Jinsei Reset Button

Chapter 3: Whatever Happens, I’ll Just Reset
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Chapter 3: Whatever Happens, I’ll Just Reset

Part 1

Shuu joined the baseball team.

Well, the baseball club members were the stars of Karima High.

Our school went to a regional tournament, unrelated to Koushien**, about three times a year to play. Apparently we were pretty strong.

When I asked Shuu why he had entered the baseball team, he answered,

“Because the baseball team has a lot of rivals.”

Since baseball was popular, there were a lot of players fighting for positions, and therefore a lot of rivals. The more rivals there were, the more motivation he had. That’s the kind of person he was.

“On the other hand, Yuuto, you have no motivation. Remember in the long-distance race in elementary school, you placed ahead of me?”

“Not true, I do have motivation. It’s just that running track has no place in my goals for perfection.”

“What is this ‘goal of perfection’ you speak of anyway? Doing nothing?”

“I’m doing something.”

“But you’re not doing it with your all.”

He was perceptive.

As someone who always put his all into everything, Shuu could tell that I had effort to spare.

Because I had the reset button, I could reset every time I encountered failure, and thus the people around me saw only the perfect side of me. So, naturally, they would think that everything came effortlessly to me.

I wonder what Shuu would think if he were to find out my secret. Maybe he’d look at me with scorn.

The time I spent idling around and chatting with Shuu had decreased considerably ever since he joined the baseball team.

I walked home alone.

Natsuki was on the girl’s volleyball team. I really thought she was the type to join the drama club, so it came as a bit of a shock. After all, she was uncharacteristically fond of superheroes. The other guys probably only noticed her cheerful personality and would never consider the possibility that she was an otaku, and even if they knew, their first guess would probably be that she liked anime or manga.

“Natsuki, why didn’t you join the literary club?”

Natsuki, Shuu, and I were all in the same class.

“I thought of joining literary club, but most of the things you do there can be done at home, wouldn’t you say? So I thought it’d be better to do something that I can only do at school.”

“Then why volleyball? Why not basketball? And I heard they’re starting a girl’s soccer team this year, too.”

“Don’t tell anyone this, but it’s because the volleyball team’s weak. Even though they practice, they’re weak. The basketball team places pretty well at regionals. There’s a lot of demand for a soccer team, so they’re bound to have a lot of good players.”

“So what?”

“So I chose the volleyball team, the one with a promising future.”

“What promising future?”

“Well, it might have one, okay? I was thinking, if I tried really hard, I could get the volleyball team stronger and stronger.”

As expected, she was following the path of the superhero. She was so cool.

That’s why Natsuki stayed after school practicing with the volleyball team until dusk every day.

At our school, there were some days with no club, and so when classes ended, everyone rushed home. To me and the others in the going-home club, being able to go home without doing club activities was kind of a privilege, but the world saw it differently. Those who were in clubs were the special and privileged.

It shocked me.

I had only been in high school for a short time, and I was trying to just slide by without losing my stoic countenance, yet I was shocked by this.

“Yuuto, you going home?” Natsuki asked.

It was a no-club day.

“Yeah, I am. I always do.”

“Help me with the cleaning.”

“Ehh.”

“C'mon please, help?”

Natsuki had a habit of putting a rising inflection in her voice when asking for something. I don’t know if it was just a habit or if it was on purpose, but regardless, it was a particular weakness of mine. I didn’t confess to her three thousand times for the fun of it, you know.

“Well, I guess.”

“You’re great, Yuuto!”

When I went over to help out, I found that everyone on cleaning duty was female, making me the lone male among them.

“Hashidate-kun, can I have that?”

“Hashidate-kun, move the desk for me please?”

“Hashidate-kun, help―”

It was heaven.

This was my kind of helping-out-with-cleaning. By the way, in high school, all the guys were just called -kun, without any sort of embarrassment. There wasn’t any honorific-dropping, either. Of course, we still called the girls by -san.

We were such adults.

“All we have left is to take out the trash. Yuuto, lend a hand.”

“Now I’m just doing everything for you guys.”

Natsuki and I, along with two others, picked up the trash can and headed towards the incinerator. Said incinerator was down in a corner of the sports grounds, so the shortest way was to go behind the sports shed.

The baseball and rugby teams were both on the grounds, practicing. Only the second- and third-years of the baseball team were there; I didn’t see Shuu among them.

Natsuki and I walked side-by-side, gripping the trash can. I thought perhaps she would tease me about all of the girls being cutesy around me during cleaning, but of course, as a man whose confession had just been rejected, I hoped that it wouldn’t happen. While we talked about nothing in particular, we walked towards the sports storage shed and noticed that the door was open about 50 cm.

