The Prologue and First Chapter of the book, 1st book of a planned series.
We are surrounded by sweet, soft, pure white despair...
It’s not like I’ve completely forgotten about it. I probably still remember this place, and I even dream of its scenery, just as I'm doing now. I can only remember this place in my dreams.
Right - it’s not like I’ve forgotten about it. I just can’t find any cues to help me retrieve these memories. Nothing could possibly trigger my memories of this scene. There's simply nothing in the real world that resembles it at all. If I tried, I could certainly remember it, but I lack the opportunity to do so. Nothing from my everyday life could possibly remind me of the person before me.
“Do you have a wish?” The face of the person who calmly asked me that question, was continuously morphing into new and different faces., but somehow, I couldn’t grasp the features of his or her face. I saw it, of course - at least, I believe I did. It's just that he or she somehow resembled everyone and no one at the same time. Back then, I guess I gave a passive, harmless answer to his or her question, though I don’t remember my precise response. Anyhow, when he or she heard my answer, I was presented with a container of some kind.
“This is a box that grants any wish.” It did look like a box, now that he or she mentioned it. I squinted at the box. My vision wasn’t bad, but I still couldn’t see it clearly. There was nothing in the box, yet it exuded a strange feeling. It was like holding a closed cookie box that made a rattling sound when you shook it, but was empty once you opened it.
I think I asked him or her something trivial at that point, along the lines of "Why are you giving this to me?"
“Because you’re truly interesting! I can’t distinguish one human from another human, even though I’m fascinated by humanity. Ironic, don’t you think?”
I didn’t really understand what he or she was trying to say, but I nodded halfheartedly nonetheless.
“But you're an exception - I can distinguish you from the rest of humanity. You might think that this is nothing special, but it’s more than enough to capture my interest!” I looked inside the box. Even though the box was empty, I felt as if I were being attacked by an unpleasant sensation and my entire body was being drawn toward the bottom of the box. I quickly looked away.
“This box will grant any wish. I don’t care what you wish for - I won’t stop you, even if your wish destroys all of mankind. I’m just interested in what you, or your species, choose to wish for.” I said something in response, and he or she smiled.
“Hehe… No, no. It’s not some kind of special power. Humans already have the ability to grant wishes just by forming a clear image of what they desire. I’m only able to give that power a little push.” I accepted the box. Of course, I wouldn’t remember this dream when I woke up.
But I would clearly remember what I thought about him or her. It was the same impression that I had of him or her in the dream.
Isn’t that person...
“I am Mizuki Otonashi. Pleased to meet you,” says the transfer student with a faint smile.
“I’m Mizuki Otonashi.…Regards,” says the transfer student, uninterested, emotionlessly.
“Mizuki Otonashi,” utters the transfer student without even looking at us, seemingly bored beyond belief.
I look at the transfer student Mizuki Otonashi, whose name I don’t yet know, standing on the platform.
“Mizuki Otonashi.” The transfer student murmurs her name to her classmates in a low voice, as if she doesn’t care whether we can understand her. Nevertheless, her voice is clear. Yeah. I somehow already know her name, even though I've just heard it for the first time. We all wait with bated breath, but not because of her blunt, simple self-introduction that doesn't even qualify as a greeting. It's probably because she is stunningly beautiful. She stands out effortlessly from everyone else in the room. Everyone waits for her to continue speaking. She opens her mouth.
“…Huh?” She calls out my name for some reason. Everyone else in the class looks at me curiously. Don’t look at me like that, I’m also clueless.
“I’m here to break you,” she suddenly proclaims.
“This is my 13,118th School Transfer. Even I can’t help but get annoyed after so many iterations. So for a change of pace, I’ll declare war this time.”
She doesn’t even spare a glance for our dumbfounded classmates, and gazes straight at me.
"Yorikane Hoshino. I’ll make you submit. Resistance is futile. Why? That’s simple. Because I am—”
Muzuki smiles, then finishes her sentence.
“—always by your side, no matter how much time passes.”
