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.
Both she and I weren’t meant to have lovers, and the only reason why it ended up that way was because there was a common point between us.
It was the greatest invention in human history, the proof of its long existence, and the basis of civilization.
In other words, books.
We liked to read. This common interest linked us solo players together—leaving aside who’s the reason for this, there’s no need to explain what our usual conversations were all about.
We shared our thoughts about the books we read.
We shared our hopes regarding the books we never read.
And we lent each other the books we had.
…Come to think about it, our interaction in this sense remained the same even after we went from lovers to stepsiblings—but well, at this point,
We’re critiquing the books the other had read.
We’re finding fault with the faults we never read.
And then we snatched books from each other and roasted each other..
…Well, that’s probably it. Call a spade a spade, the interaction between us as avid readers didn’t change. Actually, we lost the need to be tactful, so that’s an evolution.
Back on point.
Borrowing books was rather important for us middle schoolers who were penniless. We could get books for free, and more importantly, there’s no doubt that the other person had read that book—we get to enjoy the book, and also share our thoughts. Killing two birds with one stone.
For us, novels were a communication tool that’s better than SNS.
…But we once had this conversation before.
—I have that complete series at home.
It was when I visited an old bookshop with her, who was Yume Ayai back then.
She was talking about a really old mystery series, and that’s what I said,
—Hm, I can lend you if you want …
—Thanks! I really couldn’t find this…
And I didn’t mean it—I really didn’t, but then I said,
—Want to go to my house later?
Ayai suddenly froze up like a jammed gear.
She suddenly combed her bangs with her hand, looked down, and froze,
And then, this foolish me finally realized that I was inviting her to my house.
—Ah……Ah, erm ……
So, we’re middle schoolers, in this narrow aisle of an old bookshop, just groaning for no good reason.
Just the memory of it left me really restless, and this continued for a minute at least when we finally exchanged glances, and gave awkward smiles.
—…I-I’ll bring it to school tomorrow.
—…O-okay, thank you …
…I should admit it.
Better admit it.
It’s definitely a wonderful experience to be alone with Yume Ayai in the same room, just facing each other, reading books.
But we just chose to back off. Why?
Because we were lovers.
If we were alone in a room together with our lovers, it’d mean something else.
And so, if we weren’t lovers.
If we hadn’t been blinded by puberty and maintained a good relationship as bookworms.
Would we have maintained the good relationship we had back then…
So I once thought.
Until I met Isana Higashira.
“I want to see your bookshelf, Mizuto-kun.”
We’re in the library after school—at the usual place by the air-conditioning at the window.
Various things had happened until Isana Higashira settled with being a female friend. She suddenly asked that.
“…Huh? My bookshelf?”
“You see, I got dumped by you, Mizuto-kun.”
“Ah-ahhh…should you be saying that though?”
“And then I thought that since I got dumped, doesn’t it mean that I don’t have a chance? In that case, as a girl, I don’t have to enter the room of a boy like you, Mizuto-kun, right?”
“Uh, huh …?”
I had a tendency of going oh yeah whenever she asked a rhetoric question.
Her words were always strangely convincing. She’s bad at talking, but there sure is logic behind her words.
“…No no no, wait Higashira. How did you link your explanation just now with you asking to see my bookshelf?”
“I just want to see the bookshop, no reason. To be honest, I just want to see which light novel pages have crumples. I’m curious to see which heroines awakened your libido back in middle school or elementary school, you know.”
“Like hell with that. What do you want to know after knowing?”
“Will you go moe for me if I get jealous?”
“No way. And moe is so old school.”
“So will you masturbate to me if I get jealous?”
“What happened to your sense of shame!?”
The Shimoneta big breasted girl Isana Higashira blinked away pretentiously.
“Ehh~? Is it embarrassing to masturbate~? Don’t they go all masturbate here, masturbate there on the internet~? Say, what’s wrong with masturbating~?”
“Say, how did you end up more troublesome than you were before…”
“Woah, this reluctant face is good fapping material! Really good! I’ll use this face tonight!”
“Stop it right now! I’ll stop being friends with you!”
“Sorry sorry sorry I’m just joking I won’t look at you with lewd eyes!”
