Chapter 2: A Start Unknown to Kitsune
Shinozaki Shiori accompanied Kitsune all the way to the hospital. Despite the emergency measures enacted on him in the ambulance, he was still in a state where he could die at any moment, so the expressions of those performing the measures were grim throughout the voyage. No matter how they looked at it, he had suffered fatal injuries.
Even so, Shiori continued to grip the boy’s hand with both of hers, as she desperately prayed for his life to be saved.
A few minutes later, they arrived at a single hospital. But that hospital never took on the patient known as Naginata Kitsune. Due to bad luck, the hospital had many patients in serious condition, and there was a deficiency in the doctors available to perform a surgery. And so, it turned out that Kitsune was to be carried off to another hospital.
Shiori was impatient. At this rate, he was going to die. But Kitsune’s unlucky streak merely continued. The next one, and the next one found themselves unable to accept him, and the boy continued to be passed from one place to another in his near-death state.
And finally, the forth hospital accepted him. He was immediately rushed to the emergency room, and they were prepared to perform it… but what came on was a sudden power outage. The hospital’s electronic tools ceased their functionality. While they quickly switched to their own back-up power to keep the machines running, the lights remained off. The surgery was conducted with minimal light, and the chances of it succeeding were close to 0.
In the middle of it, Kitsune’s heart stopped, and it ended once they confirmed there was no way to bring him back. Unable to move from the operating room, Kitsune never appeared before Shiori again.
◇ ◇ ◇
Kitsune-san left the emergency room. His face was pale, and he wasn’t moving at all. When I touched him, he was dreadfully… cold. As he was transported around, he kept on losing more and more of himself, but I can’t even feel the faint heat he emitted at the very end.
… He’s dead.
He didn’t have enough time to undertake the surgery, so it’s more like it all ended too quickly. It feels like a hole’s been opened in my chest, and my mouth won’t move as I want it. It’s like my own body no longer belongs to me anymore.
“… I’m sorry, with our power… we were unable to save him.”
The doctor’s words aren’t entering my ears. I just blankly stared at the cold Kitsune-san’s peaceful expression.
It’s not like my life is flashing before my eyes, but the memories of the brief three months I spent with Kitsune-san pass through my head. It really was a short time. It really was too short a time, but each and every one of those memories shine within me. They begin to lose their color, my precious memories… my memories with Kitsune-san.
“Um… please take this.”
A handkerchief was handed to me. When I shifted my gaze, I was the doctor looking at me with an expression full of pity, and my own eyes reflected in his. It looks like I’m… crying.
As I try rubbing my hands across my face, I find them soaked in my overflowing tears. It seems I had started crying without even noticing it. I take the doctor’s handkerchief, and wipe my eyes. But it isn’t stopping at all.
“W-what? Ah… sorry… hic… why……!”
Perhaps because it’s like my own body isn’t my own, when I begin to concentrate on my own tears, my body’s senses slowly begin to return to normal. A sob that wasn’t there before escaped my lips.
I heard running footsteps approaching me from behind, and voices calling my name. As I slowly turned around, I found my father and mother. With strained expressions, they ran all the way up to me.
“Hah… hah… Shiori, are you alright? A call came from the school, and we were worried…!”
“Are you injured? I heard you went through something terrible…!?”
Father and mother are worried about me. I’m happy about that, but… even raising a voice to calm their worries was… impossible for me. Instead, by embracing my mother, something inside of me finally snapped.
The black and swirling dark emotions within my chest began flowing out all at once. Along with my crying voice…
“UWAAA…. Mo…m… UWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!”
My expression is a mess. I can’t stop my tears from flowing. I’m definitely letting out a deplorable scream. But I couldn’t live without doing it. I mean, Kitsune-san has… died. He’s dead, meaning we’ll never meet again.
Our morning greeting,
eating lunch together,
secretly talking to each other in class,
playing together after school,
it’s all… over.
Just three months. If you compare it to the friends I’ve had until now, it’s my shortest relation. But within me, it’s probably… the most important one. That must be why I’m so sad. That must be why I’m spilling out these tears.
