Prologue

Prologue: April 7th

Since when had I stopped celebrating my birthday? This question came to my mind when I saw today’s date on the screen of the cell phone that fell at my feet.

Today, on April 7th, I, Ooba Yashiro, am celebrating my 36th birthday, —and most likely, today will also become my death anniversary day.

“You~!! It’s all your fault, guraaaaaarrrggggghhhhhhhhhhhh……….”

There’s a man shouting some incomprehensible words…. no trace of sanity is left in his eyes.

This is the worst life that one could ever have, but to think it is going to end in the hands of this bastard…. I swear, it seems God hates me so much. Nah, I hate God just as much, so I guess we’re even.

……….but dammit, my stomach is hurting like hell.

Though he has fallen, he was once the top person in the organization that reigned over this country. So what’s with that knife? Don’t you have a gun or two, at least?

I’m going to die soon, and this bastard’s stupid laughing will be the last thing I hear in this world. This really is the worst….

But, this might suit me the best….

Since there’s no sign of that revolving lantern thing passing by, I guess I will look back on the past by myself. I still have some time after all. Nonetheless, I also hold firm the belief that I can’t be saved anymore.

The blood flowing out from my belly formed a large pool, dying the floor of abandoned building on the verge of dismantling, in red. Some of that blood is caught on my cheek and my hair, it feels really unpleasant.

It’s cold…. I wonder if it will get warmer sooner….

I’ve been thinking about this lately; for the last twenty years, my heart has always been so cold…. I couldn’t feel the warmth anymore.

Both my parents died in an accident when I was five years old. Because I didn’t have any relatives, I was taken in by a middle-aged couple. They’re the very picture of good people.

The husband managed a small town factory which was not that well off but still had many patrons. That was all thanks to the quality of products, the flexibility of order system, and more than anything else, it was because of his good personality.

Without so much free time, he started working to make something from early in the morning. He was the man with pair of dexterous hands and abundant knowledge. I firmly believed that there was nothing this person couldn’t make.

I admired him so much. He was so kind to me. He generously taught me who knew nothing, his skills and his knowledge.

“I’m glad that the heir problem is solved.” —he told me that while smiling innocently with a face full of wrinkles. I was so happy hearing that. However, I was also somewhat embarrassed.

I called him “Chief”. I’ve never been able to call him “Father”….

The wife is a friendly person with a gentle demeanor. I’ve never seen her angry face. Even when I did bad things, she would simply reprimand me gently.

Her cooking is excellent. In her hands, even vegetable scraps and cheap fish which I didn’t know its name, would become a feast. The apple pie she made for my birthday was the best.

“Sorry, we couldn’t buy a birthday cake from the store.” —she said that apologetically.

“There is no better cake than this in this world!!” —I said without thinking when I saw her sad face. But that was my honest thought….

Hearing that, she started to weep for a while before stopped because felt embarrassed by herself.

I called her “Landlady”. I’ve never been able to call her “Mother”….

That time…. there was no wealth but I had a family. I was given a warmth that I had lost, once again. I thanked God.

*****

The professional soccer league was started when I just entered middle school. Even I who wasn’t interested in soccer, was caught on its heat.

In the streets, a bracelet made by knitting colorful threads called “promise ring” was in fashion. The price ranged from 300-500 yen. The thin, short, and flat string was selling like hot cakes. My classmates were all also wearing it on their arms.

“Your wish would come true if the promise ring you worn on your arm broke up” —such a rumor was spreading. That’s where the promise ring name came from.

Landlady gave me a promise ring as a present. Even though I’ve never said a word about wanting it. She learned how to knit it from someone and diligently made one for me.

(What are you doing!? Even though you were tired from housework and factory work. Besides, do you really think a middle school student would wear the promise ring that their parents knitted? Please think about it a little ………………………………………………. Thank you, I’m really happy.)

That promise ring had never left my left wrist since then.

Time passed, half year before the middle school graduation, I asked Chief to let me work in his factory after graduation. I told him that I’d like to work instead of going to high school. But he said “You could even go the university”. Neither Chief nor Landlady changed their mind until the end.

Come to think of it, they hardly have new clothes. Maybe it was to save money for my tuition fee.

