In the end, Wednesday’s time limit came very quickly.
I got a can of coffee from the convenience store, I could see my white breath in the cold air.
I did not demand anything of her, that day, either
That’s because it was easy for Ichinose herself to understand that it was the very last day that she could stay crawled up in her room.
She should definitely take action.
I was betting on that.
“It is already the end of February. Next month there’s the special exam. If we get over that, then we’ll advance into being second-years, already. They say once it’s past the throat, one forgets the heat of the swallowed object. This might be true after all.”
Test on an uninhabited island, test on a cruise ship, paper shuffling and other unusual tests had been repeated.
“When we become 2nd years, I wonder what kind of even more peculiar tests, there will be for us?”
“Hey, can I ask you a peculiar question?”
As I muttered to myself, I heard Ichinose’s voice coming back after a long time.
“Sure. Ask me anything if you don’t mind me, being behind your closed door.”
I welcomed her gladly, but her words did not come back immediately.
Perhaps she had spoken for the first time in a few days.
“Why Ayakouji-kun doesn’t say or ask me anything?”
“My classmates and friends, try to persuade me to come to school, they keep telling me to talk to them if I am having any troubles, but Ayakouji-kun, you don’t even say a word. You just come every day like that… Why? “
It seemed that she didn’t want the other students to worry about her.
She could not understand why I was leaving school every day and wasted my lunch break at her door.
“Because the students who are worried about you, Ichinose, have tried to persuade you over and over again. However, I have a shallow relationship with people and I do not think that I could appeal to you by tempering with emotions”
I heard a faint sound of footsteps in the room. I felt as if she had sat down, only the door between us.
“Maybe, I’m here every day because I’m waiting for you to confess, everything.”
“You are waiting for me to… tell everything?”
At that moment, for the first time, I decided to step into the realm of Ichinose.
“I already know what is the crime you have committed”
“Even though I know things, I’m still unaware of the details. Only the part from when Sakayanagi started everything, until you took time off school. I already understand how much pressure you’ve put on yourself, Ichinose. Though, it’s not much help to be saying these things now.”
“Why… Do you know?”
“Now, that’s not important. Above all, I am not going to delve any deeper.”
If Ichinose didn’t want to talk, that story should end there.
“Ichinose you are probably not good at sharing your worries with others. You can save others, but you can’t save yourself. That’s your type. So, that’s why I’m here now. “
The feeling I wanted to convey should have been transmitted to Ichinose little by little.
There was a moment of silence.
It’s painful that when you want to express your emotions, you have no one to talk.
I’ve seen countless such children in the White Room.
Eventually crushed by themselves and disappeared. Never to recover.
“I am your door now. You can’t see my face, and you can’t touch me. I’m just a door. You can let out your weakness to me without anyone laughing at you.”
There was a clunk as I set my can of coffee down on the ground beside me.
“What will you do, Ichinose? Now is your crucial moment”
All of Ichinose Honami’s friends were reserved and quiet. It is not difficult to imagine that they threw a series of kind and gentle support to their dependable leader.
But that was no use.
It might have been the correct way to go, for a person trying just to support Ichinose, but it was a mistake for someone who wanted to fix the problem. You had to pressure her to submit, by force.
“Even though I’m so pathetic… Is it really okay?”
“Who has the right to deny it of you?’
“A criminal like me… I wonder if I can truly be forgiven….”
“Everyone has the right to be forgiven”
I reached out to her heart.
The rest depended on whether Ichinose would respond to that.
Ichinose behind the door, started to open up just a little.
“I was a… shoplifter. When I was in the third grade of junior high school, I suffered because of my pain and stopped going to school for six months. I couldn’t talk to anyone about it and continued to blame myself. Like I am doing now, I closed myself in a small room…”
The wound in her heart, which she was desperately holding down with her hand. She let it go and finally, Ichinose began talking.
Of what she had done. Of all that weakness hidden, under that shell.
That she had shared that story only to Nagumo. How Sakayanagi told her that she had been informed by another classmate that there was a student who shoplifted. That could not be a coincidence. It was clear that Nagumo had informed Sakayanagi about her past. She had no choice but to confess to everything, without any chance to lie about it.
She had no choice but to be patient and not being able to show any sign of weakness.
Admitting your own sins. I wonder if we really understand how difficult and scary it is.
Many inexperienced young minds experience shoplifting or, at least, some form of “sin.” But if you are forced to admit it in front of an audience, you would say, “I don’t do such a bad thing”. That’s only natural. It is terribly difficult to admit your sins and speak them up in public. That’s why many people persecute sinners in the name of justice.
But the sinners know. Their miserable end. So, they keep hiding. They keep holding on to their sins. They keep on wearing the skin of a good person for all their life.
Ichinose feeling guilty by her remorse, spent half a year alone.
And finally, due to her own will, she was released from her bonds… No, she managed to break free.
But these kinds of things follow you forever. They chase you until you die.
In fact, even that moment, again, they were standing in front of Ichinose attacking her heart.
So, she had to stand up face it head on.
By the time I had finished listening to her story, our lunch break would probably be over, but it didn’t matter.
Even when afternoon classes had already started, I just continued to sit there and listen to her speak.
Listening without comforting or reprimanding her.
Ichinose was sobbing behind the door.
I did not offer her any words of consolation. For such things were meaningless to Ichinose at that point.
The opponent she had to fight was clear from the very beginning.
It was herself.
It was whether she could come to terms with herself, that’s what the whole story was about.
Very few can really deal with their sins.
But when we are able to confront our sins… we can take a step forward.
That was the whole exchange between Ichinose and me before she told everything to her friends.
All of it.