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Utsuru no Hako to Zero no Maria

Volume 2
Mikage, Eiji
Illustrated by: 415 alias Tetsuo
Tetsuo
I was inside a scenery I can only remember in my dreams.

I knew already who the person I was facing was. But since I haven't accepted the 'box',
I cannot recall this scenery deliberately except in my dreams. I don't know when we had
this conversation, either.

"Do you remember what I told you previously? About the matter that for some reason I
can distinguish you, although your kind doesn't have individualities."

I don't know. I have a hunch that I heard about it while also having a hunch that I
haven't.

"With the events recently, I began to recognize the reason for this. Why can I
distinguish you? The reason for this. This might be because, while rejecting nothing,
you don't accept anything."

This sounded like nothing more than a word play to me.

"In the first place; the 『everyday life』


』 you mention all the time is different from the
『everyday life』』 that is perceived by the other people. You also include not minding to
lose something in your perception of 『 everyday life』 』 , don't you? This is, in fact,
different from the perception of 『everyday life』
』 of the others. The other humans are
unable to take it as it comes."

He said this with a smile.

"Every single human is distorted. And their 『everyday life』 』 gets distorted according to
their values. You could say that the 'box' forces this distortion upon others. You are
sensitive to these intentional distortions of the 『everyday life』
』 by the 'box' of others -
and you find them repulsive. Am I wrong?"

I really have not the slightest idea what he's talking about. Let me be already.

"This time your body was attacked directly. And even so, you didn't let yourself be put
off by the values of the 'owner', and kept retaining yourself. That is because you
automatically recognize the distortions by others as distortions. And it's only natural
that you can't accept it, as soon you know it's distorted. But you know? The fact that
you can find those distortions separates you from the ordinary people.
Therefore――you cannot accept anything."

I couldn't help but to frown, but he continued insistently.


"Seen from me, your field of vision is terribly small. But still you have those abilities.
Aah, I see. You might――resemble me, I suppose."

Please stop.

I considered him to be disgusting.

When I said so to him, he laughed and changed his shapeable appearance to someone
familiar.

'0' who looked like no one else but me, Kazuki Hoshino in person, spoke.

"May I interpret this as dislike for the same kind?"

That's not it!

We don't resemble at all, do we?


April 29

April 29 (Wednesday) 00:02

The first day begins.

April 29 (Wednesday) 23:57

The first day ends.

April 30

April 30 (Thursday) 00:00

The second day begins.

April 30 (Thursday) 12:37

Lunch break.

The reason for my yawn might be the mysterious call I received at six o' clock this morning.

«Today I'll make you a boxed lunch.»

The call had been disconnected before I was able to say anything.

What the...?

It was the last day of April, and with the Golden Week having started, our consecutive
holidays were soon to come. I went to the corridor and waited for Otonashi-san like always.
We're eating in the school cafeteria every day, but it's the first time she makes me a boxed
lunch.
"Kazu-kun! I heard of it, Kazu-kun! So there's a Boxed-Lunch-with-Miss-Maria Event
awaiting you?!"

The noisy ones arrived. Kokone went around me, and beside her was Haruaki with a grin.

"...Haruaki, didn't I tell you not to tell anyone because it'll become bothersome?"

"You did, but I'm the one to decide whether or not I obey!"

This guy is awful.

"Kazu-kun, what's the deal with this nice event?! Please explain the details!"

"...well, I don't quite get it, but this morning suddenly the phone――"

"To get a wake-up call! You two really are lovey-dovey!"

Please let people finish speaking.

"Wake-up call..."

Upon hearing this murmur, I turned around promptly.

...uwa, another bothersome person arrived.

"Ah, Riko-rin, morning."

"Good morning..."

The small girl with short hair that was addressed with this strange name by Kokone is the
freshman, Riko Asami. She is Otonashi-san's classmate and member of the Maria Otonashi
fan club that flourished after the school entrance ceremony. Usually the two of them came
together, but it seems she went ahead today. For some reason, her expression and voice
seemed even darker than usual to me.

This Asami-san stared at me with blank eyes.

"...err?"

Perhaps I am being scowled at?

"I heard about it. You're apparently getting a boxed lunch from Maria-san."
"Y-Yeah, seems like it."

Asami-san didn't say anything and just kept staring at me when I had replied.

"......if only the batteries of your mobile phone would explode... if only you would use
batteries that are as suspicious as the ones sold in this certain country for an oddly low price...
swell batteries, swell...!"

I got goose bumps from hearing her mumbled curses.

"B-But I wonder why is it Kazu-kun?"

To wipe away the tension in the air, Kokone cut in with a smile.

"Thanks to this, Kazu-kun gets some scary glances from the boys recently, doesn't he? I've
heard he's at the top position in the 'I'd like to kill him by feigning an accident' ranking!"

"What's this deranged ranking... who on earth would say something like this..."

"I did."

Haruaki raised his hand.

"Of course I handed in a vote! I can't stand you being all lovey-dovey with Maria-chan!!"

My strength drained away.

I'm sure Haruaki is just joking, but the glances of the other boys certainly got scary recently.
But I don't think Otonashi-san is the only cause of this---

"Mh? Why are you looking at me?"

"......nothing."

Is she really not self-aware? About the fact that talking with her so collegially is probably a
cause as well.

Kokone tilted her head to my attitude. Unlike during the March that I repeated for almost an
eternity, she now wore her hair with her ponytail bound on one side. Is this called
"side-ponytail"?

"Say, say, I've been wondering; how did you manage to tame Otonashi-san?!"
"'Tame'... what a choice of words..."

"Since I guess Otonashi-san is used to being approached, you didn't use the usual methods,
did you? So you made her feel that you're the special one for her, huh?"

Kokone began triumphantly to make her arbitrary assumptions.

"Let's see... for example you saved her from a pervert that attacked her――-Mh, this is quite
possible! The pervert... «Hey, hey, your navel fluff smells so good... Wha! There's scab
around there! B-But I don't care!!»---while saying something like this, the pervert came
attacked but you saved her from his evil claws, right!?"

"I wouldn't have the guts to oppose such a 'real' pervert... and in the first place; we aren't
going out, you know?"

This is a definite fact. But Kokone's grin just got wider.

"Sooo, how do you explain the event at the ceremony, I wonder? Mh? Mhhh?"

"T-That was――-"

The «war proclamation» at the school entrance ceremony. I know how much this was
misunderstood. I have to explain this, somehow, in order to make her stop that big grin.

"That was just, because, Otonashi-san's a bit strange―-―"

"―-―am I strange?"

A familiar voice. I turned around timidly.

Maria Otonashi.

Seeing her face, I reflexively stiffened up. No, it's not like I broke out in cold sweat because
of her accusing words. I merely stiffened up because I saw her unbelievably pretty face
without preparing myself.

I am not yet used to her detached personality and beauty. I can't help but to freeze in place. I
counted to three in my mind as I usually did, and made my preparations to talk to
Otonashi-san.

I've been together with Otonashi-san for the span of a human lifetime. I'm aware of that. But
I've lost the 'feeling' that I did so.
"Why are you stiffening up? Did you perhaps think I'm angry? I wouldn't get angry because
of such a bagatelle, would I?"

"Y-Yeah."

While I was bewildered, Asami-san toddled wordlessly around Otonashi-san to stand behind
her.

"...mh? What is it Asami?"

Asami-san didn't answer and just continued to stare at me. Haruaki opened his mouth instead.

"She's a bit strange today. Maybe she's worrying that Maria-chan was swept away by Hoshii
because of this decisive «boxed lunch»-event."

"......to call her 'Maria-chan' is much too over-familiar. You ought to append a «-sama»..."

Asami-san mumbled her words again with a half-opened mouth and down-cast eyes.

"Whatever. Let's go, Kazuki."

"Err, to the school cafeteria?"

Otonashi-san uttered a irritated sigh.

"Why can't you get it at the point of time I told you that I would make you a boxed lunch?
Isn't it clear that I did so because the situation is unfavorable at the school cafeteria?"

Unfavorable at the school cafeteria?

We met every day during the lunch break, in order to discuss the 'boxes' or '0'.

Well, but it's not like there's new information every day, and there's almost never anything
that mustn't be heard by strangers. Or, instead of 'almost never', 'never' since Otonashi-san
had entered school. Therefore, the school cafeteria has never been a problem.

But today the school cafeteria was unfavorable.

"So that's the reason for this boxed lunch. ...but isn't there bread at the store?"

When I murmured this, Otonashi-san suddenly drew close to my face and whispered into my
ear.
"...I got fed up with the bread from there during the 'Rejecting Classroom'. You understand,
don't you...?"

Ah, well... I can understand that you don't want them to hear the word 'Rejecting Classroom',
but if you draw this near in front of Asami-san, she might think we want to show off, you
know?

I sneaked a peek at her, and as expected, her glance seemed a lot sharper to me.

"Err, Maria-san. May I join you today...?"

"Sorry, Asami. I want to eat with just Kazuki today."

"Just you two..."

"Well, let's go Kazuki."

Otonashi-san grabbed my arm and started to walk away. Haruaki said something like
"Hyaa~~" without reading the mood.

...I wonder how Asami-san is feeling about this?

When I turned around due to uneasiness, she was murmuring something with cast-down eyes.

"......if only a female cockroach with a swollen abdomen would enter your mouth, lay her
eggs inside your stomach, breed, and eat you from inside...!"

She's saying scary things!

April 30 (Thursday) 12:43

"Somehow it feels nostalgic to come to the back of the school building."

The back of the school building is a place where we talked quite often during the repeating
world.

Apparently Otonashi-san didn't plan to indulge in reminiscing, shooting a glance at me, and
handing over to me a cloth-wrapped boxed lunch that she had taken out unceremoniously
from her bag.
"...T-thanks."

"You're welcome."

I untied the cloth and removed the cover. It looked ordinary. Somehow this was a bit
unexpected.

The first dish I tried was the asparagus bacon. I put it in my mouth.

....mh, the taste's ordinary, too.

"Err... this asparagus bacon is really tasty."

"That's frozen food."

........err, I see, yeah, well then of course it's ordinary.

This time I took the hamburger. As expected, the appearance and the taste were both
ordinary.

"......err, this hamburger is really tas―-―"

"That's frozen food, too."

...as I thought!

I checked the contents of the boxed lunch. If it's like this, then the potatoes, meatballs,
dumplings and the mixed vegetables are all without a doubt frozen food, too.

"Don't make a strange fuss about it. There's no need to praise me frantically."

"...say, Otonashi-san. Did you never cook inside the 'Rejecting Classroom'?"

Otonashi-san told me that she tried numerous things, beginning with martial arts, inside those
recurrences.

"Oho? It looks like you badly want to criticize my cooking."

"I-It's not like..."


"It's like this. ...I don't really mind, though. I did cook, in fact. I'm good enough to cook some
quite refined dishes. But I couldn't get myself to like doing it. I was unable to find the same
pleasure in cooking as I felt by pursuing various martial arts."

"So that's why you skimped on the lunch..."

"Finally you said it clearly."

Whoops.

I got a glimpse of Otonashi-san's expression. ...well, she doesn't seem particularly angry.

"...err, but say, you aren't interested in cooking, so are you perhaps also not interested in food
itself?"

"Not exactly. I'm happy when I eat something delicious."

"By the way, what's your favorite dish?"

"Strawberry tarte. Basically all confectionery that uses strawberry―――hey, why did you
grow stiff with the meatball still in your mouth?"

"Ah, no――"

Such a cute favorite dish? I could still understand if it was something like sweet-potato paste,
but I don't think strawberries suit her at all―――I was about to say this aloud, but could bear
it somehow. Whew, dangerous.

"Hohoo, you have some nerves to claim to others that their favorite dishes don't suit them."

"......I've never said so."

"Sweet-potato paste would suit whom, you said?"

...why did you see so easily through me, Otonashi-san?

"But so you like eating, but you don't like cooking."

I changed the subject by saying so.

"I still cannot really find any pleasure in savoring my own cooking myself. I can't help but to
perceive it as work."
I see. Naturally there wasn't anyone that would eat her cooking for her in this repeating world.
I've almost never cooked until now, but I know that seeing someone eat one's own cooking is
one of the pleasures of cooking.

Therefore it feels suddenly like work if there's no one else to eat it.

"...That doesn't matter. It's not like I called you to the back of the school building to chat
about such a thing."

"Y-Yeah."

"I'll move onto the main subject now."

Saying so, Otonashi-san searched her bag and took her mobile phone out.

"I received a mail late at night yesterday."

"A mail?"

When I had asked back, she held the display wordlessly out in front of my eyes.

«I was able to grant my earnest desire. Now I can go out with you.»

Those letters were displayed.

Err... what's this? The mail of a fresh couple... or so it looks like. Err? In other words,
Otonashi-san started to go out with someone? This Otonashi-san?

When I looked at her she was smiling wryly at my reaction.

"Well, I understood with your reaction when we met today, though. ...Kazuki, take a look at
the sender."

I looked as I was told. The name after 'From' was--- "Eh?"

――«Kazuki Hoshino».

So I was the one that sent this mail? ...no, no, no, that's impossible. I don't have the slightest
memory of this. But since it was indeed sent...?

"At first I thought it was a forgery. But that's unlikely since the mail filter is turned on. It's
safe to assume that this mail was sent by your mobile phone."
"But Otonashi-san, I don't remember having sent this――"

"Then how about checking your outbox? It should still be in there if the box wasn't emptied."

I nodded and took out my mobile phone. When I checked it, I found the mail.

«I was able to grant my earnest desire. Now I can go out with you.»

The same text was in the already-sent mail.

"T-That's――"

I turned pale.

"Rest assured, Kazuki. I gather from your look at least that this mail wasn't sent with your
deliberate will. But if it really was done by someone else, then he must have used your
mobile phone after 02:00 at morning to send me this mail."

The date of the mail is April 30. In other words, 02:23 this morning.

At this time, my mobile phone was beside my pillow. I woke up because of Otonashi-san's
phone call today, so that's beyond doubt. So that means, someone broke into my room late at
night? What's this? Why would someone go so far...?

"Kazuki."

Otonashi-san said this to me when I was confused.

"I slipped into the 'box' called 'Rejecting Classroom' some time ago. Do you know why I was
able to do so?"

"...?"

I can't grasp the intention in her words.

"It has something to do with this subject. «I am a 'box', thus I could slip in»――I told you
this, but that doesn't explain directly the reason why I could slip in, does it?"

"...now that you say it, indeed not."


"I am able to perceive 'boxes' and can find them. And then I can slip into this 'box'."

"...yeah."

"A method to send a mail from your mobile phone to mine after 02:00 at morning.
Alternatively, a method to make us think so. There are probably numerous ways to do so, but
I considered following."

Then she said it.

"This is the deed of a 'box'."

――a 'box'?

"Well... I wonder? I mean, why would someone specially use a 'box' just for something
like――"

"Kazuki, didn't I mention it? I am able to perceive 'boxes'. ...Aah, as you say, this mail might
have nothing to do with it. But I can say one thing for sure."

Otonashi-san stared at me almost with a scowl and spoke.

"Someone is currently using a 'box' nearby."

Not because of her words, but because of her straightforward glance, I finally realized what
was about to happen to me.

It's happening again.

Again, a 'box' is going to try to destroy my everyday life.

"Well then, Kazuki, let's return to the mail. Assuming this was accomplished with the use of a
'box'; what is the meaning behind this mail, then? Considering it as a mere prank of the
'owner' that acquired abilities is a bit too optimistic, isn't it?"

"...so you what do you think...?"

"It's a proclamation of war against us. Or else it might simply be a fact."

"A fact...?"
What could this mean? Otonashi-san didn't really start going out with the 'owner' as far as I
can tell.

"Maybe it's some kind of metaphor. Or this future was set definitely using the 'box'... but just
this is beyond question:"

Otonashi-san breathed out lightly and continued.

"The 'owner' is trying to interfere with us directly, using his 'box'."

Right, it's like that. Or else there'd be no reason for him to send such a message from my
mobile phone to Otonashi-san.

"...what should I do?"

"It's beyond doubt that a 'box' was used. I need to find out how this 'box' is used and grasp its
nature. I want you to help me with this. You're sensitive to slight changes of your everyday
life, aren't you? Hence, you might notice some abnormalities in this everyday life that I don't
notice."

"Okay, got it. I'll try searching!"

"Please do. I'll contact you, too, when I come across something."

I was going to start eating again since I thought our talk was over. But then I noticed that
Otonashi-san still had her chopsticks stopped and stopped myself.

"Is there still something, Otonashi-san?"

"Mhh... aah, I guess so."

Otonashi-san continued strangely vaguely.

"It's trifling, really, but there's something that bothers me. And it's unpleasant. Therefore I'll
tell you."

"...OK, please do."

"Why did you change your method of addressing me?"

"Eh?"
She raised an unexpected question.

"...if there's no special reason, I don't mind."

With these words, Otonashi-san continued to eat again.

It bothered me, but I decided to think that it was really nothing of importance and continued
eating.

April 30 (Thursday) 22:38

Slight changes to this everyday life. I tried thinking about it while sitting on the writing desk
that I had been using since primary school, but nothing came to mind. Changes. There are
changes everywhere.

Unable to find an answer, I had opened my mobile phone for no particular reason.

A picture of Mogi-san in pajamas was displayed on the screen.

While she did seem even thinner than usual, there was nothing pitiful at all. She was making
a peace sign in the hospital with a smile as bright as a sunflower.

"Kazu-chan is grinning! He's viewing lewd pictures!"

I closed my mobile phone in a hurry when I heard the voice of my sister, older than me by
three years.

"I-I wasn't!"

"You're disturbed~ How suspicious~"

My older sister, Ruka Hoshino, climbed on the upper bunk of our bunk beds with a broad
grin. ...And again she's only wearing her underwear, Ruu-chan. Geez... despite being almost
20 years old, she's still tottering around in this appearance all the time. She should be aware
that I'm currently a second year high school student in his teens.

"Aah, let's guess, you looked at a picture Kasumi Mogi-san, didn't you~?"

"Wha――-!"
How did she---?!

"Awa, was it a bull's eye? Uhehe..."

"W-wait a sec! To begin with, why do you know about Mogi-san... Ah! Don't tell me you
looked through my mobile phone without asking?!"

"I didn't~. I just saw her name when she called you once, really. I just tried to comment on
the picture with something random~... but then again, aren't you a bit perverted for looking at
pictures of girls while grinning?"

This is exactly why I want my own room!

To hide my discomfort, I embraced my mobile phone and dived into the lower stuck.

"Say, say, is Kasumi Mogi-san your girlfriend?"

"N-No, she isn't!"

"So what's your relationship, then? Or rather, what does she think of you?"

"......err..."

What relationship... I wonder? What -does- she think of me?

Well, she did confess to me inside the 'Rejecting Classroom,' and the fact that she sent me
this picture means that she feels something for me... probably.

Her consideration for me, isn't unpleasant.

But more than this... to be honest, I don't know. My feelings from inside the 'Rejecting
Classroom' aren't here anymore. It's likely that we had been affected by each other. I have
some memories that imply this. But right because of this, I'm unable to view her from a brand
new standpoint. I have no idea how proper those feelings of mine are in this everyday life.

"Well... we surely are friends!"

Although this was the answer I arrived at after thinking desperately, she didn't reply.
Strange...---after I thought this and concentrated, I heard the calm rhythm of her sleep.

...It never ceases to amaze me how fast she falls asleep.


Come to think of it, I haven't replied to this mail yet. When I noticed this, I began typing a
reply.

I looked at the clock at the corner of the screen.

«22:59»

I was in the midst of typing the mail.

But suddenly, my consciousness was interrupted.

April 30 (Thursday) 23:18

Well then, let's make a call.

May 1

May 1 (Friday) 08:14

Kokone ignored my nonchalant "Good morning".

Though she usually drops in arbitrarily into my conversations, today she was strangely distant
and talked to other classmates instead. But despite this, she sneaked peeks at me from time to
time, with a slightly scary face.

I don't know what her reason was. I have no idea why she suddenly started acting like this.
Since I wasn't in the mood to happily chat with my other friends with this state of things, I
tried to appear unapproachable by eating a cheese-flavored Umaibou.

"Did you do anything to Kiri?"

As expected from Daiya. He ignored my delicate signs completely and asked me point-blank.

"...Dunno."
"I see... Mh, right. I'll tell you something good."

"Something good?"

Does he perhaps know the reason for Kokone's strange attitude this morning?

"It's about the time she took her first periodic test in the first year of junior middle school.
She was eager to get good marks---since it was her first---and studied almost all night.
Because of that, she fell asleep during the test in the third lesson. It would have been no
problem if she just slept silently, but no, she talked in her sleep inside the silent classroom. If
I remember correctly, it was something like 'Aah, this plug suit is too tight, I don't fit in...'."

"...say, Daiya, what are you talking about?"

"What I'm talking about? I'm talking about her weak point. She doesn't dislike others so
easily. This is your chance to get away from her by getting on her bad side. Tell her this now
and you’re out of the game!"

"Uhm, I don't want that, you know...? And I think that story is pretty cute, actually."

"No, it stays cute only up to that point. It gets funny starting from there, you know? From
there on starts Kokone's Drool Legend."

Because I had a bad premonition about this, I blocked my ears wordlessly. But Daiya grabbed
my arms.

"No, I won't listen anymore!"

"Noo, it's not about this story. Just look there!"

I looked in the direction Daiya was pointing. Otonashi-san and a male student were facing
each other and were talking about something, with quite serious expressions.

The intellectual male student wearing glasses with black frames on his long, narrow eyes is
the class committee chairman Ryuu Miyazawa. Unlike Daiya, who was elected for this
position in the first year just because of his grades, he does his work with awareness of his
responsibility. Being a honor student but not a wonk, he is popular as a reliable chairman
with all.

Unwillingly, I approached them. To be honest, I have trouble dealing with Miyazawa-kun's


self-confident attitude.
"...What's wrong?"

The two of them turned around to me when I addressed them.

"Oh, Kazuki. Well, I was going to enter the classroom but then this guy stopped me."

"Isn't that natural? Why do you unconcernedly enter the classroom of your seniors? It's not
even lunch break!"

Which reminds me, Otonashi-san seldomly comes here when it's not lunch break. Maybe it's
because she at least paid lip service to the school rules, rather than ignoring them outright.

"I bet you're planning on carrying Hoshino off somewhere again, am I right?"

"What I do with Kazuki is none of your business."

"Oh, it is my business. I'm committee chairman for the time being. I have the task of
managing the students of this class. Can't you see that the first lesson is about to start? If you
took him away now, you wouldn't be in time for the start."

"I couldn't care less. We have something to do that is more important than anything else."

At first, I didn't know what she meant by that, but after thinking about it, I realized that there
was only one possibility.

――It had to be about the 'box'.

For me, this is also a task that was more important than anything else.

"Um... Miyazawa-kun. I'm sorry. I'll go with her."

When I said so, he stared at me with a critical frown. I reflexively stepped back from this
piercing gaze.

"Say, do you listen to everything she tells you?"

"T-That's not it."

"What a pathetic guy you are. How about having your own thoughts instead of being ordered
about by a girl?"
"Hey, I can't accept that. With this phrasing it sounds almost like Kazuki doesn't have his
own will."

Otonashi-san interjected him. Miyazawa grinned to her objection and answered.

"Yeah, sorry. Were you offended by your beloved being badmouthed? Ah, or, did it bother
you that I implied that he's ordered about by your selfishness?"

"You---"

Otonashi-san scowled coldly at him. Miyazawa chuckled.

"What? If you want to obje――-"

"You seem like you're acting on purpose."

Upon hearing her, Miyazawa stopped his words.

"Just because you're committee chairman is too weak a reason for meddling in our affairs.
What is it, all of a sudden, since you didn't show any signs of being concerned up to now?
What are your intentions by approaching us forcibly? Did you plan to create a suitable pretext
to be able to deal with us from now on?"

"...I have no idea what you're talking about."

"In that case, very well. It just caught my eye because I'm in a situation where I have no other
choice but to be sensitive to my environment. One can't be too careful, and if it wasn't just my
wrong guess, then it should drive you away a little."

I watched their verbal sparring in mute amazement. What did Otonashi-san say all of a
sudden?

"Kazuki, let's go."

Otonashi-san said so and pulled me with her.

"Ah, yeah..."

Miyazawa-kun was looking wordlessly at my grabbed arm with a faintly stiffened face.
Certainly, it may be a little strange that he got involved with us, although he usually has
nothing to do with us.
When I was pulled out of the classroom, Haruaki, who was apparently in the restroom, and
Asami, who chased after Otonashi-san, were standing there.

"Oh, what's up Hoshii? On the run?"

"...on the run..."

Asami-san heard Haruaki's thoughtless words and looked with a sticky gaze at our joined
hands. After that, she raised her gaze slightly and looked with narrowed eyes at me. ...scary.

"Oh, what's wrong Rikochii? You're acting strange today."

She continued to stare at me without caring about this nickname she would usually get angry
about.

"A-Asami-san seems a bit odd since yesterday... right Haruaki?"

"Mh? Really?"

Haruaki, forgetting about yesterday is just too airheaded.

"...Maria-san."

"Sorry, but I'm in a hurry now."

She said so, glancing at Asami once, and turned around. Asami-san seemed struck by her
attitude and cast her eyes down.

Then she murmured something.

"......if only the underground board of this school would get spammed with slander of Kazuki
Hoshino and pictures that ruin his dignity from the stump..."

Otonashi-san's attitude isn't even my fault!

May 1 (Friday) 08:31

Like yesterday, we're behind the school building again.

"You know what's it about, right?"


I swallowed, and nodded to her question while she leaned against the wall. I suppose she had
new information about the 'box' that's currently in use.

"There are several things I want to ask you."

"Okay."

"Why is it that we're often together like we are now?"

"Why? ...well, because being by my side is convenient for you, isn't it? Since you're likely to
meet '0' this way."

"...exactly."

I considered this to be a problem-free answer, but Otonashi-san frowned.

"Wait. So this means you're aware of your position and definitely haven't misunderstood
things, right?"

"...? What do you mean?"

"That is---you see! ...no, never mind. Right, there's no way you'd say something like this with
halfhearted feelings. I have to answer you earnestly. I just wanted to get away from this.
Kazuki, I---"

"Wait a sec!"

When I had interrupted her, Otonashi-san raised her voice.

"---Why did you interrupt me!"

"S-Sorry... but what on earth are you talking about? Wasn't it about the 'box'?"

"About the 'box'...? What are you saying? The 'box' is important, sure enough, but it should
be obvious that I asked you to come because of your call yesterday?"

"Call yesterday?"

"Yes, yesterday’s---"

Her voice cut off, her eyes opening wide as she took a deep breath.
"...I see. The mail from the day before yesterday. No, but that shouldn't... having spent this
much time together with Kazuki, this should not happen even if it's via phone..."

"Otonashi-san...?"

"Kazuki, I'mg going to check something now."

She stopped murmuring and proclaimed so, distinctly.

"Yesterday, you---confessed to me over the phone, right?"

Confession?

Does she mean «confession» as in «Will you go out with me»?

"You announced to me over phone that you would confess again personally tomorrow---or in
other words, today."

"I―I didn't---"

"Yeah, you wouldn't do that. Right, thinking about it, that's true."

"Of course I wouldn't! W-Why did you suddenly claim that I did such a---"

"Then just confirm it with your cell phone."

Being told to do so in a calm tone, I nodded, took out my mobile phone and checked my
dialed calls.

The name at the top:

«Maria Otonashi»

The time of the call was May 01, 01:49AM.

That's impossible. I should have been asleep at that time. I don't remember calling
Otonashi-san.

"Yesterday... no, date-wise, today. You annoyingly called me at two o'clock deep in the night
and confessed to me. This is how I know the current state of affairs."
There's no way I'd do that. But on the other hand, Otonashi-san wouldn't lie and make this up
just to tease me.

However, by no means could I possibly have done anything I didn't do.

"Could it be somebody's prank? I don't know how they did it, though."

"A prank...huh? So in short, you're telling me that someone used your mobile phone to
confess to me as a prank or something?"

It may sound unreasonable, but that's the only thing I can think of. When I was about to nod,
Otonashi-san continued.

"With the exact same voice as you?"

"---Huh?"

Otonashi-san continued when I opened my mouth without thinking like an idiot.

"As long you don't have a twin brother from whom you were separated at birth, I shall assert
this. This was without doubt your voice, Kazuki."

"Y-You just heard wrongly! You just mistook the caller for me because the call came from
my phone number... probably..."

"Kazuki, I have spent a human lifetime together with you. It is not possible that I would
mistake your voice."

Her expression was filled with conviction. I don't think she mistook someone else for me
either.

But that means that I'm the one that confessed to her? No, that's not possible either.
Otonashi-san is convinced that it was my voice, and I am also convinced that I didn't confess
to her. But there was a call, in fact.

"It's contradicting..."

"Right, it's contradicting. Absolutely. Therefore---"

Right.

Such a contradiction shouldn't be possible. Therefore---


"This is the---deed of the 'box'."

My chest reflexively tightened when I heard the word 'box'. Though I still don't know what's
happening, my chest already hurt with fear.

"We have to hurry up and find a countermeasure. The 'owner' is obviously targeting us. And
with ill will at that."

"What should I...?"

"Let's think... I need some time to sort out the situation. For now, please wait until I have an
answer. I'll decide on how we're going to act."

I nodded wordlessly.

"Then this conversation has ended. I'll return to my classroom."

Otonashi turned around with these words and left without looking back.

May 1 (Friday) 09:32

When I returned to the classroom after the first lesson ended, Kokone was already standing
with a daunting pose beside the door. For some reason, she scowled at me when our eyes met.
Her face was slightly red. Maybe she's angry?

"......I've been waiting..."

"Huh?"

"I've been waiting that you approach me!"

She raised her voice moodily.

"Despite this you skipped the first lesson together with that girl! What's with that! I don't get
it! You're being cryptic, Kazu-kun!"

In my view, the reason for Kokone getting so agitated was cryptic, but for now I decided to
keep that to myself.
But this behavior of mine seemed to irritate her again, so she backed me up against the wall
of the corridor while grumbling "Nh~~~~".

"Err... I'm sorry."

"Why do you apologize?!"

"Huh? ...I-I'm sorry."

"No really, why do you apologize?!"

Kokone drew even closer to me, while I couldn't help but to become more bewildered.

"Or do you want to apologize?! Do you want to undo it by apologizing?! Isn't that cruel?!
W-Well... that would save me, though..."

"W-Wait... what are you talking about?"

We're talking past each other like I did just before.

...Eh? Wait a sec. So then, don't tell me---

"Why don't you get it, I wonder?! That is---... T-That is... you see..."

Her face reddened even more, and now it was crimson up to her ears.

If it's what I think it is, then I don't want to hear it. Kokone, however, whispered into my ear
after she checked to see if anyone were nearby.

"I'm talking about---your confession via phone yesterday."

What...? I confessed to her?

I lost my words and became speechless. Kokone looked at me with upturned eyes.

"Well... I..."

I don't know exactly how she interpreted my behavior, but she cast her eyes down. She
chewed on her words for a while, but then began to talk.
"I'm sorry... I-I don't know how I should react... I mean... I considered you a friend, and
thought all the time you'd think so, too... And then... he hasn't anything to with it, but still...
there's Daiya..."

She clenched her fist as if to muster some courage and looked at me.

"...please wait. I don't know when I can give you my answer, but please wait until
then. ...Sorry."

