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 was anything similar to a famous detective, I guessed it was 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 was an example that proved how useless he was.
I, Yume Ayai, was just an ordinary equal to all in the world back then, and would occasionally be tortured mentally. Yes, during 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. It was infuriating thinking back about it.
I was in the same class as him during our second year of middle school. However, boys and girls had their gym classes separately, and I never noticed how he spent his time during gym class until we became a couple. 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, 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 was there to do their best for? Do you know how pretentious it was 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?
But, unfortunately…or luckily, that delusion didn’t come to pass.
He, my boyfriend…never performed at any given moment.
The match ended, and he didn’t have any sweat on his face…but that was 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 leave the crowds, sit 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 resembling shame on his averting eyes, and unwittingly smiled.
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, I used to think of my boyfriend as a ‘lone, perfect superhuman’. I guessed it’s because he never showed his weakness to me. It’s probably a man’s pride at stake here.
Irido-kun, you’re cute.
And I commented once I noticed this.
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 was no doubt that he was 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; she should correct her fetishes.
The female nursing teacher noted with amazement after she measured 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 fled from the teacher who’s just bowing twice, clapping twice, and bowing once, out of the curtains.
I had always been bad at this body checkup. Because of my old diminutive body, I did feel a sense of melancholy even at this point.
So I sighed as I picked 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 was wearing my gym clothes, only to immediately stop.
There was a girl with a ponytail, shorter than me by 10cm or so, staring at my breasts intensely up close. She kept staring at them in different directions, widening her eyes like plates, 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. Luckily, maybe, I knew her.
I covered my breasts with my hands, and took a step back away from that girl.
She then recovered, “Ahahah.” and gave 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 was the girl Akatsuki Minami-san. She’s one of my best friends ever since we started school.
She’s chirpy and great at interacting, a cute outgoing character who resembled an animal. If it’s the me back in middle school, there’s no way we could have remained friends like this, even if she was treating me kindly. She widened 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, same day.”
“Ehh~!? You grew this much in a single year!? …C-can you please tell me about your bust size…?”
“Why are you talking formally now…ermm, not that big now.”
I bent down and whispered to Minami-san. At that moment, her already large eyes instantly widened.
“An-anyway, I just chose a slightly larger size, you know…!?”
“You’re my hope, Irido-san!”
I started to panic when she suddenly lunged at me. Minami-san’s skinship was really intense. I really couldn’t change my personality to 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 was 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 chatted happily about the body checkup, and we left the infirmary for the gym. The gym was where we would have our fitness tested. She’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. It would sound like boasting if I told her “I didn’t do anything, the nutrition’s just going to my height and chest”, and people would 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 tried to agree with her words, but deep inside, I was fretting.
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 always wondered, why was it that the fitness test never respected students’ privacy, like the body checkup? Why were we forced to show how useless we were athletically? Wasn’t it like being hung and paraded around? Was it about turning all athletic idiots into clowns? Such a world should be destroyed.
I continued to curse away as I entered the gym.
“Oh, the boys are still inside.”
Minami-san muttered as she hopped past the gym.
The body checkups and fitness tests were all divided by gender and year, held separately. The first year boys were tested before us first year girls, and the group that has finished all the outdoor activities was now doing the indoor activities.
I found a rather familiar face amongst the boys, one I saw every day at home, but I pretended not to notice.
“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 had brains and brawns, which everyone know. I couldn’t allow this facade I actively cultivated be broken…so I did some secret training to ensure I get a passable grade.
Of course, there was no way I can overcome the athletic ability of an old broken decade old telephone with a sudden boot camp, but I could at least deal with the few stations for the fitness tests. I couldn’t be first in our year, but I should be able to pass, nothing too embarrassing for an ordinary girl.
All I needed to do was to pray there are other athletic idiots like me. I guessed I was lucky to have Minami-san, who called 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 faced Minami-san, who finished her test without gasping for air.
She, an athletic idiot!? Wasn’t she just bluffing here!? She had such amazing athleticism! Could she really called herself one before this me who’s the real idiot here!?”
