Suzumiya Haruki no Seitenkan:Volume1 Chapter6
I found another letter in my shoe locker today. What was it with letters in shoe lockers, anyway? Didn't anybody know how to use e-mail?
This letter felt different to the other one, though. For one thing, it wasn't just a scrap of folded paper without a name. It was in a plain white envelope, like one of those ones that they sell in 'business packs' in bookstores, and on it was written a single name.
I shoved the envelope roughly into my bag and rushed to the girls' washroom to open it. The message was written on a plain white piece of paper, meandering a bit when it reached the end.
I'll be waiting for you in the club room during lunch break.
- Asahina Mitsuuru
After what happened yesterday, my notion of reality had changed dramatically. I never wanted to go through anything like that ever again.
And yet... there was no way I could turn this down. I couldn't imagine Asahina-senpai even thinking about doing anything improper to me, and even though I had no proof that this letter was indeed sent by him, I didn't doubt its authenticity. He seemed the sort to go through such indirect, old-fashioned means. The mental image of Asahina-senpai slowly writing every word down with great care, his face locked in concentration, made me smile. Besides, if we're meeting in the club room, then Nagato should be there as well, and he'd protect me if anything really happens.
During break, though, I began to have my doubts. What if Nagato wasn't there? What if it was’t Asahina-senpai after all? What if it's another alien like Asakura, out to murder me to 'provoke a reaction' in Haruki?
My hair was in my eyes, so I brushed it back, remembering why I kept it back in a ponytail in the first place. And as my hand touched the back of my head, I remembered why I was wearing my hair down at all.
For a moment, I felt like a ancient peasant farmer who had been dutifully stacking sod and straw, only to be surprised by a flash flood.
Just for a second, I was there again, in this very classroom. Unable to move. Hearing Asakura say: " I have always wondered what you would look like with your hair down…" Feeling the rush of air of the katana near my head, but unable to dodge. The brief tug at my hair.
And then, back in reality, something else tugged on my hair.
I was dimly aware of two things. The first was a voice saying: "What are you doing, spacing out and playing with your hair!?" The second was my hand suddenly on my bento box.
The next moment, I found myself standing upright, looking down at the desk behind mine. My heart was racing and I felt completely out of breath. Haruki was sitting there, blinking with surprise, a small trickle of blood running from his nose. My lunch was splattered all over him, and everyone else in the classroom was staring at me in shock.
W-wha? I... clocked you in the face with my lunch, Haruki? How did that happ-?
Taniguchi told me what happened later on. Why do I have to rely on such a questionable witness, though? Come on, brain, cough up the facts! What else are you hiding from me...?
At any rate, according to Taniguchi, Haruki had reached out and yanked - wasn't it just a tug? - on my hair while I was looking off into the distance. I screamed "really loudly", so Taniguchi assumed that he must've pulled too hard on my head. I didn't bother correcting her.
Some pressuring was needed to make Taniguchi reveal what it was that I had screamed, exactly. Apparently it was a simple "No". Next, she saw me "shoot" out of my chair and smack Haruki in the face with my lunchbox, "All in one movement". Come on, haven't we established that I'm not an action hero?
The next thing I remember, Okabe-sensei was dragging me to her office and I had to spend the rest of recess assuring her that I was just startled because Haruki disturbed me while I was nodding off. It was just a bad dream that I continued into wakefulness. Really!
Please don't make a bigger deal out of this than it already is, sensei! I'm going to have to apologize to that idiot, especially since they dragged him off to the guidance counselor’s office. He didn't even show up for next period, which was a mixed blessing: on the one hand, I felt embarrassed about the whole thing, but on the other hand, I was now the object of everyone's attention. Besides, his schoolbag was still there, so he hadn't been sent home.
Urgh. I felt mortified. And it all happened just because I couldn't find a tie for my damned hair.
Haruki didn't show up for the period after that, either.
When lunchtime finally rolled around, I was immediately surrounded by a gaggle of idiots, wanting to know what really happened during break. I suppose that’s better than being asked what I was doing with Nagato in the classroom yesterday.
I was surprised that Taniguchi hadn't spread the word about what she saw yesterday all over the school like the gossip she was. Maybe she wanted to get the story straight out of my mouth.
Yeah, like she'd believe the truth anyway. Seeing her coming over to me, I ducked out of the crowd surrounding me. Right now, being stabbed to death would be better than having to deal with airheaded gossips!
…Well, no, I don’t really mean that. Besides, without a lunch, there’s no real point in waiting around here.
I headed towards the clubroom.
It was only May, and already the sun was smothering us with overbearing warmth. When summer actually comes, Japan will be a natural sauna. I was already sweating just by taking a few steps.
When I arrived at the club room door, I knocked first.
"Please, come in."
The voice was unfamiliar, and I hesitated. Was that really Asahina-senpai in there? If I really strained my mind, I could make myself believe that I could hear a bit of Asahina-senpai in there, but it was too deep to be his normal voice. He sounded friendly enough, but Asakura was friendly yesterday too, just before he tried to kill me.
I steeled myself. Even if it was someone dangerous, Nagato would come and help me, right? He came last time without me calling for him. He’s dependable. He’ll save me no matter what.
I opened the door.
Nagato wasn't there.
The person sitting inside wasn't Asahina-senpai either, and I actually took a step backwards before stopping myself. He was sitting in my usual chair, leaning back, and looking up at the ceiling. He was wearing a loose white shirt and tight black business pants, plus the slippers made for school visitors. His long brown hair was tied into a ponytail down his back.
He wasn't Asahina-senpai, but he looked a lot like him. The Asahina-senpai I knew wasn't that tall, and he looked more like a cute little boy than this handsome guy in front of me now. This guy looked like he was in his twenties, and gave a completely different feel than the middle-schooler-like Asahina-senpai.
But he resembled Asahina-senpai too much to be a coincidence.
"It's been a long time, Onee-chan," the man said, grinning at me.
I heard a whistle.
“Ah, the tea’s ready,” he said, getting up. “Sit down, make yourself comfortable.”
I hesitantly took a few steps into the room, still trying to figure out who this guy was.
“Want sugar? Or milk?” he asked, though he was putting plenty of milk in already.
It hit me. Could he be... "Are you, um, Asahina-senpai's... brother?"
He blinked in surprise, and then chuckled. His smile made him look even more like Asahina-senpai. "No, no, Onee-chan! It's me! I'm Asahina Mitsuuru, except that I come from further into the future. I've been waiting for a long time to meet you again."
