I once hated him.
Really, really, really hated him.
I hated him so much that I ended up thinking about it.
I once—hated him.
As I was growing up, it was clear that my body was different to other kids of my age.
I was born with Cerebral Palsy.
This disease brought great discomfort in the form of a slow body, and a pair of legs that were sticks, unable to move.’
However, back then, I was not uneasy about my life in any way.
“Chiaki, how are you? Can you eat your breakfast?”
“Yes, I’m hungry!”
Back then, my parents were very kind to me. Thinking back about it, they really doted on me.
My sister, three years older than me, kept picking on me as she was jealous, but I guess it’s a hyperbole to say this. Even I realized that I grew up in this environment worthy of envy.
“Let’s play, Chiakin.”
“Be right there!”
And back then, I did have friends.
I played with the neighboring girls who were of the same age as me. They always came over, and would push me out on the wheelchair. I was a kid who could really smile back then.
“Hey! We’re going to play soccer. Go elsewhere!”
“Wah! It’s Hayato!”
“What! We’re here first!”
“You should be the one going elsewhere, Hayato!”
There’s just one person.
The one boy I could never bring myself to like.
“Shut up! I’m going to be a pro soccer player in the future! Scram!”
He’s a childhood playmate of mine, living nearby.
He’s a shorty, a loudmouth, and extremely arrogant.
He, acting like lord over the kids, was really hated by our group of girls.
Of course, since he’s so arrogant, haughty, and does whatever he wants. Later on, he became the target of admiration for many girls, but back in elementary school, we didn’t know anything about romance, and always squabbled over such minor things.
I was always the one whom he directed his bullying at.
“Hmph! This is what I’ll do if you don’t do as I say!”
Kids are cruel.
He kicked my wheelchair hard, spun it around, and had me fall over. Since I was unable to move, I was perfect picking for him, a brat who could not empathize with others.
“You’re terrible, Hayato! Apologize!”
“Chiaki’s ill here!”
“Teehee! If your regret it, come after me!”
I was always left behind as everyone gave chase after him. My friends were always huffing away, never able to catch Hayato, because he was always so athletic since young.
“Hey! Stripe blue!”
“Yucks! Go die already!”
“Uuu…someone please pull me up already…”
I could only hear the screams of my friends far away, and was always left behind sobbing away along with the wheelchair lying by my side. My friends were all taken from Hayato, and on this day, he just announcement the color of my underwear.
(I won’t…ever forgive him!)
I swore as I watched the tears fall.
I really—really hated him.
Our relationship changed during the 3rd grade of elementary school.
“Tsukimura, are you able to come to school today? I’m going to help make up for the time you were hospitalized.”
This wheelchair-bound girl was nine years old.
And there was no one else she could call a friend.
I vented my frustrations, all for stupid reasons. Due to discomfort, I was hospitalized for a long time, threw tantrums at my family, and even my friends for not visiting me. I returned to school after a long time, and found that there was no room for me to fit in.
“Tsukimura, eh…a change of topic. Are you getting along well with your friends?”
“Please do not worry, teacher, I am fine.”
I guess it was around this time that I started to use formal language.
Not only to the teachers, but to my family, friends, classmates.
This was my form of protest to this lonely reality I was in. It was an act of arrogance to my worried teacher as I lived alone.
“Alrighty ♪sure is tiring to stay behind and study~”
But there was this one person.
The one person I could never use formal language to.
It was on a certain day, after school. I was alone in the classroom—waiting for the teacher to drop by.
“Oh, so you’re one of the idiots too, Chiaki?”
“Don’t group me with you. Also, didn’t I say not to call me by my name?”
He entered the classroom, and once I met him in the eyes, we started to bicker.
The one person on this world I really hated, and as he’s the dumbest guy on this world, he ended up having supplementary lessons with me.
Even after entering 3rd grade, he did not change much.
He could never shut up, always yapped away, running around.
His diminutive body and loud mouth made him annoying to the girls, and he liked to flip skirts, like before.
But there was one thing.
Just one thing that was different.
“Hey Chiaki, can I go to your house today? Let’s play.”
“No way. Why do I have to let you into my house?”
For some reason—
Ever since then, he’s been clingy towards me.
