Seishun Buta Yarou Series Volume 4 Chapter 1 part1
Consecutive white flashes filled the TV screen with harsh light.
“I apologise deeply for causing such a disturbance on this occasion,” said a former idol, now a married woman that had been found to be having an affair with a younger male model, as she bowed her head deeply.
There was a short silence, a full ten seconds. She finally raised her head again and was once more blamed mercilessly by the onslaught of shutter sounds and flashes.
As Sakuta watched the scene absentmindedly, he thought, Celebrities have it tough.
If you were to go around the entirety of Japan, he was sure that you would find many people engaged in affairs. But they didn’t have their shame bared on national networks. They didn’t have insults hurled at them like ‘hedonist’, ‘slut’, or ‘lust monster’.
Honestly, and without looking at the camera, the woman falteringly answered the reporter’s questions. When that was over, she repeated her apology and bow again.
Apparently, society must not be disturbed. However, with all of the reporters and cameras crammed into the press conference, and spilling out as well, he wondered if society actually rejoiced in these disturbances. In which case, the reporters should thank her for offering herself up for criticism like this.
The people that she should be apologising to were her husband and the people her withdrawal had caused issues to amongst her co-stars and agency staff… then to her real fans and that should be enough. Bowing her head to society just made people wonder who ‘society’ was supposed to be, and made it sound as if it wasn’t an apology to anyone.
Regardless, it didn’t matter to Sakuta. Some actress’ he’d never met having an affair with someone was of no concern to him.
Honestly, this was no time to worry about the end of a former idol in her thirties’ career, there was something else he should be worrying about.
Sakuta was currently in his girlfriend’s home, Sakurajima Mai, who was a year older than him. It was on the ninth of ten floors of the block of flats.
A robot vacuum had set off across the clean floor. It seemed to work somewhat bravely, and he watched over its progress from the sofa.
Mai was sitting on a sofa opposite him. Their eyes met for a moment, but Sakuta looked away without saying a word. It wasn’t that he was being shy, he was looking at the other occupant of the room to ask them something.
Sat next to Sakuta was a girl with shining golden hair, the same age as him.
“So, Mai-san, what exactly is happening here?” Sakuta asked the blonde, even though Mai was ‘opposite’ him.
Neither Mai nor the blonde questioned his odd actions. In fact, the blonde girl that Sakuta had called ‘Mai-san’ answered him.
“Like I said, this girl and I have switched bodies,” in exactly the same tone as Mai would use.
To understand why Sakuta was in this situation, we must rewind time a little.
That day, Sunday the first of September, was the end of the roughly forty days of the summer holidays, and the first day back at school. Sakuta had headed off to school looking forward to being able to see Mai.
She had been exceedingly busy after returning from such a long hiatus, so they had barely seen each other. On top of that, her agency had forbidden them from dating, and even in the short time they had been allowed, they hadn’t been able to do anything like a couple.
Before Sakuta had been able to pay his respects to Mai in swimwear, the second term had arrived. That had been how his summer, which ought to have been so enjoyable, had gone.
So when Mai told him, “We’ll be able to see each other normally at school,” it had meant that this was the first time Sakuta had welcomed the first of September in his life. Mai had even called him the night before and said that she would see him tomorrow.
But once school began, Mai hadn’t been in the opening ceremony. When Sakuta went to her classroom after homeroom, he still hadn’t been able to find her.
Her bag wasn’t there, and there wasn’t even a single sign that she had come to school that day, so Sakuta had given up and headed home.
As he was returning home, alone and downcast, someone had left the building opposite his own, Mai.
Of course, Sakuta had called out to her in joy, but her response was entirely unexpected.
“Who are you?” She had looked questioningly at him as she shook his hand off her shoulder. “I asked who are you?”
Her blunt questioning had been nothing like the usual composure she displayed being a year older than him.
“As you are aware, I am Azusagawa Sakuta, in a pure and loving relationship with your good self, Mai-san,” he had answered.
