The “Present” and the Present Becoming One
Naturally, I joined the HRG company. I worked part-time for a while there and since I had done more work than some of their other employees already, there weren’t any of the normal assessments to get in.
The interview wasn’t conducted as a way to determine if I got in or not, but rather as a confirmation of my intentions.
After joining the company, I worked hard. All while cooking up that plan.
Including Rei-chan, I got along with another girl. Natsumi-chan became quite upset.
“…I like her to this day. Not just now, it’ll probably be that way until I die.”
I told Natsumi-chan that as she was upset. It seems that she couldn’t hold it back as it seemed like I was wavering.
“I intend on living on with only my memories from back then.”
Natsumi-chan who excessively thought of her sister looked somewhat worried.
Despite that, she didn’t push me. Is it because she heard from Hiiragi-chan the circumstances in which we broke up. At the very least, she seemed to respect my will.
She still remembers me, and cherishes those memories that we made at the time—
I was told that by Natsumi-chan, and so my feelings for Hiiragi-chan did not fade.
What Hiiragi-chan was concerned about was my lack of choice. Since then, I’ve had an increased opportunity to meet other women at college and at work, and have repeatedly made various choices.
With that experience, after I become an adult I would be able to go and meet her. I don’t know whether she will meet with me though. However, if I keep thinking about it, I would get anxious, and so I decided to do my best at work. With a reason to work hard, it became just a bit more enjoyable.
I finally explained to Natsumi-chan the plan that I had come up with in high school.
“What we’ve done so far has been important, but if any of them go wrong, the company will fall. That’s why we should try something new why we still have the capacity—”
After giving that impassioned speech, Natsumi-chan agreed with me.
“Ahahah. That’s unusual. For Seiji-san to speak so passionately. You have a surprising amount of loyalty to the HRG company.”
“I’ve been working here since high school after all. I have a sense of attachment. Besides… well, nevermind.”
She would never believe me if I told her that the business would fall apart if left alone.
“Well, that’s fine. Let’s do it.”
It was the summer of when I turned 25. I think that the plan that I had seen at the end during the “present”, was probably presented at this time. The game would take at least a year to be released after all.
Having the president’s daughter on my side was quite an advantage.
Natsumi-chan spoke directly to the president—Takakage-san, and the project went through, leading to the establishment of a new division.
A young promising employee was then selected to be the new manager. The president’s daughter became my new superior and pushed the project along steadily.
As I had worked part-time here for a long duration, my former superiors, who had been further promoted, highly valued my skills. Thanks to that, there wasn’t any pushback or strange friction that occurred.
“Senpaaai~ I get off at 7:00 PM. Do you want to get something to eat ♡?”
I refused the invitation from the calculating female college student that recently started to work part time, and rushed to get the new business on track.
“I’m underaged, but I would love to pour it for my Senpai~”
She wandered around the desk with a calculating and devilish smile.
I could tell that my superior, who was working at the desk across from me, turned on edge.
“Rei-chan, Natsumi-chan is dangerous, so—”
Bam! I heard the loud sound of the keyboard being hit.
“If you’re flirting around then do it outside!”
“Yaaa~n, so scaaaary!”
Blowing 2 or 3 kisses my way, Rei-chan left the workplace. Since we were still the only two people within the mobile content division, we were in a state where we were still borrowing manpower from other areas.
“Seiji-san, if you’re truly uninterested, then just say it straight up!”
“It’s okay, don’t worry, it’s been like this since a long time ago.”
Natsumi-chan let out a dissatisfied sigh. She still remembers the time when she was still just like a puppy, so it’s really hard to push her away.
I didn’t say it out loud, but whenever I got close to another girl, not limited to Rei-chan, she would end up glaring. It’s a very Natsumi-chan-like behavior as she wishes for her sister’s happiness.
Several social gatherings were held with the ASW company, to whom we outsource our work.
A nostalgic set of members were gathered. Sana, Kanata, Natsumi-chan, Rei-chan, and me.
With there being a table with alcohol, it really felt like a sort of reunion.
“Ah, Senpai ♡ your glass is empty. Do you want a beer?”
The tactful college girl stubbornly stuck to my right side. On my left side, Natsumi-chan played the role of a chaperone by glaring at me with a glass of wine in one hand.
Sana sat opposite of me, with Kanata next to her.
“There’s a bit of respect. Nii-san, you’ve been chased by her for almost 10 years.”
When Sana said that with an impressed expression, Kanata nodded while holding her orange juice in one hand.
“…A one-sided love. Still, ten years is amazing.”
“Don’t praise me like that. Ah, speaking of which.”
Rei-chan clapped her hands, and then took out a photo from her small bag.
“Thanks to this, even when it gets tough, I can continue living.”
It was the selfie that we took together that Christmas in high school.
“You took something like that?”
Natsumi-chan’s gaze was painful.
“…Sana has the group photo.”
“…Saa-chan, you never let that leave your body. You’re always holding onto it.”
“Don’t say anything unnecessary.”
The group photo from that time. Everyone is happily portrayed. In truth, it was fun.
The four of them made an awkward expression.
“Senpai, when will you…”
“Hey kid, don’t bring up a delicate topic like that.”
“—Outsiders should stay out of this.”
Natsumi-chan slammed her hand down.
Sana made an expression as if to say, “you see” and nodded curtly at her.
“It’s okay. I’m fine, Rei-chan.”
I patted her head as she seemed truly depressed.
“The capable Senpai is one of the top rankers among the most popular guys within the company… It’s such a waste…”
“…That’s what’s so good about Seiji-kun.”
