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It seemed like Kouko had ended up catching a cold after the drinking party in Banri's room.
On the morning following the day everyone had slept over, at 7 A.M., with all the guys still asleep, snoring, Banri was woken up by Chinami.
He remembered Chinami shaking his shoulder while he was still in a half-dreaming state, opening his eyes to see her squatting beside him and peering into his sleeping face, who then said, "Kaga-san and I will be going back first", to which Banri nodded and murmured incoherently something along the lines of messaging Kouko later as he waved.
Some time later, Banri awoke fully and, "just what I would expect of girls", was the thought that greeted him. Kouko and Chinami had washed up, collected the trash into trash bags, and with that, had returned some order to the room.
It was about nine when Yanagisawa and 2D-kun were awakened, he supposed. Yanagisawa totally missed the timing for taking out his trash, and in the end, the three guys skipped school, hung out and spent the rest of the day in lethargy.
A message from Kouko came in the evening, and Banri got to know that she had caught a cold. And because Kouko said that she wasn't feeling well, they couldn't meet up and spend the weekend together, something which had been routine for them since they started dating. She didn't call back even after missing his calls, nor message back, but, thinking that it wouldn't be nice to keep disturbing her rest, he left a voice mail and left her alone thereafter.
Banri felt deeply responsible. Since he was the organizer of the drinking party, it was his room that they had hung out in, which might have gotten a little chilly in the middle of the night when the wind got in.
And thus, the week passed and it was Monday.
The long awaited practice day of the Festival-Research club.
Banri sent a mail asking, "Will you be coming today?", but there was no reply, and he concluded that Kouko was still staying in bed that day.
Thus, during noon, he was surprised to see Kouko at the usual gathering place, the rehearsal room of a district facility.
"Huh? I thought you were resting at home."
On hearing Banri's voice, who had just finished changing in the Gents, Kouko turned around sharply. She was in a white T-shirt and commonplace jersey pants. Pretty much the same outfit as the other upperclassmen girls.
"Are you feeling ok? You caught a pretty bad cold, didn't you?"
She quietly nodded.
She had a scrunchy held in her mouth. She then busied herself with flinging her long hair back with both her hands, twisted her hair, then wrapped it into a nicely coiled bundle.
Considering that we haven't seen each other in a while, she's surprisingly cold, huh?, thought Banri as he peered into the white face of Kouko.
"Why?", asked Kouko after bundling up her hair beautifully, like magic, with a single scrunchy. That smiling face. The perfect Kaga Kouko smile.
Even though she didn't seem really different, it felt like she was being unusually distant.
Just as he wanted to take a closer look at her,
"Wow, Kaga-chan, what a skilfully done hair-bun!"
"How did you do it? Can I also do it with my hair length?"
The upperclassmen came with their hair brushes and hairbands, and Banri couldn't say a thing in the end. With low spirits, he could only extract himself from the female formation.
Linda was yet to be seen.
"Tada Banri~i, you didn't show up much recently, did you?"
One of the upperclassmen guys suddenly rubbed Banri's buttocks from behind. Hiyh, Banri jumped, and to avoid exposing his back, he turned around to evade by making a wide circular step, like that of a sumo wrestler. However,
"Hey, I'm really sorry! A lot happened and...... more importantly, can you stop that!"
"Oh oh, he's resisting!"
"I heard you have been getting conceited lately!"
Another upperclassman came up, slapped him on the butt, and tickled his sides, resulting in Banri going "Eeyhiyhiy" and running about trying to escape. The number of bullying upperclassmen increased to three, then four, with the only freshman guy naturally amounting to their toy.
"If it's about the incident of the drinking party the other day, didn't I already apologize!?"
With regards to the incident of Banri leaving the club drinking party, which even the 4th-years attended, ahead of the rest, he had already received a pardon on the grounds that he wasn't feeling too well, but,
"It's not about that!"
"It seems like you are really dating our little golden robo-tan, aren't you!?"
"We saw you holding hands the other day, jeez!
"Damn you, didn't you say that you were just friends!?"
The intense tickling caused Banri to lie fallen on the floor, unable to even catch his breath. Even when Banri tried yelling, Why are you guys still acting like kids at your age!?, the assaulting hands did not subside. With everyone leaning on him and slapping him with towels, he got the feeling that if this were to go on, even his jersey would soon get taken off. Gyaa gyaa. While screaming, without thinking, Banri turned his eyes to Kouko for help.
