The twenty-ninth did indeed arrive in the end, and its morning found Kaede waking Sakuta up .
“Morning, Kaede,” he said whilst stretching an arm out for the digital alarm clock at the side of his bed . His half-closed eyes saw the right date of Sunday the twenty-ninth displayed on the screen .
Should he be thankful for that, he wondered . He hadn’t repeated the day again, but not knowing the cause or reason for it in the first place made it hard to relax about it .
If he wasn’t going to wake up to a day for the second time again, he really wished someone would tell him that . If the possibility was still there, he’d rather someone told him that as well .
Not knowing left an uneasiness in his heart .
“I wonder if I’ll figure it out, hanging around Koga,” he murmured to himself as he watched Kaede herd Nasuno out of his room . Part of the reason he had accepted Tomoe’s absurd suggestion was to find out the truth behind this instance of Adolescence Syndrome . The only way to move his disquiet aside was, in the end, to do something about it himself .
Besides, there was a value in understanding many different types of Adolescence Syndrome . He might even find something that would lead to solving the case that still plagued Kaede to this day .
The wounds no longer covered her body, but that was simply because she was away from the internet, and he believed that if she were to experience people’s ill-will on the internet again, those wounds would once more appear .
With all of that said, she couldn’t just live her life secluded away from everyone, he wouldn’t allow such absurdity .
“Anyway, not knowing what day it is until I get up and check really doesn’t let me calm down…”
If the plans hadn’t been settled yesterday, perhaps it still would have been yesterday .
With that restlessness still present, Sakuta started his mid-morning shift, tending attentively to the restaurant floor .
“If tomorrow is today again, will I have worked for nothing…”
Just the repetition wouldn’t help him support himself .
Once his shift was over, Sakuta prayed to the god of self-support that tomorrow would come .
At just past two, Sakuta clocked out, left the restaurant and went to the Fujisawa Enoden station, using his season ticket to pass the gates .
He bought himself a bottle of water from a vending machine and then sat on a bench to wait for Tomoe for their date .
Sakuta used the platform often to commute into school, there were tourist attractions signposted, and adverts with famous products on the walls . The early-afternoon of a day off lent a rather different mood to the people around . There were more tourists than locals . There was a group of older women that seemed to be heading to Kamakura, a family that had come to see the beach, and a young couple that seemed to be on a date to Enoshima . Incidentally, this was the same plan that Sakuta and Tomoe would be following .
Time passed slowly on the platform before he heard the patter of feet approaching .
“S-sorry to keep you waiting!”
Sakuta raised his face and saw Tomoe standing shyly to the side .
She was wearing a pair of short denim shorts, with a sleeveless blouse that had frills on the collar and arm-holes . She was wearing easy to move in trainers on her feet, and was holding a striped blue and white tote-bag as if to hide her bared legs .
While she still had a girlishness and softness about her, she had an invigorating impression perfect for a beach date as well .
She stood in front of Sakuta as he remained silent, her gaze wandering and her worry plainly visible on her face .
“You’re flushed,” he pointed out .
“It’s because I was rushing . ”
“I guess that works . ”
“I wouldn’t worry about a date like that,” Tomoe added defensively .
“You’re five minutes late anyway, Koga . ”
They’d agreed when they left work that they would meet here at half-past two . It was thirty-five minutes past when Tomoe arrived, and steadily approaching forty .
“I couldn’t help it, I had to get ready . ”
“Get ready, huh?”
Sakuta surveyed her closely, he certainly could see how her look was something she’d had to ‘get ready’ . She had a modern, fashionable aura about her without being gaudy, and fitting in with her surroundings .
“Well, you’re cute . ”
“D-don’t call me cute . ”
“I’ve got to, you are cute . ”
“Don’t keep saying it!”
“You lose points for not wearing a mini-skirt, but your legs are bare so I’ll forgive you . ”
“You’re not allowed to just look at my legs either,” she protested, crouching and wrapping her arms around those bare legs of hers to hide them, “they’re fat anyway . ”
Her teary eyes as she looked up at him made him want to tease her more, and the thing which drew his eyes the most at that point was her round backside covered by her shorts .
“Don’t say anything about my backside either,” she forestalled him, having noticed his gaze . That was surprisingly sharp of her .
“It’s big,” she said sulkily .
“They’re good child-bearing hips . ”
“D-don’t give me strange compliments like that!” Tomoe gave her biggest reaction of the day . “I can’t believe you!”
She had gone red to her ears and was being careful that no one around could hear them .
“Where did you buy those clothes?”
“Eh? Just a normal sto-”
“Why do you want to know?”
“I thought I’d buy my sister some clothes once I got my wages,” Mai had told him to take more of an interest in Kaede’s clothes, and Tomoe was only a year older than her so she should be useful as a reference .
“You have a sister, Senpai? How old is she?” Asked Tomoe, sitting next to him .
“A year younger than you . She’s bigger though . ”
“I wasn’t asking about her chest . ”
“And I wasn’t talking about her chest, I was talking about her height . ”
“I-I knew that… Ah, yeah, what’s your ID?”
Tomoe was suddenly very serious and she fished her phone from her bag .
“We should have been able to contact each other if we were going to be late, tell me your ID?” She pouted at him .
“Are you trying to say it’s my fault?”
“Well, it was my fault I’m late… sorry,” she gave a proper apology this time .
“Well, I’m not going to make an issue out of five minutes . ”
“You already did! Anyway, your ID?”
Tomoe pointed the screen at him, waiting for his details .
“I don’t have one . ”
“I don’t . ”
“You don’t use the app!?” She yelled out, in apparent confusion that people like that still existed .
It was an issue that she was that surprised though .
“I don’t use a smartphone, or a normal phone for that matter . ”
“Huh?” Tomoe said, her eyes wide, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“That I don’t have one,” Sakuta said truthfully, lifting his hands . He had thrown it in the sea . It was the day that he had been accepted into Minegahara High School and he had decided that he would throw it into the sea to keep Kaede away from the internet .
“I don’t get it at all . ”
“Please do . ”
“But how do you live!?”
“Do people die without smartphones?”
“They do!” She proclaimed, “If anything, dying…”
Tomoe was looking at Sakuta like he was a zombie, but it was her face that had paled .
“Ah, the train’s here,” said Sakuta, ignoring Tomoe as she carried on, and following the family onto the train .
“Ah, wait!” Tomoe panicked, rushing after him .
The chime sounded to indicate the train’s departure and the doors slid shut .
The train set off and rocked Sakuta and Tomoe to the left and right where they were sitting next to each other . For a while, Tomoe kept muttering ‘unbelievable’, but she suddenly quieted around when they reached the next stop .
