Chapter 3:

The Passing of Time

Third and Final Time

6 weeks passed by at a painfully fast pace.
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Usually, the new school year would pass slowly - at least, it did during my first two lives.Bookmark here

Now, though, it goes by too quickly.Bookmark here

A few things had changed during that time, but I was still alone in my class.Bookmark here

I could speak to them about a few mundane things and that was it.Bookmark here

I made a handful of acquaintances at my club, though I don’t know if I’d call us friends yet.Bookmark here

We can talk quite happily about our club, training, classes and what we do outside of school, but not much else.Bookmark here

A few of them said I was quite fashionable or had good taste in clothes and bags, but I just thought it was normal. When I said that, a few of them smiled warmly at me, though I don’t know why.Bookmark here

Did I say something strange perhaps?Bookmark here

Whatever the case, I had a small social life and I was grateful for it.Bookmark here

However.Bookmark here

I shut my bedroom door and collapsed onto the ground, a great, cold weight pulling down on my heart.Bookmark here

My depression grew worse.Bookmark here

I couldn’t let myself exist in this world alone or else I’d suffocate.Bookmark here

I quickly turned on my laptop, put my headphones on and started studying as hard as I could.Bookmark here

Most of it I remembered from my previous lives, but it never hurt to refresh that knowledge every so often, and it helped put my mind on other things.Bookmark here

It wasn’t a pleasant or painful feeling - rather, it was that lack of feeling that I longed for.Bookmark here

It wasn’t warm or cold; it was simply nothing.Bookmark here

Recently, the pain had gotten worse and I’d started a new pattern before going to sleep; first, I would do some yoga, then I would meditate, before finally listening to some relaxing sounds on my headphones.Bookmark here

ASMR, I believe it’s called, helped send me to sleep much quicker and it meant I’d escape my everyday life that much quicker.Bookmark here

When I thought about it like that, I felt even more depressed.Bookmark here

I wasn’t trying to change myself, was I?Bookmark here

No, I was running away from everything because I’d convinced myself that nothing would change in this life.Bookmark here

I’d had setbacks in my two previous lives but kept going, except I couldn’t do it this time.Bookmark here

Why was that?Bookmark here

When I woke up the next day, I repeated my goals for high school three times to myself, and resolved myself once more to attempt them.Bookmark here

Step one to bring that plan to fruition was simple - talk to another classmate.Bookmark here

This, thankfully, would be easier today.Bookmark here

Today, we were meant to sort out our groups for our school’s trip to Kyoto and, naturally, that would mean I’d have 3 days and 2 nights to spend bonding with my classmates. Bookmark here

It was a valuable chance and one that I had fewer opportunities to leap at.Bookmark here

When I went downstairs, I found my parents eating breakfast, smiling happily; out of the corner of my eye, I could see many stacked cardboard boxes in the living room.Bookmark here

Yes, we were moving.Bookmark here

Not out of Tokyo, mind you, just a bit closer to school and into a much bigger and nicer house.Bookmark here

Why?Bookmark here

Because I mentioned the winning lottery numbers to my mother in passing.Bookmark here

From my previous two lives, there were some things that always stuck out to me more than others, and a particular lottery from about three months ago was one I always remembered.Bookmark here

The reason was simple - the winning numbers were the one’s my mother always picked.Bookmark here

When I told her to definitely get a ticket for the jackpot prize of 2 billion yen, she wasn’t even surprised.Bookmark here

Instead, she smiled warmly and said, “Sure.”Bookmark here

That week, we won the lottery and, needless to say, my parents were over the moon.Bookmark here

My mother thanked me so much for telling her to play, though I shrugged it off and said it was just a gut feeling I had.Bookmark here

Strange - even after all these years and in this third loop, my mother always accepts whatever I say with a gentle smile.Bookmark here

I used to hate that so much, but now it’s one of my favourite things in the whole world.Bookmark here

My classmates, thankfully, didn’t seem to know my family had won.Bookmark here

I can say that confidently because no one started cosying up to me all of a sudden, trying to be my friend nor did anyone try to bully me for my lunch money.Bookmark here

A small comfort.Bookmark here

“You’re up early. Is everything okay?”Bookmark here

My mother’s soft voice brought me back to reality. I smiled and said, “It’s nothing. What day are the movers coming?”Bookmark here

