The Place You Called From

Volume 2, Chapter 12: The Mermaid’s Song
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Volume 2, Chapter 12: The Mermaid's Song

The evening of August 27th, Hajikano and I headed for the site of the Minagisa summer festival. She wore a yukata she'd only worn once three years ago, and I wore a cheap jinbei I bought in the area. We walked down the dim rural roads, our clogs resounding under the voices of higurashi. Thanks to her deep blue yukata, Hajikano's white skin stood out more than ever.

The closer we got to the festival, the more we heard taiko drums rumbling the earth, the sound of flutes and sho, guiding voices on megaphones, and the stirring of people. There was a long line of cars outside the local elementary school designated for parking, and just ahead of there, we could see the community plaza.

Just as we were stepping in, a small firework went up to announce the start of the festival. Everyone around stopped at once and looked up to the sky, gazing at the white smoke left behind. Just after, the area was filled with applause.

In the center of the plaza was a scaffold, and strings of lanterns extended radially from the pillar. Stands were packed close together along the long sides of the plaza, one of the short sides served as an entrance, and the other short side had a giant stage set up. A few dozen or hundred people were already seated, and the head festival runner was up on stage giving a greeting.

I opened the program given to me at the entrance and went over the plans for today. As expected, the reading of The Mermaid of Agohama and the singing of the Mermaid's Song were still there. They must have found a replacement. It was only natural, I guess. In the corner of the program was a photo of this year's Miss Minagisa. She was a pretty woman, certainly, but seemed too lively to suit the part of the mermaid - of course, maybe I only thought that because I knew that role had been for Chigusa.

We bought usuyaki and yakisoba at the stands and went to the stage. There, we saw a children's iai performance, a middle school wind instrument band, buyo and minyou dances by volunteers, and spinning tricks by a performer. An hour went by in a blink. As a raffle started up, we left our seats, waded through the crowd, sat on a planter near the parking lot, and observed the hubbub of the festival from a distance.

As Miss Minagisa's reading was about to begin, I felt something cold on the back of my hand. I thought it was just my imagination, but seeing Hajikano look to the sky, I knew I hadn't been the only one to feel it. Less than a minute later, it began to rain. It wasn't intense, but it was enough to get you soaked if you weren't paying attention. Everyone took shelter in tents or the community center, or ran to the parking lot; the people on the plaza scattered at once. In no time, a voice on a megaphone announced that the stage shows would be canceled.

Hajikano and I hid from the rain under the community center's overhang. The thin raindrops blurred the lights of lanterns and stands, dying the plaza a dark red. Girls running with carpets held above their heads, old people walking pitifully with umbrellas up, children running around without regard for the rain, merchants hastily putting away their stands - as I watched it absentmindedly, a voice suddenly hit my ears.

The Mermaid's Song.

I didn't hear it from the stage, but from right beside me.

I looked Hajikano in the eye. She smiled shyly and stopped singing. "The rain doesn't seem like it'll stop soon," she said to cover her embarrassment.

"It's fine, keep going," I told her.

She nodded and resumed singing.

Her voice soaked into the air filled with rain.

This was my third time hearing her sing the Mermaid's Song.

The second time was a month ago, on the roof of the hotel.

The first time was six years ago, at an abandoned shrine on a mountain.

*

It was back when I still called Hajikano "class president."

The summer of 1988 was in one way my worst summer, and in another way my best summer. As I mentioned once before, that summer I'd fallen victim to autonomic ataxia, and had chills so bad I had to stay under a down blanket in the middle of the day in July. The coldness got worse day by day, ultimately hindering my everyday life. Going to a university hospital that was a three-hour round trip even using buses and trains, I was examined, and it was judged to be a result of stress (which was obvious). The doctor said I needed periodic hospital visits and a long recuperation. And thus my summer vacation started early.

It was unlike any summer I knew. There was such a gap between what I saw and what I felt, everything seemed somehow less real. Even though I'd been given a long break, I didn't have any will to go outside and play - for that matter, I couldn't even focus on reading inside. I feel like most of my time was spent watching a video tape on repeat. I forget what the video was. I only remember it was some old foreign film.

Once exactly a week had passed since I stopped coming to school, as I was watching the TV in my room as usual, I heard a knock on the door. The knock had a strange amount of force, not too strong, not too weak, low-tempo and musical in a way that just barely kept itself consecutive. I'd never heard such a polite knock before. I was sure it wasn't my mother knocking.

