#10 – Ep
Epilogue — Thus, Dawn Breaks
Contrary to the days of May spent wrapped up in Adolescence Syndrome, it was now June, so Sakuta spent his days peacefully .
He had a tranquil everyday life, confessing to Mai each day as he had promised .
Of course, there was an influence from screaming his love in the middle of the sports field, but… Rather than the ‘hospital incident guy’, all of the students had affixed the labels of ‘cringey guy’ and ‘that’s the rumoured Sakuta’ . Just walking down the corridor let him hear stifled laughter and school had grown more and more uncomfortable .
However, he had been able to bring Mai back and so had had a complete change of attitude to ‘it doesn’t really matter’ . Honestly, if he hadn’t thought so, he couldn’t have done it .
Yuuma had said .
“Your heart really is made of iron!”
And then rolled around laughing . Rio had been with him and said with a serious expression .
“If it had been me, I’d have died from embarrassment . That’s Azusagawa for you, a pubescent low-life . ”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Back when the rumours were going around about the ‘hospital incident’, you said ‘fighting the atmosphere is ridiculous’, or have you forgotten?”
“Ahh, Sakuta did say that, I heard him too . ”
He certainly remembered saying so, and his opinion still hadn’t changed .
“What else would you call someone that wouldn’t get serious for themselves but would endure any shame for their beautiful senpai?”
He was at a loss for words at having that so clearly said to him .
Just as Rio had said, he hadn’t thought to change the atmosphere about himself, but when he thought it was for Mai he got fired up, and shouted his love at the heart of the sports field .
“This is teasing material for the rest of your life . ”
“You’re going to keep calling me that even when I’m an old man?” In its own way, that wouldn’t be so bad… he decided to think . “Hey, Futaba . ”
“So was your hypothesis right in the end?”
“Who knows . Instabilities in adolescent minds causing intense subjective misinterpretations… if you say that even that is Adolescence Syndrome, then it can’t be verified scientifically . ”
Rio had bluntly replied with that when Sakuta had visited her on another day in the physics lab .
“Well, guess that’s true . ”
Mai had behaved like the atmosphere, and the students had treated her like the atmosphere . As it had been subconscious, there was no difference from the actual atmosphere . If there was no ‘like’ and that really was the case, there would have been no difference from reality .
And, that being the case, Sakuta felt that it would probably be happening at other schools . Because when people gathered in large numbers, there would always be some kind of atmosphere created…
In Mai’s case, the tacit understanding within the school had only spread out into the wider world as Adolescence Syndrome . That was all . Like Rio said, thinking on it any further wouldn’t help .
“Well, our world is simple enough that a single confession can tear it apart . Just like you proved . ”
As he went to leave the lab, Rio was preparing for an experiment and remarked negligently . They had discussed a lot, but that was the truth that seemed the strangest .
“Maybe . ”
At the very least, the everyday world that surrounded Sakuta had had its colour changed by a single confession .
In her own way, Mai was moving forwards through the everyday life she had regained .
She had started by announcing her return to show business . That press conference was a grand thing because it was for Sakurajima Mai, and she seemed to have talked to her mother about it, but she had dropped in to Sakuta’s workplace and vented her anger at everything so they hadn’t quite reconciled nicely .
Even so, if they could see each other and argue, that was a healthy enough mother-daughter relationship as far as Sakuta was concerned and he was relieved that her mother could remember Mai properly .
And thus, the days passed .
It was about a month later, June the twenty-seventh, a Friday .
Sakuta had been woken by his sister Kaede and was getting ready for school .
“Well done, team Japan!” Apparently the national team had a wonderful victory the day before . “Good morning, today is Friday, June the twenty-seventh . I think we’ll start the day on football!”
Sakuta didn’t know what country they had the match with, but the newscaster’s excited voice suggested it was a major accomplishment . The highlight on screen was the free kick right at the end of the first half that was neatly put into the opponent’s goal .
Once he saw that, he gave Kaede his usual ‘I’m off then . ’ And left the house just like he always did .
He walked to Fujisawa Station, then spent about fifteen minutes being rocked by the Enoden before alighting at Shichirigahama Station and passing through the school gates .
Nothing interesting happened, but nothing strange happened either . He wanted to be grateful for these normal days .
For lunch that day Sakuta ate with Mai in an empty classroom on the third floor . There were no other students there, it was just Sakuta and Mai .
Their lunches were spread across the window desk between them, and they could see the sea from their seats .
Happily, their lunch was a handmade lunch box from Mai as a result of their little chat the day before .
It went like:
“Mai-san, can you cook?”
“I can, I’ve lived alone for a long time after all . ”
“I mean, you’re always just eating bread for lunch . ”
“Then I’ll make a lunch box for tomorrow . ”
There was a wealth of variety in the lunch . There was seasoned and fried chicken, fried eggs, potato salad garnished with cherry tomatoes and even seaweed and simmered beans .
He tasted them all one by one, all too aware of Mai’s gaze . They were tasty, slightly under-seasoned but the gentle flavours really were tasty .
“Now, apologise for your rudeness yesterday and beg for forgiveness . ”
Mai smiled triumphantly, sure of her victory from Sakuta’s reaction .
“I apologise . I was wrong . I was cheeky . I’m sorry . ”
He obediently bowed his head . Honestly, this was nothing, he had been able to taste Mai’s home-made cooking and was completely victorious himself .
“As long as you understand . ”
Mai was satisfied at showing her skill, truly a win-win .
“Um, Mai-san . ”
He raised his head and looked steadily at her .
“I love you, please go out with me . ”
Mai looked away and put her own fried egg in her mouth with her chopsticks .
She chewed it .
Even when he waited for her to swallow, she gave no reply .
