Another hot summer had arrived.
I was gazing listlessly at the city from the roof of a four-story building.
This summer had started unusually late and it’s been going around that this year’s would be an unusually cold one, but when you pull back the curtain like this, it’s a heat wave toppling the daily highs.
The blazing sunlight cut at the eyes like a flashbang, and the heat seething up from the pavement was like some sinus-clearing musk.
A summer like a modern day Sahara Desert. Swarms of firm buildings, tireless caravans, and white bones of oxen dotted the hot sand.
Of course, the swarm of buildings were not so fragile as to say they were built on sand, and most of them had stubbornly persisted for a decade. Some had rotted away; even if their spirits were partly exhausted, one could do nothing but pray that their existence was fulfilling. The end comes for all things. No matter what angle you may take, that fundamental tragedy cannot be overthrown. If, in that tragedy something new was born, it would be a sufficient panacea to all of us who came after, though this was a meager encouragement.
And so on.
I tried indulging myself by pondering things unsuited to me, a cigarette in my mouth. Just idle thoughts spoiling a peaceful lunch break. It was pretty inelegant, but I guess lyrical contemplations are a part of my job too.
The roof of the building I was standing on was neither all that low nor all that high. It overlooked average buildings, but did not even reach the knees of buildings that had been constructed over the last few years.
Well, it was hardly an upfront building to begin with. To the common eye it was an abandoned building, a bad debt. It seemed that all work on the building was abandoned halfway through.
Ground was broken in 1992, and it was abandoned the following year in ’93. The lengthy construction ceased at the fifth floor, which now functioned splendidly as a roof. I heard that the people who used this abandoned building previously had worked on fixing it up. I have no idea what their names were or what they all looked like, but I’m thankful for their excessive idle curiosity.
I unintentionally raised my glance, and recalled the dizziness found in the white of the sun’s rays.
Only half of my field of vision remained. When I was young, I lost the ability to see in my right eye in an accident, but thankfully, I didn’t have any problems living with just my left.
I took a deep breath and recovered from my lightheadedness.
Leaning against a rotten fence, I took in the panorama of the city scenery to get rid of the bad taste in my mouth.
This place was about fifteen meters up. It wasn’t so picturesque that you could call it a bird’s eye view, but it was high enough for gazing at the city.
There was a face to the city up here that you couldn’t discover and could hardly even imagine from the ground.
Like the normal house in the corner about twenty feet away. It was old, a surviving two-story residence from around the Shōwa era. It was in fact three stories, and in a lower area where you would see nothing but the roof, there was a hanging garden, about six feet across and twelve feet long. The existence of such an overflowing green garden on top of the tile roof was enviable. On clear days, the laundry would be hung out to dry, without fail. Probably an ongoing daily routine since before I was born.
From this height, you could only catch sight of a small portion of the roof of the ten-story building standing right beside those Japanese-style homes. It was supposedly an office building, but the roof seemed to have been closed off. A winding emergency staircase was the sole method of access, but unfortunately, an iron railing ran down it.
While every person employed in the building would be brought closer to the picturesque scenery if they simply stepped up, they were unconcerned with even the existence of an entrance.
If you changed your focus yet again, you would discover a completely closed-off back alley. It ran between the gaps in the houses and was used only by people living in the neighborhood, a small path outside of common knowledge.
From the path, and before you went out in the street, you can reach a parking lot that had been constructed roughly five years ago. Once it had functioned as an alleyway, but now has been rendered pointless… Or it might have been, but a close look revealed a space that one person had barely been able to squeeze into. Even those of us who used that street everyday would probably not even notice this path in the depths of the parking lot.
All of those make up the face of the city, unquestionable proof that life existed beyond oneself.
As for my own life, the connection and breadth between them were only slightly fathomable from this height.
Even in the din of the city, the lives of its inhabitants don’t change.
It’s a present where public morals are on the rise and private morals decline, but everyone living their own lives is the one point that stays the same.
It was a motley assortment of a city that suffused with good cheer.
It wasn’t that it totally lacked malice, but that it was filled with goodness.
Vaguely watching that sort of idyllic day was my only hobby.
I no longer looked to the future or lost hope in it.
The past and the future are, from the view of the present, nothing more than a distant paradise. As one who can never achieve divinity, all I could do is ponder that with all of my might.
It’s hot. I had come up onto the roof with the intention to relax, but my break was over.