She seemed really pained---which almost made my heart break. That confession wasn't mine!
I wanted to say so, but such an explanation would be completely meaningless. I absolutely
cannot tell her.

Kokone grasped this painful expression of mine in a different sense and formed an unhappy
expression that matched mine.

Then she turned around and trotted back into the classroom.

I waited until she completely disappeared into the classroom and murmured.

"I, too, consider you a friend!"

I clenched my fist.

Then a thought suddenly occurred to me. I took out my mobile phone and examined my
dialed calls. ...Why didn't I notice when I looked before? The timestamp is May 1, 01:29AM.

Below the name «Maria Otonashi» was the name «Kokone Kirino».

May 1 (Friday) 11:00

Well then, let's see how things went.

May 1 (Friday) 12:00

The first thing I heard was a girl crying.


Daiya's face was right in front of me, at point-blank range. I don't have the slightest idea
what's going on.

What's this?

Unambiguous hostility was dwelling in Daiya's gaze. Directed at whom? No question about it.
I was the one reflected in those eyes at point-blank range. In other words, he was looking at
me as an enemy.

Then I was struck with delayed pain. The region around my cheeks and mouth was aching.
Both my hands were aching as well.

Daiya had mounted me and had grabbed both my wrists.

I finally managed to grasp the situation.

We're in the music room. Although I am, in fact, supposed to be in the third lesson, which is
history, I am currently in the music room, which we should been in only during the fourth
lesson. Blood is stuck to my uniform. Who's blood? ...probably my own. After all I've been
tasting iron in my mouth just now. I have a cut in my mouth, apparently, because Daiya had
hit me.

What happened... what on earth happened?!

"Daiya... what's---"

"Don't open your mouth, Kazu. If you say more than you already did, I'll crush this mouth of
yours."

The hostility in his eyes is serious. Those plain words aren't exaggerating, so I bet he would
really use violence if I said anything unnecessary.

What's this nightmare?

But if it was a nightmare, this pain wouldn't be so real and strong.

So this is reality.

The crying had still not ceased. ---who's crying?

I looked in the corresponding direction.


Kokone Kirino was crying.

The first sensation I got was understanding. I see. So that's why Daiya hadn't been stopped by
her even when it had escalated to this situation. The next sensation was a question. Why
Kokone?

And then again the next sensation that expanded was horror.

---no way.

I confirmed the current situation. Kokone was crying and Daiya was in a rage. So who made
her cry? So who made him angry? I am in the music room. Hence it should be the fourth
lesson now. I don't have any memories of what happened during this time. But still I'm here.
In a place different from where I was before. In other words---

---I moved unknowingly?

For example, like when I had unknowingly sent a mail to Otonashi-san and confessed to her.

For example, like when I had unknowingly confessed to Kokone and destroyed our
relationship.

For example, what if I had unknowingly done something that hurt Kokone, and provoked
Daiya's anger?

"Isn't it enough already, Daiyan?"

Haruaki said so and laid his hand on Daiya's shoulder.

«Isn't it enough already»?

Does this mean I did something that's worth getting knocked down and punched once or
twice?

Daiya let go of my hands by throwing them to the ground and stood up slowly while still
scowling at me. And then almost like to take the occasion---

"Ugh!"

---he stomped on my stomach with all his strength and turned his back on me.
I squirmed with pain. I saw the faces in my surroundings. Everyone---my classmates, the
music teacher and even Haruaki---was looking at me as if looking at something unidentifiable.
Kokone pressed her face against Daiya's chest and cried even louder.

I tried to rise. Because of the pain, I wasn't immediately successful. But nobody lent me a
hand.

I started thinking in a posture that resembled genuflecting.

Why do I have to endure this? Why is this considered acceptable to everyone else? I don't
know what happened. But I do know the origin.

---It's the 'box'.

Right, the 'box' is to blame. It's not my fault. I haven't done anything!

So why do I have to go through this regardless!

I stood up, on my own.

Though they were all looking at me, no one came to my side.

I'm aware of it. No one would know that this is the fault of the 'box'. Hence, no one tries to
come in contact with me. No one approaches me. No one addresses me. No one. Not Daiya,
Kokone or even Haruaki. No one. No one. No one no one no one---

"Kazuki, are you alright?"

No one but her.

A smile formed on my lips. The surroundings had frozen on her appearance---probably


because it's still in the midst of the lesson. But I didn't wonder a bit.

"...Maria."

Upon hearing me call her real name without thinking, she opened her eyes wide while
standing outside of the door to the music room. But she instantly concealed this expression
again and rushed to my side.
Ignoring how no one approached me before, she stood in front of me, drew so near to my face
that I could see her individual eyelashes and gently touched my swollen cheek.

"First of all, let's get your wounds treated. Follow me to the infirmary."

"...Okay."

I followed her silently when she started to walk.

No one called out to us while we did so.

The crying grew louder as soon I had left the classroom. At least, to me, it seemed to do so.

May 1 (Friday) 12:17

No one was in the infirmary.

When she had realized this, Otonashi-san looked at my injuries and touched it, and then she
took a medicine box out of the shelf and started treating my wound with deft movements.

"But I never thought I would come upon such a disastrous scene when I went to you because
I had some thoughts concerning the 'box'."

She asked while disinfecting my wound.

"You have no memories, right?"

I nodded. For some reason she seemed horribly annoyed and sighed.

"It's really always the same with you since the 'Rejecting Classroom'. I'm starting to get
annoyed by that, you know?"

"...well, what can I do about it?"

"Of course, I'm just joking."

While saying so, Otonashi-san reached out for my head and applied some gauze.

"The first thing I saw was the part where Oomine stepped on you. Do you also not remember
what happened before that?"
"...the time I regained consciousness, he was already on top of me."

"So you don't have the slightest idea why he hit you?"

"Yeah. I don't know why."

Having heard my answer, she crossed her arms.

"Kazuki, do you have your cell phone with you right now?"

"My cell phone? It should be inside the pockets of my pants..."

"Something might be left on it. Try searching thoroughly."

I started quickly to press the buttons as I've been told.

Received Calls, Dialed Calls, Inbox, Outbox. None of them had changed in my view. I
opened the data folder.

«Voice Folder»

I had one? I opened it.

There was one file named with 12 digits. I guess the digits state the time the file was created.
If it wasn't edited in specific since, this file was created at March 1, about 2AM. Or in other
words, yesterday deep in the night.

I opened the file and pressed the phone to my ear.

A voice started playing.

«Good morning Kazuki Hoshino-kun. Or should I say, good day?»

What's that?

I paused the file reflexively. Why is the voice of some unfamiliar guy recorded on my cell
phone? Why is this guy talking to me?

"What's wrong Kazuki? Did you come upon anything?"


I wasn't able to answer her, and pressed the play button again, with trembling fingers.

«Well, doesn't matter I guess. After all, you don't care about such a detail either. What you
care about who I am, isn't it? Ah, right, right. You know about the 'box', right? '0' explained it
to you, right? So there's no need for me to explain that to you?»

He knows about 'boxes' as well as '0'? So is this guy the 'owner'?

«You should have noticed already that your everyday life started to get destroyed. Yeah,
that's very good. After all, I'm doing that on purpose. Why, you ask? To eliminate you,
Kazuki Hoshino.»

With gap between his casual sounding voice and the content, my heart beat quickened.

«I will eliminate you. I will destroy everything you value. Having obtained the 'box', I will
steal everything from you. I can easily do so. After all I am---»

The voice got interrupted. No, that's not quite exact. I merely dropped the mobile phone.

"Kazuki...! Are you alright? What on earth did you hear?"

"Ah---"

There was obviously hostility. The other party has obtained the most powerful weapon---the
'box'---and declared that destruction would be brought against my life.

Otonashi-san picked up the cell phone and opened the voice file.

"This is---!"

She raised her eyebrow and was absorbed in listening to the voice.

After a while she flipped the cell phone shut, returned it wordlessly to me, crossed her arms
and lost herself in thought.

"Kazuki."

She opened her mouth finally and unpleasantly spoke my name.

"Having been pondering all the time since the case this morning, I had some vague ideasfor
how we should proceed. But I still couldn't come to a conclusion. But after hearing this voice
recording, I made up my mind."
Otonashi-san spoke while looking straight at me.

"I won't trust you anymore."

"---huh?"

I opened my mouth like an idiot since I didn't get the meaning of her words.

"You've also noticed by now, haven't you? This time's 'box' seems to use its power directly on
you. You've already fallen into the hands of the 'owner'. Thus I cannot trust you."

I repeated those words in my head.

She can't trust me---?

"W-Why? I would never betray you, would I!"

"Right, but only if you're Kazuki Hoshino."

"Eh?"

"But are you really Kazuki Hoshino? Or are you the 'owner'?"

"W-What do you mean by this incomprehensible talk, Otonashi-san? The 'owner' is the
person that recorded his voice on there, isn't he?"

"...did you not finish listening to the voice? No, even when you did not, you should have at
least recognized this voice."

"Otonashi-san, did you find out whose voice it is? So we do already know who's the 'owner'?
So you're acquainted with the 'owner'?"

"...well, I suppose it's not impossible that you don't recognize the voice right away. In fact,
you've never heard that voice in that manner, and the style of speech was too different as
well."

Otonashi-san didn't answer my question and murmured this instead. She then turned her back
to me and made to leave the infirmary.

"W-Wait! Please, at least tell me who the owner of this voice is!"
She stood still. But she did not turn around to me.

"Kazuki, try listening to this voice once more when you've regained your composure."

Saying so, she walked away.

Stunned by her absolute rejection, I wasn't able to call out to her.

Otonashi-san left me alone in the room.

I listened once again to this voice and, hearing this voice I'm constantly hearing though I've
never heard it, I understood.

"Hahaha..."

I let out a laugh unconsciously. Fair enough. It's only natural that she can't trust me like this.

"---sh..it"

So, so what should I do now...!

«I can easily do so. After all I am---»

I listened to the words I overheard last time.

«---someone who shares the same body with Kazuki Hoshino».

This was the voice of no one else but Kazuki Hoshino.

May 1 (Friday) 13:00

Let's keep quiet for now.

May 1 (Friday) 14:00

My consciousness was disconnected.

And now my consciousness recovered.


I was sitting on my chair. Though it was supposed to be still time for lunch break, I was
suddenly there.

I confirmed the time. It's fourteen o'clock, so the fifth lesson is about to end.

I looked around hurriedly. Kokone and Daiya's seats were empty. Perhaps the two of them
left early. The others were more or less concentrating on the lesson. For now, I couldn't
discover any abnormalities. My textbook, notebook and my writing utensils were placed on
my desk. It seems I haven't written any notes.

There's no doubt left anymore.

Two humans exist in this body. Apart from «me», there's «another me» whom I cannot
perceive.

And just now this «other me» had been controlling this body.

The chime rang.

The break's starting now, but because of what happened in the music room, nobody
approachesme. Everyone just looks at me from far away.

I suppose this is also a state that was intentionally caused by the «other me». After all, the
«other me» declared an intent to eliminate «me». This is his attack.

I fell flat on my desk.

What should I do about this «other me»? Now, that I was even abandoned by Otonashi-san.

"Hoshii."

I raised my face when somebody addressed me.

His expression was clearly different from the usual joking one. Haruaki asked me with a
serious face that didn't suit him.

"Say, why did you do that to Kokone?"

I shut my mouth. There's no way I'd be able to answer this. I don't even know what «that» is.
"You know? I don't think you said that without reason, Hoshii. Therefore I think that you had
a reason and that I'm just unable to understand it. But still, if it stays like this I won't get it! So
please tell me!"

Haruaki painfully said.

"If you don't, I honestly can't be your ally."

Hearing those words, I thought.

To me, Haruaki is the last fortress that protects my everyday life.

Would Haruaki believe me if I told him that I was controlled by «another me»? ...if it's
Haruaki, he might believe me. But---

"---I can't tell you. I can't tell you right now."

I mean, my own understanding of the situation is still muddled. I wouldn't be able to provide
an explanation coherent and understandable enough to make him believe me.

"But I will tell you soon!"

To show him at least my sincerity, I said so while looking him in the eyes.

"Got it. I'll wait."

I'm sure he would really want to complain, but Haruaki suppressed this and stayed brief. And
then he went away silently.

I'll wait. Haruaki said so. Therefore I mustn't talk to him until the time comes. I will lose him
if I address him carelessly.

And I won't be able to retain the everyday life when I lost Haruaki, my last fortress.

...Yeah, I gathered what I have to do now. I have to learn more about this 'box' and the
[another me] as quickly as possible.

But how can I do so? I mean, I can't even communicate directly with him.

"......Ah"

Right. To begin with, how did I learn of his existence? That is because he addressed me.
I left the classroom to the corridor and took my cell phone out.

In order to send the «other me» a message using its My Voice function.

Of course it's not certain if the «other me» will answer. But it should be worth a try, whether
or not it'll actually work.

"Pleased to meet you; is that correct, «other me»?"

I started the recording.

"I now understand that you share the same body with me! But I'm still confused. I want you
to tell me more about this 'box'. And I want you to reveal who you are."

Will he answer my questions if I state them in this direct manner? After all, he's trying to
eliminate me.

Therefore I decided to provoke him.

"But I don't care whether your reply or not. Whatever your reply, it won't affect my behavior.
I don't care whether you feel pure hostility against me, or have a noble goal, or have a reason
that would make me pity you."

I was surprised myself by my unusual, but naturally emerging, hostile words. But I felt that it
had to be said.

"I will not permit your existence."

I had the feeling that this determination of mine had to be conveyed.

I cannot permit this, can I? There's no way I could. Letting myself be stolen by someone.

My legs had started to tremble and I had leaned against the wall without realizing. Probably
that's because my body couldn't keep up with the first distinct feeling of hostility I felt in my
entire life.

I closed my mobile phone and took a deep breath.

I will crush the «other me».

No matter what his circumstances are, I will not permit his existence.
May 1 (Friday) 15:34

I noticed a voice file recorded by Kazuki Hoshino.

May 1 (Friday) 16:00

In front of me was the face of an unknown female student. In surprise, I let go of the strap I
had been holding and fell over. While bearing the giggling of the surrounding people, I stood
up and analyzed the situation.

Strap? So I'm inside a train?

No need to even think about it. My body had again been controlled by the «other me».

I took out my cell phone right away and discovered a new voice file.

I pressed the 'play' button.

«I see, so you can use this as means to communicate. I was just thinking that it'd be boring if
things happened one-sidedly. Therefore I'll deign answer your questions!»

My own voice resounded from the speakers.

«I accepted the 'box' and let a certain 'wish' be granted. That is, to become you---Kazuki
Hoshino!»

I held my breath.

«And really, when I did so I took you over... but look, could you really call this state 'taking
you over' when I'm just able to steal some of your time temporarily? Rest assured! That's only
temporary. The taking-over process will be completed one week after I used the 'box'. As
soon as the date changes to May 6, in other words to the last day of the Golden Week, your
soul is going to leave this body. With only mine staying in here.»

So in other words I have to destroy his 'box' within a little more than four days.

«Is that sufficient to explain the situation? Well then, you asked who I am. Huhuhu, this is
indeed a difficult question! Who am I? To be honest, I don't know exactly myself! I mean,
I'm Kazuki Hoshino, actually. But I don't think you accept this answer, do you? Because it
can't be helped, I thought of an alias to distinguish between us! You may call me---»

He said with my voice.

«---[Yuuhei Ishihara].»

An unfamiliar name. I engraved it into my memory.

«Well then, so let me tell you my impression. You will not permit my existence, you say?
Sorry, but I broke out in laughter! You cannot even meet me. At most you can blow your
voice into your cell phone, like you did now, right? So how do you plan to do as you
announced?»

[Yuuhei Ishihara] laughed hideously with my voice.

«Because I pity you, I'll teach you just one way to get rid of me. More than half of Kazuki
Hoshino is already mine. Therefore it's simple---»

He spoke.

«---just commit suicide.»

Again he continued his unbearable laughter. I was eager to press the 'stop' button, but his
message still continued.

His voice settled down and the final words of [Yuuhei Ishihara] were replayed.

«Oh, one other thing. There was a mail from one of your friends! Just in case, since you
might have not noticed yet.»

A friend...?

I swallowed my saliva and opened my Inbox. The name «Haruaki Usui» was displayed at the
top.

Though I don't remember having opened it, the mail was marked as already-read.

What---

What on earth did that guy do to Haruaki---!


I took a deep breath. But I couldn't calm down and chewed on my lips. It's vexing, but my
hands were trembling.

I opened the mail.

«Please don't talk to me for a while.»

Aah---

Like this, the last fortress that protected my everyday life broke down.

May 1 (Friday) 23:22

I'm having a dream.

I'm having the same dream that I have had several times already.
May 2

May 02 (Saturday) 00:11

I woke up due to a rumbling sound on the desk.

I got up from the bed, took the mobile phone, which was the origin of that sound, in my hands
and looked at the LCD screen.

«Maria Otonashi»

Maria Otonashi? Why does she phone me? She calls me even in this state of affairs, so does
this mean that «Kazuki Hoshino» hasn't told her what is happening to him? ...no, I guess he
couldn't tell his lover this absurd story about the 'box'. But I think she should notice his
change, even when he hasn't told her... whatever.

I stopped racking my brains and accepted the call.

I mean, how should I resist the desire to talk with the girl I admire?

"Hello."

«Kazuki. Come to my room.»

Wow. Is she always like this to Kazuki Hoshino?

Well then, how should I answer?

I validated my situation.

Using this 'box', I'm able to take over «Kazuki Hoshino» completely within one week. To
accomplish taking him over, it would be best to refrain from doing anything. Naturally it
would be better to have no contact with Maria Otonashi.

But I must not misunderstand. This is not my aim.

The thing I want to do---that is, to torment Kazuki Hoshino so much to make him scratch his
own neck sore, to make him succumb so heavily that he submits his own body with the words
"Please do with me as you wish" while genuflecting, to steal his body perfectly by making him
an empty shell by May 5, that only exists to surrender his body to me. That is my desire.
Why do I have this desire? That is, because by doing so I'm able to feel that I am Kazuki
Hoshino.

If I don't feel that I'm Kazuki Hoshino, then it's like I'm just freeloading him. Then
everything's meaningless.

I guess that I have to share this body with [Kazuki Hoshino] for a while is also because I
wouldn't be able to gain the feeling of being Kazuki Hoshino else. Gosh, this 'box' is really
well-made.

«Hey, why are you silent?»

I see. So there's nothing to waver.

Maria Otonashi is without doubt an important existence for Kazuki Hoshino. If he loses her,
he's going to suffer tremendous damage.

Therefore, [Yuuhei Ishihara] will steal Maria Otonashi from [Kazuki Hoshino].

This is absolutely necessary in order to fulfill this absolute desire of mine.

"Ah, I'm sorry. I was absorbed in thought."

While recalling [Kazuki Hoshino]'s way of talking, I opened my mouth.

"Err, your room. Okay, if you come for me."

Based on Maria Otonashi's phrasing, I gather that Kazuki Hoshino visits her room on a daily
basis.

«Are you trying to get pampered? It isn't a distance you couldn't overcome by bicycle, is it?»

"My bicycle is in a bad condition right now, you know."

I tried to deceive her randomly. I don't know where she lives. Therefore I'll be in trouble if
she doesn't come for me.

«Geez, while being the male of us you still want me to come for you? Isn't it the other way
around normally? ...well, whatever. I'll come by bike, okay?»

"By bike you mean... a moped?"


«No... it's a 250cc?»

Damn! There's no way Kazuki Hoshino wouldn't know of Maria Otonashi's bike.

«Aah, I see. I haven't told you yet that I bought a bike.»

"Ah, y-yeah."

That was close! ...no, there's no need to get nervous, after all it's not like she saw through me
just with this. But I'm getting nervous just because Maria Otonashi is the other party.

«Come to think of it, I'm not even old enough to get a license after all.»

You're unlicensed?! So it was rather the right decision to not pretend poorly to know about it.

«Well then, I'll be at your place in 15 minutes. Wait outside.»

The phone disconnected before I could answer.

"...Kazu-chan, who was that just now? Judging by what leaked to me, it was a girl, right?
And anyway, why didn't you go to the veranda?"

A girl in underwear---probably Kazuki Hoshino's sister---said so. I see. Kazuki Hoshino


doesn't phone inside when his older sister's here. I'll remember that for the time being.

"At this time, I don't think it was Kasumi Mogi-san..."

'Kasumi Mogi'? Who's that?

May 02 (Saturday) 00:31

Exactly 15 minutes later, Maria Otonashi arrived on a simple, boorish motorcycle.

"Come on."

Maria Otonashi threw a helmet to me. I caught it, but didn't know what to do. Because she
stared silently at me, I put on the helmet for now.

"What are you idling there with the helmet put on? Hurry up and get on."
I sat down behind here as she said. After some hesitation I clasped her waist. Maria Otonashi
didn't say anything. A slender waist. The waist of my adored Maria Otonashi.

After less than 10 minutes she stopped the bike in front of a 5-storey mansion. At first I was a
bit reluctant to let go of her, but nonetheless I alighted the bike uprightly and inspected this
building after taking off the helmet. It was made of bricks and seemed to be quite high class.
And there's even self-locking. The rent might be quite expensive.

It's unlikely that she would bring her lover, on top of that deep in the night, into the mansion
where her family lives. Probably she's living alone. And now she's leading her lover into this
room. In other words... it's *that*. It has to.

My heart beat with an intense roar. She, however, didn't seem to care and got on the elevator.
When the elevator had stopped, she opened the door of room «403» at last.

The instant I entered the room, I smelled a light touch of peppermint. It was a studio
apartment of the size of 10 Tatami mats. I guess it's because there is almost no furniture that
it feels extremely big.

"Why are you looking around so curiously? Nothing has changed since you were last here."

"...Yeah."

I tried to appear calm and sat down on a cushion. When Maria Otonashi had observed this
with a side glance, she opened the closet and searched for something.

"Well then Kazuki, hurry up and stretch out your hands."

Stretch out my hands...? Does she plan to kiss the back of my hand or something?

"What are you hesitating? Like this."

Maria Otonashi stretched out both her hands. I imitated her as told.

• click*

What's this sound? - at the same time when I thought this, I felt a tightening sensation on my
right wrist. I looked at the corresponding wrist.

Handcuffs.

"...what kind of joke is this, Maria-san?"


"Joke? I give this question back to you: what kind of joke is this? We're doing that every time,
aren't we?"

Every time...? Handcuffing me?

"What? So you're in the mood today to do a resistance play? Geez... you really are beyond
help."

"O-Ouch!"

Maria Otonashi twisted my hands forcefully behind my back with skillful hand movements
and a bewitching smile, and applied the handcuffs also on my left wrist. She then applied foot
cuffs to my feet and made me lie on the ground. I tried moving lightly. I'd probably be able to
stand up, but except this I can't move freely.

"Shall we use that today, too?"

Maria Otonashi took out a black cloth, which was then wrapped round my eyes. My field of
vision was blocked.

What a situation. My body is almost completely in restraint, my field of vision is blocked and
I'm rolling on the floor like a hornworm. Almost as if I was captured by the enemy.

...Mh? Aah, I see.

"Seems like we're done with the preparations. Let's begin."

Maria Otonashi should have noticed that something is happening to Kazuki Hoshino.

There's no way she would still do things that are done between lovers.

So, assuming this --- as whom is Maria Otonashi currently treating me?

"Well---"

She continued her words.

"--- you aren't Kazuki Hoshino, so who are you?"

I see.

This means that everything up to now was just a play to constrain [me].
"Huhu..."

Brilliant. As expected from Maria Otonashi. That's the reason for my admiration for her. I'm
really glad that I didn't have to abandon this illusion.

"Why are you laughing? It seems you're not aware of the situation you're in."

I'll try a last vain struggle just in case.

"No, no... Otonashi-san. You're being absurd."

"Stop this futile acting."

Aah, so it was useless after all. But right because of this, my laughing doesn't stop.

"You're an inscrutable guy. Why are you so joyful, although I just deceived you completely
and constrained you?"

"May I ask? Why do you think that I am not Kazuki Hoshino?"

I stopped acting and asked her.

"I listened to your voice recording while knowing of the 'box'."

I understood with her frank statement. Not just the reason why she saw through me, but I also
understood why she is a special existence.

"But even when you know about the 'box' and even when you heard this message, isn't that
too little to figure out whether Kazuki Hoshino is [me] or [Kazuki Hoshino]? Since when did
you know it's me?"

"Since you said «Hello» on the phone."

"...you're joking, right?"

There's no way it would be possible to distinguish a person with the exactly same type of
voice just with this.

"Kazuki answers the phone with «Yes?». He doesn't use «Hello». Of course I wouldn't have
taken heed of that if it wasn't for this situation. But I do know that Kazuki is involved in this
'box'. It's natural to be skeptic. What remained was to confirm. It was enough to talk
purposefully until you made a fault. I'll tell you something good: Kazuki has never been in
this room."

"That is indeed something good."

Because it would be unforgivable for someone pathetic like Kazuki Hoshino to visit the room
of a noble lady like Maria Otonashi frequently.

"In other words, you deceived [me] and confirmed whether I really existed."

"There's no need to confirm such a trifle only now. I wanted to confirm whether you share the
memory with Kazuki or not. Huhu, and as it seems you don't have Kazuki's memories."

"......"

So she was already a step ahead in terms of confirmation.

I admit that this is an important point. If [Yuuhei Ishihara] and [Kazuki Hoshino] shared
their memories, then all information would leak when she tried to work out a plan with
[Kazuki Hoshino]. She wouldn't be able to cooperate with [Kazuki Hoshino].

"Well now, let me ask: who are you?"

"Can't you see? I am Kazuki Hoshino!"

"Don't mess around with me and answer."

Lying on the ground, I shrugged my shoulders.

"I'm not messing around with you. I am Kazuki Hoshino. A being that was determined to
become so, using the 'box'."

"...what do you mean?"

"I'm talking literally. My 'wish' was «to become Kazuki Hoshino». The 'box' grants any wish,
doesn't it? Thus, I am Kazuki Hoshino. I can't call me any different."

On my words, Maria Otonashi kept silent.

"...«to become Kazuki Hoshino», you say? What an oddball... Why Kazuki of all people? I
don't think «Kazuki Hoshino»'s body is so desirable actually?"
"Because you're by his side."

I answered immediately.

"------I am?"

"Yeah, I admired you. This admired Maria Otonashi will be at my side. Just this was reason
enough for me to take him over."

I heard Maria Otonashi letting out a sigh.

"...I never would have guessed that I am the main reason that made you want to take over
Kazuki."

She complained like this, but regained her composure right away. Then she spoke to me.

"I understood that you insist on being Kazuki Hoshino. However, I can't call you Kazuki."

"Then just call me [Yuuhei Ishihara]."

"[Yuuhei Ishihara]? Never heard of that name. This isn't your real name, or is it?"

"Who knows?"

"Hmpf, whatever. But you have to tell me just one thing: how do you switch with Kazuki?"

"What meaning is there in asking this?"

"I don't need to answer your question."

"Well, then I don't need to answer either."

"I am amazed that you can say this in a state of having your hands and feet bound together."

"You can't deceive me! You can't do anything to me. After all, using violence against me is, in
fact, violence against Kazuki Hoshino's body."

"There are countless ways of torture that have no impact on the body...but, I cannot use
violence anyway..."

Maria Otonashi said something with a small voice.

"Did you say anything?"


"No, nothing. ...leaving that aside, you don't plan to tell me, do you?"

"Mh, let's see. To be honest, I don't mind either way, but I won't tell you."

"You don't mind either way?"

"Well, yeah. After all you're forced to do something about the 'box' or else [Kazuki Hoshino]
will disappear when it's May 6. Could you alleviate the condition in any way when I told you
such a triviality? I will absolutely not tell you how to take the 'box' out, you know? Or will
you try killing me? Kazuki Hoshino would die as well, though!"

I laughed with a put-on voice.

How's that, Maria Otonashi? This situation is more hopeless than you would have ever
imagined, isn't it?

"Huhuhu..."

But for some reason, she let out a silent laugh.

"...why are you laughing? Is the situation so hopeless that you can't help laughing?"

"Hopeless? This is? Huhu... This menace is just like a mosquito bustling about, compared to
the rejection we set once against. The only menace I'm faced with right now is that you won't
tell me how you switch with Kazuki, right? How is this hopeless?"

"The only solution is to kill Kazuki Hoshino - that's how I explained it to you, but did you
perhaps not understand?"

"That's the reason for my spontaneous laugh. After all --- that's a lie."

I lost my tongue.

"I understand that you want to exhaust me, but I'm afraid I can't be deceived by such a lousy
lie."

"...why do you think it's a lie?"

"You said it yourself. You said that you're Kazuki Hoshino. But Kazuki Hoshino doesn't have
the 'box'. In brief, he can't be the 'owner'."

"What's this word play? You can't escape from reality with this!"
"You still don't get it? Okay then, I'll pose you a question."

Maria Otonashi spoke with a firm voice.

"Do you really believe it's possible for a soul to dwell in the body of another human?"

"W-"

Well---

"You can't reply immediately, huh?"

Aah... damn.

I don't know why. I don't know why, but it seemed to me like a bad mistake that I had become
speechless in this timing.

"The 'box' grants 'wishes' completely. A person that thinks more or less rational is unable to
fully believe that his 'wish' gets granted. And as I thought, you don't believe from the bottom
of your heart either, judging from your reaction to my question. The 'box' incorporates the
doubts when it grants a 'wish'. Hence, the 'owner' was not able to take over Kazuki Hoshino."

"......"

"Which means that the 'owner' exists as before without having taken over Kazuki Hoshino's
body. ---separately from you."

Without minding my silence, she asked me.

"So what are you, when you're not the 'owner'?"

I couldn't answer.

"If you don't know, I'll say it for you. You are an artificial being that came forth by the
distortion of the 'wish'. You're just the fake imitation of the 'owner'. Right, to name it --- a
«fabrication»"

She laughed silently and continued.


"And since you're just a «fabrication», you are not the 'owner' I'm supposed to search for."

I see. So that's why --- I don't have the 'box'.

"Hahaha"

But so what?

To begin with, I put this 'wish' into the 'box' because I wanted to throw away such a bastard
as myself anyway. I'm not even the 'owner'? I'm a fabrication? I'm rather glad of that!

Exactly because I am nobody, I can without doubt become Kazuki Hoshino.

"...what does this laugh mean, [Yuuhei Ishihara]?"

"Huhu, does that really matter? However, there's something I want to ask. So I am a
fabrication. I'll admit that! But who are you who could see through that?"

"Who I am, you ask...?"

For some reason Maria Otonashi was at a loss of words.

"......you are a fabrication. And I am---"

"Why are you brooding like this? Actually, I'm just asking because I want to know why you're
so knowledgeable about the 'box'."

"...Aah. What, that's all?"

When she comprehended my intention, she regained the usual firm tone in her voice.

"I am a 'box' myself. And since I am a 'box' myself, I am naturally versed in the
characteristics of the 'box'."

"...you're a 'box'? Is this some kind of metaphor?"

"Interpret it as you please."

A 'box', huh? If she's telling the truth, then that would really match perfectly.

"By the way, there was something I had to tell you, wasn't there?"

"...what are you talking about?"


"Oh? Didn't I tell you properly? Yesterday night, that I'd say it to you tomorrow. Since the
day finally changed, I'll say it now!"

I then spoke with a smile that was so broad that I felt regretful for only being able to show
her half of it because of the blindfold.

"I love you, Maria Otonashi."

