Three days later and Orino-san and Kagurai-senpai were still unaccounted for. I called again a nd again, but they were out of range all the way. Even when I tried searching where they might be, they weren’t anywhere.
The call came from Kirako-san when I was laid out on the house sofa, flipping through Corocoro. Of course, it was in regards to Orino-san.
‘You really don’t know Orino’s whereabouts?’
“I’m telling you, I don’t know. I tried searching f or her too.”
‘I wouldn’t be worried if was just her phone, but… there’s no response from her transmitter. What in the hell could’ve happened to her…’
Transmitter. She was probably referring to the GPS in her phone.
“Maybe she’s somewhere out of range?”
‘Fool! There’s no such thing as out of range for the transmitters we use. No matter where she is in the world, we’ll pick it up.’
“Then her phone could be broken.”
‘The transmitter is embedded type, she’s been directly chipped in the brain. That’s why the only way it can break is if Orino dies.’
“Umm, you’re talking about a movie, right Kirako-san?”
‘… Yeah, that’s right. This is all the movie’s setting, and my name is Kirako like some idol from the Showa Era.’
(TL: Showa Era, 1926-1989)
Ksssh, I heard a grating static, as if her phone was raising a cry for help.
‘… Good grief, just what does Orino like about this idiot…’
“Eh? Did you say something?”
‘Nothing you need to know.’
She said flippantly before clicking her tongue in displeasure.
‘Really, where did she run off to, that Orino…’
Kirako-san seemed irritated the whole way. But perhaps it was just the flipside of panic, I thought. That’s why,
“I’m sure she’s fine. Unlike me, Orino-san’s a reliable one.”
I made an effort to speak in a cheerful tone. While I was trying to be tactful towards Kirako-san, more than anything, I wanted to convince myself she was fine.
‘Reliable, huh… I wonder.’
But Kirako replied with cynicism.
‘That girl looks like she’s got a grip, but she’s got a few screws loose where you wouldn’t expect them. When she’s mature, she’s childish, or maybe… anyways, she’s the type who tries to take everything on herself.’
I had a hunch that was the case.
Really just a hunch, though.
‘No complaints about her abilities, but her mind’s unstable in the field…’
“I see, so she does fine in rehearsals, but when it comes to the actual shoot, she gets too nervous to exhibit her real abilities.”
‘… You’re an idiot.’
She just straight up called me an idiot. H-huh? I was trying to sharply analyze her words, so why?
“Please sugarcoat it a bit, Kirako-san.”
Some more grating sounds, more cries from the phone.
‘… Don’t call me that name.’
“Eh? But if you don’t want me to call you your real name, what am I supposed to… ah, could it be you want me to call you a nickname? Man, feels like we’ve suddenly got all friendly with each other. Hmm… then how about Kirarin–”
I heard a sound as if the phone was destroyed to a point one small step before it would be rendered useless.
“W-what’s wrong, Kirarin!”
‘… Bastard, next time we meet, you’d better remember this.’
Her killing intent even carried over the phone line. I didn’t really get it, but it did seem I made her angry.
‘Anyways, if you find anything out, give me a call. Got that?’
When I had gotten to the Under—the call was one-sidedly cut off.
Hmmm. I don’t really get Kirako-san as a person. I thought she hated me, but she suddenly asked me to call her by nickname, and despite that, when I called her that nickname, she suddenly snapped.
“… I’m sure the movie schedule is tight, and she’s desperate to find her actress.”
After reaching a conclusion without thinking too hard, I contacted Kurisu-chan. A while back, when I was searching for Orino-san to deliver her card, I recalled how Kurisu-chan told me where she was. I felt like I was grasping at straws. It’s not like Kurisu-chan could do magic divinations or anything, so I wasn’t expecting too much.
When I called her, ‘Leave it to me,’ I got an energetic reply, and we were to meet in Gentle Breeze Park in an hour.
But the result wasn’t too favorable.
