Part 101: Coco's Route - True End - Part 6TrackHeilmittel
Inside the room was silent. We approached Tsugumi's bed carefully, so as not to make a sound.
She turned her face toward us.
"We came to see how you're doing. How are you?"
"Same as I look...No more, no less."
"Is that all?"
I didn't know how to say what had to be said. I didn't think that just saying 'I'm sorry,' and bowing my head would get my feelings across. I wanted to choose my words carefully. But....
"I...I...I came because I want to apologize to you, Tsugumi..."
Coco opened her mouth before I could speak.
"Y-yes...Because, because...you were trying to help me..."
"So...that's why...I have to say I'm sorry...I'm so sorry...And...and besides that...I wanted to say thank you...I wanted to say sorry and thank you. Sorry and thank you Tsugumi..."
Coco's voice shook and she almost sobbed as she tied her words together.
Tsugumi's expression hinted at a smile.
"Coco. You don't have to say thank you. Of course, you don't have to apologize either. Because you didn't do anything wrong, Coco..."
"Please, don't look so sad. Alright?"
Tsugumi extended one of her arms from the bed. She touched her palm to Coco's cheek.
"Everything happened, because it was supposed to. It is no one's fault."
I had never seen Tsugumi be so nice, so gentle. Her piercing gaze and sharp tongue...they could have belonged to an entirely different person. For an instant I wondered what would have happened if I had come to see her alone?' Maybe Tsugumi was opening up to Coco.
"Hey, Coco? Try to remember that time and what happened. Who was it that asked Coco to hold the pipe?"
"Me...I asked you to. So the reason that you were standing there was because I told you to. So...it was my fault."
"That has nothing to do with it!"
"Yeah, maybe you're right...maybe it doesn't..."
"So that would mean me pushing you out of the way and all those scrap materials falling...that was nobody's fault...right? That's how the cause and effect of things works. If you look for the cause, it just leads everywhere, to no end...The cause of the cause of the cause...chasing after that and thinking in that way is kind of pointless, right? That's why I said what I did. Everything happened, because it was supposed to."
"And besides. What I did helped minimize the number of injuries and I think it was a good decision. I helped you. And I...I am still alive...So...that makes everything okay...okay? Do you see what I am saying?"
After thinking it over for a while, Coco nodded without much confidence.
"It is alright if you don't understand it right now. You are probably too young to understand it yet."
"Anyway, just don't blame yourself. And don't get that sad look either."
Tsugumi gently pinched Coco's cheek with her fingers.
"Alright? You got it?"
Coco furrowed her brow and gave a solid nod.
Looking for a good time to chime in, I finally found my voice. Tsugumi had said it was all nobody's fault, but I still felt I had to apologize to her. I was the one that had created the opportunity that made the accident possible.
"What is it?"
Tsugumi's expression was as mild as before.
Just as I was about to say I was sorry...
"Oh, no! Not more flooding?"
Coco's face went pale. Focusing her eyes on one point on the wall, Tsugumi raised her body up.
"I'm gonna see what's going on."
"S-stupid! You have to rest! You can't go moving around!"
"I'm fine. This injury is no big deal..."
"No big deal? You are really something! I can't believe you're so stupid! "
"Just stay here and take it easy! I'll go check things out."
"No 'buts'...! Got it? I don't want you moving an inch! Because you do, and you have to deal with me!"
"As soon as I figure out what is going on, I'll come back."
"Don't worry. Everything'll be fine."
Saying that, I jetted out of the room.
I looked to the left and the right. Coco, trailing behind me, grabbed and squeezed my hand.
"Takepyon...what're we gonna do...?"
Coco sounded scared.
"For now, we'll go to where everybody else is!"
I pulled along Coco as I ran.
I descended the stairs in a blur.
No one was there.
The alarm was still blaring. I strained to listen. I didn't hear the sound of seawater rushing in or the sound of the partitions squeaking under pressure. But....
It sounded like rain. Like water droplets pouring down on water and the sound of the wind cutting through the sky.
"What? What is that sound?"
A winded Coco asked me that. We were getting closer to the sound of the rain. A low sound, it undercut the sound of the siren. Left of the corridor stood a gaping entranceway...Dashing into it, our eyes met with a surprising sight.
A mass of droplets were showering down from the ceiling. It was the rest area. The whole area was obscured in a fine mist....And smack in the middle of it...
Sora was shining like a rainbow. We worked our way toward Sora through the rain, trying to avoid the moisture as much as possible. Coco and I were already drenched.
"Sora, what in the world...?"
Sora looked up at the ceiling. I followed her gaze and looked upward. Among the countless particles of mist....Something was faintly visible on the other side.
Sora just laughed. She didn't try to answer. Just then...
"H-hey, what's happening?"
