I can say now that I was young and foolish, but I had an existence called a girlfriend between my second and third years of middle school.
To be exact, it was the period from September till March, 19 months in total. And for seven of those 19 months, we were classmates.
Anyone who’s studied anything in Japan will get why that’s significant.
Yes. Yume Ayai and I changed seats about seven times during our time as lovers.
Why ‘about’? Well, during half the time that was between December and March, I forgot whether we did change seats. But, more or less, we did change seats in class that many times.
And we shared tables only once.
That one month was the only time in school we were less than a meter apart.
If it happened now I’d shrug and say “So what?” But back then, it was a great miracle. When I go over my notes from that time, I can’t help but notice how messy they are. I can easily imagine myself frantically scribbling notes down while the teacher’s wiping the blackboard clean. I couldn’t concentrate at all.
Well, after all, both Ayai and I were introverts, so we never really whispered much during class.
All we did was occasionally look toward each other, or touch fingertips while pretending to pass the eraser, or pass messages in the form of little slips…seriously, was that supposed to be fun? In hindsight, we could’ve just gotten in touch through our phones.
…But I guess back then, we were really happy to discreetly pass paper slips and see each other’s expressions as we read the messages. At this point, I don’t understand why we had such feelings to begin with!
And those days ended after a month.
Per our class’s routine, we changed seats at the end of every month—regrettably, we were assigned seats far away from each other.
If we go by probability, the chances of getting to sit with the same partner consecutively, in a class of 30 and counting the 10 tables by the sides, is 0.325%. It’s not as unlikely as an ex-couple becoming stepsiblings, but it’s still unlikely.
…As for why I know this probability really well, I exercise my right to remain silent. It was because I was a middle school student who liked to put theory into practice.
That’s how it was. It happened during the long homeroom session, which signified the end of us sitting next to each other.
Everyone went to the podium to draw the lots the teacher made.
The student who sat diagonally in front of me finished drawing, and next was Ayai, whose seat was next to mine. At that moment.
Nobody other than me, who was next to her, could hear a whisper that fluttered with the wind and reached my ear.
It was the moment she first spoke to me in class, as far as I remembered.
Thus, I was a little surprised.
I turned around, and looked as surprised as I would when approached by a stranger.
Those that never felt really suffocated when talking to others might not understand this, but this reaction was a death sentence to a weak girl like Ayai—and of course, I’m not referring to the super shitty woman right now.
She quickly went to the podium to draw lots, not even finishing her apology, and I lost the chance to answer.
Of course, I’m a guy who understands the psychology of someone with communication issues. When we got together after school, I apologized and asked what she’d wanted to say, but Ayai dismissed it with a quick “It’s nothing”.
For reference: When someone says “It’s nothing”, it’s always something.
People with communication issues often stood out in strange ways.
In the end, I could only give up on asking, and we never got the chance to mention this issue again.
It’s so minor, Ukyo Sugishita would probably just ignore it, yet from time to time, I would recall it.
It was obvious she was blushing, nervously bucking up.
She clenched her fists, trying to muster her courage, except for the little thumb on her right.
She’d looked up at me a little, like she was hoping for something…
What did the Ayai from back then want to say?
“Now then, as we said before the break, we’ll be changing seats during this long homeroom period~”
Why’s the whole class cheering without using their brains here?
Seriously. Is changing seats something to be so happy about? I really envy those guys who enjoy their lives.
—I’d normally say that sort of thing loud and proud, but this time, even I couldn’t hide my joy at changing seats.
Almost a month had passed since we started school. Our seating arrangement had always been fixed according to the class register, until this day right after the end of Golden Week.
This situation was about to change.
Our seating arrangement was about to change.
In other words—I would be freed from the clutches of the terrible woman behind me!
What a wonderful day.
I was continually abused by that woman, as she occupied the space behind me… She kept kicking me in the back, stabbing my neck with her mechanical pencil, tried to psyche me out by whispering while our names were taken. Those days of suffering in the Eight Great Hells were finally about to come to an end.
Let’s celebrate this day, the day the homeroom teacher suggested we change places.
“…You look rather happy.”
