City Series:Volume4b Chapter 13
Final Chapter: The Inheritor of It All (Aftercare) – (4/7/1997)
It was already spring, but the weather was terrible that morning.
It was much too early for the sun to be out.
Only the stars and moon filled the dark sky.
Below that heavy sky, a loud and low rumbling never ceased in one place.
It was the Kegon Falls in Nikko, Tochigi.
The air was heavy on that spring morning, so there was no fog and the falls were fully visible.
It was a large waterfall.
It had a long history.
Its majestic form and noise could be seen from close up on the observation platform built out from the cliff wall.
It was much too early for sightseers, so only locals would be on that observation platform now.
There was one such person below the observation platform’s sunlamp.
The girl had her long black hair tied back behind her neck and she wore a black tracksuit.
She held the railing and stared at the waterfall.
There was some silent exhaustion on her face.
“So it’s finally my turn to leave this place.”
She held her hands to her chest where the family name Fujiwara was written.
“I can’t believe this. …I’ll be standing in Osaka in only 6 hours.”
…So what am I doing here?
She looked to the school tracksuit she wore in place of pajamas.
In about 2 hours, she would have to change into her new uniform.
It was the uniform of Osaka Prefectural #1.
A girl from Kantou was attending an Osaka school.
She would never have imagined this back when she had nearly drowned the year before.
The east and west had been reunited.
From what she had heard, there had been a largescale terrorist attack in Osaka just a few days after she dove into the waterfall basin.
That may have acted as a trigger because by January the politicians got to work and the east and west were reunited in the blink of an eye.
Once they had gotten started, it had been apparently been simple.
The Emergency Teachers and the Mountain had acted quickly, talk shows had discussed it almost every night, and foreign politicians had either celebrated or worked to stop it, but there had been no changing it once it had started.
As a result, the east and west were accepting exchange students as a test case.
She had been hesitant, but her curiosity had gotten the better of her. She had taken the entrance exam for an Osaka school and passed.
She had always had good grades.
“I didn’t think I would have to give a greeting at the entrance ceremony today.”
The greeting itself was simple.
They would tell her what to do once she arrived, so she only had to get up on stage when they said to and read the text they gave her.
To help students coming from afar like her, the ceremony was being held in the afternoon.
There was nothing to worry about.
But even so…
…Something’s still eating at me.
She still had too many questions.
Now that she was actually taking the plunge, she was nervous about this new world.
…How will this turn out?
She found herself quietly speaking her Words.
Time flows like water
She who flows through time
- People do not stop
- Time does not stop
- Simply flow like water
- And inherit all of the questions
She realized those Words described her situation perfectly.
None of her questions had been answered.
She did not know what any of it meant, but she was climbing to the next stage.
She simply thought about that boy.
He had not appeared for half a year now, but what did he think about the unification of the east and west?
…It isn’t like me to think about all this complicated stuff.
“I should really be thinking about the entrance ceremony today.”
She looked into the sky.
Dark clouds spread out there.
According to the TV news, they were experiencing out-of-season snowfall in Kansai.
April snow was not unusual where she lived, but it was apparently newsworthy in the cities.
“…Snow, huh? I need to wear some proper shoes.”
And as she said that…
–Fujiwara – Mind Tech – Auto-Take – Detect Presence – Hit!
She sensed someone standing to her left and quickly straightened up.
She turned around and found him there.
Straight hair, a red mountain hoodie, and somehow sobered eyes.
It was him.
The boy who had once thrown white flowers in the waterfall basin was next to her.
He was close enough to reach out and touch.
The atmosphere around him forced her to silence.
She looked to him, but she said nothing.
There was so much she wanted to say.
There was so much she wanted to ask.
But the boy stared at the waterfall basin and not her.
He was silent.
There was no hesitation or hurry on his face.
He simply moved.
First, he held his right hand out in the chilly morning air.
He had a silver ring on his ring finger.
Then he grabbed the glittering ring with his left hand and pulled it from the finger.
The rest was the same action as always.
Instead of throwing it, he tossed the ring into the waterfall basin.
The light of the sunlamp caused the silver ring to shine a little as if saying goodbye.
The ring fell toward the basin.
Its small light quickly vanished from view.
It was hard to tell whether or not it fell into the water.
But the girl knew.
His ring had definitely reached the two sleeping at the bottom of the basin.
She looked to the boy.
He continued staring at the basin and this time pulled a new ring from his pocket.
