Hi!  This is Scott Henry (scotth@sgi.com).  I converted the script from a
basically Mac-ified mostly-ASCII to a pure-ASCII form that I could read.
Since a number of other people wanted it in that kind of form, I'm
uploading this for anonymous FTP.  This is just a re-formatting, I don't
*think* I changed any content, although I had to guess at some of the
character equivalents.  I even left the posting headers as I got them.

Newsgroups: rec.arts.anime
From: ataru@crash.cts.com (AfterImage)
Subject: Ornage Road Novel Translation!
Organization: CTS Network Services (CTSNET), San Diego, CA
Date: Tue, 3 Jan 1995 08:09:02 GMT
X-Newsreader: TIN [version 1.2 PL2]
Nntp-Posting-Host: crash.cts.com

Capricious Orange Road

A novel by Matsumoto Izumi and Terada Kenji

Printed in Japan

Published by Kabushiki Gaisha Shueisha
Tokyo-to Chiyoda-ku
Hitotsu-bashi 2-5-10 JAPAN 101-50

Translation by Peter Payne
c/o Yanai Shoten 4235 Hashie-cho
Isesaki-shi JAPAN 372

Translator's notes

_SHIN KIMAGURE ORANGE ROAD_ is a novel by the original creator of Orange
Road, Matsumoto Izumi, and Kenji Terada, a novelist and screenplay writer
who has written scenarios for games like "Final Fantasy" and others. It
details the lives of the Orange Road characters three years after the end
of the Orange Road Movie. To Orange Road fans, it is a very important
document. When I finally tracked down a copy of the book, in a rural book
store in Isesaki, Japan (incidentally the birthplace of Adachi Mitsuru,
artist of _Touch_, _H2 _and many other mangas), I knew I had to translate
it for the enjoyment of American fans of the series.

Note: I am a spoiled Mac user and unused to the inconvenience of "vanilla
ASCII," but I am told we live in a PC-dominated world, and this is the
standard. Would everyone please buy Macs so we can move technology forward
a little? The novel has 15 or so black and white illustrations and one
color one, all of which will be posted in JPEG format. Please enjoy.

Legal stuff: This is an unofficial translation done without the prior
knowledge or consent of the authors or publishers of the original work. It
was not done for the purpose of profit or intention of denying it to the
authors or publishers. Rather, it was made for the to enlighten fans of
Orange Road who aren't lucky enough to read Japanese. I did the translation
partially as a way of saying "thank you" to Matsumoto-sensei for all the
Japanese I have learned from the Orange Road manga and series over the
years, and to try to give back something to anime fandom in the
English-speaking world.

For purposes of future corrections, etc., this is _translation version
1.1_. I have done my best to check the text for typing errors, omitted
words, and so on, but some will no doubt remain in the text. I invite
anyone with an interest to inform me of errors so that they can be
corrected in the future. If anyone is competent at programming with
Hypercard and would like to make an EB of this file, please contact me. If
anyone is good at gaming and would like to turn the Orange Road RPG into a
real gaming system, please contact me.

_Shin Kimagure Orange Road_ is a "postcard translation"--if you read it,
send a postcard of wherever you are from to me, Peter R. Payne.

I am an "English" "teacher" who "teaches" at a private "school" in
Gunma-prefecture, Japan, in the exact center of Japan's main island of
Honshu. I have resided in Japan since October, 1991. I am one of the
founders of "SEISHUN SHITEMASU: a bunch of guys with a VCR," a group from
San Diego, California making fan re-dubs of Japanese animation into
English. (Our name comes from Kyosuke's narration before the opening
credits in episodes 1-15, and means "I'm living the springtime of my
youth.") Our titles include "Robotech III: Not Necessarily the Sentinels,"
"Robotech IV: Khyron's Counterattack," "Laputa II: The Sequel" and many
others. Orange Road fans might get a kick out of one of our earlier
productions, "Kimagure Orange Road: The Akira Story" (warning: you might
hate it). These videos are available free. Mail videocassettes (regular or
SVHS, no Goldstars, please) with SASE to Adam Chaney, P.O. Box 261702, San
Diego, CA 92126, USA. For more information write Adam in the States or me
in Japan at the address above.

Finally, as you read the translation, I would like you to have some inkling
of the scale of this project, how many hours I spent, sitting in Skylark
and Denny's restaurants with my Powerbook with my shoes off, having
Japanese people staring at me like I was the only gaijin they'd ever seen
pecking away on his Powerbook (like maybe 75 to 100 of them). I hope you
read this translation and spread it around to other fans. Long live anime.

Thank you.

Peter R. Payne
October 1994


 A freighter headed for some foreign country blows its whistle in
 the distance: two times, three times.

 Sitting on the handrail of the bridge, you stare at the lights out
 in the bay, not bothering to turn your head at the sound. I look at
 your silhouette and feel happy.

 Yokohama Bay Bridge...

 The wind blows off the surface of the water and carries a sweet
 smell to the tip of my nose. It passes through my whole body, until
 I feel like I'm going to pass out.

 It's always the same.

 That sweet scent that Madoka Ayukawa gives off.

 Like the particles of light that Tinkerbell uses to charm people
 with. Always the same, this whimsical angel, who pours the sweet
 smell into me. I breathe deeply, and let the smell enter me.

 Sometimes I get angry at myself for being such a pervert. But
 tonight it's okay. Ayukawa has promised me, tonight is "that" kind
 of night.

 "Stop it, Kasuga-kun."

 "Huh?" I said.

 "You've got something dirty on your mind don't you?" Ayukawa said.

 I got ruffled. "What are you talking about?"

 "I knew it." She pointed a slender forefinger at my nose. Her hair
 moved, sending the angel smell to me again. "I can tell whenever
 you're thinking about sex."

 "No, I wasn't--"

 "You're just a sex fiend!" she said, then laughed.

 She's really been laughing a lot tonight, like someone full of too
 much life. The couples around us all turn and look at us like we're
 bothering them somehow. Ayukawa laughs even more loudly, this time
 on purpose.

 "Ayukawa, everyone's looking this way."

 "It's okay, let them look."

 She laughed again, but then made a serious face suddenly, grabbing
 my shirt collar and pulling me towards her.


 "Let's kiss, Kasuga-kun."

 My heart stopped for a moment.

 She said, "Don't be stupid. I'm nervous, too, being here, alone
 with you. This is all a new experience for me, too, you know."

 So, that's why Ayukawa's been acting strangely tonight--she's
 feeling giddy, too, just like me. She was acting the same way back
 in Chinatown, laughing and talking too much.


 I put my arm around her shoulder, and pressed my lips against hers.

 We were in a bar on the top floor, that looks out on the Bay
        Bridge.  A black man was playing jazz piano softly at the back of
        the room.  We were the youngest of any of the patrons there, so
        whenever Ayukawa laughed, everyone glared at us.

 "Anyway, congratulations," Ayukawa said. "For the third time this
 evening, _kampai!_"

 We touched our glasses together.

 "You know, it is really incredible, Kasuga-kun. I think your
 father's talent as a photographer must have rubbed off on you."

 "It was just a coincidence."

 "No, you're wrong. Kelly Toyama wouldn't have chosen your work if
 it was just a coincidence."

 "Jeez, Kelly, Kelly, you've been talking about nothing else this

 "Don't be jealous. He's a really popular fashion photographer.
        You've got a bright future ahead of you, but compared to him,
        you're...just a newcomer."

 Then she laughed again. It must be the alcohol. Her cheeks were a
 little red.

 You see, tonight is our night of quiet celebration. I won first
 prize in a photo contest sponsored by our university (1).

 The judge was the famous fashion photographer and alumnus of my
 university, Kelly Toyama. I didn't know it before, but Ayukawa has
 been a big fan of his for a long time.

 Anyway, that's why we're at this hotel, celebrating. We've promised
 to stay out all night and greet the morning together.

 "What present would you like?" Ayukawa had said to me when I was
 chosen for the award.

 "Hm?" I had said.

 "Yeah, I'm going to give you a present, for winning the contest.
        You know, it hasn't been announced yet, but I'll bet whatever you
        get as first prize will be something valuable."

 "You think so?"

 She nodded eagerly. Her eyes were beautiful.

 I entered the same university as Ayukawa this spring, but for some
 reason, I hadn't been able to decide what I wanted to do there. I
 think Ayukawa had been a little worried about me.

 I looked into her eyes and said, "Let's see. From Ayukawa, I'd like
 to get..."


 When she spoke, I got my courage up a little.

 "From Ayukawa, I'd like something worth at least as much as
        whatever I get for winning first prize. Something very personal.
        Maybe even...you." My courage left me at that point, and I just
        laughed nervously and shrugged.

 Now that we had the College Entrance Examination behind us, Ayukawa
 and I had gotten into the habit of kissing casually. But we haven't
 done _it_ yet.

 Ayukawa's parents are famous musicians, and they're always out of
 the country giving concerts. We've had plenty of chances to do it
 while they were away, but then there was the issue of betraying her
 parents' trust. We'd been good so far.

 I'm Kasuga Kyosuke, 19 years old. If I said I had no desire for
 sex, it would be a lie. I just haven't been able to get up the
 courage to coax her into it.

 Ayukawa seemed a little surprised by what I had just said. But when
 I smiled at her, she looked at me with those teasing eyes of hers.

 "Wow, that's great, Kasuga-kun. I admire your confidence."

 But I had been too bold, I knew, and now I was embarrassed.

 Still in her teasing voice, she said, "Keep on being bold like
 that, and you never know..." That was her way of saying yes.

 Now, back at the hotel bar, Ayukawa picked up the fresh glass that
 had been brought, and stood up. "Okay, here's my present to you,
 part one."

 "Part one?"

 Ayukawa looked at me with tipsy eyes, and winked. She raised the
 glass, making a signal for another _kampai_, and said, "I've
 written a song for my brave, self-confident Kasuga-kun. The title
 is..._Kyosuke #1_."

 She went over to the piano, put her glass on it, and whispered
 something to the black piano player. In a way that told me he had
 been consulted about this ahead of time, he finished his song with
 a quick ad lib and handed his seat over to Ayukawa.

 Ayukawa didn't look at me anymore.

 She swallowed the contents of her glass, and suddenly started to
 play. The song had a forceful opening that immediately went to work
 on your emotions. It went on to suggest a gentle, vast sea, before
 suddenly increasing in volume again.

 _Kyosuke #1_, the song was called. _Kyosuke #1_.

 I wasn't sure if this kind of violent, forceful song fit my

 Unless it meant that, in Ayukawa's eyes, this is the Kyosuke she
 wants me to be.

 Or perhaps the song represents how she feels about me. Could it
 be...such a intense thing?

 Whatever it means, what is about to happen tonight is somehow,
 somehow, so severe, so exciting, I can't stand to contemplate it.

 As I got more and more interested in Ayukawa's song, I realized my
 throat was dry. I swallowed the drink I had been sipping with one
 gulp and order another.

 I took the glass that the boy brought me. He was muttering
 something about the minimum age for alcohol and tobacco being 20
 years old.

 How beautiful Ayukawa is, playing with so much passion. She was
 like a goddess, brilliant and beautiful but totally unapproachable.

 By the time Ayukawa's song reached its climax, my vision seemed
 covered with a bright light. For a moment, I lost consciousness.

 When I came back, I felt like a bird floating on the wind. I lifted
 up my hands, and wandered towards the swirls of light that were all
 around me.

 I couldn't hear any sound at all. Not _Kyosuke #1_, not the
 admiring voices of the people in the bar. All noise was gone.

 I continued to fall into that world of light.

 As I fell, I heard the sound of sea birds. Next I heard the fog
 horn of a ship. Then, a crashing sound. I was lying on top of
 something. There was no pain; on the contrary, it was a pleasant

 The light faded from my view. No, actually, another light came to
 me as the first light disappeared. It was the morning sun.

 White, white sheets. A sweet smell. I was sitting on a bed.

 At my fingertips was Ayukawa's long, black hair. She was still
 breathing deeply in sleep. Her long hair. Her milk-white cheek. I
 lifted up the sheet to see her body, naked as the day she was born,
 inhaling and exhaling innocently, like a child.

 Had we...joined?

 Outside the window, a sea bird made a high-pitched cry. The angel
 sleeping by my side opened her eyes. She smiled a little shyly,
 then said:

 "Good morning."

 But just then, the phone beside the bed rang with a piercing sound.
        That's the beginning of this story.

 It was a man. He sounded upset.

 "Kyosuke! Watch out for cars!"

 "Cars?" I said. "Who the hell are you?"

 "I'm you! I'm Kyosuke Kasuga!"

 This brought me out of the dream I had been having and pulled me
 back into reality.


 "You're me? What the hell are you talking about?!"

 I sat up in bed. At that moment, Jingoro, who had been in bed with
 me, let out a cry.

 "Nevermind that, just listen! You have to be careful of cars!"

 "Don't try to jerk me around! What are you thinking, calling a
 person like this! Even pranks have a limit, you know!"

 My anger got control of me, and I slammed the receiver down. I had
 been experiencing a wonderful dream of spending the night with
 Ayukawa. When a dream like that is interrupted, even Kyosuke
 Kasuga--usually quieter than most people--is going to get angry

 Shit! It was just getting interesting, too.

 Then: "Oniichan (2), I need to use the phone. Are you awake?" It
 was my sister Manami's voice.

 "I'm going to switch it back to the living room now. Do you mind?"

 After eleven p.m., the telephone is set so that it switches to my
 room. Ostensibly, the reason for this is so that emergency calls
 from our father, who is overseas on a photography assignment, can
 get through directly to me. But in reality, the reason is so that I
 can talk to Ayukawa late at night.

 "Go ahead," I answered angrily. "There might be a weird phone call,

 "What's wrong with you?"

 Manami's twin sister, Kurumi, opened the door and peered in.

 "You don't mean a perverted phone call so early in the morning, do
 you?" Kurumi said.

 I let slip without thinking: "No, no, a phone call that interrupted
 something perverted."

 "Oh, gross, Oniichan! What are you talking about with Madoka-san
 every night?" Manami said.

 "Manami-chan, Oniichan's talking about a and fu and u."

 Manami didn't know what Kurumi meant.

 "_A-fuhn ! (3) A-fuhn!_ And _touch me there_ and _oh_ and _not


 "Now that you mention it, Oniichan has been going through an awful
 lot of tissues recently."

 "Oh gross!" Manami said.

 I threw my pillow as hard as I could at the open door; Kurumi and
 Manami fled.

 "Jesus! Was I like that when I was in high school?"

 The damage was already done, so I got out of bed, picked up
 Jingoro, trying to escape off the Veranda, and headed into the
 bathroom. This slightly fat tortoise-shaped cat has tried to escape
 from our house time and time again--things like that really say
 something about my family.

 The bathroom also serves as Dad's darkroom.

 For the rest of the time he's be overseas, I'll be developing the
 film he sends me. Back when he was working as a landscape
 photographer, he used a company to develop his pictures, but
 recently, he's been taken with a kind of do-it-yourself-ism, and
 has been trying to do the developing himself. I help him when he's

 It's up to the photographer, Dad often says, to capture the right
 moment. But sometimes, he says, when work is handed from one group
 to another it gets stolen. I'm not sure I agree with him on that

 He also talks about how much he loves being a landscape
 photographer, but if so, I can't understand why he suddenly became
 so interested in social problems, and went with the PKO (4) to take
 pictures of refugee camps.

 I shouldn't criticize him. It's all thanks to Dad's hard work that
 we're able to eat everyday.

 I guess it was because of Dad's influence that I was able to win
 first prize in the photography contest.

 Which led to..._Argh!_

 My winning first prize in the photo contest is the reason Ayukawa
 and I will be having our celebration next weekend, that's why we've
 got reservations in the hotel overlooking the Bay Bridge.

 I took off my pajamas and had a shower. The sound of the water
 mixed with Jingoro's cries as he tried to get out of the bathroom.

 I had sweat a lot during the night. That's to be expected, I guess,
 because I dreamed about doing it with Ayukawa.

 I can't quiet remember what happened after Ayukawa's song ended,
 back in the hotel bar. But at least we greeted the morning

 Wait a minute!

 Maybe that dream was a prophetic dream!

 Or maybe not. You see, the Kasuga clan has the super-blood flowing
 in its veins; I, Kyosuke Kasuga, also possess super powers.
 Sometimes I even have dreams about the future before breakfast.

 Now that I think of it, when I got the reservations for the hotel,
 Ayukawa said, "Let's go to Chinatown for dinner instead of eating
 at the hotel." I'm sure we'll go see the night view of Yokohama,

 Maybe Ayukawa is busy writing _Kyosuke #1_ now...

 "Oniichan, hurry up and finish your shower. I'm waiting," came the
 voice of my demanding sister. Morning in the Kasuga house is always
 like this.

 "High school girls don't need to take a shower in the morning every
 day," I said.

 "Don't you know? It's dangerous for girls to smell sweaty these
 days. Crazy people follow you around. Just the other day,
 Komatsu-san and Hatta-san asked me to sell them my sweaty


 Seiji Komatsu and Kazuya Hatta are my evil friends from high
 school. It seems like they're planning something with Kurumi and
 Manami again.

 "Those perverts!"

 "Don't tell me you sold them your stinky leotards to them?" Manami

 "_Buun buun!_" Kurumi replied, once again using words no one can
 understand. I opened the bathroom door.

 "Don't just say _buun buun_. You didn't sell your leotards to them,

 "I didn't sell them," Kurumi said. "I mean, I'd lose money if I

 "It's not a matter of losing or gaining money!" I said.

 "Oh, but if I sell my leotards to Komatsu and Hatta, they said
 they'll pay me twice the original price. They'll even take pictures
 of me, for free..."

 "Do you mean those perverted _buru-sera_ (5) shops?"

 "Yes!" she said.


 Without thinking, I ran out of the bathroom.

 "Help! Oh gross, Oniichan!"

 I covered myself up, but it was too late. These two high school
 girls, brimming with curiosity, got a good look at my _musuko_ (6)
 even as they were screaming and running away.

 Thanks to the commotion of the morning, I forgot all about the
 mysterious phone call.

 What reminded me of it was the Master of ABCB (7), talking about
 the phone call he'd gotten from Hikaru-chan in Hokkaido.


 "What? Hikaru-chan's going to New York?"

 I drank down my hot cafe` latte in one gulp.

 "Yes," Master said. "A few days ago I got a call from Hokkaido. She
 said, someday I'm going to New York, absolutely positively. How's
 today's batch of cafe` latte?"

 "Ah, it's good. But maybe a bit too much milk. It's kind of sweet."

 "Ah, of course, I should make it foam a little more."

 Master shook his head and, taking a big cup reserved for himself,
 turned again to the cafe` latte machine.

 Master had gone all the way to Seattle in America to buy the
 cafe` latte machine. You use the machine to foam some warm milk,
 then add espresso coffee to it.

 "Some might say that this place is just a small coffee shop," he
 had said, "so there's no need to go to all the trouble to get this
 machine. But I don't agree. I think a person has to stay interested
 and energetic in his work all the time."

 These days he's been talking a lot like that. Ayukawa, who comes to
 help out from time to time, usually tells him, "It's good that
 you're putting effort into your work, but you really should stop
 keeping to yourself all the time and get out more. If you don't
 stop thinking of your ex-wife, there's never going to be anyone

 "Well, it's good that Hikaru-chan's _genki_," I said now.

