Sakuta was woken by a gentle shaking .
“Onii-chan, it’s time to get up . ”
Sakuta, the elder brother, slowly rose in response to his sister’s enthusiasm .
“Morning,” he greeted .
“Good morning . ”
Sakuta rubbed at his tired eyes .
“You know, Kaede?”
“There’s such a thing as the summer holidays . ”
He could have a lie in today and leave the energetics to the elementary schoolers that did radio callisthenics .
“The holidays start tomorrow though, right?” Asked Kaede, leaning over in curiosity .
What did she just say? He thought to himself .
“Nah, it’s today, yeah?”
“No, it’s tomorrow . ”
Sakuta picked up his clock and looked at the familiar LCD display . Written upon the screen was ‘July 18th’, Friday . If Sakuta’s memories were right, that would be yesterday…
The eighteenth was, just as Kaede had said, before the holidays had started, it was the last day of term .
Apparently, that weirdness he had almost completely discounted had happened again, the day had repeated like June the twenty-seventh had .
However, Sakuta was strangely unsurprised . He might have had some inkling that this might happen, there had been a sense of discomfort remaining from the days that he had spent with Tomoe .
Tomoe had spent the entire day enjoying herself at the beach yesterday, overflowing with smiles as they parted and not showing a hint of worry .
But that itself was what caused the feeling . It had been too empty .
Sakuta wordlessly climbed out of bed and left his room . He put the TV on and it showed the results of last night’s game with the Pro-baseball Fresh All-Stars .
It was the same as he had seen yesterday… or rather the first July the eighteenth .
It was a strange sensation, yet still somewhat nostalgic .
“Kaede, do you want to eat a watermelon?”
“Eh? I do . ”
“I’ll go buy a round one later . ”
He then ate breakfast with Kaede and prepared for school .
“See you later, Onii-chan,” Kaede called as she waved him off with a smile while Sakuta stepped out into his second July the eighteenth .
Sakuta rode the Enoden with Yuuma . He had arrived next to Sakuta and held a hand strap in the same way .
“What are you planning over the summer, Sakuta?”
“Work . ”
“Well, Koga-san will be there,” Yuuma said teasingly, following the familiar conversation .
“Work, club stuff, dates . ”
“You youthful prick . ”
“You shouldn’t call people that,” Yuuma playfully bumped his shoulder into Sakuta’s the same way he did last time .
Anything and everything Sakuta could remember was the same as the first July the eighteenth he had experienced .
Sakuta left Yuuma in the shoe racks and didn’t head for the second-year classroom, but for the first-years’, for Tomoe’s class .
When he looked in from the door, he could immediately see Tomoe . She was with Rena, Hinako, and Aya around the teacher’s desk laughing about something .
Hinako noticed him and nudged Tomoe . Kaede looked surprised for a second, but soon exited into the classroom while paying a little attention to her surroundings .
“Don’t just turn up out of nowhere at my classroom,” Tomoe said shyly, conscious of the looks from behind her .
“I did feel bad about doing this, but I had to . ”
The situation being what it was, Sakuta wanted to check things as quickly as possible .
“Did something bad happen?” He asked .
As far as Sakuta was aware, nothing special had happened, everything had gone to plan and proceeded as expected . They had fooled everyone and reached the summer holidays . They had seen the opportunity for Tomoe to be able to explain dumping him and becoming close friends instead . The gossip would have spread throughout the school without them even trying, so everything should have finished .
“Why?” Asked Tomoe with a tilt of her head, looking puzzled .
“What do you mean, ‘why’?” Sakuta noticed they were talking at cross-purposes . Tomoe didn’t seem to be worried or tense at all, “We’re looping again . ”
“Eh?” Tomoe’s mouth dropped open . That reaction settled it, she didn’t look like she knew what was happening at all .
“This is the second time today happened, right?”
“…No,” Tomoe replied hesitantly, like she was worried about Sakuta .
“Wait, this is your first time!?”
