Chapter 1 – Coincidence

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If a coincidence occurs repeatedly, does it become inevitable?

For instance, pretend you’re walking in the city and happen to run into someone you know. You haven’t arranged to meet beforehand, you don’t share a common destination, nor does he know where you are headed.

In that case, you’d probably mark it down as a coincidence. The second time you run into him, you may find it a funny coincidence; the third time, well, perhaps you’d be surprised by that remarkable string of coincidences.

However, if the number of encounters continues to grow, you might come to think that this person is stalking you.

But running into someone who neither shares nor knows of your destination without any prior arrangement is, and will be, pure coincidence – no matter how many times you come into contact.

However, if you run into someone who knows where you’re going and is actively pursuing you, then that’s by no means a coincidence.

Which brings me back to my original question:

If a coincidence occurs repeatedly, does it become inevitable?

And my answer is:

The way I see it, a coincidence does not become inevitable no matter how many times it occurs.

Coincidence remains coincidence even if it occurs repeatedly, and inevitability remains inevitable even if it occurs only once.

Coincidence is never going to become inevitability and inevitability is never going to become coincidence.

Coincidence is mere coincidence, inevitability is mere inevitability.

“So what?” you may ask, and you’re right.

But there’s one thing I can say for sure:

That we met was nothing but pure coincidence.

If I declared a coincidence while swinging my pendulum, it would come true.

By chance, I pick up a winning lottery ticket.”

The pendulum gave off a ring.

I found a lottery ticket by chance and won. While it wasn’t the first prize, I had no financial problems anymore.

By chance, eighty percent of my answers in the entrance exam happen to be correct.”

The pendulum gave off a ring.

I easily passed the multiple choice middle school entrance exam, even though I had hardly studied at all.

By chance, I learn the dark secret of my school.”

The pendulum gave off a ring.

By chance, right after entering middle school, I found a list of all the students who had bought their way into the school. After telling the school director about my discovery, I was promised special treatment in exchange for keeping silent. Since then I always got away unpunished even when breaking the rules, and I didn’t have to repeat any exams after getting bad marks.

Living my life in this manner, I obtained a variety of things by chance.

But there is a limit to what you can obtain by chance.

It’s absolutely impossible to obtain everything.

I could not by chance win the heart of that girl who happened to be in my class.

I could not by chance win the heart of that girl who happened to sit next to me.

I could not by chance win the heart of that girl who happened to be on the school committee with me.

I could not obtain the thing I wanted most by chance.
—I could not win anyone’s heart.

“I want to stay friends.”

“I don’t see you in that way.”

That was how my feelings were repeatedly rejected by those to whom I confessed. Their reasons were never concrete, but I could always see the disgust in their eyes.

Back when I was in elementary school, I feared nothing and made no pretense of my feelings. By the time that I noticed the results of my actions, I found myself alone.

There were also times when I wondered if the problem was my looks, my personality or something else. But there were lots of guys who succeeded in winning girls’ hearts, no matter how ugly they looked or how bad their personalities were.

Whether it be inner beauty or outer beauty, it was not uncommon to see someone with plenty of shortcomings and wonder why such a person was able to date someone.

At the end of the day, I’m the one at fault. I’m different by birth.

With these thoughts, I was about to give up on love.

In middle school I took care not to make the same mistake again and suppressed my true feelings. I also changed the way I spoke, and in dreariness, I let time go by without confessing my feelings to anyone.

But in the end, I couldn’t endure being alone. I could not give up so easily.

So I started pondering:

How could I win someone’s heart?

How could I win someone’s heart by chance?

And then I begged, oh how I begged.

To meet someone of the same mindset by chance.

Shortly thereafter, I met a girl called Miki Kano by chance.

She was the same kind of person. She had the same goals. She was one of the very few kindred spirits I had found among the vast throngs of people in the world.

We were attracted by each other and came together.

This, and only this, was inevitable.

I had finally managed to obtain what I wanted most—or so I thought.

But time went by and our bonds were cut. By her.

I felt betrayed. There was no envy or any such ugly feeling.

It was a much more pure and sublime feeling that she had betrayed.

And the day she betrayed me, she fell on some railroad tracks while going home and was run over by a train —— by chance.
Until that day, I had caused coincidence without losing my rationality.

Until that day, I had kept a healthy distance from coincidence.

Until that day, I had only used coincidence to make my life a little easier.

But only until that day.

That day truly marked a turning point for me.

I changed after that day.

After the day that I caused a murderous accident—

“Do you have some kind of good luck charm?”

“A good luck charm?”

“Yes, a good friend of mine was recently in a traffic accident… so I thought I’d buy him a lucky charm.”

“I see. How about this article?”

“This?”

“Yes. This is a doll that enables you to transfer your ill luck to someone else. Insert a strand of someone’s hair into this doll and if your friend were going to die, the owner of the strand will die in his place.”

“Um… do you have anything a little less weird…?”

“I see. Then how about this?”

“This?”

“Yes. This is a pendant that lets you use your luck in advance. Your friend may be able to avoid his death. In exchange, once his luck is used up, the rest of his life will proceed without any positive events whatsoever.”

“Um… do you have anything a little less odd…?”

“I see. Then how about this?”

“This?”

“Yes. This is a ring that inverts the future. If your friend were fated to die, he will instead survive. On the other hand, if were going to live, he will die instead.”

“Um… do you have anything a little less creepy…?”

“I see. Then…” she started and pointed outside, “There’s a shrine over there. I recommend buying a charm there.”
After receiving a 100-yen stone as a welcome gift, the completely put-off customer—who looked like a middle school student—left the store.

Having waited for her to leave, I then entered the rather dim shop. Not as a customer, though.

This small and quaint shop, the “Tsukumodo Antique Shop (FAKE),” was where I worked part-time.

“Tokiya,” whispered Saki Maino upon noticing me. She was the shop assistant who had been suggesting products a few moments ago.

While she had pale hair that reached down to the middle of her back and shone silver in the light, as well as clear white skin, she was clad entirely in black. She wore a black shirt with frills, a long black skirt and black boots. She was rather short and so slender that she looked as if she might break if embraced. Not that I planned on actually embracing her, of course.

She was sixteen and thus one year my junior. While she looked her age, her demeanor made her seem a little more mature. A brilliant smile like a blooming flower, as the meaning of her name would suggest, most definitely failed to adorn her face; instead she was perfectly expressionless as if to deny the saying “nomen est omen”[1].

Tsukimodou_V1_P019

“You don’t even want to sell anything, do you?”

“Why would you think so? You should have seen my sales talk just now.”

“I’m asking because I’ve seen it!”

“Then everything should be clear, right? Employing a wide article knowledge to select the article that best matches the customer’s needs and then professionally introducing him to it. The basics of customer service.”

“But you haven’t actually sold anything, now have you?”

“Because we unfortunately did not carry the article the customer was looking for. It was in no way my fault.”

“And in the end you even told her to visit a shrine.”

“The article could not be found here, so I introduced an alternative to suit the customer’s needs, even though I redirected her to a competitor. I did so because the customer always has top priority. I even threw in a power stone for free. So yes, I couldn’t sell anything this time, but such a happy customer is bound to visit us again.”

“You won’t see that girl ever again, you know? She’s obviously gotten the creeps.”

“The creeps? Why so?”

“Because you made it look like all we sell is cursed stuff!”

“But they’re fakes, so there is nothing to worry about.”

“You should have told her that!”

“…How careless of me,” Saki whispered bitterly in shock while putting her hands on the counter, “I would have committed a fraud if she had bought anything believing that it’s real. I clearly made a mistake again.”

