Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Part 3 – Tarte Tatin Secret
Chapter 6 – Lonely
“What should I do?” Sui let out a small sigh as he hung the laundry to dry.
That day, after they’d gone to Kasa’s place, he only had one hour left until five o’clock to search for his grandmother’s friend. But he couldn’t find them in the end.
Why did his grandmother know about Akebi in the first place? According to Red, it was only once every few years that a regular person wandered into Akebi. Furthermore, he had also said that, just in case, there was also a “prevention method” to stop gossip from spreading. Sui didn’t know what that method was. Could it be something that prevents people from speaking?
For now, however, there was no mistaking that his grandmother, who knew about the town of Akebi that only magicians can go in and out of, had also visited this place.
Thinking this, Sui had looked not only for her friend but also for people who might have known his grandmother. But no matter where he looked, he couldn’t find anybody that looked close to her age.
“Do old men and women not live here?”
“That’s a complicated subject.”
When he had asked Red what he had meant by that, Sui had received a shocking reply.
“If we’re going by human standards, then most magicians are old. Their lifespan is sporadic but the majority of them live a much longer life than regular humans. A lot longer than a hundred years.”
Magicians had such a trait?
They continue to live far past a hundred years old. It was something that Sui, who had only lived a tenth of that time, couldn’t comprehend.1
“You know, Kasa, that guy’s probably older than a hundred.”2
Then it was no wonder he called Sui a child. For the over-a-hundred-years-old Kasa, the 16-year-old, regular human Sui must have looked like a much younger child. The somewhat mixed feeling he had from before completely went away.
When he had told Red that from Kasa’s appearance he had thought him to be about the same age as Red, Red had disclosed the secret.
“It seems like they can freeze their appearance at whichever point of their growth process that they like. Of course, elders are respected and young ones are cherished but rather than a seniority-based society, it’s a merit-based one and age doesn’t seem to be that important of a concept. Which is why they preserve a young appearance that’s easy to move around in and only a few choose to have an older appearance.”
“Wow… magicians, they’re amazing.”
“From your point of view though, they’re just regular humans that have some special powers, no?”
When Sui wondered whether he was teasing him, Red shrugged his shoulders.
“Well, just because they live longer than normal humans doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. It’s not like there’s anything good about it.”
“Then, there’s a chance that that guy and that kid are older than both me and my grandmother?”
Hearing that, Sui had tentatively tried asking a young couple he saw. They had willingly told him their age, which was a lot older than his grandmother’s, but they hadn’t heard of her. After that, he had tried calling out to a number of people with no success.
That’s how his first visit to Akebi and his first search for his grandmother’s friend had ended.
Will I be able to find her friend? Sui felt slightly anxious about his lack of progress.
Also, there was something that was bothering him. It was Red. After that day, Red had been strangely restless.
The two mostly met each other in the morning, at lunch, at dinner, and when Red took a break from work. Each time, Red would keep stealing glances at Sui and when Sui would ask him what was wrong, he would answer, “Nothing.”
It was clear that he had something to say. Sui thought it probably had something to do with Kasa’s invitation from the other day.
Truthfully, helping Kasa out at his library sounded very appealing. Sui liked stories and books; he was part of the library committee at his school, and his grandmother used to run a small bookstore. Currently though, he was working at Red’s house as a housekeeper. But there was so little work to do that Sui felt apologetic. Furthermore, Red let him live in this big mansion with a roof over his head and three meals a day and was even willing to take him along to Akebi. Sui was truly indebted to him.
Which was why he had no intention of going to Kasa’s place without Red’s approval and why there was no reason for Red to worry either, but Red’s suspicious behavior only grew by the day.
Sui finished the laundry and hung it to dry in the garden. Today as well, he finished his work while being bathed by the rays of the vermillion sun and, on the way out of the garden, he remembered another thing that had been concerning him.
I wonder what’s the secret behind Kasa’s right eye?
Red also had an eye cover, so he thought for sure that there was an eye disease going around in Akebi but that seemed to be wrong.
While thinking about this, Sui arrived at the living room. The clock showed that it was 11:30, almost noon.
What will Red be making for lunch today?
The amount of help he could give was slowly increasing. At first, it was only tearing the leaves for the salad. Now though, Red let him use the kitchen knife. He was still clumsy and couldn’t cut prettily but he was leagues better than when he had first started.
Red was already there when Sui went into the kitchen. For some reason, he was staring at a book with a troubled expression.
“Woah.” Red jumped in surprise and at the same time, his book fell to the floor with a thud. Flustered, he bent to pick it up.
