I had blundered. A blunder that I had never done before. The biggest blunder of my life. I was late to school.
It was a real shock when Amaaya came to wake me up at 7:30. Never in the ten years that I had been living with her had she done it. Because I always left the house before anybody even woke up. My school was in the city so I had to leave at least two hours before homeroom.
And yet today, I had not even gotten on the train and it was 8 A.M. I missed school yesterday and today, I was 2 hours late. I changed as fast as I could and went straight to the door when I heard Amaaya’s voice, “Negai. Why don't you have breakfast with us for once. You are already late, so why not eat with everyone for a change.” I could feel the concern in her words. Me running out the day before and then yesterday’s incident had worried her a lot. So, she was looking after me a bit more than usual.
But then I remembered the reason why I ran out. It was my father. He had returned from his work abroad. A man that I truly detested. On the other hand, I respected Amaaya that much. She had always cared for me despite how difficult of a child I was. Not to mention unrelated by blood.
I was in a dilemma. On one hand, I wanted to respect Amaaya’s wish and eat with her but on the other, if it meant eating with my father, I would absolutely not. Thankfully Amaaya eased my predicament by saying, “Your father already left for work yesterday.” As if she had read my mind. Or maybe it was that apparent now.
I went to the table where two little boys, sharing the same blonde hair as their mother, were already having their breakfast.
“Good morning, Big brother Negai,” seeing me enter, the younger one, Eiji, instantly greeted me. While the older one, Tatsuo, who had almost finished eating, remained silent.
I sat down while Amaaya served me egg and toast before having a seat beside me. Eiji and Amaaya made small talk while Tatsuo and I silently had our breakfast.
“Thankyou for the meal.” Soon, Tatsuo finished his breakfast and made his way outside. Before leaving the kitchen, he casually commented, “I wonder if the sun rose from the west today.”
“Tatsuo!” Amaaya instantly rebuked him but he was gone before anything fell in his ears.
"Ah, wait for me. I am coming too," seeing his brother leave, Eiji stuffed the remaining food in his mouth and followed after Tatsuo. Now it was just me and Amaaya.
"You know, I think you should stay at home today. Recover." Amaaya gave an unsurprising suggestion.
"I am fine. Besides, I was already absent yesterday. I can't miss another day," I looked at Amaaya who was just listening to my reasons without saying anything, "aren't you going to ask why I was absent yesterday?"
My question made her sigh before she answered, “of course I do. I want to ask you where you were, what were you doing, why not come back home sooner. But tell me, if I ask you, will you answer me completely honestly?”
“I will always try to answer-”
“Will you answer me completely honestly?” Although she was calm, it was one of the rare days when I felt she was a bit angry. Of course I had no words to answer her and my silence told her all she needed.
“See? That is why I don’t even bother to ask.” I had no right to say anything in my defense. So, I just ate silently while listening to her, “We've been living together for so long, yet the relationship you have with your father is still a mystery to me. You are no different to me than Tatsuo and Eiji. Yet whenever I see you side by side with them, I can't help but feel as if you have no father like those two."
Sounds of footsteps came racing down the stairs,"Mom, we're ready."
"I am coming," saying that she got up and took her empty dishes to the sink. "Now I am taking your brothers to school and then heading to work. So, you for once can actually put your key to work and lock the house before leaving." Suddenly I felt a hand constantly rubbing over my head, "now don't go doing something dangerous, ok? As for me, don't bother. Constantly worrying about their children is what mothers do." With that she left the kitchen and then the house with Tatsuo and Eiji.
And I was left all alone. Well, technically not alone but for once that loudmouthed JInn was just silently watching from a distance.
“So, who’s our next target?”
The silence was short lived because as soon as I stepped inside the train, Dee started talking again.
“Who knows. Weinstein was an exception but I don’t think we are going to run into a wisher anytime soon.”
“You say that but the other wishers might be already looking for us. Like they say, it’s a small world.”