I can't imagine the stupid expression on my face then. After what Asahina-senpai had told me in the park, I could accept that this person was himself from the future, and I took a few more steps into the clubroom to get a closer look at him. He had really grown handsome in the years to come, and he'd probably have a huge following of potential girlfriends, if he was still single.
"Oh, you don't believe me? Well then, I'll have to show you proof, right?" He began to unbutton his shirt.
Wait wait wait! I'm not ready for this! Aren't we moving a bit too quickly?
He revealed his chest to me without any trace of embarrassment. "Look, can you see this star-shaped birthmark? You can touch it if you want to."
There was indeed a star-shaped birthmark on that muscled chest. I shook my head slowly, feeling the heat on my face, my heart beating faster. I don't really remember if Asahina-sempai had a birthmark on his chest, even when I’d seen him changing outfits some time ago.
Wait, if this Asahina-senpai had grown so much, could it be that he had also grown in... what was I thinking? I shouldn't have such bad thoughts! Bad brain! Bad!
"Hm, that's strange," Asahina-senpai said, buttoning up his shirt again. "If you hadn't told me that I had this birthmark, I wouldn't have noticed it myself." His eyes grew wide. "Or could it be that I— t-this wasn't supposed to happen yet! We still haven't..." His flustered look made him seem just like the Asahina-senpai of this time. "Please forget what I just said!"
Easier said than done. I don't think I want to forget the sight of that chest, anyway.
"I'll believe you for now," I said. "Right now, after what happened yesterday, I'll believe anything."
The Asahina-senpai from some point in the future quickly regained his composure. "So do you really believe that I've come from the future to this temporal plane?"
"Of course. Wait, does that mean that there are now two Asahina-senpais in this time?"
"Right, Onee-chan. The me from the past is now sitting in his classroom, eating lunch with his friends."
What’s with the Onee-chan?
"Does he know that you're here?"
"No, he's from my past."
"I had to tell you something, so I got permission from the higher-ups to let me come to this time. Also, I've asked Nagato-kun to leave us for now."
Nagato probably didn't even bat an eyelid when he saw this Asahina-senpai. "Do you know who Nagato-kun is?"
Asahina-senpai smiled. "Classified information," he said playfully. "Heh, I haven't said that in such a long time."
"Actually, I just heard you say that a few days ago."
"You're right." Asahina-senpai winked at me. Then he suddenly looked serious. "I can't stay here for too long, so I'll get right to the point. Have you heard of The Frog Prince?"
"Whatever you'll face from now on, no matter how bad, I hope you'll remember that story."
"The Frog Prince, right? The one where the handsome prince is turned into a frog and the princess has to kiss him to change him back?"
"That's the one."
"I've already experienced something bad yesterday."
"This is worse than that. I can't tell you the details, but Suzumiya Haruki will be at your side."
Worse than yesterday? And Haruki? By my side? You mean we'll both be involved in something horrible? Did he start it?
"Suzumiya-kun won’t find anything wrong with it, but for the rest of us, it's a very complicated problem."
"You can't give me any details at all?"
"I'm sorry, I can only give you hints." Asahina-senpai looked so apologetic and serious. I could definitely imagine the younger Asahina-senpai looking like that.
"Like the story of The Frog Prince?"
"I'll remember it."
"Thank you." Asahina-senpai walked around the clubroom, and stopped before the clothes rack, looking at the maid outfit.
"Ah, I remember this.” He said, looking uncomfortable. “Well, I guess there’s no way I’d pass off as a girl while wearing it now, huh?”
That’s definitely true. "What sort of other stuff did Haruki make you wear?”
"I'm not telling," Asahina-senpai said shortly, but with a smile on his face. "It's really embarrassing. Though, it was kinda fun…."
He had a sort of sad, distant look in his eyes when he said that.
"So then, Onee-chan." Asahina-senpai walked towards me, and placed his hands on my shoulders. He seemed to be looking for something to say. "I'll… be going now, then."
Seeing him so hesitant, I thought that maybe I should give him a hug. However, just as I was about to embrace him, he backed off.
"I have one more request to make," Asahina-senpai said. "Please don't get too close to me." He put his hand on the doorknob.
“Ah!” He exclaimed. “That’s right. I have this to give to you.”
From his pocket, he pulled out a yellow ribbon.
Seeing my confused look, he explained. “For your hair. Looks like you need it, anyway.”
“T-thanks.” I said, grateful. I guess there’s no need go buy hair ties now.
“Oh, don’t thank me,” he smiled. “Thank yourself. You were the one who gave that to me.”
He grinned again, reminding me a little of Haruki. “Drink your tea, it’s getting cold.”
He turned to leave.
"I-I have one more question for you!" I blurted out. Asahina-senpai stopped, and looked at me questioningly. "A-are you seeing anybody right now?”
"That," he said, putting his finger to his lips and grinning wider than ever, "is classified information."
Just like that, the door closed behind him. I couldn't have done anything even if I had tried.
Wow. I can’t even believe how good-looking Asahina-senpai became when he grew up. I suddenly thought of the first thing he said to me. ‘It's been a long time, Onee-chan.’ Obviously, it’s been quite some time since he last saw me.
The future Asahina-senpai must have returned to his distant future, and then spent a few years there, before reuniting with me on this “time plane” again.
So how long has it been for him? He’s grown a lot… maybe five years? Of course, it could be less. Some guys go through huge growth spurts after they graduate. My cousin was like that. When he was in high school, he had always been this short, weak, studious kid. Then when he entered university, he grew nearly a foot and became the object of about a hundred girls’ affections.
Because of all this, though, I’m confused as to what his real age is. Is he really 17?
…I’m hungry. I think I’ll go back to the classroom and see if I can get Kunikida to share some of her lunch with me. She always brings too much anyway.
But as I opened the door…
Standing there was Nagato Yuuki, who was wearing his usual well-preserved cold face, but as he wasn't wearing glasses today, he stared at me with a naked glare.
"Oh! Hi, Nagato-kun! Did you just see someone who looked like Asahina-senpai passing by?" I asked, half-jokingly.
"I had seen Asahina Mitsuuru's differential temporal clone already this morning."
Nagato silently sat down in his seat and then placed his book on the desk and opened it.
"He is no longer here, and has departed from this timeframe."
"Can you travel through time as well? With that Data Entity thingy?"
