Fandom: Shigofumi: Letters from the Departed (anime)
Summary: Kotake finishes reading Sen-chan's letter.
Author's Note: This is small follow-on from the events of Episode 3.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or concept of the story, they belong to the creator of 'Shigofumi', nor am I making any profits from it.
Kotake felt the paper crunch in his pocket as he moved. He was certain that no-one had even noticed that he had it. He had seen it lying there on the floor, crumpled, a mark that looked like someone had trodden on it. Amongst all the smoke, yelling and moving bodies he had reached out and picked it up, pushing it deep into his pocket. He made no move to touch it as he was shepherded out of the classroom along with the rest of his schoolmates, just as he didn't really pay attention to the heavily armoured policemen surrounding them like a cordon.
Outside was bedlam; media thronging, cameras flashing, shouted questions, parents calling and pushing forward to grasp their child and pulling them close, tears of relief. The police kept the worst of it away which meant they could at least continue to move. Not all parents were there to collect their children. Not necessarily due to unconcern but some would not have even been aware of the ordeal their children had just experienced. It really hadn't taken that long and had been in normal school hours. Some parents would have not been able to be contacted at their work, or were away. There were sometimes a lot of reasons why a parent wouldn't have been there.
Kotake's fell in that category. His father was currently on a business trip to Hokkaido; his mother had gone to visit his grandmother that day and wouldn't be expected back till late. It wasn't as though any of them, himself included, had expected something like this to occur.
"Will you be okay?"
He looked up to see Kaname by his side, concern on his face. Kotake could see Kaname's father a little further behind, speaking with some of the policeman. Not surprising as Kaname's father was a detective.
"Yeah," Kotake said, giving a small smile. "I'll be fine."
"You can always come and stay at my place until you mum comes home?" Kaname offered, not looking reassured.
Kotake smiled more confidently this time and shook his head. "No, thanks. I had better go home so if they phone they won't worry. I'll be fine."
"What about…" Kaname let the sentence fade away.
"Ah," Kotake clenched his hand closed to prevent it from going to his pocket. "It…seems to have gone," he lied.
"It must have got dropped somewhere back there in all the confusion." Forgive me, Kaname, Kotake prayed silently, I don't want to lie to you but I can't hand this over to anyone.
"That's probably for the best," Kaname said.
Kotake looked at him in surprise.
"Well," Kaname continued, "is anyone really going to believe about letters from the dead?"
"But everyone there saw that girl and heard me read the letter?" Kotake said.
"True," Kaname agreed, "But wouldn't it make more sense if it really was a letter from the dead that it would disappear? People are more likely to believe it under those circumstances. If it was still around on a tangible piece of paper just like a normal letter most people would rather believe it was hoax."
"So… do you believe it?" Kotake questioned quietly, looking away.
"Yeah," Kaname answered just as softly. "I do."
"Kaname!" Kotake turned and saw Kaname's father gesturing to his son.
"You had better go," Kotake said, lightly slapping his friend's arm. "You don't want to worry him any more."
"Yeah," Kaname agreed. He looked down at Kotake. "Call me at 10pm tonight, okay? No matter what, so don't forget."
"Why? That's pretty late."
Kotake met Kaname's gaze for a long moment and then slowly nodded. "Promise."
"Good. Till then." Kaname turned and made his way to where his father stood.
Kotake watched as Kaname's father placed an arm around his son's shoulders as they walked away. He understood how Kaname felt, why he asked for that promise to call. They had just lost one friend, Kaname wanted assurance that he wouldn't lose another.
Kotake turned away and quickly and quietly wound his way through the still large crowd and finally escaped to quieter streets. His home wasn't that far away really and he was able to take some shortcuts through back streets and parks to avoid the main pedestrian ways.
When he reached home, all was quiet as he expected. He let himself him and went to the kitchen, opening the fridge and taking out the juice, drinking directly from the bottle, a habit his mother often scolded him for. He remembered one time laughing with Sen-chan about that because he did the same. Kaname had loftily stated that he always used a glass.
He walked up the stairs to his room, stripping off his school uniform and giving it a hard shake before hanging it up. Usually he wasn't quite that fastidious but there was a strong lingering smell of gas on the clothes. He hoped that by morning it would be gone.
He now sat on the floor, back resting against the side of his bed, staring at the ceiling. He closed his eyes for moment, taking a deep breath in, holding it, then exhaling slowly. Then he slowly opened his eyes. He turned his gaze to where his school clothes hung. He felt torn; wanting to reach out and yet afraid to do so.
He remained where he was for a long time, the steady ticking of his alarm clock loud in the silence of the room. Tick, tick, tick, tick… a steady rhythm that was the relentless march of time. If he sat here long enough would time change? Would it rewind to before Sen-chan died? Is that what he wished for? Or should he wish for it to fast forward to a time when he had forgotten all this?
Tick, tick, tick…
Time was a strange thing. If he looked back now, knowing what he did, the times before seem different from what he first thought he had remembered. Could there be two times at once?
Tick, tick, tick…
He took another deep breath, bracing himself, and slowly stood. He had to wait another moment, gathering his courage a second time to take those few steps forward. He stood there, his clothing hanging before him. His nose wrinkled involuntarily at the astringent smell that was much stronger being this close. His hand clenched and unclenched at his side then he slowly lifted it, inch by inch moving closer to the pocket in his blazer.
His fingers slipped inside, seeking downwards. He jerked a little as they brushed the paper crumpled inside. He hesitated again. He could stop here, take his hand out, turn his back and sit down. He could do that – but the letter would still be; real, tangible.
He gripped the paper and drew it out of the pocket. He looked at it in his grasp and then slowly turned to where he had been sitting before. He carefully smoothed the paper out again, seeing the writing that was there. There was no mistaking it at all – it was Sen-chan's. He had this weird way of finishing some of his kanji which Kaname had teased him about relentlessly. Sen-chan had just laughed. Kotake had never figured out if Sen-chan did it because he couldn't help it since he'd been doing it for so long, or if he did it deliberately to annoy people, including his teachers. Either way was just like Sen-chan.
He didn't bother reading the start of the letter. He'd already read that out loud for all the class and Sen-chan's father to hear. What he didn't read was the last part, written in smaller kanji. He didn't think Sen-chan's father had noticed it or had time to read that far; he had been more concerned with the beginning of the letter. No, he was pretty sure that no-one else would have read the last part yet.
He read it over now, no more than two lines. When he had read the letter out loud he had immediately noticed the rest. Even as he finished where he did, before the letter was snatched from his grasp, his eyes had passed over those words and understood them. And they had pierced through his mind like a spear, embedding deeply there.
A droplet of moisture landed on the paper, immediately being absorbed. Kotake was startled by the sudden ringing of his mobile phone by his side. Automatically he picked it up.
"Kotake, you didn't call."
Kotake glanced over at his clock. It read about one minute after ten o'clock. Kaname was as punctual as ever. "Sorry. I was just about to."
"I knew you would forget. Just as I knew you would forget we've got that test in chemistry tomorrow."
"Oh, geez, yeah I had forgotten about that. It's not till after lunch so let me look over your notes then."
"You always do that – you should make your own."
"I do, but yours are better."
Kotake let his head drop back onto his bed, closing his eyes. He ignored the tears silently sliding from the corner of his eyes as he talked to Kaname, his happiness at speaking with his friend mingling with the sadness of the words on the paper clasped in his hand.
'PS: Kotake, I never got a chance to say this. I wasn't certain before what I was feeling anyway. We are just kids really so that's to be expected. Anyway – I love you.'