I, Who Still Had 1.8 Billion Seconds To Live, Made A Promise With The Shinigami - Part 2
Aiba Sumire was flipping through flashcards with a blank expression on her face.
Clank! The door opened with a pneumatic sound. Without taking her eyes off her hands, Aiba stepped into the car as if she were drawn into it. Her long black hair, which swayed in a fluffy manner, looked great against her white uniform, and her well-groomed ends soon disappeared from my view.
Piropiropiro! I heard a siren that sounded as if it was rushing me, and I rushed into the train. Aiba was sitting in a corner seat at the far end of the train car, silently reading her flashcards. I wondered how this girl was still going about her business as usual in this situation.
“Mind if I sit next to you?”
When I sat down next to her, Aiba blinked a bit in surprise but quickly returned to her normal face with lowered eyelashes and called my last name emotionlessly.
“Today is Tuesday.”
“What about it, I didn’t promise that I wouldn’t show up at other times.”
Her slender profile was as beautiful as a painting. If her high school had been co-ed, she would have been very popular. Many boys would have called her to the back of the school building, and she would have dismissed all of them as a waste of time and ignored them.
The scenery through the window began to move with a clatter, and the passing trains hid the scenery from view. The trains were five minutes apart on the way to and several months apart on the way back. It’s a serious line to death here.
“I can’t believe Aiba missed the stop. Maybe it’ll snow tomorrow.”
“…I didn’t miss the train. The train just didn’t stop at Higashi-Yuzuriha.”
Judging from the angle of her lips, it seemed that in Aiba’s mind, the discomfort of being forcibly brought into an unknown place and wasting her time prevailed over the fear of an unreal event.
“But isn’t it a rare chance to actually witness an urban legend? No, you probably don’t know about it, do you, Aiba? That station is simply put, a station where the dead gather―hey, are you listening?”
“I don’t, but what’s done is done. There’s no point in knowing.”
Aiba’s eyes were glued to the flashcards as she gave a curt reply. I glanced at the card and saw that it contained difficult English words that no one in my high school, including the teachers, would probably know.
“Aiba must have gotten that ticket as well.”
The girl next to me nodded her head with a minimal movement that only I could discern. It is futile to expect normal communication from Aiba. I feel like a father trying his best to talk to his rebellious daughter.
I must be quite a sucker for this kind of thing, I think. For the past year or so, I’ve been waiting to meet this cute little friend of mine every Wednesday, even going out of my way to see her off two trains at the third door of the fifth car of the 16:00 down train at Higashi Yuzuriha Station, a common transfer station.
“Aiba, how did you feel when you saw the life expectancy from your ticket and knew when you were going to die?”
“…nothing. Nothing would change anyway.”
“Rarely do I agree, even if they tell me now that I’m going to die at 75, I’m not going to feel it, it’s too early to start doing unfinished business, and after all, I’ll have to take exams and get a job. Nothing will change, right?”
I shifted my hips and clasped my hands together at the back of my head. The air feels mind-numbingly thin here, so I look up and inhale. Aiba takes one look at me and sighs in disgust.
“I didn’t mean it that way.”
“Then what do you actually mean?”
Aiba didn’t answer. Was she just thinking, or just ignoring me? I observed her for a little while then stared at the blank interior of the car without a single hanging advertisement in sight, but after less than five seconds, I was bored again. Outside the window, two power lines crossing the still-sunny sepia cross each other for a moment, then quickly separate.
“…Well, no matter when you die, it doesn’t change what Aiba has to do, does it? Just move on with your life with the highest efficiency, right?”
For a long time, Sumire Aiba was the kind of person who would clear an RPG in the shortest route with a strategy book in hand.
Now, she plays life like a game, lives with only the bare necessities, jogs every morning to strengthen her endurance and stamina, and only takes essential actions. Her lifestyle is much more terrifying than urban legends.
I, on the other hand, have no hobbies, club activities, friends, or lovers to devote any passion to. In my spare time, I read manga on my smartphone, play social games, lie down and do nothing, and spend three minutes studying after spending more time pondering whether or not to do it. Once in a while, I start cleaning my room, and three minutes after that I reread my favorite manga again. There are not many students who waste as much time as I do.
“I love waste and Aiba loves efficiency. If we hadn’t been childhood friends, our lives would never have crossed paths.”
“That’s not true.”
Aiba’s unusually straight answer made me think. Oh, I see, Aiba likes my relationship with me more than I thought. I sniffled happily, and Aiba continued.
