Hayase-san was an important person to me, but it was easily discernible that I was much more than that to Hayase-san.
From the beginning, Hayase-san treated me as something precious and took care of me in many ways, but as we started living together, the gaze with which Hayase-san looked at me seemed to have turned more fervent.
I felt it when our hands brushed accidentally when we did laundry together. Or when our feet touched when lying on the bed. In every gaze and even words of his.
Even the rather dense I could understand that Hayase-san held feelings more than that of friends or family towards me, and that um, he sought me in a sexual sense.
Hayase-san by no means sought to hide his unordinary feelings towards me, and the people of the village already thought of me as Hayase-san’s, um— Lover or Wife or something of that sort and warmly looked out for me. Everyone said that Hayase-san had changed ever since I’d appeared. He seemed happier and laughed.
It made me happy to hear that, but it was embarrassing after all, and I couldn’t bear it.
No, but we’re both men. Actually, I hadn’t gone out with anyone, but I had liked some someone, and that someone was definitely a girl.
As for Hayase-san looking me with such eyes, I strangely did not feel any disgust. However, I was at a loss as to what to do.
Everyone in this world had a good physique and Hayase-san too was tall and unexpectedly solidly built. I was normal in my former world, but I was puny when compared to the people here. Nevertheless, I had confidence in my stamina, but looking at the way Hayase-san was concerned for and treated me, I’d often doubt ‘It somehow feels as if he’s mistaking me for a woman.’
I wonder what my feelings are towards Hayase-san. Seeing him wholeheartedly compound medicine to ease the pain on a villager’s hand, I felt great respect; and if you asked me whether I liked him, I did— I even wished for us to stay together. He’d feel bashful when stared at intently, and get a little nervous when his hand was gripped. Yeah. I’m conscious of him after all……I guess?
But as expected, the hurdle was high, and I couldn’t see Hayase-san in that light no matter what; and in the end, spent every day pretending not to notice those feelings. The perceptive Hayase-san must have definitely noticed it, yet he did not try to unreasonably increase contact.
On the other hand, I gradually became close to the village’s children.
When it came to Ichigo and Akina, because they were the first ones I’d met close to my age, Ichigo especially became awfully attached to me.
“Kou, let’s go fishing!”
Ichigo and Akina dropped in the house every day.
“Alright. I won’t lose this time.”
“Kou hasn’t won against me even once though.”
“Kou doesn’t realise when the bait’s taken either.”
Akina spoke as she laughed.
“Fishing is hard.”
I turned around to look at Hayase-san.
“I’m going out. I’ll be taking dinner with me.”
When I spoke, Hayase-san gave a wry smile.
“See you. Take care.”
In the breaks between work, the children would fish and catch insects by the stream at the edge of the village.
Ichigo and Akina were the village’s hope.
They were the last children in this village filled with older people. No one spoke of it, but everyone hoped that Ichigo and Akina will fall in love, get married and have children.
The rate of disappearance of people had become quite moderate when compared to 20 years before. In the past, people used to disappear at the rate of one per day, but not a single person had disappeared in the past few years. Like this, if no one disappeared, someday another new life will sprout. The wish of the villagers for at least the children to not meet a lonely end wasn’t unreasonable.
Should I call it luck, for Ichigo and Akina got along well.
“Ichigo, you reeled in one more, amazing!”
Looking at the fish reeling in my Ichigo’s rod, Akina raised a cheer. Ichigo too seemed proud.
“What about Kou? Still haven’t caught anything?”
“You’re annoying. Just you wait.”
I laughed and cast the fishing line.
Akina was pulling out the freshly sprouted grasses nearby.
Snow hadn’t fallen ever since the day I came here. Even the wind was now warm. It must be spring.
Looking at sparking water’s surface, I held my fishing line in a leisurely manner, I could hear the birds chirping afar.
I then glanced at Ichigo.
I felt my blood drain for a moment.
Ichigo was turning transparent. Staring absentmindedly into the distance, Ichigo’s body sparkled, as if, as if……!
