Участник:Hellerick/Билингвы/Судзумия Харухи 7-1 (ja-en)

Материал из LingvoWiki

Перейти к: навигация, поиск
См. также перевод с англиского на русский
第一章 Chapter 1
* * * * * *
節分から数日を経たその日の夕方だ。 It all happened a few days after Risshun.
放課後、部室の扉を開いた俺を待っていたのは冷え切った空気と無人の室内だけだった。朝比奈さんの出迎えもなければ、テーブルの片隅に長門のこぢんまりした姿もなく、ハルヒも当分来そうにない。今日はあいつが進路指導を受ける番になっていて今頃職員室で担任岡部を困らせるような進路を希望していることだろう。お前は将来何になりたいのかと聞かれて「支配者」とか「宇宙大統領」とか不真面目なことを真顔で言っている気がする。まかり間違ってそんなもんになってもらっては困るので岡部|教諭にはこんこんと諭すやり方でハルヒにまともな人生設計を促す努力を期待したい。頭ごなしに言い聞かせたりしたら意地でも曲がらなくなるクロム族元素のような性格をあいつは持っているからな。 After school, I opened the door to the club room and embraced the coldness and emptiness that had awaited me. Not only was Asahina-san’s warm greeting absent, even Nagato’s chair was empty. Haruhi hadn’t returned yet, as it was her turn today to receive advice on her further studies. She would probably be in the staff room right now, making some unreasonable “career” plans with the homeroom teacher Okabe-sensei. If someone asked her what she would like to be after she grows up, she would probably put on a stern face and reply “Dictator”, “Supreme Ruler of the Universe” or something of the sort.
If by any chance you do turn out to become one of the above, I would be very depressed.
Anyway, I’m sure Okabe-sensei would try his best to talk her out of it, advising her to do some serious planning about her future, while carefully mincing his words. If one tried to advise her blindly, she would probably react the same way that chromium does with oxygen. It takes careful manipulation of words to persuade her out of something – that's her specialty.
俺は鞄をテーブルに置くと、誰もいないせいもあって寒々しい部室に温もりを与えるべく電気ストーブのスイッチを入れた。旧式電気ストーブは熱を発散させるまで相当のタイムラグを要する。 I placed my bag on the desk and proceeded to turn the heater on. This should be able to provide some warmth to the freezing club room, which felt even colder due to the lack of the normally present brigade members. However, it would still be some time before the heat gradually builds up. Remember, we’re talking about an old heater here.
他に暖を取れそうなものは朝比奈さんが沸かすヤカンの湯気と、彼女の淹れてくれるホットティーくらいものだ。早く飲みたいものだと待ちわびながら俺が近くのパイプ椅子を引き寄せたとき、 Besides the heater, the only other artifact that's able to generate heat would be Asahina-san’s tea kettle. I really want to drink her tea! The mere thought of this made me anxious, as I impatiently pulled my chair closer. This is when ---
がたん----。 Clang.
「何だ?」 “What the?”
部屋の隅からだ。俺が反射的にそちらを見ると、たいていどこのクラスにもあるスチール製の長方形、すなわち掃除用具入れが鎮座している。自分の耳を信じる限り、音源はその中だ。 The sound seemed to come from the corner of the room. I instinctively shot my glance at that direction, and looked at a tall rectangular object made out of metal, used to store cleaning utensils.
Although every class had one, how Haruhi had managed to nick one for the club room was a complete mystery.
The sound came from this broom closet.
何かの拍子にホウキだかモップがずれたんだろうと思っていると、 It must have been a broom or a mop falling over, I thought to myself. Just then ---
カタ----。 Thunk.
今度は控えめな音がして、俺は一人|眩いた。 This time, it was softer.
「よせよな」 “This is starting to get creepy,” I said to myself.
こんなことを感じた記憶はないか? 家族が出かけて誰もいない自宅に帰ったとき、自分一人しかいないはずなのに、どうも人の気配がしてならない。何となくカーテンの後ろがゆらゆら揺れているような、誰かが潜んでいるような、確認したくても本当に誰かがいたら恐ろしいので放っておいていたりして、たいていの場合はまさしく気のせいで終わる。 Have you ever experienced something like this? Let’s say everyone happens to go out, leaving you alone in the house. Theoretically, you should be all alone by yourself, but there's still this eerie feeling that you aren’t alone, as if someone is hiding outside the windows. Although you have the urge to find out for yourself, the thought of someone really being there is just too scary, so you would probably try to ignore the entire situation. This is mainly caused by psychological factors.
今回もそうだろうと俺は踏んだ。これが部室ではなく留守役を仰せつかった自分の家ならビクッとしたままだったかもしれないが、ここは学校でまだ陽も落ちていない。何をビクビクすることがあろうか。 This is probably one of those scenarios, I thought to myself. Now if this had happened in my own house instead of the club room, I would have probably been too freaked out to investigate. But seeing that this is the school, and the sun still hadn’t set yet, there's really nothing to fear.
俺は何の気なしに掃除用具入れに近寄り、大した期待もなく扉を開け、たちどころに絶句した。 I walked towards the broom closet and opened the door, not expecting to see anything strange. What I saw had my eyes bulging out from their sockets.
「…………え?」 “...Eh?”
掃除用具入れにホウキとモップとチリトリ以外のものが入っていたからである。あまりの意外性に、思いが口をついて疑問文となった。 Because there was something else other than brooms and mops, something totally unexpected. It was so bizarre, in fact, that what I had wanted to say in the first place abruptly turned into a series of questions.
「……何をやってんですか? そんなところで」 “...What are you doing in here?”
当然の疑問を口にした俺を見たその人は、 This question was to be expected in the first place. The person looked at me and said,
「あ……キョンくん」 “Ah... K-Kyon-kun.”
朝比奈さんだった。彼女はなぜか安堵の表情を浮かべ、 It was Asahina-san. For some reason, a relieved expression crossed her face, as she said, “You’ve been waiting all this time, haven’t you? That’s good. I was originally thinking about what I should do, but it’s good to see you here. Well, eh... What should I do?”
「待っていてくれたんですね。よかったあ。どうしようと思ってたんですけど、これで安心しました。ええと、それで、その、……あたしはどうすればいいの?」
「へ?」 “Huh?”
「え?」 “Eh?”
彼女はパチクリと目を開いて俺を見上げ、 Asahina-san blinked and looked at me. “Well... This isn’t such a bad time now, is it? We’ve definitely met here before....."
「あのぅ……。今日のこの時間でよかったんですよね? 確かにここで合ってたと……」
清掃道具と仲よくスチール箱に入っているそのお方、自信なさげに俺を見上げる小柄なセーラー服姿を見つめるうちに、俺のイヤな予感が高度成長期の工場地帯から出る煙突の煙のようにわき上がった。 I looked at her with disbelief, as she stood together with the brooms, mops, and other cleaning utensils in the closet. As I looked at her petite figure clad in a sailor uniform, warning signs were going off in my brain, like smoke pouring out from a factory chimney during the rapid economy growth period.
「朝比奈さん……?」 “Asahina-san...?”
どうしたことだ、掃除用具入れの中で隠れんぼか? まさか。そんなはずはない。 What was the meaning of this? Were you planning on playing hide and seek inside the closet? No, no, that's not possible.
胸中に立ち上る煙が煤煙になりかけた、その時、 The smoke had already begun to make a black haze. Suddenly...
こんこん----。 BANG! Asahina-san and I both jumped, before realizing that it was in fact someone knocking on the door. Just as I was about to answer...
部室のドアがノックされ、俺と朝比奈さんは同時にビクリとしてそっちを向いた。俺が返答しようと口を開きかけた時、
「あっ、えっ?……あ、だめ……!」 “Eh? Eh! No, you can't...”
ネクタイが引っ張られた。思わず前のめりになった俺を、朝比奈さんはさらに抱き寄せるようにして掃除用具入れに引きずり込み、手を伸ばしてスチールの扉をパタンと閉じた。 I felt my neck tie being pulled, as my whole body was jerked forward. Asahina-san forcefully pulled me into the broom closet with her, before closing the closet door softly.
うわ、何だこれは。どういうことなんだ。 Man, what does this mean? Can someone please explain to me what in the world is going on?
「しーっ、キョンくん、黙って。何も言わないで」 “Shh, Kyon-kun, be quiet. Don’t make a sound.”
朝比奈さんが口に人差し指を当てたのを、覗き窓からの細い明かりが辛うじて照らす。そう言われなくとも俺は何も言えなかっただろう。考えてもみて欲しい。 By the light that shone through the small opening in the closet doors, I saw Asahina-san put her index finger to her lips.
Even if she hadn’t said anything I wouldn’t have said anything. It was not like I had anything to say at the moment anyway.
掃除用具入れは普通にいって人間が入るようにできていない。一人でも充分定員オーバーなのに二人も入っているわけで、誰かというと俺と朝比奈さんだ。そして朝比奈さんはハルヒが目をつけるだけのことはあるグラマーな曲線美の持ち主である。当然の流れとして俺と朝比奈さんは密着せざるをえず、事実、密着している。制服|越しでも解るやたら温かくて柔らかいものが俺の胸の下あたりに押しつけられているのだ。 Under normal circumstances, it would be impossible to enter the broom closet. It would take the greatest effort for one person to squeeze in, never mind two. Haruhi had first abducted Asahina-san to be the official mascot because of her great figure. Needless to say, the both of us were meant to be together. And I mean that quite literally, as in the both of us pressed tightly against each other in a small broom closet. Even though there were uniforms in the way, I could still feel something warm and soft press against my chest.
俺が忘我の心地でいると、部室のドアが開く音がして誰か入ってきた。が、なんとなくどうでもよかった。暖房器具のない冬の山小屋で暖め合っているがごとく、朝比奈さんが俺にくっついて息を殺しているのである。何だか解らないが抱きついてくれてもいる。こんな幸せなことがこの世のどこにあるだろう。 As I was lost in a world of my own, I suddenly heard the sound of a door being opened. It seemed that someone had come in, but I really couldn’t give a damn right now. Just like two people trying to keep each other warm with their body heat in the middle of a cottage without any heating facilities during winter, Asahina-san clung tightly to me, while breathing heavily. I had no idea why she was clinging tightly to me, but who cares. A chance like this only comes once in a blue moon.
イヤな予感なんぞクソ食らえだ。煤煙はいまや澄み切ったオゾンとなって俺を爽やかな癒しの夢心地に誘い……、いやもう言葉はいらん。永久に続いて欲しい時間だった。 Warning signs my ass. The black haze had suddenly turned into blissful ozone, taking me into the very depths of wonderland itself...
Oh well, I suppose there isn’t any need to continue talking to myself. All I want is for time to freeze at this moment. Nothing else.
しかしそんな俺の陶酔も、部室に来たその人の声によって中座を余儀なくされた。 However, my fantasies were quickly put to a stop when I heard the person who had entered the room open her mouth to speak.
「あれ? 誰もいない……。ストーブはついてるのに。あ、これ、キョンくんの鞄だ。トイレかな」 “Eh? There’s no one here... But the heater is on... Ah? Isn’t this Kyon-kun’s bag? Did he go to the toilet?”
俺はいまだネクタイを握っている朝比奈さんを見下ろした。朝比奈さんも俺を見上げた。 I looked at Asahina-san, who had grabbed onto my neck tie. Asahina-san also looked at me, as if returning my gaze.
次に俺は首をねじって背後を見ようとした。掃除用具入れの細いスリットが唯一の光源であり窓でもあった。人間の首は半回転するようになっていないが、それでも目の端に外の風景がかすめて見える。 Then, I slowly turned my head behind and looked at the narrow opening that was the only source of light. Even though my neck was unable to rotate 180 degrees, I could still see what was happening outside through the corner of my eye.
「…………!」と俺は声に出さずに驚きを表現した. “...!” I remained silent, too shocked to respond.
そこにも朝比奈さんがいた[#「そこにも朝比奈さんがいた」に傍点]。 Standing outside was another Asahina-san.
ストーブに向かって手をかざしていたその朝比奈さんは、うふふんと鼻歌を歌いながら移動して俺の視界から消え、ハンガーにかかったメイド服を持って再登場し、それからセーラー服のリボンをしゅるりと外してパイプ椅子の背もたれに引っかけ、さらにセーラーのファスナーを全開にすると、ごそごそと脱ぎ始めた。 The Asahina-san outside first warmed her hands by the heater, humming to herself, then soon walked away from my line of sight. By the time she reappeared, a maid’s outfit was in her hand. She then proceeded to take off the red sailor ribbon by her collar and place it on a chair. After that, she unhooked her sailor uniform, and began undressing.
「…………!」と俺は三点リーダーを連続させる。 “...!” Those three ellipses appeared above my head.
その朝比奈さんは脱いだ制服の上も椅子に置いて、今度はスカートの腰に手を当てたあたりで、俺の顔にも手が当たった。 Asahina-san placed her sailor blouse on the same chair, as her hands reached down to her waist. This time, my head was covered by someone’s palm.
「…………!」 “...!”
こっちの朝比奈さんが両手で俺の顔を挟んで、強引に前を向かせた。暗がりの中にあっても解るほど、この朝比奈さんは顔を紅潮させている。その| 唇 が動いた。 The Asahina-san in the closet with me covered my eyes with her hands, before forcefully rotating my neck back to its original position. Even though it was dark, I could guess that Asahina-san’s face would be beet red. Her lips twitched as she mouthed the words:
み・な・い・で。 “Don’t... look...”
読唇術を発揮することもなくそう見えたので、おそまきながら俺は自分がかなりいただけない行為に走っていたことに気づき、謝罪を述べようとして慌てて口を押さえ、そして改めて現状を認識した。 Even though I don’t know how to read lips, I can easily tell that was what she wanted to say. Too bad the warning came a bit too late. I had already seen something I wasn’t supposed to see. Well, to show my deepest apologies, I shut my mouth and began to reassess the situation.
* * * * * *
朝比奈さんが二人いる。 There are two Asahina-sans.