“It’s kind of uninspiring . ” Mai let out a bored-sounding sigh . “Having the same thing said for a whole month makes it lose its impact . ”
“That’s awful, even though you made me say it . ”
“I said ‘say that again in a month’, you were the one that said you wanted to say it every day . ”
“That’s true . ”
“Ah, that’s right . I have a role in a drama that will air in July . ”
“Uwah, would you even change the subject like that normally?”
So she had treated confessions this roughly before…
Mai unconcernedly took out a yellow-covered script from her bag and he saw the words ‘episode six’ on it .
“It’s a late-night one, so I only have a role in a single episode in the middle . ”
That might not be enough for Mai, who was used to the lead role . However, he could tell she was honestly happy about having a role just by looking at her . He had the feeling this was the first time he’d seen her talking about something so happily .
However, that had nothing to do with how he felt about his confession being ignored .
“Ahhh, what is my life?”
He looked vaguely towards the sea . The skies were in one of their short spells of clear weather during the rainy season, and he felt like walking on the beach .
“What? Aren’t you happy at my return?”
“I’m really happy . ”
“There’s a kiss scene . ”
“…What was that?”
He had a feeling he had just heard something unthinkable .
“There’s a kiss scene . ”
“Refuse it please . ”
“It’s fine, isn’t it? It wouldn’t be my first after all . ”
It might be his imagination, but he thought Mai had just said something else unthinkable .
“Wait a minute, Mai-san . ”
“You said you were a virgin before, right?”
“Don’t worry about that . ”
“No no, kisses are out . ”
“I don’t know what basis you’re working on, but even if you’re the one I’m kissing?”
“…” He didn’t know what to say for a minute . “Eh?”
He let out a delayed noise of surprise .
“You’re the worst, you don’t remember even though I gave you my first kiss . ”
“Eh? Wait… huh?”
He tried to think about it, but really didn’t know . He didn’t know, but it didn’t seem like she was lying . His one idea was during that empty time he had forgotten Mai .
“Ah, could it…”
“It didn’t go like the fairy tales . I thought you might remember me if I kissed you . ”
Her disappointed expression was awfully hard to bear .
“I’ll definitely remember it, so tell me the exact place and time . ”
“No way . ”
“Just a hint . ”
“Never . ”
“Something, please . ”
He put his hands together and bowed towards her .
“Then shall we do it again?”
Mai gave an unexpected suggestion . She looked alluringly at him through upturned eyes . She had thoroughly teased him, so he thought this might be a trap too, but they didn’t have the charm that he could withdraw .
“With pleasure . ”
“Then close your eyes . ”
He had thought they were going to replicate the situation with her first kiss, but apparently not .
“You don’t want to?”
“Not at all, I’ll take it . ”
He closed his eyes and waited . His heart was pounding in his ears .
“Here I go . ”
Mai’s voice was slightly shy . He felt a breath on his cheek and Mai’s warmth right next to him, letting him know that Mai was leaning over the desk between them . About a second later, his lips were covered by a soft sensation . Mai’s lips were surprisingly cold, and they tasted of dashi . The same as the eggs he had eaten earlier… actually, this was an egg .
He opened his eyes to see Mai desperately holding in a laugh as she pressed some egg on her chopsticks into his mouth .
“You really thought I would . ”
She smiled teasingly .
Without replying, Sakuta ate the egg, putting the chopsticks in his mouth as well .
“I’m really happy to be able to have an indirect kiss with Mai-san . ”
He spoke in a forced monotone . It would be easy to make Mai aware of it…
Just as he thought, Mai’s gaze was fixed on the ends of her chopsticks . There was still nearly half of her lunch left on the desk, so she was worrying about how to deal with it .
“Well, you’re an adult, so an indirect kiss with me, me being younger than you, must be nothing to you . ”
He cut off her escape route .
“R-right . ”
With a slight hesitation, she steeled herself and used those chopsticks to eat her lunch . She continued in silence and emptied her lunch box . While she did, her cheeks were suffused with a faint red, and it was a real feast for Sakuta’s eyes .
“Just letting you know, it’s not me . ”
Mai wrapped her lunch box in a napkin .
“The kiss scene is the lead actor’s . ”
Sakuta looked at her in dissatisfaction as he was relieved .
“Mai-san, your personality is awful . ”
“But don’t you love me and my personality?”
“It certainly looks like that love will cool like this . ”
Mai’s flustered voice was higher than usual .
“Well, you don’t seem to feel that way at all… you said that it was uninspiring, that would make me despair . ”
“…I didn’t say no . ”
Mai pouted sulkily and opened the script .
“Than you will?”
Mai hid her red face behind the script .
He asked once again, and she peeked over the top of the script .
“…” She glanced shyly at Sakuta, and then, in a faint voice . “…Yeah, I will . ”
She nodded to him .
Sakuta didn’t remember much of the rest of the day . His mood had soared with the start of his relationship with Mai, and it felt like he was walking on air .
His happiness showed no sign of abating the next morning either .
While he got ready for school, he hummed and turned the TV on, nonchalantly looking towards the news when:
“Well done, team Japan!”
He heard an excited man’s voice .
He gazed steadily at the screen in puzzlement . He thought he’d heard that before .
“Good morning, today is Friday, June the twenty-seventh . I think we’ll start the day on football!”
What was that the newscaster had said?
June the twenty-seventh .
That was definitely what he said .
Sakuta remembered the highlights of the game that were being shown too . Just before the end of the first half, the Japanese player had put a free kick into the goal .
He hurriedly returned to his room and looked at his alarm clock . It showed the date too .
“…What on Earth?”
Even the alarm clock he always used displayed June twenty-seventh .
That day, Azusagawa Sakuta woke up to yesterday’s morning .