She classified herself as 'box'.

I think that matches perfectly. I really think that matches perfectly; for being an object to
obtain and for being my enemy.

May 02 (Saturday) 07:06

I have slept in an unfamiliar room with handcuffs applied.

"......err.."

My head didn't work properly since I had just awoken. A white room. I smelled a pleasant
odor. I heard the sound of a shower. My back was hurting. A Futon was laid out. But I had
also foot cuffs applied.

Wait.

What is this?

My sleepiness was swept away at once. I tried hurriedly to stand up, but tumbled again.

While holding my two arms under my hurting nose, I sat up and looked around again. There
was a semi-double bed, a table, a notebook and speakers on the table, a difficult-looking book.
On the whole, there aren't much things. Looking at the sailor uniform at the edge of the closet,
I noticed that I was probably in the room of a girl.

The deed of [Yuuhei Ishihara]? Right, of course it is.

The sound of the shower stopped. After a while I heard the sound of a hair drier. I assume it's
the occupant of this room who's in the dressing room. Which means, a girl...?
So a naked girl is on the other side of this wall...? What's this situation... And anyway, what
on earth have I, no, has [Yuuhei Ishihara] done to this girl?!

The sound of the hair drier stopped and the door to the dressing room opened.

"U-Uwa!!"

Seeing the appearance of her only wearing a white shirt, I hurriedly averted my eyes.

"Ah, you woke up?"

My thought process stopped at a blow upon hearing this extremely familiar voice.

"Eh?"

The face of a familiar person awaited me when I looked up reflexively.

"Ah, Otonashi-san...?"

"Who else do I look like?"

Being said so, I viewed her full body. Yeah, it's unmistakably Maria Otonashi.

Then I suddenly noticed that I was actually staring at her in only underwear and a thin shirt
and averted my eyes hurriedly.

"S-Since you know that I'm here, be a bit more careful please!"

"What is there to panic? About this much is nothing to fret about, is it?"

...this is just wrong as a statement of a girl. That was something that Haruaki would likely say
when he sexually harasses Kokone.

- When I was about to tell her this, she preempted me with a outrageous words.

"To begin with, haven't you seen much more of me than just underwear, yesterday? Is there
still the need to get nervous just by this?"

"......Eh?"

"I never would have thought you would do *that* as soon you enter my room despite the
well-behaved face you made at first. Geez, you really got me there."
"W-What are you talking about...?"

But the current situation implies that she's telling the truth. After all this is her room, she just
took a shower and walks around in scanty clothing---

"T-This is a joke, right?"

I asked timidly.

"Yeah, it's a joke."

Otonashi-san answered frankly.

"Huh?"

"...uh-huh, I see. So you're [Kazuki Hoshino]. This idiotic reaction when you open your
mouth gaping wide is quite hard to imitate, after all."

What may this unbearable feeling be that's emerging in me although it was a joke as I
wished...?

"......Otonashi-san. Say, the fact that I'm here before I knew means in other words that you
talked with [Yuuhei Ishihara], ri--- huh?"

While I was speaking, Otonashi-san had come up close to me that was lying clumsily on the
ground. She was so near that I could smell a pleasant odor from her long hair... probably
shampoo or some treatment or something.

"W-What is?"

A clicking sound made me realize that Otonashi-san was removing my foot cuffs. ...well,
that's good, but she could have at least told me briefly.

When she had finished removing the foot cuffs, Otonashi-san kneeled up in front of me.

"Umm..."

I followed her example and kneeled, too.

Then she opened slowly her mouth.

"Kazuki, who am I?"


What is she saying out of the blue?

She is Maria Otonashi. I can answer so without hesitation. But why is she asking such a
question in this situation?

"Call the 'Rejecting Classroom' to mind."

"Eh? ...ah!"

Now that she mentioned it, I could recall a scene where she let me write her name similarly to
now.

At the time, Otonashi-san asked for her own name to have someone write «Maria» - a name
which could only be known to someone who retained their memory.

So for what sake is she asking for this now?

For the sake of distinguishing me. Otonashi-san is asking for this to distinguish [me] from
[Yuuhei Ishihara]. Because if I say a name of her which only [I] can know, she's able to
identify me as [me].

"---Aya Otonashi."

Therefore I spit out this name. The name she had once spoken out in the 'Rejecting
Classroom' which only [I] can know.

But that she asks for this means that she doesn't know which one I am right now? I have to go
so far to make her recognize that it's [me]?

This is somehow --- very mortifying.

"Aya Otonashi, huh?"

For some reason she murmured so, heavy-heartedly.

"...was my answer wrong?"

"No, you're right. I just didn't expect that you would be able to answer this clearly. That's all."

"......Okay then. But so you understood that it's [me]?"


"For the time being, yeah. I think you know already, but I grasped the overall situation by
now. I have also already heard the voice file [Yuuhei Ishihara] recorded."

"Okay."

"I have also talked to [Yuuhei Ishihara]."

"...How was he? Did he tell you anything?"

"Mhh, I can't for sure."

Otonashi-san answered bluntly somehow.

"Ah, but wasn't he ferocious? After all you had to apply foot cuffs."

"Of course I considered this possibility and thus applied them. No, it's more correct to say
that I rather applied them for you, Kazuki."

"...huh?"

"How did you react when you realized that you're constrained? What actions did you take?"

"Well, I became confused... I even stumbled after all."

"I wanted to call forth this reaction."

"......you wanted to bully me?"

"No. I thought I could observe the second when [Yuuhei Ishihara] switches to [Kazuki
Hoshino] by waiting for this agitated reaction. In the end I missed the scene, though, because
I was taking a shower. It's a real pity that I couldn't see this funny reaction of yours."

So she wanted to bully me eventually!

"Okay then, that's it for now. Kazuki, we're leaving."

"...huh?"

Otonashi-san made an amazed expression for some reason.

"Of course to your home. What time do you think it is!"

"Eh?"
I looked around in the room and found a clock. It's 07:15AM.

"Or do you want to come late? It's time to go to school."

"Hah..."

We only have at the second and fourth Saturday off in our school.

"What is 'Hah'? Do you plan to go to school with empty hands?"

...She has a point. We have to go to my home.

"......Um, may I also go home alone?"

"What are you saying? You don't even know how to reach your house from here, do you?
Can you go back home alone? And anyway, you wouldn't make it in time by foot. I'll give
you a ride on my bike."

"O-Okay."

What should I do...?

I mean, it wasn't by choice but I slept over without permission. How would it look to them
seeing me come home at early morning? I tried checking my mobile phone and saw, as
expected, several incoming calls from my mom in the message history. This is bad. If there
was in addition a girl of the same age by my side---

"Um, Otonashi-san. Could you please hide yourself when we reached my home...?"

"Why?"

Otonashi-san stared to me in puzzlement. Of course my intent didn't reach her...

There is nothing else for it but to slip into the house and prepare myself without mom
noticing.

May 02 (Saturday) 07:34

My attempt to return without being noticed ended in an absolute failure.


"That was a failure."

Otonashi-san murmured while walking towards the station after having parked the bike near
my home.

"......indeed."

I concurred with a sigh.

My mom discovered me right when I was about to climb the stairs.

Of course, a sermon followed.

That can't be helped. I properly understand that mom had to get angry at me since I stayed out
overnight without any notice. It can't be helped, but---

With the time passing, Otonashi-san naturally became tired of waiting in front of the house.

And as expected, mom concluded that the suddenly appeared Otonashi-san was the origin of
my staying out and stared at her. Surprisingly, Otonashi-san reacted with a soft smile to this
gaze and spoke the following:

"It's not like Kazuki was out in the nightlife. He was merely together with me the entire time,
until morning. I haven't called any other people to my room. We were completely alone, so
please be at ease."

...no, this is not what you should say in this situation, is it?

My mom froze so clearly she was almost pitiful, as she isn't what one could call a mother that
had managed letting go of her children. Otonashi-san didn't comprehend this attitude and
continued with a frown.

"...? As I said, Kazuki didn't go anywhere and just slept in my room. There is no problem
with this, is there? Aah, but occasionally I was a bit rough, though."

Mom looked silently at my wrist. There were still the reddened traces of the handcuffs.

My mom collapsed right there.

When Otonashi-san had held her up reflexively, she finally understood with a "Aah!".
"I see. We are a boy and a girl in our teens, huh?"

"How should I only face her from now on...?"

Remembering this scene, I sighed deeply.

"What are you talking about?"

"Huh? Didn't you say 'that was a failure' just now?"

"Yeah, I said. I was talking about the bike."

"The bike?"

For now I understood that she didn't share my worry at all.

"I gave you a ride on the bike, right? Including [Yuuhei Ishihara], two times even. I called
this a failure."

"...? Why so?"

"Try imagining what would have happened if [Kazuki Hoshino] and [Yuuhei Ishihara]
switched while riding. It wouldn't be surprising if you let go of my waist and fall down just
like you did when you were surprised by the handcuffs before."

"Ah..."

So that's why she left the bike in front of my home.

"What a careless failure, considering it's me... I'll be careful from now on."

"Yeah. ...By the way, Otonashi-san. Could you tell me now what happened when you were
with [Yuuhei Ishihara]?"

The moment I asked this--

"------"

Otonashi-san stopped.

And looked at me.


Expressionlessly.

"Eh...?"

Why this face?

She opened her mouth, still expressionless.

"I cannot tell you what happened."

"W-Wh---"

"Why? Didn't I tell you before?"

Then she spat out her next words expressionlessly.

"That I won't trust you anymore."

She did tell me. I indeed heard those words before. There's no way I'd forget. But---

"But wasn't this revoked...?"

After all it's not like the time when we didn't know the state of affairs anymore. Otonashi-san
understood the reason for my inexplicable behavior.

"Don't revoke that on your own accord. You didn't get anything, did you? To begin with, we
don't know how much truth is in [Yuuhei Ishihara]'s words. Maybe he does in fact have the
memory of [Kazuki Hoshino] and uses both of those personalities for his benefit."

"T-That's unreasonable!"

"Indeed, I might be overthinking it. But there's still nothing that proves it."

"But---"

"Let's assume that the characteristics of the 'box' are true as [Yuuhei Ishihara] told us. Even
so---"

Otonashi-san clapped suddenly her hands.

I closed my eyes reflexively to this sound.


"Now assume that the shifting occurred in this instant. I have no means to ascertain this. So I
would be talking to you as [Kazuki Hoshino], not noticing that you switched to [Yuuhei
Ishihara] really. We don't know when you switch. A important plan might leak to [Yuuhei
Ishihara]. Therefore it's dangerous. It's basically the same as the case with the bike just now."

Indeed, that's right. ...But I am [Kazuki Hoshino].

"This is an example --- you consider yourself as [Kazuki Hoshino], right?"

"Of course I do!"

"But what if you were someone that's convinced of being [Kazuki Hoshino]?"

"That's im---"

'That's impossible' is what I was about to say, but then I kept silent.

So is there anything that proves that I am really [Kazuki Hoshino]? My appearance? My


personality? My memory? But then what makes [Yuuhei Ishihara] [Yuuhei Ishihara]? After
all he exists in the same body.

No, that's wrong.

I am [Kazuki Hoshino]. I won't mistake this. I will absolutely not doubt this.

"This was just an example. Don't think too deeply about it. But Kazuki, you understood why I
can't trust you, right? I have yet to comprehend this 'box' - the 'Sevennight in Mud'. Until then,
I can't trust the personalities that dwell in Kazuki Hoshino."

So when is it that this 'Sevennight in Mud' gets clarified and I'm trusted again? Won't this be
as long as [Yuuhei Ishihara] is within me?

I am not trusted.

Though Otonashi-san is supposedly my ally, I am not trusted by this ally.

The nearby station came in sight.

I halted.

"Why are you standing still? There's not much time left until the train arrives."
"...why do I go to school?"

I forgot because I was together with Otonashi-san. If this was the everyday life, I would
naturally go to school. No, even if it was not, I would still go just to offer resistance. But if I
go now, I'll destroy my place to be completely, although one could say I've lost this place
already.

"To collect information about [Yuuhei Ishihara]. There's no doubt that he is someone near to
us. In the first place, only the students of our school have contact with both you and me. The
importance of collecting data in school should be obvious."

"But there's no need for me to be there, is there...?"

"The conditions change greatly from when you're there and when you're not. Today is the last
day of school before the consecutive holidays. We mustn't let this chance escape."

She said.

She said that she doesn't care if my everyday life gets destroyed in order to obtain the 'box'.

I misunderstood her. I had considered her as an unconditional ally.

But that's not true. I mean, Otonashi-san isn't together with me to save me, but to meet '0' and
obtain a 'box'.

So what am I to her? Most likely---

---just bait to catch '0'.

"...Kazuki, I understand that going to school must depress you. But you gather that this is the
best action to take, don't you? Not acting while being aware of this isn't like you."

Otonashi-san said to me reprovingly.

Surely to accomplish her own goal.

Otonashi-san doesn't trust me.

However, since I'm neither able to see [Yuuhei Ishihara], nor to oppose him directly, I'm
dependent on a supporter. And no one comes to mind except her.
To trust my supporter in this situation is just like entrusting him with my life. I have no other
choice but to blindly believe the words of my supporter. If Otonashi-san wanted to ruin me,
she could easily set a trap for me.

"...what should I do at school?"

But still, she's the only supporter I have.

"Let's see, for example---"

She proposed various things to which I agreed. She had easily thought of effective plans as
anticipated, but exactly because of that I'd be afraid if she... betrayed me.

"Do you also have a something?"

One thing came to mind:

"How about changing our naming?"

"...What do you mean?"

"Instead of «Otonashi-san», I'm going to call you «Aya» from now on. [Yuuhei Ishihara]
doesn't know of that name, so he won't call you like this for sure. Therefore, calling you
«Aya» proves that I'm [me]. How is this?"

Otonashi-san kept quiet.

"Is this plan unusable?"

"......no, I think it's quite effective. Let's use it."

She agreed. But, for some reason she seemed slightly displeased.

But still... «Aya Otonashi», huh?

«Aya Otonashi» was the name of an illusion that doesn't exist within our everyday life.

Furthermore---it was once the name of my enemy.

Those were thoughts that flashed through my mind at once.


May 02 (Saturday) 08:11

I realized that the air had frozen right when I entered the classroom together with
Otonashi-san.

Of course, no one greeted me.

Daiya naturally didn't, but neither did Haruaki. Kokone's seat was still empty. Maybe she's
going to be absent today. ...Because of me? --Of course.

I guess even Otonashi-san did not expect my situation to be this bad. She darted a sad glance
at me. But then she pulled herself up, focused on my classmates and clapped her hands two
times.

"Listen everyone!"

Their gazes focused on her immediately which is probably because they paid attention to us
anyway.

"Is there anyone that knows a person named 'Yuuhei Ishihara'?"

Upon hearing this, several students suspiciously exchanged glances.

Otonashi-san said that the probability is high that the 'owner' would be one of my classmates.
Since it wouldn't be logical to seek an unknown person's body so much as to use a 'box', I
suppose she's right on that point.

But isn't the 'owner' the [Yuuhei Ishihara] inside me? Or does she mean that there exists
another entity separate from him?

I don't really get it.

However, for the time being, I do think it's effective to just ask the class about the name
«Yuuhei Ishihara».

"Hey, you, what are you up to?"

Miyazawa-kun addressed us with an awfully disdaining glance at me.

"You again? What? Do you know Yuuhei Ishihara?"

Miyazawa-kun sneered at us and replied with something that was unrelated to her question.
"Why can you two still be together like this, after «such a thing»?"

What does he refer to with this?

I looked at my other classmates. Anger dwelled in their eyes. This anger has probably
emerged from some kind of righteous indignation against me.

In other words, those classmates cannot forgive me for being together with Otonashi-san?.

"What are your excuses, Hoshino?"

I was stuck for an answer since I didn't know why they couldn't forgive this. And I mustn't
ask for that «thing» that [Yuuhei Ishihara] had done.

Therefore, I had no other choice but to keep silent.

Miyazawa-kun reacted with a plastic sigh to my silence.

"Whatever. I won't broach that subject again! ---This is going to be personal now."

Miyazawa-kun continued loathingly.

"The de facto husband of my mother... ah, this might be out of context. Yuuhei Ishihara is the
de facto husband of my mother.."

A sudden acknowledgement.

"...Miyazawa. Will you tell us more about Yuuhei Ishihara?"

"No, no... just by hearing our relationship should give you an idea of how hard it is to speak
about it."

"We have our reasons. Isn't the fact that I said the name 'Yuuhei Ishihara' reason enough to
tell me more?"

Miyazawa-kun frowned, but agreed even so reluctantly with a "...okay, got it".

Because of the delicate subject, he urged us to change the place to the corridor.

"Well, it's not like I'm hiding anything---"

With these words, Miyazawa-kun introduced the talk.


His parents divorced when he was in the first year of middle school. Reason was the change
of the emotions of the spouses. Both of them found new lovers and chose to live together
with them. And in the case of the mother, the new partner was Yuuhei Ishihara.

Both Miyazawa-kun's true father and his true mother didn't want to take him along into their
new households since he was a symbol of their past family life. They didn't display it bluntly,
but since it was not something one can hide, Miyazawa-kun sensed it.

He didn't know why this happened to his parents. But for him, as their son, those
circumstances didn't matter. This was without doubt betrayal, and something that cannot
possibly be forgiven.

Eventually, after some argument, his father took custody of him. But it was unthinkable for
him to build a new household with his father and the new mother. When he had refused to
live together with them, he started living alone in an apartment in the second year of middle
school, receiving only living expenses from his father.

As it seems---during middle school he considered himself to be the unluckiest human on


earth, being in this unhappy family which appeared often in cheap dramas, but is only
seldomly found in reality with one's own eyes.

Thus, he naturally bore a grudge. Against his parents who were responsible for this
environment, against his new mother, and against Yuuhei Ishihara.

"So I think they should just die."

Miyazawa-kun cursed at them without any emotion in his voice.

"I understand your feelings, but you shouldn't say such things."

"Thank you very much for this naïve word of advice."

Miyazawa replied, with a sardonic laugh.

"Is this enough already?"

"...Yes. I'm thankful that you spoke with us about this delicate subject."

"Oh? That's not like you."

"Surprisingly, you have your troubles, too, huh?"


"Thanks for the sympathy."

The chime rang at this point.

"Well then, I'll return to my seat. Ah, and Hoshino---"

While returning to the classroom, Miyazawa-kun darted me a glance for the first time since
we began the discussion about Yuuhei Ishihara.

"Don't get me wrong. The fact that I answered Otonashi's questions doesn't mean that I
forgave what you've done. I cannot forgive you."

Spitting out those words, he walked to his seat.

The other class members smiled at him to praise his straightforwardness against me.

Though, he probably intentionally said that while walking back, so that the others heard those
words, too.

......That's just cruel.

I laid on my desk and covered my head with my arms.

"Kazuki, I'll return to my own classroom. You haven't forgotten what I told you on the way to
here, right? Try doing it."

I raised my head reluctantly, took my mobile phone and sent Otonashi-san an empty mail.

Otonashi-san checked the mail and nodded. I then erased this sent mail from the outbox.

"Don't forget sending this mail during classes!"

Send me a mail every 10 minutes. That was Otonashi-san's instruction.

By doing so, she's able to probe the switch between [Yuuhei Ishihara] and [me].

That is because [Yuuhei Ishihara] doesn't know of this instruction and will hence not send the
empty mail.

But well, since we don't know all characteristics of the 'Sevennight in Mud' yet, we can't call
it a reliable method.
"Still need anything?"

"Nope, Aya."

Otonashi-san looked astonished for just a second, but in the end she didn't say anything else
and left the classroom.

I sighed.

...Yuuhei Ishihara is Miyazawa-kun's mother's de facto husband? This person is the [he] in
my body? Somehow it didn't stand to reason that a foreign adult would desire the body of
«Kazuki Hoshino».

Suddenly, my mobile phone vibrated inside my pocket. I took it out instantly and opened it.
A new mail arrived. I opened the mail inbox.

The name «Maria Otonashi» was displayed.

Hm, did she perhaps forget to mention anything? Ah, or was it something she can't speak out
loud?

There was only one line of text in the mail. A very simple line, which was probably written
with the possibility of me being [Yuuhei Ishihara] in mind.

«Don't believe.»

Ah, that.

Why does Miyazawa-kun interfere with us since yesterday? There is one reason that comes to
mind immediately:

That is---because Miyazawa-kun is an ally of [Yuuhei Ishihara].

Because of that, he came approaching us forcedly. In order to tell [Yuuhei Ishihara] about us.

I mustn't believe Miyazawa-kun's words, since he might be in this position. I guess that's
what she tried to convey with this mail.

Sure enough, I don't really think that Yuuhei Ishihara is the same person as the [Yuuhei
Ishihara] in me. But on the other hand, I don't think that all he has told us is a lie either.
Those feelings that he showed while speaking about his family affairs cannot be fake.
I returned my gaze to my mobile phone. I read her simple mail once more.

«Don't believe.»

...Ah, maybe she means something different. Maybe she doesn't mean "«don't believe» «what
Ryuu Miyazawa said»".

Rather, I mustn't believe---anything.

I can only find out about what [Yuuhei Ishihara] has done while controlling my body, by
hearing about it from others. But I have no allies among those others. Even Miyazawa-kun,
Haruaki, Kokone, Daiya and Aya Otonashi aren't my allies.

I erased the mail. I'm instructed to delete any mail from Otonashi-san immediately.

I clenched my fist.

"---why"

Why have I no allies when even [Yuuhei Ishihara] has one?

May 02 (Saturday) 09:05

Surprisingly [Kazuki Hoshino] was taking classes. I was sure he'd still be constrained by
cuffs in Maria Otonashi's room. It honestly astonishes me that [Kazuki Hoshino] came to
school despite the terrible scene here.

Did Maria Otonashi make him do it? Because she wanted to gather information? If so, then
she's heartless.

Well, whatever.

The outcome won't change either way.

Kazuki Hoshino's everyday life will get destroyed either way.

After all I arranged things so that Kazuki Hoshino's everyday life is going to get destroyed
just by being with Maria Otonashi.

Why did I confess to Kokone Kirino? Of course, to destroy Kazuki Hoshino's everyday life.
But the reason that I specially chose this method is just a whim of my revenge. I mean, can
this be forgiven? To have a such intimate female friend while being blessed with a lover like
Maria Otonashi?

Thus I chose to destroy this relationship by using a confession.

And it had bore fruit immediately. On top of that, the repercussions were tremendous. The
confession to Kirino was a more vehement bomb than I had expected.

I got smacked by Oomine. To tell the truth, the statement from me that brought this situation
forth was not even made with the intention to offend her feelings.

I merely said:

«Come on, let me hear your reply!»

I said this simply to sound out the situation between us.

But Kirino got shocked for some reason and broke out in tears, to which Oomine reacted
oversensitively and smacked me.

Why did this happen? I didn't understand at the time, but thinking about it now, it's simple.
[Kazuki Hoshino] and [Yuuhei Ishihara] don't share their memories. For example let's
assume that Kirino has already given [Kazuki Hoshino] her reply to the confession. Now, I
asked her this question. How would she have perceived those words? I can't say for sure, but
I believe they would have hurt her feelings.

I still don't know why Oomine reacted oversensitively, though. I had heard rumors about him
having special feelings for Kirino. I hadn't been able to confirm anything about this by
observing his attitude, but those rumors might just be true.

I haven't seen myself what I'm going to tell now, but I have noticed this later on after
listening to Haruaki Usui.

As it seems, at the point in time when I was attacked by Oomine, most of the members of the
class 2-3 were assuming that this was a quarrel that started because Kazuki confessed
Kirino.

The problem is that Maria Otonashi appeared.


Kazuki followed her without hesitation. As if clinging to her. Completely ignoring the
emotions of the crying Kokone Kirino--the girl he had apparently confessed to.

And even after this, Kazuki Hoshino kept being together with Maria Otonashi as if nothing
had happened.

It's only natural that his classmates became mad with anger when he deserted the popular
Kokone Kirino like this. However, since Hoshino had no other choice but to rely on her, he
couldn't act independently.

Like this, Kazuki Hoshino's everyday life is gradually getting lost.

Not because of me, but because of [Kazuki Hoshino]'s own behavior.

Heck, this is just too great.

I informed the teacher that I'd go to the toilet and went to the corridor. When I had done so,
Maria Otonashi already awaited me. She opened her mouth with a frown.

"Why are you laughing?"

My mouth bent without me noticing, it seems.

"I guess because you were waiting for me, Otonashi-san."

"Hmpf, trying to act like [Kazuki Hoshino], [Yuuhei Ishihara]?"

She could make out that I'm [Yuuhei Ishihara] just from this?

No, that's not what should astound me. She rushed to the classroom 2-3 right after the shift.

Probably because she knew that [Kazuki Hoshino] switched to [me].

I assumed that they made some kind of agreement to distinguish the two of us.

"Follow me."

She instructed me.

"Where do you plan to lead me to?"


She smiled faintly to my question.

"What are you saying? Didn't you announce the destination yourself?"

"Hah?"

"You're going to go to the toilet, aren't you?"

May 02 (Saturday) 09:14

"You really don't mind? If people found out that you're here with Kazuki Hoshino, wouldn't
this become a serious matter for the two of you?"

She had led me to a stall in the girls' restroom.

"...he"

Maria Otonashi sneered at me when she had seen me entering mindlessly.

What on earth is she thinking? Certainly, the restrooms on the third floor of the second
building are hardly ever used since there are only special classrooms here. Even less during
classes. But even so, I don't get the reason why she brought me specially to such a place.

"I guess so. We'd get suspended from school. We'd get pointed at by our classmates."

"You're already somewhat out of despair? If so, shall I make some noise as you wish?"

"Feel free to do so."

She said relaxedly and sneered at me. ...Apparently she saw through me that I had no
intention to do so.

Kazuki Hoshino's current environment is going to become my own. I may have harmed his
everyday life more than planned, but there's no way I'd long for an even more cumbersome
situation.

"Okay [Yuuhei Ishihara], open Kazuki's mobile phone."

"...why so suddenly?"
"Open the image. The third one from the top in the data folder."

This provoked an urge to resist, but since it won't do any good to pick a quarrel here, I
obeyed her honestly.

I opened the image. It was the picture of a lovely girl in pajamas, probably self-taken.

"So tell me, who is that?"

"...what meaning is there in this question?"

"I won't answer since it would worsen my conditions."

What a frank answer.

I looked at it again. An unknown girl. Telling her honestly that I don't know this girl would
probably be to my own disadvantage, I suppose.

I shifted my attention to the background. This is without doubt a hospital. Come to think of it,
I've heard of a big accident about two months ago in the vicinity. Is she maybe the victim of
then? The name of the victim was... I don't remember.

...I don't know anyway. So let's venture a guess.

"'Kasumi Mogi'."

I tried saying the name I had priorly heard from the underwear-girl, Ruka Hoshino.

"I'm afraid you're wrong."

Didn't work, huh? I smiled bitterly without thinking.

"Well, I didn't know her name--so what?"

"It's a lie."

"Hah?"

"It's a lie that you were wrong. It is indeed Kasumi Mogi. But you have never seen her as it
seems."

Maria Otonashi said so without changing her expression a bit.


"......aren't you unfair?"

"What is unfair? You are too naïve to think that it would work out somehow by guessing right.
Well then, I'll pose another question. How are Kazuki Hoshino and Kasumi Mogi related?"

I have no clue what's the point of those question. Well, I guess it's also on purpose that I don't
understand her intent.

I groped in my mind for a vague answer.

"......they're friends."

"And?"

So Maria Otonashi doesn't let me get away with such an answer, after all.

"How should I give you a better answer when I don't know Kasumi Mogi?"

This is a natural consequence. An obvious answer since I've already told her that I don't
know that girl. There should be no problem with this answer.

"You don't know Kasumi Mogi?"

Nevertheless, Maria Otonashi spoke as if I made a fatal mistake.

"...Didn't I say so from the start? I've never seen the girl on this photograph."

"Yeah, you've never seen her. You said that. But how is 'never seen' equivalent to 'do not
know'?"

"...You're being cryptical. I have never seen her, so there's no way I'd kno---"

---wait, that's not true.

"I see. With this, I grasped your true identity fairly well. You are no student of class 2-3."

......that was what she had been planning.

«Kasumi Mogi» has probably not come to school because she's hospitalized. Thus I have
never seen her. Students of the class 2-3 do, however, know her even when they have never
seen her. It's only natural that they would mind the name of the person who's seat is always
empty, and they would have an occasion where this name is mentioned, no doubt.
Right, the intention of those questions was--to narrow down the suspect.

"Hmpf, to be honest, it appeared likely to me that Ryuu Miyazawa was the 'owner'. But since
you're not a student of the class 2-3, it seems I was wrong."

Ryuu Miyazawa?

Why does she mention this name?

Don't tell me that he acted on his own accord because I was unable to give him instructions
today, being captured by Otonashi-san?

"You... no, to be accurate the 'owner,' has to be someone who's not our classmate but knows
us well. I don't think that there are many people that know much about us. He is a person
Kazuki and I can think of easily, right?"

Of course, I didn't say anything in reply.

"Further, I have one more thought. It's about Yuuhei Ishihara. Ryuu Miyazawa called Yuuhei
Ishihara the de facto husband of his mother. When searching for the reason he told us about
this, following reason comes naturally to mind. Right ---"

Maria Otonashi declared.

"---Yuuhei Ishihara does not exist."

I held my breath.

"This name was random from the start. But either you or Ryuu Miyazawa thought about
using this to your advantage. You contemplated to conceal the identity of the 'owner' by
making us think that «Yuuhei Ishihara» really exists, right? And you chose this complicated
relationship of a de facto husband because it would be hard to investigate this matter like this,
no?"

He doesn't exist, hence we can conceal him--huh? I see. She's almost right.

But she's wrong. Yuuhei Ishihara is indeed the de facto husband of Ryuu Miyazawa's mother.
However, we can say that he doesn't exist anymore.

After all Yuuhei Ishihara is already dead.

"Was this all? If so, is it my turn now?"


I guess she became cautious because of my sudden question. Maria Otonashi scowled.

"...What do you want to discuss?"

"It should attract your interest, I think! Perhaps it's even something you searched for with all
your might."

A opened my mouth with a smile.

"I'll explain it to you. How the 'Sevennight in Mud' works."

May 02 (Saturday) 10:00

Looking at each thing that entered my sight, I collected data and regained Kazuki Hoshino.
The sky. Concrete. The ground. Sand. Maria Otonashi. My hand. Kazuki Hoshino. This place
is the back of the school building. I am---me.

I got used to it, since I switched several times so far. But exactly because I got used to it, I
noticed:

This is an apparent death.

I completely vanish during the time when I'm not myself. I don't even dream. This is a
«death» that approaches me step by step. If I don't destroy the 'Sevennight in Mud' until May
05, I'm going to disappear forever. In other words, I'll «die».

"Kazuki?"

The girl in front of me asked. I nodded silently, but noticed that this won't suffice and thus
added "Yes, Aya".

Otonashi-san looked at her watch and frowned.

I noticed the worn-out electric guitar at her feet.

"This? I brought this along from the light music club."

It's quite an old one, but since the strings are properly changed to new ones, I suppose that
this guitar is still in regular use.
...I bet she brought this along without permission.

"I fiddled around with it in the 'Rejecting Classroom' to kill time, you know."

