I was young and ignorant thinking back about it now, but between my second and third year of middle school, I had something called a boyfriend.
He’s aloof, cerebral, kind, somewhat cool, like a famous detective in a detective story, or so the memory in my mind, but I guess it’ s narrative trick. If he’s anything similar to a famous detective, I guess it’s the part about him scratching his hair and letting the dandruff fly everywhere. There’s no way I can recreate the miracle at Reichenbach no matter how the conditions may align again.
There’s an example that proves how useless he is.
Back then, I, Yume Ayai, was just an ordinary equal to all in the world, would occasionally be tortured mentally. Yes, gym class.
There’s always this demonic command, alright, everyone, form pairs, and it’s like a trumpet beckoning the end. I would always end up wandering around like a ghost, nowhere to go, and paired with those who never got to pair with friends. Just thinking back about it infuriates me.
In our second year of middle school, I was in the same class as that man. However, boys and girls hold their gym classes separately, and until we became a couple, I never noticed how that man spent his time during gym class. Well, I started watching him during class and breaks, right from the beginning—ah, ignore what I just said.
…A-anyway, I was a little curious during the first gym class after we started dating.
He’s so smart, so kind, so reliable (or so I was bluffed into believing), so how athletic was he?
I guessed he would be good at sports since he could do everything so easily.
I wanted to watch.
I wanted to see him being active for gym class.
On that day, the boys had soccer.
The boys were split into two teams, red and white—the girls had tennis for their curriculum, but we all went to watch the boys soccer match, with the excuse that we were waiting for the court to be open. It’s like we’re the team managers cheering on our team, but it’s just an act of puberty out there.
Why did we go “One, two…do your best~!” out there? What’s there to do their best for? You know how pretentious it is to scream for the boys who weren’t our boyfriends?
Yes, and the one most into it was yours truly.
After all, I was just supporting the boyfriend I was secretly dating, and what I did was beyond what any of them could do. I had a delusion of handing a white towel to him, and that couldn’t be stopped. It’s already at the point where I could see myself being in a kabedon while he’s full of sweat. What happened to the me who hates all those boasting about youth here and there?
Unfortunately—or luckily, that delusion didn’t come to pass.
That man, my boyfriend.
…Never performed at any given moment.
Once the match ended, that man never had any sweat on his face—but that’s to be expected. He was just standing on the right side of the pitch, not moving, just defending with the ‘don’t come close’ aura all over him, radicalizing the footballing world in a whole new way.
I saw him nonchalantly leaving the crowds, just sitting under the tree shade by the edge of pitch, and approached him.
—Irido-kun, are you bad at sports?
His shoulders jolted…and he slowly turned around.
—…Were you watching?
I found something similar to shame on his averting eyes, and unwittingly show a smile.
—I see…so you’re bad at sports too Irido-kun~
—…Why are you so happy?
—Why you ask…maybe it’s because I know there’s something else in common between us.
Leaving the facts aside, back then, I used to think of my boyfriend as a ‘lone, perfect superhuman’.
I guess it’s because that man never showed his weakness to me. It’s probably a man’s pride at stake here.
—Irido-kun, you’re cute.
And once I noticed this, I said.
He lowered his head, hiding his face.
—Actually, I really hope you would call me ‘cool’ instead of ‘cute’…
But no matter how he tried to hide his face, I could see it, even while standing behind him.
His finely-shaped ears were clearly redder than usual.
That cold-blooded, stoic man was just a boy who would struggle for his useless pride after all. There’s no doubt that he’s not a hero like Sherlock Holmes, but a flawed individual like me…just an ordinary person who liked me.
And back then, I was feeling strangely happy for some reason.
This woman actually liked such a beansprout man who lacks exercise; I think she should correct her fetishes.
The female nursing teacher notes with amazement as she measures my bust.
“I’ve been measuring high school girls’ bust size for so many years, but it’s the first time I’m so envious. Such pretty breasts. I want to measure again…”
“…Erm, is that okay now?”
I flee from the teacher who’s just bowing twice, clapping twice, and bowing once, escaping out o the curtains.
I’ve always been bad at this body checkup. Because of my old diminutive body, I do feel a sense of melancholy even now.
