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Tree ([personal profile] sunnyskies) wrote2013-07-31 01:18 am

High Speed! Chapter Two

Since there's no episode this week, I wanted to make sure that I got this finished before Wednesday, so that you all could still get your Free! fix. I know it's not as good as an episode, but I hope it helps tide you over until next week!



NOTE: The beginning of this chapter contains a bit of terminology specific to Shinto shrines. Since these words don't really have good English equivalents, I have left them as-is, and provided the meanings here:

chouzuya: A place for cleansing your hands and mouth with water before visiting a shrine.

torii: The large, free-standing archways typically seen at Shinto shrines. Often painted bright red.


Chapter Two: Water

On a modestly-sized mountain overlooking a small fishing harbor stood the Misagozaki Shrine. About halfway up the stone steps leading to the shrine stood a single torii with a chouzuya nearby, and at the place where the steps ended, two more torii stood waiting, their backs to the shrine grounds. Just behind the grounds spread the sea, sparkling with reflected sunlight; the view from the Misagozaki Shrine was so majestic that it had been written about by poets long ago.

There wasn't much of a coastal plain, so the harbor town was small, the houses jostling against one another as if pressing their shoulders together. Surrounded on all four sides by mountains and ocean, with only one road in or out, the town of Iwatobi was, in effect, a small island of land. The town couldn't be supported by just the coastal plain, so it spread out to the forested paths on the mountain slopes, right up to the stone steps of the Misagozaki Shrine, the houses pinching in close on either side.

It was a shrine that held a lot of history; though it looked antique, the magnificent structure stood full of dignity, and various ceremonies were held there. In the fall, they had a lively ritual of carrying a portable shrine down the long stone steps in one run, and then, after it had been carried all the way around the harbor once, it was thrown into the sea. This was supposed to be a ritual of thanks for good harvests, but as for why the shrine was thrown into the sea, there wasn't really an answer beyond the fact that it was, after all, a fishing town.

As a shrine overlooking a harbor, the Misagozaki Shrine naturally had taken on the duty of watching over the safety of the town's fishing. Because of this, all of the fishermen would clap their hands in prayer on the decks of their boats before they went out to sea. And so the shrine watched over harvest time and prayed for bountiful fishing, and occasionally even took care of prayers for good grades or a safe childbirth, all while giving thanks and worshipping.

Haruka's house was about halfway up the stone steps to the Misagozaki Shrine, around a corner to the left of the place where the chouzuya stood near the lone torii. No matter where he wanted to go, he had to climb either up or down the stairs to get there. There was another road, but the haphazard flood of houses had made it winding, narrow, and maze-like, to the point that climbing down the shrine steps was certainly faster than trying to pass through it. And so, Haruka would leave his bike parked at the base of the stone steps.

When Haruka headed off to swim practice, once he'd left his house, he'd go the rest of the way by bike. After he got home from school, he would shove everything he needed into his bag and then hurry out of the foyer. After descending the stone steps, he would look up at Makoto's house. Makoto's house was pressed in close, facing the stone steps, and the stairs leading up to its entryway stretched to meet the base of shrine's stairway. Usually he timed it so that he could meet up with Makoto and his smile, but today it looked like Makoto was running late.

It wasn't as if they had promised to meet, and there wasn't any need for him to wait. Makoto had a younger brother and sister in kindergarten, and they often managed to drag him off one way or another. Haruka righted his bike and pressed his feet down on the pedals. Makoto might catch up with him on the way, and they'd meet at swim practice anyway. It was better for both of them that Haruka hurry up and get going, rather than wait here getting irritated.

Haruka looked up the steps to Makoto's house one more time, and then pressed down hard on his bike's pedals.

It took about ten minutes to ride to swim practice. Along the way, he had to cross a class-A river called the Shiwagawa. During the winter, the wind always blew along this river. After he had crossed the Mutsuki Bridge over this river and ridden along the opposite bank for a short while, he would begin to hear the sound of waves. In the port at the harbor, the white fishing boats would be clustered together in their moorings, giving proof to the fact that this was a fishing village. As he passed the harbor, he would glance out of the corner of his eye at the countless white masts swaying in the waves; just beyond the bay was Iwatobi SC.

Haruka passed through the town of Iwatobi, drawing closer to the Mutsuki Bridge. Just as he was starting to cross the bridge, the wind blew in hard from one side, and without thinking, he tightened his face into a grimace. The wind was especially strong today. As he made his way to the middle of the bridge, buffeted by the wind, he caught sight of the gloomy-looking form of Yazaki Aki lingering by the river. For some reason, she'd stopped her bike and was peering into the river's surface.

They were in the same class, and she also was a member of Iwatobi's swim club. That was all she had in common with Haruka.

When he got closer, Haruka could see Aki's troubled face more clearly. Should I just keep quiet and go past her? Or would it be better to at least say something? Unsure, he looked over his shoulder, but Makoto didn't seem to have caught up yet.

Why am I wondering about something so pointless? Why am I looking to Makoto for help? As Haruka was scolding himself within his heart, Aki realized that he was there, and turned to him with a sad smile.

"Ah, Nanase-kun."

"Hey. What's wrong?" He gripped his brakes, coming to a stop in front of Aki.

"Um, my scarf…" Saying this, Aki dropped her gaze to the river. Following her line of sight, Haruka could see a white scarf drifting along in the flow. As might be expected of a class-A river, the Shiwagawa was quite wide. Even if he crossed the bridge and climbed down the bank, he wouldn't be able to reach the place where the scarf was floating.

"It's impossible. You'll have to give up." I wonder if I sounded too cold? After he said it, he was a little worried, but realistically, there was nothing to be done.

"Yeah…"

Even though she understands that it's impossible, maybe she can't make herself give up? It looked like Aki still hadn't taken her gaze off the drifting scarf. Haruka turned his eyes away from the face that was so unlike Aki's usual self, putting his feet back on the bike's pedals. "I'm going on ahead."

