Chapter 2: A Story that Began with Being Told that This is the Last Time

“...You’ve all worked hard up till now... …This is the last time.”


Including Yaegashi Taichi, only the five second years were present in the Cultural Research Club after school. The two first years were absent due to previous engagements.

As though he had been waiting for such a moment ― probably chosen at his own discretion ― he had appeared and uttered this sentence. It was two days after they had gotten their path surveys, and the setting was their clubroom.

“...What… did you say?” asked Nagase Iori.

“...I said you’ve all worked hard up till now…”

“No, after that!” Inaba Himeko shouted.

“Ahh… I think I said something along the lines of… this is the last time… Ahh, that’s right…”

His trifling tone was the same, and his listless attitude had not changed. Emitting an inhuman aura before them was Yamaboshi High School physics teacher Gotou Ryuuzen. Yet he was only Gotou in appearance, and should not be addressed as such currently. The thing residing in Gotou’s body called itself―

<Heartseed>.

The [being] that had become fixated on the Cultural Research Club and instigated several bizarre phenomena.

“Wait, what do you mean, ‘last’...!?”

“Last… I can only describe it as final… Kiriyama-san…”

“So what do you mean by ‘final’…?” Kiriyama Yui said in a quavering voice. From beside her, Aoki Yoshifumi leaned forward protectively.

“Who would believe anything a lying, misleading bastard like you says?!”

“Whoa, whoa, Aoki-san… Have I ever lied to you when explaining something…? I will leave out important details at times… or casually gloss over them… but I have never lied… I’m sorry… it seems that I indeed have lied numerous times to you… Especially at the very beginning.”

“Are you trying to confuse us with these meaningless words…?” Taichi spoke up, his alarm rising. <Heartseed> had only approached the first years during the last phenomenon. Because of this, since the phenomenon before that, Taichi and the others had gone almost half a year without confronting <Heartseed> like this.

He wasn’t particularly emotional.

It was just that various memories were awakening, and along with them, a hatred.

He kept warning himself not to lose himself, to handle the situation calmly, and forget what had happened for now, but when he saw those squinted eyes, those saggy shoulders, and worst of all, that uninterested attitude, he could not keep his cool. Hatred welled up within him without his control.

“Just keep it together for now.” Inaba said calmly, and exhaled. She was somewhat heated herself, but kept trying to remain calm. Taichi understood her. The others seemed to follow suit too. The four of them exchanged glances, and handed the stick to Inaba. Of course, they did not neglect to prepare for battle stations, ready to help her at any time.

“...So, why are you suddenly showing up and talking about ‘the last time’?”

“Ahh… it’s simple, really… I’ve done all that I can do…”

“‘All that you can do’, meaning, other guys… like <Number Two>, might show up again?”

“...That’s… impossible… Probably.”

Nagase couldn’t resist interjecting: “And there’s still a ‘probably’!”

“Don’t say that, I hope you all will believe me… Although, Nagase-san… many things have happened to you that may make that impossible… I think… you all have worked very hard in the past… so this time… yes… is a bonus stage…”

“You call it a bonus, but it’s just another one of those shitty unreasonable phenomena, isn’t it?”

“We don’t want anything, just leave us alone!”

Inaba fired back first, and Kiriyama followed up with a loud rejection.

Inaba clicked her tongue and asked: “...Has it started already, like previous times? I don’t seem to remember anything strange happening yet as of late.”

“Could it be… the two first years again―” Taichi muttered, the terror of the situation making his body quake.

“...Hold on, hold on… the phenomenon has not begun yet, Inaba-san… Yaegashi-san…”

<Heartseed>’s lips seemed to be curling upwards in enjoyment.

It looked like enjoyment ― Yes, normally so inscrutable, he was showing unusual emotion now.

“...It begins now…”

Beginning after the declaration. This was something that had not happened before.