Otonashi-san picked the electric guitar up and started to play. She did so skillfully, much
better than me who can hardly hold down the F-cord. She stopped her performance
immediately and held the guitar out to me.

"Eh?"

"Play. I know that you inherited the guitar of your sister."

"Ah, no... I can't really play well, you know?"

"I don't care. Play the guitar all the time while I'm speaking. If you do so, I know it when you
switch to [Yuuhei Ishihara]."

I see. So that's why she brought this guitar along.

I'm a very poor player of the guitar, so it's kind of embarrassing, but still I started playing a
famous song of an older rock band that was in the practice book.

"I'm surprised you know that I've got the guitar of my older sister."

"There's nothing I don't know about you."

She said so boldly.

"...Do you not forget things from the 'Rejecting Classroom', Aya?"

This question came suddenly to mind, so I asked her while playing the guitar clumsily.

"Mh well, I remember everything. ...no, to be exact, I surely forgot some things since it was
such a long time of similar happenings. But basically I remember most of it."

Otonashi-san frowned and looked at me.

"Is it perhaps different for you?"

"Yeah, I don't remember much about it anymore. I have no feelings that accompany those
memories, so I'm rather oblivious. Kind of how you can't remember the face of every person
you pass by in town."
Hearing those words of mine, Otonashi-san opened her eyes wide and stood completely still.

"Eh? What's wrong?"

"Ah, no---"

Seeing her obvious disturbance, I became perplexed all the more.

"So you remember almost nothing of what we did together in the 'box'?"

"W-Well, yeah."

"I...see..."

Otonashi-san kept silent for some reason. Waiting for her to continue, I gazed at her, but she
hurriedly averted her eyes.

"Now that you say it, it's plausible. There's no way you'd remember like I do. Because you
aren't a 'owner'. I see, it finally makes sense. So that's why---"

Then she continued murmuring with averted eyes.

"---that's why you call me Aya."

"Eh?"

"Nevermind."

Otonashi-san regained her gallant expression and scowled at me.

"Oi, Kazuki. You stopped playing the guitar."

I hurriedly started playing again. Since I forgot until where I played, I started the song again
from the start.

"Geez, because you babbled nonessential things, I couldn't enter the main subject, could I?"

"Sorry. So, the main subject?"

"...mh, let's see. Since I don't know yet whether I can believe in [Yuuhei Ishihara]'s words, I'll
leave that our for now. I want to talk to you about this time's 'box' while I'm still convinced
that you're [Kazuki Hoshino]."
I nodded and suggested her to begin.

"To tell the truth, there are different kinds of 'boxes'. It might be faulty to express it like this,
but to explain it simply, there are 'boxes' that operate to the inside and there are 'boxes' that
operate to the outside. While the 'Rejecting Classroom' was more of an inside-type, this time's
'Sevennight in Mud' is more of an outside-type."

"...? What's the difference?"

"The inside-type 'box' is for the case when the 'owner' considers his 'wish' to be impossible in
the real world. For example, Kasumi Mogi, who was the 'owner' of the 'Rejecting Classroom',
didn't believe that it's possible to redo the past. Hence she created a space, removed from the
real world, where she could believe in her 'wish'. Mogi crammed herself and her classmates
into this 'box' where she could believe that her 'wish' is possible."

I nodded while playing the guitar.

"And then, the outside-type 'box' is for the case when the 'owner' considers his 'wish' to be
possible in the real world. The 'owner' of this time's 'Sevennight in Mud' seems to perceive
his 'wish' to be grantable if he had the power of the 'box'. Indeed, to take over a body may
seem plausible to occur in real life. Which means that there's no need to specially create an
unreal space. The reason that I still cannot properly perceive the 'box' also lies somewhere in
that area."

"I don't really get it, but so if one can't believe that the miracle of the 'box' can occur in the
real world, it becomes an inside-type, and if one can believe in it, it becomes an
outside-type?"

"Yeah, pretty much. If we scored them with numbers with a maximum value of 10, the
'Rejecting Classroom' would get an inside level of 9 and the 'Sevennight in Mud' would get
an outside level of 4. The higher the outside level, the more it would affect reality."

It's obvious that the influence of last time's 'Rejecting Classroom' was almost nonexistent,
since the involved classmates cannot remember it.

But, so that means that this time's 'Sevennight in Mud' isn't like that? "Ah---"

I noticed the cruel nature of the situation in those words.

I'm currently scorned by all my classmates. Furthermore, my relationship with Daiya,


Kokone and Haruaki have all been destroyed.
"So--so-, my destroyed everyday life---"

"Yeah, it won't return."

My hand that was playing the guitar halted.

Its sound vanished.

It won't return? My everyday life won't return? My everyday life was corroded and is beyond
remedy now?

So------it doesn't exist anymore.

The thing I want to regain doesn't exist anymore.

The second I realized this, my sight turned black as if all breakers of this world had been
turned off at one blow. I mean, I have no goal anymore. There's no meaning in destroying the
'box'. I completely lost sight of everything.

I don't care anymore.

I started walking away unsteadily. Otonashi-san said something, and I replied with something.
I don't know what she said nor what I replied, but I don't care.

I want to scream.

But even when I scream, there is no one that rescues me.

May 02 (Saturday) 11:00

I was in a convenience store for some reason. In my hand I was holding a weekly Manga
magazine. I checked the time on Kazuki Hoshino's mobile phone. Actually I should be taking
the third lesson right now... so why am I in a convenience store?

I looked around, but Maria Otonashi wasn't anywhere.

What does this mean? Don't tell me they broke up?

I had the doubt that this might be a trap, but I couldn't let go of this chance to get in contact
with Ryuu Miyazawa.
I typed his phone number by heart. The call sound resounded for a while. Well, he should be
in the classroom, so he wouldn't be able to answer the phone right away.

I aborted the call and cleared the outgoing calls history. He immediately called me back.

"Hello? Ryuu Miyazawa?"

«......hey, why do you call me by my full name?»

Ryuu Miyazawa asked so, seeming a bit ill-tempered.

"I am no one. «Someone» in your memory might have not called you by your full name, but
for the current me, I thought this was the most natural way."

«...Is that so. So, you have something you want, don't you? What is it?»

"I think you have classes now, but you don't mind?"

«...Nothing's more important than you.»

"Is it okay to say that as class committee chairman, I wonder? But I'm happy you say so.
Okay, I'd like to discuss how we're going proceed..."

«I don't think we should talk about that at school. Won't you come to my apartment?»

"I don't mind... But you do realize that I can't say whether 12:00 is my time or not, right?"

«That's why I proposed my apartment. We just have to restrain [Kazuki Hoshino] at my place
before it's 12:00. 13:00 is your time again, isn't it?»

"I see. So let me teach you a nice way of restraining! It's actually how Maria Otonashi
tricked me, you know---"

I gave him an explanation about handcuffs and footcuffs.

«Cuffs, huh? Sounds good. So can you buy some before we meet?»

"Sure."

«You know where I live, right?»

"Yeah. Later then."


I disconnected the call and cleared the call history with fast movements.

Ryuu Miyazawa's apartment, huh?

Now that I think about it, this is the first time I'll be there. Up to now I restrained myself from
going there. What an irony that I'm first able to go now that I got into this body.

May 02 (Saturday) 11:47

Ryuu Miyazawa's apartment was in a wooden two-story building, two levels less than the
mansion Maria Otonashi was living in. It wasn't self-locking either. I walked to the door on
the second story and rang the bell.

Ryuu Miyazawa showed his face promptly.

"Here---a present."

Saying so, I handed him a brown paper bag over. A pair of handcuffs and footcuffs were
inside. Ryuu Miyazawa accepted it with almost no change in his expression.

I took off my shoes and entered the room. The room was about of the size of six Tatami mats.
The room was very small, but he had been keeping things tidy and in order. While being
amazed at how much place the computer takes, I sat down on the floor.

"Ah right, I've been wanting to complain to you. You acted on your own accord and told
Maria Otonashi unnecessary things, didn't you?"

Ryuu Miyazawa smiled wryly, "That 'you' didn't sound kind.".

"That girl got wind of your attempt at concealing. It seems she noticed already that you and I
are working together."

"So it's as I had expected."

I raised an eyebrow because he said it very easily.

"...I don't get you. So you purposely revealed that you're my assistant?"

"Well, I guess so?"


Hey... that sounds like a really lame excuse.

"Maria Otonashi doubted me just because I tried to come in contact with Kazuki Hoshino.
We're up against such a gal. Therefore I came to the conclusion that I wouldn't be able to
deceive her."

"But there's no need to purposely tell her!"

"...Your aim is to make [Kazuki Hoshino] submit himself, right?"

"It is, ---so?"

"Without doubt, Otonashi will stand in your way before you can do so, because you cannot
attack [Kazuki Hoshino] directly. In other words, you can only attack [Kazuki Hoshino] via
Otonashi. But as you know, she's smart. So your attack via Otonashi would be parried
easily."

"Well, you have a point..."

"Therefore I came up with the idea that you just need someone who can attack [Kazuki
Hoshino] directly, instead of doing it via Otonashi. Of course I'm the only one possible."

"...I see."

"For this purpose, it's best to make clear that I'm your assistant. But if I had revealed it to her
openly, she would have been on guard. That's why I did like this!"

He said this indifferently.

A wry smile floated over my face spontaneously. I didn't think he'd considered things this
much. I already considered him to be reliable, but he is even more so than I thought.

"I already have a plan!"

"Tell me more."

"We'll show him a corpse."

Ryuu Miyazawa said so.

"Do you really think we can make him fall into despair with that? Well, of course he'd get a
shock when seeing a corpse, but well..."
Ryuu Miyazawa's mouth curled up upon hearing my question.

"'You killed this person just now.' How about telling him that?"

This is---most interesting.

Instinctively, my mouth curled as well.

"I'll make [Kazuki Hoshino] fall into despair. Don't worry."

Ryuu Miyazawa declared so, ransacked the bag and threw the cuffs to me.

May 02 (Saturday) 12:00

Who is the guy in front of me? I peered at him and noticed that it was the sharp gaze of Ryuu
Miyazawa, only without glasses.

Why is Miyazawa-kun...?

I was hand- and footcuffed in a small room I had never seen before. The seriousness of the
situation was clear to me.

What did I do again, before I switched? ...I can't remember. When I had been told that my
ordinary life won't return, my sight became black --- and then I was here before I knew.

"This is my room. I restrained you."

"...Why?"

"Why, you ask? Didn't [Yuuhei Ishihara] explain it to you? To make you surrender."

In other words, Miyazawa-kun doesn't act for his own sake, but for the sake of [Yuuhei
Ishihara]?

"Hoshino. Has Otonashi told you about the details of this box?"

I shook my head.

"So she kept it secret, huh. Well, admittedly, it is an appropriate decision. [Yuuhei Ishihara]
said that he had told her with the expectation that she'd inform you, you know?"
Come to think of it, I think she was about to tell me something that she had heard from
[Yuuhei Ishihara].

"I'll explain it to you instead! ...haha! It really is less cumbersome now that I've revealed my
enmity."

"...enmity? What?"

"Nothing. ...so, you know that this box will erase your existence within one week, right?"

"Yes ...But may I ask something first?"

"What is it?"

"I cannot trust your words. After all you're my enemy, aren't you? I can't just believe your
explanation since, in fact, you have been trying to deceive me already."

"Quite right."

Miyazawa-kun accepted my words readily and didn't show any unrest whatsoever.

"I myself have started wondering if I have a talent as a swindler. That's a new discovery for
me. But I'm only going to tell you the truth now. Feel free to make sure whether it is true or
not. If you don't want to listen, just block your ears. ...Well, you wouldn't be able to because
of the handcuffs, though."

Miyazawa-kun said without emotions, approached me and handed over a cut-off piece from a
notebook to me.

00-01 01-02 23-24 1st day

02-03 03-04 04-05 2nd day

11-12 13-14 15-16 3rd day

09-10 4th day

5th day
6th day

7th day End

"This is a note [Yuuhei Ishihara] gave me."

Which means that [Yuuhei Ishihara] wrote it. His handwriting, with rounded letters, was
surprisingly neat.

"Today's the fourth day."

«09-10» was all that was written on the fourth line. Though there were always three number
pairs, on this line was only one. There were none from there on, either.

"What on earth do those numbers mean...?"

"Hoshino, have you not noticed that your time decreases day by day?"

"...Huh?"

"[Kazuki Hoshino]'s time gets stolen by [Yuuhei Ishihara] bit by bit everyday! This note is a
listing of the hours that have been stolen from you. For example, «00-01» means that the time
from 00:00 until 01:00 has been stolen from [Kazuki Hoshino] by [Yuuhei Ishihara]."

I looked again at the note. The number pair «09-10» at the date mark of today. Which means
that [Yuuhei Ishihara] controlled this body today from nine o'clock until ten o'clock. Indeed, I
wasn't conscious at that time.

"But then he just steals three hours of my day? It doesn't get more for him!"

"...hey, you ought to think a little more before you speak. I said 'the time gets stolen'. The
time isn't stolen for only that day. This times stays in the possession of [Yuuhei Ishihara]
thereafter. For example, the hour that has been stolen from you between 00:00 and 01:00
won't be [Kazuki Hoshino]'s again."

I still had troubles understanding.

"Gosh, do you still not get it? Mh... maybe it's easier if you divide one day into 24 blocks and
imagine having three of them stolen every day. Your blocks decrease to 21 on the first day.
18 on the second day. 15 on the third day. And on the seventh day, there will only be 3 left.
The moment the date changes to the eight day, none remains. In other words: Game Over."

I finally understood.

I also understood why he explained this to me. To teach me about the 'Sevennight in Mud'
becomes a disadvantage for [Yuuhei Ishihara]. The reason why he taught me anyway is ---

"Ah, seems like you noticed. You get it, right? Therefore, this can't be a lie. A lie yields hope
when you realize it's a lie. On the other hand, when you feel that a cruel fact is reality, you
fall into despair all the more. And you realize, if you think back a little, that this is reality of
what happened to you, right?"

Right. My body tells me that it's the truth, too.

"Shall I calculate for you? [Kazuki Hoshino] has 7 blocks left today, including the time now.
9 tomorrow, May 03. 6 at May 04. 3 at May 05. 24 altogether. Do you get it? You don't even
have one day's time left!"

Miyazawa-kun spoke in order to corner me.

"To corner you by telling you the truth. This is the reason why [Yuuhei Ishihara] reveals this
fact. Thus, this is nothing but the truth."

'I still have four days left'. I certainly had been thinking like this. But this was a big mistake.
The progress of the battle has already inclined clearly towards [Yuuhei Ishihara].

When just considering the time we spend in this body, [Kazuki Hoshino] has already become
the irregular existence of us.

Furthermore, he has Ryuu Miyazawa as his partner.

Oh. It really is hopeless already.

"I'm surprised you're so composed."

Now that he mentions it... Despite this hopeless situation, I was calm.

Which is... plausible.

After all, I've already fallen into despair, even without this.
"Hey, Miyazawa-kun. May I ask you something?"

"What is it?"

"Why do you assist [Yuuhei Ishihara]?"

Seemingly it was unexpected question---Miyazawa-kun kept silent.

"You wouldn't assist him if there wasn't a quite important reason, would you? Furthermore, if
[Yuuhei Ishihara] told you that he's in my body, you wouldn't believe such a thing readily.
Right?"

...Mhh, yeah. Let's try to trick him.

"How about such a reason? For example --- you yourself are [Yuuhei Ishihara]."

An irrational argument which would cause a big laughter if it was wrong.

But Miyazawa-kun maintained his sharp gaze and kept quiet.

"......I myself am [Yuuhei Ishihara] really, huh? Well ---"

Miyazawa-kun smiled bitterly once and continued.

"That's right."

"---Huh?"

Those unexpected words made me lose my tongue.

"Honestly, I was tired of it already. I would have never dreamed that hiding this would
exhaust me like this. So I want to tell you my circumstances to find some relief."

Miyazawa-kun sighed, seeming very tired.

"Hoshino. Is there something that's important to you?"

"...There is."

Maybe «There was» would be more accurate. My everyday life was destroyed after all.

"So you may understand my feelings. In my opinion, a really important thing is not
something you take care of with utmost devotion nor something you concentrate your
lovey-dovey love-love on. I think a really important thing is something that becomes your
stem. Therefore if it gets lost, you break as if your spine was removed and turn into an empty
shell. Therefore, a really important thing is --- equal to oneself."

"Your «That's right» just now didn't mean that you yourself are [Yuuhei Ishihara], huh?"

"Of course not. If I was him, I would never allow such a detestable conduct."

But he is supporting [Yuuhei Ishihara] who does so. Because [Yuuhei Ishihara] is really
important to him.

"If he wishes for this, I'll do it. If it's to protect him I'll do anything. Even if it's not right to
do."

This attitude was neither proudly nor stubborn. He was bitterly biting on his lips and his eyes
showed resignation somewhere, but were without wavering.

"...I understand what you mean! But why is [Yuuhei Ishihara] such an important existence to
you?"

Miyazawa-kun muttered "...hm." and continued.

"Probably... no, not probably. I'm sure of it. The reason why he is so important to me,
that's---"

He spitted out his next words, seeming unpleased.

"--- because I'm his older brother."

"Older brother? Huh?" I couldn't comprehend those sudden words right away. "So the
relationship between you and Yuuhei Ishihara was a lie? ...huh? But...eeh..."

"Yuuhei Ishihara is the de facto husband of my mother. This is true."

"...umm, so, Yuuhei Ishihara and [Yuuhei Ishihara] are completely different individuals to
begin with?"

"Yeah. Using this bastard's name made it a bit complicated, but it's like you say."

"So not Yuuhei Ishihara but your younger brother's inside me..."
Is [Yuuhei Ishihara] so important to Miyazawa-kun as to make him call himself [Yuuhei
Ishihara], just because they're relative by blood? ...no, I can't really understand this emotion. I
have an older sister. Of course she's important to me. But I'd never do anything for my sister,
Ruu-chan.

"Didn't I tell you? My family environment."

Miyazawa-kun said so, without answering directly to my question.

"All of it is true, except of the fact that I concealed being his brother. My life until then was
destroyed with the divorce matter. Children have to rely on their parents, don't they? But
those parents say «We don't need you!». That I'm a hindrance. That I'm trash. That I'm a
mistake of their past. Everything was destroyed for me. It may sound clichéd, but this was
total despair. I wasn't a human anymore at the time."

He smiled in self derision and continued.

"But I wasn't the only one that was no longer human. He, who was taken charge of by my
mother. This other non-human was what saved me. I guess it was a mistaken dependence. But
I returned to life thanks to this dependence. He became my stem and, like my spine, I cannot
live without him."

He then scowled at me.

"I don't want to return to when I was inhuman. I will protect---me."

I thoroughly understood that Miyazawa-kun's younger brother is a irreplaceable existence for


him.

"...But I can't comprehend it."

Miyazawa-kun urged me wordlessly to continue.

"How is it real happiness when [he] becomes Kazuki Hoshino? I also don't think that this
means protecting him. I think that he has to find the right way being himself."

"You're right, I guess."

Surprisingly, Miyazawa-kun agreed without hesitation.

"So---"
"Don't spell it out! I know. I know all of that. But it's already too late!"

"...Huh?"

May 02 (Saturday) 14:00

I found out the reason why it's «too late».

Though I couldn't grasp the situation when I was shown that suddenly, I realized that it was
indeed too late.

"Those are the corpses of Yuuhei Ishihara and my mother."

I was again in an unknown home. It was a normal living room without noteworthy features.

If it wasn't for the red liquid splashed all over.

I looked at the corpses.

The corpse of a middle-aged woman. With the head split open. The cerebral matter scattered
around and the shape of head changed into a crescent moon.

The corpse of a middle-aged man. This was probably the real Yuuhei Ishihara.

His head was split open like the woman's corpse. But not only that. His limbs were bent in
incredible directions as if his joints were completely ignored. A gruesome scene, that let one
feel that someone had an enormous grudge.

But anyway, it really stinks in here.

"Aah---"

The stench made me observe the corpses calmly, whereupon my thinking made a leap.
Why---is this here?

"This is his attack against you!"

A fluorescent lamp illuminated the two corpses palely.


"This murder was committed using the body of Kazuki Hoshino. You know what that means,
right? As long you're Kazuki Hoshino, you won't be able to get away from the sin of murder.
When you get caught by the police, Kazuki Hoshino will undergo punishment."

His voice resounded already from far away and didn't reach my head.

Miyazawa-kun looked at me at first, but then let go a faint sigh.

"......which was the scenario we planned to use to corner you, but let's scrap that. As I told
you before, despair that was born of a lie will become hope when the truth is revealed. Those
corpses are the cause. The cause that made him want your body."

"The cause...?"

What if murdering those two was the trigger that made him want to steal my body?

Based on Miyazawa-kun's statements, I suppose [he] considers himself to be in misfortune.


What would [he] 'wish' if he obtained the 'box' after causing such an incident? I don't think he
would want to regain his lifestyle.

He wouldn't want himself. Therefore he would want to steal another one's body.

"...I understood why the 'owner' came to have such a 'wish'! But.. I don't really get the reason
why you'd support him in realizing this 'Sevennight in Mud'. Wouldn't it be better to
recommend him to destroy the 'box' and deliver himself up...?"

"If he went to prison, I wouldn't be able to be by his side anymore, would I?"

Indeed. But still, going to prison or becoming another person. Isn't the former one still the
better choice...?

"You look like you can't comprehend me. ...ah, I see. Surely, you wouldn't know. Say, have
you never wondered about this? If he's inside you, where is his original body right now?"

Come to think of it, I never thought of this. I was assuming that he vanished since he's inside
my body.

"I'll give you the answer to this question! Take your phone out."

I understood with just this. I took out my mobile phone, opened the data folder and checked
the voice files. There was a new one.
I played the file.

«My original body? I've already killed that!»

I stopped breathing.

So [he] committed suicide after killing Yuuhei Ishihara and his mother? Why such a foolish
act...!!?

«I mean, wouldn't it be a hindrance? I have no need for that body - I'm not that kiddo
anymore!»

......Wait! So in other words ---

"It's too late; got it? I cannot protect the person I want to protect anymore."

--- Right, it's already too late.

Not only for Miyazawa-kun, but also for me.

After all [his] original human died. Which means that the 'owner' died. Which further means
that there's no way to destroy the 'box' anymore.

In short --- the 'Sevennight in Mud' cannot be prevented anymore.

It's too late. We are completely too late.

"I have no other choice but to make the 'Sevennight in Mud' come true."

He spat out those words so plainly that I immediately understood that he was choking off his
emotions. He spoke distinctly:

"Thus, Hoshino --- I think I'm going to erase you."

He slowly raised his pale head; his eyes were---blank.

"I'll mow down your will of resisting entirely."

Without looking in my eyes, Miyazawa-kun proceeded his words.


"But I can't be at ease with just this. Because there's Maria Otonashi. So I've been thinking.
Making you surrender and stopping Maria Otonashi. I've been thinking about how to
accomplish both at the same time."

Miyazawa-kun's mouth distorted slightly, whereupon he continued.

"Capturing Otonashi. But by having you do it."

"...And this makes me surrender?"

"Yeah. Think about it: if we capture Otonashi and confine her until May 06, we're out of
danger from her - which is obvious, though. If Otonashi doesn't move, the 'Sevennight in
Mud' won't be averted."

So betraying Otonashi-san is equal to abandoning the last resort myself.

Hence, it would mean that I've surrendered.

"So let's move on to the execution. ---Hoshino, I'm going to confine you in my room now and
I will use you as a trap to capture Otonashi. I'll take you with me, no matter how much you
resist. I won't flinch from using violence. Well, no resistance will be of use as soon you
switch again, though."

"Then... why don't you just wait that I switch?"

"If I did so, you might try to justify yourself by thinking that you were confined involuntarily.
There's no meaning when you don't betray Maria Otonashi on your own accord. After all, we
have to make you surrender."

......I see.

"So what will you do? Wanna try some resistance?"

Miyazawa-kun took some knuckle dusters out of his pockets and put them on. His eyes told
me clearly that this wasn't a bluff.

Should I betray?

Her, Maria Otonashi --- no, Aya Otonashi.


What is there to betray? We don't trust each other to begin with. Also, Miyazawa-kun might
not have noticed yet, but I don't feel like resisting anymore, since I came to know that my
ordinary life won't return.

Should I fight against Miyazawa-kun? No way. Why should I choose the painful path to no
avail?

"------"

And still, I can't say it.

I can't say a simple sentence as 'I will betray Otonashi-san'.

Why not? I don't get it. Nothing will change if I don't say it. I have already given up and
when the time for the shift comes, I'm going to get confined. The outcome won't change. And
still, when I try to vocalize my betrayal, my chest gets attacked by a burning ache.

"M-Miyazawa-kun, say---"

Bam.

"---Ugh!"

Miyazawa-kun performed violence. I prostrated without being able to even raise a proper
voice.

Miyazawa-kun's expression was still blank when he looked down on me. He won't possibly
lend my words an ear. He will strike with no mercy when I show any sign of resistance.

I know. I can only decide for betrayal.

Isn't it alright? After all Aya Otonashi's an enemy.

He grabbed my shoulders and made me stand. He held his fist against my defenseless
stomach.

"Come on, let me hear your words of betrayal!"

"You may---"

Nothing would change, so there shouldn't be any reason to hesitate.


So why---

"You may---confine me."

Why does my heart seem to break just by speaking those words out?

May 02 (Saturday) 23:10

I'm dreaming.

I'm dreaming the same dream again.

May 3

May 03 (Sunday) 07:12

I woke up. It wasn't the sensation of switching, but the normal sensation of awakening.

I was lying on the ground of Miyazawa's room with cuffs applied to both my hands and feet.

Miyazawa-kun was sitting on the bed. Dark circles were under his eyes. Maybe he hadn't
slept properly in the last few days.

When he had noticed that I had awoken, he took out a washcloth and wiped my face. The
menthol in the washcloth wiped away my sleepiness.
"I'll instruct you now."

Having finished wiping my face, he said so without greeting me.

"You will restrain Otonashi by handcuffing and footcuffing her and demonstrate your will of
betrayal by doing so. You just need to do that. Simple, isn't it?"

"...really?"

"Ah?"

"Will you really believe that I surrendered if I do so?"

[He] is free to judge how he wants to. He might not be able to accept this as 'surrendered' and
request an even worse absurdity.

"He said that he'd be satisfied when he just can steal Maria Otonashi from you."

"Steal...?"

A mail from some time came suddenly to mind.

«I was able to grant my earnest desire. Now I can go out with you.»

I finally understood the meaning of this text.

Seems like [he]'s mistaking us for lovers. Thus he's under the impression that he could go out
with her when he completed the 'Sevennight in Mud'.

But this is unreasonable. It's impossible to obtain everything from me just by taking me over.

"You cannot steal her from me!"

«I can.»

I took almost a leap. A voice answered to my murmur, which shouldn't be here.

«I am Kazuki Hoshino and no one else! Hence, I'm able to obtain her like this.»

The voice originated from the speakers besides the computer that was controlled by
Miyazawa-kun.
«Do you think this is absurd? Do you think I cannot become Kazuki Hoshino because you
are?»

Of course. Only [I] am Kazuki Hoshino, no one else could be.

«So tell me, what makes Kazuki Hoshino? At the very least you can't notice the difference by
the personality. After all you would still recognize someone you haven't met in ages as the
same person, even if this person's atmosphere and personality have changed completely,
right?»

Hearing [his] words, I recalled the words I had once heard from that person.

«So tell me: when you see someone acting a bit unusually, would you think right away 'This
is someone else. Someone took him over.'?»

"------ugh!"

Indeed, Daiya, Kokone and Haruaki have all recognized [him] as Kazuki Hoshino. Even
Otonashi-san, with whom I have spent more time together than with anyone else,---

«Even Maria Otonashi cannot distinguish [Kazuki Hoshino] from [Yuuhei Ishihara], does
she?»

"...uh"

«Well, but since she knows of the 'boxes', she might perceive [Kazuki Hoshino]'s vanishment
as vanishment of Kazuki Hoshino's existence as a whole. Therefore I'll teach her that Kazuki
Hoshino won't disappear when I become him. Doing so, Kazuki Hoshino will continue to
exist in her.»

A chuckle resounded from the speakers.

«And then I'll be able to obtain her.»

As long the looks stay like Kazuki Hoshino, he will be recognized as Kazuki Hoshino, even
when the inside changed. This is certainly true. Therefore I don't think he's talking complete
nonsense.

...but it's an overstatement that he could become Kazuki Hoshino.

"Do you think it's extreme logic?"


I closed my mouth when Miyazawa-kun judged me correctly.

"Hoshino, what would you do if you learned that an important person to you had split
personality?"

"Eh?"

I frowned at this example he suddenly threw toward me.

"Is your important person only one of those personalities? Would you distinguish each
personality carefully and say «that one is important to me», «I don't need that one», «I don't
mind that one»? No, you wouldn't, right? Regardless of the personalities, this important
person is in the end only one human."

"......Could be."

"Thus, it doesn't really matter whether the inside is [Kazuki Hoshino] or [Yuuhei Ishihara]. If
she accepts that I'm Kazuki Hoshino, her emotions will be maintained. It's not [your]
personality what Maria Otonashi considers important. I'm sure, it's rather---"

Miyazawa-kun continued without altering his expression a slightest bit.

"---Kazuki Hoshino's existence itself."

Some sort of power was contained in those words.

He did not only say them to corner me.

"...but I'm afraid I'm not such an important human to her."

He smiled wryly.

"You might have not noticed since you're the person concerned. But I know. Otonashi is
dependent on you! Therefore it will be hard for Maria Otonashi to endure the loss of you
when your personality disappears. She will then try to make up for this loss with something.
It's obvious what she would use as compensation, isn't it?"

"...you think it's [Yuuhei Ishihara]?"

"Not exactly. It's Kazuki Hoshino who does certainly still live, though slightly altered."
"That's why [he] will obtain her eventually...? This is only your suitable guess. Why can you
be so convinced?"

"Because she's the same as me."

Miyazawa-kun said so annoyingly.

"Eh?"

"Because I'm depending on someone like Maria Otonashi does. That's why I easily know
what she's going to do."

I finally understood the reason why there's such a power in his words.

Miyazawa-kun knows it. He knows the sensation when an important person disappears and
turns into something different.

"Stop being so nitpicking. You just have to betray Maria Otonashi. If you do so, she will start
mixing up [Kazuki Hoshino] and [Yuuhei Ishihara]."

"...Why so?"

"Otonashi would never dream of [Kazuki Hoshino] betraying her. Even if you were the one
that handcuffed her, she would think it was [Yuuhei Ishihara]. But in fact it was [Kazuki
Hoshino] who did. Consequently, she will become unable to distinguish the two of you
confidently. The borderline between [Kazuki Hoshino] and [Yuuhei Ishihara] will disappear."

And then she's going to consider [me] and [him] as the same.

If she's like this by May 06, Otonashi-san will accept it with no resistance, even if [he] steals
everything from me. That's what Miyazawa-kun is saying.

"Did you get me? Okay, I'll instruct you, then."

"...Wait a sec."

I interrupted him.

"What?"

"What do you plan to do when [he]'s not convinced of having stolen Otonashi-san completely
from me?"
I think it's going to be like this.

We aren't going out, after all. Hence, it's not possible to steal her from me. It can't go as [he]
planned.

"Won't you cause her suffering? Won't you still use me?"

Miyazawa-kun kept silent for a moment and admitted it by saying, "I guess so."

And added without reserve---

"So what?"

