Three Days of Happiness
A story from 2ch, written by Fafoo, about the value of life.
"How much money would your life be worth?"
I was once asked a question like that.
Yes, I believe it was part of a lesson on morals in fourth grade.
Most of the students, after much debate, settled on somewhere between tens of millions of yen and hundreds of millions.
Of course, some students were firm in their belief that money couldn't buy life.
You'd probably get the same sort of responses from adults.
Personally, if you asked me before that day I really sold my own lifespan, I would say my life was worth around 200 or 300 million.
I figured that if I sold ten or twenty years of lifespan for a few tens of millions of yen, it would be a clever way to ensure my remaining life was easy.
Between a happy sixty years and a not-so-much eighty, I was sure I wanted the former.
That all got turned around when I saw my results.
It seemed my life didn't even make it to a million yen.
One July when I was twenty, I was tight on money.
I wasn't eating anything but white rice and miso soup.
In the past few days, I had collapsed three times while working as a waiter, so I knew I needed to eat more nutritious.
I considered what I could get some money off of, but all I came up with was furniture, a bunch of CDs, and a large collection of books.
The stuff was all mostly old and used, and not worth much, but I figured it might be enough for a month of food.
So I cleaned things up to look as new as possible, and went down to my usual bookstore and music shop to sell it.
The old man at the bookstore, seeing me bringing in piles of books to sell, worriedly asked "What on earth happened?"
I was surprised, since he was usually a very blunt man.
"Paper doesn't make for a good meal," I said, and the old man seemed to understand and sympathize.
But he wouldn't pay me any extra. Then again, he was poor, too.
After getting my money, I went to leave, and the man called out to stop me.
"Hey, I wanna talk to you about something."
"Yes?", I said, hoping for some pity money, and he said:
"You wanna sell some of your lifespan?"
Thinking he had just gone senile, I decided to entertain the old man's story.
In short, this is what he told me.
There's a building not too far from here with a shop that'll buy your lifespan.
You can sell your time and your health there too, but lifespan fetches the best price.
The man drew a map and wrote a phone number with his shaky hands, but I was sure it was only a fantasy of the old man's to make himself feel better.
I really felt sorry for him. Must be fearing that death was approaching.
However, when I next went to the CD shop, I was told the very same thing I had been told at the bookstore.
What's more, this time it was from a man in his late twenties, so it was hard to say he was senile too.
"Hey, just between us, bud...", he said to me.
"But there's a place where you can sell your lifespan near here!"
He claimed to have sold some lifespan himself.
"How much did you get for it?" I asked bemusedly. "Can't tell you, dude!"
I felt like the whole world was teasing me.
Yet in the end, I went to that building I was told of.
My CDs, books, and furniture hadn't made me much money at all.
I certainly didn't believe the story about selling your lifespan.
Rather, I considered the possibility that the old man and the younger man were using some kind of metaphor to allude to a lucrative job.
Something like "at the risk of shortening your lifespan, you can make a million yen in a month!"
I climbed the dimly-lit stairs and opened the door.
I met eyes with a woman at a counter, and she asked me:
"Your time? Your health? Or your lifespan?"
And I couldn't help but laugh.
Frazzled from the series of events, I said "lifespan," tired of thinking.
"Give us about two hours," the woman said, already clacking away on a computer keyboard.
Hey, who are you to waste people's time like that?
I looked around the store.
It was empty in a way hard to describe - like an optometrist's with no glasses, or jewelry shop with no jewelry.
But who knows? Maybe people's lifespans and health and time were on display, and I just couldn't see it.
Geez. How long were they going to keep up this unfunny joke?
I went out to a plaza and lit a cigarette, savoring my last one.
I really need to quit soon, I thought.
It's a waste of money, and no good for my health.
An old man was feeding pigeons nearby, and shamefully enough, it made me feel hungry.
I was this close to pecking at the ground along with the pigeons.
I hope my lifespan sells for a lot, I thought.
After killing time at the train station, I returned to the shop early and slept on the sofa, waiting for my assessment.
My name was called after about twenty minutes.
Strange, since I never actually gave my name.
When I saw the assessment, I gave a weird shriek.
10,000 yen for one year? Thirty years remaining?
Book Off would give more reasonable prices than that.
Did I get the prices for a turtle or something by mistake?
But my name was on there, no doubt about it.
"What kind of standards are you basing this on?", I asked, showing the woman the form.
"Several factors," she answered with a slight sigh.
"Degree of happiness, actualization, contribution. Those sorts of things."
She must have been tired of always getting the same question.
The woman told me the details of the system.
She really didn't want to, but I was rather insistent.
What shocked me the most was that 10,000 yen was the lowest possible price you could fetch for a year of lifespan.
Which is to say, my life was all but worthless.
I wouldn't be happy, wouldn't make anyone else happy, wouldn't accomplish anything, and wouldn't experience anything of worth.
"If you have no objections, sign here, please," the woman said as if trying to wake herself up from boredom.
But if anyone could have no objections with this, I think the mental hospital would be a better place for them.
But by then, I was numb, and getting used to getting a raw deal on selling my things. Desperate, I told her this:
"I'll keep three months and sell the rest."
I left the shop with an envelope containing 300,000 yen.
I felt a kind of convulsive chuckle welling up in me.
The sad thing was, I somehow knew already just how worthless my lifespan would be.
But I didn't want to think about it anymore.
I bought a ton of beer on the way home, and walked down the roads drinking it that night.
It had been a long time since I'd had alcohol.
Thus, I had absolutely no tolerance for it, and threw up for two hours when I got home.
It was a disastrous start to my remaining three months.
I guess if someone wants to sell their lifespan, their time isn't worth anything anyway, which is why they figure they can waste it...
I think about this sort of stuff myself sometimes...
I fell asleep around four in the morning, but for once, I had a happy dream.
I dreamt of a lazy summer day back when I was a grade schooler.
When I went in my parents' car with a friend to go camping.
Ahh, I cried as I slept.
I was saved from my mercilessly happy dreams by the sound of the doorbell.
When I continued to ignore it, a voice called my name.
I opened the door to find an unfamiliar girl standing there.
I was initially happy - a conditioned response to seeing a girl at my door - but when I looked at her face, I remembered.
She was the woman who assessed my lifespan.
"I'm Miyagi. I'll be your observer from today forth."
The woman, Miyagi, lightly bowed toward me.
Observer... Yeah, I guess she did say something about that.
As I tried to remember yesterday through my hangover, I ran to the toilet to throw up again.
Leaving the bathroom disheartened, I saw my observer standing at the door.
Did she want to hear my puke in all its glory?
After gargling and drinking three cups of water, I returned to bed and lied down.
"While I explained it yesterday," Miyagi said, standing beside me.
"Since your lifespan has been reduced to less than a year, I will be observing you from today forth."
"Can this wait until later?", I said with a glare at Miyagi.
