Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Part 1 – Honey Milk Encounter
Chapter 2 – Red’s House
They arrived at a house much more splendid than what Sui had imagined. It wouldn’t be strange to call it a castle.
Layers of ivy covered the gated walls surrounding the estate, and the doors of the iron gate had signs of rust here and there. The age of the mansion itself could be felt through traces of cracks and repainted areas.
Past the creaking door, the inside of the house was the complete opposite of its exterior; its condition so pristine that one could mistake it for a new building. The place was impeccable, not a speck of dust or dirt could be seen.
The young man guided Sui past a corridor with wooden flooring to a wide living room that was equipped with a small, convenient kitchen. A soft light spread from the chandelier that was suddenly lit.
I wonder if this is some kind of aristocratic household and if this man is the head of the family?
Sui absentmindedly stared at the figure of the young man throwing pieces of firewood that he had picked up from the garden on the way to the house into the fireplace.
“Don’t just stand there. Sit down.”
He pointed at a luxurious-looking, deep-crimson sofa set across a wooden table that had flora carved on its side. Both the sofa and the table were made for two people.
“… Pardon me.”
Timidly sitting down, Sui sank into the soft, pillowy seat and unintentionally let out a “Wow.”
When he noticed the young man chuckling, Sui felt a little embarrassed. To distract himself from the embarrassment, he looked around the room.
Framed on the wall were vibrant landscape paintings, and the shelves were decorated with items, like small, weirdly-shaped bottles. The room was elegant and well-decorated but also had a warm atmosphere.
The young man, who had expertly lit the fireplace, turned to the kitchen next. After a while, the gentle aroma of milk wafted over.
The young man poured the warm milk into a mug, picked it up with both hands and placed it on the table. He then pushed the mug towards Sui, who was sitting opposite him.
“Is it ok to take this?”
“If it wasn’t ok, I wouldn’t have made it. There’s honey in the milk to help alleviate your fatigue. Drink.”
Gently picking it up with both hands, even though the mug was a bit hot, it provided comfort to Sui’s chilled body. After blowing on the milk, he took a sip. The warm liquid ran down his throat, gradually spreading out as if soaking into his exhausted body.
“Thank you. It’s very warm.”
Sui had meant to honestly express his gratitude and pleasure. His voice, though, came out as expressionless as always, his gratitude sounding like empty words, making Sui lose his confidence.
The young man opened his mouth slightly. Sui thought he would reproach him for his earlier comment, but the young man just shut his mouth without saying a word. Then, after a little while, he said, “I’m glad.”
While still feeling awkward, the heat of the fireplace and the milk had completely warmed Sui’s body. The young man then asked a question.
“Where did you come from?”
“A place called Aoimachi. It’s in an extremely rural area.”
“I’ve heard of it. I’m pretty sure it’s a lot farther north than here.”
“Yes. That’s right.” Sui had never thought that he would find someone in this place who knew of his home town that had neither landmarks nor local specialties.
“What made you come here from such a faraway place?”
Sui placed the map he’d been keeping in his pocket on the table. A star was drawn with a black pen on the top right of the map.
“I wanted to go to the place marked with the star. It seems to be a town called ‘Akebi’ – have you heard of it?”1
“It’s ‘Akebi.’ Written as vermillion sun. But where did you hear about this town from?”2
“From my grandmother in her will.”
“… her will?”
“My grandmother passed away a few days ago.”
“My condolences…” The young man’s face fell slightly with discomfort.
“Please don’t mind it. Well, it’s something she requested of me in her will. She wanted me to deliver a pendant to her friend who lives in that town.”
Sui took a box out of his backpack and opened the lid. Inside, on top of some felt, lay a brass pendant with a flat, heart motif. There was a small, green-colored jewel embedded inside the heart.
“It seems this pendant forms a pair with the one that my grandmother’s friend has in their possession… it doesn’t look familiar to you by any chance, does it?”
“Nope.” He completely rejected that thought as Sui had expected.
All of a sudden, the young man lifted his gaze from the pendant and looked at Sui.
“Which means you came all the way here to look for that friend.”
“Even before stepping into the forest, you’ve come quite a long way, huh?”
Certainly, Sui had changed trains several times and had walked for quite a while to get here.
“In the neighboring town, they say that one shouldn’t enter this forest. They say that if you go into the forest, you’ll never be able to come out again and meet a horrible end.”
“… From the bottom of my heart, thank you for saving me.”
That was a close call. I was really going to die back then. Sui patted his chest, relieved at his good fortune that had led him to this warm room.
“Um, what kind of town is Akebi?”
The young man put a finger on his chin as if thinking about it.
“Was there nothing written about Akebi in the will?”
“If I remember correctly, it said that it was bit of a weird town.”
“A weird town, huh?”
Both laughter and amazement could be heard in that muttered reply.
“Do strange plants grow there? Or strange animals appear?”
“It would have been nice if it were something as cute as that.”
The young man, who had stood up, took the cup from in front of Sui. “Do you want another one?”
Seeing Sui nod, he went into the kitchen.
Following the young man’s back with his eyes, Sui began to think.
What does he mean by ‘it would have been nice if it were something as cute as that’? Is something being concealed in the town of Akebi, which seems to be a slightly strange place?
Even if something was being concealed, Sui only had to fulfill his grandmother’s wish.
Sui’s parents had passed away when he was young and he had always lived together with his grandmother. He was raised and loved by her.
When his grandmother had gotten sick, he had thought that he’d be alone soon. On the other hand, he also believed that she would recover and they would be able to peacefully spend their days together once again. Then, after she had died, Sui had become unable to do anything.
He didn’t go to school. He stopped eating even the little bit of food that he used to. Days would end with him hugging his knees in a pitch-black room and, little by little, he lost track of them. There had been people who were worried about him, but he had driven them all away by saying that he was fine.
One day, after days of shutting himself in, the sound of a bell rang out from somewhere.
At first, he had mistakenly thought that the loud ringing had come from outside. He had gotten annoyed since the ringing wouldn’t stop and had stood up for the first time in a while.
The sound of the bell had been coming from a small box that was placed on a shelf in his grandmother’s room. When he gently opened the lid to see what was inside, the ringing had stopped abruptly.
What came from the box was his grandmother’s last will. There had been two requests written there. Reading it, Sui had left his former town and had come here. He had decided then that he wouldn’t return until he had fulfilled his grandmother’s last wishes.
If he returned now, he’d just waste away his days again without a purpose.
Although he had said that he’d return to Aoimachi after he fulfilled her wishes, that didn’t mean that he’d find a purpose then. But, even so, if he were to go to the town called ‘Akebi’ that he hadn’t seen before, he might be able to find something. Maybe he would be able to meet someone. Maybe that someone would change him.3 It was a fleeting hope without any basis.
Sui had loved his always kind and warm grandmother. If he could repay her love, even just a little bit, by delivering this pendant, he would.
Those thoughts were the only thing he could currently rely on.
In his head that had slowly become foggy, Sui thought – That’s right, I’ve already met someone. A kindhearted, beautiful and slightly mysterious young man who took me to his home and treated me to warm milk.4