sunnyskies: (Default)
Tree ([personal profile] sunnyskies) wrote2013-08-07 12:58 am

High Speed! Chapter Three

I hope all of you survived the lack of an episode last week. We're nearly there! Hang on, Free! fandom!

And in the meantime, have another chapter.



Chapter 3: Free

It was four days later that Haruka returned to swim practice. He walked into the locker room, out of breath but with the same expression as always.

Makoto was already changing. "Haru……"

"Hey."

"Don't 'hey' me! What's going on? Are you better already?"

"I'm fine," Haruka muttered, looking displeased at Makoto's worried expression.

"You're not fine. You're so out of breath; are you sure you don't still have a fever?"

Haruka waved him off like an annoyance and opened the door of his locker. Makoto raised his voice, sounding irritated. "Haru!"

"I ran here."

"From where?"

"My house, obviously," Haruka said, tossing his bag into his locker.

"Hey, Haru, you weren't at school today, were you?"

"I felt better this afternoon." Haruka answered as if the question was bothersome, and started to get undressed. As if to say I don't want to look at your worried face anymore, Haruka continued to change in silence.

"Haru, what are you going to do if your fever comes back?"

"Makoto!" Haruka's firm tone of voice and the clang of the locker shutting combined to drown out Makoto's words.

"…W-what?"

Haruka started walking, putting his left hand on Makoto's shoulder as he passed by. "Thank you." Leaving him with those words, Haruka exited the locker room.

Makoto suddenly felt a little weak. His jaw went slack at the unexpected words, and unconsciously, he raised his upturned eyebrows. Somehow, his feelings of worry over Haruka disappeared completely.



Haruka tried to swim the thousand meter crawl just as he always did. His breathing didn't get nearly as labored while he was in the water as it had while he was running. On the contrary, he felt as though he was being healed. For Haruka, this is how the water always was.

It was a lie that he'd felt better this afternoon. The truth was that he'd just started to feel better right now. School wouldn't heal his body or his heart, and so he had stayed home. As Haruka felt his strength returning in the water, he gradually increased his speed.

Haruka cut through the water in a glossy spray of foam, and when he lifted his face from the water, a single hand was held out to him. It was a more slender and delicate hand than Makoto's. It looks kind of like it would break if I grabbed it, he thought, hesitating for a second. He took off his goggles and looked up, his eyes narrowed.

"Welcome back. I'm glad you got better so soon." With a smile like a blooming sunflower, Aki was looking down at him. It was the hand that Haruka had shoved away that day under the line of poplars. He took the offered hand and pulled himself up onto the poolside.

"Thanks."

"Sure."

Tilting his head to the right to get out the water that had gotten into his ears, Haruka asked quietly, "Your scarf…" Just that short phrase escaped from his mouth.

Aki's sunflower smile clouded over just a little. "Yeah…?"

"I was thinking maybe you wouldn't want it anymore after it got like that, but…" Even after it had been washed, the newly-light-brown scarf had not returned to its original whiteness, but Haruka had entrusted it to Makoto anyway, leaving the task of returning it to Aki to him.

"Yeah, I got it back from Tachibana-kun." Aki hung her head. Haruka wondered if she thought it was her fault that he had fallen into the river.

"Don't drop it anymore."

"I'm sorry."

Don't apologize. I'm the one who should be apologizing. "I'm sorry for the trouble I caused."

With Haruka's words, Aki's expression cleared. Her sunflower smile returned. "Oh, no, not at all!" Aki shook her head slightly.

With just that short conversation, Haruka understood just how worried Aki had been.

Someone had been calling out to Aki for a little while now. "Zaki! Relay practice is about to start!"

"Okay!" After she replied, she waved to Haruka. "See you."

"Yeah."

Aki ran off, a smile still on her face. Rin came up to meet Haruka, passing Aki on the way. "Nanase, we've got relay practice, too."

Relays? Why do I have to practice for that? As Haruka thought this, Makoto came running over as though chasing after Rin.

"No way. You can't push yourself any more today, Haru." Makoto had gone right past worry and straight into acting like he was Haruka's guardian.

If Makoto was going to worry about him that much, Haruka didn't care if it was a relay or whatever, he would rather be in the water. "What kind of relay? I only swim free." Without looking at Makoto, he directed the question to Rin.

"It's freestyle."

"Haru."

Thinking annoyed thoughts about Makoto's worry, Haruka walked by right in front of him.

