The first morning of training camp.
I woke up, my body being crushed by something.
“Wake up, Kagoshima! It’s morning! First day of camp, the third reiteration!”
A loud voice rung through my head. When I opened my eyes, a depiction of a pine tree was a few tens of centimetres from my face. If I recall correctly, that was the pattern on the sliding screen…
“Wait, why is the screen smashed in!?”
I protested to the girl still in the sturdy stance of having kicked the door in.
Uwah, what are we going to do about this… it’s been split clean down the center, I can see the thin wood supports sticking through it. Are we going to have to pay for this?
What is this senpai doing so early in the morning…
“Now rise and shine, Kagoshima! As we promised yesterday, we’ll be starting early today. Time is limited.”
“Yesterday? Promise? What are you talking about?”
“Ah, I see. It’s a pain but I’ll have to explain it again.”
All too easily.
“I actually came from the distant future.”
“And one of them is me. Kagurai—wait, don’t fall asleep dammit!”
A smack to the head shocked me awake.
“… FfaaAh. Sorry. You suddenly woke me up, so…”
“Good grief. You’d better listen properly.”
“Yeah, yeah. So how long until the punchline hits?”
“Punchline? There isn’t one.”
“Eh? Then what’s so interesting about it?”
“No, interesting or not, I’m simply expressing the truth.”
She’s proposing that she’s someone from the distant future…
She forced me awake to tell me that…
“Umm, Kagurai-senpai… I won’t hold it against you, but you’re better off keeping those cringy statements to yourself.”
“Like being a hero in your past life, or an envoy from another world, or an agent from the future, it’s honestly harsh to hear such statements of enlarged self-grandeur. If you don’t stop it with those delusional statements while you can, you’ll end up like Kurisu-chan, no longer able to take them back.”
“Putting aside how you casually insulted Kurisu… wait a second, don’t tell me—you don’t believe me?”
Kagurai-senpai looked at me as if she’d been betrayed.
No, even if you give me that face, nothing I can do about it.
“I don’t believe you.”
“If you wake me up in the early morning, and tell me you’re from the future so care-free willy-nilly as if it’s the easiest thing in the world, there’s no way I’d ever believe.”
It would be stranger to actually believe something so absurd and astounding.
At the very least– If she confessed with a greater sense of crisis or tension, I might have a different take on it, but as she did now with a light tone I can only think of as her telling a joke, I didn’t feel any urge to seriously keep her company.
And wait, I’m sleepy.
“… Eeh? No way, you…”
Kagurai-senpai put her hands to the floor in exaggerated lament.
“What even was our exchange last time… give me back that skip in my heart when you said you believed me without any hesitation…”
“Umm, if you’re done, can I go to sleep? I’d like to sleep another thirty minutes or so.”
Having recognized the future and so-forth as a joke, I pulled up the covers again and started my second round.
But Kagurai-senpai wouldn’t let me sleep. She shook my body from over the covers.
“W-wait, Kagoshima. You can’t fall sleep.”
“… What, am I going to die if I sleep?”
“No, we’re not on a snowy mountain, so you won’t die, but… a-anyways, listen to me. Just try to believe me.”
As she continually tried to rouse me from my half-asleep state, I drowsily threw out something arbitrary
“… If you’re going that far, let me test whether or not you’re actually from the future.”
“I’ll ask a few questions, and if you can answer them, I’ll believe you’re actually a time traveler.”
“… Alright. Got it, very well. As long as it’s not confidential, I’ll answer anything you’ve got.”
“Then number one. By its principle of aviation, Doraemon’s secret tool, the Takecopter is divided into two varieties. While one of them generates lift to fly, what mechanic does the other type use?”
“Hell if I know!”
Kagurai-senpai retorted with all her might, but I paid it no mind and continued on with my arbitration. I’m too sleepy for this.
“Bzzt. Out of time. The correct answer is that it utilizes an anti-gravitational field. Good grief. To think people these days are calling themselves time travelers with this level of knowledge.”
“Wait, wait! Something’s strange here! Why does a time traveler have to be knowledgeable about Doraemon!?”
“That goes without saying. The future promises a cat-shaped robot in every home.”
“No, the world develops more centered around computer networks than the field of robotics… rather, in the first place, no matter how much time goes by, Doraemon won’t be made, you know?”
“Hah? You lookin’ for a beating?”
“Don’t snap at me! I’ve got no idea where your boiling point is!”
“Doraemon will be made in the year 2112. The French author Jules Verne once said, ‘Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real’.”
