Chapter 2 – The First Bittersweet Dark Chocolate
For Satou Takayuki, his grandfather was a hero.
His grandfather was a farmer, a man that owned a large patch of land in a rural town. A reliable man that one could always count on. A man with a gentle and kind temperament. He was someone who’d always wear a smile on his face, always strived to help others no matter how busy he was, much to his wife’s dismay.
Even for Takayuki, his grandfather was simply too kind.
If he were to hear about someone from a mile away having trouble, he’d rush to their side to help them.
If he were to hear someone’s cry from a mile away, he’d rush to their side to comfort them.
He was the embodiment of a good person that you’d often heard in poems.
Not only that, he was also an incredibly talented person. As far as Takayuki knew, there was nothing special about his grandfather’s background, but for some reason, as long as he had the means to do so, he always had the capabilities to do everything. From tuning a radio, fixing a computer, even doing D.I.Y.
“It’s nothing amazing. I just trained myself to do something that everyone would find troublesome to do.”
Whenever someone praised him, he’d always reply with those modest words. Even though his skill was so amazing that no one would be able to criticize it, he never let it go to his head.
Of course with his temperament, there was no shortage of people who tried to take advantage of him. Some people even blatantly tried to use him.
If that was the end of the story, there was no way that Takayuki would come to admire him.
In addition to his knacks for fixing and making things, he also had another talent.
He was a good listener.
“Seriously… I told him that he’s giving me too many gifts, why does he have to do it again this year too? What am I going to do with these?”
“Hoho, it’s a sign of his goodwill, just accept it.”
Every year, his grandfather would receive a lot of gifts from other people. Every time that happened, his grandmother would feel troubled by it.
Most of the gifts came from the people he helped.
The people who tried to take advantage of him always came back to the right path after they spent more time with him. They would always feel obligated to give their thanks to him. Takayuki’s grandfather was a man born with that kind of talent.
There was a time when he received a scam call. Not long after they talked, the scammer turned himself in to the police. If that wasn’t talent, what was?
In any case, that was the kind of man Takayuki’s grandfather was.
He was a man of character. Everyone knew him and depended on him. He was a great person that could erase evil from another’s heart. It wasn’t unreasonable that the young Takayuki would come to admire him. And eventually developed a complex about him.
“Listen to me, Takayuki. Grow up to be a dependable person. Be a person that could live according to your own will.”
Takayuki loved his grandfather.
He loved it when he praised him, patting his head with his rough, yet gentle palm.
That was the starting point for Takayuki. His grandfather’s praises became his motivation. He didn’t care about anything else. Even though he tried to help others, it was just part his effort to imitate his grandfather.
“Takayuki, you want to be like me, huh?”
That was why he failed to understand the wry smile that his grandfather wore when he praised him.
“I planned to take this to my grave, but if it’s for the sake of my lovely grandson, I guess it can’t be helped, huh? Listen to me, Takayuki.”
The old man looked at Takayuki with a troubled expression. Before long, he had a look as if he had given up on something as he pulled out something out of his pocket. It was a hairpin. Painted in red color, it looked sturdy without any scratches on it, but at the same time it was as light as a feather.
He gave it to his grandson with a mysterious look on his face. It was a strange thing to give to a boy like him.
“This is a medium for summoning a witch.”
The way he gave it to him without making any unnecessary movements while leaving such strange words left an impression on the young Takayuki. No matter how young and pure Takayuki was back then, he was still a kid born in modern times. He wouldn’t believe in fantasy-like things such as the witch and the likes. Unless it was his grandfather who told him about it.
“I couldn’t bring myself to throw this away. It has a curse attached to it. For a price, it could summon a witch that could help you solve any problems that you might come to face. Witchers are bad, that’s why they need some kind of price to help you out, but they’ll definitely grant your wish… When the time comes, don’t hesitate to use it. You don’t have to believe me, though. It’ll be better if the time when you have to use it never comes, after all.”
Of course, Takayuki completely believed in his grandfather’s words. But, he failed to understand his intentions.
After all, he was still a child, he wasn’t mature enough to understand that his grandfather wanted him to make a wish for himself, not for others.
* * *
The red hairpin was like a medal for Takayuki.
He even went out of his way to grow his hair so that he could wear it every day. To not let his grandfather down, Takayuki devoted his life to helping people more than before. It was to the point that his way of thinking began to differ from the other people around him. Nevertheless, the young boy devoted most of his time to helping others.
Eventually, he started to think of himself less and prioritized others more.
“I hate this! Why does my chest hurt so much?! I don’t want to feel like this anymore! Someone, please… Save me!…”
That was why, when she found a certain little girl asking for help, he decided that it was time to do it.
Even though the girl was someone that hated him and a selfish pampered princess, Takayuki helped her anyway. Her tears moved him to summon the witch and erase the girl’s tears.