<Heartseed>: always making tiny change after change and changing in tiny ways himself. Taichi and the others had the premonition that when his changes reached a certain degree, something [new] would come out of it.

“By the way… nothing will happen… to you all.”

“...Huh? If nothing will happen, then why the hell are you here?” Inaba said, completely incredulous.

“Ahh… that’s why I said… I’m here to offer the bonus stage… and chatting with you all about this… has made me tired… so I’ll start explaining…”

“You’re as arrogant as ever, shithead.”

The five of them sat into their chairs, and <Heartseed> stood at the door. There were only a few meters between them, but the distance felt like an infinite, irreplaceable alienation, like the difference between the heavens and the earth.

“Anyway, this time… you all can see the wishes… the desires of other people… like you’re in a dream…”

“Seeing the wishes of other people… like we’re in a dream?” Nagase parroted.

“Yes, dreaming of other’s wishes… Ahh… might as well summarize it in a phrase… In other words, you all will be able to see [dreams]... [dreams] called wishes… from dreams of the future… to small, tiny desires about just wanting to do something… in any case, they’re called dreams…”

It sounded like a very detailed explanation, but they could just make out a haughty side. Was this what people called superficial politeness?

“Anyway… I plan to let you all see them at random… images of the [dreams] other people have of the future… Ahh… you should be able to hear the sound too, I believe...? You will all [dream] when asleep too, similar to that method…”

“Seeing [dreams] called wishes like you’re actually asleep… similar to [Emotion Transmission], you mean? Back then we were able to [feel] other’s [emotions], and this time we’ll be to [see] what others' [dreams look like]...”

Inaba immediately began analyzing. Even her natural skepticism did not make her forget to process information.

“So, everything from dreams of the future to the tiny desires of everyday life will be included within the word [dreams], right? But pulling this sort of stunt similar to [Emotion Transmission] with us now isn’t going to make anything special happen, I think?”

“Inaban’s right! We’re stronger now, and won’t lose to that sort of trick!”

“...Ahh… that’s not it, I should have been more clear… so…”


―You all will be seeing… [other people’s] dreams. You will not be seeing… each other’s dreams.

―Ahh… I say [other people]... but that’s limited to people in this school only.


“What… y-you mean… you’re kidding… for real?...” Kiriyama murmured, embracing her body with one arm.

Taichi’s brain was slowly catching up to the situation. The full story slowly unfolding in his mind made him deeply afraid.

“...You all will be able to see… the [dreams] of everyone in this school other than you all… Ahh… and you will not be able to see Uwa-san and Enjouji-san’s [dreams] either… because they have gotten involved with me before… Ah, that was useless information… Ahh… Oh well…”

<Heartseed> continued to explain in a tone severely lacking in sincerity.

Taichi and the other four would be able to see, at random, [images] of things people desired. [Images] were the basis, but they also came with [sound].

Images would suddenly come to their minds. As soon as it began, they would understand as a matter of fact that it was the phenomenon, and they would learn a certain amount of information. The information could be something recent, or a longtime wish, but in most cases they would [dream] of what that person was strongly concerned about and what occupied their mind.

The ones seeing the [dreams] would be the five second years of the Cultural Research Club. The ones the [dreams] belonged to would be ― excluding themselves, Chihiro, and Enjouji ― the entire population of Yamaboshi High School. When they asked whether teachers were included, <Heartseed> had responded with a vague “Ahh… probably…?”

In addition, at times several of them may view the same [dream] at once. The time of the event and identity of whoever's [dream] it was were chosen at random, but in most cases they would see the [dream] of someone beside them. Moreover, if they had a preference for someone, or thought about things related to them, it might become easier to view that particular person’s [dreams]...

“...Well, I think that’s the gist of the explanation… As you all know… there is no danger whatsoever to you all this time… a bona-fide bonus stage… Ahh… How magnificent.”