"Understood. Later, then," she said, and went to sit in the corner of the room.
Miyagi fixated her gaze on me.
I'm sure people who've had similar experiences know, but this can really interfere with your routine.
There's a lot you can't do when someone's watching, you know?
Yes, she told me yesterday that customers who had a year or less left were assigned an observer.
According to Miyagi's explanation, once customers were down to half a year left, they often fell into despair and were liable to cause trouble.
So an observer needed to stop them in advance.
If I were to cause serious trouble to others, my observer would apparently call into HQ and have my lifespan depleted.
They don't want any Travis Bickles.
However, for the final three days, the observer leaves so you can fully enjoy your own time.
It was found that statistically, people wouldn't do anything bad by then.
By that evening, my nausea and headache had gone away.
I was finally able to think about things clearly.
Yesterday, I had impulsively sold off the majority of my lifespan, yet even I was surprised how little I regretted it.
In fact, I thought it was good I only left three months, because I didn't want to be observed for that long.
Maybe three days would have been even better?
Well. There was no point in moping about my lack of worth now.
The issue was what I would do now, with my three months.
I took out a sheet of paper and a pen, and created a list of things I wanted to do.
My to-do list was something like this.
- Meet and thank my childhood friend
- Have a good chat with my best friend
- Spend as much time as possible with family
- Write final letters to all my friends
- Don't go to university at all
- Don't go to my part-time job either
Pretty ordinary ideas all around.
If someone else had written it for me, I feel it would turn out similar.
I noticed Miyagi standing behind me - for who knows how long - looking at the list I wrote.
"I would suggest against that," she said, pointing at the first item.
The "Meet and thank my childhood friend" one.
"Why?", I asked Miyagi.
...I suppose I'll talk about my childhood friend.
We were friends since we were four, and she'd even appeared in my dream.
We went everywhere together until she changed schools.
When I started middle school, I was unfamiliar with everything.
I was isolated from the rest of the class, but she was the only one who talked to me every day and asked "What's wrong?"
Even after we went our separate ways, she would always come to mind in troubling times.
Without her, I wouldn't be here today.
Well, I guess that wouldn't have been a huge loss.
At any rate, I was very grateful to her.
We hadn't communicated at all in the past few years, but if anything happened to her, I told myself I would come running.
I wanted to repay her somehow - it didn't matter how.
"About your childhood friend..." Miyagi informed me.
"She gave birth to a child at seventeen, then dropped out of high school.
She was married at eighteen, but then divorced at nineteen.
She's currently twenty and raising a child alone.
And incidentally, in two years time, she will hang herself.
If you go to meet her now, she will likely only beg you for money.
She scarcely remembers you at all."
How can I describe my reaction?
Well, I felt deeply wounded. It hit me hard.
My most precious memories were being trampled.
It's pitiful, but even at twenty, at my core I was still pure, naïve, and sensitive - essentially, I had never matured from childhood.
Whenever things changed, or came to an end, I couldn't bear it, even now.
I was an adult man, but as weak as a canary.
And yet I tried my best to not be bothered.
"Hmph," I said, lighting a cigarette.
After smoking three or so, my head started hurting badly.
But I kept smoking, if only to help forget.
Miyagi returned to the corner of the room.
Her hand flew smoothly through her notebook, writing things down.
I noticed the sun was setting.
Looking down at the list I wrote, I drew a line through the item for my childhood friend.
After looking over the list again, I took the phone in hand and slowly pushed the buttons.
"What is it? It's unusual to get a call from you."
It had been much too long since I'd heard my mother's voice.
I was too busy with work and study to have any time to call.
"Sorry that it's so sudden, but I was wondering if I could come home?"
That's what I'd planned to ask her.
Then I could enjoy my last days peacefully in the embrace of my family's love.
But before I could say anything, my mother went on talking non-stop.
She talked to me about my younger brother.
My mother loved to talk about him at any opportunity.
The thing was, my brother was pretty famous.
He was practically born to play baseball, and was pitching at Koshien in his first year.
He's always showing up on TV, too. That's my little brother.
Of course, my mother would talk about all the things he was constantly up to.
This time, she brought up the girlfriend he'd brought home.
"She's a beautiful girl," my mother told me roughly twenty times.
"So beautiful I can hardly believe we're fellow humans! And her personality..."
She went on as if they had already produced her a grandchild.
She didn't seem at all willing to listen to me.
My desire to return home to my parents was gradually withering.
Apparently, this wonderful girlfriend of my brother's was always being invited over for dinner.
Just imagining me being in the middle of that made me want to shrivel up and die.
I hung up as soon as I found a decent opportunity. I gave up on returning home.
I determined that it was no use doing anything today.
Even doing something I liked would only be a distraction.
So I decided I'd try again tomorrow.
Of course, there was still someone in the corner of the room who couldn't be helping matters.
"It's perfectly fine if you just pretend I'm not here," Miyagi said, perceiving my feelings.
But whatever she might have said, it wouldn't keep me from being bothered.
I have to admit I'm a pretty nervous guy.
When you're being watched by a girl your age, your every action goes bonkers.
I noticed I was touching my hair. Entirely too self-conscious.
For a while, I tried reading Finnegans Wake, the most difficult book I owned.
Naturally, none of what I was reading actually got into my head.
What was I doing with my remaining three months?
Tired of reading, I went to a nearby supermarket to buy whiskey and ice.
Miyagi bought some sweet rolls and other stuff for herself.
I felt like I was having a happy hallucination.
To be honest, I had long dreamt of such a thing.
Living together with a girl, going to the store still in our loungewear, and buying food and things together.
I felt envious whenever I saw others partaking in such an act.
So even if she was there to observe, I enjoyed going for some late-night shopping with a young girl.
An empty happiness, perhaps? Don't judge, it was real enough for me.
I returned home and savored every drop of whiskey, finally feeling good again.
Alcohol is really great in times like these.
I approached Miyagi writing in her notebook in the corner. "Want some?", I invited.
"That's fine. I'm on duty." Miyagi refused without even looking up.
"What're you writing there?", I asked.
"A record of actions. Yours."
"Ah. I'm drunk right now."
"Yes, I can see that." Miyagi nodded begrudgingly.
I really must be a pain, huh.
Once totally drunk, I felt like the protagonist of a tragedy.
But then I became suddenly positive, and was filled with a mysterious energy.
I turned to Miyagi and proclaimed:
"With my 300,000 yen, I'm gonna change something!"
"Ah," Miyagi said, not entirely interested.
"It's not a helluva lot, but it's my life.
I'll make it 300,000 yen that's worth more than 300 million!"
I thought I sounded pretty cool, myself.
But Miyagi was apathetic. "That is what everyone says."
"Whaddya mean?", I asked.
"Everyone speaks of extremes when death is nearing.
...But please, Mr. Kusunoki. Think of it this way."
Miyagi stared at me with emotionless eyes.
