Chapter 6 – A Rabbit With Red Eyes After Staying Awake All Night
My Beloved Motojirou-sama,
When you don’t write a letter for close to a month, you start forgetting how to write, so this is going to be a bit of a formal start to a letter, but please bear with me. I’ve been able to completely do away with all reserve at my new workplace, and I am living a joyous day-to-day existence that is completely opposite to how it was when I was working at the pre-school in Kitazawa. The best thing about this place is that there is no bullying. Everyone is kind and they’re all such wonderful people. Although there are problems that crop up from time to time having to do with the parents of the pre-school children, it’s nothing that bothers me that much. I’ve been doing well.
Currently, I am, as I was in the past, in charge of caring for the four year olds. Children who have just begun to speak are so adorable and pure. Everyday is fun, and I am able to work in a free and easy going atmosphere.
And this goes without saying, but I haven’t gotten into any inappropriate relationships with any of the fathers of the pre-school children. Please don’t worry about that. I think a big part of why this is so is because things are going well with me and him (and by “him,” I mean my father). Lately, it’s even come to the point that I’m coming to be able to say the word “father,” however awkward it may be. This came about because of something that happened while I was being an assistant to his rehabilitation. He almost tripped on the hospital stairs, and I instinctively reached out to support him. In that instant, without meaning to, I said: “Father!” We both felt a bit embarrassed, and for a while afterwards, it was hard to keep a conversation going between us. But this word called “father” has removed the roots of malice that was engrained deep within me.
If it had been before, I probably would’ve felt repulsed by what slipped from my mouth, but I’m fine now. I’m grateful to time; I’ve finally been able to become at least a little more mature.
Oh, and I also have one announcement to make. This is going to be a bit hard to say (I feel kind of bad since I know you’ve been living day-in-day-out caring for another), but since this is the truth, I’m going to tell you this. If you could be happy for me, that would mean the world to me. To be honest, I’ve found myself a boyfriend (or someone like it. We haven’t even held hands yet). He’s a daycare worker who takes care of the five year olds, and he’s an year older than me. His name’s Andou Masahiko-kun. In the beginning, he wasn’t my type, and he had this look like he was unhappy or, I don’t know how to put it, like he was going to be poor for the rest of his life, so I wasn’t really keen on him, but one day— that’s right, by chance, he was very kind to me.
When was it…? Hmm… I think this was something that happened when I was on a stepladder hanging up decorations on the wall for the play that we were having, and while I was doing that, he silently came and held the stepladder for me. It was an action that he did nonchalantly, but his face when I looked down at him looked so honest that I ended up falling in love. It was my first time experiencing something like that, so at first, I didn’t know where these feelings came from, and I felt jittery because I couldn’t put these feelings into words. He was the one who asked me out. I’m pretty sure this was something that happened on my way home from work—oh, that’s right, this happened while I was waiting at the platform for my train to come. He brought it up out of the blue, and before I knew it, I had given him my reply: “okay.”
I don’t know what will happen from here on out. But it was the first time my heart was moved, and I think for me, this is a pretty big step forward. He’s a very kind person, and he’s been cheering me up in many respects, and he’s someone whom I’m truly glad I got to meet. “I’m glad I got to meet him.” Well, of course, this is something I could say about you as well, Motojirou.
It’s been a long time since I stopped receiving letters from you, but I think you’re probably doing well taking care of another. For someone like you who is in that kind of situation, I wanted to tell you: “I’m fine. I’m doing well.” I wanted to put you at ease. I wanted to lighten the burden on your shoulders at least a little bit. I’m fine. I’m fine now. I’m more worried about how you’re doing though, Motojirou. It is my wish that I could pay you back for all the things you’ve done for me until now. That’s why…whenever you’re in pain, please write me a letter. I might not be able to kindly comfort you as you did me, but I will do my very best to write a reply to you.
