'Did you miss me?'

A college student named Chiho Sakuraba asked me this.

'No. It was just for a moment, so I didn't feel anything.
'Did you know? Humans are definitely lonely creatures. Do you know why?'
'Because there are other people. The feeling of loneliness stems from loneliness. In other words, if you are alone in the world and do not meet anyone, the concept of loneliness does not arise and you will not feel lonely by necessity. But that is not realistic--''
'Bubu. The correct answer is 'Because I'm always looking for love! It was. You're a funny guy after all, Comet-kun.
'Yes, it is. I've never seen anyone as weird as he is.

People have gone to great lengths to teach me about the truths of humanity, and yet I have spoken of them with shame for a long time now.

For some reason, Alina invited me to the university.
I asked her if it was okay for an outsider to pass through the gate without permission, but she offered me a very difficult solution: 'Tell her you're here to pick up your girlfriend. I also told him that if I said that, he would end up treating me as suspicious, but he said, 'Call me then. I'll delete him,' he said, this time making me shudder.
So I put on my date glasses to look like a studious college student to avoid any casualties.
I passed through the street with a nonchalant look on my face, and I was not suspected by anyone. The college students passing by would never have guessed that I was a comatose former member of the best homecoming club in the galactic system.
We met in an open courtyard-like plaza. I walked around, checking the images Alina had sent me. When I arrived, Alina and a strange college girl were sitting on a bench.

Hello, beautiful ladies of the nation!
'Oh, you're here at last--what's with the glasses? You have good eyesight, don't you? I'm 1.5 in each eye, and the diameter of your eyeballs and the number of lashes...'
'How do you know biometric information that you don't even know? I'm scared.'
'I'm kidding. But I like the bespectacled version of you.

They say things that make me nervous and make my heart pound. It's not that I don't like them. When no one is around, I say 'I love you, Alina. I want to say it straight out, but I'm too shy and I'm a self-destructive person, so I suppress my feelings. I can't cause any more trouble for the firefighters.
That's why the words I said to Alina that night were a miracle. She could have been an announcer.

'Ah, you're the sleeping prince I've heard so much about: ......'.

It was a college girl next to Alina who whispered to me.
She looked somewhat like Alina. Her tousled hair, petite body, and her facial expression reminded me of the old Alina. It's that quiet, silent Alina.

Let me introduce you. This is my friend, Chiho Sakuraba.
'Nice to meet you, comet.

Chiho said with a small bow.

'Hello. I'm Comet Sakakiki.
'Shall we move to a different place? Let's go to the cafeteria.
Is it okay if I use the cafeteria?
'Well, that's good.'

This is how I came to the diner.
And Chiho asked me, "Did you miss me? He asked me a question. Apparently, Alina had told him about my past, and he had wanted to meet me in person to find out what kind of person I was. I was bombarded with questions.

'--I think I have a general idea about Comet. Conclusion. He's a freak!
You know exactly what you're talking about.
'But I'm glad he seems sincere. If the person who dropped Alina had been a bum and a flirt, I would have killed him.
'Mother, father. Thank you for raising me to be a man of character. I think I will survive today.

The heartwarming dining room nearly became a murder scene. After all, Chiho looks a little like Alina.
As I ate, I suddenly wondered. Why am I here? You haven't even asked me what I wanted.

So... Why did you call me?

asks Alina, who is wrapping pasta around her.

'Don't be an insensitive character. You won't like it.
'No, seriously, I don't understand.'
But it's the insensitivity that makes the heroine stand out. It's cute when she tries so hard to get people to pay attention to her.
'It's okay. Alina's Pretty Gauge is always maxed out.
'Oh my god, ...... pop.'

Chiho was grinning when she saw this exchange. Aha, how embarrassing. But Alina would be in a bad mood if she didn't do this.

'It's to introduce you to Chiho. That's all.
'So that's how it is. You didn't just happen to be here. But why me?
'I wanted to let you know that your efforts to help me in high school paid off. I met a lot of people because of you. Chiho is a very dear friend of mine and I wanted to introduce her to you: ......'

The tone of his voice dropped and he started eating his pasta again, embarrassed.
I see. The scene between Alina and Chiho, which seemed so commonplace, was not universal for Alina. I missed that poisonous rose that was always blooming in discontent and solitude.

'I really wanted to introduce it earlier, you know? But ...... that ......'
'Stop being a naive character. You're a little bit of a jerk.'
'Don't spoil the mood. I knew you would fall in love with Chiho.
'What? What's that?'
'Because ...... it's not important anymore. I've already decided that until I know how you and I feel. This is my weakness. Please forgive me.

Chiho-san next to me said, 'What? I reacted.

