[Bokushinu V3] CUT 4 – Tomorrow, she will die. He will revive.

“Hm, so that’s how things are, huh?”

On a certain frigid day.

“I tried asking Hayato, but it seems he has difficulty saying something. As expected, Chiakin never went to school.”

Seeing the report Hikari Yumesaki left behind for me, I could not help but lower my face.

Two days ago, I wrote all of Chiaki’s past on my notebook, “Mind checking if Chiaki went to school?” and even requested Hikari Yumesaki to do that. The simple reason ebing, I could not tell if Chiaki went to school.

Lots of misfortune happened to Chiaki, and she thus lost many friends, other than Hayato. She did once regain the chance to walk away, but she lost to the pessimism within her heart, and kept running away. It’s because Hayato was with her however that she was fine. So Chiaki said.

But given that Hayato died, what happened to Chiaki after that?

I could tell on first look that she could not walk, and that she did not practice at all. What about friends? She mentioned that she once attended high school with Hayato, but what about her at this point? To understand the situation, I wanted to know if she attended school…if she’s not going, that’s not a good thing.

“Hayato seems to have his own thoughts. He said ‘it may be my fault that Chiaki didn’t go to school’…”

“What’s going on?”

I could understand that ever since Hayato, whom she so relied on was not around, there was a lack of motivation for Chiaki to attend school. It’s a little too ridiculous for her to not attend school though. The reason why Hayato felt that he should bear some responsibility was because he told Chiaki that he would always be with her, and yet he went on his way before her. I could understand Hayato’s thoughts, but he did not die completely, became Chiaki’s other half, and even knew of the way to revive.

But despite this, he claimed that it’s his responsibility. What’s going on?

Also, that was not the only thing that concerned me. I remember that when I met Chiaki, she said this,

–Due to ‘a certain reason’, I decided not to make friends anymore.

I understood those words, and yet I didn’t. Chiaki said that she started to avoid interacting with other due to her leg issues, but I felt that was not all.

But even if I continued to groan in agony, I couldn’t sort it out. Let’s end this for the day.

Thinking that, I closed the notebook, and got ready to go to school. However, it was only later on that I knew of the answer.

It was after school when the incident happened, revealing a cruel truth.

 

“Ah, it’s so cold.”

On this day, after school, I dallied around on the train for an hour, and walked for another fifteen minutes before arriving at Chiaki’s mansion. The room’s a little dim, probably because the lights were not on.

“It’s gone…why didn’t Hayato pack everything properly…goodness!”

Once I entered, I found Chiakin flipping rummaging the drawers. She seemed to be in a bad mood.

“What’s wrong?’

“Ah, Akitsuki. My voice recorder and earphones are gone. Where did he put them?’

Ah, I often encountered such situations myself. That Hikari Yumesaki would never pack anything up after taking them out for use. Every time I wake up, I have to clean up after her.

“Write a note? Ask ‘where did you put them, you idiot!’ or something.”

“Hm…looks like I can only do that…”

Chiaki answered despondently. It looked like she was despondent over not hearing Hayato’s message.

“…Ah.”

And while I had such a thought, Chiaki looked at me, muttering,

“Without the voice recorder…you can’t get your mission, riht?”

“Eh? Ah, well, it’s fine. It’s probably some strange mission again.”

I wanted to know the way to revive Hikari Yumesaki, and so Hayato prepared a bunch of strange missions for me. At this point, I’ve completed the third mission, but Hayato did not inform of anything beyond this. No, I guess the mission to make friends still wasn’t complete, but nevertheless, I did do half of them. If possible, I hoped that I could continue to mission on this day, but we’re in a rut as the voice recorder’s gone. Kazeshiro would tell me off, asking if I found any clues, but that’ll be down to Hayato not informing me of the mission…I guess.

Suddenly, there was the sound of the doorbell from the corridor. It appeared the nanny wasn’t around for the day, and I suggested that I would go open the door, only to be refused politely by Chiaki. The latter struggled to roll the wheelchair towards the corridor near the room, and I could only wait inside, as I had nothing to do.

I heard the door open, and some soft whispers came.

“Hello. This is what the teacher wanted me to hand over. You still can’t go to school yet, Chiakin? You won’t have enough attendance if you take leave every alternate days, you know?”

Hm? Sent over?

After that, I heard Chiaki give her thanks. It seemed to be the class representative who came by to visit Chiaki, absent from school. What, a friend—I didn’t know if that was the case, but isn’t the class representative being too nice here? Goodness, isn’t this too caring towards someone who refused to go to school? I never had anyone approach me, let alone try to woo me. Seriously, kids these days.

While I was having wild thoughts.

“But at this point, it isn’t appropriate for you to come to school.”

“…Hm?”

The tone in the voice changed—before I could continue thinking, the words left me shivring.

“It’s because of you that Hyuuga died.”

“—-!!”

…Huh?

Hyuuga. If I remembered, it’s the family name of Hayato. Eh…he died because of Chiaki?

No no no, what’s she saying? Didn’t Hikari Yumesaki say that Hayato said that he died during club activities because he had a heart attack? Hayato…

“…”

Maybe—

A certain premonition filled my mind. At the same time, chatting could be heard from the corridor.

“Hey, you know, don’t you? Everyone loves Hyuuga, but you took him. You stayed in hospital, and Hyuuga wanted to visit you at the hospital, but got caught in the accident. There’s no need to say who’s at fault here, right?”

“…I’m sorry.”

Chiaki could be heard apologizing, and so I understood.

I had been wondering how weird it was. Hayato hardly gave me any information, and even though we had some issues we were curious about, we could only ask Chiaki. The only false intel that guy told us—was his cause of death. Only at this point did I realize. In other words…this was the only thing we weren’t allowed to ask Chiaki.

“Hey, you know why I’m telling you off, right?”

At the corridor, the chiding of Chiaki continued on.

“Besides, you will act like usual tomorrow, and forget everything, right? And then you’ll say something like ‘Hayato’s death has nothing to do with me. He just died on his own accord’. Do you know how much these words anger us!? Do you!?”

“…I’m sorry. It’s all my fault…”

Once I heard Chiaki’s words, I inadvertently felt cold sweat trickle down my back. Ahh…Hayato did say that it’s because of him that Chiaki didn’t go to school. So that’s how it was.

‘He just died on his own accord’. Even if Chiaki did make a mistake, there was no way she would say such words. In other words, the one saying those words would be the other Chiaki, Hayato on the inside, Chiaki on the outside. Seeing how he said such words while having the appearance of Chiaki who was already hated…there was no way she could show up at school.

“Hey! Look at me! Say something!”

The sudden lashing me shocked me, while I still had my head down in thought. It looked like the guest was rather agitated. Also, I could hear sobbing. Was Chiaki crying—

“Ahh, ahem! Ahem!”

I started coughing without thinking, the voice coming through the open door, loud enough to be heard from the corridor.

I then summoned my courage, and poked my head out from the door. Appearing in my eyes was a gloomy looking girl. Well…I didn’t have the right to comment, but she really had a terrifying appearance. However, I wasn’t scared. If it’s just terrifying, I wouldn’t lose to anyone. At such a moment, I should be protecting Chiaki. I had to say some cool, delinquent-like words to scare her…let’s see. Delinquent words…delinquent…

“L-let’s take a two-shot!”

Ahh! That damn Mohawk, all because of him that my words don’t have any threat now!

But it seemed this was rather effective against this unfamiliar girl. After meeting me in the eyes, her raging face started to show fear. And then—

“Th-that’ll be all I have to say. See you at school.”

