The Lying Cicada and the Blue Sky
"Miin-min-min. Miin-min-min. I'm a cicada!"
Under the dark black sky, I could hear nothing but the buzzing of an unknown creature.
It was a night around the middle of summer, on which the heat was coming back in full force. When I heard that voice suddenly ring out, I was abnormally fearful.
What was this? What was going on? My head spun, unable to get my thoughts in order.
I hid in my futon and covered my ears, but the voice showed no signs of stopping. In fact, it seemed to get ever louder.
I was feeling even sicker than usual today, and yet the voice mercilessly rung in my eardrums.
"My mistake! I'm a human! Just a human, so it's okay! Please open up! Heey, open up! Please! OPEN! Don't worry, I'm not shady! HEEEY!"
The dilapidated, tiny, forty-year-old apartment was violently shaken by the creature's knocking. The creaking of the squeaky, badly-fitting door echoed all around.
My vision spun with fear and anxiety. My head was short-circuited by the sudden event.
"Open up! I'm not shady! I'm really just a human!"
The creature continued to insist she was a human in a cute voice. Of course, a normal human would never say "I'm really just a human." So she was clearly something else.
"I know you're in there! I am not seedy, suspect, or dubious! And I'm not a cicada or anything! No problems here, just please open the door! Open it! ...Murderer! Rapist! Guy with a lolita complex!"
The things she said got stranger and stranger. At this rate, the neighbors would complain for sure. I had to do something.
I cautiously approached the entryway. As ever, I heard insults of "Open up! Bean sprout farm owner! Excavator of rare metals!" through the door. Well, I wasn't sure if the last one was an insult.
Just then, I heard knocking on the wall from the neighboring room. Surprised, my body faltered and fell, and my hand landed on the doorknob.
Since I'd forgotten to lock the door, it slammed right open.
There were no cicadas at the door. Instead, there was a short girl who resembled a small animal.
Surprised by the sudden lack of a door to knock, she staggered a bit and let out a strange yelp.
"Ah! You finally opened up!"
What on earth was happening.
"Don't worry, not a cicada! I'm a human, it's fine!"
No, that wasn't it. That wasn't where the problem was.
I experienced for the first time an event that was, at the time, so far beyond my comprehension that I couldn't do anything. I froze on the spot and stared vacantly.
"Good afternoon! Oops, my bad. Good evening! It's me, Semiko! I've come today to repay the favor!"
"Semi? So you are a cicada?"
She continued to speak, leaving me no chance to make that comeback. That's what it felt like she was doing, anyway.
It's not that I don't have any memory at all of what followed. But I soon lost consciousness, unable to process the situation. I collapsed in a heap in the entryway while she introduced herself.
My senses cut out with her adorable panicking voice in the background.
This is the story of that lying cicada.
"Are you okay?! Firetruck! Somebody call a firetruck!"
When I regained consciousness and opened my eyes, she - Semiko - was squatting beside me, flustered.
"Whoa! Whew! I was really scared when you just collapsed!"
Semiko in her white one-piece was especially radiant in contrast to the jet blackness outside. She wore a single orange ribbon under her chest that stood out like a flickering flame.
She reminded me more of "the ghost of a flowering plant" than a cicada. Making hovering sound effects and all.
Before I could finish, Semiko pushed my words aside.
"Good evening! I'm the human Semiko! I've come today to repay the favor!"
"Er, who are you? And why were you saying you were a cicada at first?"
I had lots of questions, but that was what I wanted to know first of all.
Suddenly, sweat formed on Semiko's brow. Her face got stiff, her legs trembled, and she started to whistle unnaturally.
"D-Did I say thaaat?"
"You did. And something about the Cicada Kingdom."
"Waaaugh! Now I've done it...", Semiko mumbled, crouching and holding her head.
"Aaaa, I can't believe I screwed up right off the bat... Me, who they called the Japanese Cicada Genius..."
"Right, well. I don't get it, but could you take off your shoes?"
Semiko's face went red like an apple, and she hurried to take them off, then ran to the entrance. When she tripped on the step there, I began to have doubts about the future of the Cicada Kingdom.
"This is something I really shouldn't be saying, so I'm really begging you to keep it secret..."
Though no one was around, Semiko spoke in a whisper about apparently confidential matters. The explanation took nearly three hours, so I'll spare you the non-essentials.
Evidently, a long time ago, I had saved her.
"When everything was looking super no good for me, you were all "Waaah!" and saved me!"
Semiko rapidly talked on and on with excitement. The fact she was still saying all this in whispers seemed to have fallen out of her brain.
It was a very aimless explanation, but that seemed to be the gist of it.
Of course, I had absolutely no memory of it. So I asked her for details.
"It'd be really bad to say any more. If I did, it's entirely possible that the people of the Cicada Kingdom would use a curse kind of thing to give Marukuru anorexia..."
And I got another aimless answer.
According to what Semiko told me, this "Marukuru" was her pet. He liked fish, and he hated water bottles.
He sounded very cute, a creature that had a habit of curling up in kotatsus in the winter, and that made this "meooow" noise.
Yes, he was obviously a cat. A cicada keeping a cat...
"If Marukuru got anorexia, he wouldn't be all fluffy anymore... That's something I have to keep from happening. A Marukuru who isn't all fluffy is like a cat who isn't all fluffy!"
"Right. Because he's a cat."
Forgetting the topic at hand, she went on feverishly about Marukuru and his fluffiness and the retaining of such. Then suddenly, as if remembering the topic...
"But that doesn't matter!", she yelled, and got back on track.
Semiko went on to explain how she had to somehow return the favor for me saving her, or else Marukuru would be stricken with a curse that made his fur come off in clumps, tripping over herself all the while.
"So I have no choice but to repay the favor to do something about that curse-like thingamajiggy...", Semiko lamented, finally concluding her explanation.
I... see? Is that how it is?
No, there was still no way I could understand.
I had never heard of a "Cicada Kingdom" since the day I was born, and I didn't intend to hear it ever again. I couldn't even consider such a thing with all common sense.
"Err... Hold on a second. Let me sort things out."
"You bet! Sort until you can sort no more!"
I frantically thought. Maybe it was how sick I felt, but my brain just wouldn't work. I was unable to figure out this ridiculous situation.
While I pondered, Semiko got bored and went around staring the plants in my room with scrutiny.
I struggled to think what about them she found so interesting. Sometimes she hid her face and quietly giggled. Her wide grin was fully visible from where I was. It was honestly scary.
"That, um, Cicada Kingdom, was it? Where would that be?", I asked, my thoughts in disarray.
Semiko thought a few seconds and looked around. Then she pointed to the north window and said smiling, "I think it might be thataway!"