So the single girl Isana Higashira immediately leaned onto me with a teary look. Her self professed G cups just rubbed onto my upper arms from time to time, but it’s probably unintentional compared to days ago. It’s a lot trickier now compared to back then when she suddenly tried to get me to simp for her.
“You’re making me more unwilling to show you my bookshelf…if I bring you home, my virginity will be under threat.”
“Please be at ease. I shall go into sage mode.”
“You’ve been saying things I don’t want to hear all this while.”
“Well to put it simply, I think you’d have light novels that are really old, Mizuto-kun. I want to borrow a few.”
“Old huh? I don’t really know what’s the definition of that. You did read Haruhi before.”
Haruhi’s already an old classic for our generation.
“Well, I’m fine with that at least…but you sure about that?”
“You’re visiting a guy’s house alone, won’t you…be wary of something?”
Higashira looked completely confused, as though my words were completely unexpected.
“I got dumped by you. Do I have to be wary of something?”
Her eyes were filled with complete innocence, devoid of any doubt.
I really couldn’t retort to what she said at all.
“Hohoo~ so this is your house, Mizuto-kun…? It’s the place of my ‘first time’…”
“Don’t cause a misunderstanding.”
Higashira started rubbing her thighs as she stood in front of another person’s house, so I delivered a karate chop on her shoulder to snap her back. It happened not long after she went all “Excuse me, I’ll transform into a sage and come back”.
“It’s your fault though for forcing me into the role of an adventurer, Mizuto-kun.”
“I’m a little worried about what you said, but if anything happens, I’ll really act like a guy.”
“Ehh, sorry, in that case, can I go to the convenience store or the drugstore?”
“I mean I’ll resist with all my physical might!”
Her switch just flipped ever since that confession. So the thing separating us before then was the wall maria called genders?
Higashira narrowed her eyes at the nameplate ‘Irido’,
“Sensei lives in this house too, right?”
“Ah, sorry, I mean Yume-san.”
“What happened between you two that I didn’t know about…”
I knew that she and Minami-san had a hand in Higashira’s confession, but those two just wouldn’t speak on what they actually did.
“She isn’t back yet, probably. She usually goes out with Minami-san and the others, or maybe the bookshop, or in the self study room, or in the library.”
“Oh I see. I wanted to use this chance to see how the stepsibling lives go.”
“Our lives aren’t an exhibit.”
Silver lining is that she’s not at home yet. I really couldn’t imagine how she would roast me for bringing Higashira home.
I led Higashira through the entrance.
I didn’t bother with a ‘tadaima’ at all, since there’s nobody at home.
“…Pardon my intrusion~…”
And Higashira didn’t care about that as she muttered behind me. It seemed she’s in serious mode and all once she’s in someone else’s house.
Maybe it’s a good thing for Higashira that nobody’s at home.
Same for me here. I really didn’t want anyone else to know that I brought a girl home.
“Go to my room then, Higashira. I’ll prepare some drinks.”
“Ah, okay, I want apple juice.”
“Shouldn’t you go all ‘I’ll make myself at home’…”
I wondered if there was still apple juice at home, and removed my shoes as I looked towards the living room door—
The living room door suddenly opened. I met her.
She, Yume Irido, saw my face, and then spotted Higashira behind me.
And then back at me, at Higashira, at me, at Higashira—
Her stare just oscillated between Higashira and me over and over again.
“Ah, she’s at home. Hello there, Yume-san~.”
“Ah, yes, hello—no wait!”
Yume hastily closed the living room door, and suddenly leaned over to me.
“(What now, what’s going on!? Why did you bring her home!? Didn’t you just dump her recently!?)”
“(It’s as you say, but I didn’t know how it ended up this way …)”
“(Say, how do you always end up dragged along by her …!?)”
Anyway, why did she have to hush her voice around me?
“(Get her to go back now…!)”
“(Wait wait wait, you may not like her, but that’s too rude of you.)”
“(That’s not it! It’s a really bad day! It’s rare that—)”
Voice came from the living room.
“Is Mizuto-kun back ~?”
“Oyyy Mizuto, you should have said tadaima—”
It’s my stepmother and my dad..
Sweat started oozing from all my pores.
It’s one thing to let Yume know that I brought Higashira home. It’s not like I’m in a weird relationship with Higashira.
If dad and Yuni-san knows about it …!