My face had a complete victory. This stranger reverted back to a kind expression, said some earnest words, and left. Great, everything went well. B-but,

Chiaki wouldn’t move at all, so I could only push the wheelchair back into her room. I saw her bloodshot eyes. I guess she cried…such harsh words were said to her after all.

“…Sorry.”

“No, it’s nothing…”

In such situations, I guess Kazeshiro might say some words to calm her down. Too bad I’m not Kazeshiro. Anyway, I could not say anything, only silence.

This painful atmosphere continued for a little while.

“Akitsuki, do you still remember? What I asked you when we first met—”

“Eh.”

What she asked me? I remembered that was…

—Half of your lifespan was taken by Hikari Yumesaki.

—Do you still have any regrets about it?

“…I do.”

And I remembered what happened after that. That—pained look of yours.

“I’m very regretful. About how I have him trapped inside this injured body of mine.”

Chiaki said, and opened a drawer, taking a photo from within.

On the photo was Chiaki, looking unhappy, and a boy beaming away, hugging her from behind. Ah, that cheeky face as I had expected.

“It happened in May this year. The condition of my eyes worsened, and I had to stay in the hospital for a while. It was painful for me as I was tormented by illness, but Hayato kept visiting me every day, so I didn’t think it was much. The nurse asked if he was my boyfriend, and I was really happy. However, that day—”

Chiaki stopped at this point. However, she summoned her courage, and continued on,

“That day, it was already past visiting hours, and Hayato never came by. I thought he was late. I saw an ambulance drive in. It’s a hospital, so it wasn’t a rare sight. I didn’t think it was much, so I kept waiting for him, but he never showed up. Of course, I never expected the one inside the ambulance to be him. It was tens of minutes later that I heard the nurses say that the boy who always came by to visit was on the brink of death—”

“Chiaki….”

Her expression got increasingly despondent.

“…Back then, I cursed at my own tragic fate like never before. It was fine even if I couldn’t run, that I could see him for the last time. It was the punishment the Heavens had for me, for me not practicing my walking. I never thought things would end up this way. I never thought I would regret this so much. After hearing of his demise, I was so remorseful that I could not cry out tears.”

With a parched voice, Chiaki continued on,

“When I was crouched in the ward room, I met a black robe person. He forced me into answering if I was willing to use half of my lifespan, and I did so without hesitation. After that, I thought, what was that about? But back then, I didn’t think much about it, until it was dawn. When I woke up, a day passed. I thought my mind was crazy. This continued on for a week however, and I then realized this was what he meant by giving up half my lifespan. I left a message for Hayato with a voice recorder, and everything was clear. After that, we started living with two minds in one body. But—”

At this moment, Chiaki stopped.

“But?”

“I was scared, scared if Hayato hated me.”

—Eh?

“Because I kept him in this body that’s hard to move in. He definitely hated me, so I thought, and it scared me.”

No no no, this definitely wasn’t it, right?

It’s true that Hayato had been living in a healthy body the entire time, and surely was inconvenienced at this point. But no matter what, he did get saved, right? At first, I was worried that Hikari Yumesaki would have hated me for imprisoning her in this delinquent body. However, she later told me that it’s great to be living in my body. I guess Hayato’s probably the same.

“Hayato said to me, Thank you for giving up half your lifespan for me.”

“So—”

“But I knew. What he really thought was…”

“Eh…”

“After I was discharged from the hospital, I went to school. Waiting for me at school were voices of pity towards because of Hayato—and voices of hatred. It’s common amongst girls. It’s to be expected that responsibility is pushed upon me when a popular guy visits this hated me and ends up dead in an accident.”

“I began to hate going to school, but Hayato was worried about my attendance, and still insisted on going to school. What awaited him at school however was blame for him. He couldn’t help but bicker back, and he’s not at fault. However, he’s still human. One day, I heard his voice recording, and I was shocked. ‘It’s painful’, ‘there are some painful memories—‘ he grumbled…it’s to be expected since Hayato’s human; there’s no way he can keep smiling the entire time…however, I actually let that energetic Hayato be faulted, that he would say such words despite always showing a smile on his face.”

Chiaki gave a regretful look, and complained,

“I really regretted letting the one I like suffer so much. I had enough of it all. Hayato apologized to me, saying that he won’t say such a thing. That’s not what I meant though. Hayato’s not wrong. I was remorseful of letting him suffer such blame. I really regretted imprisoning him in this immobile body…”

“—But!”

I interrupted.

I guessed I did not want to see Chiaki continue to give that painful look, or maybe I just wanted to latch onto some hope.

“There’s still a way to revive, right? Isn’t that okay?”

I had a vague feeling, a premonition, but I asked.

The truth of the world I did not know of.

“…Well, I’ll tell you everything. The price—to revive.”

“Price…”

The word weighed heavily on me.

“Hayato kept seeking a way to revive. It’s to be expected, right. If he can revive, it’s for the best. Once he knew his time has shortened by five minutes, Hayato got more anxious. And then one day, he found a clue to the revival—‘Atelier Journal’.”

‘Atelier Journal’. I mumble this term to myself a few times.

“We studied at a high school with lots of history, and there’s a lot of strange rumors. One of them was this: ‘there were two girls who were on great terms in the art club, but one of them died in an accident. The remaining girl would then do similar actions to the dead girl. Later on, before anyone knew it, the remaining girl disappeared completely and ended up like the dead girl. Hayato was curious about that rumor, and did his best to collect all the information. Then, he finally found that the duo shared the Atelier, and the Journal left there. The Journal left behind there was like us, a phenomenon of people switching personalities.”

I gulped.

A Journal left behind by people who shared the same experiences as us, the future we would reach written on them—

“We didn’t know how they managed to know the method of revival, but there was the method clearly written there. There’s only one method to let the soul living in the body remain on this world.”

Then, Chiaki told me the truth of the world I sought so much, and revealed a cruel truth.

“That method—is to destroy the soul of the host, and have the other one live on. In other words, only when giving up your soul or mine, Akitsuki, and vanishing, Hayato or Yumesaki will continue to live on with the husks we leave behind…”

“……………………………………I see.”

Faced with the cruel truth, I calmly answered.

…I realized it. When the black-robed person called, asking for my entire lifespan, I started to doubt. Also, Hayato did not revive, and would not tell us how to. I had a gut feeling about his puzzling actions.

Hikari Yumesaki could only be revived—through my death.

“…You don’t seem surprised at all.”

“I already expected this to happen. So, in other words, the two who wrote the journal chose to let the one residing in the body live on, at the price of the remaining lifespan of the original host.

“Hm…”

Following that was unnerving silence. However, I had to get something clear.

“…What are the steps to reviving?”

I prepared myself mentally, and asked this question. However, Chiaki shook her head.

“Only Hayato read the journal. He told me the price to revive, but never told me how to, and the journal was hidden by him somewhere. All I know is that one of us has to disappear. I know why he only told me this much. Anyone can understand what he’s trying to do.”

Yep, there’s only one answer.

“Once he knew that this was the only method to revive, he was really dejected. And so, he said, ‘I’ve decided. I’m going to make you happy’. Hayato gave up on reviving. If he wanted to revive, he would have to use my life as the price. Even if he did revive, he would have to be constrained in my immobile body, take the hatred from the people around me, and have countless suffering. That’s why he chooses not to do anything, and just vanish. He never told me the method to revive because he did not think there’s no need for it. And in the end, he decided to ‘fulfil his wishes’.”

