Chapter 2: Love Letter
Since long ago, Sonohara Middle School’s hallways were traditionally a mess. Empty boxes of teaching materials were piled high along the wall, mops and buckets that couldn’t be stuffed into lockers lined the hallways, and “Club Recruitment” posters that were never taken down rustled and beckoned whenever someone walked by. Beyond that was the entrance to the nurse’s office, right before the corridor leading to the gym. There was a signboard with the logo “Seishu – Tennouzan” sticking out, so you could tell where it was right away. It was the remnants of a matchmaking pub that the girls basketball club had done during last year’s school festival. A nameplate hung to the side of the door, bearing the words, “Fire Prevention Assistant Supervisor – Shiina Mayumi.”
Akiho shoved open the door and said, “Excuse me.” She ran into the nurse’s office dragging Asaba’s hand as he staggered along, and nearly collided head-on with three male students who were right on the other side of the door.
“Go on, get going. The next class is starting soon, get out of here.” Shiina Mayumi was shoving the three boys’ backs with both hands.
Funatsu, the boy in the center of the three, was in the same class as Asaba last year. He noticed Asaba, and right after he said, “Yo,” opened his eyes wide in surprise. “What’s with your face, dude?”
“Does my face really look that bad still?” Asaba wondered.
After taking one look at Asaba’s face, Shiina Mayumi said, “Oh dear, this one doesn’t look like he’s faking it.”
Funatsu and his friends smiled sheepishly and protested, “Whoa, that’s so mean. We’re sick too, you know.”
But Shiina Mayumi was having none of it, and fired back, “Shut up and get out already, you damn fakers. Idiots.” She kicked the three of them out into the hallway in the blink of an eye, and slammed the door shut with her back. They did pretty much the same thing every passing period, so she was quite used to it.
The majority of Sonohara Middle School students regarded Shiina Mayumi as “an amazing beauty if you look closely.” In addition to never using makeup, she always wore the same white doctor’s coat, so she never stood out. And on top of that, she used extremely vulgar language, and calmly said things like, “ass” and “dick.” About a month before summer vacation began, she came to this school as a substitute for Kurobe-sensei, who had to go on extended medical leave. Male and female students alike all continued to tell her, “If only you’d pretty yourself up a little bit more,” but the actual person herself didn’t care at all. Day after day, she happily shuffled around in her slippers, with her hands stuffed in her white doctor’s coat pockets.
“Um—“ Right when Akiho opened her mouth to speak, Shiina Mayumi suddenly interrupted her in a loud voice, and shouted, “Wait! Let me guess this one.” She furrowed her eyebrows and stared intently at Asaba’s pale face. She carefully deliberated for 15 seconds, nodded like she was 100% confident, pointed at Asaba and bluntly declared, “You’re huffing paint thinner.”
“N-No!” Akiho yelled. She glanced at Asaba from the corner of her eye. “She’s wrong, right?”
“Right.” He decided that he’d explain it himself, and said, “Um, earlier I suddenly felt sick, like I’d throw up or something.”
Akiho suddenly cut in, “It really was all of a sudden, and his face was even paler than it is right now.”
Shiina Mayumi remained calm. She had Asaba sit down on a stool, and sat down on a folding chair across from it. “You’re not looking too good right now, either. Did you have a proper breakfast?”
Asaba nodded. “But I don’t feel nauseous anymore, and I feel much better.”
“It might be better if you sleep a little. I’ll inform your teacher, so what’s your name and class?”
Before Asaba could even open his mouth, Akiho answered, “Asaba Naoyuki, Class 2-4.”
Shiina Mayumi pulled a ballpoint pen from her breast pocket and flipped the pages on the student register, muttering “Asaba from 2-4.” She abruptly furrowed her eyebrows and muttered, “Asaba?” All of a sudden, completely out of the blue, “Noo waayy, Asaba-kun!? You’re Asaba-kun!? Asaba-kun from Class 2-4!?” She shouted in such a loud voice that Asaba and Akiho instinctively bent back.
“Oooooohhhhh~~, I seeee how it is~~,” Shiina Mayumi said, coming to some kind of a conclusion on her own. She leaned forward with such open curiosity that Asaba instinctively shrunk back on his seat. “Oooooohhhhh~~, I see, I see. So yoouuu’re Asaba-kun, huuhh? Hmmmmmm~?” She grinned with delight as she spoke. Suddenly, she stopped grinning and reverted back to being serious, like she had remembered something important. “That means you’re that Asaba-kun, right!? Do you feel sick!? Are you okay!?”
“What the hell’s wrong with this person,” Asaba thought to himself.
All Asaba could do was sit there in utter shock, but Akiho, upon seeing Shiina Mayumi work herself into a panic, suddenly became worried. “U-Um, is there something wrong?”
“Huh? Ah, nonono, it’s nothing, nothing at all. Uhh, right, well, I’ll take care of Asaba so you return to your classroom. Class already started. ‘Kay?” The techniques that Shiina Mayumi refined day after day were very effective. She chased Akiho out of the nurse’s office, pushing her backside with both hands. Akiho looked like she still wanted to say something.
She slammed the door shut and turned around. She had a grim expression; completely opposite of what it was earlier. “Just to make sure, I’m going to ask you one more time. You’re Asaba Naoyuki-kun, Sonohara Middle School, Class 2-4, #1 on the attendance list. Is that correct?”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
Asaba became worried from the intense seriousness of her tone of voice. Shiina Mayumi bit her lip and looked up at the ceiling. She thought about something carefully, and questioned Asaba further. “You suddenly felt ill and nauseated, right?”
Shiina-sensei plopped herself down across from Asaba. She roughly took his pulse, and turned his eyelids over and examined them. She exhaled deeply from her nose, and straightened her back. “Okay then, I’m going to perform a quick examination. I’m going to ask you a few questions, and I’d like for you to answer them. It’s a bit different from a regular inspection, but it’s the same in that the results won’t be correct if you don’t answer truthfully. Understood?”
The first question went, “What month and day is today?”
The question was so abrupt that Asaba was unable to answer. Shiina Mayumi’s stare hastened Asaba’s anxiety. While he was thinking about how unfair it was that he was caught off guard, time marched on one second at a time. “Ah, um, today is, uh, the first day of second semester, so September 1st.” He finally answered after taking ten seconds.
Before he could even take a breath, the next question came flying at him. “Do you have any chronic illnesses?”
“Huh? Ah, no. No I don’t.”
“So you don’t regularly take any medication?”
“Umm, I sometimes take vitamin C. The powder kind. My dad likes those.”
“C, as in ascorbic acid?”
“Aahh, um, I’m not too sure.”
“What’s 17 + 26?”
He was caught off guard again, so it took him 20 seconds this time. “Thir- no wait, forty. 43? U-um, can we maybe start all over from the beginni—“
“Do you have any allergies?”
“Huh? No, none, I think.”
“State the school principal’s name.”
“Murayama Kanji.” He was somehow able to answer instantly this time.
Before he even had time to feel good about himself, “When you became ill, didn’t you suffer from severe dizziness?”
“Did your face, arms and legs get the chills?”
“They did. I feel fine now, though.”
“What day was June 24th?”