Her Memories (2)
There’s always a wall between me and other people.
And in this world, I’m all alone in this world.
After all—I’m not even from this world, to begin with.
I, Suzuya Hotaru, am a witch that has come from a different world.
And in that world I came from, I lost my life at a young age.
The god of that world felt bad for me and allowed me to be reincarnated into a different world.
And as a bonus, I even got to keep my magic.
You could say that I lucked out, but as I was thrown into this situation, I was utterly bewildered.
After all, I wasn’t supposed to be living in this world.
I don’t exist in this world, which made me suffer from a young age.
I always felt like I was all alone in this world.
—And then, one summer day…It was summer break, and yet I have no friends to play with, just going on a walk by myself.
Suddenly, a strong breeze passed me, pulling off the ribbon I used to tie my hair together.
When I ran after it, I spotted two people.
“Hey, take a look at this, Kazuhi! Something’s flying there.”
“Wah, you’re right! It’s a ribbon! And such a beautiful one!”
There was a boy and a girl, probably the same age as me.
“Hey, let’s try chasing after it, Sou-chan!”
“Oi! Keep running and you’ll trip!”
…They seem very close.
Their smiles almost looked dazzling to me.
To me, who’s always alone, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from them.
It was such a wonderful sight, I found myself entranced.
I want to watch them more.
I want to enjoy their smiles.
With that desire filling me, I hid my presence using magic, controlling the ribbon.
I made it so that it wouldn’t fall to the ground, allowing me to watch the two more.
“This is so cool, Sou-chan! It doesn’t fall at all!”
“How long do we have to chase after it, anyway? Didn’t we come here to look for a witch?”
A witch…That word made my heart skip a beat.
Are they…looking for me? Maybe they’d be friends with me if I stopped hiding.
That thought crossed my mind once, but then I remembered that this world had no magic in it, and revealing myself brought plenty of harm with it.
So for that reason, I suppressed my desire to approach them.
However, I chose to keep controlling the ribbon with magic, guiding them to a place that should allow me to see even more of their smiles.
It was a sunflower field that acted like a huge area of radiating yellow and gold colors.
It’s one of my favorite places, too.
Arriving there, the two reacted exactly as I expected…No, even more so, they smiled like the bright sun.
It was such a wonderful sight, I could stare at them for hours.
At that time, I could only watch over them.
I couldn’t even call out to them.
If we…if we ever got to meet again, then…I’d love to be friends with them.
That was the thought that crossed my mind—
And then, the day of our reunion happened.
They happened to attend the same school I enrolled at.
That being said, I didn’t realize it at first.
We were in different classes, and my memories of their faces were awfully hazy.
Explicitly so, because I only saw them once years and years ago.
The reason I realized it is when the entire school was suddenly filled with white smoke.
The person who caused this was a so-called Kusama-kun from a neighboring class.
“This was necessary to summon the strongest spirit! And if I have that, I could even rule the whole world!”
Captured by the teacher, Kusama-kun was lectured in the hallway.
And yet, he showed no repentance.
Instead, his eyes were still sparkling.
Seeing that his lecture was futile, the teacher sighed and asked Kusama-kun.
“What problem do you have with the world, huh? Or are you just enjoying causing a ruckus like this?”
“What?! I just like occult stuff! And this ritual was necessary…I didn’t mean to trouble anybody else…”
As this conversation unfolded…
“Sensei, it’s fine to scold him as much as you like, but he’s just an idiot, not a bad person…A bit too much of an idiot, but that’s beside the point.”
…a single boy joined them.
“Souuu! Are you taking my side?! As expected of my best friend!”
“Shut up, you moron! Also, do something about this smoke already! All of it, I swear!”
Even though he called him a moron, he showed no intention of genuinely insulting Kusama-kun.
I knew he was saying it as a joke.
Seeing this frank friendship made me feel jealous…and I realized how wonderful of a person he is.
But, he also seemed so…familiar.
And right as I felt that way, I could hear a girl’s voice.
“Sou-chan, let me help, too!”
My heart jumped with joy.
I see…That boy…was the same as back then.
The boy I secretly admired turned out to be the boy I had seen in the past.
My heart raced at this destined meeting, and my chest turned hot.
But…what are the chances? Is this what they call a cheat? Is this a hidden skill I obtained when I was reincarnated? Oh no, I really want to talk to him.
But, he might think of me as weird when I just randomly approach him.
After thinking about it, I couldn’t muster up the courage.