* * * * * *
ちょっと待ってくれ。どっちかが大人、バージョンならまだ解る。そういうことは度々あったから、ここに彼女が現れてもそんなに驚くこともない。 Wait a second. If it’s Asahina-san (Big) and Asahina-san (Small) you’re talking about, then I can still differentiate them. It may be due to the fact that I’ve seen her so many times already that even if she were to appear here, I wouldn’t be surprised.
しかし今はどうだ。そっくり同じ、見た目にまったくうり二つの朝比奈さんが薄っぺらいスチール扉を隔てて中と外にセットで存在し、一人は俺と息と肌の触れ合う距離で正面から抱きつき、一人は部室での正式|衣装であるメイド服に着替える真っ最中ときやがった。 But this is a different story. Two similar looking Asahina-sans are separated by one flimsy steel door; one is inside, and the other outside; one has her body pressed tightly against me, while the other is changing into the maid uniform.
Both of them are the real Asahina-san. I took pride in having two abilities that far excelled anyone else – being able to read Nagato’s emotions, and being able to tell apart real and fake Asahina-sans.
どちらも本物の朝比奈さんだ。俺は長門の表情と朝比奈さんの真贋を見分ける術なら誰よりも高度なスキルを持つと自負している。その判断を信じるなら二人は同じ人だとしか言いようがなく、同一人物が同じ空間に同時に存在し、ということは----。 Believing in myself, I came to the conclusion that both the Asahina-sans were one and the same. Two of the same people existing in the same time and the same space could only mean one thing --- Time travel.
時間移動だ。
どちらか一方、おそらく俺と狭い空間を共有しているほうの朝比奈さんが、こことは別の時問、それもごく最近から来たんだ。二人の朝比奈さんは全然|違わなさすぎる。一卵性|双生児でももうちょっと何かあるだろう……。 One of them definitely came from a different time, from the not-so-far future. I had a feeling it was the Asahina-san squeezed together with me in this tight space.
These two Asahina-sans were totally alike. Even if they were twins, there would be at least a shred of difference...
だが、とっさにそう考えたのもつかの間のことだった。考えるよりも感じるほうが誰しも先立つものとしては自明の理であろう。 It was only logical that I thought like this, although it only lasted for a short moment. Anyone in my situation would place their emotions before their rational thinking, and I think this needs no explanation.
なんたって、内側の朝比奈さんは目をギュッと閉じて俺を離さないし、外側の朝比奈さんが立てる衣擦れの音が生々しく俺の想像力を刺激するしで、早くも俺の内堀と外堀は完全に埋め立て工事|終 了の合図を待つまでになっている。真田幸村がいなかった場合の大坂夏の陣なみにどうしようもない。こんなツープラトン精神|攻撃を喰らっては何も反応するなというほうが無理だ。 No matter how you look at it, these two Asahina-sans are not going to disappear any time soon. The Asahina-san inside would probably not disappear after forcefully pulling me inside the broom closet, then forcing me to shut my eyes, and the Asahina-san outside was brushing against her clothes, making sounds that greatly stimulated my imagination. They were like the inner and outer moats of Nijo Castle, each awaiting my signal for fortification. It was useless. Just like how the Siege of Osaka was doomed to fail with the absence of Yukimura Sanada, there was no way I could choose between the two. Faced with these mental challenges that Plato himself would be proud of, only someone who had lost a couple of bolts in his brain would show no reaction.
脳のどこかがドバドバと麻薬的な物質を分泌してふらふらになりそうだった。どうにかしてください。 As my brain was busy analyzing the situation, my head was cracking under the strain. If this went on, I would surely faint. I had to think of something, fast.
このままでは身近にいる朝比奈さんを力の限り抱きしめるか、ここから飛び出していって着替え中の朝比奈さんの腰を抜かせるかしただろうが、ギリギリのところで救い主が現れた。 If this went on, I would probably hug the Asahina-san in front of me and squeeze her to death, or charge out and scare the changing Asahina-san to death. At this crucial moment, my savior finally appeared.
ドアの開く音が俺を正気に戻す。 At the sound of the door creaking open, my breathing casually returned to normal.
「…………」 “...”
そいつは無言で立っているようだ。ドアを閉める音がしない。 It seemed that whoever had opened the door was standing there without making a sound. There was no sound of the door being closed either.
「あ、長門さん」 “A-Ah, Nagato-san,”
朝比奈さんの透き通った声が聞こえる。 Asahina-san’s clear, crisp voice could be heard.
「ちょっと待ってくださいね。お茶、すぐに淹れますから」 “Please wait for a moment. I’ll serve you tea immediately.”
俺は再び首をねじった。 I craned my neck around again.
メイドスカートの裾が| 翻 った瞬間を目の端が捉えたが、スリットからはそこまでで限界だ。なので着替えを終了させた朝比奈さんがパタパタとコンロに駆けよる姿を脳裏に再生する。 Out of the corner of my eye, I caught the sight of Asahina-san’s maid outfit fluttering as she walked past - that was the most I could make out from this small, miserable opening. Unable to see any more, I could only imagine Asahina-san, fully changed into her maid outfit, run towards the kettle with a pitter-patter.
「…………」 “...”
長門が入ってくる物音がしない。たいてい音を立てずに歩くやつだが、ドアが長門に付き合って無言で閉まるわけはなく、つまり長門は入り口付近でずっと立ち続けているらしかった。 I couldn’t hear Nagato walking towards her seat. While Nagato is capable of walking silently, the door is too old to be closed without making any noise. That is to say, Nagato is probably still standing by the door right now.
「あの……どうしました?」 “Eh... What’s wrong?”
朝比奈さんの不安そうな声。またしても俺の想像である。長門は片手に鞄、片手をドアノブにかけたまま、掃除用具入れをじっと見つめているに違いない。 Asahina-san spoke with a sense of uneasiness in her voice. I suddenly imagined the sight of Nagato holding her bag in one hand, and the doorknob in the other, as she stared straight at the broom closet.
「…………」 “...”
「あの、」 “Eh?”
「話がある」 “There’s something I have to tell you.”
長門の声だ。 That's Nagato’s voice, all right.
「えっ?」と朝比奈さんが驚きの声。 “Eh?” Asahina-san repeated, this time sounding surprised.
「ついてきて」 “Come with me.”
「ええっ?」と朝比奈さんはさらに驚き、 “EH?” Asahina-san repeated once again, sounding even more surprised than before. “W-Where are we going?”
「ど、どこに行くんですか? そ……え……?」
「この部屋でなければどこでもいい」 “Anywhere but here.”
「で、でも、何の話でしょうか……。ここではダメなんですか?」 “B-But... W-what is it... Can’t we talk here?”
「ここでは話せない」長門の声が淡々と言った。 “Not here.” Nagato said simply.
「ええ……あたしに、ですか? 本当に?」 “A-Ah... Something to s-say to me? R-Really?”
「そう」 “Yes.”
「わっ? あの、長門さん? きゃっ、そんな引っ張らなくても……」 “Uh... Nagato-san? Kya... You don’t have to drag me like this...”
後は無言だった。朝比奈さんがたたらを踏む足音がして、すぐにドアが閉まった。二つの気配が部室|棟の奥へと遠ざかっていく。 I could hear the sounds of Asahina-san’s footsteps leaving, and then the door was shut with a bang. What followed next was silence, as the both of them gradually retreated from the club room.
長門、感謝するぜ。 Thank you so much, Nagato.
バン、と音高く俺は掃除用具入れから脱出した。次いで朝比奈さんがまろび出てくる。 There was another bang, as I burst out from the closet. This was followed by Asahina-san rolling out from the closet.
「ふわわぁ」 “Kyaa~”
床に膝をついて朝比奈さんは安堵とも疲労の末ともつかぬ声を漏らした。 Asahina-san remained crouched on the floor, as she let out a cry of tiredness mixed with relief.
「びっくりしたあ」 “That was scary.”
俺以上にびっくりしたとは思えないが、 I never thought she would be more surprised than me.
「朝比奈さん」と俺は言う。「何です、これ? どうなってんですか? あなたはいつの朝比奈さんです?」 “Asahina-san,” I slowly said. “Can you tell me what is the meaning of this? What in the world is going on? Which time are you from?”
朝比奈さんは低い位置にある顔をもたげて俺を見つめ、瞬きを連続させてから、 Asahina-san lifted her head and looked at me, her eyes blinking furiously. “Huh? Don’t you know, Kyon-kun?”
「え? キョンくん、知ってるんじゃないんですか?」
何を。俺の知るどんな術があると言うんでしょう。 How was I supposed to know? Wait, before that, what was I supposed to know?
「だって、」 “But,”
朝比奈さんはせっかく乗り込んだ救命ボートに穴が空いているのに気づいた沈没船の客室乗務員のような表情で、 Asahina-san made a face that resembled a sailor after a shipwreck who had just clambered onto a rescue boat, only to find out that the rescue boat had a hole in it.
「この時間に行けって言ったの、キョンくんじゃないですか」 “But the one who told me to come to this time period was you."
* * * * * *
待ってくれ。 Wait a second.
俺は頭を回転させる。かつて俺は似たようなことは言った。確かに言った。それは一月二日であり、俺は去年の十二月十八日に戻る必要があったからだ。戻って、帰ってきた。 I racked my brains for a moment. I had definitely said something like that before. That was on the 2nd of January, because I had needed to return to the 18th of December the year before. We had gone back to that time to fix things, before returning to the present. There wasn’t any problem with that.
そこまではいいだろう。その後だ。少なくとも俺は未来に跳んでいくよう朝比奈さんに指示した覚えはない。して欲しいとチラリとも思ったことがない。 The problem was what happened after that. I don’t recall asking for Asahina-san’s help to bring us back to the future.
I was sure I never told her to do that.
てぇことは……。 Which is to say...
未来だ。この朝比奈さんは未来から来たのだ。 This Asahina-san had come from the future.
「いつから来たんですか?」 “What time are you from?”
「はあ……」 “Ah...”
朝比奈さんはキョトンとして、腕時計に目を落とした。 Asahina-san shuddered for a while, before looking at her watch.
「えーと、一週間と一日……八日後の、午後四時十五分ですけど」 “Eh... one week plus one day... That should be 4:15PM, eight days from now.”
「何の理由で?」 “Why are you here?”
「解りません」 “I have no idea.”
そんな、あっさり言われても。 That was an honest answer all right.
「本当に解らないんです。あたしはキョンくんに言われたとおりにしただけだもの。あたしが聞きたいです。どうしてキョンくんの申請はこんな簡単に通っちゃうの?」 “I really have no clue. I was just following your orders after all. In fact, I was just about to ask you, why are your requests granted so easily?”
朝比奈さんは、少しハルヒ気味に| 唇 を尖らせた。その表情も可愛らしいのだが、しみじみ比べている場合ではない。俺は部室の扉に意識を向けながら、 The sight of Asahina-san pouting reminded me of Haruhi. This expression was also really cute, but this was not the time to be making comparisons. I shifted my glance to the club room’s door.
「俺が指示したんですか? 八日後の俺がそんなことを?」 “So it was my order, one that I will issue eight days later?”
「はい。何か慌てていましたけど、行けば解るからって。あと、そっちで待ってる俺によろしく、って言ってました」 “Yes. You told me nervously that I would know what to do when I got there. You also told me to tell you that your future self said 'hi'.”
何を言ってるんだ、八日後の俺は。 What in the world was my future self trying to say?
理解に苦しむ。朝比奈さんを過去に戻していったい何をさせるって? よろしくなんて頼まれても困る。 This was too hard to understand. Telling Asahina-san to go back to the past, what was my future self trying to do? What was the point of telling her to say 'hi'? A friendly greeting?
いや、待て。またまたおかしいことになっている。この朝比奈さんは八日後から来たと言った。そいで、メイド衣装に着替えて長門に連れて行かれた朝比奈さんは現行時間の彼女でいい。 Wait a moment, something’s not right again. This Asahina-san said that she came from eight days into the future. The Asahina-san dressed in a maid outfit, which was the Asahina-san from this time plane, had been dragged off by Nagato.
えー……? じゃあどういうことになるんだ。朝比奈さんが二人。ここは部室。もう一人は長門に校舎の裏かどこかに連行されて、まさかヤキを入れられているわけではないだろうが……。 Huh...? What was the meaning of this? There were two Asahina-sans. One was in the club room together with me, while the other had been dragged off by Nagato to who-knows-where...
「非常階段に連れて行かれて、なんだか難しいお話を聞かされたの」 “I was brought all the way to the emergency staircase, where I had to listen to all kinds of confusing stuff.”
朝比奈さんは首を傾げながら、 Asahina-san tilted her head and said, “What am I here for? What should I do now...”
「神様の存在を数論を用いて証明する方法と、その否定を観念論的におこなうにはどうしたらいいか……だったかなあ。長門さんが一方的に喋ってて、ぜんぜん解りませんでしたが、あれって何だったのかと……あ」 Although Nagato didn’t say anything, her actions must have meant something, but what could it... Ah!
そこまで言って言葉を切った。 I suddenly realized what Nagato meant.
「……そっか」 “...Now I see.”
朝比奈さんがハッとするのと期を同じくして、俺の脳内にあるカラータイマーが点滅レッドに変わった。そうだ、このままではマズいことになる。 As I realized what Nagato was trying to convey, red emergency lights flashed in my brain. If things went on like this, we would be in serious trouble.
長門の電波話が長引くことを願いつつ、 I only hope that Nagato’s talk would last for a little longer.
「朝比奈さん、あなたはこの一週間で未来からやって来た自分に会ったことがないんですね?」 “Asahina-san, you never came in contact with your future self during the past week, did you?”
「ええ、うん……」 “Erm... That’s right...”
神妙にうなずきながら朝比奈さんも少しは慌てている。なら急がねばならないだろう。 Asahina-san nodded honestly, looking a bit worried. If that was so, we needed to make haste.
この朝比奈さんを、あの朝比奈さんに会わせるわけにはいかないのだから。 Because I couldn’t let both Asahina-sans see each other.