“Huh? There’s no way a dead-eyed guy like you would be Onee-chan’s boyfriend,” she had replied definitively, as if talking to a fool.
Her appearance was certainly Mai’s, but her tone was of someone completely different. Calling what he felt a ‘bad feeling’ didn’t do it justice.
“Who are you?” He asked, his feelings unchanged. The one that answered him was not Mai from in front of him.
“This is Toyohama Nodoka,” a voice had told him from behind. He turned to face the source as the door to Mai’s building opened and a girl stepped out.
She had walked straight forwards and approached Sakuta’s side.
The first thing Sakuta’s eyes focused on was her hair, it was a magnificent blonde. The hair was tied up only on the left side of her hair, like a hostess at a bar. It was a voluminous looking hair style. There was makeup around her wide eyes and she did indeed give a playful impression from her appearance.
She was 160 or so centimetres tall. That was the average for girls, but next to Mai, who was rather tall, she looked short.
She was slim and seemed like she would invite jealousy from other girls of her generation. From the perspective of a man, she might seem a little too thin, but she seemed to do some sort of exercise and didn’t look dainty and fragile. She wasn’t just slender, her legs had a healthy tautness to them where they peaked out from her shorts.
“Toyohama Nodoka?” He had mused to himself, sure he had heard the name before. Actually, he remembered having seen the blonde before as well.
Where was it? He had wondered to himself.
He had looked hard at the girl and the answer snapped into place.
It was from a manga magazine cover. He had missed the chance to throw it away and left it in his room for several months.
An idol group had been adorning the cover, with the name ‘Sweet Bullet’. One of the members was the blonde in front of him… who should have been Toyohama Nodoka.
He remembered because he had looked over her profile and seen ‘Sakurajima Mai’ under ‘Favourite thing’ so Sakuta had ended up with some familiarity to it.
“No, you’re Toyohama Nodoka, right?” Asked Sakuta, pointing at the blonde girl.
“Don’t point at people.” She said, grabbing his finger and forcing it down.
Somehow, her way of speaking, and her behaviour towards Sakuta… Even though this was the first time they had met, she was acting like they knew each other well. If he had to say, it was just like Mai…
“Right now, I’m Sakurajima Mai,” the blonde girl had claimed clearly, “and she’s Nodoka,” ‘Toyohama Nodoka’ continued, pointing at ‘Mai’. He could understand what she was telling him, but nonchalantly accepting it was another matter.
“I think it’s Adolescence Syndrome,” the blonde had whispered, stretching up to speak into his ear as he made a conflicted expression. Her voice and appearance were different, but words that Sakuta associated with Mai hit his ear drum.
Normally, people didn’t believe in the mysterious phenomenon of Adolescence Syndrome, they laughed it off as a mere urban legend. People that believed in it were probably limited to those that had experienced it.
“Though it seems rather different than when I was vanishing,” she had emphasised. Those were the conclusive words. Mai had been vanishing from people’s memories, and even her existence itself was fading during spring. The only people that would know that were Sakuta and Mai… and his friend Futaba Rio, who he had consulted about it.
“You really are Mai-san,” he said.
“That’s what I told you,” said the blonde with a soft smile, even as she disparaged him. That expression itself was definitely one that Sakuta knew well from Mai, a loving smile he couldn’t mistake. “Nodoka, you come back inside too, this isn’t a dream.”
“Huh? It’s gotta be.”
“Even though I’m you and you’re me?” Nodoka in Mai’s form had spoken, using a glass in place of a mirror to look at her self, patting her face and body down, “No no, this is definitely a dream.”
“Even though you can feel things so clearly?” Mai had asked in turn, prompting a silence from Nodoka before she continued, “It’s really not a dream, it’s like one though.”
