Kamisu Reina:Volume 1 Fumi Saito

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Chapter 1: Fumi Saito[edit]

1[edit]

I don't have any friends.

Not because I hate talking to others, or because I'm mistrustful, or because I'm too lazy to cultivate contacts. It's not like I deliberately want to avoid making friends; put plain and simple, I'm just unable to make any.

My mom always tells me that it's no big deal, since I'm smart and my grades are good, but from my perspective that's no big deal. She doesn't know how cumbersome school is for people who can't make friends.

Just like right now: Even though it's break time and everyone's engaged in chats, I'm sitting here alone as if I were in another dimension. It gets even worse during the lunch break, when I wordlessly munch away on my lunch while all my classmates put their desks together and eat together—I always feel like a castaway on a desert island surrounded by the vast ocean.

From time to time I wonder if all the other people are just aliens wearing human disguises who are deceiving me, the last living earthling.

Ridiculous. Ridiculous, indeed, but that proves how alone I feel when I'm at school.

Because I have nothing to do between classes, I started reading books in my free time even though I don't really like doing so. Thanks to that, I've become even harder to approach and widened the gap between me and my classmates even further. It's a vicious cycle: I'm mistaken for someone who likes being alone, even though that's downright wrong. I'd love to chitchat, too! I want to chat about who's the coolest guy in our class or who my favorite member in whatever boyband is too! But I'm ignored. I'm only reluctantly approached by others when absolutely necessary.

Why am I unable to make friends? What makes me different from everyone else? Since I have nothing to do anyway, I often mull over this question.

It must be because I'm ugly. I have a lot of pimples, my eyes are small, and my nose is flat, just like my breasts. But do I really look that terrible? I don't think so. It's wrong to blame my looks, at any rate.

It's my communication skills. Right, I'm not good at talking to others. But why is that? Because I'm always cautious? Because I get nervous when I'm talked to? No, that's not all there is to it. That's just another vicious cycle that started because I don't often talk to others.

The root cause must be that... I'm scared of getting hurt. I'm scared of being thought of as an oddball. I'm scared of spoiling the mood by making an inappropriate remark. I'm scared of others' opinions of me.

Before I know it, I'm gazing at Mizuhara-san's group in the second row by the window. Mizuhara-san is sort of the leader of this class, and as such has lots of friends. They seem to be having a lot of fun. They're really enviable.

But even among the members of such a close group, I'm sure that people could name others in the same group who they don't like. Nobody is perfect. Everybody has characteristics that might cause resentment. I, for one, have lots of them.

Therefore, it must be impossible to make friends for me.

But that's okay.

I may have no normal friends, but I do have a best friend.

I have one irreplaceable best friend—


—Reina Kamisu.


"You're too kind, Fumi, that's your problem."

That's what Reina said to me on our way home when I told her about my take on why I can't make any friends.

The smile she flashed while saying that was so stunning that I couldn't help admiring her for a few moments. Her long hair is the purest raven-black and so smooth that it's unthinkable to find any split ends, while her body is curvy like a model's, unlike my immature development.

Reina is truly beautiful. Absurdly beautiful.

"I'm kind...? I don't think so. I just don't want to be hurt."

"But isn't that what makes you kind?"

"Why so?"

"I mean, it's not like everyone else wants to be hurt, right? They don't want to be hurt, either."

"But they get along with each other."

"Yeah. Then what distinguishes you from them? Let me tell you: You're sensitive to the wounds of others. You are scared of being hurt, Fumi, but you're also scared of hurting someone."

Well, of course I don't want to hurt others randomly.

"That's why you are very kind to everyone."

"Reina..."

I'm really grateful for her words.

But I know that in truth I'm just a coward. Reina has merely put a sugar-sweet coating around the word coward before handing it to me.

But that thoughtfulness of hers makes me happy.

Aah, Reina sure is peerless. Even though she's only in the third year of middle school like me, she's so different.

"You're so lucky, Reina..."

"Mm? Why?"

"I mean... you're pretty and you're smart... I can't help thinking that God treats us unjustly."

Yeah, God is unjust. If he wasn't, Reina and I wouldn't be living in the same world. I suppose God doesn't get around to balancing out everything that he's created, and passes us around even more carelessly than workers do with products on a conveyor belt.

Everyone knows that. But I'm not mature enough yet to accept that I'm "inferior".

"That's not true! You're cute, Fumi," she responds with a kind smile, reading my mind.

"...I'm not. That sounds a bit like sarcasm if it's you, you know...?"

"Ah, that's totally mean! But Fumi... while some people like you prefer me, there are also some people who would prefer you!"

"No."

"But there are! At least there's one, right here," Reina says as she points at herself and smiles.

"But—"

"If," she interrupts me, "If for argument's sake, there were more people who prefer me over you, why should you care? Numbers don't mean anything. Or do you want to be in the spotlight like an idol?"

"That's not it."

"Then there's nothing to worry about, is there? There's at least one person right here who thinks you are irreplaceable. Or are you not satisfied with that?"

"Mmm! I couldn't wish for more!"

"...I see."

Reina puts on her kind smile again, which makes me kind of ashamed of my behavior.

Aah... I'm still such a child. Silly me. Really. I bet Reina thinks that I'm jealous of her beauty, which is actually true. I'm so filthy. Now she's lost faith in me. I'm sure.

"...Fumi, you're blaming yourself, aren't you?"

"Eh?"

"My... you really are too kind. Do you think I'd taken offense?"

"But——"

"No buts. You're being a little rude, you know?"

"Eh?"

"Fumi, you are a dear friend of mine. Someone important to me. By acting this way, it almost seems as if you didn't believe me?"

"Ah..."

"Fumi. I'm your best friend, right?"

"Of course!"

I can say this for certain.

"You're an irreplaceable friend, Reina!"

A dear friend who could never be replaced.

If Reina wasn't here, I—

I would long since have—

2[edit]

Another bad day starts.

The fact that I'm usually alone in the morning only makes it worse; Reina often has to go early to school because of her morning practice in the track and field club. I did once consider leaving the house at the same time as she does, but waiting in the classroom until classes begin is pretty painful as well, and most of all, I don't want to bother her, so I decided against it.

I walk alone to school and head to the shoe lockers to change into my indoor shoes.

"..."

What is this...?

Morning! I hear someone say behind me (of course not to me) and hurriedly close my locker. After waiting for that student to leave, I open it again.

"Oh, eh..."

There is a letter on my indoor shoes.

I reach out, but at a loss what to do, my hand stays there until another student approaches. On the spur of the moment, I cram the letter into my bag.

Oh my, oh my... i-is this a...?