“Yeah,” Tomoe nodded slightly, her gaze fixed on Sakuta .
The chime that signalled the start of homeroom sounded .
“Got it, forget this for now . ”
“What about after school?” She asked .
“We’ll carry on like we planned . ”
“R-right . ”
“Later . ”
Tomoe waved somewhat uneasily as Sakuta left those words behind .
Once classes were over and he received the report card that he already knew the contents of, the same grades as last time, the same indirect warning from his teacher about the fight .
“Be careful that you don’t get hurt messing around this summer . ”
Once he heard the teacher’s warning, Sakuta left class 2-1’s classroom . The next-door classroom seemed to have finished homeroom before them . There were still several students remaining in the classroom, but Futaba Rio was nowhere to be seen . She was probably in the same place as always .
So thinking, Sakuta headed for the physics lab and, just as he thought, Rio was there, writing some kind of equation on the board .
Sakuta talked from behind her and let her know that the loops were happening again .
“What do you think?” He finished with, asking for Rio’s opinion .
“Azusagawa, are you okay in the head?”
Rio had turned around and had sat across the desk from Sakuta .
“What’s with that question?”
“Don’t answer a question with a question like that . ”
“Why exactly do you ask?”
“It’s because you’re asking questions an elementary school student could answer . ”
Apparently, elementary school students were rather clever these days, the country’s future was assured, thought Sakuta .
“If, as you think, that first year-” Rio started .
“Koga Tomoe,” Sakuta interjected .
“If she’s Laplace’s Demon, then the answer is simple . ”
“Is there some set difference between the eighteenth and the nineteenth? Like a change in the relationship between you?”
Sakuta remained silent . Rio’s insight was on the money . Sakuta had never said a word to her but she was already suspicious about it .
“I doubt you’d continue that endlessly,” she said, well aware of his personality as well, “you’ve already realised though, haven’t you?”
“The reason she’s re-rolling the die again . ”
Sakuta looked up at the ceiling as if to avoid her gaze .
It wasn’t as if he didn’t have any idea at all, he would admit that he had some idea .
“But this time, Koga doesn’t know this is the second time . ”
That was the only part that didn’t ring true . Sakuta shivered as he remembered her confused reaction from this morning .
“I see… then maybe like I first said, you’re the demon . ” Rio didn’t seem interested, to the contrary, she didn’t even seem to believe her own words as she called him a demon . It was like she was just saying it for the sake of it .
“It’s not me . ”
“Then there’s only one explanation . ”
“Just the one, huh…”
“Yes, that she… is lying . ”
Sakuta didn’t deny her words .
Sakuta left the physics lab and met up with Tomoe before heading to the beach . Just like last time, they ate grilled corn at the beach huts, made sandcastles, stuffed their faces with shaved ice, and played around in the sea .
Tomoe seemed to enjoy it all .
Before they went home, Tomoe gave her thanks, and then finally shook hands with him just like the first day .
Nothing at all changed . If tomorrow came then there would be no need to say anything .
However, when Sakuta woke the next morning, it was once again the eighteenth of July . This made it the third final day of term, the summer holidays just weren’t coming .
On the twenty-seventh of June, the fourth time hadn’t come . Based on that experience, Sakuta once again went through the day without changing anything at all, thinking it might be based on the number of repeats .
Tomoe, not knowing of the loops, frolicked in the sea again today .
Sakuta’s faint hopes were dashed and the fourth July the eighteenth dawned again .
So there wasn’t any other way than dealing with Laplace’s Demon to get out of this situation .
He got the train at the same time as always and got the same train as Yuuma once more .
“Yo . ”
“Hey,” Sakuta answered Yuuma bluntly as the latter smiled brightly .
Yuuma didn’t seem to worry about it and grabbed the strap next to Sakuta .
Sakuta opened his mouth and began to speak as they looked out at the tranquil streets .
“You’ve got a girlfriend, yeah?”
“Luckily, yes . ”
“What would you do if some other girl had feelings for you?”
