Dec 25, 2019

Christmas Comes Not For Us - Chapter 3

Chapter 3


Christmas Eve of the sixth loop.

“Why…”

I dashed through the street dyed in twilight colors.

“Why did you keep waiting for me…”

“...Riichi.”


“Why do you look so happy!? Don’t you realise what I did these past two days? I was cruel to you, hurt you, and even made you wait for so long today… Don’t you realise that I betrayed you!?”

“But you seemed to be suffering too, Riichi,” She said with a smile. Hearing her words made me burst into tears.

“W-What’s the matter with you?”

“I should be the one asking that. Don’t fucking act so familiar with her.”

“Tsk!” With a click of the tongue, that damn skirt-chaser left the place.

“Riichi, you are late.”

“Sorry.”

“I was cold, you know.”

“I said I was sorry.”

“Hehe.”

She laughed happily.

“Thanks for saving me.”

The moment I heard that, I could no longer endure it and pulled her in a tight embrace. Despite swearing that I would avoid this development.

After waking up on December 22, I intentionally acted harshly towards her so she would come to hate me, and so she would just give up without confessing to me.

When she asked me to eat lunch together, I refused with a click of the tongue.

When she came to chat, I coldly answered I was busy and left my seat.

When she asked me to go home together, I told her I had stuff to do while acting displeased.

Like that, I desperately tried to make her hate me.

Today, too, I did not show up at our meet-up place on our agreed time and simply observed her as she kept waiting for me under the cold winter sky. I thought everything would be fine as long as she just gave up and went home.

But Natsumi stubbornly refused to move from the spot.

While rubbing her cold hands and shrinking her shoulders from the cold wind, she kept waiting for hours and hours.

Seeing her like that was killing me on the inside, and when someone tried to pick her up, I finally lost it.

“Riichi, you are too forceful.”

“Be quiet. Just stay like this.”

“Okay.”

Why? Why are you giving me such an obedient nod? Wasn’t I cruel to you, Natsumi? I did things that could easily let you fall out of love for me, you know? So, why…

“Why are you hugging me so happily.”

“Why, you ask?”

With a leak of a sigh, a faint smile floated on her face, and in the end, she still said those words.



"I love you. I love you, Riichi."



And then, she died. She was stabbed in the back by a slasher that came out of nowhere. As the surroundings slowly fell into chaos, I kept on hugging her body that grew colder every second with tears spilling down my face.

Goddamnit, what should I do…






Thus came the seventh Christmas Eve. I was lying on the bed while gazing emptily towards the corner

Ever since I woke up on the 22nd, I single-mindedly shut myself inside my room and never left. Even when I received a call from the school, I stubbornly refused to come out and stayed in bed.

I was feeling an indescribable pain. But I did not know what else to do.

I just have to wait for three days, just until the end of this loop interval. I have to keep distance from Natsumi and avoid her confession, and then…

“This will finally...finally end…”

I continued muttering those words.

The sense of misery creeping into my heart was forcing me to hug my knees and curl into a ball on the bed. If I didn’t squash myself like that, I felt like I would instead be crushed by the hopeless reality I was up against.

“...?”

The ringtone of my smartphone disturbed the mood. I reached out towards the low vibrating phone, and checking the display, there was “Natsumi” written on it.

“—!”

A soundless scream escaped from my lips.

This wasn’t the first one. The number of messages I received during the past two days piled up like snow, transmitting a silent coldness to my heart.

“This was really tasty!”, “Let’s visit it together next time, okay?”, “Hey, listen, Riichi. Mom was so mean!”, “I’m sleepyyy”, “Look, look! What a cute kitty!”.

They were about such daily moments.

“Riichi, are you okay?”, “Are you feeling bad?”, “Please tell me if there’s anything I can do, okay?”, “If there’s something troubling you, talk to me. This Natsumi will take care of it!”, “I’m worried about you.”

As well as words of concern towards my clearly suspicious conduct.