"I cannot. However, temporal movement is not as difficult as one would think; it is just that humans have yet to grasp its basic principles. Time is like space; moving through it is very simple."
"Then could you teach me?"
"That is a concept that cannot be conveyed in speech, so you would not understand even if I explained it."
"I guess that's too bad, huh?"
It was pointless trying to talk to such a wooden person, so I decided to go back to the classroom. I hope still have time to eat something…
"Nagato-kun, thanks for yesterday."
His wooden expression moved slightly.
"There is no need to thank me. Asakura Ryou's actions were my responsibility. I was careless with my supervision."
His hair parting swung softly.
Was he trying to bow and apologize to me?
"You know, you definitely do look cooler without your glasses."
He didn't reply at all. The tea Asahina-senpai had brewed for me was still on the table, so I picked it up and had a sip.
Blech! Too much milk…
As I was rushing back to the classroom to scrounge up some lunch, I ran smack dab into Haruki. Could this be fate? It seems I've reached the point where I can see through all karma.
I remember what I did to his face during break.
"Listen, I -" I started to say, but he cut me off. Have some manners, you lout! Let a girl apologize when she feels she has to.
"Try not to space out in class," he told me in a superior tone of voice. Your nosebleed's stopped, I see. And you managed to get the egg out of your shirt. "You act even more stupid than usual when you're sleepy, it seems."
So, it seems your feelings weren't hurt, as you're still capable of spouting nonsense.
"Anyways, where did you run off to? I thought you'd be back sooner. I didn’t even eat lunch because I was waiting for you!"
Good, you can share some with me. It’s your fault I don’t have any, in any case.
"Don't just stand there like an idiot! Follow me!"
Haruki, in his usual fashion, picked me up off the ground and carried me towards the dark staircase.
Oh, no… put me down and let me go eat! I’m hungry!
"After I finally got out of the counsellor’s office, I went to ask Okabe in the staff room. The teachers only learned about Asakura transferring this morning. Early in the morning, someone claiming to be Asakura's mom called, saying they had to move due to some emergency. And you know where they're moving? Canada! How can this be possible? Why the hell would anyone move to Canada? There’s something going on here, I know it!"
"Really now?" I said, trying to fill my response to the brim with sarcasm. Of course, it’s wasted on Haruki.
"After that, I said I was a good friend of Asakura’s and wanted to ask the teachers if how could contact him."
Oh please. I don’t think you ever spoke more than a few words at a time to him when he was still around.
"And you know what the teachers said? They say they didn't know. Normally, if someone were to move, wouldn't they usually leave some sort of contact information? I’m telling you, there’s something weird going on here!"
"No, there isn't!"
Haruki just steamrolled over me as usual. "So I asked for Asakura's old address from before he moved. I'm gonna go there and have a look after school. Maybe we can find something there."
Forget it. I'm not going to stop him. In the end, the one wasting his time is Haruki, not me or anyone else.
"You're coming too."
Haruki puffed up his shoulders, and then, like a dragon huffing and puffing before firing its breath, he shouted at a volume the whole school could hear.
"BECAUSE YOU'RE A MEMBER OF THE SOS BRIGADE!!!"
I retreated frantically, complying with Haruki’s unreasonable orders. I went to the clubroom to tell Nagato that neither Haruki nor I would be showing up for club activities today. I also instructed Nagato to relay the message to Asahina-senpai and Itsuko as soon as they arrived, but I didn't know if the silent alien would even say anything, so, just to be safe, I took a felt pen and wrote on the back of one of the SOS Brigade flyers.
"There are no activities today for the SOS Brigade. - Haruki".
I don’t suppose it will matter in the least to Itsuko, but at least I can save Asahina-senpai from having to wear his maid outfit.
The bell for fifth session rang as I finished writing and pasted the note to the clubroom door. Because of this, I was forced to run all the way to class.
If I said I never wanted a guy to walk me home from school like on TV dramas, I’d be lying. But now that this dream has become a reality, I’m far from happy. For obvious reasons, of course.
"Did you just say something?" Haruki asked while walking on my left side, striding with large steps, carrying a piece of notepaper. I automatically interpreted his question as ‘You got a problem?’
"Nope, nothing at all."
We walked down the hill and followed the railway line. A little bit further on would be Koyouen Station.
Just as I was thinking that we must be near Nagato’s place, we arrived there. I’d never have guessed that this was where Haruki was heading.
"Asakura seems to live in Room 505." Haruki said.
"What do you mean 'no wonder'?" He glanced sideways at me.
"No, nothing. Oh yeah, how do you expect to go in? Look, even the gate is locked." I said as I pointed to the keypad by the intercom. "You need to enter the correct code to open the door. Do even you know it?"
"Nope! Fortunately, I have a plan. We might just have to wait a while, though."
Waiting? What are we waiting for? As it turned out, we didn’t end up waiting long. At that moment, a middle-aged man in a business suit opened the gate from inside, looking like he was just about to go into the office. He looked at us for a while with a questioning glance and then walked off.
Just as the gate was closing, Haruki rushed forward and put his foot in between it to stop it from opening.
Good idea, but that’s trespassing.
"Hey! Hurry up!” Haruki yelled at me and pulled my hand. Like that, I was dragged into the entrance hall. The first thing I noticed wasn't the chique decor, but the loud music. Why is someone playing foreign music so loudly in a semi-public space, and if they must play music, why Cher? Ignoring this assault to my ears, Haruki dragged me into the elevator, which had stopped at the ground floor. It’s just simple manners to stare silently at the floor numbers when riding an elevator, but…
Simple manners are wasted on someone like Haruki.
"It’s not just this transfer that’s fishy. He didn’t attend a local junior high either."
Well, that’s to be expected, really.
"I’ve done my research, see. He supposedly transferred to North High from another town. It’s just too suspicious. North High isn't some famous school or anything, just a normal local high school. Why would he go through so much effort to come from another town just to attend our school?"
I shrugged. I’ll just let Haruki go on with his rant for now.
"Yet he lives near the school, and it's one of those apartments paid by cash and not by rent. The price here must be insanely expensive. Could he have been going from here to his junior high on the train for the past three years?”
"I told you I don't know." Why are you asking me?
"I guess we need to find out when Asakura started living here, then."
The elevator stopped at the fifth floor. We got off and found Asakura’s apartment.
For a few minutes, we just silently stood and looked at the door. The name board by the door had been removed, indicating this was an empty apartment.
