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Chapter FOUR
A Birthday Present My Papa Left Behind for Me

It’s been a month since the disaster. The Japanese government had immediately mobilised the Self-Defense Force to assist in the reconstruction of the disaster area, and has also allocated huge sums of money and resources for disaster relief, hoping to help people overcome the difficulties and return to normal life as soon as possible. However, despite constant questioning and speculation by political parties and media, as well as splitted opinions on the Internet, the Japanese government had still neither made any official statement on the disaster, nor even addressed the origin of the monster, simply calling it a “lifeform of unknown origin.” They also shied away from answering when asked by national and foreign media alike about whether the monster is an alien. Despite the copious amount of news reports on the incident and governments around the world expressing their great concerns about it, no one was able to give a direct answer as to the origin of the monster.

It wasn’t until 26th October, 2025 that the Japanese government finally issued an official statement in the form of a video announcement. Japan and other United Nations member states had reached a unanimous conclusion regarding the disaster in Tokyo caused by Orichi on 17th September, 2025. And that was neither Orichi nor Susano were lifeforms originated from Earth, thus the disaster was determined as a result of an alien attack. As for other questions related to their time of arrival on Earth, the purpose of the attack, and whether there are other such lifeforms lurking on Earth and so on, these were all still under investigation. Yet it could be determined from what had transpired during the disaster that Orichi and Susano should belong to two different species which were hostile towards each other.

What could be confirmed for now was that both Orichi and Susano were gone from Earth and since then, there had been no traces of aliens of similar species appearing on Earth. Now, governments around the world had to officially acknowledge the existence of aliens and “Alien Invasion on Earth” became a long standing viral topic on all major social platforms and online forums. All mysteries in human history – the Roswell incident in the United States, the Miracle of Fátima in Portugal, UFO sighting over Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport, China, and the Varginha UFO incident in Brazil, all these seemed to be finally given a logical explanation. The only difference was that all aliens before now had not caused any catastrophes like Orichi did. The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) also issued a statement saying that they would take over the follow-up matters of this disaster. UNOOSA was established as early as 1958 and continued to conduct investigations related to aliens, which included following up on aliens visiting the earth, and they called on the public not to panic.

Life had been tough for Keiko and her two daughters since the passing of Yota. Fortunately Kokone was released to return home after recovery and life was slowly but gradually getting back on the right track for this family of three. As the Japanese government reconstructed roads and conducted building repairs nonstop for days and nights, Tokyo put in much effort to return to its former glory. Still, under the shadow of the disaster, many Tokyo residents chose to leave and start a new life in other cities. Despite that, the Orihashi family decided not to leave but to stay in Tokyo. After all, everything here still reminded them of Yota’s silhouette, Yota’s voice, and Yota’s smile.

Kokone resumed school, though no longer the cheerful self that she once was. The once carefree and lively Kokone seemed to have grown up overnight and became a rather taciturn. Other than participating in group discussions in class, she rarely chatted or fooled around with her classmates anymore. She also seldomly shares interesting things about school with her mother after returning home every day. Everyone was aware of her change, but no one spoke to her about it. After all, there were many students and teachers in the school who also lost their loved ones in the disaster. Everyone was going through a similar grief and understood that only time could heal their wounds, and so people tacitly gave each other space. Over time, the atmosphere at school subtly changed. The school kids became more sensible and were quieter, and it was obvious that they were not as happy and carefree as before. Nonetheless, everyone quickly adapted to this atmosphere, as if things had always been this way.

After class, Kokone as usual carried her schoolbag in one hand and her swimming equipment in the other, and came to the swimming club for training as always. Every summer of her childhood memories were filled with scenes of her family playing in a swimming pool or on the beach. It was precisely because of this that Kokone fell in love with swimming at an early age, and had begun to formally learn swimming at the age of four under Yota’s guidance. She was extremely talented and learned surprisingly quickly, soon joining the swimming club training and becoming a member of the school’s swimming team. Now she was a main swimmer competing in the county competition. As a member of the school’s swimming team, Kokone did regular training for two hours after school every day. However, since Yota’s death, she had almost doubled her training time. She trained from the end of class until dark, which was a long four hours of practice in the pool before she was willing to go home. Her coach and teammates were all worried about her emotional problems, but no one voiced out their concerns. After all, it was better to let her turn sadness into motivation than to let her spend time with her thoughts alone.

Her skinny form looked even more boney with her swimsuit on, yet as soon as she dived into water she was as if transformed. She moved effortlessly forward, exceptionally compatible with water as if she was born in the ocean, quick, agile, and not knowing what it means to tire. As her teammates one by one got changed and went home, she was the last one remaining in the pool and still, she had no intention to stop. She kept on doing her laps and practising the same moves again and again. When she was tired, she would lie flat and float on the water surface, feeling the chill of water enveloping her body, supporting her, gentle but mighty, giving her an inexplicable sense of security. It was almost like two different worlds existed above and below water, and it’s only here that Kokone could find her peace. She enjoyed zoning out while watching the fluttering reflections of the ceiling on water waves, reliving the scenes in her childhood memories of her playing at the beach.

“You know, water isn’t scary at all, you could try to befriend it. Take a long, deep breath when you are ready, like how Papa does it–”

Kokone watched as Yota puffed up his cheeks and couldn’t hold back her laughter.

“Hey… Stop laughing, how is Papa supposed to put the goggles on you now?” Despite saying that, Yota also started laughing. He gently placed his palm behind Kokone’s head and adjusted the tightness of the stripes and the position of the goggles.

