Little Busters! Ecstasy : After Stories Vol. 1
Stars far away
Available in Little Busters! Ecstasy - Perfect Visual Book.
Story: Chika Shirokiri | 城桐央
Illustration : Itaru Hinoue | 樋上いたる and Na-Ga
Kud finally returned! In her way back to the beloved school dorm, she saw Kanata, the disciplinary committee ex-chairman. Kanata then gave Kud some of her old books which she planned to throw away. Reading the content of the books, Kud felt that she must do something for her— for the sisters.
Word count rougly 4000 words.
I walked forward, stepping on the shadow of the trees. I reached the stairs. Looking at the stairs with only two steps on it, I was reminded of the time when I was hospitalized. Just when I was injured I finally understand the importance of being in good health.
"Up we go..."
The stairs which was so hard to climb with crutches on, now can be climbed rather easily. I started to walk toward the bench in the courtyard. The lush, green grasses were dazzling.
"I'm- huff...... Прибытие (arrived)!"
I recognized someone sitting on the bench. As that person -who was looking up at the sky absentmindedly- responded to my call, she turned her gaze to me. Before that accident, she was known as the fearsome chairman of disciplinary committee. This morning I heard a rumor about her being very reserved after her retirement.
"Nice breeze today, isn't it?"
"To think that you would jump around under this scorching sun.... You sure are in a good mood aren't you?"
"Because I'm so happy now that I can move around freely."
"I had been thinking when I was bedridden. "What am I gonna do if I have to stay like this forever? What am I supposed to do?" The anxiety was overwhelming; it felt like I would be crushed by it. But... I did my best in the rehabilitation."
I tried to jump and hop around.
"I'm all OK now~"
"That's great. After all, one of the requirements to make your dream come true is being in good health."
"That's right...... Wafu?"
I suddenly noticed the paper bag put beside the bench.
"What are those books?"
It seemed that it contained several thick books.
"Just some things I don't need anymore."
"Is that so...? Can I have a look?"
"......It's not anything interesting."
I took out several books from the paper bag.
"Books about law?"
I flipped through the book. A lot of small letters flew through my eyes. The pages were all worn out in every single book, as they had been read over and over again. And, they were also full with writings and sticky notes. Titles like "The Complete Digest Book of Six Codes" and "Civil Procedure Law" were lining up.
"You don't need this anymore, which means you're already done studying these books?"
I asked while opening the last book in my hands. It has the title, "The Outline of Revised Child Welfare Act" written on the spine.
"Law isn't a subject that easy to master, you know."
"Then, why?" I wanted to ask, but before I could, I heard a murmur.
"Because I decided to quit, that's all."
"Quit? Why is it?"
There was no reply. Only a lonely smile remained.
"You're staying here, Kudryavka? I have matters to do, so I'll be going now. If you're interested in those books, I'll let you have them. If you're not, you can just throw them away."
"F- Futa— Futaki-san—!"
My tongue got tangled when I was trying calling out to her. I didn't know why. It just felt like I can't get accustomed to call her "Futaki-san". Even though I already asked her to call me by first name, so it should be alright to call Futaki-san by hers too.
"What is it?"
But I couldn't say anything to that person who stood still for me.
"You just have been discharged, so please don't jump around too much."
With her eyes remained downcast, she went away leaving those gentle words. I watched her off. I changed my gaze to the books. The writings in the sticky notes entered my vision.
"...'—shall endeavor to ensure that children are born and brought up in good mental and physical health.' '—shall equally be afforded the guaranteed level of life and be kindly treated'..."
Such were written in carelessly-lettered scribbles. Under the sticky notes were the exact words printed. Those words were blacked out sloppily with pen. It looked like they were scribbled out of irritation. I wondered what kind of feelings she had when she looked at this book. I wouldn't understand.
I returned to the dorm with the paper bag.
"Oh, welcome back, Kud-kou."
I met Saigusa-san at the entry hall.
"I'm back, Saigusa-san."
Softly hung in the air, was the smell of sugar and butter.
"You smell kind of delicious."
"Oh my? Really?"
Saigusa-san looked curious while sniffing around her shirt.
"Just faintly. Did you bake cookies or the like?"
