She experienced a tragedy.
And from here on out is the story of all the endings.
Because of me, she lost everything.
“…!” I jumped up from my bed.
My entire body was drenched in a nasty sweat.
My heart was racing, my breathing out of control, and even the tips of my fingers felt frozen cold.
I looked around me, but Kazuhi’s bloody carcass was nowhere to be found, and I wasn’t standing in front of the train station, either.
It was—my own home.
I grabbed the phone lying next to my pillow and checked the date.
Wednesday, 8 am.
Just now, when the steel beam crushed Kazuhi…It felt like a nightmare but also wasn’t.
It was a reality that was reversed.
I don’t know why, but some mysterious power must have been activated.
This time…This time, I’ll protect her…!
I jumped out of my house, headed to my neighbor, and stormed inside Kazuhi’s room.
“Wah…Sou-chan, what happened?”
I had to confirm that she was there.
That she was still a part of my life.
“Kazuhi…! Please, don’t go anywhere today.
Don’t step out of the house…!”
“If not…something horrible will happen to you.
So, please…I beg you…!”
Since she doesn’t know what’s going on, I must be sounding like a crazy person to her.
However, I cannot let Kazuhi suffer again.
She was bewildered, blinking at me in confusion—But she immediately smiled.
I’ll do that, Sou-chan.”
“R-Really? Thank god…But…I’m surprised you agreed so easily.
Don’t you think what I’m saying is weird?”
“Well…You’re a bit different from usual, but I can tell that you’re serious.
And, I trust you, Sou-chan.
Sometimes you’re a bit stubborn, but you would never lie or joke about something that could make me worry.
There’s a reason why you’re saying this, right?”
Seeing Kazuhi nod like that without any questioning made me feel like crying.
However, I can’t afford to cry just yet.
Even just now, when I avoided the tragedy with the truck, another misfortune occurred.
And I won’t know where or when it will happen.
But, I won’t let Kazuhi suffer like that again.
With that decided, I made sure that Kazuhi would not leave this room, and we stayed together the entire time.
Kazuhi’s mother thought it was weird, but I just said that ‘Our lectures fell flat, so we’re studying together,’ which worked just fine.
… Every single passing on the clock was like a small salvation, but equally hell in itself.
But, I was filled with hope, thinking that as long as this day would come to pass, Kazuhi would be saved.
While feeling despair and dread that something completely unnatural could happen to take Kazuhi from me again.
And these two created a maelstrom inside of me.
And as this day granted to me continued to progress, each minute scraping away at my sanity, Kazuhi must have guessed that something was wrong, so she talked to me throughout the entire day.
And finally…as I had gotten mentally exhausted, this long day ended with nothing ever happening.
I was left bewildered.
I had assumed that something would happen.
And I was so on edge, I would have rather stayed over the night, too.
But with her parents being home, that was out of the option.
I told her to stay out of harm’s way, and to contact me in case anything happened.
To the point she probably got annoyed with me.
And while I held on to my phone all night, I didn’t catch a wink of sleep.
As soon as morning came, I rushed over to her house, standing guard on the outside.
Around 7 am, a call came in from Kazuhi.
For a moment, I could feel all the blood drain from my face, but when I answered, Kazuhi spoke up with a cheerful voice.
Sou-chan, can I go out today? I really have to attend university.”
I managed to make it past the day of the accident.
Is everything okay now? Is Kazuhi saved? It hasn’t fully set in yet, so my anxiety has yet to subside.
But, I can’t let Kazuhi be locked inside her home for the rest of her life.
And after giving it some thought, I decided to attend university with her.
Naturally, I stuck close to her side to the point I must have looked like a weirdo.
Even just a small sound around me had my blood pumping with terror.
And since I hadn’t gotten a minute of sleep the night prior, I was utterly exhausted when evening came around.
Yet, my worries were still present, weighing down on me.
“Sou-chan, I’ve got work after this…”
I’ll escort you there.”
“But you have a lecture now, right?”
“I don’t care about that.”
“You shouldn’t do that! You already missed parts of your lecture today because you snuck into mine.”
I just don’t want to leave you alone right now.”
All I could remember was that nightmarish scenery.
Just the thought of it made my body quiver, my body freezing.
“Am I…troubling you?”
Since Kazuhi didn’t know a thing, this must all be abrupt and bothersome, I’m sure.
I don’t want to make her worry, it’s just…
“Not at all.
If you’re saying that, then I have no reason to be angry.
You’re always thinking about me, right?”
Her words, her smile…her warmth entered my paralyzed mind.
My eyes were watering up to the point I struggled to hold back.
However…I wasn’t given any time to get emotional.
A tragedy always occurs without forewarning, aiming for the exact moment you’re careless…to strike where it hurts.
When I realized what was going on, I quickly pulled Kazuhi closer to me, embracing her.
However, that was nothing but futile resistance.
A sound declaring the curtain’s fall resounded.
—I remembered everything.
It all connected.
Or more accurately, I remembered that I ended up in an accident and that I had traveled back in time.
And now, I realized that Sou-chan is time leaping, creating loops in the process.
I had forgotten everything, but now I know that this was the third tragedy.
And that each time I end up in this state, I will remember it all.
Listening to what the doctor and my family said to piece it together, I apparently was shot.
The perpetrator was a graduate of our university.
Unable to find a job after graduating, and with no lover to live for, he became tired of his life, self-harming and violent, and then stole a gun from a police officer.
The perpetrator was caught and confessed, saying “Since I didn’t get to live a fulfilling life, I wanted to raise hell at my former university.
Anybody would have been fine, but I happened to spot a man and woman who looked like a shitty couple, so I got pissed and shot that bitch.”
However, it was already too late for me.
A traffic accident, getting crushed by a steel beam, and getting shot…the causes were all different, and yet I ended up in the exact same situation.
Something doesn’t add up.
It’s like some mysterious power is at work, which forces me into this state.
That power…could it be that voice? Whatever it was, there was nothing I could do.
I was simply locked in everlasting darkness, unable to move by myself, as I heard Sou-chan muttering ‘I’m sorry’ over and over.
And this time continued for what felt like forever.
It felt like I had a long nightmare, barely amounting to any proper sleep.
When I woke up, my throat felt like it was on fire, as I fought back the urge to vomit.
I prayed and grabbed my phone to check the date.
But alas—July 7th, Wednesday.
After that shooting at the university, I spent around a month without looping back to this day.
Once I fail, the loop doesn’t immediately repeat.
That was just wishful thinking.
And as the loop never arrived, I had almost assumed that it was all over.
Every time I went to bed, I prayed that the next time I woke up, I would be given a second chance.
And yet, I was greeted by despair as time simply passed.
However, that endless repeat was finally over.
“This time…! I’ll never let anything like that happen again…!” I stormed out of my house and rushed to Kazuhi.
Opening the door, she greeted me.
“Wah, Sou-chan?! What happened…?”
She stood on her own feet.
Her eyes were open.
And…she was talking with me.
Before I realized it, I was already crying.
The sight of Kazuhi bedridden in the last loop was still burned into my retinas.
But being able to speak with her…having her in front of me like this…I was just so happy.
“Kazuhi, I’m sorry…I’m really sorry…!”
“Huh? Huh? What are you apologizing for? And why are you crying?”
She tightly embraced me.
My face was buried in her chest, as she gently caressed my hair.
“Um…I don’t really get what’s going on, but it’s okay.
It’ll all be okay.” When I raised my head, Kazuhi showed me a warm smile.
“You didn’t do anything that you would have to apologize for.
So, calm down.
Everything will be okay, yeah?”
She doesn’t remember a thing.