Like last time, she drew a magic circle-esque shape on the ground, and placed a cookbook she borrowed from Orino-san in the center, “Ah, a swimsuit-clad beautiful girl in a place like this!” she said, and I looked away once more.
When I returned my attention, Kurisu-chan was unsatisfactorily folding her arms.
“… That’s strange. Orino-senpai doesn’t exist in this world. Could it be she found a way to mine…” but she soon hit on something. “Ah, come to think of it, she disappeared together with Kagurai-senpai. In that case, they might be fine. I’m sure they were sent to a different time…”
“Eh? What do you mean?”
“Urgh… I’m sorry. You can’t hear it from my mouth. But I think they’ll return eventually, so we can only wait.”
“I see. But it seems the movie club Orino-san helps out with is troubled. I think the filming’s been put on hold… you think they’ll be fine?”
When I said that, Kurisu-chan’s expression stiffened. “Orino-senpai’s movie club… wait, don’t tell me,” she leaked before showing a bitter smile.
“Even so, we can only wait. I’d do something if I could, but I don’t think those fine ladies and gents will believe what I have to say, so there’s nothing I can do.”
“I see. So we can only wait.”
I parted with Kurisu-chan and went straight home.
I collapsed on my own bed.
I wasn’t particularly sleepy, but I felt like throwing it all away and going to sleep.
No matter what hazy, cloudy feelings you might have, if you close your eyes, sleep will take you eventually.
I saw a dream. A dream of the past.
My place of memories—Gentle Breeze Park.
The first love and first heartbreak I experienced in my first year of elementary school.
Dad and mom always came home late, so I was always playing in the nearby gentle breeze park. I sometimes played with Daiki-kun and Yoshiko-chan, but lately, those two had gotten into video games, and they wouldn’t play with me.
That day, I had run away from my mom’s incessant persuasion for me to learn the abacus. I stood in the middle of the park, closed my eyes, and unified my body and soul.
And snapping my eyes open, I cried out!
Imagining chi escape from my hands, I fashioned both hands into an appropriate shape and thrust them forward. But no energy came out.
Hmm. I wonder what I did wrong. Am I still lacking in training?
“Kamehameha! Kamehamehaa! Kame–”
I tried again and again, but it wouldn’t come out. How strange. Could it be I don’t have the talent? No, there’s no way that’s it. I’m sure I can do it. Even if the spirit bomb and big bang attack are impossible, I should be able to do the Kamehameha.
I mean, even Yamcha pulled it off.
If Yamcha can do it, there’s no way I can’t.
I mean… it’s Yamcha, right?
“Did I angle my hands wrong…?”
With repeat trial and error, I practiced again, and again and again.
Day after day, I would put my all into training.
Because I wanted to become a hero of justice when I grew up.
‘You’re already in first grade, and you’re still saying that?’ Daiki-kun teased me, but I was serious about becoming a hero.
They’re definitely out there.
The reason no one knows they exist is because the hero of justice conceals his identity as he fights. I don’t know the reason, but a hero of justice has to hide their identity.
I’d become a hero of justice and protect the world’s peace.
For that sake, I’d need to at least be able to Kamehameha.
Now, do your best. If it’s you, you can do it.
I mean, even Yamcha did it.
That’s right. I’m sure I didn’t build it up enough that time. This time let’s give a bigger buildup. Roll out the words longer.
Ah. This feels right. My body’s chi is gathering in the palm of my hand… I think.
I can do this!
Something’s different from before!
An explosion rang out!
That scared the heebie-jeebies out of me. I fell on my backside with all my might. An explosion occurred in the sandbox before my eyes, scattering sand all around to cover up my vision.
S-so I’ve finally done it…
As I shook for joy, the cloud of sand gradually faded, my vision became clear.
“Peh. Peh. God, what was that?”
In the center of the sandbox, there was a lady wearing a strange suit.
I ended up crying out in my surprise.
“When I tried shooting a Kamehameha, a lady came out–!”
What is this new technique!?
Amazing! Not even Goku can do that!