I would never think of taking someone's boyfriend away from them, I said.
'I was scared because we weren't in that kind of relationship yet. I was thinking of carefully encircling him and attacking him. Don't worry about Chiho.

I feel lightly insulted.

'Chiho. Don't worry about it. The lady next door is jealous. Just talking about her sister is enough to make her say, 'Don't talk about other women.
'Alina, that's scary.'
'I'm not afraid of you. I think people who say horrible things to the woman they love need special discipline.
I'm so scared.

After finishing our meal, the next step was to leave the university and go to the city. Apparently, the university had finished in the morning, and the afternoon was free. My JoOusama was not answering my questions, even though I was still studying for my high school equivalency exam.
As the three of us were walking, we saw a video game arcade.

Let's take a purikura picture!

Purikura? You mean those d*mn photo machines? I'm not good at photography, so I decided to escape.

Okay, you two go ahead. I'll stay outside and keep watch.
'Well, now that we're friends, let's take a picture to commemorate the occasion.
No. Who's going to deal with you when someone tries to ruin your happiness? I'm the only one, aren't I?
'Hey Alina. Are you always like this, comet?'
Yeah. But this time it can't be helped.

Alina seemed to care about me and took Chiho with her. I don't dare to rush into a space full of high school girls in pink. That place is a treasure trove of false accusations. You'd be arrested just for breathing the air in there.

While I was waiting, I was thinking.
What's going to happen to me and Alina now?
At the end of next year, Alina will graduate from college and start working. What will happen to me after I pass the KSCE? Will I be able to make Alina happy under such circumstances? Once I start worrying about one thing or another, my mood sinks deeper and deeper into the bottomless pit.
Recently, I have been wondering how I can be a suitable partner for Alina. I don't really know what is appropriate in the first place. Status, education, wealth, credit, intelligence, appearance, personality, the list goes on and on. I wonder how far I am meeting her standards.

What's wrong?

Before I knew it, Chiho was standing next to me.

'Chiho. Where's Alina?
'I see. Did you take it?'
'Yeah! Here, look.
'Wow! We can put it on display at the museum.

Seeing the two of them made prettier by the power of the machine, I was relieved that I didn't have to go there too. Comet Sakakimagi's newfound cuteness stops people's hearts. They die from being too cute. It's no exaggeration to say that he saved someone's life.

When are you going to propose?
'What? Yes? What language was that?
'It's Japanese, but...'
'Sorry, I was switching to a mindset that only understands dolphin ultrasound. Say that again.
'When are you going to propose?'
'Ah heh - I don't get it.'

Why do you say that? I think that katakana English is a rather sensitive topic, but he seemed unconcerned. It is absolutely forbidden in front of Alina.
I decided to be an idiot. One tomato, two tomatoes," I hummed to myself, closed my eyes, and let go of my thoughts. Normally, running around naked is the best way to discourage people from trying to have a conversation, but this time I decided to be an idiot.
However, Chiho, who had a high level of through-skills, continued as she was.

'Alina is quite lonely, you know. While Comet was sleeping, she always had a faraway look in her eyes and looked fragile. She smiled a little when she talked about the comet to me, but she still looked lonely.
'...... I didn't know they were talking about me. It's a strange feeling.
'Comet looked lonely too. Or maybe he's anxious? Even now you seem very preoccupied.
'You've hit the nail on the head. If you were in my situation, you'd understand. All I have is anxiety.
'It's okay. I'm happy just to be by your side and hear your voice.

'I hope so, ......'
'I can't care about status or anything, okay? Of course, some people make decisions based on money or face, but not Alina. So, if Alina fails in something and falls socially, will Comet abandon her?''
'I won't abandon you.'
Yes, that's fine. Alina is very happy right now, okay? I said I was happy just to be by her side and hear her voice, but for Alina even that was an unrealized dream. I didn't know if I'd wake up, if my life would be ruined. But I love comets so much that I can wait for them forever. Alina doesn't care about your status. She only looks at Comet Sakakiki, so be confident!

To Chiho, Alina must be a really important friend. Otherwise, she would not be so serious.
I can certainly understand why Alina did not allow me to meet her for a long time. She's too good. I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't met her.
But that world didn't exist. There was no one but Alina.

Oh, my... oh, my...

Alina, who had just finished using the restroom, came up to me with wide eyes and fast steps.

'Oh my, I knew it was you, oh my...' she said.
'Your vocabulary is declining.'
'Alina, you're too jealous~'

You're absolutely right, Chiho.
I think it would be better if we become codependent. Then we will have to say goodbye to all the opposites in the world. Goodbye, Ugin. Be my best sister forever.
After walking around with Alina and Chiho, the party broke up because Chiho had a part-time job. By the way, she works part-time at a pub. She complained that college students and old men who ask for her contact information should disappear from the world. I thought to myself as if I were a stranger, how hard it is to work. I'm going to be a member of the workforce soon.
Alina was going back to her apartment, so we walked home together. We are naturally linked, but I never imagined that we would have this kind of relationship in high school. If I could go back in time and say to the old me

You did a good job.