She probably thinks I just woke up from a nightmare, as her smile was heavenly innocent.
But, it wasn’t a dream.
I would never be able to forget that one month.
When she was shot and never woke up again…That’s right! This isn’t the time to be crying!
“Yeah? What’s wrong?”
“I beg you…Don’t leave the house.
Not today, not tomorrow,” I said, and just as I had hoped, Kazuhi agreed without asking a thing.
Like this, one day passed, a second day passed, and even though I was mentally prepared for disaster to strike any minute, everything was peaceful, as if to betray all my worries.
But, as if to portray my mental state, the usual clear blue sky was filled with dark clouds.
“…Hey, Sou-chan, are you okay? You’ve got bags under your eyes…You haven’t gotten any sleep, right?”
“…Don’t worry…about me…”
I can’t do anything, either…And I haven’t even found a way out of this.
A mixture of relief and sheer terror mixed inside of me, leaving me unable to rest properly, as I was slowly drained of my physical and mental strength.
Can you stay inside again today…?”
I’ll do as you tell me…But please, get some rest, Sou-chan?”
But, I’m okay.”
I wasn’t okay.
This was the third day I haven’t even stepped out of Kazuhi’s room.
I’ve practically gone rooted to the floor.
Are we…forced to stay in her room forever? That won’t work…No, if this is the only method to save her, then I can live with that.
That being said, Kazuhi’s parents…and even mine, they’re slowly growing suspicious.
They don’t think too highly of the fact that I’m forcing Kazuhi to take time off uni and work, and I’m slowly starting to run out of excuses.
That being said, they won’t believe my circumstances either.
And eventually, night arrived, forcing me to return to my own home.
“Kazuhi…I told you yesterday and the day before, but don’t go outside.
No matter what, you hear me?”
“Yeah, I promise.
But…please, get some rest.
You’re going to die if you keep going like this.”
“…I can’t sleep.
I will never know when it’ll happen next…”
I meant to keep my weakness to myself, but as I was physically and mentally exhausted, I blurted out what was on my mind.
Yet, Kazuhi took my hand and showed me a warm smile.
“…Then you should get some sleep.
You’re…trying to protect me from something, right? If you can’t even move in your current state, then I’ll be helpless.
That’s why you really have to get some rest.” Surprisingly enough, Kazuhi spoke in a harsh tone, using herself as an excuse.
“So please…sleep, okay?”
Kazuhi knew that I wouldn’t be able to say no after that.
Despite me telling her not a thing, she easily gave me the words I needed to hear.
And that is exactly why I want to protect her…which requires me to take a rest.
But, really…Don’t leave your house.
If there’s anything you need, I’ll buy it for you.
And even if someone comes to see you, don’t carelessly open the door.
Keep your windows closed, too.
If anything happens, contact me.
We’re neighbors, so I’ll come running immediately.”
Thank you, Sou-chan.”
Even as I live through this hell, Kazuhi’s smile is always a saving grace.
She genuinely believes me and is worried about me.
This made me realize that I had to work harder.
I had to get some rest so that I’m back to full health and ready to protect her—But why did I think that and actually go to bed? Even after the second tragedy, I was still naive.
I was reminded that even the most absurd of misfortune—does exist.
When I woke up the next morning, I learned that Kazuhi had ended up paralyzed after lightning struck their house while she was taking a bath.
…How many loops have we gone through?
I was yet again confined to my hospital bed, drifting inside an endless void.
Why do I always end up like this? Even though Sou-chan is always trying to help me? His voice calling my name gradually grew heavier and darker.
It’s like he’s slowly being torn apart by regret.
My words remained voiceless, reaching nobody.
But, I continued to say them over and over, like a chant.
Inside the darkness, someone slapped me on the cheek.
I heard the sound it should make, but I felt no pain.
I then realized that it wasn’t something that happened in reality.
It was just another hallucination, or maybe even a dream.
‘Why are you alive?’
The voice asking me that…belonged to me.
Like I was looking at myself in the mirror, an exact copy of myself stood in front of me.
I was crying, as I glared at myself.
‘It’s your fault.’
It’s obviously a dream.
My feelings of guilt and regret took shape as me.
And even though I knew this was just a dream…
‘It’s because you’re alive that Sou-chan keeps suffering.’
My own words stabbed me like knives.
‘I don’t want this anymore.
Let me die.
Please, let me die.
If you’re gone, Sou-chan will stop suffering.
If there’s no way out of this, I’ll end it all.
Because he has hope that he can save you the next time, it brings me to despair.
Because you’re alive, Sou-chan can’t give up.
If you’re dead, Sou-chan will probably be lonely for a bit, but with Suzuya-san by his side, he can get up again.
Isn’t that right? This is just mindless suffering.
So why…are you still alive?’
Something cold and grotesque climbed up my legs.
It’s like I was being filled with water, unable to breathe.
Myself in front of me began to shake, change shape, and now turned into Sou-chan.
It’ll be fine.
The next time, I’ll save you for sure…’
But compared to how I knew him before, he looked like he was in tatters, resembling a walking corpse, as his eyes were empty of any emotion, large bags forming under them.
He was pale as tapestry.
He turned out this way because of me.
And yet, he’s still trying his best to save me.
Unable to bear that, I screamed, despite knowing full well it wouldn’t reach him.
‘Ah…Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! I’m sorry! I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry…!’
‘It’s okay, Amagase-san.’
A gentle voice reached me.
And…it felt like someone placed their hand on my shoulder.
Standing in front of me was Suzuya-san, smiling.
Haruoka-kun has me with him, after all.’
It took me a moment to realize my dream had passed.
After all, nothing had changed.
In fact, a dream allowed me to see more than in my current state.
That’s why—if I could just stay asleep forever, would everyone else be happier?
I raised my head, feeling heavy like iron, as I immediately turned around to look at my phone, like I was crawling toward an oasis in the middle of the desert—July 7th, Wednesday.
I came back.
The loop had activated.
Spending day after day next to the immobilized Kazuhi felt like an eternity.
Each day felt heavy and long like the clock hands had turned into lead.
I spent my days in fear and dread that maybe I had lost my chance.
That Kazuhi would never open her eyes again.
I prayed every single day, wishing for time to turn back.
This time, I won’t make her suffer.
I’ll protect her.
That was all I wanted, and yet I failed.
Terror and despair only weighed down on me strongly each time.
No peace or relief was allowed.
But, I couldn’t afford to stand around.
I put on my clothes and went to meet Kazuhi.
I wasn’t just rotting away while sitting next to Kazuhi.
I opted to change my course of action.
I’ll approach this differently.
“Kazuhi, there’s something I need to tell you.”
Arriving at her room, that was the first thing I said to Kazuhi, who gave me a bewildered look.
“What I’m about to say…might sound unbelievable to you, but please…Believe me.”
I decided to tell Kazuhi everything.
That I’ve been trying to protect her this entire time…and failed.
That we should work together, and that this might lead to the correct path.
That I came from three years in the past…and that I’ve been going through loops to save her…only to fail in the end.
Normally, it sounded like unbelievable nonsense.
And yet, Kazuhi—
“Sou-chan.” She took my hand and looked at me.
“Thank you for telling me.”
“Of course I do.
It’s what you told me, after all.
And when you show me that face…How could I not?” She put her palm on my cheek, rubbing my eyes as she wiped the tears away.
“I’m sorry…You’ve gone through so much all by yourself…It must have been unbearable.”
My eyes began to burn hot.
Even though she just wiped the tears away, I now felt the urge to cry again.
It really is odd.
I’m the one who should apologize.
I keep making you suffer…”
“You really don’t get it, Sou-chan.” She looked at me and spoke with a clear voice.
