Dinner was at six, which meant the three of us, myself, Alicia, and Yūgure, needed to head back to the hotel proper, where we’d meet up with Ms. Kanzaki and the other students.
I kept my eye on Yūgure as we walked. She was still shaking, though it had decreased since that boy, Kuriyama, had disappeared. She was also clinging to me. I didn’t say anything about that, and surprisingly, neither did Alicia.
“That man wasn’t human,” Alicia said as we made our way to the hotel.
“I figured as much,” I said. “There’s no way a human can have that kind of aura. Do you think he’s a devil?”
“I don’t know…” Alicia bit her lip. “I don’t think so. If there was a devil with that kind of presence, he would’ve been well-known in Hell, but I don’t know anyone like him.”
“He could be a yōkai.” I looked down at Yūgure. “What do you think?”
Yūgure didn’t respond, not with words or her notepad. She buried her face in my side, clinging to me as though I were a lifeline.
“She’s really shaken up,” Alicia commented. “I wonder if she knows those two?”
I wondered the same thing, but Yūgure wasn’t talking, and I wouldn’t force her to talk.
We made it to the hotel. Ms. Kanzaki and several students were already present, with more coming in by the second. Once everyone had gathered together, with Kaoru and her friends being the last, we all followed a man with tanned skin who led us outside.
Several round tables had been set up on a porch overlooking the beach. Each table could seat four people. Myself, Alicia, and Yūgure claimed a table for ourselves. No one bothered to try and sit with us, though I did notice how Kaoru, Donatello, and Leonora were looking at us.
Well, Donatello’s was more of a glare, but that was neither here nor there.
“What are you going to get?” asked Alicia.
“Uh…” I looked at my menu. There wasn’t a wide selection. In fact, they only had ten dinner dishes total. “I’m not sure. I don’t know what’s good.”
“I’m probably going to get their rafute,” she told me.
I looked at the menu and found rafute. It was a skin-on pork rib stewed in soy sauce and brown sugar. It sounded delicious, and it supposedly helped with longevity, not that I or Alicia needed help there.
“Maybe I’ll just go with the Okinawa soba,” I murmured.
“You can’t go wrong there.” Alicia looked at Yūgure. “What are you going to get, Yūgure?”
Yūgure blinked several times as Alicia called out to her. She looked up as though just now noticing where they were. Then she looked at Alicia with a question in her eyes.
“I asked: what are you planning to get?” Alicia repeated the question.
Yūgure frowned, tilted her head, and then finally scribbled on her notepad, which she held up for the two of them to read.
'I don’t know.'
“You two are hopeless,” Alicia muttered.
It wasn’t long before the waiters and waitresses came out to take their orders, but since neither Yūgure nor I knew what he wanted, Alicia decided to order for us. She ordered Goya Chanpurū for me and Zōsui for Yūgure.
Dinner was spent talking. That said, Alicia did most of the talking. I still wasn’t the best at conversing, though I enjoyed listening to her as she spoke of all the anime she was having Matilda record while they were on vacation. Apparently, Strike the Blood, which we had finished watching last week, had gotten an OVA season called Strike the Blood II. Like me, Yūgure remained silent.
As our food came out and dinner progressed, I grew more worried about Yūgure. It wasn’t that she was being quiet. She was always quiet. The issue was that she didn’t even use her notepad to make sarcastic remarks to Alicia.
The dynamic between Alicia and Yūgure was strange. Sometimes they got along really well, like when they were watching anime, or when they were bantering. I sometimes felt like their sarcastic comments and rebuttals were just their form of bonding. On the other hand, there were times when Alicia and Yūgure seemed like they were at each other’s throats.
I didn’t really understand their relationship, but I figured that was fine. It wasn’t like I knew much about friendships to begin with. So long as it worked for them, I couldn’t find a reason to complain.
As dinner came to an end, Ms. Kanzaki told all of us that we could enjoy the evening, but that we had to be in our hotel rooms by eight.
Yūgure stood up and immediately wandered away. I thought about calling out to her, but I wasn’t sure what to say. I wanted to help. However, I didn’t know what the problem was, and even if I did, I wasn’t confident in my ability to solve whatever issue she was facing.
Since Yūgure apparently didn’t want to be around anyone, it was just Alicia and I. She had grabbed me by the hand and pulled me back to the boardwalk. There were several benches next to the grass on the side opposite the beach. We sat down, and Alicia looked at me.
“You’re worried about Yūgure,” she said.
“Of course I am,” I responded. “Aren’t you?”
“Yes,” Alicia blew out a deep breath as she said this, as though she was reluctant to admit that she was worried. “What do you think about what happened? That guy—Kuriyama, was it? He seems to know her.”
“It’s possible,” I said, frowning. “He certainly spoke like he knew her… and we never learned her real name since she doesn’t talk.”
“You know, I’ve been wondering about that myself.” Alicia leaned back and looked up. The evening sun painted to sea so it looked like it was on fire. “I don’t think Yūgure is mute.”
“You think she’s not speaking by choice?”
“Maybe it’s not a conscious choice.” Alicia looked back at me. “You remember when Kuriyama asked Yūgure: why aren’t you saying anything? That tells me that Yūgure has spoken before, but she just isn’t now.”
Thinking back on Kuriyama’s words hours earlier, I realized that Alicia was right. He had said something to that effect. I had completely missed it, but Alicia hadn’t. It wouldn’t have surprised me if she had memorized the entire conversation from start to finish.
“What do you think we should do?” I asked.
“There isn’t much that we can do,” Alicia answered. “Until Yūgure is willing to open up to us, all we can do is act just as we have been this whole time and keep our eyes out for Kuriyama.”
I suppose that really was the only thing we could do.
Still, I wish I could do something more.
I finally got around to updating this. I'm sorry it took so long. I've been so busy that I haven't had a chance to update until now.