 "Yes, Hikaru-chan made lots of friends up there. She apologized for
 moving away so suddenly, without even saying goodbye to me. She's a
 good kid."

 At Master's words, I felt a sharp pain in my breast.

 Hikaru Hiyama. I will never forget that name as long as I live.

 Hikaru-chan was Ayukawa's close friend from childhood, and for a
 time, the three of us spent lots of time together, going everywhere
 and having fun.

 In those days, Ayukawa's parents were out of the country a lot, and
 she was kind of a tough girl to get close to. I was the kind of
 person who could never make up his mind (although that's still kind
 of true now), and as a result, I was always having problems and
 misunderstandings with the two of them.

 But when we were with Hikaru-chan, every day was happy.

 But the time came when the three of us had to stop just piling up
 happy memories all the time. We were all becoming adults, and no
 matter how much we tried to keep things the way they were, someday
 it had to end.

 Last summer, when I was studying for the College Entrance
 Examinations, I kissed Hikaru-chan. That hurt Ayukawa very badly.
 After that, our happy triangle came crashing down around our ears.

 I finally had to tell Hikaru-chan that we shouldn't see each other

 "Madoka-san! Madoka-san, that was so unfair of you! Have you done
 anything for Kasuga-senpai?" Hikaru had said to Ayukawa at ABCB,
 her words full of blame. "I can do anything. If it's for senpai, I
 can do anything."

 Another time, she had pulled on my sleeve pathetically, pleading:
 "Is it me? I'm not good enough for you? I can't give you up,
 Kyosuke-senpai. Look at me, please. Don't ignore me!"

 I'm sorry, Hikaru-chan.

 I didn't ignore you.

 We just...couldn't go on like that anymore.

 Laughing. Having fun together.

 It had to end sometime.

 Right about the time Ayukawa and I entered college, Hikaru-chan
 moved to the city of Otaru in Hokkaido.

 On the day she moved, I got a call from her from Haneda Airport.

 "Is this senpai? Ta-da! I know you said not to call anymore, but
 it's me, Hikaru Hiyama, coming to you live!"

 Hikaru-chan sounded so cheerful and bright. She told me she was
 headed for Hokkaido, thanks for everything, _sayonara_, then hung
 up. After that, I got a call from Ayukawa. She had gotten a call
 from Hikaru-chan, too.

 Ayukawa and I headed for the airport on her motorcycle. But the
 plane departing Haneda Airport for Sapporo had already left.

 "I didn't know...I didn't know she was moving. I didn't know."


 "This is the first time this has ever happened. Hikaru has never
 done anything so important without consulting me first."

 Next Ayukawa dropped her helmet on the floor of the airport and
 started sobbing uncontrollably.

 Ayukawa hadn't told me, but I could tell she had been upset over
 Hikaru-chan for a while. In the end, there was no avoiding that the
 two of us had to live apart from her. Still, I knew that Ayukawa
 would never be able to forgive herself.


 I embraced her, but she continued crying like a woman gone insane.
 She slammed her body against the wall of the waiting room lobby
 again and again. I couldn't do anything to stop her. Then I put my
 body between her and the wall, thinking I would take Ayukawa's
 place, and slammed my head against the wall again and again.  Only
 then did her rage at herself subside, but she continued sobbing as
 she clung to me.

 That was when I realized how many times stronger Ayukawa's sadness
 was than my own.

 On our way home from the airport, we stopped at Taiba Park, across
 from Tokyo bay.

 It was still a little cold, but beyond the artificial sand of the
 beach many windsurfers could be seen. We stared silently at them
 until the lights on the Rainbow Bridge, still under construction
 across from us, came on.

 After a while, Ayukawa said, "If I had known it was going to come
 to this, I would have taken her here when I had the chance. She had
 always wanted to try windsurfing. She said to me once, before they
 finish the Rainbow Bridge, please teach me. By the time the bridge
 is completed, you'll be a famous star, and then you won't have the


 "I told her, if she managed to stand up once, I'd...I'd give her my
 old board. I told her that! And now, in Hokkaido, she won't be able
 to go windsurfing. _Baka_, Hikaru. You've been that way ever since
 you were a child."

 After that, her words stopped making sense.

 I put my hand on her trembling shoulders, but Ayukawa didn't come
 to me like she usually did. I knew the reason why. Ayukawa and I
 were lucky enough to have someone to put our bodies against, but
 Hikaru-chan had to bear her loneliness all alone. Because she had
 to get away from us.

 No, that's wrong.

 Because you threw her away, Kyosuke.

 You threw her away!

 By the time the pleasure boats started casting tiny lights on the
 bay, Ayukawa and I had left the park. And we never talked about
 Hikaru-chan again.

 "Maybe I shouldn't have said anything about Hikaru-chan." Master
 looked at me, then put a new cafe` latte down in front of me,
 taking my first cup away.

 "Once the milk foam has disappeared, it's best to just get a new
 cup. You can't keep it forever. I guess that's like life."

 "Eh?" I said.

 "I think that it was good for Hikaru-chan to move, to find new
 experiences. It was good timing for her." Master winked amiably.
 "When two people break up, it's sometimes harder to stay in the
 same place. Every place you go, you're reminded of the person you
 broke up with."

 "Yeah, I guess."

 "That's a fair arrangement, isn't it? Hikaru-chan got hurt a
 little, and now she's gone. Both you and Madoka-kun are left, with
 memories of Hikaru-chan to drag around with you. Someday,
 Hikaru-chan will understand how hard that has been for you, too."

 I tried to smile, but screwed it up.

 "Listen to me talk, I've become the father character in all those
 romance movies I used to watch when I was a college student. I've
 tried to cheer a young boy up, but instead I've made him

 "No, it's okay. I'm okay, Master."

 "Oh yes, about Hikaru-chan and New York. I hadn't finished telling
 you. Do you remember the musical she starred in?"

 "Ah, yes. I believe it was called 'Downtown Cats.'"

 She had said to me, whatever you do, don't forget to come and see
 my play. But Ayukawa and I hadn't gone. Well..._couldn't_ go is a
 little more accurate.

 "Yes. She really enjoyed being in that musical. After graduating
 from high school in Otaru, she said she wanted to go to New
 York. To study dancing."

 "Wow, that's incredible."

 "Yes, she was really excited. She said, I don't know how far I can
 make it, but I'm going to try anyway. Isn't that great?"

 This time I made a real smile, and nodded.

 I didn't want Master to think I'm a rotten guy. I wanted him to see
 me as the kind of person who would give 100% support to a
 Hikaru-chan so full of hope and genki.

 But in reality.

 Somewhere deep in my heart.

 I thought, now Hikaru-chan is going to go somewhere even farther
 away from me than Hokkaido.

 The truth is.

 I was a little sad about this.

 I'm scum, aren't I?

 "Kasuga-kun, you've got to work hard at your dreams, too, right?
 Now that you've won the first prize in the picture contest."

 Just then, several customers came in.

 "Master, I'll take water to the customers," I said.


 "I have to work to pay you back for the second cup of cafe`

 It was time for me to head back to school for my afternoon
 classes. After taking water to the customers and taking their
 orders, I left.

 It was the kind of day you get after the rainy season has ended,
 but before summer has started for real, and I felt somehow at
 peace. It was a pleasant feeling.

 This kind of weather will only be temporary. A few days ago, it was
 raining every day, and everything was humid and sticky. After this,
 the hot, humid summer will begin. But I didn't have the time to
 enjoy this season like I should. It would have been nice if I could
 just stop time.


 Stop time. Just like in those days.

 Back when Ayukawa, Hikaru-chan and I were three friends, together
 all the time. I wanted to freeze all those moments in time for all

 Like the day when we went to the beach, and played together,
 laughing. I want to go back to that day.

 Anyway, I was glad that Master had heard from
 Hikaru-chan. Continuing that thought, I recalled the phone call
 that disrupted the sweet, sweet dream of this morning.

 "Kyosuke! Watch out for cars. I'm you! Kyosuke Kasuga!"

 What a shocking phone call to get so early in the morning. And to
 pretend to be me, what a stupid prank.

 But wait a minute...

 Who would play a joke like that?

 Who would go to all the trouble?

 Well, maybe Komatsu and Hatta would be capable of it.

 But that voice. It wasn't either of them.

 Now that I think about it, that voice was just like mine.

 Whenever people hear your voice recorded, they usually say, "Is
 this my voice?" I hadn't been able to put my finger on it earlier,
 but that voice really was a lot like mine.

 But, how is that possible?

 I started to hurry to the train station. I didn't have as much time
 to get to class as I'd thought I had. Ayukawa is in my art
 class. If I don't show up again this week, she'll probably get

 "Kasuga-kun, don't tell me the traffic was backed up because of a
 traffic accident again this week, too," she'll say.

 Wait a minute. Traffic accident?

 The man on the phone...Kyosuke Kasuga. He said, be careful of cars.

 Above me, the train was pulling into the station. If I hurry, I can
 catch it. But the light at the intersection had changed to red.

 "What the hell, go for it!" I said to myself, and ran out into the
 intersection. But just at that moment, something bright red
 appeared at the edge of my vision, coming towards me.

 It was a...car!

 Just as I realized that the red thing was a Volvo station wagon, my
 body recoiled with the shock. Something in my head went boom! like
 fireworks. A loud noise sounded in my ears, then everything became

 That was when I lost consciousness.


 After a time, I woke up.

 I mean, I _thought_ I woke up. But things was a little strange. I
 had completely regained consciousness, but the people around me
 aren't acting as they should.

 Wait a minute.

 Think very carefully, Kyosuke Kasuga. What's wrong with this

 For some reason, I was looking down at my own body. My body was
 lying in a hospital bed. A doctor and a nurse were doing something
 to me--they're putting an I.V. into my arm.

 Isn't it a little strange for a person to be looking down at
 himself? Yes, quite strange!

 In addition to the doctor and nurse, Ayukawa, the Master of ABCB,
 Kurumi and Manami were in the room. Everyone was looking at me with
 saddened eyes. Ayukawa must have come here directly from school,
 because she was holding several textbooks. She looked like she would
 start crying at any moment.

 Manami was already crying. Kurumi was holding Jingoro, making
 circles in the air with his paws, and muttering something that
 sounded like a magic spell: "_Ururu, ururu_." As usual, no one can
 understand what the hell she's talking about.

 What's happening to me?

 "Have you been able to contact your father?" the nurse said in an
 official manner to Madoka. She thought that Madoka was a member of
 the Kasuga family.

 Manami spoke in place of Madoka. "We called, but haven't been able
 to reach him yet."

 "Please hurry. With things the way they are, he'll probably..."

 Madoka spoke up. "He'll probably what?!"

 The nurse said, "I only meant..."

 "You don't know what will happen, right? There are still faint
 brain waves, and his heart is still beating. You said it was still
 beating, right? So what the hell?! What do you mean by 'he'll

 The nurse tried again to speak, but couldn't.

 Just then the doctor put himself in between the two women, and
 spoke to Madoka. "Of course you're right. There is still a chance
 that this patient will live. But one thing is for certain. If he
 were a normal human, he would have died already."

 "What do you mean by that?" Master asked from behind Madoka.

 "I'm not exactly sure. We've done all we can for the patient. From
 here on out, it's up to his...how can I put this...his _life
 energy_. He has a...soul...that's many times stronger than normal

 "Stronger than normal humans?" Madoka asked.

 "Please try to understand. It's difficult for a physician such as
 myself to use such unscientific words."

 "So what's going to happen?" asked Kurumi and Manami in unison,
 leaning forward.

 "The patient's soul is fighting to stay in this world. By this I
 mean, the world in which we all live. What's kept him here this far
 is his unusual life energy..."

 After saying this, the doctor couldn't bring himself to
 continue. "Well, anyway, let's see how things are a while longer,"
 he said. He gave some directions to the nurse, then left the room
 in a hurry.

 Master said, "Well, the police and the driver of the car are
 waiting in the lobby. I'll go talk to them."

 "Thank you, Master," Manami said.

 "Don't mention it. Both you and Kurumi-chan, make sure you keep
 your wits about you."


 Master smiled at the three of them, and left the room.

 Master had been the one to inform everyone about Kyosuke's
 accident.  Right after Kyosuke left the coffee shop, he'd heard
 sirens near the station. Getting an uneasy feeling in his chest, he
 had run to the station. On his way, he'd encountered Kyosuke, who
 had been hit by a car.

 After Master left the room, everything was quiet for a moment.
 No--there was Kyosuke's respirator. That was the only thing that
 broke that silence.

 "Kasuga-kun!...Kasuga-kun, don't give up!" Madoka cried. Then, as if
 she was the only one in the room who knew Kyosuke's secret, she
 whispered: "You're a superman, right? Just like the doctor said,
 you've got many times more power than normal people, right? Don't
 give in to this! Come back to us!"


 Madoka and Manami were clinging to the bed beside Kyosuke.

 Oh, Ayukawa!

 How could things have come to this?

 I guess it's true. I was hit by that Volvo, all because I was in a
 hurry. I must have been thinking about Hikaru-chan, instead of
 paying attention.

 If things are really as bad as they seem, I guess I'm going to die.

 But I can't.

 What about this weekend, with Ayukawa, and _it_.

 On second thought, let's put that aside for now.

 But there are still so many things I want to do. And now I'm going
 to die.

 One thing I know for sure, it's not right for a person to be
 separated from his body. This is really strange!

 If what the doctor says is true, that I possess a soul several
 times stronger than normal humans. Couldn't I just get back into my

 I went down to where my body was, and decided to get inside. But
 something went _bump!_, like the sound of hitting a living fish

 "No, Kasuga-kun!"


 What's happening?

 There was some kind of strong barrier around my body that pushed me
 back. Or maybe it the other way around. Maybe the soul is rejecting
 the flesh.

 Just then my cousins Akane and Kazuya entered the hospital room.

 "No, Oniichan!" Kazuya cried. "Why did you die?"

 "You klutz, Kyosuke!" Akane added. "Just when you were so happy
 about having gotten to the point where you can have sex with

 Hey, don't say things like that, Akane!

 Manami said, "Wait a minute, Akane and Kazuya. Oniichan isn't dead

 Yes. You tell them, my cute little sister.

 "You two are terrible," Kurumi said. "Always jumping the gun."

 Good, Kurumi. Sometimes even you say the right thing.

 Kurumi went on. "The dying part comes later. He's just resting
 right now."



 You know, sometimes I'm ashamed to admit that she's my sister.

 Akane said, "Oh, well, it's good that he's still alive. Well,
 Kazuya, shall we try the plan that we discussed?"


 "Wait a minute, Akane-chan. What plan?"

 Akane said, "Kazuya has telepathy, right?"

 Yes, that's right. I've been made to suffer time and time again at
 the hands of that esper ability. Kazuya has the ability to read
 people's minds. For example, in front of Ayukawa, he would say,
 "Oh, Kyosuke-niichan is thinking that he wants to kiss
 Madoka-neechan right now."

 Ayukawa: "I think I understand. He might be able to find out what's
 really wrong with Kasuga-kun, and what we can do to help the

 Akane beamed at Madoka. "Correct! Oh, Madoka-oneechan, you're right
 again. Unlike these two empty-heads," Akane said, implying Manami
 and Kurumi.

 Meanwhile, Kazuya was resting his cheek on Ayukawa's bosum.

 "Who are you calling empty-heads?!" Kurumi demanded.

 "That Kazuya, he always clings to Madoka-san, "Manami said.

 You still haven't gotten over that perverted tendency of yours,
 have you, Kazuya? Cut it out!

 I went to poke him in the head, but then I remembered I had no

 Shit! I'm totally helpless!

 This is like that movie "Ghost" I saw with Ayukawa.

 Ayukawa's face was very serious. "Go ahead and try the plan,
 Kazuya.  We have to try everything." If it been anyone else hearing
 what Akane and Kazuya were saying, they would never have given them
 the time of day. But Ayukawa believed 100% in the strange powers of
 my family.

 I remember the day I first told her about our powers. "Listen,
 Ayukawa," I had said then. "There's something very important I have
 to tell you."

 It was when we had first started going out together, right after I
 had broken up with Hikaru-chan. I had kept the esper powers secret
 from her for years, but I was unable to do so any longer.

 "What is it, Kasuga-kun?" she said, a little surprised, then: "Oh,
 I'll bet I know."

 "What?" I had said.

 "You kissed Hikaru-chan again."

 "What? Don't say things like that, Ayukawa!"

 She laughed. She hadn't completely forgotten about the time I
 kissed Hikaru-chan, apparently. Up til that time, I had tried to
 kiss Ayukawa a number of times, but she had always rebuffed me.

 I waited until she was finished laughing, then told her all about
 the Kasuga family. That we were a family of espers, that we've had
 an ancient tradition that forbade the secret of our powers becoming
 known to outsiders, and so on.

 Ayukawa listened silently to what I had to say, her head cocked
 slightly to one side.

 To tell the truth, I was a little uneasy.

 I mean, it sounds really cool to say I'm a superman.

 But it also means I'm not a normal human.

 What if she thought we were monsters?

 Instead, after hearing me out, she let out a long sigh. "I
 see. That explains everything."


 "I mean, sometimes you do really strange things, Kasuga-kun. That
 thought has occurred to me many times."

 Sometimes when I'd promised to go on a date with both Ayukawa and
 Hikaru-chan at the same time, I'd use teleportation to be with both
 of them. This is the kind of thing she had been talking about.

 Ayukawa said, "Thank you, Kasuga-kun. For choosing me to tell your
 secret to."


 "I guess I have to do something to show my thanks, don't I?"

 I'm sure I was making a stupid face at the time. Ayukawa came close
 to me, and pressed her lips to mine. That was our first kiss (8).

 "Okay, here we go, Kyosuke-niichan!" Kazuya said now, in the
 hospital room.

 Kazuya held my body's hand, and took a breath.

 Ayukawa and my sisters leaned forward. Even me, floating in the
 air, found myself holding my breath as I watched the turn of

 _Oniichan, it's me, Kazuya. We're all worried about you. Are you

 "How's it going, Kazuya-kun?" Manami asked.

 "It's no good. I can't get any response."

 What? No, that can't be.

 Why can't you hear me, Kazuya?

 I'm right here. My soul has just left my body for a while.

 "Kyosuke-niichan! Kyosuke-niichan!" Kazuya called.

 Kazuya! Hello, Kazuya!

 I yelled to Kazuya with all my strength. I hovered in front of his
 nose, screaming Kazuya, Kazuya! But he couldn't hear me.

 Akane shook her head. "I guess it's not going to work. Kazuya's
 powers aren't fully developed yet."

 You know, Akane, that's always been your problem--you give up too

 Kurumi said, "Well, Jingoro-chan, it's time to say goodbye to

 "Kurumi-chan!" Manami said.

 How many times do I have to tell you, I'm not dead yet!

 But even as I said those words, the "me" lying in the hospital bed
 seemed to be getting weaker. Up til that time, I could feel a
 strong power tying my soul to my body, but now that power seemed to
 be lessening.

 And when that power is gone.

 When that power is gone, my body will die.

 And my soul?

 What's going to happen to my soul?