I went down the stairs and headed towards the office on the fourth floor.
Thanks to the summer sun, the hallway was lit up like a hospital; the girl’s voice echoed.
“And he ended up running away from Professor Origa. He then arrived at a night festival. He encountered the spring city, with its fireworks, paper lanterns, and cherry blossoms scattering about.”
The voice was coming from the office. It was a familiar recital. The girl was deeply immersed in an independently published book that had been tucked away in the shelves.
“It wasn’t as if he longed to be human.
Only, the city was so varied, so dazzling. Surely no one would notice one more, even someone that was not one of their own.”
Curiously, it is touted for being an unpopular, lifeless short story.
The books he had left behind were mostly children’s stories, and as they were picture books it was only natural. But half had contents that left children far behind.
This short story was one such example. The setting was a city in an Edo blended with fantasy; the story of the life of a man who escaped from a professor of Western studies and lived among people.
The odd thing was, that man was not a human, but a robot. It was obvious that it was a robot. For a face, the robot had a perforated vacuum tube that represented eyes and a mouth. It was a character created to be barely a simulacrum of humanity, but this simplicity was exactly why it lingered in the memory.
The robot pretends to be a human and assimilates into the life of the city.
This did not arise from a desire to be human.
The robot, who had only known the dark laboratory, yearned for the beauty of the city. The sequence of events was reversed. The robot simply wanted to be human so it could be in the city, and so it pretended to be human.
However, several years passed, and –
“It is a strange analogy, but I am like ink for recording.”
A worry that the robot could tell no one had been born inside him.
He had acquired a human-like heart, but no matter what, a human body was the one thing he could not obtain.
Even if he could disguise his face and his arms and legs, tears and blood were features with which he had not been equipped.
“The spring storm comes, once again.
As though were competing with the dancing and scattering cherry blossoms, they formed large flowers in the night sky.”
Even odder was that the festival in the story took place in the spring. Japanese people have an intrinsic link between fireworks and the summer, so fireworks in the spring specifically seemed to have felt appropriate for the author.
It was the same night as when the robot had come to the city.
The robot, looking up at the fireworks on top of a bridge crowded with people, was carelessly pushed by the crowd into the river. Suddenly he was in the water. The robot was weak to water, and just touching it was damaging. All of its functions went down, and its disguise that had hidden it among people melted.
Even while the robot in the river short-circuited, he desperately hid his face.
“It’s finally the awaited Spring.
They’ll drive me away. What should I do?
They’ll be frightened of me. What should I do?”
The robot hid his face, not because he wanted to keep living in the city, but for the sake of the people who lived there.
Screams came from the people on top of the bridge who saw him.
The people next to them were pointing their fingers and shouting.
“Ah. I am a monster.”
For the first time in many years, the robot remembered.
It was all a dream. He had meant for it all to go well, but from the very beginning to the very end, he was not one of them.
As he sank into the water, he gazed at the crowded bridge with his blurring eyesight, and,
“At last. A tear, from the eyes of a man.”
That was the end of the story.
The voice paused, and a short time passed after it was finished reading. If I left things alone, it might go on to the next story. I cleared my throat and without bothering to knock opened the door of the office.
“Oh, Mitsuru-san, you were here. And I thought you were gone for sure.”
After she put the book in her hands on the shelf, the pale girl turned to face me.
“I’d lock up if I was going out. I was just on the roof.”
“I see. That’s a shame, I should have gone too.”
Without a trace of shyness, the girl’s smile bloomed like a flower.
The office was dim, the blinds lowered. Inside was a miraculous figure.
She was about ten. Her long black hair flowed like water. While she had the sweetness characteristic of youth, her blue eyes held the light of maturity. She favored blouses that were completely out of fashion these days, but she was surrounded by a nobility that was untouched by the vogue.
I wasn’t the robot from before, but for a moment I could hardly believe the radiance I was seeing.
In a way, this girl was devilish.
Before this girl, anyone would look forward to her future and at the same time wish for her to remain as she was, forever –
“-What’s with that look? Though you tend to casually reveal your slyness even while you’re hiding it.”
“That was good for being off the cuff. But the last part may have been too much. Depending on the listener, they’ll end up suspicious of your disposition.”
The girl smiled like she was enjoying the casual conversation from the bottom of her heart.
“No problem. I don’t get stomachaches from others’ doubts.”