"Haru!" As he called out to Haruka's back one more time, Makoto's voice was drowned out by the sound of a whistle being blown.

During relay practice, special emphasis was placed on diving. They used the twenty-five meter short-course, lining up on both sides of the pool, and after they swam they would line up once again. They repeated this practice until the time was up.

For relays, you could say that the biggest difference in times came from the starts and the relay tags. From the start, the act of swimming was one where, as you increased your propulsive force, that in itself would increase the water's resistance. In other words, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that making the best possible use of your start and kicking power was a key point. Because of this, you needed to be very aware of the angle of your dive and the way you held your body underwater, and for that, you needed to practice.

In a freestyle relay, there were four dives. Freestyle technically meant that swimmers could use whatever stroke they wanted, but since people usually chose the front crawl, "freestyle" and "crawl" had basically become synonymous. And so, this practice was also using the crawl.

Haruka leapt nimbly into the pool and created an opening in the water. He slid his body forward, cutting through the water with an agile stroke, and touched the surface of the opposite wall. Over Haruka's head, Rin dove into the water. He wasn't any taller than Haruka, but Rin had more power in his legs than either Haruka or Makoto. The reason that he could swim so recklessly fast in short-course was also because the strength of his kick was a powerful weapon.

Haruka thought about this as he climbed up onto the poolside. The same hundred meter race had three flip-turns in short-course, but only one in long-course. Therefore, in Rin's case, short-course gave him an overwhelming advantage. That was also the reason that he'd been ahead of Haruka until about the seventy-meter mark at the meet. It was also the reason that Haruka would keep running.

Haruka wasn't going to deny that there was someone who could swim faster than him. But he wasn't going to acknowledge it so easily, either. It wasn't that he wanted to win, or that he hated losing; it was just that he couldn't simply accept that there was someone who could feel the water more than he could.

If he was asked whether running would make him able to jump farther, Haruka would answer honestly that he didn't know. However, there was someone who could jump farther than he could, and if that person ran, then that was enough reason for him to run, as well.

Haruka watched Rin swim while he thought about this. Makoto was standing in front of him. With his cap on his head and his goggles pulled down, he didn't look like a grade-schooler at all. His shoulders were broad and his chest was wide. Though he wasn't that muscular, he still looked intimidating as he stood on the starting block.

Rin touched the wall, and Makoto dove in with a huge splash. He plunged forcefully though the water, putting all his strength into his stroke. Even though he wasn't being timed, he was going all-out. That was how Makoto always was. The same Makoto as ever, swimming just the same as always.

That same Makoto, with only a few meters left until the goal, abruptly stopped swimming. Did he swallow some water? Haruka wondered, but it didn't look like that was it. Makoto's legs didn't seem to have frozen up, either. He was just treading water, gulping in huge breaths of air as if he was in pain.

Rin, who had just climbed out of the pool, jumped back in again and swam over to Makoto. "What's the matter, Tachibana?"

Makoto pushed his goggles up and gave a smile from under his upturned eyebrows. "Sorry, I'm fine. Looks like I'm just a little out of shape."

Feeling like that smile was going to turn to tears any second, Haruka turned his eyes away from Makoto. Then, without looking back, he began walking to the shower room.



When each class's ideas for the graduating students' project had been brought together and compared, in the end, Aki's plan was accepted. It was officially decided that they would plant a flower bed around the cherry tree. Once it had been decided, preparations were made rapidly, and in the blink of an eye, plans for the project were put together. Before many days had passed, a large amount of clay was brought to their classroom, and after school, the classroom would look a bit like a brick-making workshop. In the wide space that was made by gathering all the desks at the back of the room, a blue tarpaulin was spread out, and the clay was piled into mountains on top of it. The clay wasn't red anymore, but apparently when it was baked, the iron inside of it would oxidize, and it would turn red again.

The work began with kneading the clay. Each person would take a part of the divided clay to their own space, and then, in order to get all the air out from inside the clay, would diligently put their weight into kneading it thoroughly. This process had to be done carefully, or the clay could crack while it was being baked.

Haruka was trying not to think about the fact that these bricks were going to end up around the cherry tree, and was concentrating on it as just another art project.

"So, Nanase."

While Haruka had been kneading his clay, Rin had come over to talk to him. Without answering, Haruka raised only his eyes.

"I was wondering about the next meet. Wanna swim a medley relay?"

