By Furuhashi Hideyuki
Perhaps the end is something that drops by so abruptly on the most mundane of days.
The self-proclaimed newest-type bomb that fell that day reminded me so much of the girl I liked in high school, my heart skipped a beat.
Jowa, jowa, the cicadas swelteringly cried at the very height of summer.
“He who controls summer controls the fate of his exams”, I nodded along with that imperious slogan all the while, “But it can’t be summer yet. See, feel how cool it is outside,” or “If it wasn’t summer yesterday, it can’t just suddenly be summer today,” or so I kept making excuses even I couldn’t decipher, and a week of August had gone by. It was already autumn if the calender were to be believed. But it was definitely summer.
Incidentally, the mock exam that came back today put my acceptance rate at forty percent. ‘Needs Work’. The same as last year. If memory serves, I was around the same place the year before that.
This was my second year of prep school after graduating high school. I had more time to study, more time to slack off, and in the end it all evened out at zero. If anything had changed at all in that timeframe, it was only the fact I picked up smoking.
When my eyes followed the puff of smoke I breathed out, it stretched out high into the blue sky, disappearing into the gargantuan column of clouds.
This was unmistakably summer no matter how you looked at it.
“… Aaah, it’s hopeless.”
Tong, when my forehead struck the rooftop railing, the ash from the cigarette in my hand crumbled down.
“Nagashima, what are you gonging out for?”
I turned to my own name called from behind me, and there Tatsumi stood. She walked over briskly as ever, arbitrarily fished through my breast pocket for the cigarette pack, stuck one in her mouth and turned back up.
I held my lighter with both hands to light her smoke. Tatsumi was a college exam rechallenger, one year younger, though she was far more level-headed and confident than me.
“Thanks—so how’d it go?”
Tatsumi confiscated the mock exam results from my hand without waiting for an answer. She took a hard look over it, a guidance councilor’s look on her face before blowing out one long stream of smoke.
“Whoa, totally hopeless.”
“Erk.” I loosely leaned against the handrail.
“I’m not too smart.”
“Nah, that’s not it.”
“It’s not that you’re dumb, you’re just slow on the uptake… wait, guess they’re the same. Yep, got it. You’re dumb.”
“You don’t have to spell it out.”
“We can’t set up countermeasures if I don’t clearly define it. ‘If you’re not smart, put in effort’. Wrong?”
“… Not wrong.”
“And what about you, Tatsumi?”
“Not too shabby. I’ve been working hard.”
“Hey, don’t get down there. ‘An exam is a battle against yourself’, right? No use mulling over everyone else.”
“You have a point.”
I entrusted my back to the handrail, and lowered my hips. Tatsumi remained standing as she leaned against it and the two of us looked up at the sky.
Once that had gone on a while,
“… Now look here, Nagashima,” or so Tatsumi said.
“When you got mad at me, you just felt a weight lift from your shoulders, didn’t you.”
“Me? … A little.”
“And then it hit you, I should just ditch class today.”
I averted my eyes. My cheek stung under that look of hers.
“Hey, Nagashima… you ever hear about boiling frogs?”
“Well you see, if you throw a frog into boiling water, it’ll jump out in a panic, right?”
“Well yeah, makes sense.”
“But if you raise the temperature bit by bit, they’ll be cooked to death without even noticing it, I hear.”
“See any resemblance?”
“… Now someone’s harsh.”
“It’s a whip of love.”
Tatsumi crumbled the tip of her cigarette against the handrail to extinguish it. According to her, the back two-thirds of a cigarette were filled with ‘Carelessness Composite’ and shouldn’t be smoked.
“You can’t skip out on afternoon classes.”
Tatsumi left those words as she briskly walked off, a long cigarette end in one hand— but five steps in she turned, shuffled back, bent over and planted a kiss on my forehead.
“We promised we’d pass together, didn’t we?”
When Tatsumi was gone, I lay myself face up over the concrete floor.
I closed my eyes to the summer sun’s rays beating down and baking my body.
Yeah, it was hot.
While the heat may feel comfortable in this isolated instant, if I let myself stay like this, I’ll end up not as a boiled but a sundried frog.
Or so I thought as I reflected on the sensation of Tatsumi’s lips on my brow.
“I like your forehead, Nagashima.”