“Oh, they’ll be coming when you’re on your school trip. Your mother and I can handle the heavy lifting on our own, I assure you.”Bookmark here

That’s not what I was afraid off.Bookmark here

There were a few things different from my past lives in this loop, but this had to be the biggest one to me.Bookmark here

The overwhelming protectiveness I possessed for my parents.Bookmark here

I had lived through their deaths once and ignored their love and affections too much in my second; I had a good relationship with my family for once, and I didn’t want it to shatter.Bookmark here

What if, my mind asked me every night, I go to Kyoto and they get into an accident?Bookmark here

What if someone malicious discovers that they won the lottery and try to rob them?Bookmark here

What if I’ll have to spend my final life without my parents?Bookmark here

I had cried many nights over those questions and, one time, my mother caught me weeping.Bookmark here

I had never seen her look so depressed in my whole life.Bookmark here

She held me, comforted me, rubbed my back and asked me what was wrong - when I didn’t say anything, she just kept holding me and that made me cry even more.Bookmark here

What if that was the last time I’d hug my mother?Bookmark here

I was lucky enough to be able to see them again after their deaths in my first life; this was a blessing and I was always afraid it’d get stolen from me.Bookmark here

Still, I hid my true feelings away deep within me.Bookmark here

I didn’t want to betray their love ever again.Bookmark here

So, I didn’t show my concern to them and never told them how anxious I was every time I went to bed.Bookmark here

This was fine, I told myself.Bookmark here

This was fine.Bookmark here

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Once again, I had made one miscalculation about high schoolers.Bookmark here

When it comes to class trips, people don’t discuss these sorts of things on the day it’s officially announced; they discuss it for days or weeks prior.Bookmark here

Groups had formed without my knowledge and I was alone, for now.Bookmark here

Statistically speaking, I had to end up in a group because there was no other choice.Bookmark here

Each group’s limit was 5 people and there were 40 students, so 8 groups in total.Bookmark here

No matter what, I’d either join a group or be assigned to one.Bookmark here

Ideally, I’d want to be in a group of only girls.Bookmark here

Why?Bookmark here

Ryuuji.Bookmark here

The scars he left still hurt and I’ve often struggled to talk to boys my age.Bookmark here

A few did try to talk to me and chat me up, but I was definitely too awkward for them to handle, no doubt about it.Bookmark here

Whatever. It was much better this way.Bookmark here

However, would any of the girl only groups want me?Bookmark here

From what I remember, teenage girls form small groups or clicks pretty quickly and are pretty fragile overall. I’d seen many friendships end over the most trivial of things in my two previous lives, though none of that knowledge would help me in this life.Bookmark here

The butterfly effect is a powerful thing and it had echoed to today quite strongly - the class register had changed dramatically from my other lives, and thus so would the friendship groups.Bookmark here

Worse, our teacher had fully left it up to us students to decide who makes up what groups and I feared that I could end up with Ami’s by default.Bookmark here

I glanced over at their group and noticed that they were two members short, and trying to figure out who to invite.Bookmark here

If no one else joined them, then there’s a chance I could be sorted into that group.Bookmark here

I didn’t want that - Ami and the others would be happier without me there.Bookmark here

I would be lying if I said it didn’t hurt though.Bookmark here

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That’s right.Bookmark here

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If it hadn’t been for that incident, I would’ve already been in that group, wouldn’t I?
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Hahaha, it’s pathetic, isn’t it?
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If I hadn’t tried to save Ami that day, I could’ve stayed in that group with my friends.
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…I want to go home.Bookmark here

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I want to cry.Bookmark here

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I want to see my mother.Bookmark here

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I-Bookmark here

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“Um, Akane…can I ask you something?”Bookmark here

I use all the strength I have to hold back my tears, before looking up at a girl smiling a little awkwardly at me.Bookmark here

She has short-cut brown hair, big hazel eyes and a very cute face. Bookmark here

I struggled to remember her name, but nodded at her question.Bookmark here

“Um…would you like…to join our group for the field trip?”Bookmark here

I don’t know what kind of expression I made, but I yelled much more loudly than I intended to.Bookmark here

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“I will!”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.