50-meter neighbor

By: Komi (AKA Purple)

50-meter neighbor

I ask of you, what is the feeling of love? Of course, many people would answer that it’s the sense of affection for another person, but is that really all? How does love make one compelled to make sacrifices for others? Isn’t the word love just made up to control people? An illusion to drive them forward? 

Sure, there are friends and family, but aren’t families just there to raise you by the law of nature? And according to science, humans are social creatures, so doesn’t that mean we form friends just to interact with our own species? 

Perhaps, I will find the answers to my questions today since we have something in store for our friend Fukuda Shin. The four of us friends planned to meet up with a female group from our class at the amusement park. Why? You might ask. 

It all started when we noticed Shin began to show interest in another girl in our class, Maeda Rei. At first, we thought it’s just another one of those unrequited love, and also Shin’s not the outgoing kind of guy, so it would be difficult for him to approach her. But one day, one of Maeda-san’s friends came to us and told us that she wanted to make a deal. 

We were confused, “What kind of deal?” I asked. In a mischievous tone, she said, “A deal to hook up Fukuda-san and Rei. Since Rei had also taken a liking to Fukuda-san.” So, she also noticed, huh? I glanced at my two other friends, Yamada Katsu and Ishida Arata. It seems like they’re also interested in this deal. She explained the details to us, and we ended up agreeing with this plan of hers.

That’s how we ended up here in the amusement park. We agreed to do everything in our strength to pair these two up. Of course, Shin and Maeda-san don’t know about this.

After a while of waiting, the girls finally arrived. There were four of them, including Endo Kotone, the person who initiated the deal with us. We all glanced at each other and gave a slight nod. Guess the only thing left to do is carry out the mission.

As we went in, we subtly paired up with the girls in the opposite group, Katsu with Endo-san, Arata with Shibata-san, me with Ueno-san, and of course, Shin with Maeda-san. This way, Shin and Maeda-san won’t feel uncomfortable paring up with each other. 

We visited different rides, stalls, and attractions, but of course, we saved the best for last. What peculiar ride could be the last? You may wonder. You may have guessed it’s the tunnel of love. Rumor has it that the pair who rides on it will have a high chance of getting married in the future. 

I’m not the type to believe in superstitions, but I just joined in for the heck of it. Since we didn’t want the two to notice our intentions, we also rode with them on the tunnel of love. It’s just a superstition. I mean, what could go wrong?

Each boat only seated two people at once, so it was natural that we went in with our designated pairs. In which case, my pair is Ueno Hikari. Ueno-san is somewhat a peculiar person. She stayed silent the entire time since we got here. I’ve heard rumors about her being cold and tend to ignore people. I guess it was probably true. Well, not that it concerns me. 

The ride began to move forward. The others went ahead of us. We were the last to get in. As the boat was slowly going inside the tunnel, I glanced at Ueno-san to see that she was binging out her phone. Perhaps she wanted to take pictures? 

It was surprisingly dark inside. I thought there would be more lights. Is it to encourage the couples to make out without the sense of being seen? Maybe it worked on those two. If it did, I’m curious to see what the result was.

Halfway through the ride, it suddenly got bumpy. “AHH!” I heard a scream. I looked over to my left side to see that Ueno’s phone had fallen into the water. She immediately jumped down into the water to grab it. I got worried, so I rushed over to the left side of the boat to check on her, but I couldn’t even see her through the water. It was already hard to see her, and the darkness made it worse. 

After a couple of seconds, she still hasn’t returned to the surface. I started to get anxious, and before I knew it, I also jumped down into the water to search for her. As I submerged myself, I noticed that the water was deep, but most of all, I didn’t see any signs of Ueno-san. 

When I tried to go up to get some air, I couldn’t resurface. I kept swimming upwards to where the air bubbles go up, but there was no end to it. It was almost as if I was at the bottom of the ocean. I couldn’t take it any longer. I was running out of oxygen, but suddenly, I saw a faint white light. I swam closer towards it, then suddenly I was at a strange place. It was like an altar, and in the middle of the room on a table, it was Ueno-san’s phone surrounded by candles and flowers.

Suddenly, I heard someone coughing, and on my left was Ueno-san. She’s also here. What’s this place anyway? We both looked at each other in confusion. There weren’t any visible openings nor exits. How are we going to get out? It seems like our only choice was to take the phone in the middle and hope that something happens. As Ueno-san took her phone, there was a voice that spoke out to us.

“What’s with this disgraceful thing you have offered to me? I am Noroi the guardian of this place, and yet you present me with this abomination?”

“We’re so—“

“I do want to hear any of your petty excuses. For your mischief, I shall bind you both with a fitting curse. For three years, I prohibit you two from staying more than 50-meters apart. After those three years, you are to return back here and seek forgiveness, and I’ll see to it that I won’t extend the curse. Now, begone from my sight!”

A bright flash of light blinded us, then the next thing we knew, we were back at the boat and almost at the exit. As we exited the tunnel, the others were waiting for us. 

