Takanobu didn’t expect anything, even though his wife, who always felt homesick, had just gone back to home in Japan, bringing their children. She was going to stay at her parental home for 2 weeks.
Still, because Mitsuru had invited Takanobu to have dinner together after work today, he couldnât help feeling happy.
Which made him feel guilty a little.
He looked at his watch again to check how long he had time until leaving off work, wondering how many times he did it today, smiling wryly, and hating himself.
At first, Takanobu naturally guessed that Mitsuru had surely invited also Akihiko together, but she told Takanobu that sheâd like to talk with only Takanobu.
Takanobu thought, âI know that I would end up with being assigned a role as just an adviser about her love affair after all.â
Still, the fact remained that it was pleasure for him to have dinner with her.
He warned himself that he must not cheat on his wife this evening, but he noticed that Mitsuru would not be interested in him at all.
Which disgusted him more and more, and he smiled in self-mockery.
But, Takanobu thought that it was bad because Akihiko was too tough opponent.
On the contrary, even though Takanobu had a competitive spirit against Akihiko, to begin with Takanobu noticed himself to be a married man.
Being glad and sad by turns quickly like a sensitive teenager in this afternoon, Takanobu was so ashamed.
It was Friday afternoon.
Takanobu was a methodical person by nature, so he always perfectly achieved his job beforehand, managing the time in order not to carry his work over into a weekend.
Therefore, he usually had more time than he knew what to do at such Friday’s afternoon near the finishing time of the job.
Takanobu was Akihiko’s class-mate of a high-ranking combined junior and high school.
After having graduated from the school, Takanobu went to the Tokyo university, Akihiko went abroad to enter a foreign university.
Takanobu was a student of the highest level university in Japan, was very tall, and was good at sports, so he must have been popular among many girls.
In addition, apparently, Takanobu was rather more popular than Akihiko in their high school days.
Takanobu used to be often handed birthday present, love letter, and box of chocolate as a gift of St. Valentine’s Day from many girls going to some schools near his school.(There was a custom that girls would give chocolate to boys as a declaration of their love at St. Valentine’s Day in Japan.)
The students of the boy’s high school, to which Takanobu and Akihiko went, were the admiration of those girls.
Especially, Takanobu and Akihiko were the members of the sports club team of their school, so they were exposed to many girls at the sports games.
Therefore, they got many opportunities to be handed such presents.
In those days, Takanobu was a simple good young boy, being always smiling, and fresh.
So, Takanobu was able to be understood as a good boy more than Akihiko always looking sulky.For example, when Akihiko was asked to be taken a picture together by the girls of his fan, he usually left without replying.
Therefore, Takanobu had more fans than Akihiko.
Takanobu noticed that he still had such a competitive consciousness between two of them.
Which reminded him of freshness and vitality of youth, and he became embarrassed.
But after that, Takanobu felt like that Akihiko had gotten a lead decisively at their competition.
Takanobu didn’t know about Akihiko’s life in detail very much after entering the university, because theyâd parted far away at a distance.
They sometimes met at their class reunion, their friend’s wedding ceremony, and other opportunities that Akihiko sometimes came back to Japan.
But Akihiko was still living abroad after graduating from the university.
They happened to enter the same multinational corporation.
But Takanobu had worked at the office in Tokyo until coming to Shanghai, Akihiko had worked at the countries other than Japan all the time.
When Takanobu met Akihiko again after a long interval, Takanobu could not but feel that there was a gap between two of them.
Takanobu regretted that he’d lived free and easy, as compared to Akihiko who seemed to have a hard time in his life at foreign countries.
âAkihiko was always excellent in everything.â Takanobu remembered.
Akihiko used to have a better record than Takanobu, who would pass the entrance examination of the Tokyo University, in all studies in their high school days.
In addition, Akihiko was very good at sports.
But, that was not all, Takanobu thought.
It was easy to understand the score of examinations and the result of sports in their school days.
But now, Takanobu felt that Akihiko had gotten a lead at some aspects not having any clear standards of judgement of their competition.
It wasn’t a simple reason that Akihiko had gotten to be able to speak English very well because of living abroad for a longtime, but was that he had an atmosphere like an old man as if having experienced great hardships.
âWhat happened to him?Â Or nothing happened?â Takanobu wondered.
Akihiko didn’t say anything at all as usual, and it hadn’t changed, Takanobu felt.
In either case, Takanobu looked enviously at Akihiko, and was worried about himÂ simultaneously.
Takanobu was afraid that Akihiko might be burdened with some secret matters or something else alone.
While looking back on his old days, Takanobu noticed that it was already long-awaited time to leave off work.
Mitsuru came to Takanobu with a smile, and said to him, âI’d like to gorge on today.â
âWellâ, Takaobu suggested one Chinese restaurant, which was always crowded with many local people of Shanghai, and she agreed it.