I unwittingly sigh as I pick up the gym clothes placed in a corner of the classroom.
…No, I can’t be pressurized just because of this. There’s something more troublesome after this.
I’m wearing my gym clothes, only to immediately stop.
There’s a girl with a ponytail, shorter than me by 10cm or so, giving my breasts an intense stare from up close. She keeps staring at them in different directions, widening her eyes like plates, and not blinking at all. She’s scary.
If it’s an unfamiliar face, I would have called the police even if she’s of similar gender, but luckily, maybe, I know the owner of this face.
I cover my breasts with my hands, and take a step back away from that girl.
She then recovers, “Ahahah.” giving a troubled laugh.”
“I was just thinking, Irido-san, you have quite the bou~ncy~ breasts~ even though you’re so thin~! See, I’m like this~”
Slamming her chest that’s devoid of lumps without mercy is the girl Akatsuki Minami-san. She’s one of my best friends ever since we started school.
She’s chirpy and great and interacting, a cute outgoing character who looks like an animal. If it’s the me back in middle school, there’s no way we can remain friends like this even if she’s treating me kindly.
She widens her large squirrel-like eyes.
“Every year, I just think, this is the year, but I never grow at all~. Haaa~ this is why I feel sad about body checkups every year.”
“I get that, yes. My puberty didn’t start until last year…”
“Eh? You were part of the shorties too?”
“I was about the same height as you just last year, on the same day.”
“Ehh~!? You grew this much in a single year!? …C-can you please tell me about your bust size…?”
“Why so humble now…ermm, not that big now.”
I bend down and whisper to Minami-san. At that moment, her already large eyes instantly widen further.
“J-just to say this, I just chose a slightly larger size, you know…!?”
“You’re my hope, Irido-san!”
I start to panic as she suddenly lunges at me. Minami-san’s skinship is really intense. No matter how I change my personality, I can’t become like her.
“They say we turn red by approaching the red. If I keep clinging onto you, can I grow a little more, Irido-san?”
“Um, sorry about that, but that idiom’s really used wrongly here, so can you please let go?”
The only thing turning red’s my face.
Stop rubbing onto my face like a kitten.
But seriously, why did I suddenly enter puberty? Were my feminine hormones working in some way? …After all, the time I began to grow was when my hormones were being released fully.”
Minami-san and I are chatting happily about the body checkup, and once we leave the infirmary, we arrive at the gym.
The gym we’re at is the place where we’ll have our fitness tested.
Minami-san’s just walking next to me nonchalantly, swaying her ponytail, “Hm.” observing me as I put on my shirt.
“Your waist and legs are~ thin~ It’s tough for you to maintain such a size, right? Like you’ll grow fat if you leave it be.”
“Ah, that means you usually do something to maintain your body size. Did you exercise?”
I plaster a Papier-mâché-like smile on my face. If I tell her that “I didn’t do anything, the nutrition’s just going to my height and chest”, it’ll sound like I’m just boasting, and people will gossip stuff like “Isn’t that girl getting too arrogant?”
“I feel heavy hearted whenever it comes to the fitness test~ You have it good Irido-san~ I guess you’ll do it well~”
“Not all~! Ahhh~, why do we have to do a fitness test even in high school? It’s a cruel world for us shorties~!”
I try to go along with her words, but I’m coldly sweating in my heart.
I changed my personality, my appearance.
I changed everything about myself, to complete the metamorphosis.
—The only thing that hasn’t changed is my fitness.
I’ve always wondered.
Why is it that the fitness test doesn’t respect the students’ privacy, like the body checkup? Why are we forced to show how useless we are athletically? Isn’t it like being hung and paraded around? Is it about turning all athletic idiots into clowns? Such a world should be destroyed.
—So I continue to curse away as I enter the gym.
“Oh, the boys are still instead.”
Minami-san mutters as she hops past the gym gathers.
The body checkups and fitness tests are all divided by gender and year, held separately. The first year boys are tested before us first year girls, and the group that has finished all the outdoor activity is now doing the indoor activity.
I find a rather familiar face amongst the boys—or rather, one I see every day at home, but I’ll pretend not to notice it.