I absorbed Chief’s skills and knowledge like a sponge. Honestly speaking, I was confident that I could become an immediate fighting force. Nevertheless, I wasn’t allowed to work in the factory.

School costs money. Nevertheless, they still wanted me to go, so I started studying for the entrance exams.

I should not fail. I couldn’t let the examination fee be wasted.

I devoted myself to study. I stopped helping out in the factory and confined myself in my room to study, from morning till evening.

Because of that, I didn’t notice it…. Chief and Landlady were caught in a scam.

For my tuition fee, Chief put his hand on stock exchange and used the factory as collateral for a loan. He got tempted by a shady company that claimed this investment was absolutely safe…. This happened without me knowing.

An oversea company which said would have a step rise in the future, their stock price quickly fell and went bankrupt. From the later investigation, it seemed that it was a planned bankruptcy.

That company has issued a large amount of bad drafts. In order to compensate for it, they wound up a lot of money from the ignorant people, and avoided fatal injuries when the company was being crushed.

Then the managements disappeared with the big money in their hands…. Left behind those ignorant people who fell into debt and lost their hope and their future.

*****

I passed the exams and was waiting the high school entrance ceremony that would happen in few days. During that time, I leisurely spent my days without knowing anything. Chief and Landlady were also acting the same in front of me.

Everything was already too late…. The factory, our small house, even the land, were seized up. This happened on the same day with my entrance ceremony without me knowing it.

“On second thought, I still don’t want to go to high school and want to work instead. We don’t have much money after all, so let’s work hard together!!”, Perhaps, everything would be different if I’ve have said it….

Both Chief and landlady also tried to be good parents until the end. They kept quiet about the situation and sent me off to the entrance ceremony with these words:

“Don’t worry about it. Because we will always be with you forever.”

“Yeah, we will manage to get the money for your tuition somehow. Just be careful on the way to the school!”

I headed home after the entrance ceremony and a simple homeroom ended. But over there, I found both Chief and Landlady were already hanging on the ceiling.

I didn’t understand it….

What’s going on!? I couldn’t understand it….

Just one thing, I immediately recognized the poor crayon painting that Landlady snuck up into her bosom. That was her portrait I made as present for the first Mother Day since I came here.

“Are you stupid? Holding onto such a thing…. You won’t be able to bring it to the afterlife….”

A letter was left in their room. The stupid me learned everything for the first time there. I found out that they were caught on a scam and their savings, house, even the factory, were all robbed from them.

Everything was explained in Chief’s familiar handwriting. He said “I’m sorry….” in the end of explanation. From there onward, it was Landlady’s neat handwriting. She said “That time, when we have given up on having children, we found you….” and so on. She wrote the story since they adopted me.

Chief and Landlady filled the letter in turn, just like when they were usually talking to me. There were also many random things written on it. Such as; “The feeling is important in the manufacturing process.”, “The cherry trees on the riverbed are also beautiful this year.”, “The sweatfish is delicious during this season.” etc.

In the second half of the letter, they wrote about their feelings for me. Such as; “I love you.” “You’re the irreplaceable treasure for us.” “No matter what other people say, we’re proud of you.” etc.

Then the last part was about my future plan; “Don’t worry about the school expenses.”, “Both of us are insured.”, “Since we’ve been registered since decades ago, there should enough money for you to live.”, “We want you to be happy.”

“How stupid, when you said this morning that we would be always together forever….”

Living a serious and honest life, being deceived is better that deceiving other, such bullshits were written until the end.

I swung my arms and hit the table in front of me. It was at that time…. the promise ring I’ve been wearing broke up, and fell from my arm to the table freely.

“If my wish would come true, then return it now!! Please return all my precious ones!! Those that were taken from me. The people that suddenly disappeared from my side. Give back my everyday life!! Please, let me redo it…. Next time…. Next time, I won’t make the same mistake………”

There was no one responding to my cry, the room was so quiet.

“It’s all because of me…. so please…. please let me redo it….”

There was still no answer….

I finally realized something inside those stillness.

“That’s right, the fooled people are stupid…. It’s all their own fault….”

“It’s all right!”, “Don’t worry!”, I was fooled by those words because I was also stupid.