長門は気づいたんだ。掃除用具入れに俺と朝比奈さんがいることを感じ取り、だから時間|稼ぎの手段に出てくれたのだ。ここからメイド版朝比奈さんを連れ出したのは、俺とこの朝比奈さんが脱出する時間稼ぎ以外にない。 Nagato had already noticed this. She had sensed this Asahina-san and me hiding in the closet, and knew of the consequences should both Asahina-sans meet. That was why she had pulled the maid version of Asahina-san out of the club room – to buy time for me and this Asahina-san to escape.
おっつけハルヒと古泉もここに来る。たまには休めばいいのに鮭が故郷の川に戻ってくるように部室を目指すのがSOS団構成員の習性だった。俺もそうだからよく解る。そして朝比奈さんが分裂しているのをハルヒが見たとして、双子だというイイワケが通用する確率がいかばかりか俺には判断できない。朝比奈さんにアドリブを期待するほうが間違いだ。 Haruhi and Koizumi might be here any second now. Just like salmon returning to their original stream to spawn, most of the SOS Brigade members had already made it a habit to return to the club room when we wanted to rest. I know, because I was like that too.
If Haruhi happened to stumble across two Asahina-sans in two different places, I don’t know if she would buy the story that Asahina-san had a secret twin.
一刻も早くここからこの朝比奈さんを引きはがさないと、のちのちエライ目に遭いそうな気配だった。 I had to get this Asahina-san out of this place, or there would be consequences to face.
「出ましょう、朝比奈さん」 “Let’s go, Asahina-san.”
俺は自分の鞄をつかみ、部室のドアを薄く開けて廊下の様子をうかがった。誰もいない。手招きすると朝比奈さんはちょこまかと近寄って、おそるおそる廊下に視線を飛ばした。カウントダウンがすでに発動している。条件は二つ、現在時間の朝比奈さんにこの朝比奈さんを見せてはならないってことと、ハルヒに朝比奈さんが二人いるところを目撃されてはならないってことだ。いっそ変装させようかと俺はハンガーラックに目をやって、かえって目立ちそうな衣装しかないことを再|認識してあきらめた。幸いこの朝比奈さんは制服姿だ。木の葉は森に隠すべきである。 I grabbed my bag, slowly opened the club room door, and took a peek outside. There was not a single soul in sight. I waved my hands at Asahina-san, signaling the coast was clear. Asahina-san hurriedly ran over, as my eyes once again swept through the deserted school corridors. The countdown had already begun. There were only two rules. One, we couldn’t let the Asahina-san from this time bump into this Asahina-san, and two, we couldn’t let Haruhi notice that there are two Asahina-sans. I looked at the clothes rack, and for a moment thought about dressing Asahina-san up in order to avoid detection, but I gave up on that idea after realizing that those outfits would serve to attract even more unneeded attention. It was a good thing this Asahina-san was wearing a normal sailor suit uniform. Like they say, seek camouflage amongst trees by dressing like a leaf.
朝比奈さんの腕を取って、俺は部室から急ぎ足で出た。せかせか歩きながら、 I grabbed Asahina-san’s wrist, and hurried out of the club room. Thus began our perilous journey across the school corridors.
「八日後ってのは間違いないんですね?」 “Are you sure it’s eight days from now?” I asked as I walked.
「うん、キョンくんが八日前の午後三時四十五分に行けって言いましたから」 “Yes. You told me to return here at exactly 3:45PM, eight days from now.”
朝比奈さんの歩幅もいつもより長い。部室|棟の階段を一段飛ばしで下りる。担任岡部がハルヒの説教に手間取っていることを祈るぜ。 Even Asahina-san’s footsteps were larger than before. Taking the steps two at a time, the both of us went down the stairs and moved away from the club room. I just hoped that Okabe-sensei would spend a longer time lecturing Haruhi.
「じゃあ、あなたはこの一週間にあることを知ってるんですね?」 “If that is true, then you must surely know what will happen throughout this week, right?”
一階に辿り着いた俺は、少し迷ってから中庭を横断するルートを選択した。渡り廊下から校舎に行く道はハルヒと正面|衝突する可能性があるし、下駄箱に向かうにはこっちのほうが早い。 After descending from the stairs, I paused for a brief moment, before deciding to take the shortest path to the shoe locker directly across the courtyard. Although the chances of bumping into Haruhi were higher, it was nevertheless the fastest route possible.
朝比奈さんは口で息をしながら、 Asahina-san stopped to catch her breath, as she said, “We’re almost there, right?”
「ええ、まあ」
「過去に行かないといけないような事件でもあったんですか」 Is there any need to return to the past or the future?
「思い当たるフシがないんです。いきなりキョンくんに引っ張って行かれて、あの掃除用具入れに」 “No. It was you who forcefully shoved me into the closet, after all.”
押し込んで、今日に行け、と命じたというわけか。我ながら意味不明な行動だ。何を考えていやがったんだ、だったら俺も一緒にここまで来たらいいじゃないか。一人で考える手間が省けていい。 First ordering her to return to this time, and now forcefully shoving her into a broom closet? What was going on? What was I thinking? Even I couldn’t understand my own actions. Why hadn’t the future me tagged along? That would have probably saved me the time and trouble of thinking all by myself.
見知った誰にも会わないうちに下駄箱まで到着した俺は、そこでハタと立ち止まった。 We managed to reach the shoe locker without meeting anyone. It was then that I suddenly realized ---
「どこに行けばいいんだ?」 “Where should we go from here?”
学校から出るべきなのは鉄板だが、朝比奈さんを匿ってくれそうなところとはいったいどこだ。 I knew that we had to leave the school, but, where do we go then? Where could I hide Asahina-san?
と言うかだな、何をすればいいんだ? このまま何もしないで八日後に帰ってもらうってわけには----。 Now what should I do? Should I tell her to return to the future, eight days later, without accomplishing anything?
「いきません」 “That won’t do.”
朝比奈さんは寂しげな上目遣い。 Asahina-san looked at me with lonely eyes.
「あたしもそう思って連絡取ってみたんですけど、ダメだって。いつ戻っていいのかも極秘、あたしには不明なんです」 “If possible, I too wish to return to the future. I’ve tried contacting my supervisors, but they wouldn’t permit it. I don’t even know when am I allowed to return, as that’s highly classified information.”
つまりこの八日後から来た朝比奈さんは、今日なり明日なりに何かをしなければならないのだ。それはまあ、いいとしよう。 So, does this mean that the Asahina-san eight days from the future would have to accomplish something, be it today or tomorrow, before she was allowed to return? Then let’s just assume that this is true, and ignore it for the time being.
で? But what was that “something”?
だから、その何って部分が一番知りたいんじゃないか。どうして八日後の俺は彼女にメモ書きの一切れでも持たせなかったんだ? That’s what I wanted to know the most. Why hadn’t my future self told her anything?
俺が未来の自分をなじっていると、朝比奈さんは二年生用の下駄箱に向かってテテテという感じで駆けていき、俺も学校指定の上履きをスニーカーに履き替えようとして、 Just as I was busy cursing my future self, Asahina-san had already scrambled over to the second-year-student’s shoe locker. I too was about to change from my school shoes into my sneakers...
「朝比奈さん!」 “Asahina-san!”
急いで未来人の姿を捜し求める。朝比奈さんは高い位置にある自分の下駄箱を背伸びして開けているところだった。 I quickly searched for the time-traveler. Soon enough, I found Asahina-san tip-toeing to reach her shoe locker, which was located too high above her to reach.
「はい?」と朝比奈さんはその姿勢のまま振り返り、 “What’s the matter?” Asahina-san said as she turned her head, still maintaining the same pose.
「何ですか?」
何ですか、ではありませんよ。 Oh it’s nothing much.
「その靴は今ここにいるあなたのもんです」 “These pair of shoes belong to the you in this current time plane.”
「あっ……そう、か……」 “O-Oh... You’re right...”
下駄箱の蓋をパタンと閉めて、朝比奈さんは目と口を開かせた。 Asahina-san shut the locker door with a bang, as she said:
「あたしがこれ履いてっちゃったら、ここのあたしが帰るときに困りますね。そういや、靴がなくなって困った覚えはないです……」 “If I had changed into these shoes, the 'me' in this time plane would be crushed. And I don’t recall losing anything this week either...”
それだけじゃない。この朝比奈さんのことだから、自然に脱いだ上履きを下駄箱にしまってしまうだろう。するとどうなる。あの朝比奈さんがいざ帰ろうと蓋を開けたら、まさに自分が履いているのと寸分違わない上履きが出てくるって計算だ。 That wasn’t all. If I hadn’t stopped her, this Asahina-san would have placed her current school shoes into the locker. When it was time for the Asahina-san from this time plane to return home, she would open the locker door, only to find a pair of school shoes identical to the ones she was wearing, down to the exact size.
「そ、そうですね」 “Y-Yes...”
朝比奈さんはうろたえつつ、 Asahina-san said nervously.
「でも、じゃあ、どうやって帰ったら……」 “But then, how should I leave then?”
上履きのまま出るしかないな。ちょっと恥ずかしいが気にしても仕方がない。まさか誰かの靴を拝借するわけにもいかんし。それに今は「どうやって」よりも「どこに」のほうが肝心だ。 The only thing you can do is walk around in your school shoes. You may feel embarrassed or something, but there’s no other choice. It’s not like we can just nick someone else’s shoes anyway. Besides, instead of asking “What should we do?”, I think the more important question would be, “Where should we go?”
俺は胸の奥でタイコを鳴らしつつ自分の下駄箱にとって返し、蓋を開けた。 While thinking deeply about this matter, I opened my own shoe locker, and saw something inside.
そして見つけた。 I suddenly felt a wave of nostalgia. It was another message from the future.
なんだか懐かしい気のする未来からのメッセージ。
「……さすが、手回しがいいな、朝比奈さん」 ...I should've known. I knew you'd make some arrangements, Asahina-san,
俺の薄汚い靴の上に、ファンシーな封筒が乗っかっていた。 On top of my slightly dirty sneakers, was a special letter just for me.
* * * * * *
俺と朝比奈さんは刺すように冷たい山風を浴びながら坂道を下っている。 Asahina-san and I embraced the chillingly cold wind, as we made our way down the slope.
同じように下校する北高生がチラホラといて、手ぶらで上履きという学校帰りには似つかわしくないスタイリングの朝比奈さんをチラチラと見ているような気がするのは俺の気の回しすぎだろうか。 A few North High students looked at us as we passed. It felt as if they were staring straight at the empty handed, school-shoe-wearing Asahina-san, wondering how she was so different from before. Or maybe it was just my imagination?
俺の右隣で朝比奈さんの粟色の髪がふわふわと揺れているが、表情は髪のように軽やかではなく、雪を降らせる直前の曇り空に近かった。 Standing on my right, Asahina-san’s long, chestnut-colored hair danced peacefully in the wind. Her expression, however, was far from peaceful, just like the darkening of the evening sky before a snowstorm.
ついでに俺の顔色も冴えなくなっているに違いない。なんたって部室からトンズラせざるを得なかったわけで、いかなる理由があろうと無断で部活(部じゃないから団活か)を休むと団長の機嫌が急角度で傾き出すことになっており、笑えるイイワケかよっぽどの用事を考案しておかないとハルヒ特製バツゲームの餌食となるのは規定|事項だ。 I too wore a look similar to Asahina-san’s. I mean, I had just escaped from the club room. Skipping club activities without prior notice was sure to upset the Brigade Commander. Unless I was able to come up with a reason or excuse that satisfied Haruhi, I was sure to be sacrificed in one of her future “punishments”.
だからと言って朝比奈さんを放置することは様々な意味で危なっかしい。寒い夜空の下を行く当てもなくさまよう朝比奈さんを見かけたら誰だって保護したくなる。そんな保護者が人格者ばかりであるという保証はなく、だったら俺が保護しておく。 But even so, there was no way I could just ignore Asahina-san. For all I know, she could be in grave danger.
Anyone seeing Asahina-san walking under the cold, winter sky would get the urge to protect her. Since there was no one else suitable in sight, I guess it was all up to me to protect her.
「ごめんなさい」 “I’m sorry.”
しょぼくれ気味でも可愛い声が、 Asahina-san said with a monotonous yet cute voice.
「あたし、また迷惑ばかり……」 “I’m always causing trouble for you...”
「いやぁ、全然」 “Oh, it’s nothing.”
皆まで聞かず溌剌と答える俺。 I replied without waiting for her to finish.
「あなたをここに遣わしたのは俺なんでしょう? なら、悪いのはその俺だ」 “It was me who told you to come here in the first place. So technically, it’s my fault.”
それと朝比奈さん(大)だ。どっちも未来の俺たちにしては不親切すぎるぞ。そんなに過去が嫌いか、未来人は。 That applied to both me and Asahina-san (big). Why couldn’t our future selves reveal more information? Why do they insist on distancing themselves from us? Do people from the future hate their past so much?
俺は手を突っ込んだポケットの中で封筒を握りしめた。 I reached for my pocket and tightly gripped the envelope within.
宛名も送り主の署名もない封筒に入っていた便せんには、 Inside the blank envelope was a small note that read,
『どうか今あなたのそばにいる朝比奈みくるをお願いします』 “Please take care of the Asahina Mikuru beside you.”
と、だけしか書いてなかった。几帳面な字に覚えがある。去年の春、これと同じ書体の呼び出し文によって昼休みに部室に誘われた俺は、超絶グラマー美人となった朝比奈さん(大)に会ってホクロの位置ともっと重要なヒントをもらった。差出人は彼女で間違いない。 There was no name, no address, nothing whatsoever. There was no way I would be able to forget that neat, tiny font. Last spring, I received a similar letter written in the same handwriting requesting me to wait in the club room during lunch break. It was then I first met the grown-up version of Asahina-san, and received a vital clue to escaping the sealed dimension with Haruhi. I was sure it was she who wrote the letter.
しかしお願いされてもなぁ。何しちゃってもいいのかい、朝比奈さん(大)。許可されているのはチュウまでじゃなかったっけ。 But entrusting Asahina-san (small) to me? Does it mean I can do anything, Asahina-san (big)? Even as far as kissing her?