At first I thought someone might have forgotten to close it, but seeing as the teams who were out on the field right now were the “Great Teams” themselves, I decided to just let sleeping dogs lie, and was about to walk past the shed.

“Fujiyoshi-kun…do you have a girlfriend?”

I heard an uneasy voice coming from inside the shed. A girl, talking to Shuu, no less.

“Nope.”

“Then please go out with me!”

“…Sorry.”

“Why not?”

“I’m not interested.”

“You…you think that badly of me?”

“That’s not what I meant. I’m just not interested in being in a relationship right now.”

“That’s so…”

I could hear the sound of a girl crying from inside the shed.

“Don’t cry. Dry your tears and find strength in yourself.”

Shuu… You really are a manly guy, a man among men. But that’s not something you should be saying to a girl who just now confessed and was rejected. Especially if you’re the one who did it.

I could never decide if he was really cool or just lame.

Natsuki gave me a push on the back, steering me away from the shed.

“That girl was the baseball club’s manager, you know.”

“Really? A first-year? Making a move on Shuu?”

“You didn’t know about it? She’s been trying to hint her feelings at him for a while, or so the rumors claim.”

“I didn’t know. Shuu never told me.”

“Of course not, if he did, that would be like bragging, right? And you know how dense our Shuu is.

"Yeah, you’re right.”

“…So Shuu doesn’t have a girlfriend then.”

“He doesn’t. That thing about him not being interested was true, huh.”

“Hmmm.”

I had the feeling that her “Hmmm” had a lot more to it, but I ignored that and dumped the paper trash into the incinerator.

After I arrived home, I collapsed onto my bed and held the reset button up to the fluorescent light.

Not like I could enlighten myself to its true nature at this point.

I turned the box around in my hand.

Why had Maki-chan given this reset button to me?

I had used this button to reset my life thousands of times by now. I tried to recall all of those memories. There was a certain subset that I could remember, but most of them were buried under layers and layers of memories.

I read in a book once that humans retain all of their memories from the time that they are born. There exists in the brain a certain region called the hippocampus, which is in charge of memory. It’s a small part of the body but it plays a huge role.

So if all of my memories ever were stored there, then that must imclude memories from each time I reset. At least, all of my previous memories from my resets were stuffed in there somewhere.

…Huh?

The possibility entered my brain that by using the reset button, I was in effect extending my lifespan. Even just by resetting a number of times in a month, I would be living longer lives than the people around me, in a way. In fact, since I’d already reset several thousand times, I had probably lived 2 or 3 years longer than my peers. However, my body was still that of a first-year high school student. Maybe if I had the body of a third-year instead, I would have more of a tough vibe.

I had been thinking of it as a positive side effect of life extension, but what if I were actually piling up mental years? As I acquired more and more memories, my brain would be more strained by them, so I wouldn’t be surprised if my brain were weakening.

No, wait a minute.

If I were really adding on mental years here, then I should be having no trouble in school at all. I’d probably be around the level of third year of high school, or even first year of college. If this hypothesis were correct, then I should in all probability be a genius who could go to college straight out of first year of high school…

Hmmm. What was actually going on here?

As I was pondering the true nature of the reset button and what effect it was having on my life, the scientific magazine that I had dropped by my bedside (yeah, as I had reset over and over, I’d eventually gotten into stuff like scientific magazines) flipped open to an article titled “Time Machines and Parallel Worlds”. At that moment, my head started to hurt.

Aah, now I have a headache and I can hear ringing in my ears.

So that’s how I ended up sleeping with my head buried in the futon.

The next night, Shuu called me. That in itself was unusual.

The first thing out of his mouth was,

“I’ve entered a relationship with Natsuki.”

Seeing as I was already occupied by so many stressors, at first I couldn’t think of what to say.

I had kept my confession to Natsuki on the day we were accepted into school a secret from Shuu this whole time.

More like, I was trying to pretend that had never happened.

I had thought that I could just have a wonderful high school life and continue to be friends with Natsuki.

―entered a relationship with Natsuki.

I completely ignored the fact that he was using such an old-fashioned phrase. His words tore straight through me.

“O-oh?”

Somehow I managed to squeak out a reply.

“She confessed to me.”

“No way!”

It took a few moments for him to regain his composure after my unexpected outburst of shock, but then he laid out the events of the day’s evening for me.

Today had been a club day, so as usual Shuu had stayed late after school to practice. Natsuki had done the same thing for her club, so they ended up bumping into each other as they set out to go home. Their houses were in the same direction, so they ended up walking home together.

