“Ahaha, exactly. It’s been 10 years already. That guy made weapons based off other anime shows, but I didn’t recognize any of them. But that’s only natural,” Shinichi wryly smiled. He seemed hurt.
Who could’ve possibly predicted that the one student who would be safe would use weapons like that?
Frire felt that Shinichi had been really shaken mentally.
“…How does it feel? …Ah, but you don’t have to say if you don’t want to.”
That was less something said out of curiosity, and more something said as a teacher worried for a student.
Just as he felt indebted to her for pushing so many troublesome things to her when all he did for her was spar with her, she too felt indebted to him and even felt a sense of inferiority not just because of their spars but also because of needing his advice.
As a teacher and as an adult, she felt like she wanted to do something for him.
That’s why it felt like this was her chance. The only chance she’d ever get now that the boy wasn’t so strong.
“…It’s hard to put it into words. I know too many things, and the things I do know have changed, and yet, just a few have remained the same… It should be obvious, but yeah, that really gets to you.”
What was he thinking about when he answered like that?
What was he recalling when he showed a sad face like that?
What made it even more painful was that the face he was making now was the most he looked his age.
“I’ll let you in on a secret, Teach. Actually, the place that reeks the least of that time gap is this academy.”
The nostalgic people and objects would remind him of the cruel passage of time whether he wanted to remember or not, and just staying around them would weigh heavily on his mind.
That’s why a place like this that the Shinichi from
That’s why he fled here without even thinking about it, the boy smiled with a troubled face.
“…Is that why you sometimes look around you while looking sorry?”
“Woah, you noticed too, Teach?”
The students here were doing their best for the sake of their dreams, they were people who looked forward, and yet here he was, the only student to be looking behind him. With that it was only natural that he would feel bad.
Frire had a similar experience, so she understood his feelings.
“I also came here for a personal reason. What’s more, I’m a coward who gets cold feet whenever I’m in front of my big brother. I may not be able to understand how you feel completely, but… I’m sure I can understand at least a little.”
Them being similar in that sense was one of the reasons she noticed, but in this school full of ambitious people, Shinichi’s face really stuck out like a sore thumb.
A strong sense of obligation and inferiority, and a protective gaze that watched over others… There was no mistaking it.
“It hurts, and it hurts even more the more determined everyone is around you. I know I haven’t done wrong, but it still feels bad.”
He felt guilty, as though he’d cheated or something.
Frire’s case might be a little different, but in Shinichi’s case, he really wasn’t at fault at all.
Neither him being a returnee nor the time lag was his fault.
Of course, the changes of the world from the interaction between the two worlds wasn’t something he could take responsibility for either.
But the world had changed, and there was indeed a time gap, and that weighed heavily upon him. It was also true that he was a returnee, and it was because of that that he was easily able to enroll into this school.
But couldn’t he have just run away from all that?
“…I know it’s weird coming from me, but why not loosen up a little? There’s really no reason for you to worry about something you’re not responsible for.”
“It really is funny hearing that from you, but yeah. You’re definitely better off being a
Frire grimaced and said she’d think about it, but it felt like that suggestion was a roundabout rejection of her own suggestion, so she looked down.
She knew it as well. That while he did not have any responsibility for the matter, he wasn’t free either.
As someone who’s experienced his strength firsthand, she knew he was in a difficult position.
Because of their promise not to dig deep into Shinichi’s matters, she couldn’t ask, but she was certain that there was something to Shinichi that couldn’t be explained by
It hasn’t been long since a new rule was introduced to this world. The introduction of yet another rule was a problem. And if one were to take into consideration the people who were currently doing their best under the recent rule, then it makes perfect sense why he would refuse to introduce the new rule. She was certain that that was the reason why he keeps hiding his secret.
But while Frire might have some issues with her family, at her core, she was a Garestonian, a warrior, and a soldier. Seeing someone stronger than her – even if it was only in unarmored hand-to-hand combat – living such a difficult life, and not being rewarded appropriately for the abilities he possessed, was not something she could stand. That’s why she couldn’t stop herself but give voice to a concern that’s been bothering her for a long time now.
“Can I ask you one thing, Nakamura?”
She turned to the boy beside her and met his eyes.
“Don’t you… hate Garesto?”
That wasn’t a question a teacher from Garesto should be asking a student from Japan.
Nothing good would come of an adult asking a child troubled by the changes of the world.
Yet despite that she felt she had to ask.
The true intentions of the boy who hid his strength out of consideration for those around him despite his power, a power great enough to strike her down countless times in their spar, and great enough to deal with all the abnormalities that came his way.