I get uncomfortable. I don't know why that is, but there are too many people here. I feel like all the people around me are watching me. Whenever a glance crosses my eyes (and I know it just crosses them and doesn't actually perceive me) I feel it piercing through me.

Nobody would care about me, I know that, but I can't help feeling that everybody keeps watching my every step.

Unable to bear the gazes any longer, I escape to the restroom, and hurry into a toilet stall, and take the letter out.

Stuffing it into my bag has left the letter slightly crumpled — sorry to the person who put it into my locker.

I unfold the letter.


"Dear Fumi Saito

I am writing this letter to you because there is something that I have been wanting to tell you.

Please wait in your classroom after school."


That's all there is.

"Ah...hah..." I gasp for air, finally noticing that I haven't breathed while reading.

What is this about? What... what is this about?

As short as it is, I can still see that, objectively, it's probably a love letter. However, it's addressed at me. A love letter addressed at me? Really? Is that possible?


"Of course it's possible!" Reina says right off the bat.

We're on break and have come to the landing of the stairs that lead to the roof. Because the roof is inaccessible, the stairs here are virtually never used by anyone, which is why we often use them when we want to discuss something in secret (although it's mostly me who has something to discuss).

"How can you be so sure?! I mean, we're talking about me here...!"

"As I told you the other day, Fumi: you are a charming girl."

I open my mouth to deny what she said, but then I reconsider, thinking back at how we went round in circles last time.

"So, how about it, Fumi?"

"Huh? What do you mean?"

"What's your response to that love letter?"

"Ah—"

I had completely forgotten about that because I was fixated on the fact that I'd received one. Right, I still have to respond to it.

"R-Reina, I, I don't know what to do!"

"To start with, how do you feel about that boy?"

"That boy...?"

I unfold the love letter and check again.

"Well, Fumi? How do you feel about him? Do you know each other pretty well? Or not at all, maybe?"

"—None."

"Hm?"

"There's no name."

"Let me... let me take a look."

I give Reina the letter. She inspects the piece of paper from all sides, and eventually heaves a sigh.

"You're right. There's no name."

"...You've received love letters before, right, Reina?"

"Yes, I have."

"Were there any without a name?"

"...Hm... maybe there was one, but I think it was a case where the sender was obvious. I always knew who the letter was from."

"I see..."

I reread the letter. "Please wait in your classroom after school" — a sincere request to me.

"...What are you going to do?" Reina inquires.

"Don't you know pretty well what I'm going to do, Reina?"

"...Right. Well, it's you after all!" she smiles gloomily.

"Don't... don't wait for me today after you're done with your club activities."

"Why not...?"

"..." I remain silent, unable to give her a proper answer. I don't really know why I asked her that, either. Normally, I would want her with me at such times.

Reina gives me a bright smile, "...Hey, Fumi. You've been wanting to go to the aquarium, haven't you?"

"...Yeah. I love dolphins."

"Let's go there one of these days, then!"

Why would she propose that now?

"...Mm! It's a promise!"

I knew why, and that made me happy.



Classes have ended.

I always stay at school even without receiving such a letter, because I wait for Reina's club activities to end.

Today, however, I had Reina go home herself. I'm alone—alone at waiting for the sender of that letter.

As I gaze at an open book, I ponder over who I want the letter to be from. Kado-kun, the boy who is popular in class because he's good at basketball? Mm, I would be happy. The delinquent of our class, Ashizawa-kun? He's a bit scary, but I think I would appreciate it. How about Kogure-kun, although he's a bit strange? I would probably be a bit wary of him, but still happy. And Dojima-kun, who everyone avoids because he's dirty? I wouldn't want to go out with him, but I would be happy.

It's always a nice thing to be thought of favorably.

But how would I respond when it comes to dating someone?

Right now... I have no such plans, because I don't exactly know what would be expected of me. I'm a bit scared, and I don't know how I should treat the other party.

I guess a proper couple has to kiss? But how does that feel? When do you feel like kissing? How should I react when he wants me to kiss? Would he be hurt when I refused to? I can't refuse then... I don't want to be disliked, after all.

Right. Refusal is no option.

Mm, so it doesn't matter who gave me that letter—I have to obey and wait in my classroom after school.

It has become dark outside. The school is going to be closed soon.

Maybe, no one will come. Maybe, it was a joke. If it was—I would feel a bit calmer.

I stow away the book I have hardly read and just gazed at, and prepare myself for taking my leave, when suddenly, the Mizuhara group enters the classroom. They all belong to the tennis club, so I first thought they came to leave their rackets here.

However, their eyes reveal to me that there's more to it.

Mizuhara-san looks at me. "Heh, so you waited."

"Er..."

The girls around her start to giggle as they watch me getting nervous.

"Did we get your hopes up?" Mizuhara-san asks with a grin.

"Eh, um..."

What should I answer...? What answer do they expect from me?

"Probably... I did get hopes..." I answer honestly.

Suddenly, one of them laughs out loud, unable to hold it in any longer, spurring on the giggling.

"Oh come on, that's stupid! No guy would be interested in a sourpuss like you!"

"Kaho! Don't be so mean to her~!"

"But look...!"

"Well, she is pretty gullible, but that makes it clear how serious her case is, right?"

"Yeah, she's obviously not used to this kind of stuff."

Without giving me a chance to interrupt, Takatsuki-san and Omi-san keep discussing how dumb and strange I am.

I don't know what to do.

Hopes. Right, I had faint hopes that someone might like me. How stupid of me. That's absurd. Completely impossible.

Right now, there is a clear barrier between the rest of the world and me. Transparent, yet tough like tempered glass. Even though they can see me, no one attempts to read what feelings I hold behind my face. Even though they can hear me, no one attempts to understand the meaning of my words.

It's almost like my eyes perceive something entirely different from everyone else. Whenever I reach out my hands, I can only grasp air.

Alone. I'm alone.

Someone likes me? As if. No one is interested in me in the least, except maybe as someone to tease. As a topic to laugh at.

"...uh..."

Ah... I didn't want to cry... but there goes a tear. This will spoil the party. I'm sorry, but I cried, I'm really sorry.

As I expected, they start making uneasy faces.

Desperately trying not to show them my tears, I cover my eyes.

"Aah... we made her cry. Sorry, Saito-san," Mizuhara-san says gently. "But you know? We didn't mean to hurt you. How should I put it... you always avoid talking to people, no?"

No, I simply can't talk to people!

"I think that's not a good thing, so I thought that doing this, kind of like a shock treatment, might help you. I didn't mean any harm."

I wonder how much truth there is to that? Maybe that was part of the reason, but how is a fake love letter supposed to get me to speak normally? Was there no other way? Isn't that just a pretext to tease me?

"No offense! Really! ...Will you forgive me?"