 "Kasuga-kun! Kasuga-kun! Don't give up! Don't give up, do you

 Like a dam bursting, Ayukawa started to cry. As if carried away by
 that, my sisters and cousins began sobbing quietly.

 But five minutes later, the situation changed. My grandfather, who
 has just rushed here from his house in the countryside, came into
 the room and said:

 "There's nothing to do now but send Kyosuke's soul into the past!"


 "To the past?" Ayukawa said, her eyes filled with tears.

 Ojiichan said, "Oh, you're that Madoka girl, Kyosuke's
 you-know-what." He held up the pinky of his right hand in a gesture
 that meant girlfriend. Once, we had all gone to Ojiichan's
 house. Ojiichan was the head of my mother's branch of the family,
 and thus, capable of great esper powers.


 "Well, you're looking sexier than ever. Have you had sex with
 Kyosuke yet?"

 How can he be like that when his grandchild is probably going to

 Manami said, "Ojiichan, we don't have time for that. What do you
 mean, send his soul to the past?"

 Kurumi piped in, "Yes, what do you mean?"

 Go, my sisters. They've finally started concentrating on the
 problem at hand.

 "Okay, okay, I'll explain it to you. Because our family has powers
 different from normal humans, the balance between our souls and our
 flesh is very important. Isn't that right, Baachan?"

 "Yes," Obaachan agreed, sitting in a chair.

 Ayukawa said, "Balance?"

 "That's right, Madoka-kun. And now Kyosuke, lying in that bed, is
 just one step away from death. But! The life energy of this family
 is very powerful. That's why Kyosuke is still alive, why his soul
 is trapped between worlds, unable to return to his weakened body."

 "His soul is...what?" Ayukawa said.

 Akane put in, "Which would mean that is spirit is wandering around
 this room somewhere."

 Ojiichan said, "Off course, Akane."

 Kazuya: "Hey, Kyosuke-niichan, where are you?"

 I'm here, Kazuya, I'm here!

 Kurumi said, "I'll bet Kyosuke is looking down Madoka-san's shirt
 or something right now."

 Would you two stop talking like that?

 Let me think. When I tried to get into my own body a few minutes
 ago, it didn't work.

 Manami said, "So, what's going to happen to Oniichan?"

 "According to what the doctor said, they've done all they can,"
 Ayukawa said. "If his body recovers, won't everything be okay?"

 "No, even that may be too late," Ojiichan said. "The time during
 which a soul can be separated from its flesh is a day. No, more
 like half a day. And if the flesh should die during that time...

 Oh no!

 But what's going to happen to "me" if my body dies?

 Ojiichan continued. "If the flesh dies, then Kyosuke's soul will
 disband with a _whoosh_!"


 Ojiichan said, "Isn't that right, Baachan?"

 "Yes," she said.

 Madoka said, "Kasuga-kun..."


 I guess I only have one more day to live.

 No, just half a day.

 The same goes for our night gazing at the Yokohama Bay Bridge

 And _it_...

 It will all die with me, for all eternity.

 Kurumi said, "So you said you were going to send Oniichan's soul
 into the past. What does that mean?"

 Way to go, Kurumi. We still haven't heard Ojiichan's explanation
 about that yet.

 Ojiichan cleared his throat. "Yes, well. Kyosuke's soul is
 rejecting his weakened body, and so no matter how hard he tries, he
 will be unable to re-enter his flesh. So we're going to send
 Kyosuke's soul to the past. If we sent him into the future, he
 would probably already be dead."

 Stop talking that way, I told you!

 "In the past, that balance is unaffected, so if he meets himself,
 he can re-join with the flesh then. When that happens, the Kyosuke
 of the present should come back to life."

 Hmm, this isn't as easy as I'd hoped. I need to find myself in the
 past, and with his cooperation, get myself out of this predicament.

 "Okay, let's get started right away," Ojiichan said, and began
 chanting something.

 "Kasuga-kun!" Ayukawa said.

 I looked down at her, and to my sadness, I couldn't feel the warmth
 of her hand holding mine.

 Ojiichan's chanting filled the room. I'm sure he was chanting it
 normally, but to me it seemed like a flood of sound filling my

 Then everything that I had been looking at...Ayukawa, so sad, my own
 body, groaning in agony...everything began to waiver in front of me,
 like the horizon in the desert on hot day. Then, just as it seemed
 that Ojiichan's spell would break the walls of the room, I was cast
 into a blinding world of light.

 Then I found out that even ghosts can lose consciousness. In the
 center of that light, I began to fade away.

 Just then, I heard Ojiichan's voice:

 "Oh no! Instead of sending Kyosuke's soul to the past, I've sent
 him to the future!"



 The future?

 But I had no way to ask what Ojiichan had meant.

 I came out of that world of light, and fell through a space filled
 with colors that changed all around me.

 I was flying through other dimensions.

 Ojiichan said he'd sent me into the future, but I think he was
 wrong. I was dead, and I was falling straight down into heaven.

 As if to prove I was right, I found myself gently touching down on
 a cloud, with angels all around me.

 But in reality, it wasn't a cloud. It was a thorn bush.


 I hit my head hard against the ground, and that was when I realized
 that I wasn't among any angels.

 "Where is this?" I said.

 It was a place I was very familiar with. I was at the bottom of the
 Hundred Stairs.

 But why was I here?

 I felt a little it at a loss as I looked up those never-ending
 steps. If you climb to the top, there's a small park, and beyond
 that, my family's apartment building. It was here that I first met

 I remember that day well. I had just moved to this area.

 On my way back from picking up the nameplate for our new apartment,
 I had climbed these stairs, counting: "ichi, ni..." When I was near
 the top, I witnessed a bright red UFO flying above me.

 But it wasn't a UFO. It was a red straw hat which Madoka Ayukawa
 had cast into the wind for fun.


 I jumped up and caught the hat.

 "Got it!"

 From above me, I heard her voice.

 "Nice catch!"

 That was the first time I laid eyes on Madoka Ayukawa.

 "I threw it into the wind just now. I'm glad you caught it. I
 thought it was going to go all the way down."

 I'm sure I was making the ultimate stupid face. It was all I could
 do to utter a meaningless laugh, as I took in her long, black hair,
 her deep eyes, her soft, pert lips, that grown-up look that could
 only be called sexy.

 "It would have been terrible. These stairs go on forever."

 "Um, yeah. They do."

 What a stupid line! _Baka!_

 "Yes, there are ninety-nine of them."

 "Huh?" I said. Continuing my count, I climbed to the top.

 "Ninety-seven, ninety-eight, ninety-nine...one hundred!"

 "What?" she said. "You're wrong. There are only ninety-nine!"

 "But I counted them all the way from the bottom."

 "That can't be right. When I counted them, there were only
 ninety-nine." She was riled up now, and it made her even more
 beautiful. I struggled to calm myself.

 "Are you sure you didn't count wrong?" I asked.

 "What about you? Maybe you counted wrong."

 "No, I'm sure. There were one hundred stairs."


 "One hundred!"


 I've been told I was too passive ever since I was a child, but just
 then, I had a good idea.

 "Well, how about this? We'll compromise. There are ninety-nine
 point five stairs!"

 Ayukawa looked surprised for a second, the laughed with that sweet
 voice of hers.



 But I don't have time right now to sit around and bask in
 memories. I've found out _where_ I am, but I have to found out
 _when_, and what's happened to my body in this time. I know I heard
 Ojiichan say, "Oh no, I've sent him to the future!"

 But if that's true.

 And if I did die back there.

 Then that means I don't exist in the future.

 So..._what_ am I? A ghost?

 That was when I noticed something strange. Even though I was
 supposed to be just a spirit, I now possessed a body.

 "Possess" is kind of a strange way of putting it, but I was here,
 body and all. And my head, which I bumped back there at the bottom
 of the stairs, still hurt.

 Standing here confused wasn't going to accomplish anything, so I
 started for home.

 The apartment building looked a little more worn than I'd
 remembered, but everything else was the same. But when I started to
 enter the building, I looked at the nameplate in the lobby, and was
 instantly shaken.

 The Kasuga name was gone from apartment 307.

 Maybe they changed apartments. Maybe that was it. I checked the
 other floors, but the name of Kasuga wasn't there.

 There was more. I looked at the date on the circulating message
 board, used to tell tenants about meetings, events, etc., and was

 The date on it was July 23, 1994!

 1994? That's three years in the future!

 Three years. And now my family has moved out of this apartment

 Maybe they had to move because of Dad and that recent interest in
 social problems of his. We were making a good enough living back
 when he was a landscape and studio photographer, but maybe he was
 killed while overseas? Unable to pay the rent, Manami and Kurumi
 were forced to move...

 But it wasn't the time or place for me to be making random guesses
 like that.

 Was I even alive in this world of three-years-later? What about
 Manami? Kurumi? And what about...Ayukawa. I realized I panicking.

 Anyway, this is how I found myself in the world of the future,
 searching for myself.


 "What? 1994?" Ayukawa asked Ojiichan.

 "Yes. Probably."

 Manami: "Wait a minute, Ojiichan, 'probably' isn't good enough!"

 "Yes," Kurumi said, "you said 'oh no' when you sent Oniichan's
 spirit to the future."

 Ojiichan was flustered. "Sorry, I did it backwards."

 "Backwards?!" the twins exclaimed.

 There was no guarantee that Kyosuke would be alive in the
 future. If his body in front of them were to die, then his spirit
 would disappear, even though it had been sent into the future.

 But just then, Kyosuke's body, lying in the bed, let out a little
 moan, as if to stop the arguing that had begun around him.

 "Kasuga-kun! Kasuga-kun!" Madoka held tight to his hand. "He's not
 dead, he's not. Look at him breathing. His body isn't dead! How can
 you say that his soul has left his body?"

 Madoka swallowed the rest of her words. Even if the spirit
 disappeared, you couldn't be sure if the body would follow suit and
 die immediately. There might be a time delay, so that later, the
 body will pass away.

 Kazuya said, "Hey, Ojiichan, Kyosuke-niichan looks worse than he
 did before."

 Manami shushed him. "Kazuya! Watch what you're saying!"

 "That's right, Kazuya. You're not supposed to say things like that,
 even if it's true," Akane said, poking her brother in the head.

 Ojiichan said, "You're not going to have a fight here, you two!
 Everyone listen to me. It's true that Kyosuke looks worse than he
 did earlier. There's nothing we can do about that--his soul is not

 "So you're saying that the Kyosuke in front of us is nothing more
 than a mass of broken flesh?" Manami asked.

 "That's correct. Right, Baasan?"

 Kyosuke's grandfather sought the agreement of his wife of many
 years. But she was in her chair, sleeping soundly, oblivious to the
 commotion her grandchildren were making.

 "I can't believe it." And with that, the oldest living Kasuga (9)
 let out a great sigh.

 But Madoka Ayukawa felt the power of the Kasuga clan. She spoke to
 herself, as if in prayer.

 It's okay.

 You'll come back to us, I know you will, Kasuga-kun.

 Because you...you're a superman.


 Unaware of the events in the hospital room three years ago, I found
 myself in front of ABCB. I thought that Master would be willing to
 listen to what I have to say, and help me out.

 I had to find out so many things about this time period, including
 whether or not I was even alive. Also, Ayukawa's whereabouts.

 If I am dead, then Ayukawa would be...

 Twenty-two years old.

 It's even possible that she might be going out with someone other
 than me.

 That...that would hurt me more than being dead.

 Suddenly overcome with worry, I went to the window and peered in.

 At the counter was a girl I hadn't seen before, resting her head on
 her hands. She was wearing an ABCB apron. She must be a part-time

 So Master is out right now.

 I gathered my courage and opened the door.

 She was apparently one of those "body-conscious" types, with a
 little too much makeup. She looked at me with eyes that seemed half
 asleep. Something about her didn't seem to fit in with the
 atmosphere of ABCB very well.

 But then, the place was pretty cluttered. Was it possible for a
 place to get this dirty in just three years? There were no other
 customers besides me.

 I said, "Where's Master?"

 "Oh, are you a friend of his? He's probably still playing


 In the past three years, the coffee shop's atmosphere wasn't the
 only thing that changed. When the pachinko parlor in front of the
 station first opened, I remember Master saying to me, "That's
 terrible. Now the refined taste and culture of this area is going
 to be swept away by a new pleasure quarters."

 Well, I can't do anything about that. Now is not the time for me to
 concern myself with Master's hobbies.

 "Give me a cafe` latte," I said, seating myself.

 But she just said, "What's that?"

 It was my turn to be surprised. But as I looked around, I couldn't
 see the cafe` latte maker. I guess he must have given up on it.

 "Well, I'll have coffee."

 "Comin' up," she answered. She poured coffee from a pot into a
 small pan and started warming it. I was shocked. Master had always
 insisted on serving coffee that had been freshly made. "Coffee
 should be made one cup at a time," he had always said.

 I got more and more worried.

 You often hear that people can change easily, but I wonder. Could
 Master have changed not only his tastes and interests, but also his
 personality, in just three years? If that's so, will he be happy to
 see me?

 "Here you are. Hot enough to kill you." She put the coffee in front
 of me. It was as hot as she said.

 "Thanks. Um, by the way, is Master still wearing a beard?" Before I
 met him again, I wanted to know some things about him.

 "He sure does. Really bushy."


 I was confused. Master wore a beard and moustache three years ago,
 but I wouldn't exactly call it bushy.

 "I see," I said. "He's still wearing one."

 "I guess you haven't seen him for a while."

 "Yes. Three years, actually."

 "Three years? That's strange. He's been that way for a while."

 "What way?"

 "You know. _Koochi koochi koo_." She stuck her chin out a little
 and wiggled her head from right to left.

 "What's that?"

 "Well, with part-time girls like me, he likes to rub his beard
 against the nape of my neck when I'm washing dishes."

 I thought I was going to throw up the coffee I had just started to

 "Master did that?"

 "Sure. It's been a month since I started here, so I'm used to it by

 I don't care if Master takes up pachinko or changes the way he
 makes his coffee, but there is no reason why he should be harassing
 girls who work here like that!

 I thought that if Master had changed that much, then maybe he
 wouldn't be willing to help me in my situation now. My uneasiness
 was starting to give way to anger.

 Just then, the door opened behind me. The part-time girl said, "Ah,


 I'll admit that I am usually indecisive. But we who have Kasuga
 blood in our veins try to have a sense of what is right and wrong
 twice as strong as most people. Furthermore, Master is like an
 older brother to Ayukawa. I don't know what kind of troubles Master
 has gone through in the last three years ago, but there's no reason
 to go and tickle girls who work for you in the napes of their

 Unable to take it any more, I slammed my coffee cup down with a
 loud noise and turned around. "I'm ashamed of you, Master, laying
 your hands on your employees like that!"

 The person I'd yelled at said, "Huh?" and moved back towards the
 door. He was more or less an old man--a totally different man from
 the Master I knew.

 It turned out that the rights to ABCB had been sold to this man,
 silverware, fixtures and everything. He said it was a common thing
 for owners of coffee shops or bars to do when they wanted to get
 out of the business. I couldn't figure out what had happened in
 Master's life that he would have wanted to sell. But according to
 the old man, he had bought the shop a year and a half before, and
 had never met Master directly.

 I bowed my head and apologized to the owner for yelling at him
 while the girl laughed. If there had been a hole, I would have put
 my head in it. After hearing the situation from the old man, I paid
 for my coffee and left.

 I didn't know where Master was.

 That didn't mean that no one knew. But I didn't have the courage to
 ask the cigarette lady or the owner of the ramen shop where Master
 always went. I guess I must be dead in this time.

 I looked up. Without realizing it, I had returned to the station.

 A footbridge now spanned the intersection where I had been hit by a
 car three years ago. It was almost as if the footbridge was built
 as a result of my accident, and it amused me for some reason.

 A gentle breeze blew, giving me a pleasant feeling. I started to
 climb the stairs up the footbridge, counting the steps as I went.


 My feet touched each step, one at a time. So am I dead in this time
 period? Am I just a spirit, floating in time?


 As I reached the last step, I heard a voice above me. It filled me
 with memories somehow.

 "Nijuu-nanna! Twenty seven!"

 I looked up slowly, and in the next instant, bitter-sweet memories
 flooded into me.

 Above me on the footbridge stood a woman, her face still betraying
 shadows of girl-hood. She was sampling the gentle
 beginning-of-summer breeze. No, she was not a girl at all. She was
 a woman. If I hadn't had hundreds of memories of that face in its
 younger years locked away in my memory, I might have thought she
 was just an attractive woman, a little older than me.

 It was Hikaru-chan.

 I let out the breath I realized had been holding, and called her


 She turned and said instantly, "Gosh, I can't believe it, it's
 Kasuga-senpai! I never expected to bump into you out here!"

 Her hair was slightly longer than her shoulders, all one
 length. Her salmon pink dress matched her red-brown hair well. I'm
 positive she had grown in the three years--three and a half
 years--since I'd met her.

 "Hikaru-chan...you've, you've gotten taller."

 _Baka!_ What a stupid thing to say!

 Hikaru-chan looked at me with surprise on her face, then said, "No,
 I haven't, senpai. You know, it has been over three years since
 we've seen each other."

 I looked embarrassed.

 She laughed, her mouth wide open like an 'o,' like she always used
 to. Like she always used to...back when we were three friends,
 together all the time.

 "How about you?" she continued. "I can't believe it. You haven't
 changed at all, really. You look like you're still in high school."

 She was right. I was my 19-year-old self, but Hikaru-chan was 22
 now, one year older than me.

 "Well, you know what they say about men maturing more slowly than
 women," I said, trying to change the subject. "That's why I look so
 young. Um, did you come here from Hokkaido?"

 "No, senpai. I live in New York now."

 "New York?"

 "Yep. Pretty cool, isn't it?"

 "Ah, that's right. Now that you mention it, Master was saying
 something about that. After you graduated from your high school in
 Otaru, you wanted to go there."

 "I said that? I don't remember saying that. Do you know when that

 "Hm?" I said quickly. "Um, no, I can't remember. But if you live in
 New York, why are you--"

 I was interrupted by her "pocket bell" beeping. Hikaru-chan took it
 out of her shoulder bag and checked the number of the person who
 had beeped her. For a moment, her face seemed to cloud up with

 "Gosh, just when I was talking with an old friend," she said. "Can
 you hang on a sec?"

 "Ah, sure. I don't have anything to be doing right now, anyway."

 Hikaru-chan flashed a smile at me, and ran down the stairs of the
 footbridge to a phone booth.

 I stared at her receding shape. She was probably taking dance
 lessons in New York. It seemed as if Hikaru-chan, once so small and
 slim, had grown larger and bolder in the last three years.

 To tell the absolute truth.

 Hikaru-chan's body seemed to be filling her one-piece dress more
 than it would have before. It was incredibly arousing to me.

 For a moment, I forgot my own current predicament.

 Hikaru Hiyama entered the phone booth and sighed. It was something
 she always did before going on-stage to help calm herself.

 **I wasn't ready for that, bumping into darling...no, I mean
 Kyosuke-senpai, on the street like this.**

 Hikaru had anticipated that she might run into Kyosuke or Madoka by
 chance when returned to Tokyo. She was even hoping for it,
 somewhere deep inside her. But it had been so sudden, and now her
 heart was racing.