"What can a man who would accomplish nothing in thirty years change in a mere three months?"
"...Won't know 'til we try," I replied, though I knew she was right on the money.
Realizing something, I asked Miyagi.
"Hey, don't suppose you'd know all the stuff that would've happened in those thirty years of my life?"
"More or less, yes. Though it's all of no importance now."
"Yeah, well it's important to me. Spit it out."
"I suppose so," Miyagi said.
"First of all, I shall say that in the thirty years you sold, no one ever loves you."
"That's a damn shame," I said, as if it wasn't my business.
"You are unable to love anyone else as well.
And indeed, that makes you unlovable by those around you.
You grow further and further apart from others, and you grow weary of the world."
Miyagi glanced toward me.
""But maybe something good will still happen."
These words let you survive until fifty, until ultimately, you die alone and with nothing, grieving that this world was not for you."
"That's a damn shame too," I mechanically repeated.
But deep inside, I was unmistakably hurt.
It was all too easy to see happening.
Miyagi went on, telling me I'd get in a bike accident at age forty.
The accident would take half my face and make me unable to walk.
It wasn't nice to hear about, but on the other hand, I could be considered lucky for dying before I had to experience it.
It was true - for fifty years, I would live a meaningless life, prolonged only by a false hope.
Once I knew for sure that nothing good would happen, I could instead die without regret.
I turned on the TV to distract myself.
The show appeared to be a sports feature.
Just as I was about to change the channel, my worst fear was realized: my younger brother's face and name came up on screen.
I reflexively threw a glass at the screen.
The TV fell over onto the ground, and shards of the thrown glass went flying.
I swung around to look at Miyagi.
She was watching me closely, clearly on her guard.
"He's my younger brother," I attempted to say cheerfully.
Instead, it made me appear more like a grinning maniac.
"...Do you not particularly care for your brother?", Miyagi said with disdain.
"Not really," I confirmed.
I heard banging on the wall from the neighboring room.
As I cleaned up the broken glass, my drunkenness cleared as if to aid me.
Once the alcohol fully went, I knew I would be in the worst state of mind.
So I called a certain person.
This, too, was the worst of choices.
I'm a professional at taking my life in the worst possible directions.
I called my best friend from high school.
We hadn't talked in a few months, but when I said "Want to meet up?", he gladly replied "I'll be right there!"
I felt like I was saved, if only a little.
So there is still someone who cares about me.
This is the most pathetic part of all, but I had a bit of a motive for meeting my friend.
This Miyagi girl may not have any courtesy, but the way she acts is cute.
I mean, she's always right behind me.
Of course, that's because she's my observer.
But while I was walking around the supermarket, I had a thought.
I wonder if we look like a couple to everyone else?
I mean, what else would we look like?
I was hoping for my friend to have that misunderstanding.
I wanted to boast about how I'd brought home a cute girl.
What a completely embarrassing motive, right?
But for me, it was urgent.
We came to our table at the restaurant, and Miyagi sat beside me.
I was impatiently waiting for my friend to arrive.
I looked at the time. I was probably way too early.
I decided to have some coffee while I waited.
When the waitress came by, I gave my order and turned to Miyagi. "You okay?"
She looked displeased.
"...Um. Did I not tell you earlier?"
"Tell me what?", I replied.
"You are the only one who can see me.
Or hear me. No one else will notice my presence in the least."
Miyagi tackled the waitress in the side, and there was indeed no response.
I looked up and saw the waitress's face.
She looked at me like I was nuts. Which I was.
Now I've done it.
My face was red for a while out of sheer embarrassment.
This meant, of course, that even my meager dream of boasting about a girl to my friend was not to be.
I was layers upon layers of miserable.
If only I could sell misery instead of my lifespan, or my health, or my time.
Just as I was going to leave, my friend appeared right on cue.
We shared in the joy of our reunion.
But my half of it was despair. I didn't even care anymore.
We were discontent souls in high school.
We would always be sitting in McDonald's, spending hours complaining to each other.
Perhaps all we wanted to say to each other then was "I just wanna be happy."
But we were scared to say it, so we spent hours cursing instead.
Yet while my friend was still complaining years later, something about him had fundamentally changed since then.
They weren't the unrealistic, irrational complaints that missed the point from back in high school.
They were pragmatic, reasonable complaints about things like his job and girlfriend.
I couldn't stand it anymore.
My friend was starting to brag more and more, and Miyagi was whispering things to me from beside.
I hated being talked to by both at once. I felt like my head was going to explode.
I was pushed to my limit.
Even under normal circumstances, I wouldn't have managed.
Without thinking, I shouted "SHUT UP!" at Miyagi.
The restaurant fell silent. After a few seconds, I went completely pale.
Before my friend could say anything, I left my part of the bill and got out of my seat.
I was starting to look more psychotic by the minute.
No wonder I only got 300,000 for this.
I walked home. My drunkenness cleared up, and despite my poor condition, my eyes weren't weary.
Since I wasn't sleepy at all, I thought I'd watch TV, but then I remembered I'd broken it with the glass.
The sound seemed to still work, though, so I decided to think of it as a big, clunky radio.
I opened a can of beer and drank it with some Pretz.
Miyagi seemed to be writing about me as usual.
Writing about my idiotic stunt at the restaurant, surely.
"Hey, sorry for shouting at you earlier," I said.
"Just like you said. I should've just come up with a lie and gotten out of there."
"Indeed," Miyagi replied without looking.
"Wanna drink when you're done writing that?"
"You want me to drink?", she asked.
"Yeah, I'm lonely." I spoke the truth.
"Apologies, but I'm on the job. I can't." She turned me down.
You should've just said that first then, geez.
Dawn came and I heard the chirping of birds.
Miyagi appeared to be observing me following a cycle of sleeping one minute, awake for five.
She's gotta be tough. Definitely not something I could do.
I woke up when the sun was setting.
It may be hard to believe, but I used to be pretty diligent.
I would always go to bed at 12 and wake up at 6.
Waking up with the sunrise was refreshing to me.
I looked toward the corner and saw Miyagi there as always.
She had seemingly taken a shower at some point, as she smelled of soap when I passed her.
It was my room, yet the area around Miyagi felt like a completely different dimension.
I looked over the list, and decided that I would write to my friends today.
I bought stationery at a nearby shop and picked up a fountain pen.
I realized I hadn't written a letter in a long time.
When was the last time I wrote a serious letter, in fact?
I searched my memory. Perhaps it was that summer in sixth grade.
That summer, our class buried a time capsule.
The round, silver capsule contained treasures from our time and letters to our future selves.
Everyone was very earnest about their letters. It was surprisingly fun.
Our teacher said we'd dig it up when we turned twenty, but I had 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.
That led me to a thought. If no one's dug it up, I would go dig up the time capsule myself.
Such a nostalgic, romantic notion steeped in sentimentality was just what I was looking for.