"Yeah, it's chiffon cake. It turned out pretty great, I think. By the way.... Yay~"
She suddenly took my arms and held me.
"G- glad to hear that......"
Then I was hugged tightly just like that. When my nose was faced to her shirt, I could smell even stronger. It was clear, refreshing scent of orange mint. That scent felt heart-rending for some reason. "Even so, I'm glad," I muttered in my mind. It seemed that Saigusa-san can finally get rid of her hatred towards mint, as she was now covered in minty scent.
"Now I understand Yui-nee's feelings."
"Wha— What about it?"
"You're so comfortable and calming."
"G- glad to hear that......"
Kurugaya-san also likes to hug me, but she seems to be thinking of me as some kind of hugging pillow or the like. It seems that she'll hug me whenever she has the chance. When I was hugged by Kurugaya-san, it felt quite like "Boon!" If it's Saigusa-san, it's "Poyoon". While Komari-san is quite the same, Rin-san is quite like "Funyon". While me.... probably anyone who hug me won't feel anything at all.... Urgh, I had already drank a lot of milk, so why is this part not growing up? Maybe this is hereditary from my washboard-flat mother.....
"Saigusa-san, don't you want to hug someone else, not me?"
She slightly loosened her arms, and gently released me - who was standing on my tiptoes.
"I can't jump right to it. I'm doing my best, but now it just feels like three steps forward, two steps back."
Saigusa-san —with her left hand on top of her head— slightly smiled. Whenever she's taken over by emotions, she doesn't show her usual buffoonery. The face she was showing right now is her real, honest face. Most of people can only see what they want to see. I think people who only see what's on the surface are really sad.
"If it's you, I'm sure you can, Saigusa-san."
"If only it was true. By the way, what's that?"
I instantly hid the paper bag behind my back.
"It's... quite... secret books."
"Hmm? Ah, I see. Another complex books? You really are a hard-worker, Kud-kou."
She had question marks all over her face, but it seemed that she wouldn't pry on.
We started walking inside.
"You should work a little bit harder too, Saigusa-san. Haven't you taken your make-up exam?"
"Yeah, right. I'm completely at loss in liberal arts. Or perhaps, shouldn't I say that I failed at everything but math and physics? Yahaha."
"Maybe my teaching was not good enough......"
"No, it's not your fault, Kud-kou. I'm just stupid. I just don't understand things I don't have any interest in."
"But aren't you going to grow up as a failure if you only accept what you like?"
"Well, that's true... Although, Kud-kou..."
"Aren't you still like this even after all of your balanced diet?"
She extended her hand.
"Wh- Wheere are you touching mee—!?"
"Umm, your breast? .....or maybe, just the tip?"
"Wh- when you ask instead of answering, it really hurt......"
"Oh, sorry...... G- generally speaking, such case is commonplace, you think?"
"I won't overlook that."
"Ugh, Haruchin just got struck by lightning......"
"You're always like this, Saigusa-san. At least give me a little of your breast, you~"
"Even if I really really want to..."
Saigusa-san stood still.
For no apparent reason she pulled me close to her and hugged me tightly.
My face was buried in her chest.
"You see? I can't attach this to you because of height difference."
"Ahaha. If you grow a little more I'll give you some of this."
"Don't forget that promise, okay? Because I'll grow taller...... even if just little by little."
"When I was checked in the hospital, I really did grow a little height."
"I see. Good for you."
Saigusa-san smiled happily as if that good thing just happened to herself.
"Because there's height requirement for that, right? To be astronawt~"
She released me from her arms and we started to go up the stairs.
"It's great that you have a dream, Kud-kou."
"Don't you also have one, Saigusa-san?"
"I... do have a dream, but unlike yours, it's not some kind of future plan."
"Ah, is that so......"
"I can't imagine about what's ahead at all. I can only do my best for the present. So, I'm quite envious to you in that aspect."
She smiled. Everyone surely has their own problems. Problems that only they know themselves. Probably because we know that each of us has it, we can talk and laugh like this.
On the corridor we occasionally ran into our classmates.
While exchanging greetings, I realized the increase of people who had been discharged.
"Saigusa-san, are you free?"
"Would you like some tea, perhaps?"