“Fulfill his wishes…”

I gently muttered the lonely words of the person who was going to vanish.

“Back then, when he made the promise with me ‘I’ll always be with you, so it’s fine not to make any friends’. He can no longer fulfil this promise, so he started looking for friends for my sake, a friend that will take his place to remain by me, to support me. After that, he found you. He discovered you, called you over, gave you those missions. All these—for my sake.”

—Mission one! First, be friends with Chiaki!

I recalled the voice recording from Hayato. Back then, I was wondering, what was this guy saying. It was a critical moment, and I was forced to do such a strange mission. However, this was all planning for the world where he no longer existed. What feelings did Hayato have when he entrusted me with those missions…

“But I don’t want this. I don’t want to lose Hayato. If Hayato will disappear all because I made a friend, I’m not going to. I can’t make friends. If I do, Hayato will vanish. I can’t accept this…”

“Chiaki…”

The tears could not stop flowing.

“I’m at a loss. What can I do? I don’t want Hayato to die. I can’t live alone. But I can’t let myself die and have him locked in this body. I can’t force this painful life on him. I don’t know what I can do…!”

The tears, filled with agitated emotions, trickled down Chiaki’s cheeks. Those tears had an endless sorrow.

Left in the room was Chiaki’s sobbing. All I could do was to lower my head in silence.

 

That day, I waited for Chiaki to cry her heart out, and returned home only at sunset.

“I can’t mention this to her…”

I finally knew of the method to revive Hikari Yumesaki on this day. However, this method was vastly different from what we had expected. I requested Chiaki not to say it to Hikari Yumesaki first. I guess Hayato wouldn’t either. However, it’s only a matter of time. One day, I would have to explain everything to her.

Also, Chiaki and Hayato had their own troubles. To be honest, those were beyond what I could manage. I never thought Hayato would be shouldering such a heavy burden.

“Damn it…”

And so, I went to sleep without writing down anything that happened on this day. Two days later,

“Hayatocchi seemed a little strange. Something happened, right?”

I had a look at the forlorn journal entry, and could not help but lower my head. Then,

“Are you okay, Sakamoto? You don’t seem energetic in your journal entry.”

“I’m probably bad at lying, I guess.”

I made Hikari Yumesaki worry. Still, I failed.

The next moment, I received a message on the cellphone, but I had already expected that. ‘From Hayatocchi’ I opened it, and the opening read, ‘This message is set to be sent automatically. If I’m right, this mail will be sent to you when you wake up, Akicchi. You get what I mean?”

“Yep. Keep it a secret, right?”

Hayato contacted me directly, and not through Hikari Yumesaki or Chiaki. In other words, he wanted me to keep this a secret from those two.

I continued reading, and the long message contained the wishes Hayato had,

“It seemed Chiaki told you a lot. This is as I had expected, so it’s fine. I haven’t told Hikari Yumesaki anything, so do relax. I have a lot of things I want to say to you, but unfortunately, I don’t have much time. I’ll go straight to the point; explaining it again, the one way to let me remain on this world is to erase Chiaki’s soul through some other means, and that I have to occupy Chiaki’s body. If not, the time I spend in the body will whittle little by little, until the soul vanishes.”

Hayato repeated the truth Chiaki told me. As expected…there was no other way out.

“You have realized it, haven’t you? I do intend to vanish. This is the reason why I did not tell Chiaki the way to revive me. It’s just that, there are some things I want to fulfill before I die.”

Fulfill. Chiaki too said such a word that frustrated me.

”It is because I pampered Chiaki that she’s no longer practicing how to walk. However, I am already dead. I can’t head off to the afterlife peacefully if I don’t settle these issues. So Akicchi, the fourth mission I’m giving you is—‘make Chiaki smile’.”

“Hayato…”

”I did say it before, didn’t I? The difficulty will spike at four. I’m sorry for getting you guys involved, but I have no other way out. Please, Akicchi, help me out here.”

 

That night, I wrote quite a long journal entry.

I wrote everything about Chiaki’s regrets, and Hayato’s request. And then, I wrote,

“Chiaki told me the method to revive Hayato. I don’t know the specifics, but it looks like it involves erasing Chiaki’s soul and leaving Hayato’s soul in Chiaki’s body. In other words, one of Hayato or Chiaki has to vanish.”

“…”

“Hayato intends to let himself vanish, but until then, he can’t leave peacefully without seeing Chiaki’s smile. Let’s think of a way to help out. I don’t know what to do at all, but I want to do what I can.”

“…Hah.”

I let out a sigh, and again looked at the journal entry I wrote.

Hikari Yumesaki probably would understand what this journal entry meant. Us making Chiaki smile meant that we were to finish Hayato’s wishes, and accept his death. In other words…we had to let Chiaki accept his death.

And another thing.

The cruel future awaiting them would also be the future awaiting us. In other words, either Hikari Yumesaki or I would have to vanish. However, I still could not focus on our future yet. At this point, we needed to help Chiaki and Hayato, the ones who reached their tragic fates before us.

“It has to be her. If it’s Hikari Yumesaki, she’ll definitely be able to do it.”

I tried to think, but I could not think of anything to help Chiaki and Hayato.

But if it’s Hikari Yumesaki.

For her, who always wanted to be the hero.

Surely, she would be able to find a solution. That was how I was saved by Hikari Yumesaki.

“I believe that you can do it, definitely.” I wrote at the bottom of the journal entry, and laid on the bed.

“Please do it, Hikari Yumesaki.”

 

Two days later. I endured the bone-chilling cold, crept towards the table, and opened the journal that was placed neatly on the table.

Shown in my eyes were Hikari Yumesaki’s—kindness and strength.

“I’ve read it all. Looks like Chiakin and Hayato had quite the painful experience. I too agree with your decision, Sakamoto. Let’s use Hikari and Sakamoto’s power to help them out!”

“Yep…that’s it.”

I knew you would say that.

“Leave it to me, Sakamoto! Let’s show them that Sexy Dream’s not for show! Hikari here as a real—————-ly potent plan!”

“This girl…as to be expected of her! Hikari Yumesaki!”

She’s being energetic, and anyone reading would not help but smile. As I read on, I nearly shed tears. It’s great to encounter you.

The rest of the journal entry never mentioned anything about our future. However, it’s certain that she definitely had some thoughts about it. She definitely knew how cruel the future before us was.

But despite this, Hikari Yumesaki prioritized saving Chiaki and Hayato. Even in such a situation, she continued to prioritize taking action for Hayato, and putting her future at the backseat.

Now that, what I want to do was—

“I’ll definitely do this, Hikari Yumesaki.”

You and I, a unique combination, two personalities in one body.

This final shared operation began.

 

“Right, let’s get down to revising.”

It was after school. I laid out the journal before me, and reread the plan to save Chiaki, which Hikari Yumesaki wrote down.

“Hayato said that the first step is to let Chiaki walk after all. He wants to see Chiaki’s determination. If she can’t do that, there’s nothing we can say.”

“Yep. I see. So Chiaki has to work hard after all.”

If Chiaki is to smile, then she has to change. She has to be stronger, so that Hayato can relax. To send Hayato off, to do all these, we had to first change Chiaki’s thoughts.

But it’s not easy for Chiaki to change when she bore such a heavy, aching heart. Besides,

“It’s impossible for Chiaki to walk again, right?”

Chiaki mentioned that she had issues with her legs.