"Who is it?", I asked them. The door slowly opened, and a girl with a cute white one-piece appeared. She shut the door without making a sound, then turned back to me and bowed her head.

"The class president?" I sat up, forgetting the cold. "What are you here for?"

"Visiting." Hajikano smiled at me, let down her backpack, and sat next to my futon. "And also, to bring the handouts you've been missing."

I hastily looked at the state of my room. I'd gotten out of the habit of cleaning since no friends had come into my room in months, so it was a mess. If I'd only known she was coming, I would have gotten it nice and neat, I lamented. Then I looked at myself and felt even gloomier. Hajikano was dressed so sharply, she could walk right into her graduation, but I looked pathetic, wearing an unmatching jacket over creased pajamas.

I dove back under the covers to escape her gaze.

"Did a teacher ask you?"

"No, I proposed it myself. Since I was curious how you were doing, Yosuke."

She took a clear file out of her backpack, neatly took out the folded B3-size papers, checked what was printed on them, and put them on my desk. Then she sat next to me again, and looked at me as if to say "now then." Here come the questions, I thought. Why do you keep not coming to school? Why are you wrapped in a down blanket when it's summer? What kind of sickness is it? Why did you catch it?

But contrary to my expectations, Hajikano didn't ask anything. She took out a notebook with her name and class written on the front, opened it where I could see, and started going over the relatively high-importance information from the past week's lessons.

What was the meaning of this?, I wondered, but I obediently listened to her. Within minutes, I was deeply engrossed in what she was saying. New knowledge being told to me from a live human mouth. That was the sort of stimulation I needed most after spending entire days in my room.

Once she was done, Hajikano put her notebook in her backpack, said "I'll come again," and left. As soon as she was gone, my mom came into the room without knocking.

"Well, isn't that nice of her to visit. You should cherish friends like that," she said with pleasure.

"She's not a friend," I sighed. "She's the class president, so she's nice to everyone."

I wasn't just saying that to cover up my embarrassment like boys my age often would. The relationship between Hajikano and me back then simply wasn't such that you could call us "friends." As of moving up to fourth grade, her seat was closer, so we talked more, but that was it; it was limited to the classroom, and ever since we changed seats at the start of June, we didn't talk much at all.

I was honestly happy about Hajikano coming to visit me when I was sick, and deeply grateful for her going over the lessons I'd missed, but thinking that she probably did it out of sympathy depressed me. Because really, she was "the class president" who "had to be nice" to "a poor classmate." Surely she only saw me as a weakling to pity.

The next day, and the day after, Hajikano knocked at about the same time. And she thoroughly went over the lessons for the day. I thought her good will to do so could be largely interpreted as just fulfilling her duties as a class president. But as she paid frequent visits to my room to do everything she could for me, there was certainly a part of me that couldn't help being captivated. If it weren't for my belief that her kindness only came from pity, I think I would have been totally smitten in a few days.

At the time, I had a self-awareness of my love that could easily be called bizarre for a fourth-grader. If it were a month or two earlier, I would probably have a vague choking feeling, but not be able to figure out what it was. But since starting to think of my birthmark as ugly, my personality became extremely introspective. When I had time, I would mentally go over all these things I had just sort of accepted before, examine them, give them proper names, and put them back where they were. Love was one thing I found through this re-examining process.

Every time Hajikano finished going over the day's lessons and left, I felt a terribly miserable feeling. The big problem was, just as she expected to happen, I was very much soothed by her. Even though she was only being nice to me out of pity, my heart legitimately trembled at her smile and her slightest actions, and I couldn't be more miserable about that. Wanting her to think of me as someone who understood things quickly, I secretly did lesson prep with the textbook, and I excitedly cleaned my room around the time school got out - and I was so embarrassed with myself for doing it. I decided to take as blunt an attitude as I could with Hajikano, to at least counter it somewhat. So it wouldn't feel lonely when she eventually stopped coming.

Please, don't show me any weird dreams, I thought. I can't have it anyway, so don't let it into my sight. Stop toying with people with the pretense of being conscientious. But Hajikano didn't know about those thoughts, so she innocently held my hand and smiled "your hand's nice and cold, Yosuke," and lied down next to me to give detailed explanations of diagrams in her notebook. And so my chills got steadily worse.

