Volume 2, Epilogue
This brought an end to my summer of age sixteen. In September, the heat from just days ago seemed like a bad joke, and autumn hit Minagisa in the blink of an eye.
Hajikano began coming to Minagisa First High again, and we walked home together like we had in grade school. It would probably be a while before her memory loss recovered, but she seemed to enjoy being able to experience so many things fresh. Sometimes she would call me "Hinohara" and look apologetic.
Hajikano didn't draw crying moles anymore. Instead, when something happy happened, she drew a mole on her cheek.
"What kind of mole is that?", I asked.
"A smiling mole," she replied. "It's a sign that I'm really happy, and I want you to know it, Yosuke."
"Ah, I see."
I took the marker from her and drew a similar mole on my cheek.
It seemed like it would take a while for Hajikano to get used to Class 1-3. But she was in no hurry. She carefully processed things one at a time, and chose her actions after deep consideration about what these things meant to her.
Lately, my classmate Nagahora was starting to make passes at Hajikano. Maybe he still felt lonely about the absence of Chigusa, even though his memories of her were gone. Every time he talked to Hajikano, she made a worried face and looked to me for help, but she didn't seem to dislike Nagahora. Once, while he wasn't around, she said "He's tiring to talk to, but a good person." I agreed with that sentiment.
When I checked after summer break, all mention of Chigusa Ogiue was gone from Minagisa First High's records. There really hadn't been such a student at this school from the beginning. Not a single classmate remembered her. I asked Hajikano, but the same phenomenon had occurred even in her diary. Mentions of Chigusa had all vanished, with revisions such that everything still made sense without her. I visited Chigusa's house by myself a few days later, but there was only an empty lot full of weeds in its place.
I continued investigating in various ways, but it seemed I was now the only one who remembered the Chigusa Ogiue at Minagisa First High. No doubt with some intention, she had left herself only in my memory. Whatever that intention was, I was glad for it.
Oh yeah, the other day, I saw Hajikano out with Aya. They both had awkward expressions, but their sisterly relationship seemed favorable. When I visited the house, sometimes Aya would greet me in pajamas. She was itching to know how the relationship between me and Hajikano was going, but I kept it vague and asked how she was getting along with Masafumi. Looked like his relationship with Aya stopped at being an errand boy.
"He's not a bad guy, but..." Aya paused. "I kind of can't tell how serious he is, so it makes it hard to know how to respond."
I'll casually let him know next time we meet, I thought to myself.
I was hanging out with Hinohara more lately. Not to do bad stuff like in middle school, but competing at a batting center for juice, or going to a bowling alley in the town over, watching other people's games, and predicting who would win. Generally useless ways of spending time together.
In the middle of October, I went to see how the real Chigusa Ogiue was doing. She looked and behaved strangely differently from the woman on the phone, and was for better or worse a normal girl for her age. We talked for about an hour, and then that was it. However, Hinohara happened to accompany me and had an interest in her, so the two were apparently keeping in touch still. Fate is strange sometimes, I thought.
Occasionally, Hajikano and I still invited Hinohara to go stargazing. Since their memories of Chigusa were gone, Hinohara's hostility toward Hajikano seemed to be resolved. Recently it was decided they'd demolish Masukawa Hotel, which made it hard to get inside. So lately, we were walking around town looking for an even better stargazing spot.
I still unconsciously braced myself when walking by public phones. Maybe just like that night, the phone would suddenly ring, a mysterious woman would correctly guess my heart's secrets, and she'd propose a bet. Yet, if I did get a call from her again, I probably wouldn't take the bet. Though I might go along with the conversation, just wanting to hear her voice.
And, one last thing.
I got a call from Yadomura's sister recently. That girl looking for ghosts in the woods.
As I took the receiver, she spoke so excitedly, I could feel it through the phone.
"Mister. I... I found a ghost."
I asked her what in the world she was talking about. But she replied "I'm keeping it secret from you," and hung up.
I intend on going to hear her story soon.
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