7. Time Capsule Raiding

When I decided to write my will, I soon noticed that I couldn't start writing anything at all without an assumption of who was going to be reading it.

Holding a pen over stationery I bought from a nearby shop, I thought about what to write for a long time.
Cicadas were stopped on the power poles outside, and they were noisy enough that it felt like they were inside.
While the cicadas were there, I could blame them for not being able to move my pen - but even after they flew off, I still hadn't written a single word.

Who was I hoping would read this will in the first place? A will is fundamentally a means of communication. I had to write to tell someone something about me that they couldn't see otherwise.
I asked myself, what did I have to tell anyone? Of course, I immediately thought of my childhood friend, Himeno. So should this will contain my thanks toward Himeno, or a confession of my love?

As a test, I took about an hour carefully writing a letter to her. To summarize what it looked like when I was done:

I don't know what you think of me by now, but I've kept loving you since that day ten years ago.
I survived until twenty because of my memories from when I was with you, and I won't survive beyond twenty because I can't stand a world without you.
Now that I'm about to die, I've finally realized that. In a way, I've already been dead for a long time. Ever since the day we went our separate ways.
Goodbye. I'm praying ten-year-old me survives inside you for a little longer.

Reading it again, I thought that I probably wouldn't mail this letter. There was a serious problem somewhere in there.
This wasn't the kind of thing I wanted to be saying with it. And it was impossible for me write down exactly what I wanted to say. I'd sooner die.

I think my desire came down to that last line I wrote. For Himeno to still remember me as I was at ten for a little while.
And if that was the objective of the letter, then it seemed I should maybe not write anything at all.

Any form would do; if it was just addressed to Himeno, and I was the sender, that would be enough. And that would result in the least misunderstanding.
If a blank sheet of paper seemed odd, I could write a single sentence: "I just wanted to send a letter."
Or maybe - another option was to not talk about my death at all, but write about normal, everyday things.
I threw the pen onto the table and crumpled up the letter so Miyagi couldn't read it, then turned up to the ceiling.

...At any rate, when was the last time I wrote a letter? I searched my memory.
Communicating with letters wasn't a common thing, and since elementary school, I had no one to send New Year's cards or anything like that. There must have only been a few letters throughout my whole life.
Aside from that when I was 17, the last letter I wrote was... in the summer of fourth grade.

That summer, when I was ten, our class buried a time capsule behind the gym. It was a suggestion from that same teacher who gave us the morality lesson that first led me to think about the value of life.
The students all wrote letters to put inside the round capsule.

"I want you to write those letters to yourself ten years from now," she said. "Maybe you won't be sure what to write, since I just said that out of the blue... I know, you can write things like "Did your dream come true?", or "Are you happy?", or "Do you remember this?", or "What would you like to tell me?" There's a lot you could ask. You can also write about your own hopes, like "Please make my dream come true," or "Please be happy," or "Please don't forget about this.""

She couldn't have predicted that in a decade, some of those children had given up on their dreams, weren't happy, and had forgotten a lot.
Maybe it wasn't a letter for your future self, but a letter for you at the time when you were writing it.

She also said this.
"Also, at the end of the letter, please write who your best friend right now is. ...Don't worry too much about what they think about you. If it's a case of "They hate me, but I like them!", please just write it. Don't worry, I'll be sure no one else sees it, not even me."

I couldn't remember what I wrote to myself. I couldn't even remember whose name I wrote.
The time capsule was to be dug up ten years later. That was this year, but I'd yet to hear anything about it.
It could have been I was the only one who wasn't contacted, but more than likely, they just forgot.
I thought that I'd like to read that letter again before I died. But not meeting with any of my classmates. Just by myself.

"How do you plan to spend today?", Miyagi asked as I stood up.
"Time capsule raiding," I replied.

It had been a year since I went back to my home town. After leaving the station, which was as shabby as a prefab hut, I was met with some familiar sights.
A town of green hills. The cries of insects and the overpowering smell of vegetation couldn't even be compared to where I lived now. Even straining my ears, all I could hear were bugs and birds.

