Chapter 2 - My Name

When did my feelings for Clementine first start? I couldn't remember the exact day. All I knew was that for whatever reason, I couldn't stop thinking about her.

Every day, I'd find myself going to the restaurant. Once I got there, I'd spend my meal watching her, gazing at her flaxen braids swinging behind her as she flitted to and fro.

I wondered what she thought about me. Did she like my voice? Did she think I was handsome?

Did she feel the same way I did?

These thoughts would bubble up in my mind, then fade away.

'Hey. People don't like it when you stare at them like some kind of creeper, you know?' Henry interrupted my thoughts with his usual blunt tone.

We were at the restaurant, just like any other day.

'But I'm not a creeper,' I said, briefly tearing my eyes off of Clementine.

He flashed a look that told me he was unimpressed with my response.

'Look, I come here with you every day, and you just sit in a corner and stare at her. At this rate, I'm worried that when they toss you in jail for stalking, they'll throw me in there, too, as your accomplice.'

'Is coming here every day all it takes for me to be a stalker?' I asked.

'No, but that's not the issue. You... Wait, why am I even explaining this to you?' Henry's frustration with me was clearly mounting.

'Because we're pals,' I answered.

He let out an exaggerated sigh and threw his hands up in defeat. After a moment, however, he put on a serious expression and leaned in toward me.

'But for real, man. What are you going to do? Do you really just plan to come here day after day?'

'Yeah. I can't really think of anything else to do.' I shrugged.

Henry shook his head at me. 'C'mon. That's not gonna get your feelings across to her.'

'Then what do I do?' I asked.

'You just gotta tell her how you feel. Just go over there and say it. Brace yourself for the worst, and just say it,' Henry told me. 'But I guess if you're too scared for that, the safe way would be to make her like you more first.'

'How do I do that? Should I...' I struggled to think of something that lovers do. 'Um...hold her in my arms or something like that?'

'Are you for real, man?' Henry raised an eyebrow at me. 'Okay, if I were to give an example off the top of my head--'

'Is that how you treat a paying customer?!'

Suddenly, Henry was interrupted by the sound of a drunk man yelling at someone on the other side of the restaurant. I looked over to saw who he was so riled up at.

It was Clementine.

'I'm sorry, sir, but I'm working right now. I can't do that,' she said. I could hear a hint of fear behind her professional tone.

'All I'm askin' is for you to have a little drink with me. C'mon, girlie, let's have some fun!' The man slurred his words, clearly deep in his cups.

'Well, something like that, actually.' Henry nodded at the scene playing out before us. 'If you swoop in to save the day when she's in trouble like that, I'm sure she'll think better of you.'

'Though you should probably stay out of this one, to be honest.' Henry leaned back in his chair and pulled out his comm orbment. 'This might be a bit more than you can handle, so we'd better leave it to the pros.'

'Okay. Got it.' I stood up and began walking toward Clementine.

'Hey! Wait!' I heard Henry exclaim as I left, but I ignored him and kept going.

'Huh? Who're you supposed to be? Me and the lady are talkin'. You can have your turn later.'

I could smell the alcohol on his breath from an arge away.

'I'm here to talk to you, actually.' As I said this, the man's unfocused gaze froze on me.

'I'd rather not bother the other customers in here, so why don't we talk outside?' I continued.

'Huh? I got nothin' to talk to you about. You wanna go outside, go on your own. Like I said, I'm talkin' to the lady here.' The man's face grew redder.

'Well, she clearly doesn't want to talk to you, so let's go outside already,' I retorted.

The man's expression quickly twisted into an enraged scowl as he shot out of his seat, knocking over everything on his table with a loud clatter. It turned out he was much bigger than me.

'Don't try to act big, you little shit, or you're gonna get hurt!'

'Please go back to your seat. I can handle this,' Clementine said as she put herself between the man and me.

'But you're shaking.' With her right in front of me, I was able to see clearly.

Tears welled up in her eyes, but she pursed her lips tightly and gave me a determined look.

'I'm not moving from this spot until you go back.' Her voice cracked ever so slightly.

'Oh, yeah? Guess I'll have to move you, then!'

The man shoved Clementine aside and grabbed at my collar. At the same time, he swung his fist at my face. Right as it was about to make impact, however, I heard a commotion from behind him.

'That's enough!'