Looking at this door brings back memories of that battle in Class 1-5. Asakura’s last words echo in my mind.
You'd better be careful, though. I’m not the only one with a dissenting opinion.
And who knows, even those who control Nagato-san might change their thinking and decide to kill you instead.
Asakura may be gone, but that doesn’t mean I’m safe. One of his friends might decide to assassinate me as I sleep. Even Nagato, who saved me…
I shivered involuntarily, which, unfortunately, Haruki noticed.
“You okay?” He asked, looking at me strangely.
I lied. “I’m fine. Don’t you feel that draft?”
“…Weirdo.” Haruki tried to turn the doorknob, but as expected, it’s locked.
Haruki stood with his arms crossed, trying to figure out how to get inside the apartment to investigate, while I tried to figure out why I was here wasting my time in the first place.
“Ah!” Haruki snapped his fingers "Let's find the caretaker!"
"I don't think she'll lend us the key."
"No, I'm thinking of asking her when Asakura started living here."
I sighed. "Just forget it, Haruki! What can we do even if we did know? Can’t we just go home?”
"No." With that short, simple answer, Haruki pulled my arm again.
We took the elevator and returned to the ground floor, and went to the caretaker's post at the entrance hall. That music was as loud as ever, and even got louder the closer we got to the post. Soon enough, I spotted a radio behind the glass, and… something weird. At first, I thought some kind of malformed sweater or stuffed pet had been left in the caretaker’s seat. When we pushed the buzzer, however, it turned out to be a freakishly high, curly black wig on top of a little old lady in a dress much too colorful for her, who slowly rose like a vengeful ghost.
It wasn’t something I wanted to see on a daily basis. I don’t know how she was keeping her job.
She blinked owlishly and scrabbled at her desk, eventually taking out a pair of butterfly glasses. Haruki then began to bombard the old woman with questions before she could even speak.
"Excuse me, we're friends of Asakura-san. He suddenly said he was moving without even leaving his new address, and we don't know how to contact him. Could we please ask if you know where he moved to? And, could we please know when Asakura-san started living here?"
I was amazed at how Haruki can actually use such normal, polite language, but the old lady seemed to be hard of hearing as well as half-blind. She kept replying with, "What?", "Come again?", and so on. Though I should say it was either that she was hard of hearing, or her attention was wandering; she was all smiles with her eyes firmly on Haruki. Hey, grandma! What’s with that twinkle in your eye?
Despite that, Haruki still managed to learn from the old lady that she too was surprised at Asakura suddenly moving out. (I didn't even see the movers come, yet all the furniture inside was gone. It still gives me the creeps.) He also learned that Asakura had moved in three years ago. (I remember the handsome young lad giving me a box of treats that day!) Also, instead of paying in installments, the apartment had been paid for in one single down payment in cash. (I guess they must be very rich!)
I’m impressed, Haruki! You could be a detective at this rate!
The old lady seemed rather pleased to be talking to a good-looking guy like Haruki.
"Come to think of it, although I've often seen that handsome young boy, I don't recall ever seeing his parents. I remember the fine young man's called Ryou. Such a nice name. I was hoping he would at least come and say goodbye... it's such a pity. I forget how many times I invited him over for tea and a chat. But y’know, you're not bad yourself!”
When the old lady began to talk about stuff like that, moving a little closer to the window to get a better look at him, Haruki determined he could no longer extract any more information from her. He bowed to the old caretaker politely and said, "Thank you very much for your help."
He then motioned for me to leave. I didn’t need any urging at all, since I was eager to get far, far away from this apartment building. I hope I would never have to come back here again.
"Hey, little lady!" the caretaker called to me only loud enough for me to hear. “That boy’s a looker,” she whispered, “he’ll grow up to be a nice man. If I was just my granddaughter’s age, I’d go for him in a heartbeat, so don’t let him get away! Tame him, and you’ll be set for life.”
The old woman was obviously senile. What I was worried about was what sort of terrible reaction Haruki, who might have overheard all that, would have. Yet he silently continued moving forward, and so I remained silent as well and followed him out of the building.
A few steps from the gates, we bumped into Nagato, carrying his schoolbag and some plastic grocery bags. For Nagato, who would usually be in the clubroom reading until the school closed, to be here at this time would mean that he had left soon after we did.
"Ah!” Haruki said, surprised. “You live here too? That’s a coincidence!”
Nagato nodded his pale white face. Please, how can this be a coincidence?
"Have you heard anything about Asakura?" Haruki asked.
Nagato shook his head.
"I see. Right, well if you hear anything about Asakura, let me know, okay?"
He nodded his head. Are those the only responses you’re capable of?
I noticed some food cans and vegetables inside his grocery bags. I guess he does need to eat after all.
Haruki had noticed one thing that was different about Nagato today. "What happened to your glasses?"
Nagato didn't directly answer the question but only silently looked at me. I panicked a bit being stared at by him like that, while Haruki, not expecting him to answer at all, simply shrugged his shoulders and walked off without looking back. I lifted my arm and waved goodbye to Nagato. As we walked past, Nagato whispered, "Be careful."
Be careful?! Of what? But as I was about to turn around and ask him, he had already vanished into his apartment building.
Geez… You’re going to make me paranoid!
I followed Haruki, who was walking aimlessly along the railway line, always remaining two to three steps behind him. Walking this way would lead me further and further from home, so I asked where we were going.
"Nowhere.” he replied dully.
“Then can I please go home now?” I asked as I looked up at the back of Haruki’s head.
At that point, Haruki stopped dead, and I walked straight into his back.
He turned and looked at me with a gloomy look, his face as pale white as Nagato’s.
"Do you ever get the feeling you're just an insignificant speck on the face of the planet?”
Without waiting for my answer, he continued. "I have, and I'll never forget it."
Haruki stood by the railway tracks and began to talk.
"When I was in sixth grade, I went with my family to see a baseball game. I wasn't really interested in baseball. But when I went there, I was shocked. Everywhere I looked there were people all around, everywhere. The people at the opposite end of the stadium looked like grains of rice, all of them in constant motion. Back then, I thought that everyone in Japan had gathered to watch that game. So, I asked my mom how many people were at the stadium. She said as it was full that day, there were about fifty thousand people.
