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Chapter 2

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Author: Inukai Anzu Original Source: Kakuyomu Word Count: 4410 characters
Translator: Mui English Source: Re:Library Word Count: 1901 words
Editor(s): Fire

It was nine o’clock in the morning when Inazuki cheerfully left the house. I followed along as she pulled me through the streets. Experiencing memories seemed to include physical contact, as Inazuki walked while holding my hand. Inazuki’s hand was slightly larger and warmer than mine. My hands tended to be on the colder side, so it felt like a good balance.

The place she brought me to was a general store with a cute pastel color roof. She was giving me a proud look, perhaps knowing that I liked lighter tones. Indeed, this shop suited my taste. I think it was the kind of store you’d enjoy just looking at, even if you don’t have anything to buy in mind.

That said…

“Inazuki, it looks like this place isn’t open yet.”

There was a notice on the door stating that the shop would open on October 10th.

It was September 11 now, far too soon for it to be open.

“…Oh. Right, it’s not open yet. We used to come here often before, so it slipped my mind.”

Inazuki laughed, saying she made a mistake. If she chose this shop to stick to that previous timeline setting, she’s quite thorough. I didn’t know how to react.

Has she been planning that previous timeline setting for a long time?

My view of Inazuki softened a bit. Perhaps this was like an extension of the pretend play we do as kids. Maybe she still liked this kind of thing but couldn’t tell her friends, so she pulled me into it. If that’s the case, it’s kind of cute. I feel like I’ve seen an unexpected side of her, who was usually cheerful and mature.

“I see… So, what now? Since it’s not open, should we go back?”

Inazuki squeezed my hand tightly and pulled me along. It looked like something straight out of a ballroom dance, something you wouldn’t see in daily life. Her eyes, as if about to start dancing, stared straight at me. Her eyelashes were long. It seemed like you could balance lots of toothpicks or matches on them.

“We’re not going back. Let’s go to the next place.”

Without waiting for my reply, Inazuki started walking. She was quite a hectic one.

There was probably a tenfold difference in our respective flows of time. While I leisurely had tea in the morning, she could probably play and come back within that time. I liked this mismatched flow of time.

Even though I couldn’t quite grasp the pace of time alone, interacting with someone else made the differences apparent. Finding similarities and differences with other people was a limitless, endless activity, but at the same time, it warmed my heart.

It felt like Inazuki’s flow of time was passing through her hand into mine. So I quickened my pace, more than usual.

The interior was unusually colorful, and the array of cakes was just as vibrant. No matter which way you looked at it, it was a cake buffet.

Inazuki had told me not to make breakfast today, and it turned out it was so we could fully enjoy the buffet.

It was my first time coming to a place like this, so I felt a bit restless. But Inazuki was confident, so I tried to puff out my chest a bit too. However, since she was taller and bigger in every way, it felt a bit deflating.

“Inazuki, you seem quite used to places like this.”
“Hmm? Well, yeah. I’ve been coming here for decades.”
“Decades, not just ten-odd years?” I asked, puzzled.
“Decades. Well, technically, it’s around twenty years.”

Another one of her bizarre statements.

The kids who only knew Inazuki from school would’ve been surprised to see her like this. I was surprised too since I mostly knew her from school. Every time she made one of these statements, it was like radio waves pricking my eardrums, making me uneasy.

Radio waves don’t cause shocks, right?

But I probably was getting shocked. The oddball Inazuki’s bizarre statements zapped me hard. I wondered if someday an antenna for Inazuki would grow on my head so I could receive her signals clearly. Though, I might get electrocuted to death before that happened.1

“Twenty years. So, it’s not that you’ve lived multiple lifetimes, right?” I said while clattering the tongs. I tended to do this at bakeries, too.

It wasn’t that I… was intimidating my target to weaken it. It was probably a habit. It might have been bad manners but my friends did it too, so it was probably normal.

“I’ve just been repeating the three years of high school over and over.”
“That’s amazing. Have you experienced anything fun?”
“I became lovers with you, Iroha.”

A blatant confession in broad daylight. Saying it in this kind of place was bound to invite misunderstandings, but perhaps it wasn’t a misunderstanding. Or I guess it was, after all, as the current me wasn’t Inazuki’s lover.

Still, would being lovers with me really be that fun?

I wasn’t trying to put myself down, but I didn’t think being with me would have been particularly enjoyable. I wasn’t a great conversationalist, I didn’t have outstanding looks, nor did I have any remarkable skills.

What I could offer to others was a slow passage of time. I was good at grabbing the hands of people who were always in a hurry and telling them to take it easy. Not everything was better when taken slowly, but I knew that the more one rushed, the deeper they sank into the mire and the harder it became. So, I tried to remain calm and composed. It was a skill I had acquired in that quiet, desolate house.

