Chapter 21:

I can't sleep, Yori-chan can't pee by herself and she's kinda sad?

My childhood friend ran away from home and now I have to share a room with her?!

There’s not a single trace of sleepiness in my body. Awkwardly, I’m lying on my bed, staring out of one of two windows that are embedded into the diagonal ceiling of my room. The sky is clear tonight. Out here in the rural parts of Japan, you can even see the Milky Way on good days but, right now, only scattered stars are in my field of view. The sky can go pitch-black on moonless or cloudy days but the blue-ish glow I’m seeing means the moon must be out tonight, scarcely illuminating this troubled night.

I don't dare to turn on the computer again, fearing that I might disturb Koyori’s sleep with my activities. The odd mobile games I installed on my phone don’t meet my fancy right now either. Therefore, I’m constrained to lie idly on my back, not knowing what to do with my time.

Sleep isn’t an option. Not only did I oversleep badly, barely scraping together ten hours of wake time, but the sunburn on my skin decided to make the experience a little uncomfortable too. My mind is clouded by thoughts and emotions all participating in an omnidirectional Tug-O-War. It’s a war that’s fated to turn into a Sisyphean conflict yet I will eventually have to choose my side. The choice is obvious here but I feel like it’s too early to choose yet.

The silence in my room creates a hint of eeriness. Every now and then, ruffled sounds from the other end of the room suggest that Koyori is shifting positions in her slumber but the wardrobe is in my line of vision. Hence, I can’t visually confirm if she’s really asleep or not.


After what feels like an eternity to me, I eventually take a look at my phone.

2 AM. Damn.

Ordinarily, that’s not even late for me but we’ve headed off somewhere between 10-11 PM and I’ve been drifting ever since. I’m still not sleepy and my mind is still occupied, painting alternative scenarios of how the previous day could have turned out if things had gone a little differently. Strangely enough, I feel a little lonely in spite of Koyori sleeping only a few meters away from me. I’ve been together with her all day which makes my current, bored state feel heavily contrasting.

Maybe I should take a walk? I’m not getting any sleep at this rate…

I’m about to rise from my position when I hear muffled noise from the other end of the room, followed by the sound of footsteps on wooden planks.

She’s awake?!

I pretend to be asleep, breathing as slowly as my pulsating heart allows. The footsteps continue dragging across the wooden floor. They’re approaching me. They’re slowing down. She stops next to my position and I panic for no reason whatsoever.

“Kei-kun, are you awake?”

The girl’s voice quivers slightly as she speaks up, sounding just like someone who woke up without being fully awake yet. I’m quickly debating my course of action but nothing speaks against revealing that I’m awake right now.

“Yeah, what’s up?” I reply quietly though I’m speaking into the depths of my pillow. Koyori shifts her weight slightly, resulting in the wooden planks crunching under her petite weight.

“I need your help.”

There’s a certain urgency in her voice, prompting me to sit up. As my eyes fall on her silhouette against the moonlight now shining into my room, I immediately realize the source of it. The girl’s pose is awkward and heavily forced. Her hands are suspiciously hovering in front of her crotch which spells her trouble better than Grammarly ever could.

Ah, she needs to pee. Where’s the catch?

“Help me go to the bathroom, I’m scared of using the ladder in the dark…”

There’s an odd undertone in her voice but I can’t quite relate it to the issue at hand. I’d be a poor host though if I didn’t agree to pledge my support. Didn’t I want to go on a walk anyway? Might as well take Yori to the bathroom…

“Alright, I’ll take you,” I assure her. I rise to my feet, our eyes momentarily blinded by the sudden brightness as I turn on the light in the corridor past my room. I’m going down first, then coaxing her to descend step by step while providing assurance that I’d catch her in the odd event that her feet slipped. A muffled ‘thanks’ later, she disappears for a short while. Glad to have prevented an accident, I’m trying to decipher her odd behavior but I quickly conclude that she’s just too sleepy to act “Yori-chan-like”.

Little later, I’m guiding the girl back up into my chambers.

“Can you do it alone next time?” I wonder as I close the door behind me. We’re now back in the darkness of my moonlit room, our eyes taking a moment to readjust. I can barely see Koyori’s cute face when she replies to me.