It’s March 2nd. It’s supposed to be March 2nd today. Why am I confirming today's date? Probably because the sky’s still cloudy, even though it’s already March. That’s almost certainly it. I’m a bit melancholic because of the weather; lately, the blue sky has been hiding behind the clouds. Geez, I wonder when the weather will finally clear up. I'm in my classroom before school starts, staring out the window, just thinking idly. I guess I’m having these thoughts because I’m not feeling well. No, I don’t feel bad. I feel how I've always felt. I’m just…uncomfortable. I can’t explain it, but it feels like I’m suddenly the only one without a shadow. It’s more like the ‘something’s imperceptibly wrong’ kind of uncomfortable.
Odd. I can’t come up with a reason. Nothing unusual happened yesterday, I ate breakfast this morning, I listened to the new album of my favorite artist on the train, and I got an uneventful ‘average luck’ rating according to the fortune-telling show that I happened to watch. I decide not to wrack my brain any further thinking about it, and take an Umaibō from my bag. Today’s Umaibō is pork flavored. I take a bite. No matter how many I eat, I never get tired of that taste.
(Umaibō or "delicious stick" is a small, puffed, cylindrical corn snack that resides at the bottom of most Japanese convenience store candy shelves)
“Again with the Umaibō—? You really can’t get enough of those, can you? If you keep eating Umaibō all the time, your blood will turn Umaibō-colored, you know?"
“Err, what color is that?”
“Who knows!” The girl kidding around with me is my classmate Toyoko Kirino. Her brown hair, somewhere between long and quite long, is bound in a ponytail high up on the back of her head. Toyoko changes her hairstyle all the time, but she seems to like her current choice. At least, I think so – I feel like Toyoko's recently been sticking with just this style.
Toyoko casually grabs the seat beside me. She starts doing her make-up with the help of her blue hand mirror. She’s also making use of a tool that I, as a guy, don't know very well. I wish she’d put this much effort into everything, and not just into doing her make-up.
“Come to think of it, you have a lot of blue stuff, don't you?”
“Oh yeah, I like blue…Ooh, right, Yori-kun! Isn’t there something different about me today?” Toyoko suddenly says, looking at me with sparkling eyes. How should I know? There’s no way I could respond if you ask me that all of a sudden. “I’ll give you a hint! My charm point has changed!” I was dead silent. So she responded. “Of course my eyes are my charm point!”
(the honorfic -kun is generally used by people of senior status addressing or referring to those of junior status, by anyone addressing or it can be used when referring to men in general, male children or male teenagers, or among male friends. It can be used by males or females when addressing a male whom they are emotionally attached to or have known for a long time.)
"So?” Toyoko looks expectantly into my eyes. I have to admit her eyes are quite large. I feel a bit bashful as I realize this.
“I think your face looks the same as always…?” I say, not really looking at her face.
“Eh? What? My face looks cute as always, you said?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Say it!” I am being compelled. “To tell you the truth, I’m using mascara today. How is it? How is it?” I don’t see any difference. I can’t distinguish between how she looked yesterday and how she looks today.
“No, there’s really no way I could judge something like that.” I tell her in all honesty, and fail.
“'Something like that’…you say?!” She proceeds to hit me.
“Tsk! What a boring rascal you are!” She says in a forced voice, but she might really be a bit angry. Toyoko pretends to spit at me and walks off to show off her mascara-covered face to some of our other classmates. Now I’m tired. Toyoko may be funny most of the time, but I can’t cope with her temper.
“Done with your lovers’ quarrel?” The first thing I see when I turn are three piercings in a right ear. There's only one person in this school with such piercings.
“Daiya. That wasn’t anything like a lover’s quarrel. How the heck did you come to that conclusion?” My friend Daiya Miyasaki just sneers at my objection. Yeah, he’s arrogant as always. Well, I guess it would be weird if someone like Daiya, who chooses to wear such extreme accessories and doesn’t just ignore the school rules, but deliberately flaunts his violation of said rules, were to abase himself.
