The first morning of training camp.
I woke to the ruckus from outside the room.
I could hear what sounded like an argument from beyond the screen. While I couldn’t pick up the contents, the voices belonged to the girls I knew.
Did something happen in the girls’ room?
When I got my appearance in order and walked out, there was Kurisu-chan standing in the hall.
“Ah, Kagoshima-senpai, good morning. You’re right on time, I was just about to get you…”
“Good morning. Hey, it’s kinda noisy. Did something happen?”
“That’s, umm… Kagurai-senpai suddenly said something strange.”
“Senpai said something strange?”
I analyzed that fact with a level head and spoke.
“What’s strange about that?”
That’s nothing new. It’s a daily occurrence.
“Eeh!? Ah, no… that may be true, but a-anyways, come with me.”
Kurisu-chan pulled me by the hand towards the girls’ room. A short walk down the wood-panel flooring, and we reached in no time. The girls’ room was a Japanese-styles space several times larger than mine. The futons were already folded up and stacked in a corner of the room. The two in the centre noticed me and turned.
“Kagoshima… just the person I was looking for. Listen to this, Orino and Kurisu are going crazy.”
“You’re the one saying crazy things, Kagurai-senpai.”
They were making troubled faces, the both of them.
Kagurai-senpai took a step forward and placed a hand on both my shoulders.
“Kagoshima. Today is the second day of training camp, right?”
Hers was a pleading voice.
I blankly tilted my head.
“What are you talking about? Today is the first day.”
We spent all of yesterday getting to the guesthouse, so we agreed not to count it… it was the zeroeth day. So today was the first day of training camp.
“W-what are you saying, Kagoshima… yesterday, we all played on the beach, right?”
“? I have to ask you again, what are you talking about? The beach play starts now, doesn’t it? I thought the plan was to spend all of the first day playing by the sea.”
“… We played beach volleyball together, we swam, we smashed melons. When your turn came around, the watermelon blew into smithereens when you hit it.”
“No, why would a watermelon explode when I hit it? I’m not the Bomber.”
“Why did your parody advance from the era of Yu☆Yu☆Hakusho to HunterXHunter… never mind, but that can’t be…”
The gears weren’t meshing to such an extent I’d say they were completely disengaged.
“… What’s wrong, Kagurai-senpai? Do you have a fever?”
“That’s my line… why have all of you forgotten about yesterday…? Kikyouin was reverse pandaified… r-right, Kikyouin! Where’s Kikyouin!?”
“… Kagurai-senpai, seriously, are you feeling alright?”
I grew sincerely worried.
Perhaps she came down with a summer cold.
Maybe her hazy conscious was causing her to speak of events from a dream.
“Kikyouin-san had urgent business to attend to, so she couldn’t come. She gave us a call, didn’t she?”
I simply stated the obvious—common knowledge.
“… Eh? Wha, hah?”
And yet, Kagurai-senpai widened her eyes in a daze.
“It really was a shame for Kikyouin-senpai. She was really excited about it.”
“Yeah. Looked like she was trying to hide her enthusiasm, but it was obvious.”
When Kurisu-chan and Orino-san exchanged words, Kagurai-senpai held her head.
“T-the lot of you are working together to pull a fast one on me… getting back at me for that wake up surprise I pulled on you yesterday…?”
“What’s up with you… ah. Hey, Kagurai-senpai, take a look at this.”
I showed her my cell phone screen. That was more proof than anything that this was the first day of camp. The date displayed in the center—there was no doubt about it.
Kagurai-senpai snatched the phone quicker than a pickpocket and gazed entranced into it.
“Oy, Kagoshima… no matter the case, you’re putting too much into it. You’d go as far as to change your phone settings to surprise me…”
“You’re wrong. In the first place, I don’t even know how to fiddle with the date on this phone…”
After returning my phone, Kagurai-senpai confirmed the date on her own phone. Her complexion that was bad to begin with took a turn for the worse.
The phone in her hand fell onto the tatami.
The date displayed on it—it went without saying, was the same as mine.
“What’s going on here…?”
“Category is… things that begin with ‘dr’.”
“Eeh? Isn’t that a hard one?”
“Don’t worry, there are plenty of them. Here we go, Orino-san.”
The summer beached shined on mercilessly by the sun. Having gotten somewhat tired of beach volleyball, Orino-san, Kurisu-chan and I started mixing something like Concentration 64 into the game.
At present, Orino-san and I were competing, while Kurisu-chan was the ref.
“Then I’ll start. Drawing.”
We said a word that fit the topic before tossing the ball back to the other.
“Eh? What’s that?”
“One of the four sacred beasts in Beyblade.”
“… Well I guess it works. Drugstore.”
“One of the four sacred beasts in Beyblade.”
“Again!? Umm, Drive.”
“Driger, one of the four sa… etc.”
“Draciel, one… etc.”