Yuuma’s expression grew slightly guarded as he paused .
“What would you do if you noticed her feelings?”
“Who are you asking about?” Yuuma asked, trying to ferret out Sakuta’s intention .
“It’s just theoretical . ”
Nothing concrete had been said, but from just their conversation so far and Yuuma’s seriousness, Sakuta realised something . Yuuma had noticed Rio’s feelings .
But because of that, he listened to Sakuta’s question without trying to get out of it .
“Doe she… know that I’ve realised?”
“Not yet . ”
They both avoided naming names .
“Yet, huh?” Yuuma said with a pained smile, “I’d honestly rather not drag up feelings that she’s hiding . ”
Yuuma stayed with not giving any names and looked out at the sea, narrowing his eyes against the radiance .
“It’d also feel like I was being too self-conscious, like who do I think I am?” Yuuma continued, carefully choosing his words . “But I don’t think leaving it like that is a good idea, what’s the right answer there?”
“That’s what I asked . ”
They reached Shichirigahama still with no answer .
The entire school gathered in the gym for the closing ceremony, Sakuta’s fourth . Of course, because it was the fourth time he was hearing the headteacher’s speech so he didn’t listen to a word and just thought of other things .
Tomoe to be exact .
He looked at her amongst the first-years in the room . She seemed to notice his gaze and looked back at him . She seemed slightly surprised when their eyes met, but a smile soon made its way onto her face .
Everything all came together for Sakuta when he saw her smile .
“Yes, that she… is lying . ”
That was exactly what was happening .
After school, they met at Shichirigahama Station and took the Enoden for three stops while they spoke about their results .
They went out onto the brick-paved Subana Street and then crossed route 134 using the subway, and then continued straight on still .
“Senpai? The beach is this way . ” Said Tomoe, pointing to the left to the beach huts lined up on Higashihama beach . Incidentally, there was Nishihama beach to the right .
“This is my fourth time . ”
“You’re bored of the beach . ”
“I’m glad you can read the atmosphere well,” he said as they crossed the bridge to Enoshima .
“We’re going to Enoshima?” She asked as she bounced after him, and Sakuta glanced sidelong at her face . ”
“Well, we didn’t get chance to go on our first date . ”
“Ah, that’s true . ”
Back then, they had seen one of Tomoe’s classmates in trouble when they were crossing the bridge… She, Yoneyama Nana, had actually lost the strap she had bought with her friend .
“The island, the sky, the sea . ”
In their path, they could see nothing but Enoshima itself, the blue sky, and the stretching sea .
Tomoe stretched her arms out as if to catch hold of the sky .
Black kites wheeled through the skies, often stealing food from the beach-goers .
Once they crossed over the four-hundred-metre bridge, they were met by souvenir shops for tourists, and shops selling local seafood . The sea was in a good fishing season at the moment .
They passed through a torii and the path changed into a slope that was just on the wrong side of gentle . It narrowed and the nostalgic, traditional atmosphere increased even more . At both sides of the route were shops that sold the area’s famous whitebait and colourful purses and wallets that all drew the eye .
They passed a couple of university students, sharing a huge squid rice cracker .
Sakuta felt a sense of desire from next to him .
“If you buy street food as you walk, you’ll get fat,” said Sakuta, even as he handed the money over to the woman behind the counter .
“I’m dieting from tomorrow . ”
He held himself back from further comment and took the rice cracker once it had been cooked in front of them .
“It’s huge,” said Tomoe .
It was bigger than Sakuta or Tomoe’s faces .
Splitting it between them, they continued up the path to the nearby shrine as they ate .
A set of stairs came into view with a red torii part-way up . At the top was the Enoshima Shrine, made up of three smaller shrines .
They finished the rice cracker in front of the torii before continuing up one step at a time .
They climbed in silence and eventually reached the top and the first shrine, Hetsumiya, while completely out of breath .
“My legs are dead,” Tomoe complained .
“You’re supposed to be a first-year . ”
“What’s with that logic?”
