This it the third 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.
Past, Present, You
by Yuki Hoshizaki
Translated by J.D. Wisgo
Chapter 3: July 3 (afternoon)
There’s lots of hills in the Tokyo suburb I call home, where the undulating cityscape is punctuated in places by steep slopes. Apartment complexes cluster on the low hills and the residential areas are webbed with narrow roads.
In a quiet residential district away from the bustle of the big city––I guess it sounds nice when you put it that way––where plans for redevelopment have long come to a standstill, antiquated scenery gradually deteriorates with the passing of time, like an untouched, abandoned town where people only come home at night to sleep. Or maybe these streets, with their retro vibe, more closely resemble a historical district.
Along a narrow street behind the school sits a tiny shrine, and if you go down the hill there you’ll come to a sprawling shopping district that likely hasn’t changed in ages. Housing developments have prospered here for quite a while, and many areas have went through significant rezoning. Having said that, the developments constructed between 1955 to 1965, now over a quarter decade old, have fallen into significant decay.
I like to walk along the ribbon-like roads that weave between those kinds of housing developments. At dusk, I cut across several parks and a small supermarket, then pass by a wooded area on my way home. I think there’s something special about this time of day; it’s only then when I can feel an undeniable sense of daily life.
Just when I am about to turn down a narrow intersection in one of those housing developments, a familiar voice makes me stop. The frail voice, despite sounding like it’s about to disappear into nothingness, seems to possess a power great enough to defy the flow of time itself. It’s the voice of Sora Itono.
I turn around and see her wearing a sailor-style school uniform. Judging from the light blue scarf hanging on her neck and the brown bag she holds with both hands, she must be a student of Joyo High School that I attend.
“Oh, you’re a student at Joyo?”
An afternoon breeze blows by the befuddled Sora.
“I’m a freshman.”
Freshman––so she is in the same grade as Daiki’s younger sister. I’m surprised that Sora’s life is so closely connected to mine.
“You wanna talk for a little while at the park over there?”
Sora nods and slowly follows along behind me as I head to the park. My first encounter with her was an utter mystery. No matter how memorable an experience has been for me, I have been able to stop thinking about it and tell myself, “wonders never cease,” without fixating on it, and I think most people can gradually purge from their memory an experience that they lose interest in as time goes on. However, I just haven’t able to bury the memory of that day as part of a normal, everyday life.
In the small park surrounded by apartments, a group of three elementary school children play around the swings. They take turns, two children sharing a swing and the other pushing them high into the air. Beyond the children is a person walking a dog, and further in the distance a woman disappearing into a row of houses, carrying a large shopping bag in her hands.
“Even though…even though I promised myself I would never see you again…”
Sitting on a small bench, Sora speaks as she hugs both knees against her chest.
She holds her knees for a while, eyes downcast, but eventually raises her head and looks at me with those dark brown eyes.
“Because this reality is not supposed to be possible. And…”
Her eyes are overflowing with years, just like when we first met on the station platform.
“But reality might just be a succession of impossible events…Oh, actually I just…wanted to say thanks…”
“Thanks for the other day. If you hadn’t grabbed my arm then, I think I would really be dead now. I’m not particularly attached to life, but I guess…maybe it’s not yet my time to die…”
“No!” Sora screams out, drowning out my voice.
“What is it?”
Even though it’s already July, the sinking sun brings a chill to the air. Before I know it, the kids that were playing on the swings have suddenly disappeared.
“You can’t die!”
It’s nearly twilight, and the night sky is almost upon us. A faint, somehow nostalgic shade of scarlet begins to appear in the sky.
“Oh, yeah…of course not.”
The setting sun illuminates our cheeks, casting our long shadows across the sandy ground. Across the great sky lies the boundary between fiction and fact. Yes, within the slowly darkening sky is the tiniest lack of realism.
“Live. Mizuki, you have to live.”
Desiring death while bearing the pain of life. No one can deny such emotions, but perhaps having feelings for another is the antithesis of those emotions.
“Alright, I will…so don’t worry, I’ll be OK.”
I pat her head lightly, as if calming a small child.
“Then promise me…”
“Ok, I promise.”
Promise. I can’t remember the last time I used that word.
“You can call me Sora.”
(*Translator’s note: In Japan, calling someone by their first name generally means a closer relationship than calling them by their last name)
“Um, Sora? Can you…see what’s going to happen? I mean, can you do stuff like predict the future…”
Common sense dictates this to be an idiotic question, but it would explain her actions. In other words, Sora stopped me on the station platform that day because she had predicted that train accident in advance…
Sora nods her head slightly, saying only, “At least now I don’t know what is going to happen anymore,” as she stares at a slowly swaying swing.
Her denial might actually lend credence to my theory. The “at least” part of her answer indicates the possibility that on that day she had seen the future, or at least a small part of it.
“Hey…would you mind giving me your contact info?”
It would be a lie to say I’m not feeling indecisive about asking her more questions about that day. But I somehow get the sense that I shouldn’t be the one to continue that discussion.
“I don’t think you’ll be able to get through. But if you still want it…”
Sora takes her cell phone out of her bag, opens up a social media app, and brings up a QR code of her account.
“What do you mean ‘Can’t get through’? Do you live somewhere where you can’t get a signal?”
I bring my phone up next to hers and transfer her account information.
“Most of the time.”
“Uh…are you serious?”
Sora gives a slight nod, and for the first time I catch a glimpse of a sweet smile on her face.
[end of chapter]
(English Translation Copyright © 2019 by J.D. Wisgo)