I guessed it’s because I didn’t have any friends—maybe not. He did not seem to be the type who would overthink such things, and would simply act out of his own innocence.
Maybe I might be thinking too much…but thinking back about it, he probably thought of me as a girl. Maybe I was really thinking too much.
“Just a short while? Okie? I’ll treat you to something.”
“No means no. Don’t talk to me.”
Back then, I was always rejecting others, and so I answered him coldly.
For I already swore.
For all I experienced when I was younger, for all the memories I regretted over, for all the tears I shed after falling over.
That no matter what, I would never forgive him.
But my resolve was easily overcome.
“Ack, this is boring. Anyway, isn’t your skirt too long, Chiaki? Shouldn’t it be a little shorter?”
“If only there isn’t a pervert around. And stop calling me by my name.”
“Teehee, you can call me by my name, you know?”
Our conversation was pretty boring.
But then, he suddenly said something.
“Your legs aren’t healed?”
These sudden words from him took me off guard.
He seemed lonely, sad, remorseful.
The usual grinning face disappeared. Replacing it was an expression and voice I heard for the first time.
And it was probably due to this sudden change that I panicked, and stubbornly said,
“I-It won’t get healed. I can only remain on this wheelchair forever, unable to move.”
The cold voice from me was spiteful.
After saying that, I regretted it.
He cried as he apologized.
He said with sadness, his eyes filled with tears. I immediately understood that he was apologizing for what he did when we were younger. I thought he had forgotten about it, and that he never thought much about it. That was what I thought.
“…It’s fine. I’m not angry at all.”
Once I said that, I questioned myself.
What happened to my resolve?
What happened to my regrets?
Was I not fuming when I swore that I would never forgive me?
But all of these seemed so insignificant compared to what happened before me. I never thought that there would be someone crying for my sake.
That taught me something—that being alone is a sad thing.
“…You can come over to my house today.”
I could not help but wonder if he was shedding crocodile tears.
And he regained his usual smile. “Alright, then let’s get going. Let’s skip classes.” He said as he wheeled me out of the classroom.
“Hey, stop! We can’t skip classes!”
I protested, but he ignored me.
“It’s fine, it’s fine! We should do whatever we like in life!”
He said, and had no intention to stop. Seeing him like this, and watching him wheel me home, I was dumbfounded.
I was strangely moved in a way I never felt before.
We were on our way home, and he was pushing me back.
I remembered it was in the beginning of Summer.
The sky above us was blue and vast.
His back covering the sky, his dimunitive body was larger than ever.
The smiling face of this boy, baring his teeth, seemed to have moved me.
A soft sound kept messing with my heartbeat.
It was much later that I realized what this feeling was.
“Serioysly, you’re an idiot, Hayato.”
“Aha, but I am born like this, Chiaki.”
Was the long awaited reunion between Hayato and me.
Our relationship after that was not particularly good.
We continued to maintain our relationship as ordinary classmates.
We would stay behind for remedials.
And I would teach Hayato, since he was bad at studying.
But after a certain unexpected conversation, Hayato turned out to be better than me at studies, and he was the one teaching me instead.
We would spend our recess together, go to school together, and return home together.
Also…we would enter each other’s house, and go out together during the holidays.
It was just a plain, ordinary relationship.
We were not really on good terms, just called friends.
Thinking back about this.
Why did I assume it was an ordinary relationship?
“Are you dating Hayato, Tsukimura?”
It was less a month after I entered middle school.
I did not have any friends, and could not get along well with the class. On a certain day after school, a classmate from another school spoke to me. She’s an outstanding beautiful, and seemed proud. I could describe her as the leader of the class.
Dating? Me? Hayato?
“No we aren’t.”
“No way. Hayato just bragged that he went to the aquarium with you last Sunday, Tsukimura—”
“What—th-that means that you are dating, right?”
I finally realized it. No, I had to.
Before I realized it, I found all the girls in the class eavesdropping upon our conversation. Looking at the atmosphere.
“Hey Chiakin, let’s go home together♪”
Appearing right at this moment was Hayato, not anyone else (?).
Before I knew it, he was taller than I was, and had a manly vibe to his appearance; he was a boy with a particularly trendy hairstyle. That smiling face, teeth bared, resulted in an indescribable calming feeling up my heart.