July 13th was dedicated to a school-wide cleanup of the whole campus. All day, I could hear kids making a clamor outside. There didn't seem to be any classes that day, so I figured Hajikano wouldn't come teach me anything. But at 4 PM, I started to get fidgety, then the doorbell rang as usual, and there was a knock on my door.

That day, Hajikano wore cut-and-sew clothes of white fabric and a calm light green skirt. The uniform for the cleanup day was gym clothes, so maybe she went back home to change her dirty clothes, I thought.

"What is it?", I asked. "There weren't any classes today, were there?"

"Nope. But I'm here." Hajikano smirked mischievously.

"For what?"

"Just visiting."

Hajikano sat by my bedside like usual, smiling at my face without doing anything in particular. I couldn't stand it and flipped over in bed.

"You don't have to come on a day like this, do you?"

"I guess it's become a habit. And I'm worried for you, Yosuke."

I believe I was very happy to hear those words. And thus I chastised myself for getting elated, and blurted out something thorny.

I turned back around and said to Hajikano:

"Liar. You just like yourself for being nice to me."

I thought she'd bluntly deny it.

I thought she wouldn't even pay it any mind.

I thought she'd laugh it off. "Yosuke, you dummy."

But Hajikano didn't say anything.

She tightly pursed her lips and stared into my eyes. She had an expression like a long needle was being slowly pushed into her.

After a few seconds, Hajikano came to her senses and blinked, then tried to smile. But it was certainly an awkward one.

With an expression hard to pin down the emotion of, she mumbled.

"...That one really hurt."

She slowly stood up, turned her back to me, and left the room without a goodbye.

Initially, I hardly felt any sort of guilt. I even felt proud for hitting upon Hajikano's sore spot and getting her to run. But as time passed, the haziness in my chest grew thicker. It gradually covered the entire room, tormenting my heart inside and out.

Had I perhaps been making a terrible mistake?

If Hajikano really were using me for the sake of self-satisfaction, then no matter what I said, she could easily ignore it or refute it. Hypocrites generally establish a way to retaliate when their good will is questioned. They're well aware of how to act to seem saintly, and keep on hiding their true intentions. That's how it goes. Especially if it's someone smart.

But Hajikano seemed hurt by me calling her out on it.

Was that proof that she saw me as an equal?

Did she feel betrayed because she wasn't showing sympathy as a hypocrite, but from her heart?

If that were the case, then I'd done a terrible thing to Hajikano, who was doing so much for me.

I kept worrying all evening in my futon.

...I need to apologize to her.

My heart became set on that as of the next morning.

I felt like I couldn't convey my feelings well over the phone. When the noon bell rang, I got a duffel coat from my bureau and put it on over a thick sweater. My whole body smelled of bug spray. In the coat pocket were tissues and candy from last winter.

It had been a while since I went outside by myself. In fact, leaving out the "by myself," it had been a week. Being in a gloomy room for so long, the sky's blue and the trees' green, the sun's brightness and the smell of grass, the cicadas' buzz and the birds' chirping - it all felt more intense than I remembered it. Was the world always such a stimulating place?, I thought at a loss. I pulled my coat together as if to protect myself, put my hood all the way up, and took my first step on the path to school.

I purposefully chose a weird time to leave the house so I could avoid being seen as much as possible. My aim was spot on; I didn't see a single grade schooler on the road to school besides me. I prayed I could get to school without seeing anybody.

I passed a number of adults, and they looked at me dubiously, but luckily I made it to school without meeting anyone my age. I looked up at the clock tower; it was just about lunch time.

The school seemed a little more formal than usual after not being there in a while. I put my head down and quickly walked to my classroom. I looked through the open door, but didn't see Hajikano inside. I reluctantly went inside and asked some girls talking in the corner where she was. While they were suspicious of my getup, they told me Hajikano was absent today because she wasn't feeling well.

Disappointed, I left the classroom. Just then, I finally noticed the existence of a few dozen photos put up on the bulletin board in the hall. I had my head lowered the first time, so I didn't see them at all.

The first one I looked at was a photo of Hajikano. It was an extremely well-taken photo, so I stopped and stared at it for a while.

The photos seemed to be from a race, a class event in May. Each one was numbered, and you could write the number of the photo you wanted on an envelope to buy it. If I had to guess, it was probably targeted toward parents who came for teacher conferences.