“Did I do something?”, “I’m sorry. I’m probably bothering you with all these messages…”, “Why won’t you answer…”, “Maybe I should call you…”, “I want to talk to you, Riichi…”.

And her anxiety.

The total amount of messages I received from her in these three days passed 50. My heart shook after each one I read, almost making me respond to her on the spot, but…

“Sorry. Sorry, Natsumi…”

Tearing up here was probably pointless. But that was all I could do. If I actually answered her, then no matter what happened, it would only lead to the future I was trying to avoid.

—Ring-Ring. Ring-Ring. Ring-Ring.

The sound of the interphone echoing through my silent room made my shoulders instinctively twitch. I stuck to pretending to be out and the ringing finally stopped.

If it was the home delivery, they will probably come again tomorrow. That’s what I thought.

—Click!

I heard the opening of a lock, and then…

“Riichi. You are there, aren’t you?”

The one who casually opened the door to my room was my mother who was supposed to be at her parents’ home.

“Why…”

“Do you even have to ask. The school contacted me, saying you were skipping school without notice. And just as I arrived to see what was going on, I ran into her.”

“Who?”

I went ahead and asked anyway, but I already knew the answer to that. There was only one person who could possibly visit my room during the Christmas Eve…

“Sorry, I came.”

It was Natsumi. She anxiously peeked inside the room to answer my question.

“Oh you, why did you make your room such a mess. I’m sorry, Natsumi-chan.”

“Ah, no. It’s fine.”

“Well then, take your time.”

With those words, she slammed the door shut and left, leaving me and Natsumi face-to-face. All I could do was stare at her with hazy eyes as she removed her red coat.

“Why…”
“Sorry for coming without notice.”

“Why did you come? I did something bad to you, you know? I even ignored your messages. So, why…”

“Because I know you would not do something like that. Because I believe that the faithful Riichi I know would never do something like that without a good reason.”

Ahh, Natsumi, why...why are you so…

“Kind to a fault…”

My gloomy mutter revealed just how much I wanted to talk with her. If I did not desperately hold it in, I would definitely cry.

“Tell me, Riichi. What happened? Tell me. I’m sure I can help you.”

To her words, I could do nothing but shake my head.

“I don’t understand…”

Neither what was going on, nor what I had to do...I knew nothing...nothing at all.

“It’s okay, Riichi. I will stay with you...so…”

“...Natsumi.”

Her body felt tiny in my embrace, yet it was warm without hope.

“There, there.”

Her repeating words were filled with kindness.

“Everything will be okay, Riichi.”

Hearing her call my name filled me with supreme bliss and I failed to hold back my feelings.

“I love you.”

And those words leaked out from my mouth.



“Yeah. Me too.”



Even though I knew full well what they would bring…



"I love you. I love you, Riichi."



Along with the overflowing happiness came that outcome.



“Ah—”



And once again, Natsumi vomited blood and collapsed.

While hugging her growingly limp body, I cursed the cruel world.

Why...why!

All I wished for was her love!

Was fulfilling your love with the girl you loved something so bad!?






“Natsumi, I hate you.”

Thus came the eighth Christmas Eve. Those were the very first words I spoke the moment I arrived at our meet-up spot.

I rejected her. At this point, that was all I could think of. I acted as usually the past two days, so If I suddenly said these words to her now, what face would she make, I wondered. What would she feel?

Would she cry?

Get angry?

Or maybe, she would just leave without saying a word?

But, there was no way she would confess to someone like—!?

“Hey, Riichi.”

Ah...Ahhh—

“I don’t know what happened, but…”

Ahh, stop. Don’t say it, Natsumi—

“There’s no way I would believe you when you tell me that with such a miserable expression.”

How...How can you be caressing my cheek so gently? Why are you looking at me as if you are about to cry?

“Natsumi, why…”

“Riichi, you are bad at lying. You are too sincere, kind and are unable to hurt others. So I could easily see through your lies.”