I replied untidily, and faced my own desk. No matter how beautiful she might be, to me this girl was bad luck. If I could, I’d pinch her in the neck and fling her out the window like a cat.
“Feh. You’re in a foul mood again today, Mitsuru-san. I sneaked away from my lessons just to come here, but you’re boring me. It’s probably because you’re having money troubles again. I even brought you some work, too.”
The girl pouted, looking mildly displeased, but I was the one who wanted to bury my face in my hands.
“… I don’t believe this. I told you not to come here without permission. And I know I told you ditching school to come here is beyond ‘causing trouble’ and into the realm of ‘intended murder’. It’s a vague feeling, but do you want to kill me that much, Lady Mana?”
“Hmm? Oh, no, I could never do something so pointless. More importantly, Mitsuru-san, I don’t like being called ‘Lady’. It makes me feel like I’m under someone’s protection, and it’s too formal. Especially in your case, Mitsuru-san. I get the feeling you’re being subtly malicious, or it’s like your snapping, ‘that’s close enough.’
… This is an order, but do you mind calling me Mana-kun like when we first met?”
At the young lady’s incomparably anachronistic remarks, I wondered if it had all been a joke at my expense, and became even gloomier.
“Sorry, but I won’t go along with that. It’s not too late yet, so hurry up and get back home, Mana. I’m not interested in getting pushed around by a ten year old kid.”
Even as I unkindly knocked away her pursuing hand, the girl’s expression brightened further.
“Yep yep, Mitsuru-san’s good points are also what makes you seem like a hoodlum. You like it when I don’t mince words, right? I think you’re lacking in sensitivity for a picture book author, though.”
That was totally unnecessary. Leave me alone.
This should have come earlier, but I’m Kamekura Mitsuru, a novice picture book author.
I’m twenty-five this year, still no more than a rookie, but for whatever reason the magazines always remember me, and I have gotten a few books published. And it was all thanks to the previous tenant of this place that I had inherited all these connections along with the office.
“But Tears of a Vampire is a real work of art. You might be the type who burns himself out on his first book, Mitsuru-san …The second book, The Glowing Cage, was practically a waste of resources…”
The girl put a finger to her lips uneasily while she searched the bookshelf.
Tears of a Vampire was the title of the short story the girl had been reading aloud earlier, as well as my debut work under my own name.
That one book had saved my life, and was how I had gotten to know this girl.
… It was exactly two years ago. My debts were piling up from the this office’s rent and living expenses, and at last the creditors had come calling.
The problem was that the creditors’ boss was the area representative… of a mostly violent criminal syndicate. As the mere mention of their surname had me shuddering and contemplating life on a fishing boat or oil rig, I was filled with a desire to leave this town, and fast. The girl materialized out of that dilemma.
With a “Mr. Kamekura, this is an honor,” and such, she forced her way in, book in hand, and the demonic black-suited young men made their exit.
As soon as I had breathed a sigh of relief, their boss, the Devil itself, appeared, and while I looked on dumbfounded, pulled me from the jaws of death by making me a member of their group.
“Perfect. I was just wanting an in-house detective agency. You, you’re in charge. You oughta be good at that. Huh, you do picture books? Sure, if that’s all it is. I’m not a demon. I’ll let you moonlight at least that much.”
And thus, I found myself running a detective agency – or to put it novelistically, I was in the investigative industry – while working on picture books, and stripped of my constancy.
The girl was my benefactor and the big boss’s only daughter.
So it wasn’t as if I hated the whole thing, but getting unnecessarily close was a problem. Frequenting my office may be a novelty and intercut the oppressiveness at home, but for once I wish she’d come down with a passing fever.
“More importantly, Mana, what about the work from the syndicate?”
Work that came my way was generally background checks that lived up to the name of a detective agency, with the hard work stopping just short of involving illegal conduct.
In rare cases, I got wrapped up in affairs that forced me to go along with the boss’s viciousness, but most ended quietly. The case the girl had brought sounded like something in between.
They’re keeping the peace… Or so independently requested… Suspicious individuals are frequenting the area, it said. It went on: investigate said individuals, and if you determine that they’re dangerous, promptly request their eviction.
“… I think there’s been a salesperson hanging out in the back alley. They’re probably not dangerous or a dealer, though. I’m not proud of this, but there’s no way I could handle someone whose been hitting the gym.”
“That’s not the kind of person they mean. More like a struggling fortuneteller. We owe them from way back, so they want you to look after them and not bother acting tough.