“No way… but if it’s not a dream…”
Nodoka, in Mai’s body, had begun to quiver, her lips trembling. She was trying to say something, but the words wouldn’t come and she was soundless, wordless. She was just shaking her head over and over, as if denying reality. Finally, she finished in a strangled voice, “This… can’t be…”
Those were the girl’s plain feelings in this unbelievable situation. When people were truly lost, they were often like this.
After that, Sakuta had visited Mai’s home to hear the details. The lift took them up from where it waited on the ground floor to the ninth where Mai lived in a corner flat.
It faced to the south, so it had a good aspect for the sun and was a large home for one person to live in, with three rooms, a living room, a dining area, and a kitchen. It was that living room that Sakuta was led to.
There was a fashionable island-style kitchen, and in the room were sofas, a table, and a TV, the bare minimum household furniture. They were all a calm wood-colour, and there was a robot that looked like a UFO, going across the floor and cleaning it.
“Mai-san, how much is the rent here,” Sakuta had asked.
“I bought it.”
“Ahh,” he said in understanding.
Mai was a widely popular actress who had been in show-business since she was a child. She boasted nationwide fame and had been in movies, TV shows and adverts, being able to buy a flat was nothing strange.
“That’s your only impression?” Asked Mai, looking at him in surprise, “I thought you’d be happy I let you into my home.”
“If we were alone, I’d have already charged for your room.”
“Don’t be so silly with such a serious expression on your face.”
“Well, I was being serious,” he had defended.
“Just sit down, I’ll make some tea.”
With that, Mai had opened the fridge. So with no other choice, he had sat on the sofa. After a moment, Mai… no, Nodoka in Mai’s body, had sat on the sofa opposite him.
There was a long silence, Nodoka didn’t seem to have accepted what had happened to her and was looking disbelievingly at her reflection in the glass table.
Sakuta had decided that it would be best to leave her be for now, and so to fill the silence, he had reached for the TV remote. On the screen was a news report, stubbornly reporting on a former idol that had been found to be having an affair.
After watching the TV for a while, Mai had returned with a tray holding three cups of tea. Returned in the form of an energetic looking blonde girl.
She had placed the three cups of barley tea on the table and immediately sat next to Sakuta. She might look different, but the emotional distance between the two of them was definitely that which he had with Mai.
“So, Mai-san, what exactly is happening here?” He asked.
“Like I said, this girl and I have switched bodies.”
Once more, he looked between Mai and Nodoka, though in this case, he should probably say ‘Mai’s body’ and ‘Nodoka’s body’.
“Well, accepting that is…” That lack of acceptance wouldn’t progress anything, “What kind of relationship do you and Toyohama Nodoka-san have?”
Mai called Nodoka by name, and Nodoka called Mai ‘Onee-chan’, so inferring the answer was simple, and that inference was probably correct, but the situation being what it was, Sakuta decided to check for sure.
“I’ve told you before haven’t I? She’s my sister from another mother.”
Mai’s father had remarried after his divorce and had a daughter… that was what she was talking about, they had the same father but a different mother.
It was just, when Sakuta had first heard that, he didn’t think said younger sister would be so old. If he could trust her profile he had seen, Toyohama Nodoka was in her second year of high school, the same year as Sakuta. In other words, only a single year behind Mai.
“Apparently, her mother became pregnant whilst mine still was.” Mai told him, his thoughts apparently showing on his face.
“And why is she here?”
“She suddenly showed up late last night.”
“It was past twelve I guess.”
“And again, why?”
“She said she didn’t want to go home.”
Sakuta looked at Nodoka out of the corner of his eye. She was still staring at her face in the glass of the table, holding her head and saying things like, “No way…”
He’d thought he could ask her herself, but that seemed unlikely.
“So in this situation… what do we do?” He asked Mai, her being the only one he could.
“We need to think about some way to go back to normal, but we should also take precautions in case we can’t do so right away.”
Mai, having experienced Adolescence Syndrome before, was calm.
“Well, that’s true.”