"Yeah…"

Before Aki could respond any further, Haruka began pushing the pedals. He finished crossing the Mutsuki Bridge, feeling Aki get further away behind him. As he rode along the riverbank, the white, floating scarf kept catching the edge of his vision. Haruka turned his eyes away from the river and pointed his bike toward Iwatobi SC.

Makoto showed up at the dressing room just as Haruka was about to put on his goggles. "I'm sorry, Haruka! Just as I was about to leave, the fishbowl got dirty, and I had to clean it a bit. That's why I was late."

You could have done that after you got home. Haruka looked at Makoto, who was already changing, trying to convey this thought with his eyes. Unexpectedly, Aki flitted through the corner of his mind. When Makoto crossed the bridge, was Aki still there?

"Earlier, on the bridge…" he started to say, but then thought, it doesn't really matter either way, and stopped.

"What? Did something happen on the bridge?"

"No, never mind. It's nothing."

"That reminds me, when I was crossing the bridge, Zaki-chan was there, too. She seemed sort of upset."

Aki was known by the nickname "Zaki". It had apparently been made up by putting "Yazaki" and "Aki" together. Makoto always put "-chan" on the end when he talked about her.

"Seems like she dropped her scarf."

"Yeah, that was it. Because the wind on the bridge was so strong, right?"

So you knew. Haruka had said that she dropped it, not that it was blown away by the wind. She could have dropped it in the street and lost it, and indeed, that was a more likely place for her to take it off. In other words, Makoto had pretended he didn't know, even though he had heard about it from Aki. Maybe he had also heard that Haruka had been cold to her. Was he…intending to tell Haruka off for it?

Whatever. This is boring. Haruka had no intention of continuing this conversation. "I'm going on ahead."

"Okay."

Haruka left the changing room.



"My name is Matsuoka Rin. I came here from Sano SC. I have a girly name, but I'm definitely a guy! I hope we all get along."

That had certainly been easy enough to predict. At the very least, it wasn't anything to be surprised about. There weren't any swim clubs in the area besides this one. But no matter what Rin did, Haruka definitely wasn't going to get involved. Rin could do whatever he wanted. Haruka would politely excuse himself from caring.

"No way, the coincidences are just piling up, huh? When I transferred, I definitely didn't think we'd be in the same swim club, too!"

This is so stupid that I can't even listen to him. Leaving the rest to Makoto, Haruka jumped into the pool.

Under the water, Haruka made a space with his fingertips, and then pushed himself forward: his arms, followed by his head, chest, stomach, and finally his legs. He was neither forcing his way through nor surrendering himself. He was being accepted by the water, and accepting the water in return, both acknowledging each other. Neither excluding the other, or trying to become one with the other. While being of different natures originally, they continued to have a relationship where neither negated the other. To Haruka, that was what swimming was.

While he was in the water, Haruka was freed from troublesome things. He could feel the waves in his heart becoming quiet and calm. Rin, Aki, the scarf, the wind - there was no way he could forget these things, but for at least a little while, he could leave them behind.

When he had finished swimming a thousand meters of crawl, Haruka raised his face from the water. Makoto was ready and waiting on the poolside, holding out his hand.

"Good job; you worked hard."

He hadn't swum hard enough to tire himself out. Actually, Makoto was the one who was out of breath. Maybe he had also just finished swimming a thousand meters. He had probably done it at full strength, too.

That was how he had always been. When it came to swimming, Makoto never knew how to hold back. He certainly never let himself just swim with the flow. Haruka had never asked, nor even thought about asking, why that was the case.

"Where's that guy?" As Makoto pulled him up out of the water, Haruka asked about Rin.

"He's swimming. Look, over there."

Rin was in the farthest lane, repeating his strokes as if checking the texture of the water. Once Haruka had identified Rin, he began to walk away. "They're doing short course over there, so let's go check our times."

Haruka didn't care about his times. He just wanted to get as far away from Rin as possible. He didn't want to get wrapped up in anything troublesome. And more than himself, he didn't want Makoto to get involved. If Makoto got involved, then sooner or later, without fail, Haruka would get dragged in, too. That much was guaranteed.

Without caring that Makoto was standing with his arms spread and an expression of surprise on his face, Haruka continued toward the short course pool.



When Rin looked up after swimming a relaxed thousand meters of crawl, a young boy was peering at him from above with big, round eyes like a small animal's. He was looking down at Rin unblinkingly, as if he was looking for water striders or crawfish.

"What?" Rin stared back at him from below.

"Matsuoka-kun, are you Nanase-kun's friend?" The boy watched him intently.

"I wouldn't say we're friends. I guess we're more like rivals."

"What do you mean, rivals? Are you bragging to make yourself look good?" He still hadn't blinked even once.

"It means we race against each other." As he spoke, Rin dropped his gaze and climbed up into the poolside. Looking somebody in the eyes that long made him feel like they were going to peer right into him.

"Between you and Nanase-kun, who's faster?"

"At fifty meters it's me, at one hundred it's Nanase, I guess." When Rin stood up, the boy stood up, too. Geez, he's tiny, Rin thought. Maybe he's in about fourth grade?

"Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why are you faster at fifty meters, and slower at one hundred meters? Ah, I got it! You can only swim fifty meters, right? I bet you don't know how to breathe properly, or something. Want me to teach you?"

"No thanks. I can definitely swim one hundred meters, and I know how to breathe, too."

"Heh heh. My best is five hundred meters. And you know what? In January, I'm going to be starting on the race course. My specialty is breast, but - ah, 'breast' means 'breaststroke'. I'm the only one in my class that can swim five hundred meters."

"Class…you mean, at school?"

"Yeah, fifth grade class three."

