#16 – Ep
This World You Chose
Light shone from beyond Sakuta’s eyelids and when Sakuta noticed that, he realised he had woken up. The morning sun cast cloud-like shadows across his familiar ceiling from the crack in the curtains. The sensation of his bed on his back let him know that this was his own room.
He reached his hand out for his digital alarm clock as usual. If the day hadn’t repeated this should be the nineteenth of July, the first day of the summer holidays. As he went through this mentally, he brought the clock into his site.
A moment passed with him staring uncomprehendingly at the display. He had thought that it would be the nineteenth of July shown on the screen, or if not it would be the eighteenth once again. However, the clock was showing Sakuta a completely different date.
Sakuta rose and went to the living room, turning the TV on just as the morning news started.
“Well done, team Japan!”
It was a familiar, almost nostalgic phrase. The newscaster’s excitement and happiness were clear.
“Good morning, today is Friday, June the twenty-seventh. I think we’ll start the day on football!”
The next thing shown on the TV was from the world cup going on on the other side of the world, highlights from the second group league match.
It was just before halftime, and the Japanese team were a single point behind. Number 10 had dribbled the ball all the way up the pitch but was taken down by an overzealous defence from the opponents. The whistle pierced the stadium and they were given a free kick from just behind the penalty area.
Taking the kick was player number four. His shot came after a short run-up and passed the keeper, stabbing home into the net. Number four let out a roar of triumph and the rest of the eleven players gathered around him, shouting in joy.
The team took heart in that point and in the next half gained another, winning the match 2-1.
Even as he watched the news program, Sakuta was thinking of a certain person. Koga Tomoe.
She was his junior in the year below, and Laplace’s Demon.
“Man, she’s amazing…” he said unconsciously, “was it all a simulation of the future from the start?”
It was exactly as Rio had suggested that day. The repetition of the day wasn’t travelling through time, it was calculating the future from a certain point.
And the point in question was, namely, June the twenty-seventh.
Sakuta could do nothing but laugh at this ridiculous situation.
After he finished his breakfast, Sakuta got dressed as usual and left for school.
It was June, so the rainy season was not yet over. The amount of sunlight bearing down on him was better than the July he had experienced until yesterday, but the humidity was correspondingly higher so the weather was rather muggy.
He arrived at school without incident and Yuuma called out to him from the shoe lockers.
“‘Sup, Sakuta. You’ve got bed-head again.”
“It’s a hairstyle.”
“A fresh trend, huh?” Yuuma returned with a smile. It was a conversation he remembered, from the ‘June the twenty-sevenths’ he had experienced before.
“What’s up, Sakuta?” Kunimi asked, noticing his silence.
“Your handsomeness is just pissing me off.”
“Huh? What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Ahhh, it really is.”
The four classes he had that morning were maths, physics, English, and Japanese. In maths, the teacher said “This’ll be on your exam”, the physics teacher’s lame jokes were going strong. In his third period of English he was given the slight warning of “Listen to me, Mister Azusagawa” and told to read from the textbook, and of course, the Japanese teacher’s collar had lipstick on.
It all came together for Sakuta, reinforcing the feeling that he really had experienced the future.
And then, lunch arrived.
Sakuta and Mai were alone in a classroom on the third floor. A damp sea-breeze blew in from the slightly open window, making the curtain flutter, it all coming together to create a peaceful mood.
Atop the desk between them was the lunch that Mai had made for Sakuta. Seasoned and fried chicken, fried eggs, potato salad garnished with cherry tomatoes, and seaweed and simmered beans made up the meal. Sakuta kept praising the taste as he sampled each thing.
Mai, who had boasted of her cooking skill, looked satisfied with how it went.
“Mai-san,” Sakuta addressed her once he had finished eating.
“Hm?” She noised, with the tip of her chopsticks still in her mouth as she ate.
“I love you, please go out with me.”
Mai looked away and put her own fried egg in her mouth with her chopsticks.
She chewed it.
Even when he waited for her to swallow, she gave no reply.
“It’s kind of uninspiring.” Mai let out a bored-sounding sigh. “Having the same thing said for a whole month makes it lose its impact.”
“I see… it’s a failed love then. I guess I’ll have to look for someone else then.”
“Thank you for everything until now,” he interrupted her with a polite bow and a deep, disappointed sigh of unrequited love.
“I-I didn’t say no… What, are you giving up!?” Mai glared at him with a pout.
“You will then?”
“Ugh… you’re so cheeky even though you’re just you.”
“You will?” He asked again, not giving up.
“…Yeah,” she answered in a barely audible voice with a small nod, “I will.”