Her legs could move slightly back during middle school, and if she did her physiotherapy, she might be able to walk a little. However, this would be possible only through consistent practice. It was not simply a matter of determination and enthusiasm, if the bones and physical body were not strong enough, every bit of hard work would be for naught. Even if I were to suddenly tell Chiaki to ‘get up and walk’, it would be impossible for her.

However, it seemed Hikari Yumesaki had an idiot.

“I guess you might be worried about Chiakin’s legs here, but you don’t have to worry about this. By going according to this plan, Chiakin will definitely be able to walk!”

I kept reading.

“…Well, it’s plausible. Theoretically, Chiaki should be able to walk.”

To be honest, I didn’t think that the plan would go well, but in fact, this was the only method we had. I guessed it’s a sure bet to put my faith on Hikari Yumesaki and Hayato’s plan.

“First, two days later—it’ll probably be tomorrow for you, Sakamoto. Hayato and I will carry out ‘that plan’. The important thing is the operation on the second day, and I hope that you’ll do your best then. If it goes well, the operation will start the moment you switch out for me, Sakamoto. You need to prepare yourself.”

I continued to navigate my way through the operation.

Tomorrow, and the day after. This major operation would take two days. Even after thinking about it, I felt that it was really difficult. The operation Hikari Yumesaki would be in charge of the next day was difficult, but the operation I was in charge of two days later would be all the more difficult.

“But—no other way but to just do it.”

At this point, there’s no point if there’s so success. I got Hikari Yumesaki in action, so I had to let this operation succeed.

“And also, to let this operation succeed, you need something else. This super duper important item has to be prepared by you, Sakamoto.”

“OK. Then I’ll get it ready then.”

I answered, and looked at the ‘item to be prepared’ column, muttering,

“‘Video Camera’, huh?”

Where do I get one?

 

“Video camera? On the table.”

And so,

There was no need to buy such a pricey item—so I thought as I went to Yukiko’s room. It seemed Yukiko earned quite a fair bit from writing novels, and bought all kinds of crazy spy equipment like cameras, bugs and such. I didn’t know what exactly she was planning to use them for, but I hardly bothered with her anyway.

“So, how do I use this?”

“Uu…as expected, I need Akiboshi to kiss…eh, what did you say?”

No, nothing.

I guess it’s almost the deadline for Yukiko, as she was seated before the computer, looking ever so serious. I guess I should leave without disturbing here. I would probably understand how to use it after playing with it for a bit.

“It’s nothing. Do your best then.”

“Hm…but I can’t bring myself to erase the Yukio’s assault scene…uu.”

I left a few greetings, retreated to my room, and switched the camera on. Erm, there should be a memory card inside, I guess. I supposed I should try using it, and then erase them.

“Hm?”

Right when I had this thought—huh? It seemed there was some data inside already. Not too long…well, let’s have a look. Use this data as practice.

I was about to start recording.

“Erm, first, press the play button.”

At this moment, I should have put in more thought into this.

“Ohh. It’s playing. Where’s the volume? Let’s increase the video quality—”

And appearing in the video was a footage of my little sister, being very different from her usual personality as she held onto a video camera.

“Hm? This is…Yukiko’s room?”

What exactly was—

“The-there’s something I’ve always wanted to tell you.”

“Huh? What?”

For some reason, Yukiko was wearing a very revealing negligee in the visual, seated opposite the camera in an alluring manner, saing something alone.

“I-I guess this might be too sudden for you. Bu-but, Yu-Yukiko can’t hold back anymore. Yukiko always, always…”

“Always?”

Her troubled face was blazing red. And coming out from her adorable lips were—

“B-brother, I-I’ve always…—”

“WOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!? Forget about it!!!!!!!!!!!!!Brother!! Don’t loooooooookkkk!!?”

At that moment, a strange sound that shook the house echoed, and Yukiko barged into my room, looking as despondent as a Major League Baseball who learned that the team was eliminated from playoff contention.

“Y-yo-yo-yo-you didn’t see it, did you!? You didn’t see it, right?”

“Eh? No, I was just trying this. That was—”

“Th-the-then don’t look! Return the memory card to me right now! That card has ‘Yukirin’s Confession Practice Video: Version 8.11’!”

E-eight? Eh, con-confession?

After a whole lot of buzzing, Yukiko left the room.

I weakly inserted the new memory card Yukiko shoved to me, and checked the operation. Hm, right. Now then, tomorrow’s operation should be a success.

“…Now then, the preparations should be complete.”

If the operation went well as expected, time would be of the essence. The moment I woke up—no, the moment Hikari Yumesaki swapped places with me, the mission would begin.

“It’s fine. This will definitely succeed. Definitely.”

I opened the notebook, and wrote a message for Hikari Yumesaki.

“Do your best, Hikari Yumesaki. This will be—our final battle.”

 

My consciousness suddenly awoke.

“Ah….eh…”

I was outside, in the darkness. The cold air left my body freezing. For a moment, I did not know what happened, but soon after, I did.

“I say, what’s going on here!? What the heck!?”

Chiaki was collapsed before me, looking all confused as she shouted. There was no wheelchair nearby to be seen, and she only had two crutches beside me. Looking at Chiaki, I recalled everything. It seemed everything went well on her side.

“Yumesaki! Why am I in such a place!? Answer me!”

“…it’s no longer Hikari Yumesaki now, Chiaki.”

I looked at the note in my right hand, and written on it was,

“Operation success, Sakamoto! Everything’s done! Now it’s all up to you!”

“Yep. Nice going.”

Also, there’s one more line.

“Show me your strength now.”

I smiled, and stuffed the note into my pocket. Chiaki was completely confused by the situation before her. I looked at her, and it’s normal for her to be shocked. It’s 4.29am, the time I swapped places with Hikari Yumesaki, and five minutes after Chiaki swapped places with Hayato.

It’s outdoors, with nobody around. Chiaki was shocked, probably because she found herself outdoors once she woke up. Her conversation with Hikari Yumesaki probably lasted only five minutes, but it seemed they did not interact much.

“Chiaki, I guess you probably won’t understand what’s going on when it happened to so suddenly. Don’t worry though. Hayato understood.”

“Wh-what do you much?”

I looked up at the moon awaiting the dawn, and my eyes finally got used to the dim environment. Chiaki probably was the same, and it seemed she understood where she was, her expression looking increasingly confused as a result.

“This is…Hayato and I…”

Right. It’s the very special place for you two—the top of the hill overlooking the sea, where the sunset’s so pretty.

“Chiaki, Hayato told me the next mission. We created this situation to complete that.”

“Wh-what are you saying…what are you trying to do…?’

Chiaki asked in confusion, while I pondered over how to explain this clearly for her to understand. Well, whatever, just tell her directly.

“Chiaki, from now on, you’re going to be walking on your own.”

“Huh—”

I turned my back on the crescent moon sinking into the west, saying this. Even in darkness, I could tell that Chiaki’s face was filled with shock and despair as she groaned,

“The fourth mission I got from Hayato was to make you smile. In other words, to make you accept Hayato’s death. We’re trying to get you to walk alone, to stand up strong, and send Hayato off with a smile…but you’re not going to be obedient even if we tell you to go, right? That’s why we created a situation for you to walk by yourself no matter what.”

“Ah…!”

It seemed Chiaki had understood the situation somewhat, as the shock on her face soon gave way to anger.

“You wouldn’t listen to me…so you used Hayato’s time to…”

“That’s basically it.”

The strategy Hikari Yumesaki basically came up with was to time the moment Chiaki swapped places with Hayato, and create a situation where Chiaki had no choice but to walk—in other words, outdoors without a wheelchair.. It seemed Hikari Yumesaki carried Hayato over here, and waited for them to swap around. In such a situation, Chiaki would have to follow what I had to say.