"Yeah, sure. 'Coz I'm a Freefreeplanetling."
"Where is this Freefree planet?"
"Hmm, turn around on that corner over there, and just walk straight up until morning comes, I think."
As we were having nonsensical discussion, all of sudden we're already in front of my room.
I left the paper bag on the chair, and went to prepare the tea. I poured the hot water from the electric kettle to the tea server. Once she saw the tea leaves dancing in the pot, Saigusa-san took a full view of the room while seating herself on my bed, and so she said...
"A whole room for yourself? How nice~"
"You have three-person room, right?"
"Yup, a lively and fun trio-living.... Well, actually it's not all fun and games though. Putting that aside, aren't you going to put a notice about looking for roommate?"
"I had a thought about it, but to begin with, I think the time period for that is almost over soon. Plus, I'm sure everyone has been getting along so well with their own roommates by now already."
"Yeah, but aren't you lonely?"
"Well, I am. Although it's nice to have so many space for my books."
The tea leaves quietly sunk. The scenery above the desk was reflected on the surface of the amber-colored liquid; the books which were dragged out from the gray cardboard boxes: English and Russian dictionaries, reference books for airman competence test, and workbook for radio communication qualification.
"Saigusa-san, how much sugar do you want?"
"Hmm. You have sugar cubes?"
"Sorry I don't. But I have rock sugar if you want."
I showed her the sack I took out from the desk drawer.
The moment I poured the tea into the mug, the fragrance of Uva orange pekoe spread.
"I haven't had red tea for a long time now~"
Saigusa-san said while taking the mug.
"What is this tea called?"
"Uva orange pekoe.... Ah, orange pekoe it is~"
"That's not the breed, but rather the part of leaves plucked, right?"
She paused her words right there. Maybe she felt embarrassed about the ring of that word, she hung her head.
"......told me about it in lengthy explanation."
"Ahaha. That sounds just like Futa—... Futaki-san."
"Hm? Why did you get stuck at that part? Is it hard to say her name?"
"W- well, it's not like that, though..."
I twirl the mug around inside my palms. Silence fell in the room. It's not like I completely remember everything. It felt all vague, just like a star I cannot grasp even when I reach out my hand. I felt like it's so far away, yet it's so close nearby.
That fragment of memories surely was called "feeling".
"It's just somehow, but... calling her "Futaki-san" will probably make her feel desolate. But I can't call her anything other than that."
Because I couldn't remember. Because there was nothing but fragments. Because the only things left are those which were there from the very beginning. Whose words were those......?
Saigusa-san took some of the rock sugar and put it in her tea. It made sound of something being sunk in the tea.
One, two... three.
"I was the same. When I tried to call her "onee-chan", there was a strange feeling. But once I let it slip out my mouth, I got used to it. If I call her like that again and again, it just can come out naturally. I feel strange about it myself, though. That's really ridiculous isn't it? I'm already this big. I'm not some preschool kid. So the way I called her like a spoiled kid, well......"
Saigusa-san said it so fast.
"I can't say it well enough, I have to call her better and more. Just by doing that, I can tell her a lot of things. Just by calling her..... It'll bring her a lot, a lot more help, and I'm sure of it."
"Although I still can't call her out when she's right in front of my eyes," her murmur slipped through.
"I practice hard everyday for it though. "Onee-chan, onee-chan," I call out in front of the mirror, "
She brought the mug to her lips. I'm sure she is making progress even if it's little by little. I think it's something great, so I nodded to her without saying a thing. Then, we passed the time drinking tea.
"......That was delicious. Thanks, Kud-kou."
"It was my pleasure."
Saigusa-san -who just rose herself from the bed- set her sight on what's on top of the desk.
"So she took it out from the box, eh?"
It seems that she wanted to say something out, yet she could only shook her head as she just can't come up with any word.
"As I thought, I can't remember."
"You know, I had a feeling that I said "just throw it away". But I'm sure... that was wrong."
"Nah, it's nothing. Just talking to myself. Bye-bye, Kud-kou."
"Ah, right. Bye-bye."
She walked out the room while waving her hand back and forth.
"...just throw away, huh?"
I looked at the paper bag. Are those, perhaps, important books?