While shouting, I tossed my rod and ran towards Ichigo. Setting my foot in the stream, I ran to the other bank, and desperately hugged Ichigo. My heart throbbed loudly as if broken. I could hear Akina shriek.
“Ichigo, don’t go, come back! Come back!”
Offering all my prayers, I hugged Ichigo.
At long last, a faint warmth returned to Ichigo body that had gone cold. I did not move a muscle.
Ichigo, looking at me in puzzlement, rapidly returned to normal. His transparent cheeks became ruddy again.
“Huh? What was I doing?”
He came back.
I let out a deep breath and slumped at the spot in relief.
The fact that Ichigo almost disappeared was a great shock to the villagers.
“Kou-kun, thank you, really.”
Starting with Ichigo’s parents, the villagers all spoke excessive words of gratitude.
Perhaps, due to the fact that no one had died these past few years, a hope, or rather carelessness had birthed in the villagers’ hearts. The fact that their ordeal was yet to end, and moreover, even the children could disappear, the shock they experienced from the realisation was greater than my expectations.
Hayase-san seemed visibly disturbed.
“Can you please not tell it to the others? I beg of you.”
He spoke in such a manner for the first time, and stopped me from leaving the house. He seemed to have not let the children’s parents from leaving the house either, and no one came to invite them outside too. Even if people were holed up inside their homes, they would still disappear. Everyone knew this quite well, yet, remembering the pain of being suddenly separated from the people close to them, they mustn’t have been able to endure this parting.
Hayase-san, like a nervous animal with its fur standing on its ends, was constantly on tenterhooks, always chasing after my silhouette.
That night, I brewed some sweet tea, and somewhat generously poured the sake Ayama-san had given in it.
As I handed over that cup to Hayase-san, I sat down on the sofa, beside him.
When Hayase-san drank the contents of the cup, he let out a deep sigh.
“This was exactly what I feared.”
“It is because I cannot bear the pain of losing someone important to me all of a sudden that I need to prepare my heart to see them disappear someday, to not get hurt…… I have to live on, even if I’m the last one remaining.”
Hayase-san covered his mouth with his hand.
“But, I met you. Kou-kun, I love you. I cannot bear to lose you.”
……I wonder what I should call this. Being ravaged by a beast, perhaps?
As I lay on the bed in an absent-minded state, Hayase-san slumbered peacefully beside me while hugging me.
After that, Hayase-san wiped my body with great care, and after he’d dealt with the aftermath he even carried me to the bed, but well, the damage had been done, and I silently accepted everything.
Even though I ought to be troubled by us both being men, it ended up like this. Whether or not it was consensual was questionable, and my butt felt awfully uncomfortable. I ought to feel angrier, but seeing Hayase-san’s peaceful sleeping face after he’d calmed down, I felt it was fine either way.
Well……It felt good.
I cradled Hayase-san’s head and made our foreheads touch.
Hayase-san seemed to have woken up, for he opened his eyes a crack.
Inside my heart, love for the person in front of me gushed forth. I gave Hayase-san a slight kiss from my side. Hayase-san smiled.
Maybe, I came to this world just to meet him.
Calm returned to the village, little by little.
The children could now go outside, and Hayase-san once again permitted me to leave the house.
Life had slowly returned to how it was in the past, but if there was something different, it was that Hayase-san’s displays his affection had awfully increased in number. His gaze towards me seemed all the more fervent. If he got a chance, Hayase-san would touch me and would kiss me with no regard for place or occasion.
Behind Hayase-san’s actions lay the situation, “No one knows when a person will disappear.” Hesitation and modesty were deadly. There was no guarantee that you’d still be able to greet the person you greeted today tomorrow. It was uncertain if you could still touch the person you touched today tomorrow. Even though I knew it, I still felt bashful no matter what.
Hayase-san always hugged me passionately.
The more we touched, the more we were together, the more my feelings for Hayase-san grew strong. But, at the same time, I felt a faint suffocation.
