This bathhouse was established a long time ago.
Even so the facilities were clean after being remodeled last year.
By the time grandpa rinses his back and immerges in the bath, I get out.
The lobby had benches and massage chairs you could use for a fee.
A large screen T.V. was installed on the wall. I took a break while watching it.
Mikoto’s mom, my mom, my grandma, and my grandpa went home ahead of us.
「Don’t be late for dinner!」
I received such a warning from Mikoto’s mom.
Mikoto was staying in the bath for a long time.
I also didn’t take a short time either.
But even so, Mikoto was late.
After 20 minutes Mikoto came out and watched T.V. with a milk bottle in her hand.
Her hair was still wet and she had a bath towel around her neck.
She changed into a black long sleeved T-shirt and switched from wearing jeans to a jersey.
「Ready to go?」
Raising my hips from the chair, I go towards the bike racks.
And then at the bike racks I was at a loss for words.
Mikoto, who followed me, asked.
I silently point at my own bike.
「It got done in」1
「What is this? The tire is gone」
「The seat is gone too…」
It was theft.
The lock ran through the back wheel.
So they just simply stole the front wheel and seat.
「Should I call my mom?…」
Mikoto’s small hand grabbed mine that was about to take out my cell phone.
I could feel the warmth of the hot bath still coming off of her.
「It’s fine if we just walk home…」
「It’s not really that far」
It is a bit far but it is definitely not a distance we couldn’t walk.
When I put back my cell phone, we inform the owner of the bathhouse as to why we are leaving my bike there.
Tomorrow my mom will come back to pick it up.
And then Mikoto and I decided to walk home.
A little after we left the bathhouse, Mikoto lined up next to me and started being bashful.
「What, need to go to the restroom?」
Mikoto shook her head.
Since there weren’t many street lights, it was difficult to see her expression.
「Then, are you cold?」
Because she was acting strangely reserved, it felt a little weird.
Mikoto certainly isn’t a chatterbox.
But, it’s strange how little she is talking.
It’s like she wants to say something.
However, it can’t be expressed well in words. She is giving that kind of feeling.
After walking a bit in silence, Mikoto finally said something.
「Your hand…is it fine if I hold it?」
I unintentionally ended up stopping my feet.
「It’s fine, right?」
「What is it suddenly…or rather, recently you’ve been weird」2
「Such a thing…have I?…」
She ended up realizing it herself.
Mikoto slowly extends her hand towards mine.
Letting out a small breath, I light gripped her small hand.
Her hands were warm. It was probably because she just got out of the bath.
We start walking again. The silence continued.
We came out onto the main road.
It was a street that had big trucks going by.
The volume of the traffic ends up drowning out any conversation we would have.
Passing by many bright street lights, we reached the paddy field street.
The hustle and bustle of the main road quiets down behind us.
Next to me, my short childhood friend, Mikoto, silently grips my hand.
The stars were sparkling in the pitch black sky.
Today’s moon didn’t come out. Even so, the night sky was lively with stars.
Compared to the sky, the lights here on this paddy field street were scarce. There was no sign of anyone else either.
「You, will you stop doing stuff like that?」
「Stuff like what?」
「Pouring water on me to wake me up」
Before we went to the bathhouse, I was sleeping.
Mikoto threw water on my face to wake me up.
「It was your fault for not getting up」
「Usually it’s fine to wake me up normally」
「Usually you do wake up. I even called out to you and shook your shoulders」
Stopping there, Mikoto turns her face away seeming dissatisfied.
What? Why are you pouting when you were so forceful with me.
「Oi, if you dislike me so much then you shouldn’t try and hold hands with me」
「Also licking my dick while I was on the phone and suddenly holding it tightly…what were you thinking, isn’t that like saying you like me?」
Turning her face away, Mikoto gave a sharp reply.
「Won’t you tell me it’s a misunderstanding? Do you really like me」
I couldn’t really see her expression.
That’s why I could tell her so strongly.
「You didn’t say it properly. Since there are various timings to consider…but if you don’t dislike me then…doing such a thing…」
「I said shut up!」
Shaking her hand free, Mikoto stopped her feet.
I also stopped a few feet ahead of her and turned around.
「You’re annoying…I hate you…geez…I hate you…I really hate you」
「You…are you crying?」
「That attitude of seeing through everything…is the worst…I seriously hate you…」
It seems she was crying.
I could only see her silhouette in the dark.
However, her shoulders were shaking up and down.
Her voice became nasally and she occasionally wipes her eyes.
「I hate you…Even though I hate you…when I looked at your sleeping face…I started crying…」
Mikoto and I were the only people on this paddy field road.
It’s supposed to be used everyday but it looks like now is different than normal.
The twinkling stars in the sky were watching over Mikoto.
Do your best.
Try to be honest.
Tell him everything.
It seemed the stars were trying to tell her that.
Winning over the beads of light floating in the heavens one by one, Mikoto speaks her mind.
「I don’t get it but…recently, I cry a lot…when I think about you I cry! I hate you, even though it can’t be helped that I hate you, when I think about you I cry!」
「Shut up! Don’t say anything!」
Mikoto’s shoulder started shaking more.
It seemed like she would hyperventilate when she finally said something like she was squeezing it out.
「I always thought it would just be me and yet…even so, that woman…」
I immediately knew who Mikoto was talking about.
It was Kurusu. Mikoto was talking about Kurusu Mia.
Mikoto definitely started to get a bit weird after meeting Kurusu at Sainzu.
「I couldn’t reach someone like her…even…I…couldn’t reach but…」
The excuse that she wasn’t crying doesn’t work anymore.
Mikoto was crying that much.
I couldn’t see in the dark but I am sure she is shedding tears and her mouth is strained.
*Hyuu*, I heard Mikoto take a breath.
And then immediately after, her thin voice reached my ears.
「I…like you, Koumei…Even though I really hate you, I like you…」