Tatsumi told me this year, at the start of spring. It was around the time we had just started dating. Being able to clearly state what she liked and disliked was her good point.
“But at this rate, you’re going to go bald in the future. It’s somewhat thrilling to watch.”
… She could be a little too clear at times.
As luck would have it, I really was part of a bald family; my dad and my uncle, my cousins and my late grandfather, every single male relative I knew was bald without any exception. The hairline starts receding in the late teens, and that baldness reaches the very top by your thirties, apparently. It had happened to them, it would probably happen to me.
I wasn’t looking forward to that.
I was already born with a forehead on the larger side, and my friends would jokingly call me baldy up to middle school; however, by the time we entered high school it wasn’t a joke anymore, and everyone did their best not to bring up my head. Why thanks for the consideration.
Ever since that point, there were only two people who ever said it to my face. Tatsumi, and one more before her— Hirosaki Hikari.
“Nagashima, you’re kinda like father.”
She said while looking at my head, and she probably meant my hair was growing thin. Tsk, fine, yes, I look old. Yes, I look bald.
Hirosaki was a classmate in my second year of high school and while we weren’t particularily close, she was a girl I found myself somewhat curious about.
Thin and pale and quiet, yet be that as it may, somewhat refreshing and high-class. Her body was weak so she was often away from school; because of that, she was treated more like a guest than a classmate, and to be blunt, she was a little cut-off. Perhaps she was bored out of mind during recess, I fondly remember the side of her face as she stared outside from her seat by the window.
I think I probably liked Hirosaki.
Of course, they were faint feelings not worth mentioning, and not the sort of strong emotions that would bring about any action but—
— In the midst of my bittersweet reflections, I spotted a black dot in the blue sky.
What could that be? A bird— too immobile for that; it didn’t look like a helicopter or blimp. The dot grew bigger and bigger as I was thinking.
Hyuuuuuuu— I heard the sound of the wind being sliced through.
It was a person. A person was falling from the empty skies even higher than this rooftop. A girl, no less.
I just barely might be able to see her panties from this position—no, that wasn’t the problem. I had to hurry and get up and run, or so I thought. But.
— Ah, saw them.
A hip attack from an unbelievable altitude ripped into my unguarded solar plexus. I folded my body, I writhed in agony.
When I swallowed a mouthful of vomit and raised my face to see a long-haired girl in a sailor suit rolling and rolling with the momentum from her fall until she finally slammed down on her bottom.
“Owowow, landing failed! What a klutzy girl am I~.”
Just who was this girl? Suddenly falling on someone, I think klutzy is the least of your problems. I may have been just a little happy at the sight, but that wasn’t enough to write this off.
“Oy, the hell are— huh?”
A familiar face, on closer inspection.
— No, was it really her? This Hirosaki was the spitting image of the one in my memory. To an uncanny extent.
Normally, give them three years and a girl turns into a completely different person; in the first place she had definitely graduated high school by now. A sailor suit was rather pushing it.
That being the case, if she was her little sister… I still got the feeling the resemblance was too strong. I tried asking her again.
Whatever the case, her answer to that one would make it clear— I had hoped.
“A little off.”
Hirosaki (?) offered a dubious response.
“My name is Pikari. Not Hikari, Pi Ka Ri,”
“The hell’s up with that?” I retorted on reflex. “I refuse to admit there’s a Japanese person in this world with that name.”
“I am not Japanese.”
“Liar. Then what breed of human are you?”
“I am not human.”
“I am a bomb.”
— Calm down, let’s process this situation.
“Umm, your name is Hirosaki Hikari… I mean Pikari.”
“And you’re not a human, you’re a ‘bomb’.”
“Yes, that’s right. The newest model.”
“Pull the other one.”
When I said that, “I have proof, look,” self-proclaimed Pikari pulled open her collar just enough I might be able to see a blouse underneath. Whoah now, what are you doing all of a sudden you sexual deviant!? I thought as I found myself already looking in that direction. Dark shadows cast over a prominent collarbone, conspicuously pale skin on her chest, and…
There was the ‘proof’ she spoke of.
It was shoved in right at the center, around where Ultraman had his color timer.
A thick, gold rim with a glass-pane cover housing the display of an analogue clock. The design of the hands and the numbers gave an antique feeling, like an old pocket watch had been embedded. The time pointed to around six thirty, its second hand was moving.