“I don’t like efficiency, I just don’t like waste.”
“Hey, you’re contradicting yourself. No, well, let me think… You say you don’t like wasting time, so the time you have spent with me isn’t a waste. Is that it?”
Aiba was stuck for an answer and clutched her flashcards tightly in one hand. The train was still moving forward, cutting through the scent of death. Once again, Aiba muttered, “That’s,” as if in a whisper.
“That’s because it’s a relief to see Warabi wasting his time.”
“Don’t just look down and feel superior over me.”
“It is precisely Warabi who said so. The time you spent with me was boring and a waste, wasn’t it?”
Why past tense? I thought, but I answered flatly, “Oh, it’s useless.”
“Because Aiba does not have many reactions, doesn’t respond properly, and is bitter when I speak. It’s pointless, which, for me, well, could paradoxically mean it’s fun.”
“I see. Well, then good for you.”
“You know, Aiba. I said some pretty crazy things. You should be a little more skeptical.”
Aiba leaned forward, letting out a “hmm” and turned her eyes upward, resting both her elbows on her knees.
“That would be a waste of time to doubt what Warabi says, wouldn’t it?”
Oh, Aiba Sumire is too unfair. She usually looks like she doesn’t care about anything in the world, but sometimes she catches me by surprise with her pure and cute eyes resembling a child and doesn’t let me go.
“Right. Well, I’m certainly not good at lying. It annoys me that you can see right through me.”
The handgrip was swaying in the same motion as if to indicate that she was looking away from the train. The angle of Aiba’s lips curled a little bit as she started to roll up her flashcards again.
“…But that’s not the case now, I have just lied.”
It wasn’t that I wanted to outwit Aiba, but when I muttered something that came to mind, her body leaned toward me just a little. What, are you curious?
“I know I agreed that if I was going to die, it wouldn’t change anything, but I was kind of scared. It’s not that I’m afraid of dying. It’s just that when I thought I might die soon, the thoughts that came to mind were vague.”
No matter how much I say I love waste, when faced with potential death, my thoughts turned to serialized comic books, the election I wanted to experience at least once, or the college I was thinking about getting into. I wondered if I had all the experiences I wanted, or if I even accomplished anything in the end.
A forest of chimneys pecked at the fading sky in an irregular rhythm. The dull smoke that crawled out fell down the surface of the tubes and covered the ground.
“It’s more like, you know, there’s more to life than just that.”
“More to it?”
Because if I was diligent in my club activities, I wouldn’t want to die until a competition or a school festival. If I were a student, I would at least want to wait until my efforts were rewarded. If I were a novelist, I wouldn’t want to die until I had written my best work. If I were a biologist, I wouldn’t want to die until I had discovered at least the first form of Muyomovapecari.
So there’s something I’m inexplicably missing.
“It’s…well, hard to put into words, but something like a theme for your life.”
Aiba’s eyes were set elsewhere. She was weighing whether my words had meaning or not.
“You know, that thing, the thing you cherish the most. The first thing that comes to mind when you are about to die, and the thing that you really want to accomplish in your life. For example, if my life were a story, it would be a theme, a way of life, or something like that.”
Well, I was still a minor, and I was sure I’d experience many things in the future, and I had unlimited possibilities. So I was optimistic that I would find something in time.
But at the same time, I feel depressed. When I see someone my age doing well on TV, on the internet, in sports, or when someone from my school wins an award. Next to the “wow” factor, I feel a unique kind of stress that can’t be easily put into words.
This feeling then suffocates me.
“…Nevermind, forget it. That didn’t sound like it came out of someone like me.”
There was nothing else to do, I guess I was going to study for once in a long time. I took out flashcards from the inside pocket of my bag. The next time Aiba asks me the same question, I want to be able to say that my time with Aiba was not a waste. I’ll tell her that my grades improved because of the flashcards she gave me.
“So you actually do use it.”
“…Yeah, from time to time.”
There are about ten more sets at home. Last Wednesday, Aiba suddenly gave them to me as a birthday present, saying that she had some time to make extra and that it was an early present. I had never expected to get something from Aiba for my birthday. Even though it didn’t seem like a present, I hurriedly did some research and just today, bought something in return. Said birthday present for Aiba was sitting in my bag right now.
“Hey Aiba, tomorrow―”
It was sudden.
Thump. The train slowed down, as if it had hit something, the car began swaying wildly. An announcement played. Soon―■■■ station. ■■■ station. ■■■ station is next. Hey isn’t this weird? I thought, and gradually, my consciousness faded away.