Volume 8 Chapter 16 Heaven’s Sword Episode 8 – “The Hamburger Tastes like My Mother’s Hamburger”
Edited by: Kanaa-senpai
When I was in elementary school, the most enjoyable time during lunch breaks with everyone was having lunch together.
”Wow, Nana-chan’s lunch looks delicious.”
”Yeah, my mom made it for me!”
The bento box made by my mom, who loved cooking. It was something I was proud of, to the point where even my classmates were envious. Especially on that day, it was the day of my favorite hamburgers, so I couldn’t help but smile when I opened the lid. As I ate the hamburgers with a bigger bite than usual, I heard a shout from one of the boys who had been watching me.
”Hey! You’re eating like a pig! You’ve been eating with that happy expression on your face the whole time. It’s gross, the way you grin while you eat, you fatty!”
Perhaps it was just a casual comment for the boy. But… that one word would become a trauma for me, and it wasn’t that difficult to predict.
”Nana-chan, you’re really thin.”
”Uh, yeah, thanks.”
A few years later, as a high school student, I found it increasingly difficult to enjoy meals. However, I couldn’t talk to anyone about it, so I spent more and more of my lunch time, which I used to enjoy with my friends, alone in the restroom.
My mom had woken up early to make my lunchbox, but I couldn’t eat it even if I forced myself and ended up throwing up. While there were days when I could eat before, or at least a little, my symptoms had worsened in the past few days, to the point where I couldn’t eat at all. I lied at home, saying I had eaten with friends outside, but I didn’t know how long I could keep up that deception.
”Sorry, I’m so sorry…”
I cried as I threw the rice from the lunchbox into the trash. I didn’t want to worry my mom by bringing home uneaten food or if someone saw evidence of my vomiting. I wanted to avoid that at all costs.
”See you later.”
”Yeah, see you…”
On the way home from school, I felt like I was about to collapse from hunger. Even so, whenever I tried to eat something, I would end up vomiting.
”No… I can’t…”
I wanted to change myself, but I couldn’t. I wondered why things had turned out this way. My head was too fuzzy from hunger, and my thoughts were spiraling in a negative direction.
Is it my fault?
’It’s not your fault. The one to blame is not you but the one who caused this.’
I turned my gaze toward the source of the voice, and a small shadow emerged from the ground, with something coming out of it. I tried to run away in a panic, but my legs were too weak from not eating, and I stumbled and fell.
A tiger-like Chijou emerged from the small shadow on the ground. I couldn’t move in fear.
”You can relax. I will free you from that suffering with my power of darkness.”
The tiger-like Chijou reached out toward me. The pitch-black mist that came out of its palm was drawn into my mouth and into my body.
The next thing I knew, I was sitting at my desk in the classroom. I thought it was a dream, but the date written on the blackboard indicated the following day. Since the attack by Chijou yesterday, I had no memory… Days like that continued for several days.
”That’s it for today’s class, but one last thing. Over the past few days, Chijou has been seen lurking around the area at night. There haven’t been any incidents yet, but until SYUKUJYO takes care of it, be sure to be cautious on your way home. Club activities are suspended for the time being, so everyone should head straight home without any detours. Understood?”
I had a bad feeling about this. Today, while I still had my memory, I decided to hurry home. But on the way, I became so hungry that I started to sway.
”Are you okay?”
”Huh? Oh… a… man?”
The man who supported my weakened body was a tall guy wearing a delivery jacket with the name of a nearby fast-food restaurant on it. His face wasn’t clearly visible due to the backlighting, but he had a tall, slightly muscular body that made my heart race.
I quickly moved away, not wanting to inconvenience the man, but at the same time, my stomach growled loudly. I was afraid he might make fun of me again. More than the embarrassment of my stomach growling, the trauma from my flashback left my face pale.
”Are you hungry?”
I froze, unable to answer his question.
”Come this way.”
The man grabbed my hand and pulled me into the nearby fast-food restaurant. Inside, another man was standing at the counter as if he were a guardian deity. He gave us a confident smile, then flipped over a tray of fries with a graceful motion.