My back still hurt after the homeroom teacher left the classroom, and I heard a spiteful voice behind me.
To be precise, my back was stabbed with a mechanical pencil.
The culprit was obviously my little stepsister/ex-girlfriend, my classmate Yume Irido.
…Ha, haha. This is the final trial. O God, you granted me much suffering, but I shall prevail at the very end. I shall survive this final trial to prove humanity’s strength.
“Hey…say something already!”
A dire, uninterrupted torment came from the back that bore humanity’s restraint.
…Well either way, it started to hurt.
Once I noticed that the teacher for the first period had not arrived yet, I pulled out my cellphone from under my table.
“Hasn’t anyone taught you not to stab someone in the back, you sadistic woman?” – 09:02
I sent a LINE message.
The continual hits on my back stopped for a moment, and I received a reply.
“Ahhhh my bad, they don’t test for that in exams.” – 09:03
“Looks like you need to attend remedials on morals.” – 09:03
“Eh? Not biology? Since we’re talking about pets.” – 09:04
My cheeks twitched once I saw the pink pig emote added at the very end.
“Sorry, they don’t test for this in exams.” – 09:05
“Huh?” – 09:05
“Even I can’t understand the Japanese written by an orangutan.” – 09:06
I heard a stunned voice behind, and gritted my teeth to stop myself from laughing.
“Don’t you get carried away now.” – 09:07
“Woah, a shitty reply from a grade school kid! Run!” – 09:07
“So cocky, just because you score a little better on modern languages.” – 09:07
“I’ll take it as the highest praise, valedictorian Yume Irido-san.” – 09:08
My chair got kicked in the back with a thud.
We’d compared our entrance exam results back then, and I beat her by at least ten marks in modern language.
(Personal investigation of mine) For most students passionate about reading, the modern language scores would always be our pride. I guessed her defeat really hurt her dignity greatly, and she was always displeased whenever I mentioned this, while I was the one delighted.
“Sorry I’m late!”
The first period teacher arrived ten minutes late, before I could receive the next reply…
Hmph. Today’s LINE battle was my victory. I could visualize that woman gritting her teeth behind me.
Right when I was about to shut the phone and slip it into my pocket, it vibrated again, indicating that I got a message.
“Hey.” – 09:11
That was all. She did not send anything else.
I turned my head slightly behind in shock, and saw Yume looking completely focused, her textbook and notebook already opened. The phone was no longer in her hands.
She probably wanted to say something, but decided not to when the teacher showed up.
Our fate of having the family name starting with ‘I’ meant that we ended up sitting row 1 and row 2. The teacher would instantly notice us using our phones, and the ironclad rule we had was that we would not do anything to each other during classes. I wouldn’t be able to handle the humiliation of getting my cellphone confiscated along with this woman’s, or anything like that.
…What exactly is she trying to say?
I would be lying if I said I didn’t care, but since the teacher started writing on the board, I had to pay attention for the time being.
The moment the bell rang, the mood in the classroom relaxed.
Morning classes ended.
About 30 students (I don’t really remember the exact number) stood up from their chairs, as though they were released from stopped time. They were holding either bentos or wallets, and invited their friends out for lunch as though it was to be expected.
Well, can’t people just eat alone?
—I wouldn’t say such petty things this day. After all, it was the momentous day on which I would be changing seats.
I took out the bento box wrapped in a handkerchief, and wordlessly clapped my hands together.
I used to be from a single-parent family, and until middle school, I bought my lunches or went to the convenience store. Ever since I entered high school however, my stepmother Yuni-san was strangely motivated to cook bentos for us before she went to work every morning.
Of course, when I say ‘us’, I mean ‘Yume and me.’
I did tell Yuni-san not to push herself, but according to her, it was her dream to prepare bentos for a son in puberty. She half-jokingly said that she happened to make Yume’s lunch as well, and looked so happy that I couldn’t say no. In fact, there was another reason why we politely tried to decline to have her bento.
“Yo, my good friend. Impatient as ever.”
The frivolous-looking brown-haired guy named Kogure Kawanami came over with a sweet bun and a packet lemonade. He called himself a good friend of mine, and once he saw the bento with its lid removed, his frivolous expression gave way to a mocking one.
