“You’re really sure about this? It’s not too late to give up on this Satoru.” Kayo pleads with her eyes, though she’s already decided she wouldn’t tell him not to go.
Satoru can tell she’s trying to be supportive despite thinking he shouldn’t go and he can’t help but appreciate her even more after feeling like this, but choosing not to say anything. “I’ve got to do this Kayo, not just for them, but for me too. I believe I’ll find it, but even if I can’t and it does turn out to be a fool’s quest, at least then I can come home with my head held high knowing I tried my best and that Airi won’t hate me for failing. I’ll be ok either way, I swear.”
Kayo can see his determination and she does have to admit, this is the first time she’s seen any real life in his eyes since the accident happened. She still doesn’t know if she can believe this revival is really out there and that it will lead him to them, but she can believe in Satoru and so that’s all that matters. So she puts on a supportive smile and sticks out her hand. “Here!”
Satoru looks down to see a large bento box. It looks big enough to hold several meals. “All of this is for me? I feel like that could easily feed four people.” He takes it with an amused grin.
“Well, you need to replenish your energy and get some meat on your bones. Besides, you’ll be traveling through dinner and through the night, so I wouldn’t want you getting stranded somewhere and left to starve. Though really, why leave tonight? Why not get a fresh start early in the morning? I doubt Natsuki-san would appreciate having a guest so late at night.”
“I understand, thanks Kayo. As for why I need to leave tonight, well really I just want to make up for lost time. Besides, I slept late, so I won’t be tired for a while. I’ll also need time to ask around and find out exactly where in the town he lives, so I will find an Inn once I arrive to the town. I promise I won’t get stranded somewhere, but if I do, I definitely won’t starve.” He grins.
“You really are an idiot.” She scowls, but only half-heartedly and then laughs. After settling down she gets serious. “I guess you should get going.” He nods. “Take care then on your journey and I wish you all the luck in the world. I really do hope you find your happiness Satoru, truly.”
“Thanks Kayo…for everything. Give Hiromi and Mirai my best.” He bends down to give her a hug, which she returns happily. “If things go well, you may not remember this moment, but I’ll definitely be back in one timeline or another, I promise. See you!” He waves and walks away.
“See you.” Kayo whispers gently. She sends him off with a smile, but somehow she has a bad feeling. She feels as though things will never be the same after this and it feels a bit lonely.
Satoru travels through the night and five hours later, her arrives to a small town in the Japanese country side just after midnight. He finds a small building that has dim lights and looks like is the one thing that’s still open. “This must be the Inn I guess.” He walks up to the door and carefully opens it. “Excuse me, I’m coming in.” He walks inside and closes the door behind him. He stands there, waiting for signs of anyone coming, but there is no one and it doesn’t seem like any lights are on either. “Are they asleep?” He walks a bit further in. “Excuse me!”
“Hey, quiet down! There are people sleeping!” Satoru is startled to hear a voice so abruptly. He comes faces to face with an older man, bald except for a grey mustache on his face, wearing a robe. “What do you think you’re doing shouting this late at night? Do you know what time it is?”
Satoru quickly bows. “I’m so sorry for the intrusion Sir, it’s just that I’ve been traveling for several hours and was hoping that I could get a room for the night. I understand it’s late. Sorry.”
The old man looks at him with a scowl. “You’re not from around here are you boy?”
“No Sir, I was coming to visit with someone, but unfortunately I don’t know exactly where they might live. All I know is that it’s in this town.”
“You come here at this time of the night and you don’t even know where the person you’ve come to visit lives? Are you an idiot?” Satoru can’t help but laugh. “What’s so funny?!”
“I’m sorry it’s just…you wouldn’t believe how often I get asked that.” The old man looks at him like he’s strange. “In any case, would there be a room available for me tonight?”
“I don’t usually take kindly to people coming in so late, just be happy I wasn’t already asleep. I suppose I could rent you a room, but I want full payment now, for the inconvenience.”
“Of course Sir, that won’t be a problem.” Satoru follows the man to a counter and pays the requested amount. “Thank you again for this on such short notice. It helps a lot.”
“Yea sure. You get breakfast in the morning, you’re on your own for other meals. Name’s Hiro. If you need anything, please feel free to ask…in the morning!” He says this adamantly.
“Of course, thank you very much Hiro-san.” Satoru bows once again and then walks to where he was told his room was. He opens the door to find a simple room, with a futon folded on the side. “It’s small, but it’ll be fine for the night.” He starts to close the door, but then hears Hiro speak.
“Sorry, almost forgot your linen. Here you go.” He hands Satoru sheets and bath linen.
