Mirai no Hito e (To the People of the Future)
Modore wa shinai
Hito wa naze itsumo
Anata ga ikiru
Hito wa naze itsumo
Watashi ga ikiru
Why do people always
Just how many words
Why do people always
Just how many reasons
Artist: 結城アイラ (Yuuki Aira)
Tsudzurareta sunao na kotoba ga
Fumidashita sekai no ikidzukai
Kaze ga hoho wo naderu mizube no tsumetasa
Ayamachi wa kienai kisetsu ga megutteitte mo
Nukumori mo kienai kioku to tomo ni ikiteru
The honest words that were written
Are the breaths of the world you stepped into
The wind caressing your cheeks, the chilliness of the shore
Your mistakes won’t disappear even if the seasons change
Warmth also won’t disappear, it lives together with your memories
Hello, My story
Artist: 天月-あまつき- (Amatsuki)
Boku ga kono te wo tsukandara nidoto hanashi wa shinai kara
Yuganda sekai da kirei na mono nado
Dare ni mo misetakunai noni
Yuganda sekai da kimi no koe ga kikoenakya
Goran ano tsuki no you ni kimi wo terashitai
Moshimo boku wo wakaranaku naru sono hi ga
Saikou na sekai da kimi ga arawarete
Kore kara mo kimi no te wo hanasanai
Once I grab your hand, I won’t release it again
I thought there wasn’t a single beautiful thing
Even though you didn’t want to show anyone,
I always felt defeated if I couldn’t hear your voice
I want to shine on you like that moon you see
Even if a day comes when you don’t
Everything changed when you appeared
I won’t let go of your hand from now on
Note: “Hello Our(My) story” – In Japanese, there are times when kanji (Chinese characters) are used to write a word, but other small characters (furigana) are written on top to indicate that the pronunciation of the word is different from what is expected. Something similar is being done here, where the word is pronounced “My”, but its true meaning is “Our”.
Kimi ga Boku no Kokoro ni Mahou wo Kaketa (You Cast a Spell on My Heart)
Artist: 天月-あまつき- (Amatsuki)
Nagareboshi ni negai wo hitotsu
Koto no ha ni mo omoi wo hitotsu
Sonna yume monogatari wo
Aa boku no kokoro ni kimi wa kitto mahou wo kaketa
Takanaru kodou kokyuu wo hitotsu
Sonna HAPPII ENDO de
Aa boku no kokoro ni kimi wa kitto mahou wo kaketa
Aa boku no kokoro ni mahou wo kaketa no wa kimi da
Sore wa kitto koi deshita.
I make a single wish on the shooting star
My words convey a single feeling
I’ll try sending that empty dream
Ah, you must have cast a spell on my heart
My heart beats fast, I take a single breath
With that happy end
Ah, you must have cast a spell on my heart
Ah, it was you who cast a spell on my heart
That must have been love.
* In the last line of the chorus, the official lyrics are “Kimi ga kimi de irareru you ni” (So that you can be yourself) but Amatsuki sings “Kimi ga kimi de ireru kyou ni” (Into today where you can be yourself)
Kaze no Solfe (Solfe of the Wind)
Mirai no boku wa sono hitomi ni
Tadashii kotae wa mada mitsukaranai keredo
Oozora ni nijimu hikoukigumo no you ni
Ano hi no kimi no kotoba ga mada
Jibun no muryokusa ni
Asayake ni somaru kinmokusei no you ni
Kyou to iu hi ga yagate kako ni natta toki ni
Kumo no kirema kara hikari ga afurete
Oozora wo kakeru hikoukigumo no you ni
What kind of scenery does the future me
Even though I haven’t found the right answer yet
Like vapor trails spreading across the sky
Your words from that day
Because the sun will rise
Like osmanthus flowers dyed in the colors of sunrise
When the day called today finally turns into the past
Light overflows from the gaps between clouds
Like vapor trails dashing through the sky
Minami-san, who was sitting near the top of the stairs, screamed at the same time I did. Only the girl with the shortened tail happily pranced up to the rooftop.
Minami-san dropped the box cutter onto the stone floor with a clacking noise. I was in shock, and glancing between Minami-san, her box cutter, and her wrist only made me fall deeper into shock. Red drops of blood fell from Minami-san’s wrist.
“What are you doing?! We need to treat your wrist!”
“Wh- What are you-?”
“I have a bandage with me, so let’s stick that on and take you to a doctor!”
“Hey, wait, I’m alright so stop fussing.”
Compared to me who was still in a panic, Minami-san had already calmed down. I only learned this about her later, but she acted as I would have expected from a high-schooler.
In order to follow her request, I tried to calm down using the method Hitomi-sensei had taught me before. I breathed deeply in and out several times. By doing so, the air that entered my heart could create some space. It made me feel more relaxed, just like wearing pajamas that were a bit too big for me.
In, out. In, out. In, out.
I took several deep breaths, and when my emotions had calmed down, I was able to hand my handkerchief and a bandage to Minami-san. However, Minami-san reluctantly said “I have my own,” and wiped her wrist with her own handkerchief. The bandage I had taken out ended up unused on the floor.
Frowning, I looked at Minami-san’s wrist and spoke my mind.
“Are you crazy?”
Minami-san slowly frowned, and said flatly.
“I see. So someone who’s truly crazy will cut their own wrist. Then being crazy is impossible for me, since I hate pain.”
“I hate it too.”
“But if you’re still cutting your wrist anyway, then you must really be crazy.”
“Shut up. Go away already.”
I ignored her and walked up onto the rooftop.