“When you are ready, face down and let your body slowly sink– relax… So, how is it? It’s beautiful underwater, isn’t it?”

“Oh wow! Kokone is doing so great! You will soon be better at this than Papa!”


“Papa… it’s only here… where I can be so close to you” – Kokone

Today, Kokone practised until seven in the evening before leaving school. Accompanying her way biking back home was Momoko, her best friend and also a key member of the swimming team with her best record time roughly the same as Kokone’s. While their swimming skills were comparable, they were never rivals but instead they became friends who encouraged each other and learned from each other. After experiencing the disaster, the friendship of the two girls had only strengthened. To Kokone who had suffered the loss of her father, Momoko was now her strongest backing. The delicate and sensitive Momoko could always pick up on Kokone’s changes of moods, even if Kokone stayed quiet, she knew the disaster had struck Kokone pretty hard. And so, Momoko kept trying to cheer Kokone up when she’s sad, and be her shoulder to cry on when she sobs, sparing no words of comfort and care.

“Well then, I’ll see you tomorrow, Kokone!”

After parting ways with Momoko at the junction, Kokone kept riding forward alone accompanied by the dim hue of yellowish street lamps when all of a sudden, a slim man in a hoodie jumped out from the shadows of the alleyway right into Kokone’s path. She let out a shriek and turned her wheels to the side without thinking, but still couldn’t brake in time and so she fell onto the road with her bike. The guy was mumbling while slowly approaching her, and she knew something was off. Ignoring her painful scratches, she pushed herself up and ran away, leaving her bike behind. To her surprise, the guy sped up and caught up to her in a few steps. He grabbed her backpack, causing her to lose her balance and fall on her butt. The guy, having obtained her backpack, turned and walked away without one more word.

Kokone was sweating heavily in distress but she was just as confused – the guy acted suspiciously and yet he seemed to have no intention of causing her harm. If he were a robber, he wouldn’t have targeted a child, right? Something inside Kokone’s brain clicked together and she sprung up to chase after the guy. She eyed her backpack in his grip and held tightly onto the figurine keychain on it with both hands in a vice.

“No one is allowed to take away my Dango!”

The guy didn’t expect her reaction and didn’t act in time to her speed and retaliation, and the two of them were in a stalemate for a while. Though in terms of strength, Kokone was no match against the guy and she couldn’t do anything else than pulling at the keychain with her whole might, while the guy also had no plan to let go.

He gradually got impatient and his face hidden under the shades of his cap started to twist something ugly, at the same time strange clicking and turning noises came out of his mouth. In the dark, his body all of a sudden expanded to double or triple its original size, stretching his hoodie apart to reveal dark brown skin and abnormally strong muscles. Veins popped up on his thick, strong arms, with faintly noticeable red lights flowing in his bloodstream.

Kokone was reduced to a scared, shaky mess in fear of this massive thing, her mind empty but she kept holding onto Dango and just wouldn’t let go no matter what. With strength that came out of nowhere she kicked and tore Dango off of her backpack, losing her balance in the process and staggering back a few steps before regaining her balance.

The guy was totally pissed off at this point and his facial features became even more heinous. He let out a low growl like some wild beast as he swung his massive arm at Kokone. Kokone couldn’t withstand such an attack and was swiped to the ground, letting go of Dango as she fell. For a little girl who grew up under the careful protection of her parents and never having suffered any injuries, this strike was truly excruciating as if her body was split apart in pain. With tears flowing down her cheeks, Kokone hunched over and clenched her jaw, looking around while withstanding the throbbing agony, still focused on getting Dango back. Unfortunately, just as she spotted where Dango was lying on the ground, the strange guy was already one step ahead and had picked it up to carefully examine it in his hand, as if trying to confirm something.

“Give Dango… back to me!” Kokone wouldn’t accept having Dango taken away from her just like that. She screamed and cried but it all fell onto deaf ears. The strange guy didn’t react a bit, he wouldn’t spare her glance. The pain was now accompanied by an onslaught of dizziness, the whole world was spinning… spinning…

“Stop… That’s what Papa… Papa left for me…”

The strange guy’s target seemed not to be Kokone. He closed his fingers around Dango and turned to leave, without looking back. Kokone watched as he walked farther and farther away, unable to do anything except calling for Dango again and again.

“Dango… Dango…”

“Is she calling for me? Is Kokone calling for me?” Dango’s eyes suddenly opened and its irises enlarged and glowed, looking from afar between the strange guy’s fingers at Kokone who was lying on the ground.

Before the guy could take more than a few steps, weak light leaked between his fingers and the light kept getting exponentially brighter, flooding the alley in brightness in a matter of seconds, as if the whole world went from night to day all of a sudden. The brightness was so blinding that Kokone had to squint, thinking that something ahead had exploded. Meanwhile, the strange guy let out a pained whimper and his hand somehow began to smoke, and at the same time, Dango shot out and landed in front of Kokone. As the smoke dissipated, Dango was standing there striking a perfect landing pose, with his back turned to Kokone but giving her a nod, while his glistening eyes seemed to be saying–

“Don’t worry, leave it all to me.”

Kokone was stunned by Dango’s actions and was gaping like a fish, thinking that she had hit her head too hard and was hallucinating. So she rubbed her eyes only to see Dango still standing there without a change, and it even winked at her. That’s when she finally accepted that this was no trick of her mind. Wait, if this wasn’t a hallucination…


“Dango… Are you my guardian angel?” – Kokone