The snow falls hard against the pavement, the icy condensation stacking up one flake upon the other. It’s silent, as one would expect for a Tuesday night, on a desolate road. The smell of blood and gasoline hangs heavy in the air, the pungent odor filling the nostrils of single man, sprawled upon the pavement, his glasses thrown from his face after being forcefully ejected from his car. As the scent permeates within his nasal cavity, he is jolted awake, taking in a deep breath. As he desperately sucks in air, his head is propped up, the blood dripping down his pale face and into his blue eyes. Strands of his blue-black hair brush across his forehead, as he struggles to look around. His eyes finally come to rest on the scene before him. To the left, there is a truck, the front smashed in and it’s driver seemingly unconscious in the driver’s seat. To the right, flipped over into the embankment, is another car, a van, and it’s wrecked far more so, the windows smashed in and the gasoline leaking out. The smoking hood shows a slight ember and the man realizes that the car is going to explode. He knows he must reach it at all costs.
With all the strength he can muster, he drags himself across the road and after extraneous effort, he makes it to the passenger’s seat. Inside he can see a woman, her chestnut hair obscuring half her face, but the man can easily recognize her. “A-Airi….” He attempts to pull open the door, but it’s jammed. The window is broken, but the car has been smashed in, making it too small to fit through. Through to the back, he can see a smaller girl, her matching chestnut hair flung about, but her blue eyes can be seen clearly. “Saori….” The man reaches for the trembling girls hands, but she seems to be pinned down by something. The little girl starts to cry and this makes the woman stir. She quickly finds the strength to wiggle her way into the back seat and hold the child against her, though she is unable to free her from her constraints. “Airi!”
The woman looks at the man and weakly smiles. “Sa-toru….” She holds her hand out to him and when it meets his, she smiles through her tears. “I’m sorry Satoru, it looks like we’ll be going before you.” The man begins to cry. “But if it’s you, I know you will find us again. We’ll be waiting.” The flames at once become high and the man can feel the heat against his arm.
“No…no!” He desperately pulls at the door, begging it to open up, but it won’t budge. Even though his arm burns, he refuses to give up. The woman shields the child from the flames as she sings her a gentle song to soothe her tears. “Saori…Airi….” They both look up and the last thing he sees is their smiling faces, before he’s yanked away and all that’s left is blackness.
“Satoru.” A woman’s gentle voice can be heard in the distance. “Sa-to-ru!” Her voice becomes more aggressive and Satoru springs up, having been forcefully pulled from his dream. He’s covered in sweat and he holds his face in his hand as he catches his breath. The woman calling out to him tosses him a wet cloth, it smacking him in his face and flopping on the bed. “Wake up already would you? It’s already half past two! Have you eaten anything recently?”
Satoru wipes his sweat with the warm cloth as he responds groggily. “I had bread last night, or maybe it was at lunch…I think.” Satoru peeks from behind the cloth to see the woman’s round face and equally round light brown eyes glaring at him. “Actually, I think it was dinner.”
Her short matching hair brushes against her neck as she leans forward and smacks him behind the head as she shouts, “are you an idiot?!” No matter how old they get, she never fails to use her favorite insult from their childhood. “You’ve got to eat Satoru! I promised Sachiko that I’d keep an eye on you while she’s away for these few weeks, but I can’t be here all day and night. I’ve got another little kid to take care of at home, not to mention I’ve neglected poor Hiromi. Though it’s not like he minds that much since the hospital keeps him busy all the time….”
She rambles on about her life and responsibilities and Satoru can’t help but feel guilty and maybe just a bit envious. “I’m sorry Kayo, I really am the worst taking you away from your husband and child. Mirai most of all, she’s nine now isn’t she? I can hardly believe she’s gotten so big.”
Kayo looks at Satoru with slight regret, she hadn’t meant to seem like she was complaining. “Yes that’s right, she just made nine last month. I invited you to come to her party, but Sachiko said you weren’t feeling well that day. We got your present though, she really loved it.”
Satoru looks at Kayo in confusion, but then realizes it must have been Sachiko, his ever doting mother. Not that he can complain though, she’s done more for him than he could ever repay her for and even now that hasn’t changed. “That’s great. I’m really glad she liked it.” He’s somber.
Kayo sits beside him. “Was it the dream again? The dream of that night? Have they returned?”
Satoru looks down and smiles weakly. “I still remember their faces, smiling at me with so much hope, just before I was snatched away. Saori would’ve been six in a couple of months you know. I think she and Mirai would’ve gotten along great and would have been the best of friends. But that didn’t happen, all because I wasn’t strong enough to free them. I was just too weak.”
