“There was a large typhoon five years ago in October, Eina left the house in the evening and there was a landslide that day. You remember the landslide, right?”
“And it’s the truth that a girl went missing then. It was in the newspaper. Judging by the context, it’s fairly likely that she was swallowed in the landslide.”
“Shuu, I really am sorry.”
Sakai was speaking apologetically to me, so I smiled.
“Thanks for everything. I’m… glad that I know about her. Thank you too, Senpai.”
It looked like she couldn’t find the words. It was understandable.
I’d been excited too, saying things like ‘I wonder what kind of girl she is’ or ‘I want to talk about our favourite books when we meet’.
I felt bad about not paying attention to their feelings.
We had gone to the library after we had left her house and looked in the past newspapers to see if what Eina’s cousin said was the truth.
Even though it was her cousin telling us so it was obviously true, I hadn’t given up.
Sakai and Ruka-senpai had wordlessly helped me.
“I’m going home.”
“I’ll walk you back,” Ruka-senpai offered.
“Thank you, but it’s okay.”
“I want to be alone for a while. Sorry to be like this after dragging you all the way here,” I said, and she didn’t reply.
Alone, I made my way home. The moment we parted, tears filled my eyes.
Eina had died?
I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t want to believe it.
But it was the truth.
Humans died all too quickly. It was a surprising, merciless truth.
There was no such thing as miracles.
There was no such thing as mag-
“No, there is.”
I took out my phone. There was magic in my hand.
My phone was connected to five years in the past.
I could just tell Eina.
I’m sure I’d make it.
I opened the app and went to call her, but…
Eina’s name wasn’t on my friends list. Even searching her account name didn’t find her. My message history had vanished as well.
I tore through the smartphone in a frenzy.
Through the app, and through my files too.
But I couldn’t find any way to contact her.
The spell would break with the chimes of midnight.
Almost as if going to Eina’s house was some sign, my phone was just a normal phone now.
I don’t really remember what happened after that. When I came to, I was still in Eina’s town.
I was walking around places that were photographed on her posts.
Searching for a trace of her.
I kept up my futile search, wondering if she might still be alive.
The cherry tree was obviously not in bloom. The gym at her elementary school had also been repainted.
The town had gradually changed over the last five years.
Eina’s posts had suddenly stopped five years ago. If the writer died, of course the posts would stop.
And then I arrived.
To the location of the landslide.
It was along an animal trail up the hillside. The trees had been knocked down as if the slope had been shaved. There were still traces of the movement. It had flowed on either side of the path.
It was a place that hadn’t changed since five years ago.
If you were caught up in this, you wouldn’t come back alive.
“Eina…” I called. She was under the ground here, because she hadn’t gone home.
It must have hurt and ached. How must it have felt? Or did it happen suddenly, without her knowing anything?
I clutched my phone.
The strap she had given me was attached to it.
The phone that was connected to Eina.
Why couldn’t I save her?
The silence returned to the hill after my cry, my voice echoing fruitlessly, and then…
My phone vibrated in my hand.
The vibration was loud enough that I could hear it.
Even as I asked myself who would call me at a time like this, I followed my habit and looked at the screen.
It was an unknown number.
A sense of unease settled in my chest.
Or maybe it was hope.
Even as I was terrified of the betrayal, even though I didn’t want to be hurt anymore, I couldn’t stop my hand from answering it.
The call connected.
It was her lovely, beautiful soprano.
I couldn’t have misheard it, but I had to ask.
《No way! It worked!!》
She didn’t answer my question, but it was definitely Eina.
The pouring of the rain came through the speakers, she was in the rain.
I remembered her cousin saying how she had gone up the hills behind their house in the storm and a chill ran down my back.
“Eina, are you outside!? If you are, hurry back home!”
《Shuu-san? That’s you, right? I’m sorry, I can’t hear you.》
The call cut off.
“Fuck, of all times.”
Gripping my phone, I looked down.
I called again.
“Connect, please…” but it showed no signs of doing so, “Eina! Please be safe, Eina!”
I couldn’t help but call her name.
And then, I noticed the strap on my phone shining faintly.
It was a mascot version of the demon I had played. I frowned and looked at it.
The light was getting brighter and brighter, until it was so strong I had trouble keeping my eyes open.
A flash engulfed me and in the next instant, the world went black.
There was a figure in front of me.
It was a small figure, like that of a girl.
She didn’t even come up to my chest.
She was soaked, and water clung to her long hair.
She was clutching a phone in front of her chest.
The girl… shouted.
“Eina… is that you?”
“Yes! I’m Eina!”
As she spoke, the girl ran towards me and hugged me, clinging to me.
I enveloped her in my arms.
We held each other for a while amidst the beating rain and howling winds.
