Online Communication - Chapter 0.2
Some expressions may seem a little grotesque to some people.
In this situation, I have a new thought. I think that people who can remain shut-in without seeing their families for years are actually quite mentally strong.
The next morning, my mother leaves a simple breakfast on the kitchen table before leaves for work, leaving a worried message on my cell phone. I watched her back quietly from behind the curtains and let out a sigh, which had reached triple digits since yesterday. I feel as if my heart is about to break with guilt.
Contact 0.2 “Groping in the Dark”
Pushing down my conscience, which continues to scream in a high-pitched voice, I eat the sandwich my mother made while searching for a sign of her presence, then go straight to the Japanese-style room next to the dining room to go through the closet in the room. My parents keep my sister and I’s childhood clothes in this room as a memento of our childhood. Who would have thought that I would pull out these clothes, not for sentimentality but for practical use?
I lightly brush the dust off then open the lid of the transparent storage case to check the clothes. I put aside my nostalgia for the clothes I used to wear when I was little. They were a little old, but fortunately there were no insect bites or severe damage. After sorting through the sized and clean ones, I put the cases back in the same position and returned to my room.
I feel ashamed of why I have to sneak around in my own house, but I am not bold enough to walk around in this state. Since I didn’t have underwear, I put on boxer-type underwear that I bought for exercise. They are also quite baggy, but they work better as underwear than the trunks that almost look like short pants.
Next, I put on the relatively unmanly design clothes I had sorted out earlier in the Japanese-style room, shoved my cell phone into my pants, and finished grooming myself. I tossed aside the horrifying fact that the clothes I had worn when I was about eight years old fit me perfectly. I feel like I’m losing my mind if I think about it.
Finally, I gathered up my long hair and shoved it into my hat and I finally ready to leave.
I went to bed and woke up one night later, but my body had not returned to normal. In the end, I decided to go to the shrine that I thought was the cause of the problem. But of course, it would be too conspicuous if I kept my original clothes, so after thinking about it, I decided to use the children’s clothes that I had in storage. This would somehow camouflage the oddity.
I have some of my sister’s clothes, but it is too much for me to wear girls’ clothes, and a high school brother who wears his sister’s children’s clothes is probably not at the level of a pervert. It’s not that I don’t like my sister, but I don’t want to fall down a strange path as a human being. Most of it, when I got back to normal, I don’t think I could bear the fact myself.
Thus was born this beautiful, boyish-looking girl in the mirror, but my heart is already on the verge of breaking due to the fact that even though she is better, she still has the same noticeable appearance. I wonder if I will ever go back when her time is up or something like if I sleeps at home.
Naturally, I don’t think such a convenient miracle will happen, so I have no choice but to head for the entrance with heavy steps as if I had an iron array strapped to me. Although it is still early and risky for the summer vacation, I should be careful to move around and stay away from people.
After enduring the unreasonableness of having to sneak around in my own house, I arrived at the gate leading to the outside world. When I opened the door, which felt unusually heavy, the summer sunlight pouring down from the clear sky burned my skin.
I look at my arm without thinking, I guess having green eyes doesn’t mean I’m an albino, but the skin on my body now is as white as a Caucasian’s. Is it safe to be exposed to sunlight without protection?
The words “ultraviolet rays” pass through my mind.
No, I’ll be fine. I’m not dressed to expose that much skin, and if I get home before the sun gets too high, I’ll probably make it home. I decided to run out of the house and head for the shrine as quickly as I could.
The familiar cityscape looked surprisingly fresh. I wondered if a different point of view could change my impression of the city so much, and I was fluent enough to avoid any sign of people as I made my way to the shrine. Still, the destination, which should have been close, is quite far away.
I must have walked for about 40 minutes before a hill where the shrine was located finally came into sight. I had completely forgotten that my shorter stature meant a narrower stride, and the heat had also drained me of all my strength. Wobbling, I pressed my cell phone against the vending machine by the stairs to buy a plastic bottle of tea.