“But did you really not notice the mascara? Even I noticed the difference. And I’m absolutely, completely uninterested in her.”
“Seriously?” They are neighbors and seem to have been childhood friends since kindergarten. That claim he isn’t interested in her is undoubtedly a lie. Even so, overlooking something that even Daiya noticed might be a small problem. After all, he's totally uninterested in others and doesn’t even seem to look at people.
“But, y’know.” I have the feeling she applied that mascara yesterday as well.
“Yorikane, let’s move our talk away from here—did you know that a transfer student’s arriving today?”
“A transfer student?” I’ll confirm this again—it’s March 2nd today. Why would someone transfer in so late in the year?
“A transfer student?! Really?!” As expected, Toyoko heard us talking, and raises her voice to ask a question.
“Toyoko, I’m not talking to you. Don’t come butting in from over there. Oh, and don’t come closer, either! That desperately made-up face of yours isn’t good for my mental health.”
“W-What?! You’re one to talk, Daiya! You should start fixing that personality of yours. Maybe we should hang you upside-down for 24 hours so some blood can finally get to your brain! Maybe you'll be able to say something right after that.” In order to interrupt their mutual abuse session, I raise my voice a bit and return to the original topic.
“A transfer student, right? I think I heard something about that.” Daiya closes his mouth on cue and glares at me.
“Who told you,” he asks with a serious face.
“Why do you want to know?”
“Don’t answer a question with a question.”
“Err… Didn’t you tell me?”
“Impossible. I only heard about it just now when I went to the staff room. There shouldn’t have been an opportunity for you to find out.”
“This kind of rumor immediately spreads everywhere. But apparently even this babbler, Toyoko, didn’t know about it.” Daiya's probably right, considering Toyoko's reaction just now. And not just her; no one in the first year’s 6th class seems to have known. “That’s why I concluded that the information was kept secret until today, the day of the transfer. But if so, how did you find out?” I personally, honestly wonder that same fact myself.
“Well, whatever. But isn’t it weird, Yorikane? Why would someone transfer in at this point in the school year? There are probably special circumstances involved. For example, could she be some company chairman’s problem child who was expelled from a bunch of other schools? If that were the case, it’d make sense that the information was hidden.”
“Daiya, it’s not good to be speculating about the transfer student like that; it’s just prejudice on your part. I mean, she’s already in a suspicious position even without your ‘help.’ Also, everyone hears you.” The rest of the students, who have indeed been surreptitiously listening to our conversation, smile awkwardly.
"Why should I care?”
The moment I let out a sigh at Daiya’s high-handed attitude, the bell rings. My classmates scurry back to their seats. Toyoko, who sits next to the window, opens it and leans out. Apparently she wants to see the transfer student as soon as possible. She then raises her voice she’s probably spotted someone who looks like the transfer student. After raising her voice Toyoko then sits back in her seat with a frozen expression, even though she was so cheerful just moments ago before she looked out the window. I wonder what’s wrong. Toyoko smiles and murmurs ‘this is amazing!’ Everyone probably wants to know what’s up, but our homeroom teacher enters the room at this point. The silhouette of a girl can be seen behind the cloudy glass of the classroom door. It has to be the transfer student. After looking around the classroom, the teacher realizes that everyone is wondering about the person behind the door, and quickly calls her in.
The silhouette behind the cloudy glass moves. And then I see her. In an instant the scenery changes at once, as if I had been pushed off a cliff. First, I hear a sound. The sound of the scenery being ripped away. Forcefully, violently, one image after another is thrust into my mind. Over and over, similar bits of scenery appear. I feel as if my consciousness is about to be blown away, but it’s then pulled back and firmly fixed in place, as if it were forcibly crammed into a little metallic box.
Déjà vu. Déjà vu.
“I am Mizuki Otonashi.” I heard you.
“I’m Mizuki Otonashi.” I heard you.