“H-Higashira! Sorry, but today isn’t appropriate—”
Higashira tilted her head in confusion, and I was about to nudge her out hastily towards the corridor.
But the living room door opened.
“Mizuto? You should have answered—hm?”
Dad popped his head from the other side of the living room, and clearly saw Isana Higashira.
“Hmmm? Hmmmmmmmm? A…girl?”
He looked at Higashira, at me, and at Yume.
“Yume-chan’s friend…? No, she was with Mizuto, right…?”
Lots of question marks popped from his eyes.
Dad, is it really that unbelievable that I just returned home with a girl?
“Ah, ahhh, erm, please, pardon my intrusion…”
Higashira looked a little frantic, and gently lowered her head.
“I’m, Mizuto-kun’s, friend. Isana, Higashira…”
“A-ahhh…I see, friends? Oh dear, I assumed that Mizuto brought a girlfriend home.”
“N-not at all! I just got dumped!”
It all began and ended before Yume and I could react.
“I got dumped by Mizuto-kun just a while ago, and we’re ordinary friends! Please don’t worry!”
Higashira just added insult to injury, and time finally began to run.
“Yu——Yuni-saaaan! Mizuto! Mizuto brought his ex—!!”
“Eh!? Tell me what’s going on!!”
Dad dashed back to the living room, and I grabbed Higashira by the wrist, before dashing up the stairs to the bedroom.
“Erm, why did your father think I’m your ex, Mizuto-kun?”
Higashira tilted her head and asked me, after I had escaped to my own bedroom and cupped my head.
“…Say…anyone would have assumed so after you just said something to the effect of ‘I just got dumped, so we’re just good friends’ …”
“No you don’t…”
Seriously, her situational awareness is horrible.
Higashira covered her mouth with the sleeve of her sweater, narrowed her eyes, and smiled.
“If it’s a misunderstanding, I hope I’m the current girlfriend. There’s development in many ways.”
“What do you mean, many ways—no no no, I don’t want to hear.”
I put my hand on my head, and sighed.
If it’s a misunderstanding, huh?
On a second thought, it’s not a bad thing for them to assume Higashira’s my ex. That’ll make it more difficult for them to realize that Yume’s the actual ex. Classic misdirection.
But I really couldn’t tell Higashira, ‘please be my ex’, right…?
“Ohhh~. It’s really a messy room full of books~. I feel relieved though.”
And while I was all troubled, Higashira evaded the towers of books, and moved to my bookshelf.
“Ohhh, so you have everything from light novels to pure literature…I always hear that a bookshelf reflects a person’s heart. So what’s yours, Mizuto-kun? Smooth and slick?”
“Don’t say anything that’ll cause a misunderstanding. More like soot and sick.”
“You can be smooth and slick to me though? I still do like you emotionally, Mizuto-kun.”
“Woah! Don’t give such a seriously awkward look! I’m just joking!”
Anyone would have. How should I deal with you anyway?
“Can I check your haul?” Higashira asked, “make sure you put them back in their old place” I answered, and Higashira flipped through my bookshelf excitedly.
“I feel that flipping through books is like mining. A bookshelf is basically a mine, so a mine of knowledge is basically my knowledge.”
“You just want to make that pun, right?”
So Higashira continued to focus on mining, and there was a knock on the door.
Oh dad? I was a little wary, but once I heard the person outside kick at my door, I was relieved. It’s obvious the only one so brutish would be her.
“So in your world, everyone knocks by kicking at the door?”
I opened the door, and rebutted the girl with long black hair, Yume Irido, who gave me a peeved glare.
“I’m just warning a certain person who’s having weird thoughts about Higashira-san.”
“How am I supposed to do that when everyone in the household is here?”
“…Yes, you’ll do so only when nobody’s around, right?”
My shitty little stepsister hummed victoriously…she’s probably referring to that incident on the typhoon night.
I averted my eyes awkwardly, somewhat,
“Why are you here?”
“I’m here to keep a lookout, of course. Just in case you do anything to Higashira-san. We’re friends now.”
She of all people could somehow say the word friend so easily, even though she was once just like Higashira who viewed friendship by its textbook definition.
Yume then gave a somewhat lethargic sigh.
“…And also, to evacuate. The interrogation from mom and uncle is too much…”
“Ah yeah, that’s…”
I showed a rare moment of sympathy, and decided to conceal my magnanimous heart just for this moment.