“Thank you again Hiro-san.” He bows and Hiro waves passively. He starts to walk away, but then Satoru realizes that perhaps he may know where Natsuki-san lives. “Uh, sorry….”
“Hmm? What’s it now boy? I don’t have all night.” He looks a bit impatient.
“Yes, sorry! I just…well as I mentioned before, I’m looking for someone I am acquainted with but don’t know his address. So I was wondering if maybe you’d know. I figure as an Inn keeper you must know most people in this town. His name is Natsuki Subaru-san.”
Hiro’s eyes get big and his expression becomes dark. “Hey boy, what business do you have coming around here asking about such a man? No, that’s no man. Rather, that demon?”
Satoru can see the seriousness in his face and feels unsettled. “Demon? No, I’m not looking for anything like that. As far as I know, this is a man. He seems to have an interesting story so I-.”
“Listen boy! You don’t go near that demon, or you’ll end up regretting it! That ain’t no man, no man would settle down with a witch unless he was a demon. Besides, he’s nothing short of mad. An absolute maniac, going on about witches, curses and the likes as though he’s not married to one. We ran him out of town years ago after he showed up randomly in the middle of town with that real witch. Claimed they’d been trapped in some fantasy world and were barely able to escape. He was convinced the witch would be coming back for them and became completely paranoid and wouldn’t trust anyone. Accused us all of deceiving him and working with the witch. They ended up deep in the woods and that’s where they’ve been since. No one goes near them and they never will as long as they stay away from town. They live in isolation, forgotten.”
Satoru can’t believe what he’s hearing. “You say he’s married to a witch?” Could it be…?
“Listen, I don’t want to hear nothing more about him or witches, understand? Or you can find yourself another place to stay. Though you won’t cause we’re the only place in this town.”
He can tell the man is very nervous about discussing the topic further so he lets it go. “Yes.”
Hiro leaves and Satoru closes his door. He sits on the ground, still stunned by all he just heard. “He’s married to a witch?” Satoru feels like he may have stumbled onto something big, but now he’s got to find him. All he has to go on is that he does indeed live near this town deep in the woods. Though he remembers that the woods looked quite dense when he arrived and could easily take a day to search. However, if it’s what he has to do to find it, then he’ll do what he must. “I will do whatever it takes.” He makes this declaration and then prepares himself to sleep.
“Thank you for your hospitality Hiro-san! I’ll be on my way now.” Satoru bows.
“Of course.” Satoru waves and starts to leave, but Hiro has another thing to say. “Hey boy….”
Satoru looks back. He finds it funny he’s calling him boy when he’s already 39 years old, but he guesses from his perspective he must seem like one. “Yes?”
“No good will come from digging where you don’t belong. I suggest you go on home now.”
“I plan to Sir, really I do, but I can’t until I speak to him. I appreciate your concern. Bye now.” Satoru waves once again and then goes on his way, not waiting around to give him another opportunity to try and talk him out of it. He’s sure he means well, but he can’t turn back now, not when he’s this close. So he carries on and steps off the path, and heads deep into the forest.
After walking all through the morning and into the afternoon, the sun is starting to set. Satoru decides to sit and eat a couple of the bread assortments Kayo packed into his bento. That’s just like her, to anticipate that he may need something non-perishable to last a while. By the time he’s done, the forest has become dark and creepy. He had hoped he’d find something by now, but all he’s seen is trees since he entered the forest. Just as he thinks that maybe he should head back, there is a sudden white mist and the temperature seems to drop several degrees. Satoru starts to shiver and gets a very uneasy feeling. He packs up his bag and attempts to go back the way he came, but he can’t see anything from beyond the mist and the temperature seems to be continually stopping by the second. Eventually, it all becomes too much to handle and he falls to his knees, feeling as though his skin is getting iced over. “Get out.” He hears a sudden voice, but just barely a whisper and hears motion in the trees beside him. “Get out.”
“Who-, who’s there?!” He hears the trees rustle again, something moving closer. “Please I-.”
“Get out!” Louder than ever, the whisper rings through his ears. “Or you will perish.”
“Please! I mean no harm! I just, I’m looking for someone. My name is Fujinuma Satoru and I came to find Natsuki Subaru-san. I just wanted to ask for his help. I just wanted to find my family!” Satoru shivers, the cold starting to overwhelm him. He feels his eyes going hazy. Am I going to die? Am I going to die here in these woods before getting back to you? I’m sorry Airi, Saori, I’m coming soon. His eyes are almost closed, but just before his consciousness fades, he’s sure he sees the gaze of two large yellow eyes in the darkness, watching him intently.