I, Who Still Had 1.8 Billion Seconds To Live, Made A Promise With The Shinigami - Part 3
―Aiba Sumire and I were born on the same day.
The same hospital where we had our umbilical cord cut, the same park where we frequently went to, and the same pre-school we went to were all in the same neighborhood. As neighbors within a five-minute walk of each other, it was only natural that we would play together often.
Aiba often teased me and laughed at me, she would yell at the bullies with a fearless smile, she would show me how efficient she was at what she does best, and she always smiled at me. We were childhood friends with a strange bond, and I thought that we would hang out together forever.
But that was a complete illusion. As soon as Aiba, who had always been a studious student, passed the entrance exam for a difficult school and entered a different middle school, our relationship quickly started falling apart.
Our commuting time and route to school changed, and our environment changed. Our distance naturally grew apart. Not even the slightest coincidence, like bumping into each other on the street, happened. We kept in touch from time to time, but eventually she stopped returning my calls, and I, somehow, didn’t mind it.
Relationships were like that. They could easily be broken and may never be rebuilt. They could become strangers, like people who just happen to be on the same car of the same train.
And yet, last year, on my 17th birthday, we met again.
On the third door of the fifth car of the south train at Higashi Yuzuriha Station, our lives, which should have never intertwined again, intersected. I was on my way home from buying a birthday cake for myself, and Aiba’s cram school was canceled, so coincidence finally fell upon us for the first time.
Our first encounter in five years. My height had overtaken Aiba and I didn’t know how to act around her anymore. I didn’t know what to say, and we were almost in complete silence as we arrived at the nearest station to our home. The train shook so much that I had to place my hand on an advertisement of a new game on the wall to maintain my balance, and then, I finally found a conversation starter.
―Ah, it’s this. I didn’t know there was a sequel. Didn’t you like this one, Aiba? Did you buy it already?
Aiba simply denied it with a mumble. I thought she just didn’t know how to act around me after so many years, but turns out she just didn’t have any interest in me.
―So you have grown out of your video games days. Man, you used to say you wanted to join a game company, and that’s why you studied so hard toward that goal.
But when I heard her reply, I couldn’t believe my ears. She said, “Playing games is pointless, it’s a waste of time.” It’s true that Aiba has always hated waste and has always been passionate about cutting down on it. Nevertheless, going against what she used to love was weird to me.
―So does Aiba have a new goal in mind?
When I asked this question, I didn’t expect myself to be scared of her answers. Her answers were the following: “Get into a good college,” “Get into a good company,” “Get ahead in life,” and “Make money.” Essentially, to use time efficiently and make her life better. However, Aiba’s happiness did not seem to lie in those goals. Having lost the things she loved in the pursuit of efficiency, Aiba no longer smiled, not even for a bit.
From then on, I became so concerned about Aiba that I always looked for her on my way home from school. The third door of the fifth car, the shortest distance to travel from the transfer to leaving the nearest station. The only time I could find her was on the 16:00 train on Wednesdays. That’s how Aiba and I became friends again, going home together once a week for just a few stops. I really wanted to bring back Aiba’s smile, so I tried my best to talk about what she liked in the past. Scary stories. Rice omelets with too much ketchup. Ice cream on the way home from the public swimming pool. Astronomical observation. One by one, I checked them off the checklist. All of them had already been wiped clean from her mind.
―Higashi Yuzuriha Station―Higashi Yuzuriha Station―Line will transfer you to platform 3.
I noticed that Aiba Simure was not next to me. Or rather, my seat position had changed. Before I knew it, the number of passengers had increased. I sorted out the situation in my foggy head and realized that this was not the train returning from that station. In other words…
“Wow. I guess…it was quite a wild dream.”
It was a very realistic dream. I stretched and looked up at the sky, stretching. The sunset was beautiful, and the sepia colors were nowhere to be found. The men and women of all ages passing by were still absorbed in the light, and in the developed city below me, there were large commercial facilities, convenience stores, and supermarkets, and the station staff were working hard with sweat on their foreheads.
