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Chapter 3 - Golden Eyes

'AGNES!'

Edwin dashed out onto the street in the direction of the next block over. He was confident in both his running and his eyesight. Now he was certain. Agnes was in the crowd ahead of him. For just a brief second, their eyes met, but a fleeing bystander bumped Edwin's shoulder, and when he looked back, she was gone. 'Wh-Why is she running from me?!' Edwin yelled to himself.

Another explosion rang out as the crashed bus burst into flames once again. Edwin cursed as he ran to the door of the bus, and took off his coat to smother the flames. As he wrenched open the door, screams and cries for help spilled out. The bus driver's hand dangled limply from the window.

'It doesn't really matter if my draft ends up in the paper,' thought Edwin. 'Never underestimate a righteous reporter!'


'We're going to go shopping today, all right, Kagemaru?' After seeing Edwin off that morning, Agnes was getting ready to go out herself. The night before, she remembered that her uncle's birthday would be coming up soon.

Agnes' uncle, the owner of the cafe, would be turning 40 this year. Were it Edwin's birthday, she would sidestep the issue and say something like, 'Too much of a hassle.' (That said, she would still end up getting him something as she had last year and the year before.) However, she couldn't treat her uncle, to whom she owed so much, the same way.

Agnes set down her glass of water to scold Kagemaru, who was once again sleeping on the counter.

'Are you listening to me, you lazybones?' she thought aloud.

The black cat's only reply was a deep yawn that contorted its face into an ugly abstraction.

'Honestly...'

While her uncle was moving some beer bottles into the back, Agnes let him know that she was headed to her room on the second floor.


'Maybe I should put on something more comfortable.'

She was in and out of her room in a flash. She made her way back down the hall wearing a light tank top. On her way, she grabbed her favorite knit cap from its peg on the wall, and put it on as she hummed her way down the stairs.

Kagemaru gave her a blank stare. 'What? No one saw anything, so it's not a big deal.' She shrugged at the fussy cat and turned towards the door.

'Let's get going, Kagemaru!'

With a graceful leap, the black cat landed atop her knit cap, sending her cream-colored curls flying about. 'I can't believe you!' she thought. If there was any inconvenience of Agnes' waist-long hair, it was its excessive bounce. She attempted to pin it here and there, but it simply couldn't be tamed.


Ten years ago, Agnes' mother disappeared. Her father was good to Agnes, so she continued to live with him until she was 15. However, her father couldn't give up on finding his wife, so he entrusted Agnes to his brother and left in search of his beloved.

In time, Agnes had come to understand their feelings. Her mother must have loved her father to death.

'Ah, what should I do...?'

Agnes sighed. Numerous food stalls lined the harborside market. She'd come here in search of a gift, but neglected to consider what she was actually going to buy.

'I should've just asked uncle earli--'

Her thought was interrupted by an orbal bus that came hurtling past her.


The large bus had drifted out of its lane, ramped off the median, and launched into the air towards oncoming traffic. Its shining green chassis glared in the sunlight. The tires had bent into unrecognizable shapes and flew away from the body of the bus.

'The driver must already be dead,' thought Agnes. She watched the bus soar through the air. Her confusion gave way to a calm that one wouldn't expect from a young girl such as herself. 'When the bus hits the ground. they will all die. The man in the front row, the pregnant woman near that window... Every single person...will...'


'Kagemaru.'

Answering the call, the black cat opened his golden eyes. Agnes closed her eyes tightly and reopened them to reveal a golden pair of her own. Amidst the screams and panic were four golden eyes gazing at the scene that had yet to unfold.

第3回 金の瞳

「……アニエスッ!!」飛び出したエドウィンは1ブロック先を目指して全力で駆け出した。足には自信がある。ついでに目もいい。目前の光景の中に、確かにアニエスはいた。が、それは一瞬こっちを見て、エドウィンが混乱する人々とぶつかっている間に消えてしまった。なっ……何で逃げるんだよっ!?

爆ぜるような嫌な音がして、また倒れた車体が火を噴きだす。「くそっ!!」ようやく辿り着いたエドウィンはコートを脱ぎ、火を叩いてドアをこじ開けようとした。中からは悲鳴と助けを求める声が上がり、窓からは運転手の手が垂れ下がっている。

……原稿が採用されなくったって本当はいいんだ。エドウィンは頭のどこかでそう呟いた。正義の記者を舐めるなよ!!


「カゲマル、今日は買い物に行くんだからね」その朝、エドウィンを送り出した後で、アニエスは出かける支度をしていた。昨晩大事なことを思い出したのだった。もうすぐ叔父さんの誕生日じゃない。

この喫茶店のマスターであるアニエスの叔父は、今年40になる。エドの誕生日なら「めんどくさい」の一言で片付けられるけど(といっても、去年もそのまた前も、後で何かをあげた気がする)お世話になっている叔父さんにそういう訳にはいかないでしょう。

水を飲んだグラスを置いて、アニエスはカウンターで居眠りを続けるカゲマルをもう一度嗜めた。この怠け者、聞いてるの?

黒猫はブサイクな顔を歪めてただブニューと鳴く。まったくもう……

奥でビール瓶を運んでいた叔父に適当な断りを入れてから、アニエスは寮になっている2階に上がった。


今日は動きやすい服がいいな。部屋のドアを開けて入り、またすぐに出てくる。アニエスはもう軽いタンクトップに着替えていた。廊下に掛けてあるお気に入りのニット帽を被って、ハミング交じりに階段を下りてくる。

……と、カゲマルがこっちをじっと見ていた。誰も見てないし、いいでしょ別に。アニエスはそう肩をすくめて歩き出した。「行くよ、カゲマル!」 黒猫はひらりとジャンプして、ニット帽の上に着地した。その拍子に、またクリーム色の髪があちこち撥ねだす。もう、あんたって子は……!

腰まであるアニエスの髪は、なぜだか隙あらばぴょこぴょこする。慌ててあちこちを押さえたけれど、踊りだした髪はやっぱりもう直ることはなかった。


アニエスの母は、10年前のある日にいなくなってしまった。父は温厚な人で、15になるまで一緒に暮らしたけれど、やっぱり母を諦め切れなかった。だから喫茶店を開く叔父の元にアニエスを預け、母を捜しに行ってしまったのだった。

今ならアニエスにも、2人のそれぞれの気持ちが痛いほど判る。きっと母も、父のことが死ぬほど好きだったのだろう。

「はぁ、どうしよっかな……」港沿いの市場に来れば出店もたくさんある。そう思って来たけれど、何を買うかまでは考えていなかった。叔父さんに探りを入れておけばよかったかもしれないな…… アニエスはそんな事を思っていたのだった。導力バスの巨体が飛んでくるまでは。


突如車線を外れたその大型バスは、勢いよく分離帯に乗り上げて、こちら側――つまり対向車線側――を走るトラックのどてっ腹へと突っ込んできた。鮮やかなグリーンに塗られた車体に太陽がチカチカと反射して、おかしな方向に捻じ曲がったタイヤは早くも宙へと飛び始めている。

運転手の人、もう死んでる……宙に浮くバスを見て、アニエスは漠然とそう思った。頭の中は混乱していた。でも同時にこれ以上ないほど冷静だった。この大きな金属の塊が地面に落ちる頃には、最前列の紳士も窓際の妊婦さんも、みんな死んでしまうのだろう……


「──カゲマル」 言葉に応え、カゲマルがその金色の目を開いた。アニエスも目を見開いた。人々が悲鳴をあげ、我先にと逃げ出す中、4つの金の瞳がただその先の世界を見詰めていた。


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