Sick people find a certain relief in company, and for that reason, I consider it a form of nursing. Without it, they are drowned in loneliness and isolation, which eats into their hearts and drains the most important thing they need to heal: their will to recover. This claim is self-evident and uncontradicted by experience, as it requires neither verification nor explanation.
I didn’t think my close friend, who excelled at dynamic methods, could use this passive approach.
“Now then, Akito. You can rest easy now that I’m here.”
It was Ginbei’s turn, and she had switched with Nasuhara-san. Ginbei’s confident demeanor was that of a veteran benchwarmer who finally had her once in a lifetime chance to play.
“Rest assured and leave everything to me. I, Sawatari Ginbei Haruomi, know everything there is to know about this. I’ll remove those demons inside you.”
“Ah, yeah, thanks… Or wait…”
Smiling bitterly, I eyed the backpack she had brought in. It was made for mountain climbing, and it was gigantic. It looked like she was about to climb Mt. Everest; her backpack was so overpacked that stuff was spilling out. It seemed she intended to nurse me with it.
“Isn’t that a bit… too much?”
“I had to wait three hours for my turn, right? So I went to a couple places for preparations.”
“No, I’m grateful, but… Doing all of that just to nurse a mere cold… you know?”
“The cold is a precursor for all kinds of diseases, and it’s dreadful on its own too. With all due respect, this thing you call a ‘mere cold’ has taken countless lives since the ancient times. It has a high outbreak rate, and it’s harder to eradicate than any incurable disease or plague by far. It would unforgivable if I took this ‘mere cold’ lightly and you had an unlikely complication because of it. It would be a permanent grave stain on me.”
Somebody’s definitely exaggerating here, but in the end, she’s just a close friend who’s worried about me. It’d be stupid to Tsukkomi her.
Setting aside cookware like saucepans and kitchen knives, I could swear I glimpsed gohei and ofuda In the opening on her backpack. What the heck?
“In ancient times, entreating a god was a legitimate form of nursing.”
Ginbei, who probably had noticed my gaze, looked triumphant.
“No matter how far they advance in modern science and medical technology, they’ll never completely understand the complicated and mysterious human heart. And that’s where spiritual treatments like shamanism come into play. These charms have been handed down in the Sawatari Family for generations. They’ll bolster your willpower, makin’ them helpful enough.”
“I’m grateful that you brought them, but, how should I put it… Quite frankly, I don’t think stuff like praying to gods is that effective.”
“It’s fine. These Sawatari charms will work nontheless.”
Ginbei was brimming with confidence. Well, if she was that confident, I can probably believe her — or so she’d want me to think. However, I was a staunch atheist.
“Well, be at ease. There are multiple charms. Didn’t I tell you? I, Sawatari Ginbei Haruomi, am aware of every method known to man. At least this time I’ll — no, not just this time, I’ll always do everythin’ I can to keep you healthy.”
“Is that so? Okay. If you’re going that far, then it’s definitely trustworthy. And the bulge in that backpack is evidence of that, right?”
“That’s right. Now then, shall we start?”
With that authoritative declaration, Ginbei rolled up her sleeves. Looking at how she was psyching herself up, you’d have thought she was preparing for a life or death surgery. It was pretty exaggerated.
With that, she started taking care of me. That style was just like her.
“Regardless of the time and place, in war, maintaining the supply lines is the basics of basics. It’s a crucial factor in determining whether you win or lose. Even kids get that you can’t fight on an empty stomach. Naturally, it’s the same with colds.”
…Ginbei was putting a lot of emphasis on that. I see, so that backpack is mostly filled with cooking utensils.
“That’s it, right? This comes first after all.”
She said, handing me the first dish: rice porridge. It seemed to be Shinsengayu, which was common in Hong Kong. It can instantly cure any cold, or so they say.
But putting aside whether or not that was true, this porridge was a masterpiece. It was tender, with a chicken bone base generously seasoned with spring onions and ginger. I could feel the flavor spreading through my body. I wouldn’t have minded eating this every day even if I wasn’t sick.
“I’m glad you like it. Next, how about this?”
Next up was the standard egg sake. It was just Japanese sake with added eggs and sugar stirred over a low flame. With only familiar ingredients, it was a simple recipe —— and yet, I’d never tasted anything like it.
Since each ingredient didn’t taste good on its own, I was nervous at first. But, to my surprise, it was really good.
As for the taste, I wouldn’t have been surprised if there was a cocktail with the same flavor. Also, if she had added milk and vanilla extract, I could have seen someone confusing this with pudding.
“It’s good, right? I specifically choose sake that was well suited for heating. I was picky about the eggs and sugar too, of course.”
