It was a masterpiece.
I closed the book I just read, stared at its cover for quite a while, and embraced it.
I laid on the bed, and looked to the ceiling. The scenes appeared and vanished before my eyes. One by one, they were stored in my heart like treasures. I felt utter bliss.
It was the second morning of Golden Week.
Compared to the year before, my social standing in school was drastically different. Because of that, I spent a lot of time socializing, and didn’t have much time left to read. I wanted to use this Golden Week to clear my backlog completely.
I was on my second book, and had encountered a really wonderful story.
…I really wanted to discuss this with someone.
I really wanted to express my feelings to someone.
And I really wanted to share these feelings with someone.
However, none of my highschool friends enjoyed reading. I did try to look for discussions online, but it wasn’t really for me. Looking up books on the internet had ruined my reading experience before.
Discussing a book was best done face to face.
How did I deal with this before…?
I could vaguely visualize a certain man’s face. Ahh yes. Back then, I never had to worry about who to discuss a book with. It was such a luxury—once I had this thought, I realized something.
We live under the same roof now.
“…N-no other choice then…”
There really wasn’t another choice. It was by simple process-of-elimination. Yep, that’s right.
I left my room and glanced at the next room over, but when I sensed there was someone in the living room, I went downstairs instead.
Seated on the living room sofa was the man I was looking for.
Mizuto Irido. My little stepbrother…and my ex-boyfriend.
He was slouched onto the sofa, staring at the TV listlessly. He looked bored out of his skull.
“…What’re…you doing?” I unintentionally hid the book behind my back as I asked.
Mizuto gave me a sideways glance. “Finished all my books. Wanted to go out and buy a few new ones, but it’s too windy, so meh.”
The living room windows rattled and shrieked even at this moment. It wasn’t a tornado, but strong gales howled away anyway. It’s just a little gale and he’s already refusing to go… what is he, a train? Well, I was still at home because I didn’t like the wind messing up my hair.
…Eh? Wait, isn’t this an opportunity?
He was bored to tears because he had nothing to read; it was a once-in-a-month golden opportunity. If I didn’t seize the chance now, he might not ever read this book on my recommendation…
H-here goes nothing…!
“Hm, hmm…? I see…” I pretended not to care, and sat a little further away from Mizuto.
Mizuto looked away from me, and frowned with surprise.
I fiddled my bangs using my other hand, and pretended to act indifferent. Calm down…be cool.
“If you’re that bored…I could, maybe, lend you a book?”
It’s perfect! 5/7! Completely natural, nothing weird about it! Award of Best Leading Actress goes to…me!
Mizuto’s frown deepened. “…What are you up to?”
“N-nothing…?” I avoided his stare, and ensured he couldn’t see my face. Don’t sweat the details!
The doubt on Mizuto’s face lingered however.
“Well, better than nothing…”
“Y-yeah. We have the day off today after all.”
“I guess any book—”
“This one!” I then revealed the book I’d hidden behind my back, and thrust it at Mizuto’s face. “This one! It’s really interesting!”
“O-oh?” Mizuto instinctively took the book. I might have come up a bit strong, but I managed to make him accept it, so no problem!
He sank back into the sofa, fiddled with his bangs, and examined the cover. Then he flipped the book over, and read the back synopsis. “Looks like a run-of-the-mill detective novel.”
“That’s…!” I had the urge to spoiler him completely, but managed to restrain myself.
I-I really want to tell him…! I want to tell him what’s so amazing about this book! But I also want him to go into it blind…! That’ll be more interesting! But what if he’ll stop reading if I don’t convince him it’s really interesting…!?
“…Anyway, have a look!!”
Caught in a dilemma, all I could do was lower my head and yell. Uuuu, why hasn’t humanity invented a way to deal with these situations!?
Mizuto looked at me in surprise.
“Don’t really get it…but fine, I’ll read it.”
He flipped the cover aside, and started reading. Okay okay…!
He kept flipping the pages with those fingers that were rather fine for a boy, skipped past the characters page typical for a mystery novel, and went straight to the prologue.
I observed my stepbrother’s face while he started to read.
And his eyes glanced towards me.
“…Can’t read like this, you know?”
“Ahh…so-sorry. I’ll stay away!”
I hastily pulled my distance. I shouldn’t distract him from reading…!
I stared at him intently from more than a meter away, and he gave a really conflicted-looking grimace.
He looked at the book again, and began flipping the pages.
I stared furiously at his sidelong face.
I could tell he was immersing himself deeper and deeper into the world of the book. I too held my breath, seemingly entranced by his state. I recalled my feelings when I read this book, and imagined the scenery he would conjure.
Soon enough, he’d already flipped through a third of the pages.
Mizuto gasped a little. It was the first plot twist. The expression on his sidelong face changed as he was captivated by the story.
I started to smile.
At that moment, Mizuto glanced aside at me.
I hastily covered my mouth with my hand, and wordlessly shook my head.
Mizuto looked at the book again, and put his elbow on his knee as he leaned forward.
Outside, the sunset shone red.
Flip, flip, flip.
The remaining pages were flipped at least twice as fast.
During this time, he didn’t change his position or move. It was as though he was completely detached from this world.
And before I knew it, there were more pages on the right than the left.
He continued reading, until there was about a third or so of the pages left.
And at that moment, for the first time since he started reading, he made a different sound.