“I see. It’s quite a bargain if you have a lot of time, and you can have many lovers.”

I picked up a few small, colorful cakes and placed them on my plate before setting the tongs down. Inazuki had piled five large pieces of cake onto her plate.

Could she really eat all that?

A friend of mine had once joked that sweets were the fuel for girls. Maybe that was true for Inazuki as well. Although I was also a girl, I wasn’t particularly fond of sweets. However, I did love cute things, so seeing these small cakes made my heart flutter a bit.

“It was only you.”
“Hmm?”
“Despite repeating time for so long, the only lover I ever had was you, Iroha.”

After we returned to our seats, she said this with an unexpectedly serious expression.

Seeing that look, I felt a bit of an older sisterly instinct kick in, and I responded with a serious face as well.

“That is an honor.”

I had never taken pretend play seriously, but if that was what Inazuki needed, I was willing to try. Thanks to her, I hadn’t felt lonely for the past month.

I hated being alone. I hated the loneliness and the silence. But when I found myself in a crowded, lively place, I realized just how deeply lonely I was. Everyone else seemed to be having fun, and when they went home, they surely had families waiting for them.

When they said “Good morning,” they would get a “Good morning” in return. That was the kind of life they led. For me, “Good morning” was nothing more than an empty phrase thrown into a desolate room.

“Yes, you should feel honored to be loved by this Misora-chan,” she said, flashing a smug smile at me.

I stabbed a fork into the green cake on my plate. Its surface was coated with gelatin or something similar, making it shine under the shop’s lighting. It was so cute that it felt almost too precious to eat, but cakes existed to be eaten, so I took a bite.

Despite its cute appearance, the cake’s sweetness was anything but cute. It was an aggressively sweet flavor that clung to the back of my tongue.

“Can I have a bite of that?” she asked, pointing to the half-eaten, bite-sized cake on my plate. I offered her my plate.

“No, no. When someone asks for a bite, you do it like this,” Inazuki said, cutting a small piece of her cake and holding it out to me with her fork.

I had done this with friends before, but it felt different doing it with someone who boldly claimed to have been my lover in the previous timeline. If it were a friend, I would have playfully said, “Say ahh,” and given them a bite.

Even though Inazuki was a friend, I had instinctively avoided doing that. Her talk about being lovers and stuff had numbed my brain with electric shock, making me act unlike myself. Not that I knew what my true self was really like. I wondered if this former lover of mine knew. Someday, I wanted to ask.

“Is it good?”

When I opened my mouth to take a bite of her cake, she smiled at me.

“Yeah, it’s good.”

Sweet, sweet, sweet.

My mind was overwhelmed with the word sweet. It probably wouldn’t have been this way if it was just the taste on my tongue. Inazuki’s eyes and voice were oddly sweet, making my head feel sweet as well. Even though I knew it was just pretend play, my heart felt warm and light.

“Okay, now it’s my turn,” she said, waiting with her mouth open. Her brightly colored brown hair made her look like a baby sparrow.

I was probably too inexperienced to be a mother bird, though. I used the fork to spear a piece of cake and brought it to her mouth. Her well-shaped lips closed around the fork, and her cheeks moved as she ate.

“Mm, it’s delicious.”

She smiled at me, so I smiled back. Just that small interaction filled my heart, making me think I was such a simple person.

“I see. You can have more if you want.”

When I said so, Inazuki gave me a somewhat perplexed look.

“Iroha, you’re the type who would give one of the two ice creams you have if someone asked for it, right?”
“If they wanted it, I would. That way, both of us can be happy.”
“But if you give away one of the only two you have, won’t your happiness decrease?”
“No, it won’t. If it makes the other person happy, that’s the greatest happiness for me.”

The happiness I could create on my own was quite small. Since my ability to generate happiness was weak, I believed it was much better to perform actions that could make others happy. Although I sometimes compared myself to the happy faces of others, I still felt happy when I saw them. So, if someone asked me to share something, I would gladly do so.

“Iroha, you’re not very greedy, are you?”
“I think I’m full of desires. Probably.”
“It’s nothing compared to me,” Inazuki said, and then she laughed softly. “…I like that about you, Iroha.”

What did she mean by “that”? It seemed odd to ask, so I said nothing and cut all the cakes in half.

As I shared the cakes with Inazuki and ate them myself, I felt incredibly happy, almost foolishly so.





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Footnotes:

  1. This whole radio wave paragraph is a bit hard to translate directly. Iroha calls Inazuki “Denpa-chan” (radio wave girl) and her statements “Denpa Hatsugen” (radio wave remarks). The term Denpa (radio waves) is a slang used to describe people who say or do crazy/delusional things. It’s as if the person is receiving (and sending) signals that no one else can understand/hear.
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