But shortly after that, I wanted to try out a certain sweets store near the school, where I happened to spot them again.
I realized that this was as best of a chance I would ever get and approached them…But to be honest, I was incredibly nervous on the inside.
Worried they’d be weirded out because I suddenly talked to them…or that I knew their names.
And yet, the two of them showed no bothered reaction whatsoever and talked to me like it was nothing.
It didn’t last for long…but I was incredibly happy.
However, that didn’t last long.
Seeing their exchange and getting all flustered over an indirect kiss, I was so fulfilled, but I also couldn’t bring myself to get between them, so I chose to watch them from afar.
Or…so I thought.
“What are you doing here?”
Time passed, and I was now a third-year student.
I was on the rooftop, eating lunch while sitting on a plastic chair when he…Haruoka-kun saw me.
“…I was just eating lunch.
What brings you up here? I thought the rooftop was supposed to be off-limits?”
“The magic necklace Yousuke bought online got stolen by a crow.
I borrowed the key from the teachers to go up here and look for it…What about you? Should you really be eating lunch in a place that was off-limits?”
“I used my father’s connections to get the key.
By the way, are you talking about the crow over there?” I pointed at a crow sitting on the rooftop fence, chewing on a brightly sparkling necklace.
“Oh! Thanks a bunch for pointing me there.
I knew you’d fly up here…But, I’m worried it’ll just fly away when I get closer.”
Without saying a word, I caused a strong breeze with magic, to which the crow was forced to let go of the necklace, carrying it over toward Haruoka-kun, who caught it with his hands.
“What a convenient gust of wind that was.
There you go.”
Haruoka-kun seemed slightly bewildered.
Maybe he was a bit dubious, but there’s no way he’d assume I could use magic.
And even though he should have nothing else to do up on the rooftop, he continued to stand still, just looking at me.
“…Do you like being alone, Suzuya?”
“…It’s not my preference or anything.”
Rather, I have to be alone.
Because I’m an irregularity in this world.
And yet, Haruoka-kun surpassed my assumptions yet again.
“Right…Err, we’re gonna eat lunch after this, so if you’re okay with it, wanna join us?”
It’s almost like he had seen right through my facade, spying directly on my loneliness.
And he was still awkward while doing so, scratching his cheek.
“Also, it’s not just boys.
My childhood friend Amagase Kazuhi’s gonna be there, too.
She’s really kind and a good person, and she even…”
From then on, Haruoka-kun began listing everything good about this Amagase-san.
Not to mention without being aware of it, I presume.
I didn’t expect him to keep talking about a single girl while having another one right in front of him.
He most likely doesn’t realize it yet, but he definitely loves his childhood friend.
When this realization struck me, I struggled to not start grinning.
I had decided to not get between them, but the charming idea of eating lunch with others was too alluring to me…Eating with friends was something I had always admired.
In the heat of the moment, I accepted his invitation, when Haruoka-kun called Amagase-san and Kusama-kun up to the rooftop, and then we ate lunch together.
“…What is that dish you’re eating there, Haruoka-kun? It looks delicious?”
“Ah, want a bite? They sell these in the shopping district, actually.
The croquettes there are just divine.”
He split one of those croquettes in half, placing it on my lunch.
I stared at it for a moment, while Haruoka-kun and Kusama-kun were talking.
“It’s rare to see you with a lunch box, Sou!”
“Yeah, Mom got some croquettes for the food she made for the butcher.”
I gulped and carried the piece of croquette into my mouth.
The potato became undone inside my mouth, as a distinct taste pleased my tastebuds.
I could tell I was getting addicted to it.
But even more than that…Eating lunch with others like this surely assisted in making the food even tastier.
“Haha, look at Suzuya gulping it down at record speed!”
“Seems like she’s taken a liking to the croquettes!”
From that day onward, Haruoka-kun would regularly come to seek me out when I was alone.
Thanks to that, I managed to find a circle of friends.
I was incredibly happy.
They were the first friends I had since I was reborn into this world.
I loved them all very much.
And I even attended the same university as them.
We got along then, too, and I just wished for this happy time to continue.
—However, it all came crashing down when Amagase-san was involved in a traffic accident.
At first, I couldn’t believe it.
But, when I came to visit her in her hospital room, I had to accept it.
She was bedridden, not waking up no matter what.
I wished to save her.
That desire started to fill my chest.
And the first thing that came to my mind…was my ability to use magic.
However, using the life of another human being was mostly forbidden territory.
