“Even if you did get a time machine,” Hikaru said weakly, “I still don’t think you’d stop me from getting food poisoning.” With that declaration out of the way, Hikaru tilted forward and puked into the toilet again. Yabu stoically completed his best friend duties by gingerly patting Hikaru’s back.
Inoo and Daiki looked on with disgust. “How are we gonna finish this afternoon’s photoshoot if Hikaru’s still sick?” Inoo asked.
“Well actually…” Daiki began very hesitantly. He glanced around the bathroom just to make sure they were alone. “I do have a time machine.”
“You do??” Yabu exclaimed loudly. Hikaru winced at the noise and then weakly punched Yabu in the kneecap since it was the closest body part he could reach from his spot on the floor. “You do??” Yabu repeated in a loud whisper.
“I come from a long line of time-travelers,” Daiki explained seriously. He rummaged around in his bag for a moment before pulling out a tiny black metal square. “And this is my time machine.”
“We know you’re very short,” Yabu began, looking skeptical, but he paused while he waited for Hikaru to throw up again. “But even you can’t fit inside that.”
Daiki blinked at Yabu as if he’d just seriously said the sky was green. “Um, duh. The portable size is expandable.” He pressed a button on the side of the box and they all (minus Hikaru whose head was in the toilet again) watched in awe as it expanded to the size of a small phone booth.
“So we can go back to this morning and stop Hikaru from getting food poisoning at lunch?” Inoo asked. He tentatively poked the side of the box. It seemed sturdy enough. “What if we run into our earlier selves though? Should I wear a fake mustache as a disguise? I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t recognize myself with a mustache.”
Daiki shook his head. “The time machine works more like a rewinder on a VCR. It resets time back to where you want it. But if you’re inside the box when it rewinds, you’ll remember everything, unlike everyone else in the world.”
“VCR?” Hikaru said, and his voice echoed in the toilet bowl. “You must be a time traveler if you’re making VCR analogies.” He laid his head down on the toilet seat to rest.
“Hikaru, you stay here because you’re too sick to travel,” Daiki said before ushering Inoo and Yabu inside the box. “See you soon!” And without explaining anything else, Daiki pressed a few buttons and everything went dark.
5 Hours Earlier: 8:00am
Yabu blinked and realized he was at the entrance to the magazine studio. He glanced at his watch and saw that it was indeed 8am that morning. He remembered this exactly because the whole group had just gotten off the van and were heading to their photoshoot. Any second now, Keito was going to trip over his shoelaces. He looked to his left and, yeah, there went Keito tumbling to the ground.
“Yabu, is it you?” Inoo distracted his thoughts by suddenly invading his personal space and grabbing his face. Yabu winced as Inoo poked his cheek bones.
“Geez, you guys, save the fanservice for the photos,” Yuto teased as he breezed on past them to the dressing room.
“Stop making a scene,” Daiki hissed at them. “Time travel rule #2: don’t be conspicuous.”
Yabu leaned closer. “What’s rule #1?” he whispered.
“Never run with scissors, of course,” Daiki snapped and then followed after Hikaru.
Yabu looked skeptically at Inoo who merely shrugged in return. “Speaking from personal experience, that’s an important rule anytime,” Inoo nodded.
By the time Yabu and Inoo caught up with Daiki, he was already talking to Hikaru. And it didn’t sound too promising so far.
“I’ve been looking forward to this catered lunch for weeks,” Hikaru exclaimed. He was practically bouncing on his toes with excitement, which was strange for how early in the morning it currently was. “The shrimp is my absolute favorite. You guys have to try it,” he continued once he noticed Yabu and Inoo were standing there listening too.
“I’m suddenly allergic to shrimp,” Inoo announced and then winced as Yabu elbowed him in the ribs.
“Oh really?” Yabu ignored Inoo and put on his best disappointed face. “I was hoping you’d split a bowl of vending machine noodles with me at lunch.” He noticed Daiki give him a glare before mouthing that’s a shitty alternative.
“No way,” Hikaru shook his head. “Not when we have delicious delicious shrimp to eat. I seriously dreamed about this shrimp last night.”
“I think it’ll probably haunt your nightmares tonight,” Inoo muttered and winced as another elbow connected to his ribs.
Yabu wasn’t quite ready to give up yet. “But I wanted to share cheap ramen with you because… it’s, uh… national best friend day.”
Hikaru raised his eyebrows skeptically. “Oh really?” He turned to Inoo and Daiki. “And what are you two doing for best friend day?”
“Convincing you not to eat shrimp apparently,” Inoo answered. This time both Daiki and Yabu elbowed him. “And breaking my ribs too. How fun.”