“Hac, hac, a sandpit? Just what’s going on in here…? Kagurai-senpai disappeared sometime along the way…”
Brushing off the sand on her bottom, the lady approached me as my legs had given out.
“Umm, I’m sorry for surprising you. Are you okay.”
She was a really pretty lady (and I did get the feeling I was into older women), and while it was embarrassing, I borrowed her hand.
The lady pulled me up, led me by the hand, and sat me down on a nearby bench.
“… I wonder what’s going on. It looks like I returned to Gentle Breeze Park, but there’s no tape on the playground, and it feels strangely new…”
“I think my special move summoned you from another world, lady.”
When I said it lively, the lady made an extremely troubled face.
“Umm, what did you say, little boy?”
“When I let out my chi, you were summoned in this park. Am I wrong?”
“Yeaaah, unfortunately, I think that’s wrong. I just fell into the sandbox by coincidence.”
So that’s it, I was disappointed. As I thought, I’ve still got a long way to go.
“Hey, young boy, what’s your name.”
“It’s Akira. Kagoshima Akira.”
When I named myself, the lady opened her eyes wide.
“Oh… then what kanji do you write Akira with…?”
“Write out Emperor, read it as Akira!”
I say some cool things, don’t I.
Emperor, that might be the next big thing.
“… Ah, I see. So that’s how it is…” the lady made a soft smile as if she understood everything… yeah. “Looks like Kagurai-senpais dragged me into something crazy… Yep. Sure enough, you do like him…”
I couldn’t understand anything the lady was saying.
“Hey, Akira-kun. What are you doing in this park alone?”
Hmhmm, I stuck out my chest. “Huh?” The lady tilted her head before, “Wow, how cute, so Akira-kun had a time like this too…” she writhed.
“I’m serious about this. And yet, mom and dad and Daiki-kun and Yoshiko-chan say its stupid and I should stop.”
“Akira-kun, what are you training for?”
“It’s to become a hero of justice. When I grow up, I’m going to become a hero of justice and fight to protect the peace of the world.”
“I see. Then you must do your best.”
The lady gave a warm smile and pat me on the head. It tickled a bit.
Unlike everyone else, the lady didn’t make fun of my story. That made me extremely happy.
“Akira-kun, do you think there are heroes of justice out there?”
“Yeah. They’re definitely there. Everyone just doesn’t know, and there are really loads of them. They secretly take out all the aliens and monsters!”
“Fufu. How the times have changed…”
“But lady, it’s still a mystery to me, but why does a hero of justice have to hide their identity. When I see them on TV, they always do that. They’re sometimes found out along the way, but they usually stay hidden away.”
Like Ultraman and Kamen Rider. The super sentai ones… yeah, I think you could say they were hiding. Thought I get the feeling everyone asserts their individuality a bit too hard out of costume.
“Mom says it’s to ‘prevent societal chaos’ but is that true?”
“Right. That’s also a part of it,” she laughed knowingly. “But that’s not the biggest reason.”
“Then what is it?”
“That’s you see, to not let anyone worry.”
The lady gave a gentle, but powerful smile.
“The hero of justice has a family and friends too… a person they like, plenty of people they treasure. They don’t want to let those people worry about them, so they hide who they are.”
“But then everyone will think that hero of justice is a strange person who disappears whenever there’s trouble. Is that alright?”
“It’s fine. That’s how it should be. It’s fine if they’re never rewarded.”
They were strangely heavy words. I got the feeling they stuck fast in my chest.
“A hero of justice doesn’t want applause of thanks, nothing like that. They just want to protect the everyday life. Not to settle an incident after it’s occurred, it’s best to resolve it all before everyone knows there’s an incident.”
It was gradually getting hard to follow. I concentrated and perked my ears.
“They’d be really happy if everyone supported them and cheered them on, but that’s not ideal. The ideal is for the fact they fought to remain unnoticed. They don’t want anyone to feel indebted… They want everyone to laugh without knowing a thing.”
She wasn’t turned towards me, it was as if the lady spoke to convince herself.