Natsuki looked like she had something on her mind, and when questioned by Shuu, she had blurted out “I like you,” apparently.

After thinking for a bit, Shuu had responded with an “Okay.”

“B-but Shuu, didn’t you say that you have no interest in that kind of stuff?

"Hm? I don’t recall ever saying that to you.”

Memories from the conversation I overheard the day before yesterday flashed through my head.

“But it’s true, right?” I retorted.

“Yeah, it is, but Natsuki’s different.”

“Different?”

“I’ve got mountains of things before me that I have to give my all to overcome. So as I see it, it’d be in my best interests not to be involved in love affairs. But if it’s Natsuki, it’s fine, I think.”

“Why?”

“I imagined myself trying hard alongside Natsuki, and found it to be quite plausible.”

Shuu and Natsuki were certainly the type to mutually inspire each other in both clubs and school.

And in that regard, Shuu’s decision was certainly not out of line, and neither was Natsuki’s analysis of the situation, and as their friend, I felt admiration for them.

I hung up and sat for a while in shock.

I could easy imagine Shuu and Natsuki trying their best alongside each other, but I could not for the life of me include myself along with them.

I took the reset button in my hand, and thought carefully.

The confession had been on the way home today, so then I should…

I applied pressure to the red button.

―Reset. The world wavered.

The point I had chosen to return to was lunch break of that same day.

I had Shuu come with me, to a place where there would be less chance of anyone seeing us. Underneath the stairs.

“Hey.”

“What.”

“I’ve been wanting to discuss this with you for some time now. Today felt like a good day to do it.”

“What do you mean?”

“Before we graduated from middle school, I confessed to Natsuki. She rejected me.”

“Rejected you? Why? You two get along, don’t you?”

“Being friends and going out are two very different things. I could never go out with you, she said.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“I thought you might be angry.”

“No, I think it’s ridiculous. I can’t imagine why’d she say no.”

“That’s good, I’m not asking you to be angry. I mean, I’m not angry either.”

“No, I’m angry, too. You should be more angry about this, not to mention have more faith in yourself as a man.”

“I do have faith in myself.”

“Then why don’t you at least try to make her give you a chance before walking away?”

“Would you do that if you were in my position?”

“Well, I have no interest in being in a relationship.”

“Really? What would you do if Natsuki confessed to you?”

“I’d say no. I have no interest in being in a relationship, and I can’t forgive the fact that she blew you off like that.”

“Hey, I’m doing just fine.”

“Okay, even ignoring what happened between you and her, I’d still refuse.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

That’s how our secret conversation went.

We returned to the classroom in silence.

While looking down at those people with club activities, my club-activity-less self waited in the classroom until sundown. The wait was excruciating.

That’s because I had waited here many times already. I had found, by trial-and-error via resets, the best timing for me to play my hand. Waiting was unavoidable.

This time was the same as all the others.

The bell rang, and everyone packed up to go home. Pretty soon, Natsuki would bump into Shuu, and they would head home together, and then Natsuki would confess to Shuu. And if all went well, the pieces of my grand scheme would fall into place…

I moved to a classroom on the first floor from which I could see the school gate, and peeked outside from the gap in between the drawn curtains.

I could see Shuu and Natsuki walking together, and exited the classroom so that I could follow them.

Leaving a bit of distance, I tailed them. After we had walked for about five minutes, Natsuki stopped. Shuu looked behind him, over his shoulder, and said something.

Smack!

All of a sudden, Natsuki slapped Shuu in the face.

I’m sure you know how I felt at the moment. All according to plan. Goal achieved. It was a shitty thing to do to Natsuki, but it was for the sake of my perfect life.

Natsuki ran the rest of the way home, crying. I looked at her silhouette retreat farther and farther away.

She’d be fine, since she was Natsuki. Tomorrow she’d be back to her old cheerful self. Just like the time she rejected me, she would continue greeting us as she always did.

I watched Shuu head off to his own house, and then left.

That night, Natsuki was killed.

Part 2

Following the bell that signaled the beginning of the school day came a schoolwide announcement. The entire student body was urgently ushered to the gym.

We stood in rows, as if we were about to give our morning bows. The end of the line was still restlessly moving to and fro like an animal’s tail when the school principal stepped onto the stage.

“We have an unfortunate announcement to make today. Some of you may already know this―first-year Sugita Natuski of Class B passed away last night. She was on her way home when she became involved in an incident. The perpetrator was taken into police custody this morning, so it is unlikely that the event will repeat itself. However, everyone should make sure to be careful, especially when walking alone at night. The media have already been alerted to this event. We ask that you all try not to involve yourselves with news reporters. In honor of Natsuki’s memory, it would be advisable not to speak lightly of the situation.”