 **I'd promised myself earlier that, whenever I did meet senpai again,
 I would be a woman, grown-up and stylish.**

 **But I'm really just a stupid fool.**

 **Blurting out such childish words like that. _Gosh, I can't believe
 it, it's Kasuga-senpai!_**

 **He'd never think that I was grown-up, talking like that.**

 Hikaru sighed again, and began to dial the number displayed on her
 beeper. On top of everything else, the man who had interrupted her
 conversation with senpai was the lowest scum on Earth.

 She'd tell him off now.

 This is Tokyo (10). Where I was born and where I grew up.

 Don't think you can treat me the way you did when I first got to
 New York!

 Hikaru went there right after graduating from high school,
 declaring her stay as a one-year English study to the
 U.S. immigration officials.

 For the first three months, she took classes in ESL--"English as a
 Second Language"--an English program mainly for native speakers of
 other languages. She had gone to study dance, but students without
 English ability couldn't get a visa to study at dance schools.

 To her surprise, ninety percent of the students in the ESL classes
 were Japanese.

 What's more, they weren't really interested in studying English, or
 even in engaging in cultural interchange with Americans while under
 the financial wings of their parents, but instead were just
 grouping together into herds with other Japanese. Faced with the
 loneliness and helplessness of living on her own in a foreign
 country, Hikaru spent a little time with such people, but
 eventually she decided to change schools and make a new start.

 That was when she met Sugizawa, a Japanese man working part-time at
 a small travel agency in Greenwich Village.

 Sugizawa had just graduated from a university in New York, and was
 looking for work as a dancer. He was a sportsman, with an athlete's
 body, and his white teeth impressed Hikaru immediately.

 In the Village were many "off Broadway" houses which featured
 smaller plays and musicals. Sugizawa appeared in such houses
 occasionally, and was thus somewhat well-known in the Village.

 Sugizawa impressed Hikaru further with his fluent English and
 extensive knowledge of the Village. She had yet to make much
 progress even in her study of English. They accompanied each other
 to many off Broadway plays and musicals, and were quickly becoming
 closer and closer. On an Autumn-tinged Halloween night, in
 Sugizawa's room over the Hudson river, they were joined.

 It was Hikaru's first experience.

 But afterward, he soon became unyielding to Hikaru. He began to
 completely monopolize her.

 He began to ask about every detail of her schedule for the day, and
 always went to pick her up when she was finished. At first, Hikaru
 thought of his actions as an expression of his affection for her,
 but gradually it got to be too much.

 On New Years' Eve, Hikaru was invited to a home party by her dance
 instructor. It was the first time she'd been invited to such an

 Hikaru enjoyed the party, and tried hard to use her
 English. Outside, snow had started to fall. Early in the morning,
 the party finally ended, and the instructor said he'd escort
 everyone home. In New York with its high crime rate, this is not

 But when Hikaru went outside, Sugizawa's Corvette was waiting for
 her, covered with snow. That was when she realized her feelings had
 begun to grow apart from Sugizawa's.

 "Let me do my own thing!" she had told him, and for a moment his
 eyes became round with surprise. She didn't go back to his room
 after that.

 Sugizawa called her many times, but she let the answering machine
 answer the phone for her. One day, after returning from her dance
 lesson, Hikaru heard the following tear-choked voice on her
 answering machine.

 "It's always this way. Whenever I let myself love someone, it ends
 up like this...the more I love her, the more I end up hurting her...and
 in the end, it turns out that I wasn't really in love with her...I
 was just in love with myself."

 His words ceased to be words after that. Sugizawa said he was going
 home to Tokyo the next day.

 Hikaru had no regrets over Sugizawa. But after hearing his voice on
 the answering machine, a memory she'd been trying to forget for a
 long time suddenly resurfaced.

 It was just like that summer.

 When I couldn't think of anything but Kasuga-senpai.

 Kasuga-senpai, studying so hard for the university entrance exams.

 And me chasing him, pestering him.

 Just like what Sugizawa was doing to me.

 The next day, Hikaru went to the airport to see Sugizawa off. He
 was overjoyed. He gave her his address in Tokyo, and asked her to
 visit him when she came back to Japan.

 Hikaru agreed, but as soon as his plane lifted off, she threw the
 paper he'd given her in the trash. Just then, Kyosuke's face had
 come back to her. She knew the reason why.

 "Hello?" she said now into the phone.

 As soon as she spoke, Sugizawa's voice came on at the other end.

 "Hikaru? That's you, isn't it? When did you get to Japan? Why
 didn't you tell me your flight number? What about your hotel? Where
 are you now? Should I pick you up?"

 Hikaru had no plans to visit her parents in Otaru. She had had a
 friend she had met in New York make the hotel reservations for
 her. That friend must have told Sugizawa that Hikaru was returning
 to Japan, and given him her beeper number, thinking she was being

 Hikaru waited for the first volley of questions to cease, then
 said, "Could you tell me all that one more time, Sugizawa-san?
 There were so many questions, I couldn't answer them all without
 writing them down."

 Hikaru was sad to hear such bitterness and cynicism coming out of
 her mouth.

 "What? An audition for a musical?" I said, surprised.

 Hikaru-chan had run back up to the top of the footbridge where I
 had waited for her to finish her phone call, and told me her reason
 for coming back to Japan. She was going to audition for the

 "Yes," she said, "and it's a pretty big production, too. A friend I
 had made while in New York called to tell me about it."

 "Wow, that's really great," I said.

 "No, it's really nothing," she said, giggling a little. "I'm just
 going to audition for the part; it's not like I've passed it or
 anything. My instructor in New York tells me all the time, Hikaru,
 you aren't good enough to get a real part yet. But he thought it
 was a good idea for me to try out some of what I'd learned in New
 York back in Tokyo."

 "That's great. He speaks to you in English, then, I guess."

 This set off more embarrassed laughter, and she balled her hands
 into little fists and pretended to hit me. Some people crossing the
 footbridge from the station looked at us.


 Hikaru was as innocent and child-like as always.

 So full of light and energy.

 Someone approached us on the footbridge, and I moved nearer to
 Hikaru to let them pass. When I did so, the light smell of her _eau
 de cologne_ struck me. I moved away.

 I tried to change the subject: "So where are you staying? I mean,
 your parents are still in Hokkaido, right? Oh, at a hotel. Wait a
 minute, are there any hotels around here?"

 "No, the hotel is near the home of the girl who told me about the
 audition. She's going to audition for the play along with me. She
 offered to let me stay with her, but in the end we are rivals, so I
 decided to stay by myself."

 "Wow, that's great," I said.

 "Oh no, there you go again, saying how great I am," Hikaru
 laughed. "My friend gave me her beeper, so she could contact me if
 anything came up."

 "I see. So that's who you were talking to back there."

 Hikaru beamed. "Senpai, did you think I was talking to a man or

 "Me? Well, I..."

 You hit the bull's eye, Hikaru-chan. I'd been thinking of nothing
 else for the past few minutes.

 Hikaru-chan laughed, then continued. "I came back to the old
 neighborhood as a favor to my mother. She told me, if you can't
 come visit us in Otaru, at least go to where we used to live and
 say hello to everyone. Can you believe she's kept contact with
 everyone in the neighborhood for three years?"

 I felt bad. Ayukawa and I hadn't even tried to keep up contact with
 Hikaru-chan. Meeting her by chance like this, I feel like a cold
 bucket of water had been dumped over my head.

 "Well, I guess I'd better be getting back."

 I said, "Oh, well, so do I." After I spoke, I thought to myself,
 where do I have to go to?

 Hikaru-chan was looking at me strangely.

 "Um, senpai, are you sure you're feeling alright?"


 "Well, I mean...you seem to be full of memories all of the sudden."

 "I'm okay, I guess."

 But I was feeling kind of funny again. Hikaru-chan was right.

 I must have tired myself out, walking around thinking so much. I
 considered telling everything to Hikaru-chan.

 But no, I couldn't do that. It was probably even a good thing that
 I hadn't been keeping contact up with Hikaru-chan for these past
 three years, so that she wouldn't think anything was strange if I
 was really dead in this time period.

 "No really, what's wrong, senpai?"


 Hikaru-chan made a strange face. "This is what you look like," she
 said. "But then, you have always been a little odd. I used to talk
 about it with Madoka-san every once in a while. Once she said to
 me, Kasuga-kun always seems like he's keeping a secret from

 "That's not true!" I blurted.

 Hikaru suddenly got serious. "Can I ask you a question?"

 Just then in the street below us, a large was lumbering by
 noisily. Because of this, I couldn't hear clearly what Hikaru-chan
 said next.

 "Are you taking care of your health?"

 I answered, "Well, you know how it is. Things could be better."

 Hikaru-chan made a strange face, and I thought that she must have
 misunderstood what I had said or something. But I thought, there's
 no way she could take what I just said the wrong way. I dismissed
 the thought.

 But Hikaru-chan hadn't asked about my health. She had really asked,
 "Is everything okay between you and Madoka-san?" It wasn't until
 later that I realized this.

 After the sound of the truck had receded, Hikaru-chan took a few
 steps down the stairs down to the street. She looked a little

 "Well, senpai, I'll be going now."

 "Okay," I said.

 Hikaru-chan shot a happy smile at me. "Bye bye!"

 Then she ran down the steps.

 She had said, _Is everything okay between you and Madoka-san?_ And
 I had answered, _Well, you know how it is. Things could be
 better_. It's only natural that she would look a little upset after
 hearing that.

 Not having realized this yet, I said, "Bye bye!" and thought to
 myself how warm and friendly her smile was.

 I watched her as she disappeared among the trees that lined the

 I'm sorry, Ayukawa, I thought to myself. Kyosuke Kasuga, nineteen
 years old. I had to admit, I once again found myself attracted to
 this older, more grown-up Hikaru-chan...

 But a few minutes later, something happened which made kept me from
 thinking of Hikaru-chan.

 I overheard the following statement from my evil friends from high
 school, Komatsu and Hatta:

 "And Kasuga, he's only twenty-two years old. Poor Ayukawa..."


 My bumping into Komatsu and Hatta was also by chance.

 After parting from Hikaru-chan, I decided to go to the station and
 buy a newspaper from a kiosk. I knew there wouldn't be anything in
 the paper about where the Kasuga family had moved to, but maybe
 reading it would give me a toe-hold into knowing more about this
 time period.

 "Oh, there goes one hot woman! You look delicious, baby!"

 I heard the voice through the crowd and stopped instantly.

 The kind of high-pitched voice that sticks out in your mind. A
 voice which could fire out pick-up lines at women in rapid
 succession, like a machine gun, even though they never amounted to
 anything. It was Komatsu Seiji. He had his sidekick Hatta with him,
 and was about to enter a bookstore that was in front of the
 station. The girl he had just described as "one hot woman" was
 putting up some kind of sign in front of the station.

 "Thank you, thank you," Komatsu said to the girl. "You really do
 your job well, you know that? I'm Komatsu, the manager."

 Having said this, he entered the bookstore, acting like someone

 What the hell is going on?

 Komatsu was talking with the owner of the book store, acting like
 they were pals. This book store is famous for people standing
 around and reading all the books without buying them, and I had
 seen those two getting chased away several times by the old
 man. Why are they here now?

 The riddle was solved immediately. I looked at the sign the girl
 had been putting up. It said, "In celebration of the debut as a
 stand-alone comic of Weekly Shonen Jumbo's manga _I'll let you do
 anything'_ there will be a signing by the author, Kazuya Hatta."

 My heart wouldn't stop beating. In just three years, Hatta had
 become the number one selling manga artist in Japan.

 And judging from the title of the manga, his personality hadn't
 changed any. Looking through the stack of mangas next to the sign,
 I could tell they were for sex perverts, with lots of girls who
 could be either junior high school or high school students wearing
 cute, suggestive sailor suits.

 So that's why Komatsu and Hatta are wearing suits and ties and
 acting so haughty.

 Komatsu's voice: "Okay now, Hatta, do you understand? You're the
 one the fans want to see."

 "Okay," Hatta said.

 "When they come, sign the boys' books and get rid of them as fast
 as you can. But only the ones who buy the comic. I'll shoo away
 anyone who tries to get you to give your autograph without buying a


 "But there'll be young girls in line for an autograph, too. Be sure
 to say, please give your phone number to my manager."

 "Manager? Who's the manager?"

 "I am, you fool!"


 "We're going to tell the girls we're recruiting for a special fan

 "A fan club?" Hatta said. "Why?"

 "Well, it'll really be a sex club, of course."

 I can't believe those two. They haven't changed a bit.

 But I was a little envious of Hatta. It must be great to be able to
 turn your hobby into such a good living.

 Komatsu continued, "I do wish Kasuga was here, though. All this
 just isn't the same without him."

 I was taken back for a moment. I didn't know Komatsu had such
 warmth in him.

 But then their stupid conversation ended. When I heard what Hatta
 said next, my heart stopped.

 "Yeah, I know. Kasuga, he's still only twenty-two. Poor Ayukawa."

 "Yeah. He's in the next world by now, I'll bet. It makes you feel
 like crying, doesn't it?"

 What the hell? What did they mean?

 I'm only twenty-two?

 Poor Ayukawa?

 Someone tell me what's going on!

 Their conversation kept rolling around in my head. Did I die back
 in the world of three years ago?

 I couldn't stop myself from confronting them any longer. If I was
 dead, then what did I have to lose? I started towards them.

 But just as I did so, a herd of Hatta's fans who was being led by
 one of the book store employees appeared, gathering around the
 two. I was pushed back by the crowd.

 "Wow, can you believe how many people there are, Hatta?" Komatsu

 "Yeah. Don't push me."

 "But wait a minute, Hatta. I can't see any young girls in the

 "Yeah. Actually, if you think about it, it is a manga for sex
 perverts and _otakus_. I can't imagine girls reading it."

 Komatsu got angry. "Well, I'm getting out of here, then. I'm going
 to go hit on the girl in the book store."

 "Wait a minute, Komatsu!"

 It was a bit of a shock.

 I guess I did die back in that hospital room, three years ago.

 I continued to be pushed back by Hatta's fans, until I found myself
 back at the footbridge where I had said goodbye to Hikaru-chan a
 short time earlier. Looking past the crowd, Komatsu and Hatta were
 nowhere to be seen. I had lost the energy to fight the crowd any

 But at the same time, I couldn't stand not knowing for sure.

 Well, in that case, I'll go to ward office. They'll show me the
 death certificate, if I ask them. If there isn't one, then I'm
 safe. If there is one...

 In any event, I have to make sure, one way or another.

 After hurrying to the ward office, I said to the old man at the
 information desk, "Excuse me, I'm looking for a certain person's
 death certificate."

 The old man, who had been drinking green tea, looked shocked for a
 moment. That was understandable. I must have looked like one of the
 Deva guardians (11) who stand outside Buddhist temples. That's how
 desperate I was to know the truth.

 He told me the department that handles death certificates was on
 the second floor. I thanked him and ran up the stairs.

 I've got to make sure! I've got to know!

 Did I die in that world of three years ago?

 And where is Ayukawa? What is she doing now if I'm dead?

 I need the truth.

 Even if...even if she's going out with someone else now.


 She appeared before me, her face full of love. Pouting, now. I knew
 that face was something from my past, from three years ago.

 Now, in the present, I wonder how beautiful and grown-up she
 is. I'll bet she's got her own kind of seductive appeal now,
 different from Hikaru-chan's.

 My heart screamed, _I want to see Ayukawa!_

 I stopped short on the stairs.

 I don't know how much longer I've got til my soul disperses. But
 there was a science fiction movie I saw a long time ago, in which a
 man who had traveled from the past disappeared the moment he saw
 proof of his own death.

 If that's the case, then before that, I want to meet Ayukawa just

 I'm usually the kind of guy who can't make up his mind easily, but
 when it's something this important, I never hesitate. I turned on
 my heel and ran back down the stairs.

 As I ran out the entrance of the ward office, the sky was beginning
 to turn a faint shade of orange. A cool evening wind was ruffling
 through the town.

 I started off to Ayukawa's house, feeling like a child who had been
 playing quietly by himself only to look up and find that all the
 other kids had gone home.


 The Ayukawa mansion hadn't changed in three years.

 The ajisai--hydrangea--were in bloom along the path that goes to
 her front door. Just like three years ago.

 I had been here just a few days ago to pick up Ayukawa for
 school--well, a few days ago three years ago.

 Ayukawa often waters her flowers in the morning. That morning had
 been no different.

 "You're a lot like those flowers," I said to her. "That's why you
 get along so well with them." I had actually happened to learn a
 little about the flowers the night before.

 "What do you mean by that?"

 "Because hydrangea change their colors so often, they're also known
 as 'the flower of seven changes.'"

 "Seven changes?" Ayukawa said.

 "Yes. In other words, they're _kimagure_, capricious or
 whimsical. Just like someone else I could name."

 She started to get angry. "That's not funny, Kasuga-kun."

 Kyosuke laughed. "I think I'll ask the flowers themselves."

 "Ask them what?"

 "Why do they suddenly get quiet and moody for no reason? The moment
 I think they're angry, they suddenly laugh. Why is that?"

 This time Ayukawa laughed. "You're making me sound like I'm just a
 spoiled brat."

 I kissed her. It was a slightly longer kiss than usual. Then I
 said, "Good morning, Ayukawa."

 I put my arms around my beautiful angel. I felt her breath against

 "What's wrong?"

 Instead of answering, she dug her fingernails into my
 chest. "Kyosuke, you used your super-abilities just now, didn't

 "What? What are you talking about?"

 "It was too perfect."

 "What was?"

 "It just was. That kiss. And if I catch you reminiscing about it
 during class, I'll make you buy me lunch."


 This time, Ayukawa kissed me.


 I repeated her name to myself, shaking my head to get myself back
 into reality. I don't have time to get caught up in memories of the
 past. I've got to concentrate!

 I jumped up onto the wall, being careful to avoid the flowers. If I
 walked along it, I knew I would get to the courtyard, where I could
 see into the living room.

 But when I got up onto the wall, I saw something I hadn't expected
 to see.

 The wall I was standing on is more than just a border separating
 Ayukawa's house from the one next door, but was also part of the
 roof to the garage. There were two cars parked there.

 One of them was familiar to me. It was a bright red Austin Mini
 that Ayukawa's parents had bought her when she was admitted to

 "That's great!" I had said when she told me about the car.

 "Not really," she had said. "They're can't fool me. They've stuck
 me with watching the house while they were away for years, and this
 is all I get as a reward."

 The other car, that was the problem. It was a silver-grey BMW of a
 type I hadn't seen three years ago.

 Ayukawa's parents spend the larger part of every year overseas
 performing, and while they're away, Ayukawa's sister and her
 husband drive her father's Mercedes.

 So whose car is this BMW?

 I felt my heart drop. Someone was paying a visit to Ayukawa at this
 moment. I didn't know if it was a man or a woman. No, it had to be
 a man. You have to face reality, Kyosuke. There's no way a woman
 would be driving a sleek black BMW like that, is there?

 She's with a man. A man is here, with her.

 Trying to get a hold of myself, I slapped myself in the face with
 both hands. Making an intense face like those Deva guardians, I
 continued along the wall.

 That was when I heard the sound of a piano.

 Looking for a key to play in. The kind of sliding of the fingers up
 and down the keys that a person who had been familiar with a piano
 ever since childhood would make. Ayukawa used to do that every
 time, before she would play.