“You’re young . ”
After a while, they caught their breath and visited the shrine properly .
“Koga, they’ve got love ema,” Sakuta pointed out the nearby Musubi-no-ki with many of the votive plaques attached to it, “let’s write one . ”
“Eh? We’re lying to the gods?” Tomoe asked .
Ignoring her, Sakuta bought an ema from the shrine-maiden .
“S-Senpai . ”
Perhaps thinking that Tomoe’s reaction was out of embarrassment, the woman handed the ema over with a smile .
Sakuta borrowed a pen and used it to write his full name, ‘Azusagawa Sakuta’ in the heart-shaped symbol .
“Here,” he said .
“We’ll get smote,” she answered .
“When you decided to lie to everyone, you had to have had the resolve to fall to hell, right?”
“I don’t mind… but I don’t want to drag you down . ”
Tomoe turned the ema over in confusion . It was written what kind of person the ema was for there, and right at the top was ‘someone with an unrequited love’ .
A quiet gasp left Tomoe’s mouth .
Tomoe wrote ‘Koga Tomoe’ next to ‘Azusagawa Sakuta’ in curly writing with a worried look on her face . Sakuta then yanked the ema from Tomoe’s hands and attached it to the tree .
“Senpai! We’ll definitely get a smiting if we put a lie in with all the actual wishes! I’ll just take it home!”
Tomoe reached out her arms and quietly and frantically tried to stop him, trying to make sure the shrine-maiden didn’t hear the word ‘lie’ .
“I’m the only one lying, so it’s fine . ”
The strength left Tomoe’s arms and Sakuta used that chance to tightly knot it to the tree, it wouldn’t be easily removed now . ”
They once more climbed the stairs in silence like they were going through training, reaching the impressive red pillars of Nakatsumiya . Walking further they arrived at a viewing platform that could be seen from afar . They passed that and aimed for the furthest shrine, Okutsumiya .
The path was narrow with old paving slabs and had a certain mood about it . After a little more walking, there were sets of stairs going up and down, with souvenir shops and cafes, and various food places filling the space .
The scenery was like something that would have been used in old films to show the warmth of people, there was a gentle atmosphere brought into being by people living nearby coming and meeting friends and acquaintances . Sometimes a cat would cross their path, and each time, Tomoe tried to stroke it but it ran away .
“Senpai, about earlier…”
“When we were at the tree…”
Sakuta didn’t answer .
“No, it’s nothing . ”
He knew what she was trying to ask . In front of the tree, Sakuta had said:
“I’m the only one lying, so it’s fine . ”
He could feel Tomoe wanting to know exactly what he meant from his side . But before she opened her mouth again, they reached Okutsumiya .
They visited the shrine silently . Tomoe’s face, as she put her hands together, was awfully serious . What was she wishing for, he wondered .
The path narrowed further as it continued, the narrow steps descending to the western edge of Enoshima… Chigogafuchi .
It was a fifteen-metre wide strip of rock . The water rushing over the surface had removed stone from the surface, smoothing it out . The rock itself had risen in the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 and now looked like this .
It was a pleasant view from the stone, with the weather as it was, Mount Fuji was clearly visible .
The sea breeze wrapped around their bodies . Other couples had stopped on the strange natural protrusion .
“Hinako-chan said that sunsets look gorgeous from here,” Tomoe muttered to herself with both hands on the guardrail .
She’d probably realised .
Realised why Sakuta had invited her here…
Realised the meaning behind his words earlier…
She had realised and was pretending that she hadn’t .
“Let’s go . ” Suggested Sakuta .
“Yeah . ”
As they spoke, their sentences became shorter .
They silently trekked back along the path they had taken .
Sakuta and Tomoe barely spoke . They slowly descended the stairs that had been so difficult to climb, passing under the first torii .
Calls of salespeople followed them as they left Enoshima behind .