“That’s not—”

“It is. Just as you’ve always been next to me, so was I. Otherwise, I would still be that same loner, you know?”

“Natsumi...Natsumi...Natsumi…”

Just what the heck am I doing? Wasn’t I trying to reject her just a second ago? Then why...why am I hugging her now?

“Natsumi, I just can’t do it...I really do love you, in the end.”

Why...Why was I saying something like this? Despite knowing that she will once again…



“Yeah.”



Say those words to me…!



"I love you. I love you, Riichi."






And I woke up. The morning of the December 22 greeted me with the usual coldness.

And this marked the ninth time I saw this scenery. Whatever I do it never works, I was assaulted by such, almost empty, sense of hopelessness.

I had to force Natsumi not to confess.

That was all I had to do, and yet...something so simple turned out to be so, so hard.

Perhaps because I’ve repeated this for so many times, I already stopped feeling anything about the refreshing winter morning. I got ready for school with almost mechanical movements and opened my door, about to head out, when...

“Kya!?”

I heard quite a cute voice and looked up, and there was a girl fallen on her backside.

“Oh, my bad.”

It seemed that she was walking in the hallway just as I opened the door. I held my hand out to her and she obediently grasped it with her tiny one.

“Are you alright?”

“Ah, yes. Thank you very much.”

And then, Just as I took a proper look at this brightly smiling girl, I opened my eyes wide in shock at how peculiar she looked.

She looked quite snug in her hooded jacket, and even her height barely reached up to my chest. She had good looks, but didn’t seem to be from my generation, so probably a middle schooler. But all those were trivial. What caught my eye was her hair and eyes.

Her hair was such a pure white that I wondered whether it was completely colorless, and her eyes were such a vivid fluorescent blue that I also wondered whether they were made to be contrastive to her hair. I was fixated so much on that pure colour I thought they were going to suck me in.

“Umm…?”

It seems she found it weird that I just stood and kept holding her hand, she looked up at me with an innocent gesture.

“Sorry.”

I released her hand in a hurry and was about to walk away, when…

“Please hold out just one more time!”

I felt like I heard that voice, but when I turned around the white-haired girl was already running in the hallway with her back on me.

“Did someone like that actually live in this apartment?”

With that doubt in my head, I continued my way towards the school. My every step felt heavy and full of hopelessness.

After all, whether I shut myself inside or not, Natsumi would still come to me.



"Sorry. Did you wait long?"

And, on the ninth Christmas Eve, Natsumi showed up at the usual place in the usual clothes. A red coat that I got too used to seeing, and matching clothes she probably gave a lot of thinking to for this special day. No matter how many times I repeat this, I still find her beaming smile charming.

“Those clothes really do suit you.”

“...Really?”

“Why would I lie about something like this?”

“Ahah.”

When I saw her laugh so blissfully, I thought to myself, Just what did she do to deserve this? Why she...only she...had to keep dying?

“Let’s go already, Riichi.”

“Sure.”

“...Ah.”

“Should I stop?”

“No, it makes me happy.”

Just walking hand in hand with her like this made me indescribably happy. Regardless of how many times I repeated this, my heart still throbbed as lively as ever.

“Look, look! Aren't these clothes cute?"

“Oh, you are right. They would fit you perfectly, don’t you think?”

“Eeh, you think so?”

“I’m sure of it. Wanna try it on a bit?”

Having a casual talk...

“Riichi, let me have a bite.”

“Oh, okay.”

“...Can you feed me?”

Asking to be pampered…

“Hey Riichi. It’s fun, isn’t it?”

“Indeed.”

The fact that I could spend this time with her was filling me with utmost happiness. That’s why…

“I didn’t think we would really manage to sneak in.”

“Someone actually forgot to lock it. Lucky for us.”

That’s why, I was feeling so settled on the inside.

I wonder how long was it since the last time we snuck into the deserted school and crawled up to the rooftop. The dazzling streets, even the Abies Tower waiting to be lit up… the world shrouded in silence was sparkling like never before.

