Chapter 1:

One step to happiness

One Step to Happiness

August 18th. The news wouldn't stop talking about a recent incident involving a teenager who jumped from the roof of a building. I had just returned to my town after the Obon vacation, and I couldn't even enjoy my drink in peace. A rumor spread that it was the work of a God of Death, Thanatos.

What nonsense, I would never do such a thing.

It’s said there are two types of people:
those ruled by the desire for life—Eros
and those ruled by the desire for death—Thanatos.

The God of Death always appears in the form most tempting to the one seeing it. That is, it takes the form of their ideal companion.

It's unlikely that such things exist. Probably just a rumor.

As I left the bar and headed home, I felt a shiver run down my spine, as if I were defying the powers that rule this world by denying their existence.

And even if he did exist, I would never be ruled by Thanatos.

My life was too good to be affected. As my family had ostentatiously told me, I had a bright future ahead of me. I couldn't even think about sadness, I couldn't let my family down. I was afraid of being ungrateful, especially in the position I was in.

As I walked home, my words seemed so empty. Even with so many people on the street, I felt lonely. Surrounded by so many smiles, surrounded by happiness, I couldn't share that feeling. Happiness was just a lie that I had to maintain in public.

My family was constantly texting me, asking if I was okay.
Everyone started conversations by asking if I was okay.
And all my answers were,
"I am."


Eating my favorite food didn't taste like anything. Even when I tried expensive perfumes, I couldn't smell anything. Nothing was pleasurable. Nothing affected my emotions. The world was gray.

As the days passed, it became more and more difficult to get out of bed. I feared that one morning I might not make it. Emptiness consumed me.

I remembered what I had thought at the bar, about Thanatos, maybe I had been too arrogant. Death seemed so close now. I was losing.

Is there no hope for me at all?

One night, when I was having trouble sleeping, I decided to go to the bar. I unexpectedly ran into an old childhood friend named Yuuta.


He had disappeared from my life years ago. We lost touch after he went to work for a company.


As soon as he saw me, he broke into a huge smile. His happiness was so contagious, just like when we were kids. He said he would spend some time in the city, and we could see each other more often.

We always met at the same place, a street that led out of the city and crossed the train line in my town. That place was so empty that it felt like my thoughts were being spoken aloud.

Because of my alcoholism, I couldn't avoid drinking in my free time. Yuuta said he liked sake, so I used to bring it to him as an offering.

The old times came back whenever we talked, especially during this time of the year; summer had always been special for us. We talked about the past and the present.

I told Yuuta everything that had happened in my life so far. My joy at getting a well-paying job. My romantic disappointments. My current hobbies. And how my life was a mess. But I couldn't say that anymore now that Yuuta had reappeared.

I felt that something inside me was starting to change, maybe I was returning to the way I used to be. I started to feel a long forgotten emotion, real joy. I was winning again.

The only downside was that I was becoming somewhat dependent on him.

Without realizing it, I was eagerly waiting for the working hours to end so that I could smile and have real fun with my friend Yuuta. An unusual wind was blowing outside the office. I hadn't brought any clothes suitable for the weather.

When I got home, the first thing I did was to call my friend's number. I had been thinking all day that I wanted to go somewhere more fun. Maybe karaoke or something other than staying near the train tracks and talking about the past.

The phone rang only to go to voicemail. I tried a few more times and it kept going to voicemail.

That's when I looked for a contact close to him. I think I still had the home phone number of Yuuta's parents.

I slowly dialed the number on my phone and waited. The delay in answering made me feel a little uneasy.

It was Yuuta's father who answered. I knew that from his deep voice and his direct way of answering. I don't need to say that I was afraid of him as a child.

"Hello, sir, it's me, Taichi, remember? I'm calling to ask if you have any news about Yuuta?"

There was a short pause before I got an answer. The rough voice of the man said, "Yuuta is dead."

Humans are so fragile.

I couldn't believe it. I was struck by an immediate sadness. My voice became serious. "How did it happen?"

"He couldn't stand the immense suffering he was going through at work when he started. He became more and more distant and lonely. To the point where I found him dead. I failed as a father."

I was stunned. "When I spoke to him yesterday, he was fine. It can't be."

"Taichi. Yuuta hasn't been in this world for many years. How did you manage to talk to him?"

I felt my heart stop for a second. It wasn't possible.

I dropped the phone in astonishment while I heard Yuuta's father desperately calling me on the phone: "Taichi?! Taichi?"

I ran to the place where I always met what I thought was Yuuta.

"Didn't you bring alcohol this time?"

There he was, at the end of the road leading out of town, on the other side of the railroad tracks. My feet stopped short of the tracks and I looked at the figure, his head tilted to the side and his arms in front of his body. It was as if he was waiting for me.

"Where is Yuuta?"

The impostor looked indignant, as if the answer was obvious. "You know the truth."

I started to cry because I couldn't believe it. "You liar. You're here! You're right here in front of me! There is no way you are dead!"

That's when it hit me. My eyes widened as I realized who was really standing in front of me. "Thanatos?"

He smiled. "Haven't you been having fun all this time? Haven't you been truly happy?"

I looked down and remembered what my life was like before he appeared. How empty I was and how I became truly happy after Yuuta appeared. It was true.

The impostor's smile quickly faded as his gaze went away, searching for something along the tracks. "The train is coming."

"Train?" I looked into the distance, squinting a bit because it was so far away, and yet I could only see a small, slowly growing light.

"Don't you want to see your friend? He's so far away, so far away that you need a ride to get there. The train can take you to Yuuta."

What was once just a small light was now so close that I could see its details up close. It was a colorful train, and it seemed so fast. If it was that fast, I would reach my friend in no time. My heart began to race as the noise of the train grew louder.

I looked back and saw the gray city, colorless, tasteless, and dull.
I looked ahead and the train was so colorful.

I smiled.
I couldn't miss the train to my destination.
I took a step forward.
To meet my friend.
One step to happiness.


One Step to Happiness