"After the game, the roads were packed with those people. Seeing all of this, I was completely stunned. There were so many people here, yet they were only a tiny fraction of the whole country. I had read in geography class that Japan had a population of a hundred million, so I went home and did the math. I found out that fifty thousand was only one out of two thousand of the total population. I was stunned again. I was only a small part of so many people in the stadium, and that many people again were only a small part of the whole country.
"Before that day, I had always thought that I was special. I was happy with my family, and I felt that the world’s most interesting people were in my class. Slowly, I began to realize the truth. The things that I experienced in school that I had thought were the happiest, most wonderful things in the world, happened in every school. For the whole country, the whole planet, they were just everyday occurrences. The whole world around me started to lose its color. I brush my teeth and go to sleep, then wake up and have breakfast. It’s the same, day after day, after boring day.
"My life became boring when I realized everything I did was just a part of everybody’s ordinary life. Since there are so many people in this world, there has to be someone who's living an extraordinary, exciting life. Someone out there has to be fighting aliens, rescuing princesses, and slaying giants. Why couldn't that be me?
" I thought all about it before I graduated from elementary school. When I entered junior high, I decided to change myself. I'd show the whole world that I'm not someone who’s content to just sit and wait. But even after I’ve tried my best… everything is still the same. And now I'm in high school, still hoping for something to change. But, at this rate, it’s never going to. Never."
Haruki said all this without pause. When he finished, his face twisted into an expression of regretting saying so much, and just stared at the ground in silence.
A train passed rapidly by us. Thanks to the rumbling noise, I had time to consider what I should do next. Should I come up with something philosophical and inspiring? Should I say something to make him laugh?
However, as I watched the train leave behind its Doppler Effect sound, all I could muster was an “Is that so?” I feel really bad at only coming up with such a simple, useless reply. What am I supposed to do, though? Hug him?
Haruki turned around declared, “Let’s go!”
He strode back the way we came. Though I could reach home faster if I went after him, I somehow got the feeling he didn’t want me to follow. I stayed where I was and watched Haruki walk off until he disappeared from my sight.
Just what the hell have I been doing all this time?
When I came home, I found Itsuko waiting by my front door.
"Hi!" Her smile was the sort of smile you would usually use to greet an old friend, but it was still as fake as ever.
"I want to keep the promise I made to you earlier. That’s why I've been waiting for you here, but I never thought you would return so quickly!" She said heartily.
She was still wearing her uniform and carrying her bag, apparently she just left the school.
Itsuko continued with her ever-present smile. "Do you have a moment? I'd like to take you to see a certain place."
"Something to do with Suzumiya?" I asked.
Itsuko’s smile grew wider. "Something like that."
I opened my door and placed my bag in the hall. After telling my brother, who had just appeared, that I was going somewhere again tonight, (“With a guy again?” “Shut up.”) I went back outside to Itsuko.
A few minutes later, we went for a ride.
Itsuko flagged down a taxi that had stopped near my place, and we rode off along the main road, heading eastwards. Itsuko told the driver to go to a large city outside the prefecture. It’d be cheaper to go by train, but since Itsuko was the one paying, it didn’t matter to me.
"Right,” I began, “What was the promise you said you were going to keep?"
"You don’t remember? Weren’t you the one who wanted to see proof of my esper powers? Well, now’s your chance!" Itsuko said cheerfully.
"Do we really have to travel this far?"
"Yes. I can only use my powers under specific places and conditions. The place we're headed to fits those conditions."
"So, you still believe Haruki is God?"
Itsuko, sitting together with me in the back seat, glanced sideways at me. "Have you ever heard of the Anthropic Principle?"
Itsuko sighed and smiled again, "Basically, it's a theory that states 'If something must be true for us, as humans, to exist, then it is true simply because we exist.'"
Huh? I don't get it.
"The universe exists simply because it is there for us to observe. In other words, the intelligent lifeforms known as humans learned of the existence of the universe through observing how the universe was formed by the discovery of the laws of physics. If humans had not evolved to their present level, then observation would be impossible, and they would never learn of the existence of the universe.
“This means whether the universe exists or not, for a human who hasn't completely evolved, it wouldn't make much of a difference. It is because of the presence of us fully-evolved humans that the existence of the universe is widely accepted. This is the method of thinking from the humans' point of view."
"…That’s an stupid way of thinking. The universe exists regardless of whether humans exist or not!" I retorted.
"You're right, and that's why the Anthropic Principle is not completely scientific, just a philosophical concept. However, from this theory, something interesting comes into view."
The taxi stopped at a red light. The driver just kept staring at the road, never bothering to turn around and look at us.
"Why did the universe come to be in a state suitable for human habitation? A minor change in the gravitational constant would mean a completely different universe from the one we're in. Other sets of rules such as Planck's Constant or the mass ratio of atomic molecules seem to be designed specifically so that humans can live in this universe. Don't you find this incredible?"
My head hurts. The stuff Itsuko said sounds like one of the rhetorical flyers given out by those newly formed religions whose founding principles are based on scientific theories.
"Relax! I don't believe in the existence of an ‘Almighty God’, or the ‘Ultimate Creator’ that breathed life into the first human. And many of my companions share this sentiment. Yet, there's one thing that bothers us."
Which would be?
"Are all the things that we do as foolish as a clown doing a handstand by the edge of a cliff?"
The expression on my face right now must have been very strange, or Itsuko wouldn't have laughed as loud as she did.
"Ah-hohohoho! I was kidding, kidding!"
H-hey, you… "I really don’t know what the hell you’re talking about…"
What I really want to say is, I don't have time to play some stupid jokes with you. Can you let me off? Or driver, do you mind turning around? If possible, I'd prefer the latter.
"I was just using the Anthropic Principle as a comparison. We still haven't touched on the subject of Suzumiya-san."
This is just too weird! Why are you, Nagato and Asahina-sempai all so infatuated with Haruki?
"Well, I think that he’s very charming and charismatic, but let’s leave that aside for now. Do you still remember me saying that this world had probably been created by Suzumiya-san?"
I didn’t like what she was saying, but I did remember it having come up.
"He has the ability to realize dreams." Itsuko said.
Can you not be so conclusive for once?
"I can’t, because it’s true. Right now, this world is being guided by Suzumiya-san's wishes."
…How, exactly, is that possible? "Suzumiya-san has always believed aliens existed, which is why Nagato Yuuki appeared. Similarly, he wanted to meet time travelers, so Asahina Mitsuuru appeared as well. And I appeared before him for the same reasons as well."
Didn’t he have marriage plans in there somewhere…?
