Golden Week ended, and it was time for school again. The moment Amane entered the classroom, he heard a ruckus, and was increasingly perturbed.
It was common to see a commotion in the classroom right after a holiday, when people would talk about the souvenirs they bought. The commotion on this day however was different from usual.
Instead of a discussion of what happened during the vacation, it appeared they were discussing rumors.
Amane put his bag on his seat, and pricked his ears―It appeared they were talking about Mahiru.
“I heard Shiina-san went out on a date with a really handsome guy.”
“Maybe it’s the guy rumored at the start of the year?”
“She said she’s not dating, but…”
Amane’s face twitched the moment he heard the word ‘date’.
Though he had somewhat expected that he would be spotted, he never thought this topic would be a hot one through the entire classroom.
The girls chatted rumors as they looked towards Mahiru.
It appeared Mahiru had not noticed it, or perhaps she did, but ignored them. She was preparing for the first eriod.
Her dignified, innocent look remained one of much attention, but the stares towards her on this day were filled with much curiosity.
One of those girls seemed to have resolved herself as she spoke to Mahiru.
“Erm, Shiina-san, a few days ago, I saw you with a man at the shopping mall.”
“Yes, that did happen.”
“Are you dating you?”
She’s a warrior to dare ask Mahiru head on, Amane thought as he watched. He was worried, and Mahiru merely blinked away.
It appeared Mahiru would respond in her usual angelic mode.
Yes. She probably would deny it with an angelic smile, if it was the usual her.
“I guess it was a date, if we consider the definition of one.”
One had to wonder what Mahiru was thinking when she actually admitted it.
The definition of a date was basically an appointment between male and female. She was right in this sense…but there was no way the girls would actually follow that strict definition.
KYAAAAAAA, hysterical shrieks followed.
No matter the occasion, females always loved to gossip passionately about others. Usually, Amane could watch them from afar and just dismiss it as them being able to talk, but he could not do so this time as he was the party implicated.
“Shiina-san, you’re dating that man? It’s the first time I heard of it!”
“We aren’t dating, but he is the person most important to me!”
As shrieks and squeals escalated, Amane’s gut started to wince.
Mahiru was not lying at all. Amane knew she really treasured him. However, she was not stating the exact facts, but rather, the situation that could be understood in many ways.
The moment Mahiru did so, there would be rumors that she liked that man. Mahiru merely smiled as she saw these excited girls however.
She glanced aside at Amane, showing a non-angelic smile. Amane clutched his forehead, looking happy, embarrassed, while suffering from gut pain.
It appeared Itsuki too was eavesdropping, for he smirked as he slapped Amane’s shoulder. Amane felt fatigue looming onto him in a single instance.
“To be honest, I don’t think that could be denied.”
The duo dropped by at a fast food restaurant after school, and Itsuki mentioned this after seemingly thought of something.
Despite having lunch, Amane was hungry after their afternoon gym class. They were chatting while eating fries. itsuki showed a wry smile as he seemingly recalled the commotion in the morning.
And due to the chaotic day, Amane never got to eat with Mahiru. The latter was questioned by everyone all day, and Amane really could not sit with her.
“Couldn’t be denied?”
Itsuki probably meant that they could not deny it like before, but Amane did not know why.
“I say, Yuuta already can tell you two are close on first glance. You two definitely held hands when walking, right?”
“She couldn’t deny it when people saw that. That’s why she could only say that.”
Now that he mentioned it, Amane could not refute it at all.
It was true that objectively speaking, their little trip days ago might appear like an intimate date. From time to time, they did hold hands, lean on each other , and smiled at each other. Clearly they were a couple to those not in the know.
Thus, Mahiru’s response was to be expected…it seemed.
“And that’s also for show.”
“She’s trying to shoo the boys, and show that she has no intention of fighting against the other girls, you know? Yuuta’s the same. Once he got popular, there’s some who got jealous. I guess that applies for that Angel too. If she hints that she has someone she likes and ignores everyone else, nobody will think she’s interested in Yuuta, even if she does interact with someone like him.”
Amane was not one of the popular ones, and did not give such a vibe. No matter how popular he might be, a small minority could not accept it. It was impossible to please everyone.”
