It was immediately after Shizuka said the following words: “You know what?”. The rest was drowned out by the sound of a loud bell and he never get to hear it a second time.
“………Wonder what is that.”
The people who was on the deck were also grew conscious of that piercing noise and stopped talking. However, only the roar of the waves could be heard far away.
“Let’s head back.”
Towards Keito’s suggestion, Shizuka agreed with him while showing a reluctant behavior.
The people around them had started to move.
Among the people who were still bewildered,
『As of this moment, a fire has broken out onboard. Please follow the attendants’ instructions and evacuate in a calm manner. I repeat.』
The message was broadcast throughout the ship and the situation immediately starts to come alive.
He didn’t know the exact number of people on the ship but there are probably dozens of them.
As long as the source of the fire is onboard the ship, it might be safer for those passengers who have not returned. After coming to that conclusion, both Keito and Shizuka remained there.
He was worried about the well being of his family members who were supposed to be inside and three of his childhood friends, but he was optimistic at that point of time.
“It is going to be okay. The fire will be extinguish immediately no matter what. For all we know, it could just be a false alarm.”
School also have fire alarm practices often, but it might be some sort of a mistake, just like if they took an unprecedented step of handling an actual one.
Should he return to his cabin and take his life jacket or wait for further instructions? While no one around them are moving, Keito and Shizuka were watching how things would played out.
His memories gradually became fuzzy around the part where the passengers and the crewman came out from the deck one by one putting on their jackets.
The voices of the crewman did not get through to the evacuating passengers who were advancing towards them. Watching the situation unfold, Keito’s heart gotten increasingly uneasy.
There was the sound of an explosion.
At the same time, someone shouted that there a fire.
At the immediate distance, the flame ascended to the starry skies as if it was scorching the heavens. Just as the thick black fumes rises, strong winds were being swept away and heading towards them.
As a result, the ship was thrown into a panic, people flocked towards and gather at the lifeboats. It was surprising to see an overflow of people onboard. The both of them were easily jostled by the flow of humans.
Nevertheless, Keito somehow managed to grab hold of Shizuka’s hand and squeezed it tightly so he would never let go.
He can tell the ship was slanting as they were being pushed from right to left. It is already too late to be listening to the broadcast and chaos was calling upon chaos.
Going over there, a more unusual phenomenon was happening.
Just like sewing into the clutter, there was a loud splash. Someone has fallen overboard or someone had dived in to save someone. They didn’t know at that moment of time.
“Don’t worry. I will definitely save you, Shi-chan.”
From Shizuka’s face which was bright red as if it was lighted up with a flame, astonishment can be seen. He was probably feeling the same. That is why he didn’t want to make her feel uneasy.
However in contrast to that determination, they were steadily pushed towards the side of the ship. It was already too late to know who was trying to doing what. It was muddy stream of people.
“You know what, Kei-kun, I”
Immediately after Shizuka uttered the exact same words a moment ago,
A noticeably big, the vessel slanted――.
Remembering the shock as if it struck his entire body, he fell into the sea before he knew it.
The burning flames were far away and the different yet cold waters of March soaked his clothes before his eyes. The cold and shivering that came along with it drove away the pain that he was suffering.
The assailing cold wasn’t just due to the primary factor.
The right hand he was supposedly holding tightly was empty.
Even the starry skies that they were looking supposedly earlier was far away as well with the surrounding was engulfed by true darkness. However, among the darkness a sound can be heard from somewhere.
A shriek, yell, jeers, voice calling out for help, a heartbreaking scream, a voice seeking for the other party, voice, voice, voice, voice.
He could hear the voice but he can’t see the person. Those who fell into the sea in the same way were also confused by the darkness which are spread throughout the vast ocean, unable to know where you are. However, it is filled with voices of resentment.
Keito undauntedly shouted with a dry throat towards that voice as if it was buried.
There was an answer
“I am coming over now. So hang in there.”
