Chapter 2: Love Letter
Asaba somehow managed to survive through second, third, and fourth period. Lunch break had arrived.
The instant the fourth period final bell rang, the air of voracious appetites swirling around within the classroom was released all at once. With Nakagomi’s order, everyone rose and paid their respects. About half of the students took their seats and took out their bentos, and the remaining half dashed out of the classroom towards the school store.
Yesterday, when Asaba was about to dig through Iriya’s bag, his other self residing in his mind so aptly stated:
“You still don’t realize that you’re already neck deep in the gutter?”
That was precisely the situation he was in right now.
There was something massive on the other side of this superficial everyday life. Something he had never seen before until now. And even if his eyes had seen it, his brain had never acknowledged it. It was like the signs of something advancing secretly towards humanity. Asaba was finally beginning to notice signs of that something.
He was in the process of stepping away from an important place.
“I should at least return what I took from Iriya’s bag,” he thought. “I have no idea whether or not that’ll fix anything, but I can’t just sit here and do nothing.”
“Before it’s too late.”
Amidst the clamor of lunch break, Asaba took a deep breath.
Plan 26. Action
He casually stood up.
“Yo, Asaba. No bento today?” It was Nishikubo.
“Well, no, not exactly.”
Asaba went through great lengths from second period until now to scrape up what little courage he could. He couldn’t turn back now. Stumbling over the legs of desks haphazardly scattered about the room, he walked straight towards Iriya’s desk. He buried his hand in his pocket, and traced the edges of the grey card with his fingers. Iriya picked up her handbag and was getting ready to stand up, when she noticed Asaba approaching. She stiffened up.
“Iriya, can I talk with you for a second?”
Plan 27: wait until Iriya isn’t there and throw the card into her desk.
“Too late for that,” he thought to himself.
“Um, I have something important to—”
It was that very moment.
At that moment, Nishikubo and Hanamura were leaning forward in their seats, straining their ears to hear what Asaba was saying to Iriya. Akiho stopped in the middle of opening her gigantic bento box, and was closely watching Asaba and Iriya from the corner of her eye. In the faculty room, which had its own unique relaxed atmosphere, 35-year-old bachelor Kawaguchi Taizou reclined back in his chair, held a takeout menu in one hand, and debated over whether he should have the pork cutlet rice bowl or the chilled soba today. In the nurse’s office, Shiina Mayumi was pouring boiling water from a pot into her udon cup. The usual struggle for bread and onigiri was unfolding at the school store, and Suizenji, wallet between his teeth, was kicking and beating away rivals that blocked his path.
It was at that very moment of what should have been an exceedingly ordinary lunch break.
All at once, every speaker throughout the school began to blare extremely loud sirens.
It was a Level One air raid warning.