The first morning of training camp.
When I opened my eyes, Kagurai-senpai was sitting by my pillow.
I didn’t know why, but she looked extremely tired.
“… Good morning, forty-fifth Kagoshima.”
And she explained everything in regards to the situation we were enraptured in. The keyword ‘widow’ left me with no choice but to believe her.
“This is the forty-fifth time, and the ones absent from camp this time are Kurisu and Kikyouin…”
Meaning this time’s… the members participating in the forty-fifth training camp were Kagoshima Akira, Kagurai Monyumi, and Orino Shiori.
“What I’ve learned from forty-five repetitions is that the probability of there being fewer members is gradually increasing. From thirty-six onwards, it’s always been two absences…”
Apparently, only Kagurai-senpai and I participated in each and every one of the forty-five iterations.
The two of us were investigating together the whole time, it seems.
But… the results were none too favorable.
No apparent progress.
“… That’s it for the explanation. Kagoshima, we’re continuing on from last time. To make sure we haven’t missed anything, we’ll do another…!”
The moment she tried to stand, her knees buckled, sending her falling towards me as I raised only my torso from the futon. I reflexively held her body up with both hands.
“Are you alright!?”
“… I’m fine. Nothing amiss.”
“Nothing amiss… your face is pale.”
“There’s no way that’s true… every day, my fatigue is all reset when the clock strikes twenty-four. So there’s no way I could be tired…”
Perhaps in theory. At present, not a shred of fatigue remained in me.
But… Kagurai-senpai maintained her memories. For forty-five days—a month and a half, she repeated the same day. In a loop that would never advance to tomorrow.
Even if she didn’t accumulate physical fatigue or injury, her spirit accumulated any and everything. As the sickness of the body can start with the mind, it wouldn’t be strange if irregular mental strain brought a negative influence to her body. At present, the girl in my arm had a terrible complexion, her breaths were shallow and short.
Forty five days.
How much pain to her heart had such an empty repetition wrought?
“A-anyways, you should rest this time around! Get yourself in perfect position in preparation for the next one.”
“… Quit making me repeat myself, Kagoshima.”
A powerful look pierced into me. Quit making me repeat myself likely meant that the previous me, and the me before that said something to the same effect.
I couldn’t stand to see Kagurai-senpai in such pain.
“After that dumbass playing elite, Hihihiko… put me through the wringer, like hell I can keep quiet…”
“Hihihiko… oh, are you talking about that Shakujii Hihihiko-san that appeared on the thirteenth?”
I don’t know the specifics, but it looks like coming in contact with Shakujii-san had disturbed her to such an extent.
“Umm, is there any way we can get in touch with Shakujii-san to ask for his help?”
“… The answer to that question is, ‘Hell no’ in two senses of the word. It is impossible to establish contact from our side… the reason being I am unable to utilize the B3 World. And even if we did get in contact with him, I’d rather die than run teary-eyed to that bastard…”
She said as she unsteadily stood. But a few steps and she soon crumbled once more.
“.. Dam, mit.”
Her cracked voice groaned in irritation. I hurriedly raced over and held up her body.
“… Kagurai-senpai. Don’t push yourself, just rest this time. Okay?”
Kagurai-senpai bit into her lip before nodding.
After I took her to the girls’ room, Kagurai-senpai fell sound asleep. It looks like she was amassing mental fatigue after all.
… It’s just, when I slid open the screen to the girl’s room, I happened to catch Orino-san changing out of her pajamas, getting an eye-full of her undergarments. It was a delightful, embarrassing happening, but with my somber mood, I couldn’t enjoy it.
what’s more, when I reflexively dodged her, “Kyaaah! Akira-san, you pervert,” slap, she landed a clean hit on Kagurai-senpai- of hazy consciousness beside me-’s jaw, and I get the feeling that was the finishing blow, but… well, so be it.
It’s that. You see it all the time in shonen manga. With apprehensions for the sub-character enduring their wounds to make for their place of death, the main character knocks them out with a body blow. It’s something like that.
