“Hinata-chan… is anyone having a birthday today?”
“I admit that I overdid it.”
We’re currently looking at a whole cake, adorned with whipped cream and fruits. It’s beautifully decorated, and I’m personally satisfied with the result. Aah, but, that’s not the point.
“I think we were talking about making some simple sweets since it’d be a waste to do nothing while waiting them, right?”
“I got carried away by mistake.”
Rumi and I have been waiting for Hiori and Tsubaki to return home, but they’re getting quite late. So, I tried contacting them by an email, and it seems that they’ll be taking their time. In the end, I borrowed the kitchen to make something that wouldn’t be too time-consuming. I had planned to bake cookies at first, but the moment I reached the kitchen, I got too excited when I saw the cookwares that I don’t have at home. As a result, I ended up making a cake by accident.
“It’s amazing how you can make something this grand without meaning to…”
“Well~ you’re making me blush.”
Be that as it may, I’ve used their ingredients without asking. I need to apologize to Hiori later. Rumi will most likely tell me that it’s okay, but using someone else’s stuff without permission is still a bad thing to do. I’m reflecting on it. I should’ve asked when I was sending the email earlier.
“Still, they’re late.”
While I’m washing the cooking utensils and cleaning up, Rumi looks at the clock and mutters in worry. Now that she mentions it, I think it’s been more than an hour since they replied.
“It seems it’s been a really long time since they last went shopping together, so I guess they want to take it slow.”
“I think you’re right.”
When I imagine the sight of them shopping happily, I end up smiling. It’s still early for dinner anyway, so we should be waiting for them patiently. After I finish cleaning up, I put the cake in the fridge and return to sit in the living room. A short while later, Rumi comes to sit in front of me. But, for some reason, she’s staring at me…. Uh, um? What is it?
“Is there something on my face?”
Maybe there is cream stuck on my face when I was making the cake, so I try wiping it off with my hand. I was stirring it with my strength, so some of the fresh cream might have taken flight.
“Ah, that’s not it. Umm, it’s just, you know, that, I think you have a cute face.”
I have no idea how to react to that, so I’m not sure what to say. ‘Thank you very much!’ will sound as if I’m agreeing with her statement. But if I say ‘That’s not true!’, it might just come out unpleasant. But, there are no girls who aren’t happy to be told that she’s cute, of course, me included…. Although, hearing that from my little sister gives me mixed feelings.
“A-anyway! Was Tsubaki-chan the one who invited you for dinner today?”
“Aah, yes. After getting forsaken by my family, Tsubaki was the kind person who beckoned me for dinner.”
‘Hurrah for a full-course Chinese meal!’, I laugh in derision as I remember how my family shouted that. Rumi’s smile clamps up a bit when she sees me like that.
I’m sure Mother and my sister are currently laughing merrily at a Chinese restaurant, spinning the rotating table in high speed. I don’t really like Chinese food anyway, and I don’t feel dejected at all because they didn’t bring me with them, you know? Besides, what’s the big deal with an elite full-course Chinese dinner! Just because it’s expensive, it doesn’t mean that it’s guaranteed to be delicious, okay?!
“…Say, Hinata-chan, are you going out with anyone?”
Here it comes, the question that always comes out of nowhere. Girls like to talk about this topic a lot. Well, I’m also a young girl in the peak of my adolescence, though. At least my appearance is.
“No, I’m not. I prefer hanging out with my friends, and I don’t really understand about love yet.”
“Hmm— I see~”
“What about you, Rumi-san? Are you going out with anyone?”
There’s no way such a beautiful and mature woman would remain single.
“Mhm, it’s impossible for anyone to leave a beauty like Rumi-san alone… wait, what?! You’re kidding!”
“Regrettably, I’m not.”
“But, there must be someone in the past at least…”
“You . are . lying!”
“I-it’s the truth.”
What the hell? Is everyone in this town blind? Or, is Rumi’s ideal too high? Wait, could it be that she’s not that interested to have a relationship like me?! Rumi looks at me acting strangely from my surprise, and she giggles. Hey, this is not the time to laugh.
“In the past, I was focusing to achieve my dream. And now, I’m too busy with work to think about love and such.”
