This happened during the season where Japan is ruled by the chorus of cicadas and the sweltering sun. The closing ceremony marking the start of summer vacation had ended, and we were on our way back home from school.
“Ah, Wait a minute”
… I scratched my ears and asked Arina again. That was because I did not understand what she meant.
“Say it again.”
“A, all right Yuu-kun. I’m sorry I worded it badly so Yuu-kun can’t understand.”
“Yuu-kun” is the nickname she selfishly came up with on her own to refer to me.
My name is Shimoyama Yuuki.
I’m a high school sophomore.
I have no special hobbies. I am an ordinary person who gets troubled because I can’t say anything much when I have to introduce myself.
Then, the one being self-deprecating in front of me is my childhood friend Sakurai Arina.
She’s a plain, braided, pitiful-looking girl who always walks while looking downwards.
Ordinary boy-girl childhood friends would cut off relations once they get to middle school, but this girl had always been so dull that she doesn’t have any other friends. Because she was always alone I can’t leave her on her own, and when I noticed it she had been dragging alongside me ever since grade school.
It’s just me saying this, but if she faced forwards and smiled she had a relatively cute face. If only she had more confidence in herself she could have gotten herself a boyfriend, but….
Back to the topic.
I was about to give her some simple congratulations for her 17th birthday today when she started saying something like this.
“Yuu-kun, ah, ummm. Arina is, you know, a Hero. Hero of another world…. e, ehehehe.”
You’d want to ask again wouldn’t you?
“I totally have no idea what you’re saying.”
“Y y y, yeah, that’s true. You won’t understand. Because Arina is an idiot.”
“Being an idiot has nothing to do with it. Even an idiot… Huh? what? A Hero? You?”
“Yeah, looks that way”
While she said that she rummaged her school-mandated bag and took something out.
A metal hairband…. no, a metal circlet studded with a red gem that totally screams ‘Hero!’
Arina put it on her head and said, “Look…. the legendary equipment, see?”
What do you mean ‘see?’
The sight of her wearing a deep blue sailor uniform and a thick metal circlet was somewhat bizarre.
A normal friend would go like this:
[Ahahaha, a joke, huh? That’s not funny at all, you know]
“You, did you fall for some dubious fraud? It’s a bit eccentric for a fraud but if it’s you then it might just be possible”
“Umm, that’s not, uh… S, s, sorry!”
Because she immediately apologized the conversation stopped there.
This is why I’m just about the only one who could hold a conversation with her, by coaxing this and that out of her, I was able to finally grasp the whole picture.
In the morning of her 17th birthday, this girl’s mother said this:
“Arina… Arina, get up. Today you’re going to meet the King in the castle.”
At this point I already wanted to retort, but I just took it and let it go.
Then of course, this simpleton of a girl answered just like this:
“Mom, I don’t understand.”
Well of course.
“Listen, I’ve never talked about this until now, but your late father was a Hero from another world. So, you who have the Hero’s blood in you have to go on a journey to defeat the Demon King once you turn 17.”
She was talking about something completely removed from the common sense I knew.
If what she said was true then doesn’t it sound like Auntie is in need of counseling?
Despite having the topic explained to her in detail, it took the slow-headed Arina several seconds before she finally understood.
“I see. So I, I can use magic.”
“Eh, wait a minute. Stop, reminiscence STOP!”
Arina stood dumbfounded, making a face like she did not understand why she was being stopped.
“What, … you can use magic?”
“Y, yeah. Is it weird?”
“It’s not ‘is it weird’. Aah, I really wanted to retort. You try using magic then.”
“E, eh… B, but, it’s dangerous.”
“Don’t worry about it, hurry and do it.”
I was already prepared to see her fail and was ready to continue the conversation with words to the tune of, [See, there was no magic or anything. You might have mistaken it for something else].
As she chanted the spell, from her fingertip a flame gushed out making a blazing sound.
It then scorched a nearby wall black, she stopped it one second late.
This girl really made fire come out.
“I, I burned the wall. A, are they going to get angry?”
Arina became flustered over the wrong detail.
“T, they’re going to get angry at Arina so Yuu-kun should run. Yuu-kun didn’t do anything bad!”
“Hey, give me your hand!”
I examined the hand of Arina who was saying something incomprehensible.
There were no aerosol sprays or tricks like that. To begin with, this girl was not equipped with the brain tissue to make a bluff like that. She is a simpleton but that was exactly why I am obliged to believe in her.
“… can you make something other than fire come out.”
