Day 18: …
“… Well then, let’s talk again tomorrow.”
‘Yeah, call me anytime. Be careful on the roads at night.’
After leaving those words, the phone line was easily severed.
I let out a light sigh, pushing the ‘End Call’ marker on the screen.
… Quite some time has passed since I was put in charge of Akira as a Mary-san in training. I don’t know my specific time or place, but even so, I can at least tell I’ve gotten considerably closer to him.
I doubt there’s more than two weeks left of the time I can spend talking to him. I mean, after that, I’m going to reach the place that person lives.
Shaking my head, I continue moving the legs that haven’t stopped since they departed Nagasaki.
Step by step, step by step. One foot in front of the next, like passing a thread through a cloth, each step takes me that much closer. The path I had thought endless at the start, before I noticed it, I had gone down more than half of it.
When I look to the sky, I see the sun sink. That very moment… from here on, the night begins. Only a little to go before the evening lights dissipate from the western sky.
Night… from times of old, it had always been the time for irregularities.
The sun’s demise robs away the blessing of light, letting the darkness conceive all manner of spirits and fiends. In the present era, the light of night is barely any different from that of day, but even so, there isn’t even any space to question the fact that it exists for existences such as me.
…But I wonder why it is. To be perfectly honest, the current me doesn’t particularly find enjoyment in this time called night.
The sun sleeps, the town sleeps, the people sleep… in that time, all alone, unseen by any, my feet continue on to some point far, far away. I can’t see it, but I’m certain something tangible inside me is slowly whittling away.
Is this ‘Anxiety’?
… How peculiar. When I was once a being that clad itself in the very notion, come so far, I’ve finally gotten around to feeling it myself.
“… It’s all Akira’s fault.”
I quietly mutter what’s on my mind.
… That’s right, this is surely Akira’s fault. It’s because the time I spend with that person is too fun that the moon’s light, this silent night interrupted only by the bugs’ cries and the wild birds’ caws got to be so boring to me.
The question hit me.
To me, just what sort of person is he?
“… The target. A big brother who plays with me. A friend.”
And the words that followed on were tucked in my chest. I get the feeling my face heated up just a smidgen.
When I first met him, perhaps some part of me had been too eager. I made my resolution, and I acted solely to make sure that resolution wasn’t a lie.
… But the current me has changed just a little since then.
“… He’s too loose, that person.”
Right, loose… and kind. If I wanted to express that person in words, those are quite likely the ones that hit the mark.
Still much too green as an urban legend, in these past few weeks- for better or worse- I’ve received Akira’s influence, and changed just a little from it. I’m not really sure if that’s what you call growth, though.
Of course, if I think of it as an irregularity, ever since I got around to talking to that person, perhaps I’ve grown weaker, in a sense.
I mean, when I started off this journey, I never felt the loneliness of the night roads to such an extent. I could say I wanted to become Mary-san, and those feelings were all I needed to press onwards, walk on.
But now, I get the feeling something’s different… of course, nothing’s changed in my desire to become Mary-san. But more than that, it’s like I’m walking in a way that I can stick out my chest and tell Akira, ‘I did my best today’. It’s like I’m walking for the sake of the happiness I get from the crude words of praise he’d toss me afterward.
… Only two weeks left. Two weeks is barely any time at all. I keep talking and talking with Akira, but even so, the words I want to tell him keep gushing out like a spring.
It was only after those thoughts that I noticed I was sighing.
I look up as I walk under the sky on the verge of darkness.
Another step forward, another into the distance.
As I go on, the surroundings gradually grow dimmer.
Fewer and fewer people pass me by. The only sounds I can hear are the birds and bugs sounding their songs through the forest; the rustle carried by the wind; the occasional sound of passing cars… that’s all it’s become.
A lukewarm breeze brings the sort of air to make one sullen, and my face breaks into a slight frown.