Just as <Heartseed> was saying, at a glance this phenomenon seemed harmless to them. But the fact that it roped in people other than the Cultural Research Club made Taichi feel a bit disconcerted.

“Regarding this [power]... you may use it in any way you like… Because this is the last time… I would like to observe from as close a distance as possible…”

“As close a distance as possible, meaning?” Taichi demanded.

“I mean… as close a distance as possible… It’s the last time after all…”

Another emphasis of [last time]. It did not seem like he was bluffing.

“Depending on how you use it… you’ll be able to do magnificent things… and this time you don’t need to worry… about whether things will [become fascinating]...”

Things didn’t need to become fascinating? Wasn’t that <Heartseed>’s original goal?

“If you all like this gift… I am considering whether or not to let you see more [dreams]... as repayment for letting me see [fascinating] things… Think of it as… a gesture of my gratitude.”

<Heartseed> spread open his arms exaggeratedly but slowly.

Taichi didn’t feel anger, nor fear; just unease.

<Heartseed> said that this was the last time. He didn’t seem to be planning on inconveniencing them. But strange things will be happening to everyone else.

The others seemed unsure of how to respond to this, half-hearted expressions on their faces… No, except for one person.

Only Inaba Himeko sat with an upright pose, arms crossed over her chest, looking at him with contempt.

Yes, even as everyone else was still steeped in confusion, Inaba was always one step ahead. They felt guilty for constantly depending on each other, but it would be better to leave this one to her.

“Oh, I see.”

A curt response.

Inaba snorted. What?

<Heartseed> and Inaba stared at each other.

Inaba remained calm and composed.

“Well, I just want to make sure. Will the person whose [dreams] we see ― that is everyone else apart from us in this school ― know that their [dreams] were spied upon?”

“...No… They won’t know a thing…”

“Thought so. If they found out, then we’d have to explain and keep their mouths shut. It’d be a pain.” Inaba said triumphantly.

“...You look like you’re having a lot of fun… Inaba-san.”

What was <Heartseed> thinking, seeing Inaba like this?

“I’m just sympathetic of your idiocy. Didn’t expect a problem with such a simple answer from you.”

“...Haaah… As one would expect from Inaba-san for figuring it out so quickly… But… did you think I was unaware of it…?”

“Sore loser, are you?”

“...Who can say…”

<Heartseed> and Inaba fell silent once more, staring at each other.

The fierce mind game playing out between the two was out of Taichi’s realm of comprehension.

<Heartseed> was the first to break eye contact. His gaze swept over the other members with utter dispassion.

“Hmm… since Inaba-san’s so clear on this… I think I’ll be taking my leave now…”

<Heartseed>’s perpetually unbroken attitude of superiority caused Inaba’s brow to crease in resentment.

<Heartseed> turned Gotou’s body around, wholly unconcerned with having his back turned to them, and placed his hand on the door.

“...Hey, by the way, when’s this going to end?”

In response to Inaba’s question, <Heartseed> said:

“...Who knows? Let’s meet again… sometime later…”

With that, he left.


In the clubroom after <Heartseed>’s departure.

“...D-Did he mean it when he said that this would be the last time?” Kiriyama said first, and Nagase replied: “It’s hard to believe him… but there shouldn’t be any point in lying right now…”

“Wait, really? Then should we be going yaaay? Even though we have to face him one last time.”

Aoki couldn’t hide his uncertainty either.

“Seeing other people’s… [dreams]? …If we had to name this phenomenon, what would we call it?” Taichi said, understanding that accepting reality was all they could do.

No one in the room lowered their heads. Everyone was facing stably forward.

This was the strength Taichi and company had trained over their year of misfortune.

“Hmph!” Inaba snorted coldly, and spoke: “A name… Seeing other people’s [dreams]... Seeing other people’s [dreams] one-sidedly… spying on them… perceiving them… Ahh, why not [Dream Perception]?”