“… Fufu, I saw it coming. Drucker! Now, it’s four sacred beasts, so that’s the end of that! The real match starts here!”
“…… Like hell I can win this!”
Orino was unable to say a word in the category, what’s more, she snapped and spiked the ball. It was my complete victory. You could say it was a strategic win.
“Fu fu fu. The moment you permitted the ‘Things that start with dr’ category, your defeat was set in stone.”
Beyblade’s four sacred beasts still have the S Series, the F Series, the V Series, the G Series, the MS Series, there was plenty more where that came from! I grew triumphant, “In battle, the ending is decided before…” I started out, but Orino-san ignored that and walked over to Kurisu-chan.
“Ref! That one was a foul, right!?”
“Pipiiii. Kagoshima Red Card. You’re out of the game.”
“It’s against the rules to bring up fictional jargon the other player does not know. Otherwise, you could just make up anything.”
I had no words to return to that wholly sound argument.
Hmph. The world shall always prosecute the strong.
“Then since Kagoshima-senpai lost by foul, he’s going to swap out with me.”
I rotated with Kurisu-chan, this time I was the referee… which was really just the next in line position. There were only three of us, it was inevitable that it came to this.
If we had one more, we would be able to go two on two, but—
Ever since that, Kagurai-senpai shut herself up in her room.
“You should go play on the beach. I want to be alone for a while,” she said, and we reluctantly did so. I’m still worried. I thought, as I looked at the guesthouse and spotted Kagurai-senpai. She was trudging her way on the path towards the house.
I hurriedly raced over to her.
“Kagurai-senpai, where did you go? I thought you’d be holed up in your room the whole time.”
“… I went around asking. I asked every person I passed, ‘What day is today?’.”
Her voice was feeble. Just listening to it stirred unease within me.
“I thought I’d make it clear who was crazy, me or you.”
A self-depreciating smile. As if smiling was all she had left to do.
“I started with the guesthouse’s owner. He answered with what I considered yesterday’s date. I walked a long way, I asked an old man taking a walk, and the clerk at the convenient store—it was all no good. It’s clear now.”
“It does seem the crazy one is me.”
“… What are you, talking about?”
I couldn’t comprehend the meaning behind her words.
I couldn’t… comprehend.
“It’s nothing. Forget about it.”
Kagurai-senpai lightly shook her head.
“Hey, Kagoshima. We’re staying here thanks to the arrangement of an onmyouji Kikyouin-san is acquainted with, Tsuchimikado, right?”
“Hmm. So that part hasn’t changed. In that case, have you heard anything about the ghost that Tsuchimikado fellow exorcised?”
“Who knows? If you want to know that, shouldn’t you call Kikyouin-san? You have her number, right?”
“I already tried. But it won’t connect. The person you are trying to reach has either run out of battery or is in a place without cellular reception.”
“I can only hope it really is reception or battery.”
Kagurai-senpai said somewhat offhandedly.
“Kagoshima. There’s a little something I have to do. You all should keep playing. Once I’ve finished up, I’ll join you.”
She said and turned her back to me.
“… Considering how Kikyouin isn’t here, this might be a youkai, or something of the sort… is Kikyouin currently fighting somewhere… but why am I the only one… if I can use the internet…” she mumbled to herself as she entered the guesthouse.
She told me to play, but Kagurai-senpai was still bothering me. After giving notice to Orino-san and Kurisu-chan playing on the beach, I went back inside.
“Oh. If you’re looking for the tall lassy, she returned to her room.”
Was the response I got when I asked the guesthouse owner in the entranceway.
A splendid physique, with gentle facial features as if the goodness of his character had seeped in. An apron with the name of the place. Guesthouse Sunflower was managed by this uncle by his lonesome self, apparently.
“Is that so. Thank you very much.”
“Is something up? That kid was making quite a cornered face.”
“… That’s what I’d like to know.”
Separating from the owner, I headed for the girls’ room on the second floor.
As I stood before the screen door, about to call out and ask if it was alright I went in… it was at that moment.
“Dive In B3 World! Code KAGURAI Access!”
From inside, I heard a dignified cry.
This is that. The sweet-dreams charm Kagurai-senpai occasionally says with her troublesome habit of taking naps regardless of time or place. I came to see her out of worry, but it seems she was going to enter her midday naptime. In that case, I shouldn’t get in her way.
I thought, as I quietly tried to leave, but,
“—Huh! Wh… at?”
Another voice from inside.
“W-what is the meaning of this…?”
“Kagurai-senpai, is something wrong?”
I curiously opened the screen.
There, gripping her cellphone, facing the laptop on the table, was Kagurai-senpai.
“… K-Kagoshima, I-I’m in trouble…”
She turned to me with an anxious face, she spoke in a shaking voice.
“I can’t enter my computer…”
At the time, just what sort of expression did I make?
I can’t tell my own expression, but… I could feel a tear touch my cheek.