“Shuu-san, you’re warm…”
“Thank goodness, you’re alive.”
“Right, but how are you here?” She asked.
“I don’t know either, I shouted for you at the place the disaster happened, and I ended up here somehow. The disaster!” I separated from her slightly and looked into her eyes, “Eina, it’s not safe here, if you stay here, you’ll get caught in a landslide and die.”
“I went to meet you five years from now. Sorry, I broke my promise. But I couldn’t bear not meeting you. Then your cousin told me you’d died. That you’d gone missing in this typhoon.”
Eina paled and I gripped her hand.
“It’s okay,” I told her, as gently as I could, “I made it, I’ll save you.”
At that, Eina’s stiff expression relaxed slightly.
In my relief, I swore to myself that I would save her.
“Right. Let’s hurry up and-”
A rumble sounded, drowning out my voice. Reflexively, I pulled her behind me by her hand. Immediately afterwards, the ground gave way in front of me. A shudder ran down my spine.
“…That was close.” Eina’s voice trembled.
“Anyway, let’s go home… Eina, which way did you come?”
Shakily, she pointed at the area that had just been covered in mud.
“We can’t walk on that, it’s too dangerous.”
I went to call 119 to get help, but my phone was out of service.
Of course it was, it was from five years in the future.
“Eina, sorry but can you phone 119? Ask for help.”
“Onee-chan broke my phone,” she said apologetically as she showed it to me. It had massive cracks running through the screen and body, “It doesn’t turn on anymore, it was like a miracle that I could phone you earlier.”
That was what she had meant with things not going well between them, and I understood that because her phone had been broken, we couldn’t talk anymore.
“Okay, let’s climb down then.”
We began to walk through the rain. I was holding Eina’s left hand with my right. The rain made it cold and I would probably be in the same state sooner or later, I could feel my body temperature dropping. The sky was already dark, and the driving rain made visibility awful.
I hoped to find somewhere we could shelter from the rain and wait for help, but I couldn’t see anything that helpful.
Step by step, we carefully progressed.
To be honest, I was scared. Eina must have been too. Her small hand was gripping mine tightly, shaking, and not just from the cold.
Over and over, I looked at her.
Over and over, she looked at me.
Each time we met each other’s gaze, we smiled slightly.
…The situation might be desperate.
But we weren’t alone, we had met the person we each wanted to. That alone gave us courage.
“Eina! Look! Light!”
We came down onto a cliff-side road.
“We did it!”
We jumped into each other’s arms without thinking. Now we just needed to follow the road down to the town.
Then, I noticed something approaching rapidly.
Bright white lights filled my vision for a moment. It was a truck. The noise of the rain made me not notice it until now. It was coming from around a curve too, so I hadn’t seen the light.
When I noticed it, it was already really close. The driver hadn’t noticed us at all, which was only natural with how bad the visibility was.
There was no time to think.
I held Eina and leapt backwards.
Somehow, I landed.
The truck passed right through the space we had just been.
“That was close… Thank you, Shuu-san.”
“Yes, I’m glad you’re sa-”
It was at that moment I lost my balance and took a step back.
However, there was nothing beneath my foot.
My world span, and the last thing I saw was Eina, with wide eyes, watching me fall.
I rolled down the cliff, hitting my body countless times, I couldn’t even grit my teeth at the pain as I spun.
I heard Eina’s grief-filled cry from far away, and then I blacked out.
I was face up, looking up at the sky.
“Where am… I?”
I muttered, my voice hoarse.
It wasn’t raining, I could see the sun through the gaps in the trees.
“Am I back… in my own time?”
I tried to get up, but I couldn’t move my body through the pain. I wouldn’t be able to get home on my own.
I’d have to call for help.
I forced my battered arm to search my pocket, but I couldn’t find my phone.
Then, I saw some rectangular thing in front of my hand.
“Haha, you’re kidding.”
I laughed. The phone was broken.
The display was shattered and the body twisted.
Only the demon strap was unscathed, so it was definitely my phone.
I couldn’t call for help.
I couldn’t move.
My body was freezing from the rain.
I see, I’m going to die.
Oddly enough, I didn’t feel despair.
It was Eina I was thinking of, I wondered if she managed to get home.
I’m sure she did, she was clever. She’d just go somewhere with people and then ask for help. It was a shame they wouldn’t be able to find me, but that was unavoidable, I’d come back to five years in the future after all.
It wasn’t a happily ever after, but it wasn’t a bad ending either.
I’d been able to save Eina, that was enough.
I closed my eyes.
The next time I opened my eyes, the first thing I saw was a ceiling light.
It was an awfully low ceiling I thought.
The room itself was shaking.
“You’re in an ambulance,” a voice spoke from my side.
