The World Where You Live
When I press the call button on my cell phone, I can hear the merry voice of my always excessively cheerful mother. Her voice is so loud that it hurts my ear, so I hold my phone a bit farther away from my ear.
“[It’s been a long time. How are you? Are you doing okay? Are you forcing yourself? Mom is really, really worried about you.]”
“Yup, but I… just left yesterday, remember?!”
Why is she making it sound like I’ve left for the capital or something? It’s not like I left home to go independent or something. I’ll be back next week, you know?
“[By the way, you’re not making any trouble for Hiori-san, are you?]”
“Of course I’m not.”
I can say for sure that I’m not making trouble for her. In fact, I think I’m reserving myself a bit too much in that regard. It’s been tiring since our departure, and I expel a sigh, just from remembering it. Tsubaki suddenly disappeared midway, Hiori threw a tantrum, Tsubaki declared that all of us would sleep together in one bed for some reason, among other things. It’s been fun in its own way, but to be honest, I’m getting tired.
“[My, you don’t sound so energetic. Are you feeling homesick? Are you lonely because Mom isn’t there? Gee, Hinata~ you’re so cute like that!]”
“Not. Even. Close!!”
“[Fufu, no need to be shy.]”
Aaaah, geez! Why does she never listen to what I say to her! I beg you, please take my words more literally.
“[Hey, hey, hello, Onee-chan? I heard you’re feeling homesick? …pff, you’re so lame!]”
This time, it’s not Mother’s voice, but my sister’s. It seems that Mother really thinks that the reason I’m not feeling energetic is because of homesickness. Thinking that it will cheer up, she passes the phone to Saki. Urgh, she’s worrying too much… even though I clearly said that I’m not homesick.
“[So, have you bought the souvenir that I asked?”
“Yup, sure did. I bought the local wooden sword, as you told me.”
“[Break that thing in two and throw them away right this instant.]”
Whoaaa, scary, scary. She actually snapped at me when I was just joking with her. I always thought that it’s the norm to buy wooden swords as souvenirs. Ah, but I guess that’s for school trips.
“I’m joking, okay? I bought it. The exclusive cell phone strap from this area, right?”
“[Sheesh, don’t tease me like that. Well, never mind, since you did buy it properly.]”
“Of course. And I bought the wooden sword, too, since I thought it would suit you, Saki.”
“[…When you get home, I’ll play with you with the wooden sword you bought me.]”
I-I guess I bought something unnecessary. I was thinking that she might need it since she’s been getting popular among the weirdest bunch. Hahaha, you’ve gotten Onee-chan scared to go home now.
“[Anyway, listen to this! That person’s in our house right now, and she’s so annoying! Hey, aah! She got the phone!]”
“……Aah, could it be?”
The loud, squawking voice of my sister is replaced with Rumi’s composed voice.
Because Saki has poor grades, Rumi has been coming to tutor that girl recently when she finds the time. I don’t mind teaching Saki myself, but she once told me, ‘The way you teach really sucks,’ so I had no choice but to entrust it to Rumi. I can’t help but respect her for going out of her way to teach that girl when she’s already busy with her own work.
They don’t seem to hit it off, though, with the way Saki always flares up at Rumi whenever they meet. It doesn’t seem that girl actually hates Rumi… she could’ve tried to get along better.
“I’m sorry about this.”
First things first, I humbly apologize for my little sister’s rude behavior. It’s already an everyday thing, but it still makes me feel guilty nonetheless.
“[Fufu, it’s okay. More importantly, how is it going over there?]”
“Yup, we’ve just arrived.”
Rumi’s calm voice is really pleasing to the ear. Aah, I’m getting healed.
“I bought some souvenirs, so look forward to it.”
“[Mhm. Ah, but, spare me the wooden swords, okay?]”
Oh dear, she heard us. Sad.
“Tsubaki’s here with me, wanna talk to her?”
“[Mm-mm, it’s about time Saki continues her studies.]”
‘Geh!’ I can hear Saki’s voice faintly from the other side. If only Rumi would teach her manners and speech other than just her studies. Oh, in that case, she should be teaching Mother, too.
“Got it, Sensei. My sister is in your good hands.”
“[Fufu, leave her to me. Take care.]”
I’m going to disconnect the call, but I hear Mother’s voice again, so I press the phone back to my ear.
“[Ah, Hinata? Dad said he’ll be home next Tuesday.]”
“Really? I thought his schedule to return to Japan was much later.”
“[The other day, when I was talking with Dad… I told him that it’s troubling how Hinata has been getting so popular, or something. That’s when he told me he’s going to return earlier than planned.]”
“What kind of false news are you feeding hiiiiim?!”
Who’s been getting so popular that it’s troubling?! When?! Since I was born, and died, and born again, I’ve never been popular, not even once, you know?! Aaaah, Dad must have taken it the wrong way. It’s gonna be hard to clear his misunderstanding… after all, he’s such a doting parent. Well, I’m happy to know Dad’s coming home soon. Rather, I’m looking forward to it.
