For now, I was invited to a room in Karen’s apartment. It was a simple room with no unnecessary items.
I was told to sit down, so I took a seat. This world without me… I couldn’t imagine it, but it was the reality. I was here to find out how they were doing, whether they were grieving. I had no choice but to ask Karen.
“Let’s have dinner, and then we can talk.”
Karen had short hair now, and she looked more mature than before. She skillfully and efficiently prepared the meal. It was different from the Karen I had known, and she seemed genuinely skilled in cooking.
In just a short while, a delicious aroma filled the room, and soon, the table was set with dishes like ginger pork, miso soup, and white rice. It was incredibly delicious, especially the ginger pork.
“Let’s eat first, and then we can talk”
“Understood. Thank you for the meal”
Karen’s cooking was incredibly delicious. The consistent flavors showed that she had put a lot of effort into perfecting her cooking. While I enjoyed my meal, Karen watched me eat, smiling with tears in her eyes. I had seconds and savored the meal for a while. Afterward, we cleaned up all the dishes, and then we both sat on the sofa. Karen had been silent for a while, and finally, she took a deep breath and began to speak with a heavy tone.
“Then I’ll tell you… 14 years ago, Izayoi was protecting an ordinary person and died when your heart was pierced by the Demon King… The Demon King’s last struggle… killed Izayoi… No, no one could protect you…we lost everything in an instant.”
“And what about the others?”
“They all went their separate ways. We blamed each other, and Kohaku and Kuroko stopped going to school and became hikikomori. Aoi and Moegi attended school, but they stopped talking to each other.”
Knowing that everyone had gone their separate ways, I felt a profound sense of loss. I couldn’t help but blame myself, and anger welled up inside me.
“It’s not your fault, you know? Don’t think too much about it.”
“But I know you’ll probably keep thinking about it”
“That might be true….”
She quickly noticed the change in my emotions and expressions. Seeing her concerned expression made me realize that I shouldn’t burden her with such worries. I tried to change my mood back to normal, away from the heavy feelings.
“So, um, about your age… You’ve crossed the age of thirty, right?”
“What’s with that? Do I look like an old lady?”
“No, not at all! You look about twenty years younger, and you’re so beautiful!”
“Oh, really? Well, I guess so. My parents have always told me that!”
As always, I conveyed my sincere feelings. She seemed a bit surprised but quickly responded with confidence.
“You really are beautiful!”
“Fufu, thank you for the compliments. It’s a relentless praise from Izayoi, as usual… But I have changed, you know? My hairstyle and hobbies, among other things.”
“Even the way you are now is wonderful!”
“Ara well… for you to say that to an old lady like me… Huh?!”
Tears welled up in her eyes, uncontrollably streaming down her cheeks.
“This is strange… to cry like this at my age…”
Without thinking, I hugged her tightly. She held me back just as strongly.
“I’m sorry… I’m sorry for not being able to protect you. Why… why did I have to die? I promised you to make you happy…”
All of her ten years, her suffering, her anger towards herself, her frustration and love towards me. They all mixed up and overflowed from my heart.
The balance of what she was saying was unstable, and I thought that this was her own conflict.
I didn’t know what to say to her, so all I could do was hold her in silence and pat her head.
“Kohon, um, I guess I showed you an embarrassing side of me.”
“No, not at all.”
“I see… Well, it’s getting late, and the bath is ready. Would you like to take a bath?”
I did cry quite a bit. Meeting such an important person I hadn’t seen in over ten years, receiving compliments—it’s natural to feel happy, but I didn’t expect to cry like that. It’s embarrassing, so I better get Izayoi into the bath quickly.
With Sixteen heading to the bath, I took a moment to catch my breath. Ah, it’s really embarrassing. My cheeks are flushed. It’s been a long time since my emotions ran so high like this.
I do care about my age these days. Right now, I look like an old lady, but Izayoi is about the age of a high school student… Yet I want to feel a bit more like a woman…
This is… fun. But Izayoi will have to leave eventually.
Staying here with me would be nice, but it would become a burden for him. So, I won’t say it.
Oh, somehow… I suddenly feel lonely… I know that the time of parting will come soon. That’s why I have to enjoy the present.
Maybe I should take a bath together for the first time in a while? And perhaps tease him a little. That’s what I’ve decided.
I sat in the bath, lost in thought about what I could do, what I was capable of. I need to think seriously about this.
No, what should I do? I can’t think of anything… I can’t choose to stay because I can’t just leave those girls from the other world alone.
What should I do…? Hmm, I can’t think of anything… Maybe I need a more devilish idea…
Just then, the bathroom door suddenly opened.
“I’ll wash your back.”
“What’s wrong? Don’t like the idea?”
“No, it’s not that…”
“Then it’s fine.”
Karen had barged into the bathroom out of nowhere. She was wrapped in a bath towel, which oddly enough made her look more appealing. She looked slightly different from the usual me, maybe because I wasn’t used to it, and I didn’t know how to react.
She came up behind me and started lathering up a body towel.
“Have you washed your body?”
“Alright, I’ll do it for you.”
“Um, thank you…”
Her voice seemed different too, more mature. I was getting nervous…
She washed my back, arms, and front, and I was so tense that my body was stiff.
“You don’t have to be so nervous…”
“I, I am!”
“Oh, I see. I’ve already gone further with the other you, so I’m not as… But how far did you go with the other me?”
“We went as far as kissing…”
She was about to wash my lower body with her hands.