My heart clenched. It was the President. I realised she was holding my hand when I felt her warmth.
“…You saved me? Why?”
“Don’t speak for now.”
Just as she said, I closed my mouth, my eyelids grew heavy, and I once more lost consciousness.
When I came to, I was in a hospital, lying on a bed and completely covered in bandages. My entire body ached.
“Shuu! Thank goodness…!” My mother peered into my face and let out a breath of relief. My father was behind her, “Thank Minekawa-san.”
Because it was my mother speaking, it took me a little while to realise she meant the President when she said Minekawa.
“What do you mean… thank?”
“Minekawa-san called for help, she saved you,” my father told me.
“Apparently she heard you went to where that landslide happened and she hadn’t heard from you, so she thought something must have happened. And then she found that you’d fallen down the cliff and weren’t moving and called for help.”
I mentally questioned his explanation.
How did she know I was there? Did she hear from Ruka-senpai or Sakai?
No, I hadn’t said anything to them.
Besides, I hadn’t contacted her. In the first place, I didn’t know her phone number.
She had lied.
The next day, many people came to visit me.
The first was Sakai, skipping school. For a moment I was touched that he was so worried about me, but then:
“So you fell down a cliff? What was it like, did it hurt?”
Sakai entered reporter mode. I was half angry at that being his reason, and half darkly amused.
“Obviously it hurt.”
“Tell me everything you can. I’ll write an article.”
“I don’t remember much. It was sudden, and I lost consciousness quickly.”
“Ah, that’s a shame. Well, I’m glad you’re safe.”
He never changes.
The next to visit was Ruka-senpai. It looked like she’d come right after school.
“Shuu-kuuuuuun, you’re aliiiiiiive!”
She cried out as soon as she saw me.
“I’m sorry for worrying you.”
“It’s fine as long as you’re safe… Umm, I’m going to ask something strange,” she wiped her tears and looked seriously at me, “you didn’t jump, did you?”
Apparently, she thought I’d tried to kill myself.
“No! It was a complete accident!”
“I’m glad. No thinking of things like that, okay?”
“It’s okay, I’m not that poor in the head.”
I did my best to smile and hide my unease. I thought I’d seen Eina, but was that a dream? If I just fell down the cliff in reality…
It seemed all too likely.
But I soon thought again, it couldn’t be, I could still feel her warmth, still hear her voice.
I could still see her eyes, still see her…
It was just the tendency of people in the hospital to think the worst. I had to go and look for her as soon as I was discharged.
Over the next days, the rest of my classmates and the other two club members visited. Only one person hadn’t, the President.
Even though she was the one I wanted to speak with the most.
“Maybe she really does hate me…”
Just as I started to sadden myself with those thoughts, she appeared, on the fifth day since I was admitted.
I shouted happily, having already given up.
“Has anyone come today?”
“Is anyone planning to? Like anyone from our class, or your club?”
“I haven’t heard anything. They’ve already all visited I think.”
“I see. That’s fine then.”
What was fine?
She pulled up a stool and sat next to the bed.
“I’m sorry, I wanted to come sooner, but someone else was always here, so I couldn’t speak with you properly. You’ve got something to ask me, don’t you, literature club?”
“Yeah, I didn’t tell anyone where I was going, you shouldn’t have known, so how did you?”
“Because you told me, five years ago, right? That you shouted for me there and ended up with me somehow.”
Five years ago?
Called for her?
“It can’t be…”
“That’s right,” she gave a small smile, “I’m Eina.”
She proclaimed in her beautiful soprano.
I just stared at her with my eyes wide open in mute shock.
“When you fell from the cliff, I saw you disappear, Shuu-san,” the President, Eina, spoke to me like she always did, using my name rather than ‘literature club’ and politely, “you really had vanished. The rain eased off a bit so I went to check just in case, and you weren’t there, so I thought you had gone back to your own time.”
The President, usually like a bare blade, now seemed to be a normal girl. It felt like an illusion, but her girly side was surprisingly cute, and made me feel nice as well.
“I was worried though. I didn’t know if you’d gone to the same place, or if you’d fallen down the cliff there as well. If you hadn’t told anyone, you wouldn’t be found, so I decided to contact you on that day.”
“You remembered for five years?”
“Yes, I didn’t forget it for even a second.”
Eina nodded smoothly, and I wanted to ask her something in my surprise, to ask if she thought of me that much.
“So I tried to use the class network to get in contact with you, but like I thought, I couldn’t…” she continued her explanation as I remained silent, “so I went to the cliff, found you, and called for help.”
“So that’s what happened… You saved my life, Eina, thank you so much.”
“Ehehe,” she chuckled shyly.
“But if you hadn’t come that day, I would have been caught in that landslide. Thank you very much.” She dipped her head at me.