Ahh, perhaps she was a full-blown moron. Now I could be fairly sure.
"I see. Thataway."
"Yep! If it weren't thataway, whataway would it be?"
"I see. I gotta go to the bathroom."
"Understood! See ya!"
I was nearly convinced now that I'd never be able to get my thoughts in order in such an unreal environment. So I stumbled unreliably over to the bathroom.
I wondered if my cold was coming back. The pain in my joints, like they were being constricted, made me feel like fainting every time. Still a little woozy, I tried to think.
Was she, Semiko, really a cicada girl who came from the Cicada Kingdom?
No, that couldn't be. More than likely she was just an aloof nut with a few screws loose.
And this was the kind of nutso girl who it was best not to get too involved with. No doubt this would end in calling the police.
I'll have the shady girl take her leave. That was the natural conclusion I came to after a few minutes of thinking.
"Now how should I get her to leave...", I mumbled, leaving the bathroom.
For some reason, Semiko was practicing somersaults. Flip.... Flip... Splat. She flubbed one.
Semiko held her forehead in pain; apparently she hit her head.
"What are you even doing?"
Instantly, Semiko hid the hand on her forehead behind her back, acting like nothing happened.
"I-I was bored and wanted to kill time, so I was doing somersaults," Semiko admitted in embarrassment.
Shortly after saying that, her eyes flew wide open, and she continued.
"U-Um, but you see! In the Cicada Kingdom, being able to do somersaults is a proof of adulthood!"
"I-Is that so."
"Yeah, so, doing somersaults just 'cause isn't embarrassing at all in the Cicada Kingdom!"
"I... see. Impressive."
Semiko chuckled, proudly beaming. Clearly it was an afterthought, as the way she was brimming with confidence seemed to imply she was thinking "Ha, I sure fooled him!"
"I guess if I were born in the Cicada Kingdom, I'd be a prodigy."
I could make all kinds of comebacks to that. But since she seemed to have no ill intention, I had the gut feeling that people from the Cicada Kingdom would do no harm to humans.
But I only thought it; I didn't say such a meaningless thing out loud.
"Ahh! It's time! I gotta go!", Semiko suddenly shouted.
It was four at night. Nearly five hours since I'd opened the door.
"Well, see you next time! Sorry about today!"
Semiko stood up and flew to the door. And exactly as before, she tripped on the step.
I could swear I saw blue and white stripes under her one-piece... but I pretended not to see.
"I-I-If you'll excuse me!", she stood up and said red-faced, then ran outside.
Gone with the cold wind, I again could only stare. Two seconds later, I plopped down on my futon.
What happened today was only a dream, I thought, and prayed, as I gave up consciousness.
I woke up to simmering heat. I felt like I'd had the strangest dream, though I couldn't remember what it was exactly.
I felt much better than yesterday. My head and body were light.
As I tried to recall my dream, I noticed the murderous heat of the room. Before I went crazy from heat stroke, I hurried to turn on the air conditioning. Cool air quickly began to flow and lower the temperature.
I took off my sticky clothes and went to take a shower to wash off the sweat.
"What kind of dream was it..."
Since I started living alone, I'd begun talking to myself a lot. I spoke to the wall as I showered.
Soon, I was able to remember last night's strange dream, almost as if it had been real.
Ah yes, Semiko.
It felt strangely real for a dream.
Just what did that dream mean?
I couldn't help pretending that it was just a dream. I got out of the shower early and returned to my room.
Thanks to the cool air conditioning, within ten minutes, my skin even felt a little chilly.
Suddenly, I looked to the clock and saw the hour hand on five.
Oh, now I've done it. It was already 5 PM.
My cold was really wreaking havoc on my usual routine.
I hurried to get ready to head for the library. But I stopped.
I would only be able to study at the library for about two or three hours if I left now. I might as well stay at home to study.
I took my classical literature reference book out of my backpack and flipped through looking for where I'd stopped two days ago.
Like always, I didn't really understand any of it. I sighed and reluctantly started answering questions.
Every time I confronted these classical literature questions, I felt an immense hate for the person who came up with college entrance exams.
Grinding my teeth over questions I knew nothing about, I went on answering in silence.
About six hours passed. I had made some real progress today, something I hadn't managed in a while.
I didn't hate studying so much when I could get a sense that I was actually getting smarter, albeit very slowly. It felt particularly nice to understand questions I didn't before.
I was in a pretty good mood, having finally gotten over questions that had stumped me, all by myself.
Taking a break after six hours, I skipped around my room.
Suddenly, I noticed pink stationery that was clearly not mine.
I immediately had a bad feeling. I could easily gleam that my good mood was being threatened.
I fearfully picked up the stationery. On it was written, in cute handwriting:
"I'll be visiting again tomorrow to repay the favor. I like carbonated drinks, so it'd be great if you could prepare some soda."
Though my cold had long since healed up, I faltered. Just as I finished reading, I heard a voice at the door. Yes, hers.
"Good evening! It's Semiko! The human Semiko! Please open up!"
So yesterday had not been a dream. The high-pitched girl yelling outside was proof of that.
I ran over to Semiko as fast as I could move.
"Wow, you're fast today! Did you do weight training?"
I let Semiko, saying detached nonsense as usual, into the room for the time being. Perhaps it was too late, but I was concerned about people getting the wrong idea.
No, but would they be mistaken? It was undeniably true that this hopeless, aloof nutso-ette existed. My stomach churned.
Looking at Semiko, so whimsical I doubted whether her feet were on the ground, made me feel somehow melancholic.
Once inside, Semiko quickly began to speak.
"Sorry I had to leave so suddenly yesterday!"
"No, um, I don't mind. In fact, I was grateful..."
"I will absolutely, positively repay the favor today!"
"No, there's really no need to..."
"Leave it to me! My repayment'll be like a crane's times seven!"
Oh, she wasn't even listening. I sighed once again and gave up on thinking of how to force the nutso-ette out.
To drive out Semiko, eyes glittering with motivation, would be asking the impossible.
Thus, it would be easier to quickly fulfill her conditions so she'd leave.
Giving it all up, I looked at Semiko and asked, "So, how will you repay me?"
Semiko was stuck for a bit. Then she looked up and spoke with confidence.
"Er, I don't... know?"
"You don't know..."
"It's for you to decide what you want me to do."
Indeed, it made more sense for a repayment to be on the terms of the one being paid back. That was logical.
I pondered for a bit. A while, actually, since I wasn't having any good ideas.
Meanwhile, Semiko, with all too much time on her hands, started swinging the curtains left and right. I was already getting used to that stuff.
"I know," I said, having come up with a plan.
"Get me into the college of my dreams."
If Semiko could grant any wish I had like magic, I would be able to escape all that studying.
