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Chapter Two
May I have one more wish?

Kokone sat quietly in front of her birthday cake, its flickering warm candlelight the only source of illumination in the house, gently illuminating her young face. She closed her eyes and made her birthday wish quietly in her heart, then took a deep breath and blew, instantly plunging the room in darkness.

“I wanna blow out the candles! I also wanna blow out the candles!” Sakura’s whines had broken the short-lived silence even before Kokone had re-opened her eyes. Yota had no choice but to scramble for a lighter and lit up the candles again. With a rueful smile, he said, “Okay, okay, Papa remembers of course our Orihashi family’s rule that each child gets to blow out the candles, no matter whose birthday it is, before we cut the cake. So give Papa a moment, it’s your turn soon.”

With a soft click of the lighter, weak candle light was reignited. Sakura couldn’t wait to make a deep inhale, then with the full might of her whole body, she blew at the cake. Funny enough, the candles were still burning bright, while plenty of saliva was sprayed onto the cake.

“Ugh! My cake!” Kokone exclaimed somewhat angrily, “What are we supposed to do with you?”

“Hehe… Sis, what are you talking about? What’s happened to the cake?” Sakura acted as if she did nothing wrong, and even made a face at Kokone.

“You… Don’t run!” Kokone reached her hands towards Sakura’s waist, ready to dish out a bout of tickle-attack, “I’ll get back at you—”

“Let it go, we are family. Let’s cut the cake!’ Keiko and Yota were reduced to giggles as they watched the sisters chase each other around the table. The sounds of laughter filled the Orihashi family house.

“Let’s cut the cake…”

“Cut the cake…”


The voice faded away as the blissful scene suddenly froze, just like a record tape being paused at the middle of a replay. Colors faded from a warm hue to monochrome, and the forms of her family drifted farther and farther. Kokone instinctively ran after them with all her might, trying to catch her father’s form, yet with each step she took, the form retreated even faster, until the silhouette completely disappeared from Kokone’s sight, almost like an old, unrecognizable photo left with nothing but static.

“Papa, wait! Don’t go!” Kokone loudly cried, but that amounted to nothing. She looked around her, it was as if she was the only person left on earth. She could even hear the echo of her own voice.

“Don’t… Don’t leave me!”

With a violent jolt, Kokone woke with huge beads of sweat covering her forehead. All she could see was pale white — white ceiling, white walls, white hospital beds, people in white clothes walking here and there. For a moment, it almost felt like she had gone to heaven. Keiko sat next to her bed looking haggard, her eyes were swollen and her face spoke of exhaustion, as if she had aged many years all of a sudden. Whereas Sakura was asleep leaning against her shoulder.


Keiko embraced Kokone as soon as she heard her voice, “You are finally awake! Mama is so worried about you… it’s been 3 days!” She sobbed and wiped tears from the corners of her eyes, “How fortunate that you are fine… how fortunate…”

“Sis… Kokone…” Sakura saw this and flung herself onto Kokone, and she couldn’t hold back from wailing.

Kokone endured the pain all over her body, and hugged her mother and sister tightly, “Don’t worry, I’m fine! Where’s Papa? Is Papa okay?”

Keiko was silent.

She worried at her lips, trying to get words out but nothing came. She couldn’t say a word except keep shaking her head and letting her tears freely fall. With a sunken feeling, Kokone turned to Sakura, seeking an answer that could comfort her.

Sakura hugged her tightly and wouldn’t stop crying.

Kokone stares at Sakura impassively with a blank mind, as if she had guessed that her father didn’t survive. In an instant, it seemed that something completely collapsed and plummeted from the depths of her soul. With a bang, there was nothing left, nothing at all.

The grief that surged up like a tsunami torrent drowned Kokone’s rationality in a moment. Of course she understood the meaning of “death”, but it was always a distant concept. After all, she had never faced the death of her loved ones so directly. She couldn’t imagine what it meant to lose her dear father. After all, this shouldn’t be happening in the future she had in mind.

“I… I want Papa! I wanna see Papa!” Having recovered from her shell-shocked state, Kokone started bawling and crying her heart out.

Keiko led the sisters to the ward where Yota’s body lay. Due to the large number of casualties in this disaster, the hospital had vacated several wards to temporarily store dead bodies so that families could identify their loved ones. There was an inexplicable sense of oppression in the cold air.

Temporary hospital beds filled with corpses were lined up in a row, all without any cover. The whole space was terribly quiet, nothing could be heard except for the faint weeping from family members and the wind from the air conditioner.

Yota was lying peacefully on one of those beds at the corner, still wearing his business suit, and he looked almost like he was just sleeping. Kokone rushed forward to embrace him.

“Papa, wake up! It’s Kokone!” She leaned onto Yota’s cold corpse, cradling his long-since rigid face with both hands. Even to this moment, she still held onto a sliver of hope, just like the day she had done her best to rescue her father. Oh just how much she wished all this was but a nightmare. As soon as she had awakened from this, her Papa would come home and cradle her in his warm embrace, just like before.


That’s right, all of that was now in the past.

Keiko and Sakura stood beside her, quietly wiping their tears. Three days ago they too imagined that this was just a prank, but the cruel, naked truth laid in front of their very eyes, and no one could do anything about it.

