Mizuhara had a deep-rooted love of elves since he was little. His elf mania started because of a single picture book. Mizuhara didn’t get attached to things much except for that one treasured book — which got burnt by his father over a misunderstanding.
Along with his father, his mother and brother didn’t take his side either even after he stopped crying. That, along with his burnt picture book, left a deep wound on young Mizuhara.
His home was also a well-established inn so the family had no time to go out together somewhere. They even ate their meals separately. With those circumstances, there was no way they could get along again after that incident.
Mizuhara and his mother had both been vague so I didn’t know the details, but it seemed a lot more tension grew between them until Mizuhara graduated middle school and took the opportunity to move in with his grandparents, heading to Tokyo.
Although he was still a minor by the time his grandparents died, he was already independent. His university expenses were paid for with a scholarship thanks to his brains. As for his living expenses, he got by with his know-how of stocks that he’d learnt somewhere.
That’s how he ended up the way he is now.
Basically, Mizuhara just wouldn’t allow himself to rely on others. In the beginning he even tried to give me money in return for asking me for little favors.
It might have just been his personality, but it also may have been the fact that his parents didn’t give him many things themselves. Thinking about it made me sad.
That’s why I was terribly worried about him after hearing from Nonomiya.
Who would’ve thought we’d run into each other in this situation?
「……Just what in the world are you doing?」
A little while after lunch, I received an email from an unknown address. It was one suspicious sentence: 「What do I do, help me! Come to the local history room in the library building!!」
Suspicious. But maybe it was someone I knew, if they knew my email? They didn’t reply when I sent them an email asking who they were.
It was even more suspicious considering it seemed like it was from a girl, and I’d lately been pestered more and more by them.
But I couldn’t throw away the possibility of it being a friend who’d changed their email and now needed help. After hesitating, I went to the local history room and ended up getting splendidly locked in.
I knew it, hah, I just knew it, I thought. I didn’t want to stay in school at this time, so I pulled out my phone only to see I had no signal. A double trap? The local history room was rarely used.
But they did patrol all the buildings at the closing time, so I might be found then. But the room was brutally cold since the air conditioning wasn’t working.
I glanced outside the window to see it faced an empty courtyard, and a magnificent tree had grown nearby.
After worrying a little, I made my decision. All right, time to escape! Since this room was on the second floor, the sturdy looking tree would surely support my weight. In the unlikely event that I fell, there was soft grass growing under.
It was also difficult to imagine someone wandering around the library building in this cold weather. Jumping from the local history room to the tree, I easily climbed down, cheering, 「Haha, victory, victory!」 Then I felt a gaze on me.
I looked around to see Mizuhara standing still, looking at me suspiciously.
Hastily I said to Mizuhara,「No~ …Someone called me here so I went to see, but they locked me up in the local history room….」
Mizuhara had been preparing to vacate his personal laboratory so he happened to be passing by. Although it looked like he couldn’t cram all his important research material at home, he held a heavy-looking bag with both hands filled with many sweets information magazines.
Was that his research?
As he was putting a lot of effort into moving his things out, he said he noticed a tree moving strangely nearby. He wondered if it was somehow a monkey, only to realize it was me after he approached.
「The local history room is only opened when someone requests to use it. Was it open when you got there?」
It seemed the local history room had a special system: When someone wanted to use it, you had to ask for the key at the counter and then give it back when you were done.
By the time I got there, it was unlocked. So someone had unlocked it, waited until I got there, and then just locked me in like that.
「……When you request to use the room, don’t you have to write down your full name and register number?」
「That’s right. But they won’t show you that, it’s personal information.」
「Right…」 Rather annoyingly, I couldn’t find out who the culprit was. But since I’d escaped in a few minutes, I had a bit of a superiority complex at outwitting the culprit so I didn’t feel that bad.
Mizuhara asked to see the email address just in case. I took my phone out of my bag and then stared at it in astonishment.
Twenty-two messages, five voicemails, thirty-eight emails.
Flabbergasted, I checked only to see the messages were all from anonymous numbers and that the voicemails had nothing but silence before hanging up.
「What is it?」 Mizuhara looked puzzled as he saw me stiffen right after looking at my phone.
「It… It says I have emails from lonely married women, company secretaries who just broke up with their boyfriends, lonely nurses working night shifts who can’t find boyfriends and who want to meet me…」
What was this? Who was ‘Sayaka’?
「Idiot. Don’t open them!」 Mizuhara stopped me as I was about to open them. He asked to see it, holding out his hand, and I put my phone in it.
He looked at a few of the emails with suspicious subject lines, and suggested some solutions. 「Your email’s been leaked out somewhere. Although it would be difficult to spam you thanks to your aggressive email address, it’s not out of the question. It’s also possible you got infected by a virus one of your friends got first. I don’t know how it started but it looks like your email’s been leaked to several companies. If it’s leaked once, it just spreads. You’ll either have to change your email or use a filter for a while.」
I was impressed at how he could figure it out so easily without having a manual.