Ginbei said, puffing up her chest with pride.
Although, I was a minor, and I didn’t really drink, so she didn’t need to fuss over it. She was being considerate, I guess. It was a problem that colds dull one’s sense of taste, so I was grateful for her effort.
After that, I had various other food from Ginbei’s backpack:
Boiled German camilla.
Kumquat boiled with sugar.
Besides that, she also fed me a diverse selection of food that were reputed to have some medical effect.
Without a doubt, she had mobilized for an all out war. It was a large full course meal, and I wondered how she managed to make something of this size. Her course had excellent nutritional value; it was leaps and bounds ahead of that of regular meals. As expected from Ginbei, whose specialty was cooking.
“Phew… My stomach’s really full.”
“My, you’re done already? I still have much up my sleeve though.”
“If I eat any more, my body will break, and it won’t be the cold’s fault, you know… But thank you, Ginbei. These remedies aren’t supposed to taste good, but everything I had was incredible. As expected of you, huh?”
“Fufu, Glad to hear that. Well then, shall we move on to stage two?”
“You thought I was done? Nutrition and medicine are just the beginning.”
Ginbei said and closed one eye. Then she started stage two.
She smashed a dried plum and put it on my forehead. Then she had me smell baked medicinal plant oil.
It looked like a display stand for folk remedies of unknown origins and uncertain effectiveness. She also used the charm-like ofuda and gohei I had seen earlier, and I thought that this was turning into a world expo on alternative cold treatments.
“This is amazing, huh? You’re well prepared for pretty much anything.”
“I used my knowledge and my connections. I didn’t have much time, but I wanted to give you the best I could offer.”
“Aren’t you still overdoing it though? Pulling out all the stops seems a bit uncalled for.”
“That doesn’t matter. With my family, unless they’re unproductive, we pilin’ things up one by one.”
“Even so… I feel like I’m a lab rate here.”
“Isn’t that what it means to be a patient? Being overmedicated and subjected to drastic procedures…”
“That’s too unrestrained, you know…”
Although, normally you wouldn’t be so thorough in taking care of someone with a cold. And besides, I had only overworked myself. Efficacy aside, she was being really kind to me.
“Hm? What is it?”
“Thank you. I’m really happy. It must have been a huge hassle to prepare all of this in three hours, right? You must have been frantically running all over the place. I owe you one.”
“Yeah. That’s great.”
My close friend smiled satisfied, but…
“…Ah— By the way, Akito…”
“How are you doing? Do you feel better?”
“Of course I feel better, Or that’s what I’d like to say, but I collapsed recently, and you only just started nursing me. It still needs some time, you know?”
“Yeah, guess so. That’s true…”
Ginbei was nodding slowly. It was as if she were flustered.
…What now? She looks a bit strange?
Ginbei coughed to clear her throat.
“As you might know, my family’s lineage consists of merchants.”
“Yeah. That’s right.”
“To merchants, personal connections are dear. No matter how large the sum, no matter how priceless the item, in the end, personal connections are what are most valuable.”
“Yeah. That’s true.”
“But it’s annoying. Personal connections are harder to manage than money or merchandise. I guess that’s unsurprising since they’re more important, but managing personal connections carries substantial risks of its own. For example, I owe quite a few favors for the treatments I collected today. I can’t deny that those debts don’t have value of their own — this is one more thing that makes this topic so fascinating — however,”
“…Eeehm, Ginbei. I’m terribly sorry, but could we postpone your business lecture until after I’m on my feet again? You’ve gone out of your way to take care of me, and I was wondering if it wouldn’t be better for me to rest now.”
“Ah, s-sorry! I of all people…”
Ginbei shrugged her shoulders and coughed several times. She was ashamed.
Yep. Something’s strange after all.
She was calm and self-possessed by default, but eyes were wandering. It seemed like the excitement caused her slip of tongue.
She’s tense? Is that it? That would be rather unusual — I’ve never seen her so tense. Maybe she’s trying to say something important, and that’s what made her so stiff?
“Eeehm, I’ll be as brief as I can. In other words, Akito.”
“I’ve tried using many methods to cure you, but there’s still one thing I haven’t tried.”
“Ah, is that so?”
“Yeah. This treatment has been passed down the Sawatari Family for generations. It’s magnificent. It not only treats colds, but it’s effective against all illnesses too.”
“All illnesses? Is it really so amazing?”
“Yeah, there is. In truth, I had initial doubts too, but on researchin’ it I definitively verified its effectiveness. By the way, I asked people who were familiar with our relationship…”
Ginbei explained, flustered. So it’s that?
I knew it was a bad idea to tsukkomi here, but I dare say her explanation wasn’t exactly short. She had already given me plenty of care, and, in my opinion, I just needed a good rest.