With this, he completely went against what his grandfather had wished for.
“Witch-san, please come out!”
There was no doubt in his heart as he followed his grandfather’s words.
The young boy clasped his hands tightly as if he was praying to God.
“Oh my, this is a surprise~ My contractor this time is a young boy, huh?~”
The lack of doubt in his heart was the reason why he wasn’t surprised after seeing the witch suddenly appear in front of his eyes.
* * *
“Satou-kun, you’re free today, aren’t you?”
Back to the present. Takayuki had grown into a fine young man. He was currently being pressured by the same girl that he saved a long time ago, Miyama Aoi, to walk home with her. Judging by the way she smiled, it was clear that if he were to refuse here, she’d bring up his weakness again, so he gave up on resisting.
“Oi, Satou is going to go home with Miyama-san! How could this be?!”
“Come to think of it, there was a time when Aoi was trying to find some information about him… What kind of relationship do those two have?”
The girl confronted him right after the final class was over, so he couldn’t escape even if he wanted to. Thanks to that, his classmates gave him quite the stares. Some of them even scorned him as if he was a criminal. To those gazes, he shrugged his shoulders mockingly.
Normally, people would be annoyed after looking at his attitude, but there were some of his classmates that went to the same middle school as him.
They went ahead and rebuked the other classmates who started gossiping about Takayuki.
“Good grief, you guys know nothing. Look at his face closely. Don’t you think his expression is pathetic?”
“He’s trying to look smug, but that’s the face of someone who’s given up to his fate.”
“That means she got a hold of his weakness now, huh? Thank God, that means he’ll be quieter now.”
“Glad that you got what I meant. Well, that guy is usually well-behaved anyway…”
The boys who had been gossiping behind Takayuki’s back were taken aback by the knowing look of some of their classmates.
“What’s going on?! The number of people explaining things is increasing!”
Takayuki inwardly nodded at the boy’s question. He was puzzled too.
Strangely enough for Takayuki, everyone who knew him since middle school or even before that acted like this often. Instead of explaining things clearly, they’d just take a look at him while nodding, sometimes explaining things as if they knew what was going on already. The worst part of it was that their explanation was, more often than not, correct.
“Let’s go quickly, Satou-kun.”
Prompted by Aoi, Takayuki left the classroom.
He wondered what kind of rumors he would hear about them tomorrow morning, but his thoughts were cut short as he had to find out how to get out of his current predicament first.
* * *
Aoi brought Takayuki to a coffee shop. The place was located somewhere off the normal school route, so there wouldn’t be any other students who’d come there. Most customers of the cafe were part of the workforce. Actually, calling it a coffee shop was a stretch, it was more of a bar since they’d be starting to sell alcohol as soon as the sun was set. As the place was surrounded by hotels and mahjong parlors, it wasn’t really a convenient place for students to go to.
“Alright, let’s have a long and heartfelt talk. Oh don’t worry, I won’t be asking you to treat me today. I’m not evil enough to make you do it every day.”
“How very kind of you…”
Hearing her words, Takayuki figured out why Aoi had brought him to this place. Just as he did before, Aoi wanted them to talk in a place where no acquaintances nor friends could disturb them.
“So, Satou-kun, can I ask you a question?”
After taking a sip of the blended coffee that she ordered, Aoi asked Takayuki a question.
“So, what was that?”
“…I knew it, you could see it. And it seems like you managed to remember it even after a long time had passed.”
“Am I not supposed to see it?”
“Not really, it’s just up until now, I’m the only one who was able to see it.”
“Can you elaborate?”
In contrast to the smiling Aoi, Takayuki made a sour face.
She got a hold of his weakness, so for self-preservation purposes, it would be wise for him to tell her everything that she wanted to know. It was just, there was no benefit for her in knowing about it. On the contrary, it would be a huge burden on her. Takayuki racked his brain, trying to decide whether or not it was okay to tell her. It was for her own sake, after all.
“Satou-kun, are you contemplating not telling me everything after all that happened? I was directly involved in Tomoe’s case, I think I have the right to know.”
Hearing her words were enough to make him decide to tell her everything. There was no turning back anymore after this, but he could just leave any future troubles to future Takayuki to solve.
“That was love. Ukai’s love.”
“Mhm. I have the power— special ability to eat other people’s love.”
Then Takayuki began to explain about his ability.
“When I used my ability, I could see other people’s ‘love’ manifested in the form of mist that you’ve previously seen. Up until now, I was the only one who could see it.”
Despite Takayuki’s unwilling look as he explained and reached out to his orange juice, Aoi’s eyes were shining in excitement.
“Satou-kun, how did you get the ability? Did you inherit it from your family? Or are you the awakened type? Maybe you were born with it? Did someone bestow the ability on you? Tell me, tell me!”