Please, rest in peace, Kagurai-senpai.
And if you ask what I’m doing, I’m not doing anything.
Kagurai-senpai slept soundly without signs of nightmare, so she didn’t look like she needed nursing. But that didn’t mean I got in the mood to play.
I naturally returned to my room, while Orino-san remained in the girls’ room.
I pushed the futon and low table into a corner, laying out over the space that made, counting the stains on the ceiling much like a maiden greeting her first night. Without any meaning.
I grit my teeth at my own powerlessness, if I put it like that, I might be able to make it sound cool. I knew I wanted to do something, but I hadn’t the slightest inkling of what I should do.
If Kagurai-senpai wasn’t here, forget resolving the problem, I wouldn’t even be able to grasp it. What’s more, if I did anything unnecessary, there was a danger of worsening it.
I was unable to do anything to a detestable extent.
Perhaps this isn’t the first time I’ve been tormented by my incompetence like this. Every time, I must have come face to face with it, regretted, reflected, and without changing the result, I’d open my eyes to the next one as if nothing had happened at all.
It happened as I was wrapped in such feelings of self-loathing and self-harm.
From outside the room came Orino-san’s slightly high-pitched voice.
“C-can I come in?”
I got up and told her to go ahead.
The screen immediately slid open—taking me aback.
I think my mouth was idiotically hung open. There’s no doubt I ended up making a considerably blockheaded face. Well, I doubt I could help it. I mean, as Orino-san entered the room… she was in her swimsuit.
A bikini. Her abundant torso was unsparingly exposed. I was sure the phrase, stuck out in all the right places, was a word made for her.
With her face bright red, Orino-san forcefully closed the screen behind her. She made for me with fast feet and sat. Her hands hid her chest or covered her face, her eyes swimming all around, she looked like she was quite busy on her own.
“D-don’t just stand there, say something…”
In my mute amazement, Orino-san spoke bashfully.
“N-never mind, please don’t say anything.”
So which is it?
A peculiar silence it was hard to put a shape on seeped into the room. Unable to keep up with the situation, I matched Orino-san and sat on the floor.
“… What’s wrong, Orino-san?”
I said, unable to endure the silence.
“… Umm, uh… Kagurai-senpai’s in bed, so playing at the beach and stuff, it’s not that mood anymore… but I went to the trouble of buying a new swimsuit, so I wouldn’t want this to end without me having a chance to wear it…”
Her face turned redder and redder, she used her hand to pin down her navel.
“And… Kagurai-senpai said….. -kun’s name in her sleep…”
“She’s sleeptalking? Did she say something?”
“… N-nothing at all!”
To summarize, she wanted to wear her new swimsuit. I guess girls really do want to throw on the clothes they’ve just bought. No, but still, taking another look at her, a swimsuited Orino-san’s charms could only be expressed in my pitiful vocabulary by the word, ‘dayum’.
Not at the beach or a pool, a beautiful swimsuited girl in a tatami-lain Japanese-styled room gave off a perverse fascination I couldn’t put into words.
I can’t think of a clever metaphor, but… maybe that.
Like when a mature lady puts on a school uniform…
“… You’re thinking something strange.”
“N-not at all!”
Glared at with cold eyes, I frantically waved my hand. In all actuality, I wasn’t thinking anything perverted, but I was thinking something strange, making me act terribly suspicious.
“Um… it looks good on you.”
“T-thanks. Y-you don’t think I’m… a-a-a- pervert, do you?”
“I don’t think so,” I hurriedly refuted. “You just wanted to wear your new swimsuit! I get it!”
“… Yeah. There’s that too…”
“But there’s something else?”
“Back there, Kagoshima-kun… you saw me, um, changing, right?”
“Back there, your reaction was far lighter than I expected… it was a bit of a shock, a bit irritating.”
“You’re worried about that!?”