When night fell, I took the train to the elementary school.
I borrowed a shovel from the shed, went behind the gym, and started digging.
I thought it would be easy to find, but I just couldn't remember where we buried it.
Miyagi sat by and watched absent-mindedly as I kept digging holes.
It was a pretty strange sight.
I finally found the time capsule after three hours of digging.
By then, both my hands were blistered, my whole body sweaty, and my shoes muddy.
I went under a streetlight and opened the capsule.
I had only wanted to take my own letter, but after all my effort, I decided I might as well look at all of them.
I opened the letters of classmates who I didn't remember, not even their faces.
I had completely forgotten until just then that at the end of the letter, there was a column that said: "Who's your best friend?"
You can probably guess where this is going, can't you?
There wasn't a single person who put my name there.
So I see, I nodded to myself.
Even in good old elementary school, this was how it was.
But there was at least one good thing.
My childhood friend, while she didn't name me as her "best friend," did mention me in her letter.
Of course, calling that a good thing is pretty sad.
Taking out my own letter and my childhood friend's, I buried the time capsule back where it had been.
I recall that as I left, Miyagi stood where the capsule was buried and stomped the ground to make it even.
The last train had left hours ago.
I sprawled out on hard station chairs and waited for the morning train.
It was oddly light and there were lots of bugs, making it a terrible environment to get to sleep in.
Meanwhile, Miyagi seemed totally fine.
She took out a sketchbook and drew a sketch of the premises.
I fell asleep wondering if that was part of her job.
I woke up a few hours before the first train, went outside, and bought some iced coffee from a vending machine.
My body was aching from sleeping in such a weird place.
The sky was still dim.
When I went back inside, I saw Miyagi stretching.
I felt like I had finally seen a human side to her.
I was somewhat pleased. Ah, so even she needs to stretch...
While I felt this, a strange emotion budded in me.
Maybe it was having three months left to live.
Maybe it was the repeating despair.
Maybe it was the continuing stress, fatigue, and pain.
Maybe I was still sleepy, or maybe I really did like this Miyagi girl.
Well, it didn't matter. At any rate, I had a sudden impulse to do something mean to Miyagi.
I approached Miyagi and asked. "Hey, miss observer?"
"What is it?", Miyagi said, lifting her head.
"If I were to get violent with you, about how long would it take before HQ or whatever killed me?"
She wasn't particularly surprised. She just looked at me with serene eyes and answered "It wouldn't take more than an hour."
"So I'd have a bunch of minutes to act freely?"
She looked away from me and said "Nobody said anything like that."
Silence persisted for a while.
Oddly, Miyagi didn't try to run away. She just stared down at her lap.
"...Must be a dangerous job."
I sat down two seats away from Miyagi.
She continued to look away.
"So long as you understand."
My prior impulse was promptly put to rest.
When I saw Miyagi's resigned eyes, it went so far as to make me sad too.
"There's lots of guys like me, aren't there?
On the verge of death, they go nuts and take out their anger on their observer."
Miyagi gently shook her head.
"As a matter of fact, you are an easy case.
There are many who go to much further extremes."
"...Why would a young girl like you take such a dangerous job?"
Miyagi began telling me the answer bit by bit.
She told me she had a debt, which had originated with her mother.
Despite not having such a great life, her mother took out loans to buy a longer lifespan.
But she got sick and quickly died, leaving Miyagi to pay the debt.
A refreshingly disgusting story.
"I would have been able to pay the debt by selling my entire lifespan.
I was very close to going ahead with it, but just as I was about to give up, I was told about the observer job.
It's a difficult job, but it does pay very well.
At this rate, I believe I can pay the full amount by the time I'm fifty."
By the time she's fifty?
This only made me feel worse.
She talked about it like it was her salvation.
But even if I didn't do anything to her, she couldn't put up with guys like me for decades more, could she?
"Maybe you should just sell off a life like that," I said.
"There's not even a guarantee you'll make it to fifty, is there?"
She gave a worried look.
"Yes, many of the people I've observed for this job have tried to kill me.
But... You see, it's not that simple.
Perhaps something good will happen someday."
"I know a guy who died at fifty saying that to himself but getting nothing out of it."
"So do I," Miyagi said with a small smirk.
I was unreasonably pleased that she smiled at my joke.
I got on the first train, and surrounded by suits and uniforms, I talked to Miyagi, unconcerned about those around me.
"No one may have chosen me as their "best friend" for the time capsule, but hey, at least my childhood friend mentioned me in her letter."
Of course, no one could see Miyagi, so I appeared to be talking to myself. What a creepy guy.
Miyagi looked worried.
"Um. Everyone is watching. They'll think you're weird... or already do."
"Let them think that. Because I am.
...So I was thinking it over at the station, and I realized that no matter how much she's changed, that friend of mine is my entire life."
"What do you mean by that?"
"I want to meet her and talk to her one last time.
And as thanks for giving me life, I want to give her the 300,000 yen from selling it.
You might be opposed, but I don't care. It's my lifespan, and my money."
"...If you insist, I have no objections.
But please stop talking to me here in the train. It's extremely embarrassing."
Despite her words, Miyagi oddly seemed to be enjoying herself.
Rather than going home, I went straight to the city.
I filled my stomach with toast, eggs, and coffee, took a deep breath, and called my childhood friend.
"We can meet at night," my friend told me.
That was convenient. I had to make preparations of my own.
I took Miyagi's hand and walked along swinging it back and forth.
Everyone else saw me doing it all alone, but I was having too much fun to care.
Miyagi looked concerned, but I kept pulling her along.
First, I went to the salon and made a reservation for two hours later.
Then I went to a shop to buy clothes and shoes, changing there.
I hadn't bought any new clothes in years.
With my new clothes and haircut, I felt like I was someone else. Miyagi had the same thought.
"You almost seem like an entirely different person."
I was honestly glad. See, I'm not a bad guy!
I had time before our meeting, so I asked Miyagi to do a rehearsal of meeting with my friend.
I entered the restaurant I went to yesterday and began.
I turned to Miyagi, who sat in front of me, and smiled.
"Well, Miyagi? Do I look good?"
To an observer (who wasn't this observer), I was grinning at a wall.
Miyagi answered while munching on her sandwich.
"Hmm, your smile is a little stiff.
Your mimetic muscles must be weak from not smiling much."
"Huh. I guess I'll have to work them out until tonight."
I repeatedly went between a smile and a neutral expression.
"...You are rather interesting."
"Yeah. Charming, aren't I? Be careful not to fall for me."
"I will be. But you do have your ups and downs."
We were having a pretty good time, as a matter of fact.
It was about eight hours between calling my friend and meeting her, but it felt like twenty-seven.
I was checking my watch almost every five seconds.
I practiced with Miyagi up to the last minute.
We did trial and error in the corner of the cafe to determine how to give her a good impression.