"Hey, Natsumi. Do you remember? The time we met for the first time."

“Yeah, I do. Rather, I would never forget something so important.”

Winter’s cold wind blew. Its coldness made us curl up and draw closer to each other without any particular order, and we started conversing softly, in almost whispers.

“It sure was amusing. I was here offering you a hand, but you were stubbornly refusing it.”

“T-That’s… You were a totally unfamiliar boy, so I was scared to hold your hand.”

“You really were like a hedgehog. Being unsociable and all.”

“I-I can say the same about you. You were strangely distant yourself.”

“Really? Though I doubt I was on your level.”

“Enough with that talk already.”

Seeing her pout made me feel unimaginably sad. A little more and she would, once again, utter those very words...and then…

“Kh!”

“...Riichi?”

“Nothing, don’t worry about it.”

At this moment, I realised something. When I thought back to Natsumi’s death scene, there was a part of me that had already accepted it as a natural outcome.

At first, it was a terrible shock. I had been faced with an inescapable reality where nothing changed no matter how many times I repeated it, and the pain lanced through my heart.

That pain had vanished now, though.

Despite how all-encompassing it was.

Despite the absolute despair it left me in.

Despite all that, there was a part of me, deep in my heart, that had accepted it.

—I see. It seems I have long since exceeded my limits, huh.

“Natsumi, let’s go somewhere a bit higher.”

“Okay, sure.”

“Be sure to hold my hand properly this time, okay?”

“Fine already, geez.”

We climbed up on top of the pile trash while joking around. “Yakisoba”, “Okonomiyaki”, “Red Team”, “Score Board”. Among such signboards, there were some with their nails sticking out due to rough treatment. It took us quite some trouble to tread on carefully so as not to step on any of them, but it was nothing compared to the view we got in exchange as we arrived at the top.

“This is amazing.”

“It truly is.”

We were a level above even the rooftop. The look from here showed us an even bigger part of Misono than before. Light seemed to be sucked up from the residential area centered around the Abies Tower, as if the stars were being sent towards the night sky. Its faint light illuminated my weary heart.

Before we noticed we were sitting atop the signboards and leaning against each other in silence.

“...”

“...”

This gentle silence almost seemed like it didn’t wish to part with us.

My hand on top of hers seemed like it was gathering courage for what was to come.

The transmitted warmth strengthened my resolve bit by bit.

“Natsumi.”

While calling her name, I apologised in my heart.

“...Yes?”

Ah, for her to make such an anxious expression...just how am I looking at her now, I wonder.

“Face towards me.”

Sorry. Sorry, Natsumi. I’ll apologise, so please, forgive me.

When I touched her cheek, as if trying to wipe my own inner tears, it had gotten so cold that I ended up covering them with both of my hands, but...

“Sorry, turns out my hands are cold too.”

“That’s not the c—mph!”

A faint sigh escaped through her nose. The sensation stirred up my heart and I pressed my lips even stronger. And without stopping, I gently laid down her body on top of the worn out signboards.

“Natsumi.”

Looking down at her, she seemed to have sensed something and was looking back at me wide-eyed, but in the end, she gave me a big nod with a flushed face. Ended up nodding, rather.

“...It’s okay.”

Her delicate and frail voice made my suppressed carnal desires burst. Comprehending what I was about to do, the stimulation sent shivers down my spine. And then, I apologised to her once more…

“Mph!”

Yet contrary to my violent desires my kiss was gentle so that I would not hurt her. And then, I pressed my body on top of her, and…

“Ah-, khah—!”

Gently and affectionately, I put my hands on her neck.

“Ri..ichi…?”

“...Natsumi.”

“Are...you...cry...ing…?”

That’s right, Natsumi. I am crying.