I sat down across from Minami-san and the girl with the shortened tail, and quietly examined Minami-san’s wrists which had been bleeding earlier. I felt like Minami-san had an annoyed look on her face, but I couldn’t just leave an injured person alone. However, by looking at the painful cuts on her wrist, I could almost feel the pain myself. Scared, I looked at Minami-san’s face instead.
“What are you staring at?”
“Your wrist. It looks like it must hurt a lot.”
“Kids should just hurry up and go home.”
“Why are you here in a place like this, Minami-san?”
“You don’t need to care about that. Hey, what’s Minami-san supposed to mean?”
“Your name. It’s written there isn’t it? Even though I’m still in elementary school, I can read that much at least.”
I pointed at the embroidered word on Minami-san’s navy blue skirt. Minami-san was wearing what one could call a uniform. I thought that someday, I also wanted to try wearing something that was as orderly as a square.
But as Minami-san looked at her own skirt, she sighed for some reason.
“Are you alone here?”
“……It doesn’t matter anyway, even if I am alone. I don’t need anyone here with me.”
“Indeed. I was just thinking the same thing.”
“You sure talk cockily for just a kid.”
“I’m not cocky. Well, I might be a bit smarter than the other kids, since I know about how wonderful books are.”
“……Those kids don’t like you, do they?”
I imitated Minami-san’s saying from earlier. Minami-san scowled and looked at the girl with the shortened tail. Tilting her head, that girl also looked back at Minami-san. I had a strange feeling that she was also thinking the same thing I was. Because she couldn’t speak, I asked in her stead.
“Why were you cutting your wrist?”
“……Why do I have to tell you that? I only just met you.”
“Why not? I won’t gossip about it.”
Still scowling, Minami-san quickly looked away from me. Because of that, I had thought she wouldn’t respond, but I was jumping to conclusions.
After a little while, Minami-san quietly answered.
“No real reason. It calms me down.”
“By calm down, you mean like when I take a deep breath and create some space in my heart? Or when I can smell the sun in a wooden house?”
“Yeah, it calms me down just like those.”
“……Do you want to try?”
Minami-san turned to face me while noisily sliding the box cutter’s blade in and out. I hurriedly shook my head.
As Minami-san slid back the cutter blade, she seemed to be smiling slightly. But to be honest, it was hard to tell since her eyes were almost fully hidden by her long bangs.
“What would you do if I was actually a bad person? I could easily stab a brat like you.”
“It’ll be okay. Minami-san doesn’t smell like a bad person.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You don’t smell like a bad adult.”
“That’s because I’m not an adult.”
I was still interested in Minami-san’s wrist, so I summoned the courage to reach out my hand to touch it. But when I did so, she quickly pulled her arm back and hugged her knees. My hand simply just drew a line in the air.
“I never realized there were people who calmed themselves down by cutting their wrist. There’s still a lot of things I don’t know about this world, aren’t there?”
“You sure are cocky for just a kid.”
“By the way, I didn’t realize there was a place like this around here.”
“If you say so.”
“Are you always hanging out here, Minami-san?”
My little friend started walking around the rooftop while waving her tail. I stood up and chased after her. As I walked, I realized that the rooftop was bigger than I originally thought. When I came back close enough to see the blood on Minami-san’s wrist, she said, “What are you wandering around for?” She then followed up with “I also just found this place recently.”
“What do you do here?”
I walked in circles while carrying the little girl in my arms. But when I heard a wail from her, she stood unsteadily like the ground had disappeared and then tumbled down near Minami-san. I smiled as I watched her.
“Don’t bully her.”
“I’m not bullying. We’re just playing around.”
Minami-san began to stroke the little girl’s back, as if she had taken a liking to the black fur. The girl looked comfortable as she let out a cute meow. When I heard it, I thought that she was a bad girl after all since she was even resorting to flattery.
“So, Minami-san, what do you do around here? If it were me, I would probably dance if I was in such a large, open space. What about you?”
“I don’t dance. I just sit around and look at the sky.”
“And cut your wrists too. I just realized, you have a lot of scars from cuts…… You might actually die from it.”
When I pointed at it, Minami-san just gazed at her own wrist and let out a sigh. I didn’t know what that meant. I also didn’t know if this was something I should continue talking about. Minami-san had a difficult-to-understand look on her face, which seemed like she kind of wanted to talk about it, but also kind of didn’t. Being a kid, I took it to mean that I should switch topics. I should just talk about what I wanted to say, and avoid things I didn’t.
I made a mental note to talk to Bitch-san about Minami-san’s expression. If it was related to being an adult, then I should ask an adult about it. Instead, since there was one more thing I wanted to talk about, I focused on that instead.
“Stop being so noisy, brat.”
“I was wondering, do you like to draw?”
“What’s with that all of a sudden?”
I peeked at the notebook and pen which Minami-san was hiding on the other side of her body. As if she understood why I was asking, she quickly moved them under her butt so that she was sitting on them. Her expression said, ‘That was just an illusion, you didn’t see any notebook’. But I was smart enough to know that it was just a pretense, so I pointed at her butt and answered.
“Why is it that people who like to draw keep hiding it? There’s someone in my class who does that too. Even though his drawings are amazing, he doesn’t like people knowing about them. Why do you guys hate showing it off?”
Minami-san silently looked up at the sky for a short while. When the little black girl started chasing a white butterfly, Minami-san sighed again and responded.
“They aren’t drawings.”
She paused, as if summoning up her courage. Then, she spoke.
“It’s my writing.”
“Writing? Like writing a diary?”
“No…… I’m writing a story.”
“Wow! That’s amazing!”
For a second, Minami-san had been squeezing her eyes shut like she was afraid that the world would shatter. But then, she looked surprised at hearing the words that had flown out of my heart. I might have raised my voice a bit too loud.