However, there is something desperate in her voice that makes me nod as I still keep my eyes covered.

"Aah, thanks a lot... I'm really sorry. Okay, see you."

Once I had forgiven them, they quickly left.

...But Mizuhara-san isn't mean. She may have completely missed the mark, but she did care about me. She does take heed of me.

Yeah, she's not mean. She's not.. mean.

"What a mean bunch!"

My inner dialog is being denied. Surprised by that sudden voice, I look up.

"Ah... Kimura-kun..."

Oh no, he saw my tear-stained face. I must look horrible right now...

"Sorry! I allowed myself to overhear your little conversation," he says with an uneasy expression.

"Mmm! I-It's fine..." These words escape my lips because I want to reassure him.

"...They teased you with a fake love letter, right? That's cruel. She... Mizuhara's always like that. You could say that her hobby is to toy with the feelings of others!" Kimura-kun rants, seeming genuinely angry at her.

Is he angry for my sake? For real? If so, why?

Okay, what am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to calm him down?

"It's okay, Kimura-kun... I knew it was just a trick."

"You knew it was a trick?" he asks while raising an eyebrow.

"I knew that... it would end like this."

"...But why didn't you ignore the letter, then?"

"———"

I couldn't give him an answer. I have no idea how to put it into words.

"Well, whatever... anyway, if something like this happens again, be sure to let me know!"

"Eh?!"

"W-What? You don't trust me, or what?"

I shake my head furiously. It's only natural that I would get startled — after all, he doesn't profit in any way from helping me.

"You're quite the strange girl... okay, gotta go!" he says as he puts a hand on my head with a smile, after which he left. Unable to make sense of that, I just watched him baffledly.



While walking home alone, I start reflecting on the reason why I couldn't ignore the letter.

I expected the letter to be fake — because there was no name, because the paper used was not typical for boys, and most of all, because I noticed that the writer had deliberately tried to fake her handwriting.

However, what if, as unlikely as it is, the love letter had been real? In that case, ignoring it would have hurt that person. I would have betrayed that person and his sincere request to have me wait. I couldn't do that. Absolutely not.

Besides, I couldn't have ignored it either way: the person who wanted to make a joke at my expense wished for me to take on the role of a fool. Had I ignored that request, I would have betrayed their expectations. I would have spoiled their fun. I would have fallen into their disfavor.

That's why I was unable to ignore the letter.

Did I make the right choice? No, I'm sure I didn't. If I were right—

—It wouldn't hurt so much.


Reina.

It hurts, Reina!

I don't want to be here, it hurts!


For the first time in a long time, I have to face that thought again. That thought I always held before meeting Reina.

Right, if Reina wasn't here, I—


I would long have—died.


I have thought about dying countless times.

I'm sure there is no such thing like happy times.

Adult people lie when they speak of their supposedly happy youth. If they don't, then nostalgia must have warped their memories, because they couldn't endure the absence of hope in reality otherwise. Thinking that back in the day, everything used to be better, in order to put up with the present.

This leads to my hypothesis:

Life is and will always be hopeless. We live our pitch-dark lives as we cling to shiny shards that appear every now and then, and then we think back at those shards with a nostalgic smile on our faces. Like fools.

However, I don't have a past to take refuge. I don't have a past to romanticize in my mind when I lose hope in reality. I have no other choice but to accept that life is filled with despair from bottom to top.

Therefore, the only place I can escape to is death.

Don't think of suicide, people say. But is that statement backed by actual thought? You shall not kill. Of course. You shall not steal. Of course. You shall not commit suicide. Of course. The answer is so obvious that there is no place for doubt. Those statements must be perfectly true. Dazzlingly true.

You have to walk an endless muddy path that has no significance whatsoever, and you are naturally not allowed to break out. What a hopeless system.

What do you want me to do? What the hell am I supposed to do?

Someone save me! Give me hope! No, I won't be so greedy. Please someone, just notice that I'm walking this path and say a few gentle words to me...

"Fumi."

Surprised by the voice that calls out to me at the perfect moment, I raise my head.

"Reina..."

Only after speaking these words do I notice that I have been crying.

"You told me to go home, but you didn't tell me not to come meet you, right?" she smiles gently at me.

"...I can't."

Even though she understands what I mean, she gently embraces me.

"...It was painful, wasn't it?"

I can't... I just can't anymore!

I'll depend on you, Reina! I'll lean against you! I'll entrust my life to you!

"It's okay," she whispers to me. "I won't betray you."

"—!"

I clearly understand now why I had Reina go home earlier.

It's because I knew that she would comfort me. Because I knew that I would depend on her.

What is the consequence of that?

I have long lost my balance to be here, and needed something to take refuge in.

Needless to say, Reina Kamisu has taken on the role of my refuge, of my shelter.

But now, because of her embrace, I have completely become dependent on her. Maybe that has already been the case for a long time, but either way, I can no longer exist without Reina.

In order to prevent that, I have sent her home.

"...Reina...I..."

"It's okay. Don't worry. I'll... take on your burden."

Her words pierce through me.

I feel how my entire body starts to melt into Reina's body. Slowly but surely, I fade into her.

Such bliss.

I realize that this is what it means to be accepted by someone.

"Uh...gh...," I moan as my tears push up. They fall onto Reina, producing small ripples. I always thought my tears would only fall to the ground, but I was wrong — they have reached Reina's heart.

I am part of Reina, and—

—Reina is everything of me.

3[edit]

I am changing. The liquid "Reina" is continuously being poured into the container "I", while the liquid "I" is overflowing from that container.

The container is still me, but its contents are Reina; Reina has become my essence.

I still hardly speak anything in the classroom (although Kimura-kun, whose desk is behind mine, talks to me from time to time), but I don't feel depressed anymore.

I am not alone.

That belief gives me strength. That thought I have been holding has gone somewhere far away.

I don't care about anything, as long as Reina is with me.

That's what I thought. That's what I believed.

But not in my wildest dreams did I expect that things could still get worse.


"I can't find my wallet!" Mizuhara-san screams agitatedly.

Everyone present at the homeroom after classes, our class teacher Kosugi-sensei included, focuses on her as she desperately searches for her wallet. The member of her group are watching her worriedly. For a few moments, the classroom lapses into silence, until someone checks if their own wallet is still there, and the others follow suit. I don't bring my wallet to school, but I reach into my pocket nonetheless in order not to be the odd one out.

By the time everyone has confirmed that their money is safe, Mizuhara-san is sitting still in her seat, visibly troubled. Kosugi-sensei walks toward her.

"Have you found it?"

"No..."

"Are you sure that it was there?"

"Absolutely."

