Everything was gone.
They finally noticed.
One day, our ‘Everyday’ was suddenly destroyed.
One day, our ‘Future’ was enveloped by chaos.
“An earthquake?” Yamato frowned at the friend whispering to him during math class.
“You don’t know? It was a huge deal.”
Yamato looked puzzled. Brow furrowed, his friend continued.
“They say it was completely destroyed.”
“Just watch the news.”
“I went to bed early last night.”
From the seat behind him, Suzuko cut in.
“Were you studying the way you should?”
Annoyed, Yamato looked over his shoulder.
“I thought I’d get up earlier.”
“And still you overslept and were late for school."
No sooner had he yelled it and turned to face front, than Yamato’s eyes met the teacher’s chilly gaze.
Crap. In the middle of class.
Yamato is presently eighteen years old. An only child attending a preparatory school in Nagoya. Until now, he’s been raised in comfort. A cool image, long hair tinted brown, but not really a punk. More than a modern high school student, kind of old-fashioned. A straight-forward, upright personality.
A boy like that has a girlfriend like Suzuko. Strong-minded but beautiful. A student on the honor roll.
The two have the same dream - to get accepted at their first-choice college. That’s to be expected, since both Suzuko and Yamato have been leading the lives of carefree high school students until now.
But that was only until today. Yamato hasn’t even realized it yet. He can’t even imagine that from now on, he will be caught up in the giant whirlpool of fate.
Yamato’s expression had suddenly become grim. A big earthquake not just in Chiba, but in Makuhara? Wasn’t that the city Kiichi moved to half a year ago?
“It was about three in the morning,” Suzuko said. “I was studying but it didn’t even shake in this area.”
The newspapers certainly said it was a huge earthquake.
North Chiba Direct Hit!
Makuhara Area - No Hope of Survivors
Plus there were pictures of a burning city. No hope... No hope!?
Yamato snatched Suzuko’s cell phone.
“You want to call Kiichi? I haven’t been able to reach him all day.”
At her concerned words, Yamato bit his lip and made a resolution.
On a loaded-down bicycle he headed east on the highway. Pedaling full-speed, to make sure Kiichi was safe. Until Makuhara in Chiba, until he was told that only emergency vehicles were allowed farther into the disaster area, he decided to see how far he could go even on a bike.
Suzuko, of course, had been against it. It’s dangerous, and what about the practice exam?
Who cares about practice exams, Kiichi’s life could be in danger!
But Yamato was pleased about Suzuko’s concern. He could feel the weight of her cell phone in his breast pocket. Before they parted, she’d lent it to him, since it wasn’t like she got calls from anyone else.
I’ll definitely call you, Suzuko, so make sure you take notes!
Yamato pedaled intently. Through the sun setting on an embankment, through the neon lights of pachinko parlors, on the road along the ocean. Even when he had to sleep outside, he continued with determination.
He’d had an unpleasant sense of foreboding. Kiichi can’t be dead. He’s been my best friend since kindergarten.
But now that he was caught up in something incredible - the whirlpool of fate - his head cleared of that anxiety.
Kiichi, wait for me! I’ll get there in just a little bit!
Suddenly, another bicycle easily passed him on the road along the sea. Even though it had more luggage than Yamato’s, it was really fast. The young man riding it wore sunglasses like a wannabe triathlete. Same age as me? No, probably younger. His features looked like he’d be rather charming.
But that was neither here nor there. Yamato hated to lose, and immediately raised his speed. He passed the jerk with the shades, and a dead heat began to unfold.
“You hate to lose, don’t you.”
Exhausted from their race, the two sat on the embankment. The other boy immediately began speaking to Yamato. Wiping his forehead and noticing his sunburn, Yamato bluntly said only, “You, too.”
“If we're going to the same place, maybe we could ride together.”
“Too bad,” Yamato said, suddenly leaping onto his bike.
“It’s going to rain, so please be careful,” the boy called to Yamato’s back.
“Nice weather like this, you think it’s going to rain?” Yamato shot back, and his words echoed into the clear blue sky.
A heavy rain pounded the ground, and it was impossible to see more than a few meters ahead. A drenched Yamato went into a solitary convenience store, and there was the boy from before, grinning.
They ended up together after all, sleeping on the grounds of a shrine. The rain fell heavier and heavier, and Yamato, soaked to the skin, felt colder and colder.
“I made udon, so please go ahead and eat some.”
The boy offered Yamato the steaming noodles he’d made on a portable burner.
“I’m fine. I bought some bread.”
“Bread is cold, plus you can eat it on the go. Something hot is better right now.”
“You made it for yourself, right?”
“Wouldn’t it be better if you’d just eat it without arguing? Since you’re going to, anyway.”
“What do you mean, ‘anyway’?”
“Even if you say you don’t want to, you’re going to sleep in my tent, right? It’s good, right? That I’m here to save you.”
“I’m not sleeping in there.”
“My point is, I don't believe you came with enough supplies. Better safe than sorry. Forewarned is forearmed.”
Yamato turned away and unrolled his sleeping bag. The boy kept pressing him.
“If you aren’t prepared, you’re going to have a hard time. In life, we never know what may happen.”
“Whatever happens, I’m fine. I’m the adaptable sort. Stop talking like you’re an old person.”
“I wouldn’t think you were adaptable, with how stubborn you’re being.”
The boy broke a pair of chopsticks and forcibly handed them over.
“I’ll eat, since it can’t be helped. But don’t think I’m in your debt. I’m going to pay you back.”
The boy grinned.
When Yamato finally started eating the udon, the boy asked, “So, where are you going?”
“If I don't say anything, will it be bad?”
“Not bad, exactly, but this is conversation. ‘Communication’. Aren’t you the adaptable one?”
“Aren’t you already communicating too much?”
“If you ask me where I’m headed, you’ll be surprised. It’s far.”
“I won’t be surprised. I won’t ask you.”
“I’m going to Makuhara in Chiba.”
Surprised at the answer, Yamato broke into a fit of coughing. He looked hard at his companion’s profile.
“You’re going to Makuhara? Do you know what happened here?”
“Is there anyone who doesn’t know? It’s been on the news constantly.”
Hearing that, Yamato looked at him with contempt.
“You a rubbernecker?”
“I’m a volunteer.”
“Impressed.” The word left his mouth without thinking, but the other boy just smiled as though somehow lonely.
Yamato was awkwardly taking down the other boy’s tent when the cell phone rang.
It was Suzuko.
“Your cell phone sucks.”
She ignored Yamato’s joking, and said urgently, “Where are you now? Have you gotten there yet?”
“How could I get there so quickly? Do you know how many kilometers it is until Makuhara?”
The other boy was brushing his teeth nearby. At Yamato’s words, his hand froze. A broad smile spread across his face.
“What a coincidence.”
Monday, November 1, 2010
Our Courage, Chapter One (part a)
Everything was gone.