And if she unfortunately couldn't, and were to stay here a while, then at least she wouldn't bother me while I studied.
My studies were no doubt at the forefront for me right now. I couldn't mess them up. It was a perfect idea, if I do say so myself.
Semiko lifted herself up and briskly walked toward me. Once in front of me, she stopped and squatted down to peer into my face with her big eyes.
Her long black hair fell on my cheeks as if brushing them. I could smell her uniquely girlish scent.
Semiko put her palms against mine, and whispered...
"I sure hope you pass. Amen!"
Semiko returned to where she was before, smiled like a dog that had caught its master's frisbee, and asked in a lively voice "Okay, what's your next wish?"
Yeah, this wasn't looking good, I quietly thought.
The pointlessness continued.
When I wished "I want money," Semiko smiled and said "I only have three yen on me, so take this!", handing me tissue paper.
When I said "My shoulders are stiff," similarly to before, she prayed "Hope they get better! Amen!" Come on, at least massage them.
I gave up and said "Please, bring about world peace" like someone who'd attained enlightenment.
She took out a compass (which she apparently carried with her at all times), faced north, and shouted "Pleeease do something about it!"
This is just a guess, but I think Semiko was requesting the United States of America to usher in world peace.
It seemed pointless, and I wondered if it meant her own Cicada Kingdom couldn't do anything.
"What are you good at? What can you DO?!", I eventually asked with all honesty, as this was getting nowhere.
"I'm good at finding well-shaped stones!", Semiko said with seemingly all seriousness.
"H-How might that help in repaying me?"
"Maybe it could help when you're looking for well-shaped stones!"
All I could do was clutch my head.
We went on like this, and in the blink of an eye it had already been four hours.
All I'd learned in that time was that this girl had no particular abilities whatsoever to repay me. Nearly all desire to actually receive her help had long vanished.
While I sighed over the surreal responses to my desires, in the gap between requests, Semiko stared absentmindedly out the window.
As I looked at her, I found myself thinking back on my college life that started up this spring. That dull gray college life.
As soon as I got into the college I was presently attending, I thought that I wouldn't be able to study what I wanted to study here. I felt that this wasn't where I should be.
On the day of the entrance ceremony, I decided I would retake the exam to go somewhere else.
So I didn't try to make friends. It would be a waste to if we'd just part in a year. So I didn't go to freshmen events, class events, anything.
That was for the best, I kept telling myself.
All to retake the exam. All to retake the exam. Al l to re ta ke the ex am.
I didn't have a single friend, of course. Even my local friends had all gone far away, so I had no one to talk to.
Sometimes I'd go to college, but I didn't say a word. I hated the cafeteria, so I had no choice but to eat lunch in the bathroom.
I was never invited to any get-togethers, and communities which I was never a part of formed all around.
Everyone's laughter pierced me in the gut.
It got so painful to ride the train to college with the rising of the sun.
But I wasn't lonely. There were things I had to do. What else could I do? I wouldn't want to be friends with them anyway.
That was a lie. A big fat lie. I could bear being alone, but isolation from the group was too much.
I didn't feel that strongly that I wanted to abandon relations with people. But while I knew that, I couldn't make friends because that would interfere with my choice.
In a year, I had completely forgotten how to make friends.
Of course I wasn't unique, I recognized again and again. Even knowing that in my head, I isolated myself daily to protect my pride.
As a result, I was hopelessly alone.
Living that life had really depressed me, hadn't it.
I wondered, had it not been that way, if this enthusiastic nutso-ette would have come knocking on my door.
"I want a friend."
I found myself muttering. It took me a moment to realize I'd said it out loud.
When I did, my face went red like it had caught on fire.
Even I didn't know who I was directing that toward.
Perhaps it was just a hope that crawled from the depths of my heart as I reflected on college.
I still can't say if it really was a request directed at Semiko.
Semiko confidently spoke, hearing my words. She pointlessly stood up, looked at me with her big eyes, and -
"Starting today, I'll be your friend!", she said, pointing at me.
What? Not "I hope you get a friend, amen"? I didn't want this lunatic, I wanted someone more normal -
"Scratch that, BEST friend! Hey best friend, buy me a soda!"
Semiko interrupted my thoughts with eyes sparkling. How impudent.
"If you want a soda, just get one from the fridge."
I was very gloomy, but I felt like my day-to-day gloom was cleared up just a little bit.
As I watched Semiko drink noodle soup from a bottle in the fridge, I felt the tiniest gratitude for this bizarre cicada girl.
"Ah! It's time!"
Before we knew it, four at night came around.
"Time to go."
"Yeah, it's already morning, I gotta go!" Semiko hurriedly got ready to leave.
"Are you alright at night? I feel like you shouldn't go out so late."
"Er, well, in the Cicada Kingdom, you see, it's very recommended to go out late at night!"
"Maybe so, but it's dangerous in the human world."
"It's fine! If it comes to it, that's why I brought my stungun!"
Semiko dug through the bag she was always carrying.
A compass, a pastry, a well-shaped rock, a miniature light bulb, an alarm clock, a rock, lip cream, a rock, a rock, and another rock.
"Geez, you really love your well-shaped rocks..."
What was the point of carrying all this stuff around?
"Ahh... Not here. It should be in there..."
She spent some time fishing through her bag, but could not produce the vital stungun.
"Huh? That's weird...", she muttered. Suddenly, she found a macaron inside the bag, and her face brightened at once.
"Oh, I remember! I put macarons in instead of my stungun today!"
Then she opened up the bag of macarons in her hand and started munching on them.
"Ahh, macarons are so good..."
Happily stuffing her face with macarons, Semiko already seemed to no longer have any memory of the stungun. Such a simple girl.
"Well, it could be dangerous going home, then. I'll take you."
Semiko's expression got a little cloudier in response.
"Nope, that won't do. If you, uh, learn where the Cicada Kingdom is, then, uhh... Right! I won't be able to come here anymore!"
...Aha. So that was it. Well, I had no intention of digging too deep into it. Everyone has things they prefer not to open up about. Myself included, of course.
"I see. Then be careful on your way back."
"Alright! I'll go home like I've never gone home before!"
Semiko stood up and spun over to the entryway. She didn't trip on the step this time.
"Well, see you tomorrow!"
Outside, with a full and radiant smile, Semiko rhythmically stepped down the apartment stairs.
So she'd be back tomorrow, huh.
Seconds later, I heard someone falling over down below.
I sighed, but smiled a little.
The next day, my routine still had not recovered from the havoc my cold wreaked. I woke up at 4 AM and studied for about six hours from there.
Meeting my quota for the day, just as I was going to take a break, Semiko arrived.