“Sorry for calling out to you so suddenly.”
“No. What is it?”
“I came to help with today’s lunch.”
“Ah, right right. Should we make curried pilaf for today? Please wait a second.”
Closing the book, he hurriedly left the kitchen only to come right back. He wasn’t holding the book anymore.
Just what kind of book was it? Since he went out of his way to put it back, it was probably something he didn’t want Sui to see.
While Sui was still curious, the two started preparing lunch.
The completed pilaf was delicious. It was filled with ingredients picked from the forest and the hidden flavor of the nuts added for a nice accent. Just like this, Sui felt like he was gradually starting to understand the difference between flavors.
When he peeked at Red, he was chewing his food as usual, but sure enough, he was somewhat restless.
“Is something the matter?”
When Sui asked, for the umpteenth time, Red abruptly turned his head away. “No, nothing.”
He’s dodging the question again.
When Sui thought to try once more, Red said, “…No” again and shook his head.
“What is it?”
What in the world is he going to say? No, it’s probably about Kasa.
“Do you like apples?”3
“…Apples?” The question was so different than expected that Sui was dumbstruck.
“Yeah, apples. You like them?”
“Ah, no. Rather than if you like them, should I be asking if you don’t dislike them?”
“I don’t dislike them, but… why apples?”
“Speaking of autumn fruits, there are apples but there’s also grapes.”
Sui couldn’t understand this conversation in the slightest. Why apples? Why autumn fruit?
“So you don’t dislike them. I see.” Red nodded his head in satisfaction and the conversation was over.
Wait, could this be the thing he’d been wanting to tell me lately but couldn’t say?
Sui finished eating the pilaf with a murky feeling. The two put their hands together and said, “Gochisousama.”
As Sui put the dishes in the sink and was about to wash them, a voice called out to him from behind.
“Do you have a minute?”
“What is it?” he shut off the faucet and replied.
“I’ve got some errands to run. It’s not that far away but if something happens… that’s right, there’s the paper you got from Kasa. You can call me with that.”
Sui cocked his head, puzzled.
“That paper is like a telephone. If the person you’re calling has the same type of paper, you can talk to them. Don’t worry, I also have one.”
“I see. So that’s also a magic tool.”
Sui saw Red off. He finished washing the dishes and spent his time lazily in the living room, repeatedly asking himself if there was anything else he could do.
He brought in the laundry at some point then stared at the clock while sipping on the warm honey-milk he had made. Ten minutes. Half an hour. An hour passed and Red still hadn’t returned.
Where is he? What is he doing there?
Red did say that he could use the paper to call him, but that was for emergencies.
Uneasiness. No, it was a bit different from that. A somehow restless feeling. It seemed as if Red’s restlessness from earlier had rubbed off on him.
“Red-san.” He tried calling out but there was no answer. It just made him more restless.
Suddenly, it occurred to Sui that this feeling resembled something.
That’s right. This, it’s loneliness.
Normally, Red would shut himself in his room to work and there wasn’t a fixed time when he would see his face, but Sui felt some peace of mind knowing that Red was under the same roof as him. Even when he went to the forest to pick ingredients, Red would sometimes take Sui along in order to show him around. It was the first time that Red was in a completely different space than him so Sui felt lonely.
It was similar to the time after his grandmother had passed away, when he was alone.
He didn’t forget his grandmother even for a day.
Every day, he looked at the pendant, pondering how he would get information the next time he was in Akebi so that he could fulfill her wish. But the gloomy haze in his heart had been clearing away, slowly but surely.
He hated that he had wasted his days away in vain. He wanted to do something about it, so he used his grandmother’s will as an opportunity to leave his house.
He had been in a hurry to find something, to change.
There had been two requests written in his grandmother’s will. The first was to give the pendant to her friend in Akebi. And the other one was for Sui to live in happiness.
Which is why, after he lost her, no matter how much he had drowned in grief, he couldn’t choose to die. Since it was his beloved grandmother’s wish.4
Of course, Sui, who had been sad and lonely and in pain, wondered why he should live happily.
His heart was still deeply wounded, but after spending time with Red, it was gradually starting to heal.
Is that happiness? Bit by bit, Sui was seizing a new happiness.
It’s not like Red had died, nor was he family, but even then, he was a special and precious existence that guided Sui and thought about him. That’s why, this too was definitely loneliness. His heart felt like it was being crushed and his throat prickled like it was on fire.
Sui wanted to laugh at how extravagant his thoughts were, but he was lonely after all and couldn’t help but wish for Red to come back home sooner.