This story is told from Masako's POV and takes place while Naru is back in England for Gene's funeral. It gives an intimate look at Masako's family, her past, and how she really feels about Mai.
I have to give a big thanks to my mom this time, as I asked her to type out the story in its entirely because the scans were really hard to read. This saved me a ton of time and work, so thank you! XD And again, thanks to witchuntress for finding and sharing the scans!
Trajectory of a Satellite
Kimiko gripped the car’s steering wheel. Using a cushion in the rear seat as a pillow, Masako listened to Kimiko’s voice while half asleep.
“—I heard Kabe-san is going to be put in charge of a new program. And they were asking if they could have a segment for you, Masako-chan. They’d recruit consulters from the audience, and have them meet with you during the program—“
Masako sat up.
“My. But you’d be a regular?”
“I don’t want to advise people. Most of it isn’t any different from ordinary personal advice.”
“If they were people who were really troubled, it would be one thing. But consulters like that are doing it half out of curiosity, half because they want to be on TV. ......I never want to do that.”
Kimiko sighed loudly. She drove the car in silence for a while.
Kimiko was Masako’s aunt. Upon having learned that Masako had unusual powers, she’d actively promoted her, and since then worked as her manager.
“You don’t want to do that, you don’t want to do this. ......Masako-chan, what kind of work do you want to do?”
This time it was Masako’s turn to fall silent. Since she was little, her aunt had been pulling her around to TV stations. It made her happy that so many people were delighted and praised her. It had always been that way, so somehow or other it continued to this day.
“Don’t be so selfish. For once, won’t you try to make your dear aunt look good?”
“I am not a television personality. I can’t just force a smile and call it a day.”
“I understand that, but even if you’re in poor form, can’t you make up for it with just the essentials?”
“Aunty, are you saying that I should get through it by lying?”
Masako looked at Kimiko through the back mirror. After mumbling “Not exactly,” Kimiko said,
“Last night too, what was that? After bringing in all that equipment and crew, to say there’s nothing there?”
She had been loaned out for a television special about investigating ghost towns. Forced to stay up all night in a filthy abandoned house in the company of TV staff whom she couldn’t tell if they were friendly or unfriendly, she was tired. And though she’d slept on the way back, it was hard to say she’d slept well.
“But there really was nothing. They call it a cursed town, but I’m sure it only became a ghost town simply due to depopulation.”
“But you know,” Kimiko began to say, but held her tongue. They had arrived at the house.
Masako quickly exited the car, and Kimiko lowered the window and leaned out from the driver’s seat.
“Anyway, we’ll continue this next time.”
Masako gave a small nod.
‘You don’t have to tell me,’ Masako thought, and silently nodded to this as well. Leaning slightly against the doors of the gate, she watched the Benz leave, then sighed a little.
Dragging her feet slightly, she entered the house. Sunlight from the late summer heat, feeling not at all like autumn, cast dark shadows under the eaves and between the trees of the yard.
When she called while opening the door, perhaps having heard the car, her mother Sanae had just come out.
“Welcome home. Where’s Kimiko?”
“Did Kimiko get another new car?”
Sanae’s voice was harsh.
Kimiko was Sanae’s younger sister. And the two sisters were not on very good terms. Sanae was a teacher, who worked as a vice principal at an elementary school. On the other hand, Kimiko was Masako’s manager, and before that, she had pretended to be a medium herself, and even before that, she had apparently managed a hostess bar. In other words, the elder sister was stiff, and the younger sister was soft. Neither of them could understand the other.
“And?” Sanae looked at Masako. “Are you going to sleep now? What about lunch?”
“I don’t need any. I will sleep a little.”
“Oh,” Sanae said curtly, and turned her back on her. She returned to the living room. Masako also heaved a small sigh, and headed deeper into the house.
The room that Masako used as her bedroom was a Japanese-style room in the interior of the house that used to belong to her grandparents. Opening the sliding door, Masako smiled softly. She had spotted her grandmother in the room.
“Welcome home. You look tired.”
As always, Tae wore a navy blue pongee kimono and was sitting on the veranda.
“I am tired. I couldn’t even lie down to rest.”
“My, my, that must have been difficult.”
“On top of that, there was nothing even there.”
“I’m sick of it. If I say there’s nothing, there won’t be a show, so one way or another I have to say something to the effect. But I don’t want to lie......”
Masako let out a sigh as she untied her obi.