Geez, I've gotten stuck with an unbelievable bragger. Rin pushed his goggles up and looked for Haruka and Makoto.

"Hey, Matsuoka-kun, what's your specialty?"

"Anything."

"Anything? You mean, even butterfly?"

Of the four main swimming strokes, butterfly was the last one to be learned. If he's only just starting the race course, maybe he hasn't swum it much yet.

"Butterfly and backstroke and free and breaststroke. By the way, dog paddle is my most special specialty." Where did they disappear to? Haruka and Makoto were nowhere to be found.

"That's awesome. Matsuoka-kun, you can do medleys, too, right?"

"I can." Rin had been doing individual medleys since third grade. It wasn't even worth bragging about. This was getting really annoying. He'd had just about enough of those big, round eyes, too.

"I'm Hazuki Nagisa. Hey, Matsuoka-kun, take a look at my butterfly. For some reason, I can't get it to go forward."

"Your elbows are crooked. You're not keeping them high enough. You're not using your hips." Rin spotted Makoto. He was timing someone on the short course. That meant that it must be Haruka who was swimming.

"Heeey, you haven't even seen it yet, don't just say vague things!"

"Geez, you're loud. I don't have to see it, I can more or less…"

Nagisa was looking at him with teary eyes. "Don't call me loud. Take an actual look." He was looking straight at Rin, his eyes still watery. If he started crying here, it would cause problems.

"I-I get it, I'll take a look."

In a flash, Nagisa's whole face broke into a huge smile. "Really? Then I'll just swim here, okay?" Putting on his goggles, he jumped into the lane that Rin had just been swimming in.

Well, first of all, he should relearn basic diving, Rin thought. That he needed to improve his butterfly went without saying. It was just as Rin had already pointed out. Nagisa had said he was swimming butterfly, but it felt more like another member of the insect family. Rather than "butterfly", he should change its name to "grasshopper". In a way, it was almost like he'd invented an entirely new stroke.

Suddenly Rin felt a chill go through him. Could get stuck watching this every time? Until he learns to swim properly, am I going to keep getting clung to and dragged around by those huge, round eyes? He couldn't help but feel that this would be the case.

Caught by this nasty premonition, realizing that the chance of it coming true was nearly 100%, Rin watched, or rather, scrutinized Nagisa's "grasshopper."



"All right, that's enough for today. You've gotten a lot better, haven't you?" Rin said, and in the water, Nagisa's face brightened.

"Really? I've gotten better?"

Yeah, you've gotten better. At grasshopper stroke. "Hurry up and get out. I'll show you something cool."

"What, what is it?" Nagisa climbed up onto the poolside, his eyes full of curiosity.

"It's this way." Rin beckoned him over and headed toward the short-course pool at a jog.

"Where are you going, Matsuoka-kun?"

"Earlier, you were asking whether me or Nanase was faster."

"Yeah?"

"Well, now I'll show you," Rin said, sounding amused.

As they ran up to Makoto, he noticed Rin and turned to look over his shoulder at them. "Ah, Matsuoka-kun." He had a stopwatch in his hand. Swimming in the short-course lane in front of him was Haruka, who was gracefully practicing his crawl stroke.

"How many meters is that?"

"Um, he's at the fifty-meter turn, but…"

Haruka made his flip-turn and headed back. Rin adjusted his goggles, snapping the rubber strap as he went to stand on the starting block, and then jumped into the neighboring lane just like that. There was a splash as he tore through the water with a dolphin kick. As he broke the surface, he began his stroke. By that time, he was only half a body-length behind Haruka.

You'd better not take it easy with your swimming. Come on, sink your teeth in!

Rin was gaining fiercely on Haruka, and by the twenty-meter mark, they were evenly matched. They flip-turned simultaneously. Rin stretched. Surfaced from his dolphin kick. Began his stroke. He could feel Haruka's fingertips drawing level with his waist.

With about fifteen meters left, Haruka's swimming changed. His stroke didn't get faster, and he wasn't putting more power into it. Even so, Rin could tell.

He could feel it. That intense drive, like a mass of energy.

Come on! Come on, come on. Keep it coming!

Haruka was snapping at Rin's shoulder and tearing off his head. Five meters left.

I'm tired. I'm wearing out, but like hell I'll give out now!

Their heads were even. Then they touched the wall.

Raising his face from the water, Rin yelled to Makoto, "Who was it?!"

Nagisa was by Makoto's side. The two of them simultaneously pointed at Haruka. The same Haruka who was lightly climbing up onto the poolside, not even out of breath. Rin seemed to take a bit longer to recover. He had taken a lot of damage from the pressure of being chased down by Haruka.

"So, what was Nanase's time for the hundred?"

Haruka, who had taken the stopwatch from Makoto, returned it to him. Then he started walking away.

Makoto looked from the stopwatch to Rin. "He reset it."

Nagisa chased after Haruka as he left. "Nanase-kun, that was amazing! You were so cool! Hey, hey, next time, teach me how to swim freestyle, too!"

As he listened to Nagisa's voice fading into the distance, Rin let his body sink underwater.

He's really fast, Rin whispered into the water, unable to suppress his excitement.



Haruka hitched his bag up on his shoulder and stepped out of the changing room and into the lobby. The cool feeling of the floor under his feet reminded him that it was still winter. As he walked, he was thinking about what had just happened. Wondering why he had gotten so irritated.

When someone had caught up with him just before he hit the turn, he had known that it was Rin right away. They had swum against each other many times at meets. He could tell from the way the ripples in the water felt. Also, there was no one else in the club who would challenge him to a race like that. The instant he realized who it was, he had snapped and something had erupted inside him. At the idea that there was someone in front of him who could feel the water more than he did, his body had grown hot. The heat had flowed all through him. He hadn't even felt like trying to hold back.