”Behold, Kenzaki! Witness the perfect marriage of my elegant potato toss and expert salt sprinkling!”
Wow… I didn’t really understand what was going on, but the unnecessarily cool moves were impressive.
”Kamishiro… Unfortunately, we only serve hashed potatoes in the morning. And, I’ll let the manager know to deduct the cost of those wasted hashed potatoes from your paycheck later. Don’t take it personally.”
”What?! You’re kidding, right!?”
Ah… Kamishiro-san, as he was called, fell gracefully to his knees. Ignoring the fact that I had no idea what was going on, the man who had brought me into the fast-food restaurant and then approached the counter gestured towards the menu.
”Order whatever you like. It’s Kamishiro’s treat.”
Is it okay…? Looking at Kamishiro-san behind me, he had an indescribable expression on his face.
”Kenzaki, you… Huff, don’t worry. Order whatever you want!”
”It’s a joke, Kamishiro. Of course, I’ll pay. After all, you’ve made so many mistakes today that you won’t be getting paid for your part-time job.”
Ah… When I looked behind the counter, there were indeed signs of mistakes.
A slight smile escaped me as I listened to the banter between the two boys. What should I do? I shouldn’t be laughing, right? The face of that boy from that time started to come to mind.
”Oh, you finally smiled.”
Kenzaki-san, as he was called, lifted the brim of his cap, which had been covering his eyes. His gentle and warm smile turned my cheeks pink. What a wonderful smile… Is this how boys smile? His radiant smile made me forget the face of the boy who had mocked me.
Almost instinctively, I reached into my pocket to take out my wallet. Kenzaki-san shook his head from side to side, gesturing for me to put my wallet away.
”Don’t worry about it. Smiles are free.”
”By the way, my smile is free too. How about that!?”
Even just a little, my heart felt a bit lighter from the smiles of these two boys. Maybe now, I might be able to eat a little.
”Um… I’ll have… a hamburger, please.”
”Got it. Take this number tag and wait at your seat. I’ll bring it to you soon.”
I took the number tag and sat down in a corner of the nearby dining area. From behind the counter, I could hear the voices of the two boys talking.
”Hehe, Kenzaki! If it’s about the patty, leave it to me! Behold my excellent potato toss, honed through practice!”
”Don’t burn the meat again, Kamishiro. If you mess up again, you might get fired instead of just losing pay.”
What is this feeling… Memories of the time when meals were enjoyable came flooding back.
”The drink is a service from the restaurant. If you want refills, just ask.”
”And the hashed potatoes is a service from me!”
As I touched the bag that enveloped the freshly made hamburger in front of me, it felt warm.
I opened the wrapping paper and took a bite of the hamburger. The patty inside the hamburger was flat, thin, and the taste was different from the juicy, tender, and flavorful hamburger my mom used to make. But… thinking of my beloved mom and her hamburgers, tears welled up in my eyes.
”Ah… I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”
I wiped away my tears with the back of my hand, but the more I cried, the harder it became to stop. Kenzaki-san and Kamishiro-san reached out to me.
The boys gently stopped me from wiping my eyes vigorously, reminding me not to cry in front of them.
”Calm down. Take your time with your meal.”
”Yeah, when I first had a hamburger, I ate it too quickly and choked because I was so moved.”
Both of their hands gently touched my cheeks, and their thumbs wiped away the tears that had gathered in my eyes. They were such kind people. It seemed there were warm-hearted men like this too. As the thorns of the trauma that had pierced deep into my heart began to loosen, the memories of that time became clearer in my mind, more vivid than ever before.
’Hey! You’re eating like a pig! You’ve been eating with that happy expression on your face the whole time. It’s gross, the way you grin while you eat, you fatty!’
Ah… Ah… No, I mustn’t look. My own smile, reflected in the shop’s window, had triggered it.
’It’s not your fault. The one to blame is not you but the one who caused this.’
Something like a black mist started to emerge from within me.
”Ah, no, no, no, no, no, noooooo!”