ちなみにこの手紙は今俺のそばにいる朝比奈さんにも開示ずみだ。彼女にも見せていいブツのはずである。朝比奈みくるをお願い----という一文で解るだろう。これが俺だけに宛てられた秘密指令なら、その部分は朝比奈みくるではなく『わたし』となっているだろうからだ。 Besides, I showed that letter to Asahina-san as well. I don't suppose there'll be any problems. She would understand the meaning of "Please take care of the Asahina Mikuru beside you". If the letter was for my eyes only, then the message wouldn't refer to "Asahina Mikuru" but rather "my past self".
便せんを持って食い入るように見ていた朝比奈さんは、「どういうことでしょう……?」と眩き、将来的に自分が書くことになるのだとはまるで気づいていない----らしい。 Asahina-san looked at the letter in surprise, as she stuttered, “W-What’s going o-on...?” It seems she didn’t notice the letter was written exactly in her own handwriting.
だが、うすうす感づいていてもおかしくはないんだ。二度目の十二月十八日、あの時、彼女はそこに俺でも長門でも朝倉でもない第四の人間がいるのを見た。すぐに眠らされたが、そうされたがゆえに朝比奈さんはその女性に何らかのいわくを感じたはずだ。 Come to think of it, even if she did notice, she probably wouldn’t be surprised. During our second visit to the 18th of December, she saw someone else other than myself, Nagato and Asakura. Even though she was immediately put to sleep, she must have felt her presence.
そして先月、ハルヒの近所に住んでる眼鏡少年をワンボックスカーから助けてやった時、しょぼんとした朝比奈さんを見てられなくて歯切れの悪い慰めを述べた俺から読みとった情報も彼女の中にきっとある。今の朝比奈さんがどこまで気づいたかは解らないが、古泉の言うとおり、SOS団の連中は全員が少しずつ変化しつつあるようだ。 There was also that van incident that happened last month. After she talked to that bespectacled kid that lived near Haruhi’s house, she appeared so depressed that I attempted to console her. Even though I wasn’t successful, Asahina-san told me that she just realized something. I have no idea what she realized, but just like Koizumi said, the members of the SOS Brigade seem to be changing, ever so slightly.
古泉いわく、ハルヒが閉鎖空間を生み出す頻度が減っている。 Koizumi said that the number of sealed spaces created by Haruhi had decreased, and they were beginning to happen less frequently too.
また古泉いわく、長門の宇宙人的|雰囲気が減少しているようでもある。 Koizumi also said that Nagato’s aura of “alienness” had decreased.
そう言う古泉、お前だって以前とはちょっと違うだろ。なあ、副団長|殿。 And even though you never said anything, Koizumi, you’ve also changed, isn’t that right, Mr. Vice Commander?
俺の見た感じ、ハルヒは徐々にだが周囲に溶け込み始めているように思える。文化祭での臨時ボーカルもそうだし、コンピュータ研とのゲーム対戦、年末年始の冬合宿など、高校一年の初っぱなに取りつく島もなかった頃と比べるとほとんど別人のようによく笑うし、無関係な他人ともちゃんとした意思|疎通ができてるもんな。 I could feel it; Haruhi had gradually opened up to the public. Be it during the cultural festival, during the competition with the Computer Research Society, or during the various SOS Brigade outings, Haruhi had definitely changed. No longer was she the same melancholic, anti-social individual she was during her first year. She would smile more often, and even communicate with unknown strangers.
If anyone here is an alien, a time traveler, slider, or an esper, then come find me!
To find aliens, time travelers, and espers, and play with them!
まるで実現したと知っているかのようだ。 It’s as if she knew the truth after all.
それもこれも全部まとめて成長なんだと思いたい。 I viewed all of this as part of her growth.
もっとも、俺がどれだけ成長したかは自分では解らないが。 Though I had no idea about my own growth.
* * * * * *
半時ほどの時を経て、俺が朝比奈さんを上がり込ませたのは俺の自宅だった。 About half an hour later, I brought Asahina-san into my house.
「そっかー」 “So that’s why.”
朝比奈さんは上がり口で上履きを脱ぎながら、 Asahina-san said as she removed her shoes and placed them by the door. “So that’s why Kyon-kun didn’t come to the club room that day.”
「キョンくんが部室に来なかったのは、こういうことだったんですね」
呑気に感心する声を出している。 There was no way I could let Asahina-san return to her own house. Since I couldn’t think of a better place, the only place left was my own house. If there were any other time travelers like Asahina-san, I might have considered letting her stay with them.
そりゃあ朝比奈さんを彼女自身の部屋に戻すわけにはいかないから、そうなっては行くべきところが他に見あたらず、どこかに朝比奈さんみたいな時間|駐在員がいて下宿しているのだとしたら身を寄せてもいいんじゃないかと思ったが、
「そんな人がいるのかもしれませんが、あたしには知らされてません」 “There’s a possibility such people exist, it’s just that I know nothing about them.”
ドッグレースを終えたばかりのウイペットのような顔で言われては引き下がるしかない。朝比奈さんの悲しみは深く、事態は五里霧中のど真ん中に遷移している。ようするにわけが解らないのだが積極的に解りたいとも今は思えず、そんな俺たちの困惑とは関係なしに朝比奈さんに飛びついたのは妹である。 Asahina-san wore an expression similar to a puppy after competing in a dog show, one of grief mixed with melancholy. My expression was probably similar to hers. Even though many questions appeared in my head, I didn’t feel like searching for answers right now.
Just then, my sister, who had totally nothing to do with our current problems, rushed over to Asahina-san’s side.
「あ、みくるちゃんだ!」 “Ah, it’s Mikuru!”
ベッドの下に逃げ込んだシャミセンを引きずり出そうとしていた妹は、俺が自室のドアを開けるや否や脇目もふらずに朝比奈さんに体当たりして北高男子生徒|垂涎の美少女をよろめかせた。 My sister was just about to drag Shamisen out from under my bed. Just as I opened my room door, she fixed her gaze on the beautiful Asahina-san, who was every North High male’s fantasy, before rushing forward towards her.
「お、おじゃまします」 “Umm, yes, sorry for disturbing.”
「わぁ。あれ? キョンくんとみくるちゃんだけ? ハルにゃんは?」 “Huh, it’s just you and Kyon-kun? Where’s Haru-nyan?”
妹はきらきらした目で朝比奈さんを見上げ、俺は小学五年生十一歳の襟首をつかんだ。 My sister looked at Asahina-san, as I grabbed the ten-year-old fifth-grader by her collar. “Haruhi’s still in school. And don’t come into my room without my permission.”
「ハルヒならまだ学校だ。それから俺の部屋に勝手に入るな」
何度言っても無駄なのは解っている。おかげで見つかって欲しくないブツの隠し場所に苦労するんだ、これが。 I knew that no matter how many times I told her, it would be useless. However, it took me a lot of effort to find a suitable hiding place for Asahina-san. I didn’t want anyone to find out about it.
「だってシャミが出てこないんだもん」 “But, Shami doesn’t want to come out, either.”
妹は朝比奈さんのスカートの裾をつかんだまま、にへらと笑い、 My sister tugged at Asahina-san’s skirt, and giggled softly.
「有希は? 古泉くんは? 鶴屋さんは? 来ないの?」 “Where are Yuki-chan and Koizumi-kun? And Tsuruya-san? Aren’t they coming?”
とにかく耳に届いた愛称をすぐさま採用してしまうのは俺がキョンくんなどと呼ばれていることからも明らかだろう。人生の先輩を尊崇しようとする概念を持たない小学生、それが我が妹である。誰か俺をお兄ちゃんと呼んでくれ。たまにでいいから。 My sister was used to using whatever nickname she would hear. This can be seen ever since she started calling me Kyon. This little fifth-grader who had no idea what respect was. Come on, can’t you call me “Onii-chan” for once?
「あ。デート? ねえ」 “Oooh, it’s a date! Am I right?”
俺は妹を叩き出し、これまでになくカッチリと扉を閉めた。 I drove her out of my room before shutting the door tightly.
「さてと」 I sat on the floor facing Asahina-san, and said, “Tell me briefly what happened, I mean, what will happen, this week.”
朝比奈さんと向き合って座り込み、
「この一週間の出来事をかいつまんで教えてください」
「うーん」 “Umm...”
迷うような仕草をして朝比奈さんは、 Asahina-san paused for a moment, before saying, “Eight days ago, and that’s today, I went to the club room, but noticed that no one was there. The heater, however, was already switched on.”
「八日前の……今日ですけど、あたしが部室に行くと誰もいないのにストーブがついてて」
それはさっき見た。 That’s what I saw, all right.
「着替えをしていると長門さんが来て、非常階段の踊り場に……」 “Just after I finished changing, Nagato-san entered the room, and hurriedly dragged me to the emergency staircase...”
それも途中までは見た。 That’s what I saw partially, all right.
「戻ってきたらキョンくんの鞄がなくて、古泉くんがいました」 “When I came back, Kyon-kun’s bag was already missing, and Koizumi-kun was already inside.”
タッチの差だったわけだ。 What a narrow escape.
「三十分くらいして涼宮さんも来ました」 “About 30 minutes later, Suzumiya-san entered the club room.”
けっこう長い進路相談だったな。だったら慌てることもなかったか。 Now that’s some career advice. I shouldn’t have panicked after all.
「涼宮さん、ちょっと怒ってたみたい」 “Suzumiya-san looked a bit angry.”
進路の件でもめてたんだろう。あいつの志望する将来を記したエントリーシートはどこにも用意されていない。あったら俺でも欲しくなる。 Because she argued with Okabe-sensei about her ambitions. If there were any application forms for her desired ambitions, I would want one, too.
「恐い目をして窓を睨んでました。それからお茶を三|杯おかわりして----あっ」 “She looked out of the window with killer eyes, and drank three cups of tea in a --- ah!”
部屋の片隅にいる地縛霊でも見たように朝比奈さんは目を見開き、 Asahina-san eyes bulged wide with terror, as if she had just seen a dead body in the corner of my room.
「涼宮さん、キョンくんがいないのに気づいて……」 “Suzumiya-san noticed that Kyon-kun wasn’t in the club room...”
気づいて? She noticed?
「電話を、」 “And she made a phone call.”
そのセリフと俺の携帯電話が鳴り出すのが同時だった。 Just as she had finished making that statement, my cell phone rang.
しまった。 Oh shit.
よく考えたら今朝比奈さんが語っているのは彼女にとっては録画だが、俺には現時問での実況中継《じっきょうちゅうけい》だ。悠長に聞いている場合ではなかったのだ。無断欠席のイイワケをまだ思いついていない。せめてマナーモードにしておけばよかった。出ないとかえって径しまれる。が、その前に訊いておこう。 Thinking back about it, for Asahina-san, it was like a video replay; but for me, it was a live broadcast. This wasn’t the time to listen to her slow recollections. I hadn’t even thought of an excuse for skipping brigade activities. If I answered, I would probably become the next sacrificial goat, but if I ignored the phone call, things would seem even more suspicious. Well, I guess I should ask before answering?
「朝比奈さん、俺はこのとき電話に出ました?」 “Asahina-san, did I answer the phone then?”
「うん、出たみたいです」 “Um... I think you did.”
じゃあ、出たほうがいいな。 Well then, here goes.
「もしもし」 “Hello?”
『どこにいんのよ』 “Where are you?”
ぶしつけなハルヒの声はどこかイラだっている様子である。俺は正直に答えた。 Haruhi started off with her inquisition sounding frustrated. I answered her truthfully.
「自分の部屋」 “In my room.”
『なんでよ。サボり?』 “What? You’re slacking off?”
「急用ができたんだ」 “It was an emergency.”
この辺から嘘を交えないと。 I began to weave my lie.
『何よ、急用って』 “What emergency?”
「あー……」 “Well...”
ちょうどシャミセンがのそりとベッドの下から這い出てきたのが目に留まる。 Just then Shamisen crawled out from under my bed.
「あれだよ、シャミセンが病気になったんで動物病院に連れてった」 “It’s like this. Shamisen was sick, so I brought him to the vet.”
『あんたが?』 “You?”
「ああ、家には妹しかいなくてな。俺に連絡してきた」 “Yes. Only my sister was at home then. It was she who told me.”
『へぇ。何の病気?』 “What kind of sickness?”
「えー……円形|脱毛症」 “Umm… Alopecia areata.”
適当に放ったセリフを聞いて、なぜか朝比奈さんが口元を押さえた。 It was a name I came up from nowhere. For some reason, Asahina-san covered her cherry-like lips.
『シャミセンが脱毛症ですって?』 “Alopecia areata? Shamisen?”
「ああ。医者の話ではストレスから来るものらしくてだな、現在自宅静養中だ」 “Yep, the vet said that it was due to stress. He’s quietly resting in my room now.”
『猫にストレス感じる精神なんかあんの? だいたい自宅静養って、それ、シャミセンにはいつものことじゃん』 “Do cats have nerves that detect stress? And what’s this about resting in your room, hasn’t he always been staying in your room?”
「まあそうなんだが、ほら、うちの妹が構い過ぎるのがよくないらしいんだ。だから俺の部屋を妹立ち入り禁止地区に指定してシャミセン保護区にすることにした」 “Well, that’s right, but you see, since my sister forced him to play with her too often, it’s caused stress to build up within him. I’ve decided to turn my room into his shelter, and I'm not letting my sister come in.”
『ふーん』 “I see...”
納得したかどうか、ハルヒは鼻を鳴らして押し黙り、次にこう言った。 Haruhi snorted and fell quiet. Did she buy it?
『あんた、今誰かと一緒にいる?』 She then proceeded to say: “Is anyone else there with you?”
「…………」 “...”
俺は携帯電話を耳から離して通話時間をカウントする画面表示を見つめた。 I brought my phone away from my ear, as I studied the time displayed on the screen.