"Understood," the teacher says with a frown and goes back to the teacher's desk. "All right, as you surely heard, Mizuhara has lost her wallet. Of course, this may be some sort of misunderstanding on her end, but—" he starts and explains in a ridiculously roundabout way that there is a chance that a member of this class might have stolen her wallet.

The likelihood of pickpocketing is high, considering what the missing item is. Not far in the past, there has been a fuss over a stolen mp3-player.

Mizuhara-san, convinced that it was a theft, is visibly angered, and so are the members of her group, influenced by her.

"Does anyone have a clue where her wallet might be?" the teacher asks.

The students just exchange glances. The teacher isn't expecting any answers, either — the culprit or those who know who did it wouldn't speak up right now.

Or so I thought. But I was wrong.

Kimura-kun reluctantly raises his hand.

"Kimura, do you know something?"

"No, not exactly... but there's something that bothers me."

"What do you mean?"

"I don't think that it's common to take the wallet when stealing money. Normally, you would just pull out the contents, right? In fact, that's how the theft in class 5 happened."

"...Perhaps."

"Besides, it would make more sense to steal the money of all members of this class instead of only Mizuhara-san's. Yet, she's the only victim."

"What are you getting at?"

"What I want to say is that it's either a misunderstanding or a vicious joke toward Mizuhara-san."

"It's absolutely not a misunderstanding!" Mizuhara-san disagrees loudly. "Someone has played a trick on me!"

"A trick, hm? How much was in your wallet, if I may ask?"

"...1000 yen and change, but so what?" she answers grumpily.

"So it can't be because of the money, then. It looks like the goal of the culprit was teasing Mizuhara-san; and wouldn't that narrow down the list of suspects to a manageable number?" Kimura-kun says, causing everyone to exchange glances again.

That means that the culprit has a grudge against her, or at least doesn't think favorably of her?

Arriving at this thought—

—I notice that eyes are starting to focus on me.

"Huh...?"

A few students who aren't looking at me notice that a few of their classmates are focusing on me, and thus follow suit. On seeing that, yet another person gazes at me. All eyes are pinned on me.

Why? Why would they look at me?

This makes it seem like... like—

Our teacher, too, notices that I'm the center of attention, and looks at me, only to move his gaze on to Mizuhara-san. I follow his glance.

For some reason, she makes a face of realization.

"Saito," the teacher says to me in a stern voice, causing me to wince.

Just because he called my name? ...Yes, but I but I'm not so dumb as to not understand the situation. To me, this is just like a — death sentence.

"Do you know something?"

"Eh? Ah...er..."

I don't know anything! I'm innocent! But... I fail to say so properly.

"What's wrong? I have asked you a question, Saito."

But he's suspecting me.

"Uh..."

Everyone is looking at me, suspecting me — that's more than enough to make me lose my tongue, but they do not see that.

They understand it like so: I'm panicking because I've been busted, because I'm the culprit.

I'm perfectly aware of that, and I know that I must absolutely answer his question with confidence, but yet I find myself unable to do so.

"I... I..."

If someone was here who understand my personality — if Reina was here — she could explain it to them, but she's not here.

She's not here.

I don't have any supporters here.

"I don't... I don't know any—"

"Kosugi-sensei," Mizuhara-san says, cutting my desperate words short. I look at her in wonder.

There is no anger in her face anymore.

"What is it, Mizuhara?"

"I did something to Saito-san that may have made her hold a grudge against me. I... I played a trick on her. Thinking about it now... that was mean of me," she says with tears in her eyes. "But I... I did it because I thought I could help her to open herself!"

Surprised at what she said, I gaze at her. The sorrowful expression on her face isn't faked. Mizuhara-san is honest.

However, it's unclear to me whether she really tried to open my heart with that fake love letter, or just persuaded herself of that noble goal because of the situation she has found herself in.

Whatever the answer is, there is one thing that has become a fact.

Her words have settled my position.

"..."

All eyes fixed on me.

Eyes, eyes, eyes, eyes, eyes.

Like light projected through a loop, their reproachful glances pierce through me.

There is no suspicion in them anymore.

It's been decided.

It's been decided that I am the culprit.

"N-No, I haven—"

"It was YOU!" Takatsuki-san cuts me short. "You were pissed off, but you couldn't defend yourself because you were too scared! That's why you resorted to such a dirty trick — to vent your frustration!"

"Don't say that, Kaho. I'm... I'm also at fault..."

Also.

The words Mizuhara-san sobbed subliminally yet clearly implied that I'm the culprit and that she's the victim.

As a result, her words added fuel to the fire. With a fire-red head, Takatsuki-san walks toward me. Fearing to be hit, I cover my head and cower.

However, she did not come to hit me. Her goal was my bag. She picks it up, opens it, turns it upside town and pours its contents onto my desk.

And for some reason, there is an unfamiliar wallet among the things that fall on my desk. However, someone has mangled it with a cutter.

"...Saito, you are to come to the staff room afterwards."

The moment the teacher says so, uncontrollable sobbing resounds through the classroom.

Needless to say, it was Mizuhara-san.


I look around.

Eyes. Eyes. Eyes. Eyes. Eyes.

Like an ice pick, their reproachful glances pierce through me.

Reina isn't here.

In other words—no one is here.

I don't have any supporters here.



The next day, my desk has disappeared.

Up until now, I have merely been air for everyone, but from now on, they won't even grant me to be air anymore.

I'm not even allowed to exist.

A missing desk in a classroom is like a missing piece in a puzzle; but in this case it's my desk that is missing. I must be the only one who feels that a piece is missing — for everyone else, the puzzle is completed.

I go to the veranda and move the desk and the chair back to their original place. Original place? Really? No, perhaps the original place where my seat is supposed to be is not in the classroom, but at the veranda.

But while that may be true... I don't want to notice.

White, everything turns white.

Everything besides Reina and me turns white.

Like a novel lacking spaces, I'm unable to make sense of the white world here. They disappear. Everything besides me flees out of reach.

Or perhaps—

I'm the one who is lacking color.



The lunch break ends without my talking to anyone.

I really haven't spoken a word, since I couldn't meet Reina, either. Not one word has been spoken for me or toward me.

People have stopped speaking to me. No, that's no news, but at least previously, there was no ill will in that.

I wasn't even allowed of the absolute minimum of conversation. Even Kimura-kun wasn't able to overcome the magnetic field around me that has emerged in class.

"..."

I was aware of it.

I was aware of it, but this makes it clear.

No one cares if I just disappeared.

The world wouldn't disappear when I disappeared. The blue sky would completely ignore me and not even let it rain. No one cares whatever happens to me. I'm absolutely separated from the rest of the world.

Again, a familiar thought assaults me.

—I... I can't endure it anymore, Reina!