“On top of that, Mother is in a bad mood.”
“It did seem that way.”
“It seems she doesn’t like that Aunt Kimiko got a new car.”
Tae raised her voice in laughter.
“Sanae has always been that way. Kimiko likes extravagant, showy things, and Sanae can’t stand that. She is so straight-laced.”
She hated showy things, as well as anything unusual. That’s why Sanae kept the fact that her daughter worked as a medium a secret. She seemed to think it was embarrassing. She would never interfere with children, so she had never particularly opposed it, but having her mother wear a sullen expression every time she left or returned made Masako feel depressed.
“I’d rather she just be honest and opposed it......”
The sound of rustling silk as she shed her kimono overlapped with Masako’s half-muttering voice.
“—Do you want to quit?”
Tae’s voice was mellow and kind. Masako turned around to see slightly slanted sunlight seeping through the screen to fall on her seated, ornament-like figure.
“......I don’t know.”
It was an often repeated question, and an often repeated answer.
Tae smiled gently.
“My elder sister was a special person like you too. She seemed to be quite troubled by it, but once she was married, she became normal.”
She heard this story often too.
“My sister wasn’t able to make much use of it, but Masako, you use it to help people, so I am proud.”
Masako sat down next to the cheerfully smiling Tae.
“......It’s not useful. Especially on TV, where the main intention is to entertain.”
“And because you’ve gotten sick of that, you’re making such a face?”
“That’s part of it.”
Masako rested her body on the shoji door beside Tae.
“......I’m not a child anymore, you know......”
It had been fine when she was little, because she was innocent. It felt good having cameras and microphones turned toward her, and she was happy when she was praised.
“Yes, you’re old enough to become a bride now.”
Masako smiled a little. And she turned her gaze toward the yard.
For example, there was the fact that the people at the TV station and Kimiko did not believe in Masako’s powers very much. It might be real, or it might be a lie. She had come to realize that they wouldn’t mind either way, as long as it got talked about. The clients didn’t care either way either, as long as their problems were solved.
Sometimes she wondered what the point of having these powers was. Of course, being able to do things that others couldn’t made her vaguely proud, and if that delighted people and made them thankful, she was happy. But at the same time, because of these powers, Masako had been called a “liar” in elementary school, and until Kimiko had given her stamp of approval that she was a medium, the people around her had thought she had a mental disorder. —In reality, she’d even been taken to a hospital before.
A girl who had been continually called a “liar” and “creepy” was given the title of “medium” and found a place in the light. However, she wondered if that was really what she’d wanted all along.
“......I would rather have been a normal girl.”
Masako rested her cheek on the shoji.
“A cheerful, normal, energetic girl.”
The one she recalled was her friend she met in Shibuya. She was the first person Masako could ever call a friend, even if hesitantly, and while that made her very happy, there was an awful girl inside of her that envied that friend.
“Masako, you’re a normal girl too.”
Tae’s smile was truly warm. But Masako shook her head.
Saying she needed to be “like a medium,” Kimiko had made her wear Japanese clothing to create a mood, and Masako was aware that everything from the way she spoke to her demeanor had been warped in an unusual way. No matter what, she felt out of place among girls her age, but at the same time, adults wouldn’t treat her as one of their own either.
“There’s this girl called Mai, who is very energetic.”
Masako smiled, feeling slightly bitter.
“She says whatever is on her mind, moves around a lot, and is really energetic. She’s liked by everyone, and gets along with anyone.”
With that personality, and being a normal girl, and even having psychic powers, it was so unfair, said the awful girl inside her heart.
“You like that girl too, don’t you, Masako?”
“Like her......yes, I do. Probably.”
“But you’re jealous of her?”
“......I really am an awful girl.”
Tae smiled softly.
“Are you jealous? Or are you sad for yourself?”
Masako looked at the sitting Tae.
“......You’re right. Most likely, when I look at Mai, I feel pathetic and sad for myself.”
The girl who had everything Masako had lost while she was being flattered and manipulated. When she saw a spirit and pointed it out, Masako had been scolded by her mother, but when that girl did the same, her friends praised her. At least if there was some difference in their powers, she would feel better, but Masako’s powers were clearly in the waning period.
“But you know,” Tae raised her voice.
“No matter how nice of a girl she is, I’ll always love you best, Masako.”
“......Because I’m your grandchild.”
“Of course,” Tae smiled.