"Surely you can't sneak into an elementary school and dig holes in the middle of the day?", Miyagi asked, walking behind.
"I'll wait until night, of course."

But while I'd gotten this far on impulse, I hadn't considered how I would kill time until the sun set in a town with no amusements or restaurants to speak of.
There wasn't even a convenience store in walking distance. It would have been time-consuming, but maybe better to take my moped.
As much time as I had to waste, I had no intention of going home to my parents. Meeting friends was also a no-go.

"If you have time on your hands, perhaps you might tour some places from your past?", Miyagi suggested, seeing right through me. "Places you used to visit often as a child but haven't in a few years, say."
"Places from my past, huh... It wasn't a very good past I had here."
"With the exception of Ms. Himeno, I assume?"
"Don't bring up her name so lightly. I really don't want to hear it out of your mouth."
"Is that so. I'll be more cautious henceforth. ...However, while I don't mean to be nosy, I would not advise meeting anyone."
"Wasn't planning to."
"Good, if you say so," Miyagi said, abating.

The sunlight seemed to pierce through my skin. It was going to be another scorcher. I sat on a bench outside the station and considered my options going forth.
Suddenly, I looked to my side and saw Miyagi applying what appeared to be sunscreen. I always thought she was really fair-skinned, and I guess she worked to keep it that way.
She was so overly serious that I expected her to be indifferent about her appearance, so it came as a surprise.

"Aren't you invisible to everyone but me?", I questioned.
"Essentially, yes."
"Yes, I'm only seen by those I observe. However, as you are aware, there are exceptions. ...For example, when you first visited the shop. When I am not on observer duty, I can be seen by those who are intending to sell their lifespan, time, or health. ...Is something the matter?"
"Nah. I was just wondering why you're fussing over your appearance if nobody can see you."

Unexpectedly, Miyagi seemed to take this comment as quite an attack.
"I do it for myself," Miyagi retorted as if hurt. "You would take a shower even if you had no plans to meet anyone, wouldn't you?"
She really did seem offended. If it had been any other girl, I would have been rushing to apologize, but with Miyagi, I was glad I could get back at her. I wanted her to criticize my careless remarks.

While walking around wondering where to go, my feet led me to a thicket near my old home and Himeno's. We played there often as kids.
I regretted how I was falling right into Miyagi's suggestion. She illuminated just how boring and ordinary my actions were.
I took quite a detour trying to keep away from my parents' house. I visited a candy store I used to frequent, but the shop had folded and the sign was gone.
I started on the path into the thicket, then walked off the trail for about five minutes before I reached my destination.

There was a broken-down bus there which served as a so-called "secret base" for Himeno and I in our youth.
The remaining specks of red paint on the bus looked like rust from a distance, but if you went inside and could ignore all the dust built up on the seats and floors, it looked unexpectedly nice. It seemed like it should have been crawling with bugs, but I barely saw any.

I walked around the bus looking for traces of Himeno and I. But as I went to leave after not finding anything and giving up, I finally noticed something on the driver's seat.
Something was written on the side of the seat in blue permanent marker. I took a close look at it and realized it was an arrow. Looking to where it pointed, I found another arrow.
After being directed around by six arrows, I found, on the back of a seat, what seemed to be an ai-ai-gasa. The silly elementary school thing where you write your name and the person you secretly love under an umbrella.

Naturally, it was my name and Himeno's.
I had no memory of drawing such a thing, and only Himeno and I knew about this place - so it had to have been Himeno.
I didn't think her the kind to do something so traditionally girly. Still, a smile formed on my lips.

I stared at the umbrella for a while. Miyagi watched from behind, but didn't appear to be preparing any sarcastic comments.
Once it was burned into my sight, I left the bus, and like I did as a child, used a fallen tree to climb onto the roof. Brushing away some fallen leaves, I lay down flat.
And so I laid until I heard cicadas ringing in the evening.

