“Isn’t it rather mean of you to make a girl cry?”
Once Yuki was gone, a bespectacled youth appeared out of the blue. He didn’t seem used to his labcoat yet. If one had to make a guess, it looked like it was wearing him rather than he was wearing it.
The man in the cast looked over his shoulder at the youth and scowled openly at him. “Bugger off, part-timer. Shut up and take the absorbent cotton off,” he spat as he lit a new cigarette.
“My goodness, smoking won’t do you any favours. It’s off-limits, you know?”
“That’s ‘cos the sanatorium is a no-smoking zone.”
“That’s not quite it. Come now, please hand over what’s in your pocket. Otherwise, I’ll tell the authorities.”
When the man reluctantly handed over the shabby soft case, the youth took out a single cigarette, lit it and inhaled deeply.
“You wanted to smoke yourself, huh…” The man in the cast peered at the youth resentfully.
With a meditative hum, the youth cocked his head and drew the cigarette away from his mouth. “Doesn’t leave a particularly good aftertaste, does it?”
It seemed to be his first time smoking, curiously enough.
“Thanks to this, though, I’m in the same boat as you. It can’t be helped, so I’ll keep this a secret from the doctors. Well, I am but a mere med student who was asked by his relatives to help out with the odd jobs. I’m not even an intern—what responsibility do I have?”
“Heh, I had no idea you wanted an early grave.”
“Are you showing your concern for me? How kind of you.”
The man knew perfectly well that he had no place to lecture a child. Anyone who knew about his situation would have told him that if he was presumptuous enough to save someone else, he ought to do something about himself first.
“I just couldn’t stand to watch her—”
He remembered the resigned smile on that girl’s face when she said, “You don’t have to apologise… we’re not the only ones.”
“That girl, she didn’t even look like she’d finished compulsory schooling yet. Yet she smiled with a look like that on her face…”
Wanting to draw out a childlike expression from her, he’d gone and teased her on impulse.
“I’m quite sure she’s furious, the poor girl.”
“Good. If she can get mad, she’s fine.”
The youth laughed in astonishment and sat down beside the man. “You know, once I finish my six years at university, pass the exam and get through two uneventful years of internship, I’ll take over the family hospital.”
“I can’t give up my medical work time, but I can always lend an ear—Lieutenant Marito.”
“…save it for when you pass.”
Marito knew the name written on the labcoat’s label: “Yagarai”. Come to think of it, he was pretty sure that referred to the Yagarai Clinic, a small private clinic in the Shinawara city.
“Our regular patients are children and the elderly. It’s a nice place.”
“Heh. Break a leg, med student.”