"'So what'...? U-Under no circumstances could I... do that. I surely decided to betray her. But
that doesn't mean that I want to trouble her so---"

"Do you want me to hit you again?"

"......Even so, I won't be able to!"

I don't care if I have to suffer. In that case, I merely have to endure the pain.

But I absolutely do not want that someone has to get hurt because of me. This has nothing to
do with her being my ally or not, I just cannot accept it.

He observed me for a while, but in the end he just sighed regretfully for some reason.

"You're okay with that?"

"......with what?"

"If there's no meaning in violence, then we just have to use another kind of threat, you
know?"

"...What do you mean?"

Miyazawa-kun didn't answer to my question and kept silent thereafter.

May 03 (Sunday) 08:45

I was standing in front of Kazuki Hoshino's home.


"But your idea is really nasty, huh."

"How so? If it's for your sake, this idea is natural. And anyway, you are the one that executes
it, aren't you?"

He said so, calmly.

"Do you think this underwear-girl will obey me politely? If not, she'd be pitiful."

"Well, I'll pray for it to go well!"

Ryuu Miyazawa returned shallow words, almost as if he had no interest in what's going to
happen.

No --- Perhaps he really has no interest.

For him, who wasn't able to do anything against that incident, all other things might have
become indifferent. This theory had no basis, but I thought so for some reason.

"Okay, I'll start."

"Ok."

It's a matter of course, but I opened the door without ringing the bell.

"I'm home."

I climbed to the second floor.

Ruka Hoshino was sleeping in underwear like always.

May 03 (Sunday) 10:06

Miyazawa-kun pressed a mobile phone against my ear.

«N-NOOO!!»

I heard a scream from the phone. I recognized the owner of this voice immediately. After all
it's a voice I hear virtually every day.

"Ruu-chan...!!"
«Why do you do such a thing?! Stop it, Kazu-chan!!»

"Ah---"

What... what did he do!? What did he do to Ruu-chan, using my body!?

"This happened because you didn't listen to us like a good boy!"

"But Ruu-chan has absolutely nothing to do with it! So why did you do such a---!!"

"Because she has nothing to do with it, you suffer. Exactly because of that we're doing that!"

Having heard those words, I spontaneously tried to throw myself upon him --- but failed and
fell unsightly to the ground. I had forgotten that I was restrained with footcuffs.
Miyazawa-kun stepped on my crawling body and pressed the mobile phone against my ear.

"Uuh..."

Since I wasn't even able to cover my ears, I closed my eyes reflexively. Though this would be
to no avail.

Such a voice came from the phone:

«Kidding~~~!»

"Huh...?"

«Kazu-chan, why do you want me to say such things? Big sis has become anxious about your
future.»

I raised my head dumbfoundedly and looked at Miyazawa-kun.

What on earth? A joke...?

Miyazawa-kun removed his leg from my body. I sat up while keeping my gaze on him, who
still didn't show any expression on his face.

"Why are you calming down, Hoshino?"

"Eh?"
"This were sound files recorded with the 'My Voice'-feature. It's not real time. What if I
reversed the order of those files? Maybe the sound file you just heard happened before the
other one?"

"Y-You can't...!"

"Just joking!"

"Ugh..."

I feel miserable for being so easily deceived.

"Geez... what are you swinging from joy to sorrow and back all the time. It's not the problem
whether she was actually hurt or not, is it? The problem is that Ruka Hoshino's completely
guardless against [Yuuhei Ishihara]'s actions. "

Saying so, Miyazawa-kun turned the foot on my body around.

"[Yuuhei Ishihara] will become Kazuki Hoshino. Can you imagine just how much of a
hindrance the existence of a sister is then? Heck, you're living in the same room! Of course
she'd notice Kazuki Hoshino's change and it would be impossible to terminate this
relationship since you are siblings. She's the person that may become the greatest barrier.
That seems to be the reason why he's indecisive. How should he deal with her?"

Having said this, Miyazawa-kun made a double click and started another voice file.

«You will betray Maria Otonashi for us, won't you [Kazuki Hoshino]?»

This was a threat.

A simple threat which meant that he would kill Ruka Hoshino if I didn't obey.

"So what will you do, Hoshino?"

If I handcuff Otonashi-san, she might end up hurt. But If I don't, Ruu-chan might have to die.

There's no way I could decide on one! ---However, Otonashi-san won't be killed. Also, if it's
for her, she might be able to overcome the situation with her skills. No, of course she will.

---she will defeat us.


May 03 (Sunday) 21:04

"Otonashi does take so long to arrive here...? Quite surprising. I was sure she'd know the
place right away."

Miyazawa-kun said.

"Well, she might be unable to notice that you're being confined. [Yuuhei Ishihara] went home
once, after all. However, she ought to sense something since her calls are blocked... say,
Hoshino, did you have a big quarrel that would justify blocking her calls?"

I couldn't answer. Because I didn't know anymore how I parted from her when my sight
turned black in despair.

"Well, doesn't matter, huh. We're going to act now anyway."

Having said so, he took out my mobile phone.

That he didn't do anything until now was because [my] today's time had not been clear until
19:00 was stolen from me. But my time window is settled now. It's settled that today's time is
going to be [mine] until 23:00.

"...Ah, which reminds me."

Having said so, Miyazawa-kun took out a packing tape and stuck two layers on my mouth.
Since I had been handcuffed already, I was naturally not able to take it off.

He initiated a call. To whom... is obvious.

"Hello?"

«......Who are you?»

The room was silent. I, too, could hear Otonashi-san's voice clearly.

"Ryuu Miyazawa!"

«...Miyazawa, why do you call me from Kazuki's mobile phone? What happened to Kazuki? I
knew that you were [Yuuhei Ishihara]'s partner, but---»

"Partner? As if I'd help out that piece of shit! He merely grasped my weak spot and
threatened me."
What is he saying...?

«Your weak spot?»

"Yeah. I didn't support him, he grasped my weak spot and used me. But I've had enough of it!
And fortunately I hit upon a simple and good solution strategy."

«A solution strategy...?»

"If it's for you, you should easily be able to think of it. It's really simple."

«...Don't tell me---»

"Exactly. I just have to kill Kazuki Hoshino."

Miyazawa-kun spoke indifferently without putting any weird emotion into his voice. I then
finally noticed that he was just making up this story. But his performance seems just too
natural. Even I, knowing the truth, thought for a second that he might be telling the truth
there.

Therefore I don't think Otonashi-san would be able to see through this made-up story.

«...What are you saying? I don't know what kind of weak spot he grasped of you, but the risk
is just too high. I didn't know you were so silly as to make such a choice?»

"You're easy to see through. Seems you are surprisingly bad at deceiving someone."

«......»

"Murder is indeed a risky gamble. It wouldn't be worth it. But this risk doesn't apply to
Kazuki Hoshino right now. You should know why, don't you?"

«...I have no idea.»

"Haha, don't play dumb! Okay, then I'll tell you. The answer to the riskless murder is 'just
take advantage of the moment of the shift'."

Otonashi-san had noticed it as well, I suppose. After all she told me this morning that it
would be dangerous if I switched during her driving. If one took advantage of this logic in a
more certain way, it would be dead easy to feign an accident or suicide.

This is what he means by riskless murder.


"If I'm able to put an end to his threat, I'll do as much as this."

«...Why do you inform me about this?»

"There is at least someone you'd like to shoot if you had a bullet that would never be found,
right? But using this bullet, I'll also erase someone I have no grudge against. Since he would
be just too pitiful, I thought I might allow him to speak to his lover a last time at the very
end."

«Just how selfish are you...!?»

"Oh? Hoshino has only a few hours left, you know? He's as good as dead! But rest assured;
I'll kill him when he's [Yuuhei Ishihara]. I'll quasi conduct euthanasia for him. Isn't it rather
fortunate that he can die before being taken over completely by this scumbag?"

«Kazuki will regain his body!»

"This only what you think, isn't it? No one would be able to look at things so positively in
such a situation!"

«Gh...»

"Well, that's it. Okay, I'll let you hear his last words."

Of course he didn't remove the tape from my mouth when he had said so.

He moved the mouse and made a double click. My voice resounded from the speakers.

«Please save me---»

I thought this was a cheap line. If only---

«---Aya!»

---he didn't mention this name.

Why does he know this name...? They don't know the 'Rejecting Classroom', so they should
not be able to know this name.

No... they might know. I have used this name in the classroom of 2-3. Surely, Miyazawa-kun
noticed that this name had to be some kind of code and reported it to [Yuuhei Ishihara].
But she, who doesn't know that those words belong to [him], can't notice this fact.
Therefore---

«......I'll come to save you right away, Kazuki.»

---she believes that this voice was mine.

«You made a mistake.»

Otonashi-san declared this.

«You should have made this call just before he would switch to [Yuuhei Ishihara]. Now's
21:12. You can act at 22 o'clock at the earliest. There are 48 minutes until then. I'll defeat you
and take Kazuki back in this time.»

A announcement that failed its purpose.

Not knowing that her words don't unsettle him, but rather calm him down.

May 03 (Sunday) 21:32

And then she came. Not even 20 minutes had passed since the call.

The window was broken up and its splitters scattered about in the room. She had smashed the
glass with her sneakers and was now standing in the center of the room in her normal clothes.

"...That you arrived this quickly means that you had known my whereabouts?"

Miyazawa-kun was looking at her from the corridor right in front of the entry and was
pressing a kitchen knife against me.

"Do you really think it was hard to find out? You'd never make such a phone call in public.
Hence you'd likeliest be at home, don't you think? After all no other places would come to
mind."

"But weren't you still too fast if it was just this?"

"I had already known your residence at the point in time when you revealed being the partner
of [Yuuhei Ishihara]. ...Come on, isn't it enough already? Remove your hands from Kazuki.
Didn't you say yourself that you don't want to take the high risk of murdering? If you stab,
this isn't just a risk anymore. You're sure to get punished for inflicting bodily injury or more."

"Shut up."

"There's no need to cause hysteria just because it didn't go as you planned. Isn't the point that
you don't want to get threatened by [Yuuhei Ishihara] anymore? Hand Kazuki over to me and
I promise to stop those threats!"

"That's just your hollow promise, isn't it?"

He acted as if he was irritated and didn't listen to her.

Why does Miyazawa-kun take this attitude?

---that is, he is raising the drop height.

Miyazawa-kun is acting out the generic enemy role and tries to set up the stage to make my
betrayal more impactful.

Otonashi-san is going to defeat the enemy, Miyazawa-kun, and will save me. Of course she
will feel relieved and pleased.

And there she'll be betrayed by me.

Thus, for the sake of this 'drop height', Miyazawa-kun must not release me readily right now.

"Buzz off! Isn't it enough already for your last rendezvous?"

"Don't ridicule!"

But why does Otonashi-san not attack him right away?

Sure, his knife is currently pressed against my throat. But this is a meaningless threat.
Miyazawa-kun would never stab me since (in this setting) he wants to commit a riskless
murder to do something against being threatened.

"I have valued you as a firm person with logical thinking, you know?"

That she said those words means that she knows that he doesn't plan to stab me.

And still she doesn't step forward.


"Cool down, Miyazawa."

But indeed, she cannot exclude the possibility that I get stabbed. Miyazawa-kun would
perhaps lose his temper and mistakenly stab me.

......is this the reason?

Does she not make a move because she's not completely sure whether he does not harm me?

"......"

No way, huh.

After all she has no reason to protect me so much.

I don't know the reason for now, but Otonashi-san doesn't make a move. It's a deadlock.

Miyazawa-kun poked my flank hidden from her gaze, with his left hand.

......I know!

I have also received instruction for what to do in a deadlock. I don't want to act actively, but
seems I have no other choice.

He had told me not to hold back, because otherwise she would notice that it's just a
performance. I swallowed my saliva once and proceeded to action.

I---bit into Miyazawa's hand as hard as I could.

"...Uwaa!!"

This scream was not acted, but a proper reaction to the pain. Miyazawa-kun dropped the
knife completely natural as arranged beforehand.

The opening we produced in his guard.

Otonashi-san did not miss this chance.

It truly happened in a split second.

A six Tatami's size room. In the next moment, she was already in front of our eyes. She
rushed towards him and butted her head against his nose bone. She stepped into the space
between Miyazawa-kun and me and drove him back by hitting his chin while he was holding
his nose. She then quickly picked up the knife and threw it away out of his reach.

"Step back, Kazuki."

I nodded and did as she told me.

Otonashi-san, too, stepped slightly back from him and started speaking.

"Give me the keys to the hand- and footcuffs, Miyazawa. I'll let you go with this much."

"......You're softer than I thought."

Miyazawa-kun said while suppressing his nose bleed with his hands.

"You could have as well just choked me. Doing so, I would have had to give you the keys."

"...There's no need to go this far."

Because of those words, I remembered. Right. Otonashi-san does not like to use violence.
She was able to just because she had to in order «to save me». But she would never be able to
choke someone only to make him give her some keys.

Miyazawa-kun corrected his stance.

And then he jumped at her to seize her. But at the moment he touched her, Miyazawa-kun's
body flew through the air.

"Wha---!!"

This was no acting, but a genuine exclamation of surprise.

It happened so quick he couldn't even perceive his defeat. It was a magnificent shoulder
throw.

"If you approach me, I'll knock you down."

"...Damn, I didn't know you were a Black Belt in Judo!"

"It's no wonder. After all I'm just a White Belt. ...Well, I have defeated several Black Belts
already, though."
Having said so, she gripped him with a Kesa-Gatame.

"Ugh..."

"I heard a metallic sound when I threw you."

She searched Miyazawa's pockets with her free left hand. She found the object in question in
no time and threw it to me. The objects that fell with a metallic sound on the floor were the
keys to my hand- and footcuffs.

"Kazuki, what's the time? Please tell me exactly."

"...21:39."

"So there's no problem. Kazuki, take your mobile phone immediately and escape over the
Veranda. I'll cut after you in five minutes. Until then I'll make sure he's unable to move."

Miyazawa-kun took a quick peek at me. Don't worry, I won't follow her instruction.

But because of the Kesa-Gatame, I'm unable to handcuff her. What should I do? I can't
restrain her like this.

I dropped my gaze.

And saw something. Whereupon I hit upon it.

I hit upon the worst, but just because of that meaningful, way to betray her.

Aah, if I do this I'll become the absolute enemy of Aya Otonashi. I have already decided, so I
was already assuming it may end like this. But this is just too bad.

The keys don't fit. The appropriate keys were in my possession from the start.

I removed the cuffs.

Being freed from the handcuffs, I picked up --- the kitchen knife Otonashi-san had thrown to
me.

"Aya."

I pointed the knife at Otonashi-san.


She will recognize right away that I lack the guts to stab. But that doesn't matter. It does not
change the fact that I betrayed her.

"Let go of Miyazawa-kun, obediently."

Otonashi-san noticed the point of the kitchen knife.

And---

"Eh...?"

Not Otonashi-san, but I raised my voice without knowing.

She had opened her eyes wide and stopped breathing just because I pointed the knife at her. I
have never seen her looking this defenseless.

Using this chance, Miyazawa-kun freed himself from her lock. But she stayed petrified.

I approached her with the knife, crouched and handcuffed her. When she had let both her
hands get restrained with no resistance, she finally opened her mouth.

"What... does this mean, Kazuki?"

She said falteringly.

"What is this... I don't understand. Why do you point a knife at me...?"

"He betrayed you!"

Miyazawa-kun explained in my stead.

"Betrayed...? There's no necessity to do so. Kazuki cannot do anything against the


'Sevennight in Mud' without me. He would only betray me when he surrendered to you and
gave up. But this is just not possible. Therefore he would never betray---"

"So this means that Hoshino surrendered to us and gave up, doesn't it?"

"He gave... up?"

I reflexively averted my eyes when she drew a clinging gaze to me.

"Hu---"
A laughter leaked out of Miyazawa-kun's mouth.

"Huhu, ahahahahaha! What's this sad sight, Otonashi? Stop it please! I had a relatively high
opinion of you when I fought against you, you know? But just how delicate are you to get
this shocked just because your lover betrayed you! This is plainly disappointing!"

"Kazuki."

Otonashi-san did not even deign to look at Miyazawa-kun, who was laughing like this.
Otonashi-san was gazing at me all the time.

"Is this true? Have you really surrendered to [Yuuhei Ishihara] like he says?"

"......I have!"

I wrung out.

When she had heard this, Otonashi-san looked down, hiding her face, and started trembling.

"Whoa, wait a sec! Why are you trembling? Don't tell me you started crying! Oi, oi, don't
overact! Honestly, stop it, this is just too hilarious!!"

To this much more than expected outcome, Miyazawa-kun continued to raise his laughter.

"Ah right, Otonashi. I'll tell you something good! This guy is without doubt [Kazuki
Hoshino]. He's not [Yuuhei Ishihara]. The guy that betrayed and handcuffed you is without
doubt [Kazuki Hoshino]!"

"......I know."

She answered, her head hanging.

"What?"

"I'm very well aware that he is [Kazuki Hoshino] and no one else."

Otonashi-san was still looking down, but stood finally up. I could still not see her face. She
approached me swayingly. I stepped back with the knife in my hand reflexively because of
her odd behavior. She was approaching me though I was holding a knife and she was
restrained with handcuffs. I stepped back further. I bumped into the wall.

She pounded the wall above my averted head strongly with her restrained hands.
"Kazuki, did you really surrender to such a group?"

She spoke in a deep, intonationless voice. I shrugged my shoulders and peeked carefully at
her.

She raised her head slowly.

Ah, I see... she was trembling because of anger.

"You, the sole one who inflicted a defeat on me since I have become a 'box', surrendered to a
half-hearted and frail group, you say? Do you want to insult me...? You want to tell me that
I'm lower than that lame group of losers, huh...!"

Her seemingly-suppressed voice grew steadily louder.

"Don't mess around with me, honestly, don't mess around with me! Don't say such utter
nonsense! There's no way your belief would be broken so easily by such a bunch...!!"

She swung her restrained hands down again. I closed my eyes reflexively. The wall clanged.
A loud sound above my head. I opened my eyes slowly and found her snarling face that had
reddened in vexation in front of mine.

"O-oi! What's wrong, Otonashi? Have you gone insane because of the shock of his betrayal?"

"You be quiet."

She spat out so, with her gaze fixed on me.

"...I felt that something was wrong since the call. But I was convinced you'd never cooperate
with them. That's why I believed Miyazawa's words. Yet, you're like this... Shit! This is just
bullshit!"

Otonashi-san looked down at my knife as if she had just now noticed, and sneered even more
with an amazed expression.

"...What's with this kitchen knife? Will you stab me when I don't obey you? Haha, very funny.
Go ahead, stab me! My guard is full of openings. Come on! Come on come on! As if you
could!"

"Uuh..."

I lowered the knife instinctively.


"Say it. Why did you do it. ---Say it!"

I hung my head and said, while grinding my teeth to my wretchedness.

"Ruu-cha --- my sister was taken hostage. I have no other choice than to obey them."

"Because of such a trifle..."

"This is not a trifle! Ruu-chan is my sole---"

"You are a man who was prepared to make his beloved girl get run over by a truck."

I held my breath.

"Wait a sec, Otonashi!"

Otonashi-san turned around to Miyazawa-kun unwillingly.

"What? Can't you see that we're busy?"

"No, you see, shouldn't you deny that he's [Kazuki Hoshino] since he has done such a thing to
you? So why are you convinced that guy's [Kazuki Hoshino]?"

Right, Miyazawa-kun cannot ignore this. His aim was ab initio to make her mix up [Kazuki
Hoshino] and [Yuuhei Ishihara].

"You say quite strange things, don't you? Kazuki is Kazuki of course. There's no way this
would change."

"Why on earth can you distinguish them!? ...ah, I see. You're persuading yourself. Because
you believed that the voice that appealed for help belonged to [Kazuki Hoshino], you're
maintaining this mistake all the time and don't doubt him."

"I knew that that voice belonged to [Yuuhei Ishihara]."

Miyazawa-kun frowned.

"Don't lie! Do you mean you recognized that it was a recorded voice?"

"No."

"So why on earth would you notice that it's not [Kazuki Hoshino]!?"
"Of course I would notice."

She opened her mouth as if she stated a matter of fact.

"Kazuki would never call me «Aya» when seeking for help."

"------Ah."

I remembered.

I remembered the name I called when I was mounted and hit by Daiya, all alone in the music
room.

Exactly, she's right! I could never call her «Aya» when seeking seriously for help. I mean,
this is the name of the person I have once fought against.

"...So tell me, why did you come save him?"

"If it was as you explained, saving [Yuuhei Ishihara] would be the same as saving Kazuki."

"...Wait a sec. Wouldn't this mean that you're perceiving Kazuki Hoshino as [Yuuhei
Ishihara] right now?"

"Yeah, I actually did. But I know that it's [Kazuki Hoshino] by taking a glance at him."

"......Oi, oi! You're totally lying now. In actual fact, you weren't able to distinguish them until
now!"

"This was only about the timing of the shift. I just need to observe the movements of his
facial muscles for about three seconds to see the difference. I can now recognize Kazuki as
Kazuki."

She can recognize that I'm me?

Although no one else could?

"...Such a thing is impossible! Don't shit me!"

"I guess so. If it wasn't Kazuki, I'd probably not be able to distinguish them. But only for
Kazuki, it is indeed possible."
"Why?!"

She then stated---

"Because I have been together with Kazuki longer than anyone else in the world."

Those words I have grown familiar to, somewhere, some time.

"Ah---"

My voice involuntarily escaped. I put my hand on her shoulder. She turned around to face me,
astonished.

Seeing me like this, Miyazawa-kun frowned and said:

"What's the matter, Hoshino? You surely aren't going to remove her handcuffs just because of
this clichéd nonsense, right? You know what happened to your sister if you do, right?"

For some reason, this threat didn't work on me anymore.

"Umm, Otonashi-san."

If I say it, I won't be able to turn back anymore. But I have already decided, even though I
wavered.

"Let me touch your 'box'."

The astonishment on her face changed.

"You don't even need to ask. I couldn't hinder you even if I wanted because of the handcuffs."

Despite having pounded against the wall without fearing the knife, she said so.

She continued her words slightly embarrassed with a smile.

"...you just have to touch it arbitrarily."

With those blunt words, she allowed me to do so.

I nodded lightly and pressed my open hand against her chest.

"------Ah."
I was thrown to the ground of the sea. The second time I see the ground of the sea. It's an
unchanging scene in which everyone looks happy. However, it's just a lie that everyone can
be in happiness her. Someone is crying in the midst of them. Someone who knows that this
bliss is just a lie and cannot join them. I have already heard this crying.

It's grueling.

There's no oxygen, so I cannot stay here forever.

That's why it's grueling?

Or is it because I know that I cannot cure her pain?

Because I know that I cannot do anything against this utter solitude of her?

I felt tears on my cheeks. Like I did in a certain 'box' once before.

"------I'm sorry."

I recalled everything of her.

Why did I only think she was using me as a mere bait for '0'? Why did I only think she was
making light of my everyday life?

There's no way she would do such things - she, who puts everyone else first.

She believed that I would be able to fight against the 'Sevennight in Mud' even alone. That's
why she didn't seek contact with me after I rejected her.

But I was unable to believe in her and... betrayed her.

"I'm sorry."

I said it once more. She averted her eyes, seeming a bit awkward.

"...No, I might have not considered things enough. I arbitrarily had high hopes of you,
without considering that you forgot all the happenings inside the 'Rejecting Classroom'...
maybe. ......umm, I noticed just now, so please forgive me."
I shook my head. She sneaked a peek at me with a side-glance.

"I'll tell you something I didn't tell you before because I thought you'd grasp it on your own.
Kazuki, your everyday life won't return. However--"

She returned her glance, relaxed the corners of her mouth slightly and said:

"---We can regain your everyday life."

Aah---

With only those words, I wouldn't ever mistake my place to be again.

I am... me.

I am---Kazuki Hoshino.

I took the keys out from my pocket. I inserted them into the lock of her handcuffs.

"...what are you doing, Hoshino!? You abandon the life of your sister just to be fancied by
your lover?! You really are horrible..."

"No. Sure enough, I decided. But it's not like I abandoned my older sister."

"So what? If you don't obey, Ruka Hoshino is going to get killed!"

"She won't."

"Why can you say that?!"

"It's simple."

This isn't some sort of bluff, I just announced my intention.

"Because I won't let you."

I don't need to obey them anymore. I don't need to restrict myself on the choices they
prepared for me.

Because I can't lose anymore, now that she has become my ally.

I made the decision to entrust everything to her.


I turned the keys round. The handcuffs opened and fell to the ground. I grasped her free
hands. She looked at me, I looked at her.

"Please, lend me a hand---"

I won't mistake it anymore.

I won't mistake the name to call anymore.

"---Maria."

When I did so, she---really, just for a split second---

She smiled, innocently, like a normal girl her age.

"There are conditions."

She spoke again with her usual dignified expression.

"I may not need to say this specifically. I believe that you will fulfill this condition anyway.
However, I, too, feel anxiety and it quite hurt me. So please let me say it."

I nodded lightly, without knowing her intention.

"I won't lose sight of you. So, please. You, too,---"

Maria averted her eyes once. Then she looked again at me and said clearly:

"---don't lose sight of me anymore."

Aah... I see.

I did not notice at all until then.

I became alone pointlessly, but it wasn't just me that had to suffer because of this. At the
same time I let Maria all alone and made her suffer.

Since this 'Rejecting Classroom', Maria was always [Aya Otonashi]. She is trying to be the
'box' itself. Her real self, [Maria Otonashi], isn't anywhere.
«I am Aya Otonashi. Pleased to meet you.»

«But I am not strong.»

I recalled the scene when she lamented faintly.

Right, I am the only one who can call her «Maria», because I am the only one who witnessed
her first school transfer.

If I forget, [Maria Otonashi] will be forgotten by really everyone - probably even by herself -
and will vanish.

"Stop it already!"

Upon hearing this voice, I let go of Maria's hand.

"Isn't this ridiculous? Collude or not, it doesn't change anything! Kazuki Hoshino will be
taken over and his sister, Ruka, will be killed. Or do you perhaps think you could just enter
your imaginary world?"

Miyazawa-kun sneered at us.

"You cannot win! After all, [Yuuhei Ishihara] has killed himself. You can't possibly find a
dead guy! Of course, you can't destroy the 'box' either. How will you solve this problem?
Come on, tell me!"

He is... right.

The 'owner', Miyazawa-kun's younger brother, isn't here anymore. We can't do anything
against this fact.

"......I know already who [Yuuhei Ishihara] really is."

Miyazawa-kun opened his eyes wide for a second after hearing Maria's words, but then he
saw her low spirited expression and curled his mouth up.

"So? Did you find him?"

"...No. I searched all day long, but didn't find him."

"Huhu, well, it's understandable. You can't possibly find a dead person after all!"
Miyazawa-kun proclaimed triumphantly.

......Oh?

What is this strange feeling? I feel something's terribly wrong with Miyazawa-kun's delight.
What...?

«It's too late---ot it? I cannot protect the person I want to protect anymore.»

He said that. That he helped to complete the 'Sevennight in Mud' is because it's the only way
to protect 'himself'. Because his «younger brother» that was just this important to him had
died.

I see.

"------That's a lie."

When I murmured this, Miyazawa-kun turned around to me right away.

"You said that he's dead, but that's a lie. It's a matter of course if you think about it. You'd
never do such a thing, nor would you allow it."

"......What are you babbling about, Hoshino? Don't try to wrench the meaning in your favor!"

"He was important to you, wasn't he?"

Miyazawa-kun frowned to this sudden question, admitted it however.

"Yeah."

"So you would never talk about his dead with a laugh, right?"

Of course I just thought it was unnatural, so it doesn't really count as evidence. Hence, if
Miyazawa-kun evaded my question composedly, he would have deceived me again.

But---

"Therefore, he's not dead yet, is he?"

But Miyazawa-kun could not counter my question. He hung his head.

"A lie yields hope when you realize it's a lie."


I said this line. He himself had once told this to me. I continued my talk when he had raised
his head.

"You were right."

He opened his eyes wide and opened his mouth. I looked silently at him, but he clenched his
fist, grinded his teeth and scowled at me.

"------Sh... it...!"

He was, however, not able to do anything and dropped his gaze.

He then started walking unsteadily and passed by in front of us. He stretched his hands out
towards the desk and picked the mobile phone up.

He operated the phone wordlessly, pressed it against his ear and listened to something.

"I didn't make it in time."

It was a murmur that sounded as if he was speaking to himself.

"I didn't make it in time. I was taking a bath at the time he called me. Thus, it was already too
late when I noticed this voicemail."

I guess he's listening to said voicemail.

"I should have been able to save him before it happened. If I had noticed his pain earlier, I
could have averted it. And yet, I was intoxicated with my own unhappiness and overheard his
scream for help, although he was supposed to be my important person. This is the outcome of
it."

Saying so, he opened the top drawer.

"I know it's already too late. I know I can't make it in time anymore. But you know? He's still
screaming! I don't want to... hear this scream anymore."

He inserted his hand into the drawer.

"I will stop his tears. For this sake I'll bear up any sin and any punishment. I have just this
much resolution! If you have complaints, just tell me!!"

"Of course we have."


Maria declared.

"You stopped your thinking. You have not chosen anything. You're just trying to cover your
ears because you don't want to hear this scream. You're just enjoying the pains of fighting
meaninglessly against us."

She dropped her gaze once, but then she spit out the next words.

"You cannot revoke the past by doing this."

".........So, what?"

He hung his head and whispered.

"Will you undo this outcome full of corpses, or what? You wouldn't be able to. I cannot
acquire a bright future, no matter how much I struggle. So I want to at least grant him what
he wishes for. That's all. So---"

He took his hands out of the drawer.

"---get confined obediently already!"

He took out a stun gun. Miyazawa-kun rushed towards Maria.

"Maria!!"

Maria grabbed his outstretched right hand quickly and twisted it. Miyazawa-kun cried out
faintly and dropped the stun gun.

"Ugh---"

I picked up this stun gun. Maria is able to restrain him, but she can't use more violence than
this. Therefore, it's my turn.

I accepted his scowl without averting my eyes. I won't back off. If he points enmity at me, I
have to follow suit.

"Sorry."

I pressed the engaged stun gun against his neck.

Miyazawa-kun moaned and collapsed right away.


"...Kazuki, let's leave this room."

"Okay."

But when I was about to leave the room, my right leg was grabbed.

"---!"

I turned hurriedly around. Miyazawa-kun had grabbed my right leg in collapsed state. But
with a strength I could easily shake off.

He raised his head.

"......Sorry."

What...?

"Sorry for not making it in time. Sorry that I wasn't able to save you in time. I'll get stronger...
I'll get stronger for both of us... so please, give me just one more chance...!"

Aah, no.

This terribly strong entreaty isn't pointed at me.

I bit on my lips and lifted my right leg. I was easily able to shake his hand off.

Then I pressed the stun gun against Miyazawa-kun's back.

"......You have no chance anymore."

Because I'm going to destroy this wish.

I turned it on. His head fell, silently, and stopped moving.

---Sorry.

I'm sure he said this to [him].

But maybe, this apology was also directed at [me]... I suddenly thought so.

I stepped over Miyazawa-kun and picked his mobile phone up.

"Kazuki, what are you doing?"


I played the voicemail.

«...save... me..... Please, Nii-san, save me....!»

And then I grasped [Yuuhei Ishihara]'s identity.