“Satoru….” Kayo watches as Satoru does his best to hold back his tears. “There was nothing-.”
“I could’ve saved them! I could’ve saved them if that fireman hadn’t pulled me away. I know the car was about to explode, but I believe I could’ve saved them if I had just stayed. If I had stayed than either I would’ve have failed and died along with them as I should, or revival would’ve activated and I would’ve been able to save them before it all even happened. I could’ve.”
Kayo sighs. “Satoru, I understand feeling like you didn’t do enough, but there really was nothing you could’ve done to save them. Even the firefighters had to use a machine to open that door. If you’d stayed there another second longer, you would’ve died too. I know that you believe in this so called “revival” that will come to save the day whenever something bad happens and you say it’s what allowed you to save me, but I think it’s just you trying to rationalize your actions. Saving Hiromi and I was an extraordinary thing, but it was you who did that, not some magical butterfly. You may not wish to believe it, but you are a hero Satoru, our hero, but you’re not a Superhero. You don’t possess magical powers such as controlling time. You can’t go back and make it so that the accident never happened. I know it’s hard Satoru, but I think it’s time for you to just accept reality now. Sachiko didn’t want me to say anything, but it’s been four years! Airi and Saori are gone and as much as it hurts, they are never coming back. You need to move on!”
Kayo looks at Satoru and instantly regrets what she just said. She’d meant to give him some tough love and drag him out of his stupor, but she didn’t mean to be quite that harsh. She sees that he still looks down and his smile has gone, but he doesn’t seem to have any particular reaction either. “Satoru, I didn’t mean-.”
“It’s ok. I know Kayo. You’re right, I’m not a Superhero, like I said, I’m weak. That’s why I couldn’t save them myself. I can’t prove that revival exists either and I don’t expect you to believe me, but I know it’s out there and I’ve made up my mind to find it, so I can find them.
Kayo doesn’t respond and for several minutes, there is an awkward silence between them, until Kayo finally speaks. “You know, sometimes Hiromi and I wonder if we made a mistake. We think back to the fact that you got hurt saving us, yet we went and moved on without you. More so, I wonder if maybe I should’ve waited for you to wake up. I often wonder that maybe if I had waited, things would be different. We’ve both already cheated death once right? So perhaps if we’d been together, such a tragic fate wouldn’t have befallen upon us. Perhaps Airi would still-.”
“Don’t.” Kayo is startled by Satoru’s sudden interjection. “Don’t do that Kayo, to either of us.” He looks at her now, right in her eyes with a serious expression. “You and Hiromi did nothing wrong. I can’t deny that I had feelings for you back then and I know you probably shared them for me as well. If things had been different, then maybe we would’ve been together in the end, but they weren’t. Things were as they were and you decided to move on with your life rather than wait around for who knows how long for me. I could’ve been asleep for a lifetime and you would’ve wasted your own life waiting. No one could know when I’d wake up and it’s not certain that things would have even worked out between us. Our feelings as children are rarely the same as adults and so things may have still gone differently. I believe that things happen as they are meant to and that you were destined to be with Hiromi and me with Airi. You even went and made that precious little girl. So please don’t say you want to give it all back. You should cherish your life and the family you’re fortunate to have, just as I wish to do the same.”
“Then….” She puts on a serious expression too. “If you truly believe that, then don’t you think that the accident was also your fate. Perhaps you are meant to cherish the moments you had with them, as short as it may have been, and use those memories to get stronger and move on with your life. Don’t you think Airi would want you to live? You were fortunate enough to be saved, so rather than moping around believing a miracle will come, why not go out and live life for the three of you? I’m sure there is much more left for you to discover and new memories to make.”
“You’re right Kayo, there are memories left for me to make and I will make them, but to do that I have to find them again. There is no one out there for me but Airi, revival has proven that. That is why I must find it, because it always leads me to her. You are free to call me mad, I would too if I were you, but I know it’s out there and I’m going to prove it. I’ve even got some leads.”
Suddenly excited and full of newfound energy, Satoru jumps up and grabs his laptop. He boots it up and starts navigating through various pages, as Kayo just watches. “You’re really serious?”
“I am. Look at this.” He moves closer so she can see the screen. On it are several webpages, he clicks to the first one. “I’ve compiled a list of all the reports of time travel or the traversing of worlds and found many occurrences. There’s something about a Stein’s Gate, a man was apparently able to return to an adolescent with his ReLife ability, another guy with his Rewrite ability and the most interesting of all, this guy reported of his Return by Death ability. All of these people were able to go back in time for either personal gain or to save their loved ones.”