In fact, if magic could decide between letting a person live or letting them die, it would throw off the balance of the natural world, which could cause massive problems.
That is why this magic to save a person’s life had strict conditions.
It required compensation and involved complicated steps to fulfill.
If not for that, it wouldn’t activate.
All things have a procedure with rules attached to them.
And the condition that needed to be fulfilled was—
“Only those who wish to be saved… Those who struggle and never give up can be saved.
And for that, they need to express their determination and will.”
It’s not convenient magic that allows the saving of just anybody.
And I can’t just save people as I see fit.
In order for me to rescue these two in their time of need, I bestow them with a strict trial, overcome it, and obtain the determination to not give up…But, can I really destroy the laws of this world just to save a single person I grew attached to? Maybe modern medicine will advance so that she can be saved without me intervening.
And even assuming I were to rely on my power…If they can’t overcome the trial, they can’t be saved.
In that event, this trial would simply become a living hell.
And for that reason, I hesitated.
I thought about it day after day, worried about crossing the line.
In the end, I chose against taking the risk and opted to watch how things unfolded.
However…when I saw Haruoka-kun put that ring on Amagase-san’s finger, I reached my limit.
I wanted to save them.
I wanted them to be saved.
And that’s why I sent her back to the past.
…At that time, she simply wished for Haruoka-kun to be happy, as she had given up on her own life.
However, in order for the magic to activate, the person to be saved can’t give up, either.
No matter how the people close to her wish for it, she has to show her own determination, or it will all be for naught.
That’s why…I wanted her to reconsider her thought process.
Think about her desire to give up her own life just to make Haruoka-kun happy.
However, she chose to push me and Haruoka-kun together.
So since that didn’t work, I wanted to confirm his feelings.
How he felt about saving her.
And, he immediately chose to save her no matter what.
With that, the trial I bestowed upon them…the loops began to circulate.
Will they stay strong despite the despair and terror that befall them? Will he be able to withstand the invitation I will give him…filled with sweet poison?
—It was a test to see if he was a human worthy…of creating a miracle.
“…This is the story from my side of things.
Now you know everything, Haruoka-kun.”
When I regained consciousness, I stood inside the sunflower field.
It was the place I still remembered the most profoundly from my childhood.
But, I immediately realized that this wasn’t real.
The sunflowers glowed with translucent light, and the air around us was covered in a sparkling fog.
It resembled reality but wasn’t quite it…like we were in a place located outside the world plane.
A location between dream and reality.
She must have created this using her power.
She—the owner of the voice, and the person who just revealed her memories to me—Suzuya Hotaru.
“…I forced you through hell countless times.
I did something incredibly cruel to you.
I want to make the excuse that it was for the sake of my magic, but…I don’t expect you to forgive me…”
“W-Wait, hold on.
You did it for our sake, right? And now…Kazuhi can be saved, right?”
“That…is true, yes.
Because you overcame the trial I prepared, my magic activated.
Fate has changed, and Amagase-san will not experience another tragedy like that.
Of course, the child she saved is not injured, either.
But…even so…what I’ve done is…”
Are you sure?! Kazuhi will be okay?!”
That I can promise you.”
“Then…Then, I’m thankful to you, Suzuya.
Thank you so much for saving Kazuhi.”
Suzuya’s eyes shot open.
Almost like she wasn’t expecting me to thank her.
Like she was prepared to be resented.
“…No, the one who saved Amagase-san is you.
It’s because you didn’t give up until the very end.
“…I should be the one to thank you.
Amagase-san is an important friend of mine.
The accidents and happenings in the loop were caused by my magic because it was a trial.
However, the very first accident that caused all this…truly was just destiny at work.
Normally…she probably never would have woken up again.
But because your desire to save her got through to her, I managed to lend you my strength.
I wouldn’t have been able to save her myself.
That’s why…this is thanks to you, Haruoka-kun.” She looked at me with dampened eyes.
It made me feel restless, so I scratched my cheek and looked away.
“W-Well, it feels like…an honor to hear you say that? But in fact, I still haven’t fully swallowed the fact that all this is magic, or that you’re a witch.”
A different world…and the power of magic.
This power allowed us to travel back in time and redo these loops.
Thinking back on it, when I happened to shoot that Mon-chan at the summer festival, she must have used her magic to make sure it fell over.
It’s hard to believe, but I have no ground to doubt her.
“Yes…I should probably explain this a bit.
