For a long time, she had a poor tendency of looking at things in a pessimistic manner.
She always thought of things in the worst way.
Hoping that she would get 100 marks in a test, she would be despondent getting 80 marks. While feeling defeated because she assumed she would get 60 marks however, she was delighted to get 80.
There was a boy she liked in class, but even when she exchanged looks with that boy, she never wondered if that boy ever liked her.
When she thought of how it was a coincidence, thinking that he never had his sights on her in the first place, she did not feel as depressed upon learning that he was dating the prettiest girl in their year.
She was always thinking in the most pessimistic manner possible.
And when that happened, it would be better off for her if anything bad actually happened.
Sora shielded herself by not having expectations in life.
That she would never make promises because they would never be fulfilled.
That she would not look at dreams because she would wake up from them.
However, that her was as hollow as a shed husk of a cicada, and she assumed the name ‘Sora’, sky, was actually the meaning of hollow, that she was just a dried, brown, feeble, empty container, overly normal, overly boring, and that was her.
—How about we invite Miss Semigaya to upperclassman Sakagami’s live concert at the autumn festival? Isn’t it a lot more exciting to invite some girls along?
—Eh, forget about it. That person’s so serious, she’ll definitely look down on us if we party so hard.
—Her dad’s a pastor, and she’ll go to the Church for volunteer work during vacation. Isn’t it more enjoyable for her to pray to God in church than to go to a festival with us?
—Ah, I get it. Feels like Miss Semigaya’s married to God or something.
Sora would head home immediately after school so that she would take care of her much younger brother in her mother’s stead, the latter having died a long time ago. The narrative that she was a by-the-book person began sometime, and stuck with her. After half her Middle school life passed, nobody invited Sora out to play.
Her father remarried when she was in 10th grade.
Her stepmother too had a child, a girl a year younger than Sora.
Unlike the feeble, skinny Sora, she was a round girl blessed with assets, her skin and lips gave a healthy gloss, and she was a cheerful, personable person.
“If you win a 30 million Yen lottery, how will you use it?”
“if I become a high school girl, I’ll definitely work in a shop with a cute uniform, and have some love at the workplace.”
“The handsome guy Naitou sitting beside me lent me an eraser. Does he like me? Isn’t that great?”
She was so jovial when she said.
Sister, sister she greeted Sora as such,
“Sister, you’ll be a beauty if you change your hairstyle and put on some makeup. It’s a waste that you cut off your hair. Your skin’s white, so a bright color really suits you. Look, you’re wearing a cardigan with the color of a rainy sky. Ahh, it’s really a waste that you’re born a girl and not enjoy this fact.”
She lamented in such an exaggerated motion.
“Hey, the classics teacher Mr. Tomizawa seems to have interest in you, sister.”
And it was the little sister who made this little gossip.
While Sora was in her second year of high school, and her sister in the first,
“He said that he’s so moved to see a traditional high school girl with such a serious personality and so capable in modern Japan. I told him that you’re working at the church as a volunteer, and he was becoming increasingly delighted, marveling, ‘As to be expected of of Semigaya’. When I told him that the PTA will be notified if a teacher does anything to a student, his face was blushing, saying that’s not it and becoming frantic. Hey, Mr. Tomizawa’s really cute, right? He’s rather handsome, and he’s only 24. he’s very popular amongst the girls.
She was chirping so delightedly.
“Mr. Tomizawa took Miss Morikawa’s place as your club advisor because the latter’s on maternity leave. Wow. You’re now his target. It’s blatantly obvious now!”
The high school Sora studied at required all students to attend a club.
And Sora belonged to the reading club, which only had one club activity a week.
Thus, she did not have any intimate contact with the club advisor, and could not believe her sister’s words at all.
“Mr. Tomizawa’s still having a hangover today. He’s weak to alcohol, yet his bad friends forced him to drink it down. He had some medicine in the infirmary, but he’ll definitely be delighted if you dress up as a white angel and take care of him.”
Her eyes dazzling as she said this to Sora,
Please do not say such foolish words.
Sora coldly retorted.