“I don’t remember what happened during those previous loops…but if you really tried to protect me all those times…and stayed with me even after you failed…Then you have nothing to apologize for…Not to mention! This time, it’ll be fine! You told me about it, so I can protect myself! I’ll be careful, I promise!”
“…About that, Kazuhi.”
“Let’s go somewhere far away.
We’re gonna run away together, just the two of us.
To a place where no tragedy can strike.”
I told her what I thought of before traveling back to this time.
It sounded like an elopement, but it wasn’t anything as adventurous.
So far, even when I tried to protect Kazuhi by keeping her confined in her home, it never worked out.
If so, maybe things will be different if we go somewhere.
We’re running away…to a place where the devil’s hand won’t reach us.
Kazuhi blinked at me once but quickly nodded.
As long as I can be with you, I don’t care where we go, Sou-chan.”
Right after we decided that, we packed our things and left.
We may have decided to go far away, but neither of us has a driver’s license.
For that reason, we chose a taxi.
With a train, I could almost vividly see her getting pushed onto the tracks by someone and getting run over by it.
And I wasn’t going to let that happen.
That’s why I chose to use up all the money I had saved and chose the safest option.
I don’t care about money, as long as I can save Kazuhi’s life.
“Kazuhi, you okay? You’re not feeling unwell anywhere, right? Tell me immediately if anything’s wrong.”
Inside the taxi, we sat next to each other.
But of course, I didn’t have time to enjoy the sights changing outside the car.
The previous tragedies were all caused by accidents or other people, but there’s no guarantee she won’t suddenly suffer from a disease or die a sudden death.
Everything happened so suddenly and abruptly, I was forced to learn that.
“Yeah, I’m okay.
Thanks for worrying about me, Sou-chan.”
She said with a smile, but I couldn’t relax in the slightest.
Something will happen eventually.
Everything around us looked like a weapon that could hurt Kazuhi.
Kazuhi pushed her face closer to me and teasingly blew air into my ear.
“Hee hee, sorry.
But you had such a stern look on your face…I couldn’t take it.” She took my hand, gently wrapping it between her two small palms.
I realized how cold my fingertips were thanks to this.
It’ll be okay.
I won’t ever let you experience that again.
No matter what happens, we’ll overcome it,” she quietly whispered to me to not worry the driver.
“Sou-chan…I love you.”
I could feel my body relax like my body of ice had begun to warm and melt.
“No, listen…the current me isn’t really used to hearing that, so…”
Your body is still Sou-chan, but you’re the Sou-chan from three years ago…Or if anything, you’re still Sou-chan, but those three years ago, you and I weren’t even dating yet…”
All this Sou-chan, Sou-chan talk has started to make me go crazy.
And even though I couldn’t afford it, I was slowly more at peace.
Despite those three years between us, Kazuhi is still Kazuhi.
She’s my guiding light.
The hope that gives me life…Just like that summer sky.
I tightly grasped her hand.
Let’s make it through this together.”
I shouldn’t have carried all this by myself.
If we are honest with each other and hold hands like this, then there’s nothing we can’t overcome.
With that philosophy filling my mind, I could feel my exhausted heart rest.
I wasn’t being careless or inattentive.
However, by confirming our love, my desire to protect her grew even stronger.
And even so, like snow melting in water, I had to fight against my tears.
We’ll run away from tragedy.
Run, run, and run further.
Until there’s nothing to be afraid of.
And then, we’ll just laugh about all of this, saying “Hah, that wasn’t so bad after all.”
—A crashing sound pierced my ears.
I only realized a moment later that it was the signal for my hope to be crushed yet again, as well as the eerie screech that belonged to the tires as they tried to brake.
Inside the closed car…there was no blue sky.
Only hell and crimson-red blood.
A single ribbon soared through the blue sky.
It wasn’t ‘now,’ nor was it ‘reality,’ either.
It was the past.
Representing something that happened, but had long passed.
Why am I remembering that now? Is it because my life was flashing before my eyes? No, I’m not dead.
After the accident with the taxi passed, the driver and I got off with light injuries.
And yet, only Kazuhi ended up bedridden as before.
That’s why I must be simply using an old memory to escape the cruel reality that kept me trapped.
That ribbon flew through the blue sky…like it had wings, as it danced through the air.
Like a goldfish swimming through the sky, far away.
In third grade…During that summer, Kazuhi and I chased after that ribbon.
It almost felt like it was guiding us to a beautiful place.
It sounds stupid now that I look back on it, but we were young and naive.
Running after it for a while, we reached that field of sunflowers.
I can still vividly remember it all.
The chirping of the cicadas, the scent of summer, the strong sun burning on our skin, the wind passing us by, the color of the sunflowers, and her white one-piece shaking at every move.
After I caught the ribbon, I called out to her.
“…Kazuhi, gimme your hand.”
“My hand?” She tilted her head but did as she was told, so I wrapped the ribbon around her wrist.
“Waaah, so cute! It’s like a bracelet! Thank you, Sou-chan!”
She seemed delighted, as I faintly remembered what Yousuke told me before.
That in this world, there’s a ‘red thread of destiny.’ And although this may not be a regular thread, with its beautiful red color, I wanted to imagine that it was something similar.
However, I was too embarrassed to tie it around her finger.
Because I wasn’t aware of how I really felt about Kazuhi back then.
At the time, I was satisfied just seeing her smile.
“Hehehe…Oh man, I’m so happy right now!”
Her smile, beneath her straw hat, shone as bright as the sun, as if it embodied life itself.
Just watching that smile made my chest feel warm.
But, all that is in the past.
That summer is long gone.
I woke up and immediately checked the date—July 27th.
Another day arrived when I was stuck in this timeline.
I felt like I had downed a bottle of lead as I raised my heavy body, ignored my severe headache, and headed to Kazuhi’s hospital room.
Since that…taxi accident…I went through countless more loops, always failing to protect Kazuhi.
No matter what fate she suffered, or what tragedy occurred, she always ended up bedridden like during her first accident.
Her body wouldn’t move, she wouldn’t respond, and her eyes wouldn’t open.
And even so, she was probably conscious.
I reached the room she was hospitalized in.
Even as I called out to her, I knew my voice was shaking.
“I came again.
You must be bored, right? Let’s talk about something.”
This…isn’t any different from the first memories Kazuhi showed me.
Just by coming here, I can’t save her.
In fact, I’m only making her suffer more.
But…what else could I do? She’s stuck here forever, and I’m not supposed to even come to see her? If she’s conscious, then she remembers everything.
She knows about everything that happened.
In fact, she would probably be better off not being conscious, just sleeping the entire time.
“Kazuhi, what…are you thinking?” I asked, only to scoff at myself.
I knew the answer to that.
I’ve seen her thoughts in the memories she presented to me.
That’s why…I didn’t have to guess what she was thinking…as she was locked inside that pitch-black darkness.
—Sou-chan, I’m sorry.
I’m really sorry, I can’t do anything.
I’m the one at fault.
Let’s just…end it all.
Let’s put an end to this.
She’s about to break apart.
In general, stories about time traveling and loops like this are a theme you’d often see in light novels or games.
The protagonist overcomes adversity and terror to then save the heroine in the end.
And then, a blessed future awaits them.
After all, the heroine doesn’t remember any of the loops.
It’s only the protagonist who keeps his memory.
That is…the only saving grace.
But for Kazuhi, it doesn’t end after the loops.
She’ll be forced into this torturous situation, experiencing all her memories at once.
Not only has she experienced this before in the future, she even came back to the past to ensure that I would be happy…So, how many more times could I force Kazuhi into this torture? I was desperately trying to save her, to make sure she could live a normal life.