The gymnasium was so still, you could hear a pin drop.

We all walked back to our classrooms in silence, rather than the usual hubbub of chatter that usually accompanied the conclusion of school announcements. One by one, the girls started to cry, and the other girls comforted them.

Shuu and I said nothing and did not cry, but simply stared up at the ceiling in a daze.

I heard a voice from among the boys standing behind the classroom,

“It must have a been a pervert. Or maybe, this was all a big prank, whaddaya think?”

I nearly leapt forward at the owner of the voice, but was forcibly held back by Shuu.

However, right after that, one of Natsuki’s close friends slapped the guy in the face with all her might, and the tension in the air settled. If she hadn’t slapped him, I wouldn’t have been able to deal with the sulky atmosphere and would have taken him on myself.

That day, for homeroom, we discussed who would go to Natsuki’s house to pay their respects.

Her family had requested to not have the entire class visit, so the class representative, along with Shuu and I were chosen to go. Since Shuu and I had known her since middle school, the class had no qualms about it, and besides, both of us fully intended to go, whether we were part of the class visit or not.

We visited that night for the vigil.

Shuu and I met up at a nearby convenience store, and set off to Natsuki’s house. In middle school, Natsuki had refused to let us go to her house to study, but I never thought this was how I would get to finally go to her house with Shuu.

Natsuki’s house was your average one-story building, with “Sugita family” written in black ink on white paper at their front porch. There was hardly any evidence of people living there. It was, as my teacher had called it, a “vigil only in name”―only those who were close to the family were visiting, it seemed.

Natsuki was in the living room. She was dressed in her funeral clothes, with a cloth over her face, and for some reason there was a fur of some sort around her neck.

The other people in the room, who were probably her relatives, talked in low voices about the official autopsy and so on and so forth.

I couldn’t bring myself to look at Natsuki’s face. I had heard of people applying funeral makeup to the dead, and wondered if she had it on. Natsuki, who had never been one to seek out magic powders to make herself stand out, had not once worn makeup that actually made her look like she was wearing makeup, as far as I knew.

I still could not bring myself to look her mother in the eyes.

When we exited the house, Shuu spoke.

“There’s something that I have to tell you.”

“Don’t say it!”

“Natsuki’s death was my fault.”

“Don’t say that! It’s not true! At all!”

“It’s true. Yesterday, I…”

“Don’t say it!”

Please, don’t continue with that sentence. I knew what Shuu was thinking, what he wanted to tell me. And because I knew, I told him that it wasn’t true.

It was all my fault.

It was I who killed Natsuki.

What the hell, why did this have to happen? I never wanted any of this to happen. I never wished for it. So why did Natsuki bear the punishment?

This was a punishment for me, too.

I didn’t want to encounter this slim possibility. I refused to recognize this world. I didn’t want to recognize the existence of this world.

I mean, it didn’t make sense. Natsuki had done nothing wrong. There was no reason to harbor any ill will towards her.

It wasn’t her fault. It was all my fault.

I had reset solely for the sake of my ego, and look what happened.

I have to save her. I have to save Natsuki.

Destroy the root cause, and slice the starting point to pieces.

I could do it.

Rather, I was the only one who could do it.

Natsuki, Natsuki, Natsuki, Natsuki.

I opened my mouth to scream, but my throat was so dry that no sound came out. I took the reset button from my bag and pressed it with conviction.

―Reset.

Natsuki ran, crying, as I called out to her.

It was on the way home after school. Shuu and Natsuki had walked together after school, she had confessed and he had turned her down. And then this.

I broke into a run, chasing her. I had to save her.

As I passed Shuu, he looked at me with surprise.

He turned to me and said something that I couldn’t hear.

I was trying my best to keep pace with Natsuki, but seeing as she ran a lot during club activities, while I sat around all day, we were of totally different calibers. After a while, I lost sight of her.

Fortunately, I knew where her house was (in fact, I had just gone there recently, for her own vigil) so I knew approximately which direction to go.

Even if I don’t chase after her, I thought, I just have to be there in time to save her from danger. I continued, without slowing my pace, my feet pounding the asphalt.

As I passed by the park on the way to her house, I heard the sound of someone falling, and a small scream.

Natsuki!

“Natsuki! Where are you?”

The park was triangular, nestled between the two paths that branched out from the fork in the road, and was surrounded by tall trees such that much of the park was in the shadows.

I pried apart some low-hanging branches and made my way into the park.

Where…where was she.

I saw the silhouette of a man behind the bench.