Even after he had climbed up onto the poolside, he continued to smolder, unable to burn off all of his energy. When he thought what had happened inside him, he got irritated, and he didn't even feel like swimming anymore. If he swam, he felt like it would happen again. And when he thought that someone like Rin had thrown his emotions into disarray like that, he was disgusted with himself. Deeply regretting that he'd let himself be provoked and gotten so thoroughly carried away, Haruka left the pool.

Haruka stared absently at the wall of the break room, which was decorated with rows of photographs of former club members. They were group photos, taken at the end of every March. He had known that the room was decorated with those photos, but until just now, he hadn't given them much thought. There were two photographs of Haruka. He was standing at the edge of the group, looking bored.

Now that he was looking again, he realized that there were quite a lot of photos. The oldest was from more than twenty-three years ago, and compared to now, there were a lot fewer people. The boy in the middle was holding a trophy and laughing. On the medal around his neck, Haruka could make out the words "Eighteenth Tournament". It wasn't just that picture, either. No matter which picture he looked at, there were people holding trophies or medals, all of them smiling.

Will I have to pose like that again this year? When he thought about that, Haruka felt a little fed up.

He stepped outside, and the wind suddenly beat against his cheeks. So the wind is still blowing? Making a face, he headed for the bike rack.

"Wow, the wind's really strong, huh?" Makoto's voice came from behind Haruka.

He's the kind of guy who just says whatever he's thinking, Haruka thought. Sometimes he even voiced Haruka's thoughts for him. He was meddlesome that way.

"Ah, that was a good swim!" Rin came out of the club and headed towards Haruka and Makoto from the other direction, sounding like an old man soaking in a hot spring.

Seeing him, Makoto called out. "Matsuoka-kun, the bike rack's over here!"

"Nah, I didn't come here on a bike."

"Well, then, do you want to ride on the back of mine? I'll take you home."

There he goes again, saying unnecessary things. He should just leave him alone. Ignoring Makoto, Haruka kept walking.

"It's fine, I don't live that far away. See you tomorrow!" Rin said, loud enough that Haruka could hear, too, and then started walking in the opposite direction from the bike rack.

Haruka and Makoto rode their bikes along the edge of the harbor and arrived on the bank of the Shiwagawa. This was the only road that crossed the Mutsuki Bridge. Absently, Haruka glanced down at the river's surface, but the scarf was nowhere to be seen. Maybe it sank, or maybe it floated all the way out to sea.

Before they could start to cross the bridge, Rin came running up behind them, his breath white in the cold. His backpack was fixed on firmly over his training wear, and his white running shoes struck the ground rhythmically. He was completely prepared for running.

He probably means to run to practice every day, not just today. Tsking on the inside, Haruka turned his eyes away from Rin. When Rin overtook them, Haruka pushed just a bit harder on his pedals.

He could hear Makoto's voice from behind him. "How many kilometers is it to your house?"

"A little over three kilometers…" Rin's voice was carried away by the wind.



The next morning, the wind was still blowing through the line of poplars. The sky is clearing up, so where is it blowing from? Haruka wondered, looking up at the clouds. Though I guess it's not as if it comes from the clouds, he reconsidered, pulling his jacket up over his neck.

In the morning, Haruka always went to school alone. Makoto had to walk his younger brother and sister to the stop for their bus to kindergarten, and always ended up barely making it in time. Also, he was always rushed on his way to school. Haruka couldn't accompany him like that.

The wind blew again, and Haruka grimaced. Though there were a number of children walking in lines along the road, the only sound was the strange creaking voices of the trembling line of poplars.

Haruka continued toward the school, disliking the straight, spacious road. He especially hated walking in groups with everyone during the winter. When he thought about being in those groups himself, sometimes he couldn't stand it. It reminded him of something he'd seen a long time ago. Though it had happened many years before, he could still remember it clearly. A freezing wind had been blowing then, too.



The sound of the staves carried by the white-robed people echoed in the silence over the harbor. There were about fifty people there in all. Keeping their eyes downcast, they continued to walk in silence. There were elderly people there, but there were children of about Haruka's own age among them, as well. Haruka's eyes unconsciously followed the children. His attention was drawn to a young girl, wearing the same white clothes as the adults, walking with her face in her hands.

Is she crying? As he wondered this, lightly clenching his fist, the girl lifted her face and turned toward him. Her eyes met Haruka's, and she wiped at her tear-stained cheeks with her left arm. Then she glared fixedly at Haruka.

"Haru-chan, where are those people going?" the younger Makoto asked, standing as if he were hiding in Haruka's shadow.

"I don't know."

"Then, what are they doing?"

How should I know? Instead of replying, Haruka turned to look at Makoto. Makoto looked worried, his upturned eyebrows drawn together, and he was gripping the hem of Haruka's shirt. From somewhere in the crowd, the sound of someone weeping rose up, and Makoto's grip grew tighter.

"Makoto, are you scared?"

"I don't know. Are you, Haru-chan?"

Haruka wasn't scared. It was just that this eeriness that he couldn't understand was noisy in his chest, making him feel restless. He didn't know what the line of people meant, but there was no denying that something about it was frightening Makoto.

Haruka grabbed Makoto's hand, which had been clutching the hem of his shirt, and quickly ran far, as far as he could get, from the line of people.



"Good morning, Nanase-kun."

When someone called to him, Haruka turned suddenly, as if startled. It had taken him completely by surprise. When he saw that it was Aki, he worried a little bit about how his reaction had come across. But he only thought that for a moment before returning to his usual self.

"Hey." It was a curt answer. That was normal, but even Haruka thought that his voice when he replied just now had sounded especially grouchy. Cheery greetings were ill-suited to this place to begin with. It was that kind of road. But Aki, completely ignoring that, turned her usual cheerful smile on him.

"I'm sorry about yesterday. For making you worry like that."

Is she talking about what happened on the bridge? He couldn't think of anything else. I don't particularly remember being worried, though. It was just that her unusually depressed face had stuck in the corner of his memory.