I see. Maybe they were pushing this on me because they wanted to avoid violence. However –
“Is this the fortuneteller’s address…?”
I searched for an old memory of almost ten years ago.
A shopping district in south Mifune. A fortune teller. Among the documents Mana handed over, an old picture of the woman stood out.
“… Wow. So that old woman’s still alive, huh?”
“Hm? Do you know her, Mitsuru-san?”
“A long time ago, I did. Back then she was famous for being accurate with her fortunes, but I haven’t heard anything recently. I thought she was dead for sure, though.”
I guess her ability was still active.
Well… In any case, her physical strength had probably deteriorated. Nearly a decade had passed since then. She had to be close to seventy now. It couldn’t be easy being a street fortune teller, so it looked like she still had a taste for getting involved in other people’s destinies.
“My. It says this person could actually expose the future… really?”
Looking at the documents surprised Mana.
She was incredulous, but beyond that her expression said she couldn’t understand the meaning of ‘exposing the future’.
“Yeah. Precognition is generally fake, but she’s the real deal. It’s got nothing to do with compiling behavioral information, she’s just a unembellished prophet. For one thing, she can expose a person’s future even without any prior information.”
Somehow believing these completely suspicious remarks, the girl’s eyes lit up.
… I felt a headache coming on at my carelessness, but the damage was done.
I didn’t even need to think about what course of action the girl, intrigued at my words, would take.
I waited until night before I went to finish the job.
South Mifune was the same old shopping district. In ten years, there were no noticeably different buildings. At the most, the pachinko parlor’s interior was cleaner, so much so, that it improved the camouflage that let everyone play with ease.
“I’m surprised. Adults stay up late, don’t they.”
The girl, following alongside me with a dance-like step, surveyed the night city.
It was shortly before 11 P.M. I had contacted the girl’s home, so there wouldn’t be any hullabaloo over a kidnapping, but I had no doubt I’d be questioned by Mr. Suzurigi later. Whatever the circumstances, all of this wasn’t so much staying up late as it was the nightlife. As an agent of Mana’s education, hard exhortation is a part of his job.
“Mana, over here. It gets dark from where we’re going from now on, so try and stay by my side.”
With a warning to the girl, we entered the narrow alleyway.
Beyond the narrow, dark, long alleyway, the dim glow of a lamp’s light shone, like the altar of a temple. In the sweltering night, the diviner waited in a heavy black robe for customers.
“Welcome. Won’t you step in for a moment, young man?”
Step in nothing; this was the dead end of a blind alley. There was nothing past her.
“Yes! Over here! Hello, Ms. Fortuneteller! Umm, would you mind if the other person is underage?”
“Oh my, I didn’t think that cute voice could belong to such a grim young man. Oh, how nice. It’s been a long time since I had a customer who was such a lovely child! Of course, of course. And what is the fortune you would like to know? Don’t be shy. There’s no charge for young girls.”
“Thank you very much. Then, could you predict Papa’s and my love fortune?”
Mana faced the fortuneteller without a care. The fortuneteller, with a hint of satisfaction on her face, peered into her crystal ball. In her movements that had been honed over the decades, I could see a tiredness that showed her age. Maybe she had aged a little. Her eyesight had deteriorated considerably. It was likely that even the girl right before her eyes was murky.
“Oh my. I don’t need to predict that, do I. It’s mutual love, young lady. You’re loved deeply. Any more than that will be a little difficult. Ethically.”
“Yes. My objective is to defeat Mother one day, and take Papa back.”
With a smile on her face like a sunflower, the girl uttered a head-splitting joke. The conversation had gone completely off the rails, but the fortuneteller was in a good mood. Guess it really had been a long time since she had any customers.
“Even the Mother of Mifune has hit rock bottom. Don’t do the whole avoiding a unhappy future bit and all of that anymore, huh?”
In the modern age, there’s a shortage of futures that aren’t unhappy. It didn’t matter how the old women saw the future; with happy futures out of stock from the beginning, a customer today wasn’t going to be satisfied.
“Oh? My, look who it is. This is nostalgic. You’re in the same line of work, yes. No, you were, I should say.”
The old woman narrowed her eyes and looked at me. …Hit rock bottom? No way. With her aged eyesight, she couldn’t even see my face in this darkness; she’d have to read minds to do that.
