The next Saturday, Chizuru set off to a quiet cemetery on the outskirts of town, in order to visit the tombstone of her grandmother who had passed away a few months ago.
After switching trains for half an hour, she walked through the unusually warm October sun. On the way, she bought some incense and flowers and soon arrived at the ash-colored tombstone that had ‘Ayase Family Tomb’ carved onto it.
Chizuru bent her knees and silently prayed with joined hands before raising her face.
“Grandmother, I’m back.”
Of course, there was no reply. But whenever Chizuru would talk to her grandmother like this, she was able to taste a gentle sensation, as if she could return to how her heart was long ago.
Her grandmother, Kazuyo, was her father’s mother. When Chizuru’s parents had died in a traffic accident, it was Kazuyo who had taken in the young Chizuru and raised her.
She was her savior as well as her closest blood-relative. She was her mother, her grandmother, and her best friend.
She was kind and gentle, but strong to the core. Chizuru had always looked up to her.
Whenever Chizuru felt lost in life and could not find the answer, she would consider what her grandmother might have done, and followed that answer. She did so even in ‘that other world.’
In Lukrov’s world.
“Yesterday, I was asked out to dinner by this man named Karasawa. He’s quite handsome… But I refused him.”
Chizuru smiled for no reason in particular.
“I was right to that, wasn’t I? You would have done the same, wouldn’t you?”
Her grandmother was also the one person in the world who knew about her secret summer during her last year of high school.
Now that she was gone, the secret would be forgotten forever, with the exception of what remained within Chizuru.
She stayed there in front of the tombstone for a while, telling her grandmother of things that weren’t really important. Then she finally returned by the path she had come and went home.
The following Sunday was also her day off from work. Chizuru had it easy, as she was a contract worker and not a regular employee.
Her residence was her own house, instead of a rented apartment, and she was not the type to waste money.
As Chizuru had not accomplished anything during her summer vacation, she ultimately decided to start working instead of going to university. But these days, there were not many companies who would employ people who hadn’t graduated from university, so Chizuru felt quite lucky that she was able to land in the position of a contract worker.
Also, she felt as if somewhere deep inside, she had a wish to not get too deeply involved in this world…probably.
She had no idea how she could return, but she could not give up hope.
It couldn’t possibly just end this way.
“So yeah, I totally recommend them! It was hard to choose because there were so many, but I chose the books that I liked the most and brought them with me. Don’t forget to return them when you’re done.”
“Ah, thanks… But, I think that’s too much.”
“Well, I tried my hardest to keep the number down. But each book has there own appeal, you know. Western settings, Chinese settings, reincarnation, no reincarnation, the ones where they start as the underdog are especially satisfying. But then so are the ones where they’re immediately treated like a princess!”
It was like listening to a foreign language that you only partially understood. Chizuru chimed in just to keep the conversation going.
It was in the early afternoon, and Chizuru had asked Mai, her old friend from high school, to have lunch with her. As soon as they had settled in their seats, Mai had whispered about bringing ‘what we spoke of’ and then pulled out a stack of more than ten books.
In fact, when scheduling this lunch by phone, Mai had casually mentioned, ‘an interest in novels about being summoned to other worlds.’
Not understanding what she meant, Chizuru had asked what that was, and was told that it was about ‘an ordinary girl from Japan being taken to an unfamiliar fantasy world, and things happen.’ It was a recently popular genre in fiction.
Chizuru had lost her voice when she heard this.
In all honesty, she was never much of a reader.
At best, she would occasionally read novels that had been adapted to film, best-selling thrillers that anyone else would read. But her heart started to beat faster when she heard Mai talk about these new books.
When Chizuru had asked for further information, Mai readily offered to lend her the books, so they could talk about them together when she was finished.
Chizuru accepted her offer.
Which led to the current scene.
The mountain of books on the table all had glittery illustrations on their covers, making them resemble comics. There were even a few that might require a little boldness to pick up. They were undoubtedly pretty, but Chizuru felt that she would probably hesitate if she were at a bookstore.
Mai herself had said that she bought most of them online.
“It was really by chance. I borrowed one book from my cousin and became obsessed. I thought it would be more childish or for nerds, but once I started reading it, I realized that there are plenty that are quite decent. Now I’m hooked. You should read them too, Chizu. I want to talk about them with someone!”
Mai began to look at the menu while Chizuru tried flipping through the pages of one of the books.
She had not known there would be so many in this genre.
Some of them had outlines that were rather shocking… This is almost like…
“What is it? Are you surprised?”
Mai’s face appeared from above the menu as she cocked her head to the side.
“Oh, nothing, no. I’ll give it a go then. I think I’ll be able to return them to you by next week.”
“You don’t need to rush. I have more, so you can borrow them whenever you want.”
“Thanks. I’m looking forward to it.”
It wasn’t that she was expecting anything.
She did not have any hope of one of these books showing her a way to return to Lukrov.
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