“…Ah,” he let out softly. His eyes widened slightly, and his irises gave off an enlightened glint.
I stood beyond his line of sight, and nodded away. I guessed he was at the part where the readers could grasp the author’s intent.
Mizuto kept flipping through the pages, not stopping at all.
He was in the last quarter or so.
It was time for the mystery to be solved; the moment of truth…
And Mizuto stopped.
While I was feeling confused, he started to flip the pages backwards.
…What’s he doing?
He checked the previous scenes, used his fine fingers as bookmarks, and then closed the book. He straightened from his previous hunched over posture, and slowly eased backwards into the sofa. Mizuto leaned his head back, closed his eyes, and started mumbling something.
He…he’s starting his own deductions before the conclusion~~~!!
That was the first time I saw someone who actually read detective stories that way. Even when we were dating, I never managed to watch him read from beginning to end… I used to think that I read faster than him, but maybe, just maybe, that was just because this was part of his reading routine.
“So when that happens…then—ah!”
10 minutes or so went by.
Mizuto’s eyes widened. He flipped back to a previous page to check something, and nodded away. It looked like he’d solved a piece of the puzzle. That was quick.
After a few more times of that, he finally arrived at the solution.
I resisted the urge to smile.
Just a little. Just a little more—
His eyes narrowed into dots.
Let’s get this clear: that wasn’t hyperbole. I saw it happen right in front of me.
“Ahh…ahm ahh!? Ahh~…ahhhhh~~~!!”
Mizuto cupped his head, shrieking away either in acknowledgement or remorse.
The story’s biggest misdirection was completed with merciless precision.
His crude hypothesis had been rejected and thrown aside, but if he just stopped to collect his thoughts and go over the plot developments again, he’d realize just how riveting and sharp the writing was.
A bowl of ramen: 550 yen.
That mystery novel he was reading: 1500 yen.
The look on his face that just screamed “I’ve been had”: Priceless.
Mizuto continued to read, and suddenly went silent.
He read the last few pages, practically holding his breath.
He flipped the pages, slowly as if reluctant…finally, after the last page, he shut the book.
Mizuto looked completely worn out as he reclined into the sofa, stared up at the ceiling vacantly, and muttered to himself.
“…What?” I didn’t need to pretend at this point, but I asked anyway.
Mizuto snaked into the backrest, and looked at the cover.
“It’s a masterpiece….” he answered, sounding completely dissatisfied. “What is this? No one online even mentioned this title! Are they all nuts?”
“The story, characters, the mystery, the logic… Everything’s written with such clarity… and nothing about the prose drags on either. It’s easy to read, but in the latter half, the sudden intensity just overwhelmed me…””
“Yes! Yes, yes!” I nearly leaped from the sofa as I approached Mizuto. “The change in atmosphere from the first to second half is completely flawless! It’s like, I feel the fluffy parts in the first half, and even the really ordinary synopsis… in hindsight, they just feel very different…!””
“Yeah, just look at that synopsis… It’s so mundane. Why’s this part even mentioned here!?”
“I know right!? I never expected that development!”
“Wasn’t there a hint in the prologue…”
Mizuto flipped the book open and launched into discussing it, and I hastily leaned in to look as well.
“Hm…is this it? The part describing the culprit’s motivations…”
“Yeah. It’s described like this here. But look here.”
“…Eh? Ah, so that’s what it means!?”
Without us noticing, it’d gotten dark outside. Mom came home, and after dinner and bath time, we continued to review the book together.
Thus, both of us wound up reading the same book twice. It was well past 2 AM when we finally went to sleep.
The next day, I woke up later than usual, and planned the schedule over LINE with Akatsuki-san.
I messaged back, and recalled the events that had transpired that day.
The day before was the happiest I had been in a while. I hadn’t paid attention to time at all, and happily discussed the book I liked—that enchanted time lingered as a memory, like charcoal fire with its sparks flying everywhere. It was an evenly spread warmth that continued to swirl throughout my body.
…Back then, I experienced this every day.
It was everything I had.
Until—I made that decision.
“Let’s meet up at noon today~! At the station~!”
I sent Akatsuki-san a reply, then got up in front of the mirror and checked my appearance. I agreed that the long skirt I usually wore was kind of drab, but I’d be too embarrassed to wear anything shorter. Pants just weren’t my style, even though Akatsuki-san insisted they looked good on me.
I took my bag, and went down to the first floor.
Just then, Mizuto followed after me with his messy bedhead, as if he was giving chase.
My little stepbrother, wearing a grey sweater, looked at me with sleepy eyes.
“…You going out?”
“Yeah. Unlike you, I have friends.”
I felt like something was wrong from his slurred response, and noticed he was holding a book.
…Seriously, I kept flip-flopping between ‘Aha’ and ‘What the heck?’ with this guy!
I pretended not to notice that book.
“You should try going out with a friend. Like Kawanami-kun.”
“Hard pass,” he replied boorishly, and then he opened the door to the living room.
I went to the entrance.
“—Wait for me to get back,” I said.
“Lend me something. Otherwise, that’s unfair.”
For example, the book you’re holding now.
The silence lasted for a while. I didn’t look back, so I didn’t see Mizuto’s reaction.
A soft reply rang behind me.
“…I’ll consider it.”
I smiled a little…just a little, really.
And as I went to the corridor, I said something I never did when we were lovers.
“I’ll be going then.”