Kanata muttered. That reminds me, I haven’t asked Kanata what I wanted to ask.
“Do you have a boyfriend, Kanata?”
Rather, does she even have any experience dating anyone?
“…I, more or less do.”
“Who? What type of person are they?”
“…Someone the same age as me.”
So vague. Oh well, it’s fine.
“My partner will forever be Senpai. You will always be welcome ♡”
I could feel people getting annoyed from both my side and across from me.
Like this, I enjoyed alcohol together with other people for the first time in a while.
I was a little bit worried, however, Sana was putting effort into her work, and the development was going smoothly.
At around that time, I gained subordinates including three juniors and my self-proclaimed secretary that worked part-time. The department grew to a size of six.
My 36th summer—in other words, the summer I turned 27. We released a completed app game for the smartphone. Just as I predicted, it caught on as a trend and made a lot of money.
I was so happy that I ended up drinking a lot at the launch party. I didn’t remember much after that, but it was probably entertaining.
Things continue to operate steadily, and the planned Christmas event became a hot topic on SNS. It became the industry’s top-grossing app.
“Senpai~ The end of the year party with ASW, where would you want it? If you want, I can set it up.”
The self-proclaimed secretary in charge of miscellaneous work came over to my desk.
…Huh? I feel like I’ve seen this before— Is this déjà vu?
“Ah, Senpai, you returned again?”
Rei-chan made an astounded expression.
Aaaah, that’s right. It’s this. The last time I saw the “present”.
“Senpai, at the end of fall last time, you got super drunk at the bar telling me stuff like ‘we did it, Rei-chan… it’s the highest profit we ever had in a quarter.’ It should be a big success.”
I had continued walking along the path until I reached the ‘present’ that I last saw.
“I thought at the time that you might take me home. But Senpai, you easily just left like that. Such a disappointment.”
She puffed her cheeks and turned her head to the side.
“But, that’s what I like about you…”
I glanced at her, causing our eyes to meet. As if predicting that Rei-chan went “Kya~” before averting her face.
“What I’m most troubled by, is that it’s not that I like my beloved Senpai. It’s that I love my Senpai who loves Hiiragi-chan.”
I patted her head a bit violently.
“Yaan, Senpai, so forceful.”
[Finish your work at a good stopping point! Today’s the end of the year party after all.]
Speaking of which, Natsumi-chan’s message arrived.
“At the time, Sana-san and I were both indignant. “Why?” “Why now?” We would think. However, getting to this age… we’re already proper adults, and thinking from the same position, it’s not that that I don’t understand Sensei’s feelings.”
It seems that Rei-chan thinks that I’m the me that returned to the present.
“That’s right. It might be a little cliché, but there are answers like that that come out because you like them… If she knew that you time leaped, then she would know that you were an adult inside, but that wasn’t the case. From her perspective, you were just a normal high school student. As an adult and teacher, she perceives you from the side of a guardian. Thinking about Senpai’s happiness, one point would stick out, and that’s the age difference…”
I don’t think that it’s good that we broke up, but if it’s something that lifts a weight off of Hiiragi-chan’s heart, then that’s something I would wish for. Teacher and student, adult and child— it’s not like that anymore, now, we’re both adults that have experienced various things.
“Senpai, you changed the past multiple times, shifting the present in a direction you wanted. Hearing it from you, it seems like you worked hard towards your goal of being with Sensei. Even with the failing performance of this company, you improved it to gain the best results. However, you couldn’t avoid breaking up with Sensei—Why do you think that is?”
This is the answer to the question that I didn’t hear before.
“It must be just something that was unavoidable—It’s not in the negative sense, rather the exact opposite.”
That’s right, Rei-chan said.
“It’s a necessary action to for Hiiragi-chan’s happiness—”
If she had made the decision not to break up with me, our relationship would continue while pretending that the thorn stuck in her side didn’t exist—Is it okay for her to be my partner? That would have been a question somewhere within herself.
There was probably a bit of guilt towards me. The jealousy or contempt due to age difference and the desire for monopolizing me due to that.
“Now and back in high school, please remember what has always driven you.”
Of course, now. Why, well, I—‘We’, went back into the past and changed it for the present Hiiragi-chan’s happiness.
The high school days were merely a stepping stone. We only have what we have now due to that.
I don’t know what will happen from now on, as I have never had a time leap release after that. Even in my original memories, I don’t know anything that happened past springtime of this year.
…Maybe that means, it’s okay for me to go to her now.
Even a car’s navigation would stop once you reach somewhere close to your destination. As if saying, ‘It’s here. You know what to do now, right?’
The past is done being modified. The time leap that isn’t released. Following that route, I arrived at the present. The timeline of the past has met with the present.
I was never shown a happy ending with Hiiragi-chan in the ‘present’. There was a mountain of problems, and the more I fixed, the more problems appeared.
As for the last problem, maybe it was settled with time?
Does this mean that I should walk on my own two feet from now on?
By the time I cleaned up after getting to a good stopping point, it had already turned 9 PM.
A call came from my boss, scolding me, “Didn’t I tell you it was the end of the year party? We were supposed to get praised a lot.”
She seemed to be quite happy, as Natsumi-chan’s voice had a bit of a bounce to it. She seemed to be drunk, unlike usual. “It all starts here, Thief-kun.” Such a nostalgic way of calling me, as she continued to talk about various things.
Holding that back, I made sure to ask only about the information I needed and headed towards the parking lot. I got into my car and directed it with the steering wheel towards an all too familiar location.