You frantically came running into the room. She was holding a fire extinguisher in her hands. She already had removed the safety pin, had the nozzle aimed and was ready to let loose with it. It was a pretty clumsy looking attempt.
"I apologize for unduly causing you worry. I felt sorry for them, so I..."
Sora turned her gaze to the flowerbeds on the ground.
"Was this...all just to water the flowers...?"
Sora just smiled. She didn't try to explain.
"There isn't a fire, or an explosion or anything like that?"
"Correct...I am very sorry."
But Sora's face didn't look like she was sorry. Rather, it looked like Sora was enjoying the droplets showering down from the sprinklers.
"Geez, don't scare me like that...The monitor in the security room gave a fire alarm so I came running..."
You replaced the nozzle of the fire extinguisher and the safety pin.
"Well, at least it was nothing serious - better than the alternative."
Coco, You and I heaved a sigh and sat down where we were. The sprinklers hadn't stopped. Sora was staring at the flowers with a look of pity. It looked as if the grass and flowers were dancing, reveling in the newfound moisture.
"Hey? What happened to Kiddo and Pipi?"
I looked around the room. I saw them. The Kid and Pipi were still running around the statues.
"It's raining, it's pouring"
"The old man is snoring"
"And I'm singing in the rain Because I like the rain"
"Delicious rain! Gulp, gulp, gulp. What a glorious feeling But I don't wanna catch a cold"
"I'm going to get you now! It's an acid rain shower!"
"I'm singing in the rain What a glorious feeling"
The Kid and Pipi were running about in the downpour screaming out joyfully. It went beyond playfulness. It was close to pathological.
(I wonder if the Kid has finally taken the plunge off the deep end...)
I clasped my hands together as if praying for his recovery.
"Rain, rain don't go away, don't come again some other day -"
"Not a sprinkle, but a shower! An excuse to get drenched and skip school!"
"Gulp, gulp, gulp. Delicious rain. Used to make beer - Hiccup. But if I drink it, the police will come -"
"Time to run! Gotta escape! And don't forget the umbrella -"
"I'm a kid. I'm the Kid, and I'm the rain boy! But the rain can't get me!"
"Rain! Rain! Sweeeeet rain! Come again another day!"
I was sitting at the tip of the whale's nose. Sara was beside me. She covered her head with her hand, to keep the droplets from getting her hair wet.
"Rain? You know it's not rain, don't you? It's just the whale blowing out water."
"I know that. I know it, but it looks like it's raining to me."
Water, misty and drizzling poured upon us from the sky. The stars reflected lights from the water droplets and emitted vibrant colors.
We were in the cosmos. The whale was alive. At least it seemed that way to me. A whale swimming in the starry sky. His back surging like a wave, he undulated again and again. His soft mouth opened and closed, and even puffed up time to time. About every three minutes, he blew out a warm breath through his blowhole. A seawater mist of spray would scatter around the area.
Sitting at the tip of his nose, Sara and I bobbed up and down, in time with his movements...Although, he undulated so slowly that we could let go with our hands and still feel safe. It was like a cradle rocking back and forth...On the back of the whale, we sailed through the cosmos.
The shimmering flame colored her face red. She had the pendant in her other hand. The pendant was shaking in Sara's small hand. It was the same one she had shown me in the small room in the warehouse.
"Hey, Sara? I'm going to ask you again, but....Who is the man in the pendant?"
"And I already told you, right?"
"What? That he's from the Sun??"
She handed me the pendant and the lighter and I stared the image closely.
I had no idea how people from the Sun were supposed to look, but the man in the image at least had the face of an 'earthling.' He looked like any ordinary, young man to me.
"Are you serious, he's from the Sun?"
I asked her.
"Ha, ha...you're so gullible, Kid."
"There's no such thing as people on the sun. Do you honestly think life could exist on that ball of fire?"
"So, you were lying to me?"
"I wouldn't call it lying. I was joking with you, you know, giving you a hard time."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Well, what do YOU think it means?"
Sara stretched out her arm and put out the lighter.
I put the lighter and the pendant together, returning them to her. Just then, Sara slid down the back of the whale without a word. I hastily followed suit.
"It's made in a way so that it is only visible under sunlight. That's why I said he was a sun person."
Sara stood next to the whale and started talking.
"When I was young, I really believed it though. I used to believe that you can only see it with sunlight because it was made by people who lived on the sun. And that because I had this pendant, I was one of their children....And that I was sent to earth on some kind of mission...I used to imagine stuff like that. Looking back on it now, I know those were really just childish fantasies."
"Wa-wait a second, Sara. We're 103 feet underwater. Where is there any sun...?"
Sara interrupted me and lit the lighter. Light filled the space around us. The flickering flame....Despite the insignificant size, a red the color of a sunset shone upon the dome-shaped ceiling.
"A flame. Even without the sun, you can see it if you've got a lighter. It took me a long time to realize it though. I guess I was 10 or 11, or so...."