“Because you’re my grandchild, connected by blood. Because our relationship is special, you are especially dear to me.”
Masako smiled just a little.
“It’s not only me. Sanae may be like that, but she loves you too. Parents, family, and people who are especially close will always like you best. —That includes your friends, lovers, and husband.”
Masako tilted her head.
“I wonder if I’ll ever have someone like that.”
“You will. Of course, that will depend on how much effort you put in.”
Smiling back at Tae, Masako lowered her gaze a little.
“......I think there are things you can’t do anything about, even with effort. Even if you can make an effort not to be hated, you can’t become someone’s favorite through effort.”
In her mind’s eye, she saw his side profile. It was clear that he gave only Mai special treatment. There wasn’t much point in thinking about what Mai’s feelings truly were. Masako had written him many letters, but never got one reply. That fact alone held deeper meaning.
Tae also wore a wry expression.
“That does sound difficult.”
“Which is better, to give it a try, or give up without trying?”
Tae’s voice was endlessly kind.
“......To give it a try.”
“In that case, give it your best.”
Just as she muttered “Thank you,” she heard a tapping sound on the sliding door. When she answered “Yes?”, her father Tatsuo showed his face. Tatsuo also worked as a teacher. Unlike her mother, he was a junior high school teacher with no path to promotion, but he had a gentle personality, and had many adoring students who came to visit even after graduation.
Tatsuo looked inside the room, and let out a small sigh. He looked at Masako with his usual troubled gaze.
“......Is it Grandma?”
“Yes,” Masako said, averting her gaze. Tatsuo entered the room. He hesitated, then went to sit in front of the household altar.
“It’ll be almost ten years.”
Tatsuo laughed in a really troubled way and looked up at the altar.
“Did you have a fight with your mother?”
“......No, not exactly.”
“Then, something bad happened at work?”
At Tatsuo’s words, Masako fell silent.
“Grandma must be really worried for you, Masako. It must be because her lineal grandchild was born late.”
Masako did not answer to this either.
“She must appear whenever you’re having a difficult time. Even though it’s been ten years now. Though she never appears to your mother and I when we’re troubled.”
“......She’s worried for you and Mother too.”
“Mm,” Tatsuo smiled wryly.
“That must be it. We just can’t see her, that’s all.”
“Yes,” Masako muttered. At first glance, his words seemed kind, but even now, Tatsuo thought that Masako was mentally ill. His kindness was the kindness one showed to an unfortunate patient. The doctors she had been repeatedly taken to had said unanimously that Tae was just a part of Masako’s own personality, and that what she saw was just a hallucination that took the form of her grandmother. That Masako spoke not to her grandmother, but was merely having conversations with herself.
After gazing at Tae’s picture on the altar, Tatsuo turned to look at Masako with a smile. As expected, the smile was somewhat troubled.
“Dinner is almost ready.”
Nodding, Masako sighed softly. The veranda where Tae’s figure had been just a while ago was now empty. Beyond the window, she could see the sky enveloped with a trace of twilight.
(......I wonder if I really can become someone’s favorite if I put in the effort?)
Even if she asked herself, she had no answer.
Sanae was still irritable even during dinner, so the meal passed in silence. Feeling fed up, Masako was on her way back to her room when the phone rang, and as she just happened to be passing by, Masako picked up the receiver.
“Yes? This is Hara.”
The receiver was silent. The pause was long enough to make one suspect a prank call.
Just as she asked this in suspicion, the voice came flowing out.
“Is Masako-san there?”
Masako opened her eyes wide. Though it sounded somewhat distorted, she could not mistake this voice.
Once more, a long pause, as their voices traveled the vast distances back and forth from the man-made satellite.
“I’m unable to write a reply, so I am calling you by phone instead.”
“......You must be busy.”
“Somewhat. It’s more that I can’t write in Japanese.”
“Oh my,” Masako smiled. She was happy, but somehow, she wanted to cry.
“What time is it now?”
“9 AM. —It’s Summer Time now, so in Standard Time I suppose it would be 10 o’clock.”
Due to the distance, the conversation proceeded at a slow and gradual pace. But that made her all the more happy.
“I didn’t even imagine I would get a reply, even by phone.”
After a pause due to distance, she heard a sigh.
“It seems I’ve been causing you too much worry. I am not feeling particularly depressed.”
“I see,” Masako nodded.
“—Are you doing well?”
“Fine, thank you.”
“—I’m doing well too, thanks to you.”