That’s right, I wasn’t the only one who could disappear. Hayase-san, too, could disappear, leaving me behind.
When I thought of that prospect, I was unable to bear it and decided to do whatever I could possibly do.
I’ll save this village.
A note from the TL:
No means no, no matter how novels try to justify it. Even if it feels good, non-consensual sex is still rape. Consent is important, and I hope all you boys and girls reading this know it and understand it.
I’ve taken a lot of poetic license with the smut here.
I swear these scenes sound so much more tasteful in Japanese.
Hayase-san was something similar to a doctor in this village. In the first place, it was Hayase-san’s uncle who the doctor of this village and was the former resident of this detached house. When Hayase-san was around ten years of age, the village got cut off all of a sudden and from then on, Hayase-san began assisting his uncle, learning in preparation to succeed him. Since Hayase-san’s uncle and his wife had disappeared in successive incidents five years prior, the villagers’ health was entrusted in Hayase-san’s hands alone. Not just people, he even had to examine horses, cows and other domestic animals. There was a small herb garden beside the house and taking care of it, he’d somewhat become the village’s go-to person for advice. The village had many elderly people and calling in upon them every day was a must and thus, Hayase-san was pretty much busy all the time. The villagers, including Ayama-san, took care of him. To not mention cooking and washing, there was always someone bringing various things to eat. With this village being cut off from other lands and people now disappearing one after another, Hayase-san did not believe there was any special meaning to being a landlord or anything, but the others did not think so. When I first came to this world, I didn’t know what to do and since I wanted to learn more about the village, I was always around only Hayase-san. One day, while waiting for Hayase-san, who was calling in upon the elderly in another house, I saw a person from the house drawing water from a well. It seemed heavy, and I thus decided to give a hand. It was heavy. Drawing water is extremely laborious. With so many elderlies in this village, every day must be arduous. There were electric poles lined up in rows on the street where I first appeared that lit up at night, so there was no mistaking that electricity came from somewhere. But there were no electric appliances other than the streetlights. The fields were ploughed by bulls and hoe, and wood was used to build fires. Everyone expended time and energy. If only there was a hand pump, everyone’s lives would be much easier. I decided to accompany the villagers and help them out with miscellaneous tasks. Be it drawing water, chopping firewood, carrying farm produce, there was a lot of manual labour. Everyone was grateful at first and were overjoyed. I liked moving about in the first place and had no troubles, and seeing everyone being happy gave me joy too. Hayase-san never spoke of it, and paid close attention so that it did not appear in his actions, but he did not like me leaving his sight after all. He’d remember of the time when his family disappeared and feel anxious. That’s why, in the house, I’d stay as close to Hayase-san as possible and accompany him in doing things. Looking after him was better left to others, but I tried calling out to him, challenging doing laundry in the washbasin and cooking on the stove together with him. The both of us cooked, making blunders along the way, laughing as we ate it and grappling with the stains that wouldn’t come out. Ever since we started living a life that was possible with the efforts of two people, Hayase-san’s emotions settled down considerably and his smiles increased in number. Hayase-san went out for a stroll every evening as a routine. I often accompanied him for them. Hayase-san always carried many strips of paper in his sleeve. While out on a stroll, Hayase-san would tie these strips up at various places. When I asked him, “What are they?”; “They’re letters”, he told me and unfurled one for me to look at. Written in it was, It snowed less this year and there was a bountiful harvest of tangerines. Hayase-san folded the strips of paper and tied them to a branch like fortune slips. “It’d be nice if I could tell the disappeared villagers even a little about the happenings here.” Hayase-san said. “……Will they reach them?” “I believe it.” Hayase-san, saying so, gave a wry smile. “If I keep them tied like this, they’ll disappear someday. The letters, after they disappear, will go to the same place as the people who disappeared. It’d be nice if that happens, I think.” “……Yeah.” At that time, I honestly was doubtful if such a thing happened. But the moment I looked back at them, I noticed that the letters had disappeared, and understood that wasn’t the case. The letters had surely disappeared. The village was in unrest even now. But that’s exactly why Hayase-san and the villagers were awfully kind. I lived life to the fullest, prudently and steadily. I had asked Hayase-san, “Aren’t you in despair?” But Hayase-san laughed it off saying, I’m well past that stage now. While I looked on, Hayase-san spoke. “I’m anxious too, but every day is dear to me.” I lived my life here peacefully, helping everyone out with their jobs, having trivial conversations and laughing together. Huh, what am I doing here?