“...[Dream Perception]. The part about involving other people… sounds dangerous.” Kiriyama murmured, and Aoki added: “It’s not five people, or seven people, but the entire school… Does he even know how many people there are here? That’s such a huge increase in scale…”

“We have to be even more careful than before, for sure.” suggested Taichi.

Everyone was pumping themselves up to fight, but they were still unable to mask the heavy atmosphere.

What on earth would a phenomenon involving hundreds of people bring? The mere thought of it was shiver-inducing.

“We’ll be dealing with the fates of other people, it’s gonna get serious… But let’s discuss our next move to handle this thing!” Nagase suggested in a voice that was more cheerful than usual, to break the congested, heavy atmosphere.

“No, no need.” Inaba said flatly.

“Okay, let’s… What? Whaaaat? No need? Why?” Aoki bent over dejectedly.

“He said this was a bonus stage, and there you go. Don’t you guys get it?”

“Um… Not really.” Taichi stated honestly.

“Even if this time’s phenomenon happens, it won’t begin.”

Tap, tap. Inaba rapped the table with her fingertips.

“Let’s say the phenomenon has already happened, and we can see other people’s [dreams]... meaning that we’ll know their inner thoughts. But they won’t know we saw them at all. In other words―”

Inaba continued with a determined gaze.

“As long as pretend we didn’t see them, it’ll mean nothing will happen.”

“Um… you mean… we ignore this phenomenon?” Kiriyama asked.

“Exactly, because this time the conditions are different. Each phenomenon up to this one has happened among us, and we were all able to tell what was happening, so there was no way we could ignore them. But as for [Dream Perception]? Only we know about it. Will anything bad happen when it occurs? No.”

Inaba explained relentlessly. She sounded almost chatty.

“Sometimes we might learn too much about someone and not know how to face them. We’ll just have to endure it. On the other hand it’s good that we are the only ones having to deal with it.”

She continued without pausing.

“We can choose whether to take part or not. In that sense, it really is a bonus stage that hasn’t happened before, and there actually isn’t a need to name it [Dream Perception].”

She was right. Her reasoning felt correct. There weren’t any contradictions in her logic. But, was Inaba…

“So we know what we’re going to do, don’t we?”

―Being too hasty?

“In other words, we will do nothing at all. We won’t start any stories that’ll come out of this phenomenon.”

“H-Hold on, wait a sec, Inaban. There’s no need to jump to conclusions.” Nagase seemed to have the same concerns as Taichi.

“No, this thing was over before it began. Think about it, do we really want to end up concluding that we’re going to involve other people in this abnormal phenomenon? We’ve gone through several of them already and suffered enough, do you think we would do that?”

“...No, we’ve always been avoiding involving other people.”

“If we learn something from the phenomenon and take action accordingly, then it’ll be no different from breaking that rule. That action wouldn’t happen without the phenomenon, and yet we let it happen. Are you following me, Yui? Aoki’s probably lost already so you don’t need to push yourself.”

“Uh… Yeah. I can kind of understand.”

“Wow, okay?! But I can’t disagree!”

“But Inaba,” Taichi cut in. He wanted Inaba to calm down first, and for everyone to discuss this together. “Let’s say that, if we learn from [Dream Perception]... though it hasn’t started yet, and we don’t know what’s going to happen… but if we learn of something extremely dangerous from it, are we still going to ignore it?”

“We’re not seeing the future, so things shouldn’t come to that, but if we do run into that kind of situation…”

Calmly, coolly, Inaba looked towards Taichi. How long had it been since she last looked at him like this? At the very least, she hasn’t worn this expression since they began dating.

“We’re still going to ignore it.”

“What? If we run into something really dangerous then that’s different, right?” Kiriyama suggested hurriedly.

“If you say that, then it’s a slippery slope. The phenomenon shouldn’t even be possible in the first place, so if we take advantage of that and do something, changing some things in the process, won’t that be the same as changing the course of fate?”

With a speech like that, no one had any objections.

