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Harada Utaya became "something" that's not a human being on a night in the middle of May of his first year in high school.
At that time Utaya was sprawled out in a pitch black back alley, pressing on his flank that has been stabbed just a few minutes ago.
While he was surprised by the sensation of a warm liquid that continued to gush forth, he was thinking back about what the heck has happened to his own body.
After school, when the training of the basketball club had finished, the nominees for the Inter-High competition were announced and among them a sole first year's name – Utaya's name was called.
You have idiotically loud voice, you're noisy and your competitive spirit is strong, so you'll be the cheerleader of sorts. Depending on the flow, in the second half your turn might just come. Be steady, but just don't pick a fight with the opponents on the court– told him the coach. Feeling happy and his feet, almost afloat, carried him to a back street with no sign of life.
And then somebody bumped into him from behind.
As though a boiling kettle was pressed against his left flank, it became immediately hot. A suspicious person, face hidden deeply in a parka's hood and grasping a kitchen knife in hand, backed away two, three steps before turning their back and running into the darkness. Such a state of affairs reflected at the edge of his eyes that were growing hazy.
(Huh? I……was I stabbed? Right, a poster warning or danger read that a phantom killer is out around these parts. ……Shit, I have to call an ambulance…… Phone, where is it….. I dropped it when I fell over. Eh? My fingers won't move…… Hey, hey.)
He tried to close his open hand, but he totally couldn't muster any strength.
As if his body was freezing from the inside, the shivers became worse and he started to worry if this isn't actually seriously bad.
Give me a break! Tomorrow's the match!
At the Ryokuou High School prestigious for its basketball, the fact that a first year would be at the bench was an incident serious enough to throw up. Training in the early morning and training during the lunch break, and then when the after school club activities ended he would do the independent training.
Even though his powerful voice and competitive spirit had a use value only as a cheering member, it was not impossible that he would be able participate in the match.
(No, it's all right! The pain somehow faded away. It can't be a serious wound!)
With confidence he warned himself to only think about tomorrow.
The first round opponent Tachibana HS is an attack type team so the scramble for points will be super interesting. Next is the Nishikino HS with the famous center Nangou, if he threw the ball in the ring from above his 2 meters height it would be superb. The third opponent will surely be the last year runner-up Isshiki HS, their captain's, Honma's dribble is almost like the ball fits perfectly in his hand, during middle school I couldn't stop him but this time for sure—- And the finals will be against the Hourin HS and their number one player Kaizaki!
I was warned a lot by the coach and the seniors that I shouldn't pick up a fight with opponents stronger than me like an idiot, but I'm sure if I stood on the court I would forget all about that and charge straight in. It has always been like that.
All sensations except the coldness disappeared and at the back of his eyes the figures of the opponents he picked a fight with up until now streamed like a revolving lantern and it went upstream to his elementary school days when he just started basketball.
In the house of an older girl who's a relative, he spend one whole week reading all 31 volumes of a famous basketball manga "SLAM DUNK" and was deeply moved, then with "I also want to become a basketball-man!" he enrolled in the regional mini-basket team.
The complete edition of "SLAM DUNK" that he bought with his New Year's money is still lined up on the bookshelf in his room. He doesn't remember how many tens of times he reread it. A famous line that would exceed the Coach Anzai's "Give up and it's the end of the match" has not yet appeared in Utaya's insufficient sixteen year long lifetime.
(I wanna go to the finals! I wanna play against Kaizaki once more! He's to~tally super! I can hardly believe that we're the same age. I heard he's gonna do basket abroad in America, so before he leaves I absolutely have to play a revenge match against him! That's right, I won't give up.)
At his final moments as a white blur was spreading inside his head he saw a mental image of the time when he was an infant and at his home's living room he tried to ride on a vinyl ball and despite hitting his forehead on the floor he continued to laugh without crying.
"Do you want to live……"
He heard a chilly voice.
He opened his eyes in a thin line as though he was scowling and saw that a girl in a uniform he's never seen before was standing there alone in a silver string-like thin rain that was falling in the indigo blue darkness.
Her silver-colored, like it had absorbed the moonshine, hair was shining as it wrapped her slender body, and with her red eyes she was looking down on Utaya.
Red, crimson, scarlet eyes–. Although he was awake, those eyes were mysteriously alluring.
(……What an incredibly pretty red.)
It was probably due to the haze that his chest tightened because he felt like he saw such alluring red eyes before.
About the same age as Utaya—- with conspicuous looks and posture, she was such a beautiful girl. And she was a unusual girl. Although at her feet a collapsed boy in a uniform was shedding blood, she didn't even scream, much less showed a gait of concern. Just knitting her fine eyebrows in displeasure, she continued to look down in indifference with her beautiful red eyes.
"……Such a smooth face that didn't grow a beard yet……I don't like it. Hair too soft and weak, body only grown in height and too slim, it is still not robust enough. Also doesn't have enough leg hair, arm hair and underarm hair, indeed. I planned to let you live as a human for at least another twelve years," with displeasure she muttered so in a voice lacking in intonation.
"……But it can't be helped, because you're a big dunce that allowed himself to be so easily stabbed in the vitals when you were merrily walking around. You don't resemble XX and you're not even a bearded sturdy man to my liking, and although it's twelve years ahead of schedule…… I'll ask you a very important question now. If you answer correctly, I shall present you with an eternal life."
The silver rain continued to fall directly on the girl's silver hair.
A freezing and ice-like transparent voice slowly drifted into the silence that felt like being on the end of the world.
"You— What would you adorn with……this hair of mine?"
Even though it was quiet, his consciousness was hazy so he didn't hear it well. The thin rain kept away from the girl's well-featured white face and the alluring red eyes – those somehow nostalgic red eyes, those red eyes he had seen before. The chilly rain fell on the cheeks, neck and arms of Utaya who was lying on the asphalt. His quirky and light hair soaked up rain, becoming heavy and cold.
His vision hazy white, it was like a white-out in a manga–. Aah, that famous scene was also like this. Just the two of them in a pure white world……
He spoke out the wish that came to mind as it was.
"I want to play basketball."
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