Why? What have I done? I didn't want to be disliked. That's all... I just shut myself into my little box because I was afraid of getting hurt, yet why do they pierce it with spears?

It hurts, it hurts, it hurts!

Save me Reina, save me Reina, save me rena, savemerena.


"They're all so mean."

"—Huh?"

Reina stands before my eyes.

"'Huh'? What is it, Fumi?"

"Ah, mmm... nothing."

Classes have ended; I have caught Reina when she was about to go to her club and consulted her at our usual spot on the stairs to the roof.

Yes, that sounds perfectly natural.

Why is it then that something felt fatally off? There's no reason.

"Why would they think that you're the culprit without conclusive proof? There's no way you would do that."

"...Well, they don't know my personality. Besides, Mizuhara-san's wallet was in my bag, so it's natural that they would think that I did it."

"Yes, but Fumi... why was that wallet in your bag, anyway?"

"Because—"

I don't really want to think about it...

"...The first reason that comes to mind would be because someone is trying to set you up."

"...Yeah, most likely." Unless I have a split personality. "...Someone who hates me?"

"I... I don't think so. You're not one to make a lot of enemies... I think that someone simply thought that it would be easy to lay the blame on you."

Perhaps.

But anyway, someone hated me enough to be fine with putting the blame on me.

"That's just heartless! We have to find and teach that culprit a lesson!"

"No... no need to!"

"Why? Aren't you suffering under the current situation?"

"I am. I am, but..."

"But?"

"The problem isn't new. It's merely surfaced now..."

"That's not... I mean, you weren't particularly unpopular..."

"You think so? I'm pretty sure it was a matter of time. For example, if Mizuhara-san's position and mine had been reversed, I most likely would have ended up with the short end of the stick."

"No, you're—"

Reina is at a loss for words. When it comes to deciding who is at fault, it doesn't matter what was done, but who did it. Between a teacher and a student, the student will be the bad one; between a honor student and a delinquent, the delinquent will be the bad one; between a beautiful person and an ugly person, the ugly person will be the bad one.

And of course, between Mizuhara-san and me, I will be the bad one.

In other words, the result has been decided all along.

Smart as Reina is, she realizes that.

"...That's not true!"

Reina doesn't believe her own words, and looking at her face, she is admonishing herself for faltering.

...But there's nothing to admonish herself for, since it's a fact.

"Reina."

"Hm?"

"You're still on my side, right?"

"Of course I am!"

Good.

I have a supporter. I have a irreplaceable friend. I have Reina.

So I may still be here.

"Ah—" Reina suddenly says, so I follow her gaze.

"Um..."

Kimura-kun is standing there, seemingly feeling a bit out-of-place.

"...Kimura-kun? What's the matter?"

"Ah, yes... can you spare a minute?" he asks reluctantly.

"Y-Yeah... what is it?"

"To come straight to the point, Ashi-chan told me to call you out, because I happened to know that you're here sometimes."

"Ashi-chan?"

"I'm talking about Ashizawa-kun! Toshiki Ashizawa."

The bad-mannered Ashizawa-kun...? What would he want from me?

Whatever it is, it can't be good for me. Kimura-kun's expression makes this obvious.

"Err... is he... angry?"

"..."

He just gazes closely at me, and eventually averts his eyes.

"...He is?"

"Saito-san. It might be better if you didn't go," he mutters with eyes cast away.

...It looks like it's more serious than I thought. But if I don't go, Ashizawa-kun's aversion toward me will only grow.

I—don't want that. I don't want to be avoided even more because of a misunderstanding.

"...I'm going."

"Okay..." he says as if he was going to get a beating from Ashizawa-kun.

"Fumi," Reina addresses me in a worried tone.

"I'll be fine," I smile and wave her goodbye.



Brought to our classroom (Kimura-kun immediately left for his club), Ashizawa-kun drives me into a corner, and without any time for confusion, I am surrounded by his buddies, Takatsuki-san and the other members of the group, while a few of my other classmates are watching from a safe distance. Mizuhara-san is here as well, but watching from afar with an uneasy expression.

"Okay. Do you know what this is?" Ashizawa-kun says in an oppressive voice as he holds something against my face. It's hard to see from such a short distance, but I can recognize that it's Mizuhara-san's wallet.

"—"

I try to answer, but the words stick in my throat. Everyone is watching me closely and with blatant enmity; I feel that I'm not allowed to speak. I'm scared.

His right arm, which is right beside my head, might lose it any moment. He definitely wants to. He is angry. And the perfect target to vent his anger on is right before his eyes.

I'm scared! Why are they looking at me like that? I can't say anything! I'm not allowed to speak!

"Hey! I asked you what the fuck this is!" he yells. His right arm is twitching.

"It's a... wallet..."

"Whose wallet?"

"Mizuhara-san's..."

"Right. It's Yuu's wallet."

Yuu? Come to think of it, that's Mizuhara-san's first name.

"It's the wallet I gave her for her birthday. It's the wallet you cut up with a goddamn cutter!" he says, some of his saliva flying on my face.

Anger has made him lose more than half of his reasoning. Had I been a guy, he would have beaten me up already long ago.

"You knew that Yuu's dating Toshiki, didn't you?" Takatsuki-san says with a scary face. "And you also knew that this wallet was a present from him, right?"

I don't. I had no idea that they were a couple. Such rumors don't reach me at all.

"That's why you stole the wallet when you were pissed off, no? You can't hide it!"

No, I didn't do anything!

But I can't say that. Even if I did and explained myself, they wouldn't believe me.

"Do you get that? This isn't something you can make up for with fucking money!"

His right hand moves. I reflexively close my eyes. However, he could somehow control himself and hit the wall behind me.

My mind goes blank like white paint. I'm trembling all over.

What am I supposed to do? I'm scared! Please, don't hurt me. I haven't done anything!

"Save me..."

I mutter at last, cornered and intimidated.

"Save me..."

At first, the others seem to think that I am begging toward them, but they quickly realize that's not the case and are taken aback.

"Save me..."

I seek help. Of course, there is only one person I would seek help from.

"Save me... Reina."

I didn't want to get Reina involved, so I tried to solve the matter without her coming with me.

But I failed.

I imagine how her long hair sways as Reina appears and swiftly frees me from their claws. I have a feeling that this picture will become reality. And then she will smile at me with her absurdly beautiful face, "Everything is all right, Fumi."

—However, Reina didn't come.

That sweet illusion took me from the ground to the clouds, to the pinnacle. But at the end of the day, I keep crawling on the ground in reality. I am thrown off the pinnacle again.

"Uh...uh..."

Unable to hold it in, I start to cry.

Thrown off course by my tears, the signs for violence disappear, even though Ashizawa-kun is still visibly angered.