I wasn’t very good at electronics or reading manuals either. I didn’t know how to register for an email address so I let Arioka take care of it, who made a rather complicated address for me.
I can drop kick you! Instant KO.[1. TL Note: Her actual email in Japanese is 【drop-kick-dekiru.noda182ko@～】 which is a nice pun. “Drop kick dekiru noda” means “I can do a drop kick!” and Noda is also her name. 182 is also a pun on instant.]
It was irritating when Arioka showed it to me with that satisfied look on his face, but I didn’t know how to change it and asking someone for help was too much of a bother so I kept it the way it was.
「Does your phone not have proper security in the first place?」
「Aah, I don’t really understand that stuff much…」
I’d had a smartphone for years but it was still a strange object to me. Although I got it as a present for getting into university, it was far too excessive for me.
At first I didn’t even know how to make a call. There were so many features, and it was so complicated on top of that that I just couldn’t use it.
「At least put a filter on it first.」 Mizuhara looked exasperated, handing me the phone back, but I didn’t know how to put a filter on it. Realizing that from my expression, he pulled up the settings page for me. He told me to deny all emails from computers and to point out important emails I was in contact with.
But I couldn’t understand the list of options on the screen. What kind of magic was this?
As I struggled to figure out what to do, Mizuhara leaned against the tree like he was in a long, drawn-out battle. 「First of all, enter your password here.」
「……So that’s how…」
Mizuhara then tampered with my phone for a while. He changed my password first and then added some security software.
It seemed his recommended free mobile security software was something-something, but I had to first get a trial of the paid version to find the viruses or something, and then there was this app that you could remotely control your device with if you lost it and something something.
I see. I didn’t get it at all. At first he asked me, 「What are you going to do with this now?」 after explaining it to make sure I understood, but everything he said was all Greek to me. I just replied appropriately, 「Alright, go ahead!」 and he silently started working on it. I was so grateful.
「It seems you haven’t got a virus.」 He returned my phone after a few minutes which was now leveled up, with the power to block spam, anonymous phone calls, and viruses.
I thanked him, and he started to leave, saying anyone could do that much.
「Ah, wait!」 I stopped him right away. As Mizuhara looked over his shoulder at me, holding his luggage, I asked him, 「……H–how are you?」
「I’m just as you can see.」 He looked dubiously at me, as if to say, ‘What are you saying?’
「Ummmm……」 Even though I’d stopped him, I couldn’t ask him the actual question. Whether he was acting strange because of his brother’s wedding, and then whether he was going to go or not. He’d probably answer right away if I asked, but I wouldn’t know what to say afterwards.
If so, I could’ve just bid him farewell, saying nothing in the first place. But when I looked at him again, he looked thinner, so I couldn’t just not say anything.
Although that might have just been because Nonomiya’s sweets are more healthy. A few seconds passed in an awkward silence.
「……Ah, right. Here.」 I just remembered something, fishing for it in my bag. I just remembered I had some yuzu jam. I gave it to him as a way of saying thanks again, and Mizuhara cocked his head slightly.
「No, it’s yuzu jam. At this time of year, Mom’s colleague gets a lot of yuzu fruits from her neighbor who has some farmer relatives so they share it. It’s a tradition to make yuzu juice every year.」
「I think you don’t have to explain that much, a simple answer would suffice.」
Oh, shut up. I knew that, but every year Mom says the same thing as she happily brings in the yuzu fruits, so I ended up memorizing it somehow.
「It has a shelf life of three months in the fridge.」
You could put the jam in pound cakes, use it as a topping for pancakes and other things. We used it all up in some weeks, so I didn’t have to worry about when it’d expire. But generally speaking, it was supposed to last for three months.
「You can just use it for basic stuff like spread it on bread or scones. You could also put it in yogurt but it’s winter, so you could add some water to it and have yuzu tea. About three spoons for one cup, I think?」
As I explained how he could use it, he murmured admiringly, 「You can use it for a lot, huh.」 I told him that I was just mentioning everyday things you use jam for.
「What were you using jam for until now?」
「As a side dish for sake.」
「I’ve never heard of that.」 I’ve heard of using it on wasabi or with salt, but not sake. Mizuhara put the jam in his bag, and asked if I was doing alright with my exams.
Trust me, I can do it this year! There were only four subjects, and even though bookkeeping was considered difficult, I’d diligently studied it already so I could make it with just some revision beforehand.
Although I nodded, trying to seem full of self-confidence so he wouldn’t worry too much, he still looked uncertainly at me. Maybe it was because I had a bad record with these things.
I couldn’t just talk confidently and then fail, so as soon as I got home, I quickly went to my desk.