Kagurai-senpai was in pain back there, so I couldn’t react well, and if I had to say, my thoughts were turning towards, “Hey, read the mood a bit, Orino-san,” I’ll admit it!
But come to think of it, perhaps I’m at fault for looking at a girl’s undergarments without providing her with a decent reaction.
Anyways, I must follow through!
“You’re wrong about that, Orino-san. Sure enough, my reaction was light back there, but that’s because the heat didn’t escape from the thermos. I was actually boiling hot inside. Your underwear, black both top and bottom, what’s more, the lace made it look like you were going all out; I saw it all and burned it into my brain in such detail I can describe the patterns on them to a great degree of accuracy, so don’t worry–”
I was slapped.
At three times the speed of when I saw her changing, it was impossible to avoid.
Hmmm. Girls are hard.
But if there’s one thing I understood, when Orino-san said, “G-god. Kagoshima-kun, you really are a pervert,” she was transcendentally cute.
“… Don’t apologize.”
“Then thank you most kindly.”
“That’s even worse!”
For no real reason, we exchanged a laugh.
I finally understood. Orino-san quite likely came to cheer me up. Right after I heard Kagurai-senpai’s expression, I must have been making quite a dark face. While she didn’t understand the situation, Orino-san came to pep me.
Well, I get the feeling her service spirit is a bit too vigorous, mind you.
“Thank you, Orino-san.”
This time, I expressed gratitude without the jokes.
Without getting angry, Orino-san gave a small nod.
Ah, come to think of it, out of the ComClub members, the one I’ve known longest is Orino-san. It was only a difference of a few months, but I met her sooner than any of the others.
Perhaps that’s why.
It felt so nostalgic to be with her, as if we had known each other from childhood.
Is that so? Is that really so?
Ten years ago.
What could be called my roots, the chance encounter at Gentle Breeze Park.
The lady in the strange suit.
That lady’s face… resembled Orino-san’s, didn’t it?
Strange. How strange.
Why am I paying attention to something like that?
Usually… the usual me would never mind such a thing. There’s no way I’d notice.
“Ahaha, but you know.”
Her face still a little red, not noticing the change in me, Orino-san continued on.
“Kagoshima-kun, you prefer it when I wear a T-shirt, right?”
Fear raced down my spine. As she smiled sweet as a honeycomb, undoubtedly saying it as a joke, I ended up seeing something terribly ominous in her. I certainly did hold the opinion that, ‘wearing a T-shirt over a swimsuit is contrarily more sexy’. But I’d never said it to Orino-san… no, let me be more precise. I haven’t said it this time… the forty-fifth time.
Meaning she maintains her memories?
“H-huh… What’s wrong, Kagoshima-kun? You suddenly went quiet.”
Her expression turned fearful. From her atmosphere, I knew I was wrong.
The impression she gave off was… different from Kagurai-senpai.
I could only explain it as a ‘something’, a vague ambiguous difference, but it was definitely different. She was simply coping with this loop.
That’s right. This feeling is the same as back then.
When Orino-san first met my childhood friend.
It’s similar to when she met Kai.
This sensation that Orino-san alone is off from the world.
Thanks to that, a discrepancy was born between my recognition and her’s.
“Yes? What is it?”
Before her perplexed face, I hesitated. I hesitated and hesitated, and at the end, “Don’t you think you should put on some clothes? You’ll catch a cold.” I told a lie.
“Ah, sure. You’re right.”
Orino-san nodded and left the room. The screen closed quietly behind her.
I couldn’t say it.
When she didn’t know anything… when she didn’t notice her own abnormality, I was unable to thrust it at her.
That wasn’t like me at all, I thought.
For me to tell a lie and cover up the truth, that was something I’d never done before.
It’s a full moon tonight.
Or perhaps it was more accurate to say a full moon again. This was surely the forty-fifth full moon.
Soaking down to my shoulders in the white-tinted open-air bath, I gazed at the night sky alone. The full moon floating without a cloud in the sky was a beautiful sight to behold.
And yet, my feelings wouldn’t clear.
It’s not like anything happened in particular. And the forty-fifth first day was about to end without anything happening. Perhaps the situation was far more severe than I had imagined.
An endlessly repeating loop.
Where time was unlimited, I thought the greatest problem would be maintaining motivation.
But maybe that wasn’t the case.
A problem that made motivation, mental stress and the like seem inconsequential, a problem coming from a completely different vector had barged in.
Orino-san was acting strange.
And… so was I.
As I don’t maintain my memories, I can’t tell from when we started acting strange, but the fact Kagurai-senpai didn’t say anything about us meant there was a high probability this one was the first.
Something was crumbling.
What we had all treasured and protected, that vague, abstract… something.
If this loop continued, I got the feeling we would reach a point from which there was no turning back.
In the depths of my chest, an anger started to well up towards my own impatience. No, it was a little different from anger. I was simply bewildered by a sensation I had never felt before.
“I wonder what’s wrong with me…”
This was the first time I ever felt so irritated. An unfamiliar anxiety leaned indefinitely on both shoulders. If had had to keep it simple… I was troubled.
At the end of the rope.
“… Do something about this.”
My voice naturally came out.
Feeling as if I was praying to God, I pleaded help from the most reliable person I knew.
For some reason… I got the feeling he could do something about it.
There was very little in this world he was incapable of.
“Help me out here, Kai.”
“I didn’t do anything this time around, nor do I intend to. I’m a complete member of the peanut gallery, meaning my plan is to enjoy this story as but a single reader.”
A rolling sound.
From behind, I heard the glass door open.
“This incident Kagoshima Akira’s party has encountered, put favorably, a midsummer dream, and put poorly, a low-brow comedy. It was simple enough to infiltrate this closed world, but it looks like it’ll resolve itself even if I leave it be, so I very much intend to watch it to its conclusion without lifting a finger.”
I understood that a transparent voice had seeped into the night sky.
That voice gradually grew closer.
“Unlike Akira, I don’t have that much free time.”
But you know, he said.
“If you beg me in such a sad voice, there’s no way I wouldn’t make the trip.”
Gray hair close to white… and white skin as if it rejected the sun’s radiance.
He had a surprisingly beautiful body. While it was a delicate figure I wouldn’t call strong by any means, neither did it give off a feeble feel. Like a tempered sword, I felt a supple strength.
My childhood friend, Shinose Kai.
Made his appearance buck naked.
“… D-Dragoon MS (Metal Storm) Ultimate Version!”
“Drakensberg. A region encompassing the Republic of South Africa’s central plateau.”
“…… I-I’ve got nothing.”
“Yep. It’s my win.”
The game of concentration we started on a whim as we soaked in the bath ended at my complete failure.
I just normally lost!
What’s up with that!?
When I was just barely within the rules, or rather, completely breaking them, I lost fair and square. What’s more, all of Kai’s answers were intellectual. It made me look like a brat for saying nothing but Beyblade bit beasts.
“With Beyblade’s Dragoon as an exception, in Japanese fantasy-type literary productions, Dragoons are often knights who ride dragons, or warriors who fight alongside them, but the original meaning differs. They were indeed soldiers who fought alongside dragons, so it might sound misleading, but the dragon in this instance was a name given to a weapon that breathed fire like the dragons of legend. Meaning they were a horseback cavalry equipped with firearms, and not knights who mounted dragons.”
He even ended it spouting miscellaneous trivia. So this is what it means to be at someone’s mercy. Seeing me seep deeper into the water breathing contrary bubbles, Kai smiled.
“Thinking back, this is the first time we’ve ever taken a bath together.”
“That’s because you would never come over to my house. I invited you time and again.”
“I’ve got some circumstances.”
“I want to play a whole load of things with you.”
“Right. I’ll pray that the day comes.”
Softly parrying my words, Kai gazed at the sky with sentimental eyes.
He came to this guesthouse by pure coincidence, apparently. The place he just happened to drop by in the midst of his journey to find himself was Guesthouse Sunflower, apparently.
Well, it’s a small world, so those coincidences can happen.
“Come to think of it, what’ve you been up to lately? We haven’t met this past week, have we.”
“You had your time filled with remedial lessons. I was—playing with Saijou Mutsuki.”
Saijou-kun was a boy around middle school age I met the other day. He wore glasses, looked childish, and said something incomprehensible about wanting to meet the founder of a movie club or something.
“You’re acquainted with Saijou-kun too?”
“I can’t say we’re acquainted. He doesn’t know who I am. So more specifically, I was using Saijou Mutsuki to play.”
“Hmm. I don’t really get it.”
“If you don’t get it, that’s fine.”
“Yeah. It doesn’t really matter if I get it or not.”
The same old exchange between the two of us.
“It seems Saijou Mutsuki looks up to you.”
Did I have any cool traits someone would look up to?
“It might be closer to say he’s jealous. Whatever the case, it seems like he wants to get along with all sorts of women like you do.”
“Oh, that? … Any man would think so.”
“You have a point.”
Bitter and sweet, he formed his usual smile.
“It’s boring to be the only one talking. Akira, what’s your story been like?”
Kai drew his face close. A wave rose in the bathwater, spreading ripples to the edge.
“When you’re staying buddy-buddy under the same roof as four beautiful women, such a dream-like situation, why are you making such a gloomy face?”
I silently averted my eyes from Kai, sinking a bit further into the water.
I didn’t know why I was so gloomy either. The loop, Kagurai-senpai’s health, Orino-san, and myself. There were so many things to think about, I didn’t know where to start.
But it’s not like I could throw that all at Kai.
The fact that time is looping isn’t something one could believe so easily.
And if I told him the senpai of the club I’m affiliated with was actually a time traveler, I’d be the one treated like a crazy person…
“… Fufu. Haha, hahahah.”
When I thought deeply, Kai rose his voice into an uncontainable laugh.
“Haha. Sorry, sorry. I just thought you were thinking something that missed the mark to a hopeless extent as per usual.”
“… Are you perhaps making fun of me?”
“I’m admiring you.”
“No, I think that line was considerably mocking.”
“I’ve never made fun of you in my entire life. That’s the truth, you know?”
If there’s something you can’t talk about, just tell me what you can, Kai said, so I went right ahead and spoke about my feelings. Without saying a single specific, what’s more, I just said whatever came to mind without my thoughts in order, so I think it became a considerably cryptic explanation; yet as per usual, he made a smile as if he had seen through it all.
Kai said, once I’d finished speaking.
“And then… that’s the whole story.”
“Don’t lie. I can tell when you’re lying, Akira. There’s still something you want to get off your chest, isn’t there?”
He gazed into me with his deep, gentle eyes, and pulled up my true thoughts.
“I get the feeling… Kagurai-senpai already knows everything.”
She knows, but she averts her eyes.
No, she averts her eyes, so she can never know.
I get the feeling she’s gotten something wrong in a fundamental part of the problem.
I feel excessively so.
“… Ah, sorry. You don’t know what I’m talking about, do you.”
I hurriedly apologized, but Kai thought a bit.
“… You’re the same as always. That ability of yours to see through to the true nature of things… no, your power to only see the true nature”
He said. He slowly raised his head and gazed at the moon in the sky.
“Hey, Akira. What do you think Princess Kaguya was thinking?”
Kai suddenly changed the topic.
“Princess Kaguya…? You mean the girl found in the stalk of bamboo?”
I read the picture book when I was a kid, but I only remembered the general outline. As I recall, the original story had her quarreling in her married life, but my knowledge in that field is vague at best.
All I know is that she was originally a resident of the moon, and at the end, she had to return to it.
“As long as you know that, that’s enough.”
“Princess Kaguya was aware that she was of the other world. While knowing she would someday have to return to the moon, she hid her identity and continued to act as it were that she was a person of this country. Forget the affections of the men she drew, she even deceived the parents who raised her. Don’t you think she’s quite the grand villainess?”
“I think… you’re wrong about that.”
I refuted without any basis.
It was rare, but I had no choice but to refute.
“I’m sure Princess Kaguya started to have fun.”
That’s why she couldn’t bring herself to say it to the very end.
If you want to frame her as evil, that might mean she deceived them.
She might have told a lie.
But the time Princess Kaguya spend with the old man and woman was definitely not a lie.
“Just what I’d expect from you.”
Said he with a bitter and sweet smile.
“Just what could be going through her head, I wonder.”
The her Kai spoke of.
Who he was pointing to, I had no id—
A person of another world. Eventually has to return. Hides their identity. Deceives everyone. Isn’t that… signifying Kagurai-senpai?
Then the fact he brought up Princess Kaguya at that timing means… Kai knows her identity? Wait a second. Come to think of it, I ended up going with the flow and accepting it, but there’s no way something as convenient as Kai coincidentally stopping by the guesthouse we just happened to be in could ever realistically happen.
Is it alright for those manga-esque encounter rates to make their way to reality?
In the back of my head, my suspicions simmered up.
When I began noticing the abnormal nature of my childhood friend, bap, he lightly rested his hand on my head.
“You’re breaking character.”
Kai grabbed my head and fixed me in place. He brought his face close enough to kiss me and gazed into both my eyes.
“That’s not like you, Akira. When I say something incomprehensible, you’re supposed to let it slide as incomprehensible babble. ‘Eh? What was that?’ or ‘Mn? Did you say something?’ or ‘Thanks to that sudden gust of wind, your voice didn’t reach my ears,’ it can be anything, just conveniently play it off. Isn’t that who Kagoshima Akira is?”
“This is definitely because Kagurai Monuyumi came out. Even if it’s one out of four, it looks like noticing the truth has begun crumbling that special little character of yours.”
“I was right to keep watch over you. Change of plans. If I leave things be, eventually, either Kagurai Monyumi or the Cage of Death Remnant will resolve this closed world, but I can’t let this go on. Having Akira notice is too great of a loss.”
That’s why… I’ll accelerate the story a bit.
The glare in his eyes transfixed me like a frog staring into the eyes of a snake.
Now that I’ve noticed one out of four I can tell.
I’ve met this Shinose Kai a number of times as well.
Scary, yet somewhat sorrowful, the sublime World of Death.
“You don’t have to worry about a thing, Akira. I’ll lend you a helping hand. So just close your eyes for a bit.”
Unable to go against his words, I closed my eyes like a marionette.
Right ever, I could tell something around me was crumbling without a sound.
This is, this sensation as if the world is bending out of place—
“My 《Finishing Stroke》 is… put bluntly, an invincible skill. A grand, absolute power to overturn the world, what’s more, due to its nature, it doesn’t have any particular limits. So it has no weaknesses.”
From his tone of voice, I understood well that it wasn’t a brag or exaggeration. More so, the opposite. His voice was terribly pessimistic, terribly self-depreciating. This man held no pride or attachment to the ability he possessed. It even felt like he held it in disgust.
“But you know, Akira. While my ability has no weak points, I can’t say the same for my plan.”
“My plan to make the 《Neverending Prologue》does have one fatal flaw.”
A fatal flaw?
I reflexively repeated.
“… And why are you telling me that?”
“Because I’m one of those kind enemy characters from manga and anime who’ll arbitrarily say everything about themselves and reveal their weaknesses even when no one asked.”
Kai chided, though “Kidding,” he immediately revoked that statement
“I’m sure even Saijou Mutsuki could notice this flaw. It’s far too fundamental of a mistake, at this point it’s even idiotic to try covering up. If you were to prick at that weak point, then I’d crumble defeated all too easily, but that’s also in itself, what I desire.”
“All that aside, that’s a conversation for a little further down the line. For now, instead of the princess in the cage, you should go off and save your Princess Kaguya.”