 It was Ayukawa. She was playing the piano.

 I had heard the song somewhere before. A strong opening. Then a
 sensual melody, like running up a hill. That's it, then comes the
 image of a calm, great sea.

 This song is _Kyosuke #1_!

 My depression left me immediately, and I reached my hand out to the
 branch of the white birch tree for support and peered into her
 living room.

 I couldn't see much more than the grand piano inside. But I could
 see fingers striking the keys. And long, black hair. It was
 Ayukawa. She was totally absorbed in her playing, with her head
 bent forward, so I couldn't see her face clearly. But I knew I was
 looking at Madoka Ayukawa, twenty-two years old.

 I was suddenly on the brink of tears.

 I wanted to rush to her side and spill out everything. I knew she'd
 help me. After all this time, she still plays the song she wrote
 for me, wasn't she?

 But wait a minute.

 I don't know _for sure_ that the title of that song is, in reality,
 _Kyosuke #1_.

 I did hear it in a dream.

 If that dream wasn't about the future, if it was just a normal

 The title of the song might not be _Kyosuke #1_ at all.

 I felt confused again. But at that moment, I heard a voice which
 dispelled my confusion immediately.


 It was a man's voice. A young man. That voice was saying to me:
 stay dead, Kyosuke.

 I don't mean to brag, but I'm not brash enough to call Ayukawa by
 her first name yet. Even though we're officially going out, we
 haven't gotten to that point in our relationship yet. Some might
 say that I'm unable to call her by her first name.

 On several occasions, I've thought that there was no reason to go
 on calling her "Ayukawa," but whenever I tried to it, I failed. I
 really was dying to be able to call her "Madoka," casually. And
 now, the young man coming up from behind Ayukawa had done so as if
 her first name meant nothing. I decided he must be the owner of the

 Then I looked more closely at the man.

 It was him!

 I knew who he was. More importantly, all of Japan knew who he was:
 the famous idol singer, Mitsuru Hayakawa!

 It appeared that he had graduated from a mere idol singer to a
 full-fledged pop star.

 He was wearing his long black hair behind him, tied into a pony
 tail, with an expensive-looking double-breasted suit, and an
 "aloha" shirt that seemed to say, I'm so famous I can get away with
 wearing outrageous clothes like this. No necktie. And a bright,
 shiny ring that somehow blended well with everything else.

 But why is Mitsuru Hayakawa at Ayukawa's house?

 Ayukawa and I met Mitsuru Hayakawa a while back. But he didn't go
 around calling her by her first name, at least, not three years

 My first meeting with Mitsuru Hayakawa was two years ago. Which
 means five years ago, from this point in time.

 At that time, he was still just an up-and-coming idol.

 Hayakawa and I accidentally bumped our heads together, which caused
 us to exchange bodies.

 Changing bodies basically means swapping two minds completely. In
 our case, my personality changed places with Mitsuru Hayakawa's.

 Because Hayakawa is so popular with girls, I had a lot of
 adventures with the opposite sex using his body. At the same time,
 Hayakawa made some passes at Ayukawa, who naturally thought it was

 Well, to make a long story short, Ayukawa was unharmed, and in the
 end we were able to put it all behind us.

 But after that.

 Setting his sights for the musical genius Ayukawa had inherited
 from her musician parents, Hayakawa had kept in touch with her. But
 in the end she decided to go to college with me, and I thought he'd
 given up for a while.

 Once, when I asked Ayukawa about Hayakawa's attempts to recruit her
 into the music business, she said, "Kasuga-kun, I think you're
 jealous of him."

 "Of course I am!" I replied, raising my voice for once.

 Ayukawa seemed a little off balance to see me get flustered, and
 apologized: "I'm sorry, Kasuga-kun. I am."

 I looked into her eyes. They looked like the eyes of a scared
 little girl.

 But in the twenty-two year old Ayukawa of the present, I couldn't
 see any traces of such childishness.

 In Mitsuru Hayakawa's hand were two cans of beer. He put one on the
 piano, and she thanked him with her eyes, continuing to play.

 Hayakawa opened his beer and drank it in one gulp. Then he looked
 at Ayukawa and said, "Well? How's it going? Did you finish my

 Ayukawa continued playing, ignoring him.

 "You still haven't gotten over him, I see."

 Who is he talked about? Me?

 "For God's sake, stop fucking around and forget about him."

 Angry, Ayukawa slammed her hands down on the keys. She glared at

 He seemed used to those eyes, and he raised his hands in mock

 He continued. "You have to understand, I went to a lot of trouble
 to get the producer to let you write another song."

 "I didn't ask you to do it."

 Ayukawa stretched out her hand to take her beer, and cracked it

 "You really don't know the way things work in this business, do

 "I don't need to know how things work."

 Hayakawa got defensive. "Hey..."

 As Ayukawa drank her beer, Hayakawa proceeded to tell her about
 "the business." This is basically what he said.

 Ayukawa had written several of the songs on Hayakawa's last
 album. One minor song happened to catch on, and became a big
 hit. The song was then chosen as the opening theme for a TV drama,
 and the name of Madoka Ayukawa, songwriter, spread like wildfire in
 the Japanese music industry.

 Hayakawa said, "Your sudden rise to the big time has been quite a
 Cinderella Story. Still, I hope I wasn't expecting too much,
 putting you in charge of writing my next single."

 He leaned over and, brushing up against Ayukawa's shoulder, started
 to play a song on the piano.

 It was the song Ayukawa had just been playing. It was the song I
 hoped was called _Kyosuke #1_.

 "If you like, I can use this song instead."


 "It's a pretty good song. Kind of rougher than most of my recent
 stuff, but it's packed with your emotion, your 'shout.' It would be
 perfect for the climax of a concert."

 "Forget about it, okay? I didn't write this song for you."

 "I know."

 "There aren't even any lyrics."

 "I can write some."

 Mitsuru Hayakawa reached over and played part of the song,
 ad-libbing some words to fit the melody:

 "I love you...I love only you..."

 I knew those words were what he wanted to say to Ayukawa right now.

 God damn you, Hayakawa!

 "Stop it!" Ayukawa pushed him away and got up from the piano.

 But Hayakawa just raised his hands again in apology, smiling. He
 hadn't meant to push her that far.

 Ayukawa bit back, "What happened to your girlfriend, anyway?"

 That's right. There was a girl named Shiori who had been with him
 from the beginning of his rise to fame, which he had kept separate
 from all his female groupies.

 When I changed bodies with Hayakawa, I came very close to spending
 a dangerous (?) night with her. Her face was cute, similar to
 Hikaru-chan's, but with a more sensual side to her as well.

 "Girlfriend?" Hayakawa said. "Which one?"

 "I thought so. Even though you graduated from idol to full-fledged
 pop singer, you still aren't capable anything but using women for

 Hayakawa said, "No, you're wrong."


 "I'm different, Madoka, but you can't see the truth."

 "The truth?"

 "That I, Mitsuru Hayakawa, am the only one who can save you."

 "Get out!"

 "I'm leaving. But if you ever decide you're ready to change the
 title of that song, give me a call. You'll never be able to write
 songs if you don't forget him. Kyosuke would agree with me."

 At that moment, I nearly lost my grip on the tree branch.

 I knew it!

 The song Ayukawa had been playing was my song.

 The title is almost definitely _Kyosuke #1_.

 Ayukawa must have written it for me at some point in the past.

 Ayukawa refused to look in Hayakawa's direction. She stared at the
 piano keyboard, her mouth a tight line, unmoving. Hayakawa made a
 gesture of shooting an imaginary gun in her direction as a gesture
 of goodbye, then left the room. The moment he closed the door,
 Ayukawa burst into tears, which fell onto the piano keys.

 Suddenly, everything started to go black.

 Except for Hikaru-chan, who had moved to Hokkaido, and from there
 went straight to New York City, everyone seemed to know of my
 death. I really must be dead.

 The courtyard of the Ayukawa mansion was turning bright orange as
 the sun moved lower and lower. The most beautiful moment of
 sunset. After this, the darkness of night will come.

 For Ayukawa, a long, sad night.

 I made up my mind.

 If the situation were reversed, even if Ayukawa were a ghost, I
 would want her to appear before me. Even if I couldn't reach out
 and hold her, I would want to be with her, for whatever short time
 we were allowed.

 I decided to go to her, and ease her sorrow as much as I could.

 I jumped from the wall to the tree branch, preparing to jump down
 to the living room window.

 But as I jumped to the tree, I felt a strange dizziness, like when
 you stand up too quickly. Then I looked in horror as my hand
 started turned transparent before my eyes.

 But not just my hand. Now my whole body was starting to disappear.

 It was time for me to fade away for good. If that's my destiny,
 then I'll accept it. But to die without even being able to say one
 word to Ayukawa! That's too much!

 Please God, give me just enough time to say one word. Just one
 word, any word!

 I gathered all my strength and jumped from the tree to Ayukawa's
 living room window.


 But my body had already started to disappear, and I fell "through"
 the wall to her house. I was suddenly unable to see or hear or feel


 It can't be...Kyosuke?

 Madoka Ayukawa looked up, sure that she had just heard Kyosuke's
 voice calling her. Through the open window, she could see the white
 birch, painted orange by the setting sun. The voice seemed to have
 come from that direction.

 Madoka got up from the piano where she had been sitting and picked
 up her beer.

 A pleasant evening wind spilled in through the open window. As if
 pulled by that warm breeze, she went to the window. The tears in
 her eyes dried out.

 There was no one at the window.

 Madoka managed a sad smile. As she drank more of the warm beer, she
 said to herself:

 Kyosuke Kasuga.

 You're a superman, right?

 So use your magic, and come back to me.

 _Come back to me!_

 After receiving word that Kyosuke had turned up missing, Madoka had
 immediately tried to catch a plane to where he was. But there was
 no room for women in Bosnia. Her parents, who happened to be
 performing in Eastern Europe, told her to wait in Japan until she
 had more information.

 But for ten days no, there had been no word.

 Madoka continued to stare lazily at the orange-colored garden. The
 wind, which had been pleasant a moment ago, now annoyed her.

 Ever since she had been a child, Madoka had been mistrustful of
 things that gave her pleasure. The reason for this was, whenever
 her parents would return to Japan, she would be happy, but she knew
 that they would leave, and she would be alone again. She knew, too,
 that the warm evening wind meant that the lonely night was not far

 In the slowly-darkening garden, Madoka's sobs sounded once again.

 Back at her hotel, Hikaru had just gotten out of the shower when
 her attention was captured by the picture on the TV.

 It was the news on the war in Bosnia. News of the ongoing chaos
 there could be seen in New York. But the news in New York hadn't
 reported the story of a Japanese photographer who had disappeared.

 There must be some kind of mistake.

 She slid down onto her knees in shock.

 It was senpai. Kasuga-senpai. Whereabouts...unknown.


 "Who was the Kasuga-senpai I met today?"

 Hikaru reached out for the telephone. As long as she lived, she
 would never forget Madoka's phone number.

 Hikaru pushed the button to get an external line, and felt a chill
 on her just-showered body.


 "Kasuga-kun!" Madoka shouted at Kyosuke's body, which was being
 wheeled away. "Kasuga-kun! Don't give up!"

 Kyosuke was experiencing the last stage of agony. The doctor had
 decided to move him to the emergency treatment room.

 "Oniichan! Keep fighting!"

 Manami and Kurumi followed the stretcher, followed by the
 grandparents. Down the hallway was the treatment room.

 Half insane, Madoka clung to Kyosuke. "You're not going to die,
 right? Your body's still warm. You'll be okay, right? Live, okay?
 Live! Do you hear me? Kyosuke!"

 Then, _bashi! bashi! bashi!_ Madoka slapped Kyosuke's cheek.

 "What do you think you're doing?"

 The doctor grabbed Madoka's hands. But Madoka pulled away from him,
 and kissed Kyosuke hard, as if she wanted to cover his whole body
 with hers. Everyone standing around was surprised by the force of
 her action, and moved back.

 That was all Madoka Ayukawa could do for him.

 Some nurses wheeled Kyosuke's stretcher into the treatment
 room. Madoka stayed outside.

 But at that moment, Kyosuke's wandering soul was receiving some
 kind of power from Madoka. Kyosuke's grandfather picked up on that

 "Madoka-kun, you did well. It seems that Kyosuke has heard your

 Madoka said, "What?"

 Manami said, "What do you mean, Ojiichan?"

 "Kyosuke's soul, trapped in the future, seems to have regained some


 "Ojiichan, why do you know that?" Kazuya wanted to know.

 Grandfather said, "It's not that I can see Kyosuke's spirit
 directly from this point in time. But when Madoka-kun kissed
 Kyosuke's body, now in the treatment room, I felt that his spirit
 was filled with the memory of the joy of living, which had almost
 been forgotten."

 Madoka: "The joy of...living?"

 Grandfather nodded deeply. Grandmother put in:

 "In other words, Madoka-chan, your feeling towards Kyosuke have
 given him courage, even at the brink of death. The flesh
 communicated those feelings to his soul, trapped in the future."

 "That's right," Ojiichan said. "If Kyosuke's spirit can borrow
 power from the Kyosuke of three years into the future, then..."

 "Oniichan can come back to us,"

 "Probably. That's if Kyosuke's flesh can hang on til that time."

 Madoka stared blankly at the door to the emergency treatment room.



 I realized I was back in my body just as my head hit the ground.

 I was lying in the same place I had ended up the first time. The
 bottom of those long steps where I first met Ayukawa. There was a
 newspaper discarded by the side of the road. A glance at it told me
 it was still July 23, 1994, three years into my future.

 I didn't know what happened to me, but it seemed that this point in
 space acted as some kind of inter-dimensional doorway for me.

 It also seemed that my spirit hadn't faded away just yet.

 That thought didn't make me any happier. The current situation was
 still the same as it was. I finally find out the truth about myself
 in this world of the future, but now I haven't a clue about what I
 should do next.

 The sun which had painted the Ayukawa mansion's courtyard bright
 orange had set about thirty minutes ago.

 I was seized with the desire to run to Ayukawa's side immediately,
 but now I asked myself, did I really have the right to appear in
 front of her like this? I was suddenly uneasy.

 I wandered away from the steps, towards some shops. The bright
 lights of the stores hurt my eyes. I felt like the light was
 penetrating into the center of me, and the feeling was
 unpleasant. Then, as I was passing in front of an electronics
 store, I stopped in shock.

 In the store window, many new electronic gadgets that hadn't
 existed three years ago were on display. But what had stopped me in
 my tracks wasn't electronics. My picture was on the TV. It was then
 that I first learned that, in this time, I was a missing person.

 So this is was had really happened to me!


 "Thank you very much. Next, please."

 The cold voice of the director echoed off the ceiling of the

 The dancers who were waiting to audition all let out a sigh of
 relief. Only Hikaru Hiyama remained stiff, as if she were thinking
 hard about something.

 "Hey, Hikaru, what's the matter? Are you okay?"

 Shuri Anzai looked at Hikaru's face. Compared to Hikaru's large
 eyes, her eyes were narrow, more Asian-looking. Those eyes now
 looked at Hikaru.

 "What?" Hikaru said, then laughed. "Jeez, Shuri, do I really look
 so strange?"

 "Yes, there's something wrong with you. The Hikaru I know would be
 making a bigger fuss about the audition, running around saying, oh
 my God, I'm on in a few minutes, that kind of thing."

 "Hold on a sec. Acting happy now doesn't change the fact that I'm
 going to be a heartbroken woman by tonight, my dreams in pieces on
 the floor, after I fail this audition. Would you be able to be so
 jovial under those conditions?"

 "I guess not."

 "Jeez, some people expect so much." Hikaru laughed again.

 Hikaru had met Shuri in a Japanese restaurant in the East Village
 when she had first started her dancing lessons. Shuri had come to
 New York with the same dream as Hikaru, but when she exhausted her
 financial resources, she had gotten a job as a waitress in the

 She had a body that had no problem competing with American women,
 and the Asian flavor of her catlike eyes gave her a slightly
 different appeal than Hikaru. The past winter, when her visa period
 had expired, she returned temporarily to Japan. When she heard
 about the audition, she had told Hikaru about it immediately.

 "Stop worrying about me, Shuri. Aren't you up next?" Hikaru nudged
 Shuri towards the stage.

 Shuri was the kind of person who never stopped worrying about her
 friends. Hikaru didn't want to lie to her.

 The truth was, Hikaru had rather a lot on her mind.

 Back at the hotel, she had tried to call Madoka after seeing
 Kyosuke on the news, but in the end she had changed her mind.

 She knew she had met Kyosuke that afternoon. They had only talked
 for a short time, but their conversation had been pleasant. She had
 to admit to herself that, somewhere deep inside her, she had felt
 the fire of emotion re-light for Kyosuke, who she had been trying
 so hard to forget.

 Then to hear him say, after asking about him and Madoka-san: "Well,
 you know how it is. Things could be better."

 Hikaru had felt awful after hearing those words. She had been
 through so much pain; it had been so hard to give Kyosuke up. But
 then to be told, "Things could be better," when she asked how he
 was getting on with Madoka... Well, hadn't it all been for nothing?

 Hikaru had thought this way at first, but then she reconsidered.

 Kyosuke had done nothing more than opened his heart to Hikaru and
 spoke honestly. Form the beginning, the three of them had had that
 kind of genuine friendship, and Kyosuke, suddenly meeting an old
 friend, had inadvertently spoken his true feelings.

 Hikaru thought that some kind of obstacle must have come between
 Madoka and Kyosuke.

 That Kyosuke had become missing in Bosnia at least temporarily was
 fact. But he was actually alive, and was going to great pains to
 conceal that fact from others. Why? There could be only one
 reason. He wanted to avoid Madoka Ayukawa.

 That must be it!

 But why?

 Is it cheating on her with some other girl?

 He can't face her for some reason?

 Maybe he forced some woman overseas to marry him.

 Or maybe he gave up his Japanese citizenship!

 That could have happened!

 Ever since she was a child, Hikaru had a tendency to get carried
 away when thinking about a problem. This was one of those times.

 In any event, she had tried to called Madoka back at the hotel, but
 thoughts like these had made her replace the receiver in the end.

 "Hikaru, I'll see you after my audition." It was Shuri now.


 "I'm up. Didn't you hear them call my name?"

 Shuri put all her nervousness inside her and smiled at Hikaru, then
 went out onto the stage.

 "Shuri, good luck!" Hikaru called after her, but her voice was lost
 in the music on the stage. A famous wide-show host on TV all the
 time was introducing Shuri over the speakers.

 The TV network that was sponsoring the production was also
 recording the audition session for a documentary about
 dancers. Participants in the dance audition would all have their
 faces on TV.

 Her turn approaching, Hikaru wrapped her arms around herself in an
 effort to get a grip on herself.

 When she did so, she unconsciously touched a small doll sewn into
 her leotard. It was similar to those "Troll" dolls, and she gripped
 it now. Whenever she got nervous at a dance lesson back in New
 York, she would hold the doll in her hand, getting strength from

 I can do that!

 --I can do that!

 She chanted the words like an incantation. They aided her whenever
 she had a problem back in America, the ultimate land of
 "individualism" and "do-it-yourself-ism."