“Then, Irido-san, let’s hurry up and finish this~”
Before the other girls show up.
…I’m Yume Irido, the perfect high school girl who has brains and brawns everyone in our year knows of.
I can’t break this impression I actively cultivated—so I did some secret training to ensure I get a passable grade.
Of course, there’s no way I can overcome the athletic ability of an old broken decade old telephone with a sudden boot camp, but I can at least deal with the few stations for the fitness tests. I can’t be first in our year, but I should be able to get a pass, nothing too embarrassing for an ordinary girl.
Now all I just need to do is to pray there are other athletic idiots like me. I guess I’m lucky to have Minami-san who calls herself an idiot at this—
Or so I thought.
“Hey look!” “Minami? You’re amazing!” “What’s with that agility?” “She’s a rabbit, a rabbit!” “55 repetitive side jumps?” “Woah, that’s more than me!”
“Damn it!!! I thought I could do more than that~”
I silently face Minami-san, who finishes her test without even panting for air.
She’s an athletic idiot!? Isn’t she just bluffing here!? You have such amazing athleticism! Can you really call yourself an athletic idiot before this me who’s the real idiot here!?”
“M-Minami-san? Didn’t you say, you have bad fitness…?”
I endure the hurricane of turmoil inside my heart as I ask, and Minami-san just shakes her head like a wave.
“I say I’m feeling heavy, but I never said I’m bad at it. Look, if I’m doing better than the guys, everyone’s just going to make fun of me, right?”
So a narrative trick.
Make fun of? Like hell that it! Don’t use isekai logic here like that!
There’s no doubt about it. This girl called Akatsuki Minami is definitely the type of girl who goes “Let’s run together~” for a long run, and leave me behind! Unforgivable…I shouldn’t have trusted someone who’s naturally talented at talking…!
“It’s your turn next Irido-san. Do your best~”
What’s the intent behind the little animal-like smile? Has she seen through how useless I am at sports? Uuu, it’s sorry…riajuus are scary…
My heart’s really shaking like a little animal, and I arrive at the middle of the three lines for the sidestep station. Over there, I see there’s a sit-up test station right before the stage, and my little stepbrother (along with the boy who’s been close to him recently).
“Let’s start then, Irido! 1, 2~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~!!”
“I give up.”
“That’s not part of the rules!!”
…That man’s way too unmotivated about this.
Obviously, his actions are ridiculed at by the surrounding students, and the gym teacher supervising them is glaring. For some reason, that man’s just playing dumb and lying on the ground, and the guy who’s holding down his feet (I remember he’s called Kawanami-kun?) sees this, grabs his hands, and pulls him up. It’s not sit-up, it’s sit-and-pull-up. It’s just a test of Kawanami-kun’s strength here.
…There’s no way I’ll end up like this.
That’s what I swore. For this reason, I spent weeks training hard every day even though my muscles aren’t used to it, and read up lots of sports science books. I’ve been revising them until midnight, and I’m feeling a little groggy, fatigued and sleep deprived.
I’m motivated after seeing my little stepbrother’s lack of vigor, finish the repetitive jumps, sit and reach, and sit ups. A passable grade, I think. Well, my grip’s bad because of my lack of muscles…
“Ohh~! You’re amazing, Irido-san!”
“W-well, I guess…”
She’s cheering me on so earnestly, I’m starting to feel guilty for doubting her. More painfully for me is that I can only answer her with a stiff smile.
…I’m, so, tired…
I expend quite some strength, probably because my nerves are tense, and that I’m sleep deprived. We still have the outdoor stations. Will I be fine?
I’ll just work hard a little, and go to sleep immediately after returning home…
I drag my somewhat sluggish feet out of the gym, and can sense my little stepbrother, who was forced to do a set of situps, glancing at me.
Board jump, shot put, 50m dash. These are the outdoor tests.
There’s also a torture test called the shuttle run, but that’s not to be tested today. I have the urge to vomit just from hearing the merciless beeps. Right now, I just want to hurry and drop out.
I make sure not to end up with my butt on the ground in my shot put, and use the maximum centrifuge force for the shot put; my grades are passable. Minami-san instead set records that had put the boys to shame. How does she feel with everyone just cheering her on? I can’t imagine it.