“That’s quite a fancy lunch today. Is this Irido-san’s bento…”
“Stop it. I don’t care what you’re into.”
Yes. Yume and I had identical bentos.
Well, since they were made by the same person, they’d obviously be identical. Still, we couldn’t stand it. If we kept eating the same stuff for lunch, people’d start thinking we got along. We wanted to avoid that.
Of course, both Yume and I knew it was really a childish way of thinking, and we didn’t really do anything against it… Yume would often move elsewhere for lunchtime, so that nobody would compare our bentos.
I wouldn’t move though. Why would I have to move for that woman‘s sake?
“I’ll be your eating buddy for today then.”
“Ahh, why do I always get 1.5 times her portion…?”
“She probably thinks that all high school boys are big eaters, even if you’re a plain old bookworm boy.”
“But I shouldn’t leave leftovers.”
“Well, there’s always a complaint. I don’t know since I don’t have an extra mom.”
Kawanami popped a cherry tomato into his mouth as he said that, and showed a sly grin.
“Irido-san will surely view you differently if she sees an empty bento box. Something like ‘he may look like this, but he’s a guy after all’. I can help you clear a tenth, maybe two, if necessary.”
“Thanks for that. I’d be more grateful if she wasn’t right behind us.”
I felt an icy stare behind my back. It’s the “Ahh I see a weakness here” feeling. I’d be slaughtered.
“Yu~me-chan~! Let’s have lunch together~!”
A lively voice was directed towards Yume behind me.
A ponytail was jumping away in a corner of my eyes. Woah, Akatsuki Minami! I erased my presence.
“Alright…where’s everyone else?”
“They said they had some club events going on. Ahh~ This is troublesome~ I haven’t decided which club to join yet. What about you, Yume-chan?”
“I too…haven’t decided on which club to join.”
“Didn’t we visit many places already? I still haven’t figured out what I want to do now~ Golden Week’s over, and to be honest, it’s getting a little hard to join a club. What do we do~”
Wait, I never heard of them visiting the clubs. What’s with you taking action along with such a dangerous person?
“Yo, little stepbrother, your face is a little scary.”
“I’m the older one.”
After a brief correction, I stuffed a piece of fried chicken into my mouth. Yuni-san’s fried chicken really was amazing. Yume and I always ended up fighting over them whenever she prepared chicken. It’s like a trip to NIWAKA.
You’re from Kyoto right? I remember you’re from Kyoto.
“Anyway, we’re on our own for lunch today, Yume-chan! What do we do~? Shall we go somewhere secluded~?”
Minami-san injected some adrenaline into this conversation, seemingly just loud enough for me to hear. Obviously, the implication was basically “Just the two of us~ Are you jealous~?”
How could I be? It’s like a sharp object hitting my brain circuits. (That’s a good retort)
But honestly, Yume going off alone with Minami-san to eat raised all sorts of danger flags. Yume being drugged was a very real possibility that merited consideration.
Well, whatever happened to her would be none of my business, but I probably had to do something to make sure Dad and Yuni-san wouldn’t be sad unnecessarily. Erm, what to do…?
“What, Minami? Just you two today?”
Right when I came up with something, Kawanami rolled a natural 20 on his initiative check.
“How about you eat with us today? Our seating arrangement will change today; an occasional mixer should be fine, right?”
I, and everyone else, looked towards Kawanami incredulously when he came up with this unexpected suggestion.
Kawanami however returned only my stare, and gave me a wink. You disgust me,
“…Ehhh~? Kawanami, are you trying to get close to Yume-chan? You disgust me~”
Minami-san immediately started her countattack, and used her advantage as a girl to fire off her super move “You disgust me~”
Kogure Kawanami was the ultimate weapon against Minami Akatsuki though, and even that super move that could crumble any man caused no damage on him.
“No no no. Don’t worry about that. I’m a believer of the ROM virtue when it comes to love.”
“ROM? What’s that?”
“Read Only Member. In other words, I’ll just watch. This is the most relaxing method after all.”
“…Hmm~? In other words, aren’t you just a peeping tom?”