Sitting on the stairs, I remove the cap and hold the condensation-cold bottle with both hands and put my mouth to it. The tea moistens my throat, and I finally feel at ease. I look around casually, but don’t see any signs that anyone was seriously injured. I think it was around here that I fell down.
After resting in the shade for about five minutes, I slowly climbed the long flight of stairs. I am now like a child, and this incline is a little too much for me. After I manage to finish the climb, I take a rest in the shade of the trees again, drinking the rest of my tea. It is terribly inefficient, but if I overdo it and fall down, things will take a turn for the worse without mercy. I must be careful.
The shrine grounds are surrounded by large trees, if you do not go to the center of the shrine, you will not be burned by direct sunlight. The sunlight is like a thin wave spilling down from the sea of leaves and is strangely warm. I liked this place, which reminds me of a quiet forest, with no pedestrian traffic, even though it is close to the city center.
I took a stroll around the precincts of the temple to see when my breathing had calmed down. The kitten that usually comes close to me when she senses my presence is not here. I hope they haven’t caught her or something.
I went around the main shrine, puzzled by the slightly different scenery. Behind the shrine, there is a large stone. It has a strange pattern carved on it, and the priest said it must be related to the god of this shrine. It seems to be a very old shrine, and there are some stories and histories that have not been accurately handed down. I like such stories, so I used to come here and clean the place up to the extent that I wouldn’t tamper with it. Come to think of it, I remember that kitten came to me when I was cleaning that stone.
I find something in front of the stone at the back of the shrine and stop. My hands shake and I let out an inarticulate sob. My throat chokes, and I kneel down in front of the stone without effort. There she was, so changed that there was no trace of her former self remained. She looked so distorted, but somehow, she still seemed to have a very satisfied expression on her face.
Normally, I would have asked the Shinto priest to properly mourn her, but I decided to dig up the earth next to the stone and bury her there. For some reason, I felt that I had to do so. I am aware that I am saying something strange, but maybe that is what the kitten wanted.
What I found was the corpse of a kitten I had rescued. It looked as if she had fallen down the stairs, crumpled in places, her body badly deformed. It was lying in front of a stone, stained black in spots with her own blood. I don’t know why, only that I don’t know what has happened since yesterday.
Wiping my unstoppable tears with my shoulder, I walk unsteadily to the hand basin and wash my hands stained with dirt and blood. My head was spinning. Was it pointless that I had literally almost died trying to save her? Why was she in such misery? There are no answers to these questions.
I wipe my hands with a handkerchief and borrow the roof of the hand-watering basin as a sunshade and lean my back against the pillar. I want to go back home right away, but I don’t want to walk now. I close my eyes to hold back the tears. But all that comes to mind is the image of a transformed kitten. Besides, she looks like—
No, that would be too much in this age of science. First of all, how can I explain this young appearance?
She was a lovely kitten with—-pure white fur and emerald green eyes.
I grab a handful of my hair and bring it in front of me, the pure white strands spilling smoothly down between my fingers. I stand up, take off my hat, and climb onto the child’s scaffold to look into the pooled water. From the water, a white-haired girl with large emerald green eyes looks back at me.
As I was about to fall over, a voice called out to me from behind. I turned around to see a man in a kimono holding a broom looking at me with a peaceful expression on his face. It was the Shinto priest who manages this shrine, a man I had become quite familiar with over the past few months.
“You’re an unusual guest. Ah… Do you understand Japanese?”
My heart begins to beat like an alarm bell. I have to run, that’s all I can think about. Forgetting how tired I am, I run as fast as I can to get past the priest.
“Ah! The stairs are not safe to run that fast!”
I thought I heard a voice behind me, but to be honest, it didn’t enter my head. I ran down the stairs in front of me as if I were tumbling down.
I don’t remember where or how I ran after that. When I came to my senses, I was crouching on my bed in my room. I was very tired and my legs ached. All I could think of was the image of the kitten. I wondered if that ridiculous idea was true. Shouldn’t I have mourned her better? No, maybe it was for the best.