“You really believe all of this nonsense? I bet most of those people were either lying for attention, insane or delusional. If people could really do such things, they’d never be able to talk about it so openly. They’d be committed in no time and probably experimented on.”
“Well that I can agree on. Most of these reports have been called hoaxes and anyone connected to them have been silenced or have gone into hiding. I’ve only been able to find an address on one of them and it was all by chance. The Return by Death guy, Subaru Natsuki, he posted on my forum post asking for anyone connected to these reports to contact me. He responded, saying to give up on my foolish quest and then deleted his account, but I was able to see his location in his comment, as it didn’t disappear as instantly as his actual profile page. He lives in a rural town not far from here. I figure I should be able to find him by word of mouth after I go there.”
“You’re planning on going there? You plan to track down this guy who for all you know may be a nut job and what…? Will you ask him to borrow his power? No, more likely you’ll be shot.”
“I don’t plan to ask for his power, I doubt he could lend it anyway. I just figure that if I can speak to someone else who knows about time travel and similar phenomenon, I’ll be able to find out more information and it’ll lead me in the right direction towards finding my revival.”
“You’re serious about this. I thought you were joking, but I can finally see that you are completely serious.” He nods in affirmation. Kayo sighs. “No chance I can make you give up?”
“No, I’ve made up my mind. I can’t keep waiting around for it to find me, so I’ll go to it.”
“You really believe you’ll find it if you follow this path? Even if it proves to be dangerous?”
“I’m not scared of danger; I’ve already lived through my fair share. This isn’t just for my sake, it’s for them too. The last thing Airi said to me was that she’d be waiting for me to find them. She believed in me and revival, when no one else did. So I’m going to believe in her too. I believe that when I find revival again, I will find her and Saori. So even if I have to enter the pits of hell, I will do it. I don’t care what happens to me, as long as I can see them again.”
Kayo can see that he’s made up his mind and that no amount of reasoning is going to change it. So although she feels it’s a fool’s quest, she chooses to trust in Satoru, just as she trusted him all those years ago. “Fine, but I can’t let you go on an empty stomach. I’ll cook you some meals and I’ll cover with Sachiko for you. But you’re going to owe me big time when you get back!”
Satoru smiles appreciatively at his old friend, Kayo Hinazuki. “Thanks Kayo, you’re the best.”
“Don’t you forget it!” She laughs and enters the kitchen to start preparing the food.
While he waits, Satoru browses through more of his researched pages. He can see that throughout history there have been many cases of unexplained occurrences involving time travel. However, they all have one thing in common, no matter the circumstances. They all mention, reference or reveal the presence of a supernatural force. Most of these cases call it, The Witch. This witch is said to be the one behind all of these occurrences and responsible for giving people these extraordinary opportunities of powers. However, no one can speak on what this witch is like or where she comes from. No one seems to have encountered the witch directly and lived to tell about it, or if they managed to make it out, they have no recollection of it. However, of all the cases, it seems that Natsuki-san has somehow been successful in facing this witch and living to see another day, though no details beyond this have been mentioned. So it’s Satoru’s intention to ask him about this witch and where he may find her. He may not know or be unwilling to say, but if it comes to that, he does have a backup plan. Another name that has often come up.
“Is pork cutlet ok Satoru? I don’t have the ingredients for Hamburg steak, but I can go and-.”
“That’s fine!” He calls back to Kayo who’s speaking from the kitchen. She acknowledges and gets back to cooking. Satoru goes back to looking up info on this mysterious girl. She’s said to have not only faced the witch and survived, but she apparently fought alongside her fellow teammates to do so. It’s said that the witch has a world of her very own and she resides in that world with her hordes of minions. These minions are said to have been born from the very girls who fought against them, these so called “magical girls”. It sounds like something out of a Shoujo manga that even Satoru didn’t believe at first, but the more he looked into it, the more he started to, though the source of this information is a group of fanatics believed to be speaking of no more than folktales. They say there have been many teams of these girls, but none have quite reached the level of notoriety and fame that these five girls had. Their battles against the witches are legendary, and one member in particular, their leader, named Madoka, is a true legend. However, no one seems to remember her and believe she was an imaginary member. One member is reported dead and two are living together in a life of retirement. However, there was a final member, the one who Satoru is most interested in, who’s said to have crossed through and lived many timelines, but she’s reportedly vanished. “Just where are you, Homura Akemi-san?”