"And how do you know that?" I asked.
"It was three years ago..." Itsuko began.
Three years ago again! I'm sick of hearing that already! Why is it always three years ago?
"One day, I suddenly realized I possessed a certain power, and for some reason, I fully understood how to use this power. At the same time, I also discovered others like me had also gained certain powers, and that these powers were granted by Suzumiya Haruki. I can't go into the details. All I can say is that I know these things while not being able to explain them."
"Alright, look. Even if I believe you have these powers, I still can't believe Haruki can have the power to warp reality."
"Neither could I. A mere schoolboy having the ability to change the world -- sorry, I guess it should be more like the ability to create worlds, huh? The scary thing, though, is that this boy now finds the world he's in to be boring."
"Why is that scary?"
"Didn't I say tell you? If he can create worlds at will, then naturally he can make this world disappear without a trace and then restructure it according to his wishes. Then, in a literal sense, the world will have come to an end. We can't determine whether this theory is correct or not; who knows, the world which we believe to be unique has probably been recreated many times before already."
The number of times I have used the word “unbelievable” in the past 10 minutes only proves that I need a thesaurus.
"If that's really the case, why don't you just tell Haruki who you really are? Let him know that espers really do exist. I bet he’d be really happy to hear that.” He’d probably ask you to marry him. “Maybe then, he wouldn't want to try and destroy the world!"
"That would pose an even greater problem. If Suzumiya-san believed the existence of espers to be a very normal thing, then it would become a very normal thing. All the laws of physics would be distorted-- the Molecular Constant, the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and the rest of the universe would all descend into chaos." "There's something I don't understand." I said, "I remember you saying it was Haruki's longing to marrymeet aliens, time travelers and espers that caused you, Nagato-kun, and Asahina-sempai to appear before her?"
"Yes,” she replied.
"Well, then why hasn't Haruki noticed anything yet? Isn’t it a little strange that it’s just you and me who know everything instead?"
"You find it inconsistent? It isn’t, really-- the real inconsistency is within Suzumiya-san's heart."
…Could you say something I can understand for once, please!?
As I was about to respond with some sharp retort, the driver said suddenly, "We're here."
The car came to a stop and the door opened. I stepped into the crowded street with Itsuko. When the driver drove off without even charging any fare, I wasn't at all surprised.
If people in this area wanted to go shopping, this would be the place for them to do so. This is the typical local metropolis with the railway interchange, as well as all sorts of department stores and complex architecture. The sunset bathed the bustling street full of pedestrians a glowing orange. When the lights at the intersection ahead turned green, the road became occupied by a sea of people in an instant. We were separated for a while by this wave after we got off by the sidewalk.
"So what were you saying?" I asked, as I caught up to Itsuko.
We headed towards a nearby shopping centre as she talked. "Ah, yes, Suzumiya-san’s inconsistent heart. He does hope for the existence of aliens, time travelers, and espers. His common sense, however, is telling him that these things don't exist, and this creates cognitive dissonance. Though he may be eccentric in his actions and speech, his thinking is still no different from an ordinary person. His stormy enthusiasm has slowly calmed down in the last few months. We were glad to finally see him stabilize, but a tornado-like change has suddenly occurred."
"It's all because of you." As we passed through the doors of the shopping centre, Itsuko stopped walking and turned towards me. "If you hadn't given Suzumiya-san certain… funny ideas, we would still be observing him from behind the scenes right now."
"What!? What did I do!?” I had nothing to do with anything! It’s all Haruki’s fault anyways!
"It was you who encouraged him to form that weird club. All because of a conversation he had with you, he came up with the idea of forming a club to gather us all together. Therefore, you must carry full responsibility for all of this. It is because of you that the three groups most concerned with Suzumiya Haruki have now gathered in the same place."
Oh. That. “T-that’s not fair!" I still decided to defend myself unconvincingly . Itsuko only smiled and continued, "But that's not the only reason…”
“Hey,” Itsuko suddenly broke out into a grin as she caught something in the corner of her eye. “That dress…” She pointed at a flowing yellow one, up at some clothing store’s display case. “It’d look really good on you, wouldn’t it?” She turned back to me, smiling wider than ever. “Want to go and try it on?”
I put my palm against my face and sighed. “…Wasn’t there something you wanted to show me?” I asked, exasperated.
At my response, Itsuko looked a bit sheepish. “Ah, yes, that. But after we finish, we’ll come back to try it on, okay?”
As we walked towards an open area in the middle of the shopping centre, Itsuko looked at me and said, "There's still time for you to change your mind, you know. It’d probably be simpler just to go back and try on the dress."
"Shut up about the dress. I'm already here anyway, so let’s cut to the chase."
Walking beside me, Itsuko suddenly grabbed hold of my hand. Hey, what do think you're doing!?
"Sorry, but could you please close your eyes for a while? This won't take very long.”
What won’t take long? Hey! I dodged to avoid a consumer from bumping into me.
Fine, fine. I obligingly closed my eyes. I could still hear the many footsteps of the shoppers, the endless chatting, the dull roar from the cars outside, and all sorts of noises.
Under Itsuko's guidance, I walked ahead one step, two steps, three steps, and then I stopped.
"You can open them now."
I slowly opened my eyes.
The whole world fell into a shade of grey.
All the bright colors in the store windows were gone and on the neon signs advertising fifty percent off sales had turned dull grey The lights on the ceiling had gone out, stranding Itsuko and me in near-darkness.
There were no people at all.
Besides Koizumi and I, the bustling crowd of evening shoppers that was here before had now vanished without a trace. The ever-present hum of machinery that fills the background noise in cities was gone. It was so quiet that you might wonder if the Earth had stopped spinning as well.
"We're now in a gap within a cross-dimensional faultline; this is Closed Space, a place that is completely cut off from the world we live in."
Itsuko's voice became particularly clear in the silence.
"The centre of this courtyard falls right by the ‘Wall’ of this Closed Space. Look, just like that."
Itsuko's outstretched arm stopped in midair, as though blocked by something. I tried to do the same and stretched my arm towards that direction; it felt like touching cold, washed vegetables. My hands pushed through the surface of an elastic invisible wall, but I couldn’t extend any further beyond ten centimeters.
"This Closed Space has a radius of five kilometers. Usually, it's impossible to enter using normal physical means. However I have a certain ability that allows us to enter."
"Where is this place?" I asked. Wait, no, the question ought to be more like “What dimension is this?”