Listen to me for Christ’s sake. And anyway, you consider that the problem? Before worrying about authenticity, you should think about whether it’s a good idea to recommend cursed stuff to a customer who wishes to buy a luck charm… In the first place, don’t start off with the premise that her friend is going to die!

While blurting out some remarks in my thoughts, I pressed the button on the register to print today’s sales. The slip popped out just a few millimeters.

The short length was proof that we were not selling.

A look at the cash register slip revealed that our sales that day came down to a perfect zero.

Well, nothing to make a fuss about.

The shop was located in a dark and lifeless side street, and the few customers that came by from time to time had to deal with Saki’s “customer service”, but the biggest problem of all was the merchandise we carried.

Since the name was “Tsukumodo Antique Shop”, the shelves did contain stuff like old Japanese glasses, Western crockery, or tube radios and pocket lamps.

But that was just a small portion.

Most space was occupied by stuff like dolls, pendants, rings, and other miscellaneous goods that had nothing to do with the antiques in the shop’s name whatsoever.

Of course they didn’t possess any special powers as Saki’s explanations had suggested. They were only fakes of things that appear in tales and rumors.

To be more exact, the articles in the shelves were fakes the owner of this shop had purchased, believing they were real, which were now put up for sale for a tiny fraction of their original prices.

The “FAKE” part in the shop name was likely to originate from that fact.

Incidentally, the Tsukumodo Antique Shop apparently had a sister shop. The “FAKE” was probably appended to distinguish them.

“By the way, where’s Towako-san?” I asked because I didn’t see the owner, Towako Settsu, anywhere.

“Making purchases. She said she won’t be back for a week.”

“And I bet we’ll get to see yet another fake.”

Towako-san’s interests are self-explanatory, seeing that she was away seeking the real counterparts of the articles here. Well, she pretty much never got her hands on real ones, though. I was still wondering whether or not I should be happy that she found as much as a blind man would.

“Tokiya, hurry up and get dressed. I want to change shifts and do the shopping for today’s dinner.”

Unlike me, Saki didn’t just work here, but also called it her home, so she had to do all the housework like cooking, washing and tidying as well as her normal shop work.

“Got it,” I said and headed toward the room in the back after changing the hold on my bag. “Ah, almost forgot,” I added while passing her by, “The basics of serving a customer is not only putting your article knowledge on display, you know?”

“What else is there?”

“A smile!” I taught her while pushing up the corners of my mouth.

“That goes without saying, doesn’t it?” Saki answered expressionlessly.

I used to hate coincidence.

I considered them to be ambiguous, uncertain and unsure.

I hated those coincidences that were brought forth by “god” or “fate” or whatever they are called—those coincidences you cannot avoid whatever you do, however strong your will is and however hard you wish.

No, perhaps you can say that coincidence hated me first.

After all I was betrayed before I was even born—by a certain coincidence a baby being born does have no influence on.

Therefore, I hated coincidence.

Therefore, I detested coincidence.

And yet… it was but a mere coincidence that I obtained it.

On the way back from school I found a wallet by chance. There were only 5000 yen in it, but that was a nice little sum for the elementary schooler I was.

I didn’t think a second about returning it to its owner.

I had been on edge that day, so this was a heaven-sent opportunity to relieve some stress. I pulled out the five 1000-yen notes, threw the wallet away and went to a video arcade.

I was all ready to enjoy myself and squander my money, but funnily enough I was on a roll that day and still had more than 3000 yen on hand when I started thinking about going home.

I didn’t want to carry the money I picked up back home. If my parents had found out I had got so much coin before getting my allowance then there would be questions.

Eating something before dinner wasn’t an option, either. I thought about buying something, but I couldn’t decide on anything.

When I walked along a back street after leaving the game arcade, still wavering what to do with the money, a certain shop caught my eye.

The building was so small and old that, at first glance, I thought it had gone bust.

Still, as though attracted by something I entered the shop.

The interior was as old as it looked from the outside and there were no articles on the shelves that looked like actual articles.

Behind the counter sat a woman.

I don’t remember what she was like. Well, there are some vague impressions I remember. For instance, she was about in her late twenties, looked somewhat listless and wore something like a long black dress. But all these memories are ambiguous—as though veiled in mist. Most of all I can’t recall her face.

The single thing I remember vividly is that she was gazing at a small pendulum she held aloft as if in a trance.

After a while she noticed me and asked, “Are you looking for something?”

Only then I finally assured myself that you could actually buy something there.

Half out of interest, half out of spontaneity I asked, “Do you have something interesting?”

“I do have something uncommon,” she replied and showed the pendulum she was holding in her hand. “I was just wondering if someone might drop in by chance.”

It was a simple pendulum consisting of a chain and a sphere—it was neither interesting nor did it look uncommon.

“Is this supposed to be a keychain or something?”

“It’s up to you what you use it for. But that’s not how you would normally use it, is it?”

I had no idea what one would normally use a pendulum for.

“You use it like this!” she said and held the small pendulum aloft by its chain. The sphere started to swing left and right in a regular rhythm.

Well, that’s how you use a pendulum. Sure.

“Then you say the following,” added the woman with a smile as if she had read my mind, “By chance, this boy finds a wallet.”

“?”

Does she know that I found one?

While I was sure she couldn’t know, my conscience pushed me back—and made my foot bump into something.

I unwittingly dropped my gaze just to find a wallet lying by my feet.

When I picked it up, the woman, still smiling, said, “Aren’t you lucky to find a wallet by chance?”

I thought I heard a bright ring at that moment.

“This is a Relic that can create coincidences. Its name is Pendolo.”

Relic? Pendolo?”

A “relic” can mean antique or item of classical art—I got the idea. “Pendolo”, on the other hand, probably was “Pendulum” in some other language.

The woman, however, shook her head slowly, indicating that I was wrong.

“I’m not talking about antiques and art objects. What I mean are tools with special abilities created by mighty ancients or magicians, and objects that have absorbed their owner’s grudge or natural spiritual powers. Things like a stone that brings ill luck, a cursed voodoo doll or a triple mirror that shows how you’re going to die. I believe you’ve heard of many of them, and this coincidence-calling pendulum belongs to them. So? What do you say? It’s yours for however much you have on hand.”

It’s not that I believed her. I even doubted if she was in her right mind. But it was just money I had picked up anyway, and I couldn’t take it home. On top of that, I had entered the shop because I wanted to buy something, so there was nothing that stopped me from spending it.

Nice to have as an accessory for my bag, I just thought.

“But why would you give this to me…?”

“It’s not my decision. The Relic has chosen its owner. I am merely a go-between.”

“That makes me wonder even more—why me?”

“Mmm…” she grumbled and, shortly after, flashed a mischievous smile, “By chance, perhaps?”

I paid with the remaining 3000 yen I had and a 1000 yen note that was in the wallet I had just picked up, and obtained the Pendolo.

Strangely enough, I had the feeling it had been mine all along.

“A pendulum that can call forth coincidences…”

Not that I believed her—elementary schoolers these days aren’t naive enough as to believe such nonsense. Nevertheless, I found myself imitating what she did.

By chance, I find a wallet,” I said and couldn’t help laughing at myself.

What am I doing? No way you can actually make coincidences happen at will. I guess I’m best off using it as an accessory.

I took a step toward the entrance to go home, when I suddenly kicked something away.

A ring echoed throughout the shop.

“!”

Impossible…!

Even so I slowly dropped my gaze… and found a red wallet.

“What the…”

I looked up at the saleswoman. She was smiling. Calmly. As if nothing had happened.

Put off by this, I rushed out of the shop.

