Upon waking up the next morning, I felt a chill throughout my whole body.
But I didn’t have a thermometer at home.
Mari-sama had broken it after she had contracted dementia.
And before I could replace it with a new one, Mari-sama had passed away.
The me who was exhausted from caring after Mari-sama used to zone out while watching the mercury move like little balls.
And I remember thinking to myself how they were really liquid metal.
I don’t know exactly how high my temperature is since I have no thermometer, but I am probably running a fever.
It must have been because of being in the rain yesterday.
I contacted the driver Suzuki-san and the academy to tell them that I will not be going to school today.
I then tried to make a compress but failed; I did not have enough energy in me to tie it together.
I gave up on the compress and instead wetted a handkerchief to place on my forehead while lying down.
I could hear the sound of rain falling.
It’s dark and quiet here.
My pajamas are one I made myself.
I learned kimono-making from Fuki-san so if it’s just something simple like a yukata, I can sew one myself.
The pajamas I’m wearing right now is one made from combining different kinds of handkerchiefs.
I think it looks pretty nice.
At times, I go to the kitchen to drink some hot water before going back to sleep.
I don’t have much of an appetite right now, so I put some salt in boiled water and drink that instead.
It’s hard to breathe.
As I nodded off while listening to the rain, afternoon had come.
When I looked at the phone, there was a message from the twins.
It said that the extent of their father’s injury was only a light blow.
And that they will be in New York for a week.
They also sent a picture of the three of them huddled close together in a super elite Manhattan penthouse.
Alone, I stared at the low ceiling in my dark room.
I hate it when I get sick, for I grow emotionally vulnerable.
I know that there’s no use in comparing.
But in spite of it, I feel miserable knowing how different our situations are.
It was a world I would never have gotten to know had I never met them.
When I was still just in this closed off Hanaoka Town, I had never had such feelings.
I had never thought myself miserable.
I wrote them a reply without letting them know of my fever.
I had also received emails from Kimoto-san and the rest in my free email address.
They’re worried about me.
How nice it is to have friends.
To them, I sent a reply saying, “Thank you for worrying about me.
I have caught a cold and am taking a day off because of it.”
My body feels heavy and I feel languid.
But I should still drink something.
Ah, I wonder if Fuki-san’s okay in the hospital.
Unsteadily, I drank hot water with salt in it.
I then returned to bed.
I no longer feel a chill, but instead my body feels hot now.
My breath also became ragged.
I spent the night dozing off.
Is it morning already now? Rays of sunlight are pouring in from the window.
Today’s sunny, I see.
I contacted Suzuki-san and the academy to let them know I will be taking the day off today too.
My hands were shaking and I could not properly hold the phone, but I was able to contact them.
Upon putting down the receiver, I felt myself losing consciousness.
When I came to, the landlady was sitting beside the futon.
I had a compress on and my pajamas had been changed.
Uh, huh? Why?”
The landlady’s face is kind.
It was the expression she used to have before she fell madly in love.
“You’re awake? How are you feeling?”
The landlady speaks in a Nagasaki dialect.
She was originally from Nagasaki.
I felt a deep sense of relief at the landlady’s gentle words.
“Thank you, landlady.”
“You should eat something.
I’ll make some porridge.
The landlady said that and went to the kitchen.
I reminisced about the past while listening to the sounds of pots being placed on the stove and water running from the faucet.
Long ago, when I had the mumps, Fuki-san had looked after me like the landlady was doing now.
… Come to really think of it, it’s exceedingly rare for me to catch a cold.
I have a really healthy body.
I also used to drink kakkontou whenever I was about to catch one.
I learned how to make kakkontou from the Mossad Tanaka-san.
Grate kudzu grown in the mountain, strain it through a cloth, and you’ll get starch settled at the bottom.
Dry that and you’ll get kudzu starch.
To this, you add dried ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
It takes a lot of work to make.
Tanaka-san taught me how to make traditional Chinese medicine from the plants that grow in the mountain behind the house.
Gentiana scabra, swertia japonica, and there are still other kinds of medicinal plants that grow there naturally.
Natural remedies’ effectiveness rely on the environment it grew in and on the individual taking it though, so I did not study them too deeply.
The possible side effects of medicines made by amateurs are dangerous.
That’s why I only drink the kakkontou that Mossad Tanaka-san taught me how to make.
… Just who is Mossad Tanaka-san? He lives beside his son and daughter-in-law – whose settings are as CIA agents – but they never interact and seems to be at odds with one another.