“Look Chiaki. As you said, Hayato wanted to die. But, in that message he sent me, he said he’s not going to die this easily. He’s not going to die peacefully if you’re still so weak. Walk on, Chiaki. Let him pass on with peace.”

“Wh-what are you saying…”

Chiaki’s voice was a mix of confusion and rage, and I could tell that she was gritting her head. She probably hated the fact that I was looking down at her. She stared at me, and lashed out,

“Don’t say that Hayato wants to die! And…I can’t move even if you ask me to walk! Didn’t I say so already!? My legs can’t move if I don’t do my physiotherapy! You got to be kidding!”

“I’m not kidding. If you want to go home—”

I said, and moved twenty meters away from Chiaki, opening up a distance. Well, this should be fine. I could see the streets everywhere from here. I walked to the ledge, and turned around.

“Walk here by yourself. After this, I’ll carry you home.”

“That’s…”

Under the chilling darkness of the sky before the dawn.

I could tell what Chiaki was thinking from her face of despair. She hurriedly ruffled through the pocket of her shirt, but naturally, the cellphone wasn’t here. We were already prepared for this.

“It’s useless even if you yell right now. You know the surroundings well; few people around, and it’s still so early. That’s why we chose this time, this place.”

“Ugh…”

Chiaki probably understood that I would not budge, and her face gave way to a teary expression. She was probably regretting it, feeling regretful at her helplessness, only to be able to follow the words of others.

I just felt that I was doing something despicable. It’s really too despicable to be dragging her into such a situation with a reason being ‘because the guy you like hope so’. But,

I believe. That you won’t give up here. You’re a girl who’ll definitely be able to do it as long as you put your mind to it. You always lost to the obstacle before, and tried running away many times. But no matter what, you always tried to fight.

Even though you can’t walk freely ever since you were born, you continued to live your life enthusiastically.

You forgave Hayato, who kept bullying you.

You tried practicing on your own, wanting to walk.

And—you gave up half your lifespan to save Hayato.

The reason why you’’re always regretting is because the cruel world is always blocking your way. Once you lost, you cried, over and over again. Even so, you did try to fight on, and lost many times. Hayato likes you because he witnessed this. That’s why he agreed to this operation.

You said that you really regretted it, didn’t you, Chiaki.

You said that you couldn’t see Hayato one last time because you never practiced your walking. You said that you trapped Hayato in this body. Then…having experienced all these, you should be able to understand.

If you don’t work hard now, you’ll regret this for the rest of your life. Regret is the punishment for not working hard.

So, no matter what, I—

“Chiaki! You’re the same as how I used to be!”

Chiaki showed a teary face as she lifted her face at it.

Under the crescent moon that was about to vanish, I shouted at that feeble self—the past me.

“Back then, I thought that the world was terrifying, that I couldn’t do anything alone. Every day, I was grumbling, scared of changing the status quo, and blaming misfortune on everything else. Someone though saved me from that, and changed me. It’s her, Hikari Yumesaki, she brought me here!”

Chiaki remained unmoved, so I did my best to show a smiling face, and shouted,

“That girl never cared about my opinions, and always pulled me from the shadows in practically forceful methods. She-she’s no doubt my ‘light’. However, such a person was once dejected, unable to stand up again.”

I recalled the night with the full moon. It was mid autumn, and on that day, Madam Hinako and I made a promise—

“Back then, I realized that to save a person, to reach out to someone, that’s such a difficult thing to do. However, Hikari Yumesaki easily dragged me out into the sunlight. I’ll never be able to beat her in my life, but I did change. I can’t beat her, but I got stronger. That’s why I’m going to show her that I’m strong enough to save others!”

We’re all weak, but we can be stronger. We’re not alone; there’s always someone we can lean our backs on, supporting us. Even though we’re in this cruel world, we’re able to smile. We need to prove this to them.

“Walk to me! Don’t worry, you can walk! Doesn’t matter how much time you need! Show us your determination!”

I opened my arms wide, shouting with a smile. I believed Chiaki would stand up. I believed she would fight.

“I can’t do it…”

But.

“Isn’t it obvious that I can’t do it…I’m not as strong as you are…I’m always giving up, pessimistic, trying to run away. I’m a…weak person…”

Chiaki lowered her head deeply, tears dripping onto the ground. She was weak, fleeting.

Hayato surely was not willing to see Chiaki in such a state. Surely he would not leave Chiaki alone like this. Even when he was about to die at this point, he was still regretting, asking me for help.

Then, I,

“No, you can still fight! I know1 You’re not so honest! What happened to that Chiaki with that twisted personality who turned me all around!? Show me that arrogance of yours again! Show me that strong feistiness of yours!”

I shouted in Hayato’s stead. I believed Chiaki would surely be able to stand up again.

“That’s impossible! You know, don’t you!? Even if you suddenly force me to walk, my legs can’t move! Please, help me out! I’m not fooling around, I really can’t do it! Help me!”

Chiaki’s ached voice nearly touched my heart. But at this moment, I could only stand by the sidelines.

“I’m not going to help you. If you don’t fight on, Hayato’s not going to pass on with a peace of mind.”

“He won’t! Hayato won’t die! I-I’ll die instead!”

“Do ypu intend to trap Hayato in this body?”

“Th-this…”

Chiaki went silent. She could not make a decision. I understood this, but I still had to ask. I felt that I was an annoying guy, but Chiaki had to make a decision at this point.

“There’s only one choice here! This cruel future’s approaching little by little, and one day, it’s going to be right before you! You have to make a decision! Hayato decided to die! You got to respond to his decision! This is the mission of the living! Why don’t you understand?”

“…But…but…”

Tears finally flowed out.

The tears were reflected under the moonlight, twinkling. That pitiful sight of hers was clear for all to see.

“I can’t do it…I can’t walk…no matter what…”

“No, you can.”

“I can’t! I—”

“It’s not impossible! You can! You just don’t have the courage!”

Because, because, just yesterday—

“Hayato walked here yesterday!!”

“Eh—”

I roared, and heaved a long sigh.

I flipped over the backpack that was over my shoulder, and took out the video camera inside.

Hikari Yumesaki left me a note that stated the operation was a success. If everything went to plan, there’s definitely a video recording.

“Look.”

I walked towards Chiaki, and played the recording for her to watch.

“You’re kidding…you’re kidding, right…”

“I’m not. Clearly this was you yesterday.”

Chiaki’s profile appeared on the video. The date was yesterday, the location being where we currently were.

The Chiaki from the prior day—Hayato was walking on his own legs.

“Why…you’re kidding…how’s that possible…”

With Hayato’s cameraman—Hikari Yumesaki cheering on, Hayato slowly moved forward, one step at a step.

He was holding crutches, but he was certainly was walking on his two legs. Even in the middle of the harsh winter, he was moving forward, step by step. He gritted his teeth, looking forward. His breathing was erratic, but he was smiling—

“Do you know why Hayato’s able to walk?”

“Did he…?”

Chiaki’s legs could not move freely if she did not do her physiotherapy. However, this footage clearly showed Chiaki walking. The reason’s simple. She couldn’t move if she didn’t practice, so in other words,

 

“Half a year ago, ever since the day when Hayato was reborn and lived in your body…he had been secretly doing physiotherapy, never slacking off in his efforts. It’s all for the sake to making sure it works when you want to walk one day.”

 

“—!”