In the very last moment, her words caught up with me:

“Keep one thing in mind: the Pendolo can only call forth coincidences. Should you try to summon a certainty, you will create a conflict. It’s up to you how you use it!”

Unable to let go of the pendulum even while considering it eerie, I kept wavering what to do until sunset.

In the end, I went home without throwing it away and got a scolding from my mother for coming too late.

“What time do you think it is?!”

Only seven o’clock. Nothing against curfews, but that’s way too early.

I told her something along these lines, to what she responded, “I’m worried about you, you know? You just…”

I couldn’t stand her jabbering anymore, so, ignoring her, I sped up the stairway. She didn’t let this happen, however, and held me by the arm on the way. I tried shaking her off, but I was too weak. Instead, I whispered without thinking:

By chance, mom falls down the stairs.”

I don’t know why I said this.

Hadn’t I believed that nothing would happen?

“Eh? I didn’t quite hear you. What did you say…?”

The next moment, her tight grip loosened and her hand slipped away.

A ring resounded.

The ring was, however, drowned by a much louder sound of something rolling down the stairs. It goes without saying what had fallen down. My mother.

That day, my mother suffered a sprain that took a week to heal.

On the next day, I visited the shop once more.

To complain of receiving an original instead of a fake sounds like a bad joke, but the pendulum had gotten too scary for my taste, so I wanted to return it.

However, the shop wasn’t there anymore.

No, to be exact, the shop was still there.

But the shop assistant who had sold the Relic to me was nowhere to be seen. Furthermore, the shop’s interior looked completely different than the day before.

Had it all been a dream? But in my very hands I held the proof that it was not. Along with her words:

—It’s up to you how you use it!

Exactly. As long as I don’t use it the wrong way!

I didn’t return my coincidence-summoning Relic. But I didn’t throw it away, either.

In the end, I failed to resist the temptation to tame and take advantage of coincidence, which I had used to hate.

I haven’t visited the shop since. I even forgot where it was.

What was its name, anyway?

A siren woke me from my memories of the past.

From the footbridge I stood on, one could see the devastated car that had crashed into a power pole and blood splatters. The crash site was circled by police cars and an ambulance, and farther off by a bunch of onlookers.

This was my second murderous accident.

But it was her own fault. She shouldn’t have made fun of my feelings for Miki.

Why, thanks to me she was able to suffer the same as her beloved boyfriend. She must have wished for this to happen. Besides, she can count herself lucky that she didn’t have to realize that she had been betrayed to the very end.

She should actually be grateful.

…Bad memories had come to mind.

I didn’t want to recall Miki anymore.

She, who was the same as me.

She, who stopped being the same as me.

She, who is not needed anymore.

She, who is not here anymore.

I fiercely shook my head to shake off these thoughts.

Many times I had tried to forget her, but I would always keep recalling her. I was irritated at myself for being so wimpy.

Please, someone overwrite my heart.

In fact, I’d had in mind to stay by myself for a little longer, but I couldn’t seem to put up with it.

I took the pendulum out of my pocket.

By chance, I meet someone of the same…” I started, but then I paused.

I mustn’t rely on something so uncertain as the “same mind”. This has already failed once. Feelings can change. You don’t necessarily keep being of the same mind.

Hence, I begged for something unshakable.

By chance, I meet a kindred spirit.”

The next moment, a certain girl caught my eye.

Her hair was silver, whereas her eyes and clothes were black. She stood out quite a bit.

Is she the kindred spirit I come across by chance?

As if to answer my question, a ring reached my ears.

There was no doubting it. She was the kindred spirit I was looking for.

She went past by me without even deigning to look at the crash site. I turned round and followed her.

While doing so, I started thinking.

How should we encounter each other?

The more dramatic, the better. So I guess it would be best saving her when she’s about to have an accident. I know how effective that is.

When she had reached the end of the bridge and had climbed down the stairs, I did so, too.

She leisurely strolled along the pavement.

Also on this side there were rubberneckers, who were watching the crash site opposite the road, but she ignored them as well. I followed her again.

Unlike everyone else, we were the only ones that weren’t distracted by the accident and went on.

After making sure there weren’t any onlookers around us anymore, I took out my Pendolo and whispered:

By chance, she almost has an accident.”

A ring resounded, and moments after, the screeching of tires was added to it.

A driver, who had apparently made a steering mistake, had cut a sudden curve and was speeding at full tilt toward the sidewalk.

She was right in front of the car.

As I was prepared, I was able to react quicker than anyone else and made a dash.

I save her when she’s about to have an accident!

That’s what I had imagined—but there was someone who did so before I was able to.

That person seized her and immediately leaped away, enabling him to evade the out-of-control car by a hair’s breadth.

Who on earth is this? I was the one to save her!

While holding her in his arms, he patted her cheeks to help her come to. When she finally got a grip on herself, they exchanged one or two words. The guy had apparently sustained an injury, which is why she cupped his hand with concern in her own.

Judging from their conversation and their attitude, they knew each other. He had come to ask her to make a purchase which he had forgotten to mention.

Damn coincidence.

Even now that I could call forth coincidences, I still found myself unable to grow fond of it.

They seemed to be quite familiar with each other, I had to note. Most likely, they were friends. Maybe more, considering that he just asked her for a purchase.

Such a barnacle. I’ll first get rid of him. Now that’s a good idea.

He explained to her what he needed and then went off in the other direction.

Just when I was about to pursue him, my mobile phone started to vibrate. The name of a classmate was on the display.

“Hello? It’s horrible! Manami just had an accident!”

Mm? That’s all? That’s no news to me. I’ve been watching, after all. Well, I didn’t just watch, though.

The information hadn’t been long in coming. I suspected the ambulance had called the most recent contact in the call history of the victim’s mobile phone.

The person on the other end told me what hospital the victim had been brought to. The class was planning to assemble there. At first, I wanted to decline, but then I had the feeling that this would hurt my social contacts.

So I had no other choice but to leave it at this for that day and go.

Well, I can meet her anytime—by chance. And next time we are certain to have a dramatic encounter. One she will never forget.

For this, I shall exercise patience.

Reflected in the glass of a shelf, which was stuffed with porcelain and ceramic crockery, one could see a young man.

He had somewhat disheveled hair—it was apparent that he hadn’t blown it dry—and wore an unironed black shirt and a pair of black jeans. In fact, he was me.

More than anything, my eyes, which were famous for looking listless and sleepy, looked a lot sleepier than usual.

In other words, there was that little work—-as always.

In concreto, not a single customer had been here since I took over from Saki. To be honest, I was doubting if an employee was even necessary, while I was not in the position to say that.

But despite the poor sales, the owner, Towako-san, didn’t fire any of us.

And as long as it stayed that way, I wasn’t going to quit of my own accord—which had a reason.

I was still indebted to Towako-san. Until I settled that debt, I could not possibly quit.

While I had never asked Saki for her reason to stay here, I supposed it was a similar reason for her.

At the moment she was taking a break in the back section of the shop.

A door at the rear wall of the room connected the shop to a dwelling, whose ground floor consisted of a living room, a kitchen and a restroom. One floor higher, there were Saki and Towako-san’s rooms, and a storage room.

Beyond the open door I spotted Saki in the living room, absorbed in a book, which, incidentally, was titled, “Be a Charming Shopgirl in Ten Easy Steps!”

On the cover was a woman, all tarted up as they are around Shibuya, who gave a V-sign, showing the back of her hand, while smiling at the camera. …I must agree that it’s important to improve ourselves. It’s bound to come to good use.

And so, I silently wished her luck in her efforts and said nothing—by no means was I just too lazy to make a caustic remark on her choice of book.