I don’t know what to do anymore...I feel miserable, lonely and completely lost. Why was I doing something like this? I never intended it at all. But I’ve had enough of it. Of seeing Natsumi dying a senseless death. However many times I repeat, I end up seeing her death. Tell me, just what the hell is going on? Just...Just leave us be…

“I’m at my limit…”

My heart was already in tatters. I knew neither what I was doing nor what I had to do. All I wanted was to be by her side, to spend fun days with her...so why was I doing something like this?

Aaah, I’ve really lost it now.

But...But this might be a possibility, right?

If I kill Natsumi and then myself, maybe we can escape this loop?

This is the only hope I have left…

“Ri...i...chi…”

“Natsumi…”

“...It’s okay.”

Thank you. I gave her another gentle kiss for saying those words. Even as my love for her spilled out from me, my hands didn’t loosen the grip. Instead, I gripped tighter and tighter, in proportion to how my feelings strengthened during all these repeats.

I love you, Natsumi.

I love you very much.

So, forgive me.

Listen, Natsumi.

My heart cannot stop it anymore.

So, please let me leave them here.

If I do that, then I can keep doing my best again.

If this method doesn’t work, I’ll try even harder next time.

I will do my best to avoid your confession.

So…

“...”

I wonder how long I’ve been in that position. I kept strangling her neck, driven by the feelings of apology and conviction, and when I finally came to my senses, she was no longer uttering a single word.

“...”

So...my job here was done.

It was time for me to follow.

“See you later.”

With those words, I jumped down from the roof. As I was falling head-first, I caught sight of the Abies Tower being lit up. Haha, seeing it alone is quite pointless.

And, before I could even hear the dull sound of impact, I lost my consciousness.






When I opened my eyes, it was still the 22nd and I had returned. That realisation filled me with a dull sense of despair.

Just what the hell am I doing?

I was full of such helplessness.

Really, just what am I doing?

"... It's okay."

"Aah...AAAAAAAAAAAGHHHHH!"

I did not want that!

I never intended that!

I never intended to do that, yet…

"I killed Natsumi…"

I strangled her...with these hands.

But...but I couldn't help it.

I was at my limit…everything I did was useless…but I did not want to see her die...so I decided…it was better to…kill her with my own hands and die with her…

but...why…

why…

why did I…

"Why!?"

FUCK! FUCK!

What the fuck is this! What the fuck is going on!?

Again!? Do I have to go through this again!?

If today is 22nd again, I have to start over again, don’t I!?

And I have to once again hear her confession on the Eve and watch her die!?

This…

This is madness…

Just how many more times do I have to go through this…

“But, maybe I should just give up…”

Those words leaked out of my mouth.

I absentmindedly rose myself and walked towards the desk like a ghost, grabbing scissors from the pencil pot. I wasn’t thinking at all. With natural movements, I pointed its tip towards my throat, and…

“Don’t!!”

Came a sharp voice, and along with it, an impact. I hit my head on the floor during the fall. While I was seeing stars, I could feel the scissors being snatched away from me.

“Haah...haah… what do you think you are doing!?”

When I opened my eyes there stood a girl.

Hair white like snow. Fluorescent blue eyes that stood out even in this dim room. There was no doubt. It was the same girl I met at the entrance during the last loop.

“Who are you.”

My voice sounded so deep even I was surprised. It was so devoid of emotions it made the girl twitch. Haha, did I sound so scary?

“Hey, tell me,” my sharp voice shook the atmosphere. With those words as a start, my emotions swelled up…“what is this? What the hell is going on? Why do I have to go through this over and over and over...come on...please, tell me what the hell is going on!!!”

Before I noticed, I was grasping the girl by her collar.

“I don’t understand anything! What the hell is going on!? Why did Natsumi have to die so many times!? Why did I have to go through this so many times!? Why kind of situation is this!?”

As I stared down at her while breathing wildly, she looked up at me with a face on the verge of tears.

“What’s with that face? It’s you, isn’t it? You are making me go through this, aren’t you!? Then why...why are you looking at me like that!? Answer me!!”