May 4

May 04 (Monday) 07:49

I noticed that I had been restrained by hand- and footcuffs and was lying on a futon on the
ground. But I couldn't think properly yet, still dazed.

I was inside anguish I didn't know whether it's reality or dream.

The feeling was like that of sinking into a bottomless swamp.

I struggle and struggle to no avail, sink deeper and deeper, and in the end forget for what
sake I struggle. I even become unable to struggle. I just sink deeper into the mud. My body
gets filled with mud. I become mud myself. My inside and my outside, both become only mud.
Therefore, lose sight of my contours since they're painted out.

I cannot see myself anymore.

......I, huh.

[TL Note: Japanese has several ways to say 'I'. He's referring to 'Boku']

When I entered this body, I first called me like this purposely, but by now I use it completely
naturally. I guess this is not because I'm getting used to it, but because my mind is dragged
along by Kazuki Hoshino's body.

That's why I'm able to believe that I can become Kazuki Hoshino---being dragged along by
this body.

I finally awoke and straightened my upper body. I recognized this place because of the
pepper mind fragrance. It's not the apartment of Ryuu Miyazawa - where I should be---but
Maria Otonashi's room.

I heard a weak sleeper's breathing. I looked to the bed and saw Maria Otonashi sleeping
turned to me. Her expression wasn't stretched as always. Her face looked like the one of an
girl at my age when she's sleeping. ....No, she is in fact at the same age as me.

"Why are you staring at me?"

Her innocent expression disappeared instantly.


"You look cute when you sleep, Otonashi-san."

"So you're [Yuuhei Ishihara]."

She saw through me right away. Although this time frame between 07:00 and 08:00 belonged
to [Kazuki Hoshino] until yesterday.

Maria Otonashi raised her upper body and peeked at my eyes.

"I'm afraid you're alive."

"......Hah?"

I couldn't react properly to such a sudden statement.

"I'm telling you that the 'owner' is still alive."

I still couldn't comprehend the meaning immediately. But then I slowly realized that she had
just made a outrageous statement.

What on earth...?

I had still trouble coming along and was just looking at Maria Otonashi's face. She looked
with a scornful expression at the dumbfounded me, and stood up.

"Well, I think it's time to go. I don't have the leisure to chat with you."

Maria Otonashi took a jacket out of the closet and put it on.

"Where do you go...?"

"A foolish question. I'll go search the 'owner'. What else?"

If the 'owner' is alive then this is a plausible action. She opened the door and left without
turning around.

What? What does this mean? What on earth happened?

Did our strategy yesterday fail? Otherwise I wouldn't have come under this situation.

For now I have to grasp the situation.


I searched my mobile phone in order to phone Ryuu Miyazawa. I saw Kazuki Hoshino's
mobile phone lying on the table. I reached my hands out for it---

"----!"

The mobile phone rang with such a timing that it seemed as if it had waited for me and made
me cringe with fear.

According to the clock, it had just turned 08:00. 08:00 is my time since yesterday. Surely,
Ryuu Miyazawa waited for this time and made a call.

I took the phone in my hands and looked at the phone number.

"......Eh?"

It was not the number I had expected. This number surely was... ---no, this can't be! The
owner of this number would never call me!

But then, who is it?

My fingers were trembling faintly, but I acted as if I didn't notice and pressed the
Phone-button.

"......hello?"

«......»

The caller kept silent.

"Hello? ...Who is it?"

«Riko Asami.»

"Wha---"

I became speechless.

"Why are you so surprised?"

"Y-You---"
"Did you think I was dead? Did you think I was killed? Bad luck, huh. We're actually having
a conversation now."

It was indeed Riko Asami's voice.

"This is impossible! You can't be alive! Ryuu Miyazawa should have killed you!"

"...hu, huhu, I know this more than enough, but you can only see yourself. How foolish. Don't
you get it? This person would never be able to kill me."

Ryuu Miyazawa cannot kill Riko Asami? ...I can't believe it. Riko Asami should be an eyesore
for Ryuu Miyazawa as well.

"You're a fool to consider having killed someone without using your own hands. You're a
piece of trash one can't even look at. Why can't you get burned in a incinerator as trash is
supposed to?"

Riko Asami took advantage of my confusion and goofed on me.

I finally accepted the fact that she wasn't dead and noticed a certain thing.

"...why are you talking like this?"

«The way I talk?»

"You're talking almost like---"

«Almost like myself in the past? Like I did before starting to pretend to be tough? Like myself
when I was dark and just able to endure? ...I'm surprised you can claim that...»

Riko Asami laughed reservedly and continued to speak.

«...When you haven't changed yourself.»

I haven't changed, she says? I, who have worked this hard all the time? I, who admired
Maria Otonashi and formed a new self? I, who is going to become Kazuki Hoshino? ...I have
not changed?

Don't kid with me! In spite of just being Riko Asami!

"...Don't kid with me! Did you call me because you wanted to pester me or what?"
Upon hearing my enmity, she, who should have been timid in the past, spoke:

«Yes!»

"...Eh?"

«You know? I can't forgive someone like you who's trying to overtake someone other's
body. ...Honestly, what's that? You ought to know your place. You ought to drop dead.
Therefore---»

Riko Asami said without emotion.

«---I think I'll crush this 'box'.»

"What... are you saying...?"

«You know I'm able to, right? After all, I, Riko Asami, am the 'owner'.»

I lost even the words to counter her and fell into silence. My hands were trembling.

Riko Asami giggled silently and said to me.

[TL Note: Now 'Atashi' was used as 'I'. This is used by girls.]

«Don't think about getting saved alone! Okay, [Riko Asami]-san?»

[TL Note: You got it. The owner's Riko Asami. However, in the story she was always referred
to with 'he'. That is because it wasn't possible to address her neutrally in English.]

May 04 (Monday) 10:01

«...save... me..... Please, Nii-san, save me....!»

This scream for help belonged to Riko Asami.


Come to think of it, Miyazawa-kun has only said «siblings», but did never mention «younger
brother». I arbitrarily considered her a boy because she spoke with my, a male, voice and
called herself «Yuuhei Ishihara» at that. Of course he didn't correct me on purpose, probably.

But I would have never dreamed of Asami-san being Miyazawa-kun's younger sister. After
all they don't have the same last name and I have never heard such rumors. Despite visiting
our classroom every day, she didn't show any signs of it. I suppose they were concealing their
sibling relationship purposely because of their complicated family affairs.

Perhaps she did not only come to our classroom to meet Maria, but also to see
Miyazawa-kun.

I asked Maria, who had come back to the room before I switched to [me], while she was
removing my handcuffs.

"Since when did you know [Yuuhei Ishihara] was a girl?"

"Mh, my suspicion that [Yuuhei Ishihara] might be a girl became strong the time when we
entered the girl's bathroom together."

"......so [Riko Asami] entered the girl's bathroom with my body, right?"

"Why do you need to ask such a matter of course?"

She said amazedly. ...Um, shouldn't I be the one to be amazed at you?

"I grasped her true identity during the research I did thereafter. Most of Miyazawa's prior
classmates during his middle school time knew of his blood relationship with Asami. I then
discovered the corpses at her home and became confident that Riko Asami is the 'owner'."

Maria saw those corpses, too...

She ended removing my handcuffs and let out a sigh.

"But only where is she...?"

Maria told me that she had been searching for Asami-san after discovering on her own that
Asami-san's the 'owner', but she found neither hide nor hair of her.

Maria crouched down, looked for something under the bed and tore something off.

"What are you doing?"


"I installed a IC-Recorder under the bed. I thought that Miyazawa or someone might call her
and leak something we don't know yet."

Maria pressed the play button of recorder. She searched for a place [Riko Asami] speaks by
pressing repeatedly on the 'fast forward' button.

«......hello?»

This voice resounded.

"...she made a phone call!"

"Yeah."

The voice of the other party was almost unbearable. But it was probably the voice of a girl.
At the very least, it wasn't Miyazawa-kun.

I tried checking up the history of my mobile phone on the table. She cleared the received and
dialed calls history as it seems, I didn't find any new entries.

It seems as if they were having a quarrel.

Maria connected the recorder to her notebook, downloaded the sound file and started
listening to it with headphones. I guess she does so to hear out all details.

Maria frowned so hard it was almost scary.

After a while, she held the headphones out to me. I nodded and put them on.

«Hello? ...Who is it?»

«Riko Asami.»

I doubted my ears.

I listened to it for a while, but started having doubts. This is Asami-san? But she doesn't
speak like the Asami-san I know. Asami-san doesn't usually speak so calmly and subduedly.
The personality of the Riko Asami I know is the same as the one of [Yuuhei Ishihara] --- no,
[Riko Asami].
But which reminds me, Asami-san acted strange since April 30th. Right, she seemed
somehow dismal. So her odd attitude wasn't necessarily because Maria made me a boxed
lunch. Come to think of it, the 'Sevennight in Mud' had already started at that time.

Asami-san acted her former self. ---Why?

«Don't think about getting saved alone! Okay, [Riko Asami]-san?»

I perked my ears up to the rest of their conversation.

May 04 (Monday) 11:02

I recalled my phone conversation with Riko Asami.

«Don't think about getting saved alone! Okay, [Riko Asami]-san?»

I flinched a moment from her ill-will, but pulled myself together and objected.

"...And how to you plan to take the 'box' out? Do you know how to, or what?"

«I don't know. But I'm still able to destroy it.»

I lost my tongue when I heard how she said this plainly.

«I want to escape. I also want to erase you because I hate you. I'm able to do both at the
same time. You know what I mean, don't you? For this method I just need---»

Riko Asami spoke, still with her hardly understandable voice.

«---to commit suicide before the 'box' is completed.»

I had already heard those words before.

Aah, I see. Those are the same words as I had once sent to Kazuki Hoshino.

«Don't tell me you really thought you could take over Kazuki Hoshino's body? I'm so sorry,
but that's impossible! It's impossible that you could ever win against someone, that you could
ever attain happiness! After all you are me. Riko Asami. You should know your place. You
should die. Someone like you should definitely die.»
Like Riko Asami had done in the past, she cursed with a small voice that was almost
unhearable.

«You ought to die by hanging that would cause you intestinal voiding so everyone would need
to hold their nose because of you. You ought to die by jumping off a roof so you would bother
the passers-by with your brain that scatters about. You ought to die by jumping in front of a
train, annoying the passengers by splashing all your innards over the platform... that would
suit you. Tell me, what you think?»

Riko Asami asked me.

«Which manner of death would you like for Riko Asami?»

She asked me for her own way to die.

I see. When the 'owner', Riko Asami, dies, I will inevitably vanish.

I am completely driven into a corner right now.

"......Stop it!"

I conveyed my great nervousness with those short words, which caused Riko Asami to rejoice.

«What should I stop? To kill myself? Why? Didn't you try to kill me?»

"T-That was because... I hadn't notice that I would vanish if you died."

«Hihaha, don't be silly! Did you think you haven't vanished yet? Brilliant. This is just too
brilliant. ...did you perhaps seriously think you could become Kazuki Hoshino?»

"I can! If you don't hinder me, I can become Kazuki Hoshino! And then I will steal his
happiness!"

«Aha. Doesn't matter, though. After all I'll commit suicide anyway.»

"Didn't I tell you to stop it!?"

«Why should I listen to you? I'm your enemy, you know?»

"Enemy?"

«Yes, enemy. You should know that your self, especially your former self, is your enemy.»
"Stop kidding me! Though I could become Kazuki Hoshino if it wasn't for you, why are you
like this?! Horrible! You really are horrible!"

Having heard those words, Riko Asami started to giggle joyfully at the other side of the
phone.

"What's so funny?!"

«'Horrible', huh!»

Riko Asami spoke while giggling.

«Don't overdo the self-loathing, okay?»

This was my conversation with Riko Asami.

"Uh, ghu---"

I held my chest to the welling-up nausea.

Gross. Why, why... Why did I have to talk with Riko Asami...? Ryuu Miyazawa told me he had
killed her, so did he lie to me?

"......I'll get killed."

This was no threat. I know that because I know Riko Asami better than anyone. She, who
hates herself more than anyone else, would never accept the completion of this 'box'.

Probably she will crush the 'box' at the night of May 05th.

Because she wants to wear me out by making me wait down to the last moment.

To avert this, we had to kill Riko Asami. ...But even if Ryuu Miyazawa had killed her, I would
have vanished because the destruction of the 'box'.

So what? Does this mean I'm destined to vanish, no matter how hard I try?

"......What should---"

I'm cornered. I'm caught by Maria Otonashi, cannot take contact to Ryuu Miyazawa and am
about to get erased by Riko Asami.
Why did it turn out like this...! The time progress was originally only to corner Kazuki
Hoshino!

"What should I do---"

......Wait a moment. I recalled my own murmur. What did I just say?

I?

[TL Note: She got, as mentioned above, used to calling herself "Boku". But now Riko just
called herself "Atashi" which is used mainly by women.]

Didn't I stop calling myself like this when I got into this body? Didn't I stop using it
naturally?

Don't tell me I started being self-aware?

Self-aware of being «Riko Asami»?

No, nononononono! I am not «Riko Asami»! I am no one, a fabrication, that will eventually
become Kazuki Hoshino-----

"To think you could escape from your own deed just by this; I find this childish side of you
terribly adorable."

What is this voice?

A terribly charming voice, I had already heard once, entered my body.

No. That's not true. I can --- escape from Riko Asami.

And still,

"Ah, AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHH"

A giant amount of memories came to mind at once. Memories that should have been forgotten
when I entered this body came to mind. Though I can't process such an amount all at once,
they came to mind unavoidably.

What I saw was the scene of the first time Yuuhei Ishihara used violence against Riko Asami.
The 13-aged Riko Asami was bawling, frightened of this brute who had a deep red face.

Aah, yes. It was like this at the beginning. His first act of violence was scolding Riko Asami's
temper. The 13-aged Riko Asami hated him because he wasn't his real father, considered him
an enemy and expressed her ill will. Yuuhei Ishihara couldn't bear this up in the end, and
thus made a move in violence.

This was the trigger to an everyday life of violence. Well, which may be plausible because
that undesired problem child became silent and obedient when using violence. So violence
against Riko Asami became an effective and pleasant method for that brute.

It was equally pleasant for the mother who was greatly embarrassed by Riko Asami's temper.
Riko Asami had been trying to destroy this family, and thus had been riotous. This was a
problem that had bothered this old bat all the time.

Morals change depending on the environment. Riko Asami's opposition against the violence
and the family started to disappear slowly. Everyone, including Riko Asami herself, stopped
questioning this violence.

They stopped questioning the violence, but this didn't change the fact that Riko Asami's heart
continued being torn up.

Riko Asami heard the sound of her heart being torn up countless times. This was not a
powerful sound, but a modest one as if someone threw a little stone into a pond. At first she
only thought "Aah, it torn up again" when she had heard this sound, but after a while she
noticed that she lacked something important.

This man's violence, that was inferior to a real brute's one, would certainly not be of interest
for outsiders, being common. It would be expressed with "ill-treatment" or some other simple
word. This single word would probably give one the feeling of comprehension.

Therefore, Riko Asami did not name this violence.

The gaps of Riko Asami's lacking heart were closed by violence. Which meant that Riko
Asami would accept this violence when she started to like herself.

Hence, Riko Asami doesn't admit her own existence.

The next thing I saw was the scene of the entrance ceremony of the high school.
She, who stood at the platform as top student---Maria Otonashi.

Riko Asami saw her and drowned. Just by looking at Maria Otonashi and hearing her voice,
Riko Asami became unable to breathe and crouched painfully down.

This is a thing.

The ultimate tool.

She seemed like the lifework of a craftsman. She had just this much directivity and
intentionality, she looked almost artistic. She was this kind of absurd being.

Riko Asami had started to cry without noticing.

This is it. This is what she needed to escape from herself. She needed to make a perfect fake
self, as Maria Otonashi had done.

Riko Asami started to cut her self loose. She threw her gloomy self away and created a
neutral and strong self. But she didn't do as well as Maria Otonashi. The more Riko Asami
came to know her, the more she realized that it would not be possible to imitate her. Maria
Otonashi was able to create a perfect self because she's out of standard. No one else would
ever be able to imitate this.

Maria Otonashi is definitely---not human.

At last I saw the scene of «April 28th».

The day Riko Asami obtained the 'box'.

Riko Asami was holding a worn-out plush bunny in her hands. Blood was splashed on this
plush toy that was once won by her brother at a crane game and it was lacking one ear.

There were two corpses.

The brother was screaming in this puddle of red liquid.

Riko Asami was completely broken by Yuuhei Ishihara.

There was nothing in this house that was not broken.


Everything had ended. Riko Asami's all had been trampled down there, and had been
destroyed once and for all.

I was crying.

The illusion disappeared finally, washed away by my tears.

"......something, something like this..."

I must not admit this. I must absolutely not admit being Riko Asami!

--- therefore, I will become Kazuki Hoshino.

I won't forgive [Kazuki Hoshino]. I won't forgive him, who blathers about everyday life being
happiness, and all the ones that don't even know that they can only laugh because they're
stealing someone other's happiness.

I'll have the last laugh. I'll show it to this [Kazuki Hoshino] who doesn't even try to
comprehend my misfortune.

I'll use you. Maria Otonashi doesn't mix me and [Kazuki Hoshino] up anymore. So I cannot
deceive her anymore. So I just need to use the original one. I'll threaten [Kazuki Hoshino],
make him obey me and deceive her.

He shall call forth his own ruin and fall into despair. He shall become unable to call the
everyday life happiness.

I took Kazuki Hoshino's phone and recorded my voice.

"[Kazuki Hoshino], I'll kill your entire family. I'll massacre them brutally. I'll cut them up
and kill them so brutally that you won't be able to recognize the corpses anymore. So better
do what I say. If you do, I spare them depending on my mood. Absolutely don't let Maria
Otonashi hear this message. Okay then, these are my instructions---"

May 04 (Monday) 12:06

«---I'll kill you. And then I'll become Kazuki Hoshino. And then again, don't tell anything to
Maria Otonashi!»

"...how foolish."
Having heard this voice, Maria murmured so and frowned.

"Being cornered, she completely lost sight of her situation. There's no way I wouldn't listen to
this message in such a situation."

Various insults and "Deceive Maria Otonashi and slip out of captivity!" were contained in the
voice file.

I wasn't frightened of this threat. No matter how much [Riko Asami] tries to appeal, now that
we're working together, it's impossible for her to commit murder with this body.

This attitude of her was just pitiable.

Maria, who had formed her mouth to a straight line, had surely the same impressions.

Maria had examined Riko Asami's circumstances yesterday and the day before yesterday.
What she found out was, while being rumors, awfully cruel.

Furthermore---those corpses, which are a mistake that cannot be undone, do exist in actual
fact.

As long she doesn't complete the 'Sevennight in Mud', a future with no hope is awaiting her.

That's why «Asami-san» cannot bear it anymore.

"......Oh?"

"Why are you suddenly making a dumb sound?"

"No, I was just confused a little. Uum, Asami-san and [Riko Asami] spoke together, which
means both of them exist separately, right? ...is this even possible?"

"This just means that Asami had more or less common-sense. She was trying to take you over,
but could not fully believe in slipping into other people. That's how it came to be like this."

"...So, the «Asami-san» that's the 'owner' is the real one...?"

"It's not about real and fake. But «Asami» continued to suffer without change when [Riko
Asami] was brought forth by the 'Sevennight in Mud'."

«Asami-san» could not escape even after obtaining the 'Sevennight in Mud'. Being left
behind, she's planning to commit suicide---taking [Riko Asami] with her.
"We absolutely must prevent her suicide. That's another reason to find Asami. But where on
earth is she? ...Damn it, but there's only one day left!"

Maria was obviously nervous.

It's Maria who puts everyone else first. Asami-san dies and the 'Sevennight in Mud'
ends---she cannot allow such an outcome.

"......Maria, how about using this threat?"

Hearing my words, Maria frowned and looked at me.

"What do you mean?"

"...ah well, it just came to mind. I was thinking that things might move when we responded to
the threat purposely and let [Riko Asami] act..."

"Sure enough, things might stand still like this."

Maria crossed her arms and pondered.

"Let's assume we responded to the threat and let [Riko Asami] free. Then... right, I suppose
she would visit Ryuu Miyazawa."

"Yeah, I think so, too."

"--Wait. Maybe Miyazawa knows Asami's whereabouts anyway?"

"...I don't think so. If he knew, he would never support completing the 'Sevennight in Mud'."

"You have a point... but then again, he told us that we will never find Asami. So this
statement would lose its basis. ...Does Miyazawa misunderstand anything...?"

Maria frowned and pondered for a while.

"...It doesn't help to think about it. For now, let's just assume that Miyazawa doesn't know
Asami's present condition."

I nodded.

"But is there any meaning in letting [Riko Asami] act on her own? We don't need [Riko
Asami] but the Asami who's the 'owner', you know?"
"...err, I think there is meaning. Guessing from what we heard through the IC recorder, I think
[Riko Asami] knows how to come into contact with «Asami-san»."

"Cooperate with [Riko Asami] and let her come into contact, huh? That's impossible. It's
hardly thinkable that a girl who makes such a threat would live up to your expectations."

...That's certainly true.

"Or do you plan to break her heart, make her surrender and make her obey you forcefully?"

Maria laughed faintly and said so jokingly

I answered to this joke.

"Good idea."

Her expression stiffened up.

But I was equally surprised by my own cold words.

But apart from my surprise I had hit upon a method. Being in a similar situation as [Riko
Asami], I hit upon a method to break her heart and make her obey us.

If we let [Riko Asami] go, she will contact Miyazawa-kun. To her, Miyazawa-kun is like
Maria to me.

Therefore---

"We just need to make Ryuu Miyazawa betray [Riko Asami]."

While saying so, I thought: Can I really do it?

Involving Miyazawa-kun, making [Riko Asami] fall into despair and destroying the
'Sevennight in Mud'. Which means that Asami-san is going to return to herself who caused an
outcome that cannot be averted anymore. I don't think there is happiness in the future that
would await her there. What I'm about to do means sacrificing Asami-san.

...Let's stop pretending to be a good person by acting as if I was indecisive.

In fact I have already decided long ago. I decided at the time when I announced «I don't
permit your existence.» to her, when I started perceiving her as enemy.
'I will defeat [Riko Asami]'. 'I won't admit her'.

Maria was looking at me, who had gained determination, with mixed feelings.

"I------"

"......Can you not support me?"

"That's... not it. I know it can't be helped because you would disappear the other way.
However, even so I cannot accept the inevitable misfortune that awaits Asami."

She said so and bit on her lips.

"Because you can't permit other's misfortune..."

"...That's not all. If it was just this, I might still be able to endure it. But you know? I
noticed."

She said while looking to the ground.

"I noticed that [Riko Asami] and [Aya Otonashi] are the same."

"...the same?"

"......"

Maria didn't answer to my parrot-like question.

But I understood thanks to her silence.

Maria, who is trying to be a 'box' and who is still [Aya Otonashi], and [Riko Asami], who
came forth due to the 'box', are similar in the aspect that both of them are separated from their
original self.

Maria, who says that she's in the same environment, knows Asami-san's feelings all too well.

I don't know what's best to do. I can only state what I understand to the silent Maria.

"But Asami-san doesn't wish for it."

I continued.

"She doesn't wish for herself to disappear!"


"......Yeah, I know."

Maria murmured so and raised her head.

But even so, we cannot change Asami-san's future.

May 04 (Monday) 12:35

I stood in front of Miyazawa-kun's room and took a deep breath.

Maria had already slipped into the room next to his one. She had confirmed that this next
room is unoccupied last time.

I breathed out and rang the chime to Miyazawa-kun's room.

There was no reaction. As expected, though.

But I was sure.

That Miyazawa-kun is in there.

"Come out."

I knocked the door.

"Come out, please come out---"

What I'm going to do will hurt him terribly. I was aware of this fact, but did continue
nonetheless.

"Please come out---Nii-san"

I addressed Miyazawa-kun like Riko Asami had done via phone.

"Save me, Nii-san!"

Miyazawa-kun was probably planning to spend the time until May 06th secluded in his room
without contact to [Riko Asami].

But I'm sure he can't ignore [Riko Asami] when she seeks for help directly.
Thus, the door opened.

Miyazawa-kun looked even worse than yesterday.

"......Is Otonashi nearby?"

"No."

"...What did you do until now?"

"I was caught by Maria Otonashi... But I was able to deceive [Kazuki Hoshino] and slip out
from there! However, why did you not answer my phone, Nii-san?"

"---Well... ...Anyway! Why do you call me 'Nii-san'? Haven't you stopped that?"

"Err..."

Asami-san called him «Nii-san» in that phone call, so did she change it?

I suppressed the emerging nervousness and countered quickly with a random explanation that
came to mind.

"I thought it may be weird to not call you «Nii-san» though Maria Otonashi is calling me
«Riko Asami» by now... Leaving that aside, why did I get caught, Nii-san? What should I do
now?"

I asked him a question before he could doubt my explanation. Miyazawa-kun kept silent to
this question and bit on his lips.

His expression brought me conviction. Miyazawa-kun is believing that I'm [Riko Asami].

"Will you save me, Nii-san?"

Of course I didn't want to see Miyazawa-kun so bitterly.

I want him to say that he won't save [Riko Asami] anymore. I want him to say that he will
help us. That way I won't have to torment him anymore.

"Yeah, I will save you!"

Yet, Miyazawa-kun showed me a stiff smile and said so.


I went on to the next step.

"Save? Could you please stop that?"

Not able to grasp the situation, he opened his eyes wide to those words.

"......Huh?"

"I'm telling you to stop saving [Riko Asami]!"

He did, however, still not grasp the situation and stood completely still.

Thus, I cleared things up to him.

"I am [Kazuki Hoshino]."

"Hoshino...?"

He murmured. He stayed dumbfounded for a while, but at last he noticed that [Kazuki
Hoshino] was imitating [Riko Asami] and seized me by the collar with wild anger flashing in
his eyes.

"What are you up to, you bastard?! Is it fun to tease me?! Do you know just how repugnant
you're acting, HUH?!"

"I know..."

"So what is this?! Try explaining yourself!"

I started wavering when I was about to open my mouth. Because the words I was going to say
would easily hurt him.

"Miyazawa-kun, it's just that you try to help [Riko Asami] reflexively when she seeks for
help. Maria told you, didn't she? You haven't chosen anything."

The sharpness remained in his eyes, but his grip on my collar weakened slightly.

"......Didn't I tell you? I'm just saving my sister."

"You were about to save her again right now after all. But it wasn't your sister, but me who
sought for help, you know?"
Hearing those words, Miyazawa-kun opened his eyes wide.

"Tell me, Miyazawa-kun. Is a mysterious being you can't even distinguish from me really so
important?"

I'm sure he wants to counter my ill will. But unable to object, he just kept biting on his lips so
much that they turned white.

"Feel free to save your sister. I can't do anything about that! But you know? [Riko Asami] is
not your sister. Come on, Miyazawa-kun, tell me once again:"

I posed my question.

"Who will you save?"

Miyazawa-kun scowled at me.

I scowled back at him.

"......Damn it!!"

Miyazawa-kun roared and let go of my collar furiously.

He raised his fist to take his anger out on the wall... stopped this, however, and slumped
down.

"......Just do what you want."

He said with his gaze to the ground.

"Just do what you want! If you want to stop the 'Sevennight in Mud', do it away from me.
Don't bother me anymore. I won't interfere anymore."

"I'm afraid to say---that's not enough."

Miyazawa-kun looked up to me.

"...What is not enough?!"

"It's literally as I said. This much determination, this much resolution is not enough. You will
have to actively destroy the 'Sevennight in Mud' for us."
He screwed up his face in anger.

"You bastard---are you aware of what you're saying?! You seriously want me to help you
torment her?!"

"I guess so."

"Don't shit me!! There's no way I could do that! I won't interfere... you should know that this
is my limit!"

"Well, yeah, I know. After all, you were about to help her a few moments ago, right?"

"......"

"That's why I'm saying that it's not enough. Nothing will change with just this amount of
resolution! [She] will still come to you and depend upon you without doubt. And you would
eventually hold out your hand again; you'd basically be supporting the 'Sevennight in Mud'!"

Having heard my words, Miyazawa-kun averted his eyes und murmured.

"But... I can't abandon her so easily."

"But you have to make a decision. [Riko Asami] will soon come here."

"......What?"

"[Riko Asami] urged me to escape from Maria by threatening me. I decided to act as if I
obeyed her demand. [She] will definitely come to you when she thinks that I complied to her
demand."

".....The next switch occurs at 13:00, huh."

"Yes. Until then you have to decide how you treat her. If you save [Riko Asami] and the 'box'
completes, only [Riko Asami], who is nobody at all, will remain. If you reject her, we will
recover Riko Asami."

"You want me to believe you? Haha... this is quite a stupid trade."

"So you don't mind the former outcome?"

Miyazawa-kun clenched his fist to my words.


"...of course I do! I'm aware of it all even without you! But rejecting her... that's just
impossible, isn't it...?"

He may say so, but he is still not able to decide.

This is troublesome. Miyazawa-kun must reject [Riko Asami]. He must make her fall into
despair. Therefore, I went on to the last step.

"I was always wondering. Why do you, Miyazawa-kun, believe in the existence of the
'Sevennight in Mud'? I mean, isn't it quite unbelievable for someone who has never obtained
a 'box' that [Riko Asami] is inside me?"

He raised his head and peeked at my face.

"Teach me! How could you believe such a unrealistic matter?"

"......what do you want to imply?"

"Can you not come up with the reason? Okay, I'll tell you! I can only think of one reason to
believe the existence of the 'box'. Tell my, Miyazawa-kun, you have---"

I asked him a certain question I kept quiet about to Maria.

"---met '0', haven't you?"

Miyazawa-kun's expression stiffened extremely up.

"I don't know how you have met him. But I know that '0' wanted you to help [Riko Asami]."

"------"

His face turned paler and paler in his mute amazement.

I guess he didn't understand right away who I meant with '0'. '0' can originally not be
perceived by anyone but the 'owner'. I was only able to perceive him when I was told his
name.

And then remembered what he had done to me.

"---Ah"
Miyazawa-kun held his head with still wide opened eyes.

"I know what you feel since I know '0'. It's not like you forgot him. You just can't remember.
Therefore, you may not be able to remember what he has told you, but it has entered in your
subconsciousness. That's why you were able to believe the 'box'. And he made you think that
you must help [Riko Asami]."

"......W-Wait a moment. Why... Why do you know about this anyway, Hoshino?!"

He raised his head with a trembling voice, unable to hide his fear from me.

"As I said: I don't! But I know that '0' won't achieve his aim when you don't help [Riko
Asami]."

"His aim...? What on earth is his aim...?"

"His aim is to observe me. ...Well, you can't understand probably, but it's the truth. But this
'box', while being interesting to observe, is very frail. [Riko Asami] is just too much at a
disadvantage. Retaining oneself in the body of someone else is painful without doubt. She
wouldn't be able to oppose me as long she doesn't have at least information about what's
happening when it's not her turn. He had to arrange things to allow us to fight, or else this
'box' would just be destroyed without any enjoyment for him. Hence, '0' used you to achieve a
balance."

Having heard those words, Miyazawa-kun lowered his head slowly. Then he stopped any
movement.

"...That's all I can tell you!"

This is the last spell that shackling him. A spell implanted to him unknowingly that made him
protect the 'box'. Now that I clarified things to him, this spell should be resolved.