However, I quickly realized that it wasn’t my shout which she was surprised about. Instead, she was surprised about something very strange.
“You… aren’t laughing?”
I didn’t understand what she meant by that.
“Laughing? You want me to laugh? Why me? You didn’t tell me a funny joke, so why would I laugh? If you mean authors making their readers laugh, then I’ve laughed until my stomach hurt in the middle of reading a book before. Would you laugh just by seeing an author?”
When I asked her, Minami-san furiously shook her head from side to side. For the first time, I caught sight of her eyes from their hiding place behind her bangs. They were very beautiful, just like Bitch-san’s and Granny’s.
Minami-san stopped shaking her head, and just like I had done before, she suddenly raised her voice. I wasn’t surprised. If I was the type to get surprised by something like that, I would have died long ago from surprising myself too much.
Without feeling any surprise, I earnestly conveyed my current feelings to Minami-san.
“Hey, let me read your story.”
Those words also caused Minami-san to say “Eh?” in surprise. I thought it was natural to want to read a story, if there was one around. But since I knew that wasn’t normal for most kids my age, I could somewhat understand Minami-san’s reaction.
“I said this earlier, but I’m a smart kid who understands how wonderful stories are.”
“So what? ……You can’t.”
“Why not? Ah, did you make a promise to someone else?”
“I haven’t done anything like that.”
“Then, please. Let me read it. I know how wonderful stories are, and to be honest, I want to write my own someday.”
Minami-san didn’t even twitch an eyebrow at my plea, but she loosened her lips. She tapped her mouth with a finger and murmured, “Hmm.” She seemed to think that it couldn’t be helped, and after muttering something like “Why do I have to show this to a brat I just met,” she finally handed me the notebook.
Minami-san definitely understood. Revealing a girl’s secret wasn’t cheap.
It was a secret I had never told anybody before. I had been planning to make everyone feel deeply moved and surprised by a story I would write one day, but this was the first time I ever told anyone about it. However, as a result, I was able to receive the gift of a new story. This could be called making a trade.
“I completely forgot. I’m actually in the middle of reading a story about Homeless Huck.”
“Ah, I also read that when I was younger.”
“You see, I decided that I wouldn’t start reading a new story while being midway through another one. I want to fully savor one world at a time, so that’s why I made such a decision.”
“……Then give it back.”
Minami-san pursed her lips and took back the notebook. Then, she quietly muttered “I get what you mean though,” and placed the book back under her butt. It was like a secret treasure box that she didn’t want anybody to find. As I imagined that, my desire to read her story grew stronger.
“I’ll finish Huck’s story right away! Then let me read your story, Minami-san.”
“You should just forget about it.”
“No, I won’t. Because life is like food inside the fridge.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Even if I forget about the peppers I hate, I’ll never forget the cake I love.”
Minami-san breathed out of the corners of her mouth and then said, “What a cocky brat.”
I didn’t feel insulted by her words at all. After that, Minami-san continued calling me ‘brat’. But even though I knew it was a rude way of referring to kids, the she said it in a lovely manner. It was similar to how Bitch-san called me “young lady” or Granny called me “Nacchan”.
Minami-san had acknowledged me as a friend, I thought. It must be because we both loved reading. I believed that if everyone in the world would come to love reading, then there could be world peace. If everyone understood that such a wonderful activity existed, nobody would need to think about hurting others.
Because that was my belief, I could not understand the reason why Minami-san would injure herself.
Even though Minami-san didn’t talk much about cutting her wrist, she reluctantly chatted with me about other things like books.
Minami-san knew more about books and stories than I did. However, it sounded like even she couldn’t fully understand ‘The Little Prince’. Granny was amazing for being able to solve a problem that even a high-schooler couldn’t do. Minami-san said that her favorite character was the fox in the desert.
“Well then, I’ll come by again.”
“Don’t bother. Well, do what you want. This place doesn’t belong to me after all.”
“I’m looking forward to reading your story.”
“I don’t care.”
“Don’t cut your wrist anymore.”
Minami-san didn’t reply, but instead waved her right hand at me and the girl with the shortened tail like she was trying to chase us out. While looking back at Minami-san who was quietly gazing at the sunset, I carefully walked down the stairs with my friend.
Today, I had increased the number of places I could visit in my daily routine.
“Happiness— won’t come— walking— to us— , So— let’s walk— towards it—“
As I sang with my soft-voiced friend, we descended the hill. There were no children left in the small park that we arrived at.
Instead, a single adult with a sad expression was sitting still on the swing. I was very curious about him. I felt like I had met him somewhere before, but I couldn’t remember who he was.
But because it was about time for me to return, and because I needed to keep my friend with the shortened tail in mind as well, I headed home for the day.
When I arrived home, I was surprised to see that my mother had returned before me. While my mother looked at the sheet of paper and notebook on the table, she gave me some very good news about the open school day. I became more and more motivated to contemplate the meaning of happiness. Carefully placing my promise with my mother inside the treasure box in my heart, I dove into my soft bed.
From the next day and onward, I faced a very difficult choice.
“Life is like shaved ice. Even if there are many flavors that you like, you can’t have them all or else you’ll get a stomach ache.”
I had to choose. Bitch-san, Granny, or Minami-san. If I were to visit all three of them, it would end up being past the time I promised my mother. That’s why I could only go to two places at most. It was as difficult as choosing two flavors out of strawberry, lemon, and soda.
“Then why did you end up coming here?”
As Minami-san spoke, she frowned and drank her bottle of barley tea.
“But you said yesterday that I could do what I wanted.”
“Go play with your friends from school.”
“I don’t have any friends from school.”
“What, so you’re actually a loner?”
“That’s not right. I have friends, like this girl and Minami-san.”