Walking along the street, a sudden thought popped up in my mind. The idea that perhaps everything was a dream too surfaced. Reminiscing of the family I’d left behind, my friends and school, the track-and-field events I did as part of my club activities, the manga I read and the games I played, the society I came to know of from the news and many other things from my former world, an unbearable feeling arose. While I was doing this, my friends would all be busy studying for their entrance examinations and will go to university the following year. Yet here I was, with even my clothes not of my former world. When I realised I’d left all of it behind, my head felt strange with a feeling of impatience. I frantically hid those feelings. Because Hayase-san and the people of the village were gems of people, and they always paid attention so that I wasn’t inconvenienced in any manner whatsoever. If they came to know of the fact that I was lamenting the fact that I came here like that, they’d definitely feel hurt. That’s why I always smiled when everyone was around. I couldn’t let anyone know of my feelings. One day, Hayase-san left for a house visit late at night and left the house open. All alone, gazing at the light of the electric poles that extended into the vast unknown, I felt a sudden urge to cry badly. I loved both this world and the people of this village. I wanted to be with Hayase-san. Those were definitely my genuine feelings. But my tears flowed as they pleased. In a corner of the pitch-black room, for a long time, tears trickled down my cheeks, yet I left them alone. Suddenly a warm thing hugged me from behind. It was Hayase-san. Hayase-san who’d returned home at some point hugged the back of the crying I. “……Ah.” I was at a loss. “I’m sorry.” Hayase-san spoke. I turned my head towards the side and hastily tried to wipe off my tears. It wasn’t Hayase-san’s fault. Why was I making him apologise? But Hayase-san stopped my hands, and hugged me so strongly, it hurt. “……Nn.” He gently rubbed my head, and I cried uncontrollably. It was embarrassing to show my crying face, thus I buried my face in Hayase-san’s shoulder. Hayase-san kept on whispering “I’m sorry.” Unceasingly, endlessly. Before long, my heart started feeling surprisingly light. As if Hayase-san took away half my pain. It was shameful, but I probably was extremely hurt by the fact that I’d been cut off from my former world, but unreasonably kept it to myself and didn’t want anyone to realise it. Hayase-san realised it. And he accepted all my feeling of anger and sorry. Ah, I’m alright. I finally thought from the bottom of my heart, I can live my life here too.
1. Fortune Slips: Or Omikuji as they’re called in Japanese, random fortunes written on strips of paper at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in Japan. You’d usually tie them to a pine tree if you get a bad fortune. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/O-mikuji ↩
Happy New Year everyone! Hope you enjoy the New year with lots of fun and BL ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)…Welp I’m gonna be a bit busy till March prepping for college. Wish me luck!
When I woke up in the morning, I was the only one in bed. At the smooth sensation of the unfamiliar bedsheets, I realised I wasn’t in my room. Looking at the ceiling I wasn’t yet accustomed to, I was a bit discouraged and I thought to myself, Ah, it wasn’t a dream. When I moved my hands beneath the sheets of the futon, there was still some faint warmth on the side opposite.
I heard a person’s voice from the room on the other side.
Standing up and opening the door, I saw Hayase-san and an unfamiliar older woman speaking the by front door.
The older woman noticed me first- her eyes twinkled in delight and she raised her voice.
That voice caught me off guard and I cowered despite myself.
“Are you feeling all right now? Shouldn’t you be sleeping for a bit longer?”
“Ah, I’m, fine.”
