On a certain day, I was being made to sign a written agreement at the head of a suspension bridge located at a remote mountain.
Putting it simply, it said that if some accident happened and I was injured or killed, it was my own responsibility. The contents of this agreement only stirred up more fear in me. I immediately felt a desire to go home.
However, once I signed this, the only thing left to do for me was to get in line and wait for my turn.
“KYAAAAAAH!” a flying woman screamed, sounded as if she was dying.
Why did I have to go out of my way and pay money to do something like this?
I got the feeling that I was being put through something really unreasonable.
And while I was feeling nervous, it became my turn. The person in charge attached the metal fittings to my body in no time. I had no choice but to harden my resolve.
I arrived at the designated point right in the middle of the suspension bridge, took out my phone and started a video call with Mamizu. On the other side of the screen, Mamizu was eagerly awaiting my bungee-jump.
“Excuse me, please leave your phone behind,” the person in charge warned me, but before he could stop me, I jumped.
I was tossed about in the air.
My vision turned into something incredible. I was approaching the surface of the river below the suspension bridge at an unbelievable speed. My instincts told me that I was going to die.
“UWAAAAAAAH!” I screamed pathetically as I fell, and then the wire stretched to its limit and sent me flying upwards. I was flying through the sky.
“KYAHAHAHAHA!” Mamizu roared with laughter. I wasn’t in a state to see anything else she was doing.
This process repeated itself several times, and then I finally came to a stop. My body swayed like the pendulum of a clock, suspended by the rope.
“Are you satisfied now?” I asked Mamizu in a slightly unhappy voice.
“Yeah, it was fun,” Mamizu said with a delighted smile.
One day, at ten o’clock in the morning, I got a call from Kayama. Thinking that it was going to be some troublesome business anyway, I considered ignoring it for a moment, but in the end, I answered it.
“There’s something I want you to help me with.”
Those were Kayama’s very first words. I immediately regretted answering the call.
“What do you think I’ve been doing lately?” he asked.
“From the bottom of my heart, I have no interest whatsoever,” I said.
I wasn’t particularly interested in Kayama’s private life, and I thought he could just do what he wanted. As long as he didn’t get me involved.
“I’m cutting my relations with women. I want to break up with all of them.”
Kayama didn’t have a girlfriend. His motto was, “I have a principle of not getting a girlfriend.” But on the other hand, he was popular with girls. So, he made moves on whoever he could get his hands on, and he sometimes got himself into trouble, even if they only lasted a semester. And for some reason, he had called me to say that he intended to break up with all of them.
“There’s one problematic woman. No matter what I do, she won’t break up with me. Things won’t be settled no matter what I say, so I want you to talk to her for me,” he said.
I couldn’t help but be exasperated. Was there anything as insincere as having someone else break up with your girlfriend for you?
“In any case, I’m definitely not doing it,” I said.
“… Say, Okada. What should I do? I’ve been cornered. I feel like I’m going crazy,” Kayama said.
His voice had suddenly become meek. Even through this phone conversation where I couldn’t see his face, I could tell how depressed he was.
“Can you meet me today? Meet me directly and give me some advice.”
In the end, Kayama convinced me forcibly and I agreed to meet him under the promise that I was just going to give him advice.
I was told that we were meeting at a window-side seat of a nearby family restaurant. Around the time I arrived, I got a message from Kayama saying, “I’m at the seat furthest inside, by the window.” But Kayama wasn’t there. There was someone else sitting in that spot instead.
I knew that person very well.
“Huh? Why are you here, Okada-kun…?”
It was my homeroom teacher, Yoshie-sensei. For a moment, my head was filled with panic. And then the worst-possible scenario occurred to me, and I felt myself getting a headache. I really want to kill that guy, I thought.
The reason was, Yoshie-sensei was crying. She had been crying long before I came here.
“Could it be that you were called out here by Kayama, Yoshie-sensei?” I asked.
“Huh? … Yes, that’s right.”
Yoshie-sensei had been using her phone right up until just before I arrived. She was probably telling Kayama which seat she was sitting in.
“Kayama can’t come. So instead… I’ll hear you out,” I said.
“Wow, Akira-kun has told you about his relationship with me, Okada-kun. He really looks down on people, doesn’t he?”
