When Momoko was young, a woman died saving her from an oncoming car. Before she passed, the woman somehow gave Momoko the ability to repeat days. When the adult Momoko goes to work at a funeral parlor, she finds that by touching the belongings of somebody who has been murdered, she can repeat the day they died and (usually) save them. Though Momoko keeps this ability to herself, she often relies on one of her coworkers, Otomo Shoutarou—a womanizing but very clever jerk—and her best friend, Hina, to help her save lives.
All well and good, at least until one of the killings hits a little too close to home, and Momoko isn't the only one repeating time.
CHAPTER TWO: All Wrong
The girl eyed the compact with a frown. "You're certain this is hers?"
Once again, she didn't wait for an answer. Her eyes were locked on the compact, her attention so focused on the thing that would activate her gift and send her back in time that she didn't even notice when Shoutarou reached out and laid a restraining hand on her arm. "Momoko?"
She didn't hear him, either. She was already reaching for the evidence, her lower lip caught between her teeth as her fingers brushed against the plastic.
And then time shifted, and the world changed, and Shoutarou's sudden cry didn't matter.
Momoko was always surprised by how much traveling through time hurt. She never quite got used to the way her ears would ring or how much her head would pound after she'd shifted through the hours, and on her more frustrating days, she sometimes wondered if the woman who'd given her this curse had ever found a way to avoid the inevitable migraine.
"…really think that would stop someone like Momoko?"
The words barely registered in Momoko's mind, though some dim part of her recognized that the speaker was only a few inches away. She was still struggling with the effects of time travel and with the sudden exhaustion that had nothing to do with her gift and everything to do with the hours she'd worked the night before the murder.
"Do you think we should wake her up?"
"No. If we leave her, she'll eventually fall over…"
Something wasn't right. Momoko knew it even before she'd fully returned to awareness, though she couldn't quite…
"…we just push her, then?"
The ensuing debate triggered something in her memory, brought her back to herself, and Momoko suddenly tensed.
Shoutarou and pushing.
Shoutarou and pushing and…that jerk!
Her eyes flew open, her coworkers jumped back with only mildly guilty expressions, and Momoko spun to face the man who'd been tormenting her for months.
Only he wasn't there.
"Eh?" Momoko cocked her head, brown eyes already scanning the room for the man who should have been there but wasn't. "Otomo-san…but he should be…and he isn't…what's going on?"
She hadn't forgotten that she wasn't alone, but of course the words had come before she'd really stopped to think of how this might look. Still, she needn't have worried. Her colleagues were too used to her oddities, and of them all, only Akira chose to comment.
"You tell us," he muttered, throwing Momoko a look that was both confused and slightly annoyed. "Tch. Crazy girl…"
Momoko ignored him. She'd already turned to face the door, her eyebrows still drawn together in her confusion.
Shoutarou should have pushed me, but he's not even here. Why isn't he here?
Momoko stepped over to Kataoka's desk as the others returned to their own places, a puzzled frown gathering in her eyes. "Where's Mr. Otomo?"
Kataoka only shrugged, attention already absorbed in her files though she'd been torturing Momoko only a minute before. "He hasn't shown up yet."
Something unpleasant settled in Momoko's stomach. "But that's not…" She trailed off, belatedly changed her approach. "Has anyone heard from him today?"
The other woman only shrugged again, and Momoko swallowed. It's different. It shouldn't be different, not when I haven't started changing things.
She tried telling herself that it didn't matter and that she was making too much of Shoutarou's absence, but she couldn't quite shake the conviction that something was very wrong. Things didn't…change like this, not on their own.
Kataoka had slipped back into her work and wasn't paying the slightest bit of attention to the younger girl, but Momoko forced a shaky smile to her lips before slipping away. She ducked into the alcove behind the filing cabinets, quickly pulling her phone from her pocket and began dialing a number from memory.
She hunched over as the line tried to connect, putting her fingers in her other ear to block the sounds her coworkers weren't actually making and waited with growing impatience for the call to be accepted.
The ringing seemed far too loud and Momoko paused yet again, confusion once again taking over her expression. "Why is there an echo?" she asked aloud, pulling the phone from her ear and staring down at it with a bewilderment that, in her exhausted state, bordered on stupidity.
"Why are you calling me?"
Momoko jumped and spun, nearly dropping her phone completely as she turned to face the man behind her, jumped again as she realized just how closely he was standing.
Shoutarou was standing behind her, his phone open and held in front of her face, the ringing from his cell echoing through hers. Well, that explains that.
Momoko blinked at him, her expression still far too confused. "Where were you?"
He just stared at her, his own eyes unreadable, his expression curiously hard. "None of your business," he finally told her, his words slightly harsher than usual as he slid his phone back into the pocket of his pants.
She wasn't offended by his tone or even by the words—this was Shoutarou, after all, and he'd never been particularly kind to her—but her confusion only grew. Had Shoutarou been behaving normally, he'd have hit her at least twice by now. The fact that he was only walking away…
Something is definitely wrong, but it's not like Shoutarou knows that the day has restarted. It's not like he could realize just how wrong things have become.