With my cry, my body transformed into Chijou. I guess I really was Chijou… Unlike before, I had a clear consciousness now. However, my mind was filled with the hatred of the man, and I couldn’t control myself.
”Please! Kenzaki-san! Kamishiro-san! Run!”
I shouted with all my strength, desperately trying to restrain my own body. But the two of them didn’t make any move to leave.
”…Don’t worry. I’ll stop you.”
Kamishiro-san reached out and grabbed a bee-shaped robot that appeared out of nowhere.
”My mom said.”
Kenzaki-san also grabbed a beetle that had flown in, just like Kamishiro-san.
”There are no good people who interrupt a pleasant meal.”
They swiftly attached the devices to their belts that appeared around their waists.
I see… So, they were Drivers. I recalled that SYUKUJYO had developed the Driver system, originally intended for women only. However, due to some irregularity, boys had also been chosen as Drivers, causing a sensation in the news. Details about the three boys hadn’t been made clear, leading to speculations that it might be part of SYUKUJYO’s media strategy or something else, but they indeed existed.
”Man… Man… Mannn!!”
I couldn’t even control my own body, let alone my voice.
”I… I, beg, you! Stop, laughing, at meeeee!”
As I turned into Chijou, I attacked Kenzaki-san and Kamishiro-san. With my consciousness completely cut off from my main body, all I could do was watch from above. Please, stop! Don’t hurt those people!!
”D*mn it, before you hurt anyone, I’ll finish you off.”
Kenzaki-san prevented Kamishiro-san from drawing his bow.
”Kamishiro, she’s different from the Chijou we’ve seen before. She hasn’t been completely taken over yet.”
”Probably because she became Chijou not too long ago. If she hasn’t hurt anyone yet, there might still be a chance to save her.”
Kenzaki-san and Kamishiro-san continued their conversation while fending off my attacks as Chijou.
”Then… what should we do!?”
”I don’t know! If I knew, I wouldn’t have consulted you in the first place. So Kamishiro, think of something too!”
Many mass-produced Chijous appeared from nowhere and joined the battle. With me transformed into Chijou, and Kenzaki-san and Kamishiro-san not retaliating but only defending against my attacks, they gradually found themselves in a disadvantageous position.
”Please, before I hurt someone, please… kill meeeee!”
With all my remaining strength, I shouted. I was afraid of dying… but imagining myself hurting someone was even scarier. However, despite my plea, Chijou, which I had become, continued to attack Kenzaki-san and Kamishiro-san. Ah, it’s dangerous!
”I won’t let that happen!”
The black mist attack I unleashed as Chijou dissipated due to a laser attack from someone else.
As I turned toward the attacker, I saw an adult woman in a SYUKUJYO uniform and a petite girl holding laser guns. Behind her were many SYUKUJYO members.
”Kenzaki, Kamishiro, leave the small fry around us to us! Kagami, support these two!!”
”R-Right, understood, Misa-senpai!”
The tall woman addressed as Misa-senpai swiftly punched the mass-produced Chijou attacking her and then kicked her long legs high in the air before bringing her heel down on the head of the mass-produced Chijou. What incredible physical abilities. When women became Chijou, their physical abilities increased dramatically compared to regular women. However, she was overwhelming that Chijou with pure physical strength and power.
”Kamishiro, we need to figure out how to deal with her now.”
”Come on, tell me, how to deal with her, how, Kenzaki!!”
As Chijou, I once again emitted black mist from my hands, attacking the two of them. They gracefully dodged my attacks, rolling on the ground and evading.
”Ugh! This black mist attack is so annoying!”
The girl called Kagami, dressed in a SYUKUJYO uniform, took out a tablet and began searching for something.
”Both of you! The black mist itself might be a Chijou! It matches the attacks from a Chijou who attacked before in the database! She’s a prominent figure among the possession-type Chijou, who can turn into Named Chijou by possessing a woman for an extended period. Her name is Tora-Uma (Trauma)!”
Wait, so the voice I heard in my head earlier…?
’You’re realizing it too late now!’
