I was always alone.
I mean, not that kind of alone where there was no one else around you, but the kind of alone where there was no one you could depend on.
I thought I would keep on living in solitude, at least until that day.
Until a ghost appeared in my room.
I didn’t really remember when exactly this ghost of a young man appeared, but some time after I became a high school girl, he suddenly appeared in my room.
With an annoyingly smug face and an equally annoying attitude, he and I couldn’t get along—well, it was an understatement.
We quarrelled at every chance we got. Imagine a cat and a dog in the same room, and they would start chasing after each other’s tail every time they saw each other. That was how bad we got along.
Even a sentence could spark a night-long quarrel.
“Get off the bed.”
He complained at me, who lay sprawled on the bed, reading a novel. I glanced at him. For a ghost, he looked as solid as I was, but that didn’t change the fact that he was still a ghost.
“No way. This is my bed, idiot.”
“You’re the idiot. This is my room, so this is my bed.”
“Stupid. I’m the one living here, so this is my bed.”
We kept going at it until around midnight, repeating the same tiring arguments again and again until one of us gave up.
Usually, it was him who admitted defeat while grumbling, “why am I arguing with someone like you?”
What a stubborn ghost.
I tried to exorcise him once by throwing salt at him when our argument got a bit too heated, but he didn’t even flinch and simply raised an eyebrow, as if asking “What were you trying to do?”
I think I’m going to try purifying salt next time, since ordinary rock salt didn’t quite work.
However, as they said, the more you quarrel with someone, the closer you get, or something like that.
After quarrelling nonstop for few weeks, he finally asked my name.
“Speaking of which, I never got your name. What’s your name?” He said at the end of our usual quarrel.
“Huh? For me to give my name to someone like you, it’s a hundred years too early.” I frowned.
“What did you say?!”
And we started arguing again.
Even so, probably out of loneliness, I finally gave my name to him.
“Heh, it’s an unexpectedly plain name.” He commented.
“Huh?! I bet you have even simpler name than me, like Tanaka or Tarou!!”
His face reddened instantly. I observed him curiously, since I never knew ghost could react just like a human being. Then again, ghostswere human.
“W-What’s wrong with simple name like Tanaka?!”
“Ohh, so your name is Tanaka after all.” I burst in laughter.
He sulked when I laughed, but soon he also laughed with me.
Ever since then, I felt like we were getting closer, though our quarrels didn’t lessen at all. I thought he was simply a cheeky ghost with sharp tongue, but he was surprisingly good at listening to others.
That day, I stormed into my room and curled on the bed, hiding my face between my knees.
“…what’s wrong?” He acted like he didn’t care, but he sat next to me.
“Get down from the bed.”
With bitter grumbles like “What a cheeky brat” and “Ungrateful girl”, he sat down on the floor, leaning against the bed.
When I didn’t reply immediately, he took a novel and read it as he waited for me to talk.
“…I went to school today.”
After a long silence, I finally spoke.
“I thought after all this time, they would stop bullying me. But I was wrong.”
I bit my lips in frustration.
“No one in my class spoke to me, or looked at me. They all ignored meas if I wasn’t even there.”
I remembered feeling lonely at school today—something I haven’t felt in a while since he appeared in my room. I was sitting at the back of the class, hoping that someone would turn around and at least look at me.
But none of them acknowledged my presence.
“They wrote on my desk, filling it with words until you couldn’t see the wood under it. They even went as far as throwing away the books I left at school—thanks to that, I couldn’t follow the lessons at all.” I vented out at him.
“Hmm.” He replied half-heartedly.
“Are you even listening?”
“Why don’t you tell the teacher?” He suggested in flat tone.
“He doesn’t care about me.” I sulked.
When the teacher called out my name during the rollcall, I raised my hand, but he avoided looking at my direction.
Even worse, those who always bullied me stood up and said, “Teacher, you don’t need to call out her name anymore, do you?”
The teacher looked uncomfortable. “Even so, we must respect her…” He gave out an excuse.
Then he called out the next student without marking my name and I lowered my hand, realizing that he was also ignoring me.
“Then don’t go to school anymore.” He suggested again with the same disinterested tone.