“Don’t just arbitrarily decide that I’m your friend.”
Minami-san huffed and looked up at the sky. I copied her and watched the birds flying in the air. I thought that if I had feathers, it would be tough to sleep in a bed properly.
“I came to visit you because I don’t know anything about you yet. I want to learn more about you.”
“You don’t need to learn more about me.”
“That’s not true. Life is like a Japanese-style breakfast.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“There’s nothing you don’t need to know about.”
After thinking about it, Minami-san said “Oh, like miso soup?” followed by “How cocky.” (T/N: This is a pun where “shiru” can mean “to know” or “soup”, so Nonoka’s previous line can also mean “There are none that don’t need soup”)
“I’m not being cocky. I don’t really want to be cocky, since I’d rather be smarter instead.”
“It would be weird anyway for someone who’s already cocky to want to become even more cocky.”
“If I became cocky, I wouldn’t be able to make time to go out with my family on Sundays, right? In that case, there’s no reason to be cocky.”
That was all I said. However.
“Are you talking about your parents?”
I was thoroughly surprised at Minami-san’s remark. It was just like something a high schooler would say. But for some reason I felt uneasy replying with a nod. Minami-san silently hugged her knees and said, “Becoming smarter isn’t necessarily a good thing.”
“That’s not true. I want to become really smart. After all, you can’t write stories without being smart, right? When I was reading ‘The Little Prince’, it was the first time I’d heard about the baobab tree. I also learned about talking roses.”
“Roses like that don’t exist.”
“Eh, then baobab trees don’t exist either?”
I felt anxious since I had never seen a baobab tree before in my life. But, as one would expect, Minami-san was a high schooler after all.
“Baobab trees exist. They’re big trees that can take over a hundred years to grow. People say baobab trees are the largest trees on Earth, and there are also legends that they were the first trees to grow on Earth. Also, since their branches are shaped like tree roots, it’s said that the gods got angry at the jealous baobab trees, so the gods flipped the trees upside down.”
“Who were the baobab trees jealous of?”
“They were jealous of palm trees which were slimmer than them, and fig trees which could bear fruit.”
I was impressed from the bottom of my heart.
“What a unique and wonderful story. As I expected from you, Minami-san.”
“I’m just retelling the legend. It’s not something I wrote.”
“Even so, knowing such an interesting story means you’re much smarter than I am. I also want to become smarter and learn a lot of interesting stories.”
Minami-san simply replied “Hmm,” as if she wasn’t interested in me nor the baobab trees.
But I immediately understood that she had no ill intentions. Because when I asked her to tell me another interesting legend, she taught me many others.
Out of all of Minami-san’s stories, the most wonderful one was about how “under the rose” was another way to say “secrecy” in English. Even though I couldn’t speak English yet, once I grew up and learned the language, I thought I’d surely use that phrase.
For the rest of the day, I was engrossed in Minami-san’s stories. When I came to my senses, it was already time for me to head home. I had completely forgotten about visiting Granny’s house or Bitch-san’s house.
The next day, even though I wanted to chat with Minami-san that morning like I had done yesterday, I needed to attend school everyday no matter how boring it was.
The idiots were still being idiots, and Kiryuu-kun who sat next to me was still hiding his drawings. Even though school was the same boring place as always, a single good thing ended up happening.
While I was alone in the library at lunch, Ogiwara-kun came in. Without hesitation, I decided I would call out to Ogiwara-san. That’s because even though I wanted to tell someone about what I’d learned from Minami-san yesterday, I had no other person to talk to.
Ogiwara-kun didn’t notice me in the back of the library and headed out. I put on an expression that suggested I was heading out too, and then chased after him.
“Ah, Koyanagi-san. I didn’t realize you were in the library.”
“That’s alright. What did you borrow?”
When I pointed to the book he was carrying, he happily showed it to me. I fully understood Ogiwara-kun’s facial expression, which was the joy of holding a new book in your hands.
“’The Memoirs of a White Elephant’? I’ve read that one before.”
“I wanted to read it since I heard it was a story from France, just like the ‘The Little Prince.’”
I see, as expected of Ogiwara-kun. Both his way of choosing a book, and his way of laying down the rails that led to what I wanted to talk about next.
I rode those rails, and in a way that suggested I’d known all of this from the start, told Ogiwara-kun what I had learned from Minami-san yesterday about baobab trees and roses. Ogiwara-kun was surprised by each of them. Out of everyone in my class, surely it was only him and I who would find those topics interesting. Of course, the reason was that we were both smart.
No matter how much I talked, I wasn’t satisfied. However, my conversation with Ogiwara-kun suddenly came to a stop. From the other side of the hallway, a male classmate who I had never talked to before called out Ogiwara-kun’s name. Ogiwara-kun headed to in that direction, as if he had completely forgotten that he had been talking with me. It couldn’t be helped. Ogiwara-kun wasn’t just smart, but he also had a lot of friends.
In the end, since I still had more to talk about, I decided to let it out after school when it was not boring. Under the blue sky, I sat on the concrete floor and told Minami-san about what had happened today.
“So you noticed colors today.”
“It’s not like that guy’s hair is brown or anything.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
Minami-san was frowning again today. However, she wasn’t angry. I was starting to understand Minami-san.
“Speaking of which, I’m about to finish reading ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.’”
“It means I can read the story you wrote. I’m really looking forward to it.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Minami-san seemed like she was in a bad mood as always, and under her butt was the same colored notebook. She had surely been writing the story until I had come by.
“See you, I’ll come by again.”
“Do what you want.”
Minami-san’s “Do what you want” had the same meaning as Bitch-san’s “See you later, young lady.” I waved at Minami-san’s back. That day, I also visited Granny’s place and told her the same things I had told Minami-san. It was a very good day.