And he was on top of Natsuki!

The man had unkempt hair, and was wearing dirtied shirt and slacks. He looked like a homeless man who had nowhere but this park to spend his nights.

“That bastard!”

I jumped over the bench to the other side, and pressed my weight against the dirt-covered man’s back. He twisted around and elbowed me in the side, hard. His reflexes were surprisingly fast.

Natsuki, who was still being held down by the man, made no attempt to flee.

“Natsuki, get away!”

As I shouted, the man punched me in the face. The impact was enough to make my head jerk back, but I grit my teeth against the pain, and lashed back with a headbutt.

He didn’t even flinch. Glaring with bloodshot eyes, he moved to wrap his hands around my neck. I scraped my nails down his arms, and in the moment that he loosened his grip in response to the pain, I grabbed his leg.

He kicked at my chin with his knee. I couldn’t breathe. With his foot, he kicked my stomach. Over and over, he kicked me.

Unable to stand it anymore, I collapsed facedown onto the ground. He continued to kick me in the gut, over and over again.

It hurt so much that I couldn’t move. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t…no, I have to save Natsuki.

The next kick connected with my face. My vision blurred to black. I couldn’t see. My nose hurt. Half of my face was covered in spit and some other warm liquid, flowing across my skin. A nosebleed, maybe.

I tried to get up, but I couldn’t. With great difficulty, I opened one eye.

The man had run back to Natsuki, once again obscuring her from sight.

She let out a scream.

I could hear the sound of the her uniform’s blouse buttons being ripped apart.

I dug my fingers into the ground, and tried to use my elbow as support to lift myself off the ground, but collapsed.

I couldn’t do anything. I had reset, but still couldn’t save Natsuki.

Worthless. Powerless. Meaningless.

I reached inside my bag, which had been dropped near where I lay now, and felt around inside with my hand.

Where is it. Where is it.

Natsuki’s voice, her voice…

Where was the button? I couldn’t find it. It should be in the bag, I’m sure I put it in there.

Maybe I had forgotten to take it with me…I didn’t want to think about that possibility.

The only thing I can do now is use that button―that is, reset.

Natsuki’s scream!

The button…there it is!

I gathered all of my strength and pressed the button. Please, make it in time!

―Reset.

I returned to lunch break.

I made it, I think.

If I hadn’t made it in time…..I don’t want to think about that.

It’s really fortunate that I have the reset button, I thought to myself, but the main event is about to begin.

During lunch break, I dragged Shuu off with me.

“Hey.”

“What.”

“I’ve been wanting to discuss this with you for some time now. Today felt like a good day to do it.”

“What do you mean?”

“Before we graduated from middle school, I confessed to Natsuki. She rejected me.”

“Rejected you? Why? You two get along, don’t you?”

“Being friends and going out are two very different things. I could never go out with you, she said.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Hold on, let me finish my story. I still think of Natsuki as a close friend. Shuu, you’re an important friend to me too. I don’t draw a line between guys and girls for this. You’re both equally important to me. You think of Natsuki as as friend, too, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I do. For a girl, she’s an unusually good friend to have around.”

“I think so too. And I thought you’d say that. Now, I confessed to Natsuki, and she turned me down. However, she’s still special to me. Whether she’s special to me as a girl or not, I don’t know, but the important thing is, she’s special to me as a friend.”

“Yeah, I understand.”

“I thought you would. I want to continue being friends with both you and Natsuki. Don’t you?”

“I do too. I want to stay friends with both you and Natsuki.”

“That’s a relief.”

“You sure are weird. What’s up with you, suddenly bringing up this soap-opera-like conversation?”

“It doesn’t matter, does it.”

“Whatever…well, you’re still weird.”

And thus ended our secret conversation.

We returned to the classroom in silence.

School let out for the day.

Again, I killed time hanging around in the classroom, waiting for those two to finish their club activities.

I confirmed that Shuu and Natsuki were walking home together, and tailed them.

Up ahead, the two stood facing each other, talking. Natsuki reached out her hand and Shuu shook it.

I approached them, pretending not to have seen what had happened earlier.

“What’s going on?”

Natsuki was crying. Tears were streaming down her face, but she was smiling.

“We were reaffirming our friendship.”

“Don’t say such embarrassing things.”

“It’s not embarrassing, Shuu. See, you reaffirmed our friendship too, right?”

“Don’t keep saying that.”

“Yuuto, you’ll be friends with me forever, too, won’t you?”

“Hm? What gotten into you all of a sudden? Of course I will.”

“I’m glad. I’m glad that I’m friends with both of you. You’re all I need.”