“There’s just too little to do…”

Out of boredom I carefully touched the scab on the back of my hand.

Because I had saved Saki from an accident the day before, I had grazed my hand. A scab had formed during the night.

While I was considering whether I should scrape it off yet or not, and then deciding against it, the front door opened and the attached bell rang.

Two middle schoolers, who wore the same uniform as the girl on the day before, entered. As far as I knew, the uniform was from a private middle school nearby.

Saki’s words crossed my mind.

—Yes, I couldn’t sell anything this time, but such a happy customer is bound to visit us again.

Did she really advertise us to her friends or something?

“Never.”

While I was in such thoughts, one of the students sharpened her piercing glance and stomped toward the register while shaking her twin tails loose.

“Hey, do you remember the girl yesterday with the same uniform?”

“Uh? Err, yes. We certainly had such a customer.”

“She had an accident,” she said out of the blue, catching me off-guard.

“Well, I am sorry to hear that,” I replied without finding any soothing words.

“Are you saying this while knowing whose fault it is?”

“Whose fault…?”

“This shop’s, of course!” she shouted as she banged the counter.

I was once again surprised by her unexpected accusation, but I couldn’t stay staggered all the time.

“You say our shop is at fault… I am afraid I cannot quite follow you?”

“She told me by phone that this shop mocked at her by proposing only eerie cursed stuff to her although she only wanted to buy a lucky charm. Can you believe it? In the end some scary stone was forced upon her and she was driven away to a shrine!”

I looked at a small basket on the counter that was filled with 100 yen stones. We were selling stones with strange shapes or colors for 100 yen, just like cheap accessory shops often do. If memory doesn’t fail me, Saki gave her one as a welcome present, but apparently the girl thought it was a cursed stone.

Fair enough, if you get service like that

“Apologize right now for forcing such a cursed stone upon her!”

To be honest, I couldn’t help sighing. Cursed stone? That was complete bullshit. A false accusation taken to the extremes.

I could understand that the shock of a friend’s accident would make her want to cast the blame on somebody, but she was completely misdirected. If anything, she should have gone to the one who made the accident.

“Listen, I’m sorry for your friend. I really am. But it’s absurd to blame the accident on such a stone, you know? Besides, the articles our shop assistant proposed weren’t really cursed or anything. There’s no connection to that accident whatsoever. It’s pure coincidence!” I countered, stopping to bother about a polite tone.

The girl, however, shook her head.

“I thought so, too. At first.”

“?”

The girl banged the counter once more. Under her hand, which she pulled away, appeared another stone that looked the same.

“Another friend bought this stone here! The day she bought it, she fell on the tracks and was run over… Coincidence, you say? Two people had such a stone and both of them had an accident! Do you still claim it’s coincidence?!”

It is. It is but mere coincidence.

It was easy to say so. But making her accept it seemed difficult. I’d gotten into trouble.

“Anyway, calm down. You’ve scared your little friend over there, too, after all…”

“What can I do?” asked Saki, who had stopped reading and come here without me noticing. She had probably overheard us.

“What can I do to comfort you? Please, you have but to ask.”

I had thought she would take offense by such a false accusation, but apparently, Saki felt responsibility in her own way.

“As I said, apologize right now!”

“I’m sorry. I can’t apologize for that.”

You just did, I was about to remark, but I didn’t want to be a faultfinder.

“There’s no such power to these stones. I am sorry for your friend, but I can’t blame this stone and apologize,” Saki said and took one of the power stones (fake) on the counter. “So I’m afraid I can’t say sorry, but if there is anything I can do to comfort you, please let me know. What can I do?”

“…Very well. If you carry that stone and nothing happens, I’ll admit that it was coincidence,” the girl said.

I couldn’t believe she gave in so fast.

Does she even believe in curses? Sounds like a waste of time to me.

Saki accepted, however, without hesitation.

“Fine. Let’s go with that. Tokiya, please take care of the shop while I’m away.”

“Are you sure?” I asked while worrying if I should really let her go like this.

She calmly turned around to me, “It’s a cinch. This is part of my after-sales service!” she assured dispassionately with a blank expression while giving a reverse peace sign at eye height just like the woman on the cover of that magazine.

Indeed, the will to provide service after the sale is important.

That said, I’d better confiscate that magazine when she gets back.
We left the shop and decided to stroll around in town.

…Well, for some reason or other I had joined this useless march.

She might think differently, but Saki was a little unpracticed with things like common sense. She kinda had a screw loose somewhere, making it an emotional rollercoaster to watch her. I was a little worried about leaving her alone with some unfamiliar middle schoolers. Perhaps, was I being a little overprotective?

The two girls were called Mitsuko Atobe and Kaoru Mineyama. The noisy brat who had charged at us while shaking around her twin tails was Atobe, whereas the calm one, who wore a somewhat large ear piercing that didn’t suit her at all, was Mineyama.

…Maybe my discontent at this situation had made me a little worked up.

Anyways, I was carrying the (tentatively named) cursed stone and walking up front. Next to me was Saki. I didn’t believe the story about a cursed stone or anything, but I didn’t like the idea of having Saki carry it, either. At some distance behind us, Atobe and Mineyama were following us.

“Hey, stop staring at me,” Atobe complained immediately.

“I haven’t been staring at you’’ to begin with.”

“So you’ve been staring at Kaoru? Stop that. She’s not only unused to guys, but also suffers from androphobia. Try to make a move on her and you’ve got a problem with me!”

“Like I’d do that.”

Since she got on my nerves, I looked ahead, when Saki elbowed me.

“You should have stayed, as I said.”

“There’s nothing to do there anyway, and if I leave it to you, you can’t know what will happen next.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

We came across the place of the accident. Some small parts of the crashed car were scattered about and the guardrail was somewhat bent. This was opposite the side of the street where Saki was about to get into an accident. Apparently, the driver who had accidentally steered toward Saki had done so because he had been distracted by this crash site.

There were, Naturally, no onlookers anymore and people passed by as though nothing had happened.

Atobe and Mineyama, however, stopped.

“What’s wrong?”

“…This is where Manami had an accident!” Atobe explained bitterly.

“Where is she now?”

“In the hospital. She survived somehow… but it looks like there might be aftereffects. We’re not allowed to visit her for a while,” she said and turned around. “I don’t want to go that way. Come this way.”

Unwilling to walk past the place of Manami’s accident, Atobe went back up the stairs of the footbridge. Mineyama followed her with some delay, and so did Saki and I, not left a choice.

“These events lately just won’t stop happening…” Atobe whispered in a gloomy voice. “Already three friends of mine had a traffic accident.”

“Three?”

“The first was Manami’s boyfriend. Yesterday was Manami herself.”

“Now that she mentions it, the girl indeed wanted a lucky charm because a friend of hers had an accident,” Saki told me. As it seemed, that “friend” had been her boyfriend.

Fair enough that she was offended by the cursed stuff Saki offered her. Come to think of it, Saki assumed her friend would die when she introduced the articles…

It was no wonder that Atobe would feel hostility toward us if she had gotten wind of that.

“Who was the third?”

“Forgotten already? She was run over by a train on the day she bought that stone in your shop…”

Atobe remained silent about what had become of that girl. I refrained from asking as well.

That moment, while I was elsewhere in mind and climbing the stairs, a passenger collided with me. I staggered a few steps, before bumping against the handrail with my back.

“?”

Even though I had bumped against the handrail, I lost my balance; by ill luck, just the part of the handrail where I had rested on broke off because of rust.

“Wha—?!”

“Huh?!”

A small scream escaped my lips and merged with the surprised voice of somebody else.