Then, as if to hide her embarrassment, Mai wordlessly stuffed a fried egg in her mouth. Now he just needed to make sure of one thing.
“How do you think of me?”
“‘How’, it’s…” as she spoke, Mai dropped her gaze to the cherry tomato in her chopsticks.
“It doesn’t matter.”
“I’m asking because it does,” Sakuta insisted.
“You’re too stubborn.”
“Well yeah, because this is important.”
“Do you really want to know?”
“I want to hear it from your lips.”
Those lips took in the cherry tomato, whereupon she chewed it thoroughly before swallowing.
“I’ll only say this once.”
Silence fell for a moment, and he could hear Mai taking a quiet breath in. Immediately afterwards, she looked out of the window and gave a cry of surprise.
“Hmm?” Sakuta followed her gaze and could see the sky and sea of Shichirigahama. There wasn’t anything particularly interesting there, just the stream of large summer clouds.
A soft scent assaulted him, and his vision went dark. When he noticed that, there was a gentle warmth touching his cheek.
He turned back to face Mai with surprise.
“You should get it now, right?”
Mai smiled playfully, with a blush on her face.
Unthinking, Sakuta raised his hand to his cheek. That sensation had been, without a doubt, Mai’s lips.
“Mouth-to-mouth would have been good.”
“Don’t get carried away,” Mai warned, stepping on his foot under the desk, but it didn’t hurt at all. “Stop your smirking too.”
“You’re the one that made me smirk though.”
Sakuta savoured the enjoyable time with Mai.
The warning bell for the end of lunch sounded, unfortunately ending their lunch date as well. Sakuta stepped out into the corridor to go back to his classroom.
On his way, he saw a familiar person on the stairs he was going to use, Koga Tomoe.
The third year, Maesawa-senpai was with her. There was an unusual atmosphere about the two of them, so Sakuta stood against the wall of the corridor out of sight.
“I’m sorry, I can’t go out with you, Maesawa-senpai.”
Sakuta took a glance at what was happening and saw her giving a polite bow of her head.
“You don’t have a boyfriend at the moment, right?”
“Do you have someone you like?”
“I do,” nodded Tomoe without hesitation.
“Someone in the basketball club?”
“He’s a primitive that doesn’t have a smartphone in this day and age,” said Tomoe, a smile blooming on her face like a flower as she spoke.
“Huh?” Maesawa-senpai didn’t seem to understand what she meant, but still climbed off up the stairs with a “Well, see you then.”
Sakuta passed him with a nonchalant look on his face, going down the stairs, immediately meeting Tomoe’s eyes as she noticed him.
“Peeping is a crime,” she complained.
That phrase on its own let Sakuta know that she remembered everything.
“I just happened to be passing by.”
“Anyway, who are you calling a primitive?”
“I didn’t say anything about you,” she said with a pout, “being too self-conscious isn’t cool.”
From a mental standpoint, Sakuta had rejected Tomoe only yesterday, being able to stand in front of him like this was a testament to her strength, so he’d forgive her.
“You’ll take responsibility for this, right, Senpai?” She asked.
“This will make Rena-chan hate me and make it so I don’t have anywhere to go in my class.”
“And why so I have to take responsibility for that?”
“Because it’s your fault.”
“And how is that?”
“Because you made me an adult.”
“That sounds kinda erotic.”
“You always say things like that, even when you get what I mean, are you shy?”
She smiled as if she was seeing through his trick. Her cheeky attitude made him a little irritated, but reacting would be like he was admitting she was right, so he got back on topic.
“Well, whatever else happens, you’ll always have me as a friend,” he said, patting her on the shoulder, “so you won’t be alone.”
“Well, I’m the one that’s going to be your best friend.”
Tomoe had continued to be cheeky, so Sakuta took a hand to that hairstyle, that she woke up at six in the morning to do, and messed it up.
“Ahh, stop it!”
He didn’t, not until the bell signalling the end of lunch rang.
From then, the time until the summer holidays began went in a surprising direction. The days that Sakuta and Tomoe had experienced happened just as they did before.
The Japanese football team broke through from the group league and steadily advanced to the best eight. They were regrettably defeated afterwards, but they could use it to tell the world that their hopes of victory weren’t just a dream.
The last few weeks at school and the contents of the exam were exactly the same, all questions he had taken before and checked his answers on, so Sakuta got good marks. It felt a little like cheating, but when he thought of the hardships of being caught up in an instance of Adolescence Syndrome, he thought he’d be allowed this much.
Tomoe started working at the same restaurant as him, and Kamisato Saki had called him up to the roof on a certain Saturday.