I had found it strange for quite a while. Thinking hard about it, this was the strange part.

Chiaki said that she could not move her legs, but her legs did not appear to be that skinny. Also, she did say her legs would ache from time to time, but that was just some normal muscular pain, was it not? I did have such issues of the symptoms flaring up the next day.

Also, there were other issues; the pair of crutches placed in a corner of the room seemed suspicious too. Chiaki said that she had never used the crutches before, but the tips seemed worn out, and the scars on the crutches seemed somewhat fresh. In other words, the crutches had been used recently. Chiaki was so traumatized that she was unwilling to look at the crutches, and thus, never noticed it.

Also, there were railings for recuperating purposes installed all over Chiaki’s house, with signs of them being used. She typically used her wheelchair, but it was clear that the railings showed signs of being used, and that’s suspicious. Surely, the railings were used by Hayato to practice walking. There was basically no one else in Chiaki’s house, and because of that, nobody noticed Hayato practicing how to walk. I guess it’s amazing that Hayato’s able to train to this extent. It’s not an easy thing to do.

“Chiaki. You know why Hayato wanted to do this, didn’t you?”

“…”

Chiaki did not answer.

“Even though that guy died, he’s been living for your sake. He’s been practicing for your sake. He kept practicing, never giving up even though he knew that he couldn’t revive. He already made up his mind to die, but he’s still worried about you, and that’s why he kept practicing. After that, he gathered us over to you to be your friends. All these, for your sake. What kind of emotional state do you think he was in when he requested us, you know?”

Hayato probably did not openly reveal that he was practicing as he was waiting for Chiaki to walk on her own. He hoped that his practice would come in handy when Chiaki had the courage to walk.

“What do you think Hayato was thinking when he walked here!? What feelings did he have when this video was recorded? He worked so hard for your sake, and you’re going to continue saying such selfish things!? Stand up! Put him at ease! Is it really fine for you to continue on like this!?”

Hayato could not bring himself to be harsh with Chiaki, and so he requested me. Thus, I had to oblige. It might be forceful, but I had to drag Chiaki from the dark world to the sunlight. I too was saved by Hikari Yumesaki through this manner after all.

“But, but…but…”

Chiaki could not stop crying.

“I don’t want to…I don’t want to say goodbye to Hayato…I don’t want him to die…I don’t want to be alone…”

“You’re not alone.”

Saying that, I took out a notebook from my bag.

It’s not the exchange journal Hikari Yumesaki and I shared, but the super secret notebook Hayato left behind.

“Ah…”

I opened the notebook, and showed Chiaki. She let out an adorable moan, and stopped crying.

“Don’t exert all your weight on the crutches! This is important!”

“The left leg’s easier to move than the right. Start walking with your right.”

“It’s easy to get tired when you exert your knees too much. Make sure your feet land on the ground properly!”

“This…”

“Yeah, this is the walking notebook Hayato left for you, hoping that it’ll remain by your side. He wrote down tips on how to walk, all for you.”

I kept flipping the pages, and read all the contents to her.

“Chiaki, you’re not alone. That guy’s always with you. Even after he vanishes, he did reside in your before. He continues to live in you.”

“…Hayato…”

Both them, and our backs were faced against each other, and we could not converse. However, they did live in our body. They were the other us.

Even after they vanish—it did not mean that they did not exist.

“Akitsuki…I…”

Tears rolled down Chiaki’s tears, and she desperately acked out her voice, saying,

“I-I want to walk…”

“Yep, nice going.”

A weeping Chiaki let out a smile, a firm determination could be vaguely seen on her face. I stood by her left, wanting to give her a large crutch for the time being. Now then, time for her to stand up first.

“…Nnn…haa…”

She let out a painful groan as she stumbled to her feet. She gave a look of disbelief, and could not help but smile. As to be expected of Hayato; it’s amazing that he managed to train enough so that her muscles were strong enough to stand up.

“Now then, try walking. First, the right leg…not bad.”

“Yes…”

I lent her my shoulder, held onto her left hand, and watched her slowly—slowly lift her leg.

She trembled, moving her foot forward with much hesitation. However, the legs were moving, and she could not help but let out tears.

See, can’t you do it? You can now, right. If one person can’t do it, then it’s possible with two—with Hayato. We’re not alone.

And after some time.

Chiaki’s body was filled with life, so hot one could not tell it was Winter.

Step by step, she continued on firmly. The sweat seeping from her palm told me of her body warmth.

Her panting and voice seemed to be showing delight for being alive.

At this point, Chiaki’s most beautiful, dazzling. Then—

“Ah…”

We could see the hill by the sea, the sunrise by the ledge.

She stood firmly with both legs, the power of life engulfing her.

“So pretty…”

“Yep, it’s pretty.”

Chiaki’s sidelong face was dazzling under the morning sun, showing a delight I had never seen before. The expression brimming with hope left me a little unbearable.

…Next, it’s time.

“Chiaki.”

I called her, and searched my bag for something. If it all went as Hikari Yumesaki planned, there should be that thing inside the bag.

“—Ah…”

Again, Chiaki looked to be on the verge of tears.

“The recorder…”

“I got instructions, that if you’re willing to walk, I’ll give this to you, Chiaki. This should contain the message Hayato left for you. I didn’t hear anything about this.”

“…Hayato.”

“Don’t blame him. He just kept this hidden all the way so that you can stand up. He’s pampering you all the time, but he really tried his best to be harsh with you at the very end.”

“…Yes.”

It seemed Chiaki’s legs were finally at their limits, and we collapsed to the ground, basking under the sunlight.

With the same movements, Chiaki picked up the earphones, and then—

“Eh?”

“Here.”

She handed the left side over to me.

“Eh, Chiaki—but.”

“It’s fine.”

Seeing her blush, I received the left earphone in a somewhat bashful manner, and inserted it into my right ear—towards Chiaki’s face. Sorry for taking your place, Hayato.

And then, the other Chiaki’s voice came from the earphone. At that moment, the Chiaki beside me started to sob.

The voice melted her frozen her—and she was finally reunited with her other self.

“Yo! If you’re listening to this now, the operation succeeded, didn’t it? First off, congrats Chiaki! I knew you could do it!”

The usual voice, void of any tension, entered my ear.

I finally heard that voice I wanted to hear for a long time, and Chiaki smiled, shedding hot hears.

“Yes…I did it…”

“Sorry for causing you such painful memories. But I just want to be sure that you’ll be strong at the very end, Chiaki. You’re a strong girl after all, not weak. Because you’ve been working hard. Good work, Chiaki. Congrats!”

“Wrong…it’s because of you being by my side that…that I…”

“Chiaki, it appears that you thought I was suffering inside your body. Actually, that’s not the case. It’s thanks to this that I’m finally able to understand your suffering. I never was able to do anything for you, but I’m finally able to repay your kindness. Thank you, Chiaki. Thank you for saving me.”

“I didn’t save you…I…I…”

“Really, thank you very much, really.”

“…!”

Chiaki finally heard the words she yearned all this time.

For she saved Hayato, and regretted it, and yearned those words.

At this point, she was finally released from the stress. Together with the flowing tears—

“Right, that’ll be all for the thanks! Also, Chiaki…there’s also one important thing I want to say to you.”

There was one thing after that.

Hayato calmly stated the future he had to notify Chiaki of.

“You and I, who has to vanish. I kept avoiding the topic, but now, I want you to understand it.”

Chiaki’s face froze. However, she had to continue listening, to hear Hayato’s decision.”