Kouko was standing erect.
With her feet planted somewhere in the center of the rehearsal room, her face looked as if her soul had been plucked out from her.
It was not because she was talking to any other upperclassmen, nor was she looking at the clamoring Banri; her big eyes were merely open and vacant, not paying any heed to her surroundings. For some reason, she ended up quickly undoing the hairdo which she had taken the trouble to fix earlier. She shook her head two, three times, brushing her hair back, and looked at the doorway with vacant eyes. Both that absentminded look on her face, and her overly pale, white face seemed out of the ordinary.
While still being pinned down by his upperclassmen, Banri could not take his eyes off Kouko. Does she still have fever? Is she feeling ok?
Wanting to talk to her, he desperately tried to pick himself up and at that moment,
"All right, time to gather! What on earth are you guys doing!"
The door opened and a third-year upperclassman appeared. Linda also came in along with the upperclassman,
"Hey!? Who are the ones bullying Banri!"
Driving away those who had been pinning down Banri, Linda grabbed his hand and pulled him up. Exerting strength, then letting go of that hand, bishi!, with both of them almost synchronized. They smiled at each other, face-to-face, a proof of their friendship. The sign of the secret relationship they shared and kept from the rest. ...... while there was no real need for them to keep it a secret, neither was there any real need to explain everything right from the beginning, was what Banri thought.
Finally saved, Banri searched for Kouko with his eyes, but the crowd of gathering club members prevented him from doing so.
The third-years carried a number of heavy-looking carton boxes and put them on the floor.
"These are for the guys! Those are for the girls! Open them up and take one each!"
The third-year instructed the club members to open the boxes.
Upon opening the boxes, inside them were used, worn-out geta-clogs and kasa-hats for the girls. All of them had the names of other universities written with markers, and while Kosshi-senpai handed them out one by one, he said,
"All these are on loan to us, so please make sure not to lose them! And take care of them properly!"
Got it! The excitement could not be contained within the low-toned replies.
That's right. Coming next month, it would finally be the debut of the Festival Research club's Awa-dance.
Even when it was termed as a debut, it was more like just a matter of getting to blend in with the Awa-dance group from other universities, a so called Ren-group, to participate as dancers in a dance procession which relies on large numbers, but still, a debut was a debut. Everyone would be dancing in the procession along the commercial district in midday.
"We have neither musical instruments nor lanterns. Well, you will get used to it."
Here, Banri was also handed a pair of geta-clogs, which had a rich wood color, and deep blue straps. While it was somewhat a pity for the geta-clogs to be marred with a marker-written 'M' that seemed to indicate their size, they were lighter than they appeared, and even though they looked worn, they had a beautiful shine to them and weren't dirty in the slightest.
Sliding his feet into the prepared socks, and stuffing his Yes-No fan into his jersey pants, Banri tried wearing the geta-clogs.
They were surprisingly high and his feet were unsteady. He tried leaning and putting his weight forward,
Gah-kuh, he almost fell forward.
Are we really going to dance in these? With his elevated view, he looked around uncertainly. "We'll look really uncool if we fall." "My toes are already hurting." The upperclassmen were also expressing their insecurities.
Is Kouko ok, as he turned to look, the girls were having trouble just wearing their kasa-hats. Tying the red cords around their chin and wearing the hats at an angle to cover their faces, they started murmuring among themselves, "Is it ok to be like this? Unable to see what's in front?", "Aren't these larger than those we borrowed last time?"
Which reminds me, weren't the upperclassmen attired in Awa-dance outfits during the orientation day? In his mind, Banri recalled that intense, bustling memory of spring. A day of scattering cherry blossoms, and raining confetti. The clamors from the American football club, the violent conduct of the pro-Wrestling club, the thighs of the cheerleaders, the sambas from the orchestra, and also --- those bright lips of Linda.
I wonder what Linda thought when she chanced upon me that day? The sudden desire to ask Linda about it came to Banri's mind.
The girls in the rehearsal room had put on the collected kasa-hats and were all dressed in similar T-shirts. With merely many lips parted into smiles lined up, from just a glance alone, he could no longer distinguish one from the other.
"Let's form a line and start practice to try getting used to these."
On the upperclassman's order, everyone lined up to form up a circle. Then, each and every one of them wobbling on their feet, "one, two, go!", at that signal, with faltering steps, the circle started 'gliding' outward to the outer perimeter of the rehearsal room.