Having lost my balance, my body tilted backwards into the empty space.

“Ugh!”

I reflexively reached for an unbroken part of the handrail. By a narrow margin I managed to grab hold and pulled myself back up onto the bridge.

The broken part of the rail was still dangling loose.

That was close! I almost kissed the street.

My hands and back were drenched in cold sweat.

“Are you all right?” Saki asked as she rushed to me.

When I was about to assure her of my safety, Atobe remarked with a sarcastic smile, “The cursed stone, perhaps?”

“Bullshit. The handrail was a bit rusty, that’s all. Pure accident!”

After making sure the broken part wouldn’t fall down by pulling it in and placing it on the stairs, we crossed the bridge.

It was awfully bad luck that this happened now of all times when I was trying to prove the harmlessness of the stone. This way I was only shooting myself in the foot.

When they had gotten off the bridge, Atobe and Mineyama walked ahead, followed by us.

On the right-hand side across the guardrail was the street, on the left-hand side was a line of various shops. This was where Saki had almost had an accident the previous day.

“By the way, about yesterday…” Saki started.

“Mm? Ah, what about it?”

“Nothing special, but…nk you.”

She muttered something, but I couldn’t quite understand her because of the traffic noise.

“Mm? What did you say…?”

“Uh…”

Then, my sight suddenly became darker.

I looked up and spotted a black object in the air that was falling toward me.

“Whoa!”

I reflexively protected my head and crouched down.

The object, however, directly hit my head—with a fluffy sound.

“…Huh…?”

I picked up the thing that had fallen on the ground after hitting my head. It was a pillow.

“Sorry, sir! Slipped out of my hands when I was about to bring it in!”

Hearing someone apologize, I looked up again. It was a guy, approximately in middle school, who had apparently dropped a pillow when trying to take it inside.

I felt a little awkward for getting so frightened at nothing.

“Lucky it was only a pillow, right? If it had been something heavy, you’d have been seriously hurt!” Atobe remarked with a grin. She didn’t exactly seem worried. “Come on, won’t you admit there’s a curse on it, already? I’ll even forgive you if you apologize!”

“A curse? That was pure coincidence I say.”

“First, you almost fell from the bridge and now you could have gotten a blow on the head—one false step and you would have gone to the hospital! How can so many coincidences occur at once?”

“So you think that’s a curse? Now, that’s a sick curse!” I laughed back at her and walked off.

That moment, I had again the feeling that my sight got darker.

“!”

I immediately looked up. A big concrete chunk came falling at me. Part of the wall of a four-storied building beside me had crumbled away.

“Uwa!”

“Kyaa!”

I hurriedly used my outstretched leg to leap back. The crumbling chunk of concrete brushed my hair before crashing into the ground.

That was close! That wouldn’t have caused just an injury if it had hit my head!

I unconsciously looked at Atobe, thinking that she would bring up the cursed stone again, but she wasn’t about to add some comments at all. Quite the contrary—she was gazing at me aghast with a pale face. Most likely it was her who had screamed up just now.

She had been joking about a curse, but at the moment, things that made it really seem so were happening as if on cue.

Be it the passenger, the rusted handrail, the pillow or the concrete crumb—it had all happened by accident.

But it was completely absurd that all of this happened in a row.

Was it just a bad day?

Or was that stone really cursed?

Impossible. There can’t be a curse on this.

“Tokiya!” Saki shouted to warn me about a bicycle that came rushing toward me along the pavement at full speed.

I suspended my thoughts and stepped aside to the edge of the sidewalk, when suddenly—I heard emergency braking behind me.

I whipped round, just to find a tilted truck coming toward us on only two wheels.

“What the fuck!” escaped my lips.

Again? How can I get in danger so many times in a row?

No way.

This can’t be explained as pure coincidence.

But screaming out loud was all I could do.

The truck turned over on its side at full tilt and skidded into the guardrail. The collision opened the container from which a red avalanche came rushing down on me.

It just won’t go smoothly.

He was supposed to fall on the road by leaning against a broken handrail by chance.

He was supposed to be squashed by a concrete chunk that crumbled away from a building by chance.

He managed to get away from these accidents. I have to go for a more reliable method. But what method is more reliable? What method can he not evade?

By chance, a fierce earthquake occurs… No, this would get myself involved, and it’s not exactly reliable.

By chance, he gets drenched in poison… No, there can’t possibly be any poison around here, so this can’t even happen.

Especially my last coincidence was a real shame.

A truck was supposed to fall on the side by chance and either run him over or bury him under its load.

I’m out of luck. Why of all things was that in the container?

Well, perhaps I should make a truck with a heavy load fall over and empty its load over him next…

No, I have no means of knowing when a truck with a heavy load shows up here. The probability of this happening would drop dramatically.

Coincidence is really just a probability.

When necessity equaled 100%, coincidence would be a tiny number incredibly close to 0%. But it won’t do if the probability drops to 0%. A 0% coincidence won’t occur.

In other words, unless a truck with a heavy load drives past here, it won’t fall over and empty its load on him.

Sure, there’s bound to be one sooner or later. But I need one now.

I can’t make a truck fall over if there’s none here. And while there are lots of common cars, I can’t spot any trucks on the street…

Besides, I can’t set the result of my coincidences.

I can make a handrail break off by chance when he leans against it, but I cannot set the result of him falling from the bridge.

I can make a chunk of concrete crumble away from a building by chance, but it doesn’t necessarily hit his head.

I can make an electric wire get snapped by chance, but it may not touch him.

The results of my coincidences are really just coincidental. Hence, the result can be said to be a pure probability. Therefore, I have to create a coincidence whose result is certain.

Isn’t there a more reliable method?

Isn’t there a more reliable coincidence to kill him?

“Ptah!”

I spat out the flower petals in my mouth and erected myself.

That was close! I would be as flat as a pancake by now if the truck hadn’t been loaded with flowers but something heavy like full oil drums.

While gazing at the flower shop truck that had turned over and crashed into a shop nearby, coloring its surroundings, I sighed in relief.

“Are you all right?”

Saki rushed to me and stretched her hand out. After giving her a yes, I stood up.

Atobe was, just like me, buried in flowers and sitting still, her face distorted with fear.

Mineyama had apparently had more luck and stood a bit offside, uninjured.

There was one more person: the bicycler from earlier, who was about in middle school, had fallen from his vehicle and was squatting down.

I was about to talk to them,

“———!”

But instead I pushed down Saki, covering her body with mine, and shouted:

“Get away! It’s exploding!”

The very moment I finished, the truck blew up with a small explosion.

Some parts were blown away, and I could feel one of them fly past right above my back. Had I still been up, I would certainly have been pierced by that splitter.

“Saki, are you okay?”

Saki was looking up at me expressionlessly.

I tried slapping her cheeks. No reaction.

I tried poking her in the forehead. No reaction.

I tried pinching her cheeks. No reaction.

No, there was one. She hit back.

“If you are fine, then give a reaction!”

I couldn’t read from her face whether she had been somewhere else in mind or just like always.

“I did just that!”

After I had made sure Saki, still in my arms, was safe and sound, I stood up. Atobe was lying prone a little off her previous position together with the bicyclist. Mineyama, who had been standing apart, had apparently gotten quite a scare and had fallen on her rear.

“Hey, get a grip!”

I raised her in my arms and slapped her cheeks to make her regain consciousness. Along with a grumble, she opened her eyes and gazed at me.

“How’s Kiritani?”

“Kiritani?”

Ignoring my question, she rushed to the boy who had steered the bicycle. Fortunately, the explosion had not hit him.

After shaking his head a few times, he, or rather Kiritani, stood up.