While Amagase-san was traveling back in time, the memories of Amagase-san in university have been overwritten, so the normal Amagase-san doesn’t have any memories of that time.
While you were traveling in time, experiencing those loops, it’s more accurate to say that I created a phantasmal world, into which I locked you.
That is why you will keep your memories of this, Haruoka-kun…” She said as a shadow fell over her face.
“That trial…must have been like hell for you, right?” She tried to remain calm, but her voice was evidently shaking.
It became painfully evident that, although it was necessary to save us, she truly didn’t wish for us to go through such a hell.
“But…your existence really helped me out a lot through our loops.
You always supported me.”
I wanted to lift the guilt inside of her as much as possible, so I said so.
It wasn’t a complete lie.
After all, as I continue to lose myself in despair, she was always there.
“Well, I now realize that it was all acting for the sake of the trial, but I have to say, you played that way too good.
You had me shaken once or twice,” I said in the tone of a light-hearted joke.
Because I can smile like this, I don’t want her to feel any more guilt.
“…Yes, it was necessary for the trail and of utmost importance to activate my magic, which is why I set up sweet whispers along the way.
However…this is also what I think.”
“What…do you mean?”
“The only people who could be saved by my magic were those who would not give up no matter the adversity.
However, how could I blame the people who had resigned themselves? What right do I have?”
“Possessing a heart that will not break no matter what the person has to face in the trial…definitely is a happy end.
However, someone giving in to all the trauma and choosing a different path…I don’t want to call that a bad ending.”
I remembered the time we talked about movies.
Could you call it a happy end if the person who lost their loved one managed to become happy with someone else? Personally, I don’t think it’s the wrong path, either.
Running away, giving up…even right or wrong, none of that exists.
It’s just one path among the myriad choices given to you.
Choosing someone else could definitely lead to happiness in the end.
However…it wasn’t the future I had chosen.
This is…the second life she is going through.
She lost her life in another world, now being a lonely existence in ours.
She must have experienced so many things I couldn’t even pretend to fathom.
That’s why she can say these things.
“But…it’s weird to hear me talk about humans, isn’t it?”
“Why? It’s not weird at all.
Whatever you may be, you are Suzuya.”
She blinked at me once, but…somehow looked like she expected me to say that, as she smiled.
I didn’t know if I was allowed to call myself a human up to this point.
Because…I’m different from the people in this world.
There were times when I was scared and lonely, too.
The reason I wasn’t able to make any friends…may have been that I built a wall between myself and the people around me.
But…” She spoke with a refreshed face, like a gentle breeze passing through the summer sky.
“Even so, I will become a normal human now.”
“You will become…a normal human?”
“As compensation for using the magic to save a life…I’ll become unable to use magic.”
“?!” I was baffled, unable to respond.
She said it so nonchalantly, but it felt like a huge revelation.
“Wh-Why…Is the trial we went through not enough?”
“The trial is a trial, but the compensation is a different matter.
Just as the person who wishes to be saved must show determination, the side casting the magic has to agree to the consequences…That’s how special this magic is…and it’s ranging very close to the forbidden territory.”
“So…isn’t that a massive compensation you had to pay…?”
“All the power I had up to this point…I’ll lose, yes.
In fact, I’m worried.
But even so…” Her expression showed no regret, not a single shadow on her face any longer.
“I wanted to save you two.
Whatever the compensation may be…it’s the path I have chosen.” She gently smiled…but it began to break.
“But…Haruoka-kun…I really…worked hard so far…”
Her hand grabbed my sleeve.
It was quivering, like a lost child hoping for guidance.
“Can I…cry now?”
These words allowed me to filter out all—Well, at least some of the emotions bottled up inside of her.
As if the dam broke, she began weeping.
“…I…I was scared.
I was terrified with each new loop you started.
That your heart may have been broken now.
What I would do if I failed to save both of you.
That one small mistake on my end…could lead to you two experiencing an endless hell.
I grew doubtful if I could really make you two happy.
But…I really love both of you…so I tried hard.
I tried really hard, even though it hurt so much…”
“B-But…I made you go…through so much…”
You tried to save us.
I didn’t even know what was going on…just resenting whoever created these loops…But, I’m sorry.
You weren’t doing anything wrong.”
“That’s right…I just…tried to save you…But, seeing you both wish for each other’s happiness…I felt so jealous…And even so, I love you two so much…that I’m…just so glad…!”
Right now, I’m in high school, and she’s in university.
And yet, she kept on weeping like a child, I didn’t know what to do.
In the end, I just gently caressed her head.