Before they could do any more convincing, the staff called them all to start the shoot. The three of them tried all morning to suggest alternatives so that Hikaru wouldn’t eat the shrimp at the catered lunch, but they failed. When none of them were looking, Hikaru fixed himself a plate and ate a ton. And soon enough, they were back where they started: watching Hikaru vomit in the bathroom from the bad shrimp.
“What a waste,” Inoo sighed after they explained their time-traveling mission to Hikaru, who couldn’t remember their previous conversation in the bathroom.
In the midst of another round of puking, Takaki stuck his head in the door. “There you are. Were you having a BEST meeting without me?”
“No, we’re just trying to prevent food poisoning,” Yabu answered and patted Hikaru’s back lightly.
Takaki looked confused. “I hate to break it to you, but it looks like it’s a little too late for that.”
“Well actually, maybe not,” Daiki said. He quickly explained (again) about the time-travel and Takaki still looked quite confused but volunteered to travel this time anyway.
“Hey, why don’t you ever stop really terrible things from happening? Like big things?” Takaki asked as he squeezed into the tiny box with Daiki.
“That’s against the rules. Time travel rule #5: don’t mess with big historical events.”
“Only #5?” Yabu questioned loudly, prompting another kneecap punch from Hikaru (who didn’t remember punching him earlier). “Should it be higher on the list?”
Daiki ignored the question and merely added “plus this thing only goes back three days max,” before shutting the door.
5 Hours Earlier: 8:00am (take two)
Takaki slammed the door to the van and turned around to walk inside the building. It was kind of weird, he noticed, because time travel apparently made him feel the same as he did after riding a boat for a long time. The feeling was only temporary though and disappeared right about the same time he saw Keito trip over his shoelaces. Daiki waved him over so he didn’t have time to dwell on it too long.
“So I’ve got a plan,” Takaki whispered as they walked towards the dressing rooms. “You just put the idea that shrimp is bad into Hikaru’s head until I get mine ready.” Daiki looked hesitant but nodded.
As the morning continued, Takaki gathered all the necessary materials (paper mostly) and looked up a few things online, just to be sure. By the time it was almost noon, Takaki found a chance to slide into the seat next to Hikaru and put his plan into action.
Takaki flashed him a pleasant smile and tried not to look suspicious. “Hey, I took an online class in fortune-telling just for fun. I did your fortune earlier. Wanna see?” He spoke fast and leaned close so that Hikaru wouldn’t have any choice in the matter.
Hikaru just looked at him with narrowed eyes, so Takaki considered that his cue to continue. He pulled out a bunch of crumpled up papers from his pocket and spread them out in his lap. “According to the way the stars are aligned,” Takaki began with a mystical voice, “you might suffer some sort of misfortune today.”
“Having to sit through this?” Hikaru asked dryly. Behind him, Takaki could see Daiki just facepalm in disappointment.
Takaki shook his head and pulled out one of the pages he had scribbled on. “No… it seems to be… food-related misfortune.” He waved the paper in front of Hikaru’s face in an attempt to appear more mystic.
By now, the rest of the group had gathered around to see what was going on, and they were all perplexed by Takaki’s doodles on his fortune papers. “Is that supposed to be fireworks?” Yuto asked as he leaned over Hikaru’s shoulder.
“I think they’re a bunch of spiders,” Yamada added. “Aren’t they?”
“To me, they look like magical travelling salesmen dancing to the sound of drums and flutes,” Inoo said. Everyone turned to look at him. “…what?”
“Shrimp!” Takaki shouted with exasperation. “It’s a picture of shrimp. Very bad, very evil shrimp.”
Hikaru just rolled his eyes and then tossed all of Takaki’s papers into the trash. “You’re just being ridiculous. But if you’re not eating the catered lunch, then that just means more shrimp for me.” And when lunch time came, there was no stopping Hikaru from eating the shrimp, no matter how many times Takaki talked about bad fortunes.
And soon enough, they were back where they started: watching Hikaru vomit in the bathroom from the bad shrimp.
“So that didn’t quite work out like I intended,” Takaki said as he stood with the rest of BEST in the bathroom.
“Why did you think fortune-telling was going to work on Hikaru anyway?” Daiki asked, but Takaki only shrugged in response from his spot by the sink. So again Daiki explained about their time-traveling mission because everyone else had forgotten the previous expedition. By the time he was finished, Yuto and Chinen had walked into the room looking for all of them.
“I thought there was something fishy about that shrimp,” Yuto said, watching with sympathy as Hikaru hurled again. Hikaru gave him a shaky thumbs up for the pun.
“Maybe Yuto and I can stop Hikaru from getting food poisoning,” Chinen offered while he nonchalantly inspected his fingernails. Once Daiki nodded in agreement, Chinen shouted yes loudly before clearing his throat and pretending not to be excited. At the loud noise, Hikaru automatically punched Yabu in the kneecap.
“What was that for?” Yabu winced.