“So I’m telling you one thing from start to finish.” She said first, and then continued:


“Don’t do anything.”

□■□■

After that everyone exchanged a few thoughts, then dispersed.

Inaba quickly departed the clubroom without waiting for the other members.

“Hey, Inaba… Sorry, I’m leaving first.” Taichi said goodbye to the other three and hurried after her.

Someone had suggested at least observing one instance of the phenomenon, but Inaba shot it down and dismissed them.

She was moving so quickly she was almost running; Taichi finally caught up with her when they exited the club building.

“Hey, why are you in such a hurry, Inaba?”

Taichi grabbed Inaba’s shoulders, gently but firmly turning her around.

Ah ― He nearly cried out.

Turning to face him, Inaba’s eyes were gleaming wet.

Taichi’s instinct told him to protect her no matter what.

“You’re nervous… because he showed up, right?”

“Did… Did I do a good job?”

Inaba seized Taichi’s uniform as if she were making a desperate plea.

Taichi placed his hand over Inaba’s.

“You were great. Unlike me; there’s no way I could react that quickly. You instantly saw through the most important part of the phenomenon… No matter what, you’re amazing.”

It had been their first encounter with him after quite some time, and Inaba had always been a worrywart. But only she had been able to predict future developments, so it was she who had to lead the charge. To Inaba, this was a burden, and it made her anxious.

“Logically, there shouldn’t be any problems… but <Heartseed> acted as though he expected that too… Am I missing something...?”

“You’ve done great already, Inaba. Even if you did overlook something, there’s nothing we can do about that. We’ll all figure something out together.”

“But I’ve become so weak lately…”

“Weak? I think you’re really, really strong.” Taichi said smiling, trying to cheer her negative attitude up.

“No! Ever since I started going out with you, I’ve become weak―” Inaba almost shouted, but then her eyes suddenly went wide and she stopped. Then she shuffled closer to Taichi, and buried her face in his chest.

“I’m sorry. That guy showing up is making me agitated and feeling off in general. Forgive me.”

“Okay, I forgive you.”

He tried to touch her, but she immediately pulled away from him.

“Heh-heh, what is this conversation?”

Inaba grinned with bravado. Taichi was very proud to see her trying hard to get it together, but he felt somewhat lonely that she preferred not to snuggle.

She turned her back to him, and took a step forward. Then she spoke, as though she were trying to convince herself:

“Yeah, it’ll be all right. If those conditions he mentioned are true, then nothing bad will happen at all.”

Taichi walked up beside her, about to tell her how everything was going to happen as she said it would and there was no need to worry―

“...Even if something happens, everything will be fine as long as we don’t do anything and ignore it.”

Don’t do anything, and ignore it.

Even if something happens, we ignore it.

In other words, ignore those in need?

The phenomenon had not happened yet after all so they were still unable to assess the situation, and for this reason Taichi did not take Inaba’s suggestion just now completely seriously.

But if he thought about Inaba’s order from earlier, he and the others were currently planning to―

“You can do that, right Taichi?” Inaba asked.

But Taichi was not walking beside Inaba. He was gazing at her silhouette from behind.

“...Hm? ...Taichi?”

Inaba realized that Taichi was standing still, and she stopped too.

Coming back to earth with a whoosh, Taichi stepped forward and hurried to catch up to Inaba again, only to hear her murmur quietly in a tone that made it difficult to tell whether she was talking to herself:

“I’m… right, aren’t I?”

Taichi did not immediately respond that she was, and could not open his mouth to ask what she meant, so he remained silent.

□■□■

Taichi walked alone on the way home from school, feeling nervous and fidgety.

He didn’t know when <Heartseed>’s new phenomenon… [Dream Perception] would begin. Everyone had agreed to exchange emails as soon as they felt any abnormal changes, but no one had contacted him yet.