But just after having suggested it, Takanobu noticed that he should have been able to choose other restaurants with calmer atmosphere than the one he’d suggested.
“Even though we aren’t lovers, is there not any other option than to choose such a cheap restaurant truly?” Takanobu asked himself.
Still, after all he felt relieved to go to a lively, informal restaurant.
Takanobu felt that his own heart was beating fast as it always did whenever he was with her.
He felt restless, but also enjoyed having dinner with her.
âOh, really? Akihiko always looked sulky in your high school days. I see, he still has such a character now, don’t you think? I sometimes feel that Akihiko would be like a sulking little boy who can’t express his own mind well.â
Naturally, it was Akihiko that Mitsuru was interested in, Takanobu noticed.
When Takanobu talked about Akihiko, she looked engrossed with great curiosity.
âAkihiko was good at sports, and was popular among many girls. On the other hand, he had a difficult aspect when he was a high school student, because he was a person like a literary enthusiast, I guess.”
When Mitsuru said so, one memory occurred to Takanobuâs mind.
âYesâŚIt reminds me that Akihiko often read some recondite books in his high school days.
It might be a key to success of winning popularity among a certain kind of girls, I also feel.â Takanobu said.
âReally? In addition, didn’t he not only read many books, but also write something like literature?”
Mitsuru asked Takanobu.
Though Mitsuru seemed to have a good appetite, eating a lot, and talking lively a while ago, now she became so serious, putting the chopsticks onto the table.
Takanobu told himself, heaving a sigh, âNext, what is she worried about?â
He intentionally told Mitsuru slowly in order to soften her seriousness, âWell, something like a novel? Akihiko did write such a thing? I donât know. Even though he did it, he must not have told us about it, I think.â
âThen, was he writing anything on his own blog in his high school days? He was establishing his own web site in those days, wasn’t he?”
Mitsuru asked Takanobu, which suddenly reminded Takanobu of one memory.
It was when some members of the school’s sport club, including Takanobu and Akihiko, were at a hamburger shop near the station which they used to use on their way home from school.
Just after having done their training, they were so hungry, and were eating hamburger or something there.
One girl suddenly accosted Akihiko.
âExcuse me. I always read your website. I am a fan of it.â
She had certainly said so to Akihiko, Takanobu remembered.
Because the impression of the girl, whose long hair was woven at the both side of her head beautifully, was so neat, Takanobu remembered it with clarity.
Every member questioned Akihiko severely, âWho is she?â after she had left there.
But Akihiko only told them that he didn’t know her at all.
Takanobu guessed that she might be a student of the school near his high schoo.
Because the members with Akihiko at that time were the students of boy’s school, their interests were concentrated only in the matter a strange girl spoke to Akihiko.
But now, Takanobu noticed that nobody had wondered how the girl had gotten to know Akihiko.
He told Mitsuru that memory.
âOh, yes? A strange girl spoke to him? That might indicate the fact that Akihiko was writing something on his own blog, isnât that?â
Mitsuru said so, and was getting serious more and more.
âWhat about it? It isnât a special matter, even though Akihiko was blogging once.â
However, Takanobu also had thought of something.
Akihiko said that the internet had made an opportunity to meet âThat womanâ, Takanobu remembered.
âAs you said to me, Akihiko has a woman about whom he has been curious for a long time. Akihiko met her on the internet, and ‘That woman’ is still writing about him on the internet. Well, that is why both of them started to communicate each other because Akihiko also did the blog, donât you think?â
Although Takanobu certainly heard that they had met on the internet, Takanobu had never imagined how they had done online.
Takanobu didn’t think that Akihiko had used a kind of online dating website, but didn’t think about it deeply.
âI guess that Akihiko and ‘That woman’ must have gone through a process to deepen exchanges each other. Which must have made them actually meet offline.
Because Akihiko is a watchful man, so I can’t think he would easily meet somebody whom he would know online.
Therefore, he must have written something on the internet in those days.â
Mitsuru said so, and seemed to want to tell more.
Takanobu prompted Mitsuru to say, and she confessed that she had found out âThat womanâ on the internet, and was continuing to read what âThat womanâ had written.
Because she had a sense of guilt, and the more she read them, the more complex she felt, it was getting difficult for Mitsuru to see Akihiko, and even Takanobu in these days.
âDonât worry! Itâs natural for you to check her out.
Akihiko has trifled with your heart, I feel. So your action is nothing.
Even if Akihiko would get to know it, he has no right to blame you.â
Takanobu said, and Mitsuru replied,
âThank you. But it would be rather good for me Akihiko would blame me.
Because he always treats me as a child. I feel like he has never shown his emotion to me.
He has only pretended to look at me, but truly he has never been interested in me.â
Friday night in Shanghai was blinking on and off, or brightly and darkly.
The air of the era, which had been called devildom, certainly drifted around two of them in the city.