“ーAnd so, they’re going to let us use the tennis court.”
It was the next day at lunch. After declaring Sasashino and Jindou’s bento competition a draw with a bit of smooth-talking, I told them about what happened yesterday.
“His cousin really is the final boss…”
“To think we’d see her so early in the game…”
Sasashino and Jindou muttered, sounding alarmed. What did Misora-neesan do to them in the future?
Jindou was the first to come back down to Earth.
“But like, weren’t you planning to go on a date, just the two of you? That’s not going to happen now, your cousin and I will be there too.”
“Misora-neesan will probably pull a muscle, won’t she…”
Even if this duo in front of me is from the future, it seems that Misora-neesan is a force to be reckoned with. It seems that all they can bring with them when they return to the past is their experience since otherwise, they’d look different. In other words, Misora-neesan still has the body of a girl that hasn’t left her house in over a year. As big as the Matsuse house’s territory is, I doubt she’s getting enough exercise to suddenly play tennis with us. However, when she says she’ll come, she’ll come. And not only that, but just like me, she hates losing, so she’ll definitely do something interesting. I can’t deny I’m looking forward to finding out what that would be.
“…She’s the final boss after all, isn’t she.”
So Sasashino said to herself.
After school, the three of us went to the tennis club’s court, where Misora-neesan was waiting, dressed in tennis clothes. Takeike’s uncle, the teacher in charge of the club, wasn't here, but there were two people standing on either side of Misora-neesan. Were they here in his place?
“Ah, hello. You must be Akika Sasashino and Haru Jindou. Looks like Tomoe’s been in your care, so thank you. The tennis court is ours until next Friday, so feel free to use it to your heart’s content.”
You speak oh-so-confidently, don’t you? From what I can remember, you haven’t left your house for over a year. Well, even though she’s been a shut-in, she makes a lot of money day trading and takes care of things within the family, so I guess she’s still a respectable member of society.
“Nice to meet you, I’m Akika Sasashino.”
“Nice to meet you! I’m Haru Jindou. I want to impress my senpais today, so please help me out!”
“You sure are lively, Jindou-san. It seems Sasashino-san has her own equipment, and you’ll be borrowing from the school? What about you, Tomoe?”
“It’s an important event, so I’ll buy one. Sasashino, let’s go pick a good one together?”
“Eh? Me? Why not your cousin?”
“Even though we cancelled our shopping date, we’re still going to be playing as a pair, so let’s pick together too. And also, I really don’t know much about tennis equipment.”
Sasashino nodded, a bit confused, but she pulled me off to the store by my sleeve to make sure I didn’t have a chance to change my mind. Didn’t we buy my equipment together in previous loops too, though?
“Wait, Onee-san! Are you sure it’s fine for her to go with him?!”
TN: Jindou calls her Onee-san since it’s a polite way of calling an older girl you don’t know well.
“Well, I guess it’s best if she doesn’t go with him alone. Let’s go join them, I’ll pick out some tennis clothes for you. Unlike me, you’ll look good in something cute.”
“You’re a traditional Japanese-style beauty, though. I’m jealous.”
“I don’t hate my looks either.”
I wonder if it’s safe to leave those two alone. I’m worried Jindou might make some sort of careless remark about something from the future.
The store Sasashino dragged me to was only for the school’s tennis club, and had rackets and balls on the shelves. While it was small, the selection of tennis-specialized equipment was leagues above that of the sporting goods store in front of the train station. The bestseller seemed to be sports drinks, though.
“Which one do you recommend, Sasashino?”
“Based on my experience, this one would probably be best for you, Shirasugi.”
I can’t think of anything more trustworthy than advice from someone from the future of what’s the best fit for me.
The racket she picked out for me had a glossy blue frame and a large area. It felt like it bounced the ball well, but it was a bit heavy.
“The first time I picked this one for you, I wondered if it’d be a bit heavy, even though you’re young and healthy. But it turns out that Shirasugi can hit the ball with terrifying power if the racket is heavier.”
If you’re talking about what it was like in your future, I can’t comment on it, because I’m not a time traveller. But when I lightly shook the racket back and forth, it felt surprisingly light, and I didn’t feel like I was fighting it. The handle was grippy and my wrist didn’t feel strained, even though the racket wasn’t light.
“I like this one.”
“Right? It’s hard to rotate, but since we don’t have much time to practice, you’ll only have time to learn the basics. I recommend it.”
The clerk told us there were other colours to choose from, but I decided to stick with the blue one. I ended up also buying a ball. By the way, The racket was for soft tennis.
TN: ‘Soft tennis differs from regular tennis in that it uses soft rubber balls instead of the usual felt-coated hard lime-green balls’ - Google
“Shirasugi, this is a gift from me. It’s my apology for making you play tennis with me.”
Sasashino looked away shyly while holding out a white wristband with both hands. The clerk smiled at the scene in front of him as though looking at something pleasant.
“Now you’re matching with your girlfriend~”
The clerk told us in a small voice. She’s not my girlfriend, but I won’t say anything.
“Thank-, thank you too! Let’s go practice. We don’t have much time!”
Sasashino hurriedly walked toward the court. Her ears were bright red… She probably heard the clerk. I gave the clerk a slight bow and joined Sasashino.
TN: ‘Slight bow: a greeting or sign of gratitude’ - my dictionary
We got back and saw that Misora-neesan and Jindou were getting ready somewhere else, so Sasashino taught me the basics in the meantime. After around 15 minutes of practice, Misora-neesan and Jindou came back. Jindou was now wearing a frilly tennis dress.