The pre-school is bathed in light, and it’s a place that motivates me to work. I’m happy that I was able to find work that allows me to interact with such pure and adorable children. My, what a surprise! To think I would use a word like “happy.” Does this also mean I’ve grown a bit too? Next month, I’ll be turning twenty. As a twenty year old adult, I want to live a life that I’m not ashamed of. Motojirou, please watch over for me from afar.
To think I’ll be twenty soon— life has passed before I knew it! Yesterday, I dyed my hair a shade of brown for the first time in my life. I have a feeling that I’ve become a bit more of an adult. The place for my first date with Andou-kun has been decided: it’s going to be at Disney Land. We’ll be going there next Sunday, taking with us Andou-kun’s sister’s sons (they’re 4, 6, and 8 years old respectively). With regards to that, I’ll tell you more about it another day, okay?
My Beloved Nagasawa Motojirou-sama,
It has become a season warm enough to cause one to start perspiring. How are you making out?
Although working at a large pre-school has its share of troubles, I’m working my hardest in such a cheerful manner that even I have a hard time believing it. Yesterday, there was a serious happening in which one of the children broke out with a high fever and had to be taken away by an ambulance, but this morning, he came with his father to the pre-school as if nothing had happened. Children can be quite the mystery. But that’s part of why they’re so fascinating, I think.
It’s been quite a while now since I’ve completely stopped hearing from you, but I wonder if it’s because you’re upset with me for not having made an appointment with you before heading over to where you live? Or is it because something’s happened to Fuki-chan? At any rate, I have this gut feeling that I won’t receive a letter from you again.
But I think that’s fine if that’s the case. I’ve been able to make a new start for myself after all, and although it would be an over exaggeration to call it complete independence, now I’m confident that I’ll be able to somehow be able to manage on my own even without always seeking help from you, Motojirou.
I do feel a bit sad that our relationship would die out like this, but this is probably what life is like. It’s all about the repetition of meetings and partings. Life really is a mystery to allow for an immature person like me to be able to say something so pompous (it’s ridiculous, but fun at the same time).
Although I do feel disappointed that our long letter correspondence would end with me just one-sidedly sending you letters, one day… and it really can be on an impulse, if you feel like sending a letter to someone, please send a letter to me without hesitation. I won’t ever forget you, Motojirou-san (Moto). I will never forget you. I won’t. Thank you for everything. Well then, farewell. Please give my regards to your mother. Please take good care of your body.
The tree-lined street leading to the pre-school from the station is beautiful in its greenness, and it is refreshing and invigorating. Everyday, I hold my head held high as I walk down the street. It feels as if the leaves are smiling just for me, and they cheer me up. Things are going pretty well with me and Andou-kun. We do fight quite a bit though.
I’ll definitely do my best. Thank you, Motojirou.
Dispensing with the preliminaries—
This is my first time writing you a letter. My name is Fukino, and I am Nagasawa Motojirou’s mother.
I imagine that you must be surprised by this sudden letter, but please read through this letter, at the very least for Motojirou. After reading the last letter you sent addressed to Motojirou, I thought that perhaps it would be best not to inform you of what has happened. But as I gazed at his picture, my heart wavered thinking perhaps I should let you know about the death of Motojirou, who worried about you to the very end, and upon thinking it over once again, I came to the decision that I should indeed tell you.
My only son, Motojirou’s brief life came to an end at the start of March of this year. As I attempt to tell you the truth as I am doing right now, my heart is wracked with grief and sorrow from this reality.
How is it that I should possibly begin to explain? As you have already realized, Motojirou never worked at the ropeway. That was a complete fabrication on his part. And I had the role of passing on your letters to Motojirou, who had been hospitalized for a long time.
At times, when he had difficulties with his vision, I, in his place—although I felt truly sorry for doing this– read your letters out loud to him. However, to mention this so that there is no misunderstanding, it is not the case that I read your letters from the very beginning. It was only for the few letters from the end of last year, and the ones that he received at the start of this year. I’ve only run my eyes through the ones that were sent during a time when he wasn’t capable of reading the letters on his own, along with the ones that were sent after his death.