“Hey, are you guys all right?” someone asked as he dashed out of a building toward Atobe and Kiritani. It was the boy who had earlier dropped a pillow on my head. It was obvious they knew each other.

“What is this supposed to be?”

The pillow-thrower visibly contorted his face, signing that he thought “Crap!” Moreover, the bicycler turned out to be the guy who had bumped into me on the bridge on closer examination.

“Are you guys in cahoots together?”

Things finally made sense. Middle schoolers wouldn’t normally believe in something like a cursed stone. They had only demanded to walk through town and see if something happens, because they had a scheme.

“No wonder you were so confident something would occur.”

To get away from the onlookers who were increasing, I led them a few steps away. Still paralyzed in shock, Atobe had to be supported by Kiritani or whatever he was called. She got what she deserved.

“Well, care to explain?” I demanded after looking at each of them. Atobe didn’t raise her face, and the two guys were busy pushing the blame onto the other with their looks. To my surprise, the one to start explaining was Mineyama.

“Two of our friends had such a stone when they had an accident, so we decided to take revenge for them on that shop. Of course, nobody actually believed in this story about a cursed stone, but after experiencing two accidents, we were all churned up inside. Please believe me, all we wanted is to draw an apology from you with a little pressure.”

“An apology is all you wanted?”

“…Well, by apologizing you would sort of admit the blame, so we also thought about requesting a compensation…”

“Extortion at its best!”

“I’m sorry, but we didn’t mean to hurt you, honestly!” Mineyama lowered her head as much she could.

“Man, kids nowadays…”

“You sound like an old man,” Saki remarked.

“Shut it!”

It was one thing to get an apology, but it was a whole new ball game if extorting money was their objective.

“…Hey you, go buy me some water in that store over there,” I commanded Mineyama and gave her some coin. I wanted to do something about the disgusting taste of flowers in my mouth.

Mineyama nodded obediently and went to the convenience store.

I’ll spare Mineyama for being honest with me. But the others are getting a lecture. Even if this makes me look like an old man.

“Well then, how are you going to make up for this mess?”

When I made a step toward them, Atobe immediately pushed me back.

“!”

That moment, a sign board came flying from somewhere and landed right between us, just to bounce against the street and roll away.

“——!”

“HYY!”

That was by a hair’s breadth. A sign on about the 3rd floor of the shop, into which the truck had crashed, had broken off. If it hadn’t been for Atobe, the board would have directly hit me.

I was unsure if I was supposed to be grateful or angry that she had pushed me away. But first, I wanted to help her up. However.

“Don’t come close to me!” she hissed, almost screaming.

“Atobe?”

“…It’s odd. Something’s just odd! This stone must be cursed, after all…” she babbled with a pale face.

“Hey, stop this nonsense about a curse already! Didn’t you just say it’s all your—”

“We only tried to make you stumble or to drop a pillow on you or to get you hit with a bicycle! We didn’t break that handrail, or make that wall crumble! That accident wasn’t us, either…”

Atobe contorted her face and retreated from me.

“But…”

“There are dead and wounded! And that sign just now… Go away… go away! Don’t involve me!”

Before I could do anything, Atobe had already gotten on her feet by herself and escaped. The two boys, surprised by her panicking, hurried after her.

Before I knew it, they had disappeared.

I had originally assumed this was a mere prank. But as Atobe had said, things had occurred that could be done deliberately and such that could not. Barging against me or throwing a pillow was no big deal even for Atobe and her pals. But destroying a handrail, making an entire wall crumble, causing a car accident and breaking off a sign clearly exceeded their capabilities.

Then what on earth had caused this—

“…Saki, you can go home now.”

My sudden words visibly puzzled her.

“There’s something you must confirm for me.”
After a while, Mineyama returned with a suspicious face. Because she wasn’t able to find her classmates.

“Atobe ran off with her friends.”

“…Aha.”

She remained calm despite being left alone.

“What happened to your comrade?” she asked.

“I sent her home. I have the stone, so it should be fine, right?”

“…Do you still want to continue?”

“Your classmates ran off believing this was a cursed stone. Can’t stop until we prove that it’s not.”

“I… see.”

She had probably intended to leave right after handing me the bottle. Her casting the eyes down as if searching for an excuse to leave made me feel quite bad.

“Say, do you believe in that curse?”

“I do think it sounds ridiculous, but now that such weird things have kept occurring one after another, I’m losing confidence.”

“What things would that be specifically, apart from your pranks?”

“Um, the broken handrail, that wall, the car accident and the sign, I suppose.”

“And not to forget the explosion, right?”

“Yes.”

I blew air into the vinyl bag from the convenience store and popped it loudly. A short bang made Mineyama shriek.

“D-Don’t startle me, please!”

“Oh? You can scream, too? I was sure you wouldn’t, just like Saki.”

To my teasing she responded with displeasure, “Of course I can.”

“At any rate, as things stand right now, I can’t help wondering myself, so keep me company for just a little longer.”

I couldn’t let her go just yet. There was something I had to confirm.

Damn it! If she hadn’t barged in, the sign board would have gotten him.

She probably didn’t even notice it when she pushed him back. It was pure accident. I can hardly believe such a lucky coincidence could happen.

Looks like the probability of surviving is generally higher than that of dying.

Well, but the same also applies to me: That one earlier was really risky.

I didn’t expect an explosion.

I almost got involved myself.

Coincidence sure can be dreadful.

Lucky that I kept some distance to not get in the truck’s way.

But why couldn’t he just die in that explosion?

I was sure he would put a stop to this for good now, but some sort of pride kept him from returning to his shop.

This time around, he led me to a construction site nearby for some reason.

I couldn’t ask for better conditions, actually.

If he had gone back to the shop, all that would come to mind was an accidental fire or a truck crashing right into the shop, but that would put her in danger as well.

It’s enough if only that guy dies.

The building seemed to reach about 8 floors and was surrounded by steel framing. Tarps were laid out around it.

Nobody was there anymore as that day’s work had apparently already finished, and the wind blew loudly against the tarps, lifting them lightly. The wind had gotten stronger with sunset.

I don’t know why he took me to such a place.

But there’s no need to, anyway — for he is going to get squashed under the crane truck that falls over by chance.

Just as I had wished for, the truck started to shake in the wind and then slowly turned over on its side along with a deafening noise — straight toward my target who was talking to someone on the phone.

The impact shook the ground and raised a stink.

This should have done the trick for good. He didn’t have enough time to react. Even if he noticed the truck, he couldn’t possibly make it in time.

A ring resounded.

“Now that’s a nice sound,” I heard from the dust cloud.

“…”

A tiny little bit besides the tilted truck, he stood.

Then he said, even with a smile on his face, “Did you think I finally died for good, Kaoru Mineyama?”

“Did you think I finally died for good, Kaoru Mineyama?” I asked, but Mineyama was still in shock as it seemed.

“Y-You were all right? Thank goodness. I thought you were crushed by the crane truck…” she said in a caring tone after coming to.

“Yeah, I thought so, too! What a day! This wasn’t one of your pranks, right?”

“O-Of course not. But does that mean… that stone is cursed after all?”

“Which stone do you mean by ‘that’?”

“Well, the one you are carrying…”

“Sorry, but I’m not. Threw it away earlier.”

“Eh?”

“Which means that this accident just now wasn’t due to some curse. Neither was the broken handrail, the crumbling wall, the sign board or the traffic accident.”

Tsukumodo_V1_P065

“But then, but then do you claim it was pure coincidence?”

“Like so many coincidences could occur in succession!” I dismissed her blatant acting with a sneer. “It was you who caused all these accidents today, wasn’t it?”