Recently, I had been having mixed feelings about Japanese class. I looked forward to it, but it somehow also felt like I was standing in front of a long staircase. In other words, it was how a hero from a fantasy world would feel when standing before a large dragon. Even though I was the type of person to bravely face the dragon or the tall hill, there was also a person who cowered before it. That was the boy in the seat next to mine.
“Hey, what kind of picture are you drawing now?”
“Eh, no, I’m not……”
Kiryuu-kun, who replied like that, was again unable to say how happy he felt when he was drawing. ‘Will it be alright pairing with Kiryuu-kun?’ I wondered, and began to feel anxious about the partner I would be going on an adventure with.
I ate lunch together with Kiryuu-kun since he sat at the desk next to mine, and then headed to the library by myself. After school, I decided to visit Minami-san again. I had a precise reason in mind.
“When going on an adventure, the more friends the better.”
The girl with the shortened tail also seemed to enjoy visiting Minami-san. Even though we saw the world differently, we seemed to have the same preferences when it came to people.
On the familiar rooftop, Minami-san noticed me coming and said bluntly, “You came again?” Of course, that meant the same as Granny’s “I’m glad you came.”
Minami-san was sitting with her arms around her knees. I sat down next to her in the same posture.
“Good day to you, Minami-san. Are you doing well?”
“What’re you asking that for?”
Even though I gave such an elegant greeting, Minami-san replied as if she had tasted my words and spat them out on the ground. But I had already seen through it. Minami-san intentionally wanted to sound like that in front of others.
“It’s not a particularly good day. Seems like it’ll rain soon.”
“I saw the weather forecast, and they said it wouldn’t rain today. There’s supposed to be a ten percent chance. In other words, nine people said it wouldn’t rain, but one person said it would.”
Even though I wanted to cheer for that one lonely person who opposed nine others, I didn’t. If it rained, I wouldn’t be able to meet Minami-san on this rooftop.
“That’s not what the percentage on the weather forecast means.”
“It means the number of days that rained out of all days in the past similar weather. In other words, say there were ten days in the past with weather like today’s. Ten percent means that it ended up raining on only one of those days. It doesn’t have anything to do with one person being left out.”
As expected of Minami-san, I thought appreciatively. Then, I became excited at having found the perfect friend to join my adventure.
“I’m the hero, she’s the fairy, and Minami-san is the sage living in the forest. Does that sound good?”
“What are you talking about?”
“There’s something I wanted to ask you about today.”
I quickly cut to the chase. After all, I was the type of person who liked to eat the best parts first.
“About the story?”
“There’s also that, but that’s not it. I’m actually facing a very tough problem in class right now.”
“Like math? Do that by yourself, you brat.”
“Not that. If it’s math, I can solve the problems by myself. But this problem is really tough. It’s from Japanese class, which asked ‘What is happiness?’”
“That’s right. I wanted to ask, what does happiness mean to you? It might give me a hint.”
Minami-san didn’t respond immediately. While stroking the black-furred girl that had climbed on her foot, she looked up at the cloudy sky.
Then after a few seconds, the voice that came out of Minami-san’s mouth was also cloudy.
“I don’t know anything about happiness.”
“What about when you’re writing a story? Aren’t you happy?”
“Writing is fun, but I don’t know if that counts as happiness. Happiness should be more fulfilling, like your heart is filled with a pleasant feeling.”
Minami-san taught me an easily-understandable way to think about happiness. Being able to quickly come up with a description like that was just what I’d expect of a high schooler. It made me want to grow up faster.
“I see, that’s why I feel happy when I put vanilla ice cream on cookies.”
That means when I visit Bitch-san and Granny, I also fill their hearts with a pleasant feeling. I felt cheerful, as if the sky had turned completely sunny.
“Minami-san, when does your heart feel full?”
I looked at Minami-san’s arm, which wasn’t bleeding today. Even though she was the one who had made the cuts, she quickly hid her scars with her hand. Then, she spoke with a sigh.
“That never happens.”
“Never? Then that means you never feel happy?”
Minami-san imitated me who had imitated her.
“What about when you’re reading a book? Or when you eat candy?”
“That’s fun, and that’s tasty. But I don’t know if those count as happiness.”
Minami-san said bluntly.
“What about when you eat dinner together with your mother?”
“I don’t have a mother or a father.”
“You don’t? Do they live separately from you?”
While I was thinking, ‘As expected of a high schooler,’
I was shocked, and my little mouth hung open. Minami-san sighed and used her finger to force my lips back together. Then, she sighed yet again. She didn’t look me in the eyes.
“They died. A long time ago, in an accident.”
Minami-san tightly gripped the hem of her skirt.
“It’s been a long time since my parents died, so I don’t cry about it anymore. But even a brat like you should understand it wasn’t a happy thing.”
Minami-san averted her gaze. That’s why she didn’t notice when I hurriedly covered the small eyes of the girl on her lap who was looking at me.
“Sorry, but that’s why I can’t help with your home—”
The one who stopped Minami-san’s words was me. Minami-san had finally looked into my eyes. My eyes stopped her words. She saw my face, and then in a very graceful movement, took out an unbloodied handkerchief from her pocket and handed it to me.
I quickly used it.
“……You can keep that.”
In the end, I couldn’t say anything else to Minami-san that day. When I inspected it closely later, the handkerchief that she had given me had the same pattern on it as the one I had bought from my father. Perhaps Minami-san had bought this handkerchief from my father as well.
I parted with Minami-san and headed to Granny’s house. Today as well, Granny had prepared some baked snacks. But before she offered the snacks to me, she asked “What’s wrong, Nacchan?”
