The footsteps of a single male student echoed strangely as he ascended the staircase. While listening to the sound, he envisioned the figures of his childhood friends from earlier and murmured to himself.
“…They seemed like a good pair.”
After reaching the top of the staircase and slowly opening the cold steel door that greeted him, Daiki was welcomed by the lukewarm breeze as he stepped onto the school rooftop, gazing up at the expanse of blue sky.
“…Looking up at the sky might be the last time…”
Daiki, gazing at the cloudless blue sky, muttered to himself about the warmth of the weather and stopped his moving feet. He looked ahead and walked as if drawn towards a tall metal fence that was higher than his height.
“…A final feat of strength…”
Climbing over the rattling fence and standing on the narrow platform, Daiki gazed at the cityscape stretching beyond without any obstructions. The gentle wind comforted his heart as he gazed at the view.
“…The city where I was born and raised… maybe this is the end…”
Looking down at his feet just like when he put on his indoor shoes, Daiki, who was higher than the third floor of the school building, felt his heart pound heavily and his pulse quicken at the height above the ground.
The fear of hurling himself onto that hard ground paralyzed Daiki, and to dispel the encroaching fear, he pulled out his smartphone and typed a message.
[I’m sorry for everything until now. The time when I was with Reina was incredibly happy, even now when I remember it. Thank you, Reina. I hope you and Nobuharu will be happy together.]
With this message to Reina, he apologized, expressed gratitude, and cut any lingering attachments. After ensuring the message reached her, Daiki leaned forward, holding onto the fence with both arms stretched out. All he had to do was release the strength in his fingertips.
With this thought, he would simply let go of his hands and continue on. However, just as he was about to do so, he was suddenly pushed against the fence by students in gym uniforms coming out from the school building to the playground.
“Phew… this isn’t a good place since someone could get involved.”
Daiki realized he shouldn’t involve anyone else through his actions and decided to find a different location. He moved to a spot directly below the school’s front entrance.
“…This place should catch me…”
Having chosen his final spot, Daiki was pushed forward as if encouraged by a gust of wind sweeping across the rooftop. He let go of the fence without hesitation, and his entire body was enveloped in a sensation of floating.
“I’ve always been looking down… but now, I’ll look up… from now on…”
Gazing at the vast blue sky that stretched farther than the approaching ground, Daiki prepared to welcome his end. He twisted his body, aligning his back with the edge of the rooftop. The sound of everything breaking and the impact filled his vision, and the bright blue sky suddenly turned dark, sinking into a deep darkness…
In the meanwhile, Reina, reading the message from Daiki, ran around the deserted hallway in search of him while holding her smartphone. Yet, no matter how much she searched, she couldn’t find Daiki’s figure in any familiar places.
“Haa… haa… Where? Where did you go, Daiki?”
Feeling at a loss as she ran, Reina finally arrived at the school’s main entrance where she thought Daiki might have gone back home. She stood in front of the spot where he had been and realized that his regular shoes and indoor shoes weren’t there.
“…Gone… both his regular shoes and indoor shoes are gone…”
Leaning against the shoe lockers, where Daiki’s shoes should have been due to the bullying, Reina’s voice trembled with tears as she expressed her frustration about not knowing where he had gone.
Regaining her breath and composure, Reina touched Daiki’s shoe locker. Without anyone telling her to, she burst out of the main entrance still in her indoor shoes. However, she slipped on the sandy ground with her right foot and barely managed to maintain her balance, just as a dull, loud sound echoed from above.
“Kyaaa! What’s happening!?”
Startled by the sudden loud noise, Reina turned around and looked up, but at the same moment, something liquid-like splashed onto her face. Reflexively, she closed her eyes and tilted her head down to wipe the substance away.
“W-what is happening…”
Feeling the unfamiliar liquid on her skin’s temperature, Reina fumbled for her favorite sky-blue handkerchief in her skirt pocket, wiped her face slowly, and finally managed to open her eyes.
The handkerchief, which had been in her hand, was now a deep red. Confused by the sight, Reina looked up towards the sky from where the liquid had fallen. In the process, she noticed something resembling a thick branch above the roof’s eaves and couldn’t take her eyes off it.
Possibly due to the liquid entering her eyes, Reina struggled to focus her vision. As she stared at the branch-like object, she recognized what seemed like a familiar wristwatch. It was Daiki’s wristwatch, which he often wore.
As Reina’s brain recognized the branch as an arm, she realized that the liquid dripping from it and staining the entrance was blood. In that instant, she went into a frenzy, clutching her head with both hands and collapsing to the ground unconscious.