なんで解るんだ? 朝比奈さんは一言も喋ってないし、うっかり声を漏らさないように両手で自分の口を押さえているのに。 How did she know? Asahina-san hadn’t said a word. She even covered her mouth with both her hands to prevent accidentally making any noises.
「誰もいやしねえよ」 “No one’s here.”
『あら、そうなの? あんたの口調がおかしいから、てっきりそう思ったんだけど』 “Oh, is that so? I just noticed that your voice seemed different than usual, so I decided to ask you.”
無駄に勘の鋭いところは相変わらずだ。 Her intuition is still as sharp as usual, I see.
「シャミセンだけだ。なんなら代わろうか?」 “It’s just Shamisen. Should I put him on the line?”
『いいわよ別に。お大事にって言っといて。じゃあね』 “Forget it. Just tell him that I wish him a speedy recovery. Bye.”
意外にあっさりと切れた。 And to my surprise, she hung up.
俺はベッドに携帯を放り出し、朝比奈さんの膝にすり寄る三毛猫の模様を眺めながら、さてどこの毛を丸く刈ってやろうかと考えた。まかり間違ってハルヒが見舞いに来るようなことがあれば困るからな。 I threw my cell phone onto my bed, and looked at the flowery cat, who was leaning on Asahina-san’s lap. If Haruhi had really decided to drop by for a visit, I would be in trouble.
「この後、ハルヒはどうしてました?」 “And then? What did Haruhi do?”
シャミセンの耳の後ろをこしこししていた朝比奈さんは、思い出し顔になって、 Asahina-san thought for a moment, while caressing Shamisen’s ears. “Umm... We stayed at the club room until five, and then everyone went home. Suzumiya-san... she was really quiet. All she did was flip through some magazines...”
「うーんと、五時過ぎまで部室にいて、それからみんなで帰ったの。涼宮さんは……そうだなぁ、なんとなく物静かでした。部室でもずっと雑誌読んでただけだったし……」
ハルヒの気味の悪いおとなしさが、ついに朝比奈さんにも解るまでになっていたか。 Haruhi’s calm before the storm. Even Asahina-san had noticed it.
他の連中はどうだったのだろう。長門が事態を解ってくれているのは確かだが。 Had anyone else noticed? I bet Nagato had.
朝比奈さんの指使いに引かれるように、シャミセンは喉を鳴らしながらセーラースカートの膝小僧に前足を乗せた。そのまま膝の上を占拠したシャミセンの背に手を置いて、 Shamisen lifted his paw and placed it on Asahina-san’s kneecap, as if claiming it as his own. Asahina-san then stroked his back, and said, “It’s as if she was different than usual... I’m sorry, I can’t really remember.”
「いつもと違うところはなかったような……、ごめんなさい、よく覚えてないんです」
しようがないでしょうね。俺だって一週間前の古泉の表情なんて細かく覚えていない。問われればいつもの調子だった、としか言いようがないな。 That’s to be expected. If someone asked me what was Koizumi’s expression last Monday, all I would do was shrug and say, just like usual.
「他には? 明日とか明後日とか」 “What about the rest? Tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow?”
ゴロゴロと鳴くシャミセンの尻尾を軽くつかんでいた朝比奈さんは伏し目で、 Asahina-san gently grabbed the purring Shamisen’s tail, as she lowered her head and said:
「どこまで言っていいのかな」 “Where should I stop?”
俺の未来スケジュールを教えてくれたらそのまま実行するつもりだが。 Just tell me what the future has in store, I’ll figure out the rest.
「ええと、次の祝日に宝探しをみんなでします」 “All right then. Next, during the holidays, all of us will be going on a treasure hunt.”
宝探しだ? A treasure hunt?
「うん。涼宮さんが宝の地図を持ってきて、それでみんなで穴掘りに」 “Yes. Suzumiya-san came in the club room holding a map in her hands, and told us that we were to go dig for treasure.”
穴掘りぃ? Dig?
「そう。鶴屋さんが涼宮さんにあげたんです。実家の蔵を整理してたらご先祖さまが書いた変な地図が出てきたって、こう、」 “Yes. It was Tsuruya-san that gave Suzumiya-san that map. She said that she found it in the storeroom. Apparently, it was a map that her great great ancestor left.”
空中に白魚のような指を泳がせ、 Asahina-san waved her fingers in the air, like a school of invisible silver fish swimming in the air.
「墨で絵が描いてある古い地図でした」 “An old map drawn using black ink.”
鶴屋さん……、あなたまたやっかいなものをハルヒにくれてやったものですね。しかも穴掘りだと? 平安京の検非違使じゃあるまいし、いったいどこを掘ったんだ? Tsuruya-san... Once again you hand Haruhi something weird. And this time it requires digging? It’s not like we’re in ancient times anymore, where would we find a place to dig?
「やま」 “A mountain.”
朝比奈さんの返答は簡潔を極めていた。 Asahina-san’s answer was clear and simple.
「鶴屋さんの私有地にある山です。学校の帰り道に坂の途中から見える丸いやつ」 “There’s a mountain behind Tsuruya-san’s house. If you look carefully while standing on the slope during your journey back from school, you should be able to notice something round in the distance.”
聞いているだけでくたびれる。恩讐の彼方にじゃあるまいし、山登りの後で掘削作業とは、このクソ寒い二月にするには耐寒遠足なみにたわけた行事だ。断っておくが鶴屋家の持ち山ってとこにサプライズポイントはないぜ。別荘に私設ゲレンデが付随していたくらいだから地元の山脈一つくらいは余裕で持っていなさるだろう。 Just hearing about it made me feel tired. It’s not like I hold any vendetta against the place or anything, it’s just that turning an entire mountain upside down just for the sake of some buried treasure was just as stupid as going on a picnic in this freezing climate. Just to make things clear, Tsuruya-san owning a mountain was nothing to be surprised about. I mean, if they are rich enough to afford a private skiing facility in the midst of the wilderness, what’s to be surprised at owning a mountain behind their house?
俺は溜息を隠そうともせずに、 I sighed loudly without any inclination to conceal it, and said, “Did we find anything?”
「んで、宝は見つかりました?」
「え……いいえ」 “Well... No.”
答える前に口ごもったような気もしたが、朝比奈さんはプルプルと首を振った。 Even though she hesitated slightly, Asahina-san continued to shake her head.
「昔の宝物はどこにも埋まってなかったの」 “It’s not like there’s ancient treasure anywhere else anyway.”
聞かなきゃよかった。せっかくの祝日にもかかわらず、どうやら俺は見つかるはずのない宝を求めてトレジャーハンターの真似事をしなくてはならないらしい。無駄骨で終わることをあらかじめ知っている作業ほど虚しいことはない。 I better stop asking. Holidays were hard to come by, yet I had to waste it trying to find some buried treasure that I knew I wouldn’t find. There’s nothing worse than doing something you know won’t work out in the end.
「その次の土曜日と日曜日にも……」 “Then even during Saturday and Sunday...”
まだ掘るんですか? いっそ鶴屋家の庭先をボーリングしたほうが何か出てくるんじゃないでしょうか。温泉とか。 Do we still have to dig? Why don't we just dig in Tsuruya-san’s front yard? Who knows, maybe we’ll discover an underground hot spring or something.
「いえ、土日はあれをしました。ええと、市内のパトロール」 “No. During the weekend, we have to go for... um... a city wide search.”
なるほど、あれか。この世の不思議を探すためにそこらをウロウロするというSOS団のメイン活動であるところの、あれだ。そう言えば久しくやってないが、それにしたって、 So it was really going to be that activity after all. Searching the city in order to discover any mysterious events was one of the SOS Brigade’s main activities. Come to think of it, we haven’t done it for a while now.
「二日連チャンでやることもないだろうに」 “We won’t be searching for two straight days, will we?”
「ええ……でも、いえっ。そうです」 “Erm.... No. I mean yes.”
朝比奈さんは何故か目を逸らし、 For some reason, Asahina-san averted her gaze from me, and said, “Because Monday’s also a holiday......”
「月曜日も学校がお休みでしたから……」
言われてみて思い出した。来週の月曜は特別クラスの推薦入試が実施されるってんで学生どもは登校しなくていいんだった。 I suddenly remembered that Monday was the day that the entrance exams were held. Students already enrolled there were allowed to skip school for the day.
「不思議なことが見つかったんですか?」 So did we find anything strange?
そのせいで朝比奈さんが一週間前に来たのかと思ったが、 That shouldn’t be the reason Asahina-san was sent back to the past, right?
「いいえ」 “No, none at all.”
|逡 巡なく栗色の髪が横に振られた。 Asahina-san said as her maroon hair swept the floor.
「いつもと同じ。お茶飲んで、お昼ご飯食べて……」 “Just as usual, we would go to the café and have lunch...”
ますます首をひねっちまう事態だ。聞く限り朝比奈さんが時間|遡行する理由も俺がそんなことを命じる動機もどこにもない。これが一年後とか、せめて月単位のスパンならまだ解らんでもないが、来週から今週に来て何か違いがあるか? That just makes things even more complicated. If what Asahina-san said was true, then there wouldn't be any reason to send Asahina-san back to the past, would there? Now if only she had traveled from a few months or few years into the future, then maybe that would make some sense. But for her to travel back one week in time? Are you sure there hasn’t been any mistake?
俺は転げ回るシャミセンの腹の柔毛をわしわししている朝比奈さんをそれとなく観察した。 I silently observed Asahina-san, who was stroking Shamisen’s belly.
今回、たったの一週間でいいなら長門の力を借りずして長門方式が使える。去年の七夕から四年前の七夕に移動した俺と朝比奈さんは、三年間の時間|凍結を経て元の時間帯に復帰した。その教訓をいかせばいいのだ。この朝比奈さんを誰の目にも止まらないところに一週間おいておくだけで、そのうち彼女は元いた時間に追いつくこととなる。コールドスリープの必要もなく、弊害と言えば一週間分年長になるだけだが、そのくらいなら大して違わん。 Since it was only a week, there would be no need to trouble Nagato in order to return to the future. Asahina-san and I had once returned from the 7th of July three years ago with Nagato’s aid. The both of us were frozen in time, as three years silently passed before us. It seems that my future self had learned a lesson. Concealing Asahina-san in a place where no one would notice her for a week, it wouldn’t be long before she returned to her original time plane. There would be no need for time freezing. As for any side effects, the only one I could think of was Asahina-san aging one week older, but I doubt it would make any difference.
しかしなぁ、それじゃ本当に意味がなくなるんだよな。何かあるはずなんだ。朝比奈さんがここにいるのは八日後の俺の仕業で、そして手書きされた朝比奈さん(大)のメッセージ……。 But what was the point? If that was so, there would be no reason to send Asahina-san back to the past. Something must have happened, something that forced my future self to send her back to this time. There was also Asahina-san (big)’s letter, which further confirmed the matter...
「俺の様子はどうでした? それらしいことをしたり言ったりしてなかったですか」 “What was I like when I told you to return? Did I do or say anything strange?”
「うーん……」 “Erm...”
朝比奈さんはうっとりと目を閉じたシャミセンの肉球をぷにぷにと押すばかりである。 Asahina-san closed her eyes as she continued to stroke Shamisen, who was curled up into a ball.
切り口を変えよう。 I might as well try a different approach.
「八日後の俺、そいつがあなたに時間旅行するよう言った|状 況を教えてください」 “Tell me what my self eight days from the future did when he told you to return here.”
「それならよく覚えてます。あたしには今日のことでしたから」 “That I can remember clearly, since to me, it happened just today.”
猫から手を放し、朝比奈さんは空中に縦線を何本か描いた。 Asahina-san removed her hand from the flowery cat, and began tracing shapes in the air.
「中庭で有料イベントをしてたんです。SOS団|主催のクジ引き大会」 “We were having an activity in the school’s front yard, an SOS Brigade style lucky draw.”
なんじゃそら。 For what reason?
「アタリを引いた人に……その、豪華賞品っていう一人五百円のアミダクジです。涼宮さんが拡声器で人寄せをして……」 “Anyone who wished to participate had to pay a small sum of money… The winner would receive a five hundred yen coupon. Suzumiya-san was busy holding up a megaphone...”
おおかた部費の足しにしようとしたのだろう。 “That should be to gather some funds for our future activities.”
朝比奈さんは喋りにくそうに説明する。 Asahina-san continued to explain, as if in great difficulty. “I-I was in charge of doing the promoting. Being in a crowd of so many people made me feel nervous...”
「あたしが商品を渡す役だったの。参加者がいっぱいいてちょっと恐かった……」
節分イベントの意趣返しを企てたのだろうか。 So this was Haruhi’s "Operation Payback", huh.
「朝比奈さん、その時どんな格好をしてました? もしかして巫女さん?」 “Asahina-san, what costume did you wear then? Don’t tell me it was the miko costume...”
「え。どうして解ったの?」 “Yes. How did you know?”
ハルヒのやりそうなことだったからな。目立つためにはまず衣装から始めるのがハルヒの流儀である。とにかく目立ったもの勝ちだと思っている。朝比奈さんは普通の状態でもかなり人目を引く目鼻立ちを持っているが、装飾を加えることによって説明不能な不思議パワーが飛躍的に増大するのだ。パラメータ的には魅力度ってやつだ。 That was just like Haruhi’s doing. In order to attract attention, she would start with a striking costume. The regular Asahina-san was already attractive enough. After dressing her up, she would be able to radiate an aura of charm that no one would be able to resist. That aura was probably what attracted the large crowd.
「あたしがアタリの人に賞品を渡して、握手して記念写真を撮ってたら」 “I handed the winners their prizes, shook hands with them, and took photos with them.”
朝比奈さんは恥ずかしそうに、シャミセンの頬の毛を摘んでいる。 Asahina-san grabbed Shamisen’s fur, as she said uncomfortably, “Then Kyon-kun pulled my hand, and took me into the club room. You ordered me to change into my sailor uniform, and even though I didn’t know what was going on, I duly obliged. You then told me to wait in the broom closet, and instructed me to return to the past, eight days ago, at precisely a quarter to four. You also told me that your past self would be waiting for me, and when I did meet him, I was to tell him that you said 'hi'. I was also told to follow everything you said.”