She was right. Just like the old woman said, I had already –
“Not you. I was referring to myself. I’ve grown old. I can’t see the futures of strangers at all. Your cynicism is correct. The Mother of Mifune is all but dead.”
“Huh? You can’t see the future?”
Mana looked crestfallen… or rather, curious as she stared into the old woman’s face.
“Yes, I can’t see it anymore. Only bright things. But, that is fine in its own way. Now I am much more at ease, and it’s like a great weight has been taken of my shoulders. Then again, after that happened, I started seeing nothing but the past. Honestly, what sort of karma is this?”
If you have the power to see the future, then obviously you can know the past.
But if that was true, the whole thing was even more depressing.
Despite her claims to be able to see the past, having no customers meant that that genius went unsought.
No one, no matter how dark their future, wanted to see the drab past.
“So that’s how it’s been for the last ten years. Old woman, your fortunetelling is out of style. Here’s some friendly advice: quit. Don’t bother complaining. You’ve, well -”
The times have left you behind.
The romance that one could find value in a pure wish had disappeared quietly.
“Oh? And how about you? Have you changed in these ten years?”
Me? I’d – Hmm, how about that.
There were things that had changed. In the end, though, it was just that one function that was gone.
These ten years. No, properly, it was twelve. Had I just been blending into the life of the city, like the robot who had pretended to be human?
I had made the odd friend, parted, and tried to follow in the footprints left behind, a daily life one reader had found fault in.
“…Yeah. Pathetically enough, I haven’t changed. It’s a waste of resources. However you may feel, I don’t find any harm in it. I’ll go on being a half-hearted thug.”
One day. I suddenly felt like I was the robot no longer, but because of that my self that was born was unchanged. The change that had happened to me, to my life, may have been no different than imposing or not imposing upon others; I hadn’t given something yet.
“That’s not true at all. You’re a good person, Mitsuru-san. Have more confidence in yourself.”
The girl censured me with a serious look.
“… I’m honored, but what are you basing that on?”
It was a pointless remark, as always, but this situation called for it. I asked anticipating what the answer would be.
“Why? Because you’re like Papa, Mitsuru-san. Like how you’re plain, and how your right eye doesn’t work, and how you’re weak towards women. I’m good at using people like that, you know?”
“Ah ha ha ha ha!”, the fortune teller couldn’t help but laugh loudly.
The most I managed was bearing it without saying anything.
“You’re laughing too much. You’re old, watch your health.”
She kept on cackling. Her maltreatment ended after about a minute. Was she satisfied, or did she get abdominal cramps? I really hope it was the former.
“Hah, hah, haah… well, live and learn. That boy has gotten pretty human, hasn’t he! …Oh, yes. Have you had a good ten years?”
… I wonder. Even a year ago was unclear, let alone ten. I cherished just the good and the bad like they were yesterday, though.
“Whatever. It’s a nuisance for you to run a business here. Some scary faces are going to be coming next, so go into retirement before then. It’s not like you need the money, right? You’ve been doing it for free since way back.”
“It’s none of your business. I’ve been doing this since before you were born. I may be a nuisance, and I may have no customers, but I’m going to keep doing this until the day I die, and that’s all.”
Negotiations had failed. There was no way she was going to listen what someone had to say… and much less what I had to say.
I hadn’t gotten any results, but I had done my duty where work was concerned. The rest was in the gang’s court. Eviction by force was exactly what they were best at.
“We’re going home, Mana. It’s time for kids to get to bed.”
The girl spoke up.
“Wait. I have the feeling one thing that I heard was off. Ma’am, you said that you were all but dead. And you said that the Mother of Mifune was gone. So, why keep fortunetelling? You don’t see the future anymore, and you’re at peace now.”
The fortuneteller’s mouth twisted with irony at the girl’s words.
It was an expression equal parts bitter smile and nostalgia.
In a tired voice, the old woman said,
“I wonder. Now that you mention it, it was only painful, I suppose. My life was consumed by the future, and I was left with absolutely nothing… Yes. Outside of servicing others, this thing has no purpose at all.
Like a meager prayer, she spoke of the life she had desired, for herself.
It was frail, but her voice was full of pride.
I had once had my life changed by a certain girl.
Because of that, I was liberated from a set, visible future.
In its place was a life full of failure for all I had earned, but even then I had things left.
The old woman had never had such an encounter, and even then she had sacrificed herself for the greater good, perhaps.
“Hey, Mitsuru-san. I have a favor to ask.”
