This is Chapter 4 from Volume 2 of the Kanon light novel series.
The text is from Baka-tsuki.
Nayuki and Akiko didn’t ask me why I was going out late.
“It’s snowing now. Beware of the cars, okay?”
“Wear something warm. You don’t want to catch a cold.”
All they said were reminders for my care.
Curling the scarf over the collar of my jacket, I went to school where Kaori was waiting.
Kaori didn’t say anything happened in the phone. She said with her usual calm tone, “Can you come out for a moment?”
I agreed without asking why.
The street lamps shone on the falling snowflakes.
In this quiet night, my footsteps were particularly loud.
The air was cold, so cold that my I couldn’t feel blood flowing to the back of my feet and my nose, making them numb. I walked without hesitation. I knew very clear what Kaori was planning to say. For this, I could forget the cold. I would bet my life to forget it.
Kaori was standing in front of the closed school gate.
She was alone, wearing her uniform, without an umbrella. She was almost being right below the shower of the street lamp. She was standing there, still, paying no heed to the snow fallen on her shoulders and her hair.
“Here I am.”
“Is this the first thing when you call someone out?”
I smiled wryly, entering the shower of light Kaori was in.
Kaori didn’t respond.
“…Is it about Shiori?”
I asked, thinking it the correct guess. Suddenly Kaori spread the white piece of paper on her hand.
The white paper looked like a child’s drawing, a portrait, probably. Drawn there was a girl with long hair and big eyes.
“This is me.”
Kaori glared at the girl in the drawing.
“This is what my sister gave me on my birthday. It was the first present I received from her.”
“Yes. My only sister.”
A pale tone.
Still, Kaori would say she had a sister now, contrary to what she had said. The word sister she said and the meaning it carried was completely opposed between then and now.
“…My sister was born with a weak body.”
Kaori said, as if reciting a story.
“When I got this drawing, she was already in hospital. I’m sorry. I couldn’t buy anything for you, she said, handing this to me.”
While I hear her words, I looked at the drawing like she did.
Then on the other end of the drawing paper, I could see two young girls.
In the children’s ward decorated by origami, a girl in pajamas was on a bed facing the drawing board.
Seeing that scene was another girl.
“Before that, this weak child caught most of the love from her parents. To tell the truth, I am bit jealous. But even when this child was in pain, she would still crawl up from her bed. She said she had to make it to her sister’s birthday...and she then smiled.”
The other girl with a resistant look was caught by the smile of the drawing girl, and soon her expression pacified.
After that, she received the drawing that was difficulty made.
“Back then, it was my first time that I was so happy I cried,” Kaori continued.
The two sisters who had got on better terms, spent all the time they could have to be together, to share their feelings. The older sister told the younger one who couldn’t go to school all the interesting things about school and lessons. The younger sister told the older one the books she read when she was alone, and how she had taken them to be the protagonists of stories, showing her the illustrated stories she created.
“Whenever the visiting time ended, and I had to go home, I would almost tear up from leaving her.”
Kaori’s lips showed a hint of smile.
“She always comforted me…when in realty, she was the one who was left alone, who should experience more loneliness and pain.”
Yet her sound was beginning to tremble.
“We still say, though, that she had to get better one day. We would promise each other for that day to come, to stay together forever.”
Under this air-freezing snow, I just stood there listening to Kaori’s words.
“My sister got in and out of the hospital again and again. When she hit the age to go to school, she insisted, despite her parents’ disagreement, that she had to wear the same uniform as I did no matter what—this was the first time she went against her parents’ words.”
A dark red one piece, a white cape, and a big ribbon near the chest to indicate the year. Many girls run to apply for this school just to wear this classically designed uniform.
“She wore the same uniform as I, went to the same school as I, and ate lunch with me. She was always looking forward to these insignificant things.”
As if she had to protect the portrait from the snow, Kaori held it to her chest.
“She only went to school once, am I right?”
“I thought her condition would get better and continue her studies. But I was wrong. My parents and the doctor knew letting her go to school and wear a uniform was nothing but consolation.”
Silence followed. Then all of a sudden Kaori looked up at me.
“Aizawa-kun, you once told me you liked that child, didn’t you?”
“Do you still like her now?”
“I will still like her.”
“…even if she disappears later?”
Startled, I became unable to breathe.
“What do you mean?”
I knew the most important moment had finally come.
“I mean what I said.”
“The doctor said she probably won’t make it to her next birthday.”
Isn’t the scene we are in now like those scenes we often see in soap operas?
Shiori’s catchphrase streamed into my mind the moment I heard Kaori said that.
The declaration of parting had to come, and soon.
Some describe this moment to be matter melting away from our feet, and some to be darkness upon our eyes.