“Ahem… pardon me.”
When I closed my face in to look at her pale chest, I could hear the faint sound of moving gears.
— A real clock was embedded in her chest…? It was hard to believe anyone would go this far for a joke. Was it some sort of medical device? A pacemaker, for instance… no, a pace maker didn’t have a display.
What’s more, on closer inspection, the clock’s second-hand movements were all over the place. Tic, tic, tic, tic, when I thought it had gone forward four seconds, tic, tic, tic, it turned back three. Not only that that, after it had stayed motionless around five seconds, tictictictictic, it shot forward all at once.
“… What’s this?”
My mutter received a swift response.
“It is the Doki-Doki☆Doomsday Clock.”
… I didn’t really get it, but that sounded shady as hell.
“And what does it do?”
“In plain terms, it’s my detonator.” She said as, with maiden-like gestures, she gently placed both her hands over the clock. “Those sorts of adolescent heart-racing scenarios will make time move forward, and when the clock strikes twelve, then BOOOOM!!”
She took me by complete surprise when she suddenly raised her voice. I tripped.
“— Is the sound it will make.”
My knees had given out on me, and she presented out her small white hand.
“And so, let’s get right to it and go on a date.”
“I see… wait, what? Get to what?”
“Meaning we’ll get all sorts of heartthrobs by going on a date, and BOOOM!!”
“— It’ll go.”
“… I see.”
I took Pikari’s hand, still somewhat incomprehensive.
The sound of unfurling springs sounded from her chest.
“Ah, my heart just skipped a beat when you held my hand! Have a look, have a look!”
Pikari thrust her open chest out before me once more.
“What time is it now?”
“Umm… a little past seven.”
It had progressed close to thirty minutes in one fell swoop.
Pikari tugged and tugged at my hand towards the exit to the roof.
“Then let’s keep it up! Just like that, and then Booom!! How about it!”
“… Yeah, sure, but putting that boom aside—you can’t see the clock yourself?”
She stretched open her collar and tucked her head down as far as it would go.
“Gnnnnnnnnhnnnn…… j-just barely…”
It was surprisingly inconvenient.
Even so, the reason I readily followed this dubious somewhat idiotic girl was simply that I didn’t want to attend afternoon classes.
We made for the front of the station together. Personally, I was just planning to arbitrarily kill some time and go home around sunset. And—
“Ah, your arm! May I grab your arm!?”
“… Yeah, sure, go ahead.”
Pikari achieved a firm stranglehold on my arm.
“Hooray! Ah, you feel a little reliable! My heart’s racing again!”
Crrrrrrrrk— her chest let out its sound. When I checked the display, it had gone forward around twenty minutes. It was at seven twenty. It continued on.
“Ah, will you please buy me one of those dirt cheap accessories from that street stall!?”
“Well why not.”
Crrrrrk— eight o’ five.
“Ah, what about that movie they’re screening over there! I haven’t heard a single good thing about it, but it’s still a hit for some reason!”
“Yeah, a movie might be nice.”
“Ah, a photo booth! Let’s take one together! It’s a funny face contest!”
“Sure, you’re on.”
Crrrrrk— nine o’ five.
“Ah, those benches over there kinda look tasteful! It’ll be totally fashionable if we look over the town and talk about love! Waah, what amazing scenery!!”
“… You’re pretty excitable.”
When I muttered, she bashfully scratched her head.
“Oh, not that much.”
“No, that wasn’t a compliment.”
Well, as I kept a watch over her, I was beginning to think, ‘this girl might be a little different from Hirosaki’.
Hirosaki’s body was weak, but she wasn’t particularly dumb.
That being the case, it wasn’t like I knew too much about Hirosaki.
We had only ever properly spoke once. The second year of high school, after school—
Sunset was close, the west sun streamed in diagonally down the passage I happened to pass by. There was a single female student crouched down. She contained her chest in pain, her long hair covering her face like a ghost.
“Hey, what’s wrong?”
When I ran over and called out, I found out it was Hirosaki.
“… My… pocket…”
“Eh… pocket? Your skirt’s?”
Hirosaki nodded. That was the first time I realized the female school uniform’s skirt even had pockets, but somehow or another, I managed to open the fastener and thrust my hand in.