As Chijou, I intensified my attack.
”So, what do we do?!”
”Uh, um… Oh! Just like the black mist dispersed for a moment due to the laser gun’s attack earlier, maybe it’s weak to something that emits light. If we can temporarily separate it from the shadow for just a moment, maybe we can do something.”
”Is that true?”
”Kamishiro, whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter. If there’s a possibility, I’ll bet on it.”
Kenzaki-san produced a card from somewhere.
”I have a plan. You two buy me some time!”
”Leave it to us, Kenzaki!”
Kamishiro-san and Kagami-san cooperated in avoiding my attacks. But what should they do? It was already dark outside, and there was no light brighter than the fluorescent lights in the shop. Kenzaki-san gently muttered toward the card he held.
”Your power is needed to save her. Help me… help us, Ro-Schutz-Marr.”
In response to those words, Ro-Schutz-Marr’s card was enveloped in a soft light. Ah, what a kind color. Warm and gentle, it reminded me of the moment when my heart had finally found peace. Gradually, the radiant light expanding from the card seemed to peel away the black mist that had enveloped me, if only slightly. I was free… my body was free to move. But as the light gradually weakened and the black mist returned to me.
”Kenzaki-san! Kamishiro-san! Please stop it now! Anyone from SYUKUJYO, anyone, please just kill me as I am now!”
There was no hope left. If that was the case, I wished to die while still possessing a human heart. However, he, and only he, had not given up on saving me.
”Thank you, Ro-Schutz-Marr. So now, take a rest… and entrust the rest to me, the one you believed in.”
Kenzaki-san gently stroked Ro-Schutz-Marr’s card, and while walking towards my location, he placed his hand on the horn of the beetle attached to his belt.
Kamishiro-san and Kagami-san were surprised by Kenzaki-san’s actions. Just when everyone thought he was going to launch an attack, Kenzaki-san purged the beetle attached to his belt and deactivated his transformation.
”When I touched the black mist earlier, I felt your trauma weighing on me too.”
Kenzaki-san picked up a half-eaten hamburger that had rolled onto the floor. Fortunately, it was wrapped in paper, so miraculously, it retained its original shape.
”I also loved my mom’s hamburger. It was so fluffy, with a ketchup flavor different from the ones sold in stores. Ah, it reminds me of that…”
Everyone, including me as Chijou and the SYUKUJYO personnel, were captivated by the gentle face that none of us had ever seen before.
For some reason, Kenzaki-san made a casual brushing gesture as if removing dust and then opened his mouth wide to take a big bite of the hamburger.
”Mmm, it’s delicious.”
Huh? … Huh!?
Wait a minute, this is like an indirect kiss… Wait! This wasn’t in the script! I’ve read the script so many times it’s practically worn out, and there was definitely no scene like this!
I-is this possibly an ad-lib!?
I saw Director Hongou’s figure, pointing her thumb at me.
”Just keep going!”
I felt like I was being told that.
I… have to finish it…!
That’s right. I have to complete the climax of this scene, which everyone has worked so hard to create, with my best performance! After ten years as a child actor, I finally got this role. I’m going to give the best performance I can give to this boy…no, not that! I have to respond to the best ad-lib of one actor, Shirogane Aqua! Summon all the determination from the depths of your heart, Kanade Ichika, you’re an actress too!
”Is it… okay?”
Slowly, as if peeling away the black mist, I took a step forward.
”I-I… I like eating with everyone! I love my mom’s cooking!! That’s why, that’s why…!”
Help me…! I want you to blow away this trauma with your wonderful smile!! As I stared at Kenzaki-san’s face, he responded as if he understood, and he showed me his best smile of the day.
His smile was incredibly gentle, and it radiated a brightness that could dispel any darkness, like a light that could save everything.
In my head, I heard Tora-uma’s voice that had possessed me. Looking at my distressed face, Kenzaki-san approached me one step, then another.
”By the way, my mom said.”
Kenzaki-san embraced me in Chijou form, along with the black mist. Despite the damage from the black mist, his expression didn’t waver for even a moment.