“W-What are you saying? How would I even be able to do that?”

“Are you sure?”

“There’s no way I could make accidents happen like that!”

“Well, normally that would have been true. But you know what? There are ways that can’t be explained by common sense.
—for example using a Relic.”

Mineyama’s pretty eyelashes flinched.

“Surprised that I know about the Relics?”

“What might that be?”

“An antique, of course?”

“Ah…”

“If you play dumb, that’s what you’re supposed to say. You did it wrong.”

“Relic” isn’t a word one doesn’t normally know. It can be found anywhere. The only difference is in its meaning.

“What makes you suspect me?”

Suspecting someone doesn’t require much of a foundation. The problem is to prove it, but I didn’t have to go that far. I only had to make her admit.

“I was thinking you stood quite far away when the flower truck crashed, you know. Almost as though you predicted the accident? Although Atobe almost got involved despite having walked right next to you all the time.”

“That’s only because she stopped by chance…”

“There’s still more. Atobe’s reactions to the accidents differed between hers and those that happened by chance. You always reacted the same. You weren’t surprised by the pillow attack, nor by the concrete chunk. Even though you were startled by a lousy plastic bag.”

“That’s because I was completely taken by surprise and couldn’t even react…”

“But you were quite surprised by the truck explosion, right?”

“Well, of course…”

“So an explosion does not completely take you by surprise?”

“…”

“Also, when you listed all the accidents, you forgot about that explosion. Because you didn’t plan that one, right?”

“I just forgot to say it, that’s all…”

“Furthermore, how did you know about the sign board? You weren’t there at the time, were you?”

“!”

Most of this were just bluffs. It was perfectly possible that someone might not know the word “relic”. Also, it was not like I remembered all her reactions. The falling sign board she could have seen from over there, too.

I was far from a skillful detective of some mystery novel who cuts off the escape route step by step. But Mineyama kindly provided an excuse for each of my trumped up charges. Which was proof that there was more to it. Which on the other hand is another trumped-up charge, I guess?

There was one fact, however, I was sure about.

“Looks like you wanted to exploit Atobe’s plan and cast the blame of everything on the cursed stone, but that stone is really not cursed. That stone is not the stone that brings others ill luck. The real one is stowed away deep in the shop.”

“…Eh?”

As it was Relics the owner, Towako-san, was collecting, all the articles on the shelves were fakes of Relics she had tried to obtain.

Naturally, she also succeeded at times, and the shop was full with documents concerning this field.

A stone that brings others ill luck did exist in truth. But it was stowed away, and due to its nature, it was strictly prohibited to take it out.

I did not claim that the stone wasn’t cursed because I believed it did not exist. I simply claimed so, because I knew it was somewhere else.

Well, I had been slightly unsure, though, so I had Saki confirm it for me.

“Admit it already! It wasn’t coincidence, right?”

“I thought I did quite well, though,” muttered Mineyama after taking a deep breath.

If she had kept playing dumb or asked for proof like in some suspense drama, I would have had no choice but to give up and go home.

“…Are Relics so well known?”

“Absolutely not. I suppose most don’t know of them. It’s just that I knew — by chance.”

“Again coincidence?” she hissed. Her anger had quashed her will to hide her motives any longer. “I was wrong in thinking nobody would know about the Relics, at least so near…”

“Well, that’s only normal. I didn’t think these accidents had anything to do with Relics from the start, either! But when accidents keep happening like that, you know…”

“Because you keep evading them! In fact, this should have been settled by you falling on the street and getting run over. Besides, had you not known about the Relics, you would have believed it was all coincidence.”

“Maybe, yeah.”

“May I pose a question, too? How did you manage to evade everything I threw at you? Unless you’re blessed by outstanding luck, it should have been impossible to evade accidents so many times.”

“What do you think?”

“I think it may be thanks to a Relic you own.”

“50%. Guess what Relic it is and get the full 100%.”

“I’m fine with zero points. I have no intention of accompanying your little quiz. I don’t know how you did it, but I can solve this by making it impossible to evade!”

My back was getting sweaty.

The real problem started here. I had no idea what Mineyama was going to do now that she had admitted everything.

“—Don’t underestimate the coincidences I create.”
—Then a painful noise ran through my head.
Several steel beams accelerated down toward me.

I dodged the first one to the right. The beam stuck into the ground.

Another one I dodged by jumping back. This time it didn’t stick into the ground but bounced toward me.

I covered my head and squatted down, evading the girder by a hair’s breadth.

But suddenly, another steel beam stuck into the ground right in front of me and threw up a storm of splinters, which hit me like stones.

They cut into my cheek, my arms and my legs.

Unable to resist the blow, I fell over on my back.

Before my eyes I could make out an “H” for some reason.

The moment I realized this was an end of a steel beam, my head was squashed.
“————”
Several steel beams came falling towards me with increasing speed.

I dodged the first one to the right. The beam stuck into the ground.

Another one I dodged by jumping back. This time it didn’t stick into the ground but bounced toward me.

I covered my head and squatted down, evading the girder by a hair’s breadth.

But suddenly, another steel beam stuck into the ground right in front of me and threw up a storm of splinters, which hit me like stones.

They cut into my cheek, my arms and my legs.

Unable to resist the blow, I fell over on my back.

Before my eyes I could make out an “H” for some reason.

The moment I realized this was an end of a steel beam—

—I had already rolled away and dodged the steel press. The beam crashed into the ground and flew away diagonally.

The deafening noise hurt my ears.

“…W-What? How could you evade this?!”

Indeed, so many beams were not to be dodged easily. Mineyama must have been sure I’d die.

“Who knows?”
Again, a painful noise ran through my head——
A couple of steel girders came again falling towards me.

This time there were five of them and they charged at me at the same time.

Somehow I managed to evade three of them, but the fourth one crushed me.
——But this wasn’t reality.
It was but the future my Relic showed to me.

My right eye was artificial. A Relic named “Vision” had been implanted where once my real eye had been.

“Vision” would show me the immediate future.

However, it wouldn’t just show me all of the future. I couldn’t foresee the winning number of a lottery, or the winner of a sports match. Not even the weather. Nor could I see any future events at will.

But there was one type of future it would show me without fail.

That is, when I or someone I knew was in danger. At those times, it showed me the moment of their death.

When that happened, a pain would run through my head, much like static TV noise, followed by a cut-in of the future.

And then I would take another action than in the future shown, trying to avert the predicted death.

Earlier, Mineyama had said that she had “created” coincidences.

From that, I guessed she owned a Relic that enabled her to cause coincidences.

A dreadful item, indeed.

Coincidences cannot be predicted, thus they cannot be prevented, either.

But my “Vision” happened to be a nice match with her Relic.

If coincidences can be predicted, it’s not impossible to prevent them.

Be it Saki’s accident, my falling from the bridge, the concrete chunk crushing my skull, getting torn up by that truck explosion or the crane truck falling over, I had predicted all of them a moment before actually happening.

I had not seen, however, any of Atobe’s pranks or my getting buried under flowers. Most likely because my life hadn’t been in danger.

As for the sign board, I had not predicted it because the future of getting hit by it had not existed in the first place.

“No way…”

Most likely, after witnessing that I had gotten away from her steel beams twice already, she had realized that it wasn’t something uncertain like coincidence or luck that enabled me to evade her coincidences.

Mineyama grumbled frantically, “T-This time I’ll get you…!”

“You should stop.”

“Eh?”

“How long does coincidence stay coincidence?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that accidents don’t normally repeat themselves that often.”

Relics aren’t almighty. There are restrictions and limits.

