Scent of plums’ blossoms (2)

After crossing over the slope on the bridge, he will be home soon.

Although his headache is gone before he knew it but the remnant of the dream he had this morning is still lingering. Once he heads home, he wants to sleep immediately without having any dream.

The winds blowing from the north are carrying the scent of the rain. The scent was mixed with the smell of red clay and grass just before it descends.

The moisture in the air are clinging on to his body that makes him heavy even when he is pedaling.

He involuntarily sighed.

Unfortunately, it began to rain. From the black clouds covering the sky, the first drop fell on the tip of his nose.

An old lady is crouching there.

 

Ah, I see a <<Shadow>>――again.

 

She probably about seventy years old. About the same age as my grandmother.

Her gray hair appears to be dirty, ragged and untidy. The clothes she wear are clean, but it seems irregular because she is wearing thick clothing even though it is June.

She hold her knees, siting on the side of the road while staring at the sky.

Even though the people on the road didn’t worry about the rain on their faces,  she didn’t have the attitude to do so.

That existence is so vague that it look like it has melted in the rain. If he pass this way, they will never meet again. Thus, that is it.

From the beginning of this spring, Keito would sometimes see <<Shadows>>.

The form of the <<Shadow>> varies from boys and girls, to middle-aged men and the elderly.

She appear alive upon first glance. However, there are no visible signs of her other than Keito.

For example, there is a boy crying in the middle of the streets. He looks like a young child who seems to have not yet entered elementary school. Did he separated from his parents, fell down or lost his favorite toy?

However, everyone walked pass him without looking. Keito went up to the boy while feeling somewhat resented.

The boy remained squatted when he noticed a high school girl who called out to him just like Keito, went beside him and gave a perplexed look.

The boy kept crying no matter what he was asked.

Unable to see his guardians in the surroundings, he tried to bring him to the nearest police station but after walking a while, he was gone before they knew it.

He looked around in a panic but the boy wasn’t there. There wasn’t even any traces of him left.

If he mistook the boy for someone else, then the one going crazy is Keito. He couldn’t have forgotten the feeling of holding his hand. However, they are invisible to everyone except Keito.

Keito has not only always see them, the <shadows>  but only occasionally. That’s why he suddenly lost track of it.

Seeking a mutual understanding with a <shadow> is not possible. It has a very limited facial expression and emotions like crying sorrowfully, muttering an inaudible soliloquy and remaining silent.

Even if you went out of your way and speak to them, there won’t be any reaction.

I thought it would be a ghost, but I wasn’t particularly scared. It was like you are silently miserable about a <shadow>  being left by someone.

I knew it’s better not to get involved.

No one else could see them so Keito knows when he called out to them, only weird people on the side would see it.

Nevertheless, it’s painful to leave them crying or in trouble.

It felt the same as noticing a small cat on the roadside or an empty lot.

I also knew that I could do nothing else but to pray they stay well.

Regardless――Keito can’t choose to do nothing in the end. What makes them different from cats is the fact that they look like humans.

 

Today Keito gets off his bicycle and approached the old woman’s shadow as well.

“Did something happened?”

The old lady squatting on the floor looked towards Keito but her expression is showing that she has no recognition of herself.

Obviously, there wasn’t a reply.

If she disappears now, he would give up thought.

Several people’s <shadow> that called out to him up till now had gone missing. What happens after that is a mystery.

Right now, Keito will not leave behind an old woman sitting down in the rain even if it is not a person. Let’s at least watch over until it disappear.

The rain continues to fall.

Keito stood still while he holds an umbrella with his left hand over the old lady.

Raindrops are sticking out from the short sleeves linking his right hand with drops of water travelling along his fingertips.

After a moment,  the old lady raised her hips in a slow motion. Once she got up, she started to walk unsteadily now.

As Keito puts his bicycle on the edge, he locks it afterwards.

The old lady’s destination is an old townscape that leads to the bottom of the bridge. Firstly she took a left turn and looked at the weir of the Nagase River which was on her right while walking.

The road curves to the left, further away from the river which were lined up with traditional houses.

A middle-age woman was walking a dog behind her while holding an umbrella. Neither the her nor the brushwood dog had noticed the old lady.

Does the old lady in front familiar with this streets? Although her pace is slow as if she is crawling, but it doesn’t seemed like there wasn’t any hesitation in the way she walk.

The townscape that has a mixture of Japanese-styled residential housing and stores have a certain charm. Some of the restaurants could be seen along the way that made used of the old-fashioned housing to create a calm atmosphere.

Without realizing that someone is following Keito from behind, the old lady continues to press forward without showing any interest in those stores.

Have she walked for about ten minutes?

Normally it will take no more than five minutes for Keito, but walking at such an extremely slow pace is surprisingly tiring.

When the old lady stopped, she squatted on the ground again.

Perhaps she have been repeating this cycle of walking then squatting up till now.

Where is she from and where is she heading? Does she have a destination in mind?

Keito took an unexpected action there.

He carried the old lady on his back. Partly forcing the squatted old lady on his back.

He don’t feel much of her weight, but it is not like there wasn’t any. Roughly about the same as a small child. The feeling on top of his clothes is somewhat soft, but he could definitely feel the warmth of her fingertips.

“Is this good?”

The short steps up till now and the straight path ahead is clearly evident.

There wasn’t an answer but Keito continued to press forward.

He could feel the breathe of the old lady at his ear. As if she is alive. However, Keito also know that is not the case.

How far must he walk? The old lady responds only by sighing when he was confused.

<<Chikako>>

He felt slightly weak as if he was being squeezed from deep in his chest upon hearing her voice for the first time.

 

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