“Hiding it gets painful and lonely at times… but, that’s right, just what was I even irritated about… I thought I knew this would happen from the very start… you know, Akira-kun?”
“Not being rewarded… is a hero’s reward.”
I didn’t understand.
I wanted to say all sorts of things back, but the lady was making a smile as if she had accepted it all herself, so I couldn’t bring myself to ask.
“So you see, when everyone lives in peace without knowing the danger to the world and the earth’s pinches, that’s when they’re happiest.”
“Umm. You mean, they’re hourly employees with terrible working conditions and little to no pay?”
When I said that, the lady’s shoulders dropped.
“Where did you learn those words…”
“Dad goes on about it every day when he drinks from his bottle. It looks like his work isn’t going good these days. The recession is scary.”
“… I heard something I shouldn’t have.”
“So when I grow up, I’m going to become a hero of justice and take down this recession monster.”
“What a good kid! Oh snap, he’s adorable!”
“I said, so he bought me a transformation belt. Just as planned.”
“I take that back!”
Gazing at the lady holding her head, I thought back over my future.
“I think I’ll stop trying to be a hero of justice. It sounds harder than I thought, and mom told me that becoming a seeval sahvant will let me live a more-stable life-style.”
“What a realistic mother… oh, but I think that’s a good thing. In the first place, there’s no way you could become a hero of justice, Akira-kun.”
I went sullen. “Why’s that?” I asked.
There, the lady gave a grin I had seen that face in a drama the other day, it was the ‘Tell a kind white lie for a child’s sake’ smile.
“Because heroes of justice don’t exist in this word.”
“Yeah. Rather, first off, there aren’t any evil organizations. So there aren’t any heroes. There definitely aren’t any people protecting the underside of the world. There aren’t any psychics or witches, or cybersoldiers in this world.”
“So it’s true…”
I went against my mother, but for some reason, I didn’t feel an urge to go against this lady.
“Well, in the million-to-one chance they do exist, I doubt you’ll ever find one in your lifetime. Those sorts of people are reeeaaally good at hiding their identity.”
I wanted to retort ‘liar’. I wonder why. But honestly, I didn’t care about heroes of justice anymore. My head was full of something else.
“Yes. What is it?”
“Please marry me.”
It was a fall so splendid, you wouldn’t get better results with a banana.
“Eh… Eeeeh? U-um, are you serious?”
There’s no way I’d say such a thing as a joke.
“Umm… ahaha. No, I’m happy, I’m really happy, but…… if possible, I’d like you to say that in another ten years, no, what am I even saying…”
The lady fell into chaos. She seemed to be flustered by my sudden proposal.
Alright. This is where you hammer in the point. Dad said, “Your mother, you see, it all works out once you push her down,” so I’m sure this is the important part.
Now it’s time to whisper those sweet words I learned from dad!
“To your beautiful eyes, a toast☆”
“I don’t know aaaanything about that!”
“I’ll put it on! I’ll properly use a rubber, okay!”
… Perhaps I’m better off not trusting dad when he’s drunk.
The lady straightened herself out and spoke with a serious face.
“I’m sorry. I can’t marry you.”
I was dumped.
“… Uu… hig .Uwaaaaaaaaaahn!”
“He’s crying for real!?”
My heart was gripped in unanticipated sorrow. So love was something so fleeting and painful?I know I’m not supposed to cry, but the tears won’t stop…
“Aah… I’m really sorry. But there are some things that just can’t happen. Don’t cry…”
“Uu… hic… hey, why is it no good?”
“Don’t look at me with those puppy dog eyes… umm, see, it’s the difference in age. No, we’re in the same year, but anyways, it’s impossible for now…”
“As long as there’s love, age is just a number.”
“I thought you’d say that…”
“My dad and mom are thirty years apart.”
“That’s really something!”
“Mom told me, ‘your dad’s turning fifty five this year, but he’s still in active duty’. Hey, what does active duty mean?”
Her cheeks turning red as a tomato, the lady hung her head. And still with a red face, she put her hands in front of her chest, tapping her index fingers together.