"What happened to your scarf?" No matter how you look at it, since it was dropped in the middle of that wide river, there was nothing to be done about it. After he asked, he thought, I shouldn't have said that.

There was no trace of yesterday's dark shadows in Aki's expression. She laughed clearly, like the blue sky in summer. "It sank a little while after you left, Nanase-kun. After that, I was able to give up. I think if it had kept floating, I might have kept watching it forever." She laughed again after she said it. Her smile didn't suit the winter sky or the road. "What's wrong, Nanase-kun? Your face looks kind of red."

Aki had abruptly come over to peer into Haruka's face. When she tried to meet his eyes directly, Haruka shifted his gaze a bit farther away.

"It's nothing. It's normal."

"Are you sure you don't have a fever?"

Haruka instinctively pushed away Aki's hand as it reached for his cheek. Because of this, they were left face-to-face, and time stopped for a second. With her other hand, Aki was holding back the hand that Haruka had pushed away, and looking at Haruka in surprise.

"Ah…sorry." Haruka was the one to apologize. If he didn't want to be touched, he should have moved his neck to avoid it, or lightly blocked her with his own hand. He shouldn't have pushed her hand away at all.

"Oh, no, I'm the one who should be sorry."

Their conversation broke there, as both of them began down the road toward the school once again. Silently, keeping their heads down, their faces screwed up against the intermittent gusts of strong wind…this was a much more appropriate attitude for walking down the poplar-lined street.



Their homeroom theme was "Creating Memories for Graduation." All of the classes had been brought together to contribute ideas, and then those ideas were narrowed down to just one. Once it had been decided that all of the graduating students would work on it together, there were many varied opinions, even just within Haruka's class.

Things that could be done quickly, things that were impossible to realize, laughable things, things that leaned heavily toward certain hobbies. Then, when it seemed that all of the ideas had just about run out, Aki's hand went up.

"Um, I've been thinking this for a while now, but the only flowers that bloom around this school are from the cherry tree, right? In the spring there will be lots of flowers, but right now it seems sort of lonely…"

Between the school building and the pool stood a large cherry tree. There was no other tree as imposing to be found in the area. It had an overwhelming presence that didn't let anything come near; the trees, the grass and the flowers all stayed away as if daunted by it.

"So I was thinking, what if we planted a flower bed around the cherry tree? I thought it would be wonderful if there were lots of bright-colored flowers blooming happily with the cherry tree in the spring."

Haruka felt a bit of reluctance. The cherry tree needed to be the tallest, biggest, most dignified, most secluded of them all. He didn't even want to imagine it being surrounded by a bunch of gaudy flowers.

"I'm in favor of planting a flower bed, too." The one who spoke, advancing Aki's idea, was Makoto. "I think it would be nice if we planted flowers that would bloom right around the time we all graduate."

Majority rule cannot always be called fairness. Regardless of their depth of feeling, each person is impartially given the right to a vote. Even so, if he could have expressed the depth of his feelings like Makoto and Aki had, and tried to reach an understanding with them, it might have been all right, but Haruka couldn't do that. Haruka was terrible at things like pressing his feelings onto others.

That was how it always went, and Aki's idea had general support; and so the class voted overwhelmingly in favor of the flower bed.



"Haru, are you okay?" After homeroom, Makoto came to talk to him with a worried look on his face.

"What do you mean?"

"Your face is red. Do you have a fever?"

This morning, Aki had asked him the same thing. Haruka put the palm of his hand on the back of his neck. "Not especially. I feel fine, but…"

It was nothing worth worrying other people with. Just as Haruka was starting to feel uncomfortable with the way Makoto was looking at him like a sick person to be worried about, Rin came over to them, speaking in a voice that was out of tune with the atmosphere.

"I wouldn't have thought you'd be the type to like romantic things like flowers and love, Tachibana." Rin folded his arms and teased Makoto, having come to his own understanding of the situation.

"I was more surprised by your idea, Matsuoka-kun. Launching a satellite? Isn't that much more romantic?"

"Not launching one - having messages put into a satellite. About our dreams and friends and stuff."

"Yeah, you're a romantic after all, Matsuoka-kun."

"Well, that may be true. But you know, I was surprised that Nanase went with my idea. Actually, it kind of made me happy."

Makoto and Rin's voices were hurting Haruka's ears, but even yelling for them to be quiet seemed troublesome and not worth the effort.

That might be a little bad. As Haruka had the thought, Rin noticed his condition. I wish he hadn't noticed.

"Huh? Is Nanase not feeling well?" Rin wasn't asking Haruka. He was asking Makoto.

"About that, I was wondering if he had a fever, but…" As he spoke, Makoto peered into Haruka's face.

"I said I don't have a fever!" Controlling himself was too much trouble. At Haruka's raised voice, several nearby people turned toward them. An awkward silence fell.

"…Sorry." It was the same thing he'd said to Aki this morning. Haruka stood up from his seat and headed toward the classroom door. Even if it was just for a little while, he wanted to be free from everything about that place. Feeling Makoto's worried gaze on his back, Haruka left the classroom.



As he was riding the bike that he kept at the foot of the stone steps, Haruka's feet stopped unintentionally. This was the bike that he rode to swim practice every day. That guy…is he going to run again today? Rin floated through the corner of his mind. From here to Iwatobi SC was about two kilometers. That was much shorter than the distance Rin had to run.

Haruka had never done much in the way of dry land training. He didn't have much interest in disciplining his body. Feeling the water - that was what swimming meant to Haruka. He had never once swum for the sake of beating someone else. That was why he never worried about his times, or felt any need to train his body.

