Their encounter is coincidental, just as several others have been during the past month. Always after school. Always underneath the glimmering sunset. She sees Araragi talking to Sengoku, who immediately excuses herself and runs off the minute Hanekawa says hi. Hanekawa can only stare, uncertain how to take her departure. “Araragi-kun, I think my feelings are a little hurt.”
Later, Hanekawa brings up the rumors she’s heard about Senjougahara. She tells Araragi about how she’s ‘changed’, how he’s (apparently) a bad influence on her and reminds him not to do anything to soil her reputation. She pays attention to the small glimmer in his eyes and the coy curl of his lips when he talks about Senjougahara—his girlfriend . All the while, he holds on to a swimsuit uniform like it’s the most precious thing in the world. Still, his sentiments regarding Senjogahara remain genuine and unwavering.
She's happy for Araragi. Really, she is. But no amount of happiness can hide the sadness that weighs down on her heart or rid of the longing and love she's had for him since they first met. She wishes she could tell him. She wants to. But she can't. She probably will never be able to.
Hanekawa’s headache suddenly returns, causing her to falter as Araragi is immersed in the conversation. Just like yesterday, she’s attracting attention to herself when she shouldn’t. She tries to play it off. “There’s more important things to worry about, Araragi-kun,” she says, forcing a smile.
Koyomi Araragi means well, even though he puts himself down and throws his life on the line for the sake of others. As he commits one self-sacrifice after another, his kindness only continues to shine through, although his own self-depreciation can muddle that from time to time. He means well, despite it all. And that’s what she loves about him, most of all.
Before he has the chance to voice his rebuttal, Hanekawa says her goodbyes and sprints away from him. She doesn’t look back.
The pain is relentless, its intensity only growing the more she tries to ignore it. Just like Golden Week, her head throbs to the point that it feels like her brain will split in two. No amount of painkillers is enough to quell her headaches. It continues even in her sleep. Hanekawa tosses and turns in her small futon then covers her face with her pillow as a weak attempt to dull out her headache. The moment the pain finally starts to cease, she starts to drift off to sleep, only to be forced awake moments later by a stronger mental onslaught.
Hanekawa relents and only stares at the ceiling until her phone goes off. Even the soft chimes of her ringtone make her headache worsen. Slowly, she sits up and looks down the hallway towards the doorway, noting that her shoes are the only pair remaining. It looks like her parents had already left for work. She then rubs her head in hopes that it will alleviate her headache somewhat. As her fingers comb up to the top of her head, she feels… something protruding. She hesitantly continues to touch the unknown feature and quickly realizes that she has cat ears .
She continues to sit in silence until she reaches for her cell phone. She starts to write out a text message to Araragi, asking him if he’s able to skip school to see her at the park. She has to know why these ears appeared, she needs his help. And yet…
Her thumb hovers over the ‘OK’ button when she finishes, but she hesitates to send it to him. She's helped Araragi since they met three months ago. No matter what, she would always come to his aid and stay by his side. But when she needs his help... Does she deserve such kindness?
Next to her is a small white creature with a fluffy tail, long ears, and red eyes. Hanekawa can only stare, perplexed. Is it some sort of apparition or abnormality? It doesn't seem like it's capable of any harm. The being starts to communicate with Hanekawa telepathically, scaring her at first. It introduces itself Kyubey and explains its reason for being here, citing the different apparitions, or 'Witches', that have appeared since its arrival.
She wonders how long it's been since Kyubey's arrival and if it somehow saw Araragi's exorcism of Sengoku's own apparition yesterday. But why come to her instead of Araragi or anybody else?
Kyubey then gives her a sudden proposition: “Make a contract with me and become a Magical Girl!”
It’s strange. Almost funny, even. You only ever see Magical Girls in anime, after all. To think that this little creature is going around making Magical Girls to beat ‘Witches’. It’s absurd, really. Almost as absurd as a vampire making a servant out of an unfortunate passerby. Absurd, but still plausible.
These ‘Witches’ that Kyubey is talking about could be tied with the apparitions that have been appearing as of late. If she decides to become a Magical Girl, she can help Araragi out somehow, to silently share the burden with him. However, it might be best to keep that a secret from him until the time is right. Araragi’s plate is full enough already.
In order to become a Magical Girl, she has to tell Kyubey—
A wish is the embodiment of one’s powers, Kyubey says. Hanekawa keeps her gaze downcast as she reaches to touch her newly sprout cat ears but stops short. As she lowers her hand back to her side, she mutters, “I want…”
She closes her eyes as some of the fragmented memories of Golden Week return to her. The nightmares of attacking her parents the first night the sawarineko took over, of running throughout the city and attacking random passerby, of fighting Oshino and letting him live—
Of seeing Araragi at the end of it all.
“You won’t sympathize with me?”
“You won’t become my hero. You won’t become it.”
“The truth is you hate me, right?”
“Die… Die… Die… I should just die.”
“ There’s no way it’s fine. ”
She’s given herself to an apparition, that’s true. But she didn’t allow the apparition to erase her existence. If she was able to keep herself together despite the sawarineko's possession, then surely becoming a Magical Girl won’t be any different. Perhaps it’ll help her subdue the remnants of the apparition inside her even more.
This is the only chance she has. If she lets it slide and the problem will become more than just cat ears. Araragi will have to shoulder the burden again.
Just this once. Let me take away the troubles I’ve put on you.
Hanekawa opens her eyes and looks directly at Kyubey, gripping her hands tight to keep herself from trembling. “I want to forget... My impurities.”
To get rid of these horrible aspects of myself, to forget how Araragi looked at me that day, to finally let go of my feelings for him… to finally be normal .