“… But we’ve still only just met, right? In the future, wait, I know a bit about it, but anyways, you don’t know anything about me, so… umm… well, just what part about me do you like?”
She took some fleeting sidelong glances at me to probe my reactions. Her words were cut up, she seemed terribly nervous.
I answered honestly.
“Your huge breasts.”
She punched me.
She pressed her fist down on top of my head.
“I can’t marry a man who’d say something like that.”
Muuuh. She gave off an atmosphere as if she wasn’t going to budge.
“Could it be you already have someone else you like?”
When I nonchalantly asked, the lady’s expression stiffened. But pff, she soon made a gentle smile.
“Yes. I do.”
“What sort of person”
“A ridiculously dense idiot.”
Taking in a deep breath, the lady lightly tapered her lips.
“Anyways, he’s a man who never notices anything. No matter how obvious the hints are, it’s like he looks over it all. First thing’s first, he’s definitely never going to be a detective.”
“Hmmm. But you like that hopeless man?”
“… Yes. I do.”
She narrowed her eyes, bashfully shying back just a little.
“I’m my classes representative, but I have a lot of other things to do, and I can’t do the work more often than not. And yet, he’s never made a reluctant face, he believed all the excuses I give, he even did my share each time.”
The lady went on with a wonderful smile.
“He’s just kinda a really warm man. Whenever it’s over, I think that I want to return to his side, he’s just got this strange broadmindedness. I guess you could say its soothing.”
“Then are you going to marry that man? In that case, I’ll completely give up.”
When I said that, the lady packed her utterances with “Erk”s. “A child’s innocence really is scary,” she let out a light sigh.
“I wonder. I don’t think that dense man has noticed my feelings in the slightest, after all. And just a moment ago, we had a bit of a fight.”
“Yeah. But it was all my fault. He properly keeps his territory and never steps beyond it, but I got irritated and stepped into his space. Why do I have to be the one going through all the troubles, I grew resentful, and slammed it all into him.”
The lady closed her eyes to criticize herself.
“But talking to you, Akira-kun. I finally remembered. It looks like I’ve let myself be pampered by him too much. I never wanted him to sympathize or share in my pains. I just wanted him to be the everyday I could return to.”
There, she rested her hand on my head.
“? Why are you apologizing to me?”
“Just because. Right. Ten years from now, try to remember that sorry.”
How strange, I thought as I sealed the words away in my heart’s time capsule.
And I asked what had been bothering me the whole time.
“Does that man believe in heroes of justice.”
“Nope. He doesn’t believe in the slightest.”
“I see. Ah, but you said that’s what makes the hero of justice happy, right?”
“Yes. Right. That’s right… so I want him to stay like that.”
Her expression as she said that belonged to a so-called expression of a maiden in love. It seems she had completely fallen for the man. No helping it. I’ll have to swallow my tears and pulled back.
“Find some happiness, lady.”
“Thank you. Akira-kun, you do your best too. In around ten years.”
At the moment, from behind me, I heard a byoooon, as it time and space were warping. When I turned around, there was a tall, slender, beautiful woman. She was wearing some futuristic clothes I couldn’t tell were stylish or not.
“So this is where you ended up, Orino.”
“Ah, Kagurai-senpai. What took you.”
“I searched all over for you. Hmm? Who’s that kid with the impudent eyes.”
“My name is Kagoshima Akira. You write it as Emperor and read it Akira.”
When I gave a cool self-introduction, the model-looking lady was startled.
“Oy. Could it be like that, Orino?”
“Yes. It seems it’s like that. Kagoshima-senpai.”
With curious eyes, the tall lady gazed over me. It was a little embarrassing.
“I see. So this child grows into that empty-headed simpleton.”
It was a line as if she knew how I would look when I grew up.
“Whatever the case. We’re leaving, Orino.”
On those words, the lady who was there first calmly nodded.
“Eh? You’re going away?”
I felt really lonely. I got the feeling this was the last time I’d ever see these ladies.