“Wait a minute though, your name isn’t Yokota Yukino, it’s Minekawa Yukino…? Was it not your house we found?”
“That was my aunt and uncle’s house. I told you before, didn’t I? My parents died and I moved to live with my mother’s sister and her husband.”
I had a feeling I’d heard that.
“Huh? But don’t you live in an orphanage?”
The circumstances were complicated and I was puzzled over it.
“In the end, our relationship got too bad and I went into the orphanage. Or rather, I wanted to and stopped trying to bear with it. Because I’d managed to survive, I went to look for a place where I could live my own way. I didn’t have any other caretaker because my parents had died, so I was allowed to after a little investigation.”
“A lot changes in five years.”
We nodded fervently to each other. I felt like everything had been solved, but I noticed something big.
“Wait, if you’re Eina, then you were always alive, right? But the Yokota girl, your cousin, said you died?”
“Ahh, that’s…” She faltered for some reason. And then she bowed deeply. “I’m so sorry! I had Onee-chan lie to you!”
“You said five years ago during the disaster, didn’t you? You told me you’d heard from her that I went missing and died during the typhoon.”
“If she had said ‘Eina is Minekawa Yukino’, you wouldn’t have gone back in time, would you? But if you hadn’t, I probably would have died. I didn’t want that, I wanted to meet you, so I had Onee-chan help me.”
I was too happy that she said she wanted to meet me, and I didn’t care about the lie.
“Well, I’m happy that I could save you, so there’s no problem.”
“I thought you didn’t get on well though?” I asked, and Eina gave a tight smile.
“At the time… we didn’t, it was awful. But when we started to live apart, I came to understand that she didn’t just want to bully me, she was thinking about a lot of things in her own way, and she’s much kinder now, so she’s reflected on it.”
I remembered her cousin’s words.
“I was always treating her badly… But she was always just shutting herself away in her room, and just using other people’s things. Then there were the arguments with Mama and Papa, and the worry…”
That wasn’t simple acting, she really was talking about what had happened back then, I thought as my heart warmed.
Lots of things changed in five years.
“Ahh, but I really am glad everything went well,” Eina let out with a sudden sigh, it was nice to see a gap in the President’s usually perfect facade, “if I’d been found out, that would have been the end of everything, so I was really terrified.”
“I see, when I knew that you were Eina, I would have known you were alive, and not gone back in time,” Then Eina would have been caught up in the landslide and died. From that perspective, she was always fighting for her life, “Was it tough? Pretending you didn’t know me?”
However, she didn’t look sad, and just pouted a little.
“Do you remember the first time we met? I doubt you do.”
“I do, in the library, right?”
Eina’s breath caught in shock.
“That’s right, I spoke too familiarly with you, right? I reflected on that and realised it’d all be over if we were together, so I didn’t join the literature club, and even when we ended up in the same class, I kept as distant as possible.”
“So that’s why you were so cold? I thought you hated me.”
“I could never hate you!”
“R-really…?” I couldn’t quite speak through the happiness, but her cold behaviour went through my head and I couldn’t immediately believe it. “But you were going to mercilessly take our clubroom…”
“I had to act like a demon to do that, it was really hard! I couldn’t show favouritism!”
“And you always looked so unhappy when you were with me.”
“That was because I was doing my best to contain my expression. Just talking with you made me want to smile so I was nervous I’d get found out…”
She began to turn red. I might have as well.
We looked at each other for a while.
We both paused at our synchronicity before laughing together.
“I’ll go first then…” she began, but I talked over her.
“Sorry, the guy should go first in this situation.”
Eina somewhat ceremoniously adjusted herself on the stool.
“Eina…” I took a deep breath and said, “I love you. I actually have since I first met you, when I met you in the library as Minekawa Yukino that is. I thought you hated me so when Eina messaged me I let you leave my mind, but I always have.”
Her face had gone bright red, but her gaze didn’t leave mine. Tears were shining in her eyes.
“Now that I know that Eina and Minekawa Yukino are both the same person and the one I love, I’m really happy. Because I know I ended up falling for the same person, and that I love the same person.”
“I’ve…” she began shakily, “I’ve always loved you, Shuu-san. Five years ago, after that, and even now! Always…”
As she spoke, she moved closer to me. I put my arms around her and held her.
“This isn’t a dream, right?”
“I wondered too, but it’s not. We’re really together,” she said, smiling in my arms, making me smile as well.
I thought we were so far apart, but she was actually right next to me…
She was right in front of my eyes at this very moment. There was so much I wanted to talk to her about. So many places I wanted to go together.
It might be fun to do a book exchange.
But for now, I just held her in my arms, revelling in the happiness I felt from having her at my side.