“M-Minami-san? Didn’t you say, you have bad fitness…?”
I endured the hurricane of turmoil inside my heart as I ask, and Minami-san just stook her head like a wave.
“I say I’m feeling heavy-hearted, 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 this girl called Akatsuki Minami wasthe 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? Had she seen through how useless I am at sports? Uuu, it’s scary…riajuus are scary…
My heart’s really shaking like a little animal, and I arrived at the middle of the three lines for the sidestep station. Over there, I saw that there wasa 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 were ridiculed at by the surrounding students, and the supervising gym teacher glared at them. For some reason, he’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?) saw this, grabbed his hands, and pulled 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 weren’t used to it, and read up lots of sports science books. I’ve been revising them until midnight, and I felt a little groggy, fatigued and sleep deprived.
I was 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…”
Minami-san cheered me on so earnestly, and I started to feel guilty for doubting her. More painfully for me though, I could only answer her with a stiff smile.
…I’m, so, tired…
I expended quite some strength, probably because my nerves are tense, and that I was sleep deprived. We still had the outdoor stations. Would I be fine?
I’ll just work hard a little, and go to sleep immediately after returning home…
I dragged my somewhat sluggish feet out of the gym, and could sense my little stepbrother, who was forced to do a set of situps, glancing at me.
Board jump, shot put, 50m dash. Those were the outdoor tests. There’s also a torture test called the shuttle run, but that was not to be tested today. I had the urge to vomit just from hearing the merciless beeps. At this point, I just wanted to hurry and drop out.
I made sure not to end up with my butt on the ground in my shot put, and use the maximum centrifuge force. I guess it was passable. Minami-san instead set records that put boys to shame. How did she feel with everyone just cheering her on? I couldn’t imagine it.
I wandered under the sun, sleep deprived, and finally overwhelmed with fatigue. I just want to get onto a bed and sleep, any second sooner. I managed to ease my fatigue through the cold water of the cooler, and stood at the start of today’s main event, the 50 meters dash.
“I’ll be off then.”
Minami-san queued before me, looking more energized compared to me as she stood on the starting line. With a perfect crouching start, she left all the other participants behind, and passed the finishing line alone.
The girl timing us yelled, and there’s a commotion. It’s the best score, outright. To be honest, how could she say she’s feeling heavy-hearted? Girls really can’t be trusted after all…
I looked towards MInami-san , who appeared to be surrounded by the seniors of the track team. I got into position.
Anyway, it’s all over once I was done with this. I just needed a little more effort. I timed my breathing, recalled everything I practised and studied.
“Everyone ready~ Get set—”
I kicked off the ground. I paid attention to my posture, arm swing, and kick off, trying to replicate the ideal form in my mind.
I could feel myself progressing at a speed I couldn’t imagine doing a year ago. I just needed to do what I could. I could do whatever I put my mind into. I was completely different from he who didn’t want to try.
The me at this point wasn’t ‘together’ with him. The me now was better than him.
The students who tested are gone from my sight. The finishing line’s getting closer. 10m left. I leaned my body forward, stomping harder off the ground. Just a little, just a little, just a little more…!
I passed the finishing line.
I slowed down my overly burdened legs, gasping away. I couldn’t say anything, and gasped hard for oxygen as I looked towards the girl timing 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…
The next moment, my world was turned upside down.
You’re kidding. It’s bad. I feel dizzy. Where’s the, ground?
I regained my bearings, and my body was held up by one arm.
It was a thin arm without any muscle on it, but it was a firm arm that held my shoulder, my body up.
I could hear the familiar voice in my ear.
“(But you should stop forcing yourself.)”
I lifted my somewhat dizzy eyes, and found the usual scowling face up close. Well, he looke a little angry, and halfway through, my face ended up buried into his shoulder. I was unable to say anything.
He patted my back, as though consoling a kid. It’s like he was telling me “You worked hard”, and I was unable to lift my head.
It felt warm…and smelled of sweat.