“…Come in. Better to have you watch us instead of getting some strange suspicions.”
“Don’t mind if I do.”
I let Yume into the room, and looked back at Higashira, who stared at my bookshelf intently.
“Oh, you’re joining in on the mining too, Yume-san?”
“Is there a fossil in there or something?”
“A bookshelf’s like a mine. A mine of knowledge, my knowledge.”
It seemed this joy of making puns went over the head of the woman who loved translated old mystery classics. Higashira looked a little devastated. I get that, I get that feeling too well.
“…Anyway, Mizuto-kun’s bookshelf’s really interesting! There’s rereading value in that! You often look for books here, don’t you Yume-san~? I’m so envious …”
“Yes your head. Stop rummaging through my shelf…you ended up blushing when you mixed up romcom light novels with ero books.”
“Th-that was …!”
“Ho ho, that happened before?…ah, this book? It does look erotic.”
“Ahh nope. That book was a lot spicier.”
“So there’s something spicier than that!?”
So Higashira began a game of searching through my bookshelf for all the light novels with overly erotic covers and illustrations and showing them to Yume.
“See, this one here looks super erotic. Look at the face …”
Even I would be extremely restless seeing two girls of my age, standing next to each other, searching my bookshelf for those overly spicy light novels. That aside, it was the perfect chance for me to tease Yume’s foolish virgin heart.
“Pfft, are you in grade school or something?”
“S-shut up, you silent pervert!!”
“Speaking of which, Mizuto-kun, there’s a surprising number of erotic novels you have. I think there’s a nipple drawn here, you see?”
“Ok Higashira enough.”
Higashira was about to pull out a book buried deep in my bookshelf, but I grabbed her hand from behind.
I wouldn’t check the exact details of a book before buying. I’d choose based on how I felt about the cover, so I would buy such books because I didn’t know about them.
“Hmmm. I wanted to see if there’s any wrinkle on the cover and illustrations.”
“All the more reason why we should stop here.”
“Understood. Instead, show me what’s in that computer.”
“All the more reason why we should stop here!”
“I can show you my tablet!”
“Stop being so desperate!”
Why’s she able to sell herself out like that!?
“…Do you two always have…well, this kind of unspeakable relationship …?”
Yume pulled a little distance away from us as she said.
“Ehh well, we usually talk about pretty girls who masturbate recently, you know?”
“Enough with that, Higashira. She really doesn’t know about that.”
I stuffed her mouth from behind. She flailed her hands in protest, but since she’s a weak otaku of a girl, I was able to stop her.
Yume hummed away as she looked on.
She seemed to be pouting.
“…Fuuaahh! You’re such an overprotective stepbrother. Curbing freedom of speech will kill off any development of culture, you know?”
“I’m not censoring speech, I’m censoring you.”
“Woah, I’m the censored one. Guess that’s that then…it’s my fault for having such ridiculous breasts…”
“Can you shut up. You’re making it difficult for me to retort.”
“Can’t. it’s my one redeeming point~”
Higashira lifted the school sweater that was bursting away. I had a feeling that she would have mixed feelings about her huge breasts…no wait, maybe it’s because her thought process got poisoned by fiction.
Higashira suddenly stared at a corner of the bookshelf, and reached for it.
She held a book with a color cover, but without illustrations. It’s a bunko that was pretty much counted as light literature.
“I think this author started off from light novels.”
“I missed out on this book because I’ve only been checking out new light novels. Can I read it?”
Higashira made quite the delighted sound, and brought the book to her chest.
And then, she started looking around.
“Erm~…can I read on the bed?”
And before I could realize what I allowed her to do, Higashira made her move.
She moved to my bed.
“Excuse me then~”
Pomf, I thought Higashira just sat down, but she removed her socks and went all barefoot as though she’s in the library, and laid on the bed, facing up.
The legs stretched out from beneath the skirt, clearly lacking flesh. She put the book by the pillow, and opened it.
She’s so unrestrained, it’s like she’s in her own room.
That act nearly caused me to forget that she was actually lying on my bed.
“W-wait…what are you doing, Higashira-san!?”
Yume frantically went over to Higashira once she saw how carefree the latter was.
“Th-that’s…his bed, you know?”