I searched for photos with Hajikano, looking at them in order. The photographer was probably trying to get as many students as possible without bias, but Hajikano clearly showed up more often than any others. Photographers unconsciously choose subjects that make a good picture, after all. I always think that when I watch TV, too. For instance, photos of a school are taken in a priority hierachy, starting with "a particularly child-like child," followed by "a pretty girl," then "a serious kid about to respond to a question." And subjects that are likely to cause viewers discomfort are cleverly pushed out of frame.

While looking to see if there were any pictures that showed Hajikano closer-up, I unintentionally found a photo containing myself. It was a complete sneak attack. I wasn't prepared, expecting there to be not a single one.

Thinking about it now, it was a miracle photo, taken by coincidence. Not in the sense that the photo came out well, of course. I mean it was a miraculously awful photo. It was like a repulsive deep-sea creature.

No matter how pretty the people, sometimes you get photos like this. Especially when snapping in the middle of quick face movement; no one beautiful is perfectly beautiful at all possible moments. Sometimes you get photos that look like you're ten or twenty years older, or gained 20 or 40 pounds. As for me, having the devastating feature that was my birthmark, that took full effect to make the worst possible photo. Normally the photographer should have taken out such a photo, but maybe it slipped in by mistake.

Young girls can foolishly base their self-image upon a miraculously well-taken photo. My self-image instantly changed based on this miraculously awful photo.

Ahh, so this is how my face looks to others.

I looked at the photos of Hajikano, then back at the photo of me. And I asked myself. Do you think you two fit each other? Do you think you're in any equal position to talk with her? Do you think you have the right to love her? The answer to all of those was, "I don't."

My legs shook like the ground had shifted under me. I managed to stop myself from falling, but a stronger chill than I'd ever felt before struck my body. I shivered all over, and had trouble breathing.

I ran home with my tail between my legs, curled up in my futon, and waited for the shaking to stop. My heart felt like it was beaten to the ground; it seemed I was made as weak as I could possibly be. Finally the chills receded, and I crawled out, got some water from the dim kitchen, and went straight back to the futon.

How long would I have to live like this?, I thought, face buried in my pillow. Even if these chills went away, the fundamental problem of my birthmark wouldn't. It wouldn't change that I'd have to keep hiding from people's sight.

Please, someone, get rid of this birthmark, I prayed. But I didn't know what I was praying to. If they could grant this wish, I didn't care if they were a god, a witch, a mermaid, whatever.

This was when I remembered the abandoned shrine.

It was some idle gossip I talked about with one of my classmates one day. A little abandoned shrine at the top of a small mountain on the outskirts of town. If you went there at night and made a wish right at midnight, the god of the shrine would appear and grant your wish - a ridiculous rumor. It had come from seemingly nowhere, but the same claim was made even by students from other schools. A few young teachers had heard of it when they were kids, too. So the rumor of the abandoned shrine always caught the interest of Minagisa children as a ridiculous but not-fully-deniable mystery.

That said, for a fourth-grader to earnestly believe in a fantasy story about an abandoned shrine's god granting your wish... it was difficult to imagine. But my vision being constricted by a long time indoors, and my head fogged up from my illness, and having just been knocked into the depths of despair to boot, I was in the mood to grasp at straws. So that gossip echoed like a revelation to me.

I thought about that rumor for a while from under my futon. After about an hour, I sat up, put my wallet in my coat pocket, and left the house. The time was about 4 PM.

I needed to use the bus to get to the shrine. Luckily, I knew which stop to get on at. I remembered, while taking the bus to the hospital in the town over with my mom, passing by the mountain which the shrine was on.

Twenty minutes after arriving at the bus stop, the bus came. There was only a single old couple on board. Once they got off two stops later, I was the only passenger left.

While waiting to arrive at my destination, I sat at the edge of the far back seat, looking at the monotone fields going by. The road seemed in poor shape, as the bus frequently jolted unpleasantly. The driver muttered in a voice so quiet I couldn't hear it. It hadn't been thirty minutes since I got on the bus, but it felt like two, even three hours. Sometimes, when I saw unfamiliar houses, I got worried that I'd taken the wrong bus. Once I saw the mountain with the shrine, I was relieved and pushed the disembark button.

As I put my ticket and the fare in the box, the driver looked at me dubiously.

"You alone, kid?"