But…am I not the only one who keeps killing her over and over? I’ve even begun to think like that.
By going through loop after loop, I force her to live through tragedy after tragedy.
—Don’t try, Sou-chan.
“I…love you, too.”
I responded to Kazuhi’s imaginary voice.
That’s right, I love Kazuhi so much.
We were happy, and we should have been able to grasp that happiness.
What went wrong? Where did we go wrong? And even is that voice? What goal does it have? What meaning is there in forcing me through these loops? I could only see this as a twisted mind’s wicked pastime.
And then I remembered something that the voice said before…Not to me, but to Kazuhi.
‘You said that you were willing to offer your life for his sake.
Please, don’t forget that…’
Kazuhi swore when she spoke to that voice.
And I’m sure that the reason Kazuhi is plagued by all this tragedy, leaving her bedridden like this, must be because of that vow.
If so, what exactly could our way out even be? If salvation is our goal, something that only is achieved with compensation and an exchange…then offering life to save another…Could such a contradiction even exist?
July 20th—That’s right, July 20th.
I went back…and failed yet again.
But, don’t misunderstand.
I truly am trying to save her.
I’m not losing motivation or anything.
No matter how much I wish for the current loop to be the final one, no matter which method I use, and even after exhausting all other possibilities, the tragedy always arrives, as if to laugh in my face.
Reflecting my inner thoughts, the sky was dark and grim.
Like a walking corpse, I staggered toward Kazuhi’s hospital room…but on the way—
A voice called out to me.
Turning around, there stood a beauty with long and black hair.
Suzuya Hotaru—now in university.
“…Ah, you came to visit Kazuhi, too?”
“…Yes, but…” She looked at me, narrowing her eyes in pain.
“Are you…okay, Haruoka-kun?”
“…Do you think I’m okay?”
That was insensitive of me.”
“…No…” I shook my head.
“I don’t want you to apologize.
I’m just disgusted at my own inability to do anything.
What I hate the most…is myself.”
“But that accident…wasn’t your fault, Haruoka-kun.”
“It boils down to being mine, anyway.
Because I couldn’t protect her.” I could see blood vessels on my hands that I tightly grasped.
Regret alone isn’t enough.
It feels like it’s tearing my body apart.
That a dark cloud of negativity and self-loathing is going to gush out of my heart.
“I…could never protect her.”
Don’t say that…” Her voice was shaking.
Almost like she was terrified to hear these words.
“Haruoka-kun…I think that you and Amagase-san are a good match.
There’s nobody…nothing that could between the two of you.
But…I can’t keep watching as you slowly deteriorate like that,” she said, as she looked at me with her gemstone-like eyes.
Now that Kazuhi’s eyes had closed, it was something I wasn’t used to anymore.
“Please, don’t blame yourself like that.
Remember who Amagase-san was…! Seeing you suffer like this, regret like this, it must hurt her even more than what happened to herself! That’s why…don’t take the blame for something that was out of your control.” She said and tightly grasped my hand.
Even if I took Kazuhi’s hand, she would never hold my hand back.
“Medicine has progressed a lot.
The fact that Amagase-san is alive is proof of that.
One day, she’ll wake up.
I have faith in that.”
Those words held the power to call my consciousness back from the depths of the abyss.
Kazuhi simply can’t open her eyes ‘right now.’ But, she’s alive.
The doctor said that the chance of recovery is low, but not impossible.
Suzuya is absolutely right.
If so…maybe I should give up ‘for now’?
“Amagase-san will wake up one day.
So…at least until then…”
Won’t rebelling against an irreversible fate simply twist me beyond recognition?
“Please, let me be by your side?”
—Accepting this fate and giving in to the future…Isn’t that also a possible path?
“Once she wakes up, you can pretend that nothing happened between us, and I won’t tell Amagase-san a thing, either.
But until then…let me be with you.
Rely on me while you’re suffering.
I’ll lend you a shoulder to try on.
I’ll do anything I can.
So please, don’t blame yourself.
I won’t tell you not to grieve.
But at this rate, your heart will break.
Don’t…try to carry it all by yourself.”
Suzuya is this kind to me…despite everything.
And it was the same in Kazuhi’s initial memory.
That’s why she tried to get me and Suzuya together.
I want to be your strength, Haruoka-kun…” She looked at me with dampened eyes.
And then, a certain thought crossed my mind.
One that made me feel like throwing up—Why does it have to be Kazuhi? She’s my childhood friend.
The girl who’s lived next door for as long as I can remember.
But at the same time, we were just neighbors.
If there lived another girl next to me that wasn’t Kazuhi, would I have fallen in love with that someone?
It’s an idiotic and meaningless hypothesis.
But if I were to accept Suzuya here, then I might be able to become truly happy in the future, even if the present won’t work out.
It’s compensation…an exchange—No.
I don’t want to think about that.
I’m just tired.
I’ve gotten weak, my heart easily being shaken like this.
Normally, I would never even consider the path of erasing Kazuhi like this.
I wanted to kick myself for feeling this desire to be freed from my suffering.
That’s why I couldn’t forgive myself…and glared at Suzuya.
I can’t let you do that…and you don’t have to.”
“I want to do this…out of my own will.
I can’t stand watching you like this.
And I don’t think I would be able to fill the hole that Amagase-san created within you.
I couldn’t be as presumptuous as to assume that.
I’m painfully aware that that’s just how important of an existence she is to you.
But…even if it’s just a minuscule amount…I want to support you.
I can’t sit by idly while you destroy yourself.
Because if you keep going like this…you’ll break.”
So she said, but her voice was on the verge of shattering, too.
Tears were building up in her eyes.
I’m not the only one who’s suffering.
Suzuya is hurting, too.
She may not have gone through all those tragedies and loops as I have, but even just this one…must be hell enough.
“…I like Amagase-san.”
And this can’t be an easy choice for her.
Suzuya and Kazuhi are friends, and saying this to me right now was akin to betraying one of her best friends.
And despite that, she still chose to tell me this.
“But… I also…towards you…” She said, only to stop herself.
“…I’m sorry to suddenly bother you with that.
If possible, I’d like you to consider my offer,” she said and walked the opposite way, away from the hospital.
She probably felt like she didn’t have the right to see Kazuhi after what she had said and done.
And at the same time, rain began to pour from the dark sky.
Right now, Kazuhi isn’t here.
But a hallucination in the shape of her spoke to me.
—Sou-chan, it’s okay.
That’s what I wished for this entire time, anyway…
And then, the hallucination tapped me on the chest, pushing me in the direction Suzuya walked off to.
The rain grew stronger, as I slammed my hands onto the ground, flashing water everywhere.
I was wondering what sound I heard, only to realize it was my own scream.
But there was something else.
Ah, I see.
It’s the sound of my insides being torn to shreds.
“What the hell is this?! How could you say something like that?! Why…why…Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah?!” I screamed as my fingers dug into the hard concrete ground.
My fingertips began to turn red, sending immense pain to my brain.
But, so what? Kazuhi is hurting even more.
So much more than I could imagine.
Ten times…a hundred times more than this bit of stinging right now.
And she’s been through it again and again and again and again and again.
The people passing me on the street looked at me in disgust and disbelief as they passed me by.
Nobody could understand how I felt.
Not even Suzuya or Kazuhi.
Because they’re kind, they’ll just say ‘You don’t have to try anymore.’ Even though they don’t want me to give up.
It’s slowly breaking me.
Making me want to run.
If Kazuhi just said ‘Please, save me.’ If she truly wished to be saved, then I could do this forever.
And yet, nobody is asking to be saved.
The only thing that’s asking me to save Kazuhi is my own ego.