“Although, I don’t completely agree, I think it is still a possibility. And that leaves us with the matter at hand. Can’t you do something about yourself?”
“What do you mean?”
“Aside from looking like a weirdo who keeps talking to himself, I think any wisher can spot you from a mile away. We got lucky with Weinstein, but any sensible person is going to carefully plan out before making a move.” I took out my phone and pointed my camera at him, “At least you do not show up in photos otherwise anyone with the right sources could have easily found us. But still I don’t want to give them a head start.”
Dee carefully listened to my arguments and then spoke with a difficult expression, “well I can but-” he was hesitating with something.
He looked at me as if telling me to somehow take a hint of his reservations unbeknown to anyone but him. But soon gave up, “It’s nothing.”
With that he got sucked into my chest. There was no other way of describing it, he just vanished into my chest as if sucked into it.
“(Is this alright.)” And then I heard his voice inside my head.
“(It is alright. But honestly, it is creepy.)” I replied to him inside my head.
“(Hey, can’t you hear me?)” But he replied as if he didn’t hear me. It was like talking to a person over the phone with a bad network.
“(I can hear you but couldn’t you hear me?)”
“(I can hear you just fine now.)” Apparently I hear his voice inside my head but to reply to him I still had to physically speak.
“(So, you can’t hear me if I don’t speak.)”
“(Of course, it’s not like I speak telepathically either. I am in the realms of the life pact inscribed on your heart. I ,too, am speaking physically, just that my voice is confined to your body.)”
“(Great, that means I am still going to look like a self-talking weirdo.)”
“(Yes, and it also means that no wisher can spot us easily. You get some, you lose some. More importantly, what is our plan?)”
“(First, I have to establish a more precise set of rules. Based on your description, it is pretty vague. ‘Does not affect you or the other wishers’ practically tells me nothing and I don’t exactly have the resources to experiment with only nine wishes. So, it would be appreciated if you had anything to add.)
“No. I already told you all the rules,” I don’t think he even thought about it, because his answer was almost instant.
“(Figured you’d be of no use. Guess I’ll have to make do with what we have experienced.)” With that I replayed all the wishes me and George made to draw out the conclusions.
“(From what I know, not only direct wishes involving any wishers are prohibited but also one step indirect wishes. But two step-indirectness is allowed. That’s why instead of targeting the bridge that I was standing on, he targeted the joints of the bridge that I was standing on. Also the laws of science do not apply to it whatsoever. One thing that I noticed was that the JInn announce the wish's fulfillment every time. Aside from that, I don’t think I can gauge out any of the barriers for mental affection. But both of us definitely not in a stable mindset, yet made wishes. Honestly, I don’t know about it.)”
I felt that Dee tried to add something here but stopped. (Besides that I don’t think I noticed a few things and it feels like something’s missing. But we’ll discuss that later.) with that I got off the train and surprisingly, Dee was silent all the way.
“Are you alright?” was the first thing Taisho said to me when I entered class after being absent for one and a half days.
“Is that the best greeting you can give?”
“Sorry, I was just worried, where was the ‘perfect attendance’ Negai Hoshino for one and a half days, missing not only lectures but tests as well?”
“Tests? There were tests?”
“I think the situation speaks for itself,” he said, pointing behind me towards Asada. She was sitting with her head down. I had felt weird that I had not heard Asada at all and Taisho was the first one to speak to me. I, now, knew the reason. As always, she had bombed her tests.
“Well I guess you are staying after school to help me catch up on all that I missed,” I suggested to Taisho with a sinister smile.
“What? No way, we won’t finish until night.” Obviously Taisho rejected me.
“You don’t have anywhere to be anyway. Besides, it won’t take long. So, I think we both know how this is going to end up.”
And, of course, it ended up like I had said.
“(Negai, I am bored. Why not go look for other wishers.)”
I was on the train back home, a bit later than usual, and Dee went on his same routine as in the morning.
“(There are only 7 out of 7 billion to look for. Do you really think another wisher will just appear before us? With that said, I don’t think that it is impossible either. If they have a mindset even remotely close to Weinstein, then they are bound to make some ripples at least.)”
