1 Chapter 1: Short season, cold feeling

There were cherry blossoms blooming on both sides of the road on the hill. As I finished climbing it, a brand new hospital came into view. It was a new and relatively clean building, and it somehow didn't feel like people lived here. Despite being a hospital, it had an office-building-like air to it. That made me feel a little more at ease. I informed the reception desk of my business here and was quickly told which room to go to.

Thinking about how I would soon be meeting a complete stranger, I felt quite nervous. Not to mention the fact that this person was a girl who had been hospitalized due to illness.

I was a little restless as I waited for the hospital's elevator.

"I heard she's a real beauty," someone had told me.

Apparently, her name was Watarase Mamizu.

During the first homeroom of my first year in high school, Yoshie-sensei, our homeroom teacher, spoke in a well-carrying voice.

"Watarase Mamizu-san has been hospitalized since middle school due to a serious illness," she said. "I hope that she will be discharged as soon as possible and enjoy her school life with everyone."

There was one empty seat in the classroom. Our school was a private combined middle and high school, so the students attending didn't really change from middle school. Even so, it seemed that almost nobody knew Watarase Mamizu.

"I heard that it's luminescence disease."

"Then she probably won't be able to come to school, huh."

"Who is she?"

"Apparently she hasn't been to school since May in our first year of middle school."

"I don't remember her at all."

"Doesn't anyone have a picture of her on their phone?"

The people in the class began gossiping about her a little, but there wasn't any significant information about her, so that quickly stopped.

If it was luminescence disease, it would be difficult for her to return to school. It was known to be an incurable disease.

Its cause is unknown. Treatment methods haven't even been established.

A full recovery is impossible. That's why most people with the condition spend their entire lives in hospital. The disease progresses as the patient grows to adulthood, and the symptoms just suddenly appear one day. It's said that most patients develop symptoms in their teenage years or in their twenties. Once the symptoms appear, the mortality rate is high; most patients die before becoming adults. There are many different symptoms, but the characteristic one is the strange phenomenon in the skin.

It glows.

It's said that at night, when the light of the moon shines on the body of someone with the condition, it emits a faint, fluorescent light. Apparently, that emitted light becomes stronger as the condition progresses. That's why it's called luminescence disease.

… Either way, it's unlikely that this girl named Watarase Mamizu will come to the classroom, I thought, and decided to quickly forget about all of it.

A few days after that, during break time, what appeared to be an enormous piece of colored paper was passed around to me.

"Okada, write something in here," said the person who'd given it to me.

"What is this?" I asked.

"You know, what was it again? Something-san, the one with luminescence disease. Everyone's supposed to sign it and then it's going to be given to her."

Uninterested, I ran my pen across the colored paper.

I hope your illness gets better soon. Okada Takuya.

I wrote these words smoothly within three seconds and then looked around to pass the signed paper to the next person.

"Wow, Okada, that's pretty vague."

"Who am I supposed to pass it to next?"

"Everyone around here's signed it. Ah, Kayama hasn't yet, I think. Go and give it to him. You and Kayama are close, aren't you?"

"We're not really close," I replied before approaching Kayama's seat.

Kayama Akira was untidy as usual. His uniform shirt was hanging out from his trousers, and he was slumped forward in his seat, sleeping like a log. He was tall, and his hair was long. He didn't give off the air of a delinquent. He didn't have any violent tendencies, but he could be suitably described as "unserious." He was still popular with girls because he had a well-featured face, but he usually responded to people somewhat arrogantly, so most of the guys avoided him a little.

"Kayama, wake up," I said.

"To think that I would be selected as manager of a women's dormitory full of beautiful women…"

Kayama was talking in his sleep. Apparently, he was having a very convenient dream. Persistent, I shook him, returning him to reality.

"Huh? Okada? What is it?" he asked.

I didn't really want to approach him if I had the choice. But that wasn't because of anything to do with me not being able to deal with his irregular personality.

In the past, Kayama did something like a favor for me. That's why it wasn't quite correct to say that we were friends. The word "savior" was appropriate to describe what Kayama was to me.

There was something strange about me when I interacted with Kayama – I felt nervous somewhere inside, even when we were just chatting.

"It's a joint letter," I said. "You know, for the one with luminescence disease."

"Ah." Kayama took the colored paper, and then stared at it with vacant eyes. "Watarase Mamizu, huh."

Something about his tone and expression seemed like he was remembering something in the past.

"Do you know her?" I asked him, surprised.

"No… In the past, a little. So, she's called Watarase now," Kayama said absentmindedly, as if talking to himself. "Well, I'll sign it."

Having been told this, I went to return to my seat.

"Okada, how has it been lately?" Kayama asked me over his shoulder.

"How has what been?"

"Are you alright?"

"I'm alright," I replied, suppressing my irritation.

"You suffer from time to time," Kayama said in a tone that sounded as if he'd seen through me.

"I'm normal," I said. It's none of your business, I thought, but I didn't say this out loud.

"The joint letter that everyone signed recently has been finished, so I was thinking of having someone take it to her on the next day off. I'm sure that Watarase-san would be much happier if a student were to take it rather than me. Would anyone like to go?" asked Yoshie-sensei.

Yoshie-sensei was a relatively pretty woman in her early twenties, but maybe because she hadn't been a teacher for long, the way she carried out homeroom was still somewhat stiff.

Even after being told all of this, nobody thought anything other than, "How bothersome." Nobody raised their hand. Everyone had expected this. With that being the case, Yoshie-sensei would soon designate someone for the task. Everyone covered their faces, not even trying to hide the fact that they were hoping that they wouldn't be chosen.

And then, suddenly, Kayama raised his hand. Everyone was surprised and turned towards him simultaneously.

"I'll go," he said.

"Ah, well then, sorry about this, but I suppose I can leave it to you," said Yoshie-sensei.

At that moment, there was a trace of something mysterious in Kayama's expression. There was something resembling grim courage. It was hard to imagine that he'd been happy to volunteer.

… If he really dislikes it that much, he shouldn't have said anything. Why did Kayama say that he'd go? I thought, a little curious.

The weekend came, and on Sunday, Kayama suddenly called me and asked me to meet him.

"I have a favor to ask," he said.

We weren't close enough to make a habit of meeting each other on free days, so this could have been considered a fairly irregular event.

It was a pain, but I headed to his house as I was told.

"I've caught a cold," said Kayama, who had come to the front door in pajamas, wearing a surgical mask. "I have a bit of a fever, you see."

But he didn't look like he had a fever at all. It was as if he was showing me a cosplay of a sick person.

"So, what's the favor?" I asked, a little irritated.

"Ah, so… I can't go to visit Watarase Mamizu," Kayama said.

"And you're asking me to go in your place?" I asked, confirming the situation.

"Yeah," Kayama replied briefly.

He went back into his house, and after a while, he returned with a complete set of printouts and whatever else that needed to be given to Watarase-san.

"I'll leave it to you," he said as he pushed them towards me.

As if declining any further conversation, Kayama withdrew into his house.

Honestly, I couldn't believe any of this.

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