And at the same time, I’m being forced to go through hell…all because I want to save someone.
And if she doesn’t wish to be saved, then she should just resent me.
Put the fault on me.
Tell me to go to hell as a punishment.
Please…don’t pray for my happiness.
Kindness can destroy people.
Because the guilt that they feel crushes them from the inside.
“Aaaaaaaaaah! Shit, shit, shit!”
Why does she keep dying like that, anyway? I mean, she can’t fully die…But no matter how much I try to help her, no matter what method I come up with, the end is always the same.
I…I’m really trying, and yet…! There are plenty of other options.
Suzuya is objectively a better choice at this point.
It’s not like she can’t be the one…So why can I not just give up? Nobody is even wishing for me to keep trying.
“Why…Why is it her? There’s gotta be others! Damn it! Damn it all! Damn it damn it damn it damn it!!”
Why does she have to suffer through tragedy after tragedy? There’s gotta be evil and vile people in this world who deserve it much more than her.
Why does she have to suffer? And why cannot I move on without her? Why can’t I just fall in love with someone else and say my goodbyes to her?
“Aaaaaah…Someone…Please…” I raised my hands toward the sky, begging for help.
However, the rain continued to pour with no light in sight.
The blood dripped from my fingertips mixed with the rain, as reddish liquid fell to the ground.
After screaming that entire time, I finally ran out of air.
I dedicated a few seconds to breathing and allowing my racing heart to stabilize.
“…Huff…huff…Heh, just kidding.
I know…that nobody’s here.
I’m just releasing my stress, you dunce.”
It was a mad man’s act, but it allowed me to let out all my pent-up feelings that had nowhere to go.
It’s okay…I can stand up again.
I can still stand.
I can stand for Kazuhi’s sake.
But that’s exactly why I have no allies.
But even so, I won’t give up.
I’ll continue to loop back.
On staggering feet, I made the decision that I couldn’t go see Kazuhi looking like this, so I bought a towel and a fresh set of clothes at a nearby convenience store.
Finally, I made it to the hospital room, taking Kazuhi’s hand as I always would.
I know how easy it would be to just let go.
But even so, just being next to her…is where I need to be.
Even if she ended up like a broken doll…that doesn’t change a thing.
It doesn’t have to do anything with logic.
Irrational and absurd, it doesn’t matter.
She may be suffering, but she is still as lovable as always.
“Even if you don’t ever open your eyes again…Even if we can never walk together again…Even if you don’t respond to me calling your name…I still choose you.
Because I love you, Kazuhi.”
Suzuya can say that she wants to be as much as she likes.
I still want to hold this hand.
There’s no compensation, no exchange.
Kazuhi is Kazuhi.
Not more, not less, there’s no replacing her.
It’s my ego speaking.
I’m speaking all high and mighty while I continue to make her suffer.
What horrible conceit, wishing to save her despite only causing more suffering.
If I gave up, she could finally find peace.
“As long as you’re alive…right here with me…that’s all I need.”
That’s…just good enough for me.
Why are people so hung up on the past? It’s foolish, but it is how we humans act.
The present and the future are all built upon the past.
And my life is like this…I exist the way I am because she was with me.
If I can’t have her by my side…then I won’t be able to stay as myself.
That’s why…this is okay.
I prefer you.
But…what about Kazuhi?
Don’t underestimate your childhood friend.
I can easily tell what you’re thinking.
You…just want to die, right?
July 7th, Wednesday.
I returned to the beginning of the loop.
Even if we stay in the house or run away, tragedy will reach us.
There’s no escaping it.
That’s why I simply went to university with Kazuhi.
“Sou-chan…are you okay? You look really tired…”
After all these loops, I was simply exhausted, but Kazuhi worried about me.
I wanted to smile and tell her that everything was okay, but the muscles in my face didn’t move as I ordered them to.
“Morning, Sou, Kazuhi-chan! …Phew, what’s wrong? You got a horrible look on your face, Sou.”
On the way to the lecture hall, Yousuke called out to us.
“You out of it, eh? What’s on your mind? As the genius black magic user, I can use my power to resolve any of your problems!”
“…You’re the same as always, huh?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?! Are you making fun of my power?! Now listen here! Odd and weird powers exist in this world!”
Normally, I would have just ignored that nonsense.
But after going through this mysterious and unreasonable loop, I couldn’t make fun of him anymore.
“Hm? What’s up, Sou? Do you want to ask me about black magic after all?”
Up to this point, I told Kazuhi about the whole loop several times.
However, she’s the only person I never opened up to.
I figured that nobody would believe me.
But…what about him? Despite Kazuhi believing me, it didn’t bring me anywhere.
So if there’s nothing to lose, then there’s no reason for me not to try.
Anything could become a hint for me to get out of this.
Even a spider’s web is more than enough to hold on to.
Here’s a what-if for you.”
“Assuming there’s a weird loop happening that forces you into the same situation over and over…”
“Wait, are you in the middle of a loop right now?! That sounds very intriguing as the alchemist that I am! Please, more detail!”
“…Are you a black magic user or an alchemist? Anyway, you go through this loop, again and again, trying to save that one person, but you lose them no matter what.
You have any idea what could be the reason for this?”
“That’s so obvious! It’s gotta be the devil! The devil’s power! And to get out of the loop, you need to defeat the origin, the devil who put you into it!”
“You’re really ignoring me?! Don’t be so cold now! Normally, you immediately stab me where it hurts with your retorts!”
I wasn’t ignoring him, I was just thinking about what he just said.
At first glance, it sounded idiotic, but…Up to this point, I always prioritized protecting Kazuhi.
Keeping her safe was my priority.
That’s why I didn’t even consider the fact of defeating something.
However, who or what could that ‘enemy’ even be? The tragedies befalling Kazuhi ranged from an accident to a criminal act, and it changes each time.
Maybe it’s that voice who is pulling the strings.
But if so…Where is it? Where is the owner of that voice? And even before that, assuming that the voice is the devil…assuming that such an ultimate evil really existed…
Why was Kazuhi chosen? I don’t want to sound like an indifferent politician speaking of deaths as statistics, but accidents like these aren’t so rare.
There are countless people ending up in accidents or suffering from a sickness.
So, why did it have to be Kazuhi? I’m the one going through the loops.
But, it all started with Kazuhi.
What became the trigger for it all? Was it just the devil’s whim—
“Ah, I know! Since you’re not feeling up to snuff, I got just the thing for you! It’s so cool!”
“Yeah! Look! It’s a lamp with a demon granting you any one wish! I bought it online!”
“…I swear…” I dropped my shoulders and sighed.
“Will you stop buying random nonsense? You did the same thing before.”
“Huh? Did I?”
Back in our first year in high school, you bought something weird online!”
“Aw, geez! I don’t remember that far back!”
“You…You said it was some weird stone that would let a devil grant any of your wishes, but since you didn’t have any space in your room, you then let Kazuhi have—” I spoke that far, and forgot to breathe.
The answer arrived in a flash.
I remembered an exchange way before the Kazuhi from the future even arrived.
—You go tell him, Kazuhi.
He should buy a textbook instead of throwing away money for some nonsense like that.
Might help his brain grow.
—A-Ahaha…But, the idea of a stone granting any wish does sound interesting.
—That’s my Kazuhi-chan! You really get it! All right! Since you’re so kind, you can have this stone, Kazuhi-chan!
Assuming that there was a reason…a trigger for this whole situation to start.
Couldn’t it…have been that? And then I remembered what Kazuhi told me when we spoke about the ribbon.
—Whaaat? No way! I can’t just throw away things I got from other people.
Kazuhi would keep anything, no matter how pointless it seemed.