So, to make the most of her kindness too, it’d probably be better to decline her offer.
“You know, Ginbei.”
“Hm? What is it?”
“I’m really grateful, but how about you hold off on the secret treatment that was passed down in your family for generations? There will be another chance one day.”
“You id— what are you sayin’?!”
Ginbei’s eyes grew big, and she seemed to be getting impatient.
“The treatment until now was, using culinary terms, the hors d’oeuvre! What kind of guest would dare stand up and leave before the main course?!”
“That might be true, but your full course already has me full with just the hors d’oeuvre…”
“That won’t do, Akito. If we stop the treatment now, all the hardship I went through to make that preten—— I mean, my meticulous preparations would be for nothing. It’d be as sad as makin’ curry without using potatoes.”
“I don’t put potatoes in my curry to begin with…”
“Your preferences don’t matter in this case. Anyways, if I let this chance slip, when would be the next—— I mean, anyway, there’s a time for everything. Stop being selfish and obey.”
“You’re being strangely stubborn, aren’t you… Well, fine, I got it. So, do what you need to do, quickly. So, what exactly did you have in mind?”
She cleared her throat who knows how many times.
“Well, in short, you see…”
“Eeehm, that’s, to put it simply…”
“Namely, what I’m tryin’ to say is, for a close friend no kind of support would be unreasonable, and this time I can’t just spout empty words. I need to take action. So——”
“…Aren’t you prolonging this too much?”
“Ugu— In other words!”
Her cheeks were reddening. She firmly shut her eyes, and said with her face slightly askew:
“I’m saying that to cure your cold, I’ll sleep with you!”
This time it was my turn to have my eyes pop out.
“Eh, sleeping together, eh? With you?”
“Ah… eeehm, just to confirm. By sleeping together, you mean that, right? You come into my futon, and we sleep together. Just that, right?”
“Yeah, that’s it, exactly as you said! First and foremost, sleepin’ together will preserve your body temperature — even more than that, more than anything, this way you won’t feel insecure at all while you’re recovering. If we can ease your anxiousness even a little, we absolutely have to do it! That’s what I’ve heard!”
Oioioi—— My cold sweat is drawing a map of rivers on my shirt.
“No. Please wait a second, Ginbei. You’re way overdoing it, you know?”
“Nothing would be overdoing it here. I’ll do anything to help cure your cold. It’s my obligation.”
“Nonono. Please try to inject some common sense here, common sense. Right, why don’t we calm down first? Let’s chill off.”
“My bad, but I am perfectly calm.”
Ginbei declared, looking me resolutely in the eyes.
There was no trace of her panic from earlier. She was dead set on her task. On her eyes were engraved a steely resolution, that of kamikaze unit on the eve of the sally.
So it had come to this, huh? It didn’t seem like she would yield. I gulped. At this point, I didn’t think I could talk her out of it.
“Alright, got it. Let’s do it, Ginbei.”
“Of course. You directly proposed it, so I should accept it gratefully. In for a penny, in for a pound—— that’s not the best way to put it, but you’ve taken care of me, and sleeping together is the main dish, right? I accept the full course with pleasure.”
“Th— Uh. T-That so? Yeah, that’s right, huh?”
“Well now, now that that’s decided, come here already. Ah, take care not to catch my cold, okay? After we’re done, wash your hands, rinse your mouth, eat a nutritious meal, and rest. I can’t accept your kindness if you don’t do that.”
“…It feels like we’ve switched positions, huh?”
Ginbei puffed her cheeks in dissatisfaction.
“It’s like the old days, but… when you get serious, you don’t waver, and you’re suddenly energetic and resolute. Like the time you got your sister back. Maybe you’re just bold”
“Well, maybe. I’m usually relatively shilly-shally, but when it counts… right? More importantly, Ginbei, hurry up and sleep with me.”
“…We’re really gonna do it?”
“Why are you even asking? You’re the one who brought it up.”
“That’s true, but when you push that hard, it’s like you’re pullin’ me in the other direction… You get it, right?”
“I understand, but it’s a little too late to be saying that, right?”
“Well, it might be too late now, but maybe we should stop after all? I’d be okay with it either way, no problem at all. It’s not like it was my choice to begin with. It’s up to you.”
Ginbei moaned strongly, even blushing up to her ears. I was merciless.
Not like she said it herself, but with this development Ginbei couldn’t take the offensive anymore. And I intended to stick to the offensive until the bitter end..
“…Understood. I will.”
She said after a not-so-short hesitation. It sounded like she just barely squeezed out the words.
“That so? Alright, then hurry up.”