And the forceful girl from before lowered her blushing face.
All the girls got slightly nervous.
That atmosphere, that situation.
Finally, I realized.
“You are—pretty handsome after all.”
“…Chiakin, did you hit your head or something?”
Sure didn’t need his reminder.
I felt that I was smacked head on the head.
After that incident, my Middle School life turned rough.
As I had said, I was not used to interacting with people. Somehow I ended up occupying the most popular boy in the year. I caused this situation without realizing it, and of course, my classmates felt that it was unfair.
Though it was not full-on bullying, when I was in Middle School, I was attacked in ways close to it.
On a certain day, after school.
I had returned from the toilet, and found my table littered with rubbish.
It was likely that they did not dare do anything to this disabled me. However, I was psychologically abused, harassed like this every day, shunned, coldly treated. I sighed, and picked the trash from my table.
Back then, I did not pay particular heed to my circumstances.
For it was because—
“Yo Chiaki! Wanna drop by the bookstoe today after school?”
“Ah, Hayato. Sure, I have some books to buy.”
The usual voice came at the usual time.
Showing up with vigor was my childhood friend Hayato. Naturally, he grabbed my wheelchair and moved me forward, “Go! Go! Go!”
(…Well, it’s not my fault.)
Again, I realized Hayato’s popularity.
To be honest, back then, I was filled with a tremendous sense of superiority. Even though I was bullied more or less, I could have Hayato all to myself. Thinking about it, the bullying was just an expression of envy and jealousy. It’s not an appropriate way to describe this…but they’re the evil stepmother and stepsister, while I’m the Cinderella.
“Hm? What did you say, Chiaki?”
“Nothing.” I answered as I went back into my thoughts.
If I’m Cinderella, Hayato’s the Prince. I recalled the words when I first enrolled,
“Are you dating Hayato, Tsukimura?”
(…What is our relationship here?)
We were at the traffic lights,
I turned my head around, and lifted it towards the boy with his back facing the sun.
Looking at him, I found that he did have a cute appearance. A refreshing looking face, adorable, mesmerising smile. He was lively, and kind, and struck at my maternal instincts.
(We don’t have that sort of relationship.)
At least, I could still—
I could still say that confidently.
This was not love. I was not in love.
He was kind to me, but it might be too intimate to call it love. Most importantly, I don’t understand romance at all. Even when I thought about him, I could only muster the image of his immature, impish self. He was arrogant, haughty, impetuous, always doing whatever he wanted…
“I guess I still hate you after all.”
“Ehh! Wh-why say this out of a sudden!?”
“Hmph. Never mind.”
I turned my face aside unhappily. Hayato was perturbed by my sudden change of attitude, and tried various means to appease me. But I did not reward him at all. I did not think I was in the wrong, because, because—
“Yes, I do hate you after all. Yes.”
“Hey, what are you talking about~?”
I confidently confided to a confused Hayato.
But this thought immediately vanished.
“I guess I hate you after all, Hayato.”
On a certain holiday evening.
We were strolling on the streets, and just so happened to pass by a hill overlooking the town. The sunset’s too dazzling, “I want to enjoy this further front.” and my selfish request was the start of it all.
This little hill overlooking the town had a dodgy fence, and heavily tilted, so it would be dangerous to keep moving forward. However, I wanted to enjoy the sunset further up close.
So the ideal method would be for the boy to carry me to a position where I could enjoy the scenery.
Thus, Hayato was carrying me…
“Ch-Chiaki…aren’t you too heavy?”
“Not at all! Your arms are too thin!”
There was no sense of youth at all. We just kept pushing responsibility to each other.
I could have sworn that I was not getting fat. Hayato’s bigger than me, but he’s obviously a smaller one amongst the boys, so surely it was his fault. He’s pushing the blame on me again. I guess I really hate him after all.
(I’m not in love after all. No way will anyone fall in love with such an unreliable guy.)
Hayato carried me forward as I quietly told myself.
Assuming that in the distant future, there’s a boy who’s able to easily lift me.