With a "yoh", Banri too raised up both his hands, and stepped out in big strides the way he was taught.
"...... oooh...... whoops!?"
His momentum caused him to pitch forward and he was just a step short from falling. "Hey, watch it!", his upperclassmen immediately laughed from behind, to which he somehow managed to retort, "I'm fine!".
In order not to stop the 'glide', he took another step forward. To prevent himself from falling disgracefully, finally, he lowered his hip and in an unsteady pose, it was difficult for him to even pay conscious attention to his movements. On top of that, the geta-clog straps bit painfully into the gaps in between his toes.
Even so, perhaps due to the difference in experience, the upperclassmen were getting down to form, and were walking while dancing with a comfortable pace. With a rather desperate look, Banri kept up with them. 'Gliding' with them, as the rhythm flowed.
At that moment, he noticed that Kouko wasn't around. Her signature rigid movements were nowhere to be seen.
"Huh? Kaga-san? Where is she?"
As he looked around,
"Eh? I'm here."
Just right before him, a girl, with a kasa-hat donned, whose face he was unable to tell turned around and waved to him with one hand. On another look at the face beneath that slightly raised kasa-hat, it indeed belonged to Kouko,
"That aside...... aren't you already amazingly used to this!?"
Surprised, Banri raised his voice without thinking. The other upperclassmen also realized that truth and their feet stopped as they turned around.
Everyone had rigid movements due to the geta-clogs they weren't accustomed to, had their faces hidden with the kasa-hats, were wearing similar-looking T-shirts and similar pants. Within this circle where each individual's hairstyle was not even distinguishable, Kouko had been dancing 'normally'. Without getting called the golden robot, erh, C-3PO, in ridicule, she had completely erased her presence within this faceless dancer crowd.
An Orhh! came from somewhere, accompanied by applause, to which Kouko's face turned red beneath her kasa-hat.
"Looks like we are doing pretty well, aren't we?"
"All right, let's up the pace a little."
Kakakan, the musical instruments for practice were added in and the practice continued. The steps made by the geta-clogs came together, and as a result of the synchronized dance, the members continued advancing, drawing the circle as they swayed in a line. Even though the air-conditioner should have been switched on, today was a sultry day, and in an instant, Banri's neck was covered in perspiration.
But even so, he continued moving forward, in sync with his upperclassmen, right, left, right, left. He took strides as big as he could, fluttering his hands, gradually advancing his feet that were clad in unfamiliar clogs. Tada, your hip, your hip, he was told, and he consciously lowered his bobbing hip, taking care not to fall. But he had to take bigger strides, lighter one. Be more masculine, be more dynamic.
When a certain gap opened up between the members, before long, the line came to a halt.
As a result of advancing a line at a time, one corner of the sweat-drenched dancers had became a whirlpool. Everyone's faces were flushed from the heat, breathing a little heavily, slowing down their steps and passing by each other in alternating fashion.
"Fun, isn't it?"
Someone's cracked voice said into Banri's ear.
"Yeah, it's fun."
Answering, he felt the presence of the girl who was the owner of the kasa-hat right beside him. He hadn't looked at her face, but, is it Kouko?, thought Banri.
Their breathing had become heavy, and both their body temperatures were hot from being close together.
Their pinkies touched each other by accident. A current might have run through them, he thought. Banri's eyes closed for an instant from the heat. His heart seemed to stop for a few seconds.
He twirled his pinky around hers, on the peril that his heart might just stop permanently.
His seemingly tightened heart pumped at an abnormal speed against his chest.
The temperature of his released finger, which seemed to be scalding hot, paralyzed Banri's body. Breathing hard, he panted several times like a beast.
Once again, he stepped out, with both his arms raised. The rhythm of the instruments beat against his skin.
That bittersweet --- fever of 『Love』 blinded the eyes of this dancing body.
* * *
The practice, which lasted a bit more than two hours, ended,
"Kaga-san, what are you doing later? Lectures?"
Patter, a drop of water hit his nose.
Uwah, exclaimed Banri, who then looked up at the sky. More large droplets came falling, hitting his face.
While the sky had been covered with many clouds since morning and it appeared as if it could rain anytime, according to the weather forecast report, it should only have started raining at night. Thus, he hadn't brought an umbrella.
The sky darkened all of a sudden, and the air was enveloped with the dusty smell of rain. Black patches started increasing in number on the road, and the people walking on the street started breaking into a run. About half the people were preparing to gradually open either their foldable, or vinyl umbrellas.