“Y-Yeah. Well then, Akito, please close your eyes. I also want you to turn your back towards me and lie down.”
“Close my eyes and lie down? Why?”
“B-Because it’s obviously embarrassing, you idiot!”
“Oh, that so? Sorry, sorry.”
After being shouted at, I did as I was told.
But I wasn’t flustered, I held a leisurely pace the whole time.
I don’t mean to praise myself, but it was easy for me to keep my composure at times like this.
“How’s that? How about this?”
“Y-Yeah. It’s enough.”
“It’s up to you from here on out. I’ll be in your care, alright?”
With that, Ginbei’s tone changed:
“That’s not for you to say, but this is in for a penny, in for a pound. You’ve come this far, and backing down would tarnish the Sawatari Family’s dignity. Alright, got it. I’ll do it. I’ll totally do it.”
*pachi*pachi*, a dry sound echoed.
She had probably clapped her cheeks to motivate herself.
“Alright, here I come.”
There was no going back now.
There were signs of someone stepping closer.
I felt the futon being opened.
And a small figure invaded it.
“Alright. We’re sleeping together.”
“Yeah. That’s right.”
“Then let’s stay like this for a while. I may be inexperienced, but please take care of me.”
“Yeah. Got it.”
Then the curtain of silence descended.
This was pretty, no, considerably, no, very problematic.
We had known each other for a long time, and we had become close friends. When we first met, I had thought she was a boy, so I didn’t feel any mental pressure —— I was taking her too lightly. I’ve totally miscalculated.
I felt terribly tense. My heart was pounding.
I felt her clinging tightly onto my back, and even though she was slender, Ginbei felt really soft. Her small hand came and grabbed the back of my pyjamas. It was shaking, and I felt an intense instinctive urge to protect her. With the scent of her shampoo and soap, it was impossible to ignore that someone else was besides me.
Ginbei. Is. A. Girl.
When I thought about it, I felt that she had become increasingly girly since she transferred schools. Maybe being surrounded by the student council beauties had changed her? I didn’t sense anything at all when we were in Kyoto, but lately she’s suddenly… like that. Even though she’s small enough to be mistaken for a grade schooler, she’s developed in the right erotic places… and going deeper in, growth rate aside, she has outstanding ‘raw materials’… Nono, this line of thought is unnecessary, yeah.
“Doesn’t this bring back the past, Ginbei?”
To hide my thoughts, I tried to speak as normally as I could:
“Didn’t we do this around the time we first met?”
“…What are you talkin’ about?”
“C’mon, we slept like this before, didn’t we? It was a different position.”
“…You mean that? Yeah, of course I remember.”
Ginbei was awfully quiet, and it was hard to hear her. Maybe my back had muffled her voice, but… that probably wasn’t the only reason.
“You looked calm like you are now… it was as annoyin’ as it could possible be.”
“Nono, I didn’t feel calm at all, not even a tiny bit. I faked it. I was younger back then.”
“Hmph, really? I might not look like it, but I’m confident that no one can beat my eye for people. You’ve always been like that, standin’ there by yourself and grinnin’ as you looked down at my struggles. All composed, like a gentleman strokin’ his kitten while he sips his brandy… I can’t take it anymore. Like back then, I gathered all my courage, but…”
“Hm? Courage what? I didn’t quite catch that.”
“Shut up. It’s fine if you didn’t.”
Ginbei said, tightly compressing lips shut.
“Hey, wait a sec, Ginbei.”
“Let’s talk about something. It will be awkward if we’re silent and still like statues, you know? And we won’t have anything to do…”
“…C-Could you stop talking already?”
She finally replied, her tone helpless and her voice thin.
“Couldn’t you have just noticed that I was dealing with a who knows how embarrassin’ situation right now? Even if it was my idea, things are movin’ too fast. I didn’t expect to be driven into a corner… Just feeling how warm you back is, I’m… Uuuh…”
“Shut up, be quiet. No more. If you say anything else, you’re as good as dead. Something’s going to happen to me if I notice your, er, ‘presence’ any more. Don’t open your mouth. Got it?”
“Yeah, right. Well… fine, I guess?”
“Yeah, yeah, that’s right! You’re sick to begin with. Your job is to rest up, and I’m helpin’ you with that. If we kept on chatting away like this, we’ll get our priorities mixed up. Alright, quiet down. Don’t say a word, no matter what. I’ll do the same.”
Then Genbei was silent, true to her word.
It was inevitable.
I got what I wanted.
The excitement had been getting to me since earlier, and frankly, I didn’t think I could easily fall asleep right now. But Ginbei had gone to great lengths to care for me, so I should just be grateful and do my best to get better, even if just a second faster. Yeah.
Translator notes and references