He never allowed me or anyone else to read your letters. It was only when he realized that was the only way for him to read your letters that he came to ask me to read them for him. This is why with regards to the contents of your letter correspondence with him, I do not know the details. That is a world limited to you and Motojirou that continues to be protected preciously even to this day.
In addition, Motojirou never allowed anyone to write in his place. Until the very end, when he was no longer able to put strength in his fingers, he continued to write you letters in his own hand. This is why I imagine that the latter half of the letters you received from him must’ve been quite difficult to read. He also continued to turn down suggestions to use a word processor (he kept insisting that that wouldn’t convey warmth), and it took him three, at times four days, to finish writing a single letter.
In the rest of this letter, I will be opening up to you about the truth. However, this is not Motojirou’s wish. I could have just remained silent, but I couldn’t help but think that you had a right to know the truth, so in place of Motojirou, I would like to tell you the truth.
What I must confess to you first off is the fact that Motojirou is your older brother. You two are biological siblings. Your mother (in other words, this would be Motojirou’s biological mother) lost her life giving birth to you. I am at a loss as to how I should explain this fate. It may be that through the lack of the right words, I might inadvertently cause you sorrow. But please, respond to these unskilled words that I am throwing your way the best way that you can.
Your father, Usui Akihiko-san, lost the will to work after losing his wife, and around this same time, he was met with an unfortunate luck in the form of a large scam, and overnight his trading company went bankrupt. There was the fact that he originally came from Tokyo on a marine products-related work position, but he wasn’t very well acquainted with the people here. Our relationship was one that was formed through the job my husband, who passed away, had, but still, our relationship was not a close one by any means.
It was by chance that your father (Usui Akihiko-san) left Motojirou in our care and went into hiding, but I think this was a decision that he came to because he truly believed we were capable of making Motojirou happy. Your father, who was being chased after by loan sharks, took only you along with him and ran away to a relative’s house in Tokyo. We took care of Motojirou for a while, but since he was not our child, we decided to leave him in the care of an orphanage. We did visit him from time to time to see how he was doing, but despite doing that, we weren’t in a position that allowed us to take him in. This was because we were poor as a consequence of your father’s company bankruptcy. However, after we found out from a medical standpoint that we would not be blessed with children, my husband asked me what I thought about officially adopting Motojirou as our son. I was in agreement with this suggestion. He was a sincere child, and we did have that unique bond, after all.
And yet, while Motojirou was growing up, my husband passed away from an illness, and so we began to live together with just the two of us. Motojirou, who had reached adulthood, was able to land a job working in the local tourism department, but was not able to continue working for long. One day, there was an unusual change in his condition, and I found out that he was facing an incurable illness. This was something that happened in the summer of his twenty-second year.
That was when I made the decision to tell him the truth. This was because however short his life may be, I felt that he had the right to choose to do with his life what he will. I also told Motojirou, who had just begun to battle his illness, that he had a father and younger sister.
At first, he took the information in in a blank daze, but next, it seems he realized the importance of what such a thing meant. He then did everything possible to go about tracking down the whereabouts of his father and younger sister who shared his blood lineage. I also aided in his search by tracking down an acquaintance of Usui-san’s. Gradually, we were able to narrow the scope, and one day, we managed to find out first your father’s whereabouts. Shortly after, we also found out that you were living in an orphanage not far from where he lived. That time, it was Mihara-sensei from the Light of Stars orphanage who acted as a go between to offer information. We were also told of how you had attempted suicide. Motojirou was very troubled by this. This was how he came to the decision that he wanted to first attempt to help his younger sister who was in the depths of misery, rather than reunite with his father.
Although he came to such a decision, he couldn’t reveal his identity as your older brother to you. Even if he were to reveal himself as your brother, he would be departing from this world in a few years. It seems that he realized that there would be nothing more cruel than that. As a last resort, what he ended up coming up with was the way of letter correspondence. By becoming your pen friend and continuing to cheer you on through letters, he was trying to save you from this escape called “death.” The promise of “never meeting and of only speaking the truth” was something that came about as a way to hide his difficult situation.