Because I’m an irregularity, I won’t tire no matter how far I walk, and my body cannot be dirtied. I don’t have any need to eat food, and I’m sure wherever I am, I’d be able to continue existing on my own… and yet.
“… I want to hear his voice.”
I wonder why being alone has become so lonely.
Words solemnly spill out of the depths of my heart, causing me to frantically cover my mouth.
“T-that won’t do, that won’t do! At this rate, he’s just going to tease me again.”
It’s right time for me to furnish my body with an irregularity’s style or dignity, or that sort of thing. The way things are going, Akira’s going to end up laughing.
Shaking off a sigh, don’t mind it, don’t mind it, I cast a spell on myself, walking on and on and on… It was there that I noticed a certain something.
… I’ll go and meet that person, but what will I do after that?
I’ll become Mary-san. That’s something that’s already been decided, I have no intent to rethink it… but what else?
To me, this is the most fun I’ve had in my life, and at this very moment, I’m satisfied.
In that case… when I can no longer speak with that person, what can I do?
“… Thinking over this sort of thing will just be a bother to that guy as well.”
I try saying those painfully obvious words.
I mean, I’m sure that to that person, I’m just a bit of a strange summer memory. Among the hundreds of summers he’ll experience in his human life, a mere singularity. The fragment of a memory gone by… this very moment aside, given time, I’m sure that within that person, that’s all I’ll ever end up.
“… That goes without saying.”
But, the but in my mind won’t go away.
I’ve talked some about it with Akira, but being possessed by an irregularity like me is essentially an abominable occurrence, not a good thing at all. The reason being, as the name implies, irregularities are strange and irregular things.
To humans, there’s no doubt our existences are a hundred minuses without a single plus.
For example, as things stand, because Akira associates himself with someone like me, he ends up completely wasting his afternoons… no, when I use my clairvoyance to look at him, he’s always either sleeping or reading a book, so I’m not really sure about that.
I give just a slight laugh; I know I still have a long way to go.
Step by step, one foot at a time, I continue to walk. The sky has already turned pitch-black.
Terribly hazy and unreliable, the cloud-concealed moon lights up the night path.
I wonder what Akira is doing right now. I firmly endure the urge to peek on his with clairvoyance.
… because it would be terrible if he was in the bath or something. Last time, I ended up catching a peep of precisely that scene. Of course, I cut it at once, but my heart was racing, and the next day, I found myself talking to him awkwardly. I don’t want to repeat that mistake again.
… Of course, before that comes into question, peeping is no good. But that part is Mary-san’s special privilege.
As I thought over such a thing, a strong wind suddenly blew. The wind that sucked up the heat from the asphalt was clad in an oppressive warmth, making me reflexively stop and turn my face.
… The market listing for summer lists it as a hot item, but can’t they do something about this? It’s impossible for me to come down with heat stroke, and I don’t sweat either, but even so, hot things are hot. In regards to that field, as I thought, this must be my immaturity as a half-baked irregularity.
I let out a sigh as I begin walking anew.
At the same time. I thought my heart might stop.
… Are those… eyes? Floating in the darkness, two small, green, glowing points of light. Such points were staring straight at me.
“… W-what could it be? Do you need something from me?”
Even if I moved a little to the side, the eyes looked at me.
Even when I tried taking some light jumps up and down, they looked at me.
Even when I tried erasing my shrunken presence, they looked at me.
“W-what do I do… eyes? And eye, irregularity?”
There’s no doubt an existence of only eyes would have to be an irregularity. But did such a peculiar irregularity really exist…?
As I thought and observed it, the entity showed its true colors.
“It’s just a cat…”
I hung my head in disappointment.
… The true form of the eyes was a pitch-black cat. The sort that was so very easy to overlook, whose brilliant black body was right at home in the night.
“I need to get a grip on myself…”
I wanted to hold my head.
No matter how hard I emphasize the trainee part, I’m still an irregularity. For me to take a cat for a kindred spirit, just how immature could I be? I even have clairvoyance, an ability specialized for seeing.