When the train departed again, Sakuta’s right shoulder had a weight fall on it . Tomoe was leaning against him, and when he looked she had her mouth slightly open as she dozed .
“Oi,” he said, flicking her lightly on the forehead .
Tomoe covered her forehead with her hands and looked reproachfully up at him .
“Do you normally just fall asleep like that?”
“I didn’t get much sleep . ”
“Excited for the date?”
“I stayed up until two messaging everyone… Then I was watching funny animal videos and it was morning, then I had to get re…” Tomoe trailed off into a large yawn, covering her mouth with both hands . She quickly wiped the slight tears from her eyes to avoid ruining her makeup, and took a mirror from her back to check .
“Koga, wasn’t it your first day at work yesterday?”
“Yeah . ”
“Weren’t you tired?”
Doing new things generally made people more tired than usual .
“I was exhausted . ”
“Then you should have gone tight to sleep . ”
“I couldn’t be the only one sleeping,” she protested .
“But staying up to watch funny videos is fine . ”
“Everyone said they’d watched them, and I couldn’t join in . Besides, Rena-chan recommended them, you know?”
“Rena-chan again, huh…”
Social lives are tough, he thought .
“Oh yeah, gotta comment . ”
Tomoe took her phone out before quickly opening a free messaging app and typing out a message about how good the videos were with deft movements .
A reply soon arrived, and when Sakuta took a glance, it said ‘I recommend this one too,’ so Tomoe wouldn’t be getting much sleep tonight either it seemed .
Or so he thought, but Tomoe started watching it then and there . The small LCD screen displayed a clumsy panda falling over backwards, its legs forming a perfect V in the air .
The train arrived before the video had finished .
“Come on, it’s our stop,” said Sakuta, pulling Tomoe by the arm onto the platform as she kept watching .
Enoshima Station was one of the bigger stations that the Enoden stopped at . You could switch to the Shonan Monorail and a short walk would take you to a station building modelled on the Palace of the Dragon King, Katase Station on the Odakyu-Enoshima line . Incidentally, Enoshima Station wasn’t actually on the island called Enoshima, it was just nearby .
Sakuta and Tomoe left the station and headed south, towards the sea . The scent of the breeze evoked thoughts of summer as it blew towards them .
The road was brick-paved and called Subana Street . There were fashionable cafes, and the holiday meant there were a lot of pedestrians, with many couples in particular .
“So many couples,” said Tomoe .
“Well, it’s Sunday . ”
“Do we look like one too?”
“I doubt it . ”
Sakuta judged the distance between the two of them, it was a little more than a metre by his reckoning . It was nearly the width of a lane in the road, so you could call them practically unrelated people and people had been passing between them with no concern at all . If they’d been seen as a couple, people wouldn’t have done so . Tomoe seemed to realise the meaning of his gaze and drew closer . A little more than a metre shortened to a little less than a metre .
“Is this better?” She asked .
“It’s more like that,” Sakuta replied, indicating a university student and his girlfriend who were close enough they kept bumping shoulders . Finally, Tomoe closed in to Sakuta’s side .
“Then there’s stuff like that,” he continued, looking at a couple about the same age as them who were perusing a menu outside a cafe . The girl was holding two fingers on the boy’s hand, his little finger and ring finger . “That should be nothing for you, seeing as you’ve dated before, riiight?”
“O-of course . ”
Ever so slowly, Tomoe stretched out her hand . Her hand didn’t touch Sakuta’s but instead grabbed hold of something else, the end of his belt, handing by his waist .
She certainly had a wholesome relationship with her last boyfriend . If he actually existed that is…
Tomoe was looking down in embarrassment as if this was taking her utmost effort . With her small stature as she did so, it was strangely cute overall . However, there was one problem .
“I feel like I’ve been turned into a dog . ”
That, that was the problem .
“Ah, we’ve got a dog . ”
“We’ve got a cat . Anyway, you don’t have to force yourself to act like a couple . ”
It might be different in school, but fooling people strangers would be no help .
“That… might not be…” Tomoe started inarticulately, turning her face away, “Umm… Senpai, there’s something I wanted to tell you . ”
The brick paving ran out, and the sea came into view in front of them . Floating on the waves was the island they were heading towards, Enoshima . It was a tied island jutting out into the bay of Sagami, which drew an arc like a drawn bow . To the west, Odawara and Hakone could be seen, and if the weather was good, Mount Fuji was also visible, but on a day like today with clouds in the sky, the general shape was all they could make out .
“Would that be about the three sneaking after us?”
Since they had arrived at Enoshima Station, Sakuta had happened to feel the fact he was being watched . He had checked behind them while pretending to look at Tomoe and seen Rena and their other two friends, Hinako and Aya .
“You noticed then?”
“Well, you were being suspicious too . ”
They wouldn’t just be able to take photos and say the date went fine . If Rena and the others were constantly watching them, they’d have no choice but to properly carry out their act of being ‘more than schoolmates, less than boyfriend and girlfriend’ .
“Rena-chan said she’d be judging you…”
“She’s been suspicious since yesterday . ”
She wasn’t suspicious about whether they were lying, it was about Sakuta’s sensitivity and humanity . She couldn’t believe that he had so easily moved on to Tomoe after confessing to Mai in front of the whole school a month prior . She was probably worrying about Tomoe being with someone like that .
“Isn’t friendship just amazing?”
“I get the feeling you don’t mean that in a good way . ”
That friendship making the situation more complex made him want to be sarcastic . Honestly, knowing he was being watched made playing around less pleasant . Surely it was a senior’s duty to show the harshness of life to juniors that were making light of keeping a secret .
“Koga, change of plans,” he said, grabbing Tomoe’s arm as she continued straight on, Sakuta took a right onto route 134, turning his back on Shichirigahama and crossing a bridge over the Sakai River .
“Where are we going?” Asked Tomoe in confusion at Sakuta’s actions .
“Over there . ”
Their destination came into sight as soon as they reached the other shore, a rectangular building looking out to the sea… the aquarium .
After buying two tickets and entering the aquarium, Sakuta and Tomoe were greeted by sea creatures of various sizes from the local Sagami Bay . They flitted around a huge tank which was tall enough that it reached the lower floor . There were triangular-headed sharks, tasty looking bream, and refined sea turtles . Two stingrays swam next to each other, displaying their face-like stomachs to the onlookers . Thousands of sardines formed into groups and swam in a circle right in the middle of the tank .
Small children pressed their faces into the glass, gazing at the sea creatures living out their lives . Tomoe had found a niche for herself as well, getting a special seat as a huge shark suddenly swam past her face .
She let out a cute shriek and fell backwards, her prized backside resting against Sakuta’s feet . With Rena and the others watching, Sakuta acted like a boyfriend and held out his hand, helping her up .