"What?! Do you think we'll forgive you if you cry?!" Takatsuki-san shouts as she draws near to me. "Besides, there's no one who would want to 'save' someone like you!"

"But there is..."

"Who? Your mom? A teacher? They would only help you because it's their duty!"

"There is!"

"And who would that be?! Good lord, you are—"

"Reina! Reina Kamisu is there for me!" I scream. In a voice that might well have been the strongest in my entire life.

Takatsuki-san—no, everyone present—widen their eyes in response to my powerful shout. I'm surprised by myself, too, but I don't regret it.

Because that's the one thing that I will not allow anyone to disagree with me.

I do have an irreplaceable friend.

I do have Reina Kamisu.

I won't let anyone say otherwise.

Taking advantage of their confusion, I escape. I escape from them. I no longer need anything. Nothing.

All I need is Reina.

As long as Reina is with me, I'm perfectly fine.

4[edit]

As promised, Reina and I went to the aquarium.

There are more visitors than expected for a workday, most of which are families with children and young couples around twenty years old. Probably because they are not as restricted in time.

And of course, we are the only middle schoolers around.

"Reina, are you sure you don't need to go to school?"

"It's fine, but what about you, Fumi?"

"I don't mind at all."

I'm not welcome at school, anyway. My parents won't notice that I'm skipping, either, unless they get a call from school. In fact, ditching school today has made me wonder why I haven't done this sooner.

I look through the glass into the water tank.

Pretty fishes. That's all that comes to mind. They belong to the species Chaetodon auripes, but I'm going to forget that in a few seconds. Therefore, I only feel that they're pretty.

But that's fun.

"Oh, look, Fumi! Lots of jellyfish!"

"Cool."

"I love jellyfish."

"You do? Why?"

"Hm? Well... I wonder why? Maybe because... they don't look a lot like living beings?"

They don't look like living beings — now that she mentions it, she has a point. Inside an aquarium, they still feel a bit like living beings, but when they are held in a water tank at home, they're more like decoration. Decoration that shines and pulsates. When jellyfish are put into a tank in a house, their role changes from a living being to decoration.

"Besides, jellyfish kind of stand out. All other fishes here are just fishes, but jellyfish feel like entirely different beings. Ah, I'm not making sense, am I?"

"No, I know what you mean. You want to say that jellyfish are simply jellyfish, right?"

"Ah, yes, sort of. Jellyfish are simply jellyfish."

Jellyfish are simply jellyfish.

Looking at Reina, who is gazing into the water tank, I think:

Reina's also like that.

Reina Kamisu is simply Reina Kamisu.

Absurdly beautiful, completely different from everyone else, and my only supporter.

Reina notices my glance.

"...What's wrong, Fumi?" she asks.

"Mm, nothing."

She tilts her head.

"Reina... the dolphin show is starting!"

"Hm? Oh, you're right. Okay, let's hurry up."

Slightly swift-footed, we walk to the stadium where the dolphin show takes place.

On the way there, we come past a tank in which a large number of fishes are herding together and keep rotating restlessly.

Don't they get tired? I don't only mean physically, but also mentally. Rotating all the time won't get them any farther, after all; they could just as well stay still from the start. If they don't want to get anywhere, is it their goal to continue doing this until they can't move anymore? Don't they feel that such a life is futile?

But the fishes keep rotating, not caring about my thoughts.


The seats at the stadium are being occupied from the back to the front.

"Let's go to the front row, Reina."

"Eh? We'll get wet!"

"I know, but I want to watch the dolphins from as close as possible."

With a wry but gentle smile, she follows me to the first row and takes a seat.

"By the way, Fumi, I told you why I like jellyfish, but what's your reason for liking dolphins?"

"Hm... because they're adorable."

"That's all?"

"No, apart from that..."

Before I can continue, the woman in charge of the show begins the narration, starting with a brief explanation on the ecology of dolphins (where their nose is, that they hear sounds through their bones, etc.).

And then the show begins.

As several dolphins leap into the air to greet us, I am already enchanted.

They are pretty big when you actually see them — their jumps are spectacular and cause the children in the audience to shout in joy. They look so majestic yet adorable.

As they land again, water spills toward us. I instinctively shrink back. While it doesn't reach my clothes, my shoes get slightly wet.

Awesome! That's just awesome! Dolphins are great!

During the show, they jumped through rings, returned balls the woman had thrown to them, and swam around in circles... in a nutshell, it was awesome and I was absorbed.

"Dolphins sure are intelligent..." Reina suddenly says.

"Totally!" I respond immediately.

"Hahaha, you really love them, don't you? Is their smartness also a reason why—"

"Yeah!"

The show reaches the climax, which features a trick where three dolphins have to simultaneously jump over a stick that is set up at an extremely high position.

"And you know, dolphins send out ultrasonic waves and determine the position of objects through the reflected waves!"

"Just like bats."

"Hmm... I don't want to think of them in the same category, but yeah."

The dolphins ready themselves to the woman's signal.

Are they able to jump so high? Well, they wouldn't be doing this if they couldn't, but I'm afraid that one of them might not make it.

I hold my breath.

The dolphins stand side by side (can you say that in this case?) and — jump.

"Whoa!"

It was a feast for the eyes.

With a grand splash, the three dolphins land in the water, raising a few large waves.

"Incredible..." I say in blank astonishment.

Looking at the wavy pool, I arrive at the thought that dolphins might be the cause for the never-ceasing waves of the sea.

"Hey, Fumi? Dolphins can communicate through sounds, right?"

"Yeah. Although it's unknown how sophisticated their conversations are. I for one believe that their communication skills are just as high as ours."

"I see... that would be nice."

"Mm! Actually, another reason why I love dolphins is because they can communicate with one another!"

"Oh, nice."

The show ends and the visitors start to leave while the dolphins are bidding them farewell by swimming around and doing individual performances.

"You know, when I learned that dolphins can communicate through sounds, I was jealous of them," I murmur while watching their performance.

"...jealous?" Reina asks puzzledly, tilting her head to the side.

"..."

I waver if I should explain it to her. If I continue, I will spoil the joyful mood.

"I think that communication through words is too complicated for me."

But I don't want to have secrets from Reina.

"Fumi..."

"I'm sure that even I would have been able to get friends if we had other ways of communicating..."

"You have me, Fumi!"

"...Mm."

These words of hers are enough for me.

"But you know, lately I've come to think that..."

"Hm?"

"I think that I might have become 'like that'."

"...'like that'?"

Unable to answer her, I look at the dolphins again, which are busy showing their performances. One of them is waving us goodbye with its fin.

I wave back.

And that's what I mean.