“… Uwah, this guy is a pain.”
And as she made a ruckus, I had completely fallen asleep.
When I woke up, it was already around noon.
“… I overslept.”
Going to sleep a second time caused me to oversleep, what a careless blunder. This is definitely because that senpai woke me at an ungodly hour.
I panicked as I looked around, spotting two messages by my pillar.
The first, ‘You didn’t wake up no matter how many times I tried. I went to play with Kurisu-chan. YOYOJK.’ This one was Orino-san’s. It was her handwriting, and judging by the awkward playful feeling I got from the ‘YOYOJK’ like an earnest person was trying their very best to joke around, it was very Orino-san-ish.
The other, ‘Don’t know you anymore, stuupppiid!’ Those words written in anger were most likely Kagurai-senpai’s. I didn’t really remember but come to think of it, I got the feeling Kagurai-senpai came to my room in the morning, and we talked about something…
“Whatever the case, let’s go out.”
I hurriedly got my appearance in order, opened the sliding door, and descended the stairs towards the entranceway. At the entrance, the owner was washing away the sand.
“Oh. Good morning. You sure took your time.”
He cynically noted as he noticed me.
“Yeah, overslept a bit. So do you know where the girls went?”
“Um, the ones with large jugs and small jugs said they were going to eat at a nearby restaurant.”
Just because you don’t know their names, was there no other criteria to describe them?
“A restaurant you say… I was sure they went to the beach… ah, but the beach with just two people might be lonely.”
“Nah, nah. What are you talking about, bro? If you’re not around, there’s no point for the chicks to go to the sea. A girl’s swimsuit is there to show off to a man.”
Is that how it works?
… And wait, he’s suddenly acting all buddy-buddy, this owner. Just because the girls aren’t here, he’s displaying too much old man power.
“And if you want the upper-middle-class one, she went off somewhere with a grim look on ‘er face. Didn’t tell me where.”
So Kagurai-senpai’s upper-middle-class by this guy’s standards… nevermind that.
Kagurai-senpai’s taking independent action.
“Then did you at least see the direction the upper-middle-class person went?”
“It would have to be that way…”
The owner pointed at the path running along the coastline and hmhmm, he made a smile.
“I see, I see. So that lassie’s the one you’re gunning for, bro.”
“Nah man, it ain’t so…”
One-sidedly declaring my parting from the grinning owner, I went to search for Kagurai-senpai. No real reason. But with what happened this morning, she was on my mind.
I continued down the path along the coastline. I was looking for someone who could be anywhere, so my walking pace was extremely lax. The sea and cliffs spread out to my right. The fresh green mountains to my left. And as I gazed down that summery scene alone, “Hm?” I spotted someone standing over the crags a small distance away.
A black coat and long black trousers at the height of summer, they looked simply sweltering. Their hair went to their shoulders, and I couldn’t determine their gender from behind.
I thought I’d ask about Kagurai-senpai and rushed over.
“I’m looking for someone but, but, but, but…”
The moment that person a little taller than me turned… I lost my words.
The person was wearing a mask with a sharp design. The type that covered their face completely, not letting me make out a single expression.
Crap, I went and did it.
I called out to a weirdo…
“What, you have some business with me?”
The masked person said in a low voice. A man, it seemed.
“Umm, I’m looking for someone…”
“Did they perhaps have long hair, pretty long-slit eyes, tall with good proportions, the sort of girl you’d rather describe as beautiful than cute?”
“H-how did you know!?”
“I spotted her come down that road not too long ago.”
“Oh I see.”
Reasonable enough. But for him to be able to describe her appearance in the sort of detail you’d have to be acquainted with her to know, he must boast quite an aptitude for observation.
“There was no one else in the area, so I was sure that girl was the one you were looking for.”
“Do you know where she went?”
“No, not really. If you keep down this path, won’t you meet her eventually?”
“… Understood. Thank you.”
I got my hands on some information, and I didn’t want to get any more involved with this strange man, when, “Even so, this is a wonderful scene. Wouldn’t you say so?”
He tossed me a bone.
Wow, what do I do? I can’t leave. I don’t have the courage to ignore him.
“The brilliant light of the summer sun, and the great blue deep that glimmers in its radiance. The wind carrying the faint scent of salt comfortably stimulates the skin. A truly splendid situation. Makes you want to take the hand of that special someone and walk side by side.”
The masked man’s words stagnated a short while.
“When I think of how this beautiful scene is all what’s been painted by the brain, it feels so empty.”