At one point, it seems that he tried to end his letter correspondence with you when his time of death was nearing. He seems to have believed that it was his last role as a human to make his sister happy as best as he could. This belief also became a source of energy that supported him in his remaining days.
In addition, I also think that for him, rather than focus on the parent who had abandoned him, he wanted to do his best to try to guide the sister whom he had never met who lived under the same circumstances—no, who has lived and is still living in even worse circumstances. It seems he thought this was the only thing he could do as an older brother. Boosting your spirits was also the way that he boosted his own spirits.
Another thing he did was fabricating an imaginary character named Fuki-chan (as you already know, he used my name). To be more accurate, it was this character “Fuki” who was Motojirou himself. If you read the letters he sent to you from the very beginning once again, it will become obvious. The times that he mentioned Fuki-chan being hospitalized and having collapsed, put simply, overlapped with the time during which he was experiencing these things. He was the one who underwent surgery, and who was suffering from his worsening condition. The letters in which his writing deteriorated overlapped with the time period during which his hand stopped moving as he willed it. And the surgery to make an incision in Fuki-chan’s windpipe that occurred at the end of last year was, of course, when Motojirou himself underwent this surgery.
The letter that he wrote dated February 1st (it was one that took many, many rewrites) became his last letter. It was only for a small portion of that letter that I wrote on behalf of him. It was a letter that we wrote together. The tears that poured from our eyes soaked into the white letter paper time and time again, and each time that would happen, I had to neatly wipe them away so as to not leave a stain.
He focused his entire being on writing that letter. And afterwards, the only reply he could give to your letters were the tears that he shed. There were also times when he could no longer bear the pain of his own powerlessness at not being able to protect you, and he broke down crying.
It was those tears through which he communicated his last wishes.
He was able to bring his life to a close whilst cheering you up. I imagine though that despite him experiencing the hardships that he did, it was also a time of happiness for him, because it was through his letter correspondence with you that he was able to find a reason for living. In the end, he departed from this world with a blissful expression on his face. He left this world with a gentle smile.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It is my wish that you live your life happily, for Motojirou as well as for yourself. If there comes an opportunity for you to stop by Hakodate, it would please me very much if you could visit Motojirou’s grave.
In addition, I have also included in this envelope a letter addressed to you that I believe Motojriou wrote shortly before his death. The reason I wrote “I believe” is because, as can be seen, I have not opened the letter, so I do not know for sure as to when it was written. I found this letter after his death at the bottom of the bag that he treasured. Usually, he would ask me to send off the letter the very day he wrote it, but even now, I am not sure as to why he had this tucked away. There were many times that I wanted to open the envelope and read the contents, but I wanted to respect his feelings so I did not. I would be grateful if you could accept his last thoughts and feelings.
My Beloved Toono Ririka-sama,
Do you know how long it’s been since we began our letter correspondence?
Almost two Christmases have passed since we first began exchanging letters. I never thought it would last this long. Since I get bored of things easily, it comes as a surprise to even me, who knows myself very well, that I’ve been able to chip away at one thing for over a year, and not only that, but that I’ve been comforting and cheering on someone whom I’ve never even met before. Our letter correspondence sure has continued on for a long time, don’t you agree? There’s no doubt that each and every letter from you has been precious to me. Has it been the same for you?
Looking back, so many things have happened to the both of us in this past year, hasn’t it? I’m not sure if I’ve been doing a good job as an advice-giver to you, but I just hope that you don’t regret us having gotten to know each other.
At the very least, what I’ve received from our letter correspondence has been immeasurable. I was able to gain the benefits of life in a significant way from having been able to exchange letters with you— more so than words can express. I think this is something I have to be very grateful to you for.