While drinking the orange juice that Granny had given me, I told her about Minami-san. Or rather, I told her about how I had been unable to properly listen to Minami-san’s important words.
I thought perhaps Granny would get angry at me. I knew I had done something that bad. But instead, she gave me a fresh-baked financier.
“I think this Minami-san felt glad.”
Granny said something strange. I shook my head vigorously, as if my head was about to come off my neck.
“That’s not true.”
“No, I’m sure she felt glad. That was probably the first time she met someone like you who would cry for her. That’s why she gave you her important handkerchief.”
I looked at the wet and crumpled handkerchief.
“So you don’t need to worry at all. You don’t need to apologize to Minami-san. But Nacchan, promise Granny one thing.”
I gazed into Granny’s eyes and nodded.
“The next time you meet Minami-san, make sure you smile. As long as you like Minami-san, that is.”
“I like her.”
“Then, you need to use your smile to give her many more good memories than her sad ones.”
“Can I even do such a thing?”
I was feeling unusually timid, and Granny gently laid a hand on my thin shoulders.
“Humans can’t just get rid of sad memories. But instead, they are able to make a lot more good memories and live happily. Nacchan’s smile has the wonderful power to help me and Minami-san with that.”
“……Is that right?”
I recalled Minami-san’s face when she had handed me her handkerchief. I tightly closed my eyes and began to think. With my brain which was smarter than the kids around me but hadn’t reached that of a wonderful adult yet, I thought with all my might. Then, I came to a single decision.
After a long time, I opened my eyes and looked down. I made eye contact with the sparkling eyes of my friend, moved her off of my lap, and stood up.
“Granny, I’m going home for today. I need to hurry and finish reading ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.’”
“Ah, if that’s what you’ve decided then you should go for it. What about some snacks?”
“I’ll take one!”
The sweet, soft financier tasted as if the sun had turned into a candy. Before I noticed it, the sun was shining in what used to be a cloudy sky.
On the way home that day, I once again spotted the familiar man in the park at the bottom of the hill. But again, I couldn’t remember who he was.
The next morning, while I was putting on my indoor shoes next to the shoe rack in my elementary school, I encountered a person I didn’t like. If I could describe my emotions with a color, it would be grey. Some people might have described my feelings as blue, but I liked the color blue.
“Oh! It’s the girl who’s going crazy!”
The voice which came from inside the school contained not a single shred of intelligence. I sighed loudly and spoke.
“You guys can’t even score higher in tests than this crazy person. I just noticed, but you guys are really dumb, aren’t you?”
I felt satisfied at the angry faces of my idiot classmates, so I refused to continue speaking with them. I ignored everything else they had to say. Finally, they said something like “Quit bein’ scared,” which really made me want to praise their Japanese skills, and then left. I finished putting on my indoor shoes and walked into the school building.
A single voice from behind stopped my grey footsteps. I turned around and my expression completely changed when I saw the classmate standing there.
“Oh, good morning Ogiwara-kun.”
“I finished reading it yesterday. You know, Tom Sawyer. It was really interesting.”
“Is that so? Then I’m glad. Which part of it did you like?”
“Probably the part where they were painting. After that, I thought Tom was really cool.”
“Tom definitely has a fascinating personality. He’s smart too.”
“I also liked Huck.”
“Homeless Huck? Speaking of which, I’m going to-“
I was going to say something, but I cut off my words. It wasn’t because I wanted to keep Granny’s suggestion to myself, but because a boy walked up from behind Ogiwara-kun and gently bumped into him. I turned my back on the surprised Ogiwara-kun. He probably wasn’t looking at me anymore anyway. The boy who bumped into him was a good friend and classmate of his. Their physical contact wasn’t any sort of bullying, but just the boys’ unique way of expressing their friendship. Ogiwara-kun wasn’t bullied nor was he a bully. Instead, he had a lot of friends.
On the other hand, I who didn’t have friends in my class chose to turn my back on them. But like Ogiwara-kun, I also wasn’t the subject of any bullying. It was just that all my classmates other than him seemed to either hate me or didn’t feel comfortable interacting with me. It was that way even though I had never once been bullied before.
That’s why I chose to leave before Ogiwara-kun’s friend started to feel uneasy around me. After all, a girl should not intrude in between the friendship of two boys.
Before heading to my classroom, there was another place I wanted to stop by. The library. The library in my elementary school was open in the mornings, which made me very happy. Instead of waiting in the noisy classroom until Hitomi-sensei arrived, I preferred being in the quiet library.
When I entered the library, I was greeted by the gentle librarian and the unique smell of books. I asked her if this library contained ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ which Granny told me about yesterday. After my question, the librarian led me to a certain bookshelf and then left me to find the book for myself. “If you like reading, then you probably also like the thrill of searching for a book,” she had told me before. I thought she was exactly right.
I immediately found ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ and took it off the shelf with an excitement that made my fingertips tingle. I took off my backpack and sat down in a nearby chair.
The feeling of opening a book to its first page was one that could not be compared to anything else. It was a shame that surely nobody in the class other than Ogiwara-kun and myself had experienced it before.
Alone, I took my first small step into the story of Homeless Huck.
The library was a great place. It was quiet, smelled nice, and the librarian was a kind person. But there was also a single thing I didn’t like about being here. That one thing was how I would sometimes be too caught up in the middle of a book.
I had forgotten that I was at school until the librarian called out to me. Like always, she called my name a little while before the morning bell rang. I then returned to this world after having been gone for some time. After checking out ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ and putting it in my backpack, I said goodbye to the librarian and the books.
The hallway was quieter than it had been when I arrived at school. I walked down the hall, took the stairs up one step at a time, and headed towards my classroom on the third floor.
