This is the 13th 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 would like to thank the author, Yuki Hoshizaki (星崎ゆうき) for giving me permission to translate and publish this chapter in this blog. You can find the original Japanese text of this chapter here.
If you enjoy this story, please consider liking or commenting on this post, or rating/commenting on novelupdates.com (you can see this story’s page here, which has links to all the other chapters). I’m more likely to continue if I get positive feedback.
This story is difficult to appreciate fully if you haven’t read the other chapters (or have forgotten them), so I recommend reviewing the other chapters if needed.
Past, Present, You
by Yuki Hoshizaki
Translated by J.D. Wisgo
Chapter 13: June 30 (afternoon)
“Please, I beg you!”
Before reaching him, the words deeply resonate in my own mind. All the things I want to say to him dig their hooks deep into me and refuse to let go––as if begging to be communicated to the outside world.
I suddenly realize that my voice is much louder than I’d intended. Mizuki lets out a soft sigh in front of me as he turns to away from the train and starts walking away against the flow of the crowd. I hurry to catch up with him and we climb the steps together that lead up to the station concourse.
The peak of rush hour has passed, but the ticket gates are still crowded with people bustling about. Sprawling before us is one of those shopping areas you typically find in train stations, packed with customers. Stopping in front of a tiny café tucked into a corner of the plaza, I turn to Mizuki.
“Please stay with me here, just for a little while.”
Is there any point in doing this? A nagging impatience gnaws at me. There is the very real possibility that the next train will crash into the site of that horrific accident, causing a second wave of injuries and fatalities. Thinking about that makes me obsess over how I should be doing something else now. But who would believe me? Not to mention that there is no telling whether that derailment accident will even happen in this world.
A moment later Mizuki glances at his watch and mumbles, “As long as it’s only for a little while…”
I pass through the automatic door that slides open, and try to organize my thoughts as I stare at the menu displayed above the front counter. Accepting the possibility my actions are all meaningless, I have no choice but to seek out my own meaning. Fortunately, the dark-toned interior is lit by orange indirect lighting, creating a calm atmosphere that softens the tension gripping me.
“Is ice coffee alright with you?”
Mizuki nods in response to my question. He adroitly moves the two ice coffees that soon appear on the counter onto a tray and heads towards a table next to a window.
“So tell me. What’s your name?” he says while inserting a straw into his drink once we sit at the two-person table.
It’s as I expected––this Mizuki doesn’t know me. But now I sort of understand why. I haven’t simply returned to the past; the guy sitting right here is unmistakably Mizuki, but a Mizuki that has never met me.
“I’m Sora. Sora Itono.”
I can never figure how to maintain the right distance between people. Mizuki once was kind enough to tell me, “I think maybe distance isn’t something you make, it’s something that makes itself.” I wonder how much distance there is now between myself and the Mizuki sitting here. I’ve lost all confidence in understanding this. Or maybe I never had any confidence to begin with.
“Ok…and I’m Mizuki Aiba.”
“I’m sorry for being so sudden. But there was nothing else I could do.”
I had no choice. The only thing I could do then, on that train platform, was to grasp your arm. If you want to call that an excuse, then so be it.
“What is going on here?”
The Mizuki that I knew is long dead. That reality can’t be changed, no matter how hard I resist. I look down at the table and blink repeatedly, not wanting to show him the tears that have begun to flow against my will. I hear the sound of ice crumbling in a glass.
“Hmm…maybe the train got delayed…”
An amorphous mix of possibilities and events. What appears to possess order in fact has none. There’s something extra here that cannot be captured by a simple tale of crisis or tragedy. Maybe call it an inexorable fate. I now realize that fate isn’t something that can be changed to any great degree––and that applies equally to my own.
When I glance out the window into the station, I see a station attendant repeatedly gesturing at an electronic billboard, apparently busy handling questions from passengers. On the billboard is an announcement about the next train being significantly delayed. As I thought, the next train has made an emergency stop.
“Seems there was a derailment accident. A train failed to make a curve and collided with a high-rise apartment building.”
I pick up bits and pieces of the conversation of two adults sitting at the table behind the surprised Mizuki. I am not experiencing a so-called “time leap” whereby I return to an earlier time; this is not the past, it is the present itself. By the same token, the Mizuki before me isn’t going to start one of my beloved “Like what if…” conversations.
“There’s no estimate for when the trains will resume operation. Well, I guess we’re not going to get much work done today…oh, I’m going to call the office.”
Glancing at the man talking in a business suit who just stood up, Mizuki still looks like he is unable to accept the reality that is happening now.
“There was nothing else I could do.”
At least for me, there was nothing else I could do. But if there is one thing that occurred as a result of my resisting fate, it is the fact that Mizuki is here with me now.
“You…actually knew that the train I was going to get on would…”
“Derail after failing to make the curve, then crash into an apartment building along the track…”
I open my brown handbag dangling from my shoulder and remove the tiny pink purse attached to my cell phone.
“I gotta go. Sorry to be so sudden again. I’ll leave what I owe here.”
I think this good luck charm is what he needs.
“Hey, hold on…So you’re saying that…”
It’s not that I saw the future. No, it must have been that I only…
[end of chapter]
(English Translation Copyright © 2020 by J.D. Wisgo)