Just like yesterday, she did surreal things to repay me, looked at my plants while I studied, polished well-shaped rocks, read stories, and generally killed time.
Perhaps taking my request to heart, she didn't disturb my studies.
And like yesterday, when four at night came around, Semiko left.
After that, I got in the bath, then did a little more studying.
Just as the sun announced the start of a new day, I dove into a world of dreams.
I had become rather nocturnal. It was something I seemed unlikely to come back from.
Still, talking with Semiko turned my mood around, and I was making good progress in my studies.
And yet, what really had Semiko come for?
That day, she had done little in the way of repayment, just talking to me to wasting time on her own.
But I supposed it wasn't a problem if she wasn't getting in the way of study.
"Come to think of it, Semiko..."
The fourth night since I met Semiko, I asked her something as she rolled around reading a particularly damaged book.
"Why do you only come at night?"
Semiko only visited after the sun set. And always left right at four at night.
So it was a question that was always on my mind.
"Blue skies...", Semiko whispered.
"I hate blue skies."
"You hate blue skies?"
"That's right. I like the night. I like the dark."
"Huh. Kind of like a mole."
"Moles are so cute! I love moles! But blue skies, hate."
"I like them, though."
Semiko looked just a little upset to hear it. But in a moment, her expression was back to normal like nothing happened, and I couldn't help but smile.
Still, it was a weird thought. People who hated blue skies must have been rare.
"So why are you studying?"
While I was thinking about that, Semiko threw a question back at me.
"Aren't you a college student? So why are you studying to take college entrance exams again? That's waaay more weird."
She hit on a painful spot.
There was indeed a reason why I wanted to take college entrance exams again.
But I wasn't yet at the stage where I could tell it to anyone, so I didn't.
To others, it would certainly look like a pointless endeavor, and I didn't have any idea if I could really do it.
Ordinary, average, and talentless as I was, I couldn't speak of it.
"Hmm, how should I say it... I'm not suited for science courses. So I'm thinking I want to go to a liberal arts college."
I was vague, and hid the core of the issue.
"I see. Where are you aiming for?"
"Hmm. Something like ___ University's literature department, maybe. It might be a little hard for me, though..."
When I said this, Semiko's face brightened.
"So you can get a job writing stories!"
"That's just part of it. I want to have a fun time at college."
Semiko took a tone of disappointment. She was obviously let down.
Hating to see her like that, I switched the subject and asked "Do you write, Semiko?"
Once again, her expression flipped and her eyes shone.
"Um, well, I've been thinking up all sorts of stories since I was teeny tiny! I'm almost done with the one I'm writing now!"
Semiko spoke innocently and unhesitatingly, like a child being complimented by her mother.
Ignoring the pricking pain in my chest, I asked Semiko, "What kind of story is it?"
"Well, it's a very strange sentimental love story that takes place in the Cicada Kingdom!"
Her long hair swaying as she made all kinds of gestures, she excitedly told me about the stories she was writing.
"I'm also thinking of writing a story about these weirdo aliens, and a story about a girl who stuffs herself full of macarons, and some others too. I haven't yet, but I definitely will someday!"
Semiko shone so brightly as she told me about all the stories she wanted to write, I had to look away a little.
That night, I listened intently to the tales Semiko spun as she glittered like the night sky.
"Huh? Long time no see."
The fifth day after I met Semiko, I woke up in the evening as usual. But unusually, I didn't study; I went to a bookstore in the heart of the city.
I had finally completed my book of questions, so I decided it was time to buy something a little more difficult.
At a big bookstore in the city, I was looking around for something good. Just then, I met Yuuki, a friend of mine from high school.
I had hung out with Yuuki often back then.
Always orderly, he was vice president of the student council, well regarded by teachers, and quickly proceeded to college on a recommendation.
I rarely met him after that, and only knew what I heard from the grapevine.
Since I last saw him, Yuuki had dyed his hair chestnut-colored. He wore a matching shirt and expensive-looking jeans, and generally, he certainly looked like a college student.
Unlike me, with my worn jersey and unkempt hair, he felt like a real one.
"Yeah, it's been a while."
"Whatcha doing here?"
When Yuuki asked, I unconsciously hid the question book I was holding behind my back.
"Oh, nothing really. You, Yuuki?"
"Me? Just wasting time before a get-together later. Man, the test corner here sure brings me back."
Yuuki picked up a nearby reference book and flipped through it.
"Aw, man, I forget most of this."
"Well, it's been over a year since you had to take it, so that figures, doesn't it?"
"You're right about that."
I felt an unfortunate distance between myself and Yuuki. Certainly, it was related to how Yuuki was experiencing college as it should be.
"So what are you up to now? Trying to get into college?"
My heart beat with surprise.
"Um. I'm a college student."
"Oh, you passed? Congrats!"
I lied at once. Yuuki knew nothing of my desire to retake the exam, so he instead congratulated me.
My heart beat like an alarm. I was attacked by an unknown feeling of awfulness.
"But that's great, that you picked a college."
"It's miserable having to do it twice. There's a guy who did that in my club, and he's super gloomy and out-there, man. It's nuts."
Yuuki laughed. I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.
"Man, though, you gotta cut your hair. Just 'cause it's summer -"
"I was thinking I'd cut it soon."
A lie. It would be a waste of money I could spend on books. Why would I cut my hair in the first place if I didn't have any fr -
"Anyway, we should go drinking!", Yuuki said, stopping my thought.
"It's been so long, and we're already out here, so why not? Oh yeah, and you canceled your cellphone after high school. We gotta trade numbers!"
That was when I realized I hadn't exchanged numbers ever since I got a new phone. So I didn't even know how.
"O-Oh, my bad. I left my phone at home."
"Huh? Aw, man."
Once more, I lied. I silently apologized to Yuuki as I grasped the phone in my pocket. It got wet with the sweat running down my palm.
"Whoa, look at the time. I gotta go."
"Alright. Have fun."
"Hey, next time we meet, let's go drinking!"
"Okay. See you."
I had a sort of premonition, one I was quite convinced of, that I would never meet Yuuki again.
As Yuuki left the bookstore for a bar far in the distance, I felt a loneliness I couldn't voice.
Once I couldn't see Yuuki anymore, with my head hung, I took the question book I was hiding behind my back to the register.
When I got home that day, I couldn't study. I was unable to keep any focus.
I read the texts in the book, but none of it stayed in my head. That had never happened before.
I knew why. It was what happened that afternoon. My fellow students were living the college life. And what was I doing?
But even if I knew, I couldn't do anything. I ground my teeth, worthless thoughts swirling through my head.
"What's wrong? Feeling bad?", Semiko asked, concerned. She was sitting nearby reading a story.
I hadn't seen her show that kind of concern in a while, since the day we first met.