I reached the classroom, and after ignoring the boys running along the hallway, entered the room. Nobody noticed my entry. Like always, I made a beeline to my seat in the back of the room. Taking off my backpack, I sat down.
Kiryuu-kun, who sat at the desk next to mine, noticed my arrival and hurriedly closed his notebook.
“Good morning, Kiryuu-kun.”
“G- good- good morning, Koyanagi-san.”
He spoke quickly, as if I was angry at him for pulling some sort of prank. As he said his greeting, he tucked his closed notebook inside his desk.
“What were you drawing?”
A lie. Since he sat next to me, I knew he was lying. He had been drawing something. He often sketched in his notebook during class. Even though he tried hard to hide it, it was easily visible from my position next to his desk.
Because he was a talented artist who could draw very beautifully, I thought he should show off his drawings more. But he didn’t. There had been incidents when the idiot boys teased him for drawing quietly by himself. Many, many incidents.
“Kiryuu-kun, life is like a tooth with a cavity.”
“Wha- what do you mean?”
“If there’s something you don’t like, you should deal with it quickly. If you get teased again for drawing, you should just spit in their faces.”
I said so after hanging my backpack on the shelf behind me and sitting down once more. Without looking in my direction, Kiryuu-kun replied “I- I can’t,” in a quiet voice.
“You can’t act weak like that,” I advised him. At that moment, the bell rang and Hitomi-sensei entered the classroom. Everyone loved Hitomi-sensei, so atmosphere in the room brightened just from her entry.
“Good— mor— ning—“
As the class representative, Ogiwara-kun led the greeting to Hitomi-sensei. And with that, another boring school day began.
First period was math, second period was social studies, and third period was when Hitomi-sensei taught the lesson about happiness that she was telling me about yesterday. I wanted to brag “I was actually told about this yesterday,” but because Hitomi-sensei had told me to keep it a secret, I kept quiet about the lesson and the chocolate.
We read a story from the textbook and then thought about the protagonist’s feelings. Without even the chance to discuss about happiness, fifty minutes quickly passed. Hitomi-sensei announced that fourth period today would be a continuation of third period. I agreed strongly with her idea, since I thought that only fifty minutes wasn’t enough to finish this lesson.
Fourth period started off by having each of us think about our own happiness. The students formed groups of two and were told to think of a list of things that made us feel happy.
My partner was the boy who sat next to me, Kiryuu-kun. He was a quiet person who didn’t talk much, so I led the conversation.
“Yesterday, I ate a cookie with ice cream on top. Eating that made me happy.”
“What about you, Kiryuu-kun? Did anything happen yesterday?”
“I, um, the ohagi that my granny made was very delicious.”
“Grannies always make good snacks, don’t they?”
“Yeah. My mom makes good snacks too, but they’re a different type than Granny’s.”
“Your mom makes snacks for you? I’m jealous. My mom is never home until evening.”
Like that, the two of us chatted about various topics and wrote them down in our notebooks. We made good progress and were even praised by Hitomi-sensei, who came by to check on us during the discussion period. But there was one thing that piqued my curiosity. No matter how much we talked about happiness, and even when I talked about my love for reading, Kiryuu-kun never said anything about his drawings. I thought it was weird, so I asked him.
“Aren’t you happy when you’re drawing something?”
“Um, I- I wonder. I like it though.”
“Then that’s also something that makes you happy.”
“B- but, when I draw, people make fun of me.”
“That has nothing to do with this!”
I declared in a voice that was louder than I thought it would be. Not just Kiryuu-kun, but the whole class looked at me in surprise. “I’m sorry, I got a bit too excited,” I apologized to Hitomi-sensei.
Hitomi-sensei replied “Try not to startle everyone else” in a gentle voice, and then the classroom was filled with chatter once again. “That’s not related to what we’re talking about,” I said again to Kiryuu-kun. Then, I wrote ‘Drawing beautiful pictures’ in my notebook. Kiryuu-kun hung his head and didn’t say anything.
Fourth period ended, the time for grabbing food from the cafeteria passed, and I spent the rest of my lunch break in the library. The library was louder than it had been in the morning, but was still much more peaceful than my classroom, so I was sucked into another adventure with Homeless Huck.
When the bell signalling the end of lunch rang, next up was cleaning time so I went back to the classroom to grab a broom. Kiryuu-kun was in the same group as me, so he had already started sweeping the classroom.
While we were cleaning earnestly, those idiot boys came back from the field and said something dumb like “You guys are gross for enjoying drawing and reading.” I replied, “Did you know? The definition of gross is your face.” I signalled Kiryuu-kun with my eyes that he should say something back too, but he stayed quiet.
Fifth and six period passed, and the end-of-day meeting finally came. I sighed in anticipation. Following that, it was time to say goodbye to Hitomi-sensei. Or that’s what I thought would happen, but she had an important announcement to make.
“The week after the next, we will have an open school day. I’ve spoken to everyone’s parents about this before, but it will be a time when your parents can take a look into a normal day of school. It’s an important event, so make sure you show your parents the notice that’s being passed around right now. Promise your teacher that, ok?”
After everyone said “Okaaay,” a piece of paper was passed back from the desk in front of mine. I read what was written on it, and then cheerfully put it in my backpack. I liked open school days, because I could show my parents how smart I was in class.
This time school ended for real, and without being called back by Hitomi-sensei today, I went home by myself like always. Then, as always, I left my backpack in my room. When I started to leave the house, I remembered something important. I returned to my room, took the open school day notice out of my backpack, and placed it on the table in the living room. After that, I headed out again.
Outside the apartment, the girl with the shortened tail was waiting for me like always. “Na—“ she greeted me, and then together we started to walk towards the large flowing river.