If such a boy existed, surely i would like him more than Hayato. Kind, gentle, tall, strong, there is no way Hayato can compare. In other words, this proves that I am not in love with Hayato—
“Woah! It’s really pretty!”
Right when i was thinking about these.
Hayato brought me to the edge of the lookout. The town right by the sea was shining under the sunset, covered with a warm, melancholic color.
So peaceful, so serene, yet with a lingering tinge of sadness.
The irreplaceable time engulf me, and the setting set gave me a sense of sadness. It felt as if, as if, something precious was trickling away, bit by bit. Even so, I wanted to remained basked in it. Why, why is the world so beautiful?
At this moment.
“What? What is it—ah!”
It was too sudden.
“Teehee, you’re the one spacing out~”
Kissed me on the cheek.
My body heated up. My mind could not function normally, and the sensation on my face never faded away.
Wh-what did he just—what?
“What did you just do, you idiot!? Idiot idiot idiot!”
“Teehe! But you’re cute though♪ Let’s do it again, okay?”
“Hey—no..stop it! I’m going to pinch you!”
Do what? I could not understand, but…but, but…but, but, but—
I was firmly convinced.
Convinced that it was not love, that we did not have that kind of relationship. I firmly believed that I hated him.
But my resolve was easily toppled by him.
I did not believe that I wished to be kissed by him again. I was carried by a boy, kissed by a boy, and yet, so happy to be a girl.
I absolutely will never believe this.
“I…I do hate you after all!”
…The following day.
For some reason, I bought a music player and a set of earphones.
A scene in a serial drama I liked depicted a couple sharing earphones, their faces leaning on each other. At the climax, the male kissed the female. I knew it was unlike me, but it was my ideal image of lovers.
So I could not help but have the urge to try.
I was not actually hoping for it.
But that if I tried, I would understand. I was trying to understanding what this annoying heartbeat since third grade was. Finally I could understand the truth. It’s not love, I did not fall in love with him. Surley I felt nothing. Be-because…
Because I hated him…
Thinking back about it, I realized how dazzling my life was back then.
My life fell into the pits thereafter, and I crumbled in despair.
It was painful, it was suffering, it was unbearble.
My fragile heart could not overcome the pains of recovery. I chose to give up, and escape everything.
My parents chided me, maybe because they found that they had to discipline me strictly. This only caused the divide between us however. My relationship with my older sister took a turn for the worst, and I could only blame my shoddy legs.
Hayato became my only source of redemption.
Whatever I did, I relied on him.
For he told me.
You don’t have to walk. I will keep pushing your wheelchair.
That was also what he said.
You don’t need friends. I will always be with you.
If that was the case, that was enough for me. Even without the understanding of my parents and sister, even if I had no firends.
Even if it continued for eternity, that I kept living in a world without friends.
I still had Hayato. He would always be with me.
In that case, there was no issue. He would never vanish from my side.
The time spent between us continued on.
And I kept relying on Hayato.
I kept relying, kept relying.
Until it snowballed.
And suddenly, one day—
“Miss Tsukimura…the boy who visits you every day was caught in a car accident…”
The young caretaker was really frantic on that day, dropping in during work to inform me of this. I could not understand those words, until she was called elsewhere.
“You’re lying…you’re lying.”
I muttered to myself, but in my heart, i understood.
The ambulance siren blared , a car accident.
There were a few possibilities.
“Hayato…wait…don’t leave me alone…”
Despair lunged towards me, and I had nowhere to go. I could not reach for the wheelchair in a corner of the room. I knew I could possibly walk, but I chose to run away—
“So-somebody! Sa-save me!”
As i crumbled and yelled, the one who aided me was an elderly granny in the same ward room.
Did I thank the elderly patient properly when she did that for me? I was so anxious that I could not think of it.
I finally got to my wheelchair, and headed straight for the stairs.
I was on the 6th level, and the operating rooms were on the 1st and 2nd. The emergency ward should be on the 1st floor. So I thought as I waited before the elevator.
But right at this moment.
The elevator never came. I did not know the reason for the delay as it remained at the top floor. My despair grew.
If only I could scale the stairs.
if only my legs could scale the stairs.
If only I had legs that could scale the stairs.
Never once did I have so much regret, so loathing of myself for being so reliant on others.