They didn’t know what they should do or when things would go back to normal, nor why this had had happened, that was all to come.
If it was for two or three days, they could stay away from school, but that wasn’t workable for a longer time. If they did that, the school themselves would come to investigate, so Mai was right, they would have to live as each other with their bodies switched as they were.
They should also look for methods to return to normalcy.
“Say,” spoke Sakuta, making Nodoka look up with only her eyes. Mai wouldn’t do so, so even though she looked like ‘Sakurajima Mai’, the action made Sakuta deeply uneasy.
“What?” She asked in Mai’s voice. However, the way she spoke was different. Her tone was guarded and thorny, Mai spoke with more composure.
“Do you have any idea?” Sakuta asked her straightfowardly.
“About why you and my Mai-san swapped bodies.”
“Who are you calling ‘my Mai-san’.” Came with a merciless pinch at his check from the side. She might look like a blonde girl, but this sensation was definitely Mai, and it eased his heart.
“I’ve got no idea.”
“I see,” said Sakuta, not particularly disheartened because he hadn’t been expecting anything.
Sakuta made a soft questioning noise and Mai looked at Nodoka in question as well.
“Why’re the pair of you so calm?” Nodoka’s gaze, that had been focused on Sakuta turned to Mai in search of an answer. Their eyes met and it seemed that Nodoka realised something and then reworded herself more politely to Mai, “…Why are you so calm?”
She seemed to have remembered herself and changed her attitude, acting more formally, with a tension in her expression.
“I don’t get what you mean,” Mai answered in her normal tone.
“B-but you know? We’ve switched bodies! Completely! Utterly! Isn’t this bizarre!?”
Even as she agreed with Nodoka, Mai’s calmness remained as she lifted her tea to her mouth like there was no problem.
Her actions made Nodoka blink in surprise.
“Onee… Mai-san, are you really okay leaving it with just ‘yeah’!?”
“For better or worse, this is how things are. We don’t know how to go back to our own bodies, and we’ve just got to think of what we should do in the meantime.”
“In this bizarre situation, people wouldn’t believe us even if we talked to them about it, and even if they did, it would just mean the media would do as they would, then grow tired of us and abandon us. You don’t want that, do you?”
“So until this is solved, I’ll have to live as you and you’ll have to live as me.”
Nodoka gave no reply.
“Did I say something strange?” Asked Mai.
“…No, you didn’t,” Nodoka replied, her eyes downcast. It might be someone else in the body, but it seeing Mai downhearted was a precious sight. He wanted to take a picture to commemorate it, but unfortunately didn’t have a smartphone so had no camera at all.
“So, let’s check our schedules. I’ll go get my notebook,” said Mai, standing.
“Ah, wait, Onee… M-Mai-san.”
Mai seemed to realise something about Nodoka correcting herself but also seemed to decide not to touch on it and completely ignored the change of address midway through as well, apparently letting her sister do as she would. It niggled at him, but Sakuta followed her example.
“Before we check our schedules, can we check one other thing?” Asked Nodoka, her eyes travelling between Sakuta and Mai. Because of that, he could guess what she would ask. “Are you really dating?”
And he was proven right, though the scorn in the gaze she sent his way was greater than he had expected. It seemed almost like she wanted to kill him.
“Yes, we are,” answered Mai smoothly, making Nodoka’s expression grow even more displeased.
“That’s impossible! I could maybe accept Adolescence Syndrome, but he can’t be your boyfriend!”
“Am I that unrealistic?” Sakuta asked.
“A guy with a dead-looking dull face like yours being Sakurajima Mai’s boyfriend is a complete fantasy.”
Her politeness had vanished, perhaps carried away with her emotions. Apparently, he was like dirt to her.
“I’m happy to be an inspiration for boring guys across the country,” he said, somewhat shocked from such a denial from Mai’s face.
“Nodoka,” said Mai, unhappily.