The next meet was after the graduation ceremony, near the end of March. Every year, all the clubs in the city would gather in one building and perform magnificently. It was also at one of these meets that they had met Rin.

Since they had entered sixth grade, Haruka and Makoto had gone to almost every meet. The events were all separated by age and sex, so there were three or four races that either of them could enter, but Haruka never entered anything but freestyle events. He had won three times in freestyle events. Makoto entered both freestyle and breaststroke events, and had the experience of winning twice in breaststroke races.

"I won't swim anything but free," Haruka said, dropping his eyes back to his clay.

"Geez, you're obsessive, Nanase. It's fine, you can be our freestyle specialist. Right, Tachibana?"

Makoto's hands stopped moving as he was suddenly brought into the conversation. "If we're doing a medley relay, what are we going to do about the butterfly leg? Wouldn't it be better to do a freestyle relay?"

In order to swim a medley relay, they would need four team members, one each to swim backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle. But there was no one in their age group at Iwatobi SC who could swim butterfly quickly.

Rin sounded a bit surprised by Makoto's words. "We'll be fine in a medley. I'll swim butterfly. Tachibana, you can swim breaststroke, and then all we need is someone for backstroke, right? There's nobody that really stands out, but as long as he can swim normally, the rest of us can manage something. Let's look carefully for someone decent at backstroke."

Makoto, perhaps overwhelmed by Rin's pushiness, went back to kneading his clay without replying. In Makoto's place, Haruka stopped moving his hands. "All I said was that I only swim free; don't just go ahead and keep planning out the relay." He spoke in a quiet tone, but did his best to put his strength of will into it.

Rin sighed into his clay as if to say 'children who don't listen will burn their hands.' However, the strength of will in his voice was just as strong as Haruka's. "That's why I said it's fine for you to do free, didn't I, Nanase!"

The end of Rin's sentence had gotten too loud. After he said it, he snapped his mouth shut, but it was too late. Their classmates, scattered here and there across the blue tarpaulin, had all turned their gazes to him. Makoto had stopped kneading his clay to look at Rin, too.

Whatever Rin was thinking, he suddenly stood up. In any case, with everyone's attention on him, he had to cover for himself. "S-so, I was saying, let's write messages on the bricks. Words that we like, and stuff. Let's write down things that stick in our memories as we please. Freely, right?"

Just as he was thinking it's too late even if I play the earnest graduating student now, Aki stood up. "That's a nice idea, isn't it?"

Aki's brief comment changed the class's mood. Everyone began to talk excitedly about what kind of message they should write, and the class became lively once more.

Rin's shoulders slumped and he let out a short breath. Haruka and Makoto were continuing to knead their clay as if nothing had happened. Rin sat down and went back to kneading his own clay in silence.

The day ended on that note, without the subject of the relay coming up again.



Countless strings of slender clouds flowed over the top of Mt. Myoujin. I wonder if the wind is blowing on Mutsuki Bridge again today. As Haruka was thinking this, he glanced at his wristwatch. Compared to his first time, he'd come a little farther. It wasn't as if he had any specific landmarks, or anyone to compete against. Even so, he cared about his time for some reason. If it could be called a challenge, then perhaps he was competing against the Haruka of yesterday. Trying to surpass his own limits and step foot into the new world beyond them…maybe it was something like that.

It's not like the water; there's nothing healing about this at all, he thought. But even though he thought so, while he was running, he sometimes felt as though he was being set free. It was just that on land, he could run so far. Even as he was considering this point, he still felt that there was a large difference between running and swimming. But while he was running like this, he could almost come to feel as though the two things held the same meaning.

While Haruka was thinking vaguely about this, around the time he was approaching the Mutsuki Bridge, another set of footsteps sounded alongside his own.

"Nanase-kun, good morning!"

When someone called out to him, Haruka turned to look, and Hazuki Nagisa fell into step beside him.

"Hey," Haruka mumbled quietly. All he had in common with Nagisa was that they went to the same swim club, and that they both had girly names. Nagisa was one year below Haruka, in fifth grade.

Haruka couldn't imagine why Nagisa was running. Then he started wondering why Nagisa would be running with such a happy look on his face.

"Nanase-kun, you run every day lately, huh?" His sugary voice stuck in Haruka's ears.

"A little." Haruka thought his blunt answer would cut off the conversation. There was no way he could avoid Nagisa completely, but while he was running, Haruka didn't want to think about other things. He didn't want any part of his heart to be swayed by things outside of running. He felt as though something that was supposed to set him free was having the door forcibly shut on it again.