“It just felt necessary,” Hikaru half-heartedly explained before he threw up again.
It took some maneuvering to squeeze Yuto into the box with Chinen and Daiki, but finally they were all in there. “Don’t worry, Hikaru,” Yuto shouted, “we’ll save you.”
“I doubt it,” Hikaru muttered as the door to the time machine closed.
5 Hours Earlier: 8:00am (take three)
Chinen was mid-motion, striding across the lobby of the magazine studio when he realized that they really had travelled back to the morning. He stopped suddenly because he needed a moment to adjust to what had just happened. There was the sound of a crash behind him and he turned to see that Keito had tripped over his shoelaces. Yep, it was definitely this morning again.
“So what’s our game plan?” Chinen whispered when he met up with Daiki and Yuto in the corner of the room.
“I don’t care as long as it’s better than Takaki’s fortune-telling plan,” Daiki whispered back.
“I’m sorry we missed that,” Chinen answered. “That sounds hilarious.”
“I’ve got a plan,” Yuto whispered. “Just follow my lead. I’m gonna wing it.” Before they could protest, Yuto took off to where Hikaru was sitting on the other side of the room. He sat down beside Hikaru and then put the most serious look on his face.
“I’ve uncovered a terrible, dark secret and you need to know.”
“If this is about your hairspray, you can’t prove anything,” Hikaru said immediately.
Yuto leaned back and looked confused for a moment. “What? My hairspray…?” Then he shook his head. “I’ll figure that out later. What I need to tell you is…” the paused for dramatic effect and Hikaru just looked bored while he waited. “…the catering company is a yakuza front.”
“Oh. My. God,” Daiki muttered under his breath and looked like he was going to bang his head on the wall behind him.
Hikaru just smiled and patted Yuto’s shoulder like he was a child. “What a wild imagination you have.”
“No, it’s true,” Chinen insisted although he felt like banging his head on the wall with Daiki. “Yuto is 100 percent right.” He looked at Yuto and hoped he was going somewhere with this story.
Yuto vigorously nodded. “Yes, the caterers are secretly working for the yakuza and they’ve planted some really bad shrimp into today’s lunch spread. You don’t want to touch that stuff at all.”
“The caterers?” Hikaru skeptically narrowed his eyes, just like he had with Takaki (even though no one but Daiki remembered that). “You mean Mrs. Takahashi? You know she’s at least 85 years old, right?”
“It’s a good disguise, right?” Yuto shot back.
“And where did you hear this information?” Hikaru asked. He looked to Chinen to verify what Yuto was saying even though he still didn’t believe a word of it.
Chinen took the easiest route out of this disaster. “Daiki told us.”
Hikaru’s head swiveled around to where Daiki had actually begun to bang his head on the wall.
“Yep,” Daiki said with all the weariness of a time-traveler who’d gone through this at least three times already. “I heard the evil yakuza people plotting all this in the wardrobe room earlier. For the sake of your stomach, you shouldn’t eat the shrimp. I bet if you ask, Yabu might be willing to split a vending machine cup of noodles with you instead.”
Hikaru gave them all a look of pity as if they were just poor misguided souls. “Well, you guys can skip the shrimp this time, but I’ll take my chances with the yakuza. I don’t think I’ll be ‘swimming with the fishes’ today.” He laughed and disappeared down the hallway.
And soon enough, they were back where they started: watching Hikaru vomit in the bathroom from the bad shrimp.
“In hindsight,” Hikaru began after a round of puking. “I regret saying that joke about swimming with the fishes. I feel like I’d rather seriously be at the bottom of the pond right now.”
“I had no idea anything could top Takaki’s fortune-telling plan in sheer stupidity, but I think this was worse,” Daiki muttered. He sighed and explained again about the time-traveling and how things hadn’t been working out so far. By this point, all of Jump had wandered into the bathroom looking for each other.
“Well, Keito and I haven’t had a chance to try yet,” Yamada suggested. “Maybe we can save Hikaru from the food poisoning.”
Daiki sighed again loudly (which prompted Hikaru to inexplicably punch Yabu in the kneecap again). “Time travel rule #8: things get weirder, the more times you travel,” he said more to himself than anyone else.
“Isn’t that more of a statement of fact instead of a rule?” Yabu asked, but Daiki just ignored him as he herded Yamada and Keito towards the tiny box.
“So is it bigger on the inside?” Keito asked. His eyes shone with excitement.
“No,” Daiki shook his head. “It’s just a box. And we’re gonna be kinda crammed in there with three of us.”
Keito suddenly looked a bit disappointed. “So it’s not kinda like a TARDIS?”
“Huh?” Daiki looked at him in confusion.
“You know, like the Doctor rides around in,” Keito tried to explain.
“Doctor who?” Daiki asked.