“Painted… by the brain.”
“We humans can’t perceive the world before us as it is. The information that infiltrates through our sensory organs is processed by the brain, with each and every world we know no more than a reproduction within it. And yet, that diminutive miniature garden painted by the brain is what man will call reality—and what he calls the world.”
“It’s… that. How they say humans can only know the world through the filter called self…”
Come to think of it, I get the feeling I talked about this with Kikyouin-san sometime back, I mused. I spoke so proudly of what I must’ve picked up from some manga or something. It’s a bit late, but I’m regretting it.
The masked man gave a light nod at my words. I couldn’t make out his expressions, but I got the impression he was probably smiling.
“And that’s precisely why… everything is an illusion.”
“Right, an illusion. A dream and a phantasm. No one out there knows where reality starts and the illusion ends.”
The masked man said, as he shifted his hidden eyes from me to the ocean.
“And that’s precisely why you should enjoy your summer vacation like it’s a dream, young student.”
“Wait, what? That’s what we were talking about?”
It was so roundabout, and I get the feeling the point of discussion shifted considerably, but… so be it.
“You’re on a trip with your friends, right? It’s a waste if you don’t enjoy it.”
“It’s not a trip, we’re on training camp for what it’s worth. Are you traveling too? Or do you live in the area?”
“I’d have to say it’s different from a trip. I’m here for work or obligation… no, in the end, I’ll call it a trip. I came all the way out here to clean up after my own mess.”
All the way out here?
Ah, no, I don’t think he’s making fun of the region. A place so far away, that’s probably his nuance.
“Could it be you came from somewhere far away?”
“Right you are. A very far place.”
“Outside the prefecture?”
“Further than overseas… don’t tell me space?”
“Eh? Is there anything further than space?”
To my question, the masked man calmly gave what he made sound like the obvious answer.
“I came from the future.”
“Hmm. Did you now.”
I said with a broad smile.
Yep. It’s finally clear.
I’m dealing with a loopy person.
Well, he’s wearing a mask, he started talking about the world and so forth, there were plenty of red flags. I wonder if the heat got to him.
“Ah, I should really be getting off.”
I didn’t want to keep this strange person company any longer so I endeavoured not to make an unpleasant or suspicious face as I nonchalantly parted from him.
As I returned to the coastal path, from behind, “But now that I think back on it…… loop phenomenon…… reiterating the world… resembles Shinose’s…… ability… it must be back when…… I……”
I heard an ominous, dangerous monologue I couldn’t make heads or tails of, so my feet naturally picked up the pace.
“… Well, if you’re going to insist that much, then I’ll believe that you’re a time traveler…”
“I see, thank you Kagoshima—wait, it’s already midnight!”
Just as Kagurai-senpai pointed out, the night had already advanced.
We were in my room. Present time, twenty-three, fifty.
After I spotted Kagurai-senpai on the coast path (By the way, Kagurai-senpai was on a walk to clear her mind, apparently), we spent our time doing normal training camp things.
Within all of that, Kagurai-senpai measured her time to bring up her time travel talk. If she was that desperate, perhaps she was telling the truth, I started to think. And finally—late into the night, I decided to believe her.
“Hey, what’s with you man? Seriously, what’s with you? I have to spend a whole day convincing you or you won’t believe? This whole day was a complete waste.”
Kagurai-senpai rapidly inflicted punches to the room’s cushion as she complained.
“You do have my apologies in that regard… but I think some responsibility lies with you.”
“D-don’t glare. You’re scaring me. No, I mean, when I’ve just gotten up and my head’s hazy, if you tell me, ‘I’m from the future’ with such a light tone, I’d naturally think you were messing around.”
“… Yeaah, right. You have a point.”
Accepting it momentarily, Kagurai-senpai made an awkward face.
“I’ll admit, I was convinced you would believe, and totally let down my guard. In contrast, the time before, meaning my first confession had considerable tension and unease… that’s where the difference came out, eh… even if I tell the same person the same thing, one’s situation and mental state will largely change how they take it.”
Hah, she sighed, sticking a hand into her long hair.
“… And presumably, once Kagoshima came to the recognition, ‘I don’t believe,’ it was difficult to revise that notion. You are quite strongly opinionated, after all.”
“Yeah, you think so?”
I get the feeling, ‘strongly opinionated’ is one of those personality assessment terms like ‘can be indecisive’ and ‘has a self-centered side’ that you can fit anyone into, but I can’t really tell myself.