Before long, the sound of rain became deafening to his ears.
Banri, who had been rooted in place, taken aback by the sudden intensifying rain, could also take it no longer,
"Crap, let's go to a place with shelter!"
Just as he wanted to run off with Kouko,
Kouko looked at Banri's face absentmindedly, without moving her legs.
The rain droplets fell onto her face and cheeks.
"What are you doing? Come on!"
He took her stuff with his left hand, and grabbed her hand with his right. When he pulled Kouko, she too started running, and for now, the two of them escaped to the edge of the eaves of a stationary shop which had its shutters closed.
And at around the same time, Zahh, a loud sound was heard, and the rain suddenly became heavy. It was a pelting downpour.
With the droplets forming a smoke-like white at the feet, salarymen either used their briefcase or newspapers to cover their heads, dashing; the middle school girls from a nearby private school were screaming, "Kyaaaaa!", and for some reason broke into roars of laughter, then the mass of them ran off along the road that led to the station.
Banri wiped his face, and looked down helplessly in disgust at his soaked jeans.
"What a heavy downpour......! Shall we buy an umbrella?"
Kouko was of course drenched as well. The sleeves of her chiffon blouse could be seen through, revealing the skin that they stuck to, and her calfskin bag, which looked branded, wasn't spared from the spots of miserable splotches. Oh my, Banri brushed his cold, wet hair back.
"I'm sure they sell umbrellas around here. I will run to a convenience store and buy one for you too, Kaga-san. It will be terrible if your cold gets worse."
And then, he noticed.
From the side view of Kouko's, who had been remaining quiet, this was the first time he had seen her looking so stiff. Without wiping the droplets off her wet cheeks, and with wet hair continuing to stick to the front of her nose, she stood beside Banri, holding her breath.
"...... Kaga-san? What's wrong? Are you feeling unwell?"
He peered into Kouko's face anxiously, but she didn't so much as to shift her eyes. Hellooo, Banri waved his hands, and finally, she looked at him, but without any smile on her face.
Her vacant look merely wavered.
The air that was humidified by the rain was filled with the thick fragrance of roses. Kouko, who was right there, was so quiet that her very existence seemed uncertain, and it wouldn't be a surprise if she were to just quietly disappear like that. The sound of the rain washed away everything, giving off the feeling that everything was 「voided」.
What was certain was that she wasn't normal. Somewhere, with Banri being none the wiser, Kouko had a change of heart.
"Kaga-san, what's wrong? Did something happen?"
With soulless eyes and an expressionless face, Kouko blinked several times. Without a break, the raindrops ran off the tip of her long eyelashes. Droplets and droplets, streaming endlessly. And then,
"...... do you, like me?"
She asked. Abruptly.
Eh?, returned Banri without thinking.
"Wh-What are you saying? ...... why? Of course I like you."
Even with his answer, Kouko's expression did not change. Without even brushing her rain-soaked hair back, Kouko just breathed quietly. Her slender shoulders that could be seen through the see-through clothes that had stuck to them, were shaking.
Then, she grabbed Banri's hands. Her wet fingers, cold and weak, had hardly any strength put into them.
She tilted her head slightly, and droplets rolled off the tip of her chin.
"Do you really like me?"
Her wavering gaze urged.
Without saying a word, however, something inside of Banri...
Felt wrong, and his heart jumped. He did not know what in the world had caused Kouko to act like this. But, something had happened.
"Why are you asking this now? Didn't I tell you that I like you? ...... Or is it that what Oka-chan said the other day is bothering you? That I'm jealous of Yana-ssan, are you really worried about that? If that's the case, there's no need."
Shaking her head sideways, Kouko probably didn't hear what Banri said. With eyes conveying that it didn't matter what he said, she continued to ask.
"Do you, like me......? When will you stop liking me? What will make you hate me? When will you stop needing me? ...... am I being irritating by saying these things?"
If he answered with that, Koukou would probably cry.
But, he did increasingly want to say that to her. Her incomprehensible incessant urging was making him feel like he was being made the bad guy here. What will make you hate me? When will you stop needing me? Am I being irritating? He had never once said any of that, for crying out loud. Where did Kouko's sense of being the victim come from? Why she did start acting in such a manner all of a sudden?
Since he didn't know, What's wrong?, he asked but still, he couldn't make any progress with Kouko never answering his query, while she kept on questioning in a one-sided manner.