It’s immoral for a teacher to have an affair with a student, and surely it’s a one-sided wish of my sister that Mr. Tomizawa likes me. How can a masculine adult like this plain, old-fashioned Sora?
Surely my sister’s mistaken about something.
No, maybe it’s just a prank to tease this older sister who doesn’t have interest in any man, let alone a first love, after she entered high school.
By then, Sora had already decided on being a clergyman, and surely, those around her assumed she was to be God’s bride. Sora herself knew that she did not have any feminine charms, and no outstanding talents to speak of. All she could do was that thing, and she had already given up on having such a thought.
The first time she met Hikaru was not long after the indecent relationship between Mr. Tomizawa and her sister was revealed. It became a scandal at school, and Sora’s father and stepmother divorced due to this matter.
Her father’s redeployment was determined, and that was the moment where Sora and her brother had to live in the church her grandfather worked at.
It was midsummer, a night she could not sleep due to the humidity.
She had some uneasiness all that while, and was having difficulty falling asleep. While she was finally able to sleep due to fatigue, her eyes opened immediately.
Her frail body was covered in sweat due to the heat, and even though she opened the window, humid air would blow in. Unable to sleep, she thought she might as well read the Bible, only to find that there was none.
She recalled that she left her Bible in the chapel hall during the day when she had her prayers, and was about to go get it.
She put on the cardigan, which her sister described as the color of a rainy sky, over the pajamas that was like a one-piece dress.
It was as hot as a sauna outside the building, and she could scent upon the aroma of the plants growing lushfully in the summer.
The dim moon shone upon the courtyard, and there was something of a salacious atmosphere in this place as compared to how it was in the day. There seemed to be something awful hidden somewhere, like an alluring stare continuing to spy upon her.
There was some noise as she stepped on the dry grass, and finally, she arrived at the chapel. There was a teaching that the doors were to be opened for all lost souls to enter, so the chapel doors were not locked. As she opened the old, heavy doors, they let out a creak.
She took the bible she left in front of the altar, and just when she was about to return to her room, there was some noise from the many benches.
“Is there someone there?”
If it is a supernatural being, I’m not afraid. God is protecting me.
However, if it was a criminal with the blood of humans dripping down him, or a homeless wanderer,
The sweat dripped from her body, sapping the heat from her as she asked, and appearing between the benches was a slender figure standing there.
The moonlight from outside the window shone in on the white body and the messy, soft hair, showing a silver glow. That clear, pretty face was exceptionally eye catching in the dim chapel hall.
And the eyes staring at Sora were practically pleading her, so clear they appeared to have absorbed light, and those petal like lips were quivering slightly.
“I am really sorry for entering without permission.”
It was difficult to determine if it was a boy or a girl, and that inexplicable clear, rich voice echoed in the forlorn chapel hall.
That voice was something Sora assumed to have come from the heavens, listening piously.
“I have no place to go to…”
That’s not an angel.
That’s a human boy.
No, he’s an angel after all, is he? I never met such a pretty body before.
But if he’s a human boy, did he leave home? If that’s the case, I can’t leave him alone!
“I-I’ll call for uncle—the pastor.”
Once she said that and turned to leave.
“Please, do not leave!”
The boy ran towards Sora, wrapping his slender arms around her, embracing her tightly.
There was the sweet scent of flowers the moment he embraced her, and she was left bewildered.
“Please, stay here. I can no longer go home…I can no longer be with that person…I do not know what I can do right now.”
The slender arms wrapped around Sora were quivering, and the little face pressing at Sora’s neck was very cold.
Sora did not know what was going on, but surely, this child had quite the damage.
And feeling the same pain within, Sora was overcome with the urge to protect the child, a strong desire to help this child.
Perhaps it was due to the humid air lingering in that summer night, and the beauty of that boy that was practically superhuman, for she was unable to make a rational decision.
“Are you…in pain now?”
She asked the boy with a tone even she was startled by.
“It hurts, like my heart is being stabbed continuous by a spear.”
“Are you depressed”
“Very, very depressed, so much that I wish to vanish.”
The boy’s arms were so slender, so fleeting, so white like snow, ostensibly able to melt into the moonlight. Sora turned towards the boy, and took the initiative to embrace him.