I am waving my hand because I freely interpret the dolphin's waving his fin as "goodbye." Our actions aren't in line at all.

Right, as deplorable as it is, I can't talk with dolphins.

But that isn't limited to dolphins.

My language has become different from everyone else's, and that's why I can't get through to anyone. My words don't reach anyone.

Except for Reina.

My way of communication has become different. And that's why I'm getting disconnected and disappearing.


We leave the aquarium, which is in the center of an aquatic park. I walk up to a bench and sit down. Reina sits down next to me.

"Reina? Would you..."

Reina looks at me when I suddenly start to talk.

"Would you be okay if we were the only humans on earth?"

I look around. There's no one nearby apart from Reina, which isn't that surprising for a workday afternoon. We're alone. I wouldn't be in the least concerned if the world closed up right now and we were left behind just by the two of us.

"Hm... it would be pretty troublesome because we'd have no electricity..."

"And if you think about it without such concerns?"

Reina gazes closely at my face, and answers with a smile:

"In that case, that wouldn't sound too bad."

"Really?"

"Really!"

I look at her. Aah, she isn't saying it just because. I'm happy, I really am.

After all, she's different from me! Unlike me, she is loved by a lot of people. Despite that, she would be with me.

"But you know, Reina, your mom would...be—"

—Reina's mom?

At once I get suspicious and stop.

A lot of people?

Well, there must be a lot. She's beautiful and nice, unlike me. But—


—But who are they, specifically?


"Fumi...?"

"Hey, Reina..."

"What's wrong?"

"...I've never been to your home, have I?"

"Are you sure?"

"Where do you live again? Nearby? You must be. After all, you go home together with me."

"What's wrong, Fumi? That's obvious, no?"

"Why is it then that — even though we are close friends — I haven't been to your place?"

"..." Reina remains silent.

Eh? Hold on! What's that supposed to mean?

We're best friends, no matter how you look at it, so why do I have no idea who her friends and family are, and where she lives?

"By the way, Reina—"

"Don't say it!" she cuts my question short.

"Reina...?"

"Don't go farther than that..." she says sorrowfully and averts her eyes.

There are circumstances...? I don't know what it is, but Reina has a reason not to tell me about her.

Everyone has things he doesn't want to or can't say.

But,

But—

"—That's mean!"

"...Huh?"

"Aren't we best friends? We shouldn't keep any secrets from one another! Or was I the only one who felt that way? Hm?"

"No!"

"But then!"

"It's no good, Fumi!"

"Why? I don't understand, Reina!" I shout and as I do, I notice that a tear is flowing down my cheek, which leaves Reina speechless.

Cold air pulsates between us. That... hasn't happened before. This is the first time that we've been surrounded by such a cold atmosphere.

My feelings had reached Reina. She knows that I wouldn't ever hate or make fun of her.

There is no reason to have secrets.

There should be none.

Yet—

"I can't say it," she says distinctly.

"Why would you..."

Rejection.

No, that's not it. That can't be it. Reina would never want to hurt me. It's something... it must be something that she can't say despite that.

Of course I can understand that.

But—

"Don't doubt me."

I can't help but feel that she is rejecting me.

"Uh..."

Therefore, a drop falls from my eyes.

And once I realize that it's a tear, they start to overflow like a waterfall. Aah, I'm crying way too often lately! Man, I don't want to show anyone my tears. I don't want to bother anyone. But they won't stop.

I press my head against my knees as I burst out crying.

"—Fumi."

Reina's voice.

Reina's gentle voice.


"I'm sorry."


All I could perceive was my own crying voice, which is why I didn't notice what was happening.


I kept crying like an idiot, and when I raised my head—


—Reina wasn't there.


"Reina...?"

I looked and ran around searching for her.

But she was nowhere to be found.

Reina isn't anywhere anymore.

I was standing there in the wide, empty aquatic park, left behind, alone in the world.

5[edit]

People have erasers in their hearts.

While their efficiency differs from person to person — some of them might be really bad — anyone can use their eraser.

Rub, rub. Okay, away with you. You're an eyesore. Please go away. Rub, rub.

Two weeks have passed since the incident of Mizuhara-san's wallet. One week since I went to the aquarium with Reina.

Even after such a time span, no one is talking to me. Like the previous days, I'm just sitting in my seat, which isn't supposed to be here, and gazing out the window.

I have faded a lot.

Yet, they keep erasing me. Rub, rub.

Day by day, I am being erased. Bit by bit, I am fading. Rub, rub. Most of my existence has turned into eraser crumbs and gets wiped off my desk.

It's not going to get better. They have already become so used to rubbing me out that no one is having any doubts about it, let alone feelings of guilt. I'll keep being erased mechanically. If there is any human emotion involved, then it's slight irritation because their erasers get worn with use.

And Reina is still missing in this white and fading world.

Why? I'm not going to hold out like this! Reina... why did you leave me, Reina?

Why won't you appear before me? Even if you have secrets, that should be no obstacle for us!

Or do you hate me now?

Whatever it is, I want to see you!

I want to see you, I want to see you, I want to see you!


But no matter how much I beg, Reina doesn't appear.

And somewhere I know that she never will.

There is no meaning anymore.

In this classroom there is only irrelevant noise, irrelevant pictures, irrelevant classmates, and my irrelevant self.

There is no meaning anymore.

There is no meaning... in being here.


"—Goodbye," I whisper as I stand up.

The teacher is saying something. Ah, I was in the middle of having a 'lesson'?

Oh, he's angry. But I don't get what it's all about — after all, he isn't saying it for me, is he?

Oh, he's not angry anymore. But I wonder why he is looking at me like that? It's the first time someone does that, so I don't know what it means. But it looks a bit like he is scared.

I leave the classroom.

Far away behind me, the class is making a fuss, but it's irrelevant to me. Irrelevant. Completely irrelevant.


I'm sitting alone on the landing in the middle of the stairway to the roof. It's the second time since I've come here that the school building is getting noisy. What time is it? The first noise was probably the lunch break, so it must be the end of school today?

Reina. Will I ever see her again?

For some reason, I feel that I won't. I've been feeling that ever since she disappeared from me in that aquatic park. But so what? What about it? That doesn't change anything — I still need her, so much, so desperately.

Reina is all of me. Nothing remains if you take her from me. I'm empty. A wobbly lump that has no bones.

"Aah..."

What should I do? How can I meet Reina? I don't know! What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to do?

Suddenly, I hear someone walking up the stairs.

I ready myself. It might be him — he might have come like I wanted.

"...Saito-san."

Kimura-kun appears before me.

"Kimura-kun... so you came to talk with me..."

"Yeah... I have no reasons to refuse if you call me out..."

Right. I have placed a letter into his shoe locker to call him here. Like Mizuhara-san did.

