Side Story 1, Earth: Tooru – I like the Hiss of a Soda Bottle Opening
Translated by Gumihou
Proofread by Zzonkedd
I am Tooru Saiga, a First Year High School student.
In my previous life, in another world called Maydea, I was the Black Demon King.
Right, well, it looks like my father is having an affair with a younger woman.
It was the final exam week in July.
Mother had been ranting and raving for a while now. Who knows how she found out, but there is nothing I could do but offer my condolences.
When it comes to extra-marital sex… I really have no place to comment.
My situation is a little complicated, but anyway, my mother is a divorcee. She gave birth to me in her second marriage. She has a child with her ex-husband,  but, even with a child, she fell in love with a younger man and abandoned her previous family for this new man.
This second husband,  my birth father, is six years younger than my mother.
“Fooling around with a younger woman, what sort of thing is that?!! Haaah?!!”
“There is no way I’m letting you divorce me!!”
Mother tends to put herself on the shelf  as she yells out whatever she wants, as though unaware of her own actions.
How bold. I must admit, I cannot blame Father for wanting to cheat. Mother basically spends all day hitting the pachinko machines,  neglecting the housework and stuff. In fact, she barely even cooks these days, really on her way to becoming someone useless.
[1a] The pachinko thing seems to have happened due to the stress caused by her discord with Father. Unfortunately, the gambling habit just made Father want to stay away from home even more.
That’s right, the family is now stuck in this cycle of  pachinko > household neglect > discord > pachinko.
“So what? You’re going to force Tooru on me too, aren’t you?!! So, you’re going to push every troublesome thing on me and live as you like?! Is that what you’re saying??!!”
In the first place, have either parent properly taken care of their child since I hit middle school?
While it was true that financial issues cannot be helped, a family that doesn’t properly cook, rarely comes home and is always at each other throats, fighting over household fees and talking about me like a burden isn’t quite fair. Especially since I entered high school on a scholarship with all tuition fees waived.
“You’re a man and you’re young, so you can still restart your life, but I don’t have that kind of privilege!! I even abandoned my previous family for you!!”
“… I can’t do anything about that matter if you blame me for it.”
Father works the night shift and had not been drinking. However, he seems a little annoyed with Mother’s hysterical shouting. If he had been drinking, he would have gotten into a shouting match with Mother almost immediately. Lately, however, Father’s eyes were a little lifeless when looking at Mother. I understand that there’s really nothing to be done about it. It really looks like he had completely given up on the person in front of him.
As for me, I must study for a test at my desk for the final day of the exam tomorrow, but it’s really difficult not to be concerned about the unpleasant atmosphere seeping through the sliding doors. I found myself tapping my pen against my desk, clear evidence that I am influenced by the unpleasant situation despite trying to ignore it.
At the loud crashing noise, I sighed. Pushing the sliding doors open, I step into the living room.
One of the glasses had been shattered next to the table.
Father must have gotten impatient and smashed it to the floor.
How many has it been this month?
“… you… you can’t even acknowledge your own bad habits but lash out at other people instead!!!” Father is shouting now. “Shut up!! You have no right to talk about others! All you do is spend other people’s hard earn money, neglect even basic housework but still talk like you’re the victim!”
The quarrel is starting to escalate. The last time this happened, I ignored it and Mother ended up hitting her head against the corner of the dresser and had to be sent to the hospital. As expected, I should stop them.
“Oi, stop it you-”
Careful to step around the broken shards of glass,  I made my way towards the quarrelling couple. The fight had escalated to them grabbing at each other’s hair and collar. In turn, I grab them by their shoulders and try to pull them apart.
However, Mother flashes me a furious glare and shakes off my arm so vigorously that I stumble back and accidentally step on a bunch of broken glass.
It hurts, but I remained calm.
Blood is starting to seem out from the bottom of my foot.
“O-oi… are you alright?”
Father is frowning, clearly worried about me.