Just because she received it from someone else, too.
That’s how uptight she is.
“That stone Yousuke gave you all those years ago…You still have it, right? Where is it?!”
“Ah, well, the one from high school, right? It’s inside the drawer back in my room…”
“That’s it…!” I grabbed Kazuhi’s hand and started running.
“Wait, Sou?! Were you going?! What about our lecture?!”
Yousuke was bewildered, but I paid him no mind as I just ran in the opposite direction.
“Wah…Wh-What happened, Sou-chan?”
“Please, just come with me.
We have to hurry…!”
I finally found a tiny ray of hope.
But, I couldn’t let down my guard.
Even as we rushed home, there was a good chance that something might happen.
That maybe a murderer would cross our path.
Please, just let us get back home safely.
And…I beg you.
Let us make it through this twisted tragedy.
“…Kazuhi? What are you laughing for?”
Even as we ran at full speed, Kazuhi laughed despite being out of breath.
I mean, it’s a lot better than seeing her cry.
I just…didn’t understand why.
Why would she laugh now of all times?
“This just reminded me of the time we were in high school.
You’d often pull my hand as we ran to school.
Ah, this takes me back…”
Kazuhi…I can’t tell you right now, but…I’m still my high school self.
However, she wasn’t wrong.
That time truly is nostalgic compared to now.
It was peaceful…and pleasant.
These days…feel so far.
This time, I’ll take it all back.
I’ll get us back to those boring but fulfilling days.
We took the train from the train station closest to the university, and as I was filled with determination and anxiety, we rode back to our hometown.
During the entire ride, I held Kazuhi’s hand, wary of my surroundings.
Ten minutes later, we reached Kazuhi’s room.
I went through her drawer, taking out the stone.
It was the same stone I considered plain junk way back when she just got it.
Hit by the fluorescent light of the room, it shone in a bewitching black.
“Kazuhi, do you have a tool box?”
“Yeah…Dad’s often working on stuff around the house.
I’ll go grab it.”
Kazuhi returned with the tool box, and I quickly grabbed a hammer from the inside.
I placed the stone on the ground and swung the hammer.
I didn’t hold back in the slightest, and yet I could simply feel my hand tingling.
The stone showed no change.
“Y-You okay, Sou-chan?”
I’m sure Kazuhi must have been confused by everything that was happening, but she still continued to watch over me.
“Get away from me.
It’d be bad if you got hit by the pieces…But, not too far! Just close enough so I can protect you!”
BANG BANG BANG BANG, I continued to slam the hammer onto the stone like I was a smith.
With each hit, my hand hurt even more.
But compared to all the pain and suffering Kazuhi went through, this much is nothing.
I packed all my frustration and anger into my swings, as I continued my assault. BANG BANG BANG, the dull slamming sound of metal hitting rock filled the room.
Normally, it would be an eerie and discomforting sound, but to me, it felt like the last countdown until salvation.
Like I was running up the stairs to my final destination.
Continuing this for a bit, I could slowly but steadily see cracks forming in the stone.
Seeing that I was close, I could feel tears building up in my eyes.
But to see clearly, I wiped them away and talked to Kazuhi.
“I’m really sorry…for everything.
But, this will be the end.”
“…? Why are you apologizing? And what’s gonna end?”
The cracks inside the stone began to visibly run deeper.
I was getting close to the end.
My final stretch to the end.
Even my breaths changed from exhausted to excited.
“…Once all of this is done, promise me.
That you’ll never give up on yourself ever again.”
Don’t say that you don’t care what happens to you.
Don’t say that you’re okay with dying.
And with that prayer spoken, I swung the hammer one last time.
One last swing to end it all.
KRIIIIING, a sound filled the room.
Like something had cracked and splintered.
Like this cruel repeating tragedy had finally been destroyed…I did it? I finally destroyed the stone.
“Ah…Ahh! I did it! With this…with this…!”
“I did it, Kazuhi! Now we can…now we will…”
All the pain and suffering were over.
Overwhelmed with emotions, I began crying and turned toward Kazuhi to embrace her.
However, she didn’t say a thing as she just collapsed toward me.
She had a knife stuck in her back, with an unfamiliar man standing behind her.
—Again, huh? I quickly realized what was going on.
So this time, it wasn’t an accident, but an armed robbery, eh? I was utterly bewildered and disgusted at the rational deduction that crossed my mind.
And this hell…It continued on, mercilessly.
I sat in the hospital room.
As always, Kazuhi was lying on the bed, not moving.
As if to deliver a show on all the possible tragedies in this world.
As if you were doing a 100% achievement run in a game, Kazuhi was tortured with every possible tragedy imaginable.
I thought that stone was the origin of this loop.
But, nothing changed even after I destroyed it.
What’s right? What’s wrong? I don’t know.
I don’t understand anything.
As I was mentally and physically exhausted, she entered the room, but didn’t say a thing.
She must have realized that nothing could heal my broken soul.
And while staying silent, she just caressed my hair.
Like a gentle mother would when protecting her child.
“…I’m with you.”
I want to be with Kazuhi.
That desire…I still feel it even now.
Stronger than ever.
Because I love her.
That is how I feel…but that’s also why…I just want her to find peace.
The words I started found no closure.
I just sat on my chair in silence, as time passed mercilessly when even Suzuya had disappeared.
And yet, I couldn’t even stand it anymore.
My head wouldn’t allow me to think properly.
I couldn’t even look ahead…And then, it happened.
‘It is time for you to choose.’
Without remorse, without restraint, that voice entered my head.
‘Will you continue to walk through this hell while making your beloved one suffer? Or will you give up and choose a different path?’
Was…Was all my fighting against fate…my rebellion against destiny…futile? Was giving up…my only way out of this? And did this voice go so far as to torture me…just to make me realize this?
‘This will be the last time.
That’s why, just this once…’ The voice continued as if to crush my own thoughts.
‘I will allow you to speak with the girl, as she has all her memories.’
Seconds later, the world erupted.
The sky was eerily blue.
It was a strong and refreshing blue, which immediately made me think of the word “Summer.” And since it was so beautiful, it was so unmatching to the conversation we would share from now on.
I can’t feel refreshed like this.
We stood on the rooftop of our high school.
It’s where Suzuya, Kazuhi, and I once ate lunch together.
As if it was a world made just for us, there were no other people around.
And beneath the dazzling sky—there she stood.
The bright sunlight created a long shadow running from her legs.
Through all the different loops, I had always returned to the very beginning.
But if what that voice said is true…then this is different.
But I was terrified of accepting that, so my feet wouldn’t even move toward her.
“…Sou-chan,” Kazuhi called my name.
The moment I heard her, I knew.
That voice spoke the truth.
Right now, the Kazuhi in front of me…held no resemblance of hope.
Because she possessed the memories of the endless hell she had gone through up to this point.
I couldn’t even fully call her name before I stopped myself.
What could I even say to her? I promised to protect her and yet forced her to live through that hell again and again.
“Sou-chan…This is the end,” her smile was weak and fragile, like the bubbles of ramune disappearing into the water, as she declared the ending of it all.
“Thank you…for everything.”
This was undoubtedly the last time.
Kazuhi had no ‘from now on’ or ‘after this’ any longer.
And yet…Even so—she smiled.
She should be the one who’s suffering the most.
Why…How can she smile despite everything? All…All she does is smile…!
“Why are you thanking me? I didn’t do a damn thing that would deserve your gratitude.
You deserve to blame me.
Are you really fine with this? You can’t be, right? Going through that hell…again and again!”
“I would be lying if I said it didn’t phase me.
Because…you tried to save me this whole time.