The beaches stretched out to the left and right from both sides of the Benten Bridge as they crossed it . Going back meant which was on which side had switched . Nishihama was to the left, and Higashihama was to the right . The sun was climbing across the southern sky, showing the activity on the beaches . There were probably groups that had headed straight to the beach from school . Sakuta and Tomoe had actually intended to at first as well .
“Hey, Senpai, shall we go to the beach now?” Tomoe asked, looking at the beach . “I’m wearing my swimsuit under this after all . ”
Her voice was cheerful, she was the same as usual .
Sakuta made his decision at that point, stopping on the bridge . Tomoe took a moment to notice so turned back to look at him in question from about three metres ahead . The two had stopped right in the middle of the bridge, with the sea to either side .
“Koga, let’s end this lie . ”
“Eh? Ah, right, that was ending today . ”
“That’s not what I mean . ”
“…Senpai? You look kinda scary?” Tomoe looked at him in confusion .
Even so, Sakuta didn’t let his harsh expression slip .
“What? What happened?” She asked .
“Did you think I wouldn’t notice?”
“Even if it was a lie, I went out with you for about three weeks . ”
Koga fell silent .
“You said before, that I could read the atmosphere, I just didn’t . ”
“Senpai, you’re being strange . ”
Tomoe’s face was bewildered, but Sakuta still continued .
“If you won’t say it, I will . ”
Koga went silent again .
“Okay?” Tomoe hadn’t looked away from Sakuta for the entire time he had been speaking, but she did slump slightly as Sakuta carried on, “No matter how many times you re-roll the dice, you won’t change people’s feelings . ”
He paused to allow Tomoe to reply, but she didn’t .
“Lies won’t become the truth, and the truth won’t become lies . ”
In response to those words, Tomoe gripped tightly to the hem of her uniform, like she was trying to resist something…
“…Even after a hundred times?”
Tomoe’s strangled voice was swept away by the sea breeze as her head remained downcast .
“Yeah . ”
“…Even after a thousand?” Her voice shook .
“That’s right . ”
“Ten thousand times?”
“It won’t change even after a hundred-million times . I love Mai-san . ”
Once more, Tomoe reverted to silence .
“Even if you keep repeating the same things, your feelings won’t change either . ”
A heavy silence fell over the pair of them even as large drops of rain began to fall from the sky all of a sudden .
The sky above them was blue, it was a sun shower .
“You’re a liar… Senpai…” Tomoe’s faint voice mixed in with the pouring of the rain, “…Feelings do change . ”
The rain was so heavy that it stung as it came down .
“They pile up just from repetition… they have piled up…”
Tomoe’s voice grew hoarse as she admitted her lie . Tomoe knew that the day had been repeating, and had pretended that this was the first time on top of that . She played in the sea each time like she didn’t realise it the second or third times, acting .
It was all to hide her feelings .
“I decided I’d forget it… but I couldn’t . I thought I’d manage it this time, but… I couldn’t, even though I decided to say goodbye to these feelings!”
A quavering sensation stabbed through Sakuta’s chest . Tomoe’s crushing feelings finally showed slightly on her face . It was an immensely human reaction, not something a demon would have .
“Today I had a fun last date with you… and had to end our false relationship with a smile . Then when things go well with Sakurajima-senpai next term, I wanted to tease you with ‘good for you’ . ”
“And then I’d be your friend, a friend you could talk about anything with . And you’d be my slightly older friend that spoils me a bit . You’d have been happy with it too… and we could have reminisced about how all this was fun, and be good friends forever!” Tomoe raised her face and tried to smile, but failed . “That’s what I was going to do…” Her grief showed in her voice, tightening so much it hurt her chest .
“That’s all I wanted…” she continued, “I didn’t want anything special . I wasn’t going to be selfish . I wasn’t going to cause anyone any trouble, you know? But… but why won’t tomorrow come!?”
Sakuta had no answer for her .