“…Right,” she answered, subsiding and shrinking in on herself. Her tone had instantaneously returned to its previous politeness.
“Don’t say that people’s boyfriends have dull faces,” Mai scolded her with a slight pout. She seemed to be about to argue the point for him, so his expression relaxed. Then as if that irritated her, she pinched his thigh tightly, causing a dull pain, “It’s true that Sakuta has a dull face, but there are things you should and shouldn’t say.”
“Mai-san, I’d rather you put that in the shouldn’t say group as well.”
His happiness had been brief before being readily pushed off.
Mai was satisfied with messing with him, raising him up and then letting him fall. It really was the queenly behaviour so typical of her.
“Back to the schedule then.”
“Right…” Nodoka nodded reluctantly. She glared at Sakuta for a while as if he was the subject of a blood feud. Having someone with Mai’s appearance do so was awfully troubling, and his body enjoyed it.
“You stop your grinning,” Mai scolded him, smacking him on the head before going into the next room. Sakuta thought that she would let him go with her and moved to do so, but she headed him off before he’d even stood up completely, “you sit there.”
“I was going to content myself with just opening the wardrobe.”
“You wouldn’t content yourself at all.”
“That kind of thing is for when we’re alone,” she said with a sigh, utterly aghast. She wouldn’t even spoil him a little, what a shame, even after he’d visited her home…
Ignoring his depression, Mai strode swiftly to and from the room, holding a notebook with a bunny on the front.
“Um,” said Nodoka to her.
“Hmm?” Mai answered.
“You mentioned this earlier, but it’s impossible for me to pretend to-”
“I think any of your good friends will notice that something is off right away,” she said, an appropriate concern. However, she didn’t need to worry about anything like that with Mai.
“That’s… not a problem at school,” Mai mumbled somewhat reluctantly.
Mai fell silent and Sakuta answered in her place, “She doesn’t have any friends.”
“What, you’re just the same,” Mai glared at him in dissatisfaction. Maybe she didn’t want to let Nodoka know that.
“I have friends, three of them even.”
“Isn’t that one more than before?”
“I’ve got Kunimi and Futaba, then recently added Koga to the list.”
Mai made a disinterested noise of understanding.
“What? That’s it?” Sakuta asked.
“Well a man going out with me wouldn’t cheat.” She said, completely at ease with herself, fitting for her queenliness. Then again, it was the truth, so all he could do was nod honestly.
“Back to the point,” she continued, “it’s easy to pretend to be me at school. Go there, take my seat, sit quietly through the lessons, then just go home when they’re finished. You don’t need to talk to anyone.”
“…R-right,” Nodoka nodded in disbelief, apparently having had a much different image of Mai. Perhaps that being in show-business as they both were, she would be popular within the class…
“Um… it’s the same for me,” she admitted.
“I had my debut last year, so I didn’t have any time to hang out with my friends at school… At first they filled me in on what I missed, but it wasn’t fun spending all our time on that every day… then in my second year we changed classes and I dyed my hair over the spring holidays and got cut off completely… so it’s fine.”
“You started at Ouyou Academy for high school, right?” Mai asked.
Even Sakuta had heard the school’s name before, it was a famous school in Yokohama for girls from well-off families. He seemed to remember it being an integrated system from middle school to high school. If she had taken the entrance exam and started attending in high school, she’d probably be fairly academically talented. Being in a school like that with blonde hair certainly would see you singled out and cut off too.
“But still, I dunno how to say it,” Sakuta started unintentionally, really not knowing how to put his thoughts.
“What?” Mai demanded.
“It’s just too pitiful, both sisters don’t have any friends.”
“Just so you know, I might not have any at school, but I do through work,” Mai said as if excusing herself, making Nodoka nod too.
“What exactly do you think of me?”
“Who are they by the way? Do I know of them? I won’t be happy if they’re handsome actors though.”
