table and the two sat down across from each other.
When Sui put his hands together, Red also did so, albeit a little late.
Speaking of which, at breakfast when he had said “Itadakimasu”, Red had been surprised.
Does he not have the habit of saying a blessing before his meals? Sui thought, but Red had been living alone until now. Having eaten meals by himself, he might not have said anything at all.
Sui, who had been taught by his grandmother that greetings were important, always made sure to properly say good morning, good evening, itadakimasu and gochisousama. However, after she passed away, Sui tried to say “Itadakimasu” as he ate just enough food to keep himself alive but found that he couldn’t say it. He knew it was a greeting to express gratitude towards the food but hearing the words echo across the table felt so empty that he couldn’t stand it.1
Sui was indifferent to food and cooking to the point where he couldn’t immediately say what he liked to eat, but he enjoyed mealtimes. Exchanging greetings with someone was an enjoyable and delightful thing.
“Thank you very much.” The words came out naturally.
Red tilted his head in confusion.
Sui thought that it would be nice if Red also came to have those feelings. Whether his circumstances were similar to Sui’s or not, Red had come to live alone and he may or may not have felt lonely. To have someone to spend your time with was a wonderful thing.
“The risotto is delicious. The portion though is too much for me, I can only eat half…”
“I thought about it this morning as well; you eat too little. Eat more. You won’t grow big if you don’t.”
“I don’t really mind. When you’re small, you can easily move in cramped places, and it has its benefits.”
The meal ended as they exchanged small talk and Sui brought up something that had been troubling him since before.
“I’ve been wondering since yesterday, but isn’t the sky here strange? It looks like it’s always sunset here. It feels like my biological clock is getting confused.”
“Ah, right. I haven’t explained it yet.”
Red took a golden pocket watch out of his pocket and opened it with a click. “The time keeps ticking,” he muttered.
“I understand. Tell me more about the town called Akebi. Also about the sky and the circumstances you were talking about before.”
“Akebi is a town where magicians live.” Red said, taking a sip of his after-meal coffee.
Sui was dumbstruck.
“By magic, do you mean that magic…?”
“Um… is this a joke?”
“It’s the truth. Do you think it’s weird? …No, I suppose it’s not something that’s easy to believe in the first place. You’ll have proof when we get to Akebi, but for now… Yeah.” Red averted his eyes a bit, as if he was thinking of something.
The world was full of magician-like people like illusionists, but other than in fairy tales, Sui hadn’t heard the word magician being used. The magicians that appeared in stories, like Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel, were beings that held mysterious powers.
They were characters that often appeared in stories, but he never thought that they could exist in reality too. Every time he read a story, Sui would fantasize about how interesting it would be if they did exist. He had had a close relationship with stories since he was young, so Sui had the tendency to daydream.
What if dried wells were actually connected to mystical countries? What if gnomes made you little trinkets while you were asleep? What if fairies appeared before you in the form of unexpected animals? Even during elementary and middle school, Sui had believed in Santa Claus. That was until his classmates had exposed the truth.
As he grew older, Sui began to put a stop to these delusions, knowing that, while they were fun, they weren’t reality. But, exactly because of that, he had the thought that if such things did truly exist, it would be fascinating and fun and wonderful.
“I believe you.”
Red raised his head, a bit surprised.
“Ah, no, saying I believe you when I haven’t seen it might seem strange but I want to do it: to believe you. I think it would be lovely if it were like that.”
“Lovely, huh?” After muttering in a small voice, Red burst out laughing.
“As I thought, you’re weird.”
That’s not something Red has a right to say. Though he’d been curious about it since the day they met, Sui had not touched the subject of the blindfold until now. He didn’t know if it was ok to talk about it.
“You want to say it’s not as weird as me?” Somehow Red seemed to have found out about his inner thoughts.
“Looking at your face, it’s easy to understand.”
Sui was startled when Red pointed this out.
Red tilted his head slightly at Sui, who had fallen silent. “What is it?”
“Ah, no, sorry,” Sui apologized, “Well, um, is it ok to ask about your eyes?”
“You haven’t said anything till now and all of a sudden you’re going straight for it?”
“I thought it would be good to take the plunge.”
Red chortled. “As always, you’ve got guts in strange places. Well, my eyes aren’t really a big deal. Their condition’s a bit bad. I’m currently undergoing treatment and don’t really want to show others what it looks like.”
“You can… see though, right?”
From his conduct, Sui had guessed he could see and Red confirmed his suspicion with a nod.
“It’s a special fabric I bought in Akebi. From outside you can’t see inside but from the inside I can see out. It’s a product made with magic… Hm, oh yeah. This conversation has gone off track. I’ll now explain about Akebi. Well, even if I say it’s a town where magicians live, it’s not that different from where you’ve been living. Of course, there are some differences. For example, the thing you’ve pointed out – the sky.”
Red glanced out the window.
“That’s not the sunset but the colors of sunrise. That’s the origin of Akebi’s name. Apparently, since the town was established a long, long time ago, the sky has never changed.”
“Hmm… I’ve never seen a sunrise before but it’s as beautiful as the sunset.”