“I know. That’s why I asked for his permission, right~?”
“No, actually …you don’t have any second thoughts about it!?”
“Eh~? Now that you mention it …”
Higashira gave a blank look, and then buried her face into my pillow.
“Mizuto-kun’s smell does cause my heart to race.”
I thought you wouldn’t have any thoughts about it!
“Well, that aside, I don’t have a choice since there’s nowhere else to read.”
“No choice?…Y-you aren’t wary at all?”
Higashira gave Yume an innocent look, exactly the same as when she faced me at school that time.
“I got dumped anyway. It’s fine~.”
Oh dear, what are you saying now, that’s what she implied, and shut Yume good.
I patted Yume’s shoulder from behind.
“You get it now?”
Yume looked back and forth between my face and Higashira, who was sprawled on my bed, happily reading away. Yume looked completely lost.
At this point, Higashira didn’t think of me as a guy, no matter what she did.
So the acts that we would usually refrain from because of gender differences were enacted because we’re just friends.
Practically speaking, her thought process was completely correct.
So I intended, and hoped that I could get along with her without worrying about gender differences. It shouldn’t be surprising that since we’re friends, we would visit each other’s places, and read on the bed.
But…in fact, I really couldn’t follow after this mad lass actually did it.
She was the one who was supposedly most hurt by the confession, but I was more indecisive than she was when I cut the thread. Maybe somewhere in my heart, I still had sentiments I couldn’t get rid of, no no, you’re a girl, right?.
But my thoughts would surely be rude to her.
It was I who rejected her because of selfish reasons. At this point, I really had no reason to view her as a girl.
…I probably should put in more effort.
I should learn from her; I should treat that confession as a thing of the past.
I should continue my relationship with her, as a friend.
This should be the sincerity I should show…
“U, uuu…I don’t get it…why…? Why’s she enjoying this house more than the old me …”
“Don’t think too hard about it. I’m going to just think of her as a boy. Just read a book and cool down.”
“…So be it then…”
Yume obediently received the book I passed her, leaned on the wall, sat down, and opened the book.
I too took out the book I had been reading from my bag, and leaned my back at the side of the bed Higashira’s lying on.
And for a moment, the room was so silent, only the sound of flipped pages could be heard.
I heard Higashira stretch her back on the bed behind me, and looked up at the clock.
It’s past 6. Almost two hours passed before I knew it.
I looked back while still on the floor, and looked up to see the stretching Higashira who basically flaunted her large breasts.
“That’s fast. You’re done?”
“Yes~. It’s very interesting, but if there’s any flaw, there aren’t any naked pretty girls.”
“There usually aren’t.”
…I remembered she was reading a romance novel that was supposed to be moving, but I couldn’t see any tears on her.
Higashira wasn’t one to show her feelings openly, but it didn’t mean that she had little emotions. Take for example, there’s once when I saw her stare intently at a fanservice illustration of the heroine for several minutes.
In this sense, she’s the complete opposite of that Yume, who would look completely taken aback whenever she reached the latter half of the novel, and her expressions occasionally revealed the plot.
“Haau~. my shoulders ache. Rub them, Mizuto-kun.”
“Don’t wanna. Why?”
“Don’t you know? My shoulders ache easily because of my large breasts.”
“I don’t mean that why.”
I wasn’t asking why her shoulders ached, but why I had to do it.
“Ahh~. My shoulders ache so much that I can’t move at all. I’ll just lie on your bed and not move then, Mizuto-kun. Puahh~ gorogoro.”
“Argh I get it I get it! Please stop rolling about on my bed just to get your scent on it!”
I got up and lifted Higashira up. I went behind her, who was seated in a girlish position, knelt on the bed, and put my hands on her shoulders.
Higashira turned around, and lifted her eyes at me beyond her shoulders.
“Please be…gentle with me?”
She shivered as she waited for me to exert strength, and exhaled.
“Nnnn…ku! G-good….do as you please…nnn, uuuu…!”
“…Oy, what are you playing?”
“I’m just mimicking a typical opening of a light novel, the ‘decent situation part that’s misunderstood as an ero scenario’”
“These things don’t happen in reality!”
“Ow!? Owowowowowowowow!? Wait …your grip! You’re overdoing it~! Owowowowowowow!!”