“W-while you’re saying that to yourself, you’re going to miss your marriageable age!!”
“Uuh, my parents have been telling me the same thing, although not directly.”
‘But, I’m not really interested, you know—’ she says without concern. Aah, I knew it, that part of her is just like me…. I’m not really one to say, but I’m a bit… no, I’m very worried about her.
“That’s it. Rumi-san, please let me have a look at your palm.”
She looks puzzled as she shows her palm to me. Then, I stare at it intensely like I’m trying to drill a hole in it.
“……What are you doing?”
“I’m reading your palm. There was a time when I admired and studied fortune telling.”
“Wow, that’s amazing!”
Rumi looks at me with her sparkling eyes, which makes me feel guilty. It’s a downright lie.
“Let’s see. Oh, Rumi-san, it says that you’re clumsy.”
“It’s possible to know that with a palm reading?”
“The art of chiromancy has been progressing with the modern times.”
Her face tells me that she finds it unbelievable. Hmm, I guess that was a lame excuse. If anyone tells me that, I won’t believe it, either. Well, whatever, it doesn’t really matter. I’m lying to her anyway.
“Rumi-san’s favorite color is orange.”
“Ah, amazing! You’re right!!”
“You were born during winter, your blood type is A, and you like cats.”
“Wow, palm reading is amazing… Everything is spot-on.”
It’d be terrifying if a fortune telling can do that. It’s a breach of privacy. Naturally, I know about all that about Rumi because I was her big sister.
“Excuse me for a bit.”
I lightly grip her wrist with one hand and make her palm overlap my other palm. My hand is slightly smaller than Rumi’s.
“So, what can you tell with that?”
“It’s just that, it’s grown big.”
Her small hand has grown bigger, and prettier than mine.
I move my finger on top of her palm to write a few characters. I slowly, and carefully write it so that it will get conveyed to her. Rumi stays still as she tries to guess what I’m writing on her palm.
After writing the characters, I let go of her hand.
Even though she could guess that much, she doesn’t get what it means. She tilts her head and slants her eyebrows in confusion.
“Rumi-san, are you happy?”
I can hear a gasp from her. After taking a while to think, she’s barely able to put her answer in words.
“I wonder… Maybe, I’m happy… I think.”
“I see. By the way, what I did just now is a good luck charm that was popular in the past. It’s said to bring you happiness.”
“Ah… I… know that.”
I’m the one who taught Rumi about this charm. When she was upset and crying, I told her, “If you write your wish on your palm and swallow it, it will come true.” Although, it’s originally a charm to dispel nervousness by [writing ‘person’ on the palm and swallow it], but I went and revised it a bit.
“You need to swallow it, or your wish won’t be fulfilled.”
“So, go ahead and swallow it.”
Well, she doesn’t need to actually swallow it literally, only pretend like she does. But, Rumi just stares at her palm, unmoving. It’s nothing but a good luck charm, so it’s not going to fulfill her wish just like that. It’s just a self-suggestion.
But, if she’s hesitating to swallow the ‘happiness’, it means that she lacks ‘the intent to be happy’.
I seize her hand and forcefully push it against her mouth.
“And, the charm is complete! With this, Rumi-san is going to be happier.”
I smile at Rumi, who is overcome with surprise.
“Please, make lots and lots of happiness.”
Rumi was more of a crybaby and spoiled compared to the others. But when I died, I’m sure that’s when she started to hide the spoiled and weak side of her. Being able to stand up on her own feet may be a good thing, but that’s not the end of it. She needs to have someone else she can rely on, without having to reserve herself.
It’s okay for her to be spoiled. She’s been working so hard, but it’d be meaningless if she isn’t happy. If she herself doesn’t wish for happiness, she’ll never be able to feel happy.
Still in a daze, tears start to form in the corners of her eyes. But, she doesn’t wipe her flowing tears, and she doesn’t avert her eyes from me. Instead, she keeps looking towards me as she weeps in silence.
“Are you all right?”
After a while, she raises her downcast face.
“Mhm… sorry, and thank you. Somehow, that makes me feel refreshed.”
She wipes her tears away and shows a refreshed smile, so I smile at her in return. It’s like she’s been freed by an invisible shackle, as her face looks quite cheerful.