“No, no, no! That’s a no-go!”
“Haa, you’re still a chicken in weird places…”
“I’m sorry! I’m a chicken in weird places!”
“You’re still being polite in strange places…well, it’s not like I’m doing anything naughty, so it’s fine.”
“No, this is…”
“Come on, let it go…”
After some bickering, I ended up washing myself. She teased me about being a chicken in weird places, and I even received a light flick on the forehead. Well, it was all kind of cute…
Izayoi, who’s a bit of a chicken, is sleeping next to me. We’re alone in the bed, but I’m not making a move. Come to think of it, Izayoi also didn’t make a move on us, no matter how much our situation turned into a harem. We went for a while without any advances, and I’m trying to remember when was the first time…
Oh, it was when we went to that inn together, right? It was pretty embarrassing. I made some noises, and from there, it was as if the dam had burst for Izayoi. Let’s stop thinking about that.
I reach out and touch his cheek as he sleeps. It feels nostalgic, and I wish I could keep touching him forever. Then, words I hadn’t intended to say slip out.
“Stay here with me…”
Have I become an old lady, with my tear ducts getting so fragile? How many times do I have to cry, how many times do I have to make myself cry… I’m such a fool…
“Can’t you contact everyone else?”
“I thought you might say that, so I’ve already tried. But I can only reach Moegi. I don’t know about the others.”
“I see… But you’re so quick!”
“I’m not as good as Izayoi.”
We had contact information, but most of it had changed over time. The only one whose information remained the same was Moegi, so she’s the only one I could get in touch with.
“Now, shall we go?”
It’s been so long since I last saw Moegi… I wonder what kind of face I should make when we meet.
And so, we arrived at the meeting place. Well, we were about thirty minutes early, but I’m feeling strangely nervous. Izayoi is beside me, glancing around in all directions, just like the old days. It feels so nostalgic.
“Oh, there she is!”
Izayoi raises his voice, drawing my attention to a spot. Indeed, she’s there. Yellow hair. Golden eyes. Her hair has grown a bit longer than when she was in school.
When she notices us, her eyes widen in disbelief. Izayoi excitedly waves and rushes over to Moegi. I follow at a slower pace.
Izayoi hugs Moegi, making a strange noise.
“Izayoi, this is my Izayoi…I wanted to meet you.”
“He is mine.”
“Don’t ruin this emotional reunion…”
“But it’s the truth.”
Ugh, this is awkward… Moegi seems a bit uncomfortable too, but she doesn’t seem to mind as she hugs Izayoi. The public’s eyes are on us.
“Could you two please keep it down?”
“I don’t care about the people around us.”
“I can see Izayoi’s face turning blue.”
“Eh? Oh! Sorry… I might have hugged too tightly.”
“It’s okay to hug him tightly!”
Izayoi enthusiastically defends himself, wearing a bright smile to show how fine he is.
“Right… So, um, why are you here?”
“Moegi-senpai, it’s actually… Kukukukukajīka.”
“Huh?! That’s even possible?! Well, we were magical girls, so I guess it’s possible…”
Izayoi explains it to Moegi in a straightforward manner. Moegi hugs Izayoi somewhat lightly but continues hugging him. Yeah, the public’s eyes… Well, I don’t mind.
“So, do you happen to know the contact information for Aoi-senpai, Kohaku-san, and Kuroko-san?”
“…I know Aoi-chan’s contact information, but… I don’t appreciate you mentioning other girls so casually…”
“Come on, stop it, Moegi. You don’t have to say that. Besides, you’re in your thirties.”
“Don’t say things like that! I still look pretty young, you know?! People often say I look like a college student!”
Moegi gets a bit angry, so I decide not to push further. She’s sensitive about her age, it seems.
“Haa… Aoi-chan’s contact information… Let me see.”
She takes out her phone and starts typing away.
“That’s fine. But more importantly, while we wait for a response, want to go to that department store over there?”
“Yes! I’d love to!”
“Ah, it’s such a refreshing response… How nostalgic.”
“Indeed… it’s so nostalgic.”
I really thought it was nostalgic. So, while we wait for a response, the three of us decide to go on a little date together.
I never thought miracles would happen. These past ten years, every day felt mundane.
We parted ways, each of us having an ugly argument about whether whose fault it was that he died. Nobody wanted to admit that it was their fault, but we were all full of regrets, sadness, and frustration, and our hearts were in turmoil, tearing us apart.
The world lost its colors just because he was gone. It was a life of eating, sleeping, and working. There were days when I would remember and cry.
The person who would straightforwardly tell me that he liked my height was gone. The person who would tell me that he liked me was no longer around.
I went through countless cycles of regret. It was during one of those times when I received a message from Karen-chan.
She wanted to meet. I thought, “What’s the point now?” But I also wanted to meet, as I couldn’t bear being alone and miserable.
I had planned to have a simple, casual conversation after all these years, but when I got there… she was there, along with him.
The reason didn’t matter. He had come, and that was enough. Karen-chan and I even had a bit of a tug-of-war over him. Even though I’m in my thirties…
Even though so many years had passed, having him there made it feel like we had returned to those days.
That made me happy. A miracle that shouldn’t have happened actually happened.
But at the same time, I realized something. The possibility of him leaving.
Karen-chan knows it too. That’s why she wants to create as many memories as possible. But I feel the same way…
In my thirties… it’s embarrassing, but I wanted to become a high school student again, even if just for a little while…