Around the corner would be his house; Taichi calmed down a little. He would be much more comfortable if the phenomenon started happening at home rather than out on the street.

“Haah… Huff… Wha?”

Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted someone stopping and uttering a noise. Without thinking twice, Taichi looked towards that direction.

Decked out in white long-sleeved jersey wear from head to toe with hair tied back into a ponytail, exposing her forehead, was a girl whom Taichi was very familiar with.

“Oh, Fujishima? What’re you doing?”

Wasn’t this the very same Fujishima Maiko who was revered as the Missionary of Love but still lost in the second year class president election, who withdrew into the shadows of defeat but was clawing her way towards the road of redemption?

Fujishima’s trademark glasses had been fitted with an anti-slip sports wrap.

“What am I doing? Can’t you see? I’m running.”

Fujishima wiped away her sweat with a towel hanging from her neck.

“Why? ...Are you exercising? Your house is pretty far away from here, right?”

“Yeah, I’m running kind of far today. I pick a different route every day… Oh, I would really love to chat with you, Yaegashi-kun, but could I get going?”

She held up her arms and moved her feet busily.

“Sorry for disturbing you. See you at school.”

He was probably bothering her by stopping her when she was running.

“All right, see ya!”

Fujishima raced past Taichi somewhat frantically. She works so hard, Taichi thought, and took a step forward as well―

His vision suddenly trembled.

He was seeing double, and he was hearing double. It was a bizarre world, a world Taichi had never experienced before. He was consumed.


[Fujishima is here. There is a door in front of her. Fujishima roughly pushes it open and dashes inside. On the door are written the letters TOILET. While entering the room, Fujishima strips off the clothing on her body. Then―]


“W-What just happened? …Ugh.”

Taichi couldn’t resist shouting. He clutched his head; it was spinning and his vision was blurred.

Realistic images had suddenly begun playing inside his head, and he had heard sound, too. A daydream out of complete nowhere. How long had he been trapped in that daydream? Only an instant? The scene entering his eyes now was no different from a few moments ago, but the other scene that had appeared and disappeared just as quickly dominated his mind. The daydream had passed, but the images had been carved clearly into his retina, and the sounds recorded into his ears… Even so, the [specifics] and details were shrouded in a layer of white fog.

That was not a delusion.

That was definitely not a delusion.

It was a bizarre feeling. Rather than an image floating into his head, it was more like someone had shoved a different disc into his head, pressed the play button, and forced him to watch something. That was what it felt like.

This was most definitely not normal. He could hardly believe it.

But Taichi suddenly understood… perhaps it would be better to say that he was not surprised at all.

What just happened had indeed been <Heartseed>’s [Dream Perception].

Taichi turned around. Fujishima’s bumbling, jogging figure had not yet disappeared from view.

<Heartseed> said that they would be able to see [dreams] called wishes this time. Other people’s [dreams] included everything from dreams of the future, to the tiny desires of everyday life. Then, what he just saw meant―

Fujishima’s footsteps were stumbling. She looked utterly exhausted, but… maybe―

“F-Fujishima!”

Taichi called out to her while closing the distance by jogging up to her.

Fujishima turned, her face stark white.

“S-Something wrong?”

“.........Do you need to use the restroom?”


Taichi sat at the dining table of the Yaegashi residence; two cups of tea stood atop it. The moment he discovered [Dream Perception] had been extremely uncomfortable, but it didn’t last long enough to make him nervous; his body quickly returned to normal.

He tried to recall what had just happened.

Judging by the viewing angle, he had been watching Fujishima from a height of roughly one meter above her. The positioning made him feel just like a guardian angel. There were many blurred spots at the edges of his vision and other places, and the toilet’s interior hadn’t been illuminated very clearly either. The images were shrouded in a layer of fog similar to the dreams he had when asleep. Even as Fujishima entered the stall, the angle would suddenly change, and sometimes he could see the letters on the door. These conveniently changing angles were also similar to dreams.