My fingers brushed up against something hard.
“This? I’m taking it out.”
It was a small case one might keep breath fresheners in. When I produced a bead from it and handed it over, Hirosaki ferried it into her mouth. The way she placed the pill under her curled tongue made my heart skip a beat.
“Should I call someone?”
I asked in half a panic, but Hirosaki extended her slender hand and grasped the lapels of my uniform.
“A-alright, then I’ll stay here. Umm, you know, it’ll be alright.”
What was going to be alright? I said it without any basis as I moved my open hand airily over the girl’s shoulder. I couldn’t determine whether I should pat her shoulder to pep her up, or if I was better off not touching her. Had anyone seen us, I’m pretty sure it would have looked like the healing ceremony of some shady religious cult.
A long, boundless time passed by the girl who wandered the boundaries of life and death—or so it felt to me, but presumably less than a minute had transpired before her breathing was calm.
“… Thank you.”
She held the medicine in her mouth, speaking with somewhat of a lisp. The complexion was returning to her pale face. When she noticed her hand grasping my collar, she let go, stood, and fixed her hair as her face turned more and more vibrant.
“A fit suddenly came, I panicked.”
— In that case, was this one of those chronic ailments? I thought, but hesitated to inquire about someone else’s body.
“Are you alright, Hirosaki?” Was all I said, yet her face was colored in surprise, and just a little bit of joy.
“Nagashima, you remember my name?”
“Yeah, I mean we’re in the same class, and you take off so often you stick out like a sore thumb… ah, sorry.”
“Nah, it’s fine.”
“… I’m more surprised you know who I am.”
“Well we’re in the same class… and I often see you looking out the window too.”
“… ? … Ah, right.”
I ambiguously nodded. It was far too embarrassing to tell her ‘I was actually looking at you’. Had she noticed? had she not? She smiled at me with upturned eyes.
“Nagashima, do you ever imagine it?”
“Ah, sorry. I guess I should explain… you see, I always imagine.”
Hirosaki pointed outside of the corridor window. From the third floor, she pointed beyond the grounds where the baseball club was practicing, she surveyed far into town.
“If a bomb dropped over there.”
“Right, it’ll go boooom! And then, the town and its people will be blown away, a large mushroom cloud will rise over the desolate ruins.”
“… You think up some scary things.”
“Eh? … Yeah, you’re right. I guess you’re right.”
Hirosaki said, her eyes narrowing as if she was gazing at the mushroom cloud she imagined.
“But it will be terribly pretty…”
By now, the sun was setting outside of the window as shades of red came upon us.
I followed Hirosaki’s eyes and imagined the scenery myself.
Rising right up from the sunset town like a kaiju, reflecting the light of the golden evening sun, a massive mushroom cloud. It was quite the apocalyptic view, but the sights, no perhaps that was precisely why—
“It definitely might be pretty…”
I inadvertently muttered.
She said, her face lighting right up.
I took her to the infirmary after that, but the nurse was gone and the place was walked. So there,
“… Then, well, partway,”
I said some arbitrary things and we returned side by side. I had never known our houses were in the same direction.
“… You know. I always wanted to try talking to you, Nagashima,” Hirosaki said.
“Hmm, why?” I replied as if I didn’t care, but was quite happy inside.
“Who knows? Just kinda wanted to.”
“What’s up with that?”
I would very much like to hear your reasoning.
“Yeaaaah, well, probably…”
Hirosaki thought and thought and then continued on.
“I haven’t played with my friends much ever since I couldn’t be active anymore.”
“So I’m a little bad at talking to kids my age.”
“I’m also one of those kids your age, you know.”
She took a glance at my head.
“Nagashima, you’re kinda like father, so…”
— Am I really that bald?
My inner turmoil must have gotten across as that’s where the conversation ended.
We were lined up silently as we walked down what had become quite the dark path.
Going by the order, I got the feeling I was the one who had to bring up the topic, but at the same time, I wasn’t great at talking to girls. Honestly, I couldn’t hold my own. I found myself bringing up what she’d just gone through.
“So Hirosaki… what was that medicine back there?”
“Hm? Oh, this?”
She tapped against the hip of her skirt. Her pocket’s contents let off a rattling sound.
“Nitro… wait, isn’t that the base component of dynamite? Is it alright to eat that?”