I was intending to mince the stiff shoulder flesh, only to see a long haired girl standing in the corner of the room.
“What’s with the distance between you!!?”
I thought she had calmed down, but it’s obvious from her tone how confused she was.
Yume pointed at us with a blushing face,
“You two are just bluffing me, right!? You’re actually dating right!? She’s your current girlfriend already!”
“Eh~? But we’ve always been like this, right, Mizuto-kun?”
“Sorta. We’re friends after all.”
We exchanged looks, “Ahh I get it…!” so Yume suddenly yelled.
“I get it, I get it now! You two don’t know the distance friends should have because you never had any decent friends! Mystery solved!”
“How rude. Even we would have one or two…”
“Yeah. One or two ……”
And our eyes started to avert.
“……Well, it’s all relative.”
“……If there are a hundred friends, we’ll treat all hundred of them differently anyway.”
“Anyway, please stop fooling around on the bed and giving excuses!”
Good grief, so Higashira gave such a look, and sighed,
“A brocon little stepsister is rather troublesome, Mizuto-kun.”
“Ahh, goodness me.”
“I’m not a brocon and not a little stepsister—!!”
“Put on my socks~.”
Higashira completely ignored Yume’s protests, and reached her legs towards me.
Once I heard her usual request, I picked up the socks she put on the floor, raised her ankle with one hand, and slid the sock through the toes, nails and all.
“…You know, I’ve always been thinking, can’t you wear your own socks…?”
“Eh, well~. Just bending down is torture for me when my breasts are so big~”
“It’s always the breasts here, breasts there! Thank goodness Minami-san isn’t here!”
“Ehehe~ but to be honest, I’m just addicted to having Mizuto-kun put them on for me.”
“I’ll flip it the other side around from time to time though.”
“Eh? You serious?”
“You unloyal thing!”
“Ow. Stop kicking.”
I put on Higashira’s socks while I withstood her kicks, and she finally got off the bed.
“Can I borrow the toilet?”
“I thought you wanted to go home. Are you still staying here?”
“I want to see which books I can borrow before I go home.”
“…Sure, I guess. Go downstairs, turn left, there’s the toilet.”
Higashira left the room with light steps.
Left in the room were Yume and me.
For some reason, Yume kept staring at me, somewhat angrily in fact. I was aware that I did anger her from time to time, but see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, so I played dumb and opened the book I was halfway done with.
I heard that terse, displeased voice, and glanced aside at her.
And then…I saw Yume remove the black knee socks from her feet.
…Huh? What’s she doing?
The white long legs were exposed. I hadn’t seen them ever since the incident at the bath, and they had no excess fat. They looked much thinner than Higashira’s.
Yume took the removed socks in hand, went towards me, thud! and just sat down with a thud..
She reached her bare legs towards me.
Just as Higashira did.
“Put them on.”
She then shoved the removed socks towards me.
I was troubled, but her intentions were way too obvious, and I wanted to laugh at her, but it was so ridiculous, I really didn’t know what face I should make.
“What are you being competitive about…are you that possessive?”
“Shut up. I just think it’s fun to have you as a servant for a while. Put, them, on!”
Such a troublesome fellow.
Higashira’s going to return if we continued to squabble. The wise decision then was to obey her request.
I received the black knee socks.
And just as I did with Higashira, I raised Yume’s ankle with my left hand.
…There were some blue veins at the back of her legs.
Her nails were neat compared to Higashira’s, the latter’s often a little long.
I covered the black sock over her leg, and along it, the veins.
Once I saw the base of the sock reached the ankle, I lifted the excess on the shin over to the calf.
The nice chin devoid of any pores and the pretty calf without any excess fat were covered by the black socks.
And when I moved the rubber band of the sock over Yume’s knee, I realized something terrible.
Higashira’s socks were only as long as her calves.
And these were knee length socks..
It reached her calf.
In other words, while my hands were putting on Yume’s socks, they were closer to the thighs unlike when I put on Higashira’s socks…
I glanced up at Yume discreetly, and found that her face was as rose as a rose, staring intently at my hands holding onto the rubber band.
She finally realized it?
This would be an unprecedented case of privacy invasion for her. I was thinking that if she told me to stop, I would have done so immediately, so I waited for several seconds.
But I didn’t receive the instruction to stop.