“It’s fine. We’ll definitely meet again.”
The two ladies turned their backs to me and walked off. Not wanting to part just like that, I ran after.
But a sudden gust blew, blowing leaves and sand into the air, and hiding the ladies from my sight. It was an unnatural wind as if someone had used superpowers.
“Don’t forget, Akira-kun.”
The lady’s voice was all I could hear.
“There are no heroes of justice in the world. If you ever see someone who looks the part, please don’t notice for them. Become a man of large caliber who can write off all abnormalities as your imagination.”
The wind died down, my vision cleared.
And no one was there.
“… They were some pretty ladies.”
Strangely, I didn’t feel as lonely as I thought I’d be.
When I thought we’d definitely never meet, I got the feeling we’d definitely see each other again. Was this what you called a contradiction?
From that day forth, I stopped training. One of the reasons was that my mother bought me a game console, but the biggest reason was because I met those ladies.
[YOU WERE EXPECTING AN IMAGE, BUT IT WAS ME, FILLER]
There are no heroes of justice in the world. The grand incidents from manga and games don’t happen, a boring day to day is what makes the world.
I learned it as I grew, and became an adult. My conversation with the lady entangled me like a chain, become a curse ‘to never notice’ and ruling my mentality.
But even if I say that, it wasn’t an unpleasant curse at all.
Anyways, I know that heroes of justice don’t exist.
And I thought I wanted to be the sort of man the lady liked.
A warm and tolerant, thickheaded man.
The sort of man who could write off anything that happened as ‘his imagination’. Because at that time, I truly did love that lady.
Finally waking from my dream, I raised my body off the bed.
“… I was one crazy kid.”
My body shook with embarrassment. Who the hell proposes to someone they’re meeting for the first time?
“I wonder what that lady’s doing now.”
Honestly, I couldn’t remember her face anymore. But the numerous words we exchanged were still vivid in my memory, and each one of them constructed my personality. I wonder if I managed to become a man the lady could love?
“… I kinda get the feeling I have.”
I got the feeling excessively so. Though that was surely my imagination.
My phone vibrated on top of the desk. I got a text from Orino-san.
She said she wanted me to come to Gentle Breeze Park immediately.
I draped the bag I bought the other day over my shoulder and bounded off at once.
Under a reddening sky. Orino-san stood at the entrance to the park. Still wearing the suit that was her movie costume, she felt like she hadn’t changed one bit from when I saw her three days ago.
“It’s been a while.”
“Ah, I see. So it’s been a while.”
It didn’t feel like a while to me, said Orino-san with a smile.
An extremely nostalgic smile that I liked.
Strangely, the awkwardness was gone. When it’s not like anything had happened, I felt a refreshing sensation as if everything had been resolved.
I’m sorry… the lady’s word from ten years ago revived in my head.
I had to confirm it.
“Am I fine, staying like this?”
“Yes, you’re fine the way you are.”
At that instant- and I didn’t know why, but- I got the feeling everything got through. We laughed together. The air that flowed between us held a humanly feel to it.
“Ah, right,” I reached a hand into my bag, “The truth is–”
“I’ve been looking for you, Orino.”
A husky voice resounded from my back, the slow flow of time suddenly accelerated.
Orino-san raised her voice. When I turned, there was Kirako-san behind me.
“Umm, I’m really sorry. I was…”
“I’ll hear your excuses later. We found their hideout. It’s a run-down middle school nearby. The situation’s grim, we need to hurry and take them in. My teleport can take us in five jumps.”
Orino-san grasped Kirako-san’s hand. I abruptly clasped the hand she had left.
“Please wait, Kirako-san. Just a little longer, I have to–”
For a moment, Kirako-san’s hand blurred.
And a sensation as if my neck was severed…
“—I don’t have time to tag along with your jokes.”
“… That’s right, my name is Hoshizora Kirako. That’s why I’ll make you see stars.”
That wasn’t actually very witty, I thought as my consciousness gently fell into darkness.