“Are you dumb?Then I won’t be able to make it to the next grade.” I retorted.
He went quiet.
Right when I thought he had given up on me, he suddenly put his hand on my head.
“W-What are you doing, moron?!” I snapped at him.
“I just want to pat your head!” He retracted his hand and reflexively snap back.
Then his face turned red and he looked away.
“I can’t believe I just said that…”
“…I don’t mind.”
“Huh?” He looked at me.
“I said, I don’t hate it.” I averted my face.
A moment later, I felt his hand on my head, gently patting it. I didn’t feel any warmth since he was a ghost, but for some reason, I felt something warm within my chest.
“Hey, do you believe in reincarnation?”
He was tilting his chair when my question caught him off-guard and he abruptly lost his balance. With a loud and painful sound, he fell to the floor.
“Do you mind not asking something like that out of the blue?! I thought I’m going to die!” He protested as he stood up.
Since he was already dead anyway, I ignored his remark.
“They said you can reincarnate 100 years after you died, but do you believe that?” I asked him.
He fell silent for a moment, pondering over the question. I had never seen him so serious before, as if the answer could decide someone’s life. Or maybe it could decide whether he would be able to reincarnate or not.
“Well, I’m not that religious of a person, but the idea is hard to believe.” He shrugged. “I mean, who’s going to remember you 100 years later? It’s better if you spend your life meaningfully rather than looking for another chance a hundred years later.”
I stared at him in fascination until he fidgeted nervously.
“W-What is it?” He frowned.
“You…” I said. “…did you just achieve enlightenment?”
“Are you trying to say that I’m usually stupid?!”
“Oh, so you’re at least smart enough to realize that.”
“So that’s true?!”
As we quarrelled like what we did everyday, I thought how wonderful it would be if reincarnation really did exist.
If that was true, then maybe we’d be able to meet again when he reincarnated.
One day, he suddenly dropped a bombshell by asking me, “do you want to go on a date?”
I stared blankly at him.My mind wasn’t quite working, but apparently my sarcasm was still functioning perfectly.
“Are you that dim-witted?” was the first thing that came out of my mouth.
He sighed. “I’m serious.”
I recovered my thinking ability and gave out the reason for my sarcasm. “It’s going to look weird if we go on a date.”
I mean, I don’t want to look so pitiful, walking around by myself in an amusement park. What if some strange guys started hitting on me?
He looked at me with scornful eyes, apparently reading my mind. Did he start awakening some psychic power as well?
“It’s going to be fine, we’re just going to take a walk around the nearest park. They say it’s not healthy if you don’t go out once in a while after all.”
I was about to retort that he went out all the time—he always disappeared when I wake up in the morning, then reappeared in the evening—but I thought better of it and swallowed my retort. He probably wouldn’t like me probing into his ghost life.
So I had no choice but to say yes.
Let me repeat that.
Ihad no choice but to say yes.
It was definitely not because I was triggered by the word ‘date’ or anything.
We went out on the morning of the weekend, when most people were still lazing around at home. He said that it wasbetter if there were less people, and I agreed for his sake.
As we took a relaxing walk around the park, I took a deep breath and wondered how long had it been since I went out by my own volition.
Don’t go outside, my mother would always say. Just stay in your room.
She and my father were busy working overseas, so I was left to take care of myself. I always stayed quietly in my room, suffocated by the emptiness of it. Perhaps that was the reason why I couldn’t find any friend in school either—I didn’t know how to properly reach out to others.
“…hey…hey, I said!!”
Suddenly he grabbed my hand.
A bit annoyed, I stopped and looked at him.
“Let’s take a small break.” He pointed at the nearest bench.
“Sure.” I followed him there and sat down next to him.
The sun was getting higher in the sky and more people started walking around the park.
“How does it feel?” He asked me.
“Wow, even I can’t be any lessspecific than that.” I flatly stated.
“Well thanks for the praise.” He replied calmly.
I shrugged. “It feels good walking outside. I haven’t been outside since a long time after all.”
“Hmm…that’s good, then.” He looked away.
I stared at the side of his face, feeling my curiosity resurfacing. I wanted to know how he became a ghost, and whether it was possible for me to become one as well. Wandering around forever didn’t seem too bad now once I knew I wouldn’t be so lonely anymore.