"Hmm... But you look really pale."
Semiko saw through my lie. She was sharp only at times like these. It was like Semiko's big black eyes saw right through my entire body.
"Say, Semiko. Do you have any regrets?"
I found myself speaking to Semiko about my worthless feelings. I knew it wouldn't make things any better to say them. But it didn't stop me.
"I was prepared to take the exam again. I know that's the path I want to take. And yet really, somewhere in my heart, I regret it."
Like a dam opening up, the words spilled out of me.
"I still think about what it'd be like to live a normal life at college. And how if I could just make friends normally, I wouldn't have to suffer like this. And what if I never felt like retaking the exam at all."
The words I'd been keeping in for months came out all at once.
I made my decision, and moved ahead without looking aside. As I proceeded, the path behind me crumbled apart.
By the time I noticed, there was no going back. Still, I continued to tell myself at all times that this was the way I was going.
But I really couldn't help being anxious.
Semiko listened in silence.
"Semiko, do you have any regrets?"
I found myself asking again. I don't know why I was actually expecting some kind of answer from her. But as if clinging to it, I asked her.
Semiko took it all in, and smiled like always.
"Huh. Well, I don't regret a single thing. Not meeting you, not trying to repay you. And whatever happens in the future, in a year, in ten years, in a hundred years, aaall the way until I die, I won't regret it."
Semiko spoke with strong resolution. She looked straight into my eyes. I could feel that her words came straight from her heart.
Ahh... So I see.
Surely, for a long time now, I...
"You'll manage just fine! My repayment may not be going well either, but I'm still full of energy. So I'm sure you'll be fine too!"
"Shouldn't you focus on doing a good job repaying me?"
In response, Semiko pouted with puffed cheeks.
"Ahh! Oh no, I've gotta go!"
Semiko noticed it was now half past four, and ran outside in a great hurry.
It was the usual, but it felt especially lonely today.
"Well, see you tomorrow!"
After I saw frantic Semiko off, I took a look out the window. The sky was inky black.
I heard Semiko hopping down the steps, and saw her outside.
As she went out into the road, she grandly tripped. I thought I saw white underwear, but maybe it was just my imagination.
I suppose a lot had happened, but I must have been unusually tired that day.
After all, watching Semiko run, her left arm looked for a moment like a real cicada's.
I really must have been tired.
One day, Semiko kept flinging rubber bands around the steamy room.
"What are you doing?", I asked for some reason.
"Flinging rubber bands! It's super fun! It's the greatest leisure activity in the Cicada Kingdom, since they don't allow drinking and smoking!"
"I see." Letting Semiko's reply wash over me, I returned to studying.
It had already been six days since she arrived, come to think of it.
Watching Semiko flick rubber bands, I thought on the days I'd spent with her.
They were fun.
Now, I could say that with confidence. They were gloomy at first, but Semiko helped me just a bit to get along in my studies.
For the first time, I felt like her repayment was actually proving effective.
I had a sudden idea.
"Want to go to a festival tomorrow?", I invited.
Semiko stopped flicking rubber bands and stared at me in amazement. Like she had no idea what that word implied.
"Yeah, you know. A festival. Where you have all these food stands, and the portable shrines and stuff. That kind of festival. You're always trying to repay me, so I'd like to take you as thanks. I could treat you to shaved ice or something," I said, speaking a little rapidly.
"I can't go to a festival... There's blue skies in the day."
Why did Semiko hate blue skies so much? Pitch black skies just seemed so lonely.
Whenever I asked her about it, she'd look away and change the subject, so I really never knew the reason.
"No problem. This festival starts once the sun goes down."
Semiko delighted, her face shining like the sun. "Then that sounds great!"
"But -" Her face suddenly dimmed, and she swallowed her words.
"What is it?"
"Mmm... Nothing! But you know, it's just it's my first time going to a festival."
"They don't have them in the Cicada Kingdom?"
"No such thing in the Cicada Kingdom!"
It definitely felt like an afterthought.
But I'd learned in the past few days it would do no good to probe further. "Alright, then tomorrow will be your first festival. Enjoy it!"
"Can't wait! Looking forward to it more than playing in the sand!"
"That excited, huh?"
We laughed and had our usual sort of exchange, but I felt like Semiko was trying to force a smile a little more than usual.
After deciding when we'd meet tomorrow, Semiko left before dawn just like always.
I arrived at the meeting place thirty minutes before I told Semiko to get there. I finished my studying early and actually went to get a haircut.
I tried to ignore my own unusual excitement, and waited for Semiko at the entrance to the park.
Five minutes before the meeting time, I saw a girl in a white one-piece running in the distance.
The girl, her black hair swaying, was running over here so unsteadily it seemed like she could trip any moment. Oop, there she goes.
Semiko tripped nearby and skidded on the ground. She was the same as ever.
"Oww, it hurts...", she said, rubbing her scraped red knee.
"Geez... concrete is hard. If I could talk to concrete, I'd tell it to soften up and not hurt my knee!"
"Now what are you talking about? Grab on."
Grabbing my hand, Semiko staggered up. Like always, her one-piece was not dirtied by the fall.
"Thanks! Have a sign of my gratitude!"
Semiko took a green stone out of her pocket and handed it to me.
"It's fine. But what is this?"
"Found it on the ground. Pretty, huh? Looks tasty too."
"Thanks. You should really watch your step."
I put the green stone in my wallet and looked over the place where Semiko had tripped.
Nothing really sticking out, or any rocks one could easily trip over. There really are people who can trip over nothing.
"You said festivals have lots of shops, right?"
"That's right. Innumerable amounts."
"Whoa! I can't wait!"
Semiko was so filled with excitement, she looked ready to fly off at any moment.
I kept her in check and took out my wallet.
"To show my thanks, I'll treat you to anything you want today."
"Hooray! Thank you! I'll keep thanking you in the afterlife!"
"But only up to a thousand yen!"
"I'll thank you until I'm hungry!"
We went walking around the festival.
It seemed it really was Semiko's first time going to a festival, and she sighed with wonder at all the stands.
"Wowww... These are all shops?"
"Even the one with all the fishies?"
"Yep. Wanna try?"
"Yaaay! I'll try!"
Semiko was filled with excitement to go goldfish scooping for the first time.
She held the poi with trembling hands and scooped it through the water as forcefully as she could. Suddenly, the poi broke, and Semiko's three hundred yen went to a death at sea.
"Huh? That's weird...", she muttered in confusion. Even on future attempts, she was unable to scoop out a single goldfish.
"This is some new kind of fraud! It's phishing, with a P and an H!"
"I don't think that's quite what that is..."
Seeing Semiko in tearful lamentation, the old man running the stand spoke to her kindly.