“Irido-san~!!! You alright~!?”
I could hear Minami-san’s voice. Then, I’m shoved away in a violent manner, much different from before.
My body stumbled again, and this time, it seemd Minami-san was holding me up.
“I’ll leave her to you.”
He who just shoved me casually said in the same tone, turned to leave, and went to the school building.
I, Minami-san, and the other students witnessed this, and could only stare blankly at the back, of Mizuto Irido.
“…Isn’t Irido-kun, already done with his outdoor events…?”
Minami-san muttered once Mizuto 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…there’s no way Mizuto Irido could be a hero.
He’s not going to save a person he was unfamiliar with, even if someone’s life was in utter peril.
The same will happen no matter how many times it repeated. Nobody would ever doubt Mizuto Irido for a hero. At least…to anyone else other than me.
I was dragged by Minami-san to the empty infirmary after the body checkups are done. I did say that I was just feeling a little dizzy, that I was fine, but Minami-san insisted “A little dizzy means you’re still unwell, right!?” I couldn’t argue back.
I laid on the white bed, and the fatigue that has gathered instantly disappears like smoke.
…I guessed the accumulated fatigue was worse than I thought. Mom’s remarried, we entered our new house, had more family members, and we were in high school…was it because of the sudden major changes in my life…
“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 guessed it’s because I saw that man’s utter bluntness that 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 didn’t think she’s the kind of girl to give up being my friend just because she knew this, but she might have her illusions destroyed….but that’s to be expected. I was completely different from before, but it’s expected that there’s a part or two that hadn’t changed. It might be a little too much to say that I was like him, who hadn’t changed at all.
I expected her to be disappointed, but I saw her smiling, 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 reached my hand out and start poking at Minami-san’s forehead…I really couldn’t 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 cooped my face under the blanket. Seriously, I was really inexperienced in everything…
I could see Minami-san’s shadow staring intently at me beyond the thin blanket.
“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 wondered about it while being under the blanket, and finally poked my eyes out. I spotted an incredulous looking Minami-san, and tried my best to eke a voice,
“T-that’s, fine. Actually…er-erm, please do.”
Then, I figured out something. Since she’s calling me by name, I should call her by name too, no?
…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 started to mumble about like a test subject with severe PTSD issues, and Aka—Minami-san just smiled at me.
“Alright alright, take it easy! You’ll get used to it~!”
She began patting my head like a mother, was 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 stared at each other for seconds, and giggled with our shoulders shaking.
Ahh, I…made a friend.
I felt a lot better after lying down for a while. Minami-san and I left the infirmary together, for I felt I could at least change clothes and go home, .
We’re still in gym clothes, and went to the changing room. We arrived at the stairs, and a certain man in blaze was coming downstairs.
He, Mizuto Irido, had a really crooked tie on his neck, and he didn’t look like he’s going to adjust it as he stared at me silently.
…I was just helped by this man.
He shouldn’t have a reason to come to the field. He probably noticed how bad my body’s condition was, and gave chase from the gym…I should thank him at least. Out of courtesy, and out of human decency. Yes, it’s to be expected for someone with common sense….yes.
I made up my mind, and said.
“…Erm, just now—”
Mizuto suddenly pointed at my eyes, cutting me off.
“Your eyebags are showing.”
“…Eh? You’re kidding!?”
In a panic, I used my smartphone camera, and showed myself on the selfie.
Mizuto grined mischievously as he turns towards the shoe lockers.
What was that!? What’s with that guy? I thought he was acting a little kinder, but what’s with that meaningless lie!?
Uuuughhhh… Right, I forgot. He’s that kind of person who liked to see me troubled. He’s utterly rotten to the core. The more I thought about it, the more I felt he was 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 stared at the back of my little stepbrother furiously, and next to me, Minami-san muttered,
“…Irido-kun seems really kind to you, Yume-chan.”
Minami-san said this, and skipped across the corridor, making loud footsteps.
I saw her fade away with her swinging ponytail, and couldn’t help but be troubled.