Yoshie-sensei called him Akira-kun, not Kayama-kun. With that, I had no choice but to accept the situation.
The woman that Kayama had laid his hands on, the one he was trying to break up with, was our homeroom teacher, Yoshie-sensei.
Aren’t you a little too lacking in integrity? I thought.
“There is something crucial to human beings that is broken in him. It’s best not to take him seriously,” I said, trying to console Yoshie-sensei.
Actually, I had no idea how to act in a situation like this. I’d never even broken up with someone myself; how could I handle someone else’s breakup?
“In other words, he isn’t capable of honestly dating a living human being,” I continued. “I once asked him how he views life. He treats it like a game. He was just testing how many people he could date at the same time. He doesn’t think of anyone but himself. I came here today because he asked me to break up with you in his place, Sensei. What do you think? He’s the worst, isn’t he?”
“Okada-kun, how can you speak of Akira-kun so badly?” Yoshie-sensei asked. “Aren’t you two friends?”
“We’re not friends,” I said. “We don’t really get along. I’m actually quite bad at dealing with Kayama, because he’s a human from another world.”
“Then why did you come here today, Okada-kun?”
“For me, Kayama isn’t a friend, but… a savior. It’s difficult to explain, though. But that’s all it is.”
“I don’t understand,” Yoshie-sensei said, covering her face. “When I look at Akira-kun, I sometimes get scared. I don’t feel at ease. I get the feeling that he might just drop out and waste his life away. I can’t help worrying about him; I don’t want to let him go. If I remember correctly, Akira-kun lost his older brother in an accident, didn’t he? I heard from his middle school teacher that that’s when he started straying from the right path. And he attempted suicide at school once, didn’t he? Those kinds of reports get passed on from middle school to high school.”
I suddenly felt the urge to laugh. “Sensei, that’s a misunderstanding,” I said. “Kayama would never do something like attempting suicide. He’s like a solid mass of will to live. He can live on his own even if you don’t worry about him, and he would never be influenced by other people anyway. That’s why it’s alright. That’s the only part about him I respect a little.”
Yoshie-sensei made an expression that told me that she couldn’t understand. “Right now, I’m being made a fool of not only by Kayama-kun, but you as well, aren’t I? I’m really miserable, huh. I’m so pathetic and helpless; I feel like I want to disappear.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, apologizing.
“I was serious,” said Yoshie-sensei.
“Kayama was playing,” I said, matching the rhythm of my words with hers as if making fun of her. I wanted to make her angry. I wanted her to get angry, use that anger and make a decision with her feelings.
“Okada-kun, I have a favor to ask.”
“What is it?”
“Can I pour my Coke on you?”
In the next moment, Yoshie-sensei actually poured the Coke that she had been drinking on me. And then she left the family restaurant, leaving me behind, soaked.
I went out and called Kayama.
“I think Yoshie-sensei is a kind person,” I said.
“That’s why I don’t want to be with her,” Kayama said, laughing. I thought it sounded like a psychopath’s laughter.
“I hate you,” I said, and then I hung up without saying anything else.
I hadn’t gotten used to my part-time job at all, but fortunately, with Riko-chan-san’s help as well, I didn’t struggle when it came to interpersonal relationships. I’d been a little worried that I’d feel out of place in a workplace filled with only women, but it seemed that Riko-chan-san was skillfully helping me out. That’s how the atmosphere was.
“Riko-chan-san, you’re always helping me out when I make a mistake, aren’t you? Sorry, and thank you,” I said to Riko-chan-san in thanks one day as she and I were walking home together.
“I don’t want you to quit on us, Okada-kun. I won’t be happy if you don’t become established in the kitchen,” Riko-chan-san said, giving a slightly embarrassed laugh. “Do you have something to do after this, Okada-kun?” she asked in a casual tone.
“Ah… sorry. I’m actually going to dance now,” I said.
“Huh?” Riko-chan-san sounded surprised.
“Just at the nearby club,” I added.
“Wow, Okada-kun, you don’t look like the kind of person who would go to places like that.”
“Ah, yeah. I’m not the kind of person who would go to places like that,” I said, not knowing how to explain things.
“… Then I’ll come with you,” Riko-chan-san said.
It was my turn to be surprised. “Riko-chan-san, you don’t look like the type who dances, either.