“(All things considered, this is still a game. And what fun is a game if the participants can’t even interact.)” His tone was quite boasty.
“(What do you mean?)”
“(You see, when we were readying ourselves to start the game, I positioned myself right next to arguably the strongest contestant in this game. And what do you know, our launch angle was no more than 2 degrees apart,)” he bragged quite confidently.
“(And what height were you at when you launched?)” I humbly asked.
“(We were quite close. I say about 100,000km only.)”
“(I see. So they either landed in China, Philippines, Russia or in the ocean. Well done,)” my sarcastic tone was quite clear and it finally knocked out his swagger.
He was silent for quite some time before opening his mouth again, “(You never know. Didn’t you say you believed in the potential of brains or whatever. Considering that, the wisher should be close to us. Let’s see. Say what about that young lady at the end.)”
He just sounded plain desperate now but I still turned my head towards the person he was pointing to. It was a Nordic blonde girl wearing a high school uniform.
“(Just because she’s a foreigner, doesn’t mean that she is a wisher.)” I dismissed his wild assumptions. He still kept on taking random guesses but I just ignored him. And before long he became quiet as well.
The train went on and as it approached Hoshi no machi, the crowd in the train started to thin out, with only a few people left in every compartment. What caught my attention was that the girl was still here. Hoshi no machi was an outskirt town. Most of the people that went till there were usually the faces that I had seen at least once in the past year as I rode home at different times of the day. Yet I had no recollection of ever seeing a foreigner. She had taken a seat beside the door.
Before long I found myself on the seat beside the other side of the door. She had her mind invested in a book and paid no attention to her surroundings until I purposefully seated myself so close to her despite the train being relatively empty. Furthermore, I pretended to be asleep while resting my head against the railing, only to take a peek at her from time to time.
I had no idea what I was doing at this point except for acting creepy and no matter how dense she could’ve been, there was no way she would not have noticed me by now. The Hoshi no machi station was close and there was no station beyond it that was in an inhabited place, so she had to get off at the next station.
The station arrived, the train came to a stop, the doors opened. Since I was supposed to be asleep, I took some time to wake up and then head for the door. What caught me by surprise was that the girl had not moved at all. It was evidently clear that she was not getting off. In that instance, I panicked. I had no idea what to do now. The doors would close if I stopped to think. Without thinking I left my school bag there and got off the train. The doors closed and soon the train left with the girl and my bag.
It didn’t even take me a second to regret my decision.
“(Aha, what the heck did you just do? Please tell me it had a deeper meaning than what I could see.”) even Dee was confused at what I had done,
(“I don’t know. I was only trying to grab her attention a bit but that was clearly way too much.)
She might not even have noticed my bag, she might not even be on the train tomorrow. And I would lose my bag with all of my school necessities. The scales were off balance.
"(What is it?)"
I took the ballpoint out from my pocket, pressed it against my finger before pressing the clicker
"(Wait, Negai think ca-)"
"-the Hoshi no machi train would come back on platform" cutting off his words, I made my wish. Instantly Dee came out. But that was it. No robotic words from him from last time, no gestures, nothing. Maybe he thought that I was expecting some kind of response from him, so he began speaking, "That's weird. It did not work. Why would it be so."
But as he looked at me, his words stopped. Maybe my uncontrolled grin made my reaction clear to him as his own lips turned into a smile.
"No, no. I must not get ahead of myself. There is still that absurd rule of mental effects.”
“Ah, don’t worry about that, I don’t think that it should matter,” Dee casually dropped that between my mumbling.
“Huh? Why is that?”
“Sorry to spoil your fun, but I must confess something,” Dee looked at me with the most serious expression that I had ever seen him make, “you see, this is actually my first time taking part in a wish game. So, there are some things that I am unsure about.”
I only stared at his face as he dropped that bombshell this late. There was only one thought in my mind,
“(I am doomed, aren’t I?)”