Several sets of hands grabbed him, stopping his punch mid-swing and holding him in place.

'We got a report of a disturbance. Both of you, stand down!'

One look at their shining badges was all I needed to figure out what was going on.

'We're from the Bracer Guild. You're coming back with us to our guild branch, where we're all gonna have a nice chat,' said one of the bracers.

'Bracers?! Hold on a sec! We weren't fighting!' The man quickly let go of me. 'We were just havin' a bit of fun. Right, kid?

'Well, I sure wasn't having any fun.'

It was an honest answer on my part, but the man didn't seem to appreciate it much. His face turned red again and contorted with anger.

'The hell?! You shut your damn mouth, you little punk!'

Before the man could do anything, however, the bracers had him pinned on the floor.

'That's enough! Come along quietly.'

The bracers subdued him and began leading him out of the restaurant. Despite his anger only a moment ago, the man began sobbing.

'Please don't call my momma, okay?! I'm begging you!'

I watched them walk out the door. Just as I was about to turn and check on Clementine, one of the bracers put his hand on my shoulder. He was a well-built man, and it was clear from his expression he took his job seriously. I would later learn his name was Boris.

'You guys are lifesavers,' I turned to him and said, 'Thanks for taking care of him.'

'We have to bring you in, too, you know,' Boris said, as he tightened his grip on my shoulder, 'After all, both parties are to blame when a fight breaks out. Didn't they teach you that in school?'

'Both parties, huh?' I said, absentmindedly. Everything that had gone on the past few minutes had overwhelmed my mind a bit.

As I was lost in my daze, Boris led me out of the restaurant with the other bracers.

After Edgar left the restaurant with the bracers, Clementine just stood there, shocked.

'Sheesh. Sorry about the commotion my pal caused,' said a voice from behind her, 'Sometimes, he gets so stubborn, not even I can stop him. He just runs off and does whatever he feels like. It can be kind of a pain.'

It was Henry. He let out a chuckle at the results of Edgar's clumsy attempt at heroism. Clementine simply stared at the door Edgar had been escorted through moments ago, however.

Noticing this, Henry's laughing tapered off awkwardly. 'Um. Are you okay?'

'Who is he?' she asked.

'Huh?'

'Your friend. What's his name?' Clementine continued to gaze at the doorway as she asked.

'Oh, r-right,' Henry stammered, slightly flustered by the unexpected question. 'It's Edgar.'

'Edgar,' Clementine mumbled to herself, 'I didn't get to thank him.'

Watching Clementine lost in her thoughts, Henry could only manage a wry grin.

第2巻  「ぼくの名前を」 いつからクレムのことを想っていたのか。「何月何日のどの
瞬間だ」という記憶は無い。でも、この不思議な感情は嘘偽り
なくぼくの中にあって、それが彼女に対して向かっていること
もまた偽りじゃない。                  
 気がつけば食堂に足を運んでいて、気がつけばクレムの姿を
目で追いかけていた。小柄な体で動き回るたび、美しい亜麻色
のおさげが揺れている。                 
 クレムはぼくをどう思うだろう。ぼくの声を、ぼくの見た目
を、どう感じるのだろう。                
 そんな問いが、浮かんでは消えていく。         
                            
「そのスナイパーみたいな目つき、嫌われるぞ」      
 今日も例外なく食堂にいて、いつも通りヘンリーは厳しい。
「だけど、ぼくはスナイパーじゃないから」        
 不機嫌な友はこっちを睨んだ。             
「連日ここに来てるおかげで、              
 おまえと共犯でストーカー扱いされてないか心配だ」   
「毎日来ているだけでストーカーになるの?」       
「なることもあるしならない時はならないかもな……って、 
 こんなことをいちいち説明してる俺って何!」      
「ヘンリーはヘンリーだよ。ぼくの友だち」        
 彼は拍子抜けしたように、バタンッとテーブルに突っ伏して
しまった。                       
「おまえさ、今後どうするわけ?             
 本当にこのまま毎日毎日ここに通うのか?」       
「うん。それ以外のことが思いつかないし」        
「それだけじゃ、相手には何も伝わらないだろ」      
「じゃあどうしたらいいの?」              
「そりゃあ、自分の気持ちを伝えるんだよ。そのまんまを。 
 玉砕覚悟でいきなりぶつかってもいいが、        
 堅実にいくなら、好感度を上げることだな」       
「どうやって上げるの? クレムを抱っこすればいいの?」 
「んなわけあるかッ。そうだなぁ、            
 ちょうど舞いこんだシチュエーションを例にすると――」 
                            