For example, just like my books. Just like my dog tag and those machine parts.
—I thought I have to talk about this. Hmm. I put a thought about who should I talk to in this case.
"I'm sorry for calling you out, Riki."
"Mm-mm, no problem. What do you want to talk about, Kud?"
I called Riki to the home economics club room.
"Um, this is about... Futa- Futaki-san."
"Futaki-san? What now?"
I held out a single book. The book with lots of sticky notes and writings. Riki sat down while opening the book.
"Looks like a difficult book about law."
"Futa—.....ki-san told me that I can have it because she doesn't need it anymore. But if I don't want, then I can just throw it away, she said."
"So that's it..."
I sat next to Riki. While feeling the warmth from his shoulder touching mine, I thought: The temperature of human is always like this. It provides you a confirmation that "I am here". Not just anyone, anywhere. When I came in touch with this warmth, I know the answer of the question "Who am I?"
"What do you want to do now, Kud?"
"I don't know what I am supposed to do......"
"......I just don't know what's right and what's wrong."
The silence fell. Outside the home economics club room was complete darkness. The wind coming through from the left-opened window was cool. That alone signaled us that the season was changing. "Fwump," so the sound of book being closed.
"You already have an answer yourself, right?"
"I'm sure that no one can decide whether your answer is right or not. Because, perhaps there's no such thing as absolute right. What do you think yourself, Kud? Was that DVD able to assure you what's right?"
"......it assured me that I was wrong, but—"
Riki remained tight-lipped and gave me a nod to continue.
"But, I think it doesn't guarantee what's right. After all, it could be wrong too. Maybe what I'm trying to do now will be nothing but repeating mistakes all over again, or so I think. But—"
It's really full of "but".
"But", "although", "even though".
"I think...... It would be great if I can fly, someday."
"Yeah. It would be really great, Kud."
I looked over the window while thinking about his words over and over again. I wasn't able to see well because of the indoor light, but I'm sure that the world of stars I aim to reach someday exists beyond the scenery out there.
"Alright, Belka. Behave yourself."
When I showed her collar and lead, Belka shook her head quiveringly.
I stood on my knee before Belka in the backyard.
"It's alright. The collar isn't scary~"
Quiver quiver quiver quiver.
"Geez, alright then. Belka, please follow and learn from Strelka's good example. Even I do, you know?"
I took off the silver chain from her neck. The one making clinking sound was the burnt dog tag. Looking at it makes my chest hurt. Even so, because I decided to face forward and embrace all the pain— all the regret... I must hold it with my smile.
"It's not scary...... Yeah, it's not... scary... at all."
I squatted and held Belka.
Belka licked my cheek. That warmth was so pleasant.
"On your morning walk?"
There was a refreshing voice. But at the same time, there's also a clear sound like "thud". That was a sound of paper bag reaching the ground.
What was in her right hand seemed to be a bamboo sword bag.
"Good mo-ning. Morning practice, is it?"
"I had been skipping practice for a while, after all. Quite long, actually."
"Whoosh!" so the bamboo blade made a sound.
"Thought I should try swinging it once I'm done throwing away the trash."
"......is that so?"
I glanced to the paper bag which seemed to be stuffed with something heavy.
"Are those books inside?"
"What? You want these too?"
"No, it's not like that......"
I remembered when I was about to continue calling her Futaki-san. About calling her with her family name. I thought, maybe it's because I unconsciously avoid breaking into her territory. I had experienced of regretting something I didn't do. So, rather than having to regret it later for unable to say it, it's must be much, much better if I just say it now.
"....It's not like that... Um, Ka-... Kanata-san."
Her feet stopped in her tracks. She didn't look back, so I couldn't see her expression.
"Didn't you want to be a lawyer?"
The answer to that question I threw on her back... was a reply almost like a whisper, after a long silence.
"......Right. I wanted to be an "ally of justice". I wanted to be someone who can help others. Even when there was no one to help us, I thought it's not given for us to lose into despair. "If there is no salvation anywhere in this world, then I will be the "ally of justice" for others...." That's what I thought before coming to this school, but I just had enough of reading now."
Kanata-san said it all in past tense.
"Why did you decide to stop?"
"Why, you ask?"