“What happened to you two? It looks like you’ve seen a ghost.” Endo-san jokingly said.

We were too puzzled to even respond to her question. The others looked at us with a worried expression. If what the guardian said was true, we need their help just in case something happens. I gathered all my thoughts and calmly explained to them in detail what happened. 

Naturally, they were skeptical at first, but they ended up believing us once we tested the curse. No matter how hard the others try to pull apart, we won’t budge if it’s more than 50 meters. 

So the curse was real, and now we’re stuck like this for the next three years? That means I’ll be bound to Ueno-san until graduation. But most of all, how are we even going to get back home?! We live far from each other. 

“Why don’t you two come over to our place for the night while we try to find a solution for this?” One of Ueno-san’s friends suggested. 

“Eh– Are you sure?” I responded.

“Yeah, my parents won’t be home until tomorrow, so it’s fine.”

“That would be helpful. Thanks, Shibata-san.”

I’ll call my parents later to let them know I’ll be sleeping over at a friend’s house. Knowing them, they’d most likely agree. Meanwhile, the guys want to come along too, but a glare from Endo-san got them to withdraw. Well, it’s going to be awkward if I’m the only guy, but I’m not in the position to invite the others since it’s Shibata-san’s house. 

It was getting dark, so we all started to go home, but in my case, Shibata-san’s house. But before we went separate ways from the guys, Arata gave me some change and said, “Use this to buy protection,” and quickly ran off before I could even do something. That b*****d and his jokes, but at least I got free money. 

“What was that about?” Endo-san asked.

“Oh, it was nothing.”

“You’re planning to do something perverted, aren’t you?” she said with a smirk on her face.

“I don’t even have the slightest attraction to any of you.”

“Eh, is that so… Well, I’m coming along too just in case something happens.”

Endo-san also tried to invite Maeda-san over, but she declined. So, there are only going to be four of us. After a couple of minutes, we finally arrived at Shibata-san’s house. It was a European-style mansion. I was surprised to see that she lived in a mansion.

As we got in, she designated a room for each of us. I checked the room assigned to me, and it was even better than my room. It even has its own bathroom! 

Afterward, we all went to eat dinner and discussed how to solve this issue of ours. As I expected, the solution we ended up with was to live together. As much as I hate the idea, I had to agree since it was the most logical solution. We planned to search for a place to live tomorrow with the guys, but for now, we’ll rest.

It’s Sunday, the day we search for a place to live. Shibata-san offered to let us stay at her house, but Ueno-san and I unanimously declined. We wouldn’t want to impose on her any longer. 

After the guys and Maeda-san arrived, we started scouring around town to find a decent apartment with a reasonable price. Hours later, we finally found a good place. The only problem was that it was close to our school. Rumors would be inevitable. If they saw us going to the same place together, gossips would start to surface the school, but there was nothing else we could do. We don’t even know a way to break this curse.

We rented the apartment. How? Through the expense of Shibata-san. Of course, we didn’t want to accept it, we were against her paying the rent, but she kept demanding and insisted that she’ll handle the payment. I know she’s rich, but shouldering an entire rent for an apartment is too much. So, while Shibata-san’s attention was elsewhere, I proposed a plan to Ueno-san. We’ll accept Shibata-san’s offer and instead pay her back sometime in the future because the conversation won’t be going anywhere if we just kept arguing back and forth. 

We accepted her offer. Now, the next hurdle is getting my parents to agree on this. Staying over at a friend’s house is one thing, but living in an apartment away from my family is another story. So, the chances of my parents allowing are slim, but it is possible. I don’t know anything about Ueno-san’s family, but it seems like she was permitted. It was only me who wasn’t yet.

I was preparing my arguments without telling them anything about the curse. Even if I told them, they’d laugh it off. As I began to call them, I was getting my arguments ready in my mind. When they answered, I proceeded to tell them my request. Their response wasn’t what I had thought. They immediately agreed after I had told them. Are they serious? Maybe, they didn’t hear it properly. I told them again, but their answer didn’t change. It wasn’t what I was expecting at all. Well, I guess that works in my favor? Their response puzzled me, but there’s no point thinking about it. For now, we’ll finish our work here first.

Ah, finally, I could get some rest. The landlord was kind enough to allow us to move in immediately after settling the payment. A while ago, we got our stuff from our houses. During that trip, I found something odd. 

When we went to Ueno-san’s place, it was an apartment. It was nothing extraordinary, but the surprising thing was, she lived alone in that apartment. There were no signs that other people were there. 

You might ask if she already has a place, why did she have to find another one? Well, I also don’t know. She refused to answer when we asked her. Perhaps, it was something personal? Well, whatever it is, we just left it at that. We returned to the apartment right after, and the others helped us with the place.

After we finished setting the place, we were trying to figure out how this curse’s mechanic works. We tested out a few things earlier before we went off to find suitable apartments. Based on the results, it seems that riding any moving object such as vehicles and elevators is not allowed unless we both step in at the same time. The same goes for cliffs and edges. There seems to be an invisible barrier that blocks us. 