"Me, too…" Because Nagisa was running out of breath, his voice ran out, too. "I was thinking that I'd run too, starting today, but is it okay if I run with you?"

Haruka didn't have a reason to refuse. "Sure, whatever."

"Really? Awesome!"

"But if you can't keep up, I'm not waiting."

"Okay."

Haruka had no intention of carrying on the conversation with Nagisa. He sped up before they reached the bridge. Nagisa's sigh faded behind him, and he returned to his private world.



Rin's nasty premonition was coming true just as he had known that it would. When he lifted his face after he had finished swimming a thousand meters of butterfly, those big, round eyes were peering at him from above. Just as they had every day since the first.

"What?" He already knew what Nagisa wanted, but he ventured the question anyway.

"You can actually swim butterfly, huh?"

"Yeah, I can. So?"

"You're pretty good, huh?"

But not as good as your "grasshopper." "You're going to swim, right? I'll take a look." Rin quickly climbed up onto the poolside. He'd already given up his useless resistance.

"Um, hey, I'm gonna take a a little break from butterfly."

I guess he's gotten bored already. He can't expect to improve at all at this rate. "Well, then, I guess I'm useless, aren't I?"

"No, that's not what I meant! Um, Matsuoka-kun, are you going to swim at the next meet?"

"Yeah, hopefully." Rin spotted Aki. She was standing next to the lane at the far edge of the pool. Was it Haruka who was swimming there?

"What are you swimming?"

"A medley relay." It was Haruka. He slipped through the water with all the grace of a shorebird soaring through the sky. Someone able to swim like that couldn't be anyone but Haruka.

"Is Nanase-kun going to swim with you?"

"They haven't decided yet, but I talked to Nanase and Tachibana about it." Was Aki intending to wait until Haruka was done swimming? Just after Rin wondered that, all of a sudden, Aki left the side of the lane. But even as she was leaving, from time to time, she would look back at Haruka.

"One, two, three. Who's your last person?"

"No one, yet."

Just as Rin lost sight of Aki in the crowd of people, Haruka climbed up onto the poolside.

"Well, then, let me join! I'm fast at breaststroke." Nagisa made his big, round eyes sparkle.

"No way." Rin wondered if Aki was being asked to do too many things. Well, as long as she doesn't feel over-burdened, I guess it's okay…

"Why not?"

"A guy who gives up on practicing butterfly halfway through can't be very fast, can he?"

"You're wrong, I didn't give up, I'm taking a break!"

"Well, why are you taking a break, then?"

"Because I'm going to swim breaststroke in your relay, so I'm practicing that instead."

"What? You're doing this way out of order!"

"Come on, let me join your team!"

"Impossible things are impossible!" Because there was no end in sight, Rin began to walk away, closing the conversation. Nagisa's "Stingy!" bounced off his back as he hurried away from the place.



"What did you write on your brick?" Aki had come over and plunked herself down next to Haruka, who was sitting on a bench after taking a swim.

"Free." It was a blunt answer, giving only the bare minimum of a reply.

"That's like you, Nanase-kun. That could be taken to mean either 'living freely' or 'the common name of freestyle', right?"

It didn't have any such deep meaning. Haruka had told Rin that he only swam free, so he'd written it in a fit of pique. He'd answered because Aki had asked him, but he didn't intend to make his reply pretty and polite for her. More importantly, Haruka wanted to ask if Aki had come over specifically to ask him that, or whether she had some other business with him.

Almost as if she understood what Haruka was feeling, Aki took a small breath and began to speak. "Um, Nanase-kun…" After she spoke, Aki's words trailed off.

Haruka thought that was unlike her. "What?" he asked, trying to prompt her to continue.

At Haruka's prodding, Aki let a small smile show, and her mouth began to move again. "You know, I'm going to swim a medley relay. With Miki and Maki and Yuki, the four of us. It's kinda funny, isn't it? If you just looked at our names, we'd almost seem like sisters." As she said this, Aki gave a small laugh.

Haruka wondered if she'd swallowed the words she had meant to say. Whatever, it doesn't matter, he thought, and gave a vague answer. "Almost, I guess."

Makoto, who had just finished swimming, was climbing up onto the poolside. Just in time for a substitution. Haruka could take over the lane from Makoto, and Makoto could take over being Aki's conversation partner from Haruka. Haruka stood and began to walk over to the starting block.