Things with Mai went the same too, she brought the clothes for Kaede, went to Kagoshima for a week to film, phoned him from there, made him study suddenly and even wore the bunny girl suit for him.
There was the subtle difference of not having the ‘false lovers’ relationship with Tomoe, but without exception, everything happened very similarly.
It was more than enough for Sakuta to not think of the days from June the twenty-seventh to July the eighteenth as a simple dream, but rather as an actual prediction of the future.
One day after school, he had talked to Rio about it all.
“If that’s true, then that’s a surprising situation.” She said in answer.
“You think I’m lying?”
“If you were false lovers with that first-year during the prediction, then that’s telling a lie, right?” She said, carefully not saying she believed anything more. “But, well… a girl that frantically read the atmosphere to fit in ended up able to read the future as well before she realised.” Rio continued to herself, as if agreeing with the statement.
The one remaining question is why was Sakuta the only one brought into Tomoe’s Adolescence Syndrome? The other seven billion people in the world had not realised the situation, and had not noticed the repeating days.
When Sakuta asked Rio, she said,
“Maybe it was quantum entanglement?”
She had said it in an expectant tone, like he should already know it.
“So it was quantum entanglement.”
“Yes, you know of it?”
“Ain’t the foggiest.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Something like ‘I don’t know about it at all’.”
Seeming somewhat interested, Rio wrote ‘foggiest’ on the board.
“Anyway, what’s quantum entanglement?” Sakuta asked.
“A strange phenomenon where a particle instantaneously shares information with another far from it with no intermediary.”
“So particles use phones too?”
“I did say with no intermediary.”
“Then particles have telepathy?”
“Well, that works as a model.”
He’d meant it as a joke…
“There’s actually world-class universities studying whether telepathy is possible using quantum entanglement.”
“Quantum entanglement itself is a well-documented phenomenon.”
“So you’re saying that Koga and I were entangled?”
Rio slowly nodded in response to his question.
“What entangled us then?” He continued.
“Entanglement happens when particles collide. Have you clashed with that first-year.”
He had a single idea.
“We kicked each other’s backsides.”
Rio had no answer to that for several moments.
“I want to confirm reproducibility, bend over.”
“Bend over already, you low-life.”
“Is that how you ask someone for something!?”
Rio’s expression then fell into a slight disappointment, apparently, she had actually been serious.
After rejecting Maesawa, Tomoe… just as she had said, was pushed out of Rena’s group. On Wednesday the next week, Sakuta found her slumped on the roof eating her lunch alone. He moved next to her and sat with her, eating his own lunch.
“I’ll go to the toilet with you if you like?” He offered.
“That’d be embarrassing.”
“Don’t hold back.”
“That’s seriously creepy, I’ll report you.”
The same thing happened on Thursday and Friday, but on the first day of exams… he saw Tomoe talking with some classmates on the train. It wasn’t Rena, nor was it Hinako or Aya. Even so, he knew that she was a first-year in Tomoe’s class because he had met her in the future simulation.
She was the girl who had dropped her strap during his and Tomoe’s first date, he was sure her name was Yoneyama Nana. The strap that Tomoe had gotten soaked to save back then was hanging from her phone.
Sakuta thought that Tomoe had probably searched with her for it and as proof, Tomoe had caught a cold at the same time again.
“I made a friend,” Tomoe told him at work around the time their exams ended.
“The strap girl?”
“Yeah, Rena-chan let her into the group as well.”
“Good for you.”
“Right,” she said, somewhat shyly, but clearly also happily, “it’s thanks to you, Senpai.”
“I didn’t do anything.”
The only thing Sakuta had done was to help her out of her habitual behaviour. It was because of her personality that he was able to make up with Rena and the others, that was what Sakuta thought.
“I was able to do it this time without lying because of you, Senpai… Thank you.”
In one sense was the literal meaning of what she had said, she finished this without lying to the people around her, but he thought that she was also speaking in the sense of lying to herself.
Their worries had vanished and the days passed peacefully. The end of term was soon upon them.
The headteacher gave his usual closing remarks and Sakuta had his report card off his own teacher.
The final homeroom ended and he met with Mai in front of the shoe lockers before leaving school with her. Mai had often not been at school over the past few weeks because of work, so it had actually been a whole fortnight since they had been able to go home like this.
“Right,” said Mai after they boarded the train at Shichirigahama Station, holding her hand out for something. He went to try and give her his own hand, but she moved it swiftly out of the way. “I’m saying to give me your report card.”
“You didn’t say that though?”
“Just give it.”
“I normally wouldn’t.”
“Why do you want to see?”
“You’re going to the same university as me, right?”
“That’s what I wrote on the survey…”
“Just give it,” she insisted, not seeming to have any intention to let the matter go, so Sakuta decided to present it.