Even though I forced you through all that…You kept on holding my hand.
You kept me connected to this world.
How could I blame you? I’m thankful to you.
As if to push my back…to urge me to find a different path after this…Kazuhi smiled again.
And yet, her eyes were filled with pain that she could barely contain.
Just like that one morning…when she time leaped back to the past.
“I don’t want to see you getting hurt anymore…I can’t bear to see you hurt, Sou-chan…”
I don’t wanna hear that.
But because she made it so clear, I had nothing I could argue back with.
Our feelings are one.
We both don’t wish to hurt each other with any more loops.
Any more than this…would just be ludicrous.
We continue down the same path of just hurting each other.
We have to draw the line somewhere.
Put an end to it eventually.
This is my final request.”
And even so…I don’t want to hear it.
“Please, forget about me.
Please walk the path after this…together with Suzuya-san.
Please…choose a future that will make you happy.”
“Shut up! Don’t say another word! And…don’t smile like that…!” I screamed to the point my throat burned up with pain, but my voice held no impact.
“We’ve been together since we were little shits.
I’ve spent the better half of my life with you by my side.
Half of me…No, you are all of me.
How could I forget about you?! I like your smile.
I wanted you to always smile! But, right now…your face…it’s not what I wanted…!”
“…Sou-chan.” Kazuhi’s hand touched my cheek.
It was so gentle, like I would get sucked into it.
“The reason I smile…the reason I try to smile…is because it’s you, Sou-chan.
Because you’ve always stayed by my side.”
Her eyes were quivering, as tears started to build up.
It was so…beautiful, I was forced to keep staring at her, despite being painfully aware that this will be the last time.
“I’ve always…always liked you, Sou-chan.
You’ve made me happy more times than I can count.
Having you by my side…Seeing you smile like the stubborn dummy you are…Pulling my hand when we ran to school…Ruffling through my hair with such gentle feelings…Always supporting me in my time of need…I was happy.
No matter what ending may await me, the countless and countless memories I have thanks to you…will never change.
They will never disappear.
That’s why…this is enough.
I’ve gotten so many things from you.
So, you have to become happy.
Experience my share, too…No, you have to be happy with Suzuya-san…for my sake.”
The reason she rephrased that final part was to give me another push.
To ensure that I couldn’t speak against her wish.
“I…really loved you, Sou-chan.”
No words could be so sweet…yet so painful, as they sucked me in.
But, she spoke in a passive tense.
It’s different than what she told me before…because now, her words hold no ‘present’ or ‘future’ any longer.
I could feel my heart slowly being ripped to shreds.
Continuing to look for another way out that possibly didn’t exist…after hearing Kazuhi’s wish…would just be a means for my own self-satisfaction.
I have to give up.
Walking a different path…one that could bring me happiness…That is what Kazuhi wishes for.
But, that is one type of conclusion.
Because then, she’ll be freed from the endless hell and suffering she had been through up to now.
And by Kazuhi’s death as compensation…I can obtain a happy future with Suzuya.
That’s why…this must be the only way out of this despair.
There’s no other path I could take.
And if that voice was truly the devil, then this was just a little game to get our hopes up, simply crushing them by the end.
There was no salvation.
That’s what that bastard wanted us to experience.
Kazuhi let go of my hand, slowly walking away from me.
She turned my back toward me, walked toward the fence of the rooftop, and then turned around again.
No matter how much I struggled, the result was the same.
It’s always been like this.
If so, then she probably wanted to be the one to end it all…herself.
She declared her goodbyes, and as if it had waited for that, the fence she leaned against disappeared.
I felt so eerie but at the same time so natural, I didn’t even realize.
Everything happened in slow motion, as Kazuhi gradually fell backward.
And yet, I reacted just a second quicker, grabbing her hand.
With my right hand, I held hers, and with my left, I grabbed onto the bottom part of the fence.
Despite Kazuhi being so fragile and light, my raw arm strength was barely enough, as I fought the pain of my arm feeling like it would get torn off.
“Hehe…It’s…too late now.” Kazuhi didn’t even consider the possibility of climbing up again.
I may have held her hand, but she didn’t return my grip.
Like she was fine just falling into the abyss, as she dangled below me.
“I told you, right? This is the end.
You have to let go of my own hand and take Suzuya-san’s.
Because then…you’ll have a future,” she said, urging me to ease my grip on my hand holding hers.
Just like Kazuhi said, there’s no other way.
Rather than repeating that hell for all eternity, if I just let go here, then Kazuhi won’t have to suffer anymore.
I…have to let go of her hand.
Let go of—
There, something entered my mind.
A red ribbon fluttered in the wind, as it was tied to Kazuhi’s wrist.
All this time, I was so obsessed with the fact that this would be our final conversation…so focused on our conversation…so desperate to capture as much of her as possible before it was too late…that I didn’t even realize.
But, there was no doubt in my mind.
It was the red color of destiny.
The ribbon I tied around her wrist that one time to create a bracelet.
Even though…this happened so long in the past.
She kept treasuring it all this time…But, this is who she is.
This is Kazuhi—Always smiling.
Wishing for the happiness of others.
Treasuring even the smallest things.
She’s a bottomless idiot…and yet so kind.
She’s…the girl the most important to me in this whole world.
“Come on…let go…?”
And yet, that girl was pleading like that.
So, that hand, I—
I firmly grasped it.
Even stronger than before.
“Even so…I won’t accept this…!”
A severe pain pierced my arm.
I was getting worried it might actually get torn off soon.
But, that didn’t matter.
I’ll let that devil have an arm or two.
“I don’t want this kind of ending! I want you…by my side.
I want you to live.
I want you to laugh! With me! Forever!”
There was no sugarcoating it anymore.
All hesitation and shame were long gone.
I just spit out my honest feelings.
Selfish, childish, self-centered, absurd feelings.
“I can’t become happy without you.
Without your smile, I can’t keep on living.
I’m well aware that I’m only hurting you like this.
And I hate myself for being unable to accept this conclusion despite being powerless to protect you.
I’m the worst.
I’m human trash…Nothing more than a lump of grotesque ego—But, I still don’t want to give up! I don’t wanna give up! I don’t wanna give up! I don’t wanna give up!”
Suzuya’s words flashed up in my head.
That even if you lose someone important to you, you can still become happy with someone else…and call that a happy end.
Yeah, you could very well say that.
Even if I gave up here, there might be people who say “You’ve done well.
You can rest now.” And then, I might find an ending that allows me to be happy after I’ve overcome all grief and loss.
But…this is reality.
It’s not some story.
Even if a hundred people said “This is the best solution,” then I will be the one person to reject this ending.
“What I want…is the best goddamn happy ending that will absolutely crush and destroy all and every insurmountable tragedy and sorrow! Some half-assed happy ending isn’t gonna satisfy me! Like I give a shit about the people who say this is good enough! You can tell me to accept it all you want…But I’m going to reject this ending as many times as it takes! Listen up, Kazuhi! Even if you die right here, I’ll never ever become happy! No matter how many women hit on me, I’ll spend the rest of my life all by myself…unable to forget you…unable to get over you…as I cry myself to sleep and stay in my room like a hermit! And when it’s time for me to die, I’ll call your name until I take my final breath! Don’t think you can just piss off and get off scot-free by telling me to ‘be happy,’ you hear me?!”
What a pathetic monologue.
I was basically just giving in to my feelings, threatening the girl I loved.
This was even worse than a sulking child.
“Maybe you should consider the feelings of the poor sucker who loses the person they love the most only to be left behind without them in this rotten world, forced to live on for their sake!!”
When she said ‘Forget about me and be happy,’ she wasn’t any better than me.
