Winter had come to Makuhara.
A chilly wind was blowing into Yamato and Takeru’s tent again tonight. Takeru wrapped himself up in every blanket he owned, but he still couldn’t stop shivering. Yamato huddled down in his sleeping bag like it was a cocoon. But it was still C-O-L-D.
“We don’t have any disposable pocket heaters, do we?” Yamato finally asked, defeated.
“None! And you know that so why’d you bother - Atchoo!”
Takeru let out a huge sneeze. Yamato immediately asked, “Did you know, when you sneeze, your body temperature drops?”
“Why didn’t you tell me that sooner? Or actually, don’t tell me that at all. Atchoo! Atchoo!” Annoyed, Takeru sneezed several times in rapid succession.
Then for some reason Yamato began rustling around next to him.
“It can’t be helped. This is only to save your life.”
“What? Do you have something over there?”
As Takeru spoke, before his unbelieving eyes Yamato unzipped the sleeping bag and made a beckoning gesture. “Come over here.”
“Don’t they say that at times like this it’s warmer to sleep while cuddling?”
Takeru’s eyes went perfectly round. Was Yamato serious?
“Or should I come over there?” And saying this, he tried to slide into Takeru’s sleeping bag.
“Stop that. Stop! Don’t get so close! I said stop, hey!”
A storm raged inside the tent, as Takeru tried escaping every which way and his protests broke the night’s silence.
The next day, Takeru went to the marketplace as soon as he woke up.
Today was the day he definitely had to get some winter clothes. If he didn’t, Yamato might do something weird again...
Takeru shivered as he remembered the night before, as though he’d had a bad dream, and Mori’s voice suddenly came from behind him.
“What’re you doing?”
“Oh, I’m looking for any clothes people don’t need. We didn’t bring much, and every night is getting colder.”
Oblivious to Takeru’s words, Mori asked, “Takeru, are we not friends?”
“What? Of course we are!”
“Then when are you coming? To the school.”
“Didn’t Yuuri come to tell you to move?”
Speaking of which, Yuuri had been standing near his pillow when he woke up. Seeing him and Yamato sleeping together, she’d been thrown off balance and quickly left. Was it possible that...
“You won’t come?”
“We will, we will. Right away. Yamato’s been keeping me up all night, so I’ve got to do something to shut him up.”
“Keeping you up?”
“Um, no... That’s - something you’ll learn about when you’re older,” Takeru laughed awkwardly.
A strange atmosphere surrounded the place where supplies were being delivered from the outside. The military helicopter was already circling overhead.
“Move aside! We can’t drop the food while you’re standing there. Step away!”
A weak-looking boy could be seen standing at the helicopter’s landing point. He was fourteen, and named Kaoru.
He was trembling as he looked up at the helicopter. It seemed he was in the way of its landing. But there were many children gathered to receive the supplies, and among them a group of boys had surrounded Kaoru.
“Okay, Kaoru? You’re our coin toss.”
There were four kids who acted like they were kings of the street. One of them, named Ryuu, had called out mockingly. Beside him, wearing a windbreaker, stood yellow-haired Takako, who continued.
“Heads you run away, tails you don’t. Which to bet on?
Dai, who wore a silver bracelet, answered, “I’ll bet three cans he doesn’t run.”
Gold-braceleted Hiroki countered, “Okay, I’ll bet ten that he does.”
The four laughed. Watching this, Makoto and Akira whispered to each other.
“Those guys aren’t thinking this through.”
“Aren’t they taking it too far?”
“But if we do anything they’ll hurt us too.”
Yamato came up. “What’s going on?”
Yuuri had arrived just before him. “I’d like to know as well.” She looked up as though disgusted, to where the helicopter was rapidly getting higher.
“The delivery for today has been canceled. Repeat, today’s delivery has been canceled.”
The kids watched, struck dumb. Then...
“All right! We win, you lose. We’ll collect three cans from each of you.” Ryuu and Dai celebrated. The losers Takako and Hiroki weren’t satisfied.
“Kaoru, you jerk!” Hiroki threw the can in his hand at the ground.
“We lost the bet because you wouldn’t run away! What are you gonna do about it? Give us back the cans we’ve lost!”
Looking at the ranting Takako, Kaoru was terrified. He collapsed on the ground. The two advanced towards him, but just a second faster than them - was Yamato!
“This way!” He grabbed Kaoru’s hand and they fled. Ryuu and the others gave chase as a pack.
“He’s in trouble now,” Makoto muttered. Yuuri looked after the running Yamato and Kaoru with concern on her face.
“Get that brat out of here,” Yuuri spat at Yamato in the storeroom.
He and Kaoru had evaded their pursuers and finally ended up at the school.
“But isn’t he pitiful?” protested Yamato, and Yuuri’s expression went cold.
“Fine, just do whatever you want. But first of all, get him out.”
“If I do, they’ll find him and bully him again.”
“Listen to me - what if he exposes our shelter here? They could wreck even this place.”
She was irritated, and now Yamato spoke vehemently in return. “You’re just scared. You’re so wrapped up in fear, you’re going to pretend like you don’t see anything.”
“Listen, it’s not just about you and me. It involves everyone here.”
“You’re just turning a blind eye!”
“Think about what’s going on around you before you talk!”
While those two fought, Kaoru and Mori were giving Riki water in the entryway.
“He was really thirsty,” Kaoru said fondly, watching the gulping dog.
“I usually only give him half a bottle, right, Riki?”
“So, next time, I’ll give him some of mine?”
“Really?” Mori’s face shone.
“Yeah. So it’s all right if I come to play again?”
The two smiled at each other, and shook hands. Mori was so happy he had a new friend...
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Our Courage, Chapter Four (part a)
Winter had come to Makuhara.