But Yamato wasn’t tired enough to sleep for some reason. Lots of things had happened today... but they’d been nothing but happy. Repairing his friendship with Kiichi, trading the car for the shoes, playing basketball with everyone... He was still filled with that pleasant excitement.
Takeru was tossing and turning.
“You can’t sleep?” Yamato asked.
“I am sleeping.”
“You are not.”
“I have been working hard all day. You, meanwhile, have been doing nothing,” Takeru said sulkily.
“It’s not that I’ve been doing nothing.”
“You went for a drive and played basketball? Tomorrow you’ll have a campfire and barbecue, I suppose?”
“But, the other guys had fun. I did that to see them laugh.”
“Don’t say cheesy things like that,” Takeru said sarcastically.
Instead of answering, Yamato scratched his neck.
“What? Do you need to take a bath?”
“...It’s hives. I ate a can of mackerel.”
Takeru snorted. Yamato kept scratching. Without noticing time passing the two fell asleep. They were awakened by a brilliant light on their eyelids.
Right before their eyes was a guard in a gas-mask, the eerie face peering into their tent. They rubbed their eyes sleepily, and the guard thrust in front of their noses a sheet of paper.
It was the letter they had entrusted to Riki.
Surrounded by night fog, the gate quietly swung open.
In the searchlight’s beam stood Yamato, Takeru, Yuuri, and Mori, their expressions nervous. The four received urgent summons from Shibazaki, and had been gathered at the gate.
Mori’s sister was coming right now!
Other kids were standing here and there, who had heard the news and come to gawk. Makoto, Akira and Kiichi could be seen. Everyone was watching with bated breath to see the event.
First through an opening in the gate came Shibazaki wearing a gas mask. After him, in the middle of a large group of guards, the figure of a young woman appeared.
At that moment the smile disappeared from Mori’s - no, from everyone’s face.
She was wearing a gas mask, and a cold metal grate was protecting her.
Mori called to her.
“You’re really my sister?”
While he said this, he started to approach her. At that moment, the masked girl screamed, “Don’t come near me!”
Shocked, Mori stopped walking.
“Don’t... please. Don’t come here. I... don’t want to die. Don’t come near me.”
Mori’s face went white in an instant. But right away, he smiled, and held up his hand.
“I understand. I won’t come any closer, so you’re fine. I won’t touch you, so it’s okay. But could you show me your face?”
She removed the gas mask. Her face was beautiful, her eyes filled with tears.
Mori continued telling his sister, “I’m not going to die. I’m healthy. How have you been? ... I can’t go outside, but I’m all right. I’ve got lots of friends. Yesterday, I played basketball with everyone. So I’m not lonely. You don’t need to worry about me... I always bring flowers to Mom and Dad’s grave, so you don’t need to worry about that.”
His sister broke down crying. But Mori kept on in a steady tone of voice.
“Thanks for coming to see me. Take care of yourself. Work hard. Goodbye.”
Then, Riki leapt from beside her to Mori’s side of the gate. That was the signal. The sister he’d been longing to see disappeared on the other side of the closed gate.
Their brief reunion was over.
“...Takeru, thank you.”
Mori looked at Takeru with tears in his eyes.
Suddenly, Yuuri yelled, “Would you stop it?”
She was glaring at a startled Takeru.
“Things like sympathy and compassion... I’m fed up with it. Don’t you get it? Things like that only hurt people. Family, siblings - we don’t need that here. Don’t just meddle whenever you feel like it.”
Takeru just bit his lip. Then, Mori stepped between him and Yuuri.
“Stop, Yuuri. I was happy to be able to see my sister, and that she came to see me. I was happy just because of that, so... Thanks, Takeru.”
Watching Yuuri and Mori walk away, Takeru muttered, “It’s good.”
Yamato looked at him in silence. Takeru’s eyes were gazing far into the distance.
“That he was able to meet her. It’s good.”
“If he’d died, then even if she wanted to see him again she wouldn’t have been able to... Yamato, did you really think I came here just to be a volunteer?”
“Then, you also came here for someone...?”
“I was told that she died suddenly. But I was so sure she was still alive somewhere. I guess it was weird of me.”
Unable to speak, Yamato just shook his head.
“Well, if she died it can’t be helped, but I wanted to see her, just one last time... That’s why.”
Unaware, Takeru’s eyes filled with tears.
“It was good,” Yamato said. “That they were able to meet. Because, even if they’re alone, they’re able to know that the other is - that we all are - still alive in here.
At Yamato’s words, Takeru nodded firmly.
That was how Makuhara’s, and Takeru’s and Yamato’s, saddest and happiest day came to an end.
Daybreak was close. The east sky was painted indigo. But the new dawn for these children was not yet to come.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Our Courage, Chapter Two (part d)