“Perfectly fine. I’m not going to explode.”
Hirosaki laughed. She smiles surprisingly easily, I thought.
“It’s a medicine for the heart. When you’re having a fit, it widens the heart’s blood vessels.”
“Did you know? Nitro’s actually pretty sweet… the taste’s still in my mouth.”
She said, her tongue fishing around her mouth. She suddenly came to a stop and looked up at me.
“So if you kiss me now, I’m sure it’ll be sweet.”
We parted ways at the next intersection.
— Was she just saying it was okay to kiss her!? I finally noticed. Crap, I wasted my chance.
And in the hopes of that chance coming one more time, I thought over what I would say the next time we met— I spend a sleepless night trying to think of some cool line that didn’t sound too desperate, but the next school day when I met her, she greeted me normally like nothing had happened. I thought it would be uncouth to bring it back up. I decided to forget it.
That’s all there really was to it.
It wasn’t like Hirosaki was the only thing on my mind. There were exams, my future, finals, late night shows and baseball games, the release date for the album for the band I liked, there were plenty of things that would occasionally take my mind more than her.
Even after that, Hirosaki would be gazing out the classroom window (probably imagining bombs and mushroom clouds), and I would absentmindedly gaze at her. When our eyes met, we’d share a bashful laugh, but it wasn’t as if there were any real developments after that.
We were in different classes the next year, at most passing by each other in the corridor from time to time.
I hadn’t met her a single time since I graduated high school.
— And so, the reason I’m letting myself be dragged around by this mysterious idiot might just be to “Get another chance at that moment”. Incredibly despicable, come to think about it.
In the first place, one mustn’t toy with a young girl’s feelings half for laughs.
— I’ve already got Tatsumi, I’m sure you’ll find someone nice.
Or so I thought over what irresponsible adult line I’d say, musing over how it was honestly becoming a bit of a pain, over how Tatsumi would be extraordinarily angry if she knew I was loitering around here. It was a bit early, but I was beginning to think it was time to call it a wrap when, “It’s surprisingly hot here,” Pikari said.
“Yeah, the view’s pretty nice, but there’s no wind today.”
Jowa, jowa, the cicadas chirped. The sun violently beat down on the park bench on the hill overlooking the city making it murderously hot.
I wiped the sweat from my brow. The sweat from Pikari’s temple pooled on her chin and dropped.
A sudden blast wave had me tumbling off the bench.
“W-what? What was that?”
I scanned my surroundings in a frenzy.
“Ah, sorry. That one was Pikari,” Pikari said as further drops of sweat continued falling from the tip of her chin.
“What? Nothing particular. I’m a bomb and all.”
She wiped away the sweat on her brow with her fingertip and nonchalantly flicked it aside.
The sweat drips combusted the moment they fell, they raised a smoke-cloud that reached around waist height.
“Wowowow that’s dangerous!”
So sweat was no good. I hurriedly evacuated her into a neighborhood café.
“Hyaah, that’s cool!”
Pikari wiped her face with a cold, wet towel, and then like a middle-aged man, went on to wipe her ears and her nape. That wasn’t the end of it, she plunged her hand into the sleeve of her shirt and began rubbing against her armpits.
How uncultured, I thought, but I could ignore that much.
“Excuse meee! One of these Lovers’ Sweet Jumbo Parfait, please!!”
As she waved the menu over her head to place an order, I timidly asked.
“… You’re not going to explode the store, are you?”
She answered quite at east.
“That hardly counted as an explosion. A bit of my components just leaked out is all.”
Pikari ignored my question and spoke while polishing off the clock face on her chest.
“I won’t properly detonate unless it’s from here.”
I was finally beginning to consider the word’s meaning in earnest.
Pikari’s clock showed a little past ten thirty (it had advanced quite a bit…). Once it reached twelve, this kid presumably really would– literally explode.
Were there any means to stop it? Was I better off taking a safe distance?
In the first place, was she alright with that?
— Whatever it was, I would have to start by getting a better grasp on her identity.
I tried asking as the two of us pecked at the jumbo parfait.
“So what are you anyway? A robot with a self destruct button or something? Come to think of it, you did fall from the sky.”
Pikari raised her face. Her expression was plastered over with a wry smile.