"Nanase-kun!" Aki had stood up and called out to stop Haruka. He stopped walking, but didn't give any reply. Aki dragged her voice out from the depths of her throat, as if she had come to an important decision. "I think you should swim the relay."

Without changing the direction he was facing, Haruka turned his neck to look over his shoulder at Aki. "Why?"

"Well, because you're the fastest of the sixth-graders, aren't you, Nanase-kun?"

"At fifty meters, Matsuoka's faster." Haruka returned his gaze to the front and began walking again. He walked past Makoto, who was still dripping water, and went straight to the starting blocks and jumped into the pool. Aki's gaze was cut off, and Haruka was once again released from his bonds under the water.



"Hey, Haru. Did you run here again today?" Makoto asked, as they were drying off in the locker room.

Haruka answered almost in a whisper, conscious of Rin getting dressed behind him. "I ran here, but…"

Haruka expected Rin to say something, but what he heard instead was Nagisa's voice. "I started running today, too! Nanase-kun said it was okay if I ran with him."

"What?" Rin spoke up in a jeering voice, taking a long, hard look at Haruka. Rin looked like he was trying to fit this in with his image of Haruka, and was wondering if he'd misjudged him.

"Only if he can keep up with me." Once Haruka had said this, Rin started grinning again. Haruka started to remember his simple irritation.

Makoto delivered the final blow to Haruka's feelings. "Maybe I should run, too." Makoto said it as if he was joking, but Haruka knew that it wasn't a joke. He had wondered if Makoto was going to suggest it ever since Makoto had asked whether Haruka had run here.

Haruka felt unreasonably irritated yet again, because he didn't have a reason to say no. "I'm telling you now, I won't wait."

"That's fine, I'm not that slow."

"No, I mean you leave too late."

"Ah, that's what you meant." A small shadow passed over Makoto's eyes, but in the short time it took Haruka to wonder if he was seeing things, it had disappeared, and Makoto became cheerful again. "It'll be okay, I'll make sure I start leaving earlier from tomorrow on."

So what were you doing up until today? Haruka was about to ask, but Nagisa barreled on ahead.

"Can I run home with you, too?"

Haruka took his bag out of his locker and shut the door. "Only if you get changed fast." As he said this, he started walking quickly out of the locker room.

"Aw, wait up!" Still putting on his other sock, Nagisa snatched his bag out of his locker and chased after Haruka. He looked so funny that Rin and Makoto had to laugh for a while.

When they had finally finished laughing, it felt as though the temperature in the now-quiet changing room had suddenly dropped. Makoto took his bag out of his locker and waved lightly at Rin. "I guess I should head home, too."

"Tachibana."

Makoto, who had been about to step out of the room, stopped. When he looked back, Rin had an unusually serious look on his face. "What is it?"

"About the relay, what do you think?"

"What do I think…? Well, I don't mind being in it, but…" It was troubling for Makoto to be asked what he thought. There was no way he could give any other answer. Without looking any happier, Rin nodded a few times. It seemed like that hadn't been the answer he was looking for.

"Will Nanase swim in the relay?"

Could you please ask him to swim? is what Makoto heard. It looked like the one Rin was worried about was Haruka.

"Even if I asked him, I think it would end up the same way."

"Aw, don't say that!"

"Well, I guess I could try talking to him…"

"I'm counting on you."

Being looked at with eyes that said you're the only one I can count on for this, Makoto felt like he was under a little pressure. "Well, then, see you later."

"Yeah."

Makoto left the changing room and jogged out to the lobby. However, Haruka was nowhere to be seen. What Rin had asked of him wasn't something Makoto had to do right away, but he also didn't want to have to worry about it for too long. That's all it was. He didn't intend to persuade Haruka, either. If Haruka doesn't want to do it, then I don't care, Makoto thought. There's no reason for me to be hung up on the medley relay. Haruka was free to choose to swim whatever he wanted.

Makoto unlocked his bike with an echoing clank. He looked over at the place where Haruka always parked his bike. Today, a different bike was parked there. Without Haruka, the bike rack felt terribly lifeless and cold.

Starting tomorrow, I'll run. In his heart, Makoto whispered his easy words from the locker room once more. Then he climbed onto his bike and began to pedal.