"Oh, that's too bad, miss. Here, I'll let you have any goldfish you like as a consolation."
The old man launched into his common practice of helping those who couldn't catch any. With an experienced hand, he scooped out a fish, put it in a vinyl bag, and handed it to Semiko.
"Thanks! You're a god, old man!"
I wondered then if Semiko might be an easy target for actual phishing.
"It's like I'm eating a cloud!"
I sat with Semiko on the steps of a shrine as she happily ate cotton candy with a full-on smile.
Semiko seemed to be getting a little tired, too. Walking through crowds for an hour really hurts your legs, and I hadn't walked like that in a long time.
"Was the festival fun?", I asked Semiko, her cheeks full of delicious cotton candy.
"Suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuper fun! Just the best! I've totally been missing out not doing anything so fun before!"
"I wish those lottery tickets I pulled would've won, though..."
She pointed to the three-hundred-yen-each lottery inside and sighed.
Semiko had spent twelve hundred yen hoping to win a stuffed bear, and wore the four sparkling rings around her wrist.
She was quite upset to find that none of the four were winners. She looked menacingly at the lottery booth and sighed.
I had considered advising her to maybe not go in there, but I decided against it. I didn't want to estrange her.
And it was fun to watch Semiko's face flip between joy and regret in an instant.
We sat on the steps for a while talking about the festival. Before long, we ran out of things to say, enjoying a comfortable silence.
There was nothing bad about silence with Semiko. I didn't know anyone else like that.
All of a sudden, I was reminded of what Semiko said about hating blue skies.
I had the thought to try asking her the reason again.
"Um, there's actually something I need to tell you."
Semiko spoke before I could. Surprised that we decided to say something at the same time, I went with hers.
"What is it?"
Semiko looked down, her words stuck.
"I'm listening. Tell me."
She looked forward with determination and let out what she'd kept in.
"Well... I have to say goodbye to you today."
"Um, in the Cicada Kingdom, you only get seven days to repay a favor. So, um, er... I can't go to your house anymore."
Semiko said, downcast.
What was my expression like then?
How did it look to Semiko?
Who knows. I don't know.
Still, I looked up and stared at Semiko.
I noticed her long eyelashes, under her big doll-like eyes, were gleaming like they were wet. Her soft cheeks were faintly pink like cherry blossoms, in contrast to her jet black hair.
She didn't look like a cicada, but like a little fairy.
I realized I was hugging Semiko. Her body stiffened up at once. Still, I held her tight.
"You know, I really want to write stories too."
Words sealed deep in my heart leaked out my mouth.
"That's why I'm retaking the exam. You think it's funny, right? He's not talented, he doesn't know anything, yet this guy who's always been scientific changes schools because he wants to be a writer. When I don't even know what I'd write a story about, I just want to. And I know. I know I'm just an ordinary guy."
I didn't have any idea what I was saying anymore. I was too scared to look at Semiko, but I went on.
"But it's been a little different lately. I've seen a few things I want to write. It's still fuzzy, but I see them. And it's thanks to you, Semiko."
I spoke with loquacity that even surprised me.
The energy left Semiko's body, and her thin arms hugged around my hips.
"Leave the Cicada Kingdom somehow, and we'll meet again. I'll be writing until this time next year. Then we'll meet."
"...Okay," Semiko said in a trembling voice. It sounded like she was crying.
"We'll show each other our stories then. You're writing one too, about the strange sentimental love story in the Cicada Kingdom?"
"Of course. I'll always be writing them."
"Then it's on. Who can write the better story? I bet I can come out ahead."
I let my tightly-gripping arms go of Semiko's body. There were slight traces of tears on her face.
"I'm not planning to lose! I've got a masterpiece with a decade of planning in it!"
Semiko's voice wasn't trembling anymore. She stated her victory confidently.
"Then it's a promise. Come back next year to repay the favor. And we'll show each other our stories."
"Got it!", Semiko spoke with her chest out.
She really looked happy then.
At least, that's what I felt.
I studied wholeheartedly after that. Summer was over before I knew it, and school reopened.
The local library shut down, so I reluctantly went to college.
In the university library, turning a blind eye to the other students busy with classes, I studied for the entrance exam.
While I indeed couldn't make friends at college, I didn't feel the same loneliness I did before.
I would absolutely make it into the school of my dreams. If I didn't, Semiko would laugh at me. Thinking that allowed me to do my best.
I noticed the colorful leaves began turning gold. When they started to lose all color and fall from the branches, it was winter already.
I devoted all time awake to studying. I was at a desk for fifteen hours a day, longer even than when I was preparing for the exam the first time.
By the time my breaths were completely white, the first hurdle, the Center exams, arrived.
After decent results on the Center exams, the stage was set for the final showdown with the entrance exam.
I was confident I had done everything I could.
This year, I would end it. I would leave no regrets.
Thus my final battle began.
Even the main event went smoothly. With all the knowledge I'd amassed, my pen sped through the pages and I had plenty of time to spare.
"The test is over. Put down your writing implements."
The proctor's voice echoed through the room. As the chime rang to end it, I looked over my test as I recovered.
"Ahh... It's finally over."
There was not a shred of regret in me. I'd put it all in the answer sheet.
And my final entrance exam was over.
I made it into my first choice of school. I hadn't managed that the first time, so I couldn't even believe it.
When I heard the recorded voice on the phone tell me I was accepted, I didn't even celebrate.
"Are you sure you didn't call the wrong place?" was what I said first.
I called back about seven times, and just in case I asked from a public phone too. Every time, they said the word "accepted" until it lost all meaning.
Joy bubbled up within me.
"I did it. I did it!"
Delight began to control my heart. What a wonderful feeling.
After hearing the news, I headed for my parents' house to tell them. I urged the train to go faster. Hurry. Go faster. Faster, faster.
When I reached the station, I ran for the house where they were waiting. I was quickly gasping for breath, having not exercised in a while.
I stopped for a moment to take off my thick coat and looked up at the sky.
As if to celebrate my success, it was a perfect and cloudless sky.
And I remembered someone who hated blue skies. I unconsciously started running faster.
I kicked at the asphalt like I was running a hundred meter dash. My feet were light. They could take me anywhere.
It was getting hard to breathe, so I slowed down just a little. I looked upward and took in deep breaths.
A clear and piercing sky, just the same as it had been.
I took off running again with all my might.
After that, the flow of time really sped up.
"Why didn't you tell us?!"
I repented before my angry mother, bowing in apology about thirty times.
"You did good."
I'll never forget the joy I felt once my mother was gone and my father commended me.
The day after I informed my parents, I replied to the school I now go to.
They processed it quicker than expected, so without missing a beat, I headed to enter the university that accepted me.