"I'll explain as we move along,." said Koizumi casually. “We should go outside, where you can really see the true extent of this place.”
As we headed out through the back entrance, I couldn't help but lift my head towards the sky. The glowing orange sun was nowhere to be seen, and the sky was covered by gloomy grey clouds. Were those really clouds? The flawless dark horizon stretched endlessly ahead in every direction. The only thing that stopped this world from falling completely into darkness was a weak glow in the sky that had replaced the bright sun.
This place… it’s creepy.
"I'm not too sure about the details, but this is a dimension located not far from ours... Let's put it this way, a cross-dimensional faultline just appeared right over there, and we have entered through the gap. At this moment, the outside world is still going on with its everyday life. It's nearly impossible for normal humans to stumble upon this world by accident." She continued to talk as we crossed the street, heading towards an apartment complex. "Imagine an inverted bowl-like, egg-shaped dimension, and this place is its interior."
We entered the multi-story apartment complex, but not a single person could be seen, not even a speck of dust.
"Closed Space occurs randomly. Sometimes it appears once every other day, and sometimes it appears once every several months. Yet, one thing's for sure..."
We climbed up the stairs, although it was dark inside. If I hadn't been following Itsuko closely, I would've tripped.
"Whenever Suzumiya-san is in a mentally unstable condition, this space will appear."
We arrived at the rooftop of the apartment block.
"Once Closed Space appears, I will be able to sense it. So too can my companions. How do we know, you ask?”
I didn’t ask.
“Frankly, even we don't know how. In any case, we just know when and where Closed Space will appear, and how to penetrate it. I can't describe this feeling in words."
I held the rooftop fence and looked towards the sky; no breeze could be felt.
"So you brought me here just to see this? There's not even anybody here!" Can I go home now?
"No, the real fun will begin soon. It's about to start."
Quit joking around! Itsuko, however, pretended not to notice my sour expression.
"My abilities are based around detecting Closed Space and penetrating it, but that’s not all they can do. I can even sense Suzumiya-san's state of mind. This space is a representation of Suzumiya-san's emotional state and my comrades and I are in charge of maintaining it. I guess you could say that when Suzumiya-san’s mind gets to the point where it becomes indigested, I’m the medicine sent in to cure it."
"…Your metaphors are a little hard to understand."
"People often tell me that. Anyway, are you feeling all right? I guess it’s to be expected, but you seem a bit freaked out by this place."
“It’s nothing, nothing…” It’s just that… this place reminds me a little of the space Asakura created a few days ago. Gah, I've had enough of these crazy experiences already!
Suddenly, Itsuko lifted her head and looked in the opposite direction I was facing..
"Seems like it's begun.” She said, suddenly serious. “Turn around and look behind you."
I saw it.
Standing between the tall buildings in the distance was a glowing red giant.
It was taller than a 30-story building by a head's length. Its slim, deep crimson-shaded figure seemed to contain some sort of material that allowed it to glow from within. Since it was too dark, I couldn’t see its outline clearly, and besides the eyes and mouth, which seemed to be an even darker red, its face didn't seem to have any other features.
What… what on earth is that?
The giant slowly lifted its arm and then swung it down like an axe, and the building beside it was smashed in half; then, as if in slow motion, the concrete, wires, and debris made a deafening noise falling to the ground.
Itsuko was talking again, but I could barely hear her over the destruction "We believe these to be the manifestation of Suzumiya-san's frustration. Every time his inner conflict reaches a certain limit, these giants will appear and destroy everything around them to relieve pressure. We cannot allow these things to have their way in our reality, or they'll cause widespread death and destruction. That is why this Closed Space is created, so that they can wreak their havoc inside. You understand?"
Every time the glowing red giant waved its arms, the buildings would be sliced in half and collapse. The giant would then continue forwards, stepping on the debris.
Surprisingly, I could only hear the sound of the buildings collapsing, but not the footsteps of the giant.
"According to the laws of physics, it should be impossible for a giant like him to be able to stand, due to his weight. Yet he is able to move around freely in a weightless condition. Though destroying a building involves a change in molecular structure, these rules don't seem to apply to him. Not even an army would be able to stop one of these giants."
"So… we can’t do anything?"
"No, and that is why I exist. Please look closely."
Itsuko pointed towards the giant. And I looked again to notice a few glowing blue dots that had just appeared and were flying around the giant. Compared to the large red giant, the blue dots were like sesame seeds. There were five of them in total, but because they were flying so fast, my eyes couldn't catch up with them. Like satellites, the blue dots orbited around the giant as though trying to stop the giant from moving further ahead.
"Those are my companions, who, like me, have obtained their powers from Suzumiya-san. We are warriors in charge of hunting down these giants."
The giant made a lazy swing to swat away the tiny blue pests, but they skillfully dodged the giant's attacks and swiftly changed their flight path. They came around a second time and attacked the giant's body. The giant, however, seemed to be made of gas, since the blue dots simply flew through it.
The giant, after deciding that it was too troublesome to fight, simply ignored the blue dots and their attacks and raised its arm again to smash another department store building.
No matter how the blue dots attacked, the giant didn't seem to be stopping. Blue laser-like beams now penetrated the giant's body non-stop, but since I was too far away, I couldn’t figure out the extent of damage it had sustained. One thing was for certain: the blue beams didn't create any holes in the giant's body.
"Right, I think now would be an excellent time for me to join them."
Itsuko's body started to glow blue, and a blast of force erupted from her which drove me a few steps back and caused her clothes to flutter. As she started to glow blue, Itsuko briefly turned to look at me and smiled a little strangely.
"How embarrassing, I think my skirt went up for a moment," she said with a small giggle, “You didn’t see anything, did you?”
Who would be looking up your skirt at a time like this?!
Soon, her glowing body was covered in a blue glowing sphere. Standing before me was no longer a human girl, but a large glowing ball.
This is getting ridiculous. I may need a thesaurus again at this rate.
As if making a signal, the glowing sphere started to rise and then flew straight towards the giant at an incredible speed.
Since the blue spheres never stopped flying, I couldn't figure out how many there were in total, but I don’t think there could have been more than ten, including Itsuko. They bravely flew towards the giant's body, but all they could do was fly through it. The giant was barely, if even, hurt. But just as I was thinking that, one of the blue spheres suddenly approached the giant's wrist and circled it.