“We don’t have anything to do with sunsets but… I did see it once and it was beautiful. A lot more than this sunrise.” The corners of his lips rose slightly. Had it been such a beautiful landscape?
For some reason when Sui said that Red seemed perplexed, nodding with a little “Yeah.”
Huh? Sui tilted his head.
“So you’re saying that this forest is also part of Akebi?”
“You could say that.”
“You can’t let normal people into the magician’s town, right? Like the way I got lost. What do you do in that situation?”
“We don’t do anything.”
“Eh? Is that ok? There’ll be rumors.”
“It’s not an easy place to get to in the first place. Only one person every few decades wanders in. Lost people are a rarity.”
Fortunately, or unfortunately, Sui had been chosen as that one person.
“And if something like that does happen, we have ways of dealing with it. In the first place, it’s a town that uses magic on a daily basis. Of the rare few that wander in, the majority leave just feeling that it was strange.”
Is that how it is? If it were me, I’d be immensely curious about an interesting-sounding world that can only be seen in stories or fantasies.
“Do magicians ever come to the regular humans’ world?”
Red opened his mouth like he’d been caught off guard. “Who knows,” he muttered, “At least I haven’t heard anything about that.”
That reminds me. Sui thought staring at Red across from him.
“Um… can I ask you a question?”
“You’ve been asking since earlier, haven’t you?”
As if a bit amused, Red asked – “What is it?”
“What kind of magic can Red-san use?”
Red seemed puzzled at that question.
“Didn’t I tell you?”
“I’m not a magician.”
“I was one of those two or three people that had wandered in. Also, if I could use magic, I could’ve proven to you that it existed without taking you to Akebi.”
Red had a mysterious atmosphere around him and, from what he had said, Sui had thought that he was a magician too but that seemed to be wrong.
But if he’s not a magician then why did he decide to live here? …Maybe he’s fallen in love with a magician, or something.
Sui had never experienced love, but in stories, it was described as an “irresistibly sweet feeling.” If love really was such a feeling and if Red was in love, Sui could understand why he’d choose to live here.
“Well, that’s about all I have to say about Akebi. Do you have any questions?”
“Ah, um, no it’s ok.” Sui answered quickly in order to hide the fact that he had been imagining Red in love.
“I’ll tell you when I decide on a day to go to Akebi. Until then please wait patiently.” Red glanced at his pocket watch once again and then closed it. “Well then, I’m going back to my room. You can do whatever you want.”
After Red left, Sui absentmindedly gazed at the crimson sky. The sun, as if put there by magic, was still red even after an hour had passed.
“…I’m really losing my sense of time.”
Truthfully, Sui had a lot of things he’d wanted to ask. He couldn’t ask though.
He wanted to know more about Red. To grow closer to him. But where should he draw the line?
He was curious about his eyes, but Red didn’t seem to want to talk or be asked about it. Sui thought Red didn’t want him to go into that territory, so he was careful about the subject.
Sui wanted to be closer to people. He’d always wanted to have friends. But there was a reason that prevented him from doing so. It was a person; just one person.
Other than his grandmother, there had been one other person Sui was close to. Kind and sociable, Sui had thought of them as his friend. In reality, to this day, he didn’t know if they’d been friends or not. Maybe he was the only one who thought so, harboring one-sided feelings of attachment.
And, because of that, Sui had stepped in where that person didn’t want him to. Without noticing he ended up hurting them and the two drifted apart.
It’s not that Sui didn’t think, but there were times when his words came out before he even had the time to think about them. And no matter how much he tried to express his feelings through his facial expressions and voice, it ended up sounding like he was indifferent. His feelings never reached the other person and he ended up hurting them. Over and over, his words had been received differently than he had intended.
Sui tried to think and speak carefully so his feelings would be conveyed, even if only just a little bit, but he couldn’t really get rid of this nature that was ingrained in him.
Sui slapped his cheeks and then suddenly recalled.
“Looking at your face, it’s easy to understand.”
It was the first time someone had told him something like that. Without reproaching him, Red was able to read Sui’s unintentionally indifferent face and voice.
This both surprised Sui and made him extremely happy at the same time.
If it’s him, he might be able to understand me.
Will I be able to express my feelings? Would he receive them?
But what if I let my guard down and inadvertently cross the line again?
What if the same thing as before happens?
What if he hurts me and I hurt him?
“…I don’t want that.”
I have to make an effort to properly express my feelings. Red is incredibly kind but I can’t let myself be spoiled by his kindness.
Sui didn’t want to give up on the feeling of wanting to get closer that was still budding in his heart. If he did give up then, for however long he stayed there, he’d be a stranger in this large mansion, having only meaningless exchanges. That would be quite painful.
Sui squeezed his knees tightly and buried his head in them.
He fell asleep like that and slept until evening came and the bemused-looking Red woke him up. “You really like sleeping on this sofa, huh?”
His gaze following Red’s back as he went to the kitchen to make dinner, Sui yawned and once again turned his head absentmindedly to look out the window.
The time was perfect for sunset but Sui recalled – “That’s right, it’s a sunrise.”
The never-changing, gentle, vermillion sun displayed itself outside the window.