May 10th, 12:30 P.M. (Student Dormitory ・ Manager Room)

And then, the next day…

I collapsed.

 

“It’s the summer flu. You also have anemia from overworking yourself.”

That was the doctor’s clear and simple diagnosis. He had come to our dorm for my check up.

“Be sure to get plenty of rest and nutrition. It’s the only way to cure this. Resting for three or four days in your futon should be enough.”

After giving these instructions, he prescribed some medication for me and left.

Oh man, I really lost face. I prided myself on having a sturdy body, and I hadn’t had to see a doctor in years. The stress from transferring schools, moving to the dorms, and dealing with manuscript deadlines had unexpectedly piled up in a short time. My body couldn’t handle it.

Well, now that it’s come to this, it can’t be helped. I’ll take a break from work and school while I try to recover.

I thought just lying in a futon for days would be boring, but I could only resign myself to my fate. When I started resting, I was grateful my illness hadn’t already turned into pneumonia or something.

 

*

 

…Yeah, that was my mindset; I didn’t take this seriously. However, it was quite different for everyone else.

“Now I’ve done it, eh? For me of all people to make such a blunder.”

Prez, who was usually so cheerful that she irritated me, heaved a long sigh.

“So I can’t even look after ma subordinates’ health. Guess Nikaidou Arashi’s still just a kid. That was a thorough lesson, jeez…”

“It’s not just you, President. I, too, must be held accountable.”

Nasuhara-san said with a rare, meek expression.

“Now that I think of it, Akkii’s looked rather unhealthy lately. Yet I unthinkingly overlooked it because he didn’t say anything, and the changes were trivial.”

“If you’re goin’ that far, then it’s also my fault.”

And then Ginbei chimed in. She looked downcast. Like the others, she didn’t blame me for neglecting my own health:

“I’ve boasted about how long I’ve known Akito, but I didn’t even notice anything. I can’t believe I called myself his close friend…”

“…………”

As for Akiko, she was hanging her head in silence, completely dejected. Maybe because she had been busy lamenting her own worthlessness, she ended up sitting motionlessly at my bedside with a haggard expression. She didn’t let go of my hand.

“Nono. Please wait a second, everyone.”

I smiled wryly while lying on the futon:

“I just caught a cold and am bedridden. Why are you all being so gloomy? C’mon, be noisy as usual. I’d feel more at ease if you said stuff like, ‘You’re an idiot for catching a cold.’ ”

“You might say that, ya see…”

Prez shook her head.

“We can’t help feelin’ responsible, ya know? We pushed everythin’ involvin’ the dorm onto you. Ya could say I’m exagerratin’, but we’re the reason yer sufferin’ through this, ya know?”

“That’s definitely an exaggeration. To begin with, you’re busier than me, Prez. And it’s the same with Nasuhara-san, Ginbei, and Akiko, right? And yet I’m the only one who ended up in this sorry state. It’s obviously my own fault. There’s nothing for you guys to feel guilty about.”

“Before we knew it, we ended up dependin’ on ya, or, put another way, we started givin’ ya more things to do, and then you suddenly ended up doin’ pretty much everything…”

“I didn’t expect things to pile up, that’s for sure. Anyhow, I did say that it was taking a toll on me, but I didn’t think I’d actually collapse. It can’t be helped.”

“Yer voice is already gettin’ hoarse and small.”

“Well, I’ve got a cold and I’m lying down. It’s natural that it’s hard for me to talk.”

“Yer complexion ain’t good either. It ain’t different from someone who’s about to die.”

“Well, I’m suffering from a fever and have a cough. If I looked fine, then I’d probably be pretending to be sick. Or rather, don’t say something so ominous in front of a sick person— like I’m about to die or something!”

“S-Sorry ’bout that. My tongue slipped. Please forgive me.”

“Ah, no. If you’re that apologetic, it starts to worry me.”

I quickly responded to Prez, who had curled herself up. I was hoping to smooth over the awkwardness by talking a lot, but that wasn’t enough to get through to her.

