“Nakamura, that thing you mentioned earlier… Is that really how it is?” Frire said.
After the small commotion at the entrance hall of the Japanese-styled inn, Shinichi and the others were shown to their rooms.
Frire had taken off her jacket and was making herself comfortable when she asked that question.
“What are you talking about?” Shinichi said.
But Shinichi didn’t seem to understand, so he asked her to clarify while drinking the cup of tea Youko made for him.
“That kid called Kouta, the reason why he’s pulling pranks… My relationship with my parents isn’t good, so I don’t really get it, but… Is their attention really so important to him that he’d go that far?” Frire said.
Having been neglected by both her parents for different reasons and in different ways, she couldn’t understand why he would go to such lengths just to get attention.
Shinichi shook his head.
“Actually, I think you could relate pretty well. You might not expect anything from your parents anymore, but that’s not the case with your older brother, right?”
With a thump, realization dawned on her. Especially when Shinichi talked about her older brother.
“…When you put it that way… I see, so this is how it feels.”
Frire nodded many times as though to show that she understood.
The child that wanted to get the attention of his mother and the little sister that wanted to fix her relationship with her big brother.
Their respective situation was different in some ways, but that wasn’t the case when it came to their feelings.
To be with their family and feel their presence. It was that kind of feeling.
“I found someone who looked like a gossiper and asked a little, and it turns out that the dad of that kid has been sick since last year. Moreover, the senior proprietor and proprietress have already passed away, so the proprietress is all on her own,” Myuhi said.
“So that’s why she doesn’t have time for her son. It’s not a situation anyone asked for, but it must be tough on the kid,” Aristel said.
Myuhi wasn’t emotionally attached to either side, but Aristel could relate to their feelings, so she groaned with a complicated expression.
“I don’t know… Maybe that kid actually gets it. That’s why he can’t be honest with his feelings, but he still wants his mom to care about him. Maybe, it’s that contradiction that’s causing him to try and express himself through pranks,” Shinichi said.
“Did you make a living criticizing people’s upbringing or something? You sure you still 15? You’re not suddenly going to say that you’re an illegitimate child and you’re actually 25 already, right?”
Ryou said with dismay and astonishment, to which the girls gave various remarks from ‘surely not’ to ‘no way’ and ‘impossible’.
Ryou was stunned, while Shinichi made a sullen face.
“…There’s no such thing.”
Shinichi responded curtly, making no effort to hide his displeasure at their speculations nor the sharpness behind his gaze, causing the girls to wryly smile as they shrank.
Shinichi sighed under his breath, then received his second cup of tea from Youko and emptied it.
Aristel honestly apologized, but her eyes still lit up.
“Still, you were very astute to say those things back there to figure out how the kid was really feeling,” Aristel said.
“I thought you were serious until half way through. But really, I’m more interested how you understand the mind of a mischievous boy like that so well,” Myuhi said.
Aristel’s golden eyes shone brilliantly as she honestly praised Shinichi, while Myuhi changed the topic to avoid the truth being told and even more audacious things being said.
“I mean there weren’t really any other options. You either enjoy pulling pranks or you’re trying to get someone’s attention. It could also be both,” Shinichi said.
“So which type are you then?” Myuhi said.
“Don’t be ridiculous. It’s true there was
Halfway through his self-embellishment the gaze of the people around him – except Aristel’s – finally grew too heavy to bear, and he gave in and confessed that he was the brains behind the pranks.
“I thought as much… Hmm? Allegedly?”
Myuhi nodded when he finally came clean, but that one word drew her to tilt her head.
It was a matter concerning himself, and yet he seemed to lack confidence. Myuhi found that unnatural, but before she could ask, Shinichi had already turned to the teacher that was empathizing with the kid.
“Well, no matter how much you might want to get his attention, doing something like that would just get you the opposite effect.”
“What!? I-I wasn’t planning to! I’m not that much of a kid, you know!”
Frire firmly protested and tapped the desk while leaning forward.
“Indeed, that’s not something you would find on a kid.”
For a moment, Shinichi was impressed by her self-awareness, but then she the twin mountains hidden in her blouse asserted their presence by swaying wildly.
Two pairs of gazes bore painfully into Shinichi, but he feigned ignorance and brazenly took an eyeful of those mountains.
“S-Still, I’m surprised you managed to get ahead of that kid in that split second,” Ryou said.
Ryou turned to Shinichi with dismay and admiration, but really, that was nothing more than an excuse to look away.
He was surprisingly innocent. Unfortunately, the topic he chose backfired on him.
“Because I knew he was there… If anything, don’t you think you should be blaming yourselves for failing to notice him?” Shinichi said.
“Ah!” Ryou said.
“There was indeed no hostility, but you’ve still let your guard down too much if you couldn’t even react in time,” Shinichi said.
When he pointed that out and looked around, a look of shame surfaced on everyone.
Everyone in the room had been affected, not just Ryou.
“Hauu, what a blunder. I will reflect!” Aristel said.
“So that’s why Icchi was laughing then…” Myuhi said.
“Understandably, it would be too much to ask you to be on guard all the time, but at least be on guard when in public,” Shinichi said.
“I’m ashamed,” Frire said.
They were all disheartened, not expecting that a conversation about a kid’s prank would go down this direction.
Shinichi was exactly right, though, so they couldn’t even argue.
Meanwhile, Shinichi wanted to make the depressing atmosphere even more depressing.
A desire to throw in depressing analogies surfaced within him like, ‘what if that child turned out to be an innocent kid turned into a human bomb?’
But he ended up imagining that very situation and became depressed himself, unable to laugh.
“Well, it’s good as long as you understand… By the way, why are you in my room again?”
As though to distract himself from his own imaginations, Shinichi pointed out how they were relaxing in his room as though it were a matter of fact.
They had all been brought to their respective rooms, but in the end, for some reason, they gathered here in Shinichi’s room.
It was a tatami room and one of the few rooms meant for just one person, but it was still big enough that it didn’t feel cramped despite having so many people over.
“It’s boring cooping up in my room all by myself, and the only other guy here is you,” Ryou said.
“We’re waiting for everyone else to come and there’s nothing else to do,” Myuhi said.
Apparently, they just came because there was nothing else to do and nowhere else to go. They weren’t even the slightest bit ashamed by that, so Shinichi stared at them with his eyes half-closed.
Just like when they showed up, they had no plans other than to give their greetings, and now, all that was left was to wait for the other students.
Once they finally arrive, they’ll have to inform them about a list of things they needed to heed caution to and inform them of their schedule, but there was still another thirty minutes until then.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough time for them to walk around the inn, and they couldn’t go out either.
Normally, they would just stay in their room and spend a moment of loneliness despite being on a trip.
The top there students of the academy were treated well because of their rank, but with that came various obligations in the school’s regular classes and events.
Greeting their hosts as the student representatives and waiting for the rest of the students to arrive was one of those.