...And then, finally, the time came for our meeting.
I was thrown off by her changed appearance and tone, but I saw her smile and behavior hadn't changed.
That alone made me truly glad I called her.
"Long time no see," she said. "Have you been well?"
"I'm doing fine. And you?", I replied.
But that someone with three months to live was "doing fine" was laughable.
Whether it was my appearance, my money, or what, my friend seemed pleased with me.
"You've really changed," she said, fawning over me.
It really felt like things were going to go great.
I had practiced and had the benefit of knowing the future, so I succeeded in giving her a good impression.
But I guess I can't be satisfied until I make a complete mess of everything.
Interrupting my friend as she told me about her situation, I started talking about how I sold my lifespan.
I told her "Um, you see, I only have three months to live" in a way that invited her sympathy.
I suppose I believed in my heart that my dear friend would take me seriously, show deep sympathy, and console me.
But not five minutes into my story, she was clearly getting bored.
She'd just go "Hmm?", looking at me like I was stupid.
Of course, it was all my fault. I had made the mistake.
No one would believe a sudden story about a shop that deals in lifespan and observers this and that, especially not out of me.
I'm glad she didn't just burst out laughing, at least.
"Hey, excuse me," she said, standing up. I thought she was going to the bathroom.
Just as she left, both our orders arrived.
I was desperate to continue my story.
But she didn't come back.
I waited until the food was cold, and she didn't come back.
I had messed it all up again.
I ate my cold pasta slowly.
After a while, Miyagi sat across from me and started eating up my friend's pasta.
"Quite tasty even if it's cold," she said.
I didn't say anything.
I left the restaurant and went to the bridge by the station.
Then I took out the envelope of 300,000 yen I was going to give my friend.
I walked along distributing the money to passersby, bill by bill.
"You should stop this," Miyagi said.
"I'm not bothering anyone, am I?", I replied.
Once people realized I was giving them money, they either gave a weak thanks or were dubious.
Many turned it down, and others asked for more.
The 300,000 yen was gone in no time.
I even took money out of my own wallet.
I must have wanted people to care about me.
I wanted someone to ask, "Did something happen?"
Once I'd distributed 330,000 yen, I stood right in the middle of the street.
People walking by looked at me uncomfortably.
I didn't have money to pay a taxi, so I slept on a bench in the shade of a building.
There was a streetlight switching on and off right above me.
Miyagi slept on a bench as well. What an awful thing to do to a girl.
"You can go home, okay?"
She shook her head at me.
"If I did that, I feel you would commit suicide."
Until I fell asleep, I gazed at the stars above.
I had gotten more opportunities to look at the stars. The July moon was very pretty.
Perhaps it was the same in May and June, and I'd simply not noticed.
Before I fell asleep, I had a habit of thinking up landscapes in my head.
I would think about the kind of world I wanted to live in.
I'd done this since I was five years old.
Perhaps this childish practice was why I couldn't get accustomed to this world.
I woke up around six and walked back to my apartment.
There was a market on the edge of town, busy even in early morning.
I finally reached the apartment after walking about four hours.
After all that I'd been doing, my limbs were screaming.
I guess I can't just live a peaceful life, can I.
I took a shower, changed clothes, and slept again.
Bed wouldn't betray me. I love bed.
Even Miyagi seemed to be quite tired.
She took a shower and sat in the corner, half-asleep and not doing much observing.
On the desk were my half-written letters.
But continuing them just felt absurd.
No one cared about anything I had to say.
There was no one I wanted to see, and that left me with little else to do.
I had even my blown my chance at extravagance thanks to yesterday.
"Isn't there anything else you'd like to do?", Miyagi asked, trying to encourage me.
"That you wanted to do, but kept yourself from doing."
I put some serious thought into that, but found there wasn't much I liked at all.
Had I really been living happily until now? Doing what?
My old hobbies of reading and music appreciation were just to keep living.
I used music and books to make a compromise with life.
While I had only three months left, I didn't want to do anything with them.
I had faintly realized it already, but there was nothing I lived for.
I was living almost solely to fantasize before I went to sleep.
My observer said, "It's fine if it's something meaningless.
Some of the people I've observed, when down to two months, spend all their time sitting in the backs of moving trucks looking up at the sky."
"Sounds peaceful," I laughed.
"It's best to walk around outside when you want to think," Miyagi added.
"Put on your favorite clothes and we'll go outside."
Well, that's nice of you.
It appeared this girl was gradually getting kinder to me.
Then again, perhaps since an observer is stuck being with someone, she's merely going along with it.
I took Miyagi's advice and walked around outside.
The sunlight was strong that day. My hair felt like it was burning.
I soon got thirsty and bought cola from a vending machine.
"Ah," I muttered.
"What is it?"
"...No, it's really stupid.
But I just remembered one thing I like."
"Please, tell me."
"I love vending machines."
"Ah. ...What about them do you like?"
"Hmm. I don't know if I can say for sure myself.
But as a kid, I really wanted to be a vending machine when I grew up."
Miyagi looked at my blankly.
"Um. Just checking, but by vending machine, you mean the machines which sell coffee, cola, and the like?"
"Yeah. But more than that. Yaki onigiri, takoyaki, ice cream, hamburgers, corn dogs, french fries, corned beef sandwiches, cup noodles...
Vending machines offer all manner of things.
Japan is the land of vending machines. They originated here, too."
"Hmm... So it's a hobby of yours." Miyagi seemed to follow.
It was a really stupid hobby. It was a hobby even plainer than train fanaticism.
The symbol of a stupid, worthless life, I thought.
"But I think I do understand."
"My burning desire to become a vending machine?"
"No, that I don't think I can ever understand.
But vending machines are always there.
So long as you provide money, they will always offer warmth.
They offer more than the sum of their products.
They offer a clear function, with invariance and permanence."
I was moved by her mini-speech.
"Wow. You said what I wanted to say a lot better than I could."
"Thank you," she said happily.
This began my daily routine of going around to vending machines.
I got on my bike and drove down country roads.
When I saw a vending machine, I'd buy something and take a picture of it with a cheap camera.
I had no intention of developing the photos, but I did it anyway.
I repeated this futile action for many days.
I knew that even when it came to a hobby as dumb as this, there were people far more serious about it than me, and I could never compete with them.
But I wholeheartedly did not care. I felt like I was alive.
It was difficult riding tandem on my Cub 110, so Miyagi sat on the back, and we visited many places.
I had finally found something I wanted to do, the weather was nice, and my life was suddenly peaceful.
I sat down in an empty lot and started smoking.
Miyagi drew in her sketchbook beside me.
"Is it okay if you don't do your job?", I asked.
Miyagi's hand stopped and she looked at me.
"I don't feel you'll do anything bad right now," she said.
"Maybe you're right," I said. I went over to Miyagi and watched her fill the paper with lines.
Huh, so this is how you draw, I thought.