He heard a flush. After a moment, Fujishima slowly emerged.

“Uh… Umm… Thank you… so much…”

She bowed her head, her hands fidgeting in front of her body.

Taichi rarely ever saw Fujishima embarrassed with his own eyes―

“Um, when I got lost in this residential area, I suddenly had to pee. I thought my bladder was going to―”

“Why are explaining it in so much detail? I thought you were embarrassed.”

As usual, she focused on entirely different issues than normal people. Also, her mood changed at lightning speed.

“Since you’re here… it’s weird to say this, but have some tea before you go.”

Fujishima hesitated for a bit, then said “Can’t let your hospitality go to waste,” and sat down. She wrapped the towel on the table around her neck again.

“R-Right… I forgot to mention… I-If possible, could I possibly borrow your air freshener, if you’re willing…”

She looked down again, seeming to mumble embarrassedly.

“Don’t worry about it, the smell’s gonna go away soon.”

“Really? It’s good that you’ve got a stink fetish then, Yaegashi-kun.”

“Are you actually embarrassed or not? And I don’t have a stink fetish.”

Fujishima’s emotions were inscrutable, and probably purposefully so. Maybe she was trying to confuse herself on purpose?

“...By the way, Yaegashi-kun, how were you able to tell that I had to use the restroom?”

“Huh?”

Fujishima’s sudden sentence made Taichi swallow nervously.

“It would be really embarrassing if someone were able to tell, so I was trying not to show it.”

Come to think of it, all of a sudden Taichi had broken Inaba’s rule of [Don’t do anything]. It was the first time the phenomenon had happened, and it was also on the spur of the moment, but he had been much too careless.

“Well, because you were running weirdly…”

“It’s true that I did look very exhausted, but you weren’t paying special attention to my feet, were you?”

“Y-Your face looked horrible.”

“I remember already passing by you before you stopped me―”

“I’m hoooome!”

A bright voice full of sunshine came traveling from the vestibule. It seemed that his sister was back. The conversation ended, and Taichi exhaled… No, wait.

If these two ran into each other, it would be a whole heap of trouble.

“Hey, onii-chan, there’s a pair of running shoes I’ve never seen before at the… door?”

Cute, innocently round eyes, with soft, mature-looking wavy locks; she retained the innocence of a child, but also gave off the air of an older sister compared to kids her age. It was easy to imagine her growing into a stunner. Wearing a backpack, Taichi’s sixth grade sister stood stock-still in the doorway to the living room, then asked:

“Umm…? Who are you?”

“Would you be his legendary sister? Hello, nice to meet you. I’m Fujishima Maiko, Yaegashi-kun’s frie… Correction, riv… No, he and I have an unusual relationship.”

“And something happens right off the bat! Just say I’m your classmate!”

Why did she have to drop a bombshell like that? There’s no way it wasn’t on purpose.

“Oh, you’re too kind. I’m his sister, Yaegashi Rina… Wait, unusual relationship?! Where’s your other girlfriend, onii-chan…? You didn’t… change girls that quickly, did you? Wait… unusual relationship, means only a physical relationship…?”

“Hey, I think your brain’s going places it shouldn’t be; Fujishima and I are just―”

“Oh, Yaegashi-kun’s sister, thanks a lot for letting me use that.” Fujishima said, gesturing towards the bathroom… where there also happened to be a sink and a tub.

“What… The bathtub…? Oh, I just noticed that your hair’s wet… and you’ve got a towel… Which means, you were taking a shower… which means it’s the aftermath…!”

“Hey, what do you mean ‘aftermath’? Not even an accident would cause such a thing between me and Fujishima![1]

“Whoa, nice pun, Yaegashi-kun. ‘Accident’ and ‘aftermath’. ”

“Please shut up, Fujishima!”

“Onii-chan… You’re moving so fast… Are you a closet carnivore?[2] I didn’t take you seriously ‘cause I thought you were a loser in this department… I should have taught you what I needed to teach you earlier… Whoooops~.”