"I also brought this here with me. It was a pain to get past the eyes of the teachers," he explains as he holds out the keys to the roof.

"Mm. Thank you," I say and accept the keys from his visibly trembling hands. Perhaps, he has realized why I called him out here.

"..." he remains silent.

"Are you not going to ask...?"

"Ask what...?" he says clumsily.

"Why I had you bring me the keys to the roof."

After a few moments, he reluctantly asks, "Why?"

To tell the truth, I'm not sure how to answer him, either. Because maybe — no, for sure — my answer is going to hurt him.

But that's okay, isn't it? Kimura-kun is just as irrelevant as my other classmates, after all.

I reply: "To take revenge."

His face freezes instantly.

Oh, so I was right. Finally, I could confirm my suspicions.

"R-Revenge...?" he stutters miserably in bewilderment, and gets even more nervous because of it.

"You cut up Mizuhara-san's wallet and put it into my bag, didn't you?"

"W-Why would you say that...?" he counters, still not admitting to it, even though he knows that he can't talk himself out.

"It's okay! I don't plan to question you about it."

As a matter of fact, I really don't feel like questioning and blaming him. As I once told Reina, I was about to get into this situation anyway — Kimura-kun merely happened to be the one who pressed the switch.

My words seem to have calmed him down a bit.

"B-But... how did you find out?"

Do you really want to know? Isn't that going to be tough on you?

"...Should I answer that?"

Finally noticing the meaning of my answer, he looks down and says, "...No need to."

"Okay."

With these words, I slide the key into the lock.

There are several reasons why I suspected Kimura-kun.

My first doubts were raised when he started to converse with me after I had received the fake love letter. I was aware that Kimura-kun had no feelings for me, so I wondered why he would suddenly become so gentle.

Another clue was the general reaction when Mizuhara-san's wallet got lost. Everyone considered me the culprit right away. In other words, something led them to believe that I had a grudge against her. As far as I know, the only discord between Mizuhara-san and me is that love letter, which means that someone must have broadcast the story. But only her group and I, as well as Kimura-kun knew about it. Of course, I haven't told anyone, and Mizuhara-san and her friends didn't look like they would want to tell everyone about it, either.

But most of all, it was no one else but Kimura-kun who proposed that the culprit must have had a grudge against her. He called their attention to me in a blatant manner.

I don't know why he did that. Maybe he had a grudge against me that I don't know of, or he might have had strong feelings about Mizuhara-san and Ashizawa-kun.

But I don't really care.

His story is irrelevant to me.

I turn the key, and the door opens with a click. I tentatively turn the doorknob — yeah, seems fine.

"...What do you plan on doing on the roof, Saito-san?"

"..." I silently turn around to him.

"Saito-san...?"

I answer his question with a question.


"Hey, Kimura-kun—"


"—Do you happen to know Reina Kamisu?"


Maybe I really thought that Reina would be waiting for me on the other side of the door.

This is a place that no one is allowed to enter, despite being so near. It's a place that we all know exists, yet only few have actually been there. And that's why I felt that I would find her here.

But of course, there is no sign of Reina.

I walk to the center of the roof and spin around.

Students going home, power poles established in regular intervals, the shopping district, our dirty river, another school, a house, another house — irrelevant scenery. But one thing within this irrelevant scenery — the glaring red sun hiding partly behind a building at the horizon — feels relevant to me.

The sun is about to hide on the other side, having completed its work for today, but floating there at the boundary, it feels like it's calling me.

I return to the door to lock it.

Now I'm completely alone.

I lean against the fence, and while watching the sun slowly hide its countenance, I think once more about Reina Kamisu.

Reina vanished. Yes, she vanished.

A beautiful and popular student suddenly stopped coming to school and went missing. This should have obviously been a serious incident for this Shikura middle school. It should have.

However, no one talks about it.

Of course, there is no one who would tell me, but even I can perk up my ears for rumors. It's strange. Reina Kamisu does not come up anywhere at all. No one talks about such a extraordinary girl. Is that even possible?

I screwed up my courage and sneaked a peek into her class. First, I couldn't believe my eyes, then I couldn't believe my ears, and finally, I couldn't believe myself.

Her seat didn't exist. Her shoe locker didn't exist. Her name didn't exist. Nothing related to her existed.

Reina is nowhere.

And when I saw Kimura-kun's face when I asked him about Reina, I was convinced.


—Reina Kamisu vanished.


It's not simple death. She erased everything of her existence, everything related to it, and vanished. Without leaving anyone anything of herself, and completely revoking the fact that a person named Reina Kamisu has ever existed, she disappeared.

With the exception of me, her best friend.

But even I only have a few empty memories left — much like a drop of soda on the edge of an empty can. I don't remember where we met, how we became friends, or where we went apart from the aquarium. Nothing.

Those memories will soon wither as well, erasing her existence once and for all.

Reina is disappearing.

Reina, who was everything of me, is disappearing.

So—there is no reason for me to be here anymore.


I climb on the fence. It's 15cm wide, so I can stand without a problem.

I consider taking off my shoes, but I decide against it; I'm not trying to commit suicide or anything.

I'm merely going to see Reina.

Of course, I can't be sure if can meet her like that. It's just the absurd thought that if she isn't here, she must be "there." It's about as absurd as thinking that a bird can fly past the sky into the space.

But I can't think of anything else.

There is no other way, and if that's the only way, why should I not try it? There's nothing that stops me. Let me repeat that: I have no reason to be here, so there is nothing that stops me.

I suddenly recall what I said to Kimura-kun.

—To take revenge.

Yeah, a petty revenge. By bringing me the keys, you got yourself involved in what is going to happen now, didn't you?

I wonder if he'll be having some pangs of remorse, even though he might not care about me?

I look down, and shrink back a little, scared of the imminent pain that I almost forgot about. That's going to hurt. Ten times... hundred times more than a syringe. But I mustn't flinch.

What is important to me? Meeting Reina. Being together with Reina.

That's all that counts. That's all...

Yes, with vigor!

Because I feel like I can get farther that way.


I take a vigorous leap.

Suddenly, the world spins and changes completely. Unable to properly grasp this unexpected world, I almost pass out.

I can only tell that it's not the place where I wanted to go. I have found myself in a tragic play.

Aah... did I fail? Did I make the wrong decision after all...?


But—

Just as I am about to give up, I realize that I've won the wager.


"Reina..."

Reina is right before my eyes.

"Reina, I missed you..."

She gives me her gentle and absurdly beautiful smile.

"Reina... tell me: where are you?"

"I am—" she answers.


"I am here. Reina Kamisu is — here."


Ah, right.

Why didn't I notice such a simple thing?



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