I tried to respond casually. "Yes. Actually, my granny should be here at the bus stop to pick me up..." I glanced toward the stop and purposefully sighed. "It seems like she isn't here yet. Maybe she forgot?"

"You gonna be okay on your own?", the driver, who looked around fifty, asked with concern.

"It's fine. Granny's house is close to here."

The driver nodded understandingly. "Alright. Take care."

Once the bus left, I pulled my coat hood over my eyes and began walking toward the shrine. I soon found the signboard marking the entrance to the mountain. According to the sign, its elevation was only about 300 meters.

Starting to climb the mountain, the paved road quickly ended, and there was just a gravel road so thin that one person could just barely squeeze through. The branches of the trees along the path stuck out everywhere, making it hard to walk, and some fallen trees blocked the path. On the fallen trees grew mold and unfamiliar reddish-green mushrooms, so I was careful not to touch them as I climbed over.

Finally, as I made it up to about the middle point, rain began to fall with no prior indication. The tree leaves served as umbrellas, so despite the sound, not many drops fell. But as the rain grew stronger, it poured down on me alongside all the rain that had been kept up in the leaves beforehand.

After coming so far, I was reluctant to admit that it would be best to turn back there, so I ran up the mountain. But the path was much, much longer than I anticipated. At the time, I mistakenly thought that paths up mountains were a straight shot from the base to the summit. By the time I reached the torii at the shrine entrance, my melton duffel coat was twice as heavy from all the rainwater it soaked up.

I pried open a poorly-fit door with both hands and escaped into the shrine's main building. As soon as I sat on the floor and relaxed, I got an intense chill. I stripped off my drenched coat, leaned on the wall, and shivered holding my knees. It would be impossible to wait until midnight in this condition. But going down the mountain and waiting at the bus stop for the next bus was about as suicidal.

Mixed with the sound of raindrops on the roof, I heard water dripping here and there inside the building as well. There seemed to be some leaks. The water dripping through the ceiling gradually covered the floor, sapping my body heat. The frigid floor and my helplessness worsened my shaking. My teeth chattered, my limbs were numb to the core, and I felt like I would freeze to death, in July no less.

I shouldn't have come to this place, I regretted. But it was too late. I hadn't told anyone where I was going. No help would come for me. The bus driver probably thought I was at my grandma's house, having a nice friendly dinner. How nice it would be if that were true.

Probably about three or four hours passed. I realized the sound of the rain had lessened. I heard the sound of drips falling from one leaf onto another like a reverberation, but perhaps the rain itself had stopped. It was pitch dark inside the building, and I couldn't even see my own hands.

My stamina was at rock bottom. I felt like I couldn't take another step. My senses were faint, and I could hardly remember who I was or why I was here. The only certain things were the chills and my trembling body.

I heard a knock on the door. It was a familiar knock, but I couldn't consciously remember when and where I'd heard it. After a little bit, the sliding door opened, and my vision was filled with light. I was this close to being afraid, but when I saw it was someone coming in with a flashlight, my body went limp with relief.

"So you were here."

It was a girl's voice. That voice, too, seemed familiar. I looked up and tried to identify her, but the flashlight she was shining on me was too bright, I couldn't keep my eyes open.

She closed her umbrella and shook off the water, walked over to me, stooped over, and pointed the flashlight at the floor. Then finally, I could see the face of the person who came to get me.

"Yosuke," Hajikano said. "It's me."

I rubbed my eyes. Why was Hajikano here? How did she know I was here? No, why was she looking for me in the first place? Hadn't she not come to school because she was sick? Did she climb the mountain alone? In the middle of the night?

I didn't even have the vitality left to ask those questions. Seeing how weak I was, Hajikano put a hand on my shoulder and said "Wait here, I'll call for help," then went to leave with the umbrella and flashlight.

I reflexively went after Hajikano and grabbed her hand. Stopping her, I strained my voice with teeth chattering.

"It's cold."

Hajikano turned around and looked at my hand, then briefly hesitated. Should she let go and call for help, or stay here with me for now?

Ultimately, she chose the latter. Putting down the umbrella and flashlight, she grabbed my hand back and squatted down. Relieved that she decided to stay, I fell on my bottom.

"You're cold?", she asked to confirm.

I nodded, and she put her arms around my back and brought her body close.

"Stay still." She patted my back affectionately. "You'll warm up slowly."