After climbing up the dike, another pleasant wind ruffled my hair and the girl’s short tail. Feeling in a very good mood, we sang together.
Before long, we and our singing voices arrived at the cream-colored apartment. We stood in front of the familiar door and rang the doorbell. On the first ring, I heard no noise coming from inside. On the second ring, the door still didn’t open. And on the third ring, the girl at my feet meowed along with the doorbell, but there was no response.
“It seems that Bitch-san is out today.”
Bitch-san was a busy person, so there were occasionally times when she wasn’t home. Throwing our disappointment to the wind, we gave up and took a different route back towards my place. Of course, I didn’t intend to head inside my own apartment. There was another set destination for me to go after leaving Bitch-san’s house.
As we sang, we walked between houses large and small, and soon walked by the apartment I lived in. Taking our usual path, we headed up the hill behind my apartment. I greeted the neighbours we passed along the way, while the unaffectionate girl simply waved her short tail and turned her head away.
“If you keep doing that, you’ll be hated in not just the human world, but the world of cats as well.”
But she just walked ahead of me like she hadn’t heard anything. We arrived at the base of the hill and climbed up between the trees.
At the open area on top of the hill, we stood before the wooden house and I promptly knocked on the door.
On the first knock, there was no response.
No matter how many times I continued knocking, turned the doorknob, or walked around the house, it seemed that Granny was not at home.
I sat down on the grass around the empty wooden box and crossed my short arms.
“How rare for both Bitch-san and Granny to be out at the same time.”
She seemed sad that she wasn’t receiving any food today.
“You can’t just stay sad like that. Life is like a school lunch.”
“Even when it doesn’t contain the food you like, it’s still enjoyable in its own way. Right?”
She appeared to not believe my words, and we continued descending the hill together. I thought that perhaps we would pass by Granny on our way down, but that didn’t happen. We walked until the park at the bottom of the hill. In the park, several children younger than me were racing each other while their mothers watched over them.
Now then, what should I do next? I tried to think. The girl with the shortened tail seemed like she felt quite sad and betrayed, so she rolled around at my feet.
In her stead, I began thinking with my smart brain. Then, I remembered something.
“On the way to Granny’s house, the road splits in two doesn’t it?”
“I just realized, we’ve never been down the other path before. Let’s see what’s there.”
The girl was still lying on the ground, so I poked her back with my toes. She got up reluctantly, and with a huge yawn, started heading up the hill again.
I followed along behind her, with sweat gradually building on my forehead as I ascended. Soon, we came to the crossroad that I was talking about. We usually headed to the right, but today we chose the left path for the very first time. Looking more closely, the left path eventually turned into gradual stairs. The girl’s mood had become better after the exercise, so she headed forward with a spring in her step. Cats sure lived a carefree life.
About five minutes passed. The scent of wood gradually grew stronger as we headed up, and a broken iron gate came into view. The gate, which had appeared almost magically, was open just a few centimeters.
I placed my hands on the rough-textured gate. As it cried out in a hoarse voice, the gate moved slowly. I was a bit hesitant and made eye contact with the girl with the shortened tail. But since we had taken the time to come here, we decided to continue through the gate. Just in case someone got angry at me and I needed an excuse, I practiced looking diagonally upwards and sticking out my tongue.
Past the gate were orderly stone stairs that looked different from the stairs we had taken on the way here.
I placed my feet firmly on the stone and climbed the steps. Before long, the stairs ended and we arrived at an open space with gravel spread all over the floor.
I was surprised at where we ended up, and I took a deep breath. I couldn’t tell if the girl by my feet was surprised or not, since she just said “Na—“ like always.
“I never knew there was a place like this around here.”
At the end of the road opposite to Granny’s house, was a place that seemed the complete opposite of Granny’s house. It was a building that reminded me of a square stone box. The window-like holes in the wall made this place feel similar to a two-story house, but I had no idea what the holes were originally used for. Since there weren’t any designs or signs on the building, it looked exactly like a stone box. The warmth that Granny’s large wooden house evoked was nowhere to be found in here.
Approaching the building, I noticed that there wasn’t even a door in the place that looked like the entrance. I hesitated slightly, then timidly passed through the gaping entranceway. The girl with the shortened tail looked like she had eaten all of her nervousness away, and she calmly entered the building. It’s a secret, but I was a bit scared as I chased after my little friend.
To start off, we looked around the first floor. There weren’t any rooms on this floor. The whole floor was open and empty everywhere I looked. It also didn’t seem like there were any other people around. The only thing that made this place appear more like a building than a box was a flight of stairs at the center. Thinking that the only place to go was up, the girl and I summoned our courage and climbed up the stairs. We’d sure been climbing a lot today.
The second floor was also empty. The square holes in the walls seemed like they were indeed intended to be windows, since some of them were surrounded by shards of glass. Of course, the glass fragments was dangerous so I didn’t touch them.
While I was looking around the second floor, I thought “Ah, there’s nothing in this building anymore.” It’s a secret, but I was really thinking that because I was scared and wanted to get out of this place already.
But the reason I didn’t immediately start heading back was because I had noticed another flight of stairs leading upwards. Looking up from the base of the steps, I could see the sky above, so I realized that these stairs led to the roof. I once again made eye contact with the girl at my feet, and we decided to head to the rooftop.
Step by step, I left behind traces of my footsteps on the dusty stairs. When I finally drew level with the roof, my face was bathed in sunlight and I was comforted by the wind.
Then, my eyes met those of another girl. She was sitting with her knees to her chest and pressing a box cutter to her wrist.
On that day, as I experienced surprise from the bottom of my heart, I was reminded of the saying that ‘time froze’.
Then, a second later, time suddenly sped up again.
That was how I met Minami-san.