“Hurry! Hayato’s going to die!”
I just yelled, ignoring everyone else present. A long time passed by the time I could enter the elevator.
I arrived at the operating room, and his parents were standing before it.
The parents who lost their son were bawling away.
Upon seeing this, i realized.
He, Hayato—that childhood friend I really hated.
Was no longer on this world—
—Whatever happened thereafter, I could not remember.
I recovered, and found myself left alone on this icy cold corridor.
So cold, so dark, I wanted to die.
Darkness filled my world.
“Hayato…even if I continue to live—”
Right, just when I was about to make a decision.
Right, just when I was give up.
That person showed up, though it would be too harsh to call it a redemption for me.
“Will you give half your lifespan to him?”
What was that?
Appearing before me was hope, or maybe it was despair. Even till this day, I often had dreams recollecting this event.
It was—the second chance for me to encounter Hayato.
And also, the opportunity that led to me knowing ‘him’ and ‘her’.
“Meet him? Me?”
It was a chilly winter day.
Half a year had pased since that day, when we suddenly began living an intriguing life of two personalities in one body. For some reason, the deceased Hayato would take over my body every alternate day, and we interacted through the voice recorder.
During that time, an unexpected development occurred.
While he was being vibrant like usual—the voice is still mine. I could never get used to this strangeness.
Speaking of which…eh? There are others sharing two personalities in one body like us? Really?
“Chiaki, I got some serious things to talk to you about. I do think you need friends after all. At least, I thought I alone would be enough—but it is a matter of time here. As you know, my time has been decreasing, so this is a chance. If they are sharing the same pain as us, surely you’ll be able to be friends with him. Chiaki, be friends with that guy.”
That was what he said.
After hearing the message, I sighed for the umpteenth time on this day.
I was grateful that this two personalities sharing one body allowed me to still keep in contact with Hayato. No matter how it worked out, all I wanted was to live with him. That was what I was really relieved about. If he continued to remain by my side, and was willing to, even if we could not meet, I had to contact him through some means, and no matter how much of my lifespan I had to sacrifice, I would not regret it. That was what I earnestly thought.
But at the same time—I had new troubles.
I remain trapped in a disabled body, and because of Hayato’s death, I was shunned at school, and refused to go to school. Also…there was a cruel fate, which one of us would have to vanish. As written in the Atelier—Hayato and I will have to bid farewell in the near future.
No, I do not want to be separated from him.
I wanted to to remain with him forward. However, this could never happen.
I could not live in a world without him. However, I could not imprison him inside this body and vanish by myself. I…no longer needed friends. I was not willing to make friends and prepare myself from losing you. Wh-what I really hoped for is—
I could not defy Hayato, and went to meet the other pair sharing the same body.
On that day.
I arrived at the station as agreed upon, 30 minutes before the time, and hid in a corner, observing the situation.
And at the given time, my phone received a notification, indicating his arrival.
“This is Sakamoto. I have an appointment with you. I’m at the station now. Where are you?”
Sakamoto then described the clothes he was wearing. I saw the mail, and before replying, I started looking for him.
He probably was not an annoying one. Looking at the description of his clothes, i could assume that he was a male, not a flirty type. In any case, i did not know if we were similar in ages.
Uneasy, I looked around, hoping for my worries to be unfounded. For the better.
And amidst the passing crowds, after looking around for ten seconds or so.
I finally found Sakamoto—
—I shivered. The situation was terrible, utterly hopeless.
Of course, there was reason for those thoughts. On this day, I would meet, be forced to meet Sakamoto, whom I was to be friends with. His appearance…
Was shocking! Scary!
He was a savage looking delinquent, one that will scare anyone’s wits.
The long bang covered his scary eyes.
He was a lot taller than Hayato, and had the vibe of a delinquent. “Got…to…practise my smile.”
—And he leered.
He just gave a demonic smile, without fear. No no, absolutely not. I’m supposed to talk to someone like him alone?
(What do I do now…I will be violated…)
I really had the urge to cry, and finally, at my wits end, I did something really despicable.
I sent him a message, telling Sakamoto that I was the nice looking boy standing before the station, and wanted to see his reaction, if I was able to remain safe.