I’m just wandering around under the sun, sleep deprived, and finally overwhelmed with fatigue. I Just want to get onto a bed and sleep, even a second soon. I managed to ease my fatigue through the cold water of the cooler, and stand at the start of today’s main event, the 50 meters dash.
“I’ll be off then.”
Minami-san queues before me, looking more energized compared to me as she stands on the starting line. With a perfect crouching start, she leaves all the other tests behind, and passes the finishing line alone.
The girl timing us yells, and there’s a commotion. It’s the best score, outright. To be honest, how can she say she’s feeling heavy-hearted? Girls really can’t be trusted after all…
I look towards MInami-san , who seem to be surrounded by the seniors of the track team, and get into position.
Anyway, once I finish this, it’s over. I just need to put more effort. I time my breathing, recall everything I practised and studied.
“Everyone ready~ Get set—”
I kick off the ground.
My posture, arm swing, kick off. I keep paying attention to them, trying to replicate the ideal form in my mind.
I can feel myself progressing on at a speed I can’t imagine myself doing a year ago. I just need to do what I can do. I can do whatever I put my mind into. I’m completely different from the man who doesn’t want to try.
The me now isn’t ‘together’ with that man.
The me now is better than that man.
The students who have tested are gone from my sight. The finishing line’s getting closer. 10m left. I lean my body forward, stomping harder off the floor. Just a little, just a little, just a little more…!
I pass the finishing line.
I slow down my overly burdened legs, gasping away. I can’t say anything, panting hard for oxygen as I look towards the girl testing me.
The record read to me from high up is the fastest in my life. No, but, instead of the joy of setting a new record, right now—
In the next moment, my world’s turned upside down.
This is bad.
Where’s the, ground—
As I regain my bearings—my body’s held up by one arm.
It’s a thin arm without any muscle on it.
But it’s an arm holding my shoulder up, a firm arm holding my body up.
I can hear the familiar voice in my ear.
“(But you should stop forcing yourself.)”
I lift my somewhat dizzy eyes, and find the usual scowling face up close. But well, he looks a little angry, and halfway through, my face ends up buried into his shoulder. I’m unable to say anything.
He pats my back, as though consoling a kid. It’s like he’s telling me “You worked hard”, and I’m further unable to lift my head.
It feels warm…and smells of sweat.
“Irido-san~!!! You alright~!?”
I can hear Minami-san’s voice. Then, I’m shoved away in a violent manner, much different from before.
My body stumbles again, and this time, it seems I’m being supported by Minami-san.
That man who just shoved me casually,
“I’ll leave her to you.”
Says so in the same tone, and turns to leave, heading towards the building.
I, Minami-san, and the other students who saw this.
Can only stare blankly at the back—of Mizuto Irido.
“…Isn’t Irido-kun, already done with his outdoor events…?”
Minami-san mutters once Mizuto has completely disappeared.
The boys started their physical tests before us, so the only reason why we met in the gym was because they’re already done with the outdoor events..
In that case, the reason he’s here now is…
…There’s no way Mizuto Irido can be a hero.
He’s not going to save a person he’s unfamiliar with, even if someone’s life is in utter peril.
No matter how many times it is, the same will happen.
There’s no doubt Mizuto Irido will ever be a hero.
At least…to anyone else other than me.
I’m dragged by Minami-san to the empty infirmary after the body checkups are done. I did say that I’m just feeling a little dizzy, that I’m fine, but Minami-san insists “A little dizzy means you’re still unwell, right!?” I can’t argue back.
I lie on the white bed, and the fatigue that has gathered instantly disappears like smoke.
…Maybe the fatigue that has gathered recently is worse than I thought. Mom’s remarried, we enter our new house, more family members, and we’re in high school…is it because of the sudden major changes in my environment…”
“Sorry Irido-san…I didn’t notice that you’re so tired…”
“No, it’s fine…it’s just me trying to act tough…”
I guess it’s because I saw that man’s utter bluntness, I end up confessing everything to Minami-san, surprisingly easily.
I told Minami-san about me being actually an idiot at sports, that I didn’t want others to know this, that I forced myself through the stations.