I'll also tell him, "Don't be discouraged. You will learn of the sad past of the person you love, be forgotten by the person you love, and eventually wander between life and death. But please do not give up. Don't give up your strong will and faith.

'I'll do my best. I'll work hard for Alina.

I thought I told her rather seriously, but she smiled and gently pushed my shoulder.

'If you work too hard for me, you'll become the person I want you to be.
'What's the difference ......?'
I want Comet Sakakiki. Not 'Comet Sakakigi-who-lives-for-me,' but 'Comet Sakakigi-who-lives-with-me. I hate approval-seeking. Don't try to be what others want you to be. They won't take responsibility for you.
'You're so hard. People want to serve you because they like you, don't they?
'Wait a minute, say that again.
'......? Don't you want to do all the work because you love ......?'
'Oh, ...... muri ......'.

Alina skipped to avoid showing her flushed cheeks. When she looked back, she had a very innocent smile on her face. I like that look the best. I think I even came back to see her smile. I'm sure it must have been. She did not joke about her illness, she conquered it for love.
The old me would have scoffed at what a bachelor aristocrat he was. But now that I'm older, I understand.
Loving is not so bad.

Time moves faster.
The physical time goes faster and faster. The physical and mental growth gives us a good illusion that a year in elementary school and a year in our twenties are not the same length.
Maybe it's a matter of homeostasis.
Height, weight, and knowledge are all in the process of changing rapidly, and everything is intense in the teenage years. Everything is exciting and fresh. But for those of us who have stopped growing, we'll be repeating the same years over and over again until we die. Get used to time.
I wonder if this constant second hand feels something. Is the time late or early today? If there were a clock with such a human touch, I would like to ask you to do something for me. When it stops, please do it with her.

Like you now, just like then.
'That time I chased your best friend at the aquarium. You were wearing a tuxedo that day, remember?'
'That reminds me. You look like you did at the school festival.
'The fashion show. I remember how nervous I was. I still have it at my parents' house. I'll show it off sometime.
'It was a lovely red mermaid line. And now a pure white dress. It's really beautiful.
'You're making me cry. We haven't even started yet.'
Shall we go?
Let's go.

A new time begins to move. It's time we made together.

I guess they are waiting for that moment in the time that flows very slowly. What are they thinking, hoping, and seeing in the floating world? I look forward to the day when we can exchange words.
All I can do now is to care for her. I feel angry at my helplessness and inadequacy. She is the one who is suffering the most.

I'm going to write a story for her. It's our story.
'Great. Maybe someday you'll read it.'
'You're going to write it, too.'
Me too?'
'Of course not. It's an 'us' story, isn't it?

The knock came suddenly.
A knock to see us.
I just kept cheering and praying. Take my life rather than take yours. I almost cried because I was afraid of her voice. I felt like I was going crazy thinking about being separated from her again.

You cry too much. She's going to cry too, isn't she?
'Good ...... really good ......'
'Here, why don't you call him by name?

If it is not observed, it does not exist. Time is no different. I have no sense of time when I was asleep. It never existed for me.
So does story. If you don't feel it, it doesn't exist. They exist to tell you something.

'Your dad was a strange man.
''Even now.''
'Is that something you'd be proud of? And underwear! Don't put them together~''
'I'll be lonely and wash in the kitchen.
'Don't do that, you'll make the kitchen a mess.

The umbilical cord is cut twice.
The first time, to keep his feet on the ground.
The second time to fly alone.
I gave my daughter a watch when she was on her own. It was a precious watch my wife had given me. It would protect her better than any good luck charm. So I handed it to her.

'I'll come home sometimes. I'll call you when I do.
'Come home whenever you want. And if you see me in a magazine, tell me all about it. I'll buy them all.'
'Oh, no. I don't want to imagine my dad hanging out in front of a fashion magazine.
'Don't worry, your mother will buy it. Dad will stay at home.'
'I'm sure Mom will be fine!

I had no regrets. I was happy.
I couldn't see it anymore, but I could feel it. I've held your hand for so long. They're no longer fresh, but they're just as warm now as they were then.
I can no longer hear the second hand. But I knew that time was filled with happiness.

Thank you.
'My pleasure.'

I'll see you soon.

I thought I heard her voice.
Of course, I said I would see her. And I left quietly into space.

I hope you are there at that sunset.