“A robot? This isn’t some manga.”
— Hey, who’s talking here! I endured my retort to let her speak.
“Why Pikari’s body is made out of Hyper PNT.”
“To put it simply, my entire body is a living explosive.”
“By explosive, are we talking about dynamite or TNT?”
“On a completely different level. Even a nuclear warhead couldn’t match up.”
She turned her chest with just a little bit of pride.
“HPNT is a hyperdimensional compound with a regular pentachoron base, and it’s got one trillion times the output of TNT. It’s going to be amazing, I tell ya.”
“One trillion… w-wait. How much do you weigh?”
“Oh how embarrassing.”
I took out one of the table’s paper napkins.
“… Well let’s say you’re hypothetically fifty kilograms.”
My fingernail smeared a chocolate sauce ‘50’ on the napkin, and I tapped in twelve dots after that to represent zeroes. That was one trillion.
“Take off three zeroes for tons, then kilo, mega, giga—fifty gigatons!? Even the hydrogen bomb didn’t have that much!”
“Oh, not that much.”
“I’m not praising you!”
I sprung to my feet.
“When you explode, everyone here will die!”
“Umm… not just here, I’m pretty sure the entire Kantou region will be wiped off the map.”
“Why are you so calm about all this. We’re talking about lives here…!”
… The store had sunk to silence. Everyone was looking at me for raising my voice.
But that was the least of my problems. I looked down at Pikari. She looked back a dazed look on her face, but eventually turned away and pouted.
“Lives are lives.” She said with a spoonful of parfait. “… But I’m a bomb.”
— What was this off-sense I was getting? It was almost like I was talking to a youkai or something. Just what was she? What was I supposed to do with her?
“… Fine, got it.”
I calmed myself best I could manage and sat down.
“You’re a bomb, you want to explode, and that’s probably something incredibly important to you. Is that right?”
She raised her face. A little happy, terribly sincere. But—
“Can’t you do that where no one’s around? Like the middle of the pacific, or space?”
I said. Her expression quickly clouded over.
“I mean… out there, there’s no heart throbbing…”
“So what do you need?”
“… Well, walking while holding hands… or flirting, you know…”
“Go do that on your own.”
“I can’t do it alone. If you’re not there, Nagashima…”
“— What have I got to do with this?”
Pikari’s face shot up. There were tears in both her eyes for some reason.
I retreated to the shadow of my chair just as the tears fell in large drops.
An explosion equal to exceeding her sweat burst forth.
The table was smashed to smithereens, the parfait fell on my head. Beyond the dust rocketed into the air, I could see Pikari’s back as she surmounted the broken glass of the window and raced off.
I didn’t have any leads, I called her name as I raced back and forth between the prep store and the station.
— There’s no way I can leave that walking hazard to her own devices.
There was that.
— If she’s to be believed, if I don’t persuade her to stop, tens of millions will wind up dead
There was that.
But that wasn’t all. She had just called me Nagashima, and I’d never given her my name. She hadn’t just appeared before me by chance, she knew who Iw as from the start.
The next I spotted Pikari was in the park with the hill. The sun was already setting, and her form leaned up against the observation deck fence had become a dark silhouette.
“Ah, you really found me. That got my heart racing a bit.”
She happily turned as if none of that happened.
Crrrrrrk— the hand on the display peeking out from her chest moved forward, pointing to ten minutes before twelve.
“… The scenery here is great, isn’t it.”
She turned back to watch the townscape below her eyes.
“An amazing sunset…”
“You… really are Hirasaki Hikari, aren’t you.”
I asked what I’d been wondering for a while now. And,
“A little off though.”
As expected, she returned that same cryptic answer from before.
I continued on regardless.
“… Hirosaki, why are you calling yourself a bomb? Are you talking about suicide? … No, in this case, forced double suicide. Why are you dragging so many strangers down with you?”
She tilted her head.
“Suicide, and dragging down, that’s not the feeling I’m getting. It’s not that I want anyone to die, I just want to wrap it up nicely…”
“They’re the same thing. You’re forcibly taking people who don’t want to die down with you.”
She sounded rather perplexed.
“You think so? You think they all don’t want to die?”
“… What are you talking about? That’s obvious.”
“You think so? I think they’re just lacking the determination a bit.”