She was just speaking nonsense to satisfy me.
Deep down, these words were just as cruel as everything I just said.
“Also…if you die, then I’ve got no reason to keep going myself.
In fact, I might honestly just join you instead…But, even so…!”
We both wish to be freed.
But, we don’t want to die.
We want to be happy.
We want to be able to smile.
I want to have Kazuhi by my side as I enjoy my peace.
It was that simple…It’s that simple of a wish.
We’re not going to keep living even if we have to suffer.
Like I care about a life with pain but hope can be a beautiful thing.
The best possible solution is to live a happy and joyful life, don’t you think?! Just like idiots like us would!
“Kazuhi…I love you! I love you so much, you don’t even know! You’re the person I care about the most in the whole world! That’s why…”
I returned the words she threw at me that day, and see how she’ll like that.
“If I can’t be the happiest guy in the world…then there’s no point to me being alive!”
My arm was slowly reaching its limit on how much it could handle…But the warmth I felt from Kazuhi’s hand…and the memories of our days together…When we ran to school like idiots…as I pulled her after me…Yeah.
Pulling her with me… That…is my role.
Listening to my words, Kazuhi’s eyes were wide open in shock.
However, those eyes—harbored light.
“…No point, huh?”
Kazuhi remained quiet for a moment.
Like she was thinking about something…pondering between the two choices she was given.
Finally, her lips slowly opened.
These words sent a shock through my brain, making me almost blackout.
Maybe she still is at her limit? I don’t blame her.
In fact, I’m just being selfish.
“I…had given up this entire time.
I was just playing tough.”
That apology of hers wasn’t directed at my words.
“…Hehe, I’m such a dummy, right? I really forced myself…I couldn’t stand the fact of not being able to be with you.
I hated the idea of seeing you with another girl.
I wanted to be the one next to you…!”
Midway through her monologue, large tears fell from her eyes.
They shone bright like diamonds, reflecting the light of this clear summer day.
This is my true wish.
I’m not lying or putting up a facade anymore…” Kazuhi spoke to not lose against the tears.
“No matter how many times you fail.
No matter how many times I break…I want you to come and get me.
I’ll do my best…so, don’t choose anybody else.
Redo it over and over—And save me!”
Her eyes were filled with radiance…with vigor.
Her words were filled with unbound hope…conveying absolute cruelty.
“…Do you really wish for that?”
I’m well aware that this choice will be much more painful than simply giving up.
Especially since the one who’ll suffer through all of it…will be Kazuhi.
Even so, her immediate answer was so refreshing and bracing.
“That’s the best for me.
You know…I’m a lot more selfish and self-centered than I might seem.
Rather than falling down into hell countless times, the fact that we can’t be together…hurts me even more.
If I had to choose between you being happy with another girl and suffering for my sake for all eternity, then I honestly wouldn’t know what to choose.
Or rather, I don’t like either of those choices.
I can’t pick either of them…! But if I told you that…I was worried you might come to hate me…and my desire to see you happy isn’t fake or a lie.
I’m okay if I’m the only one who is hurting, but letting you suffer in return…I wouldn’t be able to bear it.
That’s why I wanted us to have a clear cut…and I held back from speaking my mind…But…if I’m allowed to say what I feel…if I’m allowed to be honest and selfish…Then…I don’t want you to become happy with another girl.
I don’t want anybody else to have you! You’re mine alone, Sou-chan!”
We were both saying some horrible stuff.
I want Kazuhi to experience that hell again and again, and Kazuhi wants me to suffer through endless loops for her own sake.
There’s really no saving us.
If anybody else saw this, they’d call us a bunch of morons.
But to us…this is the best possible solution…and the only one.
“Please, Sou-chan…I want you to be happy.
And…I want to be the one to make you happy! That’s why…”
The hand I had been holding this whole time twitched, as she returned my grip.
Her warmth turned into strength, as I was given new life.
“Save me…as many times as it takes!”
It wasn’t just me trying to save her by simply holding her hand.
We would now walk this path down to hell together, hand in hand.
What a…bewitching hand.
“Yeah, I promise.”
My shoulder was about to pop out, but I put more strength into my grip, trying to pull up Kazuhi.
However, yet again, it felt like salvation wasn’t granted to us, even without the voice throwing in a remark.
The remains of the fence I had held onto now broke off.
Nothing about this was okay, but I still smiled as I reassured her.
And to distract her, I continued.
Once all this is over, let’s do something together.
Anything you want.
We could visit a place you’d like to see, check out food you’re interested in.”
“Really? Yay! …Ah, I know.
I wanna go to that field of sunflowers we visited when we were kids.”
Normally, this was the moment where despair should swallow us whole.
And yet, we pretended like everything was okay and smiled.
Turning this tragedy into a comedy.
“That sounds nice.
It was such a relaxing place, after all.”
“Yeah…We went to so many places and did so many things, huh?”
“Because we’ve always been together.
Going to a festival, to the pool, to an amusement park…We were never separated.”
“Hehe…We went to an amusement park with just the two of us, you know? We even checked out the city at night on the Ferris Wheel.
And when I sat down next to you, you suddenly pulled my shoulder closer.
Man, that had my heart racing…”
“D-Did I really do that…?”
How could I have mistaken you?”
“I know…You’ve got a lot more memories with me that I never experienced, after all.”
Those brief memories of us being a happy and lovey-dovey couple was so sweet I felt like throwing up sugar cubes, but when you’re that happy, acting like idiots is the perfect mix.
“I…want to be with you.
Even further than the future you know of.”
“…Yeah, me too.”
The fence I held on to couldn’t withstand our weight, as it completely broke off.
While we held hands, we fell down into the abyss.
During this fall, I tightly embraced Kazuhi.
Until now, each time a tragedy struck, I always miraculously survived, as only Kazuhi suffered.
But this time, I don’t even know what’s going to happen.
Will a loop happen if I die together with Kazuhi? Or will we both die? It doesn’t matter, honestly.
I won’t let go of her hand.
“Kazuhi,” I smiled at her, and she returned a smile.
As the idiots we were, even this situation overflowing with despair didn’t bother us much.
We weren’t even playing tough.
We just knew that embracing each other while smiling was exactly what we considered our happiness.
And then we laughed again at how stupid we were for feeling this way.
And while we laughed, we were slowly approaching the ground.
There’s no saying us…and yet, I felt refreshed.
So much that I could make fun of myself for acting like an idiot during the loops.
Sure, as my life could possibly be nearing its end, I did wonder if I was happy with this outcome.
But then again, I knew that Kazuhi and I…as long as we’re together, we’re invincible.
I won’t give up on Kazuhi, and she won’t let me go, either.
We won’t stop being together.
That’s all this is…and that’s all I need
—Then, something happened.
KSHIIIING, a loud sound pierced our ears.
It reminded me of glass shattering.
Instinctively, I could tell that this sound destroyed this cruel world we had walked through all this time.
The scenery around us grew blurry, as even the ground beneath us vanished.
Everything turned into particles of light and then lit up like fireflies.
They emitted a faint light, putting life into the world around us.
Then, scarlet red appeared, like the sun had begun to set.
Clear blue like a river stream followed.
Purple resembling the ajisai flower broke into the world.
Snow white colors like wings danced through the sky…The entire world sparkled like a translucent rainbow—As if it was some type of blessing.
And it wasn’t just that.
A voice celebrating and blessing us entered our heads.
And, that voice…I had heard it all this time, but because it quickly vanished like bubbles, I couldn’t make out the source.
Now, however, as the colors came together, I could clearly tell who the voice belonged to.
‘I’m truly glad you managed to find a way out…Haruoka-kun, Amagase-san.’
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