Oh dear, Minami-san’s voice just cooled off a lot. She usually had that annoying energetic pitch, so it was rare to see it change this much.
…But Yume’d speak in such a tone too, from time to time.
“Well, I can’t trust someone like you, Kawanami.”
“Did you do something to her, Kawanami-kun?”
“Hear me out Yume-chan! Back in middle school, this guy just─”
“Stop stop stop, there’s no need to talk about me!”
“If you want me to shut up, then don’t barge into a maiden’s garden here!”
Oh, this was Minami-san’s advantage. Now then, how are you going to fight back, Kawanami?
I was eating the popcorn, “Grr” and Kawanami gave the troubled look of a chess player thinking of his next step, before he finally said, “…Got it. Let’s use this chance to get to know each other better. Shall we eat bentos and talk about our middle school life?”
Us three were silenced in unison once we heard Kawanami’s words.
T-this guy…what was he planning…everyone collectively took an arrow to the knee! Critical hit!
“Eh, ehhh~? About our middle school? …I’m fine with that, but Yume-chan…”
“N-no, erm, I’m fine with that too…though it’s nothing interesting at all…”
Look at them! It was like these two cocky girls were going to ask for some exotic food out here!
For some reason, Kawanami grinned away once he saw us give the ‘stop this already’ look.
“I see! If we don’t want to talk about middle school, how about we have an ordinary meal?”
Minami-san and I were shocked by this sudden proposal, but Yume just answered.
“Well, if that’s…”
“Alright, it’s decided!”
Kawanami immediately stood up once someone finally agreed, and slammed our tables together.
That was a Door In the Face Technique!
It’s a negotiation tactic to get people to comply, and the idea’s basically to ask a difficult request that’s obviously going to be rejected, then act like he’s backtracking and ask what he wanted. It’s a trick to get others to think ‘since I rejected him once, it’ll be too awkward to reject him again’ and agree to that request. Any psychology textbook has an in-depth record of this.
That was the trick Kawanami just used. Minami-san and I realized it because we were wary of him to begin with, but Yume got caught because she was not aware at all. This guy’s good.
Minami-san gave Kawanami a vengeful look from a position Yume could not see, while Kawanami hummed victoriously. He won.
And so, this strange four person group was formed. I ended up sitting right opposite Minami-san, Kawanami next to me, and Yume directly opposite me. It’s obvious that we would have the boys and girls sit separately, but I guess it was instinctive of us to not position ourselves directly opposite each other.
“Feels a little strange that I can have lunch while facing Irido-kun~”
Minami-san’s defeated expression was long gone, and she smiled as she started talking. I answered like a gloomy guy, like I wasn’t used to talking with a girl. Not that I was that kind of person, of course, but I didn’t want Yume to realize there was something between Minami-san and me. Well, it wasn’t a relationship or anything anyway.
…But well, it created another problem. I sensed a cold stare, and the cellphone in my pocket vibrated.
“Don’t lewd my friend just ‘cause she was nice to you once, shitty otaku.” – 12:38
Well, if I’m a shitty otaku, aren’t you a bitch otaku? That’s what I thought, but this reply lacked elegance, so I answered immediately.
“Thanks for the advice, but I’m unlike a certain gullible person who’s mesmerized by someone just because she was the one treated kindly. Please don’t worry, and thanks for the advice.” – 12:39
What a polite response. It was like a greeting. Predictive input for the win.
I saw Yume discreetly look beneath the desk, and her shoulders shivered. It worked, it worked! There was no way she’d be able to glare at me when both Minami-san and Kawanami were around, let alone argue back. Ha ha ha!
“Irido-san and I haven’t interacted much at all though?”
I guess Kawanami threw the hot potato while Yume was trying to reply. Nice assist. He was a friend who had my back after all.
“Eh? A, ahhhh, yes…I believe so, now that you mention it.”
“There’s no way I can let a frivolous guy approach Yume-chan! Today’s special, Kawanami~!”
“Yes yes. All thanks to you.”
Once the conversation was centered between Kawanami and Minami-san again, Yume looked beneath the desk once again. Ah shit, here we go again.
