International Comic/Manga School Contest 2023 Storyboard Category Manuscript text (Courtesy of pixiv)

“I have something I need you to do... find the survivors of the human race and deliver this letter to them.”

With these final words, she closed her eyes, never to open again.

I stuffed the letter she handed me into the pouch on my waist and left my home for the last time.

“Bye, mom,” I called to her as she used up her last breath, turning my back on my home.

This was the beginning of my journey, wading across this desert planet in search of the one… I can deliver this letter to.

Long, long ago, humanity thrived, apparently.

Consumed by their own technology, they plundered the earth without a second thought until one day, a terrible disaster struck and killed most of them.

Some escaped the calamity and survived, but I heard from mom that their numbers dwindled through illness, suicide, starvation, and murder to the point where they teetered on the verge of extinction.

I thought she was the last of the humans, but she believed otherwise.

I guess that’s why she entrusted this letter to me before she closed her eyes.

Sand danced in the desert wind.

I rubbed the sand out of my eyes and looked out into the distance.

Buildings worn down by time, half-buried in the sand with their heads peeking out, are all over the place, but having been born in a world where most of humanity has been wiped out, I don’t know what they were ever used for.

I suppose it means that there used to be a lot of people just like my mom.

But I don’t really get it.

"Could there really be any survivors?" I ask no one in particular. And, obviously, no response is forthcoming.

I walk in silence, looking for any humans that might be out there somewhere…

To be perfectly honest, it doesn’t matter to me if there are any left or not.

I’m only walking really to fulfill my mom’s last request.

Even if it’s impossible, I’ll keep walking.

That’s my way of repaying my mom for giving birth to me.

Through the endless cycle of searingly hot days and bitterly cold nights, I kept walking.

As long as I can put one foot in front of the other, I keep moving forward.

One day, as the dawn was breaking, I spotted a small house in the distance and decided to stop by to see if anyone was there.

As I approached the house, with its walls built of stacked stones held together with mud, I saw a thick cloth hanging at the entrance.

“Hello? Is anybody there?” I called out… No response.

I gingerly took a step into the dwelling and looked around, but there was barely anything inside.

I had no idea what they were used for, but there were iron rods and broken plates which had fallen to the floor, and the small, round table there had nothing on it.

I noticed a room towards the back of the house and headed in.

The moment I entered it, my feet stopped in their tracks.

Someone was here.

But he was no longer alive.

Upon closer inspection, it looked like he had died long before, leaving only a clothed skeleton behind on the floor.

I wonder how old he must’ve been… He wasn’t that big.

He was wearing men’s clothing - where could he have gotten them from?

My mom used to gather cloth and thread from old buildings to weave clothes for us to wear, but this man who had turned to bones was wearing clothes that had not been patched together like ours were.

Curious. I touched the clothes softly, but they fell to pieces under my fingers.

They had been clearly weathered by the years.

I closed my eyes and bowed my head in the direction of the skeleton man.

“Rest in peace,” I uttered, offering my respects and covered his bones with cloth from the bed.

Fortunately, the cloth remained strong enough to cover the man without falling apart.

I left the room and headed for the exit.

On the way out, I noticed a mirror on the wall and looked into it.

Wiping the dusty mirror with my sleeve, I saw my face reflected in it.

I wore a brown hat on top of my blue hair, sky-blue eyes, and white skin —my dirty face bore no hint of emotion.

I brushed the sand off my face and nodded at myself in the mirror.

“Alright, let's keep going.”

At least I came into contact with traces of human life just by the sheer fact that I found this house.

Up until now, the only example of a human I had known was my mom, so finding others like her felt like a bit of a step in the right direction.

I left the house and started walking again.

After I don’t know how many nights, I finally noticed a small change in the endless sandy landscape.

“What is this?”

I approached something lying on the sand. It was a bird.

Its wing was injured.

Compared to what my mom said, the color was slightly different, and its head wasn’t quite the same shape.

Still, I figured that it was a bird.

I remember mom telling me that there were many different kinds of birds.

I wonder if this bird is edible…

The bird, perhaps sensing danger, flapped its injured wings frantically, trying its best to fly away from its predator.

“Just kidding,” I said to the bird, reaching out my hand.

Birds aren’t supposed to understand language, but somehow I was communicating with the bird.

I grabbed the bird, who was desperately trying to make its escape, and tore some cloth from my sleeve to make a little, thick piece of string.

Wrapping the string around the bird's injury seemed to soothe its pain, and it soon stopped flailing.

"There, there, it's okay...... I won't eat you.", I tell the bird and pat it on the head. My patient squints its eyes, and its expression softens.

I worry about leaving it behind, but I think about what it would be like to carry around a wild animal and quickly decide to leave the bird where I found it in the sand.

Laying the bird down, it looks up at me and chirps sweetly.

"... You don't like being alone?" I ask, and the bird chirps as if to say 'no.'