“W-why… there shouldn’t be any problems with the voice recognition or nanomachines… any yet why, why can’t I go in…?”
“Kagurai-senpai… U-uu…… uwaaaah…….”
Unable to stand any longer, I crumbled to the tatami. The tears from my cheeks seeped into the seams.
“Humans can’t enter PCs…”
How could this be…
Before I realized it, Kagurai-senpai’s heart was afflicted to such a degree.
Entering the computer, entering the game, humans who say that are already done for. At the end of the line.
“No, Kagoshima… it’s, um, that. W-when I said enter the computer… it was a figure of speech…”
“… It’s fine. You don’t have to say anything…”
What have I even been doing?
With such an unfortunate person in close proximity, I overlooked her without doing a thing?
The rage towards my own negligence and my sympathy for her converted to tears that gushed with no end.
Ah… what was I doing!?
“Kagoshima…… ah, that can wait. Now’s not the time for that.”
Kagurai-senpai said gloomily, as she ignored my lament and looked at the screen anew.
“Dive In B3 World! Code KAGURAI Access!”
An expression at her wit’s end, she chanted her sweet-dreams charm again.
But she didn’t fall asleep.
“Dive In B3 World… D-Dive In B3 Wor… it’s no good. Dammit. Why…”
She desperately repeated her charm.
Kagurai-senpai was desperate. She grew desperate as she turned to the computer screen and continued crying out.
This is… an obsession.
An eccentric’s obsession.
Kagurai-senpai’s finally gone off to a world I don’t know.
By the time I noticed it, I had leapt out and embraced her from behind with all my might.
“Please come back, Kagurai-senpai! Humans… humans can’t go inside of computers!”
“Wha!? What are you doing!? L-let go!”
“I won’t! … Kagurai-senpai… no matter how, no matter how hard it may be, we’ve got no choice but to live in the world we have. The game world is definitely wonderful. If you’re tired of faring the stormy seas of reality, then it’s necessary to soak in the tepid bath called games from time to time… but! That’s all it is!”
I grew more heated than ever before. But there was no way I couldn’t be so. If it’s now, there might still be a chance for Kagurai-senpai to start over! My blazing soul and young passion kept me going!
“You can’t stay submerged in that fictional world forever! If you stay there, you might be able to go on without feeling pain. You might not have to bear injury… but what’s so bad about getting hurt!?”
“We all hurt one another, and that’s how we grow! There are things you can’t see without a little pain! Even so… even so, if you’re scared of being hurt, I’ll take on the blows with you. Please let me suffer injury with you!”
Slowly and calmly slipping out of my hug, Kagurai-senpai made a dubious expression words failed me on. When I was saying something super good, for some reason her eyes were cold. “This guy really is a pain,” sort of eyes.
I feel an insurmountable difference in temperature here.
As much difference between Kacrackle and Kafrizzle.
Like a Frizz Cracker was about to be born between us.
(TL: These are all spells from Dragon Quest, the strongest from the Crack(ice) and Frizz(fire) families. Frizz Cracker is a link spell between the two.)
“Yeaaah, Kagoshima. I’ll admit saying enter a computer might sound like a cringy statement to someone of this era…”
“Cringy? Don’t use that word to run away, Kagurai-senpai! You have to properly face yourself! That cringe is a part of you!”
“… A-anyways, even if it’s impossible in this era, perhaps something like that will be possible in the future…”
“…! To hell with the future, you damn fool!”
I let out a slap.
I poured in my fighting spirit.
As she fell to the floor, Kagurai-senpai looked at me with, is this guy alright in the head, sort of eyes.
“Someone not living in the present has no qualifications to speak of the future!”
While I put on the face of a demon, I rubbed my hand aching from the slap as I cried out.
… Ah, by the way, no matter how I steeled my heart, I wouldn’t hit a woman. I used my right hand to hit my left, a common play-slap.
Therefore, the damage she received was far less than Sakuragi Hanamichi’s ‘This is for Rukawa’ slap. I firmly grasped Kagurai-senpai’s shoulders, in my vision blurring from my welling years, I gazed straight into her eyes.
“… Don’t lose. Don’t lose to yourself… don’t lose to reality…”
Shaking her body back and forth, I pleaded to her in a weeping voice.
Do your best.
You have to do your best, Kagurai Monyumi.
If you run away from reality, it’s over.
“… Wipe your tears, Kagoshima.”
With her shoulders grabbed, she stopped moving entirely.
Kagurai-senpai slowly stood and looked down on me with warm eyes.
“Good grief, you can be surprisingly heated from time to time… Well, thank you. I get how much you must think of me.”
That’s good. Looks like these heated feelings of mine—
“But honestly, you’re quite a pain!”
— Did not get through.
Nimbly circling behind me, Kagurai-senpai entangled my neck and arm, putting me into a solid headlock. My neck groaned as she tightened down on it.
