It was one hour after riding on the bus, leaving the outskirts of Reien and watching the view of the city.
When I got off at the bus stop and headed to the station, what greeted me were: the midsummer’s rays, the hustle of the city which was nonexistent at the College, and the view of a nameless man, caught between a telephone pole and a dump truck, and crushed into ground meat.
I gulped at the deathly haze over my eyes.
How nice it would be if I could just put this reaction down to leaving the bus’ freezer-like environment and stepping into the whirling heat outside.
It felt like everything inside my head was scooped out with a spoon and poured into a tank full of cider.
Beyond the foggy glass window, I could see the future part with the ‘present’ – I’m not sure which side I’m on. Am I the one with the scooped-out brain? Or am I the one in the cider? In any case,
having not seen ‘someone else’s death’ for a long time, I think I came just short of a heart attack.
…Yes. I had carelessly forgotten. While dormitory life was boring, it was rarely dangerous, and I’d never seen the misfortunes of complete strangers at the College. Not like this.
I put in my utmost effort, and started breathing again.
Repugnance, moral compulsion, moderation, bravery – I felt a stinging pain in my sore throat as these feelings accosted me.
The nameless man, shouldering a large backpack, strutted off into the distance.
“Uh, ah, um…”
What should I do, what should I do, what should I do…!
Talk to him? Just let him be? He’ll definitely be angry. I don’t know his personality, but I saw the kind of work he does. Buying low and selling high – your typical upseller and swindler who forces his way to a sale. But I know that even this man has a home he cares for; no matter who the person is, he has a family.
Even as I became more hysterical, I felt disturbingly calm.
After all, I’ve been used to this ever since I was a child. Always getting shooed off by adults when I say these incomprehensible things, but in the end, the result is always the same. People just get mad at me, laugh at me; I don’t even know this man. If I just closed my eyes and turned away, I can be forgiven for not knowing anything… Of course. If I don’t get involved, then I wouldn’t know the result. I’m always the only one regretting it – I should just get over it and start closing my eyes more often. I keep telling myself that, but, well,
“Please, please wait!”
I’m always the only one regretting it – that’s painful in its own way, but it’s still better than someone else regretting it instead.
“You! Yes, you! The one with the big bag! Yes, the bad salesman!”
The crowd cleanly formed a wave.
Of course, image-wise I was the stone that had hit the water, and everyone else was the wave rapidly pulling away from me.
The salesman turned, staring with the most annoyed expression in the world.
“What, you talking to me?”
“Uh. I mean,”
My head went blank from the tenseness. I was already in a panic – I couldn’t say a word.
But every time I closed my eyes, I could still see the man turned into a poorly-done, cheap-looking, corner-store spread of dough.
Scraping up all the courage I had, I faced the nameless man.
And of course, I failed as usual.
I failed, but – a really strange person cut in.
“Um, excuse me. What’s going on here?”
At that point, I was half full of shameless relief for the help, and half full of astonishment for his idiotically good nature.
…But no matter how dizzy I felt, or how much I could see the future, that was the wrongest word to use.
After all, there had never been someone like him who spoke to me in such a kind voice.
He talked calmly with the man, and with me, struck speechless.
Staying neutral to the end, he calmed down the irritated man, who left after a glare.
The only ones left were me, and the strange person.
The man, who I guess is older than me from the way he held himself, asked me ‘why’.
“…Just, somehow. I have a good intuition. That man will get in an accident at the construction site ahead because of that bag; I just get that feeling.”
I explained in a listless voice without even raising my head.
…How should I put it? It’s not that I wanted to get laughed at, but I felt that if I let even this person deride me, I’d die right on the spot. But,
“I’m surprised. Is that really intuition? I can see why he got angry.”
of course, the result never changes.
He sighed with a shrug,
“But that is a problem. Is it all right if I talked to him instead?”
and laughed, in the same tone of voice as when I first saw him.
“You can stay here. It might complicate things if I brought you along. I’ll report back if everything goes well.”
His footsteps echoed as he ran after the nameless man.
I stood stupefied in the middle of the road.
No matter how many times I blink, I kept thinking back to the figure in black that had disappeared around the corner.
…Okay, let me think this through again. That wasn’t me deluding myself just now, it sounded very much like a lie but it wasn’t, I felt relieved when he said to leave it to him, but he told me to stay here, so I nodded when he said if it was all right that I miss the express, oh, but since I was looking down the whole time I didn’t actually see his face, and oh, that’s why I kept calling him ‘strange person’, and I quipped at myself – and a sudden sound, like fireworks, came from the bridge over the river, brought me back down to earth.
Boom! An explosion! Everyone around me stopped and turned to the look at the bridge.
How big of an explosion do you need for something that loud? There was definitely some kind of accident, but – what I saw was just an accident involving one person, not some big incident with police sirens in the distance.
But, maybe… that strange person believed me, and chased after the nameless man. Then, at the spot of the road under construction, when the man’s bag miraculously, coincidentally got caught in the dump truck’s gate, the strange person saved him just before he was rolled into something like bread. But it can’t be that he tried too hard, and the dump truck lost control and went onto the bridge, and –
My knees shook as a feeling of nausea came, like I had tumbled onto the ground in a spin and fell into Hell.
I was still in this state when, with a ‘hey’ and a raised hand, the strange person… strange…?
“Thanks for waiting. It went exactly like you said. That really was pretty dangerous back there.”
The man in the black glasses said, in an entirely harmless voice.
Finally, I raised my head and faced him.
– I want to die. Actually, I want to kill the me from five minutes ago. Why on earth did I call him a ‘strange’ person…!
“That man wasn’t seriously injured. Well, he was hurt, but it was just a fall.”
There was a big scratch on his left arm. Maybe, when it looked like the man was about to be crushed, he pulled the bag out of the truck by force and grazed it?
Even with such an obvious injury, the man in glasses didn’t seem to mind.
My head was still blank from all the firsts that happened today.
The first time something I said was believed.
The first time I stopped something like this from happening.
And the first time –
“We really were fortunate. That man is probably still thanking you right now.”
– someone said to me, ‘you did great’.
He had just proudly approved of my own foolish self-complacency.
When I noticed, it was already too late.
The restraint, the dam I was holding back broke and they gushed out, flowing out from my eyes.
“Hey, hold – what’s wrong…?!”
Panicking, he kept glancing at me. I guess it would be odd if he didn’t panic after making a younger girl cry in public view.
With me the way I am, even though I felt bad for him I couldn’t stop crying. I rarely cry out of joy, and to be honest, I wanted to see him fluster.
The above is just about the end of the beginning.
It was the fated meeting of I, Seo Shizune, and Kokutou Mikiya. Thump-thump.