"Yeah, you're not so great, though," I teased her.
"Which is why I'm practicing," Miyagi said proudly.
"Show me what you've drawn," I asked.
She suddenly closed her sketchbook and put it in her bag.
"We should be moving on now," she said, hurrying me along.
One day, when I woke up and looked to the corner of the room, I saw an unfamiliar man sitting there.
"...Where's the usual girl?", I asked.
"On holiday," the man said. "I'm filling in today."
So even observers get holidays.
"Huh," I said, looking the man over.
He was a shady man who reminded me of a street vendor.
"Your lifespan sold for the lowest possible price, huh?", he said, bluntly ridiculing me. "Wow, never thought there'd be such a guy."
"Great, isn't it? Want me to teach you how it's done?", I casually replied, and the man was slightly surprised.
"...You're pretty cocky, huh?"
"No, I was very hurt by that comment. I'm just bluffing."
The man seemed pleased with me.
"Maybe guys like you aren't so bad," he laughed.
Having a man as my observer helped me relax considerably.
The man noticed this and said, "Can't calm down when a girl's around, huh?
Gotta look good in front of her. I feel ya."
"Yeah, I can calm down around you. After all, I don't care what you think."
I said this as I read Peanuts, which I had been too embarrassed to read in front of Miyagi.
To be honest, I really love Snoopy.
"Guess so. ...Hey, by the way, what'd you use your money for?", the man said, chuckling.
"I walked down the road giving it out bill by bill," I answered.
"Bill by bill?", the man said, suspicious.
"Yep. Thirty 10,000 yen bills to thirty people.
I meant to give it all to someone in particular, but I changed my mind."
The man burst into uproarious laughter.
And then he asked me something.
"Hey, you - did you seriously believe it when they said your lifespan was worth 300,000 yen?"
"What do you mean?", I asked the man.
"I mean exactly what I said.
Your lifespan's 300,000 yen? Did you really think that?"
"Well... yeah, I thought that was pretty low at first."
The man laughed, banging the wall. I was getting uncomfortable.
"Right, right. Well, I don't want to say anything, but... well, next time you see that girl, you ask her.
"Was my lifespan really worth 300,000 yen?""
The next morning, Miyagi came to my apartment, and I asked her what the man had told me to.
"Of course it is," she answered.
"I'm sorry to say, but your worth simply isn't very much."
"Hmph," I said. Miyagi seemed to notice something and asked, "Did my substitute tell you something?"
"He just told me to check that with you, that's all."
"...Yes, well, 300,000 yen is 300,000 yen."
She continued to feign ignorance.
"I thought you were embezzling me at first."
Miyagi looked toward me, her eyes widening slightly.
"I thought maybe it was worth 30 or 300 million, and you were taking a cut of it for yourself.
...But somehow, I couldn't believe that.
I thought I was just making a fundamental mistake.
I pondered that all night, until I realized.
...I was mistaken from the very beginning.
Why did I believe that 10,000 yen for a year was the lowest possible price?
Why did I believe that normal lifespans should sell for tens and hundreds of millions?
Maybe I was basing too much on my prior opinions.
I was applying my own common sense to the situation.
I should have been more flexible in my thinking."
I took a breath, and said:
"What made you want to give a whole 300,000 yen to someone you'd never even seen before?"
Miyagi appeared to understand what I meant, but said "I don't have the faintest idea what you're saying."
As usual, she sat in the corner staring at her lap.
I sat in the opposite corner of the room and sat down the same way she did.
Miyagi smiled at this.
"You can feign ignorance, that's fine," I said. "But I just want to say thanks."
Miyagi shook her head.
"It's all right. If I kept this job up, I'd surely die before I paid the debt.
Even if I paid it and was free, I'm not promised a good life afterward.
So I decided it would be better to do this."
"So how much am I worth, really?"
"...Thirty yen," Miyagi whispered.
"A three-minute phone call," I laughed.
"Sorry for using your 300,000 yen like that."
"Indeed. I do wish you would have used it more for yourself."
Miyagi's wording felt angry, but her voice was gentle.
"...But I certainly understand how you feel.
I gave you that 300,000 yen for a similar reason, after all.
I felt lonely, sad, hollow, and desperate.
So I went and did something unreasonably altruistic."
"And I'm not upset or disappointed. To me, you are someone who is worth 30 or 300 million yen."
"Stop it, that's such a weird consolation," I smiled.
"It's true," Miyagi said with a serious look.
"If you're too kind to me, I'll just get miserable.
I know that you're a nice girl already, so you don't need to go any further."
"You're quite annoying. Just be quiet and let me cheer you up."
"...Never been told that before."
"Besides, this isn't consolation or kindness.
I'm just telling you what I've been wanting to say."
"...To you, though, it must be trifling," Miyagi said, hanging her head in embarrassment.
"I was glad that you were willing to talk to me.
Even moreso that you would talk to me in front of others and not even care.
Because I've always been invisible. Being ignored was part of my job.
So even little things like talking with me, eating with me, going out shopping - it was like a dream.
You were the first person to always treat me like I was "there," no matter the time or the situation."
"I can keep doing that if you like," I joked, and Miyagi gave a sweet smile.
"I would love that. Since... I do love you."
Though loving someone who's soon to go away won't help anything.
She smiled sadly.
It was then when I finally found an objective for my meaningless last months.
Miyagi's words brought about an incredible change within me.
I decided, no matter what it took, I would pay Miyagi's debt in full.
Yes, me, whose life wasn't even worth a hundred yen.
I guess I just didn't know my place.
My life took a sudden turn.
I kept telling myself: Think, think, think.
How can I pay her debt in the remaining months?
How can I ensure she'll live peacefully?
I knew that trying the lottery or gambling wasn't the way to go.
Those with money always win at gambling in the end, and the jackpot always goes to people who don't want to change a thing.
I followed Miyagi's past advice and walked all around town.
I did that the next day, the day after, and the day after that.
I hoped for an answer to come rolling at my feet.
I didn't eat much of anything during that time.
Because I knew that at a certain level of hunger, my head cleared up.
Miyagi seemed to worry for me.
"Please, let's go vending machine visiting again," she told me repeatedly.
"I actually quite like looking at them now, too. And I like clinging to your back on the bike."
But I kept walking, and kept thinking.
Before I knew it, I was at the bookstore I often went to.
Yearning to see the old man's face, I went inside.
The old man was listening to baseball and reading, as usual.
I had wanted to tell him about the events of the past days, but I thought he might feel guilty about it, so I acted like I never went to that shop he told me about.
We had a casual conversation for about twenty minutes.
Neither of us really engaged the other, but it put me at ease somehow.
As I left, I asked the old man something.
"How do you think you can improve your own value?"
The man turned down the volume on the radio.
"Hmm. Guess you just have to be reliable about doing things.
That's not something I can do, though.
I guess you just see things to do in front of you, and you get good at staying on top of them.