During afternoon classes, the panicked scream of a female student echoing through the school building drew the attention of girls participating in physical education on the field. They rushed towards the main entrance to find Reina lying in a pool of blood, unmoving. In a state of panic, they informed the physical education teacher.
Seeing the collapsed, blood-soaked female student in front of him, the physical education teacher was on the verge of feeling nauseous but managed to call for an ambulance and rushed to the staff room to make the call. Other concerned teachers gathered as well, creating chaos near the entrance.
As an ambulance arrived with its sirens blaring, the situation escalated. Police vehicles also arrived shortly, causing even more commotion. Eventually, classes were disrupted, and the school closed early due to the incident and the ensuing investigations.
With both the police and medical teams on the scene, the police initiated investigations into both the incident and the accident. The school staff who had only seen the collapsed female student before the incident were now being questioned. Meanwhile, forensic officers discovered bloodstains at the entrance and traced them to the location where Daiki was found.
While Reina was being urgently transported to a medical facility, the police received information that the female student was covered in blood but lacked external injuries. As a result, they shifted their focus to investigating Daiki’s apparent suicide by jumping off the roof. The police initiated interviews with the students as part of their investigations.
Reina, taken to a municipal hospital, regained consciousness that night and woke up in her hospital room.
“…Where am I?”
As her blurred vision gradually cleared, Reina saw her mother peering into her room.
“Yes, it’s me. Do you feel any pain?”
“…Yeah, I’m okay. Where is this?”
“Reina-chan collapsed and was taken to the hospital covered in blood. The school contacted us.”
As her mother explained, Reina was suddenly flooded with memories of Daiki’s bloodied wristwatch before she lost consciousness, causing her to panic.
“R-Reina-chan! It’s alright, Mom is here…”
Seeing her daughter Reina on the verge of falling out of bed while in a state of panic, her mother desperately tried to embrace her, but her efforts were in vain. She pressed the nurse call button, and soon a nurse and a doctor rushed into the room, managing to calm Reina down.
“I’m sorry, Mom.”
“It’s okay… We decided that it’s best for you to stay at the hospital tonight.”
Reina had been diagnosed by the attending physician as mentally unstable and was advised to rest at the hospital.
“Mom is going to get you some change of clothes, is that okay?”
“I’m sorry for leaving you alone. Mom will be back soon… and… it’s nothing.”
As Reina’s mother left the hospital room, holding back the urge to tell her about the incident of her childhood friend and boyfriend Daiki’s suicide at school, she gave Reina an anguished smile.
“What? What’s bothering you?”
“Oh, no… it’s nothing.”
As her mother left the room with a pained smile, Reina, left alone in the eerily quiet private room, turned on the television to fill the silence.
By chance, she tuned into a late-night news program. As Reina absentmindedly watched, a familiar building appeared on the screen, and she realized that it was her high school.
While watching the program, Reina heard the words of the studio anchor, and her body froze.
A male second-year high school student had jumped from the school building and committed suicide…
A student who had endured bullying from classmates for nearly a month, his future was cut short tragically. The news revealed that he was wrongfully blamed for the bullying that led to this tragedy.
The anchor’s face was filled with sorrow as he concluded by urging viewers not to suffer alone but to reach out to someone nearby or contact a dedicated helpline for assistance.
Reina regretted not having listened to Daiki when he reached out for help, and tears welled up within her.
Lying on the pristine white hospital bed, Reina repeated Daiki’s name as she closed her eyes. Memories of Daiki’s changing expressions over the past month resurfaced in her mind. Suddenly, her eyes snapped open as she remembered something, and she vomited as a bloodied wristwatch floated in her vision above the blood-soaked sheets.
Despite her stomach being empty, she continued to retch repeatedly, the sounds of her suffering echoing through the room. Amidst her distress, her finger accidentally brushed against the nurse call button.
A nurse at the station responded to the call from Reina’s room. However, only faint groans could be heard from the speaker, and there was no response from Reina. Worriedly, the nurse hurried to the room and opened the door.
Amid the sour smell that filled the room, the nurse who had taken over Reina’s case due to her mental instability called in the on-duty doctor for initial intervention. With their combined efforts, they managed to calm Reina down and help her fall asleep.
The following day, Reina, who had initially been scheduled for discharge, had her stay extended for a few more days due to the events of the previous night. However, she was unaware that she was the only one among the school community who hadn’t been informed that Daiki’s wake and funeral had already taken place.
Entering her room that she couldn’t return to for just a few days, Reina collapsed onto her bed, feeling as if she hadn’t been there for months.
Having received her phone back from her mother, which had been taken away during her hospitalization, Reina turned it on and was bombarded with incoming notifications, as if a dam had burst.