I had neither of these feelings.
Only my heart thumped, and a odd thought surfacing on the corner of my mind: this really is a scene in a soap opera; it really exists.
Then I said, according to the lines in a soap opera.
“When’s Shiori’s birthday?”
How long could Shiori live?
“The first day next month.”
She had only a week left.
When I thought of the short time she had, I can only put on an empty smile.
Even when she had been smiling, in such joy?
She was so weak…and her skin so white it seemed it melted into the snow, yet she was so energetic to eat ice cream and play snowball fights with me.
Even in her situation, she promised to make a snowman and dreamed of joining the ball next year. Will all of these things never come true? Is this why she would sometimes look afar? Is she looking for the future she doesn’t have?
“Does Shiori know this?”
“I told her.”
“Why did you?”
“Because she asked me. Why…why am I reluctant to face her nowadays?”
Kaori eavesdropped it from a conversation between her parents.
Her voice would tremble at times, but she had always spoken with a clear tone. But now, she changed.
Her brows furrowed, she bit her trembling lips and let go. Biting and letting go, the waver in her heart was dictated.
“Since then, I have fled from that child. Because that child…that child was smiling to me despite knowing her own fate.”
Glistening tears came to her eyes. As if her feeling were shooting from her, she almost fell down. I supported her by the shoulder. She leaned on me, speaking and sobbing.
“If she cried, if she hated me, I would have felt better. Whenever she smiles, I will think of the day when I couldn’t see her smile, and it terrifies me. The more I love her, the more depressed I become.”
Even when Shiori knew her condition, she still folded and ironed her uniform, and hung it on the wall every day.
“I wish I could wear this uniform like you sooner.”
She kept smiling to Kaori. Sure, Kaori wanted to answer, yet she couldn’t.
“If I had to experience the pain of losing her…it would have been better if I…”
Kaori seemed to have lost all the strength in her speech.
“…if I hadn't had a sister in the first place…”
After that, Kaori fell on the snow ground, holding her sister’s drawing, continuing her sobs in silence.
I said nothing, letting her lean on my chest.
Her love makes the fate of parting terrifying.
Kaori’s feeling was the same as mine.
We allowed snowflakes to stack on our shoulders. Standing under the street lamps, we stood still.
Shards of snow carried by the wind were assailing us.
I didn’t know who went first, but we had started heading to our respective homes.
Kaori, who had regained her speech, said then, “That child’s condition is pretty good recently. She had been getting weaker by the day, but lately her condition is stable.”
Even the doctors didn’t want to believe it.
“Perhaps it’s because of you, Aizawa-kun.”
“…I did nothing.”
My ignorance matches stupidity, and all I did was fooling around with Shiori.
Kaori shook her head and smiled gently, “So maybe she can live through her birthday. Still, it doesn’t change the fact she’s going to be gone one day.”
With that said, her eyes returned sombre.
And before we part and leave, Kaori looked at me and asked, “For what reason was the child born?”
Unable to answer her, I could only leave with our backs facing each other.
The second day, Kaori was absent at school.
“How rare,” Nayuki said.
Kitagawa too, made a response. His chin resting on his hands, he looked at Kaori’s empty seat with a bored look.
“It might be a cold or whatnot.”
“Kaori would still come to school if it’s a cold. She said she enjoyed school more than being at home.”
Do you know what Kaori’s troubles are? Do you know what she is thinking behind her usual cold face?
Of course, I didn’t ask her. Even if I did, nothing would have changed.
“Why don't we go to the cafeteria today for lunch?”
“What a chance. Don’t you have to go to that girl today?”
“Why did you know?!”
I couldn’t let out an exclamation of surprise. Everyone in the class turned their heads to me.
“Are you even trying to pretend dumb? Anyone who sees the court through this window would know,” Kitagawa said, with a teasing face.
“Aizawa, you’re so slow sometimes.”
“We’ll support you from beside, Yuichi.”
If they said this to me yesterday, this would probably be an interesting topic to kill boredom.
But now it nothing but an extension of lamentation.
“Is anything wrong? The weather is fine today.”
“I don’t have any courage to go to the court now,” I said.
“Are there any wild dogs there?” Kitagawa prompted.
“Where do they come from?”
“There was one before that caused big trouble for the school for a while.”
I don’t care if it’s dogs, I said and went to the cafeteria.
Nayuki and Kitagawa followed me.
Students filled the busy cafeteria. There were a lot of meals to choose from. Kitagawa had a Chinese rice set, Nayuki set A, and the two of them went to seize seats holding their plates.
“We’re going to have exams next time. Bad luck.”
“Can Kaori help us?”
We had an everyday conversation in the lunch break. I had almost forgotten there was such a time in the day.
Does Shiori know that I met Kaori yesterday?