Oh, no, I couldn’t think at all. Something trembled in my pocket as I cried, rubbing my face against the pillow, terribly stressed. I put my hand over it in question, and it seemed to be my cell phone vibrating to alert me of an incoming call. I looked at the screen and saw a real-time message from my best friend, “Yajima Eiji.”
Hey, are you awake? I can’t get into class at all when I think I’ve only got three days of summer vacation left. Have you decided on the game character yet?
Apparently he was sending the message while in class, which I doubt, but I appreciate the fluency message now. I wiped my tears and connected the cable to the keypad and typed a sentence to reply.
Yeah, I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to call it a magical enchanter.
Enchanter…? You’re picking the core again. I’m a swordsman, a man’s got to be a sword!
He has been practicing kendo since he was a child and even won a national championship in junior high school. I have been with him for practice a few times, but he was so strong that I couldn’t even get a hold of him. In contrast, I am not a smart person, but I am not very good at sports either.
I’m relieved to see that you’re still thinking with your brains. I’ll pick up the bones, so feel free to shove ’em.
Man, you’re such a jerk. Alright see you later!
Apparently, the teacher had spotted him, and the communication was cut off immediately after the disordered sentence. While he was good at sports, he seemed to be somewhat poor at studying. At any rate, I think he should take his classes seriously to avoid being looked at in a strange way, since the summer vacation is almost over. Last year, he had to take make-up classes for a similar reason.
But his impudence made me feel a little better. At any rate, the key to what I have learned today is undoubtedly that shrine. If I investigate the origins of the shrine, I might find some clues. I jumped down from the bed, started up my computer as I sat down on the chair.
I type Hirazama Shrine on the search engine in my browser then start searching.
I had never really looked into the shrine, but it seems that it has been around for quite some time. The origin of the shrine is said to be Fushimi or Kasuga, and it was built about 120 years ago. There is no official history of the shrine, and it is not clear what deity it is dedicated to. I would have learned more about the shrine if I had asked the Shinto priest, but now that he had seen my face, I could no longer approach the shrine without being careless.
However, as this was a minor local shrine, no further information could be found by accessing the electronic archives of the local library. The best I could find was information from threads on a certain giant message board about shrines and the occult. It was said that the deity is an animal deity, or that the deity inside the main shrine is actually an imposter and the real one is somewhere else, or that it contains an evil spirit that died a long time ago. There was even an urban legend level story that a wish-fulfilling treasure was hidden somewhere within the temple grounds.
I quietly removed my hand from the mouse. No matter how I proceeded, it seemed that I would end up in the occult. Well, what is actually happening is nothing more than occultism, so perhaps it is not surprising. What should I do?
If that cat really saved me as a substitute, can I stay quite like this? No matter how much I worry, there is no one who can answer my question. It’s pathetic to think that I’m in this mess, even though I’ve finally managed to turn my negative thoughts back into positive ones recently.
As I was feeling a little overwhelmed with self-loathing, my cell phone vibrates again, and I checked the screen to see that it was Eiji.
I’m in the guidance office now (´・ω・｀) Lunch is far away.
Apparently, he failed to avoid it, and is probably in the guidance office right now, preaching. I recall he often complained about a teacher called Sakon, very caring but also had a preachy side. It seems that many students are getting excited with the summer vacation just around the corner. He must have been the center of attention.
Good luck, and don’t mess with your phone.
If they knew he was playing with his cell phone again, there would be a huge thunderstorm. After replying with a warning, I set my phone on the charger and left the room.
Thanks to his message, I realized that I had completely forgotten about lunch. Considering that I can’t bypass my room when my family is around, I should eat when I can and try to keep some light, shelf-stable food and drink in my room at all times. This is going to be a long-term battle, and there is no better way to be prepared.
It would be best if I had the courage to reveal everything. Somewhere in my heart, I heard a voice telling me that there was no need to worry about my friends, who were so optimistic. If I take the first step, I’m sure it won’t be a big deal, they’ll be a little surprised, they’ll make a fuss, but together we’ll find a way to get back to normal.
I know, I know. But for me, that step was too far away, too heavy above all else.
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