“Uwa…aa…! Kitsune-san! Don’t die…!! Why… why do you have to die…! What about our promise…!? Uwaaaaah!”
In my mother’s chest, I let out my mixed up emotions. There was no order or start or end. I just spit out whatever was on my mind. With those unstable emotions, my unstopping tears just continued to flow out.
Mother strongly held my body close. I can’t see her face, but her body is shaking. She’s also crying.
“Kitsune-san… he saved me…! He risked his life, and he fought for my sake…! But! I… if he was going to die, then I didn’t want his help at all!!”
From my mother’s arms, another pair of strong hands pulled me out. It was quite sudden, so I frantically turned around. There, my father, who always made a kind face, stared at me with a serious expression.
“Shiori… that’s the only thing you shouldn’t say! He fought for your sake…! And in that battle, he ended up saving you! His feelings, his bravery, they’re not something that the one who he saved should be denying!!”
“You have to live his share as well! You have to live happily! For the one who fought for you… that’s his last wish.”
Father’s words made me feel as if I had been smacked physically. With tears still streaming down my face, I looked at the unmoving Kitsune-san again. I slowly step towards him, and… clenched his cold hand.
“Kitsune-san… Kitsune-san…I’m fine, you see… because of you, I was saved…! Thank you… thank you…!”
I put together words, as I felt the hole in my chest get filled in ever-so-slightly.
Like that, by offering my thanks to Kitsune-san, I was forced to accept his death… It’s probable that those who lose their precious people have to look forward in times like these. They accept death, and to make sure what that person left behind never dies out, they have to shoulder it.
And if they spend a long time shouldering the weight of that person’s life, then slowly, that person’s existence, his worth, his feelings will fill in that hole in my chest.
And so, this is my first step.
“…! … This is…”
In Kitsune-san’s pocket was the Kitsune mask I had given him. Could it be that he had carried it with him this whole time? If that’s the case, I’m really… happy. I guess there was worth in picking it out so carefully… Kitsune-san, so you really liked it…
Ah, I see…
“I sure am an idiot… to notice it only after he’s gone…”
Perhaps it was because he was so close. The time I spent with Kitsune-san, the time that I spent next to him was so comfortable. I was always by his side, so I never noticed it.
“Goodbye Kitsune-san… I loved you…!”
… Had fallen in love with you.
After some time passed, Kitsune-san was taken to the morgue. For various things like calling his family, and various paperwork, the Shinozaki family stayed in the hospital. Father and mother still seem to be worried about me, but… It’s fine. If I keep crying forever, Kitsune-san will laugh at me.
While father and mother were talking to the doctor, I leaned back in the waiting room sofa. It’s already dark outside, and it looks like quite a bit of time has passed since that happened.
Alone, I gazed at the ceiling as I took a deep breath. After crying for a bit, I feel quite relieved. It’s not like I’ve completely accepted the fact of Kitsune-san’s death, but I think I’ve recovered enough of myself to carry out my daily life.
“… What should I do from tomorrow?”
Now that I think about it, the people I went to school with, ate lunch with, and played with were all Kitsune-san, and I’ve been quite distanced from the others… this is awkward.
“Ehehe… but Kitsune-san would definitely say something like…”
…. If talking to them is hard, just have them talk to you. See, they talk to me every day, right?
In the end, rather than talk, it was more like they were badmouthing you, dude, but I guess it all depends on how you look at it. Tomorrow, if I go to school, I’ll try calling out to someone. Boys… yeah, I’ll refrain from talking to boys for a while. I mean, something like that did happen…
“Fufufu, Kitsune-san sure is amazing…”
Even after he died, the Kitsune-san inside of me continues to cheer me up. I really was stuck to him. Thinking back, it’s a bit funny.
After a while of waiting, a flustered young nurse started running towards the doctor. I wonder what it is.
“D-doctor! It’s about Naginata Kitsune-kun!”
“… Did something happen to him?”