… If you’ll take my excuses, when taken by surprise, the reactions of a human, irregularity or animal aren’t too different. Yes, let’s leave it at that.
“On a night walk? You’re pitch-black, so you have to be careful you don’t get in the way of cars.”
I crouched down and met its eye level before saying it.
Whether the cat understood my words or not, naa, it cried.
And perhaps it lost interest in me, as it started using its forepaws to clean its face. After that, unaa, it gave a yawn, making a rumbling sound in the back of its throat.
… As I watched over such a phenomenon, a certain question sprouted within me.
Perhaps. Just perhaps.
… Could the cutest lifeform in the world possibly be this lifeform called a cat?
I tried saying. Unaa? She purred and tilted her head.
I impulsively pluck a weed growing in the area and present it out before Ms. Cat.
As I shake it back and forth, Ms. Cat chases with a face as if she didn’t have anything on her mind.
Her whole head following that left and right swaying motion, at times, she would raise a paw to unleash a cat punch.
If I tried moving it closer and further away, she punched it the moment it was in range, falling for the feints I sometimes threw in, and pulling her forepaws in as if she had lost her way.
When I increased the number to two, the cat’s eyes could no longer give chase as she spun her attention round and round. Failing as she tried to grasp them with both paws, her form as she planted into the ground was chest-tighteningly lovable.
After spending some time in silence, I suddenly come back to my senses.
… Just how many minutes have a spent here?
“… T-this will not do, this will not do! I’m going to become Mary-san! I cannot be led astray, I must move forward!”
I inspire myself and shake off my urge to play with the cat.
I’m going to walk. I’ll walk and walk and have Akira praise me again tomorrow.
I stand, then crouch down again to talk with Ms. Cat.
“I’m sorry I don’t have anything to feed you. But thank you for playing with me… if we meet again, let’s have some more fun, okay?”
I said and tried to pet her head, but Ms. Cat quickly fled to the side and left.
… It seems physical contact is impossible.
Feeling a little lonely, I raise my hips.
Now back to the journey. More than five hundred, less than one thousand kilometers left, I’ll splendidly walk it all.
The moment I thought, the moment I stood.
… My eyes opened wide.
Down the roadway right beside me, meaning, the roadway the path had leapt into not a moment ago. From behind me, a car came racing down it at an incredible speed.
I leaked a scream I couldn’t put into words.
On the road, the cat’s body stood stiffly in surprise, right on the car’s path.
Was the cat’s coloration its undoing? The person driving the car didn’t notice her, showing no signs of lowering speed.
Only a few seconds to go.
I’m sure the cat will be run over without doing anything against it.
… So at that instant, I didn’t have a single thought on my mind.
With nothing but the simply the single mind not to see a scene of Ms. Cat’s death.
… With nothing but that simply mind, I jumped out onto the road.
“… Stupid kid, be careful next time!”
Leaving that jeer, the car left with the same momentum it came.
I could only gaze over the distancing car in a daze.
Only after a few dozen seconds pass, the feeling finally comes back to me.
My body collapsed over the side of the road. In my arms, the sensation of a cat hissing and writhing to get out. It does seem… it does seem I miraculously made it in time, and neither I nor the cat ended up getting hit.
The power drains from my body.
… I was scared. I was truly scared.
I’m an irregularity, I doubt I would die. But that emotion I felt when I leapt out before the car was undoubtedly that which I had never felt before… it was Fear.
Slipping out of my arms in my dazed state, the cat made its escape.
From its light step, it didn’t seem to be injured. I’m relieved it wasn’t anything serious.
If it was another second, another instant later, I wouldn’t have made it.
“… Don’t go out onto the roads again.”
When I half-monologued to the cat who had long-since fled into the grass, naa, a response came back. Such a vague reply left me with some peace of mind. I hope she properly takes it to heart and takes care next time.