It was just that there might be someone who could swim faster than Haruka, and that might mean that he could feel the water more than Haruka could, and it was a fact that this left a small knot of worry in Haruka's heart. He didn't know how the water felt to Rin, but he could swim the fifty meter faster than Haruka, and up until about the seventy-meter mark of the one hundred meter, he'd been ahead of Haruka. He's running again today. That alone was enough reason for Haruka to run.

He had a fever. Even without Aki and Makoto telling him, he knew it. Until now, whenever he'd had a bit of a cold or a fever, it would clear up after he swam. He didn't need logic. Once he got into the water, he was healed. After he swam, something as small as a cold would always be cured as if it had never been there at all.

That was why, from the beginning, Haruka had never planned to rest today. But if he went to practice today, he would end up meeting Rin. He would end up seeing Rin running. As he passed Rin on his bike, he would end up having to look away. And he would end up feeling irritated at himself for not running.

Haruka looked up at the stairs to Makoto's house just once. Makoto hadn't come out yet. Leaving his bike behind, he began to run the two kilometer distance at a light jog.



The wind was blowing on the Mutsuki Bridge again today. With the wind striking his cheeks, Haruka absently looked up at Mt. Myoujin. It's not as if the wind comes from the mountains, either, he thought again, and then turned forward and continued running.

His breath sprang white into the air. He started to sweat. It had been a while since he had run any long distances. But even though he hadn't sped up enough to warrant it, he was drenched in sweat. Even though there weren't any steep hills or staircases, his heartbeat was pounding through his whole body. Was it because of the fever that he had so quickly become unable to control his labored breathing? Even so, Haruka kept running, screwing up his face against the wind that blew in from the side.

Makoto hadn't caught up with him yet. I wonder if he's taking care of his goldfish again. Well, whatever…

Haruka's vision was wavering oddly now and then, and by the time he finished crossing the bridge, he was aware that he probably wouldn't be able to run all the way to swim practice. He reached his limit as he was running along the bank of the river. His feet stopped; he put his hands on his knees and took deep breaths that shook his shoulders. Sweat dripped off of Haruka's downturned face, making a number of small blotches on the earth. If he could have, he would have liked to lie down sprawled out on the ground. The way that Rin had, on that day.

Dammit, what am I doing, being all exhausted?! But even if he could muster up his fighting spirit, his chest still hurt, and his legs wouldn't move forward. He couldn't bear the thought of being seen like this by Makoto or Rin. Rather than having anyone worry or fuss over him, Haruka wished he could just disappear. He refused to be the kind of person people worried about. He was unusually impatient to catch his breath.

After a while, as Haruka's breathing was beginning to calm down, he suddenly realized that something white was appearing and disappearing on the surface of the river. Aki's scarf was caught in a place that looked like it could be reached from the shore under the embankment. Haruka had thought that it would have sunk or been carried out to sea long ago, but it looked as though it had been pushed back by the ebb and flow of the tides. If I think about wanting to reach it, it will drift to a place I can reach. If I think about wanting to reach it…

There was the sound of brakes, and Haruka reflexively turned around. Aki got off her bicycle, a worried look on her face. "What's wrong, Nanase-kun?"

Haruka stretched the muscles in his back and forcibly contained his ragged breathing. He meant to say Nothing, and continue running, but his voice wouldn't work. If he spoke, he felt like the breaths he was holding back would rush out all at once.

"Ah!" Aki's gaze had gone past Haruka and landed on the river's surface. On the white scarf floating on the river's surface…

Haruka scolded himself internally, and then tried taking a deep breath. It seemed like he had calmed down a lot. He thought it would be all right for him to speak now. "I'll go get it."

"You don't have to, it's too dangerous!"

As if I'd get tired at a time like this. I just stopped for a minute because I saw Aki's scarf. Making excuses for himself, he turned his back on Aki.

Just as Haruka was about to step onto the riverbank, he had a sudden attack of dizziness. He barely had time to think oh, crap, before darkness covered his vision and he lost his sense of balance. He had thought that he could feel the grassy ground solid under his feet, but now those feet were kicking through empty air and he was tumbling down the embankment. He couldn't tell up from down. It was his own body, but somehow, he couldn't figure out what it was doing. All he could hear was Aki's voice, crying out like the line of poplars trembling in the wind.

Haruka felt the chill of the water on the lower half of his body, and that was when he understood that he had fallen into the river. Gradually, his sense of sight returned. Half of his body was in the water. His right hand was gripping the dry grass on the riverbank. His left hand…was tangled in the once-white scarf that had now turned the color of tea.

This sucks…what am I doing? That was as much as he could think clearly. Without healing Haruka's body or heart, the river water stole his body heat and brought his thoughts to a standstill.

In the space between dreams and reality, he thought that he could faintly hear Makoto's voice calling his name, and the sound of ambulance sirens.

"Haru, Haru!"

And then Haruka fell into a deep sleep.



He woke up because his head was hurting horribly. Before he could even wonder where he was, Makoto's voice reached his ears.

"Haru, are you awake? Haru!"

Haruka didn't even think of telling Makoto that his voice hurt his ears. He couldn't even object to being fussed over. Makoto's voice flowed over him naturally, just as it always did.

Haruka tried to focus his eyes, but it didn't work very well. His head still hurt. His body felt heavy. Even so, because he wanted to tell Makoto I'm awake now, so don't worry, he began trying to form words.

"Where…am I?"

"You're in the hospital."

"The hospital?" The fluorescent lights are really bright, he thought. When he tried to figure out why he might be sleeping in the hospital, it made his head hurt again.

"Haru, are you all right? Your mom will be coming soon, okay? We got in touch with her a little while ago."

Haruka was finally starting to be able to see Makoto's face clearly. When he did, he realized that there was another person behind Makoto. Rin was standing there silently, his face unusually serious. On a hanger beside him, something white was fluttering in the breeze from the air conditioner.

Is it the curtain? No, it's thinner, a different kind of cloth… --the scarf! The moment he remembered that, his memories returned. He immediately tried to get up, and his whole body protested.