 You can do it, Hikaru! I know you can!

 The troll sewn into her leotard had been a present from Madoka
 Ayukawa. Hikaru had received it right after she got to New York.

 Soon after Hikaru transferred to the high school in Hokkaido, she
 started sending postcards to her friend. The problem of Kyosuke
 still existed between the two women, but Madoka had been like an
 older sister to her forever. Ever since Hikaru had been a child,
 she had been a crybaby, and had followed Madoka around
 everywhere. No matter what had happened with Kyosuke, her feelings
 for her "big sister" could never really change.

 But still, something kept her from talking with her directly. So
 she had sent postcards. She wrote about unimportant things, and
 never talked about what was going on between Madoka and Kyosuke.

 Madoka guessed Hikaru's feelings, so instead of sending a reply
 letter, she had sent little trinkets. First there was the
 Troll-like doll good-luck charm, then a hand-made hat, and finally
 some pressed, dried flowers that Madoka had grown herself. Hikaru
 had asked for any gifts, but receiving them gave her a warm

 They didn't need to talk face to face. It was enough for each to
 know that the other was thinking about her, keeping the warmth
 alive. Hikaru had sworn to herself that, when she had become
 grown-up enough to talk about what had happened with Madoka as one
 woman to another, she would go see her.

 But it was hard. Just coming to this audition had been a pretty big
 step for Hikaru.

 Hikaru knew about Madoka's becoming an up-and-coming
 songwriter. Japanese living in New York loan videotapes of current
 "trendy dramas" to each other quite often. She knew about the song
 Madoka had written becoming a big hit in Japan.

 Hikaru immediately wrote a postcard congratulating her friend. She
 didn't write about the audition or her planned return to Japan.

 "Hikaru Hiyama-san!"

 The announcer's voice reverberated from the speaker.


 Startled at her own voice, Hikaru walked out on stage.

 Shuri Anzai was walking off-stage to the applause of the audience,
 her face flushed. She was smiling. She had done her best.

 Hikaru raised one spread hand and said, "Give me five, Shuri!"

 Slap! Shuri hit her open palm against Hikaru's, in a gesture of
 good luck.

 As if pulled by the music that suddenly overflowed from the
 speakers, Hikaru leaped out into the bright lights.

 In the stands with the other judges sat Mitsuru Hayakawa.

 "That girl!"

 Unconsciously, Hayakawa leaned forward in his seat to get a better
 look at the girl who had come onto stage.

 He had seen her before. She had been just a girl then, but the
 person dancing on stage was a ripe, mature woman now. Quickly,
 Hayakawa's mind began checking his memory like a computer for the
 file on the girl.

 "Hey, you! Wait a minute! Hiyama...Hikaru Hiyama!"

 Hayakawa's voice echoed towards Hikaru, headed backstage. But she
 didn't stop.

 A phone! I've got to find a phone!

 I knew I should have called Madoka-san earlier!

 Hikaru had just finished her audition. It had started with a
 dancing, then singing, and finally a brief demonstration of her
 acting ability. After her eyes had become accustomed to the bright
 lights, Hikaru had noticed Mitsuru Hayakawa, watching her from the

 Back in high school, Hikaru had appeared on a TV show called
 "Talent Scout Caravan" along with Madoka and Kyosuke's
 sisters. Hayakawa had been on the show as a special-guest.

 Hikaru never had a chance to talk directly with Hayakawa, but she
 knew that Kyosuke and Madoka had had some kind of trouble with
 him. Hikaru had no problem with that, but seeing him looking down
 on her from the stands suddenly brought back memories of Kyosuke
 and Madoka.

 I don't know what really went on with Hayakawa and Kyosuke.

 But Kasuga-senpai is really alive. He's reported in the news as
 being missing.

 I can't believe he's hiding from Madoka-san like that.

 I hate him!

 Hikaru had tried not to think about Kyosuke during the audition
 itself, but it was no use. No matter how hard she tried, the faces
 of Kyosuke, who she had met that afternoon, and Madoka, worried
 over Kyosuke's safety, floated in front of her. After her audition
 was finished, she threw on a jacket and went in search of a

 They were all in use. People who had come to audition, wanting to
 call their families or their managers, were waiting in lines to use
 the phones. Outside the studio, she finally found an open phone.

 But Madoka wasn't home.

 Through the receiver, Hikaru heard Madoka's voice for the first
 time in three years. It was her answering machine. Hikaru was full
 of memories, and her heart quivered with emotion. She realized that
 she really loved Madoka after all.

 But when the recording ended with a beep, she hung up without
 saying anything. It wasn't the kind of thing you leave on someone's
 answering machine.

 Hikaru decided to walk around the memory-filled town without going
 back to the hotel.


 A red straw hat. A red straw hat.

 Ayukawa's red straw hat.

 This is where we first met--God, that sounds corny.

 I balled up the newspaper I had been reading and threw it in a
 trash can.

 I was at the park at the top of the hundred-or-ninety-nine steps. I
 was sitting on a swing.

 On the society page of the newspaper was an article with a giant
 headline: _Japanese photographer, missing for several days_. Don't
 make such a big deal about it. I won't be able to go anywhere
 around here without standing out to strangers if my picture's going
 to be pasted everywhere. To say nothing of showing up at Ayukawa's

 The Kyosuke Kasuga of the present turns up missing just as I show
 up from the past.

 It has to be a joke, right?

 I started myself swinging. I had been on these swings with Ayukawa
 many times. Back when Ayukawa was going to study abroad in America
 at her parents' urging, we had come here.

 "So are you going to America or what?" I had said, trying to sound

 "I have to. You and me...we're still children, really. We have to do
 what our parents' tell us to every once in a while."

 Ayukawa had said this, then smiled in that grown-up way of hers.

 She had ended up staying here, and we had become closer and closer
 after that. You often hear that you don't realize how important
 people are to you until you lose them.

 Just like me, now.

 Everyone I know is gone. Ayukawa, Komatsu and Hatta, my family,
 even Master.

 This is all so new to me. I never imagined that not being able to
 see the people you love could be this hard.

 The wind picked up. It was July, but it wasn't really summer
 yet. It would get cool tonight.

 "Okay!" I said to myself, jumping off the swing. I started down the
 steps I had just climbed, counting to myself: "Ichi...ni..." I was
 going to check how many there really were, once and for all.

 Then, from below me, a voice: "Ichi...ni...san..." I looked up to see a
 girl, coming under the light.

 "I didn't know your hobbies included counting steps,


 "What's wrong, senpai?" she teased. "You look like you've seen a

 "Um, sorry, I..."

 "I knew you'd be here."

 "How did you know?"

 "Everyone else always takes the long way to avoid having to climb
 these stairs, but for some reason, you always seemed to like
 them. And here you were"

 "Is that so?"

 "Yes, it is," Hikaru-chan answered, suddenly acting like her old

 "You...haven't really changed in three years," I said.

 "That's not true! I'm twenty now, you know. Are you saying I
 haven't become woman at all?"

 "Well, that's not what I meant..."

 That isn't what I had meant.

 You're so pretty, I wouldn't know you if I saw you in a crowd.

 Like a beacon of light to a lonely man, lost in the sea.

 To tell the truth, I was so happy I could cry, talking to her.



 "Can I ask you a private question?"

 "What? What's wrong?"

 I was shaking a little. But Hikaru-chan looked straight at me, and
 I knew I couldn't lie to her.

 Sensing my resignation, she said, "Senpai, why are you running away
 from Madoka-san, pretending to be dead?"


 Hikaru-chan's hotel, on Aoyama Dori, was what is known as a "city
 hotel," kind of small but elegant.

 We had decided to go to dinner. "Well, let's go the hotel I'm
 staying at," Hikaru had said. "I heard there's a beautiful
 restaurant on the top floor, but I haven't been yet. If it's really
 as nice as they say, then who would want to go there alone?"

 I wasn't hungry, and wondered if my soul from three years in the
 past was biologically capable of hunger, but when she asked that
 question of me, I could only say, "Well, let's go to dinner and
 talk about it."

 Luckily, I had had the money for my summer study session in my
 pocket at the time of the accident. I'm sure even Ojiichan wouldn't
 know why that money was with me now.

 But I was ready to spend it all tonight on Hikaru-chan.

 "Senpai, what wine shall we have? Do you prefer dry or sweet

 Sitting down next to a window that overlooked Aoyama Dori,
 Hikaru-chan had immediately reached for the wine list.

 "Um, I don't have a preference. Which do you usually drink?"

 Hikaru-chan started naming white wines, most of which I had never
 heard of. This was something that the Hikaru-chan of three years
 ago would not have been able to do.

 Of course! Now that I think about it, she is a year older than me.

 I'm at a ritzy hotel, about to eat dinner with a sexy, older woman.

 "Well, how about this one?" she said to the waiter, after I had
 been unable to decide the wine.

 She really had grown up, hadn't she?

 No doubt it was as a result of her hard life in New York. She had
 really come a long way.

 I suddenly became aware of how childish I must look to her.

 "What's wrong, senpai? You're acting like a body without a soul."

 My eyes went wide at that. "Did you say...soul?" A middle-aged couple
 sitting beside us glared at me. Hikaru-chan shushed me.

 "Sorry. I was vegging out for a second," I said.

 "You seem kind of tired today. If you don't want to answer my
 question, you don't have to."

 "Ah yes, your question."

 Hikaru continued. "You and Madoka are adults, after all. I just...I


 The words were getting caught in her throat. I held eyes with her
 for a moment, and she forced a smile. The kind of cute smile you
 see in American movies.

 "I just...want to see the two of you get along together. That's all."

 Just then, the waiter brought the wine, served in a bucket of
 ice. "That looks good," she said.

 I pretended not to notice the sadness in her face.



 Hikaru touched her glass to Kyosuke's, then took a long drink of
 the chilled wine.

 Her throat had been parched. She realized she hadn't had anything
 to drink since before the audition, when she had had some mineral
 water. And now she was running off at the mouth with Kyosuke.

 _I want to see the two of you get along together_. What a stupid
 thing to say.

 It's like I'm admitting what bad luck I had had with men when I was
 in New York or something.

 She drained the glass.

 "You're incredible, Hikaru-chan. I guess you can hold your liquor."

 "Hm? No, no, I'm just thirsty, that's all. Besides, in America
 people drink beer and wine in place of water."

 "Really? The water in Tokyo has gotten really bad recently. I hear
 it's worse in America, though."

 "It is. And what's worse, the price of beer or wine or mineral
 water isn't that different from Japan."

 "Well, then I guess you should buy wine instead of mineral water,"
 Kyosuke said and laughed, refilling her glass.

 As he did so, she looked at his face. He really hadn't changed in
 the slightest in three years. Same sweet mouth. Same warm eyes.

 A completely different person than Sugizawa-san.

 In the end, Hikaru hadn't bothered to call Sugizawa back. He had
 been the first man she had been with, but that was all he was. Even
 if she were to see him again, she knew nothing would ever come of

 After she had broken up with Sugizawa, Hikaru had slept with two

 One had been an Italian-American who was taking dance lessons with
 her. The other had been a Japanese art student she had met in a
 cafe` in the Village.

 Both of them had been different types of men, but both had had many
 interests in common with Hikaru. She had enjoyed being with both of

 She had realized that they hadn't been "steadies," but just someone
 to spend time in bed with. She saw them from time to time back in
 New York. Sometimes she would sleep with them, sometimes she
 wouldn't. The relationships were important to both her and the two

 But now, her dear friend Kyosuke was here, and she felt strangely
 sad about the changes in herself over the past three years.

 But Kyosuke hadn't changed at all.

 No matter what kind of men she would meet in the future. No matter
 how grown-up and sexy she made herself up to look in front of them.

 To Hikaru, Kyosuke Kasuga would always be different.

 Kyosuke and Hikaru were still reminiscing about the old days when
 the food and more wine came.

 Their conversation touched on the subject of Madoka from time to
 time, but for the most part, they avoided talking about her. It was
 surprisingly easy, because the two of them had been bound by deep
 friendship for a long time.

 Some time later, "dinner time" at the restraint gave way to "bar

 The lights were dimmed, and the candles places at each table
 illuminated their slightly reddened faces.

 Kyosuke and Hikaru had been laughing about the past up til now, but
 they suddenly grew silent. Piano music had begun to play, and they
 were embarrassed at laughing so loudly.

 That was the beginning of it.

 The two of them went from two friends, laughing and talking about
 the past, to seeing each other as adults of consenting age.


 I knew it.

 I shouldn't have gone.

 Madoka turned on the lights and looked around the room.

 She had been invited to dinner by her sister and her husband, and
 had just gotten home.

 They had been concerned about her because she was losing weight,
 worrying about Kyosuke. They had shown up that night and
 half-dragged Madoka out the door.

 Her sister's children had been glad to see her, and the table had
 been filled with her favorite foods. But no matter how hard she
 tried, Madoka hadn't been able to lift her spirits.

 Madoka ate the food her sister had prepared for her as quickly as
 she could, then caught a taxi hope, turning down her
 brother-in-law's insistent offers to take her home himself.

 She should have been nicer to her sister's family. Or better, she
 should have turned down their invitation more firmly in the first

 Madoka picked up a box of Salem cigarettes that she had thrown on
 the couch earlier, and took one out and lit it.

 She took a drag of the cigarette.

 She noticed a light blinking on the telephone. Someone had called
 while she had been out.

 She sucked again at the Salem, as if trying to smoke all it in one
 breath. She held the smoke in her lungs for a moment, then blew it
 all out.

 Ever since she had been notified that Kyosuke had disappeared, the
 sound of the phone ringing terrified her. Madoka discarded the
 cigarette butt, smoked down to the filter, in an empty can. She
 listened to the message.

 There had been three calls. But the person had hung up without
 leaving any messages.

 She ran her long, black hair through her fingers, sinking into the
 couch. She took another Salem out of the pack.

 The phone rang. She immediately thought to herself: what time is it
 in Bosnia?


 The voice on the other end dispelled her anxiety immediately.

 "It's me. I was drinking, and suddenly wanted to hear your voice."

 It was Mitsuru Hayakawa.

 "Use your stupid lines on some other woman. I'm hanging up now."

 "No wait, don't hang up. I was kidding. No, there's something I
 have to tell you."

 "I haven't done anything with your song since this afternoon. Tell
 your friends in 'the business,' if they don't like it, they can
 drop me."

 "No, it's not about that. I met a close friend of yours today."

 "A close friend?"

 "Yeah, you know, the girl from high school..."

 "You're not talking about Hikaru, are you?"

 "Yeah, that's her. Entry number 65, Hikaru Hiyama. Currently
 residing in New York, attending Actor's Studio College."

 "What are you talking about? Hikaru is in New York now, but..."

 "She's back in Japan. I had a feeling you didn't know she was
 back. She's here for an audition."

 "An audition?"

 "I told you about it a while ago, remember? My agent is taking part
 in producing a musical, and I was chosen to be one of the
 judges. Anyway, she came to the audition today."

 Madoka sat up, interested now.

 She displayed the postcards she had gotten from Hikaru. Counting
 the ones from Hokkaido, there were quite a few. The most recent
 one, a postcard from Phantom of the Opera, had arrived a month ago.

 In it, Hikaru had written her congratulations on Madoka's becoming
 a hit songwriter, and complained about how hard it was for poor
 people like her to buy theater tickets in New York.

 Madoka had sent Hikaru a cassette tape of the music to Phantom of
 the Opera, which she had arranged and played herself on the piano.

 "Madoka, are you listening?"

 "Sorry. So where is Hikaru now?"

 "She's in that new hotel on Aoyama Dori, I think it's called the
 Kingdom Hotel. I'm here with her."

 "You're a liar."

 Hayakawa just laughed.

 "I'm just kidding. That part comes later."

 "Go ahead and try it. Just remember, Hikaru doesn't look that
 strong, but I'm the one who taught her how to kick the asses of
 scumbags like you."

 "I'm sorry, come on. Although, she really has gotten sexy in the
 last three years."

 Hayakawa continued talking about Hikaru, but Ayukawa listened only
 halfway, then hung up. She dialed directory assistance and asked
 for the number of the Kingdom Hotel.

 Madoka was sure Hikaru didn't know about Kyosuke's
 disappearance. If Hikaru had known, Madoka was certain she would
 have called.

 Madoka had considered writing to Hikaru in New York with the
 news. But she had changed her mind, not wanting to burden Hikaru
 with her problems.

 But if Hikaru is in Tokyo, things were different. The only one who
 could bring Madoka's spirits out of the shadows at a time like this
 was Hikaru.

 "Hello, Kingdom Hotel."

 A pleasant woman's voice answered the phone. Madoka gave the name
 of Hikaru Hiyama, and was connected to her room.

 The phone rang again and again. After a time it reverted back to
 the front desk.

 "Miss Hiyama doesn't seem to be in her room," said the woman. "She
 just picked up her room key, so I'd imagine she's in the hotel's
 restaurant bar with her guest."

 "Her guest?"

 "Yes. Um, are you a friend of Miss Hiyama's?"

 "Yes, I am."

 "Shall I transfer your call to the restaurant?"

 "Was she with a man?"

 "Yes, she was."

 Madoka was suddenly hit by women's intuition.

 Hikaru was with a man. He was probably a boyfriend from Hokkaido.

 If that was the case, it wouldn't be nice to show up and talk about
 Kyosuke with her.

 "Hello? Shall I connect you to the restaurant?"

 Madoka hung up.

 And felt somehow relieved. She didn't know what kind of man Hikaru
 was with, but the thought of Hikaru enjoying a quiet evening with a
 male friend was somehow good news to her.

 Madoka realized she was thirsty, and went into the kitchen. She
 took a beer out of the refrigerator and opened it.

 Coolness spread down her throat. She thought of Hikaru, and for a
 moment was able to forget her own situation and smile.


 "Kasuga-senpai, are you okay?"

 Hikaru-chan was calling me. She seemed far away from me.

 No, that's not right. She right beside me. The smell of her was
 assaulting me, making my head spin. No, wait a minute. She's not
 _beside me_, she's _holding me in her arms_, calling my name.

 Where am I? Am I a ghost? I took a look around me, and saw that I
 was in her hotel room. On the sofa next to the bed were several
 pieces of women's clothing.

 "Are you okay? Hang on a minute, I'll bring you some water."

 Hikaru dropped me on the bed. Or maybe she laid me down gently--I
 couldn't tell which.

 So this is Hikaru-chan's room.

 I shook my head groggily, trying desperately to remember what had
 happened up to that point. I think I paid the bill back at the
 restaurant. She showed her room key to the waiter and said, "Please
 charge it to my room," but...I don't care if she's older than me, the
 man should pay. I told her, let me pay! I think that's what

 But my memory gave out on me after that. How did I get to Hikaru's

 The room into which Hikaru-chan had disappeared into was a
 bathroom. I heard the sound of water running through the door.

 Hikaru-chan's taking a shower!

 That's really not a good idea, Hikaru-chan.

 I tried to sit up, but I felt as if my clothes had been sewn to the
 bed. My body wouldn't respond to my brain's commands.

 I've got to get home. But where is home? I have nowhere to go.

 I've got to get out of this room, in any event. That much I can be
 sure of.

 I tried once more to get up, and this time I managed to turn over
 onto my stomach. But it was then I noticed something
 strange. Kyosuke Kasuga, nineteen years old--I was supposedly just
 a soul, but I was experiencing pain now.