He had thought the entrance fee would mean they wouldn’t be followed, but he had misjudged it . However, it was easier to control their movements than outside, and he planned to launch a counterattack when he saw the chance . Sakuta wasn’t the kind of person to let himself be made into an exhibit .
Following on from the vivid fish living in the warm waters, there were strange creatures that lived in the deep sea . The jellyfish area was darker than the rest of the aquarium and felt rather like a planetarium . Several couples stopping to take photos caught his eye .
The jellyfish moved languidly through the water .
“They’re cute,” said Tomoe, taking her phone out to take pictures as well .
There’s some that look like snacks, thought Sakuta .
“That one’s like a macaron,” Tomoe chimed in, apparently thinking the same, “Senpai, take a picture . ”
Sakuta took the phone and put Tomoe and the jellyfish in frame .
“Not like that,” she corrected him, looking at the couple that were shoulder to shoulder next to a neighbouring tank . The boyfriend was holding the phone in an outstretched hand, taking a picture of them both .
Acceding to her wishes, Sakuta approached Tomoe, slightly brushing against her and making her jump . A glance at her face revealed her nervousness .
Sakuta let the shutter close regardless .
They looked over the picture, and as he’d thought, Tomoe’s expression was stiff .
“Senpai, your eyes look dead . ”
“They’re just the same as normal . ”
“You’re always dying then,” laughed Tomoe, her nerves apparently settled .
They continued along the route through the building and noticed a large group of people gathering in one area . They were gathered around a tank with a reproduction of a stony beach inside, and about fifteen Humboldt penguins .
It looked like a show was just going on as an attendant came in through the entrance .
“Wanna watch?” Asked Sakuta .
“Yeah . ”
The attendant was giving a concise explanation of the characteristics of this particular species of penguin . Apparently, the pattern on each bird’s stomach was different, with siblings and parents having similar patterns to each other . He picked up one of them and brought it over to the glass .
The other penguins gathered around his feet . When he moved to the right, they tottered after him, and when he moved to the left, they tottered back again .
The crowd cooed over the penguins’ adorableness .
“They’re cute, so cute,” said Tomoe, needless to say, her eyes were shining as well .
The next charming scene was to be a swimming performance . When Sakuta started wondering about how they’d do that, the attendant threw some small fish into the water with a yell .
The penguins simultaneously leapt in, cutting through the water like a curtain of bullets . They looked like they were flying through the water, while unable to fly in the sky, apparently, they flew underwater .
“That penguin…” started Tomoe .
Tomoe was looking at a corner of the rocky area where there was a single penguin napping while the others all raced around after the fish .
“He’s sorta like you . ”
“My legs aren’t that short, are they?”
“It’s because he’s just doing his own thing while everyone else is performing in the show . ”
“Then would you be that second, bouncy one?”
In that case, the leader would be Kashiba Rena . The fish had been mostly eaten by four specific penguins . Apparently, penguin society was hierarchical as well .
“No, I’d be… that one following everyone from behind,” said Tomoe quietly .
“It’s got a big backside as well . ”
“I’m being serious here,” she protested, covering her backside as she glared up at him . Even that act itself was rather penguin-like .
“I wonder why that penguin isn’t with everyone else . ”
The penguin in the corner woke from its nap and shook its head from side to side .
“He’s finally awake, the show’s already over though,” said the attendant, noticing it, inviting laughter from the audience .
Regardless of this, the penguin just went back to sleep, making the spectators laugh even more .
“He’s fine being laughed at by everyone… he really is just like you,” said Tomoe triumphantly with a smile .
Thus, the penguin show came to an end with thunderous applause .
The crowd started to disperse .
Sakuta left Tomoe at the seal tank and left towards the toilets . He didn’t go to the toilet however and circled around through the aquarium to where he had spotted Rena, Hinako, and Aya during the show .
He’d had to go back to near the entrance, so he walked quickly to find them in the shadow of a pillar in the gift shop, watching Tomoe as she peered at the seals .
“See any rare fish?” Sakuta asked as he approached them from behind .
Hinako and Aya both startled, and Rena turned around to look at him with an expression of innocence on her face .
“You’re here too, Senpai?” She answered brazenly in kind .
“Man, schoolgirls have a relaxed life .
“We’re busy . ”
“You don’t look it . ”
“What about you? Should you really be leaving Tomoe on her own?”
“Hey, look!” Interjected Hinako, wearing her elegant glasses again, her eyes looking out from behind them past the pillar at Tomoe .
Not seeing the harm, Sakuta joined her .
Tomoe was being talked to by two men . They both had brown hair, with chains hanging from their waists and sandals on their feet . They looked like they were inviting her to watch the dolphin show as they gestured outside .
“They look kinda scary,” said Hinako . As Tomoe seemed to wave a hand in front of her chest in negation, one of them grabbed her wrist . Hinako looked to Rena for advice, asking, “What do we do?”
Sakuta passed by her side and left the shadow, striding over to Tomoe .
“Eh, I take my eyes off you for a minute and you get hit on?” He asked, lightly smacking the crown of her head before pulling her from the men by her shoulders .
“So you’ve got a boyfriend?” The one man said, a bit of anger in his eyes .
“You were gone too long, Senpai,” Tomoe protested quietly .
“It was a big one,” he said . He’d actually gone for a completely different reason, but that should be plenty to turn the brown-haired duo off .
“You’re really something, talking about shit on a date,” came the scornful rejoinder from the one of them before they both left .
“Were they guys your friends had the hots for too?” Sakuta asked quietly as they watched the pair swagger away .
“No way,” replied Tomoe at a similar volume .
“Then turn them down straight off . ”
“I would, but…”
“They surprised me when they just started talking to me out of nowhere . ”
“Considering you, you should get used to it quickly . ”
The neighbourhood would be opening up for beach season soon, and there would be pickup artists on the prowl .
“What do you mean by that?”
“Have you not seen your face?”
“I see it every day . ”
Tomoe looked at her reflection in the tank glass .
“What do you think?”
“…That it’s not mine,” Tomoe murmured, bowing her head .
Sakuta and Tomoe left the aquarium and stepped onto the Benten Bridge that went to Enoshima itself . The sound of the wind and waves wrapped around them with the salty air from the sea . The tide wasn’t too high, so it felt like you could just keep walking on the surface .
Tomoe had her gaze on the ground and seemed listless, like she’d been thinking on something since they had left the aquarium .
“Did you want some submissive play or something?”
“No . ”
“Are we supposed to be an arguing couple then”
Tomoe slowly closed the distance between them . When she arrived next to him, she rested her hands on the handrail next to them and let out a sigh as she was dyed red by the setting sun coming through gaps in the clouds .