「キョンくんがいきなりあたしの手を引いて部室に連れていきました。大急ぎで制服に着替えるようにって、よく解らなかったけどその通りにして、そしたら掃除用具入れに入るように言われて、八日前の三時四十五分に跳べって。そこに俺が待っているから、後はそいつの言うとおりにすればいいからって」
模様をなぞるように三毛猫の背中を人差し指で擦りつつ、朝比奈さんはうつむいた。 Asahina-san removed her fingers from the air, before slowly tracing her index finger on the patterns on Shamisen’s back.
「TPDDの使用許可はすぐに下りました。あり得ないくらいにすぐだったわ。まるであたしが申請するのを待っていたみたい」 “The usage of the TPDD was quickly approved. It was so fast it was unbelievable. It was like they were waiting for me to ask for approval.”
どうやらそうらしい。朝比奈さん(大)にはあらかじめ解っていたことで違わないだろう。解らんのは、どうして八日後の俺が未来人の計画に一枚|噛んでいるのかってことだ。あのグラマラス美女の朝比奈さんが、この俺の朝比奈さんと時間を隔てた同一人物だってのは解る。しかし理屈と感情は別物だ。小さい朝比奈さんに理由の知れない時間移動を何回させれば気がすむんだ? そろそろ教えてやってくれよ、朝比奈さん(大)。 That could be the case, because your superiors already know what you’re going to go through. What I didn’t understand was, why did my future self so willingly play the role of Asahina-san’s superior? Why did I instruct her to return to the past, instead of waiting for them to tell her to? I admit that I had told Asahina-san to time travel a few times, but every time I did so, I would be filled with guilt. If possible, I didn’t want her to time travel again, or, at the very least, didn’t want to be the one to tell her to. Come on, Asahina-san (big), tell me something. I’m lost here.
でないと俺がすっきり爽やかにすべてをゲロしちまうぜ。
俺の目の前にいる朝比奈さんは、またもや鬱気味な表情になっていた。先月の一時期と同じ、非力さを恥じるような影が額に浮いているが、非力であることなら俺だって負けてはいない。今だって、これから誰を頼ろうかと考えているくらいだからな。 The Asahina-san before me once again began to look depressed. I immediately recalled that this was what she looked like a month ago, during the van incident. Don’t worry, Asahina-san, if it’s helplessness we’re talking about, I’m not that better off either, because right now, I have no idea what to do, and I don’t know who to count on either.
「ふう」 “Sigh.”
俺と朝比奈さんが同時に息を吐き、シャミセンが退屈そうに欠伸をした。その時、 Asahina-san and I both sighed at the same time. As if on cue, Shamisen also yawned.
「キョンくんー、あけてー」 “Kyon-kun, open up...”
ドアの向こうから妹が声を張り上げた。その声の通りにしてやると、ジュースとカステラの載ったトレイを危なっかしく持ってひょこひょこ入って来る。お袋が気を利かせたのだと言うのだが、三人ぶんあるところを見るとこいつはこのまま居座るつもりらしい。遅まきながら気づいた。朝比奈さんと自室で二人という絶好の状況に置かれていたのに、まったくそれらしい雰囲気を味わっていないじゃないか。今からでも出て行かないかと眼力を利かせてみたものの、妹は俺を一顧だにせず朝比奈さんの隣にちゃっかりと座り込み、 The sound of my sister yelling could be heard through the door. Judging from her voice, she must be balancing a tray too big for her, filled with cakes and juice, while carefully making her way to my room. Even though I wasn’t a very sharp guy, once I saw three sets on the tray, I knew that she wasn’t leaving. She must have also inherited the same dimness as I did, for she conveniently failed to notice that it was a rare chance for Asahina-san and me to be together in my room at this late hour. Blame genetics, if you will.
I immediately shot a look at her that read “Get out!”, but she ignored me and sat beside Asahina-san.
「シャミ、カステラ食べる?」 “Does Shami want a cake?”
ちぎったケーキ地を猫の鼻面に持っていく妹を見て、朝比奈さんはやっと柔らかい笑顔を作った。 My sister put a small slice of cake near Shamisen’s nose. Asahina-san smiled warmly at her antics.
妹もたまには役に立つ。この無邪気さを成長とともに失わないよう、兄として祈るばかりだ。 My sister can be useful sometimes. As your brother, I really hope that your innocence doesn't disappear as you grow up.
* * * * * *
猫を間に挟んだ妹がひとしきり朝比奈さんとじゃれるという時間が過ぎ、俺と朝比奈さんはようやく我が家から脱出した。 After my sister played with Shamisen and Asahina-san, Asahina-san and I finally left, heading outside.
腕時計は午後六時十五分を差している。空はすっかり暗く、立春はまだ来月だ。 My watch read six fifteen. The sky was already darkening. It was still a month till spring.
「どうしましょう、キョンくん」 “What should we do, Kyon-kun?”
隣を歩いている朝比奈さんが白い息を吐きながら眩く。歩き方がおぼつかないのは、余ってた俺の靴を貸しているからだ。上履きよりはマシだろうと思ったからだが、シンデレラにあつらえるには大きすぎたかな。 Walking beside me, Asahina-san breathed small white clouds. If she appeared to be walking peculiarly, it was because she was wearing my spare shoes. That’s better than wearing school shoes, I thought, but for shoes meant for Cinderella, they might have been a little bit too big.
「そうですねえ」と俺も息を吐いた。 “That’s it.” I said as I too breathed out white clouds.
このまま朝比奈さんを自宅に留め置きたい気分でもあったし、そのほうが妹も喜ぶだろうが、何をどう考えたって不自然|極まりない。特に俺の両親は彼女が自宅に帰れない事情を聞きたがるだろう。これも万が一、噂がヒレを満載させてハルヒの耳に届くようなことになれば、現実的な危機が俺の身に訪れることは確実だ。シャミセンの毛は刈ったとしてもまた生えてくるが、朝比奈さんの存在を消し去るわけにはいかない。朝比奈さん俺ん家宿泊計画は妄想に留めておいたほうがよさそうだ。 I had considered letting Asahina-san stay at my house. That way, my sister would have been really happy too. But after much thought, I gave up on the idea. My parents would probably want to know why she wasn’t going back to her own house, and if word reached Haruhi that Asahina-san stayed together with me at my house, I dare not imagine what disaster might befall me. If she really did come to my house to visit Shamisen, a pair of scissors and a quick snip would do the trick, but there was no way I could hide Asahina-san from her.
小柄な上級生の歩みは斜行しがちである。腕が触れるまで接近してはビクッとして離れるという仕草がこの期に及んですら愛らしい。合わない靴のせいだけではなさそうだ。無意識に頼られているのだとしたら俺もちょっと嬉しいのだが、これまた嬉しがってばかりはいられない。朝比奈さんに寄りかかられてすべてを受け止めることができるほど強靭な自信は俺の内部に発生していない。倒れたドミノは次のドミノを倒し、最後の一枚に行き着くのだ。 Petite Asahina-san’s footsteps began to become clumsier, as she stumbled closer to me. When she accidentally collided with my shoulders, she let out a small shriek, and immediately hopped away from me. That made her even cuter than usual. If it wasn’t only due to her shoes being too large for her, but her desire to depend on me that made her subconsciously lean against me, I would be very happy.
But I couldn’t just think about my happiness alone.
I didn’t have that much confidence within me. If Asahina-san did indeed depend on me, the effect would be like a domino piece leaning on another. There were only two possibilities. Either it would fall and collide with the others, or it would remain standing tall.
では、こんな時に頼るべき最後のドミノは誰かと考えたら、思いつく候補者はそれほど多くなかった。 If I was indeed a domino piece, who would I choose to lean on? Since Asahina-san (future) chose to lean on me, who should I choose? There weren’t many choices.
まずハルヒは完全に除外だ。どうしてかなどと訊くヤツがいたら俺はそいつの頭をイレイザーヘッドにしてやって何ら恥じることはないだろう。 The first one I rejected would be Haruhi. If anyone dares to ask why, I’ll scramble his brains, since he doesn’t appear to have any sense of shame.
現時点にいるもう一人の朝比奈さんは論外だ。ダブルでおろおろするツインズが一組増えるだけで解決にはほど遠くなる。何よりタイムパラドックスについてこれ以上考えるつもりはない。 Asahina-san (present) was a no-no. She would probably believe that she had an identical twin and go ballistic. That would make things worse. And I don’t intend to travel to the past to fix things up.
古泉にはまだしも多少の信頼感を持ってやってもいいが、あいつの所属する『機関』とやらが未来人をどう扱うかは未知数であり、そんな得体の知れない組織に朝比奈さんを預けたら何をしやがるか解らない。新川さんや森さんと多丸兄弟は善人にしか見えなかったが、彼らが古泉の自称するような下っ端でしかないとしたら、その上で采配している野郎どもに全幅の信頼を寄せるには信用度がちと足りないね。 Koizumi, on the other hand, seemed quite reliable, but I had no faith in how his 'Organization' treated time travelers. Entrusting Asahina-san to them was definitely not a good idea. Arakawa-san, Mori-san, and the Tamaru brothers might seem nice, but if they were as Koizumi said merely low-level minions, then it's going to be some time before their superiors can gain my trust.
従って、単純な消去法により一人の名前が浮かび上がる。すでに俺たちのことを解ってくれている希有なる存在にしてSOS団の陰の実力者。正体不明な親玉をトップに戴いているにしても古泉のところほど即物的ではない存在……。 Under the rules of elimination, there was only one name that came in mind. She was the only one that realized our current situation, and the true person that protected the SOS Brigade, silently pulling strings behind our backs. Even though she had some weird superiors behind her, I felt that I could trust them more than Koizumi’s 'Organization'...
残ったのはあいつだけだ。 She was the only one left.
そういうわけで、どこに向かうべきかと考えたら、やっぱそこしかないわけだ。 So where should we go? There’s not much of a choice, is there?
つまり、長門|有希の出番である。こうなりゃ飽きたとかまたかとか言う以前の問題だ。未来人と宇宙人はワンセットとして考えたほうがいいのかもしれん。未来から過去に来るプロセスには必ず長門の部屋に向かうようルート設定されてるんじゃないかね。 That is to say, it was finally time for Nagato Yuki to step up to the stage.
Now wasn’t the time to explain. Maybe it was better if I grouped aliens and time travelers together. I mean, to travel from the past to the future, we would certainly require Nagato’s help. This seemed like a better choice.
それに----、と俺は思った。 And also, I remembered something.
この朝比奈さんを現時間での自分の目に留まらないよう、そっちの朝比奈さん(現)を部室から誘い出してくれたあいつのことだ。ひょっとしたら事情まで説明してくれるかもしれない。 In order to prevent Asahina-san (Present) from seeing Asahina-san (Future), she had forcefully pulled Asahina-san (Present) from the club room, allowing me and Asahina-san (Future) to escape. In other words, she knew what was happening, and maybe she could tell us what was going on.
「長門さんのところにですか?」 “Are we going to Nagato-san’s house?”
しかし朝比奈さんは俺を見上げ、途端に足取りを緩くした。俺は元気づけるように、 Asahina-san looked at me, as she slowed down her footsteps. I encouraged her by saying, “I’m sure she’ll help us. She’s also got a spare room, and it’s just a week after all, I don’t think she’ll mind you staying there.”
「あいつなら大丈夫ですよ。部屋は余ってたし、一週問くらいなら泊めてくれるでしょう」
何なら俺も寝間着を持ち込みたいくらいだ。イイワケさえ思いつけたらな。 If possible, I too would like to stay. I even thought of a perfect excuse.
「でも……」 “But...”
視線を落とし気味に、 She sounded a bit down. “Nagato-san and I have... umm... well... Do I have to stay there for... umm... a whole week?”
「長門さんと二人でいるのは、ちょっと……その。一週間も……ですか?」
ビビる必要はないでしょう。長門が朝比奈さんに危害を加えるなんざありえません。今までだってさんざん世話になったし、この前は連れだって時間旅行した仲じゃないですか。 There’s no need to worry. Nagato would never hurt Asahina-san. We’ve always relied on her in the past. Didn’t we seek her help when we went time traveling?
「それは解ってますけど……」 “That may be so, but...”
不思議なことに、このとき朝比奈さんは俺を咎めるような目でチラリと見て、 Strangely, Asahina-san looked at me with accusing eyes. “If I stay with her, won’t Nagato-san feel bad...?”
「あたしが一緒にいたら長門さんはあんまり面白くないんじゃないかな……」
「へ? 何でです?」 “Huh? Why?”
長門がどんなものを面白いと思うかどうか、なぜ朝比奈さんに解るんだ? あいつなら自分の十センチ横でラリッた薬中が裸踊りしてようがピクリともしないと思うのだが。 How would you know what made Nagato feel good or bad? I bet that even if someone stripped stark naked before her and started dancing a nude dance, she probably wouldn't even flinch.
俺が答えを期待して見つめていると、朝比奈さんはぷくりと頬を膨らませ、すぐに前を向いて拗ねるように言った。 I eagerly awaited her answer, but all she did was turn her face from me, and said,
「……いいです。もう」 “...Oh, never mind.”
* * * * * *
最小限の言葉で言いたいことが伝わるというのが長門のいいところであり、この時もそうだった。マンションのエントランスですっかり指紋が慣れ親しんだナンバーキーとベルボタンを押した俺の耳に届いたのは、 Conveying thoughts in speech, and in the most subtle manner possible, that was one of Nagato’s specialties. That remains true even now.
Standing outside the luxury apartment, I punched out that familiar number, and duly awaited her voice.
「…………」 “...”
いつものような無言のリアクションだ。
「俺だ。朝比奈さんもいる。ちょっとワケがあって、」 “It’s me. And Asahina-san too. It's like this...”
『入って』 “Come in.”