“H-Hey, how did you become—”
Before I could finish my sentence, a voice called out.
“Excuse me, young man. Is the seat next to you empty?” An elderly woman asked him.
“Yes. Please sit down.” He answered without hesitation.
“Thank you very much.” The elderly woman sat next to him.
“Hey Kaori, let’s go home?” He asked me, ignoring the woman’s confused gaze at him.
“…yeah.” I simply followed him, unable to process why the woman didn’t talk to me nor even noticed me.
Back in the room, he gave out an article from the newspaper to me. It was about an airplane accident, and right next to it, the death of a fifteen-year old girl who lived by herself.
“You know, ever since I met you, I’ve been thinking,” he said. “Whether you realized what you are or not. But after spending some time with you, I knew that you didn’t even realize that fact.”
He looked straight at me, who clutched the article with trembling hands.
“The fact that you were already dead.”
“Don’t go outside, okay?” My mother peered worriedly at my pale face. “You can skip school if you start feeling bad. The teachers will immediately call me if that happens.”
“I’ll be okay, Mom. No need to worry so much.” I smiled to put her at ease. “I’m already a high school student after all.”
“She’s right, you worry too much.” My father walked into my room. He caressed my hair affectionately. “We’re just going for a quick business trip.”
“But still…” My mother wasn’t convinced. “What if she got an attack when we’re not here? Although the chances are slim, a heart attack could…”
“If it’s an attack, then I already got the medicines here.” I cut her short. “So, don’t worry about me.”
“You heard her, Dear. Kaori will be just fine.” My father urged my mother. “If we don’t hurry, we’re going to miss the flight.”
“Okay, okay.” She reluctantly followed her husband to the door. “Just…stay in your room, okay?”
With that parting words, the two left for their business trip.
“…I remember.” I looked at my hands. They were starting to turn transparent. “I had a rare heart disease, and that caused my parents to work ridiculously hard. Because of that, I never go out on my own and only go to school.”
He looked at me wordlessly.
“Since I have no friends at school, I’m bullied and ignored by everyone. To think that there are people cruel enough to bully such frail, pitiful, and beautiful girl—”
“Hey, I’m listening seriously here!!” He couldn’t help but retort.
“Yeah, I was just making sure you’re still listening.” I shrugged calmly.
“Your attitude is really the worst…” He muttered.
“And then…” I looked to the sky outside the window. “…the airplane crashed and killed my parents.”
I still remembered vividly the crushing regret I felt when I heard the news.
I killed them.
I killed my parentswith my weakness.
“That was all I could think of, and I confined myself to this room. Eventually I started imagining what would happen if my parents didn’t care about me, or if I didn’t have this illness.”
I laughed dryly.
“I guess that regret is what makes me a ghost.”
“Kaori…” He started to say.
“Sorry, Tanaka. For accusing you as a ghost. It must be hard on you.” I smiled weakly.
He shook his head. “Don’t apologize. It feels even more weird.”
“Then I retract my apology, since I don’t feel bad about it.” I swiftly answered.
“Give me back my apology, dammit!!” He reached out to grab my hand, but his hand passed through mine.
“I think…this is my limit.”
Strangely, I didn’t feel scared even though my body was slowly dissolving into nothing.
“Thank you, Tanaka. For quarrelling with me, for fighting with me, and for arguing with me.”
“Don’t make it sound like we’re only arguing all the time!!”
Even as he retorted, tears were falling on his cheeks.
“I’m just joking. Thank you…”
I properly looked at him, at the young man who changed my life when it had ended, at that ordinary, plain Japanese face that you could find everywhere, at his jet-black, messy hair that was a bit longer than the school regulation, at his clear, black eyes that could see through even a liar ghost like me.
I smiled widely, maybe the best smile I’ve ever had in my whole life.
Suddenly he shouted at me, who was about to disappear.
“I’ll definitely find you again in the next life!! At that time…”
He smiled as well, with tears streaming down his cheeks.
“…let’s fall in love properly, Kaori.”
In the empty, quiet room, only a single young man remained. He continued to weep like he was heartbroken, but there was no one left who could hear him.
100 years later, within this room…