Chapter 16: Past Trauma
Several days had passed since Chifuyu and I reconciled with each other.
It was only a matter of a few days before the cold began to intensify, and students started donning long sleeves and pants.
During this time, we hadn’t exchanged any words, but strangely, it didn’t seem to bother us.
I didn’t know what Onii san said to Chifuyu that day, but I was relieved to see her feeling better.
However, every time I saw her smile, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of certainty that there would come a time when she would be troubled again.
However, it was unrealistic to expect that everything would be resolved so easily.
It’s common to face recurring problems and make the same mistakes repeatedly.
I stopped my negative thoughts and massaged my temples with my fingers to clear my mind.
Then I could hear the voices clearly in front of me.
“Christmas is coming soon.
What are you asking for?”
“A shogi training session with Fujii-san.”
The girls were talking in front of me.
By the time you reach fourth grade, you know that there’s no such a thing as Santa Claus.
However, Christmas is still a big event where you can receive presents from your parents, if not from Santa Claus.
It would be strange if the girls weren’t excited about it.
It was December 2nd.
Every year, we only did something like frying slices of bread with sugar to make rusk, but what would we do this year? I wonder if Onii-san would buy us a cake or presents….
No, should I even be asking for such things?
I didn’t want to be selfish, but I hoped that Chinatsu, Chiaki, and Chifuyu would have a fun Christmas.
They should be able to receive and eat things like turkey, paella, cake, and presents…
Especially Chiaki, who was already excited every day.
She would talk and laugh about Christmas and cake whenever she saw the illuminations on the bus ride to school.
Even in the classroom, the girls couldn’t stop discussing about cake.
Shortcake, chocolate cake, half-and-half cake, and even roll cake.
They were still doing it now.
“What kind of cream is better?! Fresh cream or whipped cream? And should we put chocolate on it?!”
“Ah, fresh cream is delicious, but it can be heavy if you eat too much…”
“Is that so… there are secrets to cakes…”
Even though there were still more than 20 days left until Christmas, it seemed like she was looking forward to it too much.
Well, that eagerness was cute, though.
Among the girls in this class, there were many cute people, including Sakura, but nobody could beat Chiaki’s cuteness.
There is no room for dissent.
However, there was a fool who dared to pick a fight with Chiaki, who is the best and the greatest in the world.
“Hey, kid, talking about looking forward to Christmas cake is lame; you’re stupid.”
“Not again, Shorts Boy…”
Tadashi Nishino, who was wearing shorts and short sleeves even though it was winter, had a band-aid on his nose.
While I didn’t care at all and found him quite annoying, he seemed to be quite popular among the girls, perhaps because he was fast and had a well-structured face.
I don’t know, but no one can win over Chiaki.
It was during the gym class’s dodgeball game when Tadashi started targeting Chiaki.
They were the only two in each team’s court.
The cheering from the outfield was intense, and Chiaki was getting into it too.
With a blue rubber ball in hand, Chiharu yelled at Tadashi, “This will change everything.
The fate of the red team, my fate, and even your fate!”
“Kyuin-n, shuon, shuon, shuon.
This is the end!” Chiaki made some kind of noise to build up energy and threw the ball towards Tadashi.
Chiaki had excellent athletic abilities and, having eaten hamburgers for dinner last night, had plenty of energy.
The ball hit Tadashi directly, and he went down.
From there, it started with his friends teasing him about how he lost to a girl, and he began to bother her excessively.
“Hey, let’s compete in gym class today,” he said.
“No, we have a long jump today…” she replied.
It seems that Chiaki was not good at dealing with Tadashi.
He always bothers her for no reason and makes fun of her.
What a coincidence, because I also dislike people who call Chiharu “stupid”.
Chiharu came over to me.
“Nee-nee, he called me stupid again…”
“You’re not stupid, Chiaki,” I said.
“Yeah, that’s right! Only Chiharu understands me,” Chiaki said as she took her seat.
She should’ve just called me Nee-nee there too…but Chiaki, always full of energy, is always adorable.
As she made her way back to her own seat, I couldn’t help but admire her from my seat right behind her.
“Chiharu, what kind of cake do you want? Kaito will definitely buy it for us! We have to reserve it now at the supermarket!”
“Hmm…do you think so?”
“Yes! We have to eat cake this year.
It’ll be our first cake! And we have to get presents too!”
I was sure that Onii-san would buy us the cake and even treat us to it, but I couldn’t help feeling slightly guilty about being so demanding.
I trusted him, but I knew there were limits to how much I could ask of him.