“Do you like it? Aren’t I cute?~”
“Do I like it? You’re really cute!”
They’re sure getting along well. Maybe it’s because they’re on the same wavelength?
“Jindou, don’t end up like Misora-neesan.”
“Tomoe, that’s so rude?!”
“It’s impossible to live life like her, though~”
“What’s this betrayal?!”
“Well, Misora-neesan would go bankrupt if she wasn’t like that, so it works, I guess.”
“Is that a compliment? That’s a compliment, right? Does anyone have a flower… He loves me, he loves me not…”
“No, calm down! Let’s play tennis so that my senpais can admire me!”
“Jindou-chan, didn’t you just betray me, though?”
“ーAll three of you, let’s start practicing already.”
Sasashino got impatient and called out to us, so I entered the court. Misora-neesan and Jindou’s team was already showing signs of crumbling.
As we practiced, I wasn’t too concerned about the score. Since I was an amateur, it was important to at least hit the ball back before trying anything else.
I hit back Jindou’s insanely strong serve, keeping in mind the form Sasashino taught me.
In the end, Jindou really was as good as she said she was. Maybe it’s because of the future, maybe it’s because of the past, or maybe both, but I can tell she’s very experienced.
After I hit back the serve, Jindou ran into position to defend up front, but I ignored her and hit the ball toward Misora-neesan, who was distracted by a white butterfly that flew past her.
“Onee-san, over there!”
“Yes, I know.”
In response to Jindou’s call, Misora-neesan took a few steps back, moved her racket back, and hit the ball back with confidence.
Maybe it’s because she’s from the future, but she can move quickly despite her weak body. I’m at a huge disadvantage here, am I not?
As we practiced earlier, Sasashino, who was defending near the net, sent the ball back over. Jindou hit the ball back with ease and shot it in my direction. It’s fun to do these rallies, but it’s hard for an amateur like me.
It’s obvious that Jindou is in complete control of the ball, but she still passes to me in a way that’s easy to hit back. It’s kind of frustrating, in a way. But I’ll take it as an opportunity to practice the basics. I follow the ball with my eyes, then swing the racket using my shoulder to transfer the centrifugal force of my arm into the ball, keeping in mind which part of the racket it hits.
“Oh, good form! But it’s useless!”
Jindou jumps, smashing the ball toward me in mid-air.
Sasashino hurriedly tried to cover for me, but it was too late. Jindou’s smash was so strong that I thought the ball might leave a dent in the court, and when it bounced off the ground, it flew toward the edge of the court at a ridiculous speed.
I ran with everything I had, caught up, and barely managed to hit it with a backhand. The ball flew up, passing over both Sasashino and Jindou, heading toward Misora-neesan.
“Heh, a practice match is still a match, and a match is a fight to the death. Prepare yourself, Tomoe!”
Sasashino bent one knee and leaned over it, preparing to intercept a smash from Misora-neesan, who had bent her knees as she got ready to hit the ball.
“She’s going to smash it, Shirasugi, get ready!”
It’s only my first day practicing yet you’re hitting me with smashes!
Misora-neesan swung her arm above her head, making contact with the ball at the perfect time, sending it flying back our way. The two people who came with her, who seem to be maids, were so impressed by the powerful smash from their young master that hasn’t left the house in over a year that they applauded. It’s true, though. If I took a picture of her right now, it would probably win an award!
“We can’t lose!”
I bring my racket down low and hit the ball back while sharply pulling my racket up. Now spinning vertically at high speed, the softball became as slender as Munch’s Scream, flying directly toward Jindou’s free hand.
TN: Munch’s Scream = The Scream by Edvard Munch. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c5/Edvard_Munch%2C_1893%2C_The_Scream%2C_oil%2C_tempera_and_pastel_on_cardboard%2C_91_x_73_cm%2C_National_Gallery_of_Norway.jpg/1200px-Edvard_Munch%2C_1893%2C_The_Scream%2C_oil%2C_tempera_and_pastel_on_cardboard%2C_91_x_73_cm%2C_National_Gallery_of_Norway.jpg
Jindou effortlessly volleyed the ball back with a behind-the-back trickshot. Sasashino sent it over the net and stood ready in forward defense, prepared to take a smash from Misora-neesan. Misora-neesan fired back the most vicious shot I’ve ever seen, barely passing over the edge of the net.
What a precise juggling act. They’re leagues above anyone on the tennis team. How many time loops did they have to do to be that good?
Sasashino wasn’t going to be outdone just like that, though. She leaned over her foot and moved it forward at lightning speed, hitting the ball mere moments after it bounced near the net. The ball’s rotation made it fly in a strange diagonal arc, and after it crossed the net, bounced at a weird angle. But as you can probably guess, Misora-neesan moved in the direction of the ball.
“Pay heed to my magnificent spirit and lose!”
She held the racket horizontally, making contact with the ball with the frame.
TN: “There are no rules limiting hitting the ball with the frame of the racket. It is a perfectly legal shot so long as it lands in the opponent's half.” - Some guy on Quora
The shot that she produced is so powerful that it’s hard to believe it came from my cousin’s skinny arms. There’s no way that I, an amateur, would be able to hit back a smash as perfect as this.
“Tomoe, admit defeat!”
“Senpa~i, are you angry? Are you angry? Ya~y!”
I’m definitely frustrated.
“I’ll do it. I’ll beat you.”
“Oh, did the switch flip?”
ーAnd I was beaten in more ways than one.
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