“Despite my looks, I do dance,” she said with a bold laugh, leaving me wondering whether it was true or not.
> I’ve come to the club now, just like you wanted me to
I sent this message to Mamizu, and there was a quick reply.
> How do you feel?
That was my honest impression. I saw muscular men with tattoos all over their bodies, and women who were laughing without restraint, under the effects of alcohol or maybe something else.
It was dim, there were questionable pink and green lights flickering, and it was filled with a kind of restless atmosphere. It was the kind of place that people younger than eighteen shouldn’t be allowed inside in the first place. I was honestly afraid, wondering when someone would get angry at me for being here.
> Take a photo without being noticed!
That’s what Mamizu said, but when I started up my camera, I noticed that my remaining battery was at 2%.
> Unfortunately, my battery is empty. This device will now cease communications
> I see. Well, I will pray for your good fortune
While we were having this conversation that sounded like it was coming from a stranded spaceship, my battery really died.
“Okada-kun, are you having fun?” Riko-chan-san said, swaying as she appeared. It seemed that she was actually accustomed to places like this, and the way she was dancing was quite masterful.
“This is quite difficult, isn’t it?” I was imitating her, swaying my body like she was.
“Okada-kun, you’re terrible. Like this,” Riko-chan-san said, bending her body more intensely.
“Like this?” Learning from her, I tried to dance as well.
Suddenly, a group of gaudy-looking men came and called out to Riko-chan-san.
“Hey, hey, won’t you come and drink with us?”
This is what’s known as picking a girl up.
It’s my first time seeing it.
“Unfortunately, I’m here with my boyfriend today,” Riko-chan-san said, wrapping her arm around my waist, surprising me quite a bit. “Sorry.”
“Who is this guy?”
The gaudy men glared at me intently. I sensed trouble.
For a few moments, I wondered what I should do.
“YAY!” I shouted, and I avoided the gaudy men by dancing.
The gaudy men were exasperated, and Riko-chan-san laughed.
“That’s how I heroically saved Riko-chan-san, my senior at my part-time job, from being hit on. What do you think?”
I’d exaggerated this episode quite a bit as I described it to Mamizu.
“Aren’t you kind of lying a bit, Takuya-kun?” Mamizu was sharp as usual.
I averted my gaze and pretended I hadn’t heard her. “Well, in any case, that place is full of danger. You never know when you’ll encounter a monster. It was the right decision for me to go there in your place, Mamizu.”
“… Well, I suppose it’s fine,” Mamizu said, looking like she wanted to say something more.
“It’s nothing.” Mamizu went deep into thought for a moment, and then opened her mouth again. “Actually, there is something.”
“What?” I asked, exasperated.
“It’s hard to explain.”
Could it be…?
“Mamizu, are you jealous?”
“… I want to do this next. Do it,” Mamizu said, speaking in a stabbing tone again. And then she handed me her phone. There was a video on a video website on the screen. Feeling afraid, I pressed play.
There was a magician on the screen, spitting fire like a dragon.
“No, that’s impossible!” I said, looking up at the ceiling.
While we were talking, the nurse that I regularly saw here came. She said that Mamizu had to go for an inspection, and Mamizu was taken away.
I usually went home at this hour as well, but this time, I suddenly became curious and went back to Mamizu’s hospital room instead. Before I arrived, oddly enough, she had been reading a fashion magazine. She normally only read paperback books, so this was a strange choice for her. I’d kind of wanted to check out what kind of magazine it was.
I flicked through the pages of the fashion magazine in the hospital room while Mamizu was absent.
It was a magazine with fashion that quite chic, with a mature taste. It was mainly introducing overseas collection brands. The models were mostly foreigners, too.
Now that I thought about it, I’d only ever seen Mamizu in pajamas. Maybe it couldn’t be helped because she was hospitalized, but she probably wanted to dress properly. But maybe she hadn’t told me because she was too embarrassed. But… in what kind of world would a single one-piece dress cost 1,900,000 yen? What did these people normally eat? Caviar?
As I continued flicking through the magazine’s pages out of curiosity, I noticed that one of the pages had been folded. Wondering what it was, I looked closely to see that it was a full-page advertisement for a pair of red high-heels. On a whim, I used my phone to take a picture of that page.