“When the situation’s as troublesome and incomprehensible as it is, don’t make this anymore complicated, Kagoshimaaa!”
She resorted to violence. Drat, this is what’s wrong with this generation.
Say something just a bit harsh and they snap!
… Certainly, I got the feeling I was being a considerable pain, but even so, a headlock is too much…
No matter, Kagurai-senpai still has a way to go! A headlock from a woman comes with the reward of a soft sensation on the head—
“H-huh!? It’s not there! I can’t feel any breast!”
This is strange.
Kagurai-senpai’s not on Orino-san’s level, but she’s got a considerable chest.
“Fuhahaha. Naïve, far too naïve, Kagoshima! Did you think you’d be able to get a taste of the super-template inevitable lucky pervert with me!?”
Kuh, I see.
This person’s a dating sim addict…
Breast touch from headlock, a development used in manga, anime, and games so often it’s been used up, she’s sure to have seen it enough times to grow tired of it.
So she studied a technique to not let my face touch anything soft and inflict only pain!?
“Kuuuh… i-it just hurts… there’s no healing factor……”
I never knew.
A headlock without boob touch could be this painful…
“They’re right before my eyes, but I can’t touch, I can’t feel… right, like the mirage of an oasis over the scorching desert sands…”
“No, don’t make it sound so cool.”
“Wai, senpai, I give. Give, give. Give and take!”
“And what do you have to offer me?”
“I made a mistake. I give up. Either undo this headlock or let me touch your breasts.”
“Those are my options!?”
“… Fufufu. Fuhahahah. Let me warn you, Kagurai-senpai. It’s in your best interest to undo this headlock with all due haste.”
“Muh. You suddenly sound confident.”
“Don’t blame me for what happens if you don’t take it off. I won’t do you ill, just undo it this instant. Or else…”
“Hmm. How interesting. And what do you think you can do in this situation?”
“… I can start feeling good.”
“Now, now! If you don’t hurry up, the masochist inside of me will awaken!”
“Kuh, t-to think you would threaten me in this situation…”
“… Gguuu. T-this is bad, my M, inside of me, the other me is opening his eyes.”
“Don’t make it sound like split personality.”
“… Aaah! T-this exquisite instant where my consciousness drifts in and out is the greatest bliss! Hah hah, hah hah.”
Kagurai-senpai undid the headlock and thrust me away with all her might.
Kuku. It looks like I was one step higher.
This is the sure-kill technique, if pushing doesn’t work, try pulling back. Don’t escape from the enemy’s shackles, lead the enemy to undo them herself. My complete victory.
It was a dangerous gamble where one wrong step might actually awaken me to masochism, but I somehow managed—huh?
With the momentum of the thrust, I took a number of steps back, my leg catching on someone’s bag along the way.
My body fell backward with good force.
I didn’t even have time to contemplate, ah, I’m screwed. A hard sensation on the back of my head. Did I hit one of the room’s support pillars? Sparks scattered before my eyes.
Sparks flew but soon faded to darkness.
In my faint consciousness, “… K-Kagoshima? Eh? N-no way… you. Back there, you were completely playing along with the gag, right? No matter what injury you get, that was a scene where you should get off with a huge bump like in a manga, right? Oy, Kagoshima, Kagoshima!” I thought I heard a desperate scream.
The first morning of training camp.
I awoke to someone calling my name.
“Kagoshima! Thank god, you’re okay!”
My covers were pulled off and I was strongly embraced.
“… E-eeh? Eeh?”
W-what’s with this situation!?
I was still half asleep so my head couldn’t keep up with this sudden development. But for some reason, Kagurai-senpai was in the room, in pajamas, ignoring my dismay to hold my body tight.
“Thank god… yesterday you wouldn’t open your eyes even after night came, so I didn’t know what I would do… I’m sorry, because I pushed you away, you suffered such a heavy injury.”
“Eh? Yesterday? Did something happen yesterday?”
I think we just moved and slept yesterday.
“Rather than yesterday, it’s last time, I guess… anyways, I’m glad. I’m really, really glad…”
“… What happened? Did you hit your head or something?”
“That would be you, idiot…”
No, I didn’t hit anything.
I wondered if she was half asleep, but Kagurai-senpai’s tone was so serious I hesitated to make the judgment. Her body was shaking as she embraced mine. She seemed relieved from the bottom of her heart. I couldn’t push her away.
“Next time I put you in a headlock, I’ll properly put my breasts against you!”
“Alright, she’s definitely half asleep!”
I swiftly pushed her away.
What is she saying so early in the morning?
She must’ve dreamt of dating sims or something.
“Ah, right, Kagoshima. Show me your head for a second.”
“Head? Well, I don’t mind.”
Kagurai-senpai circled around me and touched the back of my head.
“… There’s no trace of injury. The large bump that formed yesterday has cleanly vanished—no, it didn’t vanish, it never happened… which confirms that individual memories aren’t being falsified, the world itself is…”
After finishing a complete inspection on my head, Kagurai-senpai put a hand to her chin and began mumbling to herself.