It was a golden ring.
He slowly placed it on his right hand’s ring finger.
He took his time but finally put it on.
He raised his right hand and stared at the ring’s light. A wavering strength filled his eyes. It was a faint and unstable strength that seemed on the verge of tears.
That strength led to him clenching his fist.
How much time had it taken?
The boy kept his eyes on the basin as he took a single slow step backwards.
And then he quickly turned around.
The girl reflexively reached out toward his back.
The bottom of his mountain hoodie fluttered up and briefly touched her hand.
That was all.
He walked away without looking back.
As she watched him go, the girl opened her lips and tried to say something again and again.
…What do I do?
She covered her mouth with both hands and lowered her head.
And she heard a voice.
“…I won’t forget you.”
It was the boy’s voice.
She looked up in surprise.
She saw the boy leaving.
She doubted he had said anything.
…Then what was that voice?
No one could answer her question.
–Fujiwara – Sight Tech – Auto-Take – Spot – Hit!
A light brown mouse-like animal sat on his shoulder.
Its tail swayed and floated as he walked.
She looked to him and the animal.
She said nothing and did not move.
She remained motionless as he walked toward the emergency staircase and disappeared behind the wall.
She watched him leave.
But even afterwards, she still did not move.
Countless thoughts spiraled in her mind.
Why had he stopped coming until now?
Who was he?
What were those rings?
What was that animal on his shoulder?
And how was he connected to the two at the bottom of the basin?
She did not know any of the answers.
But she was confident of one thing.
“He’ll never come here again, will he?”
She spoke her thought aloud and realized something.
The fear-like emotion inside her was gone.
She searched her heart, but the pressure on her stomach was completely gone.
She was no longer hesitant about entering a new world.
Something had changed.
Something was different after that brief and one-sided reunion and parting.
She did not know what it was.
She did not know anything.
…I’m okay with that?
She nodded at her own question. Again and again, she nodded firmly and deeply.
For some reason, tears spilled from her eyes.
And as they fell…
She suddenly started running.
She ran toward the emergency staircase as if pursuing the boy who was no longer here.
When she wiped away the tears, she felt strength in her gaze.
It was a great strength different from cheer or ambition.
She turned her back on the familiar waterfall and did not look back.
Her footsteps produced a nice tempo.
She jumped over the fence blocking off the metal staircase and ran up two steps at a time.
She heard a car driving on the road above.
He was in that car. It was probably a taxi.
But she ran up the stairs without pursuing it.
Once at the top, she was right on the road.
She saw the taxi’s tail lights ascending the mountain road in the distance.
She looked that way and smiled.
That was her one-sided goodbye.
She looked to the sky.
There were clouds there, but it was undoubtedly vast.
That same sky continued to Kansai and beyond.
Without saying a word, she looked down and hopped onto her bicycle leaning against the guardrail.
She impatiently switched all the cycling gears to the inner setting and began pedaling.
She was gathering her thoughts.
And those thoughts led her body to start moving.
She rode the bicycle down the mountain, so she picked up speed.
She moved fast.
She raced to the bottom of the mountain.
She picked up more and more speed in the clear morning air and had a sudden thought.
…Oh, I know.
“I’ll buy a flower.”
She would buy a flower to take to Osaka.
The old lady who ran the flower shop at the bottom of the mountain woke early, so she would already be up at this time.
She knew what flower to buy.
“…A red one would be nice.”
It was snowing in Osaka.
The snow falling from the dark sky would probably look like the white flower petals that had floated down into the waterfall basin.
So if it was to bloom among those, a red flower would be nice.
…That’s what I’ll do.
“That’s what I’ll do!”
She shouted that thought, cut through the wind on her bicycle, and spoke her Words.
She started with the same tempo as always but stopped.
She was just not into it.
…That isn’t it. That just isn’t it.
She did not hesitate to voice the Words that came to mind.
As her new Words, she spoke the feeling inside herself now.
She sang them.
Time flows like water
She who flows through time
A human heart that does not flow into emptiness.
- People do not stop
- Time does not stop
- A single flower resides in the dancing time
- Choose your own path and hesitate
- Choose your own path and sprint
- Do not give up on any of the questions
Her singing voice flowed through the spring morning air.
She repeated the refrain again and again as she rode her bicycle.
She was on her way to buy a red flower.
She was on her way to Osaka.
It did not matter when.
But she felt certain she would answer all of her questions someday.
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