Mother had turned pale and is starting to sob and choke, “Why… why do things always turn out like this… It’s, it’s like everything, everything’s my fault…”
“… not really, I don’t really think it’s your fault…”
“Stop saying things you don’t mean!! What… why… why do you always look down at me…”
What else am I supposed to say? Perhaps I am looking at Mother with cold eyes. Well, it’s not like I can fully respect her, so it can’t be helped.
Anyway, I breathe in deeply and hop on one foot to the sofa. Father brings a towel over with a little sigh.
“Oi, you should go to the hospital.”
“But, you have the night shift.”
“Well, we can’t just leave it like this.”
“It’s fine, I can go on my own.”
“At times like this, you should rely on your… parents,” Father has a troubled awkward look on his face. To this person, I am probably far from the cute son they might have wished for. In fact, far from being sweet or charming, I had always been rather distant, watching everything with aloof eyes.
Well, my existence had always been a little ambiguous.
Maybe he thinks I’m actually the previous husband’s kid.
Anyway, I think there’s definitely a piece of glass stuck in my foot. As to why I could think about my injury so calmly, it was all thanks to my past life memories. Times when I had bled out copious amounts of blood and yet my only reaction was to sigh.
In that previous life, I had suffered greater pain, bled out even more blood…
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Father dropped me off at the hospital before heading for his workplace.
He said he’d wait for me, but I declined the offer.
A white and chubby-looking old doctor took a look at my foot and remove the tiny piece of glass swiftly enough. [1b] The glass was lodged a little deeply and was at an awkward angle, otherwise I’d have removed it myself. The actual wound is pretty tiny, small enough to only need a bandage. A young nurse disinfects my foot, while a scary-looking matron nurse put a bandage around it.
For a while, I would have to live hopping around on one leg.
Even though I did not break any bones, I decide to borrow a decent cane from the hospital and walk home. There are no good buses near the hospital,  which seems like bad planning on the part of the city.
“Why don’t you call someone to pick you up? Or call a taxi?” a young nurse says worriedly.
“No need… I’ll be going now,” I smile to myself, thinking: It’s not like there’s anyone to pick me up.
The nurse looks a little too enthusiastic for my peace of mind.
Now that think about it, the eyes of that matronly nurse also seemed a little overly enthusiastic.
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As I shuffle my way home, the eyes of passersby kept looking at me.
Well, the cane does stand out a little.
I try putting a little more pressure on my left foot.
“…ugh, ouch… Aahh, so it’s like this…”
It’s no good.
I barely studied for tomorrow’s test, but had to go through this.
It would be bad if I fall off the scholarship program right now. Today’s test went quite well, to the point that I think I could compete with Yuri.
Should I call that guy…?
My hand touched the phone in my pocket. Ah, but I really shouldn’t do this, not during the exam week. For a moment, I hesitated.
As helplessness suffused me, it was all I could do to shuffle my way to a bench by the riverbank. The evening had fallen, but the weather is still hot. By the embankment, I saw an old man walking his dog, an older man in the middle of his run, a child playing ball with his mother watching.
This feeling is close to the time when I was still in elementary school.
Back then, Father and Mother’s relationship was fairly normal. My parents and Maki and Yuri’s parents had been friends. [1c] I think they were friends because we, the children were kindergarten friends, or had they known each other before then?
Anyway, the three families were close enough that we interact fairly regularly. I recalled days spent by the riverbed playing children’s games, researching ways to win because even then, we were incredibly competitive. We were undefeatable in dodgeball and tag, we researched ways to get back at elementary school students who tried to bully us. Our mothers must have thought we were purely having fun, playing.
However, though the days appeared pure, feelings from my previous life seeped into my childhood. I was an unlovely child who rarely relied on or depended on my mother.
When asked what I wanted to eat, my answer was simply ‘Anything’s fine’. I was that kind of annoying person who would say ‘nothing in particular’ when asked if I wanted anything.