She remained silent.
And I could only remain silent and continue on as though nothing happened.
The black fabric covered the small white knee.
Slowly and cautiously, I raised my hands holding the sock.
I saw Yume grip the bedsheet firmly.
Just in case it happened…I wouldn’t touch though.
I focused all my attention as though I was undertaking a heart operation, and moved my fingertips delicately.
Finally, the long sock was completely flattened on her leg.
The black fabric covered everything from the toes to the thighs.
I let out a long sigh…and let go of the rubber band.
And then, my fingertips touched her inner thighs.
Yume suddenly made a strange sound, and quivered.
I lifted my head in shock, and saw her flush away as though she had woken from a dream, before she hastily covered her mouth.
I guessed so. It’d be really bad if something did happen.
Once again, I looked at my own hand.
Obviously, socks come in pairs, so there was one piece left.
“…What about the other?”
I muttered apprehensively, and Yume answered with a really soft voice.
She then moved her bare leg towards me.
Well, yeah. Nothing happened just now after all.
Clear mind activated, I moved the other sock to Yume’s foot—
Bzzt bzzt bzzt, my phone vibrated.
Our shoulders jolted, and we looked towards the desk where it was at.
Bzzt. Bzzt. Bzzt.
The vibrating continued. What’s going on? Some notification, maybe?
I looked at Yume in the eyes.
“…Can I look?”
Yume averted her eyes.
…I let out a long, heartfelt sigh…why’s it that I always felt this way whenever I dealt with her?
I got off the bed, and picked up the phone on the desk.
It was a LINE message from Higashira.
“I was saved….I really didn’t know how to talk to adults I met for the first time …”
“That’s because you only talk about light novels and your breasts.”
“…Ohh! I see!”
According to Higashira, she got caught by dad and Yuni-san when she went to the toilet on the first floor. Those two were so interested in their son’s love affair, they bombarded her with questions.
Yume and I managed to save her after we received the SOS LINE message from her, but we then concluded that it’s too dangerous for Higashira to stay at this place, so we hurried her home.
I was sending Higashira on her way home. Sunset’s late at this point, and she should be fine if I didn’t send her home, but just in case.
“They already assumed that I’m your ex, Mizuto-kun, why did this misunderstanding happen?”
“You of all people saying that?”
“But well, it feels nice to say that I once had a boyfriend. It feels so good, and I feel like I’m showing a girlish side.”
“Oy! The situation’s getting worse!”
I got crazy girls around me!
“Erm, if I have to put it, I guess that’s really the case.“
Higashira said as she hopped onto the shadow formed by the sunset.
“Even I don’t feel comfortable telling them that I just got rejected after I confessed, so I never became your girlfriend.”
“So that’s why it’s fine that I’m just misunderstood as your girlfriend, right?”
Well, I’m an ex. So she muttered as she went by the shadow of the electric pole.
And then, she looked at my face with a blank expression.
“Mizuto-kun—actually, I’m still a little hurt.”
“So you better comfort me. As a friend.”
We walked side by side.
But we didn’t hold hands.
We merely walked side by side.
And this was what she wanted.
“I’m glad to have met you, Mizuto-kun.”
“Same here. I feel lucky to have met you.”
“Ehehe. We feel the same after all.”
“Shall we try dating anyway?”
“Forget about it.”
“Ahh, I get dumped again.”
Uhehe, so Higashira blurted.
The shadows shown under the sunset avoided her, as though showing concern for her feelings.
We didn’t hold hands.
But we walked side by side.
Maybe this might be the greatest mistake.
—If Yume and I hadn’t become lovers.
It was then that I realized that the assumption was meaningless.
Neither she nor I could ever be like Isana Higashira.
“—What is it, Mizuto-kun?”
Higashira looked at my face.
She stared at my face and my eyes, and didn’t back down.
Her cheeks didn’t turn red, and her eyes didn’t waver.
It was not a misdirection, nor a perfunctory answer.
I felt dizzy.
Definitely because of the sunset.
“Eh, why did you apologize so suddenly? Give me a book as compensation then.”
“Don’t ask for compensation without knowing why.”
I, no, we, we aren’t the kind of people you think…we’re really sorry.
We walked under the sunset, side by side.
Long silhouettes were dragged out before our bodies.