“Natsuki, you weirdo.”

“Yeah, weirdo.”

“C’mon, what?”

Natsuki punched both Shuu and my chests with her fist, and I returned the favor, punching her lightly in the back.

The three of us stayed friends.

That was a good enough conclusion for me. After all, we were true friends. There was neither need nor desire to destroy the delicate balance between us…but if it were to be destroyed, that would certainly not be in my favor.

The three of us walked along, stopping at a convenience store to splurge on ice cream. It kind of felt like we were celebrating something. Then, we headed home on our usual routes, talking about nothing in particular.

With the life reset button, I could do anything.

I could go back to the time before I win a match and make it so that I would never meet with the losing team. I could even make it so that the match never happened.

Was this kind of life so bad?

―Might as well, right?

Let me give you a small example of this sort of trial and error to think about. Suppose you’ve just finished a can of juice and you’re trying to throw the can into the garbage bin.

If you don’t make it in, reset. If you do make it, that’s the end of that. Eventually, you’ll be able to throw the can in.

Moreover, in the course of resetting, your throwing arm will become better and better, and the chances of getting in will be higher each time. In fact, you could say that I could now throw cans into garbage bins with perfect accuracy.

Each time I reset, my life became more perfect. And at the same time, I myself also became more perfect. My life would be built up, bit by bit, from these repeats. As the bits of my life piled up, they would weigh upon me more and more.

Ah, my ears were ringing again. At the same time, it felt like there was an enormous weight pressing down on top of my head, following the ringing like a shadow.

Everything went hazy.

Everything started spinning.

The weight on my head and the ringing in my ears started to tingle and throb, and I felt pressure in the back of my chest.

What was happening to me?

It happened the next Saturday. Shuu and I went to the convenience store near Natsuki’s house. Then we sat down on a concrete planter in the parking lot nearby, took out the manga magazines we had just bought, and started flipping through them.

We had considered inviting Natsuki to come with us, but the seinen manga that we read that day happened to be full of indecent scenes, so if she had seen us reading these kinds of manga…well, this was why we decided not to invite her along. Besides, this was a day for us guys to have fun by ourselves; it wasn’t like the three of us were joined at the hip or anything.

Then, an old lady came hobbling out of the the convenience store.

She was moving forward at a disconcertingly fast pace for her age, judging by the bend of her back. She was about to cross the road. The light was red, but there was no sign of any cars around, so she moved out onto the crosswalk.

Right then, because the fence of the residential area created a blind spot there, a motorbike came speeding around the corner, unaware of the three of us in the area.

It didn’t even slow down as the old lady went flying.

Crack! It was an appallingly loud noise.

The rider hit the brakes, hard, and the bike finally screeched to a stop more than ten meters from where the collision had happened. The old lady lay on her back in the center of the parabola formed by the tire tracks in the convenience store parking lot.

Ah, she finally straightened her back.

As I thought these imprudent thoughts, I returned to my virtuous self and reached into my bag, pressing the button without hesitation.

―Reset.

The old lady came out of the convenience store and headed straight for the crosswalk. I put the manga magazine down and ran over to her, planting myself between her and the crosswalk.

“The light’s red, you know.”

“What do you want, kid. There aren’t any cars.”

“Doesn’t matter, just wait, please.”

“Well, if no cars come, then what was all this for?”

I stood directly in front of the old lady, my arms outstretched to block her path.

“Step aside, don’t get in the way!”

“Please wait!”

The sound of an engine revving was followed by a motorbike passing behind us so quickly that I felt pressure from behind me.

“See, it’s dangerous.”

“No matter. He would have obviously swerved to avoid me. Now you’ve gone and wasted my time.”

Whatever. All I wanted to do was help.

As I struggled to come up with a response, Shuu swooped in to my rescue.

“There’s a saying that goes, ‘The elderly should be guided by their children,” right?“

“What is it with you, too…oh, my.”

As the old lady turned to face Shuu, her tone changed.

"You’re a handsome one, aren’t you. You look just like my husband before he died. Oh, you kids. I’ll forgive you, since you’re handsome.”

The old lady, with her bent back and fast pace, traversed the crosswalk with the green light blinking on the other side.

Shuu sighed, and said,

“She praised me…why’s that?”

“Hell if I know. But we saved her.”

I returned to the planter, put the magazine that I’d left there into my bag, and walked off.

Shuu called out to me with a serious look on his face.

“Hey, Yuuto. There’s something that’s been bothering me about what happened earlier.”

“What?”

“Why are you so perfect?”

“Wh-what are you saying? How am I perfect…I already told you, I want to be perfect, but that’s it.”

