When I regained consciousness, I stood inside the sunflower field.
It was the place I still remembered the most profoundly from my childhood.
But, I immediately realized that this wasn’t real.
The sunflowers glowed with translucent light, and the air around us was covered in a sparkling fog.
It resembled reality but wasn’t quite it…like we were in a place located outside the world plane.
A location between dream and reality.
She must have created this using her power.
She—the owner of the voice, and the person who just revealed her memories to me—Suzuya Hotaru.
“…I forced you through hell countless times.
I did something incredibly cruel to you.
I want to make the excuse that it was for the sake of my magic, but…I don’t expect you to forgive me…”
“W-Wait, hold on.
You did it for our sake, right? And now…Kazuhi can be saved, right?”
“That…is true, yes.
Because you overcame the trial I prepared, my magic activated.
Fate has changed, and Amagase-san will not experience another tragedy like that.
Of course, the child she saved is not injured, either.
But…even so…what I’ve done is…”
Are you sure?! Kazuhi will be okay?!”
That I can promise you.”
“Then…Then, I’m thankful to you, Suzuya.
Thank you so much for saving Kazuhi.”
Suzuya’s eyes shot open.
Almost like she wasn’t expecting me to thank her.
Like she was prepared to be resented.
“…No, the one who saved Amagase-san is you.
It’s because you didn’t give up until the very end.
“…I should be the one to thank you.
Amagase-san is an important friend of mine.
The accidents and happenings in the loop were caused by my magic because it was a trial.
However, the very first accident that caused all this…truly was just destiny at work.
Normally…she probably never would have woken up again.
But because your desire to save her got through to her, I managed to lend you my strength.
I wouldn’t have been able to save her myself.
That’s why…this is thanks to you, Haruoka-kun.” She looked at me with dampened eyes.
It made me feel restless, so I scratched my cheek and looked away.
“W-Well, it feels like…an honor to hear you say that? But in fact, I still haven’t fully swallowed the fact that all this is magic, or that you’re a witch.”
A different world…and the power of magic.
This power allowed us to travel back in time and redo these loops.
Thinking back on it, when I happened to shoot that Mon-chan at the summer festival, she must have used her magic to make sure it fell over.
It’s hard to believe, but I have no ground to doubt her.
“Yes…I should probably explain this a bit.
While Amagase-san was traveling back in time, the memories of Amagase-san in university have been overwritten, so the normal Amagase-san doesn’t have any memories of that time.
While you were traveling in time, experiencing those loops, it’s more accurate to say that I created a phantasmal world, into which I locked you.
That is why you will keep your memories of this, Haruoka-kun…” She said as a shadow fell over her face.
“That trial…must have been like hell for you, right?” She tried to remain calm, but her voice was evidently shaking.
It became painfully evident that, although it was necessary to save us, she truly didn’t wish for us to go through such a hell.
“But…your existence really helped me out a lot through our loops.
You always supported me.”
I wanted to lift the guilt inside of her as much as possible, so I said so.
It wasn’t a complete lie.
After all, as I continue to lose myself in despair, she was always there.
“Well, I now realize that it was all acting for the sake of the trial, but I have to say, you played that way too good.
You had me shaken once or twice,” I said in the tone of a light-hearted joke.
Because I can smile like this, I don’t want her to feel any more guilt.
“…Yes, it was necessary for the trail and of utmost importance to activate my magic, which is why I set up sweet whispers along the way.
However…this is also what I think.”
“What…do you mean?”
“The only people who could be saved by my magic were those who would not give up no matter the adversity.
However, how could I blame the people who had resigned themselves? What right do I have?”
“Possessing a heart that will not break no matter what the person has to face in the trial…definitely is a happy end.
However, someone giving in to all the trauma and choosing a different path…I don’t want to call that a bad ending.”
I remembered the time we talked about movies.
Could you call it a happy end if the person who lost their loved one managed to become happy with someone else? Personally, I don’t think it’s the wrong path, either.
Running away, giving up…even right or wrong, none of that exists.
It’s just one path among the myriad choices given to you.
Choosing someone else could definitely lead to happiness in the end.
However…it wasn’t the future I had chosen.
This is…the second life she is going through.
She lost her life in another world, now being a lonely existence in ours.
She must have experienced so many things I couldn’t even pretend to fathom.
That’s why she can say these things.
“But…it’s weird to hear me talk about humans, isn’t it?”
“Why? It’s not weird at all.
Whatever you may be, you are Suzuya.”
She blinked at me once, but…somehow looked like she expected me to say that, as she smiled.
I didn’t know if I was allowed to call myself a human up to this point.
Because…I’m different from the people in this world.
There were times when I was scared and lonely, too.
The reason I wasn’t able to make any friends…may have been that I built a wall between myself and the people around me.
But…” She spoke with a refreshed face, like a gentle breeze passing through the summer sky.
“Even so, I will become a normal human now.”
“You will become…a normal human?”
“As compensation for using the magic to save a life…I’ll become unable to use magic.”
“?!” I was baffled, unable to respond.
She said it so nonchalantly, but it felt like a huge revelation.
“Wh-Why…Is the trial we went through not enough?”
“The trial is a trial, but the compensation is a different matter.
Just as the person who wishes to be saved must show determination, the side casting the magic has to agree to the consequences…That’s how special this magic is…and it’s ranging very close to the forbidden territory.”
“So…isn’t that a massive compensation you had to pay…?”
“All the power I had up to this point…I’ll lose, yes.
In fact, I’m worried.
But even so…” Her expression showed no regret, not a single shadow on her face any longer.
“I wanted to save you two.