She then continued to weep inside my chest.
Suzuya, when the loops began, you asked me something, right?
—…Have you ever seen bubbles that never disappear?
And as you said, there aren’t any bubbles that will stay forever.
However…humans aren’t bubbles.
That’s why we won’t just disappear.
But…how much time has passed like this? This atmosphere felt foreign, unlike reality, and since the air around us was constantly frozen, it simply felt like time had stopped.
Finally, she seemed to have let out everything that was bottled up inside of her.
She raised her head and wiped her tears away.
At the same time, I could feel this space shake.
It seems like our conversation here will soon come to an end.
She must be losing her power.
Turning from a witch into a regular human…No, not quite.
The person in front of me…crying for the sake of her friends…was just a kind-hearted girl you could find anywhere.
“…Haruoka-kun, I have one last request.
The one who forced you through these loops…is the future me.
The me who’s still in high school…surely doesn’t remember about any of this.”
“And even so…she truly loves the two of you.”
“That’s why…I’d be happy if you were willing to be friends with me again.”
“What are you talking about?”
This space was nearing its end.
The university self of Suzuya and my high school self would have to say farewell soon.
We’ll return to our respective times.
I instinctively understood that.
The loops, the time leaping, it was all over.
I have to return to my real place.
That’s why…in this final moment, I raised my thumb and grinned.
It was a cheesy and outdated line, but it should be just fine for a happy ending like this, don’t you think?
“We don’t have to be friends again.
We’re already the best friends ever, Suzuya!”
She experienced a tragedy.
Losing her life in a different world.
And while containing her power, she was reborn into this world.
This is…the conclusion to her story.
Because of me…Because she wanted to save us, she sacrificed her powers.
She lost everything.
And yet—she looked so happy.
When I came to my senses, I was lying in my room’s bed.
I immediately checked the date on my smartphone…then again, the phone next to me was the one I had used back in high school, so I immediately knew.
I returned to my time—to when I was a first-year in high school.
The date matched the one of that summer festival, but it was late at night.
According to what my parents said, I apparently passed out in that park, and Kazuhi contacted my parents so Dad could carry me up to my room.
They were very close to calling an ambulance because they were so worried, but I just said that ‘I couldn’t deal with the crowd too well.’
In reality, I wanted to dash out of the house in order to see Kazuhi right this instant, but my body felt heavy and wouldn’t move as I ordered it to.
It must be the aftermath of all that magic talk.
Not until too long ago, my consciousness wasn’t even inside my body, after all.
That’s why I quickly fell asleep that night.
Once morning came around, my exhaustion had mostly disappeared, as I could move my body just fine.
It still hurt a lot, but there was something more important.
I changed into my uniform and stepped out of the house.
The bright summer sky greeted me, and then—Kazuhi stood in front of my home.
It’s the Kazuhi I knew very well.
Back from high school.
She looked at me and called my name.
But even just that…made me incredibly happy, and emotional.
“Sou-chan, you know…I don’t remember a thing about yesterday, so I’m still a bit confused, but…seeing your face right now…I think I understand.
You must have worked really hard…for something, right? It really feels like the fact that we can talk like this…is nothing short of a miracle.”
Now that the time leap had ended, Kazuhi now didn’t have any memories of Kazuhi in the future.
But even so, her gaze was gentle, like I was wrapped in the warm sunlight.
And then, tears came running down her cheeks.
I’ve seen it many times now, but…right now, she may be crying…and she was still smiling.
Smiling out of happiness.
“H-Huh? Why am I crying? Weird…S-Sorry, my tears just won’t stop.
But…I’m not crying out of sadness or anything!”
“…Yeah, I know.”
I feel the same way.
I couldn’t stop crying, either.
Our tears slowly began to turn the ground wet beneath our feet.
But, none of that mattered.
I won’t look down.
Because otherwise, I won’t be able to look at the girl I love in front of me.
I can’t look away from the result I finally achieved.
All the happiness and joy turned my head blank.
“I…I’m so happy…Being able to bet with you…I’m so incredibly…happy…”
Me too, Kazuhi.”
Unable to contain myself, I tightly embraced Kazuhi.
I felt no shame at all.
Instead, I wanted to show her I would never let go again.
“W-Waaaaaah! S-Sou-chan…I’m really…so happy…”
I’ve wanted to do this for the longest time.
I wanted to be like this forever.
And from now on, that’s possible.
“I’m so happy to have you with me, Kazuhi.”
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