"Really, sunlight or a flame, huh...?"
"But still....Even if there is sunlight, or flame, there are some people who can't see it."
"People who can't see it?"
"Meaning pretty much everybody except me. I'm the only person I've found who can see this hologram's image. Well....I THOUGHT I was the only who could see it. But you know, I just met someone who can also see this image...."
Sara put out the lighter. The darkness came rushing back. She flicked the light on again, and put it out. She repeated this action a few times...then Sara finally spoke.
"Kid....I'm talking about you."
My scar ached. The old scar on my left thumb....
"How come you can you see it too, Kid? Huh? Why do you think?"
Sara looked upward into my eyes. She pushed the pendant and the lighter against my chest.
"Will you look at it again?"
I took them from her.
A weak 3D image rose dimly before me...It was a man who I hadn't even seen before...Looking at it this closely, I realized that I a piece from the mirror was missing.
"A scar on my thumb"........."A piece to be filled in"....
I started to suspect the truth of the matter.
"Do you remember anything? Does anything about this ring a bell?"
"No, not really...."
I was starting to realize, but I shook my head. My scar was itching as if an electric current were running through it.
Sara dropped her shoulders in disappointment.
"The man in the image? I have a feeling...he's my dad."
"...What? You think he's your father?"
"Yeah....Me and....My brother's....Dad...."
"Daddy, why won't you listen to me!"
"Well, let me tell you. Because I'm NOT your dad that's why."
"I think it's okay for a girl to call someone that who reminds them of their dad. It's written in the preamble of the constitution, or something."
"You don't saaaay...well, I've got three things to tell you. First: As far as I know, not one line in the Japanese constitution corresponds to what you just said. Second: I'm not even close to being fatherly. Third: You've already got a dadwho is still alive and well. So, stop calling me 'daddy', Coco."
"Oh, c'mon! I wanna call you Daddy! Come on, can't I?"
"Forget it. I'm already taking a big hit with this stupid nickname 'Takepyon.' Don't make me put up with another one like 'daddy' on top of that."
"Oh, you're so mean...Daddy!"
"I just told you NOT to call me that!"
Coco growled as she glared at me.
But I wasn't going to give in either. Coco and I stood face to face, with each other on the verge of an outburst. As we stood there, I just couldn't help thinking to myself. How in the world did I end up in this situation...?
"Hey, Takepyon, Takepyon. Wake up! I can't go to sleep! Let's play or something!"
As she was saying this....Coco shook my body hard, pried open my eyelids and poured saltwater into my eyes, and even shoved hydrogen peroxide up my nose. Giving in to her dogged persistence, I reluctantly decided to keep her company.
Coco was still growling at me.
"You're going to let me call you Daddy!"
She was just being outrageous.
"If you won't, I'm gonna bite you! Snap!"
Coco chomped down on my arm.
"Ooooouuuch! I can't believe you actually bit me!"
I forcefully pried her face off of my arm. There were teeth marks on my arm, and the area started to turn a purplish red.
"Well believe it!"
Coco put covered her mouth with her fist and giggled triumphantly.
"Why on earth do you want to call me 'daddy' anyway?"
"Because you seem like the daddy type to me."
"You are telling me, after you trapped me into this, that a 20-year-old guy like me seems like the 'daddy type'? You telling me I look old?"
"Nope. I just kind of thought you did somehow."
"You just thought I did 'somehow,' huh....? Well then, are you trying to say that your dad and I are alike?"
"Nope, not at all. My dad is a lot better looking than you. Smarter too."
I should have been yelling at her by then, but I just couldn't bring myself to get angry with her. Because all the while Coco was dancing around like crazy, shaking her hips and waving her arms in front of me. I guess you could say I was too distracted to be angry with her.
"By the way...you said your dad is on a 'business trip' right now, didn't you?"
"Where did he go?"
"He's at a research laboratory under the ocean."
"A research laboratory under the ocean?"
"There's a research laboratory called EBF or something down below LeMU. My dad is a researcher there."
"Oh, but...you've got to keep it a secret, okay."
I don't know why, but for some reason it didn't surprise me. As a matter of fact, it seemed perfectly logical to me. It felt...as if I've already known about it. It was just a feeling, but....
"Then...you must be worried, right?.... I mean about your dad. "
I asked Coco.
"Oh, I got it! You thought my dad might be trapped here just like us, didn't you?"
"But, don't worry. He's fine. I know he got out safely."
"What? ...How do you know that?"
"I just do. Because I'm psyyyychic."
"Well, it's kind like of telepathy, or clairvoyance, or precognition, or post cognition...."
"Anyway, my dad's okay. I can just feel it."
Coco had a big smile on her face. She was still performing her wacky dance.
"What else...oh, yeah I can bend spoons, too. I tell a spoon to like 'come on, just give in and bend!' and it does."