It wasn’t as if I was feeling unwell.
“Really, for such a- miraculous thing to occur ah, Sonny, I truly am glad”
“The older woman’s voice trembled. ……Sonny?”
Hayase-san gave a cough in warning.
“Thank you, Ayama-san. Just like what I told before, could you make a meal with a portion for both him and me?”
“Er, um, but of course! Please wait a bit. I’ll bring it here soon. Uh-huh, right away!”
After Ayama-san left, Hayase-san explained many things.
It seemed Hayase-san’s family were landowners who controlled the whole neighbourhood.
Both she and her husband had been working for Hayase-san right from the past. I hadn’t noticed it in the darkness yesterday, but there was a mansion behind this house. The couple even now prepared meals and looked after him every day whilst managing the mansion.
The house I was in now was a detached house in which Hayase-san’s uncle and aunt used to live.
After I ate breakfast, something huge happened.
Wanting to catch a glimpse, people flocked to the house one after another. Everyone raised a cheer on seeing me, and there were a few in the crowd who even cried. I seemed to have received a warm welcome.
In a village with only 15 residents, six were the elderly, six were older than 30, Hayase-san was the only one in his twenties and there were two children under ten. It seemed the population had neither increased nor decreased in the past few years. The adults, while rejoicing my arrival were quite concerned about me, who had lost his way in another world. They spoke kind words asking me, “Do you have anything you wish to eat?” and, “If anything is troubling you, feel free to say it.” Amongst them, there were a few who asked, “In your world, were there any people who appeared suddenly?” They must have been worried about the people who disappeared from this world. I wanted to answer them, but no words came to my mouth.
The children were a pair of boy and girl, eight and ten respectively. Their names were Ichigo and Akina. They weren’t brother and sister. They nervously peeked in from outside through the window just above their eye level, glancing at the affairs inside the house. When they were caught by me sneakily sticking out their tongue and making funny faces, their eyes grew wide and they got surprised and flurried. How cute.
Seeing my cover my mouth in an attempt to stifle my laughter, Hayase-san tilted his head in puzzlement.
“Ah, it’s nothing.”
“Suddenly meeting so many people, you must be tired. Do you need a short rest?”
The villagers sensed the atmosphere, and left the house one after another, apologising for coming in uninvited.
“I apologise for them bothering you. I’ll request them to be a little quieter till you get used to this place.”
Hayase-san, lifting up my bangs, pressed my forehead against his with a bump. The close range caught me off guard.
“You don’t seem to have a fever. I hope that you didn’t catch a cold though, considering you were in the snow yesterday.”
I was at a loss.
“Um, I really am fine. I’m not sick.”
Hayase-san making a surprised face, knit his eyebrows.
“……I see, I’m sorry.”
Hayase-san got up and left to brew tea.
Hayase-san brought two cups after a while and handed one to me.
While drinking tea, Hayase-san muttered.
“If possible, please take care of yourself.”
“Ever since you appeared, I’ve been ecstatic. Yet my heart seems to be crushed in worry. I couldn’t sleep much at night either. Many times, I made sure if you really were by my side, I was uneasy ever after I held your hands, I was worried if you too would disappear again. ……I placed my hand before your face to make sure you were breathing. Really, something must be wrong with me.”
Hayase-san muttered in a small voice.
“Really can’t get used to it.”
Those words seemed to something he was telling himself.
At first, I thought he was talking about my existence. Perhaps he couldn’t get used to being with me. But as I sipped the tea, I wondered if it meant something different.
Maybe he was talking about how he couldn’t get used to losing someone suddenly. This person.
There was an awkward silence.
I spoke nervously.
“Is it…fine to go outside?”
I thought I’d be stopped, but Hayase-san gave a smile and spoke.
As soon as the door opened, a vast expanse of snow extended in all directions.