Even when he clearly said, I like you, those words did not seem to reach Kouko.
He felt futility, anger, and hurt towards that --- perhaps he actually thought that a guy wouldn't feel such emotions?
"I mean, seriously...... what's up with you?"
"...... do you, still...... like me?"
Is she going to carry on?
"...... like I've been telling you! I don't get you! Seriously, what's wrong with you all of a sudden! Did I do anything to you, Kaga-san!?"
He returned in a voice which, no softer than the drumming rain, perhaps felt a little strong. Kouko quivered.
She frantically met the eyes of Banri. Then,
"I've been feeling uneasy. ...... and scared. I kept thinking about unpleasant things. ...... I don't want to be like this, either. I want to always remain adorable in front of you, Tada-kun. But, no matter how I tried......! No matter what I do, I just keep feeling uneasy......"
Her beautiful face contorted. Her breath became short and it was followed by sounds of crying.
What on earth is it about me that makes her feel uneasy, I wonder? --- Banri searched hard within himself, on the words he had said and how he had acted. Despite that, he couldn't figure it out. He only knew that Kouko was crying before his eyes. Her face from her throat to her forehead was flushed, and with one hand covering her eyes, she sobbed.
Banri just couldn't bear hearing that sound.
"...... sorry. I'm sorry, ok? Kaga-san. Sorry, sorry...... sorry. Really."
I became frantic and peered into her face. If anything, Banri was weak against Kouko's crying voice. Anger, pride, weariness, all those things were peeled off too quickly, leaving Banri as if he was stark-naked. He couldn't bear that. Really.
Compared to any kind of harsh words, to getting beaten up and getting kicked, or to getting hacked, a teardrop of Kouko's was much more painful to Banri's heart.
Perfect happiness suited Kouko more. That was what Banri believed deep down.
Thus, he wanted to give her just that.
He wanted to envelop her in perfect happiness. He didn't want to show her anything other than that. Things such as sadness, pain, bitterness, uneasiness, worry; he wanted to eliminate all those things from her world. Pure and perfect, dazzling and beautiful. A frail treasure. Because that was Kaga Kouko.
He only wanted to order all the things from this world that suited Kouko.
"It's all my fault. Sorry."
If it was for Kouko, he was willing to cover himself with any kind of mud.
If it was for protecting her, then, he was willing to take on any kind of dirty things, cold, sad or unpleasant things.
Like a shield, Banri embraced Kouko's body which had grown cold, and looked up at the raining sky. A low swirl of layers and layers of dull silver, thick clouds could be seen. This rain would probably continue. Perhaps, as a result of the shower impeding the passage of many people by foot, before he realized, the flux of people had ceased.
"There's nothing to feel uneasy about. Since there's nothing you need to worry about. Everything's fine. Perfect."
With her face pressed against Banri's chest, Kouko was still crying.
Rubbing her shoulders which were heaving like a child, Banri stroked her wet hair, and tried whispering to her.
"...... need any pretty boys?"
Kouko's back quivered. A little chuckle seemed to have escaped her. The sound of laughter mixed in with her sobs. I don't need that......, came her faint voice which seemed to be colored with anger.
Deep down, Banri felt relieved.
Because he absolutely didn't want to be hated by her. Which was merely a matter of a growing reality. The time they spent together was more fun and dear to him than anything, and he definitely didn't want to let go of that. He wanted to be with Kaga Kouko forever, for eternity.
He wanted to be messed around, to be troubled, by that turbulent and incomprehensible nature of hers.
Banri once again applied his strength to embrace Kouko's body. He really wanted her to stop crying. To stop hating him. To be with him. To feel secure with him. To stop fearing. To believe in him. To be happy. He had never even thought that the 「Him」 whom Kouko doubted existed within himself.
From the bottom of his heart, it didn't matter what happened to him.
It didn't matter at all. Really.
Everything was for the sake of Kaga Kouko's happiness. That alone was enough. He wanted nothing else. Would she dislike a man who doesn't have his own mind, he wondered.
Screened by the sound of rain, hidden by the edge of the eaves, Banri gradually crouched down, and in a scooping manner, he carefully kissed Kouko. Kouko's body just stiffened, and she said nothing.
They touched with their warm body temperatures.
As if all boundaries had disappeared, before long, the two of them melted. Intense spasms ran through their spines to their necks. A tremendous sensitivity soaked into the cells of their entire bodies. Their entire nervous systems were short-circuited.
