* 17 *

After the ceremony ended, I hurried over to the entrance of the hall, and there I waited for Tsugumi to pass by.

Of course, I hadn't done that thorough of a check to make sure she actually did go to the same college as in my first life.
If nothing was necessarily going to be the same, perhaps even because of the fact that Tsugumi and I didn't get together, it was a clear possibility that she went to a different one.
It was even possible that Tsugumi had long since found a job for whatever reason.

Fortunately, there was only the one exit. So if she was there, chances were slim that I wouldn't see her.
Plus, I had honed my sensor for distinguishing between Tsugumi and other people. I'm not even kidding. If you've ever had an intense love for someone when you're young, you'll know what I mean.

The new students, of which I was one, would see people they knew and cry exaggerated shrieks of joy at recognizing each other.
It looked ridiculous to me, and probably everybody else. But I doubt they cared, they were having too much fun.
I was envious, to be honest. Unfortunately, there was no one I knew, and if there were I don't think I'd want to talk to a single one. So I didn't get to do any of that.
But if when I found Tsugumi and called out to her, she yelled with excitement to see me again like the other girls, that sure would've made me happy.

That idea alone is probably what'd kept me going for about half a year.
By this time, I had become pretty economical. Since my life was lacking in joy, whenever I came upon the slightest happiness, I ruminated on it and got all I could out of it, like licking every bit of an ice cream cone.

I had my hair neatly cut, wore a necktie, and loosened my face muscles for my reunion with Tsugumi.
And then the time came.

I only saw just a bit of the back of her head among the crowd, but I was certain. It was Tsugumi.
I wasn't sure what to say to her, so I started by walking over.
There was a strange pain in my chest. My breathing grew irregular. The few meters felt like hundreds.

When I was close enough that I felt confident she could hear me, I was about to just call out her name, "Tsugumi!" -
But no voice came out of my open mouth.

I felt my temperature plummet.

Chapter 18

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