何回やったかな、この会話。俺が朝比奈さんを大小かまわず連れ込んだのは、えーと、これで四回目か。一回目は四年前の七夕で、二回目もその日、三回目は先月の二日だった。 I wonder how many times has the same conversation happened? I’ve brought both big and small versions of Asahina-san here, and if memory serves me right, this should be the fourth time. The first time was during Tanabata four years ago, along with Asahina-san (small). The second time was also on that day, but with Asahina-san (big). The third and last time, was during the 2nd of January, just last month.
朝比奈さんがちょっぴり不安そうなのも毎度おなじみの光景で、それはエレベーターから七階の通路を歩いている最中も変わらない。俺の裾をギュッと握りしめているところが喩えようもなく小動物チックで、この人を守らないと言うなら守るべきものなど地球を粉末にして調べたとしても出てこないだろう。 Asahina-san wore a look of anxiousness on her face. This was also something I was used to. That same expression would remain unchanged as the elevator ascended.
The way she tightly gripped the sleeve of my shirt, there was no way to describe how grateful I was. With a face as tiny and cute as hers, there was no reason not to protect her. If I didn’t protect her, even if the Earth was reduced to dust, I wouldn’t be able to find anyone more suitable than her to protect.
「…………」 “...”
長門は部屋の扉を半分開けて身を乗り出すように待っていた。制服姿なのもすっかり見慣れている。こいつの私服でいるのを見たのは夏合宿が最初で冬合宿が最後だ。俺たちを見つめる目には特に言いたげな意見は浮かんでいないようだったが、朝比奈さんは早くも弱腰になっている。 Nagato’s apartment door was half opened, as if awaiting us. That sailor uniform was yet again something I was used to. The only times that I had seen her in casual clothes were during the summer vacation and the winter vacation. The way she looked at us was nothing special, but Asahina-san started to freak out at that very moment.
「あの……すみません、長門さん……。なんだか困るとここに来ているみたいで……」 “Ah well... Sorry, Nagato... Some rather unexpected things have happened, so we’ve decided to come here...”
実際その通りなのだが。 That was the truth, after all.
「いい」 “It’s okay.”
長門は冷然とうなずいた。 Nagato nodded her head stiffly.
「どうぞ」 “Come in.”
朝比奈さんのおっかなびっくり感は、長門の対応に慣れ親しむ指針として、太陽系からバーナード星系までへの距離が横たわっているようだ。俺が背に手を当ててうながし、ようやく足を踏み入れる。先月、この部屋の客間で眠ったとは思えないほどの遠慮がちな雰囲気だった。 Asahina-san stuttered as she remained motionless on the spot, that oh-so-familiar reaction when faced with Nagato. I ushered her in with a push of my hand, and she finally stepped in the door. Such embarrassment made me wonder how had she once slept in this very room just one month ago.
「おじゃまします……」 “Sorry to disturb you...”
かつての長門宅の殺風景さ加減は、ひとえに必要最小限のものしかないという事実に裏打ちされていた。今では最初に昨春に俺が呼ばれたときはなかったカーテン、ペイズリー柄の冬用のものがリビングの大窓にかかっていた。それだけでもけっこう印象が変わるものだ。壁の横にはクリスマス以来放置されたツイスターゲームが丸めて立てかけられていたりもして、とは言うもののテレビもなければ絨毯もないのは見たままだ。通されたリビングにあるのはコタツになるが掛け布団のない据え置きテーブルだけである。ぜひ寝室を眺めてその有り様を確かめたいものだと思うが、見ないほうがいいような予感もする俺だった。もし、その部屋がファンシーな壁紙やレースに縁取られた壁掛けに彩られ、天蓋付きのベッドの枕元に羊のぬいぐるみでもあった日には俺は長門に関するあらゆる一切の前提条件をゼロにして一から情報構築を再開しなければならない。そこに至って俺がコメントすべき言葉はメソポタミア文明|黎明期に| 遡 っても存在しないだろうと思われる。明日になったら朝比奈さんからの伝聞情報として聞き出しゃいい。 Nagato’s apartment was once bare and empty, devoid of any signs of interest, and filled only with living necessities. Now, there was actually a large curtain draped over the window in the living room, and it was a winter-style curtain to boot. This wasn’t here when I visited last spring, and its existence proved of large significance. The games that we had played during Christmas were still rolled up and placed near the wall, but there was still no sign of any rugs or TVs. There was only a lone heater in the room, and a sturdy table. I had an urge to check out Nagato’s bedroom, but my instincts warned me against it. If it was plastered with cute, pink wall paper with a flowery wall hanging, and a stuffed doll in the shape of a lamb by her pillow, I would totally erase any memory of Nagato Yuki from my mind, and start to know her again from scratch. But even so, I dare say that even if you traced time back to the Mesopotamian era, you wouldn’t be able to detect any traces of such a thing.
I had already heard from Asahina-san what would happen in the future, at least until tomorrow.
今は別のことを訊かなきゃならん。 Now, I had important questions to ask.
「なあ長門、お前はこの朝比奈さんが未来……」ってのはどっちにしろ当たり前か。「じゃなくて、八日後の未来から来たもう一人の朝比奈さんだってことを知ってるな?」 “Umm, Nagato, do you know that Asahina-san is from the future...” Oh wait, everyone knows that. “Sorry, I mean, do you know that this is another Asahina-san from eight days in the future?"
俺は居間のコタツテーブル脇に座りながら言った。 I said this while sitting by the heater in the living room.
「知っている」 “I do.”
長門は俺の正面に正座しつつ、まだ立ったままの朝比奈さんへ目を向けた。ぴくっとした朝比奈さんは、慌てて俺の横にちょこんと座り、うつむいた。 Nagato sat kneeling before me, and stared straight at Asahina-san. Asahina-san jumped in fright, before hurriedly sitting by my side, and lowered her gaze.
「朝比奈さんは自分がこの時間に跳んできた理由が解らないそうだ」と俺が説明した。「話によるとその時間の俺が行くように言ったようなんだが……。ひょっとして長門、お前には事情が解っているのか?」 “Asahina-san doesn’t seem to know why she was sent here.” I explained. “From what she told me, it seems that my future self sent her here... Nagato, do you know why?”
たとえ解っていないのだとしても、こいつなら未来の情報を教えてくれる可能性は高い。だから、 Even if she didn’t know why, I was sure that Nagato had means to find out, so when the word “No” escaped her lips, I didn’t feel uneasy. I mean, all she had to do was to perform that synchronization thingy to find out.
「解らない」
と、あっさり言われても俺は動揺しなかった。なに、これから解ってくれたらいい。あの同期というやつとかでさ。
しかし長門は俺の期待をあっさりと裏切ってくれた。 But Nagato’s next reply totally betrayed my expectations.
「できない。現在のわたしは、過去未来を問わずいかなる時空連続体に存在する自分の異時間同位体と同期することが不可能」 “No. In my current state, there is no way that I can synchronize with my past or future self.”
なぜ、と俺が言う前に、 Before I had a chance to ask why, Nagato said,
「禁止処理コードを申請したから」 “Because there is a restriction program.”
まだ解らん。なぜだ。 I still don’t get it. Why?
「わたしの自律活動に齟齬をきたす可能性があると判断した」 “My freedom is currently being limited, since there is still the possibility that I may go astray again. This is what they have decided.”
それが封印だとすると、お前の親玉がやったのか。 This restriction rubbish, was it placed by your boss?
「情報統合思念体は同意しただけ」 “The Integrated Data Sentient Entity has approved of it.”
長門の無表情はどこか冴え冴えとしていた。 Nagato’s expressionless face appeared to be different from usual.
「わたしの意志」 “But it was placed by me personally, by my own will.”
長門は電報を復唱するような声で言った。 Nagato said indifferently.
「解除コードは暗号化され、わたしではないインターフェイスの管理下に置かれている。わたしの意志では解除できない。そのつもりもない」 “A password is required to lift the seal, and the password is governed by someone else. My will alone is insufficient to disable the program. And I have no intentions of doing so.”
えーと、ようは長門は未来の自分とは情報|交換できず、もう未来の出来事を知る術はないと。当然、八日後から朝比奈さんが来た理由も不明だと。じゃあ俺はどうしたらいいんだ? So that is to say, Nagato had no way of synchronizing with her future self. She had no means of knowing what would happen in the future, and consequently, what would happen eight days later. If so, what should I do?
「あなたの判断で行動すればいい」 “Just act according to your better judgment.”
真摯な黒い瞳に俺の姿が小さく映っている。 A pair of black pupils stared directly at me.
「わたしがそうしているように」 “I’ll try my best to do so.”
俺は顎を垂らすしかない。長門が自意識を語っている。ひょっとして俺は今、長門に説教を受けているのか? I could only drop my jaw. Nagato was actually showing self-awareness. Wait, am I being lectured by Nagato here?
「同期機能を失うことで自律機動をより自由化する権利を得た。わたしは現時点におけるわたしの意志のみによって行動する。未来に束縛されることはない」 “Even though I have lost the ability to perform synchronization, I have obtained freedom beyond what I had imagined. Now I am able to act according to my own free will, unbound by the future.”
長門にしてはおしゃべりだった。何がそうさせているんだ。 Nagato sure has changed. Since when has she loved to talk this much?
「未来における自分の責任は現在の自分が負うべきと判断した」 “I feel as though I carry the responsibility of shaping my own future.”
長門は俺を見つめている。 Nagato continued to stare at me, as she said:
「あなたもそう。それが」 “The same applies to you. Since...”
長門はゆっくりと言葉を継いだ。 Nagato said softly, “It’s your own future.”
「あなたの未来」
* * * * * *
俺は目を閉じて考えた。 I closed my eyes and drifted into deep thought.
仮に予知能力があったとして八日後までの自分の行動を全部知ることができたとしよう。ついでの仮定として、その結果をどうやっても変えられないということも知ったとしよう。どうやっても未来を変えられず、何をやっても結局はそこに行き着くとして、だからと言って仕方がないとあきらめるのは正しいことだろうか。 Let’s say I had the ability to see the future. I would know what my future self was trying to do. And let’s say that no matter what I did, I wouldn’t be able to change the future, so the only choice was to walk the same path. So, should I follow the flow of time naturally? Is that the right choice? That I would know when the time came?
あれこれと足掻いた結果、どうしようもなくてそうなってしまうのと、だったらしょーがねーやと始めから何もしないのと、行き着くところは同じだとして、それで何もかも同じだと言えるか? After a few minutes of internal struggle, I finally came to the conclusion that since I didn’t have the power to see the future, I didn’t have a choice. Come to think of it, I didn’t have the power from the start either. This brings me back to square one. Or does it?
長門は足掻いたはずだ。こいつは自分がエラーを起こすことを知っていた。そうならないように努力したであろうことは疑問形にする労力も惜しいぜ。もしや知っていたことが原因だったのかもしれないが、どうあれ結果的にああなっちまった。誰が悪いとかいう次元の話じゃねえ。悪いのは俺だ。長門が変化しているのを感じながらそれ以上何も考えなかった俺が原因なんだ。少しはハルヒにも肩代わりさせてやりたいが、こればっかりは誰にも背負わせたくない精神的荷物だ。 Nagato must have put up quite a struggle, not only with the Integrated Sentient whatever, but also with her own will. She must have known that she would run astray, and tried her best to prevent it from happening. Maybe it’s because she knew of it from the start, but no matter what she did, she wouldn’t be able to change the outcome. It’s not a matter of who’s to blame, and even if it did come to that, I’m sure I was equally guilty. I had noticed slight changes in Nagato ever since summer, but I didn’t give it too much thought. Even though I had a slight urge to let Haruhi take the slate instead of me, I didn’t want anybody to go through the mental stress I was going through right now.
先月、未来の長門は過去の長門に向かって言った。 Just last month, this Nagato had said to the past Nagato:
Because I don’t want to.
自分がやるべきことをあらかじめ知らせたくはなく、知りたくもなかったからだ。
長門は自分が取るべき行動を取ることを知っていた。自分を信頼していたのだ。 Nagato knew that her past self would do what she had to do, or at least, she believed that she would do what she had to do.
あらためて決意するまでもない、俺だってそうしたじゃないか。 There is no need to decide upon things which are yet to happen. Isn’t that what I’ve been doing all along?
俺は未来から来た自分の声を聞き、過去に行ってそこにいた自分に同じことを言った。今後どうするかなんて聞いていないし、どうすべきかなんて言っていない。 I listened to my future self’s voice, returned to the past, and told my own self those exact same words. I never told him what to do after that. I left it for him to decide.
Because I know there’ll be a way.
そして俺はどうにかしてやった。だから俺は今ここにいる。 And I did think of a way. That’s why I’m standing here right now.
「だいじょうぶ」 “It doesn’t matter.”
長門の声で我に返った。黒い無感情な瞳がいつもより輝いて見える。 Nagato’s voice woke me up from my hallucinations. Those expressionless black eyes looked even brighter than usual. “My highest priority is to protect you and Suzumiya Haruhi.”
「わたしの最優先任務はあなたと涼宮ハルヒの保全」
朝比奈さんも入れてやって欲しいね。オマケで古泉もな。雪山の館ではけっこうお前に肩入れするようなことを言ってたぞ。 Oh how I hope you would include Asahina-san as well. And while we’re at it, let’s throw Koizumi in too. During the Snow Mountain incident, that fellow promised to help you as well.
長門はうなずいた。 Nagato nodded and said,
「敵性存在が意図を持って干渉してきた場合には」 “If the enemy tries to interfere.”
たとえば、どんな奴だ? Could you give us an example? What kind of enemies?
「情報統合思念体と起源を異にする広域帯宇宙存在。かつて、わたしたちを異空間に監禁した」 “The Macrospatial Quantum Cosmic Existence - An entity that is of different origin from the Integrated Data Sentient Entity. They have tried to imprison us in a different sealed space once."
雪山|山荘事件の野郎だな。 So you’re referring to those guys behind the Snow Mountain incident, eh.
「それらは情報統合思念体と遠く離れた」 “They are a similar, but separate entity. Compared to the Integrated Data Sentient Entity, they exist in a different---”
長門は言葉を探すように口を閉じてから、 Nagato shut her mouth, as if searching for a suitable word.