“The ones I get on the best with are probably the gravure model Yamae Yurina and the general model Kamiita Millia.”
Perhaps as should be expected, the names that Mai chose were ones that Sakuta knew. Yamae Yurina was adorning some magazine cover nearly every week, and Kamiita Millia was a half-Japanese model that was often on variety shows recently.
“We text nearly every day,” she continued, “We had lunch together when we had a break the other week and they’ve stayed here before. Does them not being handsome actors put you at ease?”
“Don’t make any male friends from now on please,” he said, moving his gaze to Nodoka as he did. She seemed strangely sensitive to the gaze and glared at him with a face that seemed that she wanted to say things herself.
“I have lots of friends from middle school, we hang out a lot and I went to stay at their house the other day,” she defended, once more similarly to her sister, “I get on well with the other members, got a problem with that?”
“I don’t have a problem with it. Well, not having anyone at school is convenient now at least, so I guess that’s fine.” Sakuta summarised, earning a prod on his forehead from Mai, “What’s that for?”
“You were being cheeky so I had to discipline you.”
“That’s fine then.”
“Ya fine with it…?” Nodoka frowned slightly, like she was looking at filth.
“So school is fine… the problem is work then.”
The issue at hand was the schedules for the actress, Sakurajima Mai, and the idol, Toyohama Nodoka.
“This is all I have,” said Mai, spreading out the notebook on the table, showing mostly empty pages. Compared to her packed August, it seemed almost impossible, there was only a fashion shoot, and a few interviews, coupled with a recording for an advert. “I limited things in the second term since somebody was getting lonely.”
“Even if I can see you, we’re not allowed to date so it’s pointless.”
Mai ignored Sakuta’s complaint and moved the conversation on, “I think you’ve had photoshoots before, so you should be fine, right?”
Sakuta had wanted to flirt a little more, but Mai wasn’t having it and focused on Nodoka.
“Yes, probably…” she replied, somewhat nervously.
“The interview questions should be sent to you beforehand, so if you prepare you should be fine.”
“But, the advert…”
“This is the script and storyboard.”
Mai placed a sheaf of six or seven sheets of paper on the table, held together by a clip. Nodoka didn’t move to take them so Sakuta flipped through them out of curiosity.
“Oh,” he said in surprise, recognising where it would be filmed. It was a station on the Enoden line, which Sakuta used to get to school, the station before Sakuta got off at Shichirigahama… the one by Kamakura High School.
“The director follows the script, so you should be fine if you get ready for it. You were part of an theatre group before you became an idol after all.”
Nodoka gave a shallow nod, seeming to curl in on herself. Her expression was gloomy and almost tragic, her eyes saying that even if she had acted, telling her to take the place of Sakurajima Mai was too much.
Sakuta had noticed it, so he was sure that Mai must have too, but she didn’t pay it any mind and moved on.
“It looks like it’ll be tough for me until I learn the songs and dances.”
Toyohama Nodoka’s schedule certainly did seem gruelling. There were practically daily song and dance lessons as a member of the ‘Sweet Bullet’ idol group. Every weekend they had mini-concerts at shopping centres and exhibition centres. Each one had two or three songs, but even so that meant that Mai had to learn at least three songs and dances each week.
On top of that, on the final Sunday of the month they had an independent concert at a live house in Shibuya.
“Wait, you can dance, Mai-san?” Sakuta asked.
“Nodoka, do you have any practice videos?”
“I do,” she said, rummaging in her bag at the corner of the room. It was a big sports bag that also looked to have several changes of clothes in. From within she withdrew a transparent case containing three discs, “These are them.”
She proffered them formally, in both hands.
“Thank you,” said Mai, rising as she took them, putting a disk into the player. Sakuta used the remove to turn the TV on, garnering a look of praise from Mai as he switched inputs.
Voices came from the speakers:
“Is it working?”
“Let’s give it a go.”