However, just as there is always a beginning to something, there will always come an end. And from that end, can give birth to new ways of thinking and allow for a fresh start. I truly believe that this isn’t the real end. By our letter correspondence drawing to a close, there will be something that will be started anew. There are also endings like that of graduation. Graduation is also the time to depart so something new can be born from it. Don’t you think that our letter correspondence is reaching such a time? If we continue to drag out this letter correspondence, there is the danger of us becoming completely dependant on one another. It might just be that you feel a sense of security from only telling me the truth. It’s the same for me— there is also the tendency for me to feel like I know everything just from listening to you tell me the truth. Either that, or I might be experiencing an imaginary catharsis by being able to open up to you about Fuki-chan. But all this is nothing more than deluding ourselves of the present. We’re trying to short change ourselves on our present by scribbling our pain onto the letter paper.
I think what’s important is not that we have a relationship in which we only speak the truth to each other, but that we can change the truth to a better direction, don’t you think? There’s nothing wrong with having no lies between us, but it’s not the case that what is right is only always the truth. Even amongst the truth there are mistakes and misunderstandings and absurdity. Our relationship needs to be one that can rectify those things, but somewhere along the way, we veered from that path. It might just be that this is something that only I’ve felt, but no change will come about if we are only sharing with each other our troubles. I guess one way you could put it is that this relationship has reached its saturated point.
This is exactly why I wanted to suggest that we stop our letter correspondence for the time being and live our lives independently for a while and use that as an opportunity to re-think things. I’ve come to a way of thinking in which I believe that that is important to us.
Since going our separate ways is something that will definitely come one day, I think it’s better for us to put an end to this beautiful relationship called a letter correspondence with our own hands rather than wait for that time to come. We draw things to a close on our own. And each of us will graduate from this place, and depart for a new world—I think that’s what we need. Don’t you agree that for us, that is something that’s very important?
Please don’t take my wanting to end this letter correspondence the wrong way. This isn’t goodbye forever. This is to make our meeting even more beautiful—it’s a step forward. I don’t mind if you think of this as a temporary break, because it might just be that once we have both grown a bit, there might come a day when we will once again come into contact.
Even if we part, the friendship we built through our letters will continue on for eternity. I can write you a letter again anytime the mood strikes me. Even if—and this is “if”— I happen to die from an illness, I’m sure that I’ll be able to continue to live on in your memories. It’s the same for the other way around. In other words, we shared a period of time together. Even though we’ve never met, we shared our pain and suffering to each other. That’s why even if our letter correspondence were to end, I truly believe that our relationship will never fade away. Yes, I truly believe that. I have a feeling that one day, there will come a time when I’ll receive a letter from you again. And the start of that letter will, of course, start off “Hello Motojirou.” It’ll be written in your rounded handwriting…
It is my sincere hope that you will accept this suggestion. And if you do, I think that will be proof that you have grown as a human being. I think it will mean that you have confidence that you’ll be able to live on by yourself without having to depend on me. I will secretly pray that you will only grow stronger and stronger from here on out.
Thank you. I feel blessed that we were able to have a beautiful relationship like that of a brother and sister in this duration of time that seemed short but long at the same time.
Lately, whenever I see the blazing red of the setting sun through my window, I can’t stop my tears from falling. At times, I can’t help but feel strange that I’m still alive. There are days I don’t want to see anyone. When someone comes to visit, I purposely say something nasty to them. I keep on saying spiteful things. I really hate the me that does this. I feel ashamed that I can’t talk with others with a bigger heart.
What are humans anyway? Where do they come from and where do they go? Does God really exist? Why does God give us so many tests?
Who am I? Why is it that I have to live this life that I’ve been given? I don’t believe in the future, because it’s nothing more than something that came to be because of humans’ egos. What’s more important is the present, and what’s more important than the present is the past—I want to hold precious to my heart the past.
Please don’t laugh at me for clinging onto the past, okay? There are people in this world to whom only past has meaning.