Most of the unread messages were from concerned classmates, but as Reina read through the messages, her fingers froze as she came across one particular message. The sender was Daiki, with the subject line urging her to come without fail. The content detailed the wake and funeral arrangements.
Jerking up from her bed, Reina grabbed her phone and checked the date and her room’s calendar. To her dismay, she realized that the funeral had already taken place the previous night, and she hadn’t been left with the opportunity to attend.
Holding her phone tightly, Reina rushed out of her room and left her house, heading straight to Daiki’s residence.
Finally arriving at Daiki’s house after an exhausting run, Reina wiped her sweat and pressed the round intercom button with trembling fingers.
After a while, a weak voice came through the speaker, belonging to Daiki’s mother.
“Um… It’s Reina.”
“Reina-chan? Just a moment, please.”
Looking at the speaker, Reina lifted her gaze as the front door opened slowly, revealing Daiki’s mother.
“Reina-chan, please come in.”
“Yes, thank you.”
Walking along the pathway leading to the entrance, Reina felt tears welling up in her eyes as the pungent scent of incense reached her nose. She struggled to hold back her emotions.
“It’s okay. Daiki is this way.”
Guided by Daiki’s mother, Reina followed her into the house.
Climbing the stairs with a slow pace, Reina finally entered Daiki’s room, a place she had been countless times before. The sight before her eyes brought tears streaming down.
“Daiki, Reina-chan came to see you.”
With her mother addressing the smiling photo of Daiki on his study desk, Reina couldn’t help but kneel down right then and there.
“I’m so sorry… I’m sorry. If only I had listened to Daiki properly back then… if I had understood what he was going through…”
Reina’s mother tried to console her, but her words remained the only thing she could offer. Looking down at Reina’s sobbing figure, Daiki’s mother sat down beside her and gently placed her hand on Reina’s back before speaking.
“Reina-chan, Daiki won’t come back anymore. He won’t say, ‘Mom, I’m home,’ or give me that smile when he says, ‘I’m off.’ I saw him off just like that…”
Feeling that enduring verbal abuse might have been preferable, Reina quietly listened to Daiki’s mother’s words. The quiet voice from his mother deeply gnawed at her heart, leaving her with a sense of helplessness as her voiceless apologies continued, never reaching its intended recipient.
“Also, Reina-chan… Daiki told us everything about what he had been through. So, I used Daiki’s bloodied phone to inform you about the day of farewell… but you were in the hospital, right?”
Hearing those words, Reina felt a chilling sensation spread through her body due to fear. With her extremities numb, she felt a hand placed on her back, and when that hand left her, her right cheek was touched. The unnaturally cold touch only escalated her fear.
Forced to raise her face by those icy fingertips, Reina was forced to sit up and face Daiki’s mother. Their gazes locked, unbreakable.
“For his final farewell, would you offer an incense stick for Daiki? Along with one for you, Reina-chan…”
“Thank you, Reina-chan. Come this way…”
Guided by Daiki’s mother, Reina was led to a Japanese-style room on the first floor. There, a brand-new Buddhist altar had been set up.
In contrast to the photos in his room, a different image of Daiki was placed as his memorial portrait. Reina was so focused on staring at it that she failed to notice Daiki’s mother leaving the room silently.
Reina called his name as she looked at his portrait. There was no response. In this room devoid of his warmth, where he once used to touch her, Reina continued to cry. Eventually, Daiki’s mother approached her and spoke.
“Reina-chan, while I was organizing Daiki’s memories, I found a letter addressed to you.”
“From Daiki, to me?”
Reina accepted the offered envelope and opened it to find a message card inside.
As we enter our second year, I want to continue spending time together with you forever. I love you, Reina. Since our anniversary falls on a school day, let’s go out and have fun together on the weekend. I hope we can get matching something-or-others.
“That day, just before, it seems Daiki wrote this. Even after you broke up, he couldn’t bring himself to throw it away and kept it in the back of his desk drawer… Maybe he thought there was a chance for you two to reconcile someday. And this was supposed to be a gift for you on your date.”
Daiki’s mother placed a neatly wrapped white box at Reina’s feet.
“But I don’t deserve to receive something like this…”
“This was meant for you from Daiki… Will you accept it?”
Reina took the box and held it close to her chest.
“Reina-chan, I can’t endure this any longer. Would you mind going back?”
With trembling legs, Reina managed to stand up. She bowed deeply and left Daiki’s house.
The sky had turned orange, indicating evening. Weighed down by her thoughts, Reina walked home. She struggled to catch sight of her house, and before she knew it, her heavy steps were leading her toward the school…