...But there's something more important than that.
And that's not to trust the advice of somebody like me.
You see somebody who never achieved anything talking about success, they're just blind to their own failings."
After leaving the bookstore, I walked down to the CD shop.
I told the clerk there the same lie I told the old man.
After talking a little bit about the CDs I'd been listening to, I asked:
"How do you think you can accomplish things in a short time?"
"Guess you gotta depend on others, dude," he said.
"'Cause a single guy can't do that much on his own, yeah?
Which means you gotta have someone else's help.
I don't have a whole lotta faith in my own ability, tell you the truth."
It was advice I wasn't sure if I should take to heart or not.
Outside, it had started raining heavily, as it does in the summer.
As I went to leave the store, the clerk lent me an umbrella.
"I dunno what's goin' on, but if you wanna accomplish something, don't forget about your health," he said.
I put up the umbrella and walked with Miyagi.
It was a small umbrella, so our shoulders got soaking wet.
People watching, meanwhile, saw an idiot holding an umbrella in a stupid way.
"I like this," Miyagi laughed.
"What do you like?", I asked.
"Despite how comical it looks to others, you letting your shoulder get wet is a very kind gesture."
"Oh," I said bashfully.
"You're a shameless shy man," Miyagi said, poking my shoulder.
People passing by looked at me oddly.
I dared to keep talking with Miyagi, however.
By this point, I enjoyed being treated like a weirdo, and I knew that Miyagi enjoyed it.
The more comical I looked, the more it would make Miyagi smile.
While taking shelter under a shop overhang, I saw a familiar face: a guy in my department at school who I greeted every day.
When he saw me, he approached me angrily.
"Where the hell have you been?"
I put my hand on Miyagi's shoulder and said, "I've been going around with this girl. Her name's Miyagi."
"Not funny," he said displeased.
"I always knew it, but man, you really are deranged, Kusunoki.
That's what you get for hiding in your husk instead of interacting with people."
"Can't stop you from thinking that.
If I were in your position, I'd probably say the same thing.
But Miyagi's here, all right. And she's real cute."
I burst into laughter, and he left, fed up with me.
The rain started to clear up; it was only a brief shower.
A rainbow faintly appeared in the sky.
"Um... Thank you for that," Miyagi said, leaning on my shoulder.
Be "reliable," huh?
I remembered the advice of the old man at the bookstore.
Thinking about it, there was something I could do.
I had been set on the idea of paying her debt, but perhaps just getting myself into these situations could help her a fair bit.
That's right. I can give her happiness in a very real way.
It was right in front of me all this time - so why didn't I do it?
We got on the bus and went to the lake.
Most would raise their eyebrows when they heard what I did there.
Knowing that people thought I was on my own, I went to ride on one of the duck boats.
The clerk gave me a look as if to say "Alone?", so I turned to Miyagi who he couldn't see and said "Okay, let's go!"
There was some amount of terror in his eyes.
Miyagi couldn't help laughing at how funny it was the entire time we were on the boat.
"I mean, an adult male, alone, riding a duck boat?"
"Feels like I've crossed the line," I said.
After the one-man duck boat, I did the one-man Ferris wheel, one-man merry-go-round, one-man aquarium visit, one-man see-saw, one-man pool, one-man toast at a bar...
Nearly anything that would be embarrassing to do alone, I did it.
And whatever I was doing, I would actively talk to Miyagi.
I would frequently call her name and walk holding hands with her.
I gradually became an infamous celebrity.
There were quite a few people who'd point at laugh when they saw me.
But luckily, since I was always so happy about what I did, there were just as many who enjoyed seeing me.
People began to think of my actions as a performance.
Some even praised me as a pantomime showing off his skills.
On the other hand, people would show up and ask "How's Miyagi doing?"
Yes, it was gradual, but they began to accept Miyagi's existence.
Of course, it wasn't that people believed in the existence of this invisible person.
It was more like people accepted my nonsense and played along with it.
I came to be treated as a pitiable, but amusing person.
That summer, I was the best clown in town.
For better or worse.
Oh, yes. When I did a toast with Miyagi at the bar, the man sitting next to me talked to me.
"Are you that person from the other day?", he asked.
I didn't remember him myself, but apparently he was a music student, and one of the people I gave 10,000 yen to that day.
"I've heard all sorts of rumors about you.
The happy man who's alone, but pretends he has a girlfriend right next to him."
"Wow, sounds like quite a guy," I said. "You heard of him?", I asked, turning to Miyagi.
"No, never!", Miyagi smiled.
The man smiled bitterly at this.
"...You know, I feel like I understand.
There's some deep reason for all this, isn't there?
Would you mind telling me what it is?"
He was the first to ask me anything like that.
I took his hand and thanked him deeply.
And then I told him about all of it.
About how I was poor. About how I sold my lifespan. About the observers.
About my parents. About my friend. About the time capsule.
About my future. About my childhood friend. About the vending machines.
And about Miyagi.
In the middle of all of it, I let something slip.
"I've never told her myself, but I love Miyagi so deeply I'm not even sure what to do."
Sitting next to me, she nearly spilled her drink.
Because indeed, I had never outright told Miyagi "I love you."
I was so amused by her reaction, I almost fell over laughing.
"So I want to make it up to her for wasting her 300,000 yen, and for doubting her.
Above all, I want to do something to reduce her debt if I can.
Because I don't want her to be in such danger any longer."
But as I get serious, the world gets bored.
The man looked highly dubious.
He didn't believe a word of my story.
Perhaps he only thought that if he listened to my story, I would give him money again.
The man left, and I got ready to leave myself when a middle-aged man behind me called out.
"Excuse me. I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but I heard your story."
The man, wearing a cheap suit, scratched his head.
"...Well, be honest, what do you think?", I asked.
"That girl's right there, isn't she?", he said, looking where Miyagi was.
"Ah, well-guessed. You're right, and she's cute too," I said, patting Miyagi's head.
Miyagi closed her eyes as if ticklish.
"I thought so. ...Um, forgive me, but could I have some time with you two?"
The man placed emphasis on "you two."
"I'll keep this brief, but Mr. Kusunoki, I've had a similar experience to yours.
When I was about your age, my brother three years older helped me out of a deep depression in a way much like you're doing for Ms. Miyagi.
Much like you, I was determined to repay my brother somehow.
But I didn't have enough time for it.
My brother disappeared. And I could do nothing."
The man stopped to finish his glass.
"If I could give some advice, it would be to listen as closely as you can.
...And then you might make it in time.
It will be close, but you can still make it."
After the man left, I thought over his words.
"Listen as closely as you can." What on earth did he mean?
Was he really just saying to literally strain my ears?
Or was it a famous aphorism with a deeper meaning?
Or did it have no meaning at all, just something that came out of his mouth?
We reached the apartment, and I got into bed with Miyagi.