 The part of me which proves I'm a man...you know, _down there_...was
 bearing my full weight.

 That part of me had become sexually excited, and, well...

 Even though I was trying my best to do the right thing, to leave
 the room, my thing had 'stood up.'


 I'm sorry. I don't know what's gotten into me.

 At that point, I reached my limit, and my mental soliloquy came to
 an end. I imagined Hikaru-chan's nude body in the shower, then saw
 Ayukawa's angry face, then Hikaru-chan again, then Ayukawa.

 Then, like a giant wave hitting me at once, I entered a world of
 pure white.


 "Senpai, I'm sorry for making you wait. Here's your water."

 Hikaru came out of the bathroom, holding a cup of water. Then she
 noticed he was lying on his stomach.

 "Are you okay, senpai? Where does it hurt? I was filling the bath
 with water for you just now..."

 Hikaru kneeled on the bed, shaking Kyosuke gently. He was sleeping

 "Don't go to sleep there," Hikaru said. "It's a bad idea, really."

 Hikaru didn't know what to do.

 This is a problem.

 Definitely a problem.

 Back at the restaurant on the top floor of the hotel, Kyosuke had
 passed out right after taking care of the check. He had drank too
 much. Hikaru had asked a waiter to help bring him to her hotel
 room, intending to let him rest for a while on the couch before
 going home.

 But now he was in her bed sleeping, and his face was innocent and
 peaceful. Hikaru had thought earlier that Kyosuke hadn't changed at
 all in three years, but looking at him now, she was unable to
 believe that he was twenty-two years old.

 This was the Japanese photographer who had flown into war-torn
 Eastern Europe with just a camera?

 Back at the restaurant, Hikaru had asked several times about his
 trip to Bosnia and his disappearance. But every time he had avoided
 the question.

 Kyosuke was, after all, a very indecisive type of person who never
 said things clearly.

 Hikaru knew this aspect of his personality very well. She also
 realized that a man who was relaxing and talking about the past
 with an old friend might not want to dig up such vivid and
 unpleasant memories. Hikaru decided to stop asking about Bosnia and
 concentrate on talking about their happy past.

 But there were many things that Hikaru didn't want to remember
 about that past. In the last three years she had worked hard to put
 those bitter memories behind her. She had found at some point that
 she had grown up during it all.

 Being an adult wasn't necessarily all good, either.

 Before, Hikaru had always been a straightforward and trusting
 person, but now she was different. Now she always thought things
 like, "Is this person telling me the truth?" and "How far can I
 trust this person?"

 This was because she had had many experiences with lovers or a
 friends who hadn't responded to her feelings as much as she had
 expected, or who had actually betrayed her in the end. Many people
 she had met changed completely whenever it suited them. Because of
 this, she had been hurt many times.

 But now, lying in her bed, was a man who was totally unlike the
 people she had met in the past.

 He's not my enemy.

 He doesn't want to play the stupid games that adults have to play.

 But I couldn't...I couldn't do that.

 "Kasuga-senpai. Please wake up," she said, before finally realizing
 that her voice wasn't enough to rouse him.

 Just then, Kyosuke turned over in bed. Timing it just right, Hikaru
 covered Kyosuke wth the sheet. She went to turn off the water,
 nearly overflowing in the bathtub, then took off her T-shirt and
 spats and got in the bathtub.

 The hot water mixed with the warmth from the wind, and felt good
 against her body.

 Hikaru was not so naive that she didn't know what was going to
 happen between Kyosuke and her tonight. Nor was it true that she
 hadn't considered what pain both she and Madoka Ayukawa would have
 to suffer after Hikaru crossed that line with Kyosuke.

 As if to wave all that away, Hikaru submerged her head in the bath
 water completely. She decided not to think about anymore. Not
 thinking about the problem was the best solution at a time like

 When Hikaru came out of the bathroom, Kyosuke was still sleeping

 She put on her pajamas and slid into bed beside Kyosuke. When she
 did so, she remembered the body smells of the men she had slept
 with in the past, but she shook her head, just a little, to shake
 the memories off.

 She could hear the sound of the air conditioner running. Hikaru was
 in the habit of taking hot showers, then getting into cool
 sheets. It created a pleasant sensation against her body.

 But when she stretched her legs out into the fresh sheets, she
 moved to touch Kyosuke.

 Just then, Kyosuke said:


 A name that Hikaru had been trying desperately to forget suddenly
 jumped up in her memory.

 She reached out to the side table and turned out the light. The
 room became completely dark.

 The sound of the air conditioner and the never-ending parade of
 cars on Aoyama Dori reached Hikaru's ears. Seeming to completely
 cover those sounds was the sound of Kyosuke's breathing.

 Hikaru smile to herself.

 This is not my apartment in New York. This is Tokyo, where I was
 born and raised. And this is where some people who are very special
 to me live.

 Hikaru wondered why it had taken til now for her to feel like she
 had come "home," and sometime later, she was pulled into a deep


 When I opened my eyes, I knew immediately that I was really in
 heaven this time.

 Lying on a fluffy cloud. Bathing in gentle rays of light. And
 beside me, breathing deeply in sleep, was a nymph. I guess I really
 am dead this time.

 Wait a minute. A nymph? Not an angel?

 Reality returned to me in the next second. I'm sure I turned
 white. The person I thought was a nymph was really Hikaru-chan. She
 was wearing cute pajamas, and was sleeping with her body resting
 against mine.

 What's going on, Kyosuke?

 Why is Hikaru-chan sleeping in the same bed as you?

 Does that mean...I...well, does it mean I did it with her?

 That's not good.

 I was a virgin.

 And what about Ayukawa?

 I was supposed to do it with her.

 I had gone from heaven to hell in one minute. An idea occurred to
 me. I reached my hand down to the lower half of my body.

 I was wearing my pants. But that didn't necessarily mean I was out
 of the woods. Thinking I should check all parts of my body, I
 started to lower my zipper. If that part of me was wet, well, it
 would be a big problem.

 But then my luck turned bad. Down on Aoyama Dori a truck blew its
 horn loudly. Hikaru-chan's large eyes fluttered open.

 "Ah, Hikaru-chan," I said.

 "Good morning, senpai."


 "I didn't know you were awake."

 Hikaru-chan looked as if she was still half in her whatever dream
 she had been having. I had my hands on my zipper. No matter how
 half-awake she was, it looked suspicious.

 "What are you doing? What's wrong, senpai?"

 I laughed nervously. "It's gets itchy down here sometimes."

 She rolled her eyes to the ceiling. "Gimmie a break. Men are all
 the same."

 She laughed, then suddenly she looked at me with solemn eyes. They
 seemed to tease me.



 "Do you remember last night? You talked in your sleep."


 "You kept saying 'Ayukawa...Ayukawa...'"

 "No, I didn't."

 "Yes, you did."

 Hikaru-chan laughed again.

 "Cut it out, Hikaru-chan! I'm sure I didn't say her name!"

 "But suppose you did say her name. And suppose, as a result of
 that, a certain beautiful girl decided she hated you. What would
 you do?"

 "Huh? Well...I guess then I would have been my loss."

 "Your loss, huh?" she asked.

 "Um, well, it's not actually a matter of losing or gaining
 something," I said.

 What am I saying?!

 Suddenly Hikaru-chan said, "Senpai! You can stop worrying. Nothing
 happened between us last night." She showed me a wide smile. The
 morning sun was shining on her face just then, and it was the
 prettiest smile I'd ever seen. I knew that I could never do
 anything to hurt her.

 Just then, a sixth sense came out of nowhere and hit me.

 .......Hikaru-chan wasn't a virgin.

 Next to the pillow, the phone rang.

 Hikaru-chan threw the sheet off and answered it. It was the front
 desk, telling her she had a phone call from outside the hotel. I
 thought it wouldn't be polite to eavesdrop on her conversation, and
 moved into the bathroom.


 "Hello?" said the voice at the other end of the receiver.

 It wasn't Sugizawa. Hikaru was immediately relieved.

 "It's me, Hayakawa. Mitsuru Hayakawa."

 "Huh? Oh, I'm sorry. I remember now. I'm sorry about yesterday."

 "It's been a long time since I've been brushed off like that. It
 made me kind of nostalgic for the old days."

 "So I guess you have to thank me," Hikaru said.

 Hikaru continued the conversation, but she was thinking about
 Kyosuke, who had disappeared into the bathroom. She didn't
 particularly want him to see her like this, talking casually with a

 Then she heard the sound of Kyosuke using the shower. She relaxed a
 little, then said, "And why has the famous and popular Mitsuru
 Hayakawa seen fit to call someone like me?"

 "Has Madoka called you yet?"


 "Yeah, you know, Madoka Ayukawa. Has she called you yet? I told her
 about seeing you at the audition. She's writing my new single, so I
 talk with her quite a bit."

 Idly, Hikaru recalled that the hit song which Madoka-san had
 written had been sung by Mitsuru Hayakawa.

 Hikaru had been going to call Madoka as soon as she heard the
 results of the audition. She hadn't planned on Hayakawa telling
 Madoka that she was in Japan for her, and was actually a little
 angry at him.

 "So how is Madoka-san?"

 "She's fine, except for worrying about Kyosuke. You know about him,

 "Yes, I know," she said.

 "She's taking it well. At least, her defenses are strong. As

 Hayakawa laughed as if he had said something funny.

 Hikaru was worried about Madoka. She still hadn't managed to find
 out why Kyosuke was hiding from Madoka. Madoka was worrying herself
 to death over Kyosuke, yet Hikaru had just spent a dangerous night
 with him. Hikaru felt she had done something terrible.

 "Um, about yesterday's audition..." Hayakawa was saying.

 Hikaru's ears perked up.

 The results of the audition were to be announced this afternoon.
 There were two positions for leading roles and three for lesser
 parts. Those five dancers would undergo extremely hard dance
 lessons until the fall, at which time the number of roles available
 would be narrowed down to one leading and two minor parts. The
 people who weren't chosen for the final roles would never be able
 to step on a stage, unless an accident happened to the dancers who
 had been chosen.

 But Hikaru wasn't aiming for one of the minor roles. They were
 suitable only for taller dancers, like Shuri Anzai. She had to get
 one of the major roles, or nothing.

 Hayakawa was saying, "Anyway, I just received word from my
 agent. The results are out."

 "What? Already?" Hikaru felt herself tense up. The tone of
 Hayakawa's voice told her to fear the worst.

 "I'm sorry, but you weren't picked."

 "I see."

 "You were good, though. Really good. I voted for you."

 "Thank you."

 "Anyway, I was thinking, will you be in Tokyo a while longer?"


 "I'm sort of friends with the author of the play. I was
 thinking...well, if I ask him, maybe he could add a part for you."

 "He could...what?"

 "Yeah, it's done all the time in this business."

 "Yes, but..."

 "If it's alright with you, maybe we could have lunch today and talk
 about it."

 It couldn't possibly be that easy, Hikaru thought to herself.

 But she was also aware of the fact that, in this world, nothing was
 more important than connections.

 Hikaru heard herself talking to Hayakawa, but one thing was
 bothering her.

 "Um, Hayakawa-san."


 "Does Madoka-san know about any of this?"

 Hayakawa lost some of his composure as the mention of Madoka's

 "Madoka? This is what she said to me. She said, 'Hikaru doesn't
 look that strong, but remember I'm the one who taught her how to
 kick the asses of scumbags like you.'"

 He laughed again.

 To Hayakawa, he had told an innocent joke. But Hikaru was sure she
 sensed Madoka's influence in Hayakawa's generous offer. Hikaru was
 sure that Madoka had asked him to make a special part in the play
 for her.

 And that was a favor that Hikaru absolutely could not accept.


 "So what time should I pick you up? What do you want to eat?"

 "I'm sorry, but I have to decline your offer."

 "Huh? What are you talking about?"

 "Please say thank you to Madoka-san for me. Tell her, when the time
 comes that I can call her...I will."

 "Well, I'll tell her. But don't you want to just..."

 "Thank you very much for calling. Goodbye!"

 Hikaru hung up the phone with Hayakawa in the middle of a word.

 Just then Kyosuke, having finished his shower, opened the bathroom
 door. He had obviously been waiting for her to finish her phone
 call. That thoughtful quality was one of the things she loved about

 "I'm out of the shower," he said.

 "Thanks," she replied, then suddenly stood up on the bed. She began
 jumping on the bed like a child.

 "Um, Hikaru-chan..."

 Hikaru continued jumping. "Senpai, I'm going back to New York


 "I knew I'd want to return to New York right away if I failed the
 audition. My return ticket was set for today."

 "You failed? You failed the audition?"

 "But it was fun!" she said. "But really dangerous, too. We almost
 did something we would have regretted last night, didn't we?"

 Hikaru sudden jumped onto the floor, making a sound like an
 airplane crashing: "_Kyuuun!_" Then she ran past Kyosuke into the

 "H-Hikaru-chan..." Kyosuke said, but the bathroom door slid shut with
 a bang.

 The sound of the shower came on again. Kyosuke realized now that he
 had lingered too long with her. The warmth that being with her
 brought had distracted him.

 Kyosuke knocked on the bathroom door.


 Hikaru turned the water pressure down and said, "What?"

 "I'm going to go now."


 "Hikaru-chan...thanks for yesterday. It was really fun."

 "Me too...I was lucky to have bumped into you again. I mean that."


 Kyosuke realized that Hikaru was waiting to hear what he was going
 to say next, from the other side of the door. It was his intention
 to say goodbye then leave immediately. He knew that if he didn't go
 right away, it would be impossible to leave her. He also sensed
 that Hikaru, a woman now, was struggling with some new burden.

 But Kyosuke found that, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't
 tell her _sayonara_.

 "Hikaru-chan...I'll see you later."


 Hikaru paused a moment as if to check if Kyosuke had really gone,
 then turned the water pressure in the shower back up.

 As if driven away by the sound of the shower, Kyosuke left the

 Just as he closed the door, the phone in Hikaru's room rang again.


 After that, I decided to head back to my own neighborhood. I had
 nowhere else to go.

 I felt as if my tired body was searching for somewhere to rest.

 But I wasn't actually tired.

 It was sort of a painful feeling.

 As if being with happy, bright Hikaru-chan made me feel dim by

 I needed to rest for a while.

 On my way down the stairs from the train station, I noticed a crowd
 of people in front of the electronics store across from the bus

 In the front window was a sign which read, "Our Local Hero!" The
 owner of the shop had put it up, along with a large TV set showing

 What the hell's going on?

 Having nothing better to do, I went towards the store.

 When I did so, I heard a voice say, "Hey look, it's Kasuga!" The
 high-pitched voice belonged to Komatsu.

 I thought about running away, but Komatsu and Hatta, stepping out
 of a ramen shop, were coming towards the electronics shop at high

 "Excuse us, we're Kasuga Kyosuke's close personal friends."

 "Let us through. Hey, wait a minute, you're kind of cute."

 They waded through the crowd to the front of the TV.

 Is there something about me on the news?

 I peered at the television in between the people.

 My twenty-two year old face was on the screen. The newscaster was
 reading the news story excitedly.

 "...We repeat, international news agencies received reports late
 last night that student-photographer Kyosuke Kasuga has been found
 uninjured by the United Nations peacekeeping forces. Confirmation
 of the reports has been slow in coming, so the official
 announcement has been held back til a few minutes ago. Kasuga-kun
 has been en route to Japan via a UN special plane for several hours
 and will be arriving at Narita shortly..."

 The people gathered around the television let out a cheer. I felt
 embarrassed, but at the same time something welled up inside of me.

 I was alive!

 I had been alive these past three years!

 Which meant that I survived the accident three years ago!

 Now the screen was showing an army of news reporters converging on
 Narita. Ayukawa's probably with them. My twenty-two year old self
 was coming home.

 Suddenly in a big hurry, I ran back up the stairs to the train

 Narita International Airport was, as the TV had shown, in a total

 The lobby where the passengers and crew from the UN jet would be
 arriving was closed off to everyone except reporters and airport
 personnel. Being careful to avoid the eyes of the guards, I slipped
 under the rope which led to the lobby.

 The crowd of reporters was positioned outside the flight gate,
 poised to capture on film the conquering hero as he came through
 the gate. Beyond the reporters was a group of people who looked
 like airport officials.

 I pulled the "Apollo" cap I had just bought tightly over my face
 and walked towards the group of officials.

 Among them were two young girls giving interviews to reporters. It
 took me a few seconds to realize that they were Kurumi and Manami!
 Standing next to them, his hair slightly graying in the front, was
 my father. The Master of ABCB was even there.

 Where have they been all this time?

 I started walking towards them more quickly. But just then, the
 reporters let out a roar as the gate was opened, and I was carried
 away by the wave of people.

 I bumped into countless people. No one could tell I wasn't one of
 the reporters. I struggled to move forward, even just a little.

 Just then, I noticed a pair of eyes looking straight at me. It was
 Ayukawa. Twenty-two year old Ayukawa was starting straight at me.


 I pushed some people to one side, throwing my body forward. But she
 disappeared among the shoving people.

 Ayukawa! Ayukawa!

 I continued to move towards where she had been standing. When I
 finally managed to find her in the crowd again, I suddenly felt
 some kind of power take me, almost like telekinesis, and move me

 Ayukawa was standing next to a man, larger than me, who had his arm
 around her waist. A million flash-bulbs went off around them. He
 was Kyosuke Kasuga, twenty-two years old. The power I was feeling
 was coming from him. I felt it run through my body, regenerating
 all the cells of my flesh.

 In that shower of flash bulbs, my twenty-two year old self was
 still embracing Ayukawa.

 But slowly, he turned towards me. He grinned in my direction, then
 sent me this telepathic message:

 _I've been waiting for you, Kyosuke. What took you so long?_

 Feeling somehow relieved, I nodded towards him.


 The outside of the airport terminal was stained vermilion by the
 setting sun.

 The lobby which had been full of reporters an hour ago had finally
 quieted down. Tourists planning on starting their summer vacations
 early were standing in lines and filling out forms.

 "Summer vacation will be here in no time," my twenty-two year old
 self said, gazing at the sightseers-to-be. "This room will be so
 filled with travelers, there won't be a single place to
 stand. It'll be like a battlefield."

 The two Kyosukes had moved away from the family and Madoka, and
 were standing in a corridor that overlooked the departure lobby.

 "A battlefield, huh?" Kyosuke of three years ago said. "Tell me,
 why did you go to Bosnia, anyway?"

 "I'd like to ask you the same thing. Kyosuke, what the hell
 happened to you three years ago?"

 "It must have been the photo contest. You remember, we won the
 university photography competition. I guess you got carried away
 with all that glory and wanted to become a full-fledged

 "No, that's not it. It wasn't anything that immature. It was Madoka
 and Hikaru-chan that made me do it."

 "Ayukawa and Hikaru-chan?"

 "Yeah. They were trying so hard to make their own dreams come
 true. So I thought...I ought to be doing something, too. I became a

 "And went to Bosnia?"

 "That started out as a coincidence. Once you get involved in
 something that big, it's hard to free yourself."

 "I guess life is like that."

 "Yes, it is. Looking through the camera's finder, you realize you
 have to see it through to the very end, do it right, or not do it
 at all."