After a moment, the pitch black screen brightened to show some studio with a wooden floor like a gymnasium. The one wall was covered in a mirror.
The group, including Nodoka, were lined up in front of the camera and all took a deep breath.
An upbeat tune began to play and the seven of them coordinated between them and danced along to the rhythm.
Watching them, Mai took light steps, waved her hands and bounced around. She was a beat behind as she was checking herself against the example, but she danced through the entire song skillfully enough that she utterly eradicated Sakuta’s concerns.
There was a light sheen of sweat on her forehead, and her chest was heaving as she caught her breath, but she still looked back at him triumphantly.
“The real thing was livelier,” he said.
“You were surprised at it though.”
“No kidding, I’m in shock.”
That really was true, Mai was normally grown-up and calm. Even if it seemed like she would be late for her train, she wouldn’t rush and run after it, he’d never seen anything like that. So he had never even considered her dancing to an upbeat idol song like that.
“We learnt how when I was in the theatre group,” Mai smiled, happier than she was letting on.
“So it wasn’t just acting.”
“We did dance too, and sung while I was there. We even did a musical.”
“Ahh, I see.”
Mai wiped the sweat from her forehead and drained her cup of barley tea before suddenly telling Sakuta, “Ah, you can go home now.”
It really was too sudden and he wasn’t ready for it at all. He’d finally gotten to visit Mai’s home and wanted to take in the atmosphere for as long as he could, even a single extra second, he wanted to see the other rooms.
“I’m sweaty and want a bath,” Mai told him.
“Maaan, I want to see you just out of the bath.”
“This is Nodoka’s body, so no.”
“If it’s you inside, I’m completely fine with that body too.”
“And I’m saying that it’s not fine, so just go home already, Kaede-chan’s waiting for you isn’t she?”
Looking at the clock, he saw it was nearly noon, time for lunch. Just as Mai said, his younger sister Kaede would be waiting for him with an empty stomach. Sakuta gave up on seeing Mai just out of the bath and stood from the sofa.
“Wait downstairs tomorrow at ten past seven.”
“Yeah, I should take Toyohama-san to school,” he said, making arrangements for the next day as he moved to the entrance, “excuse me then.”
As he finished, he put his shoes on and stepped outside before heading towards the lift.
“Sakuta,” Mai called, stepping out wearing sandals and closing the door behind her.
“Here for a goodbye kiss?”
“Just, what if, Sakuta…”
Mai looked away uneasily.
“Even if you never change back, I’ll bear with you in that body for the rest of my life.”
“Don’t call catching an active idol ‘bearing with’,” Mai laughed tiredly, the unease in her eyes completely gone as she looked at Sakuta. “Just so you know, I won’t let you lay a finger on Nodoka’s body.”
“You’ll bear with it for your life, right?” Mai smiled mischievously, the same relaxed smile she always had when teasing Sakuta.
“That’s a different way of ‘bearing with’,” he protested.
“Don’t sweat the little things.”
“No, that’s a big thing.”
“Look after Nodoka tomorrow,” she said, returning to seriousness. Sakuta had only one answer to that request.
“When you’re back in your body, give me a reward please,” he said as they walked to the lift. After that reply they boarded the empty lift when it arrived several moments later.
“When I’m back,” she replied meaningfully. Her words were slow and emphasised, almost like she didn’t think they would go back to normal quickly.
Even so, she watched Sakuta leave, a gentle smile on her face. The lift doors closed and it carried Sakuta down to street level.
“If Mai is the one in the body, could I date an idol?” He asked himself in the lift.
As the lift arrived at its destination, he answered himself, “…I could.”
In reality, Mai had changed to look like Nodoka, and he couldn’t help but worry about it, but worrying wouldn’t solve anything. If he was going to worry regardless, he should worry about something with more meaning, like what he should do for lunch today.
The lift chimed as it let him out.
“I guess Chinese style rice today?” He said, remembering the large amount of leftovers in the fridge.