After buying a bunch of clothes and requesting to have them delivered to the house, the Nakamura family left the store.
The clothes Shinichi was currently wearing were kept by his dad 8 years ago.
He’d bought them knowing Shinichi still had some growing to do, so he bought them bigger than Shinichi’s size at the time. Although 2 years had passed for Shinichi, he hadn’t grown that much, so the size was still fine.
From those, Rinko picked out the ones that could be considered okay fashion-wise in present time.
Earth may have done some cultural exchange with the otherworld, but that didn’t mean that the standard for fashion had changed.
Because of that Shinichi was able to fit in just fine even though he was wearing old clothes.
But for some reason, he was acting odd.
He was following Rinko and the others from behind, but he kept looking around him throwing sharp glances here and there.
“What’s the matter, Shinichi-kun?” Rinko asked.
“Huh? Oh, umm… Everything sure has changed.” Shinichi said.
Rinko noticed and asked Shinichi, so Shinichi gave her a safe reply.
It wasn’t a lie, though, since that was really what he thought.
The shopping district they came to was quite far from where Shinichi used to live.
But they still came here together before, so it was quite nostalgic.
Or at least, it should’ve been.
“Places like this are sensitive to what’s in vogue. They went all in when the otherworld boom came, so the old stores have probably diminished.”
The clothes store from before was also new, but the way the stores worked were all changing. This is due to the influence of the otherworld, which has caused people to start demanding different products.
As such, the current town was like a completely different town to the one Shinichi knew of 2 years ago. It was enough to make him wonder if this was really the world he knew.
“…8 years huh. I guess that’s enough for things to change.”
Such changes were more vivid to people who have been gone for some time than to those who’ve always been there. Especially for Shinichi who basically travelled 8 years to the future.
The changes that accompanied those 8 years was further magnified because of the cultural exchange with the otherworld. The changes were so great that a town Shinichi once knew was now completely different. There wasn’t a single thing left in it that reminded him of what it used to be.
Perhaps even the materials they used to build the structures were different, as Shinichi had an odd sense of discomfort when it came to the walls of the buildings
“Lonely?” Nobuhiko asked.
“Huh? Oh, umm… Not really…” Shinichi replied.
“No need to be shy. If I were in your place, I’m sure I’d feel sad too.
But of course, that’s just me imagining how I’d feel if I were in your shoes. So, I’d still like to hear what you really think.”
Seeing his son gazing at the town, Nobuhiko thought Shinichi might have something on mind. He believed that worrying too much and not trying to interfere was wrong, so he decided to talk to him.
Hearing his dad say that, Shinichi thought he should respond to him earnestly.
“Is this… loneliness?
This feeling that I’m the only one who’s been left behind?”
But it was still hard for him to honestly share his feelings.
It was hard for him to share them with the people who worried for him.
It was hard for him to share them with his dad who was so elated at his return.
I don’t really recognize this world, so it doesn’t really feel like I’ve come home.
That sort of stuff. To Shinichi, it felt as if he had gotten lost from one foreign world to another.
But if he were to really say that, Shinichi was sure he would only make his dad sad.
So he purposely changed his words just enough so they didn’t become a lie.
“I see…” Nobuhiko said.
“It’s alright. You’ll just need to learn about this world from here on. Right, Nobuhiko-san, Shinichi-kun?” Rinko said.
“Y-Yeah…” Nobuhiko reluctantly agreed.
“I suppose.” Shinichi reluctantly said.
Father and son both nodded reluctantly. It was a little sad, but that was also what spurred Rinko to do her best.
“Now that we’ve decided that. We should go around and see what the town has to offer!”
First, she would have him learn about this town.
As she said that she forcefully pulled the hand of her stepson.
“Woah. W-Wait a moment. Rinko-san!?”
“The first thing we have to check is definitely the train!
Or maybe since you’re a boy, you’d prefer we go somewhere we can eat first?”
“Just leave it to me. I know this place quite a bit from before I got married!”
Although she seemed to be asking, she wasn’t really listening.
Seeing Shinichi, who had a tendency to act reserved, being dragged just like that by Rinko, Nobuhiko couldn’t help but wryly smile.
“Ha ha! Your mother is as awesome as ever!” Nobuhiko said to little Shinji.
“Auu?” Shinji cooed.
Little Shinji, who he carried in his arms, couldn’t seem to understand, as he made an odd face.
Nobuhiko just thought what a charming sight that was as he followed after his wife and son who’d gone straight ahead.
“…This sure feels nostalgic.”
Nobuhiko wryly smiled as if seeing Rinko so energetic was a good thing.
Meanwhile, ‘she’, who was hiding in Shinichi’s shoulder bag, met Shinichi’s eyes for a moment.
“Kyu?” She said, as if she were asking something.
But Shinichi just shook his head a little as if to say ‘leave it’.
Shinichi wasn’t actually looking at the town because he was so taken by its changes. Though, of course, he did feel those things, at the time, he was actually looking at something different.
He was looking for the position of those following them.
—There’s 15 of them all in all.
Shinichi knew full well what sort of position he was in.
He was a child who disappeared 8 years ago and came back after passing only 2 years. That in and of itself was strange enough, but to make things even worse, the global plan to find the missing earthlings in Garesto failed to locate him, and then he came back a month later.
Given his position, it was only natural that he would be monitored.
Knowing that, he had already prepared himself beforehand, but unless they did something, he he would leave them alone.
After all if he were to lay a hand on them, he would probably just make his position worse.
It wasn’t pleasant being monitored all the time, but he needed to protect Rinko, even though they had no relation by blood.
He didn’t want to put her efforts to waste.
Yes. He knew that Rinko was tasked with monitoring him.
And he also knew that she was using that to protect him.
As for why? That’s because the white mask that no one noticed was with them that day.
Tl Note: Chapter still not done. 3 parts was too optimistic. It might take double the parts since the chapter is really long and complicated for me prose-wise, but we’ll see.