"Do you wanna know why I can do that kind of stuff?"
"I'm actually a 'Solarian,' a person from the sun!! A 'Solarian' is born with psychic abilities. That's why."
"But my dad and mom are Earthlings. I'm the only Solarian here."
"Oh, I see...wow that's great."
I couldn't find anything else to say. The powerful microwaves that Coco produced had shaken my brain and fried it. My consciousness started becoming hazy, as if I had been in bed for three days with a high fever.
"I love the sun because I'm a Solarian. When I bathe in the rays from my homeland, I get all warm and toasty inside."
"I wish I could sunbathe...."
"Hey, Takepyon? I wanna go sunbathe!"
"Well, that's kind of hard to do that right now."
"I know...but I want to! We haven't seen the sun for three days, you know! Don't you wanna sunbathe, Takepyon?"
I tried to imagine. A high, clear blue sky...a nice May breeze...the horizon...the sun shimmering on the ocean surface....It had only been three days, but for some reason the scenery from the world outside felt so far away. I couldn't wait to go outside.
Outside...to the surface....
"Yeah, now that you mention it, I do want to sunbathe. But we just don't have that option right now. Besides it's midnight, anyway...."
"Noooooooo! I wanna sunbathe, I wanna, I wanna!"
"Alright, we can do it tomorrow. Someone will probably have rescued us by then anyway."
"No, I want to do it right now! Right now! Sunbathe, sunbathe, sunbathe!!"
There was no way I was going to let this outburst go. I gave her a look that said "I'm about to get angry." And Coco responded with....
"Oooh, oh...oh, alright...I won't ask anymore...."
Her shoulders drooped sadly.
"Instead let's what...?"
"Let's play 'chicks'!"
"Play 'chicks'! Play 'chicks'! Pi-pi-pi-pi! "
"Play 'chicks'! Play 'chicks'! Pu-pu-pu-pu! "
"Ummm, earth to Coco? ...Would you mind telling me what you're talking about? "
"Okay, I'll explain! Playing 'chicks' is an elegant, aristocratic game developed in 1648 by Louis the XIV of France. The rules are simple. All you have to do is to imitate a chick and walk around. The winner is the one that mimic a chick or becomes most like a chick. The person who acts most like a chick wins."
"And that's what playing 'chicks' is all about!"
"Pi-yo-yo! Pi-yo-yo, pi-yo-pi, pi-yo!!"
"Pi-yo-yo! Pi-yo-yo, pi-yo-pi, pi-yo!!"
Dear Father and Mother...how is everything with you?
I'm currently playing 'chicks' 102 feet under the surface of the ocean.
Playing 'chicks' is an elegant game developed by Louis XIV. You win if you can mimic a chick the best. You flap your arms like wings, and peck at garbage that has fallen in the corridors....Sometimes you even trip and fall like a cute newborn baby chick to compete to see who looks the most like a chick. The sounds used basically consist of three sounds, 'pi', 'yo', and 'n', but as you get better....
"Flap flap...flap flap. Furu-furu-furu....Poso...."
...You can use imaginative sounds, and even express yourself with various little chick-a-dee gestures. Since I'm only a beginner, I can only use 'pi', 'yo', 'n', so far. But, I'm working hard to become a full-fledged chick...no I mean a full-fledged chicken like mom and dad.
I am learning from an excellent teacher. Oh, I don't know why but...I'm shedding tears.
"Piyooo, Piyo-piyo-piyoo! Pi-yo-pi-yo?"
My teacher is encouraging me. I'm alright, I'm fine.
"Piyon, piyon, piyon, piyon..."
My teacher wags her hips left and right as she walks. Sometimes she even flips her hips up in the air. She is the epitome of chick-ness...
Father! Mother! My teacher is the best 'chick-mimic' in Japan...no, in the world!
"Oh, but teacher....You didn't have to take a dump in the middle of the floor..."
Teacher is angry with me. It's because I spoke the human language.
That meant 'I'm sorry' in chick language.
It must be very hard for you two to imagine your own son playing 'chicks' 102 feet under the ocean. Or I suppose you probably don't even believe that I'm doing this in the first place. But, I suppose I can't blame you. I would have never dreamed I would be in this situation up until three days ago. How interesting life is! How sad we humans are!
Oh, there I go crying again. Before the ink on the paper starts to run, I will put down the pen.
Well, dear father and mother, please take care of yourselves. Piyo piyo.
I probably needn't mention it, but Coco won the game. Coco shouted with happiness and flashed a triumphant smile.
"I won! I won!"
Anyway, thankfully it was over....I exhaled a long sigh of relief.
"Hello mother, hello father,
Here I am stuck underwater.
But don't let that make you worry.
Playing chicks makes everything a lot less scary."
Next time: Mermaids and blackmail. Not necessarily in that order. Piyo piyo.