Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Our Courage, Chapter Three (part b)

Takeru and Yamato sat on the school’s front steps, watching the kids playing basketball.
“Since when are you a teacher?” Yamato asked nastily.
“Since when did you decide it’s better for everyone to play around outside?” Takeru protested.
Yamato continued with an ‘of-course’ tone, “Isn’t it good if we just let them play?”
“I can get them to study, or are you saying it’s better that they have no future?”
“That’s not it, but right now what they need more than math is something to smile about.”
“Here he comes, the idealist! As youthfully straight-forward as always...”
“They aren’t going to smile while doing math, right?”
“They are if they’re cheaters.”
Yuuri returned.
“Yuuri!” Mori called. “Wanna play basketball together?”
She ignored him as well as Takeru and Yamato, and kept walking. Yamato called to her back, “Wait.”
She stopped.
“Where did you get it, the gun?” Yamato asked, with a sharp look at the weapon hanging at her waist.
“From a dead guard.”
“How long do you plan on dangling it in front of the rest of us?”
She glared at him but stayed silent.
“Everyone here is hungry. We’re in this together.”
“And you, how long do you plan on pretending like we’re friends? It’s not enough that you’ve collected these brats?” Yuuri spat out, and left.
Right away Takeru started imitating Yamato. “Everyone is hungry. We’re all in this together... Honestly, were you on the school council? Is that why you’re so full of passionate idealism?”
“Do I look like I was?” Yamato said sulkily.
“You should leave Yuuri alone.”
“You don’t think we should fight?” Yamato remembered the feeling in his palm of the knife he’d found in the market. “Yuuri and the others, in a confined place like this, when they fight or threaten each other, you just want to hide?”
“What are you so worked up about? Did you say it was important to smile? So, smile. Smile!”
Yamato gave a stiff smile, and seeing it, Takeru mumbled, “You’re not cute at all.”
Suddenly, Director of Countermeasures Shibazaki’s voice echoed around the city.
“Everyone, hello. Today I have a request to all of you.”
Yamato, Takeru, the kids playing basketball, and Yuuri going to her storeroom, everyone felt their heart skip a beat at the sound of that voice that seemed to reverberate inside one’s chest.
“After this, before we distribute food and other items, we would like to have a correct headcount of everyone present. Has everyone been getting enough supplies? If they have been insufficient, to what degree? We would like to find out these things. To that end, please make groups of people you get along with, and among them please select a leader.”
“A leader?” Takeru raised his eyebrows dubiously.
“From today, that leader will be the one to receive all supplies. Each leader will distribute them to their own group, responsibly and fairly dividing them amongst the members. The leader system will be in place starting tomorrow morning. So please form your groups today, and choose the leader. That is all. Take care.”
“Yeah, take care,” Takeru said, and looked at the sky as though to say, good grief.
“Have you thought about forming a group like Shibazaki said?” Kiichi asked Yamato when they met in the hallway leading to the gym.
“No choice.”
“So, should we make a group with Yuuri?”
“If we’re in a group with her, won’t she be even more selfish?”
“Can you imagine asking Yuuri to join a group? She’d just laugh.”
“I wouldn’t form a group with any of the lot. Everyone’s head is just full of themselves. No matter what the food isn’t going to be equally divided. More importantly, Yamato, can you help me with something?”
Entering the gym, Yamato raised his voice without thinking. “What the heck?”
“You can’t tell? It’s a raft. This is how I’ll escape,” Kiichi answered, as cool as ever. “I’m sick of living like this. All that talking about countermeasures like that. The adults don’t understand a thing about what it’s like inside here. More than that, they aren’t even trying to find out. How far are they going to continue with the microbe from a meteorite story, always telling us to wait patiently?”
The body was made of wood, with plastic bottles and old tires tied on top. It looked like a fairly sturdy raft.
Kiichi looked at Yamato, a serious look. “Let’s go together. The two of us can run away.”
“...If they see us, they’ll shoot us.”
“And if they don’t see us, we’ll be fine.”
“But how?”
“Every night at three in the morning the guards change shifts. It’s only for a short while, but there’s a gap between guards.”
While he spoke, Kiichi’s eyes sparkled. He was serious, Yamato thought, watching those eyes. Then he looked again at the half-finished raft. Would it really get them to freedom?
Silently watching the two of them from out of eyesight, was Yuuri.
Takeru was waiting alone in front of the tent.
“You could have gone to sleep before me,” Yamato said self-consciously. Takeru ducked his head.
“I thought about it, but I couldn’t. We need to have a conference.”
“Who’s going to be the leader between the two of us?”
“You or me, which?”
“Both of us?”
Takeru thought for a moment, then said, “If Kiichi also joins, then we’d have a three person group.”
Yamato nodded vaguely, and Takeru sighed. “Well, even though we’re friends, Mori will probably go with Yuuri. Well, even if we happen to be in a group together, it’s not like we have to be best friends.”
“You can be leader,” Yamato said carelessly.
But Takeru looked away. “No, I refuse. I don’t want to. You do it. Meeting adjourned.”
Saying this he quickly entered the tent.
“What kind of conference was that?” Yamato grumbled, flustered, and followed him in.
Takeru had already climbed into his sleeping bag and turned onto his side.
When Yamato also lay down beside him, Takeru asked, “Hey, when you’re hungry, do you think about food? It’s stupid, but, for example, noodles with fish paste on top, the kind with the pink part. After that, a savory pancake fried in a pan until it sizzles, with dried fish sprinkled on top... Ahh, now I’m hungry.”
While talking by himself, Takeru got himself worked up. But Yamato silently stared at the ceiling.
“Hey, isn’t there anything that you think about eating? Or something you want?”
“There isn’t.”
“Seriously, there’s nothing?”
Under Takeru’s pressure, Yamato sighed, “Shampoo.”
For a second Takeru was struck dumb, but he rolled over to stare intently at his companion’s profile.
“Between noodles and shampoo, which is better? If I were asked, I’d definitely take the noodles.”
Saying this as though scandalized, Takeru again rolled over to look at the ceiling. A strange silence had started to weigh on Yamato’s chest. Unable to bear it, he opened his mouth, but Takeru started rambling again.
“That’s right, there aren’t any noodles here, but maybe someone has shampoo. I could ask around next time.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“...All right.”
That night, when Takeru’s breath slowed as he fell asleep, Yamato couldn’t help but stay awake.
The raft could only hold two people. If they carried out the plan, he... he’d have to leave Takeru behind.

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