After visiting my grandfather's grave, it was night, and I headed for the elementary school.
I borrowed a shovel from the shed, went behind the gym, and started digging with a rough idea of where the thing was. The green light of the emergency exit dimly illuminated my surroundings.

I thought it would be easy to find what I was looking for, but either my memory was wrong, or it had already been dug up. I was digging for an hour, but all I got was a lot of sweat and no time capsule.
My throat was dry. My hands were getting really blistered, also aided by my time at the batting center yesterday. Miyagi sat by and watched me dig holes, writing something in her notebook.

While I smoked to take a break, my memory finally came back to me. That's right, we were going to bury it by a tree behind the gym, but someone mentioned that a new tree might be planted there, so we buried it somewhere else.
After less than ten minutes digging behind the backstop, I hit something hard. I carefully excavated the round object so as not to damage it, then brought it into the light. I thought it might be locked, but it slid right open.

My original plan was to only take my letter and put it back right away. But after all that effort, I wanted to look through all the letters. A guy who's going to die in a few months should be allowed at least that much.
I picked one at random and opened it up. I skimmed through the "message to your future self" and the "best friend" part.
Once I was done reading, I opened up a notebook, wrote the letter-writer's name, and drew an arrow pointing to their best friend.

After repeating this with a few more letters, the number of names and arrows increased, gradually creating a relationship chart. Who likes who, who's liked by who. Which are requited, and which ones aren't.
Just as expected, by the time I'd read all the letters, the lonely name on the chart was me. Not a single person had chosen me as their "best friend."

And... while I searched the time capsule thoroughly for Himeno's letter, I couldn't find it. Maybe it just happened that she wasn't there the day we buried it.
If she had been, surely she'd have written my name, I thought. I mean, she'd secretly drawn an ai-ai-gasa with our names in our secret base. She'd definitely write my name. Maybe added a heart or two.
If only Himeno's letter were there.

Stuffing my own letter, which I'd found earlier, into my jeans pocket, I reburied the time capsule. I returned the shovel to the shed, washed my hands and face with the nearby faucet, and left the elementary school.
I dragged my exhausted body along the road. Miyagi spoke from behind me.

"I should hope you understand now? You ought not cling onto your past relationships. Above all, you've effectively kept none of them. After Ms. Himeno changed schools, did you send her even a single letter? After graduating high school, did you once contact Mr. Naruse? Why did Ms. Wakana abandon you? Did you show up to any class reunions? ...Pardon the remark, but don't you feel that clinging to the past now is asking for too much?"

My face twisted, of course, but I had nothing to say back.
Maybe Miyagi was right. What I was doing was like not normally believing in any gods, but only going to shrines and temples and churches to beg for help when I was having hard times.
But if that was the case - with the past and future locked off from me, what was I supposed to do?

Back at the train station, I looked over the time table. The last train had left a long time ago.
I never really took the train much when I lived in the area, but for such a rural place, I didn't expect the last train to leave so early.

I could have called a taxi, and it wasn't like I couldn't have gone to my parents', but I ultimately chose to spend the night at the station.
Think of it this way, I'd rather have my physical pain exceed my mental pain than the other way around. By hurting myself just enough, I could turn my attention to that.

I lay on a hard bench and closed my eyes. There was the unceasing sound of bugs bumping into the fluorescent lights.
While I didn't think I'd be sleepless because of how utterly exhausted I was, with the strange lighting and the bugs loitering around my feet, I knew I couldn't count on a particularly pleasant rest.

From the bench behind me, I heard Miyagi's pen writing. I was impressed by her endurance. She must have not gotten much sleep at all in the days she'd been watching me.
It seemed like even during the night, she was in a cycle of sleeping one minute and then being awake for five. She must not have had any other option, but observer seemed like too harsh a job for a young girl.
Of course, it wasn't like I was sympathizing. I just wished she'd stop doing that job.

Chapter 8

Novel List