I quit the high school on that day. Do you think I would attend it seriously? I went to the high school just because I was deceived. I never wanted to attend it since the beginning.

I will get a job.

I have dreams.

Do you want to know it? Hey, “Father” and “Mother”.

I will become a con artist.

I will drag those people who did this to us, to the hell together with me.

*****

The memory from there wasn’t clear.

When I realized it, I’m already 36 years old.

That big fraud organization has also been destroyed.

Those bastards who robbed me of everything, I tricked them all and I destroyed their organization.

They were negligent. Those who only think about depriving the other, would never thought of being deprived by the other.

I joined their organization. I became a good minion that earned a lot of money for them, to get as close as possible to the top circle.

Then, I finally found the chance I’ve been looking for. I stole all their money and donated it to the countries with less prosperity. I revealed their secrets on the internet. I knocked their credibility to the bottom of the earth

I didn’t even get a cent from it. I didn’t want the money they earned after all. I was content just by seeing them lost everything.

That year, there were two big news spreading all over Japan.

First was the biggest fraud organization in Japan has been exposed and dissolved.

Second was the leader of that organization escaped during the escort and disappeared.

He escaped with a help of his collaborator who was still lurking. Then this place, the fourth floor of a certain abandoned building, has been turned into his hideout.

Disheveled hair, unkempt and dirty beard, both his clothes and his face were tattered. There was no trace of a person who was once a leader of the biggest fraud organization in Japan, anymore. He was looking at me full of grudge with pair of bloodshot eyes.

His appearance was really amusing so I couldn’t help myself from laughing.

I laughed…. I laughed so hard…. and I was stabbed by a small, chubby, and dull knife….

My abdomen was hollowed out with a cheap knife, which couldn’t even be used to cut a pumpkin.

“You~!! It’s all your fault, guraaaaaarrrggggghhhhhhhhhhhh……….”

It felt as if the pig was singing…. with an ugly voice….

April 7th, it was displayed on the screen of cell phone that fell beside me.

“The worst birthday ever. Congratulation, Me…………..”

My consciousness finally faded.

*****

       The first thing that came back to Yashiro was his sense of smell.

This is the smell of soil….

My abdomen…. doesn’t hurt anymore….

My back also feels warm…. is this…. sunlight…?

“Ughh….” (Yashiro)

My head is strangely hurt. It feels like I’ve been forcibly cramming some manual book all night long without sleep.

“Hmm, what’s going on…. I didn’t die!?”

       When Yashiro stood up, he realized that he was in the middle of a plain.

“What the…!?” (Yashiro)

       There was nothing but a vast plain. The vast plain with grass tall enough to reach his ankles, was spreading all over.

……………is this Shizuoka?

No, that’s a distance that couldn’t be reached from Tokyo overnight. Other than Shizuoka, the place with this kind of vast plain in Japan can be counted in one hand.

There is nothing here just like…. Gunma? Oh, the folks from Gunma Prefecture, I mean no offense. But seriously, there’s really nothing as far as I can see….

I don’t know…. What is this place…?

       Yashiro tried reaching out the pocket to get his cell phone and noticed something amiss.

Wait, why I am wearing a blazer? This is…. the blazer of high school uniform that I’ve only worn once.

“Ahhh!? I’m also wearing the promise ring from that time…” (Yashiro)

What the hell is this?

What the hell is going on?

Is this…. a dream?

       Yashiro pinched his cheek to make sure of it. However, he had fell into a situation where he couldn’t even tell apart whether it was hurt or not.

“Cosplay…? Me? I’m cosplaying as a high school student like those inside cheap AVs….!?”

       Yashiro stroked his jaw. There was no beard and it was so smooth. Just in case, he also checked the inside of his pant.

Yeah. That’s right…. it grew earlier than my mustache…. Hohoho~~

Wait, it’s not the time for that!!

What the hell is this?

What the hell is going on?

       A 500 yen coin rolled down from somewhere when Yashiro scratched his head in confusion.

“W-Wait!! Wait!!”

       Yashiro chased the coin in panic.

Shit, I almost lost it…. I certainly have a strong obsession with small change. My foster parents were frugal people after all, so even small change was important for them.