"Okay, I'm off then. It's almost 13:00. I leave it to you to decide how you treat [Riko Asami]
when she comes to meet you. Since [I] won't be there then, I can't stop you."

"......I will save her. Did you not hear me?"

I didn't reply. Because I realized that he just didn't want to admit his defeat.

I closed the door without confirming his expression.

"......"
I walked towards the stairs. I immediately heard someone rushing to me from the next room.
But I did not turn around.

"Kazuki... why didn't you tell me that '0' had been interfering!"

It's not like I didn't tell her. It occurred to me right before we arrived here. There was no time
to tell her.

"Why do you not answe--- Kazuki???"

But this anger of her was pleasant to me. I laid my head on Maria's shoulder.

I am the enemy of [Riko Asami]. Thus I have to make [Riko Asami] surrender, even if this
means to use Miyazawa-kun.

I have no other choice. I must do so. But still---

"Distressing someone is quite... distressing."

I whispered such a thing, unable to raise my head.

But I chose to regain my everyday life.

I was about to sacrifice someone for my own sake. That's why I longed for someone to blame
me. To scold me with "You're repulsive!".

However, Maria kept silent for some reason.

Even worse, she stroked my hair gently.

"......"

I wonder why?

Why was this so pleasant, despite being the exact opposite of what I was wishing her to do?

May 04 (Monday) 13:00

There was no fragrance of peppermint. AtashiI was holding a weekly manga magazine in my
hands as I had once done before. I was able to slip out of Maria Otonashi's room.
"Haha!"

I succeeded! My threat succeeded!

This feeling of being cornered vanished into thin air. Everything's all right. I can still fight
now. First I have to meet Ryuu Miyazawa.

I left the shop and made sure of my whereabouts. I know this main street. Ryuu Miyazawa's
apartment should be nearby.

I went to his apartment and rang the chime.

Ryuu Miyazawa opened instantly.

His face was pale. The rings under his glasses turned even darker. And he did not speak
anything. He was just looking silently at me.

"...hey, what happened?"

"......Nothing."

His denial showed me, however, that something had definitely happened.

"Did Maria Otonashi do anything to you?"

"No... she didn't do anything."

His answer had no intonation whatsoever and hence sounded almost mechanical. Something
was obviously wrong. Well, he seemed strange already before, but this strangeness went a
step further.

"Won't you enter for now?"

He urged me plainly. I did as he said while being a bit suspicious of him.

"...What's that?"

I noticed right after entering that his windows was broken.

"Aah, Otonashi broke it."


Nii-san answered dispiritedly. Maria Otonashi must have done something to him. It can't be
explained in any other way.

"...did our strategy fail yesterday?"

"Yeah."

Again a half-hearted reply. ...Honestly, what's wrong?

"Why did you not answer Atashimy phone?"

"...«Atashi», huh."

"Hah?"

"Didn't you use to call yourself «Boku»?"

[TL Note: Again the matter of Boku/Atashi. See above for details.]

...Right, I have to fix that again.

"...Just a little mistake. BokuI am no one after all."

"......It's after 13:00, huh."

He said so while looking into the distance.

"Well yeah, but why so out of the blue...?"

"You stole this time frame at the third day. Therefore it's you with no doubt. That's why I can
be sure. But if it was 14:00... I would probably assume that Hoshino is trying again to
deceive me and wouldn't notice that it's you. Unlike Maria Otonashi, I cannot distinguish you
guys by your usage of your facial muscles, you know."

"......You've lost me there."

"Tell me, how do you call me?"

"Hah? «Ryuu Miyazawa» of course, haven't I been calling you like this all the time?"

"Yeah, I guess so. Right."

"Stop that weird talk and better tell me what happened yesterday!"
"Okay."

After he nodded, Ryuu Miyazawa sat down on his seat and stared into the black monitor.

"I executed our strategy. As you can see, it proved to be a failure."

I expected him to continue, so I waited for him while he was just staring into the monitor
without movement. However, he did not talk.

"Eh? That's all...?"

"I don't know any more! Our strategy failed and Kazuki Hoshino was taken back by Maria
Otonashi. I don't know anything about what happened thereafter. I have no idea what
happened between them!"

"......What? That doesn't help me a bit."

"Well, I guess it doesn't."

Ryuu Miyazawa said so coldly, still without looking at me.

"......Are you planning to abandon me?"

He did, however, still not look at me.

I see. That's what he's up to. He will again just cover his ears and ignore everything.

"You regret it, don't you?"

Finally he looked up to me when he heard those words.

"You regret that you noticed Riko Asami's misfortune when you rushed to her because of her
beg for help --- and that she involved you in this matter, right? Exactly! If you remained
untold, you would have been able to live carelessly, just lamenting your own misfortune. If
you didn't answer Riko Asami's phone that time---"

"I don't regret that!"

He intercepted me.
"I only regret that I didn't notice earlier. If I did, I would have been able to avert all this.
Therefore, this incident is from the origin to the outcome all my fault. I don't want to make
such a mistake anymore!"

He finally turned his head to me.

"That's why I decided to continue helping Riko out. No matter what, this decision won't
change."

"......Nii-san"

My chest warmed up.

Nii-san is saying this in all honesty.

"Thank you, Nii-san... Continue to help me out!"

"'Nii-san', huh."

Nii-san nodded slightly.

"Hey... let me confirm your goal."

"Why so late? ---Well, I don't mind! My goal is to obtain Kazuki Hoshino. To make [Kazuki
Hoshino] surrender for this sake. To torment Kazuki Hoshino so much to make him scratch
his own neck sore, to make him succumb so heavily that he submits his own body with the
words 'Please be my master' while genuflecting."

"...I see, so that's it without doubt?"

"Of course. Haven't I told you several times?"

Nii-san murmured a few times "You did, you did," lowered his gaze and stopped talking. This
seemed weird to me, so I peeked into his face.

"------Eh?"

He was crying. Nii-san was crying.

"N-Ni-san, why are you crying?"


As it seems he didn't notice until I told him; Nii-san confirmed that he was crying by touching
his cheeks surprisedly and wiped his tears roughly away with his arm.

How long has it been since I've last seen Nii-san's tears? Last time was probably when we
noticed the deception of our parents. Nii-san stopped crying entirely after that. To be able to
continue fighting against an invisible something inside him, he stopped showing any
weakness to others.

This person was crying.

"......I will save her."

He murmured.

"I made this decision. I decided to help my sister out. My weak Riko. I decided to help her out
at least this time, because I had failed to support her when I was busy with my own issues. I
decided. To save her. To save her, save her, save her, save her, save her, save her. I did
decide this, but ---"

He raised his head and looked at me.

"------Who are you?"

My breath stopped.

"Riko is the one I decided to save. But --- who are you? Tell me, who on earth are you!?"

"...W-What are you saying, Nii-san? I am---"

"No one. You said so yourself a few minutes ago, didn't you?"

...I did. I said so indeed.

"Exactly. You can't be Riko. If you were Riko, why would you look like Kazuki Hoshino? But
you aren't Kazuki Hoshino either. So who are you? Tell me... why should I help out a
completely unknown guy? I don't give a fuck about you!!"

This is wrong.

I knew that these could not be Nii-san's true feelings.


"For me you're just a fake of my sister, who I cannot distinguish from [Kazuki Hoshino]!"

Those words were only for the sake of hurting me.

And for the sake of hurting himself.

"N-Nii-san---"

"Stop that!"

Nii-san said in order to suppress his heart.

"Don't call me 'Nii-san', you damn stranger!!"

Like that he crushed his heart and---

"Aah---"

--- Atashimine, too.

Nii-san won't save me. Because I'm not Nii-san's sister. Yeah, that's right. I am not Riko
Asami. So who am I? Kazuki Hoshino? No. Not yet. Wait a sec... in the first place, did I really
wish to become Kazuki Hoshino anyway?

"Aah---"

What is it that I really wanted?

Actually, I might have known that since I obtained the 'box'.

I recalled the time before my parents divorced.

I thought we were a quite happy family. At holidays, we often went to the shopping street,
watched movies or went to shabu-shabu all-you-can-eat restaurants. We were this kind of
family. My father visited my room always at first when he came home from work, whereupon
I used to urge him unsuccessfully to knock before entering. My mother made always refined
and cute boxed lunches for me. I quarreled all the time with Nii-san, but even so, we played
always together.

I thought that were all on good terms on the whole. I did never doubt that we could always be
together like other families.
But this was all a lie.

Our household didn't crumble down. It had been a lie from the start.

I remember that Nii-san once said this to me when they told us about the divorce:

«That's great. So we finally needn't act like a happy family anymore. And I'm released from
these feelings of guilt.»

I couldn't grasp the meanings of those words right away. But after a while I understood. I
mean, why did my parents look like they were on good terms though they would be going to
divorce now? Why did they smile awkwardly after treating me kindly?

It was all just pretence to deceive me and make me think we were a happy family. But not
even for my sake---they just did it to soothe their own feelings of guilt.

That's why I thought that «happiness» can only be attained by stealing it from others.

But is it really something you can steal?

So, what did I want to do? I don't know. I have no idea. No clue. I don't want to know. I don't
have the 'box' anymore, after all.

But for now I ought to escape. I must escape.

I ought to slip out of this room quickly. I just have to slip out of here. Then I can still escape.

I tried escaping quickly, but stumbled. Standing up seemed somehow like a waste of time to
me, so I headed towards the door almost crawling.

For some reason, slender, beautiful legs, like from a model, appeared in front of my eyes.

I looked up.

"W-Why---"

The person standing there was---Maria Otonashi.

Such timing... don't tell me...?! I turned around and looked at Nii-san. He was holding his
head in his arms and secluded himself from everything around him. Nii-san knew that Maria
Otonashi was right nearby. He had already decided to abandon me. Knowing that I would
come, he had already decided from the start to hand me over to Maria Otonashi.
"---It's unreasonable anyway."

She said in an intonationless voice.

"One can't possible throw oneself away. Even if you did, your self would come chase after
you. You knew this from the beginning. That's why you cannot throw yourself away even if
you have the 'box'. What you can achieve with your 'wish' in the 'box' doesn't go further than
this. You cannot gain anything in the 'Sevennight in Mud'. You are just slowly sinking into the
mud."

She, whom I adored, said this to me, who was unable to be like her.

So what about you? Can you, too, gain nothing because you have thrown yourself away?

I looked up at her face. Her glance seemed sorrowful to me somehow.

I have to escape. But where to? This room isn't my refuge and Maria Otonashi is blocking the
way in front of me. I'm still just crawling on the floor and can't do anything. I can't go
anywhere.

I, can't go, anywhere.

"Let me ask you a question. I asked this already once ago, but answer me once more. Tell me
---"

She posed her question.

"---Who are you?"

I'm---

"Who am I...?"

I'm the one who wants to know that.

She took her mobile phone out for some reason and held it to me, who was sitting on the
ground.

«Let me tell you who you are.»

It was the voice of [him], who does not doubt his identity, no matter how hard I rattle at his
existence.
[Kazuki Hoshino] answered my question.

«You are nobody at all; You're just an enemy who only exists to be defeated by me.»

"No......"

I am not such a being.

I don't live for your sake! As if I'd accept such an absurdity!

"---I am Riko Asami!!"

I admitted it, but then I realized that I just made a big mistake.

I mean, I cannot possibly become Kazuki Hoshino anymore, now that I admitted being Riko
Asami. I cannot make myself think so anymore. My retreat was cut off with this.

The moment I realized that---

"Aa, aaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!"

The 'box' started suddenly to swell up. It rushed through my veins like a bullet and hurts my
whole body, it hurts, aah, I can't endure it! Stop it, it hurts, stop it, someone save me! I want
to take it out! But I cannot take it out, I can't, I can't. The 'box' doesn't exist in this body! But
then why does it hurt? Stop it, stop it stop it!!

"I got it... I got it already, so stop it..."

It's because I understood that I cannot be anyone but myself.

I made a mistake. I mistook the 'wish' to seek from the 'box'. I don't need such a body. That
doesn't make any sense. I... I only ---

"I only wanted to attain happiness!"

But this is not possible anymore.

Happiness doesn't await me anymore, since I have stepped on a way stained in blood.

I clung to the girl who succeeded in becoming another self, who called herself a 'box'.

I won't mistake it anymore. I won't mistake it anymore, so please!


"Save me!"

May 04 (Monday) 14:00

Strangely enough, I noticed immediately that it was because of tears that my field of vision
was blurry.

I wiped off those tears, and saw Maria standing in front of me, suppressing her feelings.

May 5

May 05 (Tuesday) 02:10

I'm dreaming.

I'm dreaming the same dream again.

I toyed with the rabbit plush, missing an ear, in front of the corpses. I plunged my index
finger into the torn seam and widened the hole.

I put my fingers into the head and moved them around. The shape of the rabbit's head
changed. The touch of cotton feels good. Back and forth, up and down. The eyeball came
unstuck. Cotton fell out of its torn face.
I looked at my hands. Except for the fact that they're stained with blood, that began to dry,
they shouldn't have changed. But those hands looked to me as if they had rotten and became
pitch black.

My body is full with something like mud, consisting only of hatred. I want to cut up my body
and scrape this mud out.

"I see. This is rather interesting."

"Hyy!"

This sudden voice startled me so much my heart had leapt into my throat.

"This is an outstanding distortion for an incident that happened nearby to this boy. I'm
interested indeed. The way you're involved in this incident is splendid and your feelings for
this boy seem amusing, too."

I turned around and looked at the owner of this voice.

He looks... Aah, right, that's because it's a dream, huh. He looked obscure as if he was veiled
in haze. I couldn't even recognize his gender.

"W-Who are you? S-Since when are you here?"

Instead of answering, he (she?) just smiled.

I looked at Nii-san without thinking. He did not notice this person yet as it seems and was
still crying soundlessly in dismay.

Where am I anyway? This was supposed to be my home, but something's wrong. It didn't feel
real, almost as if I slipped into a photo.

"You are a very interesting being as well, though not as much as this boy. I knew already that
humans get empty inside when they hate themselves, but observing this with my very own eyes
is truly amusing. I see no reason to not give you a 'box'."

Ignoring my questions completely, he said weird things.

But there was something I understood.

He is charming. Incredibly.
"Do you have a wish?"

Of course I do. I was always begging, after all.

"This is a 'box' that grants any wish!"

He said so in his charming voice and held some kind of container out to me. As he mentioned,
this looked like a box. But for some reason I could not perceive it clearly, although it was
virtually right in front of me.

I tried touching it.

I realized that it's «real» just by this. Not because of something like logic, but because I felt
with my entire body that it is «real».

I accepted it.

"How can I use it...?"

"Picture your wish precisely to yourself. That's all! Humans have the ability to grant wishes
from the beginning. Therefore, this 'box' isn't so special. It merely simplifies your wish and
makes it easier to be granted like that."

My 'wish' is to stop being Riko Asami. To become someone other than Riko Asami, whom I
despise.

So who shall I become?

The first that came to mind was my adored Maria Otonashi. But this is impossible. She is no
human after all. She's not a being someone like me could become.

But then it occurred to me.

"I wish,"

He is the boy that can call everyday life important as if it was a matter of fact. He is the boy
that obtained Maria Otonashi for some reason.

'Everyday life is important'? Don't kid me. Try saying that again after experiencing my
everyday life! I can't forgive him for enjoying happiness without reason.

Hence, give it all to me!


"I want to replace Kazuki Hoshino."

When I had spoke this out, the 'box' started folding up. When the 'box' became tiny and hard,
it flew towards me like a bullet and penetrated into my body through my eye. Without leaving
me enough time to feel any pain, it entered my heart and started to rule my entire body over
the veins. I'm, I'm, I'm, I'm being cut up, crushed, torn apart, scattered about, ruled by the
'box', ruled and---I vanished.

"Replace him, huh? Huhu... you are truly unfortunate."

He said with a charming smile.

"How unfortunate for you to realize just being a replacement."

Why? It is only bliss that I vanish.

"An empty human can only picture an empty 'wish'. I'm sorry, but I was fully aware of that,
you know?"

He said with a truly charming, gentle smile.

"Aah, how adorable! To think you could escape from your own deeds just by this; I find this
childish side of you terribly adorable!"

And then my dream continued with me being thrown into the mud.

Swallowing mud, unable to breathe or speak.

May 05 (Tuesday) 06:15

I had awoken already a while ago.

But I was just lying on Maria Otonashi's bed like a puppet, lacking the willpower to move. I
have to come in contact with Riko Asami. Even while knowing that, I cannot move.

Maria Otonashi had sat down on a seat and was looking at me all the time.

And yet, I can't move. I can't even avert my eyes from this piercing glance of her.
After a while of exchanging glances, she was finally the one who ran out of patience and
averted her eyes. She stood up and left to somewhere.

She came back after a few moments and pressed a cup of coffee upon me. I just viewed the
steam in front of my eyes. I didn't accept the cup for a long time, which made her run out of
patience again; she started drinking the coffee herself and said something like "Bitter...".

"......Mhh, right, since I'm idle anyway, I'll talk a bit to myself."

She said so while looking with a frown at the cup.

"I am a 'box'. I can, in fact, grant 'wishes' exactly as the 'box' does."

She said so as if it was just incidentally to drinking coffee.

"But I'm a failure as 'box'. The happiness I can bring is only fabricated and fake."

She seemed to be talking indifferently, but I could clearly see bitterness in her expression.

"I wonder what happiness is. Is it something you can obtain depending on your sentiments? If
so, can someone who unwillingly erased his entire family obtain happiness just by changing
his heart?"

I thought she was talking about me. But this might not be true.

"...I think it's impossible. I am here because I think so."

She has to be talking about herself.

"I don't know your circumstances exactly. But I don't think you can attain happiness just by
changing one sentiment in your situation. Aren't you thinking so, too?"

Exactly. Hell awaits me wherever I go.

"You wanted me to «save» you, right?"

She said so after emptying her coffee.

"If you don't mind it being flawed, I shall grant you a 'wish'."

Normally one would think this is a blatant lie. But she was deadly serious.
Therefore, this was more than enough, leaving aside whether to believe it or not.

"......really?"

It was more enough to make me open my mouth.

"Yeah. If every path leads you to hell, I shall present you with another one. It may be just an
illusion, but in your case you have no other choice, right?"

If she wanted to raise my hopes just to make me move, she wouldn't speak like this.

"But are you alright with using such an unrealistic power, Maria-san...? Don't you have to
pay some kind of compensation for using your power, like in a Manga?"

Maria Otonashi kept silent.

"So there is a catch, right?"

"...Nothing you should care about."

"If you phrase it like this, I care about it all the more!"

She let out a sigh to my words and said:

"I lose a part of my memory."

"Eh...?"

"By using the 'Flawed Bliss', I forget about the target of the wish and the people that had to
do with him up to a certain point. In fact, I have almost no memories. Neither do I have
memories of my family, nor of my friends. I only have the memory that I wished to do so on
my own accord."

"What the...?"

This is just too cruel.

"...But doesn't this mean that you would forget about Kazuki Hoshino when using the 'box' on
me...?"

She didn't reply to this question.


Surely because I was right.

"...I don't get it! Why would you go this far just for my sake? You'd even abandon the
memories of a dear person, why...?"

"That's my affair. As I mentioned before, it's nothing you should care about."

"There's no w---"

"You're the same as me."

She interrupted me.

"I don't want to see you in misfortune. I wouldn't be able to bear up with this. In the first
place, do you think I would have turned into a 'box' if I overlooked such things!"

And for this sake she'd be ready to lose dear memories?

That's just weird. Weird, but---.

Exactly because of that she was able to become a perfect creation.

If I can escape hell by this, and if it's what she's wishing for, then I shall accept her offer.

"Please lend me the phone."

Maria Otonashi nodded and handed Kazuki Hoshino's mobile phone over to me.

I noticed that my phone number was noted in the dialed calls history. I guess they tried to call
me on my phone.

But that's not enough to get in touch with her.

I, too, had tried to reach her on that number, but it didn't connect. She didn't phone me from
my number.

It was the number of Yuuhei Ishihara's phone.

I dialed. After a few moments,

"Hello?,"

Riko Asami answered the phone.


May 05 (Tuesday) 21:42

When completing the note I got from Miyazawa-kun at May 02nd, it turns out like this.

00-01 01-02 23-24 1st day

02-03 03-04 04-05 2nd day

11-12 13-14 15-16 3rd day

09-10 16-17 20-21 4th day

06-07 08-09 19-20 5th day

05-06 07-08 17-18 6th day

12-13 14-15 18-19 7th day End

The three remaining cells «10-11», «21-22» and «22-23» indicate the time that belongs to
[Kazuki Hoshino] today. If I don't stop the 'Sevennight in Mud' today, [Kazuki Hoshino]'s
time blocks will shrink to 0.

It's 21:43. In other words, [Kazuki Hoshino] has one hour and 17 minutes left until it's 23:00.

Until then we have to do anything we can.

The preparations for this have already ended.

[Riko Asami] got in touch with «Asami-san». «Asami-san» accepted our wish to meet her
and stated time and place.

And now we were facing Riko Asami.

The place that was suggested by «Asami-san» was our school. The school does have a
security system, but it doesn't alarm just by climbing over the school gate.

The school was empty because of the Golden Week.

Only she was standing in the midst of the desolate schoolyard.


"Why do you think have I decided to meet you?"

As expected, her whispering voice was completely different from the speaking style were
used from her.

"I know Maria-san's aim, after all. You came in order to avert my suicide and steal my 'box',
right? But even though this is inconvenient for me, I decided to meet you. Do you know
why?"

Asami-san said and seemed somehow unable to focus her eyes.

"I wanted to see you once more for the last time at the end. I wanted to see the person I
adored; the person who achieved what I didn't: creating the perfect self."

"You're wrong."

Maria interrupted her with a distinct voice.

"You want me to stop you from committing such a silly act like throwing your life away."

Riko Asami listened silently to Maria.

And then her mouth curled slightly up.

"I'm afraid such a clichéd words don't work for me. What a shame... I didn't want you to say
such a painful thing."

"Hmpf, why did you meet us, then? Do you think I can't see that you're afraid from dying?"

"You're rather my guarantee."

"...guarantee?"

"I thought you might kill me when I noticed being afraid from committing suicide."

Riko Asami spoke so indifferently.

"......"

I wonder why? Why does their exchange---make me so irritated?


There should be other feelings I ought to have. Nervousness, fear, sympathy - those feelings
would be much more natural. And yet, why am I feeling irritation?

I thought and thought---and noticed.

------Oh no, this can't...

"Asami-san."

I had probably noticed this unknowingly. It's only reasonable to get irritated then! This idle
talk is completely meaningless, isn't it?

"You have met Miyazawa-kun during the 'Sevennight in Mud', right?"

Asami-san nodded slowly to my sudden question.

"To make us believe that there's no escape from the 'Sevennight in Mud', Miyazawa-kun lied
to us that the 'owner' was dead. He tried to make me give up to complete this 'box'."

"...So?"

Asami-san urged me to continue, whereupon I nodded.

"I'm sure Miyazawa-kun was convinced that we wouldn't be able to find you. But you're alive.
So where did this conviction come from?"

Asami-san hesitated only for a moment and said:

"...That's because I promised to hide when I met him. Hence, Nii-san---"

"Why?"

I broke in on her and asked so.

"Why would you, while being ready to commit suicide in order to stop the 'Sevennight in
Mud', need to cooperate with Miyazawa-kun, who is the ally of [Riko Asami] who wishes its
completion?"

She kept quiet.

"Isn't this a little mismatched?"


"...You wouldn't understand my conflict, Kazuki Hoshino."

I can't endure it anymore. I can't bear up against this hatred anymore.

"It's disgusting! Stop this weird speaking style already!"

"......This is my original way of talking. I guess you don't know about it, but since middle
school---"

"Now won't you stop this acting already? You don't want to hide anyway since you decided
to appear before us again, right? So,"

"Stop this tone already, '0'!"

Maria opened her eyes wide and looked at Asami-san---no, '0'.

The expression on Asami-san's face disappeared. I could no longer feel anything from Riko
Asami in this inhuman face.

"You started this acting already on April 30th, right? Your bad taste is just over the top! Now
that I think of it, Asami-san felt only strange to me at the time. At the next day, Haruaki
forgot that she had been strange. That's because of your characteristic that everyone except of
the 'owner' forgets about you, isn't it? You did never enter the classroom because
Miyazawa-kun was there, right?"

Asami-san was still expressionlessly listening to me.

"Miyazawa-kun was only able to tell this big lie that Asami-san's dead, because he knew that
her body was taken over by you, '0'. If an inhuman being like you tells him something like «I
won't appear anymore» after taking Asami-san's body over, he would naturally believe it. "

Asami-san did still not change her expression.

"He may have forgotten about your existence, but seems like he hasn't forgotten about the
fact that his sister was taken over by someone. Hence, the only salvation for Miyazawa-kun
was to complete the 'Sevennight in Mud'. This is how you made him [my] enemy. This is
how you prepared the stage to make [me] and [Riko Asami] able to fight each other."

I scowled at Asami-san and declared:


"Like this, you enjoyed observing me."

The moment I finished speaking---

"Huhu"

This void expression crumbled down and Riko Asami vanished completely.

No, the body was still the same. But it's obvious now. Riko Asami cannot exist within this
expression. No human would be able to form such an abysmal smile.

"Oh, I really have to praise you!"

'0' clapped his hands while maintaining the smile. He can keep his composure because he
knows for sure that he's out of our reach, no matter if we found him.

"...You seem quite amused, '0'."

Maria said with a frown.

"Amused? Huhu, of course I am! This time was really worth observing. It was truly
interesting to see how Kazuki Hoshino would react when his body was stolen, how he would
think, how he would suffer! I hadn't expected that you would perceive [Riko Asami]
distinctly as «enemy» and hurt her. Huhu, compared to last time it was a very short time, but
in return it was luxuriant."

"You pervert."

Maria's insult did, however, not make '0' stop his smile.

"Very well---I'll give this 'box' to you then."

I was unable to understand his words right away.

What did he just say? Give the 'box' to us? Why? We have not even started the negotiations
for the 'box'...

"......what are you scheming?"

Maria asked for me.

"Oh? Is my behavior strange, perhaps?"


"Do you want to tell me that this calm attitude of yours is just a bluff and that you're cornered
because we found you?"

"Your answer misses the mark entirely. Why do I need to be cornered? ...I see, it seems there
is a misunderstanding. My goal is not to be your hindrance, but to observe Kazuki Hoshino,
you know? I was able to enjoy observing him more than enough in this 'box'. I have already
achieved my goal. Therefore I have no reason to not give you this no longer used 'box'."

Now that he mentions it, it's evident. '0's goal was not to complete the 'Sevennight in Mud'.
No, if it were completed, this would rather---

"Ah...!"

"Oh, seems like you noticed even though I made no mention of it. How pitiful."

Surely he's happy to have seen my pale face. '0' said so with a smiling expression.

"Exactly, the 'box' you call 'Sevennight in Mud' was not supposed to be completed from the
beginning. Riko Asami is a quite amusing human, really. But I would never sacrifice my dear
object of observation just because of such a minor existence. Letting [Riko Asami] take over
«Kazuki Hoshino»? I can't allow this."

'0' chuckled.

"Therefore, no matter whether you found me or not, I would have given you the 'box'
eventually. Giving you the 'box' readily is not strange at all."

I looked at [Riko Asami] as hostile in order to get myself back.

For this sake, I hurt [Riko Asami] and made her suffer. I even involved Miyazawa-kun in this.
I even betrayed Maria once.

And yet,

Although I went through all this,

"It was all futile."

After all I just danced to '0's pipe?

If so, what was the point in this week...


"I was not futile."

Having heard this denial, I looked at her without thinking.

Maria, who declared so, gave '0' a daring grin.

"What do you mean?"

"Don't you get it? Kazuki's goal is to regain his everyday life. It's only natural that he gives
his all to achieve this goal. That's why nothing would have changed. Even if he was able to
guess that you had no plans to complete the 'Sevennight in Mud', his actions would not have
changed."

"Why so?"

'0' asked curiously.

"It's a matter of course."

Maria said as if she was laughing at '0'.

"One could never rely on something fragile like your whim."

Aah, I see. The deed of handing the 'box' over to me is merely a whim he does 'because this
ends up the most amusing for him'.

I would never rely on something like this and not move. Even if it was wasted effort, I would
have gave my all to find a solution for this 'box'.

"I see. But leaving Kazuki-kun aside, for you it was entirely wasted effort. This 'box' can
already not be used again, after all."

"What a laughable simple thinking. Your appearance made me proceed at least a step.
Because you just proofed that I will run across '0' or 'boxes' if I'm together with Kazuki."

"Hm...?"

Having heard her words, '0' opened his eyes wide affectedly.

"Are you serious?"

Maria answered with an amazed expression.


"Hey, I have already spent a life's time chasing after the 'box'. Why would you doubt my
words?"

"No, that's not what I mean! I don't care about your foolishness. I'm asking whether this proof
that you can come across me when being together with Kazuki-kun has any meaning."

Maria's opened her eyes wide to these words. And then she turned slowly pale.

"You hadn't noticed... or rather, you hadn't thought about it deeply?"

'0' said with a smile.

"This proof is meaningless. You plan to leave Kazuki-kun anyway, don't you?"

Wh...at...?

"D-Don't talk nonsense!"

"Huhu, isn't this pale face of her the best proof for the truth of my words? You know,
Kazuki-kun? She's planning to let [Riko Asami] use her 'box'!"

"Using the 'Flawed Bliss'...?"

Having touched that 'box', I know. Having seen this ground of the sea, I know.

Letting someone use her own 'box'. This is an absolute taboo. Even I know that using her
'box' is a fatal mistake.

"If she does so, she will forget about you. Having lost those memories, she will certainly go
away from you guys."

"W-Why do you know such a thing!"

"Because it was always like this when she let someone use her 'box'."

I looked at Maria without knowing. Seeing her biting her lips, I realized that he's telling the
truth.

"Why would you want to use the 'Flawed Bliss'...?"

"...Didn't I tell you? I cannot accept the inevitable misfortune that awaits Asami."
For this sake you don't mind ignoring your own desires...?

Aah, I see. She was always like this. She is a person who can even throw her own life away
to save another person.

"I am a 'box'. I am no human. I have to exist for the sake of saving others. Right, because of
this---"

Maria regained her imposing expression and declared distinctly:

"I shall stay [Aya Otonashi]"

But where are [Maria Otonashi]'s feelings in those words?

«---don't lose sight of me anymore»

Weren't those the true feelings of Maria? Weren't those the true feelings of the girl that could
no longer bear up against solitude?

This is just wrong. Ignoring one's own feelings cannot be right.

But I can't tell her that it's wrong carelessly. Not knowing what made her gain so much
resolution, I can't deny her.

"Maria."

Therefore I can only speak out this name, that only I had been able to call, and confront her
with my own feelings.

"I don't want that."

Maria's face stiffened up slightly.

"I definitely don't want you to forget about me and disappear!"

"......Kazuki."

"That's cruel! While telling me to not lose sight of you, you plan to lose sight of me! That's
just cruel!"

Maria looked at the ground after hearing my cry and bit on her lips.
"......But if I don't, Asami will---"

I gripped Maria's right hand forcedly which made her stop her words. She looked at me
wide-eyedly.

"Asami-san will be all right."

"...Why can you say so?"

"Because I believe in something you may not be able to believe in and what may make you
irritated."

I put some more power into my grip.

"I believe that there is no despair that can't be solved by the everyday life."

