ITSUJITA ~ C35: Excuse

 

Chapter 35: Excuse

 

I ask you to take care of Aina after I die.

A few seconds after she said that to me...

 

"You're kidding, right?"

 

It was all I can think to answer.

 

"No, I'm not joking. I'm serious."

 

Stella's eyes are serious.

I could tell from her words that she was serious.

 

"I'm sorry for saying this so suddenly. But I don't think I have much time left......."

 

Stella stared at her legs in frustration.

 

"Did Aina tell you about my illness?"

 

"Yes, yes. She told me a while ago that...... Stella-san is suffering from a disease called living rot illness."

 

"Was ...... Aina crying at that time?"

 

"She was crying. She was crying so much, maybe because she had been holding back."

 

"As I thought."

 

Stella closed her eyes as if she was trying to withstand something.

 

"I am ...... a bad mother."

 

She opens her closed eyes and mocks herself.

 

"I've noticed that Aina has been struggling for a long time. I've been aware that she's been working very hard for me since I've been unable to work."

 

"...... Yes."

 

"It was hard for me to see Aina like that. I was a mother, but I couldn't do anything about it. But what really hurt me was when she forced herself to smile in front of me."

 

"Forced?"

 

"Yes, I think she was trying to put on an air of pretense so that I wouldn't worry about my illness. She told me that I didn't need to worry about her. She forced herself to laugh. It was hard for me to see Aina like that. I feel so ashamed of myself......."

 

Stella sighed and continued to speak, "But," she said.

 

"There was a slight change in Aina recently. Only when she was talking about something, she seemed to be smiling happily. It wasn't a forced smile, but a sincere smile, just like the old days....... Once, I asked her why she looked so happy. I asked her once why she looked so happy, and she said, "I've met a very kind brother". She was talking about you, Shirou-san."

 

As she spoke, Stella's expression softened.

 

Just by looking at her face, I realized how important Aina is to Stella.

 

"Aina only smiles sincerely when she talks about Shirou-san.

Aina always had to force herself to smile. ...... But now - sometimes Aina has started to put on a real smile.

She told me... this is what happened today or Shirou Onii-chan had done something like that and so on. I was wondering about that for a long time. How could an encounter with someone change Aina so much? But today, I found out why."

 

"The reason?"

 

"Yes, the reason."

 

Stella-san looked at me and continued to speak.

 

"Shirou-san resembles that man, Aina's father.

 

Stella smiled sadly at me.

I'm sure her sorrowful eyes are looking through me at her husband, Aina's father.

 

"When Shirou-san came to my house, I was actually surprised.

I thought that man is back, and I thought my heart would stop."

 

"I'm sorry, I'm the one who came."

 

"Oh, I didn't mean it like that. I'm sorry if I gave you the wrong idea.

I just wanted to say that I was happy. Thanks to Shirou-san, now I can clearly remember that person's face, which had been blurred."

 

I've never seen any photos or anything like that in Ninorich. Assuming that the technology to preserve the image of the deceased, such as photographs or videos, is not available in this world, they can only rely on their memory to remember. And with memory alone, even the faces of our loved ones will fade away as the years go by.

 

"Thanks to you, I can remember the face of that person, so I'm sure I'll be able to find him whenever I go to the other side. Or, since he's so kind, will he come for me?"

 

"What do you mean with the other side? ...... Hey, Stella, what the hell are you talking about?"

 

"It's OK. It doesn't matter anymore. It's my body. I know better than anyone that I don't have much longer to live."

 

Stella-san raises her right hand and brings it in front of my face.

Her skinny arm is trembling a little.

 

"I can't move my hands or my legs freely anymore. It's only a matter of time before I join him."

 

Stella shook her head in disappointment.

 

"My only regret is Aina. If I die, what will happen to Aina? But ...... when I met Shirou-san and saw her having fun with him, my regret disappeared."

 

Stella-san is once again staring straight at me.

 

"Shirou-san, I know this is a rude request. If I die, can you please take care of Aina for me? She's ...... such a crybaby. I worry about her......."

 

Stella's eyes welled up with tears, and she choked on her words.

She can't even wipe them with her arms that can't move freely.

The tears that flowed down her cheeks from thinking about her daughter continued to fall silently.

 

"Please, Shirou-san! Please, take care Aina!"

 

Stella tried to force herself to get up, but she lost her balance and almost fell from her bed.

 

"Watch out!"

 

I immediately caught her body and naturally took her in my arms.

 

"Are you OK?"

 

"............ Yes."

 

"I'll put you back on the bed.

 

"...... Yes."

 

I didn't know how I should support her, so I struggled and ended up carrying her like a princess.

Once I had Stella in my arms, I lifted her up and tried to put her to bed.

 

"Are?"

 

Suddenly, I remembered something.

 

"I suddenly remembered something: "Excuse me, Stella-san, may I touch your legs?"

 

"Fue!? You mean my legs?"

 

"Yes, your leg.

 

"......"

 

"Aah! I don't mean to do anything weird. I was just curious about something! I don't have any dirty thoughts at all."

 

"If you're fine with these skinny legs ... feel free to touch them as much as you like."

 

It seems like she's misunderstood me, but at least she's already given me permission.

 

"Now, excuse me."

 

I sat Stella-san down on the bed and pulled her nightgown up a little to reveal her legs.

 

Her legs were quite thin for a grown woman.

 

"I'll touch them then."

 

"Yes."

 

I calmed myself down and slowly touched her legs.

I poked and tapped a little harder.

 

"Just as I thought."

 

I am now sure of something.

 

"Excuse me......What do you mean by just as you thought? Is my leg the kind of leg that...... Shirou-san likes?"

 

With a little bit of blush on her cheeks, Stella-san asks me shyly.

It seems that she has misunderstood me terribly.

 

"No, you're mistaken! It's not like that! It's just that I had an idea about the cause and cure of this living rot illness!"

 

I hurriedly explained.

 

"Is, is that so? A cure for living rot illness............ Eh?"

 

Stella is so surprised that she is stunned.

 

"Yes, I know the cure. I'm going to cure your disease, Stella-san."

 

"...... Cure? This living rot illness is......?

 

"Yes, it can be cured. I'll cure it."

 

"Really ......? Really, this disease is ......."

 

"I promise you. My uncle had a much more serious condition than Stella's, but he's doing fine now. I'm sure you can trust me to handle this."

 

I made a confident face and nodded vigorously.

Stella's tears started to flow harder.

She bit her lip to contain her emotions.

 

"Shirou-san...... I...... I ......"

 

Stella's voice is faint but clear.

 

"I don't want to ...... die."

 

Stella must have been in despair for a long time, losing hope and giving up on living.

I held her hand gently to reassure her.

I wish that she can get some hope to live.

 

"Don't worry. You won't die, Stella. You can continue to live with Aina."

 

"Shirou-san......"

 

Stella's eyes are looking at me.

Without averting my gaze, I nodded and said, "It's OK".

At that moment, Aina and the others came back.

 

"Aina and the others are back. Shirou, have you finish---."

 

"Mom, I'm home--."

 

"Shirou-dono, we're back---."

 

The three people came back at the same time. Once they opened the door, they all froze at the same time.

The three of them are looking at me, holding Stella's hand with her legs bare and tears flowing down her face like a waterfall.

 

Now, how to prove my innocence?

 

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