「姉ちゃん、客に対してその態度はないんじゃねぇの?」  
 指された先を見ると、酔った男性客とクレムが話していた。
「仕事中ですので、そう言われても困ります」       
「ちょっと隣で飲むだけだって。“さーびす”の1つにさぁ」
「――例えば、ああやって彼女が困ってたら駆けつける。  
 颯爽と現れたおまえの好感度は上がる。それを積み重ねる。
 ただ、今回はちと面倒に巻きこまれそうだから止めとけよ。
 今、解決のプロを……」                
「なるほど。よく分かったよ」              
 席を立ち、騒ぎの中心部へ向かう。背後から「こら待てッ」
と聞こえたけど、それに反応する優先順位は低い。     
                            
「ん、なんだよあんた。この姉ちゃんはオレと喋ってるんだ。
 用なら後にしてくれ」                 
「ぼくが用事があるのはあなたです」           
 合わなかった男の焦点が、ピタッとこちらに定まる。   
「ここで話すとお店に迷惑がかかるので、表に出ましょうか」
「はあ? オレはあんたに用はねぇ。勝手に出て行きな」  
「彼女もあなたに用はありません。だから一緒に出ましょう」
 男は目つきを変え、激しく音をたてて立ち上がった。背丈は
ぼく以上、見上げるほどの大男だ。            
「あんま調子乗ってると、痛い目みることになるぜ」    
「席に戻ってください。私は平気ですから」        
 クレムがぼくと男の間に立つ。             
「でも、震えていますよ」                
「――!」                       
 瞳に涙を溜め始めたが、口を固く結んでぼくを恨めしそうに
見ている。                       
「あなたが表に出るまで、ぼくはここを動きません」    
「ほう。なら力づくでどかしてやる」           
 男はクレムを突き飛ばし、ぼくの胸倉に手を伸ばす。無防備
な顔をめがけて拳が振り上げられた。その時。       
「そこまでだッ!」                   
 数人の乱入者に男の動きが止まる。           
「喧嘩をしていると通報があったのでやって来たが、    
 君たちのことか」                   
 輝く胸の紋章。それが何を表すのか、ぼくにも理解できた。
「我々は遊撃士協会の者だ。               
 事情聴取のため、支部までご同行願おう」        
「遊撃士!? ちょ、ちょっと待ってくれ。         
 オレたちは喧嘩なんてしてねぇぞ」           
 男は慌ててぼくから手を離した。            
「ちょいと愉快に騒ぎすぎただけだ。な、兄ちゃん」    
「それには同意できません」               
「んだとッ。生意気言いやがって」            
「はいはい、そこまで。大人しくついて来てもらうからね」 
 遊撃士に距離を詰められ、男の威勢の良さは影を潜めた。 
「なあ、おっ母には連絡しないでくれよ? 頼むからよ」  
 彼らが去ったのを見送ると、別の遊撃士がぼくに向き直った。
精悍な顔つきのその遊撃士は、ボリスという名だった。   
「助かりました。彼のこと、よろしくお願いします」    
「ん? もちろん君にも来てもらわなきゃならないよ。   
 喧嘩は両成敗だからね。学校で習わなかった?」     
「喧嘩は両成敗……なるほど」              
 そして肩を掴まれるまま、ぼくも連れ出されたのだった。 
                            
              ◇              
                            
 エドガーたちがいなくなった店内。呆然としているクレム。
「いやー、うちの相棒がすみませんね。騒がしくしちゃって。
 頭でっかちなもんだから、俺の制止も効かずじまいで。  
 急発進・急ブレーキなヤツで困っちゃいますよね、あはは」
 笑いかけるヘンリーに、クレムの反応は悪い。      
「えーと、げ、元気ですかー?」             
「……あの、一緒に行ってしまったお兄さんは?」     
「へ?」                        
「お兄さんの、お名前は?」               
「あ、ああ。エドガーですよ」              
「エドガー、さん。お礼を言いそびれてしまいました」   
 そう呟くクレムに、ヘンリーは苦笑するしかなかった。

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