“[See you, Hinata. Take care of yourself, okay? Send my regards to Hiori-san and Tsubaki-chan.]”
I end the call and put my cell phone in the pocket, when I feel someone gazing at me. I look beside me, to find Tsubaki smiling next to me in good humor. It makes me embarrassed for some reason, so I avert my eyes.
“Was it from Emiko-san?”
“Yup, she wanted to know how I’m doing… and she sent her regards to you both.”
“? ……hey, what is it?”
She’s awfully in a good mood, which is tugging at me. Well, as long as she’s having fun, I guess.
Me, Hiori, and Tsubaki—the three of us are making use of the consecutive holidays to go on a trip. I called it a trip, but in reality, we are here to visit a grave.
——Right, today is Hiori’s Mom’s death anniversary.
We investigated where her grave is located at, and we found out that she was entombed in her hometown. And so, we came to a place quite far away from our home. After we paid our respects together, Tsubaki and I left Hiori by herself in the cemetery… I’m sure she’s currently reporting all the things that she couldn’t say all this time.
She told me that she wouldn’t forgive her mother in her whole life. But, she’s finally ready to come face to face with her mother, after such a long, long time. Even though she can’t meet her mother anymore, nor can she talk together with her, I believe there is a meaning for Hiori and Tsubaki to come here together.
“Hinata-san, can I take a walk over there? There are some flowers blooming prettily, so I want to take a closer look.”
“Yup, go on. I’ll wait here for Hiori.”
I watch Tsubaki as she trots away happily. The way she frolics around brings a smile to my face.
“…What are you grinning about?”
Hiori is standing behind me from who knows when. She’s folding her arms, showing her displeasure. Um, I couldn’t feel her presence at all…
“Tsubaki just left to watch the flowerbed that way. You just missed each other.”
“She’ll be back soon. Let’s wait here for her.”
“Okay, okay. So, how was it?”
“…For the time being, I’ve told her everything that I have to say.”
That should be enough for now. After all, through the blank look on her face, I can somehow tell that she’s feeling liberated. With this, only the matter with her father remains. However, we couldn’t get a hold of him at all.
“Who cares about my parents anyway.”
She actually cares about them. As always, she’s not honest with herself. Thinking that it’s just like Hiori, I make a wry smile.
She mutters those words out of nowhere. Her long, beautiful, black hair flutters as she looks up to the clear sky.
“I’m a foolish parent myself. I was thinking of only myself, I hurt that child’s feelings… and I let her feel lonely by herself.”
Regretting what she’s done, she shows a sorrowful face as she let out her feelings.
“Even though you lost your life to protect me, I… I became a worthless mother. I’m truly sorry.”
“I believe you should say those words to Tsubaki, not me… But, I think what Tsubaki seeks aren’t words of apology, either.
“I wonder if it is so.”
“Yup, it is.”
I believe what Tsubaki wants to hear from her mother isn’t an apology, but something entirely different. Although, the only one who can tell her those words, is Hiori herself.
“…It’s already too late for me to start thinking of protecting her, of loving her… I wonder if I still have the rights to do so.”
“Well, it’s true that you were late, but you realized it, and that’s where it counts, Hiori. This is where you start. Give her your affections, make up for what you had missed all this time.”
As long as you’re alive, you have a chance to do it over again.
“……You’re right. We still have much time ahead of us.”
The time of separation is bound to come someday. But, I believe the day still far, far ahead in the future.
We’re here, alive. And we’re going to live together, with our precious ones.
“In that case, I will give my affection, as much as I need to make up for the lost times.”
Hiori approaches me, and whispers it to my ear. Her ticklish words, as well as her warm breath make me quiver.
“Eh? Huh? I thought we were talking about Tsubaki…”
She smiles so happily.
It’s a smile that comes from the bottom of her heart.
There is no trace of shadows in her bright, dazzling smile.
This is my first time seeing her smiling genuinely.
My eternal wish has finally been fulfilled.
I feel happy, so happy… that my tears are gonna flow.
But she’ll laugh at me if I start crying here, so I refrain myself. I hold the tears that are threatening to spill, and I make the widest smile that I can muster.
“Please, go easy on me.”
I love you.
I love you, Hiori.
Right now, I’m feeling so happy that it makes me doubt if I’m qualified to instead.
I have my precious family, who would stay with me. I have my beloved people, who would watch over me. I have my significant other, who would love me.
No other happiness exists, other than being able to tread the future together with them.
Hearing a lively shout coming from behind, I turn around to see Tsubaki running towards us with all her strength. Hiori and I look at each other and smile about how lovely and charming she is.
“Let’s go, Hiori.”
We link our hands, firmly, so that we’ll never be separated again.
Now, let’s go.
Towards our happy future, together————
I’m really grateful
that I was born again in this world.
This is the end of the story. Thank you so much for reading to the end.