“Someone bestowed it to me. Girl, you’re really excited about this…”
“I mean, try to place yourself in my position! There’s someone with a real superpower right in front of me! Of course I would be excited! Can you tell me more?”
Takayuki let out a deep sigh to calm himself down.
While he decided to tell her about his ability, he took a mental note to not divulge too much information about it to her.
“I gained this ability back when I was a third grader.”
He took a sip of his orange juice as he tried to dig up his memory.
“Uh, due to various circumstances, I ended up having to summon a witch to help me out. Things happened and I ended up making a contract with her, so she gave me this ability…”
“A witch? Witches exist? Well, I guess it wouldn’t be strange for them to exist since superpower does exist in this world…”
“Honestly, I don’t know the details. The one who gave me the medium to summon the witch told me that she was a witch. She dressed exactly like one too, so I just called her a witch for convenience sake.”
Takayuki kept his explanation in monotone, meanwhile Aoi’s eyes shone brighter by the seconds.
The mood between the two were total opposites.
“By the way, are you sure it’s okay to tell me this kind of thing so easily? I could just report you to the authorities. In the worst case situation, a special government task force could arrest you and experiment on your body.”
“What special government task force? Jeez, what’s wrong with you?”
Aoi tried to tease him, but he replied to her calmly.
“Well, no one will believe you even if you tell them anyway. Or rather, even if you tell them, none of them will be able to understand it correctly.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, let’s say…”
Takayuki placed the glass of orange juice on the table and tapped the rim of the glass lightly.
“My ability is to cleanly erase the content of this glass.”
“What a useless ability.”
“It’s just an example. Anyway, say that I use my ability to erase the content of this glass in an instant, what would the people who witnessed it think? How would they perceive it?”
“They’ll probably think that it’s a magic trick, I guess?”
“That’s the normal reaction. No matter how much I told them that I’m using my ability to make the content of the glass disappear, they’d just think that I’m either using a magic trick or I drank the juice in a blink of an eye. After all, it’s common sense. People wouldn’t connect it to supernaturals that easily.”
Takayuki shrugged his shoulders.
“In other words, even if you try your best to explain to people about my ability, no one will believe you. They’ll believe in their common sense more than you. Besides, my ability isn’t even what you could consider a common ability. The ability to eat someone’s love is even harder to explain than your usual flashy battle-related ability. Barely one will believe that it even existed.”
“And even if you managed to make someone believe you, it would be meaningless. Normal people can’t maintain a correct perception of my ability. When I use it, they can somewhat understand that my ability is part of the supernaturals, but gradually, their memory would be altered to fit the common sense that they’re familiar with.”
Aoi tried to raise her voice in protest, but Takayuki’s next words made her tilt her head in confusion.
“Think of it like this. At first they’re like children who just came to know magic tricks for the first time, they’ll think of it as real magic. Then, they’ll gradually come to think that the magic tricks are just magic tricks, since that’s what common sense says. Even people who genuinely believe that my power is real would come to think that it’s nothing but a trick eventually.”
“Is that how it is?”
“Yeah. Let’s take Ukai for example. I believe she had forgotten about my ability already. Hell, she probably had forgotten about the fact that she passed out during our last exchange, maybe she even forgot about our exchange altogether.”
Seeing Aoi groaning with a dissatisfied expression, Takayuki let out a chuckle.
Her expression reminded him of his younger self when he found out about everything that he just told her.
“It is what it is, Miyama. My ability isn’t part of the common sense of this world. That’s why, all memories related to my ability would be ‘corrected’ by this world’s common sense.”
“But I remembered everything about it…”
“Normally, your memory should be ‘corrected’ too. People other than you always fail to remember my ability. For example with Ukai’s case, she’d probably remember it as she fainted because of exhaustion or something similar to that. Which made me wonder, how were you able to remember everything?”
He didn’t know how it turned out like this, but he let out a smile nevertheless.
Yes, he could use a supernatural power, but it wasn’t like he knew everything about it. Even the explanation that he gave Aoi came from his deduction as he had no way to prove his words. In the end, Takayuki decided to just leave it as it was as there was no point to ponder about it too much.
“I see, so there are things that even you don’t understand, huh, Satou-kun? I’ll accept your explanation for the time being. Honestly, I’m still curious about why I could remember about your ability, but if you don’t know about it, then it can’t be helped.”
“Honestly, if you want to know more about it, it’s better to ask the witch directly instead of asking me.”
“I guess. Well, let’s stop talking about this then.”
Seeing Aoi straightened her posture and stared at his face intently, Takayuki made up his mind.
“It’s time to get to business, huh?”
He expected this to happen even before they entered the coffee shop. After all, she managed to remember his ability, so it wouldn’t be far-fetched to think that she would remember that.
“Seven years ago… During the summer of our third year of grade school… Back when I was suffering from my broken heart… It was you who saved me back then, right, Satou Takayuki-kun?”
It was time for the past to finally catch up to him.