Come to think of it, I never did return that five hundred yen coin to Kai. On the way home from school, I made for the Inari Shrine.
“I wasn’t in any hurry.”
“We can’t be having that. Dad told me I have to be firm when borrowing and lending money.”
And from there, our time passed laid-back as ever. I nonchalantly explained the incident I’d been dragged into. I thought Kai would be interested in the details like only a Kai would.
He listened in with joy.
“Good work, Akira.”
“Yeah? I didn’t do anything.”
“I just kinda, you know. Just kinda wanted to say it.”
He narrowed his eyes and gave a gentle smile. Bitter and sweet, it was Kai’s usual smile.
He was the same childhood friend as always.
My precious friend.
From then on, we started reading books side by side.
I read a big and thick Corocoro, while he read a small, thin paperback novel.
“Akira, which one of Doraemon’s tools would you want most?”
Kai said after a while. His eyes were focused on the Doraemon special feature page my Corocoro was open to.
“Hmm.. let’s see. Well, when you’re at my level, you’d have to go far back and say the Helitanbo, I guess. Ah, Helitanbo is the name they gave the Take Copter when it was first serialized.”
“… At your level? What level is that?”
I lightly shrugged my shoulders, so Kai continued on.
His eyes trailed off somewhere far away.
“There are a lot of people who answer, ‘The What-if Box is the best!’ aren’t there?”
“Yeah, there are.”
“Those people don’t understand a thing.”
Kai slowly closed his eyes.
His mouth only slightly curved into a self-chastising smile.
“They don’t know anything about the futility, the pointless, the despair of making the world however you want it…”
As he opened his eyes, Kai gazed at the sky. Perhaps he was gazing somewhere far higher than that. It looked that way to me. The way I saw it, I still didn’t know anything.
I didn’t know who really Kai was.
But there was one thing that was certain.
Shinose Kai was Kagoshima Akira’s childhood friend, and a precious acquaintance.
At the very least, I saw it that way.
I believed Kai thought the same.
I believed like crazy.