Seeing the snowscape that went pat the horizon, I thought to myself Ah, this is another world after all. When it snows it Japan, it doesn’t snow so much that it extends past the horizon. Even in Hokkaido, you’d at least see the mountain ridges. But there was none of that here. You could see where the sky met the earth. The land, dotted by forests intermittently, extended into the vast unknown. I could see houses being built far away, piece by piece.
It somehow felt lonely. Nevertheless, it was extremely beautiful. The sun’s rays lit up the snow, glistening brightly.
Since there was a road right in front of the house, I walked up to it.
The road, straight to an extent that it seemed unnatural, stretched on endlessly. On both sides of the road, telegraph poles were erected at regular intervals. It was the wooden pole I’d seen at that time. I couldn’t see the end of the road.
I stood there for a long time, gazing beyond the road that grew hazy.
When I looked back towards the house, I saw Hayase-san leaning against the front door, staring at me intently.
Noticing my gaze, Hayase-san gave a little wry smile.
That smile seemed somewhat desolate and it made my heart twinge in pain for some reason.
When I approached closer, intending to return back to the house, Hayase-san grabbed my shoulders.
“It’s become a bit cold, hasn’t it?”
Even Hayase-san’s fingers had become white from the cold.
At that time, a strange emotion gushed forth spontaneously from the bottom of my heart.
I don’t know what it was was or why it happened, but it was an extremely strong feeling that warmed my heart.
I thought to myself, If possible, I’d like to stay by this person’s side.
1. This author seems to love not putting furigana on names. It’s once again a random guess with help from the people on discord TLC server. Just a note that all names in this novel are my guesses.↩
2. For geography noobs, Hokkaido is the northern-most island of Japan, and their mountain ranges (9 in fact) running through the island. ↩
Hasr’s Random Musings
Gotta prepare for college entrance exams welp…wish me luck!
Also, check out the Kiss the Black Cat chappie is posted too yo! Double posts yay!
This is a story containing depictions of Boys Love. Proceed with caution and don’t let your prejudices affect how you read this novel.
Haha, was just reading it, liked the story and decided to TL it. I need editors for this one, contact me on discord @hasr11#9300 if you’re up for it!
1. If you look up at the sky on a night when the snow falls.
When I raised my head and turned towards the window, I saw countless white shadows fluttering past the frosted glass.
No wonder the wind had been howling since a while back.
When I opened my window a crack, the frigid wind that blew in seemed to dampen my notes, and thus I closed it in a fluster. However, my cheeks that were exposed to the chill for a moment unexpectedly felt good.
It was right when I was unable to put my heart into studying for my exams any longer, and throwing the pencil clutched in my hand away, I decided to go out in an attempt to shake off my drowsiness.
Softly climbing down the stairs, all the lights on the staircase were turned off, and my family seemed to be asleep. While opening the front door, making sure I made no noise, in the midst of the darkness the snow fell incessantly, illuminated by the street lamps.
I looked up at the sky.
Right from when I was a child, I’d loved to look up at the sky with the snow falling midair.
I couldn’t look up for long since the snow could enter my eyes, but for a moment the scenery would be completely blanketed by countless snowflakes, and it gave an impact enough to make one feel they were in a different world.
I wondered when it began snowing, the asphalt was covered by a layer of snow. When I walked a step, and two, the snow covered up my footprints left behind one after another.
It was already well past midnight, and there was not a person on the street.
I looked up at the sky once again.
I felt as if I was sucked in the midst of the darkness of the night with the snow fluttering down, and my body trembled.
It’d become slightly cold.
When I turned back to return to my room, my footsteps paused.
There was nothing there.
Just the darkness of the night with the snow falling seemed to extend endlessly. When I impatiently walked a few steps ahead, I felt discomfort in my toes. When I kicked off the snow under my feet, what I saw wasn’t asphalt, but a gravel path.
“……What is this?”
I turned my head and looked around the place once. As I thought, it isn’t there. My house, anything. It was as if I was in the wilderness.
Just in the place where there had been a street lamp, I felt a similar light shine, and I rushed to that place in a panic. What I saw there wasn’t the familiar concrete pillar, but a time-worn wooden telegraph pole.
