The Voice Declaring The Start Of It All
I gasped and was pulled back to reality by Kazuhi calling my name.
Fireworks were still lighting up the sky.
I don’t think much time has passed since I confessed to her.
“That just now…did it really happen?! Your memories…and that accident…”
“Memories? Accident? What are you talking about…?”
For a moment, I felt fury and anger at the fact that she had kept this a secret from me all this time, but I quickly realized that this wasn’t right.
Judging from the way she acted, she was clearly different, and she wasn’t playing dumb either.
“More importantly, why am I here? It’s weird, I don’t remember a thing…”
By showing me her memories, the Kazuhi from the future had disappeared.
Which means, the Kazuhi in front of me does not remember that future or the accident.
She’s the same age as me…But, is a time leap like this really possible? It’s hard to believe, but after experiencing all these memories, I can’t just put it off as a lie.
And, it would explain a lot.
Mainly, why Kazuhi has been acting unlike herself lately—The fact that she almost cried that day, the fact that she was so desperate to get me and Suzuya together, and the fact that she had such a saddened expression whenever she saw me and Suzuya getting along.
As well as how she was forcing herself this whole time.
If it was all because she came from that future…
“…Sou-chan? Hey, what’s wrong? Are you okay?” Kazuhi realized that something was off about me, as she showed me a worried gaze.
She doesn’t know about that future.
That’s why there was no point in telling her.
I knew that all too well.
“I…I don’t want that.
Such a future…!”
And even though I knew, I couldn’t keep my emotions under control.
Being shown such cold and despairing memories, I can’t sit still.
I can’t allow that future to happen—And right as that thought crossed my mind, the fireworks scattered.
Creating the colors of the rainbow, like a flash ran through—No, these aren’t fireworks.
Something inside of my head is popping.
And then, the world began to spin.
‘Even so, that future will arrive.
It is the misfortune she experienced, and it is her future…as well as yours.’
It made my head hurt.
I couldn’t fully grasp what the voice said, but its content reached me clearly.
‘If you wish to destroy that future…If you truly wish to save her…then what awaits…is a path covered in thorns.
It will not be easy.
It will not be forgiving.’
The voice sounded dull and unclear, like a bubble.
That I might forget it immediately after it disappears.
I couldn’t even grasp its identity.
Whether it was a man, a woman, or even human.
‘Even so…Do you wish to save her?’
“Of course!” I declared.
Reality and hallucination had already begun to mix.
Even Kazuhi, who had stood in front of me not even moments ago, had now turned into a shimmer of hot air.
As my brain was filled with countless exploding fireworks, I screamed toward the void.
“I won’t let that happen.
A future like that can go rot in hell for all I care.
I’ll free her from that fate.
I will not allow Kazuhi to suffer like that…I want to save her!”
‘Understood.’ The voice answered, emotionless as always.
‘Then I will grant you…a chance, too.’
And because it sounded so devoid of humanity, it felt like I was being lied to.
When I opened my eyes, the starry sky, the fireworks, and even Kazuhi were gone.
Instead, the sky was bright blue, with nothing out of the ordinary to mention.
I stood on a road, with the guard rail to my right, protecting me from the street.
“What’s up, Sou? Why’d you suddenly stop like that?”
I stood still in a daze when a voice called out to me.
Standing to my left was a man.
He reminded me of Yousuke, but he didn’t match the one I knew.
“Oh, geez! What are you talking about? Of course I’m me! Who else would I…Wait, did you happen to meet my doppelganger or something?! Because if so, then tell me all about it!”
Yeah, that statement and attitude definitely were the same as the Yousuke I knew.
That’s why a certain possibility popped up in my head.
“Say, Yousuke…What year is it?”
“Huh? What weird question is that?” Yousuke tilted his head in confusion and told me today’s date.
That date was three years into the future from where I had come from.
It was July, three years after the summer festival.
“Seriously, what’s gotten into you? Ah, I know! You probably time leaped to today! If so, leave it to me! What setting would you like? Stumbled into a time machine? Or you developed it yourself? But, are you sure you should be fooling around like this? You’ve got a date with Kazuhi-chan after this, right?”
“You okay? You said you’d watch a movie that Kazuhi-chan was interested in, right? I mean, I’ve got business near there, so I don’t mind tagging along halfway, but I won’t get in the way, don’t you worry! Still, you’re honestly scaring me there, just suddenly stopping and acting all—Wait, Sou?!”
I didn’t even wait for Yousuke to finish before I started running.
I don’t know who or what that voice is, nor do I get what kind of power is at work here.
But the matter of the fact is clear—I traveled three years into the future.
If so, Kazuhi will soon get wrapped up in that accident.
And if I know about it, I can stop it.
I can save her.
I used up all the energy I have in me to rush to where she was waiting.