“W-wow, you’re so cute! You’re just my type! Ahaha!”
(Eh, he said it? For real?)
“Hey! What are you saying to my boyfriend?”
“Wait! I’ve been wanting to meet you! You know how much I—”
(…Seems like he’s going to cry.)
“You’re disgusting! Die!”
(Ah, he is crying.)
The saying goes, do not read a book by its cover. That development had me poignantly understand how accurate that was.
It is fine. Surely there is no need to worry about being violated by him.
For that person—was just a spineless virgin.
(Anyway, time to hear him out.)
“I didn’t think you would actually follow through. That humorous image of you made me quite amused.”
I did not want to be friends with him. I had already decided not to make friends—even if I had to live in a world without Hayato.
He was taken aback by my voice, his face frozen up.
Unexpectedly for me, as I took a closer look, that glum face was rather handsome. The hands clasping the hand warmer gave a gentle look.
But none of that mattered.
I had no intention of being friends with him.
No way would I be able to walk, and I would always be alone.
That was my thought as I recalled about Hayato.
“Nice to meet you, Sakamoto. I am the Chiaki Tsukimura who arranged to meet with you today.”
Later on, I realized something.
That at this moment, this instant.
As the chilly winds blew, the wilted leaves fluttering.
I had a wonderful encounter.
Thus was our encounter with them.
I would never forget what happened thereafter.
Both him, and her did their best to pry open the door to my heart.
Miss Yumesaki’s kindness.
Mr Akitsuki’s ruggedness.
Two personalities, one body, both opposites.
Such a perfect complement attacked me, and my feeble soul could not resist.
My heart eroded little by little, and before I knew it, how I addressed them had changed. I was even carried. And so, I—
“…Is it okay to start off as friends?”
In the dim early morning.
With Miss Yumesaki’s encouragement, and Mr Akitsuki’s support.
And most importantly, with Hayato’s spiritual support, I was finally able to walk that morning, and I finally said those words.
Though surprised, Mr Akitsuki gave a kind smile. I would never forget that smile.
Finally I had a reason to keep living.
Even in the world after Hayato had vanished.
“Ah, Miss, thank you for the last time.”
On a certain day—
It was a day after the long winter, as the weather finally warmed.
I was seated on a wheelchair, and an unfamiliar granny called for me.
“Do you not remember? You did reach out to me when I had collapsed and was unable to get up, right? I remember it was a pretty lady seated on a wheelchair who helped me.”
“Eh—oh…oh! That time! Ce-certainly.”
I immediately bluffed. I did not remember.
However, there was only one answer. The other me, Hayato, reached out to help the granny.
To be honest, it was not something unexpected.
Hayato had brought smiles to many without me knowing. Thus, many would smile and thank me. I always liked this. I never did anything, and I should not have been so shameful to accept some thanks, but such moments allowed me to understand his kindness. There were lots of heartwarming interludes. Ultimately, it was after I was able to walk that I realized how wonderful these events were. I was once so dejected that I never realized this, and felt awkward about my past, feeble self.
(Okay, time to work hard today.)
Leaving that aside, it was time for the usual rehab.
After that, I learned to walk, became friends with Mr Akitsuki and Miss Yumesaki, rid my lingering regrets over Hayato, and having accepted the cruel fate that was to come, we discussed how we would spend the remaining time.
It seemed Mr Akitsuki and Miss Yumesaki had decided on making lots of memories.
Mr Akitsuki had said that he would leave lots of memories, countless of them, so that he would never forget that Miss Yumesaki existed. It seemed she too agreed, and I heard them mention about this before. While Mr Akitsuki was the one who proposed, it seemed Miss Yumesaki was enthusiastically making them. It seems Mr Akitsuki will continue to suffer.
And on the other hand,
We decided to spend the remaining time as normal.
Nothing special, no new developments.
Just the usual daily life.
Waiting for the moment that was to come.
It was Hayato who proposed this. This is the body both Hayato and me share. For him, this daily life was most wonderful to him.
I had no objections, of course.
I firmly believed that there would be no better time than the remaining time I had with Hayato. I decided to accept this.
I would not cry.
I swore not to, from the bottom of my heart.
The rehab facility I came to was the place where I first learned to walk.