“Well, from what I can see, you’re perfect. When we played softball in gym class, your pitches were all perfect. You could even be scouted for the baseball team.”

“I’ve built that up from throwing things in the trash…”

“And that thing that just happened. How did you know that she was in danger?”

“How did I know…well, that kind of thing is always dangerous no matter how you look at it, you know?”

“You wedged yourself between her and the road just before the bike showed up. But the fence on the street caused a blind spot, so you couldn’t possibly have seen the bike coming. And you couldn’t hear it either.”

Shuu gave me the question straight. After all, what just happened seemed pretty unnatural.

I was torn. I thought, maybe it would be best to tell him the truth.

I’ll see what happens.

“Shuu, if you had the opportunity to reset your life, would you?”

“Reset as in, start from the beginning?”

“No, you can start from whenever you like.”

“That’s impressive…”

Shuu seemed to be mulling over many, many things in his mind.

“The truth is…I can. I have a button that lets me reset to whatever time I want to.”

“Huh? That’s ridiculous.”

I couldn’t prove to him directly that what i was saying was true, but I explained all of the things that had happened so far. My theories and my plans were probably somewhat out of his realm of understanding, but he seemed to get the gist of what I was trying to tell him.

“…That’s a valuable ability.”

“Yeah, I agree.”

He said no more, so I couldn’t tell exactly what he really thought of it.

I couldn’t stomach my dinner.

Neither did I feel like taking a bath.

My parents chattered on and on about various things, but I ignored them and holed myself up in my room. I curled up on my bed, covered in a futon.

―I had failed.

Failure. Failure.

Still wrapped up in the futon, I pulled at my hair and curled up even further.

I’d said the one thing that never should have been said. I wasn’t supposed to have told anyone about the reset button. Obviously.

Maki-chan! Maki-chan, do you see me right now? Couldn’t you have warned me?

Now I was probably going to suffer a sudden and unpleasant divine punishment.

Even without divine punishment, I was done for. Shuu probably thought of me with disdain. He totally would.

Once, when I used a cheat code to clear a game, he scolded me harshly, saying, “That’s not how a man plays.”

That’s the kind of guy he was.

A man among men.

Compared to him, what was I? A pathetic excuse of a man.

I clawed at my sheets, messing them up, then fell face-down on my pillow, and bit it.

I’d rather he had cursed at me. I’d rather he had been envious.

How was I perfect, indeed. Shuu was much more perfect than I was. He always kept his cool, without losing his temper, like a man should.

I wasn’t any sort of man.

What should I do. I’d leaked my greatest secret and now faced divine retribution, and what’s more, faced the end of my friendship with Shuu.

This was the worst, the absolute worst.

Terrible, this life is just terrible.

I was a terrible guy, and I was going to be seen as terrible, which made it even more terrible.

I shook the futon off of myself and bolted from bed. Reaching into the bag that had been thrown onto the floor, I took out the button.

The red button, embedded in the four-cornered box. My worn-out face was reflected in the surface of the box.

―Reset.

“Shuu, if you had the opportunity to reset your life, would you?”

“Reset as in, start from the beginning?”

“No, you can start from whenever you like.”

“That’s impressive…”

Shuu seemed to be mulling over many, many things in his mind.

I spoke, cutting off his train of thought.

“It’d give you unlimited insight into the future. Clairvoyance. If you could do that, it’d be like a dream come true, right?”

“Well, first of all, it’s impossible.”

“Yeah, it is. Anyway, the thing with the old lady was something a little bird told me. By which I mean, intuition.”

“Well, if that’s true, that’s pretty impressive in and of itself.”

“But would you call that clairvoyance, too? I was thinking, I might be blessed with superpowers.”

“Even if that were true, that’s cheating.”

We returned home, laughing and joking.

―Huh?

I had regretted revealing the truth about the reset button to Shuu so much, yet I had also felt kind of relieved. There was a kind of innocent joy in confiding secrets in a friend.

At the same time, I also felt fear.

For example, what if Shuu also received a reset button from Maki-chan, and became able to reset? In that case, then if our reset timings were out of alignment, what would happen? Our destinations would be different, and we may never meet again as long as we lived.

I recalled that phrase, parallel worlds, from the scientific magazine.

Maybe I was to live a life of extraordinary solitude.

But even if I were troubled by it, I would probably continue resetting.

Unlike everyone else, after school I was free to do whatever I liked.

Natsuki and Shuu were putting forth their best effort in club, so I walked home by myself. I don’t know if being in the Going-Home Club made going home right after school mandatory, but I wasn’t all that invested in strictly abiding by the Going-Home Club’s rules, so instead of going straight home I sometimes wandered aimlessly around the city.