"That man was quite nice," Miyagi said, and fell asleep.
She was sleeping soundly, as peacefully as a child.
I never got used to it, and never got tired of it.
I got out of bed, careful not to wake Miyagi, and drank three cups of water in the kitchen.
I picked up her sketchbook in the corner, checked to make sure she wasn't awake, and opened it.
There were many drawings in the sketchbook.
The phone in my room, the broken TV, bottles of alcohol.
The restaurant, the cafe, the station, the supermarket.
The duck boat, the amusement park, the fountain, the ferris wheel.
My bike, a can of Pocari Sweat, Snoopy.
And me sleeping.
I tore out a page from the sketchbook and started drawing Miyagi sleeping in return.
Since I always watched Miyagi drawing from beside, I more or less knew how to draw.
I didn't focus on things like drawing well or trying to mimic another artist; I just focused on the picture.
When I looked at my completed drawing, I was filled with satisfaction, but I also had a tiny feeling that something was amiss.
It was easy to overlook the wrongness.
It was minor enough that if I just thought about something else, it would go away.
But those words remained in my head.
"Listen as closely as you can."
I concentrated to the best of my ability.
I strained my senses to find the source of the wrongness.
Then suddenly, I understood.
The next moment, as if possessed, I intently moved the pencil across the sketchbook.
I continued for the entire night.
I took Miyagi to see some fireworks.
We saw elaborate skyrockets at a fireworks display at the local elementary school.
There were many carts selling things as well. It was a bigger affair than I expected.
When children saw me walking and holding hangs with Miyagi, they laughed "It's Mr. Kusunoki!"
Weirdos are popular with kids too.
A group of boys in high school approached and teased me, saying "What a girl you've got there!"
"Great, isn't she? Well you can't have her," I said, holding Miyagi's shoulder.
I was happy. Even if they didn't believe it, everyone enjoyed my "Miyagi's right there!" nonsense.
We held hands on the way back from the fireworks show.
I was the only one who knew it would be the final day.
It was Sunday, which Miyagi took off every two weeks.
"Yo, been a while," the replacement observer said.
Normally, I would have thirty-three days left.
Tomorrow, Miyagi would have come back to me.
But I returned to that building again.
The place where I first met Miyagi.
And there, I sold thirty days of my lifespan.
The replacement observer was surprised.
"Do you know where you're doing here?"
"Yep," I said. "Isn't that great?"
The thirty-some woman at the counter who audited me looked bewildered.
"...I honestly can't recommend this.
I'm seeing that in the next thirty days, you're going to paint pictures that end up in art textbooks for years to come."
"The World's Plainest Pictures."
That's what my paintings were named, and while they caused a lot of dispute, they ultimately sold for very high prices.
Or rather, that's what would have happened if I hadn't sold those thirty days.
What I drew - or would draw - were the landscapes I had imagined before I slept since I was five.
I didn't even realize it, but I had long been piling them up.
And it was none other than Miyagi who taught me how to express them.
I don't have much interest in art history, but I was glad to make so much off of selling a single month of my life.
It wasn't quite enough to pay Miyagi's debt, but she would be free in just five more years of work.
"Thirty days more valuable than thirty years, huh?", the observer laughed.
But they were indeed.
It was the first morning of the remaining three days.
I wouldn't have an observer's eyes on me. It was time completely to myself.
I wondered if Miyagi was off observing someone else now.
I prayed that they wouldn't attack Miyagi out of desperation.
I prayed that Miyagi could keep working until she paid her debt, and live such a happy life that she forgot all about me.
I had already decided how I would spend my three days.
I went around to the places I went with Miyagi, but this time I really was alone.
I pretended that Miyagi was there, however.
I put out my hand, said "Hey!", and held an imaginary Miyagi's hand.
It was the same as always for everyone else.
Ah, that idiot Kusunoki's walking with his imaginary girlfriend again.
But it was very different for me.
As I went on doing it, I was hit with such sadness I could barely stand up.
I sat on the edge of a fountain with my head low, and was called to by a boy and girl in middle school.
The boy innocently asked, "Mr. Kusunoki, how's Ms. Miyagi?"
"Miyagi's not here anymore," I said.
The girl put her hands to her mouth, shocked.
"Huh? What happened? Did you have a fight?"
"Something like that. Don't fight, you two."
The two looked at each other and shook their heads in unison.
"Well, I dunno... I mean, even Mr. Kusunoki and Ms. Miyagi argue?
If you two get along so well but still fight, then there's no way we wouldn't."
Before I knew it, I was crying.
The two tried to console me.
Then, surprisingly, I found that there were far more people who knew about me than I thought.
"Kusunoki's doing something new," people said as they crowded around.
I told them that Miyagi and I had fought and split up.
I said she had turned her back on me and abandoned me.
"What about Kusunoki didn't Miyagi like?", a college girl with glasses said angrily.
She really spoke like she believed Miyagi existed.
A young man with piercings said to me, "That Miyagi's a good-for-nothing girl, ditching a good guy like this!", slapping me on the back.
I turned my head up to say something, but I couldn't get any words out.
Just then, there was a voice from behind me.
"Indeed. To think, when he's such a good person."
I knew the voice, of course. I wouldn't have forgotten it in a day or two.
It would take thirty years for me to forget.
I turned toward it.
I needed to be sure.
I couldn't have possibly misheard.
But until I saw it myself, I wouldn't believe it.
"That Miyagi girl really is a good-for-nothing."
Miyagi chuckled to herself.
"...That's quite impressive, buying back the majority of my life with just thirty days."
Miyagi sat beside me and leaned on me.
The people around looked at Miyagi in amazement.
Of course they hadn't expected her to exist.
"Might you be Ms. Miyagi?", a man asked.
"Yes, I'm the good-for-nothing Miyagi," she answered.
Taking my hand, she celebrated. "Thank goodness!"
But I didn't understand what was going on.
Why was Miyagi here?
Why could the other people see Miyagi?
Miyagi took my hand and explained.
"In short, I did the same thing you did."
Just after I sold all but three days of my lifespan, my replacement observer called Miyagi.
"That Kusunoki guy sold off even more of his life, and paid off most of your debt!"
When Miyagi heard that, she was apparently determined.
"I left three days, and sold the rest," Miyagi said.
"As such, even though the debt is paid, there's plenty of money left.
More than we could possibly go through in three days."
"Well, Mr. Kusunoki."
Miyagi grinned at me.
"How do you want to spend these three days?"
I believe those three days,
compared to the tragic thirty years I would have lived,
compared to the worthwhile thirty days I would have lived,
were of much, much more value.
What a great way to end it. Really amazing. I hope you write more, I really want to read it.
I liked it.
I wonder how much Miyagi's lifespan sold for?
Sweat fell from my eyes...
Great job, looking forward to your next story.
That was really great.
I can't think of anything smart to say, but it was just really good.
Looking forward to your next!