「----位置、に存在していた。互いの存在を確認してはいたが、接触はなかった。相互理解は不可能と結論されていたから。しかし、彼らも気づいた」 “---place. Even though both of them know of the existence of the other, there hasn’t been any contact before, because the both of them feel that even if there was contact, there couldn’t be mutual understanding.”
“However, they have noticed.”
何に。 Noticed what?
「涼宮ハルヒに」 “Suzumiya Haruhi.”
久々に味わうこの気分を何と表現しようか。誰も彼もがハルヒを特別視して、あいつの振る舞いを見守り、時にはちょっかいまで出す。 How should I describe this feeling of nostalgia? Everyone had noticed Haruhi. Everyone wanted to observe her very actions, be it her usual antics or her eccentric behaviors. Some had even wanted to pitch in and join the fun.
「雪山の遭難はそいつらの手引きによるものか……」 “So they were the ones behind the Snow Mountain incident.”
「そう。わたしに負荷をかけ、独力での危機|回避を困難なものとした」 “Yes. They were the ones who gave me extra burden, creating a scenario hard to escape with my own powers alone.”
その頃、お前の親玉は何をしていたんだ。昼寝か? Then what were your bosses doing then? Having a lunch break?
「有機|端末の機能では情報統合思念体の総意を完全に読みとることはできない」 “Modifications were made so that I could not fully understand what the Integrated Data Sentient Entity was trying to convey.”
しかし、と長門は二ミリほど首を傾け、 But then Nagato lowered her head, and said, “But I know that that was one of their means of ‘negotiation’.”
「それらが発信したコミュニケーション手段の一種だと認識したように感じる」
どういう話し合いだよ。俺たちをまるごと閉じこめやがって。そんなアプローチは現代社会では通用せんぞ。 What negotiation? We were totally put in the dark. That kind of method is totally unacceptable in modern day society.
「それらは我々とは完全に異質であり、思考プロセスの理解は不能とされる。それらも我々の思考を理解することはできないと推測されている」 “They are a life form totally different to us. We cannot understand how they think, and it is estimated that they do not understand how we think.”
どうやってもかよ。そいつらがハルヒをどう思ってんのか俺は訊きたいけどな。 Isn’t there any other means of communicating with them? I really want to know how they think about Haruhi.
「完全な情報伝達は無理」 “There is currently no means of transmitting data with 100% efficiency.”
だろうな。ハローの代わりに吹雪を持ってくるような能なしどもらしいし。 That’s what I thought. They were the kind to use snowstorms instead of summer days to relay a message.
「少しならば可能かもしれない」 “If it is a minor transmission, it may be possible.”
長門は縦方向に首を動かし、 Nagato moved her neck and said, “As long as they create a living humanoid interface like myself, even if they couldn’t achieve 100% efficiency, they would still be able to achieve a high percentage, especially through means of speech.”
「それらがわたしと類似機能を持つヒューマノイドインターフェイスを創出すれば、不完全であるが言語を介したコンタクトを取ることが可能となる。確率は高い」
まさか、もうどっかその辺にいるんじゃなかろうな。 There wouldn’t be some of them here already, would there?
「ありえる」 “There may be.”
ありえて欲しくないが、出てこないほうが不思議になっているこの感じも何としたもんだろうね。 Even though I didn’t wish for that possibility, I felt as if I would be even more surprised if they didn’t have at least one humanoid interface. What was this feeling, I wonder?
「あ……」 “Ah...”
呼気のような声を漏らしたのは朝比奈さんだ。 That ah~ was made by Asahina-san.
「まさか……」 “Could it be...”
朝比奈さんは何かに気づいたような、しかも驚くべきことに思い当たったような顔で長門を見た。長門も朝比奈さんを見た。俺は二人を見て、未来人と宇宙人が見つめ合っている様子に少し驚いた。 Asahina-san looked as if she had understood something, and looked at Nagato as if she had just realized something shocking. Nagato also looked at Asahina-san. The sight of an alien locking sights with a time traveler freaked me out.
「どうしました?」 “What’s the matter?”
「いえ、なんでもないです。ほんと、何でも……」 “No, it’s nothing... Really...”
慌ただしく表情を動かしている朝比奈さんにあっけにとられていると、すっくと長門が立ち上がった。 As I was astonished by Asahina-san’s stunned reaction, Nagato got up, looked at us and said,
俺たちを見下ろすように、
「お茶を用意する」 “I’ll go and make some tea.”
そう宣言してキッチンに向かいかけ、途中で立ち止まって振り向いた。 After making that statement, she headed towards the kitchen, before stopping halfway and saying,
「それとも」 “Or would you like...”
何を言うのかと俺が口を開けて待っていたら、疑問形の短い単語が降ってきた。 Like what? As I awaited her response, she came up with one, simple word,
「晩ご飯?」 “Dinner?”
* * * * * *
長門の今日の晩飯メニューは缶入りのレトルトカレーだった。五人分はありそうなデカい缶をそのまま鍋で温めるだけという調理には、何とも言えない長門らしさが感じられる。ここにハルヒがいたら、せっかくのカレーに余計なものをドバドバと放り込むだろうと想像して、俺はこれまた何とも言えない気分になった。うまさと楽しさのどっちを優先すべきかと。 Today’s dinner was canned curry, specially prepared by Nagato herself. As I saw her empty five people’s share into the cooker, I suddenly felt that it was Nagato’s usual doing. If it were Haruhi, she would have added some strange ingredients into the cooker. It was hard to describe. I wonder which should I choose, taste or happiness?
そういやすっかり晩飯時だったんだな。 The reason why Asahina-san was willing to sit down in the living room with an uneasy look, was because Nagato had told her to sit still and not move. When Asahina-san suggested that she help out, Nagato simply said, “You are my guest,” and started to prepare dinner. All she did was take out five cans of curry from a drawer, and start to slice up some cabbages.
朝比奈さんが居間に座ったままもじもじとしているのは、長門がじっとしているように命じたせいだった。手伝いを申し出た朝比奈さんに、
「お客さん」
と告げた長門は、黙々と夕食の用意を開始した。戸棚からカレー缶を取り出し、キャベツを一玉千切りにしただけだったが。
やがて深皿に炊きたてご飯を山盛りにし、レトルトカレーをぶっかけるというシンプルな中にも豪快さ感のあるメインディッシュと、これまた大盛りのキャベツオンリーサラダが俺と朝比奈さんの前に配膳されてきた。|恐 縮しきりの朝比奈さんはぺこぺこと頭を下げつつ皿を見下ろし、山脈のようになっている大量のカレーライスに胃痛を飲み下すような表情で固まって一粒の汗をタラリと流した。 After a while, the previously empty plate was filled with rice, and topped with steaming curry. Even in such simplicity, I was able to feel a sense of joy. This was the main dish. A side dish – a bowl of salad – was also laid before me and Asahina-san. An extremely uncomfortable Asahina-san bowed very low before looking at the plate of rice that was piled like a mountain before her. She made a face that suggested she was in a difficult position, and, like a gastric patient trying to resist the pain, she tried to smile as beads of sweat trickled from her face.
長門は自分の席に着くと、
「食べて」 “Eat.”
「い、いただきます」 “Well then, itadakimasu.”
もちろん俺も手を合わせる。カレーの匂いを嗅いだ途端に鳴り始めていた胃袋が待ちわびていたからな。手料理でないのは少々残念だったが、レトルトもたまにはいいもんだし、無音でカレーの山を切り崩す長門の喰いっぷりと行儀良く食べる朝比奈さんの姿を眺めながらの食事もおつなものだ。話が弾むわけではまったくないものの(ハルヒがいれば一人で喋くってくれるのだが)、食卓の風景としてはこれ以上を望むべくもない。 I put my palms together, before reaching for my chopsticks. At the scent of curry, my stomach had begun making rumbling noises. It seems that it had been waiting for a long time. Although I was mildly disappointed that the ingredients weren’t prepared by Nagato herself, a little fast food once in a while wasn’t that bad either. Looking at Nagato silently devouring the mountain before her, and Asahina-san politely eating her fill, even the rice tasted good.
Even though the three of us were completely silent, I somehow felt that it was the perfect atmosphere, fitting for the dining table in Nagato’s apartment. If Haruhi were here, she would have been so frustrated that she would probably have resorted to talking to herself.
その後、目を白黒させる朝比奈さんが残した半分以上のカレーを長門と共同で山分けし、食後にこれも長門が淹れてくれたお茶を飲んだところで、 After that, Asahina-san, who looked like she was about to faint, shoved half of her remaining curry rice onto Nagato’s plate. It was only after the three of us had finished eating that Nagato served us tea.
「ごちそうさん。じゃ、まあ俺はこのへんで」 “Thanks for your hospitality. I’ll be going now.”
「えっ。キョンくんも泊まるんじゃないんですかぁ?」 “Huh? Kyon-kun, aren’t you going to stay with me?”
お茶を上品に飲みながらみぞおちを押さえていた朝比奈さんがドングリ目を見開き、長門までが湯飲みに口を付けたままじっとした目線を送り込んできた。 Asahina-san, who was quietly sipping her tea before, suddenly looked at me with shocked eyes. Even Nagato turned to look at me, her cup still placed by her mouth.
「いや、俺は……」 “Well, that’s...”
ここで「それもいいですね」とか言ってしまった場合の妄想がバサードラムジェットエンジン暴走中の宇宙船ばりの速度で頭を駆けめぐった。長門から借りたパジャマを着た朝比奈さんが湯上がりの髪をバスタオルで撫でつけながらはにかんでて、その横で長門が頭から湯気を立てて牛乳をこくこくと飲んでいたりするシーンがフラッシュしては消えていき、和室に敷いた二組の布団の思い出へと記憶が遡行し、関係ないのに何故か脳内スクリーンにアップでハルヒのアカンベーが出てきたあたりで我に返った。 The desire to say aloud “Well, that’s not such a bad idea” sped through my mind, like a runaway spaceship. Images of Asahina-san, dressed in one of Nagato’s nightgowns, drying her hair with a towel, as well as Nagato, whose hair was still wet, silently gulping down a cup of milk, appeared in my mind before disappearing with a flash. For some reason, Haruhi’s face appeared in my mind, as my memory drifted back to the two bed sheets in the other room. This woke me up from my fantasies, as I said,
「今夜は帰りますよ。明日、学校終わりに寄ります」 “Well, that’s too bad. I’ll come over here tomorrow after school.”
それから部屋の持ち主にも、 I then faced the owner of the apartment and said,
「いいか? 長門」 “Is that all right, Nagato?”
こくりとする長門。俺はなおも不安そうな朝比奈さんにうなずきかけ、 Nagato nodded. Seeing this, I faced a trembling Asahina-san and gave her a slight nod.
「それまでここでじっとしておいてください。ま、何とかなりますって」 “Before I return, just stay here and don’t do anything. I’m sure we’ll figure out a way.”
気休めじゃないぜ。いざとなったら長門に時間|凍結してもらえばいいのだ。一度目の七夕のときにはそうして三年後まで戻ってきたのだから一週間なら楽勝だろう。加えて俺には別の予感もある。朝比奈さんが意味もなく時間遡行してきたはずはなく、八日後の俺がそうしろと言ったのには何か理由があったはずだ。未来のことなのに「あった」と表現するのも変だが、その確信は揺るがない。まだポケットに入っている例の手紙が教えてくれている。 Those weren’t words of consolation. If anything happened, all I needed to do was have Nagato freeze time again, just like she did the first time when we returned from the 7th of July four years ago. If she could freeze time for three years, I’m sure that a week would be a breeze. I also had a feeling there was more to this matter. My future self wouldn’t just order her to return to the past without a good reason, this I strongly believed. The letter in my pocket further confirmed this point.
だろう? 朝比奈さん大人バージョンさん。 Isn’t that so, Asahina-san (big)?
この件にあなたが絡んでいるのは間違いのないことですよね。 You have to be related to this incident, somehow. Or am I mistaken?
* * * * * *
いじましいまでに庇護欲をそそる朝比奈さんのおどおど顔に別れを告げ、俺は真冬の夜空を見上げながら帰途についた。 After parting with an Asahina-san who was invoking my strongest desires to protect her, I gazed up at the stars and made my way home.
その途上で考えることと言えば、長門の能力制限告白のことである。古泉、お前の予感は正しいのかもしれないぞ。長門が普通の女子高生になり、情報統合思念体とは無縁の存在として文芸部室の一員になる日も遠くないのかもしれない。そしたら、俺も困ったことが起こるたびに長門の力を借りに行かなくてもすむ。余計な負担を与えずにすむ。一緒に困ることのできる普通の仲間になれる。 As I walked, all I could think about was how willing Nagato was to limit her own freedom, as well as her willingness to talk about it. Hmm, Koizumi, maybe you’re right after all.
Maybe the day when Nagato Yuki will become a normal, bookish high school student of the Literature Club, totally unrelated to the Integrated Data Sentient Entity, isn’t that far away after all. When that day comes, even if something did happen, I wouldn’t have to rush to Nagato to ask for her help or give her any additional burdens to shoulder. She would become one of our friends, who could shoulder our problems together.
長門の力がなければ、当然今よりもっと困り果てることだってあるだろう。 If that time really came, we wouldn’t have Nagato’s powers to rely on. We would probably be in an even stickier situation then.
だが、それがどうしたというんだ? But so what?
去年の十二月、ハルヒや古泉がいなくなったり朝比奈さんが俺を知らなかったりした、あのおかしくなった世界を元に戻したことに後悔はない。だが、少しは未練も残ってるんだ。朝倉がおでんを持ってきたあの日の帰り際----。 I never once regretted reverting that world, where Haruhi and Koizumi were non-North High students and where Asahina-san didn’t have any memory of me, back to normal. But I also slightly missed that world. The day that Asakura made the oden, just as I was about to leave---
あの控えめな微笑をもう一度見たかった。 Nagato displayed a light smile.
それがこの世界でもありえることなら、ぜひそのほうがいいのさ。 I really wanted to see it again.
I really hoped I could.
Личные инструменты