Whether she knew it or not, she wouldn’t speak a thing about it. If I still went to the court today, she would give me an embarrassed smile and gently say, “You’re late, Yuichi-senpai” and the like.
Mere imagination almost broke the dam of my tears.
For what reason was the child born?
I could still see Kaori’s sorrowful look behind Shiori’s smile. I was regretting that I couldn’t notice the truth, and angry at my inability to take measures. There was no plan I could think of.
I couldn’t go to the court.
“Won’t you eat, Yuichi?”
Nayuki pried at my face worryingly.
“I want to eat ice cream…”
I wanted to meet Shiori., but now I couldn’t regulate my emotions.
“I’ll buy it for you, then.”
“You don’t have to.”
“What are you…?”
Kitagawa, sitting on the other side, heaved a sigh. I rose to my feet abruptly.
“I’m sorry. I’m skipping the afternoon lessons.”
I left Nayuki and Kitagawa who were startled, and staggered out of the cafeteria.
I then left school without taking my schoolbag. I didn’t want them to see me dejected in humiliation.
I wandered to the shopping district.
Uh, uh, uh?
The moles beaten black and blue were crying.
Shiori, I have avenged for you. Now is the time to get a high score to return the favour. So what? I thought, but there was nothing I could do. Again I grasped the hammer for hitting the moles.
At this moment.
“You sure are working hard, Yuichi-kun.”
In a corner of the field of my vision were flapping wings.
“When did you come?”
Speaking of which, I did start to smell the sweet scent of taiyaki.
“Do you want some, Yuichi-kun?”
Ayu took a taiyaki from the brown bag.
Just when I decided to say I didn’t have any appetite, the smoke rising from the taiyaki captivated me. Well, I hadn’t really eaten anything since morning.
I took one and had a bite.
“Because it’s just out of the oven.”
“You have to tell me beforehand. My tongue almost got burnt.”
“Good. Great I haven’t had one yet.”
“Ugu…I’m not a mole!”
Hit by the gaming hammer, Ayu pressed her head with her gloved hand.
“I’m testing your reflexes,” I said on a whim, while having big bites on the taiyaki. It wasn’t anything I like to eat, but eating sweet things at this moment was delicious. The sugar replenished my deprived energy and stamina.
“By the way, what are you doing here?”
“I’m looking for something.”
“Looking for something? Didn’t you say something similar before?”
“Yeah. But I haven’t found it yet.”
Ayu looked serious.
I put down the hammer and packed the coins back to my wallet.
“Let’s look for it together.”
“Are you fine with that?”
We left the arcade and moved along the streets.
“Are you trying to find a shop with loose security to steal food and drinks?”
“Then what are you looking for?”
Ayu’s face reddened.
“Well, it’s something…I dropped.”
“Your wallet? Is that why you’re stealing food?” I asked, “Am I wrong?”
She shook her head energetically, the wings on her bag shaking along.
“It’s something very important. Something very important to me…”
Ayu stopped talking abruptly.
“What’s that important thing?” I pursued, “Hey!”
How can we look for it if you don’t know what it is!
“B-But I’ll remember when I see it, because it’s very important.”
Ayu looked even more serious.
Okay, as you say, I heaved a sigh.
I also had something I didn’t know what it was but that I lost.
It was the memories I had the last time I came to this town, in the winter seven years ago.
The recent days I had spent with Shiori were so pleasant that I had already forgotten about this.
“Then let’s have a walk where you usually go.”
I walked with Ayu around dessert shops, pasty shops, and cake shops.
“Did you find it?”
“How come there are so many kinds of pasty nowadays!”
“Go home, now!”
“I’m telling you. The shops you frequent only sell food.”
“Ugu…none of your business.”
Saying all we wanted, Ayu and I laughed.
This could count as insincerity to Shiori.
Anyway, I laughed with Ayu, as if I had forgotten about Shiori.
I felt only laughter could save hearts that had sunk to the deepest levels.
When I laugh with Ayu naively and thoughtlessly, I could solve Shiori’s sickness and our imminent separation with laughter. It sounded reckless, but it was.
Ayu looked up with surprise at me, who was suddenly standing there without moving.
I understood now. That was why Shiori just kept her smile. That was why I wasn’t useless to be at her side, knowing nothing of her condition. Shiori wasn’t just pretending or forcing to smile.
“I thought of something important, so, well…”
Even if I return now, Shiori wouldn’t be there. Still, the only thing in my heart was to see her. I couldn’t stand it if I don’t.
Ayu showed a moment of loneliness, but soon she nodded with a smile.
“Okay, I understand. I’ll go find my important thing, while you go find yours.”
“Next time we meet, I’ll show you what it is.”