There was a short boy, and a tall one. These two boys carried me on this mound at separate moments. However, I was alone. With crutches, I stood from the wheelchair, and trudged forward.
I was soaked in sweat.
Giving my all, my heart palpitated as my body seemingly sizzled.
I am alive, and I will continue to live.
Right, so I told myself.
“Ah, found it.”
After some time, as the sun began to set.
I finally arrived at the spot overlooking the town, and found that thing.
“Hayato, I worked hard again.”
I said to the SD memory card pasted on the fence. It was carefully wrapped in a plastic bag to prevent it from getting west, decorated with a beautiful sash. This little reward was here to reward me for making it all the way here, a reward from yesterday’s me. I took out the voice recorder in my pocket, and inserted the card.
I began to hear his voice.
For me, it was an irreplaceable, blissful moment.
“Good work Chiaki! Sure worked hard today!”
His voice rang in my ears as I listened attentively.
He was talking about his past memories. He happily narrated his childhood memories, how lots of events happened. I closed my ears, immersed in the memories. Then, something unexpected happened. It felt as though he was right by me.
He then said to me.
I could still remember his face, his voice. But sooner or later, they would fade from my memories, and I would never remember him again. In this world without him, in this world, where I will never be able to meet the one dearest to me, ever again.
At this moment,
“Teehee, Chiaki, you’re crying now, aren’t you?”
I could not help but—
Yell out loud, even though I was outdoor.
I was greatly taken aback, for it felt as though I was talking face to face with him. I was shocked to be read. It-it shocked me. Why was—
“Ahaha, you’re wondering how I know, right? Of course I do~because we’re childhood friends! We’ve been together all this time, and I understand you best. Because I—”
The following words was a reward way beyond my expectations.
“Because I really—love you, Chiaki”
The recording stopped here, unnaturally. It was unlike that usual laidback him, and the way he ended off here, I could imagine him being all embarrassed. Those words, that sudden confession, and I was left unable to respond, only left rooted at the spot.
“…How sly of you.”
Really, really sly of him.
So I could only think. It was Hayato who wanted me not to cry, and to send him off with a smile. Yet, so deliberately…so deliberately—
He made me—happy.
I endured my tears as I cautiously inserted the SD card back into my pocket. This recording file will probably be replayed hundreds of times on this day. Just in case, I should save a backup. Perhaps I could have it as a ringtone too. In-in any case…I am going to repeat this recording while fooling around on the bedsheets.
I too made up my mind.
I switched the recorder to record my voice. After a little cough, I prepared to send my message to Hayato.
I too…I too…
I too—had things I wanted to say.
“Hayato, to tell you, I too…”
I said that I understood myself best, but I knew nothing about what was most important. Till this day, I did not realize the feelings I long harboured.
That day, I spent countless of hours recording, and was still not done even at night.
I kept recording, deleting, recording, deleting, and unsure of what I was doing, repeating the motions over and over again.
Thinking back about it—
The memories of youth, the memories I would never get, the period during which I believe the happiness would remain forever.
Two of us, sharing a pair of earphones, our faces so close that we could feel each other’s breath. I was mesmerized by his sidelong face, secretly hoping that we could kiss.
Actually, back then, I really wanted to confess my true feelings.
I am happy.
That our hearts were able to connect, that it would be such a wonderful thing.
After realizing this, I felt all the lonelier, anguished.
Still, to Hayato, whom I developed such feelings for.
I supposed, I really hated him.
Immersed in bliss, I told him of my love.
Our final moments passed by.
Hayato vanished without a trace.
It was just like him to hate whimpers when departing, “I’m gonna be a pro soccer player in the other world!” so he said. In any case, he did say that before. I had to chuckle.
My life was back to normal.
No longer was my life every alternate day, but full weeks instead.
I lost him, who always had my back, and living through every lonely day had me sad. Once I felt sad, I wanted to cry. But I would not, for I promised Hayato.
This kind him left me with—
Irreplaceable friends, and wonderful memories.
And most importantly, he left me with a ‘determined heart’ that would face any adversity.
In that case,
In that case, I—
Hardening my resolve, I clenched my fists.
I lifted my head, not letting my tears fall.
In that case, I—
“Can only work hard.”