The next moment, the giant's hand was sliced off. The masterless hand fell towards the ground and gave out a mosaic glow, started to become transparent, and then disintegrated like snow melting under the sun. I guess the red smoke coming out of the giant's severed wrist must have been its blood. This really is the stuff of fiction.
The blue dots seemed to have changed their attacking style of charging towards the giant. They approached the giant like a bunch of fleas surrounding a dog. The blue beams sliced through the giant's face, and its head came falling down; after that, its shoulder fell as well, followed by its upper torso, leaving behind a strange shape. The falling bits began to give out the characteristic mosaic glow, then disintegrated and vanished.
As the giant was standing in a large piece of land without any obstacles around, I was able to see the whole process from beginning to end. When the giant's upper torso fell off, its remaining body also began to disintegrate, finally dissolving into beads smaller than dust and spreading over the debris.
Once the blue dots floating above made sure their work was done, they started flying off in all directions. Most of them disappeared at once; only one flew towards me, finally landing at the rooftop of the apartment complex. The blue sphere slowly lost its glow, and finally Itsuko stood before me, flipping her hair pretentiously with her usual plastic smile.
"Sorry to keep you waiting." She sounded very calm, and not exhausted at all.
"Before we go, I'd like to show you one more interesting thing."
Itsuko pointed towards the sky. I half-suspiciously raised my head, and in the gloomy grey skies, I saw it!
Right above where the giant first appeared was a crack, like that of a hatching bird trying to break through its eggshell. The crack began to spread rapidly like a spider web.
"Following the red creature's destruction, the Closed Space will also be destroyed. Believe me you won’t want to miss it.”
As Itsuko finished her explanation, the large cracks now covered the skies above, like a metallic net. The net margins started to narrow until they became as small as black curvy lines. Then, at that moment, CRACK!
Actually, I didn't really hear any sound. It was just my brain trying to simulate the sound of glass cracking. Anyway, a light penetrated from a spot in the sky, spreading out in all directions. I felt the light shower downwards. No, that's not the right word for it… it was more like the opening of the retractable roof of the Tokyo Dome stadium, all within a few seconds. The difference is that this roof covered all the buildings under it.
A loud noise started to rumble in my eardrums, and I covered my ears instinctively. It was because I had been in a world of silence for so long, the usual bustling noise in the streets and mechanical hum of white noise had seemed deafeningly loud.
The world had reverted back to its original state.
There were no collapsed buildings, no grey skies, and no glowing blue spheres flying through the air. The road was full of vehicles and people. A familiar orange glow could be seen through the gaps between the buildings. The world seemed grateful at the reception of such warmth and left long shadows behind.
The breeze blew softly.
"Well then," Itsuko said. "Shall we go back?"
Is it really okay to be this calm right now? Weren't you just in life-or-death battle?
"Of course I was," she replied, her smile faltering for only a moment before it resumed full-force. "But you must understand, I have been in these fights before."
What's with those unreadable expressions?
"I find," Itsuko said as she guided me back down the stairs, towards the shopping centre, "that though these battles need to be taken very seriously, they should not be dwelled on. When the fight is won, one should take a moment to enjoy the simple things in life. Like this one."
At this point, we were at the shop that had the yellow dress... Itsuko, predictably, made me try it on and despite my protests, it did look good, so I bought it. I might've thanked her if she hadn't been so persistent about me trying it on, even if she was right.
"Now do you understand, though?" Itsuko asked me as we boarded a taxi, which seemed to magically stop before us after we left the shopping centre. When I looked, I realized it was the same driver as before.
"I don't get it at all." I answered truthfully.
"I knew you'd say that, hoho." Itsuko laughed. "Those red giants, we call them Celestials, but, as I've told you already, they are greatly related to Suzumiya-san's mental condition. We're the same, of course. Once Closed Space appears, once the Celestials begin their movement, we're able to use our powers. We can only use those powers within Closed Space; right now, I’m totally powerless."
I silently glanced at the driver's back. All that is related to Haruki’s mental state? What is he, a teenage girl?
"I don't know why it's just us who have these powers, but I don’t think it has anything to do with our identities. It's like winning the lottery: even though the chances may be low, there's bound to be someone who wins. I just happened to be the one to be stabbed by the random spear. Ah, how unlucky I am!" Itsuko smiled forcefully. I remained silent because I didn't know what I should have said. Unlucky? Who are you to say that?
"We cannot allow the Celestials to move freely. Why is that, you ask? Because the more damage these Celestials cause, the larger the sphere of the Closed Space becomes. The one you just saw was one of the smaller ones. If we leave them unattended, it will continue to grow until it covers the whole country, even the whole world, and finally, that alternate grey world will completely replace the world we're living in."
I finally opened my mouth. "How come you know so much?"
"I told you, I just know, it can't be explained. All the espers associated with The Organization are the same. One day they just suddenly knew everything about Suzumiya-san and how he could affect this world, as well as realizing that since they now had supernatural powers, they couldn't just allow Closed Space to continue expanding untouched. When normal people learn about something like this, they’d normally want to see if they could be of any help, right? If we hadn't done anything about it, the world as we know it would have been destroyed. And that, of course, would be a bad thing."
Itsuko fell silent after mumbling those last words.
For the rest of the journey, we just looked in opposite directions, watching the scenery pass by.
The car stopped in front of my house, and as I got out, Itsuko spoke again.
"Please pay attention to Suzumiya-san's actions. His supposedly stable mental state has now begun to show signs of rapid deterioration. It's been quite a while since something like this has happened."
Look, even if I was to pay more attention to him, what difference can I possibly make?
"Honestly, I have no idea. But I think you are the right person to entrust this matter to. Some of my colleagues tend to overthink matters ... or not think enough."
Before I could reply, Itsuko drew her head back inside the open car and closed the door.
I stood there for a moment, watching what I was now sure was Itsuko's - or rather her Organisation's - private taxi disappear into the distance. As I watched the legendary phantom taxi drive off into the distance, I began feeling rather like an idiot, and went inside.
My little brother was waiting at the door, looking disappointed. What? Did you think you were going to score even more free candy by blackmailing your big sister? What kind of a heartless individual is our father raising here?
"Shut up!" he pouted. "Anyway, you have no right to call me heartless, I do lots of nice things around the house. I wake you up every morning, so you don't arrive late at school."
Having said so, the miniature wrestling fanatic who practises his combat moves on me in the mornings to wake me up ran off into the living room.
I need a shower ...
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