 "Even to the point of going into a battlefield?"

 Twenty-two year old Kyosuke smile sardonically and nodded. The
 younger Kyosuke ago couldn't help but be impressed.

 "Still, I don't know..."


 "I just can't see myself going to Bosnia."



 "Even I don't know what's going to happen in the future. How can

 "Yeah, right. I guess life is like that."

 "Yes, it is."

 The two men smiled.

 But suddenly the older Kyosuke tweaked the younger on the head and
 said, "So, Kyosuke...I'll bet you were too scared to have sex with
 Hikaru-chan. Am I right?"

 "Huh? Well, you know how it is."

 "You should be ashamed of yourself. I would have done it."

 "You what?"

 "I would definitely have been able to do it."

 "Really? But, what, what about Ayukawa?"

 "I would have made sure that she never found out."

 "It wouldn't have been as easy as that, I'm sure."

 "Hmm. Maybe you're right."

 "I know I am. She would have found out. I wouldn't want to be you
 if that happens."

 The two men laughed together.

 Twenty-two year old Kyosuke had been kidding about Hikaru, trying
 to act tough. He was three years older than the man across from
 him. But he knew deep down that if he had been with Hikaru that
 night, he wouldn't have been able to do anything, either.

 The reason wasn't fear of Madoka Ayukawa. If Kyosuke had crossed
 that line with Hikaru-chan, it would have caused problems between
 the two of them in the future. No, it had been the wrong time.

 "But this much I can say," he began. "Kyosuke Kasuga didn't do
 anything this time, this summer of 1994, but in the future,
 something may happen. It may begin again."


 "Did I say, may begin? That was wrong. It's already begun, the
 wheels are already set in motion between Hikaru-chan and me. All
 thanks to that dangerous night you spent with her."

 "But you're me, right? We both spend that night with her."

 "Oh, right."

 The two men chuckled, then suddenly got serious.

 Come to think of it, Hikaru-chan is supposed to return to New York
 today. She was probably somewhere in the departure lobby right
 now. Maybe they could see her from up here.

 The two Kyosukes were seized by the desire to run down the stairs
 and look for Hikaru. But they said in unison, "What the hell are we
 thinking about?" That stopped them.

 Trying to hide his own embarrassment, the older Kyosuke said,
 "She's a nice girl."

 "Yep. A nice girl, Hikaru-chan is."


 The older Kyosuke took a look at the digital watch on his suntanned
 arm. "Kyosuke, it's time for you to go. Madoka is waiting for you,
 back at the hospital."

 "Okay. But wait, how do I get back?"

 "In the past three years, I've gotten some new powers. I certainly
 can handle something simple like sending you back to the
 past. Didn't you feel your powers regenerate as soon as you saw me
 in the arrival lobby?"

 "Yeah, that's right."

 "It's all part of the enigma that is the Kasuga clan."

 "I wonder if someday I'll have really strong powers like Ojiichan."

 "I wonder, too. The powers I have aren't as useful as his, at least
 not so far."

 The two men laughed again.

 "Oh, that reminds me. Kyosuke, this is important. When you get back
 to the past, there's something you have to do."

 "What is it?"

 "You've got to call yourself the day before the accident. You'll
 have to get some help from Ojiichan for that."


 Then the younger Kyosuke remembered the phone call that shattered
 his heavenly dream of being with Ayukawa. The person had told him,
 "Kyosuke! Watch out for cars!" and had had Kyosuke's own voice.

 "So the call I got yesterday morning was...?"

 "That's right. If you hadn't been told to be careful of cars, you
 might have died instantly in that accident."

 "I thought that phone call was just some crank, but I guess it was

 Kyosuke from the past felt somehow good about himself. Seeing how
 fate has a real hand in one's life will do that to you.

 But something was bothering the younger man. He decided to ask
 about it.

 "Um, Kyosuke."


 "When did you start calling Ayukawa by her first name?"

 The older Kyosuke thought a moment. "When was that? Let me see..."

 "You don't remember?"

 "So much has happened with her over the years. I can't remember
 every little detail. But I do remember _that_ time." The older
 Kyosuke grinned and looked at the younger man.

 "That time?"

 "You know, _that time_."

 "I don't know what you mean."

 "_That time_. The first time. It was the best!"

 "The best? You don't mean..."

 The younger Kyosuke wanted to ask more, but the older man put his
 hand over the younger man's mouth (12).

 "Don't ask too much. You'll find out when you get back."

 With his hand still over the younger Kyosuke's mouth, Kyosuke of
 the present moved them into the shade. His brow wrinkled up with
 deep concentration. A powerful energy seemed to appear, coming out
 of his upper torso region. That energy became an aura which moved
 to cover the younger Kyosuke's whole body.

 You'll find out when you get back.

 _If_ you get back.

 He said it was the best.

 _The best_.

 The Kyosuke from the past repeated the words of his older self over
 and over again, like a magic spell.

 But after he had repeated _the best_ a few times, he suddenly lost
 consciousness. His body vanished from the world of 1994.

 "Kyosuke! Is this where you've been?"

 Kyosuke of the present had just sent his younger self back to the
 past. Now he heard Madoka's voice behind him.

 She was running towards him, holding the hem of her slightly daring
 one-piece down. He laughed nervously, like a child caught doing
 something he shouldn't be doing.

 "What do you think you're doing, running out in the middle of a
 press conference like that?"

 "Um, there was something I had to do."

 "Something you had to do? That happens a lot with you. Just like
 when you first went to Bosnia."

 "Gimmie a break, Madoka."

 She laughed, and her voice was happy. But she suddenly grabbed him
 by the collar of his vest and pulled him close to her.

 "You're not hiding anything from me, are you?"


 "I saw him."


 "A very young Kyosuke."

 "Really? That makes me happy."

 "Happy? Why?"

 "You were so worried about me that you even saw my ghost."

 "Why you!"

 Madoka moved to kick him, but he caught her right foot in
 mid-air. It had been a long time since he touched this leg. Under
 her stockings, her muscles had an almost explosive springiness to

 He put her leg down. "You shouldn't try things like that in a

 "I don't care if people see."

 "Well I do. Those parts are very important to me, and I don't want
 anyone else looking at them but me."

 "That a fine thing to see after leaving me here while you go off to
 Bosnia for months."

 "I'm sorry. I'll apologize to you every day for just as many

 Laughing, Kyosuke put his arm around Madoka's waist, and pulled her
 near him. He put his face near her ear, close enough to smell her
 black hair, and whispered:

 "But the way, when did I stop calling you Ayukawa and start using
 your first name?"

 "Jesus, did you actually forget?"

 "Well, I..."

 "Until you remember, you can forget about you-know-what!"

 "What? Forget about what?"

 Looking a little embarrassed, Madoka pulled him closer, and said in
 a tiny voice, "You know...sex. _Baka!_"

 At that, Kyosuke finally remembered when he had started using
 Madoka's first name.


 Back at the hotel bar with the view of the Yokohama Bay Bridge. The
 jazz piano that I had heard in a dream once was playing softly in
 the background.

 Ayukawa and I had had dinner in Chinatown, had felt the wind on our
 faces from the Bay Bridge, and now were about to have our third

 Just as in my dream, Ayukawa was talking and laughing more than

 There could only be one reason.

 Ayukawa was nervous.

 Our first time together was finally approaching.

 Ayukawa drank down her third drink and said, "Anyway, I'm really
 glad there were no after-effects from the accident."

 Those eyes, shockingly sexy. To avoid falling into them, I ordered
 her another drink.

 "Yes, but you never know. What if some show up in, say, three

 "Stop it. Nothing like that is going to happen."

 "You never know, some after-effects might show up, and I might
 suddenly decide to go wander around some foreign country."

 "I'll just have to tie you up, then."

 Ayukawa laughed again. Then, "I'd like to propose a toast to
 Kasuga-kun's health. _Kampai!_"

 She touched her still-empty glass to mine.

 A month had passed since the accident. My body recovered normally,
 and by now I had stopped going back to the hospital everyday for
 treatment. Ayukawa and I re-made the hotel reservation that we had
 had to cancel once before, and now we were having our quiet

 It was all almost exactly like my dream of long ago. The atmosphere
 of the bar, the view of the Bay Bridge, and the black man playing
 the piano, were all in my dream. I guess it was a prophetic dream
 after all.

 But on the other hand, I feel somehow different.

 I still can't say for sure if my winning the university photography
 contest last month was what was responsible for my disappearance
 three years from now. My self of three years hence had said the
 same thing.

 All you can really say is that a person doesn't know where his life
 will eventually take him.

 That goes for Hikaru-chan, headed for New York in a year, as well
 as Ayukawa, destined to become an up-and-coming songwriter.

 They don't know what's going to happen to them.

 Not knowing, they're just doing their best to make their dreams
 come true, everyday. It's the same with everyone.

 "What's wrong, Kasuga-kun?"


 "You got so quiet all of the sudden. I guess you must met some
 beautiful girl in the future, and were thinking about her just

 "I wasn't!"

 She laughed. But it was sort of a cold laugh that, to tell the
 truth, made me a little afraid.

 I hadn't told her much about my trip to the future.

 I told her about things like my family moving, and Hatta becoming a
 famous writer of sex comics, but I didn't touch subjects like what
 Ayukawa was doing in the future, or about meeting Hikaru-chan.

 Occasionally Ayukawa would ask about her future, but I would tell
 her, "I can't tell you. It's an esper family policy."

 Now Ayukawa said, "Okay, here's my present to Kasuga-kun, part

 Ayukawa took the drink that had been bought for her and stood up. I
 knew she was going to play my song. I leaned forward, acting

 "Part one?"

 "I've written a song for my brave, self-confident Kasuga-kun."

 Ayukawa was a little tipsy. I cheered, "Yay, yay!"

 She hid the embarrassment she must have been feeling, and looked
 straight at me.

 "The title is..._Kyosuke #1_."

 I knew it! That was the title!

 Ayukawa had written this song for me.

 When that forceful introduction began, I stopped thinking and
 concentrated on her song.

 I knew that we would be joined for the first time tonight.

 Her song was an passionate one, full of emotion.

 My throat was dry, so I drank down my frozen daiquiri in one
 gulp. An incredible heat spread out from my stomach.

 Just then, as if to announce the coming climax, a ship in the bay
 blew its whistle.


 I had taken a shower and was lying in bed now.

 FEN (13) was playing softly, some old American strings piece. I had
 never heard it before, but, slightly intoxicated as I was, it
 created a very pleasant mood.

 Occasionally ships in the bay blew their foghorns. The sounds
 blended with the music from the radio with perfect timing, almost
 like a jam session.

 But in reality, even though I was bathing in those dreamlike
 sounds, I was also hearing my heart beating nervously in my ears.

 I can hear the sound of Ayukawa's shower.

 I can hear the sound of her using soap and shampoo.

 The sound of her soft humming.

 _Kacha!_ Ayukawa opened the bathroom door. All sound suddenly left
 the room, as if erased by the sound of that door opening.

 I was frozen with fear just then. I sat up in the bed and looked at

 Ayukawa was standing in the light from the bathroom, a towel
 wrapped around her. Her long, black hair was tied up behind her,
 and her shoulders and neck seemed so beautiful, so milky-white,
 that they couldn't have been from this world.

 Ayukawa...I finally figured out who you really were.

 An angel in a T-shirt.

 "Don't stare like that, Kasuga-kun," she said, the light all around

 I must have been making an incredibly stupid face. But I was
 mesmerized by her.

 "Come on, stop it."

 I wasn't sure if that was the second or the third time she had
 asked me to stop staring. But now her voice brought me back to


 "Turn them out, okay?"


 "The light, silly."

 I reached out my hand to turn the light out, but I overbalanced,
 and _bam!_ I knocked the light over.

 Damn! I'm such a klutz!

 Ayukawa couldn't control her laughter. "God, I can't believe you
 did that."

 I got out of bed and set the light upright again. But I was still
 in too much of a hurry, and I couldn't get it to stand upright.

 "Damn you, light!"

 I finally succeeded in turning the light out, and the room was
 instantly filled with darkness. Ayukawa must have turned the
 bathroom light out when I wasn't paying attention.

 Suddenly Ayukawa was behind me.


 I turned slowly towards her. In the darkness, I could see her body,
 wrapped in the white towel. The only light was what came in from
 the window, but I could see her clearly, as if her body were
 emitting some kind of luminescence.

 "I'll remember that you knocked that lamp over for the rest of my
 life." She looked at me and smiled. "But being clumsy is all part
 of the Kyosuke Kasuga I've come to love."

 "Gimmie a break!"

 We laughed like two children hiding from their parents in a secret

 Ayukawa made a serious face. "Kasuga-kun."


 "Will I give birth to esper children (14)?"


 I hurriedly reached out for the box of tissue. For years I'd been
 reading "sayonara my virginity" articles in boy's magazines, and it
 said that in some hotels they put condoms near the tissues.

 But: "It's not here!" I didn't mean to say it out loud.

 "'Not here'? What are you looking for?"

 "Huh? Well, I mean, you asked me if you were going to give birth to
 a baby with super powers. It's a little soon for that, if you know
 what I mean..."

 "_Baka!_ Don't be so silly."


 "Tonight is a safe night."

 My eyes must have been little black points, with my mouth open like
 I wasn't getting enough oxygen.

 "I can't believe you, Kasuga-kun. I just asked if, someday, I would
 have esper children. I didn't mean tonight. You pervert!"

 Now Ayukawa bent over laughing. I don't know if she was laughing
 because of my clumsiness, or because of the alcohol in her body,
 but her gesture was incredibly beautiful. She seemed like a free

 I reached over to her and took he head in my arms, then with
 strength that surprised even me I held her close to me.



 I was filled with a mysterious power, which surprised even me. It
 gave me the self-confidence to look straight into Ayukawa's eyes
 when I would normally have been trembling.

 "I...feel strange," I told her. "Kind of like a caveman. I feel like
 I want to conquer you, to take you..."


 "Don't get me wrong. I'm taking your feelings into account and
 everything. But I feel like I want to throw all that away and just
 take you. I love you, Ayukawa."


 "Enough to cry. I love you so much...I can't stand it. I want you
        so much...I didn't know...didn't know I was such a barbarian. Oh,

 Just then a ship in the distance blew its foghorn. I realized that
 a strings session was still playing on FEN. As if trying to calm
 the wildness that was welling up inside me, I tried to concentrate
 on the melody.

 But it was no use.

 Ayukawa, I've become like a child.

 A child that wants what's in front of him.

 Ayukawa was looking at me. Her eyes seemed distant. Those eyes were
 looking at me, but it was as if they were looking past me, at some
 far-off point.

 Ayukawa said, "It doesn't quite fit, does it?"

 "Doesn't fit? What doesn't fit?"

 "Calling me 'Ayukawa, Ayukawa' at a time like this."

 As if suddenly freed from some spell, I pulled Ayukawa's towel off
 by force. Acquiescing now, my angel let out a little noise in the
 darkness. I wouldn't be stopped. I furiously buried my face in the
 soft, milky-whiteness before me.

 Then, as if to justify my actions, I called her name again and

 _Madoka! Madoka!_

 So that's when I started calling Ayukawa by her first name!


 The next day, Madoka received the first postcard from Hikaru-chan
 in Hokkaido.

 It was a postcard of the famous Tropistina Temple. Half of it was a
 Hikaru's self-portrait. Then, how are you? I'm sorry for not
 writing for so long--that sort of thing. At the end, she had
 written, "When I graduate from this high school, I plan to go to
 New York."

 When I read those words, I remembered something my twenty-two year
 old self had said, three years from now.

 Early summer. It was a summer, just like the summer where Madoka
 and Hikaru-chan and I had to stop being "three friends" and move
 on. Will that dangerous triangle begin again?

 Was that spark provided by me, nineteen year old Kyosuke Kasuga?

 The summer of 1994.

 It felt just like that other summer, long ago.

 _That early summer of 1994._


 (1) If you care, Kyosuke and Ayukawa go to Waseda University,
judging from shots of the college in the movie. I had an opportunity to
study overseas in Japan at Waseda once, and if I'd known that the school
was the Orange Road characters' alma mater I wouldn't have turned the
chance down. Stupid me.

 (2) I'm only going to cover this once, so pay attention:
_Oniichan_, older brother. _Oneechan_, older sister. _Ojiichan_,
grandfather. _Obaachan_, grandmother. The first 'o' on all family
relationships is to show respect, although it's optional with family
members and really has no meaning. _Senpai_ is a term used to refer to
upperclassmen by lowerclassmen.

 (3) Kurumi's approximation of a woman's aroused moaning.

 (4) PKO, "Peace-Keeping Operations," refers to Japan's
sending of Self-Defense Forces on a UN-sponsored peace-keeping mission to

 (5) _Buru-sera_ comes from "bloomers, sailor-suits" and is the
stupidest media-created sex craze to ever seize a nation. Basically, these
shops buy dirty panties, sailor-suit high school uniforms, etc., from
junior high and high school girls, the sell them to sex perverts, while
recruiting for soft- and hard-porn actresses along the way. There's a whole
genre of "_buru-sera H videos_" that feature high school recruited in this
manner. You can occasionally find these panties in (I'm not bullshitting
you) vending machines. There's one near my house.

 (6) _Musuko_ means "son" and refers to a man's penis. _Musume_
means "daughter" and corresponds to the female's similar organ. Now you
know some Japanese slang.

 (7) If you want people to think you're an educated Orange Roadie,
you have to pronounce this "ah-ba-ka-bu."

 (8) Would someone please explain to me why neither of the kisses
in the "six-years ago" episodes qualify as Kyosuke and Ayukawa's first
kiss? What about the end of episode 48? We know from the reference to "the
time" they all went to Ojiichan's house that the Orange Road movie does
follows the series universe, as opposed to the manga universe, in which
they go to Ojiichan's house two times.

 (9) If you're wondering why Ojiichan's name is Kasuga when
presumably the name comes from Takeshi's side of the family, remember that
the Japanese have a tradition , called _muko ni naru_, of the man taking
his wife's last name and being adopted by his wife's family if her family
has no sons. This must be what has happened.

 (10) For those of you who follow these things, except for
"Kyosuke Kasuga, Tokyo" scrawled on a letter in the Hawaii manga story,
this is the first concrete reference to where Orange Road takes place. Up
til this time, "_kono machi_" ("this town") has been all we'd been told.

 (11) The guardians of Buddhist temples, such as the Toshogu in
Nikko or Todaiji in Nara. These are fierce-looking statues carved out of
wood with fierce, intense expressions.

 (12) Another incongruity. What happened to Ojiichan's warning
that, when a person touches his body from another time, that person will
disappear forever, as seen in episode 48?

 (13) FEN, the Far East Network, Armed Services Radio "serving
those who serve in Japan."

 (14) For Orange Road fans interested in knowing the answer to this
question, checkout Seishun Shitemasu's fan-dub production, _Kimagure Orange
Road: The Akira Story_, written and directed by yours truly.

Scott's comment:
 (12a) Ojiichan said in episode 48 that if two *bodies* from
different times touched, that person would disappear forver.  In this case,
Kyosuke's spirit/soul was sent back/forward in time _specifically_ so that
it could touch itself to regenerate.  It wasn't really Kyosuke's body in
1994 (although where did it come from?), but it is a little "convenient".