“There was a possibility we looped once by complete coincidence, but now that we’re on a second one, it looks like this is the type that will keep looping again and again until we eliminate the ‘something’ that’s causing it… to think Kagoshima was saved thanks to it, how ironic…”
She said some incomprehensible things with a dubious face.
How long was she going to stay in dreamland?
For now, won’t she leave my room? Even a man gets a bit embarrassed when someone witnesses his sleeping face.
“Kagoshima, today is the first day of training camp, right?”
“As I thought. Hmm… at this point, I have no choice but to accept the loop itself, and if I accept it… that leaves the questions of, ‘why I alone am kept out of the loop without access to B3 World’ and ‘Why isn’t Kikyouin here’ those two points…”
I shrank back as Kagurai-senpai started thinking to herself again.
“Ah, so this is where you were.”
While she was in her pajamas, unlike Kagurai-senpai whose hair was all ruffled as if she had jumped straight out of bed, she was looking proper.
“What happened, Kagurai-senpai? You made a straight dash out of the room the second you woke up…”
“Orino… no, um, well, you see…”
“And you even came to Kagoshima-kun’s room…”
“Y-you’re wrong, Orino! I haven’t done any of the indecent things you’re imagining!”
“H-hey! Please don’t conclude that I’m thinking indecent things!”
“Yeah, we didn’t do any indecent things, right Kagoshima?”
“No, you suddenly embraced me…”
“Read the goddam mood, dude!”
“E-embraced…? W-what are you two doing so early in the morning!?”
Orino-san’s face went red, Kagurai-senpai held her head, and I was still dazed out, not fully awake.
Flip, flop, the sound of slippers in the hall.
“You’re sure lively in the mornin’, each and everyone one ‘a ya’. Heaaah.”
Taking over from the footsteps, a languid voice sounded out.
At that instant, Kagurai-senpai’s body twitched.
“Good grief. Just because we’re on training camp, you’re getting’ way too worked up.”
Seeing the girl whose head popped out from the screen, Kagurai-senpai’s eyes opened wide, she was at a loss for words. She had undone her trademark ponytail, and thanks to her hairstyle different from usual, I wondered who it was for a moment. But that was only the briefest of moments.
The one who appeared after Orino-san…was Kikyouin-san.
“K-Kikyouin… why are you here…?”
Half surprised, half terrified, Kagurai-senpai spoke up.
I got the feeling it was somewhat in bad taste to use this an expression for a self-proclaimed onmyouji, but Kagurai-senpai’s reaction as she looked at her was as if she had seen a ghost or monster.
A reaction as if she had seen someone who shouldn’t be there.
“Hah? What, I’m not supposed to be?”
“I mean… you weren’t here yesterday…”
“Yesterday? No, I was. I rode the train all the way here with you.”
“Not that… last time… y-you weren’t off fighting somewhere… wasn’t this situation caused by a youkai or apparition or something on your side?”
“? How long are you gonna sleep talk? Wake up already.”
Kikyouin-san said with a light sigh.
“… Are you really Kikyouin? Kikyouin Yuzuki?”
As Kagurai-senpai said that with a dubious face, I cut in without hesitation.
“Something the matter? Just because her character’s gotten weaker without the ponytail, it’s rude to say something like that.”
“Wait a second. There’s someone here far ruder than Kagurai.”
“Kikyouin-san’s a stubborn one, but she’s really a delicate girl.”
“Oy, listen to people.”
“She’s the sort of girl who spots a puppy on a rainy day, but unable to honestly pick it up, she pretends to ignore it; it stays on her mind all the way, so she runs back, abruptly starts talking to herself, and leaves just her umbrella behind.”
“What do you know about me!?”
A slipper thrown with all the basics of shoe-throwing down smacked me in the face.
Yeah, yeah, a relentless retort in regards to me.
This is undoubtedly Kikyouin.
“Did you get an eyeful of that, Kagurai-senpai? That snapping art is something only Kikyouin-san is capable of.”
“Snapping art!? You wanna die?”
Kikyouin-san snapped in such a way that if she really wanted me dead in her heart, the action would already have been taken care of, but Orino-san restrained her from behind and I didn’t become a casualty.
Within that boisterous air, Kagurai-senpai alone made a dark face.
While the three of us were completely joking around, she maintained a serious air.
Right, she wasn’t reading the mood.
She alone… was floating.
As if she was floating away from the world itself.
“Well, well, let’s calm down, Kikyouin-san.”
Orino-san stuck a hand into the blond hair from behind and bundled it together with accustomed hand motions.
“There we go. It’s your usual ponytail. See, now you’re a recognizable character.”
“You’re completely mockin’ me here! ‘n wait, what!? Just how much do you people see me as a ponytail character!? I don’t have any real attachment to it, you know!? It just gets in the way, so I clamp it together!”