“However, ya…”

Prez raised her head again.

“Wouldn’t it be better to go to the hospital? Ya were completely against it, so we let you go with only a doctor visit, but…”

“I won’t go to a hospital. It’s a simple cold.”

“Don’t’cha say simple when ya collapsed so heavily. The doctor said ya were overworked too, and couldn’t there be complications like pneumonia if yer careless? Legally speaking, we should be tyin’ your hands and feet up and takin’ you to the hospital by force.”

“That’s why I’m saying that you’re exaggerating. I wouldn’t be able to talk to you guys like I am now if it were that bad, right? I can’t think of anything more embarrassing than getting hospitalized for overwork and a cold. To say nothing of what would happen if the Takanomiya Family got wind of this. Obviously nothing good would come out of it.”

“That’s, well, true… Probably.”

“Yeah. For those reasons, please keep this a secret, okay? Please make something up and deceive them while I’m absent.”

“I understand that reasonin’. I swear it by the name of Nikaidou Arashi. But…”

“It’s really because Akito’s scared of doctors, right…?”

Ginbei sighed from the side.

“It’s been like this since the old days, you know? To begin with, he never caught a cold and he didn’t get hurt, so he didn’t have the chance to be hospitalized. He also refused to attend his annual checkups. Why do you hate doctors so much, Akito…”

“Even if you ask me why… I hate what I hate. I can’t help it, you know?”

I shrugged my shoulders, still lying down:

“Doctors tamper with other people’s bodies. They’ll apologize as if they’re sorry when they put stethoscopes on our chests, yet they give us injections and cut us open! It’s too much. Aah, that’s enough. just thinking about it makes me fidgety. Anyways, as long as it’s not a matter of life and death, I want to avoid doctors as much as I can. Humans can be resilient, so there’s no need to suggest things like medication and hospitalization for such trifling matters. Let’s rely more on self-healing, alright?”

“…Well, it’s like that.”

Ginbei shrugged her own shoulders in return:

“This guy is so afraid of doctors it’s pretty much an illness. But still, since spoke up about it, I want to respect his wishes. Of course, if it gets worse, we’re gettin’ him into a hospital even if he’s thrashin’ and flailin’ in resistence.”

Everyone seemed to agree with Ginbei. Although, if it did turn into something nasty, even I wouldn’t be stubborn. I wouldn’t want to die and leave my sister on her own, after all.

By the way, I was lying about why I didn’t want to go to the hospital. The real reason was different: what if they took a blood test or something, and they revealed that my sister and I weren’t blood related?

But practically speaking, I didn’t think they would figure it out. I doubted they’d actually do a full DNA scan. But instinctively, I just hated the idea of it happening.

“In any case, that’s how it is.”

Prez joined in again:

“Now that it’s come to this, let’s do our best to help Himenokouji Akito recover. We’ll have him rest up and push him towards a full recovery! Now, to help him recover—”

“Devoted nursing! There’s nothing else!”

And…

Akiko, who had looked so dazed that I wondered if her soul was slipping out, raised her head resolutely:

“Let’s forget how worthless I was for not noticing Onii-chan’s poor health! I can be as sorry as I want whenever I want! But right now helping him get better is more important!”

She tightly squeezed my hand. I was suddenly seized by uneasiness:

“Please leave it to me, Onii-chan! Please feel that you are in safe hands as you entrust everything to me——”

“I wonder if you could hold on just a moment.”

Nasuhara-san interjected. She had her usual pokerface, but even so, she looked uneasy.

“You speak as if you were solely liable for his current condition, and are, therefore, solely responsible for nursing him. But, as every person here failed to notice Akki’s deteriorating health, and not a single person is innocent of exhausting Akki with errands or chores, you might consider that all of us — not just you — are liable as well.”

“That’s right. I completely agree.”