He caught up to Nagisa before the Mutsuki Bridge. Up ahead, Haruka was already running across. "Fight, Nagisa!" Makoto called, and Nagisa looked up at him, his breath coming out in white puffs as he panted. Nagisa would be doing well if he could finish at that pace, but Haruka was leaving him behind. Makoto felt too bad for Nagisa to pass him by, as well. He slowed down to keep pace with Nagisa. "Keep it up, Nagisa!"

Makoto would have another chance to talk to Haruka tomorrow. There was no particular need to hurry. And so Makoto crossed the Mutsuki Bridge, cheering Nagisa on when he stumbled in the wind.



When Makoto got home, he immediately went to get a trowel and began to dig in the corner of the garden. It didn't even take him a minute to finish his work. After that, he opened the front door and turned on the lights.

On top of the shoe shelf, where he had left it, was the goldfish bowl. There were two goldfish floating on the surface of the water. They weren't swimming or moving their gills, they were just floating silently. The surface of their skin was covered in white flecks, and you could tell at a glance that they had been sick.

Every day when he got home from school, Makoto would clean out the fishbowl and put medicine in the water to treat them, but today when he got home, the two fish had been floating.

Makoto put his hand gently into the fishbowl. A lukewarm sensation swirled around his fingertips. As if it was a stagnant pond, he couldn't feel any pulse of life at all. He scooped the lifelessly floating goldfish into his hand. Without so much as flipping a fin, they lay still in Makoto's palm.

He carried the goldfish into the corner of the garden and placed them into the hole he had dug moments ago. He piled soil over them, and with just that, the ceremony was over. They had such small lives, over just like that, he thought, and something deep inside his chest cracked and hurt.

"I bet you wanted to swim some more, didn't you?" Still holding the trowel, Makoto stood up. But even standing, he didn't take his eyes off the patch of dirt. "I'm sorry."

Tossing the trowel aside, Makoto ran back to the entryway and cut the power to the pump. There was only quiet, dark, meaningless water in the bowl now. It's almost like the water that nearly swallowed Haruka that time, he thought, and his hands began to tremble again.

Makoto ran out of his house, hurrying down the front steps and continuing out onto the stone steps that led to the shrine. Haruka's house was close by. Makoto needed to see him right now. Tomorrow is no good. I'm going to see him now. If he didn't go, Makoto felt like he wouldn't be able to stay himself. I want to see Haruka.

"Makoto."

As Makoto was about to start climbing the stone steps into the lowering evening, someone called out to stop him. Makoto's heart pounded hard, and his feet stopped moving.

Haruka's voice… He raised his gaze slowly, as if it was climbing the stone stairs one step at a time. The single torii was illuminated by the setting sun, making the shadows stand out darkly against it. And, standing under that torii was…Haruka.

Was he waiting for me? As soon as he had raised the qustion in his heart, Makoto denied it. No way. He knew it was impossible, but there was still a part of him that thought so. His feet began moving on their own. Toward Haruka…

Makoto began to climb the stone steps, looking at Haruka. He didn't move his gaze. He didn't take his eyes off Haruka. As though he was being pulled along, Makoto climbed all the way up to the single torii, until he was close enough that, if he reached out, he could touch Haruka.

"Haru…have you been here the whole time?"

"Yeah," Haruka mumbled, his face still expressionless.

"Did you know I was going to come out here?" Even though he knew it was impossible, Makoto couldn't stop himself from asking.

"Nope."

"Then, why…" are you standing in a place like this?

"Watching the sunset."

Makoto turned his eyes in the direction that Haruka was gazing. He saw the red setting sun, weaving through the maples and elms from within the thin clouds, about to sink beneath the horizon. Because the sunset was shrouded in clouds, the sun had lost its usual brilliance, and its outline could be clearly seen, about the same size as the moon. Makoto thought it was pretty, but the sight wasn't unusual enough to be that fascinating.

Maybe he was waiting for me, after all. Haruka had said that it wasn't the case, but Makoto wanted to believe it. Believing it made him feel as though the pain that throbbed deep in his chest was calming down.

"Did you need me for something?" Haruka's face was lit by the setting sun, reflecting the red light.

"Yeah, but I guess seeing your face took care of it."

"The heck does that mean?" Haruka showed a flash of teeth as he gave a small smile.

"It's weird, huh?" Makoto raised his upturned eyebrows and laughed. Come to think of it, he felt like it had been a while since he and Haruka had talked, just the two of them. These days, it seemed like wherever they went, Rin was with them, too.

Suddenly, Haruka looked Makoto straight in the eyes. The evening sun glowed in his pupils, and Makoto felt as though he could see straight through Haruka's heart.