“I’m Mizuki Otonashi.” Enough, I heard you already! I reject the massive amount of information that’s trying to pierce my consciousness. I mean, there’s no
way all this could fit. My brain would overload. I can’t process it all. What incomprehensible things am I...? I realize that my thoughts are becoming completely jumbled, and forcibly shut down my brain and then I return.
Eh? What was I just thinking about? Having lost my train of thought, I face the front of the room and look at her again. I look at the transfer student, Mizuki Otonashi, whose name I don’t know yet.
“Mizuki Otonashi.” The transfer student murmurs her name in a low voice, as if she doesn’t care whether we can understand her. Mizuki Otonashi steps off the platform. Her extremely simple self-introduction spawns a rush of chatter in the classroom. She doesn’t care one bit about her bewildered classmates, and starts walking. Towards me. Looking directly at my face. She sits down naturally in the empty seat beside mine, almost as if this seat had been prepared for her from the start. Otonashi-san scowls at me suspiciously as I watch her silently, like a deer caught in headlights. I guess I should say something.
(the honorfic -san is the most commonplace honorific and is a title of respect typically used between equals of any age. Although the closest analog in English are the honorifics "Mr.", "Miss", "Ms.", or "Mrs.", -san is almost universally added to a person's name; "-san" can be used in formal and informal contexts and for any gender. Because it is the most common honorific, it is also the most often used to convert common nouns into proper ones)
“Err, I’m pleased to meet you.” Her frown, however, does not change one bit.
“I asked if that was all.” Was there something else to say? Even if you say so, I can’t think of anything. After all, this is the first time we’ve met. But the atmosphere forces me to say something.
“Your uniform. Is that uniform from your previous school?” Otonashi-san does not react to my frantic words in any way and just keeps staring at me. Seeing my confusion, Otonashi-san lets out a sigh for some reason and smiles. Her smile seems to demonstrate amazement at a shallow-witted child.
“I’ll tell you something good, Hoshino.” I didn’t tell her my name yet...
But that thought is a mere trifle. Otonashi-san says something to me that makes me sit completely still for a full five seconds.
“Kumiko Mogi is wearing light blue panties today.”
Kumiko Mogi’s basic attire during P.E. is her regular uniform rather than a gym outfit. Today, she is once again watching the boys play soccer. She’s wearing her uniform like normal while remaining as expressionless as an ornament. The white legs that peek out from Mogi-san’s skirt are so thin, they seem as if they could snap at any moment.
And I, for some reason, am sleeping with my head on her lap. It's odd to say the least... While I’m certainly feeling a sensation of bliss, I can’t really enjoy it since I’m desperately trying to stop my nosebleed with a tissue. I ended up this way because of the confusion after Otonashi's comment, I let a soccer ball hit me right in the face during gym class and got a nosebleed. Mogi-san was worried about me and for some reason, let me rest my head on her lap. Mogi-san’s legs aren’t soft at all; to be honest, lying on them actually hurts my head a bit. I wonder why she cares for me that way. I look up at Mogi-san, but her expressionless face tells me nothing. But I am happy. Very, very happy.
Otonashi-san’s comment about ‘panties’. Of course it surprised me, and not just due to its abruptness and lack of context. What I mean is, Otonashi-san said ‘I’ll tell you something good.’ Basically, she declared that information about ‘Kumiko Mogi’ was ‘something good’ for me. I haven’t even told Toyoko or Daiya about my crush on Kumiko Mogi. So there is no way Otonashi-san, who I met for the first time today, could know about it. Nevertheless, she still said what she said.
“What is it?" Mogi-san answers quietly. Her voice is like that of a little bird’s, which dovetails nicely with her small body and delicate appearance.
“Today, um, did Otonashi-san talk to you?”
“The transfer student? No.”
“You two aren’t otherwise acquainted, right?” Mogi-san nods.
“Did she do something suspicious to you?” She thinks for a moment and then shakes her head. Her slightly wavy hair sways.
“Why are you asking about this...?” she asks and inclines her head.