And the boy too embraced Sora tightly, like a lost child chancing upon his mother.
He was unable to obtain the love from the one he truly loved, and lamented with a depressed tone.
He had always loved her since young, and with that person around, he did not need anything else.
To the boy, that person was everything to him in the world.
But they could no longer be together.
They could no longer embrace each other like that.
And Sora merely embraced the boy.
In place of that woman that boy loved so much, and yearned for.
In place of that woman who could no longer reciprocate the boy’s desire, and in the midst of the forlorn moonlight, Sora gave everything she could give to the boy.
She knew God was watching her when the boy pleaded him, that she should not be doing such a thing, and that it was not the right thing to do, a defiance of God’s teachings, an impure act as a bride of God, something she should not do. Her conscience was continually pricked by the guilt.
No, I can’t accept this! No!
I can’t go along with him!
I can’t be doing such a thing!
I’m God’s bride!
This child is just thinking of me as a replacement for another woman!
He’s just seeking this coincidentally bystander in me for help, rejected by his beloved.
I can no longer be with God, unable to be his bride!
No matter how much she refused in her heart, her entire body forgave and accepted the boy, whether it was the arms wrapped around him, the legs intertwined with the boy’s icy legs, and the lips on the boy’s tender face.
—Sora, you are like a cypress.
The hoarse, lukewarm voice rang softly at her ears, and there was that numbing sweet pain.
The boy placed his head upon Sora’s feeble knees, and fell asleep.
Shrouded by the glittering moon particles, the slender, naked body, the long eyebrows etched onto that little face, that high nose bridge, and the petal-like lips were scarily beautiful.
She really did not match him at all.
The sunlight replaced the moon immediately, shining in, and that dry skin and pathetic appearance of hers would surely be shown in front of this angel.
Too flustered and ashamed, her body was searing like fire.
I am just a hollow husk, one shed by a cicada. There is no way I can be with an angel—
The boy would open his eyes immediately, and she was terrified of how she would look in his eyes. She put on the rainy sky-colored cardigan on her speckless white body, and escaped the chapel hall.
Ever since then, the boy would look for Sora a few times, but never found him.
After school, the boy would arrive at the church, playing with Sora’s brother in the yard as he waited for her.
He was most probably looking for her, looking in the direction of the chapel hall, and at those moments, Sora’s heart would jump.
However, they never met.
She hide herself in the shadows of the building, never revealing herself from there.
She, such a boring person who was like the hollow shed skin of a cicada, would only cause that angel to be disappointed.
The cries of the cicadas gradually got silent, and the wind got colder. Red leaves began to appear on the trees, and the boy’s appearances at the church became less frequent.
For the shed cicada brown husk that fell to the bottom of the tree, she felt it was for the best.
They would no longer meet again.
She should forget about that night, and revert back to being that pious, holy woman, for that was the lifestyle that fitted her.
However, they met again a few years later.
Sora became a college student.
Her grandfather died, and though she no longer stayed at the church, she continued to be a volunteer, and just so happened to appear at that chapel hall on that night, when the snow pelted heavily.
The door opened, and along with the turbulent winds and the icy snow, that angel, Hikaru, entered.
Hikaru peered into the church through the window in a corner of the building, and the sunlight shining through the foliage was so dazzling, as Hikaru, standing in front of her, looked ready to die immediately, his limbs and body that icy. However, Sora never embraced Hikaru.
She immediately ran away on first glance.
But a second time—she probably would not be able to run away.
Perhaps she had fallen for Hikaru after all.
That was a terror that could rivet her heart.
The snowy light shining through the window caused Hikaru’s limbs to be whiter than the snow, and there was the heart aching beauty and purity. The then middle school Hikaru probably had thought of Sora as an aunt, herself being a college student. She was not pretty, and had no unique specialty. This boring self of hers surely was not a match to him after all, and she firmly believed that if she was with him, all that would end up with was a tragic scenario.
Like back then, and even in this state, Hikaru prioritized another woman over Sora, and though he was begging for Sora, surely he would return to that prettier flower the next day when dawn struck.
Seeking that brighter fantasy.