The main stops on my route were the bookstore and the secondhand game store. I stayed far away from places like the game center. That’s because if I were to go there, it’d be full of kids getting in-game giveaways and doing wireless battles. Why did people want to fight so much, even in computers? If they wanted to battle each other so badly, may as well play shogi.** Of course, all this negatively was definitely not because of that time I was annihilated in a wireless battle and the glasses-wearing kid on the other side of the counter sneered at me as he stood up and left as I felt anger boiling inside me. I’m not that petty of a person.

As per my usual route, I entered the family restaurant. The fast food places were full of middle schoolers, and I felt like it would be awkward to go to a cafe. Besides, since it was late afternoon, the family restaurant wasn’t very crowded, and it had an unlimited drink bar.

Most of all, I was glad of the fact that it wouldn’t be at all embarrassing to order sweet drinks rather than coffee.

However, when I entered the restaurant, the atmosphere was different than usual. As I walked through the door and said, “non-smoking area, please,” I noticed how lively the place was, and immediately understood why.

“Hey, it’s Yuuto!”

It was the first-year student Risa, the one who’d talked to me on that day when we’d received acceptance announcements. Her hair was now blonde. There are limits to how carefree you can spend your school years, I thought to myself.

“Y-yo.”

“What’s up? Haha, you’re in Going-Home Club, huh.”

“Don’t get hooked on that as a topic. Besides, I’m not participating in Going-Home Club activities today.”

“You’re not going home yet? You’re an interesting one.”

That was my line. It was weird how, with Risa, comebacks came to me just like that.

“So what are you up to?”

“Club. We’re having a meeting here in the family restaurant. Oh, and after this we’re having a party at a senpai’s house, wanna come?”

It might’ve been because it was Risa who asked me, that I let myself be dragged along against my better judgment, and it might’ve been because Natsuki and Shuu’s preoccupation with their club activities had made me feel left out.

“Sure, I guess.”

“Okay, come on. It’ll be fun.”

I waited for the club members in the restaurant to settle their bill, then followed them outside. As we walked, Risa somewhat stiffly moved to hold hands with me, but I shook my hand free.

The group finally arrived at a tall apartment building that was near the station. At the 18th floor, we weren’t even at the top of the building; the whole thing gave the impression that only the rich lived here.

The apartment was spacious and luxurious. Seeing as it had a kitchen, dining room, living room, and 4 bedrooms, it would have been spacious even for an entire family. However, it was so messy that it was impossible to imagine a family living here.

“Senpai’s parents are overseas right now. Isn’t that great? The club comes here to hang out sometimes.”

“Shouldn’t you guys try to clean it up a little?”

“Guess so. When there’s too much trash, we pay someone to come clean it up.”

“Eehh.”

This was a totally different world from what I was used to. Wasn’t is expensive to to that kind of thing?

It was certainly starting to look more and more like a party. A whole lot of drinks from the fridge and a bunch of snacks. In spite of the host’s wealth, they were all cheap snacks, piled up way too high.

Crap, I thought, now they’re bringing out the alcohol.

A bottle of what appeared to be sake was being passed around, with no one giving it a second thought. For whatever reason, everyone drank the sake mixed with juice.

Risa was drinking sake, too. Just as I wondered how well she could hold her alcohol, she wobbled around near the group of male senpai, her face flushed red.

Damn, this is getting dangerous.

Why was I even here? This would be a mark of imperfection upon my perfect life.

“Yuuto, why don’t you drink some too?”

I ignored the flashy-looking senpai with brown hair and piercings who approached me. Who cared if she was a senpai.

Risa was kissing one of the hot senpai, none too subtly.

I was so shocked, I had to look twice.

Sure enough, she was making out with the hot senpai.

Risa was drunk out of her mind, and the way that she and the senpai were snogging had gone way past the borders of charming, and was flat-out gross and lewd.

What the hell, why’d it turn out like this?

There was a sharp ringing in my ears. I was struck by intense vertigo. My chest felt like my heart was being jerked up into my throat. My breaths were ragged, arrhythmic.

Did I…really…deserve this?

Risa made her way towards me, nearly falling over.

“Hey, Yuutooo. Let’s kiss.”

“No, stop.”

Stop it! stop it!

Disgusting! Disgusting!

You, stay over there with the others!

Coming to a place like this would only stain me. I wanted to be perfect and tidy.

I reached into my bag and felt around inside. My hand touched down on the button.

―Reset.

I made it so the events after school on that day never happened.

After that, I never spoke with Risa again.

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