“Morning. Starting today, I will not be taking leave. Do not worry.”
—The following day.
I went to school.
I entered my senior year, and seated next to me was the girl I had a quibble with.
She was the girl who was enamoured with Hayato, and vented her pains onto my, blaming Hayato’s death on me—even coming to my house to lash out. It was the girl who had me confess everything to Akitsuki. Fate really has its own plans. Feeling that I had to be friends with her, I finally came to school, and ended up seated next to her.
But I thought of it.
“Hmph…you’re saying that? It’s because of you that Hayato—”
“Yes, it might be my fault. So I am going to keep on living strongly, for his sake. Do you mind sharing your love for Hayato on me instead?”
The classroom froze over.
I could easily tell she was vexed, and that I said some taunting words.
But I did not lower my head, and did not run away. If I accepted my weak self, nobody would like me, and nobody would be willing to be my friend.
In that case, I had to first make myself stronger, so I thought.
No matter what happened, I would not cry; no matter what happened, I would not run away.
Just like Hayato and Miss Yumesaki.
Like those two indomitable ones—
“Please continue to take care of me.”
I could imagine her trying to pick on me.
But I would not give up.
If I was picked on, I would face it head on. Surely I must not cry, and fight my past.
How would Hayato smile if he were to face it head on?
How would Miss Yumesaki smile if she were to face it head on?
I recalled that weak-willed boy with a savage looking face, a simpleton who for some reason did not run away.
Mr Akitsuki—I imagined how he would face it.
“Please stop bullying me anymore! If you have the time, can you be friends with me instead?”
“Wh-what’s with you, Tsukimura! I get it! I won’t bother you again!”
For the rest of my high school life, I did not make any friends.
Life is not that simple, and I once again recognized this.
I stealthily removed the SD memory card, which contained the message left by Hayato.
I played it, listened to his voice, and tried to cheer myself on.
And it seemed that thanks to it—
That night, I dreamed of Hayato.
I kept appealing to him, and he kept consoling me.
So Hayato said,
You’ve worked hard. This experience will surely come in handy the next time.
As long as you keep living, there is a next time.
Those words ring true.
Perhaps it was because my high school was a battlefield,
That the people I met thereafter were all kind, angels to my eyes.
As time passed, the seasons moved on,
“Hey Chiaki, are you listening?”
“Eh—oh, sorry. What were you saying again?”
“Seriously, it’s about the gathering! If you’re willing to join, we’ll be able to get guys, argh! Stop acting so out of place just because you’re a beauty yourself.”
It was winter.
Two years passed since then, since the moment I first met Mr Akitsuki.
I was at the meeting lounge in college.
A few of my friends were gathered around a simple table, smiling and chatting away.
It is a very ordinary scene to any bystander. For me two years ago, this would have been unbelievable.
I ended up chatting with people other than Hayato.
I had friends I could be on first name basis with.
Others might find it an exaggeration, but to me, it was a miraculous two years.
During the two years, I experienced the delight of encounters, and anguish of farewells.
Farewells are sad, painful, and till this point, whenever I thought of Hayato, I would still think of crying at night.
But I had countless memories with him. No matter how long it was, none of them would fade. On this day, I still vividly recall our encounters, I did once share the same body, same heart with him. I tried imagining a farewell, and surely he was smiling and waving goodbye. It is that smile that keeps me going.
People live—for the encounters, for the farewells.
If that is the case, surely there will be more encounters.
New people to meet, to remember, and this dearest him.
As long as I remain alive—there will be no day the encounters will end.
And surely, from now on—
At the entrance of the lounge.
There is a cute girl, unbefitting this college environment.
She’s holding a hand warmer, and this gesture reminded me of Mr Akitsuki two years ago.
The sourpuss face—was somewhat similar to him too.
Then, she walked towards me—
“There is a Christmas party.”
“Brother asked me to come here. He hoped that you will show up.”
“…Eh? Who are you again?”
“I am Akitsuki Sakamoto’s little sister, Yukiko Sakamoto.”
A new encounter.
The cute grouchy face of hers gave me this premonition.
As the seasons passed, and the year ending.
It was a year and a half since Hayato’s farewell.
Right before Christmas.