“Ponytail… r-right! What about the twin one… what happened to twintails!?”
Kagurai-senpai recalled twin tails from ponytail.
What a terrible association game.
“Where’s twint—Kurisu? ”
“… What are you talking about, Kagurai-senpai?”
“Kurisu-chan had urgent business to attend to, so she couldn’t come. She gave us a call, didn’t she?”
“T… this, again…”
Kagurai-senpai powerlessly fell into a slump on the spot.
“… No, way… it’s Kurisu this time… why…?”
She held her head as she mumbled weakly.
She looked dismayed, confused.
But what was dismaying her, what she was so confused about, I had no way of telling.
“Huh? Kikyouin-san. You took off your sunglasses?”
The scene changes to the summer beach.
We had played our hearts out, so at present, we were taking a breather on the vinyl sheet laid out under the parasol. cutting up the watermelon we received from the owner husband and wife, we split it between the three of us.
We did discuss trying to smash it, but it didn’t seem like it would be fun with just the three of us, so we just ate it normally.
“Yeah, Kagurai told me to, ‘take care not to be reverse pandaified,’ so I took them off just in case.”
“Well, there’s no way I would make such a stupid mistake.”
Kikyouin-san spoke with pride.
That line kinda sounded like the lead-in to a joke.
“I finished cutting the watermelon.”
Orino-san distributed the melon cut into thirds, we ate it together.
“Mn? Orino, what are you doin’?”
“Me? I’m just salting it.”
Kikyouin-san’s eyebrow twitched.
“You just don’t get it. Put salt on it, and you’ll taint the flavor, right? If ya can’t enjoy the natural taste of the ingredients, yer still a kid.”
“… C-calling someone a kid for something like that makes you the real kid. This is all up to personal preference. And sprinkling salt draws out the flavor of the base ingredients even further.”
Orino-san became mildly irritated.
“Hmph. Watermelon should be enjoyed in its natural state. Even the great philosopher Sen no Rikyuu said that watermelon should be enjoyed as watermelon.”
“The reason Sen no Rikyuu got angry was because someone tried to add sugar, right? Salt is a separate story.”
“Salt, sugar, they’re all the same.”
The battle between the salty and the salt nots broke out.
These two fight over the most trivial things. I wonder if this is what it means to be close enough to fight.
“You, what do you–”
As the two started quibbling incessantly, they turned to me in search of a third-party judgment.
“Ah, sorry. It’s nothing.”
The question was revoked before I even got time to answer.
“Why!? Weren’t you looking for a third-party opinion?”
“No, I mean, even if we ask you, it won’t get us anywhere…”
“Your answer won’t serve as reference for anything.”
How rude! You’re making it sound as if my sense of taste diverges from the average person to a considerable degree!
“’n wait, it’s not like you can tell the taste to begin with. Why don’t you try eatin’ this?”
Kikyouin-san said as she tossed her left-over watermelon skin at me.
It seemed she still bore a grudge for the morning’s teasing, her expression was incredibly sadistic. She looked down on me with the sick, malicious smile of a queen
“Chop chop. Now eat it already.”
“Well, if you’re giving it to me, I’ll happily take it.”
I retrieved the watermelon skin that had fallen on the sheet and ate it.
Yeaaah, it’s all juicy and delicious!
“Wait, you ate it!?”
Before my exceedingly normal meal, her queen smile crumbled instantly.
“Eh? You told me to eat it. It’s too late to get it back now.”
“No, no, eeh? Eeeeeeh?”
Kikyouin-san raised a somewhat shameful voice while Orino-san pulled back a bit.
“Ah, could it be you two are from the side that don’t eat watermelon skin?”
“I didn’t know of the existence of the side that did…”
“Hmhmm. You were just quarrelling over whether to add salt or not, after all.”
“Don’t lump us together.”
“Please don’t group us.”
The two were in perfect harmony.
I get the feeling they’re only overly in sync when they’re dealing with me. Like how two countries with unending skirmishes form a temporary alliance when they spot a common enemy.
“… Ah, but I heard there’s actually pickled and dried watermelon skin, so I can’t deny it as a rule, but… to think someone would eat it raw…”
The skilled cook Orino-san said and sighed.
Gnn. How strange. Mom always praised me, “Akira, it’s good that you can eat anything. Thanks to you, we don’t have to put out the biodegradable waste.” Personally, I was sure there was just as much a division in ‘eating watermelon skin’ as there was in ‘eating shrimp tail’, but from what I can see by their reactions, I’m part of a considerable minority. Perhaps I’m even the only one.
As we enjoyed a friendly chat and ate, the watermelon was gone in no time.
“Let’s save the rest for Kagurai-senpai.”
I said. The two nodded, their expressions darkening a smidge.
Kagurai-senpai was in the room from poor health. We didn’t want her to think she was causing us any trouble, so we did our best to enjoy the beach the three of us.
