55. Precious and Trust
“Sa, Sajo-chi…… If you’re awake, then say so.”
His face was pale. He didn’t seem to be sweating that much, but for being so calm and collected, his breathing seemed slightly out of rhythm. Clearly, he still had a fever. Even so, he gave a faint response towards Kei’s words.
Aika grabbed two round chairs, and sat down next to the bed.
If he could somewhat respond, asking one or two questions normally wouldn’t hurt, she thought.
She was waiting for a response, but instead of giving any, he wasn’t even trying to look over at her. Just kept faintly looking at the window.
After waiting for a brief moment, that situation didn’t change either. On top of feeling distraught, she was assaulted with a faint feeling of annoyance.
Giving him a different question, Aika received somewhat of a proper answer, which surprised her a little. Despite him not even bothering to look at her, he seemed to be able to hold a conversation at least. That being said, forcing him wasn’t an option either, so she asked the bare minimum.
“I got Pokari.” [TN: Pokari Sweet, a sports drink]
Another question but no response came, so Aika and Kei looked at each other.
It felt like he was suffering, but remained calm. Remained calm, but suffered. This kind of state left Aika worried, and gave her a bad feeling that something was off. She wondered to herself if she had reacted in a similar way when she caught a cold. She remembered feeling trapped in a negative emotion when the fever was high.
Despite that, he seemed fairly okay in that regard.
“I caused a ruckus.”
That wasn’t like him. On top of that, what a laudable word.
Normally Aika would just cast that aside with a ‘You don’t need to apologize for that’, but because of the awkward atmosphere, she couldn’t laugh it off. This made her realize the origin of why she felt something was off. She could understand why he wasn’t as expressive as always. However, with the fever and dizziness, he shouldn’t be able to hold a proper conversation like this. It was a very brief conversation, but it sounded like he came to terms with something.
“What’s wrong? Something’s off.”
“ ‘W-What is’…? I mean…….. see?”
Aika looked at her side, to which Kei nodded along. Either way, he could properly talk at least, so things could have been worse. She looked back at him again. He was still looking up outside the window, showing a self-deprecating smile as the right corner of his mouth moved upwards.
Aika felt her heart skip a beat. She had heard that the desire of protecting a girl in pain and suffering should exist somewhere within someone, but the same seemed to be the case with boys. This especially grew strong considering the fact that he would never show such a fragile smile normally.
An awkward silence was born.
Aika didn’t want to force any conversation, but was it just her who expected some words back since he wasn’t planning on sleeping? Since they came out of their way to visit him, she expected to get something more than that at the very least.
Y-You really should care some more when two girls came to……──No, no! He’s sick, I shouldn’t be thinking this!
Together with a groan, he started to twist and turn his body.
Aika pushed her body forward to get a better look, but since he put his head on the pillow right away, there was not much she could do. He put his hand on his forehead to let out a groan, and then stuffed the hand beneath the blanket.
“……Sorry, my head is still killing me…”
“Y-You don’t need to talk anymore!”
Maybe this was the price to pay for her selfishness. Though she wanted to cheer him up, she felt like she made him suffer even more. He seemed to have calmed down, but she just couldn’t leave him alone. She couldn’t tear her eyes away from him, because it felt like she would miss out on something if she did.
Despite Aika having known him for years, she never saw such pale skin on him. It was clear that he still suffered from a fever. Touching his forehead would surely burn her hand, but he looked more cold than anything. Then again, if it was the latter, something would be off.
Perhaps, she was getting distressed, for some reason, without asking any permission, Aika reached for his forehead, on which was covered by the shadow of the raindrops on the windows───
“───Don’t touch me.”
Right before her hand touched him, he pushed her away with words alone. Because he sounded so cold and indifferent, Aika withdrew her hand in panic. She took the words too personally, causing her warmed heart to heat up, resulting in her feeling annoyed. Just when she realized this as a bad habit of hers and was thinking about it, he continued, as if not giving her time.
“I don’t want to give the cold to you two.”
“As well as Airi-chan……”
The words he spoke were full of careful consideration.
Hearing him speaking these directly and even more the name of her beloved little sister, Aika felt happy. She averted her eyes to hide her embarrassment, only to find her good friend next to her fidgeting in a flustered way. Cute.
They seemed to share the same feelings.
But then, as if to say that wasn’t enough, he continued even after what.