“Well, I guess that’s it, then.”

I pick up the bird, put it on my shoulder, and carry on walking.

I didn’t feel like I had a choice, but I was actually happy that the bird had taken to me.

The warmth of life was comforting and made me feel lighter.

The bird was intelligent and didn't need my help at all —it found food by itself, eating small bugs hidden in the sand.

I was glad I found a good companion for my journey.

Precisely ten nights after my encounter with the bird, I found yet another house.

It was different from the house I had found before and not a small house by any means.

The bird, now recovered from its injuries, flapped its wings on my shoulder, seemingly picking up on my excited anticipation.

“I wonder if… humans live here.”

I set off towards the house.

As I approached the house, I noticed the small plot surrounding it. Somehow, despite being in the middle of the desert, there are crops growing in the plot.

The earth was punctured with sparsely growing shoots of grass, adding to my growing sense that “life” was here.

Approaching the house, I stopped to take in the field. Suddenly, I heard the slam of the house’s front door.

Instinctively, I whipped my head toward the sound and saw a man standing there.

He appears young, tall, and bespectacled and smiles kindly when he sees me.

“I didn’t… expect to have visitors like you around these parts,” he said under his breath and beckoned me over.

“Come in —welcome, my little guest,” he invited me. I drew near to him without saying a word.

“You’re a human! Finally… Take this.”

I take the envelope from my pouch and push it on him. He accepts it politely with a tilt of his head.

He then proceeds to open the envelope in front of me and takes out the folded piece of paper.

“This is a letter, isn't it?”

The man unfolds the paper and studies the letter intently.

“Dear Living One, I apologize for springing this upon you so suddenly. I am no longer of this world. That means that this child is now all alone. It is a sorry state of affairs, so please take mercy on them and give them shelter. I know this may seem selfish of me to ask such a thing of a stranger, but I implore you."

He looked down at me when he finished reading the letter aloud.

Staring at me with his golden eyes, he knelt down so that we came eye to eye.

“Is it really me you should be living with?”

I could see from his expression that he was bemused.

And why wouldn’t he be? A child he doesn’t even know has suddenly been thrust upon him.

“It doesn’t make a bit of difference to me. As long as I got the letter to a survivor, then that’s all that matters to me,” I replied, which clearly affected him, judging by his expression.

“I’m sorry. I’m not a survivor,” he said apologetically.

“What do you mean you're not a survivor? You clearly look human, though…”

As my mind is racing, trying to process what he said, he gently pats my head.

“I'm an android, just like you.”

An android ......?

What? Me? This man?

I’m an android?

Right… I'm an... android.

“I'm here waiting for humans who might come back one day… I'm making sure that this place is ready for any surviving humans in need of protection... Would you like to help me? I’ve been quite lonely here myself, you know,” he offers kindly.

I looked down, somehow unable to look him in the eye.

“I need to think about it a bit,” I said, and he nodded.

“That’s fine. For now, why don’t you come in? Go get the sand out of your eyes and think it over.”

I followed his instructions and stepped inside.

It was so spacious and tidy.

He then led me to the bath, and I washed my head and body with water. The man carefully removed the fine sand from my hair.

He’s such a gentle and sensitive man, even though he’s an android, I find myself thinking.

I got out of the bath and was guided to one of the rooms.

"You rest here. I'm going to check on the fields," he said and made his exit.

I sat on the bed and stared at my hands.

I still haven’t found any humans, so I’m not sure if I should stay here…

While I get caught up in a torrent of worry, my bird starts to play on the bed.

Stroking the bird, I thought, “What did mom really want for me…? Did she really want me to find a human?

Who knows what the truth really was?

But for some reason… I don’t feel so confident about continuing my journey either.

I went back and forth on this question all night long.

The next day, the android man came to my room.

“Have you decided what you are going to do?” he asked. I nodded in response.

After that long night, I had finally come up with an answer.

I took a deep breath…

“I’m going to stay here with you and wait for the humans.”

That was my decision.

It may not be what my mom would have wanted.

But she also didn't want to leave me alone, so I thought it better that I stayed with him.

So I decided to stay here and wait for the survivors.

And with that, the man smiled and held out his hand.

He was offering a handshake.

“Well, then, nice to meet you. My name is Adam, and from today I’ll be your family,” he —I mean —Adam says.

I shake Adam's hand and look up at him.

“I'm Lime… Thanks for letting me stay,” I say. Adam nods and pats my head.

I'm pretty sure that I was beaming at that point.

I felt so very calm.

This is alright.

This is fine, right, Mom?

The bird flapped its wings on my shoulder and flew up to the window.

Neither Adam nor I had noticed yet, but just beyond the window, a figure walking towards us from beyond the distance was coming into view.

(Source: "Dear Living one” by Rikka, from the official pixiv project "Writing Support Project - Happy Endings")