“It really would’ve been best if we left one person to stay with her.”
“I think it’s alright. On the way out, I caught a glance at her, but she was out of the covers, working on her computer.” Said Orino-san.
“Hmm. I wonder if she’s looking up ways to get over her poor health.”
She was a digital senpai even when down for the count.
No, perhaps that was inevitable.
To Kagurai-senpai, technology… her computer was the foundation of her heart. More reliable than anything, and at the same time, what she could rely on to remain constant.
if she encountered something, a situation she couldn’t comprehend herself, then surely it would be the first thing she relies on before anything else.
In the end, Kagurai-senpai didn’t come to the beach.
We ate dinner together, but after finishing her share, she quickly went off somewhere. When we were at the long-awaited training camp, her independent action was all the more conspicuous.
She may be a senpai, but as the vice-president, shouldn’t I give her a good talking to? I thought; but when I saw her giving a grim look all the way, I couldn’t say anything.
And, “…… Kagoshima,” Kagurai-senpai dropped by my room with a perplexed face. It was after I’d eaten dinner, taken a bath, and played cards with Orino-san and Kikyouin-san, just when I thought it was time to sleep.
“Something up? At this hour?”
I put out a cushion to welcome this late-night quest. After she sat down on it, she spoke in an uncharacteristically small voice.
“… There’s something I want to discuss with you.”
When I parroted her words, Kagurai-senpai gave a nod and closed her mouth. A pitiful silence flowed into the room.
“The truth is–”
She spoke up as if she had finally resolved herself.
Making a fist in front of her chest.
Her voice shaking a bit.
Looking at me with anxious eyes.
Her expression as if she would burst into tears at any moment.
She… introduced herself.
“I am a time traveler from the future.”
The tale I heard on the first night of training camp was quite the SF.
Science fiction, and slightly fantastical at that.
I’d say it was a bit too heavy for a bedtime story.
Kagurai-senpai gave a simple explanation without using any specialized terminology, but there were too many points she, ‘definitely couldn’t talk about,’ making her explanation hazy as a whole.
To put it together–
In the distant future—where civilization has developed much farther, where time travel becomes possible, and where a virtual exists as simple fact—humans depend on computers even more than in the modern era. Humans control avatars in a virtual space called the B3 World, and a majority of everyday life is spent in this space.
Holding questions towards this state of being ruled by computers, the revolutionary organization that moved to action is named Reloader. Reloader’s objective is the extermination of information technology. For that sake, they aimed for the time period the internet diffused and leapt to the past.
In order to counteract them, the government’s direct crisis management bureau dispatched agents to various time periods.
“And one of them… is me. Kagurai Monyumi.”
Kagurai-senpai continued on.
There was no space for questions. She spoke without pause, like she was rejecting any questions from me. She spoke about the present— this looping situation as well.
“We are repeating the first day of the training camp. It’s still only the second loop. It seems I’m the only one aware of this peculiar phenomenon. It goes without saying, there might be someone out there much like me who’s been left out of the loop… but at the very least, there are none in the neighborhood.”
On top of that, there were two other strange happenings.
One. Every loop, someone disappears. In the first loop Kikyouin-san was gone, and in the second, Kurisu was nowhere to be found.
Two. Kagurai-senpai cannot dive into the B3 World.
“—And that’s about it… Umm, yeah. I guess that covers everything……”
When the story was over, Kagurai-senpai returned to the anxious face she had when she entered the room.
“Even if you hear a tale like that all of a sudden, I think it’s only natural that you don’t believe it…”
Kagurai-senpai bit tightly on her lip.
I let out a sigh bigger than ever before.
“When you came in the dead of the night, I was wondering what you were going to say… then you tell me about the future and virtual worlds, such absurd and astounding things and tell me to believe you.”
“… I get where you’re coming from, but, but you see–”
“I believe you.”
Kagurai-senpai blankly raised her head.
“Then let’s move things forward. The fact that you told me, means there some circumstance that you need to inform me of, right?”
“Wai- wait a second. Hold it, hold it right there.”
Holding up her hand, she let out a hectic voice.
“… You believe? You’ll believe in what sounds like a bad joke?”
“Eh? It was a joke?”
“No, that’s not it… it’s not, but…”
“In that case, I’ll believe.”
There, with an unsettled look on her face, Kagurai-senpai kept her face down.
“… I was sure you’d never believe something like this.”
“Something like this?”
“This sort of tale out of the everyday. Time leaps and the future… also, right. Psychics and magicians, and onmyouji, that sort of thing.”
“Ah, I see.”
Certainly, I shouldn’t believe in such unnatural occurrences.
Heroes that fight hiding their identity from everyone—don’t exist.
The ordinary is dear, don’t dream of the abnormal, I think that’s how I should be.
“I generally don’t believe. My policy is ‘An otherwise uninteresting world is also interesting’. That’s why I don’t believe in heroes of justice.”