Thanks to her memories, I know the exact location, too.
Now, it’s just a battle against time.
So please—Make it!!
Crossing my limit, I kept on running.
My breathing steadily grew painful, as my calves began to sting.
My heart was about to explode.
But so what? I’m willing to save her even if I have to sacrifice my legs.
Even if my heart gets crushed in the process.
And with every single step I took, I felt terrified.
Despair started to creep up on me, and the possibility that I won’t reach her in time.
To cast that away, I sped up further.
And then I saw her.
She waited in front of the train station building, right next to a pedestrian crossing.
She was waiting for me.
Hearing my voice, she turned toward me.
She looked a bit more grown-up than I remember.
And as she saw me running up to her, she was confused, tilting her head.
It’s okay if she doesn’t understand it.
She doesn’t have to know about that pain and despair for the rest of her life.
Because I came here to save her.
But then, I saw a child in the corner of my view.
It’s the child that Kazuhi tried to save.
I came here to save her, but that didn’t mean I could just let that poor child die, either.
“Don’t move from there!” I told Kazuhi and then ran toward the pedestrian crossing.
Naturally, I had already seen the truck driving toward the child.
One wrong step, and I’ll end up in Kazuhi’s place.
But even so, I’ve decided.
For that reason, I’m standing right here.
At the very least, I won’t let Kazuhi suffer again.
I ignored the pain in my legs and the screams my heart made, as I dashed toward the child.
I then grabbed them under my arm and slid along the ground to get them out of the truck’s way.
The truck barely avoided me, as it crashed into the window of the station building.
The glass scattered everywhere, and since Kazuhi stood close to it, I was worried it was all for nothing—But when I looked over toward her, she stood still in shock…but alive.
She’s alive, I am alive, and so is the child.
My hands were shaking.
I was utterly terrified.
One wrong step, and someone’s life may have been lost.
I was not allowed any failure.
In fact, my heart was still beating painfully fast, reminding me of my reckless actions.
But, she’s alive.
I really did it.
I managed to successfully use this second chance I was given.
Now that future won’t happen again—!
“Kazuhi! I did it! Now we can—”
I never imagined that changing fate would be easy.
However, in this one moment, I was filled with relief and peace, as well as a feeling of accomplishment and bliss—When I heard the sound of a human being getting crushed.
As if to laugh at my arrogance, assuming that everything was resolved…as if I had gotten pranked live on TV for my ignorance…A steel beam had fallen off from the construction area up on the station building.
Whether or not this was related to the truck’s rampage or not…Doesn’t really matter.
All my mind managed to grasp was the sight of Kazuhi being squashed by this.
Like a lightbulb snapping, my head was filled with darkness, as I was unable to process what I had just witnessed.
And then, I heard that voice again.
‘This is the beginning, Haruoka Sou.
This will be your trial…and a time of testing for the two of you.
To confirm if you are worth saving.
A way out does exist—But as long as this will repeat itself, you will continue to suffer for all eternity.’
The odd voice spoke with an indifferent tone, directly inside my mind.
‘But rest assured.
As long as you wish for it, you will be given the right to challenge fate again.
And you didn’t have much time to work with, either.
So just for you, I shall grant you a restart from this day’s morning.
You can repeat this day as long as you please.
However, there is one condition.’
In front of me, I could still see Kazuhi’s blood gushing forth from beneath the steel beam.
Despite being in such a dreadful mental state that any normal human would simply drown out any noise, I could still hear the voice.
And it continued, mercilessly.
‘Each time you begin a new attempt, your lover’s memories will turn into a blank slate, and she will remember the sadness and pain she experienced after the accident.
And each time the accident triggers, she will regain all the memories she had lost from the previous loops.
Do you understand what that means? Each time you fail, she will accumulate hellish dread and fear memories, which will grow in number equal to the number of attempts you’ve wasted.
Does it sound…cruel to you? Well, being able to just erase the loops you will experience from existence…would be a bit too easy, don’t you think?’
“Why…are you doing this…” I muttered, barely containing enough strength to speak.
Needless to say, I didn’t expect a proper response in return.
However, what came back was less of an answer and more of a riddle that seemed unfitting for the severity of the situation.
‘…Have you ever seen bubbles that never disappear?’
What does that even mean? But despite scoffing at it, I remembered something.
When we were kids, Kazuhi and I would often drink ramune.
Inside the faintly blue, cold but sweet liquid…were foaming bubbles.
She would drink a sip and then smile at me.
Her red face, when she grew flustered, and the sweetness of it all.
And even though I could clearly remember it, none of that was part of the present.
Even the sweetest bubbles will eventually burst and disappear.
Instead, a future drenched in red blood built up in front of me and blocked my advance.
‘Now then, how long can you bear with this trial bestowed upon you?’
The voice declared so—And announced the beginning of hell.
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