[Once I became an adult, I started to understand your household. I thought that it was weird when I was young but…… What was happening in houses like yours is called child maltreatment.]
[What is that?]
[That’s a word we didn’t have when we were kids. Like infant abuse or child abuse.]
[Hm~…… I don’t really get it, it sounds like a complicated term.]
[It’s about parents bullying their own children. The age of birth is really important, isn’t it? By the time of my death, child abuse has become a huge problem. People would report it if a child cried loudly and if a child went to school with dirty clothes, the school would call the child consultation center.]
When I was just in elementary school, I used to wear dirty clothes. There was a time when I wore the same clothes for days on end, but the teacher didn’t say anything.
[When a child goes missing, the school and police among others will move immediately. Of course there are still children that go missing despite that, but, if it was a middle schooler like you…… Oh. but if it’s a middle schooler, I wonder if they’d make it a runaway case?]
[I wonder if I was also considered a runaway.]
[I think that was maybe the case. Your parents may have said you ran away from home. Still, they should’ve thought it’s weird when parents move out while their child is running away. But in the past, the police probably couldn’t move just because of mere rumors.]
I wonder if the police could have found me quicker if it was during the period of Haruka’s death. Maybe then I wouldn’t be this afraid of the dark.
I kind of thought about it that way, but in the end, I’m glad I wasn’t discovered until after 50 years. If 50 years had passed since then, I think my father and mother would have died. Then they won’t be convicted. (TN: I think they deserve worse.)
[It was normal for me. After all, I didn’t feel that mom and dad were tormenting me. They were just kind of moody. They were living while switching between happy and irritated emotions. They were quite irritable in times like when they’re working or doing house chores.]
[So that’s why you did all the cooking and washing. Ever since you were little.]
[The cooking was done in the microwave. We either put hot water in the cupped noodles or buy hamburgers, that was all we ever did. As for the laundry, we just pop it to the washing machine and let it do its thing, hanging it out to dry is easy.]
I didn’t want to be bullied at school, so I learned how to do the laundry. I was hungry, so I learned how to make a meal. I was just doing what I needed to do to survive, and it wasn’t anything special to me.
[Things like that aren’t something a 4-5 year old should do.]
Haruka had a worried look in his eyes, his tears falling.
[You don’t have to cry. Not all that happened to me were bad. There were also moments when dad and mom were gentle. They took me to an amusement park, and there was also a time when mom made a lunchbox for an outing even though she’s bad at cooking.]
[Both happened only once, right?]
[You remembered it well, Haruka.]
[Of course I remember it. You’d been telling me that over and over again in the past. You said that you went to the amusement park and rode a roller coaster. You also said that the lunchbox had onigiri inside.]
That’s because I was so happy. Mom’s lunchbox happened only once but I’m still happy about it. Mom, who wasn’t an early riser, woke up early and, despite hating to read, cooked the rice while reading instructions. She then formed it into balls while dropping some rice grains.
The lunch box contained 3 misshapen rice balls. It’s a lunchbox mom made, you know? It’s something she made for me. And I believe that something like that is amazing.
[I knew you were going through something terrible but I didn’t do anything. That’s why I……]
[That doesn’t make it alright to be beaten here. Also, Haruka, it wasn’t that you didn’t do anything. You had always been helping me.]
[When I said let’s go on an adventure, you always accompanied me. Even when you had a fever. Speaking of which, you went on a trip with me even during a family vacation.]
I feel like laughing upon remembering it.
[I knocked on your bedroom window before the sun rose, didn’t I? It’s amazing what things kids can do, right?]
[I’m going no matter what happens. After all, I had nothing that’s more important than going adventuring with you.]
Haruka was also laughing.
I want to go on a trip when I don’t want to face reality. I want to escape from reality so I go on adventures. The grasslands, mountains, rivers, and so on were so close that a kid could walk there, but it was a world of endless adventures. There, I became a brave man and a hero. The stick that I grabbed was a sword that could cut through the darkness. My feet were supposed to kick the ground and soar through the sky.
I averted my eyes from reality and dreamed with Haruka. And Haruka was also trying to escape from reality.
I realized that Haruka didn’t have a place in his house either. Haruka was trying his best to hide the irregularity inside him. But Haruka’s parents were sensitive and noticed that their son wasn’t normal. And then, they forcefully did everything to turn Haruka into a man.
They made Haruka into a monk for a long time. All his clothes were black. They made him do judo and karate, and distanced Haruka from piano and reading, which were things he liked. It’s unusual, but in order to turn their son into a man, Haruka’s parents preferred to make him do manly sports than studying.
The only place that Haruka could go to was his grandma’s house which was in the neighborhood.
When I invited him to our last adventure, he nodded a lot like usual. Haruka’s grandma left on a journey one morning at the start of that Summer as if she melted into the bright sunlight.
While inexhaustibly reminiscing, I suddenly realized.
[During the time I was unconscious, what happened to Saine’s meals?]
[I don’t know? I think your husband was in this room at first. My memory is fuzzy…… But maybe it was yesterday, he suddenly left as is.]
[Saine, he…… must be angry. I caused him so much trouble.]
[He is angry, but I don’t think it’s towards you, though.]
[Uwaah…… Could it be that I’m about to get sold already?]
[I don’t think so. After all……]
Haruka’s words were cut off, and we heard a loud laugh. ‘Kekekeke’, it was a laugh that didn’t sound normal. What is it? When the two of us looked towards the door, it suddenly opened and Saine came in.
Saine’s astonished face looked at me, his expression changed like a thousand-faced mask from rage, laughter, lament, and lastly, it became expressionless as if it went on a reset. Then, he stomped towards me and smacked me in the head. It felt like a cat punch and didn’t hurt at all. I laughed with a ‘uheh’ and looked up at Saine.
[Saine, welcome back.]
[It’s not ‘welcome back’.]
[You went out somewhere, right? Wait, did you perhaps go to the forest?]
Saine threw the rases that were still laughing loudly in the room. There were 3 rases tied with a rope. Maybe they get along, the loudly laughing ras as well as the low-frequency-bass laughing ras are wandering around with the ras that’s laughing in mid volume, creating a harmony.
[Did you go to catch rases?]
My voice seems to be drowned out too. From the other side of the open door, someone, perhaps a servant, was peeking with a troubled face.
[I did. You are………… SHUT UP!!]
Saine seriously yelled at the birds.