And yet, they have settled down so close to one another.
Just what is their deal?
Tanaka-san is always alone.
I sometimes spot him walking in the mountain, carrying a shotgun or a rifle on his back.
But he is always alone.
So I say, but I am always alone too.
When I was little, he taught me how to make several different kinds of Molotov cocktail.
But I think he shouldn’t have done that.
He even taught me to use the Molotov cocktail and throw it as a weapon when I have none on hand.
That’s not something you tell a child though.
In the first place, I don’t have good reflexes so there’s no way I would be able to throw it properly.
Such things might be why Comrade Yoshio think of Mossad Tanaka-san as dangerous.
My dream is to lead a relaxed life in the countryside while playing the piano.
But the countryside consist of exclusive communities and an outsider like me won’t be accepted anywhere… Even in Hanaoka Town, the ones who accepted me are only Comrade Yoshio, the landlady, and Mossad Tanaka.
When they die, I will be alone even here in this town.
In the end, I am all alone.
As I reached this conclusion, the landlady brought me porridge.
It was umeboshi porridge.
“It’s hot, be careful while eating it.”
Ah, it has been so long since someone else has prepared food for me like this.
What a thing to be grateful for.
As I finished the porridge, the landlady cleaned up and even did the laundry.
I lay on my sides and watched the landlady’s back.
It reminds me of Fuki-san.
Before realizing it, I had fallen asleep again.
In the afternoon, the landlady brought a doctor back.
But I have no way of paying for treatment.
When I told her this, the landlady told me that the doctor is fine with that and laughed heartily.
“… Red beard doctor.”
“Young lady, how do you know of something so old? Do I look like Mifune Toshiro?”
“I do not know who that is.
I have only ever read Yamamoto Shuugorou’s Akahige Shinryoutan.”
“You would do well to also watch the movie.
It’s a masterpiece.”
When he finished his examination, the red beard doctor said that it must be a cold and gave me some medicine.
“Rest well and drink enough water.”
The landlady sent the doctor off.
After returning, she peeled me an apple.
The sight of the apple skin falling in a spiral intrigued me and I watched as she peeled.
I ate a piece of neatly cut apple and though it’s crunchy and the juice stung my throat, it was sweet and tasted good.
I once again thanked the landlady.
I am in your debt.”
… A grandma lost in love, it must have been strange, right?”
I shook my head.
“I have never fallen in love before, so I might have been envious in the way you were able to become so absorbed in something.”
“It was a once in a lifetime love.
I was in cloud nine while with him.
The landlady stroked my head.
“That small child has now grown so big and pretty.”
To have my head stroked this way – I felt like a child.
Something welled up in my heart.
I can’t get carried away by my emotions just because I caught a cold.
But still I feel suffocated.
I wish I will get better quickly.
Just then, there came the sound of the front door rattling open.
A series of steps followed it, going through the kitchen and arriving at the living room where I was at.
“Setsu! Why did you leave without me? And for a kid like this? We’re going back now.”
The person who had suddenly barged in without permission was the landlady’s lover.
He seems to be wearing expensive clothing, but his shoes! What’s with him, coming in with shoes on!
“To comes in to someone’s house with shoes on.
How rude you are.
Just because you’re the landlady’s lover doesn’t mean that I will allow it!”
Since I was running a fever, I couldn’t raise my voice.
And I was still feeling unsteady so I said all this while still sitting, with my hand propping me up.
At the very least though, I did glare at him with all my might.
“This house is one which contract I hold.
That is to say, this is my house.
“What are you saying? My father is the one contracting this place and I am the one paying rent… Ah!”
The man took off his sunglasses and looked down at me with eyes resembling Mari-sama’s.
“Hey, been a long time, Reiko.”
He was my trash of a father.
 kakkontou is a kind of traditional Chinese medicine for colds sold in Japan.
It’s written as 葛根湯、with 葛 being the kanji for the main ingredient kudzu, 根 for root, and 湯 meaning hot water.
They’re sold in either liquid form in bottles or as powders.
 Mifune Toshiro was a Japanese actor who appeared in over 150 feature films, one of which was a work called “Red Beard”.
Synopsis from wikipedia: After getting his degree in medicine, Dr Noboru looks forward to serving wealthy clients and making money.
However, he is disappointed when he is sent to work in a small hospital in a remote village.
 A short story collection upon which the movie “Red Beard” was based.
Numerous movie and drama adaptations has been made from it, one as recent as 2017.
The most famous one though remains the 1965 film starring Mifune Toshiro.
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