“I told you I came from Fukuoka, right?”
“Boasting about your hometown?”
“No . ”
“What is it then,” asked Sakuta as he turned around, leaning against the rail next to her .
“I wasn’t like this before middle school,” she spoke as she gazed at the sea, “want to see a picture?”
“Not really . ”
“Here,” she said, thrusting her phone in front of his face so he ended up seeing it even if he didn’t want to .
In the picture, she was wearing an old-fashioned sailor uniform, and an unfashionable, knee-length skirt . And on top of all of that, her hair was pulled into two wonderful braids either side of her head .
“This is… rustic . ”
“That’s why I didn’t want to show you . ”
“Weren’t you the one that forced it in front of my face?”
“Dad got re-assigned at work so we came to Tokyo . ”
“This is Kanagawa though . ”
“Don’t sweat the little things, it’s Tokyo . ”
“Well, whatever . ”
“I was in a group in the background at school as well . ”
“Hmmm . ”
“I thought that I’d definitely get bullied in the city, get called lame and have no friends . ”
“Well, I guess that happens . ”
“So when I found out we were moving here in January… I used the three months until we left to do a lot of research,” Tomoe said, twining a finger into her hair, “I started with makeup, then I went to a fancy hairdresser and got a new hairstyle… I started copying fashion magazines with my clothes, practised my accent… and I ended up like this . ”
“Do you not like it?”
“Do you not like how you are now?”
Tomoe grew thoughtful at the question, and after a while answered as if affirming her own feelings:
“…I do, I really do . ”
“Then what are you worrying about? It’s too depressing . ”
“W-what’s that supposed to mean!?”
“Are you doing the usual teenager thing and going on about how this ‘isn’t the real you’?”
“Y-yeah . ”
“So laaame . ”
“Well, it’s all good . ”
“This is you . Whatever you were before, this is you now . ”
“How come you can say that?” Tomoe levelled a suspicious gaze at him .
“Whatever started it, you put the effort in to end up like this, yeah?”
“And you like how you are now?”
“Yeah . ”
“Then what are you on about with ‘this isn’t me’?”
She didn’t answer .
“…So don’t worry about it . ”
“…I don’t like it . ”
“It feels like you just played me . ”
Just as Sakuta was about to complain, Tomoe’s attention was diverted to her phone .
“Ah, it’s from Rena-chan…”
She fiddled with the screen, opening the message .
“What is it?”
“…‘You look like you’re getting on well . Senpai seems like a surprisingly good person too . ’”
“She didn’t need to add the ‘surprisingly’ . ”
“‘Senpai says that you didn’t need to add the “surprisingly”’ and sent . ”
“Don’t send that . ”
“I already have… Ah, a reply, she said ‘huh?’”
Joining in schoolgirls’ conversations was just tiring .
“Come on, we’re going to Enoshima, right?”
“Yeah… ah, wait!” Tomoe noticed something and ran out onto the beach at the side of the bridge . The sun was setting and the beach was sparsely populated, one of them had caught her eye, a girl judging by her outfit, who was looking down and searching for something . Even from here, they could see she was worried . “That’s Yoneyama-san . ”
“You know her?”
“She’s my classmate, Yoneyama Nana-san . ”
It really is just like her to make sure to learn her full name, thought Sakuta, he himself not remembering nearly any of his classmates’ full names .
Tomoe turned her back on Enoshima and returned to the bridge, left the road and staggered slightly onto the beach . Going to Enoshima on his own would be pointless, so Sakuta followed her .
As they approached the water’s edge, Yoneyama Nana’s features became distinct . She wore black-rimmed glasses and had her hair tied into two bunches like a middle schooler, hanging onto and then off the front of her shoulders . Her skirt fell to her knee and she wore a navy blue cardigan on her upper half . She was about the same height as Tomoe and seemed like a reserved girl at first glance, one that would fit right into the library .
She seemed close to tears and was pacing back and forth on the sand .
“Yoneyama-san!” Tomoe called out, making Nana freeze in fright . When she noticed Tomoe she stiffened in surprise again .
“Did you do something to her? She’s pretty skittish,” Sakuta muttered to Tomoe .
“I-I didn’t do anything!” She replied at the same volume .
“Koga-san… A-and that guy that came back to being desirable . ”
“So that really is a thing with the first-years,” Said Sakuta . Nana met his eyes and showed even greater fright than before .
“I-I’m sorry,” she apologised .
“What about you, Senpai, what’d you do?” Interjected Tomoe, just at the right moment .
“Nothing yet . ”
“Don’t do anything either,” said Tomoe, giving him a warning glance, “Yoneyama-san, what’s wrong?”
“Eh, nothing,” she said, pulling herself together and speaking softly .
No matter what she said, she certainly looked like something was wrong .
“Are you looking for something?” Tomoe changed the question .
“Y-yeah,” Nana nodded .
It didn’t seem to be that something had happened between them, Nana was just shy and shocked at being spoken to by Tomoe, who she hadn’t spoken much with during classes . Then her being together with Sakuta, who had several unpleasant rumours circulating about him, made them seem even more distant .
“I’ll look too . Did you drop something?”
“I-it’s fine, I mean, you’re part of Kashiba-san’s group . ”
Sakuta thought that was a rather interesting denial . But at the same time, he had a feeling that those words showed how the power was distributed in their class .
There was a definite difference between Yoneyama Nana, who seemed rather plain, and Tomoe and her group, who seemed to radiate fashion . He almost wanted to tell Nana about how Tomoe looked even plainer back during middle school but decided not to with how he had only just gotten Tomoe to accept her effort .
“Three pairs of eyes are better than one,” he said, directing his eyes to the sand, even though he didn’t know what he was looking for .
“See, Senpai said he’d help too . ”
“R-right… it’s a phone strap . ”
“It’s got a little jellyfish on it, I bought it at the aquarium . ”
“What colour is it?”
“It’s transparent, but kinda blue I guess . ”
“Is it important to you?”
“Yeah… I bought it with a matching one for my friend during Golden Week . ”
Losing just the one of a pair would make anyone feel bad . He’d question why she couldn’t just buy a new one, but it wouldn’t have the same meaning as the one that she bought with her friend to Nana .
“Are you sure you dropped it around here?” He asked instead .
“I-I’m sorry, I don’t know . ”
“You don’t need to apologise . ” He said as she grew frightened when they met gazes again, so Sakuta just looked down again and waved his hand around, a little depressed that she was so obviously scared of him .
“Senpai’s weird, but he’s not scary,” came Tomoe’s backhanded compliment . From his point of view, Tomoe was plenty weird herself…
“R-right,” Nana replied, keeping an obvious distance between her and Tomoe as well .
