My cousin, Misora-neesan, made me stay up all night to play games with her, so I felt dazed and disoriented when I got to school. All eyes were on me and the girl next to me, Akika Sasashino. Our classmates whispered between one another. The beautiful blonde girl from the future I was stuck with sat calmly, playing with her phone. 90% of those that walk past her in public turn around for a second look, and the remaining ten percent try to sneak a picture, so our classmates’ gazes didn't bother her.
It was different for me though, since I wasn't a popular guy. And for that reason, I turned to Sasashino.
“Sasashino, first off, I want to apologize for yesterday.”
“Apologize? What did you do yesterday?”
“Your confession. I shouldn’t have acted like that even though I declined. Sorry.”
“Ahh, that’s right. You’re an honourable man, aren’t you? I like that about you too.”
The class buzzed when she turned off her phone and smiled at me. I try to keep my voice as quiet as possible to not be overheard, but they can still see my facial expressions.
“Can you do something about the atmosphere in the class?”
“Shouldn’t the one complaining be me?”
“Stop with that. Are you trying to ruin my reputation?”
If she complained about that, the whole school year would turn against me.
She giggled and looked around the class. Everyone looked away as soon as she did. She then turned back and gave a cute smile to me, the only one still making eye contact with her.
“Yup, this will work on you for a while.”
“That’s my charisma.”
Her beauty was indisputable, and she knew she could get away with lines like that.
“That’ll work for now, but once first period is over, we’re back to square one. It’ll take something big to change things.”
“First, we start going out.”
“Sorry. I can’t, at least not yet.”
If we started going out, while this kind of gaze would go away, it would be be replaced by another. Specifically, gazes with murderous intent.
“Second: get used to it.”
“Not going to change the atmosphere, are you?”
“Third, figure it out yourself.”
“You’re making me do it all, hm? Well, I guess it’s only bothering me, so I really should figure it out on my own.”
Realistically, I'd probably have to wait until I either got used to it, or until everyone else moved on.
“By the way, Shurasugi, you're free this weekend, right? Want to study together?”
“How do you know I’m not busy? …Right.”
She was from the future. Hm? That probably meant she wouldn't be the only one coming this weekend…
“ーShirasugi, you there?”
I thought I heard an energetic voice call out to me, and saw Haru Jindou. She’d walked into our class without hesitation, even though she was a year below. Well then, here it comes.
“Senpai, I’ve got work this weekend, so I’ll come here and eat lunch with you!”
Jindou waved hello to Sasashino then left the classroom with a skip in her step after dropping a bomb. Our classmates started murmuring to each other again. Everyone’s eyes were on me. My energetic kouhai came and added a bit of spice to my life, whether I liked it or not.
Sasashino turned to me.
“Hehh, so you like younger girls?”
“It’s a misunderstanding…”
Is this what it feels like to be accused of two-timing?
Sasashino sat at the desk next to mine.
“Who’s that girl? She works with you at the coffee shop?”
I couldn't tell her… I also couldn't say that she was from the future. If I told her about Misora-neesan’s cat theory, her memories would be destroyed.
“That’s weird… Surely you’re the only coffee shop part-timer at this time of the year. Wouldn’t she be a customer?”
“She joined in the spur of the moment. Maybe it’s the butterfly effect?”
“No, I don’t think it is. I can’t think of a cause for a cause-and-effect relationship to happen.”
“Sometimes there’s more to the story than you can see.”
She was growing suspicious, so I prayed that she wouldn’t find out the truth. Luckily for me, the homeroom teacher walked into the room. Sasashino looked away and went back to her seat.
“I’m going to the coffee shop today.”
“I’m not cheating on you or anything, okay?”
I wasn't trying to juggle the two of them, and I turned both down.
More importantly, Jindou said she was coming back for lunch. I was going to be eating while sitting on a bed of nails.
Time for lunch! Ehh, I’m getting real antsy now, aren’t I?
“The performers are all here, yup. Let us take to the stage.”
“Heheh, I, Haru Jindou, was queen of acting in kindergarten, and I'll be Sasashino’s stage partner!”
What kind of situation is this?
To my side sat Akika Sasashino, who'd pulled up a chair. In front of me was Haru Jindou, bento in hand. Curious and jealous glances came from our classmates. From the future or not, Sasashino was still a beautiful high school girl, and Jindou was a cute, energetic kouhai. And then there was me, with slightly-above-average looks. Anyone would wonder what’s going on. On top of that, I had to take over the conversation so that they didn't accidentally kill each other by exposing a difference in their memories of the future.
Why was I eating lunch with two cute girls while defusing a bomb? All while everyone thought I was two-timing?
“I’m Akika Sasashino. You’re a freshman, right? Why are you in this classroom like it’s nothing?”
Jindou only shrugged her shoulders when Sasashino tried to pull the age card on her.
“I’m a student of this school just like you are. I also wanted to have lunch with my Senpai.”
I couldn't tell if she'd prepared that line, but she said it really naturally. She could've even been improvising. Jindou opened her bento before Sasahino could reply, probably trying to make a reason to stay. Sasashino looked like she decided she couldn’t get rid of Jindou today, so she also opened her lunch. I opened mine too, which was prepared for me by the Matsuses.
“You know, in a sense, I’m much older than my senpaisー”
“Do you make your own bentos, Jindou?”
Please! No talk about the future!
When I interrupted Jindou, she tilted her head and looked at her bento.
“I packed it, but my mother made it. Ah, Senpai, If you want to have some of my bento, just tell me, I’ll make one for you.”