Gradually, my parents’ relationship turned sour. Mother became obsessed with pachinko, to the point that she neglected housework. There was no one to stop her. I merely looked on with judgemental eyes and took over some of the household chores. Father was always busy with work, whether intentionally or otherwise. It was also around this time that Father started having his affairs. He was rarely home at all.
The three people living in this house stopped having family-like conversations.
Each of us is looking in different directions. Though we continue to live in the same house, we are gradually moving further and further away from each other.
Still, I had Maki and Yuri, so, it doesn’t really bother me.
Today will be the same.
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I had been staring off in a daze at the sparkling orange river when sharp coldness touched my cheek.
Turning in shock, I see Maki standing next to me, dressed in a light blue dress and wearing an expression of utmost innocence. There is a plastic bottle of peach juice soda in her hand.
“Ah, it really is Tooru. I thought you look familiar from the back, but as expected, you have a really recognisable silhouette.
For some reason, there’s a triumphant look on her face as she unscrews the cap off her soda bottle and gulps down the contents.
Somehow, I like the hiss of a soda bottle being opened.
“What are you doing here? Right before a test too.”
“Well, as you can see,” I gesture at my left leg.
Maki stares at it with some shock. “Eh? What? Did you break your foot?”
“No, just stepped on some glass.”
Paling a little, she sits on the bench and holds out the canned coffee that she must have bought at the nearby convenience store.
“Here, I bought it for you so you can stay up all night.”
“… it’s fine…”
“Well, go on, take it. You like your coffee black, right?”
The can feels cold in my hands.
Whenever Yuri or I are not feeling well, Maki will turn her arrogant attitude on us and aggressively coddle us out of our funk.  It is kind of like being forcefully rolled into a fluffy blanket.
Once, Yuri burned his hand during cooking practice. It happened when other boys were fooling around and a pot overturned, the splashing water burning his hands. For a good while after that, she got very overprotective.
I pop open the can and drank half its contents in one gulp.
Well, I am feeling a bit thirsty.
“There’s a test tomorrow, but you’re still running around shopping? Didn’t you narrowly got into the special class?”
“I- I’m out here for a change of pace, you know?” Maki is averting her gaze. Well, I guess she knows herself well too.
When confronted with something she didn’t like or hated, Maki would leave her house to wander aimlessly about outside or just pointlessly clean up the house.
Of the three of us, she is the least talented at studying. That is not to say that she is stupid, She’s just bad with tests, and she is especially bad with math.
However, since Yuri got into a good high school, for us to get into that same school without paying, we had to study hard. I am actually pretty good at studying, not as well as Yuri, but the result I get is the same as the effort I put in. Moreover, since I wanted to get into the special class and have my tuition exempted, I had no choice but to study hard. It is also a way to do something on my own without my parents’ assistance.
“Hey you, if something like this happens, just give me a call, yeah?”
“It’s really nothing.”
“… geez, still trying to look cool even though you reek of loneliness.”
She pops open her bottle of soda. After waiting for the fizzing sound to stop, she takes a drink.
It must be hot, since she was pushing her long wavy hair to the side and trying to fan herself with her hands. Sweat is running down her neck.
“Hey, if you’re on your way home, I’ll send you off.”
“… there’s no need, really.”
“You’re sure you’re going to get home on one good leg? …it’s going to be tough.”
Maki already knew about my parents’ situation. How they had gradually changed, how things were not going so well.
However, it doesn’t look like she is particularly bothered about it one way or other. After all, it’s not like she is particularly close towards her own parents either. Indifferent is the best way to describe her relationship with them.
For us, having this memory from our previous lives is something like a source of pride for us. It was probably the thing that kept us from forming meaningful relationships with our parents even when we were young.
“You… the sun’s setting now. I don’t need you to send me back.”
“Daylight last longer these days.”