There was a strange tension in the air as they searched fruitlessly for about half an hour . The sun had set and it was getting hard to see . Things were reaching the limit of a group of three that didn’t really get along .
Just as Sakuta was thinking they might have to call it quits, Sakuta saw a glint at the water’s edge .
There, lying on the wet sand, was a jellyfish phone strap .
“There it is,” he yelled unintentionally .
Tomoe and Nana came rushing over .
Sakuta went to pick it up, but the next wave made him hesitate, and while he couldn’t see it, there was a shadow in the water .
“Ah, Koga-san,” before Nana’s warning was complete, Tomoe had plunged her hands into the sea . In the next moment, a suspiciously large wave covered Tomoe completely where she was leaning forwards .
Tomoe let out a scream of shock and lost her balance, falling backwards, getting soaked all over .
“Oi, you good?”
In response to Sakuta’s question, Tomoe turned back with a smile .
“I got it,” she said, holding up the strap, not seeming to realise that he was asking after her .
“Are you okay, Koga-san?”
She wasn’t no matter how you looked . She was definitely soaked to the bone, her white blouse clinging to her skin, showing her underwear and skin .
Sakuta stepped into the water in his shoes and pulled Tomoe up . Tomoe tripped on the sand and held on to Sakuta .
“Woah, get off, you’re soaked!”
“You should be happy!”
“You say, with your eyeliner melting off . ”
“Wah, don’t look at me!” Shouted Tomoe, hiding her face, but there were other places she should be hiding .
“Your underwear’s showing too, you should hide that instead . ”
“Ahhh, I don’t have enough hands!”
“I can lend you one of mine if you like?”
Tomoe thought for a moment .
“Hey, that’s obviously not going to happen!”
Watching them, Nana broke into laughter .
The day after Sakuta’s date with Tomoe… June the thirtieth, arrived without fanfare .
Maybe days wouldn’t repeat any more, maybe the Adolescence Syndrome causing it had been cured .
With these things occupying his mind, Sakuta headed in to school, where he happened to arrived at the Fujisawa Enoden station with Tomoe .
He couldn’t just ignore her among the other students from their school . After all, he was her ‘more than schoolmate, less than boyfriend’ . He should talk with her like that . So thinking, he addressed her .
“Koga, want to ride together?”
“Yeah,” she answered in a husky voice with a nod .
He looked into her inclined face, noticing it was strangely red .
“You got a cold, huh?”
Getting soaked by the sea yesterday was probably the cause . That and not being able to ride the train, so walking the approximately thirty kilometres to Fujisawa while sodden and dripping .
It might be summer, but that was too negligent .
“I’m completely fine,” she said, her eyes blank in contrast to her words . She didn’t even have the energy to look up at Sakuta, and just kept looking down, seeming to struggle to breathe even .
“You don’t look fine at all,” Sakuta said, putting a hand on her forehead . It was hot, too hot . Hot enough that Sakuta would have taken great joy in having the day off . And yet when the train arrived, Tomoe didn’t hesitate to board it .
First of all, he sat her down in an empty seat .
“Get off at the next stop and go home,” he instructed .
“Don’t wanna,” came her childish reply .
“Do you like school that much?”
“If I had the day off, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the conversations . ”
“It’s just a day . ”
“That day’s fatal . ”
Apparently, she could never relax .
“Sleep until we get there then, I’ll wake you up . ”
“Thanks,” she said honestly, before relaxing and closing her eyes .
Sakuta walked with Tomoe to school, but when she couldn’t change her shoes, he dragged her to the infirmary and had the nurse look after her .
Of course, he ignored her croaky ‘Traitooor’ as he left .
Sakuta crept out of the school at lunchtime, walking to a nearby shop and hurriedly finishing his shopping and returning before a teacher realised he was missing, then showed up in the infirmary .
Rena, Hinako, and Aya were gathered around the bed that Tomoe was lying in . When the three noticed Sakuta enter, they left, with a teasing instruction for the pair to enjoy themselves .
The nurse was also absent, perhaps running some errand .
“Feeling any better?” Asked Sakuta as he sat down on a stool at the side of the bed .
“Yeah,” Tomoe answered quietly, but louder than that morning .
“Want some canned oranges?” He asked as he dropped the bag of shopping on the table attached to the bed .
“It’s against the rules to leave school during the day . ”
“If you don’t want them…” he said, taking the tin of oranges from the bag .
“I’ll have them,” she rushed out, trying to take the tin .
“Wait a minute . ”
“Whyyy, they’re f’r me, right?”
Sakuta took out a bag of crushed ice .
“Ice?” Asked Tomoe in confusion .
Sakuta ignored her question and added water to the ice, then put the tin in the mixture, turning it every so often .
“Senpai, what’cha doin’?”
He was copying a quick-cooling method that Rio had used once . After about two minutes, he took the tin out, opened the lid and put it in front of Tomoe this time .
“I can feed you them if you like . ”
“It’d be hard to eat like that, so I’m good . ” She used the included fork and took a mouthful . “Ah, it’s really cold!”
Tomoe smiled in happiness .
“Don’t watch me eat,” she told Sakuta as he looked at her carefully .
“It’s embarrassing . ”
Sakuta’s doubts just grew, but bothering his weakened junior didn’t appeal to him, so he stood and opened the window a little, letting a salty breeze in to the air-conditioned room .
“Ahhh, the smell of the sea,” said Tomoe, the natural scents of the sea breeze apparently making her feel better as soon closed her eyes for a while .
“Hey, Senpai?” She said after a while of sitting like that .
“Hm?” He replied, leaning out of the window .
“Why did you listen to my ridiculous request?”
“Would that be the one to be more than your schoolmate, less than your boyfriend?”
“The one to me more than my schoolmate, less than my boyfriend, yes . ”
Sakuta watched the many surfers skimming across the waves of the sea by Shichirigahama .
“Because you asked so earnestly . ”
“Even though you barely knew me?”
“We’re backside-kicking buddies, right?”
“Geez, I was being serious,” she said, looking over her shoulder at him and sulkily holding her fork in her mouth .
“Back then though, I thought you were a nice girl,” he insisted .
She had thought a pervert was assaulting a small girl and so had kicked Sakuta as hard as she could in the backside . It was a misunderstanding, but not everyone would have had the courage to do such a thing, and Tomoe’s stance on that sort of thing was shown once again the day before when she helped search for Yoneyama Nana’s strap .
“And so you helped me?”
“Well, it was also ‘cause you’re cute . ”
“You’re messing around agaaaain . ”
“I don’t know if I’d have done the same thing if you were ugly, that’s what guys are like . ”
“…You would have,” said Tomoe in a quiet voice, and Sakuta decided that he couldn’t hear .