"There are a lot of reasons, but for one, I just thought that I should throw it away little by little."
"You shouldn't stop."
Kanata-san turned around to those words I've just spoken. Perhaps she was shaken. There was a sound of the bamboo sword falling to the ground.
"Please don't stop. Don't throw it away either. If that is your dream... please don't say that you're giving up."
"But... once you throw it away, don't think that something will change. Even so, throwing it away is very easy. Or perhaps you think you can finally decide on something by throwing it away? Though, I'm sure there is a better way out there. A better way than having you to end and throw your dream. I'm sure of it."
I held the dog tag tightly in my hand.
"Aren't those books... aren't all of your efforts.... a reflection of your dream, Kanata-san?"
Astonished she was, her face watching me was casting down.
"Do you know, Kudryavka? I had always thought that it'd be alright if I just disappear."
Her voice sounded like fading away. Before I could deny it, there was a voice ahead of mine.
"You really have that bad habit of saying something you don't even want to say, eh? Even though you never wish for anything like that. Even though you should have already learned that once you're unable to say it, it'll disappear sooner or later. A coward with no courage to speak up. But staying like that isn't good. That's what I think."
Beyond that voice was Saigusa-san. With that expression on her face — her real face behind the clown mask. Looked so pained, so bitter, yet it was a face concealing some kind of determination. With her left hand, she took off her hair bobbles and stuffed them inside her uniform pocket. The wind blew shaking the leaves. Perhaps because she let her hair flow with the air, I could feel the scent of orange and mint.
So softly, she called out that name.
Someone once said to me: "Only your name can't be taken away by anyone." As how I am "Kudryavka", there was a certain strength in that name Saigusa-san just called.
That is... a strength that can reach the hearts of people far away.
Kanata-san shook her body in surprise, and raised her face up. She shook her head several times. She let her murmur leak out. I think I could hear her whispering, "I don't have any right to wish for anything."
"Let's do our best, together. For our sake. For the children who fall into similar situation like us. So, you can't throw it away."
With determination in each of her steps, Saigusa-san approached Kanata-san and took her hand, pressing it to the book. She wrapped her hands which looked like resisting, and finally grasped them tightly.
"If it's you, onee-chan..."
Saigusa-san said meaningfully.
"If it's you, I'm sure you can. So, Kanata... Do your best."
So, Kanata... Do your best."
Kanata-san once again hung her head to hide her face, warped with a lot of mixed emotions. Her hand which touched the book shook slightly. Drips of tears fall to the ground. Kanata-san silently accepted that gently outstretched hand.
—There's no such thing as absolutely having no regret. We are always carrying our regrets. Once we pick the wrong step so easily, we can't do anything but to carry that burden and cast our eyes down. But, even if we can't stay strong all the time, we will strongly hold the fragments of our wishes. And for those we hold precious, I— we vow to become the gears of our world.
So, we have to keep walking, embrace the feelings and face forward.
Until far, far away.
 Shadow Stepping
Kud was likely to be playing shadow-stepping game, or 影踏み (kagefumi). I remember her playing it in the visual novel, so... I guess this is a bit of continuation of that.[^]
 Child Welfare Act
This line is from "The Revised Child Welfare Act", Chapter 1 Article 1. Text shamelessly copied from The official Japanese Law Translation provided by Japan Ministry of Justice.[^]
 Boon! Poyoon~ Funyon.
Of course, Kud was thinking about... breast volume. Let's just say it's her onomatopoeia for breast size. But hey, she didn't even think of Mio-chin. Poor second-flattest girl Miocchi.[^]
Freefreeplaneting a.k.a. ひまひま星人 (himahima seijin) is a reference to AIR. Kanorin said this in AIR TV episode 1.[^]
 DVD (?)
Honestly, I don't know what the hell is this Riki suddenly talking about DVD???
Maybe I just forget something about DVD in the VN? Or is it new kind of slang for something else? I thought Riki (or the writer) meant to say "the gears" or "the dog tag" but honestly. I. DON'T. KNOW.[^]
 Far Away
Punning Haruka and Kanata's name to the max! Basically when it's something faraway, it's Haruka Kanata. No worries.
that's hakuna matata you idiot[^]