Chief would surely find the fallen coin on the street, and Landlady could even walk for seventy minutes to buy radish 10 yen less expensive.

Most of their habit were quite sad and it seems I inherited them well. So even though I’m usually handling business worth of billions yen, I’m still looking forward seeing supermarket rice balls at half price. It’s such a waste to pay the listed price when I can get it cheaper.

Losing small change is unspeakable. Moreover, it’s 500 yen. I can ride a train or eat meal with it. If it’s Me now, I could even start a “business” from it.

“Hmm….” (Yashiro)

       Yashiro felt some idea was coming as he traced the blazer’s collar with his fingers. He found a double-sided tape was stuck there.

“This is…. Oh, I remember it!!” (Yashiro)

In the morning of the high school entrance ceremony day, I put a 500 yen coin on the blazer collar with double sided tape, for the case of emergency.

I could ride a train or eat a meal with 500 yen in hand. It’s possible to respond to almost anything.

Hmm…. it looks like I was right….

“Did I return to sixteen years old?” (Yashiro)

On the seventh day of April, it was the high school entrance ceremony day…. it was my birthday…. and also the day of my foster parents’ death….

Does it mean I returned to that day?

       “Your wish would come true if the promise ring you worn on your arm broke up” —that idea suddenly crossed Yashiro’s head.

“Please let me redo it, huh….” (Yashiro)

Has that wish been heard?

God, it sure took so long to come true.

Could it be that wish has just reach you?

What’s happened to me right now, does it mean you want me to redo the 20 years of my life that I spent as a con artist?

Did you give me this chance for that purpose?

       Yashiro grasped the promise ring on his left wrist.

To redo my life…. once again, huh….

I’ve chosen the wrong path because of anger, so this time, I should live a proper life…. are you telling me that?

“You know…. I thought there was no God in this world, because when I was in despair, you’ve never extended your hands to me………” (Yashiro)

But now, a phenomenon that can only be said as a miracle happened. I, who’s supposed to be dead, is still alive and rejuvenated into a teenager.

It seems God’s telling me to start over the twenty years of my life I’ve thrown away….

Then I will say this to God;

“Hahaha…. don’t screw with me!!!” (Yoshiro)

Who will start over? Do you think I would feel grateful for this chance? Too bad for you!!

I’ve been living in the mud for twenty years, do you think your little trick would clean my heart? It’s too late, way too late!

In the first place, if you want me to redo my life, you should bring me back to the time before my parents died! Talking about a common sense! How retarded!!

If you make such a miracle, did you think I would change my minds? Did you believe so?

I won’t be deceived anymore, kukuku….

“God, I will give you the words of great men: ‘The one who is deceived is stupid’.”

       Yashiro raised his middle finger towards the sky and started walking.

I don’t know what’s going on. But at least, my life was saved and I became younger as a bonus.

Using these dexterous hands, my head, and lies as weapon, let’s enjoy the life once again!!

I got my revenge, so the dark feeling inside me has been cleared up. I feel that I can be positive somehow.

Yeah, this is the first step towards a new life. Let’s start the journey towards the bright future in front of me!

       Yashiro began to walk for some time and then stopped.

“……..so, where the hell is this?” (Yashiro)

There’s nothing but a plain as far as I can see. I don’t know where I am. I don’t even know whether I can reach somewhere by walking. I don’t have water or food either….

Oh, could it be that I’m in a pinch?

“Umm….” (Yashiro)

       Yashiro put his hands together while looking up to the sky.

“Once again, a miracle…. could you please make it happen, God?” (Yashiro)

       But there was nothing happened…. It was a sunny day when Yashiro realized once again that there was indeed no God in this world.

Proofreader : Meihua

 

Sabishii Note:

  • Yashiro calls his foster father using Oyakata (親方), which means Boss or Master as in master-disciple relationship. But it doesn’t sound good (to me, at least), so I changed it to Chief instead.
  • Promise Ring is some kind of bracelet made of knitted threads, not a ring you put on your finger. If you’ve watched SAO: Ordinal Scale, Promise Ring is the object that fell from her father’s wrist when Yuna said goodbye for the last time before she disappeared. This is an important object for this story so make sure to remember it.

 

 

 

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