“Ah, no, if nothing happened, that’s fine.” I shift my sight to the field. Otonashi-san stands alone in the center of the schoolyard with a daunting pose, showing no interest in the ball or the girls swarming after it. When the ball rolls casually toward her, she weakly kicks it back.... Wait, to a girl on the other team?
I might have been reading too much into what she said, thinking that Otonashi-san noticed my feelings for Mogi-san. Otonashi-san had quite an impact on me because of her appearance and attitude. Yeah, I merely read too much into her comment because it was made so abruptly by a person with remarkable presence. That’s logic anyone could agree with. And yet, why can’t I believe that? Otonashi-san fixes her gaze on me, not looking away for a moment. Staring straight into my eyes, she boldly lifts the corner of her mouth.
She starts walking toward me. Before I know it, I stand up. I’ve abandoned the privilege of sleeping on Mogi-san’s lap. My entire body shudders. It’s not hyperbole, I really am shuddering from head to toe. Mogi-san, who seems to have noticed Otonashi-san as well, tenses up anxiously and stands up next to me. With a daring smile, Otonashi-san points at me, no, at Mogi-san. Just then.
There’s a sudden gust of wind a completely random gust. A gust no one could possibly have foreseen. This sudden gust lifts Mogi-san’s skirt. Mogi-san immediately pushes her skirt down, but only in front. I am standing behind her. Right after the gust passes, Mogi-san turns around and looks at me. She is indeed expressionless as always, but her cheeks seem a little red. She silently forms the words “did you see them?” with her mouth. Actually, she might actually have spoken out loud, but I can’t hear her low voice. I shake my head frantically. I guess that my frantic reaction clearly indicates that I’ve indeed seen her panties. But Mogi-san doesn’t respond and instead casts her eyes downward.
By this point, Otonashi-san is standing right next to me. I get a glimpse of her expression. I realize why I am trembling so hard I understood Otonashi-san’s expression. It reflects a feeling that has never in my life been aimed at me until now.
Why? Why is there hostility directed at someone like me? Otonashi-san raises the corner of her mouth and scowls at me. While I am still shaking but otherwise paralyzed, she places her hand on my shoulder and puts her lips to my ear.
“They were light blue, weren’t they?” Otonashi-san knows everything. My affection towards Mogi-san, that a sudden gust would expose her panties, she knew it all. Otonashi-san’s statement this morning wasn’t some kind of joke. It was a threat to insinuate that she knows me perfectly, that she has grasped my way of thinking, that she’s in control of me.
“Hoshino, you should have recalled it by now, right?” Otonashi-san observes me while I stand petrified. We stay like this for a few moments, but when I stay silent, she lets out a sigh and drops her gaze to the ground. She murmurs her complaint: “So it’s useless, even though I went this far... I see, you’re even one level duller today. If you’ve forgotten, remember it now. My name’s Victoria." 'Victoria'? No, you’re ‘Mizuki Otonashi’, aren’t you?
“I-Is that your pen name or something?”
“Shut up.” She scowls at me, not even trying to hide her irritation. “Well then. You aren’t challenging at all like this, but in that case I’ll act at my own convenience,” Otonashi-san says and turns her back to me.
“Ah, wait.” I instinctively stop her. She turns around, appearing stressed out. I can’t help but wince at the sight of her frown. I’m not sure. But judging from Otonashi-san’s attitude, maybe...
“Could it be that we’ve met in the past?” Hearing these words, Otonashi-san raises the corner of her mouth.
“Yeah, we were lovers in our previous life. Oh mine beloved Hathaway, how miserable thy current state! Thou wert not so lily-livered when thou cameth to save me, princess of thine enemy’s land.”
“Umm, what?” I am at a loss for words. Otonashi-san seems satisfied after seeing my confused state. For the first time today, she displays what seems like a genuine smile.
However, the next day...
I saw Mizuki Otonashi’s corpse.
Upon hearing my words, Mogi-san’s eyes turn sad and she ponders for a while. With an uncomfortable look on her face, she then mutters:
“Please wait until tomorrow.”