“Look Chiaki, I never told you the details, but one of us has to disappear. It’s not that time yet, but soon after, that time will come. So right now, I want to decide who disappears.”

Hayato paused for a moment, and continued,

“So, main point, who vanishes…I guess it’ll be me. It’s your body anyway, and I can’t take it away.”

“…”

The cruel decision struck at Chiaki’s ears. She was speechless, faced with the inevitable future, the reality that awaited them.

“I know this will cause painful memories for you, but I can’t sacrifice you. I won’t have happiness without you. Once that day comes, I’ll be the one to vanish.”

Chiaki lowered her head weakly. But,

“But…no, it’s because of this, that I have a request of you, Chiaki.”

He said, with a warm tender voice of one smiling by the side, dotingly, gently,

“I hope that you’ll send me off with a smile, until one day, when it finally comes, until my last moment. This will be my happiness. Living with you—being your other life is my greatest happiness. So, don’t cry, Chiaki.”

“…Hayato…”

Chiaki was unable to cry out loud, and wiped her tears as best as she could.

And then, she tried her best to show a smile, saying,

“Understood…I’ll keep smiling until the very end…I’ll do my best…!”

Her crying face was different from before; seated at this place was a girl who got stronger.

Hayato and Chiaki. You guys are really fortunate.

You’re unable to meet again, unable to converse again, unable to embrace each other again.

But you two—loved each other as such.

“Mission Four. Clear.”

I muttered as I faced the dazzling sunrise.

 

After that.

“Ah.”

On the way back, while I was carrying Chiaki back home, she suddenly blurted.

“There seems to be a message in folder three.”

“Hm? Really?”

Folder three contained a message Hayato left for me. I would write everything about the operation and the events of the day on the notebook, and have Hikari Yumesaki pass the entry over to Hayato—that should be the process. Thus, Hayato’s recording was completely unexpected.

With the chilling winds of the morning blowing, I shivered as I opened the file. Of course, we’re wearing the earphones like a couple.

“…” “…”

And so, once I was done listening, I—

“I see, huh.”

I didn’t know how to smile, and could only let out some vague words.

“Let me think hard about it, how about it, Chiaki?”

“Hm, then, see you ‘later’—”

“Right, see you later.”

I sent Chiaki home, made a trip back home, and naturally, I skipped class; I went to bed. After I woke up from the nap, I had some rice, and relaxed.

I took out the notebook, and wrote down the success of the operation. I had a lot of things I wanted to write about, but I had a feeling that I wouldn’t stop if I started to write, so all I reported was about what happened on this day. There would be something major I had to report.

After dinner, I made a lie to my family saying that I would be staying out at a friend’s place—in the past, I wouldn’t make such a lie. I left home, took the last train, arrived at the familiar station, strolled around for a while, spent time at a café with some wifi, and waited until dawn—

“Kept you waiting.”

“Yo. Sorry to disturb.”

The watch pointed at 4.30am the next time, and I arrived at Chiaki’s house.

“Sorry to let you visit at such a strange time.”

“Not like we got a choice. I can’t be spending time here.”

It would be great if I could spend the night here, but it’s a girl’s house. I wanted to think about a lot of things alone. It all started with the folder three Hayato left behind.

“Then, Chiaki—”

“Hm.”

I took a deep breath, and then…I weakly asked,

“Please go out with me.”

“Fufu. You’re laughing now.”

I could not help but laugh as I said this,

Right, there was the final mission Hayato left for me in folder three. However, the crux was the content of the mission.

“Be Chiaki’s lover, and give her a life of happiness.”

I guess this was what he meant when he said to entrust Chiaki to me…but seriously, he did some strange things at the very end. Well, in any case, the answer’s always,

“Sorry, I can’t agree.”

“Yep, mission failed.”

Chiaki’s answer was completely within my expectations, and I nonchalantly answered. She too completely understood this, and smirked. Well, that’s just how it was to end.

“Looks like Yumesaki never objected to the last mission either.”

“Who knows. I never asked him.”

We smiled at each other. But,

“…”

For some reason, Chiaki went silent. Hm? What is it?

“Chiaki?”

“…”

For some reason, her cheeks were red, and she was fidgeting. Eh, what? Did she really want to go out with him?

While I let my imagination run wild, Chiaki stammered, apprehensive as she tried to talk. After a while, she finally spoke—

“Erm…Akitsuki.”

“Hm?”

“It’s impossible…to go out together. I have someone I like, and I’m the same as you in this regard. So I can’t agree to this.”

Yep, I know.

“But…”

“But?”

 

“…Is it okay to start off as friends?”

 

“Hoi–?”

I froze. Someone, please tell me off here. This really…was unexpected.

My face beetroot, I stared at Chiaki, who was looking up at me.

It seemed that even though this series of missions failed, I was finally able to get a reward, to see the true nature of a kuudere. Well, if I’m able to continue teasing her like normal, she’s rather cute.

“Is-is it not…okay…?”

“No problems here, Chiaki.”

I couldn’t reject her request, having known what it meant to her to make friends. I smiled as I answered, and she gave me a gentle smile.

“Friends…huh.”

We had known each other for about a month.

I stared at Chiaki’s face. It was unbelievable to think that she would show such a warm smile at first. A lot of things happened, but after thinking that I was able to see such a smile, all the suffering just vanished. I’m really grateful.

I became friends with Chiaki Tsukimura. It’s late, but I finally completed the mission.

I finally obtained that outstanding smile from Chiaki.

“Ah, it’s almost time.”

Chiaki’s words reminded me of Hayato’s message. It’s about that time already?

There was a last mission in folder three, and another message.

And to respond to Hayato’s request, I sat side by side with Chiaki, who’s on the wheelchair.

“Be careful. He’s a weirdo. He might say something weird out of a sudden.”

“Still not as bad as the mess when I first met you. Relax.”

“Goodness.”

We joked about heartily, like friends.

And so, we quietly awaited that time to arrive. Oh deary me, it’s finally coming.

“It’s almost time…Akitsuki.”

“Hm?”

Chiaki showed a radiant smile, as if stating that she would no longer be fragile again.

“Let’s—go out together next time.”

“…Right, see you next time.”

And so, the hands of the watch pointed at 4.54am.

The time when Chiaki and Hayato would swap places was about to arrive.

The girl before me shall die, and—

“……Fueh?”

“Yo.”

Looking at this blank expression, I crudely greeted.

Ah, I’ve been waiting for a long time to meet you, you bastard.

“—Aha♪”

The stunned face broke into a teasing one. Looking at this unfamiliar expression, I started to grimace for some reason. You bastard. It’s because of you that I suffered so much.

“Yo! Isn’t this Akicchi? Nice to meet you!”

The voice and face was the same, but the intonation and expression was vastly different.

“If you’re talking to me at such a moment, this means that things are going smoothly, I guess?”

“Sorta. It’s not easy.”

This was Hayato’s other wish. 4.54am, another 5 minutes until I swapped with Hikari Yumesaki. Hayato hoped to use these five minutes to talk with me.

That familiar face of Chiaki showed a teasing smile, and it gave me a spine-tingling weirdness. At the same time, Hayato ignored my response, and quickly rattled off a question, just as he would in the voice recorder.

“I see, I see. Things are going well~ So, how is it? How’s my Princess?”

“Huh? What?’

“Don’t get me anxious here! The confession! Did you kiss!?”

…Ah, that.

“Impossible. She flat out rejected me.”

Stunned, I nonchalantly answered in a ‘what are you saying’ manner. But,

“Eh—? You’re kidding…rejected?”