“If I did better than you expected, will you give me a reward?”
“If your average is higher than seven, I’ll grant a request for you.”
Minegahara worked on a ten point scale, an average above seven was a fairly good mark.
“That’s a tall order,” he said, reluctantly handing it over.
The moment she opened it, Mai’s expression changed to one of surprise.
Sakuta hadn’t calculated it, but he should have a higher average than seven, which was in itself thanks to Laplace’s Demon. Sakuta got the feeling he should treat Tomoe to lunch now. After all, now Mai would grant him a request.
“Noooow then, what shall I have you do?”
“If you suggest something strange, we’re breaking up,” Mai warned him as she handed the card back to him.
“Then come to mine and cook dinner tonight?”
“Is that all?”
Your girlfriend coming over to your house and cooking for you was a pretty high-level event as far as Sakuta was concerned, and that was if she wasn’t Sakurajima Mai, that just made it all the better, but she didn’t seem to realise that.
“I’m looking forward to seeing you in an apron,” he added.
“I don’t wear an apron when I cook though.”
“Fine, fine, I’ll wear one.”
“If you feel like it, you could wear nothing else?”
“Maybe I should add laxative as well.”
“It was a joke.”
“You were deadly serious,” she said.
He turned aside her knowing look with a smile.
“I’ll stop at the shop on the way once we get off the train, okay?” He asked.
“I’ll come with you,” she answered.
What could he say, a shopping date would be perfect.
When Sakuta and Mai stepped outside after finishing their shopping, it was to rain pouring from the skies. The rain was fairly heavy considering how clear the skies were, a perfect sun shower.
“Sakuta, do you have an umbrella?”
“I do,” he said, quickly taking it from his back and unfolding it. Mai just stepped in next to him.
“Give me one of them,” Mai said.
Sakuta’s right hand was taken up by the umbrella, his left shoulder had his bag on it, and the hand of that arm was filled by the plastic bag from the shop, with a spring onion sticking out from the top.
He tilted the umbrella so that Mai wouldn’t be rained on as they walked off.
“Mai-san, what are you going to make?”
“It’s a secret, if I told you now it’d be no fun.”
“Well, guess so.”
They continued walking as their conversation continued, then they arrived at a park that was two or three minutes from Sakuta’s house.
As they went to walk past the entrance, Mai suddenly stopped.
“I wonder… what’s wrong with her?”
Sakuta followed her gaze to see a girl standing by herself in front of some bushes just inside the entrance, under a red umbrella. She was wearing a nearby middle school’s uniform. It seemed new still, so she was probably a first-year.
He wondered how long she had been there, her shoulders and feet were fairly soaked. When he looked closer, there was a cardboard box hidden in the bush.
Together with Mai, who had taken the first step, Sakuta walked over to the girl.
“What’s wrong?” Sakuta asked quietly.
The face hidden under the umbrella turned in their direction.
The moment he saw the girl’s ephemeral expression, Sakuta felt a sense of foreboding. No, it wasn’t exactly foreboding, it was somewhat like he had met her before, like she looked similar to some acquaintance he had.
“Ah, this little one…” answered the girl faintly, looking back at the box. Inside, a kitten had curled up, shivering perhaps from the cold of the rain. She was worried about the cat, but seemed to be stuck there, lost as to what to do.
“Mai-san, hold the umbrella?”
“Right,” she answered, immediately taking the umbrella.
Sakuta crouched and picked the kitten up in one hand.
“I’ll take him to mine, for now, if he gets better then that’s fine, if not we’ll take him to the vet’s.”
“Okay, ah, but.”
“I wanted to adopt him.”
“Ah, then…” Sakuta started, before giving his home phone number to the girl. As he did, the girl took her phone out and recorded the number.
“Is this right?” She asked, showing him the screen.
“That’s fine, my name is Azusagawa Sakuta, from the Azusagawa in the ‘Azusagawa Service Area’, and the Sakuta from ‘Blooming Flower Tarou’.”
She typed in the name just as he said it. When she was done, she raised her gaze from her phone and looked Sakuta steadily in the eye.
“My name is Makinohara Shouko,” she told him.
Sakuta’s heart pounded painfully when he heard her name, but he didn’t immediately understand what she had said.
He blinked several times, the foreboding he had felt solidified. It was a name he had heard, she had a face that he thought he had seen before, and in response to that odd feeling of rightness, Sakuta’s mind was filled with even bigger questions.
“What was that?”
“I’m Makinohara Shouko,” the middle school girl in front of him repeated, saying the same name as the high school girl Sakuta first fell in love with.