* 57 *

In the end, I gave up on my plans to kill Tokiwa.
But, irritatingly enough, I came to learn that wishes are always granted just when you stop wishing.

A week passed in the blink of an eye, and the tail end of December arrived.
After my sister disappeared, I applied for every part-time day job I saw. I had enough emails about them to fill my entire schedule for December if I felt like it.

Not that I was interested in earning money from them. I just wanted to empty my head.
I wanted to forget a lot of the things that happened. And since I had no reason to tail Tokiwa anymore, I had a lot of time on my hands.

I was asked to do a lot of one-day jobs, like working as a waiter at a packed hotel, helping with stupid holiday events, and doing traffic control - I let these consume my days.
I always hated working with strangers, and as was common with this kind of work, I was irrationally scolded by energetic full-time employees.
There was nothing fun about it, and it didn't even help lift my spirits, yet it was better than doing nothing.

When I got home late at night, I'd drink cheap whiskey on the rocks, skim through books my sister left behind, and when I got sleepy, crawled into bed while listening to music.
The cessation of thought is easy once you get used to it.
In no time at all, the memories of my first life grew hazy.

One day, while walking home through piles of snow after work, I looked at my phone to confirm my plans for tomorrow and noticed an answering machine message.
Thinking it came from my college, I deleted the notification without even checking. No doubt it was something along the lines of "make up your mind, are you dropping out or not?"

The thing was, though, it was an answering machine message. That meant it came from a public phone.

It's another testament to my idiocy, but at first I thought it was from Tokiwa, then immediately afterward got my hopes up thinking "Wait, hold on, could Tsugumi have called?"
Even now, I had that unfounded hope that Tsugumi would come save me when I was in trouble. I doubt anybody could save me from my stupidity.

Of course, Tsugumi had no way of knowing my number or anything in the first place.
The message was from my sister. Her voice was just barely audible.
"Big brother, I want you to come home. ...Um, it's really bad between dad and mom right now. It would be fine if they divorced, but... I don't know if that's how it's going to end. ...I mean, I don't really know if you coming home is going to do anything. But I don't know what else to do."
After a few seconds of silence, she ended with a whisper.
"Hey, big brother... I really don't like to do this."

Neither did I.

Chapter 58

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