“Wow, I wonder if I actually have a talent for fortune telling.”
I’m asking in jest, but contrary to my expectations, Rumi nods with a serious face.
“I believe that you do have the talent, Hinata-chan. It’s possible that you will bring happiness to many people.”
“Ahaha, that’s not true. Although, I will consider being a fortune teller as one of choices for my future career.”
But in truth, I don’t think I have that kind of talent at all. If I have to say, maybe it’s the talent to do fortune telling fraud instead. Besides, I don’t have the ability to grant happiness to many people. I don’t even have the power to make the people around me happy.
“Hinata-chan, have you decided on your future career?”
“No, not in particular…”
I didn’t have any dreams that I wanted to achieve during my past life. I recall writing the name of the local university when I submitted my career counseling form at that time. And, I haven’t considered about the future of my present life seriously, either.
“You’re just starting high school at the moment. So, I guess you haven’t decided on anything.”
“You may still have time ahead of you, but it’s better to start thinking about it, you know? Especially when it’s about your future.”
Her tone is gentle, yet earnest, as she remonstrates me.
“Oh— you’re just like a teacher.”
“That’s because I’m one.”
When I give her a respectful gaze, she makes a wry smile.
I think Rumi’s right, I should start thinking about my future from now. Because, there is no way to redo ‘my’ life. But still, what kind of job do I want…? Going on a safe route as an office lady? It does have a high rate of employment.
“How about a pastry chef? After all, Hinata-chan likes confections, not to mention that you’re good at making it.”
“Hm, but that’s only a hobby.”
“I believe it’d be wonderful if you can turn your hobby into an occupation. Naturally, you will run into many hardships along the way.”
“…I will consider it.”
I still have a future ahead of me. My life as Sekiguchi Tsubaki had ended, but as Hayase Hinata, I still have more to come. Time is finite, so I decide to think about it more carefully from now on…. Nevertheless, being able to talk about my future like this makes me so happy.
“W-what is it? It’s cruel of you to laugh after looking at someone else’s face like that.”
“Sorry about that. It’s because Hinata-chan really resembles Nee-san.”
“It’s not your appearance, but there are many things that are similar. Like your personality, favorite foods, and your behaviors, too.”
I was careless because I thought that no one would ever know, but I guess I’m showing my past traits too much. Should I take the chance to say, “I’m actually the reincarnation of your sister,” or something? I’m really curious how she would react… but I think, I can’t do that. I’d hate myself if I trifle with their lives like that.
Hiori, Tsubaki, and Rumi are all walking forward with their own strength. Therefore, [I] can’t be their shackle. It’s just right for me to watch over them secretly, and push them from behind at times. It makes me feel a bit lonely, but that’s how it should be. Because in these 16 years, they’ve all been treading their own paths in their lives.
“At any rate, they’re late.”
Although it’s still early for dinner, it’s been quite a long time from the time we separated. It’s starting to make me worry.
“Did they get caught by some salesman? Or, is it the talent scouts instead? They could be getting hit on, too…”
“Nope, nope, and nope.”
I know that Hiori’s beauty and Tsubaki’s cuteness make them stand out, and they’re often called out for one reason and another. There’s a chance of it happening if Tsubaki was alone, but in Hiori’s case, she won’t even look at them.
Now that I think about it, when I was walking alone with Hiori at a shopping district before, she kept ignoring anyone who’s trying to catch her attention. If there was a persistent guy, she would intimidate him and say, “You’re a nuisance.” That was so scary that it would make even a grown man back away. For that reason, no one can catch her so easily.
“Hm— I wonder if something happened.”
“I will try to call them.”
“I see. Please do that.”
I take out my cell phone and try to give Tsubaki a call, but it won’t connect. Maybe her battery has run out.
“Huh, it’s not connecting.”
“Maybe her cell phone has run out of power, or are they currently somewhere with poor signals?”
I try to call Hiori, but she isn’t answering, either. Maybe Rumi is right about them being somewhere with poor signals.
“I’m sure they’ll be home soon.”
Well, since Hiori is with her, there should be no problem.
And so, we spend the time idly as we wait for their return.