“What is this place?”
My heart began thumping wildly with a bad premonition.
Why did my house which should have been there disappear?
I frantically racked my brains.
“Is it a dream?”
It was cold. And I did seem to have my consciousness proper.
I was awake. I thought maybe I’d walked up to here by myself and forgotten how I’d come here because of amnesia or something, but still, something was strange. I wondered if my head had gone strange due to the stress from studying for my examinations, it seemed to be the most plausible explanation.
“Calm down, Me.”
The snow falling down incessantly made a stain on my parka.
In those circumstances, I could care less about the cause. If I’d kept standing at that place like that, I’d be frozen to death. For now, I should move and find some place with human inhabitants. And borrow a telephone from one of the homes to call someone and get them to pick me up. Or else, the police……
On hearing the sound of footsteps on the snow suddenly, I strained my eyes into the darkness, startled.
At long last, the silhouette that emerged out of the darkness and appeared under the street lamp was that of a man.
That man made an awfully surprised face on seeing me.
He seemed to be a young man of around 20 years of age. He was tall and wore a kimono with a haori on top, and had a strange umbrella unfurled. I wonder if it was an umbrella with a bull’s eye design. He wore boots on his feet. His long, deep brown hair was tied up behind. A good-looking face with gentle features. He wore strange round glasses.
The man, after staring at me from head to toe with wide eyes, scrunched up his face. His lips trembled slightly. It was an expression that seemed as if he’d met the person he’d always wanted to meet, with tears falling down.
I was confused. I had absolutely no recollection of having seen this man, but had I met him somewhere before?
“Aren’t you cold?”
The man spoke to me. It was a gentle and mellow voice.
I was wearing was old two piece sweats that I was using as loungewear. I had slipped on my sneakers barefoot, and so my body had begun freezing a long time ago.
The man stretched out his hand and I reached for it.
“It’s terrible. You’re so cold.”
He said while gripping my hand as if he were holding something precious and fragile. His eyes behind the glasses seemed a little moist. The man softly held my shoulders and guided me under his umbrella.
“For now, let’s go to my house. You’ll catch a cold if you stay here.”
The man and I walked side by side. I felt I should say something, but words couldn’t form. With the inside of my head, while in a confused mess, I mechanically placed my feet forward, one following the other.
After walking for about five minutes, the light of a house came in sight. It was a small house with old brickwork and had a pattern carved into the wall made of something similar to a mortar. The windows were of timber and the roof was made off reddish-brown roof tiles. Opening the small wooden door, the man showed me in.
The man entered the room while wearing his boots.
I looked around the inside of the room. The floor was wooden with a slightly faded luxurious carpet spread over it. The walls seemed plastered. The ceiling was put together in a lattice. On the other side of the room, a fireplace was burning brightly. It was similar to the western-style architecture of the Meiji period. The house was small, but its interiors were luxurious. Paper, an ink pot and a pen were placed on top of the table. I glanced at what was written on the paper and heaved a sigh of relief for some reason on coming to know that the letters were Japanese.
“Please sit there”
While he urged me, I sat down on the divan, absentminded. With the towel the man handed over, I wiped my face and neck. In the midst of it, my head was spinning wildly trying to comprehend the situation I was in now. My house disappearing all of a sudden, the wooden telegraph pole, the kimono-clad man, the house I’d never seen before.
I don’t want to believe it; it’s impossible, but this, this situation is perhaps. No, but there’s no way. What is this?
The man brought along a metal basin and placed it under my feet. In the meanwhile, he also brought a kettle he had placed in the fireplace and another kettle he hadn’t, and he alternately poured hot and cold water. Steam began rising.
“Actually I wanted to heat the water in the bath, but it’d take time if I did it now.”
The man, taking off my shoes, carefully gauged the temperature of the water with his hand and gently placed my feet in the basin.
The warmth gradually spread, and I unconsciously let out a sigh of relief.
The man, kneeling beside me, washed my legs in a careful manner.