If Mineyama’s Relic was restricted to solely coincidences, deviating from that restriction was going to put herself in danger.

“Listen. This is a well-meant warning. Steel beams don’t come falling down three times in a row just ‘by chance’. It’s not coincidence if it happens several times. If your Relic is designated to create coincidences, it cannot create certainties. Try it and you will cause a conflict. If that happens, the relic will either break or your life will be at stake.”

“…”

“Stop now while you still can!”

“…Coincidences will occur as many times as I wish!”

“Fool! Stop it!”

However, there was no noise.

There was no future shown to me.

And there was no steel beam that came falling down.

Instead, I heard a clear chink.

The round part of her rather large piercing had broken in two and fallen on the ground.

“My, my Relic…!”

Mineyama’s somber scream drowned the chink and echoed through the evening construction site.

Why did I have to be born as a girl?

One cannot choose to be a boy or a girl when born. If one could, I would have chosen to be male. I have always thought so.

That didn’t change with time. No, it even got worse when I hit puberty.

I always fell in love with girls.

In elementary school, I plucked my courage and confessed several times.

The answer was always no.

Even worse; I lost my friends and was deemed abnormal at times.

In middle school, I decided to stop with this.

You can’t change your heart, but you can change your actions.

But wanting to give myself just one chance, I begged to the Pendolo.

To meet someone of the same mind by chance.

Shortly after, I met Miki Kano.

She was like me.

She was also attracted to girls, and so we were attracted to each other and came together.

At the time, I didn’t dare think that her feelings might change.

But the end came quick.

Just like a healing wound from an accident, her feelings for me disappeared.

Miki and I had both been in an all-girls elementary school. Therefore, there had only been girls that could be the targets of her admiration. But with graduating to a mixed middle school, she regained what is called a “healthy mind”.

It’s a simple story, really. She fell for a guy.

On top of that, it was the boyfriend of her friend Manami.

Manami’s boyfriend did have an accident, but this was simply because he saved Miki when she was about to have one, and was injured in her place. This dramatic encounter bent her feelings for me toward him.

Perhaps, I would have accepted her change of mind if it had been a girl she fell in love with.

But it was not.

It was betrayal. Betrayal of my heart.

My feelings for her had been so serious, so pure, that I thirsted for revenge all the more.

I took revenge on Miki—using coincidence.

I committed the murderous accident of making her fall on the tracks at the station by chance.

After that, Manami got wind of my relationship with Miki. Manami’s boyfriend had heard it from Miki, and Manami from her boyfriend.

And then she denied my feelings. Saying they were wrong.

She had no idea. She didn’t know even a bit of my pain.

Therefore, I passed judgment on her.

Committing the murderous accident of making her get run over by a rampaging car.

But now I can’t do this anymore.

My Pendolo was destroyed.

This wasn’t supposed to happen.

This wasn’t supposed to happen.

Where is he? Where is the guy who destroyed my dear Pendolo?

I heard someone’s footsteps stop right before me.

I quickly raised my head.

It wasn’t him, but her.

I haven’t caused this. I can’t cause any coincidences anymore.

But why is she here, then?

By real chance?

“It’s no coincidence that I’m here,” she declared.

Right. I can’t cause any coincidences anymore, and there’s no way such a gentle coincidence would occur at such a convenient time.

So this must be fate.

It was destined from the very beginning that this was going to happen.

After all, you are my fated partner.

“Nor is it fate.”

However, my thoughts were denied.

“B-But my wish was to meet a kindred spirit!”

“…Yes, in a sense we are kindred,” she whispered, “In the sense of having used Relics to commit a sin.”

She looked down at me with sorrowful eyes.

“It seems like Tokiya didn’t think that much ahead, but if you have taken part in the accidents of your classmates, then you ought to watch yourself. The sin that comes from Relics cannot be cleansed by anyone. So if you’ve already thought yourself to be safe, rest assured that you will get the bill for playing with others’ fates. Fate is neither as vague nor as gentle as to be cleared away as coincidence. I just wanted to let you know.”
…When I came to, I was standing there alone.

She was nowhere to be seen anymore. There was no trace of her. Was it a dream?

Maybe.

Coincidence hates me, so there’s no way I could meet her just by chance.

Suddenly, I was dazzled by a fierce light as if it wanted to wake me up.

I then noticed that it was the headlight of a truck that was entering the construction site. The driver spotted me and yelled, “What are you doing here?! This is a prohibited zone!”

Indeed, I’m at fault for entering here, but that’s no reason to yell at me, is it?

…Damn it. If I had the Pendolo, I would cause a nice accident for you…!

But I do not have it anymore.

While I was clenching my teeth in irritation, the truck approached me.

However, the vehicle suddenly started to tilt.

Upon a closer look, I noticed that the truck had run up onto the steel girders I had caused to fall.

Like in slow-motion, it slowly tilted and the moment its body was parallel to the ground, it finished its fall with a tremendous noise.

Then, after the sound of wires snapping, an avalanche of thick steel pipes came rushing down on me.

“Huh?”

While my vision was filled with uncountable pipes, one thought occupied my mind:

—Hadn’t I once thought of the coincidence of a heavily loaded truck falling over?

The moment I arrived at the shop and closed the door, I let out a grand sigh of relief.

“I thought I was done for.”

Indeed, I was able to predict my death using Vision, but that did not mean I was safe.

Just because I could see the future, there was no guarantee that I could also prevent it.

In this case I may have known where the beams would land, but I could still have failed dodging them.

Besides, if she had really found an unfailing coincidence, predicting it would have not been worth a damn.

For an absurd example, even I would have to take off my hat if I was by chance attacked by a terrorist with a machine gun.

That’s why I had set up a risky stage.

In order to make Mineyama believe I could evade all her coincidences, I deliberately put myself at risk and dodged the steel girders twice.

I had then wanted to talk her into giving up, bluffing that her Relic would break or that she would get in danger.

Still, she didn’t listen and tried to make some steel beams fall down a third time.

I was not at all positive whether I would have succeeded in dodging them.

At the very end, it was only me who was saved by chance.

Only now did my knees start to tremble.

I leaned against the door—but failed, as it opened exactly at that moment, and so I fell over on my back at full tilt.

“What are you doing?” asked Saki from above.

“Backward rolls!” I jested. “But hey, where have you been?”

“…I was looking for you because you took so long! I thought she got you with her Relic.”

“You were worried about me?”

“Yes.”

The “worry” was well hidden in her emotionless speech.

“Say, Tokiya, why do you think she targeted you?”

“I guess she thought that stone was an actual Relic that causes ill luck, since she knew about the Relics. And so she sought revenge on us for selling them. Well, but it looks like she didn’t expect us to know about them, too. It’s a good thing to care for one’s friends, but she should really learn to think before she acts!”

“Hmm.” I couldn’t read from her blank expression whether she was satisfied with my answer or not. “Well, not that I mind, but why don’t you stand up instead of taking roots down there?”

Saki went around me into the shop.

“You don’t say!”

I stood up and tried to enter the shop, but being still wobbly on my legs, I stumbled over the door sill.

“Whoa!”

Having lost my balance, I instinctively reached out and held on to the first thing I could grab.

That this thing happened to be Saki, and that I was practically clinging to her was nothing but, “P-Pure coincidence! An accident!”

“You stumbled by chance and had to cling to me?” she said without showing any astonishment at me clinging to her… no, at me using her as a support. “Like such a lucky coincidence could occur.”


[1] Literally “Name is omen.” Implies that the name is fitting for the object or person. Saki’s name is written 舞野咲, which translates as ‘Blossom of the dancing field’ Also see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nominative_determinism

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