Ayu waved me goodbye with her glove. When I ran through the shop selling kid stuff and left the shopping district, I looked back to have a look at Ayu. She was standing there alone, against the flow of people in the shopping district. I waved at her.
Thank you, Ayu. It was great to see you here today.
No students were in the school.
Evening had come, and Nayuki said there were exams, so most clubs were naturally suspended.
I walked straight to the court. Of course, no one was there.
On the snow ground was a single pair of intermittent footprints
The footprints lead to the door to the school building. They were female, small footprints. I chased them. Opening the door to the interiors, the footprints carried damp air, becoming less obvious. But they were still there, and they were not long left. Even if they were gone, I still had a hunch of where the one who left it had gone.
I climbed the stairs.
It was the junior’s classroom on the third floor, the classroom where Shiori originally had to go to. I didn’t know which one it was, so I went through one by one. Their doors were opened, and no one was inside. But there was one door closed. It was the one right below the classroom I was in. I gently opened the door.
Wearing a cape and casual clothes, a girl was sitting almost in the centre of the classroom.
The girl—Shiori—turned around as if she knew it was I, and slowly smiled at me.
“I thought no one would be around at this time. Seems right.”
I couldn’t say anything. I just approached her.
“This seat is originally mine.”
Stuff was messily thrown in the table of the seat. It looked by no means a girl’s.
“Of course, now it isn’t.”
Shiori caressed the table.
“This seat is still the seat I sat on the first day of school, this table still the one I used the first day, imbued with important memories. I talked with the girl sitting in front.”
“That girl seemed very nervous by herself. I said I was by myself too, so we’re the same. Then, the girl was delighted.”
“That girl seems to care about you, Shiori.”
I told Shiori, who was surprised, how I met the girl in the corridor.
“It that what happened? I see.”
Shiori held a corner of her cape, lowering her head in a bit of embarrassment.
“I’m sorry for what I did today, Shiori. I…”
Smiling, Shiori shook her head at me, who was about to continue.
It’s fine. I know how you feel, Yuichi-senpai.
Her eyes told me so.
“Where is your seat, Yuichi-senpai?”
Shiori lightly stood up from ‘her seat’ and asked. I walked to the second seat from the back beside the window and pointed at it.
“So this is your seat.”
Shiori walked to where I was, sat down, and looked through the window.
“So this is the scene you see everyday, Yuichi-senpai…”
“This is the third floor, so it’s a bit different.”
Shiori smiled and looked at the sky.
“Because this sky is the same sky you see.”
The winter sky dyed orange. We both looked beyond the window at the clouds that were slowly changing their shapes.
We remained silent. I enjoyed talking with her, but it was also great to spend time quietly viewing the same scene.
It would be better if time just stopped flowing.
But time was like those clouds, flowing seamlessly.
“Have you known those things about me…from my sister?”
With her usual calm tone, Shiori commenced.
They talked similar when they went into serious topics, probably because they were sisters for this matter.
“It isn’t any cold at all, is it?”
“I’m sorry for lying to you, Yuichi-senpai.”
“It’s actually a much more serious illness. It won’t get cured even with a lot of medicine or injections.”
“What sort of illness is it?”
“…I don’t remember.”
Shiori looked at me with a sorrowful smile.
“It has a complicated name, but even if I know, there’s nothing I can change.”
So its name is meaningless, she said, still remaining her smile.
Even when Kaori, her sister, were in tears.
“I also have another thing to apologise.”
Shiori looked straight at me. Her clear pale iris captivated me on the first day we met, as if it was sucking me in.
“I love you, Yuichi-senpai.”
“Perhaps I love you more than anyone else.”
But… she said, her small lips slightly trembling.
“I planned not to love anyone. I knew…it would only bring sadness, yet I couldn’t help.”
She directed her gaze below the window.
“Today as well. I knew probably I wouldn’t see you again yet I ran there. I knew I just have to give up, yet I waited, and waited.”
I embraced her tightly; her body was as frail as glass, but very warm. Shiori had truly lived her life as hard as she could.
Shiori stayed in my arms, not moving an inch.
“I’m so dumb that my sister hates me.”
I shook my head, stroking her dry and fresh hair.
“I’m sorry. How bothersome I may be, I still love you, Yuichi-senpai.”
I held her hand and let it go behind my back.
“I also love you, Shiori.”
“So even if you tell me I’m bothersome, I’ll still stay beside you, forever.”
Shiori lifted her head, still smiling quietly.
“It’s like a soap opera.”
It didn’t matter, because this was a happy scene. It was scene that didn’t need any tears.
For what reason was the child born?
I answered Kaori’s question.
She was born for the same reason as us. The length of one’s life didn’t matter.
Shiori was born to experience happiness.