This it the second chapter of a novel I am translating and publishing on this blog. See this post for the first chapter and more details about the novel.
I want to thank the author, Yuki Hoshizaki (星崎ゆうき) for giving me permission to translate and publish this chapter here, as well as Yeti san (from the site Shousetsu Ninja) for performing a quality check on this chapter. You can find the original Japanese text of this chapter here.
Because of the large amount of time it takes to translate a chapter, as well as my desire to focus on content that my readers enjoy, I consider this translation to be in a provisional state. So if you enjoy it, please consider liking or commenting here, or rating/commenting on novelupdates.com (see this story’s page here). You can also send feedback on the story to the email address “selftaughtjapanese (at) com”, and commentary will be forwarded to the author as needed.
Translator’s note: The first name of the female character introduced in Chapter 1 and referred to here is “Sora” (空), which means “sky” in Japanese.
Past, Present, You
by Yuki Hoshizaki
Translated by J.D. Wisgo
Chapter 2: July 3 (morning)
“Hey, Mizuki. What are you gonna do after you graduate?”
The mild breeze blowing atop the school building is refreshing. Even though it is basically summer, the humidity is low this morning, as is the temperature. This place offers a good view of several residential districts within the city. Beyond densely-packed rows of old wooden houses continues high-rise apartment buildings in a newly-developed residential area.
Students are forbidden on the school’s rooftop, but for some reason Daiki Hayashi has a key to the door here. He says the key is for club activities, but I’m not sure if it’s the truth.
“College…huh. I think I’ll at least take a few entrance exams.”
It’s not that I hate studying. I’m not being bullied at school either. It’s just that I’ve never liked getting on a train whose destination was decided by someone else. To be honest, I’m even skeptical about the idea of going to college just to “play it safe”.
Of course, I also know that living a safe life can be considered a luxury, because I’m certain there are people unable to go to college for financial reasons who have to work instead. Regardless, I guess a teenager’s life is a succession of days where decisions are made because “there was nothing else to do”.
There was nothing else I could do.
That day, she said the very same thing. It meant there were no other options available to her, a situation utterly lacking anything you would call “free will”––essentially, a kind of destiny.
“Yeah, with your grades I guess you’ll be fine anywhere.”
“Hmm, I’m not so sure about that. You’re going to take a few exams too, right?”
Destiny is sometimes a ray of hope. Yet it can, at times, also have an element of cruelty.
“Yeah, for the time being. But I think things might not be that easy.”
Daiki says this with a deep sigh as he stares into the sky. The blue sky sports a brillance just like a summer sky should have, seemingly making up for the missing color of the world. But I don’t feel any depth from its shade of blue. Just dropping a cloud or two onto a blue color that looks like it’s been stretched out thin doesn’t mean it’s OK to call that the real sky.
“By the way, did anything happen with that girl from the other day? You know, it kinda seemed like a romantic way to meet.”
Daiki is one of my few friends. He’s also the only person I told about what happened the other day. On that day there was a long delay before the stopped train resumed operation, and I didn’t make it to school until the end of 5th period. However, given the fact that the time of the derailment accident was slightly after school started, fortunately not a single person from my school was involved.
“Thanks to her, I now have to go to school every day for the rest of the semester.”
“With your attendance record, I think that was bound to happen sooner or later anyway. Not to mention she’s a pretty cute girl, right? Lucky you. She practically asked you out. Oh, I’m totally jealous of you.”
“Listen to me. I told you it’s not like that. The whole situation is way more than just a little unnerving, it’s a terrible shock to me. Over one hundred people lost their lives in that accident.”
The death toll from that accident has exceeded one hundred; if you include moderate and serious injuries, the total is above six hundred. In terms of train accidents, it’s a horrible catastrophe that will go down in history. The site of the accident was too gruesome to bear looking at, and the excruciatingly difficult rescue effort was all over the media.
“Yeah, I guess that’s true. But…well…I’m glad that you ended up surviving.”
“I still can’t believe it.”
Was it a miracle, or a mere coincidence? I feel there’s something odd about describing a coincidence with the adjective “mere” as an event of little value. Coincidences, too, are a type of miracle. Some part of me even wants to, if possible, meet Sora once more and ask her to explain what happened.
“I always ride on the same place on that train. It’s not like there is any special reason, but I normally ride on the second car from the front. In that derailment accident, the first through third cars collided into the building. A majority of the people who died were in the second car. Had I been on that train, I would have definitely been killed.”
The frontmost train car smashed into the parking lot making up the first floor of the building, where columns supported the upper floors. The second car slammed into the exterior wall of the building and appeared to cling to the wall as the third car crushed it from behind. In particular, the second car was damaged beyond recognition, and the media reported that none of the passengers on it survived.
When I later saw footage of the site of the accident, I felt a shudder of horror unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Rarely have I been afraid of death. But when I think that I could have been involved in that accident, I’m gripped by an unspeakable fear.
“But that Sora girl saved your life, right?”
“Hey, do you seriously believe in stuff like precognition?”
“Mizuki, this world is abound with mysterious occurrences. Just because you’re good at physics doesn’t mean you should reject the possibility of something that cannot be explained by science.”
“How dare you act like you…”
“Nevermind. I’m just glad you’re safe.”
Unquestionably, the dividing line between fact and fiction is blurred. I feel that the question of whether the elements and concepts of physics actually exist is fundamentally the same as the question of whether Raskolnikov of Crime and Punishment actually exists.
Rather than the question of whether something exists or not, perhaps it makes more sense to consider the question of the degree of reality it has.
[end of chapter]
(English Translation Copyright © 2019 by J.D. Wisgo)