I don’t know where she got that idea from, but I guess the way some people think will always be a mystery to me.
Sasashino moved her bento closer to me.
“I made this myself this morning. Have some. I made it for myself, but I didn’t skimp out on anything.”
“Sasashino-senpai, it’s amazing you can say that after seeing Shirsugi-senpai’s bento today.”
My lunch box was made by one of the maids of the Matsuse family, so its looks, taste, and nutritional balance are all perfect. Not to mention that the ingredients weren't cheap.
Red and white namasu (daikon radish and carrot salad), sweet potatoes, pickled greens in soy sauce, grilled Spanish mackerel. A well-balanced Japanese menu, which, thanks to the sweet potatoes, was also very filling.
Sasashino looked at my bento.
“Well, it discourages me a bit, but Shirasugi is a guy, so he probably wants something with a strong flavour. Here, have some teriyaki pork.”
“Thanks. Want some sweet potatoes?”
“Shirasugi-senpai, you sure are calm about it, hm?”
“A high school boy should never pass up on a chance to have some meat.” TN: ඞ
Just as I was about to reach into her bento with my chopsticks, Sasashino thought of something and pulled her bento away. Naturally, I couldn’t grab anything.
“Please don’t…? What are you doing, Sasashino?”
“W-, wait a second! I just had an idea! …Okay, say ‘aa~h’.”
The moment Sasashino picked up a piece of teriyaki pork with her chopsticks and brought it to my mouth, Jindou held her bento’s lid in front of my mouth. She glared at Sasashino.
“Not so fast!”
Sasashino gives Jindou a stern glare.
“Can you please not interrupt? It’s hard enough to do this in public as it is.”
“Then don’t! I won’t let you flirt in front of everyone and win him over! Senpai, hold out the lid from your bento for her.”
“Tch, you’re not making any sense. I’ll just do it another time, then.”
I flipped my lid over and held it out for Sasashino. The teriyaki pork she made was cut into bite-size pieces so that it would be easy to pack into the bento. Maybe she sprinkled it with ginger powder, since its taste was strong but not overpowering, which made it easy to eat.
“It’s... really good…”
So Sasashino can cook, huh?
“Hah, queen of acting in kindergarten, but she can’t even offer a home-cooked meal…”
“Feeding me won’t win over my heart.”
If someone does me a favour, I’ll return it.
Sasashino looked at Jindou as though victorious.
“Unlike Jindou, I researched ahead of time, so I knew that Shirasugi would get a lunch from the main branch of his familyー”
“You can also cook, Jindou?”
Sasashino, don’t carelessly reveal that you have information about the future too! Haven’t you heard of ‘Schrodinger’s (Cheshire) Cat’? Isn’t it essential knowledge for time travellers? Or did Misora-neesan lie to me? No, she was definitely the kind to prank someone, but she wouldn't do anything that endangers someone's life.
Jindou averted her gaze at my question.
“Well, I don’t really measure things out exactly. I just eyeball it, but I almost never get it wrong.”
It’s hard to say much about a bento prepared by the Matsuses’ maid, so even the usually-energetic and upbeat Jindou responded stiffly.
“Cooking is about love. If you don’t take care in cooking, it means there’s not much love.”
“Wha-? Sasashino-senpai made that lunchbox for herself, didn’t she? She just loves herself that much!”
“It’s ridiculous to expect someone else to love you, if even you don’t love yourself. So, self-love is important.”
“Geh- she’s got a point!”
I took a bite of the Spanish mackerel. It was in season, so it was delicious.
“Shirasugi-senpai, I’ll make you a cup of coffee at work today! Coffee that is good enough to drink every day! Don’t worry, the master taught me, so I know exactly how to do it.”
“Oh? Didn’t you two only start working yesterday? Strange that you’re already that good.”
“The times Sasashino-senpai and I live in are differentー”
“Can you also make latte art, Jindou?”
She started saying something related to being from the future, so I quickly changed the topic.
“La-, latte art? Hehe, I have good grades in art. Got something you want me to make?”
“Then, a cat.”
“Yeah, that’s pretty cute, I guess. Alright, we’ll see who can make a better kitty.”
Sasashino, who obviously doesn’t have experience, confidently declared that she was competing. She thought for a second, then laughed.
“I’ve done my research. I know Shirasugi’s favourite drawings. In the futureー”
“Having the same theme is boring, so Sasashino will draw a dog.”
Don’t naturally expose yourself as someone from the future! Maybe these two really don’t know the theory of ‘Schrodinger's (Cheshire) Cat’. Should I tell them? No, if I did, then they’d probably ask me how I know. If I told them, they’d make the connection that Misora-neesan is from the future, and all three will die as people from the future. Was I cornered? Actually, maybe Misora-neesan made up that theory of hers so that I’d be on her side. The cause of my death may well have been because I got careless from overwork.
Our tense lunch finished, and Jindou stood up.
“Then, we’ll do the latte art competition at my part-time job. Only art though!”
“How about the loser buys the other a latte with a drawing of their face?”
“I’ll win for sure! Well then, I’ll excuse myself a bit early, I have PE next period.”
I watched Jindou quickly walk out of the class, and let out a sigh of relief. I survived. However, there was still the latte art competition ahead… Though, if anything, the stares of our classmates were a bigger problem.
“Your reputation as a two-timing man is set in stone, huh? In a way, you should be grateful to her, since it means no other pests.”
“I’m innocent though…”
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