“I’m not so kind that I help everyone . ”
“But in exchange, you’re kind to some people . ”
“Well yeah, even I want some people to think I’m half decent . ”
“Hmmm . ”
Tomoe still didn’t seem to fully agree, but she didn’t seem to want to keep going . She finished eating the fruit and drank the leftover juices in a single gulp .
“Koga, do you have anyone you like?” Sakuta asked .
“Eh!?” She yelled in shock at the sudden question, “W-why would you ask something like that?”
“I just figured rumours about you dating me would cause an issue if you were pining after someone . ”
“I’m not, so that’s fine . ”
“Anyone you’re interested in?”
“There’s not . ”
“Hehhh, such a waste . ”
“I don’t have time for things like that .
“Well yeah, you’ve got to keep up with the videos your friends send . ”
“I don’t like your tone there . ”
“I guess that means that you’ve got doubts about it yourself . ”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“If you were fine with how things were going, you wouldn’t care about how I said it . ”
“…I would,” she said after thinking it over in silence for a few moments, “I care about how people see me . Even while I’m sitting here in the infirmary, I’m worrying about what everyone in the classroom is thinking . ”
“You’re too self-conscious . ”
“You’re the weird one, Senpai . How can you keep coming to school when everyone looks at you like a freak and makes fun of you? How can you keep going? You’re too insensitive . ”
“Man, you’re asking some awful questions . Right to my face too . ”
“Uh, sorry . ”
“They didn’t hurt, so it’s fine . ”
“I’m not sorry then,” she muttered, her gaze seeming somewhat serious to Sakuta, asking him to answer properly with her eyes .
Sakuta couldn’t stand against that look so just looked back outside again and started talking, as if to himself .
“It’s just ‘cause I don’t really live to be liked by everyone . ”
“I want everyone to like me… or at least, not hate me . ”
“I’m fine with just one person . As long as that one person needs me, I can keep going . ”
Sakuta broke the seal on the box of onigiri he had bought for himself, stuffing the nori-wrapped rice into his mouth, enjoying eating while watching the see . That on its own made choosing this school worth it .
“Even if rest of the world hates you?”
“That’d be better, right?”
“I wonder . ”
“Well, you’ll get it one day, Koga,” Sakuta ended the conversation before it grew even more embarrassing .
“You looking down on me like that’s irritating,” pouted Tomoe . Sakuta lightly laughed at her expression but his laughter soon died away, having realised why he was treating her as much younger than him .
On her first day of work, he had thought of her as a clumsy junior, but talking with her like this had made him realise she was really taking in and understanding his, both what he was saying, and what he wasn’t .
More accurately, Tomoe was strongly focused on what was going on around her so she didn’t miss anything . To put it nicely she could read the atmosphere properly, conversely, it could be put as her paying too much attention to the atmosphere . Then, she would choose how she acted based on that atmosphere . That was why she had started to wear makeup, had changed her hairstyle, and had become more fashionable .
This lie about them dating was the same thing .
Doing this, she avoided conflict with her surroundings, even in the form of slight frictions, and lived well . She put a lot of effort into not causing discord, and was always paying attention so she didn’t cause problems .
It was a way of living that Sakuta would never be able to imitate, it’d definitely exhaust him .
“Senpai, you’re thinking something rude, aren’t you?”
“No, not really . ”
“You definitely are . ”
“If anything, I’m thinking something really nice . ”
“What do you mean?”
Sakuta ignored her question and answered with another .
“Say, Koga, if you ended up liking the same person as your friend Rena, what would you do?”
He could imagine the answer without actually asking the question, the reason he bothered was to make her realise it . There were frictions in relationships that you couldn’t avoid and pass through . Doing so would make that friction wear you down .
“If we liked the same person, I’d never tell Rena-chan . ”
“What about if you like the same person as your friend Hinako?
“I wouldn’t say . ”
“If it was your friend Aya?”
“I wouldn’t say . ”
“So you’d just give up . ”
“I think so . ”
“That’s what I thought . ”
“Don’t ask then,” It was best to decide to give up and do so while you could . When your feelings were at that point, it didn’t matter, but issues arose when feelings you hadn’t taken into account came into the picture . Tomoe’s answer now was inescapable, and she felt the danger in it .
“Yes, little one . ”
“D-don’t treat me like a kid . ”
“It’s coming out with lines like that that make you seem like a kid, isn’t it?
“Uggghhh…” she moaned, before continuing, “Oh yeah, Senpai, that reminds me…”
“How’d things end up with Sakurajima-senpai?”
“I’m waiting for her answer . ”
“Eh!? She didn’t reject you yet!?”
“If that loop hadn’t happened, she’d have agreed to start dating . ”
“It’s the truth . ”
“No, that’s definitely a lie . ”
“Why won’t you beli-”
“I mean, it’s Sakurajima-senpai, right? The actress Sakurajima Mai! That one, right!?”
“Yeah . ”
“And has she said ‘I love you’?” Asked Tomoe with a doubtful gaze .
“Well… no . ”
“See, I’m sure you were just imagining it . ”
It was the truth that Mai had never said it, and it was also the truth that he wanted her to . That would be nice for their relationship too .
Tomoe’s strange insistence on pointing it out made him all the more aware of it . In the end, whether Mai liked him, the solid month of confessions made it seem rather throwaway, and she also ignored the last confession, so it did rather seem that she agreed to get him to stop . That thought brought a touch of unease to Sakuta’s chest .
“I’ll do my best to get her to say it when I confess next .
“You’ll definitely get rejected,” said Tomoe, still disbelieving .
“Well, anyway, this term has to finish first . ”
They were deceiving the school for this term, if they didn’t overcome that, there was no bright future awaiting either of them .
“…Yeah . ”
Fortunately, Rena and the others didn’t show any sign of noticing the lie . Currently, it seemed like they’d be able to finish the three following weeks fine . The one thing that couldn’t be predicted was Maesawa-senpai’s actions .
Regardless of their lie being discovered, if Rena were to discover about his confession, that would be the end . They couldn’t let Rena-chan hear about what they were actually aiming for .
They couldn’t look at things optimistically anymore .
The next day was Tuesday, and marked the calendar’s transition into July . Tomoe had had a fever the day before and so spent the entire day in the infirmary, therefore, she finally conceded and had taken the day off .
However, she was completely back to normal on Wednesday, and when the bell sounded for lunch, she arrived at Sakuta’s classroom holding a tin of peaches .
His classmates had questioning gazes as to why a peach can .
It was probably a thanks for the oranges on Monday, but Sakuta had to tease her .
“Is it supposed to be for your peach-shaped backside?”