She had braced herself to some extent. She looked straight at Shinichi as though she wasn’t about to let him dodge this question.
“Hah? Why would I ever hate Garesto?”
But the only emotion that could be seen on the boy’s face was that of confusion.
Because of that Frire too became confused.
“Ah, well, I mean… If Garesto hadn’t reached out, then Earth wouldn’t have changed this much in just 8 years. Perhaps there would have still been changes, but it would be within tolerable limits. And you would have been able to show your real abilities without having to hold back.”
But all that came back to her was a fed-up voice, leaving her confused.
When the boy saw her all flustered, he laughed without a care in the world.
“Ha ha ha, so that’s what you were up to. You think too much, Teach. And you’re way too frank. If it were anyone else other than me, you wouldn’t get an answer, you know.”
Shinichi tacitly told her to do a better job if ever she tried connecting to the other kids, all the while telling her straight-up that he had no such intentions.
“I’m not fond of what-ifs. They pop up from time to time, but only about my previous actions. Besides, I’m actually glad Garesto reached out. The two worlds interacting actually helped me out a lot.”
“Well, yeah, I mean I’ve only aged 2 years since I was drifted away. Even a world that recognizes dimensional drifts can’t explain it, what more if it was a world that knew nothing? I would’ve either been turned into a lab rat or treated like a panda.”
No one yet knew how or where Shinichi’s time decoupled.
But had Shinichi returned to his unchanged world with his time still decoupled, then perhaps his return wouldn’t have been accepted peacefully either.
Or perhaps even he himself would have considered the time difference impossible.
“I probably wouldn’t have been able to show myself to my family. Had my family not been familiar with something as unbelievable as an otherworld, then perhaps even my dad’s family wouldn’t have accepted me still being 15 years old either. I mean, a boy who vanished 8 years ago for unknown reasons came back almost unchanged, you know.”
Although he had grown a little, people were still bound to be suspicious of him.
In the end, they’d either be disgusted by him or think him to be someone else altogether.
Of course, there were various examinations that could be done to prove his identity, and he also had his share of memories with them, but it was another thing altogether whether they could accept him sentimentally.
Either way, if he were to go that far to prove his identity, the next question would naturally be ‘why?’ If word of his situation were to spread, the attention of the world would turn to him and his family. And if he were to show powers that were considered abnormal even now, then he truly would be treated like a monster.
“I would have been able to figure out that much, so the moment I found out that 8 years had moved on without me, I would have chosen not to show myself. That’s why although it was surprising and confusing at first, this situation turned out to be not so bad for me.”
“After all, I was able to reunite with my family,” Shinichi laughed without a care in the world. “That’s why there’s nothing to be angry about. If anything, I should be grateful.”
If not for the interaction between the two worlds, they might not have reunited.
But at the same time, the way he referred to his dad’s family was suspicious, as though some of his family had already rejected him.
That memory when her older brother rejected her when she reunited with him flashed through her mind.
“It is an honor to have someone of your reputation come here. My possessions are meager, but I shall do my best to show you hospitality.”
Despite shooting down all attempts of her family to stop her, the reunion she had been waiting for ended in a cold reception. She was treated as if she was a mere guest, not family.
When she thought of this boy suffering that same pain and shock, she felt miserable.
“…Sorry, that was thoughtless of me.”
“It’s normal for Garestonians not to know about the dimensional space. I mean I also still find it hard to wrap my head around the concept of a world that’s only a continent with no seas or outer space.”
Because Frire ended up being the one needing encouragement, she became even more depressed.
Although Shinichi’s case was an outlier, the Garestonians of today knew that a time difference as much as a month was possible when it came to dimensional drifts.
That knowledge was basically common sense for the people born 45 years ago when the existence of otherworlds was first publicized among Garestonians.
Frire couldn’t even imagine a world that didn’t know about it.
“But hey… What would you actually have done if I said I hated Garesto?”
“Huh? Oh, uh… What do you think I should’ve done?”
“I’m asking you.”
Shinichi tilted his head upon finding out that she hadn’t actually thought that far ahead.
Perhaps she never thought he would actually say he hated Garesto despite her doubts, or perhaps…
“Maybe I just wanted to know how you felt. After all, I could never do something so pretentious as to try and change how you feel. Yeah, that’s probably all there is to it.”
She was neither good enough nor clever enough to be able to preach to him. But since she was in charge of him, then at the very least, she wanted to hear his thoughts. ‘That’s probably what it was,’ she concluded.