“Rina, this is all a huge misunderstanding! And what are you planning to teach your big brother?! You’re in sixth grade ― sixth grade! I should be the one asking, have you already…?!”

“W-Wait, onii-chan, are you thinking of weird stuff?! No matter what, at least before I get as old as you are, I’m not gonna… do that kind of thing, y’know? I don’t think it’s something you have to do as soon as possible.”

“Your sister’s quite clever, Yaegashi-kun. Unlike her unprincipled brother.”

“Enough with the unnecessary comments, Fujishima!”

“Oh, but kissing’s different, right?”

“WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!”

“Gosh… Guess there really are people who crouch down and scream with their head in their hands…”

“B-But onii-chan? If you already have experience, next time you gotta tell me all about it. I wanna hear it from a boy, what the real thing was like… It’s kinda embarrassing though.”

“You’re even blushing, it’s so cute~! God, I love how you try really hard to be mature~!”

Vision blurring. Again. A foreign presence in his mind. He hurriedly pressed his mouth closed.

Images were forcibly thrusted into Taichi’s head.


[Fujishima is here. Taichi’s sister is in front of her. His sister’s face is bright red. Fujishima approaches his sister, and places her hand on his sister’s clothes. His sister closes her eyes, and entrusts her body to Fujishima.]


Gross, he thought, but the feeling only persisted for a split second. He instantly felt quite normal again, and took away the hand covering his mouth. A daydream. A delusion? No, he wouldn’t be imagining something like that. Then…

“WOOOHHH! Even if it’s just a delusion I won’t forgive you Fujishimaaaaaaaaa!”

“I-Is that an aura coming from behind you onii-chan!? An aura burning with rage?!”

“So what if it’s a delusion?! Are you gonna be so cruel as to take away our liberty to fantasize? Even I would never… Hold on, how did you know that when I didn’t say it aloud?! Did you read my mind?!”

“...W-What do you mean, I can figure out things on my own you knoooooow!”

After that, they spent around thirty minutes resolving various misunderstandings (and Taichi reflected deeply on his failure to comply with Inaba’s order: [Just ignore it, and don’t do anything]).

+++

Taking the form of Gotou Ryuuzen, <Heartseed> headed for the staffroom. A female student passed by him ― and the air changed.

“...Hey, <Heartseed>.”

The female student called in an unhurried, uniquely cadenced voice that seemed to float gently above them. Her half-open eyes seemed unoccupied by their owner’s consciousness, as though some other entity had possessed them.

“...<Number Two>... You… again…”

“What’s wrong…? Just watching, that’s all. That’s… not forbidden, is it?” said <Number Two> ― the being responsible for the [Time Regression] phenomenon within the Cultural Research Club.

“...Though it does displease me…”

“...? …You really are… strange. You are the… most interesting of all.”

“Not at all… their approval also troubles me…”

“By the way… the mission seems to be done. Are you okay?”

“...Am I okay… meaning…?”

“You seem somewhat… reluctant, that this is the last time… Am I wrong? Why? Isn’t that strange?”

<Heartseed> suddenly froze, pausing longer than usual.

“............That so?”

<Heartseed> replied, and continued:

“...Either way… There is nothing more I can do…”

“Hmm… whatever. Well… I’ll be watching too. Hope we can get along.”

The instant he finished, <Number Two> released the female student’s body, and she dropped right onto her knees.

“...Ha… Huh? …What?”

Despite being slightly rattled by that bizarre feeling, the female student left the scene.

Watching her walk away, <Heartseed> straightened himself up as much as he could, and headed for the staffroom.


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Translator's Notes:

[1]Note: Here, “aftermath” (事後) and “accident” (事故) sound the same in Japanese.

[2]As opposed to herbivore man (a man who is not interested in a romantic relationship): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbivore_men