Immediately, Tomoe’s hands covered herself .
“No being perverted,” she said while pursing her lips .
“I’ll enjoy these tonight, thinking of them as yours,” he continued further, making Tomoe snatch it back from him .
“M-moron!” She ran from the classroom, her face flushed in embarrassment .
“I guess I went too far,” he said, resolving to barely toe the line next time .
He could feel the girls glaring at him in scorn for his sexual harassment, and the boys glaring at him in jealousy at the flirting . None of them seemed too surprised to see them together .
That typified the LTE-era, rumours about the two of them had completely permeated the school .
Tomoe hadn’t bounced back even after school . They were on the same shift, but each time they bumped into each other while working, she would hide her backside and glare at him like they had a blood feud…
Unfortunately, however, she wasn’t the slightest bit scary .
At eight o’clock that night, the dinner rush finally showed signs of calming, the number of customers arriving decreased, and the orders for the customers already there were finished . Even the cooking was mostly done .
Tomoe approached Sakuta as he stood at the till .
“There’s something I want to tell you . ”
“If it’s about my lack of delicacy, I’m well aware . ”
“I’ve already given up on you with that . ”
“What is it then?”
Tomoe looked up at Sakuta in silence for several moments, her nerves obvious . It must be something important that she was about to say .
“My backside really isn’t that big . ”
And yet, despite the apparent importance, it was her backside that she wanted to talk about .
“My my, so humble!” Sakuta proclaimed while patting her consolingly on the shoulder .
“What’s with that reply!?”
“Have more confidence . ”
“In your peachy backside . ”
“I said I don’t have one!”
“Now now, that’s not at all true . ”
“Fine then! I won’t talk to you . ”
She seemed to be in a seriously bad mood this time as she strode grandly away .
However, a moment later, she took an order that contained alcohol, which she had never dealt with before, so came timidly back .
“What should I do about the beer?” She asked awkwardly as she fidgeted .
Sakuta pretended not to here as he refilled the glasses on the drinks bar .
“Don’t ignore me,” she said, fiddling with her apron .
Silence continued to reign .
“P-please, tell me,” she was on the verge of tears, “I-I’ve got confidence in my backside . ”
At this, Sakuta finally looked at here .
“And the peaches?”
“F-fine! I’ll admit it, I have a peach-shaped backside . ”
She had completely given into despair .
“I see, I guess I’ve got to tell you then . ”
“You meanie, Senpai . ””
With Sakuta teasing Tomoe like this, they both worked until nine that night . Sakuta saw her to near her house and then arrived back at his own for about half-past .
He switched places with Kaede, who had just finished her own bath and washed off the day’s sweat .
Once he felt refreshed, he left the bath and after pulling on his underwear went to the fridge and poured himself a glass of the sports drink in the fridge before downing it in a single gulp . The chill on his heated body was pleasant . It was a drink he’d always liked, but Mai had been in an advert for it so he felt like he should re-evaluate how it tasted . Each time he drank it he remembered Mai .
Thinking of Mai, she was in Kagoshima recording for a TV drama this week . It was already ten o’clock, but Sakuta thought she was probably still recording . Or maybe she’d have returned to the hotel and gone to sleep by now, he couldn’t really imagine much about the world of show-business .
He poured himself another glass and drank it slowly this time, in three sips .
He washed the glass and put it on the draining board when the phone rang .
He picked up the handset as he dried his hands on a towel .
“Hello, it’s Azusagawa . ”
“It’s me . ”
Sakuta knew who it was at the very moment they answered .
“Mai-san, what’s wrong?”
“I thought you’d want to hear my voice so I phoned . ”
“I was actually just thinking about you . ”
“I hope you’re still wearing your underwear,” she seemed to jump right to distrusting him, “I understand that you can’t help that kind of thing, but…”
She seemed to have already decided that he was doing the act .
“I’m wearing just my underwear actually . ”
“Huh? Why just your underwear?”
“I just got out of the bath . ”
“Huh, surprisingly normal,” she said, apparently displeased with that?
“On nights where I lie tossing and turning, I may turn to you for assistance . ”
“Right right, do what you like,” she said .
He’d thought she would get embarrassed at that, but she’d just gone right along with it .
“How are things there?” She asked .
“Well, everything pretty much the same as always . ”
“Was the date with your cute girlfriend fun?”
“Well, in a way . ”
Getting new reactions from Tomoe had been a fun pastime .
“Hmmm,” came Mai’s bored-sounding replay .
“Was there even a right way to answer that?”
“Running off from your house right now and coming to see me in Kagoshima?”
“And then I can hold you?”
“That’s not happening,” she said, her displeasure beating into his eardrum . Apparently, she reallydidn’t want to .
“What about you? Have you done anything other than filming?”
“I ate a polar bear . ”
“You’re a real carnivore, huh?”
“It was just shaved ice . ”
“I knew that really, it’s the one with fruits on, right?”
“I’m bored,” she said in her queenly tone . Royals are pretty unreasonable, thought Sakuta .
But even so, her voice was taut, and sounded like she was exulting in something . She was probably excited at being able to act again .
“Are you having fun at the filming?”
“I am,” she answered honestly without a moment’s hesitation, “what do you want as a job?”
“Students don’t normally think of their careers . ”
“That’s a waste . ”
“Well, I guess maybe I could be Santa Claus . ”
“Because you’d have three hundred and sixty-four days off?”
“You caught me . ”
“If you say stupid things, you’ll become an idiot . Anyway, night . ”
“Ah, yeah, good night . ”
Sakuta waited for Mai to hang up before putting the receiver down .
As the weekend arrived, the Japanese Meteorological Association announced the end of the rainy season for the Kanto region . Summer had finally arrived and the temperatures would only rise from here . Even the beaches suddenly grew more active, regardless of the beach season only starting next week .
Sakuta had seen several groups of university students around for flying visits, and Shichirigahama beach was seeing more surfers enjoying the waves .
Sakuta and Tomoe’s ashen lie continued even during the vivid blue season of sun and sea as they kept a careful distance between them like they’d just started dating .
They didn’t go out of their way to be lovey-dovey, and only walked together to school if they happened to meet up on the way, with Tomoe prioritising her social life .
Their relationship was now known throughout the school and Sakuta often had his classmates giving him curious looks like they wanted to ask him something .
However, despite the clear curiosity, not one person had the courage to come forward and ask him . Of course, none of them thought of them as ‘false lovers’ .
Obviously, no one would think one of their classmates would be able to deceive everyone like that, and no one was going out of the way to confirm or deny the rumours going around . It was just seen as ‘someone else’s problem’ . Honestly, Sakuta was grateful for the lack of care people seemed to be showing . Maybe because of that, his worry over being found out was unnecessary .
