Chapter 2.Winter: Gifts
Keigo suddenly noticed that his RUICA was flashing weirdly.
"Kanalu-san, look at this..."he called, and they opened their RUICAs simultaneously. The RUICAs emitted a faint pale blue light. It was a signal that Kanalu had designed to show that the RUICAs of Takashi and Keigo were connected.
"Takashi-kun, are you still alive? Where are you now? Do you know the place?"
Keigo spoke to Takashi tremulously. Intermittently, they heard Takashi's voice; however, the electronic reception was so poor that they could barely hear him.
"Takashi-kun, please switch on the car radio," Kanalu shouted, but it seemed their voices could not reach him. Keigo pleaded at the top of his voice:
"Please move to higher ground where the radio waves can reach. Are there any higher places? Be careful because it is dangerous outside."
It was indeed very dangerous to walk around in a snowstorm. However, it would be the end if they lost contact with him. The communication with Takashi went dead. It was unclear whether Takashi heard what Keigo said.
In fact, Takashi had heard them calling to him. He realized that the voice was not Tsubasa's. Why was Tsubasa's father answering on Tsubasa's RUICA? It seemed like there were no trustworthy adults; this thought made him feel disheartened. Then he heard Ta-kun's cries suddenly fade.
"Hey, what's wrong?"
Takashi was panicked to see Ta-kun so weak. He remembered that Tsubasa's father had told him to go to a higher place. It was snowing heavily and stormy. He might die if he spent the night in the car. He might also be frozen to death outside. He thought it was most important to save Ta-kun. From the swirl of his thoughts, a decision emerged. He opened the back door of the car and went outside.
All was white in the woods; it was the world of whiteout except for patches of black at the bases of some trees. Snow continued dancing in the wind. Takashi panicked when he stepped out into the snow. He was buried up to just below his knees. It was difficult for him to walk even five meters.
"How far must I go to reach a higher place?"
Cursing as he struggled to advance, he managed to move in the snow step by step as if he were crawling on the ground. He was amazed that people were able to live here. Tokyo only had snow about once every winter. How could the same country have such different weather? Incredibly Takashi was not daunted, even though he faced a life and death situation. Perhaps he was feeling a "snow high," much like a "mountain high" or "runner's high."
The area turned pale purple at dusk. The wind stopped blowing and snow lay thick on the ground. Step by step Takashi held his place in the snow and moved forward. There might be a more open place beyond the trees. He felt a bizarre elation. The snow was cold. His eyes hurt. He had difficulty breathing and could not move freely. He felt it all. He felt the pains, the coldness, his own pulse. He was in a world of sensations he had never previously experienced. Virtual technology had created a sense of reality, but nothing had come from his own experience. At last he had found something he could control - his very own body and mind. For the first time in his life, he felt he was in charge of his own fate.