With a sweet, heavenly smile, the girl looked at me. It was frustrating. I hadn’t been able to oppose that smiling face even once to this day.
“…I’ll listen, but that’s it. Let me hear it.”
“I think the work of a fortuneteller is amazing. This city needs the Mother of Mifune. And I really like her.”
“Falling in love with absolutely anyone is a bad habit of yours… So? What do we do?”
“Asking a question you already know the answer to is a bad habit of yours, Mitsuru-san. Do you still want me to say it?”
“…That’s enough. I’d get even more depressed if you did.”
Deceiving Mana’s mother… would be impossible, so I’d persuade her like my life depended on it. That wasn’t all. Even though business sure as hell wasn’t booming, I’d be supporting the old woman’s work as a fortuneteller. It’d mean looking after her until the bitter end.
“…There’s a whole mess of problems. First of all, how do we know grandma here’s going to agree -”
“Don’t worry about me. I’m just going do what I want to.”
“See, she’s really motivated too. Glasses-wearing Mitsuru-san can handle all of these little problems right? Or maybe we should call you Kuramitsu-san then?”
I put a finger to the sharp pain in my forehead.
I really didn’t want that name to come up.
It happened over ten years ago.
There was a man who could see a successful future, and thus had no choice but to choose that future.
The man, who no longer knew if he was living in the present or for the future, became, after a certain point, a slave for his future’s sake, not his own will. A machine with no volition. A robot, that only executed a set command that was the future.
The man became a machine-like bomber, and after five years of earning small sums, died at the hands of a killer.
The bomber… the man who called himself Kuramitsu Merca, was killed there. The future that had bound him was cut apart, along with his right eye.
The bomber was defeated, terrified at the death that had pursued him right before his eyes. Just when the killer was about to mercilessly end the life of the painfully cowering bomber – the killer saw that figure and lost all interest, taking her leave like a fickle cat.
…It was probably a letdown for her. After all, the man who called himself Kuramitsu Merca was too weak.
The killer moved on, and the bomber, left behind, was taken to the hospital.
That was twelve years ago.
There were two victims of the bombing incident that occurred at the car park.
One was a man who had protected his family and been slightly injured.
The other’s right eye had been injured even though they were not in the explosion. A fourteen year old child who lost his eyesight.
I digress. The alias Kuramitsu Merca came out of a comic I happened to notice, a villain’s name. It may have been an alias, but as I went by a rearranged anagram of my own name, I obviously wanted to preserve at least a little of my identity.
Kuramitsu Merca was no longer here.
The future was no longer visible.
Now I was human, merely putting on the act of a one-time seer.
“… Yeah, well. It’s more about having a worthwhile framework than destroying something”, I muttered despite my bad mood.
The girl smiled with a face full of trust and took my hand.
“Of course! Don’t worry, ma’am. He may not be inspired yet, but Mitsuru-san’s reliable when he gets serious! You can count on us!”
“Please wait. I know the name of the young man, but I still haven’t heard yours.”
The girl halted at the fortuneteller’s small breath. She let go of my hand, faced her, and properly apologized by bowing.
“Mana. Ryougi Mana, Ms. Amazing Fortuneteller. Thank you for taking care of Mother – no, Father.”
Just what kind of story was behind that name?
The old woman stared at the girl with a truly shocked expression this time.
Her unseeing eyes blinked repeatedly.
“Aaah, is that so. These things happen, don’t they.”
As if she was looking at something dazzling, or blessing the future to come, she smiled gently.
“So they’re well. I suppose that goes without saying, though.”
“They’re healthy as can be. Please stay healthy, and keep being yourself, ma’am.”
And then she took my hand with a spring in her step.
With a glance, I informed the fortuneteller of our departure.
Strangely, the desk she was sitting at was grand and imposing, changed into a powerful existence. Nothing would change after coming here, but I had the impression that they were different. Perhaps.
The woman’s story featured the encounter with the girl and then came to its modest conclusion. Even if the former leading lady came off the stage, the stage would remain as long as there were customers.
…That makes for a really busy time, though.
My story had ended ten years ago, but it seemed there was still a minor role for me to play.
“Let’s go, Mitsuru-san. First we’re going to persuade Mother.”
“…The biggest obstacle right up front, huh.”
After all, a robot will move how it moves.
My future was still full of hope and anxiety.
Even if this shed no light on the plot, I suppose the stage would keep going on, depending on the many central players.