There was another source of unease dwelling within his heart though . It seemed likely that this had happened because of Adolescence Syndrome on Tomoe’s part, and that hadn’t been conclusively settled .
Because of that, he checked the date each morning when he got up, and it was becoming a habit .
As of now, a day hadn’t repeated since the twenty-seventh of June, but not knowing when it might happen meant he couldn’t relax . And his sense of unease hadn’t abated even now it with the fifth of July, a week after they had escaped from the repetition .
Sakuta waited for school to finish, and then visited the physics lab .
“Futaba, you there?” he called as he opened the door .
He saw her white-coat clad form by the window, talking with someone on the other side . That person was wearing a T-shirt and jogging shorts . It was Yuuma, with a basketball in hand, probably on his way to club activities .
Rio and Yuuma both looked towards the door at the same time upon his arrival .
“Sorry for interrupting,” he said after examining their faces, then turning about on his heel and shutting the door .
He’d been going to ask about Adolescence Syndrome but it would be better to wait for another day it seemed .
The door then burst open from inside, an unusually panicked Rio having opened it .
“Are you an idiot, Azusagawa!? You are, aren’t you!?”
She kept rambling in a small voice, glancing back at Yuuma every so often . Yuuma himself was spinning the basketball on his finger .
“Well, I’m more of an idiot than you . ”
“Don’t give me help like that, Kunimi’ll notice . ”
“If he noticed from something like that, he’d have already noticed your feelings ages ago . ”
Anyway, there was a fairly high possibility he was just pretending that he hadn’t noticed .
“That… would be a problem . ”
Rio murmured in a practically silent voice, her face instantly flushing red .
It would be too mean to keep teasing her now, so Sakuta entered the classroom .
“We were just talking about you actually,” said Yuuma as he approached the window .
“How cruel, insulting me behind my back . ”
“Are you actually dating Koga-san?” Yuuma asked straightforwardly, ignoring Sakuta’s joke .
“I am . ”
“Well, it’s sort of like a trial still . ”
“Hmmm . ”
Yuuma didn’t seem convinced, and he could feel some doubt from Rio when she arrived in the middle of their conversation . He had an idea why Rio would . He had been talking to her about Adolescence Syndrome and told her that Tomoe was Laplace’s Demon before .
Even so, she didn’t question him further .
“Well, I should tell you this then,” he said, bouncing the ball off the floor, “it’s about Koga-san . ”
Sakuta could tell he didn’t want to say .
“What about her?”
“There’s been some nasty rumours going around . ”
“Like her having bad taste in men?”
That seemed likely, considering Sakuta’s reputation within the school . He might have pulled it around with the first-years, but the second and third-years were still stuck in the rumour about the hospitalisation . It was like a sticker, once you were labelled, then even tearing that label off would still leave traces behind .
“People are saying she’s easy, a slut, and that you’re going at it like rabbits . ”
Yuuma’s voice grew quieter as he spoke, maybe out of consideration for Rio . Realising that, Rio didn’t force herself into the conversation and just seemed as if she happened to be listening .
It was the first time Sakuta had heard this .
“I saw it in the team’s group chat,” Yuuma continued, Sakuta more or less got it at that . “You asked about Yousuke-senpai at work, right?”
Yuuma’s expression was serious as he spoke darkly about the source of those rumours .
“The girls are talking about it in our classroom too,” Rio added nonchalantly .
Apparently, this itself was another rumour that was pervading the school .
Sakuta figured this was going to end up being another irritating situation, but didn’t know what to say himself, and though he didn’t want to, he should probably check with Tomoe .
“I’ve told you at least,” said Yuuma .
“Yeah . ”
Yuuma raised a hand as he left towards the gym for his club activities, Rio watching him leave .
Sakuta didn’t want to get in the way so turned his back, getting out a bunsen burner and lighting it, filling a beaker and putting it above the burner .
If the rumours were spreading, he had to do something .
“Azusagawa, what are you doing,” asked Rio, who had arrived on the other side of the desk while he was focusing .
“For now, I figured I’d have a coffee and calm down . ”
“That’s not what I mean, I’m salting about Sakurajima Mai . ”
“Where’s the powder?”
There wasn’t anything that looked similar in the drawers under the desk .
“Is that supposed to be ‘don’t ask’?” Asked Rio . Sakuta opened the drawers next to the desk and found the jar of coffee powder . “That’s fine then… What did you come here for?”
“There hasn’t been a day that repeated since then, so I was wondering what it was all about . ”
The water had boiled so he extinguished the burner and dropped the coffee powder into the beaker, slowly dying the transparent liquid black .
“Then wasn’t it just like you said before?”
“That first year you’re dating is Laplace’s Demon,” Rio referred obliquely to her, evidently having noticed the truth, “That first year kept rolling the die until she got a result she wanted . ”
Rio rolled a die across the desk, it landing on 5, then 4, then 2 .
“So,” she continued, “since she’s satisfied now, she doesn’t need to redo it . ”
Rio stopped rolling the die as it landed on 1 .
“She doesn’t seem to realise it though . ”
“If she did, she’d be a real demon . ”
“You can say that again . ”
Sakuta slurped at his coffee, wrinkling his nose at the bitter taste .
“It sounds like you want it to happen again,” Rio said idly, taking her glasses off .
“I just want someone to tell me it won’t happen anymore if it won’t . ”
“Did you want to redo something?” Rio asked, ignoring his words . She’d started out the conversation just to ask that .
“I see, you do . ”
“Don’t you even think… ‘what if?’”
“Would it be your sister for you?”
Even as he tried to dodge the question, Rio didn’t let up, probably out of vengeance for teasing her about Yuuma .
“Yeah, is there a problem with that?”
“There’s no problem with it, I just thought it’s not like you . ”
“It’s not like I actually want to do it over . ”
“What is it then?”
“I just want to do things without having to think ‘what if?’ . ”
“I see, that’s just like you . ”
“I do my best to make the most of what happens . Going back in time… that just seems like all the different possibilities would get annoying, and depressing . ”
Rio ignored him and started to set up a gas burner .
Sakuta flicked the die on the desk, and it landed on 3 .
“Say, Futaba . ”
She seemed somewhat annoyed as she lit the flame . Like she’d asked what she wanted to ask, and didn’t care anymore .
“Can you think of a way to win against someone in a sports club that’s fitter than you?”
Rio stopped moving and just stared in surprise for a moment, which soon transitioned into an aghast expression before she finally snorted .
“That’s not my area of expertise . ”
“I guessed . ”
She adjusted the airflow to the gas burner, turning the flame from red to blue .
“Humans aren’t monkeys, they can win because they use their head, right?”
That really was an answer just like her .