”In front of my smile, even the sunlight is just a spotlight. Now, look closely. This is the most powerful smile I can give right now!”
Inside my heart, I let out the same cry as Toro-uma. At this point, it was my pride as a professional actress that kept me standing there.
”Just a little more, but you had to get in the way!”
The black mist that had separated from my body headed toward Misa-senpai, one of the SYUKUJYO personnel, but it was easily repelled. No, perhaps Tora-uma had intentionally faked that movement. Then, the black mist, curving at a right angle, dashed toward Kagami-san.
Kagami-san, enveloped in the black mist, but Toro-uma quickly left her.
”What the!? You, could it be… Gah, well, whatever. Today’s work is over for now.”
The arrow from Kamishiro-san, who hadn’t deactivated her transformation, and the laser gun shot from Misa-senpai both headed towards Toro-uma’s black mist. However, Kamishiro-san’s arrow was avoided, and Misa-senpai’s laser gun attack was completely off target. Now that I thought about it, when Kagami-san and Misa-senpai had fired the gun earlier, the beam of light that had come toward her was just one, and maybe Misa-senpai was simply clueless. After this scene, my part in the rescue was over with some shots, but there were still a few more scenes to be filmed. The escaped Toro-uma had reverted to her original form, a tiger, in a secluded alley.
”What’s with those guys…”
In a place with few pedestrians, Toro-uma saw the back of a woman walking away and smirked. She was about to slink into the alley when an attack from someone grazed Toro-uma’s cheek.
”Kuh… you again, persistent!”
In the deeper darkness of the alley, the sound of cold leather shoes echoed. The man, dressed in an immaculate suit, stylishly raised his cool-shaped glasses more skillfully than anyone else.
”Tora-uma… I won’t go easy on you like those two.”
The grasshopper that appeared alongside its master in the darkness illuminated its large, eerie eyes.
Tachibana Zanki, the third Driver, and someone who had encountered Toro-uma earlier than Kenzaki’s group in this story, had a lingering shadow in his heart due to the Chijou created by Tora-uma.
”D*mn it, those Drivers! They’re always getting in my way!”
Tora-uma had a rather timid personality among the Chijou. So, she always had the Chijou she possessed do the fighting and would flee when the situation turned unfavorable. However, it might have been because of this trait that she had managed to climb up to the rank of Chijou executives, living and surviving.
On this day as well, Tachibana-san had a brief skirmish with Tora-uma in her transformed Lightning Hopper form, and she escaped again.
”All right, cut!”
When today’s filming was completed, a round of applause echoed on the set. Normally, in other productions, cast members with no connection to the scene like me would have left first after their parts were done. However, in Heaven’s Sword, all the actors and staff who participated in today’s shoot watched until the end and didn’t leave. According to what I heard, it was the same in other episodes as well.
In a corner of the set after filming had ended, I took a sip of my drink and relaxed. My name is Kanade Ichika. I’ve been in the entertainment industry for over ten years, but despite that, I’m still a 17-year-old high school girl in my second year. I’m one year older than Shirogane Aqua-kun, who played Kenzaki Souji.
This time, when I read the script for the character I was given, I felt a bit conflicted. That’s because I could understand the trauma that Nana carries to the point where it hurt me. That’s why, during that scene, I felt genuinely happy when Nana was saved by Kenzaki-san, as if it were my own happiness.
”Hey, want to grab a bite to eat?”
I was planning to go home wrapped in satisfaction after filming was done, but Director Hongou invited me to dinner. It was just about dinnertime, so I thought maybe we were going to a nearby restaurant, but the director led me to a larger room. Was she inviting someone else too? As I thought that, a crowd had gathered around something.
At the center of it all were Beryl’s kids. Mayuzumi-kun, who had just finished filming, wasn’t there because he was taking a shower and changing clothes, but Aqua-kun and the others were preparing some kind of dish.
”It’s late, so we’re making something with the leftover ingredients. If you want, you can have some.”