"Don't! You can't push yourself like that. You have a fever of forty degrees."

Haruka wanted to know. After he had fallen in the river, what circumstances had brought him here? He wanted to know right now. "Yazaki?"

Aki had been on the riverbank, and had probably seen the whole thing. But Aki was nowhere to be seen.

"If you're wondering what happened to Zaki-chan, I think she went home. But I'm sure she's worried about you right now."

"What happened to me?"

"Just as Matsuoka-kun and I were crossing the bridge, we heard Zaki-chan yelling. When we went to see what was wrong, you had fallen into the river." After that, the two of them had hauled Haruka up onto the embankment together, while Aki had called the ambulance. Makoto and Rin had ridden in the ambulance, and Aki had called the swim club and Haruka's house. Even though she had looked as if she were about to cry, Aki had carried out the task given to her with a stout heart.

"So make sure you go and talk to Zaki-chan later, too, okay?"

On the bed, Haru nodded once. He wanted to ask Makoto to explain everything to him. Listening made his head hurt, but he intended to act unconcerned for as long as he could.

"After that, they told us that you had influenza, Haru."

Something as stupid as that got me into this situation? Haruka thought, extremely annoyed.

"Well, I'm going to go call the doctor." Makoto opened the door and left, and it suddenly became quiet inside the hospital room. All that could be heard was the noise of the air conditioning and Haruka's rough breathing. Haruka realized for the first time that he was out of breath.

Haruka looked at Rin. He was still standing silently, his gaze slanted down toward the floor. Next to him, the scarf fluttered.

"Matsuoka…thanks." The words came out so honestly that Haruka even surprised himself.

Rin just gave a small nod, and didn't try to look up at Haruka. From then until the time that Makoto returned, the only sounds were of the air conditioner and Haruka's breathing.



Being exposed to the cold air outside made him remember just how warm it had been inside the hospital. As Rin walked, he put his numb hands into the pockets of his jacket. His legs felt strangely heavy. He couldn't breathe very well. But he had finally caught up to Makoto, who was walking in front of him. He tried calling out to Makoto.

"…Tachibana." It felt like it had been forever since Rin had used his voice. At the very least, this was the first time he had since they'd come to the hospital.

"What is it, Matsuoka-kun?"

"I…"

"Hm?"

Rin hesitated. Without pressing him, Makoto waited for what Rin would say next. In the interval, Makoto continued walking, without letting his feet stop. Slowly, as though he was waiting for Rin to catch up to him.

"I was seriously scared." Those were Rin's honest feelings. Even now, the feeling of being scared continued. It made him feel like all of his insides were moving wrong, and they wouldn't stop. He had thought that his lungs would draw breath, and that his heart would beat, even if he didn't put any particular thought into it. But right now, he felt like if he didn't take deep breaths, all of his functions would just stop. "I was so scared that I couldn't even figure out what to do."

Makoto turned and gave him a smile. Raising his upturned eyebrows, he smoothly kept walking while facing backwards. "It's going to be okay. They said it's just ordinary influenza. It hasn't turned into pneumonia, so he'll get better soon."

Rin thought that Haruka's situation was very serious. It was true that when he had seen that Haruka had fallen into the river, he had panicked. He had been hasty, and had lost his presence of mind. But what was making Rin feel scared right now wasn't any of those things. "No, not about Nanase. About you, Tachibana."

"What?" Makoto stopped walking. He was meeting Rin's honest gaze straight-on, but he was still smiling. He almost looked as if he wanted to ask whether Rin was joking.

"When we pulled Nanase out of the river, you were shaking, weren't you?"

"Was I? It feels like I was dreaming, so I can't remember very well." Makoto turned to face forward and started walking again.

Rin watched Makoto's back, thinking He was definitely shaking back then. Though he had been able to give precise orders to Rin and Aki, Makoto had been shaking so hard that there was no way to miss it. His hands, his legs and his face - they weren't shaking from the cold, but because he was afraid of something. Even while they were riding in the ambulance, Makoto had gripped the hem of Haruka's shirt, shaking and calling Haruka's name the whole time.

Rin had never seen anyone that terrified by something before. The sight had stuck deep in his heart, and now his body wouldn't work the way he thought it should.

Without saying anything more, Rin kept walking behind Makoto. If Makoto said that he didn't remember, then Rin wouldn't interfere. He didn't want to forcibly pry into things that Makoto didn't want to talk about. That was why he didn't intend to enquire any further; Even if I did ask, it wouldn't make much difference, he thought.

While they were waiting at the bus stop, and after they got on the bus, as well, the two of them stayed silent and didn't meet each other's gazes.

Rin pushed the bell at his stop and stood up to get off the bus two stops before Makoto did. "See you."

"Yeah."

For just that one second, Rin looked at Makoto's face. He looked the same as always. His upturned eyebrows were raised, and he was smiling just as he always did. Maybe I was worrying too much. Rin got off the bus, and suddenly all the strength went out of his body. He took a deep breath of the evening air, and stared after the bus as it drove off into the red sunset.



As soon as Rin left the bus, Makoto's hands started shaking. Something that had been stretched to breaking inside him had suddenly snapped, and his hands were shaking so hard that he couldn't do anything to stop it. Before long, it circulated through his body, and his legs, his chest, and his face trembled, and even his teeth were chattering. He held himself tightly with both arms. No matter how hard he squeezed, the trembling wouldn't stop. No matter how firmly he clenched his teeth, his lips shook. Soundlessly, tears were pouring down his cheeks, and Makoto couldn't do a thing about it.


--------------


Note 1: In the section about Nagisa's swimming, there is a joke that doesn't translate. "Butterfly" (the swimming stroke) gets called batta for short in Japanese. This also means "grasshopper", hence Rin's new name for Nagisa's stroke.

