The alarm sound, familiar to anyone who uses a smartphone, echoed loudly in my room.
It had a very lively rhythm, and some people might feel like dancing to it, but I certainly didn’t have the eccentricity to feel like dancing on a morning like this. I rubbed my half-opened eyes and reluctantly got out of bed.
I used to use a traditional alarm clock, but I realized that the smartphone’s alarm was more convenient, so I’ve been using it as my main alarm ever since. However, today is Saturday, so there’s no real need to wake up early. I’d rather just sleep all day, escaping into a dream world on a timeline where I don’t harbor such traumatic feelings towards women.
But today is an exception. I can’t leisurely immerse myself in the dream world because there’s a certain promise to keep…
I had moved to this unfamiliar town, Ouzakura District, to escape from the atrocities committed by my step-sister and the false accusations hurled at me in my hometown.
It’s been a month since I arrived here. Though I’m still just 15, I can’t help but feel that time is moving faster as I age.
In this one month, the town has transformed from a slightly gentle November chill to the bone-chilling cold of December.
As I opened the front door and stepped outside, I instinctively hugged myself to ward off the cold.
However, despite the increasing severity of the cold, I had become familiar enough with the town that I no longer got lost. If I wandered outside for hours in this cold, I would undoubtedly catch a cold.
I mentioned as if I had learned the way through my own efforts, but it was all thanks to Yuji guiding me every day after school, taking me to various places.
I can’t thank Yuji enough; he’s undoubtedly a saint. Other than my step-family, there’s no one else who would treat someone like me kindly…
I followed the shortcut Yuji had taught me and reached the nearest station from my house in a few minutes. Although I had some spare time, I couldn’t predict what irregularities might occur, so I was being extra cautious. I couldn’t afford to keep people waiting.
As I exhaled, my breath turned into a white mist in the air. I can’t explain it well, but for some reason, I like this sight. This mist seems to remind me of the fleeting warmth and severity of winter.
I arrived at the nearest station. It’s a plain, unremarkable station, but it’s an important part of my town’s infrastructure. I found it quite sentimental.
While immersed in this mysterious sentiment, I passed through the ticket gate, which only had the old-fashioned ticket type since it didn’t support IC cards, and headed to the platform.
Then, I boarded a train that comes every ten minutes, heading to the neighboring town.
This town doesn’t have much in terms of entertainment facilities, but if you go to the neighboring Shibasaki District, there’s a movie theater, arcade, shopping mall, and other entertainment options where students can enjoy their free time. (Again, Yuji taught me about this.)
Despite being just one station away by train from this nearly rural town with nothing, the appearance of the town was drastically different. Entertainment facilities, shopping malls, amusement centers, and cafes were all well-equipped, and it was bustling with people regardless of weekdays or weekends.
Gatan Goton Gatan Goton
As the train rattled on, I reflected on the people I’ve met and the events that have happened in the past month.
He had blonde hair and piercings, giving him the appearance of a rough-looking guy.
However, deep down, he was kind and taught me various things.
We went to the game center together, watched delinquent-style movies I wouldn’t typically watch, and even shared lunch.
He’s my best friend.
I don’t know how Yuji feels about it, but I’ve taken the liberty to consider him my best friend.
[Daily Life at Ouzakura High School]
All the people in my class were really nice, and we quickly became friends.
We help each other with our studies, and I was able to pass the end-of-term exams without any problems, even though I had just transferred in. However, it was a shock to learn that events like the cultural festival and sports day had already passed.
Class rearrangements are apparently done precisely once a year. So, the chance for me to participate in school events with these wonderful classmates will never come.
There’s nothing I can do about it, but I really wanted to enjoy my student life with these fantastic classmates.
As mentioned, I became close with my classmates and made many male friends, but still…
A month later, I still can’t talk to women properly.
The train doors opened. It seemed like I had reached my destination.
The person I had made a promise with was waiting on the platform of the neighboring town’s station, and I received a message on LINE just as I arrived.
I had resolved not to keep her waiting, but in the end, I was the one making her wait. I’ll have to apologize later.
Shibasaki Station was relatively large, and as usual, many people disembarked from the train and hurried onto the platform.
In this bustling crowd, finding her seemed like an impossible task.
But today’s promise was with the woman who had made a significant impact on me and provided relief over the past month.
“Excuse me, excuse me.”
I said as I maneuvered through the crowd.
After navigating through the sea of people, I reached a spacious area that was commonly used for gatherings.
As expected, many people were present, likely waiting for someone. It might be challenging to spot her in this crowd.
Just as I was thinking that, I suddenly looked ahead and inexplicably found her standing right in front of me.
I shuddered in shock.
The reason for my shock was that I had not noticed her approach at all. It felt like I had been suddenly drenched with icy water, caught off guard, just like when someone sneaks up on you in your sleep. This was because…
I couldn’t sense her presence at all.
“Ginro-san… Don’t startle me like that.”
“Fufufu… It’s my specialty, disappearing without a trace.”
She smiled, her cheeks turning slightly red.
“Is that so…”
I felt embarrassed about my reaction.
“You’re amusing, Kimsaki-kun. I’ve never seen anyone surprise like this.”
Ginro-san’s words made me self-conscious. When I finally became aware of my own pose, I realized that I had unintentionally struck a pose reminiscent of Munch’s “The Scream.”
I felt incredibly embarrassed.
I couldn’t even focus on my own pose, and I was bewildered. Usually, I would have noticed if I were striking a pose like a famous painting.
“Thank you for coming exactly on time for our appointment”
“No, I’m sorry for making you wait.”
“Fufu, it’s okay… I might have come too early.”
“How long have you been here?”
“About an hour, I guess.”
She turned her head and held out her right hand to me, oblivious to my shock and dismay at her firm determination to keep the meeting time.
“Shall we go?”
Was she suggesting that we hold hands? But I could only stare at her hand, hesitating and feeling dumbfounded.
Ginro-san was not affected by the consequences of my trauma. Her face was clear, and talking to her or lightly touching her clothes did not cause my heart to race. She maintained a normal heart rate.
However, I couldn’t help but wonder if this only applied to when I looked at her face or touched her clothing. What would happen if I were to hold her hand, allowing our skin to touch? I feared that I might panic.
Negative thoughts spiraled through my mind like a winding staircase. I had a bad habit of always imagining the worst.
“Let’s get going, okay?”
In an instant, her right hand enveloped mine.
The negative thoughts that had woven a web in my mind shattered and disappeared with Ginro-san’s action.
Our hands touched.
“What’s wrong, Kimsaki-kun?”
Ginro-san looked at me, her expression amused.
Her smile was like a work of art.
Even the great Michelangelo himself would find it impossible to create a sculpture more beautiful than her smile.
I couldn’t think of anything in the presence of that breathtaking smile. I simply allowed myself to go with the flow and held Ginro-san’s right hand.
Fearful of triggering my trauma, I closed my eyes and started counting in my mind.
But nothing happened, even after three seconds.
The consequences of my trauma did not occur.
It was all my unfounded worry.
“Yeah, it seems fine.”
“Eh? What are you talking about?”
Before I could finish my sentence, she pulled me along, and we passed through the station’s ticket gate.
The contrast between her fragile, silvery presence and the bustling crowd in the city was oddly poignant in the December air. But for some reason, that mismatch was beautiful, and even the holiday season chatter had its charm.
As I pondered these thoughts, I let her lead me deeper into the neon-lit streets, a sense of excitement building in my chest.
However, at that moment, I still didn’t know about the tragedy that would unfold a few hours later.