Aah, what am I doing. A voice from some calmer part of my head addressed me. What was I trying to achieve by getting violent on this girl?

Even so, the girl wasn’t scared by my threatening attitude and, after looking down for a moment, she looked back up with a determined expression.

“How many times is it now?”

That single sentence made me certain. This girl knew that I was going through a loop.

“Like hell I know that. I don’t remember it anymore.”

“...I’m sorry.”

Her voice carried with it a sense of dampness. She sounded as if it was really her fault that I was looping. My violent anger started to gradually die down.

“Ah...”

“You are amazing. You kept going until you became like this. You really are amazing.”

Her clear voice resounded close to my ear. Filled with kindness to the utmost, it silently seeped into my heart.

She hugged me.

As if to console me, she gently wrapped her arms around me and cuddled her cheeks to me. Her touch set free yet another emotion locked inside my heart.


“Uwa....aah, hic...”

“Good boy.”

“Waa...aaah...”

Right after I thought about how pathetic I was, I started tearing up and I could no longer suppress my voice.

“It must have been so painful. It must have been so hard. But it’s okay now.”

Her kind words loosened my heart. Day after day, I hopelessly wondered why I was going through...why did I have to repeat something so painful so many times.

Why was this happening only to me? Did I have to keep doing my best even when no one else understood me? Everything that weighed on me, everything I endured all this time had gushed out fromme.

“Uwa...ahh… Ueh… Aah.”

“...”

I buried my face in her shoulder as she gently patted my back. All this time, I wished to lean on someone like this.

As I was continuing to loop, only the fatigue kept accumulating in my heart and I felt helpless.

Nothing I did bore fruit, however I tried it only lead to a dead end.


Only sad and painful memories kept piling up day after day, and I was on the verge of collapsing.

“......”

She held me without saying a word.

Me, someone who killed Natsumi.

This gentle sense of relief made me want to brazenly entrust my whole body to her.



“Ah.”



However, this time did not last forever.

A faint vibration reverberated through the room. It was the sound of my smartphone that I threw on the bed. And on its screen was one word - “Natsumi”.

The moment I saw that, I hugged the girls waist in fright.

I can’t do it.

I… Just what kind of face should I make when I meet Natsumi? She would certainly not be aware of what I did. But I do.

I remember the slenderness of her neck and how I strangled it.

So, how was I supposed to meet her!?

“I can’t…”

a weak mutter escaped my lips.

The smartphone keep on vibrating as if urging me on.

While I was in that state, the girl gently pulled herself away.

“Riichi-san.”

The moment she separated from me, I felt assaulted by a sense of loneliness akin to abandonment. I looked at her, who was staring straight at me, with imploring look.

“Please meet Natsumi-san.”

She was so cruel. I urged her to tell me why was she asking something so harsh from me.

“From now on, I will be with you too. So, please, meet Natsumi-san. Please don’t run away from your feelings.”

I was overpowered by her appealing words and the urging brilliance in her eyes, and I picked up the phone.

“Ah, Riichi? Where are you now? The first period is about to start.”

“...Ah.”

I was momentarily overcome with various emotions and lost my words.

“Natsumi.”

Even so, the reason I managed to call her name was thanks to this girl who was embracing my back. Her hands that kindly rubbed my back gave me just enough courage to squeeze out my voice.

“...Sorry. I’m not coming to school today. Let’s meet...tomorrow.”

After barely managing to convey that, I cut the call without waiting for her answer. And then, I heaved a big sigh. That was just how big a burden was placed on my heart.

“Just what I expected from you, Richi-san. Good boy, good boy.”

The way she confronted me like a mother to her child made me want to cling to her. I wanted to shamelessly bawl my eyes out and entrust my weakened heart to her.

“Who are you…?”

However, after hearing Natsumi’s voice, I managed to stop myself on the verge of it and managed to pose my question. Hearing it, she beamed me an enchanting, sweet smile and answered.

“My name is Rinka. In order to save you two, I came from the future.”

4 comments: