Two hours of practice passed. Jindou and I had to go to my part-time job soon, so we finished practicing for the day.
“Shirasugi, you’ve gotten a lot better, actually.”
Sasashino praised me and offered me a sports drink. I thanked her as I took the drink and took a sip. The coolness spread through my tired body.
“Agh, Misora-neesan really wiped the floor with me, and she’s basically a shut-in.”
She had so much power in her somehow. She lost a bit of her edge as we kept playing, but that’s expected. Jindou was also really good at it. Sasashino looked toward the showers with a tired look on her face.
“I didn’t know those two were that good. It feels like they’re at the pro level.”
It’s because they’re also from the future, Sasashino. But I won’t tell you that.
“Sasashino, are you going to take a shower before we leave?”
“I’m just going to go home and take a nice bath. I don’t have a part-time job to run to.”
“Alright. You should ask Misora-neesan to walk you home.”
“I’m too nervous. She’s way too pretty.”
“Coming from you?”
I looked at Sasashino as she mumbled a ‘thank you’. What’s with her? Does she not know she’s also beautiful?
“Aren’t you used to getting compliments?”
“There’s a huge difference when it comes from a nobody and when it’s from someone you like!”
Sasashino’s ears became red and she turned her face away as we sat down together on a bench.
“We’re going to practice tomorrow too, Shirasugi. When you get home, make sure you take a bath to relax your muscles.”
“I think I’ll sleep like a log anyway because of work.”
“No giving up.”
Because I had to go to work, I couldn't put a moist cloth on my muscles to relax them, so taking a bath when I got home was essential. I should probably call my parents if Misora-neesan asks me to stay over again today. It’d be the third day in a row that I haven’t come home at all. Though since we played tennis together, she was probably satisfied anyway.
I asked Sasashino what I’d been thinking about.
“Do you think we’ll actually win the position of class representatives?”
“The hard part about sports is that no two games are ever the same, no matter how many times I loop. But I’ll do everything I can to get that position. Shirasugi, you just need to focus on hitting the ball and smashing whenever you see an opening.”
“I think it’ll be hard to beat the tennis club’s players with only one or two days of practice…”
“The two of us make a good pair. You’re a natural at the game and your smash is already better than mine.”
“You’re overestimating me. I’m not that good.”
“I’m not very good at smashing. I’ve been practicing, though.”
Speaking of smashes, I missed a few today too.
“I see. I feel a bit proud that I have a role to play too.”
“I’m relying on you.”
As we talked, Misora-neesan and Jindou came out of the changing room. Jindou got a jealous look on her face when she saw the two of us together.
“Guys sure change quickly, hm?”
“It just takes longer for us to try our hair.”
I looked at my watch. If we walked, we’d be just in time for our shift. We’d be taking the bus though, so we had plenty of time. There’s no guarantee that the bus won’t be late though, so it’s better to get there early.
“Jindou, if you don’t need to do anything else, let’s get going right now.”
“Yeah. I’ll go get my stuff.”
Jindou turned around and jogged over to her locker. I called out to Misora-neesan while I waited.
“You’re taking the car, right? Can you drive Sasashino home too?”
“Sure, I don’t mind. Especially since she’s your partner. …I have to cherish her.”
Sasashino visibly shuddered at Misora-neesan’s suggestive smile.
You’re that bad at handling her? What happened to you in the future?
We all left the tennis club’s court together. Jindou and I saw off Misora-neesan and Jindou then started walking toward the bus stop.
“I was wondering why you didn’t ask her to give me a lift to the coffee shop too, but I guess there’s only so much space in her car.”
Jindou looked back at the car. It wasn’t a luxury car or anything, just a four-seater passenger car. All four seats were full, though: there were two maids, one of which was driving, Misora-neesan, and Sasashino.
“Don’t you have a limo or something?”
“It’d be useless.”
We boarded the bus and took a seat at the back.
“Hey, Senpai. I talked to your cousin while we were showering. Let’s all practice together again tomorrow too.”
“You sure? We’ve got work again tomorrow.”
I was pretty tired after practicing for that long. And I had to go to work now, so it wasn’t easy for me. I’m glad the two of them are willing to practice with me, though. Both of them had plenty of training in the future, so they were the best teachers I’ve ever had.
TN: The author wrote “the two of them”, which is weird since there were three girls from the future, all really skilled… No idea why it’s like this. Pointing it out in case it ends up being later.
Jindou had a satisfied look on her face.
“This Haru Jindou won’t let anyone surpass her in terms of how useful they are to Shirasugi-senpai. I’ll knock down anyone that even comes close!”
“That’s disturbing… Well, if you say you’re going to be useful, I don’t mind having you around, I suppose.”
“Ehehe, say it again!”
What’s more disturbing is that she’s trying to get me to commit to her.
I looked out the window. The sun had already gone down, but the streetlights were only just starting to come on. A shiver went up my spine when a truck suddenly pulled into the lane next to the bus.
“…Hey, when am I going to die?”
I’d been curious about this from the very start, but I wanted to know even more now, since I had a goal at a specific date in the future. So I asked her. She hugged her bag at me and looked at me.
“You won’t die. It’s why I came back from the future.”
“Even then, I want to be more careful.”
“…When you die is pretty blurry. Sometime just after first semester ends and to sometime just after the second semester starts. So basically, at some point during summer break, you die from a fire.”
“ーFrom a fire?”
Wasn’t it from a truck accident? The futures Sasashino and Jindou are coming from might be different.
Jindou hugged her bag tighter.
“Shirasugi-senpai, right now you should be more worried about Sasashino-senpai.”
“Huh? Why? …No, you can’t mean…”
“It’s exactly what you think. She’s going to die in a truck accident before the finals of the tennis tournament.”
I guessed it. Sasashino was going to die. The reason, oddly enough, was the very truck accident Sasashino told me about.
Jindou kept looking over at me while facing forward.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I originally got to know you around the end of the first semester, and by that time Sasashino-senpai had already passed away, so I never got to know her. I tried to save her countless times, ever since the first loop where we did the latte art competition together, but she was in a different time and place every time it happened.”
“No, thanks for telling me. I can do a lot more when I know what’s going to happen.”
Sasashino told me I died because of a truck accident.
Jindou told me Sasashino is going to die because of a truck accident.
It’s just a guess, but Sasashino probably got run over trying to protect me. Either way, when you die, you can’t go back to the past anymore. From Sasashino’s perspective, I keep getting killed from getting run over, and if she manages to save me, she dies instead. If we somehow both manage to survive, then her motive for going to the past disappears. A happy ending. I’m curious about the details of the future where I burn to death as Jindou says, but right now, my priority is to avoid the impending truck accident.
“Different time and different place, huh? Anything distinctive about the driver or the truck?”
“I don’t know that either. It was always a hit-and-run. I tried looking into it, but the driver wasn’t caught in any of the loops. An unavoidable fate, you can call it.”
Her voice was normal, but she had a conflicted look on her face. If it’s an unavoidable fate, then I won’t be able to save myself either.
“I’ll be cautious. I know what to look out for now.”
We got off the bus and started walking toward the coffee shop. As we walked up to the store, we saw Miyano-san putting up a sign with the menu of the Western-style bar.
“Hey, you’re here. I heard from Takeuchi-san. Tennis practice, huh?”
“Yes. We were playing doubles with Misora-neesan and Sasashino just before.”
“Ah, youth… I don’t think my body can move like that anymore, but maybe I’ll give it a try again after all these years…”
An unprecedented tennis boom in the Matsuse family?
We went around to the back door, changed, put on our aprons, and went into the shop. Since it was our first time working at a Western-style bar, we also learned how to serve customers. We checked the times reserved by certain customers then got to work. Jindou worked quickly and efficiently.
“She’s working as hard as usual. You’ve found a wonderful girlfriend, Tomoe-kun.”
“She’s not my girlfriend.”
“Good luck with her, Tomoe-kun.”
As soon as Miyano-san entered the kitchen, he said that to me. He’s obviously a big fan of Jindou.
Jindou went around wiping the tables as I swept the floor. The floor tends to get dirty because the customers come in in their outdoor shoes, but there’s something nice about collecting it all into the dustpan. The sense of superiority from ‘beating’ it and getting it all in one place is addictive.
“…Senpai, you’d make quite the housewife…”
“Tomoe-kun is just used to helping out the main family’s daughter and all the other relatives.
“Hey, don’t treat me like a well-trained housewife!”
I’m only in my second year of high school, so I’m not old enough to get married, let alone be a housewife.
As soon as we were ready to open the shop, a group of university students came in. They had a reservation for a group of seven. They exchanged casual greetings with Miyano-san, so they probably knew each other.
“They study robotics at the university that’s close to us.”
“I guess they have a robotics lab there.”
I brought the lemon sour cocktails and beers they ordered to their table and went back to the counter.
Jindou, who was on the phone, turned toward Miyano-san.
“Someone wants a reservation for five tomorrow at eight, is that alright?”
“At eight? Uhh, yeah, as long as it’s two hours before ten, it’s fine.”
“Okay, I’ll let them know.”
She turned away and told the customers.
“…Thank you for making a reservation. Tomorrow from eight to ten for five people.”
Jindou put down the phone and turned back toward Miyano-san.
“He said they won’t be dressing formally.”
Jindou quickly wrote down the details of the reservation in the calendar. Since it was the busiest time of the year, the shop was very popular.
“Onii-san, may I please order?”
“Yes, right away.”
I put on a smile and went to take the university student’s order. I took an order for french fries, mushroom stuffed with prosciutto, and the bread of the day. I then passed the order on to Miyano-san. While I took his order, two more university students and a man that looked like a professor came in together. They didn’t have a reservation and were probably coming after a seminar.
“Please take a seat at any table.”
Jindou helped another customer at the counter as I showed the group to a table.
“Ah, I didn’t know you started serving latte art. It says it can be anything, is that so?”
I looked over at Jindou in response to the professor’s question. Jindou looked at me with a confident look on her face.
“The person that makes them looks like she’s ready for anything, so you can choose anything. She’s pretty good at it.”
“Eh… Then, please draw a maitake mushroom.”
TN: Maitake mushroom = hen-of-the-woods mushroom. It’s an edible mushroom with medicinal properties that grows in a spherical cluster that’s about as big as a basketball. https://eattheplanet.org/hen-of-the-woods-powerful-medicinal-and-edible-mushroom/
The two college students, the ones that probably came here after a seminar with the professor, chuckled.
“I’m a biology professor with a specialization in fungi. If you can’t draw it, I’ll come up with something else.”
But while we were talking, Jindou had already started working on it. Is she really going to draw a maitake mushroom on a latte?
Soon after, Jindou brought me a latte. A maitake mushroom was floating on the milk, skillfully drawn with white lines. The professor pushed up his glasses and stared at it, then gave Jindou a thumbs up.
“It’s amazing. It looks like you drew it while looking at the real thing. You’re really good at this. See, boys, this is what sketching is all about.”
The professor, who looked really excited, was trying to show his students Jindou’s handmade latte art. He even took a picture of it with his phone. The other customers must’ve heard the professor’s praise. It felt like a lot of people ordered it as they ate. Miyano-san was also very happy.
Jindou walked up to me with a smug look on her face and complained about the art.
“…Hahh, every time. The professor asks for latte art of some sort of mushroom.”
Jindou did say she’s already looped many times after they first played the latte art game. Meaning, she’s been practicing her mushroom latte art many, many times in the future. No wonder she was able to do something that absurd. Jindou seemed to have come up with something cunning and looked at me with a small laugh.
“If this goes viral on the internet, I’ll break through your defenses with latte art that shows Senpai and I together.”
“Pretty much all of the people that would see this on the internet would be strangers though, right?”
She won’t break through any of my defenses with that.
It got busier and busier until 9 PM, then the customers slowly started to leave, and by 10 PM only a few couples that lived close by were quietly drinking at the counter.
“Tomoe-kun, Jindou-san, thank you for today. You’re good now. The labour laws won’t let me keep you any later, heh.”
“Thank you for your hard work.”
Jindou’s voice was soft. Maybe she was trying not to bother the couples, or maybe she was just tired.
We got our pay for the day and left the store together. There was a sign out in front of the store that said the shop was open until eleven. I guess Miyano-san can handle the last hour on his own.
Jindou interlocked her fingers and raised her hands over her head, stretching her back.
“I’m so tired today. I’m going to sleep so well.”
“Me too. I can’t wait to get home.”
“But you’ll walk me home, right?”
As you’d expect, we got used to this routine after three days of it. We got on the bus to Jindou’s house. While we were on our way, her parents sent her a text, offering to pick her up, but she refused.
“My parents really go out of their way sometimes.”
“It’s nice that they do. It’s sad that you don’t appreciate it enough.”
“That’s not what I mean.”
I still think you’re wrong, though… While I might be going a bit crazy from getting told I’ll die soon by three people from the future, even I’m not bold enough to get carried away because of a girl. Rejecting a ride home just to spend a bit more time with me…
“Our neighbour saw us yesterday while he was walking his dog. The text they sent earlier was probably their way of telling me that they know.”
“Another for me to go straight home.”
“If tomorrow was the weekend, I’d want to go to a park with you!”
“Ahh, it’s only Wednesday, though.”
“You sounded disappointed? Yay!”
“Can’t win with you.”
She’s way too optimistic.
It was completely dark when we got off the bus and walked down the street.
“Not a parent in sight. Nobody tailing us. No nosy neighbours. You’re safe, Senpai!”
“What kind of family and neighbours do you have…?”
Were her parents going to team up with all their neighbours to confirm their suspicions that their daughter has a boyfriend? That’s the kind of teamwork you only see from some super-strong team at a sports event.
“Even though it’s already spring, it’s still cold this late at night, isn’t it?”
Though she said that, she didn’t seem to be in a rush to get home. She instead walked slower.
I matched her walking speed. It’s not cold enough to see your breath, but it’s still chilly.
“I’m not your pet.”
“Please let me borrow your hand.”
“I’m not a cat either, coaxing me like that.”
“Aaa, jeez! You know what I meant! I was trying to say ‘let’s hold hands’! ーCan’t you pull your hand out of your pocket already?!”
I resisted Jindou’s pull on my arm as she tried to get my hand out of my pocket. She struggled a bit more and then stopped. She looked at me with a pout, her face almost against my shoulder.
“You’re really mean, Senpai!”
“When you try to get me to do it like that, it makes me want to find something else that works. Why don’t you try using your pockets too, Jindou?”
Just when I thought I was in the clear, she stuffed her hand into my pocket without any hesitation. The air that was in my pocket, which was slowly warming up, suddenly became cold again from her hand.
“Woah, it’s warm!”
“Hey. What are you doing to my warm pocket, Jindou?”
“Let the power of my love warm you back up!”
“Though it got cold the moment you put your hand in, didn’t it?”
“It always gets hot when I do this. I’m from the future, so I can say that for sure.”
Jindou told me that so confidently, but what she was saying was completely different from how it actually was. She started walking again, so I had no choice but to start walking too. Jindou tried her hardest to hold my hand inside my pocket the way a girlfriend would, but I skillfully avoided it. We ended up settling in my pocket with the backs of our hands together. We walked directly to her house without making any detours. Even if we wanted to, though, the only thing there was on the way was a small park.
“Sasashino-senpai is getting closer to you by pairing up with you, so I can’t get lazy. I feel like she’ll beat me.”
“Sasashino said the same thing when we started working together at the coffee shop.”
If she didn’t think the same, she wouldn’t have gone to the coffee shop with us.
“Then that means she’s catching up. So I have to make a move to stay ahead! After the tournament, let’s go see a movie?”
“Any movies you recommend?”
“Whatever movie we see right now I won’t be able to watch with you in the future, so let’s watch a B-movie! A funny one.”
A B-movie, huh… I heard of one recently.
“I think there was a movie where a venomous spider slips into a spaceship’s cargo and uses zero gravity to take out the crew members one by one.”
“What’s it called?”
“A venomous spider on a journey in space.”
“Then that’s settled. It’s not funny but sounds interesting.”
“It’s interesting? We have completely different tastes.”
“You’re the one that brought it up though?!”
“We’re here. Well then, see you tomorrow.”
“Yeah, see you tomorrow.”
We arrived at Jindou’s house and she pulled her hand out of my pocket. The small pocket suddenly felt a lot bigger, and I found myself unconsciously feeling a bit lonely.
“Oh? What’s this? You’re suddenly feeling a bit lonely? Would you like to warm up in my house?”
“I’ve got my own home to go back to. Sono-san will keep me warm.”
My cat is waiting for me at home. There’s no better reason to want to go.
I stared at the hand Jindou pulled out from my pocket. Did she feel as lonely as I did?
Just as I thought that, Jindou looked at me with determination in her eyes.
“I’ll never wash my hands.”
“When you get home, wash not only your hands but also your mouth.”
“Only if we hold hands tomorrow too. Good night, Senpai!”
The curtains in Jindou’s living room opened and a man that looked like her dad flashed his muscles, wearing a Setsubun demon mask.
“ーHey, Dad! Don’t show your muscles like that!”
I heard Jindou’s voice come from inside the house. The curtains closed. I turned around and walked home, her lively family behind me.
ーー “Hello, hello, you youth out late at night. How are you spending your time while forgetting all about RABBIT-chan, Master?”
For the first time in a while, my phone turned itself on.
“RABBIT, staying up late is the enemy of beauty. Good night.”
ーー “Even though it’s only half past ten. You should know that there’s a saying that rabbits die when they’re too lonely.”
“It’s just a saying.”
ーー “Do you think a herbivore that dies of loneliness will survive in the wild? I don’t know about those soft ones that were bred and tamed by humans, but RABBIT-chan has to live in the wilderness, you know?”
“…Well, that doesn’t sound good.”
ーー “Your sympathetic voice is so nice! Your misery and sadness over me make me happy, Master!”
I couldn’t tell if it was being serious or not, but I’d look stupid if I asked.
“So? What do you want?”
ーー “I want to be taken care of. And also, I’m sure you’d want to ask me a few questions?”
“Ah, right. Like how I died, for example.”
RABBIT let out a small laugh when it heard my honest question.
ーー “If you look at it from the side, doesn’t it look like Master is trying to make an app predict the future? That’s funny~”
“But you actually know, don’t you?”
ーー “It would be misleading to say I know. It’s rather that I’ve experienced it. After all, the future is different every time. Even the way we started our conversation just now is different.”
The bunny girl on my screen laughed and put an index finger on each cheek, then nodded its head.
ーー “Master dies in a truck accident, but the time and place are different every time.”
“That’s also what she said…”
ーー “The same? Ahh, no, no, please be more considerate. The world would be worse off if it never gets to see RABBIT’s cute persona from the future. Let’s not talk about other people from the future.”
The world being worse off aside, what RABBIT knew about the future was incredibly important. Whether it could be trusted, though, I didn’t know. What the app is saying makes sense.
I looked at the character in a bunny girl outfit on my screen. It played with its virtual pocket watch object with a smile that reminded me of the Cheshire Cat.
ーー “Oops, RABBIT-chan has made a mistake!”
“What is it? What did you do wrong?”
Maybe there’s a different cause of death?
ーー “The world wouldn’t be worse off if Master kept RABBIT-chan all to himself. Master, take good care of me, okay?”
That’s what it was. I sighed with disappointment and stared at my phone screen. When I remembered that this app on my phone couldn’t tell if I was looking at it or not, I sighed again and relaxed.
“…I feel like erasing it…”
ーー “Aaa, Scary! Well, RABBIT-chan will be useful for you at least for a while. While I am, let’s get along. Right, Master?”
“How exactly will you be useful?”
ーー “Didn’t I tell you? About the future?”
After saying that, RABBIT suddenly turned my phone back off, just as suddenly as it turned it on.
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