“Still, it will be dark when you return… the road at night could be dangerous.”
“… do you think I’d care about that?” Maki is laughing softly. “I often visit the convenience stores in the middle of the night, you know.
“… that’s a dangerous way of thinking. You’re an ordinary high school girl now, have some self-awareness.”
She puts her head in her hands and sighs.
It is finally getting a little cooler. So, I stand up, depending only on my right leg and cane.
I have to go home. I have to clean up the broken glass before anyone else steps on them.
“…well, I’ll at least escort you over this bridge. After that, I’ll go home and study quietly as per your honour’s concern over my test results. Haahh… to think we still have another test tomorrow, I think I’m really not ready for it.”
“That’s right, don’t forget you have the worst grade among the three of us.”
“… that’s… really troublesome.”
She is not looking me in the eye again. I guess you’re really nervous?
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I step over the white-tiled path of the bridge with Maki’s support. To be honest, she is a little too short and not much help, but that’s beside the point.
Even the notorious witch who had stood toe-to-toe against me in my previous life is now just a thin-shouldered high school girl.
“Well, don’t fall down on your way back.”
“…I’ll rest when I’m tired.”
It’s a long way home, but it can’t be helped. I’m nothing but an ordinary high school boy now. I have no choice but to go forward by taking one step at a time.
“As I thought, I ought to just send you back.”
Her voice came to me from behind after a few steps. She looks worried, however, my reply is a flat, “…there’s no need.”
Her eyes seem to be searching for something. After a short moment, she looks away. In a dissatisfied voice, she says, “I understand.”
I smile. She smiles back, looking a little troubled.
We part ways and I continue to walk home. Slowly. No matter how late it gets, the only way home is to take one step at a time.
In fact, I should have built up my relationship with my parents the same when from the moment I was born. Step by step. To separate the strange pride and odd attachment I have to my previous life from this one.
Yuri was able to do it, so, there is no reason why I could not have done so.
When I finally reached the apartment, it was close to dinner time.
I went straight for the living room, but Mother was not there. Whenever she feels uncomfortable, she would not stay inside the house.
The glass had been cleared.
But, I have a test to study for.
My leg hurts.
I have too many things to think about, but which one should I start with first?
I thought I had to deal with the broken glass firsts, but now that the task had been taken away, I felt oddly disappointed.
The place where I had spilt blood was gone.
Sighing once, I decided to tackle the next order of business. There should be some cup noodles somewhere, that should solve the hunger issues.
After putting the kettle on, I sink into the sofa in the living room.
As my hips sank into the soft cushions, exhaustion came over me and I collapsed onto the sofa.
I close my eyes, aware of the ticking clock and the sound of the kettle heating up water.
Finally, I could let things go for a short time.
The reason why I didn’t just fall asleep on the sofa is thanks to the coffee from Maki. The caffeine is keeping me awake.
“…what the… haahh…”
What a nonsensical person. Nevertheless, the corners of my mouth lifted a little.
Even though you did not send me all the way back to my house, with just one canned coffee you have connected yourself to my consciousness. How interesting.
Maki, that’s more than enough.
After eating, I should go and study a little more.
If my results fall into the red area over something like this, I’d be dragged into my parents’ endless loop of quarrels.
Also, if I want to be in the same class as the two of them next year, I could forgo sleep.
After coming to this place, they are all that I have left.
The sound of water boiling in the kettle filled the room.
[Gumihou: …I also sometimes visit the convenience store in the middle of the night, and clean the house when I want to avoid reality…]
 Explain the family situation with a little more details.
[1a] It seems that Mother’s intention was to release stress caused by the discord with Father.
‘It’ being the pachinko thing, but was really unclear unless I read it three times. So, made it clearer for readers.
[1b] Give more details on the injury.
[1c] Family detail unclear, so make it clear that it’s unclear.
 ‘to put oneself on the shelf’ – idiom for ‘to be unaware of one’s own faults’
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