“I think so…”

I’m perking again. Somehow, the tone in her voice just doesn’t align with tiredness. Suddenly, her right arm extends toward me. In a gentle movement, she begins tugging at the cloth of my shirt with her thumb and index finger.

What is she doing?

Confused, I “Hmm?” at her which reveals her intentions.

“Come with me for a bit…”

I offer no resistance as the girl tows me toward the back of the room where she’s sleeping.

What’s going on? Is she just going to ask for lap pillows again or is there a deeper meaning behind this?

That’s when it strikes me.

Or could her odd behavior mean that she’s going to tell me about her ‘secret?

The girl gestures to sit down together on the sofa. Not knowing what she’s up to, I do not question her, sitting down next to her about an arm-width from her position which is as close as I can comfortably sit. Koyori remains silent for a few moments, shifting her weight a few times before finally speaking her mind.


“Hmm?” I answer quietly, a gut feeling telling me that I’m going to regret listening to her.

“Do you have a moment?”

The complete lack of her bubbly personality is equally refreshing and scary. I’m beginning to worry that not her sleepiness but something deeper may cause this - something that may be causing my friend discomfort right now.

“What’s up? You seem troubled,” I ask her. In the darkness, I can’t see her emotions very well though there’s a discernable lack of positivity.

“I hope I’m not keeping you awake but…”

“Oh, I couldn’t sleep yet,” I immediately interject in case she was worried about it.

“Same here, actually.”

OH? Really?

I’m taken aback by her statement. Didn’t she get up so early for her trip that she had to take a nap to power through the day?

“In that case, could you just… stay here for a bit?”

Koyori does sound tired as she directs these words at me but the pleading undertone is still dominant. I realize that she really needs me right now which makes the situation a lot less challenging for me than it would have been otherwise. Regardless, I'd really like to know what's going on with my friend.

“Sure, if it helps you fall asleep, I’ll gladly help you,” I offer which Koyori immediately interprets as an invitation to close the gap between us. To combat the heavy thumping of my heart, I’m fishing for the blanket on the floor with the tips of my toes, towing it into my hand’s range and throwing it over the two of us. It’s not cold in my room - it’s the middle of summer after all, but the added comfiness seems to calm Koyori, her body leaning a little closer against my shoulders.

Shit, I’m nervous.

The thumping of my heart increases in intensity. Each time my heart pumps blood through my body, it feels like a blacksmith inside of me is striking his iron sword with his hammer, me being the sword in this constellation. Koyori’s body is really warm and, the slight freak-out feeling aside, I can actually relax a little as my nervousness gradually begins to transition into the same pleasant emotion I felt when Koyori was hugging me on the playground and on my front door.

Yet, I can’t completely give in to this emotion. My mind is still trying to find an explanation for Koyori’s behavior. Could she really just have another clingy moment, being too tired to act like her usual self or am I on to something?

Or… oh no you’re not!

“Just to clarify, I won’t be your pillow,” I warn her as a suspicion arises. Knowing the girl, she might try to doze off inside my protection. As it turns out, though, I’m just being overcautious.

“I know, I’m just… This happens all the time when I sleep at a new place,” she explains, clearly exhausted. “For some reason, I can’t calm down.”

I can’t put my finger on it but I feel like she’s not telling the whole truth, considering that…

“You fell asleep in seconds when you took a nap. Why would you be struggling so hard now?” I deadpan.

“If I knew, I wouldn’t be struggling,” she states matter-of-factly. I’m about to facepalm when she extends her statement. “But you were with me when I was able to sleep so I thought…”

Ah, that’s a line of thinking I can get behind.

I still can’t put my finger on her being completely honest but, right now, what matters is helping her fall asleep.

“You can, uhm, use me as a pillow just until you feel like you could fall asleep then. Just my shoulders though…”

These words escape my lips before my mind can flag them as ‘too cringe’ or whatever. Yori’s reply only comes physically. Her head suddenly rests on my shoulder which has an effect akin to a defibrillator on my heart. I nearly jolt from the sudden sensation but somehow I manage to persevere as a sense of appreciation transfers through the skin we share. Koyori gradually relaxes, her body feeling heavier the longer we sit like this. 

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