By the time the cherry blossoms were a pretty pink color, I'd begun a new life on that campus.
I made many friends there. I didn't deny getting involved with anyone else like the year before.
I was truly glad to have made it in. It wasn't a lie.
And so I had a fulfilling time there.
I began to get a small start on my stories. I still haven't forgotten what I promised that summer.
Maybe the writing was rough. Maybe they were crude things to write about. Even so, I wrote every day.
After all, my competition was "a strange sentimental love story in the Cicada Kingdom." She was no doubt still writing her masterpiece now.
Whenever I closed my eyes, the seven days I spent with Semiko came to mind. I wouldn't lose either.
As the cherry blossoms began to scatter and summer neared, I noticed my restlessness.
For some reason, the season when young leaves turned green, and it was too hot for long sleeves, seemed to lift my mood.
I faintly smiled watching a canvas of fresh verdure pop up all together.
No, it wasn't "some" reason; I knew why. I had known long ago, and only pretended not to.
And I really did know what my face was like on the day of that summer festival.
Why did I run with all my might when I looked up at the sky? I knew the reason for that, too.
I'd come to love her.
I missed her. She was never altogether there, yet I couldn't hate that oddball cicada.
Now, I could say that without a trace of embarrassment.
Summer vacation arrived by the time I was halfway done with my story.
Starting off that summer, I received a letter. A strange letter with no address.
When I read the letter, time stopped for me.
Semiko was dead.
I was in the park by my apartment as the sun set.
My hand trembled slightly, holding the letter.
Night was approaching, so there was no one around.
Only the streetlights dimly lit the equipment in the park.
"Were you waiting long...?"
I turned around to see a mature-looking woman around twenty. I already knew it wasn't Semiko, but I still couldn't hide my disappointment.
"I just got here."
The woman put a hand on her chest in relief. She really seemed like a human...
"Well, sorry to do this so soon, but I'll show you proof. I need to hurry as well."
Anticipating my thoughts, she held out her arm in front of me.
A white human arm. Gradually, it changed form, becoming a black shape, thin and long like a cicada's arm.
I had seen the arm before, last summer. I thought I was mistaken, but it was just like Semiko's arm I saw from the window.
"As written in the letter. Now do you believe?"
Perhaps in a stupor, I couldn't think anything as I looked at the clearly-not-human woman's arm.
All I could get from it was that everything Semiko had said was true.
Yes, this woman was one of the people living in the "Cicada Kingdom" Semiko spoke of.
I recalled what was written at the end of the letter.
We are bound by a set of rules.
First: In our original forms, we can live for a thousand years.
Second: If we desire, we can take on human forms during the summer only.
Third: Once we assume human form, we die within seven days.
Fourth: If we go out into the sun, we die.
"I'm glad you understand. Now then, this way."
The woman walked ahead, leading me. After taking just a few steps, she tripped and scraped her knee.
"Are you okay?"
"I'm fine... Just faltered a bit."
She stood up and wiped the sand off her knee. I realized then that, like Semiko, she was dying.
As we walked, the woman kept talking. It was mostly what had been written in the letter, but I listened in silence.
Semiko's race, which lived eternally, was one among the "myriads of gods" spoken of in the human world.
Though they were once revered by people, one day an ancestor of Semiko's fell in love with a human.
A forbidden love between god and man. The other gods were angered and cursed Semiko's ancestor to take the form of a human, instating certain limitations - the aforementioned rules.
"And we are still bound by that curse."
The gods took from Semiko's kind the seasons, life, and the blue sky. Even Semiko's tripping was not clumsiness, but this curse.
The curse gave the once-gods awful cicada-like forms, and so they came to be called monsters by humans. Contact with us became all but impossible.
And yet Semiko defied it, and took a human form. Why? Why had she?
"Why did she become a human? How could she throw her life away like that?"
I found myself asking the woman out loud. She smiled.
"Being in love with someone myself, I understand how she feels. Indeed, that's how it is when you fall in love. Life is a trifling thing, if sacrificing it means being able to speak with and love them. Neither Semiko nor I will ever regret our choice. Not in a year, not in ten years, not in a hundred years, not when we die, never. That's just how girls are."
Semiko had told me the same.
She said it to me happily, and there was not a shred of regret in her.
I listened to the woman talk as we walked through the grove.
She was about to go meet the one she loved. But before that, she had to send me the letter, as well as fulfill a task Semiko asked of her.
Task...? I wondered what she could mean.
We walked for a few minutes. Looking all around her, she suddenly stopped.
"Ah. Here it is."
She started digging up the ground with a shovel.
"Would you mind helping? The ground is tough here."
I received a shovel from her and started to dig. The soil was softer than I expected, and it came up easily.
Even as I dug, I couldn't believe that Semiko was dead. I wondered if she might just appear before me now with a well-shaped rock.
After a few minutes digging, the shovel hit something hard.
It was like a big can, stuffed inside a vinyl bag.
"There," the woman said, hurrying to open the lid.
Inside the can was something wrapped up in another vinyl bag.
After carefully opening up one after another, there appeared a small college notebook.
"I didn't write it in the letter, but I called you here today to give you this."
She handed me the notebook. Written small on the binding was "Story Notebook."
And on the cover, written in big letters, was the story's title:
"The Lying Cicada and the Blue Sky"
And when I opened the first page, I found, drawn in colored pencils -
A depiction of a perfectly blue sky.
Ahh... So that was it. I understood now.
She, Semiko, loved the sky. Not the sheer blackness that filled it in the night, but the blue sky. The blue sky lit by the sun.
What was she thinking, telling me she hated it?
Her body was rapidly weakening under the curse. Her life was leaving her.
So what was she thinking, dreaming of a blue sky she'd never be able to see again? I didn't know.
Still, desperate to understand Semiko's thoughts, I turned the pages.
One page after that blue sky, the first sentence of the story lept out at me.
There was once a cicada who hated the blue sky. This is the story of that lying cicada.
It was a human she fell in love with.
And it was such a trivial thing that led to it. When the cicada was still young, she found herself buried in a hole by mistake, and he dug her back out.
It was as trivial as thinking how wonderful he was for doing that.
Of course, she knew it was only a fluke. She didn't expect him to remember such a minor thing anymore.
Still, the cicada's life had definitely been saved then.
So when the cicada grew up, she decided she wanted to repay that favor.
Humans don't know it, but when cicadas become adults, they can talk to humans.
When the cicada had time, she would go to him and gaze at him from afar. She wasn't an adult cicada, so he couldn't understand her.
So all she could do was look at him, and make buzzing noises.
"I'm here! Notice me!"
Of course, he wouldn't notice. The cicada was lonely, and wanted to cry, but instead she looked up at the sky.