Initially, her soaking wet body felt very cold. Stop it, I thought, you'll just make me even colder. But soon, that coldness numbed a little bit at a time. And I began to feel heat from within her skin. My coldly stiffened muscles loosened up from the heat, and my various lost bodily functions gradually resumed. My body, cold to the core, regained a normal human-like temperature over a long time.

"It's okay," Hajikano kept repeating while warming me up. "It'll be okay."

Every time she spoke, I felt strongly encouraged. If she said it would be okay, it probably would be, I thought with all honesty.

I wonder how long it went on for.

Suddenly, I realized my body's senses had returned to normal. I felt the normal temperature of a July night. My skin was a little cold because of my wet clothes, but that was it.

Seeming to notice my shaking had calmed down, Hajikano asked, "Are you still cold?"

I wasn't cold anymore. I was sweating, even. Yet I replied, "Just a little." I wanted to feel her warmth for a little longer.

"Ah... I hope you warm up soon."

Whether she saw through my lie or not, Hajikano stroked my face.

After being warmed up to the core, I softly released my arms from her.

"Class president," I said.

"What?"

"Sorry."

With that one word, she guessed what I was trying to say.

"Don't worry about it," she said happily. "I mean, to tell the truth, it is kind of on my mind still. You really injured me, Yosuke. That's for sure. But I'll forgive you."

"...Thanks."

Hajikano ruffled my head with her hands.

"Hey, Yosuke. I visited you every day because I wanted you to come back to school."

"Why?"

"Why do you think?" She bent her head and smiled. "Um, Yosuke, you might not realize, but I like talking with you. I like just listening to you talk, and I like you just listening to me talk. I also like it when you're there and we don't say anything. And when you go, I'm really lonely."

She stopped there and took a breath, then drooped her head and spoke weakly.

"So don't disappear on me. ...I was worried, you know?"

"Sorry."

It took all I had just to say that.

We went outside, but it was just as dark as inside. The rain had completely stopped, the clouds cleared, and the moon was out, but it seemed like it'd be difficult to walk down the mountain right now. Even if we did go down, the bus wouldn't come until tomorrow morning. Ultimately, we stayed the night at the abandoned shrine.

I still remember it clearly even now. The many names of stars Hajikano taught me, sitting and pointing at the night sky. I didn't understand half of what she was explaining at the time, but every time she spoke one of the names, which felt almost like magic incantations, my body was filled with a strange energy.

"Come to think of it, didn't you take the day off school since you were sick?", I asked. "Are you feeling okay?"

"It's fine. I was lying about not feeling well. Really, I was just sad about what you said."

"My bad. I apologize."

"I forgive you." Her eyes narrowed in a smile. "...Anyway, I was lazing around at home, when your parents called asking if their son was staying over at my house. So I knew you had left the house to go somewhere."

"But how did you know I was here?"

"Do you remember when we were talking back in spring, and I mentioned this shrine once?"

I instinctively clapped my hands together. "Oh, yeah..."

"I thought you didn't like such unrealistic stories, so I was surprised when you got interested in the rumor about the shrine. That left an impression on me. When I heard you were gone, I suddenly remembered that, and thought, maybe..."

"What would you have done if I wasn't here?"

"Wait until midnight and wish, "I hope Yosuke will be okay.""

Once out of things to say, Hajikano stood up and whistled a song. A melancholic, but somehow nostalgic melody. The Mermaid's Song. I had never witnessed her singing it by herself before, so I was at a loss for words from the sheer beauty of her singing. Her voice reminded me of clear, cold water in the bottom of a well. Once she was done, I applauded, and she laughed.

After that, we stared at the night sky for a long time without saying a word. "Let's go back inside," Hajikano eventually said. We went in, lied down on the floor, traded some meaningless words, and the flashlight which she'd left on gradually grew weaker. Soon, the battery ran out, and the room was pitch black. We grabbed each other's hands, neither of us necessarily being first, and waited for morning to come.

With this day, my world took on a whole new meaning. A world made up of "me" and "everything else" became a world of "me," "Hajikano," and "everything else." And Hajikano alone gave me proof that this world was a place worth living in.

People may laugh it off as something akin to imprinting. Like a newborn bird thinking the first thing it sees is its mother. From an outside perspective, it may be I was a fool forever imprisoned in childhood memories. But I didn't care what anyone said. I would probably be a happy slave to these memories until the day I died.

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