But, I went on.
“I believe in you, Kagurai-senpai.”
“So I’ll believe, everything you just said. Though honestly, I’m still half in doubt.”
When she said it looking like she’d burst into tears at any moment, there’s no way I couldn’t believe her as a man. While it seems I could never notice Kagurai-senpai’s real identity, she wasn’t the sort of person who would tell such a lie with a face like that—I knew.
“… Right. That’s the sort of guy you are.”
And there, for the first time tonight—no, the first time today—meaning the first time on the third loop of this first day, Kagurai-senpai showed me a smile.
As if her frozen air had thawed, a smile full of openings.
“You would always take all those idiotic excuses I arbitrarily thought up as true. You were always an idiot who idiotically believed everything people told you…”
“Please don’t say idiot too much. You’re hurting me.”
“… Well, it looks like you don’t believe Kikyouin but… I’m sure that’s because she doesn’t really want you to believe her.”
“Kikyouin-san? Is there something up with Kikyouin-san too?”
“… Nothing. That’s not something I have any right to talk about. Don’t mind it. Now let’s get back on topic. Umm, why I told you about this, was it?”
“The answer is simple. I’m at my wit’s end.”
As she said that, Kagurai-senpai took on a pose of surrender.
“I spent all of today in a staring contest with my computer and I can’t see any resolution. If I could access the B3 World, I could amass a far greater amount of information at a far greater speed… but for some reason, that’s not possible.”
That’s why Kagurai-senpai searched all she could on the modern internet, apparently.
The first loop, Kikyouin-san’s absence caused her to look into relevant ghost stories and urban legends, eventually concluding it to be outside of her field of expertise.
But Kurisu-chan’s disappearance on the second loop meant the cause was no longer restricted to apparitions.
“And you were troubled, so you came to discuss with me?”
“Something like that.”
“… Yeaaaah. I know I shouldn’t say this, but don’t you have the wrong guy?”
I somehow managed to take in the situation, but honestly, I hadn’t the slightest idea of what to do about it. Kagurai-senpai gave a slight smile, “Perhaps,” she said.
“But that doesn’t matter… to tell you the truth, it’s been quite harsh on my mind. I got the feeling I was the only one being left behind by the world, it was more stressful than I expected.”
“Meaning you were lonely.”
“… Perhaps in short, but let’s not keep it short.”
Her cheeks turned a little red.
“I lament that I left Gakuta behind.”
She said with a deep sigh.
By the way, Gakuta-kun was an artificial intelligence, and she explained to me that her ventriloquism was a fake trick. The Gakuta-kun in question (At least the personality data inside of him) was currently offline, what’s more, safely stored with his power off, so there was no way to get him here.
“Then Kagurai-senpai, there’s one thing I’d like to ask.”
“What is it?”
“Is it alright that you revealed your identity to me?”
When she’s kept it hidden all this time.
When she grew desperate trying to cover it up.
“That’s… well, it’s probably fine,” Kagurai-senpai hesitated to speak. “The world’s looping after all. If I reveal it to you, you’ll have forgotten it all by the next loop, right?”
I was strangely accepting of it.
I see, since we’re looping, no matter what she tells me this time, when the next one comes around, all my memories will be reset.
“Now then. Now that I’ve finished explaining the situation, I’d like to get to action, but—we’re at the time limit.”
Kagurai-senpai shifted her eyes to the analog clock on the wall.
The present time was eleven fifty-five.
“When it hits midnight, it seems like time is forcefully reverted to morning on the first day. I tried to stay awake last time to make sure of the loop instant, but… it was impossible. The moment it struck twenty-four, my consciousness cut. Next I awoke, it was morning day one again.”
“Then in another five minutes, we’re going to return to today morning?”
“That we will.”
“… I see.”
I feel conflicted. All my memories of today are about to vanish, and when I think of how today’s going to start again, it all felt somewhat futile.
“When I’ve learned your secret, it’s going to have never happened…”
“Don’t worry, I’ll tell you again tomorrow.”
“I’m counting on you. Then let’s work together from tomorrow morning. It looks like time’s limited, so we’d better get an early start. Ah, but there’s a possibility I might disappear…”
Since Kikyouin-san and Kurisu-chan disappeared, there’s a possibility me or Orino-san might be next. No, it’s possible the only one who kept her memories, Kagurai-senpai could even…
As I thought over it like that,
“… Pff, hahaha.”
Kagurai-senpai suddenly leaked a smile as if she couldn’t hold it in anymore.
“What is it, all of a sudden?”
“Hahah, no, my apologies. The gap between you and your usual self was just so interesting to watch.”
She said with a gentle smile.
“When you’re usually so empty-headed… the moment you notice, you act all reliable, eh?”
It’s like you’re a different person.
It made me strangely bashful, I averted my eyes and gazed at the clock.
The first day of training camp ended… the clock struck midnight.