“By the way, there’s something I want to ask. How do you normally spend time at home, Irido-san?”
“That’s just a litt” – 12:40
The interrupted message was sent…what’s lit, what? Some new meme?
“…Ah, erm, spend time at home, as in?”
“Well, like what you do on your days off…”
“Woah, you’re horrible~! Do people usually pry into the affairs of a girl they hardly know!?”
“I don’t mean anything disgusting. Well, this guy might be a super herbivore, but she’s staying under the same roof as him. How do they normally spend their day?”
“Well, I did try to ask Irido-kun about this before.”
“I did hear what the guy said, but the girl side…hmmm, I guess there’s more issues for her to take note of.”
“But actually, yes…this guy hardly goes out, even on his days off.”
“Aren’t you the same?” – 12:41
“I usually stay outside my room, keeping my guard up. We get along surprisingly peacefully.”
“Better than you.” – 12:42
It’s amazing how you’re sending messages while talking.
“Heh~” Kawanami seemed to have some thoughts.
“Is it really like this in reality? If this is a manga, you’ll bump into each other in the bathroom or something.”
“Don’t lump manga with reality, you idiot~!”
“Who’s the idiot here? Shut up you idiot…yo Iridos. Well, she says this, but you two really never encountered any manga-like developments?”
“Not at all. The bathroom and the toilet are the two places we thoroughly discussed.”
“Even though you stole my bra.” – 12:43
“I said I just picked it up.” – 12:43
“[x] Doubt.” – 12:44
She’s harping on the past again…didn’t we go through this already?
Right when I was about to criticize her gloomy, annoying personality again.
“You’re a liar after all.” – 12:44
This message appeared…liar? Me? What’s she saying again… ? When did I lie to her?
I glanced diagonally opposite, and found Yume turning her eyes outside. In other words, she’d been looking at me all this while.
I never lied to her or anything, not even once, not even in middle school. Basically, there wasn’t a situation for me to lie. I didn’t make excuses for forgetting a promise or anything like that. Not to boast, but I was someone who would remember every single promise, no matter how insignificant it might be. Like─
And then, my spidey senses tingled.
I suddenly yelled out loud. Kawanami and Minami-san looked at me in surprise.
“What? Something wrong?”
“Did you forget your textbooks for the afternoon?”
“N-not that…sorry, it’s nothing. My mistake.”
I tried to dismiss this matter, and recollected my thoughts.
…O-of course…that’s what Ayai was trying to say back then…
I glanced aside at Yume discreetly, and saw that she had returned to the conversation as though nothing happened. But to me, just to me, that expression seemed frozen.
…This was…ahh goodness. Shit, I got nothing.
Please allow me to retract the words ‘I’m a guy who understands the psychology of someone with communication issues.’
It was time for our long homeroom session, the moment we would change seats.
“Now Irido, the male one, please come to draw your lot.”
I guessed even though we moved from middle school to high school, the way we changed classes never evolved.
I pulled my chair out, stood up, and picked up one of the many folded papers scattered all over the podium. None of us could open it until everyone was done.
“Next, the female Irido. Single file please.”
And before I could return to my seat, Yume, number 2 on the register, stood up.
I drew my lot, and brushed by Yume at the podium right when she was about to draw hers.
And at that moment.
I poked my hand out discreetly, ensuring that my left little finger touched her right.
Yume immediately stopped, and turned around. Her face was filled with utter surprise.
I glanced aside at her expression, and nonchalantly returned to my seat.
“Irido? What is it?”
“…N-nothing at all. I’m fine.”
Yume too drew a lot, and returned to her seat.
She passed by student no 3, and gave me a look the moment she was about to pass my seat.
‘What is it?’
I could understand her even without using LINE messages, or paper slips.
Nothing at all.
Just that I’m just someone who keeps my promise.
…The truth of the matter was something so small and trivial.
It happened in the past, back in middle school, while we were passing paper slips to each other.
I didn’t remember exactly what I wrote, but Ayai clearly stated this through the paper slip immediately.
I’ll be great if both of us can be at the same table next month.
Back then, I calculated that it was a really miniscule possibility, so this was the answer I made.