If Chiaki is being demanding, then it’s probably best if we don’t ask for too much.
“Oh, the teacher’s here.
See you later,” Chiaki said, turning her attention back to the front of the classroom.
Lately, she had been more conscious about not sleeping in class and getting scolded for it.
I also wake her up when I can, but sometimes she doesn’t even flinch.
Whenever that happened, the teacher would catch her and scold her, making her tear up.
I need to pay closer attention to Chiaki.
While focusing on the lesson, I also made an effort to keep an eye on Chiaki.
(POV Chifuyu—the other classroom)
“Okay, that’s it for the lesson.
Please prepare for the next one,” the teacher said before leaving the classroom.
As soon as they left, the tension in the room dissipated.
Some students who had been fighting off sleep suddenly relaxed, while others leaned back in their chairs.
“Finally!! Ugh, social studies are so boring! There’s no way I can remember all those local products!” Someone complained, venting their frustrations about the class just like Natsu-nee.
Natsu-nee stretched her back and basked in the feeling of release.
For her, not just social studies but all classes were stressful.
“Hey, do you think social studies is fun in winter?”
“Well, don’t you think things like local specialties are interesting?”
“I don’t really care about things like ‘Akabeko’ (a famous traditional toy from Fukushima).”
“But Chifuyu thinks it’s pretty cute, you know.”
“Besides, I heard there’s something in Fukushima where you can color your own design.
Doesn’t that sound fun?”
“Well, I guess I can see some appeal, but overall it’s still boring.”
Not only social studies but also math and language are all boring for Natsu-nee.
Chifuyu doesn’t understand the feeling of finding studying boring or interesting, but it’s probably common for many elementary school students to think it’s tedious and don’t want to do it.
In the classroom, not only Natsu-nee but also other students could be heard complaining.
After complaining about the class for a while, Natsune suddenly changed the mood.
Her gaze became a little sharper.
“Come to think of it, you seem to have gotten quite close to that guy lately.
Do you have a crush on him or something?”
“Oh, i-is that so…”
For some reason, I got really flustered.
It’s true that I’ve been talking to Kaito-san more lately, but I don’t have any feelings for him like that.
Absolutely not, not even a micron’s worth.
“What’s wrong? Why are you panicking?”
“No, not at all!”
“Well… it’s unusual for Fuyu to raise her voice like that…”
“Well, first of all, the age difference is too big! I’m grateful and all, but there’s absolutely no romantic feelings!”
“True, there’s about a year difference in age.
So, is there anyone you like in this class?”
“No, there isn’t.
In fact, I don’t even have anyone to talk to.”
“I see… well, I’m pretty much the same way.”
For a moment, Natsu-nee softened her tone but soon returned to her sharp atmosphere.
“Aah, I couldn’t say what I wanted to say.
I can understand why Aki and Fuyu are drawn to him.
On the surface, he might seem like a good guy… but he’s still that man’s subordinate.
Wouldn’t it be better not to get too involved with him?”
“But he’s been a great help to me… I don’t think it’s right to say that…”
“You never know when someone will show their true colors.
People can change their minds.
I’ve said it before, but it’s important not to let your guard down too much.”
“Kaito-san is different from those people… You also know that, right, Natsu-nee?”
Natsu-nee’s expression turned awkward, and she cut off the conversation, looking straight ahead.
Recently, Chifuyu had started talking to Kaito-san, but Natsu-nee still hadn’t had a chance to talk to him.
What could I say? There was nothing I could say to convince her otherwise.
But I had faith in Kaito-san.
After all, Aki-nee and Haru-nee trusted him too.
I knew that he was different from the others.
Gradually, the level of our trust in him had been increasing.
However, only Natsu-nee remained unchanged from the beginning.
It must have been lonely and painful for her, feeling like she was the only one who couldn’t put her trust in him, being excluded from the group, and losing her sisters.
Chifuyu understood how she must have felt, but I couldn’t find the right words to change Natsu-nee’s mind.
Trauma is not something to be lightly touched upon.
Just because you know about it doesn’t mean you should casually bring it up.
One misstep could easily make the other person feel uncomfortable.
… Was this how Haru-nee had felt?
I knew she was struggling, but there was nothing I could do to help.
It was frustrating not being able to come up with a solution.
I felt like I was watching Haru-nee’s receding figure, and I felt the weight of her burden.
Chifuyu didn’t know what to say to Natsu-nee.
I couldn’t just say, “You should trust him too,” so easily.
《Natsu-nee was the first one who almost got killed by our biological parents in the beginning.》
TN: Chiharu: Onii-san
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