Whatever the compensation may be…it’s the path I have chosen.” She gently smiled…but it began to break.
“But…Haruoka-kun…I really…worked hard so far…”
Her hand grabbed my sleeve.
It was quivering, like a lost child hoping for guidance.
“Can I…cry now?”
These words allowed me to filter out all—Well, at least some of the emotions bottled up inside of her.
As if the dam broke, she began weeping.
“…I…I was scared.
I was terrified with each new loop you started.
That your heart may have been broken now.
What I would do if I failed to save both of you.
That one small mistake on my end…could lead to you two experiencing an endless hell.
I grew doubtful if I could really make you two happy.
But…I really love both of you…so I tried hard.
I tried really hard, even though it hurt so much…”
“B-But…I made you go…through so much…”
You tried to save us.
I didn’t even know what was going on…just resenting whoever created these loops…But, I’m sorry.
You weren’t doing anything wrong.”
“That’s right…I just…tried to save you…But, seeing you both wish for each other’s happiness…I felt so jealous…And even so, I love you two so much…that I’m…just so glad…!”
Right now, I’m in high school, and she’s in university.
And yet, she kept on weeping like a child, I didn’t know what to do.
In the end, I just gently caressed her head.
She then continued to weep inside my chest.
Suzuya, when the loops began, you asked me something, right?
—…Have you ever seen bubbles that never disappear?
And as you said, there aren’t any bubbles that will stay forever.
However…humans aren’t bubbles.
That’s why we won’t just disappear.
But…how much time has passed like this? This atmosphere felt foreign, unlike reality, and since the air around us was constantly frozen, it simply felt like time had stopped.
Finally, she seemed to have let out everything that was bottled up inside of her.
She raised her head and wiped her tears away.
At the same time, I could feel this space shake.
It seems like our conversation here will soon come to an end.
She must be losing her power.
Turning from a witch into a regular human…No, not quite.
The person in front of me…crying for the sake of her friends…was just a kind-hearted girl you could find anywhere.
“…Haruoka-kun, I have one last request.
The one who forced you through these loops…is the future me.
The me who’s still in high school…surely doesn’t remember about any of this.”
“And even so…she truly loves the two of you.”
“That’s why…I’d be happy if you were willing to be friends with me again.”
“What are you talking about?”
This space was nearing its end.
The university self of Suzuya and my high school self would have to say farewell soon.
We’ll return to our respective times.
I instinctively understood that.
The loops, the time leaping, it was all over.
I have to return to my real place.
That’s why…in this final moment, I raised my thumb and grinned.
It was a cheesy and outdated line, but it should be just fine for a happy ending like this, don’t you think?
“We don’t have to be friends again.
We’re already the best friends ever, Suzuya!”
She experienced a tragedy.
Losing her life in a different world.
And while containing her power, she was reborn into this world.
This is…the conclusion to her story.
Because of me…Because she wanted to save us, she sacrificed her powers.
She lost everything.
And yet—she looked so happy.
When I came to my senses, I was lying in my room’s bed.
I immediately checked the date on my smartphone…then again, the phone next to me was the one I had used back in high school, so I immediately knew.
I returned to my time—to when I was a first-year in high school.
The date matched the one of that summer festival, but it was late at night.
According to what my parents said, I apparently passed out in that park, and Kazuhi contacted my parents so Dad could carry me up to my room.
They were very close to calling an ambulance because they were so worried, but I just said that ‘I couldn’t deal with the crowd too well.’
In reality, I wanted to dash out of the house in order to see Kazuhi right this instant, but my body felt heavy and wouldn’t move as I ordered it to.
It must be the aftermath of all that magic talk.
Not until too long ago, my consciousness wasn’t even inside my body, after all.
That’s why I quickly fell asleep that night.
Once morning came around, my exhaustion had mostly disappeared, as I could move my body just fine.
It still hurt a lot, but there was something more important.
I changed into my uniform and stepped out of the house.
The bright summer sky greeted me, and then—Kazuhi stood in front of my home.
It’s the Kazuhi I knew very well.
Back from high school.
She looked at me and called my name.
But even just that…made me incredibly happy, and emotional.
“Sou-chan, you know…I don’t remember a thing about yesterday, so I’m still a bit confused, but…seeing your face right now…I think I understand.
You must have worked really hard…for something, right? It really feels like the fact that we can talk like this…is nothing short of a miracle.”
Now that the time leap had ended, Kazuhi now didn’t have any memories of Kazuhi in the future.
But even so, her gaze was gentle, like I was wrapped in the warm sunlight.
And then, tears came running down her cheeks.
I’ve seen it many times now, but…right now, she may be crying…and she was still smiling.
Smiling out of happiness.
“H-Huh? Why am I crying? Weird…S-Sorry, my tears just won’t stop.
But…I’m not crying out of sadness or anything!”
“…Yeah, I know.”
I feel the same way.
I couldn’t stop crying, either.
Our tears slowly began to turn the ground wet beneath our feet.
But, none of that mattered.
I won’t look down.
Because otherwise, I won’t be able to look at the girl I love in front of me.
I can’t look away from the result I finally achieved.
All the happiness and joy turned my head blank.
“I…I’m so happy…Being able to bet with you…I’m so incredibly…happy…”
Me too, Kazuhi.”
Unable to contain myself, I tightly embraced Kazuhi.
I felt no shame at all.
Instead, I wanted to show her I would never let go again.
“W-Waaaaaah! S-Sou-chan…I’m really…so happy…”
I’ve wanted to do this for the longest time.
I wanted to be like this forever.
And from now on, that’s possible.
“I’m so happy to have you with me, Kazuhi.”
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