“Hah… hah… Naginata Kitsune-kun’s body… it vanished!”
“What!? What is this about…!?”
“I do not know… When I took my eyes off him for a second, his body disappeared without a trace!”
“… Search for it. There’s no way a corpse can move around on its own… it must be somewhere! Search!”
The nurse and the doctor run off with grim expressions. I looked over them in a daze.
At that time, within my heart, a strange premonition was born. Something beyond our comprehension is happening. Kitsune-san vanished, and this is definitely the start of something.
“Kitsune-san… where did you run off to…?”
At a volume low enough that no one could hear me, I whispered.
That was the instant that Kitsune disappeared from the world. And it was the instant where he crossed over to another, and started his second life.
◇ ◇ ◇
“Hahaha! This is nice. It leaves a nice feeling of pure love! This is why you humans are so interesting!”
White walls, floor and ceiling. No windows, or any furnishing. In a simple white room, a certain entity was happily smiling.
It was likely not human. It was in a humanistic form, but it was definitely something else, something out of the realm of common sense. Perhaps a concept, perhaps a law. Perhaps a lifeform, perhaps a spontaneity. Perhaps a world, perhaps a god. A large unknown, certain omnipotent something.
An existence like that was roaring with laughter in an empty white room.
“Yeah, yeah, but I guess it’s a pity to have such an interesting human die off so easily. And right now, I’m a bit into happy endings. But perhaps in the next three minutes, I’ll develop a taste for bad endings too… and so, why don’t you give it another go… Kitsune-san?”
Her appearance was that of a woman. Her characteristic dark hair was tinted with a bit of blue, and it grew about to the end of her shoulder blades. Her blue eyes gave off a mischievous impression, as they seemed to stare off at a distant something.
Her white and slender, feminine fingers suddenly pointed in front of her. And at the end of her finger, something changed. No, it wasn’t a something… Kitsune’s fate changed.
Death flipped itself into life.
A life that had ended would continue.
“Now, in that world, what will you end up doing?”
It’s uncertain whether it was alright to call her a woman, but that woman… that entity happily swayed its body from side to side as it raised the edges of its mouth.
And there, another existence was revealed. What appeared was a single girl. She carried a tidy atmosphere around herself, and her appearance seemed to be around 14. Her straight silky black hair extended to the back of her knees.
“So you’re still in business.”
“Oh my… um, Michiko-chan, it’s been a while.”
“That isn’t my name.”
“But Sakiko-chan, you never tell me what it is.”
“It ain’t Sakiko either. And wait, you can just stick –ko onto anything and think it’ll work.”
“Oh, could it be that your name is foreign?”
The girl that appeared was, like the one who had been there from the start, no human. She was the messenger, or perhaps the underling of an existence like hers. If something ever went majorly wrong, she was the existence that the other one could place the blame on, saying, ‘The secretary did it all.’ That sort of position.
“More importantly, you arbitrarily went and did something again, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, I revived a single human, and sent him to another world.”
“Do you think something like that would be permitted?”
“Who’s going to stop it? I’m the strongest, and I’m quite important, you know.”
The female licked her lips as she stood up. The girl sensed something bad, and retreated a step backwards.
But for some reason, the female was already standing behind her. She grabbed the girl’s slender shoulders strongly. The female’s eyes let off a suspicious and dangerous light, as if she were a beast who had found its prey.
“W-what are you trying to do?”
“Nonono, I thought it was best if I applied for Sachiko-chan’s permission.”
“I ain’t Sachi-ko. … and again, what are… hya!?”
The female licked the girl’s ear. The sensation caused her to leap forward with all her might. Her face was flushed, and she grasped her ear as she stared at the woman.
“Now how about I ask your body directly for some permission?”
“Thank you for the meal ♪.”
The female said that as she rushed at the girl. And for a little while after that, the girl’s screams echoed through the white space.
(Now then… Kitsune-kun, I’ve done this much for you, so… won’t you entertain me?)
The female had an amused smile on her face as she thought to herself.