“I decided to leave these feelings, so why are they always stronger every day I wake up!?” That was obvious, even hiding emotions deeply in your chest wouldn’t make them disappear, they never would, those feelings lived on inside . Trying desperately to deny your feelings would just make them grow stronger and stronger… “This is horrible…”
People’s emotions weren’t computer programs, you couldn’t just switch them off . A saved phone number or ID could just be deleted, but emotions couldn’t . People were bound by different things, and these three weeks had bowed Sakuta and Tomoe together .
“I decided not to feel like this anymore… That’s what I decided!”
“You don’t need to do that . ”
“I do!” Tomoe would see her way of life through, and that was hurting her, “But you like Sakurajima-senpai . I’m just in the way! Friends don’t feel like this, they don’t need this!”
That was what Sakuta had asked Tomoe for .
“Once we’re done with this lie, be my friend . ”
Tomoe had decided to bear her own feelings to grant that request . She had to bear them, so she didn’t burden Sakuta . That’s why she had given up without saying anything, she’d tried to crush her feelings, to act like they didn’t exist from the start and be Sakuta’s friend .
His younger friend that was just a little cheeky .
But dividing her feelings and going through with what she decided was potentially impossible . Her feelings were so strong that she couldn’t control them, feelings she herself didn’t really understand .
This might be the first time Tomoe had faced these feelings .
Their relationship had started with a lie .
And yet, before she knew it, her feelings had become true, the real thing .
Even so, the day of their separation because of the lie arrived… and Tomoe’s now real feelings were the only things left, held strongly within her heart and not solved . The emotions she wanted to express were just held within the dark inside her .
Tomoe’s sense of values would not allow that though . Expressing them would trouble someone, trouble Sakuta . Therefore, she could only keep trying to kill her feelings to be the ‘Koga Tomoe’ that Sakuta wanted, piling up resistance upon resistance .
It was painful, lonely, and gave her nowhere to go, and so once more woke the sleeping demon .
That was the true identity of the demon, the sense of self that Tomoe shut inside her . Her real feelings refused to allow summer to arrive like that . Even if it was a lie, Sakuta had been her boyfriend… so she didn’t want tomorrow to come .
Even so, Tomoe stayed silent and tried to forget Sakuta, to make it like it never happened, that’s why she lied .
“Koga . ”
Tomoe let out a whimper when he addressed her .
Even if this hurt her, there was something she had to say .
“When did I say you’d be in the way?”
“You’re awful, Senpai…”
“You’re only noticing now?”
“I don’t like you, I hate you! You’re awful! You were too kind to me…”
“That’s right . So you don’t need to try and spare my feelings . ”
“I don’t like me either, I hate me… this isn’t me!”
“Nope, that’s you, it’s you as well . ”
“No! This isn’t me! I want the summer holidays to come! I want to be friends and have fun with you already! That’s all I want!”
Even now, Tomoe didn’t shed a single tear, she seemed to know that if she started then that would be the end of everything as she looked at Sakuta with teary eyes .
“Stop lying to yourself now . ”
Tomoe gave no answer .
“You’re a high-schooler of justice, right?”
“That’s not fair… you can’t say it like that…”
“There’s nothing you can’t do . ”
“That’s not fair, it’s not, Senpai…”
“You don’t need to bear it anymore . ”
“You idiot, Senpai! You idiot! I hate you, I hate you! But…” Tomoe’s voice was tinged by tears, “but… I like you…” Tears welled further in her eyes .
“I like you, Senpai…” She took a deep breath in through her nose, sniffling, “I love youuuuuu!”
The feelings Tomoe had held within herself for so long came bursting forth, beating right in to Sakuta, pure and unfettered .
“Koga,” he spoke quietly, doing all he could to be gentle… She held up against her tears for a moment, but Sakuta’s words wouldn’t let her continue to . “Well done . ”
Tomoe’s face was dishevelled as she let out the start of a cry, her tears shining on her cheeks .
“You fought really hard . ”
She sobbed loudly, unable to speak, crying as her tears fell with the rain to her feet, drip drip, drip drip…
The blue sky looked down on them, tall, distant, and clear as far as the eye could see . The rains had stopped .