She shook herself, started to walk towards her own desk then belatedly realized that she had bigger problems than the stack of paperwork Akira had just dumped on her desk.
Reina, she reminded herself. I have to save Reina.
…and Sakamoto Makoto, too, she suddenly thought. I can't stop a heart attack, but maybe if I convince him to go to a hospital…?
It was worth a try.
Momoko nodded to herself, knowing she didn't have much time to waste. She had to find Mokoto and convince him to see a doctor, and then she had to find the would-be killer of Asami Reina.
And she barely even knew where to start. She had no suspects, no motive, and only a vague time frame in which the murder could have happened.
She was screwed.
Shoutarou, she immediately decided. If anyone can figure this out, it's him.
Momoko spun, eyes searching the room for Shoutarou. He'd disappeared again—that wasn't unusual—but she knew him well enough by now that finding his most recent hiding place wasn't even remotely a problem.
Come out, come out, wherever you are…
She found him in the restroom. He was hiding in one of the stalls, pretending to use the toilet but really just reading that day's paper.
Momoko rolled her eyes. Shotarou was good at his job—no doubt about that—but the man was just so incredibly lazy.
She sighed, then reached out and almost hesitantly knocked on the stall door. "Mr. Otomo…"
The paper stopped rustling from within, but after a moment of silence, Shoutarou groaned. "Go away, Hasegawa. I don't care what your precious Grandma has told you to do this time—I'm not getting involved."
She blinked at him through the door, genuinely startled. "How'd you know? That Grandma sent another vision, I mean?"
There was a tense pause that lasted far too long, and then he gave a long-suffering sigh. "Because that's just the way this day has gone," he muttered. "And I'm still not helping you. Go bother someone else with your delusions."
There isn't anyone else.
It was uncomfortably true. As much as she hated her curse, there were few people Momoko trusted enough to help her. Hina was too wrapped up in herself to really be of use, and she knew better than to involve her father or brother in anything. And as little as she sometimes liked him, Shoutarou could be surprisingly useful once he got into something.
I still say the man is wasted in a funeral parlor. He should have been a thief or a con artist. Or maybe a host, considering how much he likes chasing after women.
"Go away, Momoko."
She'd forgotten what she'd been trying to do. Momoko shook herself, then raised a fist and began pounding on the stall door. "A woman is going to be murdered in a few hours!" she wailed, suddenly panicking at the thought of trying to do this on her own. She could save one, maybe, but both? It wasn't possible without help. It might not even be possible with help. "Someone is going to push her off a roof! Don't you even care?"
Another long pause. Then…
"No. Go away."
That wasn't an option. "I can't do this on my own! I don't even know who's going to do it, or why, and if I try to convince that other guy to go to a hospital before he has a heart attack, he's just going to think I'm crazy! You're the one who always comes up with the good lies! You have to help me!"
She'd continued pounding on the door throughout the entire tirade, not realizing that her words probably hadn't made sense, and it wasn't until after Shoutarou had grabbed her wrist that she realized he'd opened the door and was now glaring down at her.
"What did you say?"
His voice was too intent, and as she blinked rather stupidly up at him, she suddenly found herself thinking that he was much too close. "Um…you're a better liar?"
She hadn't thought he'd be this offended by that. In fact, Shoutarou being Shoutarou, she'd thought he'd take it as a compliment. What was wrong with him today?
His glare deepened, and she immediately tried to pull away.
He wasn't having it. His fingers actually tightened around her wrist, and she wondered if she'd have bruises later. "What did you say about the man with the heart attack?"
She blinked. "Um…there's actually two people who are going to die today," she mumbled, still confused by the intensity of his reaction. "Asami Reina is going to be pushed off a hospital roof, and another man is going to have a heart attack in a parking garage. I thought that maybe we can get him to a doctor before it happens…"
She knew she was babbling, but she couldn't help it. The way he was staring at her…she hadn't been this uncomfortable in a long, long time. "You can let go now…"
He still didn't. "When?"
Huh? "Well, now would be great. I mean, you're kind of hurting me…"
He did hit her that time, the fingers of his free hand coming, lightening-quick, against her forehead.
"Ow," she protested, momentarily forgetting the pain in her wrist as she immediately started rubbing at her forehead. "That hurt."
"No, you stupid girl, when are they supposed to die?"
Oh, that. She looked at her watch again, noting that they didn't have much time before the man's body would be found. "Grandma didn't tell me," she admitted, once again cursing herself for not getting that important fact before she jumped through time. "Any time now, though. If we hurry…"
She trailed off again, but he was already dragging her out the bathroom door and into the main office area. Their coworkers looked a little startled as Shoutarou pulled her into the office, still holding her wrist as he snagged his coat from the back of his chair. "She has a family emergency," he told their boss as he started yanking her towards the exit.
If Higashi thought that was odd, he chose not to say anything. He only smiled at them, waving them out the door and then pretending to go back to his own work though his eyes were still glued to the hand on Momoko's wrist. Neither Momoko nor Shoutarou noticed the smug, pleased smile that briefly lifted the corner's of his mouth as the taller man forced his younger colleague from the building.
"It's about time," the president muttered as the door slammed shut.