“I don’t know. Third base!” Inoo suddenly interrupted. He frowned as everyone just gave him a weird look. “…is that not how that joke goes?” he said as no one laughed.
Daiki closed the door to the time machine. “I sure hope you two have a better plan this time.”
5 Hours Earlier: 8:00am (take four)
Keito tripped over his shoelaces and went flying towards the floor. He managed to position his arms just right to break his fall but it still hurt a bit. He looked up and Yamada was already beside him, offering him a hand up.
Keito turned to Daiki. “You couldn’t have brought us back like two minutes earlier?” he complained, but Daiki just shrugged.
“Time travel likes consistency,” Daiki whispered. “I can’t explain it.”
“Well, we’re kinda early,” Yamada whispered back. “I think we should probably just distract Hikaru from eating lunch at all. Convincing him to not eat apparently doesn’t work, so we’ll just have to keep him away from the food completely.”
Daiki nodded. “That seems promising. I’ll buy him something from the vending machine so at least he’ll have something to eat later. Good luck, you guys.” He clapped both of them on the shoulder and then left to get started on the photoshoot. Keito had a bad feeling that Daiki just instinctively knew they were going to fail and so he wasn’t going to have any part in their plan.
“I’ve always wanted to learn to juggle,” Keito announced directly to Hikaru’s face right before they were about to get in line for lunch. “Can you teach me right now?”
Hikaru frowned. “How about after the photoshoot? I’m really hungry.”
Yamada startled them both by popping up from seemingly nowhere. “You can use these balls I sto— uh, borrowed from the props department. I wanna see Keito juggle.” He held out three tennis balls for Hikaru to take.
Hikaru reluctantly stepped out of line and took the tennis balls. “It’s simple really,” he began and started to demonstrate his technique. Keito and Yamada watched and complimented his style, both asking lots of questions to distract Hikaru from lunch. Finally he moved on to letting Keito try to juggle himself and got swept up in critiquing his movements to help him improve. Yamada interrupted every now and then to ask more questions and give some suggestions.
Their lunch break was almost over when Hikaru finally realized that he hadn’t eaten lunch and he still wanted the shrimp. Both Keito and Yamada frantically sprang into action to keep him away from the table where the food was still spread out. Daiki finally reappeared and offered Hikaru a package of cup noodles from the vending machine. But Hikaru just shook his head.
Desperate, Yamada and Keito both dived in front of Hikaru to block his way, but he simply stared at them as they dramatically fell to the floor. He stepped over their bodies and continued his trek to the catering table.
Daiki finally had enough of failure and so he made one last attempt to stop Hikaru.
“Just don’t eat the freakin’ shrimp! You’re gonna get food poisoning,” he said.
“No I’m not,” Hikaru rolled his eyes. But the stalling tactic had worked because as he finally approached the table, the caterers were clearing off the last of the food. The shrimp was nowhere in sight. He frowned in disappointment and Daiki held out the cup noodles again as a peace offering.
Just as he was about to take his only food alternative, Hikaru suddenly grew very pale and dashed out of the room towards the bathroom. The whole group followed after him to see what was wrong.
And so once again, they were back where they started: watching Hikaru vomit in the bathroom, but apparently not from bad shrimp this time.
Once everyone was gathered together, Daiki explained all about the attempts at time travel to prevent Hikaru from getting food poisoning.
“Huh,” Daiki scratched his head in confusion while Yabu dutifully patted Hikaru’s back. “I guess it wasn’t the shrimp at all. Hikaru must have the flu.”
Yabu grimaced and took a step back.
“So… we accomplished nothing?” Yamada said slowly.
Daiki shrugged “Time travel rule #11: there are some events you just can’t change.”
Yabu looked confused. “Number 11?? Are there seriously ten rules more important than that?” Hikaru instinctively swung his fist out to punch Yabu’s kneecap but couldn’t reach him now that he’d stepped away.
“On the bright side,” Inoo said cheerfully. “Now we know all about Daiki’s time-traveling secret.”
Daiki shook his head. “Oh, you’ll all forget all about anything concerning time travel within twenty-four hours. Only a keeper of a time machine can remember.”
“Well that’s completely unfair,” Chinen pouted.
“Yeah,” Daiki agreed with a sigh. “You guys will never remember the time we prevented the staff from making us wear those stage costumes made completely of peacock feathers.” His eyes glazed over with nostalgia. “Good times, good times.”
“Wait, what?” Yuto asked.
Daiki was already walking out the bathroom door. “Rules are rules. We should go tell Manager that Hikaru is sick. And maybe find some hand sanitizer.”
Yabu stayed behind to check on Hikaru but he didn’t stand as close this time.
“I don’t care about the time travel or whatever,” Hikaru said weakly. “Whenever I get better, somebody owes me a plate of shrimp.”