I don’t think she’s the kind of girl to give up being my friend just because she knows this, but she might have her illusions destroyed….but that’s to be expected. I’m completely different from before, but it’s expected that there’s a part or two that hasn’t changed.
But it might be a little too much to say that I’m like that man who hasn’t changed.
I’m expecting her to be disappointed, but entering my eyes is her smiling, looking a little happy.
“But well~ I feel a little closer to you now.”
“Actually, you look a little unapproachable, Irido-san~. You’re pretty, smart, and well, a flower in a high place? But…I see, you’re an idiot at sports, and like to act tough~”
“…Erm, I’m, a little annoyed by that. Can I be angry now?”
“Sure. I’ll like to see you get angry, Irido-san.”
“THen, please excuse me—H-hey!”
While lying on the bed, I reach my hand out and start poking at Minami-san’s forehead.
…I really can’t get used to getting angry.
“Pfftt…ahahahahah!! What’s with the ‘h-hey’! You’re! So! Cute!”
“…D-don’t laugh…you’re making me really embarrassed…”
I coop my face under the blanket. Seriously, I’m really inexperienced in everything…
I can see Minami-san’s shadow beyond the thin blanket, and she’s staring intently at me.
“Can I call you ‘Yume-chan’ instead?”
It’s the first time a friend calls me by time…well, it might be the first time in my life anyone calls me so, except for my family. Woah, but well, I feel, a little itchy inside!
“Huh? Yume-chan? Yume-chan~? Is that okay? No? Which one?”
I wonder about it while being under the blanket, and finally poke my eyes out from the blanket, seeing an incredulous looking Minami-san, and try my best to eke a voice,
“T-that’s, fine. Actually…er-erm, please do.”
Then, I figure it out. Since she’s calling me by name, shall I call her by name too?
…Right, right right right. I’m doing it. One further step of growth…!
—WOOOAHHHHHHHH! Wh-why is this so embarrassing!? Calling a friend by name…! But we’re not even close! I-I’m humbled to…even though we haven’t known each other for more than a week…!
A-Aka-A—I start to mumble about like a test subject with severe PTSD issues, and Aka—Minami-san is just smiling at me.
“Alright alright, take it easy! You’ll get used to it~!”
She begins petting my head like a mother,
Am I being taken, for an idiot!?
“…Please continue to take care of me, Minami-san.”
“Oh, you’re not calling me ‘Akatsuki’> You’re addressing me In formal language too.”
We stare at each other for seconds, and giggle with our shoulders shaking.
Ahh—I…made a friend.
After lying down for a while, I feel a lot better. Thinking that I can at least change clothes and go home, Minami-san and I leave the infirmary together.
We’re still in gym clothes, and we’re going to the changing room. We arrive at the stairs, and a certain man in blaze is coming down from upstairs.”
That man—Mizuto Irido has a really crooked tie on his neck, and isn’t looking like he’s going to adjust it as he stares at me silently.
…I was just helped by this man.
This man shouldn’t have a reason to come to the field. So, he probably, noticed how bad my body’s in, and deliberately gave chase from the gym—
…I should thank him at least. Out of courtesy, and out of human decency. Yes, this is to be expected for someone with common sense….yes.
Having made up my mind, I say.
“…Erm, just now—”
Mizuto suddenly points at my eyes, as though cutting me off.
“Your eyebags are showing.”
“…Eh? You’re kidding!?”
In a panic, I use my smartphone camera, showing myself on the selfie.
Mizuto grins mischievously as he turns towards the shoe locks.
What was that!? What’s with that guy? I thought he’s acting a little kinder, but what’s with that meaningless lie!?
Uuuughhhh… Right, I forgot. That man’s such a person. He likes to see me troubled, he’s utterly rotten to the core. The more I think about it, I feel he’s just at the field to see me acting tough and struggling. Yep, that’s definitely it! Ahh seriously, he’s horrible! Thank goodness I broke up with him!
I stare at the back of my little stepbrother furiously, and next to me, Minami-san mutters,
“…Irido-kun seems really kind to you, Yume-chan.”
Minami-san says this, and skips across the corridor, making loud footsteps.
I see her fade away with her swinging ponytail, and can’t help but be troubled.