Their minds might have even been connected. The sound of the crackling, numbing sparks might have resounded even in Kouko's ears.
Nothing else existed. This might be all there was to life. If he removed his pressed lips, and opened his worthless eyes, what kind of end would the world come to, Banri wondered.
* * *
--- I slowly opened my eyes.
Banri's room was pitch-dark, and from outside the window, the city was still enveloped by the deep darkness of the night.
I wondered why I awoke at this kind of hour. In the first place, it was strange for a dead person like me to be sleeping.
When I sat up, I felt an even stronger sense of discomfort.
Banri, who was always just by my side, was not here. That Tada Banri, who was well and alive, whom I had been watching over all this while, was not here. Nowhere to be seen. Where on earth is he? As I tried to stand,
A terrible headache made me feel dizzy.
My knees, devoid of strength, gave way, and I crouched down onto my mattress.
The touch of the sheets. The towel blanket against my cheek. The bed that creaked under my weight. The residue of my own smell in the pillow. Something was wrong. Something, was definitely wrong.
I propped myself up, attempted to get off the bed for now, and ended up falling onto the ground. A heavy 'thud' resounded. As if weights had been attached to my body, my arms and legs couldn't move too well. It was even difficult to support my heavy head with my neck, and my forehead hit the floor several times.
I stretched my quavering hand out, holding it against the black of night.
How could it be?
Looking at the full-length mirror set against the wall, it was reflecting the figure of Tada Banri --- me --- sprawled across the floor. With thick standing hair, and eyes wide open, I stared back at the me who was inside the mirror.
It was my own face.
"...... uwu, ...... ah......"
The one who was alive was me.
I got back my life, my body. The instant I realized this, I recklessly applied my strength and got up. I put my hands against the wall and leaned my weight forward. While wobbling, I took a step.
There was a place I ought to go. I had to go there. Quickly, without any hesitation,
I simply called out the name of a person.
I had always, always and always, always,
I had always wanted to rush to your side. I wanted to come back. I wanted to fulfill my promise.
I moved my legs feverishly, deliriously called out Linda's name, and after taking a few steps across the room, just as I was about to dash past the doorway. At that moment, my feet stepped on something. As my body sailed through mid-air from the momentum of my dash, 『my feet got swept off』; that was the one strange precise phrase that I had in my mind,
--- he slowly opened his eyes. Once again.
The hot taste of iron of his blood spread across the inside of his mouth, and upon tentatively searching with his tongue, it seemed like the inside of his lip had been cut deeply by the front of his teeth for some reason.
The uncomfortable open wound throbbed, and his upper lip was covered with an unpleasant warmth. As he wiped with the back of his hand, there was a slimy, unpleasant feel. The blood might even have drooped all the way to the chin.
He had hit his face on the floor. Thank goodness that I didn't break any teeth, maybe that kind of carefree thought proved that he was still half-asleep, perhaps.
The slippers that he had bought for Kouko were overturned on the floor. My ugly fall was probably a consequence of stepping on those, he thought.
The beat of his heart seemed to be screaming in anguish. It pulsed intensely to the point of pain, and Banri involuntarily pressed both his hands against his chest, unable to bear that agony.
I want to come back.
With the silhouette of that memory distinctly etched into his mind.
Linda, Linda, Linda --- he could remember those cries as well.
And right now, he was sitting on the floor.
That was the past, no, the true him, thought Banri. He might have to pay the doctor a visit. When morning comes, he should pick up the phone, call his parents and tell them what happened, then go back to Shizuoka, and go get a check-up at the hospital he frequented, and then...... where should he go from there?
What would happen if he got cured?
What would happen to him if that happens? He wondered. What would happen to this body?
Covering his mouth, Banri crawled back to the middle of the room. The middle of the DIY bookcase that he was using as a bookshelf.
He wanted to see his face. The smiling face of that guy beside Linda. He could no longer tell which was the real him. That was why he wanted to verify whether he was a different person with these eyes of his, thought Banri. But, he realized.
The photo that was supposed to be here was nowhere to be found. It disappeared without him knowing. Vanished. As if it had never been there in the first place.
"...... why......? How come......?"
Unable to bear with how the situation was progressing, he sat down onto the cold floor, with his slimy blood drooping from his mouth. Banri closed his eyes for now.
The next time he opened his eyes, no one would know whether that very same self of his would still be around.
~ End ~
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