Let’s return to the usual Akira.
“Oh shut it.”
“One-sidedly dragging along a conversation is your bad habit.”
I opened my eyes.
Without averting them from those inhuman pupils before me, I returned the glare.
I faced my childhood friend who’d shown his true colors head on.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’ll let things go your way this time. While as always, I don’t understand a single thing you just said, letting things go your way sounds like it’ll save Kagurai-senpai faster— but let me tell you one thing.”
On the verge of noticing everything,
I cried sour grapes as hard as I could.
“Don’t think we’ll be dancing to your tune forever.”
Kai opened his eyes wide, making a surprised face.
“… Remnants of the 《Book Marker》…? No, could it be this is–”
He grimaced just a bit, but quickly, his mouth curved into a smile.
A somewhat intrigued smile.
“You’re breaking character too hard, Akira. I don’t even know who you are anymore.”
“I get the feeling… Kagurai-senpai already knows everything.”
Half-ignoring my words, Kai rose from the bathwater. The pale skin was exposed to the open air. He quietly closed his eyes.
“Was it for I fell, asleep whilst yearning for her, that she did stop by? Had I known it was a dream, I would not have woken up.”
In a voice that penetrated the atmosphere, Kai sung to himself.
No, that was five, seven, five, seven, seven, so a tanka poem, perhaps?
In that case, would it be more precise to say recited rather than sang?
“Ono no Komachi’s Love song, from the Kokin Wakashu collection.”
He opened his eyes, and looked at me as he spoke.
“It’s a famous poem that was chosen as one of the cards in the Hundred Cards Hundred Poets game. Didn’t you learn it in classic literature?”
“… Why did you suddenly bring it up?”
“I just got into the mood for a reading. Ah, if you want, why don’t you try delivering that song to this Kagurai-senpai of yours?”
“When I heard the story, I was certain that song fit her perfectly. So it’s a present.”
Presenting a poem…
I get the feeling that’s real cold, but I guess it’s fine.
“Since when were you such a pompous prick?”
“You should try acting a bit cooler, Akira. Especially in front of girls.”
By the time I noticed it, Kai was gone.
I thought he planned to stay at the guesthouse, but from what I got from the owner, we were the only guests here. He was always an elusive man, so it wasn’t particularly surprising if he suddenly disappeared at this point.
Knowing of Kai’s absence, I made for the girls’ room. I passed by Orino-san on her way to the bath, so Kagurai-senpai was in the room alone. Having rested a day, her complexion had improved considerably.
“Was it for I fell, asleep whilst yearning for her, that she did stop by? Had I known it was a dream, I would not have woken up.”
I recited the poem Kai entrusted me as is.
Raising her upper body from the futon, after a moment’s blank expression, Kagurai-senpai closed her eyes with a grave countenance. It seems she was reflecting on the poem’s meaning.
“From your… childhood friend, to me?”
“And who is this childhood friend…?”
I tilted my head.
“Umm, Kagurai-senpai, did you get what that means?”
“I told you, didn’t I? There was a time I got hooked on the Hundred Poet Hundred Card game, and I know the meaning of all the poems.”
“No, first I’m hearing of it.”
“… Ah, I see. I didn’t tell you this time.”
Kagurai-senpai gave a troubled laugh and went silent.
To her unreliable form, I resolved myself and opened my mouth.
“Kagurai-senpai. You already know everything , don’t you?”
Without a response, ten, twenty seconds passed. When thirty seconds were about to pass by, “… Soon,” an isolated word leaked out.
“Soon, we should experience a pattern where it’s just me and you, the two of us at this training camp. When the time comes… I’ll tell you everything.”
Kagurai-senpai looked straight at me. There was no longer any panic or hesitation in her eyes.
They were eyes of resolve.
Was the poem the trigger, or did she really know everything from the start? I was unable to decide. But it did seem the story was soon to end.
As if someone pressed the fast-forward button, it was all reaching its resolution at a breakneck pace.