Ginbei supported her:

“We’re comrades livin’ under the same roof. We’re even kindred souls who are members of the same student council, so we share our lot with each other, so to say. Akito’s health worsened and he collapsed. There’s no way that we could just, for example, comment how lucky we are that it wasn’t anything worse, agree ‘yep, that’s true,’ and then go about our daily lives. Wouldn’t we also take responsibility for nursin’ Akito?”

“No. Your assistance is not required.”

Akiko shook her head resolutely:

“I am Onii-chan’s little sister and his only family in the world. Regardless of how long I’ve been deep in love with Onii-chan, letting this happen to him is unforgivable. I couldn’t face Onii-chan again if I didn’t restore my honor by doing my best to nurse him.”

“Aren’t those personal reasons? We’re not children, so I’d rather we try not to force our own opinions onto others while thinking only of ourselves.”

“It’s as Nasuhara-san said. Akiko-kun, it’s narrow-minded of you to say that you alone feel responsible and that you alone will nurse Akito. To begin with, goin’ by your logic, shouldn’t I, the one who bragged about bein’ Akito’s close friend for six years, feel your guilt manyfold? I even think I’m the one who should nurse him alone.”

“I wonder if you wouldn’t mind waiting for a moment there, Gingin. I’m the one who should be nursing Akkii by myself. If you must know why, it’s because Akkii and I are forming a new comedy duo, and we intend to become legends in the comedy world. It’s common sense that the bonds in such a combi are stronger than those in family or friendship. So in the end, obviously I’m the one who should look after him by myself.”

“I don’t know nothin’ about that, or rather, it’s the first time I ever heard anything like it. Akito going into the comedy world… It’s way past a joke — more like a nightmare. It’s the opposite of ‘the right person at the right place.’ It’s like a marathon runner going for the 100 meter dash in the olympics. As far as I’m concerned, it’d be fine if Akito became my business partner sooner or later and we did business while travelin’ all over the world. He has talent for that.”

“I agree that he has talent, but please don’t go ahead and say things at your own convenience, you two. First of all, more than anything, I wish you wouldn’t forget that this is our family problem. It’s preposterous that we shame ourselves by accepting an outsider’s help. Therefore, I’m the one who should…”

“What utter tyranny. It is I who should—”

“What are you sayin’? No matter how you look at it, I’m the most suitable.”

“Nono, it’s the little sister’s job to——”

“Get’cha selves together, ya guys.”

Prez, astonished at the scene, reined them in:

“We did say that Himenokouji Akito’s recovery has the highest priority, but what are you doing quarrellin’ before the person in question? It ain’t somethin’ you should talk about in front of a sick person tryin’ to rest. Restrain yerselves.”

Her voice was calm, yet forceful. Her tone wasn’t one of anger, but it compelled the other girls to stop arguing. The three of them hung their heads in shame as if they were children being scolded by their teacher.

These three were unsurpassed in their willfulness. As expected of Nikaidou Arashi, her presence was magnificent. She wasn’t the student council president at a prestigious academy just for show.

“…Okay. If that’s the case, let’s do this.”

Prez took control in the now deathly silent room, speaking as brightly as she could.

“Normally, if multiple skilled people volunteer to nurse someone, they can cooperate. But ya guys would just argue over this and that. It’d be better to set a schedule and nurse him in turns.”

“They decide on times and take turns?”

I reacted in place of the three who were still awkwardly silent. Prez nodded with an ‘aye.’

“This way everyone can take care of ya personally. How about during each person’s turn, the others aren’t allowed to meddle with’cha, be it by hand or mouth? At any rate, they keep claimin’ they’re the best at nursin’. This lets ‘em settle that too, meanin’ we kill two birds with one stone.”

“I see, that might just work…”

Although I replied supportively, I didn’t think I needed any nursing for a mere cold from overworking. Well, I doubt I could convince any of them though.

“Well then, ya three can do somethin’ like rock-paper-scissors to decide yer turns. And after Himenokouji Akito regains his health, he can decide who did the best. So no more complaining, aight?”

 

Translator notes and references

None.