"Makoto."

"What is it?"

"Are you afraid of water?"

Makoto's heart pounded. His palms were sweaty. His throat was dry, and his chest felt tight. He felt like there wasn't enough oxygen in the air around him. Makoto tried to pretend that he was calm, but he couldn't force his breathing to stop being ragged.

Makoto looked into Haruka's eyes. He realized that the one whose heart was being seen through was him. That was how it had always been, since they were children. For someone who never talked about himself, Haruka certainly knew everything about Makoto. He made sure he knew everything. And then, he did Makoto the favor of pretending that he didn't know. Makoto's heart was open. There was no meaning in keeping it closed anymore.

Without pestering him or pressing the question, Haruka simply asked quietly, in his usual tone of voice, "This whole time?"

Makoto nodded without speaking. It had nothing to do with whether the water was frightening, or whether he was able to swim or not. No matter how fast he swam, there was something hidden in the water that he couldn't escape from. Even if it looked like it was sleeping, it could wake up at any time and come to attack him. Fear of this hidden thing, fear of the shadows, all of these frightened feelings lived in Makoto's heart.

Haruka asked another short question. "Why?"

Makoto didn't mind being asked by Haruka. Actually, he even felt like he wanted Haruka to know. Maybe he had even been waiting for Haruka to ask him. On the other hand, Makoto felt ashamed of how weak he was. It wasn't that he wanted to hide anything; it was just that he had been keeping this locked away deep in his heart for a long time.

"When we were little, the two of us saw a bunch of people in white clothes walking in lines, right? Do you remember?"

Haruka gave a small nod. The face of the girl who had turned to look at them floated across Makoto's mind, and at that moment, he thought Haruka was remembering it, too.

"Apparently a big fishing boat had sunk. A really big fishing boat, with dozens of people on board. It was only about three kilometers out of the harbor, in the open sea." It had been a few years after seeing the line of people that Makoto had heard what had happened.

Haruka turned his eyes toward the ocean, and Makoto looked at the ocean, too. The wind blew as if it were carrying the setting sun.

"We swim three kilometers safely every day. Why would fishermen drown in a place like that?" The reason they couldn't swim such a short distance must be hiding in the sea. Even if they looked for it, they certainly wouldn't find it. It wasn't something that could be seen with your eyes, anyway. Makoto couldn't think of any other explanation.

"Whenever I get into the pool, I stop being calm. Instead of swimming, I feel like I'm running away from something. Even though I'm not in the ocean, and even when my feet can touch the bottom just fine. …I'm always running from the water."

Haruka was listening without saying anything. The sun was sinking below the horizon, and the edges of the sky were starting to grow dark. Still facing toward the ocean, Makoto lowered his eyes. Then he slowly raised his gaze back to Haruka.

"When you fell in the river, Haru, I was so scared I was shaking. Even when I tried to make it stop, I just kept shaking on the inside. My hands and my legs and all of me was shaking so hard that I couldn't stop it."

Makoto had thought that whatever was hidden in the water had tried to take Haruka away with it. He had thought that Haruka was going to be gone. The idea that this terrible image painted inside his head might become real swooped down on him. All emotions other than fear were blown away from Makoto.

Ever since then, without warning, that fear will return. When he's at home, when he's at school, when he's swimming in the pool… When the fear came, his body would tense and his thoughts would stop cold. It was all he could do to fight against the attack of fear.

"I want to try swimming in the medley relay, and not just because Matsuoka-kun asked me to. So…Haru, let's swim it together. If you're not there, if it's not you, then it's no good. I want to swim with you, Haru!"

Haruka accepted Makoto's forceful words straight-on, without moving or changing expression. His gaze was so calm, he almost looked as though he could count Makoto's breaths and heartbeats.

Haruka's calm gaze cooled Makoto's burnt-out body and soul. Makoto could feel the waves inside his heart quickly dying down. "Sorry, it looks like I said something pretty weird. Don't worry about it too much. It's getting dark, so I'm gonna head home."

The street lamps around the harbor were beginning to glow, and the moon was starting to rise at the edge of the sky. "See you."

Just as Makoto was beginning to climb back down the stone steps after saying this, Haruka's serious mouth opened just a little. "I'll think about it."

"Huh?"

"The relay."

Makoto's upturned eyebrows rose gently. His eyes crinkled, and the smile returned to his mouth. For now, just those words were enough. "Well, then, I'll see you tomorrow, Haru."