Note 2: Makoto gives Haruka's temperature in Celsius. For those more used to Fahrenheit, 40 degrees Celsius is about 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

Back to Chapter 1 | Forward to Chapter 3

As always, any and all errors or awkwardness are entirely my fault, and concrit is welcome! And thank you to everyone who commented/liked/reblogged/tagged/etc'd chapter one :) You're all awesome!

Translated from raws downloaded at this post.

[personal profile] cersseilyne 2013-07-31 01:41 pm (UTC)(link)
Yay, an update!!!
Thank you very much for your hard work!!
You made my lousy day much brighter! :D
minnichan: (Default)

[personal profile] minnichan 2013-07-31 10:54 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you for the translation! <3
kikuko: (Default)

[personal profile] kikuko 2013-07-31 11:22 pm (UTC)(link)
Ah, That was awesome!

Thank you so much for the wonderful translation. It was really fun and easy to read.

And I must say, I like this novel even more than I like the anime. So, at least for me, your update is just as good or even better than an actual episode.

Once again, Thank you for all your hard work! I really appreciate it! <3

[personal profile] badromance_fic 2013-08-01 02:53 pm (UTC)(link)
Your translation is amazing! I can't read Japanese so I have no idea how it compares but I love the way you've been writing it. It feels so natural, like the story is being told in its original language.

Thank you for putting in so much work!

[personal profile] zengqunan 2013-08-02 01:55 am (UTC)(link)
Just wanted to comment and thank you for all of your hard work!

I'm so happy that I get to read their backstory from your translations! ;v;

[personal profile] lana_black 2013-08-02 05:23 pm (UTC)(link)
I have something I want to say about your translation of this chapter, I think you mistake おばさん and おばあさん. Makoto said おばさん, means aunt, so he refer to Haru's mom, not grandma. It's kinda important since lots of people start to talk about Haru's "abandonment issues" because they think Haru's parents left him when he was a kid while in fact they didnt.
But other than that, your translation is really great. I read another translation of High Speed too & yours is the easiest to understand
Edited 2013-08-02 17:25 (UTC)

[personal profile] soavantgarde 2013-08-04 10:15 pm (UTC)(link)
haha, haruka seems like such a cold little kid, and I laugh out loud at how critical he is of makoto!

your translations are absolutely lovely and flow so well, thank you so much for posting them!! :)
Edited 2013-08-04 22:17 (UTC)
cosipotente: artist: natalie shau (Default)

[personal profile] cosipotente 2013-08-08 11:14 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you so much for your hard work! I am very jealous of your skills.

I wonder how much of this will be included in the anime. They gave the tiny flashback about the (I'm assuming) funeral procession that freaked Makoto out in episode five. And now with the cliffhanger of Rei drowning, I wonder if they will flashback to Makoto saving Haru.
asterisk0228: (Default)

[personal profile] asterisk0228 2013-08-21 10:57 am (UTC)(link)
"I was more surprised by your idea, Matsuoka-kun. Launching a satellite? Isn't that much more romantic?"

I was wondering about this line - did Rin suggest "Launching a satellite" or "making a time capsule"?
asterisk0228: (Default)

[personal profile] asterisk0228 2013-08-21 02:28 pm (UTC)(link)
Yeah... I just thought Rin was a bit weird for suggesting that... Though I think I've heard of something similar, but it was done using fireworks so your wishes would come true faster. They say that this way, our wishes reach God faster or something like that... But from the anime Rin suggested to make a time capsule before he went away so I thought that might have been what he meant, though I really wouldn't know for sure since I can't read Japanese. Thanks for the reply~! :)
asterisk0228: (Default)

[personal profile] asterisk0228 2013-08-21 09:32 pm (UTC)(link)
Is she crying? As he wondered this, lightly clenching his fist, the girl lifted her face and turned toward him. Her eyes met Haruka's, and she wiped at her tear-stained cheeks with her left arm. Then she glared fixedly at Haruka.

SPOILER ALERT [Free! Ep.7] - just in case...
~Th-that girl! Could it have been Gou??? In the latest episode, Rin and Gou were shown at the end of the line of people wearing white (just like what was described in this scene) and their father was actually one of the victims of that sunken ship tragedy years back! DX

[personal profile] black_rabbit 2013-09-09 12:46 am (UTC)(link)
I thought the same! If I remember correctly, in anime they showed a short scene at first, when swimming club was going on this training camp and everyone around was asking if Makoto is fine with training in an ocean. It wasn't said why he should dislike that, just minor tips. And then they showed the extended scene when Makoto is explaining to his clubmates what happened in the past. So I thought, maybe in the light novel author could do the same, and he'll explain to us later who was that girl etc. Of course not in such circumstances ;)

Btw, I'd like to know how Zaki-chan looks :)) Damn, I read this chapter today, preparing for translating it, and the whole time I was like, "Ah, it's so like Haru" or "Wow, Haru was so much more social in the past"... I really really like the Haru and Makoto then, this light novel really is needed :D :)
sion92: (Default)

[personal profile] sion92 2013-08-29 06:11 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you so much for your translation! It's very easy to read, even if it's not the original language. And it's very usuful to me to improve my english! :)

I really like this chapter, because Makoto is my favourite character! :)
kyushiro: (Default)

I really appreciate about your work-!!

[personal profile] kyushiro 2013-09-04 06:42 am (UTC)(link)
Oh, chaptet 2-!! High speed is come back-! Yay:) Thanks for anothet translation XD
arashinoookami: Made by LJ user lottiebee (Nichijou)

[personal profile] arashinoookami 2014-02-01 09:20 am (UTC)(link)
Thankyou!
guilty_gem12: my beloved husband (Default)

Arigatou

[personal profile] guilty_gem12 2014-10-02 03:22 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you for generously sharing these light novel!! >.<
You made us all happy...
Otskare-sama >.