I noticed that her fingers were more delicate than I had expected. No, not only her fingers.
Maria's entire body is delicate. Contrastive to her personality.

"Therefore Asami-san will be all right, even if the 'Sevennight in Mud' gets destroyed.
There's no way only despair would await her!"

"......you want me to believe in that?"

She whispered.

I thought already that it would be rejected by her.

I mean, she seeks for the 'box'. There's no way she could accept me, who believes in the
everyday life, despite seeking for the 'box' that brings destruction to the everyday life.

But I believe in the everyday life nonetheless.

"She just has to find hope."

"...What?"

"I admit that despair might await Asami-san. But there is even hope within this despair! At
least I know of one."

"What hope...?"
"There is a person that values Asami-san just this much. Can't this become her hope?"

I noticed that faint hesitation started to appear within her expression.

"...Surely this would apply if nothing had happened. But Asami is going to go to prison for a
long time without doubt because of that incident."

"But even so, if the two of them combine their power, they will be all right. If they realize
how dear they are to each other, they will be all right! Don't you think so?"

"......"

"Maybe I'm just conceiting myself to understand Asami-san. There is still one hour left to
[Riko Asami]. You can still confirm her feelings before coming to a decision! ...No, don't just
confirm, please help her find hope. I'm sure there is."

I pressed her hand a little more tighter.

"You might as well bring her real happiness instead of an illusion!"

Having said so, I let go of her hand. Maria gazed fixedly at her own hand.

"......U-Umm, now's Golden Week, right?"

Upon hearing my sudden words, Maria raised an eyebrow and raised her head.

"Because of all this we had no time to enjoy our holidays, right? But, you know, tomorrow
still a holiday, so umm..."

I closed my eyes, pulled myself up and spoke.

"So, umm... let's go somewhere tomorrow. Err... right, let's go eat strawberry tarte. You
mentioned you like that, right?"

Maria opened her eyes wide. She had been stiffened up all the time, but her cheeks softened
now as if this was a lie.

"Huhu... what are you saying?"

"Y-You don't want to?"

"...This will mean that you spent each day of the Golden Week with me, you know?"
"Eh? Is there a problem with that?"

When I said so tilting my head, Maria smiled wryly for some reason.

"Never mind."

"Mh? So will you promise?"

Promise.

When I spoke this word out, her mouth strained again.

Maria looked once down. She reflected upon the meaning of such a promise and opened her
eyes again. Her mouth relaxed, she raised the corners of her mouth and said to me in a
awe-inspiring but gentle voice:

"I promise. I promise you a future in which we can go eat strawberry tarte peacefully
tomorrow."

Yeah, so I have nothing to worry about anymore.

Like this, I waited for the last switching.

May 05 (Tuesday) 23:00

Nothing ended.

Although Maria Otonashi had promised me that I would never switch again to this body,
nothing ended.

For some reason I was standing in the midst of the schoolyard, but here was nothing but
darkness. I know the school building's nearby, but I can't see anything. Nothing. Nothing's
nearby.

Only Riko Asami and me were facing each other.

I don't get it. What's this situation? Where did Maria-san go?

"It's been a while."


Riko Asami opened her mouth in front of me.

I raised an eyebrow. Something's wrong?

"Huhu, I suppose you don't recognize me in this appearance. I am '0'!"

"Eh?"

An obviously different tone in the voice and a charming smile I would never be able to do.
Aah, right. Indeed, this person is '0'.

"Why are you in Riko Asami's appearance before me...? And where's Maria-san...?"

'0' did only smile to this question, and just approached me silently without reply. Because of
this queer intensity of him, I stepped back instinctively.

"Kazuki Hoshino said that there's even hope in your everyday life!"

He said so and reached out for me. Then he put his fingers into my mouth.

"A-gh...?"

"Though there couldn't possibly be."

Riko Asami's fingers ran wild in my mouth. They got dirty with my saliva. This saliva on her
fingers tasted almost like the body fluids of an insect to me.

"Because you perceive your own taste just by this."

'0' said with my looks.

"---which is the taste of mud."

...Yeah, it tastes like that indeed.

It's bitter, incredibly bitter---I can't bear it. Although this should be Kazuki Hoshino's body,
mud started to spread slowly like a virus. My body blackens. It gets stained with the color of
sin. The filthy mud overflows and violates me

'0' took his fingers out of my mouth. I fell on my knees. The mud inside me shook once
because of this.
"Your repulsion against yourself can't be helped. You were---", I felt nauseous when I heard
this word. "---by the person you hated the most. Thus, this mud inside you will stay there to
all eternity."

'0' laid his hand on my shoulder. I raised my head and saw the face of Riko Asami I don't
even want to see.

"There can't possibly be hope for you, who cannot get rid of the own mud."

I know this much.

There's no way I'd find hope in my everyday life. There was none until now. So why should
there be any for me, now that I committed a crime on top of being stained?

Riko Asami is no more.

"That's not true."

I turned around to this voice behind me, still on my knees.

Maria Otonashi was standing there with wild breath. Besides her was Nii-san. Nii-san, who
does not consider me his sister anymore.

"You were faster than expected."

"What the hell was this violence against [Riko Asami], '0'!"

Maria Otonashi roared angry at '0'.

"Huhu... I'd prefer if you and Kazuki Hoshino-kun got separated, you know. I just adjusted
her a bit to my convenience. ...Well, did you find something that could give her hope?"

"I did."

Maria Otonashi affirmed right away.

'0' did not changed his expression to this reaction, however.

"Riko."

Nii-san called my name. A terribly strange feeling.


I see, because it's the first time. The first time Nii-san addressed me by this name since I've
got into this body.

"...what is it at this late hour? You don't consider me your «younger sister», do you?"

"You're finally aware of being Riko Asami, right? If so, things change. I can call you «Riko
Asami»."

I kept quiet, so Nii-san continued.

"Tell me, what do you plan to do now? The 'Sevennight in Mud' is going to get destroyed. You
will return to being Riko Asami. You and me will get separated. What will you do then?"

"I will use Maria-san's 'box'!"

"Asami. Sorry, but I take that back."

"Eh...?"

I looked without thinking at Maria Otonashi.

"After listening to Miyazawa, I changed my mind. I can't let you use this 'box'."

She said boldly without showing any shame for revoking her promise.

No, it's obvious! I'm sure she realized how foolish it would be to lose her memory just for my
sake.

"Then I'll die!"

A completely natural answer. This is of course the best solution in this case.

Nii-san frowned to my words and spat out those words:

"Do you think [Riko Asami] belongs only to you?"

"...Huh?"

I am Riko Asami. Therefore, I belong to me. Isn't this natural?

"Why are you looking so surprised? You belong to yourself? No way!"

Nii-san said, amazed at me.


"You belong also to me! And not only that. You also belong to Maria Otonashi, and you
belong to Kazuki Hoshino. So, you know,"

He scowled at me.

"I won't permit you to die on your own accord!"

I don't get it.

I don't get why Nii-san says so to me with a gentle face.

"So how is my sin forgiven...? I'm not even allowed to die?! Two people are dead because of
me. I have to---"

"Riko."

He stopped me from continuing.

"This is the main reason why I decided to not let you use my 'box'. I misunderstood. Well,
Miyazawa may have kept quiet about it purposely, but I misunderstood the truth."

Maria Otonashi continued.

"Ryuu Miyazawa was the one who killed those two, right?"

...No. Surely, it was Nii-san who conducted it. But I knew that this would happen when I
sought for help from him. Nii-san merely realized my wish at the time and executed it.

Hence, this is my sin.

"Don't misunderstand, Riko! I didn't kill them in place of you. I hated them. I detested them. I
was just unable to control these intense feelings of mine."

That's a lie.

Sure, he might have hated them. But just with those feelings, he would not have been able to
execute it. He crossed the last line because he wanted to free me. I was the one who made
him pull the trigger.

"I thought about escaping with you. But this isn't realistic. We are still minors and wouldn't
be able to live the life on the run. Even if we could, I don't think we'd find happiness in a life
of being chased."
Nii-san smiled wryly and spoke.

"Thus, I will deliver myself up. I will prove your innocence. This is the best decision I can
make."

Nii-san is trying to take all my sin from me and take it together with him to prison.

"......Why do you, for my sake, such---"

"Don't make me say such a thing!"

I don't get it at all. Why? We may be siblings, but we are different humans. He doesn't profit
from doing something for me.

Nii-san took something out of his bag and gave it to me.

I accepted it silently. The touch of it seemed familiar to me. I looked at this «something» I
had accepted.

"---Ah."

My voice leaked out.

I mean, wasn't this destroyed? Wasn't everything important to me destroyed?

"I washed it, stuffed it with cotton and sewed back together. That's all. Well, it's certainly not
like new, but you can say it's repaired, right?"

It was a rabbit plush.

The stuffed plush I had received from Nii-san, who had won it for me in an UFO catcher.

"A, ah---"

I knelt down. A cry left my mouth unwittingly and I started to shed tears. Those tears washed
some of the mud inside me away. ...Of course not all of it. I won't get rid of this mud. ---But
some of it was indeed washed away now.

Maybe,

Maybe---
"......Nii-san"

Maybe I didn't even need to wish to the 'box' to begin with. Maybe I just hadn't noticed.

Because I'm sure---

---my 'wish' was already granted a long time ago.

"I'm sorry, Nii-san. It was all my fault, I'm sorry."

Because I hadn't noticed this, Nii-san had to substitute for me. If I had valued myself, the
outcome would have differed.

"This time it's my turn to save you, Nii-san."

I wiped my tears away and stood up. Nii-san was looking at me slightly surprisedly.

"I will save you from suffering... I'll wait for you. Until we can be together again, I will wait
for you."

My voice was still trembling and my smile was kind of forced, but even so, I said distinctly:

"I will wait for you as Riko Asami."

Wide-eyed, Nii-san was frozen for a while, but then his expression relaxed slowly.

Unlike yesterday, vitality was dwelling in his eyes.

"You know what?"

Nii-san opened his mouth while smiling.

"'I didn't make it in time'. I always thought like this. But perhaps---perhaps I made it barely
in time."

I can definitely not say that I'm fully satisfied with this outcome. Nii-san and I will, without
doubt, hate our past until death.

However, we managed to get hold of something to persevere somehow.

Without doubt, we grasped it.


Maria Otonashi, who had viewed us silently, nodded with a smile.

"So I could hold my promise with Kazuki."

Having said so, her smile disappeared with her scowling at '0'.

"Now come out with the 'box'!"

'0' nodded without stopping to smile.

My 'box', the 'Sevennight in Mud', is going to end with this. '0' held his hand against his, Riko
Asami's, eye. My eyeball got touched. Although I'm not the one who is being touched right
now, I'm feeling it.

'0' reached into the eye as if he wanted to take it out. Unable to endure the pain, I screamed
low-voiced and closed my eyes. I hurts! ...But while it really hurts, I think it's right. I feel it's
right. Hence, I endured the pain of my eyeballs being crushed.

The pain stopped. I looked once again at '0'.

He had finished his work. My eyeball was unharmed and '0' was holding a little, black 'box'
in his hand that looked like a bullet.

"So is this perhaps the proof for Kazuki Hoshino-kun's words 'there is no despair that can't
be solved by the everyday life'?"

"......This time, maybe."

"Huhu... I see. You have no other choice but to say so. It is, after all, a denial of your
existence as 'box'. Kazuki-kun can say really cruel things."

Maria Otonashi scowled at '0' and stole the 'box' out of his hands rudely.

"With this I can go be together with Kazuki. That's all I want for now."

"Are you procrastinating your conclusion? Do you still not decide whether you return to
being [Maria Otonashi] or stay [Aya Otonashi]?"

"What a silly question."


Maria Otonashi gazed at the 'Sevennight in Mud' in her hands. She bit on her lips as if she
hated this 'box'.

"The answer was decided a long time ago."

"I suppose so."

'0' replied half-heartedly, seeming uninterested.

"I am a 'box'."

She stopped biting on her lips and spoke.

"I can't return to me back when I was not a 'box' yet."

Her strong gaze.

It was the expression of the creation I had adored all this time.

"Therefore it's the best to maintain my current individuality. You may take this as «Choosing
to stay [Aya Otonashi]»."

"Then why do you keep company with Kazuki Hoshino?"

"------"

She kept silent.

"Isn't this rather inconvenient for you? Didn't you offer Riko Asami to use your 'box' because
you thought so, too?"

"...I have no idea what you mean."

"Huhu, you might still be captivated by the curse of this world of recurrences. This Kasumi
Mogi might be a powerful enemy of yours, right?"

".........hmpf."

She looked again at the 'box' and rolled it between her hands.

"......I had decided. Long ago. And yet this Kazuki said «I don't want that»...!"

She murmured with a tiny voice and revealed, only for a moment, a bitter face.
But, she erased this expression right away. She regained the expression of the perfect
creation, which I found beautiful.

But I'm sure the creator of this creation went through great pains and sorrow while creating
it.

I wonder how she, who granted the 'wish' of the 'Sevennight in Mud' already with her sole
will, had looked over me and the 'box'.

At last, she bit on her lips, looked at the bullet-like 'box' and---

---crushed the 'Sevennight in Mud', seeming sorrowful somewhere.

May 05 (Tuesday) 23:56

This awakening was clearly different from the others. I felt strangely refreshed. I felt now
that my body really had been stolen by [Riko Asami].

I opened my mobile phone and checked the time.

«23:57»

[I] was here in the time frame that was stolen from me on the first day by [Riko Asami].

It's over.

But leaving me no time to be deeply moved, my body was suddenly grasped tightly.

"Eh?! Ah... M-Maria...?"

She's embracing me?

But it's not a gentle hug at all. It was a tight pressure as if trying to adhere to me.

"W-What's the matter?"

She didn't reply to my question.


Because I couldn't help it, I let her continue hug me as she pleased. I couldn't see her
expression.

"......Say it one more time."

"Eh?"

"I'm telling you to say «Maria» one more time."

"......err, M-Maria."

".........say it once more."

"Maria."

"......"

She kept quiet.

"It's your fault."

Maria said suddenly so.

"Don't get carried away. In the first place, I'm only together with you because I can meet '0'
like this. There is no deeper meaning in it. And yet you're always being carried away and do
only unnecessary things. All my suffering this time was your fault."

"......I don't really get it, but isn't that a bit cruel?"

"It's the truth, you fool."

When she finished speaking, she thrust me away.

This time's violence?!

And yet, she's smiling happily after all.

"Well, shall we go then?"

"Eh? Where to?"

"What are you saying? Didn't you promise me yesterday, that we'd go eat strawberry tarte
tomorrow?"
"...Well, sure I said that. But it's still the fifth of ---"

"Look at the time."

I took my mobile phone out as told.

«00:00»

The date had changed actually.

"I know a family restaurant that is opened at night and serves strawberry tarte. Let's go there."

"E, eeh? T-That's not the problem... doesn't 'tomorrow' usually stand for having slept and
stood u---"

"Stop nitpicking. Let's go quickly."

Maria then pulled my hand.

Duh... maybe I should not have made such a promise? I have a hunch that I'm also going to
be dragged around all day tomorrow.

...Well, I don't mind I guess?

Since it's not disagreeable at all.

While being dragged along by Maria, I looked at the two who remained at the center of the
schoolyard.

Two intimate siblings were smiling while taking each other's hands there.
May 18

While crumpling up a package of beef tongue flavored Umaibous, I looked around in the
classroom. My classmates weren't minding me anymore in particular. They only seem a little
nervous because of the midterm tests that start tomorrow.

"Ya, Kazu-kun!"

"Ouch"

Kokone chopped on my head while greeting me.

"......Morning."

"You know, I was actually only strolling. In Shibuya."

"Hah?"

Kokone started suddenly to talk triumphantly.

"I just planned to go to Marui or to listen to some music at HMV. But I guess the world just
can't overlook my charm! And this E-Cup of mine!"

Now it's even one size bigger...

She laid a fashion magazine on my desk and pointed her finger on it. There was a photo of
Kokone standing in town with a smile in there.

"Ah, wow."

These were my honest impressions. Kokone became even more elated.

"Hohoho, by the way, in those merely two hours I was addressed five times, including flirts. I
rejected them but then I was even scouted as model... Sigh... society just doesn't seem to let
go of me. So, how do you like this photo? How is it?"

"......Well, good I guess?"

"You think so, too? And just look at my comment! «I just mistook the cords of my parka for
my earphones and put them into my ear!☆,» what a tasteful comment of a cute clumsy girl.
That's Moe."
"Moe, right."

Because it would probably get long if I said unnecessary things, I answered randomly.

Kokone said then with a bad-tempered voice to Haruaki, who had watched with half-opened
eyes:

"...What, Haru?"

"No, nothing. I was just thinking that singing one's own praises is gross."

"...guys that have only jerseys at home are gross."

"What!? Don't make fun of my Adidas jerseys!"

"I'm not particularly making fun of Adidas. I'm making fun of you."

Seeing this exchange, I smiled without thinking.

Lucky me. This means that my everyday life has returned so much that such exchanges can
take place.

In fact, I was on the verge of becoming unable to see this anymore. The 'Sevennight in Mud'
may have been destroyed, but the happenings during it have not disappeared. The fact that I
confessed to Kokone doesn't disappear.

It's all thanks to Maria's wittedness that we could return to such a relationship.

I recalled this risky exchange that happened at Mogi-san's hospital room.

It was at afternoon on May 09th.

Mogi-san was sitting on her white bed, wearing the pajamas I had seen many times on the
photograph on my mobile phone. Kokone was standing next to her with open hairs today.

Both of them were scowling at me.


Of course I had taken notice of those gazes, so I stared at the mattress of the bed in order to
avoid making eye contact. At the corner of my vision I could see Maria's legs.

...Is this what you call 'battlefield'?

"I would appreciate an explanation, Hoshino-kun."

I stiffened up to Mogi-san's voice, which was razor sharp and calm at the same time.

"So you confessed to Koko-chan even though you had Otonashi-san as girlfriend? What does
this mean? I didn't know you were such a careless boy...?"

Kokone had consulted her good friend Mogi-san about the confession.

As a result, we were called by her, and now we're here.

"Koko-chan had already told me that you seem to be on good terms with Otonashi-san... but
judging from what I heard, I can only conclude that you're already going out, right?"

"Err..."

"......Why didn't you just tell if you're going out?... I look stupid for thinking that we got on
better terms recently..."

The sharpness disappeared slowly from Mogi-san's voice. Her expression clouded clearly.

"Explain it to us, Kazu-kun!"

Kokone said in anger.

"W-Well, umm... W-We're not going out, to begin with."

[TL Note: his stuttering made "Tsukiau" (go out) to "Tsuttsukiau", which may be translated
as "feel each other"]

"You haven't groped each other?! T-That's not what I asked! How erotic..."

"Why such a clichéd misunderstanding! That's wrong!"

"I can't believe you anymore! I'm amazed that you can say such a thing in front of
Otonashi-san! Even though you call each other by the first name!"
Because we were being noisy in the hospital room, the glances focused on us. Not even the
nurses didn't dare to approach us and just watched us from far away. ...Couldn't you come
and rebuke us please?

Kokone took a big breath and looked with a serious face at Maria.

"...Do you have no issue with him? Why are you so composed, though Kazu-kun confessed to
me?"

"Mh. ...Well."

Maria crossed her arms to Kokone's words. She looked at me at a glance and curled her
mouth slightly up. ...I have a bad feeling.

"Disturbance because of his confession to Kirino. Of course there is none."

"...Why?"

"Because I made him do it."

Everyone was shocked. Of course, I'm included.

Umm, what did Maria just blurt out?

"...........What does this mean? Otonashi-san has tempted Kazu-kun to confess to me?"

"Exactly."

"...K-Kazu-kun, what on earth?!" "Hoshino-kun, what's the meaning of this?!"

No, I want to know that myself.

"Since Kazuki can't explain it properly anyway, I'll do the explanation."

Maria's mouth was still curled-up while she said so.

She's definitely enjoying this situation...

"First, as a fact I have to mention right away, I got dumped by Kazuki."

Kokone and Mogi-san looked at me with wide eyes. N-No, really, I don't understand, too!

"Thinking back now, he said something like «I think nothing of a minor being like you»."
There's no way I'd say such a thing, is there?!

"What the... that's too conceited, isn't it? Kazu-kun should go die."

"E-Even I found this repulsive just now, I think."

"No, err......"

I wanted to make excuses, but since I don't know what Maria's up to, I couldn't say anything.

"I couldn't accept this harsh rejection readily. But well, if he had another person he likes, I
would surely not give up, but I would accept the rejection. So I asked. If there is someone he
likes."

"A-And there he answered with his L-O-V-E for me!"

"Well yeah, after quite a long time of hesitating, he mentioned your name."

Kokone reddened slowly while babbling "Ee, err", upon hearing Maria's words. Mogi-san
turned contrastively blue, next to her. ...this looks kinda like a traffic light.

"But listen, having heard Kirino's name, I could still not fully believe him. Because they
looked to me like mere friends. That's why I urged him to confess to her in front of my eyes
and that I would accept it if he had done so."

"And so Hoshino-kun confessed to Koko-chan..."

Mogi-san murmured so, seeming close to tears. Kokone was still blushed and looked
worriedly at Mogi-san with side-glance.

...hey, Maria, what are you scheming...?

"Well, but Kazuki has just now revoked his statement that he loves Kirino."

"EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEHHHHH"

Kokone shouted out.

"K-Kokone, this is a hospital!"

"Shut up you damn capricious bastard."


"......"

"In short. In the end, that he loved Kirino was just a random lie he told me in order to turn me
aside. Being threatened by me to confess, he was already unable to retreat."

"Mmh... I got the situation. But... But, but! I still think this is a bit cruel to me!"

"Doesn't this indicate just how much he trusts you? Didn't he believe that you, as a dear
friend, would forgive him if he apologized?"

"Mmmmmmh..."

"Maybe he didn't mind even if you misunderstood him by any chance?"

"Eh?!"

Kokone turned red again.

...No, really, why did you add an unnecessary line there, Maria?

"But this does not change the fact that we involved you, Kirino. Kazuki and I regret what we
have done. Please forgive us."

"I-I'm really sorry..."

I felt the chance to apologize here. Kokone's cheeks were still faintly red when she narrowed
her eyes and looked at me.

".....Have you reflected on your behavior?"

"Y-Yes. I'm sorry."

Seeing me say words of reconsideration, Kokone pursed her lips and spoke.

"Got it! I'll forgive you. But don't do that a second time! No matter how much I'm used to
confessions, even I got startled, you know! I worried so much about what I should do that I
couldn't sleep that night, you know!"

"So you're used to confessions."

"Hah! Within the single year since the school entrance I have easily reached double
figures! ...AH, that doesn't matter now! Have you reflected properly?!"
"S-Sorry. I have, properly..."

Kokone had raised a loud voice again, was smiling relieved.

Kokone, too, had wished for our relationship to return.

If we preserve the everyday life everyone wishes for like this, it won't be destroyed so easily.

"Okay then, I'll go home."

I said so and tried to leave the room after winking to Maria. ...to be honest, I want to leave
quickly because those many glances on us are pretty embarrassing.

"Wait a moment."

"...What's the matter, Mogi-san?"

"Umm, err... you dumped Otonashi-san, right? So I wondered why you are still together...?
You really aren't going out, right?"

Mogi-san asked with a trembling voice.

"Err... well, yeah."

She looked alternately at me and Maria, and looked down.

"......Uuh, just watch! I'll be discharged from hospital in no time! I must quickly return to
school. I'm uneasy... very uneasy..."

"D-Don't worry, Kasumi! I'll supervise him!"

Mogi-san went into a huff upon hearing Kokone's words.

"...Koko-chan. You looked pretty happy when she said «Maybe he didn't mind even if you
misunderstood him by any chance»."

"I-I didn't!"

Mogi-san scowled at me with teary eyes for some reason.

"Hoshino-kun, you silly!"

"Uh..."
"Why did you do this false confession to Koko-chan and not to me?!"

Uuuh... does the problem lie there?

Lunch break.

Maria and I were facing each other at a table in the school cafeteria. Maria was slurping some
Ramen, that tastes like gum, expressionlessly.

Though she looked so happy back then when she ate strawberry tarte. Well, but when I was
about to take a photo unconsciously, she hit me seriously and continued eating with a
grimace.

"Kazuki, will you come to my place today as well?"

The male student next to her spouted out his fried rice.

"I'm considering to go to the library room today. What do you think?"

"I don't mind."

I visited Maria's room in the last two days. It wasn't really for fun, she just taught me because
of the upcoming tests, since she's by far the top student of our school.

But still, a second year student that's taught by a first year...

"Mh, but she won't come, huh. Can't be helped, I'll eat up the remaining stew, though it's a bit
much."

"...it was tasty, honestly."

"I haven't asked for your impressions."

She said coldly, although I took her into consideration.

"But still---"
Going to Maria's room; if «she» heard our conversion I bet she'd get moody.

Thinking about this, I recalled how «she» always ate next to Maria until two weeks ago.

It's almost as before. Mogi-san started pouting in hospital and Daiya does still cease to speak
with me, but I think I have regained a comfortable life.

However, Riko Asami and Ryuu Miyazawa do not exist in this everyday life anymore.

Our Golden Week had been prolonged for four days, so school didn't start until May 11th.
This is because the suspect of a murder incident went to this school. While we were resting,
the principal of our school appeared on TV and said something about Miyazawa-kun being an
excellent and serious student.

The first day after holidays was a big fuss. It was such a pandemonium that some girls
seriously cried and the media overran us with their cameras. It didn't look anything like the
usual classroom scene anymore.

But after one week, the classroom was as before.

Our class mates declared mentioning only the name «Ryuu Miyazawa» to a silent taboo. His
name is compulsorily associated with that murder incident, which leads to the unusual. For
the sake of preserving the everyday life, not even his name may exist.

Of course I'm going to remember Miyazawa-kun. I won't be able to forget him. And still,
Miyazawa-kun will not even appear in the conversations of the members of this class.

Miyazawa-kun cannot return to this everyday life anymore.

And it's not any different for his sister, Riko Asami.

At the moment this incident was announced, her place disappeared from here. Although not
even their classmates knew that Riko Asami was the sister of Ryuu Miyazawa, it's now
known all over the country. Her photo and address were uploaded to a giant bulletin board
and she was entirely overran by the media and curious people, though being a family member
of the victims actually.

Asami-san retired from school before we knew.

"Kazuki, what's the matter? You're making far eyes."

Maria asked me after completing her Ramen.


"Ah, no, it's nothing..."

"You recalled Asami, didn't you? ...Geez, you only think about girls."

"Don't phrase it so suggestively..."

Maria smiled happily at me when I was disturbed. I'm convinced now. This person is
definitely S. No, well, I knew that already long ago, though.

"You don't need to worry about Asami. You know this much, right?"

Maria said with her smile.

I, too, smiled unknowingly to those words and nodded.

Right, I don't worry about her.

I took my mobile phone and opened the most recent voice file.

«Good morning Kazuki Hoshino-kun. Or should I say good day?»

This was a greeting that was exactly the same as the first one of her. But it wasn't the voice of
Kazuki Hoshino, but the one of a girl.

The voice of Riko Asami.

The creation time of this file was 02:00 on May 06th according to the file properties. Just
about when Maria and I left the family restaurant. I don't know when she had stolen my
phone, but Maria entrusted her arbitrarily with it.

For the sake of letting her leave me this message.

«What should I say? Maybe: I'm sorry for all the troubles? If you forgave me just with words,
I'd say as much as you want. But I guess that's not possible. You won't forgive me, and I have
done something of this magnitude.»

That's not right at all. Resentment is a hindrance in the everyday life, after all.

«Similarly I think that Nii-san's sin will also never be forgiven, no matter how many
punishments he may undergo. He may get 10, 20 or even more years in prison, but his sin
won't be forgiven when he leaves there. His deed was, while being for my sake, not right. I'm
sure he will slowly notice the weight of his sin. I also think his heart is going to break several
times. But you know? He will be alright! After all, Nii-san said «I made it in time» while
knowing of all this.»

Her voice was bright and didn't give me the impression of a bluff at all.

Those were Asami-san's true feelings, without doubt.

«I am alright, too. I finally realized it. I won't lose sight anymore.»

She knew that she will have to go through great troubles. She knew already that she won't be
returning to this school a second time.

And even so, she said:

«I am Riko Asami.»

The message ended here.

I don't know what kind of pains she will have to endure. But she will never call herself 'no
one' again.

Therefore, she's going to be alright.

For sure.

Asami-san didn't tell anyone where she'd go - not even Maria. Thus, there's no real basis, but
there is this rumor that I have heard a few times.

According to it, Riko Asami is living and working in a farm in Hokkaido.

I hope this is true. I hope she's building a place for Miyazawa-kun to return to there.

That I'm convinced that she's able to do it might be because I'm optimistic. But even so, I can
believe.

I can believe that they will regain a life in which they can laugh happily together again.

"Aah, so you were together with Otonashi."

I came to my senses again when I heard those words. I raised my head to this voice I had
missed.
Daiya was standing in front of me.

Despite not having talked to me since he punched me, he sat down next to Maria as if nothing
had happened.

...I-I wonder what's the matter? Does he perhaps want to make peace with me? I hope so, but
I don't think he'd be able to say honestly so.

"Kazuki."

"Y-Yeah?"

"I heard the reason for your inexplicable behavior!"

Maybe Kokone told him about what we talked in this hospital room?

Daiya grinned boldly at me, who was dumbfounded. At once, I noticed something. The
piercing that was originally only attached to his left ear could now also be seen on his right
one.

Daiya stated then:

"You've associated with '0', haven't you?"


Author's Notes

Good day, I'm Eiji Mikage.

I'm very sorry for the long wait since the first book. I actually wanted to get the continuation
out as soon as possible since it wasn't clear whether the story would continue from the
contents of the first one... Honestly, I don't even know the reason for this long delay myself.

Well then, «Eiji Mikage» is naturally a penname. I'm asked about the origin of this penname
from time to time, but since there's no real reason to it, I have always troubles answering this
question.

But even if there's no reason to it, it has become my penname.

I'm known by this name in the editorial department and among the other authors. Almost
none of them know my real name. I even call myself "I'm the author Eiji Mikage" when I
phone the editorial department! That's ticklish somehow, now that I think about it...

Then I think that all my dear readers know only the name «Eiji Mikage» of me.

It might be the faulty expression, but for the readers, «Eiji Mikage» is no human but a
book-writing machine. I'm only demanded to write amusing books.

I am still unable to nod firmly when I'm asked whether I give my everything for this sake. In
order to become the ideal author for my readers, I still have to pull myself together more.
That's what I often think.

Okay, this time's thank-you note.

Thanks to the illustrator 415 aka Tetsuo-san for those fantastic drawings. When we were
talking about the second volume and I said "Kazuki gets handcuffed by Maria in underwear
and a single white shirt!", you told me your impressions right away, "You're a pervert". I will
definitely not forget that.

My editor in charge, Kawamoto-san, thank you for sticking to me while I wrote this tangled
story. It really helped me. The third volume may get even more complicated, so that will be
troublesome for you, huh! *saying so as if I wasn't concerned*

Finally, thanks to all my dear readers that accompanied me up to this second book. I hope we
can meet again in the third book.
See you another time!

- Eiji Mikage
Translated by: EusthEnoptEron (a.k.a Casha)

This text has been copied from Baka-Tsuki.org. This release is by myself, Saidin1015 and
is unrelated to those at Baka-Tsuki.org. This release is not for sale, rent or ebay.

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