I’m not sure what it is that I wanted to say anymore. I’ve been emotionally unstable lately. But this is something I need to overcome by myself from now on. As for you Ririka, please do your best by yourself. I’ll be always be cheering you on from afar. I’ll always, always be cheering you on—-always.
What is it that I should believe? Is it true that Motojirou-san passed away? I just can’t believe that. I have a feeling that a big group of people is trying to play a joke on me— joining in to bully me. Or is it that someone who is using Motojirou-san’s mother’s name is playing some kind of malicious trick?
If that’s the case, they couldn’t have picked a more malicious trick to play. Because they’re telling me a lie that Motojirou-san has died. What right do you have to play such a joke on me?
It doesn’t matter who– please, tell me that this is all just a lie. It’s more ridiculous to expect me to believe a stupid thing like that.
Are you really Motojirou-san’s mother? If that’s true, please send me Motojirou-san’s death certificate. It doesn’t matter if it’s the family register or certificate of residence– unless there’s something to prove his death, I won’t believe it.
To think you’d tell me something like Motojirou had been battling a serious illness and lived his life next to death! If that’s true, that means all this time, I’ve been wasting his precious time seeking advice about trivial things from a person in his state. If it’s true that he is my brother, it’s even more so. My brother? How utterly ridiculous! You’re telling me that Moto’s my brother? And that he’s no longer on this earth? You’re telling me to believe something like that? Unless you prove to me exactly when Motojirou died, I’ll never accept it. Please also show me proof that he’s my brother. Investigate into the blood type or DNA or whatever and please only tell me the truth.
Oh, this can’t be true! No! To think that he’s departed from this life and no longer exists in this world. I won’t accept it. Please don’t tell me a lie like that.
Please tell me the truth. What is the truth? Is this God’s way of punishing me for living the life that I have? Please, Motojirou’s mother. Please tell me only the truth. Tell me the truth— where and what is Motojirou doing right now? If he doesn’t want to continue his letter correspondence with me, what’s wrong with that? There’s no need to cook up some elaborate plot like this— I can accept that. But death! It’s just not possible….what a terrible thing to say! Please don’t lie to me. I need to know the truth.
After I sent off my letter, I re-read the letter I received from you. I read it again and again. It’s true, isn’t it? He really did die, didn’t he?
What am I supposed to do?
Please stop this foolishness. This really is one cruel joke, you know. To do something like this just because I was a bad girl…it’s not funny! If you’ve gotten sick of me, just tell me straight up. When you do something like this to test me out though, I feel as if I’m about to go crazy. Please, don’t make me suffer any more.
Please give me a reply right now. Comfort me as you’ve always done. Please. Right this instant.
Dispensing with the preliminaries–
I’ve decided to head over there to Hakodate right now. This was a decision I came to after much thought, but I want to confirm Motojirou’s death with my own eyes. This is because this is the only way for me to accept what you have told me.
If it’s true that he’s passed away, I have to come to terms with it. No matter what kind of terrible reality awaits me, I’m going to accept it because I have to become strong like that.
It will probably be the case that I will get there before this letter does; however, I’ll still send this off at the post office before going to Hakodate. Since the mail man was the one who tied me and Motojirou together in our letter correspondence, it has to be that I’m going to head to Hakodate at the same time as the letter is making its way to you.
Does this mean I will never be able to feel the joy of opening my mail box and finding a letter from Motojirou? Is this a fact?
Does this mean I’ll never be able to write a letter to Motojirou again? It means I can’t send off a letter addressed to Motojirou in the local mail box to be sent to Hakodate? And does that also mean I won’t be able to go buy cute stationery to write my letters to Motojirou on? And that I won’t be able to eagerly await a letter from him?
If it’s possible for me to have a letter correspondence with heaven, I promise that this time, I’ll take it seriously and throw myself into writing a letter. I’ll make it so I’ll write a reply on the very day I receive a letter. So please…don’t tell me that he’s died. Please don’t make me suffer from such a lie.
TO BE CONTINUED…
[UP NEXT: Chapter 7 (end) – 243-266]