After quite a while had gone by, I finally came to the realisation that my feet were being washed by someone else and I came to my senses.
“Ah, um, I’m sorry.”
When I apologised in a fluster, the man laughed cheerfully.
I said in a hurry.
“Um, I-I’m confused about many things.”
“Even I know I’m about to say something really strange, but I was in front of my home just till a while ago.”
The man silently stared and lent an ear to the faltering words I spoke.
“Before I knew it, I really don’t know when, I was in an unfamiliar place. In the blink of an eye.”
“I get it.”
Hearing the unexpected reply, I blinked my eyes.
The man spoke.
“Your clothes are, how should I put it, really……strange, and when I met you, you seemed to appear all of a sudden out of the darkness, from nothing. This place……this village is called Kazekoku village, and many inexplicable things have occurred here. That’s why I can probably understand the situation you are in.”
The man got up and took the paper and pen on top of the table in his hands.
“My name is Hayase. Shigao Hayase. And you?”
I wrote my name.
Hayase-san, after staring at the paper with my name written for a long time, looked straight at me and hesitantly opened his mouth.
“In this village, people disappear.”
I didn’t know how to reply to those abrupt words.
“When I was a child, more than 300 people lived in this village. But now, it has dwindled to a mere 15. Everyone suddenly disappeared. One by one, without any warning, dissolved in thin air.”
Hayase-san let out a heavy sigh while speaking.
“Yesterday my friend whom I’d seen off with a smile disappeared; my mother disappeared in the kitchen leaving behind the warm pot she had been heating……like that, everyone suddenly disappeared. Nobody returned. All the people in my family are no more.”
I received a shock from Hayase-san’s words. Hayase-san combed up his hair as if to shake something off.
“That’s why I thought when I met you. You’re probably a person from another world……even though you lived somewhere in the other world, you suddenly disappeared. You disappeared……and then appeared in this village. Am I wrong?”
“Probably……that’s, the case.”
Hayase-san lightly nodded.
“There’s a world somewhere in which people disappear similar to here, I see.”
Hayase-san took my feet out and carefully wiped them with a towel.
“If I say such things, you might get hurt. It must have been an unintentional, unsettling and absurd thing for you to come to this village, but……I’m sorry, you’re like a miracle for me. In a village where everyone only disappears, you’re the first person who came. ……I have to confess, right now, I really happy.”
Hayase-san’s eyes were moist. After pressing his lips tightly for a long time as if enduring something, he got up and softly hugged my head.
“Thank you for coming here.”
My heart throbbed, and it hurt painfully.
‘Ahh, I see’, I thought. I came from another world.
Strangely I dropped the thoughts in my heart with a thud without any doubts. Being thanked by Hayase-san, and being looked at tenderly, the anxiety and confusion of having come to a place I didn’t know became small and suddenly quietened down in my heart.
And what came to mind anew was that I’d forgotten to turn off the power supply to the heater before leaving my room. But I calmed down on remembering that the power would automatically switch off after 3 hours if that heater was kept running. No, but there were other things to think of too.
There was one more room other than the living room in this house. Surrounded by bookshelves, there was only one bed in that room. I was urged as if it were a matter of course, and I got in the bed together with Hayase-san.
Hayase-san’s hand stretched out and grabbed my hand under the futon. It held unexpected strength and I was surprised despite myself, but for some reason, I didn’t feel the urge to shake myself free. If I thought about it, it was an extremely odd situation. In an unfamiliar world, beside an unfamiliar man, I was sleeping in a bed. Huh, why did I accept this situation so easily, even I was puzzled, and my head began going round in circles once again, but at some point, sleepiness and tiredness won over me and I slept just like that.
1. Haori: It’s like an overcoat worn over a kimono. You often see it in anime too, and now you know it’s named haha. ↩
2. BullsEyeDesign: It’s called a Janome Kasa and it’s a type of Japanese umbrella. Don’t exactly get the difference myself, but if ya wanna know, read this.