“T, there’s wind and water and lightning. Just a little bit more and I can fly in the sky.”
Eh―, what, eh―?
The fact that my childhood friend can use magic is… I don’t know how to respond…
Being too perplexed, my thought process stopped. Arina, who was well attuned to my behaviour said,
“S, sorry, I’m very sorry…. I surprised you didn’t I? I wonder if I might be disgusting.”
Making such a negative misunderstanding, Arina’s face started to contort as she was about to cry.
“I, if Yuu-kun throws me away, A, Arina has no more reason to live.”
She needs to get over her dependence on me one day, but right now, rather than that,
“So? … You’re a Hero then?”
“Yeah, I’m sorry. For being a Hero.”
“And you’re going on a journey to defeat the Demon King.”
“Yes, I’m sorry. It’s summer after all, and I don’t have anything to do, so I thought I might as well.”
I’m getting a light headache, but in order to make everything clear, the only thing I can do right now is accept what she was talking about.
After being made to consent against my will, I said thus:
“Well, good luck then. I’ll tell you this beforehand, I’m not going.”
“Don’t go around expecting me to come with you like it’s the obvious thing to do. I’m not your guardian. Just who do you think is going to go on a weird quest like that after finally getting a holiday…?”
“Uuu…”, she sniffled.
“All right, if Yuu-kun says so, then Arina will go alone.”
“W… will you grant me just one wish, though?”
I agreed, and,
“Can I have Yuu-kun’s handkerchief?”
“A, a keepsake. I’m sure there will be a lot of difficult things and painful things, but if I can feel Yuu-kun beside me I’ll be alright.”
She’s too dependent.
I thought to say no, but after sending this girl off on her own, I thought it was better if I gave her some assistance.
I handed over a disheveled handkerchief out from my pocket.
“Uwaa! Yuu-kun’s handkerchief!”
She snatched it away like an animal jumping at meat.
“I use that to wipe away sweat and stuff you know.”
“I don’t mind.”
“Please mind. Wash it thoroughly before you go.”
“… like hell I would.”
“No, it’s nothing. T, thank you!”
Ah, now that I think about it, I haven’t prepared a present for her birthday, thinking that it’s alright to do it later. If she was going to depart I’d better prepare one properly.
As I walked while thinking such things, “C, can I have one more thing?”, said Arina, “Yuu-kun’s hair. I wonder if I can have… just… a little bit…”
“I said, um… hair. I heard somewhere long ago that when you talk about keepsakes, it would be a lover’s hair, o, o, of course Arina is not Yuu-kun’s girlfriend or anything but if I can have a little bit of Yuu-kun’s hair I’ll be very lucky.”
“Uh, A, Arina is being creepy, aren’t I?”
You can’t settle the fact that she wanted my hair just by calling her creepy, but I’m not entirely surprised given that this girl does sometimes ask for strange things.
Furthermore, I wasn’t going to let go of the chance to give her a present.
“All right. Have at it.”
“T… Thank you very much! Thank you very much!”
As she thanked me over and over she took out a pair of scissors and cut off a nice bit off my hair.
“H, hair… Yuu-kun’s hair… Ehe, … ehehehe.”
She excitedly put that hair inside a small zip-locked plastic bag.
“If you don’t stop that weird hobby of yours, people are really going to stay away.”
“T, that’s true isn’t it. B, but, hair, I’ve always wanted this.”
Everyone has a weird hobby or two, as long as nobody finds out she’ll be fine.
At any rate, today is her birthday.
I’ll let her do as she wishes.
“U, um, um. I might as well ask now that we’re talking about it.”
“What is it.”
“Yuu-kun’s fingernails. Can I have those too?”
I take that back.
“What are you planning to do, gathering hair and fingernails! Are you going to put a curse on me!?”
“Never, I would never put a curse on Yuu-kun! I didn’t mean to do something like that! I, I just wanted to make a summer full of memories with Yuu-kun before I go.”
“Wha, wait! Don’t say something that invites misunderstandings like that!”
“Ah, aaaaaaaaa I’m so sorry! Arina is being lustful! I, I’ll apologize by dying!”
“Never mind about death! Staying alive is fine! Calm down a bit!”
“As my present for the underworld I’ll have Yuu-kun’s uniform…”
“What are you a Datsue-ba?” «TN: Datsue-ba: an old woman who strips the clothes of children who wanted to cross the river to the underworld.»
No good. I can’t let this girl go off on a journey on her own!” «TN: hook, line, and sinker»