His clothes had gotten heavy due to it being soaked in seawater and it was luring Keito to the bottom of the ocean. Shaking off that attraction, Keito swarmed.
Shizuka’s voices was getting softer. Even though he was certain he was heading in the right direction.
Her call was soft in comparison to Keito who was screaming at the top of his lungs.
He finally managed to grab her hand that she stretched out.
In the darkness. In the sea. That is a miracle. Keito grabbed the hand that was once separate from him.
“You are fine now.”
He held the sinking Shizuka in his arms. The cardigan she was wearing was gone before he knew it. Only her uniform which was drenched in seawater made her look frail and weak.
She did her best. His only wish now is to respond to her.
“It’s okay. It’s going to be okay.”
He kept repeating it over and over again in order to encourage her.
Shizuka’s face is just right there. It seems her fatigue has reached the limit while shivering in the cold with fear and she doesn’t the energy to open her mouth anymore. However she believes in Keito and was trying to inspire courage.
Ah, that is it.
The sea are heartlessly and mercilessly covered the both of them with one big wave.
Where is Shizuka’s body that he was holding?
Where is her hand that he was gripping?
Keito’s resistance ended in vain――it was easy for them to be apart.
“You know what”
It is hopeless to dwell on Shizuka’s eyes.
It is a dread to catch hold of Shizuka’s hand.
Thinking of Shizuka’s face filled him with indignation.
It seems that Shizuka was overflowed with various feelings about betraying Keito who believed that he would definitely came and save her, for letting go of his hand.
The light in her depended on, crying, demanding and begging-like eyes shone particularly strong at the end.
On that day in the fifth grade of elementary school, he thought that her eyes have the same colour as when she was verbally abuse.
There was no time for his feelings, prayers, apologies to reach her.
She disappeared among the waves and didn’t rise to surface ever again.
She had sunk to her beloved ocean floor.
After that, he had no recollection how was he saved.
He was unconscious when he was picked up by a lifeboat. He was surprised that he was saved while he was drifted unconsciously in the sea during high tide at night without a life jacket.
It was also certainly said to be a miracle.
However he thought he didn’t need such miracle.
He didn’t need any miracle other than one where he didn’t not let go of Shizuka’s hands.
Because of his parents and little sister’s smile, three of his childhood friends that were on the ship, and their life jacket was worn smoothly, they was recused earlier than usual even though there was some disorder.
Everyone was worried about Keito and Shizuka who was on the deck. Once they knew that Keito was saved, both of parents and little sister heaved a sign of relief but everyone was heartbroken that Shizuka was still missing.
Keito lied by telling everyone that they were together when the fire was announced but got lost among the turmoil. Saying that was awfully painful and made his heart rigid. However, he didn’t have the courage to tell them the truth.
That accident had left scars in both the survivors and the dead. That trip was supposed to be a visit to Keito’s mother’s ancestral house which was a place of reminiscence had to be understandably cancelled.
Keito spend the night at the hospital and then the next day, each member of his family came rushing in. The most painful period was when he was unable to swallow the lie he once told and had to gave the same explanation to Shizuka’s parents.
The four member of his family stayed at his grandparent’s house for a night. In the distance, he was able to see the scene of the accident from a nearby beach.
He later heard that Shizuka’s parents had been looking for Shizuka on that beach for days.
He had the opportunity to meet Takumi, Junichi and Sarasa afterwards but the conversation was somewhat awkward and unnatural so they gradually avoided seeing each other. He wasn’t able to met Junichi who particularly went to a different high school, until today.
Keito’s little sister Emi, who became afraid to leave the house, stays at home and didn’t attend school even though she is in the sixth grade now.
Keito’s parents are kindly watching over their daughter. If he doesn’t have that kind of parents, Keito might have been in a worse state.
He was grateful for that.
However, he is unable to disclose anything regarding Shizuka’s last moments.