This unexpected situation left Hayato dumbfounded.

“Why!? I gave you all kinds of missions to get you two intimate to this extent!”

“Huh?”

Why, you ask…what were you saying? Did you really think Chiaki would agree? No, more importantly, I understood after hearing this guy’s tone. Those missions were for such a purpose after all.

There were five missions, and as I expected, this guy’s real objective was to try to get Chiaki and I to be intimate.

Become friends, hug Chiaki, call her name, after all that, the last mission was to confession. All these only meant one thing. Considering that he would no longer be around, Hayato wanted to gift an irreplaceable friend to Chiaki. Thinking about it, Hayato wrote on the message ‘I’m really looking forward to this’, having expected this to happen’.

“Really, did Chiaki harass you? Are you a late bloomer? “Sakamoto’s the type to never lose his virginity until he gets married” Hikaricchi did lament this before. I already set up everything.”

Considering his situation, I knew what feelings he had when he set the missions, even if I was not willing to. It’s because of this that I could only show him a pained look. However, thinking about it, it’s impossible for us to be dating.

“Tch. Going with my plan, you two would become friends, hug, and be more intimate. Once Chiaki could finally walk, you two would have used the chance to confess and kiss! And then you two could stay outside together with the excuse to meet me, unable to hold your urges until you—and when I swap with Chiaki, you would be saying ‘o great Hayato! Please leave Chiaki to me!’, Akicchi.”

“That’s impossible…hey! Stop, stop!”

Right when I was lazily retorting at Hayato. Hayato gave a displeased look, and did an unexpected gesture.

“Really!? They’re rather soft, you know? Look!”

“Enough! Stop flipping! That’s Chiaki’s body!”

I knew the soul’s a guy, but that appearance and voice belonged to Chiaki, whom I was familiar, so I could not help but blush. Damn it! Don’t laugh!

“Haha, sorry, sorry. But I really thought Chiaki would agree. She seemed fond of you though.”

“This is impossible.”

Somewhat blushing, I retorted at Hayato’s nonsense. It might be weird for me to say this; I did find that Chiaki liked me, but it was completely different from love.

“Chiaki probably has someone else she likes.”

“Eh? I can’t tell, you know? She said she doesn’t have one.”

“She has.”

Ah…for goodness sake.

Faced with this dimwit Hayato, I found myself seething. Hikari Yumesaki, this guy, why’re those two like this…well, having dimwits as partners sure is suffering, isn’t it, Chiaki?

“Well, even if you two don’t become lovers, the bare minimum is achieved.”

“Minimum?”

I responded to Hayato’s words.

“You two became real friends, haven’t you?”

“—!”

Shocked, stunned. I could only respond to that insightful expression with silence.

…Well, it seemed this guy wasn’t just a popular one. I underestimated him.

“I got a lot of things I want to talk to you about, but there’s really not much time. Let’s quickly get down to the main topic, Akicchi.”

“…Yeah.”

Hayato’s face looked very serious.

“The last mission’s a failure, but the circumstances are unique.”

After hearing those words, I understood why Hayato hoped to talk to me directly.

We remained silent for a while, and then, with a clear tone, Hayato clearly answered.

He stated the answer I always wanted.

“The journal in the atelier has the method that allows you to revive Hikaricchi’s life with your lifespan as the price. There’s only one chance, and everything comes down to this.

“—!”

I gulped. The truth was right before me.

“The method to achieve this is—”

Hayato opened his mouth.

The words that gambled on our futures—

“I’ll tell you next time, okay♪”

“WHHHHAAAA!?”

…I facefaulted. I could not help myself from collapsing onto the floor.

“I have no choice here. Look, this method’s troublesome. There’s only two minutes left until you switch places with Hikari Yumesaki, and I can’t explain it all. I hid the Atelier journal in a place nobody else knows. How about it; two days later, I’ll send a message to you in a manner only you can see.”

“…Yeah, fine.”

He pulled another fast one on me. Damn it. Stop laughing. You’re making fun of me again.

“…Hey, Hayato.”

“Hm?”

I weakly sat on the floor, my legs folded together as I asked with no enthusiasm.

No matter what, I wanted to hear him say—what he decided upon.

“You…really decided on dying, have you?”

“Haha.”

Hayato laughed in response. Why…was he able to laugh…

“I did mention it in the message I left for Chiaki, didn’t I? I don’t really care if I’m still alive. Because of that, I want to tie up the loose ends of my regrets, and had you help me out, Akicchi.”

“…”

The smile and words were ever so earnest, and I felt an impulse to cry. Because—

“…She’s going to be alone again.”

“No. She’s definitely going to make friends soon, and a boyfriend.”

“But—!”

“She’s different from how she was back then.

Hayato’s intonation was slightly raised.

It was a powerful voice of someone who always trusted in the one he love.

“Chiaki…ended up hating everything, and cornered herself. That’s why I told her that I would not do physiotherapy. However, she ran away from trying to walk. And then, she again gave up because of my death.”

“…”

“But because we managed to meet you, she’s no longer alone.”

And so, he said, with a determined look in his eyes.

“I didn’t die in vain. Chiaki—got stronger.”

His words echoed in my heart.

“…!…”

I did my best not to let myself cry.

“So please, I beg of you, Akicchi. Protect her for my sake, and not save her.”

With a dazzling smile, Hayato looked at me. All I could only do was to lower my head.

Why…why did you have to die…?

I still had things to say. I had a lot of things to talk about, I wanted to continue spending time with you.

However, time was cruel. The hands of the watch showed 4.58am.

“It’s time for us to go our separate way. Anything you want to say at the end, Akicchi?”

“…Something I want to ask of you.”

“Hm? What is it?’

With a hopeful look on his face, Hayato listened to my request—

“Never mention to Hikari Yumesaki the contents of the atelier journal.”

“……….”

And at that moment, his face froze.

“…The reason being?”

“I’ll tell her myself. No matter what Hikari Yumesaki asks you, don’t answer. Please.”

Hayato opened his mouth, wanting to say something. However, he probably realized what I was planning.

“…Alright. I promise.”

“…Thank you.”

There was still thirty seconds left. Hayato smiled, and the expression on his face left me somewhat lonely.

Both of us were living on this way, but we had only five minutes to encounter each other.

But even so,

Even after chatting for just five minutes, I got something clear.

“Hey, Hayato.”

I’m not good at making friends.

“Hm, what is it?”

If I

“Well, what can I say.”

Met this guy when he was alive—

“It’s been eventful, and fun.”

We probably would be good friends. I guess…I was too arrogant thinking this.

“Haha. Don’t mind.”

Hayato laughed. There wasn’t much time left.

“Hayato, one last thing I want to ask.”

Fifteen seconds left.

“You’re still panicking at the very end, huh? What is it?”

Ten seconds left.

“Why…did you work so hard for Chiaki’s sake?”

Eight seconds left.

“…I shall return those words right back at you. I’m the same as you.”

“Eh?”

Five seconds left.

“I’ll ask then. Why did you do these troublesome missions as much as you could, Akicchi? Even after knowing that only one can continue to live—”

Also,

 

“Why are you trying to know the method to revive no matter what, with all your might?”

What did I want to say? I could not recall.

But at that moment, I certainly understood.

Why did Hayato work so hard for Chiaki.

And why did I work so hard for Hikari Yumesaki till this point.

What was I trying to do?

It was already 4.59am by the time I realized it all. At that moment, I welcomed death again.

—And in my heart, I quietly made up my mind.

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