“I don’t want to make you two suffer……”
They left the room.
“───Wait wait wait wait wait!? What was that!? That! What’s going on!?”
The two stood in front of the infirmary.
Kei must have tried to keep her volume down, but she pretty much screamed that out loud, perhaps couldn’t hold what she was feeling.
As for Aika herself, she found herself unable to come up with any words, her face scorching hot, and yet her head was empty.
“H-Hey…… a weak Sajo-chi is……”
“T-that was unfair…… I- I mean, how imprudent……”
His words of kindness and consideration were, probably, the real deal. If he had been the same as always, he could have joked around like always. However, mixing his words and expression, this time, there was probably no time for him to play it as a joke like always.
H-How did this happen…… I didn’t visit him for that kind of reason…..
Aika found herself wanting to visit his bed one more time.
She understood why he was so against being touched. And, that even if she deliberately tried to touch again, it would end up the same ──
“W-What happened, you two?”
“ “Kyaa!?” ”
When they thought nobody else was around, a sudden voice called out to them. Being surprised like that, they couldn’t help but let out a shriek. They both clung together like they just walked through a Haunted House, only to be reminded that they weren’t the only ones who had business at the infirmary.
Aika and Kei Illustration
Slightly bewildered, there stood the disciplinary committee president. Behind her was a brown-haired woman with her hair and breath roughened up. It was Sajou Kaede-san ── his elder sister. For some reason, she looked so grown-up.
“N-Nothing! We were just waiting for you two!”
“What, did you already guess I would be bringing Kaede along?”
“Eh!? Y-Yes! Of course!”
Aika couldn’t watch her close friend run her mouth any further than that, so she tried to stop that happening somehow. Compared to her usual attitude, her close friend was clearly much more flustered.
That being said, even Aika didn’t have confidence she could do anything but keep silent.
While Aika was trying to calm herself first, without saying anything, his elder sister opened the door to the infirmary. Since she didn’t even explain herself, she must have been in a rush.
Shinomiya-senpai, who had a wry smile on her face, and the other two exchanged glances, before following inside.
Strangely. Aika had the feeling that the same development from just now wouldn’t happen again, and once again approach his bed.
As before, he was still looking outside the window. And, he still gave no response yet again. Seeing his condition, his elder sister dropped her hip on the nearby round chair, crossed her arms and legs, and looked at her younger brother.
“Yup. You good?”
“……My head hurts.”
Despite asking about it, still, it was a harsh word. Even Kei didn’t know how to react, giving a confused ‘Ehh……’ in the face of this conversation.
Looking only at the surface of this conversation, it truly was kind of rude. No, they might have been giving out their honest feelings for all they knew. Even so, seeing this conversation, a realization came to Aika. ‘siblings’, to be precise ‘elder sister and younger brother’, must be why the conversation could go this way.
“Did you hurt yourself?”
Right. He had collapsed towards the door back in the classroom, but only the person in question knew what really happened. But, ‘Don’t remember’, was it good or bad in this context? With his current condition, it was hard to believe anything.
“Kaede. Shindou-sensei looked over him, so he should be fine.”
His cheek, neck, hands ───His elder sister touched him as if to confirm his warmth. Not to mention that Shinomiya-senpai joined in, touching his forehead with her hand. He didn’t say anything in particular, and just let them do their thing.
『”───I don’t want to give the cold to you two.”』
Compared to his previous words, did that mean he didn’t care about his senpais as much? But, looking at his reaction, it didn’t seem like he ‘couldn’t care less’ at all.
Unlike us…… he allows them……?
His facial expression relaxed a bit, indicating that he must be feeling a bit more comfortable now. For only a second, it felt like the ‘usual him’ returned. Why? Aika couldn’t help but feel doubtful about this, and look for the reason.
“What, you feeling hot?”
“Then, let me buy something cold for you. An energy drink should be fine.”
“I’ll go call Mom. This guy, probably didn’t contact her yet.”
The story progressed. He didn’t say that he wished for it, but he also didn’t act like what they did was wrong ── In fact, his response was closing his eyes, and resting his head on the pillow in a normal position.
When Aika got a closer look at him, he seemed to be a lot more relaxed compared to before. Almost as if to show that they didn’t need to worry about him anymore.
But this, made Aika feel a bit uneasy and restless.
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