When I get home, I’ll study properly for once. To maintain my sudden resolve, I drowsily got a cup of coffee from the vending machine. When I took out my phone to pay for it, I was stunned. Something else had fallen out with it.
I bent down and reached out my hand ― there was a ticket. Printed on it was a series of numbers: 1,802,394,015. Oh, I recognize that number. I thought. It’s a little less now, but that’s my lifespan.
The air I suddenly inhaled was so thin that I felt as if my soul was still being suffocated by that train.
“It wasn’t…a dream? No way, that train was just a dream. And Aiba isn’t here either.”
But the ticket was certainly being held in my hands. My lifespan is indeed 1.8 billion seconds, so, what about Aiba?
Immediately, my heart started pounding. My throat became hot and my forehead became cold. I could smell the scent of death. It was the same feeling I had when that candle was in front of my eyes. But this premonition I am feeling now is not about my death, which was still an unrealistically large fifty seven years in the future.
I asked myself. Hey, when do you think Sumire Aiba’s life span is? Yet, I couldn’t come up with an answer. Instead, several more questions come to mind. Why did Aiba know her lifespan and say “nothing would change anyway”? Why did Aiba use the past tense? Why did she give me a birthday present last week instead of tomorrow? How did Aiba have an extra set of flashcards? Why was Aiba at that station?
What if, all was predetermined?
This is just a hypothetical thought. What if Aiba had intended to die from the beginning? If she had resigned herself to death with a her will, it would not be surprising if she wandered into that station.
It was a silly delusion. A baseless assumption. I was already running, telling myself that. Leaving my canned coffee behind. I ignored the onlookers, ran up the stairs, and then ran down to the platform on the other side. My goal was the third door of the fifth car. It was Tuesday and 4:00 p.m. had already passed, but I knew she would be there.
Aiba, Aiba, Aiba―!
I kept calling her name inside my head and my feet kept moving. The moment I spotted a figure in white uniform waiting for the train at the front of the line, my legs accelerated even more.
What were Aiba’s eyes looking at? Her eyes seemed to gaze into the distance yet did not see anything. Every Wednesday, Aiba always waited for the train with such eyes. Maybe I just wasn’t aware of it, but she probably had that look on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and even Saturdays and Sundays.
A train arrived. It came toward the station directly, on time, running along the rails at a predetermined speed. I reached out my hand at the same time and grabbed Aiba’s cold hand. I pull her closer away from the train with a force stronger than death itself.
“Don’t die, Aiba!”
The first car passed in front of us. Delayed, the wind blew and the sound then rang in my ears.
Aiba, who had lost her balance and was held by me, stared at me intently. Even Aiba, who usually wore a poker face, showed surprise in her eyes. At this time, my heart was beating rapidly.
“Warabi, why. Today’s Tuesday.”
“I never promised it would always be Wednesday. Well, I guess this is the second time I’ve said this.”
“…So it wasn’t a dream.”
“I don’t know if it was a dream or not, but I was with Aiba on that train. So when I thought about Aiba’s unnatural behavior and the fact that you were at that station in the first place, I was worried about you and I didn’t want you to die.”
Aiba lightly pushed me saying, “Warabi’s way of thinking is inefficient.” She then proceeded to shake her hand that was being held wondering what was going on, but it turned out that I had been holding on to Aiba for a long time. I let go in a hurry, and all that was left on Aiba’s left arm was a simple, small wristwatch.
“I wouldn’t just simply jump off here and die.”
Yeah, she’s right. If she did plan to do that, she would go to the tenth car. I continued while my heart was still rapidly beating.
“I’m sorry, I went off on my own and startled you for nothing, but I really thought you were going to kill yourself.”
Aiba did not change her expression and muttered “Not yet…”
“…Because I will die tonight.”