The story will go on.
My destination was vague, but in my left eye I saw it clearly.
\Gospel of the Future – Preface
Under a sky that even now looked as if it would weep, he was enjoying his freedom.
A rendezvous at midight. A promenade in the dead of night. A killer you meet at the intersection.
Humming those phrases to himself, he strode through the night city.
Of course it was a secret from her; wearing her favorite red jumper, and motivated by a masochistic abandonment, he was filled with a desire to kill or be killed, and he prowled the city like a doll that had lost its balance.
She slept deeply.
In going out into the night city in that space, he felt his own end.
The she who had been first to break.
The self that could only destroy.
The I that had to be protected.
The one that had to be protected.
Suffering from those contradictions was her role, and he was mostly unconcerned.
What could he do to save her? He had perceived the ultimate solution already.
He would have to disappear. Only then could she live happily.
And thus, he enjoyed the night now with no hesitation.
Like a dragonfly, singing a paean to what little life it had left.
And somewhere in his heart, like a child crying that he did not want to die.
“It’s not like I’m really afraid of dying.”
A lone murmur. It was not pretense. In any case, even if he died, she would not. Even if he died, the body would not meet with death. Therefore, what he was frightened of was something else.
The blue sky at lunch, the sunset after class.
Those, and the dreams he had seen through that boy, were too much for him to –
“Welcome. Won’t you step in for a moment, young man?”
He suddenly stopped his feet. In the hand thrust in his pocket was a switchblade. Tonight, his mood was at its extreme, so it wouldn’t matter as long as there was an excuse.
The woman who had called out was a fortuneteller.
He thought he had heard something about her at school, that she enabled you to avoid an unlucky future.
You had to laugh.
Whatever this was, it was getting fun. He put strength into the fingers holding the knife.
Nevertheless, he needed a reason, so he spoke to her merely as a gesture.
“Heh. Interesting. Predict away.”
He presented his right hand that was not holding the knife. The fortuneteller stared at his palm and tilted her head back and forth in puzzlement over and over.
“C’mon, let’s hear the results. How can I avoid my crappy future and all of that?”
He found the diviner boring, and was awaiting her innocuous last words when,
“…Well, I suppose there are these kinds of futures to. It’s pointless. You’re going to die. No matter what you do, no matter what you try, you have no future.”
That. Even though he had resigned himself, he was entranced by the all too early death sentence.
“… What a surprise. You’re the real deal, huh.”
“I’m sorry,” the fortuneteller sighed.
She did all seers proud by still staring at his hand through all of this.
Drained of strength, as if he gone suddenly from hot to cold, he drew in his urge to kill along with his freedom.
The fortuneteller still stared at his future.
“Come on, enough. The forecast is bleak. I never really thought I’d be saved. Actually, this is almost refreshing. This isn’t to thank you, but now I’ll leave peacefully.”
“No, that’s not so. You certainly will die no matter what you do, but… it’s rare to have this sort of future.”
The fortuneteller was perplexed.
Or perhaps, after she had seen everything, she felt sympathetic towards him.
An uncommon precognition. The fortuneteller bestowed with the eye of God by some mistake, in a voice lacking confidence in even herself, said,
“You will soon disappear. Your way is dark, and there’s nothing you can do about your future. Nothing will remain, and nothing will be saved. …And yet, it is still strange. Even then, your dream will live on.”
She had correctly guessed what the future he had at last desired was.
There was faint joy, and a pain in his chest.
He made a lonesome laugh and withdrew the hand he had presented.
“This is it, then. Live as long as you can, old woman. It’s dangerous at night here; it’s no place for the elderly.”
In the unseen back alley, an unseen glow was left behind.
He walked towards the familiar riverbed, and aimed for the estate surrounded by the bamboo thicket.
When he casually raised his face, the sky had begun at last to weep.
He remembered a certain classmate.
The whistle he had learned from watching another eventually turned into a certain song he had learned by ear.
“…. but, your dream will live on…”
“Yeah, that’s fine then,” was his one pretense.
Fall in love with someone; she knew that was the answer.
But, he could only deny, and the things he had yearned for would never be his.
That was the only thing he was afraid of. If her and the boy’s future was sworn, then there would be things that would go on, for sure.
“Ah, well. It’s bleak, but that’s just like me.”
He laughed innocently, singing in the rain.
In the pouring rain.
Dancing alone, he followed the path back home.