And then, Sora, as a hollow husk, would not be able to fly, simply falling to the floor, tragically watching his back grow distant.
So instead of that, perhaps it would be better for her if she chose to turn around—
“It is fine for me not to have such conflicted feelings.”
It was soon before night was about to arrive.
The lime green bush that was bundled in a circle like a broom stood there like a pack of sheep laid out to pasture, and Sora recalled all that had happened between her and Hikaru, saying that.
She gently placed her hands on her belly.
And so, her palms and belly gradually got warmer, her heart becoming tranquil.
“Hikaru has passed away, and will never show his back to him. He is disappointed in me, annoyed by him.”
Within Sora’s belly was the Hikaru that belonged only to Sora, the Hikaru that definitely would not turn his back on her, and would definitely never leave her.
“Please be born soon.”
She said gently to the child in the stomach with a gentle tone.
Hikaru taught me that the round lime green bush of thin twigs is called the broom tree.
—You are like a cypress, Sora.
The summer night when they met.
While the sweat and fluids dripped and mixed with each other, the hoarse, lukewarm voice rang by her ears.
Once she saw the actual broom tree, she was very disappointed to find it being a messy green bush instead of a flower.
And when they met, Hikaru embraced Sora by the arms, holding her tightly.
—It is great that you are able to remain as a cypress.
“I saw it already, It isn’t a pretty flower at all, just like a ball of green moss.
Feeling a little begrudging, Sora replied.
”That definitely is not a cypress. That is a broom tree. (TN: Here’s where the confusion is as a translator. 帚木 would be a Japanese Cypress, and the second chapter of Genji Monogatari (with Utsusemi following immediately after). 箒木 would be broom tree, and that’s a completely different plant. God, I hate translating this part.)
“The broom tree too is a soft, thin plant, and when made into a round bush, it looks just like a broom. It really is a beautiful flower.”
“Is that so? It does not have any flowers, and does not look like one.”
And so, Hikaru desperately leaned his body forward.
“That is not the case. The broom tree is really pretty, and more so when it has red leaves, like a coral. I suppose the legendary Cypress tree is the same too. Let us go look for it next time!”
He said that with a dazzling, innocent face, just like a tree.
The green broom tree surely looked plain even after she looked at it again, and was not pretty. It was a flower that could not be considered as one.
Hikaru lavished praise on Sora, saying that she was like the legendary Cypress tree, but she in fact surely was like this broom tree.
A plain, boring flower…
(But even so, I’ll stay here until autumn ends.)
She made this promise with Sora.
And placed her hands on the belly, showing a satisfied smile.
“I’ll tell you that I love you everyday once you’re born.”
Suddenly, she heard Hikaru’s voice.
—The Cypress will vanish if you approach it.
Though it appeared like a broom if she was to stand and watch from afar, there would be nothing if she approached it, and thus, she was unable to do so.
What she really wanted would vanish if she approached it, and she could not touch it with her hands as it disappeared.
There was the sight of red blood dripping in front of her eyes, and in an instant, she felt a red color dyeing her vision. She was suddenly struck with unease.
She embraced her belly tightly.
It’s okay, this happiness won’t disappear.
Appearing on the other side of the clock tower behind the hill of cypress trees was a melody of glittering stars.
The original tune of that was probably ‘Ah! Vous dirai-je, maman’.
And the girl in love was blushing, full of life as she told her mother.
Ah! vous dirai-je, maman,
Perhaps, if her mother was still alive, would Sora be able to tell her everything?
Would she be able to explain the bitterness in her heart to the one who shared her life?
Would this child that was to be born tell her so honestly, so naively ‘mama, please listen to me’, when he surely fell in love with someone?
The wind again got colder.
And the little Hikaru seemed to be kicking as Sora gently hummed that cute, lively melody.
Amidst the bunch of lime green broom trees that swayed gently, she spotted a red haired youth running over to her.
He was leaning forward, his shoulders a little round.
His face was stiff, staring at Sora with dazzling light from his eyes as he slowly approached her.
That boy was Hikaru’s friend—…
While Sora continued to quiver, Koremitsu stopped in his tracks, hissing,