"Yeah."

Makoto's heart felt so light that it couldn't even be compared to before. He felt as though he had finally set down the baggage he had been carrying all alone in his heart. He had a feeling that tomorrow and the days after it probably wouldn't be much different from today.

Even though Makoto was afraid of the water, he loved to swim, but when he got into the pool, he started wanting to flee, and so he thought that he wanted Haruka to be there with him, but Haruka was always so curt...

But right now, Makoto wasn't worried about it. For now, it was enough that Haruka knew about that side of him.

Makoto walked with a light step up the sunset stone stairs, following the path to his home.


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


Back to Chapter 2 | Forward to Chapter 4

As always, concrit is welcome, but I refuse to be held responsible for any emotions you may or may not experience as a result of this chapter. That blame should be placed squarely on Ohji Kouji.

Translated from raws downloaded at this post.
kikuko: (Default)

[personal profile] kikuko 2013-08-07 08:09 pm (UTC)(link)
Yay! An Update!

Once again, thank you so much for your hard work with translating all of this. <3

I'm really happy to be able to read another chapter today! And on on top of that, there is even another episode today, which just makes it even more perfect! :D

On the translation itself, I can't really say anything, because I can't speak japanese at all, but what I can say is that it flows very well. For me it is easy to read and that is why I like your translation so much.

Thank you again!
cosipotente: artist: natalie shau (Default)

[personal profile] cosipotente 2013-08-08 11:37 pm (UTC)(link)
I guess you can kind of ignore my comment on the second chapter--I made it without realizing the third one had been posted.

Anyway, awesome work! Thank you for taking the time to translate this for us!
tatsuhisa: (pic#6607807)

[personal profile] tatsuhisa 2013-08-09 08:20 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you so much for translating High Speed uvu ♥ I really prefer to read your translations over anyone else's when it comes to this novel. Keep up the good work!
tatsuhisa: (pic#6608143)

[personal profile] tatsuhisa 2013-08-09 02:47 pm (UTC)(link)
I don't think you are slow at all~ It must take a lot of time translating a chapter XD

[personal profile] soavantgarde 2013-08-10 03:36 am (UTC)(link)
another lovely translation!

oh makoto, absolutely breaking my heart.. this chapter in combination of the latest episode of free, poor baby needs a break! :c this chapter is totally feeding into my makoharu shipping too, sigh. <3

thanks again for doing this :)
cpup: (pic#6626183)

Help Me Please

[personal profile] cpup 2013-08-13 02:21 pm (UTC)(link)
Hi I was Wandering can you please help me find a link or post up pictures of the manga or novel because i really want to see them :D. So can you help me with that?
cpup: (Default)

Thanks

[personal profile] cpup 2013-08-13 11:20 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank You So Much For Such A Fast Responce :D.

[personal profile] chicory 2013-10-21 08:24 am (UTC)(link)
Hi, I started reading your translations a few days ago and I just wanted to say you have done such a lovely job. The text really flows smoothly and naturally :) Thank you for taking the time and effort to do this!

Just a small thing, though. In this part; "The events were all separated by age and sex--", perhaps gender would be better word to use? Mostly because I have a hard time imagining a kid using the word sex--even if that kid is Haruka :)

In any case, keep up the good work! Cheers!

[personal profile] chicory 2013-10-21 03:09 pm (UTC)(link)
I don't like to use the words sex and gender interchangeably in cases like that, because they...aren't synonyms

Ah, I see! :D If you don't mind me asking, what's the difference exactly? I often write (well, fanfictions, mostly) in english but it isn't my first language so I think it's good to learn the different nuances ^^

And I'm sorry for not leaving a comment on each chapter but I got a dreamwidth account today :) But I really do appreciate your work! :) Ha ha, I wish I knew japanese well enough to read it but my eyes kind of just glaze over all the kanjis.

[personal profile] chicory 2013-10-21 04:20 pm (UTC)(link)
Hm, I see. It's fun to learn new things. Thank you for the reply ^^ Such a fast one too! XD

I'm definitely enjoying this! It's fun to get into Haruka's headspace as it sheds his anime counterpart in a new light XD Plus, I really am fond of tiny!Rin so it's fun to read about him.

Thank you!
arashinoookami: Made by LJ user kiokushitakaa (Default)

[personal profile] arashinoookami 2014-02-01 09:21 am (UTC)(link)
Thankyou!