“What are you saying—”
“Hey, try imagining it.”
She narrowed her eyes. As the sunset lit the side of her face, she could be none other than Hirosaki Hikari herself.
“This messy little town, and all the jumble beyond it blown away in an instant, and all that remains is one large, pretty mushroom cloud. Isn’t that better? Don’t you think so, Nagashima?”
“Why am I—”
“I mean, Nagashima, you never wanted to grow up, did you?”
Her pale arms gracefully stretched out to gently clasp the collar of my shirt.
“Living is a terrible hassle, isn’t it? You get anxious when you can’t see ahead, but even so, it’s just despair when you do catch a glimpse. The near and distant future, they’re both nothing but pain you know.”
“… What are you talking about, Hirosaki…”
“That’s why everyone gets so focused on what’s right before their eyes; they pretend like they can forget, but the truth is that everyone’s thinking it— ‘won’t someone just end it for me’ you know.”
I couldn’t move from the spot. I couldn’t brush away her slender arms, try as I might.
“… So how about we put an end to it? Send the future flying with a booom, and this glittering present will be an eternity. Everyone will rejoice, ‘we’re better off that way’. Though they won’t have the time for joy.”
She spoke almost like she was voicing the whispers of the devil… no, that was wrong. She really thought so. She honestly thought she was speaking in the best interest of me and her and everyone else.
— And she was probably right.
The hands on her chest clock were spinning at a tremendous pace.
The minute hand was once again moving before my eyes.
Five minutes to go—
Four minutes to go—
“It’s the heart throbbing climax.”
She muttered. She turned her head up, she closed her eyes.
“I’m sure it’ll be sweet…”
Three minutes to go—
Two minutes to go—
I knew what to do.
To support up her cheek and kiss her— that alone and our world would end.
One minute to go—
I had no reason to refuse. It was something I myself actually longed for as well.
She was making a terribly confused face.
I found it surprising myself. Even I didn’t know why I didn’t do it.
The clock hands had stopped at eleven fifty-nine.
Tic, tic, tic, tic—
The second hand paced back and forth between fifty-eight and fifty-nine a number of times.
“… I see.”
Hirosaki Hikari had noticed something before me.
She took one conspicuously large breath and smiled.
“Your future already belongs to someone else.”
“I see, so that’s it… I had loved you all this time, but Nagashima, you’ve fallen for someone else…”
She released her hands from me and retreated three steps back.
“Sadly I’m out of time—bye-bye.”
She said with a lonesome smile, large tears spilling down her pace.
With nothing but the sound of a small burst, she was gone.
I was standing alone in the park where the sun had long since set.
One dot at a time, the street lights were beginning to flick on in the town below.
Before the day was over, word came to my house that Hirosaki Hikari had died from complications relating to her heart disease.
It happened in the hospital, right around the time she’d been in the park with me.
When I arrived at prep school two days after that, Tatsumi suddenly struck my head from behind.
“After everything I told you, where have you been for two days!?”
“Ah, right. I was at a friend’s funeral.”
“Oh… sorry. Nothing we can do about that.”
She gently began rubbing against it to make up for the hit. Stop it, you’ll lose me my follicles.
“So who were they to you? A relative?”
“Nah, a classmate from high school, a girl I only ever talked to once.”
“Then she’s a complete stranger!”
She hit me again.
“… But she did leave me something.”
I carefully stroked the back of my head as I took out a golden pocket watch and plunked it down on the table. It was an aged antique that originally belonged to Hirosaki Hikari’s father who died early, and she apparently wrote in her will that she wanted me to have it.
“Hmm, is it worth anything?”
“It doesn’t work.”
“What’s up with that? Sure she’s not just mocking you?”
A side glance to Tatsumi with a cigarette in her mouth, I swiftly produced my reference book from my bag and opened it on the table.
“My, my, someone’s motivated today.”
“Pretty much. Brushing up with someone’s death had me learn how precious this limited life is.”
“Well look who’s talking.”
I took a glance at the pocket watch.
Its hands had stopped at eleven hours, fifty-nine minutes, fifty-nine seconds.
Her time had come to a stop, but our own time was still slowly flowing forward.
“So you know, Tatsumi.”
“I’m gonna go bald someday.”
“It’s a bit late for that.”
She flopped a hand down on the top of my head.