The cat’s shadow disappeared into the thicket, leaving me alone. As if everything that happened had been a lie, only a summer night returned to silence remained.
“… Thank god.”
I absentmindedly mutter.
no matter how it went down, I managed to save a life about to be extinguished before my eyes. At the very least, I myself am proud of it.
I pat the dirt off my clothes as I stand. Sucking in some air, I take a deep breath.
The discomfort I feel like plucking from all over my body, with each breath, it becomes thinner. Within the next few tens of seconds, my scrapes and bruises disappear, I’m completely healed.
… What had just been covering my whole body, that sensation so difficult to express. That sensation that made me want to cry out. I’m sure it was that thing called, ‘pain’.
A while passes without me able to think about anything. After a few minutes, my head finally begins functioning properly.
“… I have to start walking. I’m on the middle… of a journey… this isn’t the place for me to waste my time.”
- I’m sure I thought so as I tried to start walking.
Raise my leg just a little, move it ahead, incline my center of gravity forward, and use that force to put out my other leg. Repeat… it’s simple, a motion more simple than anything. For the little children in kindergarten, walking is something they easily pull off.
And yet… for some reason, I can’t move.
The motion of lifting my leg a little and stepping forward.
… I cannot do such a simple thing. I’m transfixed as If I’ve been sown to the spot.
I cannot move a single stepped.
“… This has to be… a joke. I’ve grown just a little tired of walking, so I’m telling a joke to distract myself.”
I said such a thing, tried bringing up the ‘tiredness’ an urban legend never felt, and try playing off my unmoving feet as a lie.
But even if I do that, my feet don’t move. Not a single step, no, forget a step, even a half-step is impossible.
I try starting from the left foot instead of the right. As expected, my foot is heavy as if it’s made of lead, it won’t even move a step’s worth.
“Why. Why won’t my legs move…?”
I ask the darkness without anyone to answer.
Of course, no answer returns.
… In that case, just who in the world would know the answer to that question?
“I’m not… thinking it…”
Before even I could realize it, it came out of my mouth.
“I’m not thinking it. I’m not thinking it. I’m not thinking such a thing at all. I’m not considering such a thing. I’m not thinking of making what I’ve decided for myself a lie. I’m…”
… I should’ve stopped there.
My mouth ended up spitting out those words.
“… not thinking that I don’t want to walk anymore.”
… The moment it came out of my mouth, I unintentionally fall onto the ground. The rugged feel of road feels like the happenings of some distant world.
“… I mean, I decided I would become Mary-san.”
The moment I thought that, the sensation I had just gotten my first taste of… pain came over me again.
The moment I was aware of that, the motion I had gotten my first taste of… fear revived.
My body trembles.
No matter how I try to stop this shaking, it won’t stop for me.
The answer to the question spills from my own lips.
“… I have pain. I’m scared… I mean.”
If I hadn’t saved that cat from before, what would have happened?
“She would’ve been in pieces… she would’ve died.”
Such an obvious fact quietly escapes my lips.
I cannot stand. I’m unable to stand.
Without any say in it, my body was rejecting the notion of moving from here.
My head feels like it’s going to split.
I mean, uncle smiled. That’s why I wanted to become Mary-san. And yet, Ms. Cat was suddenly on the verge of death. Meaning someone dying unfairly, unnaturally was an obvious occurrence. But I didn’t know something so obvious until this very moment. Despite that, I came under such an arbitrary notion that I might be able to help someone. Believing in such a thing for so long, I continued putting one step in front of the other. Yet learning such an obvious fact at the end of it, what was I so scared of…
“… I… am…”
As I said that, the pain in my head suddenly grew faint.
I breathe out a big sigh, I inhale some air.
In my melting thought pattern, only the sensation of the tepid, moist air seeping into my body is clear and certain to me. What am I supposed to do now? What should I do? I couldn’t even know that anymore…
… And that’s why I made a call to that person.