Only With Your Heart - 7
Encounter - 1
Chizuru felt the cold drops of water hit against her cheek. She scowled without thinking and shivered.
When she inhaled, it was cold air that poured into her lungs as if to cleanse her. Her eyes remained tightly shut as her hand stretched out, searching for the blanket that should be warming her body. But the only things that her fingertips felt was the texture of her own damp clothing.
Chizuru’s consciousness slowly drifted back to reality.
That was right. She had been eating with Karasawa, and then returned alone to her station when the ‘voice' had rung in her ears. That was the dream. And…
Her heart began to beat loudly. Chizuru frantically opened her eyes.
The sight that sprung into her vision was a forest-like place with trees that may have been cedar. The ground was covered in fallen, wet leaves of amber. Everything that was beyond a dozen meters ahead was shrouded in a thin, white mist. If this was not reality, it was the most beautiful and mystical scene.
The sunlight that leaked from the forest roof swayed in the mist and shined like an aurora.
Chizuru picked herself out of the bed of leaves and gulped. She stayed still for quite some time. The lively cries of wild birds were echoing like some far away siren.
No matter how you saw it, this was not a common sight for modern Japan.
This tranquility was not normal. Sometimes, she could hear the twittering of birds, but there was no man-made noise from cars and trains in this world.
Coul it, could it, could it be…
Chizuru looked at her surroundings and tried to confirm the situation she was in.
Her clothes...were the same as when she was in Japan. Though, they were quite damp after having soaked the dew from the leaves. Her bag and umbrella were now gone, and she had nothing on her but her clothes.
Yes, it was just like how it was the last time in Lukrov’s world…
She had not met anyone yet and seen no real evidence of it, but Chizuru was sure of it. The chilly air that entered her lungs somehow felt nostalgic, and her heart began to race. Such delicious air could not be tasted in her old world. Chizuru remained sitting on the forest floor as she filled her chest with all the fresh air that she could.
I’ve come back.
She did not know where she currently was, or where Lukrov was living, but she was in the same world, breathing the same air. Just thinking about it made her heart fill with emotion.
However, she was not able to bask in that sensation for long.
She was alone in a thick forest. Nothing would begin if she just sat there and thought. While the sun was still high, she did not know if it was morning or the afternoon. But she knew from experience that she would be surrounded by complete darkness when day turned into night, and so Chizuru decided that she must walk and try to find something.
At least, it was clearly not winter.
She did feel cold under her damp clothes, but not enough to freeze. Considering that the ground was covered in leaves, it would probably be autumn here. It had been October in Japan, and maybe it was the same season here as well.
Chizuru felt a little calmer when she thought about this.
What if only a year and several months had passed here as well?
For now, Chizuru’s main goal was to look for someone that she could talk to. She wanted to confirm the exact date and also find an inn that she could spend the night at. The books that Mai had lent her often depicted ‘inns’ and guest houses, but such useful establishments were hard to find in this world. It was likely that those books had envisioned a more advanced age. Here, spending the night outside of your home would often mean sleeping outside or sleeping in someone else’s house.
After walking for some time, she became anxious at the fact that her surroundings seemed to go on unchanged. She was thirsty, but there was no water to drink. And no food to ease her hunger. Along with being reminded of the conveniences of modern Japan, she was also thankful to Karasawa, for taking her to the restaurant to eat.
Lukrov had taught her how to find edible nuts and mushrooms in the forest once. And so Chizuru tried to recall that knowledge as she pushed away the dead leaves and looked through the soil for food.
Her memory was not the best, but she did manage to find some nuts that resembled walnuts. And she opened them with a rock and ate them gratefully.
She was able to act like this so naturally because this was her second time here.
Her throat was still dry, but she decided to keep walking once her stomach was satisfied. The ground was mostly flat but slanted a little downward, and Chizuru followed that direction. She felt that she was more likely to come upon a house that way… That too was something that Lukrov had once told her.
She walked, walked and walked.
Then she walked even more until she finally heard something like the rushing of water from far away. Without thinking, Chizuru's feet immediately started to move towards the sounds.
It was faint, but she was sure that it was the sound of water.
She entered an area where there was not only leaves, but grass that went up to her knees, and after a little more walking, discovered a brook. It was not even thirty centimeters deep and only about fifty centimeters wide, but it was beautifully clear and even smelled pleasant.
Chizuru knelt down by the side of the river and checked that the water was not too cold before she scooped it up and drank it.
It was cool, fragrant and gentle.
The sensation of it moistening her parched throat was to die for, and Chizuru lost herself in the act of bringing the water to her lips. Her face and neck became wet as she did this, but it felt almost reviving after such a long walk and having her skin covered in sweat.
There was nothing else that supported and empowered life like this. Chizuru now felt this deeply. Her tired mind and every fiber of her being seemed to relax, and the tension and unease faded away. The worries and doubts that had filled her mind as she walked now left her, and she felt hopeful again.
Everything would turn out alright.
Chizuru sat down by the river for a while and rested.
The rush of the clean water and the chirping of the birds who came to drink played softly in her ears. Before she knew it, she had closed her eyes again.
And she allowed herself to fall asleep, meaning for it to be for only a short while. PAGE 2