The cicada loved the blue sky. That piercing blue sky that seemed to make her heart clear.
As she gazed at the sky, she thought about how she would repay him once she was an adult.
But once cicadas become adults, they're soon to die. They can't look at the blue sky anymore.
She hated being saddened by the pitch black sky. Looking into that black sky, like it was going to suck her up, always made her unspeakably anxious.
Still, if she could meet him, she wasn't scared of the black sky. All along, she wanted to talk to him.
Once day, twenty years after the cicada was born, she became an adult.
She was so happy, she ran straight for his house.
"Miin-min-min. Miin-min-min. I'm a cicada!"
After that, she wrote of the days she spent with me.
How she was surprised about me suddenly collapsing.
How she lied to hide various things.
How she did somersaults because she was so happy she could talk to me.
How she faltered when asked why she was somersaulting.
How she became my friend.
And how truly happy she was.
All the days I spent with Semiko were all there.
She even wrote about the festival. Semiko's happiness and the fun she had came through plainly in her writings.
When the festival was over, he said, "Let's meet again next year."
The cicada was so happy he said that, and made a promise.
But the cicada had already become an adult. She had little time left. She went home and was saddened.
However, the cicada did her best to live. So she could meet him again next year.
So she could read the story he wrote, and have him read her story. She even thought, like such a schoolgirl, how she would confess her love then.
Autumn passed, then winter, then spring arrived.
The cicada held onto life amid the changing seasons. Until the day they'd show each other their finished stories.
And summer came. Amid the colorful trees, under the illuminating red sun, the cicada was able to meet him again.
She was happy. She was so grateful to see him. Even though she knew the end would come, she shone thinking about him.
The cicada wouldn't regret her decision in a year, in ten years, in a hundred years, all the way until she died.
"Um, there's something I've been wanting to tell you."
The cicada took a breath, then told him.
And then, one more thing.
"I've always, always loved you."
The human and the cicada walked along hand in hand under the summer sun.
There was no sadness nor suffering to be found. They just walked on like that together, forever.
The cicada suddenly looked above.
And when she looked up, she saw a piercing blue sky.
The story had a happy ending.
I wondered what Semiko thought as she wrote this story.
Surely she feared her coming death, felt her body weakening, and yet she kept writing.
She really must have known we'd never meet again. And yet without regrets, she wrote to the end a story about a world, filled with the light of the sun, which she could never see.
It was amazing. Truly amazing.
I wanted to be the one saying thank you. I thought about how glad I was we met.
Because of Semiko, I was able to enter the school of my dreams. I could write stories. Masterpieces that would shock Semiko.
Because of Semiko, I could so much as get started on that.
It was all thanks to her. So I needed to say it myself.
"Thank you." "I love you." "Hey, show me that innocent smile again."
I noticed tears on my cheek.
I stood there thinking about Semiko, and I cried.
Clouds covered the black night, and rain fell hard on the ground.
As if mourning Semiko's death, forever.
Another summer came to an end.
The refreshing sound of out-of-season wind chimes echoed through my chilly room.
I'm writing a story now. So as not to forget my memories with Semiko, I decided to write it down. I'll be done with it soon.
This story might never be shown to anyone once it's finished.
If that's how it goes, then fine.
But if someday, someone is to read this story, I know who I want to read it first.
The second reader can be anybody. But the first will be her.
I don't know when it might be, but it's on my to-do list.
I think I'll keep writing until then.
All these stories for Semiko to laugh and cry over.
And then... And then...
I wish for the day to come when we can show each other our stories and laugh.
And I think I'll put down my pen and end this story as I'm wishing for something so out of character.
I opened the curtain on the north window Semiko had once pointed to.
The emerald green stone she gave me was shining on the windowsill.
Perhaps Semiko is somewhere looking at the same thing.
Thinking that, I stuck my head out the window.
Under the sky Semiko dreamed of, the sun warmly lit up the earth.
The green trees and sparkling skyscrapers brilliantly covered the world.
The grass swayed, and the night summer breeze brushed my skin.
Looking over this world filled with radiance, I closed my eyes.
Thinking of someone, remembering them fondly, I turned my head slowly upward.
I opened my eyes to a piercing blue sky.
I really like sweet things. So while eating chou a la creme, I mutter to the mirror in an empty room, "I'm such a happy person! And the world is beautiful!"
Furthermore, I'm not particularly good at talking to people. So after talking to anyone, I mutter in an empty room, "So tired... I'm such an unhappy person... Can't the world be destroyed already..." (does this life have any hope of salvation?)
But normally, people who hate sweet things won't be made happy by eating chou a la creme, and people who are good communicators won't be made unhappy as a result of talking to someone.
So I've become unable to say what happiness actually is, and mutter to a white wall in my room, "So what the heck is happiness anyway!"
That muttering didn't help me understand anything, so I ate a lot of custard pudding and that calmed me down (very happy).
Ultimately, "happiness" seems to change from person to person, so I feel like you can't look at things as an observer and decide what is and isn't happiness.
In "The Story of a Macaron-Loving Girl Who Lived a Thousand Years Somehow," which became the title of this book, Macaron-chan ends up living a thousand years, then enters a sound eternal sleep.
Perhaps an observer would describe it as "a girl lived a thousand years, then met an unfortunate end."
Still, the pressing question is, was she happy herself?
That's why to me, the story has a happy ending. In fact, in all the stories of this book, I think there are happy endings.
Perhaps not all of them may be seen that way, from a different point of view. But the characters took them, as a whole, to be happy endings. I'm sure of it.
By the way, I was able to have Media Factory Bunko J release this book.
Well, that all started thanks to Y-san, who took what I wrote on a certain message board and summarized it on his own blog, and also assisted with the editing of the book.
At the time, I wasn't particularly recognized by anyone, but Y-san had the courage to say "Hey, this story is good!" and give me praise.
I'm still very grateful to him, and if Y-san were to have offered me an expensive vase back then, I think I'd buy it without question.
The illustrations were provided by the great Wannyanpuu. She made the characters leagues cuter than I imagined them when writing the stories.
Honestly, I feel the transformative addition of Wannyanpuu's artwork should help sales immensely, compared to if I had gone with my not-very-cute rough sketches.
I'm truly grateful to her for drawing such wonderful characters.
Also, there was my friend U-kun who I could talk to when I was at a loss for ideas, my proofreader, everyone at the print shop... Thank you very much.
And thank you to everyone who is reading this now. My gratitude can't be put into words.
If this book sells, I'm sure I'll want to write something else. So I'll make it my responsibility to write you something interesting.
I just thought I'd write this afterword as a way to repay the favor to those who may someday be reading this.
And thank you so very much. I'm a happy person.