“Yeah, you’ve got it bad.”
Kagurai-senpai said so seriously, so I must be considerably strongly opinionated.
“Anyways. Then next time—and this is only if time really winds back at twenty-four, from next time onwards, please try to be a bit more serious when you convince me.”
“No. There’s no longer any need. We have a far easier method. A special measure I thought up when on my walk.”
“And what is this special measure?”
“I just have to know something only you know. If I do that, then next time onwards you’ll go, ‘I-I never told anyone about that! Which means we really are–!’ It’ll make it easier for you to believe we’re currently caught in a loop, and on top of that, you should believe I’m from the future as well.”
That’s quite a normal idea for a special measure, I thought, but as I had some guilt for not taking her seriously all day, I’ll honestly act impressed.
“And so, Kagoshima. Tell me something you’ve never told a soul.”
“… No. I don’t want to tell you any secrets I’ve never told anyone else before.”
“Nothing we can do about it, this is an emergency. Just bear with me. Now, now, out with all your nasty, embarrassing secrets.”
She said sounding a little excited. Isn’t she kinda enjoying this?
I folded my arms and tried thinking. But even if she asked me, nothing hit me at such short notice.
“Anything works… ah, right. If you can’t think of anything, how about your favorite types?”
“Types? Hmm, I tend to lean towards fire and electric.”
“… How fitting that Pokémon was the first thing you thought up when I said… never mind. I’m talking about girls. When you say types, of course you’re talking about girls.”
“I don’t think that’s a given.”
“What sort of girls do you like? Glasses girls? Klutz girls? Little sisters? Childhood friends? Flat lolis? Cat ears? Monster girls? Mikos? Maids?”
She asked as if her game mind could go on and on beyond that.
It’s kinda, that. Perhaps the difference between a standard person and an otaku, is whether you think of a real person or fiction when asked what your type is, I began to wonder.
“If I had to say, ‘widows’, perhaps?”
Like her spine had given way, Kagurai-senpai took a great lurch back.
“Kagoshima… you hit upon something amazing… even I didn’t see that one coming…”
“Eh? But aren’t widows great? I’m a huge fan of Maison Ikkoku, you see. That sort of way she still drags on the memory of her late husband, and how her heart waned and swayed between her ex-husband and the main character really clenched at my heart.”
“… Well listen to you.”
Kagurai-senpai pulled back somewhat.
It does seem she wasn’t pleased with my taste in women. Come to think of it, a majority of the games Kagurai-senpai plays are school-based. But yeaah. I really do think they’re nice, though. Widows.
These days, the girls in manga and anime are all minors, so perhaps my widow love is a backlash from that. It’s about time I’d like to see a woman in her late twenties as the main heroine of an anime.
“I see… so in order to date you, I’ll have to first marry someone else, and get that husband killed off somehow… you’re a hard nut to crack.”
“Hold on! When I say I like widows, I’m keeping that to fiction! Keep those hands clean!”
I’m just saying I like human dramas that have a widow as the main.
I wouldn’t actually want to date one. I’d prefer a normal cute girl.
But I get the feeling Kagurai-senpai said something about dating me… no, must’ve been a figure of speech.
“… Well, whatever the case, I’ve got a keyword. Widow… that will be my keyword to make you believe me.”
What a terrible keyword. Not a shred of coolness.
“Let me confirm this, Kagoshima. You never leaked your widow fetish to anyone, have you?”
“I haven’t. I never had the opportunity to talk about this sort of thing. Ah, don’t tell anyone. I said it because it’s you.”
I insisted, and, “Yeah, it’s a promise,” she nodded.
Like that, we had finished one of the preparations for the next loop onwards.
Which means we had to move to the next stage.
“By the way, Kagurai-senpai. Let’s say your preparations to make me a comrade are done, do you have any specific plans henceforth?”
In order to resolve this troublesome situation… what do we do?
“I’ve done some thinking. Though it’s still a vague idea, the situation as it is.”
Kagurai-senpai’s expression sharpened, her tone turned serious.
“There has to be a culprit to this looping situation we’ve been caught up in. Rather than culprit, someone serving as the cause. Whether we can identify them or not aside… I can’t determine if they hold any ill intent. There’s a possibility they might be unconsciously causing the loop.”
“Wait a second. It’s already decided there’s a culprit? Couldn’t we have been wrapped up in a natural disaster…”
“Of course, the possibility exists, but I appraise this as a man-made affair.”