It was getting dark, so we ended the discussion without any results. They all started to go home, and thus begins my first night living with a girl. It feels like this is going to be a long journey. Hopefully, nothing happens within these three years, but it’s unavoidable. 

On Monday, we went to school with no issue whatsoever. We continued till Friday without any problem. It was easier than expected. It was no different than before I had the curse. The only thing that changed was living with Ueno-san. It looks like passing three years might not be that hard, I think.

Before I realized it, a month had already passed. And compared to before, Ueno-san and I have grown more comfortable with each other to the point where it looks like we’re relatives living together, but at the same time, we’re distant due to her being silent most of the time. Well, at least there’s an improvement, I guess…?

Six months have passed. It seems like the class was suspicious of what was happening between Ueno-san and me. It looks like that someone had noticed us walking home together, but thank goodness they didn’t see us go to the apartment. We denied their claim and simply brushed it off.

One year. Hikari-san and I began to start calling each other by our first names. And she began to open up to people a bit more. I almost even forgot about the curse. She talks to me more often, and at one point, even said the reason she was living alone.

One year and a half, I started to experience something weird. Every time I see Hikari-san laugh, my heart begins to palpitate. Am I finally feeling the emotion of love? Or is this just another natural reaction of the body? I’ll take note of these symptoms if they happen again.

Two years. It was February 14, Hikari invited me out on a walk to one of the local parks. And on that day, Hikari gave me a box of chocolates.

“Yami, would you please go out with me?”

There was it again, the moment she said that my heart was like a newborn’s. 

“Yes,” I said subconsciously.

Thus began my first relationship with a girl. Is dating considered love? I thought to myself. I still couldn’t grasp the emotion of love, but I wasn’t opposed to it, unlike before. I was more open to accepting it.

It’s been two years and a half. During the past six months since we started dating, we’ve been visiting different places together. Is this one of the responsibilities of loving? Until now, I still don’t know even the basics of it. Perhaps I should ask Hikari instead?

“What is the feeling of love, you ask? Well, it’s not something that you can explain through words alone. It differs from person to person how they define love, but for me, it’s the feeling that you’ll do everything in your power to make that special someone smile. How one falls in love is a mystery. It’s something that happens. When I’m with you, I feel like nothing else matters in the world because it’s not money and objects that fill the emptiness of the heart, but rather the person you love. Now, do you understand?”

Her explanation what easy to understand, but it still wasn’t enough to make me fully understand.

One day before the curse ends. I suddenly hear sirens and bright lights. There was a familiar voice among the crowd shouting my name. My consciousness was slowly disappearing.

I wake up and felt someone holding my hand. It was Hikari with eyes filled with tears. The first thing that came into my mind was to ask what happened. Hikari said that I had been in an accident a few hours ago. 

So, that explains why I’m here. I wanted to thank Hikari for worrying about me. I tried to move my hand to touch her face, but I couldn’t move it. I tried again with my other limbs, but nothing. “What’s going on?” I asked. While tears fell down Hikari’s eyes, she explained that I got hit in the spine with such force that I won’t be able to move again. 

I was shocked to hear it, and I was about to cry. But suddenly, Hikari stood up and said with a fierce look, “I’ll fix this. Tomorrow’s the end of the curse. I’ll do something about it.”

Hikari stayed with me in the hospital until midnight, then she left. 

While I was in the hospital bed, staring at the ceiling, a bright flash of light blinded me, similar to the one three years ago. Then suddenly, I was transported to the altar in the amusement park. I was able to stand. I don’t know why? But Hikari was there.

“Hopefully, with this, you’ll have a better shot at life.” She said with a smile.

“What?” I replied in confusion.

“In exchange for the girl’s life and existence, the boy will be sent back three years into the past. Do you accept, girl?” Noroi said.

“I accept.”

“Wait! No! Hikari!”

“Yami, If you ever find someone else, please treat them good. 愛してる…” Hikari said as her body was dissolving into nothingness.

All I could do was watch as her existence fade away.

Suddenly, another one of those bright light blinds me, and I was back at the amusement park three years ago. I see the others, but there was no sign of Hikari.

“Where’s Hikari?!”

“Who?”

“Hikari?”

At that moment, my legs weakened, and tears began to flow out my eyes like a river. Come to think of it, I never once said that I loved Hikari. She always told me that, but I never responded back. Why did you have to sacrifice yourself? I’m stupid and ignorant, yet why? I cried out my lungs, shouting her name.

It was already three years since I lost her. I now understand what it feels like to love. Without you, I couldn’t have gone this far. Thank you, Hikari.

“Matsuda-sensei, your manuscripts are accepted. Congratulations on your first novel!”

“Thanks…”

Yami – 闇 – Darkness

Hikari – 光 – Light

[AT/N]: Based on their names Yami and Hikari were never bound to be together. For one to exist, the other will die out. 

愛してる/Aishiteru/I Love You: Is typically heavier than saying “Suki, Daisuki, ETC.”

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