Amane had never seen anyone criticize Mahiru to her face, but surely there were some who were displeased with her.
Once anyone was popular, those of the same gender would have bias against that person. It appeared to be a common trend between both male and female.
“But I guess she has another goal. Just think of it.”
Itsuki mentioned that Mahiru had another objective to this, but Amane could not imagine it.”
Amane could not think there was anything other than for other boys to give up, and other girls to stop being jealous of her.
Itsuki looked stunned when he saw how clueless Amane was, but he merely shrugged and ended this conversation.
“You don’t stand out the way you are right now, but if you tidy yourself up, nobody will say anything if you walk next to her. Stop denying yourself.”
Itsuki said these words to curb Amane’s habit of self-doubt. The latter nodded begrudingly.
“Sigh, well, your virtue is that you don’t get carried away, but it’s also your fault. Why do you lack such confidence? It’s completely rooted within you.”
“Why, you ask…it’s because of something that happened in the past.”
“Is it alright for you to tell me what it is?”
“It’s not like I’m actively trying to hide it. It’s just not something to talk about.”
Amane did not have a tragic past, and he was not bullied by anyone.
It was simply that the person he once trusted denied him, and said he had no value.
He still could not forget this little incident, and was ashamed of it. It continued to torment his heart, and he was still in pain.
This pain did not work up like before, but he still would feel some emptiness.
Ever since he met Mahiru, he was no longer tormented by self-loathing, but his self-doubt still lingered.
“I’ll hear you out when you want to talk then.”
Itsuki did not intend to pursue the matter.
He really had good instincts, or rather, he was adept at testing the limits the other party would not want to cross. He was always the moodmaker, for he was able to sense the little changes in mood.
Itsuki backed down easily, and giggled at Amane.
“Well, you should have a little more self-confidence. You’re no longer your past self. How about you change your image completely?”
“Forget about it.”
“How petty. I was looking forward to the ‘before’ and ‘after. Well, that’s fine. Try getting her to look at you more before you deny that possibility. You’re not aggressive enough.”
“Push her down aggressively.”
“Are you an idiot? How can I do that?”
Amane believed that if he really did so, she would surely despise him.
It was completely different from headpatting and holding hands. Mahiru was sensitive to this matter because of her parents. Amane was not dating her, but trusted by her. Surely she would revile him if he did such a thing.
It was completely different from a mere skinship.
“Well, you should hug her at least.”
“Who do you think I am…?”
“You’re not confident, you’re dishonest, you’re a coward. You can touch her instinctively, but you never take the initiative to.”
“Ugh…wait, how are you so sure about that skinship stuff?”
“Hm? Chii told me.”
Do you mind not revealing that?
How much did Mahiru tell Chitose? Is this the reason why Chitose seems to be leering at me?
“Look, guys need some guts. You don’t have to confess, but since you can hold hands, you can go a little further. Try closing the distance.”
“You make it sound easy.”
“I’m seriously so anxious for you, I feel like kicking you in the back. She opened her heart to you, and some skinship is fine as long as it’s not sexual harassment. I heard from Chii that you’ve been giving her heatpats, right? What’s wrong with a hug then?”
“Don’t say the impossible.”
I did actually hug her before. However, Amane could not say that.
He did so back then to support Mahiru, who was on the verge of breaking down, and it was not for the sake of love. Amane felt he could not embrace her lovingly. In the first place, would she agree?
“How about you try asking her? I think she’ll agree to that easily.”
“How’s that possible…?”
“Who knows? She actually allows contact from those she’s very close with. Chii said that when she stayed over, they bathed together and slept in the same futon.”
Mahiru did stay over at Chitose’s place during Golden Week. Amane never expected their relationship to be so good.
However, he had a feeling that it was because Chitose was pestering Mahiru.
“I’ll feel bad for you if Chii snatches her away.”
“Say…don’t compare a fellow female friend with someone like me.”
“Hm, well, no point talking about that. How about you try hugging her? Put some effort into it, will ya?”
Itsuki cackled away, “sure is easy of you to point fault from the side”, Amane muttered as he took the hardened bits of fries left in the box, and poured it into his mouth.