It’s a miracle if both of us can be at the same table.
I really couldn’t bring myself to tell her, how’s this possible? So I tried to state it as nicely as possible. Of course, miracles were called miracles because they couldn’t happen, according to me anyway. It didn’t seem to be the case for Yume though, and she replied.
In that case, let’s cast a spell to create this miracle.
According to her, there really existed a spell for those who liked each other to sit together.
As a middle school guy who went through so much in life, I was really thinking, woah, that’s just to bluff kids, but Ayai looked strangely excited. She usually liked to read novels about humans with their heads and limbs chopped off, but she really acted like a girl here.
Back then, when I saw this (very terrifyingly) adorable side of Ayai, I thought it was my duty as her boyfriend to give her a happy response. Ayai however didn’t find a spell for two who were already dating, so she created her own spell based on our usual habits.
And that’s, when we went up to draw lots, we would tap our little fingers together.
That’s how it was.
We touched each other’s fingers countless times in class, pretending to pass the eraser, even though I couldn’t figure out what’s fun about that. This spell was an extension of that.
But when it came to the actual drawing of lots, I completely forgot about it.
…Please allow me to defend myself.
It’s not a good thing if others were to see the paper slips we passed to each other. If they did, the fact that we were dating would be revealed. We always destroyed the evidence quickly, just like spies.
And the paper containing that spell was one of them.
Humans turn short term memories into long term through repeated actions. I just saw it once, and this little idle talk (as far as I was concerned back then) happened when we couldn’t let the teacher notice this, when I had to concentrate. Really? Could I have memorized it? Of course not!
…Well, excuses are excuses. As the guy who was in the wrong, it was my fault.
I finally figured out what Ayai was thinking back then.
It’s a spell both of us made, but I never intended to go through with it. Ayai had no choice but to muster her courage and remind me, but I reacted as though I forgot everything. I guess that was what Ayai thought.
“Ah, I guess I was the only one who took this seriously. Ahh, so that’s it. I’m really a sad person. I believe in spells even though I’m in middle school. Thank goodness he didn’t remember it. We’ll take it as if nothing happened. None of us will be hurt from this, right? Ahaha…”
The only thing she could do was cry herself to sleep.
That Yume Ayai back then was such a girl, completely different from her current self.
Even though it had been more than a year.
Even though I had no feelings for her except for disgust.
Even so, my pride wouldn’t allow me to let this slip.
So this time, with this chance I had, I decided to fulfill the initial promise.
I could feel a stare behind me. I had a feeling she was going to stab me with a mechanical pencil again.
…But I could say goodbye to this stare after today.
After all, this spell’s just meant to bluff kids.
And the outcome was as expected.
Yume and I never glared at each other, and instead, we merely stared at each other with empty eyes.
We were sitting front and back, next to each other.
“Oy oy, Irido siblings, you two are front and back again? That’s a miracle.”
“Woah…that really can happen~”
Kawanami and Minami-san were amazed as they gathered around us, who moved from the front seats to the last two rows in the middle.
Yes. The result of this strict and fair implementation of lots was that Yume and I again ended up front and back.
Yume’s eyes were upon my seat as she muttered so softly, practically nobody else could hear her.
…Seriously, this number sounded so familiar.
I took my phone out, and quickly entered some words.
“The first sitting arrangement is based on the class register. The actual probability isn’t that low.” – 14:56
Yume took her phone out, had a look, and glared at me.
“It’s disgusting how you actually calculated the possibility” – 14:57
Haa, it was useless. I didn’t feel anything even though that disgusting person called me disgusting.
And so, because of the interference of that God bastard, I never managed to get away from her.
But…despite that, I achieved my objective.
We were sitting front and back, but this time, I was the one sitting at the back. In other words, our roles were reversed. It was my turn to dominate her back.
Now then…how shall I repay the abuse I suffered over the past month…?
“W-wait, what’s with that smile… What are you planning…!?”
“Search your heart.”
While I never got my freedom, I got a chance at revenge. Was that the spell at work? No way.
For us right now, that spell definitely couldn’t work.
That’s how it should work, right?
That’s a spell for two who are supposedly still dating.