C-Can something like this really happen normally? Boys cooking and serving food? It was such an unrealistic sight that my mind couldn’t keep up. I slowly followed the flow of people and headed towards Aqua-kun, who was cooking.
The moment I saw the large minced cutlet that Aqua-kun was frying, I froze.
”Huh? Senpai, do you happen to dislike Menchi-katsu?”
I remembered that they had ordered too many ingredients for hamburgers for filming, and the supplier had sent too much as a bonus. Aqua-kun and the others had probably used those hamburger ingredients to make minced cutlets. I understood that… but when I saw the minced cutlet, my heart felt as if it were being squeezed.
”N-No, that’s not it. It’s not like that…”
As I looked at the large minced cutlet Aqua-kun had fried, tears threatened to overflow as I remembered my mother. She runs a fried food shop in the shopping district. All my classmates are regular customers who have been coming to the shop since we were little, and I was really proud of that as a child. So, inevitably, the bentos I brought to school were filled with fried food, and sometimes, Mom would make a lot of them for me and I would eat them with my classmates.
Not too long ago, just as usual, I had brought a tupperware of Menchi-katsu to school to share with my close friends.
’Ugh… bringing fried food in a tupperware, and it’s even so big. No wonder people say girls are so greedy.’
I felt frustrated when a male student at school happened to see that. I wanted to retort, but he was a boy, so I couldn’t do anything.
’Y-Yeah, you’re right… Haha…’
I forced a smile while lying to myself. More than the fact that I had been hurt by that boy, I felt angry at myself for lying, for not being able to retort, for feeling sorry for my mom.
”Are you okay, Ichika-san? If you’re not feeling well or if you have a bad stomach, you might want to avoid fried food.”
I might not have the right to eat something like this anymore, even if it might never happen again.
”Oh, could you grab that Tupperware over there?”
Huh? Aqua-kun tossed two or three fried Menchi-katsu into the container, which had been drained of oil. Then he closed the lid and handed it to me.
”Maybe, even if you don’t want it now, you might get hungry later when you go home. If you’d like, you can take this with you.”
I received the container with Menchi-katsu from Aqua-kun and froze.
”…Aqua-kun, what do you think about girls who bring fried cutlets in Tupperware for lunch at school?”
”Huh? I think it’s fine?”
I wondered what he was asking me, but Aqua-kun gave an immediate response to the question. And then he continued with more words.
”In fact, I would have preferred a childhood friend or a neighbor who would be embarrassed to give me Menchi-katsu in a Tupperware because there was too much. Note that it can be a classmate or even a slightly older sister.”
Wait, isn’t he talking about me…? I’m not a childhood friend or a neighbor, but I’m one year older, and I like Menchi-katsu. Is he talking about me…? Ah! No, this is bad. I was just about to misunderstand something.
As if on cue, my stomach growled, and my face turned bright red. Maybe he heard it?
What should I do? Should I eat here after all?
With a slightly red face, I slowly shook my head.
”N-No, I’ll go home. I’m sure my mom is waiting for me at home.”
”I see. Well, be careful on your way back. And, Ichika-san, thank you for your help on the set today. Hongou-san told me in advance that I could add ad-libs, but I knew you would connect them well.”
Strength flowed into the hand holding the container filled with Menchi-katsu naturally. At that moment, I felt that my hard work had paid off. Along with that, my determination to work even harder intensified.
”Aqua-kun… I’m going to work even harder, so please wait for me. Next time, I’ll act in a proper regular role!”
It was a declaration of war from me as an actress. I will become an actress who can stand proudly next to Aqua-kun!
”Mom, I’m going home now… Yeah, yeah! Also, I’m bringing something amazing home, so look forward to it, and let’s have dinner together today too!”
As I left the filming location and headed home, that unpleasant memory no longer lingered in my heart. Because Aqua-kun’s smile, brighter than the sun, had blown away all those insignificant things.
”Alright, I’ll do my best!”
So, wait for me, Aqua-kun. I’ll be there soon!! And when that ambition comes true…
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Edited by Kanaa-senpai.
Thanks for reading.