“You promised, you promised to always be with me, on earth and in heaven we shall always be together!” Kokone broke down further the more she cried. Keiko and Sakura also couldn’t hold back their pain and flung themselves onto Yota’s body, embracing each other in tears.

No one could ever imagine that this would be the final group hug for the Orihashis.

“If it weren’t for my birthday gift, Papa wouldn’t have gone back to the office, his legs wouldn’t be crushed, and…” Kokone couldn’t make herself speak further. Guilt bubbled up from her heart like never before, adding another layer of pain to her unbearable sadness. “It’s my fault… It’s all my fault. I will listen to your every word from now on… Papa, please, don’t go?” Kokone wailed into Yota’s chest.

“No… it’s not your fault… if anyone is to blame, it’s that monster…” Keiko, with her reddened eyes and hoarse voice, spoke with anger, “Thousands were injured and killed in the disaster… it took countless innocent lives. How could you be blamed for this…”

Kokone took a moment and hesitantly repeated the word —

“Monster… Where?”

Everything that had happened three days ago came rushing back in great detail. Scenes after scene flashed through Kokone’s mind – the monster rampaging through Tokyo City, ravaging lives, and the last image she saw of its foot stepping onto them. She shivered violently and curled up involuntarily. That was her last recollection of the event. She had no idea about anything that had happened afterwards.

Keiko sighed, “That day, after you fainted, a ‘big robot’ appeared. It fought the monster, both suffering great damage and injuries, then disappeared together. No one knows where they went.”

“It’s my fault… it’s all my fault… I will be good and listen to Papa’s every word… Papa, please don’t go…” Kokone leaned onto her father’s chest and thought. “How strange… I was with Papa… How come I survived but Papa was crushed to death…” The more she thought about it, the stranger it got. “Such a big foot stomping down… we should have been crushed…” She looked at the minor scratches on Yota’s face and confusion grew in her mind.

The mother and daughters dragged their exhausted bodies back to the ward for the injured. The television started replaying footage from the event three days ago. Same old terrifying scenes replayed on loop while other patients, doctors and nurses no longer reacted, as if they had completely accepted the facts, or they had long grown numb to the overwhelming news reports. Only Kokone stared at the television screen intently, eager to know what happened after she had fallen into a coma.

“… The origin of the monster is currently unknown, while the general public believe it is an alien. Next, let’s review sights on the scene. Here is footage provided by witnesses.”

Judging from the huge floor-to-ceiling glass and the landscape outside, it was a clip taken by tourists in the observation deck of Tokyo Tower. The camera shook violently, and the tourists in front of the camera panicked and started to flee like crazy to the exit.

The audio was quite muffled, but the screams and chaotic footsteps at the scene could still be made out, as well as what the person taking the video was saying as he hurriedly adjusted the camera focus:

“Oh my God… What the hell is that?!”

“Why is there never an end to human sufferings?”

As the camera shook, a gigantic monster appeared out of nowhere outside the Tokyo Tower. It was roughly 180 meters tall and was completely black with four cunning eyes that flashed eerie red. Wings protruding from its strong back spread wide, looking like bat wings. Its bloody, wide mouth was filled with uneven, sharp teeth, and a viscous, clear, green liquid dripped from between. A low predatory murmur resonated wave after wave from its throat. The video showed it moving towards Akabane Bridge. Every step it took caused the ground to shake comparable to earthquakes at magnitudes 7 or 8, accompanied by cascading sounds of explosions. Its strong, thick arms recklessly swiped down houses as it went — buildings, roads, vehicles and people, none was spared. As it reached a certain location, it abruptly halted its steps and snapped its gaze towards the camera, as if it had sensed the camera’s existence. It stared at the person taking the video for a few seconds, and the person was obviously terrified. The camera started shaking violently as they scurried away, and the footage was cut off.

“… We thank witnesses for providing their footage. Next, we have footage from Japan Air Self-Defense Force helicopters, filmed about 20 minutes after the monster appeared. Don’t look away:”

Four Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II approached the monster from four directions. Just as the fighter jet pilot locked onto the target and was prepared to fire the missiles, several neon green beams emitted from the monster’s back and shot at the four jets like quick vipers. The jets were penetrated by the strong beams before the pilots had a chance to evade them, and were obliterated to soot falling through air. The helicopter hovered, hesitant to approach, it retreated to the back to assist the Japan Self-Defense Forces in monitoring the Monster’s every action so they could deploy an attack. By then, the monster continued its footsteps and had passed Akabane Bridge.

“That’s where Papa and I were at…” Kokone muttered to herself as she watched.

Suddenly, a bright, white light flooded the screen as the soldier shouted helplessly, “It’s an explosion! No… A strong EM wave!”

Immediately afterwards, there was a loud noise that was different from the previous ones, and the entire port area vibrated along with it. There were explosions one after another, and the whole city seemed to be engulfed in flames and smoke, but no one could see the source of the loud noise.
“What happened… Was the monster blown up? But how did I survive?”

Not long after, the thick smoke in the picture gradually dispersed, and the monster fell to the ground. And in front of it was a huge figure faintly visible through the thick smoke. As the smoke dissipated, the figure’s outline was slowly revealed—
A huge robot was hovering mid-air mightily.

“If there could be an “if”… Please let Papa come home!”