“It’s not like I was playing around these three reiterations. The first time I knew Kikyouin was missing, so I looked into whether anyone else had disappeared. Gathering information from the area, searching the net and such.”
As a result, she concluded no one apart from Kikyouin-san had disappeared in the first loop.
“The second time, it was Kurisu who disappeared. As with the first one, I investigated. No one apart from Kurisu disappeared.”
And the third time.
Kikyouin-san disappeared again, and once more the result was the same.
“Meaning this is a high probability this loop is an event someone has caused with us as the target.”
Us. Pointing to the members of the ComClub on training camp.
Someone was aiming at us?
“What reason would they have to do so…?”
“No idea. Not in the slightest. But the probability we are suffering damage by someone’s will is exceedingly high… rather, if it were an incident or natural disaster, there’s nothing we can do about it. I can only look into it under the premise there is a culprit.”
Hmm. I kinda get it, kinda don’t.
“That’s why what we’re doing is searching out the culprit. We’ve got to somehow weed out suspicious individuals.”
Well, that sounds about right.
For now, her means aren’t wrong. And if they were, we’d just have to change them.
A situation where tomorrow will never come. Ironically, it means she had all the time in the world.
“But… in three reiterations, I was unable to find anyone who could be the culprit… how about you, Kagoshima? Did you spot anyone suspicious?”
It was truly a light question. As if she had no expectations. I could tell very clearly she asked knowing it was hopeless. “Let’s see,” I reflected over my day.
Someone suspicious. Well, someone like that—
— I’m from the future.
“Mm. What’s wrong, Kagoshima? That’s not normal, the way you’re sweating.”
“K-Kagurai-senpai. U-um, how should I put it, it’s that. I can only identify a suspicious individual from my subjective opinion… what’s strange and what’s not is completely different from person to person…”
“Come to think of it, you’re right. Just expressing it as suspicious might be too vague of a criteria.”
“I know, right! That’s why if there’s a man out there wearing a coat as if to conceal their physique, a mask to hide their identity, who on top of that came out with ‘I’m from the future,’ there’s no guarantee that they’re suspicious, right?”
“No, dude, that’s suspicious!”
She leaned in for a screamed.
“K-Kagoshima! You came in contact with such an obviously suspicious individual!?”
“Why did you let him go!? Why did you ignore him!?”
“I-I mean… I didn’t really know about loops or time travelers at the time… and after getting a proper grasp on a weirdo’s eccentricities, it’s my motto to splendidly ignore them.”
“Hah… you really are…”
Exhaling a momentous sigh, Kagurai-senpai dropped her shoulders.
I think she’s around one-fourth of the reason why I deal with oddballs by catch and release, but, well, let’s keep quiet about that for now.
“It’s too hasty to conclude the masked man is the culprit, but there’s no doubt he’ll understand the situation. From the future, eh…”
“Umm… the first question I’d be asking is if it’s even possible to rewind time. Did that become possible in the future?”
If time travel is possible, then it wouldn’t be strange for something like that, I thought, but, “Impossible,” Kagurai-senpai matter-of-factly denied it.
“I’ve never heard of the technology to manipulate time. That’s on a whole ‘nother level from leaping around it. Even with the technological might of my era, it would be a fruitless dream. You can’t turn back the world itself, and you can’t seal flesh and blood humans in an artificial space either.”
Hmm. So even if a Time Machine is possible, a Tanma Watch isn’t. I get the feeling the later would be harder to invent anyway.
“Wait, huh? Then the masked man from the future can’t be the culprit, right?”
“Were you properly listening? I said it would be impossible with the technological might of my own era.”
“It’s possible that he came from a future even further ahead than the time I lived.”
Sure enough, the masked man only said, “I came from the future”. I see, so it’s possible a human who came from an era where even time can be manipulated came to this time period and sealed us in a loop.
“It’s only a possibility. Maybe…… it’s thinkable something from a world I have no connection to is causing it. Magic or psychic powers, or eastern spellcraft, if something like that exists in the world, it’s outside my expertise.”
Kagurai-senpai said especially purposefully.
“No need to worry, magic, psychic powers, and spellcraft don’t exist, so there’s no doubt this incident is connected to you, Kagurai-senpai.”
When I gave obvious advice, “… Right,” she returned a bitter smile.
“Whatever the case, nothing else to do but search for the masked man you met. We can ask him his means and objective in making the loop once we’ve caught him.”
I nodded at those words.
The third me… nodded with the feelings the third me should have.
As I was explaining the particulars and appearance of the masked man, the clock struck midnight.